Having finished the Tampete Tribune’s article about the local sniper, Jack looks up at Monique. She has the waitress’es tip money, and she is folding it up into some kind of origami bird. “It does not look much like those gargoyles, but it was the only winged thing that I could think of”, she says as she sets the bird it down. “I’ll give Mo a ride home guys, catch you both in the AM.” With that, Pondo and Ving say their goodnights, and they file out to their vehicles.
Lighting a cigarette Jack walks outside in to the nighttime air. It’s not to bad out he thinks to himself; it’s probably 90 to 95 degrees. Not bad for an early fall night in Florida. A minute or two later Monique exits the diner and walks up to Jack. “Are you ready to go” he asked her. “Yea, it’s almost 11pm and I have some work to do tomorrow” Monique answered. Looking at her Jack said, “work, what do mean? You’re not going back to your last job?” Knowing that she is currently on parole for burglary. “No, the doctor wants me to come over to his office. He’s trying to turn me into his lab assistant.” “Good, I’d hate to have to shoot you” Jack said with a smile.
Reaching the Harley and fingering the alarm keychain Jack notices a fast approaching shadow coming towards him from out of a near by alleyway. As he pushes Monique to the side and moves to block the threat, the nighttime air is shattered by the crack of a high powered rifle. The shadow form slumps to the ground as it’s brains texture coat a near by dumpster. Drawing her Colt Krait Koncealed Karry, Monique yells, “Are you hit.” “I saw the muzzle flash, it came from on top of the abandoned church down the street.”
Holy Crap! He thought to himself, that almost hit me. Unholstering his Glock 22 he threw a quick glance to Monique. "On three, cover me babe." A few hearts beats later he’s ziging across the street. No more shots fired, and that's cool. After finding cover behind a '14 Zil wagon, Jack motions for Mo to move up. No more shots, cooler.
Peeking in through the half open door, he sees a few Proles passing around a bottle of Old Turkey, and singing. With a loud thump a half-shadow form crash lands to the ground near the head of the church.
Kicking in the door all the way Jack yells, "freeze mother fucker, Federal Agent. Don't make me drop you." Again the nighttime air is shattered by gunfire coming from outside. That sounded like a pistol, now where the hell is Monique he thinks.
Two more shots. It’s your lucky day asshole Jack mutters to himself. He turns around and runs back outside into the humid Florida nighttime to find no sign of his partner. “Mo, where are ya?” A few panicked heart beats later she responds “Jack, I’m around back.”
As Jack rounded the corner into the alleyway Monique stepped up to greet him and said “Sorry I lost him, he took off on a motorcycle. I think I might have hit him though.” Clicking on his mini-mag lie Josh said, “Well let’s see.” And with that the two went around back. “There’s a bit of blood spattered on the wall over here, I guess you popped him” Josh commented.
“Shit I left someone inside, I wonder if they’re still there” Jack exclaimed. After carefully peeking inside; low and behold they’re still standing there in the half shadows. “You in the shadows move up into the light” Jack said. A few seconds later a half-drunk man shuffled up. “Shit, it’s a bum.” Jack then walks up to the wino. “Hey man sorry about that, I thought you were someone else.” “Look pal, I've got a Jackson for you if you can answer some questions, and you know that will buy a lot of whisky.” With the promise of real cash, not a script the wino agreed. “Monique bring him outside to the sidewalk, then see if he has seen anything. I am gonna go across the street and see who got croaked.”
After crossing the street and looking at the body Jack realizes that there is no head left. Not a bad shot he thinks, as he glances back to the church’s rooftop. Clicking on his maglite, Jack’s eyes behold something that most men would be unprepared to see, green blood. What the fuck is this? Rolling the corpse over Jack realized why the blood is odd, “well shit and fall back in it, a giant bug-man.”
Calling to his partner, “Mo as soon as you’re done you have to see this.” Then he reached for his cell phone and dialed. “Hello . . .” “Ving, I need you to bring the Kartoffeln van to the alley way behind the diner we have a cold one to go.” “Got it, see you in 10min boss.” “Make it 5 were going to see the doc, oh yea and bring a squeegee.” Now one more call to make.
