A Pakistani pigeon accused of being a spy has been captured on the Indian side of the border in Kashmir (Irish Times 06/06/2020)…..
Fred had started work in MI6 as a mere courier, a job that required no more skill than the ability to outwit Dastardly and Muttley, but he had always accepted this lowly role, knowing that humans would get the more glamourous work.
Then came facial recognition software. The Double-O’s had been moved to jobs in payroll, and Fred had been promoted.
A pigeon spy has it tougher than a human one. James Bond would be sent into action with a bow-tie that became a boomerang, a biro that became a bazooka and an iPhone that gathered personal information. All Fred would get was a packet of exploding bird-seed and a leg-ring that picked up Radio Luxembourg.
Bond was trained in weaponry and martial arts. Fred was trained to find his way home.
But even so, Fred had been remarkably successful, again due to technology. And fear of it.
Paranoid about planted bugs and tapped phones, conspirators now meet exclusively on park benches. Fred would simply walk around in front of them, head bobbing as if for worms, and listen to every word.
Plus he sometimes got bread thrown to him.
It wasn’t all easy though. The bad guys also hired avian operators, and over the years Fred had had to fight skuas, hawks and falcons, all faster and stronger than him, but all dispatched with ingenuity and a killer pun.
In South Africa he once defeated a Cape Vulture called Bloveldt by suggesting to him that he might appear more menacing if he took to stroking a cat.
Now, though, it seemed his ingenuity had let him down. He was in the Indian part of Kashmir, and had unearthed a plot to flood the world with cashmere sweaters, collapsing the price to allow total market domination. The man who came up with this plan might have made as much money, legally, by investing in IT, but fixation upon a single mad scheme is the true hallmark of the supervillain. To this end he had built an underground base and the world’s largest weaving machine.
The base alone cost five billion dollars, and smelled overwhelmingly of goat.
Hoopoe (from justbirding.com)
It was while leaving this base that Fred had been caught. He had gone undercover as a hoopoe, a native Kashmiri bird, but it is not an easy look to capture and Fred had ended up looking like an extra from Trolls.
He had been quickly rumbled, caught in a net and denounced as a spy – a Pakistani one, since the two nations blame each other for everything. He had been placed in a cage, deep in the underground base, and was now listening to low rumblings, yells of panic, and a disembodied female voice intoning “T Minus three minutes, and counting”.
Because before being caught Fred had filled the weaving-machine motor with exploding bird-seed.
He was stoically keeping his upper lip stiff when he heard a voice say “need a hand?”
He looked up. A Siberian Accentor was looking in at him, a smile on her face.
“KGB?” asked Fred.
“There’s no such thing,” said the bird. “MI6?”
“No such thing either,” said Fred.
“Mmm,” said the bird. “Anyway, it seems the two agencies neither of us work for have a common foe here. My name’s Alyona,” she said.
“My name is Fred. Fast Fred.”
“Seriously?” said Alyona.
“It’s a Lancashire name,” sighed Fred. “I come from a long line of racing pigeons.”
“I see,” said Alyona. She tilted her head to one side as the voice said “T minus two minutes, and counting.” “Well, it looks like that might be useful right now.”
She plucked a feather from her tail and picked at the cage lock. The door swung open.
“Let’s go,” she said.
They flew out into a corridor filled with smoke, shouts and running humans. They weaved and swooped around falling beams and sudden bursts of flame. They streaked vertically, wings by their sides, up a lift-shaft, then darted under a massive metal door just as it was closing and found themselves outside, on a heli-pad. The villain was escaping, his helicopter already feet from the ground. Fred and Alyona dive-bombed the rotor, pooing into it over and over until it stuck. the engine stalled, and the helicopter crashed to the concrete and burst into flames.
“Bird strike,” said Fred, feeling it was expected of him.
“T minus five seconds, and counting,” said the voice.
Fred and Alyona fled, but were just two hundred yards away when the base exploded.
The sky caught them, and threw them.
They cut through the air faster than either ever had before, tumbling over and over at the bow of the wave of fire. Their wings touched, and held, each supporting the other.
Gradually they slowed, then hovered, resting on the sky. They were both panting from relief, from exhilaration, from the sheer joy of being alive. Their feathers were singed, their faces were blackened, and neither had ever seen anything as beautiful as the other. They grinned, then realised at the same time that they were still holding wings. Neither moved to let go.
“Fancy joining the mile-high club?” said Alyona. “I’ve suddenly become a pigeon-fancier.”
“Coo,” said Fred.