05:03:17 - And They Called Him Shimo

Jack stared listlessly at his computer screen, occasionally poking at his keyboard, but mostly just staring. The report in front of him began "Agent S. did, without regard to his own life, smother the explosion of the fragmentary device. His actions resulting in the safeguarding of the lives of Agents P and U."

Roger stuck his head in, observed the listless staring, and identified its cause. "You do know the rest of us just copy and paste old reports?" He asked.

"I know, I know, I just keep hoping that each one will be the last, and we'll get a Shimo that lasts more than a few weeks," replied Jack, cradling his head in his hands. He went back to punching keys, trying to fabricate a convincing reason why Shimo had survived being dissolved into molecular fragments and vaporized by a Grrx grenade. "So when is the next Shimo due out of cloning?"

"Within two hours. We'll have him back to work by dinner, and-"

The conversation was interrupted by the sound of an incoming message. Glad for the distraction, he opened up the communiqué and began reading through it. The look on Jack's face moved from bored, to incredulous, to mildly disturbed, and halted just short of stunned.

Roger noted the changes of expression, and leaned over to read the message.

For his part in the defeat of the Sodium Elemental, Galactic customs does award to Agent Shimo the award of the Crimson Yipfonger. This being Agent Shimo's 40th Citation, said award will be presented by a reviewing officer of the General Ranks.

"40th Citation?" said Roger, an eyebrow raised.

"Well, the sort of person who throws themselves on top of grenades, fights off an army of ferrets, wrestles carnivorous pets and somehow still doesn't get killed, fits the label of hero I suppose. I'm just not sure how we're going to explain this one to either Shimo, or the reviewing officer."

A studied silence fell as they considered the problem.

"I suppose we could tell him it's all a recruitment video, and that he's been chosen to play the part of the heroic GC agent?" suggested Roger.

Jack chewed his lip for a moment, and then nodded in agreement. "Make it happen, and make preparations to receive this General. Make sure that at no time is Shimo EVER alone while that general is here. We can't risk his dying setting off an investigation. Cloning him once might be understood, but... How many times have we cloned Shimo anyways...?"

"--UCH THAT BUTTON! Huh, what? Phil! Roger! Where, what? Is this the MedLab? Roger, when did you shave off the mustache?"

Roger rolled his eyes and began his monotone litany. "Yes Shimo, and you're a very lucky lad in deed. You managed to escape with just a few minor injuries but we had to put you into the box for a bit. Phil just needs to collect a quick sample..."

"What sample? OW!"

"...to make sure that you don't have any other diseases. Unfortunately, the door was a bit sticky and it took us a while to get it un-jammed. Sorry about the delay. Now, let's go get you something to eat so I can bring you up to date." Roger led Shimo away to the mess room.

Jack was waiting in the canteen to talk to Shimo.

"Shimo, good to see you back, just in time actually," said Jack, leaning back with coffee cup in hand. "We have an opportunity for you to... branch out a little. Galactic Customs is going to be running a new recruitment campaign to bring in some fresh members, and they want you to be the poster child."

"Well, not exactly you," added Roger, "you're actually going to play the part of "Shimo, Hero of Galactic Customs," they're going to be sending an officer to follow you around for a day to get footage, it's a big deal, so they're sending some top brass. We'll be providing you with a personnel dossier of the part you're supposed to play."

"Hey, thanks, I did do a little theater in Elementary School." Shimo was passed his own bulging dossier, and he began to read though it. "Wow, this guy's won a lot of medals, you'd figure he'd get himself killed doing most of this stuff though." A prickling sensation caused the hairs on the back of his head rise as he read through the descriptions of daring-do. Some of them seemed...familiar... it reminded him of that dream he kept having where he was trying to tell himself something really important. But always woke up before he found out what it was.

The intercom system interrupted his studies, announcing that the general's ship was entering orbit, and that he would be conveyed landside shortly.

"Alright Shimo, last instruction, this is a reality show format, so don't ever drop out of character. From here on in you're "Agent Shimo, Hero of Galactic Customs," so here's your box of medals, and we're off to meet the General."

Shimo ended up calling Phil to help him carry the box.

The Agents of Galactic Customs stood at parade rest at the star port, Shimo with a chest full of decorations to rival the Times Square Christmas tree. As the craft settled, Jack called them to attention, and snapped a salute to the general leaving the ship.

"As you were gentlemen! My name is General General, and I'm here to personally congratulate Agent Shimo. It is my personal pleasure to be able to present him with the Order of the Crimson Yipfonger."

Phil looked over at Rhino and mouthed "General General?"

Rhino shrugged "The replacement for Brigadier General Colonel." he whispered, and then returned to attention.

The general had obviously been doing some research before disguising himself for his stay on earth. Research a hundred years out of date, but executed beautifully. The general's face was mostly covered by a large walrus mustache, and he spoke with an exaggerated British "stiff upper lip" accent. The uniform was visibly derived from British redcoat design, and one could not help but glance around to see if perhaps he had just dropped his swagger stick somewhere.

The General, oblivious to all others, walked up to Shimo, and began to pump his hand vigorously, an action hampered by the width and depth of the medals hanging from both sides of Shimo's chest. "It's really, really good to meet you young man. This is a proud day indeed for the GC!" He then turned to Jack. "I'd really like to follow along for today, see what a hero does for a living, what?"

