Get smart ish, p.1
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       Get Smart-ish, p.1

           Gitty Daneshvari
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Get Smart-ish


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  Table of Contents

  Copyright Page

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  For Edward John Carlson

  OCTOBER 20, 10:28 P.M. EASLETON LABORATORIES. LONDON, ENGLAND

  It was a cold night. A foggy night. The kind of night that makes the hairs on the back of people’s necks prickle, leaving them ill at ease for reasons they can’t quite explain. The city’s workers hustled through London’s emptying streets, desperate to find their way home as soon as possible. And though no one had any reason to look over their shoulders, they did. For somewhere deep in the collective unconscious of the city lurked the understanding that history was about to be made…and not necessarily the good kind.

  Standing at the end of a dimly lit alleyway, in front of the doors to Easleton Laboratories, was a thin, scrawny-looking fellow. Clad in a dark green security uniform, the man we would soon come to know as Fred nervously fidgeted with the coins in his pocket.

  “What was that?!”

  “Oh, come on, Fred, enough with the jitters! You’re acting like a schoolgirl about to go on her first date,” a paunchy middle-aged man replied.

  “Jeffrey, I heard something. I’m sure of it!”

  “Mate, there’s bugger all here. Well, maybe not bugger all—this is London, so there are probably a few rats and roaches lurking about—”

  “I hear someone breathing!” Fred interrupted. “In, out, in, out…”

  “That’s your own breath, mate,” Jeffrey said as he placed a reassuring hand on Fred’s shoulder. “Relax! We’re guarding a laboratory, not the queen. Our job is pretty simple—stop other nerds from stealing our nerds’ work.”

  “Yeah, you’re right,” Fred acquiesced unconvincingly. “Nothing scary about nerds…nothing at all.”

  Located smack-dab in the heart of Central London, Easleton Laboratories was tucked away at the far end of an alley. A lone lamppost sporadically flickered light across the weathered cobblestones. And though cars screeched, buses honked, and people chatted in the distance, Fred and Jeffrey rarely, if ever, saw anyone while on duty.

  Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

  The sound of shoes grabbed Fred’s attention.

  “Did you hear that?”

  “Of course I heard that,” Jeffrey responded as he motioned toward the start of the alley. “It’s just some guy from the city—he probably got turned around trying to find the parking lot down the way.”

  Medium height. Slender. Dressed in a suit, the man appeared to be just who Jeffrey had described: some guy from the city trying to remember where he had parked his car.

  Shaking his head back and forth, Fred muttered, “I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately. Probably all those crime shows I’ve been watching before bed. Mum always said I was too open to suggestion.”

  But that wasn’t all Fred’s mum had said. She also said that his timing was the absolute worst. And boy, was she right. For just as Fred accepted that he was suffering from a terrible case of the nerves and nothing more, danger crept closer. Hidden on the roof of Easleton Laboratories, a shadowy figure watched the unsuspecting duo below. Dressed in a black jumpsuit and a ski mask, the figure had a clear silhouette of a woman. Efficient, precise, and graceful, she unzipped a bag and quickly assembled a tranquilizer gun marked PROPERTY OF THE LONDON ZOO.

  “They must be stopped,” she stated in a cold, unemotional tone as she loaded a dart, centered the crosshairs on Fred, and fired a horse sedative straight into his bony shoulder.

  “Ahhh!” Fred squeaked as his eyes rolled back in his head, his knees buckled, and he slumped to the ground.

  “Blimey! It’s actually happening! Nerds are attacking!” Jeffrey screamed as he grabbed for the radio on his belt, in a most valiant effort to protect his nerds. However, before Jeffrey could even locate the talk button, a dart pierced his right shoulder, instantly knocking him out.

  After carefully securing a rope, the masked woman rappelled down the front of the building. Swift and agile, she was standing on the cobblestones less than thirty seconds later. She then pulled out a small mound of red clay and carefully took an imprint of each of the guards’ pointer fingers.

