Me, the Chief, and the Wadjets
There ain't many visitors in the little town of Martin's Creek. They're right in the desert, away from the comforts of them cities like Sakhmet and Qasala. It gets pretty lonely there. There ain't much to do here but sit out on the front porch and relax in the heat.
Boring town, eh? Not quite. I lived there for some time, and I can tell you that it's everything but! You have to learn that lots of things ain't what they seem.
This here town, located right before Sakhmet in the vast desert, was home to some of the Neopia's most dastardly, lowdown, dirty pests-- the Wadjets. No, not the petpets, you halfwit! The Wadjets were a group of thieves! Thieves, who tried to... wait, I'm gettin' ahead of myself! Why don't you let me start all the way from the beginning. Let's start off on my first day in town.
I was one of them Defenders of Neopia. You know, heroes! I was just recruited nearly four decades ago at a fresh age of twenty-two. I was a mere yellow Scorchio, but ready! I was so eager to take on my first task, but I got sent to Martin's Creek instead. I knew that place; I lived there for a few months before. I groaned at the thought of it. There ain't even no creek in sight. It was in the middle of nowhere. It was desolate and downright miserable. When I joined the Defenders of Neopia, I thought I was never gonna see that place again.
I was goin' there no matter what, though. Complaining was gonna do nothin'. I strutted into the town, proud and ready. I couldn't wait to meet my boss, another Defender, waitin' for me at Creek. His name was Chief Terry, a surly green Xweetok. From what I heard, he was one of them toughies. Showed no mercy when it came to criminals! He was an old timer, a veteran of the Meridell war, who was sent to look after Creek once the war ended. He was a hero in my eyes.
I stood at the border of Martin's Creek, taking in the scorching, dry air. It was just as I remembered, except I had forgotten how unbearable the heat was. The place wasn't much to look at. The town was no bigger than a Yooyuball playing field. The main buildings consisted of a grocery store, a hospital, a bank, a stable for the Unis, and a school. Everything the town needed! It was absolutely necessary too; the nearest city, Sakhmet, was nearly three hours away.
The main buildings were lined up on either side of the two-way road. Each of them looked like it had been worn down over time, with the planks of wood sticking out of place. When you reached the end of the main buildings, the road started to get narrower. If you followed that road, it led to all the homes on the other side of town. By eyeballin' it, I'd say there were just about two dozen homes total.
They all looked the same, just like any other suburbia in Neopia. The homes had a dry sandy front lawn, with cacti growin' out. All of them had a huge tank in the back. Water was hard to come by, so they'd only get a tankful of water twice a year. It was a resource not to be wasted. Unlike the main buildings, the homes were built out of brick, not wood. This was for more protection from sandstorms. They got plenty of 'em yearly.
I shook my head lookin' at that excuse for a town. Those who were out on the street were on Unis, and they looked exhausted. It was like sorceress Xandra's wraiths sucked the lives out of them. Actually, it was more like them zombies in the Haunted Woods.
As I walked through the neighborhood, the townsfolk peered through the windows to see who the new guy was. As I said before, they weren't used to visitors. I had say somethin'. Stopping in my tracks, I removed my cowboy hat and introduced myself. I said, "Don't worry, guys! My name's Alden. I'm a new Defender." I pulled out my badge from the fancy leather wallet I was given and flashed it to everyone who stared. My short dark brown hair and body began to feel wetter the longer I stood outside. I made my way to the Chief's office back on the main side of the town.
My checkered shirt was all sweaty by the time I got there. The office was bare; just a desk, chair, a locked door to the side, and some newspaper clippings taped to the walls. The Chief, who sat in his chair with his legs up on the table, stared at me as I entered. He looked to be in his seventies, with wrinkles all over his face and body. He was poorly dressed, even though he held such a high position in the Defenders of Neopia. He had on just a sleeveless tee and jeans. His cowboy hat was tipped forward to keep the sun, peaking through the windows, from hitting his eyes.
"You're late, junior," he said.
