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Hebephrenica/ It's Time You Knew
by:  Ken Egbert (aka K. Griffiths), One More Haggard Drowned Man
It's always darkest before the dawn... and after dusk. --Famine
July 24, 2014

The Human Game pt. 259: 'Please Bring them Back'

(-William… best not to tempt fate... --P.)
{-No apologies, bro’. –W.}
Why would he. As for the die, it is all but recast! The Rubicon is here a companionway between universe and X-iverse, the twinning shores become this ‘world’ and that one. While I’d still rather be myself than Caesar. Our mounts looked at Dr. Bernheim as if expecting she’d tell them something. Of a sudden, I noted on the ‘1a’ road, about 15 minutes behind the Embassy Chrysler, two black BMWs. It appeared that Quecture had made that call.
(-None of them know about Paris! They haven’t said a thing, made a reference. I can’t believe this. –P.)
“G-d is great.”
“Preparing VdM…” said Vortura. “The particle beam is accelerating. Passing 80% of ‘c.’” Robot World unplugged his laptop, walked towards the cellular array. He gave us a thumbs up; I answered with a Roman salute.
“Talk about old school,” observed Thermos.
/-…Maintenance of Creation makes strange bedfellows, doesn’t it? –D./
“You were not called out for fun and games…”
“When I give the word, now, we’re going to put the acceleration of the particle
beam past 90% of ‘c’,” Victor announced. “At that juncture, Peter, David, Frank, Willie, the anomalies should come into sight. At that time I’ll direct you to move towards our ring target point. That’ll be approximately 200 feet southeast of where you are right now. I’ll tell you where to stop. You’ll turn and face us, and your companionway will descend. We’ll bring it to ground level, we’ll give you the green light and the rest is your call. Are your earpieces functioning? Dr. Bernheim, maybe you’d better put yours in.”
“I have it,” said Leah. She still appeared to have some last topic in mind to share. Not right away, however.
[-Azrael, I’ll never say this again, but tell Him thanks from me. –F.]
“All right, testing… Is this thing on?”
-Loud an’ clear. –W.
“Consider it done.”
-Loud and clear –D.
I’d heard my brothers say that before… 13.72 billion and thirty years (minus 18 days) and 3200 miles distant from here, I heard two bullets clicking into place. Possibly if I’d listened harder still I might have heard myself shushing through the long bloody grass of the field outside Taginae, lifting my weapon to sink into a child’s back. Well. Here and now, Robot World connected up to the cellular array to our far right and began tapping keys.
-Got it, Dr. Schneider. –F.
-Loud and clear. Doctor, how is the interference? –P.
Impressed, the chief engineer replied, “Good question, Peter! I’ve been up the last 3 nights making shieded LAN cables. My screen’s sharp. Who’s got the full answer? Robot?”
“One sec,” we heard the automaton reply on our earpieces. A mildly Scottish burr.
“Global beam permit on,” said Vortura to any one interested. “Probes in.”
“Yeah, earpieces in, now, everybody,” Schneider said. “Gentlemen, I know you’ll be busy while you’re in there, but obviously, anything you see that might be instructive, we’d appreciate. Anything at all. Giants in the earth, mountains of ice cream, tiny golems walking around inside-out… I have no idea.” He spread his hands.
-Don’t you start. –P.
“Yes, Dr. Schneider,” agreed Leah, “don’t have my nervous breakdown for me.”
-Leah…! --P.
“My fault,” the chief engineer admitted. “I never thought about head camera rigs.”
“I know, Peter, I know.” She would not look up at me; instead she addressed our horses. “Listen, you four. Your masters are my good companions, and I don’t have all that many. Please bring them back. Promise?”
Geist, Whitey, Red and Midnight stared at her, decidedly taken aback.
-They do! I will speak for them. –P.
“Got an answer for you,” grinned Robot on my earpiece. “No interf of any kind to speak of, yet. Over and above the expected.”
-We’re good to go, Leah. –F.
“Well, we haven’t hit the 90% mark, Francis,” advised Tanker.
