Dr Pheidippides and the Sock of Death

Wiley Coyote looked up at the large metal garage door. He knew there had to be a way through the door he just had to find it. Removing a large magnifying glass from his back-pack he started to examine each line and each panel in turn. As he got to the panel two from the right hand end he twitched with excitement. The edges of the panel seemed just a little deeper and darker than the others had; this had to be the secret door! He was certain that there had to be some clever way to open the door; fortunately the large crow-bar in his backpack meant he didn't have to find it. He inserted the end of the crowbar into the crack and pulled; it didn't budge. He placed both feet on the garage door and pulled as hard as he possibly could. Suddenly the door gave way and Wiley went flying across the driveway scraping his behind on the rough bricks and hitting him on the head with the crow-bar. He was about to emit (which means 'make a noise') a screech of pain when he remembered he was on a secret mission. So instead he put his paws over his mouth to keep the scream in.

Creeping back to the now open secret door Coyote peered into the garage; he had to stifle (which means 'avoid doing') a whimper. Even in the gloom of night he could count fourteen different traps; and that was just the obvious ones. To his left was the motorbike with the dodgy stand; any pressure on the bike and 400 lbs of metal came crashing down on you. Then of course was the ATV that was always left on ready to roar into life if anyone tried to climb over it. He spotted three or four assorted bicycles, all replete (which means 'full of') chains, spokes and cogs any one of which could trap anyone trying to creep past. Stretched in a line from left to right was the hose pipe, filled with water and plugged into the mains electricity at one end. The stacks of not-quite balanced bricks, wooden planks not-quite leaning against the walls, the garden rakes and brooms scattered at intervals across the floor were hardly worth mentioning. It was the large sheet carelessly tossed in the middle of the room that caught his attention. That was almost certainly where they had hidden the "sock of death".

Wiley Coyote gingerly lowered himself to the garage floor and plotted his course to Andromeda's pen. The one thing he knew was that he didn't want to go anywhere near the large sheet. He edge around the dustbin and started to tiptoe past the first pile of bricks. He almost screamed and quickly he looked down at his foot, which now had four large nails stuck in it. He pulled out the nails and started to limp forward. He heard a crunch and looked down; then he heard a swish and looked up just in time to see a large boot attached to the roof by a piece of string swinging towards his head. He ducked and leapt backwards, stamping on the nails again. He yelped and fell to the ground and there staring him in the face was a dirty white sock. He gasped, which was a very bad idea, his eyes bulged. He couldn't decide whether to choke, or throw-up or both. Clutching at his throat he began to stagger towards the opening in the garage door.

Dr Pheidippides woke up the instant the siren sounded: enemy attack. Immediately he started towards the edge of this pen so that he could see what was coming. As he got there he saw Andromeda's head appear above the edge of her pen too. He smiled to himself. She may be lazy and greedy but no tortoise could resist the sound of the battle siren. Pheidippides looked across the garage and noted that three different traps had triggered including the sock of death. He was quite disturbed to see the large coyote staggering towards the garage door clutching his throat. "What's going on? I was having a lovely dream about strawberries!" demanded Andromeda. "Our garage was invaded," responded Pheidippides, "I suspect he was after our food."

"WHAT!!!" screeched Andromeda. Immediately, scutes all over her shell began to move revealing an array of formidable (which means 'scarey') looking weapons. Pheidippides had never seen Andromeda in full battle formation before; he was impressed. He made a note to remember that Andromeda was the daughter of probably the most feared battle-tortoise on the planet. The small flash of light and whooshing noise announced the launch of two surface-to-air missiles from Andromeda's shell. The large flash of light, loud explosion and deafening yelp of pain announced the arrival of the missiles on the Coyotes rump.

The team assembled in Pheidippides pen. The small tortoise was walking up and down with a concerned look. "The good news," commenced the doctor, "is that tonight our collection of traps successfully thwarted (which means prevented) an enemy attack. The bad news is that an enemy agent with a strong sense of smell came face to face with the sock of death; and lived." The team just looked at the small tortoise. This news was too horrible to contemplate. The 'sock of death' was probably the most feared trap in the entire Agency armory. Enemy agents had nightmares about the 'sock of death'. If it was now the 'sock of a fairly unpleasant coughing fit' it was not going to have the same effect.

