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Tales from Neopia Central: Part One


by herdygerdy

--------

Who Defenders the Defenders? – The Lawman's Tale

Neopia Central had changed a lot – and too quickly for Judge Hog.

     Of course it was always changing, and in the Judge's thirty-odd year career he'd become quite good at adapting to change. But some things couldn't be adapted to – some changes were too big.

     Mr. Jennings was dead, his body washed out to sea. The man who controlled all of the criminals in the city was gone, and now they were running free. It was up to the Defenders of Neopia to keep the city from tearing itself apart – and the Judge suspected it would be a losing battle.

     It hadn't always been that way – before Jennings, a selection of crime lords had divided up the city, each ruling a different district with force. When one died, another rose to take their place, as such was the interchangeable nature of crime in those days.

     But then Jennings had arrived, and taken down those crime lords, amalgamating their various empires into one monopoly for him to control – the Krawk had even owned the Defenders themselves at one point. But more than owning it, Jennings had changed the way crime operated in the city, weeding out unprofitable or unsightly crimes but ensuring a manageable level on the streets, for both sides.

     Quite quietly, Jennings had become one of the most important men in the city. Now he was gone, it was clear that it wouldn't be a case of merely replacing Jennings with another crook. That level of meticulous planning and forethought – it was something special. The Judge of course was capable, he was a lot smarter than he looked, but he was needed in his current position.

     Neopia Central would spiral downwards, unable to move forward and unable to go back.

     Crime was already through the roof – the Defenders were stretched to breaking point. And seeing that, normally law-abiding citizens had begun to loot. Soon there would be full blown riots, mobs of disgruntled citizens moving through the streets. The Defenders could arrest some of them, sure, but sooner or later the cells would be full to bursting, and then what would they do?

     No law. No order. Neopia Central would burn.

     As the Judge walked through the corridors of the Defenders Headquarters, he found his feet guiding him to a familiar location. Deep within the building, beyond the display cases containing the ceremonial outfits of senior Defenders, there was a little room devoid of life but for the single streetlamp at its core.

     The glass in the lamp was tinted blue, giving the room an eerie, magical feel. It was there mainly out of tradition – it had stood outside the first Headquarters of the Defenders centuries ago. The organisation had upgraded a lot since then from the original bleak jailhouse, but the lamp had always moved with them. Even the fierce and tyrannical Judge Irons had kept it when they moved into the current building.

     It had become a symbol, at least to Judge Hog, of the unending protection offered by the Defenders, and although few people ever came to this room, the Judge found it soothing.

     It did him no favours to see the flame within the lamp flicker.

     ***

     The days passed, the situation got worse. The riots started, and then it was only a matter of time until things became too much for them to handle.

     "Blackwing is holding down the Old Quarter," Sergeant Brexis, the Judge's second in command informed him. "Apparently the zombies are getting restless, talking of retreating back to the Hills. You heard about Orig?"

     "I received his report yesterday," the Judge nodded. "The evacuation Tobik organised worked well... the Hills are almost deserted now."

     "Sad really," Brexis agreed. "Torchio is working on clearing out people from the Catacombs network. We have Mammoth in the marketplace with Dr. Flexo giving backup. Lightning Lenny's been placed on 24 hour Headquarters duty for the time being. We sent all the clerical staff home this morning."

     "A shame to lose Celina... hopefully they can come back soon. What about the Masked Intruder?" the Judge asked.

     "He's having difficulty in the Docklands," Brexis explained. "We're working on sending him reinforcements, but it isn't like we have Defenders to spare."

     "I'll go," the Judge told him. "It's about time I see how things are going first hand."

     ***

     The Masked Intruder stumbled backwards to the floor, wiping his lip from the thug's blow. Beside him, other Defenders, members of his unit, were fighting with other criminals who had been attacking businesses in the area. The Defenders were hopelessly outnumbered, but there wasn't anything to do but try.

     The Kougra Defender got back to his feet, readying his fists for another shot. A sudden impact in the ground caused the two thugs to spin around to greet the new arrival – Judge Hog.

     A quick uppercut and a passing backhand slap later, the tables had turned and it was the thugs on the floor.

     "Just in time." The Masked Intruder breathed a sigh of relief.

     "There'll be time for celebrations later," the Judge grunted, as a fresh onslaught of thugs rushed them.

     At once, the street was filled with an acrid smoke, blinding both criminal and Defender. Figures appeared out of the gloom, challenging the criminals, the glint of silver visible through the gloom.

     As the smoke cleared, the Judge found himself back to back with a new combatant. The familiar lanky frame of the hooded blue Gelert lashed out against more of the criminals.

     "Long time no see, Kanrik," the Judge greeted the head of the Thieves Guild.

     Normally, the two would barely have been on speaking terms – but these were strange times. The chaos on the streets was hurting the Thieves Guild just as much as it was the Defenders. For now, at least, they were allies.

     "We need to talk," Kanrik stated, followed by a quick swipe of his blade.

     "You could make an appointment," the Judge remarked, throwing someone across the street. "But I've been a little busy."

     "We're pulling out of Neopia Central," Kanrik told him bluntly.

     The Judge paused. "Who?"

     "The Guild."

