By Charles Etheridge-Nunn
“Get in the jeep!” the young Japanese man shouted.
“I’m not getting in there with him!” the British man pointed at the unconscious body on the back seat of the jeep.
“Either you’re getting in with him or I’ll leave you outside.” He pointed to the metal door behind them that was starting to give way to the enemy agents.
“Fine, but if he drools on me I’ll break his neck.”
The brit sat in the back of the jeep and there was a click as the doors sealed themselves shut. He looked at the door as the first hinge flew on to the floor. “Isn’t there any way you could do this faster?”
“I have to seal the pressure of the jeep. You don’t want your head to pop or anything now, do you?”
The last hinge flew off the door and hit the back of the jeep before the gun-toting agents charged into the room.
“You want me to what?” David Merrick threw the dart into the dartboard, dead centre again. He was in his late thirties, in quite good physical form for his age, his face giving his age away from the widow’s peak in his light brown hair and the first sign of wrinkles developing on his forehead.
The man sat by the side of the board looked at it before taking another sip from his pint, then he repeated his last sentence, “Two asked me if I could find someone to help one of his new recruits. I thought you would be perfect for the job.”
Merrick walked over to the bar and called over to the woman behind it “Guinness please, love.”
She nodded and he looked down at his supervisor “What?”
“Didn’t peg you for a guinness kind of man.”
“So, about this child you’re sending me. Why me?”
“You’re a dad, I thought you’d make a good father figure.”
“So what does he do?” Merrick, fed up of waiting for the guinness picked up the darts and stood with his back to the board, “I take it he’s a sniper, like me?”
With that he flicked the darts one by one at the board, the first two hitting home and the third hitting the piece of chair between the supervisor’s legs.
“There aren’t any snipers like you Merrick. He’s trained mostly in vehicles, cars, motorbikes and the like.”
“I don’t drive.”
“Well now you have your own chauffeur. Aren’t I kind?”
“So what field experience does he have?”
“None whatsoever. The japs had a short-lived intensive training program a few years ago, he was one of them. He spent years without seeing a single person, only learning how to use vehicles.”
“And I’m meeting him on a submarine?”
“The sub is a co-owned jobbie between us and the Shop. It’s been modified for stealth and now we use it to transport valuable goods around the world.”
“Your point being…?”
“Given the right materials the boy can scratch-build a car out of items you’d find in a kitchen. If there’s anything involving parts and wires he can do it. The Pan-Asians consider him valuable goods and won’t let harm come to him until he reaches your,” he gave a cough, then continued “trusted hands.”
“Great.” Merrick pulled the darts out from the board and the chair. “So what’s in this for me?”
“Promotion if you’re lucky. A little less time in the field, maybe you’ll be able to see your kids a little more often.”
Merrick picked up his late guinness and sat opposite the supervisor, “What happens if I don’t want to do this?”
“There’s a listening post on a small island off the coast of Ireland, it’s a one-man job that recently had an opening. Not much of a job, but if you’d rather have your solitude I’m sure you’d fit the bill perfectly.”
Merrick glowered at his supervisor, then nodded.
Merrick sat on the cold metal seat of the canteen. Travel by nuclear submarine always made him a little uneasy. The food here was awful as well, if there was one thing that the Shop had never taken into consideration it was its human resources.
The nuclear submarine he was on had been taken by the Shop, who shared it with Room 39 for research and development of new technologies. Merrick had been here before for their firing range, but found it far below par compared to those he was used to. He stabbed at his food again, a cube of something that looked like plastic. Food should never be square, he thought. He was going on to think about how their coffee was disgusting and how he should secretly add a nip of whiskey from the flask he kept hidden, but the start of this thought was cut off before it could grow from a complaint. A metal tray hit the table with an almighty bang and he was brought out of his daydream.
“Are you Mr. Merrick?”
“Yes. But just Merrick.” He answered before looking up. When he did, there was a young Japanese man who was probably in his early twenties, dressed in bright clothes that shouted tourist, an inane grin on his face and one hand held out to Merrick.
Merrick just looked at him, the man put his hand down and sat directly opposite Merrick.
“I take it you’re the new kid.”
“James Kojima. Call me Jimmy.”
“Nice to meet you Jimmy.” Merrick said totally unconvincingly. “I’m supposed to be teaching you about the missions you will be going on and making sure you can handle yourself in the field.”
“I have already learned a lot about secret agents.”
“From what I’ve heard you’ve learned a lot about our cars. That’s not like learning about our missions or how we handle ourselves.”
“I did not only learn about vehicles. In my free time I watched much of your country’s films about secret agents. James Bond, the Avengers, even the episodes after Diana Rigg left. I know a lot about how they do things.”
“How nice.” Merrick noticed that the kid hadn’t yet learned sarcasm. “What do you know about shooting?”
“Not much. I have a gun, but have not had much practice with it.”
“Really, what kind?”
“Walther PPK, of course.”
Merrick sighed and decided he would add a little whiskey into the horrid Shop-issue coffee witnesses or not. It was going to be a long day.
