Without further ado, presenting the spy adventure story! It is about fifteen pages on Google Docs. Proofreading changes have not been typed up yet. Enjoy!
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.
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!” here is where Katrina stopped editing. 12-23-15 4:15 pm
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.
“So, Haelee Gnillig…Interesting name you’ve got there! You’ve been chosen as a secretary for PartTech. My name’s Miss Eleanora Brighton – I double as clerk and assistant PartTech Part Wizard overseer!”
Halo nodded. The people “up there,” as Mart put it, had given her the somewhat transparent code name of Haelee Gnillig.
“Where’d you get that sort of name? I mean, it’s interesting and all, but I’ve never heard anything like it.” The bubbly clerk looked up from her computer screen, which she had seemingly been talking to this whole time. It appeared to be a friendly question, but Halo was on guard.
Halo gave the answer she had rehearsed while flash studying the day before, playing with her nerdy plaid bow tie as she did so. “It’s Eastern European – originating in the area now called Bosnia and Herzegovina…When my ancestors immigrated, the officials at Ellis Island mixed their last name up even further – but us Gnillig’s are mighty proud of it nevertheless. My uncle, Josef “Gigabyte” Gnillig, declared that having a rare last name like ours was an honor worthy of being written into an encyclopedia!”
The clerk hastily interrupted Halo’s quirky speech, “Well, I’m sure it is an…encyclopedia-worthy honor.” the clerk frowned, then continued talking to Halo, as though to a little child, “But please go meet with Mr. Marinkovic in the back, okay?”
Halo nodded, then hastily retreated to the back. The first part of her mission – explaining her ridiculous last name – had been a success.
But really, “up-there” people. I mean, having “Gnillig” as a last name? I can barely pronounce it myself! Halo thought, Quite a thinly disguised name – Gillingham minus the “ham” part becomes “Gnillig.” Same sort of tactics for Haelee, made of part of Mart’s nickname for me.
She entered the back room, where a rotund man awaited her. “Miss – ahh – Haelee? I didn’t want to try your other name. How do you pronounce your – how do I put it? – unique name?” The rotund fellow smiled, but Halo could tell from his eyes that he was testing her patience.
“It’s a silent g. So pronounce it as “Nillig.” Halo grinned, friendly. “Bosnia and Herzegovina combined with clumsy Ellis Island officials certainly makes for a difficult name to pronounce!”
“You certainly seem to know a lot about your family history. I’m not sure I can say the same.”
Mr. Marinkovic responded, but Halo detected that his eyes had darkened suspiciously. Halo decided to deflect his suspicion a bit. She had to stay on this mission. She couldn’t be discovered the first day! After all, PactKV could have a base here at PartTech. What if the whole plant was just a cover for it, and Halo had to save the unaware Pennsylvanians from certain doom? She replied carefully.
“My family has always considered me to be a bit of a nerd. I spent hours on genealogy websites researching the Gnillig past.”
“Very well, then. I trust you have had experience with secretary work in the past?”
“Of course, sir. I worked with Wadsworth and Co.” Halo drew a certificate from her pocket and unfolded it. SU had forged communications, creating a certificate from the candy company “proving” that Halo had – supposedly – worked there. Besides, the Wadsworth company cooperates with SU, so it was fine to lie a little, right? Halo wondered, doubting a little.
“Good. Well, we’ve read the information that you’ve submitted for this job already. These questions just about finish this interview up.” Mr. Marinkovic smiled, and his smile seemed genuine to Halo for the first time. “You’ll be working for Eleanora Brighton and Ebony Hauser, assistants to me. A secretary to my personal assistants, won’t that be wonderful?”
“Again with the hidden threats, Mr. Marinkovic? And we’ve only just got started.” Halo muttered this under her breath as she thought it.
Mr. Marinkovic opened the door for Halo, and it quickly slammed shut behind her. Halo paused in the hall, looking for hidden cameras, then laid her ear gently against the door. She had guessed right. Mumbling! Mr. Marinkovic had been talking to someone – Halo had not been alone. Halo quickly hurried down the hall to the front desk once again. The woman smiled, pointed Halo in the direction of the elevator, and the spy rocketed up to the tenth floor and her new bosses.
