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Petpet Name: Sprocket
Pet Name: Fineflour
"Incoming, Sprocket!" Fineflour called out.
Sprocket the Goy whirled around just in time to catch the flying bag of Snowberry Biscuits on one foot. Phew! He chittered up at the Aisha as if to say, "Look, I did it!"
"Well done!" she said, grinning and patting the top of his casing. "You're amazing. There's no way I could bake this many biscuits without your help."
Sprocket's gears whirred with pride. He hooked the bag on his back and looked up at Fineflour, tilting his head in question.
"Yes, good thinking," Fineflour said, glancing out the window. "We'll take them to Taelia now -- there's usually a lull in questers about this time of day."
She wiped her floury paws on her apron and took it off, reaching for her jacket instead. Sprocket trundled after her toward the door, careful not to jostle the biscuits on his back. After all, they were for someone very important, and Fineflour was counting on him! None of these biscuits would end up cracked if he could help it.
Fineflour opened the door and they stepped out into the fresh Terror Mountain air. Sprocket chirped as the cold washed over them and Fineflour laughed. "I almost forgot your scarf!" she said. She took a tiny scarf out of her pocket and wound it around his body. Sprocket let out a grinding purr. He had been built in Moltara and was designed to withstand hotter temperatures, so he had to be careful about getting too cold. Thank Tangor he had an owner who could knit! Properly attired, the pair made their way up the slope to Taelia's place.
It was a bright, sunny day, and the snow sparkled. Sprocket skittered beside Fineflour, leaving tiny tracks next to her larger ones. As cold as it was, he loved living on Terror Mountain with her. The biscuit Aisha trusted him to be her assistant when she baked, and took him on adventures with her when she went exploring the caves by their home. He couldn't imagine any life in Moltara could be better, even if it would be warmer.
They reached Taelia's snow palace shortly. A few hopeful questers lingered, a faerie Xweetok and a white Shoyru among them. Sprocket clicked in surprise. He remembered those Neopets! They had come to try some of Fineflour's cookies a while ago. "These are pretty good," the Xweetok had admitted, "but they're not as pretty as the ones in the Bakery in Neopia Central. You'll have to work on that, you know." Fineflour's ears had drooped for the rest of the day. Sprocket's metal felt hot just thinking about it. He nudged her worriedly with his foot until she noticed them.
"Oh dear," she muttered. "Those two are always so rude... maybe we should go around the back?"
It was too late, though. The Xweetok had caught sight of them and was already waving, a smirk stretched over his face. Sighing, Fineflour waved back.
"Hello," she called politely.
"Hi," the Shoyru said. "Come to do a quest for Taelia? You'll have to wait. We were here first."
"Oh, no, I'm just dropping something off," Fineflour said. She smiled, but Sprocket could see that she didn't really mean it. "It's no rush. Come on, Sprocket, we'll go wait by the Igloo."
"You've still got that old bucket o' bolts following you around, huh?" the Xweetok asked.
Fineflour stiffened. "You mean my pet?" she said, crossing her arms.
"That’s what I said, isn't it?" The Xweetok grinned at her. "Don't tell me you're actually insulted? He's not worth anything, you know that. If someone insulted my Faerie Wibreth you can bet I'd teach them a thing or two, but getting defensive about a pet like that is just silly."
"He's right," the Shoyru said. She flicked a contemptuous glance at Sprocket. "Anyone can get a Goy. They're not special. All you have to do is find enough junk for that weird old Mynci to make you one."
"Yeah," the Xweetok said. He snapped his fingers together. "That's what your Petpet is -- a trash heap!”
“Trash heap!” the Shoyru repeated, giggling. "Hilarious! You really should invest in a better one. Between your cookies and your Petpet, you don't care much about looks, do you?"
Sprocket meeped and crouched low to the ground, wishing there was a convenient hole he could hide in. He felt cold, even with his scarf. He had never thought about his value before. Was it really that bad? Fineflour had never seemed to want a different Petpet, but maybe she just hadn't known? His gears whirled faster and he glanced up at her.
