Deeper: Part One
I hurried into the offices of the Weekly World, still clutching the Neomail I had received just a few minutes before. It was a summons from Buzz to get to the offices. While all of his summons had to be heeded quickly, this one seemed particularly demanding.
I smoothed my hair and dropped the Neomail into a trash bin next to Sheila's desk. The Pink Scorchio smiled at me sympathetically. Inwardly I groaned. I knew that look. As Buzz's secretary, Sheila knew everything that went on at the Weekly World. Whatever Buzz had in store for me was going to be more unpleasant than usual.
"Sheila, will you--" I started.
"Kimmy, get yourself in here!" Buzz shouted from his office.
I hurried into the office, afraid of angering Buzz by being even a millisecond slower than I had to be. I stopped dead in the doorway, paralyzed by shock and fear. Standing in Buzz's office was a tall Blumaroo. For half a second I thought it was Visser. Visser was an agent of the Feepits, the Meepits' arch rivals for world domination. I had had runs-ins with him on a few occasions, but he still didn't know I worked for the Meepits.
The Blumaroo turned to look at me, and I realized it was Commander Garoo. Garoo is Buzz's cousin, so he being there wasn't completely unexplainable.
I relaxed a little, calmed that it wasn't a Feepit agent come to drag me off to torture me for Meepit secrets. Not that I really knew any. I also realized how dumb that ridiculous jump had been. The guy was in Buzz's office. Buzz was still a frighteningly good fighter. If Visser had shown up in his office, Buzz would had subdued him in about two seconds, tied him up, and sent him off to the Meepits for interrogation and, or, lunch.
"You're joking, right?" Garoo said. He pointed at me. "That is a joke, right?"
"Garoo, I never joke. You know that," Buzz replied.
"No, but there are times I wish you did," Garoo sighed.
"What's a joke?" I asked slowly.
"Is that hair real? What does one person need with so much hair?" Garoo asked.
"I don't know," I said, clutching the curls that had dropped over my shoulder, taken completely off guard by the question. "I just like it, I guess."
"Whatever. Buzz, please, tell me this is a joke."
"No, it's payback," Buzz smirked as he said it.
"I hate you some days," Garoo said.
"Well, I guess I'm lucky you're one of the 'blood is thicker than water' types," Buzz ribbed.
There was a moment of silence between them.
"I'm not joking, Garoo," Buzz said. "Her obvious ridiculousness is part of why she's a good agent. She's the one person you can't bring yourself to suspect. She has done deep undercover work and pulled it off perfectly. She's not always as dumb as she looks."
From Buzz, that was the highest praise I could ever reasonably hope to get.
"Well, I'll take your word for it. I know you wouldn't set me up with a lousy agent," Garoo said.
"Okay, wait!" I cried. "What is going on here? What am I being volunteered for?"
"Garoo suspects that he's got a rogue agent in his ranks," Buzz started.
"Whoa, no, no, no!" I cut in. "I may work for the Meepits, but that doesn't mean I support whatever evil cause there is out there. I'm not going to go in and oust a Resistance agent. I'm not," I stopped myself in time and quickly substituted, "a mercenary for hire." I had been going to say 'Lynette' but I realized that would be highly insensitive.
"It's not the Resistance," Garoo said. "We're not sure who they are working for."
"I've uncovered information to suggest that Colonel Iniquitous has stolen Sloth Clones and other technology from Virtupets to repurpose for his own aims. While he simply attacked a shipping freighter to get those, it would be to his advantage to get someone stationed in Dr. Sloth's employ to keep tabs on anything useful to them. Garoo knows that we are investigating Iniquitous, so he came to us for help looking into this."
"You really think Iniquitous is behind this?" I asked, even though I was already certain Buzz wouldn't be getting involved unless he thought the odds were in favor of it.
"I think there is a high probability," he replied. "So, can I count on you?"
"You know you can, sir."
I smoothed my hair back away from my face, or rather, my wig's hair. I was sitting in a shuttle, once again in my undercover guise as an Aisha, rocketing towards the Space Station. This time there was no trendy outfit, but a black body suit with crimson stripes running down it and blasters on my belt.
