Wasting Away Again in SecretAgentville

The tropical island of Awl Inklusif sat in the middle of a topaz ocean, it had white sand beaches, breathtaking flora, and a reputation as being the biggest tourist trap of a getaway in the history of travel agencies.  It was a man made island, crafted to appeal to the rich and shallow.  It was home to a massive golf course, a 'Hall of Hot Tubs' with supermodels on hand to cozy up with for those solo travelers, five star restaurants, 'authentic jungle expeditions' where they could ride jeeps through the forests and find any number of imported animals that really just... were very confused about where they had ended up. (Knew I should have made that left at Albuquerque.

It was a ridiculously overpriced, garish billionaire's playground. And the target audience were eating it up.

And they were going missing. Which seemed like a marginally larger problem to the people in charge then very principle of the pretentious paradise they'd catered to the one percent.  But people were going missing. And they were important, powerful people and important powerful people generally needed to be found.  

Very little was known about the disappearances themselves, and even when SHUSH sent their scouting team to the island, it seemed like all sunshine rainbows and karaoke competitions down at the Sunning Shoe Crab Poolside bar at 8PM

The helipad was unmanned, there were complimentary leis tacked to a wall of cubbyholes encouraging visitors to swap out their shoes for flip flops and it seemed as if nearly everyone had obliged, sparkling pumps were in ready supply as well as well polished business shoes and socks. A  woman with flowers braided in her hair and a well practiced warm and inviting smile and a name tag that read "Aloha Amy" came to greet the SHUSH crew.

"Welcome! I'm Amy, I'll be your liaison! We've been expecting you!" She beamed like a mad priest about to throw a woman of abstinence into a volcanic bath. "Please follow me! I'll show you to our changing rooms! Get you settled into the island spirit complementary Hawaiian shirts, some sunscreen, maybe even a drink or two before you get to work! Maybe a massage? You all look so tense!"

She took a lei and tossed it over a grim faced agent's head like a ring toss. He continued to scowl as a flower caught on his canine ear and the brightly colored blooms draped across his face instead.

"...couldn't hurt to try to 'fit in' I suppose."  The German Shepard, one Agent Sirius Biznez, grumbled in a flat tone. "People might feel more inclined to cough up what they know if we're not..." he motioned to their formal attire. "...stuffy." 

    • Elliot Hudson
      Elliot Hudson

      According to Chief Agent Grizzlikoff, Agent Elliot Hudson had only been assigned to this mission because they were in need of a pilot to transport the small team of agents to the island.  He was under strict orders to stay with the plane and, under no circumstances, accompany the “real” agents on their investigation.

      So once they arrived on the island, the fiery-haired drake fought back his urge to disobey orders, watching from the cockpit with a jealous pout as the other agents received their greetings and complimentary leis.

      It wasn’t fair; he was just as good an agent as any of those guys.  He wanted in on this, too!  Beautiful women in leis, (free!) tropical cocktails, a breathtaking beach with beautiful palm trees and refreshing ocean breeze...

      Hold up.  Did that lady mention massages??

      Elliot groaned as he slouched further in the pilot seat and crossed his arms, brooding over the injustice of it all.  How could he ever prove he was a decent agent if he was never given the chance?  And how could anyone — especially ol’ Grumpy Grizz — expect him of all people to just sit around and wat home while Team Killjoy got to have all the fun?  Fun they didn’t even know how to have! That bear knew him better than that.

      After overhearing one of said killjoys grumble about needing to fit in, an excited grin replaced his sulky pout.  Seeing an opportunity, Elliot hopped out of the plane and, in the span of less than a second, was at Agent Biznez’s side.

      “You know, if you really want to be less conspicuous in a place like this,” Elliot advised, plucking the lei from the canine’s ear and putting it around his neck properly, “returning a smile or two would be a good place to start.  These are ladies, men.  Not serial killers.”

      At least, he hoped they weren’t.

      To demonstrate, Elliot turned and greeted Amy with a smile, a kiss on the hand, and a slight but gentlemanly bow.  “Elliot Hudson at your service, miss.  You’ll have to excuse my colleagues... too many years of stuffy office air seems to have made them forget their manners.”

      And how to have a little fun.  Assuming they ever knew how to begin with.

      ”We’re all very grateful for your hospitality.  If there’s any way we can be of service, you need only ask.”

      The young pilot may not have possessed James Pond levels of elegance and finesse, but he certainly made up for it in terms of that sort of Pond-style confidence.

