Surprisingly, people in Greece are not inclined to join in on a musical dance number. In fact, they positively resented the attempt. First in Thessaloniki, I got nothing but strange looks when Moai and I danced down the street in leather jackets and slicked-back hair. They didn’t enjoy my frolicking in Lamia, either, where I stopped to put skip through the streets singing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” in a nice pair of overalls.
Ah well, I suppose I can’t blame them. It’s been a pissed-off country lately, what with the austerity crisis. Just when they voted in a guy promising to end the destructive measures, the European Union, and Germany in particular, forced even more on them. So now it’s like their country isn’t even their country anymore.
Perhaps I could lighten them up with some interpretive dance in Athens. I was to meet the Belgian at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, after all. A shame, really. I hoped to see more of Greece than that. I showed up dressed a little classier than the other times.
I kicked open the doors followed by Moai holding an old boombox, twirling a cane around. We both wore jackets with smiley faces where the chest pocket would be. I didn’t have my armor on, but people noticed regardless. “Moai,” I signaled.
Behind me, Moai hit a button and turned on a song. The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince began singing. “All hail, the new king in town!”
“Now, let’s broaden some minds,” I said, then pulled out a sledgehammer head and screwed it on to the top of the cane.
“I hope you’re not planning to use that anywhere in here,” said a man in a tuxedo with an English accent. He held a small pistol pointed at me as he stepped out of a room to the side next to a few Greek busts.
I held up the hammer in one hand and pointed to it with the other, “Oh, this? Maybe. Maybe. Was just waiting on someone and meant to have a bit of fun in the meantime.”
He turned and addressed someone in the other room. “This is what you had planned?”
“Not nearly!” said an older voice with a German accent. At the behest of the Brit’s waving pistol, an older man stepped forward. He wore a black turtleneck, black slacks, and a number of wrinkles on his dark brown face. “Do you think anyone would be stupid enough to attract British intelligence attention to break the artifacts I look after?”
“Enough. All I know is you have something big planned. Something involving a killer, and the theft of diamonds.” The Limey swapped his aim between the old man and I.
I set the sledge down and used it as a cane again. “Even if he did…what’s that matter to you? Who do you even work for, here?”
“John Hall, on Her Majesty’s Special Service. Your mistake was stealing one of the ravens from the Tower of London.”
“What?” I asked, acting incredulous. “Like I would ever really do such a thing…”
From behind Moai, a dark-colored bird hopped up and pressed the button on the boombox, stopping the music.
“Really? What’s that?” He pointed at the bird with his gun.
I shrugged and looked at it. “This thing? This is a parrot.”
“Why’s it black?” Hall asked.
I walked over to Moai and petted the parrot, which pecked at my hand and cawed. “Why wouldn’t it be? You haven’t seen a black parrot before? It’s got a tanning problem, sure, but you have to be sensitive to people’s mental issues.” I ducked behind Moai and tapped him on the back. He tossed the boombox at John Hall. The British not-so-secret agent stepped back to avoid the shattering stereo. He fired at me, the bullets bouncing off Moai.
One thud later, the gunfire stopped. I poked my head out and saw the old man hightailing it over toward us. Hall laid on the ground, recovering his wits with a marble bust resting on his chest. The German stopped to catch his breath and glanced back at the downed agent. “That’s one bust he wishes he hadn’t felt.”
I gave the old fellow a thumbs-up. “I hope you’re the Belgian.”
He nodded. “I hope you can drive like crazy.”
I gave him a piggyback ride outside and out to his car. I’d wondered who owned that lovely little sports car. The only problem is we had to sit Moai on the back and keep the parrot inside with us.
“That filthy raven better not shit on my leather seats,” the Belgian said.
I petted the raven before cranking up the car. “Take it easy. He’s a reverse albino. Now, what side of the road do they drive on here?” John Hall ran out of the museum behind us, just wasting all the bullets he could out of that tiny pistol. “Fuck it, I’ll just use both.”
We sped off, with me swerving from lane to lane. The homicidal British agent followed, though at least he stopped shooting. He must have taken offense to me knocking into cars and forcing them into his path. After the first two times I did so, I saw something on his hood flip over and rockets fired at us.
I took us up onto the sidewalk and let the rockets blow up truck, sending the fish it was transporting sky high. Heading around that, I saw another intersection a short way ahead. I stayed on the sidewalk, but spun the wheel at the edge and tried to drift to make the turn. We didn’t hit anything, but we ended up turned sideways in the middle of the street. The agent took the corner quickly, having gone wider for it. I grabbed the dash seeing as we were about to be hit. Hall sped on, machine guns firing from the headlights and seriously screwing up the Belgian’s paint job.
