The Analytical Side of Things spotlights the ten most read original content posts of the previous month.
The top 10 for February 2019:
- The Easter Eggs You Missed in ‘Hereditary’
- Nominees for 1st Annual FilmExodus Awards Released; Vote Now!
- Deinstitutionalized: The Wacky Group of Insane People
- The 100 Most Annoying and Hated Movie Characters Of All Time (90-81)
- The 100 Most Annoying and Hated Movie Characters Of All Time: The (Dis)Honorable Mentions
- The 100 Most Annoying and Hated Movie Characters Of All Time (50-41)
- ‘Dune’: Doomed to Fail or Destined for Greatness?
- The 100 Most Annoying and Hated Movie Characters Of All Time (40-31)
- The 100 Most Annoying and Hated Movie Characters Of All Time (80-71)
- The 100 Most Annoying and Hated Movie Characters Of All Time (100-91)
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
PREVIOUSLY: PROLOGUE I, PROLOGUE II, CHAPTER I, CHAPTER II, CHAPTER III, CHAPTER IV, CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI: 9½ WEEKS
EXODUS HEADQUARTERS – UNKNOWN
OCTOBER 19, 2018 – 1500 HOURS
The office was dead quiet. The Director sat back in his chair and stared at his coffee on his desk. He watched the steam rise off the cup. He wasn’t thirsty. He was anxious.
Kemosabe poked his head into the Director’s office. “Sir,” He said. “McClain and Kane think they might have found something.”
The Director stared down at the four missing agent dossiers. He looked up at Kemosabe and nodded. “Let’s see what they got.”
The Director and Kemosabe walked into the boardroom and took their seats beside 0SCAR agents Crawley, Newman, Naff, and Epperly. McClain and Kane stood at the back in front of a map that had been tacked on to the wall. Kane nodded to the Director and pointed to Detroit, Michigan.
“We have reason to believe that Agents Dhalgren, Karlston, and Alvarez are being held hostage in an old VCR manufacturing warehouse.” Kane said. “Our eye on the street spotted a man in an iron mask entering the facility last night at around 2300 hours.”
“It’s the best lead we’ve gotten since they went missing.” McClain added. “We need to act now.”
“Then why aren’t you already there.” The Director said. “I auto-authorized any mission that involved finding our missing agents.”
“Sir,” McClain said. He hesitated before continuing. “We think that Petey the Slasher might also be there.”
All eyes were now on McClain and Kane.
“Our eyes also spotted a man looking like Hugh Jackman hanging around that facility the last couple of days.” Kane said. “We managed to take these shots.”
Kane ripped the map off the wall to reveal a series of photos underneath. Most were zoomed in shots that were extremely blurry, but two were quite prominent. One showed a man that definitely had the jawline of Hugh Jackman, and the other showcased a man in a beret smoking a cigarette.
“Jean from L’EXODUS.” Newman spoke up. “That could mean Pops is being held there too.”
“There’s a good chance.” McClain said. “Now look, I know Kane and I are only hired help, so if you want to take this case over and keep it in-house, we understand.”
The Director stood up. “You’ve been a great deal of help.” He said. “But I’d like this next stage to stay in-house. We assemble a strike team and move out immediately. We’re bringing our agents home.”
GERMAIN VCR LIMITED – DETROIT
OCTOBER 19, 2018 – 1545 HOURS
Karlston’s head hit the cement wall. He stumbled forward and tried to clear his head. His vision was all over the place. Iron Peace tapped the crowbar against his palm and took a step towards Karlston. He swung and dealt Karlston a hard smack across the face. Karlston hit the ground and coughed up some blood. Over the last 10 weeks, Karlston had seen too much of his own blood on the floor.
“Now,” Iron Peace said. “Are you going to finally tell me where EXODUS Headquarters is, or am I going to have to continue to beat it out of you?”
Karlston laughed. “You do see the irony in you beating me up yet branding yourself ‘Peace’ right?”
