Everybody Look What's Going Down
rating: +24+x

London, England, May 1943

The Grand Occident Wedge was more crowded than it had been in generations. Enzo hated it. In his decade and a half as Oecumenicus Volgi, since his predecessor imploded himself in a transdimensional mining accident back in '28, a Freemason had never set foot inside its sacred halls, in no small part because every single visitor, from deliverymen to honored foreign dignitaries, was thoroughly vetted by Gormogon mentalists beforehand. But there were only so many mentalists, and now that the Ancient and Most Noble Order had joined up with this new Allied Occult Initiative to fight the fascist menace, all sorts of outsiders had made themselves at home in the hallowed halls of the Wedge. Oh, no doubt most of them were free of any Masonic taint. But there were openly and secretly Masonic organizations in the Initiative, and although they were operating under the banner of truce, he would not put it past them to sneak listening devices and spy-hexes into the sanctum. He'd need to go over the place with a fine-toothed comb once the war was over.

Oh, he knew why they were using the Wedge. Other than the Houses of Parliament and the Bank of England, it was the only building in London with the requisite mystical protections to house such an endeavor, and the only one that could be commandeered at such short notice. (Well, there were the Templar catacombs beneath Temple Church; but as soon as that crypto-Masonic Portuguese son-of-a-bitch Sousa suggested it, Enzo had immediately volunteered the Wedge. No way he was going into some ancient Freemason burial chamber without a bag full of dynamite.) But it still didn't sit right.

He was distracting himself from the possibility of Masonic infiltration with some paperwork when someone knocked on his office door. He grunted, and they let themselves in.

"Oecumenicus Santorini?" A man's voice, with a slight accent—Australia, maybe, or New Zealand.

"Please, call me Vincenzo." He signed his name with a flourish, and looked up. The man had no face. His foot reached for the detonator under his desk; it would activate a shaped charge under the carpet, turning the man into an avant-garde ceiling fresco. "And who are you, signore?"

"There's no need for the explosive, Vincenzo. I'm with the Initiative." He reached into his suit pocket and took out a large envelope, flicking it onto Enzo's desk. Impressive, seeing as he was still six feet away. "John Smith. Australian Abnormal Intelligence Bureau."

Enzo kept his foot on the detonator, and slowly opened the envelope. It contained a set of schematics, for some sort of military research laboratory, heavily fortified and built into a mountainside. "Some Nazi fortress? Why come to me with this? We've got Gormogons ready to deploy anywhere in Germany, no?"

John Smith shook his head. "The base is not in Germany, Vincenzo. And we cannot use just any demolitions expert." Two more envelopes, each apparently larger than the pockets they came from, landed on the desk. The first was a thaumaturgic diagram, written in a combination of Ancient Greek and advanced mathematics; it showed a fiendishly complex series of interlocking wards and hexes, surrounding the same base. Enzo had already developed and discarded three separate plans for its destruction when Smith cleared his throat. "Ah, the third envelope, Vincenzo."

The third envelope contained a map, with the location of the base clearly marked. "Merda."

Neu Schwabenland, Antarctica, July 1943

"I coulda been a florist. Or a farmer. Maybe even a priest," Enzo muttered into his scarf as his snowshoes crunched over the waist-deep drifts. "No, not a priest, they gotta be celibate. A carpenter, maybe. Cazzo di Cristo, how much longer?"

"Did you say something, Vinny?" His companion on this long trek was an unnervingly chipper Canadian, who seemed entirely unaffected by the cold. She hadn't even covered her face, for Christ's sake. It was minus forty outside, with the wind bringing it down even further, and he couldn't even use a personal warming spell without being seen by the goddamn Nazi wizards he was here to blow up. He had felt nothing but regret for the last week.

"No, Signora Boisvert, just talking to myself." He adjusted his pack, and kept walking.

"I keep telling you to call me Ursula."

"And I keep telling you not to call me Vinny, but we can't always get what we want, no?"

"Guess we can't. So, I have a question."

"Mmmm?" He raised his eyes from the snow, and saw that she was snowshoeing backwards. He didn't even think that was possible.

"Why didn't you stay in Italy? I mean, didn't Mussolini ban the Freemasons? I thought you'd be all about that."

"So? He is a violent thug. He does not have a good reason for hating the Masons. He just did it to make nice with the Pope." Enzo shook his head sadly. "Not that he cares at all for the Church. Pure propaganda, nothing more."

"And do you?"

"Do I what?"

"Have a good reason for hating the Masons?"

He sighed, and stopped walking for a moment. "I am about to divulge one of the deepest secrets of the Most Ancient and Noble Order of Gormogons." Ursula had also stopped, and was staring wide-eyed at him. "If you spread this to anyone—and I mean anyone—the vengeance will be swift and merciless. Do you accept these terms?" She nodded. "The reason that I, and all loyal Gormogons, hate the Freemasons, is simple: we trace our lineage back through the ages back to ancient Sumeria. There, in the city of Kish, the great king Jushur baked the first brick, and founded the Guild of Bricklayers. And, well, to make a long story short, those Egyptian figli di puttane came in with their rocks, which you can just pick up off the goddamn ground, and took all the fancy jobs for themselves!"

