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CCC #121 - Voting Thread

The Phantom
The Phantom

Hey, peeps! Batkevin' didn't ask me to do this voting thread, but I hijacked it anyway! It's time once again to vote on the CCC, and this time the challenge was a villain for The Phantom! Four entries this time- THAT'S RIGHT! FOUR! Not just Batkevin', Mrmonster, and myself, but also the return of long-time CV'er Kfhrfdu_89_76K (pronounced just like it's spelled)! FOUR entries! So, let's get to it!

The voting rules:

  • READ the stories, PICK your favorite one, and CAST your VOTE!
  • If you wrote, you should vote! (It's just sporting)
  • No voting for yourself. (Also sporting)
  • The voting deadline is Sunday, July 3, 2022 at 11:59pm New York Time (click the link if you're unsure). Yesssss, NY time, because I have hijacked this voting thread! AND THE NEXT DAY- WE CELEBRATE THE WINNER WITH FIREWORKS! ...Well, okay, the next day is Independence Day- that's the reason for the fireworks. BUT WE WILL PRETEND IT IS FOR THE WINNER! Yes, my friends! We will do this!
  • Remember: All are welcome to vote - writer or reader, and the winner gets to pick the next contest.

The stories:

Mrmonster - The Phantom vs The Italian Nightmare

The Phantom vs The Italian Nightmare

By mrmonster

“STAI ZITTO!” Colonel Rossi, nicknamed The Italian Nightmare for his inhumane battle tactics, shouted as the villagers were rounded up by an elite squad of seven soldiers.

This specific area of Bangalla was one of the first places the Italian military stormed into during the invasion. Even though Bangalla was neutral in World War II, the Kingdom of Italy still decided to mow through it in order to gain a better position for when they planned to attack Ethiopia.

And leader of this inexcusable attack, none other than Colonel Rossi, one of the most feared military commanders in all of Europe.

“Qualcuno qui parla italiano?” He asked, only to get nothing but confused stares.

He tried again, in English this time. “Does anyone speak English?”

One of the villagers raised his hand. “You, tell the villagers that their corn crop is now property of the Kingdom of Italy.”

The villager was visibly surprised. “But sir, we depend on this crop to…”

Colonel Rossi fired just slightly to his side, missing him by just a foot or two. “Disobey me again, and the next one won’t miss. Now, tell these people that all the corn in their fields is now property of the Kingdom of Italy. If there’s any leftovers, they can have that.”

This time, the poor villager translated. The people, all ninety or so, were outraged.

“Sir, please. This crop is the primary food source not just for our village, but the entire valley. Hundreds, possibly thousands, could die.” He said.

“How sad. Except I don’t care.” Colonel Rossi said. “If anything, you should be grateful. The entirety of Bangalla is soon to become a colony of the great Kingdom of Italy. You should be celebrating.”

He could tell the local man was not impressed. “You know, I was hoping there’d be at least one person here I could make an example out of. I guess you’ll suffice.”

Colonel Rossi raised his Beretta pistol and pointed it right at his head. But seconds before he was about to fire, I leapt into action. First, I fired at three soldiers standing together in a group. That immediately killed all of them.

The remaining four took cover before the villagers' homes.

Colonel Rossi took cover as well, and shouted “COWARD, SHOW YOURSELF”!

For a few seconds, everything was dead silent. And then, just when they were starting to think that I had retreated, I emerged from the tall grass of the savanna, grabbed one of the soldiers, and sliced his neck open with my knife.

“THAT’S HIM, OVER THERE! Colonel Rossi shouted as he and his men began firing in my direction. But I immediately ducked back into the grass, and once I did, I had essentially vanished.

“RETREAT!” Colonel Rossi shouted, and his remaining men got back into the armored car they arrived in.

“THIS IS NOT OVER!” Colonel Rossi shouted. “I’M COMING BACK WITH MORE MEN, AND WHEN I DO, WE WILL BURN THIS WHOLE VILLAGE TO THE GROUND IF WE HAVE TO!”

______________________________________________________

I had spent years protecting Bangalla after taking the mantle of The Phantom from my father, but still, nothing I’d done before had prepared me to single handedly defend the country from World War II.

I knew I couldn't continue defending Bangalla by playing defensive; I knew if I didn't want the country to starve to death, I needed to take the fight to the invaders.

Their base of operations was a former palace located near the Port of Bangalla. It was pretty well protected, but I had scoped out the place for weeks; I knew how to get in and turn the tide.

I waited for nightfall, for the exact moment when I knew the laundry van left the palace with all of the day's dirty laundry. It was one of the few times of the day where the gate was open.

There was a guard standing watch over the gate, stationed to protect against exactly what I was doing. However, I snuck up behind him, and knocked him out with a single punch to the back of the head. Then, I proceeded to the Palace grounds.

I knew exactly where to go from there, I knew about the sidedoor that soldiers would frequently use to shoot dice without fear of getting caught by their officers. I could find it just by following the sound of infantrymen shouting profanity.

I used a pair of silenced M1911 handguns to shoot them all quickly. They didn’t even have time to shout before they were all dead. From there, I simply opened the door and entered the palace.

First thing I heard was a group of officers shouting from a room down the hall. My Italian is not good, I only speak it at an intermediate level, but I heard the words “Phantom,” “myth,” and “no worries,” so I got the gist of what they must have been talking about.

I quietly approached them, and took just one quick look at them. They were all officers, I could tell so just by their uniforms. That made them an immediate priority.

Colonel Rossi then found me, and when he did, he grabbed me by the back of my head and threw me against a wall. I dropped one of my guns in the altercation, and he grabbed the other right out of the holster.

He aimed it square at my forehead; I thought for sure I was a goner. But then, he simply unloaded the magazine and tossed it aside.

“It’s been a while since I had the chance to kill a man with a knife.” He said as he drew a blade. “And who better than The Phantom.”

He came at me with a powerful thrust. I evaded and parried it, and tried to go in for a punch. He sidestepped, and then slashed with the knife. It didn’t go deep enough to kill, but it definitely hurt as it rode across my chest.

“When I report back that I’ve killed the legendary Phantom, Mussolini will make me a general.” He said as he thrusted his blade again.

This time, I blocked it, grabbed his wrist, and pulled him in for a front kick that took his leg right out from under him.

Then, I grabbed the blade, held it up to his throat, and said "Only thing Mussolini might give you is a military funeral." as I pierced his caratoid artery, ending both his brief reign of terror in Bangalla.

Batkevin74 - Untitled (Harrison Moxley)

Harrison Moxley looked through the scope of his Barrett M82 sniper rifle at the mouth of the large skull shaped cave in the jungles of Bangalla. The long extinct volcano had been carved into the visage of a giant skull. Inside was also his quarry; The Phantom.

The Phantom or Ghost Who Walks was a legend. A purple clad vigilante who protected the jungle and the lands of Bangalla from pirates, thugs, evil doers and scum. He was supposedly immortal. Harrison was going to end that myth.

Some forty years early, The Phantom had smashed his father in the jaw leaving a permanent tattoo on his chin of a skull that couldn’t be removed. That mark ruined Lee Moxley’s life and from that Harrison’s life.

So the only child of Lee Moxley spent a lifetime researching the legend of The Phantom and vowed that one day he’d avenge his father, and to some degree himself.

The jungle was as unnaturally thick as it was lusciously green. Harrison swatted away the swarm of insects as he checked the range again. The sun was hanging low in the sky.

“Won’t be long now, you bastard.”

“Ghost Who Walks,” Guran approached the Phantom who was sitting quietly on a large throne inside the Skull Cave, pondering things. “There is a man on the ridge, a sniper.”

The Phantom nodded. “Thank you old friend. I shall go meet our guest.”

Harrison looked through the scope and saw a flash of purple and white erupt from the cave mouth. Harrison smiled and tracked the figure before squeezing the trigger. The gunshot roared through the jungle causing birds to take flight. Harrison watched as the white horse kept running and the purple figure lay motionless on the ground.

“Ghost who died!” Harrison collected his gear and headed down to confirm his kill.

Harrison fired another shot into the prone corpse as he stepped onto the track. Harrison paused, something wasn’t right. Straw was spread about instead of blood.

“You never find the Phantom,” Harrison recalled his old jungle sayings as whirled around to see the Phantom standing behind him, arms folded. “He finds you.”

“Put the gun down.”

Harrison tossed the gun onto the ground and drew two machetes from his back. “I am going to spread you from here to Rodia! You ruined my life.”

“If you wish to talk...”

Harrison charged forward swinging the machetes. The Phantom dove past the razor sharp blades, rolled to a crouch and fired his guns hitting the hilts of the machetes causing Harrison to drop them.

“Bastard!” Harrison charged forward despite the armed man pointing guns at him. The Phantom moved, it seemed that lightning would stand still by comparison, and he thumped Harrison in the stomach.

“I suggest you stop.”

Harrison snarled and flailed his arms. The Phantom sighed and smashed his right fist into into Harrison’s jaw knocking the would be assassin out, marking his chin just like his father before him.

“I only warn once,” The Phantom told the unconscious man as dozens of Bandar pygmies emerged from the jungle. “Please take this man to the Jungle Patrol.”

Notes: This was written in my phone, I’m having one computer issues with Word :(

Harrison Moxley is the original character named after Lee Falk’s middle name.

I tried to put in some of those Old Jungle Sayigs. like in the strips.

Kfhrfdu_89_76k - The Phantom vs. A Weird Girl Holding Her Umbrella Which Might Whistle

THE PHANTOM VS. A WEIRD GIRL HOLDING HER UMBRELLA WHICH MIGHT WHISTLE

chapter 1

The Phantom, that courageous concept, The Ghost Who Walks, trudges trough the waistdeep of trouble (it) finds (it)self in!!!

The Phantom speaks: "I'm the Phantom...but which one of them...?"

There's a weird girl holding an umbrella. She dresses in timeless clothing, and she dances a timeless dance, and her umbrella spins by itself in her hand. She isn't timeless herself. She's 7. She sings an artificially generated My Chemical Romance-style cover of a nursery rhyme that does sound familiar, but nobody quite recognizes. She has a face but it's blurry.

The Phantom speaks: "Please, girl, tell me who I am."

The girl doesn't answer. Just dances and sings. And lightly smiles??? Maybe because she likes her song.

The Phantom speaks: "At least tell me if I'm a man or a woman."

Girl doesn't say anything, but Phantom hears words hanging in the air nonetheless, that definitely come from another person.

But only you can know that. Do you feel like man or a woman or someone else?

The Phantom speaks: "I don't know. That's not what I meant. I meant what do I look like."

The girl pauses her dance (I guess...?) and takes out a magnifying glass, and grouches on to her knees in the miniature Berlin Wall, and looks at The Phantom intently, for several minutes and/or seconds.

Sorry, I don't know how to answer you.

The Phantom speaks: "Why did I start feeling this way...?"

I don't know. Sorry.

Chapter 2

The Phantom is in this state of perplexedness for...5 years? Trying to live their life. Sleeping, eating, not really knowing how to fight crime. The girl with the umbrella is their roommate for all this time.

5 years? Really, for 5 years? No, no it can't have been that long right?

After the 5 (?) years (?) The Phantom, ONCE AGAIN, tries their damnedest to figure out why they feel this way.

Why don't I know who I am !?!? exclaims The Phantom with agonizing frustration!!!

The Phantom tells themself to calm down for f*cks sake! Calm down, calm down, concentrate.

"Concentrate. Concentrate. Who am I? Who am I??"

But even though The Phantom wishes, they can't figure out who they are.

And they go back to living in unknowingness.

The Phantom sleeps, eats. Doesn't fight crime. The girl is their roommate.

Chapter 3

After an undeterminable length of time passes, The Phantom, ONCE AGAIN, tries their damnedest to figure out why they feel this way.

Why don't I know who I am !?!? exclaims The Phantom with agonizing frustration!!!

The Phantom tells themself to calm down for f*cks sake! Calm down, calm down, concentrate.

"Concentrate. Concentrate. Who am I? Who am I??"

But even though The Phantom wishes, they can't figure out who they are.

And they go back to living in unknowingness.

The Phantom sleeps, eats. Doesn't fight crime. The girl is their roommate.

Chapter 4

After an undeterminable length of time passes, The Phantom, ONCE AGAIN, tries their damnedest to figure out why they feel this way.

Why don't I know who I am !?!? exclaims The Phantom with agonizing frustration!!!

The Phantom tells themself to calm down for f*cks sake! Calm down, calm down, concentrate.

"Concentrate. Concentrate. Who am I? Who am I??"

But even though The Phantom wishes, they can't figure out who they are.

And they go back to living in unknowingness.

The Phantom sleeps, eats. Doesn't fight crime. The girl is their roommate.

Chapter 73

It has been 10 (???) years (???????) The Phantom, ONCE AGAIN, tries their damnedest to figure out why they feel this way.

Why don't I know who I am !?!? exclaims The Phantom with agonizing frustration!!!

The Phantom tells themself to calm down for f*cks sake! Calm down, calm down, concentrate.

The Phantom is silent.

The Phantom realizes something. That's the wrong question to ask. The Phantom realizes the question they should ask.

The Phantom speaks, in a hushed tone: "When did I start feeling this way?"

The Phantom looks at the girl with the umbrella. The girl is making burnt crepés.

The Phantom speaks: "Ever since I met you, I've not known who I am. I'm sure it's you. I am asking you to leave. Right now. So I can have my life back."

The girl pauses. The crepés burn on the frying pan. She turns off the stove, and takes the pan off from the stove. She disappears in a puff of smoke. Or fades away like the setting sun.

And with her dissappearance, recollection occurs to The Phantom. The smog of unrelenting insecurity clears up. And the more it clears up the better The Phantom feels.

The Phantom stands sturdy.

Then The Phantom starts bawling and crashes to the floor. Crying voluptuous tears of relief.

The Phantom wants to shout: "I AM ME!!! AFTER ALL THIS TIME (how long has it been?) I AM ME AGAIN!!! I WAS ALWAYS ME!!! I JUST DIDN'T KNOW THAT!!!"

The Phantom can't shout right now. The crying is too strong.

Chapter 74

The Phantom, after having stopped crying, scrapes the crepés off the pan.

A cockatoo flies in to the Skull Cave and drops a sealed envelope, which The Phantom catches thanks to his supreme reflexes and the cockatoo flies back in to the trees.

The Phantom opens the envelope sealed with pink glittery candlewax, and takes out the letter in it. The letter has been written with an ordinary pen. The Phantom reads the letter.

I will give you, the reader, the chance to read it too. Here is the text of the letter:

I'm sorry Phantom. I didn't realize I was hurting you.

I have that effect on people. They forget who they are, what they want, where they've come from, what has happened to them. At least for the most part, they forget.

I'm very happy that you noticed that my company was causing you ill, because gods know I would've never noticed myself.

I promise you I will work on this. That I will learn to get better at noticing when my presence is making people forget who they are.

To fix my error, I have given you back most of the time you lost while you were in my company. The things that happened and the things you did during that time still happened, but in about a span of a day or two something. That's the best I could do, I apologize.

I wish you the best in your remaining days.

Yours,

That weird girl with the sometimes-whistling-umbrella

The Phantom tucks the letter back in to the envelope, and takes it to his trophy room, and puts it inside his Filing Cabinet of Memories. He exits the trophy room

He finishes cleaning the pan. He throws the crepés in the garbage. He walks to his skull-throne, and sits on it, to contemplate the mysteries of human identities.