Her face was scrunched in a fierce scowl. "You don't know a thing about worth, that's all I have to say," she said, her voice as sharp as the mountain air. "Sprocket, let's go. We'll come back and give Taelia her biscuits later."
Without giving anyone time to reply, she picked up Sprocket, biscuits and all, and marched away. "We were only teasing!" the Shoyru called, but Fineflour said nothing. When they were out of sight, she set Sprocket down and kicked a clump of snow.
"Faerie dust!" she said. "I was just about ready to throw them to the Snowager. I hope they both fail their quests!"
Sprocket hummed in agreement, but not very loudly. Fineflour looked at him, frowning. Her ears wiggled as she realized what was wrong. She knelt down in the snow next to him.
"Don't listen to them if you can help it," she told him, stroking his clawed feet. "They don't know what they're talking about. The best Petpets aren't the ones everyone thinks are prettiest or the ones that cost the most. The best Petpets are the ones that have a lot of heart and soul, and that's you right down to your gears. Trash heap, my ears! You know that saying, one Neopet's trash is another's treasure? Well, you're my treasure."
She picked him up and hugged him gently to her chest, and Sprocket chirred with pleasure. She always knew just what to say. The taunts still echoed in his aural chambers, but he let her words soothe him a bit. As long as she was happy, he would try to believe her and be happy, too.
Luckily, the Xweetok and Shoyru had gone by the time they went back and Taelia was happy to receive them. "Come in, come in," she said, ushering them into her glittering home.
"Thanks," Fineflour said. "We won't keep you long -- I just wanted to bring your biscuit order by," Fineflour told her. "Sprocket?"
On cue, Sprocket tramped forward and turned around, presenting the biscuits on his back to Taelia. He waited patiently until she unhooked them.
"Thank you, my dear. He's a hard worker, isn't he?" Taelia said, patting his back.
"He sure is!" Fineflour said. "There's no way I could make so many batches of biscuits without his help. You should see him in the kitchen -- he's like an acrobat. He can get all the way across the kitchen to bring me a spoon or some sugar without touching the floor at all."
"Is that so? Well, have you heard about the contest the Negg Faerie is holding this afternoon?" Taelia asked. She smiled in that mysterious way of hers. "I think you might like to enter. It's an obstacle course for Petpets who live on the Mountain."
Fineflour tilted her head at Sprocket. "What do you think? Would you like to try an obstacle course? That's like a fancy race."
Sprocket let out a clank in reply. That sounded exciting!
Taelia smiled again. "Good luck. I'll see you next week."
"Thank you! We'll go look for it right away."
They didn't have to go far to find the contest. Kari the Negg Faerie lived in the Ice Caves, and a large crowd was gathered outside her Neggery, which was bedecked in streamers. Fineflour and Sprocket ducked between the enterprising merchants that had set up food stalls and made it to the sign-up table at the front. There must have been a hundred Neopets with their Petpets there! There were Snufflys and Snowickles, Gabars and Gallions, Warfs and Weewoos, and even a Faerie Wibreth...
Oh no. A Faerie Wibreth?
Sprocket beeped in distress. The Shoyru and Xweetok from before were standing off to the side with their pets. What if they saw him? What if they called him trash again?
"Hmph," Fineflour said. She turned to Sprocket and leaned down to look him the eye. "Look, Sprocket, the point of this is to have fun, so if you think you won't have any fun with them here, we can leave. Promise."
Sprocket thought carefully, his gears going chunka-chunka-chunk. After a long moment, he shook his head. He wanted to try.
"Okay." Fineflour pet his head. "If you change your mind, though, just give me a signal."
She signed him up and was given a number to fasten to his scarf along with a Glass Negg in a pouch. It turned out they were just in time -- the race would start in five minutes. They hurried to the starting line, where Fineflour was told by a volunteer to let Sprocket carry the Negg or to attach it to him somehow. She looped it over him the way she usually had him carry deliveries, and then was quickly ushered away. She waved to him from the sidelines. Sprocket chirped and shuffled up to the starting line between a Feepit and a Snicklebeast.
