Melody Powers in "Butcher, Baker, Cancer-stick Maker"
By Daria Morgendorffer (with some help from Mystik Slacker, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rated: PG13, for violence
Daria, and all related characters including Melody Powers, is copyright © 2000 by MTV
This story is copyright © 2000 by Mystik Slacker, and is for personal enjoyment only, no infringement of the above rights is intended.
Summary: Daria's fictional secret agent, Melody Powers, goes to Russia, to do what she does best. She also saves the world from Communism.
In "Cafe Disafecto" Daria read a story about Melody Powers, a James Bond-like spy with a serious dislike for communists, to a coffee-house audience, inspiring an anti-communist riot. In "The Old and the Beautiful," she reads another Melody Powers story to a deaf woman. Both story fragments are melodramatic parodies of the adventurous secret agent genre, but we never get to hear a whole story. Until now...
Oh, all right, several other people have written Melody Powers fics, so I'm not the first. On with the story...
Melody Powers lay on the damp forest floor and waited to die. The smell of the rich earth and wet leaves filled her lungs with the scent of decay. A short distance off to the west she could hear the barking of dogs, as they searched for her trail down by the river. To the east, a helicopter made slow passes as it quartered the forest.
She had left the river via an overhanging tree, and traveled about a half mile through dense interlocking branches before dropping to the ground. She thought that would be enough to throw the dogs off. The helicopter, or one of the guards beating the brush, was more likely to find her. The cold February drizzle that had been falling all day worked in her favor, since it reduced the range of infrared vision systems.
She had concealed herself in a hole left by the roots of a fallen tree, and piled dirt and leaves over her to keep warm and disguise the shape of her body to heat sensors. Now she needed to wait until the search moved on, or until someone found her. If discovered, she could expect only a quick bullet; they had learned the folly of trying to hold her prisoner already, and the dead she had left behind would not incline them to mercy.
As she waited, she reviewed how the mission had gone wrong, hoping to find a way to complete it. It had all started in London...
Melody stood facing her chief, she hesitated to use the word "superior" for him, across an oversized executive desk. As he sat in his dark green leather chair, behind the massive desk, he was never still. His hands waved in the air, or pounded the desk, to emphasize words, as he verbally ripped her to shreds. She paid little attention; these tirades were a constant feature of their professional relationship, and she gave small thought to his words or histrionics, merely responding when it seemed necessary. He'd get to the important stuff eventually, and then she could go kill someone. That was her job, after all.
"Dammit Powers, this was supposed to be simple! Now we have corpses all over the Acropolis to explain to the Greek authorities, not to mention the bullet holes in the Parthenon! It's an international incident! That makes four this year!"
"Yes sir, but no civilians were involved, and I didn't bring the machine gun. You can't blame me if the enemy doesn't care about overkill," she replied calmly.
"What enemy? You were on vacation! I sent you to Greece to relax for God's sake! How hard an order is that to follow?"
"I was relaxing, sir, until the terrorists tried to kill me."
"They tried to kill you because they found you eavesdropping. Most people on vacation in Greece spend their time on the beach or playing tourist, but you have to go snooping around the local terrorists." He sighed, slightly out of breath from the yelling, and just glared at her.
"Well, it's done now," he finally said. "I'm going to have to send you out again."
"Another vacation sir?" Inwardly she cringed at the thought, but gave no external sign.
"No, one of your vacations a year is all I can take. Anyway, we've got a problem. I would have had to call you back in for this anyway, but it would have been nice if I didn't have to spring you from a Greek state prison to do it. Next time I think I'll leave you there for a few months."
Melody smiled. Finally, something useful to do. "What is it sir, the Red Brigade again?" She loved killing communists. Unfortunately, there were so few of them left now that the Cold War was over. Soon they'd be an endangered species, but that was fine with her.
"No, not communists, but I think you'll like the mission anyway. This time it's the Russian mafia." He smiled as he spoke. It was an evil smile. He'd earned his position by being the coldest killer in the agency when he was a field operative, and his smile had been known to send trainees running, but Melody no longer even noticed it. Her thoughts were on Russia.
"Ex-communist thugs are just as good. Who do I need to kill?"
The chief picked up a folder from his desk and passed it to her, when she flipped it open the top page showed a photo of a fiftyish man with unkempt hair, whose right eye seemed to bulge slightly.
"Is this the target?" She asked.
