Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 115,191,906 Issue: 230 | 9th day of Running, Y8
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The Maraquan Marshals in: Disappearances

by ginger23456


The waters of Maraqua were warm today, it said in the weather forecast, and little Mari, the Island Xweetok, had already planned her day out. She had loved fishing even as a baby and today was going to be devoted to it. She had her fishing tackle, rod and food and sweets and today was going to be extra special. She was going to try and achieve the almost impossible; catch the giant squid that resided in the little underwater fishing cavern. Apparently no one had caught it yet. Things were about to change.

     Waving goodbye to her owner in Mystery Island, she hopped onto her little makeshift palm leaf boat and set sail for the waters of Maraqua. She spent an hour paddling away, catching the early morning rays of Neopian sunlight and already stuffing her face with the sweets she'd brought with her. It was going to be a trouble free day; she could feel it in her bones.

     She stopped paddling and looked beyond the surface of the aquamarine coloured water and into the depths below. The grand city of Maraqua stood below her; the towering buildings made of crystalline shell and coral looked welcoming. The small shops just visible to the naked eye from up here looked warm and summery and made Maraqua look like a tropical haven. She would tether her boat up here using the rock (not a Petpet Rock. How cruel would that be?) and rope that she always used when visiting Maraqua so that the boat would be here when she got back and head on down to Maraqua. She would greet some of her Maraquan friends and then head off to the ruins of the old city and into the fishing cavern, where she would definitely catch the giant squid. She wasn't going until she had caught it.

     She attached the rope to the rock, threw it into the water and watched as it sank into the clear depths and eventually out of sight. She tied the top of the rope to her boat, got into her swimming gear, including flippers and a special waterproof helmet so that she could breathe, put her food and rod in a waterproof bag, slung it over her shoulder and dipped her two back legs into the water. She eased herself slowly deeper until only her head was above the surface. One last check to make sure everything was alright with the boat and she was under.

     She was a fast swimmer for a Xweetok and she paddled quickly through the depths with great ease, kicking her back feet so fast any passers by or aquatic Petpets would wonder if this Xweetok even had any back legs at all. She could feel a slight pressure on her lungs and head but it was to be expected. This didn't bother her in the slightest for she had been down here many times before and knew that the pressure of the water faded entirely once in Maraqua.

     "Mari!" a familiar voice yelled excitedly once her feet touched the bottom.

     "Hi Penny," Mari replied, giving her Maraquan friend a big hug. "Wanna come fishing with me?"

     "I'd love to," Penny began. "But…I can't. I'm sorry. I started a new job today and it's excellent. I can't miss it either or I'll get told off!"

     "Cool, what are you doing?" asked Mari, a little disappointed that her friend couldn't make it but intrigued about this job nonetheless.

     "I'm working for a job agency down here and it's my job to report anything suspicious. It's like, really important! I'm sort of like an investigator."

     "That sounds so cool, Penny! Hey, if I get bored fishing can I come and keep you company?" Mari asked hopefully. She wanted some excitement after all, and she guessed that a job like this would be.

     "Sure you can! You'll find me out and about. Anyway, gotta go. See you later maybe?"

     "You bet!" Mari exclaimed, punching a fist into the water and watching tiny bits of plankton and coral dust swirling through the water where her fist had just been. She watched her friend swim around the corner, a coral building obscuring her from Mari's vision, and then swam to the ruins of Maraqua.

     It was dark and gloomy in the ruins as usual and the strange cold atmosphere was ever present. The warmth of the new city of Maraqua and the coldness of the ruins was remarkably different but Mari didn't worry. It was normal. She watched three aquatic Petpets huddled together, slowly inching their way back to safety. They looked petrified. It was nice in the cavern though and so Mari swam there as quickly as possible.

     Swimming upwards through the tunnel, she hit the surface of the water, slung her backpack over her shoulder and onto the floor and crawled out of the water. She could see the jetty a little way up and was quite relieved when she saw no one else fishing there. She would be so jealous if they had managed to catch the giant squid and not her. She walked onto the wooden jetty, found a suitable spot, withdrew her portable rod from her bag and began by putting the bait she had brought with her on the end of her hook.

     It wasn't live bait. It wasn't even real. Mari objected to the use of actual bait and instead used rubber items in the shape of Petpetpets. Apparently the giant squid loved the little blighters and she just hoped he realised the difference between a real one and a rubber one.

