Day 3 (Part 1)–Slubes

Note that this is not the final version and may change when the book comes out

Torpedo Attack Blasts Shellport into a State of Panic

An attack took place in Shellport yesterday where torpedoes were used to blast the docks and ships, sending the citizens fleeing to the upper city.

The attack was orchestrated by a turtle who was reportedly only a child. The turtle, calling himself Terrent, had stolen a shipment of torpedoes and modified a Shell Surfer, a submarine rented out in Shellport. A slube named Professor Zeth appeared on the scene with his own watercraft and was able to destroy the Shell Surfer and end the attack with help from two more slubes, Numer and Cherry.

Extensive damage to the docks was reported. A few small ships were sunk, but no cargo ships were reported as such. The owner of the shop that sells Shell Surfers, a thyvae named Sheryl, confirmed that she had no relation to the attack and that the shell surfer had been stolen.

Police officers rushed to the scene to try and stop the attack, but the police boats were sunk, and they were forced to retreat. The chief of police said the attack was a wakeup call that the port was becoming more prominent and that tighter patrol may need to be instated.

It is unknown if the attack was an act of terror, had a material goal, or was simply a random event with no real purpose behind it. Terrent disappeared, and police have announced a reward for information regarding his location.

While there have been concerns that a similar attack may take place here in Interpolis, the recent race approved by the city council is set to move forward. After the attack, Professor Zeth confirmed that he would be a participant in the race.

 ***

That morning, as they left the hotel, Zeth suggested they split up to cover more ground.

“Split up?” Numer asked. He couldn’t get a shard on his own!

“That’s a good idea,” Cherry said. “While you’re in the race, Numer and I can scour the city for more crystals.”

“Together?” Numer hoped.

“No, that’s not what ‘split up’ means,” Cherry answered.

“Oh… r-right…” Numer said. Although he’d much rather have spent the day with Cherry, he couldn’t openly admit that to them. The three of them thus went solo for the day.

 ***

Zeth arrived at the street where the race starting banner was set up. The other four competitors were already there, along with a crowd on the sidewalk. About ten people were there, a sparse crowd—either they hadn’t advertised, or there was a lot of apathy.

Zeth drove the Transpide to the far left of the starting line. “Well, well; look who decided to show up,” Troy said, his vehicle to Zeth’s left. “Last to arrive and you’ll be the last to finish.”

“We’ll see about that,” Zeth said. He examined Troy’s machine. “Hold on… your vehicle looks very similar to mine, only thinner.” If this ostrich was taunting Zeth’s vehicle, why did his look so similar?

“Hmph. But it will outclass yours a million to one,” Troy claimed.

Overlooking the starting line was an announcer booth with an empty chair. A red chameleon with yellow, wavy lines on her sides entered the booth.

“UNCLE MARL’NT, WAKE UP!”

Marl’nt once again became visible and fell out of his chair onto the floor, screaming and flailing along the way. “What? Oh! Right, the race! It’s time to begin!” Marl’nt pulled out a microphone and spoke into it, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Marl’nt’s ‘Race to the Purpose of I’ve Always Wanted to Be an Announcer for Something, and Also Some Sort of Crystal I Found is Up for Grabs!’”

“Wait a minute, there’s no way I’m being in a race with a name that awful!” Troy shouted.

“Oh. Um. Well, in that case, welcome to ‘The Great City Vehicular Challenge!’”

“That doesn’t seem much better,” Zeth said.

“The Mushroom Cup?”

“I don’t believe this,” Troy muttered, face in his wing.

“Spinny Cutty Guy?”

“Can we just stop this running gag already?” the red chameleon asked.

“Okay, yes, I suppose you’re right, Lin’mp,” Marl’nt agreed. Back into the microphone he said, “Anyway, uh, let’s meet our racers today!”

The racer on the far right was the crawber with Troy the day before. He was seated in a vehicle of width twice its length with two claws on the sides. The center looked like ribs. “We’re not under the sea, we’re not where it’s wetter, but if you don’t think he’s something, then you’d better—it’s Croak!”

