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Hebephrenica/ It's Time You Knew
by:  Ken Egbert (aka K. Griffiths), One More Haggard Drowned Man
'In the beginning was the deed. Not the motive; certainly not the Word." --John Le Carre, from A PERFECT SPY
August 20, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 268: Re-terrogation Two

“Were they expecting them?" Leah asked him. "The French.”
“The bombers?”
“The killings, Mr. O’Carlan.”
“No, I believe that the only group who did were those who committed the atrocity.”
“An atrocity which prevented the commiting of a far worse atrocity.” She sighed. “Unendurable. Completely unendurable.”
“Do you have somewhere to go to ground, Leah—?“
Dr. Bernheim,” she snapped.
“I apologize.”
“’Go to ground.’”
The shock of the news seemed to have robbed Leah of her ability to type. This irritated her almost as much as O'Carlan himself did. “Are you suggesting somewhere in particular?” she demanded.
“Please take this seriously. Since I heard about Paris and I recalled our intelligence concerning the holes on Patmos, I may be a changed man—“
“…You are sitting here in this car at 7:30 AM on a Tuesday in late November and you are advocating that the end of the world has come.”
“Absolutely not. I don’t know what I’m advocating. But I can’t deny the seeming obvious.”
“There is the obvious, and then there is the seeming obvious. If only I could begin to tell you how very different those are--”
“Plato’s cave paintings, yes. The universe as a hologram. Your stock in trade, I’m certain. I am not talking about the secular paradise we both occupy here, Doctor. Messianic cult activity in the USA is at an all-time high. The story about the valley in Patmos received no small amount of play in the States. Some churches have gone so far as to assign sky-watchers.”
“Why does this not horrify me.”
“Here in the part of the world to which you fled, where humanism was invented? I wonder.”
Don’t judge me. You, of anyone.”
“Freedom of worship is guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution. Even to messianic cults.”
“In other words, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.“
“Then you agree,” concluded the old man.
“It’s completely absurd, Mr. O’Carlan. Some ‘evil spiritual entity’ did what, exactly? Storm into Paris, murder seven terrorists and leave nothing else disturbed in the slightest? While, how did they get involved in this filthy business?”
“What about Carrickfergus?”
“Don’t you dare. Trivialize that… that poor Guard officer. All that blood washing up on the shore, and nobody still knows where it came from. I don’t even have any words for it. Not another word. I am getting out of this car.” Eyes flicking to the rear view mirror, Leah saw how two BMWs drifted off the road and slowed, taking up positions on both sides well behind the big Chrysler and Leah’s rented Mercedes. Possibly this would not be a good time to exit, after all. She left her hand on the door handle anyhow, telling the old man, “You’re out of time, anyway.”
“Wait. One more thing, Doctor, please…”
“Speak quickly.” The BMWs parked, although no one made to exit either one. Looking through their paperwork, no doubt…
“My bosses at the Agency had told us to try that very trick on the woman I was attempting to recruit in London. It didn’t work. I have no idea why our client didn’t learn from our mistake. We told him about it. They said you’d be more vulnerable.”
“You did say she wasn’t Christian. That can’t have helped.”
“We have it that she’s very well read.”
“Then maybe she’s not already broken beyond repair. Like I am.”
“You don’t appear—“
Do not flatter me,” Leah all but snarled. “I am barely human. If you and your superiors didn’t figure that out from whatever ‘file’ you have, the USA is utterly hopeless. Not that that’s news to anyone! And don’t pat yourself on the back. I was in pieces years before I met you. We came to the only English-speaking country that would give us visas. My father changed our name and managed to build us a new life here. But he could only do so much! They had to bring me too, after all, didn’t they? I was the infamous one. I was the whore. The TV said so. I seduced Nathan Serwenstein and had him do my bidding, didn’t I? Had him massacre over two hundred subway riders to prove how badly he wanted me? Isn’t that the common knowledge? I am 46 years old and I have no husband. I have no children and I never will. I have my work, which I love dearly, and I have my students, a lot of whom are far smarter than I am, but it’s not enough. None of it is. Until very recently I had only two close friends. I thought my luck was turning until you showed up.”
“What happened before I arrived?”
None of your damned business!
“Why did you change your name back when you were in college?”
“That’s also none of your business, but it was who we were. it’s who I am. Cracks and all.”
