No Time for Spies
Max took a deep breath and gathered what was left of his wits. Lightning streaked the sky in such a way that it looked as if someone had knocked a series of spidery cracks into it. There was one thing that disturbed him more than thunderstorms and that was what was waiting for him on the other side of the National Tower’s observation deck.
Slowly, with his back pressed against the wall and his gun drawn, he crept around the center wall. He noticed, as he peered around the corner, that a trim figure was standing at the other side of the observation deck with its back to the railing. Max inched closer and squinted at the frozen figure and discovered that the particularly blank face he was staring at belonged to Lucy. The elusive Kaos agent she had been pursuing appeared to have vanished into nothing. He approached Lucy and noticed that her normally rosy complexion had washed from her body. Her face was as white as the still flashing lightning.
“Lucy!” he called, walking up to her. “What happened?”
Lucy said nothing and pointed to the wall behind him. Max then turned to see a somewhat twisted body slumped against the wall. He walked over to the body to discover that it was one of the Pentagon representatives that they had met earlier.
“It’s General Handke!”
“No,” said Lucy in a shaky voice, “he’s Hanke”
“You’re both wrong,” interrupted a different voice. “It’s Admiral Hapke.”
“Everybody has an opinion,” snapped Max, looking behind him to see that Anté had his gun trained on him.
“Jack, what are you doing?” demanded Lucy.
“I heard you scream,” explained Anté.
“Why do you have your gun pointed at Smart?” frowned Lucy.
“He’s… uh… never mind,” winced Anté, putting his gun away.
“While you were sleeping, Anté,” said Max, pointing to Hapke, “your friend here became a victim of Kaos. You also missed tonight’s first lucky victim –he fell off the tower as we were coming up it.”
“He was pushed, Smart,” corrected Anté. “That was the plan anyway.”
“Plan?” cried Max as if he had just watched the scandal of the year unfold before his eyes. “What kind of a sick mess—who is that guy down there?”
“It was General Hanke,” explained Anté, dryly. “Hapke found out Hanke was working for Kaos and called me up here so that he could expose him and have him arrested.”
“Then Hapke was M. Finn?”23. asked Max. “He sure knows how to spike drinks if that’s the case…”
Anté rolled his eyes. “M. Finn was his NEA code name, and he did not spike my drink!”
“He probably knew you didn’t need any help,” nodded Max, walking over to the body. He then looked over at Lucy who seemed to be strangely quiet. “Lucy, what happened to that Kaos agent?”
Lucy made a pained face and then pointed to the railing behind her without looking at it. Max got up and walked over to the railing and looked down at the ground below. Next to the crumpled remains of Hanke was the contorted body of the Kaos agent that he and Lucy had been chasing. Anté walked up to the railing next to him, took a deep breath and made a noise that Max could never describe with all the onomatopoeia in the world.
“Yes,” said Max, acknowledging Anté’s grunt. “it’s a pretty rough way to go.”
Anté made face and wrinkled his nose. “Smart, what did Miss Bently have for supper?”
Max thought for a moment. “She had schnitzel… I think.”
“That’s what I thought,” frowned Anté. “We happen to be standing in it.”
Agent 99 paced back and forth in front of the vending machine in the Control cafeteria. She had been, for the past two days, living off of spam, candy bars, and coffee. The Chief had opted against putting her on a new mission and he had even suggested that she take the day off. 99, however, adamantly refused. From the beginning, she had not been keen on her overzealous husband’s idea of hopping into a time machine and now she was the definition of a frazzled wreck.
Despite Dr. Croaker’s reassurances of how safe the time machine was, she could still not help but worry about Max. The machine itself, though, was the least of her worries. Certainly there had to be things in the future that they were not used to: new weapons, new spy tactics, and stronger air pollution. Added to her mounting stress was the fact that Max had to meet face to face with Seigfried. It was the thought of their inevitable confrontation that broke 99’s emotional dam. There was nothing more she could do but lean up against the Messy Bessy, with her head in her arms, and cry.
“Hey, 99!” called a familiar voice. “Don’t cry!”
99 turned and saw Larabee standing beside her. She noticed that he was trying to count his change, but he kept loosing count. “I just can’t help it anymore Larabee! This is the third day.”
“I know,” nodded Larabee, putting his change free hand on her shoulder, “but don’t worry, 99. The Chief says that the repairman will be here this afternoon and Messy Bessy will be fixed. Just think, 99, from now on, we’ll have more than just coffee to drink!”