A large Italian man leaned back on the metal chair. He squirmed uncomfortably in it, the metal not really suiting his girth and not of the high class of chair he was used to. The waves had been hitting the boat harder and harder, the Italian was sure it would fall over and had to keep checking with the sailors that it wouldn’t. When he was assured of this, the Italian went back to watching the monitors set in the clothes of his agents. He flicked the main screen to one of the men walking out of the canteen. The Italian pulled a packet of cigars out of a bag by his feet and rested one between his lips. In one motion, the Italian sheltered his cigar from the wind that had carried through from the upper deck and lit it with the other using a dented gold Zippo lighter.
Puffing out a small cloud of smoke he picked up the small microphone and spoke “Agent Robert. There is an agent of ours, a low-level grunt, Thaddeus Wilkins. He was caught by Room 39 and locked in his quarters. Make sure they don’t get to talk with him.”
“Agreed.” Said a rough American voice from the speakers.
The Italian added “Don’t make a mistake like last time. Otherwise you’ll need silencing too.”
“He was my brother sir.”
“That makes no difference. You have to remember the plan.”
“I still have twenty minutes before it begins, he’ll be dead by then. Roberts out.”
Agent Roberts had a brief look around the canteen and gestured to another agent, a tall man with greying hair who followed him out of the room. Without a word they made their way through the corridors to the room in which one of their agents was imprisoned. Agent Roberts was a fairly well-built man, a lot of physical exercise working for the Company had taken up his time before his move to a new employer.
Reaching into his pocket, Agent Roberts took out a small metal pen and unscrewed the cap, revealing a needle. He nodded for the other agent to open the door and watched as the darkened room was slowly illuminated by the light of the corridor.
Agent Roberts made his way inside, followed by the greying-haired man and whispered “Don’t worry Agent Wilkins, you won’t feel a thing…”
As he turned the chair around the man inside lolled with the movement. Agent Roberts lifted the head to see not Wilkins but a guard with a pen similar to Agent Roberts’ jammed into his neck. Agent Roberts and the greying man looked at each other in shock. Agent Roberts picked up his radio and called into it “Security, we have a rogue agent missing from bunk room five, believed armed and dangerous.”
Putting the radio down he shook his head and said to the greying man “The boss isn’t going to like this.”
Thaddeus Wilkins, a well-built Greek was shuffling along the crawl space evidently made for not so well-built sailors. Since the submarine was decommissioned from official use the Shop had refitted it with many high-tech upgrades, but during all of this time they had evidently neglected the crawl space. The only improvement to the rusted and confined tunnels had been the extra hatches added to allow for movement into specific areas of the submarine. Thad regretted leaving his only weapon, the Shop pen, back in the throat of the guard. His job was primarily field tests of equipment for the Shop. Not sure why he was assigned ‘guard duty’ on some little submarine used by British agents the small area in his head used for thought had been put into overtime. This effect was only enhanced when he was told to steal information from Room 39’s computer systems. Of course not being used to the ways of computers and machinery that did not have a trigger or large red button he was caught and captured, but Thad was not going to let that stop him. Someone had tried to frame him, it couldn’t be anyone from the Shop so it must have been someone on the outside. He had to find out who had done this before the guards found him. Then something very large and very painful hit him in the head.
Back in the room with the dead guard, Agent Roberts smiled, looking in the direction of the crawl space. Hearing a noise he turned around to face the unit of five Room 39 guards, one of whom asked “What are you doing here?”
Agent Roberts turned his charming smile back on and pulled a blank piece of card out of his pocket, showing it to the guards and commanding “I am Agent Edward Hotz, I’ve been assigned as the new head of security. We have an escaped prisoner.” He then looked back in the direction of the crawl space, then carried on “Check the crawl space. I think he’s gone in there.”
“Right.” The leader of the unit nodded as Agent Roberts put the card away. He watched as they walked out of the room and into the crawl space. Looking back at his greying friend he added “Talk to security, see if he’s turned up on the monitors as I doubt he realised there are cameras in there.”
The greying man nodded and started talking on a radio while Agent Roberts focussed his mind to the job at hand.
Thad Wilkins’ head exploded a second time. He braced himself against the walls of the compact tunnel and carried on shuffling in the direction he thought was the right way. Looking ahead the crawl space split into well over a dozen identical pathways, looking around he could see endless tunnels all around unsure even of which direction he was facing and even uncertain about whether he was upside down or not. Thad closed his eyes and continued in a random direction.
Thad fell out of an open hatch and landed on a guard, then he threw up. The guard dropped Thad on the floor and shouted “We’ve got him! Contact Agent Hotz. I’m going to get a change of uniform.”
Agent Roberts heard the call down the corridor, smiled, cricked his neck and walked out of the room to see the prisoner.
Jimmy lowered his gun and looked for the bullet holes in the wall, then at the unmarked target. He asked “Well, how did I do?”
Merrick snatched the pistol and put it on the metal table, he then flattened his right hand and held it out to his side “This is the broad side of a barn.”
He then pointed with his left finger, facing it in almost the opposite direction from his opened hand “This is you.”
Jimmy looked at Merrick’s demonstration and then back at the target “I did okay for a beginner.”
