Author's Note: the Sly Cooper series, the events concerned, and the characters are all copyright of Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., Sucker Punch Productions and Sanzaru Games 2007-2012, etc. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction.
Hello, again! It's been a couple years since I updated this fic, I know. For those of you who've followed my work in the past, I sincerely apologize. Real life got in the way. Stuff like college, getting a new job, partaking of Diablo 3…you know. All that fun stuff. But I never truly forgot this story; nor my promise to finish it. And thus do I present another chapter in the most sinister tale never told of Sly 2: Band of Thieves…the Cold-Hearted Interlude.
In this chapter, we get insight into what Clockwerk might have thought of someone else trying to claim his immortality, and even a few subtle hints to the respective ambitions of Rajan and Neyla. And thus do I turn you loose to the story, dear reader. Enjoy!
Chapter Six: In Search of Life Eternal
I presently find myself alone in this airborne workshop, with only the quiet hum of the engines for company. Without the other noises to drown them out—the beeping and whirring of the computers, the prattle of Arpeggio's assistants, the bombastic mannerisms of the tinkerer himself—there is only that persistent thrumming, a rich bass note. With the lights turned off, what little illumination remains is brought from the shafts of moonlight which stream through the bridge's viewport, casting the workshop in pale silver. And by that dim radiance, I am aware of my surroundings: The half-completed replica of my old body, hanging above from a series of steel cables like a marionette. The workshop table on which my brain case rests, amidst a series of strewn tools and schematics. A global map lies spread out across the wooden surface, with a small model of Arpeggio's flying hideout resting atop the picture of India to show our current location. Really, it's akin to sitting amidst the scattered toys of a youth, so caught up in his puerile meanderings that he didn't bother to tidy up before going to bed.
But no matter. I finally have some time to myself, free to ponder without interruption…to muse on what I've learned about my unwitting host's master plan.
As of late, Arpeggio has become engrossed in designing a working replica of my old body. He has tackled the project with an artist's passion, eating little and sleeping even less. The daily duties of overseeing the Klaww Gang's spice ring have been delegated to his aides wherever possible—indeed, if he didn't require the rest of the Klaww Gang for his plans, I suspect he would ignore them entirely. The task of rebuilding my frame and claiming it for his own has seized Arpeggio with a religious fervor…my metallic components are as holy relics to him; my blueprints, his sacred texts.
And I? I suppose I am his savior, if not outright deity…I embody all that the tinkering parrot aspires to become, the ideal of what his own genius could achieve if his plan succeeds. And like any devout worshipper, Arpeggio has allowed this project to dominate his waking moments; up until a week ago, I would have thought nothing short of an Interpol raid would grab Arpeggio's attention enough to make him set his work aside.
And yet, something did—the letter that lies before my brain-case, half-covered by some of the instruments that Arpeggio was using to work on the replica of my body. The flowing script on the paper comes from the pen of Rajan, the spice lord of the Klaww Gang—he's beckoned Arpeggio to join him for a party at his jungle palace, suggesting that this would be a good time for the rest of the Klaww Gang to convene and determine how Dimitri's arrest will complicate their plans. By all accounts, the letter is thus an invitation. But the subtle references to Rajan's spice trade as the backbone of the operation, the thinly-veiled suggestion that the Klaww Gang could use a new direction…these things betray Rajan's true motives. He means to cast doubt on Arpeggio's unspoken leadership of the Klaww Gang, perhaps even usurp it outright. It's no surprise; having clawed his way from the very bottom of the criminal underworld in India, Rajan undoubtedly harbors reservations about being subservient in any capacity.
For his part, Arpeggio accepted the invitation with cavalier nonchalance, as if Rajan wasn't actively questioning his leadership. But I suppose he wouldn't really care, would he? It's all a ruse, this partnership with the rest of the Klaww Gang—in the end, the scheming tinkerer means to betray them all, posing as their friend and offering his counsel…and all the while, supplying his protégé, Neyla, with the evidence needed to bring the police down upon them. Between her Interpol connections and the efforts of Sly Cooper, it will only be a matter of time before the rest of the Klaww Gang collapses, cast aside as their usefulness to Arpeggio's scheme runs its course. And Rajan, I suspect, is next in line.
