To Space!: Part Six
Brandi dashed off, Abacuc over one shoulder so they wouldn't get separated in the crowds. Brandi entered the arcade eagerly, immersing herself in the energy of the room. For the next few hours she played a lot of games. She was just sending a score for Evil Fuzzles from Beyond the Stars when her stomach growled (in the din of the arcade, she felt rather than heard it). She smiled as she saw she got the third highest score for the game and looked at Abacuc, sitting firmly on her feet.
Scooping her Petpet into her arms, she showed him the screen and said close to his ear, "High score, Abacuc! On that note, let's get some lunch!"
The Nedler flicked his rounded ear and ran a tentacle under Brandi's chin. The young Aisha expertly dodged gaming 'pets and running children to get out of the arcade. Grundo's Café was on a platform across the way from the arcade. There was a crowd at the café but Brandi had spotted Agneza so she squirmed and wriggled her way through to reach her. The alien had managed to get a table with an unobstructed view of the arcade entrance.
"I wondered how long it would take for you to get hungry. As soon as I got here I got in line and bought some food. I sat down at this table half an hour ago," Agneza said.
"Gordon told me how popular it was. I can see that for myself. Is the food really that good?" Brandi asked.
"Try it for yourself and tell me what you think. I think 'pets are also drawn by Gargarox Isafuhlarg."
Brandi tried the green and purple food called Cheese Manicotti first. She had eaten it before at Gordon's. The Blueberry Gateaux was also familiar to her. The round, soft green tablets were new though. She gave Agneza a curious look.
"Wonder what that is, Brandi? Its green tea. You just toss it in your mouth, "Agneza explained, demonstrating.
"This is green tea? Sure doesn't look like it. Why develop liquid like this?" Brandi asked, not really expecting an answer as she followed Agneza's example.
The strong dry taste of green tea burst in her mouth. It was the oddest thing, coming from a capsule! She shook her head, pondering that. She cast a glance at the crowded café. She looked back at Agneza.
"I'd like to meet Gargarox Isafuhlarg. He's Gordon's hero and a Gormball champion!" Brandi exclaimed, leaping to her feet.
Abacuc clicked to remind Brandi of his presence. She looked back at him and he climbed to her shoulder.
"Brandi, wait! Gargarox will be busy all day. He's working, you know. So I suggest coming back at closing time," Agneza said, also rising to her feet.
"Yeah, you're right. Is it OK if I head back to the arcade? There are still some games I'd like to play."
"Yes, of course. I'll be here, keeping an eye out for you."
"Are you sure? I mean, this is your trip, too. You invited me!"
"Quite sure. I'm easing back into the hustle and bustle. I lived with ghosts too long to be comfortable here right away."
Brandi nodded her head, relieved that Agneza was OK with staying at the café all day. The orange Aisha and her Nedler headed back to the arcade. She made her way to the back of the arcade, having seen a game that she was interested in playing. There was a line, which was disappointing. She decided to wait.
Brandi leaned against a warm machine and let her gaze wander, following one movement after another. That's when she saw an odd green JubJub with goggles. He looked angry and he stomped his way past other 'pets. Brandi watched him until he suddenly disappeared behind an arcade game. Where had he gone?
Curious, Brandi made her way over. There was a dark space behind the arcade game. She looked quickly to see if anyone was watching before entering. Brandi found herself in a narrow corridor. She began walking... walking... walking.
Occasionally, Brandi's four sharp ears would pick up sounds, echoing through the metal. She never stopped to listen in. She had read about maintenance tunnels and figured she was in one.
"I wonder how far we are and where we are. I haven't seen any exits... unless they're hidden. What do you think, Abacuc," Brandi asked, looking back at her Nedler walking behind her.
The Nedler shrugged two of his tentacles in an 'I don't know' gesture. They continued on. Random flashes of light shone up ahead. Listening closely, Brandi heard random clicks. An exit at last?
Brandi quickened her pace and paused when she came into a cramped space. An 8-bit Koi sat in front of large screens, keyboards under his fingers. His gaze was intent on the screens. There was no way around him. Having come all this way, Brandi was reluctant to just turn back.
"Hello," Brandi said.
The Koi whirled in his chair to face Brandi. He blinked his large eyes in surprise, brow beginning to furrow.
"Hello. You're too young to be a contact... Too curious for your own good. I suggest you turn right back around and go home. Don't stick your nose in where it doesn't belong," the Koi said.
The Koi may have said more but he was wearing a headset. He must have heard something because he suddenly whirled in his seat to face the screens and tapped frenetically at the keys. After a few moments, he cast a glance in Brandi's direction. Then, he took a second look and turned around to face Brandi.
"Go away. You don't belong here, kid. I'm working," the Koi said a little testily.
