“Alpha team is go”. Jingles said into his headpiece. He took a quick look around at his team. 6 specialists all wearing black night suits, pointy hats, and curled shoes. In the center was the mission objective, dressed in a garish red. These missions were always tough, and he had heard things about this location to make them even harder.
It was 10 o’clock at night, and the team crouched behind a well manicured hedge. “Night vision goggles are a go”. Jingles pulled his on, and didn’t bother to see if his men did, they were well trained and didn’t need him to babysit. The objective, named Perky, couldn’t seem to hold still and paced about, looking nervous.
“Keep Still, would you? Aren’t you supposed to be good at that?” Jingles kept his voice in a harsh whisper as he scanned the darkness. There was a bright light on the porch of the home that interfered a bit with the goggles but Jingles ignored it, scanning the yard.
“Target sighted at 3’ o’clock” said Blitzen. It was an odd name for an elf but his parents were obsessed with reindeer. He was an excellent agent for spotting problems, which was his role on the team. Looking in the indicated direction and there it was, a bulldog about a foot and a half tall, towering over their scant 6 inches. Reports indicated he was into chasing small animals, which to him they would certainly qualify.
“Tinsel, you’re up” Jingles said. Tinsel was a tall elf at 7 inches and his well muscled form set him apart from the other scrawnier elves. He dragged along a large bag, containing the tools of an animal specialist.
Tinsel rubbed his chin, and reached into the bag, pulling out a square plastic object, which he unfolded to reveal a realistic squirrel. He reached in again and pulled out a remote. Dogs were a mystery to Jingles, but he didn’t have to know.
The little squirrel ran convincingly enough and Tinsel steered the toy towards the dog, bringing it about a foot before the dog and pulling it tauntingly away. The dog didn’t notice, he had looked up to bark in response to some neighboring dog. This wasn’t good, they were on a tight timetable. They had to get 10 objectives to get in place tonight.
Tinsel growled and brought the toy over the dog’s feet and away. This was a risky move, but they had no time to wait for the dog to look. The dog, intel called him Bruno, jumped and yelped. He spotted the squirrel and the chase began. Tinsel was expert and kept the toy tantalizingly in front of the dog without allowing him to catch it.
After an agonizing 5 minute chase, Tinsel steered the squirrel up a bush into the cover. Bruno jumped and barked at the toy, giving them the opening they needed.
“Now” Jingles said. The team moved forward quickly, heading around the house to a vent about 4 feet off the ground. “Burnt Cookies” he said aloud as he saw the steam rising from the vent. The primary entrance was compromised. Why did people do laundry so late at night?
“Giggles, find us another entrance.” Giggles nodded and pulled out a small rectangle, humans would think it a tiny cell phone but Jingles knew better. It beeped quietly, although the team found it too loud. They had only moments before the dog grew bored and this noise could attract him.
As the beeping continued Jingle nodded to Tinsel. Without responding he reached into his bag and pulled out the Ultimate Solution which was a dart filled with tranquilizers mounted on a high tech launching platform. As Tinsel raised the weapon, Jingle was reminded of the little soldiers with the bazookas from the plastic sets he used to build before he transferred to Special Ops.
Suddenly the beeping stopped, replaced by a loud ping. Giggles pressed a button and a hologram of the house appeared. Up near the roof, a red glow appeared. “It looks like they have a broken attic window. We can enter through there, but it raises the risk of being spotted. We’ll need to travel 3 stories to get to the target zone.”
“Can we alter the target zone?” Jingle queried. He turned to look at Bouncy, an elderly elf. One might think he was too frail for this kind of mission. One would be wrong, he was a veteran of more than 1000 of these and was an encyclopedia of knowledge needed for any successful operation.
“Negative” said Bouncy “Family tradition places the objective in a very specific spot. We’ll have to risk it.”
“Gingerbread” said Jingles. “I guess we have no choice. Let’s go.”
Perky stepped in front of the team. “I can’t climb to an attic! I’m not a commando like you.”
