Petpetpet Wars:Part Six
The three Mootix and the Larnikin stood around the fire, reading the letter that Captain Finnegan had given them. Finnegan himself was sat beneath a leaf nearby as the rain still raged on around them.
“He said it was from a Veespa spy he knew back at the airbase, Sarge,” Polish informed Sergeant Perks.
I hope you get this message. I hope you understand why I needed the secrecy; I'd be killed if this information came into the wrong hands.
There's a Veespa super weapon, a bomb containing Petpetpet-be-gone. It's being delivered to the Mootix, and they are going to test it out. If it works, they plan on using it against the Cootys. It's a powerful weapon; if it is used then the war will be over in days.
But if you get it, if you deliver it back to the Cootys, then the war can be over straight away. They are testing it at Spiky Ridge. Get there soon.
If you survive, I'd like to see you again. There's a town near the Veespa border, next to a lake.
I'll be waiting there for you,
“A secret message from a Veespa spy…” Perks thought aloud once he had read the message. “Well, it's a good thing we intercepted this, lads. If he'd have been allowed to steal this weapon then the Cootys could have won this war.”
“No! That's not it! Don't you see?” Finnegan shouted from behind the group.
“What do you mean?” Perks asked.
“If both armies have this weapon, neither will use it!” Finnegan explained.
“How does that work?” Kelly asked.
Polish let out a little gasp.
“I read about it in school,” he told them. “There's a term for it…. MAD, I think.”
“Mad?” Perks questioned. “I'll say it is.”
“No, M.A.D., with dots in between the letters,” Polish corrected himself.
“It stands for Mutual Assured Destruction,” Finnegan added. “The Cootys won't use the weapon because they know that the Mootix would use it right back at them and everyone would end up dead. The same goes for the Mootix. If there's such a threat, then the war would have to end! There'd be no point in continuing to fight!”
“The war would be over,” Polish whispered, as if saying it loudly would reveal a flaw in the idea.
“Spiky Ridge…” Bad muttered, “It's always Spiky Ridge…”
“Please…” Finnegan begged. “If you help me, there doesn't have to be any more death. We can bring peace to the Petpetpets.”
Polish and Bad nodded almost immediately, with Kelly following soon after.
“This is betraying our country,” Perks told them. “We'd be worse than deserters, we'd be traitors.”
“What about the army, Sarge?” Bad asked, a wry smile spreading across his face. “They've abandoned you, sent you to your death. Wouldn't it be the perfect revenge to make the army itself irrelevant?”
Perks clicked his jaw in thought.
“Private Spanner, it's an offence to try and manipulate a superior officer into taking a course of action,” he said eventually. “You're lucky it's worked this time, so I'll let you off.”
The Sergeant walked over to Captain Finnegan and pulled him to his feet. In one movement he cut the Captain's bindings, freeing his arms.
“Thank you, Sergeant,” Finnegan said gladly.
“This had better work, Finnegan,” Perks growled. “You put my lads in any danger and you'll pay.”
“I understand, Sergeant,” the Captain replied.
Perks smiled faintly, and then turned back to his troops.
“Right lads, there's no time to loose so we'll have to march through the rain,” he announced. “We make for Spiky Ridge!”
The rain eased off as the afternoon wore on, though the ground was still waterlogged so the march was difficult. Bad took the lead of the group, remembering the way through the jungle to his childhood home.
It was late in the afternoon when they finally emerged into a wide clearing in the grass jungle. A single dirt track ran through the area, with burnt out homes on either side.
It wasn't the bustling town that they had imagined, and it looked as if it never had been. There were only a dozen buildings, all carefully grouped together.
“This is Spiky Ridge?” Polish asked.
“Like I said… not worth millions of Mootix dying for,” Bad pointed out. “It's hardly surprising that they want to test this weapon here. It'll wipe it off the map.”
“They'll be coming in from the south, down the track, we'd best get ready further down there,” Perks ordered. “Kelly, hat and disguise back on, if you would.”
Kelly nodded and began to take out the stage makeup and elastic bands. He rammed his hat back over his head.
“Yes Sarge,” he replied.
The squad marched off to the south, and took up cover in the grass that lined the side of the track. It wasn't long before the Mootix convoy came into sight.
An entire battalion were marching along the track, dragging a large cart behind them. What looked like a giant can of Petpetpet-be-gone was perched atop the cart, with lots of complicated woodwork surrounding it.
“What's the plan?” Finnegan whispered.
“Just follow my lead, I'll have to tie you up again,” Perks replied, hastily binding the Captain's wrists again.
Once the approaching Mootix were close enough, Perks emerged from the side of the road, the squad and Finnegan close behind him. Perks saluted the Mootix, and they came to a halt.
A stern Mootix with a uniform that identified him as a Major marched forward and saluted Perks. The Major's moustache twitched with curiosity.
“What's all this then, soldier?” the Major barked.
“Sergeant Perks, sir,” Perks replied in his most obedient voice. “My unit was assigned to the Big Push operation, sir.”
“The one that targeted airbases?” the Major asked. “What are you doing this far out?”
