Funny Adventure Contemporary

The speedboat rounded a bend in the tunnel, roaring into view on a V-shaped feather of spray. Number 10 stood ready, mask in place, gun in hand. Number Three, black-clad, wind-swept, expertly piloted the Sea Hawk 285 toward the dock, using bursts of throttle to maneuver. They were about 20 feet beneath the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris; slanting shafts of sunlight cast yellow circles on the choppy waves. Number 10 had to wonder how much bat guano and other noxious material he’d inhaled since arriving here five minutes ago, barely ahead of Number Three and their special guest.

They secured the nose of the craft to a piling. Number Three exuded his usual cool. His handsome face was partially obscured by a plain gray mask, its black loops hooked around his small pink ears. His eyes twinkled in lieu of that killer smile.

“We made it,” pronounced Number Three, his voice small and tight in the confines of the watery trench. Somehow, despite the gloom of their surroundings, his skin shone radiantly. If this were a movie, Number 10 decided his boss would be played by the biggest star in the world, none other than –

“Hey, guys,” called out Number Seven. She was a stunning, statuesque blonde, who looked as impressive in a skin-tight black ninja suit as she did in business attire. Number 10 glanced over his shoulder, squinting to pinpoint her voice. “Got some news for you,” she called, urgently waving her mobile phone.

“Not now,” said Number Three, turning to the boat. Flat on the aluminum deck, clad in prisoner orange, with a heavy canvas sack on his head, was the most dangerous terrorist in the world, Paul Hewson. Hewson had been en route to prison when his police convoy was interrupted by Number Three and the rest of the MI6 crew. Using smoke and lots of rubber bullets, they had managed to wrest Hewson away from the police and down here into the catacombs. Now Hewson stirred, his arms and legs bound.

“It’s kinda important,” sang out Number Seven.

“So is this,” replied Number Three. He and Number 10 managed to wrestle Hewson onto the dock, with the terrorist providing little in the way of assistance.

They stood over their prey, victorious. Number Seven sauntered over, still wagging her mobile.

“Don’t you want to know?” she asked. Number Three grinned up at her – or, at least, Number 10 pictured him grinning. His mask twitched, anyway.

“Alright," panted Number Three, resting his hands on his hips. “What is it?”

Number Seven reached up and, without fanfare, removed her mask, exposing her lovely chin, lips and teeth. Number 10 startled; he’d forgotten about those lovely white choppers, her pink gums and knife-edged jaw.

“Oh, my God!” he cried. “What are you doing? There’s a pandemic!”

“Not anymore,” said Number Seven, grinning at each of them. “Pandemic’s been lifted. It just came across the BBC.”

Number 10 saw that Number Three was now frowning. “Bullshit,” barked Number Three, his shoulders tensing.

“No bullshit,” said Number Seven, tossing her mask into the water. “Paris mayor, French president and our own bloody PM have declared an end to the emergency. Breaking news.”

Number 10 chuckled. “I don’t believe it.”

“Check your phone,” challenged Number Seven. “It’s all over the place.”

She took a step toward them and both men flinched. “Social distancing!” cried Number Three.

“For God’s sake,” replied Number Seven. “Have we even paid attention to social distancing for the past month? We’ve all been in close contact with each other. Besides, we’ve gotten our shots. It’s fine.”

Number Three squinted, as if the air had filled with smoke. “I don’t understand,” he said through his mask, “who lifted the orders?”

“The blokes I just rattled off. Isn’t that official enough?”

“What gives them the right to do that?”

“I imagine they’re acting on the advice of the health authorities.”

Number 10 piped up, phone in hand. “It’s breaking now. The UK and EU have agreed to lift the emergency, with the US soon to follow. No more masks!”

He stared at Number Three, who had yet to move.

“I don’t like it,” declared Number Three.

“What’s not to like, mate?”

“What if the virus is still out there? We can’t take that chance.”

Number Seven frowned. “Did you catch a blow to the head? You feeling alright?”

“What if it’s misinformation?”

“Erm, what?”

Number Three clenched his fists. “We’re down here,” he said, indicating the sweaty brick walls. “Hewson has friends up there. We know they control certain media outlets and communication satellites. What if they’re trying to expose us to the virus?”

“But we got our jabs!”

“I’ve only had the first dose,” said Number Three, his voice brittle. “What about you?”

