No Time for Spies
Before Max could contemplate taking in his next breath, everything around him changed. What had been a dark, dank, and dirty warehouse was now a dark, dank, and even dirtier parking garage. He glanced at the screen that was inset into the arm of the recliner and confirmed his suspicions about the time change. He was no longer in 1969, but was instead in the year 2000.
Max stood up and surveyed the car-packed garage. Human activity, at the moment, seemed to be lacking and that was good since he did not want to explain why he was sitting in a recliner in the middle of a parking garage. Certain that he was alone, Max took a deep breath of relief and squirmed around in his seat in hopes that he would find an exit behind him. Looking up, his eyes met the steal-eyed glare of one Conrad Seigfried who was standing behind the recliner.
"It was only a matter of time before you’d come after me, Schmart," quipped Seigfried.
"Well, that was fast," remarked Max, pulling out his gun. "Okay, Seigfried, the game’s over. You’re under arrest and you’re going back to Control Headquarters!"
"I don’t think so Schmart," replied Seigfried, emerging from behind the chair. Max noticed that he was dragging a young woman with him and holding her at gunpoint.
"Awe, come on, Seigfried! You can’t take her along!" protested Max. "Let her go and let’s get going!"
"Stop stalling, Schmart, and hand me the remote!" barked Seigfried, pulling the girl by a hand full of her short dark curls. "If you don’t hand me the remote, then I’ll shoot the girl and you!"
Max made a face of disgust. "Why do you Kaos guys have to always be so messy?"
"Because this is Kaos! Not sissy little Control! Arrrrggghhhhh!!!!! Schmart! Give me the remote!" screamed Seigfried as he wrestled with his squirming hostage. "You have ten seconds -after that people will die!"
"Just give the jerk the remote," hissed the girl in a particularly nasty voice. "You can buy a new one! It’s not worth it!"
Max shot the girl a funny look and then preceded to shift his glare to Seigfried again. "If I give you the remote, will you let the girl go free?"
"Maybe. . . maybe not, but I’ll definitely shoot her if you don’t give it to me!" snapped Seigfried.
"Okay, Seigfried, you win," relented Max, handing him the remote, which Seigfried promptly snatched away.
"And you, Schmart, lose!" laughed Seigfried, raising his gun and aiming it at Max.
"Look, Seigfried!" exclaimed Max pointing behind him. "It’s Tiny Tim!"
Seigfried’s reaction was to turn and look, while Max’s reaction was to reach for his gun. The young woman’s reaction, at that moment, was to plow her platform heal into Seigfried’s foot. Stunned from the pain shooting through his foot, Seigfried lost his grasp and allowed the woman to break free. He then lunged at her while she retaliated with a sharp upper-cut to his nose. Although his nose cracked, Seigfried was anything but finished with Smart or his unruly hostage. He pulled out his gun and promptly aimed it at Max again. Before Max could blink, the girl grabbed him by the arm and pulled him behind a parked car.
"Don’t tell me we’re stuck," groaned Max as a bullet ricocheted off the car they were hiding behind.
"We’re stuck," replied the girl. "and Tiny Tim is dead."
"I asked you not to tell me that!" Max reminded her.
"You didn’t ask about Tiny Tim!"
"Given time, I’m sure I would have got around to it," retorted Max.
"Oh, well," she shrugged, "you win some, you lose some. So what’s Jesse James out there supposed to be? I’ve seen some pretty weird fights before, but never one over a lazyboy and a clicker."
"Would you believe that we’re both working for rival defense contractors and we’re fighting over office furniture?" offered Max.
The woman gave him a doubt laced look. "I’d only believe that if you were fighting over furniture that didn’t look like it was stolen from the Salvation Army thrift store. How do you suppose we’re going to get out of this? You may have time to waste, but I have a job to do!"
Max peered around the bumper of the car and noticed that several more black clad Kaos agents had joined Seigfried. "Which one of these cars is yours?"
"None of ‘em. This shoot-out is a safer environment than Washington D.C. traffic."
Max looked at her and shook his head. "Then what were you doing in a parking garage?"
"My supervisor forgot his Prozac. I also figured I would borrow his car to go on a doughnut run," she explained, off-handedly.
"Huh?" asked Max as more bullets whirred past the hair on his neck. While his adrenaline was doing cartwheels, an idea popped into his brain. He began to wonder if one of the cars might be unlocked so that they could hop in and escape Seigfried’s line of fire. Max then pulled on the car door handle and turned to the girl.
"Listen, " he began, "why don’t we--"
"You just set off the car alarm!" screamed the girl above the honking. "What were you thinking? That people leave their doors unlocked?"
"Yes!" screamed Max, covering his ears.