-See ya soon, Doc. –W.
I removed my ‘rig,’ partially, whispered.
-Leah. Be ready for visitors. –P.
“What?” Now she looked up.
-I had a report earlier that O’Carlan left the Bern Embassy at about 5:30. –P.
Taking this in, no fear showed; more like a ghost of anger. She pulled her own out. “He’s coming here? When were you planning on saying something?!”
-Yes he is. We called your room but you’d already left. –P.
She sighed, as if girding herself. “And of course you have no mobiles. Hash v’sholem! Any suggestions…?”
-He’s being followed. All you have to do is stall him. –P.
“Everything OK, Dr. Bernheim?” Schneider asked from his post.
“These men don’t have second thoughts, Victor,” Leah turned to him with a bit of sharpness. She addressed me, further sotto voce: “Is it, um, them?”
“Forgive me my trespasses,” he answered, tolerant. “Tanker, better sign onto the ES2 weathersat net.”
-No, but it’s somebody they sent. The WIMPs, actually. –P.
She nodded, recalling. “Wonderful! Thank you for the contact, Peter. She was very understanding. I’d like to meet her, one of these days.”
“Getting the boot in now…” Tanker offered.
-Ah, not today, I don’t think. But… --P.
I winked, ready to reattach the device to my earlobe. Never have got used to having earlobes until recently. Another bad sign.
-You did fine the last time. Just do it all again, the exact same way! –P.
“Record him, in other words.”
-Very good! –P.
“He should just try to stay out of my way…”
-Where d’we stand, Doc? –W.
I’d had no doubt she’d figure it. Clear-eyed, Dr. Bernheim turned from us, put her own earpiece back in and made for her workstation. I reinstalled my own.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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July 21, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 258: The Ultimate in Low Tech

Now that we’d left the shadows, the sun appeared a hair warmer than we’d expected. Trotting, we pulled up just short of the now well-laden work tables. Most continued staring while they went back to work, rather as if they’d seen us step out of a post-Renaissance history book. Curious, our mounts stared back, viewing the many devices strewn about. Leah turned nimbly around the table and came to us. I had an inkling her crew’s askance aspect was much as their medieval ancestors could have been; men on horses were in those days usually considered a bad sign.
-Can’t imagine th’ reason. –W.
As the Doctor approached, I saw that our earpieces were in her left hand.
“It’s nearly time, gentlemen! Are you ready for us?”
-We have been ready for millennia, Dr. – Leah! –D.
And I thought only I tempted Fate as foolishly as that; I kept half an eye on the chief engineer, who reacted not a whit to his murderer’s voice. Whom shall I thank?
Leah cast a look at David. “I’d forgotten that Peter is not the only joker here…”
“You know exactly Whom.”
(-Azrael. –P.)
“The same.”
The smile in his invisible voice was palpable; had my sword but left my bag before this!
(-We could have used your input any number of times. –P.)
“I have other things to do besides minding Horsemen.”
(-Shhh! –P.)
[-Whatever you do, don’t make yourself seen. –F.]
-Morning, Leah; we’re not late, are we? –F.
“Right on time, it’s 7:58 GMT.” Lowering her watch arm, Leah went on: “Let me introduce CERN’s chief engineer, Dr. Victor Schneider. He’ll be operating the NHC for you remotely. From here, I mean. He’ll have an earpiece also, as we all will. If you want the ‘companionway’ manipulated he will be the one to do it, within our abilities. I’m really just observing today, starting the collations of new data and occasionally wringing my hands.”
-‘The companionway‘? Changed the/ name of it again, I see –D.
Schneider found his feet and walked around the table, donning his own earpiece. “Hey, guys. Dr. Bernheim’s told me all about you.”
“And in five minutes we’ll probably change it again,” Leah quipped to David.
-Dr. Schneider, a pleasure. We’re very grateful for your involvement. –P.
Victor moved to where Leah stood, shook our proferred hands as she gave him our names. After my turn, I looked back towards that black Chrysler from the Bern embassy, now on route E12 in the area of Lausanne.
