Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Foriegn Adventure Fun Goodness


“So, America needs your help,” Mr. Black told her.

He smiled.

It was a perfectly nice smile.

Now, when people think spooks, they think big intimidating men in black - Sarah had never encountered that in her business – because, well, what the fuck? Do you think that was going to work on her? It was stupid to send an ex football player with a big gun to shake her down. That would only piss her off.

Mr. Black wore a polo shirt. A blue one. He was a well built, very nice man who, if he where to tell you about the wonderful flooring options available for your house, you would ask him nicely. He was a sweet guy.

He also worked for the CIA, in some capacity. Sarah wasn’t quite sure exactly how.

She sat in the office of her agent and listened to him.

“Yeah...I mean, this is a real mess,” said Mr. Black. “Just a mess. .and it’s our fault. I mean that.”

Sarah listened on. Now, if you read comicbooks from, say, 1976 (and why not? The seventies were a grossly underrated time in comics – a mix of grit and sixties weirdness) you would see concepts the like of “Ms Britain” or “Mr France”, typically with bagget inspired costumes and a beret. The national hero working for there government as a champion of a justice. 

The practice, however, had never taken off. Lots of cold war stuff. It seemed a tad fascist. Also the superheroes were mostly traditional - the main superman of France -was named Super Mec - which translated to “super man”, he wore a red and orange costume and was reportedly active in Liberal causes. Why be a stereotype? The same was true for her. She was the superhero of Los Angeles. What was she going to wear? Poofy directors pants or something?

Which meant, before we got slightly sidetracked, was that there were no government heroes. As for super secret agents...Sarah had always gotten the impression the answer was currently no. It was how the government operated. They invested a lot in technology - often before it was ready or useful. The cynic would say that paying corporations for new computers was more back-scratchy then paying her salary. But maybe just that a lot of pencil-neck geeks were in charge. It was a lot like her arch-nemesis, Deca, who despite wearing steel body armour with the simulated strength of hundreds, or perhaps because of it, loved machines more than people and didn't really have any henchmen perse. Computers and robots could do all of that stuff for him. Sarah had met people in the government like that, albeit less obvious sociopathic. It was true if you needed to know something, with satellites, bugs, drones – well, you could know it.

However, what to do with it?

"This is, of course, top secret," Black was saying. "You’re not going to tell anyone are you?”

"Oh, no," Sarah assuring him. She occasionally wondered if the government at some level knew that her real name was Sarah Jennings. If they did, they did a pretty good job of not letting on. Of course, again, she was not someone you wanted to piss off like that, or piss off society by revealing her secret.

He opened a laptop and pressed some buttons. A very high tech presentation, that was somewhere between the stuff you see in movies, when the government is acting cool, and PowerPoint booted up 70-30.

"This is Madeyine. It’s one of the Grand Turks, in the Caribbean. It’s a very small island...more mountainous then you might think, like most of the Caribbean. It hasn't had a real population since the 19th century...there’s no port, no good water, not a lot of arable land. However, we developed it as a kind listening station/secret base during the war on drugs in 70’s, and it was never decommissioned.”

Sarah looked at the pictures. It looked remarkably like a small island in the Caribbean.  With some sort of military style installation in the centre. She was enthused. She hadn't been to the Caribbean since she was a teenager - her parents took her on a couple of trips when she was a kid - this looked a bit like a paradise. And even though she suspected this trip would involve lots of fighting, possibly hurting (possibly herself), and general mayhem and excitement - hey the Caribbean took her back to her childhood. It was fun too.

"Soo..." said Sarah.

"Last year, an agency of some kind...we have a report on it, s redacted, let’s just call it an agency of some kind...found technology...well again, I think where they found it from is redacted, not aliens. That’s not suspiciously direct denial, just, you know, I hate when people say it’s aliens."

"So do I," agreed the Superman-like ‘Mazing Girl. It was annoying, like being the last daughter of some planet was her story. Did they realize how unlikely that an alien would look exactly like a pretty but unconventional model-gorgeous, woman.

"Well, they had been working on a breed of super-predator, an animal...they never used the term guard dogs, but that’s in effect what they are. The biggest most vicious, most frightening animals you can imagine...they used lots of wolf DNA, bears too. They barely resemble, I think, dogs. They were designed to be guard animals, and we took them out there to test...and well, dot-dot-dot."

He actually said dot-dot-dot.

"So three weeks ago the five animals escaped. We sent a team of agents to go after them and it did not go well. Two of them are dead, two more are really badly injured. We evacuated the island before it turned into something like a monster movie."

Sarah nodded.

"So you want me to come in and...”

