The Battle of Double Hoof Farm
Agent K’s hands shook as she reloaded the yarn gun, spilling scraps of wool on the floor around her feet. She had already fired several times, and her clothes were covered in yarn blow-back. At least it was a camouflage of sorts – it helped break up her outline as she dodged ray guns. The hay bale to her left exploded in a shower of sparks, and she hit the floor. As she crawled to safety behind a metal storage drum, she reflected that this was not the day she had planned.
The morning had been slow. She spent the time at her most recent cover job at the bubble gum plant, working with the head chemist on a spray that would remove gum from hair. (The Agency would dearly love such a spray, which would of course work on wool as well as hair. No more gum-related knitting tragedies!) The chemist had a promising concoction that he was testing on a batch of donated hair, but while the solution did remove gum, it had a tendency to remove the natural color and replace it with a bright fuchsia. That might sell well to the thirteen-year-old girls, but probably not to many others. Agent K had been sitting at her computer entering the parameters from the latest batch of gum remover when the message came through.
The message was coded to look like instructions for an intarsia clown sweater, repulsive enough to discourage anyone from actually making it. Agent K had the message decoded in a matter of minutes, using the established ICS code (Intarsia Clown Sweater), which swapped every blue knit stitch to a red purl stitch. The changes made the message immediately obvious.
“Sheep rustling in progress at the Double Hoof Farm. Aliens heavily armed. Request immediate backup. Code Spinnery. Agent J.”
Agent K paused only to hit the save button on the gum remover study before snatching up her knitting bag and racing to her car. Double Hoof Farm was just outside the city limits and was owned by the Agency as a training farm and sheep refuge. Agent J had told Agent K that he would be breaking in a new border collie at the Double Hoof Farm today, and Agent K wondered what had gone wrong. DHF was about as secure as farms get and was usually swarming with Agents and Agency-trained sheep dogs. For the aliens to hit DHF was a serious blow. Someone must have let something slip. Or they had a mole at the Agency. That was a sobering thought.
This wasn’t the first time that important intelligence had been leaked, of course. The aliens were always on the look-out for important data to steal. The Agency published numerous pamphlets to be handed out to knitters at conferences and yarn shops, warning of the dangers of unwary discussion of knitting affairs. A cadre of specialists kept a round-the-clock vigil on postings on Ravelry, changing any posts that might contain sensitive information to pictures of cats doing or saying funny things. But still, there were leaks. Agent K knew that the secret of DHF’s existence was kept under Qiviut-level security – only the most trusted Agents knew where it was located. If it had been compromised, there would be an extensive investigation into the breach of security.
DHF backed up against a wildlife preserve, and Agent K drove as deeply into this as the roads went. The code word “Spinnery” meant that Agent J needed backup to approach stealthily, rather than screaming into the DHF parking lot with sirens wailing. Agent K would approach the DHF from the north forty, assess the situation, then act accordingly. As she hurried up the footpath that approached the farm, she hoped that she wouldn’t be too late.
She wasn’t. The aliens were taking their time, apparently unaware that Agent J had called for backup. Agent K flipped on her night vision goggles and assessed the scene. Several sheep transport trailers were backed up to the sheep pasture, and three aliens were attempting to load the sheep without touching them. Poking the poor things with long sticks seemed to be the method of choice for the aliens to move the sheep aboard the trailers. Agent K snorted with amusement as one of the sheep turned and bit the stick, ripping it out of the alien’s tentacles and running off to the far corner of the pasture.
Scanning the scene further, Agent K noticed a couple of strange bundles squirming on the ground. It took a couple of seconds before she realized what they were. Agent J and the border collies, tied hand, feet, and paw! THAT would never do! One more quick survey of the farm yard, and Agent K had her plan ready to execute.
She took an inflatable sheep out of her knitting bag and began to blow it up. There was enough confusion in the farm yard that she might be able to distract the aliens with this subterfuge. A couple of minutes later, she was out of breath but the sheep was ready to go. It looked like a little lamb, with a fleecy covering to mask the plastic inflatable body and weighted hooves to hold it upright. A small box housed a battery and a speaker. Agent K snuck into the pasture, wriggling on the ground to a nice and exposed spot. She placed the inflatable sheep on the ground and flipped a switch. As she crawled away, a satisfying “BAAAA” issued forth. She reached the safety of the woods once more, and began working her way around the edge of the pasture, listening to the “BAAAA” of the inflatable sheep.
