Dr Pheidippides and the Case of the Mysterious Message

Despite being a secret agent and the youngest Colonel within the Agency, widely tipped to be the youngest ever general, there were days that Pheidippides just enjoyed being a pet tortoise. Today was one of those days. It was a sunny day, one of his humans was lying on the ground for him to clamber over and his belly was completely full of strawberries. Life doesn't get much better than that.

The tortoise was on the boy's stomach and figured that if he climbed over the ribcage, up to the shoulder blade and turned quickly he could probably get a poo right in the boy's ear. Dr Pheidippides embarked (which means start a journey) and was just walking over the human's third rib when he froze. He sniffed again. He would need to do an analysis (which means thorough investigation) to be sure of the details, but there was no doubt about it. He would know that smell anywhere: PEE.

Dr Pheidippides mind raced back to his "History of Agency Communication" class back at his first academy. The Pet Emergency Exchange, usually known as PEE had originally been invented by the dogs. As they were the ones humans generally took on walks, they were naturally the ones used to communicate between the different Agency teams in an area. The easiest way to leave a message was simply by urinating (which means go to the bathroom) in a particular spot. The dogs then found that by varying what they ate and what they drank they could make minor changes to how the PEE smelt. With their excellent noses they could distinguish over a thousand different smells. Combined with an average of twenty different places that a scent could be left this gave them twenty thousand different messages they could send to each other.

Smaller animals could not take part in the dog based PEE as they didn't go for walks and couldn't reach many of the scent points. They soon discovered, however, that the same idea could be used with humans; especially young boys who generally don't wash from one week to the next. This had the double advantage of marking those children which were under Agency Protection and also allowing Agency teams that shared a human to communicate. Of course today there is the world-wide web; no-one still used PEE. Animals only pee on their owners for fun.

Dr Pheidippides shook his head: no-one used PEE today - but a 1 inch round patch exactly centered on the third rib? That could not be a co-incidence! Tortoises do not have a strong sense of smell as dogs do; fortunately they do have shells in which they can store wonderful gadgets. Pheidippides fetched his gas chromatograph (a machine that can tell you exactly how something smells) and analyzed the scent. 8 parts grass, 3 parts carrot and one part grape. Pheidippides shuddered. Yuk! Fancy eating a grape! Then he shuddered again. He quickly reached for his book of 'PEE codes' to double check. But yes, he was correct: 8 parts grass, 3 parts carrot to 1 part grape - 10-33 Officer Needs Help.

Pheidippides was stunned. Code 10-33 was the second most important code in the book. But who was so Old School (which means doing this the old-fashioned way) as to use PEE and not the web? And who would dare to send a code 10-33 to a high-ranking colonel? Still - a code 10-33 was a code 10-33. All agency staff were obligated (which means 'required') to drop everything to respond to a code 10-33. Pheidippides would need to find out where he had to go. First down to the hands: sure enough there was a small bite mark right on the tip of the third finger of the right hand: 30.4 degrees latitude. Now down to the feet: a scratch mark half way up the third toe on the left foot: 84.5 degrees of longitude.

Pheidippides got out his map which had a grid drawn over it so that he could turn the latitude and longitude numbers into a spot on the map. The doctor was now quickly running out of ways to look even more stunned. 30.4 degrees of latitude and 84.5 degrees of longitude was exactly half-way between the center of the world-wide-web and tortoise training camp! Who on earth would use PEE to send a message when they were five miles from the center of the web? And why send an urgent message to HIM when they were five miles from a couple of hundred able bodied tortoises? Still - a code 10-33 was a code 10-33. He had to go.

As Pheidippides climbed off of the scales he was worried. He weighed 9.5 ounces; that was going to be a problem. Now he regretted the tummy full of berries. To travel almost 500 miles 'urgently' the standard technique was to borrow a model rocket from a nearby human. The doctor's humans had a good selection for him to choose from and by careful calibration (which means 'setting things just right') of the rocket engine and tilt of the rocket a skilled tortoise could drop in exactly the spot he wanted. The problem was that none of the engines they had could carry that much weight, that far. The tortoise was going to have to lose at least two ounces: time to empty his shell.

Pheidippides stood in the middle of the yard next to a Snappy who looked even less happy than normal. "I don't like you parachuting into to an unknown situation without weapons," grumbled the turtle. "Neither do I!" responded the tortoise "but the only way to lose two ouches was to take out the laser cannon." "Still don't like it!" responded the turtle. Thankfully the argument was stopped by the appearance of Cham. More accurately the argument was stopped as the two spotted a large model rocket that appeared to be floating across the grass towards them. Their covert operations officer was not a cat-burglar by trade but he was doing his best to fill the void (which means 'hole') left by Sylvester.

