The Metal Lutari: Part Two
The one thing that always stayed the same about me was my freckles.
When I was made I had the stupid things powdering my cheeks and nose, when I was a Poogle, an Aisha, everything – they never left me. I used to hate them, but now I've learned, just like my voice, it was one of the few things that had never changed.
Looking in the mirror again, the little red freckles lined my new white and gold fur.
Every time I changed I never was very surprised when I looked in the mirror – I was used to change. But now, I couldn't stop staring. This pet staring back was me. Not just a temporary body, but me forever. It was almost scary to think about.
"Haolys!" I heard Kate call. My new ears were also much more sensitive; all my senses seemed to have been amplified. "You're going to be late!"
Racing down the stair, easily maneuvering around Razor and Katie, I jumped over the railing and landed gently down next to my owner who handed me my bag of tools and my goggles. As I strapped on my new eye ware, just as I had a hundred times before with the ratty old pair, Kate looked at me fondly. I glanced down at my plain white shirt to see if I had smudged it – but nothing had blackened it, my pants, or my boots. "What?" I questioned as I attempted to move around her, seeing that she was blocking the exit.
"I'm just so proud of you, you know." She smiled. I nearly groaned aloud, not one of these talks. "And you're going to get a job one day, don't you worry."
"Mom," I muttered, rubbing a hand over my face irritably.
"I am proud!" she defended. "But if you don't want your gift then I just won't give it to you.
My ears perked up at that, "Gift?"
She grinned her hundred watt grin before ducking into the kitchen. I tapped my foot in place, jittery with excitement, until she brought out a very plain brown box with no writing or tape on it. I took it, when she handed it to me, with confusion. Glancing up at her with a raised eyebrow, I pulled it open and stared inside.
It was beautiful.
The Moltaran leather and tiny gear decorations were perfect. The detail in the golden decoration was precise, and the strings looked crisp, like they'd never even been touched. The bomber jacket was everything I'd hoped it would be. I took it out of the box like it was an infant, carefully and gently, and pulled it onto my shoulders. It fit perfectly.
"Mom..." I whispered, glancing over at her. "You didn't have to get me this... It was really expensive..."
"Well, think of it as motivation." She did her little shrug she always did when she was overly happy and didn't want to show it. "Now you have to get that job so you can wear the jacket every day." With a quick hug, I pulled my bag back on and set out to get a boat to Moltara.
"I'm only looking for the best."
This Draik was terrifying. His skin was charred in several places and frankly I couldn't even tell what color he was truly painted. His eyes were burning as bright as the fire around them, and he didn't even seem to be bothered by the heat. His fiery eyes scanned over the lot of boys, growling at those who were panting or fanning themselves. "I don't want someone who can't handle the heat," he snipped. "I want a man. I want someone who has potential. I want someone who can come in here every day and leave having sculpted something amazing. I want talent." I stared past him to tables of randomly assorted gears and gadgets, hammers and saws, wood and metal. Ideas were already swarming through my mind. "Most of you have already gone through a test similar to ours," the Draik continued. "You have thirty minutes to put together something... interesting; something that'll stand out and catch my attention. Only two of you will get to stay. Ready? Go." Just like that, the twelve of us ran off to a bench, claiming it as our own, and started in on our work.
They wanted something unique, something that would stand out against all the others – what if that something was made from another resource. I decided immediately I wouldn't use the boring old wood and normal metals – I was going to take a little extra time.
Grabbing a lantern and sprinting (I realized Lutaris run a lot faster than Aishas the other day; pretty cool, eh?) toward the cave I heard several murmurs around me, wondering what I was doing – why I would be going in there when we had such little time. I even heard the Draik call after me, but I couldn't have cared less. Sprinting around the bends I'd become so accustomed to, I was easily able to find the glowing red moltite. Collecting several handfuls and jamming them into my bag and pockets, I sprinted back out of the cave before anything living within even had time to register I'd been there.
Practically collapsing on my work bench, I realized I had a full twenty minutes left, and everyone was staring at me. Brushing off their curious eyes, I pulled out my hammer, saw and wrench and got to work cutting and chipping away the pieces I needed. Gears would also have to come into play, but putting those together in the order I wanted would take three minutes – tops.
Once the chips and pieces were pulled away, I immediately began melting them, heat rising up into my face, nearly making me cough. I tightened my goggles over my eyes before grabbing the tongs I needed to mold the liquid before it dried. With a circle of shiny red metal in my palm, I slowed myself down and took a deep breath – ten minutes left.
The gears would come next. Putting them together was like a puzzle for me – a child's puzzle. They slotted together perfectly on the first go. It was at least the tenth time I'd put one of these together, so I wasn't surprised when I inserted them into the back of the red metal, they worked fine. Now for the harder part – the face. This was probably going to take the longest and require the most detail. Slowing myself, as to not mess up, I slowly chipped and painted and molded where I needed to, and by the time the timer went off, I realized I was done.
