Arsha was waiting on the Endeavor’s bridge after Oak had set up a six by ten area of cards on the floor. There were various spells preventing her from peeking, so it would stay fair, and they wouldn’t wear off until the round began. Just then, neutral-grey light flashed and formed Graneutall and Buncho. Arsha goggled at this. “Didn’t you…?” she asked.
“Judge your previous battle?” asked Graneutall. “No, that was Griforina, one of my other selves. All the Grey princesses were once one, but the original split herself into four identical princesses to handle the remaining elements. Thus, we’re the Grey Princess Quartet. We have a mental link with one another so we’re in constant contact. Now, with all that said, let’s begin!” A camera appeared and Graneutall turned towards it. “I am Graneutall, the neutral-grey princess of Chizara and the time leader! Representing L-1-V-1-N-G-5-4-L-4-D-5, we have crowd favorite, Buncho! Representing T-H-3-T-H-R-3-3-R-3-4-L-M-5, we have Arsha Royana with…well…I guess it can be called partial home-turf advantage, since this battlefield came from her home yet orbits Vorton.” She shrugged as she didn’t know what else to call it. “Anyway, this fight shall be a memory battle! The competitors must both find thirty pairs of pictures. Both must strive for the least amount of errors to move on to the next round. While one competitor makes their matches, the other must not look so they may not gain an unfair advantage. I have asked around and the crew has placed various spells to prevent Arsha from gaining the upper hand. The cards will also shuffle once all thirty pairs are found. Buncho, since you were the one challenged, you shall start. Are you ready?”
I Am Always Ready.
“Arsha Royana, are you ready?” asked Graneutall.
“Ready and waiting!” declared Arsha.
“Then, Arsha, if you could wear this, please,” directed Graneutall as she handed a blindfold to Arsha. Arsha accepted it and covered her eyes while tying it behind her head. “Buncho, you may begin!” Cards then started flipping on their own. First was a rose, then a cow, meaning it wasn’t a match. Then a rose and a camera, another misstep. Then a rose and a rose, thus taking the match out of the grid. This went on and on for three minutes until the pairs were identified as a rose, camera, pencil, tutu, chair, wand, tree, candle, shoe, paper, key, book, box, sword, paintbrush, cup, pot, fire, string, glasses, brick, mirror, clock, pants, shirt, belt, bed, pillow, book, and crystal. “It looks like Buncho’s got the number to beat,” breathed Graneutall. “She’s had 42 errors during her search. All right, let’s set things up for Arsha!” The cards started shuffling themselves again.
There’s No Shame In Giving Up.
“Not happening!” hissed Arsha.
“The cards are all reshuffled!” announced Graneutall. “Arsha, you may remove your blindfold and begin!” Arsha took the blindfold off and first flipped a card with a chair on it. Her next card was a rose, so she had to flip them back over. She picked the chair card, then picked another card that was its pair! She tossed the pair over her shoulder, then picked the rose card again. She picked another card and it was the rose card’s pair, so away they went.
“Man, she got lucky!” breathed Optimus as he and the Autobots watched from the Ark.
“Is she…is she taking her time on this?” asked Prowl.
“She needs to make the right decisions,” replied Strongarm.
“Like the recent one? The pillow?” quizzed Jazz.
“What kind of luck potion did SHE drink?” asked Emily as she and Richard watched the bout onboard the Virginia with the Endeavor’s bridge crew.
“Hopefully, none,” rumbled Oak. “Like love potions, they’re a controlled substance illegal to own or sell.”
“Why are love potions illegal?” inquired Richard.
“They’ve been used by criminals to commit rape one too many times,” explained Malak.
“Ah, your world’s version of a roofie,” muttered Emily.
“A what?” asked Malak.
“A rape drug,” continued Emily. “I can explain the whole history if you want.”
“I think the words ‘rape drug’ in that order,” replied Malak, “explain all that I need.”
“She just got two!” called Shalvey as Arsha flipped a card.
