The Surge Team’s Coils

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      For the New Year’s festivities, the Surge Team was readying itself for its shift, taking over the Tw’Elves duties.
      Energy forecast was set on “Mostly Calm with slight chance of Surges”. All of them knew that it was toned down to avoid any panic attack to spread like vegemoth on a buttered toast.
      Sir Ed Steam, toying with his enormous waxed mustache, had give them the usual pep-talk. “Ladies!” he’d hammered “don’t kid yourselves, surges are coming. But we’re ready, we’re always ready. No matter what the forecast says, our job is to be ready no matter what. And don’t forget, especially the young ones: all this tech is nice, but you are the last bastion to hold this mad world together!”
      Yeah, the tech was nice, all those shiny copper coils and batteries; and it’d saved their lives quite a few times. Cornella was proud to wear them and the Surge Team’s insignia. New Year surges were the wickedest, she’d only knew five, and was glad to have made it that far without barely a scratch, but the job was getting tiresome. Every year, it was worse and the stakes higher. She was slightly bothered too, by the fact that they were starting to deviate from their initial role, which was merely to absorb the surges and release them in less dangerous forms.
      Now, Sir Ed Steam had decided to exert more and more control and was lobbying for the Surge Team to get more executive powers. Also, it seemed he had decided to keep some of the surges in stored form “for preventive use”, whatever it means. That much was known by many although not overtly discussed. Covertness smelt of ominousness and destructiveness she thought guardedly.
      Maybe they would soon change their insignia, she wondered, looking at the enameled sponge that graced it.

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    • #2966

        Unfortunately, Mari Fe hadn’t been specific enough in her intention to arrive in Baku in summer (and truth be told she knew that arriving in summer would be tantamount to time meddling, and even she wouldn’t dream of going to that extreme). Mari Fe and Pearl arrived at the Baku portal in Fountain Square during a blizzard, but there were hundreds of dogs in heat. Heat, said Mari Fe to herself, sheesh.

        “What now Pearl?”

        “We’re going to look at carpets.”


        “Yes, carpets good old magic flying carpets”, Pearl said, wiggling her eyebrows. “All these technical gadgets lately, well there’s not the same kind of beauty or stories with them, they all seem so, well a bit passe and male energy, to be honest. A bit too common, perhaps. And all those dicks popping up everywhere! Madre mia! So, that’s why we’re going to look at carpets.”

        “Yeah” Mari Fe agreed. “I see what you mean,” and then added, rather mysteriously “It’s the weave, you know. It’s in the weave.”

        “And the warp,” replied Pearl, which unfortunately triggered the painful reminders of Ed and Riffraff that Mari Fe had been trying to bottle up. A geyser of tightly held energy erupted. Fortunately the nearby fountain provided a sort of outlet into physical form, and merely appeared to have suddenly had a surge of both electricity and water. But there were few bystanders braving the blizzard in the square, and the dogs were fully focused on other matters, so a surge diversion operation type 57, method 22.5 was accomplished with an absolute minimum of disruption.

        “I think we’ve got time for cake first,” Mari Fe said with a grin.

        “And a Guinness.”


          “Doesn’t it strike you as odd?” a perplexed Lady Appleton turned to her husband (the fifth and last of them) Lord Appleton.
          “Yes, I know, dear, it has been all so sudden…”
          “You mean, Ed’s death, don’t you?”
          “Well, of course I do, but that’s not it…” She fidgeted the ornate golden disk at the center of the tall dark mysterious cabinet.
          “What it is my dear? We can very well continue with the plan notwithstanding his unexpected demise…”
          “Oh sure, that we can, so long as Cornella remains unaware of it… Last time was too close… But anyway, that wasn’t what I meant at all. You see, if Ed was really dead, one would expect he would take no time contacting us. I wonder if he’s stuck in transition, or if the surge’s energy had something to do with this improbable leave of absence…”


            Madam Li contemplated the pill-like translucent object glowing bright red which could barely fit in the palm of her delicate hand.
            People usually said that you could try and hide your age as well as possible on your face, but that hands didn’t lie. Hers actually were still a young woman’s fine delicate and smooth work-of-art.
            The snow had stopped immediately, leaving the weather in the Pudding area as it used to be: a pale mist of polluted fog, thus returning Shanghai to its normal weather patterns. The rote was there in her hand, full of the last surge’s energy, a tempting promise of uncontrollable power, but she had seen far too much power struggle and horrors to be really tempted by it.