“Wish I could say how brave you four are. I mean…” Words failed him. I had an inkling it occurred more often than he’d prefer.
-Someone’s gotta do this first. –W.
-If you wouldn’t mind, Dr. Schneider, you might tell the young lady here that she has nothing to wring her hands about… --P.
At the far left laptop, a workman with a female voice (?) called, “Ramping up to full charge, Vic.” No sign of a certain dreaded nickname.
“Wish me luck, there, Peter.” Victor turned and indicated his fellow workmen, and, as one readjusted her scarf, work—woman? -- he ticked off their nicknames. “That’s Tanker… Thermos… Vortura… the big one is Robot World—“
“Dr. Schneider, I pulled that joke on Peter already. No recognition.”
. “Sorry…” he said, clearly not a bit. “Vort, setup beam status?”
“Oh, so that’s who I am today,” cracked the diminutive woman with a Bengal lilt. She consulted her device, pulling a cap further down on her head again. No wonder I’d thought she was male. “Nominal. On line. No particles intro’d.”
“Okay!” He gathered himself. “We will do everything humanly possible to get you back out. That is a promise. The cellular array will pick up whatever comes out of the CW—“
-Companionway? –F.
“Right. Dr. Bernheim, maybe you’d better…” The chief engineer indicated.
It was as if Leah had forgotten, or had dearly wanted to. “Oh! Thanks.” One by one she handed us our earpieces, clasping each of our hands for a moment; one by one we nodded, put them on. Francis squeezed her hands back.
[-Why do I suddenly not feel all that confident? –F.]
/-Thanks for /saying so to yourself –D./
-Leah… --P.
(-Resist the human virus, brothers. Just this once. –P.)
{-Ha ha. Yer right, tho’. They don’ know their own strength. –W.}
“Sue me.”
(-Luckily, nobody’s tried that ‘seven Edens in seven continents’ trick here yet… --P.)
“Once was enough, thanks.”
/-We’ll keep that one to ourselves also –D./
“Therm?” asked Schneider, turning. I viewed him closely. Lost all his baby fat. Half a head shorter than our hesitant Valkyrie. Not the most handsome man I’d come across by any means, but… well, was Ozzy? The chief engineer continued, “Accelerator mode?”
(-I will not say it again, angel. Keep it down. –P.)
/-You coming in with us? –D./
Again, David’s stammer had fled. As I have said before, this is really going to happen.
“Of course I am. As an observer. To give what assistance He wills.”
“Nominal as all get-out,” advised ‘Thermos.’
[-Will He hear you if you’re in there? –F.]
“Of course He shall.”
(-Should have told us that previously. –P.)
“He did not know Dr. James was in that creation only because He did not look there. What do the Hasidic rebbes say? ‘Where is G-d? G-d is where we allow Him in.”
(-Or where He allows Himself in. –P.)
[-Enough, Az; my head still hurts from that Sufi proverb about the Veiler and the one veiled. Or whatever it was. –F.]
{-He don’ trust us t’ hand Dr. James over… --W.}
“Not so. Not so at all.”
“Upstream and downstream gap openings ready,” ‘the bottle’ concluded. Seemed some sort of Asian, from my vantage.
“I was just about to ask that,” said Victor. “Ready a group of victims for loading.”
[-What will happen to her, Azrael? Leah, I mean. –F.]
“I have received no orders.”
-I would have thought that human sacrifice was no longer in fashion. –P.
[-I posed a question. –F.]
“Load sequence engaged!” said Tanker.
“I cannot say what I do not know to tell, Famine.”
[-That is not good enough. Ask your Master. –F.]
“Peter,” Leah said with a distant hint of warning. She buttoned her coat as a breeze kicked up, standing yet by our all-too-patient mounts. They appeared to understand that they only had to behave for a few more minutes. I looked away again, saw the Embassy car accelerating past Nyon. I turned back towards her, mischievous.
“All right, the little ones are away…” announced Vortura.
“He will not tell me until He is ready. It would do no good to ask.”
