Leads

Though the waves of information coming in through Aaron’s carefully crafted queries was Stresstiegradually becoming something that could be considered useful, that usefulness would only be realized after a considerable amount of sifting by a research team. Record-keeping prior to World War Two was devilishly hard to sift – largely because OCR and standardized algorithmic analysis was fairly useless. Most records were handwritten, with only things on the level of state or federal governments being typed. Some of them were riddled with marginalia, in which lay the key to the information the document seeker was really looking for. Much of this marginalia, however, lead to tantalizing, but frustrating dead ends.

Leaning back in the padded wooden chair, Aaron wished he were seated in something with better lumbar support. While his general fitness regimen kept him fairly well toned, his posture remained awful, and the longer he sat in substandard seating, the more it had an effect on his overall comfort. He had certainly done more, under worse conditions – though, oddly, never with such personal drive. Aaron believed wholeheartedly in his work, and the mission of his employers, but even stoked by the flames of the twin tower’s burning, his inner engines never burned this fiercely.

Aaron was impressed with what Detective Amartan had been able to come up with, particularly on short notice. The laptop rig he was working on, complete with a satnav uplink, and preconfigured optimized routes to any of the government information channels he had thought to tap in his searches, Aaron wondered how she had gotten the machine so quickly. Aaron had spent a lunch hour last week slavering over the specs of the machine he was now laboring on, and, so far as he was reading last week, that hardware was not due out for testing, even in the secured upper echelons of government intelligence, for at least another quarter.

As Aaron queried and cataloged, building a digital patina of leads, dead-ends, and trivia, Gil focused intently on the emotions emanating from the engineer. Occasionally a flash or twinge of annoyance, or loss – with an incredible ocean of sadness and anger underlying his entire demeanor. Aaron had been shaken by the day’s events, and revelations, but he seemed to, emotionally at least, be able to keep all of it in check. Perhaps it was because of the echoes of Hebrew the engineer seemed to be repeating over and over as he worked, on nearly an unconscious level. If Gil was not mistaken, it was the Kadish. His only personal experience with the prayer was from the scene in “Angels in America” – though Gil assumed it would prove a powerful talisman against the scratching claws of insanity worrying away at the doors of everyone’s mind.

Taking an internal delving, Gil realized he was not in the best shape himself. He had offered what gentle reassurances he could muster to Muriel when she spoke of the Moonstone drawing her, and awakening some sort of latent energies within her mind. In reality, her descriptions were all too near that which he had experienced years ago. Perhaps it was because the events of that yesteryear’s terror was so fresh in his mind that the manifestation of his attacker’s powers had presented themselves in the way they did. Perhaps it was simply the happenstance of a fresh mental wound overlapping the scar tissue of trauma past. The bone-shuddering possibility, with Gil’s rational mind refused to allow his subconscious to drift towards, even momentarily, was that the two incidents were somehow connected.

SuitAs Aaron and Gil typed and sighed, Deke made a great show of minutely examining all of his personal effects, which had been returned to him by a huge black man, whose long, braided hair had ended in a kokino menagerie of shells, glass, and small metallic charms. It was a rare thing for Deke to have to look up at someone, and this huge agent of Detective Amartan’s company probably had a good four inches on him. Deke was not often impressed by size alone, but when the hulking assistant had flipped his sheathed knife around in one hand with a deft motion, Deke realized, on some level, that the man was probably as deadly as he was large. Deke had thanked him, taking the blade, and asked his name, but the huge man only smiled oddly, shook his head no, and moved down the table, returning small ziplocs, carefully inventoried, to each of the people in the room before leaving. Though Deke was annoyed enough that he considered starting something up with the big guy, even if only so that he could hit something, he ultimately decided not to, in no small part because he was pretty sure he knew what was wrong with his watch.

Before his current gig, when Deke was still holding the union steelworker’s spot that his dad had bequeathed to him, Deke had done a solid six month stint at demolitions. He assumed it would be like the old cartoons he used to watch when he got up early on Saturdays – lots of jackhammers and huge wrecking balls. Instead, he found a near-military engineering corps, who specialized in deploying carefully placed charges, which brought down huge buildings in minutes. Deke’s part of the gig, aside from hauling around heavy canisters of stuff meant to blow up buildings, had been to clean up after the “brain busters”, as they were called around the shop.

One of those times, he got to operate a huge magnetron, which swept the rubble in mighty passes, it’s alien hum reverberating in Deke’s bones as the huge magnetized disk drew forth all means of metal from the piles of rubble, which were then deposited into trucks for scrap. One night, after a long shift, Deke had been closing up for the night when one of the other workers decided to play a prank on him. As he was moving away from the magnetron, the playful coworker had flicked on the magnetron, which had torn Deke’s belt, watch, and sunglasses across twenty feet, where they stuck to the magnetron. Before Deke could ascend the side of the machine, to rearrange the face of the prankster, he fled out the other side of the machine.