"You all are allowed to add just one finishing touch," the Draik called, I noticed him staring right at me – this small time extension was mine. Keeping my finished product with me, I raced to the other side of the work stations to rifle through a box of miscellaneous items they had sitting there. Would they have one? I almost doubted it before I saw the long, thin chain curled around a random cylindrical piece of metal. Ripping it off and attaching it, I stared at my finished work and was simultaneously proud of myself – I had done my very best. If they didn't accept me, at least I could say I tried and show my family what I had made. "Alright!" I lifted my head at the call. "Back to your work benches!"
Clearing the bench of left over scraps and random tools, I set down my project and waited for the Draik to walk down the line. With some he barely looked them over – such as mediocre Dal's and Gio's thrown together – and with others he flat out shoved off the bench and told them it was horrible. There were only a few he truly looked at, nodding in acknowledgement, and moving on without a word. I was within the middle of the mix, and soon he was standing in front of me.
"I'm curious," he began. "Talk to me about your invention."
I nearly stumbled on my words before beginning, "It's a pocket watch made of red moltite."
Picking it up in his slender, burned hands, the Draik nodded, staring at the fine detail and watching the hands move round. "This," he said, placing the watch back down on my bench, "is probably the best rookie invention I've ever seen." With a nod at me he continued, "Welcome aboard."
"Wait," I stuttered. "What? That's it? No more tests or anything?"
"Nope," he said, beginning to walk away from me.
That made him pause; glancing back at me over his shoulder. "Do you know how long it usually takes a single neopet to put together a pocket watch?" I truly didn't so I shook my head. "A day, minimum. Usually several – if they're lucky... You put together that gorgeous thing in what... thirty minutes?"
"Twenty," I corrected. "I spent ten getting the red moltite."
He shook his head again, chuckling. "Yeah, then you're definitely in."
In the end the Moltaran Acara who had sculpted a guitar body in the thirty minutes was the other to get the job next to me. After the rest had cleared out and walked up to me, grin smeared across his face, and clapped me hard on the shoulder. "Nice going, man!" he cooed.
"You too," I congratulated, returning the kind of violent action.
He laughed and kept his paw around my shoulder for another moment as we spoke, shaking my shoulders to accentuate some of his words. "How in Neopia did you manage to put that watch together? That was sick, man!" I just shrugged, also managing to get a bit more personal space from the action.
"I dunno, I just knew I had to impress them... I knew how to make a clock so I figured it wouldn't be that hard to make a pretty little pocket watch. I dismantled my sister's one time, so I figured I would be able to put one together too."
"Ah man." He shook his head. "If I had done that to my sister, she woulda fed me Esophagor!"
"But what about you?" I continued the conversation on, away from myself. "You put together a guitar!"
"Nah." He rubbed the back of his neck as though he were embarrassed. "That was nothing – just the neck and the body of it. I didn't have time to morph any metal into the strings... I was surprised they were so impressed with it if I'm honest... did you see that guy who put together a blue Gio? That was wicked!"
"I feel like they weren't impressed with petpets, though." I shrugged. "He barely seemed to look at them – probably 'cause nearly anyone can make them."
"True that, man." The Acara nodded before suddenly thrusting out his paw. "I'm Marty."
"Haolys," I responded, grasping his paw and shaking it quickly.
It seemed immediately after our introductions the Draik appeared before us. "Congratulations, you two," he said stoically, his facial expression never changing. "You both will start tomorrow. Go home now; rest up, because tomorrow is going to be a big day."
Tromping through the door I noticed I was covered in black dust. Looking at the footprints I made on the wooden floors, I grimaced and immediately went up high onto my toes. "I'm home," I called. "But I'm dirty so I'm going to go wash off!"
Standing in the warm spray of the shower, I watched as the soot and grime flowed down the drain. I wondered how my family would react – would they be excited? Would they be sad since I wouldn't be around much anymore? Even Razor, who is the captain of his own pirate ship, only goes to work for a very short time each year – I'll be gone all day every day. Could I handle being away that long? Being away from my siblings, my owner, my work bench with all my unfinished inventions?
Suddenly the weight of a job this important crashed down on me.
I wasn't even sure what exactly we would be making at this job, what if it was something I didn't want to do? I liked making new things, new inventions and presents for people – what if I didn't get to do that anymore?
I shook my head, turning off the water and stepping out. I was freaking out over nothing – this was my dream job, I'd finally gotten it, and I was going to be happy with it. My family was going to be happy for me.
After getting dressed again I went down the steps two at a time to the kitchen where dinner was being made and Katie and Lieder were arguing about some book they'd both read. Kate was the first to look up and see me.
"Oh, Haolys! How'd the job go?" she asked.
I shrugged nonchalantly before breaking into a huge grin. "I got it."
The entire room went silent for a split second before the yelling and hugs began. Kate was the first to squeeze me tightly, saying how proud she was. Katie clung to my leg, telling me now that I was rich I had to get enough neopoints to paint her Halloween, while Lieder and Razor just patted my head and back and told me how awesome it was I'd gotten the job.
All the worries and angst I'd had about the job vanished, replaced by excitement and curiosity. I couldn't wait to go back to work the next day. The job would become a constant in my life – going there every day, like a routine, just as becoming a Lutari had become the first constant for me. I was excited for yet another thing that was purely and solely me.
To be continued...