Michelle thought the date was going great. Jessica was a friend of a friend, a digital security consultant for some tech corporation Michelle had never heard of; they had the same taste in books, music, movies, you name it, and the chemistry between them was unreal. They'd started out the night at a French bistro in Seven Dials, and eventually made their way to this cute little cocktail bar on the Strand, where they'd been sitting, drinking and chatting for hours. It was nearing midnight; Michelle was about to ask Jess if she'd like to continue the conversation back at her flat when her phone rang — the work phone, the one that was reserved for emergencies.

"Shit. Sorry," she said, taking the phone from her purse and glaring at it, "Work stuff. I gotta take this, I'll be right back, I promise."

Jess gave her a quick thumbs up. "No worries! I'll be waiting."

Michelle grinned at her and ducked into the bathroom, making sure the door was locked before she answered. "Dahl speaking."

"Fuck, finally." It was her second-in-command, Nelson, a twitchy American with a glass left eye. "We got a situation. You really need to come into the Wedge. I know you're, like, on a date, but it's serious. Skippers are involved, and the higher-ups requested you specifically, 'cause of that thing in Indonesia, you know —"

Michelle cut him off. "Yes, OK. No more details over the phone, I'm not in a secure location. I can get there in ten." She hung up, and groaned. It was the first time in months she'd been on a date that wasn't an unmitigated disaster, and her fucking job ruined it. "Christ." Time to face the music. She left the bathroom to tell Jess the bad news.

Jess wasn't there. Michelle's purse and coat were still at the table where she'd left them, but her date had vanished.


"You'll be working with a representative from the Foundation on this one," the secretary said as they hurried through a fluorescent-lit corridor. "She's waiting in the briefing room."

Michelle sighed. Like most former Coalition field operatives, she had a pretty poor opinion of the Skippers; they got in the way more than they helped, and their obsession with collecting dangerous entities instead of just eliminating them was a consistent pain in the ass.

The briefing room was already open,

Beam Myself Into the Future

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Michelle Dahl, Oecumenicus Volgi of the Ancient and Noble Order of Gormogons, sat crosslegged in her scrying circle, awaiting a phone call. The telephone itself was on a marble plinth before her, its bakelite surface inlaid with mystic circuitry in silver and beryllium bronze; it was bright red, as traditional for secret government hotlines, and had been installed in the Grand Occident Wedge of London some four decades ago, when Michelle's predecessor, Vincenzo Santorini, signed the Global Occult Coalition's founding charter. And in a few minutes, it would ring, formally starting the fifth meeting of the fortieth session of the Council of 108.

Michelle was dreading it. Since she had been promoted—when Enzo, after losing half the fingers on his right hand again, had retired to a small Italian village to, quote, "become a farmer or a carpenter or something"—she had sat through seventeen of these meetings, and each one managed to be more mind-numbingly tedious than the last. How, she thought as she stared at the phone's intricate glyphs, did we make being the secret world government so bloody boring?

The phone finally rang, and she lifted it to her ear. An oddly-accented voice chanted something in a dead language, and Michelle felt the room change around her as the handset vanished. She was floating an expanse of empty blackness, where one hundred and eight points of light were suspended in a semicircle around a tall woman wearing the face of a young Jackie O; the title superimposed on her torso identified her as D. C. al Fine, Undersecretary-General of the Global Occult Coalition. When all the points had turned white, she spoke. "We are Converged. I call the fifth meeting of the fortieth session of the Council of 108 to order. Is every member present and accounted for?"

The honor of being first in the roll-call was decided by lot at the beginning of each session; at the moment, it was held by the Bavarian Illuminati, one of the Coalition's most widespread and powerful sub-conspiracies. A light blinked and expanded into a short, stocky woman in a sensible pantsuit; she spoke with a slight German accent. "Eve Weishpaut, High Areopagite of the Bavarian Illuminati, present."

She faded; the next light in the row became an old Chinese man in filthy, tattered robes. He bowed, and in perfect Oxonian English said, "Xu Chongzhao, Chief of the Beggars' Sect, present." His image disappeared, the next in line flashed, and so on down the row. Michelle lost track for a moment, and then started when she heard a voice almost in her ear.