This Is Impossible! I Committed At Least Six Mistakes When I Got Five Pairs!
“You could surrender,” remarked Arsha as she flipped over the cup card.
Never! You’ll Make A Blunder Soon!
“We’ll see,” mused Arsha as she found the cup card’s pair. She picked the glasses card next, then picked the candle card, so they had to turn over again.
“Come on! Win this!” wished Optimus. After 30 seconds, Arsha found the tutu cards and set the pair aside.
Unbeknownst to our heroes, their enemies were watching as well. Dr. Borg had steepled her fingers as she observed the bout. “Intriguing,” she muttered. “She has now obtained 13 pairs. I must say, I underestimated her ability to actively recall something.” At that moment, Jansha and Tormo came in. “What can I do for you two?” asked Dr. Borg.
“Did you give Shockwave a sample of your blood?” inquired Tormo.
“I did,” replied Dr. Borg, “but I fail to see how that’s any of your concern.”
“Mother, I must advise against working with her a second longer!” urged Jansha.
“…You feel uneasy around her?” asked Dr. Borg.
“That’s putting it mildly,” muttered Tormo.
“Why?” quizzed Dr. Borg. “She wanted to understand Fae biology and already retrieved a blood sample from a Fairy and a Pixie. She just needed a Sprite’s blood to help her research. Like myself, she’s a woman dedicated to her work.”
“Mother, she’s not dedicated, she’s obsessed!” insisted Jansha as she pulled grabbed Dr. Borg’s lab coat and pulled her closer. “She’ll turn anything and everything into a lab rat for her experiments! Can’t you see all the red flags?! I have, and I promise, they’re as red as my eye!”
“Red flags?” inquired Dr. Borg.
“Oh, I don’t know!” hissed Tormo. “How about the fact that, when I jokingly suggested she set up a lab in the basement because our base didn’t have enough rooms, she instantly agreed?!”
“How about the fact that her holo-form doesn’t open doors?” supplied Jansha. “She just phases through them!”
“Where she wants to conduct science is her business,” dismissed Dr. Borg as she made Jansha release the lab coat. “Besides, Jansha, didn’t you use the state-changer to phase through the walls and creep out Tormo in your first few days with me?”
“That’s not the point!” snapped Jansha. “Under that logical façade is a madwoman! You won’t believe me now, but you’ll see! Just you wait!”
“Jansha, I know you’ve been online for two months,” sighed Dr. Borg, “but you’re acting like a child. Now, unless you have more to say, I need to study Arsha’s memory recall skills.” Dr. Borg turned back to the screen and observed that Arsha had 20 pairs now.
“20 pairs and only 13 errors so far,” announced Graneutall. “Buncho, you may have underestimated her.”
I Do Not Underestimate!
“Make that 14 errors now,” muttered Arsha as she turned over the sword and pot cards she had checked. She then tried the sword again and found its pair. “Now 21 pairs.”
This Is Impossible!
“Evidently not,” remarked Graneutall.
“Dang, Arsha’s tearing it up!” praised Richard.
“There goes another pair!” called Marshii.
“I need to really test her memory recall,” mused Ratchet.
“After Optimus and Megumi’s bouts,” declared Emily.
“That’s now 17 errors and 27 pairs,” announced Graneutall.
No! She Cannot Win This!
“28 pairs now,” observed Graneutall.
“Whoops, wrong one,” remarked Arsha as she flipped over a key and a shoe. She tried again and found the key’s pair! Once discarding that pair, she flipped over the shoe cards!
“That’s all the pairs!” cheered Graneutall. “Buncho made 42 errors while Arsha only made 18! This contest is over! The winner is Arsha Royana! Buncho, you will be returned home. Though you have suffered a defeat, know that it only brings as much dishonor as you feel necessary. Would you care for an interview with Blancalmarem and Nemengra?”
…Yes. I Have An Announcement To Make.
