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Hebephrenica/ It's Time You Knew
by:  Ken Egbert (aka K. Griffiths), One More Haggard Drowned Man
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New review of MYRRH in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY's 11-17-14 issue; see
December 19, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 308: Set Free to the Wind

The night scorched after us all, as the poet says (Ozzy, actually; once a universe ago, I sat on his bed while he was off at work, reading his adolescent verse. Some of it wasn’t too bad), and Leah slept nearby on her cot. We were not terribly surprised that she did not snore. Extreme fastidiousness can transfer to the subconscious and unconscious, it would seem.
In imitation we did our best to close our eyes too – myself excluded, who had early ‘mid-watch’ -- but we had learned better the last time through. Considering who is responsible for a large percentage of dreams, we needed not hear anything further of ‘the Monarch’’s opinion save his distant roars of laughter at our plight. Allowing Leah to continue her rest undisturbed, we four sat by the storage/ dormitory room door and thought our responses…
{-Since we’re entertainin’ him so much, maybe he’ll give us a slide if we get sent t’Hell. –W.}
(-That’s quite enough positive thinking for one day. What time is it? –P.)
{-I got plenty left. Ah, eleven-thirty Geneva time. –W.}
(-Would make sense… --P.)
[-Petey… --F.]
Francis pointed down the CERN admin buillding rear hall and into the distant grass, up against another structure in the complex. Something moved aganst the wall. In a trice we knew the disturbance; a painfully thin man in black from head to toe, if not as loosely attired as certain ‘IUEDs’ (admirably morbid sense of humor, there). Present but not present, David cast himself across the expanse and scrunched down behind the fellow. He’d set up what appeared to be a Heckler & Koch GMW-IV grenade launcher with an infrared sight. David backed himself to the wall as the gun operator cranked the sight in and out, up and down. Behind him, tethered to a corner of the building, David took note of a small balloon assembly large enough to lift a man aloft. One who’s about as well equipped as this one.
(-Baroque. –P.)
/-Meat… --D./
[-Well, yeah. –F.]
(-It’s who we think it is. The target. Right? –P.)
/-No time/ This ‘scope can’t see us, Petey, you know these things/ he’s coming up on Leah’s position now/ --D./
(-As a result she’s the only heat signature in this part of the building... –P.)
/-Somebody must know it’s her/ somebody must have got the info off an individual in here, somewhere… --D./
{-Can’t trust anybody these days. Off ‘im, Dave, n’ be done with it-- --W.}
/-No, wait/ --D./
(-Isn’t he aiming, right now--? –P.)
/-Still trying to get an exact distance and trajectory/ oh/ cute –D./
[-What? –F.]
/-This infrared sight can tell the sex of who you’re aiming at/ there are no other women here, right? –D./
A quick dash of the eye through the walls and the floors…
(-There are not. –P.)
David needed hear no more; a pair of hands at the assassin’s windpipe
answered all necessity, and when he was done our brother packed up the man and his equipment. Francis trekked out to assist, and the two loaded up the balloon, setting it free to the wind.
[-Good to see it may not have been anybody at CERN who ratted us out. –F.]
/-Helps to be heroes/ or at least to seem like them –D./
Some fifty feet in the air a light at the top of the balloon began to flip on and off in an abstract pattern, In reply, once the lash-up had reached two hundred feet a small propeller aircraft passed and drew it along, banking and turning in the direction of Bern.
[-Another skyhook. –F.]
{-We’re surprised at this, or no? –W.}
Not at all. While the Agency or its subber would have further thoughts… if that ploy were not another’s. They arrived at about one-thirty AM. Two small remotely-directed helicopter drones took up position at the Route de Meyrin side of the CERN admin facility and over the parking lot. So we assumed! I’ll admit none of us had taken note of when they had arrived. At the windows of the chamber, our horses asleep as well (and for some reason, not snoring… possibly they appreciated the Doctor as well. As much as they’ve ever appreciated anyone other than ourselves), we looked up and took the crafts’ measures.
/-More infrared tech/ I think/ --D./
[-Doesn’t matter. Your turn, Petey. –F.]
So it was. Strapping on my bow and arrows, I stole from the building. Once outside, passing where the sunflowers had been, I looked for some sign of the first drone’s position. Oddly, I found it just above where Philomen’s Land Rover had been while eavesdropping on the office party earlier. Shouldn’t sign your work with such a sweeping hand, mon cher...
