MEMO: For Ministry of SUITs operatives ONLY
Be on the alert! A missing agent (the mother of one of our newest recruits) is possibly being kept prisoner somewhere in Belfast.
We have unconfirmed reports of:
- allergies transforming normal kids into monsters
- health food that works a bit too well
- abnormal gatherings of suspicious birds
- and movie props moving on their own.
If you have any information about these or any other strange incidents, please contact recruits Jack Pearse, a curious boy skilled in logical thinking, and Trudy Emerson, the most dangerous girl in school. We are confident that they are on the right track, as our newest villain has already tried to kill Jack several times. And please hurry . . . this plot does involve Trudy's mother, and if we take too long she might punch us. Again.
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JUST BEGIN AGAIN MONDAY
It was Monday morning and twelve-year-old Jack Pearse sat on the playground wall outside school with his friend Trudy Emerson. Jack was feeling both tired and confused.
The reason he was confused was that he didn't know whether to feel happy or sad. In many ways, he should have been happy, as in the last two weeks he had managed to save the entire country from both a maniacal pirate who had wanted to turn Northern Ireland into a sailing ship, and also an insane Atlantean queen who had wanted to sink the country to the bottom of the sea.
Jack had heard from some of the boys who played on the school football team that scoring a goal gave them a bit of a "buzz." However, Jack deeply suspected that that buzz wasn't quite as intense as the one you got from saving an entire country from evil supervillains.
Jack's buzz was somewhat marred by the fact that Trudy's mother was still missing. In their recent adventures they had discovered that the queen of Atlantis had kidnapped Trudy's mother and she was now being held prisoner by an evil scientist. And worse, the queen had refused to tell them exactly where.
It was confusing not knowing whether to be happy or sad. Jack considered that maybe he was "sappy." But then decided that wasn't really a word he wanted applied to himself.
Not being sure what kind of mood you were in was quite stressful and tiring. Jack yawned loudly and stretched his arms. "I don't think I've ever been this tired. Although that might just be the cumulative effect of all the concussions."
Trudy stretched her arm. She hadn't needed to put the sling back on, although the arm still ached a little when the weather was rainy. Which in Northern Ireland meant that it ached almost continually. "Well, you're going to need to start counting a lot of sheep, Jack. I need you well rested. We've got to find my mother this week."
Jack nodded. "I've been thinking about this. And I'm sure we can figure it out. We just have to think about the clues we've gotten so far."
Trudy fixed Jack with a stare. "You always figure these things out. I know you can do it again."
Jack was cheered by his friend's confidence. "I know I can too. I just need to focus, concentrate, and avoid getting distracted...."
Jack's best friend David ran over to where they were sitting. "You want to see this, guys — Edwyn just had an allergic reaction to a peanut and it's turned him into a monster!"
"I never should have said that thing about not getting distracted," Jack muttered.
"A peanut allergy?" asked Trudy.
David nodded. "I think so; he's just swollen to twice his normal size and started smashing things. Someone said that it was a peanut allergy from a chocolate bar he'd been eating."
"This sounds like the kind of thing we should take a look at," Jack said.
Trudy frowned. "All right, but only as long as you promise that we'll get back to thinking about how to find my mother after this."
"Promise." Jack turned back to face David. "Lead on! Take us to the swollen Edwyn."
David nodded and managed to run almost halfway across the playground to the school entrance before he fell over in a tangle of limbs.
It took them considerably longer to get into the school than it should have. Although David was enthusiastic about leading them, he was as good at running as penguins were at tap dancing. David fell down with such alarming regularity that at sports day while other kids participated in a race called the hundred meters, people watching David referred to it as the eighteen-bruises race. For David, a bruise was not only a medical ailment, it was also a measure of distance.
However, even before they got to see Edwyn, they came across something very strange indeed.
MINISTRY OF S.U.I.T.S HANDBOOK
Using the King's Measurements
You will almost certainly have noticed that many measurements are named after body parts. For example, distance is measured in "feet" and a horse's height is measured in "hands." And if something is absolutely tiny, it is considered to be a "hair's breadth." Those of you who have studied history will realize that this is because all measurements used to actually be based on the length of body parts of the king or queen.
