No Time for Spies
“Why, Mr. Smart,” asked Anté, in a tight-lipped fashion, “did you throw the cake in the fountain?”
Max looked around the still crumbling and smoking restaurant. The fountain that Anté was referring to was no more than a mere pile of misplaced bricks and ashes. The floor was now carpeted in bits of vinyl seat cushion, turkey ala king, and Formica. Max winced inwardly and glanced at Lucy out of the corner of his eye. She was sitting, quite primly, on what was once a chair, but was now more of a half melted stool. Her face was void of emotion and her once pink suit was now an unappealing shade of gray. Max turned back to Anté with as much false bravado and as many plausible excuses as he could muster.
“Would you believe it was target practice?” offered Max, hoping to dissolve the still smoldering subject that he was now faced with explaining not just to Anté, but also to Admiral Dushinka and the President.
“Anté,” frowned Dushinka, “Your unit is lacking in even minimal smarts and, further more, you have disgraced your organization as well as your uniform in front of the President of The United States!”
The President, who was attired in a now charcoal black Armani suit that was singed in the same fashion as Max and Lucy’s clothes, had little to say in regards to the matter -except that his hamburger had been cooked too rare. He seemed to be more interested in the notes that his secretary was taking. He had no absolute clue as to what this present explosive affair was about and nor did he care. His first and foremost concern was not a simple restaurant, but was, instead, the trying task of keeping his secretary from sliding off his lap.
“That,” continued Dushinka, as he marched to the remains of the doorway, “is all I have to say to you about this matter. You can make amends to Mr. President on your own!”
“I wonder if he’d accept a card,” pondered Max, eyeing the google-eyed president and his flirty secretary with curiosity.
“Smart!” snapped Anté.
“Yes,” confirmed the President, eyeing his secretary and smiling, “She’s very. . . smart.”
“She’s very something else,” muttered Lucy under her breath.
Anté threw Lucy a stony glare and then turned to the President with a look of pure reverence. "Mr. President, I’d like to apologize for the ineptitude of my agents and the bomb—"
“What bomb?” asked the President, looking up at Anté with a lost expression.
“Should I write that down, Pookey?” asked the secretary.
“I’m talking about the bomb that destroyed Hamburger Hamlet5. and your Armani suit!” cried Anté, stamping his foot on the ground.
“Ah think we needed new clothes anyway. Right kids?” drawled the President, looking over at Max and Lucy for support. “Plus, it was time for Hamburger Hamlet to consider redecorating.”
Anté frowned and decided that he was getting nowhere in his attempt at an apology. “I suppose that a case could be made for that.”
“Mr. President, Anté,” began Max as he narrowed his eyes and straightened his stance, “I have a point I’d like to make.”
Anté rolled his eyes off in the direction of some far, yet charred, corner of the restaurant. Lucy retained her granite expression and the President looked up from the notes he was helping the secretary write. Max took a deep breath and inflated what was left of his partly deflated ego.
"Mr. President, that bomb was not meant for you. It was—"
“Well Ah think that’s a shame, Mr. Smart!” frowned the President. “Ah’m utterly disappointed in these lackluster terrorists! How dare they bomb a restaurant Ah regularly dine at without the sole intention of trying to assassinate me. Ah take that as an insult! What do you know about them?”
"Well, sir, first of all, Kaos was trying to –"
“They were trying to kill me by starving me to death!” cried the President who had just received a sudden epiphany of terror when he realized that his hamburger runs would now be severely limited to Johnny Rocket’s and McDonald’s.
“Ah hate to think,” continued the President, “which poor burger joint will be next. Ah implore you to put an end to this madness, Mr. Smart! The citizens of this country should have, above everything else, peace of mind when they sit down and order that Number Five Triple-Patty Double-Fry Special. Mr. Smart, it is up to you to make your country safe for the ingestion of red meat and communing in burger joints!”
“Yes sir!” nodded Max, his star-spangled heart beating with the inspiration that only a presidential speech could give. “You can count on me Mr. President!”
“Wonderful!” cried the President, jumping up and hugging Max.
That evening Lucy closed her eyes, crossed her fingers, and bowed her head in prayer as the familiar squeal of a modem caressed the silence of her townhouse. Max watched this display with much curiosity. He noticed that she was chanting the word “connect” under her breath. This made him wonder if she was part of a futuristic religious movement or cult that prayed to odd looking, yet electronically operated, black boxes with TV screens attached to them. Whatever she was involved in, he was certain that it was not anything of the Judeo-Christian variety. Then, as if she had just experienced the zenith of nirvana, Lucy jumped out of her chair and began shouting halleluiahs.
