Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure

From the zany mind that brought us The Android Princess Warriors from Neptune comes this comical crumpet!  This time out, secret agent Jacqueline "Jack" Hammer goes into orbit to take on the evil world-conquering goons of Mandragora!  Worry not, Faithful Fiends, because Jack Hammer is on the case...Well, that and the goons are knuckleheads...


The Talons of Mandragora

By Mike Ferguson
About the author

COMMANDER TRISTAN SLAYDE GAZED COOLLY down upon the helpless city of London. From his control chair on the Orbiting Platform of Death, he wondered how many innocent souls below even knew that death was coming, and coming soon. Just twenty-four hours earlier, the Imperial Supreme Commander of MANDRAGORA -- Slayde's esteemed leader and former college roommate -- had issued ransom demands to the United Nations. Each and every nation on the planet Earth was to pay fifty million dollars to MANDRAGORA's secret bank accounts on the island of Macho Muerte, or a major city would be randomly destroyed by nuclear fire every day at noon. The Supreme Imperial Commander had been slightly taken aback when the United Nations had politely inquired as to noon in which time zone, but he'd rebuffed their insolence properly by saying that the noontime deadline would be random as well.

No nation had bothered to pay their share of the ransom, save for France. Slayde didn't mind. The cowards below did not know about the Orbiting Platform of Death, which was constructed completely out of Invisi-Steel and held over a thousand atomic warheads in its arsenal. The Orbiting Platform of Death was silent, deadly, and undetectable -- the perfect assassination station. True, the Invisi-Steel had been a nuisance for their own resupply spaceships -- a couple of them had accidentally docked with laser cannons instead of the docking bays, for which they'd received a lethal little surprise -- but the technology made the Platform invincible. Unbeatable. And, as its commander, Tristan Slayde felt like a god.

"You're not a god, sir. God-like, maybe, but I sense that you're not divine."

"What?" Commander Slayde turned himself away from the image of London on the Death Monitor Screens and found himself looking at the smiling face of his short assistant, Major Jeeves Grovelle, Master of Human Resources. "Oh, blast. Was I talking to myself again?"

"Indubitably, sir," Major Grovelle said in simpering tones. "Quite alright. I do, however, suggest you consult Commanding Officer Employee Packet F-13, 'The Seven Impending Signs of Megalomania and How To Avoid Them'. Statistics show that ninety-three percent of thwarted plots have been supervised by commanders who talk to themselves."

"I'll keep that in mind," Commander Slayde said acidly. "So, why are you here?"

"Practically, or metaphysically, sir?"


"Two reasons," said Major Grovelle. "One, I need you to sign the timesheets for the KillCondor Spacejet pilots. They've been getting crabby about not being paid on time." He dropped a sheaf of pink papers onto Slayde's antique mahogany desk.

"Done," said Commander Slayde. "The other?"

"Some American super-spy just tried to blow up the main engine room," Major Grovelle said indifferently.

"What?" Commander Slayde jumped out of his chair. "Why didn't you say that first?"

"Timesheets are important, sir," Major Grovelle said. "Besides, the situation is well in hand. A squad of Slaybots has captured the spy, the bombs are defused, and the crisis is over. I'm having the spy brought up here for interrogation." Grovelle frowned. "We've learned nothing about this spy yet except for the Spy Designate Number."

"Oh God," said Commander Slayde. "Not Agent 18? Please, not Gunn?"

"No," Major Grovelle, answered, puzzled. "Agent 37. Why?"

"Thank the Lord," said Commander Slayde. He gestured frantically towards a bank of super-high-tech computers with spinning reels of complicated tape. "See what the databanks say about this Agent 37, Major. Perhaps there's something in our records."

"Of course, sir," Major Grovelle said in toadying tones. He walked over to the computers, and stood in front of the Processing Speaker. "Computer, please give all available data for one Agent 37, an American spy."

<<PROCESSING,>> grated the computer. Its tape reels spun wildly in one direction, then the other, then back in the original direction. A thin stream of tape covered in complex code shot out of a slot beneath the Processing Speaker. <<COMPLETED.>>

Major Grovelle picked up the tape, and started to translate the code. The simpering smile on his face faded away. "Sir . .?"

"Yes?" asked Commander Slayde. "What is it?"

At that precise moment, the mechanical doors to the Command Chamber swung wide open. Five robots resembling overgrown metallic skeletons sauntered in, their titanium claws wrapped firmly around the arms of their handcuffed prisoner . . . and what a prisoner, thought Commander Slayde.