Kari stepped out of the Neggery a moment later and was greeted with applause and shouts. She smiled graciously at her audience. "Welcome to the first monthly Petpet Obstacle Course!" she called. "I know you're all here to watch the race, so I won't go on. The rules are simple. Each Petpet will carry their Glass Negg through the obstacle course I've devised. The Petpet who can get to the finish line first with their Glass Negg intact will get to keep it. An Icy Negg and a Smiley Negg will be awarded to the second and third place winners.
"Petpets with wings may not use them for more than two seconds, and if a Petpet breaks their Glass Negg, they'll be disqualified. They will also be disqualified for unfair play, which my many volunteer referees will be watching for." She paused. "Does everyone understand the rules?" A cheer went up, and Kari smiled. "In that case, we'll get started. Petpets, are you ready?"
Chirps, buzzes, and whistles filled the air. Sprocket crouched low to the ground, readying himself.
"On your marks... "
The Feepit next to Sprocket feeped in anticipation.
"Get set... "
The Snicklebeast pawed at the snow.
Bang! A shower of sparkles rained down on the Petpets and they sprang into action. Sprocket started forward, his legs pumping steadily. He heard the growls and rustles of other Petpets as they began to run, too, but he tried not to pay attention to them.
The delicate Negg on his back reminded him of the weight of a bag of biscuits, so he decided to pretend he was delivering an order with Fineflour. That made it easier to focus. This wasn't a contest -- it was another job. That meant he shouldn't try to run as fast as he could. It was more important that his cargo didn't break. So, while other Petpets raced forward faster, he set up an even pace.
To his surprise, he found the first part of the course breezing by him. All his practice in the kitchen had really paid off! It was just like navigating full countertops. Sprocket leaped through rings, hopped over stones, and swerved between a series of moving pendulums. All the while, the Glass Negg stayed safe in its pouch.
Next, he picked his way through a net to a puddle of ice. A Gwalla nearby humphed as the net caught it. A quick slide across the ice brought him to a small tunnel, which he had to crouch to get through. Behind him, he heard a squawk and a cry of "Error! Error!" as two Petpets collided, but he didn't let it distract him.
At the end of the tunnel, he was greeted by a tower of snow blocks. He could see the finish line flag waving just beyond them...
Readying himself, he began to hop up the blocks, taking care of the Negg. There was a Bika in front of him hopping, too, but Sprocket just focused on his own hops. Boing! He had reached the top. He began carefully picking his way down. Beside him, the Bika squeaked as it hopped too fast and slid off the bottom of the tower. Sprocket hopped on and began the race for the finish line flag. A moment later, he passed it! The Bika came in right behind him, followed by a Garooda.
Kari was waiting for them with a big smile. "Congratulations to you three!" she said. "A Dofrey crossed the finish line first, but his Negg was broken. That means you're our winners!"
Sprocket squawked in confusion. Was it really true?
"Congratulations to Sprocket, our first place winner!" Kari shouted to the audience. "Hip hip hooray!" the crowd chanted in a chorus. Sprocket turned around in an ecstatic circle, his wheels turning double-time in his delight. A moment later, Fineflour reached his side and swept him up in her arms for a hug.
"You did it!" she cried, her face bright with joy. "Oh, Sprocket, I’m so proud of you." She set him down so Kari could pin the prize ribbon onto his scarf.
A yellow Techo came toward them, beaming. "That was amazing! I've never seen anything like it! I'm from the Petpet Spotlight, and I'd love to feature your pet.”
All Sprocket's gears stopped moving at once, and he stared up at the Techo with his mechanical eye. The Petpet Spotlight? Him?
"Really?" said Fineflour. Her ears curled with delight. "We'd love that."
Sprocket couldn't keep down a happy screech, hopping a little from foot to foot. The Techo laughed. "He obviously feels the same," she said, grinning. "Can you tell a bit about him for the spotlight?"
"Of course! Where should I start? Oh, I could go on for ages. Would you like to come back to our home and discuss it over tea and cookies?"
Sprocket glowed with pride. He had won the race, and he might even get to be in the Petpet Spotlight. Fancy that! He wasn't a valueless trash heap, that was for sure. He was Sprocket the Goy, acrobatic delivery Petpet extraordinaire!
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