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Dressed To Kill

Steed's Tale - "Dressed To Kill" - Chapter 01

Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Rain Donaldson
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1997-1998.
Steed's history was written in 1994.

"Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state,
need to be avenged by agents extraordinary..."


Family Background:
Mother: Flora of Amber 
Grandmother: Dybele (deceased) Grandfather: Oberon (deceased)
Great-grandmother: Unicorn Great-grandfather: Dworkin 
Father: unknown

Personal History Time Line:

Time conversion: 4 Amber yr. = 10 Earth yr./4 Earth yr. = 1.5 Amber yr.

>Ages 0-10: (1922-1931) (2369-2372 d'L)
Born Jonathan Steed, on February 6, 1922.
Shadow Earth: in Berkshire, England.
>Ages 11-14: (1932-1935) (2373-2374 d'L)
Shadow Earth: Boarding school in Winchester, England.
Amber: Walked the Pattern at 12.
>Ages 15-18: (1936-1939) (2375- 2376 d'L)
Shadow Earth: Eton College, student.
>Ages 19-28: (1940-1949) (2377-2380 d'L)
Shadow Earth: British Royal Navy, title Major.
>Ages 29-32: (1950-1959) (2380-2384 d'L)
Amber Army, title Major. 
>Ages 33-50: (1960-1977) (2385-2390 d'L)
Shadow Earth Cineverse: Ministry of Intelligence, independent agent.
>Ages 51: (1978-1979) (2391 d'L)
Return to Amber after the Patternfall War ended.
>Ages 52: (1980-1981) (2392 d'L)
In Chaos for exchange program.
>Ages 53-58: (1982-1995) (2393 d'L-2398 d'L)
Return to Amber, royal agent.
>Age 59: (1996) (2398 d'L)

Episode A4-1 - The Trump-Through Man.

In which Steed is a conference call
... and Emma is on hold.

Emma and I walk arm in arm to Castle Amber. Things have settled down for awhile. The Creed are gone from the Cineverse, the alien invasion was eliminated from Castle Amber, and all of our travel companions are scattered to the four winds.
We took the Andelusians back to my '3 Mews' stables, returning them to their stalls for grooming and feeding. Andy, Andrea, Lucy, and Lucian are now in the capable hands of the stable master. He will have the staff take care of our supplies and they will prepare the horses, if they are needed later.
Before we depart, he informs me that a fellow named Blazer borrowed one of my Palominos. It will serve him well for Amber, but I hope he doesn't plan to use it for Shadow travel. The way he tells me of this seems almost mechanical, nearly contrived or implanted. I suspect that one of the others may have tampered with his mind, they are welcome to borrowing my horses; maybe I am over suspicious. Interesting - I don't know why Blazer would need a horse, if he has joined the Royal Navy. Regardless, I hope he or whoever it was, takes care of it.
We head for the Castle and make it to the Great Hall. We see the activity of the staff, preparing for the next meal. We find a cozy corner to relax. A snack tray with various hors d'oeuvres and cheeses are brought to us, followed by a bottle of Chablis and glasses for us both.
Emma and I were maintaining a smattering of small talk. Reminiscing old cases and things that have happened since we left the ministry. She followed my activities with later partners. She was well informed about my later cases. It is splendid to relax and talk with Emma. Eventually, we exhaust most topics and get restless.
Strangely, we are not tired. We find that we miss our Shadow Earth, the Cineverse, the way it use to be before the Creed and before we left the Ministry. Then, we traveled throughout Europe and enjoyed every minute. We consider returning there, but it wouldn't be the same. I know it is the Cineverse now, then I didn't. I thought it was the same Shadow Earth where I was born and grew up, the same Shadow Earth that Uncle Corwin and Mother Flora spent centuries in. The Cineverse is just a duplicate Shadow Earth, that Mother designed for me and my eccentric tastes. Once I knew that, it took all the pleasure from my adopted home. Did Flora care if that would happen, or did she plan that?
I enjoyed caring for the Shadow, rescuing it from dangers on a regular basis. I could have done that for ages. That all changed - after I found that the dangers were all contrived to keep me busy and out of the way. Mother is still keeping me busy and protecting me from real danger, as if I was still a child. I had almost gotten use to the fact that Mother has set up my entire life; she has been behind the scenes and intervening when things got out of hand. I have accepted the same treatment from the Unicorn, since I was 12. I shouldn't resent it when Flora joins the fray. I suppose two guardian angels are better than one.