Iron Peace kicked Karlston in groin. Karlston winced. Iron Peace dropped the crowbar and pulled the handgun from his side holster.
“Perhaps I broke you,” Iron Peace said. “And now you’re beyond repair.”
Iron Peace cocked the gun and pointed it at Karlston’s head.
“Stop!” Dhalgren shouted. Iron Peace paused and looked back.
Dhalgren was chained to the wall alongside Alvarez and Pops. All three were just as bruised and bloodied as Karlston. Dhalgren repeated his plea. “Stop.”
Iron Peace knelt down and pressed the gun into Karlston’s temple. “Are you going to talk instead?”
“Look,” Alvarez cut in. “We don’t really even know where EXODUS is. We walk down a set of stairs at a comic shop and board one of those Japanese speed trains. It could take us halfway across America in minutes.”
Iron Peace clicked off the gun’s safety. “Not exactly the answer your friend was hoping for.”
“Ugh, you men disgust me.” Pops said. “It doesn’t take a cinematic genius like Chaplin to deduce the location of EXODUS.”
Iron Peace smiled and clicked the safety back on. Karlston exhaled a breath of relief.
“The lady just saved your life.” Iron Peace said to Karlston. He walked over to Pops. “Alright Chaplin, entertain us with your particular set of deduction skills.”
Pops sighed and cracked her neck. She blew some air up and got the dangling thread of hair out of her eye. She stared Iron Peace down and said, “The comic shop is located in Texas. An average speed train can reach a maximum speed of 200mph. Saying that it takes on average five minutes to reach the EXODUS Headquarters means there is about 1000 miles of potential coverage in all directions. Alvarez, what direction does the train take off going in?”
“Uh, north I think.”
“He’s unsure if it sticks in a straight direction, so let’s just guess and say it goes off in a direction. Now north-west is sticking us up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Who runs a spy agency out of Utah? No, they’re heading north-east up to an area so ridden with crime and poverty that a secret headquarters might slip under the radar.”
“Where?” Iron Peace said.
Pops smirked. “Detroit, Michigan.”
Iron Peace’s face dropped. He pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and fumbled with the keypad. He held it up to his face.
“What do you want?” A voice spat from the speaker.
“Boss, they’re here, too.”
“EXODUS is based in—”
The crowbar slammed against the back of Iron Peace’s head. The phone slipped from between his fingers and bounced off the floor. The boss’s voice could be heard shouting from the speaker. The crowbar slammed against the touchscreen and the call was disconnected.
Karlston looked over at Dhalgren, Alvarez, and Pops and dropped the crowbar. He broke into laughter.
“Pops, that was some performance you gave.” Karlston said.
“That was no performance.” Pops said. “I’m 100 per cent convinced EXODUS is based in Detroit.”
“Oh,” Karlston said. “Well, the more you know.”
“Hey,” Dhalgren shouted. “Less yapping and more unchaining.”
“Sorry.” Karlston said. He bent down and searched Iron Peace’s pockets. He pulled out a key and walked over and unchained Alvarez. He dropped to the floor and rubbed his wrists.
Karlston moved towards Dhalgren when a bullet struck his chest. The key fell from his hands and tinkled as it hit the floor. Karlston’s hands pulled open his shirt to reveal a clear bullet wound quickly filling with blood.
The 0SCAR agents all looked in the direction of the shot and saw Jean pointing a revolver at them. The other two members of the Kill Squad stood behind him.
“Oops.” Jean said. He aimed the gun at Alvarez and squeezed off another shot.
Alvarez somersaulted across the ground and picked up Iron Peace’s handgun. He fired off a shot and struck Jean in the neck. Jean quickly applied pressure to the wound, but another shot from Alvarez finished the job. Jean fell to the ground and collapsed in a pool of his own blood.
Alvarez pointed the gun at the other two members of the Kill Squad. They both raised their hands immediately and started shaking.
“Don’t kill us!” squeaked the member on the left.
