Writing and Fighting: Part One
To Oliver Sudden:
I regret to inform you that your request for the Time Repeating Machine to be melted and used for scrap metal has been overridden. The Machine is of much use and is too important to be subject to your whimsical fancies.
Anonymous Assassin?! The Space Station didn’t have assassins! For the love of Sloth’s socks, he’d only just been there three days ago. Surely the entire place couldn’t have been raided and taken over by anonymous assassins!
Oliver crumpled the letter up and threw it in his waste basket. He hated the Space Station. He hated the fifteen thousand Hangar Rules and Regulations, he hated the green (he had even changed his colour for it – he had been a green Shoyru, but issued a change to brown after his first visit), he hated the blasted loudspeaker, and, most of all, he hated the advanced technology.
The Time Repeating Machine was the worst. He’d been shoved into it by a very cheerful little red Grundo who set about pressing buttons, clearly without any idea of what he had been doing, and Oliver fell into oblivion. He had woken up on a wooden platform with a very bad headache, and it had taken him several days to get out of the past. Hard to do when not even lamps had existed.
And so he had written the Station a very angry letter describing his situation and, ahem, request, and he got a reply from an anonymous assassin.
Unless that was the Grundo’s name. “Hi, I’m Anonymous Assassin; it’s nice to meet you!”
...quite plausible, actually. After all, if his parents could name him Oliver Sudden, why couldn’t a Grundo name his or her kid Anonymous Assassin (Grundos naturally have very low intelligence levels, you see)? He’d have his friend at the Defenders of Neopia look up the names of Grundos working at the Station.
He sighed. “The Machine is of much use”... what use, exactly? Pushing random visitors into it and pressing buttons like a maniac? It could hardly be used for anything, oh, useful. Except maybe to rewind time enough to read the fifteen thousand Rules and Regulations so you didn’t waste your life.
“You got a reply from someone named Anonymous Assassin?” Id asked, trying very hard not to laugh.
Id was a purple Krawk working at the Defenders of Neopia headquarters. He didn’t actually go out into the field, for which he was probably thankful. It could get nasty out there, he’d heard.
“Either that was his name, or the Space Station was taken over by assassins who don’t have names,” Oliver said.
Id gave up and laughed. Oliver glared at him, crossing his arms.
“Sorry, Ollie. It’s just... assassins...!” Id appeared about ready to fall off his chair, clutching his sides.
“Right, whatever. I need you to get me a list of the Grundos at the Space Station, or at least find one named Anonymous Assassin so I can find out which scenario it is,” Oliver said.
“There could be a third scenario. It could be a Grundo with a proper name who just calls himself Anonymous Assassin.”
“I don’t think Grundos are really that smart.”
“You’d be surprised. They’re fast learners. And since most of them have been around since Sloth...”
“Okay, okay,” Oliver said. “Just let me know if you find anything.”
Id looked at his friend curiously. “Why, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I’d just like to know if there’s someone whose parents are even sillier than mine.”
Oliver picked up his copy of the Neopian Times from his lawn and headed inside, sitting down to read the paper straight away. He was very interested in the news.
The front page boasted one headline. Yes, only one:
TIME WILL STEAL YOUR CLOCK
Oliver stared at it incredulously. There was only one front page, and this is what was posted on it?
How could time steal a clock? What if you didn’t have a clock? What if you stole the clock you had? Was clock-stealing really an issue? Who the blazes even wrote the story?
It must be a slow news day, Oliver surmised. Still, even the weather report would be better served on the front page than that nonsense.
He scanned the article for anything that was even remotely interesting; a name, a place, an author... aha! A Mr. Barney Snow was responsible for this baloney. Oliver looked for a pen and a piece of paper, and sat down to write a very cordial letter:
Your story for the recent issue of the Neopian Times, “Time Will Steal Your Clock”, is utter rubbish. I’d like to know who brainwashed you.
He looked at the letter, and promptly crumpled it up. It was too assertive. He tried again:
You recently wrote a story for the Neopian Times, “Time Will Steal Your Clock”. I’d very much like to know how time, an uncontrollable and invisible force, can steal a clock, a very solid object. I’m also interested in knowing how much you paid the editor to land the front page.
That was better. He folded it neatly and put it in an envelope. Now to write a letter to the editor:
Mr. Barney Snow’s story, “Time Will Steal Your Clock”, is drivel. I’ll be using the front page to line my Kadoatie’s litter box.
Perfect! He didn’t have a Kadoatie, much less any petpet, but the editor didn’t know that. He stuck that letter into an envelope as well, and waited for the Neomail carrier to arrive.
Dear Oliver Sudden:
Please purchase a calendar or look at the date on the paper before getting haughty about silly stories.
Neopian Times Editor
Oliver wandered over to his refrigerator, which had a small calendar plastered to it.
The date was April 3rd... if the paper was printed two days ago, that would make the issue have come out on... April 1st. An April Fool’s joke. Of course.
He was very much looking forward to receiving Mr. Snow’s reply. If Mr. Snow even existed. That could have been part of the joke.
Nevertheless, he learned an important lesson: Always look at the date on papers with stupid headlines.
The rest of his Neomails were pointless. A magazine he had unsubscribed to three years ago yet still came around occasionally, a letter from his neighbour about his tree littering his lawn, and a “special offer” to pay five hundred Neopoints for something was only worth two hundred.
He was sifting through the magazine when someone knocked on the door. Oliver put the magazine down and found Id already in the front hallway, apparently having let himself in.
“Ollie! There is indeed a Grundo named Anonymous Assassin working at the Space Station!” he announced jovially. “Someone has stupider parents than yours!”
“I never said my parents, or this Grundo’s, were stupid,” Oliver said. “I said they were silly. Quite a difference there.”
