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Dusk's Enterprise: Research Inc. - Part One


by alkuna_

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School always had its social class; the pecking order always shifting, sorting, and adjusting as groups were contesting with one another to cast out or add members. Ever since my trip to Tyrannia (and following that, many, many other lands as well) I had kind of slipped out of the hierarchy. My name is Dusk and I’m a female Darigan Kougra; though sometimes I forget and call myself Tyrannian, thanks to the trip last year.

     Oh yeah, and I can’t forget Obsidian, my Black Gruslen. For something with tusks and sharp little claws, he’s a really sweet fellow. We go on runs together and he usually ends up being the one giving me the exercise.

     Anyway, I’m also in my first semester of my... wow... third year in Neoschool. And there’s the bell, signaling to Neopia’s teenage population that it’s time for another dull day of “learning” via the blackboard.

     Really, I’d rather learn to fish by talking to a salty old sea Tuskaninny with a beard thicker than my fur than sit in a classroom taking notes on the magical mechanic of a hook on a line attached to a pole.

     Ugh.

     I hefted my backpack over my shoulder, grunting slightly with its weight, and joined the flood of personalities that poured through the front door of the school. Obsidian, who could never stand being cooped up alone in a boring old Neohome, was riding on my shoulder. He would be cooped up in a boring old Neoschool, but he would at least have my company and the occasional scratches behind the ears that he loved so much.

     Weight lifters strutted by, flexing muscles and boasting about the best weight they ever pulled. Not that I didn’t pause and admire the muscles and handsome faces once in a while. Fashion queens paraded by, sporting the latest make-up (all dark shades here in the Darigan Citadel) and jabbering mindlessly about the best colors and where to find them. Not that I didn’t occasionally pick up on a nice shade for myself. Nerds speculated equations back and forth and sometimes I picked up a tip to help me in my own tests. The social outcasts huddled together and cast longing glances here and there as they spotted their idols.

     Then there was my... group, I guess you could call them. Those of us hard working students who had made a semester long trip to a foreign land kind of banded together. Well, some of us anyway, as several of the students who made the trips just seemed glad that it was over and they no longer had to act “worldly”.

     And then there was Migga.

     Migga is a Tyrannian native Uni, currently painted Darigan to fit in. She’s spending the semester here, learning Common Neopian and the ways of the ‘dark side.’ Well, dark, though not evil per se... Our Citadel is clothed in almost eternal twilight, even at noon; a big contrast to Tyrannia, where the days are burning hot and impossibly bright.

     “Hello everyone,” Migga greeted the group carefully, in Common Neopian. “May I join you?”

     “Absolutely. Oh, that means ‘of course’, Migga.” A Lupe friend of mine scooted over to make room for the powerfully built Uni to join our cluster. His Maractite accessories jingled merrily like water on chimes as he moved.

     Our group consisted of Shade, the Maractite sporting Lupe; Twilight, a Zafara with Faerieland pastel highlights in her hair and along her back; Depth, a Peophin still wearing her Haunted Woods witch hat and cloak; me, bearing pale yellow streaks on my face from my time in Tyrannia; and Migga, who had gone total Darigan.

     Lunch was our social time, and we chatted and ate and basically hung out with others like ourselves. Migga was getting better at speaking and we all pitched in to help her along. Then the bell would ring and the lot of us would all troop to our next class. Fortunately this semester we shared most of our classes.

     Migga and I sat next to each other, debating back and forth what today’s “semester project” was going to be. It was time for a new project to be handed out, and I wasn’t looking forward to what the school staff was going to cook up this time. Last time I had been sent to Tyrannia with no language skills to speak of and no one immediately present to help me out. If Migga hadn’t come over after seeing me crying, things would have gone a whole lot rougher. The final bell for the passing period rang and we all shared a look before quieting down. Well, here went nothing.

     Our teacher strode into class, took attendance and began pulling out a stack of papers, “All right class, as you have been expecting for most of the week, your Semester projects have been selected.” She placed her huge Darigan Eyrie paws on the desk and sent a glance over the lot of us.

     A collective mutter of disgust and resignation washed through the room.

     She ignored us. “Pass these along and we’ll go over it. All right now, let’s go over ‘Project Lemonade Stand’ and make sure that everyone knows what’s expected. In groups of no more than five students, you must create a business and test it out. Don’t think you’re going to get out of it easy!” she barked, when some students began to mutter in conspiring tones.

