A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 117,249,079 Issue: 235 | 14th day of Eating, Y8
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Traces of Faeryllium: Part Two


by ee365

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Later that day, Taeshne stood in the Lab Tent with Captain Leila. The plump Desert Usul stood over a small vial filled with the precious faeryllium sand. "I'm pretty sure your original hypothesis was correct, Commander. It seems a leakage of magic from a spell cast by Jazan or Razul-most likely Jazan-created an extra bond between the molecules of sand and faeryllium to allow this unusual compound. I believe it is as much a breakthrough as you believe."

     "Yes, yes, Leila, but the Head of the Lost Desert Science Department won't listen until we've performed more tests on it. We could have discovered an entirely new molecule type, just a new bond, or it could be totally magic-dependent."

     Though Taeshne was trying her hardest to concentrate on the new discovery, her earlier confrontation with Anberra had set her nerves on edge. The red Xweetok was trying not to let her nervousness show, but it was hard not to stroke her ruff or grit her teeth to betray her mixed-up emotions.

     She was saved just then by the arrival of Anton, Zara, and Destiny, an experienced yellow Lupe who served under Leila. "Commander Taeshne, Captain Leila, excuse me, but it's nearly nighttime, and I think we ought to stop," Destiny said. "Faeryllium is extremely reactive at night, and we don't want any sand explosions, or burning fur. If we misplaced one molecule of faeryllium while the moon is out, it could create an explosion large enough to be dangerous to an Elephante. Begging your pardon," he added to Zara before finishing and turning toward Taeshne.

     "Yes, yes, I agree," Taeshne nodded distractedly at the Lupe, "Leila, Anton, Zara, Destiny… in the morning we shall continue?" she inquired. "Goodnight, all."

     ***

     As Taeshne woke up the next morning, she felt her shoulders taut with tension. At first the Xweetok could not remember why she felt this way, and then the past day came flooding back to her: Anberra. Faeryllium. Allowing her sister to spend the night.

     As that thought crossed her mind, her intelligent brown eyes lit up. Oh… perfect! Anberra would be leaving this morning, and Taeshne would be free! She felt the tension slide of her back like a backpack being released from its ropes. Now she could get back to the faeryllium and her work.

     As she rubbed sleep out of her eyes, a nervous and agitated-looking Bay burst in. "Begging your pardon, Commander Taeshne, but… there's a problem. Come outside, please."

     Taeshne was irked, but for the sake of her nervous secretary she confined it to an irritated sigh as she followed him outside.

     The sight that met the Xweetok commander's eyes was horrible. There had obviously been a sandstorm of terrible proportions the night before. Sand covered everything, tents, Neopets, and everything else in sight. Worst of all, the dig site was situated in a low valley, and sand had piled up around the sides, dulling them from cliffs of hard rock to mountains of slippery sand.

     "It seems, Commander Taeshne, that nobody will be able to enter or exit the dig site until we can get this cleared up. It could take weeks!" Bay's face was as pained as Taeshne's.

     "Well, Bay, spare as many workers as you can for the job. The Head of the Lost Desert Science Department is scheduled to visit in a few weeks. That could be a problem. Nobody being able to leave won't matter much; the supply train was just through last week and we have plenty."

     A new voice entered the conversation, "Ur… Uh… What happened? It wasn't this sandy last night." Taeshne turned, and the red Xweetok groaned inwardly at the sight of the sand-dusted green Xweetok clambered out of the guest tent. Of course! Nobody being able to leave the site meant she was stuck with Anberra, perhaps for weeks!

     "There was a sandstorm last night, Anberra," Taeshne replied in clipped tones. "It has made your leaving us… unfortunately delayed. You must stay, but you cannot be just an extra mouth to feed. You shall earn your keep… by working."

     "But… I don't know anything about scientific work," Anberra admitted. "But maybe this sandstorm is a good thing. Maybe you'll want to come home once the trail out of here is cleared."

     Taeshne turned her frosty glare on the Xweetok that had made her life so miserable. "Then I have just the job for you, sister. Though you know nothing of science, certainly you are not above bringing meals and water to my workers?" she inquired, cocking a cheeky eyebrow at Anberra. "Well? I am the commander here."

     "Fine," Anberra grumbled, "I'll earn my keep." She stalked away, tail held high, the picture of Xweetok irritation.

     "Let's just hope the faeryllium sand is unaffected," Taeshne murmured.

