h2g2 Storytime III - Chapter XII

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Chapter XII

The Swiss Premier swung around a corner, scattering some startled pedestrians, and hustled down the busy shopping street towards the pillow warehouse. He heard whispers, saw furtively pointed fingers and chuckled to himself. On any other day, this might be a time for a photo-op with the more photogenic of the local schoolchildren, a little hand-shaking and back-slapping to keep his grassroots happy. Today, however, his synapses were wired for action and, in the red-hazed, testosterone-fuddled entity that was his mind he dimly realised that he was in no shape for politicking. The last time he had tried shaking a hand during one of his attacks1, he had swung an innocent voter through a wall...

His face appeared on a television set in the window of an electronics shop, and he skidded to a halt. What was this? A coup?

'... the shooting incidents earlier today, the Premier is missing. Citizens are advised that he may be armed, extremely dangerous and wearing a bandanna. He may also be operating alongside dangerous British terrorists. The National Reserve has been called out in Bonn, Zurich and Geneva, as well as all towns and villages, to apprehend the national criminal and to maintain order.' A solemn looking news-reader appeared and intoned gravely, 'In light of the highly suspicious nature of his actions and the subsequent disappearance of Vice-Premier Knett, feared murdered, the Swiss Assembly has just carried a vote of no confidence in the Premier, leaving our nation temporarily in the hands of a governing council...'

A man in a grey suit with a discreet fish-like lapel-pin appeared onscreen, reading from a prepared statement. 'Please do not be alarmed, citizens. Subversive foreign influences aiming to disrupt the government of our great nation will be discovered and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Switzerland has had five hundred years of peace, brotherly love and cuckoo-clocks — it will take more than one deeply disturbed individual and his foreign accomplices to destabilise her.'

To the disappointment of the people watching, the Premier now put his fist through the shop window, the screen of the television, the back of the television and the plyboard backing of the display. 'Hey!' croaked an old man. 'The results were on next!' Without pausing to pander to his electorate, the Premier ripped his arm out of the window and ran down the street towards the warehouse, already detecting the high wail of sirens some way off. The Premier hurried down the street away from the small crowd of startled onlookers and ducked into an alley. He whipped off the bandanna crafted from his tie and used it as a basic tourniquet to stem the flow of blood from his upper arm, where he'd caught it on a shard of glass. He grasped the length of material with his teeth and yanked it to a tight and briefly painful knot.

Giving his right hand an experimental open fist, close fist and flexing his bicep a little to ensure he hadn't robbed his arm of any dexterity, he slid into the shadows. Why he did this was a complete mystery since it was broad daylight, about noon, and the fire exit into the pillow factory was only a matter of yards away. Naturally, it was only capable of being opened from the inside, so he had to look for an alternative entrance. He found it in a small open window further down the alleyway. Dispiritingly, it was one too many hands above his wiry Swiss six-foot frame.

Grabbing a discarded milk crate from a pile of rubbish congregating beneath a broken refuse chute, he propped open the small window with his elbow.Tthen, imitating a more staid version of the Fossbury Flop2 and with a flexibility that belied his years and statesmanlike stoicism, he slid inside, landing with catlike prowess on all fours on the closed rim of the convenience inside the last cubicle in the row of the men's toilet. Swinging his feet down to the floor and landing with as much silent grace as can be achieved while manoeuvring inside a toilet cubicle, he gently tipped the door open. Blast! There was someone in there with him. Testosterone-fuelled visions raged through his synapses until he relaxed and quietly raised the door up on its hinges and opened it noiselessly.

There was a National Guard trooper standing at a urinal.

Making no sound, the Premier stalked his prey like a Serengeti tiger, ready to spring, tooth and claw from the wavering long grass, to pin and slay the lame gazelle who strayed too far from the herd. The sudden African metaphor was a mystery to him as well, but knowing his condition as intimately as he did, he decided to just run with it. In the fœtid conditions of the staff toilet at the pillow factory, the trooper finished with a shake and a zip. The Premier struck. He wasted no time and delivered a swift karate chop to the neck. The man crumpled to the grimy tilted floor with a sound like a deflating accordion.

