Writing and Fighting: Part Two
Please have the Time Repeating Machine on standby. I may make a dash to the Space Station in two days to rewind time and alter the history for me and thirty-five other Defenders of Neopia.
Troops thirteen to twenty-four huddled behind their barricade. Commander Teel was with them, crouching behind Oliver.
“Good job, lads,” the commander whispered. “Built effectively and quietly. Just the way we needed it to.”
The troops didn’t say anything, but expressions of happiness lined their faces.
Oliver clutched his torch and his lance nervously nonetheless. Why did he sign up for this? Surely Id would have a better idea of what to do, be more confident...
Immediately Oliver felt ashamed. Id was beside himself with fright before he even picked up a sword. Oliver had done the right thing, and the commander had assured them all they would have a very good chance of making it out of this mess alive.
He took a deep breath to steady his nerves and peered over the barricade with the rest of them, watching out for any signs of suspicious activity.
He found some four minutes later.
“Sir, someone dressed in black just came out of that large house,” he whispered to the commander.
The red Chia chuckled. “Everyone thinks black makes you invisible at night. How very wrong they are; dark green or brown is much better.”
“Nice observation, Constable Pleter. And thank you for the heads-up, Sudden,” Teel said quietly.
One by one, more Neopets dressed in black and varying shades of grey crept out onto the streets. Many of them huddled in the bushes by the large house. Three torches were lit at the same time, and a scream pierced the silent night air.
The troops charged; the miscreants scattered... and Commander Teel was nowhere to be found.
“What do you mean, Commander Teel is missing?” the red Chia, who was apparently named Pleter, said.
“I mean, he’s gone. He wasn’t behind the barricade once the rioters’ torches were lit!” Oliver said.
Pleter groaned. “This is bad. Very bad.”
“I’ll say,” Oliver muttered. “But for the meantime, let’s go get that guy creeping along the alley wall, shall we?”
The two of them stealthily slipped into the shadows, keeping their focus on their prey. They walked as quickly as they could without making much noise; as a result, their pace was limited to speedy strolling.
The guy they were following hit the dead end, and retreated back up the alley, Oliver and Pleter unseen.
They jumped him as soon as he walked past.
“Augh!” a very familiar voice shouted.
Oliver and Pleter looked at each other in alarm, and then the Chia ripped the black hat off of their quarry.
“Commander Teel?” they asked simultaneously.
Teel brought his fist up to Pleter’s face; Oliver prodded it with his lance before it made contact.
Pleter sighed and dug through his pocket for the length of rope they’d all been required to bring.
“I never thought I’d have to use this on my own commander,” he said, tying the Bori’s hands behind his back. “What the blazes were you doing? Scouting the streets to find a way out for your little rioting friends?”
Teel was silent.
“That’s a good guess, Pleter,” Oliver said. “What do we do now, in any case?”
Pleter looked dumbfounded. “What To Do When Arresting Your Commander” was not a chapter in any law enforcement book.
“We bring him back to headquarters?” he asked.
“I have an idea,” Teel muttered. “You could just let me go.”
“Why would we do that?” Oliver inquired.
“I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“You left us without any instruction. You were creeping along an alleyway. And now that I think about it, it makes sense that you’re not on our side. How else would you know there would be another riot tonight?”
There was a loud boom. Pleter looked over his shoulder.
“The barricade fell down, Oliver.”
Oliver glared at Teel. “You didn’t teach us how to make a proper barricade at all, did you? You just taught us how to make a barricade that looked proper that was, in fact, easy to fell.”
“So what if I did?” Teel asked contemptuously.
“The Defenders manual says anyone shown to exhibit treason or betrayal is to be exiled,” Pleter said thoughtfully.
“Don’t even try,” Pleter warned him. “You’d probably chafe your hands before getting out of that rope.”
They’d loaded Teel onto the corner where all the other arrested rioters were, and went back into action. Most of the street was cleared already, but most of those left were probably in the houses, looting them, by now.
So Oliver and Pleter crept to the bushes of the large house, conked the guard there on the head, and lightly sprang up the steps. The door was open, to no one’s surprise, and there was quite a lot of noise coming from the house, which was to their surprise.
They looked at each other reassuringly, though not feeling very reassured at all, before diving into the chaos.
They found several of their own troops and officers putting up fights in various rooms. They didn’t stop to help, but merely went about looking for an unlawful who didn’t have a struggle on his hands. Surely they’d be of more use there than to help an already existing fight.
They found a sole Neopet, a grey Yurble, rummaging through the drawers in a bedroom.
“Busy?” Oliver asked sarcastically.
The Yurble spun around, an expression of clear panic on his face.
Oliver grabbed his own rope and forced the Yurble’s hands together as Pleter studied what the Yurble had been holding.
“Pretty necklace. Looks expensive,” he muttered. “I bet that would be a few years’ pay for you.”
He tossed it back into the drawer and helped Oliver take the Yurble down the stairs.
They were just out the door when a hammer swung at Pleter’s side. Oliver ran, leaving the Yurble at the doorway.
