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
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
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
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?”
Chapter 9 – The Beast Is Out
It turns out that our beast isn’t a killer beast. At least not in this capture situation. Where a classic monster alien starts ripping people apart and wreaks havoc, our beast seems much more controlled. This is a slightly different experience than Sally, Ryan, and Moe had in their first adventure together, in their full-length adventure “Teen Monster Hunters”.
Curious? Check it out: „Teen Monster Hunters“, now online available in print and as ebook.
The beast played through the sequence of action in its mind. Slip out left, unstrap right, unstrap top body. It may take five seconds if executed well. Five more seconds for the other lower body and leg straps and the two sensors. Let’s make it ten seconds for the whole thing. Slip out of the non-closed door, while the human still ate his food. Uhh, hungry! Maybe it should overpower McDonald and eat whatever he had on his table? Better not, the beast had no experience in fighting with humans, though it suspected that the white coats were quite harmless.
It took the planned seconds to unstrap, slide off the table, and stealthily and silently crawled along the wall to the cracked open door. McDonald was unaware of what was going on, munching on his food, sipping his can of Coke. And after a real careful toeless tip-toeing, the beast made it to the door. The beast did not know but the lab safety protocols worked in its favor. It was hard to get into the lab for security reasons, but easy to get out in case of safety concerns in case something went wrong in the lab. It turned the handle skillfully with its tail without making any sound and squeezed through.
McDonald looked at his watch. Where was Fu? They had to transport the beast back to the habitat before the exercise curfew. He felt a slight draft of air and glanced around, but saw nothing and got back to his news website and picked out the last cheese cubes from his salad.
For more than a year, he had been researching the invisible creature. But his brilliant scientific mind never made the connection between the “unexplained air draft” to the “invisible creature”.
The beast had laid out most of the building in its mind, having noted everywhere the guards or scientists had taken it during the last year. Down the corridor, to the left, next right. The elevator ahead. It had seen the staff operate it many times, and the use of the B2, B1, G, 1, 2 buttons was clear. Press the call button, wait for the door to open. There was a person stepping out of the elevator—the human, Fu Song! The beast made sure that it was invisible and simply waited until the carriage was clear, and the human was some yards away. Then the beast entered the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor. The door closed, some slight vibrations and changes to gravity occurred, and then the door opened again.
The ground floor was a bit more difficult to navigate than the lab floors or the habitat, as the beast had only been there once before. Naviagting down the corridor was easy, though many more people walked around there than upstairs. The beast squeezed against the wall, to be not detected or stepped on accidentally.
There! Daylight at the end of the corridor. The beast moved forward, but not too far. The corridor was separated from the daylight-flooded lobby by a thick glass partition. On the side, there were two hermetically sealed turnstiles. People had to walk up to it, give a language-sound, and press a finger on a panel. Then the first half of the gate would open, then close with the person inside. There was also some other test; this time of an eye scan, and then the other door would open to complete the process. The whole gate-lock procedure was accompanied by green and red lights that guided the person. The beast observed for a minute; there was no exception. The small space between the doors was too small to squeeze in with a human undetected. And the opening procedure did not allow for an attempt. Even even if it captured a finger, there was still the language test.
There had to be another way out of here. The beast slowly turned and walked the other way, still hungry.
Suddenly an insistent loud noise came from the ceiling. Beep-tut, beep-tut… Time to go!
The beast had not made it very far, when suddenly the corridor filled with a lot of people who were in the process of leaving the building. Some looked worried, some just annoyed, most did not care one way or the other. But the corridor did not offer anymore place to hide. The door next to the beast opened, and a fat ugly man stepped out, looking up and down the corridor. At the same time, some of the white-shirted guards showed up further up along, withsome sort of instrument in their hands. The beast had no idea what the instrument did, but it had no interest finding out. It was either a weapon or a detection device. Neither was good news. Within a second, the beast decided on its further route—slipped between the legs of the ugly man and slid into the room behind. Some words were exchanged outside, and the door was closed and locked from the outside. The beast was alone.
Jackpot! Not freedom, but food. This was the place it had smelled earlier through the vents. Vents—maybe a path to escape the building? But first things first. It had to find some food. It went into one of the corners and smelled delicious food inside one of the cupboards and cold storages. The beast opened the most promising one and could not believe its eyes. All the good stuff, smell-wise. Lunchtime!
