Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, sir. Please take a seat. Coffee? Brandy? My humidor is open to you, if you wish. I apologize for taking you away from your family with so little warning, but events have overtaken us—events which, as you'll soon see, involve our entire organization. Sir, what I am about to tell you is known by only 11 people in the Western world—the seven of us in this room, the Acting Director, and the three pertinent members of the Staff Council. Though I know you to be circumspect and discreet, I'm afraid this is no ordinary intelligence briefing. The issue at hand is beyond the scope of even our long-term Global Strategy 7. If you'd like to sit down, we'll begin.

We have received confirmation that, somewhere in the great Garagum desert in Turkmenistan, an organization unknown to us has successfully tested a Thanatos device.

Now, in light of that rather staggering fact—sir? Why, yes, by all means avail yourself of the coffee. Here, allow me to add the brandy, your hands are... there. Yes, I understand, sir. Take your time.

Yes, so, in light of this startling fact, we are positioning all available field resources appropriately. We need two things from you at your very earliest convenience. You must provide me with a list of people who may possibly have aided the Turkmen in the development of the device. And secondly—well, I'm terribly sorry, sir, but this business we're in... Of course, we'll need your signed resignation on my desk by this time tomorrow.

Yes, of course—if there is a tomorrow, indeed. The Thanatos device does make one nostalgic for the old days of mutually assured nuclear destruction and its attendant comfort of shelter beneath the mountains. Even the phrase, "mutually assured nuclear destruction," seems rather quaint now, doesn't it?

No one at the department, least of all myself, believes that anything was deliberately hidden from us, but certain knowledge concerning Californium-298 and the more, shall we say, chthonic properties of tachyons—I must admit it gives me pause.

Getting to the point, sir, I was approached yesterday by your department's own Herr Professor-Doktor Steinesser, a man whom I know by rumor and reputation. Until this morning, the two working Thanatic resonators fabricated by his predecessor were believed to be the only examples of their kind. He had instructions to bypass your office and report directly to me in certain contingencies. This was one. Steinesser's team detected bursts of theta-amplitude pseudoparticles coruscating from Turkmenistan three days ago. Being aware of the anti-temporal nature of his field, he knew to look for unusually high activity in the teracycle bands, curiously violent and unnaturally symmetrical sunspot formations, and small measurable lapses in general and relative causality. He claims they point to only one thing: their newfound Thanatic capability. Yes, someone was cunning and formidable enough to not only build a device, but to hide it from us, as well.

Please don't worry about the carpet.

So, protocol demands that you cede control of your department to me and retire to our complex on the Peninsula. You'll remain here for no more than 36 hours in an advisory capacity, and then you're off to join your family. They are being moved at this very minute. I wish I could say I know with 100 percent certainty that they'll be safe, but a rogue Thanatos... Yes, quite right.

And so we come to an end, old comrade. I'm sorry it had to be like this, but, well, this business we're in, eh? Exactly, exactly, duty above all. Best traditions of the Departments, potentia est and all that. It'll be me someday, you know, and I can't say I'll be completely sorry. In any case, best to the family. They'll enjoy the Peninsula, and so will you. The debriefing for your retirement is far from strenuous, and the fishing there... Certainly wish I could visit. I certainly do.

Yes. Goodbye, Bertie. Farewell.

Everyone else, your aircraft leave for Turkmenistan at Zulu 400. We're done here. Thank you. And God save us all.