By Hunter (Skull Man)
I look through the windows. Rain, as always, as if the Maker wanted to wash away our world's dirt. Not gonna happen in a lifetime.
It's at this moment that she enters through the room. A pretty face, sure, but she's much more than that: anyone who assumed otherwise got a mouthwash with lead. And she has smarts, too. Enough to get yours truly back from the Big Sleep, and shake off the old Chicago overcoat.
Kalinka: John. Are you ... self-narrating?
Ring Man: Can't say so, ma'am. Now, what's ailin' ya?
I put my sleep medicine (made from Scottish petrol) back in my desk, spit out my 'pop (not a fan of cigars ; some of my customers have a pair of biologic lungs, and Geoff hogs them all anyway) and look at her. To think I knew her when she still attended university. Time goes by when you're dead.
Kalinka: *whacks John with her shotgun*
Ring Man: Ow! What was that for?
Kalinka: Still some bugs to remove, I see. Anyway, Crorq is waiting for us down here.
Ring Man: What? He went through all the trouble to come here in Russia? Must be a big case.
Kalinka: You don't know the half of it...
And with that, she was gone. Better follow her, lest the rest of the merry crew drives the brain upstairs real mad. Word on the street is, he can literally chew you out when he's in the mood.
It seems that I arrived just on time for the show. For once, I wish I was in the peanut gallery, and not on stage.
Drill Man: Here at last, John. ... Hang on: trenchcoat, hat ... IMPOSTER!!!
And there we go. AM may be the best boss we ever had, but it seems he has the mother of all grudges against me. The only thing he didn't accuse me of so far was stealing his wonder years, but it's only a matter of days with him.
Drill Man: You did steal them, you TIME-TRAVELLER! Tell me, what do you past-freaks hope to get from the present, huh?
Crorq: I require order, INFIDELS!!! *throws a half-eaten taco at Avi*
Pharaoh Woman: Eek! *looks up* Please forgive him, Nepri! He knows not of the sin of wasting food!
And there we have the big man himself: Crorq. If his intellect matches his appetite, then we have the biggest brain in the universe standing before us. I should feel honoured.
Crorq: I'll choose to take that as a compliment. Now, with the eight of you here - wait, where is that troublesome toad?
Skull Man: No longer with us.
Ah, good old Hunter. He'd make a Monty Python sketch look like an essay on the futility of mankind's struggle. That said, I'd take him to the bar with me any day - not for socializing, mind you, but to watch my back.
Toad Man: *comes running into the room, carrying trash bags* Wait for meeeeee!! Guys, guys, guys, guys, GUYS!
Drill Man: *sighs*What is it, Flippy?
Toad Man: You'll never believe it! Burger King had another promotion on drive-through meals! Free food!
Bright Babe: Flippy, dumpster-diving is not a thing you do near a restaurant.
Toad Man: Oooh. And here I thought "get out of here, stupid robot" was a new marketing spin for "thank you, come again!". *starts eating his trash bags. Yes, the whole thing.*
Flippy ... What can I say politely about him? What he lacks in brains, brawns, attitude, cleanliness, or savvy, he makes up with ... err ... existing, I guess? Ain't no one that exists like good old Flippy.
Toad Man: Yay, I exist!
Crorq: *saring at the whole exchange* ... It is irrelevant. What matters is that all the competent -and I use that term loosely with you simpletons- experts on transdimensional science are gathered here! For I, the maaaagnificent Crorq, have deigned to assign you a task at the measure of your reported skill!
Dive Man: Buyin' you some Alka-Seltzer? Helpin' ya find yer ass with a map?
Crorq: NO!! The matter of the fact is that ... my dinner disappeared!
Drill Man: ... That's it?
Dive Man: Did ya check yer stomach?
Toad Man: Did you check mine? *shoves his hand down his throat*
Skull Man: I have more pertinent tasks to perform.
Crorq: Oh, but the best is yet to come...
He starts a video on our main screen by staring at it. Technology is a daily miracle, putting the power of gods in the hands of men. Me? I'm a fan of the down-to-earth, "keeps your drinks cool" aspect.
Dive Man: Amen t' that. *chughs from his flask*
Back to business. It's a security tape from Crorq's office. Center of the picture: his desk, where judgement is passed every day, and solved cases studied.
Dive Man: Not as much as take-out menus.
