Battle Quills... ready! Circulation: 193,319,603 Issue: 683 | 29th day of Hunting, Y17
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The Fire Within: Part One


by herdygerdy

--------

The stars drifted by as the station slowly turned, giving the brown Yurble a horrible sickly feeling in his stomach.

     He turned away from the window, back to the magma Kyrii he was sitting with. His friend seemed to be dealing with the dislocation of suddenly being in orbit far better, though he did have his eyes closed.

     "I thought you would be more affected," the Yurble muttered, holding on to the cafe table to try and steady his spinning head. "You people don't even go above ground all that often."

     "It is a curious feeling, I must say," the Kyrii said, opening his eyes at last. "But not from the movement. I feel... Disconnected, somehow. Quiet. Lonely."

     "I've never liked traveling," the Yurble complained bitterly. "Even down lava chutes. Not for me."

     "If we could speed this along though," the Kyrii said, closing his eyes again. "The feeling, whilst not sickening, is unpleasant."

     Eventually, a white Gelert in a sharp suit exited the lift nearby and made his way over, taking the free seat at the table.

     "I take it you are Theodore Greenbank?" he asked the Yurble. "I am Alex Yardly, I believe you are expecting me."

     "We have been expecting you for some time," the Yurble replied, adding an unpleasant burp in the other direction. "You are late."

     "It couldn't be avoided," Yardly said. "I had to finish up my previous contract. I am now entirely at your disposal. Shall we get down to business? I take it, from your company, that you require my services in Moltara?"

     "Sorry, sorry, this is Andesite, our... Adviser in the terms of the Moltaran deep caverns," Greenbank said. "Together, we are representatives of Third Cog Mining Incorporated."

     "The biggest mining firm in Moltara," Yardly said with a nod. "I've heard of them, in passing. You're having trouble, I take it?"

     "Before we go any further," Andesite said, the Kyrii's eyes flicking open again. "I would like to discuss what exactly makes you suitable to provide us with assistance."

     Yardly gave a polite cough.

     "With all due respect, you wouldn't have contacted me unless you were already aware of my reputation, and knew that I was uniquely qualified to help you," he said.

     "I didn't contact you," Andesite replied calmly. "The board of directors did. Frankly, I know nothing about you."

     "Then allow me to demonstrate," Yardly said, checking his watch.

     The blue lights of the Recreation Deck briefly went offline, replaced with the emergency red ones. Panic quickly spread amongst the other customers at the cafe, but the lights came back on a few seconds later as if nothing had happened.

     "My previous contract required certain evidence to be gathered about individuals on the station," Yardly explained. "I have instigated a system wide shut down and reboot - which you just witnessed - to install a backdoor in the system. The program is now gathering surveillance on the targets and delivering it to my previous clients."

     "So you are a technician?" Andesite asked.

     "No," Yardly answered with a polite smile. "I am what is termed, in these circles, as a fixer. People come to me with rather unique and complex problems, problems that would normally be unsolvable within what is popularly termed as... The law. I fix these problems, whatever their nature. I have never failed and I do not intend to start now."

     "Ah," Andesite said with a nod. "An assassin, then."

     "If that service is required, yes," Yardly replied bluntly. "Though I am a lot more besides. Anything that needs to be done to complete the contract, I will do."

     "Mr. Yardly is eminently qualified," Greenbank said, trying to look at the floor in the hopes it would calm his stomach. "The board of directors said he comes very well recommended. You are right, we have a problem, and we need to to correct it."

     "Extremists from the deep caverns, perhaps?" Yardly considered.

     Greenbank looked slightly taken aback.

     "I try to stay abreast of current news," Yardly added.

     "Madame Marbelle, she calls herself," Greenbank explained. "The leader of their kind. She's been engaged in criminal activities for a few years now, but has gradually gained more of a following and as a result, has become more aggressive. She's launching attacks on anything she views as having a surface influence behind it."

     "There was an attack in Neopia Central a few years back, was there not?" Yardly asked. "I heard about it, something to do with a diamond, wasn't it? Surely that would have warranted action then? Why now, what has changed?"

