Misadventures of a Neopian Times Reporter XVII
I looked up in alarm as a hand slapped down on my desk with such force that several items on it fell over. I found myself face to face with my beloved Faerie Cybunny, who was glaring less than lovingly at me.
"What in Fyora's magical name were you thinking buying Yanli a Zafara Double Agent costume?" she demanded in a low, dangerous tone.
"It was super cheap?" I said weakly.
The costume had been an impulse buy the day before when it had caught my eye while shopping for new clothes with Molly. I had been trying to make history lessons more fun in order to try to keep Yanli's attention, something which was notoriously short. I had thought that getting her a Zafara Double Agent costume might help interest her in Meridellian history, which was our current subject.
"Do I want to know why you're so unhappy, Bunny-mine?" I asked.
"Congrats, Teach. Those history lessons clearly sank in on some level. She's been offering to sell me secrets about my sisters while spying on me for secrets to sell to said sisters. I can't go anywhere without a shadow, and the only time I don't have a shadow is when one of the other girls are home and she's trailing them," Elise informed me.
"Only the sisters? Bluejay has immunity?" I asked.
"I don't know, he probably has something on her to keep her at bay. You know those two are thick as thieves and he often cleans up her messes before we find them. Seriously, though, if I get an offer to learn about Princess' 'secret obsession' one more time, I'm going to do something we will all regret. I mean, come on, everyone knows about Princess' Nightsteed obsession. You only have to walk into her room to know all about it. Books and the Nightsteed, that's all there is. I can't even find her bed in there. I might actually pay if Yanli wanted to sell me information about where-" Elise cut herself off with a strangled sound. She had been talking in an undertone up until she started on about the Nightsteed, at which point her voice had risen to just short of a shout.
From outside my room I heard thundering footsteps, the kind that could only be made by a Christmas Zafara wearing a Double Agent costume.
"I'm going to cry," Elise confessed, looking beaten.
I looked down at the comics that I was working on, something inspired by one of Yanli's prior antics. "No one gets my sense of humor. Except Buzz, only he thinks I'm pitiful."
"You are pitiful, Kristy. I don't know how you can have been mother to that girl for all these years and not foreseen this outcome when you thought about buying her that costume. She's probably spying on you too, you know. I don't want to know your secrets. I really don't want to know. Stop her before she tries to sell them to me, because when I won't pay, she'll probably forget she was trying to ransom the information and just tell me." Elise reached across the desk and grabbed me by the collar, pulling me out of my seat towards her. "Save me, stop her!"
She let me go and hurried out of my room just as from below I heard Princess start screaming. "No, Yanli, no! I have those categorized by birth records, if you knock them over it will take me a week to reorganize them. Kristy, Kristy! Please, Mother, please! Yanli, no, watch your wings!"
I was off and flying, beating Elise to the stairs and down them in a flash. None of my older girls ever called me mother except in situations where they were in some desperate need of their mother or making fun of me, and this was clearly the former. I reached Princess' room, which was exactly what Elise had said, all books and Nightsteed. There were piles of books interspersed with plushies and memorabilia to do with the Nightsteed or various things relating to her studies littered among more piles of books. Through the gaps in the books, you could see Nightsteed posters lining the walls.
I carefully made my way in and pounced on Yanli as she darted at yet another pile of books. I pinned her arms down at her sides and lifted her off the ground.
"Hi, Kristy!" Yanli said with her extraordinarily bright smile.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" the Desert Uni sobbed as she rebalanced a stack of books she had caught.
I carried my wayward daughter out of the room, and my other daughter locked it behind us. I set Yanli on the floor, pinching the bridge of my nose and trying to figure out what to say to her.
"Yanli, you know you're not supposed to be exuberant in Princess' room," I said slowly.
"I was looking for her bed," Yanli told me, her voice dropping to something that was the closest she'd ever come to a conspiratorial whisper. "I have it on good authority that such information may fetch a high price."
"Okay, firstly, I'm glad you've been paying attention to my history lessons after all, but you're not a double agent. Secondly, you need to stop these games, you're driving your sisters insane. Where is Molly, why aren't you playing with her?" I asked.
