Halo Gillingham:

She’s not exactly an angel in disguise.

Em and Kat


                “WATCH IT!” A loud voice sounded from outside of the control room. Halo turned around in her swivel chair to hear the sound of broken glass. She winced slightly and turned back to her giant monitor. It was a glowing screen stuffed full of statistics and waves keeping track of SU’s helipads all over the world.

“Everything’s under control.” Shailene, a tall, hazel haired teen said as she walked into the room. “Stupid Darren dropped the gun case. None of the weapons got damaged, but we have less safe transporting options.”

“What was he even doing?” Halo asked in confusion.

“Being stupid.”

Halo rolled her eyes. “Fine, he thought he could carry the entire five foot thirty pound gun case all by himself. That didn’t last long.”

Shailene stifled laughter. Darren, a new recruit of SU, was probably trying to impress a cute girl.  Good luck with that, she thought.  Darren was probably five-two, paler than mozzarella, and as thin as a telephone pole. His muscles could be described as deflating balloons; getting smaller no matter what he tried to do.  Although very good with code, he was not the kind of person you would assign to do heavy lifting.

“So, for once we have a quiet day!”  Halo exclaimed.  She tossed her short hair, less than shoulder length and an unrealistically pale blond.  Her eyes were sharp, brown and intelligent. Her frame was skinny, but short; around five-four.  Shailene, an under-officer in the SU, handed Halo a briefcase, made of silver aluminum and about five pounds in weight.

“It’s the new base design.  Cap B wants you to look it over.” Halo’s jaw dropped. Captain Byron wanted her to look over the new plans? “Yeah, I know. Pretty big deal.” Shailene carefully placed the briefcase on Halo’s lap.

Just then, her computer alarm dinged.  Halo pulled out her regular phone – the one with no spy information on it – to check her message.  It read:

Good afternoon.  Please click this link to be notified of your prize!

Hazel sighed.  “Some jerk is trying to spam me.” She waved to Shailene to rifle through the briefcase and continued reading,

Actually, Halo, Officer Twelve, don’t click the link.  It doesn’t matter.  We know who you are and aren’t afraid to blackmail you.

Still nothing frightening for her.  People tried to spook spy agencies all the time.  Units composed mostly of teen to college age students, such as Spies Universal, were especial targets of good-for-nothings.  The next words were what actually scared the seasoned agent.

You know, we know of your special “relationship” with Mart Griswald, and the previous missions – remember, that murder series at the French hotels?  By the way, you’ve got a virus!

Halo stood stock still. Mart?  Her best friend?  He could be in danger!  And those French missions – those were classified information!  Only she, Mart, and ten other people should know about them.  But phooey on the virus – that couldn’t hurt anyone, right?  This was her regular phone, not the one with code-encrypted case files.  Hey, at least Darren was good for something – his code was out of this world.  As Halo turned her eyes back to the message, the last few words confirmed her horror.

From your friends at PactKV.

PactKV, a secret and lethal organization with plans to overthrow the government, was a little known group to the FBI and government workers.  But to Spies Universal, they were the top suspect of murders, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks across the European Union and occasionally the American States.  No one at SU understood what KV stood for, but PactKV’s hacking skills were ingenious.  They often ended tragically, too – the hacked device of the person frequently contained their address.  Soon, PactKV’s victims were never seen again.

Shailene stepped over and her lips silently moved as she read the words.  “PactKV?  But they couldn’t have located us here.  I mean, we’re in an abandoned water tower in Florence Italy…c’mon.”

“Hey, I bet they’ve got nerds as good as Darren on their side, hey?  But more muscular.”  Halo and Shailene chuckled together.

Darren walked in, struggling with the gun case.  “Who’s saying I’m a nerd?”  he adjusted his sweater vest, red with olive stripes, and a pen slipped out.  He bent over to pick the pen up.  Darren actually had a pocket protector for his pens!

Halo smiled at Darren, who was a co-op learning the spy trade.  She handed him a manilla folder, asking him to deliver it to Cap Byron.  He did so, leaving the room, so that Shailene was alone with Halo.