"Shibulom Kimball, Footpad-President of the Secret Combination of Godantion Robbers and Murderers, present." A young man in a white shirt and black tie faded from view, and Michelle felt the slight tingling that indicated her avatar's appearance in front of the Council. "Iphegenia Masonbane, Oecumenicus Volgi of the Ancient and Most Noble Order of Gormogons, present." The tingling vanished, and Michelle allowed herself to relax once more. She gave an assumed name, of course, as did almost all of the hundred and seven other representatives; a person's real name has power, and giving it freely to the world's most powerful occultists would be irresponsible.

The roll call continued, and Michelle could once more safely tune it out. She took the time to skim the agenda; nothing of immediate relevance to the Gormogons, thankfully, and nothing proposed by any of the Council's several Masonic organizations that she would be duty-bound to argue against. Eventually, the roll-call concluded; the final delegate, a dark-skinned woman in a silver toga, declared herself to be "One Zero, First Prime of the Axiomatics," and vanished.

D. C. al Fine nodded, and a copy of the agenda appeared in her hand. "The first item of business is the relocation of Samothracian refugees; normally this would be a matter for the General Assembly, but as Mr. Tekiner of the Jandarma Esrarlı Harekat will explain, there have been some perceptual anomalies that have stalled negotiations…"

A refugee crisis in a country she had never heard of, a few condemnations of eigenweapon proliferation, a draft of a convention on the illicit trade in demonarcotics… Sure, it all had to get done, but none of it was interesting. Michelle abstained from most of the votes, as usual; the Gormogons were on the Council for their ward-breaking and demolitions expertise, not their political acumen. She was about to doze off when Madame al Fine announced the final item on the agenda.

"… and finally, the Servants of the Silicon Nornir have put forth a proposal for the establishment of a new pocket-universe as a hub for the paratechnology industry, to combat the spread of Maxwellist theology in the Free City of Three Portlands. Ms. Speaker?"

One of the lights grew into a young woman in a flowing white robe, a long thread knotted between her fingers. The caption over her chest identified her as the Speaker to Humans of the Silicon Nornir. "Thank you, Madame Undersecretary-General." There was a distinct Scandinavian lilt in her voice, mellowing what would otherwise be a robotic monotone. "There has been a Concurrence among the Nornir. The auguries indicate a great peril yet to come, surrounding the City of Portlands. Urðr speaks first."

The Speaker raised her arms, and stared into the center of the tangle of threads. The slight lilt in her voice became a full-on chanting rhythm, as she received a prophecy. "From the broken branch's small splinter sprouted saplings strong. Town-in-triple, steeped in secrets, fertile field for words and wishes of WAN's worshippers. Seiðr-science spread; crafty cunning-carls and Fire-Filcher's flock found faith in myths of Maxwell. Verðandi speaks next."

Still staring through the threads, she held her head higher and pushed her shoulders back, making herself seem taller; when she spoke, her voice was deeper and more commanding, and she still maintained that chant. "Skippers scorn strangeness, whisking away unworldly wonders. Hoover's henchmen skulk in shadows. Cults and clans cause chaos. Skuld speaks last."

The Speaker hunched her back, her hands curling into claws; some trick of the light made wrinkles appear across her face, and when she spoke her voice was faint and harsh. "Men make metal legs and limbs, meld their minds with lines of lightning. Green-gold boards birth bitter blasphemies, new Nornir not wrought from runic rites and sacred stones but built by mortal mage-mechanics. To fix these flaws, a city shall be settled, far-flung from Portlands' portals, a fief for fate-seers' servants, wicker-woven with world-tree's twigs. The Nornir have spoken." She lowered the skein of threads, bowed slightly, and let her image fade back into a point of light.

"Lucid as always, Speaker." The next delegate to appear was Grandmaster Jack Mosley of the Order of the Silver Trowel, a distinguished silver-haired Englishman in the amulet and apron of a Master Mason. "But I believe that the Nornir have failed to consider the strategic importance of Three Portlands. It is the most stable Way across the Atlantic by far,

tags: tale global-occult-coalition broken-god three-portlands

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