The girl then reached into her purse and extracted a set of keys from it. After pushing several buttons on the key ring, the deafening honking stopped as abruptly as it began. She then unlocked the door and climbed over to the driver’s seat. Max raised a single eyebrow and somewhat hesitated in his movement into the passenger seat. As the car started, and the radio belted out Matchbox Twenty's Bent, Agent 86 decided that closing his door and utilizing his seat belt would be a good idea. He also, as he watched the girl fiddle with the gears, began to wonder how his Control insurance policy handled time travel.
"I thought you said you didn’t like to drive in Washington?" he commented as she began to back the car out of the space.
"Oh. . . I don’t mind at all when I’m being shot at repeatedly. No problem there," she said as she peeled away from the parking space.
Max looked out of the rear view mirror just in time to see Seigfried and the rest of his lackeys aim at them. In the blink of an eye, Max ducked and shoved the girl to the floor only seconds before Seigfried’s shower of bullets tore through the back window. A second barrage of gunfire managed to make its way in through the back window and out by the front windshield. After a moment of silence Max decided that they may have actually escaped Seigfried's firepower, but he was still highly doubtful that they had crawled out of harm's way.
The car, with its driver still crouching below the dash, plowed forward onto a very traffic laden Pennsylvania Avenue. Max sat back up and discovered that not only were all the windows in the car gone, aside from a few shards of glass, but they were also about to run into a Brinks truck. He turned to the girl and noticed that she was not only trying to steer, but was also looking for something on the floor.
"Do you know how many traffic violations you’ve just committed?" demanded Max, as he watched the car plow forward as the rest of the traffic tried to swerve away from them.
"I could care less," remarked the girl, still pawing around on the floor. "With the price of eye care, my lost contact lens is a more sensitive situation than our safety."
"First of all," he continued, "Your hands are not at two and ten. Secondly, you’re-"
"Eeeeeeeeeeeccccckkkkk!" screamed the girl, sitting up and blinking. "Why didn’t you tell me that we were in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue? What kind of a passenger are you anyway?"
"The kind that’s in a lot of trouble," mumbled Max.
"I heard that!" snapped the girl. "You haven’t seen trouble! If you think your friend with the furniture fetish was mad -well I’ve got news for you! When my boss gets his Saab back and discovers that he needs all his windows replaced, he’ll kill me!"
"You?" asked Max doubtfully. "He wouldn’t do that -you’re a girl! Anyhow, I'm sure we'll be killed in this car long before your boss lays his hands on you."
"Arrrggghhh!" groaned the girl.
Just as they were about to turn the corner, the driver’s side tire popped. As the air came gushing through the tire, smoke began to emerge from under the hood. Before Max could even suggest steering the car to the side of the street, it completely stalled and was subsequently rear-ended by an UPS truck.
"Looks like the old 'bullet in the engine' trick," observed Max. "You know, stopping in the middle of traffic is a direct violation of-"
"Just get out of the car!" screamed the girl.
They both clambered out of the smoking Saab, which by that time had a small fire burning under its hood, and headed for the sidewalk. Max noticed that a small crowd of gapers was forming around the entanglement. He also noticed that his shoe, as always, had decided to ring at a most inconvenient time.
As the girl began to haggle with the driver of the UPS truck and a near-by traffic cop that had witnessed the altercation, Max sauntered off to a phone booth that he saw around the corner. He found, to the great fortune of his pride and reputation, that it was empty. He contorted his body and managed to slip off his shoe without knocking the pay phone off its hook any more than three times. The shoe phone had just reached its twentieth ring when he answered.
"Hello, Maxwell Smart here," announced Max.
"Welcome to the twenty-first century, Mr. Smart. Enjoying your visit?" growled a sarcastic voice.
"No!" retorted Max. "Who is this?"
"This, Mr. Smart, is the NEA. You will be meeting with us briefly so that you can brief us about Kaos and, to be brief, we can brief you about your assignment," sneered the voice.
"Wait a sec, I thought the NEA was the National Education Association -not a counter-espionage group," noted Maxx, with a touch of alarm in his voice.
"That NEA is our cover. What better way to protect the Naval Espionage Association than with a bunch of disgruntled teachers? Now, Mr. Smart, pay careful attention to my instructions! You will be meeting your case supervisor and your assistant in the Crystal City Underground Mall. You will take the yellow Metro line and exit at Crystal City. You will then go up the escalator and meet your contact at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the bank. You will use the line: ‘J. Edgar Hoover wore a skirt’ and that’s all you will say. Now, do you understand all that?"
"No," answered Max, shaking his head to no one in particular.
"All right," sighed the voice, "What part did you not grasp?"
"Well, I think it was that part right after you said ‘pay careful attention to my instructions’ -I think..."
"Dushinka here," growled a four-starred, uniformed, Admiral into a crimson phone. "Yes, I am most aware of the situation."
"I realize that," he continued after a moment of awkward silence. "The problem will be taken care of -you have my word!"
