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CASE NIGHTMARE BLOND

(Editorial note: this is not part of the Laundry Files timeline (which ends in 2015); it's merely a disturbing dream from one of the wrong trouser-legs of time, in which our protagonists are confronted with a threat infinitely less plausible than any tentacular alien horror from beyond the walls of the universe ...)




So I'm sitting in my office, staring despondently at a stack of ancient hard drives I'm supposed to be decommissioning per protocol (a ritual pass through the degaussing coil, followed by three brisk taps with a sledgehammer while chanting the drive's UDID, then interment at the bottom of an acid bath—or failing that, the cat's litter tray) when my phone screams.

I startle and nearly fall off my chair. It's the famous Elsa Lanchester scream from Bride of Frankenstein, a ringtone I've assigned to—

"Bob here. How can I help you, Persephone?" Because of course it's Persephone Hazard, doyenne of External Assets and not someone who generally calls me to make polite small-talk about the weather.

"Crisis meeting, room 410, right now. Drop everything, we have a situation," she barks, then hangs up. And I just know that my day is about to go from boring to exciting, and not in a good way.

I don't hang around waiting for tentacles to come out of the walls: I'm out the door so fast I leave rubber tracks on the lino. What's going on? Who the fuck knows? It's been that kind of week, or maybe month, so far. As Lenin put it, sometimes years pass like weeks, and sometimes years happen in weeks. And ever since the unexpected Brexit referendum result, I've been half-expecting a crisis-call. It's just a wonder that it's taken so long to come.

I shove through the door of the Mahogany Row briefing room to find it nearly full already. There's the Senior Auditor, chairing, along with all the other Auditors in the office right now: representatives of External Assets—including Persephone—and a bunch of senior managers, Vikram, Chris, Boris, and others. Even Mrs MacDougal from HR is present, heaven knows why, and evidently she's nervous (she always knits when she's worried: today it's something pink and disturbingly tubular, intestinal). "Yo," I drop into an unclaimed chair, "what's happening?"

The SA smiles at me, a trifle tense. "It's the new PM. There's been a cabinet reshuffle."

I blink, perplexed. "This affects us how, exactly?"

Persephone sighs exasperatedly. Vikram leans forward: "Haven't you been following the news?"

"No, I've been busy working --" I stifle the impulse to say something waspish. I've been buried under a mound of paperwork, mostly contingency planning, for the past week, trying to ignore the new, which has gone from bad to worse ever since CASE NIGHTMARE TWEED eventuated three weeks ago. Don't get me started on the idiocy of my being expected to fill in as the departmental public relations officer; hint: we're a secret government agency, we don't have a public relations officer. As for my one and only appearance live on Newsnight ... let's just say I have a strong motivation for ignoring the media right now. "What's happening?"

Vikram breaks it to me: "We have a new Minister."

"What? But we're ... um?" I look around. Everyone is wearing their longest Leonard Cohen face. How bad could it be? Hammond? Gove? "Come on, it can't be that—"

"It's Boris," says the SA. Then he buries his face in his hands. "Oh God."

"Buh-buh-buh ..." For a moment everything goes blurry. I check my ears: they seem to be working. "Huh. I could swear you said she'd appointed Boris—" not our Boris, the ops manager with the speech impediment—"Surely that can't be right ..."

Chris Womack gives me a funny, tight little smile. "You heard right, I'm afraid. The new Prime Minister is shuffling the deck and she's handed Boris Johnson the reins of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Meet the new boss, so not the old boss."

"Oh dear ..." God—and by "God" I mean "Cthulhu"—I think. "Well, fuck. What do we do now? What does this even mean?"

"It means, dear boy," says the SA, grinning like a skull, "that responsibility for MI5, GCHQ, and the Security Services goes to the FCO and thus—"

"But we're SOE!" I protest. "We're still part of the Ministry of Defense!"

"Probably not," Vikram contradicts me bluntly. "We were part of MoD, but according to the classified schedule D to the Civil Contingencies Act of 2003 we're the responsibility of whoever is running GCHQ. Which means—" He coughs horribly as his internal censor cuts in just before he says something unforgivable about the Hairpiece from Hades. "It's unclear, but we can't assume that our dual reporting stovepipe to MoD will protect us if the FCO Minister decides to take a personal interest."

"We're doomed," I say, then try the second word out a second time, for effect: "doooomed."

"No Bob," says the SA. "We have a CASE NIGHTMARE plan for this sort of thing. We're simply going to have to ensure he's briefed properly, then keep calm and carry on. Without any screaming and fainting in circles, I hope."

"Oh good!" I say brightly, standing up and sidling slowly towards the door. "Then there won't be a problem—I'll just go and double-check the supplies and fallout filters on the bunker down in Dunwich for when he gets through glad-handing Vladimir Putin and whoever briefs him can—"

But the SA hasn't finished. "Of course, as a secret agency we can't risk exposing the cover of covert assets or jeopardizing the plausible deniability of our external operatives." His smile vanishes. "Persephone, cover the door in case he runs. I'm sorry, Bob, but you're out of luck this time. As our most senior public-facing media relations officer it falls to you to brief our new Foreign Secretary on what it is that we do.

"You have a preliminary meeting tomorrow, at the FCO building, at nine o'clock sharp. And this is what you're going to tell him ..."




So my question for you is, what does Bob do next? And what does the Minister make of it all?

114 Comments

1:

Um, I suppose feeding the PM's fingernail clippings and other bodily fluids to a PHANG is right out? slowly creeping K syndrome?

2:

Alas, that's sort of like expecting the NSA to assassinate President Trump.

(I suspect they'd grit their teeth and suck it up, at least until after the impeachment hearings. Public service, obligation, and all ...)

3:

Clearly, the laundry is misreading the situation; Boris is not just a run of the mill idiot politician, but an agent of the unspeakable (because it truly is unpronounceable) #@$%@^@#%! Boris is far more clever than they give him credit. Look at how he orchestrated his way into responsibility for the Laundry (as PM, he wouldn't have that power).
Bob dutifully starts his briefing the way the Auditors laid it out for him - in powerpoint - but midway through his presentation he notices that Boris is slightly out of focus. At first, Bob thinks it is just nervous perspiration that has dripped into his eyes, so he wipes his eyes and continues. Bob glances away from the dreadful powerpoint slide (number 97, just short of the toxic limit), getting ready to finish the Auditors plan of psychically lobotomizing Boris, when Boris' face starts to melt. Bob wonders if the powerpoint was even more thaumaturgically powerful than he thought, and quickly hoped that his charm of protection would be strong enough. Without further preamble, Boris's true form is revealed. Realizing, a bit belatedly, that his very existence was in jeopardy, Bob exits hastily through the window. Looking back, he sees Boris back in his original human form looking thoughtfully at Bob through the broken window.