“We’re finally connected to Kaos Online, Mr. Smart!” announced Lucy, smiling rainbows.
“What?” asked Max, staring at her and wondering if she might be drunk.
“WWW.Kaos.com!” she explained, pulling Max over to her laptop. “Now we can see what Kaos has been up to in the past thirty years.”
“What is this?” demanded Max, eyeing the computer and Lucy with distrust. “It looks like a typewriter that had a scuffle with a TV!”
“It’s a computer,” explained Lucy. “Surely they had computers of some sort in the late 1960s?”
“Well. . . yes. That, however, is definitely the second smallest computer I’ve ever seen,” decided Max.
“Oh,” said Lucy, seizing her opportunity to eye Max distrustfully. “Where was the first?”
“That’s classified! What is this Kaos-dot-com thing?”
“It’s not a thing, it’s a website!”
Max moaned. “Listen, people were involved with weird religious movements back in my day, but at least they had the decency not to speak in tongues around non-worshipers.”
“This isn’t about religion, this is about the Internet!” said Lucy, shaking her head.
“What’s an internet?” demanded Max. “Do you think where will tell me what?”
“Arrggghhh! What you need is why!”
“How am I supposed to get why when I don’t know who?”
“It doesn’t matter who. We already know who.”
“Really?” asked Max, raising an eyebrow. “When did we learn what who is and how are you so certain?”
Lucy moaned and uttered a word that not only made Max blush, but also cannot be mentioned in this story due to the highly sensitive PG rating. Max shifted uneasily in his chair and wondered how Lucy acquired such a volatile temper. Lucy then walked into the kitchen and returned five minutes later with a mug of steaming hot green tea.
“Please do not say another interrogative pronoun”
Lucy scowled and sat back down in front of the laptop. “Computers, Mr. Smart, are much more advanced in that they can talk to each other by way of a phone line. The new wave of mass communication is not the phone or the radio, but is, instead, the Internet. Did you get that?”
“I have a firm grasp on everything until you said ‘Computers, Mr. Smart.’ After that I got just a wee bit lost,” said Max.
“Then I suggest you read PCs for Dummies," growled Lucy as she turned her attentions back to the computer. "Now, according to their website, Kaos has quite an abundance of assets.”
“Really?” asked Max, looking over Lucy’s shoulder.
“Yeah, they own an online auction site, the rights to special software that is presently allowing millions of people to download each other’s music, and a site that has free web-based email accounts,” said Lucy, her eyes widening as she scrolled through the homepage.
“What are the names of these services,” asked Max. “Maybe if we could tell everyone that they’re supporting evil by using this stuff, then we could put an end to Kaos.”
“Well, first of all, I can’t say the names of these particular online businesses due to royalties, legalities, and red tape. Even if I could, nobody would care about the free world enough to give up their auctions, email, and bootleg music,” said Lucy in a somewhat sad tone.
“What kind of society is this?” cried Max, jumping out of his seat with rage burning in his spine.
“A greedy one,” said Lucy as she clicked on an image of Kaos’s vulture logo.
“Remarkable,” breathed Max. “After all these years, nothing has changed! It’s no wonder Kaos is still around.”
“Well, they’ve been quite productive without their leader,” said Lucy, squinting at the computer screen. “They have a factory that recycles oil, another factory that makes women’s clothing that is actually designed not to fit, and a chain of amusement parks that charge outrageously high admission and feature their mascot, Vinny the Vulture.”
“How do they recycle oil?” asked Max.
Lucy read through the page, blinked, read what she had just read a second time, and then proceeded to a third reading. “It says here that they dump it in bodies of water. According to this, they claim that their procedure reached its height of success on the twenty-fourth of March 1989 during a mission near Alaska. What do you suppose Kaos will do with the time machine? There’s a picture of it posted on their site already. I mean, suppose they use it to bring things to the future that we don’t want.”
“Ahhh… you mean things like nuclear weapons, drugs, and Fidel Castro,” nodded Max.
“Castro’s still here. I was thinking more along the lines of eight track tapes, Ford Pintos, and pet rocks.”
“Well, that’s going to be a problem, Bently –especially if you keep talking in that foreign language of yours,” frowned Max.
