Viva la Resistance!: Part Six
The ship had been full of Shenkuu immigrants, at least five hundred of them, not that anyone was really counting heads. Fredrick remembered their faces, though. It was the same expression in every single container they opened. It was a mixture of fear and hope that evaporated into pure joy when they were told the news that they had made it.
Fredrick watched a few dozen emerge onto the deck of the cargo ship and take their first breaths of Neopia Central air. They stood there and grinned through the smog as if the place was perfect. Fredrick didn’t want to consider the place they must have come from to make the slums of the Docklands look like an improvement.
The night had worn on, and the members of the resistance had become acutely aware that the longer they hung around, the more danger they were putting themselves in. Being a revolutionary, Fredrick considered, was a job most people were only willing to do at night.
Daylight often made people less courageous, Fredrick certainly knew that. By the time dawn arrived, most of the Neopets that had stormed the ship were gone, Fredrick included.
It was lunchtime before Fredrick pulled himself out of his damp bed in the Old Shambles. He was getting quite used to the brown Grundo body, and hardly even thought about changing back to his regular form as he made his way out into the streets of the Docklands.
Once again his feet led him back to the more respectable parts of the city, and he picked up a paper from a vendor. The headline immediately caught his eye.
‘DEFENDERS OF NEOPIA THWART PEOPLE TRAFFICKING IN THE CITY.’
There was a picture of Judge Hog below, with his arm around one of the Shenkuu citizens.
Fredrick smiled to himself, and leaned against a nearby wall while he read the rest of the story.
‘A huge people trafficking operation was last night brought to a close in Neopia Central, the Defenders of Neopia announced this morning. Last night, a cargo ship full of Shenkuu citizens was seized off the coast of Neopia Central before it could weigh anchor. The ship, which falsely claimed on port authority documents to be carrying Altadorian Slate, was in fact carrying over five hundred illegal Shenkuu immigrants.
Drawn by the promise of a good life in Neopia Central, it is believed that these poor Neopets will have paid a substantial fee to a mystery benefactor in order to be smuggled into the city. The owner of the ship, a Mr. Jennings, this morning declined to comment. Local businessman Seth Vargo was quoted as saying, “This is the last thing this city needs. Our hard working people are already losing jobs to zombies, without bringing foreigners into the mix. Whoever arranged this needs to be caught and brought to justice”. The Defenders of Neopia this morning issued a statement saying that enquires are continuing.
In the meantime, while the Emperor of Shenkuu is contacted, a Neopia Central businessman has stepped in to aid the Shenkuu immigrants in their hour of need. Mr. Alfred Lias, who has recently bought up several blocks of disused homes in the western Docklands area, has pledged the housing there to the Shenkuu citizens until the matter is resolved.’
Fredrick frowned to himself. Alfred Lias? A. Lias? Alias? Who was that? The mysterious Number One, perhaps?
Fredrick rolled up the paper and prepared to set off back into the Docklands, when a shadow fell over him.
The green Grarrl in a suit smiled at him.
“Hello, Mr. Black,” Fredrick groaned.
“Pleasure as always, Mr. Boggins,” the Grarrl grunted in response. “You have an appointment with Mr. Jennings.”
Fredrick was shown back to the Marketplace, and the small unassuming building that formed the heart of the Jennings Empire. Fredrick lazily pushed open the door to the finely decorated office, and found an argument in full swing inside.
“You can’t do this, Jennings!” the rainbow Lutari shouted from across the desk.
“Correct me if I’m wrong... but there is no legal reason why I cannot, is there? It is after all, your job to make sure that is the case,” Jennings replied calmly from across the table.
“That’s not what I mean!” the Lutari snapped. “It’s... it just isn’t right!”
Mr. Jennings nodded.
“Then it seems quite obvious what must happen next,” he said evenly. “You can no longer work for me.”
The rainbow Lutari snorted, “Fine, if that’s the way you want it!”
He grabbed his briefcase from the desk and turned to go.
“You can’t keep doing this, Jennings!” he snarled. “Sooner or later, someone’s going to turn around and bite you back.”
The Lutari stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him. Jennings sighed to himself.
