Excerpts from the journal of Connor Galloway, an employee of Orpheus and member of Crucible 7.
Richmond Virginia, October 23, 2013.
For the sake of completeness, and to help me get my own head around the events of today, I’m going to start from the start.
I awoke in my Orpheus dorm and stepped out into the common room as a team of administrative staff were dressing the place up. By the time I’d had breakfast and headed up to the Crucible 7 office the whole building had been preened and the staff were all wearing their finest. The place was the busiest I’d seen it.
Prator showed up just after nine, once we were all gathered, and checked to see who needed tuxedos. I raised my hand, as did Dahlia. Markus had arrived already dressed for the occasion, wearing something sharp from his own wardrobe, but decided to come along to get a new bowtie. Dan headed back to his apartment to pick his up. Prator let us know that Vivienne would be in shortly to take us for our fitting. When he left we saw him duck into the next office down and start the same speech there.
We had most of the day to kill so I loaded up the Stillwater website to get a quick look at who we would be meeting at the party. There wasn’t much on their front page, a brief description of their work: paramilitary, VIP and convoy escort, etc. I managed to find a brief description of the important employees. Granvil Niles, CEO; Zachariah Kimberley, VP of Operations; Dwayne Freeman, Head of PR; and finally Travis Reeve, their newly hired Director of Projector Technologies. Then Vivienne arrived and it was time to suit up.
It was an interesting experience being fitted for a tuxedo. Vivienne was very helpful but she and the tailor both might as well have been speaking a different language. Markus hung about and stepped in whenever they asked me to make a stylistic choice. When they retired to make their alterations I simply shrugged at him. He laughed, clapped me on the shoulder, and said I’d look better than ever before.
Meeting back in the office Dan told us that he’d run into Erin, from Crucible 2, and that she’d checked his parent’s house. Her Forbode had revealed that the chess piece had been placed by a young thug. It seemed more like a warning than a threat.
Markus and I spent part of the afternoon down at the firing range. Hollis took one look at us in our tuxes and grabbed a pair of PPKs for us to do Bond impressions with. Chatting to Hollis we also found out that years ago, when he’d left the military, he’d been offered a job with Stillwater. He said their salaries were very attractive but that ultimately he wanted to be involved in the exciting work that Orpheus was doing. As the afternoon wore on however Hollis had to pack us up so that he could go get ready for the party.
The four of us showed up to the party together, probably a little anxious about all the new faces that would be milling around. The function was held in one of the larger training rooms but had undergone a startling transformation. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling and tasteful abstract art adorned the walls. Near a small stage at the back of the room a jazz band was playing softly. Across the room I could see Grimes was hanging around by the bar. He seemed to be speaking politely to those who approached him but once they left his face turned sour again. This was definitely not his element. We found our designated table quickly and saw that we would be sharing it with three Stillwater personnel. I recognised Dwayne Freeman’s name from my earlier search.
While we were checking out our table three people approached. Like us they seemed to be keeping to their group but it looked like we were all going to be eating dinner together very shortly. Dwayne took charge and introduced his group. Amanda le’Burnes was first, a young middle-eastern woman and one of Stillwater’s language specialists, fluent in fourteen different languages. Desmond Clark was a tall and well-built man who seemed ill-suited to his tuxedo, Dwayne named him as one of Stillwater’s top operatives.
After shaking hands we all sat down and the Crucible and I tried to answer some questions about our jobs. They asked what kind of abilities we had and Dahlia immediately threw them a curve-ball by casually replying, “Oh, I can see the past and future.” They looked impressed but when Dahlia commented that we were only in our third week with the company Dwayne looked a little annoyed but maintained a polite attitude. We didn’t tell them about the spectres or the NextWorld technology, of course, but we made it clear that we’d faced real danger during our short time.
