One in a Minion: Chapter Four - Meeting His Heroes (Part One)
"Star. Square. Squiggly lines."
"Thank you," the doctor told Fleetwood, tucking the flash cards back into her pocket. "You've been most co-operative."
As the doctor hastily jotted notes onto her pad, Fleetwood sank back into the pillow on his medical bed, taking in his new surroundings. Dark metallic walls and concrete pathways had been replaced by magnolia paint and polished laminate. He'd been redressed in comfy cotton pyjamas. The warm blanket covering him up, the flowers on the side table, and the bandage over his bullet wound - not to mention the drip feed pumping him with painkillers – made Fleetwood feel completely safe and reassured.
He was being cared for – tended to. That wasn't an experience many minions ever had.
Letting out a small, happy chuckle, Fleetwood snuggled down under his bedsheets.
As she glared at the bed-bound minion through the glass, Ms. Phoenix stayed silent - doing her best to suppress her feelings of anger, practically crushing her tablet computer against her chest with the effort. However, even without her addressing them, the two agents standing beside her could sense her displeasure.
"Let me guess," the Chief eventually said, her tone cold and frank. "He followed you home, and now you want to keep him."
"It... it was strange," Indigo mumbled back nervously – knowing he and Idris would probably be in for it no matter what he said. "He came right up to us, dropped his rifle, completely surrendered, and asked us to help him. He said he didn't want to be a minion any more."
"And you two believed him? Just like that?"
"He took a bullet for me, Chief," Idris asserted.
Ms. Phoenix hesitated.
"Yes," she went on, in a more relaxed manner. "Yes, that's a very fair point."
"And speaking of bullets, he led us straight to the silver one," Idris added. "The car. That was a real godsend. Got us straight out of there, no problem."
"Ah, yes," Ms. Phoenix. "The car. I commend you on driving it to the woodlands five miles away rather than risking our HQ being discovered..."
Indigo allowed himself a small smile. The new co-ordinates really had been a good move, after all.
"But for God's sake, did you have to drive the damn thing so recklessly?!"
"I'm still on a provisional licence," Idris quipped – but the Chief was far from amused.
"That thing went flying across the Dales like a firework! Dozens of sightings, calls to the police! I had to contact the authorities – make up some cover story about a Formula 1 car test going haywire. Luckily the press seem to have bought it. And by God, did you even know where the brakes were? You're lucky that damn oak tree was there to stop you – which in turn meant I had to send out four junior operatives to help get you out of that death trap!"
"You saved the car, right?" Idris asked.
The swift punch on his arm from Indigo made it plain that now wasn't the time to ask that question.
"Oh, yes!" Ms. Phoenix snapped back. "I know how much you enjoyed yourself, Idris Carew! When the juniors found you collapsed in that driving seat, huge grin on your face, they didn't know whether to give you medical assistance or offer you a cigarette!"
Idris felt Indigo's elbow plunging sharply into his ribs as he completely failed to conceal a giddy giggle. Given that Indigo had been pulled out of the Silver Bullet after being tossed up into its dome and turned upside down in the crash, he wasn't likely to see the funny side of the situation. Thankfully, nobody had been seriously injured.
"As it happens," Ms. Phoenix added reluctantly, "we did save the car. I'd rather it was in our arsenal then The Great One's. Once our engineers have figured out how it all works, I might – repeat, MIGHT! - let you be trained in how to take it for a spin in the proper fashion. But I suggest you don't bring the matter up anytime soon."
Idris nodded solemnly – but inside, he was screaming with joy. If it gave him another chance to be in that car, he was willing to raid that base again solo and unarmed, fight off thousands of minions to track down The Great One, and personally kick him in the balls.
"The fact remains, however," Ms. Phoenix went on, "that I sent you into that base to track down and destroy Project Dynamo. Not only did you completely fail to do that, but you've actually brought one of the enemy's henchmen back with you. If there's one good thing I can take away from this, then at least I can be grateful that you weren't captured."
Idris and Indigo exchanged glances. Clearly, their doubtlessly amusing anecdote about using the villain's love of theatrics against him would have to wait for another day – one when the boss' temper had subsided.
