Masquerade: Part Nine
Also by bookworm7
"Kari!" I shouted, banging my fist against the Neggery door. It was two in the morning. We had been soaked by rain overnight during our flight and it was freezing in the Ice Caverns. The Clockwork Negg sat concealed in my shoulder bag, but its cold shell still pressed against me.
Kari soon opened the door and paused to look at our meager appearance. "Where have you been? I've been waiting for you to explain to me the meaning of this! Come in, and hurry. We'll get you dried off by the fire." We entered into the cozy parlor and Kari closed the door behind us. She grabbed the Fireball Negg using a glove and began walking towards Zaira's alcove.
"Kari, do you have a place for Yuruyuki to rest? She's running on no sleep right now."
"Oh, of course. She can rest here in the parlor." Kari kneeled in front of the fireplace and blew onto the Fireball Negg. The fireplace began glowing with a quaint fire.
"Thank you," Yuruyuki exasperated as she collapsed onto the couch, not bothering to perch.
Kari resumed walking down the icy hallway and into Zaira's alcove. The room looked much cleaner than how Zaira had left it. "What was your name again?" she asked without looking at me. She walked to the fireplace and set the Fireball Negg in it. The room lit up as the fireplace quickly blazed.
"Sin Hui. I assume you know about Zaira?" I chose to sit in the chair I had sat in during my last visit. Yuruyuki's News Neocam still rested on the floor where we had left it. Kari walked to Zaira's desk and began opening drawers behind me.
"Well, I had to intrude in on her privacy after she disappeared for an entire week. You came in, and then suddenly the Snowager left his treasure cave to begin roaring at me? It was an unearthly sight that upset every visitor in Terror Mountain! I was out of business with that monster wreaking havoc on us."
Kari walked over to the armchair and placed a journal on the table. I remained silent. Her voice protruded strong emotion, which I found somewhat charming and convincing.
"Zaira had disappeared without a word, so I suspected you took her. After fending off the Snowager, I decided to 'clean up' her room. All I found was this," she said, pointing to the journal on the table. It was Zaira's. "Something crazy about Clockwork Neggs." Kari quickly flipped through the pages and stopped towards the latter end.
"Here, I also have something I need you to read." I pulled out the wet parchment from my pocket and unfolded it. We exchanged documents over the table.
I took up Zaira's journal. The entry Kari showed me was dated 21st day of Eating, Y14.
"Many Neopians have come to me with stories of a ferocious monster that came out from the Clockwork Negg! This isn't what I was looking for, but I think things have turned out just fine.
"They said that the Clockwork Negg generated amulets that allowed them to unite against the Neggbreaker and defeat it without much trouble. I'm so glad that things worked out!
"But what is this Clockwork Negg everyone is so worked up on? There's no record in the Neggery of such a negg, yet Neopets keep telling me that Rutu's journal says someone first discovered the Clockwork Negg hundreds of years ago. Is it possible for neggs to survive that long?"
The rest of the entry contained her ramblings about her apprentice work. She was apparently getting tired of working. The next entry was dated 24th day of Eating, Y14.
"Why is everyone so stubborn? I saved Neopia for crying out loud, but the only thing they give me is a cheap amulet? I am not satisfied with a life at the Neggery, and I will not let Neopia get away with this injustice.
"What do I do next, though? I think I'm supposed to locate the other neggs, but isn't that dangerous? Won't the public follow me around and realize that the other neggs might have secrets, too? I really can't do anything except resume work at the Neggery...
"This is so unfair!"
The assumptions I made about Zaira were correct, but where was this going? Kari knew something I didn't.
The next entry was dated 1st day of Hunting, Y14.
"This is crazy. I am crazy. What are these neggs trying to do with me? The Clockwork Amulet is telling me things... strange things. Why can't I stop it?
"They have been given to nearly every Neopian, but I cannot control them until I have the fullness of powers.
"This is madness! I just want luxury... I want freedom.
"I will give it to you. I will give you war.
"I need help, but I can't ask anyone! I can't even scream!
"I am all the help you need. There is no need to fear.
"It won't stop ticking! It won't leave me alone!"
I looked up at Kari who was still reading the parchment. "What in the world?" I said.
Kari glanced up and said, "Well, now I think I see why. This Professor Menseiz says it was strong enough to destroy Geraptiku using its own citizens. Have you finished?"
"No. Do I want to?"