“My eight year old daughter can shoot better than you.” Merrick loaded the pistol and shot a smiley-face into the target.
“It’s a dumb idea having a shooting range on a submarine.”
Merrick gave a little smile “Taking it a little badly there, kid. Nobody likes a sore loser.”
“Whatever. I just don’t see why we have to be on a submarine, there should be some faster and far more stylish way of getting to our destination.”
“Didn’t they tell you? Your agency think you’re a secret weapon and won’t trust anyone but me with your protection.”
Jimmy froze. He said “I was told you wanted to meet me on the sub, that you had our first assignment.”
Above the submarine, the Italian on the boat gave the command word for his agents to strike.
The submarine stopped dead. Jimmy and Merrick both shook with the sudden lack of movement and as they got up the lights stopped, leaving the dim glow of the red emergency lighting.
“Agents.” A voice from the loudspeaker shouted at them, “I’m sorry to cut this trip short, but we have complete control of this submarine and unless we get your complete cooperation we will begin killing the bridge crew. Now, if everyone could make their way to the aft of the sub and then wait our further instructions that would be great. Thank you, have a nice day.”
“Kid, you okay?” Merrick asked.
“Of course,” Jimmy was dusting himself off “What shall we do?”
“Definitely not go to the aft. We’re going to my quarters to get my equipment, then we’ll head to the bridge and sort out whoever’s doing this.”
Merrick picked the pistol up and looked out of the doorway. The shooting gallery was more of a thin, long room with one target instead of a row of them. In transit between different places, agents had gotten bored with a couple of old arcade machines so they had asked for recreational rooms. Unfortunately for Jimmy the organisation had little imagination and had come up with the idea of a shooting range. Even worse for Jimmy and Merrick they had only put one door on the room. Jimmy opened it and looked out, a masked guard was checking rooms and radioing through to his superior, Jimmy went back in and closed the door.
“What’s wrong?” Merrick asked with a slightly tired tone.
Jimmy answered “A guard. Just one but he’s calling in what he finds in each room.”
“Change of plan. Hide.”
Merrick pointed at the waist-high barricade that prevented agents getting nearer to the target, Jimmy vaulted over and crouched down. He heard a light clang from the ceiling and the door opened.
The guard looked in the room and saw the top of Jimmy’s head poking out of the barricade, just as he raised the radio to his mouth there was a click behind his head. He recognised the sound of a pistol being cocked. A voice threatened “Tell them the room’s empty.”
“The shooting range,” he paused and could feel the pistol being pushed into the back of his head, “is empty.”
In one motion Merrick swiped the radio and pushed the guard against a wall. He called out “James, get up.”
Jimmy stood up and said “It’s Jimmy.”
“Whatever,” he threw the radio at Jimmy, “here. Can you find out where the signal was sent to?”
Merrick didn’t answer, instead he spoke to the guard “Who are you working for?”
“I can’t tell you.”
Merrick looked at Jimmy “They always say that, kid. It’s almost like a game to play with them. Twenty questions. Except if you answer wrongly…”
Merrick slammed the guard’s head against the wall, when he pulled the guard off the wall again he was unconscious, his head lolling around loosely. He hadn’t meant to do that, but wasn’t about to tell the new kid that. Instead he pulled off the mask, saying “Let’s see who’s under there…”
His eyes widened as the mask came off and he accidentally dropped the guard. He stood back from the familiar face.
“What is it?” Jimmy, unlike Merrick evidently knew nothing of the man.
“It’s one of our guys. Brian Adler. He normally works on gadgets for the Shop. What the hell’s he doing in all of this?”
Merrick stood over the incapacitated man for a moment, his shocked expression changed into a more cold one and he commanded “Get over here and bring that radio with you.”
Jimmy swung himself over the barricade and watched Merrick lift the guard over it.
“What are you going to do with him?” Jimmy enquired.
Merrick patted the body down, pulled a key card out of a pocket, showed it to Jimmy, smiled, and put it in his. Jimmy could hear an audible snap as Merrick broke one of the guard’s legs over his knee. Jimmy winced, even in the movies he had never heard a sound like that. There was another and Merrick threw what was left over the barricade.
“Why did you do that?”
“Do you think I should have broken the arms as well?”
“What?” Jimmy was shocked, “No! I didn’t think you should do any of that!”
“He’s a traitor, it’s what they deserve. He’s going to be out a while, he can’t radio in and with his legs broken getting out of this room will be a real challenge for him.”
“You said you knew him.”
“Yes. I even had him round for Christmas with the family one year.”
“Would you do that to me?”
“If you were a traitor? Without a second thought.”
Jimmy looked at the man with the broken legs, then back at Merrick “What if he dies?”
“It’ll be his fault. Agents are trained to be far more resourceful than that.” Merrick tapped on a medical kit attached to the wall at about shoulder height, “There’s this if he really needs it.”
Merrick ushered Jimmy out of the room before he could protest, then he shut the door behind him, using the guard’s key card to lock the door.
Jimmy’s heart started to beat faster, adrenaline pumping through his system as he looked down the corridor “So now what do we do?”
