who do you want to be?
where do you want to be?
CASSIUS CROON HEAVED himself over the obstacle wall and dropped down the hempy face. Panting heavily, he jogged to a row of monkey bars, leapt to the first rung and (maintaining his kinetic energy) swung himself to the end. He then plodded through a real minefield studded with actual Claymore mines, machine gun dangling from his shoulder, using only his intuition to avoid the stingers beneath. It was one of most impressive skills -- knowing exactly where to be, at every moment -- the right place at the right time. From an armour plated observation tower Croon's superior Gerald McCumbie watched behind a pair of computer enhanced spectacles. The boy was good, the best, he thought, but was he good enough? I saw him dodge bullets once, dancing out of their path he thought. I've never seen anything so incredible, so wonderful. But what will he do when the ground is opening up beneath his very feet, and the sun has sunk into a hole in the sky, and the stars and moon come crashing down to the blazing earth? Will he protect us, when the Hour of Our Disappearance has come, and the universe itself implodes, into the Great Crunch?
One hour later, back at the CIA's refurbished bunker at Langley, Viriginia, Cassius Croon (freshly changed into a Gucci suit and surrounded by a cloud of manly flowers) was buzzed through into McCumbie's office. He stood for a moment in that room of mahoganic majesty. Finally McCumbie, standing behind his desk, removed his glasses, and on cue, one of the walls instantly covered itself with myriad Chinese characters.
<<Cas I don't know you about you but I'm not much of an Orientalist>> McCumbie said. <<I mean, I know you speak some of their languages, some Chink and some Jap and some Thai I do believe, but that does not necessarily mean that you like the place. Shit, this bunker is chock-full of Arabic experts who can't stand the revengeful cheating camel-fucking bastards, and wish we would just nuke the lot of them. But in regards to Asia -- well, there is something creepy about the place, to my mind, and if you don't mind me saying so. I don't know what it is. Too many people. Wierd smells of fish sauce in the marketplace. That is not to denigrate the glory which is Chinese takeout and chicken laksa, which I believe is a Malaysian dish. Plus, the women over there can be downright hot, there's no denying that. To be honest, I have to admit, I sometimes enjoy singing karaoke, if we're going to be fair about this...>>
<<Sir, what is this all about?>> Croon asked. He was somewhat irked by the "you know a little Jap, a little Thai" remark, and was in no mood for McCumbie's blithering. <<I am fluent>> C3PO-like <<in more than 100 forms of communication, including Bahasa Indonesia, Korean, Pirate Hakka, and Tokyo street slang. But what is this, an eye test? Or are you checking my memory of Chinese characters?>>
<<Let's call it a reality check>> McCumbie said. <<Your reality, my reality, the reality of all of us -- it's coming to an end. And we have no damned idea what is going to replace it.>>
KIND OF STUNNED BY THESE STRANGE WORDS AND THE EVEN STRANGER MANNER OF THEIR DELIVERY, Croon lifted his eyes to study some of the Chinese characters on the walls. They were flashing all over the place like the signs in Kowloon on a Friday night when you'd eaten bird-nest soup in a skyhigh tower and seduced an Emerald Princess in the process, and the only thing that mattered in the whole world was getting her -- quickly! -- to the nearest skyhigh love hotel. Reality is itself is coming to an end -- what was that all about? Some kind of practical joke -- but McCumbie never joked, and in any case, April 1 was months away. Was it some kind of test? If so, these Chinese characters were the clue.
He looked more closely at the flashing ideograms. It seemed like a visit from old friends. There at the top was "cheung", the character for "undertake". Underneath was the ideogram which represented "heat, fever" and related concepts. Below that was "pai", gold medal, and "yui", island, and the Chinese version of the character which in Japan meant "small, slight". Croon had studied Chinese as a young man in the trade wars of the early 21st century, and picked it up in a matter of months. It was the way he picked up everything --trigger fast! The same with women. Croon had picked up Japanese during a two-month assignment in 2022, and his mission was to infiltrate a dangerous new religious sect.
<<The beauty of Chinese characters>>
WHICH WAY DO YOU WANT TO GO: SECTION CASSIUS CROON (c)opyright Crunch Millennia 1996-2003.
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