“I am sorry. I was living in the US then, I saw it happen to you and your family. I felt bad for you. I did. I didn't know you were the same--”
“Really? What did you do to stop it?” she demanded. “Failing that, what have you done to make things better? Did you advocate for tighter press laws? How about at least writing your Congressman or somebody and asking that victims of aggravated media assault have some recourse? Nothing, nothing, no and no, because the American government only defends the people who don’t need them to. Whoever your client is, they’re only one more in a line of paymasters. You think America is broke now? It always was. Just not in money. No one knows that better than my family and me.“
...What were the men in the BMW waiting for?
“Then let me help you now by asking that you listen,” O’Carlan nearly pleaded. “They are expecting me to pick up a token of information from you as a down payment for what I’ll be getting at one AM tomorrow morning.”
“Your nerve is…”
“I realize you weren’t expecting me—“
“You’ll get absolutely nothing from me now or then. Exactly as I said yesterday. That request for an injunction will be filed at the World Court today by CERN’s corporate counsel, before close of business.”
“I mean this, Doctor! Give me whatever you possibly can so I can bring it to them this morning. At least it may hold them off long enough. When the news hit about Paris early today I was dragged out of bed and sent here. Our client is screaming. They know that you told somebody how I said a Paris bombing could be arranged. Whoever you told scotched the bombing. This is what they tell me.”
Something clicked for the physicist; was it Agent Al-Adil who’d had the attack averted? If so, she sent exactly who into Paris to wipe out—? But this man wasn’t due the truth. He wasn’t even due an uneducated guess. After half a moment Leah said, “They know this, or they think they know?”
“To them, there isn’t a difference between those two.”
"I was not involved in that..." She couldn't think of a word. "In any way."
The front doors on the BMWs finally opened – all four of them -- but no one appeared yet. O’Carlan went on, “They know as if they read it in Revelations. A bit odd, considering we aren’t talking about millenials here! If they were, they wouldn’t be setting off bombs halfway across Europe and God only knows where else next, for whatever reason. I’ll give you a freebie, Doctor, how’s that? Yesterday morning I posted a photograph of your parents’ house in Belgravia to your flat in Cambridge. It’s in a brown five-by-seven envelope. No return address. Don’t open it, don’t read the note. Rip it up and throw it out.”
“So we’re both barely human,” Leah concluded. “Just in different ways.”
“If you like. I told the client’s rep that I didn’t believe you contacted anyone. We have no indication that you know anyone you could tell who is capable of something like Paris. I told them they might try finding out who their enemies are. They definitely have them, but it’s like still being a lawyer, Dr. Bernheim. They hire a professional but then all they want him to say is what they’ve already decided is true. It’s not the reason why I’m here but they want blood if you don’t hand over something. Now.”
“You’ll never be able to clean the inside of this car.”
“Not here! Elsewhere. Anyplace. I’m not the only person on this assignment. The man who followed you yesterday, who was kicked out of the hotel, he’s part of an independent team also hired by the client. He may have been sent to abduct you. I wouldn't be surprised. This other group lost a surveillance photographer in the building across the street from your hotel a few nights ago. He had a laser microphone, he was keeping an eye and an ear on you and your ‘associates’ in your conference room and in your room. He was bludgeoned to death. I’m sure they too know about Paris as well, they also may think you’re behind that. So that’s two groups of interested partes who think you’ve hurt them.”
“Oh, yes! Scientists who commit mass murders. Happens all the time.”
“Dr. Sir William Withey Gull comes to mind,” O’Carlan replied.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 17, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 267: Re-terrogation One

I could barely see our Fifth Horsewoman from our path along the university sidewalk, but I had a fair impression of the following, and the audio was quite good. Somehow or other. Although I hadn’t had all that much difficulty hearing and seeing Dr. James from, ah, “‘Verse II”…
Laptop open on one hand, Dr. Bernheim stalked towards the black car. She turned on the recorder program as she walked, intoning the time, location and date at the microphone. Two men viewed her without much visible affect from behind the car’s windshield: Patrick O’Carlan in the driver’s seat, all aviator sunglasses and flat mouth, and a very nondescript fellow Agency employee. A fourth his age? Leah had no time for any of that. She moved to the passenger side forward door and snapped it open.
“Out. Now. I want to speak to your boss.”
The young suited nonentity didn’t appear used to such a tone, nearly stared at her open-mouthed but O’Carlan’s voice came from next to him. “It’s fine, Vincent. Take a walk along the road and come back in a few minutes. If we’re still chatting, take another one. Get your mac.”
“Yes, sir,” Vincent answered, stepping out and grabbing his overcoat and gloves. Leah moved into his seat, placed the computer on her lap and pulled the door shut as soon as he was a few steps away. About to address O’Carlan, she said, “Wait a minute,” and opened the car door, calling after the young fellow, “Don’t you go near my colleagues over there.” Trudging in the opposite direction, he ignored her. She pulled the door shut again, turned back to the old man.
