Chapter 4 : The Journey Begins
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The large, sprawling estate rose from the gentle rolling hills of the English countryside. In a simpler time, it would have represented the epitome of tranquil, pastoral bliss. But in wartime, Bletchley Park had taken on a new role; it was now the headquarters of the Government Code and Cipher School, a very secretive organization dedicated to intercepting and encrypting the most highly sensitive communications. Perfectly situated between Oxford and Cambridge, many of the top academic minds in the country had been recruited to work there.
Inside the busy house, Daisy Johnson was in the middle of another long day’s work. The daughter of a professor, Daisy was a very bright young scholar whose career opportunities were often very much limited by her gender. When Bletchley Park became operational, the tight knit circle of her father’s colleagues, who made up a good portion of the staff, recruited Daisy for an administrative position.
In between radio transmissions, she took the chance to catch up with her coworker Lydia Baldwin, with whom she had grown quite close.
“So have you been hearing these rumours?” asked Lydia. The past few days had seen a series of high ranking officers appearing at Bletchley Park for hastily arranged closed door meetings. Nobody knew what the purpose of these meetings was, but speculation was rampant.
Daisy looked around to make sure nobody else was listening. “I heard the top floor is involved.” The top floor of Bletchley Park was occupied by MI6, the Secret intelligence Service. Nobody was ever sure what exactly they did up there, and they were certainly not encouraged to ask questions.
“Secret spy stuff, I like the sound of that, we could use some more excitement here,” said Lydia.
Daisy laughed, “Encrypting secret documents isn’t exciting enough for you?”
“Well maybe they’re forming some sort of elite special operations unit, and then we can finally have some fit young men around here,” said Lydia.
“As opposed to the fit young men who are already here?” said Daisy as they both laughed. The fact that they were usually surrounded by older professor types was a constant source of humour between them.
“Well it just doesn’t seem right, two single girls like us all cooped up in this country town while all the eligible men are out there killing each other,” said Lydia.
Daisy laughed and shook her head at Lydia’s outlandish statement. She wasn’t nearly as mad for boys as Lydia, and was usually perfectly content to watch in amusement at her friend’s antics.
The two ladies got up and ran to the window at the sound of an approaching car, wondering who the next mysteriously important visitor would be. As they looked on, a black Rolls-Royce pulled up in front of the estate, and a staff officer parked the car and walked out followed by a much older man. The man was wearing a tweed sport coat and had long grey hair and a grey beard. Daisy surmised that he would fit in perfectly in the academic environments she was used to, but would look totally out of place on a military installation.
“Have fun with this one,” said Lydia, as Daisy walked to the door to sign in the guests. The staff officer showed his identification while the other man signed in as a guest without saying a word. Daisy couldn’t help but notice something strangely unique in his blue eyes. As they walked away and up the stairwell, she looked down at the name in the log book, “Albus Dumbledore.”
Dumbledore continued climbing to the top floor of the estate, where he was greeted by the head of MI6.
“You must be Albus Dumbledore, I’m Stewart Menzies, but you can call me ‘C’,” he said, referring to the traditional moniker that came with his position.
Dumbledore shook his hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir.”
After much bureaucratic wrangling between various government offices, it had finally been determined that Bletchley Park would be the ideal place to run Dumbledore’s operation from. It was a place that was truly quiet, away from the congestion and prying eyes of the city.
“Mr. Churchill sends his regards and wishes you luck,” Menzies then turned to the man sitting next to him, “This is Alastair Thorndale, and he’s going to be your case officer, so be sure to direct all your complaints his way.”
“It’s an honor to meet you Sir,” said Thorndale as he shook Dumbledore’s hand. “You may have met Miss Johnson and Miss Baldwin downstairs, they will be handling your communications, and I’ll be handling everything else.”
“I appreciate the support,” said Dumbledore, “Are the travel arrangements ready?”
“Everything is in place,” Thorndale confirmed.
Unbeknownst to even the Prime Minister, over the past several years MI6 and the Ministry of Magic had cultivated a working relationship. In one of Horatio Hotspur’s more forward looking policies, he had launched a joint venture with MI6 to connect major British bases throughout the world through the floo network. Now, Dumbledore was poised to take advantage of that project. He was about to make a long jump to Gibraltar, and from there on to Malta and ultimately Cairo.
Dumbledore reached into his bag and pulled out a container of a powdery substance. Taking some powder in his hand, he threw it into the fireplace, turning the flames a strange shade of green. “Gentlemen, I want to thank you for all your help, and I hope to see you again bearing good news.”
“Good luck Mr. Dumbledore, we’re counting on you,” said Menzies as Dumbledore disappeared into the flames.
A loud crack filled the room as Grindelwald apparated, startling the busy man who was hunched over his desk.
“You’re going to have to stop doing that,” he said.
“Come now Adolf, you of all people should appreciate the ways of the wizard,” said Grindelwald. He had a growing habit of popping into Hitler’s office unannounced. While it annoyed Hitler to no end, he certainly could not complain given all that he had gained from their relationship so far.
“Well I do appreciate my new sword,” said Hitler. Hanging on his wall was Durendal, the legendary sword of the ancient French hero Roland, which Grindelwald had recently lifted from the Louvre.
“Don’t mention it,” said Grindelwald, “And I trust my other contributions have been well used?”
“Yes of course,” answered Hitler, “Setting those giants loose in Poland was a nice touch, and your sea monsters are really destroying the North Atlantic shipping lanes.”
“Anything for my favorite Fuhrer,” said Grindelwald.
Hitler looked at Grindelwald in admiration. He was in awe of his magical abilities, and with his blonde hair and chiseled features, he was everything Hitler wished he could be; a fact that Grindelwald was sure to exploit to his advantage any way he could.
