No Time for Spies
“Seigfried,” said Shtarker in a sing-songy tone as he marched into his superior’s cramped Vinnyville field office, “I have bad news.”
“And what is that?” barked Seigfried, looking up from the game of office putt-putt that he was playing.
“Your spy in the NEA just phoned and started crying because Maxwell Schmart is onto him,” explained Shtarker.
“Send him a Kleenex,” shrugged Seigfried.
Deep down, Seigfried was itching to have the mother of all tantrums, but he knew it would be of little use at this point. Furthermore, the Kaos physician had advised him against prolonged bursts of fiery rage. In an attempt to dull his wrath, he began to pace around the field office, which was nothing more than an fancily furnished house trailer. His repressed temper, combined with Kaos’ lack of competence, yanked on his already stretched nerves. It was then that he began to wonder why he had ever joined the spy racket in the first place.
“This development, Shtarker, is of no surprise to me,” he said in a tight-lipped manner. “Two of our spies were killed last night thanks to Schmart and his tag along Nancy Drew.”
“But Seigfried, the informant that was going to talk was also killed,” Shtarker reminded him.
“Big fat hairy deal!” screamed Seigfried, throwing his hands up in the air. “The NEA is out two agents: the Control informant and the Pentagon informant. I’m out of three agents –three whole agents that you hired, Shtarker!”
Shtarker sighed. “I’m sorry Herr Seigfried, but former grease monkeys, used car salesmen, and politicians just are not as rotten as they used to be.”
“Not as rotten?” gasped Seigfried, turning almost purple. “Shtarker, Kaos has turned to chaos! Get out of here! I don’t want to hear another peep out of you!”
“But?” mimicked Seigfried, glaring at a wincing and nail biting Shtarker. “Shtarker, we don’t ‘but’ here! Either spit out your problem, or I’ll pull it out of you!”
“Seigfried,” said Shtarker pulling out a paper cup and pulling up the lever to the water cooler that was set up behind Seigfried’s desk, “Schmart and Bently are on their way here and they intend to find us!”
Seigfried turned to Shtarker and noticed that his bumbling assistant was now having trouble turning off the water to the cooler. It was apparent that the lever had broken and Shtarker’s solution was to catch the pouring water with every Dixie cup he could get his hands on. Seigfried then picked up one of the overflowing Dixie cups and poured its contents onto Shtarker’s head.
“You idiot!” hissed Seigfried, stomping his foot on the floor. “Schmart and Bently are doing exactly what I want them to do! They are walking directly into a trap –a Kaos amusement park!”
Shtarker plugged the spigot of the water cooler with his handkerchief and turned back to his superior. “Seigfried, they’re bringing the robot!”
Seigfried moaned and then ushered Shtarker out of the office. “Shtarker, that robot is from the dark ages! It probably needs a system overhaul! Since Schmart and his friends are coming up for a visit with us, I’m sure everyone here will show them the utmost Kaos courtesy.”
“Of course,” nodded Shtarker rubbing his hands together like a child waiting to unwrap a birthday present. “I can’t wait to see them ride the Wheel of Wrath! There is one insignificant problem I forgot to mention, though… It’s just a minor blemish…”
“What is it!?!” grunted Seigfried.
“Don’t you think that the fact that the time machine is sitting in our front yard next to the pink flamingo is just a little obvious?”
“Shtarker,” said Seigfried, “a piece of junk furniture sitting in the unkempt lawn of a house trailer is a typical site in the U.S.!”
Shtarker squinted at the recliner that was sitting in a pile of weeds and poison ivy and nodded. “You’re right. It’s the pink flamingo that is too much.”
“Alright everyone,” said Max leading Lucy and Hymie up to Vinnyville’s park gate, “this is it!”
Lucy wrinkled her nose at the black iron gate with its blunt spires. Instead of designing the park with an inner-child pleasing look, Kaos had opted to make the main gate look like the entrance to a medieval torture chamber. She cringed as she studied the brackish water that spluttered out of a vulture shaped fountain positioned just inside the gate. She thought about turning on her heel and running, but Max sensed her reluctance and pulled her towards the turnstile.
“This is no time to be bashful, Lucy,” said Max. “We have a vital mission to attend to!”
They then stepped up the ticket booth, paid their entry fee, and were each issued a tattered black receipt. Max frowned at the receipt and then turned back to the ticket woman and leaned into the ticket booth. Lucy and Hymie, who had both entered the park, trudged back over to Max and the ticket woman.
