Balancing a pencil on the end of a hole-puncher had become
an art form for Angel. She had mastered it. It started off as being a simple
way of passing the fifteen minutes in between watching the electronic air freshener
go off, but it had gradually engrossed her. She could keep it balancing there
for a full half-hour provided no one came in and there weren't any sudden breezes
whipping through the office. Once she had mastered one pencil, she went onto
two, four, still more until there was a very obscure-looking pyramid of HB pencils
being balanced on one single hole-puncher. The finishing touch came in the form
of a minuscule red and white flag made from a fruit cocktail she had found in
the back cupboard (it had been there since New Year's Eve...urgh.). For three
whole minutes she sat back and admired her little creation before KeirothMohaki
the watchman came in for some coffee and consequently knocked it down.
Then she started to wonder if there was a World
Championship Pencil-Balancing competition. WOF Tack Down. An annual competition
where office workers with way too much time on their hands can meet and show
off their skills; like who can fire the most staples onto the ceiling, and who
can do the Bunbury Times daily crossword in the shortest space of time, and
who can write the wittiest message possible to leave on one of those scrolling
screensavers for your co-workers. Because she had been playing this game so
long, she must be a world champion by now.
She had mastered it.
She was the champion of pencil-balancing.
She was so bored.
Luckily for Angel, her boredom wasn't going
to last much longer. It was an unbearably hot day. A day on which she would
much rather be taking a refreshing dip in Kiko Lake which wasn't too far from
Bunbury Acres, or catching the cool and gentle zephyrs at the top of Terror
Mountain...for the love of Aunty Maureen, she'd rather be chucking Tigermice
out of ~The*Eyrie*Oak~ than be here! At least then she'd be doing something
NSPA HQ was no place for a lady...well, it was
no place for anyone to be at this particular moment in time. Think about it.
An underground lair insulated with several metres of solid steel. A boiling
hot day. And one of the rookies had just thrown a Frisbee into the ventilation
shaft, which had caused the air conditioning unit to explode quite spectacularly.
Needless to say, she had finished the class early and had to wait until Angle8285
returned before she could finish her shift. Sometimes being a recruitment officer
and one of the best spies in a world-renowned secret organisation wasn't all
it cracked up to be.
Angel was just dozing off again when the door
of her office was thrown violently open and in stormed a very small, Wocky-tailed
fuzzball wearing a jester's hat and a very foul expression.
"Twist? What're you doin' here?" yawned Angel,
bleary-eyed. "I thought you were goin' ta Faerieland wit' yer brother."
"Yep. So did I." The Checkered Acara frowned.
"Y'see we were about to leave when Mam dropped by unexpectedly and gave Shout2185
this bundle which - surprise surprise - contained Jitterbug. And we're already
all set to go now, Angel, and we cannot very well take Jitterbug on the rides
with us, so we were wondering if you could look after her just for a few hours
while we're gone. Oh thanks, sis, you're a star. I've left all her toys and
clean nappies and food in the basket with her, and here's a bit of cash you
can spend. See ya later. I'll bring back souvenirs. Byeeeeee!!"
All this was said in one breath, and Angel barely
had time to blink before her sister had dumped a fairly large basket on the
table, left 5,000 NP 'just in case' and departed with the speed and velocity
of a cheetah.
"Uh...bye..." murmured Angel sleepily before
rounding her attention onto the basket. "Jitterbug? What's a Jitterbug?" She
lifted one talon to inspect the contents of the hamper...and came beak-to-face
with two huge blue eyes and a cute button nose, whose owner's mouth was currently
stretched into a wide and enthusiastic grin. Angel jumped back, startled, before
taking out her specs and adjusting them back onto her beak. She smiled.
"Oh. That's a Jitterbug."
