'Operation Caper' and Mimi Being 'Ponied'!
This is a story I wrote about five years ago for the Uxbridge Writers' Circle word challenge. The words that I had to use are: agent; elephant; fortitude; caper; telescope.
I hope you enjoy reading it.
And below the story, you'll find a picture of Mimi being 'ponied' and a brief explanation of what that means (for those of you who may not know!).
Mitch was sure he was about to die of boredom as he pushed the tea trolley along the interminable length of the shiny corridor towards the secret, underground offices of MI32. The clatter of the cups on their saucers rebounded off the walls—he was pretty sure any enemy of the state could pick up the racket anywhere in the world, given today’s technology.
A hand dove around in front of him and grabbed his badge.
“It’s okay. It’s me. You can have my badge in exchange.”
“Come on, don’t be nuts. What’s going on?” Mitch watched with his mouth agape as his brother, Joe, took off his suit.
“There are cameras everywhere,” Mitch reminded him.
“I’ve seen to that,” Joe said. “Now give me your uniform.”
“What’s going on, Joe, for Pete’s sake?” Mitch could get muddled, but even his brain could tell something was amiss.
“I’m Mitch now. You’re Agent Joseph Fond, just for one day. Nothing’s going to happen, I promise. Just a routine day at the office. All you have to do is sit at my desk and stare at the computer screen. You’ll be fine.”
“What about everyone’s tea?”
“I’ve arranged for Tinman to take over. He’s coming now.” They turned and watched the slow, ponderous metallic robot whirring and creaking. “He’s programmed to deliver the tea, and he knows who wants sugar.”
“He’ll do a better job.”
“Yes, he probably will.”
Mitch smoothed down his hair as Joe gave the black shoes a polish with a bit of spit and a rub with the sleeve of his brother’s uniform.
“Okay, you’re ready. My badge works the same way as yours, but it gets you in everywhere except the dungeon.”
“The dungeon’s where they keep the Elephant server.”
“Only two people have access to the Elephant and I’m not one of them. So, don’t go down there.”
“Why am I doing this, by the way?”
“So I can play a round of golf on that new course up in Scotland.”
“I thought it’d be something important.”
“It is for me. See ya.” Joe sprinted back down the corridor.
Mitch soon caught up with Tinman. He had an urge to spray some oil into the robot’s joints. What with the rattling tea trolley and the clanking robot, Mitch could feel a headache coming on. It wasn’t helped by the fact that he sensed eyes on him and that these eyes would know that he’d recently failed all of the MI32 analytical examinations and that he didn’t have the fortitude to be an agent.
He accessed Joe’s office without a hitch and sat in the chair which adjusted itself to fit his back, legs, and arm lengths, as well as his distance from the computer screen. The sensation of being positioned by the chair made Mitch nauseated and he glanced around to see if there was a waste paper basket. None. No paper anywhere either, he noted.
“Ah, glad I found you here.” A large man with an incongruous moustache, a deep gravelly voice, and thick lenses in black-framed glasses almost filled the doorway. “Joe, you must leave immediately. You’ve been assigned to ‘Operation Caper’. You’ll be briefed by Agent Barking.”
“Thanks, old chap.”
I’m not old, Mitch thought. He dared not move for fear of the chair repositioning him again—but he would have liked to have checked in a mirror to see if he’d aged dramatically since he got out of bed that morning.
“Agent Barking here. We’ve not met.” A lithe woman with long blond hair and sparkling blue eyes grabbed Mitch’s hand with such vigour he reckoned he would have to ice it afterwards. He moved and the chair started purring, so he sprung up.
“Oh, is your chair faulty?” Agent Barking asked.
“I think it must be. Tell me about ‘Operation Caper’.”
“This is of the utmost importance and, of course, top secret.”
“We must leave within the hour to fly to Paris.”
“We must retrieve the stolen data which was collected by the Bubble Telescope and stored in the Elephant.”
