The Knowledge: Part Five
Jennings stared at the Blumaroo curiously. For a computer virus, it certainly looked like the real thing.
“How does it feel, knowing you have no body?” Jennings asked.
It was the Brodman virus’s turn to stare.
“I must congratulate you, Mr. Jennings,” it answered. “Eighty percent of test subjects take over five hours before coming to that realisation.”
Jennings smiled thinly at the compliment.
“However,” the virus added. “You should know that zero percent of test subjects found a way to outwit the process. There is no escape. It is only a matter of time until you show me the contents of the Vault. A man of your intelligence should surely be able to see the benefit of submitting sooner, rather than later.”
Jennings’s mind buzzed as it raced to find some way out of the situation. Every course of action he could think of resulted in failure. There wasn’t a way he could defeat this virus – except one.
“Very well,” Jennings answered. “Let’s go to the bank.”
The Brodman virus led Jennings through the rows of Vaults, as the Tonu had done back in the real world. The Blumaroo seemed to know the path like the back of his hand, not that he really had a hand, of course.
Eventually he stopped outside the vault marked #792.
“I don’t know the access code,” Jennings explained. “How exactly am I meant to open it?”
The virus gestured towards the vault’s handle. “You won’t need a code.”
Jennings reached for it, though he paused as he did so, as a feeling of strange resistance came over him. He plunged on, grasping the handle. As the virus had suggested, the vault’s door unlocked smoothly, and Jennings was able to pull open the door.
The light from the passage flooded into the darkened vault, illuminating the small scrap of paper on the floor.
The Brodman virus came close to a smile, before entering the vault and scooping up the paper. He read it to himself, before turning to Jennings in puzzlement.
“This is it?” the virus demanded. “This is all that was in the vault?”
“Yes,” Jennings said, moving slowly towards the door.
The virus waved the sheet of paper. “But it’s useless.”
“Yes,” Jennings agreed. “However, there is something else in the vault you have failed to perceive.”
The virus looked around, but saw nothing, “What?”
Jennings grasped the handle to the vault before answering, “You.”
The door swung shut before the virus could react, and locked with a satisfying click. Jennings smiled to himself. If the virus couldn’t break into the vault, it couldn’t break out either.
In the cavern of Area 26, deep beneath Neopia Central, Mr. Jennings lay on a small camp bed as the clerks went about their business around him. All manner of wires extended from Jennings’s body to the complicated machinery nearby.
Mr. Brodman sat watching the computer readout, waiting for the results of the virus. An orange Wocky flitted about nearby, maintaining the machinery.
“Saline,” Brodman called her. “What does this mean?”
The Wocky looked at the computer display. “Nothing out of the ordinary... perhaps just an elevated pulse...”
She glanced towards the sleeping body.. “Would you check the pulse, Mr. Brodman?”
The Blumaroo nodded, heading over to Jennings and taking his wrist.
The Krawk was up like a shot, grabbing Brodman firmly with one hand and sliding a dagger from his boot with the other.
“Thank you, Mr. Brodman.” Jennings smiled with malice. “You know, I wouldn’t have been able to gain access to Area 26 by myself, but you let me right inside!”
Jennings prodded Brodman forwards, the Wocky, Saline, standing aside.
“This won’t do you any good,” Brodman said. “You’re surrounded, and in any case, I am not in charge.”
“Indeed.” Jennings smiled. “The fabled Governors are the heads of this little organisation.”
Jennings stopped Brodman as they reached the walkway that ran around the cavern’s perimeter. Ahead of them was the stained glass scene of the idyllic countryside.
“A curious piece of art, don’t you think?” Jennings questioned. “Stained glass, whilst very decorative, it is traditionally used for only one purpose – windows. Which would suggest, Mr. Brodman, that there is something behind it.”
With a flick of his free hand, Jennings launched a paper tray from a nearby desk towards the window. The glass shattered easily, revealing nearly a dozen shocked old Neopets sitting behind.
“The Governors, I presume?” Jennings asked.
“It makes no difference,” Brodman told him. “You’re still surrounded. Kill me if you like; you are only one Neopet – you will never make it out of here alive.”
“Only one, you say?” Jennings smirked. “Mr. Brodman, you really should look up more often.”
At the words of the Krawk, Brodman looked upwards. For the first time in decades, an emotion blossomed into life on the Blumaroo’s face – fear.
High above, on the street which lay above the cavern, were dozens of Defenders. The carriages normally winding down the street were gone, replaced instead with a single device squarely in the middle. The barrels of dynamite visible from the cavern floor confirmed the object’s nature. It was a bomb, and the explosion that followed rocked Area 26 to the core.
Stone rained down on the gathered Neopets as the cavern filled with smoke. The Defenders were abseiling down within a moment, making a beeline straight for the Governors still hiding behind the stained glass windows.
