All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating: Part Three
I must confess that my knowledge of Neopia Central in this era is limited; after all, at the time I was more concerned with making a name for myself in the Imperial Army of Shenkuu than in foreign politics. I know that Judge Irons was considered a no-nonsense Defender in his time – the kind to shoot the crossbow first and ask questions later. I shall have to meet the man if I have any hope of understanding him, and putting history back to how it should be.
Jennings once more found luck on his side, for the following night after meeting Professor Thornpipe was a date that was immediately familiar to Jennings that would allow him access to the Judge – the annual Defenders Ball. It was a formal gathering for all serving Defenders and a select few of the rich and famous in the city.
The event in Jennings’s time was hosted in the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters, but thirty years in the past the building was still under construction. Thornpipe had been kind enough to tell Jennings that the Ball would be hosted in a Hills mansion, the home of one Arthur Munroe.
Jennings borrowed the Museum’s carriage, and made his way to the mansion. A brief trip to a joke shop in the Marketplace had been all Jennings needed for his disguise.
The carriage pulled to a stop outside the gargantuan home, and Jennings stepped out. The fake moustache he was wearing balanced perfectly under his nostrils.
“May I see your invitation, Mr...?” the Wocky butler on the door asked.
“Frobisher, Mr. Frobisher,” Jennings introduced himself. “I’m here on behalf of the National Neopian Museum.”
“Your invitation, sir,” the Wocky repeated.
“I’m afraid someone in the Magical Research Department turned it into a cabbage,” Jennings lied, handing over a cabbage he had purchased earlier. “You know how wizards can get.”
“Yes,” the Wocky replied, turning up his nose slightly. “I do. Please go right in, sir.”
Jennings was allowed right into the heart of the party. The elegant ballroom was finely decorated, and the gathered Defenders were all wearing their very best costumes. The non-Defenders in the room could easily be identified by their sharp suits and elegant dresses.
Jennings immediately recognised the yellow Chomby milling about near the buffet – Arthur Munroe, the Ball’s host. In the future, he would become one of the city’s most prominent zombie rights activists; it was refreshing to see the man in a significantly less undead state.
“I don’t recall that I’ve had the pleasure,” a shrill voice said, interrupting Jennings’s scan of the room.
A middle-aged blue Bruce in a peacock coloured ball gown was stood nearby. Even though thirty years had added a number of wrinkles to the Bruce’s face, Jennings immediately recognised her.
“Mr. Frobisher,” Jennings answered, kissing her hand. “And you must be Miss Tobik.”
The Bruce giggled, “I see my reputation comes before me,” but then looked slightly offended, “though it’s Ms. Tobik, if you please, Mr. Frobisher. My husband is here, after all.”
Jennings paused for a moment. Tobik had been a widower since they first met. Eventually, he added, “Ms. Tobik, of course.”
The Bruce smiled. “And what do you do in the city, Mr. Frobisher? My husband’s in insurance himself.”
“Acquisitions,” Jennings answered vaguely. “I’m relatively new to the city though.”
“Oh really, where are you from?” the Bruce asked.
Jennings faltered, struggling to think of a legitimate land that Neopia Central knew about thirty years ago, before eventually answering, “Roo Island.”
“Oh, how charming!” Tobik exclaimed.
“Indeed,” Jennings agreed. “I must admit to being unfamiliar with a lot of the guests tonight... why, I don’t even know which one is Judge Irons!”
Tobik looked shocked, and took Jennings’s bait, “You don’t? Well, we can soon remedy that! Follow me and I shall introduce you!”
Tobik led Jennings through the throng of party guests to a stocky looking fire Eyrie in a Defenders outfit. The Eyrie wore what seemed to be a fixed grave expression, and a scar that ran across his face seemed to give him a slightly menacing air.
“Judge Irons!” Tobik called. “Oh, Judge Irons!”
Jennings observed the Judge’s face fall even further, “Ms. Tobik,” he grunted.
“I have someone to introduce you to, Judge,” Tobik continued. “This is Mr. Frobisher; he’s new to the city, from Roo Island. He’s in Acquisitions.”
Irons shook Jennings’s hand, nodding curtly but not saying a word.
“It’s a pleasure, Judge,” Jennings ventured. “I’ve been admiring your new building in the city, truly a great work of architecture.”
“Can’t stand it myself,” Irons grunted, almost seeming affronted by the idea of conversation. “But needs must; we need more cells.”
“Certainly,” Jennings pressed. “Though, I would like to discuss a business opportunity with you. You see, in my dealings on Roo Island, I came into possession of a great deal of reinforced steel that you might want for your cells.”
“The Defenders is not a business, Mr. Frobisher,” Irons snapped. “We have what we need, and if it is found wanting, we will not barter for supplements. We are interested in the rule of law – not trade.”
With that, Irons returned to a steely silence that Jennings suspected would not be broken. Tobik had excused herself to attend to a different guest, and Jennings found himself gravitating away from the awkward silence.
