*Author's Note- Since my last story wasn't terrible, I think I'll write another. This one's a multi-chapter. I'm unhappy with the evil minions (I use minions for lack of a better word). I think that the way I have them now is a bit cheesy. I basically wrote this story from this chapter. I was grocery shopping when I thought to myself; Hey! Wouldn't a grocery store make an awesome place for an epic battle? I smashed that together with another idea, stuck in Kate, and voila! A story. Reviews are greatly appreciated, and I hope you enjoy. Many thanks to GKZM for beta-ing this
*Disclaimer- Check the front of the Mysterious Benedict Society books. Is 'Grammar Defender' in there? No? Well then, I don't own the books.
Kate Wetherall was starving. She hadn't eaten for the entire day, and passing row upon row of mouthwatering food wasn't helping. She groaned slightly as she looked at the deli section's glistening array of chicken wings, mashed potatoes, and buttery vegetables. But she wasn't here to eat. She was on a mission. A mission to discover the killer of Ledroptha Curtain.
Leaving the deli section, Kate hastily looked about the supermarket. Assuring herself that none of the staff were nearby, she slipped through a door labeled 'EMPOYEES ONLY.' It would have made a strange sight, had anyone seen her. A twenty-four year-old woman with long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail and sporting a red bucket stuffed to the brim with odd objects (a Swiss army knife, a rope, an assortment of pouches and pockets that almost perfectly matched Kate's skin tone, a kaleidoscope, a flashlight, a penlight, a weather beaten tranquilizer gun, a weather beaten boomerang, and many other items) was not the sort of thing one normally sees when shopping.
Kate found herself in an office. It was painted with what her friend Constance would call "spleen green." Constance Contraire was a fourteen year-old with a knack for poetry and a notorious grudge against green. It wasn't a good combination. The office's carpet was also a sickly shade of green, along with the furniture.
Going to the spleen green desk, Kate began looking through the papers and files, drawing out any that mentioned purchase of rubbing alcohol. To her satisfaction, there were only a few in the past week that mentioned it. She scanned the pages, looking for the names of anyone familiar. Jeremy Witherson, Samantha Bigelou, Mathew McCracken, Beth Anders - Wait. What was that last one?
Looking back, Kate saw a name that she had hoped never to see again. McCracken. But that was impossible! They had talked to McCracken yesterday in the state prison, and this paper was from three days ago. If anything was sure, it was that the Ten Man was still locked behind bars. But then how…? Wait a minute. Mathew McCracken? Kate frowned slightly. Wasn't McCracken's first name Emanuel? Hadn't Constance found this hilarious, to the bemusement of her three friends? Sticky, her twenty-three year-old friend who possessed a prodigious memory, would know for sure. At any rate, it was suspicious enough to bring back to Mr. Benedict.
Mr. Benedict was Kate's current employer-the one who had set her on this mission and the one who so desperately wanted to know who had murdered his brother the night before last and why they had done so. Normally she worked for the government, gladly took requests from her – for lack of a better word – mentor.
She stuffed the file in her faithful bucket and turned to leave, looking forward to purchasing some food on the way out.
"Um… ma'am?" A bucktoothed young man wearing a striking shade of orange (Constance called this shade 'Why-doesn't-anything-rhyme-with-stupid-orange Orange') stood in the doorway, staring at Kate.
"Oh, I'm sorry! Is this your office? I'll leave right away, then. Sorry." She left in a blur of red metal and golden hair, before the man could say anything else. She just hoped that he hadn't seen her take the files.
Striding purposefully through the aisles, the secret agent paused to gaze longingly at a jar of pickles. She was awfully hungry, after all.
But just as she reached for the pickles, a deep, smooth, soothing voice came over the loudspeaker; "Would the young woman with the bucket please proceed to the front desk at once."
Kate looked up, startled. Well, she was definitely the young woman with the bucket. And unfortunately, the only reason that she could think of for her being called to the front desk was that the man in the office had radioed to his officials about her presence. She looked around. There wasn't anybody in the aisle, but then again she didn't see any easy means of escape should anyone dangerous come calling. The air vents were huge, but they were too high up even for her. She sighed. I'm being silly, she told herself. I'll just show them my credentials and they'll let me by. I can do that, now that I work for the government. She was always forgetting that.
