Chapter 5. It’s Personal

“…I was on my first assignment as a rookie agent in Malaysia. It was an unusually quiet day in downtown Penang. Even back then, in the 60’s, there was usually a hustle and bustle about the city. This kind of stillness is a warning sign, by the way,” said The Boss.

“Like the calm before the storm,” said Jackie.

“Yes,” continued the boss. “Now, you have to realize that back then travel was a lot more difficult.”

“Did they have cars back then?” asked Jackie. Jakie kicked Jackie’s ankle and whispered, “Shush! She’s not that old!” under his breath.

“May I continue uninterrupted?” asked the Boss. Following Jakie’s lead, Jackie kept her mouth shut. “Very well, then,” she continued. “I had been stationed there for a month. We had credible intelligence that the villain we called ‘The Crater’ was in town. His M.O. was to take large crates of weapons, separate them into smaller quantities and repackage them using smaller crates. He would then sell the weapons at a higher price per weapon, making a tidy profit for himself.

“Agent D’s flight was to arrive at 6am. It was my job to pick him up at the airport. He had been working on this case for three years and was returning from a deposition in Washington. Agent D was coming on a cargo flight. He was bringing crates full of fake plastic rifles. This was a sting operation.

“Unfortunately, the day he arrived happened to be the day that daylight savings time started. It’s hard enough just to get up that early in the morning. But I had forgotten to move my alarm clock forward too. I got there an hour late.

“Airport security told me that they saw someone who matched Agent D’s description exit the gate, and then he was accosted by five people wearing soccer uniforms. They all grabbed him, threw him into a van, and that’s the last anyone saw of Agent D.”

“And noone tried to find him?” asked Jackie.

“Oh, I went to all the contacts I had, but they didn’t have any information. I tried shaking down the local criminals, but I was just a rookie. I didn’t really know how to do this. The CIA eventually sent me on other assignments, despite my failing this one. When I became The Boss, I sent other agents hoping their fresh perspective could solve this mystery. But so far, nothing. It’s a very cold case.”

“Wow, that must really bug you,” said Jackie.

“You can’t imagine. Every day I wonder how my life would’ve been different if I was there to meet him. You see, Agent D was also my fiance.”

“Hey, I didn’t know that!” exclaimed Jakie.

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Chapter 3. Jackie’s Break

Jakie hopped briskly down a dimly lit steel corridor, with his paws behind his back. Jackie hopped alongside, struggling to keep up.

“So what’s your mission?” Jackie asked. The echo from her voice boomed.

“It’s classified,” said Jakie.

“But I’m in the CIA now. I have clearance,” she retorted proudly.

“You’re a recruit.”

“They only recruit one in a thousand candidates.”

Jakie stopped and turned toward Jackie.

“You know what it takes to be a full agent? First you have to go through the six month training program. Then you shadow a veteran agent for six months. If you’re still alive, you get to shadow a different veteran agent for another six months. If you make it through that, you’re a rookie agent on mandatory probation for another year. And then, if you’re still willing to have people shooting and throwing knives at you even during your vacation, AND they decide you’re still qualified, then ONLY IF a spot on the agent list opens up do they let you become a full agent!”

Jakie realized he was shaking his first finger in Jackie’s face. The echo from the word “agent” faded away. He put his paws behind his back and started down the corridor again.

“Trust me, it’s pretty much impossible to get to become a full agent,” Jakie added.

“So what’s your next mission?” Jackie asked, again catching up.

“Fluff.” Jakie sighed.

They arrived at the end of the corridor. A shiny elevator with the CIA seal emblazoned across both doors awaited. Jakie jumped up so that his face could meet the level of the retina scanner. Nothing happened. Jakie sighed and jumped again. This time the scanner caught his left eye for the tenth of a second that it needed, and the elevator doors opened.

“Core Operations Level,” Jakie announced as they walked in. A female synthesized voice repeated the command and the elevator started its descent. Jackie looked up, still clutching her book with both paws.

“Hey, did you get an earring?” asked Jackie. She reached upward.

“Fluff,” Jakie muttered as he brushed her paw aside.

“Core Operations Level,” said the synthesized voice as the elevator slowed down. The doors opened and Jakie and Jackie both hopped out.

The entire floor was lit brilliantly with pale fluorescent panels overhead. Jackie noticed the CIA seal again on the floor in front of the elevator as they hopped over it. This floor was different from the previous one. No interns here. Nobody exercising. Just desks with people typing as if starting a term paper the night before it’s due, and a few on phones having serious conversations.

They hopped to the desk at the far end of the room. A twenty-something man sat there, wearing an off-white fitted shirt and patterned tie. He was clean shaven with a crew-cut. On his desk was nothing more than an Apple keyboard and monitor, a desk phone with a gazillion buttons, and a name plate that said “Toby.”

“Howdeeee dooodeeee! Glad to hear you’re not actually retiring! And this must be your little sister! You two look exactly alike!” exclaimed Toby.

“Well, I don’t have pigtails–” said Jakie.

“You’re early,” interrupted Toby. “That’s ok. She’ll see you anyway because this is urgent.”

Jakie turned to Jackie, about to tell her to skedaddle.