  “Errgh,” Jeffrey gurgled as the woman used a gloved hand to open his mouth and swab the inside of his cheek before turning her attention to Fred.

  Mounted on the wall next to the entryway to Easleton Laboratories was a small glass screen where the woman carefully applied the clay impressions, prompting a computerized message to flash IDENTIFICATION VERIFIED as the doors opened into a small vestibule.

  Once inside, she slipped the cotton swabs into two cylinder-shaped slots.

  “DNA confirmed,” a computerized voice announced as the doors to the laboratory opened.

  Four minutes and seven seconds passed. The woman emerged from the building, a small glass vial marked LIQ-30 in hand. And just like that, it was out there. A virus so powerful it could literally, as in it could actually happen, bring humankind to its knees.

  OCTOBER 21, 1:42 A.M. 10 DOWNING STREET. LONDON, ENGLAND

  A worn cotton nightcap hung lopsided over an old woman’s face as she charged down the hallway, arms flailing in the air.

  “Everyone to the bunker! They’re bombing us!”

  The woman sang the words over and over again until she reached an imposing wooden door. Her wrinkled, liver-spot-stained hand grabbed hold of the knob and turned it with as much gusto as a ninety-three-year-old woman could muster.

  “Everyone to the bunker!” the old woman screamed, jolting the prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Falcon, and his wife from a deep sleep.

  “I told you we needed to put a lock on that door,” the prime minister’s wife moaned as her husband stood up.

  “Mrs. Cadogan, the Blitz is over. It ended many, many decades ago.”

  “Who are you? Where’s Prime Minister Churchill?”

  “I’m Prime Minister Falcon.”

  “I don’t understand….”

  Prime Minister Falcon shook his head and sighed. “Mrs. Cadogan, you have been at Ten Downing Street since 1939. You are nothing short of a national treasure. However, I must tell you that your mind isn’t what it used to be. World War Two has been over for quite some time, but as you’ve aged, your memory seems to have gotten stuck in that period.”

  “You mean the war’s over?” Mrs. Cadogan asked in a faint voice.

  “Yes,” the prime minister answered.

  “Did we win?”

  “We’re still speaking English, aren’t we?” he responded, his patience waning.

  “Yes, I suppose we are,” Mrs. Cadogan answered before nodding good-bye and wandering back down the hall.

  “Poor woman, she spends her nights pacing up and down the corridors,” the prime minister’s wife uttered as the two returned to bed, eager to fall back asleep. However, before they could even close their eyes, another voice interrupted.

  “Excuse me, Prime Minister Falcon, but we have a situation that requires immediate attention.”

  “What now?” the prime minister grumbled as he grabbed his robe and shoved his feet into a pair of slippers.

  Middle-aged with a glass eye, a gangly mess of teeth, and a body that screamed, “I haven’t worked out since before the Internet was invented,” there
was no denying that Randolph Dowager—the source of the interruption—was a rather unique-looking man.

  “Randolph,” the prime minister groaned. “It is stuck again.”

  “My apologies, sir,” Randolph replied as he retrieved a mirror from his pocket and adjusted his glass eye. A former operative for MI5 (the United Kingdom’s top espionage group), Randolph had lost his eye during a mission. The government regarded it as nothing more than collateral damage—an unintended injury on an unintended target—but to Randolph it was a medal of honor. Albeit one that often found itself stuck looking up at the ceiling.

  “My apologies too, sir, for waking you at this most unacceptable hour.”

  “Yes, yes.” The prime minister rushed Randolph along. “Enough with the apologies, on with it!”

  “Nina Mitford, an operative in the Bureau of Adolescent Espionage, has gone rogue.”

  “Honestly, Randolph,” the prime minister griped. “BAE agents go missing all the time. They’re teenagers, which is to say they’re a dreadfully moody bunch of characters. If the wind blows the wrong way, they’re ready to break up with the weather!”

  “To be clear, sir, Operative Mitford is not missing. She’s on the run. At approximately 2300 hours last night, she broke into Easleton Laboratories and stole the vial of LIQ-30.”