Moai had other ideas. He hopped down to stand right in the path of the oncoming car. Agent Hall reacted too late when he tried to turn. The front wheel collided with Moai first and the angle caused the car to flip over both of us. He landed on the other side of our car in no shape to drive for a few reasons. He needed a mechanic, and probably a coroner.
From there, the Belgian directed us to the waterfront outside the proper city limits. I think we were in Kallithea. He had me dump the car by the water. One click of the car locks later, the tires fell off. He turned back to me and shrugged. I took a liking to the guy.
From there, he had a taxi take us to one of the various bolt holts he keeps. “In case anyone comes for me like that British assassin. Shooting up a public place for a bird! Would you like something to drink?”
I enjoyed his hospitality with a meal and he enjoyed his new pet reverse-albino parrot with the clipped wing. “I call him Muninn, but I can’t remember why,” I said as I handed the bird over, taking a seat at a nearby desk.
From there, he sat on his modest bed in his modest room and discussed my intentions: the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope. Why did I want it? Aliens. Find them on their way, maybe even try to use it as part of a weapon system to thin their numbers.
The Belgian stroked his goatee. “It can be done. I have the means.”
I nodded. “You stole the pyramid.”
He smiled and looked off into the air. “I did. I gave it back, too.” He turned and pointed to a postcard hanging on the wall from Egypt that showed the returned pyramid. The way to tell is that it’s supposedly been turned all the way around.
“Got bored with having your own pyramid, or just couldn’t find the right spot for your feng shui?”
“I never meant to keep it.” He waved a hand dismissively. “I wanted other things: validation, glory, money. The Egyptian government paid me a handsome sum to get it back. Now even the great American psycho knows to look for me when he wants something big to disappear. Before you do, there’s just one thing I want you to help me take.” He looked over the wall of postcards, many of which featured famous monuments. The Washington obelisk, the the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Kremlin, the Roman Colosseum, the Hagia Sophia.
“Before we go into your wish list, allow me to say that I have a shitload of money. Is there a chance that you could have some of this money and I don’t have to go through yet another fetch quest this month?” I offered.
The Belgian looked at me and pondered the question. “Agreed. I will need that money for the museum.”
“Ok!” I said, pumping a fist in the air. About time someone didn’t need me to jump through hoops just for a little help around this damn continent.
“I’m going to have to help you with the uh…what’s…the process. Let’s call it that.”
I shrugged. “Whatever. It’s just a shrink gun, isn’t it?”
He shook his head.
“Shrink satellite beam? Shrink grenade? Magic staff of shrinking? A cold shower and thinking about baseball?”
The Belgian just kept right on shaking his head. “No.”
After a few seconds of me waiting for him to explain, I waved my hand in a rolling motion. “Ok, and…”
He stuck out his chin. “I worked most of my life not as a thief, but as a scientist. A chemist. Thirty four years ago, the United Nations Scientific Advisory Board decided that super science should be studied and understood for the betterment of all mankind. The United States and the Soviet Union loved the idea as long as the other wasn’t included, so the project went nowhere. Instead, NATO and the Warsaw Pact formed their own separate research divisions to perform this area of study. I was part of the Soviet side, working on a project to understand shrinking technology.”
Well that’s just what the world needed. Superpowers with shrink rays. I’m sure they would have used them responsibly.
“My overseers intended to utilize shrinking technology to embarrass the United States. One of them, Dimitri, joked about moving the Statue of Liberty to Kolyma. I wonder what he thought when I escaped to the West with my notes on the project. Do not mistake me, I did not want the West to have this power, either. Only God decides who receives His blessings and curses. The power they wanted, it was like the Tower of Babel all over again.” He shook his head.
“They tried to make me talk.” He rubbed a hand over his thigh. “When that didn’t work, they threatened to send me back. They didn’t. They didn’t, because the Soviets could get it from me instead. They buried my reputation and they blacklisted me. I had nothing here, and no way to make a living. Only my process.”
I interrupted, “So, it’s not a shrink ray?”
He stood up from the bed and knelt beside it. He dragged out a crate from under it and opened it to reveal a contraption that looked like an old-fashioned leafblower with a funnel for a mouth and a huge, clear bubble on the backpack. “Have more imagination than that, boy. This is no shrink ray. This is the Shrink Globe.”