Interlogue: Silence in the Library
Crosstime Update Report by Dr David Wostyn: 05/11/2019 (OTL Calendar)
The material contained herein is classified as THANDE MOST SECRET.
I understand that some might consider me sending a message at this point as foolhardy or inappropriate. However, given the manner in which ‘Operation The Thande Institute Invasion Of Croydon, 2019’—I do wish Captain MacCauley would let someone else come up with codenames—is being carried out, there is nothing I can do at present to aid the effort.
To briefly recap on the plan in case anything was left out before—we have been undertaking this at fairly short notice after all—we believe that Team Alpha are being held at an English Security Directorate (ESD) facility on Coombe Lane in the town of Croydon, which in the Britain or rather the England of this timeline remains its own town and has not been subsumed by London. Although to say that a lot of water has passed under the bridge of this timeline since the POD would be quite an understatement, the local geography knowledge from our own timeline of Sergeant Ellis and in particular Lieutenant Black has nonetheless proved quite useful. Despite the short notice, Lieutenant McConnell was able to secure a suitable surveillance point for us to observe the facility in question, which bears the incongruously merry name of Snowdrop House. I believe this is because the facility is not open about its identity and appears at first glance merely to be one of the fine old houses in this part of Croydon. This may help us in that it presumably limits the number of ESD staff and guards who may be present.
In any case Lieutenant McConnell discovered that the house opposite Snowdrop House, named Bluebell House, has recently been vacated due to its former tenant, an MP named David Batten-Hale, lost his seat at the English general election a few months ago. His replacement seems uninterested in the house and it has been put on the market. Lieutenant McConnell and Sergeant Ellis had a look around the house earlier today, ostensibly on behalf of a buyer, and Sergeant Ellis was able to palm a spare key: we have therefore been able to re-enter tonight after the estate agent has gone home.
We considered trying to enter Snowdrop House via the basement, but any sort of ambitious tunnel-digging was too time prohibitive and instead we took the opportunity to scout it out from this vantage point and, via triangulation, deduce a safe location to open a Portal there. I say safe, for there will always be an element of risk to going in blind like this—and who is to say the ESD does not use the rooms for different purposes than they seem—but given that Captain MacCauley and the others left ten minutes ago and no apparent alarm has been sounded, we can hope that our Portal did manage to open in a broom cupboard rather than a conference room...in session.
However we did, of course, desire a backup plan, and as a result I am here in Bluebell House with Lieutenant Tindale observing from the window, behind what is hopefully a foolproof adaptive camouflage barrier. In the event that Captain MacCauley and the team can’t get Team Beta to the Portal in Snowdrop House—or open another one there, but without GPS coverage that is tricky—then they may have to come back here where the Portal I am currently speaking to you through is still open. As a consequence they may be subject to reprisals from the ESD captors, I hesitate to use the term ‘enemy fire’ in this context but nonetheless...Lieutenant Tindale has his sniper rifle and the new nonlethal rounds, but ‘sniper rifle’ and ‘nonlethal’ are not words I am ready to believe belong in the same sentence. I can only hope that things do not escalate to that level, as I believe conflict with the natives of this timeline would not only be an abstract tragedy but would turn our path to the risk of future peril, for the people of this timeline are quite advanced enough to create Portals of their own if they learn how the theory works. As they may have already done so from Team Alpha if their interrogation methods are particularly ruthless, I fear.
But now Lieutenant Tindale and I must wait for a report, and while we wait, I have realised that there is an opportunity here. You must think me foolish, to have no sense of priorities, to be churlish about the lives of my friends and colleagues—but there is a reason why I am choosing to use the emergency Portal to communicate directly with you, avoiding the radio transmissions of the digitiser which we surmise might have led the National Gendarmery to Team Alpha in the first place. You see, when I first came to Bluebell House I noticed that this room is in fact a library, or book depository might be a better term. How appropriate for Lieutenant Tindale and his sniper rifle, some would say. But still, not only do we have the old oak-panelled walls and shelves and leather-bound books one would expect to come with a fine old house like this, but also incongruous modern bookshelves with colourful plastic-backed books and even something not unlike an e-reader, though cruder than what we are used to. And crucially, this is the library of an MP, a Burgess to be precise, and as such it includes many works on history and geography. Many works that I would have given my right arm to have while we were trying to piece together the earlier history of this timeline, just using what vaguely relevant works we could cull from public libraries. But here it is, all here, all in one place, and in depth. In a place we will probably soon have to flee from. You will forgive me if I seize this opportunity with both hands. A room full of relevant books, and a Portal to throw them through: I trust Mr Batten-Hale will not mind if we borrow them long enough to copy them. The floor is already covered in piles of them taken from the shelves, probably to be moved to a new house elsewhere. He likely will not notice if a few more are taken away and then swiftly returned.
First of all I notice a children’s encyclopaedia, from which I surmise that Mr Batten-Hale has children (a deduction hardly worthy of Sherlock Holmes!) Though they are obviously not in-depth, such works are excellent from our perspective (you will recall the report by Dr Cussans on Timeline H) because they introduce things to us that books penned for adults will assume ‘everyone knows’. As a result, I think I will begin with volume F to H. I have left it turned to a particularly relevant page...