     No such luck, apparently. She started fishing at 10:00am NST and it was now 1:00pm NST. Three hours of waiting and she had caught nothing but kelp, all colours and about six of each variety, ten old boots, two broken fishing poles and not much else. She hadn't even been lucky enough to catch one fish. Not one.

     Hmm? She realised just then that something wasn't right. When she arrived here the Maraquan Grarrl in charge of this place had not been seen. She didn't think much of it at first but then she realised something else; everyone who had fished here knew of the giant squid's presence because of large shadows underneath the water. But Mari considered a fact. Maybe the Giant Squid wasn't even here anymore. No one had caught it because it would have been in every copy of the Neopian Times and would remain in at least three future issues, too. And why were there no fish?

     She knew just who to call on. Her friend Penny now specialised in this sort of thing and it was definitely suspicious. No fish. No Maraquan Grarrl handing out bait. No Giant Squid. Something was going on. She grabbed her stuff and headed out of the cavern, through the ruins and into the city of Maraqua. The warmness of the place calmed her nerves a little but she knew that she would probably have to go back to the cavern to look for clues. It offered her some kind of reassurance, however, to know that her friend would be with her this time.

     She stopped a few Neopets and asked them if they had seen Penny. No one had and she decided to conduct the search herself. She looked in every shop, up every alley but couldn't find her anywhere.

     "You haven't seen a Maraquan Ixi, have you?" she eventually asked a wandering Neopet.

     "Why, I've seen a few of those jolly fellows down here many a time," the old Neopet replied. "Very nice Neopets are Maraquan Ixi. You would be very wise to befriend one for they can be very generous and loving."

     "I already have a Maraquan Ixi as a friend," Mari told him, slightly frustrated that the Neopet hadn't understood her question fully, "and I'm looking for her. Have you seen her?"

     "Oh!" the old Neopet exclaimed. "Yes! I have indeed!" He beamed from ear to ear in an absent minded and innocent kind of way. Mari stamped her foot once.

     "Where?" she asked, prompting him to answer.

     "I don't know. I forgot. My mind isn't as it used to be, you know."

     By now Mari could throttle him but she controlled herself. Just then, however, she saw from the corner of her eye a Maraquan Ixi. She turned her head just to make sure she wasn't imagining things and then relief set in as she caught the warm eyes of Penny. She looked more shocked than anything and swam over.

     "I wouldn't talk to him if I were you," she said. "He's an idiot. I'm quite embarrassed to have to tell you this, Mari, but he's also my grandpa."

     "I'm not your grandpa!" he yelled. "Am I?"

     "Unfortunately, yes. Gramps, you're hindering my work and I must go. There's something you want, Mari? You look troubled." She shot her grandpa one last glance as he plodded away. "Then again who wouldn't be troubled, talking to him?"

     "Penny, something odd has happened at the underwater fishing cavern. The giant squid has gone. There's no fish either. Also, the Grarrl handing out bait wasn't seen for over three hours."

     "That IS weird!" exclaimed Penny. "Thanks for pointing this out, Mari! To tell you the truth, the job was getting boring but now it's going to be FUN! Come on, Mari, you can come help me out!"

     The two investigators first asked everyone, excluding Gramps, for any information regarding the giant squid and whether they had seen the whereabouts of the Grarrl handing out bait. Their results were futile; no one had any positive answers to give. No one had caught the giant squid and no one had seen the Grarrl since dawn this morning. They established that he had been missing for approximately six hours now. That fact alone was worrying.

     "Okay, we've asked everyone for important answers and we've found nothing so far," Penny said. "Our next stop is to head to the fishing cavern. We'll have to dive for clues and I'm sure it's going to be pretty scary down there in the depths. You sure you want to do this?"

     "Yep," Mari replied positively. "And besides, even if I didn't want to I couldn't back out now and leave you down there all alone in the dark."

     "Diving gear, check. Flashlight, check. Sanity…uh…I'm not too sure about that one." Mari was standing, once again, on the jetty checking things off in her head. Penny was rearing to go by the looks of it as she was standing with her feet on the edge of the water, flashlight in hand and ready to dive straight in.

     "Let's do it," Mari ordered. Penny dived first and Mari jumped in after her. The water here was rather cold and bits of kelp rammed into her underwater helmet and obscured her vision a little as she swung the flashlight through the water and cut a ray of light through the thick murkiness of it. She couldn't see Penny at first and was beginning to worry until she eventually caught a flicker of a tail and a swish of a hoofed foot beating the water. And then she was gone, the murk hiding her.

