How to Become an Inventor 101
It had begun when he was an infant. A light bulb, dislodged from its place on the ceiling, had fallen to the plush carpet and rolled within his sight. The small, dark green Draik had trotted over and picked the weirdly-shaped object from the floor and turned it over in his scaley hands. The glass, weak from its impact with the floor, had quickly crumbled in his grip and allowed him a look at the small but intricate workings inside. And for the next hour, the Draik had occupied himself with taking apart the tiny pieces of the light bulb and then putting it back together, five times in total, hoping to make it light up again.
It would be a week before he found out that he couldn’t fix it- that even if he found another glass case, the filament that produced the light could not be exposed to oxygen, and that the gases inside the bulb to keep it air-free had escaped when the shell first crumbled. His disappointment, however, would only be momentary. It quickly gave way to a fierce tenacity that would change his entire life.
It was another week before the Draik was wearing the widest smile physically possible. It had taken a lot of bartering with local engineers to use their equipment and even some puppy-dog eyes, but it was done. The light bulb that had apparently met its end on his carpet now shone again, mounted upon its own golden stand and ready to illuminate his surroundings.
This, he thought, was the start of his engineering career. And one day, he mentally added with fierce determination, he would invent something revolutionary.
And quite a few years later, that same light bulb he had fixed as a small child illuminated his dark bedroom. The light reflected off his now older form, hunched over an old wooden desk with sketches of ideas lining the walls surrounding it. Paper lay on the desk and over a band saw in the corner of the room, ready and waiting to be the brainstorms for epic inventions. A well-chewed pencil was being passed around the Draik's front teeth as he boggled his mind for absolutely anything he thought Neopia could benefit from.
And so far, nothing. It had been that way for quite a few hours now, he noted, as the first rays of sunlight began to pour in through the gaps in his curtains. Another night spent awake trying to revolutionize Neopia, and another night with no success.
"You've officially become nocturnal, Lenar."
Lenar turned his scaly self around to meet the face of a Starry Bori, voice low with tiredness with the bags around his eyes to prove it.
"I became nocturnal a while ago, Yue. You were just never awake to see it," Lenar sighed, before turning back to his desk.
"I just thought you were outside all the time, looking for ideas. But nope, all this time you've been in bed."
Yue received no reply as Lenar had folded his arms and laid his head on top of them, looking ready to collapse right there. The Bori sighed- as the older brother, he felt it his duty to keep his younger siblings happy. He slowly plodded over to the desk and put a clawed paw on the mahogany wood, trying to catch the tired Draik's attention with the small sound the contact made.
"Lenar, look... Perhaps you shouldn't force yourself to be doing this. Before you launch into your speech about wanting to become an inventor, I know. I do, truly. But..."
The Bori took a moment to gaze up at sketches pinned on the wall of Lenar’s previous ideas- “The Mechanical Moisturising Cream” and “The Gingerbread Phone” were Yue’s favourites, if only because of their complete uselessness. Alongside them were letters, signed from some sort of inventor’s guild, and each one confirmed Lenar’s failure to become part of their ranks. He paused for a moment, trying hard to find the words to comfort Lenar. He found them quite easily once Lenar looked up at him, eyes tinged with exhaustion and sorrow.
“...Perhaps you should wait until the inspiration hits you, rather than force yourself to find it like this. It isn’t healthy. You’ve become a different person entirely, and not for the better. And we miss you, I guess,” Yue finished sheepishly, scratching the back of one paw with the other. This managed to draw a smile out of the Draik, albeit a small and very tired one.
“I should probably sleep on it. Maybe something will come to me in a dream... Then I can wake up and just write it down. It’s probably already happened, you know- getting an idea from a dream. I can just never remember them when I wake up...”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Yue sighed, not really listening as he tried to shoo Lenar towards his bed. It seemed to work after a few moments, as the Draik got up from his chair and shrugged off his jacket onto the floor. Running on autopilot, he lumbered over to the bed and let himself collapse upon the exquisitely-soft-compared-to-a-wooden-chair mattress and was asleep before his head even hit the pillow. Yue was there to tuck him in and turn out the light, sighing to himself as he exited the room.
