Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Double-Oh Eight

Graphic by Tessa Kassoff

For the months of May and June, The Lasso is featuring a collection of short stories submitted by seventh grade students at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. You are cordially invited to take a break from reality and take a ride into the vivid world of short fiction!​​


Double-Oh Eight

By Meera Sharma


Let’s just get this straight. The life of a spy is no glamorous one. That point would be emphasized by the fact that I am currently sitting in a dumpster with a week-old banana peel on my head and am sitting on a bag of, God, I don’t even know what on Earth this is. I would explain further, but I need to beat up some adult men who are about four times my size. If you would kindly give me a moment, I need to take care of this real quick and will be with you momentarily. 


Alright, I’m back! It’s funny how criminals never suspect a small, Indian girl to come and beat the living daylights out of them, but alas, we do. Alright, where do we start? How about why I was sitting in a dumpster? My name is Mahira, and I am a fourteen-year-old spy for the CIA. I was hired when I was a tiny ten-year-old living on the streets. My dad was a spy as well, back in India, and one day on a mission in the US, he went missing. Just, pop, right off the map. So, my mom decided to come to America to try and find him, and she took me with her. She died a few months after we arrived, and I have been living on my own ever since. 

How did I end up with the CIA, you ask? I may have attempted to perhaps pick the pocket of a high-ranking CIA official. OK, OK, in my defense, he just looked like another rich, careless guy with too much money that I could steal from. He caught me, and instead of seeing me as just another homeless, poor, brown girl, he saw me for who I really was: a child who was skilled in picking pockets, blending in, and could do the things a spy could. He took me in, and now here I am, an agent for the CIA. 

My mission was to stop some henchmen for the global crime syndicate, Haneva, from accessing a hyper-secure bank vault that contained part of a wealthy company owner’s fortune. The main piece they were after was a gem that was worth a whole bunch of money. I stopped them. 

That’s pretty much all I can think of. If there’s anything else I need to tell you, I will, but I think that’s it. I need to make it to the rendezvous point so my father figure, who also happens to be my boss, can pick me up and bring me home. Let’s go!

A spy rendezvous point is always somewhere simple. In our case, it’s outside of the Mexican restaurant near the bank that I saved. He’s driving up now in that old Subaru Outback he’s had for the past ten lifetimes. That thing is old.

“Hello, Sabina. How’d it go?” Leo asks, calling me by my code name.

“I got the tacos, Charlie,” I respond, calling him by his and using the code word for the gem. “Unfortunately, they didn’t have the sauce you were looking for.” I finish, using the code for “they got away”.

“It’s alright,” he replies. “At least you got dinner.” Meaning: At least they didn’t get the gem. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet, but passing information in public uses code words. Unlike in movies where spies can just pass on information without anyone hearing, we always have people listening, like a puppy when you say it’s time for a walk or treat. 

“Let’s go back home. Great work.” Leo tells me. 

I follow him to the ancient car, and we drive home. Spies don’t live in luxurious manors, or have big fancy cars, like in James Bond, or Mission Impossible, or Pathaan, or Tiger, my personal Bollywood spy favorites. We live in a townhouse 6 miles from where we work. It’s in a crowded neighborhood, but it’s still home. Because we are spies, we don’t interact with the neighbors very much, but when we do, we try to be as friendly as possible. As Leo opens the front door, I am hit with a magical aroma. 

“Is Aarya cooking black daal?” I ask, excited. 

“Yep! She wanted to celebrate your first solo mission.” Leo responds.

“Let’s gooooo!!!” I do a little victory dance. 

Aarya is my mother figure, Leo’s wife, and the best chef on Earth. I walk into the warm kitchen that smells like home, to thank her but am greeted with a harsh, 

“Out! Out! I could smell you since you walked in the door!” 

“Sorry, Aarya!” I back away from the kitchen.

“It’s OK. Go take a shower, though,” she tells me.

Theek hai,” I reply. “OK.”

I go upstairs, take a quick shower, and when I come downstairs, Aarya’s black daal is ready. I set the table with simple spoons and napkins, and we started eating.

