Recognition: Part Three
Part Three – The Coup
The remaining days leading up to the big Kreludan parade went by in a whirlwind of activity, at least for Yanno. He had to buy the Hover Wardrobes, he had to purchase half a truckload of invisible sand and glue and of course he had to make the wardrobes invisible by pasting the sand on their surfaces. As sound as his plan was and as convinced of its brilliancy as Yanno was, he found the invisible stuff becoming annoying pretty soon. First he almost mislaid the sand, then he constantly started stumbling over it and if not for the ropes he had tied around the wardrobes he was sure he would have stubbed his toes on the soon invisible wardrobes more often than he cared for. But eventually all preparations were finished and he could actually look forward to gaining his long deserved recognition.
He met his three helpers at the appointed time in the area designated for the parade's bonfire. Having talked to the fireworks specialists of Shenkuu, he even had the necessary components to create a purple and orange fire. Yanno was glad to see that none of the three had backed out of the adventure. It would have been a huge set-back, if not a complete failure, to find himself without helpers that night.
Currently dressed as Yanno, the go-between, he greeted Ugliii, Xoliii and Fallicina. "Did you have any troubles getting here tonight?" he asked. He wanted to make sure that there would be no parents showing up suddenly, spoiling his plans. At the same time he felt that showing a little concern about his helpers' well-being would go a long way in assuring that they would keep the secret. If the three Grundos felt mistreated, they would most likely not waste much time complaining about their horrible time at the adventure and then all would be told to parents, siblings and other nosy people.
To his delight, all three Grundos shook their heads. "Our families love parades," Fallicina said.
"Usually it's the neohome parades we attend, but that would not keep them from going to any other parade available," Xoliii added.
Yanno nodded his head. While he did not really know about neohome parades, having only heard about them from a newspaper-article a few weeks ago, he was glad to hear they had no problems getting here. Wanting to get everything set up and still needing to change into his Grundo Thief outfit, he tugged the invisible wardrobes by means of a very visible rope (it would not do to lose the wardrobes now) in place. "So, here's the plan. Just over there, at the back of the square, is the publishing house of the Neopian Times. The printing machines are in the basement. The Grundo Thief will be right at the conveyor belt, where the finished copies will come out of the printers, but before they can reach the bundling machines for distribution, The Grundo Thief will snatch the copies and put them away. These", gesturing to the invisible wardrobes, "are Hover Wardrobes. I don't know if you are familiar with Hover Wardrobes..."
Here he was interrupted by three very indignant looking Grundos. "Of course we know all about Hover Wardrobes. And Hover Sinks, Hover Beds and other Kreludan furniture," was the rather scathing reply. "We'll have you know that our families own some of the perhaps most beautiful neohomes in Neopia where we constantly strive for the perfect blending of furniture. You do not achieve this level of perfection without proper knowledge of available furniture!"
Oops! Seemed as if Yanno just had to affront some Neohomie-Grundos by insinuating they did not know enough about hover furniture. However, even though they were pretty scary when infuriated, Neohomie-Grundos had one advantage in Yanno's eyes: They definitely knew how to handle the wardrobes without him having to explain it over and over again or even waste precious times with practice run-throughs. Making a quick apology, he went on detailing his plan. "The Grundo Thief will stash the newspaper copies in the wardrobes. Then Ugliii will tug the set of hovering invisible wardrobes out of the building, hand it over to Xoliii and Fallicina, who will unload the wardrobes and throw the copies in the bonfire. Then Ugliii will take the empty set of wardrobes back inside to The Grundo Thief. You may take turns with the tasks if you like, but for the beginning I think Ugliii, because of her size, will find it easiest to work her way down to the basement of the publishing house."
"And what will your part be?" Xoliii asked suspiciously.
"I will be with the Kreludan Culture Committee, making sure that everybody is distracted enough by the parade and not disturb you." With so many purple Grundos being part of the committee, it should not be too hard to blend in with the crowd, Yanno figured. "The Grundo Thief has already one set of wardrobes with him in the building, so Ugliii, if you could bring in the next set in ten minutes, it would be great! Let's all do a good job! For the recognition of Kreludor and the safety of all its inhabitants!" With this final battle call, Yanno shook the hands of the three Grundos and disappeared from view.
