Defenders Origins - Judge Hog
The muscular Moehog stared at the blue lantern in the center of the room as it gently flickered.
The halls were quiet, too quiet, for the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters. Something was wrong, that much was sure. But still, the Moehog kept his silence and stared at the lantern, deep in thought.
They said the first time it had been lit was at the guard house in the Old District, when Madame Guillotine had taken the city from its corrupt Kings. She had founded the first form of the Defenders, and though the organisation had changed so much in size and scope, they had always kept the blue lantern burning. A shield against the darkness, order amidst chaos.
Footsteps came down the corridor, a large Buzz running into the room, relief etching across his face as he saw the Moehog.
"There you are!" he said. "We were beginning to think that maybe you'd been inside when..."
"Brexis," the Moehog supplied with a nod. "I was on traffic duty a few streets away... But I saw. Mob justice. The worst kind."
"What are you even doing in here?" Brexis asked. "The Defenders are in tatters and you're sat in here staring at lights?"
"You know Judge Irons wanted to destroy this thing when we moved out of the old headquarters?" the Moehog asked. "Said it was an archaic symbol of the past. Thank the stars they stopped him. Symbols are important, Brexis. More than any of us can fathom. This is a symbol of the undying protection the Defenders offer this city. Even in the darkest of times."
"Hog...?" Brexis said. "Are you feeling alright?"
"The people of this city are going to need a new symbol," the Moehog said, taking his eyes from the lantern at last. "It's time this city had a Judge again. A proper one."
"What are you going to do?" Brexis asked.
The Moehog looked down at his lurid costume, a giant S on his chest signifying his current monicker - Super Hog.
"Get a new costume, for a start," he said. "I was thinking of something with a cowl."
The Night of the Flaming Torches, as future generations would come to call it, had been swift and brutal. Judge Irons and his corrupt regime of Defenders had been removed by force when the citizens of Neopia Central had marched on their new Headquarters. Super Hog, Brexis, and a few others who thought along the same lines, had managed to avoid the chaos. Now they were all that was left. The Defenders had been devastated.
By unanimous decision, the survivors had voted Super Hog their new leader. As such, he inherited the title. Judge.
The Moehog shivered at the word. Irons had butchered the Defenders for his own personal profit, and tainted the title forever.
But there was more at stake than simply the Defenders. If the situation wasn't resolved soon, more riots would happen. The surviving Defenders would be the targets first, but then the city would turn in upon itself. Neopia Central would burn in the fires of chaos.
No, it needed to be sorted. And quick.
The riots had started due to the Thieves Guild and a local Docklands gang boss going on a crime spree across the city. Both had been on the payroll of Judge Irons's corrupt Defenders. The people had turned on the symbol, and taken him out.
The Thieves Guild appeared to have had their fill of looting. Word on the street was that they were pulling out of the city, moving to Terror Mountain amidst whispers of ill fated Bori treasure. That took care of one problem, but left another. If there was going to be any hope of stopping this - Super Hog had to go to the Docklands.
He knew the place, Larry Tights had used it until recently when he lost his position in the gang to a new leader, Seth Vargo. They called it Uncle Frank's Cafe, though the atmosphere was far from welcoming. Silence rang throughout the place the moment Hog and Brexis walked in. Not the empty silence of the Defenders Headquarters, but a violent, angry one.
"Well, well, well," a voice from a table in the corner said. "If it isn't the Defenders of Neopia."
There was a fat yellow Skeith there, surrounded by cronies. He was young, but Hog could tell there was an intelligence behind those eyes. This was no Docklands idiot.
"Seth Vargo," he said to the Skeith as he sat down opposite. "We meet at last."
"Danger Buzz," Vargo said with a glance at Brexis. "And you, Super Hog, wasn't it? The rioters must have missed some of the dregs last night. But you have a nice new costume, I see."
Hog fixed his stare at the Skeith. He didn't waver, not for an instant. Vargo was the kind of man who exploited weakness, so best not to show it.