“Mmmm. This is so good! Dhanyavaad!” I say. “Thanks!”

“Of course!” She responds, “I wanted to celebrate your first solo mission!”

We eat in silence for some time, until Leo gets a call. 

“Hang on, I have to take this.” He quickly scurries out of the room, shooting Aarya a look saying “It’s the DCIA.”

Aarya asks me for details about the mission, acting casual, but I know she’s trying to stop me from eavesdropping on Leo. This happens a lot. Leo gets a call from the DCIA, who is the head of the CIA, and then he leaves on a trip for a few days. He then comes back covered in a few scratches, and occasionally a broken bone. Although, that’s only happened once. Oh, here he comes back. Dang, that was fast.

“What was it this time?” Aarya asks, worried.

“It wasn’t about me,” Leo responds. “It was about Mahira.”

Wait, what!?! Definitely didn’t see that one coming. 

“He wanted to say congratulations on your first solo mission, and he wanted to assign you another one.” Leo continues. 

“What? But she’s just a kid!” Aarya exclaims. 

“He said this job is for ‘just a kid’. And anyway, I think she’s old enough to handle herself out there.” Leo counters.

“What’s the mission?” I inquire.

“He couldn’t give me all of the details, but it’s something about tracking down a criminal. He says he wants to have a meeting tomorrow at HQ.”

My first real solo mission? That sounds cool. We finish eating, clean up, and then sit down to watch a movie on the couch in the living room. It’s kind of tense, but we try to shake it off. It’s my turn to pick, and I choose my favorite Bollywood movie, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. Although I know every part by heart, I can’t concentrate on what is going on. My head is in a thousand different places! We get to the halfway point of the movie when Munna declares his love for Doctor Suman when Leo says it’s time for me to get to bed. 

Once I get ready, I drift into a restless sleep, my head filled with speculations about the upcoming mission. 


My alarm clock wakes me at 6:30, in time for me to prepare for my long day. I make my bed and go downstairs to find the oxymoron of a distraught and frantic Aarya and an oddly calm Leo. 

Kya galat?” I ask, worried. “What’s wrong?”

Aarya looks me straight in the eye and says “Mujhe tumse pyaar hai. Dhyan se.” “I love you. Be careful.” 

Haanji.” I respond, “I will.”

Leo stands up and, ignoring the conversation we just had, tells me to eat my breakfast and shower because we’re leaving soon. I obey, despite my nerves, and we are out the door by 7:30. 

We arrive at HQ at around 8:30, which is good. See, even though the DCIA–whom we never call by his real name because we don’t know it–told Leo to bring me here for a meeting at 9:00, it’s always good to arrive early, because the DCIA’s schedule always runs early. I should probably tell you what DCIA stands for. It quite literally stands for “Director of the CIA.” It’s a bit too on the nose if you ask me. But alas, no one did. 

“Miller, Singh, the DCIA will see you now.” The DCIA’s secretary calls us in by our surnames. CIA workers who know you well will often call you by your first name, but higher-ranking ones will use surnames. 

When we enter his office, the DCIA beckons us to take a seat. “Let’s get straight to it,” he says. “There is a criminal that we’ve been trying to capture, but you already knew that. We believe he is a high-ranking official of the global crime syndicate, Haneva. There is a rich, Indian, teenage girl they are trying to recruit, and she knows this. Her name is Saanvi, and her parents are worried for her safety. She will be going on a trip to the US shortly, and that’s when Haneva will try to get her. We want you to be her ‘bodyguard’ per se. You will constantly be with her, and while you’re doing that, you will be gathering intel on Haneva’s movements. Do you have any questions?”

I sit there for a moment, stunned. How was it that, just a day ago, I was hiding in a dumpster, and now I get to go undercover? I looked at Leo for what to say, but his expression was unreadable. 

“Is there anything else?” I ask.

“No, that’s about it. We don’t have a picture of him, so you’ll just have to guess.” the DCIA responds. 

“Mahira, it’s up to you.” Leo tells me, “I don’t have a say in this anymore.”

“Okay. I accept.” I say.

“Wonderful. You’ll start next week.” The DCIA tells me. 

