The Great Game: Golden Quill Edition - Part Two
Also by rielcz
Somewhere in a tiny house outside Neopia Central, a poor Mynci was unprepared.
AAA and Abigail stood outside the wooden front door of Zenco's house. "He lives here," AAA revealed with a self-satisfied grin. "I know because I've followed him home from the tournament several times to accuse him of cheating." The grin waned and AAA's facial features darkened. "I'll catch him yet..."
Abigail decided she'd better interrupt his rambling before he slipped into a further bout of insanity. "If you're done being crazy," she started, "we should, you know, open the door. Or we could go away, because it's not Zenco!"
The Blumaroo made tsking noises. "Oh, dear sister, you just don't understand how this detective business works."
Abigail barely managed to refrain from kicking the Blumaroo.
All of a sudden, AAA leapt up and screamed "TOP CHOP!!!" at the top of his lungs. He hit the door with his hand. Nothing. He sliced at it again, and once more. Regaining a more heroic composure, he lunged himself at the doorknob and twisted it. The door opened, and the two stepped into the frame.
"Zenco!" AAA shouted at the top of his lungs. "Come out with your hands up!" He paused. "The golden quill preferably in one of them."
"For Fyora's sake, AAA, you'll wake the whole town," hissed Abigail, glancing down the street.
A few moments later, the Mynci appeared, a box of Dueling Deck cards in his hands and a bored look in his eyes. He took one look at AAA and sighed. Zenco was familiar with AAA's crazy antics; it didn't surprise the Mynci that AAA was at his doorstep two hours before midnight.
"Haven't you heard of knocking?" Zenco said.
"Zenco, I'm really sorry--" Abigail was saying, but AAA interrupted her.
"I said hands up," AAA reiterated to Zenco. "Where's the golden quill?"
"Could you not be crazy for just one minute?" Zenco barked at him. "If you're talking about the quill that was stolen from the Neopian Bank, I don't have it. What would I want with that quill?"
"That's exactly what I'm wondering," AAA replied with a wry smile.
Zenco shook his head and took out a cloth. He began polishing the card on top of the stack. For a few awkward moments, nobody spoke. Zenco calmly continued polishing "Roothless" as if AAA and his sister weren't standing there.
"We have the evidence," AAA said finally, breaking the silence. "The Z Cases. Sounds familiar, Zenco? Surely you hold your prized NeoDeck Cards in pristine, well-crafted cases, do you not?"
"AAA, I knew you were bad at Dueling Decks, but I didn't expect 'Neopia's Master Gamer' to be so dimwitted in general," the Mynci responded. Ignoring AAA's sputters, Zenco went over to a bookshelf against the wall, grabbed a thick neopedia, and tossed it into the Blumaroo's hands. "Why don't you read about the Z Cases yourself? Or do you only play games and not read?"
"He is pretty bad at writing," Abigail quipped.
AAA flipped through the neopedia until he found the page. "'The Z Cases are a brand of quality containers developed by the renowned Virtupets Space Station programmer Zyrolon,'" he read aloud. "'They are available in different materials, including silver, gold, bronze, and steel. Each Z Case comes with a special inscription on the bottom and is fireproof, waterproof, and laser-proof. Documents suggest the Z Cases were developed for special use in Dr. Frank Sloth's laboratory.'"
"Great job, AAA, great job," said Abigail, crossing her arms.
Eyeing the Mynci again, AAA continued, "But I'm pretty certain he's in cahoots with whomever is--"
"Do you want to have a Dueling Decks game, right here, right now?" Zenco interrupted, a barely perceptible smile on his lips. He paused and added, "Why don't you go to the Neopian Times Headquarters? You know... where the thing is from?"
"Trying to throw us off the trail, eh? And how do you even know where it came from?" AAA inquired suspiciously.
"Because I'm not a person totally devoid of knowledge!" Zenco rebutted. He pointed to the neopedia as proof.
AAA frowned and glared at the Dueling Decks "champion" before refocusing his gaze back on Abigail. "I suppose we'll leave you in peace," he said to the Mynci. "For now," he added dauntingly before following his sister outside and closing the door.
There was an awkward silence and the big-headed Blumaroo's mouth was a neutral line. "Well, I guess he doesn't have it."
"Told you," Abigail responded with snark.
The Blumaroo shrugged. "Well, I'm all out of ideas."
"We could," Abigail interjected with a clever tone, "follow his suggestion and check out the Neopian Times Headquarters." Her voice lowered. "Especially if you think he's in cahoots with--"
"That's a great idea!" AAA interrupted.
The Aisha frowned. Had she just been complimented? "Really?"
"Yes," AAA replied proudly. "I'm glad I asked the right questions to get the answers that allowed for you to draw that conclusion."
