Monday was all about running around Worthing getting blocked by the old bill at every turn. In the end Icarus and I were sent back to HQ while the rest of the team took up residence in a B&B. They stayed because the Slendetector kept going “ding”. Dictionary found this most gratifying; he and Hermione indulged themselves in a few rounds of quoting Doctor Who. Hermione’s Martha Jones is quite impressive. I didn’t want to point out that it does look suspiciously like a modified Passive Temporal Infarction Detector. The prototype Active TID really could boil an egg at thirty paces, whether you wanted it to or not.

Anyway I slept most of the way back, keeping an eye on the team from a vantage point in the dreamlands. Icarus drove as my ‘medical’ condition prevents me from using heavy machinery. I was woken by my phone ringing. It was Ursula.

We greeted one another and then I asked her how the [REDACTED] could be totally oblivious to the entity and everything going on around it.

Ursula: We don’t tell the Department everything.
PlanetNiles: So you do know about the entity then.
U: We are aware of the Alternate Reality Game around a character of that name, yes.
PN: Are you aware of the very real deaths and disappearances connected to this so called ‘game’?
U: We have been monitoring the so called “slenderblogs” as part of  a on-going investigation into the activities of a privately funded black-ops group that has decided to muscle in on our territory. We believe that the posts and comments on these blogs are part of coded communications between elements of these groups.
PN: The PTC?
U: Yes. Your own recent appearance on these blogs has not gone unnoticed.
PN: I’m just doing my job; monitoring media related to the entity and communicating with it’s apparent victims. The vast majority of them are kids just playing pretend but there are more than a few who appear to be genuine.
U: I find that highly unlikely.
PN: Dr Promethean is in Seattle as we speak with a certain Mrs Collins who has been tortured and mutilated by cultists of the entity. Why don’t you ask him if it’s genuine or not?
U: Dr Promethean is well respected in the paranormal community but that doesn’t mean he is infalliable. After all he’s…
PN: Only human?
U: Point made. Doesn’t change what I’ve said though.
PN: So what are you willing to tell me about this PTC group?
U: We don’t like sharing on-going investigations with the Department unless there is a joint concern. You carry far too many narratives with you. Sometimes you warp our operations just by observing them.
PN: The entity is a joint concern.
U: The way I see it this Slender Man phenomenon seems to manifest mostly within the U.S. Perhaps you should be sharing everything you know with us?
PN: Give me your secure email and I’ll fire off a summarized report to you.
PN: Okay sent.
U: Thank you. I’ll get back to you once I’ve had this decrypted and had a chance to read it.
PN:  No problem. You know where to find me. Speak to you later Ms. Franklyn.

She said her goodbyes and rung off. Icarus told me I’d “pawned” her. I wasn’t so sure; I had the distinct impression that the [REDACTED] weren’t telling us everything. Hopefully I’d sent them just enough to get them interested in sharing more while not showing them our complete hand. The department might be the senior partner in this special relationship but our American cousins didn’t like to be reminded of this. In fact they liked to play at being the big boys in all things and we enjoyed letting them, for the most part.

Icarus got us back to HQ and I had an unpleasant welcome waiting for me. Cepha and Agent Gideon intercepted us and Iacrus and I were rushed off to separate debriefings. Scarily I ended up with the boss-lady

“You’ve been compromised” she told me.

“What! How?”

“We’ve had three separate precogs say that you are marked in some way. A way that threatens your mission. We have a fairly clear window that closes in the first week of August. So I’m pulling you off active duty until the window closes. Then you can get back to your team.”

“But…” I paused. She was pulling me off active duty? Just how bad was this?

“You have some holiday time due, take your family off somewhere nice and relax. It’s probably a mistake of ours to expect you to back onto the field before you were fully recovered from the injuries you sustained while assisting closing the Covent Garden Hellmouth.” I found myself nodding. She sat opposite me and took my hand. “Don’t take this the wrong way Niles, but you’re one of our strongest Benedanti; your Dramaturgy would be impressive by itself, but you are no secret agent. You just don’t have the capacity for espionage and we know that violence sickens you to your core.”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t be violent.”

“True, but you’re no Officer Dee and that can only be a good thing. Then there’s also the matter of your condition.”

“I’m not allowed to be ‘sick’,” I said.

“True, but to be quiet frank I think your psychiatrist needs a boot up the rear,” I smiled at the sincerity. “But you can be knocked cold by an unexpected noise and you have more holes in your memory than is reasonable. We only put you in the archives because we knew that we’d need your talents someday.”

“It’s nice to be needed.” I thought to be a moment and my smile faded. “But you’re not the only people who need me.”

“I’m sure Team Remiel will do fine without you.”

“I was thinking more about the runner and the fighters and all those people the entity is threatening. Every time I turn away from them one of them gets hurt.”

“Adam, Doctor Promethean, is over there now isn’t he?” I nodded. “Leave it to him.

“Any idea who or what ‘marked’ me?”

“None. Although it could either be this entity you have been investigating or the one that abducted you.”

“Oh joy”

“Take your holiday, don’t worry about it. Every thing will be fine.”

So here I am, sitting under a weeping willow and watching my family picnic a few meters away. I thought I’d give you a sitrep in case you’re prone to worry. Hopefully see you soon.


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