     "The business of the diamond was run by the Moltaran Government," Greenback said. "They are wary of tackling Marbelle due to the influence she holds in the deep caverns. We are not here on behalf of the Government, as I'm sure you have gathered. As for why we are acting now... The Company is planning an extension through the Shining Chasm - it has valuable diamond deposits. Marbelle and her followers view it as..."

     "Sacred?" Yardly asked when Greenback failed to find the word.

     "Not quite," Andesite spoke up. "Those who live in the deep caverns are not worshiping deep gods, Mr. Yardly, if that is what you think. We hold no shrines to higher powers - the Shining Chasm is culturally important to us, it is a form of resonating chamber, where the Daken Nar is stronger."

     "Daken Nar?" Yardly asked.

     "We don't need to discuss this here," Greenback said. "Believe me, Andesite will talk for hours about the deep folk given half a chance, and personally, I would rather not be on the station for that long. The main point is, the company want to mine in the Shining Chasm and Marbelle doesn't want us to. She's started attacking company assets. It needs to stop, we need the problem solving. So we have come to you."

     "Very well, I accept," Yardly said with a nod. "Your board of directors already holds my payment information. As soon as the funds clear, I will send a message to you in Moltara advising you of my arrival. You will not need to supply any resources or additional funds should unforeseen circumstances arise."

     "Good," Greenback said, shaking his hand. "We hope to hear from you soon, Mr. Yardly."

     With that, the pair of them left Yardly at the table, who called over a waiter to make an order.

     When the pair were in the lift heading down to the hangars, Greenbank spoke up.

     "Do you believe he will be acceptable?" he asked.

     "Honestly?" Andesite asked. "No. Of course he won't. And you know it too, Mr. Greenback, or you wouldn't have asked the question. The man can hack as many computers and kill whatever he likes, but if you don't even know what the Daken Nar is, how can you possibly hope to understand Moltara? The man will be a child, flailing in a world so alien to him that he cannot even fathom. The board of directors should never have looked outside of Moltara. You don't solve a problem like Madame Marbelle by bringing in surface dwellers. That will just play into her hands."

     Greenback gave an uneasy nod.

     "I agree," he conceded. "Though the board of directors will go ahead regardless of what either of us think. These will be dangerous times for Moltara, Andesite. If he's half as efficient as he claims, he's going to make Marbelle very angry. And that will put us all firmly in her sights. He said he won't need our resources once he gets down to Moltara, but I doubt that. Andesite..."

     "You want me to teach him?" the Kyrii asked.

     "He'll need the knowledge if he is to have any hope of not dooming us all," Greenback said.

     "It could take years to teach a surface dweller our ways," Andesite said.

     "Then you had best hope he is a fast learner," Greenbank told him.

     ***

     Yardly sat at the table sipping the drink the waiter had brought him. He absently sent off a message to his previous employer to inform them of completion - remnants of Sloth's empire wanting details on station security personnel and resistance members. With that done, he turned his attention to his to-do list.

     He gazed out of the window down at Neopia for a moment. Down below the planet's surface was Moltara. Yardly tried to stay abreast of current events everywhere, so he knew the basics of the land, split between the mechanical surface-welcoming Moltara City and the more xenophobic, tribal caverns. But he knew remarkably little of Moltara's specifics. His work had never taken him there before.

     He'd need maps. Those might be hard to come by - he understood the geography of Moltara changed regularly when tunnels collapsed, and some of the deep caverns had only been properly explored by the natives. He'd also need information on Marbelle and her followers, as well as Third Cog, the company he'd be working for. It paid to know as much about your employers as your targets. Most of that would be available on the Station's internal databanks. He took one of the mobile, hand held terminals now and began his searches.

     A thought struck him and he entered a new search term.

     'Daken Nar'

     Only a brief entry returned - describing it as a tribal belief from the caverns of Moltara. Nothing more. Though it had certainly seemed important to the Kyrii. Perhaps there was more to this - he would need information from a local.

     He wrote down a new item on his list of required equipment.

     'Andesite'

To be continued...

 
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