Mission Improbable

By J.J. Green

Sci-Fi, Comedy & satire, Action & adventure, Young adult

Paperback, eBook

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558
5 mins

Chapter One - Through the Glowing Green Mist

Prologue

On caterpillar tracks, the mechanical alien trundled to the ocean’s edge, where a sluggish liquid flopped onto the sand, withdrew and flopped again, under a deep violet sky. The alien inserted a tube beneath the ripples. Suction commenced, accompanied by a low vibration. As the extracted liquid gurgled and slurped, the mechanical alien transmitted a message to central command: Operation progressing satisfactorily.
Unnoticed, in the glimmering darkness beyond the shoreline, a wave appeared. Unnoticed, the wave approached slowly, silently, stealthily. Unnoticed, it loomed like a predatory beast. With a dreadful, dull splash, the wave fell. When it withdrew, the sand was bare.
Central command’s communications went unanswered. It never heard from the mechanical alien again.

Chapter One – Through The Glowing Green Mist

Carrie Hatchett’s interviewer, Ms. Bass, had no eyebrows. Or, rather, she had pretend eyebrows. About halfway between the naked ridges where her natural eyebrows once grew and her hairline were two thinly drawn, semi-circular lines. A cloud of bouffant grey hair circled her head.
Carrie watched the pretend eyebrows to see if they moved along with the rest of Ms. Bass’ face, but they did not. No expression seemed to register on them. They were independent, only supervising the action going on below. Carrie was sure of it because she watched for several minutes while Ms. Bass’ voice droned in her ears.
But then a sharp frown drew the eyebrows down until they were almost within a natural distance of her eyes.
“Ms. Hatchett? Ms. Hatchett? Did you hear what I just said? Are you listening?”
Carrie, startled, forced her gaze down to Ms. Bass’ face, and flinched at her stony look. “What? I’m sorry? What did you say?”
“I said, your CV doesn’t mention any call centre experience.”
“That’s right, I’ve never worked in a call centre.” Carrie fidgeted. The rent on her new flat was expensive. She needed this job. And she wanted it. For once in her life, she was going to be a success. She was determined.
Ms. Bass lowered Carrie’s CV to the table. “You are aware the position you’re interviewing for is supervisor of a call centre?”
“Yes.”
“But you’ve never worked in a call centre before?”
“No.”
“Ms. Hatchett, do you even know what goes on in call centres?”
“People...” Carrie recalled the office cubicles she had passed when she came in, which had been full of people wearing headsets, speaking into microphones, and watching computer screens. “...take calls?” She twisted a ring around her middle finger. She should have done some research before coming to the interview, but she had been busy unpacking and getting Toodles and Rogue settled into their new home.
Ms. Bass sighed and leafed through Carrie’s CV. She frowned. “What’s Bagua Zhang?”
“It’s a martial art. I’m a—”
Waving a hand to silence her, the woman cleared her throat. “So, you’ve worked in a florist’s, been a professional dog walker, spent a summer selling ice-cream and worked as a...” She removed her glasses and squinted, moving the paper away from her face. “A birthday telegram girl?”
“Yes, but the clean kind. You know, teddy bears, rabbits, Disney princesses, that kind of thing. Not the...” Carrie swallowed. “...the other kind.” She pulled her skirt closer to her knees.
Ms. Bass locked eyes with Carrie for a silent moment, then placed the CV on her desk. She picked up a checklist and began ticking boxes.
“You don’t suffer any chronic illnesses, do you?”
“No.”
“Mental illness? Depression?”
“No.”
“Good. That’s very good.” Ms. Bass nodded. “We have enough of that around here as it is.”
She ticked a few more boxes. Carrie leaned forward to read the list, but Ms. Bass curled the paper up and away from her, smiling tightly. “Excuse me a moment.” She got up from her desk, taking the checklist with her, and went to her office door. She peered down the corridor towards the chairs where Carrie had sat, alone, while waiting to be called in. She left, leaving the door ajar, and a moment later her shrill voice echoed up the corridor. “No one else applied at all? Not even a phone call?”
Carrie couldn’t make out the reply but she soon heard footsteps thumping closer. Ms. Bass entered, sat and put on her glasses. Gathering up the papers on her desk, she fixed Carrie with a glare.
“When can you start?”
Carrie’s mouth fell open. “You mean I’ve—?”
“Yes, yes. What’s the earliest you can start? Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow? Yes, I think I can start tomorrow.”
“Good. Nine o’clock. I’ll put you on the day shift, but we’re open twenty-four hours and at other times you might have to do the evening or graveyard shift. Okay?” It was more of a challenge than a question.
Carrie opened her mouth.
“We can sort out the details tomorrow. See you then, Ms...Ms...” Ms. Bass stood and held out her hand.
“Hatchett.” Carrie shook the offered hand.
“Ms. Hatchett. Welcome to the team.”