“You’re not going to do this for all of them, are you?” Lin’mp groaned.

“Probably. I said I always wanted to be an announcer,” Marl’nt said.

The racer to Croak’s left was the Shiffle who had been with Troy. He was in a rocket-shaped vehicle designed to look like a pine tree. “He’s covered in fur, you can’t see his eyes, but he knows where he’s going and plans to flies—it’s Hairley!”

Lin’mp facepalmed at Marl’nt’s attempt to rhyme.

The racer to Hairley’s left was a female shiffle and so lacked hair. She was tan and had a legless, cone-shaped body with a strawberry-shaped head half the size of her body. Her vehicle looked like a wheeled helicopter without the top blades.

“The only girl here, she’s not to be trifled with, she almost hurt me when she signed up, and that’s no myth—it’s Chee!”

Chee made no motion—her head, with its blue bandana and two side bows around her forehead, stared ahead with her arch-shaped pupils. She held a perpetual frown on her face. Her red arms, possibly sleeves from her gray shirt (I have no idea), were on the throttle and ready to go. She meant business.

Marl’nt went on. “The professor of cool, the ostrich of science, he thinks he’s great and… should… try a fence—Troy!”

“What do you, uh, mean I ‘should try a fence’?” Troy yelled.

“I’m just looking for rhymes,” Marl’nt said. “And finally, the scientist from Nottle that could, representing the slubes out there, the last to sign up but will he be the first to finish—Zeth!” At his name the crowd of ten cheered.

“What?” Troy shouted. “How is it they’re cheering for you?”

“Look at that, Lin’mp!” Marl’nt said. “They finally like one of my rhymes!”

“First, that wasn’t a rhyme. Second, they’re cheering for the slube,” Lin’mp told him.

“Oh.” Into the microphone he said, “Well, look at that! Looks like we’ve got us a crowd favorite!”

“Not for long…” muttered Troy.

“Anyway,” Marl’nt continued, “the rules of the race are simple. Reach the finish line first like in all races. Signs have been put up on street corners to tell you which way to go, but don’t worry; if you miss the sign, the blockade will keep you from going down the wrong street. Also, don’t get reckless; I know it’s a race, but the city council told me if anything was damaged I’d get a huge fine.

“Well, I’m sure both the crowd and the racers are tired of my blabbering, so what do you say we get this race going? Let’s start with the three P’s: Prime… Prepare… and PROCEED!”

And they were off, all the vehicles racing down the street. All but Croak, whose vehicle screeched to the right and crashed into the wall.

“… Maybe placing the wheels perpendicularly wasn’t a good idea,” Croak mused.

 ***

Meanwhile, Cherry was taking a look around Interpolis. The city was even bigger than she had thought. Even if there were any shards to be found, it would take a substantial amount of searching to find them.

As she searched near the suburban area, something caught her eye, something she hadn’t expected to see in a big city like this—a dojo! Interpolis had one too!

Interpolis’ dojo was much bigger than the one at Gelago City. Its main room was at least as big as the entire Gelago City dojo. There were hallways leading further into the building and a sign directing people to a dining hall and living quarters. Instead of wood, the walls were white drywall. The floor seemed to be rubber tiles.

A loud thud brought Cherry’s attention to a fighting arena, a round raised platform with stairs on opposite sides. Up sprang a white-robed floggle, a frog creature with its head and body almost combined, but long arms and legs bringing it to a slube’s height.

The floggle ducked flat onto the floor as something very big and only a normal degree of red swung over him. Cherry started; fighting the floggle was a monstrous crawber, one that must have been at least three times normal size, if not four.

As Cherry watched the fight, a thyvae wearing a white robe with green frills on it walked up to her. “Ah, greetings, guest. I am Master Hydra, and welcome to my dojo.”

“Greetings,” Cherry said and bowed. “I am Cherry, a student of Master Smar-” She gasped and stumbled back as the fighting floggle was thrown right over her head, his head-body smashing into the wall. “Holy carp[7]!” The floggle’s long appendages hung down more than halfway to the floor.