“Jackie goes in too,” Toby chimed in. “You didn’t know? Oh well, I guess boss will explain it all.”

“Do I get to go with you on your mission?” Jackie asked Jakie.

“No!” exclaimed Jakie.

“Just go in and see what she says,” Toby advised.

“Fluff.” Jakie pouted.

Chapter 1. The Stud.

It’s cold. Ice particles. Wind. Face-fur solid and stiff. In the distance: “Ugh!… Ugh!” barely audible above the whistling gusts of arctic air.

Jakie’s eyes were frozen shut. He used both of his iced paws to pry open each eye. Sierra was in the distance with her hands beside her mouth in holler position. She was barely visible through the blizzard. And the wind – my god, that wind at his back. Finally, he could hear what she was saying. She wasn’t yelling, “Ugh!” She was screaming, “Duck!!!”

Jakie dropped and hugged the floor. All was dark again. His ears flapped even more furiously in the wind. In just a few seconds the light came back. He looked around. He was on top of a train! Roaring across the side of a snow-capped mountain, they had just gone through a tunnel. And if it wasn’t for Sierra’s warning he would’ve looked like roadkill laminated to the tunnel entrance.

“I owe her another chocolate bar,” he noted to himself mentally.

“I’m coming Jakie! As soon as I figure out how to run on ice!” explained Sierra.

They must have been near the peak, as all around was nothing but pristine whiteness. Below, an equally pure undefined misty blackness of a void. The sunshine, normally welcome, sprayed throughout the snow caps, forcing him to squint.

He must’ve lost consciousness for a few seconds after Pierce delivered a right cross to his cheek while Jakie simultaneously landed a roundhouse kick on Pierce’s temple. Wait. Who’s Pierce? Jakie turned around. There he was. Pierce was getting up too. He and Jakie had been fighting for what seemed an eternity.

“I told you, one ear. Just one ear,” Pierce pleaded, as he raised his right hand, holding his weapon of choice: an ear piercing gun.

Pierce lunged at Jakie’s ear with the ear piercing gun. Jakie parried with his left paw and gave him a kick with his hind foot, leveraging Pierce’s own momentum and sent him tumbling down the length of the train. Pierce somehow managed to roll back into a standing position.

Jakie remembered now. He had planned a retirement party on this train ride from Zermatt TO St. Moritz. Just because he changed his mind didn’t mean he couldn’t still have the party. But not only friends arrived. His old enemy Pierce must have heard about it and came to take one last shot at him. Why did it have to be Pierce? He could’ve inadvertently rooted  out a more hideous criminal like The Masked Marsupial, Baron von Ralph’s, or The NBA Ref. But no, he got some guy who likes piercing big ears.

Whoosh! Pierce swung his ear piercing gun and Jakie instinctively dodged.

“I’m awake now,” Jakie said to himself. “Time to finish this guy off.”

Jakie wound up for a reverse spin kick. Three quarters into the spin, his right foot slipped on a spot of ice. Jakie managed to recover, but not before Pierce fired off a starter stud that got caught in the stitches at the tip of his left ear. Jakie grabbed Pierce’s wrist, wrangled the ear piercing gun away, and tossed it off the side of the train and into the infinite void below.

Pierce stared at the stud dangling from Jakie’s ear.

“It just needs a little adjustment,” he murmured.

“Adjust this!” Jakie yelled. And as he wound up for another roundhouse kick, he slipped on the same spot of ice AGAIN. But this time he fell and rolled toward the edge and almost off the train. Pierce, knelt down, grabbed Jakie’s ear and tore the stud out. Jakie screamed in pain. Pierce tried to stick the stud back into the ear with his bare hands, while Jakie tried to get up and slipped yet again on the ice.

Pierce held the stud in his mouth while he used both hands to stabilize Jakie. Jakie held Pierce’s wrists, pushing them away from him. Suddenly, with a few clicks, those wrists were encased in handcuffs. Sierra pulled up both Pierce and Jakie.

“You should’ve let me retire,” Jakie smiled at Sierra.

“We need you,” Sierra replied.

“So you can keep saving my butt?”

“Thank me after we’re back at headquarters. You might change your mind.”

“What’s at headquarters?”

“Not what. Who.”

Preface

It’s kind of like improv, but on paper.

This is a work of collaborative fiction, the two authors being myself and my 11-year-old daughter. She chose the title and will start it off with the Prologue. And then we take turns writing the next chapter. This is the method that Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel used to write Lunatics. It’s kind of like improv, but on paper.

The rule is that each of us can write whatever we want, as long as it’s consistent with what has been written so far. We don’t discuss any sort of outline or plan ahead. All we see is what’s been submitted when it’s submitted. The result is that neither of us has any idea how the story will end, or even what happens next after we submit a chapter.

Oh, the other rule here is that the protagonist is Agent Jakie. Jakie is pictured above. He’s a stuffed little nut brown hare (from Guess How Much I Love You) that somehow found employment as a secret agent, despite being underaged, an animal, and made of fabric and stuffing (Just go with it.)

So hold on to your rabbit ears, and get ready for Agent Jakie in…

The New Recruit