Image

Deal 944: Meta-Dreamlands

“As my fingers closed on the handle, I heard the typewriter loudly, and the scene dissolved.”

That was the last line that appeared on the teleprinter before it went silent. That was several days ago, and it hasn’t made a sound since. Until the recent spurt of activity, the printer had been idle for some time. So I’ve asked the rats to keep an ear open, and let me know when it starts back up.

The rats agreed even though they spend most of their time somewhere between my menagerie and Michel’s flat upstairs.

One thing was clear, the old mystery object game had started up again. A previous account of it once became popular literature telling of a little girl’s adventures when she followed a rabbit down his hole. This encounter was eerily similar to one of her scenes.

I’m reasonably sure that the narrator in that scene wasn’t one of our immediate circle, as we are all accounted for. Michel is off here and there but mostly here. And the rats or Otis would let me know if he was involved in anything more dangerous than an occasional bottle of liquor in any case. I know it isn’t me, my menagerie is all present and well, and then there’s Tina. But if Tina were involved, it would be a trap of her creation.

I should just file the transcript until she next drops in for a visit. But there’s something about the shape of the tale that draws my attention.

I try a little elementary divination, seeking to locate the object of power in the tale. I feel some hints, but I don’t have the strength to summon it rapidly, or the endurance to get it by any of the available slow ways. It feels real enough, but it isn’t entirely clear what power it would deliver to its holder, aside from a way to cut the stuff of dreams.

Which leads to a different avenue to consider. Tina won’t admit her standing, but we all know who she was. She’s also not the only one of her kind to continue to poke and prod at mortal lives. Morpheus is around somewhere, probably working as an anesthesiologist as deep sleep is his speciality. His brother Phantasos has a much more direct tie to dreams of the weird or prophetic, and likely is around somewhere too. Directly entrapping a hero is not really either of their styles, but they might have a clue about what this powerful object is, and if it is dangerous to our present day.

I can’t just pick up the phone and call either of them without some help.

As much as the nature of the object worries me, I’m just going to have to let it be for now.

Image

Deal 929: Gentleman of leasure

A gentleman never lies. Unless his appearance in the guise of gentleman is itself a lie.

After all, a con man always tells the truth. Or a carefully structured truth, that when seen in a certain light might be interpreted as a lie without actually being exactly untrue.

And a spy is just a con man with a government license. Lying is expected of a spy, which makes telling the truth carefully and as often as possible one of the most insidious things a spy can do. The other, is of course, spying.

I am a gentleman because I say so. Tonight at least. Tomorrow may bring a different role to the fore. I’m ok with that even as I acknowledge that might not be a popular position.

Dressed to the nines, I move freely among high society at tonight’s gathering at the embassy. Which embassy? I can’t say, not all of the bodies are cold yet. There’s even a chance they don’t know I was there, which it would be a shame to spoil.

While the obligatory self-congratulatory speeches were well underway, I made my way inconspicuously out of the ballroom. I provided any observers with a natural excuse by heading straight for the men’s room. A stall provided cover for a swift change of costume. The stall at the far end also held a maintenance panel that led into a narrow access space, probably provided in the plans to facilitate spying on visitors. It felt neatly ironic to use a spy access for its intended purpose, but against its builders.

A slender pouch of burglar tools let me into the access, where I merely needed to scurry the widths of several rooms then climb a ladder up two stories to find myself behind a panelled wall in the ambassador’s office. It only took a moment to verify his absence continued before I slipped out the well-hidden door and applied myself to tonight’s actual mission. Bugging his phone and office.

Afterwards, it was simple enough to pack my tools and retrace my steps, then after a quick change of garb, emerge from my stall refreshed from my little stroll, my scarf once more wrapped precisely around my throat.

Image

Deal 917: unchained

Out of the great wastes of the ordinary occasionally arises someone extraordinary. This is because narrative necessity requires it, or because statistics has long tails, or some similar mumbo-jumbo. Regardless, it always happens. The problem is, noone can predict whether the extraordinary one in a million shot is a hero or villain.

The Brothers of Grace have assembled peacefully at their temple compound in the hills as long as history has a record. Eventually, one of their number was bound to join the ranks of those few who have shaken the universe at its core.

We may never know what exactly happened to Brother Boom. But forensic analysis of his story tells us that his messy end was, in the end, not entirely a surprise. His unfortunate name was the result of a draw of a tile from a hat, as is the custom as each novice shrugs off their worldly past and takes up the cowl. Like other brothers gifted with less fortunate names before him, he bore his with grace, and didn’t appear to be anticipating his troubles.

Today, of course, the hilltop where the compound used to sit is missing.

Some say that the temple was built on the cone of a dormant volcano, and not all dormant volcanos remain dormant. Certainly, the pyroclastic flows that followed the early morning explosion are consistent with that view.

And yet, there is the small matter of the experiments. The Brothers of Grace welcome the pursuit of knowledge, and provide an environment where nearly anything can be studied without concern for appearances to outsiders. Rumors abound of a cabal of brothers (some say a research team rather than “cabal”) interested in the properties of certain rare minerals, especially certain metals. Merchants had delivered large quantities of yellow earths to the compound over the past decade. What was being done was never discussed. And now we may never know.

Downwind of the temple some artifacts have been discovered. One of the more significant is a large portion of a journal or diary, which apparently belonged to Brother Boom. It discusses some properties of the metal refined from the yellow earth, including the mysterious illnesses that befell Brother Child and Brother Fatman. It also discussed the fact that the metal did not seem to like to be cast into large ingots, and could grow warm if too many ingots were stacked in the same shed.

Brother Boom seemed to be addressing the problems of storage, and had worked out carefully what the largest amount of the metal was that could occupy a volume without a catastrophic result.

No more Brother Boom.