All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating: Part Six
A few hours after meeting Galem, Jennings proceeded to his next destination, the comforting click of his old diamond tipped cane marking his progress along the Docklands streets.
Larry Tights was largely a mystery to Jennings. He had only ever heard of the man in passing, really. In this era, he filled the perpetual title of Docklands Boss, one that had been filled by Seth Vargo in Jennings’s time. It included ownership of most of the construction industries of the city, and as a result, control over most of the Docklands population.
It was a lucrative and profitable position to be in, though due to the nature of Docklands life it was also one of the most dangerous positions to be in. Loyalties and leaders changed fast; Seth Vargo managed to hold on for so long largely by eliminating everyone else... and by the sounds of it, Larry Tights had only been on top for so long because of his deal with Judge Irons.
Jennings didn’t know for sure where he was heading, but his dealings with Seth Vargo had led him to assume that one Docklands boss was roughly equal to another. Vargo had spent almost his entire life in Pizzaroo, and Jennings imagined that Tights would be similarly entrenched in a different restaurant within the city.
Indeed, it wasn’t long before Jennings found the correct location, an unassuming café on the outskirts of the Docklands named Uncle Franks. Jennings knew immediately that he had found the right place due to the entourage of stocky Neopets that surrounded one of the tables.
Jennings approached the table, discovering with some interest that the man they were all protecting was a small yellow Kiko who was busy drinking coffee and not paying any attention to Jennings.
“Mr. Tights?” Jennings asked.
The Kiko fixed the Krawk with a glare. “Who wants to know?”
“Mr. Frobisher,” Jennings answered. “I’m in Acquisitions. I’m here to propose a little bit of business.”
The Kiko smiled. “Then take a seat, Frobisher. Seth! Get this gentleman a seat!”
An overweight young yellow Skeith stood to attention and procured a seat from a nearby table. Jennings regarded the bodyguard with a mixture of curiosity and contempt.
Seth... Seth Vargo. Could it be the same person? Here was the man Jennings was fated to clash with, and ultimately destroy in his quest to rule the city’s streets. And here he was, a lowly bodyguard?
But in a way, that made perfect sense. They always said Seth Vargo rose through the ranks of the underworld by hitting people on the head, until one day he got promoted, and hit...
Jennings’s eyes drifted back to the Kiko, and he smiled as he sat down.
“Judge Irons,” Jennings announced.
“What about him?” Tights demanded.
“I know you’re paying him protection money,” Jennings explained. “How would you like to stop?”
“I’d love it,” Tights chuckled. “Though I doubt the Judge would be happy.”
Jennings half smiled. “I’m suggesting we have him removed, Mr. Tights.”
Tights rolled back in his chair, letting out a deep belly laugh.
“Remove?” he laughed. “You don’t remove Defenders. They come after you, Frobisher. And they come after you hard.”
“Not if you take down the rest of them as well,” Jennings stated simply. “The ones that are rotten, and leave only the ones that are too stupid or noble for revenge.”
“A wonderful idea, but I simply don’t have the manpower to do that.”
“That’s the beauty of what I’m suggesting, Mr. Tights,” Jennings explained. “They’ll remove themselves if we paint them into enough of a corner. All I need from you is a little crime.”
“A little?” Tights asked.
Jennings smiled. “A lot, if it’s at all possible. Spread throughout the city, to cause as much chaos as possible, so that the Defenders are overwhelmed. I’ve already consulted with Mr. Darkhand of the Thieves Guild and he agrees to the plan.”
“You want me to follow the lead of the Thieves Guild!?” Tights spat.
“No,” Jennings said carefully. “In fact, I want you to go out of your way not to follow their lead. Uncoordinated, random crime. Chaos on the streets, Mr. Tights, that’s what I would like.”
Tights leaned back, considering this.
“Mr... Frobisher, was it?” he asked.
“Sorry, but it seems to me I have a pretty nice deal at the moment,” the Kiko replied. “I may be paying protection money, but in return I pretty much have a monopoly on crime in the Docklands. But I’ll be happy to pass your name onto the Judge.”
Behind the Kiko, Jennings could see the cogs turning in Seth Vargo’s mind.
“You’d rather live in the shadow of the Judge?” Jennings asked, more aiming the question at the Skeith than the Kiko. “This is your chance to really be on top in this city. All you have to do is take it.”
