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For Your Toys Only (Episode 03)

Episode Three
Operation Thunderbutt
Directed by Terence Young

Jack Collier was sitting alone in his New York flat, listening to Matt Monro warble and old favorite of his and drinking orange juice. A plate that had contained a pair of sausages, a single fried egg and a fairly delightful cheese and spinach spread which was still on the last remaining piece of toast. He hadn't opened the newspaper that he'd tossed on the table, or turned on the TV that he could see from his table. Instead he'd put his feet up and was busy congratulating himself for not letting the event in Vegas from spiraling out of control.

There was a small table in the hall way near the door of the flat, with a small metal tray on it. On the tray sat his cell phone, wallet, pocket knife and keys. The tray being metal sitting on a wooden table, when the phone started to vibrate it was actually louder than the phones ring tone. He heard the sound of the phone rattling on the tray and as always had to fight his natural reaction to roll onto the floor to dodge the bullets that would no doubt come with such a sudden sound.

Instead he got up calmly and walked to the table where the phone lay. It wasn't just the local office calling much earlier than they should. It was the head office calling this time. He slid the phone open and pressed it to his ear.

"Jack Collier." He spoke calmly while his guts twisted themselves like a serpent under his lungs.

"We need you in Langley as soon as possible Collier." the voice of K, the head commander of The Agency said. "There's a plane waiting for you and the other two New York agents at JFK. I'd like you to leave as soon as possible."

"What's going on?" He asked.

"You'll find out everything when you get here." K told him.

"Yeah, but what's going on?" He asked.

"It's too big for phones Jack." K hung up after imparting that bit of information.

K was abrupt, but something must have really been up if he'd called Jack by his first name. Collier looked at the phone in his hand and set it down on the table. He then decided to pick it up again and called Alice. The phone rang several times before she picked up and he was beginning to think he'd have to leave a message.

"Alice Liddell." She finally said into his ear.

"Have you been called home?" He asked, using the code word for the main office outside Langley Virginia.

"Yeah, Dad's freaking out about something." She said. "I think we're all being called home this time."

"I guess I'll see you when I get there then." He told her.

"You coming with the guys?"

"It looks that way."

"I'll see you when you get here then." She then hung up, which was fairly abrupt of her as well. Her abruptness might have meant she knew something but didn't want to tell him. Either way, he'd know in a couple of hours.

Collier got dressed and gathered up the items he would need for the day, leaving his weapons besides his pocket knife behind in the safe that was bolted to the floor of his closet. He was just going to the Office after all and he wouldn't need any guns there. He didn't bother to pack a bag, simply patted his pockets to make sure he had everything and left the flat.

The flight with the other agents was thoroughly unremarkable. Whatever it was that K looked for in agents, gregariousness and a gift for socializing among equals wasn't one of the requirements. There were barely fifteen words passed between any two of them as they flew to the air strip at The Agency's main office nearly Langley.

Collier got off the plane and noticed that two of the Agents got bags from the plane as they left. K hadn't said anything about a bag and the other two agents were as unencumbered as he was. The group walked towards the office building in a loose group that told observers that while they might all be going to the same place, they weren't doing so together.

When he walked into the office building he found that the other four went in a different direction than he was going. He wondered for a moment if he should follow them, but he decided to head for K's office instead. When he came through the door into the ante room where K's secretary sat he smiled at her and approached.

"Any idea what it is Miss Cashnickle?" He asked as he smiled at her, wondering if he could learn to toss a hat and hit the coat rack in the corner.

"You're plane is later than they'd hoped." She said looking at her watch and handing him a slip of paper. "They've got you lot meeting in the big room."

"The big room?" He asked taking the slip of paper and glancing at it. It was a room number.

"They've brought in everyone, it must be huge."

"When you say everyone." He said leaning towards her.

"I mean everyone." She leaned closer to him. "I'm not sure what it is, but something happened up north last night."

"How far north?"

"So far that if you tried going any further you'd go south." She arched her eyebrows at this. "Now you go to the big room, they're going to be waiting for you."

"Okay." He nodded to her. "I'm going."

He walked down the hall and had to glance at a posted map to find his way to the large conference room. When he arrived there were still a few other stragglers coming in as well, which meant he wasn't the last one to arrive. He sat down at the numbered seat that his slip of paper. There must have been more than thirty agents in the room, waiting for the last few of them to sit down. Jack looked around as he situated himself in his chair. He recognized some of the agents from a few missions, but many of them were strangers to him. He'd never seen the group together like this, in fact he didn't think the whole group had ever been together like this. The room was like a lecture hall in a university, with tables arranged on progressively raised levels so that each level could see over the heads of the group in front of them. Jack couldn't help but notice that he was sitting at the very front, with the only other agents he'd worked with at the front with him.

K was sitting at a table in the front with another three men and two women facing the agents. None of them looked like they were in a mood to tolerate anything but silence from their audience, and fortunately it was what they got. K watched as the last agent entered and sat down in the chair next to Collier. Jack turned and nodded to the agent, a man name Jim, who nodded back.

