November 20, 2009

The Secret Room

I tucked the newspaper under my arm and watched the others walk towards the shop. I was far enough back that I was the only one, besides Martindale, to notice Abel standing on the roof of the building.

I frowned. "Should I be worried?"
Martindale gave me a droll look. "Now that's a silly question."
I frowned to myself and strode towards the others, lengthening my stride to catch them before they entered the shop. I watched as Gio pulled the key out of his pocket. We all knew (except, we hoped, Dr. Bright) that he didn't need to actually put the key in the lock. The door was special, it sensed people's intent and opened for them if they meant to enter the shop. I think Giovanni was trying to make the shop appear as mundane as possible in front of our "guest".

"So, uh, whats that you got there?" Bright was peering intently at the key.
Gio just shrugged and slipped it into the lock on the door. "Just a key, nothing special."
"Right... Well then, give me the nickle tour." Bright stepped into the front of the store.

I whispered into Giovanni's head, Murdertron on the roof.
I didn't want to be the only one ready for Abel to appear and start a fight. Giovanni thought, I figured he would be around somewhere.

Gio made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "This is the store, where things get sold, occasionally. Mostly teenagers coming in looking for something they think is occult related, tarot cards, ect. ect."
Bright looked down at one of the crates scattered about. "And whats in the crates?"
Gio pried one open, holding it that way and allowing Bright to look inside. "As far as we can tell? Interesting junk. We haven't had time to go through it all."

We walked back into the lab area, which we had already stripped completely clean, save a couple tables. "This is the lab area.."
Bright walked up to one of the drawers that had no key hole and pointed to it. All the drawers without key holes also opened to Gio's magic key. Bright knocked on one drawer. "Whats in these?"
Gio hobbled over and slammed a fist onto the cabinet below the drawer and the drawer popped open. "These? nothing."
Bright smirked. "Clever."
Gio snorted in annoyance. "Clever nothin, I'm not the one who made the damn things with no key holes!"
Bright half sat on the barren table and took a sip from the Starbucks cup he carried. "Can you open the rest of them please?"

"No problem." Gio went around to each drawer and either banged it with his fist, kicked at it, or something else of similar force while Bright sat there with his arms crossed and watched him in wry amusement, perfectly content to let him wear himself out opening all the drawers. Of course, they were all empty. Bright probably figured as much. He was just being a dick. I leaned against one wall and crossed my arms, feeling and looking annoyed. I didn't like this one bit.

Cheshire appeared out of one of the shadowed corners and started to wind himself around Gio's legs. Bright's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Wow. That's a big cat."
Gio shrugged. "Yup, that he is."
"How do you get a cat that big? What do you feed that thing?" The tone in Bright's voice suggested he in no way thought Cheshire was a normal cat. Observant, that one.
Gio just shrugged. "Cat food?"
"Small children probably." I muttered to myself.
"You know, I can't say I've ever seen a cats eyes that look like that." Bright's own eyes narrowed. He took out his cellphone and pulled up a photo of a man. The guy didn't look remarkable at all, but when he showed it to Ches, the cat freaked out. He hissed loudly, and I swear it almost sounded like he said something in multiple languages at one time, his fur stood up on end and he bolted out of the room. We all looked after him in surprise.

"So, why don't you tell me about the cat." Bright stared hard at Gio, who just shrugged.
"I made him." I was a bit surprised that Gio was going the honest route with this one. But I bit my tongue. It was his business.
Bright nodded. "Out of what."
Gio sighed and looked at the ceiling in thought. "Uhh, the bones of a child..."
Bright nodded. "Anything unusual about the child?"
"No older than 10."
"But not a specific child?"
"Nope." Gio shook his head.
"Interesting. What else?"
"The eyes are made from tin coins.. stolen from a mage, melted down."
"And the irises?"
Gio waved a hand dismissively. "Crushed rubies, but that's just cosmetic, not necessary. I had to feed him a fruit from a garden tended by the true Fae when he woke up."
Bright nodded, he was writing on a notepad. "Which one?"
Gio blinked. "Uhhh.." He looked at Nobody who shrugged.
"I'm not sure who it was." nobody said.
"Describe it." Bright said.
Nobody paused, considering, before speaking again. "Light hurt it, it liked to eat small children, it looked like a woman, in a garden with all these weird plants... that's all I can really tell you."
Bright nodded. "Well. If you think of anything else, please don't hesitate to call me." he handed Nobody a business card with nothing but a phone number printed on the front. Nobody hesitated a moment before putting it in his pocket. Bright waited for Gio to continue.