“Fluent in determination, that one. Much too fluent.”
The sleep cycle recovery took almost two weeks, but eventually Lenar was able to be up and running somewhat efficiently before lunchtime. For the first time in a while, he was able to sit down with his siblings and have something akin to a normal conversation, though the topic of his passion to invent would always creep its way into the discussion.
“You know what I think?” a light blue Peophin on one corner of the table started, pointing her fork at Lenar for emphasis. “I think the best way to find out what Neopia needs is to ask her citizens! Go out and talk to people, find out what they need!”
“I’ve already tried, Nalanzia. They tense up and can’t think of anything, or they just stand there and stammer for ages on end...” Lenar dismissed as he slowly chewed on a Tchea fruit. Nalanzia’s long face was marred with a scowl for a moment as Yue tried to calm her down, before she presented another idea.
“Then make questionnaires! Hand them out with an addressed envelope to return it in! That way, they have time to think about it!”
Lenar didn’t seem to be listening, and if he was, he certainly didn’t acknowledge what Nalanzia had said. He continued to chew on the same piece of Tchea fruit that he had been trying to eat for the last ten minutes, and his audience sighed before turning back to their own lunches.
That is, until Lenar suddenly shot up from his seat and slammed his Tchea fruit on the table, spraying bits of fruit core and juice into the other’s lunches.
“My lunch! Ugh, I hate Tchea fruit!” Yue and Nalanzia cried in almost perfect unison. Their complaints went unheeded as Lenar cried out with more of that fierce tenacity-
“I’ll hand out questionnaires! That way, they can think about their answers and give me exactly what I need to know!”
Lenar was out the door and headed for the local printing services before Nalanzia could utter a single word of protest, papers trailing behind him in his wake. Yue, on the other hand, was much quicker to follow him and demand Lenar buy him a new lunch. He launched himself out the front door and down the path from their home, running as fast as his muscular legs would take him- though it was rather hard to run particularly fast with an armoured back. It took a while before Lenar came back into view, and Yue was already tired out.
“Lenar, would you--!” Yue started, having to cut himself off as a stray piece of paper flew into his open mouth. “Pleeh! Lenar, would you slow down?!”
It was futile, and Yue knew it. He had only witnessed brief flashes of Lenar’s fervour when inspiration struck him before now, but they were powerful. The only thing that could stop him now was if he physically hit something he couldn’t see in his blind rush, if he was somehow incapacitated and rendered incapable of any movement—
Yue could only shout the Draik’s name frantically before the dragon collided with another Neopet flying through the air, a Uni. The Uni took the collision fairly well; stumbling slightly once he landed but managing to regain his footing quickly. Lenar, with his small and skinny frame, didn’t fare nearly so well. His left wing clipped the body of the Uni and sent him gambolling through the air until he crashed on the cobblestone edge of the walkway, skidding a few feet until he came to rest on the pavement. Panic-stricken, Yue rushed over to him, and the Uni involved wasn’t far behind.
“Is he alright?” the Uni asked, slightly too calm given the situation. He leant his long neck over to sniff at the prone form of Lenar curiously.
“Does he look alright to you? Just—help me get him to a doctor, alright?!” Yue half-shouted, trying to haul Lenar onto his armoured back and visibly struggling to do so. The Uni whinnied softly and nudged Lenar onto Yue’s back, keeping his nose pressed to the Draik’s skin to make sure he didn’t fall off. It was awkward, but it would do.
Yue’s hope that Lenar had only hit his head were soon dashed once the doctor broke the news.
“...His wing is broken? But you can set it again, right?”
