Petpetpet Meltdown: Part One
‘Ticcico, are you listening to a word I’m saying?”
The green Shoyru started out of her daze, and looked at her owner. About five minutes ago she remembered a speech starting about... ooh... something. Which was probably important. But within seconds her mind had wandered to more exciting topics. How did the gravity on Kreludor work? Surely there must be some kind of field, but was its trajectory completely spherical or...
She looked up guiltily.
Sensing that she actually had her attention this time, her owner continued.
“If you’d actually listen for once, I’ve got you a job! I think it's finally time for you to go out, and I know what you’re like so I’ve helped you along a bit. It’s a really great one, a back room assistant at Uni’s Clothes Salon. It was tough, but do you remember that nice Mr. Aragrin? Well, he’s got some contacts and apparently they were looking for someone and...”
Ticcico sighed, but stayed listening this time. It sounded like the most boring job in the World. Ever. But it was part of growing up, getting your first job. And it would be nice to have her own Neopoints to spend. Omelette was all very well, but she’d been eying a new chemical testing kit (‘Is the water you’re drinking too high in Moltite?’) that she knew very well would not be considered ‘necessary’ by her owner. Maybe it was for the best. But her heart sank as she forced herself to remember the time and place to start work the next morning. It would mean less time sitting in the fields, exploring and experimenting with anything she found. But sacrifices have to be made sometimes.
So the next day at 6am, Ticcico awoke from a marvelous dream (she had been turned into a babaa, and was happily solving some mathematical theorems which had been puzzling her for a while) to the screeching of her bedside alarm clock. This had actually fit in well with the dream, so it took her a few moments to get orientated. Then she remembered, and groaned. All the maths vanished immediately from her head.
In ten minutes she was dressed in a plain green outfit and being chivvied out the door by her very encouraging owner, who waved her off with an air of finality. Drat. Well, there wasn’t anything for it at this stage. Planting her grin on her face and one foot in front of the other, she marched into Neopia Central and knocked on the back door of the salon.
“One moment!” a voice trilled from inside. A voice that she could already picture the owner of. Well, she could picture a large mess of pink, sparkles and frills, inside which would probably be some species of pet. They probably flounced.
Two minutes later, the door flung back. Some first impressions can be misleading, especially those based on voice alone. But hers had definitely not been. She guessed that the pet inside the frills was an Usul, but it was difficult to tell.
“Ah, you must be Ticcico!” sang the Usul. “I’m in charge of the ‘Orders and Sorting’ department. Come right along!”
Mutely, the Shoyru squeezed her wings behind her back to follow the Usul through a maze of dark shelves, into a dim corridor. After what seemed like miles of trekking past various doors, her guide flung one open.
“This is where you’ll work!”
Ticcico looked around. It was chaos. There were even more shelves, loaded with every type of fabric, accessory and coloured beads she could imagine, and plenty that she couldn’t. Pets of every species were running around in silence but occasionally running into each other, grabbing boxes and passing them along.
“Alright, you take this spot.” A small stool was indicated. “And when he-” the Draik on her left was pointed to “hands you this order, you go get it from the shelves at the back, and give it to her-” a Chia on her right. “That’s it.”
This easy enough, if a little boring. Ticcico sat down on the stool, which creaked beneath her. She nodded politely to the Chia, who ignored her. As did the Draik. A piece of paper was passed to her, which read “One pair of Quiggle Socks”. She leapt up, ran to the shelves behind her, and looked for them. After getting lost several times, she finally located the socks and ran back to her stool. By this point the Chia was giving her a very pointed glare, and she hastily handed the pair to him. The process repeated itself. Again. And again. And again. There was no talking. The room was very dim, with what little light there was very artificial and yellowish. She found her mind wandering.
What if this stool had four legs instead of three? Her weight would be a bit better supported, but the additional wood needed might impact the Haunted Woods forest where it came from. Maybe fewer trees would result in more moonlight, which would...
After a while she could feel a new intensity to the silence, and looked up to find herself standing in between the row of pets and the shelves, staring intently at her stool with her hands up; presumably she had just been mapping the moonlight in front of her. A row of silent pets were staring at her. Some looked annoyed, others, amused. Most importantly, though, the frilly Usul stood with a clipboard and a VERY angry face. Ticcico wondered how long she had been standing there for. Probably quite a while. She smiled shyly, hoping it was the right thing to do.
“What on Earth were you doing? You have been holding up the entire chain. I have angry customers in the shop waiting for their orders. I have a build-up of materials. I am getting in trouble with the manager because of YOU!”
“I’m really sor--”
“I was convinced by a friend that you were smart and a good worker; that’s why I hired you, even though some of your references were way below par. They said it was difficult to get you down to earth to get anything done and it looks as though they were right. Honestly ---”
Ticcico’s eyes began to blur with tears of embarrassment, but she tried to keep them from spilling over as she slowly turned around and walked out of the room. She tried to murmur “I quit” as she walked past the silent pets, but it came out as an incoherent mumble. As she headed out the room she ignored the maze of shelves, she headed towards a light and through a door could see the actual shop part of the building, filled with happy pets trying on clothes. Gritting her teeth and half-covering her face, she ran straight through the door, ending up behind the counter. Ignoring the shouts, she scampered around the desk, through the shop and out into Neopia Central, where the late afternoon sunlight was still strong.
She wandered behind the buildings and outside, into a field. After a few minutes she no longer felt like crying -- life outside of the darkened room seemed significantly better and this was where she was comfortable. She sat on the grass and then lay back, enjoying the remaining sunlight. After a few moments, she felt something tickle her arm. She raised it over her head, and squinted. There was a Mootix. It waved its antenna at her and she happily waved her other hand at it. She was about to return it to the grass when “STOP! PLEASE!” came a shout.
She froze. Could it be someone from the clothes shop, come to yell at her some more? Ticcico looked up. There was a red Cybunny racing across the field towards her.
As she reached her, the Cybunny leaned over, gasping for air. “Could... I please... have the... Mootix?” she asked desperately.
Ticcico studied the small petpetpet still clinging onto her arm. This was obviously some avatar collector looking to get the expensive creature for free. And it seemed mean to hand over the Mootix for it just to be slapped onto some cheap petpet for the rest of its days.
“Er... sorry. But as much as I like avatars, I think this little fellow would like to remain in the wild...” she began.
“What?” asked the Cybunny, looking confused. “This is much more important than avatars!” At this, it was Ticcico’s turn to look confused. According to her owner, there was NOTHING more important than avatars. “I need it for the lab!”
At this, Ticcico’s ears pricked up properly. A lab? As far as she knew there wasn’t a petpetpet lab yet, possibly due to a lack of microscopic zapping machinery, so did she mean a real scientific lab? Where people actually found things out? Or was it just a ploy by a really desperate avatar collector trying to save a few million Neopoints?
Seeing the looks flit across the Shoyru’s face, the Cybunny seemed to come to a decision. “Look, my name is Samdi. I work for Prof. Milton Clodbottle. If you want, I’ll take you back and show you why I need the Mootix. Just promise me I can have it afterwards?”
This sounded interesting, and Ticcico decided that it seemed fair enough for the little petpetpet. “Alright, it’s a deal. Take me to the lab! I’m Ticcico, by the way.”
They shook hands and Samdi led the way. After several minutes of brisk walking, a dome appeared in the distance. It was large and transparent. Ticcico stared as they approached. She had never seen anything like it before!
To be continued...