“Do not worry,” Master Hydra said, “this happens every time Frishu fights against Crawmaster.” Frishu tried to push his head out of the wall as Master Hydra began to pull him out. “What was it you were saying?”

“I was a student of Master Smartel from Gelago City,” Cherry said.

“Ah, yes, Master Smartel. I have heard much about him,” Master Hydra said.

“You have?” Cherry asked. Why, Master Smartel was famous!

“Much about him being a loser!” Master Hydra said with a laugh.

Cherry couldn’t believe her (nonexistent) ears! Maybe jerks were common in the city! “A loser? No way! He was the best teacher I had!”

“He must have been your only teacher as well,” Master Hydra said as he finally pulled Frishu out. Pointing his arm to the arena, he said, “He has never had a champion such as my Crawmaster.”

“I’M THE GREATEEEEST!” Crawmaster roared in a single tone of loud voice and held up a championship belt in triumph. On the belt was a jagged, dark, crystalline object.

“… Okay, first, that looks more like a wrestling belt,” Cherry said, putting her hand on her (also nonexistent) hip. “Second, he doesn’t even have a waist. Third, I need the crystal on that belt.”

“I am afraid not,” Master Hydra said. “If you want the crystal, you must win the belt by defeating Crawmaster. Before you may fight him, you must defeat all my other students. And I must doubt that you could even defeat one.”

“Bring ‘em on,” Cherry said. “I’ll take the crystal and show you what Master Smartel’s teachings can do.”

 ***

Elsewhere in Interpolis, Numer was walking aimlessly, looking for anything glittering or crystal-like. So far, he had found… nothing. He wasn’t even sure where to begin looking.

Numer had considered asking people if they had seen anything. The responses at Gelago City hadn’t been too promising, though, and in a big place like this? He expected even less promise.

Further dissuading him was the fact there were so many people. It was impossible to count how many people there were. It made him feel smaller than usual.

Furthermore, so many people were strange. Some wore strange clothing: long, billowing dresses or skin-tight pants or nothing at all. Some wore a suit and tie and top hat: high-class? There were even some creatures Numer had never seen before, at least in person, shiffles and chameleons; these were people from the continental areas. Numer was overwhelmed.

After… not all that long a time of searching, Numer went to rest at an ice cream “shoppe” as the sign read. It was seated at the side of the street and open to the outside.

Numer sat on one of the plastic, red stools set up in front of the plastic counter, but no one was behind it. The shop appeared to be vacant, and Numer noticed a layer of dust on the counter. This reminded him of when he had found the Apple Shack empty two days ago. He hesitated and then asked, “Um… hello?”

An accordion began to play. Numer looked around for the source. From behind the counter popped up a bird half Numer’s height with a green head and blue body. He played the accordion with his red, clawed feet.

“A customer… a customer… a customer…!” sang the bird. “Greetings, customer; how do you do? I, your server, am named Hey You!”

The bird stuck his yellow, banana-shaped beak into Numer’s face. That beak was as long as his body and almost as big. Numer didn’t like how the bird’s big eyes didn’t focus; he looked positively bonkers.

The bird stopped playing the accordion, and the city seemed to halt. Everything became utterly silent. This, along with the bird’s beak in Numer’s face, made his body tremble; his mind raced but went nowhere. He wasn’t even sure that he’d heard the name right. “… Your name is-?”

“Hey there, how there, who’s that bird? Why, it’s Hey You! How absurd!” interrupted the bird, resuming the accordion-playing.

The fact the bird was singing simultaneously eased Numer and unnerved him, like a mad joker with a chainsaw using it to cut apple slices for him. “… I have to agree. If you don’t mind me asking, what sort of a name is… Hey You?”

“Short for: Heyounicus Rexipus Edified Readitried Cantus Canary Cantaloupe Jones! That’s my full name, so, you see, it’s much too long normally!”

“… I can see how it would be a hassle to say that a lot,” Numer agreed. He had no idea what to make of the bird, so he just went along.

