The Twisted Skein

2025 -- Trousers of Time

The Sunflower Official looked at the group of agents over steepled leaves. So, he said.

One of the agents blinked in surprise. "Yes?"

That was a general interjection, not a name. The Sunflower's petals quivered slightly. You wish to found a new department, correct?

A Department of... Efficiency, the Marquis de Sod chimed in. I can't say I disapprove of the principle.

"I can," Doctor Fitzgerald noted. "Do we need someone to tell us how to do our jobs? I thought that's why we closed down- well, you know."

Perhaps we can hear the concept in their own words, the Tiger Lily suggested. I'm a big fan of letting people prove themselves or condemn themselves, of course.

An... excellent suggestion, Hornbeam agreed. Always consider... all the facts.

One of the agents drew herself upright. "Serving in the Department of Floaters," she said, nodding to the Floating Hyacinth, "has led us to understand the sometimes haphazard nature of the PPC. It is our conclusion that a Department of Efficiency would serve us well not as a secret police, although some have accused us of that, but as a prompt and guide on how to do well."

"One example of our ideas has already taken root among the Protectors," another agent chimed in. "Many agents now attach timers to their consoles, to let them know how long they took performing their mission. We would simply take this unofficial competition and give it actual incentives."

And, presumably, punishments, the Queen Anne's Lace noted. But this 'haphazardness' you speak of... surely that is mostly down to the workings of Legal?

The first agent nodded again. "That's one of the things we would want to discuss with this Board," she explained. "Many of the members of the PPC understand now that Legal's workings are... well, to be blunt, actively damaging the work of the PPC. We've looked through the records isn't it true that the Fern refused to act during the Crashing Down invasion?"

The members of the Board of Department Heads looked over at the empty ninth space in their circle. The Fern never intervenes, the Sub Rosa noted. For our protection, if nothing else.

The Sunflower Official gazed at the agents. I find it interesting that you bring up the records, he said after a moment. I've had the Marquis de Sod look up precedent for your suggestion. Do you want to hear what he found?

The agent exchanged looks with her colleagues. "I'm sure we'd be very-" she began.

I doubt it. The SO tapped a button on his desk. Some dozen years ago, there was an... event. A door was opened between our own PPC HQ and... the Protectors of another time. The future.

What?! the Tiger Lily exclaimed. Why wasn't the Board told about this? The security implications alone-

Negligible, the Sub Rosa assured her. At the time I wrote the incident up, I wasn't even certain it had truly taken place. At the time it hardly seemed feasible that my Agent De Grasse could ever be the famous General the purported visitors claimed. She considered for a moment, then shrugged her leaves. Well, times have changed.

"So were we mentioned in this... event?" the agent asked. "We would love to hear how much we're going to help the PPC."

Oh, you helped, the Marquis said in a low voice. But not the PPC.

The agent blinked. "What are you-?"

The future Department of Efficiency, the Sunflower Official said deliberately, allied with the Department of Author Correction, ignited a civil war which tore Headquarters apart. The Protectors of that future era were virtually unrecognisable as the PPC at all and all because of the Department of Efficiency. He drew himself up to his full height, yellow petals somehow conveying a fierce glare aimed at the shocked agents. Your request is denied. Return to work, because I am quite sure your consoles are beeping.

~ Thus is the future unmade, and the End of the Beginning foresworn.

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