"He is Sergeant Brexis," the Moehog said firmly. "And I am the new Judge."
Vargo broke out into a bellowing laugh.
"Promotions, is it!?" he cackled. "Well, good for you. Come here to say thanks, have you? Without me, old Irons would still be in power."
"No," the Judge said calmly.
"Oh," Vargo said, with a look of realisation. "So you're here to make a deal, yes? I hear Larry Tights was getting a very good deal from Judge Irons. But given what's happened so recently, I think I could negotiate a better rate, don't you agree?"
Irons had been as corrupt as they come, taking payments from crimelords to turn a blind eye to their crimes, even acting as their private army in some cases.
"I'm not here for that, either," the Judge said. "I'm not like Judge Irons. I run a different ship. There will be no more payments."
"Then why are you here?" Vargo asked. "Don't tell me you're here to arrest me!?"
The hired goons at Vargo's side instinctively reached for their weapons. Vargo held up a hand to stop them.
"Boys, boys, I'm sure the new Judge isn't that stupid, surely?" he said. "I own the Docklands now, taking me in would result in a war in this city that you aren't equipped to fight."
"I don't care how much of this city you think you own," the Judge told him. "I bring in criminals. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. But they still fall. I'm here to keep the peace, Vargo, and I will. No matter who I have to go through to do it."
The Judge leaned back, letting his words sink in.
"But no," he added. "I'm not here to arrest you, not yet. Because, like I said, I'm not Judge Irons. I don't throw people in the cells just for looking at me funny. I need evidence that a crime has been committed. At the moment, all I really have is hearsay. But rest assured, if your crime spree continues, if you keep toying with the people of this city, I will have that evidence. I will come for you. And not even the armies of Faerieland could stop me getting to you, let alone the Docklands."
"So what did you come here for?" Vargo asked.
"Simply to tell you," the Judge said, leaning back in. "I know where you live, Seth Vargo. And I'm watching you. Play nice."
With that, the new Judge got up and left the table, signalling Brexis to follow.
Outside, Brexis caught up to him.
"What was that, sir?" he asked. "You know full well we have evidence against him. Irons made sure to keep it just in case they ever turned on him."
"You don't have to call me sir just because I'm the Judge now, Brexis," he replied.
"Noted, sir," Brexis replied. "You didn't answer my question. Why aren't we bringing in Vargo now?"
"Because he's more useful to us out in the wild," the Judge said. "We're never going to eliminate all the criminals in this city, Brexis. We arrest Vargo, another one rises to take his place. One we know nothing about. But Seth Vargo, we have files on him. We know exactly where he is, who he talks to and what he talks about. And now, he thinks we're on to him. He's going to spend so much time trying to play a game of cat and mouse that he's already lost that his Docklands empire isn't going to be nearly as dangerous as it otherwise would be. We foil his plans here and there, arrest some people in his organisation when we can. We prune the tree, Brexis. Keep it alive, and keep it under control. That's the only way this city is going to survive."
"But he's broken the law, sir," Brexis protested.
"We're Defenders of Neopia, not Defenders of the Law," the Judge said. "We're employed to keep the peace. And I will, Brexis. Irons tried to keep it by instilling fear in the citizens. I'm going to do it by instilling fear in the criminals."
"People won't like it if they find out," Brexis said.
"Which is why they won't," the Judge agreed. "If I have to play the part of some bumbling hero, then so be it. The cowl is another symbol, at the end of the day. There are no such things as heroes and villains, Brexis. Not really - it is all just a matter of perspective. What matters, what really matters, are the people."
Brexis gave a nod.
"In the meantime, sir, I liberated these from the old Judge's office," he said, handing over some files. "Documents about potential recruits to the Defenders. Ones Irons had turned down because they didn't fit with his... Enforcement."
The Judge leafed through a few pages.
"Yes," he said. "Some of these will do nicely. Come on, Brexis, we have work to do."
In the depths of the Defenders Headquarters, the blue lantern stood. The little flame flickered, and then, ever so slightly, grew lighter.