“So they just call me Hey You,” the bird claimed (whoever “they” might be). “So, want some ice cream?” Before Numer could answer, Hey You tossed scoops of various ice creams into the air with a scoop held by his foot and sang, “We… got…

“Vanilla and chocolate, strawberry, banana, and mint and raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry and gooseberry, cranberry, elderberry and more! Guavaberry, tayberry, wolfberry, huckleberry, tacoberry, orange, and lemon and wildberry blue and heart, star, and horseshoe, clover and blue moon!”

Hey You’s singing began to increase in speed until it was nearly impossible to tell what he was saying.

“Gold, silver, crystal! Ruby and sapphire, too. Emerald, diamond, pearl! Platinum and black, white, too. Egg, bacon, sausage, cheese! You should try macguffin, please! Cherry, kumquat, watermelon, marshmallow, fudge, caramel, butterscotch tapioca lime grape orange chili plaid chicken grease apple lemonpineapplerainbowmushroomflowerflambé-frogandhammerpaperplatepretzelpickleteddybearketchupmustardmayorelish AND… very vanilla.”

Numer was completely confused at this point; he held his head and shook it. “Wha…?”

“Nope, we don’t have that flavor!” answered Hey You, looking at a list. “We do have the ‘why’ flavor, though!”

“… Never mind. I’m too confused for ice cream.” Hoping the answer wouldn’t confuse him even more, Numer asked, “Could you help me out, though? I’m looking for a crystal that might be in the city. It’s sort of dark and-”

“Like that?” Hey You asked, pointing into the sky with his foot. Numer looked at where he was pointing and saw a sort of goose called a loogel in the sky. Most of its body was covered in white feathers, but its incredibly long neck, one almost as long as Numer’s body, was covered with loops of colors. The loogel was holding in its beak a shard of the crystal!

“Yes, I think so!” Numer said. “Thanks!” With that, Numer dashed off after the loogel, hoping to catch it and get the shard.

“You’re welcome!” Hey You said and put on a vendor hat. “Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs here! You don’t know what’s in ‘em, and neither do I!”

 ***

With the roar of engines, the four racers that remained in the engineer race rushed by. Troy was in first, with Zeth in second, Chee in third, and Hairley in fourth.

“Now you’re about to find out why I’m the best around here!” Troy yelled at Zeth. His vehicle shot a missile at the Transpide.

“You’re firing a miss-?” Zeth couldn’t finish; the Transpide was hit by the blast. The city whirled around Zeth as the Transpide spun out. It stopped at the side of the street, now far behind in fourth.

The other racers disappeared behind a turn, Troy’s laughter fading away. “Is… is that even legal?” Zeth wondered. Something like that could damage public property or injure someone. But, he thought, if that’s how things are going to be in this race… He pushed down on the acceleration and hurried to catch up.

“Heh, it’s just smooth sailing from here on,” Troy said. Chee’s coptercar bounced over Troy and spun around as it fell in front of him. The tail of it smacked Troy’s machine to the side and he swerved. “Hey! A crazy gal, huh? Well, if you’re going to be a thorn in my side, I’ll be a missile in yours!”

Troy fired another missile, this time at Chee. Chee fell back to Troy’s right and drove around to his left. The missile followed in a circle and blasted Troy, sending him spinning out like Zeth. “It seems more that you’re a missile in your own side,” Chee said and drove on, Hairley tailing her.

Troy growled and accelerated after them. As he did, Zeth drove up behind him. “Heh, so, back for more, are you?” asked Troy.

“It looks like you’ve fallen behind,” Zeth noted.

“Yeah, and you’re falling even further behind!” Troy yelled. He reached for the missile button, but Zeth shocked Troy’s vehicle with an electric spark. “Gah! What? That thing has weaponry?”

“If we’re going to use our machines to their fullest, you’ll see what the Transpide is capable of!” Zeth exclaimed. He zoomed on ahead as Troy’s vehicle sputtered from the shock.

