Breaking News: Part Five
It was Saturday, at 6 p.m., sharp.
Peter stared at the camera. The lights dimmed, and the little red light came on. The dramatic music faded away, and they were live once more.
Just like the first time, the nerves just seemed to fade away, and were replaced with an odd tingling sensation.
“Good evening, Neopia, and welcome to Channel 9 News. I’m Peter Hopkirk.”
“And I’m Helen Scott. Tonight’s top stories...”
It was just as before. They gave the introduction, they went to a report from someone in the field, and they came back to the studio. It was so fluid, so effortless. The words seemed to just roll off Peter’s tongue without him even thinking about them.
Then, towards the end of the show, something very strange happened.
“...and let’s hope Princess Amira finds that stolen gold soon,” Helen concluded. “Peter?”
“Thanks, Helen,” Peter picked up. “Some last minute breaking news before we go, King Hagan has just issued a statement about the state of his Yooyuball team heading into next year’s Altador Cup. As we’re all aware, two years ago the ruling monarch of Meridell banned his team from participating in the Altador Cup. We’ll bring you more on that story as we have it in Roy’s sports bulletin tomorrow.”
Peter realised his mistake as soon as he said it. Hagan was the King of Brightvale, not Meridell. He’d just said it without thinking. He opened his mouth to correct himself, but Helen was already talking.
“That’s all from us, good night.”
The dramatic music faded in, and then the bell at the back of the studio rang to signal they were no longer on air. Peter immediately turned to Helen.
“I made a mistake!” he hissed.
“The Meridell thing?” she questioned. “Don’t worry about it; I get them confused all the time. I doubt anyone even noticed.”
Even if he was in theory aware of all the news, Peter thought it was good practice to keep tabs on what everyone else was reporting.
With that in mind, the next morning he bought himself a copy of the day’s paper and made his way to the Catacombs. He took a table, and thumbed through the pages as he waited for the waitress to take his order. He was smugly satisfied to see that they reported on a lot of the same stories that he had, but Neovision was a day ahead.
“Can I take your order?” a white Ixi asked.
“Just a coffee,” Peter responded absent-mindedly.
The waitress scuttled off in the manner which only waitresses can while Peter continued to read. He couldn’t help but overhear a conversation at the next table.
“Here, did you see the news last night?”
“No, I was out down Wide Street. They’ve got a new play on.”
“Nah, they called it art house.”
“What’s that then?”
“Complicated and in foreign, mostly. Anyway, what’s this about the news?”
“They said that King Hagan, you know, the King of Meridell, he’s making an announcement about the Yooyuball team for next year.”
“Hagan? I thought Skarl was the King of Meridell? Isn’t Hagan from Brightvale?”
“Nah, it must be the other way around. I distinctly remember, I do. Besides, the Neovision said it, you trying to say they lied?”
“No, I must have got it wrong. What did he announce?”
“They didn’t know, said it was breaking news. Hopefully they’ll know by tonight.”
Peter couldn’t believe his ears. He stared intently down at his paper, determined not to make eye contact with the two Neopets gossiping at the next table.
Peter had got something wrong, something plainly obvious, and they’d just accepted it? Surely they checked their facts?
Peter tried to dismiss these two as just rather unaware people, but something was niggling at the back of his mind, and it took a moment for him to realise what.
The tingling sensation.
It had felt almost like magic at the time. The Neovision system was controlled by it, and the Expellibox they were using to boost the signal was a largely unknown type of magic. Everyone had misgivings about combining the two.
Could it be possible that something deeper was happening? He had to know for sure.
He hastily scribbled down a note on his paper, and left before his coffee could arrive.
“...so wrap up warm if you’re in Tyrannia tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Hattie,” Peter said as the camera came back to him. “Now it’s time for a traffic update with Jeremy.”
“Hello, Peter!” the voice of the Pteri came back.
“Er... hello, Jeremy. We seem to be having some problems with your video feed here in the studio,” Peter said, speaking directly to the camera, as no picture of the hot air balloon had appeared.
“I took it down; it was watching me,” the disembodied voice of Jeremy replied.
“I... see. How’s the traffic looking tonight?” Peter asked, glancing sideways to Helen.
“Traffic?” Jeremy questioned. “Oh, the traffic. There’s a big tailback on Rodney Street, and accident on the corner of Farway Avenue by the looks of it. But that’s not important. What’s more important are Beekadoodles. They’re watching me. Oh, they think I don’t know, but I’ve seen them.”
Peter glanced again at Helen, who shrugged rather unhelpfully.
“Jeremy, have you been out of that balloon since it launched?” he asked.
