Agent of the Sway: Rogue - Part Four
Neopia Central was a den of iniquity.
It had never really been the most peaceful of places. Crime lurked on every corner after all. Clayton had been born in the Docklands were there were two types of people - victims of crime, and perpetrators. Most of the people there turned out to be both.
But this was different. According to Lady Falmouth, during Clayton's imprisonment the local man in charge of it all, Mr. Jennings, had gone missing. The resulting backlash had ended in a mass breakout from Defenders HQ, a magical explosion in the middle of the city, and riots on the streets.
Mr. Jennings had returned, and the city had returned to relative peace, slowly trying to rebuild. Still, in such situations, the more underhanded aspects of the city tended to get a little bolder, and that suited Clayton just fine.
They needed a large quantity of plastic explosives. Normally, of course, the Sway would source that themselves. A fair number of agents had sidelines as weapon smugglers. However, Clayton didn't have the luxury of Sway contacts any longer. He needed access outside the law, and outside the Sway, and there was only one place you went to in Neopia Central when you wanted that.
The mining in the Shenkuu mountains to the west of the city meant that a constant supply of explosives were needed to blast out the caverns. Elephante & Castle Market in the Old Quarter sold everything you could ever want and plenty of things you wouldn't want as well. Sights and smells from across the planet came there to ferment. Towards the docks, there was a small warehouse that proudly proclaimed itself to be the Prospector's Hold, legitimate supplier to the mining trade.
Unofficially, of course, it also sold the slothite explosives on to whoever had the right amount of money. Evil schemers from across the planet found their way to the Hold to equip their despotic plans.
The place was run by John Quincey, who looked every part the prospector it was possible to look.
The old red Kacheek was missing most of his teeth, and had a great big bushy white beard and a balding head. He was stick thin, despite the large sums he had to be making, and his clothes had patches in them.
"What can I do you for?" he asked from behind his counter.
"We need a large quantity of slothite," Clayton announced. "Enough to blow a hole, say.... fifty metres deep."
Quincey paused slightly.
"This is for a legitimate mining operation, yes?" he asked with a conspiratorial wink.
"Yes," Clayton said, somewhat truthfully for once. "We can pay in advance."
He glanced over to Falmouth, who gave him a look that said she disagreed with this practice and wanted to arrest Quincey there and then.
"Here," she said, moving forwards to the counter and depositing a large pink gem on it.
Quincey was on it in a moment.
"This looks like hot goods," he said, examining it.
"You can take it to Crooked Tony," Clayton suggested. "He'll take anything."
"It is not stolen," Falmouth said. "You have the word of Queen Fyora herself on that."
Clayton did a sharp intake of breath at the mention of the name. Men like Quincey didn't like the idea of the law coming knocking.
"Things must really be bad in Faerieland if she's turning to this," Quincey said with a toothless cackle, which sprayed them in phlegm. "You have a deal. You'll need a boat to carry that quantity, though."
"Have it delivered to the docks," Falmouth said. "You will find a ship there under the name of Lady Isobel Falmouth."
The ship that Falmouth had chartered was understated, exactly what they needed to pass under the radar of the Defenders and the Sway.
The explosives had already been loaded by the time the pair arrived, and the captain informed them they were ready to sail whenever they wanted.
Clayton observed that the captain looked a little edgy, however, and kept glancing back towards the cabins.
"Something's going on here," Clayton whispered to Falmouth. "Sure I can't have that dagger back?"
"Quite sure," Falmouth answered. "The captain has been personally vetted. We have nothing to fear from him."
"It's not him I'm worried about," Clayton said. "It's whoever else is aboard this ship."
"What do you mean?" Falmouth asked.
He didn't get a chance to answer, for at that moment, the doors to the cabins slammed open, and a group of large Neopets charged out, weapons in hand.
Clayton instantly moved behind Falmouth, acutely aware that he was unarmed. Falmouth drew her sword, the fact that she had been taken by surprise not seeming to matter to her in the slightest.