End

Cbishop - The Phantom vs. Goldenrod

The Phantom vs. Goldenrod

The Phantom had not left the Skull Cave more than a few minutes before when a shot whizzed past his head and sent splinters and bark flying off of a nearby tree. He immediately dove from the back of his horse, and rolled to a standing position behind another tree. "Hero! Run!" he called, and the horse did so.

Drawing his pistols, he waited silently. It was only a minute until he heard, "Phantom! Are you dead, man?"

A couple of shots rang out, and bullets chopped into the tree he was standing behind. As the mystery man clearly knew his position, he saw no reason to remain quiet. "Who are you?" he called out before ducking low, and shooting a couple of times in the direction the shots came from.

"Name's Goldenrod!" the man called back, shooting once.

The shot landed in the jungle floor near The Phantom's foot. He raised an eyebrow, and drew his foot in closer behind the tree. "I've heard of you," he called out, firing back, still unsure of Goldenrod's position. When the gunshot faded, he added, "What does an assassin want in Bangalla?"

Goldenrod laughed. "Ha! Today, I'm no mere assassin." Another shot buried itself in the tree, and when the noise died, he shouted, "Today, I'm a Ghost hunter!"

"Ghost hunter?" The Phantom called back, sounding amused. "If you know who I am, surely you've heard that I'm immortal? I am the Ghost Who Walks!"

"And I'm the assassin who balks!" growled Goldenrod, sounding much closer than before, and the two shots that rang out sounding closer too.

Phantom dropped low, spinning around the other side of the tree, and firing three shots. One of them clipped Goldenrod in the leg. The assassin, who Phantom saw had wild red hair, mutton chops, and a thick red mustache, had fired back at the same time, and the shot grazed Phantom's left shoulder, knocking him backwards, and causing him to drop his gun from that hand. He scrambled behind another tree as Goldenrod did the same, holding his leg as he went.

Leaning heavily with his back against the tree, Goldenrod called out, "How do bullets affect you, 'Phantom?' What does a ghost need with M1911 .45's?" He cocked his head forward, straining to hear anything after all the shots so far.

"They're something the living can understand," came a whisper from his left.

Goldenrod jerked his head back against the tree in surprise, a shot whizzing by his head, and another burying itself in his left shoulder. A gold colored Glock nine millimeter fell from that hand. He dropped low, and shot twice from an identical gun in his other hand. The Phantom was already on the move, but he was fairly sure he hit the ghost in his stomach.

He forced himself to his feet, and moved around the other side of the tree, only to find himself looking down the barrel of three rifles. He chuckled ruefully, dropping the other gun, and raising his hand. "I hope you don't mind if I don't raise the other one," he said. "I can't move it. You guys must be part of the world famous Jungle Patrol?"

Another member of the Patrol gathered up the assassin's guns as they led him away. "Hey," said Goldenrod, sounding weaker than before, "hold onto those. I'll be wanting them... back." He then fell out on the jungle floor, managing to land on his right side, and roll to his back. The men escorting him immediately trained their guns on him.

Raising his right hand slightly, he said, "Relax, men. I'm... I'm not going... anywhere. How... how did you guys find me an..." he trailed off as he saw a white horse with a saddle trot by without a rider. He recognized it as the horse The Phantom was riding, and he chuckled weakly. As the Jungle Patrolmen helped him up, he muttered, "Like fuggin' Lassie, that one."

Meanwhile, The Phantom had picked up his other gun, and holstered both. Hero trotted up to him, and he clambered into the saddle with some difficulty, coughing up some blood once he was mounted, and grabbing his stomach due to the pain. Drawing his hand back, he saw the blood on it, and said to one of the Jungle Patrol, "Find my son."

The man nodded, and ran off to follow The Phantom's order.

Patting his horse, he said, "Back to the Skull Cave, Hero."

***

A couple of months later:

The Phantom stood before the grave of his father, contemplating silently as he looked at the M1911's that were in his hands. Finally, he holstered them, knelt on one knee, and swore the Oath of the Skull. "I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms, and my sons and their sons, shall follow me." Still kneeling, he looked again at the grave, and said, "And father, I will find your killer, and bring him to justice. Goldenrod recovered enough from his gunshot wounds to make his escape, but he will not remain escaped for long. I swear it."

*******

NOTES: Goldenrod is the OC villain. Story and original characters owned by Chris Bishop, copyright 2022. The Phantom, Hero, Jungle Patrol, Skull Cave, Oath of the Skull, and his M1911's belong to King Features Syndicate.

Remember: Votes due by Sunday, July 3, 2022 at 11:59pm New York Time (click the link if you're unsure).

See you in July, peeps! Until then, be safe, I'm glad you're here, and if you're planning to commit evil in the jungle, beware The Ghost Who Walks!

P.S. Don't hold fireworks in your fingers, in your teeth, or allow yourself to be shot with Roman Candles- that's just stupid. Be safe, and enjoy the 4th! :^D

33 Comments

CCC Entries by cbishop, Part 7

Intro:
I decided that I wanted all of my Character Creation Contest (CCC) entries in one place. These are the entries as they were posted to the original contest threads, no embellishments, no edits. Many of these entries have appeared individually on the Fan-Fic forum, retitled and edited for better reading (the others will be edited and appear there eventually). I'll update this as each new contest ends. I hope you enjoy them, and as always, thanks for reading. -cb
Last Issue:#103-119: .Part 6.

All of my CCC entries, from CCC #120 to CCC #?:

CCCThemeWordcountVotesRankingRating
120Jennifer Bryan, CIA4,67313rdT

Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon’s Teeth

No Caption Provided

M walked in briskly, all upright and proper, wearing a mint green suit. You would think the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service would want to stand out less, but I've always assumed it was like the column of fire by night leading the Israelites- you can see her coming, she knows you can see her coming, and she doesn't care, because she's that good. Also, it never stops being impressive.

With her is Q, followed by one of his technical assistants wheeling in a cart with whatever gear he's cooked up this time. If M is the fire by night, Q is the cloud by day- obscuring the view of what's right in front of you, not as flashy as the column of fire, but no less fearsome. The same angel in two different guises.

He tried, but I shut him down.
He tried, but I shut him down.

With them is a young woman I don't know, but she's a pretty bird. I flash a smile and a nod as they walk up to the table I'm leaning against, and as the technical assistant walks away, M says, "Down, boy. Double-O-Seven already landed this fish."

Dammit, Bond!

"He tried," the woman says, "but I shut him down." Her accent is American which surprises me.

Her hands clasped in front of her, M turns slightly towards the woman, and corrects her, "You pretended to shut him down, but you cast your room number from your phone to his when you got close enough."

Which means she already had his number, I think, assessing her. They've tumbled before. Bond, you old dog.

The young woman meets M's gaze only briefly, and then looking down at the table behind me, she clears her throat slightly, and says, "I... didn't think you saw that, ma'am."

I smile again, and say, "M sees everything." I reach out my hand to shake hers, and introduce msyelf. "Jason December- Double-O-Fifty."

Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box.
Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box.

Shaking my hand firmly, she says, "Jennifer Bryan."

"Ms. Bryan is with the C.I.A.," M informs me. "They've asked our help. You'll be accompanying her to Macau."

"What's in Macau?" I ask.

"Not a what," says Jennifer. "A who- Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box."

I wince. "You yanks aren't really still using codenames, are you? Leaving calling cards, too?"

"She's not C.I.A.," says M. "Ms. Johansson is with Raido Computer Consulting- a front for an elite American military unit. The R.C.C. themselves are the elite of the elite, known as Valkyries."

"Choosers of the slain?" I ask.

"Valhallan Escort Service, if you ask me," says Bryan.

"I didn't," M says sternly. "The Valkyrie name is not unearned, and if they are the elite of the elite, Johansson is the elite of the Valkyries. She designed their new power armor, and is about as near to a counterpart for myself and Q as the Americans are likely to get."

"I didn't think that was possible," I say amiably.

"She said 'near,' Mister December," Q says with a smile. He purses his lips for a second, then arches his eyebrow. "But it's a relative term, I'd say."

I smile and nod back, then ask, "So, what's a Valkyrie doing in Macau, M?"

"Getting caught," she says sharply, "and getting in our way." Directing our attention to a monitor behind me, M brings up some pictures. "This is the Macau Dragon Casino- Ms. Johansson's last known location."

"It looks like Wat Samphran," I say, looking to M.

It looks like Wat Samphran.
It looks like Wat Samphran.

She raises an eyebrow in my direction, and answers, "It's modelled after the Dragon Temple, but is twenty-two stories high, rather than sixteen, and ten times the circumference. The additional six floors are reserved for Lóng Mán- the Dragon Eel- the owner of the Macau Dragon. Although Mán himself lives in the penthouse just below the dragon's head."

I shake my head. "Wat Samphran was built with Buddhist symbolism in mind. Adding floors just takes away from that."

"The Dragon Eel's about as Buddhist as Al Qaeda is Muslim," Jennifer almost snaps.

"Did you lose someone in Nine Eleven?" I ask with a slight pout.

Her eye twitches momentarily as she checks her anger. "No. But three thousand American families did. That's--"

"--Not relevant at the moment," M interrupts. "Jason has had psych profile training, and that was an ill-advised attempt," she says, glaring at me, "to test it out on you."

Bryan takes a deep, angry breath, and glares for a moment. "For what purpose?"

"To see how invested you are in someone else's pain, and how in control of your anger you are," I say simply. "Ms. Johansson is in danger, and we're being sent in to rescue her. I want to know if I can count on you to keep your head in the field."

She takes about two seconds to absorb that, and then says, "You could have just asked."

I nod, a bit embarrassed at M's chiding, and say, "As M said, it was ill-advised. I apologize."

She looks at me without a change in her expression, and says, "You can count on me." Turning back to the monitor, she adds, "James has."

Damn! I think to myself. I say nothing, just raising an eyebrow as I glance at M, then turn back to the monitor myself.

M continues, "Lóng Mán is the head of the Dragon's Teeth Triad, although we have suspected that he and the Triad are just the front for a larger organization called Ouroboros."

A snake biting its tail?
A snake biting its tail?

"A snake biting its tail?" I ask.

"Jason, quit interrupting," says M, glowering at me. "Law enforcement agencies and governments all over the globe have expressed interest in Ouroboros. Even the highest levels of the U.S. Secret Service. An international Ouroboros Task Force, or O.T.F., has managed to place operatives throughout the organization, and the list of those operatives is closely guarded. Or, at least it was until last week.

"Last week, an agent of the Dragon's Teeth Triad named Weaver stole that list from Langley, Virginia, and managed to get it back to Macau. The Dragon Eel put the list to use immediately, and most of the O.T.F. operatives they had inside were killed before they could be pulled out."

"If the list has already been used, then what was Ms. Johansson after?" I ask.

Jennifer answers, "Weaver took the list to Lóng Mán. The agents were planted in Ouroboros. Their deaths prove that Dragon's Teeth fronts Ouroboros. Black Box was the Raido agent assigned to O.T.F. She was sent in to hack the Dragon Eel's computers, and hopefully get us the information on Ouroboros that we've been looking for."

I look at Agent Bryan, and ask, "'Us? We've?'"

She eyes me for a second, then nods. "I'm currently the C.I.A.'s agent in the O.T.F."

"So, what's Johansson's status?" I ask.

"We've lost contact with her, but believe she's still alive," says Bryan. Then, a bit uncomfortably, she adds, "The Triad hasn't been shy about leaving our agents where we could find them."

"Sending their governments a message," I say quietly.

...so we can deliver a message...
...so we can deliver a message...

"Yes," says M. "And we want Lóng Mán's information so we can deliver a message of our own."

"'Our own?'" I ask. "We have agents in the O.T.F. too then? And didn't know for sure about the Triad's connection to Ouroboros?"

M looks sideways at Jennifer, then to me. "We didn't know. We didn't have agents in the O.T.F. either, but now we do. You." Her look dared me to challenge her.

Instead, I nod, then raise my eyebrows as I realize something. "You said Black Box was getting in our way. We were already in Macau?"

"We were already in the Macau Dragon Casino," M corrects. "Lóng Mán is the head of the Dragon's Teeth Triad, and the Triad is trying to establish a foothold in Great Britain. He has brought in something of great significance to him, and he was very secretive about it. One of our agents alerted us to it. He didn't know what it was, and he didn't have a chance to find out. He was killed by Weaver when he tried to prevent Ms. Johansson from being taken."

I look at M curiously. "How do we know it was Weaver?"

She scowls. "They sent us a video." She nods back to the monitor, then uses a laser pointer to select the video file and play it.

Our agent sat in a chair facing the camera, held upright only by his restraints. His head lolled to one side, and then back as he tried to look at the camera. Standing just behind him was a man clad in amber ballistic armor decorated with black spider webs. With no speech, and no ceremony, Weaver put an MP7 machine pistol to the back of our agent's head, and splattered blood and gore all over the camera. The video ended.

M speaks first. "I understand you went through academy with Agent Twixenberry."

"Yes," I say as I turn back to M. "Ryder was a good man; accomplished. He also had a husband; Hugh, I think. His death deserves a response."

"That's why I want Ms. Johansson and whatever is so important to Lóng Mán," says M.

I nod. "Fine. We're going in after both."

"The priority is Johansson, and the Dragon Eel's information if she has it," says M. "Secondary is Mán's mystery interest. Bring it in if you can. Disable it if you can't. Destroy it if you have to." Looking pointedly at me, she says, "Mister December, please do me the courtesy of not being as prone to destruction as Bond."

I smile and say, "I'll do what I can, ma'am."

M glowers at me.

My face falls as I clear my throat, and correct myself. "I'll do that, ma'am."

She nods once, then says, "Q? What do you have?"

Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas...
Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas...

With a pleasant smile, Q says, "The normal items for both, ma'am. Exploding cufflinks, clip-on ties that double as garottes, bulletproof jackets." He pauses, and adds, "Try yours on, Ms. Bryan- I had to guess at your size." Then he continues, "Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas, steel reinforced belts, watches with one E.M.P. pulse each, rings with a three second magnesium flare... uh, do make sure that they're pointed away from you... and standard-issue nine millimeter Glocks."

"Standard issue?" asks Bryan.

"Yes, ma'am," says Q. "If you should be taken captive, a normal weapon distracts from the disguised ones, and sometimes, a good old fashioned bullet is called for."

Jennifer smiles. "I see."

I smile too. "What? No shoe phones, Q?"

"Ah," says Q, holding up an index finger, and reaching to the bottom shelf of his cart. "No, but these have the always-reliable retractable toe blade. Also, turn the heels clockwise," he says, demonstrating, "and they release. Fold it in half," he says, doing so one-handed, "and FIRE IN THE HOLE!" he hollers as he pivots and hurls the heel across the room in a pitch that would have done Nolan Ryan proud.

It shoots into the bomb-testing hood, the blast door slamming down immediately. It blows, and the smoke and flame are sucked out by safety fans. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a new heel, turns it counterclockwise onto the shoe, and hands me the pair. Smiling, he says, "Ms. Bryan--"

"I know- try them on," she says with a wink.

Q smiles.

"You leave in one hour," says M. As Q and Bryan leave the room, M says, "Jason."

