SNRPG: Series 1
Lord of the Wings
"Leslie, you have to stay after!" moaned Briana. "It's the last day to see Zack Tailor playing yooyuball. I can't miss it! And you can't let me go alone! Please, Leslie, you'll love it!"
The Lupe-tail-haired girl fidgeted. "I really shouldn't...I need to rebolt my mordongos..."
"You need to what?"
"Rebolt my..." At Briana's blank stare, Leslie tried to explain further. "Mordongos. They're very easy to grow - they don't need dirt or water or sunlight or anything - but they float, you see, and if you don't prune them or make their fastenings tougher on a regular basis, they'll float away..."
"But, like, can't it wait a day?" protested the blonde. "There aren't any more yooyuball games until, like, next year, and then Zack will be in, like, high school, and we won't have any excuse!"
The mordongos could wait another day, and Leslie didn't want to admit that she didn't really care about yooyuball or Zack Tailor, not when Bri looked so excited. So she said, "Okay, I'll stay."
The game was more exciting than Leslie had expected; there was a fire yooyu in play, so the players couldn't hold on to it for more than a few seconds. On the sidelines a row of cheerleaders in teal and grey made assorted enthusiastic noises.
Leslie knew that the image of the perky blonde cheerleader was a stereotype, but the NCJH cheer squad consisted of a row of them. They all looked eerily similar - in fact, Briana would have fit right in with the line.
"Hey, Bri," she spoke up during a time-out, "did you ever try out for cheerleading?"
"Noooo. I totally thought about it - I know I have, like, the figure for it and everything - but, come on, Leslie, the captain's a bossy sevvie. Who wants that?"
"Which one's the captain?" ventured Leslie.
"The really short one. There." Bri pointed to the girl at the end of the line - who, with short brown hair, looked decidedly out-of-place. "Her name's Jean Somethingorother - it's, like, twenty letters long, and really weird. Ooh! The game's back!"
And she went back to cheering for the NCJH team. Leslie wished Briana had joined the squad; her voice must've been louder than half the cheerleaders put together.
But it was no wonder Briana didn't want Jean in charge of her - the small brunette may have been a seventh-grader, but she looked about ten.
Cheerleading is a sport in itself. Routines require practice; the coordination relies on teamwork; formations like human pyramids demand that the people involved be athletic.
Jean Keresaspa treated the cheer squad like a team. When the game was over, they headed down to Hubert's Hot Dogs for a team dinner.
"We should, like, totally all go to Mystery Island!" said one through a mouthful of rainbow hot dog. "We can all, like, chip in some neopoints - my pet has a job, she can help - and we can hang out for a weekend!"
"You mean, like, rent a cabin or something?" asked another, after swallowing a bite of banana hot dog. "Isn't that expensive?"
Jean, who had just finished haggling with Hubert over a water hot dog, brought it to the purple plastic tables that the squad had commandeered. It was a gorgeous evening - still light, as it was nearly summer, but not hot - and most of the brightly colored tables around the hot dog stand were occupied. Somehow, though, Jean had wrangled enough chairs for everyone on the team.
"What if we just went to the Neopia Central shore?" suggested one of the cheerleaders, putting down her frozen corn dog. "It would be cheaper."
"But that's boring. We could go there any time. We've gotta do something special!"
The debate went on; Jean simply sat and watched, unaware that someone in turn was watching her. Nobody dangerous - just Briana, and since looks can't kill, she was no threat.
"Look at her!" murmured Bri to Leslie. The two were lurking in the bushes next to Usukiland; Leslie felt it all very silly. But she looked.
"...What is it?"
"How did she and her dumb cheerleaders get, like, all the chairs? What if somebody else wants to sit there, huh?"
"...do you?" ventured Leslie.
"Well, not now. Zack's shift doesn't start for, like, half an hour. But still!"
"Wait - Zack works at Hubert's Hot Dogs?"
"And you want to wait here until he shows up?"
"Well, yeah! C'mon, Leslie, he's, like, so cute..."
"Leslie!" cut in a thin voice, and she looked up to see Kaen, the little earth faerie, streaking towards her. "Leslie, there's a mutant heading this way!"
