Tuesday, May 5, 2009

France 25 - Winning a few back



Chapter 24 here ... 3rd book Chapter 1 here

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I

'Horses for courses, Hugh,' replied the PM. 'Mme. Lavacquerie was a manager, a boss, whereas your Emma was an administrator, the one who took care of the nuts and bolts. You also had that advantage. M. Guiscard was a fine police officer and Scotland Yard have availed themselves of his services.'

'Geneviève was the one with the contacts though, the one who organized the money and kept the show afloat.'

'Yes she did - within Paris. Where do you see a call for such services over here? Or are you going to include her with both of you as a new job lot?'

'No sir, I'm not but she has ambassadorial skills and can speak French.'

The Prime Minister smiled. 'Very well, Janine will get onto them but I warn you, the French might refuse to have her within their country. Just be warned.'

'Translator at bilateral meetings?'

'Let me put it to Janine and she'll get back to you. All right, your report, if you will.'

II

They did refuse.

They flatly refused and that was one of the most devastating things Hugh had ever had to break to someone. It also killed the translator idea.

The two had been staying up north, Emma had suggested they all now put on their thinking caps but that was too much for Geneviève, she got up and went to her room.

When she returned, it still hadn't solved anything and this was a serious crisis. Emma knew it better than any present and was deeply worried. What made it worse now was that Genie had an atlas in her hand, which she'd obviously taken from their hall shelf and she was pointing at a country - Guadeloupe.

'That's where I'd like to go.'

'French territory,' murmured Jean-Claude.

'It's not France though.'

'French territory.'

'All right, here.' She stabbed a finger at Martinique.

Jean-Claude sighed. 'French territory.'

She sat down and laid the atlas on the table, staring ahead of her and trying to come to terms with her situation. 'And you don't want us here, Emma?'

'Who said that?' demanded Emma, sharply. 'I'd definitely love you to be here. Hugh wants you here. The Prime Minister can't see a role here.'

'Why does it have to be government? Surely people need French guides, translators ... teachers.'

'Yes,' answered Jean-Claude, 'as long as they don't need to go to France.'

Mortified, she said, very quietly, 'Then what are we to do?'

Hugh spoke. 'I'll not try the PM's patience again but I'll speak with Janine and get her to nut out a UK-oriented solution. The only problem is that this country is also disintegrating and opportunities are becoming less and less and only for certain types of people. They only want that sort. It will have to be a created position.

Of course, Genie, there is still your current position, as trainer. You're good at it, you get results and it's ongoing.'

'I can't take it emotionally, Hugh. It - it depresses me.'

'I do understand that.  All right, I'll speak to Janine.'

They broke up for the evening and took care of things in their respective quarters. Coming through, Emma climbed into bed in that unique way and cuddled up to him. 'It's bad, Bebe.'

'Yes, when she's like this, anything can happen. I know your thoughts are for Genie but I feel anxious for Jean-Claude as well.'

'Oh I have inquietude for him too, for his peace of mind and he's all that stands between her and doing something ... silly. Look, if she can't face the training, then she can't face it. We have to create a position, so get thinking in the next day or two, Bebe. Please?'

'D'accord. Anyway, the Germans are coming tomorrow, early, as you know. What time are you coming in?'

'I'll spend the morning with Mademoiselle and Jean-Claude; I'll be there just before 12:00.

III

'Fortunate resolution to your dilemma, Hugh.'

'Yes but is it a resolution, sir? They're only protected over there by the grace of the patron he's being business manager for. They could step in and take them both, whatever patronage he enjoys. Favours owed to Jean-Claude must be getting a trifle thin now.'

'Blood protects but they'll make known the extent of the debt. Anyway, sorry to be selfish but that now releases you to give your own work your fullest attention, not that I have any complaints. I leave those to Jamieson and cronies.'

'That's all started again?'

'Never stopped. It's all being done officially this time, dossiers prepared on each of you, letterhead, bulky files - that sort of thing. Comes to nothing for now. The Loire bought you both a fair bit. Now, there's a little matter I'd like to raise with you.'

IV

'Emma?'

She turned her face towards him on the pillow. 'Yes?'

He told her of the PM's proposal.

'Ah.' Anxiety crept into her voice. 'But we gave Jannes back.  It split The Seven, his return - a good result - so why does he want this now?'