"I don't know. She was with me, but she disappeared a while ago," Yanli said with a shrug. Suddenly, her manner shifted and she made a crafty face at me. "Oh, so you need information on the location of the White Xweetok, do you? Well, I might be able to arrange that, for a price."
"Yanli Kimmy!" I cried, suddenly understanding why Elise had been so bothered. Yanli was unstoppable and somewhat frightening. "Take off that costume and go play with the baby."
Yanli pouted for half a second and then smiled again. "Okay."
She skipped off and I felt proud of myself. I had handled that like a proper mother and she had listened to me because I was a true authority figure. Then it dawned on me that she was going to obey me, take off the costume and play with the baby for a little while, and then go right back to it. So long as that costume was around, we were going to have to put up with Yanli Double Agent until she got bored of that game. I just hoped her short attention span would save us here.
I went back to my room and was about to sit back down when I realized my pen was gone. I looked around and saw it on the floor near my bed, I'd probably been holding it and had tossed it during my mad dash to Princess' aid. I went over and knelt down to pick it up.
"Hi, Mama Kristy," a little voice whispered.
I half jumped and then looked under the bed. Molly and her Barlow were lying under my bed reading a book. Orion got up and waddled out to lick my face. I pushed his tongue away and gave him a petting behind the ears.
"What are you doing under there, Mollykins?" I asked, wondering when she had snuck in.
"I was with Yanli all morning, trying to get her to stop. She broke me," she whimpered, her green eyes looking sad.
"Broke you?" I asked, horrified.
"She hums an 'I'm sneaking' tune. She hums her own theme music," Molly told me, her voice barely above a whisper. "I can't get it out of my head, and I couldn't take it anymore. I snuck away here, because your bed has the most room under it, and Yanli always forgets to look under beds. Do you want me to leave, Mama?"
"No, no it's okay. You stay under there as long as you want," I said, feeling bad for my poor Molly.
"Thank you," Molly said. "Come back, Orion."
The Barlow waddled back under the bed and settled down at Molly's side, sighing happily. Orion was never happier than when he was cuddled with Molly. His absolute adoration of her was adorable, except that he chewed things if she left the house for more than a few hours.
"You're looking glum and I don't want to know why," Buzz informed me as I entered his office.
"Like I'd even bother," I replied. "Everyone knows you know nothing about kids."
"That's not entirely true," Buzz said, smirking a little. "I should tell you about the time I wound up masquerading as a substitute teacher at an elite academy to recapture an escaped Grundo scientist. I got the class of kid geniuses."
"They were all so traumatized by that experience that they are our current generation of evil super geniuses, aren't they?" I guessed.
"Oh, I don't know, but I certainly had fun teaching them psychology. Too bad for them the class was physics." Buzz's smirk grew more pronounced.
"I shouldn't be laughing, that isn't really funny," I said, giggling in spite of myself. "Okay, what is my special assignment this time?"
Buzz slid a folder across his desk and I opened it.
"The Meerca Brothers!" I cried. "Why are we doing an article on them?"
"They just attempted their most ambitious heist yet and bungled it badly. One of our reporters actually got pictures of the Defenders of Neopia doubled over in laughter at the scene. The pictures were sensational, the public wants to know what went so wrong, and in the culprits' own words," Buzz explained. "You're behind on the news; what rock have you been under?"
"I've been hiding from one of my daughters. I made a mistake and I'm paying for it. Nothing the Meerca Brothers can say can possibly be more scarring than listening to her hum her own theme music for hours on end," I confessed.
"Kimmy, you're an idiot, and your other children are saints for putting up with you," Buzz informed me.
"I know, I know," I said as I let myself out of his office.
I walked down to the Chia Police headquarters, feeling nervous. I had never been there before and I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. I walked in and went up to the front desk. I pulled out my press pass and opened my mouth to explain why I was there.
