#9 The Ambassadors: Part 1

Time for a party

This week a new story begins in Tales from the Triverse. It’s a change of pace from what’s come before, so do let me know what you think.

Read from the start

Previous chapter

I listened to Schubert while writing this chapter. I suggest sticking it on in the background while reading.

Previously: The Specialist Dimensional Command is a branch of the Metropolitan Police in London, tasked with investigating portal-related crimes. To honour their work, the Joint Council is hosting a reception on board an airship high above the city…

1972. October.

Formal dinners were not DC Yannick Clarke’s favourite way to spend an evening, though even he had to admit that the venue was impressive. He put a hand to the window, looking down at the city below, and could feel the thrum of the airship’s idling engines reverberating through his fingertips. This vessel was in a different league to those used for public transport on longer journeys, which tended to have cramped, boxy cabins and communal spaces with uncomfortable wooden seats. She was called the Pluma and was owned by the Joint Council, used for diplomatic gatherings when there was a need to impress.

Clarke fidgeted with his tie and collar, unhappy to be forced back into a uniform. He’d become a detective as early in his career as possible precisely to avoid having a dress code. The dinner was as far from his ordinary surroundings as possible, which is why he was studiously staring through the glass at the rooftops of London, as if he wished to leap through and escape. The interior of the Pluma was spacious and grand, extending almost the length and width of the airship’s entire frame. Every surface was polished wood, or marble, or covered with a luxurious patterned rug no doubt imported from god knows where. They were still moored to the Joint Council tower, atop the the portal station, and it occurred to Clarke that this was his last opportunity to disembark before the airship began its slow, circular tour of the London night sky.

It looked considerably more peaceful from such a height. The city was a maze of yellow and orange lights, with the smog hard to perceive and the clamour of people and trams too distant to intrude. Clarke realised that he was already missing it.

A hand gripped his shoulder firmly and in the window’s reflection he saw the face of James Miller, all smiles and slickness. Detective Chief Inspector Miller, the face of the SDC and a smooth operator. Clarke didn’t like him, didn’t trust him, but couldn’t help but admire his ability to work a room. The man knew how to give a handshake, how to make anyone feel at ease, and how to make the perfect first impression. He had been a decent enough detective but most of his time was spent schmoozing the press, or sweet talking the Commissioner or home secretary. Networking was his thing, always had been. Connections everywhere. Miller was the one to talk to when you needed information or to call in a favour. He’d be in his element here, among the great and the good of all three dimensions.

“Time to say hello to our hosts, Yannick,” he said. “Try to be nice. This is for you, you know.”

Clarke snorted, drawing a startled glare from a nearby guest. “This isn’t for me, it’s for their own egos. Us being here makes them feel good and maybe brings in some extra cash.”

“Well, regardless, there’s food, there’s wine and there’s people to meet.” Miller turned Clarke around and pointed at the chandeliered room, looking every bit like the reception hall of a stately home. “The Commissioner first, I think. Where have you hidden DC Styles?”

There was a barely perceptible vibration as the airship undocked from the tower and began its lazy drift over the city.

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