The Knowledge: Part Two
Jennings could of course have declined the strange blue Blumaroo’s offer of a ride, but he was suitably intrigued to accept.
Once the Krawk was seated, the carriage set off down the dark Docklands streets.
“My name is Mr. Brodman,” the Blumaroo announced. “I of course know who you are.”
“Indeed,” Jennings replied lightly. “And how may I help you, Mr. Brodman?”
“I represent a group of Neopia Central citizens,” Brodman told him, and catching the look in Jennings’s eye, added, “You will not have heard of them.”
“I can assure you, Mr. Brodman, there is little in this city that I am not aware of,” Jennings chuckled.
Brodman’s face remained emotionless.
“As I said, you will not have heard of them,” he repeated with finality. “Who they are is not important. All you need to know is that they have need of your services, and that you will comply with their request.”
“Because if you don’t, Judge Hog may very well come into possession of evidence that he has been searching for,” Brodman answered. “Evidence that not only implicates, but proves your involvement in criminal activities.”
“I highly doubt such evidence exists,” Jennings said, knowing full well he had disposed of it.
“The people I represent are in the business of knowing things, Mr. Jennings,” Brodman revealed. “And they know certain things about you. You have had no dealings with them in the past because as an individual you are largely irrelevant to their plans. As you are harmless, they have had no reason to bring their influence to bear against you. If you refuse their request, Mr. Jennings, they will have a reason to come after you.”
Jennings considered this. He was fairly confident that this Brodman was no threat, but the unknown was not something Jennings liked to let pass by.
“And if I agree?” he asked. “What do you require of me?”
Brodman moved slightly in his seat.
“As I said, the group I work for is in the business of knowing things, all things,” he answered. “However, there is something we do not know. As it transpires, you are the only individual capable of discovering it.”
Jennings smiled. They needed him, this gave him power.
“What, exactly, do you need me to do?” he asked.
“There is a safety deposit box at the National Neopian Bank that was opened by one of my employers just before her death quite recently,” Brodman explained. “Aside from herself, there is one other person capable of opening the vault.”
“It appears, for whatever reason, she instructed the management at the National Neopian that one Mr. Jennings would be allowed to open the box should he visit the bank. We wish to know the contents of the vault, Mr. Jennings. This is all. You do this, and we will erase the evidence we have against you.”
“How generous of you,” Jennings remarked. “However, as I have something you desire, I feel that perhaps it is I who should be making demands of you. For example, I wish to know exactly what you are involved in.”
The carriage came to a gentle stop.
“We anticipated this,” Brodman replied simply. “As a sign of good faith, we shall show you. Make no mistake, if a word of this escapes to the Defenders of Neopia or the media, our deal will be null and void and we will come after you.”
Jennings nodded wordlessly, and Brodman opened the door to reveal a nondescript house in the Docklands. The Blumaroo led Jennings inside, where the Krawk found that the house was in a greater state of disrepair than most in the Docklands.
The door that would normally have led to the kitchen was slightly different. From the looks of it, it was made of solid rock. A strange circular symbol, segmented into twelve parts, was engraved in the centre.
Brodman approached the door and took a small artefact from around his neck which he placed against one of the circle’s segments. The symbol glowed briefly, before the stonework began to rumble and move, revealing a staircase leading down.
“Please understand that breaking through this door under your own steam is quite impossible,” Brodman announced without turning to look at Jennings. “The door is one of many in the city, and is magically enchanted to be impervious to all attempts at opening it.”
He began to walk down the steps, adding, “And, just because I’m sure you’re considering it, stealing the key around my neck would be largely useless. The doors operate with a certain level of magical artificial intelligence to prevent giving access to thieves.”
Jennings followed closely behind down the staircase and lied, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Behind them the stone slab moved back into place, plunging them into temporary darkness. A moment later, several rocks embedded into the wall began to glow a dull blue colour, illuminating the pair once more.
Brodman continued down the staircase into the gloom. Jennings couldn’t see the end of the steps. Wherever they were going, it was deep.
“Where exactly are you taking me?” he asked.
