“But here’s the kicker,” Lex continued, a wide grin on his face. “When she told him that they were over, you know what he said?”
“He said ‘Yeah, and so are all your other relationships.’ And then he showed her the Voice he had taken from the night before. He called every other guy she was cheating on him with that morning.” By the time Lex had finished his story, he had already brought himself to tears with laughter.
Despite herself, Neda smiled. “That’s pretty devious of him.”
He wiped away the last of his tears. “Sometimes I’m jealous of how awesome my brother is.”
“And how every relationship he’s in seems to fail within a few months?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, maybe not that part. But at least it doesn’t bother him. Plus he gets so many good stories out of it!”
“Alright,” Neda said, setting a serious tone. “We’re here, and you need to focus.”
Lex frowned at the huge, boulder-like object before them. “Why do I need to focus? Your Scanner is going to be doing all the work.”
“Hardly,” she replied. “Tink can only examine the contents and pack it away.”
“You really named it?”
“Sure. Every Scanner has personality. Tink’s front camera is busted, so he doesn’t know when to start scanning until he actually hits the target. You’ll see. But there’s a procedure to mining. First, examine the object.”
Lex rolled his eyes. What a waste of time. “It’s a big rock that’s dark and gray.”
“That’s unusual. Most of the iron in the Needled Flats is red from oxidization. What does that tell you?”
“That we should have ‘Tink’ scan it because it can actually tell us what it’s made of.”
“You’ll never be a miner if you want to have robots do all the work. You have to look at it and know whether or not it’s worth your time before you even scan it. What if it’s just a giant chunk of iron coated in some other material?”
“How many times do I have to tell you people I don’t want to be a miner?!” Lex looked exasperated, using wide hand gestures to help convey his annoyance.
“Not my problem,” Neda shrugged. “Your mother asked me to take you, and I’ll be damned if I don’t take you back without teaching you something worthwhile. Now tell me. What else is interesting about this boulder?”
“It’s sharp. Unusually sharp. The high winds in the Needled Flats erodes the spires and makes them smooth, so even if this was a piece of one it shouldn’t be sharp.”
“And it’s all alone. There’s no spire nearby for this to have broken off from.”
“So, what’s the diagnosis?”
“It’s out of place. It might still be iron, like you said, but it doesn’t look quite right. It does look like it’s been here a while, but it seems to have been placed here deliberately.”
Neda nodded, showing some approval for once. “Good! Is it worth a scan?”
“If I say no, can we go home?”
“The sooner you answer my questions correctly, the sooner we can go home.”
“Then yes, it’s worth a scan.”
Neda crouched down to the little rover and activated its scanning mechanism. The robot perked up almost like a small animal being roused from it’s sleep. It started rolling forward towards the boulder, submerging slightly in the small puddles.
It didn’t stop once it got close enough to scan. Instead, the robot bumped against the rock with a soft ‘tink!’, to which Neda glanced at Lex and winked. Backing up, Tink started scanning the boulder, shining a bright, horizontal light against its surface that spanned up and down with a soft buzz.
After a moment, the light cut out, and Neda jogged over to the robot and looked at the screen to examine the results.
“Gods above,” she murmured.
“What does it say?” Lex asked, following behind.
“Ninety-six percent Aenendium,” she said.
“The strangest metal ever discovered. It is only found on Asamos in extremely rare circumstances, and doesn’t fit on the Periodic Table. Our scientists have never been able to manufacture it.”
“What does that mean?”
“With a deposit this massive,” she pondered. “We could change the world. It would destroy the economy.”
Lex frowned. “So what do we do?”
Neda pulled out her Voice and began tapping numbers into it. “I don’t know. This is big. I have to call my administrator.”
It didn’t seem as though Lex would be going home any time soon. But somehow, that was okay with him.