"Sorry, Chief," I said, removing my hat in respect.
"Don't let this happen again. Now, are you ready?" he asked, in an unemotional tone.
"Yes, sir!" I said, standing straight. Being in the presence of such a great fellow made me forget how uncomfortable I was in the heat.
"Martin's Creek has many surprises in store. It's up to you to deal with 'em."
"Like what, sir?"
"Like them rotten thieves, the Wa--" he stopped and stared at the windows behind me. He expressed a look of shock as he exclaimed, "Like them varmints behind you, boy!"
I turned around, to find a poor old Kacheek's home being ransacked by two thieves! One of them was a Techo, and one was a Hissi. They were both Shadow and their faces were covered with black masks. I grasped my weapon, my trusty Lightning Gun, and ran out.
"No, junior! Wait!" said, the Chief, trying to stop me. I didn't listen. I wanted to show my idol I was ready for anything.
Sadly, they moved so fast that they left clouds of sand and dust as a trail in the road. I could not see anything. Chief Terry ran to my side. Within a blink of an eye, he took out his own Lightning Gun, aimed and subdued all three thieves.
The beams from the Lightning Gun were nothin' serious. It delivered a mild shock and was powerful enough to stun or knock one out. Most of the time, the victim wakes up in a few hours.
Just when the Chief thought he got 'em, they managed to gather up some strength and they ran off with the old Kacheek's priceless items.
"Nice goin', junior. I told you to wait," he said to me, shaking his head.
The first thing the Chief said to me after we got back to his office was, "Lemme give you some advice. First, don't wear sleeves out here. You'll be sweatin' waterfalls by the end of the day. Second, ya gotta move fast! Them thieves ain't gonna wait for you to catch up!"
"I'm sorry, Chief! I thought I could handle it."
"I suppose you're wonderin' who they are." he said, changing the subject.
Before I could answer, the old war veteran threw old newspapers at my face. His calm and unemotional behavior left me a bit confused, to be honest. Who could remain stoic when faced with rogue criminals like them?
"The Wadjets. A group of thieves who've been terrorizin' the town for the past several years. They're after Marty's gold. Martin was the ol' Blumaroo who built this place. Fifty years ago, he struck it rich treasure-hunting in Sakhmet and never wanted to go back home. Stopped here and built the place with the help of his friends and his money. Since then, it's been a pitstop for those who travel through the desert."
"Nice. Now, what does that have to do with them Wadjets?" I asked.
"Marty buried the rest of his treasure somewhere underground before he passed away. Those thieves were tryin' to find it. Many have tried to find the gold, junior. None of them have even come close to findin' it. The Wadjets, though, are just more persistent than others. They're dangerous, boy."
"This ain't the first time them Wadjets have done this, huh?" I asked.
"Nope. I've nabbed 'em loads of times before. This was actually the first time they got away."
"Uh, you the only Defender in town?"
"Yessir. Until now."
The Chief let me go for the day. He told me I was gonna start my new job tomorrow. Them Wadjets were loose, and it was up to me to catch 'em. Once that was done, the Chief and I were gonna look for ol' Marty's treasure. He didn't want nobody goin' near it again, so he was gonna keep it safely in his office.
I spent the rest of the day gettin' to know Martin's Creek. I also took the time to settle into my new apartment. Well, it wasn't an apartment. It was the second floor of a measly old lady's home. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the old lady who got mugged earlier by them nasty Wadjets. Was she really my new landlady?
She was very calm and collected when I first met her. She proudly introduced herself as Abilene. She was short, stout, and always had a smile on her face.
"Ain't you scared, ma'am?" I asked. That warming smile spread across her wrinkled face seemed so unusual for someone whose life was in danger just a few hours ago.
"Of course, Alden! I am scared to death of them thieves! I thought I was gonna end up in the hospital! Promise me you'll catch 'em! I'm an old lady. My little heart can't take another shock like that!"
"You ain't got nothing to worry about, Miss Abilene," I said, nodding.
