In the depths of Whitehall there is a little knows governmental department that is the literally the origin of the term “Head Quarters”.
It was the sort of department that would only ever be discussed it in whispers.
If anyone was to enquire about it, they would be politely - But firmly- informed that it “Does not exist” These words would be said with such force and with a frightened gleam in their left eye, that you would be left with no doubt that it does indeed exist.
The reason for the gleam only being in their left eye was never truly known. What was acknowledged was that the department in question was simply as The Bureau. Even then, it was only ever referred to by name by the sort of people who like to meet exclusively in corridors.
It once had an official title of, The Military Intelligence Bureau and it had been written in white paint on a mahogany door and then Her Majesties Empire Intelligence Bureau, which was written in gold paint on over the original title and finally the name was removed entirely and the door replaced with the most non descript the storeroom had to offer.
The Bureau held and processed information from all five corners off the globe and quite often beyond the globe itself. Its files are numerous, sometimes misleading and often contradictory.
What sets The Bureau apart from its larger cousins in the intelligence community, is an artefact buried deep underground, beyond the frequently replaced door, there can be found in a huge brass elephant head hiding a collection of large jars.
The jars in question are lovingly cared for by Doctor Fiona Wilkinson, formally of Lidenbrok university, her research on the nature of elephant memory was ignored by the world at large but not by the mandarins of Whitehall.
Her most ignored paper tried explain a little about the nature of memory and elephants.
She suggested that - The ability of the human mind to process and remember events and facts is patchy at best. Two people may witness the same event and have a vastly different “take” on events. One person may see one man running from the scene of a crime and assume that he is a criminal while another would see that he is actually chasing the real “wrong doer”.
Similarly the memory often plays tricks upon us, remembering things that we see an important to ourselves and not others. These observations were well ahead of her time but she went on so much further.
She remember, as a young girl, being showered with gifts and finding it a magical time of the year. Where, In reality she was being distracted from the impending death of her mother. It was not until years later that she realised what had occurred.
She realised that any event can only be truly understood if one is in command of all the facts and has no emotional connection to the events.
The human mind was clearly not the ideal place to hold and process these facts and so she looked to the animal kingdom and to the Great British government.
She realised that the British Empire not only had the resources she would need to make her memory machine but they also had the need of it.
Running an Empire is considrably more complex than most people think, Where as a government can acquire an empire by accident, it will quickly find itself with a huge amount of paperwork.
Getting and Empire and running an Empire are two vastly different things, the one thing that any self respecting governing power needs is “knowledge.”
Knowlege on a vast scale.
This knowledge would need to be stored, filtered and acted upon. She knew that her theoretical machine could do this.
After some crude and surprisingly expensive experiments, her prototype was ready. This prototype had the living brains of many animals connected together and then collated to take information from a bank of blind typists several floors above.
The widely held belief that “elephants never forget” had been well known for some time but the precise nature of this “not forgetting” came as a suprise once the machine was finally switched on. Relaying its information via a variation on morse code, a rudimentary Marconiscope and a network of typewriters.
After only a day it was clear that the storage capacity of the elephant was vastly greater than the largest of filing systems.
The good doctors Biological Processor was born and with the odd exception proved itself to be flawless in its operation.
The exceptions being that every so often there would be a print out demanding softer hay or even demonstrating a fear of men in top hats who carried whips.
After several years further research the “Nelly” was complete. The removal of the animal instincts had been achieved by a simple four part dissection of minds , thus enslaving them to the process. In the end it comprised of the minds of four albino-African elephants wired together with an assortment of copper and other conducting material all suspended in a dark yellow liquid of unknown origin.
The final machine was contained in a giant copper cauldron, sculpted to represent an elephant’s head with ears made of glass tubing and tusks of silver.
Expertly plumbed in and linked directly too countless desks and offices across Whitehall. All of the information gathered by the rag tag collection of spy’s and cronies of the Great British Empire all reporting back to London via a further network of even more disreputable spy’s and cronies.
An ingenious system unitising a combination of pressurised air, photographic equipment, blackmail, Braille, money and Gin are used to keep the “Nelly” abreast of the latest current affairs and events.
All filtered and perceived with the dispassion needed to see an all encompassing view of world events.
These once noble creatures’ heads all neatly cut into four, sit and bubble, quietly processing the masinations of the English Empire. Helping unseen powers scheme and rule the world.
This marvel of the age had been in place long enough to be largely forgotten by all but the most senior of staff.
Inside this metallic monstrosity’s metal mouth, somewhere just beyond the gums is an Underwood Number 5 typewriter which is only used in emergencies as a back up to its normal way of delivering information. The Underwood hadn’t made a move since the death of queen Victoria and was only being observed now because of current events.
For two days, the eyes on the copper head had been steadily glowing a particularly lurid shade of red and had reached such intensity that the room seemed be painted the colour of clotted blood.
Doctor Wilkinson stoked her chin in deep though, she had checked and rechecked every inch of her memory machine and had found no fault.
Behind her stood two bespectacled men they were representatives of the Bureau and it was rare for them to appear in person with the Nelly and seldom together.
The taller of the men shuffled uncomfortabley in his apparently red suit, rubbing the back of one apparently red shoe against the back of his trouser leg which, like everything in the room was also a deep shade of crimson.
The shorter and rounder of the men winced as the brass and silver head sprung into mechanical life. It clattered and whirred for a handful of seconds, crescendoing in the disappointing ring of the carrage bell and then was silent.
The shorter man lent forward and took a card from the mouth of the abomination.
Countless men had died on the commands spewed forth from this mechanical marvel and today it would provide new instructions.
Something secret that could have Empire shaping consequences.
The taller man snatched the card from colleague’s nervous grip and read.
With a broad smile he turned the card over for his colligue to read.
The card held only one line of information.
A single neatly printed name.
END OF CHAPTER TWO