Lookit! A new story! I am triply proud to present to you my new project, John Dyer. Enjoy, kids.
Thanks to Ms. Yeatts for her review of this chapter - your suggestions were quite helpful.
Inspired to Tabatha Yeatts's Summer Writing Contest, Disturbed, and all the spy movies I've ever seen, notably Get Smart.
Chapter One; Vacation?!
Chapter One; Vacation?!
I took every mission very seriously. Even when the mission was nothing more than grocery shopping.
After having just returned from a deadly secret mission in South America, I was in desperate need of food for my house. Despite the fact that I was more often away than at home, I liked to keep the place stocked for friends that would occasionally drop by and/or sleep on the couch for a few days.
The dairy aisle had posed me no threat, so I was moving towards capturing RadioActive brand cornflakes, my favorites. As I was about to strike, subduing the target long enough to get a box into my cart, my phone rang.
Scowling at the phone, I punched the buttons and spat, "Dyer."
There was a muffled sigh from the person on the other end, as if I were making this phone call harder than it had to be. I couldn't find it in myself to care about the mystery person's pain.
"John? Were you shopping?"
Instead of answering, I just glared at the phone like I had those new laser implants. Unfortunately, my stare alone was not enough to melt it into a pile of bubbling plastic.
After several uncomfortable moments, the voice sighed softly and said, "You were, weren't you? I'm sorry I had to interrupt, but something important's come up."
I brightened immediately. "A new mission?" I did love a good mission.
There was a short pause, then the voice answered, "Sure. Just meet me at your house in fifteen minutes."
Filled with a new sense of purpose, I snapped the phone shut and leapt into the air, punching my fist up. My joyous cries filled the small market. I abandoned the cart and practically skipped towards the door.
As I ran out, I heard the clerk say, "Oh, he does that all the time. We just keep his groceries until he comes back."
One of the stunned customers from out of town asked, "But how do you know he'll be back?" with shock and disbelief in her voice.
The clerk just smiled and replied, "He always comes back. He's John Dyer."
Fourteen minutes and thirty-six seconds after I received the call, I was back at my 'permanent' home. There were many places around the world that I could call mine, but this was the place I returned to when I wasn't on a mission.
It always surprised me how orderly the house was. I was never around, which was probably the main reason the house was still intact. However, I couldn't just abandon the old place - my friends often used it as a place to hide from their angry parents/girlfriends/unpaid bookies. It had saved many of them more than once from the wrath of their friends and family.
Even though it was the closest thing I could come to home, I always felt like a stranger breaking into my own house. The place was just too neat. If there was one thing I couldn't stand, it was the obsessive-compulsive organization that seemed to follow me around. I was perfectly happy living in a dusty cave with my personal effects strewn about the floor, but the cleaning staff disagreed with me. Whenever I left, they'd put everything back the way it was before I had arrived.
I pulled up the driveway, ignoring the immaculate lawn, and parked in the three-car garage. Leaning up against the nearest wall was a motorbike. Next to my gleaming convertible, the old bike looked absolutely shabby. Shaking my head, I entered the house.
The entranceway was meant to be calming, done in natural shades with wood flooring, but it just made me uncomfortable. I felt like an imposter; the mild tones spoke nothing of my true personality.
Off to one side was the stainless steel kitchen that was filled with all the modern appliances. All of it was wasted on me; I preferred to find a few friends and nurse a Sprite at the local bar. On the other side was the main living room. It was decorated to enhance the entranceway with compatible colors and comfortable furniture. This was the usual meeting place, but the room was empty. I forged on.
Beyond the living room was a hallway and set of stairs. My destination was the room at the end of the hall. The room was the complete opposite of the rest of the house. Instead of darkly stylish décor, the room was over the top. The walls were glamorously painted with neon-bright colors and glitter. The only furnishings were a variety of bean bags that were scattered on the floor.
Certainly, it was the least classy and most offensive room in the entire house - and for that reason, it was my favorite. It was the only room that I had been allowed to decorate any way I wanted, as it was all the way at the back of the house. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. I had gone completely crazy with decorating and... well, the room ended up looking like the physical representation of an acid trip.
The sole occupant of the room rose gracefully from a biohazard-orange bean bag, which, if you know anything of bean bag chairs, is nigh impossible. This was the very man who had called me at the grocery store. His face was not unknown to me, but his name was. I had been instructed to refer to him only as Mr. O.
"Hey, Mr. Octopus!" I exclaimed, wrapping him in a hug.
Of course, I rarely called him Mr. O. Where's the fun in that? Besides, it annoyed the hell out of him and I liked to see him get all flustered.
O sighed, much as he had on the phone sixteen minutes and four seconds ago. "John," he said cordially.
I was a bit disappointed by his lack of a reaction, but I had been bothering him since the first day I met him. He had gotten used to my eccentric ways. Sigh. Oh well. There are plenty of Os in the world.