Chapter 10 – Open Sesame
Well, it had to happen! Our three friends and the beast meet at last. You had thought that “The Test” is all about a regular boring test? Nope! The real deal. Our heroes got some experience, though. Reference: “Teen Monster Hunters”, their first full-length adventure.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now online available in print and as ebook.
“Fire drill?” Sally asked. For some reason, there was no siren in the restaurant, but the alarm could be heard distinctively through the closed door.
“Monster,” Moe said.
Ryan raised his hands. “Oh, guys, stop it. No facts and you‘re making up theories on the fly. Monster! Moe, we don’t know what’s going on! Although a fire alarm surely would be heard inside here, too.”
“Now look who’s evaluating theories,” Sally muttered.
On the outside, unseen by them, a lot of hectic running steps could be heard, fading quickly into the distance.
The three kids looked at each other. Sally went over to the door they had come through and tried its handle. Locked. Bumped her fist at the door. But no reaction from the outside. Whoever had passed was gone for good.
“We are locked in, Ryan. There is no way to find out what is going on.”
“It is not a fire drill, so much is clear. Fire alarm disengages any electronic lock, that’s the regulation.”
“Even in a…”
“Even in a super-secret government agency.”
“How do we get out?”
“Maybe we are supposed to stay in? For security reasons.”
“Monster,” Moe repeated, and this time no one argued.
“The big question is ‘do we stay in?’” Sally argued.
“I beg to differ. We will make our way out of here. I’ll use this paper clip and this safety pin,” Ryan said.
Sally looked around the room. There were three doors—the main entrance, the kitchen, and an unknown door—that probably led to the other wing of the building. “Good luck with that genius. All doors have electronic locks; your pin is worthless.”
Ryan got up and investigated, tried the other two doors. “Shoot, there goes my idea.” He looked at the kitchen door again and stepped sideways. “But the roll-shutter for the kitchen-counter has a normal safety lock and that leads into the kitchen.”
“Do your magic, but do it quick. I don’t like it that we are locked in here.”
Ryan knelt down and started fidgeting with the lock that held the shutter safely in position. After a few attempts, he stopped. “Hey, there is really someone on the other side. I can hear him. Or her.” He banged at the shutter. “Hello, can you hear me?”
The faint noise on the other side stopped for a few moments, then continued.
“Hello?” Another knock on the shutter. Again, the noise stopped and then went on.
“Open that damned shutter, Ryan!” Sally demanded.
“Yes, M’lady.” Ryan ran again through the motions and failed again at some attempts.
“Did you oversell your abilities?” Sally asked.
“Looks like it. Don’t crowd around me guys.”
“I am amazed at the range of your skills. Breaking and entering?”
“You never know what comes in handy. Like being stranded in the restaurant of a secret government agency.” Ryan breathed in deeply, focussed on the task, readjusted his grip, and tried again. “Just one more…” Click! The lock turned under the momentum from the safety pin. And another click, the lock opened completely. Sally assisted and immediately raised the shutter so that it wouldn’t fall back into place.
The noises from the kitchen immediately stopped before they could take a look inside.
The kitchen was like any other industrial kitchen. A lot of steely appliances, everything spick and span, tiled floor, big tubes under the ceiling to take out the steam and smells.
“Empty,” Ryan stated.
“But something must have made the noise we just heard,” Sally pointed out.
“Maybe a bad compressor of the cold storage?” Ryan suggested.
“Yeah, right! Stoping conveniently when we make noise,” Sally pointed out the flaw in Ryan’s logic.
The three kids let their gazes wander around the room. But everything seemed normal. Some food items were lying on one of the appliances; and the cereals, dry fruit, and bread looked a bit out of place in an otherwise orderly place.
Sally started to climb onto the counter, slid down to the other side into the kitchen. Then she helped Ryan and Moe to come over, too.
They took a closer look, nothing to be seen.
“Shall we fix ourselves a real lunch?” Sally asked. “The stuff over there looks extremely good to my stomach with dry bread.
“Let’s try to find a way out of here first. There’s the door,” Ryan said, but hesitated.
“What is it?”
“I smell something.”
“It’s a kitchen, doofus,” Sally said.
“No, more like something else. Different. Wild.” Ryan had a special sense of smell that could identify various stuff that Sally and Moe never had any wish to smell in their lives.
“Whooot!” Moe suddenly made an earthy sound like an oversized owl and started hyperventilating. “Whooot!” Words failed him completely, and he pointed.
