Family Comes First
"Must.... beat... high score...." the gigantic, frightening mutant Bruce grumbled as he battled onward in the midst of a rough game of Mutant Graveyard of Doom II.
He had been playing the game for days, stuck on the same level. Scattered all around him were discarded empty bags of Chomby Crisps, half-eaten omelette slices, week-old nachos, Pizzaroo boxes and various other heaps of rubbish. It was a beautiful day in Neopia Central, not a cloud in the sky, with a perfect breeze... Just right for kite flying!
"Come outside, Benton! We're going to fly our brand new Chokato Kite! It'll be fun!" a purple Acara called from the kitchen.
It was his sister, Tia. The grumpy old mutant had been rescued from the pound recently, and was adopted into a big, colorful family with just enough room for one more. With two sisters, Tia, and a baby Aisha, Tilly, as well as a female owner, Benton had not been used to so many girly things under one roof. He didn't much appreciate the pink walls and hanging pots of flowers all around the Neohome, so he often chose to stay in the basement. He now had but one brother, a rainbow Lenny named Fernando, who was always outside playing with his sisters. Benton rarely interacted with his new siblings. He was very shy.
"Not now... Too busy... Playing game..." he muttered, still button mashing away as he snacked on some gummies.
"If you spend all of your time playing games and eating, you're going to get out of shape!" Tia shouted as she came running down the stairs, carrying Tilly over her shoulder. "You've been playing that same game for days now! You have yet to come upstairs!"
"I have to... get... a high score..." Benton groaned. Clearly, he had yet to go to sleep as well.
"Come play, come play!" the baby Aisha squeaked as her sister placed her on the floor beneath her.
"Please go outside," Tia pleaded. "We've all been waiting for you to come out. It's a beautiful day!"
"Can't stop... until... I win..." Benton mumbled, stuffing his face full with crackers.
"Look at this place! This is a mess! You need to get out of the house!" his sister cried, pointing out the rubbish and utter chaos surrounding the area. "It's just ridiculous!"
"Too... busy... playing this game..." said Benton.
As Tia continued attempts to get her brother outside, Tilly managed to make her way across the room. A slice of omelette caught her eye, and she quickly picked it up to take a bite. "Yummy!" she exclaimed.
"Come on, sis. It's no use. He's not going to come outside with us," the purple Acara called to her. Tilly crawled back into her arms and they both headed up the stairs. Benton continued whittling away at the game, with no sign of a high score being achieved anytime soon!
Hours had passed before he would see any of his siblings again. Little did he know of the conundrum that would soon take place within his Neohome.
A loud, frightened cry rattled the house late in the afternoon. As Fernando was reading a book to Tilly, he noticed something strange about his baby sister. She appeared to be grunting and growling a lot more than usual.
"Is something wrong, sis?" the rainbow Lenny asked, plucking her up from off the floor.
Tilly made a soft growling noise and her mouth fell wide open. A terrible stench wafted around in the air above their heads.
"Yuck... What did you eat, Tilly?"
Her mouth opened wide again. "Ugga... ugg," she groaned.
"W-What did you just say?" Fernando gasped.
"Ugga... ugga ugga. Ug."
"Um... TIA?!" he screamed.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Tia came rushing into the room.
"T-There's something wrong with Tilly! Look!" Fernando picked her up and handed her to the Acara.
"Ugga ugg!" Tilly squawked.
"Oh my goodness!" Tia shouted. "Could this be what I think it is?"
"Ugga!" said Tilly with her rancid breath.
"We need to get her to the Neopian Hospital immediately! Take her outside and wait for me, I'm going to let Benton know what's happening," Tia told her brother. "I'll be right back."
The purple Acara darted down the stairs to inform her mutated sibling of the current tragedy. He paid no mind to it, still absorbed in beating the high score of Mutant Graveyard of Doom II. Upon arrival at the hospital, the group was quickly informed that the young baby Aisha had contracted a serious case of Ugga Ugga. Without the proper cure in a timely manner, Tilly's throat could potentially swell so much that she wouldn't be able to eat! With that information, the trio headed off to the pharmacy in search of the cure they were looking for.
"Excuse me, ma'am. We were wondering if we could get some Sporkle Syrup for our baby sister. She has Ugga Ugga!" cried Fernando.
"Sorry, we're all sold out." said the Elephante shopkeeper. "You could try back later, though. We should be restocking soon."
