Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 186,904,155 Issue: 465 | 15th day of Collecting, Y12
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High Society: Part One


by herdygerdy

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Neopia Central.

      It was originally founded as a gypsy camp. They’d travelled around the globe being generally treated as second class citizens, so when they finally came to a stop they decided that enough was enough.

      They didn’t elect leaders; they didn’t bother with fancy titles like Duke or Viscount. Instead, they just lived in peace and harmony. Whilst a very happy time, most historians also agree it was a very boring time.

      And then, one day, quite out of the blue, one gypsy asked another for a favour.

      Nothing comes for free, not even in times of antiquity, so the favour was granted in exchange for another.

      Payment was born in Neopia Central, and the money talked.

      Sure, there wasn’t anyone really in charge, and in theory they were all equal. Yet, at the same time everyone knew that the gypsy with the most of the shiny gold coins was at the top of the equality pile.

      The free economy blossomed into life, and Neopia Central never looked back. The race was on to get out of the bottom.

      And there is a bottom. In Neopia Central it is unmistakably the Docklands. The poverty and disease run rife in the slums. It is a well known fact that if you end up in the Docklands, you don’t come back out again.

      And then, if there is a bottom, there is a top. In Neopia Central, this can only be the Hills.

      Far above the pollution of the city, the richest enjoy clean air and lavish views, and the smug sense that the poor are quite literally below them. Vast mansions sit in secluded grounds, and high society buzzes between the privet hedges.

      Yet there is another element to Neopia Central than merely trade. It is perhaps a more important one.

      Crime.

      It runs rife through the city, from masterminds to the humble Thieves Guild. Neopia Central is rotten to the core.

      As with trade, in crime there is always the desire to be at the top. In Neopia Central, there were always three people that could be said to be in control, if there ever is such a thing.

      In the Docklands, Seth Vargo controlled the poor.

      In the Marketplace, Alfonso Might controlled business.

      And in the Hills, Lady Floretta Cambridge controlled the rich.

      This all changed with the arrival of Mr. Jennings.

      He had plans for the city, plans to unite it as a whole, and march it forwards towards a glorious future of his own design.

      Yet, in order to unite the city, he needed to be at the top.

      In order to be at the top, he had to remove those above him.

      Mr. Jennings had made a list, of four names. Three were now struck through.

      1. Mr. Jonathan Entwhistle.

      2. Mr. Seth Vargo.

      3. Mr. Alfonso Might.

      4. Lady Floretta Cambridge.

      Mr. Jennings had made progress. Now only one obstacle remained. Soon, he would be at the top. Soon, his rule would be absolute.

     ***

      The green Krawk critically regarded the map that hung on the wall of his new office. It was a modern thing with coloured boundaries between the various countries. Apparently it had been drawn using satellite imagery from the Virtupets Space Station, making it a lot more accurate than old maps.

      But Mr. Jennings didn’t particularly like it. The crispness of the thing lacked something that the ancient map of Neopia he once owned had held in abundance.

      That map had burned, along with the rest of his previous office. Now all that remained of it was a small scrap of the canvas, the part that depicted ancient Neopia Central.

      Mr. Jennings carefully pinned what remained of his old map on top of the new, and stood back.

      His new tower was finally finished. In some ways, it had been a blessing that his old place of business had burnt down. In the recent months his business and criminal empires had boomed in number. There was no way he would ever have had enough space in the small Marketplace building.

      Mr. Jennings was certainly an entrepreneur. When he had been exiled from Shenkuu years ago, new drive had lit fires within him, and he had never looked back.

      His first step had been to buy the Defenders of Neopia, meaning that provided he did nothing illegal publicly, he could essentially never be arrested, as he owned the cells. From there, he had managed to secure the help of Neopia Central’s Zombies. A great deal of them now worked in his construction companies. He’d also started smuggling in cheap labour from Shenkuu, which he used on Kau Kau Farms on the outskirts of the city.