I suppose I could get indignant and become defiant. It would serve little purpose and it would be rather juvenile. So, I will be the grateful son of my guardians. It might even irritate Flora, that would be worth it.
I suggest that we get in touch with others by Trump, to see if they need help. When contact seems safe, I will nod and Emma can touch me - joining the conversation.
First, I want to contact Mother. I want to thank her for her help with the Creed, ask about the missing body parts, and ask about the dart guns again. I am enjoying her discomfort, asking about them. She may even give them up to me, it is a dangerous toy to use against Amberites. I am certain that the gun will work in Amber, but I want to know if the drug works in Amber as well.
I withdraw my Trump deck and spread them out on the tea tray. I ask a nearby guard if King Random is back. He is. I ask Emma if she would like to return to Shadow Earth or stay in Amber. She has no opinion, but she would like to stay with me. I know she is still concerned about Flora, and is comfortable staying under my protection - as limited as it is. I plan to keep her safe.
I examine the Trumps. I pick up a Trump that I have had the longest, since I was a wee lad. I could have had it replaced by a newer one, but I kept it for sentimental reasons. I will categorically deny it if asked. Her face hasn't changed since I've known her; not counting hair and eye color changes. I concentrate upon her visage and the Trump grows cold to the touch. It is humid and I see her through steam. Her hair and body is damp and her skin is glistening in the shower. I am normally not a voyeur, especially not in this case. 
:Yes?: She turned the water off and reached for a towel.
:Mother, I regret this intrusion. I wanted to talk with you. Call back when it is convenient.:
:Certainly dear, I will call you back shortly.: She gives me a wicked smirk.
I close the contact. I smile at Emma, mentally seeing her in the shower instead.
"Steed, you are leering."
"Was I? I am just enjoying your company, my dear. Flora is indisposed and will contact me later." I return my attention to the Trumps. "Who else is on a private quest that may need some help? The Doctor was busy with the TARDIS, it may be best to wait to hear from him instead. Blazer is busy with the Navy. Suehprom and Creed are missing. Morganth is in Chaos to attain the Logrus. Kat and Kesa have left to calm down, I 'don't' want to bother them until Kat is more amiable."
Emma agrees with my assessment.
"That leaves Scout Carter. He is on some unknown quest with the Jewel of Judgment. I think that I will contact him to see if he needs help. He 'must' have walked the Pattern by now. It is the safest way to travel with the Jewel, it is also the only way that he can use it - if it is needed for his quest." I pick up the Trump and study it. It grows colder, but he is not responding. I continue for a few minutes, no luck. "He is either unwilling or unable to answer, there is also no way of knowing how far away he is. I will wait for awhile and try again."
My head is aching, pushing Trump contact gets me right behind the ears. I pour another glass of wine, to dull the ache. Soon, I feel better. Well enough to try again.
I concentrate upon it again. Same results. I hope he is just blocking contact. "No luck. Good fortune, Scout Carter - with your quest." I raise my glass to a toast and to dull the returning headache.
"Emma, things seldom remain quiet around here for long. Perhaps, we should wait for a bit and see if something turns up."
"Very well, Steed. That sounds reasonable."
Moments pass. We snack on the meat and cheese tray, it is quite excellent. I receive a Trump call. Emma touches me to be in the contact, but is staying in the background. :Yes?:
I recognize the voice. :Kesa, what a surprise.:
:I have a peace offering.: She pauses to pass me a bottle of Champagne.
I take it. :Thank you, very nice vintage.: A good vintage, she has done some research. I appreciate the gesture, but wait for the other shoe to plummet. :That wasn't necessary, what can I do for you?:
She asks about our whereabouts and current activities. I explain that the Creed have been eliminated and the group has scattered, we are currently relaxing in the Great Hall of Castle Amber.
This is strange, I am receiving another Trump call. :Kesa, I have another call.: I open contact. It is the Doctor. I didn't realize this was possible. Special note: give up all notions about what is possible or not; it just means that I didn't try it myself earlier.
We are now in a four way contact, with Emma in the background, observing. What is this? Another contact? I let the others know and open contact. It is Morganth. My mind has become the focal point of many minds. An interesting sensation and possibly a beneficial experience, as long as no one tries to attack someone through me. I wish I hadn't thought of that.
Morganth lets me know about his findings in Chaos. My cousin Merlin will be crowned King of Chaos within the week. Good choice, I just hope he can keep alive and keep from becoming a tool of others against Amber. Now that we are in mass contact, they are communicating with each other. I feel like I am surrounded by voices, quite like being a speakerphone.