The Elephante in the white gown in front of him shook his head, eyes downcast. “The thing about Draik wings... They’re powerful, but incredibly delicate. It doesn’t take much to break them. But Lenariann hasn’t just broken his bones in his left wing, he’s completely shattered them. The limb is useless. And with the bones broken so badly and piercing the tissue around them, the swelling would not have stopped and he would’ve been vulnerable to infection...”
He trailed off there. Yue searched the doctor’s eyes for the next part of his sentence, his own face contorted in worry. The doctor took a slow, shaky breath before continuing.
“...I’m sorry. We had to remove the whole wing.”
The Uni that was with Yue sighed, feeling guilty himself. He felt bad that he had gotten away with only a wing-shaped bruise on his side while Lenar had a whole limb lost. Yue buried his face in his paws, shaking his head and groaning loudly. The doctor cleared his throat, a starling noise given his size, and gestured to a room behind him.
“He’s awake now. I’m sure he’d like some compa—”
The doctor had to take a moment to notice that he was speaking to an empty room, as the Bori and Uni had already entered Lenar’s room. He sighed and adjusted his coat before going back to work, with Lenar’s misfortune weighing heavily on his broad shoulders.
Yue and the Uni quietly trotted to the bed in the corner of the pristine white room, a hard task with the Uni’s hooves clacking loudly on the floor. Lenar himself was sat up in bed, flexing his remaining right wing absentmindedly with his face turned away from his visitors. A bandage was tied tightly around his chest and back, shielding his new scar from view. The absence of his left wing was painfully obvious- he looked incomplete without it. Yue laid a clawed paw on the side of the bed, trying to catch his brother’s attention. He seemed to be somewhat successful, as Lenar stopped stretching his remaining wing and folded it as tight to his body as he could.
“Lenar...?” Yue started, worried about how his younger brother would cope. Lenar seemed to ignore him and turned to his new acquaintance, the Uni, who was awkwardly trying to sit on the floor beside the bed.
“What’s your name, sir?”
“Oh... Snufkin,” the Uni said almost lazily, giving Lenar a small but clearly apologetic smile.
“Snufkin,” Lenar repeated, his expression unreadable... for all of two seconds. A large, fanged smile slowly spread over Lenar’s face, practically outshining the gleaming medical instruments all around the room.
“I must thank you, Snufkin. You’ve opened up a brilliant, unimaginable possibility to me!”
“Aw, it was nothing...” Snufkin said with a tint of bashfulness, tapping the floor with the tip of his hoof. Yue couldn’t process what Lenar had just said as easily as Snufkin, however, and it was evident by his slack jaw and wide, shocked eyes.
“...Lenar, you just had a wing removed. How is this an ‘opportunity’?!”
Lenar’s smile grew even wider and evolved into a smirk as he faced his brother. “Come on, Yue, you said it yourself- I just had to ‘wait until the inspiration hit me’... and it did, in every sense of the word.”
“...You’re thinking of inventing again? Here and now, in a hospital bed after having a limb amputated?!”
“Maybe he’s gonna invent himself a new wing,” Snufkin said quietly, quite engrossed in the machinery surrounding the other beds in the ward. “And the inspiration hit him ‘cause he ran into me...” he added with a small chuckle.
“Ah, see? Even my new friend here gets it!” Lenar shouted as he threw the bed sheets off and sprinted down the hallway as fast as his draconian legs would take him.
“But--!” Yue started, trying to say something about staying in bed and recuperating, but his wise words would’ve fallen on deaf ears anyway. Lenar had already left the hospital and many flailing nurses in his wake, with Snufkin trotting along behind him as if they were going for a quiet stroll. And in the time that it took Yue to compose himself and follow Lenar home, the nurses considered treating him for shock.
Yue hadn’t found Lenar at home when he eventually reached there, a few hours after he had last seen his younger brother exit the hospital at what seemed liked supersonic speeds. He sighed heavily, his face cringing with worry again- he could only hope that whatever Lenar was up to, his new injurer-turned-friend Snufkin was there to help him out.
