________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #36 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [The top half of the cover is a postcard picture of Pa.risc. The bottom half is the back of the postcard, and is scrawled on it: "Wish I was here, Agent"] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "What I Did On My Holidays" "Agent" "Paranoid Eyes" Ind.io.napo.list: Agent stared across the table at his opponent. Slowly he reached out, picked up the glass, then drank the contents in a single gulp. Around him hushed whispers erupted, but he ignored them, concentrating only on the challenge at hand. His opponent also knocked back another drink without any sign of problems. One whisper he picked up on was "isn't he drunk yet?" Oh, was that it? With his next drink, Agent examined it briefly before downing it in one go. Indeed, it was alcoholic. Hmm, that might change things. As he realised that, he also realised the accumulative effect the drink was having on him, which hit in one fell swoop. That might explain why the world suddenly titled 90 degrees... _-~-_ Consciousness didn't return quickly to Agent. Slowly the heat of the day roused him, and the dehydration pricked at his system. Fluttering his eyes, bright shards of light struck his eyeballs, making him reflexively wince. The feel of gravel on his cheek made him raise his head, but the stabbing pain that shot through it made him drop it again. Which, of course, whacked it against the gravel, causing more pain. Agent rolled from being on his side to being on his back, although the world spun around him more than that. Fortunately he was in shadow, but the day was still too bright. Leaving his eyes closed, he patted his body to check its state. For some reason, he still had on his pants and shirt, but nothing else, including jacket, socks, shoes and underwear. There was nothing else on him, except for a piece of paper. Eventually, he managed to sit up, and focus his bleary eyes enough to examine the piece of paper. On it was written a message: "Next time the drink will be poisoned. Your life is in danger." Odd. He didn't remember drinking with any altruists last night. Not that he could remember much of last night. Gripping the wall next to him hard, Agent managed to make it to his bare feet. Deciding that enough was enough, Agent shook himself, and returned his senses to their full working capacity. Right then. The first place to start would be the bar. And to think this holiday might have been boring. _-~-_ The bartender reached for another glass from the tray, and held it up for inspection. It was unlikely that the automatic washer would miss anything, but it gave him something to do in the late hours of the morning before the customers started stumbling in. Looking through the glass, admiring the sparkle, he saw a dark shape moving oddly, and moved the glass to find a man approaching him. It took him a few moments for recognition to set in, but once it did, the hand not holding the glass dropped down to rest lightly on the bat just underneath the bartop. It always paid to be careful. "Morning," the bartender said in a low voice, giving just enough edge to it to warn the man that trouble had better not be coming, or more trouble than the man could handle would also arrive. The man looked from left to right, either trying to remember events from last night, or sizing the place up. The bartender wasn't sure, but didn't want to place bets on the latter option. "I was here last night?" the man asked. The bartender nodded in reply. "Perhaps you can tell me who threw me out?" "We get all sorts in here," the bartender said. "Gets rowdy at times. Things happen, people do things they might not otherwise do. Doesn't pay to look too closely, nor to remember too much." "I'll bet it doesn't." The man now stood on the other side of the bar, directly across from the bartender. Although his posture was relaxed, the bartender had been in this situation enough times to know that the man was probably ready to strike out anytime. "I don't remember you," the bartender said preemptively, "and I don't remember those that were with you." "Not one of them? None of them regulars?" The bartender shook his head. "Odd. They were here waiting when I arrived last night, and you seemed fairly chatty with them." "I'm fairly chatty with a lot of people. Like you, right now. Just having a chat, aren't we?" The man sighed. "Look, we both know I could pound your head into this bar without so much as raising a sweat, not to mention shove that bat of yours you're holding onto at the moment up where the sun doesn't shine, so let's just pretend the violence has happened, and you're now telling me everything I want to know." The bartender shrugged. "Don't know what you're talking about-" Pain exploded in the bartender's head, sparks of light obliterated his vision. His nose might be broken, but he wasn't absolutely positive due to the intense