Kesa wanted to find out what everyone is doing. The Doctor tells us that someone is trying to kill him...again. If I had a farthing for every time someone tried to kill me... What? Another Trump call? What the hell, it is probably Mother calling now. I would really like to surprise her, this would do it.
I open contact. It is not Mother, but close. It is Gabriel; my half-brother from the other time line, or just a different Shadow. He is in bad shape, it appears to be a chest wound. He needs medical attention and quick.
:Can you pull me through?: He is ready to collapse.
I reach through and take his hand. His grip is weak and his hand is cool. I lose him for an instant, then he appears with Kesa. I need to get him to the Doctor or to Ge`rard. We try again, he appears with Morganth. We try again and the Doctor catches him. Kesa steps through to the Doctor and they close contact; planning to check in later.
Another call, this is becoming a party in my head. I don't want to be a bad host, but I am not having it catered. Morganth drops contact as well.
Emma maintains her warm mental touch as I open contact. Is it Mother this time?
:Random! How are you milord?:
:Very well, Steed. Are you busy?:
:I was just in a group Trump contact party line with my traveling companions. I didn't know such a thing was possible. I was the focus of all the minds, it was interesting and unsettling.:
:If you want to know more about that sort of thing, I would suggest talking to Fi. That is her specialty.:
:As long as Aunt Fiona is hobnobbing with Mandor, I think I'll pass. I was just getting ready to contact you. Morganth sent news from Chaos.:
:Yes, Merlin's coronation. It is scheduled in a week. We have decided to send a representative of the crown to attend the coronation.:
:Anyone in particular?: Here it comes.
:Yes. Interested?: He smiles like the cat who swallowed the canary.
:I suppose I could free up my schedule.: According to protocol, I am permitted a guest. I cast my gaze at Emma and raise my eyebrow inquisitively. She nods and smiles. We don't even have to speak, it is uncanny. Random all ready knows who my choice is.
:Splendid. I just got back from Chaos and I would rather not return for awhile. That whole mess at the Abyss.:
:Were they able to help the Shadow dwellers that were taken by the Ty'iga?:
:They are still working on it.:
Damn. :Random, here we go again.:
:You're getting another call?:
:Yes, but I will try to hold it off. We had a splendid chat with the gracious Queen Vialle, to keep her up to date on activities. I think the Creed are eliminated from the Cineverse Shadow Earth. Kat has eliminated the aliens that were in Castle Amber, Ge`rard was informed.:
:Someone told me that the aliens were creatures from a Shadow Earth movie.:
:Wonderful, that means we may have other horrors escape from the Cineverse into Amber.:
:I don't know where they came from, but fortunately they aren't that much trouble. They may be coming from the same Shadow where Scout is from. I tried to warn him, but he is not taking my calls.:
I shrug. :I have had little luck as well. I thought he may need help on his quest.:
:I did send him with a body guard. I am concerned about him, as long as he still has the Jewel of Judgment.:
:By the way, something happened to Forest Arden earlier. I wondered what may have caused such destruction.:
:Apparently, Scout Carter was having a little difficulty shifting Shadow. I believe Julian was quite upset.:
:I offered to help him with the Pattern and shifting Shadow, he didn't want my aid. I can see why Julian is upset. Imagine a road to nowhere in the middle of Arden.:
:Julian didn't mention that, he was more concerned about the gray sky and the sick vegetation.:
:It did look rather polluted. At least I know who the Vandal of Arden is. If you are able to reach Scout, let him know he can count on me for help.:
:Hopefully, after Merlin is crowned, things will settle down a bit and we can normalize relations with Chaos. I would just as well rule for a few centuries of boring prosperity.:
:I share your sentiments and drink to it. It will also help dull the aching from pushing off the other Trump call. It's back, milord.:
:Keep in touch, Steed. Ciao.: He breaks contact.
There are now two calls trying to get through. One who was trying to get through while I was talking to Random, now another one. I don't know if it is possible to select one or the other. I open contact, I envision a roulette wheel spinning. I release the silver ball...I see a face from my past...Chaosian. From the Post Patternfall exchange program.
:Ambassador Hershall, is it really you?:
:Yes, Steed. I wanted to congratulate you on your cousin Merlin's coronation. I also wanted to know if you were planning to attend.:
:Thank you, yes. I was just appointed to represent the crown of Amber, I will be there with bells on...figuratively speaking. Will you be there too?: He is a mid-level functionary of my adopted Chaosian family.
