Agent Black of the super-secret Supernatural Investigation Agency receives a special order to evaluate the three kids who helped out the agency recently in the Hawthorne High affair to see whether they are fit for special SIA duties. Agent Black reluctantly calls up the kids and invites them to a test of their individual special abilities—Sally Storm’s knack for physical confrontation, Moe Doe’s silent and strong way, and Ryan Montgomery’s loud-mouthed genius.
But the day at the SIA headquarter turns out differently than planned when one of the “special” beasts escapes from the labs of the agency and keeps the HQ at red alert.
"Buffy meets Men in Black"
Chapter 1 – The Boss Decides
Hi there, Alex here. Hope you will enjoy this story. "The Test" is the sequel to my first full length "Teen Monster Hunters" novel. So if you like this one, please check out Teen Monster Hunters on Amazon or any other digital book store. But enough babbling, on with the story!
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now online available in print and as ebook.
“You must be kidding me!” Agent Black uttered and then remembered whom she was talking to and added a quick “Sir!”
“Have you ever seen me making a joke, Agent?” said Director Fletcher, He was addressing her with her title as was his custom because names were not important in the business they were in.
Black stared at her boss and thought for a moment. “When Agent Red had his fortieth birthday and dropped the cake and you told him to eat it off the fl...?”
“Nope, that wasn’t a joke either, though it could have been perceived as one. My comment was purely disciplinary in nature to make him take better care of expensive food the next time.”
Black reconsidered. “Well, then, no, Sir. Never a joke.”
“Then make it so!” Director Fletcher said.
“Is this an order?” Black replied.
“Have you ever seen me giving an order and not meaning it?” Fletcher raised an eyebrow, which was the only hair on his head.
“OK, I understand. But as you can see, I am reluctant,” Black muttered.
Fletcher stared at her. “It’s not called an order for nothing. It’s meant to be followed; your personal opinion is not relevant. We are defending democracy, we don’t practice it!”
“Sir, it is not so much a personal opinion, but more a matter of practicalities.”
“That might be, but it is still an order. And we are a paramilitary organization, and we work on orders. Orders are our bread-and-butter. And that means, Agent Black, no pumpernickel with honey for you.”
“Your analogy makes sense, Sir.”
“They always do, Agent.”
Black continued to stand before Fletchers’ office desk. Fletcher looked at his best agent. Black had come from the military service, ex-Army Ranger, the best of the best. Her hair was black, and she had a serious face with a small but visible scar above her left eye. Years of training had made her fit and muscular. Now she was all weapons, all situations, and a lot of brain. He had recruited her himself five years ago and trusted her insights and opinions.
“You are dismissed, Agent,” he said.
“Sir, with permission.”
“I respect you, Agent Black, but don’t overdo it. I only listen to you because you know more ways of killing me than I know ice cream flavors.”
“They are constantly developing new ice-cream flavors, Sir. With a little research you might be ahead of my....”
“Black, go on!”
“I don’t like involving kids into this,” Black said. “The youngest is thirteen, for God’s sake, and the oldest one is a mentally challenged guy with the speed of a panda, and not the Kung-Fu kind. And the middle one, well, there is potential in her, but she is fifteen. Fifteen! Do we want to entrust matters of global and interstellar security in the hands of three teenagers?”
“I read your post-op report from the Hawthorne affair, Black. Even you were impressed by them.”
“To be totally honest, I think they just stumbled into something, were in over their heads, and were just lucky that we bailed them out.”
“Your report sounded different.”
“Because I might have been inclined to making the operation sound a bit more favorable than it actually might have been,” Black admitted and her ears grew red, a trait she hated in herself.
“You spiked the report?”
“No spiking, Sir,” Black pedaled back. “Just... creative word-smithing.”
“And now creativity is exploding on your face?”
“Yes Sir, totally.”
“Rightfully so. This gives me even more pleasure of ordering you to bring the kids in and test them for operational duty,” Director Fletcher said.
Black breathed in and out, counted mentally to three. “All right, Sir.”
“Dismissed, Agent. Thank you.”
“Sir,” Black started again.
“What now?” Fletcher asked.
“And do you really want to bring them here?”
Fletcher stared at her. “What’s wrong with our facilities? We do all our second line evaluations here.”
“A lot of top secret stuff going on.”
“They are kids, Sir. If we don’t take care, the Montgomery kid might make a live YouTube event out of it.”
“Give them a talk, show them the lay of the land. We want to bring them in, right?”
“There is ‘in’ and there is ‘in’, Sir. If you know what I mean,” Black argued.
“You don’t need to show them the launch codes,” Fletcher pointed out. “And keep them away from the other staff and the habitats. Just involve the people required for the evaluation.”
“Black, the kids kept their promise and stayed mum about the Hawthorne affair?”
“Yes, Sir, they did.”
“Was that super-sensitive and top-secret?”
“Yes, Sir, it was.”
“Then what makes you think they will report to the New York Times right after their tests here?”
“Nothing, Sir. Just saying.”
“Black. We are back at the beginning of this conversation.”
“We are, Sir.”
“Are we any further ahead than when I first gave my orders?
“Not a single bit, Sir! You are a rock!”
“Get out of my sight.”
“Yes, Sir!” Fletcher turned around and left her boss’s office.
Chapter 2 – The Call-Up (Sally)
Hope you liked the first part. On with it. Agent Black is only a side figure of our Teen Monster Hunters. Today, meet Sally Strong. She is the real deal. Tough, resourceful, defiant. You should see her in action in the first adventure of the “Teen Monster Hunters”. Now available on Amazon in print and other eBooks.