4:
which ends in 2015

Well, that's depressing.

5:

Look, the Laundry Files series is the story of the Lovecraftian Singularity; it has to come to some sort of defining moment, doesn't it? And it's really hard to write past a singularity.

6:

Reality is outpacing your ability to write fast enough
Admittedly if you had predicted BoJo as Foreign Secretary, it would have probably overwhelmed my wsod

7:

Boris studied classics at Oxford, right?

Perhaps there's some Roman stuff in the Laundry library that Bob could use to ease Boris into the situation.

8:

NOTE: There is a theory doing the rounds that Theresa May gave Boris the job to (a) shut him up (Cabinet responsibility means he can't shoot his mouth off out of school without getting in hot water) and (b) as a favour to Hillary Clinton to stop him becoming Der Trumpenfuhrer's running mate. Because he was born in the USA and has dual nationality (he said he was surrendering it a couple of years ago, but did he, really?) and thus would be eligible to run for VPOTUS.

He may be a malignant clown but he has a few more brain cells than anyone else Trump would likely pick.

Just sayin'.

9:

Sir, I commend your speed in reacting to real world events and penning said short story including Boris.

Unless that is you had this idea previously and allowed May to get wind of it .... in which case YOU ARE TO BLAME.

As for what you tell Boris, does it matter? Like Trump he's primarily about power the the public's perception of him. Just make sure he thinks the department has neither and he'll ignore it. Oh, and do the Yes Minister tactic and send him on a world glad-handing tour, starting with those you want to underestimate you (which is difficult, given the tory lack of talent). How about Brazil for the Olympics, China, South Korea, North Korea ....

10:

Scratch that theory, or at least part B. As well as being a US citizen, a Vice President must have been a US resident for at least 14 years.

11:

Huh! I didn't know about the residency requirement.

12:

One of his responsibilities is going to be: building the UK’s prosperity by increasing exports and investment, opening markets, ensuring access to resources, and promoting sustainable global growth

So he's going to have to fix the mess he put the country in, whether he wants to or not. He ran away from the PM position, but now he's not going to have a choice.

13:

The joke is too old, and too obvious, but it's in context; it's hard for the Republicans to claim their party isn't run by Lizard People when their probable VP is named Newt... (He's probably about second or third in line, behind Mike Pence and whatever General Jack D. Ripper's real name is, but the Republicans so *richly* deserve him.)

14:

Is Lovecraftian singularity the point when everything is collapsing into Cthulhu? :-)

15:

Maybe Theresa and Boris have taken heed of the outraged twitterati who claimed the Brexiteers were all running away. So, now they are not and are joining government to help push through the negotiations.
Everybody happy!

16:

BEFORE I read anything else (i.e. below the fold) ...
... from one of the wrong trouser-legs of time

Err, are you sure you, yourself are not trapped in a loop from the 1970's when the radio show ISRIRTA had: "Professor Prune & the Electric Time-Trousers"
*cough*
??

17:

1 & 2
Wrong person
Give Boris K syndrome.

Also, in what we laughingly call the "real" world, May is making some very interesting, Overton-window-moving-sharply-left noises.
Indicating a possible return the the conservatism of Heath, Macmillan or even Disreali, rather than that of Redwood & the loony right.
I suggest we wait & see.

Also, May has, very cleverly SPLIT the FCO brief, so Boris is dealing with outside-Europe.

18:

I will buy that one, Charlie.
Note also (as above) that the FCO brief is not what it was last week ....

19:

And, if (when?) he screws-up, he can sacked, permanently & sit on the back-benches for ever ....

20:

Not sure if it's a typo or a feature of the Laundryverse, but isn't MI5 under the control of the Home Secretary, rather than the Foreign Secretary?

I would assume that any briefing from the Laundry would involve a geas upon the incoming Foreign Secretary, which might then explain why most of them do go on to be quite dull functionaries rather than causing trouble. There may be historical files from the 60s (CASE NIGHTMARE BROWN) about how this interacts with pre-existing alcoholism as well as slew of reports from the 90s (CASE NIGHTMARE GINGER) where the leading minds of Mahogany Row attempt to understand the ramifications of an 'ethical foreign policy' upon Laundry activity.

I suspect the outcome is a surprisingly restrained Foreign Secretary, and a confused anecdote in his memoirs about how a large part of his first day in office was taken up by a civil servant attempting to invite him to a violin recital.

21:

Wrong trouser leg of time.. Pratchett reference I believe..

22:

The Security Service is under the control of the Home Secretary, but AIUI the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ come under the Foreign Secretary.

SOE had a different attitude to SIS - "Intelligence" is finding stuff out, largely watching and listening; "Executive" is killing it or breaking it (with extreme prejudice)...

23:

Trousers of time comes from Stephen Hawking, in his lovely weekend reader A Brief History Of Time.

24:

Which was 1988.

I'm sorry I'll read that again (ISIRTA) was talking about the Electric Time Trousers a good decade and a half earlier.

25:

SOE/SIS. One of the interesting changes since the turn of the millenium is that intelligence focus has shifted away from the Cold War long term view, back to a much shorter-term operational focus. The contrast beween Cold War era SIS and WWII era SOE is a good one.

The process has been recently described by Gordon Correra (2011), Stephen Grey (2015) and Richard Aldrich (2016).

I guess OGH's Laundry has just been ahead of the curve

Meanwhile in the frayed hem of another leg of the trousers, deep in a Laundry basement, an old-school archivist is still trying to work out what the Jesuits were up to in the C17.

26:

He could certainly start by asking Mo (or whoever is liaising with the INCORRIGIBLE team these days) whether the sigma-five superhuman calling themselves the Mandate is still safely confined.

27:

The elder gods are arguably foreign. Send him off to negotiate a trade deal with Cthulhu.