:Most assuredly.:
:Splendid! Hopefully, I can spend time with you and others of my adopted family. You can fill me in on events in Chaos since the exchange program.:
:Yes, we have a lot to talk about.:
:Marvelous, I look forward to it.:
:Steed, do you know anything about the events that transpired in the Abyss?:
:Just a teensy bit, old friend. Things were a bit rushed and confused. We can discuss it over a bottle of House Sawall wine. I will get in touch with you when I get there. I have another call coming in. It was good to hear from you again, Hershall. Ciao.: I close contact.
I look at Emma and shrug. "I said that things seldom remain quiet around here. Who is next?" I open contact. :Yes?:
:Hello, darling.:
:Hello, Mother. You heard?:
:My dear boy, who's idea do you think it was? You have an appointment with your tailor tomorrow morning. You need to be attired appropriately for the occasion. He has sketches of the clothing you will wear to the coronation. Do you have transport to your Shadow?:
:Of course. Will you be attending as well?:
:Darling, you couldn't keep me away. I have other arrangements to make. Later, my dears.: She closes contact.
"I think she is referring to both of us." I smile at Emma. "Maybe she is warming up to you. You do have a special way with people, mostly men."
Emma gives me her 'highly doubtful' look.
Another Trump call. Emma pours us another drink and hands me a plate with meats and cheeses. What would I do without her? I open contact.
:Steed, how have you been?:
:Luke! Quite well, thank you. Things have calmed down. King Random just appointed me as the crown's representative. News travels fast across the realms. Arrangements are being made to determine the appropriate attire for the coronation.:
:I could give you some pointers or send some sketches of styles currently in vogue.:
:That would be most kind of you, old friend. If you have some styles for the fairer sex as well.:
:Is she there with you? I would like to meet the guest you are taking to Chaos.:
:How rude of me.: I touch Emma, bringing her into the contact. :Emma, meet Luke - a.k.a. King Rinaldo of Kashfa - a.k.a. Lucas Raynard of Shadow Earth. He is another cousin of mine. Luke, you have the pleasure of meeting Dame Emma Peel of Shadow Earth.:
:Pleased to meet you milord.: Can a person mentally curtsy? Somehow she projects that image.
:Luke, please. The pleasure is mine, I assure you. Steed, relative or not, you have just insulted the crown of Kashfa, by not introducing Emma to me sooner. Someone this special to you and you never brought her to Kashfa. She will have the impression that we are not worthy of a visit.:
:The fault is not his - Luke. We were recently reunited and have been kept uncommonly busy.:
:I'm afraid she's correct, old boy. We have been reunited after years of being separated, I won't bore you with the details. However, it was during that soiree in the Abyss where I found her again. We have been on the go since; no rest for the wicked. We were just getting ready to leave again, to prepare for the coronation. I haven't any idea if other Amberites are attending, other than Flora. If the invitation stands, maybe we can visit after the coronation.:
:That doesn't surprise me, she 'lives' for those events. Of course, the invitation will remain open: He smiles.
:Splendid! How rude of me; you called for a reason, what can I do for you?:
:You and I are attending the coronation, representing our respective crowns. So that we may put on the best appearance, we should provide a united front: Amber and Kashfa.:
:Sounds reasonable to me. We just need to clear those pesky little policy issues with Random. Protocol and all. Discuss things with Random. Whatever he agrees to, have him send me the official policy letter; that will give me a chance to prepare our front. I enjoy tweaking noses, almost as much as you do.:
:Excellent, I'll get in touch closer to the event.:
:Luke, not to spoil the mood, but is there any further word on Coral?:
His mood darkens. :She still hasn't fully recovered. She hasn't regained consciousness, but her vital signs are stable.:
:I trust she will continue to improve. She has frequently been in my thoughts. I know she has the blessings of Amber with her.:
:Thanks, Steed.:
I get another Trump contact. I try to hold it off until I finish talking to Luke. :I will expect to hear from you closer to the event. We will be popping off in Shadow, before we go to Chaos. Our horses will be ready soon.:
The Trump is coming in pulses, like beating. Da Da Da Da. Da Da Da Da. Da Da. Boom! It repeats. I recognize the tempo. Persistent bugger and clever. I hold off a bit longer.
Luke continues, I got his attention. :Which Shadow are you visiting?:
:My old Shadow, Corwin's Shadow Earth. In London. I have an appointment with my tailor, in the morning.:
:A very popular Shadow. I won't be far from there myself.:
:Charming! You can contact me later with sketches.:
:Very good. Later then, Steed.:
:Nice to talk to you again. Ciao.: Contact is broken.
Da Da Da Da. Da Da Da Da. Da Da. Boom!