"Lets see, Bones, eyes, fruit.. the blood is mine, did that ever fucking hurt.."
I made a noise of agreement in my throat.
"Werewolf skin.. one of the Pure specifically." Gio said.

I was getting more and more pissed with every question. This guy was riding my last nerve. I muttered in Giovanni's head, I don't like this at all.
You think I do? But if you think we have another option right now, please, let me know. He thought. I gave a low growl inside his skull. No, dammit. I don't have a better idea. But that doesn't mean I like it.

Bright's eyes narrowed once again. he seemed just as agitated. "And how did you manage to acquire that?"
"Oh, had help from a demon, from the 9th circle of hell.. chaos demon."
"And how'd you get a powerful demon to help you?"
Gio laughed. "Luck, really."

Brights face clouded over with surpressed anger. He didn't like that answer. "I am trying to make a concerted effort to be civil here, when I could, with much less effort, just call the very pissed off homicidal first murder victim down from the roof to tear you all to pieces and try and read the answers from your entrails. So understand that 'Luck' is not exactly the type of answer that is going to be suitable for this conversation. Understand that this is me being civil."

Gio just shrugged in response to Bright's outburst. "A friend of ours threw a dagger to keep a cop from blowing his own brains out. He missed, it got stuck in a wall. After a few minutes we noticed that there was a crack in the wall and that there was something looking out of the crack, pulling it open more, and attempting to crawl out. I don't know how it happened."
Bright was nodding continuously and taking notes. "So, paradox then?" At that, Nadi's stare became significantly more intense.
Gio shrugged. "I guess so. I figured there was a high likelihood of the crack leading to hell, so I told it to go away. It didn't, but thought we were interesting enough to help us out. I asked it to get me the tanned hide of a werewolf not touched by Luna's blessing. It got it half right. It wasn't tanned."

"I see, I suppose the tanning part would be a challenge." Bright mused.
Gio nodded. "Damn straight."
"Anything else go into creating this thing?"
"Spark of life.. uuhh..pyros.. From sewn togeth... Like Frankenstein. Promethean?" Gio wasn't sure if Bright would recognize the terminology.. but Bright didn't seem at all confused.
"From Frankenstein specifically?"
Nobody spoke up. "What, you mean from Mary Shelley's creation directly?"
"Or the creations creation..or that monsters creation.. stitched together, lots of electricity, makes you really angry? You know there's a reason they always get chased out of town by a mob with torches and pitchforks."
Gio nodded.

Bright's eyes flashed and he gave an unpleasant laugh. "So there's one of those in town!"
"Hell if I know. Wouldn't the town be turning on each other if it was? Because of the Disquiet?" Gio asked.
"There could be more than one of them keeping it at bay for awhile at least... anything else go into that thing?"
Gio shook his head. "No. That's it."
Bright did not seem happy, and I was okay with that. "Does it grow?"
Gio nodded. "I think so."
Bright was getting more annoyed with every answer. "Learn?"
Bright set his coffee cup on a table and rubbed his temples. "So let me get this straight, you created a powerful, dare I say, demonic, creature, able to grow stronger, regenerate like a werewolf, and learn like an intelligent human. Tell me, what happens if you die and his lease is suddenly cut?"

Gio opened his mouth to respond but Bright cut him off. "My organization now has a vested interest in keeping you alive, at least until we can figure out how to neutralize that thing and keep it from wrecking havoc on humanity." He took a swig from his paper Starbucks coffee cup. "As hard as your friend tries to hide it, I know that she does not enjoy my company or my line of questions, but understand that we are not directly targeting you."

I wasn't trying to hide a damn thing. I just wasn't saying it out loud. I knew perfectly well the "fuck off" written across my face screamed volumes all on its own. I decided not to dignify his comment with any sort of response. I continued to stand there, arms crossed, looking annoyed. I was good at it. I had practice.

"You just happen to have some items that interest us, and be the new owner of a shop owned by the oldest man in the world, and you'd be stupid to think that he hadn't collected some interesting items in his life. Now, do you have any questions for me?"

