Breaking News: Part Two
Alfonso Might gazed out of his window. From this high, he could see most of the city.
Of course, in actual fact he could see mostly pollution, but it still gave Alfonso a smug feeling that he was somehow above all of the rest.
“Sir,” the grubby looking Grundo announced as he entered the office. “We managed to sell the Neovision studio, as you requested. We were able to find a buyer for Channel 9 quite quickly.”
“It sold for a reasonable amount?” Alfonso asked, not turning from the window.
“Yes, sir,” the Grundo answered as he placed a folder on the desk. “The full details are in the day’s report.”
Something about that bothered Alfonso. Someone so hastily buying up an obviously failing business was something to worry about.
“Who did you sell it to?” he asked.
The Grundo checked the name in the file.
“A Mr. Jennings,” he replied simply.
Alfonso turned immediately, his eyes suddenly wide and alert.
“Get me Lady Cambridge, immediately,” he ordered.
The carriage pulled to a stop neatly outside of the Defenders of Neopia HQ. Henry stepped out and took in the magnificent white building. In the last few years he hadn’t seen a building that had not been ravaged by a sandstorm, so it was something of a refreshing change.
“Mr. Dorchester!” the bulky Moehog in front of him said, holding out his hand. “Welcome to Neopia Central!”
The weedy Ogrin winced under the pressure of Judge Hog’s handshake.
“It’s a pleasure to be here, Judge Hog,” Henry answered. “This is Lazar; he’s going to be running through all the technical aspects of the operation. He’s one of the finest repair wizards in the Expellibox Office.”
The purple Mynci bowed low to the Judge.
“And you must be Mr. Jennings,” Henry continued, turning to the Krawk who stood next to the Judge. “I was most intrigued by your letter.”
“Yes, of course,” Jennings replied, shaking his hands. “As owner of the Defenders of Neopia, I was most anxious to respond to Judge Hog’s requests.”
Henry opened his mouth as if to question the Krawk’s words, but Mr. Jennings supplied a wink which somehow managed to silence him.
“Well, we can’t stand around all day now, can we?” Judge Hog laughed. “Let’s head on inside. Tell me, Lazar, wasn’t it? I’ve always wondered how the Qasalan Expellibox works.”
The Moehog put his hand over the Mynci’s shoulder and led him away.
“So have I!” Lazar replied in a high pitched voice. “To tell the truth, a lot of what we know now is guesswork. The system itself was designed by the late sorcerer Alvare Thornpipe... unfortunately, sir, he was quite insane, and didn’t provide us with the blueprints to the machine before his death. At the core, it is a series of tubes that stretch all over Neopia... we’re just not entirely sure which set of dimensions the tubes exist in... or where most of them lead.”
The Judge shot a nervous glance to Jennings as they entered the HQ, “You mean to tell me that you are throwing scarabs into the thing without any knowledge of the consequences?”
“No, sir!” Lazar chuckled. “Rather, we’re throwing scarabs into the thing because we’re aware of the consequences of not throwing scarabs into the thing. It’s wired to the magical fault lines beneath the city, and stopping the flow of objects going through the transdimensional apertures might cause it to backfire in a... well, lethal manner.”
“I’m fast losing confidence in this idea,” the Judge remarked.
“The Expellibox we are here to discuss is a far simpler design,” Jennings interrupted. “It will be a one way tube connected to the main structure, with no magical power drawn from Neopia Central. Completely safe.”
“Mostly safe,” Lazar added.
“Mostly safe,” Jennings agreed quickly. “Isn’t that the best any of us can hope for in our day-to-day lives?”
Henry caught Jennings by the arm and pulled him back behind the Judge as Lazar proceeded to go into the details.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Jennings,” Henry whispered. “But the Judge is not aware of your reasons for building this Expellibox, is he?”
Jennings smiled. “Not in the slightest. If the good Judge knew that I intend to exploit this for my own gains, he certainly wouldn’t be so enthusiastic. Quite the opposite, the Judge believes that this Expellibox is a small victory on his part.”
“And might I ask... just for reference, what his exact belief is?” Henry smirked.
“Last month a large amount of gold was stolen from Princess Amira,” Jennings explained. “This gold was subsequently recovered by the Defenders of Neopia, but in a series of events in which I of course was not involved, the Defenders came to lose possession of the gold. Judge Hog was most embarrassed, and felt that the entire situation wouldn’t have come about if he had been able to ship the gold back to Princess Amira instantly.”