99 groaned and walked over to a nearby table and sunk down into a chair. She was about to put her head in her hands and start up another round of tears when the Chief, followed by Dr. Croaker, marched into the cafeteria. She then gathered up her wits, wiped away her tears, and looked up at the Chief.
"Has there been any—"
“I’m sorry, 99” frowned the Chief, shaking his head. “I’ve spoken to the president on this matter and we’ve decided that it’s necessary to take evasive action.”
99’s eye’s widened. “Chief, what are you going to do?”
“We’re going to send another agent into the future,” explained the Chief. “Dr. Croaker has the blueprints to make another time machine. All he needs is the funds to build it. We’ve already put an appropriation through congress and, with any luck, we’ll have an agent off to Max by next June.”
“Chief,” said 99 in a firm voice, “I want to be the agent to go.”
“Sorry, 99,” said the Chief shaking his head. “We can’t permit that.”
"But why?" cried 99. "Chief, Max is all alone in the future –without my help! Chief, he—"
“I know, 99” nodded the Chief. “It’s a scary concept, but Dr. Croaker has assured me that Max is in good hands.”
“Whose hands is he in?” demanded 99, eyeing Croaker.
“The Navy’s most likely,” said Croaker. “They’re the ones I stole the time machine from in the first place, so it’s likely they’ll be looking for it.”
“You stole it?” gasped 99. “Why?”
“I told you that already!” snapped Croaker. “I was looking for my car keys! Besides, time travel and the Navy have never gone together well, so I was doing them a favor.”
“Chief,” began 99, hoping to appeal to his sympathetic side, “I really think that I should be the one to go after Max. Kaos might not be expecting a woman.”
“Sorry, doll,” said Croaker, “that idea won’t fly at the turn of the millennium. Times have changed!”
“Really?” asked 99, her eyes brightening. Then she smiled and turned back to the Chief. “I want to go!”
“99, you’re one of our best agents and we can’t risk losing you,” said the Chief, shaking his head. “Aside from that, you’ll have parental duties to attend to by that time. We’ve made our decision, 99, and we’re sending Larabee.”
99 looked over at Larabee who was still trying to count his change. “Chief, why Larabee? What about 13 or 44?”
“I have important assignments already booked for them. They won’t be able to work on this one,” explained the Chief. “You’re just going to have to settle for Larabee, 99. That’s all I have to offer.”
“Times are tough all over, kiddo,” said Croaker.
“Tell me about it,” muttered 99 as she put her head in her arms and began to weep.
The next morning, Max and Lucy sat down at table in The Lincoln Diner. Shortly after they ordered breakfast, Anté sunk down in the chair opposite Lucy and covered his ears. A waitress walked by their table, smiled knowingly at the hung over man, and poured him a cup of black coffee. Max and Lucy then turned to each other and rolled their eyes at the same time.
“Anté,” began Max, “We’re—"
“Shhhhhhhhhh!!!!” hissed Anté. “I need complete silence.”
Lucy shook her head and then pulled Anté’s hand from his ear. “You’re giving all the drunken sailors in this world a bad name, you weak-kneed lush!”
Anté winced at Lucy’s shouts and turned to Max for support. “It’s not my fault! It was part of my mission!”
“Some mission,” muttered Max, glaring at Anté. “What kind of a mission was that supposed to be? The one where agents Smart and Bently get killed? What kind of a leader are you?”
“A mediocre one?”
“Jack,” interrupted Lucy. “What were you trying to pull last night? Two people were killed at that tourist trap and now it’s in the paper!”
Max tossed Anté a copy of the Gettysburg Times. Anté looked at it as if it were a pile of leeches and then, most reluctantly, flipped through the pages. He stopped at the last page of the A section where he noticed a small headline and a brief report on the incident at the tower.
“Gee,” frowned Anté. “I thought it would be longer.”
“Well, Anté,” said Max, “you really can’t expect much notice to be paid to an issue surrounding domestic security. Rumor and speculation are more important when boils down to the news.”
“What was it all about anyhow?” asked Lucy.
“Admiral Hapke was, as you know, my contact. He had been spying on Hanke and he had a pretty good idea who the mole was. We were going to expose Hanke last night, but we didn’t expect that Kaos would back him up,” explained Anté.
“So Handke gave you the message in the shot glass?” interrupted Max.
“No, Handke did not give me a message in the shot glass,” said Anté. “Hapke put the message in the shot glass and Handke came along, read the message before the drink was served, and spiked the drink.”
Lucy shot Anté a confused look. “How does Handke fit into this? I thought we were talking about Hapke and Hanke?”