“Find another guard. One that’ll talk.”
Thad Wilkins woke up in a small room with Agent Roberts standing over him. He tried to move but found himself impaired by two agents behind him, holding him back. Agent Roberts was looking at a pen, except there was something coming out of the end of it. A beam of light from beyond the bars on the door hit the pen and revealed a long needle, Agent Roberts flicked the end lightly with his finger and Thad could see a drop of liquid form at the top of the needle and run down the side. Agent Roberts moved closer and said “This won’t hurt a bit Agent Wilkins. In fact, in a second all of your pain will go away.”
Thad tried another ‘futile struggle’ against the arms holding him back, testing them. When Agent Roberts was close enough, Thad launched himself up in the air, his left leg kicking Agent Roberts across the room and then arriving back on the ground behind the two agents holding his arms, who he pulled into each other with a loud ‘clonk’ of skulls. He shook them off, letting them drop to the floor. For a second he looked around at the faces, he didn’t recognise Roberts but the other two were his direct superiors. Something was really wrong about this, some hidden faction within the Shop, a group of traitors. He had to find out more about this, but now was not the time. He ran out of the room and into the corridor, looking around to get his bearings. This was the front half of the submarine, unofficially felt by both Room 39 and the Shop as the Shop’s half of the sub. Both groups were never entirely comfortable with sharing so they stayed to their own ‘sides’ of the submarine. Thad saw the computer lab a little further down the corridor. He couldn’t use a computer to save his life, now being the best example of that, but he knew a programmer who could, his ex-girlfriend, she would help him find out about the traitors in the Shop. Making his way into the room there was the familiar glare of computer screens that he hated so much lighting the room up despite the emergency lighting on the rest of the submarine. Only two workstations had people on them, both Shop personnel. The first, Edgar Stanton was engrossed in his work while on the other side of the room equally engrossed was Dinah Phillips, his ex-girlfriend and co-worker. She was young, blond and pretty, a person he would never have expected to be involved with computers or spying, but they made a good team until she had been promoted and they fell out over the ‘job’. Trying not to be noticed by Agent Stanton, Thad walked up to Dinah, pulled up a chair and sat next to her.
Dinah jumped, closed the file she was looking at and span around on the chair to face him. She asked “What are you doing here?”
“Quiet!” Thad whispered back.
“But—“ she started to speak and Thad put a hand over her mouth.
“Just listen.” Thad looked at her directly in the eyes, “There are traitors in the Shop. I don’t know how many but they tried to set me up. They’re trying to kill me. I’ve seen agents Tyler and Zuchowski working for them as well as an American, I’m not sure who he is…”
Thad shot under the desk as a patrol of guards walked past looking for him, with Agent Roberts leading the unit. Thad heard them ask Dinah if she had seen anyone and she shook her head. After the footsteps had gone he got back up and carried on “Look, they’re going to kill me and you’re the only person I know I can trust. You’ve got to check the agents’ files and find any connections, any reason they would be traitors.”
Dinah turned back to her computer, Thad sat back on the chair and sighed in relief “I tell you, this is the first break from being hit, chased, knocked out and tied up that I’ve had all day.”
It was then he saw the gun Dinah had pulled from its place strapped under her desk and was pointing at him.
“You as well?” Thad’s question was answered by a steady nod from Dinah, “Well how many of you are there?”
Thad anticipated Dinah’s answering with a bullet, seeing her finger tense on the trigger and shoving her hand away from him. The shot rang out through the computer lab and the bullet found its home in a monitor on the other side of Thad. He then pulled the pistol out of Dinah’s much smaller hands and held her against the chair by her thin neck “Who are you working for?”
“Haven’t you ever wondered that?”
“Either that or perhaps ‘what about Agent Stanton?’”
Thad remembered the other agent’s presence and turned around to see a gun pointed in his face and the gangly agent shouting “D-d-don’t move!”
In one sweeping motion, Thad pulled Dinah off of her chair and held her in front of him, one hand holding both of her arms together and the other pointing a gun at her head.
“Don’t move or I’ll shoot her. I mean it.” He didn’t, but Agent Stanton wasn’t to know that.
Agent Stanton started backing away as Thad moved Dinah and himself towards the door, the gun still pressed against her head. She tried moving to face him, but he stopped her, she said “Please Thad, don’t do this.”
“All I want is to get out of here alive.”
As he neared the entrance there was a shot and blood blinded Thad’s eyes as something knocked Dinah out of his grip and on to the metal floor with a hard thump.
“It’s a shame Agent Phillips couldn’t.” Agent Roberts’ voice coldly retorted.
Thad dived under a desk as a volley of shots followed after him. Crawling desperately under the desks the American’s voice carries on “You do realise this is all quite useless. I can kill you with a thought.”
So that was it, Thad thought, the experience in the crawl space earlier was given to him by this man. He stopped, realising the hopeless situation. Desperately wiping the blood from his face he could see the body of his ex-girlfriend across the floor from him. Blood was draining from her body and spreading towards him. This was all his fault and he was going to be killed without being able to put up a fight against the psychic traitor.
