A Substandard Start

"Where's Frank?" demanded Oscar, striding out of the lift towards the Head of MI9. Carrie and Rose followed shortly behind.

"Agent London was seen by a witness fleeing the scene of a diamond robbery at 20:00 last night." explained the Head of MI9. "He hasn't been seen since, and nobody has heard from him. That is, unless any of you have?" The teenagers looked at each other, and then shook their heads.

"So, what's going to happen to us?" asked Carrie.

"Now, agents, I don't want you to take this badly, but it has been very difficult finding a suitable replacement."

"Temporary replacement." interrupted Oscar. The Head looked at Oscar, and continued,

"However, we have found one candidate who was the skills, knowledge, and time to spend as a replacement for Agent London. Agents I would like you to meet Chief Agent Stark." The spies looked at each other in surprise.

"Chief Agent Stark?" exclaimed Carrie. "But mam -"

"No buts, Carrie. As Oscar said, this is only a temporary arrangement." Stark stepped out of the shadows, a large grin on his face.

"Morning, agents." he greeted. "I would love to have a "get-to-know-each-other" session, but I feel I know you sufficiently, and it would be a waste of time. Until I can update you further, I think it is best that you return to school." The spies turned sharply around, and strode across to the lift. None of them spoke until they were all out in the corridor.

"Stark?" exclaimed Carrie. "She's got to be joking. I'll resign if I have to see his pitiful mug grinning at me everyday."

"It's not going to come to that." defended Oscar. "Frank wouldn't let that happen."

"Frank's not around, Oscar. We're going to have to sort this out by ourselves, whilst MI9 deal with the Frank mystery." said Rose.

"Don't tell me, they'll put their best men on it." replied Oscar, sarcastically. "Well, if they are anything like Stark then Frank has no hope. Which means neither do we." With this he strolled off down the corridor, leaving Rose and Carrie staring after him. They all felt the same: hopeless.

Oscar was nowhere to be seen when Carrie and Rose arrived to the classroom for morning registration. He didn't turn up for maths either. Carrie was beginning to get worried, when he came ambling in mid-lecture.

"And where have you been, Oscar?" demanded Mrs King, breaking from her talk on circle theorems. Oscar shrugged and sat down in his regular seat. Mrs King glared at him, before continuing with her speech.

"Where do you think Oscar has been?" asked Carrie. "Do you think he's investigating Frank on his own?"

"Oscar wouldn't do that." assured Rose, although she herself was not convinced.

Carrie was about to continue when Mr Flatley appeared at the door, a new teacher standing behind him.

"Good morning. I would like you all to meet Mrs Green. She'll be your new music and spanish teacher whilst Senuro Ashleys is away. I'd like you all to give her a warm St Hope's welcome." There was some attempted applause from the class, but overall there was little enthusiasm.

"Senuro Ashleys has been away for weeks already." whispered Carrie. "What's taken them so long to find a replacement?"

"Do you not think it's coincidence that Frank disappears and suddenly there's a new member of staff at St Hope's?"

"Should we take it up with Stark?" asked Carrie.

"No matter how much we dislike it, we're going to have to work through it." said Rose. "Or the country's lives could be at stake." Carrie nodded, raising her hand.

"Yes, Carrie?" asked Mrs King.

"I'm not feeling to great." said Carrie.

"Rose'll escort you to the nurse, won't you Rose?" suggested Mrs King, turning back to the board. The girls left, Oscar slipping out also, unnoticed.

They arrived at the lift in silence, the only sounds being that of the scanner when Carrie unlocked the door. When the lift doors opened into HQ, Stark was sitting at the computer desk.

"Yes?" he asked, turning around to face them.

"There's a new teacher arrived today." began Carrie.

"Do you waste your time investigating all new teachers?" inquired Stark, sarcastically.

"No," said Carrie, "but -"

"No buts. If it isn't important, drop it." said Stark, turning back to the desk. "I'll see you when there's a mission."

The spies left in silence, remaining so until they were out in the corridor once more.

"It is quite a coincidence." stated Rose. "And like my old leader Lenny said, there's no such thing."

"But Stark says its a no go." replied Carrie, "A dead end."

"What does Stark know?" agreed Oscar. "We're going to have to work this one out ourselves."

"I agree with Oscar." said Rose. "It's down to us."

"OK. So, where do we start?"