"Of course General, first stop is the airport, we'll be taking local earth transport to our base of operations, the area is to densely populated to use alien transportation, we've arranged for suitable documents so that you can travel along." Jack's smiling face belied a sense of rising dismay.

As the General walked off beside Shimo chatting his illustrious career, Jack stayed back to talk to Phil. "Whatever you do, make sure that Shimo stays out of trouble!" The General chatted all the way to the airport, and continued to chat well into the 2 hour flight.

As the in-flight movie finished, a man in the front of the plane stood and, pulling back his jacket to reveal a set of explosives strapped to his chest, screamed "This plane is going to Cuba! Anyone makes a wrong move, and I blow this whole plane up!"

The moment of frozen silence allowed Jack plenty of time to follow the progression of events following. The General looked at Shimo in... Expectation.

Shimo looked back at the General in... Incomprehension.

Phil looked at the man in the front of the plane with... Speculation.

Then Shimo looked to the plane door beside him with...

Then things sped up.

Shimo threw open the aircraft door, and the air began to rush out, pulling everyone standing in the plane quickly out the door.

Everyone standing happened to include the hijacker, and Shimo who had dived from his seat to throw open the door.

"Phil!" screamed Jack.

Phil was already half out the door, a square package under each arm.

"I'm sure he'll be alright General," said a frantically smiling Jack.

"The doctor tells me you'll be back on your feet in no time, though another 100 feet of free-fall and you would have been a pancake." A suitably contrite looking Jack stood holding a Carfee care package.

"I had to make sure that Shimo had his chute on before I put mine on and pulled the cord." A pained Phil explained from the hospital bed. Several of her limbs were encased in casts of varying size.

"Well at least Shimo came out of it clean, and it looks like he may even get another medal out of it. I've got Rhino watching him now, and they're on a tour of some of the local indigenous businesses. We've told the General that they'll be investigating the local farmers market to ensure that there are no alien species of vegetable or animal being introduced into the local ecology. It's also the most boring, sedate place I could think of."

"Yeah, I guess he can't get into too much trouble visiting a couple of groceries," mused Phil.

"Everybody Freeze! This is a stick-up!" cried the shrieking gunman.

"Who the hell holds up a farmers market?" muttered Rhino as he crawled along behind a row of vegetable filled tables to try and flank the gunman.

Shimo approached the gunman from the front, his arms stretched wide. "It's alright, just put the gun down, you have everything to live for you know."

"Who do you think you are? Some sort of hero?" Then the gunman shot Shimo.

Rhino raced from behind the row of tables, roaring as he charged the gunman. He hit and both of went down in a painful pile with bits of Rhino somehow on both the top and the bottom of the pile.

A second bed was now added beside that of Phil's.

"I told you, I'm fine! It's just a broken ankle. I'll be up in a couple of days." Rhino lay in the bed with his leg elevated in a cast. "Shimo's just lucky he had that double row of medals on, he didn't even get a scratch from that round. Now all they have to do is make it through the award ceremony."

The tarmac was slick underfoot from the afternoon's heavy rain, and the sun was beginning to set as the award ceremony concluded.

"It is my pleasure as the official representative of Galactic Customs to present you, Agent Shimo, with the order of the Crimson Yipfonger." The general searched for a moment to find space on Shimo's chest, then simply pinned it on top of another more minor award.

"Thank-you General, it has been my pleasure to be such an excellent role model to future members of Galactic Customs," said a beaming Shimo.

A cloaked and hooded figure was waiting in the crowd, and could be seen regularly checking his watch. Shimo felt his eyes drawn to the pale, shadowed face beneath the cowl, a sense of familiarity. Shimo leaned over to talk to Jack "That guy in the dark cloak in the second row, who is he? He looks really familiar, but I can't quite place him."

"Probably just an extra they brought in to make the crowd look a bit more respectable." replied Jack, wondering how did you explain that the minion of death was probably there to support repeat business.

"Well, it was good to meet you Shimo," said the General, walking along side Shimo as he approached his ship. "You'll have to keep me up to date on what happens, your life seems to be just as heroic in person as it reads on paper."

"Why thank you General, it's been my-" Shimo's response was cut off as he slipped on the rain-slicked pavement, and into an open storm drain. His scream was heard only for a second as he was carried away by the rushing water.

Everyone rushed to the edge of the hole, and then looked across at each other over the opening. No sound could be heard above the rushing water, as each strained to hear a scream for help.

"He's dead, just like that, our greatest hero..." the General whispered in horror. He stood hunched over, peering down the drain, mouth agape, and then seemed to snap back to himself. "No-one must ever know that this is the way the Hero of Galactic Customs was killed." He snapped upright and gave jack a piercing look. "You have a genetic sample of him yes? Clone him, and never, ever let anyone know what happened. The Galaxy needs its heroes, and it won't be denied this one. Not now, not while I can help it!" And with that he climbed into his shuttle. He was eager to be away from this debacle.

Some distance away, a musing Reaper opened his day planner, and ran a line through the comment

    1) Attend best customers award ceremony.
Then, in careful gothic print, inserted
    2) Attend best customers Funeral..

He paused and then added

    Send flowers???

The sound of rushing water almost drained out the moans of an injured Shimo. Pressed against the sewer duct by the rushing water, he heard the conversation above him but was unable to gather enough breath to respond. Their words ran through his head like thunder.

"Leave me for dead will they? They'll pay for that! They'll see... My friends... HAH!"