Classified For A Reason

Two weeks since the penguins' initiation into the North Wind, and they still couldn't get over the jetpacks. They sped and zipped all over their fellow team's meeting room like ricocheting pinballs. Only Kowalski stopped to fawn over his new girlfriend Eva and admire everything she did, even something as routine and dull as tidying up her team's database.

Classified, the grey wolf leader of his team, drummed his paw on the dashboard in a flashy show of impatience. "I hate to put a damper on your party, but I am expecting a very important phone call soon. I want you all out of this room within a few minutes."

Corporal opened his mouth to speak, but Classified quickly added, "That goes for my own team, as well."

Skipper quirked an eyebrow. "Hmm, this call must be super top secret if you want even your trusty teammates to leave the room."

"I have my reasons," Classified tersely replied. "Now, I say I've been a good friend for the past few days. I let you penguins play around in our room, so now I need you to do as I say just this once."

Short Fuse pondered for a bit, then his face lit up. "Oh, do you have a girlfriend now?"

Kowalski nodded in agreement. "The trigger-happy seal poses a good question. That seems like a sensible conclusion."

At this matter-of-fact assertion, Classified wildly waved his paws in frantic denial. "No no no, I don't have a girlfriend. I can't tell you who's calling, but I insist that you leave now."

Skipper put both flippers to his hips and smirked. "And why are you so suspiciously insistent? You ought to spill the beans, Classified."

"Oh for the love of God and the queen of England, why do you have to make things so difficult for me-"

Suddenly, to Classified's horror and to everyone else's surprise, the screen came to life to reveal an elderly wolf with visible wrinkles, drooping ears, and fur greyed with age. She adjusted her thick spectacles with long claws caked with too much nail polish. She talked animatedly, but only her mouth moved and no sound came out.

Skipper let out a low whistle. "Whoa, Classified...I understand if you're the kind of guy who digs older women, but I didn't know you were into women this old."

Rico snickered.

Classified puffed his chest and the tips of his ears flushed red with embarrassment. "Sh-she's not my girlfriend!" the wolf sputtered. "She's-" He turned back to the screen with a disgruntled face. "Mum, I can't hear you. There's no sound."

The elderly she-wolf froze and stared at him with blank confusion. She adjusted her glasses again and peered down with raised eyebrows. Just like with the technologically inept Dave the Octopus two weeks prior, Classified and Eva together spent the next few seconds instructing her how to get the audio working.

Finally the old wolf's English accent-tinged voice patched through.

"Is it working now? You can hear me? Oh, splendid. Very good." Her cheery voice abruptly shifted tone as she crossed her arms and glared daggers at Classified. "Why didn't you call me last week? You promised to keep up with making calls back home."

Classified merely stared back with undisguised exasperation. "It's hard enough trying to arrange private calls. And I have my paws full of work, Mum. The most recent case in particular endangered the lives of myself and my team-"

"My dear boy, I don't want to hear it. You always go on how your lives are in danger to save the poor, helpless little animals. Wouldn't it be much nicer and safer to retire so you can spend the rest of your days at the pub and smoking pipe?"

"Need I remind you, Mum? That's exactly how Dad died."

At this, Classified's mother instantly burst into sobs. "I have my son to remind me how lonely I am with my dear husband dead and cold in his grave over a year ago," she said with a loud sniff. "Cumberbatch, you can be so insensitive sometimes."

"I'm sorry, Mum," the wolf muttered.

"Cumberbatch?" Skipper blurted. "Your real name is...Cumberbatch?" The penguins exchanged a wide, bug-eyed look, then dissolved into raucous and uncontrollable laughter. Rico rolled around on the floor like a rotisserie chicken on fire. Private laughed so hard that he was panting and wheezing by the time he got control of himself. Short Fuse slipped out a chuckle, only to quickly cover his mouth with both flippers when the wolf agent shot a glare at his teammate.

"I'm not laughing at you; I'm laughing at the penguins," the seal said.

Classified, newly revealed as Cumberbatch, slowly clenched his fists then threw them up in the air as he groaned aloud. "Mum, this is why I insist that you refrain from calling me while I'm at work. Especially with our new dysfunctional penguin team around."

It took Cumberbatch's mother a few seconds to properly dab away the wetness in her eyes with a handkerchief, unaware of her son's acute embarrassment. "If you're tired of me calling you at work, and you don't want to retire, why not take a break? Come back home to Oxford and spend some quality time with your old lonely mummy. I'd absolutely love for you to come."

The wolf agent stiffened. He knew his mother well enough that despite the outward sweetness of her voice, backing out of her request was, with undeniable certainty, not an option.

"If you really insist, Mum," Cumberbatch said through clenched teeth.

"You swear on it? Pinkie promise."

"You're on a screen. We can't-"

"Sure we can, my dear boy. Now promise me!" Cumberbatch's mother stuck out her pinkie finger and shook the camera as she pressed it against the lens, taking up the entire screen with a monochromatic, furry grey. Cumberbatch uttered a resigned sigh and delicately extended his own pinkie towards the screen. It hovered just millimeters away from touching.

"This is the closest I'm getting, Mum," he called. "I literally can't lay a finger on state-of-the-art, delicate multi-million dollar technology. Next week I don't have any pending missions. I promise to come see you in England then."

"Wonderful!" Cumberbatch's mother pulled her finger back from the screen, and beamed as she waved. "Much hugs, love, and kisses from Mummy. Ta-ta for now!"

The screen went black. Cumberbatch's ears laid flat and he scowled as the penguins still snickered behind him.

"Please let us accompany you to your trip to Oxford," Kowalski said. "We'd really like to know from your dear old mother why she named you Cumberbatch."

"You penguins coming along is the last thing I need," the wolf snapped. "And to everyone here, I am known only as Classified. Understood?" He knew well that no one was going to listen to him. His fur prickled and his skin grew hot as the exchange with his mother still remained fresh in his mind. Those penguins were never going to let him live it down. His embarrassing real name had just been unveiled in the most embarrassing way. He was called Classified for a reason.