Welcome to the Thursday Night Risk Club! I hope you'll like it :D
This fic takes place *BEFORE* Complicated Plot Twist, because thar be a Nixie. Okay? Good.
Insert usual legally worthless spiel about ownership, and how I do not, etc. The TNRC is something I've come up with, but I can't lay claim to it by its nature, and anyway I don't want to! XD If you want I can post the entire list of members and their guests. On this note, be warned this fic is very much a 'how MY mileage varies', and since I can only write one mileage at a time…don't complain.
Oh and if you're in the mood for watching a good Let's Play, try I Wanna Be The Guy. Then you'll see why we're SO not going there.
Addendum: This is being posted on CrazyLoon's account for personal reasons – Aliso.
Chapter One: Contingency Plan
The Librarian sauntered towards the Monitor Room on his usual stroll round the collection of bookshelf-lined corridors and archives that he called home. The Monitor Room had once been little more than a small viewing screen and a few keyboards; it was one of the main rooms of the Library now that he'd had that moment of weakness and allowed this bunch of noisy, funny, glompy and bickering kids to use this hallowed ground as a headquarters for their bonkers idea of taking on some of the most dangerous individuals in the entire Multiverse.
Well. That may be true, but right now he wouldn't change it for anything. They were brave, this lot, braver and frankly stronger than he could ever have anticipated. They had bounced back from any and all obstacles thus far and had had some marvellous successes. It was nice to hear the Library ring with their voices daily; there was always something different to do, new things to eat, new ideas for sweetie-protecting booby-traps to test out.
That, and he was confident that there were some secrets that would never have a need to be revealed.
He pushed open the door, and witnessed the scene. There were four people within at the moment: Tash and Louise, who were both on Monitor Duty, watching the fifteen-or-so screens that switched periodically through different fandoms; and Alice and Robert, the former of which was showing the latter, now a rookie agent, how the room worked and its purpose.
"Hello guys," the Librarian greeted.
Tash smiled at him; Louise was so intent at studying a particular fandom that she missed his entrance; Robert nodded politely. Alice did her by-now-customary salutation and dove for his waist.
"Oof! Ow. Thank you Alice, nice to see you too…"
Adrian peeled the woman off his ribs, and went to sit next to Tash. "Anything of interest?"
"Most things are quiet."
As if on a sarcastic cue, a small alarm sounded, and several screens coalesced into one, showing a kind of challenging side-on video-game labyrinth world. Louise and Tash shot into action.
"We've detected – it's a Level Seven Stu!"
"What's the fandom?" asked Adrian, all business.
"I Wanna Be The Guy!"
He was incredulously silent. "…Right. Okay," he began.
"It's Blacklisted – " Louise gabbled.
"Adrian, we should – Adrian?" Tash swivelled and stared at him.
"Five, four, three, two…aaaaa-one. Is he still there?"
All four looked back to the screens of the fandom, only to see a large message plastered across it: GAME OVER. PRESS 'R' TO TRY AGAIN.
"Uh…no. He's not there any more."
"Well he kinda is, over there, and across there, oh, and painted up that wall…" giggled Alice.
"Thank you Alice!" snapped Louise.
"Mmm, small rooms full of spikes! Just what I always wanted," quipped Tash after recovering from her face-fault at the sight of the messy video-game death.
"Apples don't fall up!" said Robert.
"Anyway, aside from idiots wanting to be the Guy; you said that most things were quiet. What's not quiet?"
"Well," began Tash, pulling up a recorded alert from earlier. "We picked up some Level Three Stu, but the fandom is a bit odd."
"Yeah, it looks like some sort of pocket fandom maybe? Something small and hovering in the in-between kind of thing," said Louise.
"It's only identifier is 'TNRC', and I'm sure it doesn't stand for any of the 'something-something-research-centres' that I found when I looked it up," said Alice.
"What could it mean I wonder?"
"Still, Level Three, not entirely the alarm of the century, but with such a small fandom we ought to send a team in to get him…"
Robert had been silently watching the Librarian's reaction to this news; watching his expression slowly turn from interest to horror.
"What?" The three women swivelled on their chairs, and they too caught Adrian's expression.
"Love? Is everything okay?"
