Conference Room Level
"Officially," said Secretary of Defense Keller as he strode through the underground hallways with Ray at his heels, "this meeting isn't happening."
"I hate it when people say that," muttered Ray, scrambling to keep up. "It never means anything good."
"As much as I can understand your preference for transparency, Dr. Stantz, this really isn't the kind of meeting that anybody gets to know about without passing a whole battery of tests. Most of 'em psychological."
"Well, I- what?"
Keller's mouth twitched. If Ray didn't know better he would've called the expression a suppressed smile. "You'll see," was all he said as he stopped at a door marked 366. "One question, though. You get along with Canadians okay, right?"
"Huh?" said Ray helplessly. "Yeah, sure. Why wouldn't I?"
"Just checking." And the Secretary of Defense opened the door.
Ray stepped into room 366 and blinked. Then he blinked again; then he rubbed at his eyes with both hands. "Told you," said Keller's voice from behind him, and the man was definitely grinning now. "Not exactly the kind of thing most people're ready to hear about. Would one of you gentlemen please introduce yourselves?"
"Certainly, Mr. Secretary," said a firm, pleasant voice; the owner, a man of about Ray's height, stepped forward and held out a hand for the shaking. "My name is Benton Fraser. I'm the Minister of Extraordinary Threats for the nation of Canada. . . and so are these other gentlemen."
"All fourteen of us," said the same voice, from the opposite side of the room. The speaker, who appeared identical to the man shaking Ray's hand in every way except for an apparently prosthetic right foot or lower leg, raised his hand in greeting. "With the possible exception of Fraser Prime over there."
Ray could no more have stopped the slow swiveling turn of his head at the designation than he could have stopped the sun in its motion across the sky, but there was nothing especially mechanical about the Benton Fraser in question unless it was hiding behind his eyepatch. "Um-"
"I assure you, Dr. Stantz," said Fraser Prime, "it's only a designation for convenience's sake. My world was simply the first to begin the process of making multiversal contact with other Canadas in the hopes of heading off a multidimensional cataclysm. We were already too late to save our own."