The guy was forty pounds heavier and a head taller than Sally Storm and looked a lot meaner. He had a flat nose and an ugly look on his face, with his arms raised and ready to attack.
Now, that’s going to be interesting, thought Agent Black as she was watching from the visitor seats in the dojo, which was a converted factory floor. She had been in underdog fights before in her life, mostly in bar brawls, so she considered herself to be an expert.
Storm was a fifteen year old redhead, slightly on the small side for her age, but with an athletic body. She circled Mr. Mean carefully, her face serious with concentration, even though she did not managed to shed her defiant don’t-care look completely. There had been no violence yet, but it had to happen any second now. Black knew that Sally was a C-average student, with a long list of misdemeanors and disciplinary notes in her school records and always had the last word in anything. She was not a brawler, but a fighter. She lived with her mother in a trailer park at the eastern end of Hawthorne County. Some co-students called her “trailer-park trash” behind her back. But even though all the checkmarks were there, Sally Storm did not give off a single trashy vibe. On the contrary, she was a pretty disciplined person, not having missed a single day of school ever, fiercely loyal to her few friends and helped out in her mother’s Desert Creek Café on weekends.
“Kai!” Like a flash, Sally started with two quick shuffle steps towards her opponent, threw two blazing fast side kicks, followed by expertly executed chops to the upper arms. The mean guy had been prepared for her action and did two blocks and took two steps back to give himself room for a counter attack. “Kai, kai!” Sally pounced once more, two fists towards Mr. Mean, and one was blocked, the other made it through, stopped a mere inch in front of Mr. Mean’s face.
Ouch, that would have hurt, Black thought.
But Sally hadn’t factored in the speed of her opponent. Her fist punches had brought her too close to him, so a foot-sweep of Mr. Mean almost brought her down. But she was quick at her feet, one foot-hold was gone, but the other made a little jump backwards, losing balance, but regaining it. Mr. Mean saw her at a disadvantage and attacked again. Two punches and a chop of Mr. Mean put her in the defensive, all blocked by her, followed by an immediate counter attack of two side kicks again.
Variety, Storm, not the double-kick from the side again! Black tried to give Sally telepathic commands, but of course they did not come through.
Mr. Mean had had the same insight as Black, as they probably had fought against each other many times before. He first punch-kicked her knee, followed by another sweep at her other leg and that landed Sally on the floor.
Fight over! thought Black.
Sally went down with a bang and let out a clearly audible four letter expletive, which was obviously not a Karate term.
“Next time, don’t use the same move twice,” said Agent Black, leaning on the brick wall beside the door, when Sally left the Karate dojo half an hour later.
Sally looked at her with surprise. Sally’s was an attractive face, though she somehow managed to keep a constant scowl that clearly made her not approachable for date-seekers. “Agent Black. Looking for something secret?”
“No, actually for you.”
“I don’t want to sound too negative, but I might not want to be found by you.”
“We had a good operation together.”
“We had a scary operation together.”
“I had the good, and you the scary part. That sounds like a fair and square balance.”
“Not from my perspective,” Sally said.
“Can we go somewhere? I offer you peace, a soda, and whichever early dinner you’d like.”
“The taxpayer cordially invites us.”
“Desert Creek Cafe,” Sally said simply and started unchaining her bicycle. “You’re here with a car?”
Black nodded. “See you in five.”
Sally looked at Black as she walked towards a brown nondescript Honda SUV and thought, “Now, that is an interesting visit.”
The Desert Creek Cafe was neither in the desert, nor at the creek, nor did it really qualify as a cafe. It was a premiere and the oldest diner in Hawthorne, right at the crossing of highways 93 and 457, marking the center of Hawthorne.
“So you support the local economy?” Black asked when Sally slid into the diner seat opposite hers.
“I support my mom,” Sally said. The cafe closed at six, and there was still an hour to go, but business was already slowing down.
“Hi, honey, brought a new guest?” Karen Storm came over from the counter to take their orders. She looked like her daughter had aged twenty years, just with raven-black hair instead of fiery-red. Only her eyes revealed the her hard life of a cafe owner and waitress.
“Yes, Mom, this is… Coach Black, our former Hawthorne High football coach and my former soccer coach, too.” Sally maintained Black’s former cover.
Black briefly shook hands with Karen Storm. “Just passing through, Ms. Storm. Catching up with Sally.”
“Then carry on. Can I bring you guys something?”
“Any recommendations?” Black asked both the mother and daughter.
“Glacier Cake is our specialty. And vanilla shake.”
“Combined a million calories, I guess,” Black said. “I’ll go with the shake.”
“And I’ll go with the most expensive item you got on the menu, the Black Forrest cake with all the trimmings,” Sally said.
“Got it!” Karen Storm said and walked away.
“All the trimmings? Will my AMEX cover it ?”
“Cash only, by the way.” Sally pointed at a sign near the cash register. “But there is an ATM right beside the restroom door.”
They looked at each other. Sally did know few things about Agent Black, only that she had a special forces army background. Black’s normal voice could raise to an impressive bark that had whipped the Hawthorne High football team into shape during her undercover mission. A shape which still lasted in the team’s results. Sally did not know exactly Black’s agency, but she was definitely not a travel agent.
“What brings you here?” Sally asked to start conversation.
“My boss has asked me to bring you in to our organization.”
“I thought you are not allowed to talk about your organization.”
“I know. My boss decided to make an exception.”
“You don’t sound convinced,” Sally observed.
“Let’s not even get there. You are fifteen, and Montgomery is thirteen. You both should be in school. Not talking about Moe.”