“Were you aware that the invaluable pictures of AMIS training camps had been stolen?”
“No, I don’t think I was. Was I?”
“Probably not. That’s top secret too. Pick up your bag and follow me.”
Mitch saw a bag in the corner of the office and followed Agent Barking, clutching it to his chest. He wondered if everyone got their tea. He hadn’t seen any sign of Tinman outside his office.
“Look as relaxed as possible at the airport,” Agent Barking said. “We have special clearance, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
It was a pretty short flight across the Channel, but Mitch was disappointed that he wasn’t flying business class.
He wanted to ask Agent Barking so many questions about ‘Operation Caper’, but she was snoring. He could hear her rumbles above the engine noise.
They landed safely.
“Once we get to the hotel,” Agent Barking told him, “we must be very cautious. There is a change of clothes in your bag. We have to lie low and not draw attention to ourselves.”
His room was nice but not extraordinary. Weren’t MI32 agents given suites? He found a pair of jeans and a shirt in the bag, as well as socks and loafers. He changed and made sure he was in the lobby to meet Agent Barking at the precise time she had instructed him to be there.
She walked towards him wearing slim black slacks and a red, silky blouse. Her make-up highlighted her shimmering blue eyes and bright smile. She grabbed his arm.
“We need to look like a couple.”
She led him to a pair of imposing, dark-oak doors.
“We have to meet some important people in here,” she said. She opened the doors. It was dark. Lights flashed on and a room full of about seventy-five people yelled "Surprise!” and then “Happy birthday!”.
Joe bounced over to Mitch and gave him a bear hug.
“It’s not every day you turn forty and I thought this should be an extra special celebration. I can never thank you enough for saving my life in that op. I know things have been rough for you since then, because of your injuries. Just want to say thanks and many happy returns of the day!” Joe handed him a glass of beer.
They all lifted their glasses and cheered, breaking into “for he’s a jolly good fellow”. Mitch beamed at them, but deep inside he yearned to be Agent Mitch Fond again, speeding after the bad guys in his Aston Martin, switching on the jet propulsion, firing missiles, and bringing those devils down. But his muddled brain was uncertain as to whether that memory was real or not. He looked around the room and decided that he’d best enjoy this party in Paris. Life is short.
Agent Barking poured him another beer.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
Mimi Being Ponied
This is a photo of Mimi (a yearling we part own) being 'ponied' for the first time. She must get used to being led by a rider on another horse.
This is what happens at Woodbine Racetrack before each race:
Each horse is led by their groom (on foot) to the 'paddock'.
They are saddled up with the oversight of a jockey valet and are then walked around the 'paddock' until their jockey appears.
(For some races, the horses and their human team will go outside to the walking ring).
When the jockey arrives, the trainer gives the jockey additional instructions and/or confirms earlier decisions.
There is a call for 'riders up' and the trainer gives the jockey a 'leg up' into the saddle. (The jockey will always land gently on the horse's back, by the way).
The groom leads the horse and jockey towards the racetrack.
The horses are in order of their post positions at this time.
As they enter the track, a rider on a 'pony' (they're called ponies, but they are horses!) will take over from the groom and 'pony' the horse past the grandstand. The 'parade' of racehorses will turn back in order to cross in front of the grandstand again. This time each racehorse can be seen clearly from the stands (with its post position emblazoned on the saddle pad) and the announcer tells the racing fans the name of the horse, the jockey, the trainer and the owners.
The horse continues to be 'ponied' until they reach the starting gate.
When the horses are to be loaded, a Woodbine gate person (on foot) will take the horse from the pony and lead the horse into its post in the gate.
Other countries do not necessarily use ponies. I don't believe England does, for example.
However, I think that the pony riders do a fantastic job of keeping the athletic, finely tuned athletes assigned to them safe from the time they come onto the track until they are led into the starting gate.
So, it's very important that Mimi get used to the idea that she'll have a horse buddy leading her around sometimes!
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