Lana: Surveyor of the Storm
It was a sunny and perfect day at the port near the edge of Neopia Central; Lana, a lab coat wearing Island Lutari, was sitting on a bench, staring at the waves and the myriad of ships. It had never before occurred to her just how silly-looking the Neopia Central port was; there were what would be called pirate ships, flying Shenkuu junks, fancy yet dated Lost Desert ships, very primitive-looking rafts set out for Mystery Island, and space-boats with engines that looked like they were way too powerful for sailing. The ship Lana was preparing to board, however, was a somewhat Moltaran-looking, steam-powered ship, as if the Moltarans had any use for water-bound ships. It was mostly gray, with a few bronze-colored accents. While she sat there, she decided to pick up her gray, bulky, suitcase-like machine up off of the bench next to her, and opened it up; it was a weather detector. This was, of course, a modified and compacted version of a weather probe that Dr. Sloth had sent to Neopia some years back to collect weather data; any evil mastermind worth his evilness knows to check the weather before unleashing a genius plan. For Lana, however, in this case the machine simply proved the obvious; there were no clouds in sight and it really was a perfect day.
"Hey, have you noticed the time? It's time to board!" Lana suddenly remembered that one of her brothers, Art the Skunk Bori, had come along with her to help her bring her possessions aboard the ship. She quickly strapped the machine on her back and started running as quickly as she could, and beat her poor, suitcase-laden brother there by a significant margin.
Once aboard the ship, she looked around at the crew while Art carried her luggage to the ship's storage. Most of these were pretty tough-looking; they were sailors, of course. Art, having finished carrying the luggage, gave Lana a hug (or as much of a hug as he could give with his lack of hands) and said, "Good luck, Lana. Please come home safely. By the way, the Pteri is supposedly the captain." Since it was already time to set off and Lana and Art were running late, Art dashed off before Lana could say anything back to him. Given his advice, she immediately started to scan the deck, looking for the captain; she looked across at eye level, then up at the masts, before suddenly realizing that he was standing right in front of her... way below eye level. He was a Checkered Pteri, wearing rounded glasses and a flight jacket. "Oh, are you the captain? Nice to meet you!" Ron ignored her and announced, "We're setting off! Get to work, start the engines, go, go, go! We're taking a shortcut since we're in a race, so prepare for rough seas!”
As it turned out, the shortcut he was referring to was one that took a roughly tangential path past the rather infamous Lutari Island storm. As every sailor of the times knew, Lutari Island had been surrounded by a vicious storm for years; few ships braved to go even that close. This close pass was, in fact, the real reason why Lana had chosen to attend this voyage in particular. She was a meteorologist; more specifically, one devoted wholly to the study of the Lutari Island storm. She had never been to the island itself; perhaps study of the storm would one day allow her to visit that island which seemed to take up the entirety of her ambitions.
She stood daydreaming about this, when suddenly Ron shook her to her senses. "Hey, you're not here to daydream! You're needed in the engine room! Get to work or else it's a game of checkers for you!" All of the crew members other than Lana shuddered; it was agreed upon that Ron was the indisputable best checkers player in the known multiverse, and anyone forced to challenge him would be subject to nothing other than pure humiliation. Lana did not understand, but she did not really need to, so she headed down to the engine room. It was quite a tough place to work in; the heat was unbearable, and the room was filled with smoke and steam from the massive boilers that powered the ship's propellers. Her particular job was to maintain the gearbox; a crazy and probably unnecessarily complicated-looking machine necessary to regulate the speed and torque of the steam engine. In this case, it happened to already be making an unbearably loud squeaking noise. She had repaired squeaky gears on gearboxes like this one many times, so she immediately got to work; she switched the engines to the auxiliary gearbox, started oiling the gears, and replaced some of the more worn down gears. By the time she had finished, it was already nighttime. She left for her bunk while enduring the glares of the crewmates who had to remain working throughout the night.