“Shame,” he muttered. “He was such a good lawyer as well.”
Jennings smiled thinly and gestured to the chair.
“He’s right, you know,” Fredrick said as he sat down. “Sooner or later, this is all going to backfire on you.”
“Then I hope I shall have a contingency plan by that point,” Jennings replied. “Mr. Entwhistle is a good lawyer, but he has dreadfully annoying things that he calls morals.”
He smiled at Fredrick.
“I expected you to be less happy this morning,” Fredrick pointed out.
“Me? Why?” Jennings laughed. “Last night couldn’t have gone better for me.”
Fredrick frowned, “There’s a public scandal, the Defenders of Neopia are after you, and you’ve lost your immigrants. How’s that good?”
“There is always a public scandal,” Jennings told him. “It is the one state you can count on the public being in. As for the Defenders... I own them, we both know that isn’t going anywhere... and what makes you think I have lost the immigrants?”
“Because you have?” Fredrick snorted. “I saw them be taken away.”
“Yes, taken away...” Jennings grinned. “To a small section of the Docklands on the west side, nestled right in between the Old Quarter and Kau Kau Farms... owned by a Mr. Alfred Lias, I seem to recall?”
Fredrick felt something odd inside his chest. Was that his stomach falling? Why should he care about the fates of the Shenkuu citizens?
“That’s you?” he asked.
Jennings grinned. “Of course. I’m sure the resistance will figure it out eventually, but by then it will be far too late. I wouldn’t have been able to get such a large number of people into the city in secret. But because the resistance interfered, they were let straight through. They did my job for me.”
“You planned the entire thing?” Fredrick asked.
“I thought I might as well make a little profit out of this situation,” Jennings replied.
“You got your servants,” Fredrick said bitterly.
“Servants?” Jennings frowned. “You’re starting to sound like one of these small minded revolutionaries, Mr. Boggins. These people come from the most downtrodden and underprivileged sections of the Shenkuu Empire. You think growing up in the Docklands was bad? You haven’t seen anything. Shenkuu city is the glorious tip of a rotten Empire. The Emperor is kept in riches and finery because he tramples on the common man. The mountain mists hide many villages, Mr. Boggins. In those villages, the cardboard boxes you used to sleep in as a child would be considered a luxury.”
“You’re trying to say that you did these people a favour?” Fredrick scoffed.
“They came here searching for a better life, and they will have one, trust me,” Jennings told him. “I served as General of the Armed Forces in Shenkuu for ten years. I know better than most what keeps the Empire ticking. The people I brought here will work on Kau Kau Farms, performing menial tasks that the vast majority of Neopia Central inhabitants feel beneath them. By our standards, they will be poor. By their standards, they will be living like Kings.”
“But you still make a tidy profit,” Fredrick pointed out.
“I am a businessman,” Jennings countered. “I detect from your tone that you are not overly supportive of this turn of events, Mr. Boggins?”
“Too right I’m not!” Fredrick shouted suddenly. “They are good people in the resistance! Good, honest people! Sure, it’s run by crooks, but the people I’ve sat next to in the meetings don’t deserve this, Jennings! You can’t just use them as pawns in a game with your rivals!”
Fredrick leaned back, almost panting with the rage he was feeling. Why was he doing this? How many people had he conned in his life? Why was he developing a conscience now?
It was Mrs. Jenkins that had done it... she just seemed so frail and innocent. She didn’t deserve to be trampled on.
“Then it appears I will be losing two employees today,” Jennings observed.
“You don’t even care what you’re doing to these people, do you?” Fredrick asked, standing up sharply. “We’ll see how much you care, after tonight.”
Fredrick turned and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him.
“Shall I follow him, and terminate his contract, sir?” Mr. Black asked from the doorway.
Jennings leaned back in his chair and smiled to himself.
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” he replied.
“Sir?” Black questioned. “He’s going to tell the resistance about you.”
“Yes, yes, he is.” Jennings grinned. “Always think a step ahead, Mr. Black.”
Mr. Black nodded, and then a broad smile spread across his face as he began to understand his employer’s thinking.
“Quite so, sir, quite so,” he laughed.
