Excerpts from the journal of Connor Galloway, an employee of Orpheus and member of Crucible 7.
Richmond Virginia, October 16, 2013.
After we ended the call to Washington Dahlia asked me again if I was feeling alright. I tried to wave her off but I think she’s probably seen people in my state before. Thankfully Dan strolled in at that point and the attention shifted to him. He was projecting. We asked him what he’d been up to and he revealed that he’d been driven up to Langley, where the CIA are located, and put through some tests. It seems that he’d been pegged as a possible candidate for the new PSOC or Projector Special Operations Corps. He assured us that he hadn’t made up his mind yet as to whether it was something that interested him.
We filled him in on the Washington mission and the appearance of the death merchants and told him about the incident at the hotel.
The door soon opened and Prator returned with an older man, dressed in a grey pinstriped suit. His hair and trimmed mustache were of a similar colour and he wore gold cufflinks and a gold tie pin. Prator checked on how Dan was doing before introducing C.W. Barry the chairman of the board for Orpheus. He’d heard about the good progress our crucible was making and after seeing a news report about our actions in the hotel he wanted to come down and thank us personally for doing such a good job. He seemed very sincere and to be honest it felt pretty good getting that kind of recognition from the big boss himself. Prator of course had to add that the PR department were loving all the positive attention Orpheus was getting in the media.
But the pat on the back wasn’t the only reason for the visit. It turned out that our crucible had been chosen for a particularly sensitive mission involving a former Orpheus agent. We didn’t get much detail, just that we should be in bright and early for work tomorrow and that we weren’t to discuss the mission with anyone outside of the crucible. According to Prator the former agent was suspected of getting up to some illegal activity. “Well,” Barry chimed in, smiling, “Not illegal, as such. But certainly immoral.”
After they’d left Dahlia wanted to check out the news footage to see if we were identifiable. A quick Google search found the news report and luckily for us the picture quality wasn’t really good enough for people to see us clearly. “I dunno,” she said, “my brother will recognise me for sure.”
With the rest of the day free we decided to head to Denny’s for a proper breakfast. It seems like it’s becoming our regular thing and on the drive over Markus even remarked that if we had a tv show the promo poster would be the four of us sitting at a Denny’s booth. As we ate I told the others that I thought we should do some digging into the Bishop problem. We had three addresses connected to him, Fairfax Prison, Sheltering Palms, and the school on N street. We settled on the Prison as our first stop as it was the most likely spot to provide insight into Bishop’s background and also the only location, of the three, that wasn’t a confirmed base for his gang.
We stopped in at the office before heading out of town and ran into Grimes in the hallway. He congratulated us on our work at the hotel (seems like everyone’s seen the footage by now) and asked what we were up to. We told him we were looking into Bishop and planning on visiting the prison which caused him to drop into his serious, conspiratorial voice and tell us to keep him informed. Dahlia held back during the conversation and once we were all back in our office, behind closed doors, she said, “Maybe we should be careful about what we say to Grimes. What if he’s the rouge agent?”
“Grimes,” I was incredulous, “no, it can’t be him.” He’d always been straight with us.
“Prator also said Former Agent,” Markus added, “which implies that whoever it is, they don’t work here anymore.”
Dahlia had the final word, “I just don’t really trust him,” and we couldn’t really dissuade her.
Dahlia and I headed downstairs to the Yoga room and received another comment about the hotel, from Lisa this time. We projected and made our way back upstairs. We’d briefly discussed making appointments at the prison and all that but Dahlia eventually said we should just walk in. So the four of us made our way to the prison in spirit form. On the drive Markus and Dan filled us in on what they’d learned about the prison while we were projecting. While Fairfax was equipped to perform executions they hadn’t had one in four years and the last incident of note was a stabbing about nine months ago.