            Ed’s demise had taken her by surprise. Although she did look young, it was her heart who really betrayed her. She hated people leaving her, and she would have expected Ed to survive her own death. It was the first time she was considering ever so briefly the thought of retiring. Of course, she still would need to find a replacement at her post, but China was full of eager potentials, that wouldn’t take too long.
            Putting the rote in the diplomatic case, her gaze trailed on the invitation, still on the table. She wasn’t ashamed to admit her first thought went to the cleaning lady who had been careful to dust all around it, without moving it an inch off the glass table top.
            Spain just came as an afterthought, already having lost its appeal as soon as summoned.

            Wrapping herself in her white fur coat, she called for a taxi. She would be just in time for the ice festival in Harbin with a warm dog legs’ soup and some yak butter tea.


            Evangeline Spiggot put the phone down, and turned to old Flanigan, the cleaning man. “Another request to investigate the death of Ed Steam! Three already, and it’s not even lunch time. I think this is a case for Blithe Gambol.”

            “Lift your feet up, will you, I’m trying to make a clean sweep here” Flannely replied.

            Evangeline obliged and put her feet up on her desk, and put through a call to Blithe. After a few pleasantries, Evangeline explained the case. “So the question is, is Ed Steam really dead, or not?”

            “I can tell you the answer to that right away,” replied Blithe. “Yes, and no.”

            “Er….thanks, I think…”

            “You see, the difficulty with facts these days is that none are true, and all are real ~ well I know you know that dear, but it becomes something of a problem when clients want to know the Truth. Probable realities are pretty loosely woven these days; now, I can stitch together the case, and give you a more definitive answer. Or I can stitch together the case differently, and give you a different answer. The question is, really, what is the answer you want to hear?”

            “I’ll confer with the clients and call you back.”


              The blizzard mircaulously stopped as soon as the fountain erupted, and the icicles on the trees in the square twinkled, casting long blue shadows on the snow. Mari Fe and Pearl had just finished a second helping of cake, and were feeling optimistic and relaxed in the warm cafe.

              Mari Fe sighed in contentment. “You know what Pearl? I’m considering retiring early. Because quite frankly, I prefer eating cake.”

              “Can’t you eat cake and carry on? You’re eating cake now, and you haven’t retired yet.”

              “Well I suppose that’s true enough. And shopping for flying carpets is hardly grueling labour. But all the sudden portalings, and the problem of weather, and clothes…it does get tedious. The evenly temperate global climate is a long time coming!”

              “It’ll come alot quicker if we do well at our job!”

              “I suppose there is that…”

              “Take a look out there, Mari Fe ~ look at the weather in the square now! Sun’s shining, birds are singing, children are coming out to play…but it’s still snowing in Moscow.. Come on, let’s go and see about the carpets, and make tracks for Moscow.”

              “What’s the cake like there?”

              “Sweet, beautiful, as light as air, just like the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova?”


                Katarina knotted the scarf under her chin and grinned at her reflection in the mirror. The disguise was comfortable, colourful and effective. The carpet shop was located on a coordination point in an alley off Fountain Square, easy enough to find with a CP nav ap. There were several ordinary carpets hanging in the window and piled up near the door, in case any unsuspecting normal tourist chanced on the CP, but the new stock of old flying carpets was ready in the back room, awaiting approval from the Surge Team representatives, ready for the flight to Moscow.


                “I still don’t know what we’re doing here, Glo. Azerbaijan in the middle of bloody winter?”

                “The nightlife, Sharon, the nightlife!”

                “So what do we do during the day, then? Besides freeze our ample tits off?”

                “Let’s have a cuppa somewhere and decide. I saw some lovely pastries in that cafe over there, come on.”


                Sharon licked the crumbs from her fingers and leaned over the table, whispering to Gloria. “Can’t help but eavesdrop, did you hear what those two on the table behind me just said? Something about buying carpets. I could do with a new rug for the bathroom, shall we follow them? They seem to know their way around here.”

                “I dunno, Shar, they look a bit tipsy to me. Look at all those empty Guinness cans.”


                  The snow was falling gently on that Russian night. People were walking in the cold, covered in warm colorful clothes which Mari Fe was finding funny.
                  Do you hear the music ?” asked Pearl.
                  “What music ?”
                  “It’s sounds like a choir in the distance. I suddenly feel melancholia.”
                  Mari Fe had forgotten she had her earplugs on, and as soon as she had removed the right one, she put it back.
                  “Put your earplugs, Pearl ! Quick ! You’re being hypnotized.”
                  “Hypnotized ? Don’t be silly; I’m sad, is all.” Pearl was feeling tears filling up her eyes. Life was so dull lately and maybe it was the seven beers she drank, maybe she something awful had happen and she didn’t know. Something sad must have happen, she thought, how else would I’ve been so sad. But she couldn’t remember. She wasn’t even listening to Mari Fe who was being agitated suddenly. Hadn’t she realized ?