Sally and Ryan stared at him and then followed his gaze and finger towards the various food items on the counter on the far end of the room. Sally did not understand, but she knew Moe had spotted something important. Then she noticed that Moe’s finger actually pointed higher. Then goosebumps appeared on Sally’s.
At the far end, five feet above the counter, a gallon-sized milk container hovered in mid-air, not moving.
Chapter 11 - Not Welcome Here
Aren't these small in-between chapters sweet? Building up suspense! Our three friends are in trouble and help is on its way —but oh so slooowwwlllyyy. Apropos trouble: check out the trouble Sally and her friends are in! "Teen Monster Hunters", their first full length adventure is out now.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now online available in print and as ebook.
The helicopter pilot was the best of the best. He was able to bullet his Black Hawk helicopter thirty feet over ground and at two-hundred miles an hour at the same time. With hills, buildings, trees, and power lines in the way, the ride made a bumpy spectacle, equivalent to the entertainment of any park roller coaster.
That had been Director Fletcher’s plan for the exercise, a little gift, because things had gone wrong during the Hawthorne case. Most of the twelve soldiers on board stoically held their barf bags and had already lost their lunch after two minutes into the ride, and the rest was just fighting to keep it in.
This type of maneuver was called a low-fast-insertion, which kept the enemies’ radar blank during the journey and put the troops on the ground as fast as possible.
Black was looking forward to the exercise, even if it involved puking her heart out. But she had been there many times before, and this was not the real deal, but merely an exercise. So, all peachy!
“Navigator? What’s up?”
“Distress at base. Lab breach. November Alpha Tango.” NAT, not a test.
“Pilot, turn around, rise to two-hundred and get us back there ASAP.”
And the helicopter took the narrowest turn possible that made all passengers’ stomachs drop to their knees.
“Director for Agent Black. I’ll patch you through.”
There was a brief static pause, as far as static goes in a whopping and screaming helicopter.
“Black here. What’s the situation, Sir?”
“Lab two screwed up. They were just finishing up a test before lunch, and the glass lizard got away.”
“Found him yet?”
“We don’t dare without you guys around. The civil security guys did a quick infrared and microwave sweep of the rooms we could still access and the main floor to keep an eye on the evacuation, but no luck so far in spotting the beast. Full protocol is in place, all doors sealed. Only essential staff inside now. It can’t get out.”
“Out ETA is about five minutes. The kids are safe?”
“What kids?” Director Fletcher said. “Oh, shoot, the kids!”
Black switched off the com over to the pilot. “This thing can go any faster?”
“Got a date waiting for you, Agent?” the pilot said.
“I take it as a ‘No’”, Black sighed and watched the landscape race below her.
Chapter 12 - Old Friends (new)
I usually put some thought into the naming of my stories's chapters. But, this chapter title I am unable to explain after three months of corrections and publication preparation. No idea who those old friends are supposed to be. But what I know is: "Teen Monster Hunters" is out, the first full-length adventure of our beast hunters!
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now online available in print and as ebook.
It was a clear case of now-you-see-it-then-you-don’t. Sally put her hand over her mouth so as not to scream and with her other hand pulled down Moe’s arm to make his discovery less obvious.
Ryan hadn’t seen it yet and looked at Sally and Moe again.
“Ryan, turn around and try the kitchen door. Now!” Sally commanded, turning her face away too. Whatever was underneath the milk jug, holding it up, was invisible, which wasn’t a good thing. It was intelligent enough to not draw attention to it in a crisis situation.
“What is it, guys? Saw a ghost?” Ryan inquired.
“Yup, but don’t look. Something is going on, and it is not good. Come on, stop looking around, try the door. It’s important to try the door.”
Ryan knew Sally’s command and stern voice and did what she asked him to do. He rattled it and inspected the card reader. “No luck here, door is locked.”
“But it came in here. Maybe there is a keycard somewhere?”
“It? What do you mean?”
“Your nose did not betray you, Ryan. We are not alone. There is something in here, and it is invisible. And we interrupted its lunch.”
“Shall we go backto the other room, and close the shutter again?”
The discovery of an invisible being in the room would have been shocking to a normal person. But the kids’ experiences a few weeks earlier had already been shockingly enough, so the new discovery simply fell into the same pattern. And after all, they were the guests in a super-secret government facility that dealt with the supernatural. Super-super.
