They Think it's All Over: Part Three
Judge Hog sat across from Jennings, a small list in his hands.
“Kauvara, the Shop Wizard, and the Soup Faerie were of course contacted immediately, but they weren’t much help,” the Judge explained, reading from the list. “Roo Island and Kiko Lake have already sent limited numbers of scholars who proved similarly useless. I’ve received word back from most world leaders now; we should be seeing delegations arriving from across the planet in the next few days.”
“Such as?” Jennings asked.
“Meridell, Brightvale, and the Darigan Citadel have joined together to send all of their magical users as one,” the Judge continued. “A limited number of magical users from the Haunted Woods are on their way, though Edna is apparently taking some convincing given that wizards are the cause of all this. The Keeper of Time himself is heading down from Terror Mountain with Tekel and a few other Tyrannian mages. We are expecting some Lost Desert delegates from both Qasala and Sakhmet late tomorrow. The Mystery Island elders are currently consulting with the local witch doctors, and Igneot is sending some of his disciples. You’ll be glad to hear the Emperor of Shenkuu is also sending some of his most skilled magicians.”
“No Altador or Faerieland?” Jennings asked.
“King Altador informs me that Jerdana will be heading here as soon as she can, but she’s currently occupied with strengthening some of the city’s magical wards,” Judge Hog replied. “No doubt with an aim to stopping any smuggling via magical routes. Queen Fyora is scheduling time to visit the city personally next week.”
“For my part I have contacted the staff onboard the Space Station,” Jennings added. “They have agreed to send some technicians, in case technology can succeed where magical falls short.”
“Trying to book a one way ticket to space?” the Judge asked.
Jennings merely smiled. “I regret they told me that would not be possible. We’re all assuming the worst, Judge. This device may in fact be harmless.”
“People will assume the worst,” the Moehog answered. “Especially if they see so many famous faces disappearing into the Museum.”
Jennings nodded. “When is the first sizable delegation due?”
“Tonight,” the Judge told him. “The Meridell-Darigan-Brightvale mages.”
Jennings sighed. “The public will need to be told before then. You will need to make an announcement.”
The Judge snorted. “And start a riot?”
“The situation will only end up worse if we hide the truth,” Jennings observed.
Behind them, the door to the office opened and Mr. Black rushed in.
“Sorry, sir, but this is important,” the Grarrl announced. “This is hot off the press.”
He put a copy of the day’s Neopian Times down on the desk.
‘IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD’ was the headline.
Jennings and the Judge glanced at each other.
“Subtle. Who told them?” Jennings asked.
“I took the liberty of having one of Johnny Twobit’s men watch the Museum. The old Bruce who works on reception left for the Neopian Times office last night.”
Jennings massaged his temples. “Gossiping old women can always be counted on to mess things up.”
He glanced across at the Judge.
“You’ll have to make an announcement now,” he told him. “Damage limitation.”
The Judge nodded reluctantly.
The halls of the Defenders Headquarters were largely deserted, like the place was a ghost town. Most of the employees were out trying to calm the looting that had already taken a choke hold on the city streets.
Judge Hog strode with purpose towards the conference room, where the city’s press were gathered, and perhaps the media from further away now that the news had spread. Jennings was waiting for the Moehog down one of the corridors.
“I have been thinking,” Jennings announced as he walked beside the Judge. “What about Yooyuball?”
“The world’s about to end and you are bothered about smuggling?” the Judge asked.
“No, not smuggling; that couldn’t be further from my mind at the moment,” Jennings explained. “You’re going to make an announcement to calm the panic, Judge. How do you intend to do that? Just by explaining the facts? That’s only going to cause more panic, and you know it.”
The Judge remained silent as the two walked.
“You need something to distract them,” Jennings continued. “Something that can unite them instead of squabbling amongst themselves. A Yooyuball team can do this, Judge.”
The Judge considered this, “No smuggling?”
“The world may have ended before a Neopia Central Yooyuball team even step foot in Altador,” Jennings pointed out.
The Judge remained silent for a moment as they walked, before nodding eventually.