  Prime Minister Falcon stumbled, his legs visibly shaking. “Did you say LIQ-30?”

  “I’m afraid I did, sir. BAE and MI5 are scouring the city for Operative Mitford, but have thus far found nary a trace of the girl.”

  “They’re not going to find her,” the prime minister stated firmly. “Operative Mitford knows how they think, how they work. Insiders are always the hardest to track. We’re going to need help.”

  “Sir, are you suggesting we bring in an outsider?” Randolph asked.

  “Not just an outsider. An American,” the prime minister announced as he started down the corridor, a plan taking hold. “Get me the president of the United States.”

  OCTOBER 22, 7:02 A.M. HEATHROW AIRPORT. LONDON, ENGLAND

  “Hey?” twelve-year-old Jonathan Murray called as he exited the plane dressed in his go-to outfit—khaki slacks, a white T-shirt, and sneakers. (He considered this a “respectable look,” i.e., one that told the world he planned on being the kind of adult who drove the speed limit and loaded the dishwasher in an orderly fashion.) “Shells? Speak up. I can’t hear you,” Jonathan continued.

  “Way to mess up my flow, Johno,” Shelley Brown responded as she pushed back the brim of her fedora. “I was narrating my arrival.”

  “That’s a new one,” Jonathan said with a sigh, brushing his flat black locks off his forehead.

  Shelley cleared her throat and took on a serious, newscaster-like tone. “Shelley Brown, International Lady of Espionage, arrives in London wearing a gray trench coat, black rain boots, and a felt fedora. Young, attractive, and with a naughty twinkle in her eye, she’s ready to take on the world…or maybe just London, since the world is a lot for a twelve-year-old…although she is turning thirteen in eight months, so who knows, maybe she’s up for it….”

  “You’re not a lady,” Jonathan corrected Shelley. “You’re a young lady, which is really just another way of saying kid.”

  “Ugh,” Shelley said, shaking her head. “Always killing my vibe.”

  “Yup, that’s me, professional vibe killer,” Jonathan said flatly as he pointed to a yellow customs sign. “It’s almost time. What do you say we review our cover?”

  “Students attending a Youth in Government conference? Bor-ing, like, I’m asleep already. It’s not too late to go with my idea: veterinarians who specialize in canine braces.”

  “For the last time, we’re too young to be veterinarians and no one, I repeat, no one, puts braces on dogs,” Jonathan explained. “Our parents bought the youth ambassador story and so will the customs guy.”

  “I’m not so sure about that. Look at me: I’ve got spy coming out of every pore of my body,” Shelley said as she slipped her hands into the pockets of her oversized trench coat.

  “And to think I thought that was perspiration,” Jonathan deadpanned.

  “Are you saying that I sweat a lot? Because if there is one thing Shelley Brown doesn’t do, it’s sweat a lot. Except when I’m in a sauna or eating at a buffet,” Shelley babbled as the customs agent waved the couple in front of them to the podium.

  “Passports, please,” the agent asked before carefully examining the couple’s photographs. “What brings you to the United Kingdom….How long will you be staying….Do you have relatives here….What line of work are you in….Welcome to London, enjoy your stay….Next.”

  And so, Shelley strutted toward the customs agent with the kind of swagger Jonathan had only seen in films. Hips swaying. Shoes tapping. Arms swinging. And though this was an entrance that screamed, “Hey, world, look at me,” the man behind the podium barely batted an eyelash. Not even when Shelley removed her fedora, freeing her shoulder-length dirty-blond hair, pushed her round glasses up the bridge of her nose, and whipped out her passport as though flashing a badge. “Shelley Brown here.”

  “Go on through, kids,” the customs agent said after quickly stamping both of their passports.

  “But you didn’t even look at our pictures! Or ask us any questions!” Shelley blustered as Jonathan pulled her away. “We could be bad guys for all you know! Criminals! Gangsters! Hackers!”