Jingles shoved him roughly out of the way. “First mission, huh? Don’t worry we have ways of getting you up there.” Jingles did not wait for a response and led the team around to the broken window. They pulled grapple guns from their packs and each lined up the shot. Binky missed on his first shot and had to reload for a second. Jingles tapped his foot. He hated working with rookies, but his normal elf was out with a cat injury.
The second shot made it. Jingles nodded to Tinsel and the burly elf grabbed Perky around the waist. The gaudy elf looked terrified and was about to say something as the team hit the ascent buttons in unison. Perky yelled the whole way up.
Once they were safely on the ledge Jingles grabbed Perky and shook him. “Listen you fluffhead. You are going to get us caught if you keep it up. Next time you do that I’m aborting and you can find your own way to the target zone, got it?” Perky, wide-eyed, nodded.
They entered the dark attic. There were boxes, broken televisions and other bric a brak laying around. There was also a small pile of presents near the ladder down. Finding that was a secondary mission, and he pulled out a mini tablet and jotted the location down. The naughty/nice division would have to verify the kids were receiving what they deserved. It felt good to accomplish something in this debacle.
The attic ladder was raised, blocking the way down. Old houses like this were a sieve and they quickly found a crack down to one of the children’s rooms. It was empty and the lights were on. The children were noted as 8 and 10. They should have been in bed hours ago. Jingles added a note for the naughty/nice team to follow up on.
They lowered a rope into the room and each shimmied down. Perky was terrified, but he kept silent, Once inside they removed the night vision goggles and returned them to their bags. Jingle checked his watch. They were 15 minutes behind schedule and had to traverse the entire house.
They silently made their way into a hallway, completely deserted with the lights out. The team moved quickly down the hallway and reached the stairs and looked down. The two children sat in the middle of the room playing a board game and yelling loudly at each other about cheating. Jingles again pulled out his tablet and recorded a snippet of the argument for naughty/nice. They probably already knew, their surveillance was cutting edge, but he was obligated to record any issues he may find.
A large Christmas tree sat in the room as well. Target sighted. Searching carefully, they spotted a dark corner off the edge of the stairs. With no other option, they dropped their rope down and shimmied to the first floor. As they prepared their next move, a low growl came from behind. They turned and found a large cat, hackles raised, watching them. Their intel was incomplete. No one mentioned a cat. Jingles vowed would have words with the research team when they returned. The team froze, unsure what to do.
Tinsel reacted. He dropped his large bag and ran at the cat, punching it in its nose. The creature let out a screech and began to stalk Tinsel. The large elf maneuvered around the cat and made a break for the kitchen. Tinsel was good, but he couldn’t escape a cat for long. Jingles contacted HQ and requested an extraction team for Tinsel. They couldn’t help, but Tinsel was the best. He could manage until help arrived. They had to complete their mission.
Jingles nodded to Binky and the young elf swallowed hard. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled “Kids! Come to the kitchen please” The voice was close to the mother’s voice but was shaky. The kids looked around but weren’t distracted.
Jingles grabbed Binky by the shoulders “Listen, I know this is your first mission but Tinsel just sacrificed himself for the team. Pull yourself together. We’re in the home stretch. You can do this.”
Binky took a deep breath and nodded. Again cupping his mouth he yelled “Enough fighting you two, get your butts to bed,” the imitation was perfect.
“Do we have to?” the two whined
“Yes you do, get going or no video games tomorrow!” Binky was good, despite his youth. A few more missions and he would be a top quality distractor.
“Yes mom,” the two said and headed up the stairs, leaving their mess. Again Jingles noted it, taking a picture of the mess. He hoped for their sake they had been good in other ways, so far he had seen nothing but naughty.
Bouncy turned to Perky and said “Ok, you need to be halfway up the tree holding out an ornament like you are going to drop it.”
“I know” Perky responded, his voice growling. The garish elf climbed the tree nimbly and grabbed an ornament and held it out. He froze in the spot. No matter how many times he saw it he was always impressed. The ability these Elf on a Shelf types had to freeze was supernatural. Then he supposed they all were. He waved his team back to the rope and they headed out of the home.