C.W. Barry soon took his place at the podium at one end of the room and the murmur of voices died down. He said he was a man of few words and lived up to that statement by simply saying that we were all in attendance to celebrate a promising partnership between the two companies and toasted to the good work we would be doing in the future. Zachariah Kimberley was next to speak. He was an older man, in his late fifties, but he had the look of a soldier to him. He had maintained his military buzzcut as well as his physique. He spoke for a little longer than Barry, touching on his reaction to early news of Projector tech and commenting on how the veil between the two worlds was thinning. He told us that everyone in their line of work has experienced loss at some point and that if working with projectors would help to prevent casualties then there was no choice but to join forces.
Another toast down and the food began to arrive. It was all magnificent and I could see that Dan and Markus were enjoying it especially. We continued to talk with our new acquaintances about our abilities as projectors and Markus suggested that I give a demonstration. Amanda’s eyes lit up, “Could you?” The three of them were all looking at me. I shrugged and agreed before leaning back in my seat to project. Once I’d passed over I sat forward in my chair and using Helter Skelter I picked up my cutlery. As the floating knife and fork began to cut my steak into small pieces the Stillwater employees were transfixed. After I’d finished cutting I sat back up and couldn’t help but smile. “Can you use that for combat,” Desmond asked over his drink, looking a little wary.
“I sure can,” I replied, “and I have.”
“Damn,” he quaffed his liquor, “looks like I’m out of a job.”
As we finished our meals Dan inquired about the kinds of work Orpheus agents might do for Stillwater. Dwayne couldn’t give specifics, claiming it was for someone on a higher salary to decide. But he did give us some of his guesses. Projectors diffusing bombs and reconnoitering areas with no risk to themselves would be very beneficial.
After dinner people got up to mingle so we did the same. A few of the more intoxicated staff members began dancing in the clear area in front of the band and I could make out a ruddy-faced Hollis joining in. C.W. Barry introduced us to Travis Reeve (Projector Tech) as one of Orpheus’ top groups and we spoke briefly about our experiences. He was particularly interested in Dan and Markus’ thoughts on the sleeper tubes. Turning back to the crowd Dan pointed out Grimes who was having a standoffish conversation with Desmond Clark. Erin was passing by and we shared a laugh as we watched the two grizzled veterans compare scars.
Prator found us soon after that and said he had something special for us in his office. He looked around briefly for someone to tell that he was leaving and settled for tapping Hollis on the shoulder. Hollis just shrugged, nodded, and continued dancing. “You guys meet that woman who speaks fourteen languages?” Prator said as he lead us towards his office, “I can barely speak one, am I right? Nah, but I do know Latin.”
In his office Prator took a seat behind his desk and reached into a draw. Withdrawing a bottle and four envelopes he offered the bottle first. “Scotch, anyone?” He poured us each a shallow glass and handed them to us along with the envelopes. He leaned back and thanked us personally for the good work we’d been doing saying that the envelopes had a little bonus for us from Orpheus. I peered in to find a cheque for ten thousand dollars. Yep, just a small bonus.
We threw back the scotch in toast and set the glasses on the table as we heard fireworks going off in the distance. “Huh,” Prator looked perplexed, “didn’t know they’d organised fireworks. Guess we’ve missed ’em.” Then another boom sounded and we felt the floor shaking. A more chilling sound reached us then, the sound of screams. Dan opened the door to Prator’s office and we looked down the hallway to see another door crash open. A man dressed in SWAT-like armour, carrying an MP5 submachine-gun, moved out into the hallway. Dan quickly pulled the door closed.
Cursing to himself Prator drew a pistol out from his desk. I knew how vulnerable we were and jumped into one of the back corners of the room to project but it was hard to concentrate with the gunfire rattling away in the distance. We could hear the mean outside kicking in more doors and moving down the corridor towards us. Soon the door to Prator’s office flew open and he fired away with his pistol. The first assailant went down hard but as he fell he was pushed back out of the doorway to make room for a second. A spray of bullets flew across the room and several of them struck Prator. I focused harder then and somehow managed to pull my spirit free of my body. As I stood up I saw Dan, who was closest to the door, swing his cane down on the attacker’s gun. He lost his grip and the firearm skidded into the office only to be pounced upon by Markus. Even being disarmed didn’t phase the man in the doorway and he simply knelt and spun out of the way for the third member of their team to fire.