In a bid to hide his humble beginnings as a street urchin running packets of addictive spice on the streets of Calcutta, the spice lord has shoved all traces of his origin behind a curtain of wealth and glamour. Perhaps this thirst for fame is what drove his claim to my wings and heart when the Klaww Gang divided my former body's components…they were, after all, the most symbolic. And Rajan has exploited that in full; his first request was that Arpeggio give him instructions for welding my "Clockwerk Wings" to an opulent statue in his palace's throne room. According to his letter to Arpeggio, he intends to show them off during his party; just as tribal chiefs commanded great respect from their subjects by wearing the pelts of fierce predators, Rajan believes that displaying my wings will invoke awe and reverence in the hearts of his guests.
It must have irked Arpeggio to see my wings treated as a mere object de arte—he, who cannot fly, would much sooner see such marvels of aviation put to their proper use. But for the sake of his greater plan, the parrot buried his ire and obliged his colleague's request. In fact, he even went so far as to grant a second such favor, regarding the application of my mechanical heart. Here, Rajan's intentions were much more practical—since my "heart" was both a hydraulic pump and a high-voltage power generator, he asked Arpeggio to divide it into two halves. One half—the one that contained the mechanisms for circulating machine oil and other fluids—was then integrated into the irrigation center of his spice facility, where its tireless functions would bolster the cultivation of his illicit product. As for the other half—the electrical generator—Rajan means to carry it with him at all times; it has been jury-rigged into an offensive weapon and attached to his staff. After all, any criminal can carry a gun…but for Rajan, who fancies himself a lord, what better weapon than the proverbial thunderbolt of the gods?
Hmph. Rajan has both ambition and cunning, I'll grant him that…but if Arpeggio has his way, it won't last. Sly Cooper will serve as the tinkerer's unwitting puppet, stealing those coveted parts from under Rajan's nose…and if the whelp's methods follow a similar pattern to the heist he pulled in Paris, then his actions will indirectly lead to Rajan's arrest. Two birds slain with one stone—more of my components will be free for the taking, and the spice lord will no longer be an obstacle to Arpeggio's ambitions. True, it will mean leaving my parts in the hands of the Cooper whelp, but the tinkerer's counting on that. All of my components gathered in one place, so that when Arpeggio sets the foolish raccoon up for a fall—courtesy of his treacherous protégé, Neyla—he can gather them all in one fell swoop.
This is the cornerstone of Arpeggio's scheme: to manipulate ally and foe alike as pawns on a chessboard, concealing his own involvement until the very end. With every subtle act of influence and suggestion, the parrot inches ever closer to realizing his true goal…and I, closer to finding a way to make it all work in my favor.
Or rather, I've already found a way.
The revelation came to me while I watched Arpeggio tinkering away on the replica of my old body. Like any proper inventor or scientist, the diminutive mechanist has been recording his observations and efforts—both on paper, and via a stylized phonograph. And given his penchant for speeches, he's divulged a great deal while working on his prototype—or, as he's come to dub it, the Proto-Werk Frame. Though I can't activate the phonograph to play back Arpeggio's notes, I remember what I heard well enough…
"Arpeggio's log, September 4th, 2004. Construction of the Proto-Werk Frame continues smoothly, if rather slowly. Granted, I have Clockwerk's schematics to work from, but one must keep in mind that I'm building the old bird's body completely from scratch…and it is a rather intricate model." A pause. "I must say, Clockwerk must have had quite a flair for design—the body shown in these blueprints is no mere mechanical construct; many of his internal components—the heart, for example—emulate the organs of an organic body! The old boy was centuries ahead of his time…such a pity that most people saw only the criminal mastermind, and nothing of the genius!"
I recall the reverence in Arpeggio's voice—the sigh of admiration.
"But even this life-like mechanical shell was child's play, compared to his truly singular achievement…immortality." Here, the parrot laughed. "Just think…even the greatest kings and most brilliant philosophers were unable to conquer time, that last and most implacable of foes…and yet, Clockwerk succeeded where they did not! Eternal life—the ability to preserve one's existence heedless of the passage of years—that, truly, is the old bird's 9th Symphony! Even the most ambitious of his crimes was nothing compared to it! Oh, to have that same gift… to be possessed of life eternal, free from the touch of the Reaper's scythe! Verily, 'tis a prize above all others…and I shall have it for my own!