Adrian's eyes creased shut and he almost doubled over in an odd mixture of frustration, anguish and annoyance all bound up with the same surprise one might expect from catching someone's embarrassing secret.
"Why this, why now!" he wailed. "And why would someone be so STUPID – "
Baffled glances were exchanged.
"You know what it is, don't you?" ventured Louise slowly.
"It…it stands for…'TNRC' stands for the 'Thursday Night Risk Club'," he began, then spluttered as Alice swivelled to a computer and adjusted her search, bringing up a purple and gold website, designed almost like a holiday brochure.
"Oooh, it looks like fun!" said Tash, appreciating the pictures of the building and its amenities.
"It's NOT fun!" Adrian snapped.
"How about you stop complaining and tell us what it is, then?" retorted Louise.
"Wha – " He blinked at the sharp reply, and pulled himself together. "Okay…you're probably not going to like this…but you know some of those really good suave bad guys and characters who always manage to twist the plot for their own ends? The ones people call 'Magnificent Bastards'?" There were a few nods. Robert just looked confused. "Yeah…a lot of them got together and formed this Club where they can all meet and plot and relax. This pocket fandom," he gestured to the alert screen, "is where their clubhouse is…"
He tried to not watch Alice's scrutiny of the website, but she piped up with a question anyway. "So how do you know of this place?"
"I…er, well…I'm a member…"
Then Tash reacted – in the total opposite way to how he was expecting. "This sounds…AWESOME!" she squealed with delight, making Louise hold her hands over her ears.
Adrian stared at her. "You actually think this is a good thing?!"
"Hell yes!" she beamed. "Everything about this sounds brilliant! In fact…" She stood and pointed to the ceiling. "I declare a mission!"
"NO – "
"Gotta be responsible and pick up the Stu after all!"
"But – "
Alice glanced at the calendar in the corner of her screen and grinned. "Hey Tash, it's a Thursday!"
"Yes!" the Assistant Librarian cheered, dancing out of her seat.
"Baaww…just because it's a Thursday does not mean that there is a meeting today!"
"Thursday Night Risk Club?" came a voice from the Monitor Room doors. The five whirled to see the slinky silhouette of Phoenixia standing there.
"No it's – "
"Yes indeedy!" said Tash, who was inordinately enjoying Adrian's unknown discomfort.
Phoenixia entered the room, booting the doors closed behind her as she gave Adrian an odd, but amused knowing look.
"We picked up traces of a Stu there, so we're going in!"
"Bah – "
Phoenixia grinned. "Awesome! I'll go dig out my Club dress." She pulled up a chair between Alice and Robert, and took the mouse of Alice's screen to negotiate through the posh website.
"You're coming too?"
"Well newbies can't get in without a member. And since he – " she jabbed a thumb at the now-pacing Adrian, "– is a member, and I am, or was, technically a part of him, I am also a member by default."
"How did you become members?" asked Louise, watching her click through several screens.
"That's not necessary!" blurted Adrian.
"Noodle Incident?" Tash asked Phoenixia.
"Mmm, more like 'Vending Machine Incident'…"
"That's enough, you!"
She smiled, and at last came to a login screen with three more boxes than normal. Filling them in with practiced ease, Phoenixia finally brought up a calendar. "Evening meeting tonight, looks like! That's a formal dress code."
Tash gasped with hyperactive happiness and swirled up to dance with her Librarian kitty, who wasn't too enthused. "Now we have to go!" she cheered, pulling on his arm.
"Yes…" he sighed. "I suppose we must, if only to get this idiot out of there pronto…if Nyarlathotep gets hold of the Stu before we do – well, suffice to say he'll be on a roasting spit stuffed with sage and apples within the hour."
There was a small smattering of laughter.
"No, I'm serious. That's what happened to the last one."
The laughter ceased abruptly, and Louise and Alice looked at each other.
"Yummy," said Alice, to Louise's elbow.
"I'm sorry, but who – or more to the point what – is Ny…Nyarlathotep?" said Robert, after being silent to endure the excitable Tash for some time.
"Oh boy," grinned Phoenixia.
"Okay, you three – " began Adrian, pointing to Tash, Alice and Louise, "are WARGS, your mascot is Cthulhu, yes?"
All three nodded.