     "Why?" the Judge asked, shaking someone off his back and throwing him into a group nearby.

     "For the first time since I became head of the Guild, unregistered thieves actually outnumber registered ones," Kanrik explained. "We're in the minority now – and we're caught in the middle of the turf war in the Docklands. I take it you've heard about the Smuggler?"

     The Judge nodded while fending off an armed thug, "A Shenkuu crime boss who's moved into Little Shenkuu."

     "He's waging war with what's left of Johnny Twobit's outfit," Kanrik added. "The streets are lethal. We haven't got a choice, Judge... we need to pull back. We'll focus on Terror Mountain and Meridell for the time being, but we simply can't continue like this. You look shocked."

     "I just... never thought it would happen," the Judge admitted.

     "You've seen the Hills be evacuated," Kanrik pointed out. "The Museum's sealed it's doors – the longer this goes on, the more people are going to leave, Judge. We're just getting out while we still can. We'll be back, one day, once all of this madness has burnt itself out. But not now."

     The remaining thugs began to retreat under the pressure of numbers. Kanrik gave a small nod to his fellow thieves, and they disappeared into the city smog.

     "I'm sorry, Judge," Kanrik said, sheathing his dagger. "Goodbye."

     With that, the Gelert disappeared into the night. Meanwhile, the Masked Intruder's unit of Defenders gave a victory cheer.

     "There's no time for celebrations," the Judge barked. "We've saved one street – the rest of the city still needs us."

     From down the street, a speeding streak coursed past them, stopping directly in front of the Judge. It took the Moehog a moment before his eyes could focus on the super-charged Lenny in front of him.

     "Lightning Lenny?" the Judge questioned.

     The Lenny was bent double. Even for his speeds, it was clear he had rushed to get there.

     "Headquarters!" he gasped.

     "What?" the Judge demanded. "What's happened?"

     "There's been a breakout!"

     ***

     It was all over by the time Judge Hog managed to return to the Defenders building.

     "How did it happen?" he asked Brexis, surveying the destruction.

     Most of the building's front wall was missing, and fire had blackened much of the normally pristine white walls.

     "It started with Khan the Unstoppable," Brexis explained. "He managed to break out of maximum security, and weakened the containments on Lady Frostbite and Eyrieki. After they managed to break out, it was just a chain reaction until the master lock was overloaded and everyone was released. We only had a skeleton staff on duty in the building – they never stood a chance."

     "Everyone got out?" the Judge asked, stepping over the boundary into the ruined building.

     "Everyone got out of their cells," Brexis answered darkly. "A lot didn't make it out of the building."

     "How do you mean?"

     "Most of the super criminals managed to escape into the city," Brexis told him. "As for the more average criminals... it seems like someone with a vendetta broke into the evidence locker early in the breakout. They stole a lot of highly advanced poisons... and proceeded to use them. Sheikh Al-Balim, Gerald Munroe, the Governors of Area 26, Ambassador Basal – just a few of the high profile names that have fallen victim to whoever it was."

     "How many got out?"

     "Perhaps around 50% of inmates," Brexis estimated.

     "What do we do now?" the Judge asked no one in particular. "If we can't even arrest people?"

     "There's more," Brexis added. "The Museum have unlocked their doors and are moving through the city, the magical research department is trying to evacuate some of their more dangerous projects. There's a mob heading through the streets, after the zombies hiding in the Hills, and the two of them are going to meet. The Museum requests defence. As for the breakout, Lady Frostbite is already causing havoc in the Docks – I've already sent Torchio, but that's left us short in the Catacombs where we think Khan is caving in some of the tunnels."

     They had come to the little lamp room. The Judge's heart fell – the lamp had been broken, the glass smashed and scattered on the floor, the flame extinguished.

     "Not once, since the rule of law was established, has that light gone out," the Judge mused.

     "Judge?" Brexis questioned. "Your orders?"

     The Judge seemed to come out of his thoughts, "We can't protect everyone, not any more. We have to pick. Set up road blocks on all major routes out of the city, no one gets out without approval."

     "Sir?" Brexis asked. "We're trapping people in the city?"

     "It's the only way to make sure this problem doesn't spread to other areas of Neopia," the Judge answered. "Decline the Museum's requests – the wizards can use magic, they should be able to defend themselves. Gather all of the Defenders you can, we'll target each super villain in order, all together. A united front will give us more chance of victory. They are our priority for now."

     Brexis nodded, leaving the Judge alone. The blue glass cracked under the Judge's feet.

     Law and order had just left town.

     ~*~

     Aden often walked by the shore, the young Bori having little else to do on the lazy Mystery Island days. The sun was setting, and it was almost time for him to head home. It had been a productive day for him – he'd managed to gather many shells to add to his collection back in the jungle.

     Aden gasped as he saw a figure in the sand, washed up on the shore. The waves were lapping over him, but Aden could clearly see it was a green Krawk. The black suit he wore was drenched and wrinkly, as if he had been at sea for a long time.

     Aden rushed forwards and turned the Krawk over. Listening for a heart beat, Aden smiled as he heard the faintest rhythm.

     "Dad!" Aden shouted back to the jungle. "Dad!"

To be continued...

 
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