Henry’s smirk widened. “He’s planning on using the Expellibox pipes to send stolen goods back to people?”
“Yes, and I wish him all the best with it,” Jennings replied casually. “I’m sure he will come to understand in time what you and I already know, that it is impossible to determine the exit point of whatever you throw into the Expellibox.”
Judge Hog opened the doors to a large dining room that the Defenders used to entertain foreign dignitaries.
“I must admit, Mr. Dorchester,” Jennings said as they made their way over to the buffet. “I was surprised that you signed up to this idea so quickly.”
Henry smiled. “I’ve been living in Qasala for years now... but I’ve never forgotten home. News from Meridell is hard to come by in the desert. Your idea will solve that problem.”
Jennings picked up a mini sausage roll from the buffet. “Yes, I hope it will.”
“Besides,” Henry added with a glance to the Judge, “I’m a civil servant. We live to make things awkward for people.”
The brown Ixi sat impatiently in front of Alfonso Might.
“He’s bought a Neovision studio,” the starry Yurble stated. “He’s bought one of my studios!”
The Ixi moved in her chair slightly, ruffling her dress. “It was perhaps an unwise decision to sell it to him, then.”
Alfonso scowled at her. “I didn’t know! I can’t be expected to deal with every single transaction I make!”
“Vargo left his choices to people working for him... and look what became of him,” the Ixi told him.
“What did become of him? That’s the question,” Alfonso replied. “No body, no note, no nothing; the man just disappeared off the face of Neopia.”
“Jennings is good,” the Ixi observed.
“Yes, and now all Vargo’s goons are working for him,” Alfonso pointed out. “It’s like the whole city just wants to forget he existed. But now... now Jennings is moving in on me. I don’t want to go the same way, Floretta.”
The Yurble messaged his temples.
“Relax,” the Ixi said in what must have been her best attempt at a soothing voice. “Vargo was disliked, and spent most of the last few years in Pizzaroo. Jennings can’t just waltz in here and get rid of you; you’re too much of a public figure. People would notice, people would ask questions. I talked to Vargo, not long before he disappeared. He refused to take my advice; I hope you do not as well. Don’t underestimate Jennings.”
“Very helpful,” Alfonso remarked.
The Ixi stood up abruptly.
“Give him an inch and he will not just take a mile, but also your life,” she snapped. “You must always be one step ahead of him. Find out his plans, then find out his real plans, and then find a way to derail them.”
“That’s you helping, is it?” Alfonso asked.
“I am patron of the biggest charity in Neopia Central,” she replied. “I can’t be seen dabbling in crime and turf wars.”
Jennings walked through the dark studio, Mr. Black at his side.
“Just breathe in that air, Mr. Black,” the Krawk remarked. “That’s the smell of potential.”
“Smells musty,” Black replied.
Jennings smiled to himself.
Around them, the Neovision studio slept. Neovision cameras stood, pointing towards the news desk in the centre of what in essence was no more than a warehouse.
“Lazar is just checking on the final details, but he seems to think that there will be no problems with the basics,” Henry announced as he made his way towards them. “Neovision works off basic technomancy; it’s another one of Alvare Thornpipe’s inventions, so I’m told. The systems should be compatible.”
“When will the Expellibox conduit be completed?” Jennings asked.
“Oh, no later than tomorrow,” Henry told him. “Setting them up is no problem; it's turning them off that takes the time.”
Jennings spread his arms wide, and made his way towards the news desk. “So this is where the magic will happen.”
“I’ll be returning to Qasala once Lazar is finished on the Expellibox,” Henry explained. “I’ve instructed Lazar to stay behind and lend you a hand, should you need him. Magic, particularly wizard magic, can be... erratic at times. Dealing with the Expellibox or Neovision alone would be risky enough, but combining the two...”
“Yes.” Jennings nodded. “I have had some negative experiences with magic in the past. I try to stay clear of it normally... but needs must.”
“What next, sir?” Mr. Black asked.
“Tomorrow we shall begin interviews,” Jennings replied, running his finger along the surface of the desk. “That’s sure to get Mr. Might’s attention.”
To be continued...