I open contact. :Yes?:
:Steed, old boy.:
:Hello, Doctor. 1812 Overture, if I am not mistaken. Nice trick.:
:Thank you, are you busy? I regret the concert, but time is crucial.:
:Emma and I were getting ready to leave Amber. I was just appointed by the crown, to attend Merlin's coronation in Chaos. We are making a side trip to my tailor for a fitting.:
:I was gathering a force to investigate Galifrey.:
:Pity. I was looking forward to the sojourn to Galifrey. Unfortunately, duty calls.:
:If you can't make it, old chap, I understand.:
:That's terribly decent of you.:
:If you get free, just give me a ring.: He passes me a Trump.
:Certainly. Good luck, Doctor.:
:Thank you, but I don't believe in luck.:
:Another pity. Dame fortune is quite a lovely lady.:
He closes contact. Patronizing, thy name is Doctor. I miss the previous Doctor, his current incarnation needs to loosen up a bit. If he sounded more sinister, he would be left handed.
Before Emma leaves mental contact with me, I project warmth and affection to her; just to remind her how important she is to me.
I pour us another drink. I motion to one of the staff. I write a quick note to be delivered to the stable master. I instruct the youth to first notify the kitchen master of his errand, I don't want him to get in trouble. I ask him to bring me some apples from the kitchen and have travel rations prepared. He disappears, then returns with a small bag of apples, and disappears again.
Another Trump call. I sit back and tap the back of my head. Emma looks at me with exasperation. "Better you than me, I like my privacy."
I open contact. :Yes?: The smell of leather and perfume. Cat's eyes. I tense involuntarily. :Hello, Kat. What are you up to?:
:Not much. Have you heard from the Doctor?:
:We were just in Trump contact. He is gathering a force to investigate Galifrey.:
:You may want to talk to Ge`rard, before you rush off to help the Doctor.:
:Very well.:
:The last time I Trumped to him, we were in a cave. We heard someone. He ran out. Next thing I know, Ge`rard comes in. Then the Doctor came in accusing me of trying to kill him. He had a big gash in his shoulder. It was the previous Doctor! Before his incarnation.:
:The one who Trumped me was the current Doctor.:
:Interesting. It seems the previous Doctor, with the scarf, seemed to devour the current Doctor.:
:Devoured? Not some magical spell?:
:That is the way it seemed. He's gone now. I suggest you talk to Ge`rard about it. He may have some insight about it.:
:Thanks, Kat. By the way, I'm not going to turn purple am I?:
:I had nothing to do with that.:
:That's good, just a hasty assumption. I do regret using the bucket of ice water.:
:Not to worry, I just wanted to shut Morganth up.:
:It 'is' an interesting shade of purple.:
:I thought so, whoever did it must have a lot of power. But it wasn't me. By the way, all the aliens have been taken care of.:
:That's good. Any idea how they came to Amber?:
:No, but there is no chance for them to come back.:
:You know where their home Shadow is?:
:I tracked them back to their Shadow and cleaned it out.:
:Very good.: She was uncertain exactly where the Shadow is, just somewhere between Amber and Chaos; most Shadows are.
:Oh yes, if you hear from Suehprom - I have someone who wants to talk to him.:
:Really?: That equates to someone wanting to kill him.
:She is Kitten. Kitten, meet Steed.:
:Hello, Kitten.:
:Hello, Steed. Who are you?: She sounds almost child like. A child like Kat?
:I am Steed, from Amber.: I tip my hat.
:I remember now. You haven't met me when I was me, but you met me 'before' I was me.: Riddles.
Kat returns. :She wants to talk to Suehy, if we find him.:
:The last time I saw him, was in the TARDIS; he left rather abruptly after seeing the Spawn of Moander. He just vanished.:
:Oh well, we will keep looking.:
:Thanks, Kat. Pleased to meet you 'again' for the first time, Kitten.: We break contact. Kitten and riddles and mysteries; oh my! I made it through contact with Kat, intact. Unless I sprouted a tail or something.
I sit back and take a deep breath. Suehprom is still in trouble, wherever he is. Kat isn't trying to contact him out of the kindness of her heart. I explain any unanswered questions to Emma. I hope that was the last of the Trump calls for awhile. We go to our privy chambers one last time to get needed items and to the privy before we leave. We will be on the road for quite awhile.
We head for the stables. Emma, Andrea, Lucian, and me. I was planning to ride Lucy to give the others a rest. However, Lucian nearly knocked the stable door down to get out. He didn't want to be left behind. After a brief change of saddles, and feeding apples to the horses; we were on our way.