     Mari followed her, scoping every darkened area with her flashlight and finding nothing but more kelp, old boots and the odd broken fishing pole. It wasn't a nice sight down here and was so murky that it was almost claustrophobic. It seemed that her suspicions proved right; there were no fish down here. There wasn't a lot of anything really and she certainly hadn't found any convincing evidence that someone or something was behind this mystery.

     She continued to search but didn't notice that Penny had stopped to examine something. She banged into her and sent her forward a little. Penny turned around clutching a convincing piece of evidence; evidence of capture. She held a piece of net in her hands and it was made out of a dull red mesh kind of fabric. The look on Penny's face was worrying. The Ixi pointed upwards and motioned Mari to climb back up to the surface.

     Mari pulled herself up on to the jetty and watched in awe as Penny glided out of the water and landed onto the jetty elegantly, the piece of mesh net still in her hands.

     "This is evidence," she said, "but it doesn't look too good. This sort of net is rare and only the fiercest of people can usually get their hands on it. It's used to capture huge things and is usually quite sturdy. It was unlucky for whoever captured the squid but very lucky for us."

     "But…I don't understand," Mari said, confused. "What's so bad? It got caught, didn't it? That's all."

     "Yeah, it did. But it's against Neopian Law to catch an aquatic being and not put it back. This person certainly hasn't released it and I fear that whoever did this is using the squid for some evil purpose. And there's the fish. Why are there no fish? Caught too, maybe?"

     "Yeah," Mari replied. "Yeah, I think so."

     "So, we've established that the squid and the fish have been captured. We still don't know what has happened to the Grarrl and we don't know where the squid and fish are. We also have to make the Grarrl a suspect. He's disappeared and who's to say that he hasn't caught them and ran away to some place secret where he can conduct his plans?"

     Mari furrowed her brow and looked at her friend in a disbelieving kind of way.

     "He wouldn't do that, surely!" she exclaimed. "It's not like him. He's nice!"

     "But that's what being an investigator is all about, Mari," Penny told her. "We have to rule out every possibility. Search all avenues as they say. I'm sure all evidence will lead away from the Grarrl and we won't have him as a suspect anymore."

     "Yeah, you're right," Mari said. "Anyway, we've got one piece of evidence so we should search for more. Doesn't look like there's anything else of use down there…" she trailed off and watched as Penny looked into the water and knelt down closer. "Penny, have you found something else?"

     "Yep!" She put her hoof into the water and scooped an item out of a floating piece of grey kelp. She pulled a small greyish white item from out of it and threw the kelp back into the water. She turned to Mari and withdrew her hoof.

     "This is what we call underwater breathing apparatus. You put it into your mouth and it allows you to breath underwater. You can also talk with this and I'm sure that whoever took the squid and fish used it. You know what that means, don't you?" She smiled and Mari knew exactly what she meant.

     "The Grarrl isn't a suspect anymore," Mari said, pleased.

     "Because he's Maraquan," Penny finished. "That means we're dealing with an outsider. Also, the criminal wouldn't have gotten far if they'd left this behind. They would panic and try to find dry land. It would be too far back to the surface and they'd probably drown. So they have to be somewhere close. Come on, let's go!"

     They left the cavern and into the ruins. They scoped the area closely for any more evidence and by this time they were both feeling saddened and frustrated that they had not found anything else. They had been swimming for over an hour now but they were not going to give up hope.

     Mari decided to trek a little further out and called Penny over immediately with a wave of excited hands. She had retrieved evidence alright; pieces of red net in a trail, leading around the corner of an underwater mountain. There must have been one heck of a big struggle, probably due to an outsider struggling to breathe and carrying a net full of fish and a giant squid!

     "Way to go, Mari!" Penny gasped. "Way to go! Come on, let's follow that trail!"

     They went round the mountain and found more of the red net. It led into another underwater cave, but this one was a lot smaller. If it weren't for the trail Neopets could probably swim close to it and not even realise it was there. The Neopet who had caught the squid was both lucky and unlucky; lucky to find the cave and unlucky to be trapped in there with two law abiding investigators at his heel.