Sally thought hard. Could this actually be a test for us? To catch an invisible beast, as a sort of real-life scenario? In theory, yes. Closed room, some kitchen-style weapons, some ingredients for Ryan’s inventions. In practice, doubtful. There was no camera in the corners for Mr. Jumper or Agent Black to observe the test. Would they endanger us by making us confront a dangerous beast? An invisible beast? And then, how do we explain the alarm and the running people. No, this had the making of a beast break-out, which managed to get out of its cage or habitat, looking for food and room to escape or hide.
“Whoa, “ Ryan said, now seeing it, too. “there is a jug…”
“Shut up, Montgomery, and listen to me guys,” Sally interrupted him and she started doing things in the kitchen, by opening a drawer. Strange devices, probably for whipping up a sauce or cream. Just to do something, she picked two of them up. “Moe, open that cupboard, look for plates. Slowly, we need time! And no one goes over where all the food items are lying around. We don’t want to spook our invisible friend.”
“What do you…?” Ryan asked but was interrupted by Sally.
“Ryan, why don’t you find some pans and pots?”
“Hm!” Ryan was confused, but then he kicked into action. Sally wanted to gain time to coordinate and plan. He walked over to one of the appliances and rummaged in the cupboard. “What now, boss?”
Sally leaned on the counter, as if waiting for the others to finish their tasks. “This is not a drill, it is the real thing. This invisible thing holding up the milk jug is smart, but not smart enough. It obviously sees us, but cannot understand us. So far, it has seen us entering through the shutter, checking the room, failing, and trying to get out. Now it appears we have started cooking. The invisible beast knows this is a place for food, so it will not be surprised. Any initial ideas on how to get out of here alive?”
Ryan’s genius mind was in an overdrive, while he was taking out random things from the various appliances, keeping his distance from the corner of the food and the hovering milk jug. “First, it does not understand our language. We were talking freely about our sighting and there was not so much as a wiggle of the milk jug. So we can plot our plan without danger of being overheard.”
“I agree, good point, Ryan,” Sally confirmed.
“Second, we don’t need to trap it. The alarm has been rung already, and help is on its way. Maybe it will take a little while to get Agent Black back from her exercise, but she will come. All we need is to buy us time.”
“Once more, I agree.”
“Moreover, the beast is strong on defense. It’s using a sort of camouflage to hide and is still, which is the opposite of attacking us. This does not mean it harmless, but as long as we don’t threaten it openly, we should be fine.”
“Good point. But that might change when we try to catch it.”
“See, any fight is an unfair fight until we don’t see our opponent. We need to find a way to make it visible. In the absence of any better material, I suggest making it wet.”
“Moe, you are strongest; why don’t you fill up this pot with cold water?” Sally said. “That gives us a headstart.
“Moe. Water.” The giant went over to the industrial-sized sink and filled a pot Ryan had handed him.
“Lastly, we need to trap the beast in something. The first option is the room-sized freezer over there, which is big enough to hold several people. But with the water we are about to pour over it, the beast might freeze to death if we trap it inside.”
“No dead beasts, Ryan.”
Ryan eyed the rest of the kitchen. “Let me try another thing.” He walked over to the big six burner gas stove. Above it was a giant extraction hood leading into a big tube of about two feet in diameter. The large tube stretched below the ceiling, leading to the wall, probably extending directly outside.
Ryan dismantled the filter mechanism from stove’s extraction hood but then stepped back. “Moe, I need your help here. Please rip out the ventilation piece.” Ryan pointed to the prominent end piece of the hood that stretched over the complete stove. Moe did so with ease and placed the parts onto one of the work places on the side.
“All right! Escape hatch,” Ryan said.
Sally approached closer and saw they indeed had a viable exit route. “Shouldn’t we use it instead to get out of here?” she asked.
“I doubt that Moe would make it through. And I know there will be a security barrier outside. Otherwise, it would be an easy exit for burglars, bypassing all the fancy security we saw earlier on. But we have to convince our invisible friend first that this a great place to get out. Should you or I play the role?”
“You mean I am supposed to squeeze myself in here?” Sally asked doubtfully, looking up the ventilation tube again.