28:

To get back to CASE NIGHTMARE BLOND, perhaps the Eton Wall Game with its centuries old rules, and location, is actually an esoteric ritual for our future leaders. I can't work out if it a way to detect the True Form, or given that BoJo was Keeper of the College Wall at Eton, it is some form of glamour instead. Time for Bob to head down to Windsor to do some background research on the new boss.

Which does lead to the question of what went wrong in 1909 - the last time anyone scored a goal in the Wall Game.

29:

Well, while I agree that we have dropped into the third trouser leg of time, I don't think that BlowJob is anything like the picture that most people paint of him. Except for offending Erdogan (who badly needs it), none of his remarks have been anything like as false, malicious and offensive as many of the claimed-to-be-serious remarks of those in power in the West. Remember that he plays the buffoon, but acts deliberately (unlike Davey Boy, who was the reverse), and not even Cthulhu knows what he is planning in his twisty little mind. Provided that the job he is supposed to tackle and the path to feeding his ego are compatible, I cannot imagine a better (current) politician to get us out of this mess. May is surprising me and does seem to be purging the ministers who were most in need of it, but time will tell whether the replacements and thei policies are any better. And, of course, she may be putting all the fanatics in charge of Brexit so that she can purge them when they can't deliver.

Back to Bob. He should play it straight, but mention that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is such that the Laundry can only minimise and amelioriate disasters, not eliminate them, mentioning the events in The Annihilation Score (being things that would cut straight to his ego), and saying that it is critical to maintain the continuity of an experienced response force. BlowJob would realise that leaving someone else to carry the can for the inevitable disasters was a good idea ...

30:

You know, if I didn't actually live here I'd take great pleasure in
watching the last remnant of an imperial power downsize in influence,
living conditions, relevance, etc, an utterly unforced suicidal walk
off the cliff.

Living here, and watching what it will do, starting with our universities....

TNS really was a fillip, a pleasing pick me up. (And the
penultimate paragraph brings tears to my eyes, every time I reread it.)

So I remain hopeful that the threatened 2015 singularity isn't the end of your
polyglot sentients (humans, deep ones, etc). You've killed enough
alternate time lines; there must be some that survive, interestingly,
and I look forward to finding out how you do it.

I have less hope for Britain, Brexit, and WTF Boris. (Maybe his role
will be to sell a successful walk back from Br-ink? Yeah right...)

dpb @27 --- a lovely idea.

31:

As the power of case nightmare green rips the walls of reality apart exposing the dripping pustules of the monsters behind it across the country speakers come to life.

Boris Johnsons voice suddenly booms out:


"This summer will be a hugely exciting time for the UK! with a billion extradimensional visitors a day to our great country, our roads and public transport services are going to be empty, and journeys may be impossible!"

"Don't get caught out. Get online and plan your defenses!"

"So it's vital that businesses and Britons don't adopt a 'wait and see' approach and play their part in putting on a fantastic defense against the cosmics horrors!"

"Britons should not use Cthulhu as excuse to stay home skip work and open the fridge and hack off that bit of cheese!"

(Anyone who was in london during the Olympics can probably hear these in his voice.)

32:

Is Boris working for the Black Chamber...

33:

Foreign policy wasn't a priority with the previous administration - indeed, it seems to be a mental lacuna for the Conservative party - but this...

This is like appointing your horse as a Tribune and declaring the situation 'Stable'.

My guess is that May regards the Foreign Secretary as an inconsequential post where Boris can't do any harm.

The good part is that the FCO take the cream of Civil Service applicants and turn hem into skilful and subtle liars - negotiators, manipulators, dissemblers and diplomats - and they may well be capable of managing their minister. Housetraining him, so to speak.

Where this leaves Bob is: in conversation with the most formidable mandarin in all of Whitehall. And he absolutely must not give a hint of the exustence of a binding geas - that knowledge is dangerous in the hands of a First Division civil servant!

34:

"... Firstly, tell him we're aware of that ridiculous glamour he's wearing. He may want to appear to be a bumbling idiot to excuse his behaviour, but we can see right through it. Get your ward checked before the meeting, just in case."

Checked? I was going to sign out an uprated ward!

"Secondly, stress to him that we're very near the end of the world. A number of CASE NIGHTMARE codes are surprisingly close to having everything needed to start rolling. But we must stress this to him: THEY DO NOT NEED ANY HELP. It's not a race. There are no winners. And if he wanted to be remembered in the history books, well, tough. We're here to try and stop it, but we can probably only delay it - we're also here to try and save as many people as possible if we find a way out."

I take that moment to ask an obvious question. "Any idea how he'll react to the possibility of there being no history books to be in? Is vanity a big part of his motivation?"

Vikram leans forward and slides a file over to me. "His profile. Vanity is a huge motivator - he's likely to see the end of the world as an opportunity to be loved."

"Oh God", I reply, "Just what we need whilst we're trying to stay low and save humanity - someone striding around looking for attention..."

"Indeed. And he probably thinks he knows something about magic, so don't bring it up. You know how it is - standard Public School cheap glamour, but the Dunning-Kruger effect means he's an expert in his own mind. So stay away from that. Keep it to the usual speech."

I nod. That's very much the truth - most British public schools don't produce successful people through their education, they just take the parent's money and throw glamours on the children. In adulthood, the combination of glamours, social connections and parental money means that you'd have to be exceptionally dim to manage to fail...
I take a deep breath.

"So, to summarise - we know who he is, and could strip the glamour. We don't need his help, except to smooth over any repercussions of British agents who are involved in overseas incidents. Things are bad, but this goes beyond foreign policy - it affects the whole of reality. OK - I can deliver that politely. I just have one problem..."

Persephone gives a sympathetic glance. "Yes, I can see that. We'll just have to take the risk."

"What's the problem?" asks a puzzled Chris.

"He's been Mayor of London. He's likely to have been told at least some of this before. So what makes anyone here think this will make the slightest bit of difference to how he behaves?"

Silence, and furtive downwards glances.

"Meeting adjourned" says Persephone, standing up.

35:

All that old spy v spy stuff was mostly a waste of time. What wasn't, and isn't is industrial espionage. And if you are a notable British company you can hire MI6/SIS to do that for you.

36:

"... I'd take great pleasure in watching the last remnant of an imperial power downsize in influence, living conditions, relevance, etc, an utterly unforced suicidal walk off the cliff."

