ROUTINE SECURITY CHECKS
I don’t own the Buffyverse and intend no disrespect to the owners of it by writing this. I also intend no disrespect to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second (by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith) and wish her the long life and health that is every loyal subject’s desire.
However disreputable persons such as authors often find it necessary to commit lese majestie
in order to facilitate their lowly creations. I have a full Artistic License and am prepared to show it to the competent Authorities. Oh, and no disrespect to other Exalted Persons either. No disrespect at all…
I got this idea from Marcus Rowland’s story RELATED EVENTS. All praise to the Mighty Marcus. This story takes place in a close future which I hope will remain an Alternate Reality for many years to come…
The large black car pulled out of Downing Street and turned north towards Trafalgar Square. The streets of London were strangely quiet as if the city, the nation had withdrawn into itself, trying to absorb the change that had come upon it so suddenly. In accordance with long standing plans there was nothing on any of the terrestrial radio or television channels except solemn music and political and constitutional commentary by very distinguished, very serious talking heads. (Those in search of actual entertainment would have to turn to satellite broadcasts.) Just now the talking heads were commenting on the black car as it took the new Prime Minister to St James Palace for the first official event of the new reign, the Succession Council.
London in the Summer of the Bird Flu was a strange place in many ways. People still came into the city, for work and shopping but they kept their distance from each other and did not gather in the pubs. Most of the theatres had closed themselves down. Almost every face wore a gauze mask.
The long predicted disaster was sweeping the world, the first new Great Plague of the Twenty-First Century, as devastating as the Spanish Influenza had been and all the more terrifying because the world wide web of telecommunications brought it home to those who, a century before, would have been unable to relate their own sufferings to the suffering of the world. There was no panic (at least not in London: British pride in their own stoicism would not permit it) but there was fear.
Mostly it was the old, the very young and those already suffering from illness who were in most danger. And it had been two deaths in particular, of a woman in her early eighties and a man in his fifties with a heart condition, that had set the black official Bentley off down Whitehall towards St James Palace. The disease was no respecter of persons and even one of the richest women in the world could find no doctor capable of keeping it at bay: Elizabeth the Second had died only two days before, at Windsor Castle, surrounded by her family. Her Prime Minister had predeceased her by a whole month, dying abroad at a Commonwealth Conference in Australia. The new Prime Minister had only been confirmed in office by his party for twelve hours before being told of the monarch’s death.
As the talking heads on television explained to the watching British public (those few that were actually listening) for the fourth time that the Prime Minister was going to attend the formal meeting of the Privy Council which would issue the proclamation that the Prince of Wales had become King, the black Bentley pulled through the gates of St James’ and out popped first the Prime Minister’s police bodyguard, scanning the area, then the Prime Minister trying to look solemn and only managing to look dour and finally the Prime Minister’s personal political advisor trying not to look perky and proud of his boss and failing. As they explained to the British public exactly what the Privy Council was (for the third time) the Lord President of the Council, who at that time was a female African born lawyer and life peer, came out of a doorway, solemnly greeted the Prime Minister (she actually managed to look as if she both knew what she was doing and was feeling appropriate emotions for the occasion) and then lead him off into the Palace and away from the television cameras. The talking heads began to tell the public that in a short while they would be hearing the proclamation but that nothing was happening just now.
Inside the Palace, the Prime Minister let the Lord President lead him along corridors, exchanging gossip about the events planned for the rest of the week, the effect all this was having on government business and their families until suddenly he found himself in a room with her and, seated at the far end of a long oak table, the new about-to-be-King.
He heard the thick oak door behind him close and became suddenly aware that both his political advisor and his police bodyguard were no longer with him. Puzzled, he looked towards the man whose servant he nominally was.
“Sir? Is there some problem…?”
”No, no, Prime Minister. Just a necessary preliminary. Come and sit by me. It won’t take long. My Lady President…”
”Yes, Sir. I’ll just fetch them.” She headed out of another door and closed it quietly behind her. She seemed slightly distracted.
The greying man smiled and nodded and turned again to the head of his Government. “This is one of those things you really should have been briefed on beforehand, Prime Minister but it’s not something you would have come across in your previous Cabinet posts. There will be a formal presentation about these matters later on but for now, if you will, just wait and watch.”
”As you wish, Sir. Is it anything…”
But at that moment the Lord President re-entered followed by a man and a woman. The man was in his fifties, tall and greying and the woman was in her twenties, beautiful and with striking red hair. He was deferential but carried himself with authority. She was nervous and kept watching him for cues. In her hands was a carved wooden casket which she put down on the table. The man bowed to the new monarch and she did her best to deliver a courtesy.
“Mr Chairman, thank you for coming. I know you have many other calls on your time.”
