Dr Pheidippides and the Case of the Cunning Trap

 "So you know how enemy agents broke into one of the most secure facilities in the world and stole my daughter?" thundered General Colossus, "then out with it man; tell me how they did it!" "Actually Sir," responded Dr Pheidippides, "no one broke into the camp; Andromeda broke out!" "What?" stormed the General. "Andromeda broke out," repeated the small tortoise. "What?" bellowed the General, clearly at a loss for better words. "Andromeda broke out," said Pheidippides, "the bricks were blown away from the camp, not towards it, and that is an Andromeda size hole." "Are you suggesting that my daughter has gone over to the enemy?" thundered the General again. "Not exactly sir," said Pheidippides, "unless I am very much mistaken that red patch over there is strawberry juice."

The light of comprehension dawned upon the general's face (which means he had a light-bulb moment). It was a well known fact that nothing as flimsy as an eighteen inch thick steel re-enforced brick wall was going to stand between the general's daughter and a strawberry. "So you think they placed a strawberry out here; and when she came to eat it they snatched her away?" asked Colossus. "I don't think so sir," responded Pheidippides, "as that would involve taking Andromeda away from the strawberry." The general shuddered. He had once tried to take a bottle of milk from Andromeda when she was a baby and his arm had been broken in the process. "I rather suspect," continued the small tortoise, "that they placed a trail of strawberries one after the other which ultimately led her to where they wanted her." "Can you find her?" asked Colossus. "Yes sir," responded Pheidippides and he set off upon the trail.

Pheidippides followed the trail for several miles. Sure enough every couple of hundred yards there was another red-patch where another strawberry had been placed. Eventually he came to a road; there were no more red-patches but there was a dirty black smear on the road. Pheidippides smelt it; fresh rubber. Hmmm; he would need to think a little. He popped a grape into his mouth; wincing slightly at the unpleasant taste. Then he looked grim. Clearly a strawberry had been placed inside the back of a truck. Andromeda had climbed into the truck after the strawberry and the truck had driven off; but which way? To the left the road wound up the hillside towards a forest; to the right it led down into the city. Would they try to hide her out in the wilderness or down in the hubbub of a building? Pheidippides had to quickly scamper off the road as three heavy laden grocery trucks came up the road towards him.

Suddenly Pheidippides smiled. Of course: why would three full grocery trucks be going from a crowded city up into the middle of nowhere? Andromeda. The doctor started up the road after the trucks. Two miles along the road, tire tracks led into the forest; the tortoise followed. He was getting a little hungry so he ate another grape. Going further forward he heard voices and smelled the smoke of a campfire. He slowed down, found cover and began to inch closer and closer to where the voices came from.

Eventually he was at the edge of a clearing overlooking the enemy camp. He fetched out his binoculars and finished the last of the bunch of grapes he had brought with him. There in the middle of the camp was Andromeda. More accurately, there in the middle of the camp was a huge mound of lettuce from which was coming chewing noises, but Pheidippides was confident that was Andromeda. He looked around a little further and he saw two guards; a fox and a raccoon. Rather a small guard for a general's daughter thought the small tortoise. He looked a little further. There was a large camp-fire roasting a pig. "Very irresponsible," thought Pheidippides, there had been no rain in months, no-one should be starting fires. There were also six tents in the camp; the biggest of which would easily have taken Colossus. Flying above the big tent was a flag will the letters SHOP.

Pheidippides was not surprised but he was unhappy. SHOP stood for Stop Humans Owning Pets; it was one of the largest and best organized of the enemies that the Agency had to deal with. Generally though, they specialized in breaking down fences, opening cages and helping pets get lost. Perhaps they would occasionally scare a human into not wanting pets, but a direct attack upon a pet; and a general's daughter at that, was clearly an escalation (which means 'far more serious than before'). Pheidippides would have to send a warning out to the other Agency teams; but first Andromeda.

The Doctor surveyed the camp once more. Without his laser cannon, taking on a fox and raccoon was going to be a little difficult. A much bigger problem though was the six tents. Why would you set up six tents for two small guards? Pheidippides scanned the bushes around the camp. Sure enough there was a small piece of wolf-tail poking from behind one. A much larger bush had a piece of bear-fur snagged on it. He noticed a small flash of light from one of the trees; probably someone else watching the camp through binoculars. A trap!

Pheidippides had another problem, this time much closer to home. Specifically this problem was inside him. All of those grapes he had eaten were beginning to gurgle inside his tummy. He couldn't hold it much longer; so he didn't. The small tortoise held his breath; this was why he didn't eat grapes! He knew that the smell would reach the SHOP agents very quickly; time for him to run. He turned away from the camp and started to head back down the hill; but this time on the side away from the road.