"What are you doing, exactly?" Brandi asked, looking over the Koi's shoulder.
"It's my business."
"Doing what? Typing at keys? That doesn't seem too hard or important."
"It's very important! A child like you wouldn't understand!"
"I would! As long as you explained it to me!"
The 8-bit Koi glowered at Brandi for a moment. She looked back defiantly.
"You're not going to go away, are you," the 8-bit sighed.
"Nope!...You can't make me, can you," Brandi said slowly.
"Unfortunately, no, I can't. Babies are stronger than I am... So, what do you want to know?"
"Well, first, my name is Compton. Everyone I work with calls me Comp."
"My name is Firebrand. Everyone calls me Brandi."
Brandi leaned against one of the screens. Comp flicked his gaze to her as she did, slightly disapproving but he didn't say anything.
"I take care of the technical side of things. If it's electric, I can handle it. Computers, cameras, you name it, I'm the expert," Comp said proudly.
"Sounds like a lot of work," Brandi said.
"It is. I told you I was busy."
Brandi would have said more but she saw on one of Comp's screens the Grundo Café. The crowds were beginning to clear, and in another screen, 'pets were filing out of the arcade.
"Oh no! I've got to go. It was nice meeting you, Comp," Brandi said.
Comp only shook his head and turned his attention back to the screens as Brandi and Abacuc took off at a run, back the way they had come. They just made it back to the arcade as the last 'pets were leaving. They went to the Grundo Café just as Agneza was beginning to come in their direction.
"You were certainly cutting it close. You can meet Gargarox Isafuhlarg now," Agneza said.
"Yeah, I got caught up. Great!" Brandi said, jogging up the steps to the café.
The mutant Grundo was at the counter, massive arms resting before him. Brandi walked over to meet him.
"Gargarox Isafuhlarg, sir, it is so great to finally meet you. My name is Brandi. I have a friend named Gordon," Brandi began eagerly.
"Gordon! You're from Neopia Central? How is my former apprentice?" Gargarox asked.
"Doing just fine. He's really living his dream."
"Would you mind giving me your autograph?"
"My autograph? If you're a friend of Gordon's, I don't mind at all. What brings you to space?"
Brandi removed the journal that she had received as a gift on her last birthday. She gave it to the Grundo chef to sign. His signature was a large awkward scrawl but Brandi was pleased to have it. As she put her journal back in her pocket, she began her story. Gargarox listened with interest, only making a comment every now and then.
The mutant Grundo smiled at Brandi. "It's well worth it, now isn't it?"
"Yes," Brandi said, nodding her head enthusiastically.
"We really should go. We've taken up enough of your time," Agneza said.
"No problem. I enjoy the company. Great way to unwind after a long day. If either of you need anything, I'm glad to help," Gargarox said.
"Thank you for your kind offer."
Brandi extended a hand to shake with the Grundo Chef. His arm was larger than Brandi. His shake was firm. After that, the two Aishas headed back to their hotel room. Brandi slept soundly that night, AJ's warning all but forgotten.
The next day, after they ate breakfast, Brandi already knew where she wanted to go next, "The Supply Deck!"
"Be warned, Brandi. The Supply Deck has a lot of moving cargo. Watch yourself, alright?" Agneza said.
'Oh, OK. No problem!"
The supply Deck was green in color and less crowded than the Recreation Deck but no less busy.
"It looks like a lot of these 'pets work on the Space Station. Is there anything here for 'pets that aren't working?" Brandi said, casting a curious glance at Agneza.
"Yes, there certainly is," Agneza replied.
Brandi had no interest in the weapons or armour and then her blue eyes lighted on the Lever of Doom. She dashed over to it, sidestepping 'pets and skimming low underneath a hovering crane holding a large crate.
"The Lever of Doom. It hardly looks like it deserves the name. Let me guess, with a name like that, it's a cover for Dr. Sloth... or just someone who wants others to think so," Brandi said thoughtfully.
The young orange Aisha had heard of what happened when someone pulled the lever. It was just so tempting! So, she pulled the lever and got one hundred Neopoints taken from her. She smiled and slowly shook her head.
"Well, Abacuc, at least I can say that I pulled it," Brandi said.
The Nedler flicked his round furry ears and made a clicking sound in response. Just then, Agneza came to join them. Brandi had seen the sign for the Space Petpets. This time, she walked beside Agneza to the shop. There were a few 'pets in the shop and plenty of Petpets.
"What's the point of having a robot Petpet? I much prefer you, Abacuc," Brandi said, holding her Nedler in her arms.
A robot Tonu turned to look at Brandi, "There are many benefits to robots. You don't have to feed them. Give them a direct order and they obey. You can turn them on and off. Many self-repair themselves."
To be continued...