She had forgotten about Twist's family's anomalous
naming habits. Twist - and I quote - 'came from a long line of very respectable
2185s' on her mother's side, and so she and all of her sibling had their ended
their names with the numbers 2185. Therefore it only seemed fair that a certain
part of the name should be representative of their father...unfortunately, their
father was a stern old Wocky named Da_Funky_Chicken. As a result, the many children
of Ruth2185 and Da_Funky_Chicken were all given very odd names. There was Jive2185,
the really cool Fire Acara that all the girls liked; Pogo2185 was the oldest
girl - a Skunk punk with way too many piercings and a bad attitude problem;
then there were the twins, Twist2185 and Shout2185, who were painted Checkered
and Disco and were just plain nuts...there were many, many others, of course.
But the newest addition to the family was baby Jitterbug2185.
Baby Jitterbug clambered out the basket and
toddled across the desk, paws outstretched, stuttering baby words like 'Birdie!'
"Aw, aren't you precious!" squealed Angel, the
maternal side of her finally surfacing. "Did nasty big sister Twist leave you
here to go play on roller coasters?"
She tickled the Acara, who giggled madly. "So
cute!" she said, more to herself than to Jitterbug, as she leaned out the window
and looked around. "I hope Twist isn't too long. Well, you're just a baby. What
could possibly go wrong?"
"Famous last words," a high and teasing voice resonated from near the door.
Angel turned, and her face brightened as she saw Blue Aisha leaning casually
against the doorframe.
"Heyo Saf!" said Angel, grinning. "What're you
doing here? Your shift isn't until three."
"I passed Twist on the way up. Said you were
looking bored. I thought you might want some company."
"Well, I might've done if you'd arrived a few
minutes ago. Twist has just dropped off Jitterbug."
"Jitterbug? I haven't seen her since she was
knee-high to a grasshopper! Where is the little tyke?"
"Just over there. You can go and say hi, if
you like," Angel hummed, marking something off on a notepad in a bid to look
"Just there on the table. In the basket."
"Yes." The 'yes' was drawn out and a mixture
between sarcasm and suspicion - "Why shouldn't she be?"
"Because...she isn't here."
"Angel, are you sure the heat hasn't gone to
your head? I've heard of people hallucinating in the desert, and that isn't
too far flung from here, so..."
"SAF! I haven't been seeing things! Twist dropped
Jitterbug off here - now where is she..."
There was a tinkle of smashed glass that radiated
from somewhere in the archives of the NSPA workstations, and an insane giggling
"How'd she get past you?"
"You were standing right in the doorway!"
"So were you!"
"Don't try and turn this around!"
The two panicked Neopets sprinted down the metal
steps, desperately searching for the pint-sized Acara.
"Can you see her?"
"Nope, not a sign...oh wait, there she is."
"Where? Oh my gosh, how on Neopia did she get
all the way up there?"
Jitterbug had, indeed, taken a little walk...all
the way along the metal banister, across what looked like the wooden border
of a poster and was currently balancing rather athletically on the rims of a
large variety of chemicals on the top shelf. She did a little dance on the bottles,
knocking an added two bottles off the shelf, and laughed maniacally.
The bottles sizzled and smoked, and burned a
gaping hole in the steel floor before either of them could say 'corrosive'.
"Jitterbug, honey? Will you come down now? It's
not safe for you up there," Angel called, anxiously.
"How on earth did the midget get past us? We
were right beside the door!"
"I have no idea..."
Jitterbug blinked and gave them one of those
looks before turning her back and leaping casually off the shelf. Angel's reaction
was instantaneous. With a yelp of fright she took to the air with tremendous
speed in hope of cutting Jitterbug off before she really got hurt.
Fortunately for Jitterbug, she bounced off a
large mould of florescent blue rubber that had been setting on the table, was
flung three feet into the air and landed gently on a strategically placed pillow
on Dauphin's desk.
Unfortunately for Angel, she didn't.