“What was in there?”  Shailene questioned.  She pulled her frizzy deep hazel hair into a bun, brushing a curl against her chocolate skin.

“Not sure, but I’m pretty sure I can’t tell you.” It may have just been Halo’s imagination, but it seemed as if Darren perked up at her words. “It’s from Cap Byron, so whatever it is, knowing him, it’s probably only meant for the eyes of who it was delivered for. He’s a super confidential guy, we all know that.”

Fifty spies had been stationed in Italy near an abandoned water tower. Although Shailene was American by birth, some spies came from all around the world.  Cap Byron, a middle aged, red haired man with a scruffy beard and a good temper, was mainly directing five under-officers from the SU.  Darren, the Italian nerd, was under Shailene, a quick minded and hot-headed African American. Halo, cold and collected and sometimes compared to the focused nature of Sherlock Holmes,  was second only to Cap Byron in the camp.  Halo originated from somewhere in the British Isles.  She never would quite disclose what part of the Isles she was from, perhaps an attempt at humor, or maybe Halo was just secretive.  Cap Byron, however, was rarely seen by his under-officers.  This made it an honor to receive an assignment from him.  In between Darren and Shailene was Yvonna, a quiet Asian girl with a head for coding.  Several others accompanied these spies, including Mart, a plainclothesman who was one of Halo’s best friends. He was tall, muscular, and goofy; he’d been Halo’s best friend nearly since birth.

“Shailene, could you call Cap Byron and Yvonna real quick?  This is serious.”  Shailene handed Halo the briefcase, and Halo peeked inside.  There was a single sheet of thick paper.  Etched upon it was a drawing in blue pen: a towering structure, with a platform on top.  But that’s too visible to be a base!  Thought Halo, I thought Cap Byron knew better than that!  She examined the picture closely, and noticed a, conspicuous hill sketched in the distance.  A slight opening seemed to be drawn in the side.  “Aha!  Old Cap Byron’s a genius!  If they build that base, they can attract PactKVs, than capture them!”  Just then, Cap Byron rushed in.  Halo straightened to attention.

“Officer Twelve, Halo Gillingham.  What do you have for me?” Cap Byron’s intimidating presence loomed over her.  Halo shifted in her seat.

“So, Captain Byron, I received a notification at O-eight-hundred hours this morning.  I arrived here early, according to your request, to look at the plans.  An ingenious idea, but I will continue.”

Cap Byron stared intently at his favorite scout.

“It claims to be from PactKV, and contains certain information which could be dangerous, namely concerning a person by the code name Moose 13.”

“What about Mart is contained in this information?”  Moose 13 was Mart’s code name.

“I’m not sure all they know, the message simply said they knew of my…um, friendship with him.  PactKV also claims to know of Mart and I’s involvement in the French murder cases.  The people at PactKV probably know a lot, knowing them.  However, the message did seem rather unprofessional, a fact uncommon for them.   Perhaps they assigned an amateur to write the note.  Here, take a look.”

Halo handed the burly man her phone, and as he looked over the message, he sighed.

“You know what this means don’t you?” He said, tense and clenching his fist. Halo shook her head no, confused.

“No, I don’t think I do.”

“Our security has been compromised.”


Evacuation happened quickly. The air was tense, and Halo hurried to copy the important files onto her flash drive and quickly deleted the rest of the files. After that, she destroyed her computer monitor with her handgun.  She slipped the flash drive into the pocket of her black jeans, grabbed her boots and jacket, and ran out of the control room. All around her, the SU atrium was alive and bursting with action.  Each SU officer, dressed completely in black, rushed to get the weapons and software into their respective jets.  Cap Byron shouted demands towards all who came near him.

“Hurry up! Move, people, move! We’ve got to get to New York in three hours, you hear? Three hours, people. The sooner we leave the less we have to push these jets! Uh, Darren, stop trying to carry those weapon cases!”