I'm trying to narrate here! ... Anyway, Crorq's lackey comes in, with a plate from Lights Galore, the newest delicatessen. Good old Shakeman. He may be as runny as milk, but he does wonders keeping the force solid. The way he shreds through the paperwork is a mixing marvel.
He sets the plate in front of his boss - gets an earful of reprimands and a headful of hamburger for his trouble, and walks out. In the plate: Rate de Bœuf with rice and salad. Never would have thought the boss was such a gourmet...
Crorq: At times, I prefer quality over quantity. And when I deal all day long with the robotic rabble of the RPD, I get too much of the latter, and none, none I say, of the former!
Toad Man: Hey, quantity has a quality of its own! ... I think. I read that on the back of a cereal box once.
He prepares to eat his dinner, savouring the scent like a wolf tracking his prey. A yellow, metallic wolf with a death-ray.
Dive Man: And five tons ta spare.
A phone call. Figures. Random calls always spoil our small moments of everyday happiness. Must be a law in the universe. He turns for a second and ... the meal is gone. Just like that.
Crorq: So now you see.
Drill Man: The way I see it, there's only one explanation: Flash Man!
Dust Man: While I agree that the Time Stopper could explain the sudden disappearance of the spleen, I fail to see how he entered unspotted, and why he would steal it. Perhaps he, along with the Dream Team, is reconstructing Wily from scratch, and they need a replacement spleen. Or they are building a spleen-powered weapon...
Toad Man: Or he was here for something else, and had the munchies!
I must whistle here. A halfway-relevant suggestion from Flippy? Must be a lucky day.
Crorq: Impossible! The only missing item, and the only that would have mattered anyway, is my delicious spleen!
Drill Man: How he entered? That's easy. Former Wily-Bots in the force? If this isn't the Fatal Five, I'm ready to eat my hat! Warpman got Flash Man inside and out, all on the orders of his mastermind leader!
Skull Man: You are talking about Riff.
Bright Babe: The Robot Master who nearly got a panic attack trying to manage the eight of us for a whole day? That's a bit far-fetched.
Drill Man: It was all a ruse! He's laying low in order to be the right hand of his boss once he's back. Not unlike some traitors I know ...
Precise as a clock, the old paranoia arrow is aimed my way. One day, I'll prove I'm actually a loyal Comrade. And hopefully, it won't be on my deathbed.
Drill Man: Don't count on it!!
Crorq: ANYWAY! I need investigators! And since the lot of you are all loose cannons, I'll choose one of you to return my dinner to me unscathed ... OR ELSE!
Skull Man: You could buy another one. You have no tastebuds, so it would feel the same to you. It all tastes the same in the end.
Crorq: What about the experience? It was to be my first delivery from them! The discovery ... spoiled!
Skull Man: This video is two days old. If it wasn't consumed by now, it is on the way to become rotten flesh.
Toad Man: I can always take it!
Crorq: ... I did eat three other plates just to be sure. But onwards to choosing my victim/top man with an idiot-proof scientific method! Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...
And just like that, the hand of Fate - represented by Crorq's grease-covered appendage- falls on my head. All the dirty jobs for the guy lying in the gutters, of course. Well, better get to work. The night is young, and I have a spleen to hunt.
I had to handle this case with method. The big question was "Cui bono?". Who would profit from the fat cat's demise? The potential mice were plenty, so I chose the one in the best spot, and worked from there...
Ring Man: So tell me, Shakeman. How does it feel, robbing the head honcho of his ill-deserved meal?
Shakeman: I didn't do it. And if I did, then what's in it for me? I hate spleens.
Ring Man: Oh, I don't know. Start with a lost meal, then another, then it's a forgotten meeting with upstairs. Before you know it, poor old Crorq is a shattered wreck, leaving someone really competent at the top.
Shakeman: I don't want that job. Besides, I'd just get yelled at more. And how would I have stolen it? I shake drinks.
Ring Man: Easy one. *lights chocolate cigarette* You have contacts. R&D, seized weaponry ... considering the amount of weird things you have faced through the years, it's extremely likely a time-stopping weapon is around the place.
Shakeman: Hm. A little question for you, detective.
I'm the one asking questions here, but I'll let it slide.
Ring Man: Shoot.
