Good afternoon, gentlemen, Mei-Ling, Your Grace, Madame Secretary. Welcome to the Department for Special Acquisitions and Liquidations. May I entreat you to take your seats? I thank you all for arriving early and am sorry there was not time to brief you en route. I'm sure you'll understand our need for expediency when I tell you that 18 hours and 33 minutes ago our department, sensing the worldwide sociopolitical climate was favorable to our needs, launched DSAL Project GFG-33.1 variant 4, code referent "Penumbra" in every nation you all serve and/or represent.

Please, everyone, spare me your murmurs and grumbles. After recent events in the Italian Alps, the discovery of certain...deposits in the Adirondacks, and the unforseen but certainly fortuitous crash in the Gobi, you must have at least suspected the moment was at hand. Operatives are currently working toward the goals outlined in the briefing, a document with which I hope you are familiar but which I will review now in order to be certain we are all of the same mind.

But I forget my duty as host of this august gathering. Coffee? It's quite excellent. Feel free to have some port, or a snifter of this excellent Armagnac, if you wish.

Ah, good. Now that we are all comfortable: a brief synopsis. It goes without saying that the first-approximation disposition of our globe is one of great political and financial anxiety, mixed with a certain guarded optimism. Very carefully mixed indeed, for which I must congratulate our new asst. dept. head. Well played, Mei-Ling. The cultivation and nurturing of the correct pan-cultural anxieto-psychosexual frame of reference, or "mood," is no trifling matter, and it is vital that Penumbra be carried out in a world that is ready for its implications. That Mei-Ling was able to foster this "mood" worldwide, without the creation of new churches or television networks, is a credit to all those clever lying bastards she keeps locked up on the 11th floor.

From the metaphysical to the geophysical, we go now to the map—don't blink, now, your ocular nerves will accept the retinal projection momentarily—where we see our ambitious plan for the future of the Gulf Stream is actually ahead of schedule, with all that implies for Penumbra in Europe. Luckily, the world's mere governments will still be squabbling over the Middle East, Central Asia, and the American South during the expected period of increased volcanic activity we're projecting. I'll admit, this field of study is a new one for us, and unfamiliar, but when we found our rivals were researching in the field....

We cannot afford to play catch-up. Remember Barcelona.

In any case, climactic realignment will, through drastically altered patterns of farming and tourism, also help offset the inevitable side effects of our low-level economic proxy wars on the American continent. As a sidenote, I observe that banking is still one area where we are unopposed and unequaled, although for the nth time please remember that the money question is of little importance to Penumbra. While we will lose a few trillion out of the budget, I urge you to think of that as.... Let us term it, without being cynical, an investment in large-scale urban renewal.

And the rest of the Penumbra dossier, I'm afraid, is mostly spreadsheet after spreadsheet, which any of you can read as easily as Russian—which in turn, as you'll note on page 608, will soon be as much use to anyone as Etruscan. I urge you to pay special attention to the following sections of your briefing: Tailored petro-algae, the tentative schedule for encouraging fruitful internal tensions within the Hindu faith, and for those with a flexible sense of humor, the parts dealing with China.

Again, thank you for your attention. We are in for a very active 50 years or so. Please leave the dossiers where you found them. The aides will see you to your aircraft.

Would someone wake the archbishop? Thank you, Pierre.