I turn back. "Yes, M?"

"I didn't know for certain about the Triad's connection to Ouroboros, and I didn't have an agent in the O.T.F."

"Yes, ma'am. You said. I believe you," I say in sincerity.

Very calm, but her voice clear with anger, she says, "I should have, on both counts. I am the head of the Secret Intelligence Service. Someone has kept me in the dark, and shut this agency out of the fight against Ouroboros. That is bloody hard to do, and a mistake that someone is going to regret. Until I know who that someone is, you report directly to me, and no one else. I said I want to send a message, Mister December, and you are the messenger. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly," I say with a nod. "Anything else, ma'am?"

The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent.
The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent.

M glances to one side, then looks back to me. "Yes. The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent. It stretched all the way around the world, and I fear this new organization has that kind of reach. Even moreso than S.P.E.C.T.R.E." Her eyes dart side-to-side as she sorts her line of thought, and she adds, "It's another Norse mythology reference, like Valkyrie. I don't like that kind of coincidence, Jason. If you find this Jena Johansson, be wary of her."

"Of course, M."

"Godspeed," she says, still sorting the possibilities in her mind. "Dismissed."

*******

We are flown into Macau by the RAF under the guise of a recreational skydiving company. We dive from the plane using wingsuits to reach our target. I'm surprised, but Agent Bryan outpaces me. She is absolutely fearless about it. We had decided to take the direct approach, and land on top of the Macau Dragon Casino, near Lóng Mán's penthouse.

Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth...
Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth...

Jennifer lands perfectly, and lets her suit's parachute detach and fly over the side of the building. Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth, but leaves me standing on the roof. I detach the chute as the Dragon Eel himself and four armed security come out of the penthouse.

"Whoo! That was intense!" Jennifer shouted happily, as she pulls off her wingsuit.

Unzipping my own wingsuit, I say, "A little too intense for me." My voice is a bit shaky for the benefit of the guards.

"Hands in the air!" shouts one of the security team.

"We're sorry about this!" I call out. "We meant to land in front of the casino. We were hoping to get married here. Destination adventure wedding, and all--"

"Please, don't bother with the lies, Mister December," says Lóng Mán. His tone is half-pleasant, but the moray eel around the Mandarin 'siwang' tattooed on his left cheek dispells that.

Ah, hell, I think to myself as they take our guns. He knew we were coming. M is not going to be happy.

"The information you're hoping to find is not here," says the Dragon Eel. "An agent named Black Box escaped with it. However, by the time your Ouroboros Task Force is able to act on it, it will be useless. Our bases are already being moved."

"That's... very forthcoming," I answer, more than a little perplexed.

"Why should I not be?" asks Mán. "There is nothing you can do to stop Ouroboros. You can't even stop my plans."

"Your plans?" asks Jennifer.

Lóng Mán rolls his eyes towards her with disdain. "Didn't I tell you not to bother with lies? It should be obvious by now that I know what goes on in the law enforcement agencies that make up the O.T.F. You know I've had something sent here."

"We do," I admit, "but we don't know what it is. So, we really don't know your plans. We just figured it was in one of your top floors, and it would be easier to get to from the roof."

"Now you're being forthcoming?" he asks.

"It seems you prefer it," I say with a nod.

He nods back, and says "I do." He locks eyes with me for a few seconds, and says, "Fine. Let me show you what you've come looking for." He waves to his security men, and they prod Jennifer and I to fall in behind the Dragon Eel. We step into the body of the dragon, and wind our way around the hotel until we enter a doorway two floors down. The room we enter is completely dark save for a shaded light to the left hanging over something very much resembling an electric chair.

What the hell?
What the hell?

"I don't like the looks of this," I mutter.

"Look ahead," says Jennifer. "You're going to like it even less."

I glance forward, and tap my temple. The infrared contacts pick up the vibration, and they activate. I don't know whether to believe my eyes or not, but it looks like some kind of half-man, half-snake thing swimming in a floor-to-ceiling aquarium that takes up half the room, and it's lighting up under infrared like a bonfire. "What the hell?" is all I can manage.

"Oh, you've spoiled the surprise," Lóng says to us as the lights come on. "His name is Ryan Xīfāng- a mutant. He has been in the state you see since he was twelve years old- he's now twenty-nine. He's very powerful, but has been mostly denied a normal life. He hasn't had money, known a woman, or any number of things you likely take for granted."

There was a tap on the glass of the tank, and Ryan's voice came over a speaker, an echoing garble from talking underwater. "On the other hand, I am everything Lóng Mán has ever wanted to be: extraordinary, strong, and as he said- powerful. So, he offered me a trade," he says, webbed hands pressed to the glass.

...truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!
...truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!

"This chair you see me in allows our minds to switch bodies," says Mán. "Ryan gets to have this fully-human body, and Lóng gets to be truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!"

"You're mad!" Jennifer seethes with disgust. "You can't do this! You can't just take a man's body!"

The underwater voice sounds over the speakers again, laughing. "Can't I? It's already done. I am Lóng, and the body in the chair is Ryan. This form takes some getting used to, but it's power is... incredible," he says looking at his hands.

Neither myself nor Agent Bryan can hide our horror at this strange turn of events. We just stand there, looking back-and-forth between the man and the mutant. Sitting in the chair, Xīfāng just looks at us intently, his smile revealing just how much he's enjoying himself.

Lóng speaks from the tank again. "I'm not a monster, agents. This is a mutual agreement, and fully reversible. We share this power."

"About that," says Ryan, as he rises from the chair. He rolls his eyes towards the tank as he pulls a gun from his belt. Then he turns and shoots the transfer equipment attached to the chair.

"NO!" shouts Lóng. "What are you doing?!"

"You want to be the Dragon Eel?" asks Ryan. "You got it. I've made other plans."

"I'll kill you!" shouts Dragon Eel, and the snake-like man breathes a stream of fire at the glass, boiling the water, but having no effect on the tank.

"Not from that tank, you won't," says Xīfāng. "You made sure of that. Thanks," he says with a smirk. "I've had enough of that life, but I think I'm going to enjoy being you."

"You can't!" Lóng burbled over the speaker. "The Triad won't allow you to just live my life! You know nothing about the operations!"

"We're looking for Black Box," Ryan says calmly. "When she's found, and we get the information back that she stole and erased from your system, I'll have everything I need to get up to speed on both the Dragon's Teeth Triad, and Ouroboros."

Jennifer says, "So, you've got this all figured out. Which one of you has been heading things up, alerting Ouroboros to the agents we had planted?"

Ryan points at the tank. "Oh, that was all him. I'm definitely going to have to study up. But I've got someone to help me until we get that information back," he says. He looks across the room, towards the door behind us that leads into the hollow dragon. As a man in familiar black-and-yellow ballistic armor walks in, Ryan says, "I think you know Weaver?"

"Only from video," I say quietly. "I owe you for the death of Agent Twixenberry."

Weaver gives a malicious chuckle as he steps up beside Ryan's chair. "Do you?" he asks as he takes off his mask.

"Ryder?!" I gasp, truly surprised. "How?"

"The video was staged, obviously," he says. "I wasn't supposed to be this involved, but then my husband was killed."

"Hugh?" I ask, surprised again.

Ryder sighs. "No one ever says his name right. It's Hu."

I hear the difference when he says it, and Jennifer hears it as well. "Your husband- he's Chinese?" she asks.

"Yes," says Ryder, "and he was the Weaver you saw in the video where we faked my death. Minutes after that, he was killed by Black Box, and she escaped."

Why would you betray... Your country?
Why would you betray... Your country?

"Why?" I seethe, finding my anger again. "Why would you betray M.I.6? Your country? Why would either of you help the Dragon's Teeth Triad? Why would you ally yourself with someone like Lóng Mán?"

Ryder just shakes his head. "I was helping Hu for the same reason Hu was helping Lóng- we're family."

I was stunned. "What?"

Jennifer gasps with realization, and says, "Of course. Weaver's file; his real name- it's Hu Mán. He's Lóng Mán's brother."

"Well, it's been Hu Twixenberry for some time now, but yes, they were the same man," says Ryder. "When Black Box killed him, I became Weaver so that I could have revenge on her." Looking at the mutant in the tank, he says, "And on his brother who let him die."

"Funny thing about even the best laid plans," says Jennifer as she slowly raises her hand, thumb spinning her ring. "They can go up in a flash."

I turn away quickly as a magnesium flare blinds Ryan and Weaver, and use my own ring to blind two of the security men. I sprint towards one of the others, and drop into a slide as I snatch the tie off my shirt. As I slide under one man's legs, I grab his ankles and pull, causing him to faceplant on the hard floor.

I sweep the legs of the one nearest him, slicing him with the toe blade, and when he falls, I loop the tie around his throat, trying to garotte him, or break his neck. In the chaos, Jennifer targets the same man with her bazooka pen, and fires. By instinct, I roll us both out of the way, and the projectile strikes the water tank. It's a big blast, but it only manages to crack the surface of the glass slightly. I manage to break the security man's neck.

...I drop a cufflink down the shirt...
...I drop a cufflink down the shirt...

I fire my bazooka pen at Ryan and Weaver. It misses them both, but hits the wall behind them, the blast knocking them both to the ground. While they're dazed, I drop a cufflink down the shirt of the security man that I'd faceplanted, because he was coming to. I roll away quickly, and throw the other cufflink towards one of the security men who had been blinded. It clinks on the floor a few times, stopping at his feet. They explode one behind the other, killing the two men.

The last security man is killed by an explosion from one of Jennifer's cufflinks. She turns to throw the other one towards Ryan and Weaver, but Ryan already has his gun out, and Jennifer takes three bullets to her torso, knocking her backwards, and hard to the floor. The cufflink hits the ground and rolls my way. I dive across the floor towards Jennifer, grabbing the cufflink with one hand and tossing it behind me, and reaching out for her with the other. The link hits the tank, and the explosion leaves another surface level pock mark on the glass.

I pull Jennifer towards me, and fall over her, taking Ryan's remaining shots in my back. It hurts like hell, but Q's jacket holds against the bullets. That's when I remember that Jennifer's wearing the same thing. My head towards her feet, I glance back and see the three bullets that hit her embedded in the front of her jacket. Painfully, she reaches for my foot, and I reach for hers. We look at each other as we release the heels, and I nod towards the tank. She nods back.

Stop! yells Weaver...
Stop! yells Weaver...

"Stop!" yells Weaver, now on his feet again, and aiming his MP7 at us.

We both jerk our heads his way, seeing the weapon, and freeze. Jennifer puts her hands in the air hesitantly, obviously in pain.

Weaver sees the shoe heel in her hand. Snatching it from her, he demands, "And what the hell is this supposed to be?"

Her breath heavy, she says, "Cy... cyanide capsule, so... we're not... taken alive."

"Right," says Weaver. "M.I.6 doesn't do that."

"It's true," I say, waving the heel of Jennifer's shoe that's in my hand. "You snap the heel in half, and the capsule is inside."

Ryder laughs. "Oh, come on," he says, as he flexes the heel trying to snap it. It cracks, and folds in half much to his surprise.

Jennifer and I scramble in opposite directions, and she says, "I can't believe that worked."

Ryder starts to raise his MP7, but the heel explodes, blowing him apart. The force blows Ryan backwards, bouncing him off the wall. I snatch up Jennifer's heel again, and snap it in half. "Bryan! The door! Now!" and I pitch the heel at the water tank.

We both reach the doorway as the heel explodes. We look back, and see the tank wall collapse, and the Dragon Eel and a few thousand gallons of water flooding into the room. We look at each other wide-eyed, and sprint into the tunnel. We're around the curve just enough to be out of sight of the door when Jennifer says, "Damn!"

"What?" I call back as we continue our sprint, hearing the water roar into the tunnel.

Jennifer looks over her shoulder as the water comes into view, and she shouts, "We should have headed to the roof!"

I would have laughed, but the water overtook us, and washed us and multiple casino guests through nineteen floors of tunnel like an amusement park water slide, disgorging everyone out of the ground floor tunnel entrance, and onto the sidewalk. Cars parked along the curb kept anyone from washing out into the street, but the water caused some accidents.

There's our ride. Let's go.
There's our ride. Let's go.

Jennifer and I stagger to our feet. Spying a motorcycle laying in the street, I say, "There's our ride. Let's go."

"What about the Dragon Eel?" she says as we pick the bike up.

Just then, there's a loud explosion, and fire and glass blow out of an upper floor. We look for a moment, and hop on. "I'm thinking he's mad," I say as we take off.

Over the motorcycle's engine, she shouts, "Shouldn't we--?"

"--No!" I holler back as we turn a corner, then into a parking deck. We ditch the bike on the first floor, and leave the parking deck on foot, disappearing into the crowd. "He blew up the entire floor," I say to Jennifer. "That blast took out Ryan for sure."

"So... he's stuck as the Dragon Eel," she says.

"Right," I say with a sigh. "Black Box is already gone. The Dragon Eel already used his 'mystery interest.' M is not going to like this. We accomplished nothing."

It's going to be a long way home.
It's going to be a long way home.

"Well, no," says Jennifer. "We know Jena escaped alive with the information on Ouroboros. We know what the 'mystery interest' is now. Lóng Mán's Triad is crippled, and Weaver- both Weavers- are dead."

I nod my head, "Yes, but Ryder was already in Macau when M assigned us to this. Someone let them know we were coming. There's still a mole in M.I.6."

"And probably in every other agency connected to the O.T.F.," says Jennifer.

"We need to get back to M," I say. Pointing down a street to our right, I say, "But first, we need clothes, and weapons. There's a safehouse nearby. Let's go."

We head towards the safehouse in silence, both of us wondering who else we can trust. It's going to be a long way home.

CCCThemeWordcountVotesRankingRating
121Villain for The Phantom864??T

The Phantom vs. Goldenrod

The Phantom had not left the Skull Cave more than a few minutes before when a shot whizzed past his head and sent splinters and bark flying off of a nearby tree. He immediately dove from the back of his horse, and rolled to a standing position behind another tree. "Hero! Run!" he called, and the horse did so.

Drawing his pistols, he waited silently. It was only a minute until he heard, "Phantom! Are you dead, man?"

A couple of shots rang out, and bullets chopped into the tree he was standing behind. As the mystery man clearly knew his position, he saw no reason to remain quiet. "Who are you?" he called out before ducking low, and shooting a couple of times in the direction the shots came from.

"Name's Goldenrod!" the man called back, shooting once.

The shot landed in the jungle floor near The Phantom's foot. He raised an eyebrow, and drew his foot in closer behind the tree. "I've heard of you," he called out, firing back, still unsure of Goldenrod's position. When the gunshot faded, he added, "What does an assassin want in Bangalla?"

Goldenrod laughed. "Ha! Today, I'm no mere assassin." Another shot buried itself in the tree, and when the noise died, he shouted, "Today, I'm a Ghost hunter!"

"Ghost hunter?" The Phantom called back, sounding amused. "If you know who I am, surely you've heard that I'm immortal? I am the Ghost Who Walks!"

"And I'm the assassin who balks!" growled Goldenrod, sounding much closer than before, and the two shots that rang out sounding closer too.

