Video trailer for MYRRH: http://vimeo.com/110611254
January 24, 2015
The Human Game, pt. 321: En Route to Thames House (Team 4)
The DG turned to his seatmates. “What does the Doctor hold over them? Or vice versa?”
“While to whom does she pose the threat if we take her under our wing? An old fashioned double-cross…?” said Quecture.
“Potentially? Would they also not have a ready response?” Prestell removed his mobile from his coat pocket, had a look. “Seems we’ll get an answer shortly regarding safe house availability, by the by.”
“As I’ve said, I’ll volunteer my, um, flat, Sir Harvin, if there’s nothing else.”
“If absolutely necessary. Kudos, by the way, Al-Adil, for asking Pestilence if this were the End of Days. I don’t know that I would have done.”
“Sir Harvin, we cannot expect him – it – to tell us the truth.”
“As soon as he said it, though, Director…” Leila left it at that, hoping each man would know what she meant… “I had a feeling that wasn’t a lie. He – it – well, you heard, it made almost no other overt threats. You’d think that if it were so, it would.”
“He – yes, it – would seem also to have appeared out of sequence, yes.”
“Best we not spend too much time reading that one’s tea leaves, Weston. You have spoken to this Bernheim woman at some length, Al-Adil. Are we taking a viper to our breast? Her assistance to us in finding O’Carlan aside?”
“I don’t believe so, Sir Harvin. She has a stellar record as a professor at Cambridge and her published papers are considered incisive if rather left-field. Not that I’d know. I barely made it through calculus at school.”
“Your personal view of her, though, as a fellow human being, please.”
“Pardon me, sir. Ah, seems capable, a bit shy, but she’ll talk back once you get the conversation going. Some wit, too. Immensely smart.”
“Highly developed brain, somewhat fetching personality… and utter ignorance of the identities of those with whom she associates? The absent-minded professor route? Do we think?”
“But I believe we’d want ‘definitely,’” added the ADG. Thames House hove into view at this point. “Sir Harvin, I’d say it’s proper that our physicist should be given the once-over by our capable agent. So you’ll accept a houseguest, then, Al-Adil? We can certainly reimburse you. We’ll have an agent with her when you aren’t at home, naturally.”
“I will, sir. Thank you.”
“While at your earliest opportunity you will sound her out about what she does and does not know. Including whatever it was she did to assist these individuals, and as soon as is admissable. That bit worries me. I know she’s been equally helpful in all but blowing the Gate’s cover, and I’ve no doubt she can assist us as much as she will CERN’s case at Den Haag, but we’ll want her direct and full explanation for the remainder.”
“Indeed,” said the DG. “Until we get it, those alarm bells ring on. Though we wouldn’t be able to move against her until she’s testified.”
“We owe Interpol and the ES2 rather seriously, yes.”
“So I’d step soft, Al-Adil. Make it part of the conversation, perhaps. Would not do to appear to be dowsing unless she waxes reticent. You two have a few things in common, I hear, so that may assist.”
“Fair enough, sir. Can someone be assigned to night duty as well?” The parking garage doorway approached to their right.
“At your flat? By all means! Starling,” Quecture informed the driver, “code for the day is ‘Sputnik.’”
“Thank you, sir.” The driver picked up his mobile, dialed a number; once there was a reply he intoned the words. The gate began to lift. “Interesting choice, sir.”
“Indeed. What made an old Cold Warrior use such a term?” the ADG wondered to Prestell. “Do you think? The very improbability itself?” Prestell nodded, adding no more.
“I think it has to be said… sirs,” Leila at last mentioned from between the two older men, “that we may have to tell her – Dr. Bernheim -- what’ll occur if the Four Horsemen don’t keep their bargain. I’d leave it as a last resort, though.”
Quecture nodded. “Very good, Al-Adil. No need to impart bad news until it is applicable.”
“In which case, best of luck to each and every…” agreed the Director General as their Bentley turned into the garage and started its descent.
The seventh and eighth visitors appered at the soup kitchen run by St. Mary the Virgin in Monken Hadley when it opened at six-fifteen. They hailed from Guatemala, they informed the sexton, and wished to work for their board. The sexton, having had a bit of Spanish at one time decades before, revived what little he still knew and asked where they were staying. As they had just arrived in town, he resiolved to put tem up in the rectory basement until he culd find them somewhere better. Grateful, hiking their backpacks, the two visitors followed him into the kitchen, where breakfast prep looked well under way.
