"KLAUS!" screamed the girl in the white dress and the straw summer hat indignantly, "KLAUS KURTLIEGEN!"

"Yes, my darling one and only true love?"

Klaus was tall and wiry, like all of his family, with thick dark brown hair and an angular face. He wore a black tunic and trousers, the school uniform of the prestigious St. Kevorkian's High, with a rose in a buttonhole. He had been voted 'Most Likely To Be A Vampire' by the school council, as well as 'Most Fun To Blackmail'.

"Did you send me these flowers?" she pointed to the bouquet in her hand.

"What's the matter? Don't you like them?"

"These are BLUE ROSES! LAVIAN BLUE ROSES!" she shrieked like a siren, "How dare you taint my abode with the symbols of our enemies! Those filthy barbarians! We should have annihilated them all when they lost the war!"

Before he could open his mouth, she had grabbed him by his tie and was choking him to death.

"And furthermore, I would rather marry a Lavian than one of your pathetic deadbeat family! I know you're only proposing to me because you want to leech off my family! Well, the Bedeveres will not be tainted by your weak bloodline!"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that."

Klaus looked around, trying to ignore the fact that his face was slowly turning blue and his hands felt tingly, to the young woman behind him. She was quite the beauty as well, he thought.

"His baby brother is quite cute."

"What, Kirk?" Klaus looked puzzled. Puzzled and oxygen-starved, "He's ten years old!"

"He's got such a baby face!" insisted the other girl, "And he's so much more innocent and endearing!"

"Because he's ten years old!"

"Hmph, you have no taste." said the Lady Francesca Bedevere, letting go of Klaus so she could fold her arms, "If you're going to go for one of them, at least go for Karl or Kristof. Karl's darkly handsome and Kristof has money sense. Or if you like older men..."

"Hey, Klaus, where is Kirk? We usually see him after school." asked the other woman.

"My brother... isn't here." said Klaus. His eyes went dark. Roughly grabbing his tie free of the Lady's grip, he turned on his heel and almost ran down the corridor.

"Come back! Come back! You're ruining the game!" yelled the woman, running down the corridor after him.

Kirk looked around him. He was in some kind of hospital ward. The walls were white and everything was clean and sterile. The bed he lay on was spartan but functional, with a crisp white sheet. Next to the bed was a small desk with a lamp on it. He looked down and saw that he was dressed in a plain white tunic.

He didn't remember coming here. He didn't remember falling asleep. All he remembered was his father leading him somewhere after school. That was right... the grand room with a stage they used to organise performances to entertain guests. His father loved the Theatre. They couldn't afford to hire private performances now, but they still went to see the plays at the ordinary Theatre on the mainland. How had he gotten here? He scratched his head. Maybe he was ill or something... he didn't feel ill. He sat on the side of the bed and kicked his feet.

A knock on the door startled him.

"Come in." he ordered. The door swung open silently and an older boy walked in. He looked dangerous, like the guards – not big, but small, lithe and muscular. He wore some kind of strange grey, orange and blue uniform with shoulder pads and a helmet. Kirk couldn't see his face.

"I'm sorry if my appearance scared you." said the boy softly, removing the helmet. He looked about as old as Kirk's middle brother, Karl, but his hair was a lighter shade of brown and more messy, "This is just my uniform. I won't hurt you."

"Your feet aren't touching the ground." Kirk pointed out.

"Yes, that's an antigravitic field. Its still in its experimental stage."


"Never mind. You probably don't get taught this stuff at school. The name's Schumizer. Corey D. Schumizer. And you're Kirk, right?"

"Kirk Kurtliegen the Third." said Kirk Kurtliegen the Third proudly.

"Well, Kirk Kurtliegen the Third, we'll be seeing a lot more of each other from now on, as I'm responsible for you, so we should remember each other's names. Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee?"

"Where am I? I want to see my parents." demanded Kirk.

"You really don't, you know." said Mr. Schumizer, tossing his head to one side, "You want to know why?"

"What are you talking about now?"

"'Cause your parents sold you to us." he explained.

"What... did... you... say?" Kirk's eyes blazed in a fury that rivalled furnaces from the depths of hell. At ten years old, Kirk could already terrify most children his own age when he truly became angry. It came pretty naturally to him, but he had to admit he had learned a lot of it from his dad, "I will NOT have anyone dishonouring the Kurtliegen family name! Do I make myself clear? Take back what you just said about my parents!"

"Look, I got the receipts and everything." with a magician-esque flick of his wrist, he produced a wad of papers, "Fifty thousand bucks. With a promise that the others cost a million each. You folks must be in some serious debt."

"HOW DARE YOU!" Kirk snatched the documents off him, "These are a forgery! You kidnapped me! You'll be executed for this crime!"

"Nah, you just get life for kidnapping. Now, forging the Agency seal, THAT's a capital offense. You need to know these things. You ever tried to forge the Agency seal, kid? Its impossible anyhow."

Kirk dropped the papers on the floor.


"'Fraid so, kid. Welcome to the Agency."

"Tracy? Who's Tracy?"

"T.R.A.C.Y.," the scientist replied, in the manner of a teacher spelling out a word to a particularly backward and irritating child who really ought to know how to spell words like that at his age, "It stands for 'Total Reality Annexe: Code Yellow.' Its my latest project..."

The bounty hunter yawned and stretched his arms, "Aww, I was hoping she'd be cute."

"The only girls you're likely to find in this laboratory, Seagal, will be inside containment fields and probably incurably homicidal."

"C'mon, you must have at least named the project after a girl! Its pretty obvious you named it on purpose, with a lame acronym like that."

"You volunteered to help with the project. Now, are you genuinely interested or are you just here to waste my time?"

"If the pay's good and I don't get experimented on."

"No, you are simply needed as a security escort for the crew sending some scientific apparatus..." the scientist pointed to the enormous cylindrical device in the middle of the laboratory that dominated most of the room and reached from the floor to the ceiling and was staffed by eight assistants who monitored its displays and tweaked the settings on its control panels, trying not to trip over the mass of wires connected to it, occasionally pouring something into it that made it hiss and steam, "By sea, to the old Lavian embassy."

"What cargo?" asked Seagal, who had learned the hard way to always be suspicious of everything and anything Agency scientists did or said, "Does it explode?"

"Provided you leave it alone, it won't do anything at all of interest to you."

"Ain't that where they're building the new ultra-secure prison?"


"And they're gonna put all the really dangerous prisoners there? Like Blade and the Lansky twins?"

"Indeed." said the scientist, "But the prison is not built yet, and so there will be no prisoners. You will be there to protect against attempts at theft and piracy. This is very expensive and valuable equipment."

"Oh... pirates. I can handle pirates."

"Good, good. I will tell the Agency that you have accepted the commission."

He watched the bounty hunter walk out.