"But we need it NOW!" Tia yelped. "Please tell me you have something in storage!"
"I'm terribly sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the shop is restocked," the shopkeeper replied.
"I guess we'll try someplace else..." Fernando sighed.
They left the pharmacy, very disappointed. Tia was in fumes. For a while Fernando pondered about other places they could look to find a cure. He knew for a fact that the other medicinal shops in Neopia did not carry Sporkle Syrup. Finally, the three Neopets paid a visit to the Shop Wizard, where they were given yet another unpleasant surprise.
"We need Sporkle Syrup for our sister. Can you help us?" Fernando asked the gaudily dressed JubJub.
"Searching for Sporkle Syrup... Here are your results." The kind wizard showed them a list of shops around Neopia.
"Fifty thousand Neopoints? For one cure? That's outrageous!" cried the rainbow Lenny.
"Are you kidding me?" growled Tia.
"Sorry, that's all I could find," the Shop Wizard said.
"I guess we'll be taking a trip to the bank..." groaned Fernando.
Arriving at the bank, the group was informed by the Skeith banker that all of their hard earned Neopoints had been gambled away by their owner when she was playing Brucey B Slots. Heartbroken, after realizing they had finally run out of options, Tia sank to her knees and began to cry. All she wanted was for her baby sister to be cured of Ugga Ugga and be able to play outside and eat her favourite foods again. What was a poor family of Neopets to do?
"Hey!" a blue Quiggle yelled. "Over here!"
"What was that?" asked Fernando.
The Quiggle hopped up to the group, panting. "I... I have something to tell you!"
"Who are YOU?" Tia snapped, still sniffling.
"My name is Paolo," said the Quiggle. "The Elephante shopkeeper sent me here to let you know that Sporkle Syrup is back in stock!"
"It's a miracle!" Fernando cheered.
"Thank you, sir! We really should get going, though!" Tia grabbed Fernando by the wing and bolted in the direction of the shop.
The group burst through the shop doors, desperate to get the cure before it sold out.
"That'll be two thousand Neopoints," said the Elephante.
"But... we only have six hundred. Are you willing to haggle?" asked Fernando.
"Ugga!" yelled Tilly.
"Not that much, I'm afraid... Come back when you have at least one thousand," the shopkeeper replied.
"But it'll be sold out by then!" Tia cried.
"I'm terribly sorry. Store policy."
"Where are we going to get 400 Neopoints in five minutes?" Fernando asked.
"Try playing some games," said the shopkeeper.
"Wait... that reminds me! Benton is still at home playing that ridiculous game! He could help us!" exclaimed Tia.
"We'll be back soon, ma'am," said Fernando to the Elephante. "Keep us in your thoughts!"
Once more, the group made a mad dash to their Neohome. Fernando and Tilly were getting pretty worn out from all of this running around, but Tia was very athletic, so it was a cakewalk for her! On the way home, she fell and scraped her knee, but nothing would stop her determination to cure her baby sister.
"Wait here," said the Acara. "I'm going to talk to Benton. Keep an eye on Tilly."
As she stumbled down the stairs, the smell of rotten food and rubbish overwhelmed her. She tapped on Benton's shoulder lightly, to no response. Being in no mood to wait around, she screamed in his ear!
"Go... away..." Benton groaned.
"No! This is important!" she screeched.
"You're distracting me," said the Bruce.
"Benton," Tia pleaded. "Listen to me. We found a cure for Tilly's illness, but we can't afford it until you stop playing that dumb game and send your score!"
"Can't send score... Must... beat... this level." Benton muttered.
"Benton, please! She's very sick! Who cares about some silly game anyway?"
"Must... beat... high score..." he howled again.
"Who knows how long that could take? We need the Neopoints now!" Tia cried out.
"Can't... stop..." Benton grunted.
"Please... Send your score! Get the Neopoints! For your FAMILY!" she began to tear up.
"High score... So far away..." He seemed to be in a trance.
"Benton, if you don't send your score now, the shop's stock of Sporkle Syrup will disappear! We're running out of time!" Tia whined.
"High score.... High score... High score..." he moaned in a monotone voice.
"It's no use! This isn't working!" Tia stomped her paw.
She returned to the kitchen where Fernando and the baby Aisha were waiting patiently.
