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Hebephrenica/ It's Time You Knew
by:  Ken Egbert (aka K. Griffiths), One More Haggard Drowned Man
Video trailer for MYRRH:

These posts are excerpts from a work of fiction. Any and all similarities between these characters and any real persons living or dead is purely coincidental. -The Author
January 30, 2015

The Human Game, pt. 323: The 'Supervillians'

“As you heard, Sir Hal, Pestilence wants Dr. Bernheim kept safe,” Leila answered. She could think of nothing else. “You heard him say that they are willing to give up everything to make certain she is.”
“You will make no further contributions to this meeting, miss, until you are called upon. Say, yes,” repeated the head of Five. “Any Six safe house to which this Bernheim woman is admitted, Weston, I’d thoroughly check her luggage. Well may it end up decorating the sky.”
“When she arrives at the near end of the Chunnel, Sir Hal, HM Customs has already been given those instructions.”
“In the most general terms, one hopes?”
“As requested, Hal.”
“Is she even indeed of any use to us? To Six? Or someone other?”
“I would say so,” Quecture replied. “She did give good intel on the location of Patrick O’Carlan, and it wasn’t with her help that he escaped; when he’s re-detained he may be able to completely break open the relations between the Gate and U.S. intelligence.”
“Remind me about O’Carlan’s importance again, please,” ordered the head of Five. When the ADG of Six did so, he commented, “The man seems no amateur, Q.E.D.! His lack of experience aside. Unlike some individuals with which we are familiar. He may give away nothing.”
“Even so, Dr. Bernheim has pledged to be a witness in CERN’s injunction against the USDOD, the Agency and the ‘unnamed co-conspirator’ when the case opens at The Hague,” replied Sir Harvin. “As to the possible action by HM Government, one thinks she’d assist if asked in that also. She is a permanent resident of the U.K. and has been for 32 years.”
“You have spoken to her yourself.”
“Our agent has done,” Sir Harvin indicated Leila.
“And you take her word for it!”
“I do, Hal.”
“Has she been so asked, Al-Adil? Assuming yet again that your impression is in any manner accurate.”
“She has not, Sir Hal…” Leila was not sure how to say this and not seem overly ‘involved,’ but… “though I would think she’d cooperate.”
“Indeed. You would think.”
“Yes, sir.”
“While speaking of an ‘action,’ well, there’s a meeting we’re nearly all due at in Whitehall! If the action is even filed. If indeed we don’t ‘go black’ on the Gate, which we entirely may,” Sir Hal drily noted. “Equally, if any of this intel is even true! How the Joint Committee will react…” Sir Hal decided to say no more.
“Dr. Bernheim has been very accurate so far,” said Quecture. “So you believe we should refuse the help of these--”
“The help of complete--!? Help that they would never give in a hundred years?! Certainly not! Philip, your view, if you please. I’ve kept you out the fray long enough.”
Philip began, ”We have no idea why they neutralized the bombers in Paris. We also don’t know why they are willing on paper to help locate the crew who we’re all but sure are setting up in London right now. Other than to get whatever they actually want. Their giving up to arrest is not even to be countenanced, I agree, so let’s not trouble. That was a lie. They will do no such.”
“So they’re tossing their Dr. Bernheim under the motorbus.”
“I won’t take a position on that,” Philip said. “We simply don’t know enough. They appear not to so intend, but since their honesty is well suspected already… I think whatever grudge they do have is against The Gate, however, as opposed to against the UK, so since we believe it was them in Paris, why not at least attempt a run with it? What else is there?” With a nod to Leila: “If the cellular rings at noon, that is.”
“Do we dare ask if these four beasts may have set up the Paris operation for the Gate and then shut it down the via the wet road when, let’s say, they were not paid?”
Ms. Quecture began, “It doesn’t feel like that from here, Sir Hal. I would doubt it.”
“You have the floor, Edith.”
“First, if they had set up and then beheaded the Gate’s Paris operation, there would have been no way they would have been told of London. They’d have lost their chief playing card.”
“Might the Gate not have given them the entire pattern of bombings to enact up front?”