“All right, I’ll do it. All in the name of the team!” Ryan climbed onto the stove, stuck his upper body into the vent tube, and started massively overacting. “Oh, Sally, this is so great. We found a way!” His voice came back hollow. “Moe, help me up a bit, please.” Moe gave Ryan’s feet a lift, and his small body disappeared into the tube. His rummaging could clearly be heard overhead when he reached the tube below the ceiling. “So great. And so dirty. All the food smells and residue from years of great lunches! But we are saved!”
Moe and Sally could hear him crawling and climbing backwards again. “Coming down!” Ryan said and with bang his feet landed on the stove. His jeans and shirt had brown stains, and his hands were covered in slime.
“Great show, Montgomery! The Oscar goes to…” Sally said.
“Need to wash my hands first before I do anything else. Yuck!” With raised arms, he went over to the hygiene station that was dangerously close to the hovering jug, and it’s invisible lifter. “Our friend here seems to have an excellent stamina. Five minutes of lifting and no jitters yet. Impressive.”
“And how do we continue?” Sally asked.
“My thinking goes like this: we showed a way out.” Demonstratively, he pointed to the vent tube inlet. “If we attack, the beast will beeline for the vent. We make the beast wet, this gives us a location. We scare it into the middle of the room, where its only way out is the vent tube.”
“It will get stuck. And we close the vent again from our end. So, Moe stand by with the filter after you pour the water.”
“And you are sure that it will not simply escape on the other side?”
“This building has high security. Ergo, the vent will be blocked. No doubt whatsoever in my mind, according to the laws of physics.”
Sally rubbed her nose. “Then there is the other possible reaction of the beast.”
“That it will attack us? Possible, but unlikely. It did not do it so far, which means it has a default defense strategy, like an elephant, not to attack by default unlike a lion.”
“Man, your optimism scares me!” Sally groaned.
“Optimism through knowledge, that’s my motto,” Ryan smiled nervously, dried his hands, and pushed up his glasses. “Moe, you may approach the corner with the food with the full pot. Then splash it exactly between the flying jug and the counter.”
“Moe. Water.” Moe slowly walked over with the heavy pot in hand, swung back with both arms, and then splashed the three gallons of water towards the corner where they assumed the beast to be.
Party time! Sally thought.
Chapter 13 - Hope It's Not Too Late (new)
Agent Black is sweating. She called up on the kids and now the kids are in trouble! Or are they? This isn't the first time she has to help someone. Check out "Teen Monster Hunters", the first full-length monster hunters adventure.
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The helicopter took ages to fly back towards the base. Or so it seemed to Agent Black. She fidgeted with the strap on her holster, eager to land. “ETA?” she asked once more over the intercom.
“One minute less than when you asked me one minute ago, Agent! Which makes it one minute to go.”
“Asked and answered just two minutes ago. Still ‘no’, Agent.”
“Next time, we take a Tornado!”
“As you wish, Agent. Give my hello to the pilot when you two are stuck on the runway, taxiing for ten minutes.” The pilot was deadpan.
“Wiseass,” Black retorted.
“At your service, Agent. I got good news and bad news for you!”
“Jesus, a joker!”
“Good news, we are here.”
“It will be a hard landing!”
Black knew what was coming. The pilot made an attack approach, fast into the target zone, which in this case was the front area of the SIA main building, and then a full-stop-full-drop landing, resulting in the stomach content flooding their mouths, high g-forces pulling their limbs and brain into impossible directions, and a certain feeling of apprehension of death for about a second.
Her small team was not ready yet, as the exercise had been planned with lasertag-weapons only. Black instructed Sergeant Flint to go to the armory first, so it was Flint’s team that passed through the security gate process before Black’s. Meanwhile, two members of Black’s team made a sweep of the external building. The identification process and slow entry process through the doors made her impatient, and if she had a real weapon, she might have shot down the plexiglass walls, Arnie-style. Though, no bullet would have broken the special security glass. But just to do something! Anything. Finally through!
Black ran down the corridor. Her main thought was, hope the kids are all right!
Chapter 14 - A Kitchen Scene (new)
All right, we are coming close to the end. Beast vs. Hunters! Without much further ado or shameless advertising for my full-length “Teen Monster Hunters” adventure: let’s get on with the story!
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It was an act of patience. The beast was adept at survival, with the added advantage of its translucency and invisibility. When it got caught in the act of drinking milk from the jug, it simply stopped moving, switched to full invisibility, and just kept on holding the milk jug. Maybe no one would notice?
