Breaking News: Part Four
It was Friday, at 6 p.m., sharp.
Alfonso Might was still in his office. A small Neovision set had been brought in and left on his desk.
The starry Yurble flipped the switch with some trepidation, and the screen lit up.
A complex title sequence filled the screen, mainly showing pictures of Neopia slowly rotating while dynamic music played in the background. Eventually, the title sequence faded out, being replaced by a news desk. A Bruce and a Xweetok sat side by side behind it.
“Good evening Neopia, and welcome to Channel 9 News,” the Bruce began. “I’m Peter Hopkirk.”
“And I’m Helen Scott,” the Xweetok picked up. “Tonight’s top stories...”
The scene switched to a view of the Darigan Citadel.
“Trouble in Meridell,” the Bruce announced. “We bring you an exclusive report into disturbances between Meridell and Darigan citizens.”
A loud noise that sounded like a town hall bell rang, and the scene changed again. This time a picture of a Zombie Rights rally in Neopia Central was displayed.
“Zombie Rights Activists issue fresh calls for equality in underprivileged areas,” the Xweetok explained.
The bell rang again, and the picture changed to a picture of Altador.
“And trouble in Altador as council members fear Moltaran digging may be literally undermining their city,” the Bruce added.
“But first,” Peter said as the camera returned to him, “Our top story. Reports have been steadily trickling in over the past few months of disturbances in Meridell. Local gangs of both Meridell and Darigan citizens have clashed in the streets.”
“That’s right, Peter,” Helen continued. “There are fears that if this level of violence escalates the peace treaty between these two nations may crumble, and war may return to the area. Clive Dunstable reports.”
The camera shifted to a pre-recorded segment of a Nimmo in Meridell.
Alfonso leaned back. What was this... news about Meridell? All his stations only dealt with Neopia Central news. There simply wasn’t a point to including other people.
The Yurble pressed a button on his desk, a moment later the shabby looking Grundo rushed in.
“Can I help, sir?” he asked.
“This programme, what’s the broadcast range?” Alfonso asked.
“Oh, not even most of the city, sir,” the Grundo answered. “Studio 9 has a notoriously weak signal.”
Alfonso glanced back to the screen. The Nimmo was interviewing some Meridell children.
“What is he playing at...?” he wondered. “Send a Neomail to our Kiko Lake station, top priority. See if they can get this.”
The Grundo nodded and scuttled out, while Alfonso returned to the Neovision set. The report seemed to have ended, and they were back in the news room.
“Thanks Clive,” Peter said. “Now it’s time for the sport, with Roy Castle.”
The camera switched to a new desk with a blue Techo sat behind it.
“Thanks, Peter,” the Techo replied. “Today’s biggest sporting story was of course the exhibition match between the Krawk Island and Shenkuu Yooyuball teams. The off season is traditionally a time for training for Yooyuball players, but both teams agreed to play this friendly on the neutral Mystery Island soil. The game started in Shenkuu’s favour, with Mirsha Grelinek making a quick pass to fan favourite Foltaggio. The Shenkuu forward was unable to bring the Yooyu home, though, whereas Dasher Soley proved to be more successful, and managed to get a hat trick of goals past Xana DiLanche. The game ended three nil to Krawk Island.”
The camera returned to Peter and Helen on the main news desk.
“Thanks, Roy,” Helen said, glancing down at the papers on the desk. “Now it’s time for a look at the travel news with our eye in the sky, Jeremy Barking.”
The camera changed again, this time to a close up of a Pteri in what looked to be some kind of large basket.
“Thanks, Helen,” the Pteri replied. “I’m here in my airborne observation deck, keeping an eye on the traffic in Neopia Central. As we head past the rush hour, we’re seeing fewer carriages out on the roads, though as ever, Wide Street and Tuckly Road are still blocked up. For those of you heading into work tomorrow, please be aware that there is a sewer blockage overflowing into Kensington Avenue which has made it inaccessible, and there are road works on Batrin Way for the next two weeks. As ever, avoid the Twelve Ways.”
Alfonso glanced out of his window. High above the city, there was a hot air balloon.
“And now the weather, with Hattie Burk.”
A white Cybunny appeared on the screen, next to a large map of Neopia.
“I’m afraid it’s not good news from me,” the Cybunny said sadly. “There’s a cold weather front moving in from Terror Mountain that’ll be brining frost to Neopia Central, Meridell, Brightvale, and the Darigan Citadel.”
She ran her hands over the map, and large arrows seemed to appear out of nowhere, heading down from the north pole.
“It’s better news towards Mystery Island, with blue skies and ambient temperatures both there and in Krawk Island.”
Two miniature suns appeared over each of the islands to signify the good weather.
“Moving further east, Shenkuu can expect the first taste of a snowstorm later tonight, which will be making its way south towards Altador tomorrow morning. In summary then, cold and blustery, with spells of sunshine.”
“Thanks Hattie,” Peter said as the camera returned to him. “That’s all we have time for tonight, up next on Channel 9 is tonight’s feature film, Buck Atom and the Caves of Fatal Death. Good night.”
“Good night,” Helen added.
The two of them shuffled their papers as the music faded in. Alfonso leaned forwards and turned the Neovision set off.
