Passing Notes In Class
rating: +29+x

"I wonder who she's going to be today?"

Assistant Director Celesta, PHYSICS Division, Paris Branch looked up from her notepad. "Excuse me?"

"The Scary Lady," Director Theremin, PHYSICS Division, Normandy Branch replied. "No one knows that D.C. Al Fine really looks like. Whenever we have these meetings, she usually takes the form of a famous film actress."

"During the Cuban Missile Crisis, she showed up as Vera Miles from 'Psycho,'" Assistant Director Contrabass, Nice Branch mused. "Shortly after 9/11, she was Sigourney Weaver from 'Alien'. About the whole deal around the elections, she was Linda Hamilton."

"Which wasn't nearly as scary as the time she showed up as Katherine Hepburn from 'The African Queen,'" Theremin said, chuckling. "That was the Roswell Crisis. Pants were browned. People nearly fainted."

"Twenty seconds to Conclave," a bespectacled technician said.

"All right, here we go," Theremin muttered, adjusting his tie. "No matter what happens, everyone stay calm."

"Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven…" The tech stopped reciting his countdown out loud and raised six fingers, then five… four… three… two… one.

The room plunged into darkness. A moment later, the first twinkling star appeared in the black expanse… then another… then another… until, finally, one hundred eight twinkling motes of light shone in the void.

The first point of light shimmered and began to stretch. It soon expanded outwards into the shape of a tall woman clad in white, her weathered face still regal with authority, her hard, cold eyes staring imperiously at the other 107 stars.

"Oh shit," Theremin whispered.

"Who the hell is that?" Contrabass asked.

"Katherine Hepburn. 'The Lion in Winter,'" Theremin replied.

Celesta stifled a scream.


D.C. Al Fine stared into the abyss, and the abyss blinked back. Every single one of her nerves felt like they were on fire. Wearing Elanor of Aquitaine helped, but unlike Lady Kate, she didn't have a script to tell her what to say.

She would handle it.

She straightened her back and adjusted the hem of her wimple. Her chin raised in a defiant, haughty gesture. She faced the Council with her feet apart and her hands clasped behind her back, and spoke.

"Ladies, Gentlemen, and others. The Council of 108 is now in Conclave. The agenda today: the increasing belligerence of the Foundation, and our response to their actions. We begin with a report from PHYSICS Division. Director Theremin?"

The star that represented PHYSICS Division dipped and twinkled. A moment later, it expanded outwards into the form of a meek-looking older gentleman with thin, graying hair and spectacles. "Thank you, Ms. Secretary," the man said. "We received our first indications of a sea change in Foundation policy several months ago, after our embedded agents reported an attack on one of their facilities by an unknown party…"

Al Fine tapped a key on her keyboard, and the image of Katharine Hepburn continued to nod sternly as Assistant Director Theremin continued his presentation. She sat down hard in her chair and took deep breaths, glaring at the Powerpoint slides now hovering in the darkness of the Conclave.

A soft ping, and one of the many stars floating in the darkness slid closer. It expanded into a line of text shimmering in the darkness.

HE'S GOOD. WASTED AS AN ASSISTANT DIRECTOR. PROMOTE HIM.

Al Fine smirked and shook her head. A quick twitch of her eyebrow, and an answering line of text slid towards the star. BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU WERE LAST PRESENT IN CONCLAVE.

I'M MORE SURPRISED THAT MY CODES STILL WORKED. WE DIDN'T EXACTLY PART ON THE BEST OF TERMS.

IT'S NOT UP TO ME. THE SISTERS OF PERPETUAL VIGILANCE ARE STILL TECHNICALLY PART OF THE COUNCIL OF 108. IT'S NOT MY BUSINESS IF THOSE NUNS NEVER BOTHERED TO CHANGE THEIR PASSWORDS.

THEN LET ME MAKE THIS QUICK. the star texted back. THIS IS AN INTERNAL HOUSE-CLEANING, NOT AN EXPANSION OF POWER. TELL YOUR PEOPLE TO STAY OUT OF THIS.

