Fear and Loathing

John Minson


Tired out after a long squawk, Minson turns to the world of international espionage to eke out a crust. As usual the intrepid ligger finds a world occupied by leggy blondes and Gin Martinis.

I did it in despair! After last time, when I thought I’d never ever see another launch, I sold my soul to MI5. So here they are... the continuing adventures of Minson — Super Spy.

It started with a brick which crashed through the window, bounced gently off the back of my bonce and fell to the floor. Apparently this is a new Post Office service for the delivery of top secret messages. As I read the words ‘Odeon Leicester Square — 11am Sunday,’ a chill ran down my spine. I knew that there was no way that I could miss out on this vital rendezvous, and yet there was something wrong... I don’t get up on Sundays ’til at least midday!

Still, I managed to drag myself from under my duvet for a special preview of The Fourth Protocol, courtesy of ARIOLASOFT who are now handling this tale of spies and skullduggery. A few skulls get dugged in the movie, as well as a back getting snapped and a throat getting slit... ideal Sunday morning entertainment! Play the game, watch the movie and get paranoid about bombs in your backyard!

Then there was the liaison with the mysterious woman. Why was her once blonde hair now darker? Could it be that she was hiding from somebody? If so, she couldn’t have picked a better place than the MASTERTRONIC offices. Titchy little computer cassettes are one thing, but now the company has gone in for great big video boxes and stacks of 12" records, the place begins to resemble a maze.

Luckily the late lamented MASTERTRONIC Mata Hari, Alison Beasley (for it was she) spirited me away to an exotic basement where I tucked into a steak, she tackled an oversize cheese salad, and we disposed of a couple of bottles of wine.

Over the meal she easily persuaded me that Mastersound and Mastervision will do for your ears and eyes what good old M-tronic did for your chips. With soul classics on the LP and titles like Creepshow and The Exterminator on the VHS, I’m convinced.

‘But what about the new arcade machines you’re producing? Where will they go?’, I asked. Alison turned pale. ‘And MELBOURNE HOUSE are moving in, aren’t they?’ Listen, if you’ve got a room to let, I reckon MASTERTRONIC has a corresponding space problem!

More mystery as a foreign power, whose Ambassador is a certain Mr Wright, suggested I should go to church. By now I was getting used to meetings in unlikely locations, and if this mysterious blond wanted to slip me something between the pews, he was in for a big surprise.

Gobbler Liddon and Wonderboy Wright, the late lamented Thalamus team

But the church turned out to be London’s chic Limelight Club and it’s now well and truly deconsecrated. Boy, ACTIVISION had invited the world and his uncle to this extravaganza, thrown specially to celebrate Flat-top’s return to the world of PR and, more likely, his escape from that human waste disposal unit, Gobbler Liddon.

Lots of good stuff to vid, such as Star Raiders II, Enduro Racer and the game they named after Andy himself, Wonderboy. A well stocked bar too, but it was a pity the speeches interrupted the meal — it was a race to see whether the audience or the food would cool off first as the hard sell dragged on.

A lavish do indeed, in a setting that makes The Rocky Horror Picture Show look subtle. Would you believe silver candelabra with black and white candles? And when we emerged from the nosh there was a line of coin ops set to free play, making this the world’s trendiest arcade.

Still, even I can only take so much excitement, which is why it was something of a relief to be contacted by my superiors and asked to investigate some odd goings on near Abingdon. Could it really be that they suspected HEWSON of being in league with the enemy?

It didn’t take long to discover that the company has indeed got involved with something strange. It goes by the name of Christian Urquhart, a trainee human being who could give Liddon a run for his money in the Gross Out Olympics. Christian is a damn good programmer though, and Gunrunner, his first project for HEWSON promises to be a mega-blaster shoot-em-up!

‘Of course I’ll still have to file my report with M,’ I told Andrew Hewson. A sly look came over his face... ‘At least let us take you out to lunch first.’ ‘Are you trying to bribe me?’ I asked, but it was too late — Julia and Debbie were bundling me into the company car.

We drove at a reckless pace along deserted country lanes. Would I ever see Miss Spendapenny again? Did I want to when I was at the mercy of these delightful damsels? By the time they’d finished feeding my face with pheasant, I’d forgotten everything they taught me at spy school. The best form of brainwashing is always a good meal.

‘There’s more where that came from next month’, they promised. By now I felt like a double agent — as in seeing double! It was almost by accident that I stumbled into the seedy Soho cellar that sometimes serves as a film preview theatre, only to find myself part of BEYOND’S Star Trek IV celebration — a brave attempt to convince the hacks that the game will appear one day.

The film itself is odd, to say the least. Kirk and the reborn Spock take a day trip back to 1987 in a Klingon ship to save the Whales! I bet BEYOND wishes they had similar time-travelling abilities, so they could capture a copy of the program. Okay, so they had the ST version there, but what about one for a computer like a Spectrum, that real people can afford?

I did notice the two ‘love-berks’ (sic) of another magazine billing and cooing, and all but throwing the furniture at each other. Seems he loved the movie, she merely laughed at it. Somebody should tell their poor, gullible readers about them. It looked like there was going to be more action in the audience than on-screen, when I noticed a tall Scandinavian. Could this be my secret contact?

Actually it turned out to be none other than Bo Jangeborg of Fairlight and Artist fame. But what was he doing at a TELECOMSOFT bash. Seems he’s had enough of life on THE EDGE and has found somewhere new to rest his power supply. He told me a whole lot more, but as it was all in Swedish I didn’t understand a word. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for the secrets lark.

I was on the verge of resigning when the phone rang and an unmistakable titter rang out. ‘Hi, John,’ said the titterer, ‘I bet you thought the spying lark was all fast cars and beautiful birds, didn’t you? Well, it is for some of us.’

‘You can’t fool me, Michael Baxter’, I snapped. ‘Oh no?’ said the elegant one, ‘Well, ask me about my date with Maria Whittaker.’ ‘Pull the other one...’ I cried. ‘I’ve got photographic evidence’, he giggled, happy as a dog with two bones.

At that moment another brick crashed through my last unbroken window. A picture was attached to it. I gasped. So Baxter wasn’t lying... what was the explanation? I’d tell you if it wasn’t for the Officious Secrets Act, but as it is, you’ll have to wait ’til next month for the facts of Baxtie and the Page Three Bird. Yours in F&L (Shaken and Stirred!)