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The Legend of the Lab Ray Scientist: Part Two


by chaosmage25

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The first disaster came in the form of a mummified Ruki, its bandages tattered and worn, its eyes bloodshot and empty. The Scorchio shuddered as he stared at the creature. "It starts," he thought to himself. "The ray is beginning to fail." Not wanting to cause panic amongst the crowd, the scientist reassured the stunned group that it was a slight glitch, and that with some careful tweaking, the ray could be fixed and the Ruki returned to normal. The following day the dazed Ruki again stood before the scientist, and as the ray fired, the crowd held their breath. When the smoke cleared, the once mummified Ruki was now cloud-colored. The crowd erupted into cheers and celebration, and the Scorchio wiped his brow. The problem had been solved. At least, it was solved for the moment...

     Having caught a glimpse of what the ray was capable of doing, the Scorchio pleaded with the crowd to leave him for a few days. "I thank everyone for their willingness and participation in testing out my ray. You've all been very, very helpful. But we've all seen the terrible creature the ray changed that poor Ruki into. The problem was fixed, but it is only a temporary solution. I'm afraid that the ray may malfunction again at some point. So I ask that you all go home, and leave me to analyze my research and..."

      "No way!" came a voice from the crowd. "I've been here for days, waiting for a turn. I'm not leaving empty-handed."

     "Yeah, what was that, one mistake out of how many?" cried another. "Come on, let us in!"

     "What they said!"

     "Open up!"

     Worried that the annoyed crowd would soon become an angry mob, the Scorchio sadly agreed to open the ray up to the public once more. "You just won't listen to reason. I fear you never will. If you don't want to heed my warning, then you'll just have to find out the hard way."

     From that point on, the ray no longer created beautiful and elaborate colors. Instead, it spewed forth terrible and hideous things, colors that no one had ever seen before, creatures that were only found in nightmares. A Uni covered in what appeared to be mucus. A Chia changed into a mound of custard. A Nimmo whose flesh had been become steel and whose blood had become oil. A Zafara whose body was so badly mutated, no one could tell what it was. And still, the crowds kept coming, but instead of being willing participants, they came as bitter victims.

     "Look at what you've done!" roared a father Acara, carrying a small child in his arms. The little girl's fur was the color of soot, and despite her head being buried in her father's chest, the crowd could still hear her muffled cries. "My child was once so happy, so cheerful. Now look at her. She spends hours locked away in her room, weeping. Her tears never stop flowing. You caused this. Now fix it! I want my little girl back! We should have never trusted you."

     "And look at my baby boy!" cried a mother Pteri. "You changed my baby into this... this... frog!" She pointed at a small Quiggle child. "He's a... how can he..." Before she could finish, the mother fainted, which only fueled the crowd's rage.

      "My beautiful fur is now ruined with these disgusting blocks!" screamed a Checkered Lupe.

     "What do you call this!" called a Kacheek whose body emitted a strange, ethereal glow. "I'm a ghost, but I ain't dead yet!"

     "Now listen up, you crazy fool!" screamed a pink Grarrl, shaking his angry fist. "You either find a way to change us back to normal, or so help me, I will come over there..."

     "Silence!" barked the scientist. "I need some time to think!" A hush fell over the mass as the Scorchio began to furiously scratch his bowed head, deep in thought. After a few minutes, he lifted his head and addressed the mob in a voice barely above a whisper. "My friends, I understand that you are all angry, but we need not come to violence. I have seen the error of my ways, and I think that I have a solution to the problem at hand. Yes, I'm sure of it." He paused. "Yes, yes. I need some time to... repair my machine. This will take a few hours. Only a few. A good day's work ought to do it. So please, all of you, go home, and leave me to my work. Come see me tomorrow." With a wave, he quickly disappeared into the house, leaving behind the stunned crowd.

     "Can we trust him?" asked the now revived Pteri.

     "Got no choice," replied the Acara. "Come on, let's get out of here. It's almost sunset, and this place gives me the creeps."

     From the safety of his home, the Scorchio watched to crowd slowly depart.

     When the last person had left and the place was silent once again, he turned to his pet Kookith. "Come, we have much to do before tomorrow."

     The following morning, the skies were overcast and dark, and the clouds threatened to burst without warning. As the crowd from the previous day reassembled in the front yard, thunder rumbled in the distance and a slight wind began to blow. Staring up at the strangely silent house, the crowd could not help but feel a sense of fear and dread. Something wasn't right.

     "This isn't a good sign." The Pteri mother spoke in a hushed voice.

     "Nonsense," replied the father Acara. "He's probably still down in his lab working on that blasted machine. Or he fell asleep while on the job." But even as he spoke, the Acara felt his confidence slipping away. Deep inside, he knew that she was probably right. Something was up. Maybe the scientist couldn't fix the ray?