"No, that's the victim. Keep the distinction in mind please. Professor Anthony Martin, a noted expert on chemical weapons. Last week, he was kidnapped from Oxford University, where he was on sabbatical from his regular school in the States. We have reason to believe he's being held at a dacha near the Black Sea coast by Vasily Nevsky, formerly a major figure in the Russian Communist party, and now reputed to be a mafia boss controlling the smuggling of black-market cigarettes and alcohol into Russia. He has ties to the Russian army also, and the dacha is well guarded."
"What does a smuggler want with a chemical weapons expert?" Melody asked.
"That's what we'd like to know. Whatever it is, it can't be good. Your job is to get Professor Martin out, preferably intact, but if necessary you are to ensure that he can't help Nevsky, by whatever means are appropriate."
"So I only kill the victim if I can't rescue him. Can I kill Nevsky?" She asked, with a trace of pleading in her voice.
"Only if it doesn't endanger the mission."
"Okay, I think I've got the distinction down now."
Melody paced the cell in her socks, trying to spot surveillance gear and surreptitiously examining the courtyard outside the barred window. She was on the second floor, and could see the stone perimeter wall and a river gate and dock used for patrol boats. A gentle rain was falling. She had seen the outside of the dacha, if you could call something the size of a small hotel a 'cottage', briefly when she arrived. It was well guarded, by men who carried themselves as professionals, although they wore no uniforms and lacked the polish she expected of soldiers. It seemed that he didn't trust his personal security to the army. That would make her job easier later, but the wall would make her escape difficult, and that was the immediate problem. She needed to catch Nevsky when he was unprepared, not now with all his guards on full alert.
As she paced, she reviewed her resources. When they'd searched her, the guards had taken her belt, shoes, and possessions, but left her clothing and underwear. There had been one guard with wandering hands who'd apparently planned to take her clothing too, and perhaps more, but she'd maneuvered him into being too blatant, and used it as an excuse to break both his thumbs. His companions had laughed at him, then beaten her black and blue and thrown her in here. Her ribs ached, but nothing seemed to be broken. The guards were obviously used to inflicting professional beatings, and probably had orders not to damage her until she'd been interrogated.
The cell was bare, containing only a bed and a small, but solid, table. The exterior wall was of stone, but the interior walls seemed to be simply lath and plaster. She could kick her way through one, given time, but the guards down the hall were unlikely to sit still while she did. Off to one side was a small bathroom, with a toilet and sink. The far wall of the bathroom abutted the guardroom she had passed on the way in, and she suspected that there was at least one spy hole in that wall. She smiled, as a plan began to form.
Melody entered the bathroom, and stood in front of the sink. She peeled off her shirt, and hung her shirt and bra on the towel rack beside the sink. The guards had never even bothered to ask why someone as slight as she wore a bra at all. Well, they'd find out soon enough.
She looked at herself in the small mirror above the sink. The bruises on her arms and torso from earlier were sore, and already beginning to purple. She ran water in the sink, and began to wash up, listening for the sounds of motion near the wall. Once she was sure she had an audience, she faked a stumble, and fell against the wall, slamming her hand against one of the bra's padded cups. Rubbing her hand, she walked into the other room, leaving the washcloth on the sink with the water running, as if she planned to return.
Once in the other room, she kicked the table over, grabbed the mattress off the bed, and dived behind the table with the mattress wrapped over her. She closed her eyes, and put her palms over her ears, as she continued the countdown she'd started when she fell. A few seconds before she reached zero, the bathroom exploded. "Damn," she thought, "either I'm more addled than I'd expect, or the timer on that one was off."
Jumping out from under the mattress, she quickly ran through the remnants of the bathroom into the guardroom. Bodies, and parts of them, had been sprayed everywhere by the blast. Some were still moaning. She quickly collected her shoes and possessions from a table in the corner, as well as a shirt and coat from one of the more intact bodies near her. Then she grabbed weapons, and exited into the hall.
Running down the hall, her hearing began to come back, although her ears were still ringing, or maybe that was an alarm. At the end of the hall, a door opened onto a balcony overlooking the dock. She kicked out the latch, not even pausing to see if it was locked first. From the balcony, she could see a small patrol speedboat at the dock. The boat crew was running toward the front of the dacha with weapons drawn. She waited for them to move out of sight, then dropped to the ground and hurried to the boat.
One man guarded the boat, but his eyes were on the courtyard to the front of the building. She ran up behind him, and efficiently broke his neck. She eased his body to the ground to prevent any noise that would attract attention, then leaped into the boat.
