Author Topic: Chapter 16  (Read 8984 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Daen

  • Administrator
  • We Don't Care
  • *****
  • Posts: 525
  • Karma: +1/-0
Chapter 16
« on: June 10, 2022, 01:00:42 AM »
Chapter 16

"That wasn't me, I swear!" Chuck said from inside the interview room, across to Nick, who looked just as upset. "Think about it! Why would I help you find that recording if I knew what was on it?"

"To clear your name, obviously," Nick growled. "What better way to throw us off the scent than to lead us to such overwhelming evidence? We would have to assume you were being framed!"

"I am being framed!"

Disgusted, Petra turned away from the window. All this time she had been hoping they would find something to exonerate Chuck and the other magicians, but this seemed like the final nail in his coffin. Veil technicians were examining the footage right now, but so far it looked genuine.

If there was any good news to this nightmare, it was that Colin was now free of suspicion. He and the others had been acting under orders, and his associates could now be brought in out of the cold. Darius recognized the Hart's Blood protocol, which was apparently a very old way for Veil agents to send secret messages. He could now reach out to them and tell them the truth, but there was no guarantee they'd believe him! Until they could explain this footage, it seemed as though trust would be impossible to build for either side.

"What if Chuck was possessed?" Petra theorized aloud. "He lost time, and from what I've read that's one of the signs of possession. At first I thought it was Colin who was taken over by a fade, but now it's looking like it all started a bit earlier."

"That's impossible," Darius said predictably. "Morty would know instantly if any fade possessed any human. He wouldn't wait for permission or even consultation. He would blast that fade into nothingness, and then probably do the same to a bunch more."

"How does he know? Does he watch every place on earth at the same time?"

Darius shook his head. "No, but he is aware of exactly how many fades are on earth at any given time, because of their energy signatures. When a fade possesses a human, that signature is muted. Diluted, I guess you could say. The fade's body remains, but part of its energy is now controlling some poor person. Morty would notice the number of fades go down by one, and immediately take action." He growled loudly. "What did you and Andy find in Oxford?"

Petra was thrown by the sudden change in topic. She glanced at the window hesitantly, but he shook his head. "I could use the distraction. Go on, tell me."

Andy had gone back upstairs, so Petra opened up some of the boxes they'd retrieved. They both knelt down next to the boxes to get a better look. "It's photos, of everyone associated with the Veil. Or nearly everyone. I can't be sure yet. There's this strange mark drawn on some of them. Here, see for yourself." She presented one of them.

Darius' eyes narrowed and he took the picture away, fixated on the mark. He obviously recognized it, and Petra followed him, tiptoeing to get a better look at his face. "What is it?"

He let out the faintest of noises, and his voice flattened noticeably. "It's the symbol of the Ordos Desperandum. They were a secret society in Europe, back in the middle ages. They worked for Despair's faction."

Petra grimaced. Now it was starting to make sense. "Despair is gone, but his human followers must have stuck around. They can't take revenge on Morty directly, but they can hurt his humans. It's revenge again, and this week's flavor is generational."

Darius shook his head again. "No, the Ordos Desperandum was pretty hard-hit by the plague. They fell apart after Despair and the others were killed; I'm sure of that much at least. But that symbol was drawn recently." He slowly stood up, and Petra followed suit. He knocked on the glass door separating them from the combative Nick and Chuck. Nick glanced at the window angrily, and then left the room.

Darius turned to him. "Petra found some evidence that, and I say this very tentatively, might exonerate our people. Keep Chuck and the other magicians on base as usual, and keep Colin isolated as well."

Nick nodded curtly, still glancing back into the interview room, but Darius went on. "You told me about Petra's theory that a fade is behind all this trouble. I think she's right, but there's only one person who can confirm it. We're going to pay Morty a little visit."

-.-

According to Darius, people could leave Morty's dimension whenever they wanted, but he only brought people or objects into his dimension once a week. Luckily for them, the next crossover event was later that day. Usually it was just Darius who went, most often carrying a cd or thumb drive with a message from Elle. Back in the day, it had been him carrying a love letter, and even further back, he would sing or recite the message directly.

