|1.||It’s Run by What?|
|2.||Shades of Grey|
|3.||Where Am I?|
|4.||How Do I Get There?|
|5.||“There’s this Guy in My Response Centre . . .”|
|6.||“Mr. Rogers! Mr. Rogers!”|
The first reaction of most new recruits upon entering the PPC is “Help! Giant flower!” This is perfectly normal, especially if they have just arrived from one of the less-technologically-advanced continua. Precisely which Flower they encounter varies – most commonly it is the Sunflower Official or the Marquis de Sod, but in principle, any Department Head could be met with an unexpected and terrified recruit.
If you are reading this and have not yet encountered a Flower, please go and visit your Department Head.
There have been many rumours pertaining to exactly why the PPC is run by flora, rather than fauna. One of the most popular has been that all the human directors were replaced many years ago for reasons of efficiency (although the question of who was doing the replacing is seldom answered). This is, however, not the case. The Flowers have been with us since the beginning, indeed, since before the beginning – since the days when the PPC was known simply as the Organisation. They were the ones who founded the PPC, and they are the ones who have run it ever since (with one seven-year exception – see V. 1, Ch. 3).
Each Department, and some Divisions, are run by a single Flower or other Plant. This is your immediate superior, and you should go to him, her or it with any problems or herbicidal rages you might have. The PPC as a whole is run by the Board of Flowers. The Board is often referred to collectively as the Flowers That Be. This is tolerated. However, referring to them as your “lords and masters” is not advised, as many older Agents will attempt to terminate you with extreme prejudice.
The Board is made up of nine Flowers, all Department Heads. In theory, the makeup is subject to change, but in practice this has never occurred. The members are:
The observant will note that some Flowers are given names, while the majority are simply described by their species. Those with names are in fact the Firstborn, the few remaining members of the first generation of Flowers. They are to be treated with respect, even if they don’t happen to be on the Board. (Yes, this includes Thornelius Archimedes III, a.k.a. the Big Thorn of DAVD. That “III” is apparently an affectation.) Of course, all Flowers are to be treated with respect – they are almost all your superiors. Remember this, and you will go far. Or further than you would otherwise.
As you may have noticed, Headquarters appears to have no fixed shape. It is like this because it is not a conventional building. Far from occupying space in a normal universe, it exists mainly in the non-space between universes and comes into contact with at least fifteen. Because of the mind-bending requirements for building in such an environment, the only usable substance was Generic Surface, which comes in one shade of distance-confusing grey. (Notable exceptions are Dr. Freedenberg’s office, which is bright yellow, and DAVD and Implausible Crossovers, which are black and come with little to no lighting.)
The halls are so full of portals, plotholes, and straight roads that turn back on themselves that keeping anything in one area is a major feat. The normal four dimensions (length, width, height and time) are present, but so too are consciousness and probability. Investigations have revealed that HQ may intrude on L-space as well, but this has not been proven. This is why Department offices and Response Centres appear to be numbered randomly. They’re not, it’s just that the ones in-between are often in another part of the building.
A side-effect of building through plotholes was the creation of a number of Escher rooms. If you find yourself in one, keep moving and do not be alarmed until the gravity changes.
There is a map of Headquarters, but it is not generally available and is of limited use to beings who find it difficult to move deliberately in extra dimensions. For those Agents without a map, we suggest that you simply do not pay any attention to your surroundings and especially that you do not think of where you’re going. For the new recruit, this principle may require some explanation. As you read in Chapter 2, one of the dimensions in which HQ is built is consciousness. Often, getting from one place to another requires movement in consciousness. Thus are seen the time-honored tactics of singing, arguing, reciting, drinking, daydreaming, and other means of distracting one’s self while walking the halls. Methods vary per Agent.
Navigating in probability is an entirely separate issue and one over which there can be no control. Probability is, of course, the thrall of the Narrative Laws of Comedy and Irony, which can only be predicted insofar as they are unpredictable. It might help not to think about it, but then, it might not. Questions or complaints may be directed to the Legal Department.
Like as not, the time you manage to find your RC will be the time you first meet your new partner. Partners are assigned usually, but not always, by order of Department, Division/fandom, and availability. However, it isn’t necessary for partners to be competent in all the same fandoms. A pair with different strengths is often more effective than a pair with everything in common and partners with varied interests often learn more from each other than they ever would otherwise.
When possible, new recruits are paired with senior Agents in their Department. While the senior Agent is to be admired, respected, and learned from, it should also be noted that there is a reason for the high turnover rate in the organisation, to wit, incidence of insanity. Senior Agents either have an abnormal tolerance for things that turn other people into gibbering wrecks or they’re faking it somehow. Either way, it is wise to tread softly until you have an idea which is the case. Gifts such as chocolate and Bleeprin go a long way for your chances of getting onto your partner’s good side. Not being an idiot also helps.
If your new partner is of a different species, it can only help to familiarise yourself with said species. They will probably be willing to help you with this, but opening the conversation with “Woah! What the heck are you?” is not the best way to start. Try asking politely about your partner’s home continuum. You might even find that it is the same as your own.
Now that you know how not to immediately find yourself at the wrong end of a weapon, it should be easier to negotiate a long-term working relationship. For some reason, the most difficult part for many people is sharing the Response Centre. You shouldn’t actually be there except to receive assignments and sleep, and it is sized and furnished with that intent (allowing for variations – some have closets and/or bathrooms – due to the nature of HQ). However, should you wish to personalise your RC, it may help to decide beforehand what space is whose and come to an agreement about what won’t be tolerated. Collecting ’Sue scalps, for example, is a practise that may be offensive to some.
In the field, it is common for one Agent to keep and read the charge list while the other operates the diagnostic tools and performs the execution or exorcism. Some teams have set roles while others trade off. Both practises seem to be equally effective and may help to keep stress levels tolerable.
If you are paired with another new recruit, study other teams’ mission logs and good luck.
Whether in your time between missions or in the event you’re assigned a temporary partner, you will at some point encounter other Agents of the PPC. While the strategy “speak softly and carry a big stick” may work for marriages and international politics, here, it is likely to get you killed. Assassins in particular tend to go armed at all times and do not appreciate being sneaked up on. To avoid a trip to Medical, please consider the following advice about how to deal with other Agents: