The spotlessly clean steam train wound its way sedately through the perfect 1:1 scale scenery of Switzerland. The grandeur that was the Alps lined the horizon, each detail perfectly crafted to the finest point.
It chuffed its way past villages, stopping occasionally at picturesque stations along the way, before continuing past gently rolling green fields full of cows that never moved.
Sitting in a first class carriage, sipping champagne from a silver hip flask, Veto Lark had noted with interest that no one ever boarded, nor departed the train at any of the stations. The few people milling around on the platforms never once glanced at the train. All merely stared in random directions, never talking, never moving.
He had also found it curious the fact there was only ever one guard at any given station; a guard who looked remarkably similar to all the other guards in every other station; one who always stood in an identical position, one hand forever raised, grasping a red flag which never fluttered. Even had there been a wind to ruffle it, sturdy plastic tended not to move much at all.
"Remarkable, isn't it?"
Veto looked up at the woman who had silently entered the compartment, and was now sitting opposite him. Disguising his sudden shock at the unexpected intrusion, he feigned the cool unflappable calm he was famous for, by taking a quick glug from his flask. The desired effect was temporarily dented by an unsubtle burp as his innards objected to the sudden rush of fermented bubbles.
"Yes. Quite. Indeed it is..." He made a mental note not to fill the flask with anything effervescent in future.
The woman wore confidence and finesse as comfortably as she did her luxurious llama-fur coat and matching hat. Her cold, slate grey eyes regarded him with mild curiosity and, quite possibly, amusement.
"You have it for me?" Only the barest flicker of an eyelid indicated a chink in her emotions, her nerves hidden well behind her perfect exterior. Veto would have applauded her control had not the situation been so serious.
"I might have."
"Do you have it, or not?" The flicker turned to anger.
"Do you have the payment?" Veto assumed his most relaxed pose, only just preventing himself from slipping off the hard, plastic seat. Sitting himself upright once more, he maintained the stand-off.
A vague narrowing of eyes before she deftly withdrew a slim envelope from her bag.
magnificent foyer of the British Museum hummed with the current cream of
society. ‘A’ list celebrities feigned knowledge of the finer points of Ancient
Egyptian civilisation as they cast critical eyes over each other’s attire, hair,
and shoes. Several leading politicians made lucrative deals over champagne and canapés,
while esteemed professors of history and archaeology debated theories and
discoveries within their respected disciplines.
all this, a vaguely handsome man casually wove his way through the gathered
assemblage. Charming both guests and catering staff alike, Veto Lark almost
drew a large number of glances. Most of those admiring looks quickly slid away
however, his features instantly forgotten. This could have been due to the fact
that his smart, yet ill-fitting tuxedo was a tad scruffier when scrutinised
further, or it may have been because his eyes revealed a hidden oddness when
looked directly into. It was, however, more likely caused by the disruptance wave
emitted from a small transmitter attached to the lapel of his jacket. Cleverly
disguised as a popular flower, the device caused anyone paying undue attention
to him to feel rather queasy, and develop the sudden urge to avert their gaze
to anywhere else.
spotted an imposing, portly man in his mid-fifties chatting animatedly to an
elegant tweed encrusted woman who appeared to be about the same age. He
immediately directed his amble toward the couple and burst into their
Herbert Schneider! Head of the Department of Egyptology, if I’m not mistaken.”
Veto grabbed the scholar’s hand and shook it vigorously. The Professor seemed
alarmed, finding himself not quite able to look the newcomer in the eye, yet
obviously unwilling to be impolite. “Sorry… One moment.” Veto fiddled with the
petals of the flower on his lapel. “Better?”
yes…” the Professor muttered, feeling considerably better. Finally able to look
at the man, Herbert wondered why the chap standing before him was wearing a
large sunflower on his jacket; particularly to such a prestigious black tie
an absolute pleasure to meet you, sir. What a coup for the museum!” Veto
Professor immediately warmed to his subject. “Indeed it is. It was most
gratifying to be successful in the bid to be the first to exhibit these
stunning new pieces.” He glanced smugly at the woman standing beside him. “May
I introduce Professor Clarissa Johnson, my counterpart at the Smithsonian.”
ignored Clarissa, his attention firmly on Herbert. “You know, I would just love
a sneaky preview, Professor.” His eyes bored into Schneider’s.
