"Let me sort this explanation to my understanding," sang Mayor T'terik a' Ssrii. His jewel-encrusted hands re-sorted T'reka's carefully-filed science permit application in a manner that screamed of his disgust for handling them at all. "We are still settling Ru'ku'la. Supplies are still falling from Hu'lu'a, and will continue to do so on a weekly basis until such time as the wormhole closes us away from home forever." The papers were now thoroughly out of order, and the Mayor shuffled them even further. "And you wish permission to perform… science…" pronounced, rotted excrement from an unclean animal now filled with poisonous larvae that smells bad, "on the highly hazardous Toxic Island."
T'reka cowered properly on her supplicant's perch. "There is much potential," she ventured. "We have already seen anomalies in the biota of the planet. We seeded it for comfort, yet decidedly -ah- uncomfortable plants and animals have appeared."
"And been eliminated," summarised the Mayor. "Quickly, effectively, and efficiently."
"As is right and proper," T'reka chirped. "I did mention in my humble proposal that substances initially thought entirely toxic eventually proved to be beneficial. So I wish to study all toxins present in the blighted lands mentioned."
"You would be working alone," said Mayor T'terik "For years on end."
T'reka huddled in her place. Barely daring to tremble. "I… never expected to join a clutch-creche. I am known as insane."
Few were the normal Numidid who wished to mate with a scientist of any calibre. It had become so rife that science breeding program had become necessary. For the good of the future.
"You will be heavily monitored for the education of others."
"I expected such," sang T'reka. "I have noted all the precautions to extend my survival in the fourth appendix, as requested." She had to resist the urge to nervously preen her feathers. Not in front of such a great man. She kept her wings tucked in and her hands locked together and her beak pointed at Mayor T'terik in proper reverential awe.
Now he was spreading them out on his desk! At least he wasn't spreading them out on the floor in a very ancient gesture of disgust and rejection.
"Ah," he said. And, "Hm." Shuffle shuffle shuffle. "Camouflaged base camp. Camouflaged hide. Camouflaged clothing?"
"All the better to avoid any predators, should they be present," she sang.
"Mrrmmph…" shuffle shuffle. "Hu'lu'a is sending most of this nonsense anyway. For science," pronounced, something hated I must tolerate for the greater good. "We will deploy the basics and send clean food by drone. You will record all aspects of life on Toxic Island bar the normal," eating, ablution, and assorted waste disposal, "and you will refrain from any and all forms of vainglory."
"Understood and obeyed," T'reka bobbed. She would only refer to herself as T'reka the Inquisitive in her private and personal journal. For everything else, she was T'reka the Mad.
She watched with bated breath as he lined up the papers anew. And only breathed out when the stamp of approval descended on each and every page.
"You may go forth and commit science," pronounced, disgusting thing I no longer have to be involved with. "We will send the details to your domicile."
T'reka only dared breathe properly after she shut the door behind herself.
And more importantly, cleared to study firsthand a veritable cornucopia of new things. An entire island's worth.
Toxic Island was a dreadful misnomer. It was almost a continent.
Aside from the inland sea and the rivers criss-crossing it, it represented thousands of square Flights worth investigative research. Years and years of waking up to discover something new.
And without even the merest nod to personal supervision.
T'reka preened herself every chance she got. Almost danced all the way to her modest little cubby of a home. Not even a home. There was a tiny bunk-nest and an almost-impossibly small perch near the info-net port. The rest of it was full of books and half-finished studies. The latter of which were deemed 'unnecessary' since the lead scientist in charge of the projects survived them.
Nobody would be working with her on this one. She knew it.
It was just simply too…. crazy.
T'reka sighed as she put her books in order and reluctantly disposed of her former, almost-done presentations.
There would be no room for half-finished and never-to-be-finished projects on her expedition. But it still felt like she was tearing her own gizzard out.
She'd worked hard on each and every one of them… and she would never be allowed to complete them. As far as the Flock was concerned, all her contributions amounted to replicated data and that was that. Not even a footnote in the book of deeds.
It was illogical to mourn the loss of those things. Ridiculous. Possibly stupid. Those who shared the floor with her certainly let her know so.
T'reka put them carefully into a waste-bag nonetheless. Swallowed her noises of distress and upset, lest her neighbours hear and mock her again.
Of course she was ridiculous and stupid and foolhardy and illogical and irrational. She was a scientist. It was what she was best suited for and it was the best fit for her soul.
She carried the clinking bag carefully down the stairs and placed it with a whispered apology into the dumpster.
Crueller hands would have her good work, from now on.
"Spring cleaning at last, eh?" chirped Kikkiki. A student and a dancer. One of the many who lived in the small flats for economic reasons. "You do know it's unhealthy to eat the bugs who invade your nest, right?"
"I am aware," T'reka sang, trying to keep her voice and intonations positive. "I do not breed bugs in my home, and if I did I would certainly not be eating them."
Kikkiki appeared to not have heard. "You scientists have the worst habits. I swear I saw one male eat a filth-bug just because it crossed his notes! No wonder you all have bad feathers and sparse plumage."
T'reka, who kept her feathers properly groomed and released her stresses through her personal journal instead of indulging in plume-plucking, politely muttered a, "No wonder," very coldly as she returned to her little hide-away.
She couldn't help hearing Kikkiki mutter, "Ugh, antisocial scientists," to the universe at large.
You expect someone to be nice to you when you don't listen, you perpetuate ignorant stereotypes, and you ignore anything that that someone has to say? T'reka didn't say out loud. She would not help the cause of science by being vocal and argumentative. Keep her head down, her feathers unruffled, and her manner at least polite for as long as she could stand it before making an excuse to leave.
That was her hidden agenda. An excuse to leave.
A life alone in an island/continent full of toxins, poisons, venomous things and fatal accidents waiting to happen to her was far preferable to life in a Numidid city as it formed.
T'reka sorted her books in the order of things that she would find most useful to least. And then made another pile of books she would love to read the most often to least. Weight would be key in her transit to the alien continent, so she also sorted her clothes from most useful to least.
She lingered the longest over a hand-stitched bridal shawl her grandmother had made for her before she came out as a scientist. It came in its own box, made of bug-repelling wood. Wrapped in delicate tissue and waiting for a day that may never come.
If she left it, there were few chances it would survive.
If she packed it, she would have to leave something else behind.
Irrationally, she couldn't bear to think of it going to the recycling salesyard. Being pawed over by hundreds of grabby hands. Delicate stitching torn by unthinking others who didn't know its history. To anyone else, it was just a shawl in a gift box.
She put it in her 'keeper' pile. If she died on Toxic Island, it would rot with her or burn with her as her fellow Numidid torched her last resting place from the air.
My, my, we're morbid, today.
T'reka shook herself and took a moment to take down her thoughts in her private journal. At least there, she could call herself T'reka the Inquisitive and not have to fret about anyone finding it until she was beyond care and caring.