“Like I said, no,” Tights replied flatly.
Jennings smiled and stood up.
“Wait,” the voice of Vargo piped up. “Boss, you sure about this? The Judge is a thorn in our side; if we’re rid of him we can do what we like! No more sticking to the Docklands.”
“I’m the one in charge here, Seth,” Tights snapped. “You ain’t.”
Wrong move... Jennings commented internally.
Vargo’s arm moved, scooping the Kiko up in one movement and passing the struggling mass to another bodyguard.
“Take Mr. Tights somewhere private,” he ordered.
The guard paused, but upon seeing Vargo’s fist clench, he took the small ball that was Mr. Tights and disappeared with the screaming Neopet into the back room.
The screams of rage fell abruptly silent.
Vargo sat on the vacant chair. “I’m in charge now.”
Jennings smiled wryly.
“Mr. Frobisher,” Vargo announced. “You’ve got a deal.”
Jennings let his smile widen. “Excellent.”
The loyalty of Galem and the Thieves Guild has been insured, and I believe Seth Vargo will blindly follow my suggestion believing that it will increase his standing in the city. In the long term, he may be right, but the immediate consequences of his actions will certainly fall more on his shoulders than Galem’s. The date is set – the night before the opening of the new Defenders Headquarters, chaos will reign in the streets of Neopia Central. In the meantime, I must ensure that at least some of the Defenders survive the onslaught. Judge Hog – that is, Super Hog – must be kept innocent if the city is to recover.
Jennings once more caught the future Judge while he was on his routine lunchtime errands for the other senior Defenders.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“I have made significant progress with our mutual problem, Mr. Hog,” Jennings told him. “Is there some place we can talk?”
Once again, Jennings accompanied the superhero to Pizzaroo, and they selected a table in the corner that allowed them to talk without being overheard.
“Well?” the Moehog asked.
“The less you know about it the better,” Jennings told him. “Sufficed to say that the day before your new headquarters open will be quite busy.”
“You think that’s going to stop Judge Irons?” Super Hog grunted. “He’ll just flatten the Docklands in response.”
Jennings smiled. “Yes, he will.”
“You want him to?” the future Judge questioned.
“Of course. Irons will strike hard and wide,” Jennings replied. “He’ll be aiming for... my associates, of course – but in the process he’ll crush the innocent. The response from the surviving Docklands population will be instantaneous, and deadly. And that is why I have come to speak with you today. There are others in the Defenders like yourself, who oppose the Judge’s views, correct?”
The Moehog nodded. “A dozen, perhaps. All low level, like me.”
“Then it is vital that you and those with similar beliefs to you are not involved in the Judge’s counter strike,” Jennings explained. “I don’t care how you get out of it, but you must. When the Judge is toppled, there must be someone else to come in and pick up the pieces, someone with clean hands.”
The Moehog chuckled. “You’re suggesting I become the new Judge?”
Jennings smiled. “All I’m concerned about is that the Defenders continue. This exercise is to remove the rot – not the organisation.”
“Who are you?” Super Hog demanded suddenly.
“You’re not from the city, there are things you don’t know – so there’s no way you grew up here, and from the looks of you you’re no Haunted Woods citizen.”
“I told you, I’m from Roo Island,” Jennings lied. “I’m in Acquisitions.”
“I ran a background check on you,” the Moehog revealed. “Low level Defenders get all the paper work so it wasn’t difficult to do it without being noticed. There’s no one on Roo Island by the name of Frobisher. So either your name’s a lie or your origin is – personally, I don’t believe either. And then there’s ‘Acquisitions’, a meaningless description that could refer to a hundred or more jobs. What do you want, Frobisher? Why are you here? Why is the fate of the Defenders so important to you?”
“There are some people who are interested in power, Mr. Hog,” Jennings began to explain, intending to deliver the same lie he had given Galem.
“Don’t give me any rubbish about being an anarchist,” the Moehog snapped. “I know there’s more to it than that. You just want Judge Irons out of the way, not chaos, which means you must be from the city if you have a vendetta against him – but you’re not from the city. You don’t add up, Frobisher.”
Jennings smiled. “Perhaps in time you will come to understand more about me. For now though, you must concern yourself with the more immediate future. Judge Irons.”
Jennings stood up and left Super Hog to his thoughts. He couldn’t risk staying any longer; the Moehog was getting so dangerously close to the truth.
To be continued...