When a Vacation Isn't a Choice
"Greetings, subject group 647-B. My name is Phidre, and today you will be testing a few of the Space Station’s latest technological devices, including the much-anticipated Nebula Force Field Generator. I presume you have all signed and read the safety waivers…”
The microphone in Phidre’s ear crackled. Her hand instinctively shot up to adjust the mic, fiddling with it momentarily to try and catch the incoming signal. A voice boomed into her ear, mixed with static.
“Dr. Phidre, you don’t have any subjects today,”
Startled, the Halloween Draik looked up from her papers. Stationed in an observatory booth far above Virtupets’ Grundo Training Facility, she had been so caught up in her files that she had failed to notice there were no subjects waiting in the atrium below. Usually, the spacious room was bubbling with Grundos, eager to test and rate the latest contraptions from Virtupets, followed by a free hot lunch. However, to be completely honest, Phidre sometimes wondered if they signed up more for the lunch than to advance science. No matter their motivation, one thing remained the same- subjects were subjects, and Virtupets needed as many as they could recruit to evaluate their latest inventions.
Caught up in a train of thought, Phidre barely noticed the (now vaguely annoyed) voice had been droning on. “…and with all that in mind, I think it’s about time you take a vacation, Dr. Phidre. You’ve been working much too hard lately, and I’d hate to see you get overwhelmed and burn out…”
Phidre resumed straightening the papers on her desk. “I see what you’re saying, Professor Xenex, but I can’t up and take a vacation now. There is so much work left to be done before the next quarter. Think of all the devices I still have to test!” Phidre swiveled around in her chair to take a look at the cluttered lab bench behind her. “A new pile was dropped off by the engineers this morning, and I also have to fill out the corresponding paperwork…” The Draik thumbed through a stack of gleaming white papers next to the pile of electronics. “Not to mention, there are still plenty of new recruit intake forms that need to be processed. I couldn’t possibly take a vacation!”
“Well,” the bespectacled Green Grundo chuckled from behind the microphone. “You might have to delegate those tasks to one of those keen interns of yours that are always pestering you for work. It looks like you’ve already been booked for a week-long stay at the illustrious Faerie Castle hotel! Better get packing those bags!”
Phidre’s jaw gaped open as her face paled. “A… vacation? At Faerie Castle nonetheless?” she stuttered into the headset. This was certainly an interesting turn of events, to say the least. She wasn’t used to relaxing, and wasn’t even sure she had been on a vacation before. In any case, she couldn’t remember whether or not she had. For all she knew, she didn’t even like vacations! After a long pause, Phidre reluctantly spoke into the microphone again. “Alright, Professor. You win. I’ll go on a vacation,”
“I knew you would say yes!” The Grundo exclaimed with glee. “Now, there’s just a bit of housekeeping to take care of. We wouldn’t want a curious test subject or an unscrupulous insider to gain access to your office while you’re away, now would we?”
As the Professor relayed detailed instructions to her on how to ensure the office would be secure in her absence, Phidre gathered up her belongings and began placing them into the black satchel she carried with her to work every day. Despite the vacation being a time to supposedly relax and let all her worries wash away, Phidre snuck a stack of intake forms into her bag. This way, she thought, I can at least get some work done if the vacation ends up being a total bust.
Never one to forget anything, Phidre jotted down a quick note to herself before leaving the office. “Don’t forget to pack suitcases and feed Woe the Spyder,” she mumbled out loud to herself as she wrote on the piece of Virtupets-branded stationery. “Wouldn’t want him to go hungry,” she added as an afterthought.***
As soon as Phidre reached the Virtupets’ Grundo Training Facility’s lobby, she was stopped by an eager Grundo wearing a Virtupets’ uniform and lugging a Virtupets branded bag that was clearly too heavy for him. “Dr. Phidre! Perfect timing. The Professor wants to give you this-“ the Grundo huffed as he handed the bag over to Phidre. “It’s for your vacation!” The Grundo cheerfully skipped back the way he came, leaving her alone with the bag. The scientist opened the silver and red bag, finding a note inside that read: Dear Dr. Phidre,
Enclosed is your travel itinerary, as well as some attire to help you blend in with the Faerieland locals. You’re going to be picked up by a VirtuShuttle at the departure docks, and will land on a small island in the sea across from your destination. From there, you will take a ferry to Faerieland- the ticket is enclosed.
Enjoy your vacation!
- Professor Xenex
Phidre folded up the note, pleasantly surprised by the Virtupets’ Grundo Training Facility’s level of organization. As she headed towards the departure docks, she shuffled through the items in her new bag. Running her claws over shiny, gauzy fabric, she felt a sudden twinge of dismay. Used to dressing in woolen gowns and sensible sweaters, she was sure these vibrant outfits would make her feel out of place, no matter where in Neopia she was. Sighing, she stepped up to the gates of the departure dock and boarded the VirtuShuttle waiting for her.***
An hour later, Phidre emerged from the shuttle onto the landing dock. Now dressed in a gauzy, opalescent sundress, the Draik felt just as out of place as the metal, Virtupets-branded dock that clashed with the island full of long grass waving in the breeze. Clutching her travel bag, she stepped through the soft blades towards a wooden pier jutting out from the end of the island. “This isn’t so bad,” Phidre muttered, suddenly calmed by the warm, salty sea air. Having reached the end of the island, she stepped up onto the pier and was instantly greeted by a jubilant Faerie Ixi.
“Hello, Miss! Do you have a ticket for the ferry? It will take you all the way to the wonderful Faerieland!” the Ixi spoke in a breathy, feathery, tone.
Phidre reached into her bag and pulled out the ticket. “Here you go,”
“Thank you, Miss! Enjoy your journey,” The Ixi opened the gate in front of them and ushered Phidre onto the boat.
As soon as she was on board, Phidre made her way to the front of the ferry to look out over the glittering sea. It stretched for miles in front of her, the waves gently lapping at the sides of the boat as it cruised forward towards her destination. As they moved forwards, she could slowly begin to see the outline of the towers and buildings that defined Faerieland’s skyline. Filled with awe, she began to fantasize about relaxing in the Faerie Castle, taking a dip in the famous Healing Springs, and perhaps even searching for the elusive Hidden Tower. Caught up in her fantasy, Phidre surprised herself when she realized she was actually looking forward to the trip.
Moments later, she was snapped out of her daydream by the sound of fabric crinkling around her ankles. Looking down, she remembered she was still outfitted in a ridiculously Faerie-esque sun dress. Slightly embarrassed by her attire, she looked out over the sea in steady determination.
“My itinerary’s got to change,” she mused out loud, to no one in particular. “I think the first thing I’ll do when I get to Faerie City is search for a better outfit!”