As Halo wandered in search of her new cubicle, she passed many empty rooms. The halls were practically bare – only once did Halo pass a person, and it was a janitor halfheartedly scrubbing the already-pristine hallway. Much of the cubicles were empty, nameplates screwed to the walls and swivel chairs at the desks, positioned thoughtfully in front of ancient-looking computers, but no papers, magnets, or memorabilia on the desks. After much searching, Halo finally found her tiny compartment, right in between two larger cubicles with nameplates screwed to the walls reading, Ebony Hauser, Director of Part Wizard Ministries and Eleanora Brighton, Assistant Director of Part Wizard Ministries. Their desks were littered with papers and manilla folders of various stages of decay, tattered from much use – or possibly from no use at all. Miss Brighton’s cubicle was stuck with magnets from various vacation destinations, most magnets reading in the similar style such as, Matt’s Bar, Tampa Bay or The LIBERTY BELL, Philadelphia.
Philadelphia! A relatively close location to where PartTech was located, in rural Pennsylvania – and an interesting destination for a vacation. In her studies the night before, Halo had learned that the online ad-blocking program, Part Wizard, was PartTech’s most profitable business outreach. Possible, if the company wasn’t just a show. If all the other floors were as empty as this one, well, Halo’s mission would be an easy one. But Halo wanted the answer to another question – Was Mr. Marinkovic really the top person in this suspicious company? Halo remembered the mysterious voice Mr. Marinkovic had talked to immediately after she had exited the interviewing room.
She sighed. Already this case had so many questions! Halo left Miss Brighton’s compartment and glanced in Ebony’s cubicle, coated with photos of a smiling African-American family – birthdays, the park, a small boy on a trampoline – the average American life. Suddenly tired, Halo determined to study her coworkers’ cubicles later, and begin unpacking her supplies.
Carefully, Halo positioned a photo of her and her brother, Micah, on the wall, artfully arranging her magnets around it. The magnets were small, printed with dots and flowers, your average Target choice. Haphazardly, Halo stacked some classic literature on the filing cabinet, stuff just for show, books she had never read and never meant to read. The ominous size of Moby Dick and War and Peace prevented the girl from even opening the books’ covers. As she lifted a milk crate of office supplies to the desk, a sudden thought came to Halo’s mind. Why would SU have given her a last name which immediately made people suspicious and had to be explained to every person Halo met? What if – Halo could barely hold the idea – Simon Wholk had recruited her, not because of Halo’s skill as a spy, but to act as bait for a plot to overthrow a PactKV base! What if – Calm down, Halo. Don’t worry about your own life, just think about the business. Listen to your elders at SU. I’m sure that they know what they are doing. Halo tried to comfort herself and erase her rebellious thoughts. She reminded herself that she was safe, that no one was out to kill her, that the elders at SU had a plan to keep her safe, but for once in her life Halo was not sure at all.
“Aah, Miss Haelee Gnillig. Welcome to your new job!” The bubbly front desk lady brightened to see Halo’s flustered looking face. It was Halo’s first real morning at the job, and it had been rough; Halo’s shower was too cold, she had dropped her new outfit in the toilet, and her coffee machine in Halo’s room had exploded for unknown reasons. As an added bonus, Halo felt even more exhausted on account of her hard bed not allowing the young spy sleep. Also, there was the dissapointing lack of coffee.
“I am Miss Brighton, and I’m your new boss! Yaah!” Miss Brighton hurt Halo’s head with her enthusiasm. “We certainly hope your happiness here will not deflate. First, Mr. Marinkovic requested to meet you in the conference room as soon as you arrived. Of course, it will be difficult to accomplish what we need to accomplish today, so please comply willingly, or he will use force.” Miss Brighton’s face had turned from joy to horror. Halo gazed at her confusedly, but thankfully didn’t say anything. Suddenly, two gray-uniformed guards arrived at her side, grabbed her arms, and gruffly escorted her towards large brass doors. As soon as they arrived there, they roughly shoved her inside, allowing her head to slam back, giving her neck an uncomfortable feeling.
“Miss Gnillig.” Mr. Marinkovic looked like a snake, waiting for it’s prey. He knows who I am. Halo thought with horror. That would explain why Miss Brighton looked so horrified. “I hope you are happy with your current living quarters. You will not be returning to them.”
Just pretend you don’t know what he’s talking about. “Sir, I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Halo’s voice was uncontrollably shaky, but she did her best to hide it. Her hand discreetly closed around her small handgun, positioned in her waist belt.
