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This is an… unusual request.

I shrugged, trying to mask my nervousness with a show of nonchalance. Of course, given that the Flowers are telepathic, it was probably a waste of effort. “These are unusual times, sir. With all that’s going on out there in the Multiverse, we agents… well, we need to know who we are.

You’re Agents of the PPC, the Marquis de Sod called from across the circle. How hard is it to remember that?

“But we need to know where we’re from,” I explained, turning slowly to face each Department Head in turn. “Where you’re from. There have always been rumours flying around about your origin, but we’ve never known anything for sure. And right now… I think we need that.”

The Sunflower Official looked at me over steepled leaves. Do you intend to imply that we have some form of… obligation to reveal this information? he asked.

I swallowed. “No, sir,” I said. “But I think – we all think – that it’s time the truth was known.”

You realise there are many secrets in our history? the Tiger Lily asked. As in, things we don’t want you to know?

Peace, the Sub Rosa put in, making a soothing gesture with one tendril. There is room for compromise. The tale hardly depends on that sensitive information. We can tell them at least part of the story.

“Well, you can, maybe,” Doctor Fitzgerald pointed out. “Me, I hardly know more than the rank-and-file.”

Well, won’t that do wonders for the narrative structure? the Floating Hyacinth wondered aloud. So is it going to be the eight of us telling the story?

Seven, the Queen Anne’s Lace corrected, nodding her bloom at an empty pot. I somehow doubt the Fern will be contributing.

On the other branch, there are others whose views should be heard, Hornbeam rumbled. The Captain’s input, for instance, would be a valuable addition.

Well, if we’re pulling in Captain Dandy, the Sub Rosa said, we should probably round things out with the Big Thorn. That would give us nine roots to our tale, and I know he will have things to say.

Call them in, the Sunflower Official said decisively, and turned back to me. Will it be to your satisfaction to hear the tale now? And by ‘your satisfaction’, I mean ‘will you go away and stop bothering us’.

“Um, yes, sir,” I gulped. “And, er, thank you.”

Very well, then. Are you sitting comfortably? No? Good. Then I’ll begin…

On to Chapter 1