On my first day of being a Defender, the Chief didn't say much to me. He and I both knew what we had to do. We had to been on our toes the entire time, keepin' an eye out for those Wadjets. They were gonna strike again soon and make off with stolen goods, whether they'd find ol' Marty's gold treasure or not.
The Chief and I split up. He was gonna stake out one side of Martin's Creek, and I was gonna take the other. I was a little scared bein' without him. If I needed help, I wasn't gonna get it. It took me loads of courage to shake hands with the Chief and go out alone.
The whole town's streets were empty. It looked like it had been abandoned a long time ago. The townsfolk found out about the brutal robbery yesterday, and they were too scared to leave their homes. I didn't blame them. I did not want to be there myself. I knew being a Defender of Neopia was tough, but I didn't think it was gonna be that tough. I was facing three armed and dangerous thieves who would shamelessly rob an old lady, if that was what it took to strike it rich. Even Neopia's greatest Defender couldn't take 'em down. The more I thought about it, the more pressure was on me. All of a sudden, I snapped.
I had to go off-duty for a few minutes, just to catch my breath. The swelling heat wasn't makin' it easy. I found a tub of water for the Unis at the stable, and I splashed my face in it. It was murky, but it felt so good! I gargled some water in my mouth, but there was something in it. I spat it all out into my hands. I was expectin' it to be some bits of wood from the tub's bottom pit, but it was a key!
Hundreds of thoughts came rushin' through my head. Was that the key to Marty's gold the Chief was tellin' me about? I had a great idea. Why not surprise the Chief by findin' the treasure? It would have made up for that awful first impression I gave him the day before. The only problem was: where do I start lookin'? If the key was at the stable, then the treasure must be buried somewhere nearby.
I went into the stable to start lookin' there. The Unis all stared at me enterin'. I introduced myself and they just went along, mindin' their own business. One of 'em I recognized. Remember when I told you I lived in Martin's Creek a little while ago? Well, he was the Uni I'd ride on. He was my best friend. He was old when I first met him, he'd gotten a lot older.
"Farley, is that you?" I asked.
"Alden! Long time, no see, partner!" he said, bowing his head as I petted his long, grey mane.
"Ugh, you won't believe what's happened. You know them Wadjets? Well, they got away after robbin' a place. Now, I gotta go after 'em. While I was looking for 'em, I found this key to Marty's gold."
"Oh, I've heard of 'em. The gold, too. If you wanna find it, it's buried right behind this here stable."
"What? How do you know?"
"I was Marty's steed for a while. He buried the treasure right in front of me. I know."
I asked Farley how he managed to keep it a secret from the thieves (surely, they must have questioned everyone in town), and he said that he didn't know. It was hard to lie, since they knew he was with Marty when it was buried. Thankfully, those thieves were really gullible.
"Okay, what about the Chief? Why didn't you tell him?" I asked.
"He never asked," he replied, lookin' away. I was kinda upset, since it would have prevented all this hullaballoo, but I couldn't argue with that reasoning.
Farley led me out to the back of the stables, where he dug a little hole with his hooves into the sands. With just a few scoops in, a little golden handle of a trunk was revealed. I gasped. Oh, the Chief was gonna be so happy. With that feat, I would have proved myself to him. Me, a rookie Defender, found a treasure that numerous thieves and townsfolk had been lookin' for for decades. The whole town would've loved me.
"Rooney! He's found the gold!" I heard someone yell from the background. It was the Techo earlier.
"I'm comin', Rick!" replied his partner, the Hissi. I saw 'em coming right at me, and I had to think fast.
I got up as fast as I could, pushing Farley back into the stable. I didn't want him to get hurt. As they approached, I showed them my badge and exclaimed, "By the Defenders of Neopia, you're under arrest for armed robbery." I stunned them with my Lightning Gun before cuffing them both. I kept 'em in the stable until the Chief could get there. I sent him the message with the help of them Carrier Weewoos.