"Mike, we've got the Weekly World here. Take her along and make it fast. The Neopian Times is scheduled for a turn in half an hour," the Chia called. Then, to me, "By the by, we hate your paper's guts for running those pictures. Every paper, magazine, and what-have-you has been demanding an interview with the brothers since then. I've never had to sort through so many Neomails in my entire life."
"I'll pass that along," I said, feeling even more nervous now.
Yet another Chia walked over and gestured for me to follow. The officer brought me to a room divided down the middle by a glass wall. The brothers were sitting together in room on the other side of where I was. I sat down at the table that was in there and pulled out my notebook and pencil. Before I could even start, the brothers launched off.
"Is that your hair? Really? It's a wig, isn't it?" Meerouladen said.
"I'll bet you it's real," Heermeedjet countered.
"How much will you bet?" his brother asked.
"The top bunk," Heermeedjet replied.
"You're on. Girlie, is it real?" Meerouladen asked.
"Of course it is!" I cried, flabbergasted by this exchange.
"I told you," Heermeedjet replied with a superior grin.
"She has to shave it off to prove it was actually connected to her head. She could be lying," Meerouladen countered.
"I will do no such thing!" I cried, horrified.
"If you won't do it, you have to forfeit and I win," Meerouladen told me.
"I don't care about your stupid bet," I told him.
"Sore loser," he said as he stuck his tongue out at me.
I dropped my face into my hands. It was days like this that I wondered why I had ever wanted to become a journalist.
"Girlie, why are you doing that? All the police and Defenders we've seen since they caught us have done that too. Is there some Achy Head going around?" Heermeedjet asked.
"I'm a human, we can't catch Neopet diseases," I pointed out.
"She makes a good point," Heermeedjet said.
"What is the point?" Meerouladen asked.
"That it was a good one?" Heermeedjet said.
"You're so stupid," Meerouladen said with a disgusted shake of his head.
"No, you are!"
This resulted in a slapping match between the brothers as they hurled grade-school level insults at each other. I finally broke. I leapt to my feet, screaming for them to shut up. They did, sitting down next to each other silently and elbowing each other when they thought I wasn't looking.
"Okay, let's try this again," I said, calming down. "I am Kristykimmy from the Weekly World. I'm a journalist."
"Hey, Kris!" Heermeedjet said, sounding like we were old chums.
"Please, call me Miss Kimmy. I really insist," I replied.
"Miss Kimeeeeh!" Meerouladen said, winking at me.
Again, my head found its way into my hands. Why did Buzz hate me so much? Why couldn't my colleagues ever handle these cases? Yes, maybe it was cruel of me to wish that on them, but only once in a while. The brothers started knocking on the window. I looked up to find their grimacing faces plastered to the glass. Startled, I jumped and nearly tipped over my chair. I righted myself and shouted at them to sit down. They did and I tried again.
"I'm here about the heist," I informed them.
"Why?" they both asked.
"I'm a journalist, for a newspaper. Remember?" I reminded them.
"Oh, good! I'm ready for my close up," Heermeedjet informed me.
He jumped up, flying at the glass and plastering his face against it again. After shouting at him to sit down once more, I asked them to tell me what happened.
"What happened? When?" Heermeedjet asked.
"Last night, at the museum?" I reminded them.
"The museum! No wonder everything went wrong. It was supposed to be Kauvara's. This is the last time you get to keep the map, Heermeedjet!" Meerouladen shrieked, slapping his brother.
"Well, that explains why there were such dumb stuff all over. I thought Kauvara had just taken up interior decorating and was super bad at it. Seriously, the museum is full of badly arranged junk. You guys should call in feng-shui experts from Shenkuu," Heermeedjet said with a dismissive shrug.
"So, will you tell me about what happened?" I asked.
"Will you shave your head to prove that your hair is real?" Meerouladen asked.
"No, but I might start tearing it out at the roots!" I cried in frustration.
"That works too!" he said happily.
I began to introduce my face to the table. Eventually, through much more yelling at them to stop hitting each other and calling each other names, I got the story. Apparently, they had meant to hit Kauvara's shop, but had gotten their locations mixed up and wound up at the museum. They had created a rope using hundreds of yellow sticky hands. Of course, looping the rope all together in the bag had caused it to get stuck to itself, so it took them well over an hour to untangle it. Someone working late in an office nearby spotted them when they happened to look out a window and had called the Defenders of Neopia.