"He won't listen," she said, exasperated. "How are we going to get the Neopoints?"
"There's no other way we can do it quickly..." sighed Fernando.
"Come on, help me!" Tia grabbed her brother. "Maybe you can convince him!"
Fernando put Tilly over his shoulder and headed downstairs.
"Benton, we really need your help!" he cried.
"Stuck... on this level..." Benton whispered.
"Send your score!" yelled Fernando.
"NOW!" Fernando angrily squawked.
"Not possible..." Benton continued.
Fernando sighed and shook his head. Meanwhile, Tilly had somehow ended up on the floor again, toddling around, and came across the same omelette she had bitten before.
"Ugga!" she squealed.
Before she could pick it up, Tia rushed to scoop her off the ground.
"What's this?" she questioned, puzzled. She grabbed the omelette from the floor. "Is this... rotten?"
"Ugga ugga! Ugg!" Tilly chirped again, reaching for it.
"Oh my goodness!"
"What is it, sis?" asked Fernando.
"I think I figured it out!" Tia exclaimed. "This omelette... It's... rotten! I found Tilly trying to reach for it! But it's already been bitten!"
"I think Tilly may have gotten Ugga Ugga when she took a bite of this omelette!" she explained.
"Then that means..." the rainbow Lenny began.
"BENTON!" wailed Tia.
The mutant Bruce glanced slightly in her direction, still button mashing. Beads of sweat began to form above his brow.
"Does this belong to you?" she snarled.
There was a pause.
"Hmm?" she raised an eyebrow.
"I... I guess I... I didn't know... I thought I had..." before he could finish, Tia grasped the omelette and waved it in his face.
"You mean to tell me that you're responsible for this?" she screeched.,
"I'm sorry... I forgot... I'm so sorry..." Benton gasped.
All eyes in the room were on him, glaring. From that moment, he realized what he had to do. He knew that the health of his sister was in his hands. Although he was nowhere close to the high score, he hesitantly pressed "End Game", and then "Send Score". While the score was processing he turned around and took a few glances around the room, rubbish piled from end to end. Had he really allowed the mess to get this out of control? A pang of guilt surged through his body.
"Here," he said. "Take this." Benton handed the bag of newly earned Neopoints to his brother.
Without saying a word, the Lenny, Acara, Aisha headed back up the stairs and out the door in a hurry to buy that long awaited dose of Sporkle Syrup. Benton sat among his pile of food scraps and thought about how bad of an impression he must have made on his new family. He hadn't felt this bad in a long time. When they returned, he was relieved to find that Tilly had been completely cured of the Ugga Ugga.
"I just wanted to let you all know how sorry I am..." he began.
His siblings remained silent. Tia held the baby Aisha cradled in her arms.
"I guess I just felt like I needed to achieve something special by making that high score... I mean, my previous owner abandoned me, because she thought I was worthless and gross. And by trying to prove myself, I ended up making things worse. I guess I really AM worthless." The Bruce sighed.
A smile spread across Tia's face. "Benton," she said sweetly.
"You know that isn't true."
"It's not?" Benton asked, surprised by her response.
"Of course it's not!" Fernando chimed in.
"But... Why?" Benton was still confused.
"Because you're our brother," Tia continued. "And no matter what you do, or how gross..."
"And smelly!" Tilly squealed.
"...and smelly you are, we are always going to love you. You're a part of our family, and that's never going to change. Everybody makes mistakes. It's not a big deal! We forgive you, and I promise you that you are not worthless," the Acara finished.
"You really mean that?" Benton asked.
"Absolutely!" said Fernando. "You're one of us! What would we do without you?" he and his sister smiled cheerfully.
The four happy Neopets shared a nice family group hug.
"Now, how about some kite flying?" Tia grinned.
"Kite! Kite!" chirped little Tilly.
"Sounds good to me! I'm just going to have a small snack first," Benton replied. He grabbed a slice of omelette from the floor and took a huge bite. Fernando gasped. There was a short silence.
"Ugga... ugg?" grunted Benton.
"Oh no!" Tilly squeaked.
Tia and Fernando both started giggling in unison. "Don't worry, Tilly. We can take care of this in no time!"
And with that, the happy team of Neopets headed off to the Neopian Games Room, where they would once again earn some extra Neopoints to purchase medicine. Only this time, they would be working together as a family. Yes... A big, joyful, colorful, and wacky family!