“Less than mine, I’m sure,” muttered Troy. The back of his machine opened up, exposing a jet engine half the size of his vehicle. The engine blasted him ahead past the dojo.

 ***

Inside the dojo it was time for Cherry’s first match. She hopped up onto the arena to face her first challenge: Sweak, a smarmel. “Master Hydra told me this may be my first win,” said Sweak, though he looked frail; indeed, his stance looked like he was ready to trip over himself, and he had the smallest hump Cherry had ever seen of a smarmel.

“Keep dreaming,” Cherry told him. Sweak charged forward head-first, but Cherry hopped to the side and tripped him with her tail. “Is that the best you can do?”

“No! I know I can win this!” Sweak said and charged once more. Cherry jumped to the side again and spun around, smacking Sweak with her tail. He tumbled forward out of the ring, winning Cherry the match.

(That was pathetic.)

“You have always been my worst student…” Master Hydra sighed, standing over him.

“Who’s next?” Cherry asked.

“You will find the rest of my students are much stronger,” Master Hydra said.

However, Cherry went on to defeat Master Hydra’s other students, each match remaining highly in her favor. Soon she had made it to Frishu, the second-best student at the dojo.

“Don’t be fooled by how I was doing when you first came in,” Frishu said. “I’m a force to be reckoned with!”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Cherry said. They bowed to one another and the match began.

Frishu fired off rapid punches. Cherry dodged each punch. Frishu knocked her back with a sweeping kick. Cherry did a handstand and blocked Frishu’s punches with her tail.

Frishu stopped punching to breathe. “You are tough.” Cherry flipped back onto her tail.

“My resolve isn’t going to let me give up,” Cherry told him with a smile.

“Nor is mine!” Frishu yelled and jumped into the air. He sent a kick her way. Cherry grabbed his leg, and he fell to the floor. With his free foot he pushed Cherry away, and she lost her grip on his leg.

“Even if you do defeat me, you still have Crawmaster to fight,” Frishu told her. He hopped back up as she paused.

“I’ll find some way around him,” Cherry said. Frishu attempted another sweeping kick. Cherry leapt up over it. “Just like I have with you!” She flipped sideways in the air and slammed her tail into Frishu. He went flying out of the ring and smashed head-first into the wall.

“Oof… I should start wearing a helmet,” Frishu muttered.

“So! You have defeated my second-best student,” Master Hydra said. “It means nothing.”

“Yes, it does, and you know it,” Cherry said. “But if I have to beat your giant, I will.”

“We shall see, Fruit of Hackney…”

 ***

Outside, Numer had climbed up a ladder onto a short building next to the dojo. The loogel had made landing on the edge of it. Inch by inch, he slid towards the bird.

Numer lunged at the loogel. It flew away before he could grab it, and he stumbled on the edge. “No, no, no!” He flailed his arms and fell off the building; he dropped into a tree through a sea of leaves. Lying on a branch like a limp noodle, he thought, Okay… How do I get down? Slowly he pushed himself off the branch but then lost his grip and crashed onto the square of dirt the tree was planted in.

Numer slowly got up. His body throbbed from the fall, but he brushed himself off. Maybe he should give up. They can keep that demon imprisoned with just most of the crystal, right? Maybe?

Numer sighed. Well, maybe he could say he couldn’t find any crystals, and then when the three of them regroup they can find the loogel and get the crystal together. Right?

Numer stared at the tree. He mashed his face into it. All right, fine! he thought. I’ll do it! Happy, conscience? But how am I supposed to get to that bird before it flies away? He leaned on the Mallet Blaster in thought.

The Mallet Blaster! He had accidentally shot that one bird two days ago! Could he shoot one on purpose?

Numer climbed up to the roof of another building and scanned the area for the loogel. It was standing on another building off in the distance.

Numer climbed down and hurried to the building the loogel was on. When he arrived, it was gone. It had flown to another building. He climbed down and scaled another building. Once more the loogel had moved. Again and again this happened, until he finally got on the same building as the loogel, at this point panting.

(This is ridiculous.)