Kate began to walk towards the front of the store. Oddly enough, there weren't any people. The store had been teeming before she had gone for the files. An alarm bell went on in the back of Kate's head. She had a gut feeling that this wasn't going to turn out quite as easy and peaceful as she had hoped. Just as she turned to review her options, a can of tuna, thrown like a throwing star, whistled past her left ear at tremendous speed. Kate managed to dodge it. She whipped her head up to see who had thrown it. McCracken was striding down the aisle towards her.
"There's a woman about my age going into the office, Boss," said Mathew McCracken into his radio.
"Who is it?" asked the person who had employed the Ten Man's son.
"No idea. Blonde hair in a ponytail, red striped shirt, blue jeans, red bucket, -"
"Wait a minute – red bucket?"
"Yes! Red bucket. With a flip top."
"I don't believe it. That's Kate Wetherall!" There was a long silence on Mathew McCracken's radio as his master contemplated this.
"Boss? Orders? Should I kill her, catch her, barge into the office and remove the file anyway, or what?"
"Capture her. Take her bucket and her belt and her shoes. Take a couple teeth, too, if you can. I know this girl. She can be feisty."
"Capture the woman," Mathew recited. "Bring her back in the van. Take her bucket, shoes, belt, and whatever teeth we want. I'm sure William and I can do that."
"Good. Just don't kill her. Hurt her if you want, but no death. I have a score to settle."
"Certainly, I'll – wait. There's someone else going in. He's… Ed. Staff."
"All right. Staff is fine. Evacuate the store and don't let anybody call the police. Quick! Now!"
"Right away, Boss! I'll round up William and John and the others and get everyone out. This may prove to be fun!" Mathew McCracken changed the radio station to the one that his colleagues monitored. "William! John! Maurice! All of you! Get everyone out of this building sharpish. Don't be rude and don't get the police called. Also, don't make the woman with the bucket leave. Boss says to capture her. Don't kill her. Got it?"
Nine affirmative responses came buzzing into Mathew's ear. He smiled. "Good. The Bucket's in aisle two. Let's go."
McCracken had changed quite a lot since their meeting yesterday. His hair was no longer gray, his face was no longer wrinkled, and he had regained that spring in his step that one normally associates with someone who really enjoys his job and is about to go do it. In other words, McCracken seemed to be almost exactly as he had been back on the island where the late Mr. Curtain had once held Mr. Benedict so many years ago.
Kate didn't take time to ponder the change, though. She ran. Dodging shiny toothpaste displays and abandoned shopping carts, she darted through the aisles at her top – and considerable – speed. Twice she ran into other Ten Men – or at least, their spitting images. Finally, she made it to the doors. She tried them, but stepped back in dismay. Locked.
"Come here, ducky! Come to William!"
"William Crawlings, Jr.! I'm surprised to hear such immature language from you. Ducky? Only children would say such things! Well… and Father, but he's crazy!" Garrotte's voice boomed out from behind the ATM.
Kate jumped. She looked around, taking her bearings. It was over two hundred yards to the stairs that led to the balcony, but it was still her best bet. She picked up a bottle of pop from a display from behind her and hurled it with all her might towards the checkout lines. As the Ten Men miniatures looked at the bottle's trajectory, Kate took off in the direction of the balcony.
She reached it just as the sons of the original Ten Men, for that was what they were, realized what Kate had done. With cries of outrage, they charged after her. Kate ran at the window that overlooked the bustling streets of Stonetown, turning so that she struck it with her shoulder. She gave a slight squeak of surprise as she bounced off the bullet-proof glass, as she now realized it was. Her shoulder aching from the impact, she turned around again, reaching into her bucket for her father's old tranquilizer gun. She would have to fight.
Milligan had given the gun to her on the day that she had become an agent of the government. The agency had given her one too, but she still used her father's. It was sort of her good luck charm; an assurance that everything would end up all right in the end and a reminder that her father loved her. She used it only when necessary, and being pursued by younger versions of old enemies who had almost certainly learned from the Ten Men themselves through an empty grocery store trying to get a document that incriminated McCracken's son as the murderer of Mr. Curtain to Mr. Benedict was definitely a time when the old weapon was necessary.
Kate smiled at the thought of Milligan. He was a good father, but he hadn't been happy when she had told him what she planned to do with her life. He had said it was too dangerous. She had argued that he had been and agent for years and had never died. It had taken a while to convince him, but Kate had been adamant. He'd never have let me if he could have seen me now. Her smile changed to a grin, and with Milligan's many cautions ringing in her ears, Kate flipped backwards off the rail.