'He has to show our financial power, that we can still buy our way to them, should we so desire. He has to demonstrate his reach, in order to buy us all more time - all the loyalists.  This would blindside Jamieson because, in us accepting this at our own personal risk, Jamieson can have no credence placed anymore on the charges he's made. He comes out of it looking quite bad.'

'Yet we are the losers in the end.'

'We are but we're also dependent, for now, on the British government. Not good but what else can we do?'

'So all we need to do is travel by plane, be collected at the airport in the heartland of our enemies, travel to this house, admiring the scenery as we go and kidnap Celeste Iduna?'

'That's about it.'

'It sounds mad.'

'It is mad. Yet we know she'll be there, having returned from Bolivia and as it's between meetings and High Days and as we shall officially be in London, in the BBC studios for an interview ...'

'Marie-Ange and Peter?'

'Yes.'

'In whose hands is our safety?'

'In Janine's. She's organizing it.'

She relaxed more. 'Well ... maybe.  When?'

'Two days.'

V

Koenigstrasse, from the N8, took them to another turnoff, the Baumweg but from then on, the turnoffs led to unnamed tracks and lanes, finally arriving at two great gates and at their approach, the gates opened away from them, inwards.

If fear had been gnawing at their hearts till this point, it positively leapt into their throats now, Hugh sipped on water and she did the same.

The S400 turned right and made its way, silently, down the cobbled driveway, towards the low fence at the water and then left along the gravel, before pulling up before the grand entrance.

The driver came round to Emma's door and ushered her out, Hugh got out. She glanced across and thought they looked a treat, the two of them but perhaps lacked the height to make a truly grand entrance. Still, it was like a fairytale - either that or their protracted demise, depending on who had betrayed whom, for this whole exercise was based on money and betrayal, something Hugh was most uneasy about.

That Celeste Iduna would be unaware was inconceivable to him and yet that was what had been fed back. They had placed their trust in Janine and though she was fine within her own country, how good was she here, in the European heartland? Had she been doublecrossed or did the Scottish money hold good over here? He confessed to himself that though he'd brushed up against the power once or twice, he'd never fully understood the extent of it nor why two people such as Emma and himself could be of the remotest significance to people in Iduna's circle.

So, here they were, walking up the steps of the great house and gestured through, the manservant/butler/whatever knocking, opening the carved wood inner door and standing back to allow the two of them to enter.

A woman of maybe 45 was seated at the bay window which gave onto the gravel path and the lake beyond, she turned her head sharply, saw them but not did not immediately recognize them, then did so, gasped and jumped up in anger, called Frederik back, in a shrill voice, presumably to dress him down, Frederik dutifully came through and simply folded his arms.

She was around 168-170 cm, with masses of fair hair, regally swept back and tied up and interestingly, she wore a small, bejewelled bonnet, not unlike a tiara. Not beautiful - yet she was striking, with high cheek bones and an imperious visage, her dark, sleeveless brocade vest was ornate, the billowing sleeves of the blouse white, she was given to gold bracelets, earrings and rings but not excessively so, her figure was fairly standard, her fingers long but not slender.

Iduna looked almost blankly at the manservant, clearly not recognizing him, then her gaze swung round upon them again and they could see the fear clawing up the back of her neck. 'Oui?' she began, all hauteur now gone and not sure whether to use English or French, opting for her own tongue.

In English, Hugh said, quietly, 'Sit, Celeste, please.'

The woman subsided to her chair, half turning to face them. The manservant or whoever had replaced the real manservant brought a chair over for Emma and she sat, in as ladylike a manner as she knew how, another chair was brought for him and he now sat as well.

'You know who we are, I suppose?' he asked. It was clear that she did but the whole thing was so bizarre, without any sort of warning, all failsafes having failed, that she was severely shaken.

She was going to bluff it out though, until she was sure. 'What do you want? Why are you in my home, like this? Do you understand the consequences of what you have done?'

Hugh smiled and even Emma owned that the smile was hideous. This unnerved the woman even more, as she exerted all her willpower upon her hands to stop clutching and unclutching at her brocade dress.