Night had set in by the time Fredrick reached the Docklands again. His mind was still clouded by rage at Jennings; he hardly even paid attention as his feet brought him to the abandoned house.
Mrs. Jenkins had awoken something in Fredrick that had been dormant and waiting since his time in Altador. Joseph Shome, the best con man ever, had used Fredrick and then thrown him away like he was nothing more than a tool. At the time Fredrick had thought there was something wrong with that particular turn of events. There was no honour among thieves, not like there was supposed to be. Now he was being employed to betray the very people he’d grown up around. He was being employed to betray his people.
For the first time in his life, Fredrick began to consider that he might have morals after all.
Fredrick supplied the secret knock on the door.
“The Pteri has landed,” the Bruce said from within.
“I’m not in the mood, just let me inside,” Fredrick growled in response.
The Bruce seemed to smile.
“Good enough, I suppose,” he chuckled, before unlocking the door.
The meeting below had already begun, and Fredrick got several glares as he sat down at the back of the group.
He sat there for a while lost in his own thoughts while the mysterious Number One droned on about their successes on the cargo ship and how Jennings was on the run.
The familiarity of the voice once again struck Fredrick. There was something to do with Jennings in it, he was sure.
The obviousness of it hit Fredrick like a rock.
Jennings had planned the entire thing.
Assemble a resistance against him, with himself in charge, so there was never any real threat against him. It would prevent anyone else, anyone who was a real threat, from doing the same.
At the same time, his enemies would come out of the shadows, stand right in front of him, and identify themselves. Jennings had known who they were already; of course he had. He’d formed the resistance.
He’d arranged the cargo ship, and arranged the resistance raid to ensure the success of his operation. How else had the Defenders of Neopia arrived on the scene so quickly? Jennings owned them; he had ordered them to come.
Jennings had sat behind that curtain from the very beginning. He’d sat there, laughing at the honest people he was selling down the river.
Fredrick was on his feet before he knew what he was doing.
“Stop!” he yelled.
The voice of Number One stopped mid sentence.
“Do you have something to add, Colin?” the starry Yurble at the front asked.
“My name’s not Colin!” Fredrick shouted as he made his way to the front. “I’m not even a Grundo! My real name’s Fredrick, I’m a con man, and I’ve been hired to infiltrate this group by Mr. Jennings!”
Gasps came from the crowd.
“He’s been playing you all!” Fredrick continued. “He knows who the people in charge are, he still has the immigrants we freed last night, and the Defenders are never going to arrest him because he owns them!”
“He doesn’t know who we all are,” the voice of Number One said from behind the curtain.
“Yes, he does!” Fredrick spat at the curtain. “The biggest trick of all, he brought you all here. There is no Number One! He’s been the man behind the curtain the entire time!”
Fredrick darted forwards and clawed at the curtain, tearing it down in his madness. He expected to see the smug green Krawk behind.
He did not.
A timid, frightened looking rainbow Lutari stood there.
“You!” Fredrick gasped. “You... you’re... who are you?”
Fredrick shook his head as he reordered his thoughts. “The lawyer! Mr. Jennings’s lawyer! What are you doing here!?”
The rainbow Lutari stood up, and looked over Fredrick’s shoulder.
“Like I told Jennings, sooner or later, someone will bite back. Take him,” he growled.
Before Fredrick could react, the large Bruce from the front door was upon him, easily overpowering him. He was dragged away as his hands were hastily tied, and all around him he could hear the jeers of the resistance members.
Out in the street the cold night air surrounded him as his feet scrabbled along the cobblestones. Panic filled his mind, how had he got it so wrong? He’d been convinced Jennings was the true culprit... but there really had been a Number One all along?
Fredrick’s panic intensified as he saw they were approaching the docks. He knew exactly what they were going to do.
He’d feared it since the moment he’d been followed home.
Resistance members were dangerous.
They stopped at the pier that led out into the bay. The resistance members jeered as the Bruce gave Fredrick a swift push that forced him off the wooden slats and down into the water below.
The Bruce and the few resistance members on the pier watched with satisfaction as Fredrick floundered on the surface.
They turned and left him to his fate.
To be continued...