Q1X knew how things worked. If he didn’t resolve the ripple problem, and quickly, it would be as the Director had said … bad for him, Q1X. He would take all the blame and suffer all the consequences.
Q1X stopped in on the watch floor before returning to his office. Technicians were buzzing about, checking displays, speaking frantically on their communicators. All too evident on the wall-sized main screen were the two ripples, in bright red, moving toward the present with too much speed.
That was the thing about this work. You had all the time in the world, except when there were ripples in the continuum. If one reached the present, there would be no more time, perhaps not ever.
It made for a ruthless business, with no holds barred and nothing held back. Without it, the World Order would not exist, indeed, would never have existed, without this operation.
There were some who would rather that the Order didn’t exist. But none of them lasted long.
Q1X reached his office. He figured he had maybe two hours to come up with a plan and two more to set it into action. He’d need some good agents. Someone more reliable and less temperamental than that Assassin, Kate, who apparently had made a mess of things … although he knew better than to ever say that to her face.
Julianna heard the doctor and her mother speaking in the corridor outside her bedroom. They thought she was asleep from the doctor’s draught, but she had managed to spill some of it out into the neck of her nightdress and it hadn’t had too much of an effect.
They couldn’t. They just couldn’t … and yet, she knew her father probably would.
She could not let herself be sent to a private asylum, no matter that it would be “comfortable.” She would be locked up all the same, completely unable to control her fate. She wondered if her father would only let her be released when she showed evidence of “coming around” by agreeing to marrying Mr. Brixton, who would be described as “generous” in still wishing to marry her despite her behavior and her “obvious” mental and emotional problems.
But what could she do?
Her father, once he latched on to the idea, would no doubt move quickly. Julianna didn’t know how much time she might have, but it likely wasn’t much, a few days at best.
She would have to think of something, and quickly.
Finally the word came from on high. All of the Five Eyes were together, all of the Presidents and Prime Ministers had agreed to a course of action. Perhaps not as quickly as the agencies on the ground might have wished, but still … the intel said they had three days and the intel was good.
Ray would fly to Calgary, along with a couple of other team members, in a military jet. Commercial flights were no longer a possibility. There wasn’t quite enough time. He wouldn’t be able to call Paulie again, though; hopefully she was safely away, but there was a complete communications blackout. No one on the team was to contact anyone other than the situation room in Ottawa. Ray knew that similar things were going on in the other countries.
They couldn’t trust the Calgary police, or even the RCMP, with a matter such as this. It had to be handled in great secrecy, with zero publicity lest an uncontrollable panic be unleashed. No, Ray and his team could handle it. The intel pinpointed a location. The team knew where to go, they knew what to do. And they did have three days.
There was only one way, and Q1X knew what it was. He’d need help, and A3F, his second in command, would be the right person.
A few minutes later, A3F was in Q1X’s office. Q1X explained his plan.
There was a moment’s hesitation, and then A3F responded, “Let’s do it.”
There was even less time than Julianna had expected. It happened that very same day.
Julianna’s father appeared in her room in mid-afternoon. “I’m surprised you’re not sleeping,” he said. “Dr. Gorder told me he gave you a strong sleeping draught.”
Not daring to reveal what she had actually done, Julianna replied, “It wore off. It must have been less powerful than the doctor thought. But that’s fine. I’ll take another and go back to sleep, father.” Julianna had no intention of doing any such thing but it was what her father wanted to hear.”
“Er … have you given any more thought to the matter of … Mr. Brixton?”
“How can I have given it thought when I was supposed to have been asleep?”
“Yes, yes, I suppose you’re right.” Mr. Huntingdon stroked his chin. “Mr. Brixton has promised to take good care of you, you know, even in your present state.”
“My present state?”
“Yes … of course, that would be after a period of suitable convalescence. Mr. Brixton is very generous, but naturally wishes you to have a full recovery before moving forward with marriage plans.”
“Plans … but father, must we go over this again? I have not accepted him, nor shall I.”
“I see.” Mr. Huntingdon’s voice had gotten firmer, less sympathetic. “Well, then, even so, you still must convalesce. I have already made arrangements.”
“Whatever do you mean?” Julianna buried her hands under the covers, not wishing her father to see how they trembled.
“It will all work out, daughter. By this time tomorrow, you should be well settled.”
“But I am already settled. I am resting here, in my home.”
“Your mother and I … and Dr. Gorder … think that a change of scenery might be a good thing.”
Julianna’s heart was pounding. “You mean … something like a few weeks at the seaside, or in the country?” But she knew.
“Er … not exactly … well, something on that order,” her father said. “You’ll see tomorrow morning. We’ll all travel together. You’ll be fine, and you’ll recover speedily, we’re all sure of that.”
“But I … “
“Now, now, don’t worry yourself. Take another sleeping draught and just rest. Everything is going to be fine.”
Without another word, her father left Julianna’s room and closed the door behind him. She wasn’t supposed to hear the key turning in the lock, but it made quite a snick as the bolt went home.
In the Inglewood section of Calgary, on 9th Street, at ten in the morning shops were just beginning to open. It was still quite calm and quiet, the bustle of the day being an hour or so off.
At four minutes after ten, all was still peaceful. A handful of shoppers had started to arrive, but it was a weekday and the numbers were small.
At five minutes after ten, there was the mighty roar of an explosion.
Number 1228 on 9th Street shattered as flames shot up into the sky. Debris flew everywhere, breaking windows in neighboring buildings. Properties adjacent to 1228 were also blown apart.
