Tales from Neopia Central: Part Five
Escape from Neopia Central – the Conman's Tale
Neopia Central had changed – far too quickly for Fredrick Boggins.
Or Harrison Forthright as he was now – son of Archibald Forthright.
The shadow Ruki had been an orphan, and unfortunately for him, and orphan in the Docklands. Crime followed, as it has a habit of doing in such places. Fredrick became a con man, an impersonator – and while not wildly successful in the field, he had survived.
But then he had discovered that his long lost father was not nearly so long lost at all – he had been living on Kensington Avenue, just out of the slums. It had been a tearful reunion, but a happy one. Fredrick had retired from a life of crime and settled into a new life. The life of Harrison Forthright. The life he was meant to lead.
But then Mr. Jennings had died.
Archibald had shrugged the news off when he read it in the Times, claiming that one despot was roughly equal to another, but Fredrick knew different. Jennings would not be easily replaced, and chaos would spread to the streets. He read about the small riots in the Docklands and knew it wouldn't be long until they spread.
But there was hardly anything he could do about it – after all, he had retired. Harrison Forthright was not a man to save a city, not that Fredrick Boggins had ever been either.
So they waited, in their quiet little house. They waited, and watched the world fall apart outside. They could have looked out of their window if they wanted, but somehow it was all much more official when they watched it on Neovision.
A reporter from Channel 9 was standing in the marketplace – a blue Nimmo.
"This is Clive Dunstable with a special report from the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters," he was saying as the camera panned round to reveal the sight of the building, most of the front wall missing.
"As you can see, the Headquarters building has been subject to fierce fighting in the last hour as inmates staged a mass breakout," Dunstable continued. "The Defenders are now scrambling to recapture the more high profile super criminals – we understand there are running battles occurring across the city, with Lady Frostbite in the port and Khan the Unstoppable in the Catacombs. In addition, road blocks have been set up at all major roads leaving the city to keep such criminals from escaping. Residents are advised to stay indoors as-"
Fredrick abruptly turned the Neovision off.
"Harrison?" his father, a brown Ruki asked.
"It's time for us to get out," Fredrick answered. "We need to leave the city, at least until all this blows over. The people from the Hills managed it, why can't we?"
"Didn't you just hear that?" Archibald asked. "They've set up road blocks, there's no way out."
Fredrick paused. It was a subject he had deliberately avoided the past few months, but he had to say it.
"Remember that file I showed you when I arrived?" he asked. "The one that detailed my life before I found you, that I asked you to look at? The one you refused to read? Well it's time for you to read it. I need to get my stuff."
"I burnt it," Archibald answered. "I don't care who you were, son, I care who you are."
"Well, tonight I am the man I was," Fredrick told him. "The only man that can get you out of the city."
Fredrick disappeared upstairs for a few minutes before returning with the only possession he had retained from his previous life – a battered old briefcase that contained the tools of his trade.
"Ready?" Fredrick asked.
"You're serious?" Archibald questioned. "It's dangerous out there!"
"If we stay here, we'll be in danger soon enough," Fredrick said, taking his father by the hand and dragging him out of the house.
There was smoke in the air outside – somewhere in the darkness of the night, something was on fire.
"Where are we going then?" Archibald asked, struggling to keep up with his son.
"The Meridell Road," Fredrick replied. "Might not be as close as the road to the Haunted Woods, but it'll get us somewhere safer."
At the end of the road, the pair were stopped by a carriage screeching to a halt in front of them. A blue Skeith was sat atop, looking quite panicked beneath his travelling clothes.
"Trust me, you don't want to go that way," he said to them.
"What?" Fredrick asked.
"There's a mob heading through the streets, towards the Hills – they'll be coming this way. Go down that road and you'll run right into them," the Skeith explained. "Where you headed?"
"The Meridell road," Fredrick answered. "We're getting out of the city."
The Skeith laughed, "Any other day I'd say you were crazy, that this is the best city in the world and only fools would want to leave – but tonight, you're in luck."
"Why?" Fredrick asked.
"Because tonight I agree with you," the Skeith told him. "Climb up, I'll take you to Batrin Way, we can try and get out down the Haunted Woods road."
Fredrick gladly took the offer. He didn't relish the idea of guiding his aging father through streets full of violent looters.
The Skeith cracked the whip on the Whinnies drawing the carriage and they were off. He held out a hand to Fredrick.
"Hodgeson, that's the name," he told Fredrick. "Taxi driver. This fare's on me."
Fredrick had hoped the report about the road blocks had been wrong – a lie spread by the Defenders to keep people from fleeing the city in a panic just like he was. He was wrong. They were real.
It was a checkpoint, just on the outskirts of the city on the Haunted Woods road. It wasn't manned by any big time Defenders, but they were still far stronger than Fredrick – and Hodgeson's carriage was unlikely to be able to break through without them being caught and arrested.
As they drew to a stop, a brown Gnorbu was shouting with one of the Defenders on duty – a luridly dressed Korbat.
"Don't you know who I am!?" the Gnorbu demanded. "Charles Juniper! I discovered Animated! I demand that you let me through!"
"What's Animated?" the Korbat asked.
"How dare you!" the Gnorbu gasped. "Only the biggest musical sensation of the last decade! Now let me through!"
"Sorry," the Korbat told him. "We have orders. No one gets through, no exceptions."
