Investigations into Impossibility: Nigel
Meet Nigel the Commodity Broker Chia.
Nigel is one of the most controversial figures in all of Neopia. Widely criticized for posing with equipment that some claim to be contrary to basic laws of reason, Nigel has appeared in photographs that have been labeled “inappropriate”, “misleading”, and even “obscene”.
The media has been in uproar from the moment that these shots were released. Neopian Times reporters swarmed the Stock Market Headquarters, attempting to catch glimpses of the items that were shown with Nigel, but the building was immediately put under lockdown. When the screaming journalists demanded explanations from Nigel, the Chia merely cried out, “Buy! Sell! Buy! Sell!” before being escorted inside by security personnel.
As a result of the cover-up, speculation hit a fever pitch. The Neopian Times writers pulled facts out of thin air and published them in their articles, making allegations that varied widely. From assumptions that the photos were falsified to gain publicity, to guesses that Nigel had imported top secret equipment for an illegal operation, there was no lack of explanation for the photos. However, the stories were contradictory and unfounded, and nothing was proven.
The Neopets Team was suspiciously silent on the matter. As stated in the Editorial of the 97th issue of the Neopian Times, one staffer claimed the shots were “just jokes” when she was asked her opinion about Nigel’s impossible equipment. Most Neopets, however, found nothing funny about the matter whatsoever.
During the celebrated release of the Neopian Times issue 300, the Editor was bombarded by thousands of screaming Neopets asking about the photographs. At last making a defiant stand before the crowd, she spoke for the entire Neopets team when she said that the pictures were “just a figment of your imagination”, while waving her arm mysteriously.
This hypnotic gesture may have been enough to subdue the general Neopian public and hush up the controversy, but it has not fooled me. Now that the frenzy had subsided, it was time for your very own Rory Nelson to set off with my trusty pen and notepad for an investigation into impossibility.
I knew where I needed to go. The Stock Market Headquarters wasn’t far from my own office at the Neopian Times, so I headed over and knocked on the imposing front door.
A bland receptionist let me in after I told her that I was interested in buying stock with Mynci Banana Imports. I sat down on a bench and waited.
My keen eyes, of course, weren’t looking down at the clipboard and form she had asked me to fill out. They were roving around the office, looking for a hint of some sort. I wanted to see a glimpse of some odd technology, or an out of place object... something to prove that Nigel was really hiding what everyone claimed didn’t exist.
As I watched, I could see the hustle and bustle of the Stock Market employees around me. Neopets carried tall stacks of paper in and out of doorways, and workers behind the large desk took Neopoints from buyers and handed them out to sellers. I wasn’t the only one sitting at the benches, and several other Pets were filling out paperwork, which they would then take up to one of the receptionists. She would put the paper in a tray, which would periodically be picked up by a Quiggle with an ugly red and blue tie. He walked purposefully toward a door at the other end of the lobby and pushed through it, revealing a brief glimpse into one of the back rooms.
I realized that this was probably my best bet at spotting Nigel and his equipment, so I shifted seats to be as close to that door as possible. I drew a few stares, especially when I asked an Usul to move over because—using the best excuse I could think of—I wanted to sit where the bench was already warm, but being a Neopian Times reporter has made me accustomed to strange looks.
Speaking of looks, I kept my keen eyes on that doorway at all times. Whenever the Quiggle pushed it open to bring his tray of papers back, I craned my neck forward and peered through the space. The first few times, all I saw were other finely-dressed Neopets sitting at desks and scribbling on papers, but at last I caught a glimpse of what I had been searching for.
I saw Nigel standing up, leaning with one hand on the wall and the other holding a device up to his ear. I recognized it immediately from one of the photographs, and I knew I’d struck gold.
The door slammed shut again, and a new challenge confronted me. How would I get into that room?
Through a series of complicated maneuvers and feats I’d rather not recount, I managed not only to sneak behind the Quiggle on his next trip through the door, but also to follow Nigel himself as he hurried down a dark hallway and stepped into another room. As the heavy door, which looked like it belonged in a bank vault, began to close behind him, I performed the final stunt in my repertoire. I took the clipboard the receptionist had given me and threw it as fast as I could toward the door, hoping to stop it from shutting and locking me out.
I watched, almost in slow motion, as it sailed through the air, rotating slightly. It slipped through the shrinking crack in the door, and then... continued. I heard Nigel cry out as it hit him on the back of the head, and the heavy door shut with a click.
Sweating now, I crept forward and tried the door handle. It was unlocked.
I swung it open and stepped into the dark room. It was quite large, although only one light bulb was set in the ceiling directly above the doorway, flickering like something one might find in an interrogation cell at the Defenders of Neopia HQ.