Shakeman: I handle Crorq's meals every day. If I really wanted his job -which, seeing it means handling people like you, the Sentinels or the Maniacs, is the last thing I want-, wouldn't I have poisoned him already?
Ring Man: ... Fair point.
Shakeman: Now, if you'll excuse me, some of us have an actual job to do. Seriously, did your boss teach you how to investigate?
And with that sting, he got away. I had to focus my chase back. Still looking for someone wanting to Crorq to fall, and ... Wait. I forgot the second most important thing in investigations.
Cherchez la femme...
Kalinka: Investigation is going that bad, huh?
See? More than a pretty face. Cut right through my charade.
Ring Man: I don't see what you mean.
Bright Babe: Your self-narrating isn't helping, John.
Ring Man: Hey, I'm only looking for likely culprits. Long arm of the law needs to sweep itself off every once in a while.
Pharaoh Woman: Do you think the clairvoyance of Thoth will illuminate you better by interrogating three persons at once? On second thought, it could. Thoth is helpful like that at times, I thin - I'm sure!
Ring Man: It could match up. Kalinka, you want to get Crorq's control away from us all, and with Jet, you dealt with him longer than most of us. Hence, the grudge. Your Highness, Crorq's constant loathing is enough to turn you to revenge.
Pharaoh Woman: It is? It's not much more than my Minister of Sea is doing...
Ring Man: But as our (sort of) leader, you have pull among other RPD members.
Pharaoh Woman: I'm still waiting for the Sentinels to return my calls about a Ministry of Space.
Ring Man: Anyway. Kalinka, you hacked through the RPD's sytems in order to leave no traces. Jet, with your weapon borrowed from Flash Man, you stopped time and stole Crorq's dinner.
Bright Babe: I can't do that.
Ring Man: Huh?
Bright Babe: I can't stop time.
Ring Man: But ... You have a Flash Stopper! Like Flash Man!
Bright Babe: And he uses a Time Stopper! I know, it's weird.
Kalinka: Besides, do you imagine if Toad Man could make rain actual toads? *shivers* Luckily, Papa was never that drunk.
Toad Man: *in the bog near the base* Come back, my pretty! I need you for my new weapon!
Frog: *jumps away*
Toad Man: Nooooo!! I need more live toads! Plush toys ain't cutting it anymore!
(Back to base.)
Pharaoh Woman: And what of the rest of the Team, my fair Minister of Bubble-Blowers? Can you vouch of their integrity?
It hurt to remember that piece of investigation. 'Science' Sean started into a rant on how time rifts could occur at any moment, with charts handy. Man absorbs knowledge like a sponge - or rather, a vacuum. Geoff threw booze at me, then berated me for wasting it.
AM, true to form, kept on claiming it was me. Luckily, the girl scouts ringing at the door kept him busy as I ran off. Flippy didn't let me talk and tried to buy toads off of me - as if I carried any on my person. And Hunter ... God. He just stared at me after I said my piece. Kept on staring as I left his room. And I'm pretty sure he's still staring from the shadows.
Ring Man: ... Yes.
Actually interrogating Flippy would nearly have been a breather. By a close margin.
Kalinka: Regardless of your theories, none of us left the building that night. It was Dive's day of cooking, remember?
I had nearly managed to forget. How can one cook rum baba and end with so little baba? It was like an alcohol-soaked sponge - more than usual.
But that talk of alcohol gave me another idea...
Kalinka: Can we go now?
Ring Man: Huh? Oh, okay.
Yes, someone could help through that tangled mess. I needed to see a master of spirits - but not the medium kind...
Henry: Ah, Ring Man! Anything I can do for you?
Ring Man: Coke and whiskey, hold the whiskey, and pour on the Coke.
Henry: Brings back some memories, you know. Last time I served that order to a Ring ... Never dreamt that there'd be a today.
Ring Man: Hmm.
Poor guy seemed completely out of his boots. That's what working the beat did to you: made you march up and down the streets, threw the world's darkness at you and expected you to do it for a song. Thanks Light that Murmansk is not that bad a place.
Wait. I didn't narrate that.
Oh, we're doing 'Noir' today?
Yeah. On a big case.
So, what's ...
Henry: Sorry. So, what's the issue?
Ring Man: Someone stole Crorq's dinner, and I have to go and look for someone to spill the spleens.
Henry: Sounds tough.
Ring Man: Sure is.