She awoke shortly afterwards to the sound of shouting. She looked out the porthole to find that there was a great storm; what would have scared most was an occasion of great excitement for Lana. She grabbed her things, rushed out, and turned on her weather detector. The somewhat superfluous green lights on it lit up; she was most likely collecting more useful information now than she had in any previous voyage! After this, she suddenly realized that Ron was shouting at her, despite his voice being faint due to the sound of the storm. She had not yet put much thought into how she would actually survive being this close to the storm; she assumed that she would be more useful in the engine room, so she strapped her weather detector back on her back and rushed over there. In her rush, she slipped on a puddle, and as if that were not enough, the ship started to tip dramatically, and a crate nearby started to slide her way. The crate struck her, and she found herself being shoved towards the railing by the crate. The crate was much too wide for her to try to slip past it, and, if she were to stay there, she would surely be smashed against the durable metal railing. She tried to jump, and got high enough to not hit the railing; however, she found herself hanging on the edge of the crate, and both she and the crate flipped up and over the railing and thus off of the edge of the ship. Her vision was nothing more than a blur; she then suddenly realized that she had hit the water and frantically clawed her way out from under the crate and onto its top.
After this came the quite shocking news of her being stuck on a crate floating in the stormy sea. She saw the lights of the ship in the distance and attempted to get her crewmates' attention by shouting, but her voice was weak from having been struck by the crate and dunked in the water, plus the fact that those on the ship would not have heard her anyway. She checked her weather detector; the device itself was waterproofed and still functional, but to her great dismay, the memory card slot was open and the memory card had slipped out. She stared at the screen for at least half an hour in a somewhat futile attempt to memorize and make sense of all of the output. Unfortunately, the data was just far too much, and so she was forced to submit herself to her voyage being a failure. She sat dejected until she realized that she was hungry, after which the reality of her being stranded at sea set in and she began to feel even worse. Having realized that she was sitting on a crate, she removed her gloves and started to try to pry the lid off with her claws. She was not a very strong individual, but fortunately the crate was not nailed too tightly shut and she managed to open it. Rather disappointingly, the crate was filled with plushies; while an adorable find, this gave her no aid in her current tribulations. Lana decided that she would attempt to fish. She very carefully removed a single long thread from her coat to use as a line, and ripped a plank off of the crate to use as a rod. She had no bait, but she took the island flower (which, to her great surprise, had stayed firmly attached to her hair) off of her head to use as bait in hopes that the fish would be interested in it. She had already floated out of the way of the storm, and so she sat, waiting for bites.
A few days passed without any bites, so she put the flower back on her head and took the opportunity to think. Was her insistence in the continued study of the Lutari Island storm really worth it? It had caused great danger for herself and potentially to her crewmates (although that last particular ship was taking that route anyway). Maybe the reward was not really worth it; it was just a small and unimportant island. She had always wanted to go there since, because she was a Lutari, it was her ancestral home, but was that enough motivation in itself? She then turned her thoughts to the inhabitants: they had been stuck there for years, so they must want to finally leave and see the world of Neopia beyond. Her mind then switched to an alternate theory: perhaps the inhabitants would actually be better off in their seclusion, free from the influence of the outside world? She decided that last theory was unlikely and rejected it.
A week passed. Neopets, fortunately, are known to be able to survive years without food, but doing so absolutely destroys one mentally and physically. Lana had propped up the lid of the crate to act as an awning, and just sat on the pile of plushies contained within. She, at this point, had begun to lose her mind due to the isolation, and had picked out plushies that resembled her siblings to keep her company. Plushie versions of a Yellow Zafara, a Green Xweetok, a Red Tuskaninny, and a Blue Bori (since she could not find a Skunk one) now stared at her constantly with their eternally unchanging gaze. In Lana's mind, the Xweetok plushie said, "Thal and Art, come on over, we're going to have board game night. Unfortunately, Patti isn't going to play with us tonight since she's busy standing over there looking serious." The Tuskaninny, representing her sister Patti, it was true, was known for being serious. How much so, Lana did not really know, since she had hardly ever seen her. She regardless held a fascination with her since she was an aquatic species like she was.