Thad’s newly cleaned eyes closed tightly again as he waited for the inevitable. Agent Roberts’ footsteps got closer, but stopped outside of the lab. Thad could smell ozone and felt his heart beating faster and faster. Then there was a loud bang and everything stopped.
Jimmy watched Merrick drag the unconscious guard into the supply closet they had been hiding in. He looked at both Jimmy and the guard before saying “I think he’s your size. Change here and I’ll get into the other guard’s uniform.”
Merrick had enjoyed subduing the guards, it had been too long since he had last done anything which didn’t involve sitting for hours on buildings with a sniper rifle. When he removed the mask from this guard he realised it was another Shop agent, he didn’t know his name but had seen him in the canteen in the past. By the time he was dressed, Jimmy was still changing. Merrick tapped on the door “You okay in there, kid?”
“I’m fine, I’m almost done…” there was a fumbling noise and Jimmy half-walked, half-fell out of the door “So what do we do with them?”
Merrick shrugged “Leave them I guess.”
He thought for a second and opened the door to the closet Jimmy had changed clothes in, he examined the unconscious guard’s face and put him back inside “Something’s up.”
“What do you mean?” Jimmy asked.
“These two guards. They both work for the Shop. So did the guard from the shooting range.”
“So I think we’re on to something big. We need to find where the people are being taken.”
“I’ve got a hunch.”
The pair started heading towards the aft of the sub, Merrick keeping a standard guard-like stance while Jimmy still moved as if he was hiding from someone. When Merrick noticed he stopped and gave Jimmy a light slap on the side of his head “Don’t walk like that! You’re supposed to be a guard.”
Jimmy practiced walking normally for Merrick. Merrick watched and commented “It’ll do for now.”
The pair carried on along the corridor, Merrick restraining himself from telling Jimmy where he was going wrong. Jimmy, evidently after a lot of thought told Merrick “You’re nothing like James Bond.”
Merrick stopped and looked at Jimmy.
Jimmy continued “Or John Steed. Or Patrick MacGoohan. Or anyone else for that matter.”
“I don’t like you.”
“Nice to see the Japanese taught you manners in that intensive training program.”
“Like the ‘traditional’ training that taught you the excessive use of leg-breakage I saw you doing earlier. You enjoyed that too much.”
“So what should we do? Take on god knows how many soldiers with just the two of us, or one if you count those who can aim.”
“That was low. Anyway, guns aren’t the only way of fighting.”
Merrick threw his gun to the floor, took his 9mm out of his pocket and dropped that as well, then he gestured to Jimmy “Okay. Let’s see how you handle a good old fashioned fight. No guns. Man to man.”
Jimmy put his gun down and got into a ‘ready to fight’ stance. As Merrick was about to swing the first punch, a guard walked around the corner and was shocked to see two guards about to face off against each other. He shouted “What are you doing?”
Jimmy and Merrick both stopped and looked at him. Merrick quickly responded “Just a little play fight, sir. We’ve cleaned out these corridors and needed a break.”
The guard gave them both a clip around the ear and Jimmy had to keep himself from laughing at Merrick taking a slap and having to restrain himself from beating the guard senseless. The guard then ordered “You two, come with me. We’ve got an escapee to deal with.”
“Escapee?” Merrick said before Jimmy could.
“A prisoner, he beat up three of our men and is now at large. Agent Roberts wants a couple of guards to help him get our man back. I think given what he does to guards that fail him, it will be perfect to get your minds back on the job.”
Without thinking, Merrick had picked his gun up again and handed Jimmy his before he could realise he should have been holding it. Jimmy gave a raised-eyebrowed look at Merrick who was too busy looking like a was taking orders. The guard started escorting the pair down a corridor when Jimmy edged closer to Merrick and whispered “Should we jump him?”
“No. This is perfect. This Agent Roberts sounds like he must be high-ranking in all of this and if there are other people on our side that he’s hunting down we could overpower him and get a few more on our…”
“Stop whispering!” the guard shouted, “You two are some of the least professional guards I’ve seen today. Let me see your IDs.”
Merrick and Jimmy both stopped and fumbled around in their pockets for them. After the first few pockets Merrick found his, Jimmy noticed where Merrick took his ID from and followed suit. They both showed the IDs to the guard who wrote them down and carried on walking, expecting them to follow.
Before walking, Jimmy said “He’s very thorough isn’t he?”
“I’d say seven out of ten personally.”
The guard stopped and looked at them, the pair took the hint and hurried along after him.
When they came to the corridor where Agent Roberts stood waiting, Jimmy took a peek in one of the rooms where the door had been left open. Two unconscious men in suits were lying on the floor. Jimmy nudged Merrick, then he nudged him the second time after Merrick had not responded and nodded towards the two bodies.
“Both Shop.” Merrick whispered.
The both looked back up at Agent Roberts looking rather sternly at them “Yes, they’re unconscious,” he almost spat those words “but that doesn’t matter. We’re missing a traitor and have to find him before we move to phase two.”
Merrick silently nodded. Agent Roberts made a wave for the pair and their irritable supervisor to follow him. He whispered “Don’t do anything” he stressed the anything hoarsely at them, “until I tell you to. This is a very sensitive operation.”
