As he had originally expected, it didn't seem long until he had his bags packed and was bidding goodbye to all his friends'. Harriet pulled him into a bone crushing hug after he revealed the news. "You better come back in one piece," she said whilst Alfie struggled to breathe. "If I find out that you've gotten yourself hurt on this mission, I'll come and murder you for causing us so much worry."
"That's a comforting thought," Alfie scoffed, finally managing to peel himself away from the girl. "I'll be fine, stop being so dramatic."
Frankie giggled. "Dramatic is Harriet's middle name."
"Hmm," Alfie pondered. "Harriet Dramatic Ward – yeah, I guess it does have a nice ring to it."
Harriet shoved him backwards playfully. "Shut-up," she demanded. "Don't think I'm joking, I'll break out of campus to get to you if it comes to it."
"As if you haven't got enough punishments as it is," Frankie retorted, rolling her eyes.
Alfie winced at the memory of Allison handing out the harsh punishments to Harry and Harriet, the look on both of their faces once they realised that the next few months of their lives were probably going to be real-life hell. "How are you getting on with the punishments, by the way," he asked, whilst slinging his bag over his shoulder. "It must take you ages to clean up the mission control building everyday."
"It's pretty rough," Harriet admitted. "Especially when we have to try and cram in our homework but I guess we deserve it after what happened and we almost tried to murder each other."
"Neither of you have told me what this whole feud is about anyway," Alfie furrowed his eyebrows.
Frankie smirked as Harriet started to take a sudden interest in her shoes. "These dumbass twins here accidently started liking the same girl," she said. "They both had a massive fight over it but in the end, the girl went out with neither of them."
"Girl?" Alfie repeated, turning to Harriet.
"I don't like boys," she mumbled, almost looking as though she was embarrassed by her confession. "I never have, Harry never seemed to understand that."
Alfie wasn't particularly bothered by the fact that Harriet liked girls; his parents had always brought him up to believe that no matter who you are or who you liked, you were still human at the end of the day. He gave Harriet the same reaction he gave Hugo when he told Alfie he liked boys. "You're still Harriet to me," he smiled, patting the girl on the back. "And I'm sure your brother will come along eventually, just give him some time to think it through and if he still decides he doesn't like it – he's an arse, friend or no friend."
"Thanks," Harriet beamed. "Not many people know."
"Don't be afraid to tell anyone," Alfie said, reassuringly. "I'm sure loads of people will accept you and even if they don't, just block em' out – you don't need to waste your time with them."
"You know," Frankie said, leaning towards Harriet. "Sometimes I forget he's still eleven. I've met boys who are way older and they still act like they have the mental age of an eight-year-old."
After hugging the rest of all his friends, some of them hugging more than others, he left. He slung his bag over his shoulder and headed down towards the reception area of the main building. The elevator doors dinged opened and he was greeted to the same sight he had seen when he'd first arrived at CHERUB campus. Only this time, he knew where he was.
He spotted Karen Granger waiting with her luggage by the door and walked over. "How do you look so confident?" he asked.
She laughed and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You'll get used to the pre-mission nerves eventually," Karen told him. "When I got my first mission I wasn't able to sleep properly during the nights leading up to it. Then I realised I had no reason to be worried."
"Aren't you at least worried that you might mess up?"
Karen shook her head. "Just don't do anything that goes against what you've been trained," she grinned. "Then they don't have an excuse to kick you off campus."
"Of course," he mumbled. "No pressure there, then."
A few minutes later their mission controller walked through the doors of the main building and helped carry their bags to the car parked outside the front. Once they all managed to bundle as many bags as possible into the boot and the back seats, they were on the move. Alfie watched from the front passenger seat as they went passed the main campus gates and continued to do so as the campus faded into a small spec into the distance.
It was raining today, so Gennie had the windshield-wipers on full blast. They made a loud squeaking sound as they slid across the window.
Gennie's car was a black Kia Forte and it was big enough to carry both of their belongings with the furniture for the house already gone ahead in a moving van. "How long is the drive?" Alfie asked once they were a few miles away from CHERUB.
"Just over two hours I say, depends on traffic really," she replied, keeping her eyes on the road. "I left early to avoid rush hour but we'll see."
Karen leaned forwards in her seat to peer between them. "Should we use the weekend before school to explore the area?" she asked. "I looked it up and Southampton looks pretty big, we won't want to end up getting lost on our first day of school."