He reached into his frockcoat, took out an envelope and now she was goggle-eyed. How far this had been Janine's inner knowledge or how far the PM's, they couldn't know but it was certainly having an effect on Celeste Iduna. Her cheeks went sallow as she stuttered, 'How have I offended?'

'How have The Seven offended all decency, all civility and how have they blighted the lives of billions, even as we speak?'

Fear filled her eyes - that document in his hand was in a form she was quite familiar with and it brought with it ... finality. She knew not how they'd been allowed to come this far, addressing her like this, producing that document, with that seal but she knew full well what it meant.

Except, she reassured herself, - she was needed - her prognostications, only she could deliver, only she had foreseen all ... but she had not foreseen this. And who were these two? She was sure she knew and yet something in her brain did not compute - it could not possibly be them. Nothing aligned in this.

Her worst fears were now realized. 'Celeste Iduna, allow me to introduce Belus.' Emma nodded. 'And of course, you know full well who I am.' He smiled that smile again. 'Was this not foretold?'

Well, it had to have been foretold ... well she thought so ... she hadn't been wrong before. But how had she missed it, how? And what were they to do with her now? 'Japhet ... allowed ... this?'

He offered her the envelope. 'Your eyes can see.'

Her mouth was dry, Emma nodded to her to drink, which she did, taking one gulp and spilling a little of it. Emma then spoke. 'You're not the worst of them, Celeste and yet we have been sent for you.'

'It's - it's a trick. That envelope.'

'Open it - satisfy yourself.'

Iduna unwound the string, opened the flap and took out a parchment. It was exactly as they had indicated and there, at the foot of the parchment, was Japhet's signature. Not only that but it was counter-signed by Jambres and the new man.

'Will it be ... quick?'

'It need not be at all.' Her heart leapt and then fell. There had to be something they wanted which would finish her forever. A feeling rose up in her that she knew what that might be and she began to shake her head. 'No, that is a perversion of the path.'

Emma, as a woman, felt exactly what Iduna could feel and it took all she had to go over, pour the woman another wine and slip the powder into it. She returned, offered the goblet and said, 'Drink.'

Celeste Iduna stared at Emma, a fellow woman and couldn't believe she was a party to this. Emma continued to hold out the goblet, she took it, paused and then drank it down.

The drug worked quickly and Iduna collapsed.

Men appeared, they got her out to the car, they were well within their window and in fact, made it to the light plane with thirty minutes to spare, they took off and now the only issue was if some double cross, at the last moment, would result in them being shot down by regular forces.

It would be an anxious hour and a half.

VI

February, 2009

Hugh sat with Janine in the outer office, and she explained the outcome.

'Once we 'confirmed' she was pregnant by you, she went to pieces and gave the whole game away. Like both of you, she's now a marked person but it's actually her horror of how she's 'defiled' herself, in her eyes, according to her bloodline rigamarole, which is a worry. She's lost all will to live. We think we might lose her.'

'I have to set her straight.'

'We assumed that - she'll be flown to you this evening. She'll be drugged, of course and put in the grey room.'

.o0o.

When Emma and he entered the grey room that evening, the woman shrank back against the wall, convinced it was a second rape but when he told her to sit, she was puzzled, curious.

The room, in the shape of an octagon, was empty, save for a glass coffee table and three chairs, it had a white wall at one end and that was that. The two of them sat in chairs opposite her and Emma was eyeing her unnervingly, not once wavering in her gaze.

He spoke. 'I'm going to continue to call you Celeste. You permit?' She nodded, hardly in a position to refuse. 'You were never touched, at least, not by me. Never. I regret the subterfuge, Celeste but it was vital that we tricked you. It was either that or doing things to you with instruments. We had to know that information because we had to stop this evil.'

The woman just looked at him, relieved but still feeling it might be a trick. 'We're not the evil ones, Celeste - Japhet and The Seven are - including you - but I don't expect you to accept that. The lie you believe is that the world must first suffer, in order to be brought out of it, the rebirth and that the finest and the best will survive. We, Albus and Belus, are supposed to be the destroyers, the thorns in your side, undoing all your good work.

Yet what misery have we caused the ordinary person in Europe - have you ever once stopped and thought about that? Which good people have ever been harmed by our actions? Think now of what you do on High Days, think of what happens to your enemies. Our side can do nasty things too but as Albus and Belus - we never have.'

