Can more money be a bad thing? (yes)
The Triverse is
Mid-Earth, an alternate 1970s London
Max-Earth, a vision of the 26th century
Palinor, where magic is real
Previously: A string of bombings rocked the triverse. The terrorist attacks took place across London, Bruglia and Max-Earth’s space elevator, causing chaos and acting as a diversion for other unsavoury activity. Two months later and it’s a new year. The Specialist Dimensional Command, who were instrumental in stopping the bombings, has been rewarded with a massive increase to its funding, which you’d think would be a good thing…
The Scotland Yard office of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Matthew Graves was an understated room, aside from the huge mahogany desk at its centre. A Kingdom of Great Britain flag sat unobtrusively on a pole in a corner, half hidden behind a whiteboard. One wall was lined with full bookshelves, the other with filing cabinets. The desk itself was clear, save for a single open folder and an ornate box of stationery.
Graves stood by a small drinks cabinet, positioned behind the desk near the large window. He was young, relatively speaking, for the commissioner role. There were few who had argued with his appointment, given his stellar record and an ability to forge connections with rank and file officers as well as politicians at Westminster.
Pouring two shots of whisky, he handed a glass to Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Walpole, head of the Specialist Dimensional Command. Graves smiled to himself: he’d always found the lengthy and dramatic names afforded to police divisions faintly amusing, though he’d never admit that to his officers.
Walpole took the glass and nodded. “To 1974, then. Let’s hope it’s a quieter one.”
Raising his eyebrows, Graves took a sip. “You really think that’s likely?”
There was a pause. Walpole looked annoyed. “No. No such thing as a quiet year.” He downed the shot. “Not for us, anyway. Maybe we can make it a little quieter for some other folk.”
Graves nodded and moved to the window. It was a cold, bright, winter morning. That was his favourite time to be in London, when the light was a cool blue and the air felt slightly less smog-thick than usual. “You read it, then?” The second budget proposal had been delivered the previous day. It was eye-opening, to say the least.
“Made for some light bedtime reading,” Walpole said. “Thoughts?”
“I’d like to hear yours first.”
Walpole grunted, pulled the seat away from his side of the desk and slumped into it. “I should be thrilled,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many zeroes on a funding document.”
He grimaced. “But it’s a leash. It’s too much. It’s a way for the Joint Council to get their claws into the department.”
The man was right. The budget increase was unwarranted, even despite the stellar work the SDC had accomplished in ’73. “We had a decade plus change of being under the radar, Stephen.”
“Suppose it’s not just your pet project any more, Commissioner.”
“They’ll want more oversight, for sure.. Might try and wrestle it away from me, even. The SDC is important to me, still.” Walpole took a deep breath and straightened his back. “It means we need to insulate the team, as best we can. Give them the space to do their work. More cash flow isn’t all bad - can get a new office, another vehicle, expand the feet on the ground.”
Leaning forward, Walpole stabbed his finger at a particular line in the open folder of papers. “’Rapid response team.’ Where are we going to recruit that from?”
“I suspect Westminster and the Joint Council might have some suggestions. I’ll handle it.” Graves put his hands on the back of his high-backed chair. “My concern isn’t the budget, at least not immediately. What about the changes internally? Styles, and Hobb?”
“It’s a loss,” Walpole said, crossing his arms. “Styles is a real loss. She’s a good detective, but she brought something else to the team. They’ve been energised in a way I’ve not seen for a while. Hobb was efficient, too.”
“We haven’t actually lost DC Styles,” Graves pointed out, with a slight smile.
“Liaison to Palinor? Setting up some remote office in Bruglia? She may as well have quit! Did you meet her, ever have a conversation with her? She’ll go native within the year.”
“Sounds useful to me,” Graves said. “I’ve wanted a liaison officer out there for years, but could never make it happen. Princess Daryla has been considerably more cooperative than her father.”
“I met Chancellor Baltine once, a long time ago,” Walpole said. “Didn’t take to him.”
“He likes his secrets,” Graves said, “wears them like a necklace, just out of sight.”
“Now that he’s chancellor of the university, let’s hope we won’t have to deal with him as much.” Walpole turned the empty glass around and around in his hand. “It leaves me with two detectives without partners, though.”
“I was going to ask.”
“I’m thinking of putting them together. Clarke and Holland.”
Graves stared for a moment, then burst into laughter. “Really? Grumpy and angry, together at last? You sure that’s wise?”
“It might not be pretty, but I think it could get some interesting results.”
“Well, we’ll have new people starting later in the year, so we can always shake it up again if it doesn’t work out.” Graves finished his whisky and placed it gently on the desk. “The others are going to need to step up. Get Ford and Morgan in the office more frequently, not just Bakker. You think Collins and Shaw are up to it?”
“Wrangling a bigger team? Let’s give them a chance. They both have potential, but DS has hardly been a challenging role in the SDC to date. I’ll give them the space, see if they fill it. If not…” Walpole trailed off.
The two sergeants in the SDC had never entirely convinced Graves. Collins was too passive, Shaw too reticent to take the lead. He just hoped they wouldn’t be trampled on by all that was coming.
It was an election year, which would inevitably bring yet more trouble. Nothing too major: one of the two main parties would get back in, as always, tossing the baton back and forth, but the independents and the smaller oddities were going to make a lot of noise. It would be an ugly campaign, and London didn’t need more ugly. The city was simmering, on the edge of boiling over, and several vested interests seemed intent on turning up the heat. The Met itself was unwieldy and still was not suited to managing the very hub of the triverse. The SDC had been Graves’ best hope to wrangle some order out of the chaos he’d been promoted into. A hand-picked team, for better or worse, able to operate semi-independently, away from the political mire that was Scotland Yard.
That was the idea. It was about to receive the biggest boost in its history, yet it felt like walking into a trap. Walpole sensed it, too. Graves wondered if the team knew what was coming down the line. There’d be no quiet year for any of them.
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Thanks for reading.
That was the first chapter of 2023! I rather like that Tales from the Triverse sometimes synchronises with the real world calendar, with the new year also beginning in the story. Satisfying.
It’s going to be a busy year on the newsletter: as well as the ongoing Triverse story I’m also going to be pinging out a mix of interviews, how-to guides and prompts. On top of that, I’ll be starting a new occasional series which will be taking a less formal, more opinionated look at Interesting Things. I’m kicking that off soon with a delve into Kieron Gillen’s DIE, which I’m excited to poke at.
Right, if you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes of how books are written, keep reading for some…
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