This time Petra was tagging along, and she had to admit a certain anticipation. Before, her heart probably would have been racing at the thought of dimensional travel. She really did miss those physiological responses. Now she had all the time in the world to experience things, but that experience was hobbled by that same gift.

Darius also took one of the pictures recovered from Oxford. Evidence, he claimed, that might interest Morty. He pulled out a transport key and fitted it carefully. When he opened it, stars shone down over a gentle sloping hill.

Petra followed him out, of what looked like a shack. She had no idea where they were, but if the sun had already set, it must be somewhere in Europe or Asia. The shack was next to a graveyard, with several dozen tombstones in rows on the hill.

"We're about two miles outside of Terni, Italy," Darius explained. He went around behind the shack and Petra followed. Not far away on the ground was a stone slab, circular in shape. It was about two meters wide, and had unusual symbols carved into it. Petra recognized it as the stone circle she'd seen in Morty's realm the first time around. Or at least a near-perfect replica. "We have to stand in there," he said quietly, taking his place and checking his watch.

Bemused, Petra stood next to him inside the ring, and they waited for a minute or so. Then the starlit night vanished into empty blackness. They were standing on the stone circle she had seen the last time, badly injured and dying.

As before, the rustic cabin stood next to them, suspended above the infinite abyss all around. Darius stepped over to the door and knocked twice. From inside, they could hear a muffled voice. "Come in."

Morty was standing up from a chair on the far side of the cabin. The last time Petra had been here, she had been too sick and distracted to pay that much attention, but she could give him a closer look now. He was the tall, thin and pale man she remembered, but his face was also weathered underneath his cap of white hair. His wrinkles suggested more than just age, and his bearing as he moved towards them gave the impression of weight on his shoulders.

From what she'd been taught about this.. creature, he had the ability to change his form at will, just like the fades. The only difference, other than sheer power, was that he could make himself look entirely human, whereas fades could only assume the general shape. That meant that each of these physical affectations were intentional. He had chosen every single wrinkle, every strand of hair. Even his footsteps were selected to show his age. Did he do all this for Elle's sake alone, or was there another reason behind it?

Darius stepped up to him and handed him a thumb drive. "Elle was in Monaco for most of this week, attending a local festivity. I don't think you'll like the background music very much, but she sure did."

Morty thanked him briefly, but then his eyes flicked over to Petra. "Hello again. What brings you to me this.. balmy evening?" He gestured out the now-open windows into the complete blackness outside.

Petra smiled slightly at the absurdity of it. There was no humidity here she presumed, not that she could have felt it even if there was. "We wanted to consult with you, about the fades." She looked at Darius expectantly, but he shook his head.

"You have to get used to speaking with him eventually. Why don't you do the honors?" He prodded her verbally.

"Right," she said, discomfited. "Um, has Darius filled you in on the Colin situation? The rival organization we've been dealing with?"

Morty nodded. "As I understand it, you're still looking for him and the other three Veil agents who went missing."

"Actually we caught up with Colin a few days ago, and he's in custody now. The reason we came to you is.. we found evidence that at least one of our people was possessed by a fade. He lost time, and he has no memory of the event," she went on quickly, as Morty gave Darius a startled glance, "which are both symptoms, right?"

"They are, but I certainly didn't sense anything like that," he said, sounding puzzled but not angry. Morty glanced around the room. "No, there's too much light in here for me to show you. Come with me outside for a moment, would you?"

They followed him out into the blackness, and Morty stepped a few meters away from the door. Without any warning, an image sprang up around them! It was a hollow depiction of the earth, from the inside: about twice as wide as that stone disc of his. Petra could see through the translucent edges of the globe, to the continents beyond. Europe, Africa, the Americas. There were cities in evidence too, but they were just dots on the map.

"There are two thousand eight hundred and fifty-five fades on earth," Morty went on, and a collection of bright lights appeared on all continents, dotting the globe. "There have been exactly that many since 1347 when I struck down two hundred and nine of them. I am constantly aware of both their numbers and their locations. When did this alleged possession occur?"

Still marveling at the beautiful projection, Petra answered automatically. "About four months ago, in Lisbon."