Dressed in his trademark dark outfit, Yanno made his way as The Grundo Thief to the printing presses in the basement of the building which housed the Neopian Times. Having done a bit of scouting the previous days, he knew his way well enough and he had also managed to leave subtle signs for Ugliii to follow in order to find him. The only unknown in his plan at this stage was whether the cheerful red Lenny and the Neopian Times mascot white Weewoo would join the spectators upstairs after starting the presses or remain down here. Usually during printing process these two would be downstairs to supervise the presses and make sure no paper jam occurred.
But out of the 500+ issues these presses had produced, only two issues had ever been exposed to paper jams. One was when, in preparation of the first Petpet Appreciation Special Issue, some misguided member of the Petpet Protection League had tried to liberate the Weewoo, whom he deemed to be enslaved by the Lenny to do all the menial work around the presses, and the other time had been when some chocolate lovers had switched the printer's ink with chocolate for the Chocolate Ball Issue. While the idea of a chocolate-tasty newspaper sounded fun, the liquid chocolate had either clogged up the machines because it hardened too fast, or it had not dried on the paper at all. With the serious threat of cancelling all future Chocolate Balls, closing down the Chocolate Factory and never again considering any submissions containing chocolate for the Neopian Times, the culprits stepped forward, apologised publicly and rewrote the whole issue by hand. This went a long way to ensure that nobody ever tried such a thing again. Consequently the supervision of the presses was a mere tradition and no necessity, so Yanno had enough reasons to hope that the two feathered helpers of the Neopian Times would attend the parade instead of staying behind in the basement.
Luck seemed to be on his side that evening. When he had entered the building, all had been quiet as the printing process had not yet been started. However, he had just reached a niche where he wanted to wait and see if the Lenny and the Weewoo remained below or walked up the stairs, when he heard the excited twitter of the two Neopian Times workers as they made their way up to the entry. From what Yanno could hear they definitely planned on enjoying the parade. Finally all was quiet in the basement, as quiet as one could expect with all printing presses working on highest operation level by then. But even the noise of the machines was welcome, as manoeuvring the set of wardrobes was not as easy as Yanno had hoped and slight bumps, which luckily were lost in the sound of the presses, could not be avoided. Making a mental note to himself to make sure that the wardrobes' doors were closed securely once he sent off Ugliii, as it would not do for 10,000 copies to be spilled to the floor by accident, he set to work.
Yanno had barely filled the third wardrobe when Ugliii came bounding down the stairs. Yanno had not bothered trying to impress the necessity of being stealthy upon the three Grundos, figuring that it would be easier to let them appear as curious young Grundos who happened to have gotten the idea of investigating the Neopian Times Publishing House than have them act like true thieves. He greeted Ugliii with as friendly a grunt as a grunt could be, secured the final wardrobe of the first set and sent the baby off again. He knew he had to pick up a bit of speed as now the wardrobe sets were bound to come in faster. But he was positive that he was up to the task.
Time seemed to drag on as he filled the shelves of the wardrobes with stashes of newspaper copies. Grab a stash, pack it in the wardrobe, grab a stash, pack it in the wardrobe, grab a stash... Not even the fact that every now and then he had to close a filled wardrobe and move to the next one seemed to break up the monotony of his work. More than once Yanno had to cheer himself on with a reminder that he was doing it to prove that nobody should underestimate Kreludor and The Grundo Thief. Least of all the Thieves Guild.
The first million copies was already gone when Fallicina took over Ugliii's job. Yanno hardly noticed. All he knew was that the wardrobes arrived the same as before and the filled ones were removed.
The youngest of the three Grundos had gotten tired of climbing the stairs and thought that feeding the bonfire would be much nicer. But the big stashes of newspaper copies were really big and heavy and if one fed the bonfire with single copies one at a time it took forever to even empty one shelf. Easiest would have been to tilt the wardrobe with doors open and let the whole load of copies fall into the bonfire. But that was not possible as the draught of all those falling newspapers might disturb the fire and make it uncontrollable. Or worse, all those newspapers at once might suffocate the fire and they'd have to rekindle it. Another downside of feeding the bonfire was the heat radiating from the orange and purple flames. Even though, with living on Mystery Island, Xoliii was used to higher temperatures than those found in Neopia Central, and the past few weeks of living in the Lost Desert with her Uncle Odd had given Ugliii a nice taste of a warmer climate, both Grundos were sweating heavily with the hard work and the heat from the fire. Indeed the working environment was so uncomfortable that both Grundos felt that if this was what an adventure was like, they'd gladly forsake any future adventure.
