Static In My Attic
rating: +56+x

There's a hole in my head.

It wakes me up, screaming in my dreams as usual. It's three in the morning in Antarctica, but in the bright January sun you would never know. A protein bar and a bottle of snowmelt get choked down with some difficulty, and nature soon calls. I step out of the tent and make sustained eye contact with V. I. Ulyanov as I go about my business. He's buried nipple-deep in the snow, but he's about one and a half times life-size so he's still got some time before he disappears completely. The Russians come by and clean him every few years. If the ice all melts he'll have beachfront real estate, but that's still a few decades off.

The hole itches, and I pack up my things.

I kiss Lenin's forehead and draw a hammer and sickle on his left cheek in my condensed breath. Then I turn counter-clockwise four times, and hum the first few bars of the Internationale. Vladimir's mouth opens wide, wider, even wider, and swallows me whole. I step through the Way into Voronezh-23, one of the most ambitious Naukograds of them all, built in the early 70s at the height of the Cold War. A totally closed city in a branch-universe, dedicated to socialist neotheurgy. The Psychotronics Division researchers here were the esoteric descendants of Lunacharsky, creating new gods of agriculture and industry with party-sponsored temples and communal rites, and honing their own faith in these gods until they could harness it for magical purposes. The main street is all sacred brutalism, cathedrals of flat grey concrete stretching halfway to the black glass sky. It's been abandoned since the reactor leak in '93; some of the corpses are still praying. There's no light, but I don't care. I never had eyes.

The hole whispers to me. Dakshinachara. I turn left.

A small alleyway lurks between the Stakhanovite Cathedral (built, as is only appropriate, by a single worker in a single day) and the Temple of the Twenty-Eight Guardsmen (closed down when Dobobrabin's plea broke their legend). At the end of it is a small shrine to the Engineers of the Human Soul—a joke at my expense, I assume. Twelve others wait in the antechamber; as is tradition, I am the last to arrive. A folding chair is placed behind me, and I sit. The others take out their notebooks, and I let the hole take over. The pattern flows from my throat without the intervention of my vocal cords.

36. 48. 23. 10. 10. 54. Coordinates? One pulls out a map, another goes to the integer sequence encyclopedia, a third flips through a massive international phone directory. All analog—nothing electronic is allowed in these meetings, except whatever we've shoved into our own bodies. Urbs antiqua fuit. Vergil; one of the others seems to have realized something. All the Dalmatians in a box under the sand. Burrow down there, see the sight. No idea, but I'm the prophet, not the interpreter. The serious repercussions of the New England Clam Chowder and the emergent properties of the French Canadian Bean Soup consider the looming menace of the Southern Honshu Tofu Miso… And so on, for hours upon hours. I'm exhausted from ranting, the others are exhausted from transcribing and interpreting, and the hole might even be exhausted. It's screaming less, at least.

One by one, the others bow to the hole and leave the room. I sit alone in the darkness, counting the seconds until the last one takes a Way back to earth. When I am sure they've all left, I sleep, for only a few hours. It's restful; the hole likes it better when I'm alone. I would stay here forever if I could, but even in this dead demiplane my enemies would eventually find me and the pattern would be broken.

I am awoken, of course, by the hole. Andiamo, ragazzi. Time to move.

A Way in the Chapel of the Martyrs of Industry takes me straight to Pripyat, and I let myself into our safehouse there. There's a Beta-class operative inside, hiding out from the FSB. We share the space for three days. Her name is Lyudmilla. She has brown hair and blue eyes, she is fluent in six languages, and she was born with no thumb on her left hand. She was our mole in the Kremlin for three years, as one of Putin's undersecretaries. She tells me that she was reported to her superiors by an anonymous source. The hole tells me it was all part of the pattern. Special K thinks they have put us in check but they have fallen for our fake punt and now that we know what cards they hold we can sink their battleships and take the White and Black Russias. Home run. I tell the hole it is mixing its sport and game metaphors. It does not respond.

We sleep together twice in those three days. She tells me she has never been with a woman before; I tell her she still has not. I excised my gender along with several other superfluous pieces of my identity more than a decade ago. I tell her nothing else about myself, and she knows better than to ask. Once, as she is using my hair as a handhold, she accidentally puts her left thumb in the hole. I don't mention it. On the third day, Lyudmilla gets a call from the Gamma who oversees her operations. She leaves and I do not say goodbye. The hole doesn't tell me what will happen to her; I can't tell if it's being cruel or merciful.

On the fifth day, the hole itches again.

I leave Pripyat and catch a bus to Kyiv with some Canadian disaster-tourists. They say they're filming a documentary. Fukushima is next on their itinerary; they've already seen Three Mile and Windscale. I tell them to keep an eye on Braidwood, and they avoid me for the rest of the ride. In Kyiv, I take a cab from the bus depot to the Vernadsky; deep in the stacks there's a Way to the Library, and they haven't banned me yet. Not that it would stick. A drop of blood between two specific books, a short incantation in Church Slavonic, and a swipe of my library card, and I'm in. Another Way takes me to the Vatican Archives, and I kill a few hours in the restricted section browsing wildly-inaccurate grimoires before midnight strikes and I walk to the Sistine.