“You want to take us out of school to join your organization?” Sally asked. “Count me in!”
Black laughed at that. “I know about your lack of interest in school. But no, you need to attend three more years of high school for you, whatever the outcome of the evaluation.”
“Then, why do you want us in your organization? The organisation whose name we still don’t know, by the way. And for what?”
“That’s classified information until you ace your evaluation. And sign a lot of papers.”
“You mean our parents’ consent? Or, in Moe’s case, his guardian’s?” Sally clarified.
“Uh, no, you. Personally. This matter is top secret that even your parents will not know.”
Sally stared at her, then glanced furtively left and right to check for listeners. “You’re kidding me.”
“I kid you not, kid,” Black said.
Chapter 2 – The Call-Up (Ryan)
Ryan Montgomery, the genius black kid who is always right and doesn't care if you are, too. Beware of his inventions, you might be on the receiving end. Especially if you are monster, beast, alien, or vampire. If you want to see some of his inventions at work, check out the first adventure of our three heroes.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now available on Amazon as print and eBook.
Ryan Montgomery was in the school’s lab and the room in the basement of Hawthorne High smelled like a caramel factory.
“Early Christmas bakery?” Agent Black asked from the door.
“Extracting the sweetness out of sugar, leaving calories behind,” Ryan said, fully concentrated.
“You are aware that NutraSweet beat you to it by approximately forty years?”
Ryan looked away from his experiment. “The first artificial sweeteners are much older, Agent Black. Late nineteenth century, actually. But nothing beats refined sugar when it comes to taste. And that’s the holy grail. Sugar taste, no calories.”
A flash of a flame created a small atomic mushroom cloud, intensifying. Black glanced around for the location of the fire extinguisher. “Kid, you know what you are doing?”
“I do. But unfortunately the school does not allow me to perform tests on lab-rats.” Montgomery was a chocolate brown skinned African-American kid and the certified school genius. Thin as a reed at thirteen, with a gigantic afro hairdo and black-rimmed glasses that constantly slipped from his nose.
“Might not go well with the parents of many of your schoolmates,” Black shrugged and came closer. “It sure smells good in here.”
Ryan cut off two pieces of a brown substance from a small glass dish. “Taste it.”
Black stepped back. “Not sure that I fancy sweets now.” Her confidence in geniuses only went that far, and she had scars to support it.
Ryan put one of the pieces into his mouth. “Nice excuse to avoid being a part of my experiment. Unfortunately, all I can say is that it still tastes like sugar. But the calories in this pieces are unknown to me. A mass spectrometer or some rats would be nice to…”
“Are you bored?”
“Never,” Ryan said. “But maybe there is something sexier out there?”
“Like to join my organization?”
“You mean the organization that does not exist, has no name, which is super-secret and deals with scary monsters?”
“The very same.”
“Does it come with access to mass spectrometers or rats?”
“I can’t guarantee that, as no junior agent has ever requested this. But I’ll see what I can do.”
Ryan smiled. “Beats calories-free caramel any time of the day. Where and when?”
“I’ll let you know and arrange for transportation. You might want to discuss with Sally about a good cover. A trip into the woods, maybe.”
“She’ll find one; Storm is good at that,” Ryan said.
“That’s it? No other questions out of curiousity?”
“You know my IQ, right?” Ryan retorted.
“I had a look at your school file, yes.”
“See, that was a curious question from my side.”
“I meant clarifying questions about joining the organization, what we will do…”
“The Freedom of Information Act is a beautiful thing, Agent Black. You can read up on most governmental practices, and despite your organization being super-secret, most rules apply to you as well. Neither of us —Sally, Moe, or I— have a college degree or comparable education, you will need to test us first. That will be the first step. You can’t tell us anything more until we pass the test and after we sign various non-disclosure agreements. You can’t put us on the payroll, as our parents would notice. So there will be sort of benefit-in-kind payment, like a future college scholarship fund. The tests will be designed to test the core functions of your outfit. My best guess is—physical, reactive, and intellectual. We will be picked up on the day of the test. How did I do? Does that answer all the questions I did not ask?”
Black muttered to the boy. “Pretty handy to have such a high IQ.”
“Having a good friend who calls you on the phone and briefs you ahead of time helps tremendously.”
Black laughed, turned, and left the lab without a further word.
Chapter 2 – The Call-Up (Moe)
Moe. Two words. Strong. Monosyllabic. Means. Few words. Loyal. Friend. Handy. Better around. Than not. Mystery baby. Orphanage. Inclusion kid. Helped Sally. Caught monster. Good guy.
If you would like to know how the three friends have met for the first time, check out their first adventure!
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now available on Amazon as print and eBook.
Bringing Moe Doe into the fold was a bit more tricky. Moe had limited physical and mental abilities. For one, his ability for verbal expression was limited, and you could never be sure what he understood. Did he comprehend the concept of secrecy or danger? He surely would never understand the non-disclosure agreement. On the other hand, with a mental disability, would anyone ever throw him in jail for the violation of an agreement he did not fully understand anyway? Moe’s background was unknown—he was the kid who just was left in front of the Hawthorne Postal Office when he was four years old. He did not talk or move, but was reactive and suggestive to simple commands. He was handed over into the care of Summer Farm’s child care, and he grew up into the eighteen year old giant he was today. He still did not talk much and was still slow. But he was Sally Storm’s third monster hunter.
Black had tried to convince Sally to keep Moe out of the testing and possible future duty, but she had strictly stated that “It’s all or none, Agent”.
“But with him we will not be able to keep his guardians at Summer Farm in the dark. They must know what Moe is joining and what he will do.”
