“OK, people,” announced Agent Mercury, “Time to get started.”
They were gathered in the Salamader room - one of the oddly-named conference rooms at OGS. Mercury was running the meeting. Othello had his laptop open on the table in front of him connected to a projector. It was currently displaying his screensaver – animated fishes swimming all over a coral reef complete with overflowing pirate treasure chest. Prada looked bored already and was doodling on her notepad. Harold could make out the words “pantry” and “laundry list” in amongst a growing number of cartoon flowers, hearts and spirals. India, on the other hand, was leaning forward, pencil poised, all alert attentivemess. Harold himself was quite interested in the proceedings. There were no briefing sessions in the Basement, although Harold had heard humans claiming that they thought they had died and gone there after a particularly long boring meeting up here. Teatime sat quietly on the table in front of Harold.
“OK, I think it’s safe to assume that since both sides have lost –er – people then neither side is responsible for what’s happening. Agreed?”
A murmur of assent ran round the table.
Othello tapped his keyboard and a neat bullet point appeared on the whiteboard.
“So who does that leave?” continued Mercury.
“Humans,” suggested Teatime. India tutted and shot him a look with a wind chill factor strong enough to freeze a small bird to death.
“Well, who else is there?” he continued, unperturbed.
“Aliens?” Prada didn’t even look up from her dodles. “Vampires? Dragons?”
This was greeted with a chorus of general disagreement.
“Perhaps we should shelve that point for the moment, pending more information.” said Othello as his fingers danced on the keyboard once more.
“OK,” agreed Mercury, “Let’s record such information as we do have. Mr Teatime, I believe you have the details of the Fallen that have disappeared. Would you care to share them with us?”
“Yes, of course” Teatime assumed his schoolmasterly tone, “The Basement has lost touch with five demons thus far. The most recent was Baron Samedi. Before that there was Crippled Tom, then Akim, a.k.a Baying Wolf, Michael Everest and Susan.”
Prada let out a giggle.
“Susan?” she said, “Seriously? There’s a demon called Susan? What is she, the spirit of extreme bossiness? ‘Cos if she is, then you’ve just described my little sister.”
“Very funny, Prada,” said Othello, “Now, on our side, we’ve lost three: Territhiel, Auriel and Illyriel, according to the information given us by the Penthouse.”
Harold started at that last name. He and Illyriel, while not exactly BFFs or whtever the human idiom was, had nevertheless been quite close before the Great War, and it was shocking to imagine that he might be gone for good. Even though he had been banished from the Penthouse along with all the other Fallen, Harold had, in those first terrifying dark days, taken a little comfort in knowing that former friends were still there, safe and happy.
“How can an angel or a Fallen just disappear, though?” asked India. “They can’t be killed, can they?”
“That’s right,” agreed Harold, “Our vessels are pretty much indestructible.”
“But vulnerable to electricity, or our tasers wouldn’t work.” observed Othello. “In all our dealings with Fallen, we’ve never found any other practical way of restraining them – apart from Binding, and only a very few of us can do that.” He looked at Harold, “in the interests of solving this mystery for both our sides, do you have any other weaknesses we should know about, that might have been exploited by whoever is behind this?”
Yeah, like I’d tell you if I had, thought Harold. “Not unless you count trad. Jazz.” He said. “I’m a real sucker for that.”
“We’ll take that as a ‘no’ then.” said Mercury drily.
It was going to be a long meeting.