I had kept my attention wide, and so at this point heard the phone ring at the security desk. That fellow who let us in the previous Saturday AM, somewhat cleaned up, arm in a sling, lifted the receiver.
“761 11.”
“I have a request to make in regard to one of your employees.” Familiar tired French accent.
Taking aim, thanks to some recent practice, I trained on the device closest to our impromptu dormitory. It was a near-to-middling night for this sort of thing, the wind draining.
“I am sorry, mein Herr,” Taddeo replied, “but it will be necessary for you to call back at eight am Geneva time.”
Away went the first arrow.
“You mistake me. There is a woman on site who has an outside appointment to attend. In ten minutes she will make herself available outside the main front door.”
Away went the second. By the time Philomen was halfway through his statement, the first shot removed the targeting module on top of the drone, and the next broke it in half.
I would think that Taddeo, about to retort, was nonplussed to hear someone speaking behind Philomen; “One moment.”
Should have been a bit faster, ‘Phil.’ Two more arrows killed the other drone. Nadia would have approved.
“Allo?” asked Taddeo, to receding voices. After a minute he hung up. The phone did not ring again.
Very few cars passed, this late and in the middle of the week. I sat and waited for more incursions. An hour passed. The Doctor was correct, by half. Which was plenty good enough. How long before we were not where we should have been? But my other thoughts had been plumbed, nearly before I’d had them.
{-We can’t keep this up, ‘bro. –W.}
(-Shouldn’t have asked you to curb your optimism! –P.)
Though I already knew he was right.
/-Azrael told us to stay away/ from you-know-who –D./
(Don’t start that again! He did indeed, but then his bosses gave us Leah to keep safe. So… –P.)
{-They figured this out in advance. Had to. –W.}
(Don’t doubt it… but we have no choice. –P.)
We didn’t, either.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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December 16, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 307: The Escape

What would prefer not to be with the assembled company any longer was the Unholy 3, who as Trier also turned to the door, nearly as one launched themselves for the far wall, and apparent freedom. O’Carlan, out of position and at said door, could not turn, while Sir Lawrence had his Glock down and was a bit burdened by full pockets. On the way past, Routledge pushed Edith’s shoulder and nearly knocked her down, while Leila cried out, jumping for whatever she could catch. That turned out to be the tail of Tyrell’s ‘mac’; aiming and missing a kick for her head, he angled himself out of same and flew for some assumed rear exit.
Leila shouted, “Sir Lawrence!” and took off at a dead run after the U3.
“Her weapon!” Edith called, and Trier went for a pocket and underhanded it to the agent. She leaned back, caught it with a grimace and tore away again.
“Bloody hell,” the peer offered, because from the look of things Leila had no chance of catching them now. Calls from beyond the door of ‘What’s all this, then?’ and ‘Gentlemen, do keep your hands where they are, please,’ signaled the arrival proper of the Met Police detail.
In comparison, Leila continued at full gallop down a dark rear hallway; a door flapped at its end, allowing enough light from outside sconces to show that (a) there were no side doors here, and (b) she had no company here any longer. At the door, an unkempt pier led to three badly-decaying contrails a fifth of the way across the river, and three bobbing heads making for the far bank. The tide, unfortunately, conspired against, so as they swam the ‘U3’ moved up the Thames and ever eastwards. Quickly she pulled her encrypted cellular, dialed a number and gave a code.
“Leila Al-Adil, probationary agent, reporting three men now in the Thames and being swept towards Vauxhall Bridge. Can a team be scrambled to fish them out?” She listened to a question. “Former SIS employees, Sidi Balthuss, Firmin Routledge and Cassin Tyrell. Wanted for questioning.” More nattering from the SIS emergency operator. It took a moment to recall the answer. “Case Silent Running… Thanks, I’ll hold.”
A voice from up the hall interrupted her. “London Met! If you please, miss, place the firearm on the ground to your right and hang up the mobile. Do not put it in your pocket.”
In the corner of her eye before obeying the voice, Leila saw three men drifting through the water, a third of the way across and nearing the bridge, whether they wanted to do so or not.

Copyright 2005 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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December 13, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 306: 'If More Correction is Needed...'

“They were Gate employees when I met them in Alois Zenzinger’s apartment in Prague,” snapped Leila. “The Gate must be very forgiving, or very desperate.”
“Desperate works… damn it!