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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January 21, 2015
The Human Game, pt. 320: Cannon Fodder (Team 3)
Two middle-aged men were not remarked upon when, flashing their seriously acute Brazilian accents, they took up a room in a ‘bed and breakfast’ in Kilburn, London. St. Augustine’s reared its towers some blocks north.
“How long will your stay be?” the lady of the house asked, ready to take a reservation for their room once it emptied.
“Two night, maybay three,” offered the older man. The proprietor took their new five-pound notes and departed, reminding them to stop down if they needed anything. Each sat on his own bed, each with his new suitcase.
“My wife did not get the money yet,” the younger one said after a silence. “Did yours?”
“She says she can live on it for three years,” the older replied. “Maybe five.
We will call your wife later today. Does she have a neighbor…”
“My mother in law has a phone,” his companion answered, tired. “It usually works…” He looked out the window at the near-to-gathering dawn.
The Bentley left SIS’ main garage at Vauxhall at six AM, Greenwich mean time. Quecture viewed his watch. “Nineteen to thirty-six hours.”
“We won’t be too early for Sir Hal?” asked Leila, situated between the men.
“Our Tom and Sir Hal have one thing in common, Al-Adil. They neither of them ever go home,” the ADG explained. “Or so they like to pretend. You’ve seriously impressed my niece, by the way.”
“I’m glad, sir. She seems very bright and very quick.”
“Ah, yes,” said DG Sir Harvin Prestell, “how is Edith today?”
“Ready once again for the fight, sir. Woke her on the way out. Looking forward to steering the ship at Five once all personnel call ‘ready.’”
“Sir Harvin,” began Leila, “I don’t mean to presume but I’m very glad you’re coming with us.”
“With regret, Al-Adil, Sir Hal does not share our, ah, preconceived notions. All the admirals will need attend this conclave. I don’t wish to even partially lie to him, mind you, but if we tell him all, we’ll have the next coach to Bedlam all to ourselves. One steps very carefully with him.” He watched Vauxhall fade behind; Sir Harvin had purposely not chosen to see what the new poster read, across the way. He needn’t have bothered. As if to underline the message, it remained what it had been, the day before. The DG added, “Weston tells me you were injured in pursuit of our former trainees?”
“Yes, sir, but I’m much better today, thanks.”
“Very good. Not to speak out of turn, but what’s your take on the morning’s news?”
“…First impression, sir, we have a very good idea who the named unknown co-conspirator is. Second… I suppose it beats open war.” She thought a moment. “Though they may have had no choice.”
The DG stared past them into the car’s front windscreen as it made for the nearest bridge.
“Open war can be interpreted,” said Quecture. “Here we’ve barely straws to grasp. We’ve located the culprit but we still can’t take them. We also still don’t understand why they’re doing this.”
After another moment the DG offered, “America’s role is the most unfortunate. First the suggested deep connection to the terrorist attack and the answering massacre in Beijing, now an accusation in the World Court outlining a threat of covert and/or military action against the European Superstate. This may be the end of an era.”
At the bridgehead a bundled-up old woman in hijab held forth from a small group of newspaper piles. An early commuter stopped, handed over a few coins and took a Times. The traffic onto the bridge proper looked a bit slow; Leila sat forward to view the woman, and leaned back after a moment. At least she wasn’t pregnant…
Observing the woman, Prestell suggested, “She’ll have to take the late afternoon off, from the look of things.”
Quecture chose his words with care. “I was brought up in the Service to consider the United States an ally. I’m loath to change that; but our ties to the ES2 have tightened over the years, and those with the USA and Russia – such as those are -- have loosened somewhat. If in different ways. I understand that we cannot fling an old friend over the side because he’s become more of a burden…” Both men took a half look at Leila to see her reaction.
“My former home doesn’t have the funds to be a superpower any longer,” she replied. “They hired themselves out to keep the lights on. O’Carlan as much as said so. Maybe they should have thought longer about… for whom they worked.”
“Indeed,” the Director muttered. “And yourself, Al-Adil? Any second or third thoughts? Weston tells me he’s given you, ah, the ‘Masquerade’ lecture. Some of these Agency men who gave the ancient one his orders, I’ll wager, may not entirely have known their masters’ masters’ faces, either.”