We exit the building and once we get in the car, Leo tells me, “You did the right thing.” 


When we get home, Aarya looks at us expectantly. 

“Well?” she asks.

“Well, I accepted, and it starts next week, so…” I respond. 

“Alright, how do we get you into character?” Aarya asks. 

Aarya used to be an actress, so before Leo went on a mission, she prepared him for the role. I told her everything that I was told by the DCIA. We spend hours perfecting my attitude, my mannerisms, and my character. She teaches me how to play the role of someone who has been living posh for her entire life. By lunch, I know how to carry myself, how to speak dignified Hindi and English, and how to act as though my English is accented. She has taught me how to wrap my sarees and how to help Saanvi drape hers. I also know how to eat Indian food without getting super messy and looking like a pig. That is by far the hardest thing to learn. 

The afternoon is spent developing my spy tactics with Leo. He teaches me how to spy on Haneva while protecting Saanvi. He says that Saanvi will be attending meetings with some of Haneva’s biggest officers, so he teaches me how to be alert and listen in on side conversations from the officers. He teaches me how to call back to him through hidden comm devices without it seeming obvious. 

By the end of the day, my brain is bursting with new information and I can’t wait for the mission ahead. I know how to beat someone up in a hard-to-move-in saree, how to plant listening devices in moments, and how to act as though my late childhood wasn’t spent on the streets, but in a palace. It is hard, but I am impatient for next week. 


The next few days pass by in a blur, and the next thing I know, the mission arrives. I hop on a plane with Leo bound for DC, where I will be meeting Saanvi and becoming acquainted with her. Jeez, here I am using the big fancy words that Aarya taught me. Yay, spy life…!

The plane ride is only a few hours, but the time seems to take forever. The number of butterflies that have decided to take up residence in my stomach is… slightly concerning. 

Alright, so now we just landed. Let’s go meet the person I am trying to save and protect for a few weeks. That’s another thing. They haven’t yet told me how long I am supposed to be with her. I think it’s until Saanvi goes back to India, but I don’t know when she goes back. Spy work is a very large question mark. 

Oh dear. Here she comes. Keep calm. Saanvi has a small entourage of an aging man I can only assume is her father, a large man with an angry air around him, and a beautiful woman in an orange saree who I think is her mother. Saanvi is wearing a yellow salwar-kameez of her own. Well, at least I know she doesn’t always wear a saree. That would be really complicated for me.

Namaskaar, aapase milakar achchha laga.” I extend my hand. “Hello, nice to meet you.” 

Namaskaar,” she says to me. “Hello.” She greets me with a warm smile and shakes my hand. “I know English if that is easier for you. It also gives me a chance to practice.” She smiles. 

Oh, thank God she isn’t some stuck-up rich girl I would have to babysit for two weeks. That would be absolute torture

“My name is Mahira, but you should call me Gauri. For my sake.” I chose Gauri because it’s the name of the female main character in the Bollywood movie Lagaan

“Nice to meet you, Gauri. I’m Saanvi, but I think you already knew that,” she tells me. 

Leo and her parents, named Ganika and Avyaan talk for a bit and then we head to their car. Scrap that. LIMOUSINE. I AM RIDING IN A FLIPPIN’ LIMOUSINE!! Ok, I’m back. But wow! This is insane. 

Saanvi and I don’t talk very much on the drive to the hotel, but when we get there I let out an audible gasp. She just chuckles in amusement at my surprise. 

“Wha- Bu- Hu-” I stutter. “It’s massive!!”

The building was six stories tall and looked like it belonged as part of a palace in England. It was cream-colored with those fancy Victorian-age designs that are on old English houses. Leo comes up next to me and doesn’t seem that surprised. 

“Do you normally stay in places like this?” I ask him, amazed. 

“No, my child. You are lucky to have somewhere like this,” he replies. 

I take my suitcase and start to make my way to the front of the hotel. I feel the vibration of my phone, signaling a message from Leo. I look up at him, quizzically, but he closes his eyes and barely shakes his head, basically code for, “Open it later.” We head inside, and I am amazed by the beauty of the hotel on the inside. 