I raised an eyebrow in mild surprise. I'd remained quiet the whole time, mostly. I didn't want his questions directed at me. "None that I think you'd answer." I said quietly.
Bright shrugged. "Never know until you ask."
I pushed myself off the wall and moved towards the Good Doctor. "What is your organization?" My voice was far from friendly, but I managed minor annoyance, instead of surpressed anger.
"We are the SCP Foundation." Bright said.
"SCP?" I questioned. I was honestly surprised he'd even given us a name.
"Secure. Contain. Protect. My organization is seeking items that we can contain and classify as either Safe, Euclid or Keter to prevent destruction of of humanity. Similar to your..Shield and Spear, and although they are significantly older than us, we are better funded."
"Government?" I guessed.
"Multiple governments and organizations provide us with funding, not all of which are on this plain of existence."
"And what exactly do 'Euclid' and 'Keter' mean?" I asked.
"Euclid- dangerous to human life, but not actively. Keter objects are those that are not only dangerous to human life but actively seek to destroy it."
"And what do you do with these things once you find and contain them?" I asked. I found it hard to believe his intentions were completely honorable.
"We are, above all, scientists. We study them, their weaknesses and potential usefulness. Many we destroy if we can, and yes, we have had to weaponize some of them." He knew what I had been getting at.
I quirked a brow. "Had to?"
"Yes. Had too." He didn't elaborate.

Gio looked thoughtful a moment before speaking. "So we have Abel.. Seth.. is Cain around anywhere?"
"Yeah, nice guy too." Bright said.
Gio laughed. "The first murderer is a nice guy?"
"What? You've never made a mistake before in your life? How many people have YOU killed?"
Gio chuckled. "I see your point."
"When the only people in the whole world are you, your brother, and your parents, you don't have much option besides patricide. The man was a revolutionary. He's also mopey, sits in his room all day."

Nadi spoke for the first time since entering the shop. "How do you know about Paradox?"
Bright took another swig of his coffee. "We have a few mages on staff. They explain things to us as best they can.. you guys see things.. differently. Not better. Don't kid yourself into thinking its better, but its different." He looked her over and a nasty grin spread across his face. "You've never met them have you. The Twisted Ones."
Nadi regarded him cautiously. "No."
His grin widened. "Would you like too?"
She paused a moment to consider, then nodded. "I shouldn't, but yes." I had the idea that she'd just agreed to something rather dangerous for the sake of curiosity. It was stupid thing to do, but I wasn't exactly in a position to cast stones. I'd done stupider things for the same reason.
Bright pulled out his phone again and snapped her picture, slipping it back into his coat pocket. He looked at Gio. "When you guys come back to meet our team, bring her with you. Anyone else? Any more questions?"

I opened my mouth, then closed it, and thought. With a shrug, I asked the only question that came to mind at that point. "Whats the weirdest thing you've come across?"
He gave me a sardonic look. "Based on what scale?"
"You're own personal opinion." I said.
He grinned at me. "Honestly? Me."
"Oh? And whys that?"
"Sorry, but that actually is classified." He shrugged.
It was my turn to give the sardonic look. "Of course."

Bright stood. "Well if there are no further questions, a team will be back here in two days to go through what is remaining inside the shop."

I nodded to him. "Thank you for answering our questions." And I meant it. I didn't trust Bright or his organization, but he didn't have to give us as much information as he did.

Bright regarded me a moment, his stare was clinical. "Can you do me a favor?"
I raised an eyebrow in question. "Maybe."
"You're a vampire right?"
"Last time I checked."
He held out his coffee to me. "Try this."
I grew instantly suspicious. "Why?"
"Because I'm curious."
I looked at him, then at the cup. Every thread of common sense told me it was a bad idea, but he'd struck a chord with my own curiosity. From what I could tell he'd actually been drinking it all night, and it did smell like coffee. Obviously it was something more, or why else would he want me to try it? He was watching me like a hawk, waiting for my response. After a good minute of deliberation, I gingerly took the cup from his hand. It was about 1/3 of the way full, and still warm. I could see the scientist in him come out in the way he watched me. I definitely felt like I was under a magnifying glass.

Remember how I said Nadi had done something incredibly stupid in the name of curiosity? This was a prime example of me doing something even worse. There was no good goddamn reason for me to drink whatever the fuck was in this cup. But my curiosity outweighed my better judgment, (as it usually does) and I took a small sip of the liquid.

It was coffee. Holy shit was it ever coffee. It was probably the strongest fucking coffee I'd ever had, and when working as an EMT for over a year, I drank a lot shitty coffee that was made as strong as possible, taste be damned. This was stronger. From just one sip, I instantly felt shockingly alert and awake. Which of course, is pretty weird considering I don't have normal human physiology anymore and caffeine shouldn't effect me in the slightest. I hadn't felt this effected by food or drink, besides blood, since the embrace. The taste for blood pretty much dulled everything else in comparison, but this cut right through it.

I looked at the cup in surprise. Bright was still watching me intently. "How do you feel?"
I took a moment to consider exactly how I did feel. I focused on myself, allowing me to feel any changes.. then shrugged at Bright and handed him his cup back. "Really fucking awake. That's fucking strong shit."
He nodded and accepted the cup, taking another sip himself. "Good. Please, let me know if anything changes. We'd love to add the data to the case studies."
I nodded slowly. He headed to the door.
"Remember, two days." and he was gone.