Their mission controller nodded. "That would be wise," Gennie nodded. "The more you know about the area, the easier the mission is likely to be."
Surprisingly there wasn't that much traffic during their journey. There weren't any major disruptions or accidents so all the way down the M4 and M3 were pretty clear. So clear in fact, that they were soon passing Camberley, Basingstoke and then Winchester in no time. During some of the journey, he looked at the new phone he'd been given specifically for the mission. It was an old Samsung phone and worked almost just as well as his iPhone that he was only allowed to use in order to contact his friends back at campus.
The Samsung had a SIM Card that didn't have many gigabytes, of course he understood why considering that this mission wasn't supposed to last very long and it was required that he dispose of the card once it ended. Contacting anyone he'd met from any of his missions would lead to expulsion and that was something he'd rather avoid.
After deciding that everything was in order, he slipped the phone into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out some earphones so he could listen to some music until they reached the outskirts of Southampton. From then onwards, Gennie used a GPS to navigate all the smaller roads of the city's suburbs before pulling into a little road where only six newish-looking detached houses sat. From what he knew, the place was called Sholing – a suburb close to the one where the Albachs' lived.
It was just reaching four in the afternoon as they began unloading the car and making themselves at home in their temporary house.
The house wasn't anything like the one he'd grown up in, but it was nice nonetheless. It had two floors, three bedrooms and one bathroom. As you walked into the entrance you were greeted by stairs situated directly in the middle of the room, dividing up the lounge and kitchen area.
"Whoa." Alfie commented and he heard Karen whistle approvingly behind him.
"Nice, right?" Gennie laughed, shuffling inside with some of the bags. "Don't you two get too comfortable here, we're only renting and if you do a good job, we'll be back at campus in no time."
"That's such a bummer," Alfie replied, stepping into the lounging area and looking into the large mirror hung over the mantelpiece. "I wouldn't mind living here."
"This is like the home I would like to have when I'm older," Karen noted. "Lots of room for a family."
"And a dog," Alfie added. "In fact, you could probably fit several dogs in here."
"Perhaps you two should be focusing on the present and start helping me with these bags," Gennie called out from behind them. "You've got a job to do and it's best if we centre on that for now."
"Right." Alfie nodded.
By the time they had their stuff unpacked and put away, with Karen claiming the largest room of the house, it was reaching half five and Alfie's stomach had begun to complain loudly. He had regrettably forgotten to have lunch and now it was paying him back for it. He left his bedroom, a square-shaped room with only a bed, a cupboard and a small television, and headed downstairs to see what the girls were doing.
He found Gennie and Karen sat at an island worktop in the kitchen, looking over several files. Gennie shot him a smile when she noticed him. "You got everything sorted?" she asked.
"All unpacked," he nodded and then gestured over to the files. "What were you talking about?"
"I was just informing Karen that once you've hopefully gathered the necessary amount of evidence, Hants Police should have a good enough reason to make the needed arrests and eventually send Alfred and his brother to jail," Gennie informed him. "The company will be seized, searched and eventually they've been up to will be put to a stop."
"Do the police know about me and Karen?" he asked. "About CHERUB?"
Gennie shook her head. "There's only once officer of the Hants Police that is currently in cahoots with us, but even he doesn't know the full existence of CHERUB. All we've informed them of is that a few people, not specifically children, is gathering the information needed to get the case going," she raised an eyebrow and looked over at him. "That reminds me; have you gone over all the profiles."
Alfie nodded. "Yep."
"My name is Alfie Braun. I have a German Dad but an English Mum and an older sister called Karen. After our parents divorced, we decided to move down to Southampton with our mum," he recalled. "Dad occasionally makes appearances but it's pretty rare. He was the one who taught me German whilst growing up."
Gennie nodded. "And Hayden?"
"Born in 2003, same age as me and is in Year Seven. English is his first language but he's learning German. He has an older sister called Devona."
Gennie beamed and Karen smiled. "Not bad, kid," she said. "You know for all those nerves, you seem to be starting off your first mission pretty well. Fingers crossed that it'll stay that way until the end."
"Right," Gennie clapped her hands, making them both jump as she got up from the stool. "You guys hungry?"
"Yes," Alfie nodded eagerly. "God, I thought you'd never ask."
She laughed. "I'll order pizza and then we can go over the files some more. I want to be sure you two know everything about the Albach family before you get to meet them."