As the three cell members rode across town Jack brings Ving up to speed on what happened. Then when he is done Monique told them about her interview with the wino. “The bum went by the name Hep, he said that about 2 hours earlier our man arrived. He did say that he was acting funny and carrying on about monsters that only he could see, and that Hep had to run him off” Monique said, “and that was about it.” “Were here guys” Ving says. “Let me out here then pull around back. I will go inside and let him know were here” Jack said.
A few moments later, a tall man with salt and pepper hair dressed in medical scrubs emerges from the morgue entrance. Walking up to the van he says, “Do you have the package?” “Yes doctor, I have never seen anything like it. Just wait until we get it inside you won’t believe your eyes” Monique replies. “Good, let’s get it inside” the doctor said.
Ving loads the body on a gurney and then parks the van as Monique and Jack wheel the cart into the hospital. After entering the morgue and securing the doors, doctor Bellows went to work. “Wow, he looks almost like a kid on Christmas morning” Monique thinks to herself.
“I think I may have seen something like this before, but I cant seem to remember when or were” Ving comments. “After I finish the autopsy we will work on your memory Ving, until then Jack and yourself should go back out and search the area for anything interesting. I will keep Monique here to help me as well as bringing me up to speed,” Doctor Bellows says without even looking up from his work. “Monique go to the back room and put on some scrubs, now where did I leave the rib-spreader?” With that Jack and Ving were off.
Looking out the windshield of the van at the morning sun trying to break through the smog Jack said “The sun’s coming up man, pull in at the Quickie Mart I need coffee and a pack of Luckies.” “Coffee sounds like a good idea, we can find out what the weather and air-pollution forecast is too. I am getting low on masks” Ving said while pulling into the turn lane.
After paying for their breakfast Jack turns around to see three bangers trying to get into the van. “Friends of your Ving?” he said nodding outside. Looking over his shoulder Ving sees the gangers. “Not mine, but if they don’t lay off my wheels there gonna get hurt” Ving says as he heads outside. Looking at the clerk Jack says “I’ll be right back,” then leaving his coffee on the counter. No need to waste good joe because of these punks.
Man do I feel sorry for those punks Jack thinks as they step up to meet Ving’s 6’ 225 pound solid frame. “Step off fuck face! This ride belongs to the Vipers now,” A Vietnamese banger said. “Yea man, you don’t want a piece of us. I’ll cut you up good” one said waving a switchblade around. “Look Mary, I don’t want to hurt you and your girlfriends so why don’t you all consider this your lucky day and beat it” Ving said then taking a big step forwards towards the van.
Vinny’s last concuss thought was sticking the big man with his blade, now he will have a few days in ICU to rethink what he tried. I have never seen any man that can move as fast as Ving; Jack thinks watching him wade into the fray. As the one with the knife lunges at Ving, he with an almost superhuman speed sidesteps and catches Vinny’s wrist; palm strikes his elbow shattering it and then with a backfist to his face Vinny checks out. “Let’s dance girls” Ving growls as he lets Vinny fall to the pavement.
The Vietnamese banger dropped back into a martial arts stance, challenging Ving. As Ving moved up to him, the ganger attempted a roundhouse kick. Ving blocked with a left forearm and with his right hand he grabbed the banger by the throat. The banger began to thrash wildly in an attempt to break free as Ving lifted him into the air. Then with a yell, Ving choke slammed him on the pavement knocking the ganger into next week. Ving turned toward the third ganger and smiled. Then he began to close on the punk, who was armed with only a slim-jim. The young ganger began to cry and then pissed himself, then he turned to run away. “Let him go, we still have work to do” Jack yelled to Ving. The punk started to run and Ving moved to go after him. “Slow down killer, time to get back on the clock” Jack called out.
“What’s up Doc?” Monique said half laughingly. “I think I have most of it’s gear figured out, so how’s the bioscan coming along?” Looking up from his computer Doctor Bellows says, “It’s almost complete, now show me what you have got.”
“Well sir, I am fairly sure that this is his, excuse me was his communicator” Monique says as she picks up palm sized chitinous shell. “If you press here, it opens reveling a transceiver.” “This is some kind of gun, pretty much point and click. I will try it out later if you like.” Picking up the last item a dark green chitinous ball Monique says, “This thing, I don’t have a clue. There are no buttons or switches, but I can shake it and feel something inside bounce around. Maybe a seed or something, I don’t know.” “Good job my dear, hold on to the weapon and give me a field report on it. I will work on the other gear” doctor Bellows said.
