471 Harvest Fair: Mud Pi

    Outside of the tent, several booths were set up.  Traditional ring tossing, coin flipping, and small shooting galleries lined the path.  One booth, in particular, had a fairly long line.

    "Step right up!  Twenty credits to gets you three balls.  Dunk the fair maiden!"  Bali's humor-filled voice shouted loudly over the din of spectators.

    "The ** are those two doing now?"  Pon shook his head in dismay as they pushed their way through the line.  He stopped suddenly without warning, causing Wind to bump into him and spill some of his beer.

    "Woah."  Wind stared at the booth in question.  "Who the hell made that?"

    Nix raised his hand as the guilty party.  "I did.  Dunk tanks are fairly easy to build."

    Ronnie sat comfortably on the wooden plank that kept her of the water.  She wore one of the two-piece swimsuits that Nix had made, her dark legs swinging slowly as she cat-called the participants.  "Don't you guys know how hot it is today?  Someone get me wet already!"

    Shae didn't comment but followed as the group walked up.  A completely dry Ronnie waved to them while four more women in white robes waited nearby to take her place once she was dunked.

    [Whisper: Pon to Wind]  Sharl's number three in line; I'm coming back later.

    [Whisper: Wind to Pon]  Same here. Who is that behind her?

    Pon scratched his head before cursing under his breath.  The first thirty people were all Ain'Dhassi rangers; the dark archer was a favorite among them.  "How can they throw so badly?"  The old man watched as each of them failed miserably; no one even came close.

    Wind shook his head in disbelief, "it's like they've never seen a ball before."

    /Inferno: Ducky: Nix!  Morti is awake!  We're coming to Haven.

    Nix couldn't stop the smile from coming to his face as he left the group without speaking and started running toward the temple platform.

    /Inferno: Nix: On my way.  Let his parents know.  I saw them earlier in the second tent.

    /Inferno: Shae: I tell them.  We'll meet back at the mud-pit.

    Nix arrived at the temple entrance just as the overly large cub waddled out.  Ducky and Fey were both riding his back.

    "Nix!"  The Titan bulled his head into the Inferno guild leader's chest, causing ruts to dig into the ground under Nix's feet when he pushed back to keep his balance.  "We swatted her down this time!"

    Nix scratched the cub's ears while hugging him tightly. His arms could barely connect around Morti's neck.  "Yep, we evened the score."

    "Yep, one to one." Morti fell in beside Nix as the two started walking back to the booths.  "I want to play some games at the fair.  Can I chase the pig?"

    Nix had an arm on the cub's shoulder as the four of them made their way toward the crowds.  "Not sure the mud would do well with your fur; I'll think of something fun."

    Morti huffed loudly, "I didn't think about the mud..."

    "Piggy!"  Ducky pointed at mid-sized pig trotting happily toward them.  It was pinkish in color and completely devoid of hair.

    "Apprentice!  I am ready."  The pig stopped in front of Nix and looked up at him.

    Morti exchanged glances with Nix before pushing a big nose into the side of the pig.  "I smell bacon.  How come?"

    "Bacon comes from pigs..."  Nix studied the puppet; once activated, it would look and smell like the animal it represented.  However, if it were killed, it would go back to being a puppet. He had made this one using the animator interface; it was not a true puppet.  He also managed to enhance its speed and agility by a small amount.

    "It does?"  Morti stared at Chiba for a long moment.  "Can we eat this after someone catches it?"

    "Oi!  Quit staring at me like that!"  Chiba backed up a few steps; the cub was starting to drool.

    "I like the piggy tail."  Ducky slid off Morti's back and knelt beside the puppet.  "Can I help grease it?"

    "I agree with Morti.  Let's just eat it."  The white-haired mage spoke from her comfortable position on the cubs back.  Fey played with the tip of her long braid with one hand.  "Hyai cooks me bacon all the time."

    Nix picked up the pig in question and kept it under one arm.  "We've been roasting several wild boars that were caught a few days ago.  They'll be plenty. This one would taste like Chiba."

    Fey's pretty face scrunched up in disgust.  "That would not be good."

    A few minutes later, Nix watched while Ducky and Fey oiled the pig up.  Unexpectedly, Chiba was quite ticklish in this form and couldn't handle Nix's touch.  Scarlett and Mortimus had joined them. Both Titans were wearing casual clothes made by Rico.  He had crafted them several sets when they waited out the assassin threat in Haven.

    "Next year, I'm catching it."  From his tone, Morti was decidedly unhappy about not being able to chase the greased pig.

    Scarlett shared a glance with her husband before smiling at her cub.  "A bit longer than that..."

    "Nope...  I can feel that it's close."  Morti ignored the alarmed looks of his parents. He hadn't taken his eyes off the pig since they started rubbing it down.  "It's so shiny..."

    Ducky paused and looked up from her task.  Her expressive blue eyes showed how much she loved the cub.  "Are you saying you'll be able to take human form soon?'