I let my eyes wander along with my mind. Henry's Hideout is a good place for thinking, even (or, in the case of Warpman, particularly) if the Fatal Five aren't there.
They're an odd bunch, those six. Back in my old life, they were the latest-produced goons for the bad doc, but he bit the bullet, and here they are, head cops of Murmansk. Life is a rollercoaster, but I think these guys deserve a break.
There's something new in the air, though.
Henry: Oh, it's my new musician.
And indeed, on the scene, there's someone who doesn't look like much. Wouldn't stand out in a room with us Robot Masters, but somehow, he looks to be clumsy and dreaming. Bit of a failure, if you asked me, but "Ringo the Illuminati" shouldn't judge people.
When he plays, however, it's another story. Man got more than his share of bad luck, and he shares it with the world. He pours everything out: his pains and tears, the dreams of his life and the prisons of his heart. With his cries, he could change life.
Ring Man: Real good. Gives your place an atmosphere.
Henry: Yeah, Lento agreed it would be nice for the Hideout.
Ring Man: How did you find him, anyway?
Henry: His name's SaxoMan. Apparently, he worked in some kind of space program - "Project Cosmos" or something close. But the thing fell apart, and he ended on the streets until recently.
Ring Man: That's what I like about the place, Henry. You accept all of us as we are - broken shells, trying to find a place in that game we call life.
Henry: He's a good guy. Just ... don't stand between him and a plate of crab. His saxophone is not just for music, see what I mean?
Pent-up issues about seafood, universal paranoia ... Nothing couldn't faze me anymore. Well, until I remembered Flippy eating.
Ring Man: Anyway. I'm a bit stuck, Henry. Got any ideas on my perp?
Henry: I'll try and get Lento on the case. Though, now that you mention it ... word on the street is, valuables disappeared in places way too secure. Sounds close?
Ring Man: I'll take what I can.
Henry: Try the yellow jeep. Oh, and get backup. I'd hate to see one of my customers killed in action.
Ring Man: Nah, that won't happen. Remember, it's always the best of us who leave early.
And it's up to the others to wonder why. But if I didn't want to start the big sleep, I'd follow the advice of my favorite bartender, and get some help...
Lento: Unit Lento wishes to know the reason of his presence.
Warpman: I'll tell you why, Slowpoke: Sherlock Holmes here wants to get to the streets, and since he doesn't have the freakshow or the sub on hand, he picks the next best thing. Am I right?
Warpman. He was like the coffee Geoff brewed: bitter to an extreme degree, but refreshing in a way. And I expect, full of booze.
Warpman: Nah, no drinking on the service.
Lento: We do not want the "night of half-hands" to happen again.
Warpman: *grumbles* They managed to fix Riff's hand and Crorq's stomach. I don't see the issue.
Ring Man: Henry told me about a yellow jeep. I figured you'd know about that, what with this being your turf.
Lento: We are not the best for this mission. Right?
Warpman: Hm? Oh, yes! Shoulda called Staccato.
A medieval-minded guy who thinks stealth is for cowards. I don't know what was the hardest to picture: him as a street-informant, or Flippy as a gourmet chef. Both ideas were straining my mind. Hopefully whatever horrors were ahead of me would make me forget that idea.
Warpman: Hey, we were just kidding!
Lento: In seriousness, Staccato is involved with various weaponsmiths and fencing circles.
Warpman: Helped us when we investigated on the Bladesingers.
He hums the air, and looks at the street signs. A true bloodhound, with a badge and dental. I could only trust his experience, or prepare to sell my life dearly.
Warpman: That's the street. And *looks at a parked vehicle nearby* that's our contact.
A yellow jeep. I could only wonder who'd still bother with a gas-guzzler in this day and age. Either it was a collectioner, someone who couldn't go by otherwise, or a facade.
As I heard the hum of servos, I realized it was a bit of the three answers.
Swindle: Why, it's a Ring Man! Long time no see, partner!
Ring Man: Have we met before?
Swindle: A possibility, yes. You Robot Masters aren't exactly sturdy compared to us. But I heard of the old Dive being back around, and any colleague of him is a business partner of mine!
Swindle: Oh, and you brought regular patrons! What's the opportunity today, to help our community thrive and grow?
Lento: We need names.