Please let it be so! No more US poodle, no more pointless wars, no more "punching above our weight", no more PMs trying to be "world statesmen", no more "setting an example for the world", and the defining factor when it comes to wealth measurement being GDP per head, and not total GDP.

37:

"How did the briefing go Bob?"

"Oh fine! Boris is kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

"..."

"Wait stop! It's a joke! Haven't any of you seen the Manchurian Cand..." [Recording cuts out here]

38:

Hmmm... no mention of the strangely-shaped parasites currently masquerading as the hair of both Boris and that suddenly significant figure from the other side of the pond, Donald Trump?

BTW, back in the (apparently) real world, Boris has been spraying insults around much more widely than just on Erdogan. Just in the course of Brexit, he compared the EU project to Hitler's thousand-year Reich, and then "explained" Obama's advocacy for Remain by saying that his Kenyan ancestry biased him against Britain. He's also lobbed personal insults at both candidates in the current US Presidential election -- though he has recently found kind things to say about Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. See

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/boris-johnsons-foreign-strained-relations/491237/

for details...

39:

"Well, this is jolly frightening stuff! Puts the whole Europe shambles into perspective, doesn't it?"

I ignore his subtle plea for absolution, but note that each time he mentioned the topic today my ward got rather uncomfortably warm.

"Well, yes Minister. There is no human power on earth that can compare to any of the CASE NIGHTMARE scenarios. Even the least of them - like BLUE HADES taking a dislike to us - would probably be far worse than the cold war was ever projected to be."

"Hmmm. And these BLUE HADES lot - we meet them? Anything I need to do there?"

Oh God. Please no. There are so many things we'd have to explain to BLUE HADES before that could even begin to approach being a safe event. Although that said, maybe it would help us understand their sense of humour - you never know what they'll find funny...

"BLUE HADES keep themselves to themselves, mostly. We have agreements over what we need for North Sea oil, and we meet occasionally to keep things polite and pass on any relevant news. I could arrange for you to be at such a meeting, but you'd find it fairly dull. Everyone will be covered by a glamour anyway, so it would all appear normal."

"Ah, yes - the glamour thing. That's the old Eton Advantage, yes? Been very useful to me, you know. You say that they can be removed?"

"I'm afraid so. We recommend caution there - all the big powers have the expertise and resources to do it, and wouldn't hesitate to do so as a warning to us."

"And you can't protect me from that?"

"Not permanently, no. We can put the glamour back on, offer technical assistance - but stopping them from stripping it off you would be difficult. Like all international relations, we rely on a quid pro quo that usually prevents anyone from taking pot-shots - whether it be with guns or by stripping glamours from leaders. We have to rely on that."

"Quite. I see where you're going. I don't like it at all, but thank you for the warning - best to tip-toe around the enemies when abroad, and check the Advantage daily. Top tip there!"

"One more thing about your... Advantage."

"Oh?"

"Well, as you may already have noticed when you were Mayor, it's rather specially tuned. Works well for one culture, but not for others. That's normal with most political glamours - think of George W Bush, who could do no wrong in his heartland but was thought of less kindly abroad."

"Ah, I see. Yes. That does rather explain a lot, now that you mention it. Yes, yes, I see far further after this conversation. I really must thank you, Mister Howard. This has been a most... terrifying meeting. But if I see further, then it's because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants like yourself! Really very decent of you to be so open..."

My ward is, I think, going to burn me soon if he doesn't stop this...

"Well, is there anything else Minister?"

"Oh no, I think we're fine. To recap - magic's real, we're insignificant, everything wants to eat our souls, we're heading towards any one of a number of the End of the Worlds, my Advantage won't work elsewhere and foreign powers can strip me of it anyway." Boris pauses for a moment, slumped with a glint of horror in his eyes. Then, suddenly, he smiles. "But I might get to meet a mermaid! A real, live mermaid!"

I say nothing, the paralysed as the horror of it all strikes me.

Afterwards, walking down the corridor, I make a phone call. "Persephone? Bob. Well, good and bad... I had a real stroke of genius on the international relations front. He thinks that the Russians can take his glamour off him, and he's terrified by it. And he accepts he can't help us on the day-to-day work. Doesn't seem to want anything to do with it. But we do have one problem..."

I stop walking, steeling myself for this particular revelation.

"I think he wants to seduce a mermaid."

40:

But were the electric time trousers about alternative presents, or were they just a time machine? If the latter, then it's just a coincidence of wording and what we're talking about here is what Hawking talked about, and not what ISIRTA was.

41:

Scoring is highly unusual in the Eton Wall Game. The best way to analyse a score is to analyse how one side might corrupt the other side into allowing a score to take place.

As one of the easier methods would involve affecting the other side mentally (as opposed to financially with massed bribery), a surreptitious search for Elder incursions and fall-out from such an event would be a very wise move indeed.

As the majority of the Bullingdon Club previously attended Eton, and as the Bullingdon Club is primarily a dining club and is noted for strange behaviour, it too needs to be checked to see if it is a hotbed of Elder incursion and contamination.

42:

oh, I like it.

Low-key glamours (attained one way or another) being routinely used by politicians who don't really realize what they really are.

Very nice.

43:

FFS, you already had May and Hammond. Couldn't you have gotten Clarkson rather than Boris?

44:

If the Black Chamber has potential hooks in Boris because of his US nationality (if he hasn't in fact renounced it) then it would surely be time for a DSS to have a quiet word with the new PM about reconsidering her epic troll of the world's diplomats.

IRL, if Boris is still a US national, then I don't think this is a situation which will persist for very much longer:

Certain policy level positions are inherently incompatible with retaining U.S. nationality. Cases of this nature generally involve heads of state or foreign ministers.

45:

I rather like the concept of paracitical hairpieces and it really explains quite a lot of Boris's and The Donald's behavior, I think. On the other hand, wprking Clarkson in with May and Hammond has serious potential...

46:

Well, on this side of the pond, there are those persistent rumors that the assassinations of the Kennedy Brothers were the result of them threatening profitable ties between the CIA and the mob.

Now, I'm not particularly a conspiracy theorist, and I think stochastic terrorism is at least as good an explanation. Still, the way Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby were both rubbed out smacks of some sort of cover up.

Just saying.

