The Knowledge: Part One
There are several things that are unavoidable in life. Death and taxes are commonly noted, but there are other things that all Neopets will experience at some point in their lives. One such thing is illness.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a king or a beggar, at some point you will feel at least a little under the weather.
In the Dockland slums of Neopia Central, where diseases are swapped like trading cards, illness is more common than usual.
On the outskirts of the Docklands, it was Mr. Black’s turn to have an illness.
The large green Grarrl sat up in his bed, still in his bedclothes, struggling to focus on the green Krawk standing at the foot of his bed, in between his deafening sniffs.
“Sorry, sir,” Black told the Krawk. “I just won’t be able to come into work this week. I can barely make it out of bed.”
The Krawk smiled pleasantly. “I quite understand, Mr. Black. I can only wish you the speediest of recoveries.”
“Thank you, sir,” Black replied. “Though I’m sorry I won’t be of service.”
“Please don’t think anything of it,” the Krawk said dismissively. “Of course, you will be missed, but I have enlisted Mr. Twobit to fill your duties in the meantime. Never fear, Mr. Black, everything is in hand.”
The Krawk hesitated as Black appeared to be on the verge of sneezing, before adding, “I shall leave you to your recovery.”
The Krawk let himself out of the small house, cringing at the sound of the earthquake-like sneeze from the upper floors. Outside he found his carriage waiting. A red Kougra sat atop it, Johnny Twobit. So called because they said if you crossed him, they’d only find two bits of you.
“Where to, Mr. Jennings, sir?” the Kougra asked.
“The Art Centre, if you would, Mr. Twobit,” the Krawk replied, stepping inside the carriage.
With a crack of the whip, the Whinnies sped into motion and they were away, moving out of the pollution of the Docklands and back into the more respectable parts of the city.
The Krawk, Mr. Jennings, leaned back in his seat as he watched the city streets roll by. Once he had been a newcomer to the place, but he had taken to it with such commitment that he now lived and breathed the city. This was just as well, as in theory he was in charge of the place, in a quite unofficial capacity.
He was, in the strictest sense of the word, a criminal, but by taking ownership of the Defenders of Neopia, most of the companies operating in the city, and a sizable number of the inhabitants, he had become the de facto ruler.
The carriage came to a gentle stop in the middle of the street, and Jennings poked his head out of the window.
“Mr. Twobit,” Jennings observed. “This is not the Art Centre.”
“Traffic, sir,” Twobit replied, gesturing ahead of the carriage.
Sure enough, there was a queue of carriages stretching out in front of them as far as the eye could see.
Jennings gave Twobit a curious look. “Mr. Black normally goes via Kensington Avenue, not down Tuckley Road.”
“Sorry, sir,” Twobit replied. “Not used to navigating outside of the Docklands, sir.”
Jennings stared at Twobit for a moment before returning to his seat and sighing deeply. He checked his pocket watch with a critical eye and sighed again. He would be late; he knew it. Kanrik would be most unhappy.
Jennings waited, tapping his foot for several minutes, before finally losing his patience. He opened the door to his carriage and stepped out.
“I think I shall make my own way, Mr. Twobit,” Jennings announced. “Please return the carriage to my offices whenever you are able.”
Not waiting for a reply, he turned and set off down the street at a brisk pace, away from the direction of the traffic.
The Art Centre was of course too far to walk, but he hoped that he would come across a taxi at some point. Normally Jennings shied away from such forms of transport, as in Neopia Central they were known to be somewhat unreliable, but still, needs must.
Jennings came across one soon enough, a rickety looking carriage with a yellow sign painted on the back. The Krawk coughed loudly to wake the blue Skeith sleeping at the reins.
“Excuse me? Is this a taxi?” he asked.
The Skeith straightened up and adjusted his cap. “Yes, squire, Hodgeson & Sons, cab drivers for five generations! Where’ll it be?”