“Go ahead. Try that again.”
“Just a feint, Dark Lady. That was all.”
“You nearly broke my jaw.”
“I missed!”
“What I meant by ‘nearly.’” Again, she managed not to add, ‘Jerk.’
“No, Plastic Woman, I think your jaw will come in handy later. We’re not satisfied with your thoughts on the matter… your name, ma’am?”
“Mavis Parsons.”
“Your warrant card.”
“Left it at the office.”
“Oh bugger---“
“I’m trying to cooperate here, kindly give that—“
“No.” Tyrell again. “Why do all women’s handbags look alike when upside down… just like they do.”

“Oh, too good!”
“What, Cass?”
“Words cannot express…”All gathered round what Tyrell held.
“Edith Quecture,” pronounced Routledge as if it were a revelation. “Any relation to our very former Associate Director General?”
“Do you seriously think I’d leave the Home Office without an alias ready? That is what the warrant card is.”
“I believe I’ve shown you this before.” The sound of a silencer clicking off.
“I am a Home Office employee, I don’t work with the man you mention. I have no idea whether he has retired or not,” Edith said.
“Best interject soon,” Trier muttered to O’Carlan, who agreed.
“Oh, no, no, although we did once work for that sad old man. Fine. I’m calling a car and we’ll all depart for the local Gate office for further. Much further, in fact. Oh, wait.” He took a photograph of the women with his camera phone and emailed it, then dialed the number while saying, “Balthuss, anything else we want to know? Just now.”
“So, ladies. Too many yobs. That all?”
“If I have learned nothing else while analyzing intercepts and information from stringers and so forth for over 20 years, it’s that now and again there actually are scraps of evidence for a ‘hive mind.’”
“Spare us,” announced Tyrell. “Car’ll be outside the door in 3 minutes-- What was that, Ted?”
Without asking for permission, Sir Lawrence spun away from the door and
made a terse call to the on-duty Five liaison at Scotland Yard; O’Carlan moved into position to open it up, if the seeming amateurs within had not locked same.
Inside, Routledge made an observation about something or other which he referred to as “the Borg” (?)…
A phone clicked shut just within the door. “Good. We’ll get in touch with Five and Six, tell them we’ll toss these in the Thames if they do not allow Nature her course. I’d think hive minds, whatever they may be, ought be more natural than invented, anyhow—“
O’Carlan smiled a crocodile smile at his companion and yanked the door open. Of course it wasn’t locked. One shot directly above the Unholy 3’s heads looked worth taking to O’Carlan, but his non-cop persona won over. “FREEZE! US EMBASSY SECURITY! ON THE FLOOR!”
Routledge, Tyrell and Balthuss dropped, two seemingly in a dead faint or something related, while O’Carlan, 29-2 up and aimed, moved behind them and Trier entered, biasing himself to the right.
“Weapons,” ordered Trier. “Now. Hand them all over, including Agent Al-Adil’s.” In answer Tyrell crept to his men, disarmed them, and handed in three old Walthers and Leila’s Glock. The women, dropping their hands from atop their heads, seemed as stunned as the U3 but I’d say Leila had a bit of an edge. Trier deposited the firearms in various pockets of his coat. “Ladies…” he began but did not continue.
“Sir Lawrence, many thanks for your timing,” Edith managed.
Tyrell commenced to bleat something plaintive but Trier moved to him and slapped him across the face, once, twice, a third and a fourth time. O’Carlan, pistol forward, eyed the empty warehouse walls about them. Someone had been in with a broom and dustpan; the floor lay free of debris. Best time to demolish it, apparently…
“Who else occupies this building, young man?” demanded Trier. A good topic, given how the light in the room biased heavily towards the front of the space.
“You’d best kill us and get out with the girls now, Sir Lawrence—“
“None of that.” Trier slammed Cassin’s face yet again with a palm, and the man-child’s teeth rattled but didn’t appear to come loose. Not yet. “I didn‘t like you when you were fresh to my section, boy, and I like you even less now. This is ungentlemanly behaviour and it will not do. Why is the Gate interested in Home Office public relations and outreach?”
“Because we know that’s not what it is,” Tyrell growled from his knees.
“’Know’ is a very large word,” suggested Trier. “Especially for you lot.”
“We quit, we were not sacked, sir.”
“Quit what, exactly? The palm is ready for more correction, child, should I think it needed.” The peer cocked his open hand in demonstration.