Yue’s reverie was broken by the sound of the door being kicked open from the outside. Yue didn’t even have to guess who it was- after all, speak of the Pant Devil and he shall appear.
“Yue! Be a dear and help bring this in?” called Lenar from the hallway, his voice easily carrying to Yue in the living room. The Bori sighed and got up- just when he had gotten comfy, too- and went out into the hallway to meet his brother, who was dragging an absurd amount of metal along behind him. Snufkin was still with him, carrying a long tarp over his back.
“We went to the scrap yard... It was cool,” the Uni said lazily, looking like he’d had an immense amount of fun wading through trash that no one wanted anymore. Yue took a moment to drink in the sight of them hauling old metal and fabric through the hallway before speaking.
“And why did you go to the dirty, germ-ridden scrap yard, when you have a wound on your shoulder that is so prone to infection that it’s not even funny?”
“Well, I need materials, don’t I? Can’t just conjure them up out of nowhere, you know! Though if I could, I wouldn’t need to invent, because I could just imagine something in my head and BAM! It would just be there, and—”
“Skip to the end...” Yue drawled, rubbing his forehead.
“—I’m going to build a new wing!”
“Oh. Of course. A new wing... So that you’ll look symmetrical, right?”
“Well, yes. And also to fly. You know, wingly... things.”
A long moment of silence stretched between them. Lenar was beaming while Yue deadpanned, taking a while to find the words and rearrange them in such a way that his brother wouldn’t be heartbroken.
“...Where to start? Um, look, Lenar... Prosthetic limbs are very expensive and very complex. Not to undermine your abilities, but... You’re not even a professional engineer. You’ve yet to invent something that will get you into the Guild of Inventors. And you want to build a whole prosthetic wing from junk you found in a scrap yard?”
“More or less,” Lenar replied, his tenacity unwavering.
“...I’d repeat everything I just said, but I don’t think it’d ever sink in.” Yue pinched the skin in between his eyes, feeling a headache coming on.
“Ah, but Yue... It’s just like you said. I haven’t gotten into the Guild of Inventors... yet.” Lenar winked knowingly on the last word before slinking into his bedroom door, Snufkin trailing after him with the tarp. Just as the Uni’s tail disappeared behind the door frame, Lenar’s head popped back out.
“Oh, and I told Snufkin he could live with us, ‘cause he’s some kind of vagabond and doesn’t have a home of his own. Spare room’s still empty, right?”
Yue just shook his head and decided to retire to his bed, hoping this was all a bad dream he could wake up from. And yet, when he woke rather randomly at some stupid hour in the morning, the first thing he heard was the clattering of metal. It wasn’t too bad, he could sleep over it...
Until the band saw started up. Yue groaned in frustration, surrendering to the fact that he was unlikely to get any sleep this night, and headed into the kitchen to make his younger brother a sandwich. He made Snufkin one as well, but only as an afterthought- he still wasn’t entirely happy with the Uni staying in his house, as he was by far the biggest Neopet out of the four of them and could barely fit on a single bed. They’d have to find a double bed somewhere...
Yue steeled his nerves before entering the room, wondering what on Neopia he would find. And to his surprise, it wasn’t much. Snufkin was curled up tightly on Lenar’s bed, presumably having fallen asleep long ago, and Lenar was hunched over the band saw as he cut a sheet of metal down into a desired shape. Yue groaned again once he realised Lenar was disregarding his safety again...
“You should wear your goggles, you know. You don’t need to lose a wing AND an eye in the same day,” he said quietly, handing the Draik the safety goggles that were hung on a peg above the desk. The Draik smiled sheepishly, his expression laced with tiredness, and took the goggles from him.
“Thanks... Although, it’s past midnight now, so I would’ve lost my wing yesterday and my eye today. Technically.”
“Not the point, Lenar. Just... take it easy, okay? Your drive to invent has already lost you a wing. I don’t want to see you get hurt anymore...”
