Of Magnets and Mayhem
Also by blacebrander
Once upon a time, there was a detective named Stanley. Stanley was a pretty clever guy. He lived upon the mysterious lands of Mystery Island, which was pretty unusual for a blue Lutari such as himself. But Stanley was a detective, and Mystery Island was a good place for detectives to be. Plus, that's where this story has to take place. So there.
Anyways, one day, Stanley was reading a wooden board filled with recent news while waiting in line for the Tombola. After skimming over some trivial details such as Dr. Sloth's Defeat, something caught his eye.
"There are fun magnets for sale at the Tiki Tack Shop!"
Underneath the print were pictures of four magnets: A Dice-a-roo block, a palm tree, a kiko, and a pillow-ish thing.
To the casual reader, this may not have seemed very important. But Stanley was not a casual reader, and his detective instincts were telling him that something was amiss. He pulled out his detective notebook and sketched the four magnets, certain of a secret code. He was so busy pondering (not just thinking, but PONDERING) this possible code that he didn't notice when the line moved ahead and he rather effectively lost his spot.
"Ah, darnit!" Now, Stanley knew something was afoot. That must be a subtle conspiratorial attempt to get customers off the line! The completely logical and intelligent assumption to be made from this was that the Tiki Tack Guy had something to hide... obviously something to do with those new magnets...and then, the answer hit him like a falling palm tree. Clearly, the mystery at hand was....just where did the Tiki Tack Guy get the magnetic material to make those magnets, anyway?!
Stanley could have sworn there was dramatic music playing in the background.
The Lutari left his spot in line to look for the Tiki Tack Guy. However, the suspect in question had been replaced by a sign that read 'Back in an hour or so.' Aha! This regular break, of course, was the Tiki Tack Guy's only opportunity to obtain the mysterious magnetic material. But where had he gone?
Stanley pulled out his sketch pad and analyzed the magnet pictures. "Dice-a-roo block, palm tree, kiko, pillow-ish thing..."
He then realized that they were in alphabetical order. Well, almost. The kiko was out of place to throw people off. The seasoned detective, armed with this information, removed an 'r' from 'Dice-a-roo block, the 'a' from 'palm tree', a 'k' from 'kiko',and the 't' from 'pillow-ish thing', which spelled RAKT. Now he perceived that RAKT looks kind of like RACE, which rhymes with SPACE, and if you stick a SHIP on the end, then you get SPACESHIP.
Smiling at his own cleverness, Stanley made for the nearest secret space hangar.
Once there, he looked around for any sign of the Tiki Tack Guy. It wasn't that hard to spot him; after all, he was at least a head taller than anyone there and wearing unflattering flower-printed garments. Stanley felt a thrill of excitement. He got such an adrenaline rush, actually, that he grinned and laughed out loud. Everyone in the secret space hangar turned to look at him with varying degrees of suspicion in their eyes.
Stanley looked around nervously. He ducked behind some convenient crates and pulled out his secret weapon. Clearly the Tiki Tack Guy wasn't receiving any attention because of his mask (ignoring the fact that nobody else there was wearing a wooden tribal mask). Well, Stanley could disguise himself, too! Immediately, he pulled out a most intricately made fake mustache. After a little trouble with the sticky bit on the back, he attached the mustache to his face.
After this brilliant disguise, Stanley was feeling extra clever, so he decided to give himself an alias as well. Armed with fake mustache, he approached the nearest shady-looking spaceship attendant--the guard of the spaceship the Tiki Tack Guy had just entered.
"Hey, nice to meet'cha. By any chance, have you seen that Blue Lutari who was here before? He just ducked behind some of those crates... very strange... I'll be right back, I'm going to go find that character and have him removed. He's suspiciously not suspicious-looking enough. Very suspicious." Stanley--excuse us, Stan--could hardly believe his luck, and he snuck right on into the spaceship while the attendant's back was turned.
After boarding, Stan searched for the Tiki Tack Guy, intending to sit directly behind him. Unfortunately, his suspect was located in the very back row of the spacecraft. After some quick thinking, Stan pulled out a suitcase. He then reached over the Tiki Tack Guy's head and opened the luggage compartment, saying, "Excuse me, I need to stow my luggage up here."