Darren sheepishly set down the cases and moved to help Shailene with her cargo.

In around four minutes, all the cargo was loaded onto several small jets.  Halo turned towards her jet; a larger build, three passenger, even though it only carried herself. “Hey Hae.” A familiar voice reached her ears from behind. She turned around to see Mart, his hair tousled playfully, and his eyes sparkling with mischief.

“Mart.” Halo answered officially. “Something you need?” He looked at her curiously.

“Well, you see, all the seats on the jets have been filled.  Since that kid Darren showed up, there’s been one less seat for the planes, and you’re the closest person I can contact. I mean, you wouldn’t want your best undercover plainclothes man stuck in Florence!  Can I catch a ride in your jet?”

Halo considered his question. “Yeah, I suppose. Get in. We’re literally departing in the next fifteen seconds.” Mart quickly climbed up into the spacious jet, crowded with SU’s spies, and slid into the cockpit.  Hazel roughly shoved him out of the way.

She was all business.  “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”  Halo said, frowning.

“Well, somebody’s gotta pilot this thing.” Halo rolled her eyes. Mart always got his way.  He was loveable, but intuitive.  Knowing Mart like she did, she knew that once he made up his mind, he wouldn’t budge.

“Alright, fire it up!” Hazel sighed as Mart fingered the controls.  This was supposed to be her job, not Mart’s.  The gentle even hum of the engine began as Halo slipped into the cockpit’s seat – next to Mart. Through the front windows of the jet, she saw multiple other jets depart from the concealed helipad. Gently, Mart eased the thrusters to full speed and they shot off into the night.

The ride did not seem long to Halo.  Halo and Mart caught up on new events and discussed old times.  Recently, Mart had done plainclothes work for “certain royalties” in “England”  as he transparently put it.  Halo’s all-business shield fell away, and she way a laughing youth once more.  When finally the skyline of New York, New York became visible, Halo was reluctant to leave the plane.  However, she knew that a new mission awaited her.

As soon as they landed, Halo jumped out of the cockpit onto the helipad. The helipad was positioned on top of a large warehouse, and all around her, jets had been turned off and cleaned. The helipad was now devoid of people, and the last spy other than Mart and Halo had left the helipad only a moment ago.  The thick door to the rooms below swung shut with a heavy, frightening thud.  As Mart and Halo checked their jet, the door thudded again.  Halo looked up.  A large man stalked menacingly toward her, as Mart hopped out of the cockpit.

“Aah.” he said, with a growl like a wolf. “Our guilty one.” Halo swallowed. It’s not my fault! They sent that message just coincidentally, well… They probably know of my position anyway. she thought, as she watched the man in front of her. He was tall and fat, a bit like a panda bear in appearance. His hands were roughly the size of bricks. Halo felt as if the man were staring into her soul; so much so, that she felt uncomfortable.

“Sir.” She said respectfully, putting her hand to her head in a salute. As she did so, Mart did the same when he saw the man. “I’m sorry, but I honestly don’t know how in the world this was my fault!” Halo felt as though she could’ve said anything to the thuggish man.

He looked at her with knives gleaming inside his small, bright eyes. His double chin twitched with anger. “Of course this is your fault! You were the one refusing to put a security system into your phone, were you not?” Halo grimaced secretly.

“Yeah, I guess. Not for that reason though!”

“Than why?”  The fat man jiggled with the exertion of raising his voice.

“Who are you to ask me these questions anyway?”  Halo asked suddenly, suspicion edging into her business-like tone.

“Yeah, stop  being a jerk to Halo here!” Mart chimed in, his fists clenching in anger.

“Edgar Wholk, number eight-seventy-nine.  Top agent of the SU.  And please don’t call me a jerk – its not business-like, and it won’t reflect well if you speak on the news.”

Halo gasped.  Wholk was her idol!  His crime-solving exploits were as legendary as those of the great fictional Sherlock Holmes.  Halo had always wanted to be like him.  But could this seemingly snobby, cold, only-concerned-about the business-man be the super-spy?  Her thoughts came to a dead halt.  Because she idolized Wholk – Could she – Did she seem that way to others, too? Snobby, cold, thinking only about business and not about the emotions of others?  Well, she should best reflect upon the situation at hand.