She summoned up the courage to ask. 'What happens now?'

'You're in a room in our home and you're our guest. While you're here with us, you'll not be harmed. There are three ways to proceed after that. One - we drop you off in Europe, by parachute and best of luck with The Seven, now they know you've been with us.' He paused and she swallowed before she could stop herself.

'Two - we hand you over to our people in London.'

He noticed her flinch and then said, quite simply, 'Three - we want you to work with us.'

She just stared and stared, then continued to stare. Finally she managed, 'With Albus and Belus?'

'Celeste, get this through your head - there is no Albus, there is no Belus. At least, there might be in the stars but we aren't them. We're Hugh and Emma, an Englishman and a French woman. We are security people, with some pretty powerful connections - you've just seen that. We can take four of your Seven whenever we wish. We could have captured Richard Japhet ... for some time.'

She smiled at that and he immediately latched onto it. 'You think we're not aware what he is? And Jambres? And the unfilled place?'

'Why them?' she fished.

'Celeste, we'll treat you as an intelligent person if you do the same with us. You know very well they have the power inside them.'

'How do you know I don't?'

'You'd not be here now.'

'I could be watching and waiting.'

'Celeste, we haven't time for this. You know about propaganda, of course. All about NLP, Common Purpose, that sort of thing. Propaganda, as you know, involves presenting ideas as assertions and then constructing scenarios, images, music, in such a way that the person is convinced, with only part of the data. All negatives are excluded.

We're going to show you a video now, on that wall over there. It consists of actions of The Seven, followed by footage of what followed their action and short interviews with the victims or the families of the victims. You, Celeste, were part of that - you accepted it.

There were two ways we could have done this - shown you and run the risk you wouldn't accept it.

Or else we could have dissociated your mind into fragments, as your people did with our friend Magdalena. We could still do that. Here is one method for achieving that ...'

He pressed the button on his transponder and a man came in from the far door, with an ornate box. He walked up to Iduna, placed the box on the glass table, near her knees and stood back.

'Go on, Celeste - open it.' She looked at it for some moments, felt how it opened and pulled back the lid. Her eyes stared at the contents and she involuntarily gulped. 'Yes, we had those in reserve for Opinicus, if he failed to cooperate.'

'And you say you're good people.'

'I said we had these - in reserve. However, I prefer the first method - to let the video do the talking.'

He said to the man, 'The rectal probe,' the man took it out of the box, held it up in front of Iduna's eyes, placed it softly on the table, then closed and took the box away.

Iduna stared fixedly at the instrument. 'I need the toilet.'

He pushed a button on the transponder again, issued some instructions, a three-sided screen with aluminium poles and black cloth was brought in, a porta-loo was also brought in behind the screen, Emma and Hugh went out of the room.

.o0o.

They reappeared, with two men, in ten minutes, One of the men folded the screen, the other closed the portaloo and they departed. The probe still lay on the coffee table and it was forcing Iduna's eyes to continually come back to it, until the lights dimmed and the video began, tailor made for her, even mentioning her by name.

.o0o.

When it had finished, she was in total shock. Yes, she'd known about those things from a distance, she'd even told The Seven, in each case, when there was a propitious moment to do it but now she saw and heard the victims and families, she simply couldn't accept that her actions had caused it. She blamed Jambres, she blamed Japhet and all the while, Hugh gazed at her, as did a silent Emma.

This unnerved her more than anything. Hugh went on. 'Would you like to meet one of your victims, Celeste? A girl whose mind was split and who was raped and tortured by your animal friends in your ceremonies?'

He pressed the transponder again, there was a knock on the door, it opened and in walked Sophie on cue, tall, fair, like a panther in her step and looking straight at Celeste. Iduna recognized the girl instantly but Sophie couldn't recognize her because the face and body had never been uncovered.

Iduna knew she had to remain silent, that it was the only way. However, Hugh and Emma got up and took their chairs towards the door, which would have left the woman at the mercy of Sophie.

Suddenly, Sophie saw who it was in the woman's clutching mannerism, in the tilt of the head, she took a pace forward, Iduna saw the end coming and shouted, 'Keep her away from me, keep her away, I'll do anything.'

