A New Line of Work: Part One
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 9:08AM, Neopia Central, Norton Private Contracting++
Moriarti Lugenbrau sat at his desk as he typed away at a workstation and pored over some of today's paperwork that had been left in his inbox. His black, scaly fingers dully reflected the light from the rising sun every once in a while as they moved across the keyboard, turned a page, or moved a pen to write.
While some might mistake his coloring as Shadow at first glance, the white head-fins and racing stripe running across his head and down his back belied a different color: Skunk. He, like most everyone else in the building he worked, wore business formal attire, finding the black suit and tie with a white undershirt to match rather nicely with his scales, and his tall, somewhat lanky form seemed to have been built for wearing suits well.
He worked in the corner office on the third floor of a building owned by the company Norton Private Contracting. Officially, they made business of providing legal consult to whoever needed it, though the market was mostly dominated by another company just down the road, run by a crazy, tie-wearing robot. Not that it mattered to the heads of Norton Private Contracting, as they also maintained a rather unofficial business of espionage and information gathering specialists excelling in not leaving a trace; that is to say, it was a spy agency, and that had the tendency to pay very well.
Moriarti was one of the better disciplined agents under the employ of NPC, having become perhaps the model employee for the company as well as the favored agent of its president, an Eyrie named Norton Aquila. He was a kind enough boss, one who tended to look out for his employees, but generally strict, considering the line of work they were all in. Moriarti had met him a handful of times, on business and for the occasional lunch, and he had high regards for the Eyrie.
He thought back to his last run-in with his boss, which was just days ago. Something had struck him as off about the fellow, but he had also just come back from having been sick with a bad case of Neomonia, and attributed whatever slight offness to just the trouble of getting back into the swing of things...
A knock on his door pushed the thoughts out of his mind, and in stepped his secretary, Kuvah Magh. She was painted Desert, and sported the hairpiece and eye shadow of her color, though had forgone the traditional cloak and gold headpiece for a red suit that fit better with the formal business setting maintained at their place of work. He'd gotten her after his last promotion, when he'd been bumped up to his corner office and its original owner had been moved... elsewhere, though he found her invaluable when undertaking missions. To top it all off, she actually turned out to be a good friend, and in a line where personal relationships could get your cover blown, that was saying something.
"Morning, Moriarti. Got some files for you from the top brass," she said, waving some manila folders in the air before tossing them into the inbox on his desk. They were all unassuming enough, though they were all marked confidential on the cover. Moriarti knew what was inside: missions the company had agreed to undertake and that they believed Moriarti would be able to accomplish in no time flat.
"Anything good?" he asked Kuvah. She turned around and held her hands up.
"You know company rules state I'm not supposed to see them until after you choose one and get back to me for details," she said, making her way to the door. As she pulled it closed almost all the way, she stuck her head back in. "Though, if you ask me, the one fourth from the top looked interesting," she said with a wink. "It's got Aquila's signature on it and everything." With that, she closed the door, leaving the Draik sitting with a smile.
He thumbed through the stack until he found the one she had talked about, and slid it out from under the rest of the pile. He noticed immediately that the file folder was different from the rest, bound with a paper seal that read "Moriarti Lugenbrau – Top Secret." He broke the seal and flipped the folder open, letting two pieces of paper slide out: a mostly blank piece of paper that read "meeting, 15 minutes, my office," and a picture of a rather timid looking Ruki somewhere in Sakhmet. From the pose of the Ruki, it was obvious the picture was candid, and on the back was written one word "contact."
Moriarti looked at his desk clock: 9:30AM. Aquila was like clockwork, and preferred to hold his meetings on the 15 minute marks, and he was one of the best. The Draik smiled again, looking forward to a little bit of fun for this mission. Aquila had been pressing him to take some vacation time as a treat for all his dedication to the company, but Moriarti had every time refused.
"I might actually enjoy this one," he mused quietly to himself, placing the picture in his coat's breast pocket and making way for his door.
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 9:45AM, Neopia Central, Norton Private Contracting++
"Ah, Moriarti, come in, come in! Glad to know you got my meeting request."
Moriarti was ushered into Norton Aquila's office by the office's resident, an Eyrie wearing an almost spotless black suit not unlike Moriarti's own. Moriarti pegged his boss to be in his forties or fifties, though that wasn't to say Norton couldn't hold his own. Old age had treated his employer rather well, and Norton was known to undertake an operation every now and again when no one else seemed able to fulfill the parameters.
Norton himself was a Disco Eyrie, a vibrant shade of green and yellow and covered with psychedelic patterns and flowers in orange and purple, respectively. He stood about as tall as Lugenbrau, or just a hair shorter, though for all intensive purposes, they seemed to see eye to eye in more ways than one. Some of his facial feathers had turned gray in his old age, and he had a chip in his beak from some mission no-doubt gone more than a little wrong.
Moriarti took a chair in front of Norton's desk as his boss sat down and looked across at his star employee. "I suppose you know why you're here?" he asked.
"You've got an important mission, I take it," Moriarti said with a slight smile. Norton nodded his head.
"Right you are!" he said, picking up a remote and swiveling his chair to the side. He pressed a button and quickly drew the blinds to make the room dark. A projector dropped from the ceiling somewhere behind Moriarti and a screen dropped down behind Norton. After a moment, a picture of the same Ruki that was on the picture from the folder was displayed quite large on the screen.
"This is a contact we have that feeds us information about various goings-on in Sakhmet. He's been mostly quiet of late, but we've received a distressing piece of news from him just yesterday: it's possible we may have an internal security breach. However, due to the size and scope of the breach, he kept things cryptic and direct with me, asking me to send my most trusted agent to come collect the information," Norton briefed. His tone was deathly serious, making sure as to communicate the dire straits they were now in. He pressed another button on his remote, changing the picture. It was a picture of a small watering hole and inn in downtown Sakhmet.
"This is the Setting Sun Inn, where we have reason to believe our contact is staying. In about two hours, I need to have you meet our contact, code name West, in the lobby and go from there. He should be able to give you the pertinent information as to the size and scope of the security breach and where it's all coming from. Then, it's just a simple matter of bringing that information back here. A regular walk past the Money Tree, if I do say so myself!"
The Eyrie picked another manila folder from a desk drawer and handed it to Moriarti, pressing a button to turn off and rescind the screen and projector and opening the blinds to let in some reading light. Moriarti flipped open the folder; it contained a short brief, a code phrase he was to say to let West know who he was, and a bare-bones itinerary. Also, there was a single ticket for a ferry ride from Neopia Central to Sakhmet; it'd take him down the coast and up the river running through the desert before dropping him off outside the city gates. From there, it was a leisurely walk to the city and to find West, get the information, and go back the way he came.
It was simple, and Moriarti liked it. Norton moved his chair back to his desk and stood, smiling at Moriarti. "What do you say, Mori? Think you can help me out with this mission?" the Eyrie asked.
Moriarti stood up along with his employer and held out his hand. "Sir, I'm the man for the job," Lugenbrau replied.
And with a simple handshake, he was thrown in way over his head.
To be continued...