Id nodded. “Of course. Anyway, Anonymous goes by Ony, and he’s green. He’s first in charge of the Neomail.”
“You have his address?”
“Yes, why?” Id asked.
“Because,” said Oliver, “I’d like to write him a reply.”
“Concerning what? His refusal to melt a machine he doesn’t personally own?”
“No, concerning the actual use of the Time Repeating Machine,” Oliver said.
“Well, that’s obvious,” said Id. “It’s used to repeat time.”
“I’d like to know why anyone would want, or need, to.”
Id was stumped. He frowned, lost in thought for a moment, before he sighed. “If you must. Here’s Ony’s profile and contact information,” he said, handing Oliver a piece of paper.
“Just one paper? That’s all his profile and contact information takes up?” Oliver asked. Normally profiles themselves took up several pages, especially in the cases of criminals.
Id shrugged. “He’s just a Grundo with a weird name. He hasn’t done anything wrong or very interesting, so there’s not much to profile.”
“I see. Thanks, Id.”
As I view the Time Repeating Machine as virtually useless, I’d like to know why you at the Space Station use it. Surely the past is full of darkness for you. Sloth comes to mind. Also, you would not get angry letters about it if the rest of the staff did not feel the need to force visitors into it and press buttons like a lunatic. What is it with you people and buttons, by the way? They’re all over the Station, and most of them don’t seem to have any apparent function!
To Oliver Sudden:
Grundos are very patient and persistent. However, when faced with fifteen thousand Hangar Rules and Regulations, even we are daunted with the prospect of spending our lives reading.
I apologize for the behaviour of the fellow who pushed you into the Time Repeating Machine, especially if he did not know what he was doing. I understand from personal experience that that can be quite unpleasant.
As for the buttons... we just like buttons.
Oliver looked at the letter again, quite expressionless. He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, or if he had been expecting a reply at all, but this certainly wasn’t it. Not that it was a bad reply, it just... didn’t tell him anything.
Curiosity could be such an awful thing.
He put the letter in his desk drawer, where he put almost every letter he received (the drawer was getting to be quite stuffed by now, but still managed to fit into its crevice in the desk). And then he promptly forgot about it.
“Ollie! Thanks for meeting me here,” Id said, frantically putting down his papers and taking his seat.
“No problem. What’s wrong?”
Id had sent him a rather panicked letter the day before, and it read something to the effect of... that something was wrong. It was a very vague letter. Obviously Id didn’t write letters as often as Oliver did, and thus was not as practiced.
It did, however, establish that Id wanted Oliver to meet him at the bakery. So he went to the bakery, and waited.
“I need to go out into the field!” Id exclaimed. “Me!”
“Because we’re three short for our next assignment. Two other lads volunteered to go out, and then the commander just went and picked me!”
“What exactly do you have to do?” Oliver asked patiently. It could take a while for Id to be more descriptive.
“I don’t know.” Id looked much despaired. “I always thought I’d just be doing my clerk business! You know, lots of paperwork and other safe stuff.”
Oliver sat still for a moment, and simply thought.
“What if I took your place?” he asked after a minute.
Id shook his head anxiously. “I couldn’t do that to you,” he said. “Do you know what happens out there?”
“Id, this is not a war. It’s a simple field assignment. I don’t mind,” Oliver reassured his friend.
“Are you sure?”
And there was no denying Oliver. He had a look of content certainty on his face, and his tone was positive.
Id fidgeted for a moment before conceding. “Okay, you can do it. Thank you.”
“Sure.” Oliver grinned. “When do I report for duty?”
Dear Oliver Sudden:
It has come to my knowledge that you have volunteered to do an assignment with the Defenders of Neopia. Please fill out the questionnaire and forms included, and mail them back to me within the week.
Commander Brock Teel
Oliver pulled out the other four sheets in the envelope, and laid them out on his desk. The questionnaire was only one page long, and the other three were the forms. Right, then. He’d do the questionnaire first. Forms always came last, mainly because they were boring.
Okay, so, question one. “Which of the following do you do when under assault?”
...maybe the forms first after all. A visit to the book store would be necessary for the questionnaire.
Oliver stood in the middle of the line of troops, tall and proud. Well, technically, he wasn’t very tall, as being in the middle of the line meant you were of a middling height, but for all intents and purposes, he was standing tall for his stature.
Commander Teel and Sergeant Nick Day inspected the line carefully. They passed over Oliver without comment, but they didn’t look displeased. Oliver sighed in relief.
“Okay, lads,” the shadow Bori commander announced after they’d finished. “There was a riot last night on Bracknell Road and a looting of one of the bigger houses. I think it’s safe to say the miscreants will return in two nights –”
“Sir, why do you think that, sir?” a tall blue Techo interrupted.
The commander kept going as if interrupted. “– and so Sarge and I here will be instructing you on how to keep the peace.”
“Or at the very least, how to make the rioters leave,” said Sergeant Day. He was a rather large orange Aisha.
“Numbers one to twelve, thirteen to twenty-four, and twenty-five to thirty-six, please split up into groups as I mentioned. Captain Jergens will be out shortly, and we will then proceed on how to make proper barricades with your group.”
“Sir, how are barricades going to keep the peace?” Oliver asked. The commander ignored him. He was clearly very good at disregarding disruptions.
“They’re going to keep the miscreants from getting out,” the red Chia next to him whispered.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just arrest them all?” Oliver whispered back.
“Eventually we’re going to,” the Chia replied, “but it takes a lot more work to run and catch them to arrest them rather than to just barricade the roads so they have nowhere to run to.”
Of course, thought Oliver, that also makes it more dangerous for us. What happens if the rioters conk us on the head?
To be continued...