More Than Just Moltite
The thunderous strikes of the miners' pick axes resonated across the quarry. As sweat cascaded down the brows of the workers, the heat of Neopia's core gave no mercy. Among these workers was a brown Grundo named Stealth, who was able to handle these conditions better than most...honestly, it was probably the only reason the quarry took him back after the infamous "Doglefox Incident."
Stealth glanced over to the giant clock at the quarry's entrance. Four minutes until he could go home. Surely, these would be the longest minutes of his life. He continued striking the obsidian with his pick axe. Sweat and toil, sweat and toil, all day long. What did they even need to mine the obsidian for? The market for it crashed as soon as they started giving free samples to every daily passerby. Why was Stealth doing this?
Oh yeah, neopoints.
Stealth really had no choice. Hishalf of the rent needed to be paid, and that's not even mentioning his more eccentric, and expensive, hobbies. Those didn't come cheap. He flinched at the thought of last week, and how much he'd spent on...
The giant steam whistle blew, ending the shift. Workers wiped the sweat off their brows and hung wet towels around their necks, with some taking a sprint towards the snack machine. Stealth though? He was just gonna clock out, pick up some new black buttons for his sock puppets' eyes, maybe relax at the new geothermal sauna downtown, and head h-
"Stealth!" said a brass-clad Shoyru flying into the scene at a frantic pace. The foreman. Stealth really hoped he didn't want him to stay.
"Stealth," he continued, panting after flying too quickly. "I need you to stay for a moment." Boom, Stealth thought. He called it.
"What's wrong, sir?" he asked.
"We're picking up some weird radiation readings from inside the mine. Keep that on the down low...we wouldn't want to cause a panic," he said. "We could lose funding."
"So you want me to go in and have a look?" Stealth asked.
"Yes. Your skin can handle radiation a lot better, right?"
"Well, yeah. Being an extraterrestrial species does that," Stealth remarked, slightly unamused.
The foreman patted his back. "Good then!" He handed Stealth a pick axe and a glow worm lantern. "Report back with what you find!"
Stealth was then rushed back into the mine before the door was shut behind him. Brushing off the dust that instantly accumulated on him from the slamming door, Stealth slowly stepped further into the mine.
"Just who does he think he is?" Stealth asked himself. "'Your skin is much better against radiation' my left antenna...we have at least three magma pets among us." In truth, Stealth didn't much care for the foreman. He put his own agendas ahead of things like workplace safety or company morale, and was one of the few pets capable of putting Stealth in a bad mood, in contrast to his usually chipper demeanor. Stealth hadn't wanted to come back after he quit the first time...but he had no choice. He didn't have much luck at other trades.
Grundos do have interesting biological quirks compared to other Neopets. The foreman had been right about that, despite Stealth not wanting to admit it. Many of their senses were adapted to fit otherworldly biomes, allowing their bodies to experience a more diverse array of senses than a normal Neopet would ever hope to. One of these senses can best be described as a radar system for infrared radiation, allowing for them to more easily escape things like solar flares in the depths of space. It also proved useful for obsidian mine exploration, Stealth was finding out.
Before his eyes there were only rows and rows of red moltite, nothing more. "Now, where is that radiat-Whoa!" Stealth said as he lost his footing. With all the grace of King Skarl at an all-you-can-eat buffet, Stealth plummeted down the flight of stairs leading deeper into the mine, punctuating each impact with an echoing "ooph."
Once he reached the bottom, he rubbed his heavily bruised chin and right leg and continued to hope he'd get worker's compensation for this. In his daze, he had completely forgotten that he was carrying the lantern with him. In a panic, he turned to see it broken, all the glow worms inside retreating into the cracks in the walls, everything going completely dark.
Sighing, Stealth picked up the empty lantern and tucked it away. Through the corner of his eye, he noticed a light in the distance of one of the tunnels. Taking a not-so-wild guess that this was the source of the radiation, Stealth moved onward, aided not by sight, but by his infrared sensory preceptors.
How did I get here? Stealth thought this over for a moment. Not "here" as in his current location. Stealth still had the bruises to know how he got to the bottom of the mine shaft. No, he wanted to remember how he got stuck with this gig to begin with. Sure, his acting career went nowhere, and neither did his attempt at archery...and yeah, his Battledome career ended in disaster...