Abigail blinked dazedly several times. "Wha--"
"In essence, I thought of it." AAA grinned. "Now, let's go to the headquarters!"
"What time is it?" Abigail asked her brother for what was maybe the eighth time, but still trying not to sound too whiny.
"22:49," AAA replied as he sneaked around another corner.
Abigail followed him listlessly. "Could you please stop with the twenty-four hour clock? And please, please quit aimlessly darting everywhere?" Abigail pleaded. "I swear, we've passed the Neopian Times Headquarters at least three times--"
"You can't stop me when I'm in stealth mode." AAA whipped through a dark alleyway.
Abigail sighed. "I'm walking this way," she called to him as he disappeared; the Aisha was pretty sure she could find the place on her own.
A few minutes later, Abigail stood outside the Neopian Times Headquarters, tapping her foot as she waited for her brother to appear.
AAA joined her shortly thereafter. "I encountered a dead end," he said between frazzled breaths; it was clear he had run here.
"Yeah, well, whatever," Abigail quickly dismissed.
They stared at the magnificent building in front of them. It was at least seven stories high and had enormous glass windows. Even though the building was dark and closed for the evening, it still radiated authority. It was not unbelievable that the golden quill originated from inside this building.
The two siblings headed for the front doors. Abigail gave the glass door a tug. It was locked.
"Step aside," AAA said. He walked over to a keypad to the left of the doors. "Obviously the building is locked. But anyone can bypass security if you know what to do."
"Uh, okay, Captain Obvious, so do you know what to do?" Abigail said, rolling her eyes.
AAA pointed to the small rectangular screen on the pad. "Simple. Buildings with this type of lock use a six-letter passcode. I may be ignorant about Zyrolon Cases, but I sure as Sloth's lair am not ignorant about the game Spell-or-Starve."
Abigail frowned. "Okay...? And what does Spell-or-Starve have to do with anything?"
AAA pushed the letters W R I T E R and pressed 'enter.' The screen lit up in bright red as the words WRONG PASSCODE appeared in capital letters.
"We probably shouldn't mess around with the keypad, Aristotle," Abigail said, biting her lip. "We can get caught."
"Nonsense. Now, what other passcode would the Neopian Times Headquarters use?" AAA pondered for a bit, then pushed the letters Q U I L L S. The red screen appeared again.
"Look, we'll never guess this. Let's just--" began Abigail.
AAA pushed the letters W E E W O O and pressed 'enter.' The screen lit up in bright green this time, and a mechanic click sounded. AAA pulled the door open. Abigail's mouth dropped.
"No need to thank me, let's get going," the Blumaroo said with a hint of smugness in his voice.
The two siblings walked through the corridors. Abigail paused at a door marked "Mega Epic Vault of Infinite Wisdom."
"What do you think's behind there?" she asked.
AAA shrugged. "Infinite Wisdom, I guess." He endeavored to open the door and, flipping on the light switch, gaped at what was inside.
The huge room was lined with shelves of old editions of the Neopian Times. "Hmm," AAA remarked as he browsed the shelves. He randomly picked up issue 600. "I wonder if there are any stories in any of these about someone stealing the golden quill." He paused. "It could be a good lead."
"There probably aren't any," Abigail replied with a forlorn sigh. "If the golden quill went missing once before, Judge Hog would have known and told us." She frowned as she gazed around at the many shelves of material. "Or else he really didn't do his research. Either way, Neopians -- especially those of mild fame -- going on a hunt to find some kind of item can't happen too often, probability-wise."
"On the contrary, there are plenty of examples. Hannah and Armin's exploration of the Ice Caves, for one," AAA replied.
Abigail stuck out her tongue at her brother.
"There's nothing here. Let's go," the Blumaroo said as he navigated towards the door.
The two exited. After a few more minutes of wandering, the pair stopped in front of a pair of ornate doors. A golden plaque to the right of the doors read, Originals Archive. Slowly, they creaked open the door and peered inside. Inside was a large, spacious hall with a single pedestal in the middle of the room.
Abigail accidentally stepped on a tile unleashing a wave of multi-colored lasers from seemingly nowhere. The lasers zigzagged the entire hall, blocking the way to the pedestal.
"Ice Cream Machine!" AAA exclaimed.
"Dodge the lasers. Get to the pedestal."
Before Abigail could react, AAA was slipping under and jumping over the lasers with surprising grace and accuracy. In no time, the Blumaroo was beside the pedestal. He gave Abigail a salute and examined the materials on the pedestal.
"What's on it?" called Abigail from the doorway.
"Just some old papers. I can't make out these writings. It's written in ink and some of it's definitely smeared."
