CHOICE A: Interview the agent after the meeting: 3 votes
CHOICE B: Use a mini-camcorder to record the meeting: 6 votes
CHOICE C: Ask Land Captain to use his car to listen in on the meeting: 0 votes
Charleston woke up on his couch, still fully dressed, with the television still on and a half-empty bottle of Yoo-hoo sitting on the table. Groggily, he picked up a legal pad and flipped through it. He had written down several plans, and the one with the most pros was using a mini-camcorder to record the agent's meeting with the Mouth of the Prophet. There were only two cons, one of which appeared to be underlined several times and circled, but some errant drops of Yoo-Hoo had made them illegible. He shrugged, and looked at the clock. It was half past six. He was wondering if he had enough time to change clothes and sleep in his bed for a bit when his phone rang.
"Land Captain here. The meeting is set up for an hour after sunset."
"Huh. Big surprise," said Charleston, now looking forward to sleeping in an actual bed, "Any word on the agent?"
"New fellow named Rocky Rode. There's a bit of a situation, though. "
"Weird stuff has been going on all day."
"Someone spent half an hour going down a hallway, for example. And the office supply closet gained a few dimensions. Robin thinks it might be back-lash from that thing Edolie smashed."
"That shouldn't happen," said Charleston, under his breath. It was something to worry about, yes, but the Mouth of the Prophet was more important at the moment. "Should be nothing. Tell Robin it should be nothing. On the way here, after you pick up Rocky, tell him I'm tagging along to make sure he's doing all right, and that we're going to record his meeting for quality purposes."
"Aye aye. See you around eight tonight." The phone clicked off, and Charleston, who had been changing into pajamas, brushed his teeth and slept in his bed for twelve solid hours. It was a deep, dreamless sleep.
He woke up, got ready for the meeting, and ate some delicious waffles. While he enjoyed his waffles, he was also getting a little sick of having them all the time. He made a note to go shopping later, so he would have something to eat other than waffles. He found his miniature camcorder and tripod, and waited. Land Captain and Rocky arrived precisely at eight. He got into the backseat with Rocky, and Land Captain began to drive.
"Hello, Rocky. New to TYRIS?" said Charleston with a smile.
"Yes, sir. They've told me stories about you, sir." said Rocky, shivering. Charleston noticed that he was wearing an action suit, like Edolie. He did not look nearly as good.
"What have they told you?"
"They say you're a brilliant agent, but you have bad luck with keeping your friends. Is it true that the five partners you've had died?"
"Okay, that's good, because-"
"Only two of them are dead, for sure."
Charleston sighed, having told this story a thousand times before, "The first one was killed by panther-men created by a mad scientist. They got loose and liked his cologne so much that they mauled him to death. The second one is technically sort of undead now, as he was bitten by a zombie. I would have put a bullet through his brain, to keep him from coming back, but I lost my gun a while ago. The third partner was abducted by aliens, so he might not be dead. The fourth partner was absorbed in the Kly'tx collective, so he's technically still alive. He just lost his humanity. The fifth partner is just missing after she blew up this machine that was warping reality."
"Wow. I'd hate to be your partner. No offense, sir."
"I doubt you'll have to worry about it. Did Land Captain tell you what was going on?"
"Yes. He said my interview was going to be recorded. Except, aren't you on vacation?"
"A clever subterfuge. Good job noticing."
"We're here," said Land Captain.
"Good luck, Rocky," said Charleston, handing him the camcorder.
Rocky took it, and saluted him. Charleston moved to the front seat and began drumming on the dashboard. He looked at the clock.
"Rocky hasn't even entered the building yet," said Land Captain.
"Oh," said Charleston, looking out his window, "This isn't the comedy club."
Instead, it was a fairly small, but nice, house in the suburbs. Little bushes lined the walkway to the door, each concealing a tiny lamp to illuminate the sidewalk. Rocky entered the house when the door opened mysteriously, closing again after he entered.