"But--" began Leslie.
"But what?" asked Bri quizzically, following Leslie's gaze. She didn't seem to see Kaen, and the confused look that she then turned on Leslie suggested that she hadn't heard the faerie, either.
"But...nothing! It's a good idea!" invented Leslie hurriedly. "But...if Zack won't be here for a while...we don't both need to wait. Let's...I'll wait here, and you go...buy yourself something! Okay?" She dug around in her pockets and found 216 NP. "Here - it's a present - find something nice, okay? Take your time!"
There was a moment of silence, during which Leslie was afraid she'd bungled it completely. Then Bri's face lit up. "Oh, Leslie, you are the sweetest!" she gushed, taking the coins. "I'll totally get you something too, okay? Thank you! Later!" And off she went, stopping twice to turn and wave.
"Well done," said Kaen, fluttering to land on Leslie's shoulder. "Can you summon Sailor Acara and Sailor Zafara?"
"I can try."
Seaweed_Acara_, the tough green acara belonging to Keiko Wilson, caught a winged golden envelope out of the air at the Winding Wood Community Pool before it plunged into the water.
When Keiko surfaced, Sea handed her the wriggling envelope. "It's for you."
"Thanks, Sea." The black-haired girl climbed out of the pool, sat down on one of the chairs, and dried herself off a bit with her seashell-print towel, before opening the envelope at her leisure.
After reading the contents, she bolted.
The blast of a whistle and a shout of "No running by the pool!" followed her out.
"I saw her on TV last week," one of the cheerleaders asserted. "You think she's a cheerleader? She kinda had the uniform."
The conversation outside Hubert's Hot Dogs had turned to Sailor Lupe, and Jean was a skeptic.
"You'd never catch me in a skirt like that," she asserted. "It's half the length of your uniforms. And she runs around in it all by herself - she just looks stupid."
"There was someone else with her one time," observed one of the girls. "Only she was in blue, not green."
"If they're gonna be superheroes, they should at least, like, match," asserted another. "Like the Defenders of Neopia."
"Because they don't look silly at all," put in Jean, rolling her eyes.
Then the giant pink mutant threw a plastic table over their heads, and all questions of fashion gave way to more practical concerns.
It looked like a mutant grundo, but had scraggly wings and mottled pink skin. It didn't seem to have any strategy; it just walked in a straight line and wrecked things. It had been doing this for some time, but didn't seem in the least tired.
Sailor Lupe appeared, very dramatically, on the roof of Usukiland. She gave what she thought was a very nice speech - dramatic, but tasteful. The wind even blew at exactly the right moment, making her collar and bows flutter artistically.
The mutant didn't even look up. Sailor Lupe thought this was very rude.
"Okay, let's just fight," she said with a sigh, jumping down to land effortlessly on her feet. (One of the perks to this sailor business: she could do that, at least when transformed, without breaking her legs.) "Lupe Lunge!"
The monster didn't look up at that either. It stumbled from the blow, then kept going.
Sailor Lupe's next attack was delayed by her need to dodge a fleeing cheerleader. She could see the crowd scattering, users and pets abandoning their hot dogs and jacket potatoes and dispersing en masse - except one.
Jean was approaching the creature from behind, unsteadily holding one of the plastic chairs.
"Don't--!" called Sailor Lupe.
"Oh, like you're doing so much good?" the brunette shot back, and whacked the pink creature with the chair, which obligingly snapped in two.
It still didn't change direction, but swung an arm back--
A jet of fire scorched the arm, barely missing Jean on its path but successfully keeping the arm from slamming into her. Sailor Zafara dashed towards the battle as Jean stumbled away from it.
"What's our strategy, oh fearless leader?" called Zafara as the mutant started moving forward again.
"Um...just keep hitting it?" offered Lupe. "Lupe Lunge!"
"Well, okay...Zafara Flame!"
"I think it's working...it looks like you burned it..." said Lupe hopefully.
"How can you tell? The thing's pink anyway!" countered Zafara. "What kind of color is pink for a minion of evil, anyway? Zafara Flame!"