”It is my duty and my pleasure, Sire. May I present my associate Ms Rosenberg?”
“Uh. Hi. Sir.”
She was American. Or perhaps Canadian? The Prime Minister looked across at the Lord President hoping she might offer some explanation. But her dark face was focussed entirely on the other woman, with something like fear showing there.
“Ms Rosenberg. Your reputation precedes you.”
”Oh, gosh. I hope not. I mean not all of it. Sir. ‘Cause you know, some of what you might of heard….”
”Shall we proceed? There are people waiting.”
“Yes, of course. If you would stand, Sir.” The man pulled a small golden key out of a pocket and unlocked the wooden cabinet, taking a small brown envelope from it. He turned to the President of the Council.
“My Lady, would you confirm that this is sealed with the Privy Council Seal and signed by your predecessor?”
”I do confirm that. And do you confirm that this other seal and signature are those of your predecessor?”
”I do. My g..g..,grandmother’s signature as a matter of fact and her Chairman’s Seal. Now then…”
He took a copper bowl from the box and placed it on the table. He then broke the sealed envelope and sprinkled the content into the bowl.
“What on earth is that?”
”Hair, Prime Minister. Baby hair taken from the new born Prince within a day of his birth. Willow, with me.”
The two of them held their hands over the bowl and began to mutter, alternating lines between them. The Prime Minister leant forward to try to catch the words, some of which he recognised as Latin but others seemed to be in languages he had never studied. Then they stopped and looked up at the long, sad face of the King.
“If you would please touch the sample in the bowl, Sir.”
He did so and as his finger reached into the bowl, the hair in it began to glow as if lit from within and then suddenly vaporised, vanishing not with the reek of burnt hair but with a scent that reminded the Prime Minister of wild flowers, filling the room with sweetness. He looked up at the two people across the table from him and seemed to see for a moment, the same glow in the eyes of the red-headed woman as she looked across the table at the two of them, the King and his Prime Minister.
And then that light was gone and she was turning towards the man (the Chairman? Of what?).
She smiled up at him. “All nice and clear. I concur.”
“Very well. My Lady President of the Privy Council, in accordance with the treaty between Her… I beg your pardon, His
Majesty’s Government and the Council of Watchers I confirm that this is indeed the Most Royal and Noble Prince, Charles Philip Arthur George of the House of Windsor, rightful heir to the throne and not a homunculus, doppleganger or other substitute and that further that we find that he is not possessed by any demon or unhealthy spirit and not bearing the taint, by commission or infliction, of dark magics. You may proceed with the proclamation.”
“Thank you, Mr Chairman.” She gave him a slightly strained smile and as the young woman packed the bowl back into the box and locked it, the King came round the table to shake the man’s hand. The Prime Minister sat and watched, aware that his mouth was hanging open slightly.
“Yes, thank you indeed, for this and for all the other services that you have provided for the Crown and for the world in general. I hope that at some stage in the future you will accept an invitation for yourself and some of your colleagues to attend one of the Garden Parties at the Palace.”
”Oh, well now, it is an honour of course but we have security considerations…”
”Come now, there’s nothing suspicious in the Monarch taking an interest in ah, promoting the education of exceptionally gifted young women. I won’t take no for an answer and I particularly want to meet Ms Summers.”
The redhead rolled her eyes. “She’s going to be insufferable when she hears that…”
The man winced and nodded his head. ”Well, perhaps we will see what can be arranged.”
”I can’t give any of you the reward and recognition you all deserve. A garden party seems like the least I can do. Ms Rosenberg,” and as he held out his hand she tucked the box under one arm to take it, “I hope to have a chance to talk to you again. Bring your other half with you when you come.”
“ I’ll do that! Yes, uhh, Sir. Well, best we be going. Ummm, do we have to walk backward and like that? You know, leaving the presence of the Monarch? ‘Cause I wasn’t sure what applied in a situation like this and when I looked it up on the Internet it seemed to say…”
The King held up a hand to halt the flow of babble and with a perfectly straight face said, ”I think we can waive that for just this one occasion.”
“Oh right. Well, hope we’ll be getting that invite…”
”Come along, Willow. We’ve taken up enough of the day…”
And that was all the Prime Minister could take.
“Now, just a bloody
The redhead winced, her hand frozen on the door handle out of the room, she muttered: “Nearly got away… Nearly pulled it off…”
“What the bloody fornicating
…” The Prime Minister’s Scots accent was getting thicker by the second and the King cut him off.
“The walls and doors are quite thick here but I think we don’t want to test them too far, Prime Minister. Did you have something to say? A question?”
“What was this… this… chicanery in aid of?”