When we looked outside, we saw that Martindale was still sitting on the bench across the street. Gio limped towards the door. "I'll be right back. Going to go see what he had to say, then we can get to work figuring out how we're going to get this stuff out of here."

I turned to the table as he walked out the door and unfolded the newspaper Martindale had given me, taking out the file folder in the sports section. I started flipping through the pages (there were only a few). It was the forensics report from the body in the car. They were able to identify her by dental records. her name was Loraine Summers, gone missing from New York City. She had a criminal record for aiding and abetting known felons.. it actually listed the felons. They weren't names I recognized, but the names were Italian. Everyone took turns looking through the file, even Gio when he got back.

"We're throwing it all away." Gio said boldly.
Everyone looked at him and waited silently for the catch.
"Everything we can take is going in the dumpster. Martindale reminded me that it's trash day tomorrow. Harper, can you get in touch with your friend with the dump truck that helped us haul the casket?"
I slipped the slim wallet I kept with me out of my pocket and liberated Dump truck Ned's business card. I handed it to Giovanni, smirking. "Throwing it away, huh?" He returned my smirk and nodded.

I had nearly forgotten about Ned and his services with all the chaos going around. However, he was still a vampire, so I let Gio make the call. I still didn't know who I could trust on the surface right now.

Gio dialed the number.
"Hello?" Ned said.
"Hello! I am in need or your..removal services."
Ned's voice grew suspicious. "This doesn't sound like the person this number should belong too."
"I'm a friend of hers, shes here, if you'd like to speak with her, just a bit busy at the moment"
I called out to Ned so he'd know Gio was telling the truth. I head Ned pause a moment before continuing.

"So what do you need hauled and how much are we talkin?"
"About a dumpsters worth of stuff... and how much do your services usually run? I'm not familiar with the typical pay scale." Gio said.
"Well, it depends on what you need hauled. If we're talking mundane stuff, I'd say about 20k.. now if its bodies you want to disappear, its gonna be a bit more pricey."
"Oh nothing like that. It's mostly documents." Gio said.
"Roughly 20k then, cash only, of course. Now this stuff, you need it disposed of? Or you wanna keep it around for awhile?"
"We'd like to keep it around.. we just need it someone secure."
"That we can do. Go talk to Kerwin, he'll tell you where the stuff will be. Now is this something you need picked up now or can it wait till normal trash day?"
"As soon as possible would be preferred." Gio said.
"I'll be there is an hour." And Ned hung up.

"Well that solves that problem. For now. Lets go through the files and see what we need to take with us. We've only got an hour." Gio began to walk into the other room as he was speaking.
I started walking after him, but after two steps, the next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor in front of the far wall, my face hurting and I could hear the others laughing at me. I'd somehow run straight into the wall. My Celerity had activated itself on its own, and now even their voices sounded like they were moving in slow motion.

The fucking coffee. I started to curse, but paused. I realized I could see everything with startling accuracy. It was all moving in slow motion. That normally didn't happen with celerity, I sped up, but no one else slowed down. I knew they weren't really moving slower, but I was perceiving faster. I sat there, the world slowed down while I moved normally, and realized that I could utilize it. I smirked to myself, focused on slowing myself down, and everything fell back into a normal pacing.

"...ou okay?" I caught the end of what Gio was asking me at normal speed. Nobody was laughing his ass off. Nadi and Becca looked amused as hell. I stood. "Yeah, I'm fine." I got up and walked past him to where the files were, trying to pretend I hadn't just ran face first into a wall.

We started sorting, but after a few minutes Gio stopped and looked at the cieling. "We need to find a way to get upstairs. We have no idea what is up there."

I nodded and looked at Nobody. "Think you could climb the wall and get in a window?"
Nobody balked. "Fuck, I'm not gonna break in a window in this place."
I rolled my eyes. "How about you just look in the damn window and tell us what you see."

He mutter disparaging remarks and walked outside. We followed. I didn't crash into any walls this time. Nobody did his Spiderman routine and went up the dark side of the building. The rest of us looked for the fire escape.
Nadi frowned as we started to climb the ladder. "It's odd that the fire escape would be on the side of the building with no windows."

"There's a reason for it, there always is with Yousef." Gio responded. We got to the landing that was about 20 feet from the ground before we noticed anything out of the ordinary. I peered closer at the mortar and could see a slight discoloration in patches on the wall in front of us. Gio gave me a weird look.