The second spray of bullets was much wilder, covering much of the room. Dan was safely out of the way behind the door frame and somehow Markus was unscathed but I saw Dahlia take a round to the leg and crumple to the carpet. One of the bullets hit me in the shoulder and tore through my gauze. They had Ghost-shot. Dan swung again, this time aiming for the man’s head, and connected squarely. The red goggles that he wore shattered beneath the blow and the man staggered backwards out of the room. From where he’d landed on the floor Markus pulled the trigger of his newly acquired MP5 and ended the life of another attacker.
With one man unaccounted for I ran to the doorway to peek out, hoping that being projected would protect me somewhat from any surprise attacks. I saw the last attacker backing up down the hallway and with his goggles he saw me too. He fired a pistol back at me but I ducked out of the way. Expending some considerable vitality I threw a thick silver cord in his direction, grabbing onto his gun with Helter Skelter. He tried to hold on but I managed to wrest it from him and float it back to me. Completely disarmed he turned and ran.
Dahlia had projected, probably in order to avoid the pain of her gunshot, and was directing Markus as to how to staunch the flow of blood. A pool had begun to spread beneath her sleeping body. I hopped back in my body and we gathered up some weapons. Dan tucked the pistol I’d recovered into his belt and threw Dahlia over his shoulders. Markus and I both picked up MP5s from the deceased.
“Fuck,” we heard from behind us and whirled around to see Prator’s ghost step out of his body and ignite in a Witch’s Nimbus, “We need to get out of here right now!” He told us that whoever was attacking was probably watching the entrances but there was a service tunnel down by the cryo-tubes that we could use to escape.
We dashed out of the office and down the hallway, following Prator through the maze of Orpheus’ administrative department. Finally we came to a service elevator and Prator told us that it should get us down to the basement levels. We stepped inside and hit the button. As the doors began to close we saw another strike team round the corner at the far end of the hall. They saw us and signaled the advance with their hands. They weren’t quite at at effective firing yet and had their barrels lowered. Then from behind them came a pack of spectres. I almost laughed then, a madman’s laugh, to think that spectres would show up and save us. But then the dark shapes moved straight past the men and ran at us. Somehow the people attacking us had sided with these creatures and I was momentarily paralyzed. Then Prator turned to us, said, “Stay together,” and just as the doors closed he erupted in ghostly flame and phased through to hold the spectres off.
When we emerged from the elevator the basement was a mess. Small fires were burning in the Yoga room and as we passed through the cryo-tube room out shoes crunched on broken glass. The tubes had been destroyed and I stopped in my tracks at the sight of Lehto’s bullet-ridden body lying motionless in one of them. Near the back of the room we came upon Klein slumped against an instrument panel, his white lab coat was stained red. Behind him was the service tunnel Prator had directed us to and we plunged into it.
After a while we emerged from a hatch in a small park. My entire body felt ready to collapse and I was most likely in shock. Markus and I helped Dan to lift Dahlia’s sleeping body up and out of the tunnel and her spirit self climbed out after us. We stood for a moment on that hill, looking down on the Orpheus building as it smoked and burned. The clear night sky was doing nothing to douse the fires that engulfed half the structure and the pillar of smoke that rose, thick and black, into the air sat undisturbed by wind.
“You need to get me to a hospital,” Dahlia snapped us back to reality, to the more immediate problems. Markus took our guns and hid them somewhere nearby while Dan and I got a taxi. Dan decided to hold onto the pistol as it was pretty inconspicuous. But then again, we were all wearing tuxedos. The taxi driver got one look at Dahlia and sped us on our way.
Now here we sit waiting for Dahlia to get fixed up and watching the news reports come in. Terrorist attack, they say. Every Orpheus office hit simultaneously. Over 500 dead. The prime suspects: a group of about ten former Orpheus agents.
And our names are on the list.