Monday, October 24, 2011

Spy Club

Spy was looming over me, daring me to say anything to commorate the event. However, there wasn't really much to say. With a pineapple bomb lodged between your teeth, you can only speak in consonants.

Project Joke and Laughter was already in place to take down multiple companies at the stroke of midnight.

I know this because Spy knows this.

Then I realized that all of this - the guns, the bombs, the poisoned pens, the boomerang ties, the squirting acid flowers, the killer kazoos, the wooden clubs, the booby traps, the secret decoder rings...

All had to do with the Lady in Grey.

In my old life, I was practically a sleepwalker. For days, I couldn't stay awake. I couldn't stay awake. I couldn't stay awake. With hypersomnia, nothing's real.

Every workday's the same as the last. Tedious meetings that went nowhere. Uninteresting coworkers spouting the same tired old lines. Junk mail selling the same old stuff. Even my diary was a cruel parody - every week could've been copied and pasted, and nothing would've changed.

On a long enough timeline, the expiration date for everything drops to zero. Even the sun will only last for another five billion years, if we're lucky. With planned obsolescence, we don't even bother making products last longer than two years anymore. Once they become obsolete, they were chucked out because a certain part wasn't available, even if all the other stuff still worked. Its become easier to just buy the 2.0 version, since it has more bells and whistles attached to it.

I prayed for anything exciting to happen; a car crash, a train crash, a plane crash - anything that'd help relieve my tedium. I'd even settle for a bicycle accident.

Then one day, a strange man with in a long trenchcoat approached me, handed over a folder and said, "Here, look casual. I'll be back later." And as soon as he arrived, he abruptly left.
The whole incident was so bizarre that I wondered if I hadn't dreamed it up. In my current workplace, carrying large stacks of papers was considered practically normal, so I didn't really stand out.

I kind of got my answer when the mysterious man showed up again later.

Thanks for the help. I'll be leaving now.
Do you mind telling me what all this is about?
Sorry. That's on a need-to-know basis. And he left again.

However, I wasn't going to let him leave without satisfying my curiosity. Besides, I was on lunch break, and could use a change from the fish paste sandwiches. I caught up to him in the lobby where he continued to feign innocence with me.

I'm sorry, have we met before?
Don't lie to me! You handed me a folder without any explaination, and I'd like some answers! If you don't tell me what all that was about, I'll call the police right now.
He looked around, eyeing the speculators and passer-bys, then said, "It's too crowded here. Here, meet me at this cafe.", and discreetly handed over a card.

By the time I read the address, he'd disappeared into the recesses of people.

I decided to take him up on his offer, since I didn't have anything better to do and no one would miss my presence for the next slide presentation.

Why were those papers so important?
Oh, the actual content of those things don't really matter. If you'd bothered to check them, you'd find out they were blank.
Then why -
- you were nothing more than bait.
I felt indignant and excited at the same time. "Bait for what??"
Well, if you must know, I was being pursued by a man known only as El Hombre Siniestro. Thanks to you, I was able to extradite him back to Cuba. By now, he'll be nothing more than a pale memory.
"Glad I could help", I sarcasically replied.
Truth be told, this was really just a test to see if you were applicable.
Now I was a little curious. "Applicable for what?"
What we do is recruit perfectly normal people and assign them roles to help us with our esponiage business. People never really notice the lowly man working at the bottom of the totem pole, so you'd fit in perfectly.
You've really got to work on your sales pitch.
And you've got to work on your drooling. You're dripping all over the place.
I casually wiped my mouth, trying to sound as bored as possible and failing. "Interested? Who's interested?"
Keep in mind that this is no easy feat. This is the kind of job that demands unwavering loyalty in the face of all opposition. That means you have to follow all orders without complaint. Think you're up to it?
I've done nothing but do people's requests' all my life.
Good. Then I'm going to give you an order, and I expect you to follow it to the letter.
Name it.
I want you to kiss me as hard as you can.
I want you to - wait, you weren't hitting on me were you?

After that embarassing setback, we decided to never speak of it ever again. This led to the first two rules of Spy Club:

The first rule of Spy Club is,
You do not talk in Spy Club.