And with that thought, as I saw Nigel looking at me with a bewildered expression, rubbing his head, I changed tactics.
“You’ve seen what I can do with an ordinary clipboard,” I said in a cold, deep voice. “Just imagine what I can do with this.” I held up my pen, angling it so the light glinted off of its silvery sides.
“What do you want?” His voice echoed in the large room.
I could hear Nigel breathing. He looked at me, a red Lupe with fire in his eyes—or so I hoped—and then at the pen. “All right,” he said at last.
“First, let’s see that device.” I pointed at his waist, where the small black box was clipped on his belt. “You were photographed with that thing a long time ago, and it’s time you tell Neopia what it really is.”
Nigel picked it up and held it in his hand. “This?” he asked. “It’s a Self Own.”
I scribbled the name on my notepad. “And what does it do?” I asked, growing curious and a little bit excited. My voice was losing its edge, but I didn’t care.
“It has all of my personal information,” said Nigel. “I keep it with me at all times. The Self Own has my guild number, my Neohome address, my date of birth... everything I need to prove that I’m me. It can only be activated with my personal PIN number, though, so no one can steal my identity.”
“I know what a PIN number is!” I cried excitedly, writing on my notepad. “The Editor explained it in the 227th Editorial. It stands for Protection In Neopia, right?”
Nigel gave me an odd look and muttered something about writers, but before either of us could say anything more, the door swung open and a yellow Blumaroo bounced into the room. “Never ever give out your PIN number!” he warned, before bouncing out once more.
I blinked. “So this Self Own is really a legal product?” I asked Nigel.
“I think so,” he said.
“Then why didn’t you want the public to know about it?”
The Chia shrugged. “It was made special order in Virtupets,” he said. “I didn’t want any lawsuits about Grundo slave labor or anything like that.”
I scribbled a few notes on my pad. “There’s one more photo I’d like to address, if you don’t mind,” I said, pulling a folded piece of paper out of my pocket. “This one.” It showed Nigel sitting in some kind of red machine.
He sighed. “All right.” The Chia stepped toward the door and flicked a switch.
Rows of fluorescent lights came on, radiating outward from where we stood like falling dominoes. They revealed that the room was indeed bigger than I had expected, with metal walls and floors, once again reminding me of a bank vault. In the very center was the red machine.
Nigel led me toward it.
“So what do you call this?” I said when we were standing in front of it.
“It’s the Automo-Deal,” said Nigel. “This device allows me to trade stock automatically, without filling out all the paperwork.”
“But what does everything do?” I stared at all of the strange contraptions. “I mean, what are these lights for on the front?”
“Those?” asked Nigel. “Just to make it look cool.” He opened a door on the side and climbed into a cushioned seat. Pulling a key out of his pocket, he inserted it into the machine and turned. A mechanical hum came from the Automo-Deal.
“How about the mirrors?” I asked.
“To make me look cool,” he explained, peering into one and patting down his hair.
“The four wheels?”
“To move it around, if I need to. I’ll hire a Tonu or an Elephante and make them push it if I ever need to get it out of this room.”
“What about that wheel there on the front, next to all those buttons and things?”
“What is this, twenty questions?” asked Nigel. “Let me show you how it works. Then you can leave me alone.”
The Chia reached for the mirror that stood near the middle, just above the buttons and knobs. He found a round blue button below it that said “On” in white letters, and pressed it.
“Hello, welcome to OnShare,” said a feminine voice. “How may I help you?”
“I’d like to buy some shares of Buzz-A-Way Insect Removal,” said Nigel.
“Certainly,” said the voice. “Please select your amount, and the transaction will be processed.”
Nigel reached down and found a round dial. He turned it, and I could see numbers appear on a small panel next to it. They started at one, but climbed as he turned the dial until the Chia stopped at five hundred.
“See?” he told me. “The Automo-Deal makes stock trading much easier.”
“This is incredible,” I said. “More Virtupets technology?”
“What else?” he said wryly, turning the machine off and climbing out of it. “I hope you’re satisfied now.”
“I certainly am,” I said. Nigel turned off the lights and we exited the room. “I think this little interview might just save your reputation,” I told him. “After all, I don’t think they use Grundo slave labor at Virtupets anymore. It’s all robots.”
“Really?” asked Nigel, as we stepped into the bustling lobby. “That’s good to know.”
I thanked him and made my way back to the Neopian Times Headquarters. The investigation into impossibility had been a success.
Nigel the Commodity Broker Chia wasn’t a fraud after all. In the end, the whole scandal turned out to be caused by the poor Neopet’s fear of being accused of exploiting Grundos. Funny how these things work out when you do a little bit of research.
This is Rory Nelson, signing off.