...and the less said about his time serving food at Molten Morsels, the better...yeah, maybe he did know how he got here. He wasn't good at much else.
Eventually Stealth reached the room that held the potentially radioactive material. A thick layer of ash covered the steel doors. After toying with the doors for a bit, finally convincing them to open, Stealth managed to get inside the room. Already, the temperature difference was extreme. Moltarans in general were used to more extreme high temperatures than the average Neopian, but this was, to Stealth, sweltering by comparison.
Inside the room, atop a pile of obsidian, was a titanic creature, made of pure magma, melting the pile beneath it to add to itself. Magma monsters weren't the most uncommon thing in Moltara, especially in the magma caves, but they never ventured this far into the main city...and they also never appeared this menacingly hostile. It turned toward Stealth, glaring at him as it reared up. Obsidian absorbed into its magma body, emerging at the top of its back to form a row of bladed spiny spires. Smaller, yet sharper, pieces flowed to the creature's molten mouth, forming two sets of monstrous pointed teeth.
"Hoo boy..." Stealth muttered as he stared blankly at the creature. The beast formed two massive arms out of its magma and swung at Stealth, who dodged at the penultimate second and put in the command to lock the room once he escaped. Breathing a sigh of relief, he continued to book it down the corridor. Stealth may not be smartest pet, but he was savvy enough to realize the beast would melt right through the metal door. As he ran down the tunnel, he looked behind him, and lo and behold, the beast was in pursuit.
This was going to be a disaster. The mine may be a good sixty feet further down toward Neopia's core than Moltara City itself, but it sat right below the city. This monster could feasibly make its way upwards and leave the city in complete ruin. Regardless, Stealth was running out of options. If he stayed down here too much longer, that thing would kill him.
"Wait a minute..." Stealth whispered to himself, "I know what to do."
Stealth knew the tunnels like the back of his antennae, even in the complete darkness. He headed upwards through the labyrinth, the monster in literally hot pursuit. Ducking through small cavernous spaces and climbing rusty and definitely-not-within-occupational-standards ladders, Stealth continued to evade its grasp. Eventually, Stealth came to a rocky wall. A dead end.
"Well, now to hope this is the right one," he said, taking out his pick axe. He continued to bore into the rocky facade as the beast came flowing toward him. Magmatic goop spewed from the beast's mouth as its eyes glowed like miniature suns, ready to extinguish Stealth once and for all.
Stealth struck the cracked wall one more time, and a giant rush of water spewed out toward the beast. It tried to shield itself, but it was all for naught: Stealth had struck the underground hot spring that powered the downtown sauna, and the water, the heat of which was nothing compared to the beast's, cooled it down instantly. Slowly the magmatic beast solidified until it was just a rock formation, no longer able to move due to the loss of its more fluid form.
Stealth sighed in relief before patching the hole in the spring with some rocks, and then returned to the quarry. The foreman, seeing Stealth drenched, beaten, bruised, late, and worm-less, naturally had questions, one in particular.
"So is the radiation dealt with?"
Stealth inhaled deeply for a bit through his nose, before finally saying...
"Excellent," said the foreman. "I knew I could count on you. So if you don't mind, what was it that was messing with the signals?"
Calmly, Stealth just said, "Titanic magma monster. Don't worry, though it ruined one of the inner mine doors, I drenched the thing. Now we just need someone to lug it back to the magma caves."
The foreman was dumbfounded, yet terrified. "A...hostile magma...monster?"
"The proof is still in the tunnels if you doubt me," Stealth said as he scanned his time card, clocking out.
"Stealth, I...thank you. Truly. I...I had no idea. How could I repay you?"
"Workers comp would be nice," Stealth said, wincing as he held his back. "Lack of a wet floor sign made me slip down the stairs and lose your glow worms."
"Consider it done. You truly are an asset to our company, Stealth. Let no one tell you otherwise." The foreman smiled and put a hand on Stealth's shoulder.
As Stealth walked home that evening, he realized something. Yeah, his job may not be the most glamorous. He realized that long ago. But he was good at it. Had anyone else been asked to do what Stealth did tonight, they'd likely fail, leaving Moltara's fate hanging in the balance. But he pulled it off, miraculously. And he thought that was pretty neat.
He got home and threw his things next to the couch. His roommate, Jacob, a Christmas Kacheek, was making dinner. "Late night, huh? How was work?"
"Just another day," he said with a laugh.