Disclaimer: I am not Spock. Or Terry Pratchett. I hold no ownership of the Discworld, or its characters.
Lord Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, was working late, as usual. Or was that early?
His many enemies wished they knew.
He finished reading the letter from the Guild of Carters demanding a new, larger road be built to Sator Square. Right through where several buildings now stood. Including, he noted with mild interest, the Carter's Guild house itself. He was almost tempted to approve this one.
He sighed, then took a moment to do a quick finger-limbering exercise.
Why must the business of running this city be so like the life, he had heard, of a soldier?
He paused, and reflected a moment.
No, he decided, it was almost the exact opposite.1
He smiled at that, then leaned over to continue reading-
There was a robed figure in front of his desk. There had been no movement; it was as if it had been there all along, only now becoming noticed.
Without a further breath, Vetinari rolled from his chair, and as he came up, two small, unremarkable, and very lethal knives launched a killing flight. And thunked solidly into a bookshelf on the far side of the room a moment later, steaming and coated with frost.
Oh dear, he thought. One of those kind of visits. Well, nothing to be gained by dithering.
He stood and straightened his robe. The figure still hadn't moved.
"Well," he said, "I can see that you're not quite what you appear to be. Might I have the pleasure of a name, or appropriate term of address?"
The figure raised the hood of its robe, revealing a kindly, almost jovial face. The kind of hearty older man who might be behind a butcher's counter, but for the blackness of his eyes. They were-
Havelock's gaze instinctively found the stranger's. And reeled away.2
He... it... was...
"Yes, I am, Havelock Vetinari." said the figure. "And no, this is not a business call."
The Patrician leaned over his desk for some papers, using the motion to try to disguise the weakness in his knees. Not really much use there, but there were always forms to be followed. He was ruler, after all, of one of the most unpredictable cities on the Disc.
"So what are you here to see me about?" He paced over to a side table and poured a small glass of sherry. "Can it be that the normal actions of time and your efforts cannot remove my city? Can it be that the hand of Fate must be present directly to end all of this?"
He was startled and a little frightened by his words, and by this crack in his control.
But he was also very, very angry.
The force of nature before him actually looked slightly amused. "Come now, I told you this is not business. Besides, if it were truly my decree that Ankh-Morpork should end, it already would have. Many try to cheat me, or avoid me. It always comes out the same in the end."
Havelock was mollified, but only a little. "You don't look the part of Death. Or is that another appearance you put on?"
The cheerful aspect was gone from the figure's face. "I do have business dealings with that personage from time to time. That is no concern of yours at the moment."
"Forgive my presumption then." He took a swig of the sherry. He wasn't a drinking man, but this was a little out of the ordinary, even for him. "In any case, could I at least have a hint why you are here today?"
"You seem to be the kind of person who... would like to know what cards are in your hand, shall we say, Havelock Vetinari. You spoke of various forces and agents trying to bring down this city."
"In the main, they are not mine. Some are actually the... pieces, or agents, of other gods. Other forces. They seek to... avoid my purview, to game against me if you will. They seek to take what is not theirs, and should never be."
"The ultimate outcome, yes. This city does figure into it."
"I... think I understand."
The figure smiled widely at this, like a kindly uncle who has heard a joke. "You are a very intelligent man, Havelock Vetinari. And well in tune with your city." It chuckled. "But no, you don't understand. And it's just as well, for the full import of knowledge would render you useless."
Havelock finished the glass, then set it down. "That is fair enough, I suppose. But I would like to know why you have visited; I am fairly sure a being such as yourself is not usually dropping in for idle banter."
Fate's icy voice lashed out like the depths of space. "Do not presume, Havelock Vetinari. I come to inform you that you are one of Mine. The others have their agents here, and I... have you. Take that as you will."
There was a bending in the air, and then no-one was standing there.
The Patrician stood stunned for a moment, then slowly walked about and sat down at his desk. This would take a bit of time to process...
"Yes, Drumknott, what is it?"
"Samuel Vimes is here as you requested, your Lordship."
"Ah, yes. Thank you. Please send him up, after the usual waiting period of course."
Well, introspection would have to wait. This job waited for no man. Nor, usually, did Vimes. He smiled a bit at that.
But he would have some interesting new things to think about in his off time.
1 Long, torturous spans of terror and chaos punctuated by moments of relative peace and quiet.
2 Some people's eyes can be said to seem to go on forever, if poetic license is allowed. The eyes of Fate, however, are Forever.