“Why don’t you just tell them a truth? Spin a heartfelt story.”
“You already have one in mind, Sally?”
Sally rolled her eyes. “Let’s say, Moe is joining a secret government facility because your scientists feel that kids with special conditions might have extraordinary mental abilities that should be further investigated…” She snapped out her phone and surfed the internet. “Here, this is an organization that includes people with autism into the workplace. Steal their introduction and arguments to make it work.”
“But is Moe an autist?” Black asked, puzzled.
“How should I know? I am just a Karate fighter who lives in a trailer park and likes to watch the Simpsons.”
Black sat in the Summer Farm director’s office. Summer Farm was Hawthorne County’s home for special children and orphans, a former hotel resort on the shore of Lake Gardiner. It offered fresh air, quietness, excellent care and had woods and lawns The third person in the room was Victor, the main nurse who was assigned to Moe and drove him to school each day. Victor looked like a Russian mobster who got placed in a witness protection program and then got assigned to a job at the child care institution. From what Black had been able to gather from the CIA and NSA files, he was not spotless, but apparently reliable enough for this sort of work
“…Moe will be a part of that investigative research and at the same time will perform meaningful work for our institute.” Black finished her tale.
“Where will it conducted?” the director asked.
“In our lab, about a two-hour drive from here.”
“Will Victor need to drive Moe? Just thinking of my budget.” The director was a no-nonsense senior administrator, and he knew his priorities. Kids first, then budget, then anything else. Scientific research clearly fell under ‘anything else’.
“No, transportation will be provided by our institute.”
The director held Black’s fake business card that read SIA - Science Innovation Administration and gave Black a fancy “Research Director” title. The geeks in Washington had even created a fake institute homepage and some revelant Google search results.
“Where is the paperwork?” the director asked.
“All here. Read it, you got my number if you have any questions. Our next evaluation day is on next Friday. Ideally, we have it all squared away until then.” Black was proud of herself.
The director nodded absently. “That should not be a problem. Most of it looks straightforward. Victor, you know Moe best. Anything to consider?”
Victor stared at Black. Black hoped that he did not recognize her under her blonde wig and the glasses. “No, director. Listen, Madam. Moe is a gentle kid. Don’t stress him out. When he is not talking at all, he is in a bad shape. One word sentences are the norm. Two words in a row means he is in a good mood. Three words never happen. Ever.”
Chapter 3 – Testing, Testing
All right, now Agent Black managed to bring the three kids under her wings and got them ready for the main event: the Test! You should know, first looks are deceiving. The kids are 13, 15, and 18, mere teenagers, but they come prepared from a monster encounter in real life. How? Where? When? All in their first full book-length adventure “Teen Monster Hunters”.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now available on Amazon as print and eBook.
The drive to the institute was uneventful. It was a large Lincoln with enough room for all the three in the back. The silver lining for them was that they did not have to go to school, as Black had given them a alibi in writing based on the same cover he had used to make Moe available. Shortly after nine, they arrived at a small clean office campus with water ponds in the middle. The main building looked like any other office building, lot’s of tinted windows, three levels, and a lobby with large glass doors. The company logo read “Singular Information Associates” and looked like just another forgettable logo.
“Hiding in plain sight,” muttered Ryan when they left the car.
“The company’s abbreviation is clearly SIA, but I bet the ’S’ stands neither for Singular nor Science,” Sally said.
Black greeted them at the door and said “Let’s get you to your stations.”
“We are not tested together?” Ryan asked.
“No, each evaluation is based on individual parameters.”
“Will we get to see Director Fletcher?” Sally looked around. It was just a regular lobby, if not for the ingenious security gateway door that was the only way to the inner part of the building.
“Maybe in the afternoon,” Black said and ushered them to the far end. “I’ll be around in the morning, but not in the afternoon. We have an exercise off-campus. But the evaluation team will take you to the car at sixteen-hundred hours sharp, so will be home in time for dinner.
“This arrangement looks secure,” Sally remarked and knocked on the thick glass that divided the lobby from the inner part of the building.
“No one in, no one out. Except for authorized people.”
“Keeping secrets?” Ryan said.
Black did not answer but continued. “Over here at the security desk, we take a retina eye scan and your thumbprints plus a photo.”
All the three kids went through the identification process. The doors of the security gate only opened after a security guard had visually inspected them and had pressed their thumb at a scanner to verify the newly created ID. Sally had to squeeze into a small tubular gateway. She looked sideways and found Ryan stuck in the same situation. The door behind her closed. Inside the gate, there was another check—an eye scan. After a few clicks, the one in front finally opened.
Three people waited for the three kids on the other side—one in a lab coat, one in a brown turtleneck pullover with a narrow reading glasses, and one in a training suit. Black assigned the kids. Moe received Mrs. Lab Coat; Ryan got Mr. Turtleneck; Sally got stuck with Mr. Trainer who almost looked as mean as her training partner in the dojo.
“Have fun today. Take it seriously.” Black said to the kids, and the Monster Hunters followed their designated evaluators.
The lady in the white lab coat looked at Moe doubtfully. “Have you understood the instructions?”
Moe stared at the desk in front of him—a number of wooden baby building blocks of different sizes lay in a box.
“You are supposed to attach these blocks to make the highest tower possible as fast as possible,” Lab Coat explained. “So you have to balance your speed and the stability and height of the tower you are building while doing it.”
“Understood?” Ms. Lab Coat asked.
Moe did not react.
“You may start.” Lab Coat pressed a button on her stop-watch.