The tall man looked at the King who nodded, as if giving permission. “No chicanery, Prime Minister. Just a routine security check. Against infiltration or subversion at the heart of the State. It’s something my organisation has been doing for the Crown since shortly after we established our headquarters in England. There is a formal treaty dating back to the first Queen Elizabeth, which I will bring a copy to show you when we meet next week. I believe it’s been arranged for me to come and see you at Chequers over the weekend where I will brief you more thoroughly about the various threats we exist to counter…”
”Yes, and vampires and werewolves and ghouls…”
”Though ghouls are mostly a Third World problem these days. What with you cremating most of your dead and us Americans squirting ours full of formaldehyde…”
“Oh, right. Yeah.”
“If you think I’m going to sit here and listen to….”
”Oh, crap! Rise!”
And at that not only the huge oak table but also the Prime Minister and the chair he was sitting on lifted gently into the air and floated up to the ceiling until the head of the Head of Government bumped (not terribly hard) against the roof beams. The King’s face split in a grin from ear to ear and he gave a soft round of applause. The President of the Council backed up against the wall and did her best to edge quietly away from the redhead whose eyes once again glowed with an internal golden light.
“Put him down, Willow. Softly
She gestured and the Prime Minister found himself and the table sinking back towards the floor. By now he was aware that his jaw was sagging onto his shirt front.
“I must apologies, Prime Minister. Young people are so fond of the dramatic gesture. And she is an American.”
“We will have words again shortly and hopefully you will get a fuller explanation er umm at that time. Good day to you. Sir. My lady. No, no, we will see ourselves out.”
And with that they were through the door and gone.
Inside the room there was silence for a full thirty seconds. And then the Prime Minister just said: “Who?”
“The head of a very old and very valuable ally of the Crown. What we’d call an international NGO, nowadays. And his most powerful… enforcer. We are especially honoured. They have an awful lot on their plate. As I said, you’ll get the full briefing later. It will probably make your head feel like it’s exploding. Mine felt that way when I first met a Watcher. And yours, My Lady?”
”I left Africa in part to get away from that sort of thing, Sir. I never expected that my career would bring me back to it. When I got this job I certainly never thought… Well, there are surprises everywhere. And we are running behind schedule.”
“Ah, right. Schedule. Yes.Umm. People to… Proclamation… I had best…” The Prime Minister pulled himself to his feet and walked, slightly unsteadily, to the door. He stopped at it and turned to the King.
“This treaty of theirs: what’s in it?”
”Well, at the core of it is just one agreement. The Council of Watchers promises that as long as the Crown doesn’t do magic, the Watchers won’t do politics.”
“Oh. Oh, yes. I see. That seems… wise.”
”I’ve always thought so.” The King looked across at the Lord President. “You go ahead. We will join you in a moment.”
As the door closed, the dark skinned woman looked up at the greying man and raised an eyebrow.
“When are you planning to tell him?”
”What was really going on here?”
”Ahh? By which you mean…?”
”It wasn’t necessary for him to be here for the ritual. You insisted on that. Sire.” She clipped out that last word, doing her best to turn it into a provocation. She had never much cared for the feudal remnants at the heart of the British state even though fate had turned her into one.
“I only insisted because the Watchers insisted, my Lady.”
“And that means….?”
”Well, they do have an awful lot on their plate at the moment, or so I’m told. And you don’t call in Willow Rosenberg for what was, after all, just a routine security check. So I think that they were making sure of my new Premier rather than me.”
She nodded. “Thought so. You had best be careful when you explain it to him. He’s a proud man.”
”Oh, my lady! One of the few pleasures of my role is getting to whisper ‘Remember thou art but mortal’ in the ear of professional politicians! But yes, I think I will let it wait until we’re both a little more settled in our new roles and know each other a bit better.”
She too paused at the door as she was about to open it and lead the new King out to meet the gathered members of the Great and the Good.
“What would have happened if they had found something wrong?”
”With me? Well, that wouldn’t have happened. My family is as carefully Watched as any of the supernatural menaces. The last time someone in line to the throne was found to be corrupted the problem was dealt with long before he could get anywhere near the throne. He didn’t even live to see his father succeed to it.”
”And that was…”
“In the late nineteenth century. No, what happened here was purely a formality.”
She gave a wry grin. “But the formalities must be observed.”
“We are British, after all.”
”Indeed. But I really meant what would have happened if the Prime Minister….”
”Well, they can’t watch politicians quite as closely as royalty and I know that they have had major reorganisation going on during the last few years which have taken up a lot of their resources, so if there had been anything wrong…. Well, let’s just say that the most powerful witch in the world would have no problem making the death of someone in thrall to Hell look like natural causes. Especially during a summer such as this.”
She nodded and then opened the door and together they walked along the corridor, to make the announcement that would mark the start of a new reign.