“Then I shall bring you to them!” declared Graneutall. “Arsha, I believe you need to celebrate with your friends and crew!” She and Buncho vanished in neutral-grey light and the Endeavor’s comms came to life. Arsha opened a channel and Oak appeared onscreen.
“Captain, the Saunders siblings and their spouses want to come aboard and congratulate you personally,” he explained.
“I’ll bring you all directly to the bridge,” declared Arsha. She chanted a spell and the Endeavor’s bridge crew arrived with Richard, Emily, Megumi, and Joshua.
“Congratulations, Arsha!” cheered Megumi. The two hugged as Arsha was congratulated on all sides.
“Your Highness, that was amazing!” praised Joshua. “My memory’s not that great, how do you manage it?”
“Lots of practice with memory games and puzzles,” explained Arsha once she and Megumi broke off the embrace. “Got me a spot on the Dean’s List at Realmfleet Academy. Granted, there ARE four above me with better memory skills than me, but it looks like I didn’t need to be them today.”
“Best answer in all of creation,” rumbled Oak.
Blancalmarem and Nemengra were broadcasting their end-of-round interview as usual. “I am Blancalmarem, the white princess of Chizara and the life leader,” began Blancalmarem.
“I am Nemengra, the black princess of Chizara and the death leader,” finished Nemengra.
“And we’re here with another interview with Crowd-Favorite, Buncho!” cheered Blancalmarem.
“However, this interview,” winced Nemengra, “will reveal rather sad news.”
“It caught us by surprise when we found out about it,” continued Blancalmarem.
“Watch it with us and understand what we’re talking about,” offered Nemengra. The giant screen behind them displayed Buncho’s interview.
“It’s not often you’re challenged to a memory battle,” recalled Blancalmarem. “What made you so sure you were going to win?”
My People Are Recorded To Have The Best Memory Recall Abilities In The Multiverse. It Was An Easy Win On The Surface.
“If you picked the fight, what would you have done?” asked Nemengra.
Most Likely, I Would Have Picked A Levitation Battle. See Who Can Lift The Heaviest Things Without Their Bodies, Just Their Abilities.
“Do you think Arsha could have won that fight?” quizzed Blancalmarem.
The Chance Of Her Winning Would Be There. Her Magical Abilities Were Told In Great Detail In Her Dossier.
“Any advice to future participants?” asked Nemengra.
Never Underestimate Your Opponents. It Cheats You Of Victory. I Pray The Other Participants, Both New And Old, Will Heed The Advice Of One Who Is No Longer Accepting Invitations To The 3V2R.
“Wait, no longer accepting?!” yelped Blancalmarem. “You’re retiring?!”
I’ve Made Up My Mind. It’s For The Best.
“Buncho, I get that victory during your rounds was sweeter when you celebrated with your husband, Pila,” urged Nemengra, “but I’m sure he’d want you to continue doing this!”
The Last Few Times I Participated When My Husband Died Were Not The Same. No One Else In My Home Universe Believes The Prizes Are Worth Victory In The Salad Wars. It’s Time For Me To Move On.
“And do what?” asked Blancalmarem.
My Faction Needs More Techies. I Have The Skills. I’ll Serve My Faction That Way. Perhaps It Will Bring A Swift End To The War.
“Considering that the war is 75% tech battles,” remarked Nemengra, “I doubt it. Besides, what about what you taught your son, Bolo?”
Bolo Prefers To Fight On The Battlefield. He’s Happier With His Unit Than He Was With Me Or Pila.
“…Well, participation IS voluntary,” sighed Blancalmarem. “I wish you good luck in your future projects.”
“But, if you want to come back,” offered Nemengra, “we’ll be more than happy to put you back on the roster.”
I Appreciate That. Thank You For Giving Me These Opportunities To Show My Skills. Buncho then floated off of her chair and left. The screen went dark and Blancalmarem and Nemengra turned back to their audience.
“We know that Buncho is a crowd favorite,” began Blancalmarem, “but we must ask that her decision be respected.”
“We can only hope she comes back,” finished Nemengra, “but we must wish her good luck for the future.”