[-Look at the position she’s in. Of all the people she’s met, she develops an attachment to us. Of all the crud she’s been through, she decides she enjoys the company of the four least dependable entities in this universe. –F.]
Schneider walked to his own ‘station,’ sat before the next-to-last unoccupied laptop. Everyone else sat as well, except for Robot. Leah remained where she was, as if awaiting a cue. I turned towards Leah, mischievous.
-Hm? --P.
“All of this because you enjoyed her violin playing.”
[-So it’s our fault We should have steered clear of her. –F.]
“I wish you wouldn’t kid like that,” our physicist admonished me.
“No man, or woman, knows their future.”
[-By using her as we’ve done, we’ve put her in major trouble. –F.]
This was an odd tack from my brother...
“Speak all you like of ‘retrocausality.’ It is a truth no human being will fully see until I, or you, or their fellow, has taken them.”
Yes, she still thought she was sacrificing us. Oops.
-Pardon, I take it back. –P.
[-Fine. You stay well behind us and don’t interfere. Got me? –F.]
“Thank you.”
“I will not interfere unless called upon.”
-Not to worry! We’ll keep in constant touch! I swear it. Besides, I assume Dr. Schneider means a particle, not a person or a goat. –P.
“Bad joke, ‘scuse me. Injection setting?”
“9 millimeters,” said Tanker.
“Truce, Famine?”
Casting me half a baleful eye, Leah turned towards our horses.
“Quad magnet field square?”
-So what do we do, here? Tell us what’s next, V-- --W.
[-…Maybe. –F.]
-An excellent idea!! –P.
“Alea iacta est,” answered Thermos. Another humorist.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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July 18, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 257: The Undertaking

“We all know what this is, on the 'other side,'" Dr. Schneider told his techies. "We all know what we’re playing with. I warn you. This is not a joke. According to Dr. Bernheim and Dr. Augustus Bailter of Cambridge College – there’s a name you definitely know -- that is a completely separate universe which may share the exact same space point-for-point with our own, and it may have done that since the deepest time. I know that makes no visceral sense, just trust me. The men we have going in are professionals, they’ve been advised of what may occur. We let them go and we don’t try to dissuade them. You’re going to see Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Neil Armstrong and Tenzing Norgay here. They will take the leap once we have everything as stabilized as we can get it. Literally.”

-I’d almost rather be compared to the Three Musketeers. –F.
-What you said. –W.
David arrived from his pass at the crew, to make things somewhat worse.
-It’s him, all right/ and they almost know we’re here/ –D.
-Wait. Atmospheric disturbances. As MI6 had seen. –P.
The engineer continued, “We have to do everything we can to keep the way open. Our explorers will require that the circle be adjusted. Widened, raised, cantilevered, you name it. Dr. Bernheim has made some calculations which we’ll be trying in ‘the real world’ to attempt just that. If we screw up, we’ll go on. Listen here. If they screw up, we’ll go on. We are attempting all of this for the first time. Give your best. No one will be penalized for failure. Our explorers know they might not make it back. If you told 99.8% of the particle physicists and astrophysicists in this world at this time what we’re doing today, they would have you committed. You, me, Dr. Bernheim, Dr. Bailter, and probably all our extended families. Am I understood?”
This was not the voice of one used to command. He did what he could do, though. One had to admire that, if indeed one had access to the ability. Meanwhile, David added…
-Yeah/ I rode right up to the table where Schneider was standing/ one of his techs said something about ‘nearly pinpoint-aimed solar flares’ goofing up the equipment/ said he couldn’t think of anything else --D.
-Come, brothers, we’ll ride for the tree line and ‘temporize.’ –P.
-Stop it with the puns. We’re all nervous. –F.
“Well, Dr. Singh and Dr. Semmel OK’d this, didn’t they?” asked one techie.
“Yes, Robot, those and Drs. Bailter and Bernheim are the 0.2% of physicists who wouldn’t put us all away.”