felt a little perturbed at the stranger’s gaze. “I’m afraid you will just have
to be patient…”
would really like to see it now…” Veto’s eyes held Herbert’s. The Professor
felt a little lightheaded and began to wonder why it wasn’t such a bad idea to
do as the man asked. He did seem jolly interested, after all. There was surely
no harm in allowing him to do so…
attractive young woman in a dangerously short black dress joined the group,
carefully balancing three flutes of champagne. Seeing her hand one of the
glasses to Professor Schneider, and the other to Professor Johnson, Veto took
the third for himself. Admiring the waitress’s considerable endowments, he
flashed her one of his ‘special’ smiles. She raised an amused eyebrow as Veto
gulped his champagne down in one, following it with a reverberating burp.
Clicquot ‘78, if I’m not mistaken,” Veto stated, always ready to impress. All
three looked blankly at him. Swiftly changing the subject, he addressed the
waitress once more. “How about you and I have a little fumble in the
Antiquities section later?” He winked meaningfully, confident his dazzling
smile had already melted her defences. He suspected this night would be
profitable in more ways than one.
polite cough from the Professor dragged his attention back to the task in hand.
“So, then Herbert, May I call you Herbert? Now, about this little guided tour
you were about to take me on? Won’t take long. Just one teeny little item I’d
love to see before the rest of the Riff-Raff get a chance.”
stated before, no.” The Professor’s expression had grown rather stony. “May I
also introduce you to Abi Schneider. My wife.” He gestured to the woman in the
looked from Abi to the Professor, then back again, and burst out laughing. “Oh,
you nearly had me going there, you old coot!”
was no doubt about it; the Professor was most definitely not amused. “I think
perhaps you should circulate, sir… don’t you?”
grin faded. “What? Seriously?” He cast another glance at the ‘waitress’. “Ah…
right. My little joke, of course.” He shuffled a little, but soon grasped the
situation back under control. “So. Statue, about this big…” He gestured
randomly with his hands.
away, or I shall call security,” Herbert growled.
you get yourself all upset now, love,” Abi put her hand on the Professor’s arm,
not noticing the jealous glare Clarissa failed to hide. “Some more champagne,
dear?” Moving away from Herbert, she grabbed Veto’s arm, propelling him away.
go away,” Abi hissed.
on. Let me have just a little peak?” Veto pleaded with his best puppy dog eyes.
“Then you can show me the statue.” Abi glared at him, secretly amused at his
audacity. As she stared at him, she felt a moment of dizziness.
so special about this statue anyway?” Her curiosity was piqued.
nothing much. Nothing at all, in fact. I’ve just always wanted to see it. Ever
since I was knee high to a Doltron.”
only uncovered last year,” Abi pointed out. “And what exactly is a ‘Doltron’?’”
short, nasty creatures. Tend to disguise themselves as small, excitable dogs.
You know, the little yappy types.”
Lark.” Again the charming smile.
do take you to see the statue, will you promise to go away?”
course, ma petite garde-robe,” Veto gave a delicate bow, spoilt only by his
hair flopping over his face.
are strange. Anyone ever tell you that?”
“All the time!”
no one was watching, particularly her husband, Abi slipped through the door of
the exhibition hall where the new artifacts were on display. Veto followed
close behind. She’d been inside several times earlier with Herbert as the
exhibition was being prepared. He had fussed around, ensuring everything was
perfect for the opening, driving everyone insane with his insistence on
absolute perfection. Then, it had been bustling with staff making last minute
preparations. The silent room now emanated a creepiness which made her shiver.
exactly are you looking for?” Abi whispered. Veto pulled a phone from his
pocket and flicked through a number of images until he found one of a small,
very ugly statuette. Nodding, Abi pointed towards the left of the hall. “I
think I remember something like that being over there. Didn’t like it much. It
felt… wrong. ” Veto had already set off in the direction she had indicated. She
hurried after him, suddenly questioning the reason why she was doing this.
becoming a little lost around the section of Fourth Dynasty limestone reliefs,
Abi stopped and listened. A curious buzzing sound seemed to be coming from the
far corner. Stepping quietly, she followed the noise. Peeking around a rather
plain looking sarcophagus, Abi’s eyes widened as she spotted Veto holding what
looked to be a pencil torch over a glass case containing several small statues.
are you doing?” She walked over cautiously.