"I don't know. Lupe Lunge! Could you get, um, the civilian out of the way?"
The 'civilian' was now rather far behind the mutant, as it had continued to move forward all this time. But she was on the ground; she'd apparently tripped over something, and--
"You said she was a civilian," protested Zafara.
"I thought she was!" replied a stunned Lupe.
Jean looked up from the cream-and-sky-blue wing-adorned pen in her hands. "What are you guys talking about?"
"You're a sailor. Like us. The cup you tripped over - the pen - it lets you transform - Lupe Lunge--"
"It's not even stopping," complained Zafara, taking aim at the mutant. "Zafara Flame!...Again. It's like it hasn't even occurred to it to fight - like it's just programmed to move forward..."
Jean, meanwhile, got to her feet. "I'm not one of you. I didn't sign up for this."
"Neither did we. Lupe Lunge!" (The mutant, at last, staggered.)
"We inherited these powers," explained Zafara, circling the mutant. "Zafara Flame!" (The mutant swayed.) "It's one of those situations where if we don't do it, no one else can."
"The transformation phrase should come naturally to you," added Lupe, moving towards Zafara and aiming at her foe's legs. "Just say the words. Lupe Lunge!" (The mutant toppled.)
"Here goes nothing," sighed Jean. "Shoyru Neo Power...Make Up!"
She was wrapped in an expanse of velvety wind, surrounded by the beating of leathery wings--
And then she landed, in a cream uniform with sky-blue trim, a sailor collar, and a skirt that, yes, was that short.
"So I'm supposed to be Sailor Shoyru?" she asked at last. (The mutant was on the ground.)
"Exactly." Sailor Lupe - and Sailor Zafara, now beside her - stood over the fallen mutant. "So...Sailor Shoyru. Would you like to..." She gestured at the monster.
"You mean...finish it off?"
The pair looked uncomfortable, but Lupe said, "Well, yes."
Sailor Shoyru looked back, down the path of destruction that the mutant had left in its wake. Crushed bushes, gouged turf, ruined furniture, and, farther back, at least one building with a corner now demolished. Then she faced the mutant itself. "All right. Sure. Gotta start sometime."
She walked the path of torn-up soil to stand across from Lupe and Zafara, where she pointed at the bulk of the twitching beast. "Shoyru...Hover!"
No flames or claws shot from her outstretched hands. After a few moments of nothing, she figured none were coming.
"Well, that worked," she snapped sarcastically, and looked up to see Lupe and Zafara staring at her in goggle-eyed amazement. "What are you looking at?"
Mutely, Lupe pointed.
Shoyru turned her head - and saw the huge cream-colored wings that had erupted from her shoulders.
When Sailor Acara arrived, she found a pile of dust at the end of the mutant's path, and an unfamiliar sailor doing loops in the sky above it.
She came to a stop, breathing heavily, a few meters away from it. "I...missed...the fight?"
"How far did you run?" exclaimed Lupe. "I'm so sorry! We just finished it off..."
"We could use...a better...communication system...than emergency...neomails," panted Acara.
"Speaking of communication," broke in Zafara, "look at this." She had been kneeling by the ash, and now pulled from it a kind of silver-blue tiara with a sphere of glowing red circuits embedded in it. "The mutant was wearing it."
"So?" asked Shoyru, soaring lower.
"It's a communication device." Zafara dropped the headpiece and crushed it under her boot; the LEDs in the sphere winked out. "That explains why the mutant was so sloppy. It didn't want energy or even to defend itself. It was just gathering information."
There was a moment of worried silence.
Then Shoyru swooped over to Acara, landed in front of her, and held out a hand. "By the way, I'm Sailor Shoyru. Pleased to meet you."
Acara took it. "Sailor Acara...same here."
"Four down, thirty to go," remarked Zafara. "This is going to be one loooong epic."
Dr. F. Sloth pressed a sequence of buttons, and the speakers in his office obligingly replayed the audio clip. I didn't sign up for this...Neither did we...We inherited these powers...
"This," he said out loud, "could be interesting."