     She began to stride back and forth in front of the class, glaring sternly into the eyes of the students, “I expect real businesses, folks, not some silly made-up scheme. If your business fails, I want you to document exactly what you tried to do to make it succeed and what you could have done better. If your business succeeds, I want you to explain exactly what worked as well as get written feedback from your customers.”

     She came to a stop and waited, making sure everyone had the idea. “Very well then, you may now break up into groups and start discussing ideas.”

     My friends immediately made their way over to me. We didn’t even have to look around; we just gathered to start working.

     Obsidian hopped onto my desk and sat down on top of my assignment sheet, placing himself in the center of attention while he washed a paw delicately. He ‘rrowl’ed a complaint when I scooped him up but gave in when I offered him my lap instead. That satisfied him; it was a perfect place to be petted.

     We started making a list of possible businesses we could make, talking over the rumble of my Gruslen’s purrs. We nixed food and drink stands, simply because it was the easy way out and there was a risk of other groups picking the same idea. So too with designer clothing, petpets, medicines... we practically nixed everything on the Shops road of Neopia Central.

     In fact, school ended before we could figure out anything. We all had our interests and skills, but none of them really meshed. We eventually made a trip down to the Rainbow Pool and sat on the lush grass while we made a list of what we all could do.

     I was great at math so I would have no problem handling that part of the business, once we actually settled on what that would actually be. Both Migga and I could talk to any Tyrannian clients, and she was surprisingly skilled at keeping us from getting too off track. Shade lived for the Battledome and if he wasn’t fighting, he was training; his ultimate goal was to defeat the Snowager... just once. Twilight had a keen eye for shop deals and prices. Once we had something, she’d be perfect for handling our products. Depth could rattle off the current trend in clothing, make up, paint fashion, petpets and color in seconds, which was okay, except we had already nixed selling any of that.

     A passing Owner – one of those really old Neopians aged, like thirty or so – paused when he heard us re-reading our list of skills.

     “Trying to think of a business?” he asked conversationally, leaning against a tree.

     My tail frizzed out. A stranger!

     Migga smiled warmly. “Yes, sir. We are trying to find a way to... to...” she grappled with a word for a moment before finding a way around it, “put together our skills.”

     “Migga,” Shade growled in an undertone, “don’t go near him. We don’t know what he’d do.”

     “But he is just talking,” Migga returned, confusion in her eyes.

     I sighed. Apparently Tyrannia doesn’t have a problem with con artists... or... worse.

     “You friend is right,” the man admitted, holding up his hands in a no-harm-meant gesture, “You don’t know me or what I might do. Tell you what; I can give you a word to look up, and then go away. You can take that advice or not, as you see fit, okay?”

     We all traded looks and nodded slowly.

     “Look up the word ‘consultant’ and see if that helps you out any,” and then true to his word, he turned away and sauntered off, whistling a Pteri to his arm as we went.

     We borrowed Migga’s Quick Reference Dictionary.

     “C-a-n...”

     “No I think it’s c-o-n...”

     Nattering back and forth, we finally found the word we were looking for:

     Consultant – Noun. An expert who charges a fee for providing advice or services in a specific field.

     “How could we charge for giving advice?” Depth asked, looking bewildered.

     I had caught on right away. “Well think, some rich Mutant Jetsam walks up to you and says, ‘I want to buy a petpet that matches my color,’” I said.

     “Mutant Ona,” she replied instantly, “And I recommend Dark Red Lipstick, Gold Eyeshadow, and Red Blush to look natural with the colors if it’s a girl...” her voice drifted off as her eyes went wide.

     “I can get all of that at a really good price,” Twilight added.

     “And I could find the perfect weapons if they want to take it to the Battledome.” Shade’s tail was starting to wag excitedly.

     “I can total it up plus include a decent fee for services.” I rubbed my paws excitedly.

     “And I can make sure all the papers are in order,” Migga nickered. “Oh what a wonderful idea!”

     What had started out as a slow, hopeless afternoon turned into a flurry of productive activity that evening. At Twilight’s suggestion, we dubbed our business “Research Inc: Consulting and Acquiring.” There was a collective groan at the pun our name contained, but we couldn’t think of anything better that would tell our customers about us.

     We were still ironing out several tasks that we would each be responsible for once we got some clients as we ate dinner. That night, we split up with the agreement to come back together the next day to continue ironing out ideas.

To be continued...

 
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