Dushinka slammed the receiver back into its cradle and stashed the phone in his desk drawer just as the door to his office opened. His not-exactly-invited guest was a towering Lieutenant Junior Grade by the name of Anté. Anté, contrary to the Admiral’s belief, did not intrude because he simply wanted to get his kicks. The jay gee's1. unfortunate presence, at this moment, was one of those required by request and then regretted later.
"You wanted to see me, Sir," explained Anté.
"Unfortunately, I recall that, yes, I did want to see you," frowned Dushinka. "You are aware of the Control time machine case, correct?"
"Yes," nodded Anté. "A dissident group known as Kaos was supposed to have traveled into the future in 1969 and a member of the now defunct Control organization followed him. I find this, sir, a crock of. . . bunk!"
"Kaos has, whether you want to believe it or not, already arrived. The Control agent has done likewise and he’ll be here in a few minutes. You, Anté, will meet him downstairs by the staircase that leads to the bank," instructed Dushinka, leaning across his desk to privilege Anté with the full effect of his icy glare.
"What are we supposed to do?" demanded Anté. "Compare the intelligence tactics of the 60s to the 90s?"
"You are supposed to help him get back the time machine!" barked Dushinka, who was now actually laying across the top of his paper blanketed desk.
"Not really," corrected Dushinka. "You’re going to supervise this mission. Agent 86 for Control will have an assistant -but not you!"
Anté screwed up his face into one that spelled confusion. "Who might that be?"
"Your cute little intern," smiled Dushinka in a rather sick manner as he eased back into his chair. "You know the one with the cute little nose, the melting brown eyes and-"
"Lucy Bently," groaned Anté before Dushinka could describe anything else. "I know! I also know that she deliberately stole my car and totaled it this afternoon! I also know that I terminated her employment in this organization!"
"Yes," smirked Dushinka, "but what you don’t know is why I rejected her termination and promoted her to full agent status. You didn't know that, did you? Have fun... Anté!"
Hoping that his presence was low-key enough, Max pushed his way off the escalator in the underground mall in Crystal City, Virginia only to pleasantly discover that he was just another body in an endless parade of people. He wondered why a contact would want to meet him in, of all places, a crowded mall. He made his way past the bargain hunters to the staircase in the center of the mall and began to scan the crowd for possible contacts.
The only near-by person that fit Max’s criteria for a spy was a cane-wielding snippet of an old woman. Knowing the world of espionage as he did, Max figured that she was probably the government’s new secret weapon in the fight against rottenness and his contact. After all, Kaos would never suspect that a crippled granny would be a secret agent. He decided to go ahead and test his secret phrase on her -just to make sure that she was on her toes.
"J. Edgar Hoover wore a skirt," recited Max, approaching the woman.
The woman promptly responded to Max’s signal by cracking him over the head with her brick-lined purse. She then proceeded to swiftly kick him in the shin and wrap him across the back with her cane. Max decided that he was either wrong about her agent status or that flogging was now a common form of communication in the new millennium.
"PERVERT!" screamed the woman.
Max rubbed his head as the woman hobbled away. This made him begin to wonder if the call on his shoe phone was actually just a crank. Being cracked on the skull did not discourage Agent 86, though. He decided to go ahead with the plan and keep his eyes peeled for his contact.
After several minutes, and a substantial number of civilians mistaken for spies, a man in a sharp khaki Naval officer’s uniform walked over to the other side of the staircase. Max eyed him from across the railing and resolved to ignore him. The entire mall was crawling with military types and a contact in a navy uniform would be far to obvious for a contact as far as Max was concerned.
"Isn’t there something you want to say to me?" demanded the man, impatiently.
Max startled and then looked over the railing at the officer. He then looked away as if he were about to address some imaginary presence in the air. He could then feel the man’s eyes searing into him, so he fed him a response.
"Nope -not really."
"Look," huffed the man walking over to Max’s side of the stairs, "J. Edgar Hoover wore a skirt."
"Well, I believe that’s the FBI’s concern -not mine," replied Max, eyeing the officer squarely in the eye.
"Yeah, well I think you should know that he had the number ‘86’ sewn onto it," added the man.
Max gave him a sick look. "Listen, that’s really more information than I needed to know. In fact I-"
"Listen, Smart," interrupted the man in a particularly nasty tone, "I’m Lieutenant Anté, your contact. We’ve been expecting you."
Max raised an eyebrow. "You have?"
"Yes. Our main objective is to get the time machine back in the hands of the government and Kaos in jail," continued Anté.
"Well, that’s all very well and good, but there’s just one problem," said Max.
"And that is?" prompted Anté.
"Would you believe I have no idea where Seigfried could be?"
"Yes. That’s why you’ve been assigned a partner," explained Anté, leading Max over to the Bath and Body Works store. "Smart, I’d like you to meet Miss Bently."