Not to bore you with the details. We rode through Arden into Shadow, the polluted skies still remain. We rode into the night and eventually made it to my Shadow Earth. Under the cover of darkness, we reach London - then Westminster - then the stables near my Mews apartment.
We leave the horses in the hands of the stable owners. I plan to board them until we leave for Chaos. The garage is nearby and we get the Bentley out. We go to Emma's flat first, so she can pick up anything she requires and give her a chance to get freshened up. Then, we go to my flat to get ready as well. It just wouldn't do to visit the tailor, covered with road dust.
We make a stop for breakfast at an exclusive restaurant in Westminster. We then make it to the tailor as they open for business. After the fittings, we learn what style Flora has chosen for us. We examine the sketches.
My chin drops, Emma laughs. The style is straight from the Scarlet Pimpernel, circa 1790's. White silk shirt with puffed collar, cravat, and sleeves, the sleeves have pockets inside for silk handkerchiefs. White silk stockings. Black velvet waistcoat and short breeches. Black leather shoes. A white powdered wig. Even a monocle, for affectation only. Charming and elaborate. At least it is in my colors.
Emma's dress is white silk and gray velvet. A very low cut blouse, with a voluminous bouffant skirt and tight corset; trimmed in lace. It includes a matching gray velvet purse and white leather shoes. An auburn pompadour wig was found for her as well.
My mind recalls the poem from the book, Sir Percy Blakeney's bon mot, I quote it:
"We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?
That demmed, elusive Pimpernel?" 

"They will have no problem finding me in this attire, bon ami?" She laughs. "This attire was all the rage in beau monde 18th century. Now it is hideously out of date, at least on Shadow Earth. My dear, at least you will be beau ideal in Chaos."
She touches her chin and curtsies gracefully. "Thank you, milord."
I instruct the tailor to make two suits and dresses. Clothing is easily damaged; I would like to improve the odds that we will be well attired for the coronation. They will be ready to pick up later tomorrow. Sparing no expenses, he has a staff working around the clock on this. I am sure he thinks I am utterly mad, at least eccentric for going to all this bother for a costume party. Their skills with needle and thread are remarkable, so we will not be disappointed.
We leave for my apartment and get some much needed rest. Emma needs it more than I do. I feel refreshed after six hours, I let Emma sleep for eight hours.
I always feel comfortable in my flat. It is well designed to be decorative and utilitarian. The door opens to an archway. On the left is a wall bookcase and hallway to the kitchen. On the right is an inset area with a black cabinet, oak desk, and red leather easy chair. Above the cabinet is a rifle rack with four hunting rifles. On the cabinet are toy soldiers. In the center of the room is the red leather sofa and end table with a black phone. By the window that overlooks the road is a tuba filled with a bouquet of carnations and the rocking horse - white with gray spots. 
I prepare us tea and have Chinese food sent in. As usual, Emma pours us tea. She puts in three cubes for me and stirs it anti-clockwise; she still remembers.
I think I would rather take the quick and easy way to Chaos, via Trumps. One little problem. I gave my Trump to Morganth. Flora should have some Trumps to Chaos. I take out my deck and sort through them, until I find the one of Flora. I concentrate upon it - it becomes cool to the touch - no resistance to the contact. :Good evening, Mother.:
:Yes, Steed?:
:We have been to the tailor, the fitting went well.:
:The choice of attire was interesting. Will others be dressed similarly?:
:I thought you would like it. There are certain guidelines, so I added a few touches of my own.:
:I like the combination of silk and velvet - the colors are a good choice - I just hope it is not too extravagant.:
:Nonsense, I remembered your fascination with that time period. You were ever so fond of the Scarlet Pimpernel.:
That was over fifty years ago. :Good choice, Mother.: She is still treating me like a child. In appearance, I almost look like 'her' father. I remember when I was six, she made me a Scarlet Pimpernel costume. I looked ridiculous and my nanny teased me about it until I threw it away. I had beaten some older lads who picked on me, it started a trend that lasted until I started at Eton College. I rarely lost fights, but others always started the fights. I hope that History doesn't feel repetitious. I will have to replace the handle and sheath on my umbrella, to make it a walking stick instead. My bowler will be fitted with a new brim to give it the appearance of a hat of the 1790's. :Mother, I would like to save the horses from a long journey into Chaos. Is there a Trump available of Chaos?:
:Certainly, dear.: She passes one through to me. :If anything happens and you run late, just Trump me and I will pull you through.:
:Thank you, Mother. By the way, did you have any luck finding the dart gun I mentioned earlier? I would like to carry some protection in Chaos. Not everyone welcomes us with open arms.:
:Dart gun?:
:You remember, it fires darts tipped with a drug that causes temporary memory loss. It is silver with a telescoping barrel and compressed air cartridges.:
:I'd forgotten all about that.:
Cute. :Interestingly, the drug works on Amberites as well. Never mind, I thought you might want to know.: She already does. :I will call closer to the coronation. Ciao, Mother.:
:Ciao, dear.: We close contact.
