Dusk's Enterprise: Research Inc. - Part Eight
“Welcome back, everyone!” our Darigan Eyrie teacher announced as nervous groups gripped their reports. “I hope the lot of you remembered how important today is.”
There was a collective murmur of discomfort. Several nervously paged through their reports, re-checking to make sure everything was in order.
“I’ve drawn up a list of groups who will be reporting their findings today. Those that don’t go up will be reporting tomorrow,” she continued as though we hadn’t made a sound, “unless of course, you wish to volunteer yourselves and get it done and over with.”
“Very well. Midnight, your group is up first.”
I closed my eyes tightly. Oh no... This group has Cheeka in it, I thought miserably.
Midnight, another Darigan Lupe, grimaced and handed the report over to Cheeka, a Cybunny.
“Okay, so like, the big M came up with this totally awesome idea and stuff! See, the Money Tree is swarmed with pets trying to grab items and junk, and usually nobody can get anything!” Cheeka began her chatter while a number of us winced. Her voice is high pitched and is the stereotype of a valley girl. She would have been completely comfortable sporting bright pink fur, a bag of makeup and a dozen brainless friends all jawing about the latest neon colored fashion. “So, um, anyway Midnight said this totally cool thing about collecting food for the poor and stuff. We could take, like, donations of all that cheap canned food from the Tombola and the Omelette and all that groovy stuff and give whole bags of it to poor Neopians so they don’t have to walk all over Neopia to get a good meal. Isn’t that totally fab of him?”
“Thank... you... Cheeka,” Midnight ground out, sounding like he was in pain.
“You’re like, so totally welcome!” She pranced to the end of the line of her group members, oblivious to the expressions of exasperation. Many compared her to a Beekadoodle on a Neocola sugar rush; she was hyperactive, she was a ditz, and she just couldn’t bring herself to talk like a normal Neopet.
Midnight cleared his throat. “We began our business by posting on the Neoboards saying that we would accept trades of foods to anyone who just wanted to be rid of them. We had to be careful, of course, not to beg or spam. Several Chia police became quite interested in what we were doing but seemed to be satisfied when they figured out how we worked. From there things actually seemed to be doing quite well; we set up next to the Money Tree and handed out bags of food to people who applied. We had to limit them to a bag per family because there were so many who needed them that we rarely had enough to take care of everyone who asked.”
As Midnight wound down the description of his job and handed in his report, we all clapped politely. His business had been a success, for all the difficulty it involved.
Two more groups went up; one success had started a new line of books containing family recipes, and one failure had tried to sell off a game called “Whack a Faerie.” You got double points if you clobbered Fyora. Nobody wanted to be seen playing that obviously, and the Faeries had been very unhappy to hear about it.
When we stood up, I had to swallow a nervous sensation that rose from the bottoms of my feet and worked its way up to the tips of my ears.
Migga gave me a soft reassuring whicker, so I took a deep breath and began.
“At first, we had no idea what we wanted to do. It seemed like everything we thought of, someone had already done it. It was a stroke of luck that a passerby gave us a suggestion. Little did we know...” I grinned, “that it would become one of the most successful new businesses in Brightvale.” I explained the idea of how Research Inc. worked, and waved my friends forward to explain their parts in the business.
I passed around a copy of our form, and borrowed the teacher for a mock demonstration of how we worked.
“To date,” Depth whinnied proudly, “we are still running a successful business. So successful in fact that we are taking appointments months in advance. Our shop is expanding in Brightvale and we believe that we can continue to succeed even after we graduate.”
Applause thundered through the room and curious students murmured questions as we sat down. A few more groups went up that day. Some succeeded; like the group who created a book titled “Customers like Sloth” by gathering stories about the wildest, weirdest and just plain nastiest customers every shopkeeper in the Marketplace had ever had to deal with. Some failed; like the group who tried to sell maps that led directly to Jelly World.
When the bell rang, freeing the lot of us from those hard seats, everyone began to stream out the doors in an overjoyed bid for freedom. Not having anything better to do, Migga and I went for a run.
It felt so good to stretch my legs out. We raced through the dim streets, streaking past tourists and leaving them crying out in surprise behind us as we wove our way expertly through the milling crowds. Side by side we raced, gathering ourselves and leaping over a low wall, making an abrupt turn at a corner, dodging around an Eyrie Drawn Carriage, splashing straight through a fountain of Lord Darigan and finally pounding to a stop at the other side of the Citadel. I sagged, panting softly but feeling elated. Migga’s sides heaved as she fought for breath, but she too looked pleased.
