Thursday, March 08, 2007
The Day's Progress - Thursday Edition
A bit of a slog today, cramming a lot of information into a very small space, but I managed to get all of the clowns into the car in the end, and they're not showing signs of popping out just yet.
I'm having to resist the temptation at this point to include all sorts of superfluous backstory and frippery that's not relevant to the story at hand, since I'm moving into parts of the story which touch on much bigger parts of my fictional universe, but which are of only incidental important. The perfect example is Bureau Zero, the secret agency of the US government tasked with handling all of the not-natural stuff. They're featured briefly in Cybermancy Incorporated, and are a major part of a forthcoming Bonaventure-Carmody story that's so far only in a notional state. But they're useful in End of the Century only as a name-check, and little more. Then there's the Elizabethan occult secret agency, the School of Night, and their operatives Lord Strange's Men, later known as the Strangers. The Strangers are kinda mentioned in "Jubilee," but only indirectly. So in a pocket history of matters occult, Stillman Waters name-checks both of these other agencies, but beyond mentioning that Bureau Zero got its start as part of the American Post Office Department, and that their offices are still located beneath the Old Post Office Building in Washington, he doesn't go into further detail.
But oh, I wish he could...
138,969 / 150,000
But oh, I wish he could...
“So let me get this straight. Not only are there ghosts and ghouls and monsters and such, but there are secret agents who keep tabs on them?”
“Well, not precisely, love, but that’s the general gist of it, I suppose.”
“And the secret agents got their start eavesdropping on Nazis' phone calls?”
Stillman laughed, and took a sip of his coffee. “You think that’s bad, you Yanks have your own bunch who muck about in the dark corners, but they were originally part of the Post Office!” He set his coffee cup down, and took a long drag of his cigarette. “My hand to god, if you believe that sort of thing. The offices of Bureau Zero are still under the old Post Office Building in Washington.”
Seeing Alice’s expression, Stillman crushed out his cigarette in the ashtray he’d dug up, and continued, somewhat more seriously.
“Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about fantasy here. What I’m saying is that there is often a verifiable phenomenon behind supposed supernatural occurrences. If you dig deep enough into myths and fairy tales and legends, like as not you’ll come up with something really going on back there that doesn’t fit with the everyday view of things. And it is supernatural, but only in the dictionary definition of a realm or system higher than nature. There are worlds beyond this one, love, other planes of existence that sometimes intersect with our own. And it’s guys like me who see that those intersections don’t mean curtains for the rest of you.”
“And it was the Nazis that discovered this, I take it?” Alice was sobering by the minute, but finding this no easier to swallow.
“Well, no. That is, they did, but others already knew. See, there’s always been guys like me, standing at the borders. Back in Queen Elizabeth’s day there was the School of Night, John Dee and that crowd, that had worked it out from first principles. They had their own agents, Lord Strange’s Men, who came to be known as the Strangers further down the line. There’s your Bureau Zero over in Washington, who’ve been knocking about since the early 1800s. The Soviets had a mob of them, as did the French in the old days. As did the Chinese. There’ve never been too many, you understand, on-the-job mortality being pretty high in this business, but we’ve always been around.”
“So why don’t people know about this stuff?”
“Well, it was my job to see that didn’t, wannit? Which isn’t to say that stories don’t leak out, here and there. But most people just believe what they want to believe, so it’s pretty easy to pass off a projection from a faster universe as swamp gas, or a probe from another continuum as a weather balloon, if need be.”