Three humans entered through the shutter gap, climbing over the counter. Interesting! These were neither soldiers nor scientists, as their dresses made that clear. And younger. And not well coordinated. The first human, a red-headed girl, was agile and quickly slid over the counter. The black younger kid with a heap of hair on its head, not sure whether a boy or girl, was not the sporty type and had some coordination issues. And the big guy was a total mess. They ended up pulling him over the counter like a bag of stones, dropping on the other side included. Hadn’t the situation been serious, the beast might have uttered its equivalent of a laugh.
The kids looked around and talked among themselves. There was some agitation and pointing but it became not clear to the beast what they were doing here. Then the black kid tried the kitchen door to the corridor, but shrugged at his companions. Ah, they were looking for a way out, just like the beast. That’s why they did not fit in here. Maybe they were prisoners, just like itself? But that would have been an extreme coincidence, that much the beast knew. Guys there is no way out of here, the beast thought. The tubes on the ceiling look promising, but they are not accessible. The black kid had the same idea, but much better execution as the beast. With the help of the slow big kid, he managed to remove a crucial part of the machinery, checked the inside of the vent and actually climbed in, vanishing from view. The rummaging noises from the ceiling indicated to the beast that there indeed was a way out. Well, for the beast and the smaller kids, maybe not for the big, slow one who was simply too big and uncoordinated.
The dark kid slid back into view, in soiled and stained clothing. He was excited, pointed at the vent tubes, following its path into the wall on the other side with his finger, talking fast. That appeared promising. The black kid passed the beast closely, and the beast prepared to strike out in case it was discovered. But despite the dark kid’s attention for the venting mechanism, it didn’t give the hovering milk jug a glance. The kid washed up, merely two yards from the beast. The red-haired girl also came in his direction, but stopped two yards before the vent. The big kid held a pot with water. Something was going on now, but the beast had no clue. Did they plan to prepare food?
Suddenly, the slow big kid became active and threw the pot’s content at the beast. The wetness came as a total, shocking surprise.
Chapter 15 - Good Food (new)
Agent Black too late? Will not happen! The Teen Monster Hunters deliver! And Agent Black, too.
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Agent Black crashed through the door of the agency restaurant, her Entrophy Gun raised and ready to fire, followed by Sergeant Flint and her team, who immediately spread out to secure the scene.
The three kids sitting around the table, munching pastrami sandwiches, looked at the group of soldiers.
“What?” Black yapped, out of breath, her eyes surveying the room, though she knew the gesture was meaningless for an invisible foe. “Happened?”
Sally pointed towards the kitchen, some urgent noises emerging from the inside. “Did you know that the Slab has all the right ingredients for a good healthy sandwich in his kitchen?”
“Sally is a sand-whiz, did you know? Want one?” Ryan quipped and held up his plate. “I’ll be willing to share half of mine. You can have the uneaten side, if you are picky.”
“Oops, someone claimed it first, Agent!” Ryan shrugged and continued eating.
“Where is the beast?” Black asked, not the least interested in food and the kids who were playing it cool.
“In the kitchen. We trapped it in the ventilation shaft. You just need to saw everything off the ceiling,” Sally said, taking another bite.
And Ryan added, “Maybe give it small shock from your super stun gun first. Don’t want it to escape, again, right?” The Entropy Gun was developed with non-violent capture in mind.
“And this?” Sergeant Flint opened the electronic door lock into the kitchen with her badge and had a look around. There was a big white puddle where the beast had dropped the jug of milk. “Who cleans that up?”
Sally continued eating. “You, as usual.” During the Hawthorne Affair, they had been in a similar situation.
Black’s team huddled around the vent, and they discussed the capture tactics for a while. It appeared a little dangerous at first, and no one wanted to bear the responsibility of the beast falling onto the stove and hurting itself. Some scientists had to be brought in first and after ten minutes of rigmarole, uninstallations, and a transport platform on wheels, Black’s Entrophy gun zapped once and a yelping sound was heard from the inside of the vent. Then the collection of soldiers and scientists dismantled the vent until they could slide out the now translucent grayish beast. Done deal. This left Sergeant Flint and her squad to reinstall the kitchen and clean up.
Black came out and sat down with the kids
“You guys had me worried for a minute.” She was genuinely relieved.
“Don’t sweat it, Agent; we are the Teen Monster Hunters. All in a day’s work. Count on us.” Sally exclaimed coolly.
“Back to the tests?” Ryan asked.
