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«License Invoked», Robert & Jody Lynn Nye

Chapter 1

"Damn it to Hell anyway!"

Hearing the utterance of these words by the head of the United States Secret Service, his aide materialized in his office like a genie answering a magical summoning.

In actuality, the simile was not that far from the truth. The men had been together for years (a professional, working relationship, of course. It's not that kind of a book!) and the aide had long since learned that on the rare occasions his chief resorted to swearing, it was best to stand by even before being called. Even then it would sometimes be too late.

"Trouble, sir?" he said.

"Where have you been?" the chief snarled.

(See what we mean?)

"Sorry, sir. It won't happen again," the aide replied, deliberately bland of countenance.

Washington, D.C., was a city of power, both built on and undermined by petty tyrants and obscure pecking orders. One did not survive there being thin-skinned.

"I can't believe we're getting this dumped on us!" the chief raved. "And in an election year, too!"

The aide waited patiently. Eventually the vital points of information would be forthcoming. Trying to rush it would only focus attention on himself.

"Every no-name power monger in Washington up for re-election bugging us for protection... not to mention the `equal treatment' demands from their opponents... and now we're supposed to provide protection for some foreign nut touring the U.S. And with our limited budget, we can barely—"

"Excuse me, sir, but providing protection for foreign dignitaries is a normal part of our department's function."

"Dignitaries, yes," the chief said. "Ambassadors, royalty. But this falls well outside that description. Did you ever hear of a rock group called Green Fire?"

"Yes, sir."

"You have?" For the first time in the conversation, the chief abandoned his mad long enough to look directly at his aide.

"You forget, sir, I have two teenagers at home," the aide said with a smile. "Green Fire is currently all the rage in the younger set. An Irish group, I believe."

"Well, those are the `dignitaries' we're supposed to be providing protection for," the chief said, returning to his tirade. "At least for their lead singer. What's her name... ?"

"Fionna Kenmare," the aide supplied.

"That's the one. Anyway, the group's about to start a performing tour of the U.S., except the lead singer has been getting threats and had a couple unverified attacks on her. Normally, I'd try to dodge it, but the Brits are taking it seriously and sending along a protective escort of their own. That means we're stuck. There's no way we're going to let someone from a foreign agency wander around over here without someone from our side tagging along."

"Excuse me, sir," the aide said with a frown. "Did I understand you to say `unverified attacks'?"

"That's the kicker." The chief nodded. "It seems the threats she's been getting, as well as the unconfirmed attacks, have been of a psychic nature. In short, magic. Real bibbity-bobbity-boo stuff. Just what we need to help us with our leisure time problem. We're already spreading our manpower dangerously thin and— What are you smiling at? Did I say something funny?"

"As a matter of fact, sir, you've already solved your own problem."

"I have?"

"Yes, sir. You have. As soon as you mentioned `bibbity-bobbity-boo.' It reminded me that there happens to be another department you can delegate this whole problem to."

The chief began to smile, too.

*  *  *

No one could remember exactly how Department BBB got its designation or what BBB was originally supposed to stand for. It might as well have stood for "Bibbity-bobbity-boo," however, because that's how everyone referred to it. That is, everyone who knew of its existence... or remembered it at all.

Department BBB got its start back in the '60s, roughly about the same time the CIA was conducting its clandestine experiments on the possible military uses of LSD. "Red phobia" was rampant, and all one needed to do to get funding for a department or project was to report (or speculate out loud) that Russia was already channeling resources into research of a similar vein. The thought that the U.S. might drop behind the Russians in yet another field (people were still wincing over Sputnik) loosened governmental purse strings on countless strange and dead-end endeavors, most of which, thankfully, the voting, tax-paying public remained blissfully ignorant of. Department BBB was one such project.

Anything weird and not already nailed down by another department (like Telepathy and Telekinesis) got delegated to them for investigation or experimentation. Everything from crystal power to totem animals, secret names to ethereal spirits, came across their desks or ended up in their voluminous files. They imported "experts" from every accredited earth religion (and from most that were deemed "crackpot" even by the loosely wrapped) to assist them in their quest. All in all, a good time was had by everyone concerned.


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