BEEP. “The bioscan is complete, come lets see what we’ve got” the doc says as he heads to the computer, pocketing the strange gun Monique follows. After reading the report it hits the doctor like a ton of lead. “Hell, just what I was afraid of.” “What is it?” she asks. “ETs, and nasty ones I might add. Monique I am going to transfer this to my laptop, I want you to get in contact with Pondo and have him come down here immediately, my shift ends in an hour.” “Yes doctor.”
After arriving at the diner Jack and Ving decided to start checking out the Church’s rooftop. “I don’t believe I left my coffee at the Quickie Mart. I’m going in to get a fresh one then we will start around back of the church. That’s were the sniper was parked, and I want to get a blood sample from last night” Jack suggested. “Sounds good, then well take the fire escape to the roof” Ving followed up with. After about 10 minutes of rooting around through the trash in the alley they move to the roof.
“Before we start, I am gonna fire up the minicam, and tape the ally below as well as the roof.” After switching to taping the roof Jack increases the minicam’s zoom and continues to record. “OK Ving, I’ve got it. Let’s start sweeping the roof.” Almost half an hour later the search turned up squat. Sitting down on the ledge and lighting a butt Jack says, “smoke break.”. Looking out over the city from the roof top Ving comments “Damn that new BioMex citadel is huge.” “ Yea, what an eyesore. You know, judging from were the bug got zapped the sniper was probably in the north west corner of the roof” Jack says as he gets up and heads over to the corner as Ving continues to stare at the citadel.
The two continued to search the rooftop for about 5 minutes when Ving recovered an ammo casing under a cooling tower. “Remmington 30-06, no wonder the bug lost his head” he commented to himself. Then calling to his partner “hey Jack check this out.” Marking the spot, and picking it up with a pencil Jack says “Good job Ving, I will take this to the lab at work and hopefully the lab-rats can pick up something useful.” Ten minutes later they are on the street and heading to the alleyway.
“No traces are left from were the bug was killed, it looks like someone has been busy cleaning this place up” Ving said. “Some one even pulled the bullet out of the wall” Jack remarked “I’m gonna check around in the back.” “Not much back here” Jack comments to himself after a brief search. “Ving, lets go over to the church and see if any of the bums saw anything.” From behind him Jack hears a muffled “There’s no body over there.” Spinning around Jack sees no one, “who said that?” “I did” came the voice, and with that the lid of the dumpster opened.
“You’re loaded and ready to go doc.” “Thank you Mr. Sinatra” doctor Bellows said, “I want Monique and yourself to head out and meet up with the rest of the cell, see what you all can dig up. I’ll work on the ETs devices at my lab. Also have Ving come see me, maybe he can help identify this stuff.” “Sure thing doc, let’s get going Mo.”
Heading to the parking lot Monique said, “Jack and Ving went to were we found the ET. I’ll call them to see if they’re still there.” “Cool.” Pondo then said as he approached a yellow Ford-Revlon Elite “My car is in the shop, I have my wife’s today. So don’t laugh.” “Who me?” Mo said with a smile as she climbed into the car. The two drove to the outskirts of the metroplex. After a few tries with the cell phone Mo said, ”I don’t know. There’s no answer, I guess they are out of the van.” “Well lets head out there anyway and if were lucky we will run into them.”
“What’s the Cellar Door?” Monique asked as she picked up a newspaper. “Hua, oh that. That’s my wife’s. She reads those damned tabloid mags all the times, God only knows what you will find in there.” “Take a read if you like, just don’t do the crossword or she will have my ass” Pondo commented. “Thanks.”
“Heyyy thereee Mr. Jackson back again sooo soon, what happen’d to the girl?” “Hello Hep, she’s back at the office. What are you doing in the dumpster, is the church closed?” Jack said as he walked up the meet the half-drunk man. “Closed? Sheit Mester Jackson a couple a suits came in after youse two left. Theyy ruffed up some of my friends but I gots out da side door wit out dem seeing me. Theyy beat the crap outta Smitty and took hem wit ‘em. Theyy thumped ‘em good.” “You wanna pull”; Hep finished with as he offered his bottle to Jack.
“Who’s your friend?” Ving asked as he rounded the corner to see whom Jack was talking with. Turning around Jack said “Ving this is Hep, Hep meet Ving another associate of mine.” Hep, what a name Ving thinks to himself. “Hep, is that short for anything” Ving asked? “Hep, Hepa, Hepatitis. Smitty gaves me that name afft’r my third bout.” “Oh. . . never mind” Ving responded.