The PM lifted the trooper's pistol from around his belt and stuffed it down the front of his own trouser belt like he'd seen a LA street gangster do in a movie this one time, untucking his shirt over the top to hide the bulge. He exited the loo and found himself in a long corridor. The lights were mostly out, but the high dirty windows filtered in a sort of grey light that picked out the highlights of a few trolleys, stacked boxes and empty shelves.

'Hands up where we can see them!' ordered the commander. The man on the TV hadn't been lying — the National Guard had been dispatched fast.

'That sounds like them,' thought the Premier. 'I hope that traitor Knett hasn't corrupted the entire security force, or this will be very brief indeed. But if it all goes south, I'll take as many of them down with me as I can!' And with that, he walked inside.

smiley - biro

Mere moments earlier....

Arthur, Sfret and X came crashing through the fragile windowpane and landed in a vast vat of king-sized mattresses and stuffing material. Owing the relative softness of the material, the group had avoided sustaining any injuries whatever. However, Arthur was finding it very difficult to stand up. For the fifth time he tried to raise himself before sinking unequally on one side. His balance went and he collapsed back down on top of X.

'Quit it,' said X, mildly irritated.


Assuming the lotus position, Sfret rode out the crests and bobs of the mattress blob. 'We should roll our way to the edge,' he suggested with Zen-like calm.

'We are Agents of the Crown. We do not roll,' said X, a trifle indignantly.

Arthur, having given up on achieving a meaningful vertical position for more than five seconds, had meanwhile begun scratching his back in a funny manner. This caught X's attention.

'Whatever are you doing?'

'I wonder why it didn't...'

But that was as far as Arthur got because suddenly his jacket inflated at an alarming rate, tearing at the seams before exploding into the largest Union Jack parachute X had ever seen (and being a secret agent, he'd seen quit a few). The parachute settled over them with a small sigh as the air beneath it escaped around the edges.

'Oh, bugger,' said Arthur.

At this moment, the Swiss National Guard appeared over the top of the vat and trained their guns on the miscreants beneath. 'Hands up where we can see them!' ordered the commander.

In the distance, a door opened. Six small spikes of cloth slowly raised themselves.

smiley - biro

Mary stood up and looked over at the cooling corpse of Pfennigstohler. 'Vandeveer,' she commanded, 'search him for the keys to the vault!'

Von Trapp, who had joined the 'General' and his 'wife' as their 'notary' because his bald head and dark glasses gave him a severe look, clasped a small leather satchel in his gloved hands. 'I'll go make sure Sreka is secure,' he said.

Mary touched aside the venetian blinds and surveyed the calm foyer of the bank, with docile and quiet members of the public busy filing out deposit slips and arguing about bounced cheques. Back in the offices that dealt for the more élite clientele, they were fairly excluded.

'Found 'em!' exclaimed Vandeveer, then, embarrassed for his exuberance, whispered 'Found them.'

'Good,' said Mary. She watched von Trapp slip out of the office and pulled the door quietly to. She waited a moment, then pressed her miniature earpiece and announced 'Get ready. We're coming down.'

smiley - biro

Downstairs, Slepp tossed an ace of spades he always kept in his left-hand jacked pocket. He had the card specially laminated and was carefully studying the reflection, the entrance to the vault from which he'd come and whence at any moment he expected to hear the clamour of racing boots and uniforms. He was going out on quite a limb sitting here and waiting like this. Suddenly, he caught a flash of blue through the grilled bars. He caught the card and stuffed it into his lapel, removing three poison-tipped fountain-pen darts from that place. Assuming the flaming-mongoose stance bequeathed to him by his dojo master, Slepp clasped the darts between his knuckles and prepared to strike.

The footfalls of the approaching guard rattled on the hard concrete floor. He was whistling a tune. Slepp whipped round and aimed for the jugular. Daltmooreby caught Slepp by the arm and drew the force of the blow away. Slepp reared up.

'Calm down, old boy, cavalry's here,' said Sean with a smirk and lowered his cap slightly over his eyes, imitating a cordial gesture that succeeded only in dragging the hair on the nape of his neck up about three-quarters of an inch.

smiley - biro

Von Trapp closed in on Sreka, leaning against the doorjamb that led into the security room. 'Andrei!' he hissed.

'In here!' the big Russian bellowed.