“Out? Why would I want to go out?” Jeremy replied. “There are Beekadoodles out there.”
Behind the Neovision camera, the Kacheek producer was making frantic hand signals at Peter.
“Er... we seem to be having some technical issues with Jeremy’s report,” Peter lied quickly. “We’ll have him back with you tomorrow.”
He hastily neatened the papers on his desk, and glanced down at the last story. It was one he’d added on in highlighter pen just before then went live.
“There’s just time for one brief story before we go,” Peter said, ignoring the glance he got from Helen. “There has been drama in Faerieland this evening, as magical wards surrounding Queen Fyora failed. Scandal erupted as it was revealed that the Queen is fact not a Faerie, but a cleverly disguised Peophin. We’ll have more on that story tomorrow. Good night.”
Helen stared at Peter for a second before turning back to the camera and adding, “Good night.”
The music faded in once more, and the bell had barely rang before the producer Kacheek ran in.
“What was that!?” he demanded. “That wasn’t in the script!”
“Just an experiment,” Peter replied. “Don’t worry; I’ll give a full retraction tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry!?” the Kacheek shouted. “You’re lucky Mr. Jennings isn’t here or we’d all be dead, or as good as! Oh no... what if he saw it on a mobile Neovision set!? Try this again and you’re fired, Hopkins!”
The producer stormed off, rubbing his head and muttering to himself.
“Seriously, what was that all about?” Helen asked.
“Something’s going on with this news programme, Helen,” Peter answered as he stood up. “There’s something not right, and I have to find out what.”
Peter rose early the next morning and made his way straight to the Catacombs. In many ways, it was foolish that he expected to find the same pair of Neopets at the coffee shop, especially so early. The place was nearly deserted.
Instead, Peter made his way over to the news stand and picked up a copy of the paper. He almost dropped it when he read the headline.
‘QUEEN FYORA: A PEOPHIN REVEALED’
He glanced back to the vendor.
“This is the morning paper?” he asked.
“Oh yes, sir, straight off the press,” the vendor replied. “The news about old Queen Fyora soon travelled fast, eh?”
Peter sat down in the coffee shop, slightly stunned, and read through the story.
There were no actual details, not any more than Peter had made up the previous night, but there were entire pages of baseless speculation. Apparently the Royal Palace in Faerieland had refused to issue a comment on the matter, which had only fuelled the gossip.
Peter silently read on as other people arrived at the coffee shop. Once more he found himself listening in to conversations.
“Did you hear the news about Queen Fyora?”
“They say she’s a Peophin!”
“It might be an impostor!”
“All these years, and no one knew! It’s scandalous!”
It had happened, just as Peter feared. He had no evidence, no real news. He’d just made something up. It had to be the influence of the magic; somehow it was twisting the minds of the viewers.
Maybe that was Mr. Jennings’s plan, to brainwash the public? Everyone knew he was a criminal.
Peter stood up abruptly.
He was going to stop it. He was the only man who could.
It was only a few hours later that Peter Hopkirk was rushing out of the studio of Channel 9 News with an array of complicated wizard devices in his arms.
He almost ran straight into Mr. Black and Mr. Jennings.
“Ah, Mr. Hopkirk,” Jennings smiled. “Why are you in such a rush today?”
“I know what you’re up to!” Peter shouted, and tried to dart sideways.
He found his way blocked by Mr. Black.
“Pray, do tell,” Jennings said slyly.
“I know all about your scheme! It’s magic, isn’t it!?” Peter said accusingly. “You’re using the combined power of the Neovision sets and the Expellibox to brainwash people! Whatever you report, they believe! The story last night about Fyora wasn’t true, but everyone believed it! It’s magic! You’re trying to take over the planet!”
“Am I really?” Jennings asked.
“I’m going to stop you! Consider this a resignation!” Peter yelled, ducking between Mr. Black’s legs and running off down the street.
“Such a curious man,” Jennings observed once he had rounded the corner.
“Shall I follow and deal with him, sir?” Black asked.
“No, that won’t be needed,” Jennings replied. “Mr. Hopkirk is playing his role expertly.”
“Sir? You really are brainwashing people?” Black asked.
Jennings stood thoughtfully for a moment, “To be honest, Mr. Black, I am not entirely sure. No one has ever combined two wizard contraptions before, perhaps the result is a brain washing device... equally though, perhaps the people of Neopia are merely too trusting, and believe whatever they are told, magic or no. The key thing to remember is that either way, it doesn’t matter.”
“All we need is for Mr. Might to talk to Mr. Hopkirk. The rest, well, that’s just minor details.”
To be continued...