agony the rest of him was experiencing. "*$#@ you," the bartender screamed. "I don't #*@(ing know them." "See, wasn't that easy?" The bartender was now on his knees, looking up at the man who lent casually over the bar. "So nice when people just tell you what you want to know." Sounds of broken glass echoed in the bartender's ears before the blankness overwhelmed him. _-~-_ Agent peered up through the bright sunshine at the police station before him. Desperate measures and all that, but this was pretty low. Walking in to the station, he headed straight for the sergeant at the main desk. "I'm Agent, with the Alt.Riders," he said, not bothering with opening pleasantries. "I need you to analyse this paper for any fingerprints or other traces you could use to find out who gave it to me." The desk sergeant looked at Agent, moved her gaze to the piece of paper he was holding out, then back to Agent. "And you would be?" she asked. Agent sighed. "Agent. Alt.Riders. I'm sure you've heard of us?" She shook her head. "How about if I said I was with the LNH?" "If that's true, why don't you take this up with them?" "Because you're here and they're not," Agent replied, not for a moment wanting to be anywhere near the LNH. "Right. And I'm Acton Lord." "Really? You're shorter than I remember." "Look, I'm not sure who you are, but if you have a serious inquiry with the police, I suggest you make it, otherwise we are quite busy." Agent thought for a moment. "Okay. I was mugged. As you can see, all I have are these pants, this shirt and this piece of paper. Nothing else. Perhaps you could help me find my assailants?" The desk sergeant gave Agent a glowering look, but did pull out a fresh sheet of paper. "And when did this happen?" "Must have been last night. I was at this bar, got into a drinking contest, then I woke up this morning like this." "And have you been home yet?" "I live in Sin.ci.net.ty, just here for a holiday. Hadn't found anywhere to stay yet." "All right. Can you please give me a description of those you were with, including names and address, and a complete list of your possessions that were stolen?" "Just analyse this piece of paper. It will have trace evidence on it of my attackers, and that's what I need!" "Sir, please calm down. Let's start with something simple. Your name and residential address." "My name's Agent, and I live in Sin.ci.net.ty." "Your *real* name, please, sir." "You don't think Agent is my real name?" "That's not likely now, is it sir? My name isn't Desk Sergeant." "I suppose it's something like 'Janice'." The desk sergeant stiffened. "Actually, it is Janice." She gave Agent a wary look. "Is this some kind of set up? Is this a joke?" Agent closed his eyes and mentally counted up to ten. However, that didn't stop him from snapping out an arm and grabbing Janice's head in his hand. "Right. I tried to do it your way. The polite route, everyone's being human, no-one gets any pain. But no, you refuse to be nice. So now we do it my way." Janice stared at Agent, her eyes wide open like a rabbit's caught in the headlights of a car. "Now, together: take this piece of paper, and analyse it for evidence that will lead me to my next target." By the end of the sentence, Janice was saying the line along with Agent. _-~-_ Agent settled back into the train seat, a newly brought radio sitting at his side, for the moment content to stare out as the platform fell away and the train picked up speed. Fingerprints on the paper pointed to a Henry Manson, who lived in Sys. Louis. Agent had never heard of him before, and had no idea why he had come all the way to help mug Agent and then leave him a warning, but Agent's next step was obvious. As the train pulled its way through the urban sprawl, a woman sat down in the seat opposite Agent. Agent smiled at her, as people were expected to do so, but otherwise kept his attention to himself. Picking up the radio, he slipped on the earphones, then fiddled with the radio, attempting to find a station worth listening to. "<spersh crish cracke> sunny day on Net.Work FM, it's just past the top of the hour <frish kersh muzz> erupted in San Fran.cis.co.ca just ten minutes ago <plish brumpth nerrirrirr> built this city on rock and roll" Fine, whatever, that'll do. It would take a few hours for this leg of the trip, but Agent wasn't worried. This was a holiday after all. _-~-_ "to my <beep> please say I <beep> you. And to <beep> please send her my <beep>" Agent stirred in his seat, one of the earphones falling out as he did so. Yawning, he managed to sit up, and rubbed his eyes. Odd. He didn't usually need as much sleep as this. He peered around muzzily, but couldn't really focus on anything. "and to <beep> please let her know <beep> I love her. Don't let <beep> leave me alone" The song started to annoy him, so Agent reached for the remaining earpiece, but hesitated just a moment longer. Something about it... "oh darling <beep> don't leave me to <beep>-self