On the other hand, making BoJo a superhero gives him six months of incredible power, and that could be seen as a good thing...

47:

No, the Lovecraftian Singularity is when a highly racist and northeasterner who admires fascists* becomes the most powerful single entity on Earth.

He might even resemble a dorito with a combover. Coincidentally, of course.

Speaking of which, Charlie, can I suggest you run the Laundry timeline through November 2016, just in case?

*go reread HPL's description of Yithian society if you disbelieve.

48:

Oh, I was wondering if there was a Wallace & Gromit episode on physics that I had missed.

49:

BoJos' Wikipedia entry ... recurring theme: self-aggrandizing liar, often holds and works two opposing views at the same time, trouble keeping his fly zipped, unreliable re: working to timelines/due dates, etc.

His family, academic and work background though should make him an ideal candidate for understanding and working with/spinning myths so The Laundry as a gov't dept is really not all farfetched. Mythic roles/positions usually include some costume/talisman; noticed that BoJo seemed to enjoy dress-up while Lord Mayor.

The key issue Bob has to sort out is how opportunistic/showman BoJo is likeliest to spin facts to his personal advantage, i.e., by showing everyone that matters/of consequence how unique and original a thinker he is. Based on his EU coverage while a reporter plus his Brexit stance, if internal and foreign counterparts argue for caution, BoJo will push for advancing Nightmare Green along.

Don't recall whether human-Blue Hades sex is terminal to either or both partners. If yes, then Bob should mention this ... casually. Could be interesting.

Bob also needs to consider what the new PM might have been thinking in appointing BoJo to this post. Indeed, PM May (one of the longest serving Home Secretaries) is described as having a low-key personal/political style ... basically, BoJo's opposite. Next, noting that PM May's Cabinet is pretty gender balanced, BoJo's mermaid sex fantasy might be used as either a carrot or stick depending on what the human-mermaid post-coital snack of choice is.

50:

Actually Pterry AS WELL ... I suspect Pterry was back-referring to "ISIRTA" which would have been characteristic of him ...

51:

Did you HAVE to do that ... I spent a good 5 minutes or more rehashing all the old jokes & recalling many I'd forgotten ....

52:

In the politest possible way both of you can fuck right off, OK?

In the "real" world BoJo has just been handed a downsized job with a big title, which is TICKING (rather like the crocodile inPeter Pan)
May will sack him without a moment's hesitation if he screws it ... perfect.

53:
Don't recall whether human-Blue Hades sex is terminal to either or both partners. If yes, then Bob should mention this ... casually. Could be interesting.
IIRC there are no effects beyond the usual; Ramona was a special case via a Black Chamber-applied demon that ate her partners' souls.
54:

If I was running this as a competition and there was a prize, you'd have won with that one.

55:

I think Nick, in post 20, hit it on the head. Bob doesn't just give him a briefing, he probably has to give him certain codes and protections. Now, if the Laundry decides to "improve" those protections for the Laundry itself.

On the RW side, and though I haven't followed him that closely from this side of the Pond, it seems to me that he'd be someone to delegate all the dull, boring, and tedious work to those beneath him, and he's unlikely to look into the Laundry if it's presented as a security group for low probability issues. Remember, during WWII, the UK and, I think, the US, used astrologers, not to tell them what to do, but to tell them what *Hitler's* astrologers were probably telling him. Presented *that* way...

Oh, and, esp. after reading Marinna Hyde's column in the Guardian today (I *adore* her when she gets going), I'm thinking this is like making Dan Quayle US Sec'y of State.

Note that in the late 80's, the Atlantic? the Nat'l Review? had a cover of a world map, with countries colored to indicate "ok for VP Dan Quayle to go to, not ok to send him, and we're in deep doo-doo if he goes there.

And on the third hand, there *is* another answer for all of them. Happy Bastille Day, y'all.

mark

56:

Wanted to see what historical British pol BoJo most resembles and found ...

http://spartacus-educational.com/PRliverpool.htm


As per Wikipedia, 'Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool KG PC (7 June 1770 – 4 December 1828) was an English politician and both the youngest and longest-serving Prime Minister (1812–27) since 1806.'

This PM, governing an empire steeped in wars and revolutions, decided to legislate Britain out of the clutches of revolutionaries i.e., anyone who didn't agree with him. (Pretty similar to post-9/11 stuff.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cato_Street_Conspiracy

'The British government used the incident to justify the Six Acts that had been passed two months prior.'

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Acts

'In Britain, following the Peterloo Massacre of August 16, 1819, the British government acted to prevent any future disturbances by the introduction of new legislation, the so-called Six Acts which labelled any meeting for radical reform as "an overt act of treasonable conspiracy"... The acts were aimed at gagging radical newspapers, preventing large meetings, and reducing what the government saw as the possibility of armed insurrection. The acts were introduced by prime minister Lord Liverpool as part of his repressive approach on Britain, thus to prevent a revolution.'


57:

To be honest I think I have rarely seen a more transparent attempt at setting up a huge distraction so that noone notices what is actually being done. Same principle as a Las Vegas magic trick performer (I'm not using the word magician on purpose here) hiring a scantily clad assistant... Except that instead of distracting people with boobs Boris distracts people by causing scandals.

The question is what does May want to distract people from? Who is pulling the real strings? And how long will it take for the Laundry to figure the real game here?

58:

Surely Boris Johnson has already made an appearance in the series, in Annihilation Score. You'd think he'd have a certain amount of gratitude to the Laundry and Dr. O'Brien for his rescue . . .

59:

You'd think, yes. Not a species notably concerned with the decencies, your tories.

60:

Hmm, would Boris being a Cultist act as a subversion of the oath of office?

You know how it is, get in a pissing match, your rival has sex with a pig, so you need to out do him. Suddenly you're drinking blood, doing ritual incantations, and some unthinkable horror from beyond is now a neural parasite manifesting as a blonde toupee.

61:

As I made my way to the Office, something started to occur to me. It couldn't be fatal, but I could actually get away with a suitably-finessed LARTing...

On being invited to take a seat, I reached out and gripped finely, hoping it was indeed a hair that I plucked and ran in front of OFCUT. "Ah, yes, I didn't think it'd be the pig's mouth".