"Nyarlathotep is from the same mythos. Where Cthulhu is 'merely' a Great Old One, Nyarlathotep is the ambassador of the Outer Gods, and is more intelligent, more powerful, more interfering…generally just greater than Cthulhu could ever get. Oh, and he's actually more interested in screwing around with us mortals."
"'Us mortals', Librarian?"
"Mortals, yes, I count as one to Nyarlathotep…mainly because I don't remember watching galaxy-birthing dust and I can still remember how many digits are in my age. So therefore I'm fair game. He's one of the Club's Founders, so you will be meeting him…"
The four had an 'Ah' moment of thoughtful silence.
"So an Outer God is going to be in this place…and this is safe?" said Robert. He gestured behind him at the website. "The members list isn't exactly raising my confidence either! Shouldn't we fetch those agents who are more to these individuals' calibre?"
"No, it's going to be just us," said Adrian quickly, glancing surreptitiously to the Monitor Room doors. "I'll be damned if the rest of the Library find out about the TNRC…I'll never hear the end of it! You I can trust to keep it to yourselves – you I can bribe instead," he pulled Tash into a one-armed embrace.
Louise raised a sardonic eyebrow, her lips pursing. She wasn't ready to keep secrets for the Librarian and his pride…
"Okay…preparation…I'm sure you ladies can find some formalwear…Robert, I'll give you a hand…"
"But this is people like – holy crap," Louise also glanced at the members list. "The Sheriff of Nottingham, Lex Luthor, Moriarty! How exactly are we getting in again?"
"We can get you in as Guests," said Phoenixia smoothly. "The Thursday Night Risk Club, honestly, the members are all gnarly bastards, but they're there to relax from the grief in their home fandoms, play Risk, and sometimes swap ideas. Most of them are perfect gentlemen – or ladies, yes – and it shouldn't be dangerous because I know you aren't stupid and you can all behave yourselves; yes, even you, Tash."
Tash, grinning at the jibe, had at last leaned over Alice to check the list for herself, and her concern also grew slightly. She turned the alert screen to a view into the fandom and looked at the readings. "There's a lot of interesting people on this roster…" She glanced behind her at Adrian, who was busy puzzling how to get in and out in the shortest amount of time. "There's not going to be anyone here we know, right?"
"Oh, don't worry about that," said Phoenixia, quickly. "Most Sues and Stus only ask to join once then run in terror. Mostly because Nyarlathotep threatens to eat them."
"There's one more thing we need," said Adrian, looking up from a page of notes he'd made while no-one else was looking. "We need an independently-controlled spy of some kind…we'll all be mingling and having to play the social niceties; not conductive to a Stu-hunting mission…"
"Cristoph?" suggested Tash.
"No-one else!" Adrian snapped.
"He's also too big, he'll get caught, and he doesn't do formal," said Phoenixia, getting up to unkink Adrian's frazzled tail.
"What can we do?"
"Perhaps a remote-control robot?"
"I've got an idea!" blurted Alice suddenly, swooping out of her seat and through the double doors before anyone could catch her.
Adrian pressed himself to the doors until there was a knock on it again.
"We're fine! Everything's under control!"
"It's me, you muppet!"
He let Alice back in, but Tash stared at her treasure with growing apprehension.
"Alice why do you have a Poké ball in your hand?"
Alice giggled maniacally, and let the pink-blue-and-yellow Heal Ball fall from her hand, landing on the floor and releasing a cloud of white light.
"Oh god what does she think she's got in there – " Tash suddenly had images of a Wailord or a Rayquaza or a –
But the light coalesced into a surprisingly small and round creature, before dying down and revealing a levitating pale grey Pokémon with a white mask on the face. It blinked open two intelligent black eyes, and the short mobile antenna-thing on top of the head curled in interest.
"Castform!" said the Pokémon.
"There you go," said Alice proudly. "Use her as our spy."
Relieved that Alice had actually been sensible for once, and surprised at the charm of the little Pokémon, Tash squealed and leapt up to meet the small grey figure.
"Actually…" began Adrian, "…I think that's a very good idea. Castform – molecules like a cloud, right? She won't be detected so easily."
"And she blends nicely into the décor," said Phoenixia, joining Tash in the cuteness-swoon and greeting the Castform with a tickle on the cheeks. Castform smiled and bobbed her head in greeting, before flying up and settling on Alice's shoulder as she sat back down.
