CHURCH, Season One, Episode Two

CHURCH, The Television Show

Season One

Episode Two

    Years went by. Wars raged on. Banks failed. While Dracula counted his money, The Devil reined Hell on Earth.

    In America a new president, President Hope, was elected.

    The U.S. recession had been sucking the life from its populous for more than two years. Noodle CHURCH had been out of work, and actively chasing down any lead, no matter how low the pay or how high the stakes, for the better part of six months.

    But Noodle, armed with a bachelor’s degree and a decade of marketable work experience, couldn’t land a job anywhere. So he tried to join the Army.

    He lived in MetroNorth, which bordered The City.

    Noodle commuted to The City to meet The Army Recruiter, who questioned his entire life. She liked him; he was different than the rest. And he trusted her, she was a good listener.

    He listed the dozen jobs he’d held; in public safety, in education, in business, in art, and in aviation.

    “Wait,” The Recruiter stopped him, “You mean to tell me that you have a degree, you’re a pilot, and you’re not pulling my chain…you can prove this?”

    “Yes Ma’am, I can give my logbook, I can give you my transcripts, I can give you my resume and you can call my references. It’s a mess out there,” Noodle reported while he stared out the window. “I’m not looking for much…I’d consider any career you have. This Propaganda Officer sounds cool!”

    “Would you consider becoming a helicopter pilot?” The Recruiter asked.

    “Ma’am,” Noodle smiled, “It would be an honor and a privilege.”

    “Fantastic,” The Recruiter smiled. “Take this packet home and fill it out. Recount your whereabouts for every time period since you were eighteen: Every job you’ve ever held, every country you’ve ever visited, every address you’ve ever lived at, and the names and current addresses of all the people you’ve lived with… the names and addresses of all your former supervisors, and the names and addresses of all your closest friends.”

    “Ma’am, I’ve lived a decade beyond eighteen,” Noodle explained. “Your request is going to take forever!”

    “I’m sorry,” The Recruiter apologized, “I know it’s long, but do that and then write a letter saying why you want to be an Army Aviator – print it in pen so we have a sample of your handwriting – and then bring it all back to me. The sooner the better because that’s only the start.”

    “Yes Ma’am,” Noodle shouted and ran home. He filled out the National Security Application and then started to write:

    ‘My name is Noodle, I’m 28, and I want to be an Army Aviator.

    I want to be an Army Aviator to protect my friends and family from the threat of terrorism, to protect my loved ones from foreign governments, criminal networks, and extremist organizations that act to cause our way of life harm…’

    Noodle continued writing and, when he was finished, brought everything he had completed back to The Recruiter.

    “Now I need you to take a written test on the computer. It’s a long test, covering many subjects, so make sure you are prepared. Later you’ll need to take a Physical Abilities Test, so you might want to start training; jog, do push-ups and sit-ups.”

    “Yes Ma’am,” Noodle shouted.

    Every morning Noodle went running. Every night he did push-ups and sit-ups until his arms burned and his stomach ached. He drank gallons of milk and pounds of protein powder. He studied for his test; Noodle was falling in love with the Army.

    Noodle reported to another part of The City to take his written test. There, they must have scanned his fingerprints and checked his identification a half-dozen times.

    The Recruiter was correct, the test was very long. Noodle took care to keep pace, to maintain a balance between accuracy and completion.

    Three hours later he was nearing the end of the final subset of questions, special reasoning, and he was running out of time. Noodle’s mind kicked into overdrive as pieces of complex shapes flashed by his eyes. His ears started to ring. He finished the test with one second left on the clock. Then he sighed.

    “You did really well on that Abilities, Skills, and Vocational Aptitude Battery,” The Recruiter said when she reported his test results.

    “What’s next?” Noodle asked.

    “I need your prints to run past The FBI.”

    Noodle pressed his hands into her ink-pad and rolled his fingers onto her cards.

    “What’s next?” Noodle asked.

    “I’m going to drive you to a hotel, where you’ll be sequestered with other recruits until a bus comes to pick you up at 0500 to bring you to the Military Entrance Processing Station. There, you’ll undergo a comprehensive medical examination.”