Tyrell snapped, “You don’t send an armed Six agent about with a Five employee to hand out leaflets. This is something else.”
“Tyrell, I’d just answer,” O’Carlan suggested. “Save your nice teeth.”
Cassin craned his neck towards the older man. “We will get back to our office and we will make known to our higher-ups what sort of stab in the back you’re capable—“
Out of all patience, Trier grasped Tyrell’s head and moved its orientation towards himself once more. The younger man whimpered slightly as his neck was twisted. “Standard procedure during interrogation of a potential hostile. Another class through which you appear to have slept. Our colleague here has seen the light, let’s say. While you have clearly neither been sacked nor given notice. Is it still the Gate that pays you? Yes or no.”
“I didn’t say it is.”
“One query I needn’t voice, then, or…?”
“Neither did I say it isn’t. Answer me this one, Sir Lawrence. Why is our government lying to us by omission? You know something is about to occur and we have hundreds of employees in London to protect—“
“Whoever might ’we’ be, then? And whatever for?” Trier hit him again. “If this ‘something’ of which you speak actually is about to occur, you won’t have to pay wages to the dead ones.”
“How dare you endanger British citizens with your closemouthed—“ although that was as far as the young man got before the peer backhanded the other side of Tyrell’s face again.
“Sir Lawrence, I’m grateful for your—“ Leila began, though Edith put a hand on her shoulder.
“Learn something, miss,” Trier spat. “Not that you’ll ever get to use it. ‘Mavis,’ very nice to see you. Best pick up your, ah, accoutrements there.”
The women exchanged a look and watched the head of CTU strike the young man again, harder than ever. Blood trickled from Tyrell’s mouth. “Talk,” he insisted. Edith and Leila began to get Edith’s handbag back together.
O’Carlan, 29-2 pointed in the general direction of the two on the floor,
said in a reasonable tone, “Possibly if you ask the question again, Sir Lawrence…”
Trier straightend a bit. “Yes, why don’t I. Why the Gate’s interest, Tyrell? Last licks.”
Unfortunately the pedestrian door’s knob began to rattle, then a knock came. And another. Trier turned to O’Carlan. “Holster your piece and get your warrant badge out, if you would, kind sir. I’ll handle this…”
The knocking turned to pounding, but sirens began to meander off Nine Elms Lane and approach. All pounding ceased. The older man moved to the door, opened it and while showing his card advised three startled men in car coats, “Joint SIS and CIA operation in progress, gentlemen. If you don’t want to be shot, hands on your head.” Without comment they obeyed. A Land Rover stood behind them, headlights on, badly parked. And yes, it appeared that London’s Finest would be with them shortly.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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December 10, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 305: The Wharf Rats

Not realizing they too were followed, the ‘Unholy 3’ squired their forced guests down what seemed the last disreputable-looking alley in Nine Elms and to the last derelict warehouse. Signs up and down promised renovation come warmer weather. Less traffic in this area forced Trier and O’Carlan’s greater circumspection; in comparison, still rusty at this sort of thing, Routledge, Balthuss and Tyrell slipped shut the battered pedestrian door behind them without a look behind. Once at the door, the older men gave a listen.
“Whatever it is you think you’re doing,” the older woman’s voice within said, “you’re wrong.”
“It’s me they’re after, actually,” Leila offered. “I went through Training with these snotnoses.”
“Since we’re the ones armed this fine day, Miss R.V.,” one decidedly snotty voice added, “you could be more polite.”
“What do you think?” whispered the head of CTU, Glock out. “Hardly the situation we came for, is it…”
“Why don’t we see what they have in mind,” O’Carlan replied, drawing his Smith & Wesson 29-2. My sentimental favorite! The peer nodded agreement.
Within, Balthuss had said, “Our dear Mum took us back, you’ll be pleased to hear. The son of a wench was dead, so—“
“So let us get back to preventing any number of hate crimes,” Leila insisted. “We don’t know anything you can use.” Her encrypted cellular sounded.
“So they called it a win, is what I was going to say. Don’t interrupt me again. And don’t answer that.”
“While we shall be the judge,” declaimed Tyrell. “That vehicle you two climbed out of in Chelsea is registered to Five. The Royal Dept. of Transport DVLA’s server has seriously outdated virus protection. You might bring that up in the next meeting, madam, if you are free by then to attend. Is she a Five employee, Al-Adil, or your current love interest?”
