January 30, 2007

The Crane (4 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

One of the disadvantages of working in a secret organisation, Mr. Alpha thought, was that everything had to be secret. Let’s not hold the meeting in the local Starbucks, we’ll meet up where there aren’t any people. So no ferry terminals or toilets either. They still could have cut down the travel time if they’d hopped on a ferry to Lakeside but, of course, they weren’t meeting at a ferry-friendly time like 11am. Just in case anyone did take a fancy to the area, Supply had proposed 7am as the meeting time of choice. Mr. Omega had told him once that Clothman fatigue was a common problem. Whoa, big fucking surprise.

It hadn’t been possible to follow the western shore of Windermere all the way down; the occasional detour around thick undergrowth or Wray Castle had been essential. Mr. Omega had kept distance throughout and the journey had been made in silence. They were now at the rendezvous point, marked by a single bench on the opposite shore.

Mr. Alpha looked at his watch and checked the time. He groped around inside his jacket pocket and pulled out his mobile. It bore the same time as the watch. ‘So,’ he asked Mr. Omega, ‘what time do you make it?’

Mr. Omega was watching the trees around them for movement. ‘Seven thirty,’ he said.

He wished he was on the other side, sitting on the bench beneath tree-peppered hills. There was already a man in a black suit wearing a flashy red tie sitting there, his arms laying on the seat like he had not a single care. So much for secrecy. He bet the bastard was probably smiling too. In fact, he hated the Lake District and every rural area like it. Everyone was so friendly and talked to every stranger they met. Cloth jobs up here meant some social integration for the purposes of camouflage. London, where people kept their trap shut and minded their own business, was superior across the board. There wasn’t even a Starbucks in Ambleside, how backward was that? The presence of the Starbucks infection was how a modern country could identify that it was civilised.

‘So this is where we we’re supposed to meet Mr. Mogdred and Ms. Morgana?’ he asked.

‘That’s what I was told by Supply.’ Mr. Omega did not want to be distracted from the vital task of scanning the trees.

‘Why don’t you give them another call, just to check?’

There was a brief pause and Mr. Alpha knew that the old man was wondering whether his request had been genuine or a sarcastic suggestion that Alzheimer’s had set in. It had been genuine, but he also enjoyed the alternate meaning now that it had occurred to him. His enjoyment was marred by the congestive throbbing in his head. The pain, though, meant he needed no more leaves for the time being. He’d left a dirty trail of snotty breadcrumbs behind them.

Mr. Omega got out his mobile and called Supply, something Mr. Alpha lamented he was not able to do yet. Still hadn’t made his twenty assignments.

‘Supply, this is Mr. Omega, Keswick south sector.’ A pause. ‘I’d like to confirm the location and time of the rendezvous with Mr. Mogdred and Ms. Morgana.’ A longer pause; Mr. Omega listened intently while still watching the trees. ‘We appreciate your support. Belief is rock.’ He snapped the mobile shut and put it away.

‘Everything as we thought?’

‘Yes. I’m not senile yet.’

As Mr. Omega had lowered his guard a fraction, Mr. Alpha thought it would be a good time to bring up a well trodden topic. He asked, ‘Why do we have to sleep together?’

‘What, do you have memory loss or something? Till death do us part. Fifty metres apart and the Cloth will kill us, for fuck’s sakes. A double room makes it simple.’

‘A twin would be better.’ Shit, Mr. Alpha chastised himself, he needed to keep his contempt under lock and key a lot better than this. At school, he was sure that his partner would be brilliant, awe-inspiring, wisdom incarnate. Spending time with Mr. Omega was more like a wisdom teeth extraction.

Mr. Omega did not respond, finding the rustling trees a more appealing conversation partner.

A few minutes passed and Mr. Alpha couldn’t bear the silence any more. He envied the man on the bench, despite his tasteless tie. ‘What are we here for?’

‘I’m not at liberty to discuss it.’


‘I’m not at liberty to discuss it is what I said. Ask a question, make a bloody effort to listen to the answer.’

This was the last thing he expected to hear. It meant that the task they had been assigned was related to the second order Cloth codes that a probation charge like himself was not privy to. He guessed the Cloth wouldn’t have assigned something of this nature to a pairship-in-training if there had been any other option, so something serious was going on. At least this was going to be interesting.

‘Can you at least tell me, then, what Mr. Mogdred looks like? Or Ms. Morgana?’

‘Met them both at the Keswick meet last year. He’s a small bloke, short, black hair, gels it flat. He looked a bit wet behind the ears to me, but he’s made his twenty. Ms. Morgana chooses a classic black suit with a really bright white shirt, or is it a blouse?’ Mr. Omega chuckled. ‘It makes him look more pall-bearer than Men in Black.’

Mr. Alpha sneezed and the recoil made his head swim; everything was bright shiny colours for a second. He shook his head to clear the multicoloured mush from his vision but then, one problem in exchange for another, crushing congestion pain overwhelmed him. He had to say something important. He held his head and staggered to the edge of the lake, staring across at the man on the opposite bench, passing the day in comfortable silence. Sweat dribbled from Mr. Alpha’s forehead despite the cold wind that whipped him.

‘Cover your fucking mouth when you sneeze,’ the old man said. ‘Dirty.’

‘Fucking shitbandits,’ Mr. Alpha shouted through his private agony, the first time he had sworn in the presence of his partner. ‘Observation is root is it? Observe that!’ Still securing his fragile head with one hand, he pointed with the other towards the man on the bench and his bold red tie.

‘That’s not a tie,’ he said. ‘That’s not a red tie!’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2334

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