Quickly changing the subject Jack asked “So can you tell me more about the suits that came in and busted up you party?” Clicking on his minicam, then motioning for Ving to come up. “Surre Mester Jackson” Hep began as he stared to climb out of his new home. “Smitty and me wents up to the sto’ and gots some juice, you sure yous guys don’t wants some?” Again offering his bottle. “Uh, no. I’m allergic” Ving responded. “Sorry to hear bout dat bud, anyways like I wus a saying after we gots back thesse three suits came in and started ta raze the hell outta the place. They wus wunting ta know where there friend wus.”
“Well it’s organic” doctor Bellows comments to himself as he sits up from his microscope. Picking up a scalpel, he begins to take a larger sample. As he cuts he begins to get a headache, starting from deep inside his skull. Then growing into unfathomable pain. “Ahhhhh” the doctor screams out as he passes into unconcussness and falls into the lab table.
“There’s the Kartoffeln van, the guys must be around here somewhere” Pondo said as he pulled into a parking spot. “I think that’s Ving standing over there” Mo said pointing to the alley “You just can’t forget that smiling face of his.” “Yo, Ving” Pondo hollered. Ving looked over and motioned for the two to come over and join them.
“And that’s ween I went out da side door, Smitty tried ta follow me but he must tripped or sumptin cuz he never came thru.” “Heyy therr sunshine” Hep said as Monique and Pondo walked up. Taking the last pull of the bottle Hep continues. “I look’d out from da alliey here and saws a big white van like that one”, as he points to Ving’s van. “It had sumtin rit on it but my eyes ain’t what dey use’ta be. I saw one man on da roof looking round. Don’t know if’n he saw me but a few of dem came outside puts old Smitty in der van and started ta head over here so I tooked off again, and hid inta the dumpster.”
“Thanks again for the info Hep. Take my card and if you think of anything or they come back call” Jack said as he handed Hep a business card and a second twenty. “Thanks Mr. Jackson, I’ll call ya. Yous can count on old Hep.”
The four minion hunters say their greetings and bring each other up to speed as they head to the van. As everyone reached the van Jack said, “Well the three of us will give the inside of the church a quick once over, while you meet with doctor Bellows.” “Sounds like a plan. I will call when were through and catch back up with you” Ving said while reaching for the door handle. After retrieving some flash lights the three head into the old church.
“Shit man, I haven’t seen a mess like this since my days in the Rangers” Pondo claimed as he entered the building. “Here Mo take this, get it on file” Jack said handing over the minicam. There was blood and body parts strewn over most of the place. “Looks like Hep got out in the nick of time, hey were is the side door he was talking about?” Monique commented as she taped the sidewall. “Who knows, he’s half in the bag” Pondo replied.
“Hey this guy looks almost ripped up, with a few puncture holes too. Be sure to tape the bodies Mo” Said Jack. After about five minutes of looking around Pondo said, “There appears to be six or so people here all ripped to hell, and no sign of who or what did this. Me, I’m for bugging out and calling in the local PD to handle the clean up.” “Me too, I think I stepped on an eyeball in here” Monique said.
“I guess were done here, I have to swing by the lab at work and drop off the ammo casing anyway” Jack said. A few moments later Monique and Pondo were in the yellow Elite and heading down the road, as Jack called the Tampete PD. After hanging up, he climbed on his Harley and rode across the Toji-Franklin Bridge to the Marshall’s office.
“Pondo, if you don’t mind let’s stop by my place. I need to wash up and get some fresh clothes,” Monique asked. “Fine by me, Mo. It’s almost lunchtime so if you’re up to it while your changing I’ll pick up some Thai. After lunch we can catch up with the guys” Pondo offered. “Great, I want the chicken curry.” Twenty minutes later Monique was walking up her stairs and Pondo was heading to Hung Wong’s.
After picking up the food and returning to Monique’s apartment and the two started lunch.
As the front door opened Ving said “Hello doctor. You look like hell, are you ok sir?” “I feel like my head is on fire, please come in” motioning for Ving to enter his privet lab. Doctor Bellows then walked back to his couch and sat down. “Give me a minute or two Ving, I just took some aspirin. After they kick in I should be back” the doctor said as he closed his eyes. “While your waiting, take a look at the radio communicator. See if you can figure it out” and with that the doctor laid back on the couch stretched out.