The reputation Irons had as a no nonsense leader was certainly well founded. Jennings wouldn’t be able to manipulate him into doing something foolish by himself... he needed something more, he’d most certainly need help.
All at once, Jennings found himself face to face with another familiar Neopian. Age would change the Moehog now in front of him – but not into a doddery old figure like Tobik. Thirty years would give this Neopet the confidence his inexperienced eyes now lacked.
Yet, it was definitely him – Judge Hog, in the flesh. His costume was similar, but his frame far less bulky. He couldn’t have been far out of his teens.
“And you are?” Jennings asked.
The Moehog looked shocked at being addressed, as if it didn’t normally happen.
“Super Hog,” he answered. “Junior Defender.”
“Mr. Frobisher,” Jennings introduced himself. “I’m in Acquisitions in the city.”
The future Judge narrowed his eyes. “No, you’re not.”
“I’m... not?” Jennings asked.
“You’ve got that look in your eyes,” Hog replied. “The look of someone who’s up to no good. You’re lucky the Judge gets so irritated by these events, otherwise he’d have noticed and thrown you behind bars.”
“Despite not actually doing anything wrong?” Jennings asked.
The Moehog snorted into his drink. “You’re obviously not familiar with the way Judge Irons keeps the peace – by locking up anyone with the potential to break it... unless they have an agreement with the Defenders, of course.”
Jennings’s attention was piqued. “What do you mean, agreement?”
“Nothing,” Hog replied with a glance towards Irons. “I didn’t say a word.”
Jennings smiled at the Moehog, before making his way across the room. He made a mental note to ask the Moehog who would be Judge more when he wasn’t quite as close to his immediate superiors.
Jennings had not been to sleep. With no Neopoints on his person, and no home to go to, it simply was not an option. Instead, he had wandered the streets, slowly trying to become more accustomed to the city he now inhabited. The Docklands, at least, had not changed much beyond the absence of the Krawk’s tower, but then Jennings doubted the Docklands had ever really changed.
The rest of the city was very different, though, much smaller to Jennings’s eyes. Business had yet to really take a choke hold on the city, and criminal moguls like Lady Cambridge, Alfonso Might, and Seth Vargo were not yet old enough to have developed their industrial monopolies.
In many ways, the city was a lot more optimistic than the one he had left behind. There was still so much that could be achieved, and so much that Jennings knew would be achieved. However, there was an undercurrent that Jennings noticed on the faces of the city’s inhabitants.
They were living in fear.
Judge Irons came down hard on anyone even suspected of hearing about a crime – each new day came with only one question, “Will I be arrested today?”
There was no doubt that the Judge’s approach worked; crime was unquestionably down as no one dared to commit one for fear of the Judge’s unrelenting and merciless retribution. But as a byproduct, it had turned Neopia Central into a tinderbox. It was only a matter of time until too many people were arrested – then there would be a revolution. Jennings understood now that the approval rating Irons currently had was because no one would dare say a word against him.
This had led Jennings to a conclusion. If the city was a tinderbox, then Jennings was a match. He just had to work out where he needed to aim the spark for maximum results.
Jennings was brought out of his thoughts by a Draik on the street corner nearby winking at him surreptitiously. It was unquestionably Professor Thornpipe, but he seemed to have gone out of his way to try and disguise himself with a hat, newspaper, and long coat.
“I’ve thought some more about your problem,” Thornpipe whispered as Jennings drew near. “I believe I have a solution, but it won’t be easy.”
“What do you need?” Jennings replied.
“I believe I can design a device that will convey you back to your own time – that shouldn’t be an issue,” Thornpipe explained. “The problem is powering the device.”
“You can’t use your own magical abilities?”
Thornpipe laughed. “I wish; I would need far more than I possess. I have calculated that I will need 1.21 Gigawatts of magical energy. Do you know how my counterpart in the future managed such a feat?”
Jennings considered this. “A bolt of lightning.”
Thornpipe nodded. “I assumed so, using a Hedgefield Magical Catalytic Converter, I don’t doubt. The problem is, Mr. Jennings, that we don’t know when and where a bolt of lightning is going to strike.”
“What a pity I did not bring back a convenient newspaper clipping about a lightning strike thirty years ago,” Jennings observed. “Though Neopia Central still has a National Grid in this time, does it not?”
“Oh yes, of course,” Thornpipe said dismissively. “But normally there’s not enough energy in the system. We’d need some kind of power surge in order to generate the required amount... and you’d only get that when something really big is turned on.”
Jennings considered this. “Then I believe we have a solution. Will the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters be enough?”
Thornpipe gasped, “Great Scott! All those lights and security systems! Yes, that will do just fine!”
“Then we have a date for my departure.” Jennings smiled. “You will send me back to the future on the day the Headquarters is opened.”
“Now,” Jennings added. “If you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with a Defender.”
To be continued...