This was one of the reasons that kings were mostly large men. Large men tend to have big feet — and people liked a king with big feet because it meant that when they were buying things they got more for their money. If you bought six feet of cloth when you had a king with size seventeen shoes, as you can imagine, it was a much longer piece of material.
The use of a king's body parts as measuring devices stopped for two major reasons. First, because kings got bored with hanging around marketplaces all day. There isn't much point in being a supreme monarch if you end up as nothing more than a glorified regal tape measure. The second reason is slightly more unpleasant. Although the people liked having a regal unit of measure, they didn't particularly enjoy the actual measuring process. After all, when you have bought a large amount of fabric to make a beautiful dress, the last thing you want to hear is "You look absolutely lovely in that outfit, just a pity about the aroma of foot odor."
Some people doubt much of the above explanation, but it is clearly true. After all, why else do you think that kings and queens in the old days were always referred to as the ruler of a country?CHAPTER 2
MERCHANDISE AND MONSTERS
"Get your Static merchandise here! T-shirts with the logo of the hero Static."
After being employed by the Ministry, Jack was used to seeing strange things. However, this was more bizarre than most. One of their classmates, Dawkins, was standing behind a large table on which sat piles of branded baseball caps, hoodies, stickers, and badges.
In the last two weeks, Dawkins had become convinced that he was a superhero. He called himself "Static" and his superpower was the ability to build up static electricity shocks due to his school uniform being made almost entirely of polyester. Dawkins was sure that the ability to generate small sparks of static electricity was right up there with firing laser bolts from your eyes or being able to walk up walls. Jack was equally sure that it wasn't.
As they walked past Dawkins's stall he smiled at them. "You want a Static hoodie, don't you? What would you be? Boys medium? What color? Navy blue? I don't think you'd be adventurous enough to go with red. ..."
"Dawkins," said Jack, grimacing, "I do not want a Static hoodie. I will never want a Static hoodie." Jack paused for a minute and then he spoke slowly to ram the point home. "No — one — will — ever — want — a — Static — hoodie."
A third year wandered up to the table. "Can you give me a Static baseball cap, a set of the Static badges, and a medium green Static hoodie? Ohh, and I'll take a small one in red for my little sister." Dawkins bundled the customer's purchases into a bag and money changed hands. Dawkins turned to Jack with a rather wide grin on his face. "And I believe you were saying something, Jack?"
Jack wasn't sure how to respond to Dawkins's gloating, but luckily the sounds of crashing from farther down the corridor gave him a good excuse to leave. "I'm afraid we've got to go and try to deal with a potentially deadly nut allergy. Otherwise I would have loved to stay and talk about your Static merchandise," Jack said, as he followed David and Trudy away from the Static stall.
* * *
The crashing and smashing noises seemed to be coming from halfway up the corridor. Jack couldn't help thinking to himself, Here we go again....
"What on earth is that?" asked Trudy. It was a very good question.
Whatever it was, it was certainly very scary, and other pupils were running down the corridor pushing past Jack, Trudy, and David. It looked as if the cause of the kerfuffle was something that until recently had been Edwyn.
Jack couldn't help thinking that if Edwyn had just had an allergic reaction to a peanut, he must have been extremely allergic to peanuts. Or alternatively he might have eaten the world's largest peanut.
The last time Jack had seen Edwyn he had been a small, slightly annoying schoolboy who had a tendency to get bullied. Now, it was difficult to be sure that the creature smashing up the corridor was in fact Edwyn. Although it looked vaguely human, every inch of it was swollen and bulging. The creature looked how Jack imagined it would look if you found the world's largest bear, shaved it, and then pumped it up using a pneumatic airline. And it was also probably as angry as the world's largest bear would be if you shaved and then inflated it.
"I think I preferred him before the allergic reaction," Jack whispered to Trudy.
"Well, it was certainly preferable to him being an enormous, dangerous, muscled brute," Trudy agreed.
Jack stared at the Edwyn-creature. The school uniform it had been wearing was torn to shreds. The only way they were sure that this was still Edwyn was that the swollen face still had a slightly stupid look, and attached to one of the tatters of blazer that remained draped across the creature's shoulder was the small Static Rules badge. Edwyn had declared himself Static's greatest fan ever since the erstwhile superhero had rescued him from a crowd of bullies.
