Story:An Unexpected Voyage

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An Unexpected Voyage
Written by Kingsley Wolfe


Fear.

If there was one emotion that Kevin could pin down as the one showing above all others at that moment, it would have been fear. Followed closely by nervousness, excitement, and a glimmer of hope.The auditorium was slowly filling up. Most of the draftees were there already, either walking and talking or sitting anxiously in their seats. The media were already buzzing with anticipation, ready to try and be the first with the news of the draft selections. Kevin looked over his shoulder, watching Barnaby Jazz and Daryl Conte settle into their seats in the crowd. Barbie smiled when he saw the pangolin looking at them, and Daryl waved, holding a camera in his other hand.

Kevin waved back before turning around and focusing on the stage. After so many interviews, so much press, he was uncertain if he had truly made an impression. He looked around the room as the GMs and their player delegations began to be seated at their tables, and his eyes focused in on Wilmer Grehr of the Kahunas. If there was one GM that Kevin was sure he had made an impression on, it was the British deer. It was through Wilmer’s help that Kevin had been able to build up the courage to come out to his parents, and he had even given Kevin a small endorsement in naming him the MVP of his small team at the end of the Show Your Colours event earlier in the summer. Kevin sighed, looking away. He knew the odds of landing in Hawaii were exceptionally low. They already had a strong forward lineup in Gerry Cross, Alphone Norwich, Scoonie Barret, and Gary Ridge, but with so many free agents leaving, they needed guards, and maybe a centre, not forwards. Though, maybe not a centre, Scoonie could play that position too, and they had just traded for Antonio Garza, snagging him from the Voyageurs.

The big pangolin shook his head. What else had he done to impress GMs? Sure, he had made a few friends on the various teams, like Luukas Hirvonen and Crosby Sutters on the Spectrums, as well as Rocky Couture on the Totems. He grinned, remembering the few fun adventures he had managed to sneak in with Zack Tate. Sure, a late night chat after an injury might not be an adventure to some, but when you’re with a zorilla that considers a chest injury that requires stitches nothing more than a light scratch and tells you to pull over at a drive-thru on the way to the hospital, there’s not much else you can call it but an adventure. And then there was that dinner in Hawaii. . .

But had he impressed the GMs? The players, sure, he’d made friends, but those friends weren’t what was going to get him on a team. He hadn’t really stuck out at the combine, and he had ranked 40th out of about 50 participants at the Totem’s Ironfur competition, even when you discounted Li Ho Fook’s fake entry. Sure 40th with place him among the draftees, but that didn’t account for the other 50 players that hadn’t participated. He hadn’t shone in Vegas, and the only real standing he had received was his MVP title in Hawaii. Even then, he hadn’t made defensive fur of the event, despite his specialty in the skill. There had been a few interviews, a few chances to meet GMs personally, and they had gone cordially enough, but he couldn’t gauge how well he had actually stood out from the crowd.

Kevin looked up from his thoughts as he heard the microphone being tapped. Standing there was Stephan Calico, the new Commissioner of the FBA. After asking for everyone to settle down, he led off with introducing the former commissioner, who took over for a quick speech. Kevin began tearing up a bit as the man spoke, and the mood was brought quickly back to heightened extremes as the speech finished up and Luukas Hirvonen took the stage alongside Nina Lime. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the legend himself Halley Summers walk onto the stage, taking a spot behind a keyboard. With no warning, Summers began to play, and Luukas Hirvonen began to sing, Nine Lime right alongside him. The sang their souls out, and partway through, Luke pulled out a sign with a message for Crosby on it, and Kevin teared up a bit from the sweetness of the gesture, especially after the news of only a few days prior. The auditorium cheered when they finished and the commissioner thanked them for their performance.

Then, Stephen Calico quickly got straight to business.

After only a few moments pause, a representative from Hawaii approached the stage and the commissioner began. “And for the first pick, the Hawaii Kahunas select . . .” The was a moment of silence before the commissioner continued, a name appearing on the screen behind him, “Aurora Goldshine.”

Kevin almost leapt out of his seat at the selection. He stood and cheered as Aurora made he way to the stage, his friend beaming with happiness. If there was anyone Kevin thought truly deserved the first pick, it was Aurora. She was such a strong player, and such a friendly face both on and off the court. He chuckled. With Alfie, that aura of kindness could do the Kahunas a great deal of good. But Kevin’s face dropped as he watched Aurora look out into the audience, her face going from happiness directly to confusion and dread. He watched as she looked over to Wilmer, then turned to smile once again at the crowd. Kevin pulled out his phone and tweeted a congratulations, but followed it up asking if everything was okay.

Right after, there was a slight pause as the commissioner announced that the next pick would be delayed as there were some last minute deals in the works. Kevin’s eyes followed Aurora as she was approached by Ahti, who she quickly left her jersey with and ran towards the back of the auditorium. His attention was brought back to the stage by activity. After a word from the sidelines, Stephan Calico announced that the new Seattle Summits had traded for the third overall draft pick. Another small figure ran up to the cat and the commissioner coughed returning to the microphone, stating that the Summits had traded their 3rd overall draft selection for the 2nd overall draft selection, and that Seattle now had the floor to make their selection.

