A New Line of Work: Part Two
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 10:48AM, Off the Coast of Sakhmet++
"And I said to her, 'you really can't be doing this stuff at midnight. I've got work!' Of course, she just looked at me blankly and just kept going about moving her furniture around, so the next day I moved out."
For the better half of the past half hour, Moriarti was quietly listening to Kuvah explain how she'd moved out from her previous house and why she was now living at one of the lodges in Neopia Central for the past week or so. While she might be tempted to call it a conversation, it was more of a monologue, both because he didn't want to attract attention by muttering to himself and because Kuvah probably wouldn't let him get a word in regardless. Still, it wasn't like he had a whole lot to do on the ferry, though he did feel like there were more pressing matters to attend to.
"That's really too bad, Magh, but I could really use a little more information about the guy I'm meeting," Moriarti ventured, sensing a break in her narrative. An elderly Cybunny sitting across from him looked over the top of his newspaper, and the Draik made a show of coughing. It seemed to at least convince the Cybunny enough that he went back to reading his paper.
"Oh, right," Kuvah began, and the sound of typing was clearly audible through Moriarti's earpiece. After a moment, it stopped, and she cleared her throat:
"The contact's codename is 'West.' He is an Electric-painted Ruki, currently staying at the Setting Sun Inn, and he's supposed to meet you in about an hour in the lobby. When you see him, you are to ask him what time the sun is supposed to set and mention you can't quite take the desert heat. From there, he should hand over the information related to the breach. And then you bring it back here and we begin an investigation. Pretty straightforward; I'm surprised you got a job this easy. Seems like this is newbie stuff," his assistant briefed.
Moriarti was curious, though, so he asked: "what kind of record does this guy have with the agency? Whistle-blowing is a pretty big thing we're dealing with here. Any chance of our little meeting being compromised?" Again, the Cybunny across from him looked suspiciously over his newspaper. This time Moriarti raised an eyebrow over his dark sunglasses, which was enough to send the curious elder back to reading.
"Nope. His record is actually pretty clean. Honestly, there's not a lot that would give him too much credibility, as a lot of his stuff is listed as being circumstantial or just not deep enough, though there are a few things listed as confidential, and if you want anything on those, it'll take a while for me to get the clearance. From the look of things, though, he's pretty much someone who lays low and stays pretty quiet. It's doubtful you'll be compromised before you can get there," she replied. "It's kinda surprising this guy says he's turned up the kind of information he says he has."
Moriarti stood up and began to make his way towards the open deck. "Well, here's to hoping things stay quiet and this just proves to be as easy as Aquila said it would be," he said quietly under his breath, though to no one in particular. By this time the ferry was coming in to dock and the passengers were gathering around the gangplanks to be let off. Once the ship was securely moored, the planks were lowered and everyone began to make their way down. Moriarti could feel the heat of the desert sun through his black suit and scales; perhaps today wasn't the day to dress formally. Still, he pressed on down the dock and up towards the gates of Sakhmet.
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 11:30AM, Sakhmet++
After a difficult slog through back alleys, midmorning crowds, and the oppressive desert sun, eventually Moriarti found the inn. He held up a picture for comparison, and while the building's paint job looked a little worse for wear, it was definitely the place he was supposed to meet his contact. Not wanting to stay in the desert heat any longer, he stepped in through the door and into the lobby, removing his dark sunglasses and placing them into his pocket.
He looked around and made note of the various doors and exits and the like, now habit from the years of surveying new environments for threats and escapes, and decided the bar at the far end of the establishment would be a safe bet to wait for West.
He took a seat at the bar and ordered a glass of ice water, and turned to examine some of the patrons more closely. There was that elderly Cybunny from the ferry standing at the front desk with a bag in his hand, obviously waiting to check in. There was a Faerie Lenny working behind the desk, fumbling with the keys to the Cybunny's room and the guest ledger.
The bartender, a rather large, built Fire Skeith, came over and placed Moriarti's glass down next to him, then went back to drying cups with a towel. Moriarti took his glass and drank fairly quickly; the desert sun had left him rather thirsty. After going through about half the glass, he continued examining the patrons.
There were two desert Aishas in the corner, holding a piece of parchment and quietly bickering back and forth over something or other. Besides that, there was only one other person in the lobby, and that was a Spotted Jetsam tending to a few housekeeping things around the lobby.
Then, he turned his head towards the stairs when he saw some movement. Down from the second floor of the building came an Electric Ruki. Moriarti took another drink from his glass as he watched the Ruki move to the bar and sit down next to him.
"Black suit? You're dressed a bit out of place in the desert, don't you think?" The Ruki asked with a slight chuckle. Moriarti played along and laughed along with him, stopping to take another drink from his glass of water before setting it down, mostly empty, but with probably one more swallow left in it.
"Yeah. But you seem to have this desert thing down pretty well. Don't suppose you happen to know when the sun is supposed to set? I'd like to see the city some, and I'm not sure how much more of this desert heat I can take," Moriarti replied.