Jack knew that this was exactly the kind of thing that he was meant to deal with as a Ministry operative. However, because he was a Ministry operative he also knew that it was exactly the kind of thing that would probably end up being painful and potentially causing his uniform to get ripped again. "Look, he doesn't seem to be doing any harm," Jack noted. "Perhaps we could leave him and the swelling will go down after a while. That's normally what happens with allergic reactions, isn't it?"
Trudy arched an eyebrow. "Does this really look like an allergic reaction to you?"
David had taken a muesli bar out of his pocket and was munching on it. "It's his own fault."
"What?" Jack asked.
"He shouldn't have been eating junk food. Especially not when he could have gotten one of these for free." David waggled his muesli bar, bits of which crumbled and fell on the floor.
Jack was confused. Partially he was wondering why David was suddenly against junk food, but he also wanted to know precisely who was going around and giving out muesli bars for free. "Someone's distributing free snacks? Why would they do that?"
Trudy jabbed Jack in the ribs with an elbow, which at least was a change from punching his shoulder. "Focus, Jack! I appreciate that you have an overwhelming sense of curiosity, but let's try and focus on being curious about one thing at a time." Trudy pointed down the corridor to where the Edwyn-creature was roaring. It reached out and smashed the door to a classroom, splintering it with his enormous fists. The children who had been hiding inside the classroom scattered backward.
Trudy took a step toward the Edwyn-creature. "We can't leave Edwyn like this. If he carries on like that he's going to hurt someone."
Jack tutted. "Sometimes it's almost as if you like trouble."
Trudy turned to Jack and grinned. "I do."
"Can't we just wait until a teacher shows up?"
Trudy shook her head. "You know that teachers never come out of the staff room until five minutes before roll call."
Jack sighed. "I suppose you have a plan?"
"Half a plan." Trudy smiled.
"Does your half a plan involve battering Edwyn?" asked David.
Trudy frowned and shook her head. "No."
It was Jack's turn to arch an eyebrow. "Really? You've changed."
Trudy punched Jack in the arm in annoyance. Evidently she hadn't changed that much. "I can't attack Edwyn — whatever's happened to him to turn him into that half-kid, half-monster isn't his fault."
"So what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to let him try to hit me."
"I said TRY to hit me. I'm going to use The Speed so I should be able to dodge him. If he's trying to hit me, he won't be able to attack anyone else." The smile dropped from Trudy's face and her eyes turned slightly watery. Jack knew she was thinking of a sad thought. Trudy seemed to have an endless repository of sad thoughts that she could draw on. And the sadder they were, the faster it enabled her to move. That was the power of The Speed.
Trudy blurred down the corridor toward the Edwyn-creature. The Edwyn-creature turned away from the classroom door, suddenly fascinated by the blurry shape that was streaking toward him. At the last moment Trudy jumped and somersaulted over the swollen creature's head. She effortlessly twisted past the two fists it threw up in the air trying to hit her.
"Shall I try using The Speed as well?" Jack called down the corridor after Trudy.
Trudy only managed to half shrug as she was ducking under punches the creature was now aiming at her. "No, I'm only providing the distraction here. You need to come up with one of your strange ideas so we don't have to hurt Edwyn. Something to cure this allergic reaction."
"My ideas. Right." Jack felt slightly under pressure. It was first thing on a Monday morning and his brain hadn't fully gotten into gear yet. Also, it was hard to think properly when an enormous monster was trying to murder one of your best friends. This was probably why teachers were so strict about not allowing homicides during exams.
"I don't suppose you have any ideas, David?"
David crunched on his muesli bar for a minute. "Not really. I have a cousin who gets really bad allergic reactions. She has this syringe thing that gives her injections of epinephrine — that counteracts the allergy."
"Brilliant — can you go and get the syringe from her?"
"No problem." David handed his schoolbag to Jack. "Hold this. I'll go and get the syringe now. I should be back by Thursday."
"Thursday?" Jack asked quizzically.
"Well, yeah, my cousin lives in Canada."
Jack sighed. "I don't think that's going to be soon enough to help."
