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'The Next-Gen Agent'
(c) Gemma White 2009

Agent 0069 felt he’d done rather well. He had just successfully avoided one generous stomach goring, and at least several ineffectual eye-gouges whilst rescuing the alluring Ms. Cecilia Hotchik from the underwater lair of evil hook-wielding shipping tycoon, Lars Chance.

Chance’s powerful corporation, M.U.N.T, intent on world domination as it was, had, albeit, been going through some turbulent times. Half his henchmen were on strike, pending their employer’s payment of medical re-capitation procedures, which, they claimed, were his financial responsibility. So now, M.U.N.T was not only stingy, but also, desperately understaffed. Even his ill-tempered sea bass were sick with stomach flu, and had consequently gone off all forms of flesh. Useless creatures. I really should have gone with the pirrahnas, Chance thought to himself. These days, he barely had anyone to efficiently dispose of those irritating international spies who popped up on some rescue mission or other now and again. That’s the last time I delegate a weedy electrician to do a merciless henchman’s job, he thought bitterly, what’s an evil mastermind supposed to do, dispose of his enemies himself?!

Profiting from M.U.N.T’s surprisingly under-resourced state, Agent 0069 and Ms. Hotchik had been strapped to a small inflatable boat, which had also been equipped with numerous encased explosive devices and then promptly left to float out to a violent demise. Everything on the raft, including 0069 and Hotchik, had been stuck down and bound with a liberal application of electricians’ tape by two conscientious, yet slightly apologetic, electricians.

Fortunately, Agent 0069 had a plan. He had prepared for this. Three years of study at the great 007’s Confidential College of Secret Agents, majoring in Miraculous Escapes, had sharpened his mind to the brink of self-harm. No situation was too pointy to disable the formulation of an improvised escape plan. He thought back to the very first lecture he had ever gone to, where 007 himself, the oracle of secret agent knowledge, spoke three ever-relevant truths: “When you’re in a near-death situation, you’ve got to act and think quickly. Secondly, learn to be good at cards and pouting – these skills combined will get you surprisingly far – and thirdly, be resourceful, often the answer to your present quandary will be right in front of your eyes.”

Agent 0069 looked around. All he could see was blue sky, ridiculous wheeling seagulls, waves to one side of him, and Ms. Hotchik’s seductive head to the left. But there, buried in her hair, was the key he had been seeking. He stretched his neck out like an ostrich, veering nearer to its prey. “Move your head forward, Cecilia,” he instructed. Quickly, and with ruthless determination, he pulled out the hairpin with his teeth, along with a chunk of luscious dark brown hair. “Ow! That hurt!” Cecilia exclaimed, “If it wasn’t for all this inconvenient electricians’ tape, I would hit you.”

“No time for that now,” 0069 said briskly through gritted, hairpin-wielding teeth.

Clamping the pin sideways, he rapped the side of his face against the boat. He did this repeatedly, ever conscious of the ticking clock face at his feet. He had made a hole. He attacked the hole with his teeth and it grew, letting out a stream of air into his face. The raft began to deflate. “Oh great, so now we’re going to half-drown, then explode,” Cecilia complained dismally. Agent 0069 wished Ms. Hotchik would stop talking and just concentrate on looking attractively wet and disheveled.

“Don’t panic, something will come up”, he said, sounding more positive than he felt. Just then, Cecilia shrieked.
“What now?” 0069 demanded.
“SHARK!” Agent 0069 whipped his head around to the direction she was looking in.
“That’s no shark…” replied Agent 0069, promptly shifting into another language, “brrrr crrr crrrrr glrikdfjdk bdfksjfdk.”
“I didn’t know you spoke Dolphin!” Cecilia burbled through lung-collapsing surges of water.
“There are many things you don’t know about me, Ms. Hotchik,” he said with a rather wet, roguish grin, “hold firm, this dolphin is going to help us.”

The dolphin began tearing the half-flaccid inflatable boat from their imprisoned limbs, holding the tape between its gums and tossing its head this way and that to cut it from the plastic. They were free. “Quick, grab a fin, by my calculations, we only have a matter of seconds before the bomb goes off!” The dolphin powered off at the pace of a small speedboat. Ten seconds later, a column of water and spray propelled itself into the air, as the full force of the bomb erupted to the surface. A few unlucky fish followed it. The seagulls will get a free feed tonight, but it won’t be human remains they will be feasting on, reflected Agent 0069 thankfully.

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Dr. Hozella and the Alien Find
(c) Gemma White 2009

“No clear communication has been tracked from the alien life-form so far,” explained Dr Hozella. “Although, we have been able to detect a cerebral energy field. Take a look at this.” A faint wavering green line flashed intermittently on a screen.

Special Agent Cromwell walked towards the strange mass before him, looking at it with a kind of disdainful curiosity. He didn’t like having to come down to the lab. Aliens creeped him out. This particular creature was a sickly dark murky grey-green on the stainless steel operating table. Instead of eyes, there are two vacant furrows. “This looks familiar,” he said.

“Yes. We have found one like it before, in a field in Texas. There were the remains of what appeared to be an inside-out cow found next to it. Unfortunately, the life-form expired before we had a chance to begin any kind of interrogation,” replied Hozella.

“You analyzed the original creature’s structure, right? Did you get any clues to its biological makeup?”