As I watch the look of bewildered surprise cross his face, I realise there's one cause too many. Nope, that wasn't hair. And he wasn't there, though he's heard the truth second-hand. Worse, he doesn't know what it is growing on his head.

At least explaining the CASE NIGHTMARE RAINBOW will be easy by comparison...

62:

Remember, during WWII, the UK and, I think, the US, used astrologers, not to tell them what to do, but to tell them what *Hitler's* astrologers were probably telling him.

This device was used in a thriller about the assassination of Gandhi. The cops trying to prevent it go ask an astrologer for the murder date on the grounds that the killer will be doing that.

Lovely exchange:
"What is the most auspicious day for the assassination of a holy man?"
"There is NO auspicious day for the assassination of a holy man!!"

Rather like the way Western intelligence agencies were on special high alert on the anniversaries of Black September, namely Sept. 11 (and March 11) – er, weren't they?

63:

Question: Is the Laundry supposed to listen to someone who wears such ill fitting skin?

64:

Johnson was at Balliol. Graduates of that college are supposed to exude an air of 'effortless superiority'. He has the effortless part down cold.

65:

So was Peter De'ath Bredon Wimsey

66:

From: Occupational Health

Subject: Volunteer trials wanted

Dear Colleagues,

Our team of researchers are investigating possible links between Krantzberg syndrome and a thaumatically contaminated diet. Their hypothesis is that by eating and drinking in an occult environment, our staff may be accidentally ingesting microscopic extra-dimensional entities. The serious effects on health are obvious.
The team would like to examine the digestive tracts and contents of a number of Laundry employees, looking for any anomalies, unexplained symptoms and contaminates. This will be done by fortnightly enemas, and diet diaries recording what was consumed, when and where.

Volunteers for this Cthulonic irrigation program can apply to the Occupational health department.

67:

And it's really hard to write past a singularity.

The only Lovecraftian singularity I've seen written through is Children of an Elder God, although it's reasonable to view At the Mountains of Cuteness as being set after a Lovecraftian singularity... It's a fascinating idea but by definition very hard to do plausibly.

68:

(Warning: I know many of the "players" in this little drama, personally: Boris, Dave, Petsy, ..)

Excerpt from "Boris Johnson's Diary (age 52 and a bit)"

Thursday 14 July. Met the senior FCO people today. Most seemed reliable and competent, although there was an oiky little bloke from one of the "James Bond" parts of the organisation who was hard to shake off. Went to the French Embassy and was quite rightly boo-ed for my singing; the day ended on a downer with the news from Nice.

Bob, however, saw things differently.

Given the new Foreign Secretary's notorious inattention to detail, and known weaknesses (basically: money, women, and personal ambition, in reverse order) Mahogany Row's plan was to entrap, distract and bind. Bob's mission was to entice Bonking Boris, as he'd been known since his college days, on trip to Southwold to visit "our exotic weapons testing facility at Dunwich". The SA's plan had then been to invite representatives of BLUE HADES to do the business on the blonde bombshell, it being deemed by far the lesser of all possible evils to have the new boss of FCO under the control of an alien intelligence.

Unfortunately, and not for the first time, Mahogany Row had made a catastrophic misjudgement in selecting Bob for this task. Ideally, Persephone would have been used: young, sophisticated, strikingly beautiful, and capable of deploying the required flirtacious "come hither" look. Alternatively, Agent Candide -- suitably booted and suited for the occasion -- might plausibly pass for Petronella "Petsy" Wyatt, Boris' on-off-on long-term mistress. Even the biker-chick chic of "The Haskell Hacker from Hell", Jez Wilson would get more attention from the Foreign Secretary than Mr "working-class, chip-on-both-shoulders" Howard.

Things got off to a bad start, when Bob tried to tag along with the Third Secretary to the FCO, and get a word in edgeways. It was clear to all that Bob was socially out of his league amongst the senior civil service players who were introducing Boris to the staff. Yet still Bob persisted with the SA's plan. Eventually, in a suitably darkened and protected room, the representatives from SIS and GCHQ are presented to their new master, and Bob once more attempts to implement the plan, to no avail. Despite the smile, and the invitation implicit in: "What do you chaps actually do these days?" Bob hits a brick wall.

The situation only stabilises when on Friday 15 July, Persephone is "accidentally" knocked down by Mr Johnson's chauffeur-driven limousine on his way home. One thing leads to another, but by this time our heroic Mr Howard is well and truly out of the loop.

...

69:

Greg - we will see how much she successfully moves the Overton window, or whether it will disappear as quickly as The Big Society.

I was listening to a Radio 4 program on Brexit voters which was looking at psychology - and challenging the idea there was a class / income correlation. The strongest statistical correlation was with support for the death penalty, and this explained the shared support between Tory right and some Labour communities.

I'm not going to say working class communities - I live in a Labour supporting working class community. They just happen to be mostly of Turkish, Jamaican and Bangladeshi origin.

Anyway it struck me that Theresa May has listened exactly to this research, and to Dan Jarvis report on where Labour failed in the last election (where UKIP has been gaining) and is putting the Tories square in that space.

Left-ish moves on state intervention in the economy, but rightwards on social conservatism.

Definite sense that the compass is moving away from the liberal / libertarian view

70:

I disagree on some detail, but think you are broadly correct, but ... but (etc)
Moving away from neo-liberal certainly, not so sure about losing "libertarian" given D Davies' promotion.
As for "social conservatism", we'll have to wait & see, along with much else.

71:

Also: THIS
( "New Cabinet features the lowest proportion of fee-paying ministers since Labour PM Clement Attlee in 1945" )

72:

Simple solution - S3 OSA.

That will put enough hooks in him for the Black Assizes to keep his flamboyance in check.

73:

What happens next...

Has a panic attack, runs for the window and, forgetting it is security glass, bounces off. When he comes to, the plan is set. Introduce himself as the public relations officer and engages Boris on the new idea for efficiency by installing zip wires between buildings.

74:

Bob couldn't help but notice the close parallel between the public statements and behaviour of the new minister over the years and the advancement of Krantzberg Syndrome...

75:

I love finding out more about Hawking. This is great, he was likely a fan!

76:

I agree. Let Ramona get her hooks into him, and when they're naked take off her glamour and get some pictures! (Or maybe there's a camera that won't see her glamour.)