The second rule of Spy Club is,
You DO NOT talk in Spy Club.

After our first session, I felt more alive than I'd ever felt in my life. I hurt and bruised all over, and lost at least two times. However, winning or losing wasn't really the point. I was now part of an organization bigger than myself.

The human body is a wonderfully resilient thing. You can live without blood or oxygen for about a minute before bouncing back. You can drink a pint of blood and a gallon of snot before you start feeling sick. Bleeding cuts and sores get healed over, broken muscles and bones repair themselves, and if you're hurt too badly, it shuts down and reroutes blood from non-vital body parts to the more important organs.

This was really great. We should do this again sometime.
Agreed. I'll be in touch.
What's your name though? I can't keep calling you 'Spy' all the time.
You can call me Spyer Burden.
Sounds made up to me.

Spyer was full of useful tidbits of trivia, such as,

Did you know that if you mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate, you can make napalm?
No, not really. What you wind up with is an undrinkable mess. It's that kind of misinformation we spread around, so the public feels like they're in posession of some hidden knowledge, when they're actually failing to create proper bombs and such, which helps cut down on terrorism tactics. That's what this spy business is all about.
I thought it was driving around in cool cars and hooking up with hot babes.
That's just the perks of the job. Don't let it distract you.

You wouldn't believe how much crap people throw away without thinking. I've been stealing - borrowing lots of old office supplies out of the trash bin. Obsolete computer software without their RAMs have plenty of useful material that can be reused. Would you believe that gold is a common circuitry conductor? If you collect enough of these, you can make a small fortune.
Jeez, you don't learn, do you? The amount left is so neglible it wouldn't even amount to anything, and the information it contains would be more valuable than anything you could buy.
Next lesson - never believe anything anybody tells you. This includes me. Don't trust anything until you cross-reference what you've heard with multiple sources. Then double-check those same sources to make sure they haven't been tampered with by biased researchers.
How can I tell the difference?
A good rule of thumb is, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What's really difficult are those who mix lies in with the truth. In most instances, just take everything with a grain of salt, otherwise you'll wind up double-guessing yourself all the time.

The trick is to convince people they're rulers of their own fates and not remind them they're actually cast adrift in a universe that doesn't care about them. To combat this, a helpful guideline of rigid rules helps give them the feeling of being in control. Once they're trapped in that mindset, it becomes almost impossible for them to break the pattern, even though all their instincts scream otherwise. Social experiments have proven over and over again that people are not interested in doing heavy-duty thinking. They want somebody else to take care of it for them, so they can focus on the stuff that really matters to them, such as memorizing their TV shows and video game cheats.

Third rule of Spy Club,
If someone dies, goes limp, or craps out,
the Spy is over.

For some reason even though our rules seemed very reasonable, they were very off-putting to a lot of potential members. As a result, the only repeat customers were me and Spy. I should've felt silly doing these violent actions with only one other person present, but I eventually grew accustumed to it. Let the outside world burn for all I cared, as long as me and Spy could scheme circles around each other to our heart's content.

No matter how grandoise our plans were, we always managed to find some way around it. I would devise elaborate devices that were capable of crushing a human skull, and Spy would somehow manage to find a potential flaw I'd missed. Likewise, Spy would come after me with an unstoppable killing machine, and I'd suddenly see a hole in his defenses.

"What're you doing? It looks like fun."

Then the Lady in Grey showed up, and she ruined everything.

Fourth rule of Spy Club,
Only two Spies at a time.

It was difficult to explain the rules without breaking the first two, but we managed by handing out a photocopy that Spy had lying around. Once she'd gone over them twice, she wanted to get started. I opted to be her first opponent, since it was her first time and all. That was when I discovered that she was far more efficient in her abilities than I'd ever prepared myself for. I found myself facing utter defeat within five seconds. Spyer didn't fare much better - he went down in the span of six seconds.

Even with both of us unfairly ganging up on her, she still managed to easily ward off our offenses. It no longer felt like a friendly game, but a one-sided grudge match, which we were hopelessly outmatched. She was constantly distracting us with her techniques, strategy and good looks. If it weren't for her sheer silk stockings and her plunging neckline showing tons of cleavage, we might've stood a chance.