On the boat, she cast off the lines, and looked around for the keys. They were gone; apparently, the crew had taken them when they ran off. "Who the hell do they think is going to steal this boat, anyway?" She thought to herself with a grin. Hotwiring the ignition took seconds, then she slammed the throttle forward and headed for the gate. As she neared it, she hit the remote control, and the gate began to open. An overly alert guard looked down, and must have seen something wrong about a patrol boat with no patrol aboard. He opened fire, and bullets shattered the windshield and stitched a row of holes across the deck beside her. She returned fire with a pistol, and the guard dropped from sight. But his shots had drawn the attention of other guards, and more bullets hit the boat as she pulled away. Fortunately, no others were atop the wall, and once outside the gate she was out of their line of fire.
As the boat raced upriver, the engine skipped, then caught again. The bullets must have clipped a fuel line, or damaged some part of the ignition system. She angled the boat nearer to the forested shore, and hoped she wouldn't have to swim. Hypothermia came fast in water this cold. As the boat approached the riverbank, she turned to parallel it, and continued to put as much distance between herself and the dacha as she could. The motor hacked like an asthmatic smoker, but continued to run for some time. When it finally expired for good, she was at least five miles upriver. She turned the boat out into the current, and let it drift away with its remaining momentum as she jumped from the rear into knee-deep water. Turning upriver, she walked in the water until she found a low-hanging branch that would bear her weight, then climbed up onto it. She took the opportunity to wring as much water out of her pants and socks as she could, then moved away from the river through the treetops. Behind her, the boat drifted downriver, and everything was still and quiet for a time.
Arriving at a dirt road, she turned to the north. There was a village near here, and she was going to need food and water while she worked out the rest of her plan. Other people around her would also remove the risk of detection from the air, and as long as she was careful, the average villager would be easy to avoid.
Approaching the village, she heard a truck engine behind her. She moved deeper into the woods and watched it pass. The truck pulled up alongside a building that looked like a tavern and two men in Russian army uniforms emerged from the cab and went inside. She moved quickly towards the building, watching for sentries, but there were none. She found a window, and looked inside.
It was a tavern, but the main room had been made into a command post. A radio sat on one table, and maps were spread over several others. Uniformed men moved about inside the room, along with one blond woman wearing captain's insignia who seemed to be in charge. While most of the soldiers looked like they'd been marching in the rain for hours, the captain was immaculate; her uniform ready for the parade ground and every hair in place, obviously a desk jockey, and not someone who led by example. The window was of single-paned glass, and poorly fitted, and Melody could hear the soldiers talking.
"Ma'am, we've cleared this side of the river for twenty kilometers to the north, and five kilometers inland," one of the soldiers reported in Russian. "Should we widen the search to the other bank?"
"No, from where we found the boat, and the shape the engine was in, she couldn't have made it to the far shore, and if she tried to swim her body will be well out to sea by now." She turned to one of the other soldiers. "Georgii, get on the radio and tell them to start sweeping back south, she must have gone to ground. Have them tighten the lines, and don't use the helicopter. Maybe we can catch her if she thinks it's safe." She turned to a second guard. "Gorya, take two men and begin a house-to-house search of the village, she may be here somewhere, and be careful, she clearly has no regard for human life."
Melody smiled to herself. "No, I have no regard for your life; I am fond of my own though."
The blond captain turned back to the first guard. "Yuri, take the truck back to the dacha, we can't afford to leave transportation where she might steal it."
"Yes ma'am, but I'm Grigori, not Yuri." The guard said.
"My name is Grigori," the guard repeated.
"Whatever. Just get the damn truck out of here."
Melody moved quickly to the truck. The exposed back provided no place for concealment, but under the bed a frame for a spare tire hung in front of the axel. If she could wedge herself in there, she could get back inside the compound while they were still searching the forest for her. She smiled quickly, and climbed up. I hope the potholes aren't too bad, she thought to herself.
Grigori came out with the other soldier a couple of minutes later, and the two climbed into the cab. Neither thought to look underneath for a passenger. The truck headed back to the south, bouncing occasionally on the rough dirt road.
She remained in the trucks shadow while she looked for guards. Seeing none, she carefully moved to the rear of the building. Behind the building was a small field with a wind sock, suitable for landing a helicopter. Guards patrolled inside the rear wall. She waited until the guards were all looking away, then moved quickly to a door on the back of the building. It wasn't locked, and she entered.
Inside, she found herself in a hallway. Voices came from an open door further down the hall. She moved to where she could glance into the room. Inside, Vasily Nevsky was talking to someone she couldn't see. He seemed quite agitated, and spoke in a whiny voice.