Although he was a veteran of over 200 launches; Pheidippides always felt a twinge of fear climbing into the payload of a model rocket. He knew that most pets would die instantly if launched in a rocket: he just had to rely on years of training and the special Agency equipment to help him survive. He checked the equipment for the tenth time just to make sure. He looked down at his team; or at least most of them. "Where is Snappy" he called out. "Don't know," called back Cham, "I think he went for a swim." Hmmm thought the tortoise; he had been going to put Snappy in charge while he was gone. "You're in charge Winston," yelled Pheidippides, "Launch!"

Only a few seconds later Pheidippides open his eyes; this was always his favorite part of the flight. Firstly he had survived the launch; the most dangerous part of the journey. Secondly he was still inside the rocket so it was nice and warm. Thirdly he had the most incredible view of the countryside hurtling below him. Apogee (which is the point the rocket gets as high as it can and begins to come down) in 3 seconds. Pheidippides scrunched himself inside his shell ready for the explosion that would push him into the air and free of his rocket.

Bang! Whoosh! Yowzers that air is cold! As a small heavy tortoise Pheidippides began to plummet to the ground. Timing was everything: open the chute too soon and he would spend too long in the cold air and freeze to death; too late and it would be tortoise pizza time. Of course Pheidippides opened the parachute at exactly the right time which meant he had a relaxed three minutes to try to figure out who he would be meeting. Two minutes later he still had no clue; but now his destination (which means 'place he was going') was in sight. It was a small clearing in the woods.

Following protocol (which means the 'way things should be done') the tortoise adjusted his chute so that he would be approaching the clearing from the direction of the sun. That way any enemies looking to shoot at him would need to stare into the sun which would blind them. As he got nearer to the clearing he saw it was empty, but to the far side of the clearing inside the forest, invisible from the ground but visible from the sky was a large and slightly dark pile of twigs. Pheidippides nodded in approval. Straight out of the training manual:

"When receiving a friendly agent into a clearing in hostile territory; create a hide to the side of the clearing away from the sun. By staying hidden you will not alert the enemy to the incoming agent but will be able to assist with firepower and shelter should the agent require it."

Pheidippides clearly remembered having to stand in class reciting the lines as his schoolmaster stomped up and down the rows of tortoises kicking any young tortoise that was not paying full attention.

Pheidippides gasped: suddenly he knew exactly who he was about to meet!

So who do you think Pheidippides was going to meet? Hint: you may need to think back to some earlier stories for clues.

Pheidippides touched down in dead center of the clearing. Protocol demanded that the agent would then roll forwards (head over heels) towards the waiting friendly agent. This allowed them to avoid enemy fire and gather the parachute whilst heading to safety. A passing grade at academy was five rolls; the very best students managed it in four. As Pheidippides uncoiled from his third roll his parachute was folded back into his shell and he came to an attention stance: there was a reason he had been the top graduate from three different training schools.

"Colonel Marmaduke Pheidippides Sir! Reporting for active duty; General Colossus - Sir!" bellowed the small tortoise. The Giant Tortoise came out from under the twigs and looked down at the tiny tortoise with a very happy twinkle in his eye. "How did you know it would be me?" he asked. "Well Sir, sorry Sir," thundered Pheidippides, "Pet Emergency Exchange, using the 10-33 code, issuing a command to a colonel, correct placement for a parachute landing, Sir. All very Old School, Sir. Who else would do it but the tortoise that built the Old School, Sir." "Excellent," replied the General, "I clearly picked the correct person."

"Here is the problem," continued the General, "my daughter has been kidnapped. How on earth an enemy team was able to break in to the countries #1 tortoise training academy and steal my daughter ..." The general looked both angry and upset but then continued "that is why I didn't want to use the WEB; it would be bad for moral if this got out." "Perhaps I could go and look sir" suggested Pheidippides.

The two tortoises got to the edge of the forest that overlooked the school. They looked around; there were no enemies in sight so they started towards the wall avoiding a rather ugly patch of sticky red ooze that was on the ground. As they got closer to where the wall should have been they started having to step over bits of wall. Finally when they go to where the wall should have been they found a hole; not quite as big as Colossus but much bigger than Pheidippides. "I have no idea how they did this!" sighed the general. "Actually Sir" replied Pheidippides, "I know exactly what happened."

See if you can figure out what happened by next time.


The Christian Counter

The Fundamental Top 500