Friday: An Ethical Dilemma
Note: This story was inspired by a certain petpet; can you figure out which one before you finish the tale?
Located at the base of Terror Mountain, Happy Valley is a small village that is north of Neopia Central, just below the Ice Caves. It is a frosty, yet scenic winter wonderland for those who enjoy skiing down snow-covered hills, throwing snowballs at each other, drinking slushies, or even something as simple as building a snowman. It is a spectacular snow paradise that is known for extraordinary clear stargazing, cool summer nights, and wonderful wildlife sightings - for those who are lucky enough, they can catch rare glimpses of frost white Snowbunnies happily hopping through the snow.
Thousands of tourists visit this winter wonderland, even more so during the Month of Celebration when Neo-citizens want to commemorate the upcoming festive holidays. However the atmosphere was not nearly as pleasant with the the Defenders of Neopia roaming around. Armed with weapons, they were scouting across Happy Valley for a certain culprit known to take advantage of a "five finger discount".
With the festive holidays approaching Neopia, there has been a surge in shoplifting across stores, and so shopkeepers are not too happy with the mischievous little swindle eluding justice. Because of that, the Defenders of Neopia were distributing Wanted fliers to every Neo-citizen they came across, thus hindering the wonderful merry season.
While all the Defenders were making their way across Happy Valley, one particular Defender chose a different route and was trekking down from Terror Mountain. He knew his comrades had already gotten a bit pudgy from the festive season and thus they were not physically fit to climb the highest acme of Neopia.
Clutching his thick, wool scarf closer to his body, he released a shiver while trying his best to maneuver through Terror Mountain's never-ending snow flurry. Just when he was about to knock on Taelia's Igloo, the famous Snow Faerie of Terror Mountain, he heard Tarla, the proprietor of the Shop of Mystery, screech, "STOP! STOP! HE"S GETTING AWAY!"
The Defender swiveled his head and saw Tarla in front of her shop, with her index finger pointing to the culprit in question - a little crimson and emerald coloured petpet who just so happened to be the criminal he was searching for. Nodding his head to Tarla, the Defender quickly said, "I'm on it," and began chasing after him.
With as much speed as he could garner - after all he just ate a sizable Snowghettii and Meatballs dish from the Super Happy Icy Fun Snow Shop, he raced after the petpet. From afar, he saw the little critter running at an amazing speed - he was able to make sharp twists and turns without qualm. Had the Defender not receive training from the Academy, he would be unable to catch up to the criminal.
Getting irritated with the cat and mouse game, the Defender roared, "STOP! You are under arrest!", but alas, the criminal did not obey. He saw his hind legs move at a quicker pace while easily zigzagging down the mountain top.
Beginning to feel sweat glisten on his forehead, he was amazed how the little petpet still held his pace. He was hopping over lumps of snow while carrying four large Bags of Mystery on his petite green shoulders. What irritated the Defender the most was the culprit's red Santa hat - swinging left and right with each step he was taking, almost as if his hat was exclaiming, "No, you'll never catch me."
The Defender saw the petpet about to enter the Ice Caves and knew he would escape. Although he had training in the Academy, he was never trained to chase on ice. Releasing one large grunt, he put as much pressure on his heels and zoomed straight at the culprit - the four Bags of Mystery on the petpet's shoulder flew into the air and then came crashing down from the sudden impact. As a result, a variety of knickknacks and toys were scattered on the ground.
The Defender could feel the petpet squirming underneath him, but he shrugged it off. Holding the petpet's hands firmly on his back, the Defender said, "You are under arrest - you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."
"No! No! No! Please release me!" cried the petpet.
The Defender ignored the petpet's plea and retrieved a pair of iron-clad handcuffs from his back pocket. "You are a wanted criminal as you've stolen goods from numerous shops across Neopia! You won't get away that easily!"
The petpet began to wail for his owner when he felt the cold metal grip his tiny wrists. In return, the Defender sneered, "What? This is what you get for being a criminal! Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. You are a bad petpet!"
"No, I'm not!" the petpet retorted. "I am not a bad petpet. I am a good petpet!"
The Defender laughed - he couldn't believe how ignorant the petpet was being. "Every single one of the shopkeepers you've swindled will be happy to know their stock will be safe from crooks like you! You're worse than Dr. Sloth! At least he admits to his wrongdoings, while you deny yours!"
"Don't compare me to Dr. Sloth! I'm better than him!" cried the petpet with tears streaming down from his ruby eyes.