"They've set fire to the Jennings tower!" Juniper yelled. "You can't keep us in the city with such madness going around! We're free citizens! You have no authority!"
"If you want to make a complaint, you'll have to do it at the Headquarters," the Korbat maintained. "But rules are rules. No one gets through without word from Judge Hog himself. Now move along."
"Move along!" the Defender said a little more forcefully.
"This isn't over!" Juniper shouted, moving away. "I'm staying right here! I refuse to go back to that horrible place!"
Juniper was one of a long line of hopeful people wanting to escape the city, although he walked off to grumble at one side, there was another waiting to take his place.
"How are we going to get past?" Hodgeson whispered as he climbed down from the carriage.
"Leave it to me," Fredrick answered, ducking inside the carriage and pulling out his briefcase.
Inside, he found his morphing potions. They were what had allowed him to become successful as a conman – the ability to change his colour and species at a moment's notice. Fredrick's father watched with a mixture of curiosity and horror as Fredrick selected a potion and drank.
The effects began immediately – Fredrick's Ruki form shortening and his extra limbs merging together. Fur sprouted from his carapace as it changed colour from black to purple. A moment later, a purple Poogle was standing where the shadow Ruki had been.
"Right," Fredrick announced. "Let's get going."
Heading outside, Fredrick joined the queue. The Korbat Defender was talking to the latest hopeful – a Tyrannian Quiggle.
"I'm not from Neopia Central," he was saying. "You can't keep me here."
"We can and we are," the Korbat Defender said tiredly.
He took a moment to look at the person stood in front of him and his eyes narrowed, "What's you name?"
The Quiggle answered without thinking, "Flint."
The Korbat was on him like a shot, holding him down and tying his hands. He called over to his fellow Defender, a Kau.
"This one's an escapee from Headquarters, killed the two Defenders on Tuckly Road last month. I'll take him back to Headquarters, you stay here."
The Korbat forced Flint to his feet and marched him off towards the city. With the checkpoint undermanned, Fredrick saw his chance.
"I'm from Headquarters," he announced to the Defender Kau. "Judge Hog has ordered me to escort this man to Sakhmet. The Skeith is our driver."
He presented Archibald as his prisoner, who for his part attempted to look slightly menacing.
"I haven't received any orders like that," the Kau answered. "And you don't look familiar."
"Good," Fredrick answered. "You heard of Viridian Funk?"
"Good," Fredrick said again. "I wouldn't expect you to. He's special branch, and so am I. Deep cover. This man's far too dangerous to be kept in Headquarters with the state it's in – General Dacon in Sakhmet has agreed to take him until its all blown over."
"You got some sort of official documentation?" the Kau asked.
"Of course not!" Fredrick attempted to bark authoritatively. "Like I said, I'm special branch. You ever heard of an agent carrying identification? Nonsense! Just get out of the way and stop impeding Defenders business."
"I can't let you by without documents," the Kau told him. "Defender or no, those are the rules. Sorry, but-"
The Kau was cut off talking by a strange sensation that affected everyone waiting at the checkpoint. It was like the opposite of an explosion, sucking in sound to leave an eerie silence in its wake. There was a tingling sensation on the air as well, the unmistakable mark of magic.
Then there was a bright green flash from the direction of the city, illuminating the scene for a moment before the sound of the real explosion reached them, shaking the checkpoint and drawing the attention of all to the pillar of green fire on the horizon.
"Is that... the Twelve Ways?" Juniper gasped.
The Defender was occupied, and Fredrick took that opportunity to nod to Hodgeson. He and Archibald climbed atop the carriage and they set off, Fredrick grabbing hold as they passed. The Defender reacted too late, and could only watch as they broke through the checkpoint and disappeared into the night.
Fredrick took one glance back – the remaining hopeful escapees were overrunning the now outnumbered and surprised Kau.
"What just happened to the Twelve Ways?" Archibald called back.
The green fire was now burning high into the sky.
"I don't know," Fredrick answered. "But I'm sure glad I wasn't there to find out."
The Krawk woke with a start, the sunlight and birdsong of Mystery Island greeting him.
"Welcome back, mister," the voice of a young Bori said from nearby. "I'm Aden, I found you."
"Where... am I?" the Krawk croaked.
"Mystery Island," Aden told him. "You washed up on the shore. We took you to the witch doctor, he saved your life."
The Krawk held his head. "I have to get back."
He stood up, but a sudden pain in his leg sent him to the floor.
"Mister!" Aden shouted, running forwards to support him. "The witch doctor did a good job on you, but you were still in pretty bad shape – your leg was broken, he had to set it to make it straight."
"It appears he neglected to do a good job," the Krawk said bitterly.
"Here," Aden said, handing him a fashioned crutch. "Use this. You'll be healing for some time."
"Ironic," the Krawk remarked. "I once walked with one of these for effect... now I actually need one. Still, if you could point me in the direction of the port, I would be most thankful."
"Not so fast, mister," Aden said, attempting to hold him back. "The witch doctor said you're still weak. You're not to leave until you are fully healed. Doctor's orders."
"I somewhat doubt he possesses a medical degree," the Krawk said, but seeing the resolute face on the Bori, relented and sat back down.
"Good," Aden smiled. "The island spirits sent you to me, mister. It's a test, I'm sure. So I'm going to take real good care of you, I promise."
The Krawk sighed. "How thrilling."
To be continued...