Part 1 – Steam and Suspicion

Sunny squinted at the mess of gears, flywheels, crankshafts, and sprockets before him, one paw holding up a small workman’s lamp while the other wielded a wrench. His shoulders barely squeezed through the open hatch in the contraption’s side, the lithe otter squirming about to get into position in the tight space and bring the wrench to bear. That troublesome joint on the central drive shaft sat right about… there! Snagging it with the wrench, he gave it a twist, fastening it true once more. His muzzle curled in a grin. Now just to oil up the innards, and—

“Hey now, is that Sunny I see, or did that machine grow a rudder?”

The otter jolted at the sudden cheerful voice, whacking his head on the crankshaft and letting out a groan. Head throbbing, he wriggled his way back out into the open, blinking in the brighter gas light of his workshop. A raccoon dressed in working leathers with a pink shock of fur on her head stood in the middle of the room with one hand on her hip, a sympathetic grin on her muzzle, and a toolbox in her other hand.

“Alright there?” asked the raccoon, moving towards him. “Or is that contraption supposed to yelp?”

Sunny rubbed his forehead with a grimace. His paw came away spotted in grease. “Comes with the job.” Setting down his tools, he stepped forward and clasped forearms with the raccoon. “Good to see you, Misty! What brings you to my dingy part of the Apex?”

“Happened to be in the neighborhood for an elevator repair, figured I’d drop by to say hello to an old friend.” She glanced past him to the machine. “How’s life above the smog eh? Working on something new I see.”

Sunny shrugged. “Can’t say I’m out and about all that much, save for picking up supplies or required functions. President Sha’Kaar needs this machine ready for the Founding Day celebration, so I’ve been working my tail off! I’m supposed to join him for a fancy gala tonight too so we can officially present the project’s progress to the rest of the Founders.”

“Naturally, needs to show off what his pet—sorry, protege can do, eh?”

Sunny scowled. “Be nice, he’s honestly trying to make AZ better for all of us, not just the Valued Founders club. Besides, he’s done a lot for me as well, giving me this job and all.”

The raccoon rolled her eyes. “If you say so. Me? I’ll trust those that have had my back before, not the ones that say they do. What’s this contraption supposed to do anyways?”

“It’s going to be an air purifier. Still in the prototype phase, but if it works as intended, a few of these set around the outer ring will whisk the smog away.”

“And let the Apexes have a nice view down on the rest of us,” Misty said. “But, might be nice not to have soot raining down at least. Ooh, what’s this do?” She walked up to the machine and grasped a prominent lever.

“Wait, it’s not—!”

Too late, Misty yanked the lever. With a belch of steam, the machine clattered to life. Gears spun, gauges jumped, the whole thing shuddered. Sunny’s eyes widened as they fixed on one gauge in particular, the needle rapidly rising.

“Oh no, that’s not good!”

He jumped, tackling Misty to the ground. With a calamitous roar, the machine erupted in steam, several metallic pings echoing through the clamor. The pair covered their heads, hunkering down until the noise subsided, the machine settling into ominous quiescence with a final belch of steam.

Sunny peeked up from under his forearm, Misty mirroring him a heartbeat later.

“Wasn’t me,” Misty said, though her voice had a touch of quiver.

The otter shot her a glare. “Raccoons. You always have to touch! But…” He stood, brushing himself off. “This time, I think you’re right. Something’s strange. You alright?” He offered her a paw, helping the raccoon to her feet.

“Fine, I think. Bit scalded. Strange aside from your machine exploding in our faces?”

“Yes. I replaced those pressure valves yesterday. It shouldn’t have given out that quickly.” Sunny moved to inspect the machine, drawing back with a yelp when his paw touched the steel casing. “Have to check the insides out later once it’s cooled off. Let’s see…” He dashed over to a workbench and began rummaging through boxes of parts. “Aha! Here they are.” Holding up one of the valves to a lamp, he took a close look inside. At first it looked normal enough, but on closer inspection, his fears proved true. “Can you believe it? This is a flopped part! The valve rod’s been shaved off so it can’t seal properly.”

Misty joined him, taking the valve for her own inspection. “That doesn’t sound like a mistake to me.”

Sunny rummaged through the box, pulling out valve after valve. “This one too, and this one…” He paused, glancing back at Misty, his ears twitching. “Do you think?”

“Sabotage!” they both said at once.

“But who would want to sabotage you?” Misty asked.

“Or the whole city,” Sunny said. “This project benefits everyone. Doesn’t it?”

“I think that’s what we need to find out!” Misty held up a clenched fist. “Don’t worry, rudder boy, detective Misty’s on the case!”

Sunny grimaced. “I was afraid you’d say that…”

Far below the lofty heights of Aurum Zenith’s Apex district, below the thick pall of smog separating the two levels as much as the towering steel and glass columns supporting Apex’s foundation plate, down in the grungy streets and alleys of Cogworks, Castor strutted along whistling a jaunty tune between their gapped front teeth. The beaver held a large box in their arms, their wide tail swishing as they strolled.

“The crew’s going to love this haul,” they said aloud to the empty alley. “Going to keep us caffeinated for weeks!” Reaching the end of the alleyway, they emerged into a wide courtyard surrounded by dilapidated buildings. The beaver started for one of the structures which had a large red X painted across its door—the sign of a building allegedly scheduled for demolition—when movement in their peripheral vision caught their attention.

Two large mammals, a badger and a wolf, crouched next to one of the other buildings, a small workman’s lamp between them as they loaded up a crate. Castor quickly ducked back into the alley and peered around the corner. No one should be around here who wasn’t part of the crew. The wolf wore a black armband around his shoulder with the letters ‘IV’ stitched in white. A symbol of the Involutes… but not anyone Castor recognized. Not that they knew the entirety of the rebel group, but anyone in this part of Cogworks should be familiar to them. More to the point, most Involutes didn’t go around wearing their colours openly like that, so who were these strangers and what were they up to? Straining, Castor tried to catch their conversation without peeking enough to give themself away.

“…Oughta do it. Next shipment… “ A train rumbled by two streets over, the noise cutting through the words. “…upstart won’t know until it’s too late.” Above, an elevator hissed its way up one of the central pillars, the whir of cables like the sizzle of a dying lamp. ”…scupper the thing. Teach them, eh?” The pair laughed, and together hoisted the crate, plainly filled with something heavy enough that two burly mammals had to share the load. The two began tramping off across the courtyard, oblivious to Castor’s presence. The beaver stared after them, their tail thumping the cobblestones. Now what were they up to? Sabotage? Who was this ‘upstart’?

For a moment, the beaver considered following the pair, but then glanced back at their own parcel. Not worth the risk. Could be nothing besides. They’d have to ask Havok, the crew leader, about this pair. Maybe they were on some secret mission. Or… The beaver grinned.

“I’ve gotta tell Misty about this!”

Who is sabotaging Sunny’s machine? What are those suspicious characters up to? Follow along with Castor, Misty, and Sunny by scanning the QR codes hidden throughout the con space to solve the mystery! Check out our con game, Corgi Says, for the full interactive adventure and the chance to win awesome prizes! Good luck, inventors and investigators!

For your first task, meet up with Sunny at the GOH dinner room and see what he’s dug up!