“We captured an enemy soldier sir, and given the… high profile nature of our captive, we proceeded to return to Command to hand him over for interrogation, sir.”
“Good job, that man, forward thinking if ever I heard it,” the Major said approvingly. “What is the name of this captive?”
Bad pushed Finnegan forward.
“This is Captain Rip Finnegan, the Cooty Avenger, sir,” Perks said proudly.
The Major's moustache couldn't mask the smirk as it spread across his face.
“Finnegan is it? Good job, Sergeant!” he boomed.
A new Mootix from the ranks of the battalion arrived, and saluted to the Major.
“Sir, if I may…” he began.
“Yes, yes, Black, what is it?” the Major said irritably.
“I request permission to escort Captain Finnegan back to command,” the soldier replied.
“We found him,” Perks objected.
The new Mootix flashed a brief smile in the direction of Perks. He fumbled in his pocket for an identification card which he presented to the Major.
“Captain Black, sir,” the Mootix identified himself. “I'm an undercover operative for Special Branch, sir. As you know, all prisoners of war fall under Special Branch's jurisdiction.”
The Major's face tightened. No one liked Special Branch, all spies were untrustworthy.
“Very well Captain,” the Major conceded. “You will escort the prisoner back to command.”
As Perks struggled to protest, Black rushed forward and took Finnegan by the arm. The Mootix led the Cooty away, back down the road into Mootix territory.
Perks glanced at his squad; this wasn't going according to plan.
“We picked up a few other stragglers from your operation, Sergeant,” the Major continued. “You can join them. Once we have completed this operation, we'll take you all back to Command to be reassigned.”
“Stragglers?” Perks enquired.
The Major gestured over his shoulder to a group of Mootix stood towards the front of the battalion. Most looked a sorry sight, injured and jittery, but one stood out. It was a familiar face.
“Shorty!” Kelly screamed as he ran forward, completely abandoning all formalities.
He collided with Shorty, wrapping his arms around him in a deep hug.
“I thought you were dead!” he sobbed into his arm.
“Private!” the Major barked. “Stop that at once! Displaying emotion is a Cooty trait!”
Kelly glanced back towards the Major, and seemed to remember where he was. He pushed himself away from Shorty and straightened out his uniform.
“Nice to see you again,” he said deeply.
Shorty had a few cuts and bruises, but his disguise seemed intact. No one had guessed he wasn't a Mootix.
“Is he one of yours?” the Major asked Perks.
“Yes sir, we became separated not long before we located our prisoner, sir,” the Sergeant replied.
“Jolly good show, what!” the Major laughed. “Squad, let's get this contraption set up!”
The Mootix under the command of the Major grasped their ropes once more, and began pulling the cart towards Spiky Ridge again.
Captain Finnegan trudged along in the wake of the Mootix spy, leaving behind the Veespa weapon, and his last hope of ending the war.
He was a fool to have thought it would work. Everything was gone, he'd failed Tanya again.
As the Mootix battalion disappeared over the horizon, the Mootix spy, Captain Black, stopped dead.
He turned to Finnegan, and smiled broadly.
“I must say Captain, it is an honour to meet you,” he said as he cut the ropes around Finnegan's wrists.
“What are you doing?” Finnegan asked.
“I should explain, my name is Captain Black, Special Branch,” the Mootix told him. “Cooty Special Branch.”
“A double agent?” Finnegan gasped.
“Yes sir, I've been assigned to this battalion to investigate rumours of a new weapon, though to be honest it doesn't look that impressive,” Black explained. “Obviously, getting you back behind our lines is more important.”
“We have to go back,” Finnegan announced.
“Sir?” Black asked.
“That weapon, it's a powerful gift from the Veespa, I'm here to steal it,” Finnegan explained.
“By getting captured?” Black smirked.
“No, those Mootix were helping me, we're going to deliver the weapon to our lads and end the war,” Finnegan told him.
“They are traitors?” Black asked.
“No, we're going to end the war on both sides. If everyone has this weapon, the war will end. It's M.A.D.,” Finnegan informed him.
“Yes, it does sound quite absurd,” Black chuckled.
“No, not mad, M.A.D., stands for Mutually Assured Destruction,” Finnegan corrected him.
“What's that? It sounds like a loan… are you delirious, man? We're soldiers, not bankers!” Black demanded, sudden concern painting his face.
“We have to end the war!” Finnegan shouted.
“You've clearly hit your head, Captain,” Black said dismissively. “We'll get you to a field hospital and you'll be fine in a few days.”
“No!” Finnegan shouted, turning to go.
Black grabbed his arm and held him back with surprising strength.
“You are coming with me, Captain,” Black said forcefully.
Finnegan glanced down, and noticed a sturdy rock in the middle of the path. In one fluid movement, he ducked forward, grabbed the rock, and brought it down hard over Black's head. The Mootix fell forwards.
Finnegan checked his pulse. The Mootix was still breathing.
“I'm sorry I had to do that,” Finnegan whispered. “This war needs to end though, and you can't stop me.”
Leaving the fallen Mootix behind, Finnegan ran up the road after the Mootix convoy.
To be continued…