“Oh you don’t?” Mr. Marinkovic fingered a remote, placed on the large conference table, and pushed one of several illuminated buttons. Above him, on a screen as big as a king size bed, a live feed of Mart glared down at her, and Halo stifled a gasp. He was pinioned to the ground by some thing not visible on the screen, in the control room of the main SU unit in New York. The main one, with the helicopter pads, rooms for spies…the main one where Halo was currently living! He looked as if he were in pain, and it made Halo want to punch Marinkovic in his toad like face. “Do you not know this boy?” His smooth, deep voice bit into Halo’s soul, and she emptied her mind of Mart’s possible pain.
“No, I’ve never seen him in my life.”
“LIES!” Marinkovic howled, as he pounded his brick-like fist on the table, sending a shivering crack all the way down. Halo gasped with surprise. His smooth voice returned. “I know exactly who you are, and who you care about, Halo Gillingham. I can ruin your life, and your entire corporation. When I’m through, there will be no more Spies Universal, only PactKV, at the top of the world!”
Mr. Marinkovic gave the kind of laughter maniacs do in movies.
“We – and I – will rule the greatest, most prosperous nations of the world, and I chose you, Halo the little business-brained spy, to help me!” Halo’s head was reeling.
“What? You didn’t choose me, Captain Byron chose me.” Halo moaned anxiously. Behind her, the gray guards stiffened with alert.
“Don’t you ever say my brother’s name again! If you do, your life will instantly be snuffed out – like this!” Mr. Marinkovic snapped his fingers, and a video surfaced itself on the screen. Halo tried not to look. She opened her eyes, and was greeted merely by a match being blown out – the bar at the bottom of the video revealed that the film lasted nine minutes – nine minutes of repetitive snuffing out. “Now, please enjoy this little film while I go work on some… important business.” Laughing, Mr. Marinkovic exited the room, leaving the two guards to secure Halo to the chair. Halo settled herself for what she thought would be nine minutes of constructive boredom. Constructive – because during those nine minutes Halo hoped to be planning her escape.
Those hours watching the snuffed-out match video were torturous. Minutes turned into hours, and someone kept remotely restarting the match film each time Halo thought it would end!
At one point, when she tried to get out of the room, a guard nearly stabbed her, trying to keep her contained. Halo was beginning to freak out. Suddenly, she remembered. Her phone!
Quietly, Halo wormed a hand out of her bonds, inwardly blessing Cap Byron’s lengthy training. Quietly, pulled her phone from her pocket, unlocked her screen, and brought up Mart’s thread. She typed urgently, one hand pecking out the letters as she tried to escape the more difficult foot bonds. Halo involuntarily smiled at Mart’s text from that morning:
Moose 13:Hope your new job goes well Hae stop.
Halo12:Moose SOS stop. The new assignment went wrong stop. bring backup please stop.
She waited. No reply. Seconds turned to minutes, and minutes to hours. The match films finally stopped. Halo glanced from her chair at the giant screen, and gasped. She had not expected to see Mart sitting at the control panel, seemingly deep in thought. Halo groaned. I’ll try Darren. Hopefully he’s smart enough not to come on his own, though, when I don’t check in at spy quarters. I told him I would meet him to discuss his latest coding efforts tonight.
Halo12: Darren? Get Mart to answer his texts stop. SOS stop.
Her phone dinged. Halo opened the new message tab anxiously, almost bursting with hope.
D_Florence: Wrong number. Why the stops?
Halo almost threw her phone to the ground. She and Mart always acted like the phone was a telegraph. Perhaps this blunderbuss didn’t know what a telegraph was! Telegrams had “stops.” Acting retro was cool. Halo rolled her eyes, then spiraled down in angry thoughts. So, it was a wrong number! Well, the text said SOS! Couldn’t that idiot tell – why not ask if she was okay – of course it didn’t sound like a prank! Halo halted her thoughts and tried to calm down. What if – she sent a group text to everyone in the SU? Why hadn’t she thought of that before! Halo’s fingers flew.
Halo12(to all):Hey. This is Agent Twelve. On new assignment. Gone awry. SOS!
Halo read over the text and was about to press send when the low battery icon flashed and her phone died. She should have charged it the night before like a good spy! Why was everything going against her? She stomped her foot, the chair tipped over, and Halo Gillingham crashed to her face, bound to the chair!
