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Deal 104: The curse of the cape

I’m no hero, I just spill words onto paper when the spirits move me. I’m not a villain either, mind you. I’m really just the scribe. At least, that is how I intend to be seen or more accurately overlooked.

On those rare occasions where there is no other alternative, no hero available, no other way to make a difference, I put down my mundane ways and don the cape. With trepidation. For I never quite know whether this time will be different from the others. If I will be able to make a difference. Or if this is the time when I become the villain.

Only the cape itself knows, and it isn’t telling. Worse, when I return the cape to its safe it is as if I am awakening from a dream. I often have very few clear memories from wearing the cape. And what memories I do have are often disjoint and seem unrelated to this time and place. After I’ve worn the cape I have to put up with constant reminders from those around me that I missed out on the details. “Where were you?” “Didn’t you see it?” “Wasn’t that amazing?”

Occasionally, I leave myself cryptic notes and from those and my skills as an observer I can piece together some details. I’ve worked out that the cape’s wearer generally has the same description every time, and seems to have some amazingly implausible abilities.

So when the local deer changed on us, and began to hunt the hunters I took note. But it was just a curiosity to be reported as local color and weird happenings. When deer began to wander into town, I became concerned. But the cape wasn’t yet calling me, so I took no action. Then the deer began a direct assault on the government. In one day, they cornered and captured the President, Governor, and Mayor. I began to feel the itch, but didn’t feel the call. Then took Lois, and that is the last thing I remember.

I awakened today back in my apartment, with the cape in my hand. There was a note in my hand. And the TV was tuned to a news feed, showing blurred shots of a caped figure returning the President, Governor, Mayor and Lois over and over again.

I’m no hero, but sometimes I wear a cape. I just wish that Lois could see past the cape and notice me without it.

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Deal 103: Agent Frog

Security, Frog, Shark Attack.

“Hello, the name’s Frog. Legs Frog.”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Frog. Your room is ready for you. The usual suite.”

I do like it when the desk staff know their upcoming reservations, and don’t waste time on obvious jokes. I spend too much time in hotels as it is, and so little at home and office. This stay was certainly looking like it was off on the right foot. The suite was, as usual, impeccable. Views of the bay, the beach, the marina, and just visible past the casino, my destination.

“That island just visible out there. What is it called?”

“I have no idea sir, what island?”

“Just over there.”

“—”

The bell boy, in hindsight, may not have been the best source of reliable intelligence. But his reaction told me one part of the story. That island hadn’t been there long. His turning white as a sheet and bolting from the room before I could tip him when he saw it did not seem to be due to familiarity.

I made my way down to the quay. The harbor master surely must know something useful.

“No sir, I have no idea. There is no island off shore. Just open ocean.”

Since he pointedly kept his back to the beach the whole time we spoke, and refused to notice all my queues to look past the breakers, I can only conclude that my mission was not going to end before I was in the water to see for myself. I rented the necessary bits and pieces to fit my cover of wanting to do a bit of deep-sea fishing for facts, or tuna if facts are in short supply.

The chart of the local waters provided with my rental had a bleached spot on it, suspiciously where the island should appear. At this point, I was beginning to feel some pity for the locals and their pathetic attempts to deny the existence of the island.

I came back and claimed my rental trawler that evening, and made a nearly uneventful crossing. About half a mile offshore, I put some lines in the water in case anyone was paying attention, and pulled a dry suit on over my clothes. I slipped quietly in to the water and made for shore.

That was when I noticed the sharks. Sharks with lasers. When the mission comes up either sharks or lasers, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. I don’t usually see both sharks and lasers on the same mission. There was clearly a madman at work.

I evaded the sharks by simply refusing to act like prey. Although toothy and intimidating, sharks actually aren’t that big a deal. Just don’t swim like a seal, and ignore them. Oh, and don’t bleed, or carry raw meat. Sharks are generally no problem. Lasers, on the other hand, are a problem. Except, it turns out, when surgically implanted in sharks by a madman. Then the shark spends more time wondering what the pretty lights are than attempting to eat the swimmer. Of course, being distracted causes the sharks to aim somewhat randomly.

Lucky for me, lasers and sea water (actually all electronics and sea water) don’t really mix well at all. The lasers that didn’t short out, didn’t manage to reach very far. From observing friendly fire injuries, it looked like the laser was only dangerous to its target for a few inches. Clearly that was a gross miscalculation by the madman.

