Dr Pheidippides and the Hostage Crisis

All of the tortoises looked very happy; at least most of them did. Theia was happy to be free, Colossus was delighted to have taken the SHOP stronghold and even Hyperion was happy enough to see his wife that he could almost get over the fact that he had to wash dishes for a month. Most of Dr Pheidippides' team looked even happier. It was an honor to take a lead role in a major battle and even more of an honor to be invited to a party thrown by the Agency founders.  And my, what a party; The SHOP warehouse was full of animals that had taken part in the battle; they had all the food that the king had gathered for the feast and they had added some of their own. Andromeda was completely in her element, she had her dad, grandparents, two aunts and a room full of food - how could things get any better? She frowned a little - well perhaps Dr Pheidippides could cheer up a little.

The one member of the party that really did not seem in a festive (which means 'happy and partying') mood was Dr Pheidippides. He stood in one corner of the room beside a plate of un-eaten strawberries and frowned. Hyperion moved over to the small tortoise: "What's the matter old chap? You've just helped us win a tremendous victory! Why are you looking so glum?" Dr Pheidippides looked back at the senior tortoise: "Sir, if you had just lost your home base in a humiliating defeat and were running through the forest with the bulk of your elite army; what would you do?" Hyperion laughed. "That is easy!" he said, "I'd find the nearest enemy stronghold and launch a massive counter attack that ..." The large tortoises' voice trailed away and now he was looking unhappy too.

"So," said general Colossus marching up and down in front of the hastily erected (which means "put up") blackboard, "the situation is this. We have reason to believe that at some point, when we don't know, the enemy will attack somewhere we don't know. Meanwhile all of the people that would normally be defending our most important targets are here having a party." "Yes," responded Hyperion. "We have to send everyone back to their bases," suggested Celeste, "then we can defend everywhere we need to." "Negative," responded Colossus, "the first step in facing a massive enemy onslaught is not dividing your forces into little bits. We need to know where the enemy is and then go to them." "But we don't know where they are! There are half a dozen likely places all within their range!" Eos countered. "We could send a small scouting team to each location," suggested Theia. "No dear, by the time they got there and back it would be too late," responded Hyperion, "and they could be captured, and we wouldn't know."

A small cough came from the corner of the room; the five giant tortoises turned to face Pheidippides. "You have a plan?" asked Colossus. "Well sir, I actually think scouting out the locations is the correct plan," responded the small tortoise, "we just need to send a small tortoise with each team so that if they see anything, or are captured, they can still get us a message using the World Wide Web." "Well," said Hyperion, "that would solve the messaging, but they would take too long to get there, tortoises are very slow." Pheidippides gave a huge grin: "not if they are carried sir!"

"I still don't see why I have to stay here!" stomped Andromeda as the Doctor was strapped onto Brownie's back. "You are part of my team, someone needs to collect all the messages, and as team leader I need to be in the field," responded Pheidippides. He suspected that that was a better answer than mentioning that none of the rabbits were able to lift her. The rabbits each started bounding towards their destinations. They each had a couple of chickens flying short distances overhead for aerial surveillance (which means "looking at things from the sky") and at least one other rabbit to help with the carrying.

Pheidippides took down his binoculars to duck his head inside his shell to see what his internet connection was saying. It was a message from Andromeda:

"I still think you are mean making me stay here. Hope everything looks perfect. Andromeda"

The small tortoise glowered; he did not have time for this. He sent a message back:

"Please keep track of messages and let me know of anything important. - Dips"

Almost immediately a message came back:

"You Pig! Just wait until I tell my Dad! Haven't even left party! - Andromeda"

Dr Pheidippides picked up his field glasses and looked at the training camp again; he would deal with Andromeda later. He glanced along the wall; it was intact and still had the little mice sentries scurrying backwards and forwards. Nothing here, they could head back and wait for the other reports to come in.