The techs appeared to agree with Schneider so he concluded, “One thing I will not allow any one of us to do. You will not approach the entry. You will not look inside. You will not go anywhere near it. We have no comprehensive idea what is emanating, if anything, from these openings. We do pretty more or less surmise that there’s a Collider over there as well. Otherwise, according to the good Drs., this phenomenon wouldn’t appear. Just do all you can today, and whatever occurs, blinding success, cluster-F, anything in between, remember that you did what was possible to do. OK, let’s finish setup.”
Once we entered the large copse to the left, we came back into ‘normal’ human sight, if you like, and viewed progress through the now-sparse leaf cover. The evidence from below became apparent.
-They have it up and running… –F.
The vibrations from well below were very faint, and that ‘tonic’ of a sort intruded once more, as it had done the last few times we’d been here – why we could not take notice of same with our photons well apart… well, there was no time to ask because a familiar Mercedes nosed off Route de Meyrin and parked. Our fifth Horsewoman had arrived.
No one on site could spare a minute, it appeared, to do the chivalrous thing; Dr. Bernheim opened her own car door, drew out her effects from the passenger seat and approached the work table after locking it. Most greeted her, while she gave them half a wave, a ‘Morning’ – a gesture, really - and little else. Unsheathing her own laptop, she connected it up and turned it on, then began to walk from one tech to another, one piece of equipment to another. She too had neglected to bring a hat.
-Why’s the woman wearin’ black? –W.
We noted Leah consulting her watch, then doing the same with her phone. She was, indeed; her long dark gray winter coat carelessly hung open, showing a black vest, slacks and blouse.
-Mourns us already/ --D.
-No wonder Leah got on so well with Al-Adil on the phone yesterday –F.
-…Why did Azrael not tell us we could do this? Incur ourselves into the last ‘world,’ seek out the man and bring him back. –P.
-He didn’t know –D.
-What did he expect we’d do instead? –P.
David shrugged, in a manner very unlike a Roman. At the place of anticipation, I saw Dr. Bernheim have a quick word with Schneider, then walk back to her side of the work table.
-Lie in wait at every false door/ let our time run out – D.
-Though what do angels know of Horsemen? –P.
-Or of the universe? Figuered that out a while ago. What their G-d tells them… --F.
-He was not going to assist us any more than he had to, I’m sure of that. –P.
At the table Leah consulted her watch again, then her phone, casting a look at the D35 road.
-Did she hear the news since she woke up? –F.
-You mean, does she know about Paris? I did see her turn the TV on and off in her room this morning but I didn’t notice her actually listening to anything it said. –P.
-Good. Last thing she needs. –F.
-An’ what’s th’ first thing? –W.
-Must be time, William. Have to speculate anon. We have the order of battle down? –P.
-Willie, Frank, you and me/ same as always –D.
-Remember this above all, brothers. We have eighteen days. A brace of generations to a shadfly. –P.
-Yeah, yeah, we scatter our photons… wait. –W.
-What? –F.
-Can’t do that over there! We’ll lose the earpieces she’s gonna give us. –W.
-…Very well! All caution to the winds. Which is where it usually is. –P.
Red snuffled loudly, losing patience, and William grinned at us.
-Sounds like we got our order to move... –W.
-All speed/ --D.
We wrapped our faces in our scarves as David had suggested, and broke the tree line. Oddly, Leah turned to face our direction almost immediately, though we were too distant to be heard. So I’d have thought, at any rate. Not that sneak attacks were ever our forte. Explains all the trouble we’d had with the Monsignor! She waved us forward; one by one the technicians turned and surveyed us while we approached.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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July 15, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 256: Spectral Morning

At five we four ‘rose’ – after a fashion -- and again moved a ‘GPS locator’ from Leah’s Mercedes to a large Zil touring car with Ukranian plates. Leaving the hotel, we led a few of Philomen’s functionaries a jolly chase for some 45 minutes; once we’d lost them we doubled back to the hotel to pick up the horses. Impatient for another romp, they snorted and pawed as one, nearly demanding an explanation. Girding our equipment bags and strapping on our winter garb, we made for the corridor between the trees off D35. On our way, I cast an eye towards Bern, noted how a massive Chrysler had exited the American Embassy parking lot an hour and change before. The rush hour traffic still some hours distant, it made its way here.

