Viva la Resistance!: Part One
Neopia Central is a city, vast and teeming with the lives of millions of Neopets. From its humble beginnings as a travelling group of trading gypsies, it has always been a free economy, unbound by real laws or authoritarian rule.
There are no Kings and Queens, no elected officials. No taxes to pay, no real deeds of ownership. It is a free-for-all; claim what you can and then sell it on to the highest bidder.
In the past, people have looked upon this state of affairs and sought to manipulate it to their advantage. They claim power wherever they can, in the vain hope of uniting the city under their rule.
Most fail, though handfuls succeed in claiming parts of the city as their own. Most form criminal organisations around themselves, with presentable legitimate fronts. The construction industry in the Docklands, the high rise towers of the Business District, or the affluent charities of the Hills. All of them run by criminal masterminds that exist in peaceful harmony, to mutual gain. Neopia Central continues in a downward spiral as they line their pockets.
Yet once in a while a new player will enter the game, and the cards will be reshuffled.
Once in a while, Neopia Central changes.
Judge Hog’s cape billowed in the wind as he struck a dashing and heroic pose. A gentle ting followed as the lift came to a stop.
“Floor 31, stationary supplies, seamstresses, deathbots and administration,” a mechanical voice notified him as the doors slid open.
The muscle-bound Moehog strode purposefully out of the lift, his cape moving out of the way of the air conditioning.
“Good morning, Judge,” a clerk Cybunny greeted him as she passed.
“Good morning, Celina,” the Judge replied.
“Have you read the Neopian Times yet today, sir?” she asked.
“No!” the Judge chuckled. “A crime fighter doesn’t have time to stand on street corners reading newspapers! Unless of course that’s how he changes into his costume. Why?”
“No reason, sir. I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough,” Celina replied, nervously tucking some loose hair behind her ear. “There’re some people waiting to see you in your office, sir.”
The Cybunny seemed to rush off down the corridor before Judge Hog could question her anymore. The Moehog shrugged and continued on to his office.
He opened the double doors firmly when he reached them, revealing the splendour of his lavish office within. A wide window offered a near 180 degree view of the city below, while the office itself was finely furnished with rugs and varnished wooden furniture. A separate door led off to his own personal gym.
His office had three more occupants than usual, all in suits. One was a weedy looking rainbow Lutari wearing glasses. He almost seemed to be hiding behind his briefcase. The second was a stocky green Grarrl who looked much more confident.
They were both stood behind the third Neopet, who was sat at Judge Hog’s desk, in Judge Hog’s chair. It was a green Krawk.
He smiled lightly as he saw the Judge enter, and set down the copy of the Neopian Times he was reading.
“Ah, Judge Hog, a pleasure as always, do take a seat,” the Krawk said politely, gesturing to a chair in front of the desk.
Judge Hog closed the doors to the office firmly.
“I trust I don’t need to reintroduce myself?” the Krawk asked.
“No, Mr. Jennings, you do not... or is it General Qin?” the Judge answered, still not taking a seat.
The Krawk smiled.
“Both, I should say... or possibly neither,” he said eventually, before picking up the Neopian Times. “There’s an interesting article about modern scientific theories. You and I may not, in fact, be real.”
The Judge let his hands tighten into fists. Sat before him was one of Neopia Central’s most wanted criminals. He was a Shenkuu exile wanted by the Emperor, and the man responsible for half of the protection rackets that were being run on the shopkeepers of Neopia Central. He was quickly branching out his criminal empire into new businesses. There wasn’t an illegal pie that Mr. Jennings did not have a finger in.
“I ought to have you arrested,” the Judge growled.
“The reason I mention the article to you,” Jennings continued as if the Judge had said nothing, “is because you clearly have not read it. If you had picked up a copy of today’s paper, you most certainly wouldn’t be making careless threats like the one you just made.”
Jennings threw the paper across the table. The Judge moved closer, keeping one eye on the Krawk. The headline on the front page made the Moehog’s heart skip a beat.