As Persiphus rode on the back of the small white rabbit he noticed the chickens over head were getting a little noisy. "Is there a problem?" he called. The large Rhode Island Red called back: "there will be for anyone that has attacked our hatchery!" Persiphus was concerned. His mission was to scout and report back. But his escort (which means 'people going with you') of two large roosters (which means 'male chickens') were unlikely to react well if the hatchery had been hit. At any given time the hatchery would have two or three thousand baby chicks in it and several hundred chickens to defend. They crept to the top of the hill and looked out over the valley that had the hatchery in it. The fields were full of chicks and chickens feeding. Several large sheep-dogs were scattered around the fields trying to look like they were asleep. Persiphus the tortoise poked his head back inside his shell to send a message.

"Ouch" cried Theosphanes as his head banged against a branch for the fifth time: "Please be careful!" "Sorry," called back the large brown Rabbit, "I normally come down here as quick as I can, I keep forgetting you are up there!" The tortoise ducked his head into his shell just in time to avoid yet another stray branch. Suddenly the small tunnel they were running through ended and Theosphanes poked his head out of his shell and gasped. Of course he had heard of "The Burrow". He knew it contained tens of thousands of rabbits. But suddenly seeing this huge underground room swarming with white, brown and black rabbits was quite breathtaking. "Is this normal?" he asked the brown rabbit. "Well, we normally have a few more," responded the brown rabbit, "but quite a few of us went to help Brownie." "Ok," responded Theosphanes, and he sent his message.

Pheidippides was surprised to make it all the way back to the warehouse without hearing anything; he was even more surprised to see the five giant tortoises glowering at him with Andromeda in the middle. He climbed off Brownie's back and walked up to them. "Did we hear from the other teams?" asked the small tortoise. "Yes," responded Colossus, "and it appears you were wrong; none of the local agency bases have been attacked." "And what is more," continued Hyperion, "this little joke of yours has gone too far!" "What joke?" asked Pheidippides quite shocked. Andromeda poked her head out of her shell. "Don't deny it! You told everyone to call me an elephant!" she screamed and she ducked her head back into her shell and started sobbing. The Doctor looked confused: "what are you talking about?" he asked. "Those messages you all sent! I know why you left me here! So you had an excuse to send rude messages!" Andromeda sobbed. Pheidippides looked even more confused: "can you show me?" he asked.

Andromeda poked half a dozen messages out of her shell:

 "Please keep track of messages and let me know of anything important - Humungous elephants leap poorly - Dips"

"Tortoise training camp: clear - Hope everyone likes pancakes - Dips"

"Chicken Egg Hatchery: clear - Heavy elephants look podgy - Persiphus"

"Rabbit head burrow: clear - Huge elephants lick popsicles - Theosphanes"


Suddenly the small tortoise burst out laughing. "It is not funny!" Theia shouted. "No," said Pheidippides, "it isn't. But it is very, very clever. The bad news is that I was right: the enemy has indeed launched an attack. The good news is that I know exactly where they are."

So - where did the enemy attack and how does the Doctor know?

"What are you talking about?" demanded Colossus. "All the messages," said Pheidippides, "have you noticed something about all the rude bits at the end?" "Yes!" screamed Andromeda, "they are all about me!" "Actually," responded the small tortoise, "I was referring to the fact that they are all four words and in each case the four words start with an 'h', an 'e', an 'l' and a 'p'." "HELP" said Theia, "ok, but why would everyone send messages with 'help' in?" "We didn't" responded Pheidippides, "but every time we send a message from one tortoise to another it has to go via the World Wide Web: the World Wide Web which is not defended because we have General Colossus and all the biggest spiders." Eos spoke up, "and the spiders couldn't ask for help without being detected so they tagged these little messages on emails which were going through anyway! Very clever!" "They still didn't have to be rude!" grumbled Andromeda. "They had to get our attention," said Pheidippides, "so by saying something that clearly isn't true they knew they would." "Oh, I hadn't thought of it like that," said Andromeda brightening quickly, "then I guess we had better go get them."

"Yes," said Pheidippides, "I think we better had."


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