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Over the Top Secret - Chapter 10
AKA The Prince of Weapons
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Start at the beginning (Prologue - AKA Mission Report)
Read the previous chapter (Chapter 9 - AKA T.O.P.S.E.C.R.E.T.)
Read the next chapter (Chapter 11 - AKA The Not-so-Safe House)
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I’m allowed a brief potty break and handed a granola bar before Eric leads me to the Weapons Department.
On the way out of The Director’s office, I ask if I can change out of my breezy patient dress into something more fitting for a field agent. For the sake of time, The Director makes Eric give me a pair of his clothes, and now we’re both wearing Eric’s skinny jeans, black lace-up combat boots, and black short-sleeved shirts. The boxers bunch up around my waist in Eric’s skinny jeans, which are still a size and a half too big on me.
Nothing like a thick wedgie to start a T.O.P.S.E.C.R.E.T. mission. At least Eric’s man jeans have amazingly useful pockets. I can fit my entire forearms in these things! I fling Eric a sideways glance as he leads us down the hall, my arms down to my elbows in the little pants pouches. Guys are so spoiled.
I peek at our passing reflections as we walk back through the Hall of Elevators. Eric and I look like a couple of twinsies, as my mother would say. Simon jogs to keep up with our long legs.
“I’d really like to perform a few more small tests before you leave,” Simon says, struggling to balance all his papers in his hands as we round another corner.
“There’s no time, Simon. The McGuffin needs us.” Eric is stone-faced, focused on the mission ahead. Simon huffs.
“At least let me say goodbye, then.” He jumps in front of me, forcing me to a halt.
“Uh, you heard Eric. No time for any more experiments,” I say, not too eager for a last-minute needle stab. I eye him suspiciously as he shoves a chubby hand in his pants pocket.
“I just want to say that I’m so very pleased you decided to take my career quiz, Julie.” He beams up at me like a proud younger brother.
“Er, you’re welcome,” I say, slightly disarmed by his puppy dog face. Simon opens his arms and awkwardly pulls me into a hug. He pats me on the back, then yanks a hair from my head with surprising force.
I let out a yelp, massaging the spot as Simon holds a pair of tweezers in front of his bespectacled eyes.
He giggles and runs off without looking back.
That’s just great.
On our walk to the Weapons Department, Eric tells me we’re to be outfitted with the most advanced tools and weaponry for our mission, hand-crafted by none other than “George Simple.” He doesn’t elaborate any more than that, but the way Eric says George’s name makes me think he must be a prince of weapons.
We round the corner into a giant, cavernous metallic warehouse, where George himself awaits us. He’s tall, lean, as beautiful as a sculpture, and walks with one foot directly in front of the other like he’s on a runway. His short silver hair stands to spiky perfection, contrasting starkly with his smooth, caramel skin and electric blue eyes. He carries an aura of fabulous that matches his high-chinned saunter as he approaches us, arms wide as if he’s welcoming us to his palace.
Yep, definitely a prince.
Eric puts his hand out. “Hey, George, nice to—” George goes right for a dramatic cheek kiss, grabbing Eric by the arms like an enthusiastic auntie.
“Eric! I’ve been waiting for you, dear. Welcome to my humble abode.” He gestures around him at his outstanding collection of weapons. It’s not a humble abode by any means.
The warehouse is enormous—miles and miles of weapons stacked on shelves and organized by purpose: “Maiming,” “Lethal,” “Taunting,” “Escaping,” and that’s just the first few rows near me. There’s an entire block of aisles across the way, the size of a football field, dedicated to “Firearms” alone (“Rifles,” “Submachine Guns,” “Sniper Rifles,” to name a few). They have “Aircraft,” “Anti-Aircraft,” “Flamethrowers,” “Martial Arts Weapons,” “Swords,” “Rockets,” “Torpedoes,” “Missiles,” “Practice Weapons” … the list goes on and on.
“The Director informed me of your mission to Paris.” George ticks his tongue. “The city of love. Lucky, lucky you.” He winks, giving Eric’s biceps another quick squeeze of affection.
“Actually, it’s the city of lights.” My voice echoes in the cavernous space. George turns to me with a dramatic rise in his perfectly manicured eyebrow. “The city of love is Venice, Italy.” I only know this because I wrote a paper comparing the two cities in middle school.
“And who are you?” George asks, head tilted in a dramatic show of appraisal.
“I’m Julie. Richardson.” He assesses me from top to bottom with his sharp eyes. Then he looks to Eric for an explanation.
“She’s a temporary agent. Supposed to help me recover The Backup.” He shrugs.
“She’s… your partner?” George asks, a noticeable rise in his voice. He eyes me suspiciously. “But you work alone, saving the world in a solo, sexy manner.”
“It’s only temporary.” Eric gives me a side glance.