“Uhh – Wow, Mr. Wholk! It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” Halo said seriously, with a slight doubt of his personality on her mind.  She reached out her cold hand and he shook it.   Suddenly, his frozen, uncaring disposition melted away.

“Oh, Halo, I’m sorry. I must act rather harsh towards everyone when they first arrive at our main base.  This is so SU can make sure the officers know they must do their best, as I know you have, Halo.  See, we have evidence that the information on Moose 13 here and the latest projects were leaked via an insider.  Someone from the PactKV’s terrorist base who infiltrated SU as a new recruit – a recent trainee, one whom we wouldn’t have any files on.  Probably a young guy, possibly from Florence, where your base was situated.  After all, Halo, PactKV is related to the Italian Mafia and that Middle Eastern menace,  ISIS.”

“Ohhh…”  Hazel murmured as Edgar Wholk continued to talk.

“I, being a top officer for SU, have communicated to Captain Byron that I wish you to join my elite team of personal officers.  While Yvonna and Shailene will continue investigating our data breach, you and Mart, that aspiring plainclothesman, will join the X Squad.”

Halo, although not prone to emotional shows, leaped precisely into the air with excitement.  A fleeting, rare smile slipped across her face before she composed herself once more.  Edgar Wholk smiled, winking at Mart.  They both knew – whether from experience or the grapevine – of Halo’s all-business manner.  the spy had to be very excited to display this much enthusiasm.

“So, what is X short for?  I know that in our league of officers, abbreviations are used frequently.”  Halo questioned curiously.

“It stands for protection. Here at Spy Universal, x stands for strength. The x squad simply is the height of protection of SU. We want you to be in it with us. You as well, Mart.” Halo looked over to see Mart practically exploding with pride.

“Th-thank you, sir.” He stuttered, still shocked at the offer.

“Don’t mention it.” The large man responded. “Officer 34!  Marissa?  Could you show these two to their quarters?” A small, petite woman came from the background, smiling, and beckoned to Halo to follow her. They headed towards a large common area, and the lady presented her a large suite, full of furniture and techy ‘toys’. Halo thanked her, and after Mart had seen his room, walked over to Halo’s.

“This is so cool Hae!”  Mart said, shoving a brownie into his mouth, the sustenance of which he had scavenged up from the pantry. “Imagine this – two spies, top-geared headquarters, private lounges!”

“You know, these are bedrooms, Mart.” Halo deadpanned sarcastically.

Mart continued his euphonious barrage of words.

“And, Hae,we’re on a high-class mission, just bursting with people who are “up there.””  Mart made a motion suggestive of wealth.

Reluctantly, Halo allowed a smile, but before long her friend’s hyperactive enthusiasm won her over, and she chuckled along.  The young spy clambered onto the dresser, which also served as a tv stand.

“Okay, Mart.  So you love your job.”  Halo beamed down at him from where she stood on the dresser, her petite height attempting in vain to peer out the high window.

“Yes, Halo, but you’ve got to enjoy some things, right?  I mean, it might be tough to introduce a new concept to you, but -”

Halo punched Mart in the arm playfully.  “C’mon, Mart.  This job and your company are one of the few things I do enjoy!”

The tv stand wobbled, and Halo leaped effortlessly from its shaky, Bauhaus-style surface to the narrow bed.  Mart applauded, as the spy smoothed her slim khaki pants and tan sweater vest.  Clicking open her suitcase, Halo removed a deep green plaid bow tie and thick glasses.

“My geeky office worker uniform.”  she explained, “SU set me up as an office worker near a possible PactKV sleeper community.  It’s either Norton, Kentucky or rural Pennsylvania.  I should probably study up on my local trivia!”

Mart gave his best friend a parting smile as Halo prepared to study a slim leather notepad full of midwest trivia.