With the loogel’s back turned, Numer aimed the mallet. He hoped it would be stunned long enough for him to get the shard. He knew if he missed it would become scared and fly away.

Numer did his best to keep the mallet as steady as possible (which wasn’t very possible). He would leave nothing to chance. He became one with the mallet, aiming like he would aim his own eye…

He tensed up, started shaking, and just fired the hammer.

The shot missed. The loogel honked and flew up. Numer cried out and fired the mallet repeatedly until one of the shots hit the loogel. Feathers flew everywhere, and the loogel fell, the crystal still in its beak.

Numer rushed over and saw it had landed on top of a pine tree vehicle racing away. He groaned; now how would he get it? Then he saw the Transpide racing up the street. Numer groaned again and climbed down a ladder on the side of the building. Halfway down he jumped for it and landed on the Transpide.

“Numer?” Zeth shouted.

“Don’t mind me; I’m just, uh, doing my own thing!” Numer said, hanging on. As the Transpide caught up to Chee and Hairley, Numer saw that Chee’s machine was closer to the loogel. He jumped onto it from the Transpide.

“What are you doing? Get off, or I’ll make you,” Chee threatened. An arm with a buzzsaw on the end emerged from her machine.

“Not another buzzsaw!” Numer yelled and leapt onto Hairley’s machine. He started to slide off and grabbed the loogel’s feet. The loogel honked rapidly and flew up, looking all around itself like someone who sleepwalked into the middle of a football game. “No, no, no! Don’t fly up, don’t fly up!”

“Numer!” Zeth shouted.

“You have more to worry about than your stupid friend,” Chee said, her buzzsaw coming towards the Transpide. Troy’s vehicle shot forward from behind and smashed into the buzzsaw. It snapped off and was left behind. “Gah! You moron!” she shouted, the first time she had risen her voice.

“No one calls Troy a moron!” Troy shouted, his jet engine exhausting its fuel. He was neck and neck with Chee now.

“Moron, moron, moron!” Chee shouted. A clamp connected to a propeller shot out of her machine. It latched onto the side of Troy’s machine, and the propeller spun. Troy’s machine was thrust to the side of the street, and its wheels scraped against the sidewalk, slowing it down.

“Grah! Hairley, get her!” Troy ordered, trying to regain control.

Two turrets popped out of the sides of Hairley’s machine. They fired six rockets at Chee and Zeth. The blasts knocked them both behind Hairley. “It’s my turn to win, now!” Hairley said.

“It’s your turn to wreck,” Chee said, her machine charging a laser.

Zeth said, “Something tells me that-” He stopped when Chee fired a laser beam wider than Hairley’s machine. The laser blasted through it; when it ceased, all that remained was a clump of scrap metal that crashed onto the street. Zeth couldn’t believe the destruction. “You completely wrecked his machine!”

Troy drove ahead of them, the propeller gone. “I’m still going strong!” he yelled. A turret on the side of his machine fired energy shots back at Chee and Zeth.

“Soon you’ll be going nowhere,” Chee said. Her vehicle shot a cannonball at the turret, knocking it off.

“Hey! You’re going to pay for the damage to my vehicle!” Troy yelled.

“When I’m done, it will be cheaper to build a new one,” Chee said. Clamps emerged from her machine and latched onto Troy’s.

“Hey, wait; what are you doing?” Troy shouted. A cannon popped out near the back of Chee’s machine. The blast engulfed the street in smoke.

Chee and Zeth drove out of the thick cloud. When it cleared, Troy’s vehicle was just a clump of wrecked metal. Inside Troy groaned, covered in soot. “That girl plays rough.”

“She’s not just trying to win the race; she’s trying to destroy the other racers!” Zeth realized.

“You’re next,” Chee said to Zeth. The cannon turned towards him. Zeth mashed the spring button, and the Transpide bounced over the cannon fire. He landed behind Chee and, while bouncing like in an earthquake, hit the button to fire an energy wave.