I fake a smile and shove my hand in George’s bubble, a forced attempt at civility. He carefully shakes it twice with the limpest grip I’ve ever felt before dropping my hand like a pair of dirty underwear.
He turns right back to Eric. “You’ll have to share my newest batch of weapons, then. I wasn’t expecting a tag along.” He eyes me again.
I get it, I’m not wanted! Did it ever occur to these people I don’t want to be here either? Sheesh.
“Neither was I, but duty calls. Let’s get right to it.” Eric takes a determined step forward. George lights up once again.
“A man who takes charge. I love it!”
I roll my eyes.
“Show me what you’ve got, George,” Eric says.
“Aye aye, captain.” George playfully salutes with a sharp turn of his heel. The two men head down the center aisle of the warehouse, voices echoing off the walls. I hurry after them feeling like a third wheel.
“I took your notes from the last assignment very seriously,” George continues. He makes a sharp left turn down an aisle of giant submarine torpedoes. Each one is shaped slightly different than the one before, but they all share the same feel— metallic, simplistic, smooth, and shiny.
“About the weight?” Eric asks. “It wasn’t an issue of stamina.” His eyes quickly flit back to me. “It just would have been nice to have something a bit more… travel-sized.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” George makes another sharp turn, and now we’re walking past rows and rows of high-tech archery equipment. All kinds of arrows (flaming, poisoned, explosive, piercing, pheromone, you name it) sit perfectly organized atop an ongoing shelf of what I assume are bows. They’re all so pointy and aggressive-looking that it’s hard to tell.
“I came up with something genius if I do say so myself.” George shakes his head excitedly. “No one will have any idea the difference between your arsenal and a brand-new stack of office supplies.” He winks and turns another corner, revealing an office behind glass walls situated in the middle of the warehouse. Behind the office extends what appears to be a long, concrete shooting range.
It looks like the New York loft of a high-profile fashion designer, if the designer were putting together weapons of mass destruction on a catwalk of death.
He swings open the large glass door for Eric to follow. Eric steps after George and lets the massive glass door swing shut behind him, right as I walk into it with a loud “BONG.”
I follow them to a large silver table, on top of which an assortment of twenty or so identical looking pens sit about two inches apart from each other on display.
“They’re completely undetectable in metal scanners or x-rays. They’re compact, light, travel-sized,” George says that last one with a wink at Eric, “and each is activated by a single click of the button at the top.” He taps a code onto the table, revealing a hidden touch-screen keypad that lights up with each touch of his fingers. A moment later, a row of target dummies pops up from a hidden compartment in the floor, about a hundred yards down the shooting range. George picks one of his pens up for display and points it at the large red circle on the center dummy’s chest. “Just aim and click.” He demonstrates.
A red laser beam shoots out of the tiny pen with a powerful “ZZZZZ” sound and completely saws off the dummy’s head in a swift motion, like a finger swiping a coconut in half during a game of Fruit Ninja.
George clicks the pen again to disable the laser and places it back on the table. He grabs a second, identical pen from the opposite side of the table. “This one’s my favorite,” he says with a grin. “Would you like to do the honors?” He hands the pen to Eric with a bow.
Eric grabs the pen and points it like a gun, one eye shut as he aims for the second dummy. He clicks the top button and BAM! A giant metallic arrow erupts from the end, shooting straight for the dummy’s head. It rips right through the thick, Jell-O-like material leaving a gaping hole in the middle, singed around the edge.
“Nice!” Eric laughs like a little boy with a new Nerf Gun. George frowns.
“Actually, that’s not the one I thought it was. Where are you?” He carefully inspects each pen until he grabs the one he wants. “Aha! This one’s my favorite.” He clicks and throws, ducking slightly. The pen lands twenty yards away with a soft clatter against the concrete ground. We stare, waiting a few moments.
“What’s it supposed to—”
A giant ball of orange light explodes in front of us, engulfing the entire firing range in flames.
“Oooh, baby,” Eric says, eyes dancing with the reflection of the pen’s flames in front of him. George sucks in some air and claps enthusiastically.
I clear my throat. “I have a question.” They turn to me, once again reminded of my presence. “How are you supposed to tell these things apart? They look exactly the same.” George presses his lips together firmly, probably preventing a sassy remark from coming out.
“There’s a small engraving at the bottom, see?” He holds one up, the light reflecting off the smooth surface. “GH for grappling hook, AR for assault rifle,” he picks them up and points, but I can’t make out any letters, “PSN for poison, PN for Pen,” he says like it’s so obvious.
“You made one a normal pen?” I ask. He scoffs at me.
“My God, no.” He looks to Eric as if for assistance. Eric just shrugs. “None of these are,” he struggles to get the word out, “ordinary weapons. The ink in this one is laced with a chemical that disintegrates the surface it’s written on within minutes.” He states it proudly.
