No Time for Spies
Noticing that Max was oblivious to the "High Voltage" warning signs that were posted around the NEA’s maximum security “Kaos” department, Lucy gave him a good shove away from the door whether he needed it or not. Still trembling, Max stumbled over to the opposite wall and tried to regain some semblance of calm. It was now shockingly apparent to Max, since he had regained his senses and voltage was no longer pouring into his arm, that the door to the Kaos department was electrically wired.
“It’s wired to give electrical shocks to intruders,” explained Lucy.
“I’ve noticed,” gasped Max, peering down at his charred hand.
“Yeah, well either you’re thick skinned or it’s doesn’t have as much juice running through it as the signs make it out to be,” remarked Lucy, who could not help but wonder how Smart crawled out of the affair alive.
Max eyed the door with contempt. “Listen, Bently, unless I miss my guess, all of the NEA’s classified information on Kaos is behind that door! It sure must be some privileged information if they had to go to the expense and trouble of wiring it…”
“Well,” smirked Lucy, studying a gold plate above the door, “this sign that says 'KAOS' would lead you to believe that, but I don’t see what good getting fried over this is, anyway.”
“Oh really?” retorted Max, narrowing his sooty eyes at Lucy. “I’ll have you know that Kaos is made up of used car salesmen, politicians, and grease monkeys! Kaos is vicious! Kaos is malicious! Kaos will stop at nothing to get what it wants!”
“And how is that different from any other corporation or bureaucratic organization?” interjected Lucy, crossing her arms. “This elusive Kaos you speak of hasn’t acted in years!”
Max bit his bottom lip in frustration. Neither an electrically charged door, or a pessimistic girl would not daunt him if he had anything to say about it. He, after all, was Maxwell Smart –the idol of kids aged eight to eighty. He decided that it was time to try to, again, open the door. He reached out and, like a child tempting a heated iron, touched the cool surface of the door with his fingertip.
“Are you crazy, stupid, or just plain suicidal?” screamed Lucy, pushing him away again.
“Miss Bently, I’d like to handle this myself,” snapped Max, impatiently. “In case you’re wondering, the door did not shock me because it is only the door knob that is wired.”
“And U.S. Navy regulation rubber, which is what the door is made out of, doesn’t conduct electricity,” added Lucy, pointing to another plaque next to the door that proclaimed that this door was indeed made out of U.S. Navy regulation rubber.
“I wasn’t finished Miss Bently! And U.S. Navy regulation rubber, which is what the door is made out of, doesn’t conduct electricity,” stated Max with a smug grin.
“Well that’s just brilliant, Newton!” replied Lucy, sarcastically. “Now how will that knowledge get us through the door? USNRR is the toughest rubber around! In fact, it's harder than the average Portnoy2. clarinet mouth piece!”
“Uhhhhhh….. why don’t we just skip that question and come back to it at the end of the test,” suggested Max as he tossed Lucy an odd stare. “Is there any other way to find out where Kaos could be located?”
“Yeah, the Greater District of Columbia Yellow Pages,” answered Lucy as she lead Max back down the hallway.
“But what about Control?” asked Max, searching Lucy’s emotionless face for some small ray of hope. “Are there any agents still hanging around that may have dealt with Kaos in the past?”
Lucy thought for a moment as they wandered through the NEA’s narrow and dimly lit back halls. She was not exactly sure how she wanted to go about explaining to Agent 86 that his organization had crumbled to pieces thirty years earlier. She could sense that Mr. Smart slept, ate, and breathed according to the Control handbook and she was certain he would not take the news well. After having survived on a lifelong diet of callousness, she was also certain that she could not overcome her passion for being blunt –even for Maxwell Smart.
“All are prime candidates for geezer hood,” sniffed Lucy. “You won’t get much.”
“They’ve either retired and moved off to Cape Hatteras, or they’ve kicked,” explained Lucy. “All except for One, that is.”
One, as he was known amongst his co-evils in Washington's espionage circle, was the oldest agent employed by the NEA. He was a well weathered, wiry haired, and surly old man who had the most arduous task of manning an office supply closet. It was not because the supply closet was in desperate need of management that One was stationed there. NEA agents could easily pilfer paper, printer cartridges, and other supplies without his assistance. One’s present job status was entirely the result of the NEA’s lack of a position to give him. After all, with One being a displaced Control veteran, that was still six months short of retirement and longed to serve his country, there had to be a position for him.