Agent K paused, flattened against the wall of the barn. She scanned the pasture, and was pleased to note that an alien had been attracted by the sheep decoy at the far end of the pasture and was oozing off to investigate, a long stick gripped in its tentacles. The other two aliens were still trying to herd the uncooperative living sheep into the trailers, leaving their confederate to deal with the inanimate sheep.
None of the aliens was paying the slightest attention to Agent J and the border collies. Agent K slipped around the barn to where they lay and sawed through their bindings, motioning them to follow her into the barn. One of the border collies trotted immediately and silently into the barn, but the other began to growl and headed stiff-legged towards the aliens. Exasperated, Agent J grabbed his collar and dragged him into the barn as well, trying to shush him.
“New dog,” Agent J told Agent K apologetically. “He’s keen to take care of the aliens, but not much caution yet.”
“So long as he doesn’t do anything rash,” replied Agent K, eying the new dog with misgivings.
“Oh, he won’t,” said Agent J. “Here, dog, smell this?” Agent J patted his pocket invitingly, where Agent K knew that he had a small quantity of beef jerky. A quick snuffle, and the dog was ready to do anything Agent J asked.
“So what’s the plan?” asked Agent J.
“I placed a decoy sheep in the pasture,” answered Agent K. “That will keep them occupied for a little while. I put in a call to headquarters for a containment unit to come and take the aliens away. All we’ve got to do is stop them from leaving.”
“Oh, is that all?” said Agent J. “They got here by teleporting, so I imagine they will leave that way as well, as soon as they realize the jig’s up.”
“I thought I smelled eau de stinky cheese. Long range teleport, then.” Agent K wrinkled her nose. “The geeks in Agent Q’s invention lab recently came up with this little beauty.” She held up a small black box. “It disrupts teleportation signals. The only problem is that it causes teleportation signals to redirect to the location of this box. Which means that if we use it, the aliens can’t escape, but they’ll be drawn here, to within a few feet of this box.”
“So if we use it, we’ll have three very angry aliens right on top of us,” Agent J said.
“Yep. We’ll have to hold them off until the Agency can send a containment team, but they shouldn’t be able to teleport away. The downside is that they’ll likely try to shoot us or the sheep. Minor technicality.” Agent K grinned. “Are you ready?”
“Do you have any extra ammo? I used all mine when the aliens first arrived.” Agent J displayed his empty yarn gun.
“Sure, I always keep extra yarn scraps in the car.” There was a moment of silence as both Agents checked to see that their yarn guns were filled and primed, ready for service. Both Agents slung bags full of scraps over the shoulders, to be ready to reload as necessary.
“When I give the signal, send the border collies out to herd the sheep to safety, then I’ll hit the button on the teleportation redirect device,” Agent K told J. “Are you ready?”
A nod from Agent J, then Agent K gave the signal and pushed the button, and the border collies streaked out the barn door in black and white blurs. Half a second later, three large and confused aliens were in the barn with Agents J and K. One of the aliens was cradling an inflatable sheep to its chest, and a loud “BAAAA” bounced around the barn and off the rafters.
“Stand still!” yelled Agent J. “We’ve got you covered! Don’t move, and you won’t get splattered with wool!”
The aliens glanced at each other, then at Agent J and Agent K, then as one the trio of slimeballs reached for their guns.
“Look out!” Agent K screamed at Agent J, and dove for cover herself. Green rays of light scorched the barn floor where she had been just a moment ago. She peeked around the hay bale and fired her gun at the nearest alien. With a roar of itchy pain, he began firing blindly in her general direction, unable to see her exact location through the haze of yarn fluff.
Hastily reloading, Agent K fired again and again. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Agent J doing the same from behind a stall door. The aliens were not holding back, firing again and again. They were also trying to escape, repeatedly running for the door and activating their teleports, only to find themselves back at the redirect device. It would have been funny, except for the nauseating waves of stinky cheese smell and constant blast of their ray guns.
Agent K loaded the last of her ammo into her yarn gun, just as there was a commotion in the farmyard. Finally, the containment team had arrived! She heard a loud zapping noise, then a shimmering bubble appeared around the aliens. She cautiously emerged from behind her metal storage bin, which was covered in black spots from the aliens’ ray guns. She saw Agent J likewise crawl out of the stall where he had taken shelter. A sigh of relief escaped her as she holstered her gun. The aliens were now the containment team’s problem, and she could go home, where she would take a nice hot shower with lots and lots of soap. She looked forward to being rid of the smell of stinky cheese.