The Junkers Saga - Trashcan's Eleven
rating: +18+x

Act 1

Trashcan's Eleven

"You really think working a desk in the bullpen beats being out here in the field?" Agent Rodney asked between bites of his cheeseburger.

"Hot pot of coffee always on, my nice ergonomic office chair, a bathroom right there whenever I want it… Gosh, what's to miss, right?" Agent Polk warily eyed the parking lot of the drive-thru joint while they each dug into their combo meals.

"Meeting new anomalies, saving people from monsters, getting exercise - you can't get that wasting away on a desk."

"Exactly my point," Polk said while brushing the crumbs from his lap. "At least on a desk I don't have to worry about my computer trying to kill me or something. Sometimes I feel like we're just a step above D-Class."

"I don't see it that way," Rodney lapped some sauce from the corner of his mouth. "Few actually have the opportunity we have."

"So you think it's an honor?"

"Well, that's part of the deal, but no." Rodney squinted in thought, then looked his partner in the eye. "Life's not about comfort, if that's true we'd be all blobs of flesh wasting away on a couch. To me, it's the moment. Seeing the supernatural up close tends to give you perspective. I mean, we're going to run out of road eventually, why not make the trip worthwhile?"

Polk didn't even humor the idea. "Whatever floats your boat, Rod. And it's 'anomalous', not 'supernatural'."

"Tomato, tomahto."

The radio on the dashboard crackled alive. "108, Unit 108 - do you copy? Over."

Rodney snatched up the mic and answered. "Ya, go ahead for 108."

"What's your status; are you working something right now?"

"Just trying to get some dinner in."

Agent Polk stared at Rodney. "I thought this was just a snack until we could get real dinner?"

"I got something on the line here needs a follow-up," said the dispatcher. "Looks like you're closest unit to the scene."

Agent Rodney chuckled to Polk "You can eat once you're off duty; that's field work." Into the mic now, "Dispatch, what do you got?"

"Something from the bunch in, uhh - Online Activities. Some kinda suspicious social media livecasts."

"Yeah, send it over."

Just a few seconds later, their mobile monitor indicated an incoming message from HQ. Rodney scrolled past the brief text paragraph and opened up the attachment file; a short video clip began to play. In it he saw a teenage girl, recording herself with her phone and speaking to the camera.

"Guys, this garbage strike is really just too much. I'm standing here on 10th street downtown, and there is sooo much trash everywhere! It's like people can hardly even get around because of how much it's piled up on the sidewalks."

Rodney found it uncanny how expertly she framed the scene over her shoulder without looking back - indeed, there were trash bags piled up around already-overflowing wastebins all along the street.

"We're all in this together, you guys! Please followers, if you can: share this with your friends, and come down to help keep our neighborhood from being totally buried in garbage!"

Agent Rodney grunted, "Kids these days. I never know what to expect from 'em."

"Um, what?" Agent Polk had been watching the same video clip, with the exception that he could plainly see it starred a wheeled rubbish bin which was able to move and talk on its own.

"My memetic immunizations aren't current," Rodney explained away the awkward moment when Polk pointed out the reality of the clip.

"And they let you in the field like that?"

"It's not that big a deal. I've got an appointment with a specialist at Site-17 next week."

"'Not a big deal' he says," Polk shook his head. "When we're about to go wading into," he pointed at the screen, "whatever this is? Because there is something up there, right?"

"Yeah, we better get down to 10th and see what's going on. Why don't you be a dear and read the rest of the attachments in the meantime?" With a flick of his wrist, Agent Rodney started the engine.

Light traffic and green lights all the way made it a quick drive into the neighborhood.

"So, Online's doing their thing - stopping the spread and erasing what's out there," Polk summarized the rest of the brief on the way. "It's pervasive, but limited to local groups and feeds here in the city. So at least these videos ain't getting spread too far."

"They are effective though," Rodney slowed to a crawl past the scene on the sidewalk. In an open plaza between office and apartment buildings, small groups of people were milling around and chatting amongst themselves. "Well, it's nice to see there are still people willing to volunteer here in the city."

"Nah, come on. It's making people see a cute girl instead of a trashcan; it's probably just got some kinda compulsion effect to it too."

"You're so cynical." Rodney found a place to park on the curb. "Come on, let's talk to a few and find out."

As they stepped out of the car, each man took a moment to stretch and assess the scene. The crowd was gradually beginning to disperse, their work apparently done. They picked out a group of three young men who were lingering next to a bench; one of them still had coveralls and gloves on.