I opted to add another rule along the lines of, No women allowed in Spy Club. However, Spyer didn't agree, saying that she was a welcome spark to our routine, which was getting stale.
We were now at an impasse. Spy started seeing the Lady in Grey more often, while I started seeing him less. I shouldn't have minded, but I suspected he was really trying to figure out her techniques and not just checking out her privates.

Fifth rule of Spy Club,
Hats and glasses are mandatory.

I didn't like how much attention the Lady in Grey was getting compared to me, and displayed my displeasure with my latest string of operations all aimed at Spy. Spyer started retaliating in kind with what he'd picked up from the Grey Lady.

Eventually, these continued successes and failures began to take its toll in what was originally intended to be a fun game between two bored people. Spyer began to grow resentful of my continuous sequences of wins, even though he won as many victories as I lost. Our Spy games became more progressively violenter than they'd been in the past, and I found I had to follow suit. Sure, I could've played it safe and asked him to tone it down, but that would've been admitting defeat, and having Spy lose his respect for me was the last thing I wanted.

Then I found out that I was being framed at work for selling company secrets to our competitors. The evidence against me was overwhelming - I was the only one who had access to the information in question. I was the only one with my fingerprints all over the keyboards. And shortly after the deals were made, a large amount was deposited in my account.

I would've betrayed the company on my own anyways, but still felt lousy that I was blamed for it. I didn't even get the satisfaction of doing the job. This time Spyer had gone too far. It was time to hit Spyer back where it really hurt. It was time I did some research of my own.

And I used to be such a nice guy.

Unfortunately, I was beginning to find out that Spyer was a much better espionage agent than I'd ever given him credit for. Any attempt to find information about his past history led to a dead end. His address and fiances seemed practically nonexistent. He had perfected the art of being a non-person so completely that it was like he didn't even exist.

In fact, of the few legal documents of his that I could actually find, all his physical descriptions wound up sounding a lot like me. I began to see the inheirent logic in his plan - he was grooming himself to eventually take over my role. Well, two could play at that game. I could create just as many false identities as him. That should throw him off the track.

However, I'd grossly underestimated the extent of his information-gathering skills. No matter how carefully I encrypted my files, no matter how many false trails I left lying around, no matter how many times I doubled-back to make sure I wasn't being tailed, he always managed to be one step ahead of me every step of the way.

I began to grow excessively paranoid. Spy's information circle was far greater than I'd ever anticipated. While going through his files hidden in a triple-locked safe laced with an explosive trigger, I found out that Spy had already outlined a profile on me before he even recruited me.
He knew more about me than I knew about myself, while I knew practically nothing about the man before I signed on. What had I gotten myself into?

I decided to dig deeper. What was the name of the guy he was tracking down? El Home Sinistro or something?

Sixth rule of Spy Club,
Spies will go on for as long as they have to.

Finding out information about El Hombre Siniestro turned out to be more difficult than I thought. It was like chasing a ghost. There was practically almost nothing known about the man, save that he relished doing unspeakable cruelties to random people. Spyer Burden had certainly done the world a great service by getting rid of him. However, apart from a few obscenities, I couldn't find any concrete activities that he'd done. Even his deportion back to Cuba was practically nonexistent. One troubling detail that I noticed was how much he looked like Spyer.

Armed with my discovery, I approached Spyer Burden with newfound confidence. Now that I knew where he was coming from, I could face against him with the intent of putting him down once and for all.

Spyer, there's something that's been bugging me.
The products are perfectly legal. Until the companies start complaining about their stolen trash, they can't link their stuff to us without proof.
That's not what I wanted to talk about. I did some research on the guy you were chasing after the day you came to me, and apparently his modus operandi is very similar to your policy.
We all learn from each other. That's how we stay the best - by anticipating the other guy's moves before they even make them.
Okay then, can you explain how you deported him?