     ***

     Commander Taeshne and the others got lucky. The faeryllium sand was indeed unharmed by the sandstorm. For nearly a week, they performed tests and experiments on the precious substance. Taeshne's and Leila's hypothesis was nearly confirmed. The magic of Jazan had indeed forced the molecules to bond together in a way never before known, using a force stronger even than the strong nuclear force.

     Progress on clearing the dig site did not go quite as well. The sand was hard to work with, and it looked as if the Head of the Lost Desert Science Department would not be able to get in for a while yet. Taeshne was growing impatient. She was almost certain now that her hypothesis about the faeryllium was correct, and she so wanted to show the Head! The intelligent red Xweetok was nearly certain she would be promoted for this-and maybe get to work even more with the faeryllium.

     Also, Anberra continued to be an annoyance. Though she did the menial tasks Taeshne had assigned for her, she was obviously not happy. Every time she saw her sister, Anberra tried to needle her into coming home, never once succeeding.

     Then, a week after the sandstorm, she received a message from the Head of the Lost Desert Science Department. Taeshne had informed him of the faeryllium sand and he was anxious to get a look at it himself. He would wait no longer, the message said. He was going to come by Eyrie transport; if Taeshne would be so kind as to prepare a landing ground, he would arrive in three days.

     ***

     Three days later, Taeshne and her crew had set up the landing ground, performed final tests on the faeryllium, and were now eagerly awaiting the Head. Finally, a speck in the sky was spotted. Taeshne felt the tension that had built up over the past week leave her muscles. After the Head had seen the faeryllium, he would surely pronounce it a great scientific discovery-and she would be credited. She would have at last made a great contribution to the world of science, and Taeshne was certain she'd be able to use that to get rid of pesky Anberra once and for all.

     Commander Taeshne headed forth to greet the Head of the Lost Desert Science Department, Aox the dignified Brown Draik, and his assistant, Sheila the Silver Eyrie. Aox greeted her in a friendly manner. He was insistent on seeing the faeryllium, but Taeshne explained that it was too close to nighttime.

     "Faeryllium is extremely reactive-enough to be fatal-at night," she explained to Aox. "We don't want to take that risk. How about meeting the faeryllium team?" This was the way she referred to the pets who knew about the metal and helped her perform the experiments.

     The rest of the day went without mishap. Aox met Leila, Destiny, Anton, and Zara and seemed truly pleased to do so. Taeshne made absolutely sure he did not meet Anberra. She was too afraid of what her sister would say to the Head. As Taeshne lay down to sleep that night, she hoped tomorrow would be just as successful as today.

     ***

     Anberra slogged through the sand of the dig site, her arms loaded with water, Pyramibread, and Tchea Fruits to bring to the workers laboring to clear the pathways of sand. This was her final load for the day, and she was totally exhausted.

     How can Taeshne enjoy this place? It's torture, Anberra thought. The workers are ungrateful wretches, not even thanking me for bringing them food, Taeshne is a cruel taskmaster obsessed with that faeryllium stuff, and I've got no chance of getting back to the Eastern Forest for days. My clan needs help, and I'm stuck in a desert bringing water to fat Elephantes and rude Buzzes and the other workers! It's not fair!

     "Hurry up with our food, Xweetok!" Anberra snapped her head up at the barking voice. Wearily, her brain struggled to place the hulking figure in front of her and its slim companion. Suddenly, she realized it was Uba the Elephante and Logan the Buzz, two extremely rude workers who took great pleasure in tormenting Anberra.

     "Here it is, Uba," Anberra gasped, attempting to hand it over to the Elephante.

     Uba shook her head, however. "No. Deliver it to our post, over there." She nodded to a spot a couple hundred meters away, where Uba, Logan, and the rest of their team worked to clear sand.

     Anberra staggered the short distance and dropped the food at Uba's feet. Cursing Taeshne for giving her this menial job, cursing her brother for asking her to come out here in the first place, and cursing the sandstorm for shutting off her exit, Anberra reached her tent. The two hulking Kau guards Taeshne had set moved aside to allow Anberra in. She barely heard the menacing sound of the guards drawing their weapons as she fell into the camp bed.

     I hope once that "Head of the Lost Desert Science Department" fellow looks at Taeshne's faeryllium, she'll agree to come home. However, I doubt that will ever happen. When Kaus fly, perhaps... was her last thought before fatigue clouded her Xweetok brain and she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Traces of Faeryllium: Part One
» Traces of Faeryllium: Part Three



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