The voice was familiar to Alvarez. “Josh?”
The member pulled off his ski mask to reveal Josh’s baby face. The other member pulled off his ski mask. It was Manuel, one of Josh’s classmates.
“Alvarez, the key!” Dhalgren shouted.
Alvarez looked back, “Huh? Oh, right!”
Alvarez picked up the key and tossed it to Dhalgren, who caught it with his left hand. He unchained himself and then set Pops free. Dhalgren rushed over to Karlston and applied pressure to his wound.
“He’s going to need to get to a hospital fast.” Dhalgren said.
“How are we going to call one?” Alvarez said. “They took our phones and Karlston smashed Iron Peace’s.”
“I have a phone!” Josh said, full of pep.
“No,” Alvarez said. “This could be one of Petey’s tricks.”
“Are you guys mad?” Josh asked. “I’m just doing what the Director told me too.”
“The Director?” Dhalgren said. He looked over at Josh. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Everything.” The Director said stepping into the warehouse with 0SCAR agents Newman, Crawley, and Epperly. “Josh wasn’t a snitch. He was a double agent.”
“What?” Dhalgren said. “We waited outside Josh’s house listening to Roseanne episodes for hours only to get caught and tortured for three months. And you knew Josh was innocent?! Why would you put us through that?!”
The Director smirked. “I would think it would be obvious by now.”
“He’s not the real Director.” Alvarez said. He raised the handgun and pointed it at the Director. “Who are you?”
The Director pulled out a chef’s knife and slashed his own left cheek. He ran his fingers along the cut and rubbed the produced blood between his fingers. He brought them to his lips and sucked the blood off.
Newman, Crawley, and Epperly took a step back and pulled out their handguns. They cocked them and pointed them at the Director. The safety of the guns clicked off in a sweet harmonic rhythm.
“You’ve been inside all along.” Alvarez said. “You’re him. You’re Petey the Slasher.”
The Director took an exaggerated bow. “In the flesh, my adoring fans.”
“What the feck is going on?” Dhalgren shouted. “If he’s Petey, then where the hell is the Director?”
“Out of this world,” Petey said. He pulled a shard of glass out of his pocket and looked at his face. “It will be nice to go back to a more Hollywood look. Although, I must say I did enjoy looking like a discount Josh Duhamel for a while.”
Crawley looked at Newman and shrugged. “I see the resemblance.”
Petey looked around the room at the 0SCAR agents. “I can’t believe it took you this long. I really am a true chameleon when it comes to disappearing in a role.”
“Yeah, you’re really something.” Dhalgren said. “So what was this whole ordeal then? Some big reveal party?”
“Not even close,” Petey said. “It was an extremely orchestrated plan to get all the top level 0SCAR agents in one abandoned VCR factory filled with barrels of slashed film. One barrel contains a little TNT set to detonate exactly when my heat signature is no longer detected. EXODUS is about to be defunct and Petey the Slasher will live to take over Hollywood for another day.”
Alvarez glanced at the chef’s knife in Petey’s hand and grinned. He looked at Dhalgren and motioned to the knife with his head. Dhalgren looked at it and a smile broke across his face. He scooped Karlston into his arms and planted his feet.
“Two questions Petey,” Alvarez said. “One, when did you pull off this great switch?”
Petey chuckled. “This summer I attended a film conference in Canada. I was staying in a slightly worn out hotel to keep a low profile and I stumbled across your Director in the first floor lounge. We got talking and well, I went for the plastic surgery the next day.”
“Question 1a, so it wasn’t you in Paris then?”
Petey shook his head. “The late Jean carried that one out for me. I needed you three in a room you weren’t familiar with. Unfortunately, you escaped the clutches of death.”
“Question 1b, the flashdrive Fellows retrieved. What was on it?”
“Security camera footage of my conversation with the Director in hotel lounge. I couldn’t have that falling into the wrong hands, specifically the agents of EXODUS.”