"I want that woman found! I want to know who sent her, and how much they know! You assured me that you were capable of providing adequate security! I'm certainly paying those soldiers enough for it!"
"Vasily, calm yourself. Captain Kutuzov's troops have blockaded the roads, and will capture her once the sun is up," a woman's voice replied.
"And if she manages to elude them again?"
"Then my people will take her. I have agents in every town in the region watching public transport stations. We know how she got here, and we know she's working alone. You worry about Martin, and let me worry about her."
Melody smiled. The professor must be here somewhere. Since she hadn't seen any sign of him upstairs earlier, she'd check the basement first. She moved carefully past the doorway and continued down the hall, looking for the cellar stairs.
Moving down the hall, Melody quickly searched the other rooms, without luck. Finishing, she moved back upstairs and listened at the door. Assured that nobody was about, she exited and quickly went upstairs to where she had been held earlier. The bodies had been removed, but little else had changed.
Down the hall from her cell were several other rooms. The third one she checked contained Professor Martin, who was sound asleep. She entered, and woke him after putting her hand over his mouth. Once assured he'd keep quiet, she spoke:
"Professor Martin, I'm here to rescue you. Come quickly, we need to be away from here before anyone realizes that you've left."
Professor Martin spoke with a tinge of anger to his voice, his irritation showing in the way he emphasized arbitrary words: "Oh, and HOW do I know that?" He said. "This could JUST be another PLOY to win my cooperation in NEVSKY's mad scheme!"
"Well, you'll just have to take my word for it. I don't have any way to prove it, and escape has to be better than sleeping on a surplus army cot. Of course, if you don't want to come with me, I'll have to kill you to prevent you from helping them."
"Well, in THAT case, I guess I'll accompany you. But didn't you bring an awful LOT of people for a COVERT rescue?"
"What do you mean?" Melody asked uncertainly. "I'm alone."
"Then WHO are they?"
Melody turned. Standing in the doorway were the blond Captain from the village, and several soldiers. All had guns leveled at her.
"Come quietly, or don't, the choice is yours," the Captain said.
Melody raised her hands. "That isn't much of a choice, but I'll go with you."
The soldiers relieved Melody of her weapons, and escorted her and the professor down to the library, where Nevsky was waiting with a figure wearing a black trench coat and hat. The figure's face was shadowed. The captain pushed her down into an armchair, and led the Professor to another one. Once he was seated, she motioned the soldiers to leave the room. Several of Nevsky's thugs remained, one on either side of Melody's chair, and a third beside Nevsky.
"Ah, Ms. Powers, you've decided to visit us again. How nice." Nevsky smiled as he spoke.
"Well, the road was a bit crowded, and there's no place to stay in the village."
"Yes, Captain Kutuzov did a most efficient job of bringing you back to us." He smiled at the captain, who stood impassively behind Melody's chair.
"Ah, the truck was bait. I should have realized it was too convenient. So, why didn't you just shoot me?"
"You have been quite a nuisance. I need to know how much your bosses know. If you cooperate, I'll have you shot. If you don't, I'm afraid I'll have to give you to Angelina for questioning, and in that case there won't be anything worth shooting by the time she's done with you." Nevsky gestured to the trench-coated figure, who stepped forward into the light. Melody drew a quick breath, as the light revealed the face of Angelina Chang, former chief of the KGB and rumored commander of the new Russian internal security agency.
"Welcome to Russia, Ms. Powers," Chang purred, "I didn't have the opportunity to greet you properly when you passed through Moscow the other day. I do hope your stay has been pleasant."
"I've had worse vacations."
"Yes, I heard about the Acropolis."
"So, what brings an ex-KGB head, a mob boss, and a chemical weapons expert together?" asked Melody. "It can't be the lovely weather of this vacation paradise, not in February."
"No, my dear, we're the ones asking the questions," Chang said, with a predatory smile. "How did you know Vasily was holding the professor?"
"I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you; nobody tells a field agent that kind of information, just in case she's captured."
"I believe you. But I can't take the risk that you might be lying. I'm afraid we'll have to take you back to Moscow for some serious interrogation. You've been quite a thorn in my side over the years; I think I'll handle it personally."
"Well, in that case, you could at least answer my question."
"Cigarettes," said Nevsky, with a grin. "The good professor has invented a catalyst that can be formed into a cigarette filter, and which will remove all carcinogens from the smoke. With that advantage, I can expand my smuggling operations to the West, and quickly take control of the multi-billion dollar American tobacco industry. It already controls many other industries. With 'safe' cigarettes, it will be easy to repeal anti-smoking laws, and the profits will be enormous. Within a few years, I will have a voting majority in every important company in the West. I will literally rule the world. Legally."