By way of reply, Emma and Hugh left the room and Iduna's wild eyes looked first at the instrument on the table, then at Sophie, then back at the instrument. When Sophie took it up, looked at it and then over at Iduna, it was almost the end - the woman began breathing rapidly, erratically, Sophie went to the door, handed it to someone, came back and told Iduna to sit.

She did and Sophie sat on the coffee table, one long leg either side of the woman, she took Celeste's hand and, speaking in French, began in a low voice. 'What you did to me, what all of you did to me, will live in my mind forever but I will not join your circle of hate. I am beyond you now, Celeste, I have power over myself. What you did to me was wrong, very wrong, doubly wrong because we are both women.'

Iduna looked away and Sophie said, 'Look into my eyes, Celeste.'

'I can't.'

'All right. I can forgive you for what you did ... but only under one condition ... that you are sorry for it. If your heart is still hard, I can do nothing to save you from ...' she indicated with a toss of the head, '... what's out there. If you really are sorry, then we can repair what has happened and the misery can end.'

'You - you'd forgive me?'

'Yes. That's how we do it here.'

Iduna looked back at her now and broke down, sobbing. Sophie knew what she had to do.

VII

Before Easter, 2009

Celeste Iduna was either on the level or biding her time.

She'd basically joined the Citadel, they'd given her enough rope to hang herself and she'd not done so. Either she was more clever than they and did her deeds when she was certain of not being observed or else she was genuine. She was certainly intelligent enough.

Sophie was the key to all this, with a knack of sniffing subterfuge and was sure Iduna, having seen that she had no way of surviving The Seven, except to remain in situ, had eventually thrown in her lot with Albus and Belus, as Sophie herself had.

Hugh reasoned that even if they lost her now, even if The Seven were convinced she was on the level, enough damage had been done for Iduna to make it difficult for the enemy. At a minimum, there'd be Doubt. What worried Emma was that her language was still haughty at times but that might have been because she'd known no other way. Her manner was certainly anything but haughty in day-to-day affairs.

There were many times when Celeste simply began to speak of The Seven, how they operated, what their relative strength was, what some of their plans were for Europe. Providing it was on the level, this information was like hen's teeth.

Much of it damaged Jamieson and the PM took every opportunity to torment him with pending press releases on whatever snippet had turned up. The result was that the man went to ground and plotted more quietly. It gave Emma and Hugh a new lease of life in their work and they took the opportunity to institute a team of Sentinels - a distant early warning system, Emma took that aspect over completely and stepped up the training, he vetted the Praetorian more thoroughly and allowed them to vet their Section in turn.

For now, they were all right.

VIII

Easter Saturday, 2009

They were joined by Celeste in the garden.    Sally brought another cup and Emma poured.  'I'm being called back.'

'Thought you might.'

'You do know what you're saying, don't you?'

'Yes. I'm saying they have a conduit, a way to communicate with you.'

'And you're not going to see if I have a bug, a microphone, anything like that? Even an implant in my head?'

'We know you don't, we know this enemy cannot be defeated - not by us, not by any humans.'

'Why do you resist then?'

'We must. You know that. It's ever been the way - against the tide, against the odds.'

'As superheroes.'

'No, not in the least. As ordinary people who've evolved and learned a thing or two. We also know it's a strange game they play. If they have this power, then why don't they just use it to take over?'

Celeste did not answer and Emma was observing her eloquent silence.

'The answer is,' Hugh continued, 'that they crave legitimacy. Just as they mated all those millennia ago, so they still want to be accepted as legitimate. 

What infuriates them is that humans have no idea what they actually have inside them - that divine spark - and they act like like yahoos. Yet they, the true yahoos, aspire to be human. Life is strange.'

'You can't win this.'

'You're right but neither can we lose.   The human spirit rebels against mind control, drugs, fear, war, torture - and the instant these monsters relax for a second, back comes the human spirit.'

'Like cancer.'

'Like the first green shoot in spring. See how your rhetoric differs from ours.'

'I do accept yours now. I was quoting them.'

IX

Easter Sunday, 2009

'I'd like to go over there to see home again but I'm not going to.'

'Why not?'

'It's not the same, it sounds awful.  I was never as attached as Mademoiselle and the others to this place or that and the danger to us it's just not worth it.   I've thought for a long time about this - we went there, we were married there and perhaps that should be it for now.   The place I would like to go back to is our island - now that has good memories for me.'