      Unfortunately, he also had a ‘mischievous little boy’ vibe about him that he just couldn’t shake.  The smile he had given Amy could have been very charming... had it not been for those darned freckles, bright green eyes, and mop of messy red hair.  Even the charming lilt of his English accent wasn’t enough to completely dissolve the image of an impish little boy who often got in trouble playing in the dirt and catching tadpoles in the creek.

      But darned if it wasn’t cute.  Too bad ‘cute’ wasn’t usually the image he was going for.

      • Gladstone Gander
        Gladstone Gander

        'Cute' may not be what he was going for but compared to 'intimidating' and 'oh dear lord have you ever SEEN a smile what are you DOING' he was instantly Amy's favorite.  Even James Pond would have been pleased to see the light blush come to her cheeks at such an enthusiastic introduction.

        "Oh no Mr. Hudson," she giggled and took another lei to carefully place around his neck (no ring toss for you freckles). "-I'm afraid it's the other way around. I'm at YOUR service."

        "This debate about the chain of servitude is all very informative but the niceties are becoming redundant we must proceed with 'fitting in' and..." the other agent a completely stiff-spined blue jay who had apparently only heard rumors of what a smile was looked at Elliot suspiciously. '...returning smiles?" Audible question mark. "Our time on this island is limited I advise we start the timers on our commlinks in synchronization so that we all are-"

        "Please Mr. Hudson come this way, I can't wait to show you what our beautiful island has to offer." His arm was linked and he was swept away, the two proper field agents left behind blinking. The grumbling would announce that they weren't left behind too long.  Amy didn't seem to mind or notice.

        "It's so very kind of SHUSH to send you here, we're a little puzzled as to why though.  I understand that some guests have wandered away from the resort but that's no reason to panic surely?  Everything on this island has been crafted for comfort and pleasure..." She bit her bottom lip lightly with a shy glance at him. "I might just be a silly naive girl but usually when the guests arrive it's because they want to disappear for a little while. They always turn up again. Normally with a smile on their face. There's absolutely nothing to fear here. I assure you."   

        It certainly seemed that everyone else felt that way.  As she lead him along the docks to the “locker rooms”, a quaint name for the sweeping suite with plush velvet chairs and sparkling wine drinking fountains, they would pass a veritable who’s who of the upper class.  Movie stars, politicians, business moguls you name it.

        “Please help yourself to anything you’d like. There’s a variety of clothing options available, perhaps you’d be comfortable starting your investigation at the bar? Lips are so much looser when liquor’s around don’t you think?”

        • Elliot Hudson
          Elliot Hudson

          Elliot flashed the other agents a self-satisfied 'See, this is how it's done' grin as he allowed Amy to take his arm and lead him along the docks. While he held nothing against the other two agents personally, he simply did not understand the need for the unyielding formality and rigidity that they and so many other SHUSH agents adhered to.  The fact that his carefree and laid-back approach was already getting them farther than SHUSH's by-the-book protocol was validating for him.

          "You're not wrong," Elliot said, laughing a little when Amy talked about people wanting to get away. "If I could afford a stay at a place like this, I'd be half-tempted to disappear for a while myself."

          He briefly wondered how he had never heard of -- let alone been to -- this place. But then, he was hardly a member of their target demographic, was he?  He typically avoided places full of stuffy, priggish people... still, it was clear that this was one place he was definitely missing out on.

          "But I don't think it's the disappearances that are the problem," Elliot went on with a troubled frown.  "It's the lack of re-appearances. Unfortunately, as it turns out, not everyone is turning back up. And even people who want to get away for a while generally have a habit of, you know... coming back."

          Especially important people with important jobs. And families.

          His troubled expression lifted once again at the mention of the bar. She might not have known it, but Amy had said the magic word.

          "The bar happens to be my favourite place to start any investigation," he half-joked with a chuckle. In fact, it was his favourite place to start just about anything.

          He looked back at his two less lackadaisical companions.  "What say you? Care to see if a mai tai or two might loosen you two up enough to get into the island spirit?"  He doubted either of them would take him up on the offer (challenge?), but he was fine either way. If they did, then maybe they'd relax a little and actually blend in a little. If they didn't, well... more booze and pretty ladies for him.

          Elliot, of course, wasn't intending on impeding the investigation by getting himself completely hammered; he knew they were there for a reason. Still, it was rather difficult to be discreet about things when at a bar and not actually drinking and schmoozing, right?