My Deltas are waiting there, in chairs normally reserved for the cardinals at the Conclave. I sit cross-legged on the cold marble and listen to their interpretation.

Delta-Ajax speaks first. "Tunis, Tunisia, although you probably guessed that, Engineer." I nod. "Foundation Site-101. Almost entirely underground, built beneath the ruins of Carthage. We believe that the Foundation is holding a conference there in several months, on the rising threat of the Kakure Shogun. Important attendees include Dr. Alto Clef, of the Foundation, and the woman known as Eve Weishaupt, coordinator of the Bavarian Illuminati, a GOC member group."

Delta-Briseis speaks next. "We will insert a mole into the janitorial staff. An Alpha will suffice. They do not need to be smart, only to be there. They will be a distraction, designed to be rooted out at the climax of the action. We have one picked out already. He is loyal, but sufficiently dim that he will not last too long. His discovery comes later; for now, he will busy himself by installing bugs in unattended offices and meeting rooms."

Delta-Ganymede says nothing, but we hear them just the same. While Weishaupt is at the conference, a Beta will go to Ingolstadt. The Baron’s final creation is well-hidden, and fictional, but that is not an impasse when one can access the proper archive. The mistress is away, and the gates are not well-guarded. They hold up their right hand, and on it is a tattoo of an eye in a pyramid. By this sigil our Beta will access those archives. The tattoo flows, becomes a compass and square. By this sigil, she will access the text. And she will retrieve for us the Monster’s True Bride, from the pages of Shelley’s unpublished sequel.

Delta-Daedalus’ voice is quiet and harsh. “The Bride of Frankenstein will be placed into one of our approved narratives, preferably The Sack of Babylon. The Beta will place a timed incendiary on her copy, and then join the Bride inside. The Bride will be retrieved from our copy, in the safehouse under Jamaica Plain. She will be placed in cold storage, and our operatives there will study her; mass-production may not be possible, but any of Frankenstein's techniques we can learn will certainly serve us well. The Beta will be kept in the narrative for the moment."

Delta-Electra is absent, but a Gamma sits in her chair and reads her lines from an index card. "We will call in our most recent favor with the oldest man in Cairo. He will possess one of the attendees at the conference, ideally one of the members of the National Diet, and exaggerate the Kakure Shogun's influence in Japanese politics—not enough to raise suspicions, but enough that Clef will be encouraged to intervene directly." The Gamma flips the index card over, and all his muscles below his neck lock up. "I attempted to betray the Insurgency to Directorate K, but I will still have a use." His eyes look frantically around, but he keeps speaking. "My body will be used in the next step. My soul will be saved for later, as was specified in my contract." His heart stops, and he goes limp.

Delta-Zephyrus heaves the dead Gamma over his shoulder. "I'll take this traitor and dump him in the Trevi Fountain. Get him tattooed with the Kakure Shogun's insignia first. He'll have a flash drive on him with the location of some of their anomalous operatives. The Skippers have some people in the Carabinieri; they'll find him and raise the alarm." He bows and leaves.

Delta-Heracles, ever formal, stands to report. "The Bride will be recovered from Boston and brought to Kyoto. There, she will be hidden in an old house. The house is on the list in the flash drive, and the Foundation will send a task force there. They will be killed, but not before they report that the Kakure Shogun has possession of the Bride. We will recover her before they can take further action, and take her to the Dresden warehouse."

Delta-Thetis has taken the form of the Pope, today. Nobody finds it funny; she may not have intended it as a joke. She speaks in Argentine-accented Latin. "The Egyptian's deceit and the Bride's power will convince the Foundation that immediate escalation is necessary. Clef will be called away from Tunisia to personally lead the second strike on the Kakure Shogun. This will ensure he is not present at Site-101 for our Alpha's next move."

Delta-Iris starts to speak, and suddenly has the hiccups. She takes a few moments to drink some water, and then says her piece. "The Alpha will find a gun in a locker. That gun will be placed there by a guard. That guard's son will be kidnapped. The child will be useful elsewhere. When Clef leaves, the Alpha will take the gun, and will shoot Eve Weishaupt. The shot will be non-lethal, but she will be incapacitated briefly. In that time, the Bride will be returned to Ingolstadt. Nonfictionally, and violently. The Alpha's fate does not matter."

Delta-Cassandra doesn't even bother speaking. We know she will do what she must, and she knows that only I would believe her.

Delta-Laocoön sums up the results. "Clef will be in Japan, pursuing ghosts. Weishaupt will be wounded. The Foundation will see the Bride in Japan and in Ingolstadt; they will believe treachery on behalf of the Coalition, and the Coalition will believe the same of the Illuminati. We will take advantage of this distrust in later steps. We will be able to study the techniques of the Modern Prometheus firsthand. And our mole will have placed devices in Site-101 which will give us insight into the Foundation's operations in North Africa."

Delta-Menelaus has been recording the minutes of the meeting, and writes his own lines even as he gives them. "And I will compile these steps of the Plan, and ensure the instructions are given to the correct operatives. I believe this meeting is adjourned, unless the Engineer has any further instructions."

The hole is blessedly silent; I shake my head, and the Deltas take their leave.

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