“Max, can we get this show on the road?” insisted Lucy, impatiently.
“Not until this cashier explains to me why my ticket looks like it was dug out of somebody’s barbeque pit!” said Max holding the ticket up.
“That, sir, is how the tickets are designed,” explained the woman in a snippy tone.
“You mean to tell me that I paid half a hundred dollars to get into this joint and all I get to show for it is a wash and wear receipt?” huffed Max. “I think I and my companions are worth a little more than that!”
“That,” sniffed the woman, “is up for debate!”
“Alright,” said Max, smugly, “how much do you think we’re worth?”
Lucy sighed and rolled her eyes and then nodded at Hymie. The robot then grabbed Max by the back of his shirt collar as if he were picking up a cat by the scruff of his neck. Hymie then carried Max over to the vulture fountain and dropped him right in front of it. Max got up and noticed, as he dusted himself off, that Lucy and Hymie were exchanging strategic smirks. The last thing he needed was a mutiny between a robot and a girl.
“Alright,” said Max, turning from Lucy to Hymie, “we’re going to have to split up. Hymie will go with me. You, Lucy, are on your own.”
“Thanks, Max,” frowned Lucy, wrinkling her nose.
“I knew you’d agree,” smiled Max, ignoring her obvious disdain towards the idea.
“Lucy shouldn’t go alone, Max,” said Hymie, as he smiled over at Lucy. “It’s only right that I should go and look after her.”
“Right or wrong doesn’t matter here,” said Max in firm tone. “Either way, Hymie, women and spying don’t mix!”
Some forty-five tiring minutes later, Max and Hymie found themselves waiting in the middle of what seemed to be an endless line. While Lucy decided to investigate the east end of the park, Max and Hymie had started their search with the north end. After much heavy footwork, they decided that the best way to get a grasp at where Seigfried had hid the time machine was to get as close to the rides as possible. After coming to that decision, Agent 86 then, like any red-blooded park patron, jumped in the first line he saw –which in this case was for The Torture Twister.
“Hymie, how long will this line last?” asked Max.
“Two hours,” calculated Hymie.
“How long will the ride last?”
“One minute and forty-five seconds.”
“Where is 99?”
“Sorry, Max, that’s classified,” apologized Hymie.
Max frowned as they inched forward in line. Anté must have tampered with Hymie’s wiring so that not only was he user friendly, but he was also more clandestine compliant. Max looked the robot over carefully. The answer to this problem, he decided, was to find Hymie’s weak spot.
“Hymie, Hymie, Hymie. . .” said Max with a salesman type smile.
“Max, Max, Max. . .” repeated Hymie in his unwavering monotone.
Max rolled his eyes. “Hymie, are there any other robots around that you’re close to?”
“R2-D2 is my hero,” smiled Hymie.
“Does it work for the government?”
“No, he’s from a galaxy long ago and far away,” quoted Hymie.
“Hymie, is there anybody that you’re particularly fond of?”
Max gulped. He was hoping the robot would be thinking more in terms of a female, but, considering he was dealing with Hymie, he would just have to work with what he had. Just as Max was about to burst out with his sob story of a scenario, Hymie interrupted his thoughts.
“Miss Bently is nice too, Max,” smiled Hymie. “She shut my gear box just right –and she has nice soft hands.”
“Hymie,” began Max, with the best poker face he could muster, “what would you do if Lucy went away –like to another planet or something.”
“I would be very sad, Max –especially if she forgets to write like you do,” droned Hymie.
“Ok,” nodded Max, “but what would you do if you got a ticket to go to the planet where she lives, but nobody would let you see the yellow pages?”
“I would probably corrode from depression, Max,” said Hymie, “but no matter what tactic you use on me, I still can’t tell you where 99 is.”
“Why?” demanded Max as the line shuffled a few feet forward. “Suppose I never find that rotten time machine?”
“If you find her, you’ll cause a tear in the universe.”
“Then let’s play the warm/cold game,” insisted Max. “Is 99 in Washington? Am I warm?”
“You’re frigid,” said Hymie in a flat voice.
Max was about to make a smart remark when Hymie’s modem began to squeal. Seconds later a piece of tickertape rolled out of Hymie’s mouth. Hymie tore off the piece of tape and then smiled as he read it to himself. Max, noticing that people were either staring or pointing at them, snatched the tape away from Hymie.
