02 November 2012

"Coffee is for Closers"

By Curtis C. Chen

Every morning in the MAGIC division offered a renewed opportunity for novel and ever more unpleasant surprises sprung on us by our fearless leader, Lieutenant Sheryl Markey. Today was no exception.

We had all gathered in the main bullpen, a large, open area populated by a grid-like arrangement of desks and ringed by filing cabinets, teletype machines, and scrying planes. Daisy, Markey's personal secretary, had set up a slide projector and screen. Someone flipped the light switch at the back of the room, and a grainy black-and-white image of several long pieces of wood and a tarnished blade appeared beside Markey.

"Who can tell me what this is?" she asked.

Beside me, Cook raised his hand before I could tell him not to.

"Mister Cook," Markey said, pointing at the overeager young soldier. I had to imagine he was even younger than I was. And I wasn't actually old enough to drink in some states.

"That's the Spear of Destiny," Cook said, his voice high-pitched from excitement. "Also known as the Holy Lance. It's the weapon used by the Roman Centurion Longinus to pierce Jesus' side as he hung on the cross during his Crucifixion. It's said to possess mystical powers, and the Nazis are fixated on finding it because they think it'll help them take over the world."

Markey nodded, pointed at the screen, and said, "This is complete bullshit."

Cook's face contorted, and I swear he shrank by a good two inches in height.

"The Nazis would like us to believe that they're obsessed with the occult," Markey continued, her voice bellowing across the room. "They want us to think they're chasing wild geese, so we'll spend our own resources trying to beat them to find some mythical artifact that supposedly has the power to destroy and/or conquer the world. But I say again, this is bullshit."

She flicked a finger against the screen, making the projected image ripple like a wavering scry. "The so-called 'Spear of Destiny' is a piece of wood that was stuck to a piece of metal, and it's probably rotting in pieces underground somewhere in the Middle East," Markey said. "It has no magical powers. It is not a powerful artifact. Who can tell me how we know this?"

I wanted to raise my hand, I really did. I had heard Markey do some version of this speech several times since my transfer to OSS/MAGIC, and I knew what was coming next. But I had no illusions about the purpose of this little oratory.

This was not about Markey having some kind of Socratic dialogue with her team; this was about her establishing her absolute authority and unquestionable expertise. This was about her making it clear to everyone in the room that she had not been made head of this division because of her looks, but because she was a damn fine leader. And also to demonstrate that she had forgotten more about sorcery than most of us would ever know.


Image: Roman Soldier by Andrew Becraft, June, 2008