One, who regularly had no visitors that he was coherently aware of, was surprised to hear a knock on the supply closet door. He decided to ignore it in hopes that it would go away, but the knocking persisted. He then grumbled something and pulled out a brass flask that he had been stashing in the waste can. Right in the middle of a swig from the flask, he managed to holler some sort of a garbled acknowledgment and a request that the knocker enter. It almost gave him a shock to see a pair of non-navy types walk into his closet, but he decided to chalk that vision up to either bad bourbon or bad eyesight.
“Are you One?” asked Max, narrowing his eyes at the man sitting across from him.
“Yes,” nodded One who then turned to Lucy and winked.
Lucy responded with a displeased sniff. She continued to wear her usual pained expression and wished that Max would get to the point. She wanted to spend as little time with the NEA's resident lecher as possible. She could see, though, that Mr. Smart was more occupied with One’s cozy office set-up of amenities that were not limited to just the typical office toys of coffee pots and mini fridges. This unproductive preoccupation of his underlined the fact that only minimal, if any, progress would be made.
“You’ve got a TV in here and your own coffee maker?” breathed Max in awe. “What’s that funny looking box over there in the corner?”
“This?” asked One, gesturing toward a microwave he had stashed on the shelf that was supposed to shelve NSPSGT3. toilet paper. “That’s my microwave.”
“A micro what?” asked Max. "It doesn't look like a wave to me -of course I haven't been to the ocean in a while, so maybe things have changed."
Lucy rolled her eyes and decided that now was the time to interrupt. “We need some information on Kaos!”
“You look like you’re going to a funeral,” observed One as he surveyed Lucy’s granite expression. He then turned to Max and had a sudden surge of insight. “Say. . . I know you! You’re Maxwell Smart!”
“And how did you figure that one out?” asked Max, annoyed that once again his secret of being a secret agent was not so secret.
“You’re quite a celebrity around here and you’re thirty years out of style,” explained One.
Max, obviously insulted, responded with a glare of the beady-eyed variety that almost paralleled Lucy’s stone face. “Agent One, why don’t we get back on task and talk about Kaos.”
“Well why don’t we then! I thought you’d never ask!” he said as if to accuse Max and Lucy of stalling.
Max exchanged a mutual sigh of disgust with Lucy and then turned back to One. “What has Kaos been up to in the last thirty years?”
“Umm… not a lot -unless you count stealing ugly furniture as a commendable venture for a spy outfit. Aside from the big boys working here, I’m the only guy that’s ever heard of them,” explained One, gulping down another swig from his flask. "That is, I was the only guy until word got out that they're holding that quack Croaker's time machine hostage in their top secret lair."
“According to Lieutenant Anté, the organization is still intact and has been intact,” said Lucy, hoping her fabrication would goad One into giving them more concrete information.
“According to local gossip, Anté has, what we might say in military talk, a “thing” for you,” smirked One, looking at Lucy in a cow-eyed manner.
“And just when did you have time to crawl out of your bottle of 'Jack' and find that out?” snapped Lucy.
“Oooh... fighting words!” mocked One.
“I hope it's not too much of a strain for the two of you to push your grievances aside so that we can have some sort of a crack at this case!” remarked Max, in his most sincere nasal squeak of self-importance.
Espionage was, according to Max's personal doctrine, not about schoolyard squabbles and the last thing he wanted to be was the employee referee. He watched the pair become quiet, but he noticed that a crimson cheeked Lucy still continued to glare at a stolid One. Feeling all too much like someone's beleaguered father, Max decided that his only option, if he wanted progress, was to speed up the flow of the meeting.
“One, if Kaos is still around, how is it funded?” asked Max.
“Well, let’s see. . .” pondered One. “Kaos pretty much came to a stand still after you and Seigfried left. That was mainly because, if I remember correctly, Shtarker took Seigfried’s place. His idea of funding was to dress up as a clown in TV ads for some fast food chain. With Kaos in decline, Uncle Sam saw no reason to keep Control.”
“But that’s ridiculous!” cried Max, tossing his hands in the air. “We still had to protect the free world from evilness and rottenness! We still had to –“
“The cold war is over, buddy, and we won,” interrupted One.