  However, the agent didn’t hear Shelley. As a matter of fact, most people didn’t hear Shelley. The girl had the kind of voice that blended with surrounding sounds. So unless someone was extremely close or entirely focused on her, she was almost impossible to hear. This, of course, only intensified Shelley’s lifelong desire to be noticed.

  “Why fight it, Shells?” Jonathan asked as they walked toward baggage claim. “This is the very reason we were recruited.”

  “Yeah, I know, but—”

  “But nothing,” Jonathan interrupted. “You need to accept the facts. This is our lot in life. Last week my grandmother sent out her annual family newsletter. Want to know what it said about me? ‘Jonathan Murray is still alive.’ It came directly after a paragraph on my cousin Elena’s trip to Peru to build houses for the poor.”

  “At least she was accurate. You are, in fact, still alive.”

  “Can you imagine if I died and my own grandmother didn’t notice?”

  “Actually, I could totally see that happening. You’ve got No one’s going to find me until the corpse starts to smell written all over you,” Shelley said before adding, “Unless there are rodents in your house and they eat the body, bones and all. Then no one would know you had died.”

  “This is exactly the kind of conversation I’d like to avoid when we’re with the prime minister,” Jonathan stated firmly. “Speaking of which, I think we’d better go straight to Ten Downing Street.”

  “If they don’t have twenty-four-hour room service, I’m going to be seriously upset.”

  “Shells, Ten Downing Street isn’t a hotel. It’s the official residence and office for the prime minister of the United Kingdom.”

  Shelley narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “How do you know that?”

  “Everyone knows that,” Jonathan replied before quietly adding, “Well, almost everyone…”

  OCTOBER 22, 9:32 A.M. 10 DOWNING STREET. LONDON, ENGLAND

  The man was thin and wiry. He wore a pristinely tailored navy suit and an expensive yet understated wristwatch. Stuck in a perpetual state of scowling, Prime Minister Falcon was exactly what Jonathan and Shelley expected of a government official—serious and imposing.

  “President Arons informs me that you are the team responsible for recently stopping the sale of classified government information, as well as bringing the vice president’s kidnapper to justice,” Prime Minister Falcon said in a stiff and formal manner befitting a conversation with the queen.

  “To you he may be the vice president, but to me he’s just Carl, a close personal friend,
Shelley stated proudly while seated before the prime minister’s desk.

  “In the spirit of full disclosure, I feel you should know that Shelley has an incredibly low bar for what constitutes a friend,” Jonathan chimed in. “If you so much as wave at her, she’ll consider you a bestie.”

  “But am I correct in assuming that you two were responsible for the success of the aforementioned mission?” Prime Minister Falcon pressed on.

  “You are, sir,” Jonathan confirmed, and then quickly bit his tongue to stop himself from adding, “But I’m pretty sure the whole thing was a fluke.”

  “Good,” the prime minister responded with a nod. “I do not ask for foreign aid easily. Only the most grave and dangerous of situations has brought me to do so today.”

  “PM—may I call you PM?”

  “Please don’t,” Jonathan whispered to Shelley.

  “You needn’t worry,” Shelley went on, “because while my middle name isn’t ‘Grave and Dangerous,’ it would be if it weren’t illegal for minors to change their names without parental permission.”

  Prime Minister Falcon’s stiff expression grew strained as he looked from Shelley to Jonathan expectantly.

  “Oh, me? I don’t have a middle name, which is actually a good thing when you hear the ones my parents were considering…Flash, Boon, River…I mean, what were they thinking? I could never pull off any of those names.”

  “No way. Frank or Larry, maybe,” Shelley added.

  “I do not wish to offend you two, but—” the prime minister began.

  Shelley held up her left hand. “Don’t worry, it takes a lot to offend us, right, Johno?”

  “Right. It’s actually one of our strongest assets.”

  “You two seem terribly inept, rather shockingly so,” Prime Minister Falcon declared unapologetically.

  “Inept? You mean like we don’t know what we’re doing?” Shelley asked.

  “Exactly,” the prime minister answered.

  “That’s because we don’t know what we’re doing. And we’re pretty much not good at anything,” Jonathan explained.

 
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