“And with the second overall draft pick of the 2014 FBA Draft, the Seattle Summit select Jake Turner.”

Kevin nearly choked on his water. Mrs. Turner had selected her own kid, and based on the look on Jake’s face, the fox didn’t seem particularly pleased with the news. Kevin expected that Jake would go high, that he was even in the running for the first overall pick, but to go second, and to his mother’s team, well, the pangolin felt a bit at odds with the decision. He knew family ties were strong in the FBA, that second or even third generation talent seemed to do better, but to be drafted by his own mother?

Kevin put the thought out of his mind. He congratulated Hiroyuki as he was selected. He hadn’t really had the chance to get to know the shrike, but Josh seemed to speak well of him from their time playing together on Atwood, and that was good enough for the pangolin. Kevin barely had time to consider who might go next with Calico announced that the Howlers had selected TBalt as the fourth overall draft selection. Kevin smiled. Baltasar was one player Kevin admired for his strength and perseverance, and he was happy to see his friend drafted to high. The excitement kept up as Warren Doyle was selected fifth, and Kevin once again did his best to congratulate someone his considered a friend. He had only truly met Warren recently, having lunch with him in the days before the combine challenge, but Adi had spoken highly of him from their time rooming together at the combine, and Warren had certainly lived up to those statements. He seemed friendly enough, and despite how curious he was, Kevin had withheld his question about the scars on his muzzle. As curious as he had been, that was obviously a private matter, one that Warren would discuss when and if he was ready for it.

He mentally replayed the selections in his head. Five in, and all five fairly high ranked among the Top 24. He couldn’t even begin to guess at who would be next.

“With the sixth overall draft pick of the 2014 FBA Draft, the Santa Ana Spectrums select Aditya Anggun.”

This time, Kevin did jump out of his seat. He watched the civet’s face go from shock to joy before he stood up from his table and made his way slowly towards the stage. Kevin had to restrain himself from running down there to give his friend a hug. Aditya, the friend who had helped Kevin get through so much, despite all the difficulties that he himself had, from those he talked about like his time in the military to those that he didn’t. Aditya, the friend who had been the one to convince him that maybe he could still do some good in this world, that maybe he did have friends among the draft class, that maybe, just maybe, Kevin was beating himself up too much. Kevin smiled, he’d save the hug for later that night, once both of them got back to their shared room in the hotel. He was certain that the civet would want to celebrate a bit with his brother anyways.

The draft returned to normal for only a few moments afterwords. The seventh pick was called, Shirley Takamoto, another expected pick after her final draft ranking. But the next pick was Hawaii again. Kevin chuckled. Wilmer had drafted Top 24 for his first pick, but even this high, Kevin wouldn’t be surprised to see Wilmer fish deep into the pool, like had had done for Alphonse last year.

“With the eighth overall draft pick of the FBA Draft, the Hawaii Kahunas select Julian Cross-Kiraly.”

Kevin cheered. There, that was the first surprise of the night, not that Kevin was truly surprised. If there were going to be a reach from Wilmer, Kevin suspected it would be on the French dog. After all, he had made the top of Wilmer’s personal list after Show Your Colours, and despite hardships with some draftees, Julian had an impressive game, with lots of room for improvement.

And the draft continued on, Kevin’s congratulatory tweets becoming standard after each selection. Kevin let his hopes get up when Rocky looked over and ordered Kevin a bottle of Cristal for him. His hopes of playing alongside the lynx were crushed when both the 11th and 14th picks passed with no mention of his name. Well, no matter, Kevin opened the bottle and poured himself a glass anyways. The nerves were beginning to get to him, and he needed it to calm himself down just a little.

What followed was a surge of friends being selected at once. Sebastian, Kevins one self-appointed rival going at 12 to the Wildcards. Edwin followed at 15, snatched up by the Firestorm, and Ren taking the stage right after for Tallahassee. Kevin even gave a little extra grin when Hal was selected 18th by the Bangor Tides. But as he cheered his friends on, and tweeted his congratulations, Kevin sank lower and lower into his seat. He knew that he wouldn’t go first round, that was obvious when you looked at the number of strong forwards this year and the low amount of teams that needed them. Even then, Kevin had hoped that maybe, just maybe, somebody had considered him worthy of the first round. But the first round was coming to a close, with Valentine being selected 21st by the Arctics.

“With the twenty second overall pick of the 2014 FBA Draft, the Santa Fe Whips select Trent St. Croix!”

Kevin scowled, sinking even deeper into his seat. Really, Trent? The polar bear was constantly destroying his reputation on twitter, insulting draftees left and right. Even when he tried to be ‘nice’ he slipped in offhand comments and flaunted his wealth. If there were one draftee Kevin could not stand, it was St. Croix. The way he tossed his money around, offering extravagant gifts to the teams he visited, almost seeming to want to buy his way onto a team. Kevin was sure it wasn’t true, but that didn’t change how he felt. He shook his head, muttering quietly to himself. “I don’t know how Corker deals with him, he’s a nightmare.”