"WE will rule the world," said Chang.
"Of course, Angelina, I meant 'we.'"
Melody seethed. It was a diabolical plan, and it would certainly work. The tobacco industry already had vast amounts of money invested in other companies. Seizing control from the inside would lead to a bloodless communist takeover. It would mean the end of the free world. Not to mention the return of cigarette advertising. Unless she could somehow stop them.
"Captain, escort Ms. Powers to my car," said Chang.
"Yes, Ma'am," said the captain, reaching for her gun. Melody decided that the time for action had come, and kicked upward taking the guard on her right in the throat. He went down gasping for air, as Melody threw herself at the guard on her left. Grabbing his gun, she shot him and the bodyguard beside Nevsky. Turning to shoot the Captain, she felt the cold presence of a gun barrel against the back of her neck.
"That will be quite enough Ms. Powers," the Captain said. "Please drop your gun."
Melody dropped the pistol to the floor, surprised at the officer's reaction speed. Soldiers of that rank tended to be desk-bound, and this one looked the part; she'd counted on a slower response.
"You've really are quite a nuisance; you've killed all of comrade Nevsky's bodyguards. I had been looking forward to doing that myself."
With that, the Captain quickly raised her gun, and shot Chang neatly between the eyes. Chang toppled, with a comical look of surprise on her face. Melody darted a startled look over her shoulder at the Captain, who was now covering her with the gun. Distantly, gunfire could be heard outside the house.
"My soldiers are removing the last of Nevsky's followers. Once they are gone, you should leave," Captain Kutuzov said to Melody, "and take him with you." She gestured at the professor.
"That's fine with me, but why, and what about Nevsky?"
"Comrade Nevsky will be returning to Moscow with me, to be tried and executed for the murder of Angelina Chang." The captain smiled. Nevsky looked sick. "For three years I've had to do whatever that bitch said, for her benefit, and not that of the Russian people. She never understood that democracy means more than 'every woman for herself.' I have no reason to detain a foreign scientist and stir up trouble with the west."
"You're not what I expected in a Russian army Captain."
"Communism has been dead for nearly a decade. The pay is usually months behind. Those of us who remain in service do so out of duty, and love for the motherland. Most of us probably aren't like your cold-war stereotype of a Russian either. You should get out more."
"Excuse me, is this seat taken?" asked a cultured Russian voice.
Melody looked up, and smiled, seeing a dark-haired young man in casual, but expensive, clothing. "Anton, I haven't seen you since Madrid, what brings you to Sochi?"
"Well, my new boss thought someone ought to keep an eye on you."
"Your new boss?"
"Yes, a Captain Kutuzov; I don't believe you've ever met her. She was named acting head of internal security after the untimely death of her predecessor, your old friend Angelina Chang."
"Ah, I always thought you were working for Angelina, but I was never sure."
"Well, I tried to keep as much distance from her as I could. She gave even the mafia a bad name."
"It's a pity you're a communist. I like the way you think."
"There are no Russian communists under the age of fifty anymore," Anton said with a grin. "I'm a capitalist now."
"Oh, well that makes it all right then," she replied with a smile.
The title is a tip of the hat to John LeCarre, author of numerous cold-war spy novels. One of the most famous is "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", whose title is a play on a verse from an old nursery rhyme. Another verse from the same rhyme is "Butcher, Baker, Candle-stick maker." The title is the only similarity between my story and his work.
The Russian Riviera is a stretch of Russian Federation coastline along the Black Sea, between the Ukraine and Georgia, which is a popular vacation spot. For most of the year, the climate is Mediterranean, especially the area near the city of Sochi, which receives warm southwestern breezes off the sea. However, winters are cold and damp, particularly in January and February. At least, that's what the travel guides say; I've never been there.
Our cast - Daria as Melody Powers; Brittany, expert in tactics (see "The Daria Hunter"), as Captain Kutuzov; The three J's (Jeffey, Joey, and Jamie) as Georgii, Gorya, and Grigori; Jake as The Chief; Timothy O'Neill as Nevsky; Anthony DeMartino as Professor Martin; and, of course, Angela Li as Angelina Chang. Oh, and don't forget Tom, as Anton. How many did you spot?
You may have noticed that Melody isn't infallible here. I thought that Daria was a good enough writer to avoid that pitfall when casting herself in a story. Also, having the protagonist succeed in her mission through luck, rather than skill, seemed to fit a parody of a genre overflowing with infallible lead characters.