                  Mari Fe was looking frantically in her pockets. Did she has another pair of surge earplugs ? She found a pink panther taser. Another techno stuff, she threw with disgust on her face. She jumped on Pearl and tried to immobilize her, she was trying to put her hands in her pockets to find those damn earplugs. Maybe Janet took them ? What an idea.


                    Elza beckoned to the waiter and ordered another slice of Romanov tart. The rendezvous was to be 11:11am, at the Rasputin Cafe and Cake Shop, located in an alley not far from Lubyanka Square in Moscow. But the surge team reps were late. Elza frowned, and called Katarina, who was posted in Baku, to see if Pearl and Mari Fe had left yet.

                    “Left? They haven’t even arrived yet.” Katarina replied. “ Oh hang on! I see two ladies ~ well, four actually ~ coming up the alley now, I better get off the phone in case it’s them. I’ll call you back. Oh my, what on earth are they doing? One of them has just jumped the other one…”

                    And then the phone went dead. Elza sighed, and ordered another tart.


                      Elza was puzzled when she recognized Mari Fe and Pearl and Mari Fe was suddenly attacking Pearl.
                      “What on earth…” she began, as the two other ladies jumped in the fight.


                        Elza continued to puzzle over the images she’d seen on the camera phone, before it went dead. “I hope I don’t have to leave Moscow and portal to Baku to sort those two out.”


                          The taser was a long range and when Mari Fe threw it away, it inadvertantly triggered the mechanism. The waiter was at that moment bringing a big plate of very hot soup to the table near Elza’s and was shocked. His body was shaken and Elza watched the soup making an odd design before splashing upon the table just behind her. She took advantage of the confusion to sneak out of the restaurant without paying the bill.


                            Elza laughed gaily as she scampered down the snow covered alley. She had a knack of turning the most unexpected occurence to her advantage, and the CP trauma flashpoint in Baku inadvertently activating the mechanism in the CP Cafe in Moscow was a prime example.


                            “Oh no, not Korea yet, it’s minus 18 degrees there!” Yann was busy throwing darts on the world map patafixed to the blank wall after a fashion.
                            He’d spend the last hour trying to find a suitable and close enough destination to fly so as to activate his last one-month coupon-visa due to expire at the end of the month. But most of the attempts seemed to follow an unknown logic he wasn’t ready to go along with.
                            “It’s starting to snow again in Paris, and it’s too far. Taipei or Kyoto don’t look much better than here…”
                            He marked a pause, and breathing slowly, emptied his mind, following the tradition of the Güt lineage of Libetan alpacas. Then the solution to his predicament appeared to him as clear as broad daylight.
                            “Alright then, Long Poon it is again the safest choice. And I could be back the 23rd, isn’t it great? Let’s just hope the booking will go easier than last time !”


                              Mari Fe managed to find the earplugs, and gave them to Katarina. “Shove these in her ears will you, I need to calm down and catch my breath.” By this time Pearl was catatonic with Meloncholy, and Katarina had no trouble inserting the earplugs.

                              Mari Fe pulled a carpet off the pile, threw it down onto the shop doorway step, and flopped down. She automatically pulled her ephone out of her pocket, and without thinking found herself checking in to FBF2. “She’s done it again!” she exclamined, jumping up. “ Tanit! She deactivated her FBF2 account 2 days ago ~ at exactly the same time as Elza reactivated her surge team location chip and took the Moscow case.”

                              “Is that relevant?” asked Katarina, who was gently slapping Pearls cheeks, trying to revive her from the effects of the hypnotic melancholy choir.

                              But Mari Fe didn’t reply. She was following the other two ladies, who had disappeared into the back room.


                                Have you ever dreamt that you forgot to put your pants on to go to school or to go to work? How did you feel in the dream ? Ashamed ? At ease ? Were you wondering how you got there in your undies ?
                                Dream memories were flying in Madam Li’s head. It had been a recurring dream in her childhood and her most dreaded fear. She had always checked on twice before living her house that she had a dress or trousers long enough to hide her ankles.

                                Her cell phone didn’t have any battery left and she was late. She would have to find one in the street. She ran out of her apartment after having checked her outfits twice and reassured took the elevator. She had her bags with warmer clothes inside for when she’d arrive in Harbin for the ice festival. She looked nervously at her cell phone again, still no battery of course. She put it back in her handbag. Someone entered the elevator, 30 more floors to go. She gasped when she realized the man, a westerner, had no pants on. She looked away quickly. Was he not aware of the missing element in his outfit ? She decided to make as if everything was normal.

                                Things went worse when she got out of the elevator. There were two men and a woman waiting at the check out desk, and they had pink underwears. Apparently the first man didn’t know them and the service apartment employee behind his desk didn’t seem at all surprised by the situation. When it was her turn, he looked at her, and at her long dress. She gave him the keys and as he turned away to put them back on the wall, she noticed that he was bare legs too. Something was wrong. Was it a surge in the population ? Would she have to stay here longer ?