“Unfortunately, yes; we are a government agency anyway, and we have regulations that require us to…” Black explained.
“Screw the tests,” Sally said, turned around to the remaining two soldiers beside the exit door, raised her voice. “Ladies and Gentlemen, could I have the room to Agent Black and myself, please.”
Everyone stared at Sally. Moe and Ryan got up from their chairs, as they were into the charade, of course. The team looked at Agent Black who in turn fixed her gaze on Sally curiously.
Then Black nodded briefly, tapped her Entrophy gun to indicate that she had everything under control in case Sally becomes violent, and Flint and her team filed out, taking Moe and Ryan with them. The last she heard was Ryan asking for “a damn good Espresso” and Flint replying “first you have to grow a little, kid.” Sally had to smile.
Black raised her hands and said “The stage’s all yours.”
Sally pointed at the food items on the table they were sitting at. Black hadn’t noticed the items before. Two premium cereal brands, one imported from Germany, the other from Scandinavia. Half a pastrami. And roasted Italian almonds. And the very ripe and red looking tomatoes that looked like they were taken out of a food catalogue.
“Almost like made of plastic,” Black remarked.
Sally nodded. “The real deal. Very good food. The pastrami is not even branded. Must have been handmade by some Italian sausage maker nearby. The beast had a go at it when we interrupted it. A shame, actually. Such good food. Super tasty, I tell you. My mother’s lunches don’t have such quality ingredients. And they are already pretty good.”
“Good for you guys, got you a second lunch. A much better one, too. Makes me hungry, actually.” Black smiled. “What is it?”
Sally stared at her. Black did not get it.
Finally Sally said, “We are not going back to the evaluation. The beast in there is proof enough of our abilities. No tests needed, we are the real deal. You take us, or you solve your future messy situations alone.”
Black smiled. “You sit on a mighty high horse, young lady.”
“Your report to Director Fletcher will be favorable; you will recommend us to help you out in… well, whatever you do at SIA. And we will receive a security clearance above our teenage years, of course.”
“What makes you think, I’ll do that? You are kids, you got lucky. Again, by the way. I won’t lie to my director. And especially not to Fletcher. That man’s got telepathic abilities,” Black said.
“You will,” Sally said. “Because I can give you the Slab.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you want better lunches in this place?”
“Of course. But I explained to you that this is a central government contract that…”
“I can give you the Slab and better food in this place.”
“You have some dirt on him? Is that it?”
Black leaned back and studied Sally. “I am thinking.” They were silent for a minute. “Dirt, real dirt?”
“Criminal size dirt.”
“To have him fired?”
Sally raised her right eyebrow.
“What does that mean, a right eyebrow?”
Sally raised her other eyebrow. “Deal-time! I give you the Slab, and you let us go home and write us a stellar recommendation.”
“Girl, you are out of your league,” Black groaned.
“Agent, stop thinking like a soldier for once. Start thinking like a hungry person, yearning for good food.” Sally picked up the unreal red juicy tomato and circled it between her fingers. “Deal time.”
Black groaned again. “Kid, you kill me. But you made me so curious and longing for a proper lunch at this place.”
“Deal or no deal?”
“Screw it and the constitution! Deal! But when The Slab is involved in something criminal, he should be removed and maybe a new restaurant proprietor will server better food,” Black said.
“But you said it yourself, the contract is a central government contract. Similar pricing, similar quality. And I bet similar scams run right under your noses.” Sally raised her eyebrow again. “Why do you think I wanted to talk to you alone? To let only you know.”
“Because I am a tough mother, capable of standing up to the the Slab?” said Black, without irony.
“Exactly. You take this evidence spread out on the table to the Slab tomorrow morning. You make sure he knows you own him. And in exchange, you tell him to use those ingredients for your food. Obviously, he knows the difference between good stuff and bad stuff.”
“That is blackmail.”
“For the better, don’t you think?”
Black looked at the things laid out on the table. Then at Sally.
“I’ll think about it,” she finally conceded. Another long look.
“What is the Slab doing with all of this? Why not feed us properly?”
Sally shrugged. “My two cents? He’s running a catering business on the side, sponsored by you guys. He diverts your restaurant budget for his own private purpose to lower the costs. And with these first class ingredients, he kills his competition on the way.”
“You have a criminal devious mind,” Black stated.
“Well, in this case, it runs in the family, nothing criminal.”