Swindle: You see this, Ring? It's always "Swindle, we need names", or "Swindle, who did you sell that tacnuke to" with the force. I ask you, what's worse to my business than a customer who doesn't make money move around?
Ring Man: They're with me, Swindle. RPD business.
Swindle: You mean Dive took the blue? Never thought I'd see the day. So, how can I help our great police force today?
Ring Man: Someone stole Crorq's lunch. Oh, and other valuable items. We're looking for a time-stopper, or a very fast thief.
Swindle: Ah, can't say I've sold chrono-stoppers recently. Last one was before your latest War.
Lento: We may be thinking about perishable goods.
Warpman: Fuel, if you can't keep up.
Swindle: Oh. Oooooh. Now I may have a name to give you. If you can help a completely legal entrepreneur get by, of course ...?
Warpman: Monday next, we'll have an auction on all unclaimed vehicles and goods. Come at 5, and we'll have a sample.
Swindle: It's a deal! Try the old docks, near the Overkill Memorial. Good luck!
Ring Man: We'll be on our way. Oh! One more thing, Swindle: why are you sitting on the pavement out here in the cold? Doesn't seem constructive for business.
Swindle: Oh, I have drones doing the heavy work. And I have great reception here - business is digital, now!
I hoped for our sakes that 'Swindle' was merely a name, and not a way of life. But after having met people like 'Stonegrinder' or 'Imperator', I believed that whoever named Transformers believed in literal-mindedness.
Warpman: Or is as imaginative as Lento.
Hush. We're getting near...
Warpman: Ah, good times. I should come and have a look more often.
I'm currently looking at some real weird statue. Something that would have come from a 3AM dream, when monster-truck mechanics doze in front of a battleship-centered movie. And his radio was playing late-night heavy-metal concerts.
Ring Man: Swindle mentioned that our tracks were to continue here. See anything out of the usual?
Lento: Processing statue stand ...
Warpman: Let him watch rocks. Now, have a look at history being made!
Apparently, if the figurines on that model are accurate, that ship was commandeered by clowns. And I spot some of my RPD colleagues here.
Warpman: You want to know a secret? When I feel down, I remember that I blew up that thing by myself. That beats bridges any day of the week, huh?
Ring Man: Hm. Tell me, who were the Fatalists on board? Just curious.
Warpman: Well, there was me, of course. Bird-Boy and Swordmaster too. And ... Hold on. I found the opening to our thief's lair.
Warpman: *presses on one of the figurines on the boat* You never were on the Overkill that day, Lento.
And just like that, a trap door opens. Remind me never to skip on history classes.
Warpman: I go first, people. Lento, you form the rear, and try not to hit Ringo here.
Hidden lairs under memorials. I know someone who would have a field day with this. And trying to connect me with this.
Lento: All this for a takeover meal. Lento hopes it's delicious.
Warpman: Ha. If you stick around, Ringo, I'm sure Riff would love your help on a few problematic cases we had.
Ring Man: Shoot.
Warpman: Strange stuff. We had someone stealing all kind of medicinal material: anatomy cut-outs, replicas, organs in formaldehyde ... And then it stopped.
Ring Man: I suppose they disappeared just like the spleen dinner.
Warpman: Now that you speak about it, it's entirely possible. And just recently, some french books exposed at the museum disappeared. Same method, but no obvious links.
Ring Man: Which books?
Lento: First editions of Baudelaire poems.
Ring Man: I think I remember that. Is it ... Oh, no.
The truth had been looking at me in the face all along, unshaven and with a sneer reeking of alcohol. It was all connected.
Warpman: Care to explain for those who aren't super-geniuses?
Ring Man: The poems. It's in a book called "Le Spleen de Paris". The organs, the dinner...
What we just saw confirmed my theory. It was like a dragon's hoard. One with debatable tastes.
Ring Man: ... It's a spleen-worshipping cult.
Everywhere I look, there are spleens on display: diagram cutouts. Replica ones. Real ones. French poetry books. And on an altar, the pièce de résistance of this nightmare, rests Crorq's dinner.
Now, I've seen, done and heard lots of weird things. It's a given in our job. But this scene? It takes the cake, kills the baker and steals his hard-earned cash.
?: Seize them!
Before we can act, we're surrounded by blurs, knocked out, and soon tied up.
Warpman: Would've helped if you didn't stand arround narrating your life!
