They Think it's All Over: Part One
The old Blumaroo ran through the darkened corridor, the flaming torchlight etching out the excitement carved into his aging face.
Eventually he came to a stop outside a cobweb covered door that looked deceptively like it hadn’t been opened in centuries. The Blumaroo barely waited for the single knock he supplied to echo before bursting open the door.
Inside, a green Techo that looked as if he had created the word ‘elderly’ sat behind a desk, busy stroking his long white beard while studying some papers. He looked up towards the Blumaroo as he entered, squinting at him through a thick pair of glasses.
“Professor Bungle!” the Blumaroo gasped.
“Jenkins?” the Techo asked. “Is that you? Bursting in all over the place, that’s really not the way a junior researcher gets promoted, don’t you know?”
The Blumaroo, who from his appearance could never be considered junior, tried with difficulty to stand up straight between his wheezing breaths.
“Sorry, sir,” he answered. “But you need to hear this.”
“Hear what?” Bungle demanded. “Out with it, man!”
“I’ve solved it, sir!” the Blumaroo replied.
“It!” Jenkins repeated.
As realisation set in, the old Techo’s eyes widened, magnified further by his thick glasses.
“It’s a clock, sir,” Jenkins added.
The green Krawk frowned at the headline.
‘MAJOR SMUGGLING ROUTE INTO ALTADOR DISCOVERED BY CITY’S GUARDS’
The Krawk glanced up at the suited green Grarrl that stood to attention nearby.
“Sometimes, Mr. Black, I really wish King Altador did not have a thief on his council,” the Krawk commented. “Kelland really does spoil all of our fun.”
“Indeed,” the Grarrl replied simply.
Neither Neopet stated what they both knew – the smuggled goods that had been seized were the Krawk’s.
Because he was Mr. Jennings, the de facto ruler of Neopia Central, due to the fact that he owned most of it – but also a criminal.
“We will need to find a different route,” Jennings considered.
“That won’t be easy, sir,” Black replied. “The King will be watching all routes into the city now... the guard will be tight, difficult to slip past.”
“Yes...” Jennings mused. “We must find another way.”
Silence consumed the office as Jennings stared down at the newspaper intently.
At last, Jennings inhaled sharply. “If we cannot sneak our goods into Altador, we must simply walk into the city.”
Black frowned. “No one simply walks into Altador, sir.”
“Some people do, Mr. Black.” Jennings smiled. “Some people do.”
He turned the paper slightly so that the Grarrl could see a separate article underneath the headline, one detailing an off season Yooyuball match between Shenkuu and Mystery Island.
“Yooyuball, sir?” Black questioned. “I don’t see how that helps.”
“Diplomatic immunity, Mr. Black.” Jennings smiled, standing up. “We need to speak with Judge Hog.”
Jennings and Black left the Docklands tower soon afterwards, and took Jennings’s carriage into the more respectable parts of the city. The gleaming white building that housed the Defenders of Neopia was their destination.
It was, like most things in the city, one of Jennings’s assets. The majority of the staff chose to ignore Jennings whenever they saw him, though, as if doing so might negate the fact that they were in the employ of a criminal.
The pair took the lift up, and as had become their custom, ‘accidentally’ came across the Judge when he entered the lift on his way up to his office.
Jennings had long made the habit of greeting the caped Moehog in an overly cheerful and false way, because until recently Jennings had considered the Judge to be a very stupid man. Now Jennings knew better, the Judge might even have been smarter than Jennings himself.
“Judge,” was the curt greeting that came instead, along with a quick nod.
“Jennings,” the Judge replied in kind.
The lift doors closed and they continued upwards. Black, out of habit, reached out and pressed the emergency stop button.
“What is it today?” the Judge asked. “I wasn’t aware we’d caught you doing anything new in the city recently.”
“You haven’t caught me, that’s true,” Jennings replied, knowing full well that the Judge had, but had merely decided not to act on the information. “But today we are here to speak to you about Altador.”
The Judge smiled. “So that was your merchandise the council seized? Sorry, but that’s out of my jurisdiction.”
Jennings smiled. “No, we’re not here to discuss the smuggling – but the sport.”
“The sport?” the Judge asked with genuine surprise.