“So then, what’s the point of writing anything with it?” I ask. George is taken aback.
“Jules, sometimes in the highly classified world of T.O.P.S.E.C.R.E.T. assignments, agents need to write things down.” He steps toward me. “We can’t risk our super-secret notes falling into the wrong hands. So, we destroy them.” I want to ask him what the whole point of writing them down in the first place would be, but they’re already moving on.
“Is there a power down sequence?” asks Eric.
“Nope. When you’re finished with a pen, just do with it the same thing you do with your women,” George says, leaning forward on the table and placing his chin in his palm. He bites the tip of his pinky finger. Eric doesn’t seem to notice George’s seductive efforts.
“Just leave ’em,” Eric says with a nod.
“You betcha,” says George.
“Wait, you leave these dangerous weapons lying around for someone else to pick up?” I ask, incredulous.
George lets out a curt laugh. “Listen, Julia-”
“Julie,” I interrupt. He ignores me.
“Once an agent uses a weapon, he can’t use the same weapon again. It’s just not done. Imagine if The Cookie Monster were to fight Eric again, and he used the same weapon against him?” They burst into laughter. “What would The Cookie Monster think?”
“Considering the fact that you leave your weapons lying around, the Cookie Monster would have already stolen Eric’s T.O.P.S.E.C.R.E.T. weapon and would most likely be using it against him.” I raise my eyebrows in a silent challenge. The two men stare at me like I’m an imbecile.
“An agent wouldn’t be caught dead using the same weapon twice. It’s just not professional,” George states. He turns to Eric and he nods, confirming it.
“I thought you said you ‘decimated’ The Cookie Monster, Eric?”
“I did. You’re missing the point,” he says.
“Don’t worry about it,” Eric waves his hand. “Just leave the weapons and the fighting and… just leave everything to me. Okay? I’ll handle it.” He pats my shoulder patronizingly.
I shrug in response. “So, just to be clear, of this entire warehouse of weapons, we’re going to use a bunch of pens to save the day?”
“Not just pens!” George cries.
“I know they’re not just pens.” Eric places a hand on George’s shoulder. “I know. It’s okay,” Eric comforts George, who dramatically places his head on Eric’s shoulder, smiling at me as if he’s won the battle. I don’t even bother trying to hide my grimace.
I notice something small and shiny hanging on the wall. “What’s that?” I ask. George follows my gaze.
“That’s a fanny pack. I was experimenting with different kinds of pockets and—” I don’t hear anything else he says, for I’ve become entranced by the beautiful little sack of pockets.
I love pockets. And fanny packs. Any way to get out of carrying a big, clunky purse. I absolutely can’t resist a functional pocket. If I try on a dress and it has pockets, I buy the dress. Regardless if it looks good on me. It’s just so hard to find women’s clothing with pockets big enough to be useful, ya know?
But fanny packs are super useful, albeit super ugly. This one, though… my eyes glimmer in the presence of the fanny pack. It’s like a ray of sunshine.
“Uh, you like it?” asks George. I realize I’ve already put it around my waist. It fits perfectly and feels like someone’s hugging me. A bit of warmth spreads through my body as a result of this much-needed dose of comfort. “There are so many pockets!”
“Yeah, that’s what I was just saying.”
“Can I use it?” I ask.
“I guess. It’s just a fanny pack,” George says, confused by my enthusiasm for a granny-purse.
“It’s not a weapon,” Eric says.
“You handle the weapons. I’ll handle the fanny pack,” I say, transferring my Lactaid tablets from Eric’s deep pockets to the fanny pack. It was my only requirement before heading out into the field that I be equipped with at least one package of Lactaid. That, and a quick self-defense lesson, but Eric insisted we didn’t have the time. The McGuffin is counting on us. Yadda yadda.
At least they had the Lactaid, and I’m grateful for the single two-pack of crushed tablets The Director found in her desk drawer. I’ll take what I can get.
“Perfect!” I say with a final zip of the fanny pack.
It’s the little things, it really is.
“Is that everything?” Eric asks.
“Yes, sir,” George confirms, handing him a small silver bag filled with identical silver pens. “They’re yours,” he says, with eyes that say, “and so am I.”
“Sweet.” Eric shoves the tiny bag into his black backpack. “Thanks, George. See you on the flip side.” He salutes, and George winks back.
“Thanks for the fanny pack,” I say, overwhelmingly pleased with my discovery. Maybe this trip won’t be so bad after all.
“It doesn’t match your outfit,” George says in a disapproving tone.
His attitude can’t get to me because-- I have a fanny pack!
“Alright, let’s get out of here,” Eric says. He salutes, and George blows him a kiss.
I smile and wave once at George. He rolls his eyes, gives a huff, and turns on his heel, disappearing into the many rows and rows of T.O.P.S.E.C.R.E.T. weapons.