About ten minutes later the wolf hiding behind the bush, who had a very strong sense of smell, gasped, clutched at his nose and began to roll around of the floor as if in pain. "Shut up you fool!" screamed the bear, "what do you think you are doing! They will spot us!" The poor wolf was still lying on the floor trying to cover his nose: "I smell CRAP; tortoise CRAP," whined the wolf. "Of course you do," said the fox, "we have a giant tortoise that has eaten 4 truckloads of food in the middle of the camp." "No, not that!" said the wolf "this one has grape in it!" A snake quickly slithered out from a tent it had been hiding in. "Sssso...you really do ssssmell CRAP ... but they have run away! Quickly after them!"

If you include the fox and raccoon a total of fifteen animals poured out of the camp to chase after Pheidippides. Pheidippides had a fifteen minute head start, and without his laser cannon he could move faster than usual, but now there was a complete storm brewing in his tummy. Every few minutes he had to stop to let out more of his tummy contents. Of course the wolf behind found this very convenient; he only had to sniff to know exactly which way Pheidippides was heading.

Pheidippides reached the bottom of the hill which was a valley with a dry river bed. Many years ago a river had created a valley but the water was long gone. Pheidippides started to run up the river bed towards the top of the valley. Here he knew there was a narrow passage way between the two hills. He heard a crackling noise behind him; the SHOP agents could only be a few minutes behind - so he started to run faster. "Quickly!" commanded the bear "the sides of this river get steeper and steeper and narrower. If we can get to him before the end of the valley he won't be able to get out!"

As Pheidippides ran along the river floor he looked up the sides of the bank. He noticed that the grass was brown and parched: this really had been a nasty drought. He would have to send out a forest-fire warning. Still, that was not his biggest problem. The group chasing him was now in sight. He quickly scrambled over a slimy log, almost falling over in the process. As he staggered forward he had to swerve to the left to avoid a moss-covered stone. He was now quite out of breath. Tortoises have many strengths, running is not one of them. Then he came to a dead stop. Directly in front of him, completely blocking the way out of the valley; was a huge mud-covered rock.

"Got ya!" yelled a triumphant voice. Pheidippides turned around slowly. There in front of him was the team of 15 SHOP agents. The leader, the bear, swaggered forward and sat upon the mossy stone. Some of the more junior members took a back-seat upon the slimy log. The wolf and fox strutted around the bear looking happy. "So! We finally have the great Dr Pheidippides," smirked the bear, "supposedly one of the best CRAP agents of all time. So what do you have to say for yourself? Falling into our little trap?"

The tortoise glowered. Whilst it was technically true that The Agency had originally been called: "Children Require Animal Protection" they had decided by unanimous (which means they all agreed) vote to rename themselves "The Agency" and they didn't like being reminded of their original initials. However, his face brightened and he gave a broad smile. "Actually gentlemen, I am delighted to see you all today and I would like to thank you for coming. That said I have to inform you that there are at least three things you have overlooked and you have made one major mistake!"

So: what did the SHOP agents overlook? What was their major mistake?

At that moment the SHOP agents all jumped with surprise as the bear leaped up into the air with a howl of pain clutching onto his bottom; which had a chunk missing. They were even more surprised when the mossy stone sprouted four legs and a head. "Allow me to introduce 'Poseidon the Snapper Turtle'" announced Pheidippides. He really needn't have bothered. All SHOP agents knew exactly who Snappy was which is why the fox and wolf were now clinging to the bear and shaking. "Come on!" said the bear, "we knew we were going to have to face him sooner or later." "I was voting for later!" quivered the fox. "No," said the wolf straightening himself, "we are ok, we still outnumber them fifteen to two!"

"Err... fifteen ter four" said the slimy log turning around and revealing a long line of teeth. "Meet Fred," said Pheidippides. "The Agency has alligators!" said a crocodile who was one of the SHOP agents. "You go' a problem wiv tha'" said Fred moving forward. "Er... no, no, just wondering," whimpered the crocodile. "Must be stupid ones!" snarled the Bear, "there are still only three of you!" Fred looked confused, Pheidippides smiled.

"Who cares how many!" shrieked the wolf, "Pheidippides, Snappy and a twenty foot long alligator is too much! We need to get out of here!" "How?" asked the fox. "We'll need to shift the rock!" suggested the wolf. "Don't be ridiculous!" hissed the snake "how are we going to shift a six hundred pound rock?" "Five-hundred and thirty six pounds, actually" grumbled the rock as it rolled over and got to its feet "I've been on a diet!" "And finally," said the small tortoise, "allow me to introduce General Colossus, one of the most highly decorated war-tortoises of all time; and Andromeda's father."

The fifteen SHOP agents just watched in awe as the old tortoise's shell began to move. A scute from each side lowered to reveal medium bore missile cannon, towards the top of the shell a range of small to mid-size machine gun appeared. The top scute rose up to reveal a sixteen inch medieval cannon. Colossus did not have speed, he did not have stealth and he was not as nimble-minded as Pheidippides; but for sheer firepower he was unmatched. Now he was angry.

When Snappy, a twenty foot alligator and a furious war-tortoise go into battle there is nothing for anyone else to do but scramble onto a hillside to keep score; which Dr Pheidippides did. Now if only he could get rid of the nasty taste of grape ....


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