Agent 37 was a woman, possibly the most beautiful woman Slayde had ever laid eyes on. Crimson locks of curling hair framed her face, a face filled with haunting beauty, one more fit for a goddess than a mere mortal. She wore black spaghetti-strapped high heels and a pair black leather pants that were so skintight, they seemed to be painted onto her long, coltish legs. Her shirt was short, black and transparent, exposing a black lace bra and a bare, flat midriff with a belly button that was pierced with a slender gold ring.

"Will you marry me?" blurted Commander Slayde.

Agent 37 raised an eyebrow and grinned at Slayde. "Beg your pardon?" she said sweetly.

"Funny, I was going to say the same thing," said Major Grovelle, eyeing the beautiful young woman suspiciously. "Her name is Jacqueline Hammer, sir. Our files indicated that her Danger/Threat Rating is a nine."

"Really?" said Commander Slayde. He couldn't take his eyes off Agent 37's shirt. "Nine isn't that big a number."

"It is when the scale only goes up to seven," Grovelle said urgently.

"Ah, I couldn't hurt a fly," Agent 37 said to Slayde. "Your computer's got its wires crossed, good-looking. And call me 'Jack', not 'Jacqueline'. That's what all my friends call me."

"Good-looking . . ?" said Slayde. His knees started to knock together. "Friends . . ?"

"It's a trick, sir," warned Grovelle. "Don't listen to her. The system says she's extremely dangerous and should be terminated immediately as per Code One. Unnecessary Plan Elaborations and Exotic Death Traps are to be ignored."

"Shut up, pee wee," said Jack, keeping her gaze focused on Slayde. "Terminated? Come on. Does that sound necessary?" She thrust out her chest ever so slightly at Commander Slayde.

"Um . . . no," said Commander Slayde, swallowing hard. "Not at all."

"Good," said Jack, smiling. "Tell you what. Tell your Slaybot goons to let me go, and then I'll just sit on your desk . . . or lie down on it, if you want . . . and then you can 'interrogate' me. Anyway you want, baby."

"Let her go," Commander Slayde ordered the Slaybots. "Immediately."

"This is highly, HIGHLY, unorthodox," Major Grovelle objected. "Sir, I must protest!"

"Clear the room, Major," ordered Commander Slayde. "Now."

"No," Jack said mildly.

"No?" asked Commander Slayde, surprised.

"No?" asked Major Grovelle, even more surprised.

"No," said Jack, fixing a dazzling smile on Major Grovelle. "I like it when other people watch me get 'interrogated". Come to think of it, maybe I'll let you 'interrogate' me, too . . . when the Commander's gotten everything he can out of me." Jack licked her lips. Slowly.

"Let her go," Major Grovelle ordered the Slaybots. "Immediately."

The Slaybots loosened their grips on Jack. Free of their mechanical claws, she strode confidently over to Commander Slayde's desk, taking a seat on top of it.

"Should I, uh, remove the handcuffs?" Commander Slayde asked.

"Oh, God, no," purred Jack. "Keep them on. I love handcuffs. Say, you wouldn't happen to have a riding crop lying around somewhere, would you?"

"No," croaked Commander Slayde.

"Ah, too bad," said Jack, and then she wrapped her arms around Commander Slayde's neck, handcuffs and all. She gave the commander an explosive kiss with her wet, hungry mouth, and then proceeded to wrap her long legs around the commander's waist. Commander Slayde thought he'd died and gone to heaven . . . until Jack pulled away from him.

The handcuffs binding her wrists together were gone. Instead, she held a very large proton accelerator pistol in each hand. Commander Slayde reached for the shoulder holster tucked under his jacket. They were both empty.

"God, you're dumb," Jack said sweetly. "Men. Always following their little soldiers into battle." She clubbed Commander Slayde over the head with the butt of one pistol, knocking him unconscious. The action was not lost on Major Grovelle.

"KILL HER!" he screamed to the Slaybots.

The Slaybots pointed their arms at Jack. Their cruel, mechanical claws suddenly retracted into those arms, replaced instead by the barrels of fully automatic .907 caliber cannons. The barrels roared, filling the air with smoke, fire and bronze shell casings . . . and, of course, a deadly swarm of gunfire, all aimed directly at one Jacqueline 'Jack' Hammer.

If Jack was worried about the thousands of bullets headed in her direction, though, she certainly didn't act like it. With graceful ease, she made an effortless backflip out of the line of fire, continuing to flip, tumble and vault across the room with blinding speed until she'd reached the stammering, trembling body of Major Grovelle. As she approached Grovelle, she leapt into the air, somersaulting, still dodging automatic gunfire, her own pistols blazing back in the direction of the Slaybots.

