A Life Less Interesting: Part Three
The head office of Neopia Central Insurance, Inc. was an unassuming building close to the towering mass of the Neolodge. It would best be described as a rectangular lump of concrete, though various adjectives such as ‘dull’, ‘dismal’ and ‘depressing’ may be added at leisure. Within its less than hallowed walls were rows upon rows of desks, where Neopets sat filling infinite amounts of paperwork in triplicate. Oscar looked at them with envy as he passed through the thin corridor. He wished to be just like them, living such an uneventful life that a simple paper cut would be a dramatic event. It was, as far as Oscar was concerned, a magical place. The rows upon rows of people all stamped and filed in perfect unison, forming a kind of office symphony. It resonated down Oscar’s spine, and sent a chill of joy to his brain. One thing troubled him, though; there were no empty desks; he would be unable to get a desk job.
Oscar stopped abruptly and knocked once on a door in front of him.
“Come in,” a voice from within beckoned.
Oscar slowly opened the door and entered the office of Mr. Jones, his supervisor.
“Ah, good day, Oscar. I hear you had a spot of bother in Shenkuu. Shame about that... real shame...” the ancient green Skeith mused, stroking his beard.
“I always have a spot of bother, it would seem. That’s what I want to talk about,” Oscar replied, shutting the door behind him.
“What do you mean? Oh, please have a seat,” Jones asked, beckoning to a chair in front of his desk.
Oscar took it and cleared his throat.
“I’d like to hand in my notice,” Oscar said in a barely audible voice.
“Beg your pardon?” Jones asked, leaning over the desk.
“I said I’d like to quit, sir,” Oscar said, slightly louder.
“Quit? Dear boy, don’t talk such nonsense. Why would you want to quit this job? You get to see the world!” Jones laughed, stretching out his arms to somehow indicate the world was apparently the length of his desk.
“I’m quite alright with the seeing of the world, sir. It’s when the world looks back and tries to hurt me that I get worried. It’s not the sort of job I was expecting,” Oscar confessed.
“It’s not what you were expecting? I thought we made it clear what you’d be doing when you applied,” Jones questioned.
“With all due respect sir, the application said ‘mild peril’. My idea of mild peril is almost tripping over your stapler, not being attacked by a dozen Sloth clones on the Virtupets Space Station,” Oscar told him.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s not that bad,” Jones said dismissively.
“Sir, in the last twelve months, I have been attacked 47 times, mugged 12 times, turned into a mutant twice, cursed 3 times and turned into a Mortog,” Oscar revealed.
He shivered slightly at the memory of being turned into a Mortog. Edna the witch had not been happy to learn the insurance would not cover her leaking roof.
“But it’s an adventure!” Jones said exuberantly.
“I didn’t want an adventure, sir, I wanted a desk job!” Oscar said imploringly.
“You want a desk job? You want to be like... to be like... like... them?” Jones asked, looking behind Oscar and imagining the droves of office workers beyond the wall.
“Yes sir, I’m tired of life on the road, you might say,” Oscar lied.
He wasn’t tired of it; he had never liked it in the first place.
“Well, I’m afraid we can’t help you there... we have no vacancies on the desks. You haven’t been poached by Ultra-Quick Insurance, Ltd. Have you? If it’s a matter of pay, we can give you an increase. Never did trust those over at Ultra-Quick... what does ‘Ltd’ even stand for, ‘Loosely Tyrannian Draiks’?” Jones said, speaking more to himself than Oscar.
“I haven’t been poached and the pay is just fine sir. It’s the job I don’t like,” Oscar told him.
“So you’re quitting then?” Jones asked in mild disbelief, as if the conversation had only just started.
“Yes sir,” Oscar replied.
Jones shuffled some papers on his desk.
“Well, I must say you’ll be missed... are you going travelling? Will you need insurance?” Jones said, a greedy look spreading like oil across his face.
Oscar shuffled uncomfortably in his seat.
* * *
A few hours later, as night took Neopia Central firmly in its grasp; Oscar wandered through the streets, fumbling in his pockets for the keys to his Neohome. His pockets were considerably less bulging now that his assorted pens, chequebooks and stamps had been taken off him. Had he not been eagerly looking forward to waking up to a day of doing nothing, he might have felt a twinge of sadness for the life he had left behind. As it was, he was having difficulty locating his keys from the throbbing pain of his hands. He had not expected that quitting his job would incur quite so much paperwork.
There was a noise above him, and Oscar glanced up to the rooftops, dropping his keys in the process. Silhouetted against the moonlight, a figure was darting across the rooftops, dislodging several roof tiles as it travelled. From across the city, the sounds of sirens rose high into the still night. Oscar groaned, assuming it was kids vandalising the Chocolate Factory again. Above Oscar, there was a flash of red light, and the rooftop figure fell noisily to the ground. Oscar noticed it was smoking slightly.