“I made the correct choice for myself and for the U.K. Sir. While Patrick O’Carlan is no one’s puppet. He knew exactly what he was doing and why.”
Sir Harvin nodded, satisfied for now. “We’ll have to get him back, somehow, then. Still no sign of the man, Weston?”
“I regret to say, sir.”
A heavy silence, then Prestell added, “And my old friend…” Wisely, Leila decided to keep out of it.
“Sir Harvin, we’ve still no rock-ribbed evidence who abducted whom. The CCTV footage is not conclusive…”
“We are speaking of a man who knew the entire city better than a native when he was Head of Station in Al Quds,” the DG pointed out. “And who is London born, at that. Sir Lawrence committed his share of howlers, don’t we all, but to even give credence to his abduction by a Castle rookie—“ There seemed nothing further to be said.
“Admitted, and my apologies, sir.”
“No strife. Pardon me, Weston. I keep picking up the phone…”
Again, words appeared to fail. The bridge exit onto the north bank approached while dawn began to threaten; as usual for this time of year the Thames and the sky retained a similar leaden gray. The odd pigeon dotted the still-lit lamps and the railings that none dared touch until the next steam-cleaning, as if waiting on a change of weather. “Your former classmates appear not to have turned up in the morgue, their near-to-midnight swim aside, Al-Adil. I’ve had our Met Police liaison check repeatedly.”
“Whenever we split up into groups of three for an assignment, Sir Harvin - which wasn’t often - Routledge, Tyrell and Balthuss always clumped together when they were allowed. They usually came out on top, which was even more irritating. My friend Dima always used to say, ‘You can’t kill the Unholy 3. However much we might all want to.’”
Chuckles from the old men. “Would appear that the art of peer correction is alive and well at nursery,” intoned Prestell. “Though… Al-Adil, in your verbal sparring with this Pestilence character on the sound file I would gauge that you may invoke Sir Hal’s ire from your insistence that as many of the bombers live as possible.”
The ADG added, “Must not put words in the man’s mouth but…”
“When we talked to him earlier in the week, though,” Leila replied, looking at both the men in turn, “he appeared just as horrified at what was done to the bombers in Paris.”
“Weston is correct, best not to extrapolate. Only be prepared! Sir Hal can be charming when he wishes, but he is Sir Lawrence cubed when he doesn’t.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“While the Pestilence character spoke,” Sir Harvin asked, “allow me to ask, what was your immediate impression? He presented as at least vestigially… what would you say?”
“Human, sir. Almost. Until he laughed.”
“…Yes,” managed the DG. “Then we knew, didn’t we.”
“I concur,” Quecture folded his arms, the warmth in the car notwithstanding. “When I heard that… it was as if he were in the room with us. Just as in the Jerablus recording.”
Yes, Leila considered. We have our very own supervillains, and there’s not a superhero in sight…
“Weston… he was! He is with us now. Thanks be to God, however, He too is with us. One hopes, at any rate. There, I’ve said it. Who will call me mad?”
Prestell viewed each person in the back seat. None were forthcoming. “Starling?” he asked the driver. “Will you call me mad, then?”
“Oh, no, sir,” replied the man. “That’s above my station, sir.”
“C of E man, are you, Starling?” asked the ADG with a slight smile.
“Assistant sacristan at my church St. Saviour & St. Mary Ouverie, sir.”
“Small world,” Prestell replied. “Thank you, Starling. Although, why do we suppose the villain does not attempt to stop us? Right now?”
“We are all but doing his bidding, sir.” Past the bridge, the car made for Thames House while Leila added, “He asked that we get Dr. Bernheim to safety, and we’ll hopefully be able to.”
“Out of their very clutches, yes. There’s no innate sense to their maneuvering, is there; one would be forgiven to think it’s Dr. Bernheim who poses the threat!”
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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January 18, 2015
The Human Game, pt. 319: Reality without the Diagrams
-Looking forward to the tour of CERN, then. Thanks, Leah! In the meantime, Petey’s managed to get you an armed escort from the British Consulate for your trip home, and a safe house arrangement in London. –F.
Her empty cup in both hands and balanced on her crossed knees, Leah sighed. “Yes. Reality without the diagrams.”
-We did say we’d… --F.
