The Twisted Skein

2038 -- Thirty Years On


Jasmine Illian slapped her hand down on the red button and glanced quickly at the timer display. 0.37 seconds; not her best, but not long enough for the Department of Efficiency to get involved. Even as she thought this, her hands were working the keyboard to call up the three columns of the 'fic summary. "Type IX-7," she called over her shoulder in clipped tones. "Lórien start, through Hornburg. One primary, two secondaries, seven tertiaries. One recruit." She allowed herself a brief smile at the thought that the Tolkien Division was still receiving just as many missions as it had in her parents' day.

Lindsey Leonard nodded. "Ready in ten." She tapped a couple of buttons on the wall panel, and a cupboard opened to reveal a pair of backpacks. Pulling them out, she tossed one to Jasmine and pulled the Remote Activator from the side of her own. "Intel estimate?"

"Two hours," Jasmine read. "Kill at Rauros."

Lindsey nodded. "Concur."

"Concur," Jasmine agreed, and tapped a button. "DoE notified." She glanced at her watch, waiting a second to see the digital display form a timer. "Ready?"

"Ready." Lindsey pressed the Remote's button and opened the portal. "Go." And with that, the two Assassins stepped into the Word World, leaving HQ behind... for a time.


Twelve hours later, Jasmine lay on her own bed, far from the Response Centre. "I don't know how much longer I can take it, Mam," she said.

"You don't have to, Jas," Constance Illian said. "You can come back home, quit that place, spend time with your son..."

Jasmine shook her head. "They're still not as bad as they would have been if the Cats had won."

"No," Constance agreed. "You've done your part, though. Let them work through this on their own... if they can. Or want to."

"There's still good in them," Jasmine insisted, sitting up and looking at her mother. "And I'm not just talking about people like Lindsey or Mark or Jason, I mean the rest of them. Even the Flowers... okay, the Cherry Tree's probably irredeemably evil, and the Foxglove... actually, most of the Board, I guess... but the Lilac? The Crocus? The dear old Sub Rosa?"

"But no one listens to them," Constance said quietly. "The DMS has been sidelined by the Floaters, no one ever paid much attention to Operations, and you've told me yourself Intelligence is mostly run by that Barley nowadays. Jasmine, a few voices can't stop a landslide."

"But we can try," her daughter said grimly. "I've managed to talk to a whole lot of people, despite the rules, and support for the current regime isn't nearly as widespread as they think. Everyone's scared of them, so they'll all do what Efficiency tell them to, but no one thinks they're right. If something happened, some spark of hope... we'd have the whole of HQ up in arms before the day was out."

Constance leant forward and gripped her daughter's shoulders. "Jasmine," she said fervently, "promise me, promise me you won't risk your life for this. My grandson has already lost one parent, don't take away another." She closed her eyes for a moment. "Don't make me lose another daughter to them."

Jasmine bit her lip. "Mam... for Daphne's sake... I need to. Whatever I can do. Because this can't go on. The things they're killing people for nowadays..." She swallowed. "And if we let the Department of Author Correction go on with its work..."

Constance bared her teeth. "That Department... that abomination..." She shuddered. "All right. If you can shut down that place, purge it completely... you have my blessing."

Jasmine nodded solemnly and stood up. "Thank you," she said softly, hugging her mother briefly. "Tell Dad I love him, yes?"

"I will." Constance wiped away a tear. "I love you, Jasmine. Be safe."

"Love you, Mam. I'll try."

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