“Does the Gate’s efforts thus far, as we know them, smack of such advance forethought? I don’t believe they entirely do. Hiring such unstable characters, if they did, was foolhardy. Hiring the Agency, which they did, when the Agency is all but succumbing to senile dementia, is worse yet. While why, for a’ that, would the Gate have hired US intelligence when they already had these four?”
“Because these ‘Horsemen’ would not accept the Gate’s bit, if you will, and the Gate needed them more than they needed the Gate. The Agency no doubt was. I don’t say that preplanning was not used, Edith. It is that the preplanning was seriously substandard.”
“The Gate’s pre-planning,” Edith noted.
“Not these ‘Horsemen’s.’ One also cannot discount how many customers and how much cash on hand the Gate has. They might have hired anybody or everybody, God forbid. Where the Agency is concerned, have we a whiff of their presence during any of these incidents?”
Leila was about to reply, but Sir Hal raised his hand. Quecture answered for her: “We do not.”
“Granted,” Edith replied, “so let’s consder why not. The average vintage of the Agency employee is now 45. Retirement age has been raised again. The CIA has had no trainee class numbering more than fifty in three years. The Agency may thus have nobody in the majority of these cities any longer. Mashhad? Aleppo? Really? While the closest Castle office near Belgrade is Srebrenica, in Bosnia. Paris and Geneva, given, yes. Sudden entry of U.S. operatives into the first two targets would have raised red flags. Leila, can you think of anything?” Sir Hal winced at the mention.
Quecture spoke up. “Al-Adil, if I may… in the Jerablus sound file, the participants are halfway across Syria when the bombing occurs in Aleppo. The completely fantastic text of the discussion never crosses the subject of past or future Gate ops.”
The head of Five asked, “What is the position of the fifth voice in this sound file?”
“He is telling the four what they can and cannot do.”
“Then there’s a man to whom we want access. No one has suggested the Jerablus sound file’s a put-up...?”
The ADG replied, “The Mukhabharat claimed their recording agent was one of their best.”
“Can’t exactly take that to the bank…” Sir Hal saw the way it was going. “Given, of course, the number of UK banks the Exchequer and we have caught laundering the Bear’s ill-gottens, of late…” He tried once more. “Well. So we will nearly all hang together, that we may nearly all hang separately. To misquote Ben Franklin.”
“I don’t like it either, Hal. Not in the slightest,” Prestell said. “Though it seems that we will have one potential ace in Bernheim. At six tomorrow, as was asked, she’ll be met by our officers and brought to London. The four miscreants claim they want her kept out of the thresher. As long as we have her, they may at least prove useful.”
“May! Again, Harvin, if they are not selling us parsley for pounds sterling! With your agent’s unwitting assistance.”
“This feels not so much right to me, Hal, as it feels the least wrong of all our alternatives.” Prestell sat back a bit; he had done all he could. He knew what would come shortly. He had seen Sir Hal in this position before.
“I will provisionally accept the foursome’s input if Bernheim is actually turned over to Six. Is she being held hostage by them at this time?”
“No, Sir Hal,” said Quecture. “She appears to be working at CERN as she does every third week of every month, as usual.”
“Then they must be monitoring her at work, somehow. With no small closeness.”
“We were about to attempt dropping in a set of eyes and ears, but the management has the facility locked down to all but employees and directors since the bombing.”
“Then we really don’t know what is going on there. Other than that CERN is not a weapons lab in disguise, of course.”
“I can raise the contingent meeting her tomorrow to three agents, Hal.”
“For the sake of my stomach lining, such as it remains, Harvin, yes, if you would. Now, I’ll want some of Bernheim’s C.V., please. From some person here other than Al-Adil.”
The ADG of Six obliged, including a few salient details on her early notoriety in the USA. “She has been spoken to at differing lengths, twice,” he went on, afterwards. “Research Section has done some moderately deep investigation: former professors speak very highly of her. Quiet, almost frighteningly brilliant, very high marks from her associates at CERN and equally good word-of-mouth from her students at Cambridge. A bit distant, though, they say. Guarded. Keeps to herself. Can’t be too surprised at that! Faculty at the Dept. of Physics and Applied Mathematics at Cambridge holds her in equal regard. There will be further and more thorough interviews after she comes back to the UK tomorrow from Geneva.”