          • Gladstone Gander
            Gladstone Gander

            Pardon you Elliot. These two gents who had taken advantage of the proffered island wardrobe (Hawaiian shirts and straw hats) were completely loose and blending in.  Ignore the fact Agent Biznez had put said shirt on over his suit. And that the bluejay one Agent Sigma had applied more zinc to his beak then was needed for fifty days straight of sunshine. His black bill was now a chalky white but the rigid Agent had at least tried to ‘ligthen up “ his attire.  I mean, he was wearing heart shaped sunglasses after all.

            “Conversing with intoxicated individuals may prove rewarding.  But there is always the risk of them being... huggers... er-less than helpful, more babbling. But it is a route we must investigate. Hudson I will accompany you, Biznez what are your thoughts?”

            “I’m  going to actually work.” He grumbled giving his teammates a dark look before storming away.  Looking like a  low flying storm cloud in paradise.

            “Well that’s settled!” Amy beamed merrily and swept the two remaining agents off to...

            Well geeze it was a heck of a bar.  It was more like a Villa resort meets waterpark.  People were lounging around in the sun like bronze statues of unobtainable beauty standards.  The pool was a crystal blue, filled with lithe forms, giggling and flirting, being rich and spoiled and really just decadently ridiculous.  No one needs a diamond encrusted beach ball okay? But the bar, the bar was the most beautiful of all.  All bamboo, all shining stemware,  all the gem toned liquors on display, the entire bar was top shelf.  From the stools to the bartenders it was glorious. And they had booze too so that also might have helped the appearance, the sweetest siren song of all was the pouring of alcohol in a glass.

            Sigma sat at a stool as the friendly faced barman was immediately at their disposal.

            “Henry take good care of our guests here, they’re special.” Amy winked at the bartender who nodded. “Well gentlemen I wish I could stay and have a drink with you but I really must get back to my post. Enjoy, and I hope your search goes well.”

            With much swaying of hips Amy Aloha’d  away.

            “What can I get you special gents?”

            “Water.” Sigma said flatly, then realizing this might not be a suitable request added. “...with a lemon." Still no good? "Please.” Nailed it.

            Ohh.” Said a bright voice, ringing with amusement from down the bar. A gander in his early thirties was watching them over the top of a highly reflective pair of aviator sunglasses, a smile on his lips and... well standing out from the floral print crowd in a well tailored green suit. Dark eyebrows lifted. “Real wild child over here. What about you Red? Chocolate milk? Hold the ice?”

            • Elliot Hudson
              Elliot Hudson

              Elliot had to give his colleagues credit; they were at least trying to fit in. Just... not very hard.

              He had a feeling this was going to be a long mission... but it still beat waiting in the plane, playing games on his phone while the other two got to have (not have?) all the fun.

              The inattentive drake could feel his eyes glazing over at Sigma's stiff response. Was a simple "sure, let's go" too much to ask?

              When Biznez stormed off, he gave an indifferent shrug. He had figured at least one of them was going to insist on doing things the boring SHUSH way. Biznez was a good enough agent; he'd probably find something useful. He'd just have a lot less fun doing it.

              As the remaining two agents were led to the bar, Elliot had to marvel at everything going on around him. He didn't know any of the faces -- he'd never been one to keep tabs on on the rich and famous -- but the place reeked of extravagance to the extreme. He wouldn't be surprised if just one of those super fancy martini glasses could buy him a brand new airplane equipped with all of the latest technology. Now THAT would be a luxury worth having.

              Looking quite disappointed when Amy insisted she had to leave, Elliot was tempted to ask her to stay for just one drink. But had a feeling that would not go over well with his fellow agent... who interrupted Elliot from enjoying the entirety of that entrancing hip-swaying exit with an order of--

              "Water? Really??" Elliot hissed under his breath, gaping at Sigma as if he'd just lost his mind. You don't order water at a bar!

              Well, that was embarrassing. For both of them.  Maybe no one else had-- oh. Yes. Of course someone had heard.

              The stranger's milk comment could very well have earned someone a scathing reply, if not an uppercut to the face, depending on Elliot's mood. He took great pride in his drinking skills; the gander was lucky he was here on official business. No bar fighting allowed on duty.

              Besides, he was a professional... he could overlook the insult for the sake of the mission. And while this guy wasn't exactly the beautiful woman Elliot had been hoping for, it wouldn't hurt to strike up conversation and see if he might have any useful information.

              Elliot ordered a margarita for himself before turning to the drake a few seats down and giving him a friendly smile in greeting. "Leave out out the chocolate, add some rum and a bit of brown sugar, serve it warm... that'll get you through some cold winter nights.  But then, I suppose chilly weather is hardly something anyone here would have to worry about."

              • Gladstone Gander
                Gladstone Gander

                Gladstone lifted his eyebrows, the smile creeping farther up his face crinkling his eyes. He lifted his own cocktail in reply.

