Friday, November 18, 2016

Juggernaught: Chapter8 - Kurt's Mission

Misty lie on her bed in the Moast mansion, looking out as the full moon bathed its grounds in silver-blue glory.  She should have been asleep by now.  There was a lot planned for tomorrow.  It was going to be tough enough with a full night's sleep.  Every minute she stayed awake would make it all the harder.

And why shouldn't she sleep?  She was in a very inviting bed, safe and warm.  The weather drifting in through an open window was ideal, and even gave her a nice, bright, moon for ambiance.  (Not to mention how it also acted as a gigantic spotlight on anyone trying to sneak up on her.)

There would be no surprise drills this night.
And yet her gut still harbored some unexplained tension.  If Wendell were here, he'd probably say something like, "I sense a great disturbance in the force."

"WENDELL!" she shouted.

With a thunk, a throwing knife seemed to grow out of the wall right next to the grinning face that appeared through a narrow gap in the doorway.  He may have glanced at it, but didn't say a word as if it happened all the time.

Misty, for her part, was much more shaken.  Had she not recognized him in mid-throw and deliberately knocked the dagger off course, her friend would be a human shishkabob right now!

The gap widened as Wendell was shoved from behind and stumbled into the room. 

Jack was right behind him.  He hit the light switch.

Misty shielded her eyes from the sudden glare.  "What!??" she demanded.  Then she added, "This is the girls' wing.  You shouldn't even be here!"

Jack ignored both protests and launched directly into his tirade.  "Did you hear about Kurt?"

"No.  Why?"

"They gave him a field mission!  A real mission!"

"No way!"  she shouted and hurled a pillow at Jack's head.

He caught it with one hand.  She was as outraged as him now, and that made Jack feel a little better.

"Aren't you mad?"  she asked Wendell, who was looking around apprehensively rather than being appropriately furious.

"Yeah.  Of course.  But what you said about the girls' wing..."

All at once Miss Maarm, Resident Assistant to the girls' wing appeared and caught his ear.  "You got that right, slim!"

She started to lay into him with her We expect more out of you than this speech.  Or, for those who had been around long enough, simply Speech #7.  One of her favorites.

While Wendell was being verbally roasted alive, the other two continued.

"Gimme the deet's."  demanded Misty.

"Central America.  Some dictator is trying to stage a political coup.  Total hush-hush.  CIA uber classified, but he's going up against one really bad hombre." 

Jack snapped his fingers and Wendell slipped him a manila folder with CLASSIFIED stamped all over it.  Meanwhile, he didn't dare break eye contact with Miss Maarm for fear of worse repercussions than being caught with CIA documents.

"He got an assassination!  Lucky dog!"  ghasped Misty.

"Nah.  Just a kidnapping.  Here.  See for yourself."  Jack tossed her the folder.  "Michael wants to turn the guy in as a peace offering for some government's toes he stepped on once."

Misty skimmed through the folder, too overwrought to take much in.  Plenty of guns and guerrillas -- that was the jest of it.  Lucky dog!  she thought again.

Miss Maarm had just reached paragraph 8, stanza 3 in her tirade, indicating to all that it was about over and the boys were about to be tossed out on their ears.

Misty handed the folder back.  "There's no way Michael can give Kurt an assignment and not us.  It's just not fair!"

"So what do you wanna do?"

Misty gave a sardonic laugh at whatever image popped into her imagination.  Then she frowned, knowing it wouldn't fly in reality. 

"I don't know."  she admitted at last,  "But we've got to get out of here too, before I go stir crazy." 

"... and so I don't want to catch you here again!" Miss Maarm concluded at that moment.  She pointed directly at Wendell's face and gave him the evil eye.  Then she turned to Jack and repeated the gesture.

"I'm going to see Michael."  said Jack.

Wendell nodded, storming off with him.

"Wait for me!"  Misty leapt out of bed and began pulling on a robe as she jogged.

"Miss Carlisle!  Really!"  huffed Miss Maarm indignantly.  She added a stamp of her foot for emphasis, but the display of sternness was too late.

Though she'd never once let down her ogre act in front of the recruits, the corner of Miss Maarm's wrinkled mouth now curled up in a knowing smile.  She plucked the dagger from the door frame.

"Ah, youth." she recalled.

The flick of her wrist sent the knife spinning end-over-end down the hallway and directly toward the center stick of the candelabra she was aiming for.  It neatly sliced off the burning wick, flush with the wax but without nicking it!

Michael had the highly-tuned ears of a jungle cat, and so, easily heard the angry footsteps of the kids approaching long before they arrived.