Charleston drummed on the dashboard some more. After a few minutes, he asked, "Can Ishmael tap into the camcorder?"
"He sure can."
"So he could let us know when it was done and we could go get food or something."
"I guess so. Shouldn't we wait here in case Rocky needs help?"
"Ishmael can go four-hundred miles an hour or something. We can go through a drive-through and be back here before anyone knows we're missing."
"All right, then. Where to?"
"I think I saw a Wendy's up the street."
To the untrained eye, Ishmael would have seemed to simply vanish. While it was gone, the door opened again, and a blonde woman placed the tripod at the end of the walkway. After she re-entered the house, Ishmael reappeared and Charleston burst out of the car.
"DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN!" he shouted, grabbing the camcorder and throwing it into the car. He ran to the door of the house, and kicked it down. He went through three rooms, and found what he was looking for: Rocky had been dismembered and hanged with his own intestines. There was a message on the wall: it said Leave Me Alone. Charleston stared at the scene.
"Basement. This house probably has a basement," he said, resisting the urge to vomit as he stormed through the house, looking for a basement. He found the stairs which led to the basement, and hurried down. It was a very nice basement, as far as basements go, and it had mysterious stone doors set into its northern wall. He stared at them for a little while, and went back to the car. He sat down heavily, and tried to avoid looking at Land Captain.
"Play the tape, please."
The tape started.
Rocky appeared on the screen, with an empty chair behind him. "This is agent Rocky Rode, of TYRIS. I am about to have a meeting with... what was your name, miss?"
A voice from off-screen said, "The Mouth of the Prophet."
Rocky sat down, with the back of his head to the camera, "The meeting is about the possibility of providing insurance and security to the many holdings of..."
The Mouth of the Prophet was still off-screen, "The one I speak for. We both know that's not what this is really about. We know it's actually about a sad man who can't let go of his past and thinks he can make things how they were again with his fists and a minimum of thought."
Rocky's voice began to crack, "Actually, it's about insurance and stuff."
"Oh, no. I know why you're here. Does he think I don't know how he smells? Besides, I saw him in the car you drove up in. He needs to be sent a message."
Rocky rose from his chair while he screamed, and his arm separated from his body. The blood covered a hand, which smeared itself on nothingness, shaping a mouth. It came towards the camera.
"I've made my choice, Charleston. Leave me alone, or I swear to you that what I'll do to you will make what I do to him seem like a fun time."
The mouth moved away from the camera, and the blood-covered hand moved towards Rocky's other arm.
"Stop the tape," said Charleston, "I never want to see that again."
"What will you do now?" asked Land Captain.
"A man just died because of me. My mother and father died protecting me, all my partners are gone because I never thought things through, and my girlfriend is a crazed vampire," said Charleston, "What if I'm some sort of jinx? Everyone who's ever been around me for too long dies, or just disappears."
"Just bad luck," said Land Captain, "Was that her, though? Your girlfriend?"
"I think so. I can't believe I forgot that vampires don't show up on film. It sounded like her, though."
"Well, what are you going to do? As you said, she just killed a man. A TYRIS agent. You only got mauled by fish a bit, and everyone at TYRIS was pretty upset. What happens when someone dies on duty?"
"We contact someone on the outside, whose job it is to deal with stuff like this. TYRIS isn't about revenge. It's about the compensation and prevention of loss."
"So are you going to contact TYRIS?"
"I don't know. Maybe I should leave her alone. Except a man died because of me, and because of her. If I contact TYRIS, though, then the circle of violence just keeps going. They'll contact someone, or a group of someones, who'll probably die going up against her and that Prophet guy. If I go in alone, then no one else gets hurt but me, and perhaps that's for the best. Maybe I'm a key cog in this whole thing, and if I get taken out, the rest of the circle of violence stops going. I don't know, Land Captain. I just don't know."
What should Charleston do?
-Leave her alone
-Go in alone
6 years ago