No-one knew how the sock of death had come to be. Pheidippides had discovered it when he first was scouting out his garage hide-out; he had assumed some older agent had used the hide-out at some time and left it behind. Without the 'sock of death' the garage was much more vulnerable. "Somehow we need to fix the sock we have, or get another one," announced Pheidippides. "Winston, I need you to go to Aristotle the Chemist and see if he has any ideas for fixing the sock. Snappy, I need you to go into the deepest, nastiest parts of the swamp and see if you can find anything as bad as the sock. Cham, can you go and hunt through the human garbage and see if you can find anything like the sock." "I'll go play with the humans," suggested Andromeda. "We need to keep up our cover, and I think today might be fruit day!" she added cheerfully.

That evening the team gathered again. As Snappy lowered into the pen he looked even more miserable than normal. "What is the matter?" asked Pheidippides. Snappy responded by sneezing all over the small tortoise. "The swamp is freezing this time of year! I caught a cold," he grumbled, "I swam through a thousand miles of rotting vegetation and nothing in that swamp is even close to being as nasty as that sock!" "Well please don't sneeze on us, or we will catch the cold too!" said Cham edging away from Snappy. "Any luck in the garbage?" asked the small tortoise. "No," responded the Chameleon, "for a start the female humans insists on washing everything before it goes in the trash, even if she didn't, they throw the trash out every four days, which isn't even close to enough time to grow anything as bad as that sock!"

"Well Winston, it looks like we are relying upon you," said Pheidippides, "Aristotle is the best weapons expert we have, did he have any ideas?" Winston looked unhappy. "Well, I have bad news," said the dog. "Aristotle did a full analysis of the sock. It is a weird combination of cheese puffs, meatballs, cookies, very old human sweat, bacteria and something really; really horrible that broke the machine when he tried to analyze it! He has no idea how to make another one. Sorry." "Hmmm... cheese puffs, meatballs, cookies," said Andromeda wistfully, "it sounds yummy. That's what the youngest human normally eats." "Old sweat and bacteria also sounds like the youngest human," said Cham, "he hasn't washed in months!" "Well the 'something horrible' could be his feet," said Winston, "the human foot is the smelliest part of most of them."

The Doctor looked amazed. "So maybe the 'Sock of Death' was not a cunningly devised weapon after all. Then all we have to do is go get one of his socks!" said Pheidippides happily. "But how?" asked Winston. "I could get in and out without a problem but I don't think I could survive the smell of a brand new 'sock of death'." "I could go get it," said Snappy, "I can't smell a thing with this cold!" "I think the humans would spot a thumping great turtle walking across their floor!" said Cham, "I could sneak in and take it." "I could walk through the house without sneaking," said Andromeda, "but it is a very long way through the kitchen to the small human's bedroom!"

Pheidippides smiled. "Actually," he said, "I know exactly who should go to get the sock and I know who will need to help and how."

So: who did Pheidippides send for the sock, who helped and how?

"Winston," said Pheidippides, "go and stand by Snappy please." Looking a little perplexed (which means very confused) Winston stood where he was told. "Cham, thank you for your offer," said Dr Pheidippides, "but the problem is that whilst you could hide yourself, the sight of a human sock walking across the floor on its own might be a little suspicious." Snappy sneezed; Winston grimaced and began to wipe the sneeze off his fur. "Andromeda, thank you for your offer too. The problem is that I suspect you would get distracted whilst walking through the kitchen," said the small tortoise. Andromeda licked her lips at the thought of all the food in the kitchen.

Pheidippides now turned to Winston who was beginning to look slightly ill. "I take it you now have a cold coming on?" he asked. "Yes," said Winston miserably, "I think Snappy just gave it to me." "Good," said Pheidippides, "wait until your nose is completely blocked and you should be able to race and take the sock without a problem." About an hour later, with his nose completely blocked, Winston opened the door and disappeared into the house. Eighteen seconds later the door opened again and a wave of green, nauseating (which means 'sickening') air rolled into the garage quickly followed by Winston carrying two socks. "Snappy, hide them!" ordered Pheidippides as he quickly ducked his head into his shell.

That night Pheidippides went to sleep very happily. The traps had worked, he had discovered Andromeda had impressive firepower, they had toasted an enemy agent and now he had two 'socks of death'. Life was looking pretty good.

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