Meegla and Fargon's Not-So-Intergalactic Adventures: Part Five
Meegla couldn’t read the deck. Try as she might, her psychic powers didn’t seem to work on a whole stack of cards. She could barely tell what the top card was; it was as if the other cards were creating an interference her powers couldn’t overcome.
Staring uselessly at the board before her, she started to sweat. Heqet’s game had gone much more smoothly than hers. He hadn’t racked up more than 100 points, but he had managed to complete a pair of Blackjacks and two Large 21s. Meegla, on the other hand, had yet to score a single point. Her board was littered with mismatched cards, with no much-needed special hands in sight. She put down a couple of fives and a couple of threes in her first column to get them out of the way, spending most of her energy glaring at the Jacks and Queens in her other four columns.
Meegla picked up the card off the top of her deck. A five. What in Neopia could she do with a five? She hadn’t scored a single point so far in this stupid game! If she added a five to any of her last three columns her value would be way over 21, in the second it wouldn’t even make a dent, and in the first -
Heqet gasped just as a light bulb seemed to go off in Meegla’s brain. Grinning maniacally, the Alien Aisha threw down the five, completing one of the best secret moves a player can make in Scarab 21: a Full House.
“That’s two-hundred points!” Qival shrieked. The Desert Scarabs began to chatter, flabbergasted to see their brave leader defeated for the second time that day.
Fargon let out a whoop of excitement. There would be no third competition. Meegla had won Cheat, and now she had won Scarab 21. They were finally going to get their neopoints back and leave Sakhmet!
Heqet stood up suddenly, quieting the room. After a moment or two, Meegla also got slowly to her feet. The pair stared deeply at one another.
Then Heqet held out his hand. “Great job,” he conceded. “You would’ve made a great addition to the Desert Scarabs.”
“I never would’ve stuck around,” Meegla scoffed, shaking his hand firmly, quickly, before dropping it to where her ray gun hung from her belt. “You’re such a tiny, peaceful organization. You don’t have the power or the propensity for violence to keep anybody from leaving.”
The shadow Ruki shrugged. “True… But I did keep you and your partner here for an afternoon at least, didn’t I?” He smiled warmly, then signaled to Qival, who handed over the sack of stolen neopoints. According to him, Fargon’s books were still there, too. Meegla snatched the bag without a word.
Fargon gave another sigh of relief. “I’m so glad Meegla won! She’s usually got the most rotten luck in Neopia. I was sure we’d lose...” He quieted down when Meegla squinted at him across the room.
While the rest of the Scarabs complained about the outcome of the competition, Nadine sidled up to Fargon. “...Hey,” she said, pulling his attention away from the Aisha in question. “What’s Meegla’s story?”
The Grundo gave her an easy-going smile, as if they hadn’t just been on opposite sides of a conflict that involved his being held hostage. “Meegla’s past is kind of mysterious to me. I couldn't tell you her story any better than I could tell you yours.”
“Then how did you come to call her captain?”
“She just came up to me one day, ranting about her dream of becoming captain of her very own spaceship, exploring worlds beyond Neopia. She was so inspiring, I guess she convinced me her dreams were worth chasing. I’ve just been following her ever since.” He’d actually gone to live with Meegla, Klaxa, and their owner because of it.
Nadine was aghast. “Don’t tell me that spaceship is what you two have been saving up for?”
Fargon chuckled, scratching his neck. “Yeah… Seems kind of hopeless, doesn’t it?”
Nadine watched as her comrades roughly patted Meegla’s back, only to have every wandering hand that reached for her ray gun or sack of neopoints flawlessly deflected. Despite herself, Nadine smiled. “No. It doesn’t seem hopeless at all.”
Meegla was right. The best members of the Desert Scarabs had, in fact, long deserted the organization either to join the Thieves Guild or lead a more honest existence. Heqet’s gang of seven were the poor remainder. His competition with Meegla had been an attempt to build up morale, and then his sudden desire to return the organization to its glory days had prompted his attempted recruitment of Meegla. She rolled her eyes at this, admitting she had no idea if her psychic powers would ever be able to do something as sophisticated as guess which passing neopets in Sakhmet were the wealthiest marks. More profitable heists involved expertise one had to sharpen on his or her own, Meegla claimed; just picking pockets would never yield very much wealth.
