Filibuster

Elite read the summons with some surprise. Usually, when The Institute's Directors wished to speak with him, they simply used the videophone. His visits to their 12th floor sanctuary were few indeed, and usually signalled bad news.

~Still, just about anything is better than what I'm doing now.~ Elite thought as he made his way down. He hadn't been out on a field assignment since the Yule CotN gathering, and it appeared that Agent Frontier would be the one going to the Spring gathering, so this might be his only chance to get away from the office for a long time.

"Ah, Agent Elite!" Director Luken stated as Elite entered the Director's office, "Do have a seat." Luken was the older of the two Directors, and Elite's direct superior.

"Thank you, Director Luken, Director Manholz," Elite said as he sat down, "I take it there's some trouble?"

"Yes," Luken replied, "we seem to have lost a group of creatures we were tracking."

"Lost?" Elite asked.

"That's the best way to put it, yes." Manholz replied, "They just suddenly disappeared from all our sensory equipment, and we don't know why."

"And you want me to find out. What *do* we know about them?"

"Not much, I'm afraid." Luken said, "They weren't a high priority for us to study, until they disappeared, so we never got much more than basic tracking data. They seemed to stay around the central Nebraska area most of the time, and what sensory data we did get seems vaguely vampiric, but it's not conclusive by any means. And we have no idea who or what caused them to vanish."

"You'll be leading a five-person team." Manholz added. "Take someone from Vampires, you'll have two from Magic, and one from Misc. Phenomena. That should be enough to handle whatever it is that's able to block out our sensors."

"I'll get right on it, sirs."

****

Three days later, the task force, consisting of Elite and Tivea from the Vampires Division, Adave and Lamice from the Magic Division, and Iodace from Misc. Phenomena, had found absolutely nothing.

They had landed in Lincoln, rented a car, and headed west, hoping that their personal equipment would be able to pick up some local trail. Thus far, it hadn't worked. Currently, they were holed up for the day at a motel in some nondescript Nebraska town.

"Well, perhaps we'd be better off if we..." Agent Iodace was cut off by a strong wave of magical energy that swept through the room.

"What the Falwell was that?" Elite exclaimed as Lamice and Adave began to work with their Magic Meters.

"Ummm, what'd you just say Elite?" Adave asked.

"I don't know? For some reason, I said 'Falwell' when I meant to say 'Falwell.' Wait, I did it again? What the Helms?"

"Hmmm, I think I have an idea of what's going on." Lamice said, as she put her Magic Meter close to Elite's throat, "Try again."

"OK, sure. Falwell."

"Yeah, that's it. Swaggart. That wave of energy is somehow causing words to alter between the brain impulse and the vocal chords."

"Son of a Reno!" Iodace exclaimed, "Any idea where it came from?"

"No problem." Adave replied, "This stuff's global, and they need to run the power continuously. I should have the location...Now!"

"Jesus Christ!" Lamice said as she noted the location, "We're almost right on top of it. Think it has anything to do with our missing creatures?"

"It might." Elite replied, "Doesn't matter much, though--I think this is a bit more important than vanished unknowns anyway."

"Hey, wait a minute." Tivea said, "How could she say 'Jesus Christ' with this stuff going on?"

"Makes sense." Elite said, "If this is something like a Global Search and Replace option on a word processor, it's not able to distinguish context. Based on the other replaced words, I'd say that there's a good bet we have at least some sort of fanatical Christian types somewhere in the mix, and they wouldn't be very happy if they couldn't invoke the name of their Lord. Now, let's get moving."

****

A short time later, the Agents found themselves crouched down in some bushes, looking towards a small hill some distance away. A door was set into the side of the hill, and two men with automatic rifles guarded the door.

"That's all authentic Army gear they've got." Tivea said.

"But only two of them?" Adave asked, "And it looks like the door's unlocked!"

"Only until someone's spotted, I'd bet." Lamice replied, "We're some 300 yards from their position, with nothing but flatland between us. Soon as they spot us, the alarm goes out, and it all gets locked tight. Our pistols won't be able to take them out, unless we manage to hit them in the eye or something."

"My Needler isn't even that effective." Iodace added.

"And our crossbows aren't any better off than the pistols." Elite said, "Hmmm, wait a minute, I have an idea. Iodace, Tivea, hand me your tangler grenades. They're the taser-enhanced ones, right?"

"Sure thing," Tivea replied, "soon as they're wrapped up, press the button and they'll be out for hours. But we're way out of throwing range."

"I know. I wasn't planning on throwing them."

The other Agents watched as Elite pulled out a strand from one of the grenades, and began wrapping it around a crossbow bolt, anchoring the grenade to the bolt.

"That'll never work." Lamice said, "There's no way it'll be stable enough to fly."

"Oh, it won't be pretty," Elite replied as he worked on the second one, "but I think it'll get there. Still, get ready to attack, just in case. The second one might move. Here goes nothing!"

