General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms

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CHAPTER 3

ESPIONAGE

I

General Jack convened regular meetings with the leaders of the Four Kingdoms. He decreed it was essential to maintain a good communication system. For this, we relied on the birds of the sky. They were happy to oblige. They proved to be good scouts.

We also needed to obtain intelligence concerning the behaviour and habits of our Overlords. That is where us, cats came in because of our close relations with our fierce cousins. We were the only ones able to secure that delicate inside information.

It was also desirable to make overtures to other animals, like the rodents and monkeys for assistance in conducting special ops.

We set up a chain of command. General Jack was the field commander. I was his aide- de-camp and the head of the secret service. The leaders of each group of the Four Kingdoms were subordinate to us but they supervised their own troops. They had their own designated responsibilities and duties.

The general enthusiasm grew. Animals from outside the Four Kingdoms volunteered their services. It was just as General Jack had predicted. There was plenty of good will to go around. The spirit of comradeship spread through the land like wildfire. Each day brought thousands of new recruits. The new zeitgeist united us, despite our diversities, against a common detested enemy.

We called our organisation the Union Jack. We had our own symbol. There were two brown sticks in the form of au upright cross. One stick represented faith, the other hope. Two other green sticks in the form of an “X” were superimposed on the original cross. One green stick stood for courage, the other stood for friendship. The four sticks met at one point in the centre of life. General Jack explained those were the four ways of life. Provided the members did not stray from these paths, they would remain united and safe. General Jack and I were the most senior of the Union Jack. All this happened under the noses of our Overlords. We were so secretive they had no inkling of these developments.

II

The structure and organisation of the resistance movement was set up. Now, we had to move into action.

General Jack wanted to infiltrate the headquarters of the King. There was a collective gasp of astonishment when he brought up the item on the agenda. No one had ever dared trespass in the lion’s den. Nobody in his right senses would volunteer. Even if someone managed to enter the lion’s den, he would never come out alive. It was a suicidal mission.

General Jack waved our objections aside. This was to be a mission for our rodent friends. A mole had to burrow a tunnel leading to the interior of the headquarters. Once opened, a mouse had to enter and look around for secret documents. I had told General Jack the rulers occasionally organised meetings on rule of law matters. They sometimes documented their discussions on paper. General Jack was interested in that type of intelligence.

On the day, Manny the mole dug the tunnel. On emerging, to his horror, he was only a few inches away from the jaws of the sleeping King. The tunnel exit reeked of the lion’s foetid breath. Manny froze in a cold sweat. His whiskers moved with each of the King’s breaths. The King’s mouth was loosely open. The intimidating fangs were visible. Manny trembled. Nobody who came so close to those fangs ever lived to tell his tale. Manny’s mouth dried up. After a dozen breaths, Manny composed himself. He tiptoed his way back into the safety of the cosy tunnel. Once inside, he silently extended it by a few metres.

We gave the green light signal for entrance into the tunnel. Maxi the mouse was spot on. He deftly and silently explored the room. The King was snoring so loudly, Maxi’s shuffling was drowned out. He found the ledge on which the papers rested. As he was about to jump onto it, the King moved. This electrified Maxi on the spot. He held his breath. The King snored on. His eyes remained closed. Maxi was safe. Maxi scampered on the ledge with stealth. He nervously alternated his glance between the papers and the lion. The ledge reeked of dried blood. Blood stained paws had officially stamped the papers. Maxi caught a glimpse of the relevant papers. They were conspicuous because they were the only ones of green vellum. I had briefed Maxi with the details before the mission. A skull was resting on top of this document as a paperweight. Maxi had to shove this skull to retrieve the document. The skull noisily jerked. Maxi’s heart stopped. He looked at the King. The King’s eyes were half open. Maxi recoiled in terror. The lion fixed his gaze ominously on Maxi… Silence descended on the room… Lub Dub… Lub Dub…Lub Dub…Lub Dub…The sound of Maxi’s thumping heartbeat filled the room. The King’s snores were no longer audible. Maxi tensed his muscles. He was ensnared. He deliberated his chances. The window was closed. The lion’s hulk obstructed the path to the door. Maxi’s sole chance was the second exit, which was equidistant from both him and the King. If he made it to the tunnel before the King, he would be safe out of the lion’s reach. Once in the tunnel, he could escape from the camp. He glanced at the lion. His eyes were still fixed on the immobilized Maxi. King Roar was about to pounce. Maxi crouched and drew a deep breath, bracing himself for the dash. Strangely, the sound of the heartbeat receded. The sound of snoring overdubbed the sound of Maxi’s heartbeat. Maxi glanced at the King. The King was snoring but his eyes were still fixed on Maxi. The plucky mouse gingerly moved inch by inch to the other end of the ledge. At no point did he dare detach his timorous eyes off the King. The King’s eyes did not follow him. They were fixed on empty space. Maxi let out a silent sigh of relief. He was safe. The King had not awakened. He slept with his eyes half open. Maxi rolled up the document and escaped with it through the tunnel. Mission accomplished!

Maxi delivered the documents to me as I waited outside at a safe distance. Maxi the newly crowned hero whispered to me that he saw the real crown on a ledge. He was tempted to steal that as well. Then came a bolt from the blue.

I wistfully remarked with a sigh that the mere symbolic possession of the lions’ crown would provide a huge morale boost to our fledging cause.

It was wishful thinking but it sparked off an inconceivable train of events.

Another young sprightly, ambitious mouse named Midi overheard me. He interpreted my words literally. He seriously took them to heart. Midi impulsively tore away from our group that was returning home. Midi the mouse entered the warm, humid tunnel. He was not aware that there were two exits for the tunnel. Midi emerged from the dangerous first exit, straight into the jaws of death.

General Jack lamented the first casualty of our nascent campaign. He was disturbed. He insisted that everyone was to follow orders to the letter. We could not afford any more lapses. The success of the entire campaign hinged on keeping the felines in a state of blissfully ignorant complacency. It was crucial. We never realised how difficult it would be to operate behind an unbreached veil of secrecy.

III

General Jack was elated with the findings of the mission. The results were ground breaking. Henceforth, we referred to that mission as “the Day of Initiation.”

We discovered that the lions and tigers hated and feared each other. We also discovered that the lions did not trust the jaguars, cougars and panthers. If the opportunity arose, the lions would not hesitate to wage war on them separately.

It was also revealed how friendly the lions were with the cheetahs and leopards. These felines in turn, were submissive and loyal.

These were the fault lines in the Feline Kingdom. It was the kingdom’s weak spot. That was our target. We had to exploit that weak spot. General Jack decided we had to widen those fissures rendering them permanent. We resolved to divide the feline clan into three opposing rival fractions.

The General gave new instructions to the cats. Covertly, they had to reveal the contents of those minutes to the chiefs of the tigers, cougars, panthers and jaguars. We had to perpetrate and intensify the reciprocal distrust between them and the lions.

We were about to stoke the fires of discord within the Feline Kingdom.

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