“Alright, I’ll talk to the Cup Committee,” he agreed. “You’ll have to take charge of it, though; I’m going to have my hands full on the streets for the next few weeks. And about that... it wouldn’t hurt if you’d go easy for a while. I’m going to have enough trouble stopping the normal citizens from looting, never mind your lot as well.”
Jennings nodded. “I’ve instructed Mr. Twobit to give his boys the day off, under the circumstances. Once they are back at work, they’ll be given orders to lock down crime... and I shall talk to Mr. Kanrik about the possibility of focusing on Meridell crime for the next few weeks.”
The two had reached the door to the conference room. Judge Hog breathed in deeply.
“Well, here we go.”
The cameras flashed in the Judge’s face, journalists poised to take notes and Neovision cameras focused on his face.
“Thank you all for coming,” the Judge began. “It is my sorry duty to inform you that I can confirm the report issued by the Neopian Times early this morning. The National Neopian Museum’s Magical Research Department is currently in possession of an ancient device that is counting down until late this month. Due to the magical nature of the device, it is believed by many that it may be a bomb of considerable scale.”
The Judge paused as he watched the reporters writing. “I must stress at this point that it is important that Neopians do not panic. We do not know the contents of the device; it may not be explosive at all. However, we must expect the worst, while hoping for the best. Evacuating the city is not an option, and I would advise that citizens do not rush to leave – the blast would not only destroy the city, but most of the surrounding settlements as well. Those kingdoms not directly affected would suffer fallout from the blast, resulting in a much more drawn out end. In many ways, being vaporised in Neopia Central would be the better way to go. Experts calculate that if indeed it is a bomb, the blast and after effects would cause the complete extinction of all life on the planet’s surface, and destroy any subterranean settlements such as Moltara.”
“On a similar note, I have been in contact with the Virtupets Space Station. They advise against panic buying of one-way tickets – as the station will not fare better. The blast will alter the gravitational pull of the planet, causing both the station, Kreludor, and all objects currently above Neopia to alter their orbits, either drifting into deep space where the solar panels will fail or drifting right into the heart of the sun. In short, you will either burn or freeze – but there will be no survival.”
“Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you what’s being done in the hope of granting us salvation. World leaders have come together in sending their magical experts to Neopia Central, and they will be arriving in the city over the next few weeks. It’s hoped that between the greatest magical minds of our generation, we will be able to diffuse this potential bomb. At this point I want to make something very clear – no matter what the situation; the rule of law is still in effect. Defenders will still be patrolling the city streets and anyone caught looting will be severely punished.”
The Judge glanced towards Jennings, “Now, many of you will know Mr. Jennings. He has something related which he wishes to speak with you about.”
The Judge stepped down, allowing Jennings to take his place.
“This is obviously a very difficult time for all of us,” Jennings explained. “In times like this, it is very easy for a society to fall apart at the seams. Differences that were once considered trivial suddenly become blown out of proportion. Violence, looting, unrest. I propose that Neopia Central come together in what may very well be our final hour, so to speak. We have always been a diverse people, and this is what has made us great in the past – and I hope what will us great in the future. What I propose is a Yooyuball game, with a team from Neopia Central participating. In the coming days, open trials will be held for the five team members we will require. I hope to see as many of you there as possible. This will be our last chance to show this world how great we can be – to shine as the brightest before we succumb to the darkness.”
The door to the tavern opened, and the large Bruce walked in, heading towards the bar. The Prince’s Noose was a backstreet tavern in the Docklands frequented by many down and outs. A thick layer of smoke hung in the air.
“Alright, Harry?” the barman greeted the Bruce. “Don’t normally see you here at this time of day.”
The Bruce sat on a barstool which threatened to buckle under his significant weight.
“Johnny Twobit gave us all the day off,” the Bruce answered. “On account of what’s been happening at the Museum.”
The barman nodded. “That’s a fair pickle those wizards have got us into and no mistake.”
Beside the Bruce, an old zombie Kacheek grumbled something about wizards.
“What’s his problem?” Harry asked.
“Old Beastbanks?” the barman asked. “He’s in here every day lately. They say he used to be something big in the Haunted Woods before he died. Now he just drinks all day long; you can hardly get sense out of him most of the time.”
The Bruce gave the old Kacheek a lasting look before taking his drink to a table in the corner.
To be continued...