once again on <beep> own" Whatever those beeps were, they weren't a part of the song. Removing the earpiece, he listened, but couldn't hear anything else. For some reason, the radio was picking it up from somewhere. Agent tried to stand, then realised a number of things. First, there was a gas in the air, and it was making him dizzy. Second, the train was still moving, and third the day outside was now pitch black. He should have reached his stop long before night set in, so what the hells was going on? "my <beep>-ing please say <beep> you'll stay <beep> my side <beep>" And now the beeps were increasing. That couldn't be good. Agent thumped the window glass, because of course there couldn't be any opening parts of the window when the train was supposed to be air-conditioned, but he couldn't get enough strength together to break the glass. "meee <beep> And that <beep> Englebert <beep>-adink with <beep> Me, My <beep>. The <beep> is now <beep> past <beep> and <beep> with <beep> on <beep> to th-<beep> <beep> <beep>" Agent swung again, but missed the window entirely, and fell onto the floor of the carriage. Which gave him an excellent view under the seat where the woman had been sitting earlier. Which now had a large black box under it, with a light that blinking in time with the beeping in his ears. "<beep> <beep> <beep> <beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" Oh crap. Survival instinct, one of the strongest instincts he possessed, kicked in, and Agent threw himself bodily at the window with all the force he could muster. As he burst through the beeping stopped, as that was when the bomb exploded. _-~-_ As Agent floated down the river the train happened to have been passing over when the bomb exploded (and after he remembered to float face up), he reflected back over the day, and considered that it wasn't the worst day of his life. Certainly it was in the top thirty, but he could still remember back- but he wasn't going to remember that any more. Not now, not yet. Right, so assessment time. He was in a river. Wearing (wet) shirt and pants. And he didn't know where he was. On the bright side, hopefully no-one knew he was alive. Looks like Henry had been right. Someone was trying to kill him. Oh good. Always worth living if there was someone to cause pain to later on. Now there was just the matter of finding Henry and dealing out the first share of pain to him. Just for starters. _-~-_ Sys. Louis: Henry Manson got out of his car, only just remembering to deactivate his house security as he did so. His garage was just one example of the high-tech security he had, which would let cars in, then lock down if they didn't have the right codes. But since this was Henry's house, there wasn't a problem with the right codes. Smirking, he beeped his car locked, then headed through the internal door into his kitchen. Say what you like, the company did treat its operatives well. Dropping his keys on the table, he went out to the hall to make sure everything else was all right, just as he did every day. However, unlike his normal ritual, the security board was flashing all the lights, indicating break-ins at every access point of his house. And, beyond that, the police weren't here, and neither were any company security forces. This wasn't the first time a burglar had tried to get into his house, but this was the first time the security systems acted like this. A faulty wire perhaps, lighting up the board? Or something worse? Immediately Henry drew the gun from its holster. Peering up the nearby stairs, he strained his ears but couldn't hear anything. Reaching out, he picked up a nearby telephone receiver. Checking first to make sure there was a dial tone, he quickly punched in a speed dial code. "Henry Manson. 60221415. Potential break-in. Or wiring fault." Setting the receiver down, he thought he heard something just before the receiver touched the cradle, and quickly brought it back up. There were several crackles, then the line went dead. Frowning, Henry toggled the phone a few times, but the line remained dead. Why kill the line just after he alerted his company to the break in? Just bad timing? Moving quickly and quietly, Henry ghosted through the downstairs rooms. No sign of any break-ins at all, the windows were all closed, the doors were locked. Perhaps it was just a wiring fault after all. But just to make sure, Henry headed up stairs. The company security should be here any moment now, but there was no reason to leave everything to them. After all, it wasn't like he would have a problem with a burglar. As he entered the first bedroom, things went wrong with a speed he could barely fathom. Suddenly he was propelled forwards, his knees hitting a chair that wasn't supposed to be in the middle of the room. He was spun around, and forced to sit down, and then one of his hands was fastened to an arm. Henry started to rise, then something gripped his throat, squeezing off