Phantom dropped low, spinning around the other side of the tree, and firing three shots. One of them clipped Goldenrod in the leg. The assassin, who Phantom saw had wild red hair, mutton chops, and a thick red mustache, had fired back at the same time, and the shot grazed Phantom's left shoulder, knocking him backwards, and causing him to drop his gun from that hand. He scrambled behind another tree as Goldenrod did the same, holding his leg as he went.

Leaning heavily with his back against the tree, Goldenrod called out, "How do bullets affect you, 'Phantom?' What does a ghost need with M1911 .45's?" He cocked his head forward, straining to hear anything after all the shots so far.

"They're something the living can understand," came a whisper from his left.

Goldenrod jerked his head back against the tree in surprise, a shot whizzing by his head, and another burying itself in his left shoulder. A gold colored Glock nine millimeter fell from that hand. He dropped low, and shot twice from an identical gun in his other hand. The Phantom was already on the move, but he was fairly sure he hit the ghost in his stomach.

He forced himself to his feet, and moved around the other side of the tree, only to find himself looking down the barrel of three rifles. He chuckled ruefully, dropping the other gun, and raising his hand. "I hope you don't mind if I don't raise the other one," he said. "I can't move it. You guys must be part of the world famous Jungle Patrol?"

Another member of the Patrol gathered up the assassin's guns as they led him away. "Hey," said Goldenrod, sounding weaker than before, "hold onto those. I'll be wanting them... back." He then fell out on the jungle floor, managing to land on his right side, and roll to his back. The men escorting him immediately trained their guns on him.

Raising his right hand slightly, he said, "Relax, men. I'm... I'm not going... anywhere. How... how did you guys find me an..." he trailed off as he saw a white horse with a saddle trot by without a rider. He recognized it as the horse The Phantom was riding, and he chuckled weakly. As the Jungle Patrolmen helped him up, he muttered, "Like fuggin' Lassie, that one."

Meanwhile, The Phantom had picked up his other gun, and holstered both. Hero trotted up to him, and he clambered into the saddle with some difficulty, coughing up some blood once he was mounted, and grabbing his stomach due to the pain. Drawing his hand back, he saw the blood on it, and said to one of the Jungle Patrol, "Find my son."

The man nodded, and ran off to follow The Phantom's order.

Patting his horse, he said, "Back to the Skull Cave, Hero."

***

A couple of months later:

The Phantom stood before the grave of his father, contemplating silently as he looked at the M1911's that were in his hands. Finally, he holstered them, knelt on one knee, and swore the Oath of the Skull. "I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms, and my sons and their sons, shall follow me." Still kneeling, he looked again at the grave, and said, "And father, I will find your killer, and bring him to justice. Goldenrod recovered enough from his gunshot wounds to make his escape, but he will not remain escaped for long. I swear it."

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my entries. Participate in the next Character Creation Contest- we always love having another writer compete! -cb :^D

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All stories, original characters and content are owned by Chris Bishop. Copyright Chris Bishop 2022.

Characters owned by others are noted on each story's individual forum post, and I have a disclaimer linked to each of those.

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Bondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 5

RANKED 3rd BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #120!

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I dive across the floor towards Jennifer, grabbing the cufflink with one hand and tossing it behind me, and reaching out for her with the other. The link hits the tank, and the explosion leaves another surface level pock mark on the glass.

I pull Jennifer towards me, and fall over her, taking Ryan's remaining shots in my back. It hurts like hell, but Q's jacket holds against the bullets. That's when I remember that Jennifer's wearing the same thing. My head towards her feet, I glance back and see the three bullets that hit her embedded in the front of her jacket. Painfully, she reaches for my foot, and I reach for hers. We look at each other as we release the heels, and I nod towards the tank. She nods back.

Stop! yells Weaver...
Stop! yells Weaver...

"Stop!" yells Weaver, now on his feet again, and aiming his MP7 at us.

We both jerk our heads his way, seeing the weapon, and freeze. Jennifer puts her hands in the air hesitantly, obviously in pain.

Weaver sees the shoe heel in her hand. Snatching it from her, he demands, "And what the hell is this supposed to be?"

Her breath heavy, she says, "Cy... cyanide capsule, so... we're not... taken alive."

"Right," says Weaver. "M.I.6 doesn't do that."

"It's true," I say, waving the heel of Jennifer's shoe that's in my hand. "You snap the heel in half, and the capsule is inside."

Ryder laughs. "Oh, come on," he says, as he flexes the heel trying to snap it. It cracks, and folds in half much to his surprise.

Jennifer and I scramble in opposite directions, and she says, "I can't believe that worked."

Ryder starts to raise his MP7, but the heel explodes, blowing him apart. The force blows Ryan backwards, bouncing him off the wall. I snatch up Jennifer's heel again, and snap it in half. "Bryan! The door! Now!" and I pitch the heel at the water tank.

We both reach the doorway as the heel explodes. We look back, and see the tank wall collapse, and the Dragon Eel and a few thousand gallons of water flooding into the room. We look at each other wide-eyed, and sprint into the tunnel. We're around the curve just enough to be out of sight of the door when Jennifer says, "Damn!"

"What?" I call back as we continue our sprint, hearing the water roar into the tunnel.

Jennifer looks over her shoulder as the water comes into view, and she shouts, "We should have headed to the roof!"

I would have laughed, but the water overtook us, and washed us and multiple casino guests through nineteen floors of tunnel like an amusement park water slide, disgorging everyone out of the ground floor tunnel entrance, and onto the sidewalk. Cars parked along the curb kept anyone from washing out into the street, but the water caused some accidents.

There's our ride. Let's go.
There's our ride. Let's go.

Jennifer and I stagger to our feet. Spying a motorcycle laying in the street, I say, "There's our ride. Let's go."

"What about the Dragon Eel?" she says as we pick the bike up.

Just then, there's a loud explosion, and fire and glass blow out of an upper floor. We look for a moment, and hop on. "I'm thinking he's mad," I say as we take off.

Over the motorcycle's engine, she shouts, "Shouldn't we--?"

"--No!" I holler back as we turn a corner, then into a parking deck. We ditch the bike on the first floor, and leave the parking deck on foot, disappearing into the crowd. "He blew up the entire floor," I say to Jennifer. "That blast took out Ryan for sure."

"So... he's stuck as the Dragon Eel," she says.

"Right," I say with a sigh. "Black Box is already gone. The Dragon Eel already used his 'mystery interest.' M is not going to like this. We accomplished nothing."

"Well, no," says Jennifer. "We know Jena escaped alive with the information on Ouroboros. We know what the 'mystery interest' is now. Lóng Mán's Triad is crippled, and Weaver- both Weavers- are dead."

It's going to be a long way home.
It's going to be a long way home.

I nod my head, "Yes, but Ryder was already in Macau when M assigned us to this. Someone let them know we were coming. There's still a mole in M.I.6."

"And probably in every other agency connected to the O.T.F.," says Jennifer.

"We need to get back to M," I say. Pointing down a street to our right, I say, "But first, we need clothes, and weapons. There's a safehouse nearby. Let's go."

We head towards the safehouse in silence, both of us wondering who else we can trust. It's going to be a long way home.

*****

Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #120.

Story and original characters owned by Chris Bishop, and copyright 2022. Those not owned by Chris Bishop will be detailed in the first comment box.

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Bondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 4

RANKED 3rd BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #120!

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"NO!" shouts Lóng. "What are you doing?!"

"You want to be the Dragon Eel?" asks Ryan. "You got it. I've made other plans."

"I'll kill you!" shouts Dragon Eel, and the snake-like man breathes a stream of fire at the glass, boiling the water, but having no effect on the tank.

"Not from that tank, you won't," says Xīfāng. "You made sure of that. Thanks," he says with a smirk. "I've had enough of that life, but I think I'm going to enjoy being you."

"You can't!" Lóng burbled over the speaker. "The Triad won't allow you to just live my life! You know nothing about the operations!"

"We're looking for Black Box," Ryan says calmly. "When she's found, and we get the information back that she stole and erased from your system, I'll have everything I need to get up to speed on both the Dragon's Teeth Triad, and Ouroboros."

Jennifer says, "So, you've got this all figured out. Which one of you has been heading things up, alerting Ouroboros to the agents we had planted?"

Ryan points at the tank. "Oh, that was all him. I'm definitely going to have to study up. But I've got someone to help me until we get that information back," he says. He looks across the room, towards the door behind us that leads into the hollow dragon. As a man in familiar black-and-yellow ballistic armor walks in, Ryan says, "I think you know Weaver?"

"Only from video," I say quietly. "I owe you for the death of Agent Twixenberry."

Weaver gives a malicious chuckle as he steps up beside Ryan's chair. "Do you?" he asks as he takes off his mask.

"Ryder?!" I gasp, truly surprised. "How?"

"The video was staged, obviously," he says. "I wasn't supposed to be this involved, but then my husband was killed."

"Hugh?" I ask, surprised again.

Ryder sighs. "No one ever says his name right. It's Hu."

I hear the difference when he says it, and Jennifer hears it as well. "Your husband- he's Chinese?" she asks.

"Yes," says Ryder, "and he was the Weaver you saw in the video where we faked my death. Minutes after that, he was killed by Black Box, and she escaped."

Why would you betray... Your country?
Why would you betray... Your country?

"Why?" I seethe, finding my anger again. "Why would you betray M.I.6? Your country? Why would either of you help the Dragon's Teeth Triad? Why would you ally yourself with someone like Lóng Mán?"

Ryder just shakes his head. "I was helping Hu for the same reason Hu was helping Lóng- we're family."

I was stunned. "What?"

Jennifer gasps with realization, and says, "Of course. Weaver's file; his real name- it's Hu Mán. He's Lóng Mán's brother."

"Well, it's been Hu Twixenberry for some time now, but yes, they were the same man," says Ryder. "When Black Box killed him, I became Weaver so that I could have revenge on her." Looking at the mutant in the tank, he says, "And on his brother who let him die."

"Funny thing about even the best laid plans," says Jennifer as she slowly raises her hand, thumb spinning her ring. "They can go up in a flash."

I turn away quickly as a magnesium flare blinds Ryan and Weaver, and use my own ring to blind two of the security men. I sprint towards one of the others, and drop into a slide as I snatch the tie off my shirt. As I slide under one man's legs, I grab his ankles and pull, causing him to faceplant on the hard floor.

I sweep the legs of the one nearest him, slicing him with the toe blade, and when he falls, I loop the tie around his throat, trying to garotte him, or break his neck. In the chaos, Jennifer targets the same man with her bazooka pen, and fires. By instinct, I roll us both out of the way, and the projectile strikes the water tank. It's a big blast, but it only manages to crack the surface of the glass slightly. I manage to break the security man's neck.

...I drop a cufflink down the shirt...
...I drop a cufflink down the shirt...

I fire my bazooka pen at Ryan and Weaver. It misses them both, but hits the wall behind them, the blast knocking them both to the ground. While they're dazed, I drop a cufflink down the shirt of the security man that I'd faceplanted, because he was coming to. I roll away quickly, and throw the other cufflink towards one of the security men who had been blinded. It clinks on the floor a few times, stopping at his feet. They explode one behind the other, killing the two men.

The last security man is killed by an explosion from one of Jennifer's cufflinks. She turns to throw the other one towards Ryan and Weaver, but Ryan already has his gun out, and Jennifer takes three bullets to her torso, knocking her backwards, and hard to the floor. The cufflink hits the ground and rolls my way.

*****

Next Issue: Part 5.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #120.

Story and original characters owned by Chris Bishop, and copyright 2022. Those not owned by Chris Bishop will be detailed in the first comment box.

2 Comments

Bondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 3

RANKED 3rd BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #120!

DateBondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan:ViewRead the...
06/08/22Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 3(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanationLast Issue:
TMild cursing..Part 2.
No Caption Provided

We are flown into Macau by the RAF under the guise of a recreational skydiving company. We dive from the plane using wingsuits to reach our target. I'm surprised, but Agent Bryan outpaces me. She is absolutely fearless about it. We had decided to take the direct approach, and land on top of the Macau Dragon Casino, near Lóng Mán's penthouse.

Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth...
Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth...

Jennifer lands perfectly, and lets her suit's parachute detach and fly over the side of the building. Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth, but leaves me standing on the roof. I detach the chute as the Dragon Eel himself and four armed security come out of the penthouse.

"Whoo! That was intense!" Jennifer shouted happily, as she pulls off her wingsuit.

Unzipping my own wingsuit, I say, "A little too intense for me." My voice is a bit shaky for the benefit of the guards.

"Hands in the air!" shouts one of the security team.

"We're sorry about this!" I call out. "We meant to land in front of the casino. We were hoping to get married here. Destination adventure wedding, and all--"

"Please, don't bother with the lies, Mister December," says Lóng Mán. His tone is half-pleasant, but the moray eel around the Mandarin 'siwang' tattooed on his left cheek dispells that.

Ah, hell, I think to myself as they take our guns. He knew we were coming. M is not going to be happy.

"The information you're hoping to find is not here," says the Dragon Eel. "An agent named Black Box escaped with it. However, by the time your Ouroboros Task Force is able to act on it, it will be useless. Our bases are already being moved."

"That's... very forthcoming," I answer, more than a little perplexed.

"Why should I not be?" asks Mán. "There is nothing you can do to stop Ouroboros. You can't even stop my plans."

"Your plans?" asks Jennifer.

Lóng Mán rolls his eyes towards her with disdain. "Didn't I tell you not to bother with lies? It should be obvious by now that I know what goes on in the law enforcement agencies that make up the O.T.F. You know I've had something sent here."

"We do," I admit, "but we don't know what it is. So, we really don't know your plans. We just figured it was in one of your top floors, and it would be easier to get to from the roof."

"Now you're being forthcoming?" he asks.

"It seems you prefer it," I say with a nod.

He nods back, and says "I do." He locks eyes with me for a few seconds, and says, "Fine. Let me show you what you've come looking for." He waves to his security men, and they prod Jennifer and I to fall in behind the Dragon Eel. We step into the body of the dragon, and wind our way around the hotel until we enter a doorway two floors down. The room we enter is completely dark save for a shaded light to the left hanging over something very much resembling an electric chair.

What the hell?
What the hell?

"I don't like the looks of this," I mutter.

"Look ahead," says Jennifer. "You're going to like it even less."

I glance forward, and tap my temple. The infrared contacts pick up the vibration, and they activate. I don't know whether to believe my eyes or not, but it looks like some kind of half-man, half-snake thing swimming in a floor-to-ceiling aquarium that takes up half the room, and it's lighting up under infrared like a bonfire. "What the hell?" is all I can manage.

"Oh, you've spoiled the surprise," Lóng says to us as the lights come on. "His name is Ryan Xīfāng- a mutant. He has been in the state you see since he was twelve years old- he's now twenty-nine. He's very powerful, but has been mostly denied a normal life. He hasn't had money, known a woman, or any number of things you likely take for granted."

There was a tap on the glass of the tank, and Ryan's voice came over a speaker, an echoing garble from talking underwater. "On the other hand, I am everything Lóng Mán has ever wanted to be: extraordinary, strong, and as he said- powerful. So, he offered me a trade," he says, webbed hands pressed to the glass.

...truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!
...truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!

"This chair you see me in allows our minds to switch bodies," says Mán. "Ryan gets to have this fully-human body, and Lóng gets to be truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!"

"You're mad!" Jennifer seethes with disgust. "You can't do this! You can't just take a man's body!"