Heqet also proceeded to tell Meegla that, had she not won the second competition, the third would have been a game of tug of war, her men against his. The Skeith from earlier ruffled Meegla’s ears, claiming that he would’ve taken up her and Fargon’s side to even things out.
“Please,” Meegla sighed. “You would’ve cheated so Heqet would win.”
The Skeith laughed uproariously at this. “Ha! You really are a psychic!” His friendly pat on her shoulder nearly sent her toppling to the ground.
Heqet and Nadine escorted Meegla and Fargon out of the building and showed them the way back to the center of Sakhmet. The slums could be labyrinthine without the right guide. Fargon certainly didn’t think he could find his way back by himself.
Before Meegla and Fargon departed for good, Heqet patted Meegla on the shoulder. “I meant what I said: the Desert Scarabs won’t target you. In fact, feel free to consider us your friends.”
Meegla rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t get all mushy when you had us trapped in your headquarters just an hour ago." She pulled her shoulder free of his grasp.
Nadine offered them both a genuine smile. “Good luck with your spaceship, Captain,” she said.
And then, with expert agility, the two strongest remaining Desert Scarabs zipped off into the narrow streets, disappearing from sight within seconds. Fargon and Meegla stared at the sandstone buildings long after their new tentative allies had gone.
“I don’t trust that girl,” Meegla said, remembering Nadine’s attempts at “sneakiness” earlier.
“I do,” Fargon said. He had a helpless kind of smile on his face.
The pair was halfway out of Sakhmet, the buildings falling away to endless sands, when Meegla reached into the sack for their airship fare, and gave a horrified scream.
“5,312 neopoints!” she thundered. “That’s basically 2,000 missing! Those untrustworthy, vagabond, cheating…!” As Meegla cursed the Desert Scarabs, stomping around and causing quite the scene, Fargon could only laugh. Apparently their new friends had taken it upon themselves to collect a down payment for their friendship. The people of Sakhmet watched the Alien Aisha’s temper tantrum with interest, laughing at her behind their paws and claws and wings.
Fargon traded his T-shirt, sandals, and shorts for a thick winter parka, boots, and snow-resistant pants. His teeth chattered as he and Meegla trudged once again through the Happy Valley snow, Meegla bizarrely just fine with a scarf thrown over her usual spacesuit. Fargon decided her suit must have some temperature control; she wore that thing no matter what the weather.
The Kiosk Wocky greeted them with a familiar smile, going so far as to thump Fargon on the back when he was close enough. “You two again! My biggest customers!” Meegla paid him 600 neopoints, and he gave her a random scratch card with a wink.
Meegla held the card in her hands, considering. Fargon hopped from foot to foot to keep warm in the meantime, knowing Meegla would probably take forever to scratch off the silver foil. Two other customers came and went in the time it took her to decide.
The wait was getting awkward. Trying to fill the silence, the Kiosk Wocky gave a cheesy smile and teased, “I bet that one’s a jackpot winner.”
“No, it’s not.” With a defeated sigh, Meegla let the card drift into the snow. “Just a measly 10,000 neopoint winner.”
Fargon’s jaw dropped. “Measly?!” He snatched the card up.
Meegla started to wander off, but Fargon grabbed her arm. “Hey! That’s a lot of neopoints! Why not scratch it off anyway?”
“Not enough to buy a spaceship.” She tugged her arm, but couldn’t get it out of his grip. She looked at him over her shoulder, her expression darkening. Fargon let go of her.
A chilling wind whipped down from the peaks of Terror Mountain. Gusts of snowflakes nipped Fargon’s face as he watched his captain start to walk away again. “Didn’t Sakhmet teach you anything?!” he called out to her, voice hoarse. “Every neopoint counts, doesn’t it?”