But I could sense a challenge in his tone. My eyes narrowed. Two can play that game. I gestured grandly at his bean bag and said, "Please. Sit. We can discuss like civilized gentlemen."
From the frown on his face, I knew that Occy knew what I was doing. Honestly, I could care less. He was in my home and if he wasn't going to react to my usual methods of irritating him, I'd just have to find a new way to get under his skin.
I barely managed to keep from rubbing my hands together gleefully as I flopped down into my own favorite bean bag chair, one that was a particularly offensive shade of yellow. Stores were hesitant to keep such a color in stock, so I'd had it custom-made. Plus, I knew that the Optician hated it. Who ever said you had to fight fair?
Perhaps as retribution for my childish antics, O refused to talk to me. I was loathe to break the uncomfortable silence - it was too much like giving up the game. If I spoke first, it was like I was agreeing to be nice, at least for a while.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. "You said something about a mission, Occy?"
He sighed again, but I think O knew that was as good as he was going to get. "Actually, I never said anything about a mission. You were the one that jumped to that conclusion."
"I expected as much, seeing as we're here in Room Thirteen instead of HQ."
All the rooms in my house had been given names. Of course, it was silly for all the names to be numbers, but by the time I found out, it was already too late to change them. The main living room was HQ because that was where most meetings were held and was, as such, the headquarters of the house. In retribution for the lame room names, I had decided to call the house itself Passent Place. All's fair in love and war.
Occy's voice broke into my thoughts. "The real reason I wanted to meet you here was because... well," he broke off suddenly, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Some of your superiors think that you've been working too hard. They, um, they..."
If the situation hadn't been what it was, I probably would have been mocking O mercilessly. It was so unlike him to stutter, or even to be unsure of what he was saying. Normally, he was all Mr. Cucumber, calm, cool, and collected. For him to be so nervous... it didn't bode well for me at all.
"What? What do they think? What do I do?" I asked, almost on the verge of shaking the sense back into him myself.
O took a deep breath and continued, "They want you to take a... vacation!"
I gasped dramatically. 'Vacation' was the forbidden word for people like Occy and I. In our profession, it was absolutely sacreligious to have vacations. If they were forcing me to take one... it either meant I was that close to retirement or my mission was so top secret that even I couldn't know about it.
My fingers were crossed for the latter.
"There - there must be some misunderstanding! I do my job and... overtime! And I don't talk to people... no one knows, I swear! Why would I need a vacation? I'm not old enough to be retired. Unless... I've been compromised." I looked O straight in the eye. "Have I been compromised?"
He pulled out his phone and dialed the Agency silently, holding the phone out to me. I took it with a deep breath, feeling for all the world as if I was about to look my demise in the face.
The phone rang once, twice, and picked up just before the third ring.
"Cowper's Dairy. How may I help you?" a perky-sounding receptionist asked cheerfully.
"This is John Dyer," I said, a dead weight settling somewhere below my stomach.
"Oh." The receptionist's voice changed immediately to a brisk, no-nonsense tone. "I'll put you through."
I heard a click and then a deep, masculine voice spoke. "Hello? John?"
Another deep breath pulled into my suddenly deflated lungs. "Yes, sir. O just told me... I trust you can explain?"
A sigh came from the other end of the line. I seemed to be causing a lot of people a lot of grief today. Well, too bad. My job, and perhaps my very life, was on the line. They could deal with being a little hassled.
"Well, John, it seems that everyone who has worked with you over the past couple of months agrees that you've been tired, overworked. We like to keep our people fresh and alert. We also like to keep our secrets from being spilled by careless employees." On the last sentence, his voice turned as cold and hard as a glacier. "Do I make myself clear?"
It was my turn to sigh. "Yes, sir."
The man's voice brightened instantly. "Good. Talk to O for more details. He's been briefed on your... vacation." The pause did not comfort me at all. Hesitation only meant one thing: trouble.
Snapping the phone shut dejectedly, I let my head fall into my hands tiredly. "What can you tell me, O?"
If I had been looking at him, I would have been pleased to note the shocked expression on his face at the use of his proper name. Of course, if I hadn't felt so much like crap, I would have used one of his many nicknames instead.
He cleared his throat to cover the now awkward silence. "You'll be going to a small town by the name of," he squinted down at the map he had pulled out, "Eife."
I looked up at him in disbelief. "Effen? Like, 'This is all your effen fault,'?"
Occy cleared his throat. "Actually, I think it's pronounced eye-ffe. Like the Eiffel Tower."
"That's stupid," I said, frowning. "Give me the map."
After a short tussle, I wretched the map from an unwilling O, glaring at him all the while. He just frowned back at me, as if he was disappointed by my behavior. You can't please everyone.
I studied the map for a moment, then announced, "You silly, silly man. This town is obviously pronounced eff-ey."
With a triumphant grin spreading from ear to ear, I handed the map back to the O-man. He took it and glanced back at it.