“This certainly doesn’t look like an armoury show,” he offered. Seems he couldn’t see the ‘cloudy pane’ of glass hanging in the air about 200 feet in front of the table.
“Give me your keys.”
“You aren’t going to drive away with me. You have five minutes and then I’m going back to work.” Leah indicated the CERN rig-up and her fellow employees in front of them. “They’re counting on me, and vice versa. Don’t ask any questions. You already know everything about this project that you’re going to know. Why are you here?”
O’Carlan pulled the car keys out of the steering column and handed them over; Leah stuffed them in her right-hand coat pocket.
“Things have altered in the last thirty-one hours.” Hands placed in his lap, O’Carlan seemed to have lost some of the other day’s head of steam. “A few weeks ago in London, I was attempting to recruit a young woman.”
“Another one?” Dr. Bernheim peeked towards the CERN engineers at the table again. Dearly wishing for her earpiece back, she busied her hands with the laptop, adding a few reactions to the thus far-collected data onto her existing notes.
“We do employ them.”
With somewhat less venom: “She wasn’t buying, either.”
“She’s the fool there. America may be able to hold off the ‘end of days’ just a little bit longer than the rest of the world…”
“That exact crap is yet another reason why I’m here,” Leah pointed out. “Is she also American?”
“She is.”
“I’m not the only one you’ve stalked, then. Because that’s exactly what this is. How did you know where we were?”
“How do you suppose? I went to CERN and asked for you.”
“Four and one-half minutes.”
“I know your background. Now I do. I can’t apologize for early Monday morning. I was ordered, I did my job. Our client thought they understood and didn’t tell me the details. They told my superiors…” He turned to look for his fellow agent, but the young man was not visible. “They do want your tech and they want to break you personally in order to get it, Dr. Bernheim. They think that because of your history, you’re a weak link. Also as an example to anyone else, I assume.”
Taking a quick look at him, Leah went back to her typing. “You didn’t have to try so hard. I told you that at the time.”
“Paris certainly didn’t finish the job for us…”
“What about the woman you were trying to recruit? In London?”
“She’s not Christian, so to trip her up I changed an old lawyer’s cross-examination trick; I mentioned how a satellite that sits directly above the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea had recorded the appearance of four large round trenches near the Cave of the Apocalypse. Earlier this month. I have since learned that a small burst of solar flare-like activity directly above it moved southeast from there a few minutes later.”
“Here we go again…!”
“No. Listen to me.” Now she turned towards him after she finished typing another sentence. “Paris sealed the deal. For me. It’s only fair that I tell you what the setup would have been. You have to know that you had nothing to do with anything.”
Hands still momentarily, Leah indicated for him to continue.
“During our conversation—“
“Excuse me. Interrogation—“
“I was willing to cooperate with you at first. Don’t forget that.”
“If at the time I had been working only for the USA, it would have counted in your favor. Our client pays us nicely and on time, but they don’t trust anyone. Maybe, not even us. I get that now from how little I was informed. At any rate…” He assembled himself. “It worked this way. I recorded our exchange and I sent it to the client immediately on my return to the Consulate, yesterday morning. They cherry-picked something you had said out of it. Late yesterday afternoon seven men dressed as observant and pregnant Muslim women were dropped off in different sections of Paris.” Leah slowly began to go into shock as O’Carlan spoke on; his face never changed, almost as if he wore one of Baudelaire’s masks. “They were to arrive at certain areas at the same time… government agencies, famous charities’ headquarters, various corporate offices. At thirty minutes past sundown or so, around there, the bombs would have gone off,” he added.

“I… I had the news on this morning but I didn’t hear a thing.”
“You must not have been listening.”
“…How many were killed?” she managed.
“All seven men were executed between five and fifteen minutes after sundown. That’s when their GPS sensors went off line. One after another, in ten minutes’ time. These men were miles apart. None of the bombs tripped.”
“It was our client’s determination that you would hand over everything and then some because after hearing of the successful incident yesterday – if it had been -- you would have been so completely traumatized you wouldn’t have known what you were doing.”
“You implicated me in a…”
“They saw how you gave the Interpol agents about twice what it would have taken to get them off your back after the bombing at CERN.”
“It’s called cooperating!”
“Not always advisable.”
“You son of a bitch--”
“Cuss me out another time, Doctor, this is crucial--”
Shut your damned mouth, O’Carlan. You told someone what I guessed and they carried it out!?”
“Attempted to. Yes, with the express purpose of making it seem you were responsible, even if only to yourself.”