It did turn out that about half the sharks carried cameras along with the lasers. And most of the ones with cameras were carrying infrared lasers, which actually acted like a flood light for the camera, improving the video feeds the sharks were sending home.

I evaded the sharks, only to find the beach lined with security guards.

They were very polite about the whole thing, but also very insistent that I come along. And that I command my recording implant to—

Author’s note: The record from Agent Frog ends here. The home office is not clear on what happened to him next.

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Deal 102: Count the legs

The widget stands proudly in the center of the gallery, a testament to the blend of technology and art that the museum was rapidly becoming famous for. That it would ever stand here did not seem likely only a short time before.

The artist was slowly falling behind. At first, he was quick to report in on his status, but as time went by, he missed each deadline by larger and larger margins.

The budget was finite, and accounting was raising additional concern with each missed deadline.

“Art is finished when it is finished” is all the artist would say when asked for a new prediction.

Accounting was not happy, and management was hearing their complaints.

The artist must also have understood that they were getting shrill, because the finished sculpture seemed specifically designed to bug the accountants.

It turned up on the receiving doc 1 year, 1 day, and 1 hour after the original deadline. No one saw it arrive. When the crate was opened, they found the sculpture and a note that asked that accounting “simply count the bars.”

The widget stands proudly in the center of the gallery, but accounting refuses to answer the question.

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Deal 101: Rain

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Rain.

Unfortunately, her mother Queen Virga had died in childbirth. Leaving her father King Jacob to raise her alone with only the palace staff to help. In due course, King Jacob took a new wife to be his queen and Rain’s stepmother. As time passed, King Jacob never recovered from the loss of his first love, and eventually died leaving control of the kingdom to Queen Verdant as Regent for Princess Rain and her future husband.

Now, Queen Verdant was jealous of everything, and especially jealous of anything related to the previous queen. After the death of King Jacob her jealousy of the little Princess Rain could only grow, as she was the last remaining link to the old Queen and unlike the closet full of gowns and all the portraits, she could not simply throw Rain out without loosing control of the kingdom.

As princesses do, Rain grew up to be a young woman despite the discouragement of her stepmother. As she grew, her beauty grew with her, and all in the land named her as most beautiful, and all the young men from near and far dreamed of the opportunity to spend a few minutes chatting awkwardly with her in hopes of winning her heart and hand (and kingdom, of course).

Queen Verdant resolved to do something about her rival. Disguised as an old woman (to be fair, the disguise did not take as much effort as Verdant believed it had), she accosted Rain and offered her various temptations. Rain played along for a time, having recognized her stepmother, to see where it would lead. But the poisoned apple was the last straw.

“Queen Verdant—”

“No! I’m a peasant!”

“You are no peasant. Your hands aren’t calloused enough, and your nails are impeccably clean, so you don’t work with your hands. Your bearing tells me you are far more accustomed to giving orders than taking them, so you likely don’t work at all. And, although you might imagine that an apple and these other baubles are tempting to me, you apparently completely ignorant of the fashions that are important to me and my circle.”

“If I am the Queen, then you agree that you should do as I say?”

“No, not at all. You chose to accost me in the guise of a peasant, while I am here openly in my own person. I cannot be expected to take orders from an apparent peasant.”

“But—”

“But I do have a way out of our dilemma, which may solve more than just the immediate problem. Shall we sit?”

They sat down in front of an Inn. After a minute or two, a server came out and brought them each some ale. (They failed to notice his stature, but all seven of the servers were unusually short and tended to break out in song at the least provocation.)

“Verdant—”

“Queen Verdant”

“Verdant, you aren’t here as queen, remember?”

The stepmother nodded.

“We haven’t spoken since my father’s funeral, and before that we barely spoke at all. I know you don’t care for me, but I have a proposition. For the good of our country, I must marry someone who brings new skills and blood to our people. You should remarry as well. In short, we are two young women who could pass as sisters, both single, and both looking for a match. We should not be enemies. In fact, we should work together.”

At that, the queen was initially taken aback. But as she considered, she realized Rain was actually right.

“I can only agree. I’m sorry i never gave you a chance.”

With that, the process of healing the wounds between them began. In a few years, Rain met her prince charming the same day as Verdant met a well established merchant, and the eventual double wedding was the talk of several kingdoms.

It would be traditional at this point to claim that all lived happily ever after, but in all honesty, I have no idea.