Judge Hog strode through the rubble, a smug grin on his face, shouting, “Take them away, boys.”
“No!” Brodman shouted, managing to break free of Jennings’s grasp.
The Blumaroo ran for one of the exits, disappearing into the smoke before the Defenders could react. Jennings however was right on his tail.
Brodman had the advantage, emerging into the street above them and commandeering a carriage. Jennings emerged a moment later, and smiled at his good fortune. He climbed aboard a nearby carriage and gave an order to the waiting Skeith.
“Mr. Hodgeson, follow that carriage!”
The blue Skeith was happy to oblige, cracking the whip on his Whinnies. The carriage sped off, hot on the heels of Brodman.
“I must thank you, sir!” Hodgeson called over the wind and the noise of the wheels. “The business is booming!”
Jennings remained silent, focused on the carriage in front as it twisted and turned erratically through the streets. But Jennings had an advantage on his side; Hodgeson knew the streets of Neopia Central like no other.
Eventually, Brodman veered left, and a large structure loomed into view in the distance.
“The Twelve Ways...” Jennings murmured. “He’ll hope to lose us!”
The magical fusion of twelve different routes from which no traffic had ever escaped would prove an effective deterrent.
Ahead of them, Brodman skidded sideways, colliding with the back end of the Twelve Ways queue. The Blumaroo survived, running off into the mists that surrounded the junction.
Hodgeson also struggled to stop in time, colliding with Brodman’s carriage.
“Thank you, Mr. Hodgeson,” Jennings said, jumping down from his perch. “I’ll go on foot from now.”
Jennings set off through the mists, into the Twelve Ways. As he passed the waiting carriages, he dared to glance inside only once. Neopets stared back at him with hollow eyes, as if they were nothing more than ghosts, waiting patiently in line.
Jennings felt an odd magical tingle as he passed through the first of the magical fields that made up the Twelve Ways. At once he found himself atop the structure, on a tight bend that overlooked the city. Ahead of him, Brodman was bent double, gasping for breath.
“This is the end of the road,” Jennings told him.
Brodman span, backing away.
“So what’s this? You’re going to kill us all like you did with the last batch you went up against?” the Blumaroo demanded.
“No,” Jennings replied.
“I don’t believe you!” Brodman spat, his previous emotionless tone now nothing more than a memory.
He continued to back away, but reached the edge of the road. He lost his balance, toppling over the edge. As he fell, Jennings darted forwards, grabbing him by the wrist and stopping him from falling.
“What are you doing!?” Brodman shouted.
“Things have changed, Mr. Brodman,” Jennings told him. “I don’t dispose of people in the shadows any more. The whole world is going to see me pull you up, saving your life. You’re going to boost my reputation in ways you can’t even imagine.”
Brodman glanced over his shoulder as he dangled there. A hot air balloon was drifting closer, the aerial camera of Channel 9 News. Below him, the Defenders of Neopia were fighting through the traffic.
“And the whole world is going to see you be arrested,” Jennings added, pulling the Blumaroo up.
Judge Hog arrived moments later.
“Mr. Brodman,” he announced, “you are under arrest.”
The following morning the Defenders of Neopia gave a tour of Area 26 to the media. A portly green Bruce from Channel 9 was interviewing Judge Hog as they walked through the rubble.
“We have chosen not to arrest the low level employees,” the Judge explained. “We believe it to have been the brainchild of those at the top, who are now behind bars.”
“And what’s going to happen to the facility?” the Bruce asked.
“If I may?” Jennings cut in. “Area 26 contains a complete record of Neopian life since... well, since there were records. It would be a crime to close such an establishment down. In the coming weeks, Area 26 will be incorporated into the National Neopian Museum. All the information here will be available for public use, and can be sent through the Expellibox to anywhere on the planet. Think of this place as a more comprehensive Neopedia.”
Jennings allowed a brief glance to the orange Wocky nearby. She nodded, signifying that whatever information Brodman had that incriminated Jennings would be removed before the archives were made public.
Some time later, Jennings made his way back to street level. There was much less congestion, he noted. Another change was also immediately evident. His own carriage was waiting, a green Grarrl atop.
“Mr. Black!” Jennings greeted him. “You have recovered from your illness?”
“Yes, sir,” Black answered. “Ready for work as ever, sir.”
“Good,” Jennings said, moving to open the carriage door.
“Sir.” Black stopped him. “I’ve heard about what’s been happening, and I hope you don’t mind me asking... but what was in the vault?”
Jennings smiled, and took a small slip of paper from inside his jacket pocket. It had been there the entire time. Jennings handed it to Black. It read:
‘This is really going to drive them mad – and that should be enough for you to do what you must.’
Black chuckled to himself as Jennings climbed inside the carriage.
“I believe we have an appointment with Mr. Kanrik,” Jennings said.
“Yes, sir,” Black replied.
He cracked the whip, and the carriage rattled off down the street.