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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January 27, 2015

The Human Game, pt. 322: 'What Batman film is this?' (Team 5)

Once admitted to the sanctum, the three from Six spoke their piece. Sir Hal’s reaction was as feared.
“I am expected to credit this,” he began, selecting his words, but did not trust himself to continue. After one breath “You understand how it appears you’ve all but dug these – miscreants -- out of one of my grandchildren’s Japanese comic books.”
‘Manga,’ Leila wanted to say, half wondering if the head of Five had had their Bentley ‘bugged.’ She decided, best not.
“Sir Hal—“ Weston began, but…
“One moment, Weston. Harvin, it is my assumption that you have joined the caravan that I might give your agent a fair hearing.”
“I would ask that you do so, Hal. We have brought the sound file of the terrorist’s exchange with Al-Adil…”
“One of them called her. Out of the blue.” Seeing that his assistant had arrived for work, Sir Hal moved for his desk phone. “Sangeeta, get me Philip and Edith. Now.” He waited to hear her assent, then rang off with a loud clack. “My chief analyst and my senior supervising agent for ‘Sputnik’ will hear you out as well, and that includes the sound file. We have the game pieces set. We will begin the operation at six PM today, seven hours before the official clock starts, as per our flyers. Just in case ‘their’ watches run faster than ours. There has not been a peep in the medias. The wall is holding, for once. For all this, however, we have a quarter of a prayer, if that, that London will be whole come nightfall tomorrow. All participants realize how Paris was a complete failure, so they’ll most certainly change their tactics to some extent. How, of course, one cannot know. Now, all of a sudden one of Paris’ very blood-drenched saviours rings up our liaison?!”
“Not entirely out of the blue, Hal, no…”
The requested Five employees entered, Sir Hal giving terse introductions
where needed.
“So what’s occurred?” asked Edith, her usual cool self.
The head of Five made a gesture to Leila. “Sound file, please.” She handed over the thumb drive and he slotted it into his desktop. I’m starting to understand these terms. “No explanation, no preliminaries. We may not have time.” Punching up the storage device, he pressed PLAY in the appropriate virtual window and turned on his desk speakers.

Participants ‘nine’ and ‘ten,’ so called by their handler, were hauled to a different abandoned if newly purchased factory building in South Hillingdon below Uxbridge Road. A recently tacked sign above the main door promised a New Centre For A Small Business Lab, details to be announced. The driver made his men comfortable in the old president’s office; it had been swept and cleaned with some precision, if not all. These two, from just outside Detroit, Michigan in the USA, sat and nursed the cups of coffee they’d been bought.
“You wouldn’t expect so,” the handler told them, “but the heat in the building does work. I’ll turn on the office boiler now, along with the electrical feed. Don’t ruck with the thermostat and don’t turn any lights on. I assume I’m understood.”
The Americans agreed, still shivering a bit in their new parkas.
“Brilliant. Keep your phone charged, and all calls to an absolute minimum. I’m locking you in, but you know where the key is.” He departed, and his car’s motor joined the hiss of the near motorway a block or two north. Nine and Ten
sat on the departed President’s rug, finishing their coffee.
“Always wanted to travel,” Ten began but could go no further.
“Didn’t want to see the world and die, though,” Nine answered. Neither saw fit to say much past that.

The sound file ended with a click.
“Pestilence,” offered Philip. “We’ll assume his friends are War, Famine and
Death. Which Batman film is this, again?”