A few moments later the Grundo returned.
“We got a message back from Kiko Lake, sir,” he announced. “They got it as well. In fact, they’ve been getting messages from as far as Shenkuu and the Lost Desert. It seems like everywhere got it. They must have seriously improved their signal quality.”
Alfonso stared down into the city below.
“Yes... he must...”
Behind the Neovision cameras the production team congratulated each other.
“Good job, everyone, great show!” a Kacheek announced. “Same time tomorrow!”
“Was it really alright?” Peter asked, turning to Helen.
“Yeah... did you feel it, that buzz?” the Xweetok replied excitedly. “It was almost like magic.”
Peter glanced nervously at the Neovision camera that was still pointed at him. He had felt it, an odd feeling in his stomach. Was it just adrenaline, or was there something deeper going on?
“You don’t think...?” he tried to ask.
“Relax,” Hattie, the Cybunny weather girl said as she came over. “I use magic in my weather displays as well; there’s nothing untoward going on.”
Peter nodded happily, but couldn’t resist another glance at the Neovision camera.
Mr. Jennings was still sat away from the rest of the crew.
“The preliminary viewing figures, sir,” the Kacheek said, handing him a sheet of paper.
Jennings glanced over them while the Kacheek trotted away.
“Very encouraging,” he said over his shoulder to Mr. Black. “What’s the word on our competitor?”
“Mr. Might stayed late in his office, with a Neovision set,” the Grarrl replied.
“Excellent,” Jennings grinned to himself. “It seems we have his attention.”
His gaze drifted towards Peter, still talking to his colleagues at the news desk. “Now we must wait for the next step.”
He checked his pocket watch and added, “We also have an appointment with Judge Hog very soon.”
The carriage rattled along the cobble streets of Neopia Central. The Whinnies came to a halt as they found their path blocked. A caped Moehog was standing in the middle of the road.
“Jennings!” he shouted. “We need to talk!”
The Krawk peeked his head out of the window and smiled.
“Judge Hog, what a pleasant surprise!” he answered, opening the door as the Defender approached. “Please, join me.”
The Judge sat down stiffly inside the carriage, facing Jennings and barely concealing the fury on his face. Outside, Mr. Black cracked the whip, and the Whinnies continued their progress.
“You knew!” the Judge stated. “You had to!”
“Knew what?” Jennings asked innocently.
“We caught Five Fingers Holderness in the Docklands yesterday,” the Judge explained. “He’s wanted for eleven counts of forgery on Roo Island.”
“I offer you my congratulations,” Jennings added.
“Why thank you,” the Judge continued. “Now, being as he’s wanted for crimes on Roo Island, we figured it would be the perfect time to test out our new machine. We sent him off on his way through the blasted contraption. I bet you can’t guess what happened next.”
“He didn’t arrive as expected?” Jennings asked.
“No, he did not,” the Judge answered. “In fact, as I have just learned from a source on Krawk Island, he arrived in the middle of the Rusty Dubloon. Such an event naturally caused a fight amongst the pirates, and he slipped out in the confusion.”
“A most unfortunate series of events,” Jennings observed.
“You knew!” the Judge shouted. “You knew you can’t control where things come out, and you led me around thinking otherwise!”
“I must confess that I may have been aware,” Jennings admitted. “However, I did not mislead you; I merely did not correct your thinking.”
“Imagine my surprise when I learned that criminals aren’t the only thing being thrown into the new Expellibox,” the Judge continued. “The wizard said a Neovision signal was being beamed through. Imagine my surprise when I learn you’ve recently started your own Neovision channel.”
“Quite the coincidence,” Jennings smirked.
“I’m not being manipulated into helping you out with your schemes, Jennings,” the Judge growled. “I’m pulling the plug.”
“That may not be a wise course of action,” Jennings explained. “Turning the Expellibox on is a simple procedure, but turning it off is far more complex. Why do you think the wizards in Qasala haven’t tried it? It runs on magic, my dear Judge, and volatile magic at that. Do you really want to be the one responsible for blowing a crater in Neopia Central?”
“So I’m just expected to sit back and like it?” the Judge asked.
“No, of course not,” Jennings answered. “You may not be able to send criminals through it, but there are still other applications. You could globally circulate wanted posters within a matter of minutes, for example. You really must learn to look on the positive side, Judge Hog.”
The carriage came to a stop; Judge Hog opened the door to reveal the Defenders HQ outside.
“I’m watching you, Jennings,” he said quietly. “Seth Vargo disappeared, and no one can prove anything... but everyone knows he was a friend of Alfonso Might, and now you seem to be making life difficult for him as well. I swear if I catch even a whiff of anything...”
“I can assure you that I had nothing to do with the disappearance of Seth Vargo,” Jennings said innocently. “In fact, if I recall correctly, I was having a conversation with you in this very carriage about stolen gold around the time he disappeared. Remember?”
The Judge grunted, and closed the door behind him while the carriage continued down the street.
Jennings leaned back. Of course, the Judge had been talking to him just before he had gone to meet Vargo, but Jennings knew that the Defenders of Neopia were not the best of timekeepers.
To be continued...