                                  You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can’t be sure…
                                  Josephinella, the train station cleaning lady, was on night duty. And she was tired of waiting for that damned train with that irritating French accent in her ears, her lungs filled with the engines’ fine coal dust and her nostrils irritated by the pigeons’ smell.
                                  But tonight was going to be her night, she would get drunk on fresh air, her hair whipping her face, bugs biting her eyes, while she would sing elated woohoos launched at full speed on the last commuter train left unattended by drunk Freddie. That was such a beautiful plan.


                                  Another Dreamliner scare… and a train crash coming your way!”
                                  “Sounds like a transportation surge to me!” Björk replied on the internal chatting system to her African Twa colleague Kiki Razwa. Björk was not her real name though —it was just a moniker given to her because she liked eccentric costumes. Her real name was Mæja Valbjörnsdóttir,… so ‘Björk’ was better for everyone in that international team, she’d tried to convince herself.
                                  “Doesn’t internal policy says two makes a clue, three makes a surge ?”
                                  “Oh, who cares… For me it smells dreamception transportation surge.”
                                  “Better that than this Mercury retrograde crap, at least that’s more fun to hunt.” Kiki’s reply came up on the screen.
                                  Björk had come to realize that she would probably have to cover for Mari Fe who was elsewhere but at her post. The last surge being in Europe, so she was in for a trip at the taxpayers’ expense… Not so bad actually, since nothing ever happened on her faraway island.


                                    Aqua Luna’s duster was stuck in Cornella’s keyboard. She was still struggling to free it without paying too much attention to the screen. The red symbols blinking on the maps would have confused her, she would not have understood their meaning or the significance of the buttons she inadvertently pushed in her struggle. She has grown in the countryside, at a time where there was no internet available. She barely used her Oopia telepooh her daughter offered her a few years ago. The truth was she didn’t know how to take the call, even after her son in-law, showed her. Richard, that was his name. “He got the face’s name” she thought imagining the rag was a hair in his nose.

                                    “I got it!” she exulted, pushing unknowingly the key combination to lock the session again. She returned the keyboard to its former position just as Cornella arrived.
                                    “Oh! Thank you Aqua, you’re such a sweetie.”
                                    The cleaning lady who didn’t really understood English put on her talk-to-my-hand smile. And left the room. She would clean the other desks later, she needed a break.

                                    Cornella’s voice stormed out.
                                    “What the heck! There has been a breach in the artifact chamber!”
                                    But Aqua Luna wasn’t paying attention, it was like French to her. She was rather wishing she could taking one of those red limo to go back to her place. The Chicks always used them to go everywhere, but Aqua had to take the public transportation system. That wasn’t fair.

                                    She sneaked into the garage, not aware of the camera system or the alarm system. Tony, one of the chauffeurs was there.


                                      Chico would have been biting his nails if he had any nails (and if she hadn’t detached his hands completely and left them on the coffee table). The preparation for insertion had begun, and the camoflage reskin was progressing slowly. Already Chico was beginning to feel boxed in, and might have made a dash for it if he could have reached his legs but she had stacked them up on a dining chair, with his arms. There wasn’t much he could do except glare at her ~ that is, until she pasted over his eyes. The camoflage on his torso and skull felt stifling, heavy. Plastered with labels and routes, networks, directions and boundaries, stoic and heroic, he allowed himself to be suited in limitations.


                                        The fresh breeze on her face awoke Aqua Luna. She struggled a moment to open her eyes, and realized that it was completely dark around her. The floor she was lying on was soft and spongy, and when she moved to sit the soil emitted a weak suction noise as if full of water. But it was dry, that she could tell after so many years of cleaning. And the smell on her finger was merely that of her familiar detergents.
                                        She was feeling a bit numb and in a neutral mood. She couldn’t remember how she arrived here. She hesitated a moment and asked “Where am I ?” Her voice sounded muffled and distant to her.
                                        “You’re on my ship,” an unknown male voice answered after a few seconds.
                                        “Why is it so dark?”
                                        “I didn’t want to frighten you.”
                                        “Am I a prisoner ?” she asked, checking if she could feel something else past the numbness. “Are you going to torture me ?” she probed with no more success with her feelings.
                                        “To the contrary, earthling, you are a very valuable person to us.”
                                        She thought about her work. Maybe the Long Poonese mafia abducted her to extract some information.
                                        It was so dark that colors and shapes were beginning to appear before her eyes.
                                        “Did you drug me ?”
                                        “It was a necessary precautionary measure for your own good. “

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