Author Topic: Chapter 13  (Read 9948 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 13
« on: June 10, 2022, 01:01:18 AM »
Chapter 13

There was a parking structure a few blocks from Selter's 'archive room'. Petra paid for a few hours- thankfully she'd been able to get some US currency at the border- before leading the way down the street.

To her credit, Didi seemed quite calm, considering their imminent foray into criminality. Petra supposed that it had to do with her long experience in surveilling people. She had tailed Darius for years, and while her equipment had been taken and later destroyed by Greed, Didi knew how it all worked. This would just be sneaky dealings of a different kind.

The facility itself had once been a skate park, with a large underground storage area. The park had gone out of business years ago, but Selter apparently didn't want any squatters, so he'd brought in security. Getting into the upper area was easy, but Petra held out an arm to stop Didi at one point, keeping her from being seen by the guard down the hall.

Once they got downstairs, Petra pulled out her key and fitted it to the door. She envisioned the door of the archive room in Marseille, and then opened it.

France was nine hours later than Seattle: it was already after dark here. However because they were indoors, there was no indication of that. Petra closed the door behind them carefully, hoping it would stay that way. She wanted to keep the door open, maintaining the link between Marseille and Seattle, but it was too risky. For all she knew, it might open some kind of accidental trans-continental media firestorm! When Petra finally turned around, she could see Didi staring with awe.

It was a readily shareable feeling. Rows upon rows of shelves lined the massive room, each one stacked with artifacts and documents from European history. "You weren't kidding about Selter's collection," Didi said softly.

"Let's just find what we came for," Petra reminded her gently, pointing towards the section marked Early Rome.

They had to go about a hundred meters down that row before reaching the right time period. Didi's eyes looked like they might pop out of her head as she read the passing labels. Despite their surroundings, Petra smiled. If it hadn't been for Didi's father, and his crusade to track down Darius, she might have made a fine historian.

"Here it is!" Didi reached out to an old, leather-bound tome. "The journal of Torius Horatius." Almost reverently, she gently opened it, but then frowned. "Paper from that time would have crumbled into dust long ago, no matter what means were used to preserve it. This is a copy of a copy of a copy most likely. It's a pity. I would have liked to see his actual handwriting."

Petra nodded impatiently. "Are there any references in there to Darius? I don't want to stay here any longer than we have to, and we can't take it with us when we leave."

"No, I suppose not," Didi said regretfully, flipping forward in the journal. "He talks about Darius pretty early on. Torius and Darius were both from Lugdunum, born in 246 and 247 respectively. He was the youngest son of a regional governor, and Darius was the son of a stable hand. They joined up at the same time, and became close friends," she translated slowly, "but were sent to different provinces."

"Here. The Battle of Naissus in 268." She traced the script with her hand, mouthing the words as she went. "They were twenty-one: full grown adults for the time period. It says, 'Here it was that I met my brother Darius Benedictus again. It was only when I saw him fight that I knew how much he had changed.'"

She flipped the page. "'The battle went ill for us at first, and more Scythians crossed the Istrus to surround us. We were cut off from the Emperor's forces on the hills north of Naissus. It was there that Darius stood his ground. We both fought bravely, but no man can take the wounds he did and remain among the living. I saw soldier after soldier pierce his flesh, only to be cut down thereafter.'"

Didi gave Petra a startled look. "I guess he's more than just ageless. At least according to this guy." This wasn't exactly news to Petra, but she did feel a slight rush of excitement. It was looking more and more like this journal was about the real Darius after all.

Didi went on quietly. "'When the remaining Scythians fled to the north, the Emperor returned with his elite soldiers. They commended us for our bravery and skill, though I could not tell them of all I had seen. Later, when he was alone, I spoke to my brother, who thanked me for holding my tongue. "Jupiter himself must have smiled upon you!" I exclaimed, but he had no cheer. "Not Jupiter," he said, "but Pluto have I to thank for the power over death," and dismissed me from his sight.'"

"Pluto. As in Hades? The original god of the underworld?" Petra asked as Didi leaned back again, and nodded. "Are you sure about that translation? I mean the 'power over death' bit."