"According to these coordinates, you'll be in, basically, the middle of nowhere. That means little to no contact with the outside world... This is a pretty thorough vacation package. I hate to say it, John, but they did a good job with you."
I glared at the man. Who's side was he on, anyway? Maybe it would be wise to take an extra bag with me when I left for Eife... filled with O! I wouldn't make it past security at the airport, though. Baggage checks are so thorough these days...
"Is that all?" I asked sullenly, crossing my arms and pouting at the wall.
O sighed again. "I think so. Are you going to be alright, John?"
"I guess. Do we know anyone in Eife?" I asked hopefully.
"No." And my hopes were dashed, cut into tiny pieces, and thrown in the dumpster to be eaten by an alley cat or raccoon.
"Well... I guess this is it. I guess this is goodbye."
For a moment, it looked like O and I were going to stand there, staring at each other until he left, but I grabbed him into a tight hug, refusing to let go. If Occy was my last link to the Agency, then I wasn't going to let him leave.
"Can't you come?" I asked, my voice muffled from being pressed into his shoulder.
Patting my arm awkwardly, O replied, "I have other things I need to attend to. And the whole reason of this is to get you away from work for a while. If I go, it would defeat the point of your vacation."
I pulled him closer against my chest. "That was kind of the point."
Sighing for the thousandth time that day, O gingerly grabbed my wrists and removed me from his person. "John, you have to go. Just do this and when you come back, you'll be fresh and ready for a new assignment. They might even give you a gun again."
Hope brightened my features. "Really? Do you think I could get a gun back, even after Venezuela?"
O's eyes took on a far-off look. "Maybe," he said vaguely. "Certainly, you'll still be training while you're away. Practice will do you good."
With an air of sudden preoccupation, Occy turned and started to leave. I was desperate for him to stay; after he left, it was only a matter of time until I was shipped off to Eife, wherever that was.
"Wait," I said, catching his arm. "You don't have to leave. You could stay. I'm willing to change... for you."
The look on Occy's face when he turned to face me was priceless. It was so worth making myself sound gay to see that expression. I burst out laughing as O scowled at me.
"I hope you're happy with yourself," he said, turning to leave again.
Through the tears from laughing so hard, I tried to get ahold of myself. I failed, of course. "Wait!" Chuckle. "I -" Giggle. "I was -" I tried to smother another round of laughter. "I was serious. Don't go. I really, really don't want to go to Eife. Can't you sneak me out or something? Get a life-sized dummy to take my place on the plane?"
O snorted. "Why would we need another life-sized dummy?"
"Ha ha. See? That was me laughing." Scowl. Wince. Puppy-dog eyes. "Please?"
"I was serious, too. There are things I should be doing right now. None of those things are holding your hand through a vacation. Are you or are you not John Dyer?"
Pouting more than a little, I said, "I'm John Dyer."
A faint smile passed O's face. "And what would John Dyer do about a vacation? Pout in his room all day or just get up and face it like a man?"
I just pouted more. "Obviously, he's already pouting about it... should I go to my bedroom to make it more appropriate or is here fine?"
"Come on. You go upstairs and pack whatever you've already unpacked. I have to go."
"Can I come with you, then? I haven't unpacked anything yet. Maybe I should go back to the store and have them put my stuff back... I won't be needing it anymore."
But O was already out the door. He was used to dealing with my whining from several years being my handler and then several more being my main contact within the Agency. As loathe as he was to admit it, we worked well together. It would feel so weird without him on my little enforced vacation.
As I was sitting around, moping about being sent away like a sullen child who didn't want to go to summer camp, a black unmarked SUV pulled up in front of Passent Place. The doorbell rang and when I opened the door, two men in black suits wearing dark sunglasses were standing on my front porch.
"Can I help you, gentlemen?"
They looked at each other and then faced me again. The one on the left asked, "John Dyer?"
Instead of answering, I just stepped aside and let them into the entranceway.
"My stuff's just upstairs. Do you want me to go get it or..." I let myself trail off. It was always a fear that you'd be supplied with what you needed when you arrived at your destination. That meant that you were either being watched or that it was too dangerous to take anything with you.
The other man shook his head. "My partner and I will load your bags into the car. We'll leave in ten minutes, sir."
I saluted them half-heartedly as they exited towards the stairs. Hooray. They sent me two robots. Hopefully, they would just be escorts to the airport and not guards for the trip. Nothing like a few Agency 'bots to kill a good time.
Oh, by the way, the Agency that I work for is actually a secret branch of the government. What do we do, you ask? We do whatever needs to be done. Extra security, assassinations, paperwork for the other agencies - you name it, we've done it. Cowper's Dairy, the place O called for me, is just a cover. There's a building disguised as a dairy somewhere on the east coast - Maryland, maybe? - that serves as our base of operations.
My name is John Dyer and I'm a secret agent.