'I'd like to be on our boat again in the sun, with you at the front, watching the dolphins.   We can't recreate that, Fayette but would you be prepared to go for a trip with me I have in mind?'

'You’re serious?'

'Very much so.  I've always had this in reserve for you - it had to be organized through Janine - but even with a wood burner, it was still going to be too cold over winter.  It's mild enough now.'

She was intrigued.  'When?'

'Whenever I call Janine.  She'd organize supplies and we'd be there in a few days.  She’s been waiting for me to ask.  Will you do it?'

'What is it - a log cabin?'

‘A bit like it.   On our own for maybe three days.'

Her smile said it all.

X

Two days later, they were lowered by helicopter onto the deck of the revamped Sophie-Fleury on the Broads.

The instant they'd unclipped and waved goodbye, she squeezed him half to death, ran to the galley in the front cabin, found a cupboard with Bénédictine and Brandy, opened three or four cupboards and found  two glasses, sloshed liqueur into both, handed him his and asked what they'd toast to.

Not able to think of anything, he looked at the bottle and suggested, 'Deo Optimo Maximo?'

'All right,' she agreed and they clinked glasses.  'Deo Optimo Maximo.   Three days, yes?

'Three days.'   She looked about the galley and it had been more than well stocked, the seats were padded, there were curtains and more than that, there was a small wood-burning stove giving out its heat.   There was another in the aft cabin, she'd noticed.

'We can sail around this lake?'

'A bit more than a lake, Fayette.   I think it will satisfy your sense of adventure - we're getting in before the season of course so there won't be too many people about.'

She was anxious. 'Safe?'

'Covered.   Janine's own fund.  She'll join us on the last day - the PM's released her for one day.'

She didn't really know what more to say.   Nor did he, she caught that look, shrieked and ran for the hatchway, along the deck - he found her, quite obviously, in the aft cabin which had been done up a treat, with curtains, duvets and even synthetic carpet on the floor.

'Why?' she cuddled up to him under the duvet.  'What's it used for?'

'Officers' weekends away, special treats, days like this.  It's not the island but -'

She put a finger to his lips.  'It's wonderful.   The memories it brings back.   Take your clothes off.'

.o0o.

'We don't need that fire on,' she observed an hour later.  'Are you hungry?'

XI

Janine found them in a remote part of the broads on the last day or rather, the helicopter found them.   She reached the deck and told them they had five more hours, waved above, the helicopter banked and headed off.

No sooner was she in the galley than they both hugged her and showered her with profuse thanks.

'So it's been good?'

'It's been simply – the best,' gushed Emma. ‘The relief, the relief.’

Janine grinned and the aroma of food was all about.  Emma had cooked up rostbif the French way, piles of it to eat at will and Janine was glad she'd deferred breakfast - she had a feeling, she'd hoped against hope Emma would have done something like this.

He set the table and poured the wines, Janine helped serve and not much was said for some time.

.o0o.

'Do you want to hear it now?' she finally asked.

'Must we?' asked Hugh, 'is it vital today?'

'No and there are no surprises.   Be aware though you’re going back to that and will have to get the sentinels sorted toute suite.  There’ve been moves with Mr. Jamieson.’

‘Do they never rest?’

‘Ambition, backers, need delivery. There's no need to sail back now, the helicopter will find us, a crew will come down on the wire, we'll just be lifted and that will be that.  So, another hour of eating, right and then you'll show me what this little round-the-world boat can do?  We’ll go for a little spin?'

'With pleasure.  The breeze is light here, Janine, so you won't get the full effect.'

'It will be plenty enough effect for me,' she smiled, accepting another wine.  Emma filled her plate again.

XII

You know after you get back home, how there are all sorts of issues to sort and it’s about a week and a half before you can finally sit back in the garden and relax over a wine or two, reflecting on that holiday.

Both Emma and Hugh had been deeply affected by that sojourn on Sophie-Fleury, both now turned their attention, from reminiscences of that to the unresolved questions – Jean-Claude and Genevieve, Marie-Ange, Celeste Iduna, Sophie.