Ving walks over to the workbench and picks up the communicator. Hum, he thinks now where did I see one of these? As he opens the device and looks at the symbols at the keypad something in his mind snaps.
It’s dark and very, very cold. Ving’s body tightens up as he begins to sweat profusely. God no, not again! Please let me die, he thinks as he awakes inside an alien laboratory. I’ve got to get out of here before they come back he thinks. I can’t move Ving realized as he tried to get up. Ving’s heart rate speeds up as he tries to scream out. Oh hell. . . I can’t even speak! What the hell is going on he thinks. I have been here before but not like this.
Ok man think clear now, your ass is on the line. After a few moments, Ving takes a deep breath and starts to look around. Damn I can’t even move my eyes! I can make out some equipment and a door at the edge of my peripheral sight as well as a lab table with something under a silver sheet. Shortly there after the door begins to open. Like a bolt of pure terror striking him, Ving sees his captors. Holy Fucking Shit, Insectoid ETs! If Ving could scream and run away he would. Two of the ETs entered the lab; Ving can see their mandibles move as they speak to each other but he can’t hear them. One of the ETs heads over to the table while the second is moving towards Ving.
Get me the fuck out of here, Ving yells inside as the bug reaches over to him. The ET then picks Ving up and carries him over towards the table. What is this, this bug is carrying me over and I can’t even feel any movement the confused man wonders. The bug at the table reaches to the silver sheet, and then with a flick of his four arms it uncovered something that no man save those with the ability of astral projection have seen. They’re own body. Ving then begins to scream to himself, as the bugs start working on placing his brain back inside his rebuilt body.
“Ving, are you all right?” Doctor Bellows asks as he wakes him up from his trance. Ving screams aloud for the first time he can remember, then he collapses to the floor. Pupils dilated, muscles tense, and in a cold sweat. “Christ, what is going on”, doctor Bellows wonders as he heads for his medi-kit.
“Are you back from your vacation agent Randel?” The guard at the desk asks. “No, I just have to stop by my office. I hope I don’t run into the Director, he’s a pain in the butt about being here while taking time off” Jack answered. “I will keep my eyes open for him” the guard said. “Thanks.” After signing in Federal Marshal Jack Randel heads towards the lab.
“That was some of the best Thai I can remember having” Monique said, “I have to remember that place.” “Yea, they rock. And there only a half mile from your place, it’s hard to believe you have never tried them” Pondo said. Then he said, “Well lets get going over to the doc’s place.”
“Hey Mike, how you doing buddy?” Jack asked. Looking up from his notebook PC a bearded, heavy set man smiles when he sees his friend. Pausing his video game he says “Hey bud, you came all the way out here on your vacation to pay me the money you lost on the Tampete Raiders game. What a buddy.” “Uh not exactly. But if you will take a check I can pay you now, other wise I’m not due back for 3 more days” Jack answered.
“I do need a favor though,” Jack said as he reaches for the bags with the 30-06 casing and the dried blood sample. “Sure bud, what you got there” Mike asked? “I have a lead on the sniper.” “No way, you’re the man” Mike interrupted. “I don’t have him yet, but I do have these” Jack says as he hands the casing and sample over “Big time hush-hush too. Our eyes only bud.” “I’d be glad to help you out man, give me a day or two and then I’ll call you” Mike said. “Thanks again Mike, I have to scoot before the Director catches me.” “See you later Jack, and don’t forget my money” Mike said.
“Are you alright” doctor Bellows asked? “I am feeling better now sir. Something, I don’t know what maybe the sight of that alien device trigged a nightmarish dream” said Ving. “All of your vital signs have returned to normal. Feel free to get up” the doctor said while walking towards the lab table. “I’m a little queasy but I’ll get over it” Ving said while sitting up. Then he continued “Every once and a while I have these dreams doc, they seam so real. Like I am there. It’s always the same; these two ETs have me trapped in their lab, and their performing all kinds of experiments on me. This one was the strongest I have had in a long time.”
The doctor began “While you were out my friend, I notified a new colleague of mine. He should be able to help explain your dream.” While standing over to the lab table he looked down at it blankly. “He is in the next room and is very much wanting to see you” doctor Bellows said as he continued to look out over the empty lab table.