In fact, she missed Jitterbug altogether and
- in an attempt to steady herself - smashed into Xx_Rockhound_xX's private chemical
stash, in which she was currently trapped, trying not to shift her wings as
to knock over any chemicals.
Within a few seconds another high-pitched ring
of glass and a screech from Angel told Saf that she certainly hadn't succeeded
in that. The Eyriess whipped by her, pink flames emanating from her tail, and
leaped, headfirst, into a vat of all-purpose liquid antidote.
Saf stifled a laugh as he held Jitterbug at
arm's length and watched Angel clamber out of the antidote soaked to the bone,
looking not unlike a drowned rat, with a sliver of rose-coloured smoke still
snaking from her tail tip.
"Don't...say...anything," she growled, making
her way back towards the office.
"Wasn't going to. Really." Saf continued to
snicker under her breath. "Ugh. What's that smell?"
Angel breathed in deeply, and gagged. An absolutely
foul stench had smacked her in the nose...er...beak. It was like someone had
taken a ton of fertiliser, sailed it through the sewers and then sprayed it
with some of that perfume she had found Twist wearing once. It was vile! She
choked and grabbed her beak to muffle the stink, until her gaze fell onto Jitterbug,
who was looking as guilty as could be.
"Oh great," she muttered, "Saf, will you change
"WHAT?!" exclaimed Saf as if he were shocked
and insulted that she would ever suggest such a crude and vile thing. "I'm not
touching that! That's gross!"
"Oh well, if you're gonna be like that..."
Saf groaned in an exhaustive manner. "Look,
if you're gonna complain, I'll do it. Anything to stop that smell - I can't
stand it any longer! Sheesh." And with that she marched the Baby Acara into
Angel's office, armed with three towels and a makeshift gas mask.
Angel grinned triumphantly. Suddenly, a thin
shaft of light pierced the relative darkness of the room. Angel turned to see
a Green Gelert walking slowly out of a nearby room. He was quite tall and thin,
wearing small frameless glasses and a white lab coat. He looked a lot like the
Gelert Doctor from the hospital, but not as laid-back and focused. Rocky specialised
in chemistry and did often help the team of Doctor Gelerts (yes, all the doctors
are Green Gelerts - did you really think the same Gelert did a 24-7 shift?),
but his real love was for mechanics.
"Hey Rocky! Didn't know you were working extra
The Green Gelert looked around nervously, his
eyes racing in their sockets like toddlers on a sugar high. "There's no one
else here, is there?"
"Just me, Saf and Twist's little sister."
"Good." Rocky pressed the button, which started
up the coffee machine. "I'm in the middle of a technological breakthrough, and
I don't won't anyone to mess it up. If it works, our spy gadgets will be ten
times more efficient." The coffee machine spluttered and slurped, and Rocky
took a long swig from the cup.
"You all right? You look like you haven't slept
"Three days, five hours and twenty three minutes,
but who's counting?"
"Rocky, that's way too long. You've got to have
at least some sleep. Take a kip in my office. Please?"
Rockhound sighed and slumped against the wall.
"I suppose a few hours won't interrupt my research too much." He stumbled back
towards the lab and shut the heavily armoured metal door. He then whipped his
head round and smiled weakly. "Want to know what I've been working on?"
"Sure. Go ahead."
"Using spy gadgets used to be a real pain. The
most effective weapons are way too big to take into missions, and compressing
them to a smaller size requires amazing skill and can risk losing the destructive
effect of the weapons. Well, not anymore! Not when you can shrink the weapon
and just de-shrink it when you've finished! It's still in the planning stage,
so there's still a bit to go yet."
"Sounds good, Rocky," mumbled the Eyriess, uninterested.
"Does it? I sure hope this one works." They
rounded into the foyer outside the office. "Anyway, there is a point to me telling
you this...ah yes. I've got a load of really powerful but sensitive equipment
stocked in my lab, and if doesn't take much to set them off, so please don't
go in there. It's too dangerous."
To be continued...