The mask-wearing Tombola operator nodded. Stan put his suitcase in the small compartment, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and quickly climbed in, closing the door behind him. The Tiki Tack Guy turned to the now-empty aisle to say something to Stan, did a double-take, and shrugged. The Lutari settled down. Nobody would find him here...
Suddenly, the door to the overhead compartment swung open as an Ixi stored her bags. Upon noticing the stowaway, the Ixi froze in shock.
"Um... I'm a palm tree," mumbled Stan.
"Oh, okay." The Ixi relaxed and shoved her luggage in the now-cramped compartment and unsuccessfully attempted to close the door. Finally, she gave up and took her seat, leaving a small crack through which Stan could spy on the Tiki Tack Guy.
Stan was ready to use his keen observation skills to see what valuable clues the Tiki Tack Guy would divulge during the spaceship ride.
First, the Tiki Tack Guy did a crossword puzzle. Stan did not point out that five down was incorrect and that the answer was 'Feepit', not 'Cheese'.
Then, the Tiki Tack Guy read a story in the Neopian Times about robots and chocolate milkshakes. Stan felt this had to be significant.
Next, the Tiki Tack Guy drank some water, played exactly seven and a third games of Pyramids against himself and lost six point nine five of them, doodled in the fog on the window, and looked at a magazine with a mustachioed Eyrie on the front. Stan did not obey the compulsion to brag about the clear superiority of his false mustache. He had to maintain his disguise, and palm trees do not wear mustaches. That would just be silly.
Two and a half naps later, the spaceship landed with a violent jerk. Stan peered out from his hiding place, trying to discover his whereabouts and failing miserably. All across the spaceship, passengers were gathering their belongings and making their way toward the exit. Stan waited until nobody was watching, then leapt from his hiding spot, assuming a pose in midair, with one hand down and the other sticking backwards, like everyone does when they jump from high places. However, instead of following a roughly downwards trajectory, he slowly floated horizontally, flying into the luggage compartment on the other side of the craft. A few seconds later he clambered out and pushed himself downwards to the floor. So, the Tiki Tack Guy had business on Kreludor.
Stanley, disguised as Stan, fixed his fake mustache, which had sort of twisted sideways in the luggage compartment, and exited the spaceship. After a brief scan of his surroundings, he spotted his suspect, sneaking towards a large Sloth head and a KEEP OUT sign that was quite obviously designed for the vision-impaired. He secretly followed the Tiki Tack Guy, who was even more conspicuous here than usual.
Boldly going forward, Stan soon realized that he was entering the infamous Kreludan Mining Corp. This was made blatantly clear to him as, in the process of running (stealthily) after the Tiki Tack Guy, who walked rather quickly, a large robot loomed up in his path.
"YOU DO NOT HAVE AUTHORISATION. GET OUT." The robot didn't look very happy. Well, actually, the metal plates across its mouth kind of looked like a smile, but the type of smile that means the robot was about to be very happy, but Stan was about to lose his mustache, his suspect, and possibly some vital limbs.
Stan thought rapidly, and then raised his arms over his head and crouched.
"I'm a rock," he said confidently. "Um... an authorized rock." The robot stared at him with crimson slits for eyes. It did not look amused, but it wasn't attacking him, either. "An authorized rock... with a mustache?" Stan tried.
"CORRECT PASSWORD. YOU ARE AUTHORIZED," the robot said. Stan looked up in amazement.
"The password is mustache?"
"DON'T RUB IT IN, JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN GROW ONE." The robot almost looked sad. "SOME LIFE DREAMS ARE UNATTAINABLE." Stan grinned and dashed inside, following the Tiki Tack Guy. Who, he noted, conveniently had not been stopped by the robot.
Once inside, Stan took off his fake mustache (it was getting pretty itchy, and starting to lose its stickiness) and put it away, thus becoming Stanley once more. He immediately set off after a set of large footprints with floral patterns in them. The trail was fairly easy to follow. At one point, Stan stopped to read a caution sign.
"CAUTION: DANGER AHEAD. DO NOT PROCEED UNLESS YOU ARE A TRAINED EXPERT."
Stanley assumed that his suspect had placed the sign himself, judging from the large hand-shaped dust smudges on the sign, and the footprints directly beneath it. Looking ahead, it appeared that the Tiki Tack Guy had attempted to shake anybody who might have been tracking him. The footprints were more spread out, indicating that the masked man had been jumping. Some of the footprints were on the walls, and at one point in the near distance, Stanley could make out handprints instead of footprints. The detective rolled his eyes. "This guy must not know who he's dealing with."