So, it turns out that the message Leo sent me was telling me to check my room for listening devices because the hotel was arranged by Haneva, and a spy can never be too careful. It was bugged, so he told me to not make phone calls or do anything suspicious in the hotel room. Saanvi’s family wants to have me eat dinner with them today, so I can become acquainted with her before next week. I shower and change into a green kurti, which is like a knee-length shirt with baggy pants underneath. I hear a knock on the door and look through the peephole to see that it is Saanvi’s mom, Ganika, waiting for me outside. I slip on my sandals and I open the door. 

She has a smile on her face and greets me in Hindi, saying, “Come on, we don’t want to be late.”

I nod politely and grab my key, and we head downstairs where the LIMO is waiting for us again. Saanvi and I sit in the back and we start talking. We take an instant liking to one another and bond over Bollywood movies, actresses, and songs. By the time we arrive at the restaurant, I feel as though I have known her my whole life. The restaurant is a posh Indian restaurant, and I feel out of place; like the black sheep. But Saanvi helps me feel more comfortable. I follow her motions, and when she sits down, she gestures for me to sit next to her. I feel so nervous. Will it be obvious that I just learned how to eat politely? Will I- oh, crap, we’re talking about what to order. I haven’t even seen the menu. 

“Mahi- I mean Gauri, you aren’t allergic to anything, are you?” Avyaan, Saanvi’s dad asks. 

“No, sir. But I am vegetarian.” I reply. 

“That’s alright. So is Ganika,” he says. She smiles at me across the table. They are a very smiley family. “What would you like to have?”

“I like palak paneer and chana chole,” I respond. Palak paneer is a dish where bits of paneer are cooked in spinach and chana chole is chickpea heaven. Well, it isn’t heaven for the chickpeas. 

Saanvi suggests, “How about we order one palak and one chole so we can split because I like the same.” 

Wow, one more way that we are similar. Dang, we’re almost like sisters at this point. We have the same taste in movies, songs, and now food. This is turning out to be better than I expected.

We order, and the adults start talking in hushed tones. Saanvi knows I am here to protect her, so she goes over her schedule and what we will be doing. She asks me how many sarees and other nice clothing I have so it can look like she brought me along. Once I tell her I only have a few, she flips out and she offers to take me shopping tomorrow. I agree and we make plans to go. She tells me who we’re meeting and a whole bunch more information I know I am going to forget. Then comes the big test. The food arrives and I have to be careful not to give away my true identity. I mean, Saanvi’s family knows that I am undercover, but this is more of a practice run for the next few weeks. 

My hands shake slightly throughout all of dinner, but I manage to not stick out. The only differentiator between me and everyone else is my napkin is very green from the amount of palak on it. I did it! I celebrate internally and feel proud of myself. 

On the ride home, I get a message from Leo. It reads: call me when u get to the hotel. if u’re in the room, then answer with ‘double oh eight’. 

Of course, he references James Bond. I call him as soon as I get back to the room and answer with “Double oh eight”, as he requested. 

“Answer in code. Is it going well?” he says.

“She said that we’d go shopping to get some ‘American clothes’ as she put it,” I say, meaning it went well. “Is there anything you want me to buy for you?” Meaning, are there any other details that I need to know?

“No, just remember to check in every so often,” he responds. 

“Ok! I love you! Good night!” I tell him.

“I love you too,” he says. I hang up and get ready for bed. I slowly drift off to sleep and my slumber is filled with dreams of spy life and beating people up. 


Beep beep beep beep. Beep beep beep beep. SMASH. I aggressively turn off my alarm and drag myself out of bed. I run through the shower and dress in a pair of jeans and a simple churidar shirt. Saanvi asked me to meet her in the breakfast hall at 8:30 so we could get to the shops before the crowds came in. I did just that but I insisted we eat something before we left. We ate a quick breakfast of toast with jam and chai. Most confusing combo ever. But that’s okay. 

She had told her parents the night before and they thought that it would be a good idea for us to go alone, without Mr. Angry Bodyguard, so I could be tested on my abilities and tested in the field. We each had our phones and she had a tracker in hers, but we shouldn’t need that. 