She plummeted, flipping in midair so that she landed feet first on the customer service booth. The assembly – Kate decided that she would call them 'Junior Tens' for now – looked agog. Who was this woman? Without pausing, Kate leaped easily from the top of the booth to the floor. As the Junior Tens returned down the stairs, she dashed to the produce section, stowing the tranquilizer gun in her bucket as she went.
Maurice Garrotte and John Hertz pursued Kate at full speed. The others had vanished to other parts of the supermarket. Kate seized a spleen green vegetable – what kind it was she didn't notice – and hurled it at Maurice. It struck him full in the face. He gasped in shock and instinctively caught it. It was a slightly over-ripe cucumber. Snarling with rage, he dropped it and continued to chase his quarry. As it happened, his quarry was already quite a bit further away. The little devil moved fast.
Kate ran backwards, seizing cucumbers, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, cabbages, carrots, and whatever else she could get her hands on and turning them into powerful missiles by throwing them at the two Junior Tens chasing her. Most of them were dodged, but here and there one found its mark. None slowed the two men up for long, though John was still slightly stunned from a well thrown carrot and Maurice's face still stung from the cucumber earlier.
Eventually, Kate ran out of vegetables to throw. She dropped the peel of a banana she had been eating with her left hand – she had been hungry – on the floor and took off once more. The Junior Tens may have been just as smart and strong as their parents, but not even the original Ten Men could compete with The Great Kate Weather Machine when it came to speed. Within ten seconds, she had left her pursuers in the dust.
Looking around her, Kate found herself in the wine section. Without so much as a moment's hesitation, she grabbed a bottle by the neck and flung it to her right. It spun over and over, end over end in a furiously swift arc before landing with a satisfying smash several aisles over. She heard shouts and running footsteps, and a Junior Ten – he looked like he might be McCraig's son, but the resemblance was only remote – ran by her aisle. There was a slight swit! from the gun that Kate had just whipped out of her bucket and Henry McCraig crumpled, a feathered dart sticking from his neck. One down, nine to go.
Knowing that the Junior Tens would realize any second that she was in the wine section, Kate sprinted a few aisles over – frozen food. Kate allowed herself another smile, remembering the time when Constance had first tried to exert control over someone else's mind. They had been eating ice cream at the time, and Kate herself had gotten terrible brain freeze from eating her share too quickly. Constance had needed a full day in bed to recover from changing Sticky's mind, of course, but it was still a good memory. Constance still became ill whenever she tried to control someone's mind, but these days she was better at it and the illness passed more quickly. Mr. Benedict predicted that eventually Constance wouldn't get ill at all. Still, she rarely practiced.
Almost unconsciously, Kate opened a bag of frozen peas and poured them over the floor. They skittered away and rolled around. They would make running across this floor very difficult indeed for the Junior Tens. Satisfied that the way was now more difficult for them, she began to jog out of the aisle.
Wham! Two huge forms dropped out of nowhere. They straightened, and Kate saw that one was Crawlings's double and the other was completely unfamiliar. Milligan had shown her photographs of all the Ten Men that he had brought to justice, but she barely remembered the ones that she hadn't personally encountered. This one looked like… she struggled to remember, even as she downed him with a dart and ran from the William Crawlings, Jr. … Gorganant! That was him. It didn't matter, but it helped ease Kate's mind, which had gone into hyper-drive trying to figure out who these Junior Tens were. It seemed unlikely that all the Ten Men had one son, but much stranger things had happened in her life. And who were they working for? The Ten Men didn't work alone; they were mercenaries. Who would pay for Mr. Curtain to be poisoned with rubbing alcohol in his water? Did Mr. Curtain have a son too who stood to inherit something from his father's death? No way! But still, it was possible…
Two Junior Tens down. Still eight left, and Kate was beginning to tire. Still though, she had more energy than most would after a strong cup of coffee. Looking around, she found herself in the bread aisle.
"Hello, miss," a voice said from below. Kate leapt up, latching onto the top shelf with her hands and swinging onto the top of the shelf so that she could have a top view of the entire aisle. A suit-clad man looked calmly up at her, straightening up from the niche in the whole wheat breads that he had been concealed in. Kate reached for the tranquilizer gun, then stopped in dismay – she had dropped it when she had jumped onto the top of the shelf. A razor-sharp pencil, thrown so fast that not even Kate saw it, hit her in the hand as she stood on the shelf.
"Father showed me how to use his pencils," said Jeremy Bludgins. "He also showed me his handkerchief. Want me to show you?" He grinned. He looked to be still in his late teens, and had red braces.