Jennings climbed aboard. “The Art Centre, if you please. Tuckley Road is blocked up; I advise taking Kensington Avenue.”
The Skeith merely laughed. “Kensington Avenue, at this time of day!? No, squire, I’ll take you there by White Lane, little shortcut I know.”
Jennings did some mental calculations in his head before smiling. “How very interesting.”
He closed the door to the taxi, and they were on their way.
That night, Jennings sat alone in his office, a high rise tower in the heart of the Docklands smog. Johnny Twobit had long since been sent home for the night, and Jennings was finishing his paperwork under the light of a single lamp.
His deal with Kanrik of the Thieves Guild had gone remarkably well, several dozen crates of stolen goods had been smuggled in and out of the city successfully.
Jennings paused in his writing as he considered the events that had occurred before he reached the catacombs. There was a problem in the city, this he could see plainly. Traffic was out of control.
His gaze drifted out of his window, to a structure in the distance that in many ways embodied the problem perfectly.
It was a relic, left over from a time when Neopia Central briefly experimented with methods of magically solving the city’s problems. They called it the Twelve Ways, and like most of the magical experiments attempted in Neopia Central, it was a grand and utter failure.
It was, at the heart of the matter, a junction. The Defenders of Neopia had approached a crazy old wizard known as Alvare Thornpipe, who would eventually become known for creating such failures as the Qasalan Expellibox, and asked him to solve the traffic congestion in the city.
Whilst many cities around the globe contained labyrinthine constructions known as spaghetti junctions, Thornpipe had proposed what he called a spaghetti and meatballs junction. It was a magical fusion of twelve different major routes, and contained several roads that defied the standard physics of Neopia by allowing traffic to travel vertically.
The problem with the Twelve Ways became immediately apparent at its unveiling. The thing immediately became blocked with traffic, and remained in such a way from that moment forward. This of course puzzled many locals, as the place was busy despite no actual carriages having approached the area.
Several teams of investigators were dispatched from the National Neopian Museum to discover exactly who the mystery gridlocked travellers were, but they never returned. This led in subsequent generations to an interesting theory. Due to the uncertain nature of time surrounding the magic used in the construction of the Twelve Ways, it may have actually been the investigative team caught in the traffic.
Regardless of the identity of the travellers, word had soon spread that the Twelve Way was to be avoided. In typical Neopia Central style, the problem had been ignored rather than dealt with.
But Mr. Jennings was not a typical Neopia Central man. He dealt with problems, and as he thoughtfully tapped his pen on his paper, he knew he would be able to deal with this one.
Perhaps the taxi driver he had met would be the key.
Jennings finished the last of his paperwork and left his office, heading for the ground floor. He would be able to find the taxi driver at this time of night; he clearly didn’t get much sleep judging by Jennings’s first encounter with him.
Judge Hog would also need to be persuaded if the plan quickly formulating in the Krawk’s mind was to be implemented. But that wouldn’t be difficult; Jennings normally found a way to bring the Judge round to his way of thinking, normally by making the Judge think he came up with the idea himself.
The problem, Jennings considered, was that there was a lack of knowledge. Education, forced education, was the only solution. There was only one way to force people to become educated.
Mr. Jennings needed to make a law.
The lift delivered Jennings to the ground floor of the building with a gentle ting. He nodded curtly to the security guard on duty behind his desk in the lobby, knowing full well that until the lift had made a noise, the Aisha had been asleep. Jennings had on many occasions taken the stairs down to the lobby just to check this theory.
Of course, strictly speaking Jennings needed no security guard. No one in the Docklands was stupid enough to try anything. But the Krawk liked to have such things around, just for the look of things.
Jennings emerged out into the frosty smog-ridden streets of the Docklands. To his surprise, he found an unfamiliar carriage waiting for him.
The door opened, revealing a suited blue Blumaroo inside.
“Mr. Jennings?” the Blumaroo asked in such a way that made it seem more like a statement than an enquiry. “You have an appointment.”
To be continued...