Breaking News: Part One
Let’s talk about name plates.
The first we shall consider was printed with ‘Henry Dorchester’ in a Qasalan style font. It was the kind of name plate that informed people that the owner was most definitely from around here.
The weedy looking yellow Ogrin that sat behind the desk looked unmistakably Qasalan. In fact, he looked more Qasalan than most Qasalans. From the tightly wrapped robes to the countless golden bangles that adorned his wrists, he looked every part the desert native.
Henry had gone to so much trouble to appear as if he was from Qasala that in fact he ended up looking as if he wasn’t from Qasala. Just like a tourist who insists on trying the local dish in order to fit in, despite no locals having eaten it by choice in several centuries. When someone tries to fit in too much, they end up standing out even more.
Henry was from Meridell, and through a complicated series of events had worked his way up through the government red tape to become the head of the Royal Expellibox Office.
In all honesty, his job was mostly paperwork; it was the repair wizards that did most of the actual hands on stuff.
But then Henry was a bureaucrat. Paperwork suited him just fine.
It was on one sunny morning in Qasala that Henry Dorchester opened the fateful letter. The Expellibox had only backfired three times, which was a good record. All in all, it had been a good day.
Henry carefully read the letter, addressed to him from Neopia Central, and smiled to himself.
A moment later he called one of the head repair wizards to his office. The Mynci was all hair and had a surprisingly high pitched voice, even for a wizard.
“You wanted something, sir?” he squeaked.
“Do you think you could set up another Expellibox conduit in Neopia Central?” Henry asked, carefully staring at the letter.
“Well... the principles are sound, I guess... why? Do they have a lot of scarabs to get rid of as well? That’s news to me!” the wizard chuckled.
“Not scarabs,” Henry replied, a strange glint of excitement in his eyes. “I think what they have in mind will be news to everyone.”
Alfonso Might’s name plate shone the kind of gold you get only when something is continuously polished.
The rest of the starry Yurble’s office on the top floor of one of Neopia Central’s highest skyscrapers was similarly pristine in appearance. Once again, this name plate belied the true nature of the owner.
Alfonso was on the face of things an upstanding businessman. He owned shares in most of Neopia Central’s leading companies. He owned 90% of the best and most successful theatres on Wide Street. He’d invested in Neovision as soon as it arrived, and owned most of the stations and channels in the city. He owned popular magazines like Gossip! Weekly and the Sand Collector’s Bi-Monthly Annual. There were even rumours that he was planning to buy up the Neopian Times. He was, in every sense of the word, a media mogul.
He was also a criminal.
Alfonso Might was not his birth name. Once he had been Ander Bessan, a famous and brilliant con man of his time. He’d got out of that game, as most do eventually, but his criminal ways remained. Alfonso’s empire, the countless business under his control, was a legitimate front. He was involved in blackmail, fraud, protection rackets, and most of the extras on his Neovision programmes were illegal immigrants he had brought into the city via his own people trafficking efforts.
Alfonso was as corrupt as they come. But to all appearances, he was squeaky clean.
The starry Yurble’s sharp suit contrasted with the slightly grubby looking Grundo in front of him.
“I’m sorry, sir, but the Neovision studios are losing money hand over fist,” the Grundo explained. “People just don’t watch it as much any more any more.”
Alfonso nodded, carefully considering this information.
“There’s no need to close it down completely,” he said eventually. “Sell off one of the less profitable studios... news or something. That should give us enough capital to keep the others running a little longer.”
The Grundo nodded. “I’ll see to it immediately, sir.”
Peter Hopkirk’s name plate was not on a desk. It was neatly packed into a small cardboard box along with the rest of the items that had formerly decorated his office.
The green Bruce stood in the street outside the Neopian Times office, staring dumbfounded at the editor as the door was slammed in his face.
He’d been sacked; an event that he’d honestly never thought would happen.
He wasn’t a bad reporter, not at all. He just lacked something in the printed format. He was much more eloquent in real life. It was how he’d won over the editor at the interview, after all. Of course, it didn’t help that he’d taken to investigating certain people that were planning on investing in the Times either.
Peter sighed deeply as he turned to leave. He’d need something new to do, his rent certainly wouldn’t pay itself, and he couldn’t afford to be kicked out of his house. Everyone knew that the homeless gravitated towards the slums in the Docklands, and once you went there, you never came back out.
