All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating: Part Seven
Today is the day. Tomorrow the Defenders Headquarters will be opened, and if Professor Thornpipe is to be believed then I will be heading back to my own time. Galem Darkhand and Seth Vargo have been true to their words; I woke this morning in the Museum’s cellars to find the sirens and screams already spreading from the Docklands. It’s barely past lunchtime and I can already see fires burning on the horizon. The Defenders are overstretched, and the criminals are running the streets. It shouldn’t be long before other criminals catch on to what’s happening and join in, creating even more chaos. It’s all happening exactly to plan.
Jennings paused in his writing, glancing up to the horizon and the burning red glow. From his perch on the Museum’s roof he could see a lot of the city, and observe a lot of the crime taking place.
He was struck at once with a sudden sense of power. He had caused this. The Night of the Flaming Torches, the night when Judge Irons was removed from power, would become known as one of the swiftest and bloodiest revolts in history. And Jennings had put it in motion.
But that wasn’t all he had done. He’d set Galem Darkhand on the path of ruin, paving the way for Kanrik. He’d encouraged Seth Vargo’s rise to power in the Docklands.
Now Jennings began to consider how much more he could do. He had thirty years of history in his head – he could change so much. He could prevent Vargo’s hold on the Docklands from increasing, stop Lady Cambridge and Alfonso Might from gaining their footholds of power. In Bannerman Alley, Mrs. Clasp was being held prisoner by Area 26, and Jennings could topple the organisation thirty years before it became known to the public. Outside of Neopia Central, he could prevent the Meridell-Darigan wars completely. He could save King Coltzan from his poisoning, prepare Neopia for Dr. Sloth’s invasion, and stop the fall of Faerieland. He could make this world so much better than the one he had left.
He was interrupted from his thoughts by the sounds of someone approaching. Jennings turned to see Professor Thornpipe. The Draik was panting slightly at the effort of climbing the many flights of stairs to the roof.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said knowingly. “It’s not worth it.”
“You don’t know the world I come from,” Jennings replied. “The next thirty years will be filled with so much heartache, and I can stop it all. I can craft something new, something beautiful.”
“I’m sure it’s not all that bad,” Thornpipe said.
“Really?” Jennings asked, finally biting the bullet and deciding to tell Thornpipe what was to come. “Very soon, you are going to be declared insane, Professor. You leave the department to become one of the strangest wizards ever known, eventually dying in Sakhmet, a desert beyond the Haunted Woods, after creating a device with no operating manual. Neopia Central will not fare any better. Countless crime lords will tear the city apart until I arrive to eliminate them, and take their place – and that’s the strangest thing, Professor.”
“I am removing one dictator, in the hopes that one day another will come to replace him,” Jennings explained. “Irons and I are in the same business, controlling people. It is only our methods that differ. Perhaps if I was to create a different future, I would be able to replace a dictator with something better.”
“Maybe,” Thornpipe conceded. “But maybe you would make something worse. You are different from Irons, at least – that much I know. He seeks to control people so that the world can be kept the same. You seek to control it so that it can be changed.”
“And change makes everything alright?”
Thornpipe smiled. “I am a scientist, Mr. Jennings. Change is my career. To me, there can be nothing more important.”
Silence enveloped the rooftop as Jennings digested the Professor’s words. Eventually, Thornpipe noticed the paper Jennings had been writing on.
“What are you doing, Mr. Jennings?” the Professor enquired.
“Writing,” Jennings explained. “If your plan doesn’t work, I should like some record of what I have been doing here to survive. I trust you can keep it somewhere safe where it will not be opened until my time period? I should like someone in my time to know what became of Mr. Jennings, even if I cannot return.”
The Draik nodded, and Jennings began to wonder why Thornpipe had come to the roof.
“Can I help you, Professor?” Jennings asked.
“It seems your scheme is working,” Thornpipe said. “Though we have a small problem.”
Jennings’s eyes drifted to a small beaten Petpet cage the Draik was holding.
“In order to prevent any changes to the timeline after you leave, we must ensure that absolutely everything that travelled back travels forwards again,” Thornpipe explained. “You’ve already recovered your cane, and I salvaged this from the area you said you arrived in.”
He placed the cage on the wall in front of Jennings, “Do you see our problem?”
“The cage is empty,” Jennings said with knowing dread.
“And I can assume from your tone that it wasn’t empty when you left your own time?” Thornpipe asked.
“No, it contained a Snowbunny,” Jennings said. “One named Quantum.”
“I’m afraid I have no idea what a Snowbunny is, Mr. Jennings,” Thornpipe said, scratching his head. “But you must find it.”
Jennings gazed out to the city. The task would normally be more difficult than finding a needle in a dozen haystacks, but he’d just set the city ablaze. It would be almost impossible to find the Petpet before Jennings was due to leave.
Jennings sighed. “Well, I had better get started then.”
The Snowbunny wouldn’t be imported to the city from Terror Mountain for decades, but Jennings was able to give an accurate description to the Professor, who was able to quickly design a device to locate the creature.
The small handheld compass whirred in the Krawk’s hands, pointing him ominously towards the areas of the city that were ablaze.
Jennings followed the directions of the compass needle as it led him closer towards the Docklands. Finally, it seemed to pause outside a boarded up house on the outskirts of the district, before pointing inside. The lick of flames had not yet reached that street; hopefully Jennings would be able to recover the Petpet without any trouble.