     They reached the entrance and as Mari looked up she could see ripples of water and realised that this was the most likely place their suspect would hide. It was definitely free of water and would also act as an air pocket like the fishing cave.

     "Be very careful," Penny warned. "We don't know what the Neopet's intention is. It will most likely be an act of evil and we should keep our wits about us. Try not to make a sound, okay?"

     Mari nodded and they broke the surface of the water and climbed onto dry land. They lit their flashlights to reveal a passage overgrown with bits of kelp. It was damp and smelt musty and Penny wondered if it had only recently drained of water. They continued for five minutes and stopped when the passage grew suddenly wider.

     "Looks like it goes wider and wider eventually opening into a large area," Penny said. "I'm sure whoever's got the squid is in there. Maybe the Grarrl too. It seems strange that he's nowhere to be seen."

     They continued for a little while longer until Penny stopped in her tracks as voices could be heard.

     "Turn your flashlight off," she whispered in Mari's ear, "and keep your ears peeled. I can hear voices."

     "It's 'keep your eyes peeled' not 'keep your ears peeled,'" Mari corrected as she turned her flashlight off. "But I'll keep my ears open, though."

     Penny turned hers off too and the investigators slunk deep into the shadows and listened to the conversation unfold.

     "Please don't do this," a rough gravely voice pleaded. "What do you want with Maraqua's animals? Just hand them back to us. Please…"

     Mari recognised the Maraquan Grarrl's voice instantly. He had been here for hours, pleading for the safety of the animals of Maraqua.

     "Don't you dare tell me what to do!" a sharp evil voice hissed. "Don't you DARE!"

     "You'll get found out eventually! And then what will you do? All those Neopoints won't do you any favours when you're behind bars, Dyrin. I hate to call you my brother. You're evil and barbaric. No one with a decent mind would put poor animals in cages and in horrible conditions just so people can come see them and pay YOU money."

     "Shut up!" Dyrin hissed. "Just SHUT UP!"

     Large footfalls, bangs and crashes and awful violent sounds reverberated down the passage.

     "Now's our cue," Penny instructed. "Go now and be prepared."

     They charged into the larger area and Mari had to conceal a large gasp as she saw the Maraquan Grarrl and a Mutant Grarrl battling with each other. They emitted awful battle cries and yelps of pain as they fought. In the corner were two dingy glass tanks filled with murky water. The squid was in one and the fish in the other.

     "Stop it!" Mari screamed. "Stop fighting!"

     The Maraquan Grarrl stopped at once and backed away from his evil brother. He turned to the voice who had ordered that the fight stopped but his brother was already advancing on him.

      "Quickly go to the city of Maraqua and inform the Chia Police. Quickly!" she bellowed at the Maraquan Grarrl.

     He gave one last disgusted stare at his brother before dodging his blow and walking out of the cavern and into the city. His brother turned to Mari and Penny and laughed.

     "Do you two pipsqueaks honestly think you're going to save these stupid animals?" he chortled. "You're more stupid than I thought!"

     "We have all the evidence here. We have the red netting, the fish, the squid, even the underwater breathing device that you carelessly discarded while thrashing about with the giant squid! You're going down and just for a few measly Neopoints." Mari spoke this with such defiance that she received a shocked stare from her partner.

     The Chia Police arrived quickly as usual and the Mutant Grarrl didn't even try to fight them off as they escorted him back to their submarine.

     "I'll get you one day. And I'll get HIM too!" he hissed before being forced into the doorway. Both Neopets doubted it, however. He wouldn't be doing anything bad in a long time.

     The chief Chia officer shook the hands of Mari and Penny and thanked them for all of their hard work. They were dropped off outside the agency and the Chia Police waved at them as they went.

     "We did it!" Penny exclaimed. "We solved our first crime together!"

     Just then, Penny's manager arrived. He was grinning from ear to ear and hugged them both.

     "You did a brilliant job, Penny. Your friend did too. I just received word that the giant squid and the fish are back where they belong and the Maraquan Grarrl is back at his bait shop offering bait as we speak." He shook Mari's hand and offered her a job; the same job as Penny. They were now official colleagues!

     "So, we're working together now!" the Ixi beamed. "Isn't that great! We should call ourselves the Maraquan Marshals, what do you think?"

     "Sounds good to me!" Mari said excitedly. "Maraquan Marshals it is! And let's hope there are many exciting cases to be solved in the near future."

     "Oh, I think there will be!"

The End

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