From – “The Children’s Complete Cyclopaedia, by Alfred Yew, 14th Edition (2001)—
GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY: The Stories of All the Peoples of the World and the Lands in which they Live
THE GLOBAL GAMES
THE NATIONS OF the world must by their nature compete, or the human race would stagnate and eventually go extinct. But some of the ways that they have competed in the past have been destructive: war and colonialism are the two most blood-tinged examples. Some men thought that the losses of those wars and colonies were an acceptable price to keep the human race alive, but those men lacked vision. They were wrong. There are other ways in which nations can compete that are constructive, not destructive. Science, and in particular the Race for Space, is one (see volume Q-S pp. 132-49 and pp. 254-260). Sport is another. And of all the sports competitions between the nations, the greatest is the Global Games.
THE MAN WHO SAW WHAT SPORT COULD DO FOR THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD
Peter Rathbone was not a sportsman himself, except perhaps in the field of hunting. He was an English explorer who was born in Hereford in the year 1841. He travelled to countries such as Pérousie and China to explore, and even to more dangerous places like Rajasthan and Portugal. But it is not his exploring that he is remembered for. In the year 1873, when he was thirty-two, he happened to be in France and saw a football match played between visiting English schoolchildren and their French friends. He realised that sport was a means by which the nations could compete in a way that would drive them to greater heights of success, without the killings of war. But not just football or diamondball or H-ball, but in many sports. Different sports were more popular in different countries. They should all experience them and respect each others’ success. A man from Germany might never even have heard of the sport of pulu and think that the Burmese are inferior to him because they are less capable at football. But put him on horseback and let him see the Burmese run rings around him, and then he will respect them. As in all things, more knowledge is always to the benefit of all.
THE COMPETITION THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
Rathbone got together with other enthusiasts and created the World Sports Society, which became the modern Global Games Commission. But it would be years before they attracted enough wealthy patrons to fund their inaugural sports celebration. It would not be called the Global Games until years later, but we now remember that competition in 1882 as the First Games. The First Games were a success but they would not become a regular event until Rathbone secured funding once again in 1886, ever since which the Games have been held every three years except in cases of particular global emergencies.
Wonder Question: What countries were represented at the First Games?
At the First Games athletes did not compete under a flag or for a named nation because it seemed obvious to everyone at the time who was representing which country. But as political borders and definitions have changed since then it has become more difficult to say who was represented. For example Joseph Collins, the runner who came first in the 150-toise dash at the First Games, was born in Scotland but grew up in England, and at the time both countries were part of Great Britain. Collins tragically died before the Act of Separation and so we do not know which country he would have chosen as his own.
THE INSTITUTION THAT HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME
The Pandoric War interrupted the Games not long after they were first instituted, and some people feared that the horrors of that war and what came after would doom such peaceful pursuits. But the Games had captured the imagination of people across the world and could not be stopped. Though the Games were interrupted again for the Sunrise War and the Last War of Supremacy, they continue to this day, and today more countries contribute than ever before.
Wonder Question: What are ‘the Olympics’?
The Olympics, Olympic Games or Olympiad are a popular nickname for the Global Games, but this is not their official name and the name was not used until many years after the First Games. The original Olympic Games were a sports competition held in Ancient Greece which have some parallels to the modern Global Games and there has been debate over whether these should be emphasised today (see entry NEO-HELLENISM in volume N-P pp. 109) but the connection has never been officially acknowledged by the Global Games Commission.
THE GREAT ENEMY OF SANCHEZISM
The Global Games show how the people of the world’s nations can acknowledge and celebrate the differences that divide them and allow different people of different nations to excel at different pursuits. They are anathema to Societism, but the popularity of the Games means that athletes from Societist countries have long competed in them. The first athletes from Societist countries competed at the 1916 games and then again in 1919, but then fear and the imposition of new rules requiring athletes to compete under a flag meant that no more athletes from Societist countries competed until the 1943 games. In 1943 they competed under an empty flagstaff, but from 1946 onwards they used the Combine Threefold Eye flag that was accepted by those Societists who realised that they must at least make some small compromise with reality (see entry FLAGS in this volume pp. 89).
Wonder Question: Why are Global Games winners awarded silver laurels?
The practice of awarding winners silver laurels was introduced in 1934 and is one of the practices derived from the Ancient Greek Olympic Games. Prior to that time cups or medals were awarded but exactly what type was up to the country hosting the games to decide. Copper laurels for runners-up were not introduced until 1949.
THE VICTORS OF THE GLOBAL GAMES
It is wrong to judge a country by how many Global Games laurels its athletes has won, for all countries will excel in different pursuits, and not all nations have had independent countries that could compete for the same length of time. Nonetheless the country whose athletes have won the most laurels at present is the Russian Confederation, followed by the Empire of North America and the Chinese Empire. Formerly some sources counted all Societist countries as one, in which case they would be second instead, but today this practice is frowned upon...”
(Dr. David Wostyn)
And so you can see the great advantages to snatching a few minutes here and there to pass along these books to you. And not just books. Mr Batten-Hale appears to be an enthusiast for cartography and he has a number of maps as wall posters. The label on the back states that this map, made by the company Richards of Erewash, is a modernised and recoloured reproduction of a contemporary map showing the state of affairs in the Empire of North America shortly after the Great American War. As that subject has consumed much of my attention (largely because of the nature of the books I had available to me at the time) in recent weeks, it would be a tragedy if I did not take advantage of this. I’m sure Mr Batten-Hale won’t notice if I stick it back up again after you’ve finished scanning it in...