Von Trapp snuck inside and saw Sreka firmly ensconced behind a battery of monitors that formed a sort of semicircle around him. As Sreka polished off the last slice of the only genuine pizza he'd brought along, he continued to tap the barrel of the gun on the terrified security man knelt just to his right. Von Trapp pulled out a revolver he has stashed in a holster under his arm, and taking painful care to screw a silencer onto the end, he pointed it at the terrified figure.

'Make no mistake about this: you're not going to live...' The man gibbered. '...unless you give me the logbook for the codes to the deposit boxes.'

The man pointed to a small box on the wall. 'T-t-tthey are o-v-ver tt-the-ere.'

'Very good. Show me.'

With Sreka and Von Trapp both pointing guns at his back, the guard rose up to his full height of 5' 5" and, placing his hands on top of his head, marched over to the box and popped the latch. Taking out a small sheaf of card covered in a complex alphanumerical grid, he held it out for Von Trapp to take. Von Trapp leant forward and, pinching it between a gloved thumb and forefinger, lifted the card from the security chief's grasp and tucked it into his jacket pocket.

'Turn around,' Von Trapp ordered.

The man began to blub a little. 'Please! I have a daughter!'

'On your knees!' Von Trapp commanded.

'Please,' he whimpered.

Von Trapp clicked off the safety and the frightened figure gave a visible tremble and closed his eyes. At the last second, von Trapp relented and struck the man a heavy blow with the butt of the gun to the back of his head, watching him fold up unconscious.

Sreka observed closely and said nothing at von Trapp's tyranny.

'I'll go give this to Mary,' Von Trapp said, holding up the logbook. At that moment, his radio cut in.

'Here we come, boys — don't screw this up!'

smiley - biro

Mary and Vandeveer pulled off that trick of not standing out in a crowd by outwardly projecting that sense that they absolutely belonged wherever they were and that, in fact, anyone who doubted their veracity was somehow fundamentally mistaken or from a lower-class breeding stock, or possibly both. In this matter, Vandeveer's costume, decked out as a decorated Armenian General, was immensely helpful. Arm in arm, they breezed past various clerks and officials towards the main stairwell that led to the vaults. Up ahead they could see one guard still standing in front of the centrally-locked security door that was the last barrier they needed to overcome.

Mary appeared to scratch behind her ear, but communicated one last instruction before she'd have to run this operation in silence. 'Here we come, boys — don't screw this up!'

smiley - biro

Von Trapp pointed to the screen that showed the feed of the camera above the door.

smiley - biro

'Bitte, Sir und Madam, but where do you think you're going?'

'To the vault.'

'Not without Mr Pfennigstohler's permission,' the guard intoned severely, holding up one hand as though he were directing traffic.

'He went to go see the security detail to clear us to go down, but he was delayed by a phone call,' said Mary. 'He said to meet him down there and that he'd be along shortly.'

smiley - biro

'Now!' cried Von Trapp. Sreka diligently pressed the button beneath the screen marked 'release'.

smiley - biro

As if on cue, the security lock on the vault popped open.

'You can accompany us if you like.' Mary fluttered her eyelashes a little. 'I assure you, we are very rich.' She smiled that megawatt smile and pointed it at the guard in the same manner as a deep-sea angler fish holds a lure out in front of its fanged maw to captivate its prey before it eats it3.

The young guard was currently undergoing the sort of 'Road to Damascus', class-consciousness conversion that Mary was counting on. 'Y-yes... m-ma'am.' The guard, not quite sure what protocol was in these situations, gave a small salute, which Vandeveer, improvising, accepted and returned. The young guard escorted them inside and was never seen or heard from again.

smiley - biro

Von Trapp turned to Sreka. 'Keep that door open. Make sure no one else comes down. We'll call you when we're ready to move to phase two. You remember what to do? Leave, go and get the car, reverse it into the lobby, distract them. We'll pick you up again outside. All clear?'


'Good.' Pausing to collect his leather satchel and the logbook, von Trapp hurried out of the security station.

He emerged back into the real fiscal world of the banking offices and made his way along a route he'd committed to memory months ago towards the open vault, and slipped inside.

The h2g2 Storytime III Archive


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1Schwarzenegger's Syndrome. See ST3 Chapter X2Here is a very detailed explanation of the sequence of movement undergone while performing
a Fossbury Flop.
3A deep-sea angler fish (Melanocetus Johnsoni).

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