“Woe is the world,” muttered Lucy under her breath.
“We did?” asked Max, astounded. “How’s the president doing?”
“For a pervert, he’s making out quite well,” scowled Lucy.
“Awe, you’re just jealous that you weren’t in Monica’s shoes!” teased One.
“I think we’ve learned enough from you!” retorted Lucy, grabbing Max by the arm and pulling him out of the supply closet with her.
A second or so later, while Lucy was still in the hallway ranting about One’s not so stellar attitude and his violation of the NEA employee relations policy, Max stepped back into the supply closet. He was just in time to watch One down the rest of his whiskey. One looked up at him with a glazed expression and Max glared down at him with fire and brimstone flaring in his eyes.
“Women…” sighed One. “They just can’t take a joke these days.”
“What’s all this that you were insinuating about president Johnson?” demanded Max, whose star spangled heart was about to crumble if he had to swallow presidential blasphemy on top of everything else that he had found to be wrong with the twenty-first century.
“Johnson?!? Who’s talking about him?” barked One. “Johnson is DEAD! I was taking about Clinton!”
Only a partial wave of relief passed over Max as he turned to leave. Doubting One’s stick-to-itiveness, Max then turned back to One to suggest that he keep his eyes and ears open incase any new developments regarding Kaos and the time machine occurred. 86’s suggestion, however, was voiced just as he tripped over a carton of NSPSGT toilet paper and fell back out into the hallway.
“Okay, let me get this straight,” said Max, looking Lucy in the eye, “Nixon got to be president, but was a crook and now he’s dead. Reagan became governor, then president, and now he’s senile –"
“There are those that would argue that he had that problem twenty years ago when he was sworn in,” remarked Lucy under her breath.
“As for our present president, he’s-"
“He’s sitting over there,” said Lucy, nodding over at the far side of the room where President William Jefferson Clinton was dining with one of his aids and a female secretary.
They were dining, that evening, in Hamburger Hamlet, which was well known as the haven of specialty hamburgers. This particular restaurant, out of the rest of the franchise, was notable in its own right because it was frequented by the president and vice president. Mostly, though, the patrons of this polished eatery consisted of naval officers and defense contractors. It was, by and large, a swanky joint with clientele of the finest graces and highest social order. Max, who sat right amongst these esteemed ladies and gentlemen, had just answered a ringing shoe phone only to subsequently splatter his coffee onto his lap.
"Smart here," answered Max in his best nasal intonation.
"This is One," rasped Agent One.
"One what?" demanded Max. "Listen, buddy, I don't have time for cranks! I'm sitting in an elite restaurant making a fool out of myself in front of our commander in chief, so cut to the chase!"
"This is Agent One from the NEA, you twit! I just called to tell you that I found out that Kaos definitely has their mitts on the recliner. According to my sources, a man bearing the description and clown costume of Shtarker just had it shipped out of Washington D.C. by way of a U-haul," explained One.
"So Shtarker has the recliner and he's hauling it out of D.C.," repeated Max. "You didn't catch where they're headed?"
"Sorry, 86, no dice," sighed One.
"Ok, but just one more thing," requested Max. "How did you get my number?"
"It's in the Greater District of Columbia Yellow Pages," remarked One, in a tired voice. "under shoe phones."
With that, Max heard a sharp click in his ear that signified that One had matters to attend to other than lost Lazyboys. He decided, as he put his shoe back on and picked up his coffee cup, that he was going to not only foil Seigfried, but he was also going to see the acclaimed Greater DC Yellow Pages -even if he died in the process. Then, with a smirk of satisfaction and self-determination on his face, Max sat back up only to obliviously sweep his arm across the table and knock his Gibson4. over.
“Mr. Smart, how did this Seigfried character get his hands on a time machine?” inquired Lucy, ignoring Max’s accident.
“Well, Miss Bently, it was a product of your time I believe…”
“Figures. Why’d you follow him here?”
“To save the future from the rottenness of Kaos!” declared Max with pure valiance in his voice.
Lucy burst into a fit of laughter. In the process she managed to knock over her cappuccino, froth and all, onto the table. She shrugged at the mess as if it were a way of life and continued in her mad giggles. Max shot her a funny look and proceeded to wipe up the brown flood that was now infringing on his own coffee and booze puddle.