"Well, Kurt", he said, holding the door open, "that's the mission.  Think it over.

"And now, unless I miss my guess, here come the others to complain about it."

Jack did a double-take as Kurt brushed by, but Misty was already laying into Michael.

"It's not fair!" she demanded.

"Why not?"  Michael shrugged.  "He's well-trained."

"Not as well as us!"  said Misty.

"Kurt is clumsy." added Wendell.

"And accident-prone." concluded Jack.

"The point is..." began Jack. 

"We want a mission too!" everyone helped him finish.

Michael narrowed his eyes.  He stared down each person in turn.  To his credit, Jack was the last to crack and look away, but even that was within seconds.

Now that they knew their behavior was unbecoming, Michael allowed himself to sink down to a sitting position on the corner of his desk.  A smile cracked the corners of his mouth.  Like Miss Maarm, he too remembered this time of his own life.

"I thought you might say that.  Puttery should be here any moment."  He pointed at the clock on the wall.

[11:09 PM]

Dr Puttery was known for his uncanny clockwork punctuality.  That is, he was always precisely 10 minutes late -- down to the second!

The kids watched the second hand chop its way around the circle.  Each counted it off silently.

And the door burst open.

"You're early."  commented Michal Moast with a wry grin, just as the clock ticked off the last second.

Puttery grunted from behind the armload of rolled blueprints and posters.

"Well.  I'll leave you to it."  Michael slapped his knees and hopped back to his feet.

After the door had closed, all eyes turned to Dr Puttery.

"What is it?" asked Misty, "An assassination?"
(She seemed to like the idea far too much.)

"A kidnapping?"  asked Jack, following the same line of reasoning.

"Deep cover recon of a pastry factory?"

All eyes glared at Wendell.  Most embarrassingly of all, the only one that seemed to take his joke seriously was his stomach, which let out a low gurgle.

Misty giggled.

"Enough tomfoolery!"  declared Puttery.   "Your mission is this:"

He unfurled one of the papers for all to see.  It was a map of Europe with a heavy, winding line traced through it in red marker.

"Woa."  said one of the kids, capturing the sentiment of all.

"What are we supposed to do?"  asked Jack in awe.

"Stay with the group."  said Dr Puttery.


"Yes, of course, the..."  Dr Puttery glanced at the paper.  "Oh." he said, unrolling it more.

European Tours for Every Budget, read the caption across the bottom.

" 'Tours'?"  asked Jack hesitantly.

"Please tell me this is a real assignment and not a field trip." said Misty.  She feared she already knew the answer to that.

They all did.

Dr Puttery surprised them, saying, "Oh.  No.  It is a mission all right."

He turned and shuffled through the papers he'd lumped on Michael's desk.  He found the 8x10 photo he was looking for.

"You are to rendezvous with this person.  His name is Howell.  He is a trainee, just like yourselves, only from a UK organization similar to our own."

"Okay, so he is kind of cute." admitted Misty, but then added, "But, with respect, this still doesn't seem like a real mission."

"It is real."  objected Puttery again.  "This is a real-world training exercise.  You are to take turns gathering intel and then passing it to the other team without being detec--  Oh, now what?"

"This isn't a real mission."  concluded Jack.

"He is kind of cute though..."  teased Wendell.

He wasn't able to speak again for some time, having the wind knocked out of him from the inevitable punch to the gut.

This all upset Dr Puttery.  He had evidently spent a lot of time putting all this together. 

"Fine.  Stay home then." he said, scooping about 80% of the mess back into his arms in preparation for storming out.

"Wait."  said Jack, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"We're sorry."  added Misty.

She and Jack slowly exchanged glances, weighing their limited options. 

"We'd love to go."  she added.

"Yeah."  wheezed Wendell.

Dr Puttery smiled.  "If it makes you feel any better, Michael wanted this European Tour to be like a senior class trip to celebrate your graduation.

"Even though you've worked hard and earned a vacation many times over, this is more than just a reward though. This is also your first taste of being on your own in the world.  Out there you're going to experience new things, see other cultures, converse in languages that are not your own... who knows, maybe you'll even get lucky and encounter a pickpocket or two."

This gave Misty a smile.

"Here's the thing.  We're sending you out there mainly to learn self-reliance, to chart your own course - to get from point A to point B without an adult holding your hand all the time.

"This is your time to test yourself, to learn about yourself.

"I guess what I'm saying is, this trip isn't just to celebrate the end of your education, but rather a way of beginning it."
(Or read the author's intro, first.) 

The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

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