Breaking into the prison as a spirit was exactly as easy as we’d imagined. Conserving our vitality we decided to climb the outermost fence and I was surprised to find that the razor wire on top, while glowing with a psychic resonance, felt as dull as rope. Markus of course simply blinked forwards a couple of feet and waited for us on the other side, smiling. The grounds were rather empty and we surmised it must be lunch, due to the time of day. The three tall and imposing buildings were marked with large block letters. To our left was Block A, Block B sat in the middle with Administration attached to it and Block C ran along to our right. “Well, we want to look at some records,” I stated, “let’s head to admin.”
As we crossed the grounds we all noticed a distinct lack of PLEs present. Markus commented, “If you were interred here, surely it’d be the last place you’d want to haunt.”
“I don’t know,” Dahlia said, I couldn’t tell if she was being completely serious, “this would be the first place I’d haunt.”
We stepped through the walls and into an office. It looked surprisingly normal for being located in the centre of a prison but I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. We managed to spot the records room pretty quickly and made our way down to where a security door blocked our path. A small square window sat above a document tray and through it we could see a woman sitting and reading a novel. We passed straight through the door into a small room ringed with filing cabinets. Markus held up a mesmerising light while Dahlia hunted for Bishop’s files. “Markus,” I called over my shoulder, “let us know if anyone’s coming.”
With her experience in filing systems Dahlia found the records rather quickly and as we opened the folder we heard a voice. “Hey Becky, you got the…” A man on the other side of the door had come down and paused when he saw Markus’ glowing light. We flicked through Bishop’s file in a bit of a rush after that but managed to spot a report detailing how he had taken something of a leadership role among the inmates. The last page was a transfer order sending him to cell block D-E and signed W.O.
I turned back to see the man’s face leaning against the security glass and told the others that we should get going. We all made sure we were invisible again before Markus released the two, who snapped back awake as if nothing had happened.
From there we attempted to find Bishop’s final cell, but cell block D proved very elusive. Markus suggested that it might be an underground block for solitary confinement and we did indeed find a basement level. We found a few sub-level rooms for solitary and storage but they were all marked either A, B, or C.
As we made our way around the prison we did see a few ghosts, mostly blips and repeaters. The one self-aware ghost that we saw didn’t seem all that interested in us and simply walked the other way when he saw us coming. It was also very disturbing moving around among the living inmates, even though we knew they couldn’t see us. I couldn’t wait to get out of that atmosphere of fear and aggression.
With our search only turning up dead ends Markus suggested that he might be able to get some info from the Warden himself. The rest of us were out of ideas so we all headed back to admin and up to the second floor. The hallway outside the office was empty and so Markus manifested fully and opened the door. The Warden was sitting behind his desk and looked up with a “Who the hell are you?” But then Markus smiled, let out a warm glowing light and the Warden’s demeanor changed.
He stood up and crossed the room to give Markus a hug, lamenting the fact that they hadn’t caught up in a long time. I shared a slightly confused look with Dan. The Warden was asking Markus about his family and even went and poured him a scotch.
“What can I help you with?” he asked.
“Well, you know how I’m often here on important business,” Markus started, the Warden nodded knowingly, “well I can’t for the life of me find cell block D-E and there were some things in there I’d really like to check up on.”
“Oh, of course,” the Warden laughed, “funny thing is, we actually hid it! Covered it right up! But of course we had to, you know?”
“Of course,” Markus laughed along and took a sip.
“It’s actually down in B, there’s a door marked staff only. Inside there’s a metal bookshelf that covers up the stairway like in some fucking fantasy movie.”
With the information gathered Markus thanked the Warden and exited the conversation gracefully. Back in the hallway I could only get out a, “What the fuck?” Even Markus seemed pleased with how well his plan had unfolded. Now we had some actual directions.
Following the directions we found the ‘staff only’ room easily and once inside identifying the metal bookshelf wasn’t hard either. We jumped through it and found ourselves staring down a steep stairway into darkness. A single lamp flickered down in the distance illuminating walls that started out concrete and turned slowly into tunneled earth. Markus manifested slightly, creating a ball of light to show the way and Dan started down the stairs, taking point. It may have something to do with the sharing of vitality but I could tell that the others were just as on edge as I was. I had a strange sense that something bad had happened down here and so as I followed Dan I congealed a katana into my hands, just in case.