Some time passed, how long exactly she knew not, but eventually she noticed a tiny island on the horizon; the kind of stereotypical deserted island with a single palm tree on it. She had noticed that her crate had been slowly filling with water, so she decided that getting to that island was a must. She got in the water and attempted to push the crate to shore, but after deciding that she just was not strong enough to do that, she simply headed for shore by herself. On the island, she was surprised to find a lone Coconut Jubjub living by itself.
"Uggah uggah uggah!"
"Oh, you can speak normal language! Oh, good! I was afraid you were a crazy cannibalistic native!"
"A crazy cannibalistic native... wearing a lab coat?"
"Well, how would I know? I don't know how long I've been here! I should've kept track by making marks on the palm tree... but I didn't."
Lana felt quite relieved to have company with another sentient being, even if that being had gone even crazier than she had from seclusion. The Jubjub explained how he fished with just his teeth and drank the morning dew off of his forehead; Lana was utterly amazed at how he accomplished either of those activities without hands. Eventually, thus Jubjub, out of boredom, asked Lana if she had anything in her pockets. She had several pens, a few candies, a sheet of special waterproof paper commonly used by scuba divers, a waterproof clock, some classic navigation tools, and a few batteries which probably were not safe to use after being soaked. The Jubjub suddenly suggested that she use the sheet of paper to make a Neomail to ask for help. Neomail is typically thought of a service consisting of Weewoos that carry messages to their destinations; however, there is a more ancient and more special kind of Neomail which is essentially a promise made with nature that a message cast into the wind would be sure to reach its destination surely and swiftly. She quickly wrote a message asking for help, along with her coordinates as determined by the clock and navigation instruments. And thus began the wait.
After what felt like an eternity despite what was actually just a day, Lana noticed a dark silhouette approaching the island. The Jubjub freaked out and miraculously managed to climb on top of the palm tree, while Lana stood her ground and waited for it to approach. To her surprise, it was a scuba gear clad Tuskaninny, and more surprisingly, it was Patti.
"Patti! You... came?"
"Yep. Today's my day off, so yeah, happy coincidence. I brought some omelets and jellies if you're hungry, which you probably are. A boat is on the way. How did your expedition go? Not well, I suppose.”
"Well, I did get a lot of data... which was on a memory card which I lost... but hopefully, it'll wash up on shore sometime!"
Lana had suddenly realized that the mental image in her head of Patti being super serious was actually true. Yet, Patti was wearing a Ghostkerscarf, which seemed to greatly contrast her personality; this made Lana wonder.
"You're serious about trying to follow your ancestry, huh? Well... it is good to see your determination, at least."
Patti knew something Lana did not: that Lana was not actually a Lutari, but, rather, her owner had transformed her into one by a Morphing Potion almost immediately after her creation. Patti, as well as the rest of Lana's siblings, have kept that a secret from her in order to avoid destroying her motivation.
Lana had regardless lost her enthusiasm about talking to Patti. She just laid down in the shade of the palm tree while eating some of the provided omelets and jellies; meanwhile, the Jubjub was still in hiding in the tree. Lana glanced up again, and Patti had vanished; most likely, she felt no reason to continue chatting either and was returning back to the mainland. Soon enough, the boat came to pick up Lana and the Jubjub, and Lana decided that it would probably be better that she spend some time at home before continuing her scientific pursuits. Her family's home was in Shenkuu, which was a place she rather disliked due to its distance from the ocean. Yet, it had a certain beauty to it, and her owner, Thal the Zafara, Nan the Xweetok, and Art welcomed her back lovingly. Perhaps the simple pleasures of home life were better for her. Yet, she knew that her last trip would not be her last time being the Surveyor of the Storm.
By the way, Ron's ship made it safely to their destination, in case anyone was wondering about that. They won their race, too; maybe Lana will be back to work sooner than she at first thought.
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