"Right, she'll do…we'd all best go and prepare…I'll tell you what to do as and when. And whatever you do…don't let anyone see you!"
That evening, Adrian stood alone in a small, plush but sparsely furnished room that he had named as the Parlour. It was far enough away from the central hub so that his guests-to-be might not be spotted by any others on their way to meet up.
If anyone was to look at him now, they would be quite surprised. Far removed from the casual trenchcoat look he always sported, he now wore a finely-tailored black suit that matched the formality of the evening's occasion. The double-breasted tailcoat fluttered down to his knees, and over his white dress shirt sat a silken violet waistcoat decorated with mother-of-pearl buttons and embroidered scrollwork. A white bowtie in the same material finished his ensemble. The only other elaboration was a set of white-gold cufflinks in the quill-and-sword saltire of the Society.
In a word, he looked magnificent.
He paced up and down slowly, hoping that the other five would not be spotted as they wove through the Library to meet him. Evening meetings actually started at noon, so there was no chance of being late, but if they wanted any sort of chance to avoid trouble in nabbing the Stu, it was preferable to get there as soon as possible.
There came a tap on the door, and Adrian only just resisted turning into a cat and swooping under the nearest chair. It wouldn't look good if there was cat hair all over his best suit. To his relief, it was Robert.
"Am I late?" he asked.
"No, you're the first to arrive," Adrian replied. "Come in, quick."
The door shut behind him, and he studied the room nervously before looking back to the Librarian. Robert's suit was borrowed, and not specially tailored, but it sufficed for the evening. The outerwear was a dove grey, just dark enough for the formality. He wore a waistcoat of royal blue, plain except for a tiny ring of gold thread around each buttonhole. He also wore a white necktie, but he was unused to such a thing so he was fidgeting a little.
"Any sign of the girls?"
Adrian sighed lightly. "It always takes them twice as long to get ready…"
"You don't begrudge them that, do you?"
"No, not really."
Soon the door opened again, and in slid the first of the four girls: Tash. Robert heard Adrian hold his breath as she smiled widely and stepped towards him. Her silvery-white sheath-style dress was held by a halter corset in a deep violet, matching Adrian's waistcoat. She wore a small and modest tiara of amethyst and crumbs of crystal, with matching earrings and bracelets. Her blonde hair seemed to glow against this ensemble, and completely enthralled, Adrian held her in his arms and kissed her gently.
"Have I ever told you…" he breathed softly, "…just how beautiful you are?"
"Mnang," was all she could reply, her cheeks colouring scarlet. She smiled at the compliment, however, and her arms snaked around his waist. "You don't look too bad yourself, handsome…" she said, her hand roving over his waistcoat and setting her bracelets jingling. "Where've you been hiding this suit?"
He merely chuckled in response.
Some ten minutes passed, and the three were now sat on chairs around a fine marquetry table, wondering whether they should get the card games out to pass the time. However at that very moment, the door opened again, and Phoenixia's purported 'club dress' was revealed: a bright lilac strapless trailing gown that layered in a spiral pattern and slit up one side, almost all the way to her hip but was held by a large fabric flower. There was an identical one in her hair, worn otherwise loose and long in a gradient going from brilliant white to silver at the ends. She wore opera-length sheer gloves and stockings revealed by the slit, both white with lilac and green ribbons at the top, and a similar worn as a choker. Around that was twisted a gold chain, with another saltire symbol attached to it, in gold.
"Formal Nixie is pretty!" cheered Tash.
"Why thank you," Phoenixia said, bowing flamboyantly and holding her skirts up at the back. "Certainly don't get much of an excuse to dress up like this."
"Everyone is going to be wearing this kind of thing, right?" asked Tash with a sudden hint of nervousness. "It's lovely but I feel so overdressed…"
"Trust me, you do look exquisite…" said Phoenixia. "But the TNRC can be to the highest standard when they want to. This is nothing; you should see their seasonal balls. We'll blend in juuuuuust fine."
Another ten minutes passed, and the four had grown bored of gazing at each others' formalwear and had actually broken out their copy of Aquarius, or as the WARGS called it, 'hippy dominoes'. Water was currently in the lead with four panels connected by the time the penultimate agent entered the room.
