Friday, May 1, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure #46: The Deadly Shadow

Last time the magical powers of hallucinogens solved the problem of the world's oil supply vanishing, as you'd probably expect. Today we're going to jump ahead to a 1985 entry by Richard Brightfield, who I've come to know as a diet version of R.A. Montgomery. Maybe he can shake this label with a book that promises cold war spy games and a human time bomb. If it's even half as good as Your Codename is Jonah I'm totally in.

This cover could be used by Space Shuttle explosion "truthers" as "proof" it was planned.

I'm an agent in the Special Security Agency, your typical shadow group of Super Patriots that performs the usual tasks: destabilizing governments, creating new street drugs, disappearing undesirable elements, etc. After a successful mission in East Asia (messing with North Korea in some fashion, I would imagine) I'm hoping for some vacation, but that's not how these invisible wars work. I'm called in to Washington to meet with "T," your typical open and transparent government employee.

It's off to one of those secret underground compounds to hash out the details. It turns out our web of trouble shooters is searching for a man named Dimitrius. He's a result of some typical Eastern Bloc foul-up, being involved in a psychic research lab in Moscow and a particle physics deal in Noginsk. And here I thought all Noginsk had to offer was its ceramics industry. It's also a science hot spot, too. Anyway, this person of interest has gone rogue and may explode at any time. With the force of an atomic bomb. 

  Somehow "feeding people" and "staying sober" didn't make the cut.

The Reds were trying to develop invisibility technology, but because communism is by its very nature a failed system it didn't work. Now this human nuclear device is on the loose, and no one has any clue where. Oh, one more little thing. He might be able to travel forward and backward in time. Yeah, I know. Hardly worth noting, I doubt that will make him hard to catch. 

My assignment, just like all the others already looking, is to find this dangerous Soviet mistake and then try to reason with him, using my words. Well, that plan is certainly due to work one of these times. I'm offered a choice of cover identities and decide to become a gambler, knowing full well I'm going to lose and it's for fools. But that's the way I like it.

Inherently contradictory motto! Rock!

My boss tells me not to get carried away with my new persona; only a certain amount of money can be lost while I somehow use gaming to catch a time-traveling, explosive Russian lunatic who could be anywhere. But what if I win? That goes into the fat pocket. Yes, your tax dollars allotted for games of chance and I'm even naive enough to think I can beat the house. This whole book is a Libertarian's worst nightmare. If we had small government and a gold standard there wouldn't be any atomic Slavics bouncing around in time and you know this is true, man. 

I'm off to Rio De Janeiro to try my luck and maybe save millions of lives. It's all beaches, hotels, and exciting chances to test probability theory, but a woman approaches at the betting windows with the prearranged codes, so I guess the "action" of betting on a tiny ball or dice is off for now. Her name is Isabel and she's already heard of me, being somewhat of a rising star in the black ops business. Apparently Dimitrius is in Rio all the time, which makes me wonder why all the agents are scattered everywhere, but fine. He bets on soccer of all things and somehow always wins.

I think the trick is to just always take the "under" for goals scored.

I got beaten up by hooligans for this?

Actually it's that time travel ability. Yup, that's how he uses it. I guess there could have been a lamer payoff to an amazing ability that was already presented as the most mundane and boring thing possible, but I'm not sure how. He's betting on grass hockey. Yeah.

The syndicate got sick of all that winning and tried to violently censor it, but our man turned into a shadow, set one of them on fire and disappeared. Good thing I'm just here to talk. I could go looking for the survivors of this incident, but the lure of the soccer stadium is too much to resist. Chants, lots of passing in the middle of a giant field, horns going off in your ears constantly, offensive's going to be great.

Unfortunately there's one other soccer as viewed by an American ignoramus stereotype I forgot: the rioting. The crowd has gone wild, possibly angered by the lack of scoring. I'm caught in a crush of bodies, can't get free and get trampled to death. Hopefully the agency can gin up a more heroic version of my last moments for the benefit of my loved ones.

I came to see number 26. He has three goals in the last five seasons!

This one was pretty good, minor failings and goofiness aside. It seemed like a decent spy story was unfolding until my abrupt and inglorious ending. Other routes take you all over the globe, although I'm told this book is one of the hardest to "win." For some people that matters, but I'm just here for the journey and what I got wasn't bad. Soccer games are more dangerous than violence gangs, right? 

Improbable judo throw!!!

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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