Dr. Bernheim woke earlier than usual - not that she had at all slept well -- photographed and erased the whiteboards, showered, dressed for her workout in the hotel gym, showered yet again when she returned from it, and dressed for morning ‘minyan.’ It again seemed apropos to allow the woman her privacy. The virus sings louder and louder within. Another clock that counts down the time. Although, who knows: possibly she prayed while there for us as well. I recall two other women doing that; at the time it may have been all we had to keep us from (just then) an unwanted oblivion.

Arriving at the spit of land behind the two tree stands along Route de Meyrin, we let our and our mounts’ photons spread wider yet on their strings and looked over the situation. Too early, we saw. No sign of the slots in the sky, or anywhere else, but this was not germane.
-Considering how the device is installed, I suppose the slot we’d want would be here, or close to. –P.
-Well yeah, this’s where th’ University is. Was. Back then. –W.
-We just have to drop into the right building. –F.
-Be nice if we could land in the stationery closet/ assuming we’d fit –D.
-There’s a thought. First one in kicks the exterior door open! –F.
That would be William, of course; William always leads the charge. I scanned above us regularly, assuming that if the Collider was on here, it was ramped well down. Over by the road five men stood and squatted, here and there, with electronic equipment, generators, all-terrain trucks exhibiting the CERN logo, and a small steel tower in the inexact center of the melee. One technician did look far more familiar than I had hoped.
-David… --P.
-I know/ --D.
-Nearly your last victim, a creation ago. –P.
-I said, I know/ cover your faces, all –D.
Well thought out. Victor Schneider, CERN’s chief engineer, the young boy who’d once fallen to my brother’s hand scythe in the catacombs of Tokyo, barked into a walkie, gave orders, meandered back and forth between tables of measurement devices, laptops, and so forth. The chill had set in; typically absent-minded, perhaps, only Schneider wore no hat.
-Come to think of it/ why would he remember me now when he didn’t/ just before the Rapture? –D.
-You weren’t visible, that I remember. –F.
-Oops/ right –D.
-And you disguised your voice. –F.
-One more time –D.
-I wonder if he still has the nickname. –F.
-Maybe we don’ bring that up. Petey! –W.
-Wouldn’t dream of it, William. All he’d have to do is twirl a knob and we’d be stuck in that plexiverse for just long enough to make an utter mess of it. Could only rely on Leah’s good graces to keep him in line, then. –P.
-May those be/ in great supply –D.
David then rode over, closing in on the techs and their toys.
-So. What day do you suppose it is, ‘over there.’ –P.
-Ain’t been keeping track. –W.
-Let me think. Uh. April 27. –F.
-What were we doing on April 27? Over there? –P.
-That was the day you had your argument with Ozzy about whether he was going to throw in or not. “Think of her lovely back, raw from whip marks.” Something like that. –F.
-Not my finest hour… --P.
In the field distant, the setup continued. I saw Schneider shake his head while peering at one of his laptops. Two techs pointed at the screen. David and Geist started back
-Don’ overmuch agree, Petey. Ya took out his first love a few days before. The math teacher he had a crush on. I think? So he had nowhere else to go. –W.
-We pulled it out. Eventually. –P.
-Ah, no, I think that was Ozzy. –F.
-Ha! --W.
I decided to let the jape go. On cue Midnight nearly sounded as if he were stifling a laugh. Francis patted him. Whitey looked over at them but didn’t comment.
-And yourselves? –P.
-I was cuttin’ throats on a couple a’ small ships off th’ Somali coast. At least some a’ that time. –W.
-My weekly grand tour of refugee camps in Africa, Asia, south America, the Middle East… --F.