"No, thanks," she said, leaping over his head to land with a thud on the next top shelf over. She wrenched the pencil out of her hand, just as another came whistling by her right ear.
"Are you sure?" Jeremy was still grinning. His had blurred, and another pencil whipped by. Kate ducked, narrowly missing the missile. Slowly, deliberately, never taking his eyes from the person he was to be capturing, the Junior Ten drew what looked like a metal piranha from an inner pocket of his dress jacket and set it against the trigger of Kate's fallen tranquilizer gun. With the sound of wrenching metal, he twisted. The trigger bent, the barrel crumpled, and a few darts fell sadly to the floor. Jeremy dropped the ruined weapon to the floor, his smile widening as he saw Kate's face of horror. He was certain that he was going to win now.
A bucket, a red bucket still full of useful objects hit him squarely in the face. He staggered back, bruised and dazed. So dazed, in fact, that he didn't notice as Kate landed beside him, re-belted her bucket to her side, took a handkerchief from his breast pocket, and pressed it to his own bloody nose.
Three down. These Junior Tens were much easier to defeat than their fathers. They only had a few of the items that the Ten Men had had, and they weren't as smart. The fact that they didn't work together helped, too. Kate had walked to another section of the store. Looking around, she saw bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and dish soap. She could work with that. Grabbing a bottle of dish soap in each hand, Kate squeezed, and two streams of yellow goop flew out, scenting the aisle like a lemon. Working with the two bottles, she created a complex medley of soap and suds. The Junior Tens would have a fun time trying to get her in here. Reasonably assured that she'd be able to make a quick escape if necessary –quicker, at least, than the Junior Tens could give chase – she sat down to review her situation.
She was hunted. She was hungry and tired and there were seven men wielding deadly weapons stalking the corridors of food that surrounded her. Her best weapon had been destroyed, her hand hurt like the dickens, and she had no way out. Kate was still fairly confident, though. She always did seem to pull through, in the end. Still, she had to admit that the prospect of getting the file back to Mr. Benedict without some serious injury did seem unlikely.
Even as she thought this, five Junior Tens materialized in front of her. Mathew McCracken was directly in front of her, while two others flanked either side. Kate backed up until her back was pressing against the shampoo.
"Come on. Give us the file and come with us," said Mathew.
Like a squirrel in a tree, Kate turned around and scrambled up the shelf, knocking down conditioner bottles and tubes of tanning oil as she went. The sound of sacks of meat falling to the floor, followed by groans of Junior Tens who had slipped on the mesh of soup followed her.
Mathew McCracken and Andrew Sharpe leaped over their friends and began to scale the shelves too. Kate was already three aisle shelves down, nearing the paper towels. If hand-to-hand combat was about to break out, Kate wanted to be where being slammed against a shelf wouldn't hurt so much. She grabbed a juice box as she went by, opening it and guzzling it down even as she ran and jumped from top shelf to top shelf. Feeling much refreshed, she also grabbed a metal pole that a sign had been mounted on. The sign –" Save with Supercard!" – fluttered to the floor as Kate snatched the pole and continued to run and leap.
When she came to the paper towel aisle, she turned around and waited for the Junior Tens chasing her to catch up. Within a minute they did. Letter openers drawn, Mathew and Andrew jumped down. Kate brought the pole up to meet Andrew Sharpe squarely between his legs. He landed on it, then sank sideways with a high pitched squeak of pain. Mathew jabbed ferociously with his letter opener. Kate parried with the pole, making a swipe at her foe when he was off balance. He easily side stepped. He attacked again, more vigorously, just as two more Junior Tens joined him. Mortis's son also had his letter opener drawn, while William Crawlings, Jr. lashed out with his necktie, giving Kate a nasty gash on her cheek. Three more joined them, and Andrew managed to clamber back to his feet. Kate was now fighting all seven of the Junior Tens that remained. Blocking, parrying, thrusting, kicking, biting, whacking, and elbowing, Kate fought on, though the odds were quite against her. Finally, William and Andrew, working together with their neck ties, managed to wrench Kate's makeshift staff away from her. Instantly, the Junior Tens stowed their weapons and formed a circle around the secret agent. They began to shake their cuffs, revealing their twin watches. An electrical whine filled the air.
Seven pairs of electrified wires struck Kate simultaneously. With an involuntary cry of pain, she fell – and the world went black.
Author's note – That was immensely satisfying to write. Please tell me if I should continue writing this. This will probably take about five chapters, but it could be more or less. I have my plot, but I have yet to divide it into chapters. Thanks for reading!