“Oh, that’s your explanation for striking out with me. Again.”
“Please don’t tell—“
“That’s part of it…” Leila said to Edith, nearly speaking her name. “Sad but true.” Her encrypted mobile continued to ring.
“On to the more productive reason we interrupted you, let’s. What do we think of these.” A rattle of paper.
Outside the door, Trier suggested, “We still want to hear where this goes…”
“If you’ll allow.” O’Carlan did his best not to shiver.
Heedless of the invisible witnesses, Routledge began: “Well, then. Official Home Office seal on these handbills. Standard subterfuge. No idea why Five doesn’t attempt something less evident to schoolchildren, but after all this is Five we’re talking about. I don’t profess to read Arabic but I’d guess you have something to tell the mosques in Greater London. What would that be?”
Leila’s cellular at last quieted. “Very nice. We’ll pick up that message later.”
“We’ve been watching Thames House, so don’t say otherwise,” warned Balthuss. “Decidedly more left the building than entered over a three-hour stretch this afternoon, so it wasn’t entirely the late lunch crowd and it wasn’t entirely the early off-home lot either. While any number of this exodus carried leaflets in A4 folders and scattered to visit mosques. Nothing but mosques.
So it was…?”
The older woman offered, “If it’s any of your or your paymasters’ business, and I doubt it, we are getting massive chatter about possible gang action in Greater London. They read the papers and watch the news, after a fashion, and they don’t buy the Paris explanation.”
“’We’?” asked Routledge..
“The Home Office. You have it there on our leaflets. Please don’t disorganize them, I have the folders in a certain sequence depending on what kind of mosque we are visiting next.”
“You are being accompanied by a Six operative instead of a Five because…?”
“It should be evident!” the older woman said. “My associate speaks Arabic and I don’t. Five is as usual shorthanded.”
“While the ‘Paris explanation’ is…”
“So you dowse the news ‘after a fashion’ as well.”
“Do you see this, ma’am? It fires a projectile.”

“Well. You’re no office dronette.”
“Hit her with it,” said one of the other snots, probably Routledge.
“Don’t you dare.” That was Leila.
“I have yours too, Al-Adil, why so possibly I might just—“
Ms. Quecture interjected, “In the spirit of cooperation, then.”
“I apologize for snapping, before,” Edith said, although she did not appear to have actually done so. “The Paris explanation was and is, nobody who directed the Paris bombers was Muslim or even an ally of any radical Islamic group. Any more than the bombers themselves were female and Muslim. None of them were. Islamic terrorist groups have overall been declining steadily in international influence over the years anyhow. You did hear that Paris’ seeming ‘observant women’ bombers were also from different parts of the Third World, I hope. It was on the BBC, it was on al-Jazeera, I can’t imagine who didn’t run that. None of the areas that these bomber victims seem to be from has a large Muslim population either. We have ears about that tell us a response in Europe and here is taking shape. Innocent Muslims are being attacked in Italy, Spain and Austria.”
“But not in the UK yet? How beyond ridiculous.” That was Tyrell again.
“There is always ethnic violence. Idiots and innocents. This is different. Too many domestic trouble makers are posting and spouting dangerous comments on Islam, both on line, on posters and in fringe meetings and gatherings, over the last few days. They couldn’t care less about the evidence; a few have actually gone so far as to say, ‘What about Belgrade? Who did that one?’ after hearing the Paris evidence. Since there are any number in Western Europe who of course have no concept where Aleppo or Mashhad are. Darker-skinned victims, ergo no human connection, am I right, gentlemen? So the oft-ignorant West will conclude on occasion. As a result we feel an event may occur within the next 29 to 46 hours. So we’ll need you to allow us to get back to our business right now and inform as many as possible to stay indoors over the next few days.”
“Then you do know something.”
“I did not hear me tell you that we didn’t.”
“Who was the saviour of Paris, then?”
“If we knew, Routledge,” repled Leila, “we wouldn’t have to visit every mosque in London.”
“Oh, heavens, no, you’d just get them a three-day visa to the UK and let them go mad.”
“And do what?” asked Edith.
“No, we’d arrest them as well.”
“No, wait, what do you mean, ‘give them a 3-day visa and let them go mad’? Are you three holding back information that the Home Office should have? As opposed to the reverse.”
“The questions,” pronounced Balthuss, “are not being asked by you.”