"Let's get out of here. They're probably extremely valuable, given the number of lasers protecting it," Abigail called, eyeing the red laser just a few inches from her foot.
The pair continued exploring different rooms in the building. Some were locked. Some were offices and conference rooms. Some, however, were just unsettling. At one point, the two found themselves in a room completely filled with White Weewoo plushies. "This is mildly disconcerting..." Abigail said after an awkward silence. AAA agreed.
Somewhere on the third floor, AAA and Abigail realized they weren't alone. A lone Ogrin sat at a lamp-lit desk in the corner of a cubicle.
"Well, this is even more disconcerting than the Weewoos," AAA whispered as they peered at the Ogrin from around a wall. "Why is he out so late, when the entire building is empty?"
"Actually, we haven't seen the top few floors yet, so technically the building isn't empty," Abigail whispered back. "But yeah. We should probably leave before the Ogrin finds out we're here."
Just then, the Ogrin stood up and headed right in their direction.
"Hide!" Abigail hissed.
AAA sprang for the space behind a water cooler. Abigail managed to hide herself behind another cubicle.
The Ogrin seemed to be talking to himself. "Tobby doesn't get paid enough for this," he muttered as he poured himself a cup of water from the water cooler. "Nope, once Tobby finishes guarding tonight, Tobby's quitting. Tobby doesn't want his face in the news, no sir, not he."
The Ogrin headed back to his corner. AAA and Abigail reconvened.
"Okay, I know what you're thinking," Abigail said. "You want to question him. However, we're not supposed to be here, and--hey, wait, where are you going? AAA, stop!"
AAA was standing behind the Ogrin. "Working late tonight, buddy?"
The Ogrin jumped with a start. He stared at the Blumaroo and blinked rapidly. "Yes, yes, working overtime," the Ogrin said nervously.
"Yes. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Aristotle A. Avinroo." The Blumaroo flashed his ID. "We're here to solve the mystery of the stolen quill."
The Ogrin gulped and visibly looked distraught. "Yes, the... the quill. My name is Tobby. Tobby is just a lonely editor. Tobby doesn't want bad publicity."
"Yeesh, and I thought only my brother talked in the third person about himself," Abigail muttered to herself. She asked the Ogrin, "So do you know anything informative about the golden quill?"
"Tobby knows!" the Ogrin said shakily, his eyes widening. "Tobby knows where it was manufactured... but Tobby's not allowed to tell you."
AAA raised his eyebrow. "Interesting. We hear it has magic properties. Can you confirm this?"
"Tobby knows nothing about magic properties," stuttered the Ogrin. "Tobby knows only of the rogue reporter who used to work in Room 650, not its current inhabitant. The quill does not have magic properties. Tobby says it doesn't work. No such thing as magic."
The Ogrin seemed to be shaking badly. Wondering if they were being too harsh, Abigail said calmly, "Don't worry, Tobby. We're not here to interrogate you. We just want to learn more about the quill." When the Ogrin made no reply, Abigail turned to her brother and shrugged. "I guess we should leave"
"Wait," AAA said suddenly, frowning a bit. He stared at the Ogrin suspiciously. "You said you're not supposed to tell us where the quill was manufactured... but everyone already knows where it was manufactured. Zenco knows. Neopia Central knows. Probably the entirety of Neopia knows."
Abigail was about to speak, but AAA held up a hand and gave her a slight nod. It was clear the Blumaroo's mind was whirring--he had realized something, something important.
"In fact, it says so right in the neopedia," AAA continued as the Ogrin shook in his seat. "So why is an editor so worried about public information that's been out for... decades?"
"Tobby says too much. Tobby says sorry. The quill does not help people produce stories of absolute perfect quality. It is just a normal golden quill. No such thing as magic."
Abigail listened intently. "Is he mad?" she whispered to her brother.
"And that's all you know?" AAA inquired the Ogrin suspiciously, an eyebrow raised.
The Ogrin paused. AAA kept staring at him... through him.
"The power of the golden quill only works in... in a specific location," the Ogrin spoke shakily. "Tobby does not know the location. Please let Tobby alone. Tobby is just a poor editor."
"We're done here," AAA said coldly before leading the way out. Abigail quickly followed suit.
"What a crazy editor, that poor guy," Abigail commented as she hurried alongside AAA. "Maybe they overwork him... wait, why are we headed for the elevators?"
"Our culprit is in Room 650."
Abigail paused. "Huh?"
"Tobby is no editor. Or if he is, he's also working for someone else. If my assumptions are correct, he's working for the thief of the golden quill. The thief himself--"
"--Or herself--" Abigail once more interjected.
"--resides in Room 650, the only location that the quill works," the Blumaroo finished.
To be continued...