She had just gotten into the forest and landed when she heard a rusty squeaking in the bushes. 'Another one? Does no one take good care of Petpets anymore?'
Suddenly a robotic Petpet appeared, worn looking and probably out of energy from being away from a place to recharge for so long. It's optical sensors spotted her and it froze. It's processors ran the image it was seeing through all it's databases and didn't come up with so much as a name. In other words, this creature should not exist.
She began to move toward him. "It's alright. I'm not going to hurt you. Are you damaged?"
The Robotic petpet waved it's arm, causing a bone chilling creak. It let out several computer noises.
"So you need oil and energy. Where is your owner?"
The answer was a dejected computer-like sigh.
"I see. No owner. You need attention right away, before that arm wears to the point of needing to be replaced. You'll need energy soon or you'll never survive in this forest. I guess the only way for me to help you is to take you with me." The cold, calculating voice admitted.
The little robotic pet practically jumped for joy at the prospect. The Faerie scooped him into her arms and began to take off, never suspecting that so many pets were looking for her right that moment.
Keith had brought packs on the trip into the forest because in order to find the Faerie first, they would need to camp out. It would save the time of traveling back and forth. Heath was taking care of the tracking. He had always been better at it, as well as cooking and the domestic stuff. Keith was a researcher and an adventurer of sorts. All in all, it made them a better team when exploring like this.
They had gotten into the forest soon after hearing the news of the reward, which was right after lunch. Which would put them for being in the forest for 6 hours before they finally got a clue. Foot prints. They were shaped like a feminine boot, but they stomped into the ground like they were supporting a lot of weight. Heath informed his brother that the tracks were so fresh, they were only made a few hours ago at most.
Keith smiled and sighed. "Our first big clue."
Heath frowned deeply. "But I hope it's not our last. The footprints end in front of those bushes over there. From the looks of the leaves on the ground around here, our little faerie quarry knows that flight makes it much easier not to be caught. Air is like water. Tracking is about to become almost impossible. She couldn't have hidden her tracks any better unless she vanished all together."
Keith stomped his foot angrily. "Dang! So close!" He looked up at the darkening sky. "Well, it's to late to continue anyway. We might as well camp out around here. We'll also know who our big competition is if we stick around here. If anyone else finds this spot, they're either seriously lucky or seriously skilled."
Heath smiled. "As fate would have it, we've got both."
Both brothers slept soundly that night, but when they broke camp the next morning…
"… Welcome, young strangers." And old wispy sounding voice filtered through the trees.
The brothers nearly jumped out of their skins, and turned around quickly to see an old hermit, blue Kiko staring out of a bushy beard at them. "What brings you youn'ens to this end of the forest?"
Heath breathed deeply, trying to get his heart beating again. "We're looking for the fabled Metalic Faerie."
"Oh? That right? Well, you just missed her. She's headed back home now, I'm sure. You're welcome to wait at my place for her if you'd like. It's not anything special, but it's better than the forest. I'm sure the only reason you're still alive out here is because of her. There are lots of strange creatures out here, especially after dark."
The two brothers stared open mouthed at him for a few seconds before hurrying after him.
"Wait a minute! You KNOW the Metallic Faerie?" Keith stammered.
"Does she visit this area often? Where does she live? Do you think she would agree to meet us?" Heath stuttered out all the questions that had suddenly sprang into his mind.
The old Kiko's golden eyes danced as he laughed. "Haha! Slow down, youn'ens! You'll hurt yourselves asking so much at once! She visits me often. She first met me along time ago and I've been living in this forest ever since, but I'll tell you all about that story when we get to my place. By the way, my name's Tucker."
"Oh, my name's Heath and this is my brother Keith. It's very nice to meet you Tucker."
"I think he's nuts." Keith whispered. "No one else has even seen the faerie and this guy's FRIENDS with her? Sounds kinda fishy to me."
"Everything sounds fishy to you unless you see it for yourself. Don't insult him. This could be the best lead we've gotten the entire time we've been on the island. Let's just hear him out. He's not nuts. He obviously lives out here by himself. He's probably lonely. And besides, even if it doesn't lead us to the faerie, maybe we can get some clue from his story."
"Another dead end probably."
"Better than no clue at all…"
"… oh… right."
Soon they were in a clearing with a small log cabin in the center of it with it's back to a stone cliff.
"Welcome to my humble home. Ya'll are welcome to spend the night in case she doesn't show up today. She shows up once everyday because she thinks I can't take care of myself." Tucker opened the door to the little shack of a cabin. There were all the basic essentials, but nothing simply pretty or comfortable. It was all useful and compact. Down to the woven rug on the floor.
The Zaffie brothers sat down on the rug before the remains of a fire in a small fireplace. Tucker sat in a small rocker, stroked his beard and began to think. "Now. The first time I met Cybora."
"Cybora? Is that her name?" Heath asked while Keith was scribbling in a notepad that had been rushed out of his pack.
"Yes. She told me herself that she was referred to by her friends as Cybora. She's really very nice. But she claims it's because of a defect in her systems. She says that she was built to be a war machine, but something went terribly wrong. She turned out sweet and loving instead."
"Made? You mean she was created by unnatural means?"
