26. TROUBLE ON DEEDIA*

The Diara-Deedia  becomes President of Deedia.
Can Tony and Bea stop his cruel plans?

Length : 34 900 words.

1

WHAT A JOB!

The Bean and I stopped outside Obsidian’s office door.  She said, “Maybe Obsidian will ask us what jobs we want.  What’ll you say?”

“I don’t know,”  I said.  “I wanted to be an Investigator, but Wellington would give me all the boring missions.”

“Are you sure, Tony?  Wellington might be grateful….”

“Grateful!  He was furious.  I bet he’s persuaded Obsidian to make me an Administrator, and send me to the dullest part of the Galaxy.”

“No, Tony!  Obsidian’s fair.  He wouldn’t do that.”

“Then why didn’t he let us choose our own careers, like the rest of the class?  Why did he order us to report to him?”

She smiled.  “There’s an easy way to find out.”

“All right.”  I faced the door, and took a deep breath.  “Open.”

A few weeks ago, I was just Tony Trent, an ordinary Scottish boy.  The Bean (my eleven-year-old cousin) and I were playing in our granny’s lift, when we accidentally found the secret Earth base of the Galactic Federation.  Now, we’d just finished training to become agents of the Federation.

The door slid aside.  Obsidian’s office has a U of seats facing the terminal of Victor, the computer.  Obsidian, the commander of all the agents in our sector, was in his own chair, the bottom of the U.

No!  I groaned inside.  Wellington, commander of all the Investigators, was glaring at us from the settee at Obsidian’s right.  Beside him was Martin, an Investigator we’d met on our last training mission.  A bandage bulged his uniform, on the arm he’d injured.

Martin smiled.  “Bea, Tony, thank you for coming.  Please take a seat.” We sat on the other settee, in the full blast of Wellington’s glare.

Obsidian said,  “Martin asked me to call this meeting, so I’ll leave him to explain.”

Martin began,  “I know we haven’t much time, so I’ll put it simply.  I suggest that we start a new team, to tackle difficult problems on Federation planets.”

Wellington turned the glare on him.  “We do not need any new team. Investigators and Negotiators solve problems on Federation planets.”

“They don’t solve all of them,”  said Martin.  “Ask Victor.  Perhaps because their methods are too formal.  The Investigator sits behind a desk, calls witnesses, and asks countless questions.  He leaves the planet, and makes his report.  The Negotiator studies it, then goes to the planet, and tries to persuade the people to do what he decides.  That method is suitable for most problems, but not for all.  I propose that the new team would tackle these other problems by going to live on the planets, and working with their people.”

Obsidian nodded, looking thoughtful, while my heart jumped in excitement. Could Martin mean…?

He went on,  “I watched Bea and Tony in action on their last mission. They would be ideal members for the new team.”  He asked us,  “Would you consider a job like that?”

“You bet!”  I said.  Seeing lots of different planets.  What a job!

The Bean asked.  “Who would give us the missions?”

“Wellington,”  answered Martin.  “After asking Obsidian.”

My excitement faded.  That wasn’t good news.

“I do not agree with the suggestion,”  said Wellington in his usual loud voice.  “It would be foolish to send that boy to a planet that has problems. He is more likely to make them worse.  He will never be a good agent.”

The Bean squeezed my arm.  She knew I’d be angry.  I held my fists at my sides, trying to keep quiet.

Martin said,  “Tony doesn’t always do what we would expect, but he has succeeded in some difficult missions.”  That surprised me: he’d checked our reports.  “If he gets results, why should we condemn him?”

Wellington boomed,  “I condemn him.  I would not trust him on any important mission.”

“That’s not fair!”  I sat forward, and glared back at him.  “You don’t like me.  Just because….”

“Tony, no!”  The Bean jerked my arm – making me slide off the front of the settee, onto the floor.  The three men stared down at me – Obsidian and Martin serious, Wellington angry.

I picked myself up, red-faced.  “I… I’m sorry.  I do my best.”

Martin said,  “I’m sure you do.  Bea, you’ve worked with Tony.  What do you think?”

The Bean went red, and said,  “I think… I think… Tony would be good for the team you suggested.  It was his initiative that brought the success we had.”

“No.”  I had to speak.  “It was your brains.”  I wasn’t being modest: I was being honest.  The Bean’s brains had often got us out of trouble.

“Exactly,”  said Wellington.  “The girl is intelligent.  She must not waste her talents in some silly, useless team, especially with that boy.  She should be an Investigator.  Under my command, she would become a top agent.”

Martin said,  “Bea wouldn’t be wasting her talents.  Neither would Tony. They would be combining them in the new team.  We have trouble at present, with Deedia.  That’s the kind of job they might be asked to tackle.”

“No.”  Wellington shook his head.  “No!”

Obsidian said,  “We may solve the Deedia problem.  I’m sorry, Martin.  I like your idea, but it’s a big decision, to start a new team of agents.  I’m not sure we need one at present.  Perhaps Bea and Tony could become Investigators.  Then Wellington can send them on missions where they can use their talents.”

No!  I knew exactly how often that would happen.

Obsidian glanced at his wrist unit.  “Thank you all for attending this meeting.  Bea and Tony, may I ask you to leave now?  The leader of Deedia is due here soon.  His visit is important, and we must be ready to welcome him.”

As we went along the corridor, I said to the Bean,  “That would’ve been a sky-high job.  Martin might’ve persuaded Obsidian, but I blew it.  Thanks for stopping me.”

“I’m sorry I pulled you off the settee.  I didn’t mean it.”

“I know.  I’m glad you did.  It gave me time to realise I was being glutinous.  I don’t know what I would’ve said.  That… that Wellington!”

“He persuaded Obsidian to reject Martin’s idea,”  said the Bean.  “He’s not a nice person.”

“Not nice!”  I said.  “He’s a big-headed….”

I stopped, because a bunch of men were marching along the corridor towards us.  A single one, then two pairs, then another single and another two pairs.  The second single wore a white uniform with black buttons. The others had black uniforms with white buttons.  Nerve-guns hung at their waists.

They would’ve barged us out of their way, if we hadn’t dodged into a side corridor – where I sensed a mind that was tense with excitement.  That’s one of the reasons why the Federation wanted the Bean and me to be agents: we can sense the minds of other races.  This mind belonged to a boy who looked about the same age as me.  He was the same coffee colour as the men, and he wore a black sweatshirt and trousers.  He didn’t notice us, because he was watching the men passing the end of the corridor.

He was holding a weird-looking gadget with springs and wires.  I frowned at it, wondering what it was.  Until I realised – it was a crossbow, and he was about to fire it.