When Deke had gone to retrieve his effects, his watch was ruined, in a manner similar to how his new watch appeared destroyed. Deke hadn’t had a cell-phone when the prank was pulled, but he’d bet a considerable sum that the problem was the same – some sort of giant magnet.

Detective Amartan led Esteban out of the small room the group was waiting in. Esteban was surprised to find out it was the Bass Room, a small meeting area just of the Trustee’s Dining Hall of the Museum. This revelation truly brought back just how alien the day’s affairs were, since it hadn’t wholly occurred to him that he was somewhere within the Museum still.
If Esteban was surprised by the fact he was in the Museum, he was even more surprised at the changes in the Trustee’s Dining Room. The TDR, as it was known around the Museum, was a posh spot for brunch and dinner, with a considerable amount of art, fabric, mahogany, and plush carpeting. Esteban had been once – he took his Abuela to dinner for her seventy-fifth birthday (employees got a 10% discount), and had found the food expensive, and significantly lacking in seasoning.

What faced him now was no eatery. The entire space had been partitioned with collapsible glass walls, and probably three-dozen people were working at computers and video stations, while probably twice that talked on phones, spoke with each other, and shuttled coffee, food, and soda around the little tech citadel. As the Detective led Esteban further back across the newly-minted labyrinth of glass, light, and cable, he realized they were heading towards the kitchen area, which looked like it had been transformed into two very different things.

The right side of the kitchen, where beverages were made, and foodstuffs set to be bussed, had become some sort of data center. Esteban saw at least a half-dozen racks of technological equipment, all cooled by portable air conditioning units behind a thick, semitransparent sheet of plastic. To the right, more cubicles, though there were fewer of these, and the partitions were solid, not glassed.

Esteban wished, for the dozenth time since reawakening that he had decided to take his Abuela to MOMA instead of trying to show off by bringing her to work, and cutting all the lines. As Detective Amartan led Esteban to one of the solid-walled cubicles, his eyes reddened again, as he thought of his Abuela’s last words, which had not stopped echoing in his head since he had sat through that vision, where he had become his Bisabuela.

Arjan made no great show of his raging inner turmoil, despite his fury at having failed, not only the Museum, but Viktor. He had no idea how he was going to face Ilyana, or if he ever would. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw flashes of Viktor’s flesh peeling back away from his bones, the way the glass in the case had – each time, Viktor’s blood hung in the air, like some sort of movie special effect, while he howled and screamed as the effect worked its way up his arm to his chest.

The wearied Sikh sat again, watching the large man go over all his goods carefully. After a small hesitation, Arjan opened the largest of the bags which had been return, which bore his name, and slowly pulled out his personal effects. Among them was a gun, spare magazines, and gun-belt. Though the gun was not his, but was a similar make, of a decidedly newer manufacture. His clips had been replaced, as had the ammunition within it – though the whole affair seemed significantly lighter than his kit had, before the morning’s events.

Curiosity got the better of the security guard, despite his agitation and morose thoughts, and Sketchhe unchambered a round, popping it into his palm. Doing so made him realize that the gun, though cool to the touch, was neither cold enough, nor heavy enough to be made of metal. He supposed it was made of some sort of ceramic, but it seemed that the sidearm was no less sturdy for the swap in material. The bullets in the clips appeared to be made of some sort of resin or polymer, and the hollowed tips of the bullet in his palm appeared to be made of some sort of carved stone – a grey-green with slight silvery streaks to them.

Arjan could not hope that the sidearm, or its ammunition was street-legal, but, he supposed, that this strange organization which was going to help him find vengeance was not going to arm him inappropriately for the task at hand. Arjan did wish that he could try a few rounds on a range somewhere, before his life was on the line. Thinking back to Viktor’s death once more, he shuddered at how, despite what his aim should have wrought, his eyes showed him had happened. Arjan was a good shot. He had not missed. The bullets had simply passed right through the egg-faced creatures. Just before the red vision of Viktor’s death eclipsed his inner eye once more, he distinctly saw the clouds of dust kicking up from the stone wall behind the creature he had emptied a clip into, at nearly point-blank.

Arjan frowned, then donned the gun-belt, sweeping the rest of his things, his keys, his knife, and his moneyclip into his pockets.

After a a bout a half hour with little to listen to aside from Deke fiddling with the small screws of his watch, and poking at the dial-pad while frowning at the dead screen of his cell phone. Aaron clicking away madly, as the Doctor looked on – they both seemed tense, but not with defeat. the door clicked open, admitting Detective Amartan, armed with a fresh sheaf of files, a stack of small boxes, and a woozy looking, but slightly less bloodshot Esteban, who was sipping on a hot beverage in a paper cup. Detective Amartan set her things down on the table, then looked over towards Aaron.

“How are things going Aaron? Any leads? I have a few, I think we should probably compare notes, if you have anything promising.”

Continued at Scene 3: Leads

Leads

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