“So there’s more than one in this crew who emptied the bins,” said Tyrell. Would have to be, given the swift execution, wouldn’t there?”
“More than one what? Saviour of Paris? Is that what you call mass murder?”
“Again I hear questions which we are not uttering.”
“You said ‘them,’ I didn’t,” Leila pointed out. “I was following your lead. For the last time ever.”
“Leaving fantasy for the moment, then, pardon my fractured deduction but 29 to 46 hours is inordinately specific. What exactly did you hear.”
“You had the training, my associate just said so. While if you have information that we require to protect British citizens, we need it from you now.”
“Maybe if I—?“
“Leila, please, allow me. Who do you three work for?”
“Answer me, now, or your girlfriend here will be decidedly less desirable in short order.”
Leila challenged, “Be a man, Routledge. Kill an unarmed woman with her own gun.”
“Oh, no, I—“
“That’s enough!” Edith again took charge nicely; outside the door Trier expressed silent admiraton to his co-conspirator. She continued, “I’m speaking of no one threat. It’s a small crowd of fifteen-year-olds in Sands End saying, ‘I know what we’ll do tomorrow when we’re through shoplifting at the mall’ or a group of college students in Hainault who’ve decided to do a bit of what they call ‘street cleaning’ post-football match. Or it’s a web site known for anti-ethnic commentary spiking up on Pakistani or Indonesian immigrants. It’s no one thing, it’s the amalgam. If you wait for the red flag you miss all the yellow ones. How do you not recall this from training?”
“We have not had to recall it. We work—“
“Common nouns only, Balthuss.”
“Who cares? They’ll hear their new master’s name soon enough.”

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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December 7, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 304: 'Freiheit sein ist Knecht'

Leah wiped her eyes again, relieved at my assurance. “It was just a little too close to what O’Carlan told me, this morning. He wanted to know if I had anywhere to hide. Leila implied almost the same. But they had to be thinking of the Agency and their... what would you even call them?"
-Subcontractors. Like Blackwater or Kroll. --P.
"I’m starting to get it. This is our payback for eavesdropping, I suppose...”
-We did/ leave the earpieces on--D.
“Think of it! All you did was come to my recital. And it’s been downhill ever since.”
-Oh, sure, that explains why we’re so angry. –F.
Still a bit bleary, Leah decided. “Fine. I did say you have a roommate, well, now you really do. I’m bunking down here.”
-In our dormitory? –F.
“Why not? You’ll watch me, I’ll watch you.”
-While we’re asleep, and you are also... –P.
Getting a bit sharper, she half-snapped, “No, Peter, we’re going to do it the way the Greek expeditionary army did it when Xenakis went with them to China. O’Carlan asked about you too, remember. It’s coming up on eight o’clock now, I’ll be done with my evening routine soon enough; so one of you will take the ten-to-midnight watch, another the midnight to two, another the two to four, and I’ll take the four to six because I’ll be up by then anyway, while you sleep in. I’m sure that this is a familiar tactic. Especially to you!”
-It would be futile to talk you out of it. –P.
“Told you that your brains aren’t scrambled.” Leah took up her coat. “And you will wake me up at four if I don’t myself, because if you don’t you will have one very angry woman to deal with. And you do not want that. I will contribute here. I admit that I’m utterly and incompetently naïve, or I was, but I am not dead weight. Not yet. After I call the hotel I’ll ask Security to take my baggage and bring it here.”
-There won’t be talk? –P.
“That I’m sleeping in the same room with four very colorful men and four similar horses? Did you hear a word I said a few minutes ago?”
-Did indeed. –F.
“Then excuse me if I couldn’t give less of a damn what anyone says or thinks.”
-But they snore/ –D.
“You mean… Geist, Red… Whitey and Midnight?”
One by one our mounts turned at the sound of their names.
-You remembered them, they’ll be happy. Happy as they ever get. –F.
“Oh, my father snores too. Like a freight train coaling up on a siding, my mother used to say. You can hear him all over the house. While you need your sleep too and I don’t want you to worry about me.”
-You did the same thing for us, earlier. --P.
“Let that be a lesson to us all, no good deed goes unpunished…” Leah moved for the hall door.
-Sorry about that. –W.
“Oh, no you aren’t!” A bit steadier, coat over her shoulder... “All right, workout and shower time. Thanks for letting me unburden myself. And for telling me all you could.”
