July 4th, 2019



 Over on Mastodon, @LilFluff was gracious enough to boost my prompt call back in March and when I managed to corner him and get him to give me a prompt, he said that he would like more of Tobia.  This follows on from "Flowers on a Hat" which can be found on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal and the whole series is on LiveJournal under the Tobia tag.  This piece runs to 705 words and addresses a point someone raised in response to "Flowers on a Hat."

Arrodius Monk and Tobia Fenwick were sharing a bottle of brewed soft drink in his office within the school boarding house he administered.  The Sir Francis Walsingham Tradecraft School was in the midst of Christmas and New Year and summer holidays, being in the southern hemisphere and all the students except Tobia were away.  Tobia's mother had declined to have Tobia at home due to an incident in an interhouse school competition over which Mrs Fenwick felt aggrieved, and Mr Monk was the teacher "on duty" for the holiday period.  As Sir Francis Walsingham's was a school for training spies, the truth of their shared summer was a little more complicated than that.

"Now you've been paid for your summer work, I trust you've put your money in a safe place."  They were sitting in the comfortable chairs near the bookcases, where they could enjoy the view of the small walled garden through the full-length windows, but also have the benefits of the air conditioning.  Mr Monk was wearing an open necked, purple and red batik shirt over a blue, white and black plaid sarong - many of his students probably wouldn't have recognised him out of his work-day narrow-lapelled dark suits and white shirts.  Tobia was wearing a long, loose, front buttoning shirt embroidered with green and brown botehs over a pair of long, brown cargo shorts.  Both of them had sturdy leather sandals on their feet.

"I did pay attention during the Personal Finances section of Basic Spy Craft, sir."  Tobia calmly sipped her drink, clearly not offended by the question.

"I'm pleased to hear it."  The teacher poured himself more of the passionfruit-based drink.  "So, where did you put it?  Switzerland, the British Caribbean, or the British Concessions?"

Tobia smiled and swirled her drink carefully in her hand before saying, "Sir, I did say that I paid attention in Personal Finances."

"Touché," he saluted her with his drink glass.

"If we're asking difficult questions," went on Tobia, "mine for you is, why pick my mother's given name for my undercover identity when we away with those graduating students of yours?"

"I was more concerned that you would have a name close enough to your own that you would remember to answer to it," he replied, "and Tobia isn't that easy to match.  Besides, I managed to forget that your mother's given name is Antonia - every time I've had any contact with her she was using her maiden surname, an annoying code name, or she was Mrs Fenwick."  He looked abashed.  "I'm good, not perfect."

"I like Tonia Rizdon," admitted Tobia.  "I've put myself down for Modern Greek and Smatterings of the Levant as two of this year's electives.  I believe Tonia may have fallen in love with Greece."

"I thought that you were already doing Singapore Smatterings for languages," said Mr Monk mildly.  "Not that there's anything wrong with developing an alternate identity as you go."

"This year I have to pick two electives and a core option," pointed out Tobia. "All of the language smatterings courses are useful, and I can use Modern Greek in the external exams."

"That is well thought of," he agreed.  "I've seen a number of students who would have liked to matriculate shoot themselves in the foot by taking too many trade subjects and not enough externally examined ones.  What are you going to tell your parents?"

Tobia took a deep breath.  "As little as possible.  They have no need to know about the trip.  If they ask about anything else, I'll ask them how their Christmas was.  If they ask about mine, we had food poisoning."  She smiled.

"Best not to mention the whole roast pig and stuffed cabbage leaves."  He laughed and went on more soberly, " Your father will be here soon to collect you for the last ten days of the holidays.  You've got your duress alarm?  Not that I think your father will give you cause to need it."

"I've got two duress alarms, in different places, and an extendable baton," confirmed Tobia.  "Not that I think Dad can't be trusted.  It's the rest of the family I'm worried about."

Mr Monk toasted that grimly with, "I'll drink to that."

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