“I trust Colonel Gruber has served you adequately?” Hitler asked.
“He’s competent, unlike most of that rabble you call an army,” responded Grindelwald.
“Well I am waiting on you to create my new army,” Hitler reminded him.
“Well my new army, which I am letting you use, will be ready very soon,” Grindelwald corrected him, “Well I believe we should both get back to our nation conquering.”
With another loud pop, Grindelwald disapparated and returned to his own Berlin headquarters to brood. Hitler was a weak man and a foolish one, he thought to himself, but he had his uses. Hitler’s thirst for power and capacity for cruelty sometimes surpassed even his own. He knew that they would inevitably turn on each other at some point, and when it happened he would be ready. After all, when building a dark empire things can get awfully crowded at the top. But for now, it was still in their mutual best interest to work together.
He was considering taking a trip to Egypt, but he reminded himself that there were still pressing matters to attend to, stamping out the last remnants of magical resistance in France, and consolidating his recent gains throughout Europe. Besides, Meisterburger was his most trusted subordinate, and he could see no reason to doubt the success of his mission.
“This all just doesn’t add up,” said Nigel Bromhead to his equally suspicious comrades. After receiving their new secret orders, they had reported, as instructed, to headquarters in Cairo. They were met there by an intelligence officer, who seemed to know why they were there, and driven to the British Embassy. A communications officer at the embassy had greeted them and led them into the embassy’s study, where they had currently been left, in a state almost resembling house arrest.
It was an ornate study, with massive book shelves covering three walls and the fourth wall centered by an elaborately carved fireplace, which of course had a portrait of George VI above it. They had been left in the room for hours now with no further instructions, and the uncertainty of the situation combined with the boredom had left the four men on edge. MacDonald and Reynolds had attempted to pass the time by setting up an impromptu game of darts with their bayonets, but the usually calm Evans had completely lost it when they very nearly punctured a first edition Walter Scott novel. There had also been several heated discussions on topics ranging from the relative quality of Manchester United as opposed to Liverpool, to the artistic merits of Ava Gardner’s acting abilities.
The startled men suddenly looked towards the door as the communications officer entered the room bearing a fresh sheet of paper. “Telegraph from London with some new orders,” he said, as he dropped the paper on the table and walked away.
“I think he’s MI6,” Evans mouthed to Bromhead, who nodded in agreement.
“So tell us what it says!” said a very eager MacDonald.
Evans picked up the paper and read aloud, “Arrival of special agent is imminent. Escort this agent to his objective and assist him in completing his mission.”
He set the paper down, “Well there you have it.”
“Well that really clarifies things,” said Reynolds.
“You’d think they would at least want us to know who this agent is and where to find him,” added Bromhead.
“What if it’s one of those beautiful female assassins like the Russians have?” speculated MacDonald.
Evans paced the room, trying to make sense of it all. He thought back to the spy novels he had eagerly consumed growing up; tales of danger and adventure at the far reaches of the Empire. And now here he was, in the middle of his own spy story. He mulled over the burning questions in his mind; just who was this mysterious special agent?
All eyes instantly snapped towards the fireplace where a loud rustling noise was heard inside, and the four men looked on in shock as Dumbledore tumbled out of the fireplace, stood up, and dusted himself off.
“Bloody hell it’s Father Christmas!” exclaimed MacDonald.
Dumbledore’s eyes seemed to twinkle as he gave a hearty laugh, “You are certainly not the first person to confuse us.”
“Well, who are you then?” asked Evans
Dumbledore paused; he was always reluctant to break the Statute of Secrecy, but in this case he believed that if these men were being asked to put their lives at risk, then they had a right to know what exactly they were getting into.
“I’m Albus Dumbledore,” he said, “And I am a wizard.”
“And I’m Cary sodding Grant,” scoffed Reynolds.
“I am accustomed to that reaction as well,” said Dumbledore as he pulled out his wand and exclaimed, “Incendio!”
The four men all jumped as the bookshelf behind them was suddenly engulfed in flames. With another flick of his wand, the flames were extinguished, and the bookshelf was surprisingly undamaged.
Evans’ initial impression was that Dumbledore resembled some sort of struggling Shakespearean actor. But after that display, he was convinced that this man was legitimate.
“I’m Evans, John Evans,” he said, “And this is Nigel Bromhead, Duncan MacDonald and Will Reynolds.”
Dumbledore went down the line shaking hands with each man before pulling several large files out of his bag. “Now gentlemen, if you are ready we have much to discuss,” he said as he pulled up a chair.
The men took their seats around the table as Dumbledore handed them briefing packets prepared by both Doge and Thorndale. He patiently answered all their questions, explaining everything to how he arrived with floo powder, to who Grindelwald was, to Doge’s Egyptian contacts, to why he was here now.
Dumbledore continued, “Doge has also put us in touch with Isis Shaharazad, who lives right here in Cairo and is the most accomplished Egyptian alchemist alive today. If anybody knows what we’re looking for and where to look, it would be her. “
Evans took everything in, “So basically, there’s an evil wizard helping the Nazis, they’re trying to build an indestructible army of dead people, we’re not completely sure what to look for or how they’re doing it, but if we go see this old witch that your friend met 40 years ago she might tell us where to look so we can stop them.”
“Precisely,” said Dumbledore.
Evans turned to his men, “Any more questions?”
Completely stunned by the information they had just received, they were all silent.
“I learned to stop asking questions a long time ago,” said Bromhead, “And if you stay in the Army long enough you’ll learn that too.”
After finding a spare khaki uniform for Dumbledore to change into, they gathered their possessions and departed on foot from the embassy grounds, full of doubt and uncertainty about what awaited them.
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