‘BUSINESSMAN BUYS CONTROLLING SHARE IN DEFENDERS OF NEOPIA’
There was a picture below, Mr. Jennings smiling for all the world to see.
“You’re kidding?” Judge Hog asked.
“I wouldn’t dare,” Jennings replied calmly.
“You can’t buy the Defenders!” the Judge shouted, slamming his fist on the table.
“You think this building is run on public money, or the power of dreams?” Jennings asked lightly. “I really expected the man in charge to have a grip on the finances. There is no ruler in Neopia Central; there is no state to fund things. Lycra outfits do not pay for themselves, Judge. The Defenders of Neopia is a business, one floated on the stock exchange for some time. I have bought this business.”
The Judge collapsed into the chair Jennings had offered him.
“It’s official?” he asked.
“Of course.” Jennings smiled. “Mr. Entwhistle is my lawyer; he can provide you with all of the relevant paperwork. This is completely above board.”
The rainbow Lutari rushed forward and opened his briefcase. He handed the Judge some paperwork, and gave a little glare to Mr. Jennings.
“I’m sorry about this,” he told the Judge. “I held him off for as long as I could but he’s within his rights to do this.”
“Don’t look so worried, Judge!” Jennings laughed. “I’m not here to make your life difficult. The Defenders of Neopia will continue to function as normal. I’m here only as the owner; you are still in charge.”
“But let me guess, we can’t arrest you, or anyone that works for you?” the Judge asked bitterly.
Mr. Jennings smiled.
“A very kind gesture.” He smirked. “Certainly, it would be a conflict of interest for you to imprison the person who actually owns the cells, and I do have certain business arrangements with the Thieves Guild... but rest assured, if they step out of line, I want nothing more than for you to perform your duties.”
“You want me to make sure there’s a reasonable... or profitable level of crime on the streets, then?” the Judge asked.
“Quite so,” Jennings replied. “You understand just as well as I do that without the criminal aspects of the city, Neopia Central would cease to function.”
Mr. Jennings got up and straightened out his suit. He nodded at the Grarrl by the window, who moved across the room to open the main doors.
“To our continued business partnership,” Jennings said, bowing his head towards the Moehog.
The two of them left, followed quickly by the rainbow Lutari.
Judge Hog waited until he heard the click of the door closing behind them before putting his head in his hands.
The three suited Neopets rode the lift down to the lobby together.
Mr. Jennings glanced at the rainbow Lutari as the floor numbers rolled by.
“It strikes me as curious that a lawyer such as yourself is so concerned about the Defenders of Neopia, Mr. Entwhistle,” Jennings observed.
The Lutari looked back at Jennings, sudden fire lighting up in his cowardly eyes.
“It’s not against the law for a lawyer to have a conscience,” Entwhistle replied.
“Ah.” Jennings smiled at the Grarrl at his other side. “A conscience, is that what it is?”
“I don’t agree with what you are doing, that’s all. It’s perfectly legal; it just feels wrong to me,” Entwhistle explained. “I understand if you don’t feel I should work for you anymore.”
“Now why should I feel that?” Jennings asked. “A man with a conscience, let alone a lawyer with one, is a rare commodity in this city. You do your job well; I think we’ll keep someone as useful as you around.”
Entwhistle remained silent.
The Whinny-pulled carriage rolled on through the night. The Green Grarrl sat atop it, steering the vehicle down the cobbled streets of Neopia Central. He brought the carriage to an abrupt halt at the crossroads between two of the city’s busiest highways. At that time of night, though, it was practically deserted.
The Grarrl climbed down and tapped on the door to the carriage. It was opened from within, and Mr. Jennings stepped down to the street.
“Thank you, Mr. Black,” Jennings said, nodding to the Grarrl.
Carefully, using a black, diamond tipped cane for support, the Krawk made his way over to the nearby wall. The thing was covered in graffiti from the local kids, and Jennings carefully ran his fingers over the newest scribbles.
“We shall have to keep an eye on this ‘Lunchtime’,” Jennings remarked over his shoulder to the Grarrl.