“Oh, naturally you wouldn’t have spread that news as far and wide as electronically possible, and -- and what about everyone in Paris who—“
“The client’s experts thought that if one bomb that blindsided you here would loosen your tongue to that extent, what of seven in Paris that you might conclude you had indirectly caused?”
Leah asked deliberately, “When exactly did this happen?”
“Yesterday, early evening,” the old man repeated. “Minutes after dusk. I’m surprised that your ‘associates’ didn’t say…”
“I really don’t think they watch a lot of television, Mr. O’Carlan. We aren’t discussing them, anyway. What exactly do you mean, ‘executed’?
O’Carlan replied, “I want to stress, you had absolutely no involvement here—“
Yes I did. I was within inches of being a mass murderer by proxy, according to you. Answer me.”
With a ghost of his old verbal swordsmanship he said quietly, “I’m armed, you know.”
“You really believe that I’m not?” she lied.
“We have your file, Dr. Bernheim. You have no British or Swiss carry permit, and they’re hell to procure anyhow.”
“Care to search me?” she said. “I asked what you mean by ‘executed.’”
“Not here, and not I,” her adversary conceded. “All right. Three men were pounded into a pulp on sidewalks or on garden paths. They may actually have been trampled or beaten to death. By what, no one’s exactly certain. Four were slashed cleanly in quarters and left where they fell, bleeding out. As I said, ‘executed.’ You’d have thought they were lone travelers on the road, caught by barbarians between cities in the fifth century A.D. The Paris police had not seen anything like it in decades. At first everybody accused everybody else. The French security service is at this time under investigation because it’s assumed they dispatched several kill squads with an ‘exterminate’ order instead of something more subtle. Such as what, I wonder. How one deals otherwise with suicide bombers, I can’t imagine. But only the French are capable of making success look like failure.”

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 14, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 266: The Higgs Field Takes Over

“As long as we don’t all cancel out… when they bring them back… right?”
“So,” Robot suggested, “there’s, what, over there, Dr. Bernheim? A school? Where there’s two stands of trees, here?”
“No need, Therm…”
Speaking of bridges: our own seemed to begin dissolving.
“Seems it might, 'Robot,]” muttered Leah, light-years distant beyond a storm of continued patters. If that was her, she was typing a hundred words a minute. If not equations.
“And there must be a Geneva. In there,” wondered Victor.
One by one, every photon of which we consisted began to fire. To shimmer. To bloom into uncertainty principle.
“Very possibly,” Leah said, with decreasing affect. “Another one, that is.”
“Dr. Bernheim, is there a chance I’m in there? Another me?”
“What a question, Vortura! How would she know that?” demanded the chief engineer.
{-Wonder if we’ll be able t’ go back… --W.}
/-The angel has spoken; he says we’re not staying –D./
(-Wait… --P.)
“Gentlemen? I asked for one of you to speak every 60 seconds. We’re now passing 90. 91, 92—“
“Yes, please talk to us!” Leah woke from her mad calculations. So I’d think.
[-None of us feel any different? Concentrate. –F.]
-Hale and hearty as before, folks. About to exit the electrical room. –F.
“Please don’t do that to us, Francis. Any of you.”
/-No change at all, I’m good –D./
{-What he said. –W.}
-The thing is, Doctors, when we climbed in we looked as you do. Now, however, we consist of the same color field everything else does. It’s like we… like we caught a really bad case of St. Elmo’s fire. Again, every shade, every hue. –F.
“Jeez!” said Robot World. “Are we going to be able to get them back here again, taking this into consideration?!”
[-All right. How we look has changed, but that must be it. Come on. We’ll blend in better. Petey… --F.]
Victor said, “Good thought…”
“We will get them out,” Leah insisted, and it was apparent right off that no one would challenge this.
{-Petey? –W.}
(-…When was the last time we saw Azrael, anyhow? –P.)
Casting about, we became suspicious that the angel had deserted the party.
“OK, lads, are you exiting the room now?” asked Robot.
-Suppose it could be worse. We could have contracted St. Anthony’s fire-- --P.
-Ladies are present, Peter! Yes, the door’s open. –F.
“Hm?” More tapping. Our Fifth Horsewoman was only ‘there’ vestigially…
-Well, in the other universe… --F.
[-Dave, put that thing away! –F.]
“Higgs field still going insane, electrical field dropping. Everything else steady,” Robot World added.