He shrugged, unable to recall more. So, if we appeared in Europe it might not be noticed, by ‘us.’ That would have to do. I heard Schneider – if indeed that was him – declaim the details of the morning's task to his charges.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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July 12, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 255: 'A bullseye on that child's back'

In the hallway outside Trier’s resplendent office, however, Quecture encountered the very man; his only statement was, “Upstairs, Weston. Now.”
The ride to the top floor, given the hour, was silent as St. Paul’s on a Monday afternoon. “Hold my calls, please, Addie,” Sir Harvin informed his assistant upon entry. Quecture nodded at her with half a smile and closed the office door behind him.
“Carrickfergus. Jerablus. Paris. Same instigators. Yes or no.”
“Yes.” Weston draped his topcoat over a chair and sat, briefcase recorder still running. He decided to shut it off, doing so while placing it down. “We’ve also intel of a fatal slashing in a small Catholic church in France near CERN, just over the Swiss border. Within the last ten days. Same weapon, same strike angle as the Guard on the Giants’ Causeway.”
“You recorded our chat in Larry’s office.”
“Sir Harvin, you seriously think he did not?”
“Everyone records everyone else, have you noticed. Except for myself. How do we work together?” The DG skipped that one. “Don’t disagree with me regarding those at fault.”
Prestell hadn’t exactly voiced his opinion, but the ADG replied, “I can’t possibly.”
“You make this leap with me, even though the coroner’s report from the Paris police is not yet in.”
“There is no time for that, Sir Harvin.”
“Why did they switch sides?” Prestell asked. “Why did they strike at the Gate? Do you think they heard us speaking, the other day?”
“We do continue our last discussion from South Wark.”
“Was afraid that we might. They don’t recognize ‘sides,’ Sir Harvin. Not as we. I will go to the wall on that.”
“They didn’t come after us, true…”
“They come to earth where they will, and their aims are self-explanatory, if only to themselves.”
“Then this is not a case of ‘evil versus evil.’”
“Sir Harvin, this is evil versus the ultimate void. One may nearly select ‘evil’ to back up, here. Nearly.”
“Although are there not spoils to divide on both sides? May Heaven forgive me, bodies to loot? What other reason? Why are they here now? What are they after?”
“Oh, on the Gate’s side, spoils beyond imagination.”
“Considering the price they’re willing to pay...”
“What they are, may we learn in time to deprive them. As for the Horsemen?” He awaited Sir Harvin’s censure at naming us; receiving none, Quecture continued: “All we know conclusively is in a book two thousand years old. A scant eight verses. Any other evidence is hint, however loudly it screams. I have no choice now: the septicaemic plague is a blunt instrument, not a pinpoint mode of execution. Yet in Jerablus, Syria, someone employed it like a Hawker Devastator airborne drone. The blade angle used in Carrickfergus and in the little French church also matches that on the hacked sapling on Patmos near the four trenches. Blades? In this day? How does it all figure? It does not and never shall. Divining their reasoning is a waste of time, Sir Harvin. Any plot they’d hatch would have nothing to do with our world as we understand it. Should they even be so capable.”
Standing beside his desk since they’d arrived in his office, Prestell cleared a place on its corner and sat. “I had suggested the other day that you occupy your favorite easy chair with a whisky and think on something else, entirely…”
“I’ve grown used to my chains, Ebenezer. Pardon, of course.”
A quarter of a smile lit upon the DG’s face. “Couldn’t resist?”
“It just appears that there are more pressing concerns.”
“While one can’t get too far on this topic without falling into the abyss.”
“They will do what they will do. Al-Adil may yet dig them out.”
“The time calls the woman, as Lao-tzu reminds.” Prestell looked his ADG straight on: “We are putting a bullseye on that child’s back.”
“If they have noticed her existence, or ours.”
“May God forgive us.”
“Sir Harvin…”
“They can’t not know she’s looking for them, man!”
“We have no one else.”
“And when they dispatch her…”
“It’s the thinnest fig leaf. But I still wonder that if they do note us, they consider us as any kind of a possible threat. They do not dispatch out of self-preservation. They do so because it is all they know.”