“Men of your word. Still. You’re correct, the moment I leave this building, there’ll be an X on my forehead.” She viewed our horses again. “Grooming them helped me not think about that, bless them... Wait a minute, Francis, I have courses at Cambridge to teach, all next week.”
-You’ll get a call from the woman at Six that you’ve been speaking to, later today. Another escort will take you to Cambridge and back. –P.
-We ain’t gonna take chances. –W.
“Very wise,” she said with some irritation. Not at us. “CERN’s injunction request at the Hague must be all over the European news today. I haven’t looked, but that’ll be next after ‘minyan’ and a side trip to Dr. Singh’s office. I bet you I’ll find out today I’m not CERN’s official ‘sweater girl’ any more. I’m the tragedy waiting to happen.” She shook her lovely head, again. “Just like high school. One more time with feeling…”
-‘Sweater girl’? What is this, th’ 1940s? –W.
“I’m sure the younger engineers – male, of course – mean it as a crude compliment, but that’s what I hear.” She shrugged. “I don’t know, I like sweaters.”
-Though when we met you/ you were wearing a vest –D.
“I can’t perform in a sweater. Too confining and too informal. But you understand! What I was told and what I heard at the party… well, pretty much everybody here knows about our project yesterday, obviously, while our legal counsel’s admin assistant appears to be a serious blabbermouth, so the court case was a major topic of discussion here as well. Without me Jackie – there I go again – Jacqueline has nearly no case at the Hague. And by today pretty much everyone will know that, as well as who’s involved. Sound files can be assembled. Right? Secondhand testimony can be imagined or coached. If the Gate has money to pay CIA subcontractors, let’s call them that, they have money for lawyers, and you know what they’ll say. If an utterly unworldly, mathematics-obsessed child can become a femme fatale in late middle age, she can ‘morph’ into a pathological liar as well. Right?” This last with higher dudgeon. No immediate reaction from us, so Leah added gently, “We did talk about all this...”
-The coffee hasn’t kicked in yet/ --D.
A tiny bit pained: “Can I please ask another favor, then? Before you’re fully awake and you completely lose your patience? Will you come to minyan with me?”
“However many or few of you are up to it? What do you think? You four have been so good-hearted, I… well, I said I wouldn’t be boring. But if you don’t take me I don’t think I should leave here myself. And I have to go. I have to thank Hashem for making you whole again.” Reasonably: “I don’t want to be this dependent…”
-You keep assumin’ that. –W.
“So it’s not entirely true yet.”
-Leah, d’you see how good our guys look, here? –W.
“I tell you what, when I come back I’ll even sweep up all this hair on the floor.”
-So we owe you nothing, do we?/ No, no, I’ll join you and you’ll go to work after/ as usual –D.
-I’ll make it three --F.
-Ah, count me in. –W.
…Nearly all eyes were cast my way.
-I’ll do the hair cleanup and I’ll take the fellows out after. How’s that? –P.
-Read our minds, did ya… --W.
“My heroes never let me down,” Leah smiled. Rising, she took up one of her cases: “Okay, I have to go get ready. Meet you in the lobby in half an hour!”
And the door closed behind her; it was as if she’d never been here. Her cot was immaculately made, in comparison to our four rumpled messes. Admiring rather hopelessly how well Leah had imprisoned us in obligation without ever intending to – or had she? - I rose, began looking for a broom and a pan.
-I don't know/ -D.
-This/ is getting too easy/ brothers, was I at all convincing? --D.
-Would I know? She looked convinced. I guess. --W.
-While you were right, William. A universe ago. –P.
-Yeah, ‘bout what? –W.
-Used to call me ‘dimbulb’ and ‘half-wit’ and so forth. You were right. You still are. –P.
-Oh, this’s ‘cause ya let Leah walk all over ya, an’ ya didn’ volunteer fast enough. I mean, we ain’t let her do the same? An’ come on, now, I never meant any a’ that. –W.
-I realize, but when the Hand at last arrives, carrying whatever judgment it does for my disturbing Miss Al-Adil’s sleep last night, you’ll all be in G-d’s house. –P.
-Oh, yeah. Exactly where He can find us. –W.
-Hmmm. Didn’t consider that. –P.
-Same ol’ dimbulb. Wait. –W.
Not that I could escape. Not that any of us would. Until we had to...
-What, brother? - P.
-We just let Leah walk outta here without askin' her about what she said to O'Carlan. --W.