As if the world had taken upon itself to really rub things in, it began to rain.
A little light drizzle soon became a torrential downpour, and Peter had no choice but to take refuge somewhere. He ducked into the cave that made the entrance to the Catacombs, and soon found himself at the Coffee Shop.
He ordered a drink from the Ixi waitress, bought a copy of the paper from a vendor, and sat down to read.
It was a strange feeling, reading the newspaper as an outsider, after being involved in its production for so long. He’d hardly paid attention to the other stories that his colleagues wrote before, but now he read them with new found interest.
And oh how there were stories. There was always something happening in a city the size of Neopia Central, but these days a lot more things of a certain sort seemed to be happening.
They said there was a war being raged on the streets, between rival groups representing different criminals that controlled various parts of the city. Hardly anything new, crime was a central part of the city anyway.
But then, last month, Seth Vargo had gone missing.
He was a bumbling old Skeith that had largely been so stupid that he couldn’t tie his own shoelaces. Nevertheless, he had somehow come to control the Docklands through a mixture of intimidation and hitting people on the head when they didn’t do as they were told.
And then, all of a sudden, he was gone. No body, no explanation, no nothing. To make matters worse, the people who had been working for Vargo had found a new employer, Mr. Jennings. It was as if the entire city was trying to forget the man ever existed.
Peter continued to flip through the paper, absent-mindedly reading stories about zombie rights and gold shortages, until he reached the classifieds section.
The Bruce took out a pen and began to circle the jobs that might interest him. There were lots of high paid positions in the financial district, but Peter wasn’t exactly qualified.
His pen hovered over one advert that caught his attention.
Reporters wanted for exciting new opportunities in investigative journalism. Must have previous experience, and desire to work in front of Neovision cameras. Interviews will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday sharp, in the studio on Friars Road.
Peter tentatively circled the ad.
Mr. Jennings did not have a name plate. He didn’t have a desk to put one on. In fact, he was temporarily without an office, on account of his previous one having burned down.
It was unfortunate; the green Krawk really had liked that office, nestled almost invisibly in the Marketplace. When he’d arrived in the city from Shenkuu, he’d used the place to carve out his name.
A name, of course, that wasn’t his.
He was General Qin, exiled commander of the Shenkuu Armed Forces. Mr. Jennings was a phantom, a name created to fit a purpose, and it had served him well.
From that little office in the Marketplace, Mr. Jennings had been able to start up protection rackets on most of the shopkeepers in the city. He’d brought in illegal labour from Shenkuu to work on Kau Kau Farms, taken effective ownership of a large number of the city’s Zombies, and perhaps most importantly, bought the Defenders of Neopia.
Mr. Jennings was the sort of man that removed problems. If he owned the Defenders, they couldn’t arrest him, provided he didn’t do anything obviously illegal in public, of course.
And then Mr. Jennings had challenged Seth Vargo, and the Skeith had dispatched his men to burn down his office.
Being the sort of man that removed problems, Mr. Jennings had promptly headhunted Vargo’s men, and given them jobs in his organisation. With no muscle, Vargo had been rendered powerless, and Jennings had seen to it that he would never be troubling anyone again.
And now Jennings walked through the hallways of his new building. It was a skyscraper, built largely by Zombie hands, and would be one of the biggest ever constructed in the city.
It was far from finished, the floors had only just been put in that week, but it was coming along nicely.
“We project being finished towards the end of next month, sir,” the Zombie Meerca next to Jennings said as they walked.
“Good, you are making excellent progress, Mr. Oldnose,” Jennings replied. “I knew I picked the right man for the job.”
The Zombie Meerca nodded enthusiastically. “If there’s nothing else, sir, the top floor walls have apparently arrived, so I’d best go see to them.”
“Yes, of course, Mr. Oldnose, don’t let us detain you,” Jennings said pleasantly.
The Meerca nodded and ran off towards the crane that would take him up to the top. Jennings meanwhile turned to the other Neopet that had been accompanying him. It was a large stocky green Grarrl, dressed in a suit much like Jennings’s own.
“I believe we have an appointment, Mr. Black?” he asked.
The Grarrl nodded. “Quite so, sir, with Mr. Dorchester. His carriage should be getting in imminently, sir.”
The Krawk smiled.
“I’m sure Judge Hog will be very eager to meet with him,” he chuckled, as he turned to walk back out of the building, resting heavily on his diamond tipped cane.
To be continued...