Halo grimaced, blinked her eyes. All she could see was gray fuzz. She blinked. Oh. The gray fuzz was carpet. And there was a heavy chair on top of her. And she was tied up in rope by a guy who definitely was not an ordinary office worker. A guy with guards. A guy who was probably a terrorist for PactKV. Halo struggled to flip over the chair. As she twisted, her phone skittered across the floor, loudly banging against something cold and metallic. The lights went out. Halo heard footsteps, and everything went black.
Halo Gillingham had never seen anything that bright before. It was bright, brighter than the sun, almost as bright the interrogation lights back at headquarters. She blinked, and tried to rub her eyes. She was restrained – as expected – and her shoulder ached in pain. A sticky band bound the spy to a platform, set at an angle. Halo waited calmly for her pupils to adjust to the radiant light, then examined her shoulder. A small mark, the size of a pinpoint, was there. So that was how she had fallen asleep. Not some crushing blow to the head, or a smothering wave of heat, but an injection of some sleeping drug. Halo hoped it wasn’t one of those deadly street drugs. But hey, she was alive! The spy astutely determined that it would be best to examine her surroundings.
The bright light came from two lamps, aimed directly at Halo’s face. In the corner, a short man in a white hood and stained lab coat was working.
“Hey!” Halo called. She was shocked at how low her voice was. It was the hoarse whisper of a teenage boy, not the cool, collected voice of a woman spy. Halo tried again. “You! Turn this instant!”
The short figure, off guard, turned slightly. Halo gasped at who she thought she saw. Her dehydrated mind must be playing tricks on her. After all, she didn’t know how long she had been unconscious – or what chemicals were in that injection. That figure, swarthy, short, and sneering in that lab coat – it looked like Darren!
Darren – if it was him – quickly looked the other way. In a gravelly voice that just dripped disguise, Lab Coat Man growled, “So, you think you can fight PactKV? Why, we don’t just produce helpful – i mean hacking – software at PartTech, we produce new sleeper groups of Kill Vicious-lians.”
“If that isn’t a dumb name, I don’t know what is.” Halo croaked boldly. So that’s what the KV in PactKV stood for!
“Talk about dumb.” Lab Coat Man said. His shoulders shook, possibly with silent laughter.
A clink. He was mixing something.
“Why, Officer Twelve, you must be the dumb one here. I mean, only an utter fool – meaning you – would go off on a mission designed to kill her – viciously.”
“Well, if you think you’re so smart, tell me why you’re hiding behind that dorky little coat of yours, Darren Barcelona.”
Click! A pistol barrel was instantly aimed at Halo’s head. “See, I guess you’re smarter than I thought. I’m not just an expert in code. After all, while spying on you lousy spies I wrote that threat message you were texted, and stole some of your weapons cases; I’m what you might call a “mad scientist.” An experimenter of sorts. And tonight, at ten o clock sharp, you’ll die, Halo Gillingham, you weak little excuse for a spy!” Darren slid the gun back into his pocket and began fiddling with whatever mixture he was doing. Ignoring her.
Halo sank back against the restraint board. The SU had boards like that. Halo had never expected to be trapped on a restraint board, all alone. On her own. She winced with pain as she shifted more in her seat. Her eyes fluttered, once again looking over her weak body. Halo noticed carelessly that her faded work clothes were torn, revealing her black spysuit underneath. A memory tugged at her mind, fading fast…Oh yes! The SU made spysuits out of a tight material resistant to weather and the touch of any but her own. That was good. At least she still had comfortable clothes.
For the first time, the thought that Halo had probably been unconscious and without water or food for days occurred to Halo. After her argument with Darren, all Halo’s bold energy had escaped her, leaving the spy as helpless as a balloon that had been pricked with a needle. In fact, Halo had been pricked by a needle…a formerly robust balloon, now losing air…she was dying. Oh well, at least she had lived her life well. She had stood up to Darren, at least. Oh, but how Halo wished that she had seen through his dorky manner, seen Darren’s cruel heart and malicioius intent beneath! He had threatened to kill her…at least her pain would end that night…Halo had had plenty of threats before. Mart, during the briefing before Halo had left for training, had reminded Halo to be brave…
“You’re a strong woman, Halo Gillingham. The bravest I know. Listen – no matter what happens, no matter what you undergo, know that you are brave, you have courage. Know, Halo that you are a spy. You will do whatever it takes to get the job done. But, also, Hae, you have a soft side. The side only I seem to know. I’ll be rooting for you Hae…I’ll miss you while you’re at your new job.”
