Thursday, 29 November 2018

"Operation Caper": a story

I wrote this story as my submission to our monthly "word challenge" _ the words I had to use are shown in italics. I had some fun writing this: a departure from the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series (I should be editing my third book!).
Hope you enjoy this!

Mitch was sure he was about to die of boredom as he pushed the tea trolley along the interminable length of the shiny corridor, towards the secret, underground offices of the MI32. The clatter of the cups on the saucers rebounded off the walls and he was pretty sure any enemy of the state could pick up the racket anywhere in the world, given today’s technology.
            A hand dove around in front of him and grabbed his badge.
            “It’s okay. It’s me. You can have my badge in exchange.”
            “Come on, don’t be nuts. What’s going on?” Mitch watched with his mouth gaping as his brother, Joe, took off his suit.
            “There are cameras everywhere,” Mitch reminded him.
            “I’ve seen to that,” Joe said. “Now give me your uniform.”
            “What’s going on, Joe, for Pete’s sake?” Mitch could get muddled, but even his brain could tell something was amiss.
            “I’m Mitch now. You’re Agent Joseph Fond, just for one day. Nothing’s going to happen, I promise. Just a routine day at the office. All you have to do is sit at my desk and stare at the computer screen. You’ll be fine.”
            “What about everyone’s tea?”
            “I’ve arranged for Tinman to take over. He’s coming now.” They turned and watched the slow, ponderous metallic robot whirring and creaking. “He’s programmed to deliver the tea, and he knows who wants sugar.”
            “He’ll do a better job.”
            “Yes, he probably will.”
            Mitch smoothed down his hair as Joe gave the black shoes a buff with a bit of spit and a rub with the sleeve of his brother’s uniform.
            “Okay, you’re ready. My badge works the same way as yours, but it gets you in everywhere except the dungeon.”
            “The dungeon’s where they keep the Elephant server.”
            “Only two people have access to the Elephant and I’m not one of them. So, don’t go down there.”
            “Why am I doing this, by the way?”
            “So I can play a round of golf on that new course up in Scotland.”
            “I thought it’d be something important.”
            “It is for me. See ya.” Joe sprinted back down the corridor.
            Mitch soon caught up with Tinman. He had an urge to spray some oil into the robot’s joints. What with the rattling tea trolley and the clanking robot, Mitch could feel a headache coming on. It wasn’t helped by the fact that he sensed eyes on him and that these eyes would know that he’d recently failed all of the MI32 analytical examinations and that he didn’t have the fortitude to be an agent. 
            He accessed Joe’s office without a hitch and sat in the chair which adjusted itself to fit his back, legs and arm lengths, as well as his distance from the computer screen. The sensation of being positioned by the chair made Mitch nauseated and he glanced around to see if there was a waste paper basket. None. No paper anywhere either, he noted.
            “Ah, glad I found you here.” A large man with an incongruous moustache, deep gravelly voice and thick lenses in black-framed glasses almost filled the doorway. “Joe, you must leave immediately. You’ve been assigned to “Operation Caper”. You’ll be briefed by Agent Barking.”
            “Operation Caper?”
            “Thanks, old chap.”
            I’m not old, Mitch thought. He dared not move for fear of the chair re-positioning him again but he would have liked to look in a mirror to check if he’d aged dramatically since he got out of bed that morning.
            “Agent Barking here. We’ve not met.” A lithe woman with long blond hair and sparkling blue eyes grabbed Mitch’s hand with such vigour he reckoned he should ice it afterwards. He moved and the chair started purring, so he sprung up.
            “Oh, is your chair faulty?” Agent Barking asked.
            “I think it must be. Tell me about ‘Operation Caper’.”
            “This is of the utmost importance and, of course, top secret.”
            “Top secret.”
            “We must leave within the hour to fly to Paris.”
            “To Paris.”
            “We must retrieve the stolen data which was collected by the Bubble Telescope and stored in the Elephant.”
            “The Elephant.”
            “Were you aware that the invaluable pictures of AMIS training camps had been stolen?”
            “No, I don’t think I was. Was I?”
            “Probably not. That’s top secret too. Pick up your bag and follow me.”
            Mitch saw a bag in the corner of the office and followed Agent Barking, clutching it to his chest. He wondered if everyone got their tea. He hadn’t seen any sign of Tinman outside his office.
            “Look as relaxed as possible at the airport,” Agent Barking said. “We have special clearance, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
            It was a pretty short flight across the Channel but Mitch was disappointed that he wasn’t flying business class. He wanted to ask Agent Barking so many questions about “Operation Caper” but she was snoring. He could hear her rumbles above the engine noise.
            They landed safely.
            “Once we get to the hotel,” Agent Barking told him, “we must be very cautious. There is a change of clothes in your bag. We have to lie low and not draw attention to ourselves.”
            His room was nice but not extraordinary. Weren’t MI32 agents given suites? He found a pair of jeans and a shirt in the bag, as well as socks and loafers. He changed and made sure he was in the lobby to meet Agent Barking at the precise time she had instructed him to be there.
            She walked towards him wearing slim black slacks and a red, silky blouse. Her make-up highlighted her shimmering blue eyes and bright smile. She grabbed his arm.
            “We need to look like a couple.”
            “A couple.”
            She led him to a pair of imposing, dark-oak doors.
            “We have to meet some important people in here,” she said.  She opened the doors. It was dark. Lights flashed on and a room full of about seventy-five people yelled “surprise!” and then “happy birthday!”.
            Joe bounced over to Mitch and gave him a bear hug.
            “It’s not every day you turn forty and I thought this should be an extra special celebration. I can never thank you enough for saving my life in that op. I know things have been rough for you since then, because of your injuries. Just want to say thanks and many happy returns of the day!” Joe handed him a glass of beer.
            They all lifted their glasses and cheered, breaking into “for he’s a jolly good fellow”. Mitch beamed at them, but deep inside he yearned to be Agent Mitch Fond again, speeding after the bad guys in his Aston Martin, switching on the jet propulsion, firing his missiles and bringing those devils down. But his muddled brain was uncertain as to whether that memory was real or not. He looked around the room and decided that he’d best enjoy this party in Paris. Life is short.
            Agent Barking poured him another beer.

Vicky Earle Copyright 2018


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