    “Yes Ma’am,” Noodle shouted and ran home.

    At the hotel Noodle ate dinner with a nice young girl who was also hopeful to join the Army as an Officer.

    “It’s an honor to defend my country,” she said.

    “It’s an honor to serve,” Noodle agreed. “I hope it’s self-defense in part.”

    “What on earth do you mean?” She asked.

    “Human’s are a self interested being, that’s all,” Noodle explained.

    That night he couldn’t sleep, so he ran on the treadmill and studied for another test he’d have to take covering mechanics, meteorology, and aeronautics.

    Early in the morning, before sunrise, he and a couple hundred other recruits boarded busses headed to The Processing Station.

    Noodle played music on his MyPod. Private Lily by Moriarty: ‘My name is Lily/ I’m nineteen years old. No money to study/ no boyfriend/ I’m kind-of bored. I went to the trade fair/ to find a job. There, I found a few guys in the Army/ they told me that I was smart/ and pretty. I’m going to war, I’m going to war, I’m going to war, I’m going to waaaar….’

    Noodle wished that he was going to war, right then, that his bus would keep on driving all the way to The Desert Countries and he’d step out and be handed an M-16. It wasn’t that Noodle wanted to kill people; it was just that, in his day, there were no other jobs for men to do!

    He checked in and turned over some forms The Recruiter had already filled in for him to a man behind a desk who didn’t say much. The man wore a long, white turncoat and had two shot glasses turned upside-down over his eyes to correct his vision. Their thickness made his eyeballs look tiny and his pupils, microscopic.

    Fluorescent lights hanging overhead hummed and flickered, they made the whole room look a shade of pure white.

    A nurse checked Noodle’s blood pressure, pulse oxygen, and heart rate. Then they checked his eyes. After that they checked his hearing; he reported the beeping inside his headphones then he went upstairs.

    There, Noodle stood in a line and peed into a cup so they could analyze his proteins and check for drugs. After that, they stuck him with needles and harvested several viles of blood. No doubt, they’d send that off to some government lab to log his DNA, in case they’d ever have to identify his discombobulated body.

    Noodle then waited a long time to see an Army Doctor. The Doctor asked him to remove his clothes. He told Noodle to bend his fingers and wiggle his toes. He made Noodle bend his arms and flap his elbows and asked Noodle to squat down and walk like a duck. The doctor instructed him to remove his underwear, bend over, and spread his butt-cheeks.

    “We gotta make sure that you have an asshole!” The doctor quipped. Noodle did as The Doctor said; he really wanted to join the Army.

    “How was your physical?” The Recruiter asked.

    “Invasive,” Noodle responded.

    “When would you like to take your Flight Aptitude Test?”

    “I’d like to study a bit more; it’s been a while since I’ve flown.”

    “Can you take it two weeks from today?”

    “Yes Ma’am,” Noodle shouted.

    When Noodle left, The Station Chief stepped into The Recruiter’s office. “How’s he doing?”

    “Across the board, top of the charts.”

    “Cut him loose for a few weeks. I want to see where he goes and what he does when he doesn’t think we’re watching.”

    “Already in motion, Sir,” The Recruiter shouted.

    Later that week, Noodle got a visit from his friend, BeFly. In fact, although they had dated for only a few months, and even though they hadn’t been dating for quite some time, BeFly was the love of Noodle’s life.

    At 28, Noodle had met thousands of people but BeFly was different from all the rest. BeFly was telepathic. Her voice of encouragement hummed inside his head. She taught Noodle how to eat a lot of food so he could grow-up to be strong, and she taught Noodle how to be happy every second of everyday. Most importantly, BeFly taught Noodle how to be in two very different places at the exact same time.

    Noodle loved BeFly, she was the most important thing to him in the whole world. To protect that, Noodle never even told anyone that she existed.

    But Noodle was under surveillance by the U.S. Army.

    “Who the hell is that girl?” The Station Chief asked The Recruiter. “He didn’t tell us about her in his packet.”