The Ruki just kept laughing a bit and held out his hand. "West," he said. Moriarti shook it. "Moriarti Lugenbrau," came his reply. Lugenbrau took his glass in hand and downed the last bit of his drink and pulled a small amount of NP as payment.
"You know, I think I've got some more desert-worthy clothes upstairs in my room. Maybe we can take this up there and talk about what kind of sights you're looking to take in? I know this city like the back of my hand," West said, standing up and gesturing towards the stairs.
Moriarti stood, saying, "That sounds like a plan." The pair made their way up the stairs, making small talk all the while. "I hear there's some shrine to the late king not far from here. Magical or something. Do you believe that?" Moriarti asked.
Again, the Ruki laughed. "Not in the least. Sure, some people find some lost neopoints or some strange gem, but for the most part, it's just a shrine in the desert. Oh, here we are."
They stopped in front of a door at the end of a hallway, which Moriarti took to be West's current room. He fumbled with the keys for a moment, unlocked the wooden door, then pushed the door open. "After you," he said cheerfully. The Draik stepped in through the threshold into the room, and West closed the door behind him.
Moriarti took a few steps into the room, then noticed a fair amount of shuffling and the sound of metal-on-stone. When he turned to see what West was up to, the Ruki was wielding a decorative falchion from the room's wall and swinging it at him, giving him just barely enough time to duck. The sword barely grazed the tops of his head-fins before continuing on past his head, giving Moriarti time to stand up and punch his assailant in the chest.
West stumbled back, though not losing his grip on his sword and he fought to catch his breath. He shook his head, his expression turning from surprise to determination, and charged at Moriarti again, saying, "This is your last mission, agent! Your career is over once I'm done here!"
Moriarti ducked and dodged and backed up to avoid the onslaught of the Ruki. "What're you doing, West?" he asked his attacker, finally finding his back against the open window. He looked down into the open street, where vendors and merchants were hawking wares to tourists and passers-by.
"I've got my orders, so don't try and talk me down, Moriarti! I was only here to lure you out and finish you off so you don't interfere with the wider scheme of things," West began, creeping closer still, getting ready to strike. He wasn't at a range where he could get to Moriarti unless he charged. The Draik was surely cornered and finishing him off would be as simple as running him through.
Moriarti saw what the Ruki was about to do, and called out to him: "Don't try it, West! We can work this out. Who put you up to this?" However, his words fell on deaf ears; the Ruki responded with a battlecry of "This ends now!" before charging towards his unarmed adversary with the point out in front of him, attempting to run Moriarti through.
However, West proved to be more than a little novice at the entire fighting thing, and, being the seasoned agent he was, Moriarti proved to be a bit trickier to stab than originally thought. With precise timing, Moriarti dropped into a crouch. West's momentum was too great for him to stop, and his legs carried him over the agent's head as he tripped up and was launched out the window. The Ruki floundered in midair for a moment as he sailed through the air, over the heads of some rather startled and curious onlookers.
Moriarti stood and watched as West reached about halfway across the avenue before he started to fall, eventually landing with a heavy thud in a cart of mixed fruits. The cart's owners, the two Aishas from earlier, were absolutely livid to find most of their stock now ruined, though it didn't appear that West would be able to answer for the damages for a decent while.
Moriarti had seen enough, and turned to head for the door. "Kuvah," he said aloud to get the attention of his assistant through his communication device.
"What the heck was that, Mori?" she replied, sounding fairly distraught and probably more than a little worried. "Was there a brawl or something? On THIS mission?" Moriarti just continued as he made way to exit the room and making a move to put on his sunglasses, stopping when he noticed a piece of paper on the floor, no doubt knocked over in the scuffle.
"Yeah, well, it looks like the entire situation surrounding this mission got more than a little shocking in retrospect," he joked. Inspecting the paper, he found it to be a ticket to the Virtupets Space Station, on a shuttle set to leave in less than an hour.
Through the earpiece, Moriarti made out an audible sigh from Kuvah. "You're terrible. Well, I DID manage to crack into some of the encrypted files on this West fellow. It looks like he's actually been working pretty closely with Norton Aquila, and more than one of these reports as earmarked as having occurred on the Space Station."
Moriarti stopped, partially stunned as he stared at the ticket in his black fingers. "Did you say he's been to the station with Aquila?" he ventured, the puzzle getting exponentially more complicated and confusing in his mind.
"Yeah, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, considering his file says he almost always stays in Sakhmet. But the real odd part is the connection with-"
There was a shattering of glass and an explosion through the communications link, loud enough to cause Moriarti to grimace and reach for the earpiece. There was a scream, Kuvah's scream, then silence. Moriarti stood there in silence and waited, staring down at the ticket.
After a moment, there was the sound of crunching glass beneath footsteps. They were slow, deliberate, and grew steadily louder before finally stopping. There was a slight ruffle, then a voice, a male voice, deep, raspy from age, cut through the deafening silence: "Well, you have his ticket, Mori. I think you know what to do with it."
And then the line went dead.
To be continued...