“Well, there is still much that I don’t fully understand about this species, however, I’d say the lack of eyes is significant. Both of these creatures also don’t seem to possess eardrums, or any similar structure in the cranium. This odd evolution seems to point towards a completely different method of communication.” As if on queue, just as Hozella finished speaking, the green lines flickered back on-screen, and a low but distinct humming filled the room. Slowly, the humming built, elongated, twisted, and appeared as a green feeling that prodded into the corners of the mind.

“Can you hear that? Something weird is happening.”

Dr. Hozella checked the screen, but there was no evidence of a frequency. “There is nothing on-screen, it’s almost as if the sound is inaudible,” he said, ponderously. The humming continued. “It’s not inaudible, it’s internal,” he finally added, quietly.

“You mean it’s inside my mind? Get this thing out of there, Hozella! God knows what information it could gain from me!”

Hozella looked around, ran to the other side of the lab and picked up a dart gun. He shot the creature square in the chest. The humming subsided.

“What the hell was that?” asked Cromwell, slightly shaken.

“I think it was trying to establish a connection.”“I could feel it burrowing about in my thoughts, Hozella, and heck, the idea of having some potentially malicious alien form doing whatever it wants to the brain of a federal agent, funnily enough, does not much appeal!”

“Relax. In order to communicate, it must learn the local dialect. Most likely it was looking for language codes. I doubt it could actually have interpreted your knowledge without knowing the language it is encoded in… unless, of course, the communication is some kind of pre-symbolic transferal of memory and feeling…”

“And if it was?”

“If it was, there is some chance that it may have learnt something.”

“I think we should exterminate it. If it has learnt something, who knows what it could do. Perhaps it could beam some top-secret memory of mine up to its alien friends. Then what? That’s a pretty big risk to the world’s security right there.”

Hozella remained impassive, “If we kill it, we severely limit what we can learn from it. Besides, we haven’t even established whether its intent is malicious yet.”

“Do we really want to hang around to find out? You know the code of conduct. I cannot condone that scale of risk. I am under orders to exterminate any of your alien subjects which pose a significant threat to the safety of the human race.”

Hozella had studied the Texas alien life-form for years. Imagine, being able to communicate face to face with a member of this superior species. Perhaps, sharing their wisdom would even lead to a sudden rapid evolution of humanity’s psychological capabilities. Could we too develop the ability to communicate predominantly through ESP?

A second tranquilizer dart flew through the air and lodged itself into Cromwell’s neck. He fell to the floor. Hozella sighed to himself. The stakes were high, and he needed time to think.

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The Message
(c) Gemma White 2009

Ebony looked down. The wind whipped her stark white hair around her small frame. Below her, streets and ant people flickered menacingly, like drunken reflections. Everything was bathed in red. She needed to return to base soon, or she would be unable to move, let alone escape with the chip.

She concentrated hard, and could hear the stomping of boots on the fire escape to the roof. One more level and they would be up here. There was nothing for it. She had to jump. She leapt, and hoped that even with her low energy levels, her inbuilt emergency landing mechanism would still be functional.

In a matter of 3 seconds, she had left the rooftop, and government agents had flooded the car park where she had previously been standing. Gravity took power over her body, until she was plummeting like a ragdoll, pavement surging up to greet her.

The pavement was red. The sky, a deep burnt amber. But she was lucky. She had just enough energy left. She landed, encased in a rubber cocoon. Inside, she was sheltered by a silken airbag that took the impact of the fall. She rolled off to a side alley, and made a call. “EB to base, EB to base, made emergency landing, corner Field Street and Temple Alley. Am out of energy. They saw me. Hurry.” She closed her eyes. The pulsating redness died down to a cool soft black.

“Ebony? Ebony! Can you hear me?”

“Mwerrr?” She woke with a massive headache. Running on empty was never a good idea, and only made for an unpleasant recovery. She opened one eye. It was okay. She was safe, at least, for the moment. She was in a room half-lit with candles. Deep shadows formed in mysterious corners. On some of the moist, lichen-ridden brick walls, maps had been hastily pinned up. At the end of the room was a bookcase filled with cobwebbed spines. There was a fireplace of old ashes, and to one side, a mattress and blanket. This minimalism was necessary. It allowed for an easy escape. All evidence must either be easily transported, or virtually invisible. Even in this forsaken part of the city, they always had to be careful. Their operation could not afford to be found.

“Can you walk?”

Ebony slowly moved to her feet, whilst leaning her arm on Camus’s shoulders. She was still weak. “Did you get the chip? I had it on me.”

“Yes I got it, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I am still decrypting it.”

They staggered towards the bookcase. Camus reached up and took a book off the top shelf, flipped to the last page and spoke an incomprehensible stream of words. The bookcase opened slowly of its own accord, without even dropping a book. They stumbled into a small room. The floor was stone, and in two seconds’ time, it started moving downwards. Eventually, it stopped.

Some more incomprehensible mumbling came from Camus’s lips, and a wall slid open. Inside was an immaculate laboratory, filled with machines of all shapes and sizes. Shiny metal gears, springs and pipes covered every surface – parts raided and stolen, cleaned up to former glory.

“I can’t believe we are this close to knowing The Message. The one script that keeps everyone under their power, doing their bidding, committing such inhumane acts,” said Ebony.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves. Until I have cracked the code, we are no closer to stopping them. And now that they have seen you, we will need to create an identity dodge. They will be scouring the streets until they find you, or it. But for the moment, sit down. You still need to rest.”

He helped her to a chair, and then continued walking towards a large board of panels, buttons and levers. “It seems to be working, certain sections of the information coil are unraveling. This is promising.”

“So, once we have The Message, what do we do with it?”

“We decode it, and we create an antidote,” he said.

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