The underwater voice sounds over the speakers again, laughing. "Can't I? It's already done. I am Lóng, and the body in the chair is Ryan. This form takes some getting used to, but it's power is... incredible," he says looking at his hands.

Neither myself nor Agent Bryan can hide our horror at this strange turn of events. We just stand there, looking back-and-forth between the man and the mutant. Sitting in the chair, Xīfāng just looks at us intently, his smile revealing just how much he's enjoying himself.

Lóng speaks from the tank again. "I'm not a monster, agents. This is a mutual agreement, and fully reversible. We share this power."

"About that," says Ryan, as he rises from the chair. He rolls his eyes towards the tank as he pulls a gun from his belt. Then he turns and shoots the transfer equipment attached to the chair.

*****

Next Issue: Part 4.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #120.

Story and original characters owned by Chris Bishop, and copyright 2022. Those not owned by Chris Bishop will be detailed in the first comment box.

2 Comments

Bondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 2

RANKED 3rd BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #120!

DateBondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan:ViewRead the...
06/08/22Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 2(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanationLast Issue:
TDeath of agents discussed..Part 1.
No Caption Provided

"Last week, an agent of the Dragon's Teeth Triad named Weaver stole that list from Langley, Virginia, and managed to get it back to Macau. The Dragon Eel put the list to use immediately, and most of the O.T.F. operatives they had inside were killed before they could be pulled out."

"If the list has already been used, then what was Ms. Johansson after?" I ask.

Jennifer answers, "Weaver took the list to Lóng Mán. The agents were planted in Ouroboros. Their deaths prove that Dragon's Teeth fronts Ouroboros. Black Box was the Raido agent assigned to O.T.F. She was sent in to hack the Dragon Eel's computers, and hopefully get us the information on Ouroboros that we've been looking for."

I look at Agent Bryan, and ask, "'Us? We've?'"

She eyes me for a second, then nods. "I'm currently the C.I.A.'s agent in the O.T.F."

"So, what's Johansson's status?" I ask.

"We've lost contact with her, but believe she's still alive," says Bryan. Then, a bit uncomfortably, she adds, "The Triad hasn't been shy about leaving our agents where we could find them."

"Sending their governments a message," I say quietly.

...so we can deliver a message...
...so we can deliver a message...

"Yes," says M. "And we want Lóng Mán's information so we can deliver a message of our own."

"'Our own?'" I ask. "We have agents in the O.T.F. too then? And didn't know for sure about the Triad's connection to Ouroboros?"

M looks sideways at Jennifer, then to me. "We didn't know. We didn't have agents in the O.T.F. either, but now we do. You." Her look dared me to challenge her.

Instead, I nod, then raise my eyebrows as I realize something. "You said Black Box was getting in our way. We were already in Macau?"

"We were already in the Macau Dragon Casino," M corrects. "Lóng Mán is the head of the Dragon's Teeth Triad, and the Triad is trying to establish a foothold in Great Britain. He has brought in something of great significance to him, and he was very secretive about it. One of our agents alerted us to it. He didn't know what it was, and he didn't have a chance to find out. He was killed by Weaver when he tried to prevent Ms. Johansson from being taken."

I look at M curiously. "How do we know it was Weaver?"

She scowls. "They sent us a video." She nods back to the monitor, then uses a laser pointer to select the video file and play it.

Our agent sat in a chair facing the camera, held upright only by his restraints. His head lolled to one side, and then back as he tried to look at the camera. Standing just behind him was a man clad in amber ballistic armor decorated with black spider webs. With no speech, and no ceremony, Weaver put an MP7 machine pistol to the back of our agent's head, and splattered blood and gore all over the camera. The video ended.

M speaks first. "I understand you went through academy with Agent Twixenberry."

"Yes," I say as I turn back to M. "Ryder was a good man; accomplished. He also had a husband; Hugh, I think. His death deserves a response."

"That's why I want Ms. Johansson and whatever is so important to Lóng Mán," says M.

I nod. "Fine. We're going in after both."

"The priority is Johansson, and the Dragon Eel's information if she has it," says M. "Secondary is Mán's mystery interest. Bring it in if you can. Disable it if you can't. Destroy it if you have to." Looking pointedly at me, she says, "Mister December, please do me the courtesy of not being as prone to destruction as Bond."

I smile and say, "I'll do what I can, ma'am."

M glowers at me.

My face falls as I clear my throat, and correct myself. "I'll do that, ma'am."

She nods once, then says, "Q? What do you have?"

Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas...
Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas...

With a pleasant smile, Q says, "The normal items for both, ma'am. Exploding cufflinks, clip-on ties that double as garottes, bulletproof jackets." He pauses, and adds, "Try yours on, Ms. Bryan- I had to guess at your size." Then he continues, "Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas, steel reinforced belts, watches with one E.M.P. pulse each, rings with a three second magnesium flare... uh, do make sure that they're pointed away from you... and standard-issue nine millimeter Glocks."

"Standard issue?" asks Bryan.

"Yes, ma'am," says Q. "If you should be taken captive, a normal weapon distracts from the disguised ones, and sometimes, a good old fashioned bullet is called for."

Jennifer smiles. "I see."

I smile too. "What? No shoe phones, Q?"

"Ah," says Q, holding up an index finger, and reaching to the bottom shelf of his cart. "No, but these have the always-reliable retractable toe blade. Also, turn the heels clockwise," he says, demonstrating, "and they release. Fold it in half," he says, doing so one-handed, "and FIRE IN THE HOLE!" he hollers as he pivots and hurls the heel across the room in a pitch that would have done Nolan Ryan proud.

It shoots into the bomb-testing hood, the blast door slamming down immediately. It blows, and the smoke and flame are sucked out by safety fans. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a new heel, turns it counterclockwise onto the shoe, and hands me the pair. Smiling, he says, "Ms. Bryan--"

"I know- try them on," she says with a wink.

Q smiles.

"You leave in one hour," says M. As Q and Bryan leave the room, M says, "Jason."

I turn back. "Yes, M?"

"I didn't know for certain about the Triad's connection to Ouroboros, and I didn't have an agent in the O.T.F."

"Yes, ma'am. You said. I believe you," I say in sincerity.

Very calm, but her voice clear with anger, she says, "I should have, on both counts. I am the head of the Secret Intelligence Service. Someone has kept me in the dark, and shut this agency out of the fight against Ouroboros. That is bloody hard to do, and a mistake that someone is going to regret. Until I know who that someone is, you report directly to me, and no one else. I said I want to send a message, Mister December, and you are the messenger. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly," I say with a nod. "Anything else, ma'am?"

The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent.
The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent.

M glances to one side, then looks back to me. "Yes. The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent. It stretched all the way around the world, and I fear this new organization has that kind of reach. Even moreso than S.P.E.C.T.R.E." Her eyes dart side-to-side as she sorts her line of thought, and she adds, "It's another Norse mythology reference, like Valkyrie. I don't like that kind of coincidence, Jason. If you find this Jena Johansson, be wary of her."

"Of course, M."

"Godspeed," she says, still sorting the possibilities in her mind. "Dismissed."

*****

Next Issue: Part 3.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #120.

Story and original characters owned by Chris Bishop, and copyright 2022. Those not owned by Chris Bishop will be detailed in the first comment box.

2 Comments

Bondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 1

RANKED 3rd BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #120!

DateBondverse: Jason December & Jennifer Bryan:ViewRead the...
06/08/22Like Pulling Dragon's Teeth, Part 1(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanation
TMild cursing. Sex implied.
No Caption Provided

M walked in briskly, all upright and proper, wearing a mint green suit. You would think the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service would want to stand out less, but I've always assumed it was like the column of fire by night leading the Israelites- you can see her coming, she knows you can see her coming, and she doesn't care, because she's that good. Also, it never stops being impressive.

With her is Q, followed by one of his technical assistants wheeling in a cart with whatever gear he's cooked up this time. If M is the fire by night, Q is the cloud by day- obscuring the view of what's right in front of you, not as flashy as the column of fire, but no less fearsome. The same angel in two different guises.

He tried, but I shut him down.
He tried, but I shut him down.

With them is a young woman I don't know, but she's a pretty bird. I flash a smile and a nod as they walk up to the table I'm leaning against, and as the technical assistant walks away, M says, "Down, boy. Double-O-Seven already landed this fish."

Dammit, Bond!

"He tried," the woman says, "but I shut him down." Her accent is American which surprises me.

Her hands clasped in front of her, M turns slightly towards the woman, and corrects her, "You pretended to shut him down, but you cast your room number from your phone to his when you got close enough."

Which means she already had his number, I think, assessing her. They've tumbled before. Bond, you old dog.

The young woman meets M's gaze only briefly, and then looking down at the table behind me, she clears her throat slightly, and says, "I... didn't think you saw that, ma'am."

I smile again, and say, "M sees everything." I reach out my hand to shake hers, and introduce msyelf. "Jason December- Double-O-Fifty."

Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box.
Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box.

Shaking my hand firmly, she says, "Jennifer Bryan."

"Ms. Bryan is with the C.I.A.," M informs me. "They've asked our help. You'll be accompanying her to Macau."

"What's in Macau?" I ask.

"Not a what," says Jennifer. "A who- Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box."

I wince. "You yanks aren't really still using codenames, are you? Leaving calling cards, too?"

"She's not C.I.A.," says M. "Ms. Johansson is with Raido Computer Consulting- a front for an elite American military unit. The R.C.C. themselves are the elite of the elite, known as Valkyries."

"Choosers of the slain?" I ask.

"Valhallan Escort Service, if you ask me," says Bryan.

"I didn't," M says sternly. "The Valkyrie name is not unearned, and if they are the elite of the elite, Johansson is the elite of the Valkyries. She designed their new power armor, and is about as near to a counterpart for myself and Q as the Americans are likely to get."

"I didn't think that was possible," I say amiably.

"She said 'near,' Mister December," Q says with a smile. He purses his lips for a second, then arches his eyebrow. "But it's a relative term, I'd say."

I smile and nod back, then ask, "So, what's a Valkyrie doing in Macau, M?"

"Getting caught," she says sharply, "and getting in our way." Directing our attention to a monitor behind me, M brings up some pictures. "This is the Macau Dragon Casino- Ms. Johansson's last known location."

"It looks like Wat Samphran," I say, looking to M.

It looks like Wat Samphran.
It looks like Wat Samphran.

She raises an eyebrow in my direction, and answers, "It's modelled after the Dragon Temple, but is twenty-two stories high, rather than sixteen, and ten times the circumference. The additional six floors are reserved for Lóng Mán- the Dragon Eel- the owner of the Macau Dragon. Although Mán himself lives in the penthouse just below the dragon's head."

I shake my head. "Wat Samphran was built with Buddhist symbolism in mind. Adding floors just takes away from that."

"The Dragon Eel's about as Buddhist as Al Qaeda is Muslim," Jennifer almost snaps.

"Did you lose someone in Nine Eleven?" I ask with a slight pout.

Her eye twitches momentarily as she checks her anger. "No. But three thousand American families did. That's--"

"--Not relevant at the moment," M interrupts. "Jason has had psych profile training, and that was an ill-advised attempt," she says, glaring at me, "to test it out on you."

Bryan takes a deep, angry breath, and glares for a moment. "For what purpose?"

"To see how invested you are in someone else's pain, and how in control of your anger you are," I say simply. "Ms. Johansson is in danger, and we're being sent in to rescue her. I want to know if I can count on you to keep your head in the field."

She takes about two seconds to absorb that, and then says, "You could have just asked."

I nod, a bit embarrassed at M's chiding, and say, "As M said, it was ill-advised. I apologize."

She looks at me without a change in her expression, and says, "You can count on me." Turning back to the monitor, she adds, "James has."

Damn! I think to myself. I say nothing, just raising an eyebrow as I glance at M, then turn back to the monitor myself.

M continues, "Lóng Mán is the head of the Dragon's Teeth Triad, although we have suspected that he and the Triad are just the front for a larger organization called Ouroboros."

A snake biting its tail?
A snake biting its tail?

"A snake biting its tail?" I ask.

"Jason, quit interrupting," says M, glowering at me. "Law enforcement agencies and governments all over the globe have expressed interest in Ouroboros. Even the highest levels of the U.S. Secret Service. An international Ouroboros Task Force, or O.T.F., has managed to place operatives throughout the organization, and the list of those operatives is closely guarded. Or, at least it was until last week."

*****

Next Issue: Part 2.-
Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #120.

Story and original characters owned by Chris Bishop, and copyright 2022. Those not owned by Chris Bishop will be detailed in the first comment box.

2 Comments

CCC #120 - Voting Thread

Hello, all! It's time once again to vote on the CCC, and mrmonster has asked me to do the voting thread! This time the challenge was SPIES! We had to create a foreign intelligence agent to interact with CIA Agent Jennifer Bryan! Just three stories this time- Mrmonster, Batkevin74, and myself! Let's get to it!

The voting rules:

  • READ the stories, PICK your favorite one, and CAST your VOTE!
  • If you wrote, you should vote! (It's just sporting)
  • No voting for yourself. (Also sporting)
  • The voting deadline is Sunday, June 5, 2022 at 11:59pm New York Time (click the link if you're unsure).
  • Remember: All are welcome to vote - writer or reader, and the winner gets to pick the next contest.

The stories:

Mrmonster - Agent Jennifer Bryan: An Assassin in Taipei

Agent Jennifer Bryan: An Assassin in Taipei

“8:27 AM, suspect on the move.” I said into my recording device.

After spending two weeks in Taipei, Taiwan, tracking the whereabouts of a Taiwanese congressman believed to have connections to a powerful Taiwanese triad, I couldn’t have been more bored. So far, he’d done nothing out of the ordinary.

But then, right as he was leaving his apartment building, a man emerged from a car parked on the street and shot him multiple times with a silenced handgun.

“Shit!” I said to myself. First, I quickly used the camera embedded in my sunglasses to get a picture of the attacker. Then, I ran out of my stakeout spot to confront the assassin.

As he was trying to get away, I ran up to him and kicked him in the back. He fell and dropped his gun. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a switchblade. But before he could use it on me, I fired a quick shot of pepper spray into his eyes from a hidden canister impeded in my lipstick. It wasn’t enough to disable him, but it was definitely enough to make him fight sloppy.

He tried slashing me with the knife, but I repeatedly parried it away. Then, once I got a good opening, I hit him across the face with a powerful elbow strike.

He stumbled back, and then turned with a lighting fast stab that I barely blocked. It cut my arms pretty bad, but a cut-up arm is a lot better than a cut-up face.

I then backed up, and started going on the defensive. If he got in too close, I'd create distance using side kicks.

Moments later, we heard people coming, so the mysterious assassin threw a flash bang onto the ground and made a quick escape.

___________________

I got a call from my handler shortly after.

“We IDed the guy from the photos.” He said. “His name is Chen Li, and he’s an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security.”

"I know you're not gonna like this, but I'm putting you under orders not to engage him." My handler said. "He's one of the world's most feared assassins. You’re lucky to even be alive right now, I doubt you’ll be so lucky a second time."

"Understood." I replied. However, I had no plans on following those orders. If he was so dangerous, I knew I had to find him before he could hurt anyone else. So I planned to use the tracking device I stealthily implanted on him during the fight to find him.