Al Fine snorted. BULLSHIT. EXPLAIN THIS. She gestured towards the image of Assistant Director Theremin, now surrounded by a floating video screens depicting blurry footage of black-clad soldiers gunning down lurching zombies by the dozen. Another showed two women dragging a pantsless man out of an apartment building and shoving him into the back seat of a black automobile.. A third showed men in Haz-Mat suits evacuating an apartment building, while a man with no face conversed with a Russian on the sidewalk.

There were a half-dozen more. All of them showed vastly different scenes, but they were all showing the same thing: Foundation personnel taking deliberate, public action.

WE TOLERATED YOUR ORGANIZATION'S EXISTENCE BECAUSE YOU HAD ALWAYS TAKEN A PASSIVE ROLE IN PARANORMAL AFFAIRS, Al Fine continued. BUT YOU'VE STARTED ACTING PROACTIVELY. THAT MAKES YOU AN ACTIVE THREAT THAT NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH.

TELL ME OUR OPTIONS.

I SEE TWO CHOICES, Al Fine replied, as Assistant Director Theremin began to wrap up his presentation. FIRST CHOICE: YOU BECOME A MEMBER OF THE GLOBAL OCCULT COALITION. YOU FOLLOW OUR BYLAWS. YOU SUBMIT TO OUR OVERSIGHT. YOU ALLOW OUR INSPECTORS FULL ACCESS TO YOUR CONTAINMENT FACILITIES. YOU ALLOW US TO PROSECUTE CERTAIN OF YOUR PERSONNEL FOR THE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY THAT THEY HAVE PERPETRATED, OSTENSIBLY FOR THE GREATER GOOD. AND YOU TURN OVER THE BLOOM.

THE OVERSEER COUNCIL WILL NEVER AGREE TO THAT.

THEN YOU KNOW WHAT'S COMING.

I DO. GOODBYE. WE WILL NOT SPEAK AGAIN.

GOODBYE.

The star twinkled once and vanished from view. Al Fine closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.

"… which leads to one simple conclusion," Assistant Director Theremin concluded. "The current situation more than passes the criteria for escalation of Response Level against the Foundation to Level 5. I will now answer any questions you may have."

"I will begin," said The Seventh Head of the Society of the Immortal Orochi. "Let us not mince words: you are speaking of a covert war against one of the most heavily armed paranormal agencies in existence, with the possible exception of PHYSICS Division itself. Is the Coalition even capable of winning such a conflict?"

"The Silicon Nornir have projected a 75% chance of victory in this war," Theremin replied. "However, in 50% of cases, victory has required the execution of Procedure Pizzicato…"

"… which is the very definition of a Pyrrhic victory," the Seventh Head interrupted, "given that we would have failed at one of our most important missions to achieve it."

"As I said before, that is only in 50% of the projected outcomes," Theremin insisted. "There are just as many scenarios that achieve victory without abandoning the Second Mission."

"By, for instance, executing an immediate decapitation strike against the Foundation's leadership through the use of memetic weaponry? Or making use of suicide-agents to detonate the on-site nuclear warheads in their containment facilities?" the Seventh Head asked. "You are not the only one who has read the Silicon Nornir's analysis. Some of the scenarios they have proposed are grotesque."

"I personally liked the one that proposed causing deliberate containment breaches in their facilities, counting on their own self-interest in keeping their anomalies contained to prevent a Second Mission failure," said Lord Marcus Crowley, Antipope of the United Church of Satan, Scientist. "Elegant."

"I can't in good conscience support a plan of action that relies on the Foundation to maintain our Second Mission by keeping their pets in check," said Secretary Lambda of the Silver Key Society. "They don't exactly have the best track record in that regard."

"I'd like to ask a different question," a woman's voice said. "Isn't it true that none of these plans matter in the long run? Even if you do succeed in defeating the Foundation, they'll just activate The Bloom and undo everything you've done."

Al Fine froze.

"What the hell is The Bloom?" the Seventh Head asked. "Who the hell are you?"

One of the lights stepped forward, and shimmered into view: a young woman wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeved jacket with a floral-print hijab. "My name is Abigail Mary Bowe," she said. "I represent the Sons of Bowe. And I have a proposal for you."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License