It was at a considerable depth that we found a heavy vault door ahead of us. It was cracked open slightly and a dim light was coming from inside so I moved up to take a peek. I could just make out some dark shapes in a ring around the room but there was no movement. I turned to the others, told them it was empty and we all entered together.
First we smelled the ash. Twelve cryotubes stood in two rows against the side walls. Their forms blackened by a heavy layer of soot. At the back of the room was a viewing booth with its glass shattered. Stepping forward I wiped the black from the glass of the nearest tube and breathed a sigh of relief; It was empty.
We absolutely had to know what had happened here so it was time for Dahlia to forbode. She was however feeling exhausted from spending so long out-of-body and manifesting to search for Bishop’s file so as she sat down Dan and I placed a hand each on her shoulders and put our vitality at her disposal. When she broke her trace this is what she saw.
The twelve tubes sat with men inside them as scientists looked on from the viewing room. Twelve spooks were gathered near the doorway as one spoke up. Dahlia described him as being almost a head taller than the others, quite muscular, and with a shaven bald head. He was whipping the other spooks into a fervor, convincing them that they should abandon their useless bodies in exchange for freedom. That they had learned so much and gained such power that it would be pointless to return to their imprisoned physical selves. As the group turned and phased out through the door the scientists seemed to notice their absence from the test chamber and begin to panic. The next thing Dahlia saw was a man with a flamethrower torching the entire room and the twelve cryotubes with the mens bodies still inside.
We talked the whole trip back to Orpheus.
The one thing we agreed on immediately was that the leader figure had to be Bishop. The more contentious issue was whether or not the operation must have been run by Orpheus. Both Dan and Markus said that the tubes looked similar, but not exactly the same as the ones they used but Dahlia countered that it could just be an older model. I was definitely the same technology and method. Playing devil’s advocate I suggested that maybe someone else had been working on similar tech at the same time but we all knew that was quite unlikely. Besides, if it really was an Orpheus operation then it would explain why Bishop and his gang hold such a grudge.
“What I think we need to decide,” I told the others as we neared the office, “Is who, if anyone, can we tell?” None of us were sure who we could trust so we decided to sit on the information for now.
As we passed by his office Grimes called out to us. Looking in we saw that he had found himself a ghost dog somewhere and that he was petting it. Turns out he’d just got back from fumigating a ghostly beast that was haunting a little town and that it was all on account of a dog-fighting racket. The stray had followed him home and had been creatively dubbed ‘Phantom’. He did get serious after that and asked pointedly if we’d found anything at the prison. Dahlia blew it off as a dead end and Grimes paused. “Lady, I was a detective for twenty years so don’t think you can fool me.” I gestured everyone inside and shut the door behind us. Grimes listened patiently as I retold the events of the day and what we’d found. Afterwards he gave us a name, Project Flatline, and said that is was something JD Cryogenics had run back before it was Orpheus. Apparently there were twelve ‘volunteers’ for the program. We mulled over the extra information for a minute but eventually decided to call it a day.
Dahlia suggested that I might want to stay at Orpheus instead of in an empty apartment so we took a round trip to pick up some clothes etc. from our places before heading back. I grabbed my journal and a few more books too.
So here I am, one and a half weeks in to the new job and already sleeping at work. But Dahlia’s right, the world out there gets weirder and scarier every day and this place is safe.
As a final note for this entry I’ve been trying to wrap my head around Project Flatline and its ‘volunteers’. It’s hard to see who is in the right and wrong in this situation. Experimenting on people is definitely a bad move. But on the other hand these were all murderers and hardened criminals. I can’t say they didn’t deserve some kind of punishment. It kind of reminded me of the Hotel and how I’d tried to talk to the spook before Dahlia tore him to pieces. Sometimes I think that maybe I’m being too lenient but then I remind myself that everyone deserves a second chance. I was given a second chance at life after the crash. Hell, and a third chance at rehab. Who am I to pass judgement on anyone?