The irritated gaze that Arpeggio directed to my brain-case springs to mind, the sigh of frustration as he stroked his beak and preened absently at his moustache.
"Of course, I've yet to determine just how the old bird managed it. Modern medicine and cybernetic augmentation are only part of the puzzle, after all…one must remember that Clockwerk was alive since the days of the pharaohs, what? And so the question remains: how did the old bird stay alive for all those centuries? Sorcery? Ancient medicinal techniques? Did he, perhaps, dabble in alchemy and create—or, perhaps more likely, steal—the Philosopher's Stone? Did he succeed where I did not?"
Then the cultured tinkerer shook his head. "Ah well, no matter. The answers lie before me." He paused again, reaching out with a diminutive green wing to sift through the plans that lay scattered on the work-table. "While Clockwerk's brain may be naught but an empty shell, his secrets did not die with him—I'm certain his blueprints hold clues I've yet to uncover!" Lifting one of the dark blue schematics to the lamp, he stroked his slender moustache and chuckled softly. "In time, I shall completely decipher the old boy's legacy…and then, immortality shall be mine! Nothing shall stand in my way!"
That was when I understood the full extent of Arpeggio's scheme. It isn't just about hypnotizing Paris, augmenting his feeble body with my metallic chassis, or even something as fundamental as flight. No…those things are merely part of a far grander design. Not satisfied with the might and weaponry of my former body, the diminutive tinkerer pursues my greatest secret…the ability to cheat death in all its guises. However unintentional, he seeks to emulate me, in both body and spirit. To become as I have…a relentless and unstoppable force, untouched by the rigors of time and injury. And thus reborn, he means to leave his mark on the pages of history, scribing his name in deeds that will make the world tremble.
I must admit…I find myself…impressed.
When the rest of Klaww Gang divided my parts, they descended upon my chassis like vultures upon carrion and picked it clean, leaving only a hollow shell in their wake. To them, my mechanical frame was a sunken ship to be plundered of anything valuable, and then abandoned to the dusts of time. All they saw was one-of-a-kind mechanical handiwork; a collection of interesting machines to be salvaged and re-purposed for their own personal schemes. Never once did they stop to consider that my battered frame had once housed a mind of unparalleled intellect. That it had served as a vessel for one who had defied the fates and nature alike. That it could prove instrumental in learning my darkest secrets. Bah! Not one of those fools understood the full potential of what they'd stolen!
But Arpeggio? He understood.
When the rest of the Klaww Gang scavenged my old body, the aristocratic parrot kept delving after his peers had taken the choicest components. Where they saw nothing else of value, he saw the hints of something more, a greater prize that remained untouched. Even as his colleagues began to profit from their respective endeavors, the tinkerer pored over my schematics, piecing together the hidden clues that the others had overlooked. And thus, he discovered what they did not…that my true strength lies not in steel and circuitry, but in the fact that I can never die. That my boundless intellect and razor cunning would never be dulled by the sands of time; that I could survive wounds that would have been fatal for anyone else. That I have attained the elusive dream that has tempted countless others…immortality. Life eternal. Defiance of the reaper's scythe, in all its forms.
That is the prize Arpeggio seeks—has, sought, perhaps, from the moment he orchestrated my theft. The rest of the Klaww Gang may be satisfied with using my parts for their own trivial pursuits. But not Arpeggio. Having realized my true power, to use my versatile technology for lesser things would never satisfy him. Instead, the tinkering parrot pursues the secret that his peers so foolishly overlooked…and he will stop at nothing to achieve it. Inevitably, he will likely come closer to discovering my secrets than anyone else has in centuries.
Just as he will inevitably fail.
Brilliant, arrogant, foolish Arpeggio…does he really think I would commit all of my secrets to paper? That I would risk someone else learning how to imitate my grand designs? Fool. He can pore over my blueprints till his eyes are shot through with red…till lack of sleep all but drives him mad…it will all be in vain. When I drew up those schematics, I left out certain details—the secret of my immortality, the means to spread that power through a body of steel and wires, and even the more advanced aspects of the technology that comprised my former chassis. After all, if my blueprints ever fell into the hands of the Cooper line, they would be armed with the knowledge of how to destroy me…and perhaps, if they were prepared to make the necessary sacrifices, how to make my immortality their own. And that, simply, would not do. My secrets are mine, and mine alone.