    “I don’t know her, she doesn’t show up anywhere. But there are several contacts between them on his telephone records. Intel says that she’s a high-schooler.”

    “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You said that this was our guy for The Program!”

    “Sir, she’s eighteen. It’s perfectly legal.”

    “Run an operative by him; make sure he’s not some kind of pervert.”

    A few nights later, Noodle was at his favorite bar in MetroNorth, Southern Kitchen. It was Friday night but Noodle wasn’t with anyone, he was sitting alone, spending all of his free time memorizing the thickly bound Federal Aviation Regulations.

    And Noodle wasn’t consuming alcohol, Noodle didn’t drink. Instead, he gulped down full glasses of whole milk.

    A beautiful girl came into the restaurant and sat next to him. She was, hands down, a perfect ten.

    “What are you doing?” She asked.

    “I’m studying these regulations for a test,” Noodle answered as the bartender approached to record her order.

    “Hey!” The bartender greeted. “You’re that girl’s friend. I haven’t seen you for a while…would you like your usual glass of white wine?”

    “No, I’m afraid you have me confused with someone else,” The Perfect Girl dismissed.

     “Ah…okay…what would you like to drink then?”

    “I’ll have a glass of white wine,” she ordered just as he’d predicted.

    Again she turned toward Noodle. “I went to this pool party tonight atop the roof of some sky scraper in The City hoping to meet some cool guy and go home with him, but I couldn’t find anyone interesting,” she announced.

    “Greeeat,” Noodle replied while his mind turned on her strange encounter with the bartender.

    “My father is a pilot,” she continued to attract Noodle’s interest.

    But a seven out of ten would rarely strike up a conversation with Noodle, much less a perfect ten, so he continued to study the awfully boring flying laws and tried to ignore the fact that a super-model came out of nowhere to compete for his attention.

    The Perfect Girl got on her smart phone and started texting furiously with both thumbs.

    “I really like to read,” she again announced. Noodle had written a book. He didn’t reply and she went back to texting.

    “And I love painters,” she tried again. Noodle had covered his bedroom in hand-painted murals.

    At that, Noodle took the back cover off his phone, removed the battery, popped out its SIM card, and threw the pile of plastic into his bag and ordered a beer to settle his nerves.

    The next morning he saw his boss, a City Director for the U.S. Census Bureau, and told her the story to find out if The Perfect Girl was some kind of spy.

    “Why would anyone be spying on you Noodle? That’s crazy!”

    “I don’t know, do you think that it could have been the Army?

    “I bet it was just a hooker,” she laughed.

    So Noodle rode to his friends’ house to tell them the story.

    “Noodle, you’re crazy!” They said.

    So Noodle rode his motorcycle back to the restaurant and asked the manager if any of the bartenders from the night before were working today.

    “Why?” The manager asked.

    “Well this really beautiful girl was talking to me last night, and I think she might have been some kind of a spy. It seemed like the bartender knew her and I want to find out who she was spying for.”

    “Noodle, that’s crazy!”

    So Noodle rode his motorcycle to the non-profit he volunteered for, MetroNorth Main Streets.

    “Has anyone ever come in here asking about me?”

    “Why would someone be asking about you Noodle?”

    “Well, the Army said that they’d be checking background.”

    “Noodle, no one has come in asking about you.”

    “Well, has anyone donated any money lately?”

    “People donate money all the time.”

    “But, I mean, has anyone from outside the neighborhood donated…Anyone that you’re not familiar with?”

    “Nope.”

    “Well, please do tell me if you notice anything suspicious!”

    “Noodle, you’re crazy!” The Executive Director answered.

    All four people Noodle talked to, people he knew well, told him that he was crazy, so he decided to forget it all.

    Next weekend, Noodle’s best friend, The Diplomat, invited him to a fraternity party at his University, The Diplomat School. While Noodle was there he was introduced to The Diplomat’s friend, Amie Girl, who asked Noodle to dance.

    Noodle thought that things were going great, until Amie Girl unexpectedly ran out of the room. And then, when Noodle went to look for The Diplomat, he found that he too had disappeared – as well as a third friend, The Journalist.

