"Duke!" I called out, waving him over to my table next to a long picture window that looked out onto Jessie Street.
Duke raised both arms high. "Jericho, you foul bastard! How the hell have you been?" The other patrons, mostly twentysomethings in designer clothing or wannabe-retro fashions, shot him vile glances but Duke ignored them and strode over. He unslung the satchel from his shoulder and dropped into the empty seat across from me.
"I'm doing fine," I said and handed him a cup of coffee.
He sipped it a moment, then took a longer pull and smacked his lips. "The drink of the gods, eh?"
"Yes, it is," I said. "So what did you want to talk to me about?"
Duke took another swig, set the cup down, then leaned forward, elbows on the table, fingers laced. He looked around for a moment, then at me. "Invasion," he said.
Duke motioned me to keep my voice down.
"Jove's hairy nutsac!" I said through gritted teeth, pitching my voice low. "What invasion?"
"How long have we known each other, Jericho?"
"Five, six years," I said.
"And you know what I do, right?"
"You used to do work for Starlog until they folded," I said. "Now it's stuff for blastr.com, io9, Locus, Empire, those folks. But what's that got to do with invasion? And what's invading where?"
He leaned closer. "What I'm gonna tell you, you can't repeat to anybody."
I leaned in, too. "Fine by me. You know I keep secrets well."
"Exactly why I'm telling you and only you."
"What is it?"
He looked around around again without turning his head, his eyes flitting from side to side before settling on me. "I belong," he said, his voice kept low, "to a covert black-ops wing of the SFWA."
I gaped at him. "SFWA? The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America?"
He nodded. "We're known as Omega-13."
"Omega-13? Like in Galaxy Quest?"
"I disavow any knowledge of a relationship between our group and the item as described in that film." He reached inside his coat and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "Before I go on, I need you to sign this NDA."
I took the sheet and unfolded. It was good linen letterhead paper. At the very top was a stylized logo that included the Greek letter Omega in uppercase and the Latin phrase "Caesum caudam, suscipit nomina." I read it over. Standard document. I pulled a pen from my jacket pocket, signed it, and handed it back to him.
"Fabulous," he said, folding it up and slipping it back inside his jacket.
"My lips are sealed," I said.
"Better be," said Duke. "Consequences are not pretty."
"So," I said. "Covert ops? Hush-hush, black bag sort of things?"
Duke gave a vague gesture and noncommittal grunt.
"Like what?" I said. "At least give me an idea."
Duke thought for a moment, then said: "Did you hear what happened to the World Fantasy Con Creeper?"
"He got booted from the con," I said. "I read about it on Jaym Gates's blog."
"Do you know what happened after he got booted from the con?"
He gave me a feral smile. "It's better that way."
I gaped again at him. "Egads, man!"
Duke made another vague gesture and took a drink from his coffee cup.
"Now what's this business about an invasion?" I said.
"Our latest intel confirms a suspicion we've had for some time," said Duke.
"The Fae," said Duke.
I gasped. "Are you sure?"
Duke nodded. "All these UF novels being published? Preparation. Mass preparation. We've been working behind the scenes with publishers to get these novels out there so that the general populace is aware of the threat. Same goes with movies and television."
"Wait," I said. "Are you trying to tell me that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is--was--a training video?"
"Pretty much. As are the books of Jim Butcher. Also Kat Richardson, Kelly Meding, Stacia Kane, and K.A Stewart, to name a few. Training manuals."
"Supposing it's true--"
"It is true, Jericho."
"Okay. Fine. It's true. So why tell me? Why not go to CNN or MSNBC? Fox News. Hell, tell the big boys like John Scalzi or Neil Gaiman or Mark Henry. They've got reach."
"CNN and MSNBC wouldn't touch us with a ten meter cattle prod," said Duke. "Fox News would laugh at us. And people will just think Scalzi, Gaiman, and Henry are just yukking it up. We need a John Q. Public to get the word out. Especially a John Q. Public who's also a Professional Writer."
"Let me guess. That's where I come in."
"Bingo, baby. This is big league stuff, Jericho. Big like Watergate. Iran-Contra. Twilight. And you're our guy on the street. Our man in the trenches. In like Flynn. You gotta be Lieutenant Hatcher to our Thorn and tell everybody. Be like Miles Bennell, running up and down a highway full of cars and trucks, screaming the truth. Think you can handle it?"
"Of course I can," I said. "I'm a Professional Writer."
Duke grinned. "We knew you'd come through for us."
"I'll need data to get started," I said. "Can you get me some of your intel?"
"Do you one better," said Duke. "I can get one of our intel guys to help you out. Name's Azerov. Ezekiel Azerov."
"I've heard about him," I said. "Writes science articles and books. Also some science fiction novels."
"He's a supergenius. A polymath."
"Hell," said Duke. "I can't even get through New Math. But yeah--Azerov's the best of best. The creme de la menthe. The shiznit."
"The shiznit. He'll give you the down-low. The 4-1-1."
I squinted at him. "What's happening to you?"
"I'm hip to the 'leet speak'," said Duke.
"Don't do that," I said. "You might pull a muscle." I took a drink of my mocha. "When do you think the invasion's supposed to take place?"
"End of next year."
"Exactly," said Duke.
I nodded. Of course. It now made perfect sense. Even the Mayans knew about the Fae Invasion.
Duke fished out a business card from his coat pocket and slapped it onto the table. "That's Azerov's number. He's waiting for your call."
I grabbed the card. "I'm on it like Nutella on toast," I said.
Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.