Sleekbeetle Scale

“Miyara, come to the lab for a second,” Lorwyn calls moments after I arrive.

“What do you need?” I ask, hurrying to the back.

“Answers,” she says, pointing at a pallet just inside the back door stacked high with crates. “Do you know what these are?”

I frown. “I don’t think any shipments are scheduled to arrive today.”

“They were here when I got here, which means they arrived overnight,” Lorwyn says.

I walk around the side, inspecting every inch. “Well, the crates aren’t damaged at least, but I don’t see any identifying marks. There wasn’t an invoice?”

“Nope.”

“Have you opened one?”

“Without knowing what could be inside? I’m not an amateur, Miyara.”

Of course. In Sayorsen, with a boss like Talmeri, it could be anything.

“It doesn’t smell like anything’s rotting,” I say, though I can’t recognize the faint scent emanating from the crates, “so I suppose we should just leave it until we can get a hold of Talmeri and sort this out. I’ll send her a message now.”

“Do,” Lorwyn agrees. “It doesn’t smell rotting, but it smells like something, and I don’t like it.”


 

“What an interesting flavor!” a customer exclaims. “What all is in this?”

By the way our newest tea server Iskielo’s whole face brightens, I know he’s about to enthuse about this unique application of sleekbeetles, and I dash across the room to intercept.

“Do you like it? Our Springfield Sunshine Green Tea has a unique combination of aloia nectar and marigold that have a bright, warm feeling, I find.”

I hear a crash, and the whole building seems to shake for a moment.

The door to Lorwyn’s lab is soundproof, so it can’t be a problem in the back.

Still, as a diversion, I can’t hope for better.

“Why don’t you check on Lorwyn in the back?” I suggest to Iskielo.

I have begun to convince the customer he might perhaps not be satisfied with only one cup when Iskielo yells my name.

“Excuse me,” I say with a rapid bow and head to the lab door where Iskielo is standing frozen, watching.

Thin, blood-red vines with points like needles have poked out of the crates and wave around, tensed like pincers as if looking for an opening to attack.

Then, from behind one of the many shelves of tea, comes a huge gust of flame.

Several of the pincers snap off, and the rest rear back with a strange, shrill screech.

Lorwyn, armed with some sort of flamethrowing device, turns to glare at both of us standing in the doorway from behind a pair of enormous, weathered goggles.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she demands. “Shut that door and keep it shut until I tell you everything’s fine.” She hefts the device. “Like I’m letting this thing out of here.”

At that moment, I see the needle-vines have fixated on us, already lancing in our direction.

I tug Iskielo back and slam the door as a stream of fire momentarily blinds me.

“Is everything quite all right?” the customer asks, suddenly behind me.

I turn and smile serenely. “Oh, yes, quite. Are you still considering?”

Iskielo stares at me in awe; it’s possible he thinks I’ve gone mad.

“We sell Springfield Sunshine in various amounts,” I say, not batting an eye when I hear another, perhaps relevant after all, crash. “Why don’t we go back to the front and figure out what size will suit you best?”


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