/Oh, yeah –D./
David returned the hand scythe to his equipment bag, and we left the room, bending low to get by the door sill. Red snorted, glad for the sun’s greater warmth, possibly. We received some stares, but this was a college campus so maybe we weren’t much more out of place than we had been at Cambridge. A sign at the walkway in front of us read PSYCHOLOGY ANTHROPOLOGY and indicated the proper direction with an arrow. Off we ambled in a half-trot, now of a piece with the bursting color seeds all about us in every point of our regard. Spring, I thought, in a manner was eternal here, and we never even knew…
“Dr. Bernheim out of service, everybody, I’ll be back…”
-Heading for the walkway to the building in question. I assume. Holding steady, all? –P.
“Seems that way,” Vortura replied.
Leah added, “And I’m changing our nomenclature.”
“Good so far, ready when you are, guys,” said the chief engineer. “Dr. Bernheim, what was that?”
-We’re going to need to know how far to your right is the next companionway --D.
“Calculating now…” Tanker entered commands.
“From here on everyone will refer to where our explorers are as ‘Verse One.’ Where we are is ‘Verse Two.’”
“Pardon, Doctor, but why would we do that?” asked Robot World.
“The terms we use need to be more precise because that may be a multiverse in there. Out of service.” We heard her earpiece placed on the table.
(-Sine comentaris. No sign of any angels… anyone? –P.)
{-He’ll do like he always does. He’ll show up when he feels like it. –W.}
[-…Or he didn’t want any of us to figure out he was here! –F.]
“Calculation complete, David. Six hundred twenty-six feet to your right as you step out of the electrical room. A multiverse, well...”
{-Means the room is in Psycho Anthro. --W.}
We made the sidewalk and walked beside it. Quite a few more women stared at us than men. Women seem to like horses more than men do, I have no idea why.
-Not bad –D.
/-Nice to be back. –D./
{-Appreciate your not saying that out loud… --F.}
“Well, for whatever reason your earpieces are actually giving us impressions of walls and trees, fields of interference…” Tanker replied. “I’ve opened what we call a HyperCAD program and we’re actually getting a crude shadow map of your immediate surroundings, people walking by, so on and so forth…”
“Still would have been cool to have a camera in there…” muttered Schneider.
-Did Leah go for coffee, anyone? –P.
[-Not cute th’ second time, either…! –W.}
“Ah, no, Peter,” Thermos answered. “Weird. Huge car seems to have just drove off the road and stopped by the Doctor’s. Victor? Were we expecting anybody?”

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 11, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 265: A Fall of Diamonds

-Colors, Dr. Schneider… ‘sparkling’ doesn’t even begin to describe them. --F.
“If Augustus were here he’d probably ask if it resembled a Jefferson Airplane album cover.”
Nervous laughter, from somewhere. Couldn’t tell the source.
-Yeah, actually, Leah. It does. –F.
We heard her nod, and: “Wait! The air, is it breathable?”
-Perfectly. –P.
(-One wonders if you and David killed the wrong Belisarius, William… --P.)
Within the electrical room – did it occupy the same building as the infamous stationery closet? – we four turned, one by one, and viewed our entry/exit. Now that we were ‘through,’ it appeared not unlike how it did in the after-world—
-Yer mixin’ metaphors again… --W.
{-An’ we got no time fer this. She ain’t even born yet, over here. Let’s do th’ job. –W.}
“What?” That may have been Tanker.
“Gentlemen, it’s been 60 seconds.” Definitely Victor.
(-I am not talking about ‘here.’ –P.)
Leah added, worry mounting again: “Are all four of you OK?”
-We are hale and hearty, Leah. Pardon us, Tanker! Family joke. –P.
“You fellows are related?” asked Schneider. “We’ll have to get you out, now. Your mother’ll have our guts for garters if we don’t.” Leah chose not to chime in.
-There’ll be no call to fret on that score, Dr. Schneider. Francis, why not describe the, um, companionway, from this side. –P.
/… -D./
“We’re recording, you know,” Vortura offered.
-One would be mad not to. –P.
(-No wonder Azrael wants us back there! To take our medicine, be led in chains to the torture chambers. You all heard him! –P.)
At the ‘CW,’ my brother pulled Midnight up, parallel to same, and noted carefully the borderline. I admitted to disappointment, here. The bursts of
raiment all about did not extend to us. I turned back to see what was beyond the companionway. We were as drab as the universe we’d left. Have to ask the angel about that--
“Your electrical field interference has tripled,” said Robot. “Any idea why?”
-Uh, we’re in an electrical room. –W.
(-No one is answering me… --P.)
“Oh, good...” More tapping on a keyboard…
[-Willie did, Petey. Knock it off. We’ll sort this. –F.]
“Describe it! Intimately!” ordered the chief engineer.
“Dimensions, William? Size, et cetera?”