“It’s from Lucy” smiled Hymie as Max read over the message on the piece of tape. “She wants us to meet her at the Merry-go-round after we’re done here.”
“I wonder why she didn’t call me on my shoe,” pondered Max.
“She was probably trying to be inconspicuous,” reasoned Hymie.
Max scowled as they moved even deeper into the entangled line of blank faces, icy glares, and sweaty bodies. The line again came to a stopping point and Max turned to look over at the Merry-go-round. He saw Lucy riding in a taxicab that appeared to be made out of newspapers. Max shook his head. He did not trust the Merry-go-round, he did not trust the park, and he did not trust the NEA.
“Hymie,” began Max, “there’s a mole in the NEA and I’d like to eliminate suspects. The first person I’d like to eliminate from the suspect list is Lucy Bently. Can you ask OPAL to get a dossier on her?”
“No,” answered Hymie.
“Hymie, you’re supposed to be compatible!” cried Max.
“Hey man,” interrupted a burly man that had been standing behind them in line, “Just cool it! You can’t have everything! So what if you’re frigid and he’s incompatible? Work with it!”
Max ignored the man and then turned to Hymie with a tired look. “Would you like to cooperate or would you like to cause more scenes?”
“I believe the scenes are more amusing, Max,” smiled Hymie.
Max groaned and almost turned red –but he didn’t. Instead he ripped open Hymie’s shirt and opened up his gearbox. He then pushed down a small black button that had an “X” drawn on it. Seconds later jolts of electricity shot through Hymie’s wiring. Max then took his finger off of the “X” button and shut the door to Hymie’s gearbox. Hymie buttoned up his shirt and glared at Max.
“X marks the spot,” frowned Hymie. “That wasn’t nice. I’ll have a chat with OPAL now.”
“Good!” nodded Max.
About a fifteen minutes later, a one-inch strip of tickertape emerged from Hymie’s lips. Max tore off the tape, read it, reread it, and read it again. He handed the tape back to Hymie and shook his head in disbelief. He looked over at the Merry-go-round and gaped at Lucy. How could what he had just read hold any truth?
“According to the NEA,” said Hymie, reading the paper, “Lucy Bently does not exist. That’s really too bad, because she’s pretty nice for a fake person.”
Max then turned back to Hymie and decided to press forward. “Ask OPAL about Lieutenant Junior Grade Anté.”
Hymie again went through the same routine of connecting to OPAL’s database. After a few minutes another piece of tickertape rolled out of his mouth. Max tore off the tape and read it over. He then handed it to Hymie and looked up at the robot with a puzzled look.
“This one is just like Lucy’s –Anté doesn’t exist either! This doesn’t make any sense! He’s in the Navy and his mother is a congress woman and she’s also—"
“What is it, Max?”
“Of course…” said Max, snapping his fingers. “Hymie, ask OPAL to cross reference Anté with Agent Larabee.”
“Right, Max,” nodded Hymie.
Hymie again went through the same doe-si-doe of connecting with OPAL and requesting a database search on Anté and Larabee. Almost instantaneously, a piece of tickertape began to spill from his mouth. This time, though, it was a long enough that it gained the attention of several slate faced line waiters. Amid the raised eyebrows, Hymie tore off the piece of tickertape and handed it to Max.
“I hope you’re happy,” frowned Hymie. “That one used up the rest of my ink cartridge.”
“Sorry about that, Hymie,” apologized Max as he read the tickertape. “Well, this proves everything!”
“It does?” asked Hymie.
“Yes,” nodded Max, smirking down at the little piece of paper. “This morning I discovered that Anté is the son of Battling Biff Bannister –and we all know that that she was married to Larabee.25. Now what does that make Anté?”
Max shot Hymie an annoyed look. “Hymie, that was rhetorical question. Based on all the context clues, I already knew the answer to that question. Anyhow, I’m Control’s top agent and that kind of a question is mere child’s play for me. Now, it says that Larabee’s son was born in ’66. I wonder why I didn’t know about that?”
“Larabee forgot that he had a kid,” explained Hymie.
“That would explain why I didn’t get a cigar!” said Max, snapping his fingers. “How come this little printout claims that Larabee disappeared? Did he get lost on the way home from work?”
"No, Max he—"
“He got lost on the way to work,” frowned Max shaking his head and clicking his tongue. “That’s a bad thing, Hymie.”