Kari pursed her lips and looked back down at the parchment. This was getting strange. No wonder Kari was comforted to see me. I resumed reading Zaira's written arguments with the Clockwork Amulet.
"The neggs have been carried to the farthest corners of Neopia. They will wait there until I have control.
"Where do I look for them?
"You are incorrect. I will wait for those neggs to come to me.
"I just want my freedom. 'Wait here,' it says. Fine. I will wait in torment."
That was the last journal entry. It was short, but it provided some important clues. I re-read some of it while waiting for Kari to finish reading the parchment. The nearby fire was starting to warm up my body a bit too much, but it helped counter the Clockwork Negg's freezing presence in my bag. I didn't want the hollow negg to leave my person.
Kari put the parchment down. "So, we know that the Clockwork Negg is trying to destroy. Why, exactly?"
I repositioned myself in the chair and leaned forward. "Well, Zaira once told me that the Clockwork Negg generated amulets for war. I think that someone, somewhere created the negg as a war machine."
Kari nodded. "It certainly worked on Geraptiku. That civilization is gone. Do you think that someone long ago was trying to defeat opposing civilizations?"
"It would make sense: send the negg in and let the civilization destroy itself. Plus, no one else in the world would suspect that the culprit was an external party still at large."
"So the Clockwork Negg is a war machine. We know that, but why does it bother opening if it can destroy places indirectly while remaining unopened?"
"Well, eventually the Clockwork Negg would be taken up by noble or intelligent Neopets it couldn't affect, like the Hidden Negg Society. To avoid this, it opens up to release the next wave of attack."
"That's where the Neggbreaker comes in. He acts as a violent henchman."
I breathed out quickly and shrugged. "I thought so at first, but it wouldn't make any sense for the Clockwork Negg to generate a weapon that only worked against its own henchman. The Neggbreaker most likely didn't originate from the Clockwork Negg. Instead, the Hidden Negg Society probably took an innocent Hasee and locked it into the negg as a precautionary defense. If someone tried to use the Clockwork Negg to locate its scattered powers, then the Mutant Hasee Neggbreaker would attack them. The Hidden Negg Society thought it would work, but they didn't know that the Clockwork Negg would generate amulets as weapons to fight specifically against their Hasee defense system."
"Well, whether the Neggbreaker came from the Clockwork Negg or from us, it's been defeated. How do these amulets work as the next wave of attack if they only work on the Neggbreaker?" Kari said patiently.
"Zaira's journal says, 'They have been given to nearly every Neopian, but I cannot control them until I have the fullness of powers.' I think it means that the Clockwork Amulet can be used to control anyone with an amulet. Maybe it wants to hypnotize and control us?"
"Sin, the amulets aren't even wearable items. Even if the Clockwork Amulet wanted to control Neopets through their amulets, it's too late. The amulets are collecting dust in Safety Deposit Boxes."
Kari was right. The amulets weren't weapons, and they couldn't hypnotize us. "Okay, so maybe the amulets aren't the next wave of attack either, then." I briefly rubbed my temples then continued. "Well, there's another thing that bothered me in her journal. It says, 'The neggs have been carried to the farthest corners of Neopia. They will wait there until I have control.' 'Where do I look?' 'You are incorrect. I will wait for those neggs to come to me.'"
Kari thought for a moment. "That's just saying that Zaira was going to find the remaining neggs once you had shown up."
"No, I think there's something to be interpreted here. The Clockwork Amulet is talking about two different sets of neggs. It says that the first neggs will wait while the decoy neggs that contain the powers are accumulated."
"But what other neggs are there? The only neggs ever mentioned are the decoy ones."
I froze in my chair. Something had finally crossed my mind.
"Kari, what did you hand out as a prize for defeating the Neggbreaker?"
"I didn't hand out anything on that side of the event. I didn't even know there was a Neggbreaker until random Neopets swamped me with stories of how they had defeated it. Zaira had done everything in my absence and behind my back."
This was much worse than I had expected. Zaira had once again been several steps ahead of me. The name of the objects came to me, and there was no hope with a name like that.
"The Ultimate Neggs of Destruction! She handed them out as prizes! Can you believe it?" I stood up from my chair. "Ultimate Neggs of Destruction! The Clockwork Negg generated them and Zaira handed them out along with the amulets. Those are the weapons! They're walking time-bombs! They've been carried throughout Neopia 'waiting' to blow up!"
To be continued...