When treasure is buried without the intent to share, it is a fool who leaves a map.
Not that Arpeggio will notice the omission, at least not right away. I took care to obscure the instructions with such technical terms and complex mathematic formulas that they're practically a form of code unto themselves—only the most brilliant and patient of scholars would be able to make any sense of it all. In fact, I even made some of those instructions deliberately misleading, in case some enterprising meddler thought to take my technology and use it without my permission. If Arpeggio follows my blueprints to the letter, he'll find the Proto-Werk Frame to be a clumsy hunk of metal, the wings unable to support its massive weight without mounted thrusters.
Of course, tinkering aficionado that he is, Arpeggio will likely find workarounds, perhaps even recognize the misleading details and determine what he should really be doing. But even if he does, the secret of my immortality will still elude him. That particular secret remains with me—with my photographic memory, I recall it in perfect detail. Though he may succeed in re-assembling my old body, Arpeggio will never find the prize he covets most…
…at least, not without a little help.
Hours have passed. Arpeggio has returned. Once again, the workshop hums with life, the tinkering parrot hunched over the workbench on a steel perch as he solders the latest piece of the Proto-Werk Frame together. Behind the spray of sparks and the flame of an old-fashioned welding torch, Arpeggio's toucan flunkies hurry about on various errands—one of them pushes a cart of metal; another stands at a nearby table sorting gears and bundles of wire; and another stands at a telegraph and reviews a spool of message tape before leaning forward to rap the receiver key with his pronounced beak in a measured tempo. Through it all, Arpeggio remains focused on his work, ignoring everything around him as he crafts his latest tribute to my old body. Already, the sleek rod on the table has been equipped with tensile cables and wiring, and attached to a flexible, multi-jointed base. All the remains is to weld those curved, wickedly sharp talons into place, and the facsimile of my leg will be complete…
At that moment, a rich, throaty voice rises over the crackle of the welding torch. "Working hard as usual, I see?"
This comes from the tigress who sauntered into the room a few moments ago—Arpeggio's secret apprentice, the manipulative Neyla. Odd…she seems to be dressed as though she just came from a high-class ball. A skirt of elegant silk embraces her hips and thighs while an Indian wrapping clings to her bosom, leaving her midriff bare and offering a view of her shapely legs. The golden hue of Neyla's dress is accentuated by a subtle shimmer in the silk; all the better, I suppose, to show off her dusky violet pelt. Without her usual scarlet hood, a mane of midnight-black hair tumbles to the base of her neck, framing her face in a raven's shadow. In summary, a far cry from her usual appearance…and the witless toucans around Arpeggio take full notice, glancing up from their tasks to stare at her. Hmph. They could at least pretend to act as if they weren't interested.
From the faint smirk that crosses her dark purple lips, I suspect Neyla is well aware of their gaze…indeed, I suspect that she prides herself on her ability to capture the interest of others; all the easier to manipulate them. Her attention, however, is reserved for her master, as she walks up to the work-table with her tail flicking in a lazy pattern.
Without looking away, Arpeggio lets out a hearty chuckle behind the welder's mask. "Naturally, my protégé. I do want to be as well-versed as possible in the intricacies of the Clockwerk Frame when the time comes to re-assemble the real thing, don't I?" A pause as the welder's frame dies away, and Arpeggio flips up the mask to examine his handiwork before glancing over to Neyla, smirking as if aware of some private jest. "By the by, shouldn't you be out in the jungle, pursuing the crooked lord of a recently-purchased jungle palace?"
Neyla shrugs. "As far as Interpol knows, I am," she says dismissively. "Old Ironsides is too incensed from her little tango to wonder where I went when I suggested we split up." She lets out a derisive laugh. "Hah! I'd wager she thinks she'll actually catch up with the criminal she's really after; never mind that he and his little gang are probably miles away by now. Them and that absurd van of theirs."
