Holiday Cheer, Part Seven: Last Hurdle

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(December 18th)

“Director Lee to see you, sir.” There was the faintest hint of disapproval in Edgar Malloy’s voice, as usual. Katy Lee, more commonly known as the Danger Ace, smirked at the middle-aged man as she squeezed past him through the doorway before Dudeman could answer, the tails of her black coat brushing against his silk tie, and he took a half-step back and watched her balefully. “I suppose I won’t bother seeing her in.”

“Not a problem, Edgar.” Dudeman kept his smile polite, nodding to his secretary. “Could you leave us alone for a moment?” As Edgar nodded and shut the door quietly, his smile broadened. “You’re a menace, young lady.”

“Young.” Katy snorted. “I’m almost fifty, old man.” She walked over to the desk, lightly punching Dudeman on the arm. “How’s it hanging, Nate?”

Dudeman made a face. “Oh, just lovely. Have a look at this, would you?” He tossed a letter onto the desk between them, and Danger Ace picked it up as she flopped back into the chair across from his, slipping her coat on its back in a fluid motion as she kicked the chair back onto two legs and propped her feet on the edge of the desk. When Dudeman didn’t even react, she looked up in sudden concern, then read the offending letter more carefully, letting the chair fall back to the ground.

“Hm.” She said finally.

“Hm indeed.” Dudeman shook his head. “Where in God’s green Earth does she get these ideas? Go to Sayleen.”

“It’s certainly got a certain logic to it.” Katy pointed out reluctantly. “Protecting her friends, and all. I assume that you want advice.”

“You are, theoretically speaking, the third-ranked agent in the Agency.” Dudeman nodded. “If you actually did your desk work, you might be second.”

“Love you too, ‘Dad’.” Katy laughed as Dudeman rolled his eyes, then grew more serious. “Okay, so the problem here is that Mayfly thinks she’s a soldier.”

“Not quite.” Dudeman said. “The problem here is that I can’t decide if this is what Rex Mundi wants, or what he wants to avoid.”

Katy frowned, then nodded. “We’re still on the theory that Rex is behind the Akagari, then?”

“We’ve all but confirmed it. One of his major agents, Shivarex, has been absent from Earth for the past few years. We’ve finally spotted him with the Akagari, a few weeks ago.” Dudeman shrugged. “Combine that with the fact that there are only four organizations that have psiportal technology, and three of them are governments that don’t want this war to escalate…” He trailed off. “Well, two governments and the UN, anyway. The point is, there’s no other way for the Yocanu and Akagari to continue funneling troops to the Varrn.”

“Got it.” Danger Ace considered seriously, rubbing her forehead. “Okay, so Rex Mundi interfered when the Oligarchs started the war, against the Varrn. Now he’s interfering for the Varrn. Therefore, he wants the war to continue. Possibly so that we have to do exactly what we are doing – move our own agents into battle, so that they can’t chase him.” She shrugged. “Brutal, but sensible. Where the hell does Mayfly come into it?”

“That really depends.” Dudeman answered.

“On?” Danger Ace prodded.

“On whether the Alpha Team exists.”

Katy rocked back in her chair. “You don’t believe that, do you?”

“Clockwork did.” Dudeman answered seriously. “Rex Mundi did, or at least faked it well enough to fool people who weren’t easily fooled.” He steepled his fingers worriedly. “What happens if there is an Alpha Team, and they go to war? Does the war get better, or does the world get worse?”

“Could be both.” Katy nodded. “I can see why this might be what Rex Mundi wants, then. Encourage wartime behaviour in the people affecting narrative law. Why wouldn’t he?”

“It moves them out of his sphere of influence and into something chaotic and deadly. He’s been taking care to get as much of our power over there as possible. His web of favors and influence with villains is still mainly on Earth – I’ve been careful not to let potentially compromised villains of any sort onto the battlefield.” Dudeman sat back in his chair. “I need to decide whether moving the Champions to Sayleen protects them from him, or exposes them to him.”

“Ouch. Glad you’re in charge.” Katy said smoothly.

“I was looking for input, Katy. Not a sounding board.”

“Right. Input.” Katy exhaled slowly. “You know I’m sort of a gut-instinct person, right? My input tends to be…”

“Narratively accurate. You have a flare for helping stories along.” Dudeman pointed out.

“Right, but to exciting conclusions more than to safe ones.” Katy looked at her old friend’s expression, and gave up trying to dodge the responsibility present. “Alright, fine. I say sign off on it, send her out. If this Alpha Team thing is right, the world’s already splintered. Having a hero on the front lines – one who actually alters reality a little bit towards her view of right and wrong – could save a whole lot of lives, and even if Rex Mundi is hoping the opposite will happen, these people have handled worse than him.”

“I’m not sure there is worse than him.” Dudeman reached over, and Danger Ace handed him the letter. “But your point is made, and I think that I agree.” He shook his head. “You realize, of course, that when Mayfly goes, the others are going to follow her. And then Derek is going to find out that I signed off on his son going to war, and then he’s going to kill me. You’re going to be second in line to command sooner than you thought.”

“I’ll just have to make sure nothing bad happens to Director Lansdown, then.” Katy smirked.

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