He stepped out confidently once more, following the trail. However, he had gone only a few steps before he heard a whirring noise all around him. Suddenly, dozens of laser guns all along the corridor began firing bolts of light at Stanley. He jumped out of the way, narrowly escaping a bolt from behind. Running for his life, he began to realize that the Tombola operator's oddly-placed footprints might not have been methods of concealment. Bouncing from wall to floor, to wall again, Stanley backflipped over a laser bolt, spun around another, and cartwheeled through a quadruple laser. Finally, he reached the end of the dangerous tunnel, dashing through a door and closing it behind him.
He found himself inside a long hallway, with crates full of Kreludite and various other minerals placed randomly. He was wondering which way he should go, when he heard footsteps approaching. Quickly, he dove into a nearby crate, taking care to put his fake mustache back on. You never can be too safe, after all.
“Ouch!” Well, at least now there was a crack in the crate, just large enough for Stan to peer out of. Stan put his eye to the opening and rubbed at his bruised shoulder. There was a flash of... pink? A large, blinking eye... well, blinked, and Stan immediately knew who the Tiki Tack Guy was talking to. It was a Meepit!
[We would insert scary thunder/lightning noises here, but there are no storms on Kreludor]
He scrambled for his VirtuPetPet Translator Silver Edition, managing to get a few bruises along the way and turn upside down before he righted himself. His mustache was practically vertical by now.
“My goodly masked sir, welcome hither
I hope the previous shipment was pleasing
And we have toiled both dawn and dusk in cave
To bring to you this magnet cargo dear.”
(VPPTSE Translation: Welcome, Tiki Tack Guy. I hope the previous shipment pleased you, and we have worked for a long time to bring you this magnetic cargo.)
“It was excellent,” the Tiki Tack Guy said. “Those new magnets are selling like hotcakes!”
“What are these hotcakes thou now speakest of?”
“...Never mind. Here, I’ve brought you your payment.” There was the sound of neopoints clinking.
So, the Tiki Tack Guy was illegally buying magnetic material from the Meepits!! Stanley could hardly believe it.
Suddenly, a second Meepit ran up and addressed the first.
"Charles, there is want for thy attention
Lo, the guards report a sly intruder
Hither came he, close behind our friend
Great of heart and girth. And some argue,
Vegetable is he, more say he's mineral,
Still more aver 'tis a Lutari,
Yea, with coat azure and mustache blackened,
But none dispute the mustache."
(VPPTSE Translation: There's an intruder. He's wearing a mustache.)
"Will, Gather ye a company, and find
The foul intruder. Our plans keep ye in mind,
And send an army straightways to the door
And send machines of steel to do the same
That this, our ill-come guest shall not exit as he came."
(VPPTSE Translation: Search for him, and block the exit so he can't get out without a fight.)
Will dashed off to do as he was told. Meanwhile, the Tiki Tack Guy looked around suspiciously. "Where could the spy be?" He knocked on the crate Stanley was hiding in. "Is anybody in there?"
"No," replied the box.
This satisfied the inquirer. Along with Charles the Meepit, the Tombola man strode off down the corridor, leaving Stanley alone. Stan's keen intuition told him that this was not a promising situation. So, he decided that his first step should probably be to get out of the box. Then, he could deal with the robots, Meepits, and strange large island being blocking the exit.
He wondered why the storage room didn't have an extra door that he could sneak out of. That was pretty thoughtless of the designers.
Stan made a mental note of the weapons he carried with him. He had one all-powerful mustache. Searching the pockets of his detective coat, he found sunglasses, a paper clip, and a scrap of paper. Hmm... not promising. Stan looked at the box, and picked up the box too, deciding to take that with him. You can never have too many brilliant disguises.
I have to make it past these robots, Stan thought desperately. And the Meepits, and the Tiki Tack Guy, and the wall. Wait...
"Oof!" Stan smacked into the wall, unfortunately setting off a Big Secret and Annoying-Sounding Alarm. He heard muffled cries of "what's that?" rapidly unmuffling, and a stampede of tiny footsteps, which soon were revealed to belong to the Meepit Will and his scout party. As the Meepits turned the corner, Stan dove at Mach 3 Bazillion for the door by which he had entered the hall, threw open the door, and dashed out, Meepits close behind him. They ran through several hallways in the split second before the facility went into lockdown, sending reinforced doors down from the ceiling. Stan was trapped in a small room with the band of angry Meepits.