“Yes, Yooyuball,” Jennings explained. “Do you know how many Neopoints King Hagan makes off the back of the Brightvale Yooyuball team? Counting merchandise sales, off season ticket sales, and the like – 14 million, all told. And that’s for a team that historically hasn’t performed all that well, just imagine how much the Krawk Island or Darigan Citadel teams are making. Of course, there’re costs involved, wages, stadiums, entrance fee to the Altador Cup... but all that only adds up to 5 million... King Hagan is still making a very healthy profit.”
“Everyone has a team, Judge – even sleepy little places like Kiko Lake,” Jennings told him. “Why don’t we? It’s a lucrative business opportunity that we’re not taking advantage of.”
“There’s never been a demand for one,” the Judge answered. “The city’s mostly made up of immigrants or the descendants of immigrants; they all support their own teams.”
Jennings nodded. “Neopia Central lacks a national identity... this is your concern? We are a boiling pot for the world, Judge... our identity is everyone’s identity.”
“I know what you’re trying to do,” the Judge said plainly. “Yooyuball players have diplomatic immunity. You want to use them as your new smuggling route.”
Jennings smiled thinly. “You intend to stop me? Or is this a crime you are willing to let happen?”
The Judge stared at Jennings for a moment. Normally, the two would dance around the issue, but Jennings was getting right to the point. They now knew exactly which cards the other was holding.
“I can’t stop you,” the Judge replied honestly. “As I said, what happens in Altador is out of my jurisdiction. You will need the Altador Cup Committee’s approval to field a team, however. And of course, I will be honour bound to inform King Altador of your intentions – what he chooses to do with that information is entirely up to him, but I don’t imagine he will be happy with the situation – so it’s not really me you have to worry about.”
“Would you at least be willing to contact the Altador Cup Committee on my behalf?” Jennings asked.
“No,” the Judge replied simply. “I’m sure you’ll find another way into Altador, Jennings. You have before.”
Jennings sighed, nodding to Mr. Black, who pressed the emergency stop button again. The trio continued upwards in silence. Eventually they reached the top floor, and the doors to the lift opened.
“Floor 31, stationery supplies, seamstresses, deathbots and administration,” a mechanical voice announced.
A green Techo with a beard that reached all the way down to the floor was waiting on the other side. He smiled as he saw them.
“It’s you!” he croaked. “The receptionist told me to come up to your office, but your assistant said I was more likely to find you in the lift. Curious, but apparently valid.”
“Professor Bungle,” Jennings greeted the Techo with a nod. “I see you have an appointment waiting, Judge, we will leave you to your business.”
“No,” the Techo called out. “I need to speak with you, I think, as well as the Judge. At least, that’s what the receptionist at the Museum told me.”
“You know this man?” the Judge asked Jennings.
“We met briefly.” Jennings smiled. “He was conducting an experiment into time travel... sadly, it was a failure.”
The Judge caught Jennings’s meaning. The Moehog knew all about Jennings’s adventure in the past, though he understood that the few people who knew, the better.
“Then you must be Moriarty Bungle,” the Judge greeted the Techo. “Head of Magical Research over at the Museum, aren’t you?”
“Indeed, sir,” the aged Techo replied. “I’m honoured that you have heard of me.”
“Should we talk in my office?” the Judge offered.
“I think it would be easier to explain if you all accompanied me to the Museum,” Bungle announced, stepping inside the lift as the doors closed again. “It is a matter of life or death.”
Jennings and the Judge exchanged a tired glance over the back of the hunched Techo, while Mr. Black pressed the button for the lobby.
In the slums of the Docklands, a rainbow Ogrin left his small home, saying goodbye to his mother as he made his way off down the street. Kicking a metal can in front of him, he made his way through the streets towards the docks. A bag of Neopoints was grasped firmly in his hand – he was off to buy some of the fish that had just got into port.
Eventually he kicked the tin can up in the air, balancing it on his shoulder before spinning and hitting the can with his hand so it flew off down the street. Thankfully he was on the Old Shambles, where few people went, so the can clattered harmlessly to the floor instead of hitting a pedestrian.
The Ogrin followed after the can as high above, perched atop a roof, he was being watched.
A mutant Buzz glared at him, his head twitching in a feral way. The creature’s evil red eyes narrowed as it caught sight of the bag of Neopoints. It licked its lips, tail and wings twitching with excitement.
As the Ogrin bent down to pick up the tin can, the mutant Buzz launched himself downward from the rooftop, and pounced.
To be continued...