C opened his eyes. The last thing he remembered was being driven to his SIS Office. Now he was sitting at a table here, quickly checking himself not handcuffed or anything and seeing nothing was taken so he wasn’t a prisoner. His counterpart from MI5 was sitting sipping from a glass of water and he noticed a glass waiting for him as well and realised a similar thirst and did the same, tipping his glass in acknowledgement to him. Looking around, they were in either a deserted high-rise building or one being built or some sort of garage.
Facing them both was a blonde and behind her a tall black woman in a top hat and trench-coat standing quite stiffly. He’s only seen a photo of her when she first arrived in England. He drew up his memory. Her real name Libertine Choisi Rush-Eshow otherwise Baroness Samedi. One of the Stable’s top guns. She must have taken control of him and 5 and here we are.
‘Hello Major Adams,’ he started, to break the ice. ‘You’ve been missing meetings a while. So have some members of the Stable generally.’
‘We’re still putting the pieces together from a reality-shifter. You’ll get a full report later. Sorry for the unorthodox pick-up but we had to make sure you hadn’t been replaced before we catch up on things.’
She continued, ‘A reality shifter changed the world drastically. We weren’t sure how much was real or how many people got transposed into it or what was going on. We only just sorted it out. Makes ordinary business look normal in comparison. Seems the Patrons were using it as a smokescreen to infiltrate us and other places but got caught up in their own mess. Politicians. Security services. Look like perfect copies. Saves a lot of training if they walk in as other people already there.’
‘Shape-shifters. I thought you had that sorted out abroad.’
Courtney nodded. ‘We thought we did. There’s more than one group and this one shared this reality shifter’s power and flipped the world upside down. We’ll be spending some time checking for any permanent damage. Officially, you both are dismissive of the Stable but we three know differently so leave that to the Consultants.’
‘As if Psionics existed.’
Both heads looked at each other with a wry smirk. 5 was letting him run the conversation. They had been supplied with their farsighters forecasts for several years confirming their own intelligence but most of the time where it would lead. It only proven invalid when the Stable stepped in to sort out the ‘mess’ as they called it but it kept their own units clean.
‘We had to make sure you were the real people. The Baroness can’t jump into them. There’s no reason for them to take over your field agents but at home, they’d know what is going on.’
‘And political leaders?’
‘Already checked. At least for the UK. Sitting in Parliament made it easy for the Baroness. Did that as soon as we got back. They really are as stupid as their decisions they’re currently making.’
‘With these, do you want to keep them in place but known or removed? We suggest keeping them in place, like you do with some moles, rather than them getting replacements in place.’
‘Can they provide intelligence?’
‘Shape-shift for us?’
‘Unlikely. They have their own agendas. Remember that one who wanted to rule the world a few years back. We’ll give you a list when the Baroness finds them.’
‘You said their plan was to run the world. Why haven’t they started?’
‘We’re still picking up on the current wars but I would think a lot of world leaders are doing their job for them. Get into the right position and pick up the pieces. The Norms are doing their hard work for them.’
‘Just your standard infiltration type,’ 5 said.
‘Except they look like other people. I presume anyone replaced has been killed?’
Courtney shook her head. ‘That we don’t know. The Patrons we found out have different agendas and different ways to get things done. With infiltration, they can work to a long term plan rather than rush like the first one did. They see the Consultants as a threat and want to replace us. That was what they were trying where we were. Trying to take advantage of the situation in the reality shift.’
‘I take it they weren’t successful?’
‘The Consultants are better than them.’
‘Not that we don’t dispute you, Major, but I would like to how these shape-shifters change their faces,’ C said slowly.
‘It would give some reassurance when we have to present anything at the Home Office,’ 5 added. ‘At the highest level if one is discovered.
‘Judging by your reaction, you didn’t expect that, Major.’
‘We don’t think that will happen. The Stable promised you both we would keep mind-readers away from you so you kept your secrets. However…’
Courtney paused and looked at both of them and then smiled. ‘They did think you would need proof but you might have to accept at least a powerful Psionic keeping him or her under control in your presence. We’ll have to have a second meeting for this and ensure it gets footage.’
