Dr Pheidippides and the Case of the Colored Assassins

"This is completely ridiculous!" stomped Andromeda, "how can they possibly believe that one small bucket of food is enough for a healthy tortoise for a whole day!" "Actually," responded Dr Pheidippides somewhat bitterly, "they believe that that is enough food for six healthy tortoises for a whole day." "Well, I don't like it here," continued Andromeda, "and I have no idea why the other tortoises are so unfriendly." " Perhaps because you ate their dinner?" replied the small tortoise. "Well, perhaps, but that doesn't explain why they took down all my decorations," Andromeda sulked. "We are in the SeaWorld 'Untamed Amazon' exhibit," hissed the largest of the six tortoises, "you cannot put ribbons all over the walls and you certainly can't put curtains over the glass!" "But all those rude people were looking at us!" exclaimed Andromeda. "That is what 'exhibit' means," retorted the large tortoise angrily.

Dr Pheidippides ducked his head back inside his shell. This was going to be a difficult operation. Remote deployments were always awkward; you had to deal with the fact that you had a mission and yet you were operating in an area that really belonged to another team. When you added a general's daughter to the mix, who tended to expect things to go her own way, one had a problem. Unfortunately Andromeda was oblivious (which means: didn't even think about) to those kind of issues.

"Can't we do anything to cheer this place up a little?" cried Andromeda. "Well, usually there are lots of pretty butterflies around," said one of the two small female tortoises, "but they all seem to have gone." "Hmmm..." said Andromeda. "I love butterflies. They are an excellent source of protein," she continued licking her lips. "Which no doubt explains where they have all gone," snarled the large tortoise. "We are not really allowed butterflies," Andromeda rambled, "the eldest of our human charges is terrified of them." The large tortoise laughed derisively (which means in a mean way), "well he sounds a little pathetic!" he rasped.

Dr Pheidippides head shot out of his shell and he glowered at the large tortoise. The large tortoise looked extremely uncomfortable. Being rude about humans was frowned upon within the Agency anyway; directly insulting a charge of one of the most senior colonels in the Agency was exactly the kind of mistake that had landed the large tortoise in 'Zoo Detail' in the first place. "Perhaps," said Pheidippides coldly, "we need to examine the facts before jumping to conclusions. Firstly: would I be correct in assuming there are usually birds of all shapes and sizes in an 'Untamed Amazon' exhibit?" "Yes," responded the large tortoise very, very quietly. "And unless my eyesight and state-of-the-art ground-radar are failing me; would I be correct in stating that none of those are around either?" continued the doctor. "It would appear not," said the large tortoise cautiously. Dr Pheidippides continued, "Then unless you believe Andromeda has caught, cooked and eaten the entire bird population without our noticing I suggest there is some other cause of all flying animals being absent: perhaps a hole in the netting?"

The large tortoise looked sheepish (which means very embarrassed). He had insulted a child in Agency protection, falsely accused a general's daughter and probably failed to spot a security breach in the perimeter of his allocated area. If he was going to interact with one of the elite agency teams he was going to have to raise his game. He wisely chose to be a bit more proactive (which means finding ways to solve problems, rather than complaining). "I will find the breach and post guards, I will also contact some of the other teams in the area to see if we have found the enemy agents yet," said the large tortoise. Pheidippides smiled and nodded.

Snappy stretched out in the sun and thought how good life was. Half an hour previously the food for the fifteen alligators in the lake had been delivered. Fred had eaten enough for three but that was fine as the other fourteen alligators had stayed down the other end of the lake cowering under boardwalk. "This place is beautiful," said Snappy to Fred, "I'm surprised more turtles haven't come to take advantage of it." "This ain't a good place fer tur'les," responded Fred, "too many alligators." Snappy sat bolt upright and looked a little excited, "do you think I might be in some kind of danger," he asked hopefully. Fred looked down the lake at the fourteen alligators that seemed to be trying to hide in the mud, "nah, dun't fink so," he replied. Snappy sunk back down onto the island and decided to take a quick nap.

The large tortoise bustled up to Pheidippides and the stood respectfully waiting to be addressed. "Everything in order?" asked the small tortoise. "Yes sir. You were correct; there is a six inch breach to the netting in the South-East Quadrant. Two of my men are standing guard and one of the young females is ready to draw it to the attention of the next trainer that comes to us. I have had reports from our teams in the Sea-Lions, Whales and Penguins, no unusual activity. There is just one slight, er, anomaly sir." "Anomaly," said Pheidippides raising an eyebrow. "Anomaly sir, something I can't quite explain," continued the large tortoise, "my radar is indicated an 18 inch long object five yards to the north of us, but I went to check and couldn't find anything sir." Dr Pheidippides grinned. "Ah," he said, "I am very familiar with that particular anomaly. Tortoises, allow me to introduce you to Sergeant Cham."