“Humph, I’d hoped to have gotten further before they found me,” the familiar voice of Sarah, the Aisha from Krawk Island, complained.
From the sky near the rooftops, a red figure soared downwards, landing neatly in the street in front of Sarah. Oscar recognised him as Torchio, the Scorchio superhero. He burned with the power of the flame he had harnessed, lighting up the street like a sun.
“Hand yourself over now, thief, and give back what you stole,” Torchio said simply.
From the other side of the street behind Oscar, there was a dull thump. Oscar and Sarah both turned to see Judge Hog, cape bellowing in the night wind.
“So there was an accomplice? Very well, you shall both taste justice!” he boomed, placing his hands on his hips and barring the way.
“What? No, I’m not with her! I live here!” Oscar said, waving his hands at the superheroes.
“I don’t think that’ll convince them. Sorry about this,” Sarah said to Oscar.
As she had done in the Rusty Dubloon, she grabbed him by the collar and set off at a run, dragging Oscar along with her. She set off towards Torchio, a look of pure determination on her face. The Scorchio smiled vaguely, and held out his hands towards Sarah, charging a blast of fire in her direction. As he unleashed it, Sarah veered off to the right, cutting down an alley that led to a Neogarden. The blast of fire missed her by metres, careering instead into Judge Hog.
“You’re a thief!?” Oscar exclaimed as he was dragged through a ruthlessly overgrown garden.
Judge Hog could be heard yelling insults at Torchio in the street.
“Yes, hold on!” Sarah replied, before throwing the small Kacheek over a nearby fence into a back alley.
She followed soon after, vaulting the fence in one movement.
“What have you stolen?” Oscar asked from the floor where he had landed.
“Shush!” Sarah whispered as she clamped her hand around Oscar’s mouth and dragged him back to the shadows near the fence.
A moment later Torchio soared overheard, searching for them, but disappeared into the darkness. The sounds of Judge Hog clambering over fences could be heard, but they soon faded into the night. Sarah and Oscar were alone. She released him from her grasp and produced a small object from under her robes.
“This is what I stole; I asked you about it back on Krawk Island, remember?” Sarah answered.
It was a stone, similar to a Codestone, but egg shaped. It was humming slightly.
“You wanted to steal this?” Oscar asked.
The object looked like something you’d find in the Underwater Fishing hole.
“It’s worth more than it looks, trust me. Listen, I’m sorry about all this,” she replied, walking into the middle of the street.
There, she bent down and lifted an iron grille up, revealing the sewers below.
“Thing is, they are looking for two of us now,” she hinted, looking down into the darkness of the hole.
“I’m not being your accomplice! I’ll just head on over to the Defenders Headquarters and explain everything. Oh no, I dropped my keys back there...” Oscar replied.
He liked those keys; they had a nice key ring on them.
“You go back there and you’ll spend your life in a cell, just-”
A third person arrived in the alley, cutting Sarah off in mid speech. He had arrived in a flash, and his startling blue costume left no room for doubt as far as his identity was concerned. It was Lightning Lenny, another of the Defenders of Neopia.
“I found you! Now, give yourselves up, you are no match for my speed!” he proclaimed.
Sarah apparently didn’t hear him as she dropped the manhole cover and produced from her robes all manner of daggers and knives which she threw at the Lenny. With an effortless display of speed he dodged them all, and let out the kind of laugh only a superhero could manage, filled to the brim with pity for the attempts to damage him.
“You and your accomplice are going to spend a long time behind bars!” he shouted triumphantly.
As if on cue, there was a large metallic clang, and Lightning Lenny fell forwards. Standing behind him was Oscar, the metal grille held proudly in his hand.
“I am not going to jail; it’d be worse than being a Mortog,” he muttered.
The ship rocked gently in the winds off the coast of Neopia Central. Oscar sat on the edge of the deck, dangling his legs over the side. He watched Sarah as she went about her work, cutting the purse strings of the rich and famous aboard the ship as they slept. The smell of the sewers they had narrowly escaped from followed them like a bad memory, reminding Oscar he was a fugitive, was unemployed and most likely no longer had a house. His first twelve hours of freedom had been considerably more eventful than he had hoped. He sighed loudly, wondering if he was cursed. He decided that either way, his new life was going to be quiet, even if he had to become a hermit to achieve such a feat. The ship was heading to Mystery Island; Oscar hoped that would be beyond the reach of the Defenders of Neopia.
To be continued...