That's confidential information.
I know, but there's no mention of his name listed anywhere.
We wanted to keep his location under wraps. It would look bad if his transport route showed where he was going.
You could've used multiple decoy trucks.
And alerted multiple sleeper agents to help him escape? No thanks.
Maybe, but it doesn't account for the lack of a paper trail showing any boats or planes going into Cuba.
Well maybe we moved him to another country that wasn't restricted by an embargo, you ever think of that?
That's what I thought, until I got my hands on a picture of the man in question, and I noticed that El Hombre Siniestro looks suspiciously like you.

What are you saying?

I should think that it's pretty obvious - you ARE El Hombre Siniestro! You changed your identity by taking care of the agent who was tracking you down. And now you're trying to replace me by usurping my role in the workplace for your own devious means.
Which are?
I don't know. Maybe you're going to spike the water cooler with laxatives. Maybe you're going to double-staple every folder in the company. Maybe you're going to burn the building to the ground - but whatever it is, you must be stopped before you even start!
I've already done all those things under your name.
Calm down. There's a very good reason for all of this. The reason El Hombre Siniestro is so difficult to track down is because he doesn't exist. He's nothing more than a former alias that I created.
I suppose you're going to tell me that you're an alternate personality created from my repressed rage at an increasingly customerist society?
No, I'm the dominant personality. YOU'RE the alternate personality!

Seventh and final rule of Spy Club,
If this is your first time at Spy Club,
you have to Spy.

I was visibly shocked at this kind of news. How could I possibly be a mental condition when I clearly remembered so many vivid images of my past? What was extremely depressing was that other than Spy club, all I could recall were the endless days of drudgery at the office, waiting for the day to end.
You only remember your boring past because I filled it with endless days of drudgery at the office, with you waiting for the day to end.
How did you -
I know this, because Spy knows this.
I stared at him incredulously. He was repeating the exact same stuff I'd been thinking. He must've been planting sublimal messages without me noticing.
Everything you know, I already know. Everything I know, you already know.
I countered back the only way I knew how; "Well, maybe I just memorized the wrong stuff so I could lure you into a false sense of superiority and catch you off guard?"
You're not that smart, and I'm not that dumb.
This seems like an extremely complicated scheme with such little payoff. Why go to all this trouble then?
It became extremly boring to have no one else match my intellectual capability, so I decided to create a persona equivalent to playing chess with myself. Haven't you ever wondered why you had so much trouble staying awake? It was only after I fed you the fantasy of the boring office worker really being a secretive undercover agent that you showed any signs of interest. That's how were you able to implement so many complicated aspects of spying in such a short time.
I thought you were a really good teacher. What about the female spy? She picked up the game faster than either of us!
Which is why you've become redundant. Now that she's shown up on the scene, I don't need you anymore. I've finally found a worthy rival, while you're nothing more than a scapegoat.

I grew red-hot with livid anger. How dare this man demean my past efforts? Well, Spy was going to find out that this spy wasn't going to be so easy to put down!

...At least, that's what I thought when I lunged at him and fell flat on my face.

Looks like the sleeping pills are finally taking effect.
That's impossible! I switched the cups around! And only YOU took a drink!
you're not very bright, are you?
Those were the last words I heard before I blanked out.

When I woke up again, I found myself tied to a chair with a grenade in my mouth.

Back again, are we? I suppose it's time to reveal my grandoise plans. Project Joke and Laughter is already in place and is unstoppable. At the stroke of midnight, all the companies that you've sent the corporate secrets to should already be infected with the malicious virus that's invading their systems right now. By lunch tomorrow, the market will be in a state of chaos trying to keep their customer service up and running, and for the first time, people will have to learn how to adapt in a world of faulty gadgets.

I wasn't really paying attention to what Spy was telling me. In the back of my mind, I somehow already knew what he was talking about. I was more concerned with getting out of my predictament. It looked pretty hopeless so far, But what Spy hadn't anticipated was that with all our past fights, I'd had to replace multiple bones and internal organs after some of our more violent sessions. I was purchasing dentures in bulk since I went through them so fast. All it would take was slipping my false teeth out of my mouth and spitting the grenade in Spy's general direction. Too bad he noticed before I even got the chance to interrupt his little speech.