The bolts were fired approximately one second apart, and, as predicted, their flights were anything but graceful. They did their jobs, however, as the inattentive guards failed to notice anything amiss until the first guard was struck in the upper thigh. Before the second guard could react to the sight of his compatriot being wrapped up in the tangler grenade's silver filaments, he too had been struck and was down.

As soon as the first guard was hit, the Agents made their break for the door. ~Oh, man!~ Elite thought as he looked at the immobilized guards, ~Those taser units both ended up square on the soldier's crotches. That's gonna *hurt*!~ "Tivea, take care of the soldiers. I'm going straight in!" he yelled.

Tivea looked at the soldiers, and turned slightly green himself. "Iodace, take care of them. Elite needs backup."

"Adave, take care of them!"

"Ummm, Lamice, could you..."

"Men!" Lamice sighed, as she activated the tasers.

****

"Everybody freeze NOW!" Elite yelled as he burst into the control room, Tivea right behind him. The single guard reacted by swing his rifle towards the intruders. Tivea was faster--his bolt going straight down the guard's barrel.

"Nice shot!" Elite remarked.

"I was aiming for his chest, actually." Tivea responded. By this time, the remaining three Agents had joined them.

"Now," Elite said, looking over their captives, "who have we here? Hmmm, it looks like, yes, Senator Mobil! And Senator Jekyll as well. Joined by what appears to be a few science-types, and...a blonde with great big hair? Ah, let me guess--Senatorial Executive Assistant?"

The bimbo's only reply was to smile and smack her gum.

"Wow!" Adave exclaimed, "Look at all the shiny new equipment!"

"Ummm, Lamice?" Elite whispered, "I don't mean to criticize your co-workers, but, every once in a while, Adave seems to really go..."

"Completely wacko. Yes, I know. I asked Sakar why he was assigning Adave. He mumbled something about the last Christmas party."

"What! How did he find ou...I mean, I had nothing to do with that!"

"Who are you!" Senator Mobil demanded, "And by what authority are you here?!?"

"Who are we?" Iodace replied, "Well, we're the ones with guns. Conveniently, that's where our authority currently lies as well. Mind telling us what this is for before we shut it down? I mean, wasn't the CDA enough?"

"The CDA was just a diversionary tactic!" Senator Hyde exclaimed, "And if you shut this down, you put the whole of humanity at peril! Show them!"

One of the scientists, under the watchful eyes of the Institute's finest, flipped a switch. A wall panel went up, revealing a group of people behind bars.

"Well, that explains the missing creatures. Energy signature matches exactly." Lamice said.

"See them!" Mobil cried, "They are monsters! They don't feed off of normal food. Instead, they feed off of vulgarity! With every curse, every swear word uttered, they become more powerful! We had to stop them!"

"He's lying!" shouted one of the prisoners.

"You don't feed off of vulgarity?" Elite asked.

"No, he's right about that. But the fool thinks that our power increases at the same rate that vulgarity increases, which is absolute bullSwaggart. Would your powers increase if you had ten bushels of grain a day to choose from instead of five?"

"Don't listen to him!" Jekyll said, "He seeks to deceive you!"

"Hmmm," Elite pondered, "trust a creature I've never seen before, or trust a Senator. Not a tough choice. OK, since y'all are Senators, I, unfortunately, can't do any of the various things I'd like. So, I'm just ordering you all to vacate the area immediately. And I'll be releasing your prisoners shortly afterwards."

"One more thing, if I may." Lamice interrupted, "Strip first. Completely."

"What!" Mobil protested, "I'm not taking my clothes off for anyone!"

"Senator, turn sideways please." Elite requested. As soon as he did so, Elite shot off his tie. "Now strip." There were no further objections.

"Well, it seems I was right." Lamice said, as soon as the Senatorial party was all naked, "The Senators *do* have small Packwoods!"

The attention of the male Agents, however, was focused on the Executive Assistant. "Wow, nice Tiltons!" Iodace remarked.

"Yeah, but look at the Infrared Sensor." Tivea said, "Implants. And not just there, but all over. I've seen less plastic in a blow-up doll."

"Any more artificial parts, and she'd be classified as a cyborg." Elite said, "OK, display time's over, everybody out."

As soon as the Senators and their friends left, Elite pulled out a grenade.

"Hey!" Adave said, "I've never seen that type of grenade before! What is it? Electromagnetic pulse grenade or something?"

Elite looked at the pineapple grenade, then at Adave, "You've never seen one of these?" Adave shook his head, "Then you're in for a treat." Elite pulled the pin and rolled it under the main control unit. A few seconds later, it exploded.

"Shit, that felt GOOD!" Elite exclaimed.

"Cool! I've never seen a grenade that actually blows up before!"

"Adave, you really need to get out more. Really."

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