The casualty count would be large.
Emergency vehicles raced to the scene. Firemen, police, and paramedics swarmed into the area but they were overwhelmed by the task they faced. Too many injured, too few rescuers. Frantic calls were made to other parts of Calgary, seeking additional assistance.
It didn’t take long for the media to arrive. Although they were kept at a distance by the authorities, the word quickly got out and video loops of the scene played endlessly on television stations, first in Calgary, then across Canada, and even across the border in the States.
Ted, downtown at his day job, didn’t hear the news at once, and when he did, he didn’t at first take notice of the location. But then turning on his radio he heard a newscaster mention Inglewood.
He was in his car at once, racing to the scene. Police barricades stopped him at some distance so he left his car and ran on foot. Still, he could only approach so close before he was turned back.
But he had gotten near enough to see that where Tea Trader once stood, there was just a pile of rubble in a deep, smoking hole in the earth.
In the little room, the agent smiled. It was almost going to be too easy. Those fools believed the story he had planted. It was actually fun to listen in on their traffic. Primitive 21st century encryption did nothing against the tools he had available.
They thought they had three days. They had gotten that information, so they believed, from sources on the Dark Web, deeply hidden and encoded. The smile turned into a laugh. How easy to manipulate them. Leave a small clue here, a little hint there, and they would be so proud of themselves, following the trail he had laid down. Three days indeed! They would now be scrambling to mount operations, figuring they had just about enough time to forestall what was about to happen.
But today was the day. This evening he’d pay a little visit to the Calgary Convention Centre. His colleagues in other cities would be doing something similar.
Within 24 hours it would all be over and the Grand Plan would be secured.
Kate tore through Joan’s apartment at her leisure. She should have thought of that long ago. Paulie and Joan were good friends. Or should she say, had been good friends? Kate laughed out loud, the annoyance and anger of the past few days shrugged off. At moments like these, she enjoyed her job.
But of course. Paulie would have taken the logbook with her to Joan’s and probably left it for safekeeping. Kate regretted not painfully extracting the information from Paulie. Upline would have objected but it would have saved some time. Well, the way it worked out was really very satisfying.
It only took Kate about half an hour to find the book. It was “hidden” in a dresser drawer. These 21st century hicks were just so dumb.
Time to head back upline. Her work here was done.
The Director was not happy. Across the continuum it seemed that he had people working at cross-purposes. Although Q1X had his part to play— and he had better play it well— the Director would have to do a few things, too, and right away. There were far too many things going on at once.
His main concern was how the ripples would interact with the Master Plan. It was so delicate … and there were too many loose ends. What was about to play out in the 21st century was of course the critical element. But with an anomaly so close to the most critical date in the entire Plan there was an annoying lack of clarity. Even the most advanced simulations had so far been unable to separate the effects of points so very close to each other on the continuum.
He dared not trust Q1X, who had failed too many times. But at the moment the Director needed Q1X’s teams even though he’d have him executed at once at the end of the operation. He’d have everyone to blame executed, including that wayward Assassin. But first, he had to act to contain the damage. Now.
That blasted logbook. How had it turned up hundreds of years later? It played a crucial role but none that his scientists were yet able to explain. Perhaps its proximity to a continuum disturbance … but that just led to a series of paradoxes and contradictions.
He pressed a call button. “Get me the Deputy Director immediately,” he said. “I need to give orders for his teams right away.”
The ship wouldn’t stay afloat for much longer. It was listing to starboard and the stern was already underwater. It would all go very quickly once a critical point was reached. But Admiral Grey had to try to save the King. He hoped the King was a strong swimmer and that the plunge into the water would bring him around to consciousness. It was a long shot but there was no other way.
With great effort, the Admiral managed to get the King upright. Now to just get him over the rail. He hoped there was still time to make a last check of the ship and see that all of the crew that were still living were able to get off. Admiral Grey had no illusions about his own survival.
There. Admiral Grey didn’t wait to hear the splash, didn’t wait to see if the King roused or was able to swim away. The Admiral had done all he could but there was no more time.
Another explosion ripped through the ship as the ammunition stored below decks exploded. Admiral Grey was tossed into the air, pain flooding his body. There was now little left of the ship, but his sightless eyes couldn’t see it. Although he knew he was now falling, he felt as if he were rising into the sky. A brief image of Julianna flashed into his mind, and then there was no more.
We expect to continue our adventure in Season Four, currently scheduled to begin in December 2021.
Things don’t look good for our cast of characters; even the villains are having a tough time. But we’re not about to provide any spoilers; more will be revealed in the next season.
Tea Trader’s real-life Kate (who definitely has never assassinated anyone) reminds us that when things are stressful and difficult, there’s nothing like a good cup of tea. Of course we sincerely hope that exploding buildings and sinking ships aren’t something you’ll ever encounter, but we all have our challenging moments.
Kate recommends a good Keemun like Imperial Black No. 10, of course available from Tea Trader. As she puts it, “You want to be alert but calm … not too wired or panicky.” The tea consists of a superior congou leaf possessing winey, full amber/red color and the characteristic hint of smokiness of a quality Keemun.
You can order on-line from the Tea Trader website, by calling 1-877-676-2939, or if you’re in the Calgary area, phone ahead at 403-264-1868 for pickup at the front door of the shop, 1228A 9th Avenue S E, Calgary, Alberta, T2G 0T1.