She saw that Moe did not move. “Moe, you may start.”
Moe started to perform the task in his own pace, slowly, and took block after block and formed a single line.
“No, Moe, you did not understand. A high tower. Not a long line.”
Moe moved some of the blocks from one position to another.
“You kids will kill me!” Lab Guy exclaimed and stood up to get a coffee. “They don’t pay me enough for this!”
Her good manners took over, and she turned to ask Moe if he wanted anything to drink. Moe still sat in the same position. In front of him, there was a single line tower with the bigger blocks on the lower end and smaller cubes on top; perfectly balanced—the highest tower possible.
“You must be kidding me!” Ryan Montgomery stared at the guy in the brown turtleneck pullover who had put a stack of paper in front of him.
“Too much for you already?” Turtleneck asked.
“As all of you guys seem to have secret color-scheme names, can I call you Mr. White?”
“That is not my call-sign,” Turtleneck defended himself.
“Mr. Not-White, what year do we have?”
“I am not supposed to give any help here. I just run the test.”
“You are asking me to fill out a test of about two hundred pages on paper? Ever heard of electronic test tools.”
“What is wrong with paper? It will survive an atomic war and an electronic pulse catastrophe,” Turtleneck said.
“I doubt that my testing grades will be that important after an atomic war or an electronic pulse catastrophe,” Ryan challenged. “You might want to concentrate on water and power. Farming. Maybe pharmaceuticals and hospitals.”
“You have no idea how the internal audit guys are drilling us when the paper trail is missing for a hiring.”
“Sir, please get your story right! A downgrade in arguments from atomic war to bureaucratic hassles in less than thirty seconds? Impressive! A new record!”
“Kid, why don’t you stop shooting your mouth off and just take this test?”
“I am not impressed seeing my parents’ tax dollars going to waste here,” Ryan crossed his arms.
“Is it possible to test us only according to our abilities?” Sally asked the man in the training dress. They stood on the side of a basketball court sized gym. Some sports items had been arranged throughout the court, and various tests were obviously prepared for her. A man, introduced to her as Mr. Jumper, had shown her way to the locker room where she had changed to sports clothes, including the shoes provided by the agency. Jumper had a constant sour expression on his face, as if working with Sally was the worst punishment he could get.
“I did not design the tests, young lady,” Mr. Jumper said. “I am just doing Director Fletcher a favor by evaluating you.”
“Just saying, all this sounds a bit simplistic to me,” Sally shrugged. “What do you test me for?”
“Endurance, speed, and fighting abilities.”
“You are in the military, too?”
“You are standing ramrod straight, and your hair is clipped down to a sub-inch length. All these indicators are not very confidential, if you are ask me. That is like an advertising poster.”
“Point A: No one asked you. Point B: I am not on an undercover mission, so a little formality and discipline are never wrong.”
“Not on my behalf,” Sally retorted.
“And that is what’s wrong with the youth of today. But, no more talking! Let’s start with some warm-up, shall we?”
“Warm up? That sounds so yesterday.” Sally was just teasing Mr. Jumper to get him into a bad mood and to keep the upper verbal hand. Of course, she knew the value of a proper warm up from her own training schedule.
“Young lady, believe it or not, both of us have been born yesterday.” With that, Mr. Jumper started an easy jog around the large gym.
Sally found no flaw in that logic, did not reply this time, and ran after him.
“Is it possible that you are a little slow in everything?” Ms. Lab Coat said to Moe.
Moe stared patiently ahead.
“Sometimes my job kills me.”
Moe did not react.
“Why do I even bother? What makes you so special that we are spending resources testing you?”
Moe still stared ahead.
“Can you talk at all?”
Still no reaction.
“Can you hear me?”
After a few moments, he repeated “Moe.”
“I feel as if I am in a Kafka movie. My instructions say that one word answers are the norm for you. That’s right?”
“Moe”, Moe agreed.
“When I make a mistake in one of the answers, will that go against me?” Ryan looked up from the paper stack, pencil scribbling and crossing in multiple choice answers.
Ms. Lab Coat looked up from her laptop. “Not against you, no. But you won’t get the full points, of course.”
“Do I get bonus points when I discover an error in the test?”
“There are no errors in the test.”
“I am a kid with an IQ up in the stratosphere. You want to argue with me on this? When I see an error, it is an error.” Ryan never was of the modest kind.
“These tests are used in a wide variety of governmental functions to evaluate intelligence, aptitude, and character. They have been taken by probably a million people, developed by the best specialists in their area, peer-checked, and then ran through a thorough quality check before being used.”
“That is a long speech that shows me I already put you in a defensive position,” Ryan pointed his pencil at Ms. Lab Coat
“Kid, you can’t bluff your way out of this test. The test has no errors. And it is designed to fail. It is impossible to reach one-hundred percent. Not even Neil Armstrong had it all right.”
“Neil Armstrong was born when? In the early nineteen-thirties? The test is that old? Anyway, tell Neil, Albert, and Mr. Oppenheimer that on page 121, the multiple choice answers all start with a capital letter, grammatically correct. Except for answer ‘b’ in this section which starts with a small-caps. Error!”
Lab Coat wrung her hands. “The concept foresees no bonus point. But thanks for pointing it out to me.”
“Best specialists in their area, eh? All right, I’ll carry on to ensure your pension is safe.”
Chapter 4 – The Brownish Blood Of The Invisible Beast
Wait, wait! What kind of story is this? Blood? Invisible beasts? What kind of institute is this? Maybe Agent Black was right, and the kids are not ready for this.
