Written and Read by Montgomery Thompson
Debry fumed all night in his motel room, but as the next day broke, he was too busy to think about his frustrations. It was nine sharp and a field agent dressed as a motel maid dropped off his uniform. He changed quickly, then climbed into the bottom of the covered maid cart for his ride down to street level. He chuckled to himself at the thought of the Inquisitor watching the empty motel room all day. As the cart wheeled past a parked van, he made the switch. The van, a Vangs County Utility vehicle, drove off with Debry in the back.
It made the turn onto Namarin Road and slowed just past the Townes’ farm, parking on the road close to a large old tree. Debry and his two-man crew set to work immediately. The first thing to go were the branches as, piece by magnificent piece, the grand old tree was hacked to bits. Soon enough Mortimer appeared, chugging along in an old tractor as he prepared the fields for the season’s hay.
Debry timed it perfectly as the main trunk of the huge old tree teetered slowly, then came crashing down on Mortimer as he passed. The shield held and protected not just Mortimer, but the tractor as well.
In the van a camera rolled, capturing the whole event. As the tractor ambled by, Mortimer waved and the two men with Debry feebly waved back.
“Enough gawking, you two!” Debry barked. “We have to prepare that charge by the time he comes around again.”
The men ran back to the van, each taking the handle of a large wooden box marked ‘DynoBlast’. They left it with Debry, then set to work clearing the felled tree with chainsaws. Soon a pile of wood covered the DynoBlast box, and a detonator line led from its hiding place back to the van, buried out of sight.
“Perfect timing,” Debry said, as the tractor came lumbering back over the gentle slope of the field. He covered the last of the wire, then set out a pitcher of lemonade on top of the wood pile. “That ought to bring him in; old men love lemonade.”
Debry retreated back to the van to watch. One of the crew men looked at him.
“Boss, do you really think that will work? I mean, it’s not like he’s an animal or something.”
“Shut it, shikweed. I’m running this mission.”
Mortimer’s tractor came within a meter of the wood pile but he didn’t seem to take notice of it, let alone decide to take the bait.
“Dammit! Ah well, close enough.” Debry pressed the button on the detonator. Dirt and wood was thrown several hundred feet into the air. The shockwave pummeled the van, nearly tipping it over and making a sound that could be heard for miles. Chunks of dirt and pieces of wood rained down as Debry climbed out of the van and peered through the smoke.
Mortimer and his tractor trundled away, completely oblivious to the event.
“Look, boss!” The field agent pointed at the three meter-wide crater. Next to it, with a set of tractor tracks running through the middle, was a spherical impression where the soil had been blown up against the shield.
A kilometer down the road, Special Inquisitor Halkus Moore cursed as he watched through his binoculars. Suddenly, he spied three kids approaching the farm on bikes. They had stopped and were pointing at the van and the blast area.
Halkus tensed, knowing Debry was capable of anything, but thankfully the agent quickly packed up the van and drove away as the kids approached Mortimer on the tractor. They talked for a minute, then rode on the tractor with the old man up to the tree and began helping him pick up the branches and pieces of wood everywhere. Halkus was impressed with the kids’ gesture, and it made him even angrier at Debry as he fired up his long black cruiser and roared off down the road after him.
Tired and sore, Maksey, Shaley, and Chalo returned to the clubhouse just after midday. The boys were there to meet them with grim faces. Inder stood in front, arms folded. Chalo looked him up and down.
“Exactly. What gives? Why’d you take off to ride with a couple of girls?”
“Yeah.” Regin stepped up and folded his arms too. “And why did you give Inder’s bike to her?”
“It’s not your bike, Chalo.” Inder was giving his best angry face.
Maksey and Shaley just looked at each other and shrugged.
Chalo squared up to the gang. “Fair questions, every one. If you back off the attitude,” he poked a finger at Inder and Regin, who both flinched and stepped back, “I’ll tell you the whole story.”
Ob and Gern nodded, while Inder and Regin looked at each other, their resolve crumbling. Chalo just walked into the garage and sat down on the couch, Shaley following close behind. Maksey climbed up onto the workbench and went to work on her candy bar.