The projection changed, and suddenly the three of them were looking at a city map. "There were only twelve fades in all of Portugal for most of that month, and none were in Lisbon," Morty went on. "The closest was Glee, one of Joy's contingent, but he was two cities away. I'm afraid you're mistaken. There was no possession."

Darius looked resigned at his pronouncement, but Petra wasn't going to just take it as gospel this time around. "How exactly did you wipe out Despair's faction back in 1347? I mean, how did you know it was Despair and his people, and not someone else you eliminated? From what Darius has told me, you can't see Earth in real-time."

"That's where I came in," Darius said, looking pained at the memory. "The plague started in Messina, Sicily. People were falling sick and dying at terrible speeds, and the infected had fled to the mainland, spreading it to other cities. Local soldiers were ordered to kill the infected, but they couldn't even do that without getting sick themselves. It was chaos, and before long most of southern Europe was overrun!"

He let out a faint noise of distress. "I was immune because of Morty, but I can never forget what I saw. My reports to Morty were grim, but I don't think I ever truly did it justice."

"I was afraid humanity might become extinct," Morty went on for him, and the map changed to show the Europe of the time. As the timeline extended from 1347 over the next five years, a field of red expanded out from major cities, blanketing most of the continent! "Twenty-five million people, from what the history books say. I couldn't see it or hear it, but I felt it all the same. My people. My only link to my beloved, were being wiped out!"

The image disappeared entirely, and Morty turned away. "I couldn't stop the plague, but I could punish those responsible. I informed Darius where Despair and his ilk were gathering, and he went to confirm it. It was a celebration, he said, of their success at spreading despair across the known world. That's when I struck. I nullified the whole area, wiping them all out at once. I took no pleasure in it, I assure you, but at least it had the desired effect. Thanks to my action, and Darius' later negotiations, the fades will never possess any human again. Nor will they commit genocide. That peace has held ever since."

Petra tried not to think about the horrors of that time. "You keep track of how many fades exist now. Did you keep track before the plague?"

Morty shook his head. "There was no need before. There had never been an existential threat to humanity, nor any reason to harm the fades."

This was it- the key to her whole theory. "You said you targeted an area, and wiped out all the fades in that area. What if one or more of them was possessing a human at that time?"

Morty frowned. "They weren't. Fades don't enjoy possessing people. They only did so when they needed to manipulate something physically. They certainly wouldn't have had any reason to do so during a celebration."

"Just bear with me on this. If a fade had been possessing someone when your, uh, thought bomb went off, what would have happened to it?"

"Well, its body would have been destroyed along with the others." He paused for a moment. "I suppose a fraction of its energy could have survived within the human, but not enough to ever take fade form again. It would have been trapped within its host, and died when the host died."

So much for that idea. Darius spoke up, though. "Could it have transferred to another human though? Electricity sparks between people often enough. That little energy would have been impossible to detect, even for you. If she's right, the fade could have jumped from person to person through the centuries, until electricity came into use. Then it could have used the cables to get around instantly just like the other fades!"

Morty's increasingly skeptical impression showed what he thought of that idea. "Theoretical, and farfetched at best. However it is an intriguing idea. I'll put more thought into it."

Petra gave Darius a concerned look. "If I am right, how do we stop it from possessing our people again?"

"The REMP will protect Kiri Atoll. If it possesses a human and they get within range, the EMP will blast them away. Without a fade body, this one will be destroyed." Darius thought about it further. "You and I are safe as well. The energy Morty gave us makes it impossible for us to be taken over by fades. He told me as much, centuries ago. We'll have to take some security precautions for our people in the field, though. In fact we should take care of that right away, and update the others. I don't know if it will be enough to clear Chuck's name, but it should at least raise some doubts." He sounded encouraged for once, and Petra noted that it might be the first time she'd ever seen him that way.

He said his goodbyes to Morty, who stepped back into his cabin. Then he moved towards the disc, but Petra stopped him. "If it's ok, I'd like to stay a while. There's still a bunch I need to learn about Morty."

Darius nodded. "I figured you would. When you're ready to come home, just touch that dot in the center," he pointed to the disc. "That'll transport everyone and everything above the disc back to the circle on earth."
« Last Edit: June 10, 2022, 02:12:53 AM by Daen »