all the air in an effortless move. That didn't stop his other hand from being fastened, and then the rest of his body was quickly secured. The sound was that of a roll of tape, but this was stronger than normal sellotape or even masking tape. It must have been duct tape, that was the only kind strong enough to hold a person. The hand at his throat moved away, and before Henry could get his breath back, his legs were also tied up. "Now, tell me what that note was all about back in the bar." As Henry's senses came back to normal, he could now make out a figure in front of him. A lamp snapped on, throwing light on the figure. Agent. Damn. That wasn't supposed to happen. "Get out of here," Henry gasped. "I've already alerted the company. This place will be crawling with security forces any second now." "They are still three point seven minutes away," Agent said, looking more dressed than when Henry last saw him. "Plenty of time for us to have a little chat." He lent close. "You know me. I don't know you. Tell me." "Just a job. I was to give you that message." "You couldn't call me? Send an email? Hire a skywriting plane?" "I didn't dump you outside, that was the rest of them. You can thank me you were still wearing something when you woke up. You had the rest of them pissed off." "And so, in your Samaritan goodness, you just thought you'd leave a wee note of your generosity." "As I said," said Henry. "It was a job. That was the simplest way at the time." Henry watched Agent consider this, mentally trying to work out how much time had passed. "Fair enough. Now perhaps you can tell me who's trying to kill me." Henry shook his head. "Don't know." "Aw, now don't be shy all of a sudden. You were so chatty just before." "Honestly, I don't. I was just told to deliver that note, that was all." "And who said to deliver the note?" "It came through the internal mail." "I see." As Henry watched, Agent retrieved a pair of gloves and slipped them on. He wasn't sure, but he thought he saw sparks of electricity on them as he did so. "Of course, you realise that I have to make sure you're telling the truth." "I am telling the truth!" Henry said, feeling the blood flow away from his face. Wasn't Agent supposed to be one of the good guys? It sounded like he was going to... Agent smiled tightly. "Just to be sure, I'm going to try these nifty wee devices. Always wanted a chance to do so. They're called kinetic gloves." Agent shook a hand, and now Henry could easily see electricity flowing over them. "They convert kinetic energy into electricity." Reaching over, Agent flicked a finger on Henry's chest. The resulting spark made him jump (as much as he could in the restraints), but was otherwise unhurt. "With various levels of motion, they produced various levels of electricity. A flick does that. A slap..." Agent slapped Henry, making his body twitch as electricity arced through it. "Now, it is possible that too much of a jolt can stop the heart. I've always wondered what was the upper limit of the force that could be applied and still leave the person breathing. Let's find out, shall we?" Agent said, to Henry's disbelief. "And I know we haven't much time..." _-~-_ Some time later, Agent was sitting in a cafe, sipping a cup of coffee. Unfortunately Henry Manson proved to be a dead end, although it did mean he could scratch one name of the list of potential assassins. Which still left a very long list. And further leads. Unless he tried the bait option. Wait until they came after him, and then turn the tables. But, as the train proved, that might not be the most practical approach. And they might already think him dead. Then it was time to disabuse them of that notion. _-~-_ Getting time on TV wasn't as straight forward as he had hoped. First, there were actual news items, such as the latest super villain efforts to destroy the world, and the events in San Fran.cis.co.ca of course. In the end, it proved easier to simply hold the TV station as hostages. Turning himself into a news item got him a spot on the TV straight away. "I have demands, and they must be met," Agent announced, looking straight down the barrel of a camera. "There are forces out to get me, and they think they've succeeded. Standing here before you is proof that you're wrong. But I invite you to try again. "We'll meet, at a place of your choosing, at whatever time you choose, but we'll have this out. I'm sure you can track me, you know where I am right now, so the next move is yours." Placing the gun he had used on the table, Agent continued, "We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, and I'm sure they'll apologise for the inconvenience." Getting out of the TV station was a little more troublesome, but he was quickly freed after the latest ratings came in. _-~-_ Pen.sec.ola: Agent strode along the beach, occasionally turning around 360 degrees to check the horizon. Around him, beach goers stared, either recognising him from TV, or