His friends traded sheepish looks. “Well,” said Seven, “if I’m being completely honest … I've not had the second dose. Not yet.”

Number 10 nodded. “Same.”

“Oh, Christ,” said Number Three. “Then we’re not all 100-percent protected!”

“Eighty percent is better than none,” snapped 10, realizing Three didn’t take well to snapping. “What I mean is, we should be fine.”

The blue eyes of their leader grew cold. “Should be fine? Should be fine? Is that how this crew operates?”

“Easy, mate,” said Number Seven, “what Ten’s trying to say –”

“I know what he’s trying to say,” interrupted Three. “Same thing you are. He’s saying we should relax our guard because of something you saw on the Internet. But it doesn’t work that way. Or, it shouldn’t.”

“Alright,” interjected Number 10, “now you’re sounding paranoid.”

“Look, nothing you’ve said convinces me this isn’t some trick Hewson’s trying to pull,” said Number Three, all but dancing up and down. “We can’t allow anything we see or hear to interfere with our objective, which is getting this sack of shit back to London.”

“We can do that, mate,” said Number Ten, “only minus the face coverings and social distancing!”

Brow furrowed, Number Three pulled a tube of sanitizer from his pocket and squeezed a dollop onto his fingers. He proffered the container. “I suggest you guys use this,” he said. “And, Seven, I hope you’ve got another mask. You’re gonna need it.”

She arched her brows. “I’m not wearing it, and I’ve not touched any contaminated surfaces. Stuff the sanitizer, mate.”

Number 10 nodded. “I’ve used so much of that junk I’m probably immune by now. We’re going to have to trust the media on this one.”


“But we’ve smashed Hewson’s gang,” protested Seven. “We broke up his troll farm. Twitter froze his account. He is incommunicado. Ask him!”

Three glared down at Hewson, who hadn’t spoken or moved. Was the terrorist listening in, grinning inside that hood?

He prodded Hewson. “How about it, Paul?”

“It’s true,” said Hewson. “Twitter shut me down.”

“What about all this other talk?”

“No idea. It isn’t me. Must be the real thing.”

Ten and Seven stared expectantly at Three, who was all but hyperventilating. “I’d expect him to say that,” he informed them. “We must err on the side of caution.”

“But that’s silly,” said Hewson. “You’re so addicted to the safety protocols that you can’t let go of them. Think about it – why would all those officials say something that wasn’t true? Or, why would my organization – now defunct, thanks to you – seize control of a comm sat just to send false information to her phone?”

“Why, indeed?” asked 10.

“Shut up,” snapped Three. “This guy killed 40 people in a car bombing.”

“Look, it’s only logical,” replied Hewson. “Why would the mayor of Paris lie? I don’t know the man, but I doubt he’d cause a panic.”

Three stomped on Hewson as if he were squashing a bug. “Point taken,” Hewson wheezed.

“Listen,” Three said to his subordinates, “we’re gonna continue following protocol. We’re gonna wash our hands, wear our face coverings, and social distance, as we have done all year. We can’t assume life has gone back to normal. Let’s complete our mission and go from there.”

Ten abruptly chucked his mask. “No,” he said firmly. “You can be stubborn, but we’ve got to put this behind us sometime. This is it.”

Three blinked stupidly. “That’s – that’s your lifeline! I only have one backup mask and it’s for me!”

Ten shrugged. “Let’s haul Hewson to the surface and catch our plane,” he said, reaching for their hog-tied prisoner.

“No,” cried Three, shoving 10 aside. “I can’t let you do it!”

He seized Hewson around the waist and pitched him into the bow. In a flash, he had the boat unmoored.

Seven stepped toward him, eyes wide. “What are you doing?”

“I can’t risk it!” exclaimed Three, leaping behind the controls. He threw the lever into forward gear. White foam churned beneath the outboard. “I’m taking him to a secure site!”

“No, Three!” yelled 10 as the boat roared away from the dock. Seven held him back, preventing him from leaping in after it.

“Let them go,” she said, gripping her friend’s shoulders. Number Three executed a perfect U-turn in the midst of the tunnel, slinging water on his companions. She caught a glimpse of Hewson, sliding around on the deck like a fish. Then the boat accelerated and was gone.

“What an idiot,” she said, puffing hair out of her face. “What a goddamned idiot.”

March 07, 2021 02:49

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