______

I tracked him down to a fish market. As I was looking for the specific building he might have been in, until I felt a firm knife pressed against my hip.

“Don’t move.” someone whispered.

I considered obeying him. But then I realized that doing so would probably get me killed. So instead, I stepped back and drove my elbow right into his stomach.

He tried to stab me, but I parried his arm, and then started running away. Unfortunately, just a few moments later, I was surrounded by four guys, and they captured me.

Next thing I knew, I was in the back of a van, and there was a chloroform rag against my face.

______

I woke up chained to a wall.

"Good afternoon." He said.

"What do you want?" I asked.

"Honey, you're more than I could ever want." He said. "Our plan will go so much better, knowing we have a CIA agent we can blame for everything."

"You see, by the end of the day, Taiwan's government will be in ruins. We were gonna blame it on the triads, but blaming it on the CIA will be so much better. And by tomorrow, the Ministry of State Security's plans will be set in motion to reduce Taiwan to a puppet state."

It sounded like a good plan. But there’s one slight thing he didn’t account for; the fact that I had a hidden pin in my sleeve, one with a strong acid that could melt through chains.

The moment I was free, I dove right for him. Before he could even scream, I had him in a chokehold. Once I was sure he was conscious and couldn’t cause anymore trouble, I frisked him for weapons. I found a 9mm in his side pocket; it wasn’t ideal, but it would do. I also found the agent's phone, which I took.

I left the room we were in to find myself in a fish packaging warehouse. Once I was seen, someone shouted “SHE”S FREE, GET HER!” in Mandarin, so I started shooting. They retreated, and I dashed towards the front exit. I didn’t stop running until I was at least a block or two away.

________________

I checked the phone, and found their plans in an open text chain. Thankfully, I could read Mandarin as well as speak it. It revealed that Chen Li was planning to kill the Taiwanese President from an office building overlooking the Taiwanese Capital.

And he was planning to do it within the hour, so I knew I had to act quick. I ran to the building, and raced up the stairs to find the room he was using on the fifth floor.

And then, I found him. Sitting at a windowsill, with a rifle that looked like it could make a shot from a mile away. And he looked like he was about to fire.

I ran up behind him, and before he could even react, I slammed my fist into the back of his head. From there, I put him in a rear naked choke.

He pulled me over his shoulder and body slammed me to the ground. From there, he started punching me. I retracted my legs to cover my torso, and then pushed him away with a powerful kick.

I then shot in for a double leg takedown. Once I had control over his legs, I hoisted him over the windowsill, and dropped him out, watching as he plummeted to his death from five stories up.

______

Shortly after the fight, I got a call from my handler.

"Taiwanese authorities have apprehended the spies working out of the fish plant." He explained. "Congratulations Jennifer, you've single handedly undone a six year operation by the Chinese government to ruin Taiwan."

"Does this mean I'm not in trouble for disobeying you?" I asked.

"Yes." He said. "I'm sorry I doubted you, your instincts saved a whole country today."

"Unfortunately, you don't have long to celebrate. The president wants you in Bogota by tomorrow. We’ve intercepted reports that a Venezuelan cocaine boss is planning something big in Colombia.”

"I'm on my way to the airport right now."

Batkevin74 - Problem Down Under

Problem Down Under

No Caption Provided

“G’day and welcome to the ICTX, my name is Kylie, may I see your pass please?” The young woman at the entrance of the International Counter Terrorism Convention smiled a well practice genuine smile. She took Jennifer’s lanyard and scanned the QR code and then casually waved her through.

{Okay, I’m in} She whispered out the corner of her mouth. On the other end of the earpiece was her handler, Gregory Mitchell, was who safely hundreds of miles away sipping an extra strong coffee as he observed dozens of screens.

{Getting in is easy, getting the asset before the other agencies is the real challenge}

“Reckon you could raise your arms for me?” A man walked up to Jennifer with a metal detector. She raised her arms and hoped the polycarbonate gun she printed in the hotel room wouldn’t be found, and that it would work.

{Seems we have at the Indian R&AW on site as well as M.I.6, even though in the AUKUS meeting they said they had no interest in the asset, those lying bastards!}

{We said the same} Jennifer whispered, and the metal detecting man looked at her curiously. “I saw the sign, Ace of Base. Catchy.”

The man smiled at her weirdness and waved her through into the massive convention centre that overlooked Kitchener Bay. Darwin was an odd choice but perhaps due to its proximity to south-east Asia or how low the Australian dollar was were why this year’s ICTX was being held here. The annual event had arms dealers and governments from across the world come and look at the latest in gadgets, weapons, and tech. Also, it was where deals were done and wars started, sometimes ended. CIA Operative Jennifer Bryan put on some sunglasses and walked in.

{You got my visuals?}

{Standby, we are still in yesterday compared to you, Bryan. Okay, we have HUD from you, plus audio link. You are good to go to search for the asset.}

Jennifer wandered around looking at all the stuff. Customizable APC’s, underwater handheld rocket launchers, exo-suits, guidance systems, French Foreign Legion recruitment station; if it went bang, boom, or killed, there was probably a booth here. A massive section was dedicated to Mockheed Lartin, the world’s largest defense contractor and dozens of others. A man stepped backwards from the exhibit not watching where he was going and bumped straight into her.

“Oh, excuse me ever so sorry,”

Jennifer caught the British man by the elbow as tried to edge away. “That’s alright.”

{M.I6 agent James Fleming} Gregory relayed to her. {Check your pockets}

“But I seemed to have dropped my tampons?” Jennifer looked right into James eyes and watched as he squirmed at the question. She could see her polycarbonate gun bulging under his arm.

“Ah” He smiled at her as the oddly held each other’s arms in a tense standoff.

“Hi there, I’m Terry from Mockheed Lartin, have you seen our jet?”

Jennifer twisted James’ arm and they stood side by side facing the representative like schoolchildren facing Terry, a man in his mid-thirties who could easily pass as the Eurasian version of Tom Cruise. “Not yet but…” Jennifer said in a convincing English accent glancing at his name tag. “Colin…and I were just speaking about it. Colin, tell Terry how interested Her Majesty is in these planes.”

James coughed and smiled. “Yes, we are very interested in…” He felt Jennifer’s hand slide up his back and retrieve her gun. “What you have to offer, but…Ruth…yes Ruth handles the MONEY!”

Jennifer pulled the gun back out of James’ kidney and back onto her person. “No need to shout Colin. But yes I handle the money, among other things. Now Terry, could I, if it’s not too much trouble, sit in your plane?”

{Nice work. A close up of the plane will be useful to the boys in defense. I’ll patch through to the Brits and tell their guy to back off}

“There is a little bit of a line,” Terry ushered Jennifer over to the plane.

She looked over her shoulder and winked at the British agent. {Oh he’s harmless, leave him. Any news on the asset?}

(Not on the board as yet.}

Jennifer followed Terry to are short line of people waiting to go on the plane like kids at an amusement park. She listened intently to Terry’s spiel on specs of the plane, what it was capable of, what colours you could custom it too, all the while looking about for why she was here. She took a promotional water from valet and locked eyes on James who was looking elsewhere.

{Can you see what double oh douchebag has spotted?}

James quickly moved away, and Jennifer broke from the line to follow him. People moved for the attractive young woman who flashed a cute smile or two to help her catch up to James who had paused near a stage watching a man walk onto it carrying a microphone.

(Asset spotted, he’s coming on stage. You have all green lights}

{You expect me to shoot him on stage?}

{I expect you to do as ordered!}

“…arm Darwin welcome to…David Moore-Cornwell!” A man in his late fifties, with a shock of white hair, shambled onto stage. Jennifer sighed and as she went for her gun, a hand grabbed her forearm.

“Don’t.” James warned her.

{Acceptable loss, you are green Bryan. Go!}

Jennifer took off her sunglasses, tapped her earpiece off, and smiled at James. “Get your hand off me.”

“You’ve lost your accent.”

“You’ve lost your voice!” WHAM! She kneed him straight in the groin making his double over. She grabbed his shirt and hockey style threw it up over his head then pushed him through the Monstroni Weapon System display sending standees and foam bullets flying.

“HE’S GOT A GUN!” Jennifer yelled pointing at James who did indeed have her gun in his hand. The crowd went berserk! Australia was a country renowned for tough gun laws and minimal mass shootings so even though an arms convention, a gun was a big deal. Jennifer darted through the masses up to the stage to the confused guest.

“What’s going on?” David panted.

“Sir, I’m with ASIO, come with me,” Jennifer said as she bumrushed him off the stage. “You’re in terrible danger.”

“Oh my!” He stammered as his legs tried to keep pace with Jennifer’s pushing. The pair came into the backstage wings and down a corridor leading to a fire escape. “Who am I in danger from?”

Jennifer sighed, grabbed the old man by the head and twisted in a quick jerky motion. “Me.”

She tapped her ear again. {Asset is done}

{WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?}

{Dealing with problems, now get me out of here}

No Caption Provided

______

Jennifer looked at the article as she waited at Darwin International Airport for her flight. She shook her head and walked towards the lounge area. She wasn’t proud of what happened yesterday, sometimes her job wasn’t pretty or glamourous or even nice. Jennifer fished her passport out and handed it over to the attendant who smiled.

“Do I know you?” Jennifer questioned as she scanned his face.

The attendant smiled. “Ace of Base.”

Three armed federal police stepped up behind Jennifer, appearing from nowhere. The attendant stepped out from behind the counter and clipped a pair of cuffs onto her wrists. “Sorry about this but we have a few questions about yesterday.”

Cbishop - Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon’s Teeth

Jason December & Jennifer Bryan: Like Pulling Dragon’s Teeth

No Caption Provided

M walked in briskly, all upright and proper, wearing a mint green suit. You would think the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service would want to stand out less, but I've always assumed it was like the column of fire by night leading the Israelites- you can see her coming, she knows you can see her coming, and she doesn't care, because she's that good. Also, it never stops being impressive.

With her is Q, followed by one of his technical assistants wheeling in a cart with whatever gear he's cooked up this time. If M is the fire by night, Q is the cloud by day- obscuring the view of what's right in front of you, not as flashy as the column of fire, but no less fearsome. The same angel in two different guises.

He tried, but I shut him down.
He tried, but I shut him down.

With them is a young woman I don't know, but she's a pretty bird. I flash a smile and a nod as they walk up to the table I'm leaning against, and as the technical assistant walks away, M says, "Down, boy. Double-O-Seven already landed this fish."

Dammit, Bond!

"He tried," the woman says, "but I shut him down." Her accent is American which surprises me.

Her hands clasped in front of her, M turns slightly towards the woman, and corrects her, "You pretended to shut him down, but you cast your room number from your phone to his when you got close enough."

Which means she already had his number, I think, assessing her. They've tumbled before. Bond, you old dog.

The young woman meets M's gaze only briefly, and then looking down at the table behind me, she clears her throat slightly, and says, "I... didn't think you saw that, ma'am."

I smile again, and say, "M sees everything." I reach out my hand to shake hers, and introduce msyelf. "Jason December- Double-O-Fifty."

Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box.
Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box.

Shaking my hand firmly, she says, "Jennifer Bryan."

"Ms. Bryan is with the C.I.A.," M informs me. "They've asked our help. You'll be accompanying her to Macau."

"What's in Macau?" I ask.

"Not a what," says Jennifer. "A who- Jena Johansson; codename: Black Box."

I wince. "You yanks aren't really still using codenames, are you? Leaving calling cards, too?"

"She's not C.I.A.," says M. "Ms. Johansson is with Raido Computer Consulting- a front for an elite American military unit. The R.C.C. themselves are the elite of the elite, known as Valkyries."

"Choosers of the slain?" I ask.

"Valhallan Escort Service, if you ask me," says Bryan.

"I didn't," M says sternly. "The Valkyrie name is not unearned, and if they are the elite of the elite, Johansson is the elite of the Valkyries. She designed their new power armor, and is about as near to a counterpart for myself and Q as the Americans are likely to get."

"I didn't think that was possible," I say amiably.

"She said 'near,' Mister December," Q says with a smile. He purses his lips for a second, then arches his eyebrow. "But it's a relative term, I'd say."

I smile and nod back, then ask, "So, what's a Valkyrie doing in Macau, M?"

"Getting caught," she says sharply, "and getting in our way." Directing our attention to a monitor behind me, M brings up some pictures. "This is the Macau Dragon Casino- Ms. Johansson's last known location."

"It looks like Wat Samphran," I say, looking to M.

It looks like Wat Samphran.
It looks like Wat Samphran.

She raises an eyebrow in my direction, and answers, "It's modelled after the Dragon Temple, but is twenty-two stories high, rather than sixteen, and ten times the circumference. The additional six floors are reserved for Lóng Mán- the Dragon Eel- the owner of the Macau Dragon. Although Mán himself lives in the penthouse just below the dragon's head."

I shake my head. "Wat Samphran was built with Buddhist symbolism in mind. Adding floors just takes away from that."

"The Dragon Eel's about as Buddhist as Al Qaeda is Muslim," Jennifer almost snaps.

"Did you lose someone in Nine Eleven?" I ask with a slight pout.

Her eye twitches momentarily as she checks her anger. "No. But three thousand American families did. That's--"

"--Not relevant at the moment," M interrupts. "Jason has had psych profile training, and that was an ill-advised attempt," she says, glaring at me, "to test it out on you."

Bryan takes a deep, angry breath, and glares for a moment. "For what purpose?"

"To see how invested you are in someone else's pain, and how in control of your anger you are," I say simply. "Ms. Johansson is in danger, and we're being sent in to rescue her. I want to know if I can count on you to keep your head in the field."

She takes about two seconds to absorb that, and then says, "You could have just asked."

I nod, a bit embarrassed at M's chiding, and say, "As M said, it was ill-advised. I apologize."

She looks at me without a change in her expression, and says, "You can count on me." Turning back to the monitor, she adds, "James has."

Damn! I think to myself. I say nothing, just raising an eyebrow as I glance at M, then turn back to the monitor myself.

M continues, "Lóng Mán is the head of the Dragon's Teeth Triad, although we have suspected that he and the Triad are just the front for a larger organization called Ouroboros."

A snake biting its tail?
A snake biting its tail?

"A snake biting its tail?" I ask.

"Jason, quit interrupting," says M, glowering at me. "Law enforcement agencies and governments all over the globe have expressed interest in Ouroboros. Even the highest levels of the U.S. Secret Service. An international Ouroboros Task Force, or O.T.F., has managed to place operatives throughout the organization, and the list of those operatives is closely guarded. Or, at least it was until last week.

"Last week, an agent of the Dragon's Teeth Triad named Weaver stole that list from Langley, Virginia, and managed to get it back to Macau. The Dragon Eel put the list to use immediately, and most of the O.T.F. operatives they had inside were killed before they could be pulled out."

"If the list has already been used, then what was Ms. Johansson after?" I ask.

Jennifer answers, "Weaver took the list to Lóng Mán. The agents were planted in Ouroboros. Their deaths prove that Dragon's Teeth fronts Ouroboros. Black Box was the Raido agent assigned to O.T.F. She was sent in to hack the Dragon Eel's computers, and hopefully get us the information on Ouroboros that we've been looking for."

I look at Agent Bryan, and ask, "'Us? We've?'"

She eyes me for a second, then nods. "I'm currently the C.I.A.'s agent in the O.T.F."