“Let them make that very mistake, then.” Waxing practical: “You’ll have Bellachiusa route all raw info from Paris directly to her at the Block, hereon.”
“Yes, sir.”
“She’ll have to be told that we know about FOUR HOLES.”
“Al-Adil no doubt suspects, but I’ll see to it.”
“How will we neutralize them?”
“To slash a church curate in twain, one must have a blade and one must have hands to hold the blade. Arms to swing it. A torso from which said arms issue. They must access the temporal world, sometimes. When they do, we must be there and have ready our own blades.”
“I would that you were correct, Weston.”
“As I said, they may not have been taught self-preservation. So we may have an opening, and a trick or two up our sleeves that they’re not ready for. We may.”
“Next. ‘The Castle over’ have transferred their fealty to the Gate. It is not to be debated, any longer. So…”
“O’Carlan currently resides in the American Embassy at Bern…”
“How best to extricate him?”
“Per the recording of his interrogation of Dr. Bernheim, she threatened him with a World Court injunction. Whether it is filed or not, it’s a worthy red rag to our ‘aging bull.’”
“Apt. Go on.”
“The young lady is conducting a field experiment today north of Aeroport Geneve to determine how that ‘malfunction’ we’ve touched upon could be got round. I have the location.”
“Would O’Carlan even know of it?”
“Physicists generally may not be as familiar with how to make communications entirely secure as ourselves. Hypothetically. I’m certain that after their chat O’Carlan initiated all possible surveillance on the Doctor and anyone she may have spoken to since.”
“From what you’re saying it appears she ably helped him sink himself. Not the commonest Agency mistake.”
“He may have walked into that meeting with Bernheim expecting a deer that he could fix in place with his headlights. Overconfidence, in other words.”
“Or they may know something of the young woman that we don’t yet.”
“Still far too confident, I’d suggest. She tripped him up nicely.”
“Decidedly more common error…”
“We’ve wondered if O’Carlan went through Agency training, Sir Harvin. They may purposefully have neglected to do so.”
“They may have wanted a human blunt instrument.”
“The Gate could well have special-ordered him, or someone like him.”
“Now if only Geneva Station were able to scramble this quickly.”
“Sir, after certain lapses of liaison I would say that Interpol owes us, as it is said, ‘big time.’ I will call in some favors as soon as I leave here and have informed Sir Hal.”
“Done. We get O’Carlan first.”
“Sir Lawrence will howl.”
“I’m sorry to hear it, but the man’s slavish insistence that there was a leak here as opposed to DB or elsewhere – not that such an incident has never taken place, no – and this guard-dogging of his friendship with Gibstein… he will have to go.” Prestell loked down at his carpeted floor. “The minute we left his office, he would have rung the Castle over. I had to threaten the man.”
“I made the link of the foursome in Jerablus and how they might be those who dispatched the Paris seven. After you left his office, just now.”
Wearying, Prestell guessed, “No reaction?”
“None, sir. His bringing up ‘Al Gharib’ was, what do these American footballers say? A Hail Mary pass?”
“Personnel it is, then. I may be able to get him on the list for another round of royal honours this upcoming. Might help, but we agree his usefulness would be best skewed towards keeping the troops in line on-site. He never demanded an explanation for the temp withdrawal of FOUR HOLES. I don’t know that he ever directly acknowledged its existence. He also has not assigned anyone to ‘Precambrian.’ That he did not react to your suggestion... well. He had a mind like that, once.”
“Very true.”
“As do you, still, it appears.”
“Thank you, Sir Harvin.”
“Not unhappy to see him go...”
“Well, he’s not exactly going, is he.” Quecture rose. “If there is nothing else, I’d best make those calls.”
“Interpol first on the list, if you please.”
“Indeed. Sir Hal after.”
“Though… what if Larry does still have that mind, has guessed it all, and for whatever reason has himself elected not to share?”
“With us?!”
“…You’re correct, Weston. We shall discuss.”
“We shall.”
And we were worried that we’d be targeted! Sometimes playing to all sides works…

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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