“Goodbye, Mart.” Halo’s first time hugging Mart. A little longer than necessary.
“I’ll be waiting for you, Hae.”
“I’ll be waiting for you, Marty.”
Tears came to Halo remembered a saying of Mart’s. She heard Mart’s voice in her head, comfortingly: “Keep calm, Hae. Be the intimidator, not the intimidated.”
Halo tried not to cry. But still, the tears came, slowly ayt first, than a quick stream. Silent tears, silent sobs racking Halo’s sick body. Darren must have been unable to focus. He left the room while Halo wept. All alone, strapped to a board, about to die or be killed…Halo could endure that. But to know for sure that she would never, ever see her best friend again, the friend with whom she had always worked with, the one who had always been able to comfort her when she was stressed or sick – Halo’s heart was breaking, and a heart like Halo’s was hard to break. And a courageous heart that is being destroyed is enough to move the most wicked man imaginable. That is why Darren left the room.
Halo had wept every tear in her body, something which had not happened since her father had died. That’s when Halo, at age nine, hardened herself, set herself at her work, and determined to avenge his death by becoming a spy. A spy – because PactKV, that underground organization, had murdered her father and hacked the information to everything that had ever mattered to Halo. Later in Halo’s life, Halo had discovered that a PactKV branch under a man called “Marin” was the group responsible for her father’s brutal murder.
Some distant clock rang, ten strikes. Harsh footsteps tramped down the hall.
Darren’s voice: “Who’ll go?”
Another: “I’ll go.”
Halo’s soon-to-be-murderer entered, and immediately loosed Halo from her bonds. So, they free me right before I die. Great. The man pushed back a hat, and revealed a floppy mop of hair. Halo gasped when she saw his face. The figure, although dressed in a white lab coat, could only be one person. That tousled hair…
Halo’s weak eyes glimmered. Her cracked lips moved. She tried to form words.
“Mart…” Halo said.
“Yes, Halo. It’s been a while. Shh…I’ve come to take you home.”
Mart pulled something out of the coat pocket. A vial. “Here, swallow this.”
It was a thin liquid, both sweet and salty at the same time. Halo’s cheeks flushed once again. She felt her heart pulsing louder. Halo seemed to be waking up from a dream. “Marty! I – I thought you were trapped in the control room at headquarters.”
“Shh, Hae. Mr. Marinkovic – Marin – is clever. We’ve got to get you back.”
Halo, exhausted from trying to stand on her own, fell back against Mart. He slid off the coat, and draped it over the bench. Mart pulled his SU gun from his holster and shot it in the air. His tall frame, dressed in a spysuit, then quickly pulled the light Halo through a different door. Halo hadn’t been able to see it from where she was fastened. Some sort of closet – Mart draped her over his shoulders. “Hold on.” he said.
The closet shot down. An elevator! Hidden. Mart leaped off the elevator where it stopped. A dark night sky surrounding a remote factory revealed itself to Halo. Mart, six two and an easy target when carrying a dying agent, would be an easy target, even in a black spysuit. He made a dash for the woods as an alarm echoed through the factory.
“They’ve discovered you’re missing.” Mart said.
Halo made no reply. She was silent, but still breathing.
Mart continued running for possibly half a mile before halted suddenly. Leaves crackled underfoot. A dark car, the SU’s primary model, was parked in the bushes. Mart quickly laid Halo in the backseat, then sped off towards civilization.
Halo had been in Spies Universal Recovery Center, at headquarters, for about a week. Her extreme malnutrition, plus the effects of the sleeping drug, had wreaked havoc upon her normally healthy body. Under the care of some of the best doctors the SU could offer, however, Halo was regaining her health. Gradually, Halo, with food and water, was able to sit, stand, and walk. Mart checked on her every day with news of the mission.
“Hey Hae! How’s it going.”
“Taking it courageously.” Halo smiled weakly and sat up in bed.
“Well, you’d better take the Hero Award Cap Byron and Edgar Wholk are presenting you with courage.” Mart leaned forward in excitement.
“Really! No way! But all I did was tell them about my suspicions that PartTech was really a PactKV organization. That was when I called them after the night I did those interviews – when I met my – my – father’s killer. Mr. Marinkovic. Although I didn’t know that then.”