If you like to read more, check out the first full length book “Teen Monster Hunters” which delivers exactly to the point: Teens hunting monster. Exactly that.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now available on Amazon as print and eBook.
Ian McDonald was a biologist in a very special setting. Usually the other scientists in his area of expertise looked at Earth’s nature, through high-tech microscopes, or published interesting papers about the life of mice, bacteria in petri-dishes, or deep sea fish. But not McDonald. He worked at SIA,—a super-secret organization—for thirty-plus years and that did not let him write on a single piece of paper or into a regular computer. Everything he did was so secretive that not even he was able to look at all the data his experiments generated. That drove him crazy, but the work was so interesting and exceptional that it compensated for the drawbacks. Well, to be precise, he looked through microscopes that were super-high-tech and not available to the common scientists, because no university in the world could afford this sort of equipment. And he studied nature. He was not sure whether it was Earth’s nature, though. Everything was super-secretive.
He sighted his colleague, a small black-haired Asian woman, called Fu Song. She asked him “Are you afraid of going downstairs for lunch?”
“Our cook’s creations are even more out of space than our work here, Fu,” McDonald said. “So, like almost always, I’ll pass. Got my salad over at my desk.”
“See you later. By the way, the black overalls have this security exercise later off campus. Until that is concluded, they asked us to stop all experiments.”
“Shoot, I forgot. Need to bring our guest back to its habitat then,” McDonald said. “But need to finish the protocol first.”
“I’ll be back in thirty minutes tops, then I’ll help you with the habitat transfer,” Fu promised and left McDonald.
McDonald’s stomach grumbled. Let’s finish this experiment and then eat. He crossed the room to look through a large glass window into the security area room next door. An animal was strapped to the table in the middle of it. At first glance, it looked like a giant lizard, with a tubular body, approximately five feet long with four strong short ams and fingerlike claws. A short stumpy tail on one end and a short wide mouth with eyes on top. But the first glance was all you got. The beast looked translucent, as if your eyes were unable to see it. The fact was, it was translucent. Not only translucent, it could make itself invisible completely on demand. Amazing stuff. And McDonald, Fu Song, and the other scientists assigned to the research had no idea how this animal did it. They couldn’t even agree on whether it was an animal. It was a living being, but the mysterious circumstances under which the beast had been found—a tale for another time—did not place it in the categories of domestic animals or wild animals. It had the intelligence of a human being; they were sure of this. It was able to run simple and complex test patterns that simulated logical thinking, expression of mind, and reaction times on it. And it surpassed the scores of humans by far.
Time for the last probe and sample of the day. The security team’s exercise was a nuisance, as it disrupted experiments in the afternoon. But maybe it allowed him to get ahead on the paperwork. McDonald read the various displays of sensors connected to the beast. Then he prepared the small syringe to draw some of the blood. He approached the beast which was strapped down securely on the transport platform. He loosened the strap of the left forepaw a little bit to get its circulation going. Unstrapping even a single limb was not permitted and definitely dangerous The beast was fast and had a lot of strength, so it was better to be safe than sorry.
Its skin was cold to the touch, like a lizard’s skin, though they knew by now that the beast had heat-controlled metabolism like a mammal. The translucency of the forearm turned from glassy to completely invisible, as if McDonald’s touch triggered a camouflage mechanism. Tenderly he inserted the syringe. It did not seem to hurt the beast at all, unlike the other experiments they had already done. The effect of drawing blood was the most fascinating spectacle McDonald had ever witnessed and even topped the invisibility. The beast’s arm was now completely translucent; he could see the strap going around the paw and the arm and where it was fastened to the tabletop. The straps were under tension from the beast, but the beast itself was not to be seen. And to top all of that, the tip of the syringe that McDonald pushed into the beast’s skin vanished into the arm, and it was gone from view. Totally amazing. And then, as if from nowhere the brownish blood of the beast came flowing into the small test tube.
McDonald wondered when they would crack the chemistry and physics behind this effect. Surely not today. One more read-out and then lunch.
What McDonald did not realize was that he had not readjusted the strap around the front paw.
Chapter 5 – A Little Full Contact
The first tests were not really challenging for Sally and her friends. But there is still Mr. Jumper and his test of Sally’s fighting abilities. A fifteen year old girl against a professional martial arts instructor? Sounds clear to me who’ll win.
But Mr. Jumper hasn’t seen Sally in action, yet. You can. There is a great fight scene in the three friends’s first full length adventure „Teen Monster Hunters“, where you can see Sally kick ass. But is it enough to win against Mr. Jumper?
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now available as print and ebook.
Sally wiped off her sweat with a towel after Mr. Jumper had driven her over circles parkour.
“Not too bad, your shape is superb; you practice Karate, right?”
“Yeah, three to four times a week. Plus school team soccer, but only because I have to,” Sally said, panting.
“Fight sports usually give you good all-around fitness. Soccer doesn’t hurt; ball coordination is something important, too. Ready for some little fighting?”
“Do I have to?”
“Sure, it is a part of the evaluation,” Mr. Jumper said.
“What’s your style?” Sally asked.
“A variety of things. A little bit of everything.”
“You are understating your abilities massively, Sir,” Sally said.
“I might. Never show your hand until late in the game,” Jumper laughed.
“So we fight free style?” Sally threw her towel away and got up again and went over to the tatami mats at the side of the court.
“That is fine for me. And feel free to pull through with me, a little full contact spices the fight,” Mr. Jumper said and loosened up a bit.
“Are you sure?”
“Karate is a very predictable sport, so don’t worry.”
