The sun was just disappearing over the horizon, turning the gray cloudy sky to black, when the tightly packed sled came whooshing across the frozen lake. Though he had been running for miles, Nicholas was still bounding with energy, his magical breeding giving him far more power and stamina than an ordinary dog. Moody urged him on with excitement, his long hair billowing in the wind behind him. Meanwhile, Duncan desperately clung to the sides of the sled, getting lurched uncomfortably in every possible direction as they slid over various sized snow drifts.
Finally, Nicholas jumped to a halt at the top of a rather steep snow bank, and the heavy sled slid to a stop behind him. The sudden jolt made Duncan lose his grip, and he was tossed from the sled, landing face first in the snow. Moody, meanwhile, was able to maintain his balance and smoothly dismount the sled. He took a few steps and shook his head at the sight of Duncan, who was dizzily stumbling as he attempted to pull himself up. Eventually, Duncan was able to prop himself up against a tree, his head still spinning, and his movement greatly restricted by the several layers of clothes he was wearing underneath his thick parka.
“Remind me to never do that again,” said Duncan as he struggled to catch his breath.
“Cheer up, we still have to complete a dangerous mission, and if we survive, then we’ll ride the sled again to get back,” Moody responded with a slap on the back.
Together, they dug a small out cove in the snow and carefully hid the sled. Moody sternly ordered Nicholas to remain next to the sled, and the husky willingly obeyed. Moody then rummaged through the bags, grabbing a map, several vials of potion, and various other objects, stuffing all of them into his pockets. Duncan rummaged through the bags next, placing a silenced revolver inside his coat as well as sneaking a few chocolate bars. They then quietly made their way to the edge of a snow bank, where they could look down to see a large complex surrounded by high fences.
“We wait until its completely dark, then we move,” Moody decided.
They waited in silence for what felt like an eternity. Duncan tried desperately to think of ways to amuse himself, while Moody appeared to be intently focused and looking ahead the entire time.
Knowing that Moody likely held no opinions on Muggle subjects such as football, movies or rugby, Duncan stretched his mind to think of something they could possibly talk about. Finally, he went ahead and asked, “So Moody, what exactly do you do for fun, when you’re not at work I mean?”
“I’m not really one for leisure,” Moody admitted, still staring straight ahead at the base.
“Surely you must have some sort of hobby or something,” Duncan persisted.
Moody took a deep breath as he explained his take on life, “Things you may think of as leisure or hobbies are luxuries that I can ill afford. There was a time when people were rugged; they conquered the wilderness and were self-sufficient, and they fended for themselves. But now, peace and prosperity have made us complacent. People have grown soft and comfortable, which allows the evil to prey on the weak. If the people won’t defend themselves, those that are willing to fight must do it for them. They long for a hero, but I’m not a hero, I’m a silent protector, a dark knight. We all must reach a point where we must choose to stand by and watch or to go down fighting; my soul is at peace and I’m prepared to make that decision.”
Duncan took it all in, not quite sure how to respond to that, before eventually offering to share his stash of snacks, “Chocolate bar?”
“No thank you,” Moody declined.
Moody then scanned the horizon with his binoculars, which were enchanted to be able to tell how many life forms were inside a given building.
“Looks like two men in the guard shack, and that’s pretty much it,” he observed.
He then put the binoculars back in his bag, gripped his wand tightly, and added, “Time to roll.”
With the quickness of foxes, they darted from tree to tree, maintaining their cover, before tucking their arms and legs in and rolling down the rest of the hill, coming to a stop at the edge of the tall fence. Moody looked very closely at its structure, analyzing it for possible weaknesses.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Duncan asked as he produced a pair of wire cutters from his pocket.
“Don’t touch it!” Moody sternly warned him, “It’s an enchanted fence; try to cut it, and you might die.”
“Well I don’t suppose we can just dig a hole underneath it?” Duncan suggested offhandedly.
“No, that might work, but we don’t have the time.”
Moody proceeded to rummage through his bag and pulled out two long ropes as sized up the height of the fence.
“You’re not seriously thinking about climbing over that, are you?” Duncan asked as he glanced at the barbed wire on top of the fence.
An excited gleam began to form in Moody’s eyes as he rapidly turned around and walked away from the fence, the wheels in his head obviously spinning quickly, “No, but I have an idea, come help me tie these.”
Without really questioning why, Duncan assisted Moody as they tied the long rope diagonally across two adjacent trees, and then tied the other rope diagonally so that the two ropes crossed and met I the middle.
Satisfied with their job, Moody aimed his wand and cast, “Elastico,” enchanting the ropes so that they would have an elastic stretching quality. He then placed an enchantment on the center point of the ropes to form something resembling a seat, putting the finishing touches on what was essentially a giant, magical slingshot.
Very impressed with the idea, Duncan followed Moody as they pressed themselves against the center and walked backwards, stretching the ropes out until they were completely taut. Their legs strained heavily under the pressure of holding themselves in place, and the trees seemed to be bending backwards. On Moody’s signal, they jumped into the air, and the moment their feet were no longer planted in the ground, they felt themselves soar through the air as the ropes snapped forward powerfully. The quickly gained speed and height, contorting their bodies as they barely cleared the barbed wire, and finally landing with a crunch in the densely packed snow on the other side.
Duncan slowly pulled himself up, thankful for the extra padding provided by his several layers of clothes. He then noticed that Moody, who had gotten up immediately, was firing a spell back through the fence, incinerating the ropes they had just utilized.
“So…how exactly are we going to get out?” Duncan asked, as nonchalantly as possible.