“Handke was working for Kaos too,” explained Anté, “but we didn’t know that until we examined the body of the Kaos agent you were chasing last night and discovered that it was him.”
“How do you like that!” frowned Max, snapping his fingers in disappointment. “The Army and the Air Force have sold out.”
“What was Hapke supposed to tell you?” asked Lucy looking at Anté.
“Lucy, that’s a stupid question!” scoffed Max. “How can Anté know what Hapke was going to tell him if he were dead?”
“Actually, Smart,” smiled Anté, “Hapke’s dead body told me a lot.”
“See, Lucy,” said Max turning to her, hoping to play off his stupid assumption. “Hapke’s body told Anté quiet a bit!”
Lucy and Anté exchanged tired glances. Anté then pulled out a large newspaper clipping from his jacket pocket and laid it in front of Max and Lucy. “I found this in Hapke’s coat pocket. Do either of you know what this is?”
“A piece of a newspaper?” announced Lucy eagerly.
“It looks more like a piece of junk,” observed Max, “I’d say Hapke got it for birdcage liner.”
“Hapke didn’t have a bird!” cried Anté, pounding his fist on the table.
“Would you believe it was for his cat box?” offered Max, meekly.
“Why don’t you two look over the clipping and see if anything clicks,” suggested Anté in a rather curt tone.
The crinkled clipping consisted of a whole page of ads. Max noticed that it was cut out of the Chicago Tribune, but there was nothing on the page that seemed to ring a bell. He was about to toss the paper to Lucy when a small box in the bottom corner caught his eye.
“Battling Biff Bannister will make an appearance at Rosemont Horizon,” read Max, looking up from the paper. “That seems to click.”
“Jack,” said Lucy, “ I didn’t know that your mother still wrestled.”
Max’s eyes widened with awe. “Your mother was Battling Biff Ban—"
Anté glared at the two of them as if he wanted to mold each of them into a stone pillar. “All I want from you two is quiet! It doesn’t matter what my mother is! What matters is that I’m in charge here! Do you understand that? I am in charge –that’s what matters!”
“Does it matter that the people sitting at the lunch counter are staring at you?” asked Max.
“Lucy,” grunted Anté, turning a deep red, “help Smart find something useful on that paper!”
Lucy scooted closer to Max, stared at the newspaper, and then smiled up at Anté. “It’s this ad for the Chicago Vinnyville! Hanke, Panky, or whoever, must have wanted to go there. It all makes sense too, because Agent One also left us a clue referring to the Chicago Vinnyville.”
“Alright Anté,” began Max, “I think that pretty much ends your game of clue… although it was so simple that I don’t know why you had to have us figure it out for you.”
“Was it?” asked Anté in a snotty voice. Then he looked at Lucy, tightened his necktie, and smirked. “I suppose, since you two will be going to a Kaos amusement park, you’ll need some… extra assistance.”
“Definitely,” agreed Max, bobbing his head, “and that is why I recommend Hymie!”
“Okay, Smart,” said Anté as they drove up to a rather gray and dismal building just outside of Pittsburgh, “Now what is exactly is this Hymie I’m supposed to be looking for? I hope I didn’t drive all the way to the C-Garage to find another dud spy device like that Quiet Car fiasco we went through yesterday!”
“Hymie is a cybernaut,” explained Max. “He was once the number two man at Control.”
“Awe,” frowned Lucy, “that’s too bad.”
“Don’t worry,” Max reassured her, “he’s been deprogrammed from all upper management functions. He’s perfectly safe now!”
Anté then shepherded them out of the Thing and into the C-Garage. Used mainly as the NEA’s off-site junk room, the C-Garage housed all the Control paraphernalia that they could not sell at their yearly garage sale. It was, as far as Max and Lucy could see, a warehouse of weapons, spy gadgets, and enhanced vehicles. Max even managed to find a shoe phone lying under a pile of communications devices disguised as other pieces of apparel.
Amidst the laser shooting armchairs and the poison dart sets, Lucy saw something on the other side of the garage that caught her undivided attention. She blinked at what she thought she was seeing and then scrutinized it again. It looked, she decided, most definitely like a man. Filled with an overflowing curiosity, she walked over to it and touched its face. She rationed that, after looking at the streak of dust she had wiped from his cheek, perhaps her so-called man was only a mannequin.