“Mm-hmm. And after you were really beat up your first day at that “job,” learned a bunch of company secrets from that loudmouthed Darren, and completed your mission – discovering that PartTech was a cover for the headquarters of the largest terrorist group in the world!’
Halo blushed fondly. “Okay, Mart. But tell me of your involvement in the case, Mr. Plainclothesman – and my HERO!”
“If you insist…Well, I got your SOS text, but was unable to reply. You told me a few days ago that you tried to send a group text to the whole SU. Well, evidently the PactKV representatives at PartTech hacked your phone messaging before you were able to send it. Upon seeing your text and not being able to reply – I think your phone had died by then, and I had left my phone at headquarters – I notified Edgar and Cap Byron. That day, I had also noticed that Darren was absent. Sadly, both Edgar and Cap Byron told me to wait a before searching, as we were in New York and you were somewhere in Pennsylvania. They said that if Halo Gillingham had been captured, than it would be too dangerous for a lone man, or even a small crew of spies to venture out alone.”
Halo pushed back the blankets and sat up on the edge of the bed. “And then?” she questioned.
“Then, I told them that if they wanted to lose one of their best agents, that I was would get involved if they didn’t. I told those “high-up” people that I would go find you, Halo, myself! Cap told me I could bring whatever supplies necessary if I wanted to go get myself killed, and he gave me the SU stealth car to use. I zoomed over to PartTech, although the drive took several hours. The lobby there was mostly deserted. No one was at the front desk. Oh, before I continue, I have to jump back in time a little. Being a plainclothes spy, I had access to the entire SU wardrobe.”
“That’s how you got the lab coat before you left New York?”
“Yep. I got Yvonna to hack the PartTech cameras and some of their computers. After twenty-four hours of searching every room on every floor of that skyscraper of their factory, Yvonna found the room you were held in. She saw a lab-coat wearing figure leave you, and you were unconscious. She didn’t know it was Darren then, but informed me to find a lab coat in the SU wardrobe. So, back to where I was originally. I drove to PartTech with a forged identity card and the lab uniform. This was three days after you went missing. It took Yvonna and Shailene a day of researching and designing to create a pass to PartTech’s most restricted areas.”
Halo smiled, and said, “Yvonna always did double check every line of code before calling it done.”
“Well, to finish a long and boring tale, I parked the car in brush sometime after six, when most of the “employees” (slash terrorists) had just left work. Yvonna, when she hacked the plans for PartTech, had found an access elevator around back. The lock could be electronically picked quite easily. Yvonna virtually had my back, watching me via small cameras installed in my glasses the whole time I was rescuing you on the fifth floor locked room. I had a face mask, along with the coat, so I appeared like another PartTech/PactKV worker, some newby named Hiram Rogers. Darren seemed a little sheepish, so I gladly volunteered for him.”
“And from there I’ve seen the rest.” Halo smiled in thanks.
“Yup, that’s pretty much all.” Mart replied.
Halo stood, wobbling a little. “I can’t thank you enough. Soon I’ll be back on the job in no time! Doctor Q said tomorrow I’ll be free to go. She said that a recovery as quick as mine was uncommon. So I can do as I please tomorrow!”
“Hey Hae – would you mind meeting me at the cafe tomorrow evening? If you’re not too busy with work, of course.”
Halo walked over to the window and stared through it intently at the skyscrapers of New York City. Mart looked down at his shoes, embarrassed and feeling stupid. Of course Halo wouldn’t want to go out with me! Mart thought, hurt. I thought she had changed after her scrape with death, but I guess she’s still as all-business as usual. Suddenly, Halo whirled around with a grin as gleaming as any snowdrift. “I’d love to Mart!” she cried, excited, “I’m not starting work for a week, so any time is fine.”
Mart was as happy as a kid in a candy store. Or a nerd at Microsoft. Or a terrorist in a gun vault. So she had changed – for the better. before, Halo was all business but now… New possibilities were open on both young spies frontiers. Well, he’d better tell Halo what he thought.
“How about seven?” Mart said.
“Seven. Done.” Halo smiled fondly at him.
Halo met Mart at the cafe, and discovered that she was happier with Mart more than she had ever been happy before.
From the near death experience, Halo had learned something. Something that would forever change her life. The people who truly care about you will always come back.