“Sir Hal?” Edith asked.
The peer seemed frozen, back to all. Odd, given that the rear of his office held no grand view as did Quecture’s at Vauxhall. Just a pair of long poleaxes, mounted and crossed. He at last turned to them. “’In dreaming,” he intoned, “The clouds methought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.’”
Quecture and Leila shared half a look. Bellachiusa should only have been here…
Sir Hal viewed them all, continued, “You’re more correct than you believe, Philip. Utter, drooling madmen.” To Leila: “Though you asked none of the correct questions, to my ears, Miss Al-Adil. Not one of the bombers who have come to devastate my home and that of 13 million other souls, yours included, are to die?! Can you in any way see what you have done?”
“Sir Hal, the outcry in Paris over the murders is only getting louder. While I asked what I was allowed. If I’d gone too far afield this lunatic might have hung up on me and we might have nothing from him.”
The DG of Five wasn’t ready to agree. “’And what have we, now, miss, from these…? Upon reflection, even ‘lunatic’ is not the word I would employ. There may be no name in English for him. What do you suppose he meant by, ‘we do not need anyone to tell us anything’? Any of us? Are we, once again, infected by moles, or is it something else?”
“It is something else,” offered the head of Six.
“Perhaps you’ll name it for me, Harvin.”
“Two names, actually. One, many years’ experience. I’ll bank on that, Hal. These are seriously seasoned operatives. Who trained them, of course, is not known. They have not relied and they will not rely on any but their own resources and technique. Damn our secrets, say they. We can keep them. As a terror ploy, I would say it is beyond brilliant.”
“We will keep our admiration of these – things to the absolute minimum in my house, Harvin.”
“Duly noted. Second, as you have already made clear, Hal, is their utter derangement. In a previous recorded exchange between these four and a fifth person, in fact, forwarded to us by Syrian intelligence almost a fortnight ago, the content is even more fantastic.”
“Is the fifth individual in custody?”
“He is actively sought,” replied Quecture, “under case name ‘Edelweiss,’ but has not yet been found.”
“The sound file’s content was--?”
“Beyond insanity, Sir Hal,” Quecture recalled. “They spoke of dividing up the world. One goes so far as to say that it may be a thousand years before the trumpets sound. We felt its content was not germane to the bombings, therefore it was not made available to your staff. If you prefer, of course—“
“No, no. Let’s not. Though I’d say the trumpets are sounding, now. None of this informs me how they knew Al-Adil’s e-mail address to give to this Dr. Bernheim individual, however. Who by my lights may be involved here, to her bleeding eyebrows.”
“There is an excellent chance that Sir Lawrence’s admin assistant forwarded Al-Adil’s translation to the Mukhabarat al-Amma with her e-mail address still on it. These four may have learned of it then. We’ll of course double-check that.”
“Indeed you shall, Weston. No Mukhab connection, then.”
“Not that we have learned, and you’ll pardon but we’ve beaten those bushes half dead.”
“To put aside just for a moment longer your agent’s most egregious blunder, however, Miss Al-Adil also did not ask why these individuals believe that they can operate with godlike impunity! Small G, I mean.” Sir Hal attempted not to raise his voice, but failed. “If I read this correctly, you are telling me that it isn’t so much that they know what we intend or what we have currently in process, it is that they simply don’t care. How can that possibly be? With our remaining weapons and our abilities, are we yet so inconsequential to them? What else besides supreme overconfidence is their advantage? Why is it not an Achilles heel to them? There must be something, and your agent, Harvin, made no attempt whatsoever to divine it. While your paltry efforts in the direction of wringing concessions out of this subhuman entity are slightly laudable, Al-Adil, but neither have they any basis in reality. If your encrypted cellular rings at noon today, one can safely assume it a wrong number.”

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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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?”
“Possibly, sir.”
“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?”
-Wha? –W.
“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.
-Hm? --F.
-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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"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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