Now, I just hope whoever leads this madhouse knows his trade.
Cult Leader: Well done, minions! Now, we can show those heathens the glory of He Who Digests Beyond The Stars!
Yeah, good bet. Seems like your average mad cultist: eyes of fire, faith strong enough to push mountains, and a dress to cover up nasty bloodstains.
Lento: Unit suspects they are made of spleen.
Cult Leader: What? No! That's ... eew. It's plastic - washes up better.
Ring Man: So, what's your game?
Cult Leader: We are working to bring the Great Devourer back to our world - the God-Spleen! We received a message from his servant, telling us to gather all we could to summon him!
Lento: You bought system accelerators to perform these thefts.
Cult Leader: Yes. We used to be helped by the blurred angel crowned in crimson, but he left us in our hour of need. So we bought these Energon derivatives from Swindle, and stole what we needed.
Warpman: Hold on. What do robots care about spleens? You have fusion systems.
Cult Leader: His glory shall bring us flesh, and as He digests us all, we shall be reborn with internal organs!
Yeah, and Crorq will give us all a raise.
Cult Leader: Be quiet, unbeliever! We shall prove our word is true ... right NOW!
At this point, the cult started chanting. I didn't quite catch what they said, but the meaning was still clear: we were to become god-chow.
Now, I don't really follow any religion: closest thing to a priest I know is Geoff, and the man's idea of a celebration is taking a swig or three of Russian Maalox. But any religion that involves Robot Master sacrifice? Definitely off my book.
Cult Leader: The time has come! HE has come!
A hole in reality tore itself open just above Crorq's dinner. Gotta admit, it was the second-biggest opening to a daemon-infested realm I ever saw.
Cult Leader: What? You dare say some beings are stronger than our god?
Ring Man: I do, and I drank tea with them.
Warpman: You know what? We exorcised a god-like thing before, and we were itching for training! Right, Big Bot?
I'll admit, this thing was way uglier than Kachen. Say what you want about the bird, he had a sense of dress.
Warpman: Yeah, and he didn't look like a pile of spleens.
Cult Leader: Master! We have brought you to this world through the power of our devotion! Now, cleanse this world, and digest it that we may be reborn in flesh!
And it seems like the thing began with its worshippers. Never summon anything bigger than a Metool, folks. Only pain and cross-reality troubles lie that way.
Ring Man: So. Giant daemon about to go on a killing spree through Murmansk. Any ideas?
Warpman: Well, for starters...
Only a blink, and Warpman ends up three feet to the left of his bonds. He soon begins to work on ours.
Ring Man: And you couldn't have done that before?
Warpman: What, and having to fight off cultists hopped up on speed while trying to untie you? I can manipulate time and space, sure, but my batteries aren't worth a bolt!
Lento: Built-in design flaw.
Warpman: Sure, rub it in. Just slow the damn thing, will you?
Lento: Acknowledged. *opens fire*
A blue-ish energy sphere flies from our heavy-set teammate to the scene of the rampage. Soon, everything slows down to a standstill.
Warpman: That won't stay for long. Any ideas?
Ring Man: I'd say the portal is kept open by key components in the ritual. So ... just blow everything up, I guess.
What? So sue me, I had a long day. Besides, a lifetime of being a Comrade taught me it's the easy solution for everything.
Warpman: You're officially my second-favorite Commie, pal. Ready, Lento?
Lento: Operation Ironstorm: go.
It's only seconds before we get a Four of July in here. Now I know what Lento's bulk is made of: weapons. More and more. And Warpman's hail of Crash Bombs is no slouch either.
Guess that only leaves yours truly to try and stop some of those loonies with my Ring Boomerangs. Whatever they can teach us, I hope it's worth chasing a spleen dinner.
Spleen-God: *as the portal closes on it* RRAAAAARGH!!
Warpman: Yeah, yeah, just go and rage. That makes ... the pain ... go ... *falls to the ground*
Ring Man: Wait! Warpman!
I had to say something for the lad. Sure, he was a bit of a nuisance - but aren't we all? A life cruelly snatched on the field of duty ... a loyal brother-in-arms, a mere two weeks away from retirement and leaving behind a kid who will never know his father's voice ...
Lento: *rolls eyes, pushes Ring Man away* Go take the dinner. Unit Lento will take care of Warpman. *pulls an E-Tank from a cavity on his torso*
Ring Man: Huh? Okay, sure.