simply checking out the weirdo who wore a coat on a beach under the blazing sun. Either way, Agent checked them out with equal intensity. It wasn't that he was getting paranoid, that didn't happen to him, but he was cautious. Any one of the people around him could be potential murderers. Besides, he held no delusions about people being after him. That was why he was at the beach after all. No make sure no-one could sneak up on him without being seen. With the lines of sight he had, that only left high speed attacks from land or air, or teleporters. Super beings were unlikely to be involved, otherwise they wouldn't have resorted to something so archaic as the bomb on the train. Someone caught his eye, their movement a little too purposive to be someone simply strolling along. Turning, he saw a woman making her way towards him. She was dressed appropriate to the beach, namely in a shirt tied under her breasts and short shorts, but they were postal brown, indicating her profession. Other men eyed her body, but Agent was too busy making sure her eyes and hands didn't indicate danger. Soon she was with easy talking distance, so Agent commanded, "Stop." The woman did so, and held up a sealed envelope. "You're Agent?" Agent nodded. "Leave that on the sand, then turn and leave." "I'm supposed to get you to sign for it," she responded. "Tough." The woman considered her options, then shrugged. Bending over (and causing immediate discomfort in the men behind her), she placed the envelope on the sand, then proceeded to make her way back across the beach. When she was far enough away, Agent approached the envelope. Contact poison? Unlikely if the postwoman handled it (unless she was in on it, and had taken the antidote). Still, Agent threw sand on the envelope, then brushed it off, allowing the sand to negate the poison. Picking it up, Agent wondered for a moment if what was inside was the problem. There was that business a few years ago with anthrax, and there were plenty more creative diseases out there now. Finally deciding that it was possible to be too paranoid, Agent ripped the envelope open, still checking his lines of sight to make sure no-one too suspicious was watching him. Inside was a simple letter. It read: "Thank you for your recent invitation broadcast on national television. We appreciate the efforts you went to, and wish to assure you that we are indeed treating this very seriously. "To that end, we too wish this to be taken care of quickly and soon. Please visit Pier 13 in Los Angeles, and we will finish this matter there. You will find plane tickets in your name at the nearest airport and the travel arrangements all taken care of." Very considerate of them, all things considered. But no-one involved believed it would really be that easy. _-~-_ List Angeles: Agent sipped a diet lemonade as he watched the sun set over the pier. He was hidden on Pier 15, with a complete line of sight over every inch of Pier 13, but didn't see anyone who looked likely. Not, admittedly, that he knew who to look for, but he suspected it would be someone he knew. He lined up his sniper rifle with various people, his finger resting on the trigger, but held his ground. There was time yet. The bullet was fired from the gun of a marksman two buildings away, who had Agent perfectly lined up in his sights. The bullet shot through Agent's head, leaving only a small entry wound, but had been designed for maximum damage. In this case, maximum damage was delivered by the serrated edges that shrapnelled off the bullet whilst it was inside Agent's head. Agent collapsed on the floor like a sack of potatoes, twitched once, then was still. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- %What I Did On My Holidays% %Missy% %Go Where Ya Wanna Go% Missy stared around the city, her city. It had all changed. Before there had been shops and houses, now there were low underground buildings, abandoned warehouses, and many more cafes. The people had changed too. There were the blue Chubs she knew so well. There were the brown skinned Moles, the people she had tried to help when they came to the city, after their homes had been ruined by floods. But now there were something else, a murky blue-brown, not quite Chub, not quite Mole, something in between. How was that possible? How long had she been away? Finding a nearby cafe, she sank into a chair, just watching people pass by outside. What had happened here while she was gone? She didn't even recognise the song on the radio %...everybody finds the beat of the beeg beeble...