"Hey this is going to sound weird.. but.. can you do this for me?" Gio put his arms up in the air and waved them around. I quirked a brow at him. "Seriously.. I'm not fucking around." He said. I did as he asked and he stared at my shadow as I did. When I looked at it it was moving normally. "Huh, weird.. a second ago your shadow was moving slower than you.. side effect of the coffee maybe." Gio just shrugged.

I watched my shadow for a moment frowning. I didn't like that one bit. May have been the coffee, also may have been whoever has been following me as I hunt... I shook it off and turned back to the wall. "Look, there are discolored areas... they look like symbols..." I pointed to the four patches of differing mortal, they formed the corners of a rectangle. Gio looked but couldn't see it. "What do they say?"
I gave him an annoyed scowl. "I don't know. I don't read Hebrew, genius. You tell me." I traced them with a finger and he finally noticed where I was talking about.

"Its Hebrew alright, looks like 'Shiyth' which, I believe, is an alternate form of Seth..." Gio examined it closer. None of us knew what to do. Gio finally just shrugged and said, I think just for the fuck of it, "Shalom?" And lo and behold, we all had to step back as a piece of the wall swung outward, revealing a window.

"Nobody! get over here!" I called after him, it didn't take him more than 10 seconds to come around the side of the building and see we'd found a window that wasn't boarded up from the inside like the windows in the front had been.

We all ducked through the window one at a time and found ourselves in a surprisingly small room considering it looked like it should take up the entire second floor. There were roughly 20 5ft filing cabinets against the far wall. There was a large clay statue that looked a little bigger than a man with features that lacked sufficient detail (such as impressions where eyes should be, but no eyeballs were sculpted), made from clay that appeared to still be moist, a Hebrew symbol carved into the forehead and a medium sized wooden crate on the left wall. Sitting against the wall that our window entrance was set into was an ornately carved chest roughly 4 feet across. It appeared to be made, or at least plated in, gold, with religious symbols carved all over it. The symbols were far from modern. One the other side of the window there was a small desk covered with documents, and a shelf holding various odd looking liquids in sealed beakers.

Each one of us went to a different part of the room to inspect its treasures. Giovanni made a beeline for the desk and the documents there and started mutter to himself, presumably reading them out loud. Nadi and Becca went over to the filing cabinets, and Nobody looked at the golden chest. I slowly approached the clay statue. There wasn't much more to it than the cursory inspection had given me. When I asked Gio what the symbol was on its forehead, he absently looked up from his documents and said, "Death." and promptly returned to reading. Nadi mentioned that there was a small ball of darkness inside the statue.

I pried open the lid to the crate and found it full of unremarkable things. It held several sets of generic, utilitarian clothing, the type that mostly avoids dating itself.. t-shirts, jeans, button down shirts, and brown shoes. There was a passport inside that was filled out completely, but lacking a picture. A Polaroid camera could also be found in the crate. I took out the camera and snapped a photo of the chest, just to see if the camera did anything weird. No.. just a camera. I guess not everything we find can be imbued with supernatural whatthefucksthis.

Giovanni reported that his papers looked like religious rituals, possibly from the Malleus Mallifacarum. One ritual even brought someone back from the dead. Some of the Latin wasn't translatable though, even for him- the guy who can speak any language he wants. The beakers held what looked like failed elixirs as far as Gio could tell, except one, which was labeled, "A Glimpse of After" with a note scrawled across the label, "Already seen it." Gio pocketed it.

The filing cabinets were full of Yousef's journals, but from what we could tell, it was all very mundane stuff. So we turned our attention to the chest.

Nadi and Nobody were both inspecting it. "The carvings look Byzantine.. and its made out of the purest form of gold I've ever seen, perfect gold." Nadi explained.

Gio and I walked over and...hit a wall. Not literally this time, but we got within about 5 feet of it, and couldn't get any closer. For me, it was just like an invisible barrier. For Gio, it was painful.

"Well that's weird." I took a step back from the invisible barrier. "Nadi, Nobody, could you open it?" Everyone in the room gave me a look like I was crazy. No one moved to open it. Gio also took a step back and breathed a sigh of relief before speaking. "Lets do more research first, on it and the golem over there. Golems are from Hebrew legend right? Anyone know a Rabbi?"

Nadi nodded. "We can go see him tomorrow.. can't go alone though. He's very devote..won't be alone with a woman he isn't married too."

So we took what journals we could and threw them and what we could from the shop into the dumpster. Giovanni was the last to leave. He paused briefly inside before stepping out and closing the room.

Ned came, picked everything up, and we headed back down into the sewers. I still had an appointment to keep with Rowan.

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