Especially Ugliii was beginning to have second thoughts. Tossing newspapers into a fire was not really exciting. Dragging the wardrobe sets had been a bit more exciting, but still it did not feel like a real adventure. Weren't adventures supposed to involve something heroic? But what was heroic about tossing newspaper copies into a fire and robbing all of Neopia of their chance to read the latest adventures in the Habitariums by way of great comics (which was Ugliii's favourite part of the Neopian Times)? And then it dawned on Ugliii that by burning all those newspaper copies she herself would have to go without the Neopian Times as well. No comics to help her through another long week with Uncle Odd if she was sent back to him. No comics to discuss with her siblings if she were back home. No comics at all. This was not right; this was all wrong. Burning those newspapers was all wrong. As was stealing them in the first place.
With this realisation, Ugliii sat down and started to cry. She was tired, she missed her family and now she was helping some evil thief to rob a whole issue of the newspaper. All she wanted to do was go home and forget about this disaster.
Upon seeing the youngster crying, Xoliii immediately stopped feeding the fire, fearing that Ugliii had somehow burnt herself. While she was relieved to find that her friend was unharmed, she could not help but feel also some exasperation at Ugliii's sobbed confession. She had hoped that Ugliii would come to her senses before the adventure started, but better late than never she told herself. Fallicina soon joined them and she had no qualms showing how happy she was of Ugliii's change of mind. "Now all that remains for us to decide is what to do with this situation,"she said.
"We could stop feeding the fire, sit down and read the newspaper instead," Ugliii offered a little uncertainly.
Xoliii laughed. "We have already stopped feeding the fire and in case you have not noticed it, you are already sitting down."
Fallicina smiled. "But it would not be fair to keep the newspaper all to ourselves, don't you think?" she prompted. Xoliii and she had discussed possible ideas what to do once Ugliii saw that helping a thief was not a worthwhile adventure, but she wanted Ugliii to come up with the right thing herself instead of being simply told what to do. And who knew, perhaps Ugliii had an even better idea than they had.
It took a little thinking, but eventually Ugliii's cute face lit up with a brilliant idea. "I know what we do! We help The Grundo Thief steal the issue, but..." Sensing that her two friends were about to groan with exasperation, she grinned mischievously at them. "...but only to distribute it among the parade watchers a day early! Did you never dream about getting to be the first to read the paper? This is our chance!"
Xoliii and Fallicina cheered at that idea. It was much better than leaving the site and writing an apology to the Neopian Times, volunteering to help for the next six weeks as way of repaying the damage to the distribution system they had caused.
Quickly the three Grundos set to work, each wandering among the crowd with a stack of newspapers calling out to the spectators: "The latest issue of the Neopian Times! Just released from the printing press! Get your copy now!"
It was the lack of new empty wardrobes which told Yanno of the change of plans. Muttering not so friendly words under his breath, he dragged the latest set filled with newspaper copies upstairs himself to see what the matter was. Hearing the three young Grundos shouting their announcement to the crowd, he sighed. So much for gaining fame and recognition. There was no way he could complete his plan on his own. Too many newspaper copies!
Heaving another deep sigh, Yanno decided to do the only reasonable thing: Play along! Discarding his work outfit he assumed his part of Yanno again, took up a stack of papers and joined the three girls in distributing the latest issue of the Neopian Times.
"Hello, Yanno!" Ugliii greeted him cheerfully once she spotted him handing out the newspaper. "Are you going to help us?"
Yanno nodded. "The committee thought this a fantastic idea, so I suggested I join you."
A blue Gelert in a dark, hooded cloak approached them. Addressing Ugliii he asked in a slightly gruff voice: "What are you doing here?"
"We are stealing the Grundo Independence Special Issue!" Ugliii beamed at the stranger, handing him a copy.
"You know, young Grundo, that there is no such Special Issue? The issue you are handing out is in fact the Mutant Special Issue!" With that the Gelert was gone. However, a few weeks later one very excited Yanno received a letter from the Thieves Guild. What it contained? Well, that's for us to guess and for him to know.
Author's note: Special thanks to 1335512 (jillybean_1335512), squiread (tourer_5_5) and klarasaar for volunteering their Grundos for this story. Without Ugliii, Xoliii and Fallicina this story would not have been possible.