‘Can’t the…Baroness here do it now.’
‘Oh, only her body is here. She’s currently jumping across your two chauffeurs and anyone in the area, securing the area.’
‘About this reality shift as you call it’, C raised. ‘I thought you Blanks were immune to such manipulation.’
‘We’re looking into that. Ms. White and myself were pulled in. Reality-shifters are god-like. None of the other Blanks got caught or at least didn’t group with the rest of us. Most of the other Psionics were also known. A counter-question is how much that happened where we were affected things here.’
‘There was a report we hushed up about a conflagration and a meteor overhead on Hampstead Heath. Your telekinetic Lancier I take it?’
‘He wasn’t in a position to get into space this time. Getting Russian assistance won’t be happening anytime soon from what we see. You might have to ask through your American channels. They still aren’t keen on having Psionics on their soil.’
‘They are up to something,’ C said.
‘Something called the Peregrine Project. Looks like they selected the name to hide among other peregrine projects.’
‘You know as much as we do.’
‘We might have to go covert to investigate. Will there be any objections?’
‘I didn’t hear that,’ C said, touching his ear.
‘I’m a little deaf,’ 5 added.
There was a pause as they all drank from their glasses. He never realised water could taste so good but there didn’t seem to be any other additives. Why wasn’t there any alcohol?
‘What happened to this threat that messed your people up?’
‘The Baroness sorted it out. I’m sure you won’t want details on that neither. Redhound says we’ll probably have to play a harder game for the foreseeable future. Not just against these Patrons but other threats to get this world working normally.’
‘Good luck with that.’
A phone rang. C and 5 looked to the Blank, who pulled it out of her pocket but didn’t leave the table.
A pause and then she turned to the two men. ‘We can bring a Patron here now. That would save a second meeting.’
Both men looked at each other and nodded.
‘One of our Fey. She was quicker than we thought she would but her family are connected. Nanny will fly them in. No names. We’re not sure what we’re going to with him. We might send him back with kisses.’
‘I thought that share thing couldn’t be done with things like this?’
‘They haven’t figured that out yet. They do have rogue Psionics, though. That’s how we were caught out by this reality shifter. It surprised them as well. The Patrons that is.’
‘Thank your farsighters. They’ve kept us up-to-date and consistent without the rest getting involved.’
‘I presume you would be happier them being back.’
Both heads nodded. ‘Deniability.’
Courtney’s phone rang three times and stopped.
‘Looks like they’ll be arriving next door. There’s a one-way mirror so the Patron doesn’t see you and be capable of looking like you both.’
They followed her while Libertine just stood there.
‘I think we’ve seen more Psionics than ever,’ 5 muttered to C.
‘You haven’t seen nothing yet,’ Courtney said, ignoring the fact that they weren’t talking to her. ‘You both would have been brought back here had it took longer to grab one.’
‘How was he spotted?’
‘Something about the appearance.’
There was no ceiling and they watched three people float down from the sky.
‘I thought only Lancier could do that.’
‘There is one other.’
Behind the screen stood a nanny and a fey, between them a hooded individual who slumped to the ground. As they walked around the screen, the nanny pulled the mask from the Patron. Facing them was a second Courtney Adams.
The first one beside them fell to the floor as the Baroness hit her from behind and slumped between the two security chiefs.
‘Just who is who?’ both security leaders said at the same time, looking around at them both.
Behind the screen, the second Blank stood up, shaking her hair and removing the handcuffs and came around to their side of the one-way mirror. The first Adams was pushed the other side of the glass.
‘I got grabbed on the way here. This Pattern replaced me and left me in an alley. We were curious as to how much they know before finding out how. Looks like…she was eager to make this meeting but the Baroness was protecting my back and waited with me until Auntie Badger and Mary came to rescue me. It seemed a good opportunity to show you how effective these Pattern are and how knowledgeable. Don’t forget, you haven’t seen me for a while. We had to find out just how much they copied and this one got my memories…mostly accurate. We Blanks aren’t immune which is a worry’
‘If she was going to do what you were going to do, what makes the difference?’ 5 asked.
‘Who are these Patrons?’ C asked.