***

As she finished unpacking that evening, Carrie could see Toodles and Rogue were as excited about her new job as she was. Toodles was, admittedly, hiding under the bed and throwing out her claws to scratch Carrie whenever she walked too close, and Rogue was sitting in the corner of the living room staring gloomily at the wall, his normally waggy tail motionless, but Carrie could tell that, deep down, they shared her happiness.
She removed newspaper wrappings from some glasses and put them away in a kitchen cupboard before starting on her mugs, bowls and plates. The kitchen in her new flat was a little poky and the door of the cupboard under the sink was stuck, but the flat would have to do for now. Maybe after a while working as a...what was it?...call centre supervisor, she would get a raise or a promotion and she would be able to afford a better place.
She tried the cupboard under the sink again, but the door would not budge. She would have to speak to her landlady about it.
A fresh start in a new area and, within a week, a new job. It was more than she could have hoped for. Just a couple of weeks ago, when Barry had dumped her, she’d never imagined she would get back on her feet again so quickly. Huh, Barry! What a loser. She was better off without him. She would email him tonight and tell him her good news; then he would see what a mistake he had made.
It’d been a such a shock when he said he wanted to split up. Everything had been fine between them, then suddenly, goodbye Carrie. She never listened to him, he’d said. Never took any notice of anything he told her. It was like living with a brick wall. Carrie shook her head. What a load of rubbish. She might lose track of the conversation sometimes, but everyone did that.
Carrie put her saucepans, frying pans and baking trays in a cupboard and flattened the empty cardboard box. She nodded to herself. Yes, Barry was an idiot. She would soon find someone new. There was that employee at the call centre who’d given her a wink when she walked past. He was gorgeous, and friendly. Maybe he was single. She would have to find out more about him tomorrow.
All the cardboard boxes in the kitchen were empty so Carrie went to check the rest of the flat. She saw a small unopened box in the bedroom. Toodles’ claws flashed out as she passed the bed, but she sidestepped just in time.
“Toodles, sweetiepie, did you miss Mummy?”
Carrie opened the box. Inside were a bottle of washing up liquid, scourers, a plunger, washing up brushes, spray cleaner and cloths. Everything that should go under the kitchen sink. She would have to force that door open.
On the way back past the bed Toddles caught her, raking three long scratches through her tights.
“Ow! Toodles, that really hurt. Don’t be cheeky.” Carrie squatted and peered under the bed. Baleful orange eyes glowed in the shadows. “You’re a very naughty girl sometimes, did you know that?” As Carrie reached towards the cat, her claws made another lightning-fast appearance, and Carrie snatched her hand away. A hiss was followed by a guttural, whining growl.
Squinting into the darkness Carrie said, “Okay, so you want to be alone for a little while. I can see that. It’s a new place and you’re feeling vulnerable. I get it.” She stood and picked up the box. “Barry doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I do listen. I do hear what people have to say.”
After returning to the kitchen, Carrie pulled with all her might at the stubborn cupboard door, but it would not budge. She opened the other cupboards, but they were all full. She frowned at the box of kitchen stuff. It was so annoying. It was the last box, and if she could just put the contents away she would be finished.
Rogue clattered into the kitchen, barking, his paws slipping on the tiles. Carrie smiled. Her lovely handsome dog was feeling better already. Then she noticed what he was barking at. The cupboard door under the sink was glowing, a green pulsating light. Her hand went to her mouth. “Oh no. Rogue, what is it?”
Toodles’ catty whine from the bedroom joined Rogue’s deep-throated woofs, creating an escalating cacophony until, with a bang, the door flew open. Carrie jumped. Rogue whimpered and fled, his tail between his legs. Toodles’ whine stopped. A vivid green glow shone from the cupboard, bathing the kitchen in an eerie light.
Her heart in her mouth, Carrie stumbled back towards the kitchen door, intending to follow Rogue’s hasty retreat, but after a moment she hesitated. Her breathing slowed, and her head tilted to one side. She took a step towards the cupboard, and another. Bending down, she peeped inside.
Green mist swirling in a lazy spiral filled the space. She crouched closer, gazing at the mist. It looked like an emerald Milky Way set in motion, its centre disappearing into infinity. Carrie couldn’t figure out what it was. A gas leak? Something supernatural? She stuck out her nose and sniffed. The mist had no smell. A sudden thought occurred—maybe she could ask for a rent reduction? Swirling green substances in cupboards were definitely an inconvenience, especially when they frightened her pets.
As her hair began to lift and pull towards the open cupboard, Carrie wondered briefly what it might mean, before she was sucked, head first, under her kitchen sink.


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