The Chameleon flashed red with anger at having been spotted. "I hate the new radar that you are being fitted with!" he exclaimed, "it makes me useless." "Have you made your tour of the area?" asked Pheidippides. "Yes," replied Chameleon. "And did anyone spot you?" asked Pheidippides. "No, of course not," replied Cham. "Then you are not useless, are you!" chuckled the Doctor. "Now, what did you find?" The Chameleon looked unhappy: "not a lot I'm afraid. The Agency teams working in this area have done extremely well. There are a lot of enemy agents around but we have them matched man to man by our own agents." The tortoises that lived in the Amazon exhibit looked very happy. Cham continued, "the one place where we thought we might be out-gunned was in the alligator pit; but Snappy and Fred are there stretched out like it is a beach party! The SHOP alligators are hiding under the board-walk!" The large tortoise suddenly looked concerned: "are any of your humans young enough to jump over the edge of the board-walk?" (He was very careful not to say 'stupid enough'). "No," said the Doctor, "youngest is seven."

Andromeda blurted out: "so here we are, starving to death, when the children are perfectly safe and nothing unusual is happening! I want to go home!" One of the small female tortoises coughed a little. "Do you have something to say?" asked Pheidippides. "Well sir, I don't know sir, but I'm a little surprised to hear that Snappy and Fred found it quite that easy sir. I know those alligators. They are not very smart and they may not be good fighters but they are very, very aggressive. Even if they couldn't win against Snappy and Fred, it is very odd that they didn't try."

Dr Pheidippides tucked his head into his shell to think. The other tortoises waited until he popped out again. "Actually," he said, "I know exactly who they are planning to attack and how they are planning to do it. I even know exactly how to stop them." All of the tortoises stood to attention, taking part in a battle plan orchestrated by the famous Dr Pheidippides was a chance too good to miss. "I will need all of you to help, but first I just need to adjust my 'Pawbook' status."

So: who were the shop agents going to target and how did they plan to do it?

The Harpy Eagle looked along the line of bushes; with his excellent eyesight he could see the occasional flutter which told him the squadrons of butterflies were waiting. He had friends that would consider a bush full of butterflies to be a feast; but for now he had more important uses for them. The sun was going down but it was still warm enough for his team to move. The alligators were all in place under the boardwalk. His information source told him that the family would be walking across the boardwalk any time now. He had spotted the wretched Agency team desperately trying to identify the risk, but he was confident that they didn't have a clue what his plan was. All was right with the world.

Well, everything except for that stupid dog. The eagle looked out across the picnic area and shook his head in disgust. There were now a dozen humans and half a dozen dogs all obediently looking at their masters and wagging their tails. Clearly a party was being planned for the evening. They had set up some flashing disco lights and had probably the biggest sound system the harpy had ever seen. All around the picnic area were giant speakers. They even had a dry ice machine pumping fake snow in the air. Fortunately it was in one corner of the grass clearing so his butterflies could fly around it. This many humans was enough to make him sick; but there in the middle was a stupid little dog with a blue ribbon that was excitedly running around in circles licking everybody.

Suddenly the Eagle tensed and squinted to see further. There, coming across the boardwalk were his targets; or rather target. This was an attack that would make him famous. Taking out an almost fully grown human charge from the great Dr Pheidippides would go down in the legends of history. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the soppy little dog had started formation dancing with another equally soppy dog with a pink ribbon to the tune of 'Who let the dogs out!' If ever you needed proof that humans owning pets was wrong; that was it. "Charge!" screeched the eagle. Thousands of brightly colored butterflies flew from the bushes across the picnic area towards the board walk. "Remember, go for the big one, he's terrified of you!" the eagle called.

As the butterflies started to move across the picnic area Jemima back-flipped out of the dance line and ran towards the amplifier for the sound system; she grabbed the volume and cranked it all the way up just as the song reached: "Woof woof". The huge speakers roared into life and emitted a blast of sound that could almost deafen a human and was quite powerful enough to knock the butterflies half-way across the picnic area. Exactly half way across the picnic area stood Winston with the dry ice machine; which he now turned up to full power too. The little butterflies; stunned by a sound wave and now frozen with ice began to drop to the ground. Andromeda and the other tortoises now emerged from the bushes. "Such pretty colors," she said. "And they crunch wonderfully when they are frozen!" she added happily. Meanwhile down in the alligator pit Snappy and Fred stood up. "Remember," said Snappy, "you only get to fight one of them, any more and I'll be looking for a thirteenth alligator to fight to beat my record. Get it." "Go' it" said Fred. Let's hope he did.

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