Lucy made a small moan that resembled something like a sound that an injured rodent would utter. Since it was after midnight, she then made the motion of going to bed and regrouping in the morning. She also made the motion that Max should sleep her brother’s room and help himself to whatever clothing he could find. Max obliged and decided not to look Lucy’s gift horse in the mouth by asking if her brother would miss his clothes.
Heeding Lucy’s directions, Max stumbled up the stairs to what was, for the time being, his room. After tripping over the throw rug twice, he finally managed to stand up and find the light switch. He discovered that when the room was not dark, it was a rather nice room with hardwood floors, a brick lined fireplace, and a note on the four-poster bed that read:
Since I’ve spent the last thirty years of my life being mislead by people that I thought cared about me, I’ve decided to reevaluate everything and join the circus. Our mother may be a former spy, but that doesn’t mean I have to stand for it!
-Your former brother.
PS: Quite frankly, I’m also sick of trying to sell greeting cards to people who would rather send E-cards!
Max crumpled up the note, shoved it under the mattress, and wished that he was in his own bed with 99 snuggled up next to him. Sleeping in the bed of a spy hater was the last place he wanted to be, however, wearing the guy’s silk pajamas was another matter. Bursting with a fiery curiosity that he could not douse, Max then slid over to the closet and peered inside to find a row of monochrome suits with coordinating ties. Deciding, but not embracing the fact that this was the acceptable fashion of the millennium, Max then began to search for the spy hater's record collection. His search ended when he tripped over a stack of CDs and accepted the fact that Perry Como was nowhere to be found. It was quite evident, as Max concluded, that Miss Bently’s brother was yet another maladjusted product of the late twentieth century.
In an attempt to make himself feel slightly more at ease, Max decided to do some field research on his new environment and watch TV. He picked up the remote and pressed power. A split second later the wail of an electric guitar cracked through the stillness of the room and Max promptly pressed power again. As tranquility once again filled the room, Max studied the remote more closely and decided that a society in need of a degree in remote management in order to obtain entertainment was hopeless. He eventually resorted to turning the TV on at the console.
Some uncounted amount of time later, after Max had discovered that Johnny Carson was mysteriously missing from late night TV, his eyes flipped open. Something had aroused him from dreamland and he was at a loss as to what could have been the culprit. The room, aside from the muted TV, was relatively serene. Max shrugged, fell out of bed, stumbled across the room, and flipped the test pattern adorned TV off. He was about to crawl back into bed, with high hopes of re-entering the nether regions of sleep, when he heard a voice behind him.
“Psst! Hey! Buddy!”
Max turned and looked behind him, but saw no one. He then turned back to the bed. He had two uncompromising cravings: one was an appetite for sleep while the other was a dire thirst to investigate whether or not he was hearing things. He decided, however, that it was most likely all the result of indigestion and opted to go back to bed.
“Yo! Home-slice!” cried the voice.
Although he was having a hard time believing what he was hearing, Max was now almost certain that the sounds were coming from the fireplace. Wanting to satisfy his itching curiosity, but also taking caution at the same time, he pulled his revolver out from under his pillow and sauntered over to the fireplace. He then took a deep breath, cocked his pistol, and peered up into the chimney.
“Hey! G-dawg! Wassup?” cried a leather-jacketed and soot coated Kaos agent that was in lodged in the chimney upside-down.
“Would you mind explaining how you got stuck here –and don’t tell me you’re Santa Claus!” growled Max.
“I would mind explaining that, and I am St. Nicholas!” smirked the Kaos agent.
“Synonyms are no substitute!” snapped Max. “I asked you not to tell me that! Do you know that this is the fifth time this month that I’ve heard that excuse in some form or another from Kaos agents that get stuck in my fireplace?”
“True. True. Now when are you going to get me out so I can slice and dice you into little pieces and kill you?” demanded the Kaos agent.
Max rolled his eyes. Just as his eyes had rebounded from the far corner of the room and back to the grimy countenance of the Kaos assassin, he realized that there was something else amiss in his bedroom. He then did a double take only to see the bedroom door creak slowly open and a revolver brandishing silhouette appear in the doorway. Max gulped. After one mere, yet eternal, second, he decided to take evasive action. In a single cat-like maneuver, he spun around, aimed his gun, and fired only to hear the crisp click of a blank cartridge embrace the tension strained air.
tuned for more shocks, thrills, and plot twists, because the spine-tingling fifth
installment of No Time for Spies is here!)
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