Saturday, March 27, 2021

Dieselpunk Manifesto Part 14: A Nest of Spies and Villains!


Buck is pursuing a Mongol assassin through Niagara when he encounters Lanlu -'the Emperor's favorite!' Quick aside, Lanlu is a scheming social climber who'd really put Cinderella to shame. When we last left her Wilma had beaten the shit out of her in the course of Buck and Wilma's escape and left her seeing stars in the service tunnels under the Mongol city.

Lanlu had wanted to get rid of Wilma to become the Emperor's favorite and from Rogers' exclamation it appeared to have worked. Then again what does Rogers know? Then again he is tied in with the Golden Dragons and could have made inquiries about Lanlu. One wonders what Wilma would make of these inquiries.

Lanlu spins a tale about being on her honeymoon and distracts Buck long enough for the spy he was chasing to bend a blackjack around Buck's skull. They quickly dodge a a small crowd, explaining Buck is drunk and they are helping him home. They bring him to the leader of the spy ring -Killer Kane!

It's a great entrance and a little bit of a puzzling statement. Of course Buck would know him. He's a human version of Oil Can Harry from those old Mighty Mouse Cartoons! As a gloat it's a failure and Kane should be ashamed as a high caliber villain! But of course he is a villain and has no shame.

When we last saw Kane he had lost a large Han mother ship, a fighter wing and a number of sons of Heaven to Niagara's air force and some badly educated post apocalyptic cowboys. Apparently the Emperor decided Kane was better at theft, treason and murder than as a stand up fighter and hated the idea of admitting he made a mistake not stretching the villain's neck the first time he screwed up.

Any way, Killer Kane returns and Buck is trussed up to allow the villain to gloat properly. Kane is still wearing his slicked back hair, mustache, and body armor and doesn't seem to be worried about being spotted. Maybe it's the current fashion or, as I said before, the uniform of his unit or service branch.

Kane plans to get out of Niagara and knows Buck has the information, patrol schedules, routes and procedures that will let him. Buck, being a hero tells Kane to do something up a rope and Kane decides to toast Buck's feet with hot coals to loosen his tongue.

Fortunately the Golden Dragons have a secret foot signal and Buck uses it, hoping one of the henchmen is a Dragon! Buck is hung by his wrists from a winch and about to be lowered onto the coals when Kane is interrupted by Lanlu screaming her head off. She's a social climber  but has little stomach for overt violence.

After the little she devil storms off Kane and his minion Wong prepare  lift the basket onto Buck's feet. Kane likes these things to be hands on. Wong, who is indeed a Golden Dragon, drops his end of the basket of coals right onto Kane's foot.

Wong apologizes profusely to Kane.Kane says he'll have his life for this and calls him a blockhead. Kane grabs a pair of tongs and attempts to slap a single coal on Rogers but Wong, fuming over being called a blockhead jumps Kane. Sensing that Kane is the superior dirty fighter (not to mention he's wearing that body armor, Wong pulls a knife and cuts Buck loose as Kane drops the Golden Dragon.

Kane's minions return led by Lanlu and the screams. They are surprised to find Buck throttling Kane (but not too surprised.) Buck throw the tongs Ken used at them but they rush him. Buck and Wong go down under their press. But far below, two rocket cycle patrol men hear the screams and prepare to barge in. They confront Kane and his gang guns drawn. As we have seen before the rocket cycle patrol doesn't mess around. Kane satisfies their curiosity with a tale of a 'whoopee party'. Buck and Wong had been subdued and bound and stuck in another room. The patrolmen leave (I'm a little disappointed by these guys, I admit).

Niagara must have some ripping night life. It seems that you can get away with assault, kidnapping, and murder by claiming you were having a party! Wong gets loose and unties Buck. Buck leaves him behind to get down to the street where he gets the two patrolmen, tells them what they missed (the dopes) and he returns with a squad of cops! They begin battering down the door to Kane's apartment. Thing it through after their first attempt, take off their jump belts and then try again!

It's a little breakdown in physics here. Their mass should be the same. The belts would let them move faster and they should hit the door harder based on that. Unfortunately the spies have escaped out a window and scattered. A crowd of people who saw this are spectacularly unhelpful. The party scatters to search and Buck spots Kane. Buck has the villain cornered when Kane throws a gas grenade at him.

This grenade seems to be mostly smoke though it smells horrible and seems to affect vision. Kane slips past Buck and makes his escape. Buck is riding a train to Wilma's worried about what happened to Wong. Wilma tells him to give Om a call, maybe Wong checked in with him. Of course Wong might be bleeding out in an alleyway too. Buck figures it's worth a shot. We also get to see Wilma at leisure and let's just say she picked up some fashion tips from that Harem she was locked in. Buck of course heads right to the radio to call Om because it's a family comic strip.

The radio transmission is jammed by static and a few minutes later police burst in to arrest them! Apparently an alert operator noticed the call in code and jammed the transmission, calling the police to arrest the callers!

The rocket car (more of a trike actually) sent to make the pinch is labeled 'military' police and mounts a heavy rocket gun on the hood. Apparently in this time of crisis at least, Niagara's government has extraordinary powers by our standards. Communications are monitored and jammed if suspicious. Heavily armed units patrol the streets. In spite of all this they haven't caught a single spy. They are about to get lucky, as the officers are about to leave Wilma spots Killer Kane and Lanlu approaching!

Kane's reasons for knocking on Wilma's door seem shaky. What does he expect to gain? Perhaps he realized he could get the same information from Wilma and she was a lot less likely to throttle him. You'd think he'd bring his muscle along in case he ran into Rogers. In any case Buck and the officers lose no time in jumping them but Kane pulls out another grenade and pops it letting the two escape.

The Radio Censorship Bureau (they have a whole bureau?) allows Buck to place a call to Om. Om replies that Wong reported Kane used the alas of Thomas Jones, a synthetic food manufacturer. Buck is quick to follow that lead and barges into the offices of 'Thomas Jones and Co. Meat Essences'. Gun drawn he blows past a poor secretary and confronts ... Thomas Jones, manufacturer of meat essences, short, rotund and bald.

Did you really expect Buck to catch Kane that easily?

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