Ursula was speechless. "Wh… Really? Are you serious?"

"Nope." Enzo's deadpan shattered, and he almost doubled over in laughter. "Madonna mia, the look on your face! Gets them every time." He wiped a tear from his eye before it could freeze there, and started walking again. "Andiamo. I want to cover some more ground before we camp."

"We're not camping tonight, Vinny." He looked back, and saw Ursula was grinning ear-to-ear. "We're gonna set off some fireworks."

It took another couple hours for the mountain to emerge from the fog of blowing snow, standing alone on a vast white plain.

They crept up on the base from the North, staying low to the ground to avoid being spotted from the massive hangars cut into the rock. Every so often, an odd saucer-shaped flying machine would take off from one of those, heading god-knows-where—back to the Fatherland, maybe, or to another secret base down here in the Antarctic. “Luftplatte. Elegant little pieces of engineering,” Ursula whispered as one passed almost directly overhead. “Excellent range, very maneuverable, fragile as all hell. Could probably take one down with a BB gun if it flew low enough, and if the internal weight balance is anything but perfect they’ll spin out of control. No idea how they’re powered. Magic, probably.”

Enzo shook his head. “No. I’d be able to see that from here. Doesn’t mean they’re… ah, strictly scientific, of course. Maybe they’ve trapped some kind of ghost in the engine.” He shrugged, as best as he could while crawling through the snow. “I’m not that kind of engineer, anyway. I take stuff apart, you know? Suddenly and violently and all over the place.”

Ursula grinned. “Then let’s do a little bit of that. How close do you need to get to work your magic?”

"Well, the first ring of wards is about a quarter mile out. So ideally I get right up next to that. Could do it from here, I suppose, but it would be a very unpleasant experience." He reached into a pocket and pulled out a cheap notebook, its pages covered in occult calculations and diagrams. "Thankfully, the actually demolition will be very simple. Their warding is ingenious, but it's got a resonance frequency that I can exploit. I just need to vibrate the ambient thaumaturgic currents in a particular way, and…" He glanced over at Ursula. "I'm losing you, aren't I."


He heaved a deep sigh. Every goddamn time. "You know when someone sings at the right tone and shatters a wine glass?"

"Why didn't you say that to begin with?"

"Never mind. Just get me up to the first ring of wards, yeah?"

They crawled forwards, stopping whenever a Luftplatte buzzed overhead. It was slow going, of course; but they had time. Well, eventually they would probably freeze to death. But not for a few hours, at least. It actually probably only took twenty minutes or so, but it felt like hours. Enzo sat crosslegged in the snow, his knees only a few meters from the outermost ward, and closed his eyes. "This may take some time. Please make sure I'm not disturbed, it would be very bad for my structural integrity."

The first indication that anything was wrong was the hum. It started below the range of human hearing, just a low rumble; then stepped up through the octaves, until it hit a b-sharp in the middle registers. The hum was followed by a glow, a soft purple light that came from nowhere in particular. By the time the rumbling started, the base was in a panic. The commander had taken the first Luftplatte he could find, and his senior officers quickly followed. Soldiers fled on snowmobiles and skis, even wading through the snow on foot. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the rumbling stopped; no more hum, no more purple light. The stragglers heaved a collective sight of relief, some even turning around and headed back towards the fortress; and then everything exploded.

Enzo opened his eyes. He had been in a deep trance state, almost a waking dream, seeing nothing but the spellcraft of the wards and his own mystical interference. It was a hard state to emerge from, and in the past he had occasionally gone the wrong direction, straight from meditation to true sleep. So when the first thing he saw was an polar bear standing in front of an erupting volcano, he was sure he was dreaming.

"Polar bears aren't even native to this hemisphere," he murmured to himself, trying to pull his dream into lucidity so he could wake up and get on with the mission. "And they would never come this far inland. Come on, Enzo, wake up!"

"You're definitely awake, Vinny," the bear said, its features shifting in disturbing ways as it—she—slowly transformed back into human form. "That was dramatic. Did you know that the mountain was a dormant volcano?"

"I… You…" He tipped his head back, staring at the slate-grey sky. "Ursula. 'Little bear'. Not even subtle, huh?"

"You might not believe me, but it is actually my given name."

"Right. Of course." He stood up, his knees complaining at the effort. "So… How do we get home?"

"Oh, that's easy. I've got a Library card."

"A library card?"

"No, a Library card. Capital 'L'." She took a small piece of paper from a pocket, and held it up in front of her face, then incanted something, in a language that Enzo couldn't even recognize.

"What language is that?"

"A Samoyedic Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with classical Arabian inflections."


"Don't worry about it." She let go of the card, and it stayed hovering there, about four feet off the ground; and then it expanded, opening somehow, until a door-sized portal stood before them. A soft breeze blew out of it, blessedly warm and smelling of old books. "What is it you're always saying? Right. Andiamo."

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