The streets were a mess. Apparently one of the officers guarding the arrested Neopians was also fond of treachery, and had loosed a fair amount of them. Oliver had whacked the blue Eyrie guard with his lance before turning around to face the sight of the street behind him.
Hm, let’s see: Miscreants running wild, fires, shouting, furniture being thrown out of windows, the barricades all fallen over, and most of the good guys knocked out on the pavement.
Quite a lovely sight. The large house seemed still, though. Maybe now would be a good time to check Pleter’s status.
Oliver grabbed the long dark jacket of one of the rioters and shrugged it on, covering his uniform. No need to show his uniform off. It would likely get him into worse trouble.
He ran along the pavement, up the steps of the large house, and found Pleter still at the doorway, clutching his sides and panting.
“Oh, good, you’re okay,” Pleter murmured.
“Yeah, I ran,” Oliver said. “I’m simultaneously sorry for leaving you and glad I did.”
Pleter smiled weakly. “Go for the latter.”
“Anything bleeding?” Oliver asked.
“Just a small wound on my arm.”
Before Pleter had even finished, Oliver tore off a strip of cloth from the jacket. He wrapped it around Pleter’s arm, where the wound was, and secured it with a knot.
“Thanks,” Pleter said gratefully.
Oliver grinned. “No problem. We do have another sort of problem, though... one of the guards let the rioters loose.”
“Oh, that’s just peachy.”
“Yes, very. I don’t know what to do. Most of us are unconscious, and those of us who aren’t have awfully big problems on our hands. We’re very sorely outnumbered.”
Pleter appeared lost in thought for a moment.
“Was Teel set free?”
Oliver shook his head. He’d whacked the guard before he could get to Teel.
“Then let’s go get that little megaphone of his,” Pleter said delightedly.
“Attention, all Defenders!” Pleter shouted into the megaphone. Most of the noise died down, with even some of the rioters looking around, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from.
Pleter and Oliver had hidden behind a wall, outside the streets where the riot was taking place.
“Please do your utmost best to gather your fallen comrades and report to field seven! I repeat, gather your fallen comrades and report to field seven!” Pleter continued.
“Field seven?” Oliver asked once his friend was done.
Pleter pointed behind them. “You see that meadow?” Oliver nodded. “That’s field seven. All the experienced troopers know, and those that don’t will once they’re told. Let’s go.”
To Oliver Sudden:
The Time Repeating Machine is ready. I’m glad to hear you’ve changed your hostile opinion about it.
Oliver read the note with relief. He was badly bruised, as were thirty-three of the other Defenders, the last three having more severe injuries, but he could change that now. He could prevent this whole thing from happening.
He grinned somewhat wickedly, and limped down the hallway to don his jacket.
“Hi, I need to speak to Anonymous Assassin,” Oliver Sudden said to the white Grundo at the front desk.
“Certainly. I’ll go fetch him.”
“Just tell him I’m Oliver, and to meet me at the Time Repeating Machine,” Oliver said. “He’ll know what I mean.”
The white Grundo nodded and disappeared, and Oliver wandered down to the Hangar. He was handed a copy of the Hangar Rules and Regulations, which he tossed into a nearby bin (completely unaware that this was against Regulation 1065.48.5, as well as Rule 57), and thereby proceeded to the Machine.
It was... big.
And that was pretty much the only way to describe it. It was just there. It didn’t look remarkable and it was green and grey, which is what all the other machines looked like, but it was bigger.
A green Grundo appeared out of nowhere next to Oliver.
“You are Oliver Sudden?” he asked.
“Yes. Anonymous Assassin?”
“Indeed. What exactly do you need the Machine for?” Ony asked.
“I need to go back two years,” Oliver said, “and then I want to return to the present, right away. I don’t want to be forced to walk a plank, swim across an ocean, and then make my way through a forest before I even find a building, you hear me?”
“Yes, sir, I do,” Ony said. “I apologize for your previous experience. I can assure you that this time will be different.”
They stepped into the Machine. A red Grundo appeared and pressed buttons like a lunatic. Oliver stared at him anxiously.
The doors closed.
“Just think about the time and place you’d like to be, sir, and everything should be fine,” Ony told Oliver.
Oliver took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He imagined being at the Defenders of Neopia headquarters when Brock Teel was just receiving his commander status. He had no idea what the actual process had been like, but headquarters with Teel becoming a commander should be specific enough, he thought.
The Time Repeating Machine pinged, and he cracked his eyes open. He wasn’t lying on a wooden plank. That was a good sign.
“So,” said Anonymous Assassin, “we appear to be at the headquarters of the Defenders of Neopia. Is this where you wanted to be?”
“Yes,” said Oliver, feeling rather relieved. “I hope I’m at the right time, though.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out. Lead the way.”
Oliver walked to the front desk, where a pink Aisha was at work.
“Excuse me,” he said, as politely as he could muster. “I’m looking for a Brock Teel and whoever might be with him right now.”
“He and Captain Jergens are busy in a conference meeting,” she said without looking up.
“It’s an emergency,” Ony piped up.