    Morti nodded.  "Yep."

    [Whisper: Scarlett to Nix]  This is years too early.

    Nix leaned back against Morti, who was still lying down comfortably. Tautius had told him that the cub's potential was limitless.  The ability of a Titan to take his human form usually manifested around five years. This protected the younger generation from accidents since cubs were notoriously hardy.

    [Whisper: Nix to Scarlett]  Not a big deal. If he does develop a bit early, we can limit his human form to Haven.

    A half-hour later, Nix sat comfortably with Morti and his parents while the shirtless participants waded into the ankle-deep mud.  It was decided that the winner would get their own temple.  Since Inferno was already planning on grabbing one for Shi and her followers, the officers decided that there was more than enough room for a third in Haven.

    Morti's brown eyes stared at the participants.  "Do you think Pon will win?"

    Nix chuckled and shook his head.  "No.  It will probably be someone like Milat or Zhava."

    The cub eyed the skinny, pale torso of the old mage.  "Why is he so skinny?"

    Although the participants were mostly male, quite a few females numbered among the fifty or so entrants.  They weren't shirtless like the males; a fact that could prove advantageous when grabbing onto the greased pig.

    It was a mystery to just about everyone in Inferno as to why Pon chose to make an old man avatar.  In-real-life, the mage was a 35-year-old Texan that looked nothing like his Colonial character.  Nix had learned why during the mission to kill Seibel, the Fir'Dhassi Sun Devil.  The old fire mage was made in the image of Pon's Grandpa, who had an undeniable influence on him when he was growing up.  Although in Colonial, what you looked like had little bearing on your strength, Pon was neither overly strong nor fast as a mage.

    "He's an old bastard. They are always skinny like that."  Nix noticed Wind and Semmi both lined up in the mud.  Perhaps their agility would give them a chance most days, but the Aquarion race had too many physical advantages over their human counterparts.

    Once everyone was ready to start, the greased pig slowly put its front hooves in the mud.  The group spread out until most of them were at least an arms width apart.  Unexpectedly the pig suddenly bolted. Instead of attempting to skirt around the edge of the group, it charged right at Semmi, who was in the middle.

    The blonde officer smiled and crouched lower; her arms spread wide.  "Here, piggy!"

    Wind and Pon flanked her so she'd have a chance to make her play. Chiba-pig flashed between them, causing both Semmi and Pon to collide while she escaped untouched.

    Scarlett laughed at Semmi's muddy face when she was helped to her feet a moment later.  Instead of working together, the rest of the group chased after the pig.  "Did she use a movement ability while using a puppet?"

    Nix nodded; his Swordmaster was enormously talented if nothing else.

    Chiba spun back into the group, weaving in and out while her creepy old-man laugh carried across the mud pit.  "Come and catch the beautiful Chiba!"

    Milat was the first person to get ahold of her, although it took nearly ten minutes.  As expected, when he stood up, the greased pig shot out of his arms and pranced away.

    "They are all muddy."  Morti's big body shook while he laughed.  "Mudfaces...  I can't recognize some of them.

    As time went on, Chiba continued her shenanigans.  It became evident right away that she was toying with them.  Bogged down in the mud, even their sheer numbers didn't overwhelm her.  On several occasions, she let herself be nabbed, only to squirm free a few seconds later.

    After nearly twenty minutes, everyone participating was covered in the mud.  Most of Alpha team waited in the middle for an opportune moment of capture.  The Aquarions pursed the pig relentlessly and easily scored the most touches.

    The end came when Chiba darted into the middle of the group.  This time the Aquarions dog-piled onto the oiled pig, with Alpha team somewhere near the bottom.

    "Goodness."  Scarlett clapped her pale hand together.  The mud-covered pile of bodies made it impossible to see who had the pig.

    The group was slowly detangling itself when a small body stepped out of the mix, the greased pig held tightly in her grasp.

    Mortimus stopped cheering and glanced at Nix.  "Is that Semmi?"

    Nix shrugged at the Titan War Leader. It was definitely a smaller female.  He stood slowly and picked up one of the large buckets of water that were waiting for the winner.

    Chiba stayed in the puppet and continued to try and escape until the winner stepped onto the grass near Nix.  "This was fun, Nix.  I shall be the pig next year too!"  She uninhabited the puppet, causing it to slump in the woman's arms.

    Nix pointed to the ground. "Just put it down while I get that mud off."

    /Inferno: Pon: Who is that?

    /Inferno: Nix: Isn't it Semmi?

    /Inferno: Semmi: Nope, not me.

    Nix poured the bucket over the woman's head; she slicked back her short dark hair as her face was finally exposed.  "No way...  Great job!"

    Nansu smiled sweetly at the shocked guild leader.  "Score one for the lifestyle group, alchemy for the win!"

    /Inferno: Semmi: Nansu?

    /Inferno: Wind: Super Nan is more like it.  Well done!
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