"We don't want to nuke it from orbit, draw too much attention...well actually we don't want to draw any attention at all, that’s the thing. This is technically not on US soil. Every year we get quite a few looky-loos from yachts in the harbour or people going for hikes. Harmless for us. It’s not the season for it, but eventually people are going to go there. And what’s worse, there isn't a lot of native fauna...if you get my drift."

"No, I’m not sure I do," said Sarah.

"Oh, well sorry then. Food. They'll eat all of it. We’re about 25 nautical mile from anything, but, well...read the report. Dogs can't swim that far...but dot-dot-dot."


She liked a guy who said dot-dot-dot.

*****

Sarah worked in an industry that was legitimately hard to get time off from work. They gave you plenty of vacation time, but could be very particular about when you took it. And despite being one of the most powerful beings on the planet she didn't want to give the impression of someone who asked for it. She could have asked the CIA to intervene somehow, but somehow she didn't want them to get involved to much in USA business (this being the cable channel, the USA network).

So that Friday night she got off an hour or so early from shenanigans in a fake cop interrogation room she had helped build, to go to a real airport and get a real super-fast plane. She wondered, as she often did as she was with quite a few spooks and real military personal, what was the relative budget here? Was this costing into the millions? Ahh...that would drive her crazy.

The idea was that she would leave LA late Friday afternoon, get to an airport, then a boat for the final leg. She would reach the island by Saturday morning, deal with it quickly, and hopefully be back to LA by late Sunday evening. It was a ridiculous schedule, to be a super-spy for 48 hours, but what are you going to do? Her cover story (which she came up herself), if anyone asked, was that she went to Santa Barbara to sample wine.


When she told Mr Black, and two people who were on the plane with him, they found that funny.

"I do a lot of golfing," said a woman named Richards. "Maybe someday I should actually pick up a club." The remarkable thing about her was how unremarkable she looked. Ahh well.

"I just stay home," said the man who’d introduced himself as Bill "I like to catch up on movies." Bill was probably the closest to a G-man type she had ever seen .He looked very military, and walked with the kind of sway that suggested he used to be one fairly recently. A big hulking guy, even as he wore a very unthreatening suit.

‘Mazing Girl got to LAX, got on a plane that looked fairly ordinary from the outside, and more or less from the inside, and she was. Two rows of seats windows. No in-flight magazines. Off it was a 6 hour flight...

This was one of the more awkward parts of her job. She didn't want to take her costume off in front of the people, but at the same time she always looked very silly in her costume. She did, of course, do it occasionally. Her agent had seen her without her mask, as had a couple of doctors and a few other superheros. But something about the CIA didn't make her add them to that list. She occasionally put on normal clothing and just left the mask on, but she didn't want to do that with the CIA for some reason and had only packed a costume. So the next couple of days would be awkward. She didn't want to borrow, like, a frogman suit or anything either, as that would somehow make this all too much like espionage, which was a no go. Maybe the entire thing should have been a no go, but as long as they had to deal with a brightly dressed superhero things could never get too dark.

But if that was the cause she would have to face the consequence - which is that she looked weird. Well, she should be used to it by now. But it did mean no eating Caribbean food at restaurants, which was pretty good stuff. When she get back she would have to go to one in LA. Ahh well.

The plane didn't have a drink cart, but they did have a little kitchen where she got a Sprite.

They gave her a folder, and she started reading it. It was around 50 pages about the island, the animals (they were never referred to as dogs) and the incident. Some of it had black lines, but very little as it had only been done for readability. The animals...you could see perhaps why they weren’t called dogs -they looked more like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie with long faces and horrible teeth, a creature that didn't look like it belonged in this dimension. They were about a year old, after about 10 years of cross-breading to create them - and this batch, for whatever reason, had grown extremely violent, unable to be handled long after puppyhood. Pretty much any animal, if you handle it enough when its a baby, won't kill you when its an adult (even crocodiles, though sharks were a little dumb for it). They had a handler (name redacted) that they tolerated but after one of them bit him he left the program...and two weeks ago they had escaped when techs had been in the process of cleaning their cages.

This was fascinating stuff.

Sarah finished reading it in about an hour and a half.

It was only 50 pages, and a lot of it was double spaced. Sarah was used to reading quickly in entertainment.

She looked around. She hadn't brought a book and there was, of course, no in-flight movie.

So, being a dutiful American, Sarah read it again, got halfway through, and went to sleep.


***

Late that night they transferred to a small airplane, and a little later they took her in by car to a boat. The details on this she was a bit fuzzy - which was less because they weren’t forthcoming but again it was the middle of the night. They got her a bed on the boat at least, which she was grateful for because  she really hadn't slept well.

It was around 5am when in LA you could get to a small island in the Caribbean - which was pretty good. She didn't want a chopper, as that was useless (well not useless, but unnecessary) - and the CIA was just as glad for that.  The boat was smallish, and looked like something you would fish from - she suspected it either had taken it fishing, either regularly or occasionally. Pretty nice. Sarah liked boats. It had a jaunty white paint job and looked very ship-shape.