"Yes, you do! You are a wanted criminal and justice will be paid!" roared the Defender. He couldn't believe what an insolent little critter he was being - where was his owner to enforce discipline?
Getting irritated at his impudence, the Defender waited for a snarky retort so he could use his Sleep Ray to immobilize him, but nothing came out. "You knew the consequences of stealing, and yet you did it anyway. Why?"
The petpet shrugged his shoulders and asked, "Why not?" instead.
"Why not?" the Defender sneered in response. "Why would I steal from hardworking shopkeepers trying their best to make a living? I would never steal from anyone because I know better."
Regarding the petpet's pristine pair of red trousers, fluffy white fur encased around his waist, and groomed hair and nails, the Defender deduced that he came from a good neohome - yet why the petpet stole continued to bewilder him.
Seeing the Defender's confused expression, the petpet explained, "My owner often leaves me alone - she works hard in the Faerieland Employment Centre and her meager wages are sufficient enough to feed us. At the same time, I walk by the Soup Kitchen every day and I see other Neo-citizens waiting in line for one of The Kind Faerie's soups - with their tattered clothing, shrinking figures, and ghastly gaunt faces... what was I supposed to do?"
The Defender merely blinked his eyes. "Huh?"
The Snow-Valley inspired petpet knew he would be unable to get his good intentions across the Defender's thick headed skull so he altered his approach. "When was the last time you did a good deed?"
The Defender grunted at him, "Good deed? I am a respected profession in my field - I bring a sense of calm and peace every time I graze by neighborhoods in Faerieland and Brightvale."
"It seems to me that you help the rich. What about those who are destitute who need more than just a bodyguard?" the petpet rebutted. It was a risk to insult the Defender, but he hoped his question would be his ticket to freedom.
However, seeing the Defender's face eyes narrow at him and ire raise up to Virtupets Space Station, the petpet concluded his question only made it worse. Seeing the Defender take a Sleep Ray out, the petpet quickly said, "I'm sorry for insulting you. For that, I will *willingly* go with you to the Defender's Quarters, as long as you let me make one more stop."
"Hah! Like I'll ever do a favour for you!" the Defender sneered in response.
With tears freely flowing down his green cheeks, the thief pleaded, "Please don't discard the toys on the floor - please give the last four Bags of Mystery, filled with wonderful toys and food for those who need it."
He gestured to the array of items across the blanket of snow. With anxious ruby eyes, he pleaded, "Shopkeepers do not accept returns, but the Money Tree will gladly take it."
"The Money Tree?"
Nodding his head, he added, "All the items I took were donated to the Money Tree - that was where I was headed until you tackled me on the ground..."
The Defender's eyes widened in shock. He was confused - wasn't this petpet supposed to be a hardened criminal? "Those thefts weren't for your own personal gain?"
The petpet shook his head.
Grabbing the thief's elbow, the Defender sat him upright and looked him straight in his glistening ruby eyes - he dealt with dozens of criminals in his job and he had a heap of them lie through their teeth in order to elude imprisonment. However, he could not detect lies in the petpet's body language - his face was not flush, his pupils were not nervously shifting, he was not sweating or fidgeting, his red buttoned nose wasn't twitching, and his breathing did not increase. All the signs pointed to the truth, he was not lying!
Just when he was about to interrogate the petpet further, he saw his comrades approaching from afar - they were distributing Wanted fliers to a pair of Neo-citizens who were building a snow fort. The Defender was running out of time; if his comrades discovered the culprit was with him, they'd run to him and assist, like any good Defender in Neopia. At the same time, their vision was obscured due to the weather so the Defender had some time to figure out what to do with the petpet.
He regarded the petpet once more, with tears brimming around his eyes and pointy green ears sagging in defeat.
He had stolen more than 100,000 neopoints worth of goods from a variety of stores, and so justice must be paid. But then, when was the last him he did a good deed? When was the last time he or any of his Neofriends talked about donating to The Money Tree? This petpet just wanted to make the holiday season easier for a struggling Neo-citizen - is it wrong to sentence someone who just wanted to make Neopia a better place to live in? The Defender was stuck - this was an ethical dilemma.
Hearing two of his associates coming his way, with their footprints making a crunching sound on the snow, the Defender deduced that it was time to right a wrong that has been happening for oh so long. Past transgressions must be rectified, after all, his duty was to the Neo-citizens of Neopia, who need to know they are being taken care of.
Crouching down so as to obscure the petpet's figure from his comrades, he quietly whispered to the Felf, "Run."
Felf Trivia: A mischievous little character that will get into all kinds of trouble if you leave it alone.