"Well Emma. This Trump should eliminate the need to hellride to Chaos." I place the Trump in my bowler's inside pocket. "That also gives us more time to spend here."
Over dinner, I explain my plan to Emma. She is amused and is anxious to go. After dinner, I locate and pocket my silver snuff box.
We take the Bentley, stop for petrol, and go for a drive. I know the way there as if it were only yesterday. Along the final turn, I expect to see a red brick wall encompassing the grounds. It is not there. But how? I bring up the Pattern, I have the feeling that things aren't where they are supposed to be. Spreading my awareness, I see the fracture in the Shadows between my Shadow Earth and the Cineverse. I shift to the Shadow where I expect to find my exact destination, the Shadow and place of my desire. After retracing my route, the next turn should be the red brick wall.
Splendid. It is even earlier in the day here, due to the differences in the time flow. I follow the path to the wrought iron gate. I park the car and we walk to the gate. I ring the bell at the gate with the tip of my umbrella. The prodigal son returns.
A white haired grounds keeper greets us and opens the gate. "Good afternoon, Giles."
"Good afternoon, sir. Good afternoon, madam." He still recognizes us.
"Is Mother home?"
"She hasn't been out all week."
"Poor thing. How are the bulbs coming on?"
"Coming along nicely, sir."
Just like it was yesterday. We walk along the wooded grounds to the expansive Victorian mansion. There are a few guards in black and gray suits. A slight bulge under their jackets, expose the fact they are carrying firearms. I tip my bowler and withdraw my pass, I am retired, so I have very limited access these days. It will serve well enough.
After a quick examination, one escorts us into the inner sanctum of our headquarters. The other guard is using his radio, notifying others. Mother knows I am here. We are lead down a hall with vases, paintings, and other items pleasing to the senses. Then a door on the left takes us into a waiting area. There are chairs, cabinets, vases, and more artwork filling the room; designed to make one comfortable.
A gentleman comes out to see us.
"Simon! Simon Filson, it has been ages. Still taking care of Mother, I see. Good man." I am standing by a cabinet. I finger a model cannon that I once used to disarm him. "Some things never change."
"Simon smiles and pauses when he sees me by the cannon. "Steed. It has been a long time. After your retirement, you dropped from sight. No one knew where you were."
"Taking care of family business. Do I get to see Mother?"
"If I said no, would it matter?" He gives me a level gaze.
"I'm afraid not, old boy." I give him my broadest smile. I could drop him before he moved an inch.
"I see. Some things never change. As it is, Mother is expecting you."
"Excellent! We don't want to keep Mother waiting. Do we, Simon?" I wave my hand to have him lead the way.
Without a word, he turns and escorts us into a large room. It is well lit by the door, darker on the other side. There are two chairs, many ladders with phones on them, filing cabinets with agents' records, and a large drink cart with bottles and glasses. There are hanging straps throughout the room. I hear the familiar sound of a wheelchair moving from the darkness. The lights get brighter.
"John! It is you!" The smiling face of a portly English gentleman in a wheelchair.
"Mother! You haven't aged a day."
"Flattery will get you nowhere. If you left again without seeing me, Mother would have been quite cross. Good job on stopping that damned Creed invasion. It had your handwriting all over it. I thought you retired."
"I'm afraid I can't take full credit for it. It was Mrs. Peel who alerted me to it. There were others who assisted us. It was a large team effort, and I am retired. I couldn't let these things go unchallenged. By the way, you remember Mrs. Peel?"
"Of course, how are you, my dear?"
"I can't complain, there hasn't been time to."
"We have been traveling the countryside together, for the last few weeks."
"Did you come to return to the organization?"
"Tempting but no. I'm glad our operatives are ever alert. I have missed the organization, and you as well, old friend. I am still involved in family business - family security, you might say. I hope the cleanup went well, with minimum losses. Damn shame."
"That's what we pay them for, John. Sherry?"