There it is, the thing that made me run for days. It was just like one of those high-society dames, full of promises but only leaving broken hearts in their wake ... and a broken stomach, from the smell. Geeze, it's been sitting here like two weeks! Who, apart from Flippy, would want to eat THAT?!
Crorq: Ah, sweet delicious spleen! *starts eating dinner in the grossest way possible*
At least I will save on eating for the rest of my life.
Ring Man: Sir, if we could talk about the rest of my report.
Crorq: Hm? *chomps* Oh, yes, that *gnorf* cult. I see you managed to *grmg* tie that investigation right into your Team's *slmp* primary goal. Clever, that. Saves on our *hrrk* budget.
Ring Man: Thank you, sir? But, about the eventual survivors?
Crorq: Bah! Let the regular RPD handle that. Track down the dealers, the usual jazz. *ends swallowing* Sure tasted nice. HOWEVER! Having to wait TWO WEEKS until I could savour that delight? UNACCEPTABLE!
Ring Man: But sir, you informed me of your missing meal two days ago!
Crorq: You're a loose cop, Ring Man! Why, I oughta take off your badge for such INCOMPETENCE! But ... in my magnificent magnanimousness, I am willing to merely funnel your pay into my food budget ... FOR HOW LONG AS I SEE FIT!!
Gotta try and play it cool...
Ring Man: If I may have a suggestion, sir ...
Ring Man: Docking Toad Man's pay would be a more effective way of enhancing Team's efficiency.
Crorq: ... You know, this is actually not a bad idea that I just had. Why, I'll put it into action right now. ... *starts chuckling* Oooh, nearly got me. He doesn't get a pay to start with! Very good, that. I'll let it slide for now.
Ring Man: Thank you, sir.
Crorq: Just don't let it happen again.
And so I walked out, soon to get back home and blab about how the chief rode my aft on that case. It's a tough life, but someone has to do it.
I've been thinking: our bodies may be mechanical, but they're just a smaller-scale replica of how life works. Geoff can attest: a bit of juice here and there, and life goes that much smoother, just like oiling our articulations.
The night is young, and I may have opportunity to put that to the test...
(And so we leave our detective. Now, to see another group of characters, in a truly oversized bureau...)
?: I've heard of your little band being broken down. Hardly made it past page seven.
Cult Leader: As was intended, sir. These fools were just cover-up for the real work.
?: Hand me the item, then. I want to see if wasting these favours from Swindle was worth it.
Cult Leader: You won't regret it, lord. *puts an object on the shadowed one's desk*
?: *grabs it* Hmm ... A Super-Potential Laser/Energon Energy Negator. All of this work for a small piece of technology ... Well done. Any signs of the speedster?
Cult Leader: Not after the first batch of samples.
?: A shame. I wish we had contacted him now, but if my theories are correct, then we will recruit him later.
Cult Leader: What do you mean?
?: No matter. Anyway, did you tell anyone of our mutual business?
Cult Leader: You take me for a fool? I made copies of all our chats, and put them in various locations. Even if you kill me, the truth will get out!
?: You mean ... these seven recordings? *throws an enveloppe on the desk* That one in Guernesey was a bit of a brain-twister. I'd almost applaud you for effort.
Cult Leader: I ... I am...
?: ... Useless, and a liability. Goodbye. *snaps his fingers*
(A gargantuesque silhouette moves from the darkness in the corners of the room, and crushes the cult leader.)
Flakmaster: Do you know how humiliating zis is? First, ve get probed for Ore samples, and zen ve vork as hired muscle?
Prometheus: *lights the desk* Completely. Until you have proved yourself, you and your squad shall work as the muscle they are. Only after a modicum of success might I treat you as an equal.
Flakmaster: Zis device. Zey used it to summon zeir "god", ja? Can it do ozer things zan zis, and draining energy?
Prometheus: You, sir, are an astute robot. And to answer your question...
(The light takes a menacing shade as the S.P.L.E.E.N. glows...)
Prometheus: ... That is exactly what I intend to find out. After we fully explore its known uses.
AM as Drill Man Sean as Dust Man Geoff as Dive Man
Jet as Bright Babe Hunter as Skull Man
John as Ring Man Avi as Pharaoh Woman Flippy as Toad Man