They were about a quarter mile away from the island - a good distance for her. She could probably have just jumped from the more populated Turk, but she didn't like jumping when she couldn't see land. It was easy to make a mistake - not that being 20 miles out in the ocean was life or death for her, but it was awkward.

They gave her a glass of orange juice, a map of the island, and a large backpack full of stuff...and well, told her the boat would be waiting, and to use the radio when she had gotten all five animals - and...

"You know, really...good luck out there," said Richards. "You’re really helping us out here."

"Yeah," Black agreed firmly. "A real solid".

And a CIA agent used the term "a solid". Well...such is life.

She nodded. Sarah leaned down on the top of the deck. And jumped.

And 10 seconds later she landed on a beach, kicking up sand. Sarah could be fairly quiet, but she actually angled the jump as one would a cannonball - to make a big as splash as possible. It was her strategy. These were blood-thirsty killing machines. If she looked for them they might hide. Why not have them look for her? After all, they had superior sense of sight and smell - she had by now a reasonably clean pair of panties at best. She had worn them for about 24 hours and should probably have thought about that...

She dusted herself off, opened the backpack and pulled out a breakfast bar and started to casually walk inland. She threw the plastic wrapper, whilst enjoying the sweet strawberry flavour.

The island was pretty. Not quite as lush as you might think, but with a small forest in the centre over what wasn't really a mountain, but rather a large hill, albeit a good sized one. The Caribbean islands were often more mountainous then you might think.  Sarah walked forward. She knew that about a half mile into the forest there was a small military base, where everything was. Meanwhile there wasn't really and paths per say, but she was making her way in as non aggressive a manner as she could.

In her bag was a series of tranquilizer darts. She had asked for them, and gotten them - not a gun, just the darts. She wondered a little why she had bothered. This wasn't redacted, this wasn't top secret - they were planning to kill these animals when she got them. That wasn't a secret. She didn't kill, of course, as a superhero or as a spy, or well...even as just a woman on the street. But then she ate meat, so there was that. She had even done a little bit of hunting and fishing as a kid, before all outdoor activities lost any interest to her. She wasn't a wimp...but...

These creatures weren't sentient, which was the kind of unofficial rule there - unofficial in the sense that’s kind of what superman did in the comics and it worked well enough...

But...but...

Sarah had thought this would be interesting - spend a couple of days in the Caribbean, enjoy the tropical island, help her country...but she was increasingly feeling misgivings about this entire enterprise. One of the big themes of Superman (again), at least when he was intelligently written and not just an excuse for whatever weird art style was popular with DC at the time, was the concept of what should a superman do and what should he leave to humanity. Yes, he could build a city in an hour, develop new technology, fly planes across the Atlantic, and do elaborate puppet shows for Lois Lane when she was temporally blind - but should he? (The answer, as proven for the last time in a late sixties comic, was no).  He could do everything. But would the world become dependent on him"? Demand him? Loose its vital spark...because of him?

Sarah was - lets face it - the worlds version of Superman. A little less powerful, but same basic idea. She couldn't build a city, invent new things, fly across the Atlantic or even the Caribbean - but she could do a lot. And she could, thanks to her elaborate training at Cal Arts, do puppet shows with the best of them. That one was less of a grey area. And she was better, because she studied with one of the original guys from the Muppets. She was good at smashing things – however, the world rarely needed smashing. However the world in this case needed a version of it. There was a situation where lives were in danger and Sarah, being practically invulnerable and something of a badass, was probably the woman to call. If they hadn't this would have worked out - make no mistake - but Sarah’s presence made things infinitely easier.

Should it have?

Should they have cleaned up there own mess?

Should this perhaps be made public?  And the weird super science failures of government made light - this had cost probably in the multi-multi-millions... should it?

Well, she was here now. She decided not to dwell on it.

She paused to look around at the ocean - the island really was beautiful.

And just as this thought entered her mind, a giant wolf monster jumped up and bit her shoulder with it gaping maw. Teeth... so many teeth.

******

Sarah screamed. She probably wouldn't have in a setting with humans, but it was startling, scary even...slightly - until she realized that the animal didn't break her skin - it welted it, yeah - this hurt - but it didn't draw blood. Not that this was always a perfect measure of her safety. Life was occasionally weird on whether something would break it - but...

She pushed the wolf away

Ahhhh....


Another wolf grabbed her leg, the shock forced her to the ground, startling her.

There were four of them now. Ugly things...the pictures didn't do them justice, not really showing how ugly they were in the flesh. Hideous monsters from some half-baked nightmare wafting across her consciousness.

It hurt. It...

