A Theory and a Big Bang
By Tania Hutley
While he was swimming, Mote was thinking hard. What was with all these weird animal clues the saboteur was leaving, warning them of his plans for ruining the games? It was almost like he was playing chicken with them.
Wait a minute. Playing chicken? The egg-throwing event was about to begin!
No time to wait for Debussy to catch up. Mote pulled himself out of the swimming pool and raced to the arena. Sure enough, the egg throwers were limbering up. Pricilla Byrd was sitting right in the front row, her head cocked to one side, her eyes bright.
Could Byrd be the one doing all this? Mote slid into the chair next to her. If she tried anything, he'd be right there to stop her. And his gut told him egg-throwing was just the type of event that would be a target for the saboteur.
The timer was counting down the seconds before the event started. In front of him, the Black Scramblers had their slings loaded and ready to fire. All their spare eggs were in one basket, but one of those eggs glinted as it caught the light. Mote squinted at it. What on earth?
"Mote!" Debussy came running into the arena, waving her arms and screaming. "There's a grenade! He's planted a grenade!"
Mote gaped at her for just a second, then her words connected in his brain. He leapt from his chair and dived for the basket. He meant to grab the grenade and throw it as far away as he could, but his feet tangled in the chair legs and instead he fell heavily right on top of the basket, crushing all the eggs - and the grenade - underneath him.
He lay still, heart thudding, eyes scrunched closed, waiting for the grenade to go off. Too scared to move in case he triggered an explosion.
"Are your brains scrambled?" The angry shout came from just above him and Mote cracked open one eye to peer upwards. One of the egg-tossers stood over him, arms folded, face red. Byrd was beside him, an unreadable expression on her face. Was she trying to hide a smile?
"Mote!" Deb skidded up. "What are you doing?"
"I saw something sparkle in the basket." Mote said.
"My lucky, championship-winning, gold-glittered egg!" The tosser's voice rose into a furious roar. He grabbed Mote by his collar and hauled him off the crushed basket. A colourful egg-mash decorated the front of Mote's shirt. There was no grenade.
"Sorry," said Mote, picking bits of gold glitter out of the mess on his front.
"Sorry," called Deb over her shoulder, as she grabbed Mote's arm and hustled him away from the glares of the egg-throwing teams. As they reached the edge of the main stadium she said, "If there was no grenade, then I guess the egg clue must have been a red herring."
"First sheep, then wolves, a polar bear... and now herrings!" Mote snapped. "What kind of evil plot is this? It's way too random. Like someone's just making it up as they go along!"
"There's got to be a pattern," said Deb. "If we can figure it out, we can work out where they're going to strike next."
"Wait a minute!" Something sparked in Mote's brain and he grabbed Deb's arm to stop her. "Do you remember hearing something about before the first Titanic Games, someone was trying to start a different kind of games?"
"Oh yeah, that's right." Deb nodded. "It didn't have cool events like floss-flicking and belly-flopping, but weird ones... what were they again?"
"Wolf wrestling. And wasn't there sheep hurdling?"
"Who'd want to watch lame events like that?" snorted Deb.
"What if whoever wanted to start those games is angry they didn't get the chance, and that the Titanic Games got started instead?"
"You reap what you sow!"
Mote grinned. "Let's go tell Dad."
They spotted their father and Kate Pejalmer standing near one of the stadium exits, talking intently. When he saw Mote and Deb racing towards them, Mendelssohn looked guilty. He said something to Pejalmer, who nodded and walked quickly away.
Mote lost his grin. His father had too many secrets! What was it his father had said right after the sheep went splat on top of the bellyflopper? Something about it being his fault and that he should have told them everything. By 'them' had he meant Mote and Debussy?
"Don't say anything for a moment," hissed Mote. "Dad knows more about this than he's let on. Before we tell him what we suspect, I'm going to get some answers!"
Just as they reached him, an announcement came over the loudspeaker.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologise for the delay of the egg-throwing event. The event is now starting. Please return to your seats."
Their father looked at Mote with concern. "What's that mess on your shirt?"
"Never mind that," said Mote. "Was there was something you were going to tell us? You said all this was your fault!"
His father nodded, wearing a grave expression. "You're right, Mote. There's something I should have told you a long time ago. I can't keep it a secret anymore." The look on his father's face was so serious, Mote knew at once that it would be something big. "I'm only sorry you have to find out like this." His father took a deep breath, as though preparing to give them terrible news. "I have to tell you that-"
From the direction of the egg throwing event, a starting gun suddenly went off. A moment later there was another explosion, and Mote was surrounded in bright pink smoke. It billowed around him, burning his throat and making his eyes sting. He coughed and spluttered, his lungs full of the foul smoke. He couldn't see!
"Dad?" he croaked. "Dad, are you there?"
There was no answer.
Silence. Mote's heart pounded as he frantically tried to see something, anything, through his streaming eyes and the thick pink smoke. What had just happened? Where were his father and sister? Why weren't they answering him?
Chapter Eight next week, and we're almost at the end! (There'll be nine chapters in total). Chapter Eight should either contain, or work up to, the big climax. The chapter should be fast and exciting, and it should set things up for the final chapter in which all questions are finally answered!