"Let me, I still get little exercise around here." He pulls himself with a cane on the strap. He swings slowly from strap to strap to the ladder. He supports himself on the ladder, while he pours us drinks with his free hand.
"Thanks, Mother." We say in unison.
He finishes his drink and gets back to his chair. "Well John, what do we owe for the pleasure of this visit; after saving the world again?"
"We are on our way to a coronation in a distant land. I would like gossip and a teeny favor. Pretty minor requests, nothing to jeopardize security."
"Steed, jeopardizing security." He looks at Simon, pointing at me, and heartily laughs. "You hear that, Simon?"
"Yes, Mother." It is obviously 'not' amusing to Simon, he has no sense of humor.
"Dear boy! You've been one of my most trusted agents for years. Sit down and we will talk. I will do what I can. No promises, though."
I spread my arms and smile. "That's all I ask."
We discuss old partners and what they are up to.
Tara is traveling the world. She found a rich older man to give her the life she hoped to have with me. I hope she is truly happy. She is still with the organization, but only for limited international assignments. Only in disguise, to protect her cover.
Purdey joined the Bolshoi Ballet. Mother expects her to run it soon. With the cold war over, she got bored with occasional missions. She returned to the stage that she loved. Mother has stopped using her recently, except for information of the stabilizing relations with the new Russia. She informs him of the prevailing winds of politics, wealth, and culture; informally, of course.
Gambit? Well, he is in charge of his own unit now. Good for him, he deserves it. He is enjoying the prestige that I use to enjoy, but gave up. Soon, I will only be remembered in hidden files. As if I never existed. Pity.
Any further information would be restricted, unless I care to reenlist. No thanks. Now for the favor. "Mother, do you remember the dart guns that Mrs. Peel, Tara, and I confiscated, when we captured the traitor George Burton? They are silver with a telescoping barrel and red gas cylinders on each side of the barrel."
"Yes." His brow narrows.
"If it has been unclassified, I would like to take them off your hands. Temporarily, of course; including the remaining batch of darts and gas cylinders. I realize that this is a most irregular request."
"Indeed. Did you know our chemists have been unable to analyze the make up of the drug or how it worked?"
"I'm not surprised. In the last month, I learned more about it. George got help in the development of the drug. I think it would be safer with me until I got to the bottom of it."
"What is your plans with it, John?"
"Emma and I are on our way overseas to a royal party, a crown affair. It involves family, so naturally I am concerned about security; ours and the royal host. I would also like to prevent any international incidents. Emma has been threatened once." No lie, Flora threatened to use the darts on Emma. "Our host has had many attempts on his life. A quiet weapon may come in handy. Also, someone may see something they shouldn't. That could prove inconvenient. You know how noisy a Walther is, and it is so permanent. I would rather not kill anyone, if possible. I will return it later, along with any information about the drug that I uncover."
"I see. I will see what can be done. I will have to call the lab to authorize transport, I don't even know if there are any more of the drug darts left. Look, I know you are both in a hurry. Wait in the next room, while I make a few calls.
Simon escorts us to the next room. "Steed. Mrs. Peel. Make yourselves comfortable, we will return shortly." He is attempting a smile.
Simon and Mother disappear behind the closed door. The sound reverberates across the room, from the quite solid door. It is bare, save for two flimsy chairs. There is a mirror along one wall. On the far wall, there is a small ventilation duct - too small to crawl through. A perfect holding cell. It looks as though we are Mother's 'guests' for awhile.
Time passes. I see our reflection in the mirror. We are being observed, no question about that. Emma is yawning. Yawning? She rarely ever yawns and she just slept for eight hours. I feel a draft coming from the duct. I yawn as well, to imitate her. We are being drugged with sleeping gas. I remember Simon's words. "After your retirement, you dropped from sight. No one knew where you were." I also remember the ongoing policy that Simon so proudly enforces. "If a man goes missing, he becomes suspect." No readily available means of escape. I don't feel the effects of the sleeping gas and Emma is becoming weaker. I use the umbrella tip to push into the ceiling tile. It goes through but stops within inches, hitting metal.
We move to the door, we both stumble as we move. Time to feign unconsciousness. I grab Emma as we are near the door. She falls and I catch her head so it doesn't hit the floor. I fall and roll with the crook of my umbrella outwards. I withdraw my snuff box, a plan is developing in my mind; it will be close timing. I have to make it look good for our observers. I remain still, hoping the gas will have no affect on me. A few more minutes pass and the gas is still pouring in.
Get on with it gentlemen...

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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Copyright 2001 [Westray.org].
All rights reserved.
Revised: October 23, 2007 .