With that he walked down the corridor, pistol drawn, the others closely following him. After two corridors they passed the computer suite, only two people there. Agents Stanton and Phillips. Both Shop, which was slowly becoming less of a surprise to Merrick. Stanton was moving towards where Phillips was sat and Phillips was gesturing under her desk. Merrick and Jimmy looked at each other, then at Agent Roberts who nodded for them to carry on for a moment. Once they were around the corner he held his hand up, gesturing for them to stop.
“We wait here for a moment.” Agent Roberts whispered.
There was a shot, followed by an argument between two men. Agent Roberts made his way around the corners, the others following him until they saw a bruised and battered looking man holding Agent Phillips in one hand and a gun to her head in the other. He hadn’t noticed the group yet, but Agent Stanton had and was backing off.
“Please Thad, don’t do this.” Agent Phillips cried out.
With that Merrick recognised the man holding her. Thad Wilkins, a test monkey for the Shop. Never trusted with proper work and always scowling at the more successful agents whenever he had seen him.
“All I want is to get out of here alive.” He calmly replied.
A shot rang in Merrick and Jimmy’s ears as the supervisor shot Dinah in the head with a deadly accuracy.
“It’s a shame Agent Phillips couldn’t” Agent Roberts said, turning the situation to his advantage.
Jimmy bit his lip trying his best not to scream, while Agent Roberts carried on moving closer as the bloodstained Thad Wilkins dropped the dead agent and ran under the desks, the annoyed guard rattled off a few more shots so Jimmy and Merrick did their best to fire like real henchmen and miss any target they were aiming for.
Agent Roberts smiled “You do realise this is all quite useless. I can kill you with a thought.”
Merrick froze up when he heard those words. Jimmy stopped as well, eyes widening as he realised that he could probably hear their thoughts. He mustn’t think about trying to stop them. He mustn’t think about being their enemy.
Just before Agent Roberts reached the lab he stopped and looked around. Someone was transmitting thoughts far too loud. Someone was panicking. He started to reach out to the three agents, his lack of finesse with his psionics starting to burn the minds of those nearby. Jimmy’s nose started to bleed under his mask and the supervisor was clutching his head in pain. Merrick on the other hand realised what was going on. He fired a shot at Agent Roberts while he was busy ‘flexing’ his mind. Agent Roberts doubled over as the shot hit his stomach. The supervisor was still stunned so Merrick quickly swung the butt of the gun into the guard’s face. Jimmy pulled his mask off and wiped the blood from his nose.
“What was that?” he asked.
Merrick took his mask off and glowered at him “No time for that.”
Merrick remembered Agent Stanton a second too late as a bullet flew between Jimmy and himself. The pair both shot Stanton and he dropped on top of his computer leaving a large trail of blood as he slid down it.
Jimmy dropped the gun and held his jaw wide open.
He started to ask “Did I--?”
Merrick walked into the lab and looked at Agent Stanton “No, you didn’t kill him. He’s breathing. Just.”
Merrick took one look and had to stop himself from throwing up “Oh she’s dead all right.”
Jimmy’s legs gave in and he hit the floor. Right next to Agent Roberts. Merrick rushed out of the lab and to Jimmy who was sitting against the wall silently.
“You okay, kid?”
“I’ve… I’ve never seen…”
Merrick sat down next to him and put his gun down “A dead body?” Merrick completed Jimmy’s statement “It’s okay kid.”
“It’s not okay! Not for her!”
“Having second thoughts about being a spy?”
“I was never meant to be a spy!” Jimmy blustered “I was supposed to be Q! I was supposed to be someone who does all the gadgets and technology. Not this!”
Merrick started getting up “Look. There’s nothing I can say to make you feel better. This is what happens in the business. It’s ugly and you should never have to get used to seeing the dead, but I get the feeling we’ll see a lot more if we don’t carry on.”
Jimmy started getting up and Merrick helped him. Jimmy started breathing slowly, then nodded “So, what do we do now?”
Merrick started heading into the computer lab “You’re Mr. Technology, right?”
Jimmy nodded. Merrick continued “Well my guess is that one of these agents was logged in at the time so use their terminals to find out where we’re headed and why they arranged for us to be here.”
“What about you?” Jimmy asked.
Merrick looked at Agent Roberts on the floor “I’ll deal with him.”
Jimmy made his way around the terminals doing his best to avoid the bodies in his way. Merrick kneeled by Agent Roberts and lifted him slightly up “I know you rolled with that shot, with that liner under your uniform I doubt you’ve got more than a bruise so speak to me or the next shot will be at your head.”
“Nice speech you gave to the child Mr. Merrick.” Agent Roberts answered before slowly opening his eyes “I always thought you enjoyed killing, you’ve always done it so well.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“Merrick, David C. You have a wife and two children. Oh sorry, had. They left, didn’t they?”
Merrick gave Agent Roberts a punch to the stomach, exactly where he had shot him before.