"So, what's Johansson's status?" I ask.

"We've lost contact with her, but believe she's still alive," says Bryan. Then, a bit uncomfortably, she adds, "The Triad hasn't been shy about leaving our agents where we could find them."

"Sending their governments a message," I say quietly.

...so we can deliver a message...
...so we can deliver a message...

"Yes," says M. "And we want Lóng Mán's information so we can deliver a message of our own."

"'Our own?'" I ask. "We have agents in the O.T.F. too then? And didn't know for sure about the Triad's connection to Ouroboros?"

M looks sideways at Jennifer, then to me. "We didn't know. We didn't have agents in the O.T.F. either, but now we do. You." Her look dared me to challenge her.

Instead, I nod, then raise my eyebrows as I realize something. "You said Black Box was getting in our way. We were already in Macau?"

"We were already in the Macau Dragon Casino," M corrects. "Lóng Mán is the head of the Dragon's Teeth Triad, and the Triad is trying to establish a foothold in Great Britain. He has brought in something of great significance to him, and he was very secretive about it. One of our agents alerted us to it. He didn't know what it was, and he didn't have a chance to find out. He was killed by Weaver when he tried to prevent Ms. Johansson from being taken."

I look at M curiously. "How do we know it was Weaver?"

She scowls. "They sent us a video." She nods back to the monitor, then uses a laser pointer to select the video file and play it.

Our agent sat in a chair facing the camera, held upright only by his restraints. His head lolled to one side, and then back as he tried to look at the camera. Standing just behind him was a man clad in amber ballistic armor decorated with black spider webs. With no speech, and no ceremony, Weaver put an MP7 machine pistol to the back of our agent's head, and splattered blood and gore all over the camera. The video ended.

M speaks first. "I understand you went through academy with Agent Twixenberry."

"Yes," I say as I turn back to M. "Ryder was a good man; accomplished. He also had a husband; Hugh, I think. His death deserves a response."

"That's why I want Ms. Johansson and whatever is so important to Lóng Mán," says M.

I nod. "Fine. We're going in after both."

"The priority is Johansson, and the Dragon Eel's information if she has it," says M. "Secondary is Mán's mystery interest. Bring it in if you can. Disable it if you can't. Destroy it if you have to." Looking pointedly at me, she says, "Mister December, please do me the courtesy of not being as prone to destruction as Bond."

I smile and say, "I'll do what I can, ma'am."

M glowers at me.

My face falls as I clear my throat, and correct myself. "I'll do that, ma'am."

She nods once, then says, "Q? What do you have?"

Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas...
Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas...

With a pleasant smile, Q says, "The normal items for both, ma'am. Exploding cufflinks, clip-on ties that double as garottes, bulletproof jackets." He pauses, and adds, "Try yours on, Ms. Bryan- I had to guess at your size." Then he continues, "Infrared contacts, ballpoint bazookas, steel reinforced belts, watches with one E.M.P. pulse each, rings with a three second magnesium flare... uh, do make sure that they're pointed away from you... and standard-issue nine millimeter Glocks."

"Standard issue?" asks Bryan.

"Yes, ma'am," says Q. "If you should be taken captive, a normal weapon distracts from the disguised ones, and sometimes, a good old fashioned bullet is called for."

Jennifer smiles. "I see."

I smile too. "What? No shoe phones, Q?"

"Ah," says Q, holding up an index finger, and reaching to the bottom shelf of his cart. "No, but these have the always-reliable retractable toe blade. Also, turn the heels clockwise," he says, demonstrating, "and they release. Fold it in half," he says, doing so one-handed, "and FIRE IN THE HOLE!" he hollers as he pivots and hurls the heel across the room in a pitch that would have done Nolan Ryan proud.

It shoots into the bomb-testing hood, the blast door slamming down immediately. It blows, and the smoke and flame are sucked out by safety fans. Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a new heel, turns it counterclockwise onto the shoe, and hands me the pair. Smiling, he says, "Ms. Bryan--"

"I know- try them on," she says with a wink.

Q smiles.

"You leave in one hour," says M. As Q and Bryan leave the room, M says, "Jason."

I turn back. "Yes, M?"

"I didn't know for certain about the Triad's connection to Ouroboros, and I didn't have an agent in the O.T.F."

"Yes, ma'am. You said. I believe you," I say in sincerity.

Very calm, but her voice clear with anger, she says, "I should have, on both counts. I am the head of the Secret Intelligence Service. Someone has kept me in the dark, and shut this agency out of the fight against Ouroboros. That is bloody hard to do, and a mistake that someone is going to regret. Until I know who that someone is, you report directly to me, and no one else. I said I want to send a message, Mister December, and you are the messenger. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly," I say with a nod. "Anything else, ma'am?"

The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent.
The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent.

M glances to one side, then looks back to me. "Yes. The largest ouroboros would be the Midgard Serpent. It stretched all the way around the world, and I fear this new organization has that kind of reach. Even moreso than S.P.E.C.T.R.E." Her eyes dart side-to-side as she sorts her line of thought, and she adds, "It's another Norse mythology reference, like Valkyrie. I don't like that kind of coincidence, Jason. If you find this Jena Johansson, be wary of her."

"Of course, M."

"Godspeed," she says, still sorting the possibilities in her mind. "Dismissed."

*******

We are flown into Macau by the RAF under the guise of a recreational skydiving company. We dive from the plane using wingsuits to reach our target. I'm surprised, but Agent Bryan outpaces me. She is absolutely fearless about it. We had decided to take the direct approach, and land on top of the Macau Dragon Casino, near Lóng Mán's penthouse.

Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth...
Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth...

Jennifer lands perfectly, and lets her suit's parachute detach and fly over the side of the building. Mine snags the giant dragon's mouth, but leaves me standing on the roof. I detach the chute as the Dragon Eel himself and four armed security come out of the penthouse.

"Whoo! That was intense!" Jennifer shouted happily, as she pulls off her wingsuit.

Unzipping my own wingsuit, I say, "A little too intense for me." My voice is a bit shaky for the benefit of the guards.

"Hands in the air!" shouts one of the security team.

"We're sorry about this!" I call out. "We meant to land in front of the casino. We were hoping to get married here. Destination adventure wedding, and all--"

"Please, don't bother with the lies, Mister December," says Lóng Mán. His tone is half-pleasant, but the moray eel around the Mandarin 'siwang' tattooed on his left cheek dispells that.

Ah, hell, I think to myself as they take our guns. He knew we were coming. M is not going to be happy.

"The information you're hoping to find is not here," says the Dragon Eel. "An agent named Black Box escaped with it. However, by the time your Ouroboros Task Force is able to act on it, it will be useless. Our bases are already being moved."

"That's... very forthcoming," I answer, more than a little perplexed.

"Why should I not be?" asks Mán. "There is nothing you can do to stop Ouroboros. You can't even stop my plans."

"Your plans?" asks Jennifer.

Lóng Mán rolls his eyes towards her with disdain. "Didn't I tell you not to bother with lies? It should be obvious by now that I know what goes on in the law enforcement agencies that make up the O.T.F. You know I've had something sent here."

"We do," I admit, "but we don't know what it is. So, we really don't know your plans. We just figured it was in one of your top floors, and it would be easier to get to from the roof."

"Now you're being forthcoming?" he asks.

"It seems you prefer it," I say with a nod.

He nods back, and says "I do." He locks eyes with me for a few seconds, and says, "Fine. Let me show you what you've come looking for." He waves to his security men, and they prod Jennifer and I to fall in behind the Dragon Eel. We step into the body of the dragon, and wind our way around the hotel until we enter a doorway two floors down. The room we enter is completely dark save for a shaded light to the left hanging over something very much resembling an electric chair.

What the hell?
What the hell?

"I don't like the looks of this," I mutter.

"Look ahead," says Jennifer. "You're going to like it even less."

I glance forward, and tap my temple. The infrared contacts pick up the vibration, and they activate. I don't know whether to believe my eyes or not, but it looks like some kind of half-man, half-snake thing swimming in a floor-to-ceiling aquarium that takes up half the room, and it's lighting up under infrared like a bonfire. "What the hell?" is all I can manage.

"Oh, you've spoiled the surprise," Lóng says to us as the lights come on. "His name is Ryan Xīfāng- a mutant. He has been in the state you see since he was twelve years old- he's now twenty-nine. He's very powerful, but has been mostly denied a normal life. He hasn't had money, known a woman, or any number of things you likely take for granted."

There was a tap on the glass of the tank, and Ryan's voice came over a speaker, an echoing garble from talking underwater. "On the other hand, I am everything Lóng Mán has ever wanted to be: extraordinary, strong, and as he said- powerful. So, he offered me a trade," he says, webbed hands pressed to the glass.

...truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!
...truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!

"This chair you see me in allows our minds to switch bodies," says Mán. "Ryan gets to have this fully-human body, and Lóng gets to be truly, at long last, a Dragon Eel!"

"You're mad!" Jennifer seethes with disgust. "You can't do this! You can't just take a man's body!"

The underwater voice sounds over the speakers again, laughing. "Can't I? It's already done. I am Lóng, and the body in the chair is Ryan. This form takes some getting used to, but it's power is... incredible," he says looking at his hands.

Neither myself nor Agent Bryan can hide our horror at this strange turn of events. We just stand there, looking back-and-forth between the man and the mutant. Sitting in the chair, Xīfāng just looks at us intently, his smile revealing just how much he's enjoying himself.

Lóng speaks from the tank again. "I'm not a monster, agents. This is a mutual agreement, and fully reversible. We share this power."

"About that," says Ryan, as he rises from the chair. He rolls his eyes towards the tank as he pulls a gun from his belt. Then he turns and shoots the transfer equipment attached to the chair.

"NO!" shouts Lóng. "What are you doing?!"

"You want to be the Dragon Eel?" asks Ryan. "You got it. I've made other plans."

"I'll kill you!" shouts Dragon Eel, and the snake-like man breathes a stream of fire at the glass, boiling the water, but having no effect on the tank.

"Not from that tank, you won't," says Xīfāng. "You made sure of that. Thanks," he says with a smirk. "I've had enough of that life, but I think I'm going to enjoy being you."

"You can't!" Lóng burbled over the speaker. "The Triad won't allow you to just live my life! You know nothing about the operations!"

"We're looking for Black Box," Ryan says calmly. "When she's found, and we get the information back that she stole and erased from your system, I'll have everything I need to get up to speed on both the Dragon's Teeth Triad, and Ouroboros."

Jennifer says, "So, you've got this all figured out. Which one of you has been heading things up, alerting Ouroboros to the agents we had planted?"

Ryan points at the tank. "Oh, that was all him. I'm definitely going to have to study up. But I've got someone to help me until we get that information back," he says. He looks across the room, towards the door behind us that leads into the hollow dragon. As a man in familiar black-and-yellow ballistic armor walks in, Ryan says, "I think you know Weaver?"

"Only from video," I say quietly. "I owe you for the death of Agent Twixenberry."

Weaver gives a malicious chuckle as he steps up beside Ryan's chair. "Do you?" he asks as he takes off his mask.

"Ryder?!" I gasp, truly surprised. "How?"

"The video was staged, obviously," he says. "I wasn't supposed to be this involved, but then my husband was killed."

"Hugh?" I ask, surprised again.

Ryder sighs. "No one ever says his name right. It's Hu."

I hear the difference when he says it, and Jennifer hears it as well. "Your husband- he's Chinese?" she asks.

"Yes," says Ryder, "and he was the Weaver you saw in the video where we faked my death. Minutes after that, he was killed by Black Box, and she escaped."

Why would you betray... Your country?
Why would you betray... Your country?

"Why?" I seethe, finding my anger again. "Why would you betray M.I.6? Your country? Why would either of you help the Dragon's Teeth Triad? Why would you ally yourself with someone like Lóng Mán?"

Ryder just shakes his head. "I was helping Hu for the same reason Hu was helping Lóng- we're family."

I was stunned. "What?"

Jennifer gasps with realization, and says, "Of course. Weaver's file; his real name- it's Hu Mán. He's Lóng Mán's brother."

"Well, it's been Hu Twixenberry for some time now, but yes, they were the same man," says Ryder. "When Black Box killed him, I became Weaver so that I could have revenge on her." Looking at the mutant in the tank, he says, "And on his brother who let him die."

"Funny thing about even the best laid plans," says Jennifer as she slowly raises her hand, thumb spinning her ring. "They can go up in a flash."

I turn away quickly as a magnesium flare blinds Ryan and Weaver, and use my own ring to blind two of the security men. I sprint towards one of the others, and drop into a slide as I snatch the tie off my shirt. As I slide under one man's legs, I grab his ankles and pull, causing him to faceplant on the hard floor.

I sweep the legs of the one nearest him, slicing him with the toe blade, and when he falls, I loop the tie around his throat, trying to garotte him, or break his neck. In the chaos, Jennifer targets the same man with her bazooka pen, and fires. By instinct, I roll us both out of the way, and the projectile strikes the water tank. It's a big blast, but it only manages to crack the surface of the glass slightly. I manage to break the security man's neck.

...I drop a cufflink down the shirt...
...I drop a cufflink down the shirt...

I fire my bazooka pen at Ryan and Weaver. It misses them both, but hits the wall behind them, the blast knocking them both to the ground. While they're dazed, I drop a cufflink down the shirt of the security man that I'd faceplanted, because he was coming to. I roll away quickly, and throw the other cufflink towards one of the security men who had been blinded. It clinks on the floor a few times, stopping at his feet. They explode one behind the other, killing the two men.

The last security man is killed by an explosion from one of Jennifer's cufflinks. She turns to throw the other one towards Ryan and Weaver, but Ryan already has his gun out, and Jennifer takes three bullets to her torso, knocking her backwards, and hard to the floor. The cufflink hits the ground and rolls my way. I dive across the floor towards Jennifer, grabbing the cufflink with one hand and tossing it behind me, and reaching out for her with the other. The link hits the tank, and the explosion leaves another surface level pock mark on the glass.

I pull Jennifer towards me, and fall over her, taking Ryan's remaining shots in my back. It hurts like hell, but Q's jacket holds against the bullets. That's when I remember that Jennifer's wearing the same thing. My head towards her feet, I glance back and see the three bullets that hit her embedded in the front of her jacket. Painfully, she reaches for my foot, and I reach for hers. We look at each other as we release the heels, and I nod towards the tank. She nods back.

Stop! yells Weaver...
Stop! yells Weaver...

"Stop!" yells Weaver, now on his feet again, and aiming his MP7 at us.

We both jerk our heads his way, seeing the weapon, and freeze. Jennifer puts her hands in the air hesitantly, obviously in pain.

Weaver sees the shoe heel in her hand. Snatching it from her, he demands, "And what the hell is this supposed to be?"

Her breath heavy, she says, "Cy... cyanide capsule, so... we're not... taken alive."

"Right," says Weaver. "M.I.6 doesn't do that."

"It's true," I say, waving the heel of Jennifer's shoe that's in my hand. "You snap the heel in half, and the capsule is inside."

Ryder laughs. "Oh, come on," he says, as he flexes the heel trying to snap it. It cracks, and folds in half much to his surprise.

Jennifer and I scramble in opposite directions, and she says, "I can't believe that worked."

