WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME…
So, today I was hanging out at Club Caprice with Juggler, the newest addition to our team. He’s an alien from the planet Marva, and he’s actually quite a nice guy if you can get over the massive culture shock he is undergoing.
Not a week ago I was taking care of some “business” near Snake Gulch (and by that I mean kicking ASCII’s sorry metallic butt) when I saw a familiar sight gracing the desert skies: An enormous green mass of arms and legs. This time, however, that enormous mass that is Grond was holding something in his arms. As I shorted out a singing cowboy robot (where do they come up with these things?) with my last shock arrow, I squinted and saw that what the brute was cradling in his arms was nothing more than a spaceship!
When he landed, he sent off massive clouds of dust, and a metallic crash echoed through the canyon when the cosmic thug smashed the ship against the ground. Heading in his direction, as fast as I could, I decided that I would try to save whatever passengers were still alive. By that time Grond had begun to stomp upon several parts of the module and it was pure luck that Juggler had decided to eject at that moment. Swinging by, I was able to catch him in my arms and swing away as the big guy’s green n’ ugly foot came down.
So he’s been here for a week and, for lack of a better place, moved in with me until he can figure things out. He really is a rather cute little guy – his primary approach to things is to question them, and his demeanor is pretty formal. That shouldn’t fool you, though, that’s part of his defense mechanism to cope with the culture shock. Underneath the defensive attitude there’s a scared young alien.
Stop giving me that look, it could happen! I’ve never had a boyfriend from another world. I’ll admit I’ve had the hots for Bumblebee too, so maybe I have this ‘thing’ with aliens? Creepy.
Anyways, so we were hanging out at Club Caprice, the gathering place of the créme de la créme of everything that is bizarre, heroic and unusual. I was telling him about some of the social conventions people take for granted here when my communicator buzzed! Apparently my presence was requested by one Jerry Jelico, journalist. I was going to buzz other members of the team when I realized this was the perfect way to show Juggler how we do things here in Millennium City! After I confirmed my participation for the contract, we chartered a jet and headed over to Burning Sands.
HOME ON THE RANGE…
Juggler had never seen Project Greenskin before. At least, not that he remembers- when I rescued him from Grond, the poor guy was unconscious and bleeding badly. The guys at Greenskin were able to treat his injuries but suggested I head over to Millenium in the fastest jet they could get for me and take him to the Hospital, which had more than its share of experience in treating nonhumans, whereas Greenskin was a military installation and not a place for convalescent civilians.
Juggler basically mounted an impromptu symposium with some of the scientists, asking them everything he could think of while I spoke with my contact there and got directions to where this journalist might be. I nearly had to pry Juggler with a crowbar, but his interest was piqued when I mentioned this journalist was researching alien technology crash-sites.
He was so impatient that he decided that waiting around for a jeep would be too much of a delay (I swing, that’s my thing, and there are no buildings to swing from in the desert, sadly)- so he hoisted me up in his arms, clicked his heels and blasted away with his fancy flying boots, all too eager to get to the alien tech!
It was rather funny, and I’ll admit I didn’t mind being carried one bit. But let’s keep that between you and me.
THE THIRD KIND
Jerry Jelic might strike some as a conspiracy nutter, a real wacko – and they’d be right, with one twist: his conspiracies are real! Thirty years ago most people thought that the National Enquirer was a gossip rag with nothing but made-up, outlandish stories. Nowadays we know that the gossip is mostly made-up and that the stories are as close to hard-hitting documentaries as you can get.
Jerry came out from behind a wide cactus when we reached the rendezvous point. He greeted us hastily and proceeded to whisper to us (though there was nobody near us at the time—but I guess you can’t be too careful).
“Remember a few months back when this area was evacuated because of a "toxic waste spill?" that was a bunch of hooey, a cover story for what actually happened: A UFO crash! VIPER is trying to cover it up, and I'm trying to get solid proof this story is true. They also have footage from the actual alien crash hidden away in their Area 51 site. If you can get it, I can upload it to the Millenium City Free Press website. There’s one catch… VIPER agent Albert Kirochek is the one guarding it, and he’s got a reputation for being a ruthless killer.”
I don’t know what impressed us the most: That a man like Jelic could have gotten a hold of this much information without getting his brains blown up, or that he was able to utter it all in one breath. As we digested this information, he looked at us pleadingly.
“Will you guys do this for me?”
Of course, it was a no-brainer. We accepted the mission and set about to first recover the missing pieces from the crash site. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded, as the Qu’larr were swarming around the crater trying to recover their precious parts too- and there was VIPER, too, engaging them in battle to recover the parts for themselves. It was rather funny, when we arrived the Qu’larr attacked us, the VIPER then took advantage of this to make a grab for the tech, at which point the Qu’larr attacked them again, and Juggler and yours truly just watched. Then Juggler, being the brainy one shot the Qu’larr with some sort of sonic beacon that made them go wild. They literally couldn’t stop themselves from attacking in a rage, and while they were busy wiping the floor with VIPER we snuck away with the requisite parts.
En route to Jelic I asked Juggler how he came by that sonic device.
“I built it,” he said.