%. %Keri juice,% Missy asked the waitress. It had been a long time since she could get a sensible drink, and wanted something to savour as she tried to work out where to from here. The main problem was where was here, and where was her laboratory from here? She had discovered so much there, it was her home more than anywhere else was. But in all this change, was it still here? Well, there was only one way to find out. Feeling refreshed from her drink, she set out, determined to find her lab, or at least where it had been. All too quickly she got lost amongst the streets, it appeared that everything had been rearranged. Every now and then she thought she saw something familiar, a house she knew, a shop she had visited, but it didn't orientate her. Finally, she entered a shop to buy a map, although she barely managed to find one amidst the range of drugs and devices the Chubs used for pleasure. At times, she despaired of her people and their hedonistic ways. Eventually she worked out how the city had changed, and located her laboratory deep in an now abandoned area of town. Time passed quickly as she moved through the city, and soon dusk was pressing as she finally reached the boarded up building that had been her livelihood. Foregoing the usual doors, she made her way around the back, to a door only she knew about. Pushing a barrel out of the way, with some effort, she uncovered a section of wall, and pushed a particular piece of wood. It swung away to reveal a valve, which she twisted. A hiss of steam announced that the mechanism still worked, and a door swung open for her to enter. Inside blackness was approaching as the sun disappeared. Time to see how well her inventions stood up to the passage of time. After only bumping twice, Missy reached a control panel, and she pulled a lever. Deep under group, a steam driven pump started up, and water began to flow. A luminescent chemical of her own design entered the water supply, and water flowed through tubes throughout her building. It wasn't excessively bright, but it was more than enough to see by. Grinning to herself, Missy walked through her laboratory, letting the memories flow over her like the water. Yes, she would introduce electricity at some point, but for now this was sufficient. As she reached the part of the building nearer the conventional entrance, she found out something else. She wasn't alone. There wasn't a whole community living here, but there were signs someone was. Bedding. Food. One can of something half-open. Half-eaten. %Who are you?% Missy turned around as quickly as she could. There were shadows in the room, one of which being where the voice came from. %This is my place,% Missy replied. %This is the building of the scientist,% the voice, a male voice, said. Interesting phraseology, Missy thought. Almost...reverent. %I was that scientist,% Missy said. %I've returned home.% A figure crept forwards into the light. He was a Mole, his nose wrinkling as he smelled the air. But there was something else about him, a hint of... %You're a mix of Chub and Mole.% The figure registered surprise. %You are a scientist,% he replied. %I'm a second generation cross. Call me Kula Bocca.% %Hello, Kula Bocca. I am Missy.% %You can't be her,% Kula replied. %She vanished sixty years ago.% Missy fell back, nearly collapsing onto the floor. %Sixty years?% she repeated. %How...?% So much time. Kula quickly came forward, grabbing Missy and helping her sit down. %You really are her?% Missy nodded, although her thoughts were racing. Did time run differently here to Earth? It must do. But sixty years...? %Then have you returned to us to help us?% Kula asked. %Have you come to join the Zinkenite movement?% Missy breathed heavily, getting herself under control. Sixty years. To think she could now see the future, see what had happened. %Zinkenite? No, what is that?% Kula sat down beside her, studying her as he spoke. %After you vanished, the Moles, the Chubs, they...they had peace. And they lived together. Some even mixed, and had families, what are called 'cross'es. And they had families.% Kula indicated himself as one example. %But the Chubs stayed in charge, kept the Moles down. They wanted power, and they took it.% Kula's eyes gleamed in the light as he continued. %But now we want it as well. The Zinkenites will take the power from the Chubs, give it to the Moles. We must be equal!% Missy stared at Kula Bocca. Was this what her planet was? Still divided after all these years? Back when the Moles first arrived, she worked to make sure they could live with the Chubs, not have to dwell underground for their living. But from that... Was this to be another civil war? -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Don't look at me, I'm on holiday. Not a care in the world as I fly through the air... CREDITS: All mine. NOTES: The Missy story picks up the Moles/Chubs story as related on _The Big Bubble_, album four of the three part story. (_Mark of the Mole_/_The Tunes of Two Cities_ was the first part, as related in _The Alt.Riders #4-5_.) Unfortunately, the story only goes so far which will cause problems later... In the Agent story, I've had the image of the kinetic gloves in mind for a long time, and any resemblance to the Atomic Knuckles of _Tom Strong_ is not intended, but probably an unconscious "homage".Back to the Index.