Chalo!” she says to me. “Come on!” 

Ek minute!” I call back. “One minute!”

We get in a taxi arranged by the hotel and we go to the nearest mall. It’s hard finding stores that sell sarees and kurtis in DC, but we found this tiny one called Anu’s Boutique. 

“Well, we don’t have very many stores to choose from, so…” Saanvi says. 

So we head inside to try and shop. 

Namaskaar!” An elderly woman greets us with a smile. “I’m Anu. Is there anything you are looking for?” 

“We are looking for sarees, krpaya,” I respond. 

Theek hai,” she responds. “Right over here.” 

She gestures to a rack with sarees in many different colors. We head over and spend a lot of time looking for one that works for me. We end up with a pink saree, a bright purple saree and a blue kurti for me, and a black saree for Saanvi. Anu was very helpful and since she didn’t have a lot of people come to her shop, she was able to give us tons of feedback on what looked good. We managed to be finished in just an hour and a half. We paid, said thanks, and went back to the taxi waiting for us outside. 

“That went really well!” she exclaimed.

“I know. We really moved fast. It’s only 10:00. What do you want to do for the rest of the day?” I ask.

“Well, I don’t think there is anything scheduled for this afternoon, so maybe you want to-” Saanvi got a ping on her phone. “Oh, apparently they have scheduled a lunch meeting today with the people who are trying to ‘hire me’. Amma just sent a text. It’s at 12:30. She says the instructions read ‘Dress how you would back home’. Good thing we just got those sarees, huh?” she jokes. 

I don’t even hear that last bit. Why could they have scheduled a meeting so early in her arrival? What could they want from her now? 

“When was your first meeting supposed to be?” I ask, afraid of the answer.

“Well, not until next week. They said they wanted to let me get used to the time change and sightsee before they started asking for my assistance,” is her response. “Why?” 

“Because I think that they are trying to capture you.”


Alright, so I’ve just informed Saanvi’s parents about my concerns and issues. The unfortunate bit, however, is that they don’t want Saanvi’s parents there. Why, I don’t know, but this means that this is my chance to prove myself and protect Saanvi with my life. Yay…!

We have to go to the lunch meeting, otherwise, they’ll think that something is wrong. So, I am currently trying to drape one of the new sarees that Saanvi got me around me. It’s hard, but I think I’ll get it. Oh, wait! Let’s goooooo! I got it! I told Saanvi I would help her with hers once I finished mine. So, I slip on my sandals and lock my door to make my way over to her room. 

Knock knock knock. I wait for a response until I hear a faint “andar aaen!” saying I could enter. 

Boy, am I glad I did when I did because, for someone who has been wearing sarees her whole life, she can’t put one on to save herself.

“Do not fear, Gauri’s here!” I cry before collapsing in a fit of giggles. “Mainne aisa kyon kaha?” I say. “Why did I say that?” I make my way over to her to help with her saree. 

“It’s okay. I kind of like having a friend,” she says with a heavy sigh. “Back home, I wasn’t really allowed to have friends. I love my parents, but they can be a bit overprotective sometimes.”

“That’s so funny. I’m kind of the opposite. Back in India, I had quite a few friends, but now, being a spy, I don’t have any friends, and I’m not allowed to make any.” I finish draping her saree and take a step back to admire it. “There. How do you like it?”

“Pretty good for someone who just learned last week.” She chuckles, “Although I have known all my life and can’t dress one to save my life.”

 “Saanvi! Gauri! Ajaa! We don’t want to be late!” We hear Ganika call from downstairs. 

Aa rahe the!” Saanvi calls back. “We’re coming!”

She slips on her sandals and we quickly hurry out the door, making certain that we have everything before we leave. We greet Ganika at the door and she gives Saanvi a big hug and a kiss on the top of her head before telling me, “Protect her at all costs,” in Hindi. I nod solemnly and we go to the taxi that is waiting for us outside. Even though Ganika and Avyaan aren’t allowed to come with us, they still accompany us for the drive. Avyaan sits in the front, next to the driver, Saanvi and Ganika sit in the middle, and I am in the back. I don’t mind because it gives me a chance to text Leo and tell him where we are going and what I think might happen.