Her shoulders shrugged. Her back was getting farther and farther away, still.
“Do you even know how many neopoints a spaceship costs?!” Fargon spat. “Or are you just shooting in the dark?!”
“Let’s go, Fargon,” Meegla called back. She had already crossed the snow-covered street and was nearly at the Ice Cream Machine headquarters.
Taking pity on the split Grundo, whose mismatched ears were drooping in defeat, the Kiosk Wocky laid a paw on one orange shoulder. “Hey… You can still give it a go. Scratch the card, see what happens.”
Fargon took him up on his offer, if only because he knew trying to make Meegla return and do it would only make this throat hoarse. Unfortunately, his luck was even more dismal than hers; he didn’t even win a snowball.
After fifty paces or so, Fargon came jogging up alongside Meegla. His expression and tone were more sour than a lemon Chia’s. “Thanks to you, we didn’t earn anything today.”
Meegla shrugged. “Big money or nothing. You don’t save up One Dubloon Coins if you need fifties.”
Fargon tore at his winter cap. “Yes you do!” he shouted, face reddening. “Yes you do! Because if you save up fifty One Dubloon Coins, you can take them to the Dubloon-o-Matic and exchange them for one Fifty Dubloon Coin!”
Meegla was forced to stop, then. She rubbed her green chin. “...Okay. I see your point. Bad simile. But you see, a spaceship can’t be cheap. You can’t save up to buy or build one with just a few thousand here and there. You need millions at a time.”
Fargon stared at her. “But… Throwing neopoints away isn’t helpful! Why not at least keep what you’ve got and save up? Even if it’s slow… Ugh!” He threw his cap to the ground. He had no idea why; it just felt like the best, most dramatic thing to do. He immediately regretted it, though; it was awfully cold and now a couple of Lutaris walking along the street and a Bori who just came out of the Gift Tags shop were staring at them.
Meegla didn’t respond. She was just watching him make a fool out of himself. It made him angry all over again. Remembering something Nadine had said, Fargon yelled, “You’re so reckless, Meegla! So reckless that sometimes I’m not sure you even really care about building a spaceship, or, or discovering new worlds! All you do is gamble!” She only stared in reply, and it made him even more frustrated with her. Shouting now, Fargon continued, “You’re so demanding and irrational, it’s no wonder I’m the only other person who’s agreed to be in your eventual ship’s crew, let alone hang out with you! In fact, I almost feel like you made this whole stupid scheme up just to trick at least one person into being your friend, because how else could stand to be around you?!”
The Bori gasped and clamped a paw over her mouth. The Lutaris winced and started to hurry off in the opposite direction. Meegla remained calm. She stood firmly in the Happy Valley frost, lips pursed, paws hanging by her sides. She didn’t even mock Fargon.
“Fine,” Meegla said, shrugging. “If you don’t believe in the mission, then you can leave me alone from now on.” She swiveled around, trudging through the snow towards the Ice Caves entrance. “It’s not like you bring anything to this operation other than your constant complaining, anyway.”
Fargon felt hurt as he watched her go, but given all he had just shouted at her, he knew he deserved that last dig. With a sigh, he headed for the nearest bench and sat down, burying his face in his hands. After a moment or two, he heard the crunching of boots in the snow. Stomach churning, he looked up, expecting to deliver a million apologies, only to see the Bori from before standing in front of him.
“Why don’t you go after her?” she huffed. “You’re friends, aren’t you?”
Fargon buried his face back in his hands. “Mind your own business.”
The Bori huffed at him, planting her paws on her hips. “I mean it: are you and Meegla friends or what?”
“I don’t know!” Fargon exclaimed, pushing his hands over his eyes. He wanted to cry. “Maybe not, after I said all that awful stuff to her!” He scrubbed at his eyes, vision too blurry to make anything out in the all-white landscape. “Maybe I don’t even want to make up with her, though. Maybe she really is too difficult to be friends with…”
He looked up. Vision clearing, he realized that the Bori wasn’t the only one standing in front of him.
To be continued…