She charged a brief blast of pink magic and unleashed it at the first of the Neopets, a massive Bori with a flail. The glancing blow caused her to stumble, falling to the deck as Falmouth stepped over her body. A magma Kau was following straight behind, already leaping to bring a large hammer down on the Xweetok.
Falmouth's sword was there to meet it, coursing with magic that stopped the hammer and Kau dead. She pulled upwards, sending the Kau somersaulting backwards and hitting the deck hard like the Bori before her.
"I recognise you," Falmouth said, lifting the Bori's unconscious face. "Alhana. You are the Brute Squad, are you not? Flint! Come out and face me, instead of hiding like a coward!"
"No one calls me a coward!" a roar came from the cabins as a large Skeith emerged.
He wore the armour of an Altadorian general, with a mace and a great shield with marks on it.
"Commander Flint?" Clayton questioned. "What's the Altadorian military doing here?"
Clayton had met Flint once before, during Altador's return. He had briefly been considered for recruitment to the Sway, before the events of Duke Hopesmeade's arrest happened.
"Not any longer," Falmouth growled. "As I told you back in the Woods, at lot has changed in Neopia while you were in prison. Commander Flint has retired from Altador's army. He's a mercenary now."
"I am not a mercenary!" Flint roared, stamping his feet. "Lies, spread by the weak! Xandra opened my eyes to the truth of the matter - you know, we knew about her link to Quizara, but it was deemed more politically acceptable to just get her out of Faerieland. If she had been arrested back then, none of that would have happened! That is why we tackle those who would commit evil before they get the chance!"
"Why are you here?" Clayton asked.
"We have come to Neopia Central in the aftermath of the recent troubles, to out those who would cause more havoc," he explained. "We found a large quantity of explosives from a known smuggler being loaded onto this ship - it was obvious they were up to no good. But imagine my surprise when I see that Lady Falmouth, dressed in the garb of a commoner to mask her identity, turns up. Tell me, have you gone rogue, or has the Queen taken leave of her senses?"
"There are things going on here that you couldn't possibly fathom," Falmouth said. "Stand down now or I will make you."
"The Brute Squad does not know the word retreat," Flint declared.
"Along with a great deal of others, I don't doubt," Falmouth muttered. "Very well."
"Wait," Clayton said, moving between the two. "There's no need for this. We're here doing exactly the same thing as you."
"What?" Falmouth and Flint demanded in unison.
"We're attempting to draw out a criminal conspiracy that threatens the very fabric of Neopia," Clayton explained. "That's what the explosives are for. You remember Duke Hopesmeade being arrested in Altador, Commander? He was an agent of these people. We're drawing them out so we can arrest them, just as you are trying to do. And if you like, you can be involved, too."
"What?" Falmouth gasped. "You can't seriously be suggesting bringing them along? They are nothing but warriors!"
"Exactly," Clayton said to her. "They'll make sure any conflict at the obelisk is serious. Commander Flint, we're going to uncover an obelisk in Tyrannia - in times past, it was used as a powerful weapon. I'm sure your group would be able to make use of it."
Flint narrowed his eyes slightly, before lowering his shield.
"If nothing else, it will be a battle the scale of which won't be seen for quite a long time," Clayton added. "They'll remember it for generations, and if you aren't there... Well, you'll miss out."
Flint nodded slowly.
"Brute Squad!" he ordered. "Move out!"
The Bori and the Kau on the deck got up, making their way down the gangplank to the pier. Flint joined them in short order.
"If there is to be a battle, we will be there," he told them. "And we will prove victorious!"
With that, he marched off down the pier.
"They are powerful," Falmouth considered. "It's one thing to best the Seekers, but if they turn up, do you think the Sway will be able to stop them?"
"Why does it matter?" Clayton asked. "We don't need the Sway to gain the obelisk. We just need them to turn up. Though, in fairness, the Sway don't play fair. They'll install agents in the other factions to make sure they come out on top."
The captain had emerged back from his hiding place in the wheelhouse.
"Captain, provided we have no more stowaways I have to deal with, let's get underway," Falmouth told him. "Set a course for Terror Mountain, if you could."
To be continued...