"Well, that's what she says. I have to wonder though. I ain't ever heard of a robot with a soul or that could cry. She can, though. She claims that it shouldn't be able to happen, but it does.
"But back to when we first met. I had been hiking in the woods. It was winter and it was at a time when I thought I was invincible. I was roughly 16. I got myself terribly lost. I had been in this forest for maybe three or four days when I heard a sound. It was quiet at first, but then it started to get louder and louder. The only way to describe it is Fwoop. When I looked up, there was a gray faerie hovering and starting to land. I was so frightened. I had never seen anything like it before. I nearly buried my self in the snow, but I was too frightened to move. When she landed, her eyes widened as she realized who, or should I say, what I was."
"Why would that matter?" Heath asked curiously.
"She believed that the fewer people that knew of her existence the better. She only rescues petpets, you see. And small children, those who can't be held accountable for seeing what isn't there. But she immediately realized that I was not so out of it that I didn't realize I was being rescued. That would cause unnecessary attention to her. She thought I would go back and blab her existence to everyone. So she brought me here. Not to the cabin, but to this clearing. She took care of me up here until I was healthy and then she revealed to me her fear that I might blow her cover. She's a very private faerie, not at all like Miss Fyora. Anyway, I told her that to prove my loyalty, and in return for her favor, I would only go back for two days, and then return to pay back my life debt to her. If she'd had left me in the forest I would not have survived and I knew that. So I went back, packed up, and disappeared without a trace. No one's ever come here until now."
Keith narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "You owe the faerie…"
"Cybora." Tucker corrected.
"Yes, Cybora. You owe Cybora your life and promised to keep her secret, right? So why did you tell us?" Keith continued.
"Because I finally see my chance to pay her back. You see, Fyora's looking for Cybora now. Cybora says it's because she was created for evil intentions. Supposedly to wipe out an entire race or put them into slavery or something. But, Cybora can't do anything like that now. Her fighting programming is jammed. She used to be able to, but now the only thing she can do is help people and defend herself. That's the only part of her programming that still functions properly besides the necessary stuff like breathing and thinking. Besides, she has bigger things to worry about than destroying people. She's busy defending her sisters."
As the boat pulled into the harbor with the many reward seekers, a lovely yellow Acara stepped out on the deck. She was wearing sunglasses, so you couldn't see her eyes, but the kaki explorer outfit was evidence enough for what she had come here for. She was young, compared to the other treasure hunters. But she desperately wanted to find the faerie first. 'To heck with Fyora's ransom. I've got bigger plans for Miss Metallic.'
She stepped off the boat with a grace that made heads turn. She glided down the port's walk and into town without a word, but she had definitely left her mark. Suddenly a Usul girl ran up to her.
"Oh My Gosh! You're her, aren't you? The girl from Neopia Central City who is sponsoring that big search team? What are you looking for? It's the faerie isn't it? I've got the scoop on everything on this island! I'm sure I could help you with what ever you need!"
The yellow Acara turned to her, a bored expression behind her glasses. She stuck her hand in her pocket and pulled out a shiny, 10 point Neo-point. "This what you want?" The Usul's eyes went googly at the point. "Thought so. Listen, you can have it."
"Yah. There's just one little bitty, teeny tiny thing you gotta do for me."
"Stop shouting out about my business and go do something useful." She tossed the coin in the air and it landed on the stunned Usul's paw.
The Acara sauntered off after that and disappeared in the crowd, making her way to the hotel. When she got there, there were three young pets in the Lobby waiting for her. A red Lenny doctor, a blue Nimmo professor in ancient history, and a yellow Uni investigator were waiting for her.
"Miss Gale, I looked at the report you sent me. This evidence is astounding. And to think if you hadn't thought to cross reference the hieroglyphs on the walls of the pyramids in the Lost Desert, with those in Maraqua's ruins, this discovery might not ever have occurred!" The Lenny gushed.
"Thank you, Doctor. But the first clue I received didn't come from either place. And I still want to know where the old lady found out about the lost continent." The Acara looked at the Uni.
"My team did a background analysis and as far back as we can get, the old woman's ancestors were sea merchants. It is possible that the old woman was told those same stories by her grandmother and so on. I'm amazed so much of the story was truthful."
"Well, I'm not. Wycajaneneo might have been eccentric in her old age, but she was never stupid. Her mind was like a steal trap. The woman was one of the smartest ladies in the world. She knew, somehow, that I would go looking for the Sunken Eden and she left me little clues that no one else seemed to have noticed."
The Lenny then expressed something that had been on his mind since they came to the island. "So, about the journal… was it authentic? Is it truly the final record of Eden?" He fidgeted.
The Nimmo spoke up then. "It would be rather absurd of Miss Gale to call us all here if the book was fake, wouldn't it, Doctor?"
Then Miss Gale took a book out of the bag hanging from her shoulder. The cover was emblazoned with a star with two round jewels in the front of it. It was a sprite.
She opened the book to a certain page. "I found something that may be of interest to you, Doctors. 'The Sunken Eden's Hiding Place,'" she quoted the title of the final chapter of the book.
The Doctor, the Professor and the Investigator all stared almost hungrily at the book in the Acara's delicate paws.
She closed the book and motioned them upstairs. "We'll discuss this in more private quarters. The walls themselves have ears, you know." She motioned with her head to all the people in the lobby.