Moody ignored the question and instead walked up to Duncan and informed him in a hushed tone, “I know you’ve been in combat before, but being our first mission together we need to be on the same page. Don’t ask stupid questions, don’t touch anything you’re not supposed to, and if I get killed, get out of here and don’t come back for me.”
“Whatever you say, boss,” Duncan replied, conceding that the slightly younger man would have to be in charge, since he was a wizard after all.
They carefully trekked their way to the only building in the complex that was lit, which they correctly assumed was the guard shack. Moody used a vanishing charm to erase their footprints in the snow behind them as they walked. As they approached the shack, they dared to sneak a quick glance through the window, where they could see two men sitting at a table, drinking large mugs of coffee to stay awake, and playing some sort of card game. They crouched underneath the window, pressing themselves closely to the wall, as they strained to hear the two voices conversing inside.
“You saw the procedures; we have to make the rounds of the complex every two hours and sign the log book that everything is normal.”
“But it’s sodding two o’clock, what could have possibly happened?”
“We both know nothing’s happening, but it’s the boss’s orders, and you don’t want to upset the boss now, do you?”
“Fine, but let’s make it quick, it’s bloody freezing out there.”
When the two men had walked outside, Moody turned to Duncan and handed him a vial of potion.
“So here’s the plan,” he explained, “This vial contains a very strong sleeping potion. It will buy us at least four or five hours, which should be more than enough time. You’re going to sneak in there and pour this vial into their drinks. I’ll be keeping watch and covering for you. When you’re done, we’ll meet back here and wait.”
Eager to get started, and growing ever more accepting of magical explanations, Duncan did not question Moody’s instructions at all, and he eagerly grabbed the potion and walked around the corner and towards the front door, keeping his back pressed against the wall. After reaching the door, he gingerly placed one foot in front as he stepped carefully to avoid causing a loud creak in the wooden floorboards.
Moving step by step, he finally reached the table. He carefully handled the glass vial and removed the cap, quickly pouring the contents into the half empty coffee mugs. When the task was complete, he looked up to see Moody peering in the window, frantically signaling that he didn’t have much time. As if Moody’s warning wasn’t enough, Duncan could clearly hear footsteps approaching. Seeing no other options, he dove under the table, hoping to remain as still and silent as possible.
Duncan’s heart pounded as he lay on the ground, the tablecloth providing a thin layer of cover between him and the two sets of boots he saw on either side. He nervously gripped his revolver as he listened to the two gruff voices above him, which very strangely seemed to have English accents.
“So bloody cold, why did we come to this sodding country anyway?”
“Just shut up already, we could be on a bloody beach in Majorca and you’d still be complaining.”
They lifted their mugs to take a sip, and an instant later they were both sprawled out on the floor. Duncan then came bursting out from under the table, pointing his revolver at the guards as he kicked away their wands and made sure they were really passed out. Moody ran through the door, and came to a halt when he recognized the faces on the floor.
“I know these men,” he said with a start, “And they’re no Russians.”
“I was going to say, their English was a little too good,” Duncan confirmed.
“They were a year ahead of me at school, I never talked to them much, but I knew who they were at least. This one’s Avery and that’s Mulciber. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I sure don’t like it.”
Moody leaned out the doorway, scanning the complex with his binoculars and comparing the view to the map in his hand until he had definitely located the communications building.
“I found it, and I recognize the type of scanner they have protecting it, it’s enchanted to only allow authorized personnel inside” he observed.
“Do you suppose we’ll just drag these two blokes over there then?” Duncan inquired.
“Even better,” Moody replied as he plucked hairs from the two unconscious men and mixed two vials of potion, throwing one to Duncan, “We’re going to become them.”
Duncan looked at the vial hesitantly, not quite willing to trust its contents.
“It’s Polyjuice potion, and it’s perfectly safe, which means something coming from me,” Moody informed him.
Unwilling to argue, Duncan gulped the potion down, grimacing in disgust at its horrific taste. As soon as he swallowed it, he could feel an instant transformation; growing slightly taller, his stomach growing bigger, and his hair growing longer.
“Your friend Avery is one unfortunate looking bastard,” he wryly observed as a he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window.
When they had both finished their transformations, they wasted no time in walking over towards the communications building. Once there, they stood a few feet in front of the door and waited while sets of mechanical eyes extended from the door frame and scanned them up and down with a light resembling one of those newfangled lasers that Duncan had read about in a science fiction novel.
Finally, an automated voice announced, “Special Agents Avery and Mulciber, authorized for entry,” as the heavy metal door slid open.
“Lumos,” Moody cast, adding some light to the very dark room. They stepped slowly and carefully through the room, hoping not to break anything or awaken the many sleeping owls.
Duncan stumbled as he tried to void stepping on some wires, grabbing onto a table to maintain his balance. He looked down on the table top to find a large object resembling some sort of cross between a radio and a typewriter, with a rather large scroll of parchment coming out the back.
“I think I found the Kwikcodes machine!” he announced.
Moody walked over and examined the machine closely. “Good work.”
He then concentrated intently as he focused his wand and skillfully conjured an exact replica of the machine.
“A duplication charm,” he explained, “They’ll figure it out eventually, but it should buy us enough time to get away.”
He then picked up the original machine and put it in his bag, which could magically hold a lot more that it appeared on the outside. Without wasting any time, they left the building and walked back outside towards the exit.
“So you have to tell me now, how exactly are we getting out of here?” Duncan prodded.
Moody finally showed something resembling a smile, “We walk out the gate.”
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