"May I help you sir," asked the corporal rising upon his entrance. Blakely removed his cap and answered "Flight Lieutenant Patrick Blakely to see Group Commander Hardacre." The young gatekeeper looked to be eighteen years old, if a day, and Blakely just shook his head at the what lay ahead for all of them in the coming days. A brash voice crackled from the intercom and reluctantly Blakely entered the office to learn his fate.
With a smart salute, Blakely announced his presence and took in the GC's office. The walls were filled with photos and commendations, Hardacre was a man who liked for everyone to know he was in charge; a point that he was quick to emphasize whenever he could. Blakely had heard stories and believed all of them about this brusque, firebrand whose exploits from the Great War were well known. To his surprise, the GC was not alone, he was joined by a small framed man dressed as a gentleman with a shock of white hair contrasting sharply against his black suit.
"Blakely," boomed Hardacre, "at ease." He shuffled some papers from his desk and thrust them under his arm on his way out the door. "I'll be back shortly. "After," he paused, "you two discuss things."
With that, the door closed and silence engulfed the office. The seated man gestured for Blakely to join him, speaking just above a whisper which did little to alter the myriad of wrinkles that comprised the landscape of his face. Once seated, the old man smiled, and bade him to relax.
"Patrick, my name is Acton. Lord Reginald Acton, and I have some news for you." The old man shifted in his seat and looked around the office as if to confirm that they were alone.
"What do you know of the Scarlet Pimpernel?"
Blakely raised an eyebrow, surprised at the question, "I read the novels years ago."
"Yes, yes," the old man said with a grin, "the Baroness did quite a bang up job with those tales. She embellished much of the stories to turn a profit, as romantics do, I suppose."
With a laugh Blakely commented "You speak as if it is not just a fantasy, but real."
"Oh it is, it is. Real, that is. You see, I represent the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The real league, not some nonsense like 'one to command and nineteen to obey.' That is rubbish to sell books, the League has been around for many a generation. When circumstances dictate the League calls into action one who is more than capable to perform necessary duties for God and Crown. It is time."
Blakely found himself smiling as if a fool, at the man. "I appreciate your relieving me of a nervous stomach, but why was I really called here?"
Acton stared directly into Blakely's eyes and revealed an aura of dire urgency. "You think me a doddering old man. I suppose it is natural to come to such a conclusion. But Patrick Blakely, the League needs you, the Crown needs you, the world itself needs you. There are rumblings in Germany which require us to act."
There was something about the man that made the implausible seem possible. Blakely looked over the man, noticing the top of his cane bore a small red flower. "I am flattered, but I already have a responsibility," indicating his uniform.
"Oh, that has been taken care of." The man smiled, "You have been declared physically unfit for duty, a questionable heart. We have made arrangements for you to be shifted to the diplomatic ranks."
Peter found himself first speechless, then irate at whatever game was being played. Minding his upbringing, he held his temper in check. "Lord Acton, this farce has gone on long enough."
Before he could finish his thought, the door opened to the returning GC Hardacre. "Blakely, I trust Dr. Rothschild here has informed you of the results of your latest physical." Blakely, started to correct his commanding officer, but a serene smile on Acton's face silenced him. "It's a shame, but we can only have the best serving, you understand. You are one of the lucky ones, you will be transferred to assist with the statesmen; your father's doing I suspect. We can't all be fighting men. Nevertheless, your discharge papers are all ready."
Blakely stood silently in shock at the speed things were happening. The derisive nature of Hardacre's tone didn't even register as he just stood there, it wasn't until Acton, or Rothschild, or whoever he was spoke that Blakely regained his awareness.
"Mr. Blakely, if you would come with me, I have some papers for you to sign." The slight, old man showed a surprisingly firm grip as he took Blakely's arm and thanked the Colonel before leading his charge outside.
Acton led Blakely outside to where a black Vauxhall waited. A chaffeur opened the door, and Acton slid inside, "We'll send for your kit. For now, I'm sure you have some more questions for me. I'll try to answer them on the trip. We're heading to Trelliswood," he continued cutting off the question on Blakely's lips. "It's my home and our headquarters of sorts."
The big car pulled away. "Let me fill in a few details for you first, shall I? The League of the Pimpernel is real, very real. It has existed for many years, and, yes, it was the inspiration for the famous books. These days we tend to be a bit lower profile. We exist to help those in need when governments and other organizations can not. I know it sounds melodramatic, but there are times when men of conscience must act."