Arpeggio chortles merrily, now wagging one of his diminutive green wings in admonishment. "Now, now, Neyla…we owe quite a bit to Sly Cooper! Why, if not for his rather convenient grudge against Clockwerk, we'd have a devil of a time getting the rest of the old bird's parts without arousing my associates' suspicion!" Flipping his welder's mask back over his aristocratic features, Arpeggio goes back to work, speaking over the roar of the welding flame and the crackle of sparks. "Just think, a master thief's doing all the hard work for us, and we barely have to lift a feather! It's only a matter of time before he manages to get all the parts back, and then we can swoop in and take them all!" A pause; an amused chuckle. "Ironic, isn't it? Cooper is my most instrumental pawn in this whole affair, and he doesn't even realize it!"
Neyla braces one paw on the table and leans forward…and look at that. She seems to be frowning. "About this plan, sir…I really think you should let me go after those parts myself. I could retrieve them a lot easier if I wasn't playing tour guide for Sly and his pathetic little friends."
From behind that welding mask, there comes a weary sigh. "We have been over this, my dear."
Neyla tightens her grasp on the edge of the table, claws springing from her dark purple fingertips to dig into the sturdy wood. "I'm telling you, I can do a better job than Sly bloody Cooper!" she protests, gesturing to herself with her other paw. "You've seen me in action, remember? That ring-tailed rat had to run himself ragged just to keep up with me back in Paris! And that nerdy little tortoise who acts as his brain, not to mention that obese pink clod they call a strongman…!" The tigress shakes her head, disdainful. "Really, they're just deadweight to me. Let me turn them over to Interpol, and I'll be able to get those Clockwerk Parts more easily than they ever could."
Arpeggio doesn't even look at her. "And I keep telling you, my cheeky protégé, Sly Cooper is the ideal proxy!' he admonishes. "He's talented enough to steal the Clockwerk Parts from the other members of Klaww Gang; he's such a high-profile criminal that Interpol will be too busy chasing him to worry about us, and as an unwitting pawn, he's completely expendable! To top it all off, his unfashionable vendetta against Clockwerk means that no one will think twice about his involvement, or ask why he's stealing the old bird's remains! He's the perfect dupe!"
Neyla looks ready to contest that claim. "But…"
Arpeggio cuts her off with a jet of white-blue flame from the welding torch, sealing shut seams in the device on the table before him. "Sly Cooper is much too useful to throw away just yet, and that's final. Stick to your part of the plan, my dear…help him along."
Hmph. From the way her ears fold back, Neyla doesn't like taking second billing to Cooper whelp any more than I do. But she knows better than to keep arguing…I can see the crafty gleam in those emerald eyes, the way she strokes her slender chin in thought. There…her eyes just brightened, the telltale sign of inspiration taking hold. And now she's leaning over the workbench again, drawing a little closer to Arpeggio as she lowers her muzzle to his ear, murmuring just loud enough for him to hear.
"That's just it, sir…what if Sly decides to destroy the Clockwerk Parts before we can get our hands on them?"
There. That got Arpeggio's attention. The welding torch abruptly shuts off as the diminutive tinkerer straightens bolt upright, flipping his mask up to give Neyla a sharp glance from his perch. "Don't even joke about that."
Neyla's shaking her head, her bare shoulders rising in a casual shrug. "Oh, it's no joke," she replies nonchalantly. "You said it yourself, didn't you? Sly Cooper has quite the grudge against Clockwerk. If I were him, I'd be destroying every piece of the old bird as soon as I got my paws on it." Now she leans forward, running a slender clawtip along the trim of Arpeggio's scarlet cape. "Why, he might have already disposed of the wings. Didn't you call them an irreplaceable feat of aviation…?"
The tigress chose her words well. Dismantled though I am, I can see the alarm in Arpeggio's eyes as they widen with shock. He glances aside, his expression pensive as he strokes his beak fretfully. Wondering, no doubt, if he's already lost his chance to study my wings after coveting them for so long. Already, I can see Neyla's implication taking root…the furrowing of Arpeggio's brow, the way his beak comes together in a grim line. Setting the welding torch down on the work table, the tinkering parrot steeples his wingtips together; obviously contemplating his choices.