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
“Aha...” Jennings paused over one of the most recent words. “Viva la Resistance indeed... this could pose a serious problem, Mr. Black. We shall need to act immediately.”
“Yes, sir,” Mr. Black answered.
The Krawk pulled himself upright.
“Find the right man for the job. I shall need to meet with him immediately,” he instructed Mr. Black.
“Immediately, sir,” the Grarrl replied, holding the door to the carriage open.
“You have a room reserved in my name,” the blue Nimmo said in a voice that carried the air of money.
“Certainly sir, may I ask for your name?” the receptionist Aisha asked.
“Worthington-Smyth-Foxley, R,” the Nimmo replied. “I do hope it’s one of your better rooms. The one we stayed in last time only had three bathrooms. It was like living in the slums.”
The receptionist smiled politely, while noting that there were only two people waiting at the desk. Why they should ever require more than three bathrooms at once was beyond her.
“Certainly, sir, you have our penthouse suite,” she told him. “I hope everything will be satisfactory with your stay. I’ll just call for the bellboy.”
The Aisha tapped a bell on the desk and in a few moments an eager looking yellow Ogrin appeared, decked out in a hideous red uniform that all of the bellhops at the Neolodge wore.
“Can I help you with any bags, sir?” he asked as he took the key to the suite from the receptionist.
“Certainly,” Mr. Worthington-Smyth-Foxley replied. “We’re attending a social gathering at Lady Cambridge’s mansion up in the Hills. We don’t have time to unpack, if you could just take our bags up and drop them off.”
The Ogrin nodded eagerly, and reached down to pick up the bags and put them on the polished gold cart. He kept the strain on his face barely concealed as he realised the bags were a lot heavier than he had anticipated.
“Good show, my man, take this for your trouble,” Mr. Worthington-Smyth-Foxley said, tucking a few loose coins into the bellhop’s top pocket.
The Ogrin grinned. A few loose coins to the Worthington-Smyth-Foxleys were enough to buy a mansion.
As the guests made their way out of the Neolodge’s lobby, the Ogrin made his way to the service lift with his cart. As the doors closed, another bellhop made his way to the reception.
“There’s a guest with some bags to carry?” the Gnorbu asked.
“Oh, it’s alright, the new boy got them, the Ogrin,” the receptionist replied.
The Gnorbu sighed slightly as he left. A curious thought struck him... he didn’t remember seeing any new staff turn up for work that morning... and there weren’t any Ogrins on staff already...
In the lift, the yellow Ogrin grinned to himself as he carefully eased a photograph over the Virtupets security camera. The photo showed the Ogrin standing calmly next to the luggage cart.
Once it was done, he ringed his hands and set to work unpacking the luggage. Clothes were thrown haphazardly over the floor of the lift as the Ogrin gathered a separate pile of necklaces, jewels and fine gold pocket watches.
When the luggage had been sorted, the Ogrin reached for a battered looking briefcase that had been on the cart before his guests had arrived. Like a greedy child he shovelled the stolen riches inside, and then took out a single vial of black liquid.
The Ogrin uncorked it and drunk it down in one gulp. Immediately, his body began to change. The Ogrin’s fur darkened, and turned solid like an exoskeleton. New limbs sprouted from his body, and gradually, the yellow Ogrin faded from existence.
A shadow Ruki stood in his place.
The bellhop uniform was off within seconds, strewn all over the floor just like the hastily discarded clothes of the guests. The briefcase clicked shut as the lift came to a stop. The shadow Ruki exited and called the lift directly next door.
As one set of doors closed, the other opened, and the Ruki darted inside. There was a green Grarrl waiting within.
“Going down?” the Ruki asked politely.
The Grarrl nodded, and the Ruki pressed the button for the ground floor.
The doors slid closed, and the Ruki felt a hand on his shoulder. His heart skipped a beat, and panic filled his mind.
“Mr. Boggins,” the Grarrl said behind him, “You have an appointment with Mr. Jennings.”
To be continued...