Agent Roberts continued “Your work cleaning up any of Room 39’s mistakes took over your life to the point where you spent one Christmas on a rooftop waiting for a traitor to Room 39 to show his head outside so you could take it off. What did his children think when you killed their father in front of them? Did you even think about that? And what about Beirut? Can you ever forgive yourself for the innocent lives you took?”
Merrick used the butt of his gun to break Agent Roberts’ arm in two places before he spoke “Enough about me. Why has the Shop taken over its own vessel?”
Agent Roberts just laughed. Merrick pulled a small knife out of his boot with one hand and held Agent Roberts’ hand still with the other.
Jimmy looked over from his work when he heard the scream “Is everything alright?”
Merrick popped his head up enough so that Jimmy could see him “Of course. Get on with your work.”
There was a muffled scream as Merrick took the knife out from under Agent Roberts’ index fingernail. He asked “Fancy talking now?”
“Fine!” Agent Roberts held his bleeding finger, trying to stop the blood from escaping “It’s too late to stop anyway. The Shop are breaking away from the Conspiracy.”
Merrick’s eyes widened.
Agent Roberts enjoyed watching Merrick’s expression and continued “We’ve been ordered to put all of Room 39’s agents except for some ‘valuable commodities’ in the back of the sub and when we’re all in the correct end break it in two.”
“Break the submarine?”
“In two. You doubt our power? We’ve had this submarine refitted so many times that our end has been made more and more self-sustaining. As we speak the bridge is now run by our agents. More of our number have fitted the front end with external engines and we have enough life support to take us where we want to go.”
Merrick drew back. Agent Roberts was being more forthcoming with his information than Merrick thought he should be.
Merrick asked “Valuable commodities? Is that why Agent Kojima and I were sent here?”
“No. That’s why young James was sent here. We couldn’t care less about you. That’s why I’ve let you talk to a psychic projection for the last two minutes. The truth is I left just after you shot me.”
Merrick dropped what he had thought was Agent Roberts who faded into thin air. He stood up and called over to Jimmy “Kid! We’ve got to get out—“
He was cut off by the sight of Thad Wilkins like some bloodstained wide-eyed monster holding Jimmy with a gun to his throat “I heard exactly what you heard there Mr. Merrick.” He spoke as if each word was an attack on Merrick “They want your boy. He’s valuable to them, so I think I’ll see what they think of this.”
“You don’t want to do this.” Merrick tried to sound reasonable “We’re playing into their hands acting like this. They want both of us dead.”
“But not this one. They’ll have to answer me now. They’ll have to take me back.”
“You want to go back to that load of loonies? I don’t care, just leave the kid out of it.”
Thad started walking calmly out of the lab “Don’t try anything. You may be a good sniper but my reactions are a lot better, if you move anywhere near me he’ll have a new hole to breathe through.”
Merrick let the machine gun hang around his neck and put his hands up “Okay, just let me tag along. I want the kid back once your done.”
Thad gestured at Merrick with his pistol “Put the gun down then.”
As Merrick started to put his gun down Jimmy struck backwards with his head. Now Jimmy not being the tallest of people instead of hitting Thad in the forehead or even the nose he managed to strike Thad’s chin. The unexpected blow to the chin shocked Thad enough for Jimmy to get out of his grip and swing a punch at Thad’s face. Thad hit the wall before falling on the floor, unconscious.
Merrick ruffled Jimmy’s hair like a pet “You did good, kid. Let’s go.”
“What about this man?”
“Wilkins? We leave him.”
“But he’ll die. If he ends up on their side he’ll still be killed.”
“So? He was the man with the gun at your head. Or did your little moment of victory make you forget that?”
“No. I just don’t want any more deaths.”
Merrick sighed and lifted the large Greek over his shoulders. Jimmy smiled and asked “So now where?”
Before Merrick could answer there was a shake and a rattling noise. The voice on the speakers piped up “Separation commencing in five minutes.”
Merrick looked around “Oh crap.”
“I have an idea.” Jimmy looked around “The cargo hold is just below here.”
“Well that’s a good idea. That’s just below here on the Room 39 side of the sub.”
“There’s a vehicle I’ve been making that’s in there.”
“And suddenly I have more hope in you. Time to get in the crawl space.”
Starting to head down the crawl space the pair felt quite uncomfortable, not because of their own sizes which were both enough to make it through the cramped tunnels fine, but because of having to heft Agent Wilkins with them.
Half way down Merrick asked “If we took his legs off it would still count as saving a life, right?”
Jimmy glared at him. As they reached the bottom Merrick realised that they had been seen on the cameras positioned at the entrances of the crawl space, but as long as they got to Jimmy’s vehicle it would be all right. The hatches to the other crawl space tunnels on the opposite side of the main corridor of the cargo bay opened and a group of guards pointed their guns at the pair. Merrick looked around, then held Agent Wilkins up at them and called out “We have one of your superiors here. Move and we kill him!”
These guards didn’t seem to know Agent Wilkins, but he was dressed in the uniform of one of them so they stopped. One of the guards at the back started radioing in to his superiors. Merrick and Jimmy edged their way down the corridor still using Thad as a shield until Jimmy reached the door to his experimental vehicle.
The voice calmly spoke “One minute remaining.”