“First time... I’ve been able...to keep up with you,” Migga whickered, tossing her mane in weary triumph.
“You did great,” I assured her. “You just need to build up your stamina. Your speed is terrific.”
“I can see why you are so slender.” She was catching her breath remarkably quickly; proof that all these wild runs were improving her wind.
“I don’t do it for the exercise,” I admitted, buying us a pair of smoothies from a nearby shop. “My wings are too small to ever carry me through the air. So racing at full speed is the next best thing to flying.”
Migga nodded. “My wings have always been far too tiny as well. I’ve always relied on my strength to get me around.”
We walked slowly side by side now along the dim streets. My sharp ears caught the stealthy patter of claws on stone and spotted the Shadow Usul slinking off into a dark alley. I shrugged to myself and kept going; when your whole world is dim and dark, creatures of the darkness weren’t so scary.
She turned and looked at me. “Dusk... I know it was just a class project but... I don’t want it to go away. I’d like to keep it running after school is over.”
I smiled at her. “I don’t plan on it going away. I think we really have something here. And I don’t want to give it up. Don’t worry, Migga, I fully intend to keep our business running strong.”
We made our way home that night in companionable silence.
5 years later...
Lifestyles of the Famous and Flashiest
Greetings Neopia; this is Ben Kacheek, top reporter for Lifestyles of the Famous and Flashiest, here with my assistant Ashley Aisha. Today I am on a mission to make my appointment with the founders of Research Inc., an amazing business that sprouted in Brightvale and grew to fantastic proportions.
Looking at the magnificent building that stands proudly next to the Wheel of Knowledge, you would never have believed that Research Inc. began as a modest little office run by a handful of students. Neopians come from far and wide to pass through these beautiful doors and to schedule an appointment. One would believe that only the richest Neopets in the world could ever hope to pass into the sweeping marble lobby. Yet as we enter, a Security Eyrie, dressed snappily in a dark blue security suit, doesn’t bat an eye on this drizzly afternoon. He merely smiles and indicates to us to make our way to the front desk. Indeed, Neopians of all walks of life enter this building and not a single one is dismissed out of hand by their looks. There’s even a Faerie or two gliding along side by side with a pet wearing nothing but a grubby coat. We made an appointment months ago and now we are here to perform a very rare interview with all five of Research Inc’s founders. And as a handsome and friendly Island Skeith escorts us up, we can only wonder how things are going to turn out.
“No worries, ya?” he reassures us, in a Mystery Island accent. “If you have an appointment, they’ll welcome you.”
Indeed, the five students that founded Research Inc also laid down the rules for their employees’ behavior. The business is so large that there are literally hundreds of employees in each Consulting department; each and every one of them is an expert in their field. Not a single Neopian who wishes to make an appointment is refused. They may wait for months but they will get one, guaranteed.
We arrive at one of the highest floors, our feet sinking into the lush carpet.
“Twilight, could you give me the time?” The speaker is an immaculately groomed Darigan Kougra with streaks of what appears to be Tyrannian yellow on her face. It can only be the illustrious Dusk; one of the founders of Research Inc. I nervously brush at a bit of mud on my coat, feeling selfconscious.
“It’s 1:30 on the dot,” says a Darigan Zafara with Faerieland pastels forming highlights in her hair.
“Just in time!” I jump as a powerfully built Tyrannian Uni appears soundlessly at my side. She sports the dusky blue markings of what was once a Darigan paint job.
This would have to be Migga. She smiles at me, a warm and genuine expression that can’t be faked. “Please, please come in and be comfortable.”
We are ushered into a pair of soft chairs as my companion pulls out a notepad and pencil; primed and ready to take notes. When Dusk nods her reassurance, I place a Virtupets recording device on the table in front of me and turn it on.
I thank them for agreeing to meet with me as they all gather around the desk and make themselves comfortable and then I begin the interview.
“Now, thus far, the basic story of Research Inc’s creation is well known. But the Neopian public is very curious to know the real people behind the grand front. Would you kindly enlighten us as to how it all started?”
The lady Twilight smiles and hands me a large frame. When I glance at it, puzzled, I see what appears to be a school report framed and protected behind a sheet of glass.
“A+ Wow! Excellent job! I hope you continue to pursue your career to the fullest!” I read.
“Research Inc started out as a class project,” Dusk begins, “School always had its social class; the pecking order always shifting, sorting, adjusting and contesting with one another to cast out or add members...”