‘The Pattern. We only found out recently they call themselves Patrons, although what they are patrons of beats us. From this, it looks like we might have to use both names so you know who we are.’
The real Courtney Adams paused, letting her information soaked in before continuing. ‘Her purpose was to let the Baroness do her job and then make for an easy infiltration to your agencies. Really, she wanted to replace me and others replace you after this meeting. After all, you’ve been checked. The Stable-mates are harder to infiltrate. The signatures aren’t easy to copy. Who better than a Blank which even the Baroness can’t jump. They tried to do that before. We bugged and I listened in.’
‘But she knew your plan.’
‘Hardly brain-breaking but you needed to see how good their masquerade is. They glean the knowledge. Probably one of their number with Psionic talent. We still need to check your people out and you needed to have proof of the Patron.’
They looked through the screen. It wasn’t Courtney Adams anymore, but a plain looking woman.
‘She was really good.’
‘They change that fast?’
‘Probably faster. We needed proof for you. What she probably didn’t tell you is we might have to do checks on a regular basis. Good thump, Libertine.’
‘Until we find an alternative way to identify them.’
‘Like those scramblers? They don’t work very well.’
Courtney shrugged. ‘They haven’t produced a new model in a while. You will maintain deniability if any of us pop over the pond to have a look at this Peregrine Project.’
‘Good luck with that. The name only popped up once.’
‘Your doppelganger knew about it.’
‘That’s what worries us. But if they’re interested so must we.’
‘You don’t worry about their projects where it concerns psionics?’
‘They don’t have the genetic mix. A big country and only one stealth Psionic that the Consultants can see.’
The two security chiefs looked at the three Psionics. The Baroness was taller than them. The smaller lady with dark around her eyes gave a wide grin and a wink. The one looking a bit like Mary Poppins just looked at them concerned. They were also almost expecting her to tap her foot in time.
‘It’s the first time we’ve been so close to the Stable…mates.’
‘They don’t even spake. We agreed I should do all the speaking. It might be useful to have other Psionics present and you both to get used to them. The Patrons aren’t likely to do that. Their realty shifter was a one-off for this generation. They don’t appear to have any others with that talent. The fact that they gleaned some of our plans suggests they have at least one telepath or have shared off one in their shape-shifting.’
‘I presume your teams aren’t going to off any country leaders, no matter how much they deserve it, even if they are these Patrons?’
‘They have considered it but it’s a slippery slope which won’t make any friends. Those who know, might be warned how close they are and reconsider their actions. There are things we could stop doing that they might regret. Any that have been switched, they’ll try to switch back without anyone noticing. It would be dangerous to go have the Consultants considered as the enemy.’
‘That might just be as scary,’ 5 admitted.
‘You do have a habit of fighting back, no matter subtly,’ C added.
‘I’m just reporting what they thought.’
‘I presume you’ll let us know about any operations that might cross our own agents paths?’
‘Or stem them before they do.’
‘How fast can the Baroness jump everyone.’
‘Ahs dos its fasts. Eye blinks ans gones.’ Finally entering the conversation.
‘We’re keeping you both up-to-date.’
‘We appreciate that.’
‘You’ll let us know if you find any of these…Patrons. Don’t get rid of them, just watch and don’t let them near ultra-sensitive material. The fake me was right about that. We’re still not sure how many of them there are but it can’t be infinite numbers.’
Both of them raised eyebrows.
‘They can always replace them and back to where we started. A watching brief is better. Now we’re back, we’re doing a variation of this if we’re going to get inside of them.’
‘You might not want to know. I think its time for you both to return to your schedules before you’re missed. Traffic’s bad today.’
5 went glass-eyed and walked out of the room. The Baroness stood still once more, her eyes glazed over.
‘We decided upon equal rights so you can see each other under her control. No favouritism.’
C nodded. ‘I appreciate that. Just like falling asleep. Just haven’t had it in a while.’
‘You wanted to ask a question?’
‘How much does the Home and Foreign Offices currently know?’
‘As little as possible. We can hide in the small change until they’re out of office. Too many blabbermouths to shut up otherwise.’
‘Secrets need to be kept secret.’
‘Wish it was just as easy to keep them out of our work.’
