3rd Year, P. 6

Seven hours after the squads broke down their assigned Conex boxes, they made camp to rest. Before daylight, everyone was back on another road march to designated areas for each group. Alpha squad found a handwritten map which would lead them to an abandoned warehouse. The scribbles made the map difficult to read. Frustrations heightened everyone’s temperament, but they could still make good time compared to the other squads who had gotten lost on the way.

Once inside the building, the team was given earbuds for communication and tracking. Yoshida and Roudan were sent to a control room where they could monitor Shevchenko, Savoi, and Farouk navigate through a series of time-sensitive challenges. A loud buzzer went off, indicating the portion of the exam had begun. The trio bolted down a long corridor to an opened black door. On the other side of the room was another black door. Farouk checked the door and found it was locked. In the center of the room was a wicker basket filled with a dozen multi-colored numbered velvet pouches was placed on a cylinder stand.

Savoi was the first to peer over the basket.

“There are several colors to choose from,” she said as she gently sifted through the pouches. “Yellow, black, brown, red, and blue. Which one do you want to go with?”

Farouk panted out loud, “Ooh, I know; let me pick!”

Savoi looked at Shevchenko, who seemed less assured of an answer.

“Okay, Maaz, which one?” she asked.

Without hesitation, he blurted, “GREEN!”

Incredulously, Shevchenko popped Farouk on the back of the neck.

“Why did you even bother with him?” she asked

“I really thought he knew,” Savoi sighed.

The trio stood silent, waiting for each other to come up with a solution.

Savoi broke the tension when her eyes beamed brightly.

Shevchenko tapped her on the shoulder.

“You’ve got something, don’t you?”

Savoi stalled, as she was apprehensive about making another wrong assertion.

Farouk panicked at the sound of the buzzer ticking away.

“Thomasa, say something! Don’t leave us in suspense!” he demanded.

Savoi took in a deep breath, then said, “Let’s think of this more strategically. During the entrance exam, we captured a red flag and became the Alpha squad from that victory.”

Shevchenko squinted her eyes and her mind went blank.

“Yeah, so? I’m not following.”

Savoi searched again through the pouches.

“We were the first to capture our flag. Maybe we should look for a red pouch with the #1 stitched on it.”

Farouk dove his hand inside the basket until he plucked out the pouch she described.

“Found it!” he cried.

Inside the pouch was a medium-sized metal key. They ran across the room to the locked door. Farouk took the key, then clumsily banged it up against the hole.

“The opening is too small. I can’t get it in,” he said.

“Well, you can’t just keep pounding it like that. There’s no way it will jam itself in,” Shevchenko scoffed.

Savoi curiously tilted her head to the side, then guided his wrist so that the key was flipped upside down.

“Maybe turn it at a different angle?” she guessed.

Shevchenko huffed.

“You two obviously know nothing about these kinds of things.”

Savoi shrugged with the last of her patience, and replied, “Please enlighten us with your knowledge, oh wise one.”

Shevchenko grinned.

“Clearly, a bit of lubrication is needed. Since we don’t have any, and time is of the essence, someone has to spit on it.”

Savoi shook her head in defiance.

“I’m not doing that!”

Farouk, still puzzled, spat lightly on the tip of the key.

Shevchenko flailed her arms.

“No, no! Not like that! You have to wet it until it slides in with ease.” She spat a large wad of saliva on the key and rubbed along the base and inside the entrance of the keyhole with her index finger.

Suddenly, the key glided into the hole perfectly.

“Wow! I never would’ve had known how to make it work. Lily, where did you learn such a neat trick?” Farouk asked.

Suddenly, Shevchenko became flushed and self-conscious about what she shared with her team.

“Why would you ask me something like that?” she stuttered.

Farouk was puzzled by her change in demeanor. He pressed his lips together, searching for a response. Savoi was ready to move forward from there.

She waved a hand in their air and said, “An uncreative mind finds every wrong answer, but a creative mind will find fault with the questions. Lily, you solved this riddle perfectly fine. Now, we should focus on why a lubricant agent was so important to the task. I think it’s a clue for something else.”

As she led the team through the unlocked door, Shevchenko whispered to Farouk.

“Let’s just say I have my ways.”

Yoshida and Roudan stared at each other, completely mortified and dumbfounded by the absurdity of the situation.

~The Waring Robins~

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