-She didn't appear exactly suicidal, just now. --P.
-Not good enough! Next chance we get we have t' bring it up. --W.
-Agreed! After dinner/ --D.
-Willie may be right. Can we wait that long? --F.
-Soon's we can, we will. --W.
We turned, cast our eyes that way to to find where 'it' was now . A spreading, invisible, indelible stain, ever on its path. We almost began to hear scraps of divine laughter. Here, in our storeroom/ dormitory, I at last found a broom and dustpan.
-Taking its time. –F.
-They want us to think about it/ --D.
-Go to minyan. We’ve already done the thinking. –P.
-So we have. -F.
Finishing their coffees, my brothers prepared. I bent to work, sweeping up horsehair, my own unwilling Cinderella.
At Heathrow Airport terminal 4 the man, suntanned, skinny, besuited, took his small case to a Land Rover in the long term parking lot. Starting it up after a few tries, he turned out onto route A80 after paying up and made for London. As ever, his mobile rang at exactly the wrong time.
A familiar voice on the other end.
“No, Phil, you have not been sacked yet. Change of trajectory… well, you can’t. She’s the bird in the gilded cage. If you’re especially good I’ll let you blow up the cage after she gets out of it… she is to be followed, nothing more. Have you eyes or ears or both in London?... Get them. I need to know when she arrives at the Eurostar, switches at Folkestone, boards on the train to Cambridge, et ad nauseum. That is all for now… I have other calls to make, Philomen… Yes, while I’m driving. Have somebody in position tomorrow at noon.”
‘Silas Stingy’ clicked the ‘off’ button on his phone, flipped it back on again and began making his calls.
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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January 15, 2015
The Human Game, pt. 318: A Possible 'Other' Dr. Krauss
-Why do you say that, Leah? –F.
“Seriously you ask.”
Trying hard not to show impatience, Leah offered, “The men in this room should probably take a good look at themselves. Look at Red and the boys, too.”
We seemed normal. For us. So did the horses. An occasional tiny fillip of color at an elbow or at a toenail, a mane hair or an eyelash would appear, but then it would be gone again.
“You know… I have been pulled this way and that on the topic of G-d’s existence since I was in college. But why can’t there be two explanations for everything? Why does our scientific training not allow for multiple derivations? Do you have any time to think about these topics?”
-Ah, because then/ it’s much more difficult to proceed to the next level of discovery/ --D.
“Oh, well, that shuts me up.”
-I doubt that. –F.
Smiling, fully in her element, our professor nodded to Francis. “See, here’s the grossly hypothetical evidence that the ‘Verse you were in was a multiverse. Very grossly, and minus the equations. The subatomic particles which make up your atoms became more excited when you crossed in. All over and all through you and your horses, your smallest components took on energy from ‘Verse I. You stopped being well-defined structures in which every particle is collapsed to a certain location, as is evidenced all around us here. You became what let’s call ‘fogs of possibility.’ Normally I’d think anyone in ‘Verse I doesn’t see what you saw, because they’re used to it. While the Higgs field strength was so immense and so chaotic, I’d bet, because of the far more pronounced, by orders of magnitude, availability of actual, virtual and anti- subatomic particles which regularly appeared and disappeared. We do have that phenom here, but it seems as if it’s far less pronounced. Pretty funny, actually. Dr. Krauss’ idea that ‘the universe came from a process and a well of material that we can’t percieve’ actually may fit the data from ‘Verse I far better than it does here.” A certain sarcasm: “With any luck at all, there’s a Dr. Krauss in ‘Verse I who is enjoying his success with a similar book. His ideas haven’t got a lot of traction here, yet.”
-Even though nobody over there looked like we did, when we first crossed in. –W.
“Well, recall that you spent a lot of time inside the electrical room. By the time you left it, your particles had begun to achieve that ‘fog’ state. So when you did go out your eyes saw a normal landscape and normal men and women, et cetera, because the state of your bodies had begun to match theirs in ‘Verse I. Once you left there, your particles began to collapse again. They did take their sweet time, but here you are, good as new.” A bit wistful: “I am absolutely raring to get to work on yesterday’s notes. I can take no more partying for the foreseeable future.”
-So what’s the second explanation? –F.
-Absolutely not. –P.
“Hard, experienced, dispassionate men like you,” Leah noted.