Ryder starts to raise his MP7, but the heel explodes, blowing him apart. The force blows Ryan backwards, bouncing him off the wall. I snatch up Jennifer's heel again, and snap it in half. "Bryan! The door! Now!" and I pitch the heel at the water tank.

We both reach the doorway as the heel explodes. We look back, and see the tank wall collapse, and the Dragon Eel and a few thousand gallons of water flooding into the room. We look at each other wide-eyed, and sprint into the tunnel. We're around the curve just enough to be out of sight of the door when Jennifer says, "Damn!"

"What?" I call back as we continue our sprint, hearing the water roar into the tunnel.

Jennifer looks over her shoulder as the water comes into view, and she shouts, "We should have headed to the roof!"

I would have laughed, but the water overtook us, and washed us and multiple casino guests through nineteen floors of tunnel like an amusement park water slide, disgorging everyone out of the ground floor tunnel entrance, and onto the sidewalk. Cars parked along the curb kept anyone from washing out into the street, but the water caused some accidents.

There's our ride. Let's go.
There's our ride. Let's go.

Jennifer and I stagger to our feet. Spying a motorcycle laying in the street, I say, "There's our ride. Let's go."

"What about the Dragon Eel?" she says as we pick the bike up.

Just then, there's a loud explosion, and fire and glass blow out of an upper floor. We look for a moment, and hop on. "I'm thinking he's mad," I say as we take off.

Over the motorcycle's engine, she shouts, "Shouldn't we--?"

"--No!" I holler back as we turn a corner, then into a parking deck. We ditch the bike on the first floor, and leave the parking deck on foot, disappearing into the crowd. "He blew up the entire floor," I say to Jennifer. "That blast took out Ryan for sure."

"So... he's stuck as the Dragon Eel," she says.

"Right," I say with a sigh. "Black Box is already gone. The Dragon Eel already used his 'mystery interest.' M is not going to like this. We accomplished nothing."

"Well, no," says Jennifer. "We know Jena escaped alive with the information on Ouroboros. We know what the 'mystery interest' is now. Lóng Mán's Triad is crippled, and Weaver- both Weavers- are dead."

It's going to be a long way home.
It's going to be a long way home.

I nod my head, "Yes, but Ryder was already in Macau when M assigned us to this. Someone let them know we were coming. There's still a mole in M.I.6."

"And probably in every other agency connected to the O.T.F.," says Jennifer.

"We need to get back to M," I say. Pointing down a street to our right, I say, "But first, we need clothes, and weapons. There's a safehouse nearby. Let's go."

We head towards the safehouse in silence, both of us wondering who else we can trust. It's going to be a long way home.

*****

Notes:

Story and original characters owned by Chris Bishop, and copyright 2022.

OC's are:

Jason December (0050). Where did I get this name from? From:

July, August, September, October, November, December. :)

I just noticed that on a small calendar years ago, and have been holding it for an agent.

Lóng Mán - "Lóng Mán" means "dragon eel."

Ryan Xīfāng - "Xīfāng" means "The West." (No particular reason for that- I just liked the way the translation looked, and thought it sounded like a good last name.)

Hu Twixenberry (Hu Mán). "Hu Man" has no Chinese meaning- it's just two Chinese names that make wordplay on "human." I've been watching too much ST: DS9, hearing Quark pronounce it "hoo mon" lol.

Ryder Twixenberry, unnamed technical assistant, and four unnamed security guys.

OC's inherited from and created by ImpurestCheese: Dragon Eel, Macau Dragon Casino, Jena Johansson (Valkyrie/ Black Box), Weaver, Raido Computer Consulting. This story builds on these characters' first appearances in Imp's entry for CCC #15. I'm pretty stoked to finally be using them.

Fan-Fic uses:

James Bond (007), M, Q, SPECTRE. They belong to whichever movie company has the rights- MGM or Columbia Pictures, it looks like.

CCC 15's theme was GI Joe, and that's why M says that the RCC is a front for "an elite American military unit." I just ignored the references to Duke, Firefly, and Cobra. Plus, Ouroboros is my own snake-themed worldwide villain organization, so it seemed like a good story to introduce them in.

The pic of Black Box is titled "Valkyrie One." I don't recall the source, but I'll search for it when I do the repost. The woman in the pic is dressed the way Imp' often described her female leads: cargo pants and a tank top. So, I figured between that and the title it was the perfect image to represent Black Box.

The pic of the Dragon Eel is my fan-fic nod to a 2010 story right here on the CV Fan-Fic forum: .Fan fiction character creation, by ithinkitwasyou. That story was about a teen mutant named Ryan who turns into the character in the picture, but has a bit different powerset. I futzed with the picture a bit, inverting the color to get the "infrared" image, and muting the colors on the original a bit to make his color look more shark-like than neon blue-green. I'll probably continue to use the pic to represent Dragon Eel, but the image is ultimately owned by ithinkitwasyou. I've just always thought the story has a lot of potential, and that the character design is cool, so I wanted to play with it a bit. If the character should ever get published, I'd obviously have to get an original design done.

I named my guy Ryan as a nod to the story, and added Xifang as the last name, because the original character didn't have a last name. Xifang just means "The West." I was thinking of his name as "Ryan West" (for no particular reason) but when I saw the translation in Google Translate, I decided that was better. He's dead now though, and Long Fan is in the Dragon Eel body.

Wat Samphran, or The Dragon Temple, is a real place in Thailand, and isn't it just cool as heck? I've been wanting to use that somewhere for awhile now. What better than Imp's Macau Dragon Casino? Thanks, Imp'. :)

All of the pics were found via Google Image Search. The Midgard Serpent pic I put together- the Earth was one pic, and the dragon was the other. I only use MS Paint (because I haven't taken the time to learn a better program) and piecing the two together was a painnnnn. lol BUT that's my symbol for the Ouroboros organization. :)

Remember: Votes due by Sunday, June 5, 2022 at 11:59pm New York Time (click the link if you're unsure).

See you in June, peeps! Until then, be safe, I'm glad you're here, and keep an eye on that shady guy in the hat and trenchcoat- he could be a spy... or a flasher... either way, proceed with caution. :^D

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Primordial Soup (Just Write)

DateJust Write:ViewRead the...
05/21/22Primordial Soup(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanation
EJust writing from a pic that gave me inspiration. This took about 33 minutes, and I had fun.
No Caption Provided

Harold looked at the can on the table, and groaned, muttering to himself, "Primordial Soup again?" At least I don't have to cook, he thought to himself. He pulled out the manual can opener, and cranked the handle until the lid was almost entirely disconnected from the can. Then he poured it into his soup cup, and waited.

As he stared, it became full of stars and planets, and milky swirls. He sipped from the cup, and smiled. The broth of cosmic gasses and space dust had an atmosphere that always filled him with a familiar warmth. He liked that of course, but this just wasn't what he wanted. He longed for something more; something hardier. Something with a bit more life. He grimaced to himself, and shook the cup slightly, watching the soup swirl.

"What's the matter, son," asked his mother. "You're not enjoying your soup?"

"It's okay, mom," he said with a sigh. "It's just not really what I want right now."

His mother smiled brightly, and took his cup. Pouring the soup down the black hole, she said, "Well, I have an idea. Let's go out to eat."

Harold beamed. "Really?" he asked.

Opening the dimensional door, she said, "Really. To me, my Harold!"

"Yes, my mother," he said with a smile, heading to the door.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" she scolded gently.

"Aw, mom, do I have to?" he complained.

"Wear it for me," she said with a proud grin. "It always makes you look so handsome."

"Okaaay," Harold said, kicking an asteroid through the dimensional door, "but I think it looks silly."

"Harold!" his mother chided. "That helmet was a gift from Eternity! He said everyone would recognize you when you wore it."

Harold rolled his eyes. "Yeah, but he also said that they'd call me--"

"--I don't care what he said they'd call you. You'll always be my Harold."

"Yes, my mother," he said, putting on the helmet as they went through the dimensional door. "Can we get planetary rings this time?" he asked as the door began to close.

"We'll see," said his mother. "It depends on whether you still have room when you finish your gas giant."

***

Harold roused himself from his daydream, and smiled to himself. He picked up the helmet, and put it on. He wore it nearly all the time now. He missed his mother, and it made him feel closer to her. I never could get her to call me Galactus, he thought.

"I think I'll go out to eat tonight," he declared. "To me, my herald!" he said brightly, opening the dimensional door.

"Yes, my master," came the answer, and a small, silver man shot out ahead of him.

"I am definitely having planetary rings tonight," Galactus said to himself.

Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cb

Story owned by Chris Bishop, and copyright 2022. Galactus & Silver Surfer owned by Marvel.

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The Orphan: The Last Loss

RANKED 1st BY VOTERS IN CHARACTER CREATION CONTEST #118!

DateThe OrphanViewRead the...
05/18/22The Last Loss(Blog) (Forum)Disclaimer
RatingRating explanationLast Issue
MFighting, gun violence, sword violence, death/murders..I Wish You Could Remember.
The place had the atmosphere down though.
The place had the atmosphere down though.

It had been two weeks since The Orphan and Crybaby had killed Benny Factor. You don't kill one of the East Coast's biggest gangsters without fallout though, and they had been in hiding until yesterday. Yesterday, they were caught, and now Annie and Sandy Crabb were out by the docks, tied to wood chairs in a rundown warehouse called The Spatterworks. It was the home and workspace of a wannabe abstract artist named Doc Spatter. Really, he was the brutish iron fist of The Velvet Glove, also known as Elvis Velvet- a gang boss and ally of Benny Factor's. The place had the atmosphere down though. It was dark, the immediate area lit by a single lamp hanging above, and it smelled like seawater and bad meat.

Currently, the girls were alternating between taking bare knuckle beatings and electric shocks through a wet sponge pinched in a jumper cable. Annie would scream when she got shocked, and she was nearly hoarse from it. Sandy was angry at the man beating on her, and as always, she was crying through her anger. Doc hit her hard enough to knock her unconscious. It was a good bet that Velvet was watching by video, enjoying their torture with a sick glee. He wasn't going to actually be here. Not with this stink.

She... she's The Mute.
She... she's The Mute.

Annie had known for a few days that the net was closing on them, and she had made what plans she could. She reached out to the only person she felt she might be able to trust, and despite their present situation, she still held out hope that they'd show. Despite her swollen face, she grinned slightly when she saw the brief movement in the darkness behind Doc.

"Wot's so funny, den?" demanded Doc.

The movement began to coalesce from the shadows, and the eyes and forehead of a raven haired woman appeared- the bottom half of her face covered by a black mask that came up from the neck of her shirt- almost like she had pulled a turtleneck up too far. She had a silenced nine millimeter in one hand, and held one stiff index finger from the other up to her face, winking at Annie. Silently, she slid up behind their torturer, and tapped him on the shoulder. When he spun around in surprise, she slammed the gunbutt across his face.

Doc just stood there. He reached up to his face, wiped a little blood away with his fingers, and looked at it. Wiping at it with his thumb, he looked at the girl in black, and almost calm, he said, "You shouldn'ta oughtta done that. Wot you gotta say fer yerself, girlie?"

"She can't... say... anything," Annie managed through her swollen lips. "She... she's The Mute."

I ain't impressed, is I?
I ain't impressed, is I?

Spatter grunted. "I hearda you. Some deaf an' dumb little piece that likes to dress in black and play with guns. I ain't impressed, is I?"

He swung at The Mute, but she ducked him effortlessly. As she stood up straight again, she put a bullet just above his knee. The gun being silenced, there was just the wet impact, and Doc's deep bellow of a scream, but he didn't go down.

The torturer's face contorted with anger. He was about to lunge when another slim form in black dropped from somewhere above the warehouse lamp, and a thin sword suddenly tipped at his chin. "Do you want to die?" asked an elegant voice. She walked around him until she was in the light, the sword still at his chin. The Mute made room, stepping off to Doc's side, still holding him at gunpoint. The lady with the sword was Japanese, covered in black similar to The Mute, with a black silk blindfold tied over her eyes, its ends hanging between her shoulder blades.

Do you want to die?
Do you want to die?

"Well?" asked Doc. "Who're you s'posed t'be den?"

She pushed the sword upwards a bit, forcing him to raise his chin. "Purr."

Too stupid to show fear for the blade at his neck, Spatter laughed. "Wot kinda name is dat?"

"If I didn't think the explanation would be wasted, I might tell you," she said.

"Wotta you wont den?" he sneered.

"We want these women," Purr said as if explaining it to an unruly child. Stepping back a bit, she added, "And I'd like you to be quick about it. The smell here offends me almost as much as your stupidity."

"Y'know wot's really stupid?" asked Doc.

...shoot Sandy through the head.
...shoot Sandy through the head.

Purr didn't answer. She merely inclined her head to show curiosity.

"You moved," he said flatly. As he did so, he clamped his ham-fist over the barrel of The Mute's gun. Despite her firing it into his palm, he spun her sideways, smacked her in the side of the head with his other hand, and then used that hand to grab the gun, and shoot Sandy through the head. Annie screamed as much as her swollen face would allow, and then Purr's sword thrust through Spatter's chest. He winced, and looked down at the bloody blade in surprise. Finally, he went down to his knees.

Purr stepped up close behind him. Putting a hand on his shoulder as she leaned down next to his ear, she twisted the blade, and said, "My sword is too good for you."

Doc looked shocked as he stiffened at that final pain. Then he slumped, and fell over on his side.

My sword is too good for you.
My sword is too good for you.

The swordswoman reached towards The Mute who was having a hard time picking herself up off the floor. Helping her stand, Purr gently took her gun, and then shot Spatter twice in the head. Handing the weapon back to The Mute, she asked, "Are you okay?"

The Mute tapped the back of Purr's hand once to let her know that she was okay.

"Can you stand now?"

She tapped the back of her hand again.

Walking around behind Annie, she used her sword to cut through the ropes that held her to the chair. "I'm truly sorry about your sister," she offered.

"I'm not," came a voice over a P.A. system, making the three women start.

"V... Velvet?" Annie managed.

"If it makes you feel any better," came the voice over the tinny speaker, "Crybaby actually pulled the trigger on Factor. Her death, and you having to watch it, satisfies the contract. You can walk out now, and this can be the end of it."

Annie shook her head, knowing he'd see it on whatever camera was watching them. "No," she called back, her voice strengthened by her anger, but still half hoarse. "We just gave Benny the same he gave our parents." She coughed behind the effort of talking, and might have doubled over if Purr and The Mute hadn't taken her by the elbows, and stood her back up. "We were trying to go," she said, shaking with anger. "That could have been the end of it. Now though, you all have finally made me... well and truly... The Orphan." With effort, she seethed, "I have no one... and nothing... left to lose." Standing up straight, and pulling free of the other two women's grip, she pointed in the direction of the voice, and said, "And you're going to find out what that means."

The Mute winked back.
The Mute winked back.

"Please," droned the speaker. "Do I sound scared to y--" He was cut off by a bullet taking out the speaker.

Annie loooked at The Mute through heavy, swollen eyes. The Mute winked back.

Purr asked, "Do you think you'd like help with this?"

The Orphan was silent for several long seconds, and then nodded. "Yeah, I think I might," she rasped. After a minute, she finally looked behind her, and said, "First though, help me get my sister out of here."

Please let me know what you think, and thanks! -cbOriginally Presented In: CCC #118.

Story and characters owned by Chris Bishop, copyright 2022.

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