Max looked over in the direction that Anté was pointing and did a double take. It was now apparent to him that this Miss Bently was Seigfried’s captor and his lousy chauffeur. At this point in time, Miss Bently was more interested in the shower gel than she was in Lieutenant Anté and his mundane chores. Anté, with a great deal of disdain, picked up on her inattentiveness quite quickly.
"Miss Bently!" he said sharply.
Miss Bently responded by jumping up off the floor and knocking over a whole rack of varying shower gels. "Yes?"
"When you’re done sampling the perfume, I’d like you to meet your partner, Mr. Smart," said Anté, pointing at nothing.
"Mr. Anté," replied Lucy, eyeing the jay gee with a nervous smile, "there’s no one there!"
Anté then turned around and discovered that Max had disappeared. He then looked over at a display stand that was built to resemble a moving cardboard snowman. Max was now occupied with not just the mechanical workings of the snowman’s movable top hat, but he was also fascinated with the concept that there really was a Christmas in July. Anté was not amused.
"Mr. Smart!" exclaimed Anté walking over to him with Lucy at his heals. "Would you stop playing with that!"
Max looked up at Anté just as the snowman’s hat unhinged itself and fell into a sale bin of somewhat sticky tubes of hand lotion. Max looked into the bin and cringed. He pulled out the hat and tried to put it back on, but all that it would do was swing down over the snowman’s face.
"Smart," began Anté in a sickeningly sweet voice.
"Yes?" asked Max.
"KNOCK IT OFF!" screamed Anté.
"Sorry about that," squeaked Max.
Anté acknowledged Max’s apology with a granite glare. "Smart, this is Lucy Bently, your assistant."
"Is she really my assistant or is she my assailant?" interrupted Max.
"Bently," continued Anté, ignoring Max’s comment, "This is Maxwell Smart and-"
"We’ve met," remarked Lucy in a sour voice.
Anté took a deep breath, counted to three, and exhaled what would commonly be described as the scream of a madman. "Listen, you two are both going to find that time machine -even if you can’t get along. This is the Navy and we’re not here to have fun and enjoy each other."
"Did you explain that to all the sailors in the bar down the street?" countered Lucy.
"Liberty doesn’t count," sniffed Anté. "Speaking of which, I am at great liberty to terminate you, Ms. Bently."
"As if. You're just a jay gee. You don't have that liberty," snorted Lucy, rolling her eyes.
Anté ignored her and continued with his sermon. "Either way, you’ve been blessed with the opportunity to redeem yourself by allowing Mr. Smart to find the time machine!"
"That can't be the extent of it," remarked Lucy.
"It's not! Your most important job is that you are to keep this little affair out of the papers. The only other thing I have to say to either of you is that I don’t want the two of you disturbing me for anything! Now that’s your assignment and may God have mercy on my soul," moaned Anté. With all that said, he then turned sharply on his heal and disappeared into the crowd.
"Are you sure this is a wise idea?," asked Lucy as they sauntered into a darkened corridor that was tucked deep within the bowels of the NEA offices.
Max’s plan was to derive as much information on the present Kaos organization as possible. He had uncovered from Lucy Bently, after much prodding, pleading, and promising to buy supper, that the NEA complex did have an entire room dedicated to Kaos. While this much information on his enemies crammed into one room was like a personal heaven to Max, the hurdle of entering the room was quite a fiery ordeal.
The room, as Max had discovered when they reached the end of the hall and as Lucy had mentioned earlier to a disinterested Agent 86, was entirely cut off from any type and variety of unauthorized entrance. The only person that was allowed entrance, as far as Lucy knew, was Admiral Dushinka and that was because he knew all the security codes in the building. Security, as far as Max and Lucy were concerned, was undoubtedly working against the fight for goodness and niceness.
"See," said Lucy, pointing to the push-button security panel embedded into the wall beside the door, "we can't get in because we don’t have the code."
"There’s an exception to every rule, Bently -you just have to find it," said Max, sizing up the door.
"That exception isn’t here right now and I think it would be prudent of us just to forget this room," suggested Lucy with a hint of anxiety in her voice.
"Just relax, Agent Bently! I am a trained, competent, and experienced agent that can adapt to any environment -including the future!" smirked Max as he turned the door knob.
The second that Max grasped the door knob was also the very second that he felt a burning shock burst through his fingers. The fiery jolt did not stop at just his digits, but charged on in its path through his hand and onto his wrist. As hard as he tried, he could not loosen his tingling grasp from the door knob. That fact was rather unfortunate since Max wanted badly to slap himself with that hand for being stupid enough to fall for the "Old Electrically Wired Door Trick."
(The shocking epic of Max and his big 21st Century adventure is far from over! Move on to Part Three NOW!
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