Kevin was so lost in his thoughts that he barely heard the next selection. “…lect Josh Green.”

Kevin looked up from his slumped position halfway down his chair, clapping for his friend. “Good on you, Josh,” he muttered silently. “You’ve been so worried about the draft, about everything. You deserved this. I’m so glad I helped you get to Hawaii, you definitely put that trip to your advantage, and I’m sure it put you on a lot of radars.”

“And with the final pick of the first round of the 2014 FBA Draft, the Winnipeg Voyageurs select Kevin Malka!”

Kevin’s mind froze. No, he couldn’t have just heard what he thought he heard. There had to be some sort of mistake. There was still Top 24 Forwards left, there was still Theodore Rockwell. Was Winnipeg really calling HIS name? He was snapped out of it as he felt hands clapping him on the shoulder, congratulating him. Finally, the realization that somebody had chosen him broke through his mental walls and Kevin leapt out of his seat throwing his arms into the air in an exuberant cheer. And that’s when he remembered why had had been being so careful all night: his suit was too small, and pretty worn in as is. He heard it before he felt it, the sound of ripping fabric, his scales slicing through the suit. He looked up at his arms, seeing the pockmarked fabric through which he could now see his brown scales, the left arm almost completely detached at the shoulder. He felt a slight breeze across his back, and without looking he could tell that the back of his suit had fared even worse than his arms or the knees of his pants. A bright blush now heavy across his face, the pangolin began walking towards the stage slowly, trying not to do any more damage. He heard Edwin’s voice yell his name as he got close to the stage, and the Canada goose came running up, shoving an unfurled Canadian flag into his hangs. Kevin grinned, taking the flag in both hands and raising it above his head as he walked up onto the stage, where the commissioner and Mr. Tomasi were waiting for him. He shoved the flag haphazardly into his belt and took the jersey proudly from the Voyageur’s GM, posing for the photo that the team photographer was set up to take. The smile never leaving his face, he followed Mr. Tomasi off the stage and back to the Voyageur’s table, where he took a seat next to Yves Carbonneau, who gave the pangolin a congratulatory clasp on the shoulder.

Kevin pulled out his phone. He was glad it had been in his pocket when his name had been called, he could barely remember anything through the excitement of the last few minutes. Luke and Nina took the stage for an encore performance and Kevin’s phone continuously buzzed in his hands. He saw a notification saying that he had 25 interactions on twitter, and as the phone buzzed again, he saw the number jump up to 27.

Though he could barely comprehend what was going on anymore, he head was still spinning, Kevin managed to catch the fact that with picks 26 and 27, Texas grabbed both Ahti and Wesley. Kevin cheered, seeing his friends remain inseparable, even in the FBA. And only one pick later, LaShawn Grandon had his name called. The Badger had gotten on stage, accepted his place in the FBA, and then turned around, got down on one knee and pulled out a ring, proposing to his girl. The entire auditorium had cheered, and even Kevin’s already high spirits were lifted further with the amazing news. Kevin remained excited when following that, Jirra Martin was elected by Hawaii, and Kevin was glad to see his newest friend take his place on stage.

Kevin settled back into his routine, though a thought pulled at the back of his head the entire time. He’d cheer for each choice, and congratulate them on twitter, but . . . Where was Theo? The hybrid had been hyped so much by so many people, even Donald Smith had giving him a callout after the combine challenge, so why hadn’t his name been called yet? With ten picks to go, he watched Theo get up and leave the room, seeing the tweets on his phone for clarification of the action. Kevin was concerned, but he knew that Theo wouldn’t want to had from him, at least not now.

Maya went only a few picks later, and Theo congratulated her, even if it only seemed half-hearted. As the second round came to a close, Kevin got worried. Iver Drake got drafted 46th, which Kevin had been happy for, having convinced Iver to not leave only a few picks previously.

“With the 48th and final pick, The Winnipeg Voyageurs select . . .” Kevin squeezed shut his eyes, hoping, “Tanner Muldoon.”

Kevin cursed inwardly. He liked Tanner, he did, but he feared for his friend. Theo hadn’t been taking it well as it was, and now all the draft spots were gone. Kevin started thinking. Well, maybe somebody will sign him, or there’s the D-League, that’s always an option. Eli and Beulah came up from D-League and did wonderfully! Kevin barely heard the commissioner’s words.

“And before we depart, there are a few last minute offers. The Albany Alphas have offered a contract to Theodore Rockwell and . . .” Kevin didn’t even listen to the rest, pulling out his phone and tweeting at Theo. Finally, the hybrid responded, with utter shock and joy at the news. And the response made Kevin smile, his friend had made it. He’d show the GMs just what they had missed by not drafting him during their chance to do so.

But one friend still concerned Kevin. Emil. He watched the gecko’s face, crestfallen, as he stood and headed for the back of the auditorium. Kevin tossed down his jersey and cap on the table, looking up at his new GM. “I’m sorry, I have to go take care of this.”

And Kevin stood, running after Emil as the gecko exited the auditorium and rounded the corner into the hall.

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