False Flag: Beach Party USA (Part 1 of 3)
Painting by Demar Douglas
The End Of The Innocence
Malik Brown watched the sliding doors of the American Airlines terminal until he was sure he could see no trace of Fiona in the crush of people moving through Honolulu International Airport. He switched on his blinker, glanced over his left shoulder and waited a moment until it was clear, then pulled into traffic towards the airport exit.
He was shifting his finger to the button to the rented Buick's voice command button when the phone chimed, with a caller identification saying "BRUCE LEROY.”
"Brother Onyx Dragon,” he said with a smirk as he answered the line. "What can Brown do for you?”
"Big Brother Street Sweeper!” the deep voice of the notorious ninja sounded from the Buick's speakers. "Working an active op, look at you!”
Brown said, "I just put my sexy ass fiancée on a plane back to the mainland and sacrificed the last day of PTO that I earned to help you with whatever special effects extravaganza you're doing this week. Can I have an intel update, please?”
"Man, listen,” Dragon replied, "I only agreed to this assignment so I can show you my favorite saki spot before you fly home, and I know our friend the Condesa wasn't willing to cut her PTO short, so you know I appreciate you! How about I have my mom send Fiona some of those butter cakes she likes?”
"First,” Brown sighed, "we both know Fiona won't eat butter cakes that are cooked by an American, no matter how well she learns the recipe. Second, could I just get an update?”
Dragon chuckled, a low, rumbling sound like a muscle car idling, and said, "Fine, business first. Our Dim Witted friends are definitely here, we've already spotted Jester in those loud shirts sniffing around for any low hanging fruit.”
The Buick pulled off of Bishop Street into the ten story parking garage of the Executive Center Hotel.
"Exactly why I said the Constrictors would be worth the cost,” Brown agreed, waving his pass card to entry. "You, me and the still vacationing Snakebird are probably the only names on the island, and I know how hard you can be to find ...”
"I am,” Dragon said hesitantly, "but if they brought Raven, you know I can't leave that alone.”
Brown sighed, pulling the car into his reserved spot. "As long as the package gets delivered,” he said, focusing on the rear view camera display, "have as many sword fights as you want. The Organizer made it crystal clear what we're here to do.”
"With me, Raven's off the board, which makes your job easier.” Dragon said. "It'd be even easier if Street Sweeper was back in action.”
"I'm retired from all that,” Brown admonished. "Don't nobody wanna be in the gym as much as you are to keep up with these young cats!”
Dragon chuckled and said, "Okay, well maybe come out for karaoke at least. The saki spot? Maraud got a private room up in there!”
"I sing ‘Regulate' with you one time ...” Brown chuckles. "Let me get some food and I'll see if I'm ready to see people from work yet. I'll be talking to you!”
Brown hung up on Dragon's laughter over their favorite "old man phrase” for getting off the phone. He then took his keys and locked the car, heading up to his room.
Across the island, rested the USS Bowfin, a drydocked submarine from the Second World War, adapted into a maritime museum. The museum gift shop on the nearby shore was a squat single story white building that was more spacious than the ship itself in many places and featured two secondary buildings to its north, ostensibly for storage or inventory.
A tall, brown haired man wearing fatigue pants and a brown leather jacket walked from the parking lot towards one of those secondary buildings. He didn't seem out of place, as the area was near Naval Station Pearl Harbor and also saw its fair share of military aficionados and veterans. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he tapped a key card on a subtle panel colored the same shade of white as the building, then pulled the unremarkable door open to enter.
Inside was an empty room with another wall panel near another door. He tapped again and the door opened automatically. As he walked through the door, a wide beam of light swept over him as an additional means of identification. He confidently stepped down the staircase behind the door two steps at a time, his heavy boots clomping on the hard concrete.
At the bottom of the stairs, a final challenge stood at a transparent door made of two inch thick plexiglass. He held his face near the scanner and it ran across his visage, taking extra time to scan his retinas before the door clicked and swung open as a voice chimed, "DangerWatch 002, Codename: The Martial arriving.”
Inside, The Martial saw a teenaged, cornrowed Black girl wearing a white t-shirt and a bandolier of two sets of three pouches (each with a letter, spelling out "T-H-E F-I-X”) eating a sandwich from a carefully spread sheet of wax paper, with an apple, a can of guava juice and a pile of potato chips all arranged geometrically on the paper. Across from her at the table, a muscular white man dressed predominantly in black with a katana strapped to his back had a full face mask pulled up to his avian-inspired visor as he sloppily ate fried chicken from a paper box, crumbs from the already consumed biscuit scattered around on the table. A thick scar across his neck pulsed as he swallowed his food. Two other burly uniformed troops, a mustachioed Asian man with a crew cut and a Navy tattoo on his left bicep next to a fresh faced ginger, both also sat eating fried chicken from slightly less messy boxes.