Then Bob comes in wearing a black suit, (including black shirt and tie) and lets the corpses shine in his eyes, and he gives Boris The Briefing. The REALLY SCARY, super-special briefing all important world leaders get from The Men In Black...

If worse comes to worse they can take him to Cassie's dimension of origin and let Boris look out the windows of the bunker.

77:

Maybe the Laundry is pulling the strings.

An organization like the Laundry would have paranormal influence over all important politicians, of one kind or another, or they wouldn't be important for long. They would cultivate this influence, and promote the rise of those they had under control. If something unexpected happened, and someone got into power without being vetted, there would be enough other politicians available to be deployed to counterbalance. Unless one of the "free" politicians started lining up others like themselves for positions of power, answering planning and organization with planning and organization.

78:

By Ghu, I think I've just realized how BoJo will be referred to in the Laundry cases: ilearsid. I mean, he *is* about to throw what Disraeli helped build into a smuggler's turn....

mark

79:

"maybe the Laundry is pulling the strings..."

Not according to the Spycatcher rule, they're not. And they take that seriously. (See The Apocalypse Codex.)

(Or does that rule not exist in this alternate Laundry? I assumed it does, otherwise what does what doesn't???)

80:

The Wilson Doctrine was officially abolished either last year or earlier this year, because NSA/GCHQ comms snooping made it impossible to enforce.

The current Laundry fiction is set in an alternative 2014 so presumably it's still kinda-sorta in effect, at least officially, but bendy and melty around the edges.

81:

With all due sympathy for my friends and colleagues in the U.K., Bojo is an embarrassment but not a disaster. Trump, on the other hand, truly merits the description Case Nightmare Blonde.

So really, Bob's battle here will be to persuade the Powers That Be (Tim et al.) where the real threat lies.

On the other hand, I can see a plausible plot in which the Laundry leans the full weight of its Powers upon Bojo, Trump brings about the real catastrophe while nobody is looking, and Cthulhu et al. get seriously bent out of shape about having some dumbass mortal steal their thunder. Cue Case Revenge of the Nightmare Green... Case Nightmare Green Strikes Back... Case Return of the Nightmare Green...

82:

Series ends in 2015? Damn; I would have loved to see the Laundry-World spin on the current Pokemon Go craze. :-)

83:

Hm. I wonder what sort of conductive designs might have been sewn into the Bullingdon Club's fancy tuxedos.

84:

"Well, you see, Boris, it turns out that the Galli weren't just castrating themselves as an elaborate party trick..."

85:

Series ends in 2015?

Not exactly: the current planned story arc ends in 2015. The current story arc being the Lovecraftian Singularity.

There may be other books; prequels, sequels, side-quests. Who knows?

All I know is, I need to have an end in sight for the story of Bob vs. Lovecraft, lest I despair. Have you guys got any idea how hard it is to plan and write roughly two million words over a twenty year period?

86:

10 000 words ( plus the odd equation ) in two months (ish) was quite enough for my MSc dissertation, thank you very much .....

87:

Charlie writes:

All I know is, I need to have an end in sight for the story of Bob vs. Lovecraft, lest I despair. Have you guys got any idea how hard it is to plan and write roughly two million words over a twenty year period?

You are Sir Arthur Conan Stross and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is your Reichenbach Falls moment; I hereby claim my five pounds.

88:

Charlie made a joke about CASE NIGHTMARE GAMMA RAY on twitter a few days ago.

Ever since I've had the idea in my head of CASE NIGHTMARE CERENKOV BLUE; when alien followers of the Elder Gods zip in with their supernatural FTL ships, powered by entire solar systems worth of bound souls. Maybe the 'ship' is a Dyson sphere that pops into existence around our system, but I suspect that might pretty instantly destroy anything within it.

Frankly, I'm not sure how to make it an original Alien Invasion story, seems like most ideas have been done.

89:

Boris gets debriefed on the internals of the Laundry, a process which gets him the standard geas. Oh, did I say standard? Sorry, this one has two mods. One, Boris is unable to do anything with respect to eliminating the Laundry or even cutting the budget. That doesn't stop him from being a general loose cannon with respect to things like pissing of Ramona's masters. So they also apply a sort of spam filter that causes him pain when he shoots his mouth off on such topics. Sadly for him, the filtering software has been heavily customized by Pinky and the Brain, whose work generates a lot of false positives.

90:

First, Bob has to be brought up to speed on the secret provisions contained in the Rome, Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. Then he has to brief Boris that the consequences of the UK leaving the umbrella provided by these treaties are going to be bad.

“Boris, did you ever wonder about the monthly Strasbourg sitting? Did you not have questions about some of the odd parliamentary procedures enacted by MEPs? These are rituals designed to obfuscate human activity in Europe from the baleful gazes of nightmare minds. In leaving the EU, the UK leaves the relative safety of this umbrella, and now we need a new one, double-quick.”

Ordinarily the Laundry would never have allowed things to get this far. But the principle architect of this umbrella, Angelton, was taken out of play at a really bad moment. Over a period of 60 odd years, Angelton had managed insert a number of very significant rituals into the operation of the EU itself, and included a number of secret clauses into the texts of the documents.

Since Angelton's death a B team had been attempting a desperate rear-guard operation to prevent the referendum going ahead, or worst case, ensuring a Remain result. They thought the whole thing was accidental negligence, and failed to spot the malign intellect behind a sequence of chess moves that all but ensured a “Leave” result. Out-matched, and out-played, the Laundry now has to assemble an A team and play catch up.

“And Boris, one more thing. About treaties that created NATO…”

91:

Frankly, I'm not sure how to make it an original Alien Invasion story, seems like most ideas have been done.

That's a very interesting topic - but we're not even to post #100 yet. Let's leave that question fallow for a while.

92:

James Padraic noted: "Frankly, I'm not sure how to make it an original Alien Invasion story, seems like most ideas have been done."

Scene: The bottom of the ocean, anywhere in the world, where a combination of global warming and eutrophication have eradicated almost all life forms except cephalopods and a few muck-feeding organisms. Think Florida, only nastier.

Admiral Arciteuthidae: "These invaders have almost destroyed our planet, but close only counts in tactical nuclear weapons. We still have hope. We will outlast them. Projections show that we cephalopods will actuall benefit from the changes they've wrought."

General Octopodinae clicks his beak in disgust: "There's no need to outlast them. My general staff agree that it's time."