“First off, it’s my watch, so it’s my call. I decided that the mission was necessary. It required only three people. Me as the duty watchman, Maksey as the…talker person who was gonna talk to the farmer, and her sister to back her and me up. Second, we needed the bike. Three people on two bikes is too slow. The Crescent Street bike—superhero, gang, whatever we’re called—is not slow, ever. So in the interest of safety, strategy, security, reputation and…” he looked at Shaley with a grin, “…looking good, I took the initiative. I knew, or at least I thought I did, that my second in command, our executive officer, would have my back.”
Inder was satisfied. “And he does, as always.”
Chalo, confident he had the gang back on his side, told the whole story. The boys had, like everyone in town, heard the explosion. Mortimer brushed aside any of the children’s explanations about bombs and such, but was so grateful for their help in cleaning up the branches that he gave them five Evols and congratulated them for being such good neighbors. He was very happy that the nice road crew had left him so much firewood, though he thought it was a shame that lightning had struck the old tree.
When Chalo finished his story, Inder raised his hand to make a formal proposal.
“Because they have successfully completed a mission and shown courage in the face of danger, I propose that the ban on girls be lifted, and Maksey and Shaley be made honorary members of the gang.”
Chalo seconded this and the rest of the boys agreed. Shaley rode behind Chalo when he took her home to get her broken bike, while the rest of them covered Maksey’s bike in tin foil. Shaley and Chalo got back just as they were finishing.
Maksey beamed as she looked over her bike. “Cool, but why do you cover it in foil?”
“To keep the aliens from knowing our location.”
“Yeah, and our whereabouts.”
Regin elbowed Gern. “You dape, they’re the same thing.”
They put Shaley’s bike into the clamp on the workbench, and within an hour the bike was fixed and covered in foil. Shaley was so grateful, she hugged Chalo and shook everyone else’s hand.
“Drom Slymbal. I gotta tell ya, Drom, it’s not looking good. You’ve got a class two disclosure infringement and what’s shaping up to be class one planet tampering. That’s life times fifty. How do you think a meat roll like you is going to do in a life-level lockup?”
“Your threats only belie the fact that you have no proof with which to procure incarceration. You are wasting my time, as well as yours, which you should be spending trying to get a confession out of your suspect.”
“Nah, he lacks motive. Ilgut’s never done anything he wasn’t getting paid to do. Besides, he really doesn’t have the brains for anything on this scale. But you, you’re a different story.”
“So you have determined that it takes a certain amount of intellect to fly down to a planet and shoot at one of the natives? It seems to me that stupidity is the prime requisite for such a foolish act. The simplest answer is usually the correct one, and certainly this case is no exception. I am confident, especially when it comes to a jury, that such a point will be painfully obvious.”
Chugtang nodded at his intern. The room went dark as aerial footage of Ilgut’s attack on Mortimer played on the wall. It was the second time Chugtang had seen it. He watched Drom’s reaction as the footage rolled, but the slug was stoic. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something in the video.
“Again,” he told his intern. “Get used to seeing this, Slymbal,” he said, masking his excitement. “They’ll be playing this a lot at the trial.”
Chugtang scanned the footage as it finished, then turned the lights back on and looked at his intern, who shook his head. They still hadn’t got approval to release the identity of the claim owner.
“For now, Slymbal, you’re free, but don’t go anywhere. When I get the little bit of data that I’m waiting for, I’m confident, especially when it comes to a jury, that you’re going to be put away for life times fifty.”
He stormed out of the room and slammed the door but it was all a show. His intern was on his heels.
“Screening room, now!” Chugtang barked. They turned the corner and went into a small, barren room. “Get me the chief.” The intern quickly put through the call. “Chief, Chugtang. I’ve got something you need to see.”
“Not right now…”
“Tam-Tam Chief.” He spoke in code.
“Two ticks… Okay, Chugtang, what have you got?”
Chugtang nodded at the intern, who rolled the footage again so the chief could see it on screen through the video call.
“Stop…there,” Chugtang ordered.
The footage froze. In the corner of the shot were two little girls pointing at Ilgut as the tractor beam dragged him up into the atmosphere. Chugtang turned the lights back on. On the comm, the chief slapped his forehead.
“They saw him. We’ve got a contamination.”
That evening, Mortimer finished repairing several windows that had broken on one side of the house. Tired from a long day’s work, he settled into his chair as Aga brought in their meal. After a prayer of thanks, he turned up the TV.
“Tonight: the incredible footage that reveals Olred spies using Fremian civilians as test subjects for a dangerous new technology.”