Trudy was keeping the Edwyn-creature at a distance — occasionally it leapt forward, but she was far too fast for it and merely crouched to the side or rolled through its legs.
"Jack, we really need that solution quite urgently now! It's only a matter of time before I get tired or he gets lucky." As if to underline the point, one of the Edwyn-creature's fists lashed out, missing Trudy's face by an inch or less.
Although Jack was concerned about Trudy's well-being he was also slightly put out. After all, you couldn't just pluck good ideas from the air. "I'm sorry, Trudy, but I'm afraid that I've been remiss in my contingency planning. I didn't anticipate a peanut-inflamed Edwyn attacking us."
"Less talking. More thinking!" Trudy panted. "I can't keep this up forever."
"Yes — you're right," agreed Jack. "I'll do my best to think of something."
David crunched on his muesli bar. "Basically that epinephrine stuff is just adrenaline. Pity you couldn't figure out a way to get Edwyn excited — that'd probably have the same effect."
And it was then that Jack plucked a brilliant idea out of the air. "Back in a minute," he chirped as he bolted down the corridor.
MINISTRY OF S.U.I.T.S HANDBOOK
The Animal Kingdom — Honeybees
We are all aware that allergies are prevalent amongst human beings. However, humans are one of the most self-centered of all the species and therefore rarely concern themselves with the plight of other animals. The truth is, of course, that animals suffer from as many different allergies as humans do. Some pet owners, for example, will be aware that dogs are allergic to chocolate.
Of course, the effect of an allergy on an animal's lifestyle depends on both the allergy and the type of animal affected. An aardvark with a wheat allergy will live a largely unaffected life (aardvarks mainly eat ants, and although ants live in extremely organized and structured societies, their baking skills are somewhat limited). If, however, you are a cat with a cat hair allergy you have a choice between continually having to wipe your whiskers or alternatively praying for the onset of premature baldness.
Interestingly enough, the animal with the most unfortunate allergy is the humble honeybee. Most honeybees have hay fever — an allergy to pollen. This is bad because bees absolutely love the smell of flowers. Therefore, on a pleasant summer day a bee will leave the hive and find itself drawn to beautiful flowers — but after going for a quick sniff they find their little bee eyes running and their little bee noses sniffling. Naturally enough, the bee will then fly erratically back to the hive as it is barely able to see. You will see bees flying in a strange back-and-forth pattern, rather than traveling in a more sensible straight line — this is because they can barely see or breathe.
So, what happens to all the dribble from the bees' noses, you ask? I suspect you already know the answer. They put it in little hexagonal containers to get it out of the way. Some of you may be asking why your local supermarket chooses to call it honey rather than "Bee Mucus." The reason of course is simple — if they called it Bee Mucus, in his tea is considered to be something of a social faux pas.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Knight's Armor"
Copyright © 2018 Paul Gamble.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Just Begin Again,
2. Merchandise and Monsters,
3. The Next Top Superhero Sidekick,
4. Blood Tests,
5. Shocking Changes,
6. Model Farms and Less-Than-Model Pupils,
7. The Tendrils of Doom,
8. Shake the Room,
9. Lost and Found,
10. Strange Food,
11. Wake Up, Sleepyhead,
12. David Bulks Up,
14. Grain Silo,
15. The Red Barn,
16. Mechanical Giants,
17. Falling for You,
18. Going Underground,
19. The Unexpected Expected,
20. The Upside to Being Lost,
21. Non-Euclidian Filing Cabinets,
22. Hiding in Plain Sight,
23. There Be Dragons,
24. Put on Your Dancing Shoes,
25. Hide and Seek,
26. Meet the Meerkats,
27. Family Reunion,
28. Getting the Point,
29. Homecoming Queen,
30. Happiness and Secrets,
31. Because Sometimes Even Parents are Helpful,
32. Car Chase,
33. The Problems of Stardom,
34. Putting the Pieces in Place,
35. This Sucks,
36. This Really Sucks,
37. The History of a Scientist,
39. Alternative Uses of Tinfoil,
40. Giant Problems, But No Lion or Witch,
41. Magnetic Personalities,
42. When Even the Best Choice is Awful,
43. Certain Death,
44. A Shocking Climax,
About the Author,