The wave’s explosion threw Chee’s vehicle into the air, and it flipped like a coin. She screamed as it fell back to the ground and crashed on its tail. The forwards momentum caused it to break off in chunks from the pressure until it completely tore off. Her machine kept rolling and crashing along the ground until it came to a stop upside-down.

“Oh… I hope she’s okay…” Zeth said, seeing the damage he caused.

“THE WINNER!” Marl’nt yelled.

“Huh?” Zeth realized he’d crossed the finish line. “Oh! I won!”

“Considering he’s the only racer left, he wins by default,” Croak said, still in his machine. It hadn’t moved since he’d crashed.

Zeth brought the Transpide to a stop and opened the casing. He propped himself up on top of the side and waved to the cheering crowd.

“And here’s the prize,” Marl’nt said, handing Zeth a shard of the crystal. “I don’t know if it’s worth anything, but it’s pretty.”

“Thank you,” Zeth said. He noticed Troy (who was now charred), Hairley (who had half his hair burnt off), and Croak (who was unscathed) walking over to him.

“Well, slube…” Troy began, “congratulations,” he said with a lighter tone. He shook Zeth’s hand.

“Oh, thanks,” Zeth responded, a bit startled that he was a good sport.

“You’ve surpassed my expectations,” Troy told him.

Zeth smirked. “Just remember that all of us, of any species, can do amazing things if we try—even crawbers.”

“Hello!” Croak said.

“What was your name, again?” Troy asked.

“Professor Zeth.”

“Well, Professor Zeth, I’m not sure what your goals are, but good luck to whatever it is you’re doing, hey?” Troy said.

YOU!” The four of them turned to see Chee, battered and bruised and breathing heavily. Speaking slowly, she said, “Know this right now: I will not forget this. EVER!” She then turned away and left them with that thought.

After a few moments, Croak said, “I think she’s crazy.”

 ***

Speaking of crazy…

{That’s not nice!}

She seems crazy to me! She’s facing off against a monster crab here!

“I’LL WIIIIN!” Crawmaster barked.

“Sorry, but I can’t let that happen,” Cherry said.

Master Hydra announced the match start. Crawmaster immediately swung one of his bigger-than-her claws down at Cherry. She hopped to the side, and the claw slammed the arena with a shaking thud.

This repeated until Crawmaster swung down both claws together. Cherry yelped and held up her hands to stop one of the claws, visibly shaking from the strain.

Crawmaster swung his remaining claw at Cherry from the side. She jumped back, letting go of the other claw. With a crunch they smashed against one another. Crawmaster bellowed and held his claws close to him.

Cherry jumped onto Crawmaster’s claws and rapidly punched his eyes. Crawmaster bawled like a megaphone. After Cherry hopped off he covered his face with his claws.

“Hey, Crawmaster?” Cherry asked, rubbing one of his claws. “Are you okay? I hope I didn’t hurt you too bad…”

“Huh?” asked Crawmaster. He moved his claws away from his face to look at her.

“No! Don’t!” Master Hydra yelled, but it was too late. Cherry flipped herself forward in a circle, slamming her tail into Crawmaster from below. Crawmaster stumbled backwards. He flailed about, howling as he lost his balance. Off the arena he toppled, and the crowd fled to avoid being crushed. With a rumble, Crawmaster crashed upside-down onto the floor.

He lost.

“And that’s how we do things in Hackney,” Cherry said. She hopped off the stage and walked up to Master Hydra.

“Very well, Miss Cherry,” Master Hydra said, eyes shut tighter than a walnut, “I concede defeat.” He handed Cherry the crystal. “Perhaps even Smartel can do things right occasionally.”

“I’ll pretend that’s a compliment,” Cherry muttered. Now that she had gotten the shard, Cherry was ready to return to the hotel. Were Numer and Zeth, she wondered?

 ***

No, Numer was not. Numer was hanging onto the loogel’s feet, clinging for dear life halfway across the sky. He was getting a bird’s eye view of the city, not that he really wanted one.

Numer tried not to look down. If he did that too long, he’d get woozy, fall, and see the ground up-close again. Very up-close.