Though really, he's already made the choice. He's just letting his keen intellect justify it.
And now he turns to Neyla, his expression solemn. "It's a shame to lose Sly Cooper's unwitting aid so early, but I see your point…his enmity with Clockwerk may indeed prove more obstacle than asset." With a rueful sigh, the diminutive parrot shakes his head and shrugs. "Ah well, no matter. You'll just have to deal with him earlier than expected…I trust you can devise a scenario to lure the lad to his doom?"
Neyla all but purrs with satisfaction. "Oh, I already have," she remarks. "In fact, I think we can kill two birds with one stone, if you'll pardon the expression. Didn't you tell me that some of your chums in the Klaww Gang were concerned about Old Ironsides sticking her nose into our affairs?"
Arpeggio arches a quizzical brow. "Inspector Fox, you mean? Yes, the Contessa's worried that she'll discover her involvement with the Klaww Gang if she stays on the case—something about the vixen's obsession with uncovering all aspects of any case regarding Sly Cooper." He pauses, preening at his slender moustache. "It's a bit bothersome, really…I need the Contessa in Interpol's good graces, at least until she completes her work on the hypnotic array. But she's so busy trying to keep Inspector Fox off her scent, she's falling behind schedule!" Then Arpeggio throws up his wings in exasperation. "And she won't stop pestering me about it, so it's interfering with my work, as well! Bah! I really have no time for it!"
Neyla smirks, dipping a paw into the neckline of her wrappings. "Then I'm sure you'll both appreciate this…tell me, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you see this picture?"
Arpeggio leans forward with an arched brow, adjusting his monocle as he examines the photograph that Neyla just produced from her dress. But…rrrrggh! I can't see it from this angle! Curse this decrepit, disembodied state I'm trapped in! But wait…the tinkering parrot's smiling now…chortling, even.
"My, my…Rajan did throw quite the soiree, didn't he?"
Neyla nods, her emerald eyes glittering fiendishly. "Oh, yes…and it'll be the last one that Sly Cooper and his precious Ironsides will ever attend!"
They laugh together, the tinkering genius and his cunning apprentice. The latter tosses the photo aside, sending it sliding across the workbench. Hmm…it's come to rest right where I'm sitting, the supposedly inert brain case that serves as Arpeggio's lucky charm. I can't move directly, of course…but Arpeggio and Neyla are distracted. Perhaps I can get away with tweaking the magnification on my camera sensor? Now, let's zoom in and see what all the fuss is about…
Well. Look at that. Two birds with one stone, indeed.
And so the tangled plot thickens, with Arpeggio's plans unfolding perfectly. But he's not the only player in this little game…Neyla is quite adept at manipulating his secret fears and ambitions for her own agenda. Depending on the scope of her own ambition, she could be the wild card that changes everything.
And Sly Cooper? He's nothing but a pawn to them both. And soon, he and that meddling vixen will be swept from the board.
To Be Continued…
So there you have it. The chapter is complete. And now that you've read through it, permit the author some commentary.
Firstly, when considering how I would make Clockwerk a more active presence in this fic than just a passive observer of the game's events, I considered what he would do. As I've shown here, I doubt a villain as cunning as Clockwerk would leave the secret to his immortality in a place where just ANYONE could read it. So how did Arpeggio learn the secret?
Secondly, I wanted to offer a little more insight into Clockwerk's sinister mind. Even though he mocks Arpeggio for thinking the secret to immortality being as easy as reading his blueprints, I like to think that the villainous owl has developed a certain respect for the tinkering parrot's ambition, and for understanding what REALLY makes him a force to be reckoned with. Of course, he still views himself as the superior mind between the two, and is hatching his plans accordingly.
Thirdly, I thought I'd show Neyla's ever-duplicitous and ambitious nature a little. As we find out in the final stage of Sly 2, she chafed at the idea of leading Sly and his gang on their hunt for the Clockwerk parts, having preferred to go after them herself. Thus did I show her using her clever wiles to convince Arpeggio to let her betray Sly earlier than planned. She's quite the manipulator, no?
Once again, I apologize for the unseemly delay, and I hope the quality of my writing makes up for that. As always, comments and criticism are deeply appreciated. Laters!