I was slouched, looking bored and probably irritable, which I was. Or at least, Eva was. That was me currently, Eva Starender, a mercenary with a wicked temper and skills to match. Probably no one would take Eva seriously, seeing her as yet another merc recruited by Sloth, except that she had a partner.
Across from in the shuttle was a terrifying face from Virtupets' past, Buzz. Despite the almost twenty years since his retirement from Dr. Sloth's employ, Buzz somehow managed to look no older, once again in his crimson body armor.
I had seen the way the guys flying the shuttle had cringed when Buzz got on. He was a legend; one they had sincerely hoped was gone forever. I pitied whoever it was who we were after. This Buzz wasn't my Buzz, the Meepit accomplice and newspaper editor-in-chief. This was the ruthless, stop at nothing Buzz from the famous duo of yesteryears.
The shuttle docked at a secret hangar bay and we got out. We were greeted by Garoo. He clapped the Grey Lupe on the shoulder.
"So good of you to come out of retirement, Buzz. We need you around here. The new recruits don't have the spirit they used to. Maybe with an example like you around we can change that?"
"We'll see about that," Buzz grunted.
"And this is the hotshot new partner? Good to meet you. You don't look like much, but I bet you have your skills," Garoo said to me.
"You bet I do," I said, oozing cockiness.
"Well, you know your way to your old quarters. Same rooms," Garoo said to Buzz. He handed each of us a Virtupets Portable computer. "Starender, your room is displayed on layout. You shouldn't have any trouble finding it."
I just shrugged as if to say 'whatever'. Buzz gestured for me to come, and I followed as he led through the labyrinth of corridors. He finally stopped and slid a card through the card reader and the door in front of us opened. The room inside had a couch and a coffee table on one side and two desks on the other.
"Sit down and not a word until I tell you," Buzz growled.
"Whatever you say, partner," I snarked at him.
I sat down on the couch as Buzz set up some contraption in the middle of the room. It didn't seem to do anything, except for one blinking yellow light. Eventually the light turned green.
"Okay, the room is safe. You can talk freely, Kristy," Buzz said as he started to pack up the machine.
"I'm not being too big a jerk, I am? I'm not entirely sure I'm playing this role right," I said.
"No, you're fine so far. Keep up the cockiness, and make it known you're not too big a fan of mine," he replied as he sat down at one of the desks.
He ran his hand over it, suddenly looking older. I realized that this was the same office he had once shared with Lynette. Losing her had been the reason he had left, so coming back had to be a huge sacrifice for him.
"Buzz, we don't have to do this, don't have to be here," I said. "We can bail. All we have to say is we found a better job. We're mercs, that's what mercs do. Highest bidder, right?"
"No, I'm fine. I don't let emotions get in the way of a job. That's the sign of a good merc," he said, the years rolling back by sheer determination.
I wished Buzz was the kind of person I could comfort with more than hollow words, but he wasn't and whatever being here did to him was something he would have to bear alone.
"Okay. So, what exactly is our plan for trying to find this guy?" I asked.
"We're just here to try to instill some more discipline into the ranks, and maybe do some clean up if they need it. The mole here shouldn't know that we are here for them. That's where you come in. Eva Starender is ambitious, ruthless, and doesn't care who rises to power so long as she's on the top of the winning side. She's not particularly impressed with me; she's embittered because she doesn't feel that I respect her abilities as much as she feels I should. She should be easy prey for a mole looking to get deeper entrenched here. All they have to do is try to get her to switch her alliances to Iniquitous. Getting in deeper would be good for Iniquitous, and certainly a boost for the mole by proving their worth."
"Any ideas about who is likely to be this mole?" I asked.
"Not one of the grunts, someone higher up. One of the lieutenants, most likely."
"And, how long do you expect it'll take us to oust them? I mean, we've got my alibi set up, and the fake Neomails to my kids, but we only counted on three weeks at the most. What happens if we go over?" I asked.
"Then I have backup plans in place. Don't worry, I'm having them looked after, so nothing will happen. You don't have to worry about them," Buzz reassured me. "Don't think about your family right now. You have to be Eva Starender, a ruthless mercenary who only cares about herself."
I picked up my Virtupets Portable Computer and looked at the layout of the Space Station. I found the shooting range.
"Well, I guess I better go practice with my blaster. Maybe make some friends," I said.
To be continued...