The wind picked up a bit, which worried Numer to no end. A cloud moved by them. Why won’t this loogel make landing somewhere? he wondered.

Numer couldn’t believe he was being carried across the city by a bird. It was like being hijacked, or like he was hijacking the bird, but, no, that didn’t make sense.

He just wanted to get down! He’d give anything to get down! He’d give the shard to get down!

Numer’s thoughts smacked against a wall. Actually, his body smacked against a wall. The loogel flew low over a building; Numer was pulled up the wall and dragged along the roof. “Ow, ow, ow.” He jumped up and grabbed onto the loogel’s body. “Come on, come on, I just want the shard in your mouth!”

Possibly understanding him or just trying to get him to go away, the loogel spat the shard at Numer. It hit his head, and he let go of the loogel.

“Ow…” Numer muttered, rubbing his head. The loogel honked and flew away, but Numer succeeded in his goal. He picked up the shard. Next time, he decided, they weren’t splitting up.

At any rate, he’d gotten the shard. It was time to head back to the hotel to meet up with Zeth and Cherry.

 ***

As the Transpide neared the hotel, Zeth saw Cherry and Numer also arriving. He opened the casing and leaned out, holding out the shard he’d gotten. “I won the race!”

“I got a shard, too!” Cherry exclaimed, hurrying to Zeth.

“I found one, too!” Numer added. He and Cherry stopped before reaching the hotel entrance.

“Hey, what are you stopping f—” Zeth realized he had stopped steering but had not put on the brakes. He flailed about as the Transpide began to swerve out. It nearly crashed into the hotel before he hit the brakes.

Numer and Cherry dashed over. “Are you okay?” asked Numer. Zeth laughed.

“Yes, I’m fine. So, you each found a shard? Sounds like a productive day to me.”

“All right, where to next, then?” Cherry asked.

“According to the scanner… not here!” Zeth said. “It looks like that’s it for Interp, so we can return to Hackney and resume the search from there. What do you say?”

“Sounds good to me,” Numer said. He and Cherry got in the Transpide.

“We should get what we now have back to Nottle,” Cherry said. “Remember, the more of the crystal that’s there, the longer the demon is sealed.”

“We should be able to get back before night falls, so let’s go,” Zeth said. With that agreed they left Interpolis and drove back to Nottle.

 ***

It was evening when they made it back to Nottle. Cherry opened the front double doors to her father’s home and was immediately gripped by something.

“Oh, my cherry blossom, I’ve been so worried!” Caleco said, hugging her like a mother hen whose brain was placed inside a boa constrictor. Numer and Zeth entered the house.

“All right, dad, you don’t have to get so clingy,” Cherry said, trying to pull herself away. “This isn’t the first time I haven’t been here for the night.”

“But that was Gelago City,” Caleco said. “This was so much further away!”

“And I guess you were just like this every other time I spent the night over there,” Cherry said, rolling her eyes.

“Well, mayor, you’ll be happy to know that we should be back in Nottle for the rest of the nights we’re still rebuilding the crystal,” Zeth said.

“Still not done, huh…?” Caleco asked.

“Well, we have half the crystal rebuilt,” Zeth said.

Caleco ended the hug and cleared his throat. “Yes, all right. And I’m sure when this is over, the town will be thankful to you. Perhaps then things can go back to normal.”

Cherry looked at Zeth and then looked down.

Numer looked at all three of them. He wasn’t sure if he could go back to… A large yawn interrupted his thoughts and brought everyone’s attention to him.

“Oh, uh, sorry,” Numer said. “I think it’s about time for me to get to bed…” He hadn’t realized just how tired he was; he felt like he could sleep on the floor right there. (Stumbling about like a ninny while chasing after a bird all over a city can make you tired.)

“All right, see you tomorrow,” Cherry said.

“Um… y-yeah, see you tomorrow,” Numer repeated. He was still a bit giddy over being with Cherry for the last few days…

Day 3 (Part 2) | Table of Contents

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  1. Day 3, Part 1 of Slubes is up on the site | Duth Olec's Cuckoo Cosmos

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