“Question 1c,” Alvarez began.
“How many sub-questions am I going to allow?” Petey said.
“Question 1c,” Alvarez repeated. “The Kill Squad is your shadow organization?”
“I like to think of them as my fan base. They lack the proper cinematic knowledge, so they do my bidding in exchange for sweet movie trivia to impress the online Disqus communities. They’re purely harmless individuals, and way less toxic than the Star Wars fandom.”
Alvarez nodded. “Question 2. Did Monsoon give you that knife?”
Petey looked at it. “Yes?”
Alvarez smiled. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”
Alvarez fired off the shot. The bullet whistled through the air and struck Petey dead in the temple; a direct bullseye.
What happened next was serendipitous.
Everyone broke into a run for Petey’s body. Epperly arrived first and picked up the chef’s knife and tossed it to Newman. Alvarez, Pops, Josh, Manuel, and Crawley all crowded around Epperly and Newman. Dhalgren slid over to them with Karlston in his arms. Alvarez felt Petey’s neck and nodded.
Newman slammed the knife into the cement as the factory blew up. A swirl of fire, dust, and film strip circled the force field surrounding the EXODUS staff. When everything had died down, Newman pulled the knife from the cement.
“God bless, Monsoon.” Newman said.
The bodies of Petey and Jean were gone. They had turned to ash during the explosion and had been swept away.
Good riddance, thought Alvarez.
Newman patted Alvarez on the back. “Let’s get you guys home.”
EXODUS HEADQUARTERS – DETROIT
OCTOBER 21, 2018 – 1100 HOURS
Dhalgren and Alvarez stared out at the grassy fields surrounding EXODUS Headquarters. The building rested on the outskirts of Detroit. Dhalgren shook his head.
“I can’t believe I’ve been working in Detroit all this time.” He said.
“It’s sort of sad that I consider working in Detroit an upgrade from my time as a photographer in Jersey.” Alvarez said.
“What? No love for Jersey?” Karlston joked as he slowly walked over to them flanked by Monsoon and Soups.
“You really shouldn’t be out of bed, yet.” Soups said. “It’s highly unsafe.”
“Just take one sip of this new batch of Vodquil and let me know if you turn blue within half an hour.” Monsoon said handing Karlston a vial.
“Will you two just stop?” Karlston asked with a chuckle. He looked over at Dhalgren and Alvarez. “So rumor is we beat the bad guy.”
“Apparently.” Dhalgren said. “I still don’t quite understand it.”
“It felt a bit rushed.” Alvarez said. “It sort of seemed like Petey was just winging it half the time.”
“Happens to the best of us.” Karlston said. “So this is Detroit, eh?”
“America’s wine garden.” Monsoon said. “Breathe it in men, this is the smell of success.”
Soups sniffed the air. “I actually do smell something burning.”
Dhalgren looked around. “So do I.”
Alvarez pointed to the sky. “What the feck is that?”
Everyone looked up and saw an object hurtling down towards them. Monsoon adjusted his monocle and zoomed in on the object.
“It looks like an airplane… without wings!” He said.
Soups adjusted his binocular goggles. “That ain’t no airplane… everyone back inside!”
They all started running for shelter as the aircraft came in closer. The ground began to heat up and the aircraft slammed into the ground and skidded to a stop. Smoke rolled off the craft.
Dhalgren, Alvarez, Karlston, Monsoon, and Soups stared at the aircraft unsure of what to do. The smoke finally cleared and a panel popped off the craft and clunked against the ground. A man’s head appeared from the hole and waved.
“Agents of EXODUS?” He asked.
“Yeah,” Dhalgren yelled. “And who might you be?”
Another panel slid off and a plank withdrew from the craft. The man, decked out in an outfit that would make Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds proud, walked down the plank followed by a humanoid robot, a woman with three faces, an ordinary sized cat with a blank stare, and a frog-like alien.
“We’re the Exiles of the Cosmos,” The man said. “And we need your help.”