"Fix, Raven, Defenders,” the Martial said by way of greeting. "At ease. Where are Jester and the Red Panther?”
"My uncle is sleeping in the back,” the girl said. "I think the duty roster said Jester is out 'collecting intel.'”
The Martial rolled his eyes, "Out drinking up taxpayer money, right. Are all the vehicles fueled and ready to ride?”
The Fix set her sandwich down in the exact center of the wax paper, and looked at the Martial as though she had been grievously insulted.
"I'm eating lunch, sir,” she said, gesturing to the sandwich as the Defenders chuckled. "That can only mean everything is five by five.”
The Martial allowed himself a smirk, pulled from his sparse collection of affirming expressions that started all the way down at a resigned grunt and came all the way up to the fake smile he plastered on for publicity photos and selfies with congressmen.
"As you were, then,” he said to the table. "Maybe I'll kill some time in the gym while ...”
The mechanical voice chimed, "DangerWatch 006, Codename: Jester arriving.”
As the plexiglass door came open, Jester stumbled in, blond hair disheveled, still clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels, wearing a garish blue and orange short sleeved button down that had the top three buttons undone, wrinkled khakis and lime green Crocs. He must have been leaning on the door and almost stumbled into the Martial.
"Oh jeesh, I'm so shorry ...” he said before slowly looking up to see the Martial, arms crossed, glaring at him.
Abandoning the act, Jester snapped to attention and saluted.
"Colonel Garrett, sir!” Jester said with gusto. "Apologies for maintaining my cover, sir!”
The Martial just silently stared at Jester for a moment before the facade cracked and Jester disintegrated into a slump shouldered pile of laughter.
"Since the chemical supplements you use keep you from ever actually getting drunk,” Martial said tiredly, "did it ever cross your mind to buy less expensive alcohol in your ... work?”
Jester snorted at the Martial and said, "Given how many people have taken a drink from my glass, no, Colonel The Martial Garrett, sir. Doing my job well means being underestimated and keeping the good stuff flowing.”
Jester patted the pressed collar of the Martial'a uniform shirt and continued, "While you buttoned down types were down here doing your jobs, I was finding out where the Union is hiding.”
The Martial narrowed his eyes to slits and asked, "You found Union assets? Which ones?”
Jester set his bottle down next to the Fix's apple, garnering an angry glare from the girl and said, "There are no clumps of them in town, but local sailors have noticed a patch of water a mile and a half off shore that periodically has more turbulent currents that normal, almost like something big keeps coming by that spot. It'a a blank spot on satellite scans but Nuance is gonna ask the Navy to send a sub down to take a look.”
After swallowing a bite of her food, the Fix says, "That'a one of those big Union transports, Constrictors, churning up water with its processes. We have enough hardware to handle whatever they can load on one of those things, but those Navy boys could sail right up to it and they'd never find it.”
The Martial considered this and tapped his watch, speaking into it. "This is the Martial. Activate ready status yellow for fast deployment.”
The lights clicked to a bright shade of yellow and the Defenders hastily grabbed their boxes of food and munched as they ran to their stations. Raven simply continued as he was and the Fix delicately organized and folded her trash together in the wax paper, not a single crumb falling errant.
"If your intel is right,” the Martial said to Jester, "and they plan to destroy Pearl Harbor, we will be here to stop them!”
Jester, leaned back against the table, laughed, "Ain't you just a bucket of piss and patriotism, Colonel?”
The Martial simply raised an eyebrow before spinning on his heel and heading towards the gym, followed by Jester's laughter.
The Halawa Heights Market was nine miles away from the Bowfin's gift shop on Halawa Heights Road. It was a small convenience store in a single story black-walled building next to a barber shop that served as a front for Union activities.
Onyx Dragon sat in the back seat of a 1984 Chevy Caprice Classic, tinted windows all the way up. He had his long legs up, feet resting on the back of the passenger seat as he reviewed email on his phone. The voice of Summer Walker came softly from the phone's tinny speakers and Dragon hummed along.