The real Courtney smiled. ‘Time for you to go.’
‘That was qui…’
Before C could react further, his eyes glazed briefly and he got up and left.
The Blank looked at the Fey and nanny, although she didn’t see them as such, immune to the mind illusion. Before her was really Sara Seeker and Sheena Ramone. The flight was an illusion only they saw. Together with them, they had just walked into the other room.
‘Did you really wink at C?’ she asked the Booster Rooster.
‘Callane would have, don’tcha know.’
‘The Baroness made sure of it. One whack, k’pow.’
Courtney went behind the glass an cuffed the unconscious Patron before coming back.
‘Let’s go and sit in the other room.’
A table to one side had a selection of fruit juice bottles that they helped themselves to.
‘The copy of me knew a lot about what was going on. A little more than my memories.’ Courtney pulled out her earjack and pulled the recorder out from under the table. ‘Insurance.’
‘We’ll get a double check on our staff,’ Sara said. ‘The problem now is Blanks and Patrons are getting difficult to tell apart scanning. This might be a different batch. Looks like they aren’t relying on Medea to be an inadvertent den mother anymore. ‘Just doubles the problems. Someone else to find or rescue.’
‘I don’t like lying to them.’ The Blank paused. ‘They’re valuable resources to say you haven’t been inside their heads.’
‘They’re also likely to be manipulated without knowing,’ Sara said. ‘If we watch their backs too closely that would be even more suspicious. We’re just protecting their own memories. I didn’t scan too deeply.’
‘I was gentle, Court,’ Sheena added. ‘They barely noticed us once you started talking. They both think you’re pretty, don’tcha know. I just laid in a few stopper protections so they couldn’t control them without spotting it. Patrons with psionic abilities.’
‘So we keep to the plan. Let the Patrons think I’m one of them and hope they trip up and contact me sometime. The perfect infiltration.’
Sara drank and stared at the bottle. ‘Just a different game tactic. It’s a lot easier to keep them out if they think one of them is in. Like we told C and 5, saves watching our backs all the time. We’ve got enough problems to sort out.’
‘I’m still not sure about putting some controls in their heads.’
‘You worked for Six but not the present C. It’s as much for their protection as ours.’
‘You made the plan, Court,’ added Sheena. ‘Some of it, don’tcha know.’
‘Busy day,’ Sara continued. ‘Capturing a Patron. Monthly security meeting. All about getting back into the normal swing of things and they won’t question Libertine bringing them here next time.’
‘How are we going to get her to talk?’ Courtney gestured at the other room.
‘Let Bianca loose on her. Telling tales of her family will get her begging to tell us what we need to know.’
They all stopped to drink before bursting into giggles.
‘Seriously, she’ll have to be locked up and not given a chance to copy anyone.’
‘Surround her with mirrors. She can only look at herself.’
The Baroness walked in, looked at the other women and joined them with a bottle, placing her top hat on the table and shaking out her hair.
‘Both premises? What’s the damage, Libertine?’
‘Deys three ats fives and twos ats six. Secretaries?
‘Avoiding field work.’
‘Maybe they feel they’ll just learn more there.’
‘Ah lefts whos ins dere wallets.’
‘That’s a lot of jumping, Libertine,’ Sara looked concerned. ‘No side effects?’
The Baroness shook her head. ‘Ah controls Haiti once.’
‘That must have scared Duvalier.’
‘Befores his times.’ The Baroness looked at them, seeing they needed an answer. ‘Wes off Haiti ats his times….thens Tullius gots back.’
‘He’s still in his crossroads coffin?’
The Baroness nodded. ‘Ahs looks ons returns.’
‘No Vampiri or Fey? Odd they seem to be ducking this.’
‘Callane and Kataya haven’t talked to their own families yet.’
‘Wet the baby’s head.’
They raised their bottles and took a swig.
‘To Kataya and son…and whatever they name him. I hear they get two names. One as a baby and they decide on their adult name when…well, adult.’
‘Do you think the Max situation will happen again?’ Courtney turned to Sara.