Me: hey Leo, we are going to an impromptu lunch that is being held by Haneva. what do u think might happen?

Leo: u think it might be a trap?

Me: 4 sure

Leo: ok. be on high alert the whole time. also, in your phone case, i put a comm device so we can communicate. take it out, put it in ur ear, and tap it twice so we can test the connection.

I disconnect my phone case from my phone and find the comm. How did I not know that was in there? Anyway, put it in my ear and tap twice. Immediately, I hear Leo’s voice on the other end, repeating what he is saying because he can’t see when the comm is connected. 

“Hello. Cough if you can hear me. Hello. Cough if you can hear me. Hello. Cough if you can-” 

I cough. 

“Good. I can communicate with you through this. I know it’s a little late into the mission to do this, and I apologize for not teaching you this last week, but I will either give you directions on how to respond, like tap on it twice or cough, or you will need to figure out a way to talk to me, like say it into a napkin to hide your talking. Cover your mouth and say ‘okay’ if you understand,” he explains.

I cover my mouth with my mouth and whisper “Okay.”

“Brilliant. You can hear me. We’ll see how it goes. Keep me posted and protect Saanvi. I love you!” is Leo’s response.

“Love u 2” I text him back.


We just arrived at the building we’re eating lunch at, and let me tell you, it ain’t a restaurant. It’s this massive steel building that looks industrial and boring while looking cool and modern at the same time. I don’t quite know what to make of it. We file out of the car and make our way into the building. Ganika and Anyaan come with us, only to be dismissed at the door. They leave reluctantly, but not before they give Saanvi a goodbye and good luck hug, and tell me to take care of Saanvi. I respond with a quick “I will”, and we get rushed out of the building. 

The inside is attempting to have a warm and cozy feeling to it, but it’s miserably failing. The floors are carpeted in a light cream, but the threads are thin. The paintings on the walls look like stolen images from the web. We get hurried into a room I can only assume is the dining room where we are going to be eating. I’m nervous, but Saanvi looks petrified. 

“Saanvi, it’s okay. There’s no need to be nervous. Here.” I extend my arms for a hug and quote our favorite movie, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., “I need to give you a jaadu ki jhappi.” Jaadu ki jhappi translates to a magic hug, and it seems like the kind of thing she needs right now.

“Thanks,” she responds, kind of sad. 

I need to cheer her up slightly more, so I decide to continue with the Munna Bhai theme. “Tension nahi lene ka kya.” I continue. “No tension.”

At that, she starts laughing hysterically. We double over and try to catch our breath. 

Thump thump thump. We quickly pull ourselves together as we hear footsteps echoing in the hallway. We hear a deep, warm voice start talking in Hindi before we see the man.

“Welcome, welcome, my friends,” he calls. “My name is Chaalbaaz, but you can call me Baaz. It’s so nice to meet you, Miss Saanvi, and her ‘best friend’, Gauri.” His voice sent a chill down my spine as he entered the room. I reached for Saanvi and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. She gave me a squeeze back, but I could tell that she had gone tense again. So much for no tension. Suddenly I hear a reassuring voice in my ear. 

“Everything going OK so far?” I hear Leo say.

I cover my hand with my mouth and whisper “Recruiter just entered” so Leo knows this is the time that I’ll need him the most. 

Baaz enters the room, and I immediately get a sense of the kind of person he is. He gives off a powerful aura, and I want to do everything that he requests me to. His power is almost magic. He is tall, with dark, salt-and-pepper hair and beard. Brown skin, not too different from my own and Saanvi’s, showing he’s from the North of India, Punjab, maybe? He’s wearing a black kurta, which is the male version of a kurti, and loose pants. He wears a comfortable, warm, smile, but has a look in his eyes hinting you do not want to cross him. His whole look put together makes him look like a rich businessman who is on holiday. Just how I remember him before he left and got lost in America. 

“Welcome, my child,” he finishes, not to Saanvi, but to me in a way a father would talk to her daughter. 


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