“What’s so funny about that?” demanded Max, sopping up the mess. “I take putting an end to rottenness as a not just a job, but as a personal crusade!”
“Spare me!” gasped Lucy, between snorts of laughter. “This is the decline of civilization as we speak! Take a good look around, Mr. Smart, and you will see that we didn’t and still don’t need Kaos to destroy us.”
“Oh really?” asked Max, doubtfully. “I think pegging this as the decline of civilization is pretty harsh, don’t you? Perhaps civilization is in more of a…. a… a slump.”
Lucy, like any good cynic, was poised to defend her position on the matter of civilization’s rampant decline when a white clad man bearing a cake approached their table. She eyed him as he delicately positioned the cake on their table and she noticed that their unexpected treat was a Black Forest Cherry torte. She also noticed, mainly because she had often frequented the restaurant with Lieutenant Anté, that she did not recognize this waiter as a part of the regular staff.
“Complements of the house,” explained the man, noticing her critical stare.
“If you say so,” shrugged Lucy, shifting back to her granite expression.
“Would you like me to clean up this mess?” asked the man, pointing at the coffee soaked tablecloth.
“That’s okay,” said Max, “we’re starting to like it.”
The waiter then slithered away and Lucy, glaring at him, muttered a nasty remark under her breath. She then turned her disapproving glare to Max and noticed that he was eyeing the cake in the manner that a man eyed either a woman or a hot-rod. Max then shifted his gooey-eyed gaze from the cake to Lucy and frowned at her.
“You should be more courteous, Bently!” he lectured. “We, after all, are agents for good and niceness! We have to set an example for others!”
Pleased at having preached his maxim of the day, Max then picked up a knife and shifted into the proper cake-cutting position. He smiled down at the cherry crowned torte and caressed its icing capped surface with his slicing blueprints. He was just about to sink the knife down into the white fluff piled icing when something began to bother him. He glanced nervously at his watch and decided that it was the ticking. It was the ticking, the beating, and the pounding –but it was not coming from his watch!
“Miss Bently, your watch is too loud,” frowned Max. “Turn it down.”
“I don’t have a watch.”
Max took a deep breath and frowned. “Uh, ok, your heart is beating too loud—"
“Don’t bother to ask me to turn that down, because I haven’t got one of those either,” huffed Lucy, looking up from her Guacamole Burger and narrowing her eyes at Max.
“But don’t you hear it?” demanded Max in a tone boarding on fretfulness.
“Incidentally, Mr. Smart,” said Lucy, trying her best to avoid rolling her eyes, “I think the sound you are referring to is coming from the cake.”
“Bently, don’t be ridiculous!” chided Max as he plunged his knife into a mass of the downy soft baker’s goo.
Max smiled at the simple thought of his knife gliding through the icing and then into the dark chocolate torte that would soon be embracing his taste buds. He smiled even as his knife sank through the cake and slammed into its rock-solid core. That smile of joy, however, faded to a grimace of disgust mingled with disappointment when he found that not only was his knife entrapped in the cake’s metal heart, but also when he noticed that the ticking was getting louder.
Lucy’s dark eyes widened and she grabbed Max’s hand from the cake just as a small spark flew. “Max… I think-"
“Forget it, Miss Bently!” pulling his hand away from the saucer-eyed Lucy. “Just because my knife has hit a timer and has gotten entangled in wires does not mean that there’s anything wrong with this cake! Don’t even think about trying to tell me that there is a bomb in here!”
“THERE’S A BOMB IN THAT CAKE,” screamed Lucy.
“Listen, I asked you not to think about that and it was implied that I asked you not to tell me that!” whined Max.
By this time, every restaurant patron that had not joined in the mass exodus to the door was now staring at Max and Lucy. Lucy opted to ignore that fact since being gawked at happened to be an enduring trend in her life. Max, however, was neither keen at being stared at or being served a bomb of a desert. Not knowing exactly what to do, Max went with his gut instinct and hurled the ticking torte into a fountain in the center of the room. Within seconds of touching the water’s surface, bits of brick, chunks of icing, and a wealth of wished-upon pennies burst into the air and created the Rembrandt of all rubble showers ever to occur in Crystal City's Hamburger Hamlet.
(Keep watching for the rest of Max's nitro-laced exploits, because the fourth and highly explosive part of No Time for Spies is here!)
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