-Now we need you to do us a favor. –F.
At the door: “Name it.”
-Don’t go into ‘Verse I. Under any circumstances. –F.
“Francis, you’re kidding! Do I look like an explorer to you? Open your eyes, my dear. I’m a mapmaker. I do not rough it. I don’t know which end of a tent you climb into. I need skim milk in my coffee, for Heaven’s sake. I sit in my nice comfortable office, when it has windows, and I plot shapes and equations. I dream up experiments. The rest is just too dangerous.”
-So you’ll be here or in Cambridge the next time we’re around. –F.
“Nowhere else.” In mock exasperation: “For a minute there I’d almost forgotten you were men. Silly me.” And she was away.
We stood and began to tidy up. Well. The Horsemen, at last domesticated.
Aren’t we?
Was that His aim? Tempt us with 'freedom'--
Sorry, not the correct word. But still... That the human virus would all but deafen us?
That it would at last render us as men…
-Anything but that/!! --D.
-What of our promised freedom, angels? Eh? --P.
-Never around when you want them to be. –F.
-Who else is now laughing hysterically? All the Celestial Judges? Tertullian?
Abbas al-Qummi? Augustine? Maimonides? St. Thomas Aquinas? Ibn Tamiyya? The Baal Shem Tov? –P.
-Not for long…/ and you can stop showing off --D.
-Your mouth to His ears, brother. Your mouth to His ears. 180 degree turn! Disgrace. –P.
-That’s OK. Ain’t it? Never intended this. Did we? An’ half circles are easier t’ break. –W.
Forever the optimist, that’s our William. Could have sworn that was me, once.
-Freiheit sein ist Knecht,' my brothers. Possibly. --P.
-'To be free's to be a vassal'? What? --W.
-Old bit of German wisdom. Couldn't be anyone else's. Chaos stultifies. -P.
-Not us it doesn't/ --D.
-In a universe with everything in its place, including every particle, all chaos is human-derived. All contradictions arise from the human plane. --P.
-Of which there is only one, here/ and what is the significance? We gain our freedom in a universe where there are no natural victims available to us/ by protecting this woman? By dropping by once a year for a picnic/ or whatever/ and what do we do the rest of the year? Become actual mercenaries? --D.
-I don't know, David. We can't go back to 'Verse i. We're already in it, and it's about to collapse anyway. We know of no universe after this, and the angels won't tell us. --P.
-We are being herded into a corner/ our idea of 'freedom' will be to get planted again! --D.
-Ready fer th' next Apocalypse. When we'll be brainless monstrosities again. Not such a bad thing. --W.
-These angels will reappear, and we will grill them further, David. --P.
-We'd better --D.
-Although... what Leah told us is not what she said to O’Carlan, this morning. –P.
As ever, I clue them in since we were, let’s remember, not in the same universe at the time.
-…I would not exactly kill for your/ hearing and your eyesight, right now –D.
-Do you think she might... --F.
-So, is she happy like she told us, or is she barely human like she told him? --W.
-I can explain quantum superimposition. Sort of. Now I can. I can’t explain women, William. –P.
-Does not ‘getting’ this make us more like human men/ or less? –D.
-…I actually care about the answer, Dave. Is she going to kill herself? –F.
-Good point, bro'. She offs herself, we don't get whatever 'freedom' is. --W.
-Willie-- -F.
-Problem is, though, she didn’t play us that soundfile. If that’s what they call ‘em. We don’ know she said that. I mean, we’re supposed t’ not know. –W.
-I’d still like to find out. –F.
-/Oh, boy –D.
-Indeed, David. Indeed. --P.
-Aright. Fine. When ya ‘like’ somebody, don’ ya tell ‘em th’ truth? She seems t' like us. She called Frank 'my dear'! You ever lied t’ me? Any of us? –W.
-Of course not. –F.
-OK. Is Dr. Bernheim not, uh, ‘down’ on O’Carlan? She lied to ‘im about whether she had a gun. Why wouldn’ she lie when she said that other stuff? –W.
-Never know... it could be. –F.
-We can’t help ’er with any a’ that anyway. So what difference it makes… --W.
-I will think of a way to bring it up, Francis. What did you once say, David? ‘If I had a head right now, it’d hurt’? –P.
-You do have a head/ --D.
-You aren’t helping. –P.
Completing our labors, we headed for the other side of the empty lab, and our waiting mounts.

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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