“Max, Larabee disappeared when the Chief assigned him to go after you,” explained Hymie in a straight-as-a-board monotone. “Larabee set the time machine wrong. Instead of setting it on the millennium mode, he set it for 1899.”
“Yes, Max,” nodded Hymie, acknowledging Max’s astonishment. “Since Larabee got stuck in the past, he tried to make the best of it. He settled down, got a good job, and became the inventor of tie bib26.”
“Hymie, if that’s what happened to Larabee, then what about 99?”
“Sorry, Max,” said Hymie as they walked up to the ride platform, “OPAL keeps giving me a file 403.”
While Max and Hymie were waiting in line for The Torture Twister, Lucy had been enjoying the rhythm of the Merry-go-round. Lucy leaned back in the taxicab she was riding in and looked out at the rest of the park. As the wind rushed against her face and tickled the inside of her nose she began to have the feeling that something was searing into her. The feeling reminded her of several grade school staring contests that had landed her in detention. She had come to the distinct conclusion that she was being watched.
Once the Merry-go-round had come to a stop, Lucy jumped off and made her way to the midway. She darted over to the other end of the midway and stopped at what appeared to be a type of Ferris wheel. She studied the ride, which was dubbed The Wheel of Wrath, and decided that if it were indeed a Ferris wheel, then it was an odd mockery of one. Instead of the wheel being made up of just bench seats, each seat had been replaced with what seemed to resemble a birdcage.
Wrinkling her nose at the contraption, she decided to turn away but froze when she noticed a sketchy looking figure standing among the other tourists. Lucy squinted into the sun and scowled at the figure in the distance. It was most definitely a man and, despite the mild weather, he was bundled in a bulky gray trench coat. The trench coat did not bother Lucy, but the fact that he was staring straight at her with a rubber vulture mask covering his face left a jittery feeling in her gut.
She made her way through the Wheel of Wrath line and eventually found an empty seat in one of the birdcages. Figuring that she had shaken the man that was tailing her by merely merging into the crowd, she leaned back in her seat and sighed. She then heard a snippet of what sounded like a very verbal scuffle. She looked out at the line and noticed that the man in the trench coat was arguing with a sailor about who was supposed to be first in line.
“You cut in front of me!” accused the man.
“So?” shrugged the sailor. “This is Vinnyville! We don’t treat people with dignity and respect here!”
The attendant then nodded in agreement with the sailor and led him over to the cage that Lucy was sitting in. The attendant looked down at Lucy and back at the sailor. “You’ll have to sit with her.”
“Fine,” smiled the sailor as he sat down next to Lucy.
Lucy rolled her eyes as the attendant locked the door and walked away. The sailor then smiled and saluted her. Lucy looked away and groaned. Then she looked back at the sailor and blinked. There was something oddly familiar about his blue eyes and his crooked nose that bothered her.
“Anté!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing in that white jumper? Don’t you people have rules about wearing the wrong uniform?”
“Special circumstance,” said Anté, adjusting his cover27. so that it would not fly off. “This is a disguise.”
"How original," muttered Lucy as the ride began to start. "Did you come here for a day trip or to spy on Smart and me? You know, Mr. Anté, Smart, Hymie, and—"
“Hymie, Hymie, Hymie…” repeated Anté. “What’s so great about a cybernaut?”
“Unlike you, he can be put on mute!”
“Oh yeah?” retorted Anté. “Well…uh…um… at least I can drive! You trashed my Saab and you put a hole in the top of my Thing!”
“The Thing was all Max’s fault,” said Lucy.
The two then exchanged brief scowls and then turned away from each other. The ride had just began to dramatically increase its speed and the noticeably rhythmic clockwise direction the wheel was turning made Lucy’s stomach churn. She looked down at the ground as it started to move up and down and in and out. She closed her eyes and opened them again to see that the sky had been replaced with concrete and the ground had morphed into billowy white clouds.
“Lucy,” said Anté, “Why is our cage the only one out of the dozen that is turned upside-down?”
Lucy blinked and looked around. “Upside-down, Jack? That’s absurd –we’re just hallucinating.”
As those words escaped Lucy’s lips, their seat belts clicked open. Seconds later gravity had its way as they fell to the very top of the cage, which was now the very bottom. Frustrated Lucy ran a hand through her dark curls while Anté started to bite his nails.
“Uh… Lucy, I hate to bring this up…” he said, his voice trailing off.