The pink Aisha looked up then, and stared at Ony curiously.
“What kind of emergency?” she asked.
“Ehm... an emergency kind?” Oliver remarked. “Look, it’s difficult to explain, but something will happen if Teel gets promoted to commander, and it won’t be something good. Please, just help me out here.”
The Aisha sighed and gave in. “Follow the back hallway. Seventh door on the left. But don’t let anyone know I told you.”
“Of course, thanks.”
They hurried down the hallway, pausing at the aforementioned door... and kicked it open.
Captain Jergens, a brown Draik, looked startled, but not quite as shocked as Teel.
“What’s going on?” Teel demanded.
“Captain, please issue a warning to Judge Hog that Teel is treacherous,” Oliver said quickly, ignoring the dirty glare he was getting from Brock. “He’d cause quite a bit of a disturbance sooner or later.”
Thank you for accompanying me on the Time Repeating Machine. It is wonderful to know that the Machine can be controlled, though I must say I do not intend to ever go on it again if I can help it.
Life under Commander Pleter is much more peaceful and organized. All seems to be as it was before the riots; Id still has his job, I’m still writing letters, and the lady who lived at the house the rioters were raiding is living happily.
I do now have a Kadoatie, however (I’ve had to have a small room added onto the house where I can keep the lights on at night so he can sleep, but otherwise he’s great; not even an addiction to expensive foods like those Kadoatery Kadoaties have), and a new friend in Commander Pleter, who believed me despite all the nonsense of altering history.
Id was a different story, but he’s since dropped the subject.
Oliver attached a picture of Commander Pleter and a picture of his Kadoatie to the letter, and enveloped them. He then took out another piece of paper and wrote:
Neopian Times Editor:
I’d like to lodge a complaint about a recent article published, “History Repeats Itself”, by a Mr. Barney Snow. I can assure you, from personal experience, that history does not always repeat itself, and that it is quite alterable if you wish to undergo some painful side effects.
Dear Oliver Sudden:
Lodging complaints is not for editors. It is for officials. However, Mr. Snow has been informed of your opinion. Thank you for reading the Neopian Times.
Neopian Times Editor
Oliver sighed. The editor was very hard to evoke a proper response from. He had expected something a little more... angry. Or possibly startled.
Oh well. Not everyone was capable of writing a decent letter. And after all, the editor probably wrote hundreds a day. His intellect was surely of no use to his poor hands.
“Commander Pleter wants to me to do a field assignment,” Id said over lunch at the Pizzaroo.
“You don’t seem worried,” Oliver noted as Id took a bite of his megapepper pizza.
Id grinned. “Are you kidding me? Pleter’s great. He told me he wouldn’t have asked me to do it if he didn’t think I could. You know what that does to a guy? It makes him feel darn good.”
Oliver chuckled. “What do you have to do?”
“Help set up barricades near Treckle Street.”
“That’s the rougher part of town, right?” Oliver asked.
Id nodded. “Mhm. Apparently a wanted gang has set up shop there, so we want to catch them, of course. I’m fairly excited.”
Oliver smiled, but the faintest trace of sadness passed over his face. “Be careful, okay? Don’t want anything awful happening.”
“Of course, Ollie. What could go wrong? Twenty on one, that guy’s got no chance.”
Oliver picked up a copy of the Neopian Times and looked at the date before scanning the headlines. June 7th. Good.
Then he glanced at the main story:
...surely protesting headlines would involve not using them? Well! This was certainly cause to write to the author!
And to line his new Kadoatie’s litter box, too.
He looked for an author’s name. There was none; figures. A letter to the editor it was, then!
Neopian Times Editor:
Please have a talk with the anonymous author who sent in the “Protest Headlines!” article about what protesting a headline entails: Not using them.
Id joined Oliver for supper the following night, explaining at great length and with great detail his adventure, and Oliver was relieved to hear that no casualties of any sort had occurred.
He didn’t fancy going into the Time Repeating Machine again. He had had suffered from shock-a-lots for the following two days. It was rather painful, and also difficult to get some sleep with.
Oliver had no idea how the Grundos at the Space Station handled such silly machinery.
“Ollie?” Id asked. “Ollie!”
Oliver jumped in his seat; he’d been very lost in thought.
“Any interesting Neomail today?” Id grinned.
Oliver chuckled. “Just another issue of that magazine I unsubscribed from ages ago, another angry letter from my neighbour about my tree dropping leaves in his yard, and an offer to pay five hundred Neopoints for something worth two hundred. Why?”
“No reason, just curious. I know you like your letters,” Id said mischievously. “I got that offer, too. For the black cloak?”
Oliver nodded. “And tell me, who needs a cloak like that?”
Id shrugged. “Beats me. I’d take a jacket any day of the week.”
Dear Oliver Sudden:
The editor requests that you read the article in question, for is it about protests in general, not strictly headlines, and that you also pay his hospital bill, for he has suffered a hand injury from replying to you insistently.
Neopian Times Editor’s Secondary Assistant
...oops. He’d already used the front page to line his Kadoatie’s litter box.