Admiral Arciteuthidae: "Surely you don't mean..."

General Octopodinae: "I do: Case Nightmare Green."

Admiral Arciteuthidae (blanches): "They may be alien invaders, but..."

General Octopodinae: "No mercy. None. We spent years trying to negotiate peaceful coexistence... our best minds went to meet them and open communication. And what did they do? Sushi! CNG's too good for them."

Scene: A tiny, computer-cluttered room in London...

93:

Meta comment; there is some excellent writing here in the comments;
OGH should consider doing more contests.
Watching closely with deep trepidation from the U.S.; it's a welcome distraction from our own (GOP) clown show.
(e.g yesterday the original Trump/Pence logo lasted only hours before it was mocked into un-being. Samantha Bee's version was pithiest (perhaps not family-safe): Breaking the mattress of America.)


94:

Think Florida, only nastier.

I try not to, I'm originally from Jacksonvile, but I assume you're referring to the nasty algae they're having now.

...close only counts in tactical nuclear weapons.

I usually hear that as "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades".

95:

That animation of the logo is excellent, though I think it could use some sound effect. Grunting to the rhythm perhaps.

96:

The late Frank Zappa has you covered, "Dinah Moe Humm".

97:

Does it mean I'm messed up if I wake up wondering what Bob Howard would do if, after briefing His Blondness, he wakes up in horror from an alien dream (not the ones he's used to--something else), to find strands of long, blond, unbreakable hair starting poking through his normal brown?

In horror, he feels BoJo start to grow on him.

98:

James: Yes, I meant the eutrophic slime from Hell that is blanketing Lake Okeechobee and part of the coast. Should have made that clear... not Florida as a whole.

99:

Organizations NEVER mislead employees about what's really going on. The Spycatcher rule is for real, man.

100:

I've just noticed a lovely twist for CASE NIGHTMARE BLOND. Boris is not sworn of the Council. [For non-UK readers. When you see the title "Rt Hon" for a British politician, this means they are members of the Privy Council. Historically or archaically the Privy Council was the Sovereign's advisers. Today it is used for for senior politicians in Government and Opposition, and confidential briefings on sensitive topics are given to Opposition Shadow Cabinet members "on the usual terms"). There were a set of appointments of new ministers to the Privy Council last week, and Boris wasn't one of them: he isn't listed as PC on House of Commons web-site. A Foreign Secretary who isn't a Privy Councillor - I'm going to have to check to books to see if that one really is unprecedented.

So clearly, Mahogany Row has decided that the incident with the Star Vampire at Annabelle's was just too much and he must never know about the glamour that has been cast over Harvey Nicks.

101:

I can imagine the combination of his physical thrashing about, verbal bumblings and Laitn quotes being parsed as invocations by some unspeakable entity.

CODE: COME WHAT MAY

102:

A flick through the lists on Wikipedia indicate Boris may well be the first Foreign Secretary who wasn't already a member of the Privy Council since Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. I'm not sure it would be possible to perform the job without being one. I'd guess last week's list might have been Cameron's farewell. I wouldn't be surprised if there is another this week - some other recent Cabinet members seem to have a formal PC appointment date up to a week after the date of taking the political role (e.g. Ed Davey & Amber Rudd).

103:

IF there rally was a non-nuclear-war ultimate emergency, the PC is how Britain would be governed.
The mechanism is called: "An order in Council" - or rather a set of instructions of the same, day after day .......
Said system can run for up to 12 months until a parliament meets to vote funds.

But, the monarch really, really doesn't want to go there, unless absolutely pushed, simply because government is complicated enough already, & there are standard procedures for most things.

104:

Regarding Latin quotes, there is

'Quod licet Jovis non licet bovis'
(What is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to an ox)

that is really asking to be updated and applied to Boris...

105:

Re Charlie's cmt 87: um, er... the novel I'm trying to flog, I added one flashback of a major character, and then, a couple of weeks ago, decided to add one for the other major character. Not fluff - the novel was at 65k words, and so hard to sell.

I'd made a point that I am NOT writing military SF (screw you, Jerry and Vox Turd). I started on this, and this was going to be perhaps the hardest to write, because this person sees the full destruction of his city (alien invasion of an interstellar colony, 400 years out). It was *incredibly* slow going. Then I realized, last Wed or so, that I *had* been trying to write it as military (he was in the called-up reserves), and realized that was *wrong*, and redid it all from his viewpoint, or following him. Wrote about 3k words in a day or two.

Then, Friday, in addition to getting most of my work done at work, and hours in front of my workstation at home... I wrote over 8k words in one day. I think it only needs polishing, and some descriptive verbiage on the characters themselves.

This is serious spookiness.

mark

106:

"Quod licet Jorris non licet Boris"?

Who the fuck is Jorris and why does he get away with even more than BoJo?

107:

Pro tip: should have got a Greek scholar.

108:

Joris was a chap whose horse died.

109:

Yup, and just remember that villages in Germany are only 2kT apart (old war planner joke).

110:

Since The Rt Hon Spectacles-on-a-gurn is available, the obvious modification would be Govis/Boris. Or even Govis/Bovis, to coin a new CNB nickname.

111:

On a related (to the Laundry Files) note, some recenty unearthed cold war material that might be of interest: http://www.britac.ac.uk/news/cold-war-archival-documents-published-first-time

112:

Alas, the problem has been superseded by Case Nightmare Orange.

113:

Sorry, the idea that the FCO has the cream of the Civil Service struck me as unlikely. I think its more likely to be where they put those who appear outwardly intelligent, in a PPE sort of way, but who would be incapable of wiring a plug and generally out of their depth on a wet pavement. The FCO makes them feel important, lets them strut at Embassy functions and genrally diverts attention from those who do stuff, like the Laundry, MOD and the MCC.

My guess is, Bob sits down, straightens his Wily Cayote tie, listens with half an ear to assorted mangled quotes from Cicero, ignores the deliberate back brushing of the hair and, after seeing the green coiling horrors behind the eyes, collapses the wavefunction of the entropy sucking parasite from beyond space-time that is Boris: his overheated class 6 ward burning out and leaving little more than a slight smell of charred paternity suits and an Eton mess on the Wilton carpet.

114:

Meanwhile
( Cover of current copy of "the Eye" - one of the best. )

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