Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 122,607,461 Issue: 247 | 7th day of Swimming, Y8
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The Legend of the Lab Ray Scientist: Part One


by chaosmage25

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Just to the west of the Tyrannian Plateau lies a stretch of land known to the Tyrannians as "The Rock Yard." Rain rarely falls upon this parched earth; food is scarce, shade is scarcer, and the heat from the noonday sun is unbearable. Looming off in the distance is the Tyrannian Volcano, which has erupted before and still threatens to blow its stack again. To most of Neopia, life in the Yard seems impossible. But little does anyone realize that the Yard was once home to a tiny Scorchio village, and in this village lived perhaps the most intelligent mind of his time. His name may have been forgotten over the ages, but his work has forever altered the lives of each and every Neopian. This is the legend of the lab ray scientist.

     To the Scorchios, life in the Yard provided all they could ever ask for. It was more than a paradise; it was a home. The hot, dry climate suited these winged pets perfectly, and finding food was never a problem. Each morning, the Scorchios would take to the skies, heading to the Giant Omelette. Just one slice could feed a Scorchio all day, and although he'll never admit to it, Sabre-X would often allow a mother Scorchio to grab more than one slice to bring back to her waiting family. And while some Neopians viewed the villagers as being isolated and cut-off from the rest of the world, the Scorchio would politely point out that, while they might not be up on the newest and latest trends, "at least we don't need to worry about the Tax Beast or the Pant Devil or any other nasty fiend out there. See, even Dr. Sloth has his limits; he wouldn't dare step foot out here. Only the most hardy pets can take this heat, and from what I can see, that Sloth is a tenderfoot." The Scorchios made an honest living breaking down the large boulders found in the Yard and selling the smaller chunks to builders in Tyrannia. The work was difficult, the hours were long and the pay wasn't so great, but the Scorchios enjoyed the simple life they led.

     That is, all but one Scorchio embraced this life.

     At first glance, he seemed to be no different than the other Scorchio. Like the others, he rose with the sun each morning, eager to begin a day's work. But rather than head off to the rock quarry with everyone else, he would instead race downstairs to his makeshift laboratory, his mind overflowing with thoughts and ideas. Unlike his peers, this Scorchio embraced science and technology, and would not be bothered with what he saw as "grunt work." He longed to become the greatest inventor in all of Neopia, and for the good life, not just for himself but for his friends and family. "For years, our clan has been reduced to meaningless labor," he'd often be heard mumbling. "Work that no right-minded Neopian would dream of doing! What kind of life is this? I need one invention, something good, something helpful, something useful. If I can't create a machine that will make our lives easier, then I need something that the world will embrace as a whole. The money and the fame should be just enough to restore some honor to the clan, and no longer will we be condemned to this backbreaking labor."

     As the years passed, the scientist's name did become known throughout Neopia, but not for the reason he had hoped for. Despite his best efforts, his inventions usually caused more damage than they were worth, if they even worked at all. For instance, his self-feeding fork sent more Neopians to the hospital in a week than wild Meepit attacks did in a year (who would have guessed that such a slight miscalculation would cause the fork to miss the user's mouth by so much?). And the poor soul who volunteered to try out the Honey Shield never made it to his Battledome match, since on his way to the arena he was attacked by wild Buzzers and required immediate medical attention. To the scientist, these were just minor setbacks. If he had the time, he could fix the glitches in his self-feeding fork, and all the Honey Shield really only needed a coat of peanut butter.

     But time was running out for the scientist. When he first began his experiments, the other villagers tried to be patient with him. "He always was a bit different," they'd say. "It's not his fault, really. He's just not right. It's a phase, he'll grow out of it." Even as they spoke, the villagers would go to great lengths to avoid passing in front of the scientist's home, fearing that if they caught his eye, he'd have some crazy gadget for them to test out. However, as time went on, the clan became increasingly annoyed with the scientist, not just because of their near-misses with his creations.

     "He never helps with the daily chores! Not once has he volunteered to go to the omelette or to do anything else. Don't dare ask him to break a sweat. How awful would that be if he got his precious hands dirty? Grrr! He spends all of his time fiddling with those silly toys of his. Does he really think that we'll continue to support him, after he keeps trying to get us killed?" As tensions mounted, the village elders came together to decide the fate of the rogue Scorchio.

     The elders agonized for days. On one hand, quite a few of the villagers had been injured because of the scientist's inventions. He made no contribution to the clan, and the only time anyone ever saw him was when he needed a new test subject. Still, the elders knew that the scientist had a kind heart. He didn't mean to harm the other villagers, and although they'd never admit it aloud, the elders doubted that he could survive on his own. He never worked a day in his life, they reasoned. It took dedication and team work to survive out here. For him, it'd be impossible. Finally, and in spite of everything, he was still a part of the clan. He was entitled to one last chance. Having come to a decision, the elders called the scientist forward. The eldest member spoke.

     "My child, for years we have allowed you to do as you wished and work on your inventions. But we feel that it is time you left your machines behind and joined the rest of the clan. You have a choice. If you promise to leave your inventions and work with us to provide for the village, then you may stay here. If you choose to continue with your experiments, then I'm afraid I must ask you to leave the clan at once."

     "Abandon my dear inventions! But they're my life. I can't stop now!" the scientist cried. "Give me a few more days. Just let me finish up with this one I call the ..."

     "I'm sorry, child. This is the way things have to be. We've been patient with you up until this point; however, we can no longer tolerate your disregard for the rest of the clan. We live and work as one. That is our way; that's how we survive. If you want to stay in the village, you must act like the rest of the villagers."