      Then Mr. Jennings had begun to deal with his competition. He’d stolen the thugs Seth Vargo had employed, and organised them as his eyes and ears in the Docklands. Then he’d moved into the business district, and now owned many of the most successful companies in the city.

      Neovision had been his next port of call, and his station, Channel 9, was going from strength to strength. Following the mysterious disappearance of Alfonso Might from a top security cell at the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters (which Jennings had strictly no involvement in), the Krawk had selflessly taken over most of his business interests as well.

      Now, as Jennings stared out of the window down at the city below, he had only one target in his sights.

      Once he controlled the Hills, the city would essentially be his.

      A knock at the door interrupted Jennings from his thoughts.

      “Yes, Mr. Black?” he asked without turning around.

      “The paper, sir,” the large green Grarrl said, dropping a copy of the Neopian Times on the desk.

      Jennings gave it a quick glance over. There were still stories about the disappearance of Alfonso Might. It would blow over in time, though; Jennings was confident of that.

      “You’ve been invited to Mr. Munroe’s house in the Hills, sir,” Black added.

      Jennings looked up from the paper. “Have you obtained a guest list?”

      “Yes, sir,” the Grarrl replied, handing over a list of names. “It’s mostly the same old crowd.”

      The Krawk’s eyes rested over one name in particular.

      “She will be there,” he stated.

      “Yes, sir,” Black replied, knowing exactly who he was talking about.

      “It has been a few weeks since Mr. Might disappeared,” Jennings observed. “We’ve let her stew long enough. It’s time to make our intentions clear.”

     ***

      Mr. Jennings stared at the mini sausage roll in his hand for a moment before eating it.

      “It’s certainly a breakthrough, old boy!” the Chomby he was talking to bellowed.

      The yellow, and noticeably dead Chomby, brandished what appeared to be an air freshener at the Krawk, before spiriting it away back underneath his shirt.

      “All this time we Zombies have been worried about the smell, when the answer was right under our noses!” the Chomby continued.

      “Indeed, Mr. Munroe,” Jennings answered. “And, in a manner of speaking, it still is. I must say that the smell of pine is a welcome change to rotting flesh, but have you perhaps considered the possibility of different smells? Pine is... rather overwhelming.”

      In fact, Jennings had struggled not to make a face when the Chomby had drifted within range of his nostrils. Arthur Munroe was one of the richest Neopets in the city, and was certainly the richest dead one. Whilst he was a jovial and trustworthy sort, he tended to go overboard with new ideas. Jennings suspected that he was wearing at least a dozen air fresheners beneath his shirt.

      “Arthur!” a shrill voice interrupted the two.

      An old blue Bruce in a sparkling dress made her way over to them through the party guests.

      “It’s been too long, Arthur!” she said, patting the Chomby on the hand. “And Mr. Jennings too!”

      “A pleasure, Miss Tobik,” Jennings answered, kissing her hand and making her giggle. “I do however hope that our meeting tonight does not forebode a more disastrous turn of events for the evening... only the last two times we have met...”

      Tobik glanced at Munroe. “Oh, all that business about Arthur dying is water under the bridge now... and the less said about Altador the better. I should very much never like to hear the name Rodney Clacks ever again. But enough about that, what about you? I hear you’ve been very busy lately in the city.”

      Jennings smiled. “I do what I can to survive. I must confess I have been feeling a burden of late, though.”

      “Oh, really?” the Bruce asked.

      “As you may be aware, I have been building a tower in the Docklands for the last few months,” Jennings explained. “In that time I’ve been faced with the realities of poverty in the slums... and I feel as if I should be giving something back to the community.”

      “Charity work?” Munroe asked. “How very noble of you, old boy!”

      “Alas, I cannot do any actual volunteer work,” Jennings chuckled. “My schedule barely allows enough time for sleep as it is. I do however have a considerable amount of profits that I could never possibly find a use for.”