Jennings forced the door, finding it buckled surprisingly easy, as if it was opened a great deal more often that it appeared to be. Inside Jennings found a cobweb-ridden house, the furniture thick with dust as if no one had lived in the place for years. The Krawk smiled as he saw Snowbunny tracks in the dust, leading upstairs.
Jennings followed the tracks into one of the house’s bedrooms, where he discovered they disappeared under one of the beds. Bending down, he saw the white mass huddled in the corner.
Jennings smiled. “Hello again, Quantum.”
Jennings climbed under the bed to reach the Petpet, dragging it towards him as soon as it was in reach. Quantum trembled slightly in the Krawk’s arms, snuffling into his jacket.
Another noise gained Jennings’s immediate attention, though – the sound of the front door opening downstairs. Voices echoed up the staircase, and Jennings thought he recognised at least one of them. He pressed his ear to the floorboards, keenly aware that noise travelled through walls and floors in the Docklands like paper.
“I don’t see why we have to meet out here,” a voice was saying. “We should be out catching the criminals on the streets!”
There was something familiar about the voice, Jennings thought.
“We will be, Brexis,” the unmistakable voice of Judge Hog came back. “But first, there’s something you should all know.”
Brexis... was that Sergeant Brexis? The Judge’s second in command?
“What is it?” a third voice asked.
“Judge Irons is going to strike back for this,” the Moehog who would one day become Judge Hog stated. “And he’s going to hurt innocent people in retaliation.”
“Tell us something we don’t know.”
“It’s got to stop, and it will,” Judge Hog replied. “People are going to strike back.”
“How do you know?”
“Because someone’s going to arrange it,” Judge Hog said flatly. “In fact, they already have. Anyone involved is going to be in serious trouble this time tomorrow. And we can’t be involved... tomorrow, we all have to apply for traffic duty or something. I refuse to be part of the Judge’s revenge.”
“Someone?” Brexis questioned. “Someone’s planning on removing the Judge?”
“Don’t worry,” Judge Hog confirmed. “Judge Irons will be removed, but I’m going to go after the person who’s planned all this. There’s no way someone so dangerous can be allowed to walk free.”
“You’re sure about this?”
“This time tomorrow, the Defenders will be clean, and one of the city’s most dangerous criminals will be behind bars,” the Judge replied. “Tomorrow we can all start Defending instead of Enforcing.”
The Defenders left the house, but Jennings waited a few minutes before leaving. The one planning it out, the one too dangerous to walk free – that was Jennings. Judge Hog was planning on arresting him... he needed to leave, as soon as possible.
He eased himself out from under the bed and made his way downstairs, sheltering Quantum under his jacket.
“Right,” Thornpipe said with a hint of schoolboy glee. “This is a model of the area near the new Defenders Headquarters. I apologise for the crudity of the model, but I didn’t have as much time as I had hoped.”
Jennings raised an eyebrow at the scale model of the city district that was made with such detail that there were even little model Neopets on the pavements.
“Now,” Thornpipe added, “this is the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters. The lights and systems are due to be turned on for the grand opening, at exactly seven at night. This will create a massive energy surge along the power lines that head down Parkhirst Road, here.”
Thornpipe pointed towards a wide road that ended at the Defenders building. “The power lines have been specially upgraded to cope with the extra demand, but I’ve managed to gain an access point here.”
The Professor pointed to the section of the street where the power lines passed overhead.
“All the temporal equipment has been set up here, on the roof of this building,” Thornpipe continued, pointing to a nearby house. “But it’s been incorporated into the power line, so all you’ll need to do is touch the access point in the middle of the street.”
“How do I do that?” Jennings asked. “Your access point appears to be in the middle of oncoming traffic.”
“Unfortunately the only way I can think of is to make contact with it at speed,” Thornpipe admitted. “You of course may use the Museum’s carriage. You will wait here, at the end of the street, until I give you the signal to move. If you follow my directions, you should make contact with the access point just as the power surge hits. You and Quantum will of course only be electrocuted in a three-dimensional sense; in reality you will be teleported thirty years into the future. I’ve also incorporated some spatial teleportation magic into the design of the machine, meaning you will find yourself in the same street you left, mere nanoseconds after you disappeared.”
“I’d appreciate it if you told Bungle, my counterpart in your time, that the experiment was a failure,” Thornpipe added.
“You don’t want him to be told of the scientific implications?” Jennings asked.
“No,” Thornpipe replied flatly. “One person messing about in the past has been quite enough; it would be better if the experiment is branded a failure – that way there is no chance of corrupting the space-time continuum with further time jumps.”
Jennings nodded. “Very well. I guess that only you and I will know the truth.”
“The way it should be,” Thornpipe agreed. “I’ll take the secret to my grave, don’t you worry about it.”
Jennings remained silent. The Professor’s grave would be coming sooner than he thought, and if his reputation was anything to go by, he would soon be descending into such madness that even if he did tell anyone, they would dismiss it as the rambling of a particularly insane old wizard.
But still, no one would ever know the lengths Jennings had gone to in order to save the city. No one would even suspect.
Thornpipe repositioned one of the little model Neopets. “Tomorrow night, Mr. Jennings, we are sending you back to the future.”
To be continued...