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April 26, 2012 / whirlingneedles

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, Day 4!


It’s day 4 of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, and today’s prompt is A Knitter for all Seasons. Weather and the seasons are the topics, and Agent K is about to learn what the code means by WINTER COLD WOOL WARM IGLOO HELP…

Agent K descended in the elevator to the bowels of the Agency, heading toward the basement archives. She glanced at her paper scrap once again, frowning. WINTER COLD WOOL WARM IGLOO HELP must mean SOMETHING. There must be a reason why the color theory teacher had risked her life to pass it to Agent K, and there must be a reason why an alien would chase her up a mountain side to retrieve the message.

The elevator doors slid open, and Agent K stepped out. She was directly across the hall from the entrance to the Strategic Wool Reserve, but she didn’t have time to go in and swim around in a vat of cashmere today, as much as she would have liked to. Instead, she discovered that there was a door to the right of the SWR’s entrance. She had never noticed this door before today. Well, she had never actually LOOKED at anything but the SWR’s door. She’d always gone straight into the Reserve without pausing. Now that she did pause, she discovered an ill-lit musty room.

She sneezed as she opened the door, a wave of dust greeting her as she entered. Choking just a bit, she waved dust away from her face and saw a morose, elderly clerk sitting behind a counter. He was painstaking knitting a grey wool scarf in garter stitch with size 0 needles and fingering weight wool. She coughed gently, and the elderly man looked up over his gold-rimmed glasses at her.

“Yes?” he asked, wheezing just a bit. “The Strategic Wool Reserve is down the hall. You can’t miss it. Thank you for stopping by.” And he looked back down at his knitting, slowly wrapping stitch after stitch as if he had all the time in the world.

“No, I don’t want the SWR,” said Agent K. He looked up at her in disbelief. “Okay, I do want it, but I can’t right now. I’m looking for something. An old code, perhaps 40 years old. And I need to hurry, someone’s life may be in danger.”

“In danger, eh?” The old man pushed his scarf up onto the needles and creaked as he got up from his chair. “What code did you want, now?”

“I’m not sure what it was called, but it was put together using hand-drawn symbols from Barbara Walker’s third treasury. Can you help me, um, Ronald?” Agent K glanced up from his name tag and smiled in a friendly manner.

“Barbara Walker, third treasury, yes, yes, let me see…” Ronald shuffled off slowly, muttering to himself. Agent K sighed. How long was this going to take? Several minutes passed before Ronald came shuffling back, holding a copy of the third treasury and a dingy file folder.

He placed both of them on the counter, then resumed his seat. He slowly opened the book and placed the file folder next to it. He looked expectantly at Agent K. She wordlessly slid the slip of paper with WINTER COLD WOOL WARM IGLOO HELP written on it under the symbols from the ball bands.

He glanced at the paper, then gasped and jerked his head up to look at Agent K intently.

“When did this come in?” he said urgently.

“Um, this afternoon,” she said, startled. “I just got it this morning, and have just had it decoded.”

“This says IGLOO,” he said, shaking the paper under her nose.

“Yes, it does,” she replied, backing up just a bit. “What’s IGLOO?”

“Not what,” he said. “WHO.”

“Okay, then, who?” asked Agent K.

“IGLOO was an operative in the old days,” he said. “She was the best. She took all the hardest assignments and always came home from them. This was back in the days when the Agency was little more than a resistance movement, operating out of a small local yarn store. Not like this.” He waved his hand in the direction of the SWR. “In those days, it was hard to get good wool. We didn’t know what we were up against, just that it was big. The aliens hadn’t shown themselves at that point. They were careful, very careful to stay in the shadows. They made it look like it was a natural wool shortage at first. They tried all sorts of things, introducing gosh-awful acrylics that made your hands bleed to use them in disgusting colors. It was the seventies, of course, so no one thought much about that barfy greens and oranges. Until IGLOO was nearly killed on a sheep ranch, we had no idea the terrible danger we were really in. She was nearly killed by a wool-bailing machine, and it was no accident. That’s when she became IGLOO.”

“So what does the rest of this mean?” Agent K asked, frowning at the paper. “I’ve never heard of IGLOO – surely she must not be an active agent.”

“She retired, long ago. A recalcitrant sheep kicked her hard, and her knee has never been the same,” explained Ronald. He opened the manila folder and pulled out a sheet of paper. “WINTER COLD WOOL WARM is an SOS. She must not have been able to include more, but it basically means to send an Agent ASAP. These are all the agents who would have used the Walker codes. There aren’t many of them left, even though everyone uses the Walker books. Let me see…” He ran his finger down the page, reached the bottom, turned the page, and reached almost the bottom before stabbing the paper with his finger and looking up in triumph at Agent K.

“She’s here.” He wrote out an address on a sticky note and handed it to Agent K. “Enjoy your trip!” He picked up his scarf again and patiently resumed knitting. Agent K realized that the interview was over, and quietly left him to it.

Stepping out into the hall, she examined the note.

“Moose Creek, Alaska,” she read with dismay. “Alaska!” She glanced down at her summery outfit. It was late April, but the weather had been exceptionally warm this year, and she wore sandals, shorts, and a handknit, lightweight silk and cotton t-shirt. She had been so glad to set aside the heavy wool knits for such light, cool knits. She pulled up the forecast for Moose Creek, Alaska, on her phone. Below freezing, with a snow advisory. Even though there hadn’t been much snow this year where Agent K was, she was still sick of cold, grey skies and the wintry lack of color. She should have known – with a name like IGLOO, there was no way the agent would live in Costa Rica where it was warm.

Sighing, she phoned the Agency travel agency (”The Agency for all your Agency travel needs!”) and booked a flight for Moose Creek, Alaska, then went home to regretfully put aside her cool summer knits and pull out the so-recently put away wool sweaters, socks, mittens, hats, and cowls. She contemplated how many of these to take, and began stuffing her suitcase with wool.

An hour later, she was heading out the door with her suitcase bulging with wool. It had taken her most of that hour to wrestle as much wool into the small capacity suitcase as she could. She had had to stand on the lid to get it to close. Good thing wool was so squishy. If it were cooler today, she would have worn some of the sweaters and socks, but she would have died of heatstroke if she’d tried. As it was, she’d had to leave behind the sock project she was halfway through in favor of the laceweight shawl. The laceweight took up less room in her carry-on, and was perfect for knitting in her warmer location as well as in the frozen north. Summer knitting for Agent K usually meant socks or lace, rather than a heavy blanket of wool on her lap.

Agent K pulled up to the airport, where a helicopter was revving up its blades for the trip to Alaska. The Agency travel agency had told her that no flights were expected into Moose Creek until two days from now, so it would have to be a chartered helicopter. As the helicopter picked itself up from the pad, she pulled out her lace knitting and settled in for the long flight.

To be continued…

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