    Noodle wasn’t very close to home, so he stayed at the party and asked if he could crash at the Frat house. The Philippine Boy said that Noodle could share his bed.

    “I don’t think I want to do that…but all my friends have ditched me and I’m desperate. I guess it will have to do,” Noodle sighed.

    And then, The Philippine Boy started to touch Noodle. “Look buddy, I’m not gay, so please stop touching me or I’ll have to leave.”

    “But you’re so sexy,” the Philippine Boy said and pressed tighter.

    “Look,” Noodle said, “I don’t want to get violent, but I asked you to stop. I’m not going to let you molest me, but you keep touching my penis and I kind of feel like punching you until you stop. I’m not going to punch you, I’m just going to leave,” Noodle said, got dressed and walked home.

    Two weeks passed and Noodle again returned to the Military Entrance Processing Station for his Flight Aptitude Test.

    He sat alone with the test proctor and answered all of the questions about helicopter mechanics, aerodynamics, airspace regulations, weather, and countless other flying subjects.

    After that, he took a three-hundred question psyche test which asked him if he wanted to be a ballerina, and if he had to pick between the two, would he rather suck on someone’s toes or pop blisters on the bottom of their feet.

    “How’d I do on those tests?” Noodle asked The Recruiter several days later.

    “You did extremely well on both of them, but did you expect any different?”

    “You mean to say that I’m not crazy?” He asked.

    “Noodle, you are most certainly not crazy,” she answered.

    “Then what’s next?”

    “You have to take another physical – this time with The Flight Surgeon. We’ll pick you up in the morning.” The Recruiter said and Noodle went home to rest.

    “How’s he doing?” The Station Chief checked with The Recruiter.

    “He’s really smart.”

    “Good, let’s stress him out a little. Send an operative out to that high school girl he’s been hiding. Send her a hottie!”

    The Recruiter did as she was ordered, without question, and The Army Hottie monitored BeFly’s network: He stalked her. At the right time, he was in the right place- a party at her friend’s house. Even though she was underage, he waited until she was drunk before making his move.

    “I’m Army Hottie, I’m friends with your friends, but I haven’t met you before. What’s your name?”

    “BeFly. I have a friend who’s joining The Army as a helicopter pilot.”

    “Really? What’s his name?”

    “Noodle.”

    “You know Noodle! He’s a really smart guy; my Sergeant says that he could go on to become a Senator or something. I hope he treats you well.”

    “Yeah, Noodle’s nice to everybody.”

    “It sounds like you really like him. Would you be willing to help him get what he wants?”

    “Well, what do you need me to do?” BeFly asked.

    “Just meet me tomorrow in The City, that’s all,” The Army Hottie proposed.

    “Okay,” BeFly agreed. And that night, she posted The Senator’s Wife on her PeopleFace wall.

    Noodle overslept the morning of his flight physical; he awoke to the sound of The Recruiter’s horn beeping outside his home. He rushed to put pants on, and ran downstairs to grab his glasses – prescription glasses he’d ordered after his previous vision test with the Army- which he’d purposefully left out on the table next to his wallet the night before.

    But he couldn’t find his glasses or his wallet, and he got the feeling someone might have taken them.

    Noodle lived alone, that would be crazy.

    “Is everything okay?” The Recruiter asked on the ride over.

    Noodle’s ears started ringing. He felt dazed.

    “Yes. Everything is fine,” Noodle answered positively.

    “You’re late,” The Flight Surgeon condemned when they arrived at the medical facility.

    Noodle was told to report at 0600; but the night before, he got an automated voicemail saying that the physical began at 0700. When The Station Chief asked Noodle what time he needed to be picked up by The Recruiter, Noodle played the voicemail on speaker phone.

    His plans were based on the latest, most up-to-date information. He considered that the information could have been intentionally misleading, like they were testing him, but that would have been crazy!

    That day, Noodle learned how valuable good Intel really was, and how damaging wrong, or intentionally misleading Intelligence could be. The wrong information will ruin your objective. Lies can ruin your life.