Out of the four girls, only Alice and Louise had used the Automatic Tailorisation Machine to create a passable outfit for the night's formalities, and it had done itself proud. The latter of the two had been a little dubious about using the machine, but as Alice had pointed out, she had been in it enough times for it to have recognised her and saved her basic measurements.
Louise came through the door, closing it behind her. "Alice not here yet?" she queried.
The others shook their heads in unison. "We thought she'd be with you," said Tash.
"Bah," grumbled Louise. "She said she'd only be a minute! AFT strikes again."
"Alice Faff Time. She's notorious for it."
Louise's dress was a subtle concoction, a red strapped bodice that extended to wrap around her waist, gradually darkening to black as it did so. The wide skirt did the same red-to-black effect, very nearly reaching the floor. She had embellished this with ruby jewellery and hairclips, and an unusual copper web that she wore around her hips.
"Hey, you look really good!" said Phoenixia.
"Thanks," Louise said with a smile. She too felt a little self-conscious in such a rich dress of a much higher and formal calibre than one would wear to a school prom.
"Want to be dealt in?" asked Robert, who had found himself rather good at this strange card game of elemental picture jigsaws.
"Oh…sure." She perched on a chair next to her old friend, and three brightly-coloured cards and another labelled 'Goal' were placed in front of her. She picked up the three cards and studied the current board; someone had kindly lined up three of her element's panels already. She squirmed a little, trying to find a comfortable position where she didn't feel like she was going to rip the fabric at the slightest movement.
It took a good couple of further rounds of Aquarius for the last member of this group to show up. "Sorry!" Alice gabbled with a smile all over her face. "Wanted to make sure I had everything!"
Alice's Empire-line dress was a soft, almost silvery powder blue at the lower, wide and floaty hem, darkening gradually almost to a royal blue where it fastened without sleeves over her chest. She wore royal blue flats – she tended to avoid high-heeled shoes – and emphasised the subtle hint of cleavage her dress revealed with a fine white pearl necklace. And of course, she wore her goggles on her head; the delicate apparatus was perfectly sufficient to wear as a formal headband.
It was also the first clothing she had worn that showed her scar from the Ak'Zahar attack from top to bottom. It had healed well in the intervening months, showing now as silvery-pink lines all the way down her right arm from across her shoulderblade to the back of her hand. It wasn't too unattractive, but it was obvious; Louise took one look and turned away, the old guilt resurfacing.
Castform flew in beside her, a white ribbon tied round her neck. She squeaked with delight, and went to sit on the table. Phoenixia tickled the top of her head.
Robert stood to meet Alice as she walked towards the group. He took her hand, her Singapore-chain bracelets slipping down her arm, and he smiled, unable to take his eyes off her. "Welcome, lovely one," he said softly.
Alice's wide smile turned into an amused grimace and she slipped out of his grasp and hugged him instead; much gentler than she normally would, but it still squeezed all the air out. She spun, her dress billowing as she moved, and plonked herself down in a chair to study the current game.
Robert's expression sank a little. His pulse was still racing.
Adrian and Tash looked at each other with eyebrows raised. Phoenixia shook her head imperceptibly.
"All right," the Librarian began. "Hello everyone. You sure you weren't followed? Right, good. Uhh."
"So eloquent, Adrian," said Phoenixia dryly. "Okay. We'll be off in a minute. There won't be a problem getting you in, so just make sure you're polite to the members no matter who they are and where they're from. There's some pretty gnarly bastards in the club, but remember they're there to relax, and they are perfectly able to be nice to you."
"As for the Stu…" mused Adrian. "I'm not sure how easy it will be to spot him. Don't make a scene, just grab someone if you're alone, and apprehend him quietly. Pretend you're chatting him up or something, ladies," he said, much to Robert's frown. "And whatever you do…don't let Nyarlathotep find him!"
The group stood, packing Aquarius back in its box and Alice trying to wrestle it into her bag. "Alice…"
"I'm sorry. Parties bore me. I can't just sit around and listen to music or whatever and just talk. I need something to do!"
"Oh don't worry about that," said Phoenixia. "Why do you think it's called the Thursday Night RISK Club? There's an extensive games room."
Alice grinned, and left Aquarius on the table.
"A couple of more things before we go…" said Adrian, clucking to Castform, who flew up in front of him.