-Leah, Doc, come on, one at a time! I dunno, uh, concrete block wall. Poured concrete ceiling. Concrete floor. Twenty by fifteen by a ten foot ceiling. More or less.–W.
(-I will not remain silent. –P.)
-Francis here, at the border between. The ‘CW.’ I have my head through the
opening. I am looking along the edge. It’s pretty well defined. It’s as if you and I are just in different rooms. –F.
[-You could try. –F.]
“No gap.”
-None, Leah. –F.
“Vortura, is the Collider steady?”
“Exact same readings as before, Dr. Schneider.”
“May the Collider over there be as cooperative,” Le ah added. “Francis, go on, please. I’m looking for any sign at all of black. Gray. Or some other color. Anything situated between, no matter how thin. Please be careful. What’re his readings, Robot?”
“Fluctuating from typical of ‘the first’ as opposed to typical of ‘the last.’ I’d think his head is just in the border area, am I right, Francis?”
-Yes. Try to keep the CW open so I don’t lose it. –F.
An intake of breath; we knew whose.
“That’s our job, Frank, ” said Vortura.
“Higgs field strength is going insane, though. Measurement’s all over the map on all four of them, though Frank’s is less so. Can’t keep still yet.”
-Okay… no, no sign at all of a buffer. It’s like I said, a window in a wall. Your universe is, funny enough, from here it looks like an old movie. –F.
“What do you mean, ‘our universe’?” laughed Dr. Schneider, nervous.
[-Better not make that mistake again… --F.]
-Pardon me. –F.
“The Higgs fields’re still going nuts in there, gentlemen. Sure you’re OK?”
-Absolutely fine, Robot. –F.
(-I notice that Azrael isn’t answering me at all. –P.)
/-He may be the smartest of us –D./
“Doesn’t mean there’s no ‘Bailter space.’ These universes are superimposed, after all – I think – oh, wait up, Francis!” Leah cut herself off. “Old moving pictures? Like something with the, oh, who knows, the Marx Brothers in it?”
-Yes. Seems very flat from here. –F.
“Flat colors, not 2-D.”
-Exactly. –F.
“Damn me for not thinking of head cameras!”
“It’s OK, Victor,” Leah answered, “think of everything I forgot…”
-Have to prove Dr. Bailter correct another day –D.
(-I will not drop this. Is anybody listening! –P.)
{-Fer th’ last time… uh, wait a mo’--- --W.}
“Now could someone please describe this ‘electrical room’!” spat Victor.
-David here; we have, ah, conduits, electrical boxes… I do hear a hum –D.
“Open an electrical box. Not with your hands.”
-Certainly, Dr. Schneider; Geist, come on, my friend –D.
-I see a window in that wall… –P.
“What window? Normal or another CW? Thermos, anything to fret about?”
David and his mount stepped gingerly to the largest box; drawing from his bag a hand scythe – yes, that one – he clicked it open.
“Not yet.”
-Window’s in the right-hand wall. Not openable. Metal framing, looks like standard glass. Going to take a look now. How’s our reception? –P.
“9 out of 10,” Robot World replied.
-Dr. Schneider, I see standard electrical switches, nothing unfamiliar –D.
“Do you have a compass? Peter?”
“Very good, David,” replied the chief engineer. “Close it, please.”
-Oh, there you are, Leah. Thought you’d gone to get coffee for everyone… --P.
“You are not making me laugh,” the physicist snapped. “I’m doing some free-associating here. Do you have a compass?” Naturally it didn’t occur to me to wonder why William and Francis had not spoken in a bit…
-Of course. Getting it now… --P.
“Check directions. Please, I mean. The CW opened from due south. If you
stand at the right hand window, and the electrical room is a box, you should have the compass pointing past your right shoulder, if the two universes coincide. Well, partially. As I hope they do. Tanker?”
“No change in the weathersat array, Dr. Bernheim.”
Drawing it out, I watched the needle spin, and… just as she’d said. Behind me, the electrical box clicked shut.
-Dead on, Leah. –P.
-Petey… --F.
-One moment…--P.
“OK, look through the window, please. Same color field? Nothing, oh, downside up?”
Like two girls at their glassine perch in a Dali painting—why would I think of that now? – Whitey and I stared out.
-A college campus. People. Normal looking. Carrying books, pens, electronic this and that… --P.
“Really. Familiar? No one with two heads?”
-Very normal. Could be anywhere. Same distribution of hues and shades and so forth, outside. The students look like walking amalgams of tiny rainbows. This electrical room is on the ground floor, by the by. –P.
-Petey, I think you should-- --F.
“How is everyone dressed?”