      “Do you have a charity in mind?” Tobik asked.

      “As of yet, no,” Jennings answered.

      “Well then, what a perfectly amazing coincidence!” Tobik remarked shrilly. “I happen to be the vice president of the Women’s Institute! I know it sounds like a charity that doesn’t do much, but we have a number of projects helping out the needy in the Docklands.”

      “Ah yes, I recall reading about you in the Times,” Jennings said, with a hint of a grin that Tobik missed completely. “Record takings, wasn’t it?”

      “Indeed!” Tobik said proudly. “I say! You know, the president is Lady Cambridge, and I do believe she’s here tonight. Would you like to meet her?”

      Jennings let his smile widen. “I would like nothing better, Miss Tobik.”

      “If you’ll excuse us, Arthur? We’ll catch up later!” Tobik said to the Chomby while dragging Jennings away by the arm.

      It wasn’t long before Tobik found her target. A brown Ixi with slightly ruthless looking features was making small talk near the open topped sandwiches.

      “Lady Cambridge!” Tobik called. “Floretta! I have someone who’s just dying to meet you!”

      Jennings observed with amusement that the Ixi’s face fell as soon as she noticed who it was.

      “Mr... Jennings, isn’t it?” Lady Cambridge asked, holding out her hand. “I believe I’ve read about you.”

      Jennings kissed her hand lightly. “And of course, I know all about you, Lady Cambridge.”

      Her nostrils flared slightly. “What is it I can do for you, Mr. Jennings?”

      “He’d like to talk to us about a charitable donation!” Tobik chirped in before turning back to Jennings. “It’s Floretta’s birthday soon, the big four-o. We’re doing so much work in the Docklands as a form of celebration.”

      Lady Cambridge cocked an eyebrow. “A donation? Does he really?”

      Jennings smiled, and noticed as the band started a new song.

      “We can talk about that later,” he said. “Would you care for a dance?”

      Lady Cambridge paused for a moment, clearly wishing with every cell in her body to decline, but eventually said, “I would love to.”

      Jennings took her hand and led her to the dance floor. Far away from Tobik, they found their conversation a little less constrained.

      “You are of course aware, Mr. Jennings, that when people make charitable donations to me... it is because they are in my pocket,” Lady Cambridge said carefully.

      Jennings smiled. Of course he was aware. Lady Cambridge had arrived in the city and taken the Women’s Institute as her own. She used it as a front to control the Hills. She blackmailed half of the population, and intimidated the rest.

      “Indeed,” Jennings replied. “Perhaps then, we should talk of you making a charitable donation to me?”

      Lady Cambridge glared at him as they danced.

      “Certainly, that seems to be a common reaction,” Jennings remarked. “Why, I believe Mr. Vargo and Mr. Might had similar sentiments. I did expect more of you, Lady Cambridge.”

      The Ixi’s features hardened even more, and as the music played on she drew him close and whispered in his ear.

      “Alfonso and Seth were idiots,” she hissed. “They grew complacent in their business, and it cost them. I can assure you that I am no Lady, Mr. Jennings. If you plan on crossing me, you will be disposed of. You are nothing.”

      She leaned back as the dance continued. Jennings smiled briefly, and then spun around her, taking her arm and bringing it up behind her back. To anyone watching, it appeared like it was merely part of the dance, but the pain etched on Lady Cambridge’s face told a different story.

      “You may be no Lady, but I can assure you that I am no Gentleman,” Jennings said in a voice that lacked all of his normal politeness. “I am a trained soldier. Your friends underestimated me, and they are gone. If you do not get out of my way, you will soon follow them.”

      The pressure on her arm was released as the music ended. Lady Cambridge stood visibly shaken for a few moments before she regained her composure.

      “It has been a pleasure, Mr. Jennings,” she said as she curtsied.

      She disappeared through the crowd of guests, leaving Jennings to smile to himself.

To be continued...

 
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