“In for a penny…” Checking out the window for the dawn, which remained slow in coming, Leah continued, “Last night before I came down here to sleep I prayed to G-d that He restore you. I did. I had to. I -- I told Him it was not fair for your lives to be ruined just so that I could have something to keep me busy until I retire! So, He did. And He did so because the state you are in, here in ‘Verse II, is the state in which you are meant to exist. And no, before you ask, I am not the kind of person who changes her mind about G-d’s existence when I pray for something and He doesn’t say yes.” Leah took another drink of her coffee. “Which He does, regularly. I remember that part now. I know I’ve mentioned all this…”
-I see the problem/ --D.
“If I could tell you how many fellow students, doctoral candidates, professors, heads of department I’ve talked to over the years – in class, of course; certainly nowhere else - all of whom said they know it’s ridiculous for a scientist to be religious… I admit it, before I heard about the slots and the stones in the sky from you four and from Augustus, I hadn’t seen the inside of a synagogue more than three times a year.” She half-looked down. “My colleagues didn’t beat it out of me. I beat it out of myself. I always believed, you know. I just didn’t say it out loud. Peer pressure at a remove? Self-pity? Who knows. I just didn’t dare. In my long-gone 20s I was certain that I couldn’t trust my fellow man or woman, so why would I trust their Maker? I also wanted to be taken seriously by my peers. I will never make that mistake again. I don’t care any longer if I am or I’m not. Once I publish our research from yesterday and Augustus’ and my conclusions, I won’t be any longer, anyhow.” Checking the door to the hallway, Leah added, “Do you know? I’ve come to realize that ‘humanism’ is a simplification. It’s not an oversimplification. It’s like a Feynman diagram for reality.”
We had a chuckle at that.
“Told you that you’d laugh,” she teased.
-Not at you, however/ well, didn’t the ancients harbor a certain humanism as well? To a degree? –D.
“I have not read a lot of philosophy,” Leah admitted. “There are times, though, when I get the feeling that the ancient gods are invoked because the writers felt they had to. Not so much because they believed in them! Look at Lucretius’ rant against ancient religious fundamentalism in De rerum naturalis. While elsewere in the same book he writes his own invocation. It’s not hypocrisy, though. It’s a plea for moderation.”
-So ya have read a lotta philosophy! –W.
Leah admitted, “Probably more than was strictly good for me. Do any of you have any thoughts on any of this? I’d like to know. I didn’t give you a chance the last time I brought it up, but whatever they are, I won’t disapprove.”
-You sure? –W.
“We’ve been through too much together over the last 7 days to fall out over opinions. I won’t laugh, either. I promise.”
Thankfully, David felt most disposed to reply. Even if…
-…We ourselves are not terribly religious/ but we’ve seen enough to understand that there is a Hand that winds the clock and tends the mechanism/ that intervenes when required/ once or twice, I admit we have come too close to something and felt that Hand, or the equivalent of it, slap us away/ we didn’t have to look and see what was attached to that Hand to know Who it was/ --D.
“Oh! So I’m not surrounded by agnostics, either.” Considering this, Leah seemed to appreciate us anew. Just what I was afraid of. “I won’t ask what it was you approached.”
-Thanks fer that. –W.
“But I would think you’ve lived a very elemental life. Don’t take this incorrectly, but now and again I look at one or another of you and I do wonder anyhow at the things you’ve seen and done. While that was very poetic, David. Again. You’re the family wordsmith, I guess.”
I looked at David; he decided to come clean.
-Oh, I’m no patch on Peter/ in fact, all that was his / --D.
I acceded with a gesture, quite willing to allow Leah to go on.
“Brothers! Can’t live with them…” She let the rest of that drop. “I’d thought, possibly, that your livelihood would convince you otherwise. Well. Say what you like, I guess today I lose my captive audience.” Leah finished her coffee. “I’m not going to be boring and thank you for the fiftieth time. But I haven’t slept that well in over a week. When are you going to go?”
-We have some things to do nearby and we’ll be back tonight. How about dinner? –F.
“This beats my last invitation all to hell.” Leah thought for a microsecond. “I have also had all the debriefing I can stand, so I’ll be buried in the raw data from yesterday, and I’ll need to have a look at what’s been caught in the sub-E microscope’s catch basin… but other than that, I’m free!”
-Done. We’ll be here about seven. We’ll stay over and leave in the morning. –F.