Black remembered that Sally’s mother was a restaurant owner and knew this business. “You are right, I apologize. And thanks for the good food to come.”
Sally and Black bumped fists.
Chapter 16 - Debrief (new)
This is the last chapter. Hope you liked this novella teaser. My evil plan is simple: lure you into buying the full length adventure “Teen Monster Hunters”. Did I succeed? Your purchase means the world to me, I promise you, it is a great story! Thanks for following my work, visit me at www.alexames.net, or on Facebook, or Twitter. My handle always is: alexameswriting.
„Teen Monster Hunters“, now online available in print and as ebook.
Agent Black’s SUV crunched the gravel in front of Sally’s trailer home. Black stopped the motor and killed the light. It was long after nightfall. Most trailers were dark, and the park was quiet, with an occasional truck passing by on the nearby highway or a dog barking somewhere. They rolled down the windows to get in some air.
“Did we pass?” Sally asked light-heartedly. Ryan and Moe already had been driven home, Sally being the last stop.
“Not in my mind, no,” Black said in the darkness. “But I am not the one to decide this.”
“We caught your runaway… translucent thing, whatever it was.”
“Yeah, and thanks for that. But that had not been the purpose of our little excursion. Director Fletcher likes to use you guys in occasional cases when we need kids to go undercover or are short-handed.”
“And, what’s wrong with that?”
“I don’t feel comfortable. These… cases we have are dangerous. So far you managed to come out your encounters unscathed, but that had been pure luck. Next time you might end up doing your Karate chops one-handedly.”
They were silent for a moment.
“Apropos, Karate, you might want to teach me one or the other trick,” Sally said.
Black smiled in the dark. “I might just do that. But don’t expect me to ring you often, my case-load is brutal, and we are traveling a lot. And thanks for putting Mr. Jumper in place; he had it coming for a long time. He tortures every one of us Agents.”
“At your service. You know where to find me, Agent,” Sally said, grabbed her backpack and opened the door.
Agent Black watched her fumbling with the door lock in the dark, gave a last wave, and then Sally was gone. A light went on in the right section of the trailer.
Black started the motor and set the SUV in motion for the long drive back.
Director Fletcher lowered his reading glasses and looked up at Agent Black who stood in front of his desk.
“What kind of B.S. are you trying to sell me here?” he asked, waving the pieces of stapled paper of the report.
“Sir, you asked me to write a report on the kids’ evaluation, and that’s what I did.”
“The lab guys who were checking Moe Doe and Ryan Montgomery think we pulled a very early April Fool’s Day on them. Mr. Jumper still walks funnily and gives me the death stare anytime I run into him.”
“Mr. Jumper especially needed a lesson in humility,” Agent Black replied. “When it comes to ability, the kids caught the beast while we were scrambling for order. That counts for something. They are…”
“I can read, Agent!” Fletcher put the paper down and folded his fingers. “Let me tell you something. When you plan to spike a report, do it intelligently. Your glowing praise is too one-sided. You ignored the inputs from the staff completely. Big mistake. You took their negative attributes and made them into a positive operational perspective.”
“I am an Army Ranger, not a desk jockey, Sir.”
“Fortunately Black! But it never is too late to broaden your skills.”
“No, Sir. Yes, Sir,” said Black, as she wasn’t sure how to answer.
“All right, weave in the other negative inputs, bury it with operational blah-blah, make the last sentence a golden sunshine praise. Then I’ll file it and we’ll set the kids operational.”
“Very well, Sir.” Black turned to leave and Fletcher went back to some other paperwork.
“What kind of dirt does Sally Storm have on you?” Fletcher asked without looking up.
Black stopped in the doorframe. “Not on me, Sir. But she had dirt on someone else in our outfit, and we made a deal.”
“Positive report traded for the dirt?”
“She is eager to join us.”
“She is. They all are, I think,” Black said. “I still disagree with it, though. Kids have no place here, Sir.”
“I know your point of view. Just was curious why you did a one-eighty degree turn in the report. The stuff must have been good, then.”
“Will it come back to me?”
“I hope, Sir.”
“Why don’t you head over to lunch later on to find out?” Black suggested.
“Lunch, here? You must be…” Fletcher gave her a very long look. Then briefly nodded. “I see. A very good deal, Agent.”
“Thank you, Sir.” With that, Black left.
Fletcher stared after her, then giggled once. Sally Storm. Teen Monster Hunter!