Sally gave a small formal bow to indicate that the fight had begun. Jumper repeated the gesture, and both the opponents started to circle each other. Sally started with two mock attacks with her fast right leg, which was easily blocked by Jumper. Easily and fast. Just to test the water. But that one attack told Sally already that a clean fight was out of the question against this guy. Mr. Jumper’s reaction time was quicker than anyone she had ever fought. He already had his block in place the moment Sally had shifted her weight to ready herself for a move. His upper leg and arm bones were as hard as steel. A fighter way over her grade! So Sally decided to get dirty, and take Mr. Jumper up on his “little full contact” offer.
Honor dictated that it was now Jumper’s turn for an attack, and he came at Sally fast, extremely fast, with a high-low combination of his own. Sally’s mind did not even try to comprehend the moves, block them, or react to them. She had decided on the spot to simply ride them out, defy any normal fighter’s reaction, and get as close as possible to this guy. How hard and how painful could it be?
Extremely painful! She needed the momentum of surprise to bag this fight, and she simply took two fast steps forward into the motion of Jumper. An excellent fighter as Jumper had timed his moves so that they would have stopped an inch before Sally’s arm or leg. The high slap of Jumper hit her at the shoulder, hurting like a hit with a baseball bat. The low kick reached Sally’s left leg, ruining her balance, hellishly painful, too, but Sally was in her intended striking distance. Too close for Jumper to place another kick or punch or to defend himself properly, his right hand way behind Sally, his left foot between Sally’s legs. Her hands were useless, too, but then, who needed hands? Sally threw her head forward and her forehead struck Jumper’s nose.
Jumper was caught completely unprepared. This wise-mouth girl had jabbered and complained all during warm-up. She had delivered a technically well-executed but powerless initial attack and Jumper had decided to try out her reaction time and defense skills with a punch-kick combination of his own. The first moment his fist actually hit the girl’s shoulder, Jumper had a bad concience, That poor girl, did I really misjudge? and he tried to take the energy from his kick, but failed to do so either. That stupid girl, why are you coming at me like… In the fraction of a second his mind had gone from concentration to pity to anger to …
… the realization that this could be a trap.
Pain! Skull vs. Nose—skull always won, even when delivered by a petite girl of fifteen years and hundred pounds. Jumper’s nose broke instantly, but the pain travelled too slow for him to know that. A second later, he had to tackle Sally’s second surprise—a short stop, half-force knee-punch into the crown-jewels of Mr. Jumper.
The fight was over after ten seconds; Sally had won.
Jumper held his nose with one hand, and his balls in the other, lying sideways.
Sally had paid the price too, as she couldn’t feel her left arm anymore and could hardly move her left leg. Wincing loudly, she limped over like an old lady to the sideline to retrieve her towel and returned and placed it under Mr. Jumper’s head, so that the blood from the bleeding nose wouldn’t ruin the tatami mat.
“Should I call for help?” Sally asked the man.
“You little piece of …! Are you crazy?” Jumper hissed through his teeth, pain still wrecking his body.
Sally took it as a ‘no’, thought about kicking his nuts again but decided not to ruin her super-secret agent career prematurely. She leaned down and said “You called the game, Sir. Freestyle, full contact. And a wise man once told me never to show my cards until late into the game.”
Chapter 6 – Mobilisation (new)
Agent Black and her merry special forces team. In this mini chapter you hear Black referring to ‘an unfortunate security breach’. Read the full length book “Teen Monster Hunters” to see what adventures have resulted from this breach.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now available on Amazon in print and as eBook.
Agent Black stood before the combined security and special forces team. Half of the team was responsible for the security of the base, which in this case meant no one unauthorized got in, and no specimen or secret files got out. The other half was the team that got called out into the field whenever something strange had to be investigated and the action promised to get hot and dangerous for the scientists.
“All right, ladies and gentlemen. As you all know, we’ve had an unfortunate breach in our security a few weeks back. Everything is under control now, but it worried the director. And when it worries the director, it worries me. And when it worries me, it means you will feel stress and pain.”
A little pathos and drama never failed to work with the common soldiers.
“We’ll be having a little team-building effort at thirteen-hundred hours. Wheels-up at thirteen-o-five. Sergeant Flint will distribute the mission briefs. Study it, and, most importantly, remember it when we move into the landing zone. No hot weapons for this one, we’ll rely on laser tag. Questions?”
One hand shot up. “What security remains for the base?”
“We have asked the egg-head scientists to stop all live testing as of twelve-hundred. The private security perimeter force will continue duty as usual. Any other questions? None? Dismissed. See you at one!”
Flint passed around the paper of the briefing, and Black left the room.
Chapter 7 – Free (new)
I am not convinced that this seemingly high-security lab really is highly secure. This practice of eating on the job distracts you from the dangerous creatures that are in your laboratory, Doctor McDonald! Nothing good can come out of it!
„Teen Monster Hunters“, the full length first adventure of Sally, Ryan, and Moe, is now available online in print and as eBook.
The beast woke up. Unlike a human being, its vital functions just spiked as if turned on and it switched from one state to another. No yawning, no stretching, no cuddling up under a warm blanket. All not necessary. The advantage of translucent eyelids was that you could watch your surrounding without anyone noticing. And that it did. In the lab again. Human McDonald, recognized not by name, of course, but by smell and visual, rummaged nearby. He was in the other room, divided by the electronic door and the large glass partition. Human Song and the others were not around. The faint smell in the air told the beast that some food processing was taking place somewhere else in the building. Hungry! These humans had no idea that the beast was used to almost constant food intake, and here, in this forsaken place, food was dispensed only once a day.