“We long ago split Neopia Central into 25 distinct areas based on map references, for ease of classification,” Brodman answered. “The majority of Kau Kau Farms fall in Area 23, for example, while your tower in the Docklands lies in Area 8. I am taking you to Area 26.”
“I thought you said the city was only divided into 25 areas?” Jennings questioned.
“I did,” Brodman replied flatly. “I am taking you to Area 26.”
“And... what is Area 26?” Jennings asked.
“It is easier to explain if you see it first,” Brodman replied.
The two proceeded in silence for a while, until the steps began to level out. Brodman came across another stone door with the same symbol, and once again pressed his necklace against it (though Jennings noted at a different position than before). The door slid back just as the other had, but this time the pair were bathed in light.
It took Jennings a few moments before his eyes adjusted from the gloom. The room into which they had entered, if it could be called a room, was bathed in light.
In truth it was a vast cavern, Jennings assumed it had once been part of the network of caves that made up the Catacombs. The rough walls of the cavern had been lined with some form of marble, but like the stones in the passageway, they had somehow been enchanted to give off a dull white light. What had resulted in a dim glow in the passageway was magnified a hundred fold in the cavern, and it looked as if the place was bathed in daylight.
But that was not what interested Jennings. The contents of the cavern were far more important to him. Countless Neopets rushed between countless desks, busy writing and reading reports. As Brodman had said, there were several other entrances to the cavern, and Neopets were steadily coming and going, delivering papers to the desks.
“This is Area 26,” Brodman announced. “From this nerve centre, reports from our agents all over the world are delivered, interpreted, and filed. This results in the most comprehensive database of knowledge in the known world. There isn’t a thing we don’t know about it. No one on this planet sneezes without us finding out, I can assure you.”
“Impressive,” Jennings remarked, taking in the hundreds of Neopets in front of him.
“We must thank you, of course,” Brodman said. “Before you pioneered beaming information through the Qasalan Expellibox, it took a lot of time to receive reports from the opposite side of the planet. Now, it is relatively instantaneous.”
“And everything is stored?” Jennings asked.
Brodman pointed to one of the desks. A Wocky was posting a report into a tube that whisked it away into the floor.
“Below us are the archives,” Brodman explained. “A complete record of Neopian existence since records began.”
Brodman led Jennings down a small metal staircase and through the rows of desks. Jennings noticed an ornate stained glass mural that stretched across almost all of one of the cavern’s wall. A peaceful countryside scene shone back, a contrast to the flurry of paperwork that surrounded him.
A shadow passing over Jennings alerted him to a detail of the cavern he had missed when he first took in the scene – the ceiling was transparent. High above them, carriages were passing overhead.
“That’s Wide Street,” Jennings observed. “We’re below Wide Street?”
Brodman nodded as if one-way transparent rock was a trivial detail, before sharply turning. “We have shown you this in good faith, Mr. Jennings. We now expect you to perform your task. You have seen what we are capable of doing. Capable without anyone discovering, I might add. We are an organisation that has existed for hundreds of years. No one has ever managed to stop us. It would be wise to help us.”
Brodman set off again, leading Jennings to one of the other doors that led back to street level. As they approached, the door automatically slid aside.
“No locks on this side?” Jennings observed.
“Keeping people out is our concern,” Brodman replied. “Not keeping people in.”
Brodman led Jennings up another dimly lit staircase, back to street level. When the door slid back, Jennings emerged into an alleyway in the Marketplace. Brodman remained on the inside.
“We expect results quickly, Mr. Jennings,” Brodman told him.
“How can I find you when I have the information?” Jennings asked.
Brodman came dangerously close to a smirk. “We will find you.”
The door slid back, leaving Jennings alone in the alleyway.
Jennings emerged out into the hustle and bustle of early morning Marketplace life. Everyone was going about their lives in peace, completely unaware of what was happening below them.
It was, he had to admit, an exceptionally well kept secret. But they had told him, and that was a mistake.
Now it was only a matter of time until Brodman’s masters were toppled. The organisation was far too powerful to be allowed to continue unchecked. Jennings needed to remove them.
The National Neopian Bank could wait. There were more important things to do now.
He set off through the Marketplace towards the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters. For once, Jennings actually wanted to talk to Judge Hog.
To be continued...