Approaching, Polk addressed the group. "Hey there fellas. We out here for the community service?"

The three youths all paused and stared mutely at the agents. Probably assessing whether we're a couple of cops, thought Rodney. "Hi there," he stepped forward, deciding to take the lead. "Doug Randall. I'm a reporter with the Bugle," the agent grinned and extended his hand. "I'd just like to talk, if you guys have a moment to spare."

The group exchanged looks, but finally the one in coveralls spoke up. "Talk about what?"

"Well, it's uhh… it's for a human interest piece," Rodney improvised. "We've been in touch with local volunteer organizations, trying to learn a bit about the members and their experiences."

"Oh, we aren't members of any organization," the tallest of the three youths admitted.

"No?" Polk interrupted. "So how did all these people come down here at the same time?"

"Well," Coveralls glanced between his friends as he explained. "I guess because of the video. Right?"

"What video's that?"

"Online, man! This chick was linking it all over, it came up in my feeds like a hundred times today. But then again I suppose I get it, kinda."

"What do you mean?"

"Like… Okay, so I guess lots of old folks live in some of these apartments?" Coveralls explained. "The chick was saying how her grandma does, and now because of the garbage strike there's so much trash around on all the sidewalks that she can't even walk to get groceries or whatever." With a shrug, he added "so that sucks."

"But where did you people actually take all the trash?"

"We didn't! We just pushed it all over to the curb, so there would be a big wide pathway on the sidewalk."

The agents scanned the surrounding area, but none of the accumulated garbage remained. Exchanging nods, Rodney and Polk decided to end the interview there and get back in the car.

"So hey! Are we, like, gonna get our pictures in the paper or what?"

"Oh, we just might have an even bigger scoop to cover," Rodney called back over his shoulder. "Thanks for your time, gents!" Tossing the car keys to his partner now, "Here, drive us around the block a little."

Polk accelerated away from the curb. "Okay, so what are you thinking?"

"These folks there can't have finished very long ago, so that trash must have been scooped up recently," Rodney kept his eyes focused out his side window. "Here, let's take a look down that way."

Finally they see it, like a line drawn at the mouth of an alleyway - on one side the streets are clean, while on the other trash bags are stacked pressed together neatly. On Rodney's order, Polk pulled over and the Agents got out on foot. A scan down the alley revealed nothing of note, so Polk and Rodney continued along the sidewalk toward the intersection.

Rounding the storefront in the building on the corner, they saw a flatbed cargo truck idling at the curb; piled high on the deck were loads of garbage.

"Excuse me, sir," Rodney stepped forward and called out to the driver. "Sir, can you turn that engine off for a minute?"

"Are you talking to the dummy?" Polk turned to Rodney quizzically.

"Don't insult the guy, I'm trying to get us close."

"It's literally a mannequin propped up in the seat," Polk said. "You don't see that?"

Rodney looked again, squinting. "Oh… Well okay then, let's go take a look." But as they approached the truck, it suddenly cranked into gear and the engine revved. "I thought you said that wasn't a real person driving it!"

"It's not!"

"How would a vehicle just drive away on its own-"

Together they exclaimed "Oh no!"

Turning around and sprinting back to their car in order to give pursuit, the Agents came upon a sight even more displeasing: their vehicle had been rolled over onto its roof in the middle of the sidewalk. A forklift pivoted and sped away from the scene.

Two gunshots rang out. The mannequin in the forklift seat bucked against its restraints as pieces of its head were scattered by a bullet. A stunned Polk turned toward Agent Rodney, who stood with his smoking gun drawn. "Why did you shoot the dummy?!"

Rodney gave Polk a blank look. The forklift, unaffected by the shots, disappeared around a corner.

"You knew that one was a dummy, right?" Polk asked.

"Yes," replied Rodney. Following a skeptical beat from Polk he restated emphatically, "Yes! That was a warning shot." They were interrupted by a sudden shout from behind.

"Freeze! Drop your weapon!"

Both Agents groaned; they should have known if a police officer were in the vicinity. But as they turned around they heard three letters that explained everything.

"FBI! I said drop it!"

Foundation MTF Agents Polk and Rodney turned to bear the Foundation sigil markers of their uniforms; they stood facing the guns and badges of two UIU Field Agents in the street. All four men had the exact same thought:

"Ah, crap."


rating: +18+x

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