It was indeed a let down, but Lucy could not bring herself to let the issue rest. She looked over at Max and Anté and noticed that they were both enraptured with the mechanical workings of an old Kharmann Ghia. She then pressed her head against her imaginary man’s chest and listened. What she heard was not a heartbeat, but it was also not silence. It was, she decided, a low hum –much like the hum a turned off radio made at night when it picked up distant radio signals after everyone else had gone to sleep. Lucy smiled and her eyes brightened as she looked up at the weatherworn stationary sleeper.
“Maybe,” she said quietly as she wiped the dust from his face with her hand, “he just has a pacemaker and some jerk left him in here.” She then turned to Max and Anté, who now seemed to be ritualistically examining the motor of each and every car in the garage. “Anté, why is this man sleeping in here?”
Max looked up from under the hood of a black Spyder and stared over at Lucy as if she were blurting out some form of nonsense. Max left go of the Spyder’s hood, which managed to land on top of Anté’s back, and walked over to her. He carefully looked Lucy’s discovery over, up, down, backwards, and forwards. Then he smiled at Lucy and gave her a good hard thump of approval on the back.
“Congratulations! You found Hymie!” exclaimed Max.
“That’s Hymie?” frowned Anté, walking over to them and rubbing his back at the same time. He looked Hymie over and then turned to Max with a tight scowl. “I don’t like the looks of this guy.”
“I do!” declared Lucy as she brushed the dust off of Hymie’s shoulders and straightened his necktie.
“Lucy, he’s all dirty!” sniffed Anté, pulling her away from the robot.
Unbeknownst to Lucy or Anté the straightening of Hymie’s necktie jolted something in his inner mechanisms, which then caused his external matter sensors to destabilize and shut off his internal sleeping clock. In layman’s terms, Hymie woke up. His eyelids clicked open like shutters, but his gaze focused on nothing in particular.
“It takes him a while to warm up,” explained Max, opening up Hymie’s gearbox and inspecting the many wires, levers, and pulleys.
Lucy moved to peer over Max’s shoulder, but Anté firmly pushed her aside. She gave the jay gee an especially wicked glare and then moved back to look at the robot’s inner workings. Anté, however, pushed her away and then turned her around so that they were face to face –or in their case, nose to chest.
“I’d like to remind you of your duty right now,” he said, looking down at her. Your duty is to treat all agents equally and that includes non-feeling, non-human, and mechanical creations such as this.”
“Everyone treats me like a bucket of bolts,” muttered Hymie in a disgusted drone.
“Hymie, you know you’re more than just a machine to us!” consoled Max.
“A lot you care!” retorted Hymie. “I saw how you ran off with that time machine. You threw me over for a newer, faster, sleeker model. Admit it, Max, I’m dragging you down.”
“Wow,” breathed Lucy, “a robot that broods. He’s like James Dean!”
“He’s more like a robot that whines,” scoffed Anté looking at Hymie only long enough to give him a contemptuous scowl. “Lucy, he’s like he said –a bucket of bolts!”
“Hymie is alive,” said Lucy, her dark eyes glowing. “That’s what the name Hymie means –life!”24.
Anté muttered something nasty under his breath about know-it-all girls and then turned to Max with a tired glare. “The only way he’ll do you any good is if he has an upgrade.”
“How long will that take?” asked Max.
“It’ll probably be a week or so by the time we get a Microsoft guy here—"
“Forget it, Anté,” frowned Max, shaking his head. “Hymie is going with Lucy and me to that amusement park and he’s going now!”
“Jack,” said Lucy, looking up at Anté with what was, as far as Max was concerned, the most pitiful doe-eyed look to ever grace a girl’s face. “You’ve got to do it yourself!”
“Me!?!” cried Anté, eyeing Hymie with disdain. “How come I get picked?”
“Because you’re the only one here that’s A+ Certified in the robot department,” purred Lucy. “Come on, Jack, be a sport and do it! Hymie will provide Max and I with ample protection!”
Anté frowned and looked over at Hymie. “Well, I guess there is some validity in this. I’ll make sure he’s setup to make connection with, OPAL. That way I can communicate with you from Washington.”
“Who’s Opal,” asked Max. “Can we trust her?”
“OPAL,” explained Lucy, rolling her eyes at Anté, “is the NEA’s sorry excuse for an email server.”
“This way,” smirked Anté, “I can monitor your every move, flinch, and twitch!”
Max exchanged a frown with Lucy and then looked back at Anté. “I just want you to know that your idea happens to be the second most annoying form of shadowing that I’ve ever heard of!”
How bad can a trip to an amusement park get? Find out in Segment 2 of Part Seven right here!
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