                "I'll drink to that." And so he did, taking a moment to watch one heiress throw another into the pool with a light shaking of his  head. "Do you believe in karma? Oh wait, back pedal for a second-" he leaned over the bar extending his hand to Elliot. "-Gladstone Gander, recent arrival to paradise, prone to commenting on people's drink orders and asking very strange questions. Now fast forward again, Karma. Do. You. Believe. And... go." 

                For a moment it looked as if Gladstone was actually going to wait for an answer but he launched into conversation again.

                "It's just I've never been here before, came here completely by chance and there's all these fabulously attractive people and me in a happily committed relationship. Just seems a bit of a waste. What I'm getting at is you should throw her-" he pointed to a lithe brunette. "-into the pool. Or you." he nodded to Sigma who had been gaping at him as if he had an octopus resting on his head. "...or not?" he leaned in to whisper at Elliot. " Is your friend okay? Water hitting him pretty hard huh?" 

                • Elliot Hudson
                  Elliot Hudson


                  Elliot shared a confused sideways glance with Sigma before looking back at Gladstone.  Elliot accepted the handshake, but got no chance to introduce himself as the other man continued to talk.

                  The young agent blinked when Gladstone once again asked if he’d believed in karma. “Uh... well, I—“

                  Oops, too slow.  Gladstone was once again rambling on about... wait. Was he seriously trying to get them to push some random girl in the pool?

                  Elliot’s eyes were now transfixed on the woman Gladstone had pointed out — she was rather attractive... — and only seemed to half-hear the gander’s question concerning Sigma.

                  “Yeah, yeah, he’s fine,” Elliot muttered, waving off the concern as he continued to eye the brunette.  “Maybe it’s just not filtered enough and the minerals are getting to him— but do you REALLY think she’d like it if someone did that?” he whispered back to Gladstone with a grin.

                  Because, you know, he could totally do that.

                  Red alert, Sigma; your partner is getting sidetracked.  Not that this should come as a surprise or anything. Agent Hudson, getting distracted by pretty ladies?  It was only the third on a list of dozens of faults Grizzlikoff had listed as reasons for the pilot to not accompany them on the actual investigation.

                  • Gladstone Gander
                    Gladstone Gander

                    "NO ONE-"Sigma blurted out suddenly, feathers ruffling slightly. "-is PUSHING anyone!" 

                    "Well not with that attitude you're not." Gladstone wagged a finger at the agent with a smirk and Sigma clutched his water glass with such indignant rage it might crack. "Fine fine, I'll keep my salacious suggestions to myself." As soon as the words were spoken he whispered to Elliot behind the cover of his hand. "Of course she'd like it, she's prancing around a pool in a bathing suit giggling. That 'tee hee' is the universal sign of 'oh dear I hope no one pushes me into this pool I keep dipping my toes in' ...not to mention she keeps looking over here. Seems she's got a thing for redheads."

                    "The only THING that we should be doing-" Sigma hissed at the pair of them, as Gladstone's 'whispering' was slightly louder than his speaking voice. "-is keeping a low profile."

                    "How's that working out for ya?" the gander smirked. "So...lemme guess, cops? Super secret travel agents?Bikini Inspectors? " his eyes drifted to Sigma's glass again. "Templars of the Temperance Movement? " 

                    • Elliot Hudson
                      Elliot Hudson

                      Elliot flinched at Sigma’s outburst, then gave him a Look when he continued to protest to Gladstone’s urging.  It was a glare that might have said “have I taught you nothing??” had Elliot actually taught him anything.

                      Carefully avoiding the gander’s question, Elliot took Sigma by the arm and pulled him from his seat.  “Excuse us for a moment,” he said to Gladstone as he dragged his fellow agent around the corner to the side of the bar.

                      “What are you doing??” Elliot hissed once Gladstone was out of view.  “We’re supposed to be blending in!  And how are we supposed to blend in if you advertise to potential sources of information that we’re trying to keep a ‘low profile??’  That’s exactly the opposite of keeping a low profile!”

                      Hardly giving him time to respond, Elliot shoved the cocktail that he was still holding into Sigma’s hands.  “Here.  Hold this.”

                      Elliot then walked off, towards the pool.  He was dodging other guests, stealthily heading towards the giggly brunette.  It would be obvious that he was intending to follow Gladstone’s suggestion and push her in.

                      Unfortunately, no SHUSH mission on record had ever benefitted from a “here, hold my overpriced alcoholic beverage” moment.  Or from trusting Agent Elliot Hudson’s judgment.

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