You're STILL trying to resist?
Of course! I am beautiful, unique, and no flake. I'll do anything to protect my identity!
Really? What's your name then?
Well, it's... hang on, it'll come to me...
Where do you live? Who are your parents? Do you have any friends?
I have lots of friends!! There's that black guy in accounting... and the janitor...
Admit it - you're nothing more than a figment of my imagination. The sooner you accept that truth, the easier it will be for both of us.

I was falling into confusion and despair. The events of Spy Club had drowned out everything else that happened in my life. I couldn't even remember the last time I went to the bathroom, since it was so boring in comparision. The only thing left for my was Spy Club, and even that had betrayed me.

Hang on a mo - what was it he'd said? The purpose of a spy is to intentionally spread misleading information to the public. And he was recruiting people off the streets... therefore, I was one of the masses he was trying to decieve!

I suddenly saw a way out of this.

The first rule of Spy club is you do not talk in Spy club.
What are you doing?
The second rule of Spy Club is you DO NOT talk in Spy club.
Get back! I'm warning y-

And just like that, Spyer Burden suddenly fell silent, falling upon his default mode of obeying orders. Once engaged in the ritual of Spy Club, he couldn't break free from his loyalty to the rules, and that gave me all the advantage I needed.

Now that he was no longer free to spread his scandalous lies, I could focus on my counterattack. Before he could get his bearings, I reached over and shoved the grenade inside his mouth. He tried to mumble something in protest, but with a pineapple bomb lodged between your teeth, you can only speak in consonants.

I watched with a satisfied smirk as a bright flash replaced what had once been Spy's head, and raised two fingers in truimph. I figured I stood a better chance with the Lady in Grey now. Judging by Spyer Burden's attempts to impersonate me, I might be able to pull it off.

I was all set off to leave when I felt a strange sensation in my lower chest. For some reason, a wet spot was showing up, and a sharp point seemed to be poking out from it. I twisted my neck around to see where it'd come from, and was shocked to see Spy with his head ducked between his shoulders.

Of course - I'd forgotten that I knocked out his teeth just as much as he'd broken mine. He must've spitted out the bomb, then ducked his head within his trenchcoat to deflect the blast.

This wasn't going to be as easy as I thought.

With a cry, I groggly stumbled towards Spy with a knife hidden in my pocket. Both our eyes were unfocussed, but victory would go to the one who landed the final blow. Every knife wound at my former friend felt like a stab in my gut. He was a lot more resilent than I'd thought. Every time I thought I'd finally beaten him down, he rose up like a Phoenix. Likewise, everytime I felt too tired to continue, I would find some hidden resevoir of renewed strength.

I lost count of how many times we went at each other, but figured it was somewhere in the triple-digits range.

When I woke up, I found myself lying sprawled on the ground in a puddle of blood and mangled limbs. I looked around for signs of Spyer Burden, but couldn't see him anywhere. This was impossible - he couldn't have crawled away from the scene without a trace! Instead, I saw another figure. It was difficult to disconcern from my hazy view and swollen eyes, but it was umistakably the Lady in Grey. She was riffing through my suitcase and saying some cryptic words along the lines of, "finding a cure", and "selling to the highest bidder", but I couldn't hear her properly.

"I'm fine, thanks for asking," I sarcastically replied. "You should see the other guy..."

The Grey Lady heard my wavering voice and stopped whatever it was she was doing. Then she walked over to my comatose body and said the three most painful words a woman could say to a guy in my condition;

I win again.

Then she walked out the room without even casting a backwards glance. While I was enjoying watching her ass as she walked down the stairs in high heels, I heard a familiar voice behind me. Spyer Burden had seen better days.

I'm not quite sure another woman's the answer we need.
I couldn't help but smile. "Are you still up to adding another clause to our Spy Club rules?"
How about we Spy for it? As soon as I start feeling better, I'm going after you with a vengeance. I'm thinking of a Rube Goldberg inspired deathtrap that you'll never see coming.
Not if I stop you first!

I love the smell of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate in the morning. It smells like... victory.

- Spyer Burden

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