    Noodle failed his vision test.

    “Have you ever worn glasses?” The Flight Surgeon asked.

    Noodle watched for The Flight Surgeon’s expression. It was almost as if The Flight Surgeon knew the answer – which was that Noodle had glasses but they were taken in the middle of the night. But that would have been crazy!

    “No sir, I’ve never had glasses,” Noodle lied.

    The Flight Surgeon welcomed Noodle’s response. “Okay. Go take your hearing test while I order an eye exam so you can get a prescription for glasses. You’ll have to come back to repeat the vision test.”

    “Yes sir,” Noodle shouted, “I’ll fill the prescription today.”

    “Really….today?” The Flight Surgeon smiled.

    For the hearing test Noodle sat in a little box, like a small spaceship, and pressed a button every time he heard a sound. He heard the faintest beeping – he heard all the tones. Then he sat while they corrected his vision.

     “I’m going to put these droplets in your eyes to dilate your pupils,” the optometrist said, “Sit here for five minutes while they take effect.”

    When she returned she gave him a lot of choices between lenses to make the letters look most clear. But it all looked the same to Noodle.

    “How’s he doing?” The Flight Surgeon asked.

    “His hearing is stellar, and he doesn’t appear to be stressed at all.”

    “Perfect, continue the simulation.”

    When he was finished, Noodle needed to call The Recruiter to bring him home, but his eyes were dilated so much that he couldn’t see a thing.

    “Everything’s blurry,” Noodle said to the Flight Surgeon, “Would you scroll through my contacts and call the one that says ‘Army’ so I can get a ride home?” He asked and turned over his phone.

    Right next to the contact ‘Army’ was ‘Amie Girl’ from The Diplomat School.

    “Amie Girl!” The Examiner exclaimed. His eyes grew wide, as if he knew her.

    The Flight Surgeon looked at The Examiner and cut his hand across his neck, as if he was saying Keep Quiet! Noodle sensed that they knew Amie Girl, but that would have been crazy!

    Once he was home, Noodle took the subway north to get new glasses. He stopped for coffee at SpaceCurrency, where he spotted two tightly groomed, well built young boys who looked like they could have been in the Army. He thought they were eying him, but Noodle didn’t know these people, that would have been crazy!

    The first place he checked for glasses couldn’t fill his order, so Noodle turned back and took the train south toward The City.

    As Noodle walked in through the turn-style, a man exciting the station turned around and followed Noodle inside.

    Noodle woke up, he was crazy!

    On the train, he noticed two more guys looking at him. They were passing him off to a new agent every few stops to avoid detection.

    By the time Noodle got off the train, he was certain he was being followed. So he jogged to the vision store to lose his tail.

    A block before the store he stopped to walk, to catch his breath, to gather his composure. He walked inside as if nothing had happened.

    The Shop Owner stopped him as he was leaving. “You’re really smart,” she said. “Just remember to stay balanced. Noodle, always stay balanced!” She advised.

    Her advice made perfect sense to Noodle based upon what had just happened, but it made no sense in the present. Noodle was perplexed, how could she have known that he was being followed? That was crazy!

    As Noodle walked down the block, a rush of people crossed the street. In the crowd, he swore that he saw BeFly walking by with a boy – and he wanted to go back to see if it was her. But he didn’t double back because that would have been crazy!

    In The Park a suspicious man was taking pictures through a telephoto lens. Noodle stopped to take a picture of him.

    To Noodle’s right a casually dressed couple was sitting on a bench. They were a couple of lovers enjoying The Park on a sunny day. But they looked more like actors – they looked like colleagues. So Noodle signaled them. He flashed the peace sign from behind his back as he jogged by.

    Noodle walked into The Army Recruiting office, composed. The office was empty. “I got my glasses, where’s The Recruiter, and The Station Chief? Where is everybody?”

    “They’re on an exercise,” The Uniform said.

    “An exercise!” Noodle exclaimed.

    Then the Uniform got one of those nervous looks Noodle would become accustomed to. The Uniform stared back at Noodle with Big Eyes.

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