"Cast-form-cast?" she said. "Cast cast form cast form?"
"Umm…yes!" said Adrian, not really understanding Pokémonese. He had a thought to ask Dave to borrow Asuka's translation collar, but that was made for a male Flareon and was probably too big for the barely ten-inches-high Castform. Also, wearing this suit to go and ask him, or to fetch a Oneshot, would elicit all sorts of uncomfortable questions.
She seemed to be understanding and sensible enough, however. He took a tiny buttonhole camera out of a box, and clipped it to the front of the ribbon.
"As for the rest of you," he said, "one of the interesting quirks of the Club is that some groups of members and their guests wear a small identifier, something to tell who they're with at a glance. So these are for you." He gave his four guests a small box each, their names written on the top. Inside each was an individual piece of jewellery with the same quill-and-sword saltire the two members were already wearing at their wrists or neck.
Tash's hand went over her mouth as she picked up the engraved white-gold ring, the saltire glimmering with small light purple gems. Adrian helped her slide it onto her right hand. Louise and Alice had a charm each, with its own clip to attach it to practically anything; Louise slid her bright yellow-gold saltire onto the single thin bracelet she wore, where it slipped cold around her wrist. Alice's soft white-gold charm caught the light as she held it up, eventually deciding to fix it to her pearl necklace. Robert's gift was a tie pin, and Louise helped him attach it to his clothes.
"Well…I think we're ready. Prohibitors, communicators everyone?" They patted their bags or their pockets. "We won't need anything else…"
"Copyrights?" asked Tash.
"So not necessary," said Phoenixia. "Not with these guys."
Tash looked baffled and a little apprehensive.
"All right, let's go…" sighed Adrian.
Many people, on meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: one, that he was English; two, that he was intelligent; and three, that he was gayer than a tree-full of monkeys on nitrous oxide.
Two of these were wrong: Heaven is not in England, whatever certain poets might have thought; and angels are sexless, unless they really wanted to make an effort. But he was intelligent.
Which was why he held a special place in the Thursday Night Risk Club: he was the receptionist.
Adrian grumbled something about ripping off Good Omens quotes and threatened some method of dismemberment for daring to break the Fourth Wall to mention it.
The six entered the Club's fandom outside, in a covered circular area lined with marble pillars. They could see that it was evening, and they were on a large island with a climate comparable to northern Spain. The deep aqua sea lapped against the beach only a few yards away from the walkway that led to a large white-brick building, only three or so stories high but lit beautifully from the outside. Beyond the clubhouse they could make out a golf course, cliffs and forests.
There was no-one else in sight as they went through the large oak double doors, entering a bright hall walled with gilt and marble and mirrors. Purple velvet ropes sectioned off a queue area, and with a few giggles the six wove their way through to the other end of the room. In front of another set of doors banded with purple and gold cloth sat a large, L-shaped desk in a dark wood, and in the comfortable leather swivel chair sat the Club's famed receptionist.
"Ah," Aziraphale said, setting down his book. "Librarian, long time no see."
"And Lady Phoenixia. A pleasure, as always," he said, standing and kissing Phoenixia's hand with a flourish.
He looked much like a normal man, if a strangely well-sculpted one; but those who had read the magic that was the Gaiman-and-Pratchett tag-team knew that Aziraphale was actually an angel and not human at all. Tash pulled out her Plot Summary, which was going a little haywire with the humongous crossover that this fandom presented to it.
"…just been quiet, really. Not much from Crowley recently. Anyway, it's good to see you back, Adrian, Phoenixia. Now, your guests…" Aziraphale turned to a light silver laptop that was built into the desk, and tapped a few keys. "Any sanctioned?"
"No, not presently," Adrian answered. "…I think I'd like to see about getting Tash sanctioned, maybe…"
"All right, we'll look into that…"
Tash looked at Adrian; was he intending to take her back here?
"Names and home fandoms, please?" Aziraphale asked.
"Okay…Natasha, or Tash, Real Life. Louise, Real Life; Alice, Real Life. Robert, Forgotten Realms. Also Alice's…um…mascot, Castform, Pokémon."
"Uh huh…" The angel finished typing. "That's all fine. Keep an eye on the first three, would you? Folk from Real Life tend to cause trouble."
"…There've been others?" exclaimed Tash.