“We can’t have taken that long in the crawl space can we?” Jimmy asked.
“If not for your new friend’s fat arse I’m sure we could have made better time.” Merrick retorted.
Jimmy opened the door just as the guards received their radioed reply from the bridge. It was evidently not the news Merrick or Jimmy would have wanted to hear. Gunshots clattered around them as the pair and their human shield darted into the room. Merrick slammed the door shut before seeing Jimmy opening the door to a jeep.
“An all terrain jeep.” Jimmy replied, expecting Merrick to be impressed.
“All jeeps are all terrain.”
“Not ALL terrain. I mean water, air, the lot.”
Merrick sighed, then twisted the handle of the door around. Jimmy was putting Thad in the back of the jeep. Merrick stopped.
Jimmy turned around and impatiently shouted “Get in the jeep!”
“I’m not getting in there with him!” Merrick pointed at the Thad.
“Either you’re getting in with him or I’ll leave you outside.” Jimmy pointed to the metal door behind them that was starting to give way to the enemy agents.
“Fine, but if he drools on me I’ll break his neck.”
Merrick sat in the back of the jeep and there was a click as the doors sealed themselves shut. He looked at the door as the first hinge flew on to the floor. “Isn’t there any way you could do this faster?”
“I have to seal the pressure of the jeep. You don’t want your head to pop or anything now, do you?”
The last hinge flew off the door and hit the back of the jeep before the gun-toting agents charged into the room.
“Thirty seconds remaining.” The voice said.
Merrick and Jimmy both felt their ears pop. Jimmy quickly set the jeep into reverse, ramming at the guards that had ventured into the room. A quick button press and a metal barrier popped up covering the back window.
“Twenty seconds remaining.”
Merrick tried to look out of the back. The noise of gunfire was muffled by the inside of the jeep, Jimmy was evidently enjoying himself in the jeep.
“Ten seconds remaining.”
The guards ran out of the room and towards their half of the submarine. Running from room to room the guards made their way to their end, but it had already been sealed off.
Inside the jeep there was no noise apart from the sudden rush of water hitting it. Merrick looked worried as the jeep started to sink. Both he and Jimmy could see the Shop’s half of the submarine making its way elsewhere while the Room 39 section just moved further and further into the sea.
The shocked pair both came to their senses when they realised they were also sinking. Jimmy started looking at the controls.
Merrick leaned over to the front and asked “Aren’t you going to drive this thing?”
“It’s not finished. I got it so we could breathe underwater, but hadn’t gotten around to making it go.”
“What?!” Merrick slumped back in the seat and gave Thad a slap “And I bet he’ll take up more than his fair share of oxygen. Speaking of which how long will our supply last?”
“Given the amount of us down here? Half an hour.” Jimmy turned around and smiled “But I have an idea…”
Merrick was about to make a noise like “Uh oh.” But before he could Jimmy pressed a button. The outside of the jeep suddenly inflated and expanded, with a rush the jeep started its way towards the surface.
Merrick woke up. They were still in the jeep, but Jimmy had take the roof down. It was a lovely morning, the sun was making its slow ascent into the sky and Merrick felt quite calm in himself. As he was about to get out of the jeep Jimmy stopped him “I wouldn’t do that.”
Merrick looked out and realised why. They were still floating in the middle of nowhere. Merrick said “I thought you told me you’d find some land.”
“I did. It’s just I didn’t have any way to move the jeep. I did radio for help.”
“Good.” Merrick sat back in the chair and watched the clouds pass.
Finally there was a noise that roused Merrick a second time. Two helicopters were heading towards the jeep. Jimmy and Thad were awake and Thad had cleaned himself up in the seawater, but evidently had not spoken to Jimmy yet.
Merrick watched eagerly as a rope ladder uncoiled towards them and a man walked down it. Merrick had seen this man before, but had never met him in person. When the man arrived on the jeep and steadied himself, Merrick announced him “Two.”
“Agent Merrick,” Two replied, sitting in the jeep “this is a rather nice way to travel.”
Jimmy and Thad were still confused about the identity of this man. Jimmy asked “Can we go now?”
Two laughed. He gestured to the ladder and calmly said “You can go.”
Jimmy made a move and Two blocked his way “However I do have a proposition for you.”
The trio all waited for his next words.
Two carried on “We have heard about the Shop’s ‘split’ from our ranks. It is obvious that we are going to look into this, but we need agents like yourselves. You have bested the Shop once and if you agree to join me then you can stop them from causing any more harm to us.”
“Any more harm?”
“One of our top agents was found bleeding to death in the Palatine Hill in Rome an hour ago. In Australia we recently lost contact with a high security prison for henchmen that was run by the Shop. A class of our finest up-and-coming psychics were lost there, their teacher also a Shop agent.”
The trio all paused, taking in this news.
“They have something planned. Something big. They’ve won this round, striking at us before we know what’s going on, but next time we’ll be prepared.”
“That’s where we come in.” Merrick interrupted.
“Yes.” Two nodded “If you choose.”
Merrick and Jimmy shared a glance, then looked at Thad.
Jimmy spoke for the three of them “We’ll do it.”