He glanced up when a black GMC Yukon pulled into the lot and sat up when the doors opened. Three men in black windbreakers got out — a white guy with swooshy blond hair and a thick scar across his neck got out of the driver's seat, a mustachioed Asian man with a crew cut emerged from the passenger seat and a lanky redhead looking fresh out of college came from the back seat. Each glanced around in different directions, taking in the area around them. The guy with the fade cinched up his belt slightly and Dragon could just make out the tip of a holster under his jacket. In almost perfect unison, without a word, they all moved to go into the store together.
Dragon tapped his watch and found a group chat, saying into the device, "The competition just came in, go radio silent. Avoid at all costs, especially the blond, but be subtle, we can't show our hand yet."
As he saw the store's door close behind the fade, he muttered, "See? This kind of stuff is why we need Snakebird to come off her vacation …"
Dragon reached into his own windbreaker, gingerly fingering the throwing daggers inside, as he watched the door. Five tense moments passed before the three hard cases came out, each carrying a big paper back brimming with circular cans of potato chips, microwave popcorn packages and red plastic cups. They all got into the truck wordlessly, again taking in their environment and not noticing the Caprice. Without any hesitation, the SUV backed out and drove back in the direction of the base at the harbor. Dragon sucked his teeth, taking his hand out of his windbreaker, as they drove away.
A moment later, the two people with Dragon — a shorter white woman with mousy brown hair and circular glasses, and a tall Latino guy with purple streaks in his hair -- emerged, him holding a similar paper bag. The woman got in the driver's seat and the Latino carefully slipped a bottle of Voss water to Dragon
"I got photos for facial recognition," she said, starting up the car.
"That was Raven and probably a couple of Defenders," Dragon said, tapping the back of her seat to indicate she should go. "We'll run them, but this mission just got personal for me."
Chasing The Night
Later that night, The Fix stormed through the darkened hallways under the Bowfin gift shop, cursing to herself.
She came around the corner of the motor pool to find her "partner," Red Panther, awkwardly trying to load a briefcase-sized smoke cartridge into the back of the Red Runner, a strange angular luxury sedan.
"The Martial gave everyone orders to stay on base," she sighed. "That's why Raven went to get snacks so we can all watch the new Advocate Case Files together. I made them get Pop Secret for you, and we all love space procedurals …"
Spinning with that manic glee in his eyes that showed his meds were not fully effective, Red Panther said, "Ah, but the streets have a story to tell! The Advocate solved those mysteries already, while we have enigmas yet to unravel!"
Red Panther was a large muscular man in a skintight red bodysuit that was peppered with white tiger-like stripes and an incongruous small blue ridge from his forehead to the nape of his neck.
The Fix facepalmed, sighing, "You don't seem like you're listening to orders, or reason, tonight. Fine. I'm going with you, and we have to use Red Rover mode."
Panther groaned and rolled his eyes as Fix tapped a button on her bandolier. Red panels rose up vertically from the sides of the Red Runner's hood, clicking into place as the hood flattened perpendicular to the ground, bringing the windshield and roof with it. The doors likewise extended metal panels from the bottom, lifting them up a few feet as the back end also flattened perpendicular to the ground and the roof extended itself to connect. The final state was weirdly boxy but passable as a very small van.
"Red Rover mode isn't as fast!" Panther complained.
"You want me to lock the tires and have you walking to investigate your 'mystery,' pal?" Fix asked, hands on her hips. "I could be on my way to MIT, but my mom made me promise to take care of you. You can do it my way or hoof it."
Panther opened the passenger door with a bow and swept a hand towards the now raised seat. "As you wish, milady!"
She looked at him skeptically before going to the back and easily sliding in the smoke cartridge under the back window.
"You can't reload the trick cartridges in Red Runner mode," she sighed before getting into the passenger side, flipping her two long braids over her shoulder and strapping in. "Just wait until I'm old enough to drive next year!"
Panther chuckled and closed the passenger door, circling around in front with a little dance. For what was far from the first time, the Fix debated using her emergency controls to urge the Red Rover forward and hear the crunch of Red Panther under the runflat tires, but again she remembered the words of Nuance and the marketing team: "you can't fund the degrees you want by yourself!"
The Red Rover revved up and lurched ahead towards the elevator that would bring them up to the gift shop driveway. Once they were on the surface, she looked back and saw Raven parking an SUV in the lot, bringing the bags of snacks. As the Rover pulled away, she yelled out of the passenger window, "Nobody spoil the episode in the group chat or I'll stab you in your sleeeeeep!!!!”
Raven chuckled noiselessly and gestured for the shaken-looking Defenders to follow him.
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