Three Slaybots dropped to the ground, filled with more holes than an Ed Wood script locked inside a Swiss cheese factory. The other two Slaybots held their fire, backing up, their mechanized brains uncertain of what to do.

"Sorry," Jack said apologetically to Major Grovelle. She gave the bewildered flunky a tender kiss on his balding forehead, tossing her spent pistols into a dark corner of the command center as she did so. "You seem like a nice enough second banana. I'd suggest finding an escape pod, fast."

"But . . ." Major Grovelle glanced into the dark corner, then at the two remaining wary Slaybots. "Your weapons . . . wait a minute, your weapons!"

Grovelle started to reach for his own holster -- Human Resources personnel weren't issued cool proton accelerator pistols, but he thought his own 9mm might do the trick. Major Grovelle never got a chance, though. Jack reached inside her see-through shirt, into the depths of her ample bosom, and pulled out a slender metal rod the size of a pencil. She pressed a button on the side of the rod, and the device suddenly expanded into a glowing sword. With one sweep of the sword, she cut the barrel of Grovelle's pistol in two, and then proceeded to deflect a fresh hail of gunfire from the Slaybots with a deft flurry of parries and thrusts.

"Power Katana," Jack said to Major Grovelle, half in explanation, half in apology. Bullets continued to bounce off of the blazingly fast blade. "It's experimental. Honestly, I don't know how it works, either. You MANDRAGORA boys are way out of your league, though."

"Oh." Major Grovelle stared helplessly at the lovely Jack Hammer. "I see," he said, although he didn't.

"By the way," said Jack, "didn't I tell you to run?"

In between fending off the flurry of bullets with the Power Katana, Jack absently flicked the blade in Grovelle's direction, cracking him over the skull with the flat of the blade. The little toad fell to the ground, unconscious. Jack then flicked the Power Katana in the direction of the remaining Slaybots, the sword hurtling end-over-end in a deadly spiral.

The blade sank deeply into the floor, but not before first severing the rapidly firing cannon of one Slaybot. The severed cannon, still firing, fell to the ground and spun, riddling the other functional Slaybot with explosive bullets. Not surprisingly, the Slaybot exploded . . . catching its disarmed, wounded companion in the blast radius, and reducing the metallic carcasses of all the Slaybots into fine ash.

Jack walked casually over to the Power Katana and picked it up. She pressed another button on the sword's hilt.

"Coogan," said Jack, "are you there?"

"You bet," crackled a gravely voice. "Been waiting for your call. Any problems?"

"Yeah, they took too long to find the fake bombs," said Jack. "Good Lord, I was waiting down there in their engine room for over half an hour."  She walked over to the computer banks in the Command Center, chopped the computers into confetti with the Power Katana, listened to the self-destruct sirens start to wail. "Shoddy security, robots with faulty aiming programs, stupid horny battle commanders, even stupider hornier flunkies . . . MANDRAGORA's not exactly scary. In fact, they're downright dumb."

"To you, sweetheart," said the crackling voice of Coogan. "To the rest of the world, they're evil incarnate."

"Good thing I'm around, then," said Jack. "Hey, want to pick me up?"

"Sure," said Coogan. "Be right over."

Still holding the Power Katana in one hand, Jack calmly watched as the Death Monitor Screens literally exploded, the nose of United States Spaceship Scorpio Two shattering through the high-tech lenses of doom.

The nose of the spaceship pushed more and more into the Command Chamber, stopping only when it reached the wreckage of the computers. A hatch in the nose opened up. Jack tossed the unconscious body of Major Grovelle inside the ship, started to drag Commander Slayde's body inside . . . but not before handcuffing him first.

"Souvenir," she whispered playfully to the unconscious Commander.

Jacqueline 'Jack' Hammer, Agent 37, climbed inside Scorpio Two. As the American spaceship jetted away from the ruins of the Orbiting Platform of Death, she gazed in wonder down upon the British Isles, ignoring the massive explosions and decompression implosions coming from the Platform. So many lives, never knowing they were ever in danger, safe at last. It felt good.

Jack reached into her blouse and pulled out a cigar. "Bring us home, Coogan," Jack said to her pilot. She lit her cigar, puffing on it comfortably. "Got some business to take care of."

"What's that, Jack?" Coogan asked.

"Got to talk to Professor Bliss about this sword," said Jack, kicking off her high heels, "and then . . . I got a date."

"Sounds good," said Coogan. Scorpio Two rocketed safely towards the United States of America, the world safe once more from the menacing, bumbling hands of MANDRAGORA . . .all thanks to Jacqueline 'Jack' Hammer, Agent 37.



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The Talons of Mandragora copyright by Mike Ferguson. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)