-What, Frank? –D.
-Ah… college student clothes. Very normal. Skirts, pants, dresses, shoes. Shirts. –P.
“No jackets?”
-It appears to be springtime-- Wait, now! Just saw a jet. Boeing 797? Landing to the far left. Well past the campus. –P.
“Swissair? Aeroflot? Who? Wait, springtime?” More furiously quiet typing.
-Definitely Swissair. It could have landed on your airport, beyond the CW. Same runway direction, that I could tell. And yes, the sun appears warmer than here. A good bit. Flowers in flower beds on the far side of a path, about fifty feet away. –P.
“What is this with the ‘our’ airport?”
-Pardon. –P.
“…Then the orientation of the two may be close,” Leah said, somewhat absently. No idea to whom. Maybe all of us. “Now as you four walk around outside the electrical room, as you start looking for your man, I want you to keep an eye out for anything that is not of a similar color field. Anything different at all.”
/-Petey, take a good look here –D./
“Dr. B, they’re trying to find somebody? In there?!” asked Thermos.
{-Yeah, speakin’ a’ which… --W.}
-Leah, one second. –P.
“That’s about it. Yes, Thermos, of course, they have to get something out of all this, don’t they?”
I looked back at my brothers, and what I witnessed made me view myself as well.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 8, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 264: 'The Wait' ends

“Tend to your assignment, Pestilence!”
-Oh, there you are. What matter, Azrael? She can’t hear me. –P.
“A hair upon her head, or a word in her ear…”
I heard his robe rustle.
-You would stab a Horseman in the back? –P.

I did know that sound. I’d heard it before the Castel St. Angelo in 590 C.E. when Michael drew his blade, ready to face me. I’d heard it a hundred fifty cubits distant, in a city gone silent with terror. In, again, the last plexiverse.
-Your hand’s on the grip but I hear no steel against scabbard, angel. –P.
-Petey! Not the right time. –F.
“…Thank you, Famine.”
He let go the weapon, and the moment, as ever, refused to stay…
“Al-Adil, we value your opinion. I mentioned bridges previously, I believe.”
Leila looked to Tom, who indicated same.
“…I don’t know why they’re here,” she told them. “They aren’t exactly part of my tradition. But… did you see the posters on the opposite wall, the last few days? They change twice a day now, I think.”
“Oh, yes,” Tom offered with some sarcasm. “Last night it was, what? GIVE ME HEAVEN HERE. This AM I saw it had become I WANT IT ALL BACK. I WANT YOU ALL GONE. There was a line for the microphone a quarter of the way around the Cross to respond to that one.”
“I don’t really pay attention to them any more,” Leila offered. “I probably should.”
“We really need to learn the identity of this artist.”
Quecture drew out one of Bellachiusa’s chairs and sat. “Old man’s aching bones, pardon me. Build us another bridge, Leila, between the previous thought and this one.”
“…I don’t know if I can jump that far, sir.”
“Then why do you mention it in this context?”
“Well, I do think on occasion we notice things without being able to process them yet. Artists see, or think they see, what the rest of us can’t, for example, and they often figure them out well enough to incorporate them into what they do so that we have an advance warning. This may be one of those occasions!”
“Shades of ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’” commented Tom. “The artists hear something on the wind before the rest of us.”
“A friend talked me into reading that. Although… don’t decommission me for saying this, please, but the other night I was staring out my balcony window and I will swear to you that someone looked back. Or something. I didn’t see anything! The sliding door was open so I heard the wind. I think. But someone saw me. Just for a second or two. And I… well, it wasn’t a chill. It was something worse.”
“You noticed no one, though,” repeated Quecture. “What is it? Your apartment is five stories above street level?”
Hearing what she’d just said, Leila added, “I assume we are still speaking freely.”
(-Told ya not t’ do that, Petey. –W.)
“We are.”
“Good to know!” At last she said it. “I didn’t. But something looked in my window. And it went away as soon as it was there.”
“It was not a chill, you say. That you felt. Something worse. It is late November, after all.”
“Yes, Tom. It was almost exactly what the poster said. ‘Give me heaven here. I want it back. I want you all gone.’ It could almost have been a voice I didn’t actually hear. I’ve, I’ve mentioned my friend Dennis.”
“You did,” said the ADG. “Go on.”
Tom looked confused here, but recalled.
“I don’t think anybody hated the epistles of St. Paul any more than he did. No offense. But in 2 Thessalonians Paul writes, ‘For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief by night.’”
“Who expected they’d be the tip of the spear, though…” admitted Tom.
“Right in one, then, St. Paul, and shame on you, St. John for getting the batting order wrong. Do they know that we know?”