     "This is absurd! Don't you see that the work you do is meaningless? The rest of Neopia views us as little more than slaves. We do the work that they couldn't do! I'm trying to help all of you. I'm trying to give us back our dignity. I won't quit my projects."

     "Then leave."

      "I will," the scientist replied. "And mark my words, the next time you hear from me, I will be the greatest inventor ever."

     Years passed, and the village continued to thrive. Although the scientist had long since left the clan and was never heard from again, many could not escape the feeling that he was out there, somewhere, and one day he'd make good on his word and return with some new invention. The clan could only hope that in the years of his exile he'd learn a thing or two about machines, and that his newest creation would actually work properly.

     One day, a reporter at the Neopian Times received a letter signed by "Neopia's New Genius." At first, the reporter paid no attention to the letter. She was terribly busy, and if that article about the health benefits of asparagus was not on her boss' desk by 5pm sharp, she'd be out of a job. Besides, who did this guy think he was, addressing himself as a genius? The letter remained unopened on her desk until a few days later. "Some genius, I'm sure," she thought while tearing the envelope open. "I'll just scan the letter real quick, see what it's about. I'll bet it's no big deal, but one can never be too sure. And the last thing I need is this crazy guy marching in here and screaming at me for ignoring his masterpiece."

     "Greetings from my exile in Meridell," the letter read. "I am writing to inform you about my newest and greatest creation. I have devised a machine, a ray, that when fired at a Neopet, alters the genetic structure, and to word it so that simpletons like you can understand, my ray can not only change a Neopet's color but also change its species and gender, as well as increase its strength, defense, speed and level. At least, I believe that this is the case. I need more test subjects. Please print an ad in your paper asking all willing participants to pay me a visit at my home. My address is as follows..."

     "Not this guy again. It's that crazy Scorchio. The one who invented that fork thing." She shuddered. Ever since his encounter with that fork, the reporter's beloved Eyrie just wasn't the same. "I'll be the laughing stock of the department if I print this thing! Still, I need to hand in something for tomorrow's deadline... fine, the letter it is! Most people will ignore it anyway, but at least I'll still have my job."

     At first, the reporter was correct. The majority of Neopia wrote the letter off as nonsense. Sharing her beliefs, they all feared that this invention would be no different than any of the other failed thingamajigs. "If you want to go try this ray out, make sure you have a good insurance plan!" they'd joke to one another. "Ooo, what if he is working for Sloth?" "Nah, Sloth ain't that dumb!"

     Nevertheless, for every ten people who found the scientist's letter to be nothing but hot air, there was one person who was willing to give the ray a try. Slowly, word began to trickle in that this time around, the scientist had created something useful. This thing actually worked!

     "Did you hear about that poor family from Meridell? They made such a meager living off of that farm of theirs, they could barely afford a loaf of bread, much less finance a trip to the Rainbow Pool. But the father saved what he could for weeks, and finally had enough to pay the scientist a visit. Well, that ray changed the little girl into the most beautiful princess ever! How fortunate!"

     "I heard about that! But did you here about the little Kiko? She wanted nothing more than to fly, and after visiting the ray, she was magically changed into the most precious little faerie, and now spends her time soaring high above the clouds."

     "And did you hear the story of how the Underwater Cavern was found in Maraqua? Well, the guy who discovered it was an Elephante who wanted to explore the old ruins of Maraqua, but everyone knows that Elephante aren't good swimmers. So he went in front of the ray and got changed into a fish! It sounds odd, but he's never been happier. Who ever said that dreams can't come true?"

     Word spread throughout the lands that the scientist's newest creation really could change the color of a Neopet, and soon, hundreds of Neopians began their journey to the scientist's home, hoping for a chance to try out the ray for themselves. Lines formed at his doorstep; Neopians stuck at the end of the line had a full day's wait ahead of them, but no one minded the wait. The crowd chatted excitedly amongst themselves, and strained their eyes to catch a glimpse of anyone leaving the home, eager to see the ray's newest work of art. The scientist himself was delighted. "Finally, these people see me for the genius I am. No more will I be laughed at by those who think that my inventions are childish. Once I have completed my tests, I can take my ray on the road. I'll start charging Neopians for their time in front of my ray. A few thousand points is a small price to pay for a chance at a color whose brush would normally cost millions! And by then, hopefully my old clan will see that they were wrong to send me into exile, and I will finally be able to go home."

     With each passing day, more Neopians came to pay a visit to the ray, and the scientist grew worried. No one realized that this version of the ray was really only a prototype, designed to be used on a handful of subjects. Once the data was compiled, then he could begin work on the final machine. As it stood now, the prototype was on and running all day, every day. The gears in the machine creaked and groaned, struggling to keep up with the demands of all of the people. On more than one occasion the machine overheated, and the scientist was forced to shut the ray down, much to the dismay of the crowd gathered. As he worked to cool the machine off, angry protests could be heard outside. "Hey, old man! I've been standing in line for three hours! When do you plan on getting that thing running again? Any time today would be nice!"

     During one of these periods where the machine overheated, the scientist realized the seriousness of the problem. "I'm exhausted. I haven't had a good night's sleep in days. I'm so tired, and these people just keep coming and coming, day in and day out. This isn't what I wanted. This isn't what I had in mind. I wanted to create something useful, something that would make the lives of Neopians better. As it stands now, I've only created a monster. My beloved ray just can't keep up with all of the people. And these fools ... they don't realize that the body isn't meant to undergo such a transformation. The ray is a one-shot deal. And yet I'm seeing the same faces, over and over again. They aren't satisfied with the color that they are, they want to try for something different. They won't take no for an answer. This just isn't right. I fear that it is only a matter of time before my ray becomes dangerous."

To be continued...

 
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