“Then don’t!” advised Lucy in a curt tone. “Whatever it is, I don’t want to hear it!”
“Lucy,” said Anté, slowly, “somebody’s trying to kill us!”
“I though I said that I didn’t want to hear it!”
The ride then came to a complete stop just as their cage had reached the highest point on the wheel. Lucy and Anté exchanged glances just as the bottom of the cage, which was formerly the top, sprung open like a flip top lid. Had the two not been holding on to the metal bars beside them, they would have made two splats on the concrete below. Lucy looked down and screamed while Anté entertained the idea of sticking his fingers in his ears.
“Lucy,” cried Anté, “that’s complicating the issue!”
“But I’m a girl! I have to scream!” whined Lucy. “A situation like this calls for it.”
“Then pretend you’re a boy!” retorted Anté.
“I bet you’d like that!” snapped Lucy.
“No…” frowned Anté, “I wouldn’t like that –really.”
“Yeah. Right,” she muttered as she watched her knuckles turn white.
“Awe, come on!” pouted Anté. “Now that we’re about to kick, can’t we end this spat?”
“Because you’re stupid, Jack!” cried Lucy.
“That’s hardly a plausible reason,” frowned Anté.
“Do you still cut your electrical cords to save electricity?” asked Lucy. “Do you still serve a German white wine with an Italian meal?”
Anté looked at Lucy and moaned. “You know, the two went together back in World War II! I don’t know why that set you off!”
Lucy hid a smirk. Her superior was an earnest idiot and he was too ignorant to know what the word ignorant meant. While it was sickeningly cute in a queasy stomach churning sense, it was not doing much to help their predicament.
“Okay, Brains,” said Lucy, “do you have any escape plans or do we get to die?”
“Just this!” announced Anté, pulling out a pistol from some place on his person.
Lucy cringed. “You’re not going to…”
Anté nodded. “Lucy, it’s either this or that,” he said pointing down at the ground. “You’ve got to make your choice.”
“Then I’ll take this,” she sighed. “Where did you have that gun hid, anyway?”
Anté cleared his throat and made a somewhat pained expression. “I’d rather not discuss that.”
He then cocked the pistol, closed his eyes, and aimed. As he was about to fire, the ride began to move again. Lucy, as if on cue, let out a blood curdling scream that would have made Vincent Price’s skin crawl. Anté, nearly dropping his gun, opened his eyes and glared at her.
“Awe… what did you do that for?” he demanded.
“We’re moving again,” she said meekly.
“Lucy, I’m trying to blow a hole in that gearbox down there,” explained Anté.
“Alright, Annie Oakley, just how do you expect to hit it with your eyes closed?” challenged Lucy. “I bet you thought you were being cute, huh? Well, you would have shot that Kaos assassin down there that’s operating the ride!”
Anté looked down at the ride operator and noticed that he was standing off to the side and puffing on a cigarette. The trench coated man wearing the vulture mask was controlling the ride instead. Anté aimed his gun at him, but the speed of the ride increased just as he was about to shoot.
“Rats,” frowned Anté. “There’s no way I can get him.”
“I believe that’s his plan,” said Lucy, eyeing the man in the trench coat. She noticed that he was now pulling a pistol from his inside pocket.
“Now he’s going to shoot us!” cried Anté. “Lucy, if this is a Kaos park, are all the carnies Kaos agents?”
“No, Jack, they’re cradle school teachers!” snapped Lucy in a sarcastic tone. “Of course they’re Kaos agents! Do you think Kaos’ spy union lets them hire outside spies?”
“Well no…” frowned Anté. “Why didn’t they just have the carnie kill us?”
“He’s just an agent. We’re special –we get an assassin,” explained Lucy as a bullet ricocheted off of the cage.
Anté started to smile at Lucy’s revelation, but for some unknown reason, his brain had a paradigm shift. “Lucy, I have an idea!”Lucy responded by raising her eyebrows half in interest and half in doubt. Anté then smirked and took off his cover, tore out the care label with his teeth, and then threw it down at the Kaos assassin. Lucy made a face at the cover as it floated through the air. If she squinted hard, it reminded her of a seagull –as seagull with vertigo. She then turned to Anté and a started to make a comment when a deafening explosion and a shower of flying metal cut her off.
Max and Lucy survive Vinnyville? Find out in
Segment 3 of Part Seven right here!
COPYRIGHT ©1999-2016 BY AMANDA HAVERSTICK.
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