"Now that we're all here we can begin." K stated loudly.

"Sorry for my lateness." Jim muttered loud enough for K to hear.

"Everything official stops now. No matter what you were working on, it's less important than this. At four fifteen this morning GMT, an event happened at the North Pole, specifically at Santa's Workshop." K reached for a glass of water standing near his hand and took a drink. "A small group of unknown terrorists attacked the workshop, killed many elves and kidnapped Santa Claus, escaping by using his sleigh. There has been no ransom demand yet, but that doesn't mean there won't be one. I don't need to tell you what this means. If we can't rescue him, we might need to cancel Buddha Day."

"If we cancel it, will we have to go to everyone's house and make sure their not celebrating?" Jack asked much louder than he meant to.

"What's that?" One of the other men asked.

"You guys are always talking about having to cancel the holiday because one thing goes wrong. I mean even if he can't make the deliveries the day will still come."

"He's right." Jim piped up, realizing the game was on. "Buddha Day doesn't come from a store. Doesn't Buddha Day mean a little bit more?"

"I shouldn't have to remind any of you." K announced to the group as a whole. "Buddha Day is a commercial racket, its run by a big eastern syndicate that relies on Santa making deliveries to sell products. You are employed by an agency that receives much of its money from that big eastern syndicate. If they have to cancel their marketing plans, it will be like canceling Buddha day for them. If people don't buy things they might start to contemplate spiritual matters and who the hell wants that? Besides, the kids expect Santa to come and who wants to disappoint the kiddies?"

The group, as a whole, started to nod. He had a point there, it was for the kids wasn't it? K saw that he had won that ideological argument and nodded to himself. He pushed forward a pack of papers in a seal envelope in front of him.

"You may now open your packets for the operation." He said as he split the paper and opened the folder. "Codename, Thunderbutt."

"We couldn't come up with something more insulting." Collier said. "Was operation fat ass already set in motion? What about operation type 2 diabetes taken?"

"It's the kidnap subject's long held code name." K said. "Because of a… chili night."

"Oh." Collier said.

"As you can see, we have very little to go on here. Mostly what we have is the two eye witness accounts from surviving elves that say the attackers were dressed in grey uniforms and had antiquated helmets. The rest of the information contained will give you a list of Santa's former known attackers. You will notice that our own boarder control and DEA has tried to apprehend him on several occasions, for that reason we must also suspect our own government. That may leave us with very little support. Each of you will be assigned one of Santa's attackers to look into. I'll brief each of you in my office."

The meeting broke up and Collier had to wait nearly an hour before going into K's office for his private talk. During that time he read the small file on his subject, Dr. Grunch. A serial killer with green hair he tried to impersonate Santa in order to ruin his name and destroy Christmas back when she was still alive. He was still alive and being kept in the basement of a mental hospital. He read the location when the door opened and Miss Nicklecash called him.

"He's ready for you Jack."

K's office was an old fashioned kind in every way. It looked more like the den of an old Victorian house than an office with its dark wood book shelves and over stuffed leather chairs. A small fireplace was even ensconced in the wall, placed in exactly the right spot for K to have a fire at night. Collier sat down in the chair across from K at his large mahogany desk and looked at the file in his hand while K relit his pipe again. He didn't use a lighter, but small red tipped wooden matches. He had a small ash tray littered with dozens of the small burnt things. He sucked on the pipe for a moment, leaning back in his chair and then looked over at Collier after making sure he'd gotten the pipe going properly. He pointed the tip of the pipe at Collier when he started to speak, which was an annoying habit as Collier always worried a bit of saliva would fly off the thing and hit him.

"I tolerate your antics because without you none of us would exist." K told him.

"Yes sir." Collier nodded.

"However, don't think we can't just replace you." K stated.

"I wouldn't think that for a moment sir."

"We removed the last fellow and hired you to play the part, we can do so again and get some guy who just grimaces a lot."

"It won't be a problem sir." Collier said.

"Have you familiarized yourself with Dr. Grunch?"

"A little sir." Collier said. "He tired to discredit Santa by dressing up as him and committing a series of break ins. He would slaughter the family and then steal all the decorations and presents."

"Yes, all the while dressed up as Santa Claus." K sucked at his pipe again. "This man is an extremely dangerous serial killer, and he's escaped once from a Super-Max Prison. That's why he's contained in that basement now."

"I'll be careful sir." Collier commented. "What exactly should I be looking for do you suppose?"

"Find out if he's got any connections to this." K said. "Find out if he's been communicating with the outside world. Find out if he knows anything or has any ideas. Until we get some kind of ransom demand we're sunk."

"Isn't there someone who has past experience with Dr. Grunch?"

"He's dead." K said. "Now off with you. When you find something out, let us know."

"Yes sir." Collier said and left the office.


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