She reached an arm and grabbed it, and smashed it across its mate. She used her improvised weapon and went for another on her leg. Letting it go, the final thing looked up at her. For a second she saw eyes of hatred, of anger, filled with a desire to consume her...but then, half a quarter second of fear itself.

And the improvised club hit it, and it was no more.

Sarah looked up at what she had done. Three creatures were dead around her, small piles of where something used to - not even a carcass, but almost atomized meat sacks. A fine mind, a better scientist, could tell where its head was, and where its tail had been - but to her...it was gone.

The forth in her hand she dropped. It was no better, just a bloody backbone after the smashing she had given it.

She was covered in blood. None of it was her own.

And Sarah sat up.

And she wept.

*****

A half hour later she was at the ocean. She washed herself in the warm water of the Caribbean, removing the blood and guts that covered her with the water and sand. Fish swam over to her curiously - she wasn't used to water where you could see fish - the Pacific Ocean was not suited for it, with its big waves but little fish came up to her here...and nibbled at floating pieces of mutant dog.

She cried some more. She did.

This had been the worst mini-vacation ever for her.

At least she went swimming.

She got out.

And she knew.

4 animals were dead.

There was still one more.

She pulled the blow-dart out of her bag.

No...wait...

She pulled out the radio

"This is ‘Mazing Girl. New deal Black. I killed four of them. I’m only doing your dirty business if you let the fifth one live."

There was a pause

"On a radio you should end every transmission with the phrase: Over. Over," Black’s crackly voice informed her.

"That’s not funny...this is not," said Sarah, "Over."

"We can do that. We wanted to do more studies to see where this goes, more environmental tests...see how they behave out of a pack. Capture or kill was your directive, and we can follow on our end, over."

Sarah paused.

Somehow that made her feel slightly worse.

But she had a job to do.

She looked around. She knew the last one had to responses. Rage or terror. Since it had been a good half hour since the attack, she was guessing terror. Which was bad, because there were a dozen places, if not hundreds, where it could hide. She had to start.

Sarah walked into the forest, dragging her foot slightly - it was a trick to appear she had been hurt. It probably wouldn't work, but what could you do? The beast cold be anywhere. Anywhere.

And then she realized. It was watching her.

How she realized that she didn't quite know - it wasn't what she saw or heard or smelled...but...

She closed her eyes.

She got down on the ground, completely prone.

She sat there for a couple of minutes, thinking of the world. Of life, of who she was and what she was doing. And could she get back in town for Game of Thrones? It was good in a moment of a crisis to be dumb like that. It helped her stay sane.

She rolled up into a ball for a second...then heard it.

Breathing?

Breathing.

She opened her eyes, looked, and saw.

It was big. Bigger then the others. Probably some version of an alpha. Large, black fur, huge lips, bigger eyes - a monster of incredible proportions - just looking at her...growling. Ready to face its foe, its own monster. And Sarah, in the beasts eyes, was probably just that.

Huge ears darted back.

And Sarah lifted up the dart...and waited for the lunge...

And then it came.

But this time she was ready.

She felt the creatures lips on her throat, feeling it attempt to strangle her, if nothing else to pull her neck aside and snap.

Sarah calmly injected the creature in the side with the tranquilizer

And grabbed it.

And held it.

Sarah stroked it - as it struggled against her - but she was stronger, much, much, stronger...and the beast couldn't move.

It struggled, but as whatever drugs went through it, the creature struggled less.

"There, there," she said, tears in her eyes. "It’s alright, it’s alright."

She had no idea if Mr Black’s promise was real or not - she didn't even know if thinking they were real held much promise. This may be the creatures last thought, its last comfort was her, and she wanted to comfort it, make it feel at ease. To feel.,.

And at last it was asleep, in some dreamless slumber she could only speculate.

*******

Sarah landed on the boat creating waves.

She put the creature down, and wrapped it in a towel.

"Take me home, take it somewhere."

No one spoke.

Not for a long time.

"It’s an ugly mother," observed Richards. "I never saw it, but...phew."

Sarah looked at him coldly.

And the boat left.

******

This entire enterprise, Sarah didn't realize, only took about 4 hours. She wanted to get home as soon as they got back to the island, and they obliged her, though they did give her an island drink which she drank solemnly. But still. They were back in LA by 10:00 PM Saturday. A little over 24 hours.

She went home. She was very tired again. And slept.

She looked to an empty bed. She wanted, more then usual, someone there to hold her like she held it - someone to tell her that she wasn't a monster, Because God knows she had her doubts. (Unless she was a god herself, which yeah, she had thought about) She wanted someone to tell her that she had done a good thing, and to throw in other comforting lies.  She wanted to be comforted, to be told ‘there, there,’ to be stroked and loved. But no one was forthcoming.

So Sarah decided to get a cat.