‘Emotionally as well as physically’ he wanted to add, but thought better of it. It wouldn’t hurt to show some support for Lenar’s dream, after all, even if it did seem incredibly farfetched.
“I know. I will. I just have to cut this last bit of metal, then I can put everything together... and only then will I sleep. Are those sandwiches for me?” Lenar swiped the sandwiches off Yue before the Bori could reply and ate them greedily, looking grateful.
“...You need any help?” Yue asked, hoping that Lenar would reply with no, but wanting to at least appear helpful anyway.
“Nah,” Lenar replied, chuckling as Yue let out a sigh of relief that wasn’t meant to escape his lips. “Nothing you could do, anyway. Just hurry on back to bed,” he added, shooing his older brother towards his bedroom in the same way that Yue had done to him more nights than he could count. He gave the Bori a small, tired smirk, before shutting his bedroom door and locking it behind him in an attempt to try and drown the noise of the band saw. As Yue lay his head down on his pillow and easily drifted off again, he made a note to tell Lenar that it didn’t work at all, as the last thing he heard before sleep claimed him was the whirring of the metal blades.
The next day, Yue found that he couldn’t remember much of what had transpired earlier on the morning, and was understandably confused when he didn’t find Lenar in his bedroom. He remembered making sandwiches and grumbling about Snufkin taking up room, and not much more. The Uni in question was sat in his room, admiring the decorations, and gave Yue a little smile once the Bori asked where his younger brother was before answering.
“Going to that Inventor’s Guild thingy. I offered to fly him, but he flew himself... That wing worked a real treat, heheh.” Snufkin's nonchalance seemed to bring the memories of last night flooding back to Yue in an instant, and his face quickly contorted into an angry scowl.
“And you just LET him fly there?! He couldn’t have gotten a chance to test that wing and he didn’t have any sleep, either!!”
“But he was so insistent that I stay here... And he said you’d probably be angry and worried and that you’d probably run after him...” Snufkin began, trailing off as Yue rushed out of the spare room and towards the front door, ready to start the frantic search. The Uni laughed, muttering that Lenar had been right under his breath, before lazily climbing off the bed and following Yue to the door. He wasn’t too surprised to see that Yue was still on the doorstep, looking at something in the sky, and he knew instantly what it was.
“Oh, he’s back... The wing worked well, then. Yay!” Snufkin accentuated his glee with a little flap of his wings. Yue would have joined in the celebration were he not so transfixed on Lenar’s new limb, watching as the gold and silvery metal glinted in the sun overhead. The tarp that Snufkin had brought back made up the ‘membrane’ in between his new ‘wing bones’, which were strips of light metal cut into a shape resembling the bones on his remaining normal wing. Lenar’s descent to the ground was less than graceful, though he managed to pull up at the last second and avoid eating dirt for breakfast, instead landing somewhat neatly on his feet. And for the first time in months, Yue noted, he looked incredibly proud and satisfied.
“So. What do you think?”
Yue managed a small nod, too busy trying to figure out how the limb was working. It hadn’t been grafted to his skin and reconnected to his nerve endings- the metal prosthetic was simply strapped to his back with a harness. Wires ran over Lenar’s shoulder and down his arms, held together in places with small belts over a small system of gears, and came to rest at the end of his fingers. The Draik smiled as he noticed Yue’s gaze, and flexed his fingers one after the other. Yue’s gaze was immediately torn away from the wires and back to Lenar’s wing, which moved in unison with the Draik’s digits.
“Pretty simple mechanism, really. I couldn’t surgically graft the wing to my body myself, so...”
Yue managed an incredulous smile which overflowed with pride. “So it works, then?”
Lenar smirked again- he was doing this a lot lately- and pulled out a roll of parchment from a pocket on the harness. He unfurled it and shoved the paper in Yue’s face, whose eyes lit up once he read the words “Lenariann, apprentice to the Inventor’s Guild”.
“Like a charm.”