Didi looked back over it. "Potestatem super mortuo. Sounds about right."

"Morty," Petra said, barely above a whisper. So that was where he'd gotten his modern name.

"Sorry?" Didi looked at her curiously.

"It's nothing," Petra said quickly, and looked back at the journal. "Did they fight together again after that?"

Didi took a few moments flipping through later pages, but shook her head. "There were more battles, but they weren't stationed together. They stayed close, though. Torius had a wife and son back home, but Darius didn't. According to this, Darius swore to look after them if something happened to Torius." She looked back at the shelf, to the historical information collected by other scholars. "Torius died in an ambush outside of Nessos the next year. There's no record of what happened to Darius."

He must have gone home after that. To care for the family of his brother-in-arms. This was all a bit too much, and it got Petra's mind spinning. Her ancestors were from southern France, or what had been Gaul back then. Was Torius her ancestor? It would explain why Darius was so interested in her family. He hadn't been able to keep his friend alive, but he had saved her a few thousand years later. It was all speculation of course, but it fit what she knew about the man.

A distant speck of light swept across the room. It was a flashlight, being held by a guard. Petra gripped Didi and held a finger to her own lips before pointing in that direction. They tried to stay as still as possible.

The flashlight bounced a bit as the guard got moving. It didn't look as though he was particularly alert; this was probably just a patrol route for him. As he made his way down one line of shelves, Petra and Didi quietly slipped past him towards the door out.

Petra tried to stay in front of Didi. If her friend reached the door first, she wouldn't use the key and she'd walk out into a museum in France. Petra had to make sure that didn't happen. Their near-silent retreat went well, until they rounded the first row of shelves again. Didi's shoulder caught a roll of scrolls on one edge, and they fell to the ground with a thunk.

The flashlight immediately darted in their direction. Petra froze for a moment, but could hear footsteps from down that way. "Run!" She urged, suiting actions to words. Didi followed, accidentally banging her head on a particularly ill-placed stone bust. She kept going, despite looking dazed.

Fortunately the guard had closed the archive door before heading down the row, so Petra pulled out her key and hastily fitted it to the lock. As she concentrated on the doorway in Seattle and opened it, the guard shouted at them "ArrĂȘte!"

Petra yanked the key out. Pulling Didi through the door, she slammed it shut with relief. They kept running up the hallway in Seattle, though. There was no more danger- the guard would just open the door and find no one there- but she had to keep up the show for Didi.

Except that Didi was injured! Petra could see a line of blood on her forehead, no doubt from her encounter with that statue. They ran out into the alley and around a nearby corner before Petra slowed down. Didi was breathing heavily, but aside from that and her head, she seemed all right. "That was too close."

Petra nodded, not sure she could trust her voice yet. She examined Didi's forehead briefly. There was a nasty bruise forming, and a cut in the middle of it, but it didn't look too bad. There was a lot of blood, but head wounds always bled like crazy.

She looked around. The alleyway behind them had been abandoned, as was this small street. From what she'd read, Seattle was going through some economic hard times, and there were a bunch of these unoccupied and defunct businesses. No one had been around to see their mad dash. The parking structure should be a few minutes north of them.

Petra stiffened as she saw something else. Seeping out of a light fixture on the wall up ahead, a fade came into view. And then another behind it, and another. She turned quickly, to find two more fades on the other side. They were surrounded. Didi looked at her curiously. "What is it?"

All five of them moved forward in unison. They were blue-tinged, a faction Petra didn't recognize. She grabbed for the magnet in her coat pocket, just in case. "You can't hurt me," she said, raising it in front of her. At this distance it probably wouldn't do much good, but it was better than nothing.

"We're not here for you," the closest fade hissed at her, not slowing down. Petra's memory clicked. Rage had arranged to threaten those closest to her. Not her family as it turned out, but her friend! She should have seen this coming!

She grabbed Didi's hand and ran back down the alley, and the fades sped up after them. "Petra, what's going on?" Didi insisted, but Petra shook her head.