I stood guard over the captured criminals, waitin' for Chief Terry to come. As the time passed, I began to wonder why I even bothered to let the Chief know about the treasure I found. If I gave it to him, he would just keep it in his office. What a waste of all the riches! I decided to keep it for myself. I knew I was worse than the thieves, but I didn't care.
The Chief arrived and he helped me throw the perpetrators in the dungeons, located behind his office. The door leading to it was highly secured by numerous locks, and there were two dungeon cells behind it. Both had bars made of heavy metal, that could only be broken out of by Neopia's strongest Battledomers.
They weren't gonna get away again. The Chief had me put up five extra locks on their cell. With the Wadjets captured, it was the end of a chapter in the history books of ol' Martin's Creek.
A new chapter soon began: what to do about Marty's gold. The greed was gettin' to me. The worth of the gold in that trunk was enough for me to retire early and travel the planet. When the Chief told me to start lookin' for the treasure, I told him I was feelin' sick. I hoped to avoid him for a while.
"That's fine, junior. You need a key, anyway. We can start looking for that tomorrow. You'll feel better by then."
"Yeah, sure," I said, bitin' my lip.
Back at my apartment, Miss Abilene was waitin' for me to come. The sweetheart was overjoyed to see me unharmed. She hugged me like a mother would, filled with happiness and warmth.
"Oh, Terry told me all about how you caught them thieves! I'm so proud of you!"
"He told you already?"
"Word spreads like wildfires in small towns, boy."
Miss Abilene kept praisin' me all night over how brave I was and how excited the Chief was when he told her. She said I exceeded his expectations, or whatever. I couldn't help but feelin' guilty. I should've told him about the treasure I found, and I decided to tell him the next morning.
When the sun rose over little Martin's Creek, I was out tryin' to find the Chief. He wasn't at home, nor was he at his office. I had the key kept safely in my pocket to give to him. I looked everywhere. He was nowhere to be found. I hoped that nothing had happened to him.
My first instinct was to go to the dungeon behind his office. I didn't think it was possible, but the Wadjets may have hurt him while they escaped. To my relief, both Rick and Rooney were in their cell and fast asleep. Where could he have gone?
I made my way over to the stable to see if Farley saw him. Before I could even ask him, guess who I saw walking nearby with a shovel? The Chief was pretty excited to see me.
"Junior! Looks like someone found the treasure. Lucky for us, they only dug up to the handle. I just dug up the rest!"
"Sir, I was gonna tell you about that! See, I found it yesterday before nabbin' those thieves."
"You found it, and you didn't report it to me?"
"Yessir. The only reason I didn't was because... I wanted to keep the treasure to myself."
"What? Why would you do that? I thought you wanted to be a Defender. Defenders don't do that, junior."
"I know, I know! I felt bad about it, and I was gonna come clean today. When I got here, you already dug it out of the sand. I'm sorry."
"I'd be mad, but you helped my capture two of the baddest criminals on the planet. Junior, I'm glad you were honest. A Defender can lie from time to time, but it takes a true Defender to be able to realize that it's wrong and clean up his act. Good job."
He shook my hand and helped me lift the treasure out of the hole. The Chief promised me it would be kept in a safe place. Oh, you should see how pretty the gold inside the trunk looked. I'd never seen so many shiny jewels in all my life.
It became the little pride and joy of the town. It became a norm for tourists visiting Sakhmet and Qasala to come see it. The town no longer looked like it had been deserted. Neopians from all over were there, waitin' to see the beautiful treasure we unearthed and also the underrated beauty of the town. Sure, it was desolate and miserable, but there's not another place like it. The townsfolk, the heat, and the history is what made the town unique. Ol' Marty would've been proud.
The Chief let me move on to better things a few years later. With the Wadjets locked up and the gold kept safely, there wasn't much crime goin' on in Martin's Creek. I went to bigger and more exciting places in Neopia, learning new things and taking on tougher challenges. Sure, they were neat, but nothin' beat my first real job as a Defender of Neopia.