"Which of you, my brave warriors, will now
Bring down this spy, who sneaked inside our mine?" asked Will.
"I will, my fearless leader!" proclaimed one.
"Hi Duncan, my fearless soldier!" replied Will. "You will go and fight!"
"Nay, my Captain, you're Will," returned Duncan.
"What sayest thou now of my will?" Complete confusion and chaos broke loose among the Meepits.
"Is the mine mine, yours, or ours?"
"Forsooth, art thou a Meepit or a Youpit?"
"That question greatly interest-ests me!
I shall earnest an earnest answer for thee!"
Stan took the opportunity to dig a tunnel under the door, filling it behind him as he went. He also brought the box, managing to carry it by some complex Law of Neopian Physics. That's our story and we're sticking to it.
As Stan came out near the entrance of the mine, he sighed in relief. He was almost to freedom!
He took one step out of the hole and was attacked by a swarm of Meepits. Little, pink fluffy petpets attacked him like a horde of brightly colored pillows (with teeth and large, blinking eyes). Stan made an undignified sound that was something like "MmrglarfleAAH" and went down in a heap. He struggled madly, to no avail. Stan was just about to attempt his double-kick-twist-flippy-thing when he saw a gleam of metal and had an even better idea.
"Hey, robot! I'll give you my fake mustache if you help me!" The robot turned towards him and Stan could've sworn the mechanical guard smiled. Stan tossed him the mustache, and the fight was on again. The newly-mustachioed robot and Stan were valiantly fighting when Stan saw the Tiki Tack Guy trying to make an escape. Stan gasped in horror and thought quickly. Pulling out his sunglasses, he caught the light off the robot's casing onto the sunglasses, directing a little circle of light onto the wall in front of the Tiki Tack Guy.
"Oooh... shiny...." the Tiki Tack Guy said, staring spellbound.
Meanwhile, Stanley quickly scanned the area. "Why isn't there a secret exit around here?" He turned around and noticed a gigantic locked door with big red letters saying "Secret Exit". Wondering why the secret exit was larger and more conspicuous than the real exit, he dashed towards the door (backwards, because he had to keep the dot on the wall to distract the Tiki Tack Guy), and pulled out his paper clip. He then proceeded to pick the lock (again, backwards). Turning, he ran through the door. Before he closed it, he tore his scrap of paper in half, wrote 'Down for maintenance' on one half, and stuck it to the door. He slammed the door and dashed through the underground tunnel.
The Tiki Tack Guy, realizing that the shiny dot had disappeared, spun around just in time to see the secret door slam shut. Several Meepits also noticed that. "To me! Rally to me!" cried Charles, and a band of Meepits dashed outside. A few yards from the mining facility was a big hole, accompanied by a sign that read, "Secret exit comes out here."
"No!" The Tiki Tack Guy fell to his knees dramatically and clenched his fists. "STAAAAAAAN!"
Little did he know it, but Stan was not that far away. He was hiding behind a rock, trying to work the strange machine he had found nearby. It had a big Virtupets logo stamped on it and lots of buttons. Resisting the urge to push all the buttons and see what happened, Stan fiddled with the antenna on top and jumped when a bored-sounding voice issued out.
"This is the Virtupets Caller 917019. Please state your recipient."
"Umm...." Stan thought quickly. "Get me to the Defenders of Neopia! And hurry!" A burst of static issued from the strange earpiece-thing.
"Hello, this is the Defenders of Neopia."
"You've got to listen to me! The Tiki Tack Guy is in an underhanded plot with Meepits in this black-market on Kreludor. He's paying them for his magnetic material!" There was silence on the other end for a while.
"We'll look into it," the deep voice said, and with a click, Stan was left with a silent Caller Device. He grinned. Thrilled with himself, Stan skipped off--okay, not really, but you get the idea--to the nearest space hangar, not keen on being found by the Meepits or the revenge-bent Tiki Tack Guy. He had surely alerted Neopia to an underhanded, devious scheme. All in a day's work.
Back in Neopia:
Judge Hog pushed the end button on his Virtupets Caller and leaned back in his chair, shaking his head.
"Prank callers," he muttered in disgust. "What will they think of next."