“I’m not sure—“
“Al-Adil, we’re counting on you. Not to wax too terribly fanciful but we are old men. We are long since tensed to recoil at the face behind the mask before we even see it. You don’t have our age-given faults.” Tom showed reluctant agreement. “So this time, I regret, you must lead the way.”
It was a short one but, however uncomfortably, she took the jump. “Yes. I think they see us. They may see us right here and and right this minute. But they don’t take us seriously. We’re specks of dust to them. We’re sandflies. Not worth the bother to wipe away. Given how impossibly strong they are… if they can think at all, and I don’t remember anything about that in the Bible, I’d say they will ignore us.”
“We won’t be finding accommodation in one of our safe houses for you, then.”
“No, Director, thanks. When it’s my time it won’t matter where I am.”
“Overconfident,” smirked Bellachiusa. “So was the Japanese Empire. The Roman Empire. The Assyrian Empire. And where are they all, now?”
“The Britsh Empire as well, Thomas. While let us pray that we not be the fold upon which these particular Assyrians come as wolves. Best we wrap this up, I suppose. The content of this meeting does not leave this room. We’d all be chucked out the back door without a dab of ceremony.”
His underlings conceded without comment.
“Be certain, and be vigilant, Thomas. Leila,” the older man said. For the first time he used her given name; she did her best not to flinch. “I won’t always be here. Elizabeth and I will be spending the day in our garden at some juncture, and happy to have left all this behind, you may be sure. None more than she! If indeed, given recent conclusions, we are even so allowed. But.” The ADG thought for a space. “Though it was on another matter, I recall Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s farewell address to the House of Commons on 1 March 1955. It included the following germane sentiment, quote: ‘I must make one admission, and that admission is formidable. Our deterrent does not cover the case of lunatics in the model of Hitler, had he survived, or dictators in the mood of Hideki Tojo when he found himself in his final dugout. That is a blank. Happily, we may find methods of protecting ourselves, if we were all agreed, against that.’ End quote, mercifully enough!” He viewed Tom and Leila.
“’Meanwhile,’” quoted Bellachiusa, “’never flinch. Never weary. Never despair.’”
“So you bear us no ill will for using you thus,” the ADG wondered to Leila.
“You did say we have no idea where our orders come from or why we receive them, Director. Or, I guess, what our intelligence is used for. Or when.”
“So I did. Though in fairness, it is not we who are in the wrong.” A pause. “This time.”
“We are attemping to prevent mass murder, Director, I’d say we aren’t! Pardon me again, but I did already ask you not to retire, earlier this week.”
The ADG stood. “Again, never despair! Best you collate and review your literature for Sir Hal. He’ll expect a keen edge and an encyclopedic recall.”
“Yes, sir. What do you know about him? Any clues on what to expect?”
“Sir Hal Edwards is very similar in age and attitude to our current Head of International Counterterrorism, Sir Lawrence Trier. He also has a more estimable temper. He is rigorously fair-minded, however. Have answers to his every question without having to spend an hour looking them up and he’ll be your good lord. So to speak.”
“Thank you, sir. I’d better get to my reviewing. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to that file in a week or so.”
“A quote from the Qu’ran, if you please, to wind us up?”
“Well.” Somewhat more quickly than last time, she intoned the Arabic and then translated: “Surah 75, verses 7 through 12. Bismillah! ‘But when sight be clouded, and the moon eclipsed, and sun and moon become one, upon that day shall men cry ‘Where is shelter?’ Alas! There is no refuge! Unto thy Lord is recourse that day.’”
Quecture stood, buttoned his jacket. “Thanks to you, our sight is clouded no longer. Sandflies draw blood, let’s recall. Although. will that be enough? We’ll know sooner than later.”
“Thus ends the first workgroup meeting for ‘Four Holes in the Ground,’” suggested Tom.
“Green-lit by myself, of course,” Quecture added.
“Oh,” Leila considered. “Very good! But, we didn’t record--”
“No bothering there,” Tom confessed, opening his center desk drawer all the way, for once, to show his own recording rig. “I’ll put the tape in an envelope and you can stow it in your safe as well.”
“For our next meeting,” Quecture concluded before opening the office door, “the DG may join us, I think, so let’s have those answers ready also.”
All scattered after this, the ADG for his office and Tom for a turn or two ‘round the Block. Leila returned to her own desk to gather her files and, if there was time while re-reviewing, wonder what would become of her other informal workgroup, ‘The Goths’… but none was allowed. Partway there, she heard the encrypted mobile ringing inside her locked desk.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths.

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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.

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