Sophie and her young man seemed OK for now.  Though she’d had that terrible past, within herself she was a most capable woman and did not dwell.  She knew she couldn’t live on her rescuers, she wanted a certain independence after the initial stumbling.  She was not a major issue at this time.

Jean-Claude and Genevieve were a major worry.  There was a drying up of political will in accommodating them both, possibly because they did not fit the mould and yet they too were enjoying the protection of the State from the enemy – step outside that and it would be a different matter.

Giving them a role in the Citadel would be a slap in the face for Genevieve who hankered something awful over France.  Jean-Claude was lumbered with that, he had to decide whether to go down with her and Emma felt they’d make a try for France again, with or without protection.

Marie-Ange was chafing at the bit too but also knew she could no longer return.  It was still mild in her case, nothing a good Frenchman would not fix.  Emma would think on’t.

The major one, the one the State was particularly interested in, was Celeste. What to do with her?  The PM saw her as a bargaining chip once they’d extracted all the data out of her.  Hugh had explained that they hadn’t done this to her as yet.

There was a certain feeling among the three of them [including the PM] that Marie-Ange was not a major issue, that Jean-Claude and Genevieve should count themselves lucky, that Sophie was doing well but that Celeste had to be decided on and soon.

The PM saw only a bargaining chip, Hugh saw her as a weapon, an asset for them, planted into The Seven again and wreaking some sort of havoc.  Emma wasn’t sure but feared the woman was too powerful, still had something up her sleeve and what’s more, was being called back.

The issue was, in Emma’s eyes, and the other two agreed, that she might have been just as much a mind-controlled victim as Sophie – Sophie had suggested that herself.  If so, then their power over her would wane, as it had with Genevieve.  So in the short term, it was arranged that Genevieve and Sophie would work with her on that side, whilst Hugh would be the other side of it, representing the benign face of the State, covering a veiled menace she was well aware of.  Emma would run Sophie-Fleury in the main and come in now and then for Celeste.

.o0o.

Genevieve was brought north with Jean-Claude and as long as it was a project in their eyes, a specific task, they were happy.  Emma had arranged for Jean-Claude to oversee the security arrangements and organization at the Citadel and was being paid from State funds for his report – he was on clover.

In this enormous building complex of theirs, one set of rooms used for visitors was made over to the pair of them and all joined for dinner roughly every second evening.  So for now, everything had a lid on it.

XIII

Celeste was bemused that so many human resources had been expended on her.  Hugh explained in their first one-on-one.

‘We have enormous respect for your ability, Celeste.  You know we were always respectful of the position of the Seven and we extend that to you.  We know you respect our power as well.  I think it’s an enormous waste you sitting about here doing virtually nothing of great use –’

‘Of use to you.’

‘Of use to you as well.  I’m well aware you’re communicating in some way, you’re trying to create networks within the building with staff, you possibly still see yourself as one of them.  I have to tell you you would be sacrificed back there –’

‘You think I’m unaware?’

‘I believe an attempt will be made to retrieve you.  The Prime Minister doesn’t understand why I haven’t ordered your retraining as yet,’ that one got through and she shuddered slightly, ‘but I wanted to define what we want and you want and see if we can’t come to an agreement.’

‘Why?  Why would you need to come to an agreement with a hostage?’

‘We could use your expertise, Celeste.  You not only have those powers of seeing, you also have a background in ancient history, you know things.  If only you’d turn them to good or is that too boring?  Is darkness the more exciting?’

‘You’re exciting, the others are a bore.’

‘Uh-huh, doesn’t stroke my ego in the least but thanks for that anyway.  I’m almost saying to you, for goodness sake, either work full on for them or work full on for us, not this half and half thing.  I seriously do not want you retrained but it can be done.  We have both Sophie Magdalena and Genevieve here in this complex waiting to assist with that – we would then helicopter drop you on the roof of 4231 Magnumstrasse –’ she involuntarily gasped, ‘and you would be controlled by us.’

‘Albus would not do such a thing.’

‘I keep telling you I am not Albus –’

‘You are in no position to know that. You are both written of, all you have done so far, the way you have escaped, your rise in this nation – it is all foretold.’

‘And therefore you cannot accommodate us, there can be no rapprochement?’

‘Not to two such as you.  However, I wish to avoid your ‘retraining’, so what is it you wish from me?’

‘Knowledge.’