“How did you know it would affect the Qu’larr like that?” I asked, turning around to look at his face while he carried me (impatient little alien!), the spaceship parts dragged behind us by an impromptu tractor beam he had devised.
“I researched the history of Millenium City while I was convalescing and came upon your role during the Qu’larr Invasion. We Marvans have never encountered the Qu’larr, but they seem a dangerous hive race. Thus, I did some research on the beacons that had been implanted inside the Champions’ edifice, as record shows that although the signals caused them to attack, they did so in a berserker rage and with decreased efficiency. I thought it would then come in handy to prepare a device that could replicate that effect in a smaller scale, should we ever have to deal with the Qu’larr again. Does that answer your question?”
As he set me down gently next to Jerry Jelic-o, I realized I had done a good thing in convincing Juggler to join the Raven Watch. With him and Tool, our other inventor, things are bound to get very interesting. Jelico, of course, was ecstatic and promised to bear our firstborn child if we could only get him the tape – this confused Juggler, since he was aware that “the male of the species does not carry the offspring,” but I’ll tell him about it at some other time. Before we could engage in the next phase of our mission, Juggler insisted that he be allowed to thoroughly scan the pieces of Qu’larr debris- I let him, who knows what useful contraptions he’ll be able to create with Qu’larr technology?
A KITTY AMONGST VIPERS
We came up with a plan rather quickly: It took Juggler about five minutes to come up with a holographic projector (though how he did it using mainly parts from Jelico’s jeep, I’ll never know) and soon enough we were marching towards Area 51 under the guise of VIPER agents. Entering the base was not a problem, and everything was going according to plan: we were to enter the hangar Albert was in, beat the ever-loving daylight out of him, take the footage and upload it to Jelico’s newspaper account using VIPER’s own computer (ah, irony!), which we would then destroy.
Unfortunately the unreliable nature of the projector’s parts meant that halfway through our sneaky-sneaky, our illusions gave out and we were in the middle of a VIPER base, surrounded by little snakes. Who were now aiming their rifles at us!
Juggler froze for a second, but when he saw me rain arrows on the twerps he recovered and started blasting them with gadgets I didn’t even know he was carrying. At one point I was surrounded by about fifteen snakes and I was shot on the leg. My regeneration was going to take care of the wound, but not of the thugs that were about to tear me to pieces as I lay on the floor, off-balance. Next thing I know they’re all grabbing their heads and screaming at the top of their lungs before collapsing! And there’s Juggler with a smug grin on his face and yet another contraption in his hand.
I think I’m falling in love.
We beat our way to the hangar (at first he carried me, but when my wound closed I could run by myself) and encountered Albert Kirochek, a hulking beast of a man with the nastiest, thickest accent I have ever heard. Seriously, the man was a walking stereotype. To his credit, though, he didn’t waste time with monologues or threats, he saw us, pointed his weapons at us, and fired.
The firefight was brutal and if it hadn’t been for my shields, I would have probably been crippled several times. The alien and yours truly, though, proved to be more than a match for him and in five minutes he was out cold. The commotion had attracted more VIPERs, though, and I thought we were in for another round of fighting when the hangar doors closed! Juggler had found the switch and, in typical push-it-and-see-what-happens style, he couldn’t resist the big red button.
With valuable time bought, I snatched the datadisk from the unconscious Kirochek’s pockets (the things he had in there! I need to wash my hand after this) and used their own computer to do the deed. Afterwards, I gave them a free upgrade, courtesy of one of my shock arrows to their hard drive! I turned around to tell Juggler to prepare to sprint, but I found him busily inspecting the downed Qu’larr podship they had in the hangar.
I could hear metal grinding and see the hangar doors buckling under whatever the VIPERs were using to open them. By the sound of it, all of the VIPER corp in area 51 was behind the two doors! He would not be rushed, however, and told me to be calm- that he had everything under control. I was inclined to trust him, but just in case I made sure my best area-effect arrows were first in my quiver- which was distressingly low in arrows anyways!
After a few minutes Juggler came down, satisfied that he had what he needed—the craft had been badly damaged, he said, and he could only salvage a small amount of information. A resounding CRASH behind us told us that one of the doors had been breached! I prepared to fight, but then Juggler wrapped one arm around my waist! I was taken by surprised, he clicked his heels and off we shot at a vertiginous speed towards …. the roof!
Another device in his hand, and the roof exploded into glowing little bits. Wait, didn’t I see this in Batman? Next thing you know, we’re soaring through the sky and several AA Missiles are trailing us. Nothing my Signal Interrupt arrows couldn’t take care of, though (have you ever tried firing a bow while being carried? it’s not easy at all!), which confused the missiles into following the arrows instead, and impacting upon the other hangar!
With the mission accomplished, we headed back to Greenskin with Jelic being carried by me, whilst being carried by Juggler – because we realized that his jeep was useless now! (Juggler has a problem of thinking ahead, it seems). In a few hours we were back at Club Caprice. Unfortunately Juggler ended up being so tired that he fell asleep at the bar and spilled his drink on a rather aggressive patron, which led to a very interesting adventure of its own..
But that’s another story, to be told another time…