     "Should we go knock?" asked a Lupe with checkered fur. "I'm getting a bit tired of these blocks. What I'd give to go back to my old color."

     "No, let's wait a little bit longer," the Acara responded.

     And so, the crowd waited. And waited. And waited. Hours passed, and the house remained still. Finally, as night began to fall, the crowd realized that the scientist was not coming out of the house. They had to go to him. Mustering up as much courage as he could, the Acara nudged the older Lupe, and the two slowly made their way towards the silent house. As they approached, the Lupe noticed a meticulously wrapped package that was half hidden beneath the shrubs near the front door. Retrieving the package, the Lupe opened it and found ten slips of paper neatly stapled together. Nine of the pages had a crude drawing on each; the tenth held a hastily written note, which the Lupe read aloud to the now curious crowd...

     "My fellow Neopians. I have packed my things and have moved on to a hidden location. It was not that I was unable to repair my beloved ray; in truth, it only needed a few minor tweaks to become perfect. It performed admirably, much better than I expected, really; the first machine that did not betray me. No, it was all of you who betrayed yourselves. I warned you all that the ray was unpredictable. I said it would change you, alter you, perhaps for the good, perhaps for the bad, and yet, you all ignored my warnings, and for that, you must suffer the consequences. However, although I have retreated for now, a machine as glorious as my ray can not... should not... be kept from Neopia forever. For those of you who have no fear about the future and no regrets about the past, on the following pages you will find a map to my new location, and anyone daring enough to subject themselves to my ray again, come and find me. I welcome you with open arms. To the rest of the world, I bid you adieu. One day, you will see the genius of my invention."

     "So that's how this ends." The Lupe lifted his eyes from the pages only long enough to scan the crowd. "I hate to admit it, but he has a point there. We were all so eager to become someone else, to be bigger and faster and stronger and more..." he inhaled sharply, "colorful, I guess you can say, that we lost ourselves. We were too eager. We longed to be someone we're not. And now we're left to look into the mirror each and every day and see ourselves for who we really are. Complete fools." He gave himself a once over, staring sadly at his checkered fur, longing to be what he once was but knowing that only he was to blame for these hideous blocks of black and white. "Not too long ago, tales of the glorious ray spread throughout the land. Now, let us take the lesson we learned here today and spread it to each and every Neopian, from the depths of Maraqua to the peaks of Terror Mountain. We are not to be judged by the color of our fur or by the size of our muscles. It truly is what is on the inside that counts, and I, for one, am very disappointed with what I have reduced myself to."

     The members of the assembled crowd hung their heads in shame, reflecting on the Lupe's words. What the Lupe said was true, all true, and the truth cut like a knife. Blaming the scientist had been easy. Accepting their own guilt would not be.

     "So, what do we do with that map he left?" asked the Acara, having finally gained his composure enough to speak.

     "I'm not sure," replied the Lupe. "I guess I'll hold on to it for a little while until we figure out what to do. I got a safe at my place..."

     "No way!" cried a voice from the crowd. Everyone turned and stared at the Peach Chia who had called out. Undaunted, the Chia continued. "I mean, look at me! I'm a fruit! I can't stay like this forever. I know, this is all my fault, but still... please, I'll give you 50 NP for that map. I'm desperate."

     "50 NP?" The Acara lunged forward, grabbed the pages from the Lupe, and leapt onto a nearby stump. "Please, these are worth at least 200."

     "Hey, those are mine, you fool!" cried the Lupe. "If you want them, you pay me 200, you got that?"

     "I'll give you 500 each!"

     "550."

     "I told you, those are mine!"

A note from the author: The original drawings done by the scientist can be found safely tucked away in Neopia's Central Museum, although the pages are so faded, the images are nearly impossible to see. Still, there is hope for those seeking out the mythical ray. The map pieces have been duplicated many times, and can be bought on the Trading Post if the price is right. Some believe that all of the pieces of the map, including the originals, should be destroyed, fearing that the now centuries-old machine is far too volatile and dangerous, and that unscrupulous Neopians are making a fortune off of the desperate and the poor. Others feel that the pieces should be made public so that everyone can have a chance to visit the ancient machine and try their luck. Still, there are those who are more than willing to pay a hefty price for a chance to tempt fate, and a precious few Neopians doubt the existence of the ray altogether.

     As for the scientist, most believe that he finally went mad and passed away shortly after being sent into exile for the second time. Although his body may have passed on, many claim that his tormented soul still remains with his beloved machine, and will only be at peace when his former clan invites him home. Sadly, the Scorchio village has long since been destroyed by the volcano, and few documents of the village survived the eruption. It seems as though the scientist will forever be cursed to remain with his only successful invention, welcoming any Neopian inside with his sinister grin, offering them a chance to make their dreams come true, but only if they are willing to risk it all.

The End

 
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