"Still," Ms. Phoenix conceded. "I'll admit the minion has won the chance to at least discuss matters with me. Let's go and interview him, then he can get some rest whilst I decide what to do."
"Good thing he can't see us stood out here in the corridor talking about him," Indigo said, tapping a hand on the transparent panel in front of them. "Thank God for one-way glass, huh?"
"He can see us," Ms. Phoenix replied. "That's just a normal window."
Looking up, Indigo spotted Fleetwood gazing straight at them from within his recovery room. Awkwardly, he raised a hand to wave at him. The minion politely waved back.
Fleetwood kept his eyes on the trio as they walked up through the corridor and through the door into his room, approaching the doctor. The older red-haired lady took the lead, just like she had since he and the agents had arrived here. She had that proud confident aura about her – conveyed in her stance, walk and expression – that he knew all too well.
"What's the verdict, Dr. Riley?" the lady asked her medical colleague.
"The bullet missed all the major veins and arteries," came the response. "No serious long-term damage. He'll be up and about very soon."
"Was he unarmed?"
"Completely. No filming or recording devices, either. We patched up his shoulder and gave him some clean nightwear – his tunic was covered in blood. I assume you want it to remain confiscated?"
As she looked at the young man laid in the bed, Ms. Phoenix couldn't help but notice that a certain accessory was still in place.
"And preferably, the mask will go with it," she added.
"We tried to remove it," the doctor explained, "but he became extremely distressed. A full-blown panic attack. He fought to keep it on. Maybe he feels that it offers him some sort of protection for the time being. Given what The Great One's punishment for desertion is likely to be, I can understand his reaction.
"I see. We'll let that slide for now, then."
"What really fascinates me, though," the doctor continued, "is his alleged superpower. He claims to be a telepath... and I'm actually inclined to believe him. He got full marks on the ESP test."
Fleetwood watched as the lady turned to the brown-haired agent, smiling.
"Well, then... I guess we needn't have worried about the window."
She returned her attention to the doctor.
"Did he give his name?" she asked.
"Just "Fleetwood". That might be a pseudonym, though, or a codename – we're not sure."
"I understand, Dr. Riley. Thank you."
The minions had their overlord. Clearly, the LAFTAW agents had one of their own, too. As the doctor departed and the red-haired lady approached his bedside, Fleetwood greeted her with a humble nod – unsure what to say, or how to introduce himself. Fortunately for him, she took the lead once again.
"Good evening," the lady began, her tone indicating that she wanted to get straight down to business. "I'm Agent Laura Phoenix: head agent and chief of operations for the British branch of LAFTAW – the Localised Agents Fighting Toughly to Alleviate Wrongdoing. You've already met my protégés, Indigo Maxwell and Idris Carew."
"Good evening, madam," Fleetwood replied, as politely as he possibly could. "It's a true pleasure to meet you."
"Now, whilst you are here, my team and I will do our very best to keep you safe. However –"
"Listen up, you lying little scumbag!" Indigo suddenly shouted, pushing past the Chief and leaning right into Fleetwood's face. "Everybody here knows you're up to something, so I suggest you start talking before things turn really ugly!"
Ms. Phoenix's hand flew forward – pinching Indigo's earlobe as she rapidly yanked him back, her protégé whimpering in pain.
"Maxwell," she muttered, "would you mind telling me what in God's name you think you're doing?"
"I - I thought we were doing the thing," Indigo answered sheepishly. "You know, the routine… to get him to talk…"
"I highly doubt that will be necessary. He's already co-operating."
"Oh. Sorry, Fleetwood."
"No problem," the minion replied, with some confusion.
"Returning to my point," Ms. Phoenix continued, "we want to help you, but we need you to help us, too. You say your name is Fleetwood. Is that a family name or a first name?"
"Family," Fleetwood told her, but then reconsidered. "Well – sort of. It's hard to say. It's the only name I was ever given. The only one I've ever used or been called by. And it's the one my sons would carry."
"Your parents only gave you one name?"