“Oh, wait, I’ll have to tell Dr. Singh you’re back to normal. He’ll finally be able to breathe out. Pardon my interrupting…”
-No bother. –F.
“I’m so sorry, Francis, I forgot to mention! I have an invitation to pass on to you. If you’re at all available this afternoon Dr. Schneider would like to take you on a personal tour of the Collider.” She viewed us to see what we might think. “I did promise you a look at the facility. Heaven only knows how long ago.”
-Last Wednesday, late afternoon/ --D.
“Show-off, once again,” Leah joked. “I can’t join you, I’m just too slammed, but Victor is the man who runs the place, and I’d say only Dr. Semmel knows more about the NHC than he does.”
-Why not. When’s he around? –W.
“Dr. Schneider’s very easy to find. You just go to the main security desk and the shift supervisor will call him. He’ll come get you and drive you over. If you can get along without your horses for a while, and they you.”
-You’ve put them in such a good mood, I don’t even think they’ll notice we’re gone. Thank you most kindly, Leah. –P.
“Victor thinks he owes you for obeying his no-kill order,” our H5 pointed out. “Don’t disagree with him.”
-Actually, we were obeying yours, but why split hairs… --P.
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.
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January 12, 2015
The Human Game, pt. 317: Remember that Time (Team 2)
East of the M25 and west of the A225, two men approaced the personnel director of Lullingstone Park Golf Club. He had just arrived for another long Wednesday. “Pardon, sir,” one said in a northern Pakistani dialect.
The director turned, tea in a takeaway cup and still brewing in his half-scalded hand. He had left his gloves at home. Again. “What may I do for you gentlemen? You appear to be from my neck of the woods.” He attempted a draught. Definitely not Assam.
“We are looking for work, in maintenance if you please.”
“Very good. I may have something, for former neighbors. Come into the office.” He unlocked the door to the main clubhouse.
Out at the road, Firmin Routledge watched the exchange with binoculars from a Land Rover front passenger seat. Two approached from the far side of the vehicle and entered, both doing up their trousers.
“Always wanted to piss on a golf course, didn’t you, Tyrell?”
Cassin sneezed in answer. There would be a lot of that today.
“Off to HQ for another load, then,” Balthuss suggested, climbing into the driver’s seat. Routledge handed out another set of tissues for all. “They’re in the building.”
“Bloody unsatisfying,” Cassin said as he fired up the engine.
“At least they didn’t sack us,” replied Balthuss from the back seat, wiping his nose. “Again.”
Once inside our storage room dormitory, I saw my brothers had gone back to sleep; the wiser of us, this time. Leah turned and smiled, “Almost done!” I placed the coffee tray on a nearby box labeled CIRCUIT BOARDS and admired her very meticulous work. I patted Whitey’s neck; he gave me a mildly reproachful look, as if to say, ‘Don’t interrupt her, she’s doing fine.’
-Must say I haven’t seen him look this good in a while. –P.
“It helped that I remembered which one of them was which.”
-When did you learn to do this? –P.
“My first year of exile.” Calmly she finished up, moved for the equipment bag to return the brush and comb. I could only think to needle, given her lack of curiosity.
-So much for our privacy. –P.
In a reasonable tone Leah said, “Peter, they needed it badly. They were going to go stir-crazy in here without some serious attention.” Items returned, she walked towards the sink by the door to wash her hands finished and forearms. I let her do so, listening to my brothers' near-snores - even David was on better behavior than normal - and once done, Leah came back. Indicating the coffees: “Which is mine?” I handed it over. “Thanks… oh, wait, I forgot…” Taking the cup, she walked back to Whitey, placed a hand beneath his left jaw and kissed him just above his nose. I expected fireworks, but my mount was already too gratified to react.
“I did the same with Red and Geist and Midnight,” Leah told me. “I don’t play favorites. Why don’t we sit down. Get yours.”
-I don’t think anybody’s ever kissed any of them but Red before this. –P.
Our groomer let show a minor bit of snark: “I assume it wasn’t any of you.”
-A child who gave him an apple, once. Outside a little town called Yevlakh, at the foot of the Caucasus. –P.
Leah wiped her mouth carefully with a napkin from the coffee tray. “Very sweet.”