‘And how would you know if I am telling you the truth?’

He was on sound ground here, some snippets came back to memory. ‘You must, as your lie would be known to Albus and Belus and your own power then diminishes.  You know this.’

‘But you said you were not Albus and Belus,’ was her unconvincing rearguard action, unconvincing to her that was.

‘Can you take that chance?’

Her imperiousness began to return.  ‘So let us begin.’

He called Emma in and she would translate into French.

‘We know the old families and how they interconnect, given that we know the metabolic nature of the line, in this sphere we have a fair idea how royalty intermingles with major corporations, how some members are simply employed for the sake of it, e.g. Solvay, we know many staff are loyal, not through fear but through the power of the legends and respect for the ancient lines.  All that is clear.

What we don’t know is who Japhet answers to, how vulnerable he is, who the bestial members are, who the susceptible ones are.’

‘And you think I’ll tell you this.’

‘Yes.  You will.’  That chilled her to the bone, as it was the rhetoric of The Seven.  ‘We know you fear coition with Albus and that can still be done.’  Now she was distinctly edgy. ‘You would have the child and then you would be released to them again.’

‘That’s inhuman and you are human.’

‘Are you so sure in my case?’

‘Tell me what you need.’

XIV

May 4th, 2009

They’d staked all on the May Day ‘call from the wild’ as Hugh had termed it and she had certainly been in a strange state all day, Celeste, profiling various members of the Seven as if she were addressing them.

With what they had, Hugh was due for a meeting with the PM this a.m., it went through the preliminaries, Janine brought coffee, he was finally ushered in.

‘Sit, let’s start.  You want us to set off an avalanche and murder countless people, is that right?’


‘That’s a private resort, they’re having a meeting of the Seven, it’s too good an opportunity to miss.  No one else is hurt.  We have a staff member there, pure chance, pure luck, we really have to try. We take them out this morning and it’s put down to this Albus and Belus.  It stymies their plans at an auspicious moment for them.’

‘Yes but what’s in it for me, for Britain?’

‘So many of your enemies are going to be dislocated for a short time, maybe even a week.  They’re a hidden conduit for funds, for communications.  They are closer to the power than titular heads, as I think you know.’

‘And you can guarantee that these are the only ones killed.’

‘Look for yourself, sir.’  He nodded towards the dossier.

‘All right, it must me now, yes?’

‘Sooner the better.’

‘Wait outside if you will, Hugh.’

.o0o.

He was ushered in again thirty two minutes later, bidden to sit and the Prime Minister wasted no time.

‘All right, it checked out, one escaped, a gift was left for him in the chalet  – Sophie-Fleury, written on a stone in a wrapped box. And now?’

‘Moment, sir, may I call Emma from here or from Janine’s room?’

‘From here.’

‘Uh-huh, you what?’  The colour drained from his face. ‘What did the doctor say? All right, what did he write?  Are you all right, Sophie, the others?  Back soon.’

‘Well?’

‘Celeste Iduna was taken ill twenty minutes ago, doctor was called, she’s in a coma.’

‘Well done, Hugh.  Did you know killing them would do this?’

‘No, not at all.  Indications were she’d come out of it.’

‘So you weren’t just playing God?’

‘I need to be back with my people, sir.’

‘Report Tuesday week please, same time, no need tomorrow.’

In the outer room, Robert Jamieson had just come in to demand action on this Jensen.  He looked evenly and coldly at Hugh, saying nothing. 

‘There’s always a way to get to you in the end, isn’t there, Mr. Jamieson?  One just has to find it. Good day.’

He kissed Janine on the cheek and took his leave.

.o0o.

He found Emma and Sophie in the garden.

‘Will she come out of it?’

Sophie replied. ‘I think so.  Could be months.’

‘Whatever it takes.  Could we have known?’

‘Always a risk,’ said Sophie. 

‘I was too harsh with her.  We can only wait.’

‘Mr. Jensen,’ said Sophie, ‘you two are in danger.  This is your main issue in the next few months. Celeste is not in pain, she’s asleep.  It was her connection with them which did this. You both need to be very careful though during this time.  They will come for you.  They will send people.’


He took Emma’s hand, she squeezed his.


Chapter 24 here ... 3rd book Chapter 1 here

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