"I… I never had parents. I was taken in by minions during a weapons test in the town of Fleetwood. Hence my name. I'm… I'm told it's somewhere on the coast."
"Indeed it is," Ms. Phoenix observed. "You're relatively local. When did this happen?"
"Twenty-six years ago," Fleetwood answered. "October 14th. But I was only a baby. Just a few months old. I don't remember any of it. I can only tell you what I was told myself."
"No known birthday, then."
"Minions don't have birthdays," Fleetwood answered sadly. "Not celebrated ones, at least. But they counted my age from that day."
"Then we shall have to check the public records," Ms. Phoenix told him. "Reports of the attack, lists of missing children. You must have a true identity, Mr. Fleetwood. It's up to us to find it and give it back to you. But before we can go any further, you need to read and sign this."
She handed over her tablet. Displayed on the screen was a long contract - containing a variety of clauses, underlinings and bold red words. Fleetwood had to scroll down quite a few times to see the entire thing.
"This is the Minion Amnesty Agreement," Ms. Phoenix explained. "It was drawn up in the event that one of the Great One's henchmen wished to defect. As far as I know, you're the first known case. I'll let you read through it fully in a moment, but in brief… as you are now, effectively, a prisoner of war in our battle against your former employer, you will, for the time being, live here in HQ in our residential block."
"Chief?" Idris piped up. "We only have one bed left in the male block. And it's in a shared room. All the others are taken."
"All of them?"
"For two weeks, yes. The apprentices from the other global bases are here for the training course: "How To Avoid Getting Your Nuts Sliced In Half By a Laser, and Other Handy Hints for Field Agents"."
"Thank you for reminding me, Carew. Where is the free bed?"
"My, my," Ms. Phoenix mused. "That will be an interesting pairing, won't it? Have you any objection to sharing a room, Mr. Fleetwood?"
"Not at all. I'm used to sleeping in a dorm."
"Then I'm sure you'll make do. You'll have free use of our leisure facilities – excluding restricted zones, or course – but you must agree to obey all of our rules, as well as any commands we give to you."
Some things never change, Fleetwood thought to himself – resisting the urge to laugh.
"In return, we will safeguard you against any attacks or harm from the outside world, as well as recapture attempts by The Great One. Naturally, any visitation or communication with your former colleagues is completely forbidden. If you break these rules, our protection is forfeit, and you'll be cast out to deal with the consequences of your actions on your own. Do you understand?"
Fleetwood took a few moments to read through the agreement in its entirety. Right now, it seemed the only difference between his old life and the new was a heel-face turn: the requirements and regulations were otherwise practically identical. Still, if he behaved himself, proved to LAFTAW that he could be trusted… rehabilitated… then perhaps he really did have the chance to enjoy a free and happy life one day.
Nodding, Fleetwood politely motioned for a stylus – which Ms. Phoenix happily handed to him – and he signed his name on the line.
"Excellent," Ms. Phoenix said, taking back her tablet. "Once the doctors discharge you, we'll lead you to your new quarters. In the meantime, we'll assemble some things for you. Clothing, toiletries…"
"How about some personal rations?" Idris suggested. "Indigo's partial to fizzy cola bottles… and I know where he keeps his stash."
"Don't you bloody dare!" Indigo snapped to his partner - rather too defensively. It made Idris question exactly how far he'd go to protect his collection of confectionery.
"I'm sure the tuck shop will be able to provide an alternative," Ms. Phoenix said, shaking her head in amused bemusement, before addressing the now ex-minion once again. "Get some rest, Mr. Fleetwood. You'll want to make a good impression with your new roommate, I'm sure."
"I'll do my best. Is… is he a nice man?"
"Oh, yes," Idris told him. "In fact, some people might say he's p –"
"Shush!" Indigo hissed. "Don't spoil the surprise!"
"I think you two – and your new friend - have done enough surprising for one day," Ms. Phoenix told them, with a tired sigh. "You are dismissed, gentlemen. Back on duty tomorrow, 7am sharp. And if anyone needs me, I'll be at the bar. I'll be drinking a calming tea, or a stiff whisky… I'll decide when I get there."