Veto continued to hover the torch over the glass.
not trying to steal that, are you?” Abi halted a safe distance away.
“Nope. Just returning it to it’s rightful owners.” Veto glanced up
with a charming grin.
backed away. “Right…”
wouldn’t go calling security or anything silly like that. Would rather avoid
any trouble. Two ticks and I’ll be gone.”
turned and fled. Sighing, Veto straightened up, pulled what looked alarmingly
like a small gun from his pocket, and fired it at Abi’s back. A dull orange
beam engulfed her for a few seconds, dissipating as she slumped to the floor.
really didn’t want to do that…” Veto shook his head sadly before returning to
his task. There was a grinding crack and a piece of glass fell down upon the
statue, shattering as it did so. The statue promptly fell over, a small piece
of it breaking off. “Oops.” Veto pulled on a pair of latex gloves and reached
into the case. Carefully, he lifted the statue, shaking bits of glass from its
surface. He studied the broken piece remaining in the case and shrugged.
“They’ll never know…” he told himself, and stuffed the almost complete statue in
beside Abi, Veto quickly checked that her pulse was strong. “You’ll have a bit
of a sore head when you wake up, but you’ll be fine, ” he said softly. Taking a
business card from his pocket, he slipped it into her bag.
the foyer, Veto grabbed one last glass of champagne as he waved cheerily to
Professors Schneider and Johnson. He flirted briefly with a minor, but
glamorous young soap actress before making his way through the throng, and out
of the main entrance.
quiet alley, not far from the rear of the museum, Veto was enveloped in a soft,
lurid green glow. When the glow faded, the alley was once again empty, save for
a small Yorkshire Terrier which began to growl, bark, and jump up and down with
waltzed into what appeared to be a cross between an office, a bedsit, and the
bridge of a flashy spaceship; which is what it was; except the spaceship in
question wasn’t flashy at all; more like a wreck held together with sticky tape
and industrial strength glue; which it was. Literally.
many casualties this time?” Ember Mound, barely looked up from filing her
at all!” Veto stated proudly. “Well, no fatalities anyway.”
you get it?” Ember didn’t even bother feigning interest.
did.” Veto pulled the small statue out of his tuxedo pocket with a flourish.
bored sigh, she heaved herself from her slumped position, and thumped a
keyboard with her fist. A screen flickered into life as she began to type
laboriously with one finger. “I’ll get the invoice sent. Usual expenses?”
think so, yes. Oh, but remember to include the cost of a new tuxedo.”
wasn’t new, you pulled it off the back of a dead man,” Ember pointed out.
which is why I need a new one.”
threw himself into an overstuffed armchair and admired the little statue. “A
celebratory drink is in order, I think!” He grinned expectantly.
sigh, Veto slid out of his chair. As he did so, the statue slipped out of his
hand. Making an heroic, yet desperate attempt to catch it, he merely succeeded
in batting it faster and higher through the air. With a slow-motion effect,
Veto watched as the statue hit the parquet floored deck and shattered into a
woman sighed deeply, and deleted the invoice.
settled back into his chair, an irritated beep sounded from beneath a pile of
glossy magazines on the console. The woman swept them out of the way, and
studied an incoming transmission.
Star has gone missing. Apparently the company who created it, ‘Home Star
Industries’, want you to find it before their clients who commissioned
it, find out…” She sounded mildly surprised.
leapt up and rubbed his hands together. “Splendid! Start billing them from this
held her pounding head in her hands. Professor Schneider was in a state of
shock as the theft of one of his prize exhibits finally sank in. Security
mingled with the guests, trying to establish whether anyone or anything
suspicious had been noticed that night. Unsurprisingly, no one could recall
attempt to safeguard both her husband’s blood pressure and her marriage, Abi
had wisely decided to deny all knowledge of inadvertently aiding and abetting
the strange man responsible for the outrage.
rummaged in her bag in search of painkillers. Failing to find any, she did come
across a business card that she swore had not been there before. The lurid
orange business card was printed with blue calligraphic lettering which hurt
the eyes if looked at for too long;
Veto Lark - Scavenger of the Stars
If you’ve lost it, I’ll find it!
Success Not Guaranteed
the back, was a single, hand written word in wild, loopy handwriting. It simply