With the rope finally untangled, they got ready to go, and that was when everything truly went wrong. Meerouladen got tangled in the sticky rope just as Heermeedjet jumped through the skylight headfirst. The rope was supposed to be springy, which is why they had used the sticky hands, but Heermeedjet was not supposed to be so enthusiastic with his jump. He had landed with his head in the janitor's bucket which happened to be below the skylight, and then rebounded, splatting against the ceiling, stuck there by yards of sticky hand.
And all of this was witnessed by Orig the Great, Danger Buzz, and Aisheena who had just entered the museum in search of the brothers. They were still rolling with laughter when my paper's camera girl had shown up with her camera and snapped those now famous images.
"So, are we gonna be famous when you publish this story, Miss Kimeeeeeeh?" Meerouladen asked once they finally finished their tale.
"Guys, this is going to further enhance your reputation," I said diplomatically.
They high-fived, crowing excitedly. At that moment, the Chia Police Officer, Mike, poked his head in and informed me that the Neopian Times was here, so I needed to wrap up.
"Thank Fyora, I'm so done here," I informed him, getting up.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Heermeedjet called.
I looked back at them to find them plastered to the glass once again, grimacing even more disturbingly than before.
"You have a spotty bum!" they shouted in unison.
I slammed the door behind me far harder than I needed to. I walked out into the lobby, the journalist for the Neopian Times rose as I came out. I knew her, so I stopped to warn her.
"They act like six-year-olds, and you'll probably need counseling after your turn in there. Good luck," I informed her.
She nodded, biting her lip as she followed Mike down the hall. I felt bad for her, but it was part of our jobs really. Most of us had asked for it. I went into the offices of the Weekly World and commandeered an empty desk to work on my article at. Usually I worked at my desk at home, but after today, I didn't think I could take Yanli's theme on top of everything I had gone through at the hands of the Meerca Brothers. Buzz snickered when he read my account of what had happened.
"I'd say that those two might be the biggest morons in Neopia. However, considering that they continue to escape or get released, it might not be the truth. You look more frazzled than when I saw you this morning. Had a good time?"
"I really hate you most days," I told him.
Buzz smirked at me, "I hired you, Kristy, but you applied for the job."
"I didn't really have a choice after the first interview," I pointed out.
"And that makes it all the more amusing."
There was no witty retort for that so I simply left to go home. I walked through the front door and immediately heard the humming coming from behind the coat rack. I simply hung up my coat and went to the family room. Inna was sitting on the floor, playing with blocks, while Elise sat reading on the couch. I sat down on the couch and Inna got up and toddled over to me, raising her arms to be picked up. I lifted her into my lap and the Baby Acara grabbed a handful of my hair and started twirling around her paws. Suddenly, I felt something wet against my heel, it repeated over and over.
"Yanli started looking under beds?" I asked Elise.
"Yup," she replied. "Also, in the dressers."
Yanli's face rose from behind the side of the couch. "I had a lead on the White Xweetok as of this morning, but she became aware of my investigation and went to ground. Still, I'm confident I can lure her out before long. However, we're going to have to talk price. This investigation is more involved than it originally seemed."
"Hey, Yanli," I said, looking over at her as Inna began to brush my face with the ends of my hair. "I think I saw a new type of butterfly in the garden."
Yanli was off and flying, and Elise turned around to watch her go, looking stunned.
"Thank Fyora for short attention spans and a butterfly obsession," I said.
"Why didn't I think of that?" Elise said, looking baffled.
Molly rolled out from under the couch and Orion finally stopped licking my heel to join her. The Xweetok held her arms out to her baby sister, saying, "Come on, Inna, let's go play in your room before she gets bored and comes back."
Inna and Molly left and I turned to Elise.
"Do you think people would take me seriously if I cut my hair short?"
"No," she replied.
"Then, what can I do?" I asked.
"Stop being Kristykimmy," she said.