The lab meant being strapped to the examination table. Not comfortable, as the beast loved to roam around constantly, but also not uncomfortable. At least not this time. The experiments hadn’t been painful today.
Out of creature habit, it started to check its degree of freedom by moving each limb and tail. Then relaxing all its muscles, breathing out as much as possible, trying again. Just testing the water like it had been taught at space academy..
Oops! The left foreleg felt loose. The native tongue equivalent of the word ‘Bingo’ and a sly smile crossed mind and snout of the beast.
Chapter 8 – Lunch (new)
Well, Mr. Jumper had it coming. Good for Sally, I guess she passed that test. Hope she doesn’t hurt too badly.
I love writing scenes where people eat food. There is something primeval and basic sitting around a table or fire and sharing one of the essential elements of life. And communicate while eating. This has absolutely nothing to do with the first adventure of Sally, Ryan, and Moe, called “Teen Monster Hunters”.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now online available in print and as ebook.
After what seemed an endless span of time, the door to the gym locker opened, and Agent Black appeared.
“Had fun with the staff?” she asked.
Sally shrugged. “Depends on your definition of fun. Compared to a slap in the face, definitely.” She limped towards Black. In the shower, her little violent escapade had already turned her shoulder and lower leg yellow-blueish.
“That’s all we wanted.” Black did not comment at Sally’s discomfort and obvious pain.
“How is Mr. Jumper?” Sally asked.
“In a bad and extremely foul mood. He will torture his next fighting class. You are already a SIA legend, Sally. Ready?”
“Yes, the ultimate one. Lunchtime at our site’s restaurant.”
Sally laughed. “How bad can it be?”
“Well,” Ryan started. “I always thought our school restaurant was pretty bad, but trying this…”
“Apologies,” Black raised her hands. “We are a super-secret government organization, but still a federal institution. For some reason or the other, we are associated with the budget of the Department of Justice. And the contractor for the restaurant is the same one who fuels court buildings and jails all over this state.”
“I’ll try to get some slices of raw bread to get us through the day,” Sally said and walked over to the counter. “Sir?”
The man in the kitchen had his back to her, rummaging in the sink.
Again, no reaction.
Sally started to climb the counter, and the man turned around. A big square chunk of body, no neck, unsavory unwashed black hair—a walking hygiene disaster. “What-da-ya think you’re doing?” he grunted.
“Getting food!” Sally said, halfway over, but she stopped. “You give me some bread, or I’ll get it myself.”
The cook stared at Sally.
Sally cocked her head and said “Your food is terrible, and my friends and I are starving. You might not get much opposition from the staff here, but I am only a guest and have nothing to lose. And I know that you are thinking of grabbing one of the big knives from the wooden block over there to defend your food.”
A look in that direction gave the cook’s thoughts away.
“I’ll be faster!” Sally stated with total conviction. “There would be a lot of blood and a finger missing before Agent Black comes to save you.”
The cook, rattled by this fifteen-year-old mafia godfather, gave up, walked to a sideboard, and came to the counter with a loaf of white toast. He handed it over to Sally who returned to the restaurant side of the counter with a “Thank you. Sir!”
She walked back to the table where Ryan and Moe were playing it cool, and Agent Black suppressed her smile.
Sally muttered “I’d like to test my Karate skills against that idiot” and pushed her bounty towards Moe and Ryan.
“That was courageous, Storm,” Agent Black said. “Everyone is afraid of the Slab. No one knows how he got the job. The best rumor says he is a convicted mass murderer who managed to switch identities with the cook in a high security prison kitchen. The cook is now in lifelong solitary confinement, and the Slab made a career move to our outfit.”
“As long he doesn’t apply to a job at Hawthorne High, I can live with that. Better you guys than us,” Sally said, giving the Slab a well-met death stare across the room.
“What’s up for us in the afternoon?” Sally asked, munching.
Black was clearly impressed and also nibbled at a dry toast. “Some physical tests—running, climbing, jumping, push-ups. Reaction time evaluation.”
“Then you better hope that the bread saves our asses and gives us enough energy.” Sally said and swallowed.
“Tell me, Agent Black,” Ryan asked. “Do these tests really mean anything? We are kids, and let’s face it, how many kids have you tested before for your kind of work?”
“That’s classified,” Black said.
“Really? You train kids to hunt monsters and aliens or whatever?”
“That’s classified, too.”
“Ah, the fabled KORS program,” Ryan sat back and started on his toast, too. “KORS” had been one of the acronyms he had caught during their first encounter.
“How do you know about that?” Black said and then slowly put her forehead on the table top. “Montgomery, you did it again. I hate this.” Ryan had trained himself as a mentalist to retrieve information from people who did not want to disclose it.
“You should mark it as one of my strengths in my evaluation. And maybe put it down as one of your weaknesses?” Ryan helped.
“Let me guess, Director Fletcher had let it slip during our first encounter?”
“All right, gang, I need to rush to my exercise. I’ll be seeing you in a few days when the evaluation results come in.” Black got up. “Someone will pick you up in about fifteen minutes.”
The three Monster Hunters silently ate the dry old bread. The Slab was busy cleaning up, when an electronic lock door beside the counter opened with a buzz, and he came out to collect the unused meal trays of the kids. No words were exchanged, just stares. Finally the door closed again, the electric lock turned red, and the Slab rolled down the steel shutter that separated kitchen counter from restaurant. He made sure it slammed shut with a bang that reverberated for a while. He locked it from the inside, and then the noises in the kitchen stopped, too.
After they were done with the bread, Ryan stretched and looked around and exclaimed “Where is everyone? Did they forget about us?”