That same evening, in another house, Tember was enjoying dinner with Mim and the kids again. They had just finished and sat down to watch some TV when the breaking news story flashed onto their screen. Chalo’s footage played, showing the rocks bouncing off of Mortimer’s back.
Maksey jumped up. “Where are the boys? The real one shows the boys throwing the rocks.”
Mim looked from Maksey to Tember. “What is this? That looks like Mr. Townes.”
Tember touched Mim on the arm. “This is what it looks like when the shik hits the fan.”
On the news, the anchor intoned somberly, “Fremia has cut all diplomatic ties to Olred, with the Fremian Leadership Counsel declaring an official state of inhospitable posturing towards the Olred Republic. Olred has responded to the declaration by doubling the number of anti-aircraft balloon emplacements.”
The Fremian forces came first by air, hovering around the perimeter of the farm. Then came the ground forces. They blocked Namarin Road and set up headquarters at the stump of the old tree. Scouts were sent to the house but they couldn’t make it past the shield, which had expanded to protect most of the property, including several acres of fields. Teams of scientists set up equipment at the shield’s edge to test it as Debry paced in front of the stump, which now served as a table in his sprawling, olive green command tent.
He needed answers, any answers would do. Answers got rewards, no answers got…he didn’t want to think about it. He had teams at the police station, the town hall, and at every suspect’s residence. He would get those answers, even if he had to make them up.
As Debry paced and planned, a shadow darkened the door to his command tent.
“Quite a show, Debry.”
“Inquisitor Moore, still lurking about? This is all your fault, you know. If you had done your job, you would have seen what Olred was up to. But no, the big ball of incompetence is always built by others, and eventually rolls to the door of the military, who has to pick it up and clean up the mess. You never learn, you people. Plan diligently, act decisively, that is how you get things done. THAT is real power. That is also why I will claim the glory while you quietly retire in shame.”
“You may see power and glory, Debry, but I see a ball dropping, and it’s dropping right on your head. The nice part is, I’ll be right there when it does.”
Debry snatched his coat off the stump and stormed out. “Driver!” Debry barked.
A soldier held open his car door. Debry ducked into the vehicle and sped away.
Mim smiled drowsily as the morning breeze blew into her open bedroom window. She had just woken up from a dream where the girls had climbed into bed with her. She could see their sleeping faces and wondered who was hammering downstairs.
Her mind snapped awake and she scrambled into her robe. “Coming!” She pulled on her slipper, hopping out the bedroom as the hammering continued. “I said I’m coming, hold your horses! Geez.”
Reaching the front door, she snatched it open, ready to unleash a torrent of scolding, but nothing came out as she faced over forty combat ready soldiers with Debry’s sneering grin in the lead. A helicopter thumped through the sky overhead and a tank had its turret cannon leveled directly at her head.
A bird croaked in the distance, and Debry leaned forward slightly. “I told you I’d be back.”
The soldiers stormed into the house and dragged Mim into the girls’ room. Outside, a scaffold was erected and a crew began to cover the house in huge olive green tarps. In the adjoining house, the neighbors closed the curtains and pretended they weren’t home. Mim was blindfolded, handcuffed, gagged, and stuffed into one of the girls’ little chairs. When the blindfold was lifted, all she could see was a light bulb shining into her face as she struggled against her bonds.
“It’s no use resisting. You’re in a lot of trouble, lady.”
A soldier removed the gag.
“You people are demented! You –”
“That’s enough of that!” Debry’s face came inches away from her own, as he held a gun up to her head and pulled back the hammer. “It’s come down to this: you forced my hand and now you are the subject of a top level military interrogation and—”
“No, I’m in my little girls’ room with their reading lamp pointed at my face which, by the way, you better be careful with, or I’ll have them take it out of your salary.” Mim was unfazed. “Does your mother know what you’re doing right now? I bet if she did, she would be very upset with you.”
“Fine, if you won’t talk, maybe your children will.”
“You leave them out of this!” Mim yelled, straining against her bonds again.
“Wilkins, get me the girls,” Debry sneered.
“After all, Mim, it all started with them, didn’t it? You pretended not to believe them when they told you about spies in your own backyard, because you were helping those spies. Now, your own children will be the ones who put you behind bars.”
“What, Wilkins, where are the girls?”
© 2015 Copyright Montgomery Thompson
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