‘Another reality shifter as powerful as him? I was lucky to have found the real Max first and put a few stoppers in now. He’s a fantasist. He could well have turned our reality into something off-world so I laid the groundwork for old TV shows. If there’s anything left of it here, we’ll have to look.’
‘Not giving him to Harbinger.’
‘You saw his power being used by a Pattern. We’re talking god-like. I’d like to have such gods on our side.’
‘Yet he separated you from the rest of us.’
‘That might have been the Pattern Max finding the ability and doing something quickly. He robbed Libertine of her memory and just stuck me…in a reality with no Psionics. Both pretty damaging. How’s your head, Libertine? Everything remembered?’
The Baroness sipped her drink before answering. ‘Ahs remembers. Weeze does de rights things.’
Sara tipped her bottle to her. ‘Max was too powerful to recruit. Better to have deniability. Telling him something of what we do ensured he met with me from time to time and looking on his own made him something of a fan to protect us. I kept a few aces up my sleeve.’
‘Polly Kettle? With criminal intent.’
‘Undercover Psionic. Less so to us but a sort of deniability when we need to get our hands dirty. Her core group will work with us and we can share some of their skills. I’m inclined to leave her running that London crime group.’
Sara put her bottle on the table. ‘Not one or neither of mine. There’s two of them. I can’t believe she or them are Vampiri psionic energy sources. I’ll have to talk to Fernefaire. We keep them in for now until we find out what and who they are. At least they aren’t Pattern.’
‘We didn’t really meet Georgire Rothane. She turned the tide. Another Psionic you’re bringing in from the cold.’
‘Broadening the mix. Now Georgie’s out of the bag, she has to be in. We haven’t had a projecting empath until now.’
‘We don’t have enough Blanks to go round.’
‘We only really need Blanks on sensitive assignments but I take your point, I’ll keep an eye open for more. Just tracking the untrackable.’
‘Discovering we’re a kind of Psionic that can block most things out must change that perspective?’
‘Doesn’t make it any easier to finding more people like you, Court. As we found, being a Blank doesn’t mean they are better than norms. We can’t wipe those three egotist Blanks memories, just leave them in admin and tell them they’re doing an important job and stifle their ambition for fieldwork.’
‘Touché. Maybe we need to look for unreadables in other jobs.’
‘And get them to like civil service pay.’
They all drank to that, even the slightly amused Baroness at why the others having another giggle.
‘Speaking of which. When are you seeing our Bureaucracy? About time we had a pay rise.’
Courtney took a deep breath. ‘It would be easier to ask for a change in our pay grade. He knows we’re worth it and he and the intelligence services been good at hiding our cost.’
‘Tell him it’ll aid recruitment, especially as we’re likely to be more busy than usual.’
‘Some of it will have to be smokescreen for going to America.’
‘Any idea where to look?’
Sara shook her head. ‘I have my limits unless I get closer. Whatever it is, keeping it on their home turf is a good way to hide things. Sheena’s boost hasn’t picked up anomalies but it’s a big place. It would make more sense to get them owing us a favour. Give us an in.’
‘We’d lose it again if we have to send you and Chris to shy away another meteoroid and no way up to the station.’
‘They’d probably blame us for causing it to happen.’
‘There are a few things left from the two Max legacy. It might take us time to spike strong-minded personalities and I don’t know if any of you have tried this yet, but we can tight beam spakes and keep people out from listening in. Speaking only curtails spaking except when we do them both together. The Stable-mates should be listening in ok.’
‘There’s something else, isn’t there, Sara?’ Sheena asked.
Sara contemplated the bottle in her hand. ‘I know we think we have everything back the way it was but don’t take everything for granted. There still might be touches of the Maxs here. Could be easter eggs or just plain trouble where reality hasn’t joined properly, let alone anything deliberate.’
‘Just sort out as you see fit. It’s just a complication.’
There was a collective sigh in the spaking with Courtney oblivious to their reaction.
‘Oh, we might be as long lived as the Baroness.’
‘So much for pensions. Better not tell the Bureaucracy that.’
no end in sight
Psi-Kicks, The Stable Consultancy,
Sara Seeker, Sheena Ramone,
Libertine Rush, Courtney Adams, Blanks
© GF Willmetts 2023
All rights reserved
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