"Just trust me. This way!" In a few moments they were back at the door to the 'archive room'. Petra fitted the key again, looking back over her shoulder. They were still following, and she had no choice. If one of those fades even touched Didi, she was a dead woman! Petra concentrated on Didi's home, and opened the door. Without waiting, Petra pulled her through and then slammed the door shut, breaking the connection.

Didi gasped, suddenly being back in her own living room. She looked around in stunned awe, and Petra grimaced. How on earth could she explain this without telling her everything?

She did look faint, at least. Petra hurried towards her. "Are you all right? You don't look so good."

Didi backed away from her, slipping slightly and fell onto the couch. "How did- What? What just happened??"

Petra stopped, not wanting to get any closer. Didi looked frightened enough as it was. "You.. fell asleep on the way back. Don't you remember? I didn't want to wake you until I could drop you off at home."

If anything, Didi looked even more confused. "We were in an alleyway, in Seattle. You were talking to someone; I didn't see who. We were running, and then we were suddenly back here! I.. don't even remember the drive home!"

Petra grimaced, affecting concern. "I guess you hit your head even harder than I thought. You might be concussed. Do you want me to call for medical services?" She held her breath. The last thing she needed was for EMTs to be examining this place. All of Didi's research was just in the next room, and she might have some unfortunate things to say if the medics had any questions.

Fortunately, Didi shook her head. "No, my head hurts, but it's no concussion. I played lacrosse for years- I know what that feels like. I just need some rest, that's all. I've got some band-aids and painkillers in the bathroom there," she pointed past the kitchen.

Petra retrieved them, and carefully cleaned and bandaged the cut on Didi's head. "Do you want me to stick around? I can make you some tea, but it probably won't be very good."

"No, you should go. I'll be fine. That dream, it just felt so real, you know?"

Petra nodded understandingly. The soap bubble keeping her secret was very thin, but so far it seemed to be holding. She just hoped Didi wouldn't look out her front window in the next few minutes. Petra's car was still in Seattle.

She made sure Didi was comfortably arranged on the couch, and then said her goodbyes. It wasn't until she was out on the porch that she realized.. the transport key had still been in the door when she'd closed it! It was still in Seattle too!


Petra's mind raced as she tried to figure out what to do. Because of the constant EMPs, no Veil agent had a reliable phone. Even if Petra had Nick's number, she couldn't call him. She also didn't have one of those magic mirrors they used as a substitute.

She could just go home and wait for them to contact her, but that would leave a freaking transport key in an alley in Seattle just waiting for anyone to find! And there had been fades in that alley. If they contacted some of their human puppets, they might be able to steal it before anyone in the Veil could get there!

Then she remembered. Her mom's house was under Veil surveillance, meant to keep her family safe. The trouble was getting there without a car. She had her keys and some money, at least. It had been some time since she'd used the bus system in Vancouver, but there were regular stops out there. Petra ran for the nearest one.

Almost twenty agonizing minutes later, she was at her mom's house. The next bus wouldn't have arrived for another half hour, and calling for a ride would have taken at least that long. Luckily for her, there were no shortage of helpful drivers in the area. One had been heading towards Sunshine Hills, and had given her a lift. Petra thanked him profusely, left him some money, and sprinted towards the two-story abode.

At this time of day her mom would be at work, and Mark would still be in physical therapy. Petra couldn't see any people watching the place, but that was no surprise. Surveillance was only effective if it was concealed.

That left one option. Petra cut around the house, to the back yard. There was a hidden key under a few flagstones outside the rear gate. Petra had to hunt around a bit to find it again after all these years, but then she let herself in. She located the fuse box on the far wall, and then tripped them all.

There. Nick had said they were monitoring the house's electrical usage in case the fades tried to get in that way. This would definitely raise some alarms at the Veil headquarters in Vancouver.

Sure enough, the door onto the rear porch opened and a Veil agent stepped out, looking at her curiously. "Ma'am?"

Petra had seen him before, but couldn't remember his name. She flipped all the fuses back to the 'on' position and closed the box. "Have you ever seen any doors in Seattle?" She asked quickly.

"No ma'am."

"Then I need you to take me to Kiri Atoll, right now!"
« Last Edit: June 10, 2022, 02:08:00 AM by Daen »