"Oh yes, frequently. We had one 'Putin' fellow here a few months ago."
Tash looked to Adrian, who had facepalmed at the news. "I would have once asked 'why' and 'how'…but this is the TNRC, I don't ask any more."
"All right. Guests, would you please allow me to stamp you hands…" He landed a largeish rubber stamp on Louise's hand before the agent could protest; however there was no mark except for some moisture which quickly dried. He stamped the other three, and even laid one on Castform's forehead much to her struggles, but they looked at their bare hands in puzzlement.
"Uhh, Aziraphale, there's nothing here," said Alice.
"Of course there is. We just don't want any ghastly ink smudge ruining your charming outfit, do we?" He waved a small silver scanner wand over Alice's hand, and the stamp appeared under its light, marking the icon of the Club in luminous purple and gold. "See, you are now Permitted Guests. You may enter the Club."
"Thank you!" cheered Alice, practically diving over the desk to hug him, much to Aziraphale's "Eeek!"
"Oh God, she's going to be doing this all night, isn't she…"
The door to Harriet's office opened, and out strode the Society founder. She was in a good mood. She had passed her most recent set of exams in Real Life, and had managed to convince Tyler that all the booby-traps around Adrian's store of candy had vanished with the Librarian's death. It would take the poor agent little time to realise that the majority of the British agents had already eaten all the decent sweets, leaving the coffee creams and the toffees as the only ones remaining in an otherwise empty barrel.
She felt only slightly guilty about tricking Tyler, who would no doubt have told Drake, Jared and Ben about it by now. It was, Harriet thought, not her fault if the Librarian had been too absorbed in his war with Runoa to have noticed.
She walked down the corridor that led from her office with a spring in her step. She was on the hunt for Tash to share in the joke.
A quick knock on the Librarian's bedroom told her that neither Adrian nor Tash were in there. Knocks on their door were usually accompanied by a squeak and rapid redressing. Harriet smiled to herself as she remembered the last time she had forgotten to knock. Good thing I had a camera, she thought.
Rhia's kitchen was equally devoid of the Librarian and the Leader, although she did find Stephen and Dave engaged in a frantic game of Yu-Gi-Oh.
"Hey guys," she interrupted, much to their annoyance. "You two know where I might find Tash?"
"I think she's on duty," Dave explained, staring down at the card Stephen had just played, and not looking at the Society founder. His opponent merely grumbled at the interruption.
"Thanks," Harriet called back as she ran from the kitchen.
It didn't take her long to reach the Monitor Room, and with a skip in her step, she flung the door open.
"Hey Tash, you'll never guess what I…" then she noticed that the room was empty. "Hello?" She initially thought it was a poor-taste joke, but no-one replied.
Harriet scowled. "Of all the bloody people…you, Tash!" Leaving the Monitor Room unmonitored was a massive faux pas where the Founder was concerned; especially since the issues in the Basement had prompted a review of all the rotas. A check of the noticeboard indeed confirmed that both her cousin and Tash were meant to be on duty – yet here Harriet was, with neither in sight!
Fuming, she paced up and down, devising and then discarding amusing and embarrassing public punishments for the pair for severely shirking their duties. One singular monitor then caught her eye in the sea of otherwise boredom and blackness. It showed a lavish entrance hall, with people milling around in conversation. As she watched, she began to recognise various people all in posh suits or evening dresses, people from varying fandoms who really shouldn't have known each other. She was getting very confused when she spotted a group of six very familiar individuals enter…
"WHAT…" Harriet yelled at the screen, "…ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?" For it was her missing agents who walked into the Atrium, along with Alice and her charge and a surprisingly anxious-looking Librarian and his ex-hologram. "You went to a fancy shindig without inviting me?!"
She watched the scene for a while, furious that Tash and Louise had abandoned their duties to go gallivanting into some party fandom. As the group of six dithered at the top of the stairs, a mischievous, vengeful smile spread across Harriet's face.
"Right…" she muttered, her grin widening as she spotted a rogue blinking silver heart in the corner of the monitor. She pressed it. "(a), dearest…"
There was a small beep from the computer, and the silver heart danced.
"Here's a wheeze for you. Transfer the stream from monitor 13 to the mod-sofa lounge, would you?"
To be continued in...
Chapter Two: Infiltration