Where Eden is, I’d almost wanted to add, but chose against. I cast an eye back to my brothers, finally stirring. I pulled up two chairs from a nearby corner, set them out and went for my cup. For a space I looked beyond the concrete, beyond the meadow, beyond the dead sunflowers; I viewed only the morning traffic on Meyrin, the odd landing at the airport. No odd visitors in the parking lot. Nothing untoward. Why had they chosen to hold off? I decided to table that question, moving back towards Leah as she sat, sipped and approved.
“So. My first year of exile.”
-If you like. –P.
She viewed her coffee cup. “The Jews wandered for centuries after the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem. As you know. They wandered far further after the Romans burned it to the ground. Twice in a century. Unfortunately my family weren’t as mobile in the time right after the word got out about Nathan.” She paused and looked my way. Covered in the huge robe from feet to neck, she could have reminded me of Leila, for some reason, but didn't. “And what he police felt they had to do,” she concluded.
-…Francis was sitting at the breakfast table one day, I recall, reading the newspaper— --P.
“Oh, they used to do that, back then. To get real news.” A note of bitterness.
-Francis said, ‘Was this the young lady whose recitals we went to?’ He showed me the article. –P.
One by one my brothers sat up and rubbed their eyes.
“Good morning, roommates,” Leah observed. “Coffee’s over here. Anyway,” she said to me, “what did you two think? At the time.”
-We assumed… he was crazy. We felt he’d had to have made the entire thing up. You didn’t at all appear to have been the kind of person many of them said. –P.
“So somebody believed me, back then,” Leah said, too weary for the early hour. “There were a few dissenting voices on my character, but of course resurrecting an archetype narrative is far more satisfying. Isn’t it? Only real journalists don’t paraphrase Whitman’s famous quote, ‘Do I repeat myself? Very well, I repeat myself.’ And how many real journalists are there? But at that time I was a very limited form of a three-dimensional being. As I told you after that recital, I was into studying, I was into running and I was into music. The weirder music, the better. So you’ve also noticed! Well. Overnight no one would talk to me. It was a shut switch. My siblings and my parents lost three-quarters of all their friends, but I lost every one of mine. Even the bullies at my school wanted nothing to do with me.”
-They actually... –P.
After having at a bit more of her coffee: “Yes. They did. I mean, a tall, skinny girl with glasses and a violin! Natural target. You would think. Not after the medias started calling me the ‘preteen temptress.’ The ‘little Salome’! I was 14 and all of five foot nine, let’s remember, but accuracy had nothing to do with the story. So thought the horde of reporters and floggers!” She could have been referring to Cossacks. “Who had never seen me interact with Nathan, largely because other than two or three times he had asked me out – if you want to call it that – I’d barely even heard him. Or of him. I was probably face-deep in my Physics textbook when he first tried to get my attention. After my testimony at the trial it got no better, so in despair Mom bought me riding lessons not too far from our house in the Bronx. I got to know a big, very gentle older chestnut male named Pickwick. He was definitely well past your horses’ age then. I’m sure he’s long gone. I used to talk to him when we were alone. While I was brushing him, while we were out on a trail near the stables, while I fed him. When they let me do that. He never answered, of course, but he seemed to like to listen.” She watched David, William and Francis take their cups. Two waved, one managed a ‘Morning.’ “I would have moved into his stall at the farm if my parents had let me. If the coffee’s undrinkable, fellows, it’s Peter’s fault.”
-Thanks, ‘bro. –W.
“Eventually we gave up and moved to New Jersey, and when I went to visit Pickwick for the last time I cried my eyes out. But life across the river was no improvement either, so here we are.”
One by one my brothers’ eyes focused enough to take in the spectacle of our nearly transfigured mounts. William gave our groomer a thumbs-up.
-He’s practically a night light. You did this, Leah? –F.
“Yes. I owed them,” she replied, “they brought you back. Though I guess they’ll take you away today.”
Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. ALl rights reserved.
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"A good writer is an expert on nothing but himself. And on that subject, if he is wise, he holds his tongue." --John le Carre
Exactly how interesting can the author be, anyway, when nobody has any idea where their creativity comes from or how the mechanics of inspiration works? Maybe it's something we all have access to. Maybe it's a sluice that empties into your head when you're facing in a particular direction and thinking a particular series of things. Then again, maybe not.
However benevolent inspiration really is, to say nothing of what it is, I suspect that any good fictional character is a lot more interesting than the person who dreams it up. So mine speak for me here.