Excerpts from the journal of Connor Galloway, an employee of Orpheus and member of Crucible 7.
Richmond Virginia, October 21, 2013.
Over the weekend we were inundated with new stories surrounding the events at Bishop’s headquarters. Luckily for us the only footage making the rounds was terribly grainy and taken from a cell phone. We saw the same ten second clip over and over on every network and the message being told was always the same. Politicians from all over the country were making their opinions known, calling the behaviour ‘unacceptable’ and begging for regulations to be put in place. Even those who weren’t openly decrying the act, those who were simply happy to have the Pigment off the streets, were calling for sweeping law changes.
When Prator and C.W. Barry came to see us on Monday morning it was obvious that they knew what had really happened. Prator opened with something along the lines of, “So, would you like to tell me what happened this weekend?” Dahlia feigned ignorance which led Prator to remind her that she wasn’t the only one in the company who could look into the past.
So Markus took over, telling them about Ken and what had happened to him. A disturbed look passed over Prator’s face at the description of the spectre transformation but otherwise they made no response until the story was done. Barry was the next to speak, telling us what Orpheus intended to do.
PR would call it a vigilante act and deny any involvement from Orpheus. This was as much to protect Dahlia as it was the company, after all she had been the one to bring the building down. He followed this up by saying that we’d proven ourselves quite capable at clandestine activities. I could tell he was trying to get to the point but judging his every word before he said it. Finally he asked us if we would be willing to put the Bishop issue to rest and that Orpheus would provide us with a substantial reward if we were to succeed.
“Is there anything we can do for you?” he finished.
Dan piped up, “Well, we haven’t exactly had any help from Orpheus.”
“Orpheus and it’s resources will be at your disposal in pursuit of this goal. Much more so than for any other mission.”
“What about the ghost-bullets?” Markus added, “I’d like to know we’d be first in line to get our hands on them.”
“Of course. Prator tells me that most of you have been having firearms training,” Prator nodded, ” and your work in the last few weeks has definitely turned heads in the company. From now on Crucible 7 is considered among our top agents.”
I thanked them for the support and the promised transparency going forward. I was just happy that we wouldn’t have to sneak about on these missions anymore. Barry thanked us again for the continued good work and took his leave. Prator shut the door once he’d left in order to speak to us himself.
He had some more information regarding Bishop. Grimes had turned up a stash of Pigment while investigating another job and it was located in a Church of the Sacred Mother. The sheer size of the stash suggested that while it probably wasn’t a distribution point for Bishop’s cartel it was definitely suspicious. We said that we’d go check it out ourselves and he asked us to try and keep a low profile for now, in light of recent events.
Before he left Prator reminded us once more about the company party and meet-and-greet on Wednesday night. There were going to be some important people visiting from the defence contractor and we needed to make a good impression. Apparently we’d earned some ‘beach’ anyway and Dan and Markus were free to hop back in their physical bodies whenever they felt like it. Dan was enthusiastic, even if it was just so that he could go to Denny’s and actually eat.
So we did just that. But while the others were being woken up Dahlia and I quickly visited Lehto to see how he was doing and I also introduced her to Hollis who smiled and handed her a pink .38 for her first lesson.
Due to the slow cryo-process it was mid afternoon by the time we left Orpheus. At Denny’s our usual waitress showed us to our table and commented on the fact that we’d brought our friends this time. If only she knew. Markus and Dan both began ordering food and then kept ordering it. I suppose spending two weeks in a tube must build up something of an appetite. We decided that the day was getting a bit late to check out the Church, their sermons seem to be held at sundown and so the places would be crowded. Tomorrow though, we’ll be heading down to the Church where Grimes spotted the pigment and see if we can find anything else connecting them to Bishop.
We all split after that, heading back to our respective apartments around the city. When I walked into mine however it just felt cold. A layer of dust had settled on the stacks of books and the only sound was that of the occasional car passing outside, muffled by the windows and curtains. I don’t think I’ll be staying here tonight. For better or worse I’m more comfortable staying at Orpheus. Once I’m done writing I may just grab some books and head back.
Richmond Virginia, October 22, 2013.
Seems the others couldn’t stay away either. Only Dan managed to summon a shred of independence and stay at his apartment. It was a good thing they were there though.
Somewhere around midnight I was awoken by a shaking. My tired mind jumped to the conclusion that it was an earthquake and I sprang from the bed and turned on the light. As the small dorm room lit up my eyes fell on the glass of water I’d left sitting on the bedside table. Despite the movement I felt beneath my feet the water stood calm as ever and when I placed my hand on the door it too was still.
I flopped back down on the mattress and was soon sleeping once more. At least until early morning when another, more violent, quake woke me again. This time I shook the sleep from my eyes and opened the door to peer down the corridor. A few seconds later Dahlia’s head poked out of her room. “You feel that?” I asked, knowing the answer. She nodded.
“You want some coffee?” she offered. I wasn’t under any pretense that I would get back to sleep so I nodded back.
We agreed that it must’ve been connected to the ghostquake the others had felt. Although this time is was affecting un-projected people while still leaving the physical world untouched. I half-heartedly suggested that perhaps the ghostquake was manifesting somehow, the same way we did. But even as I said it it sounded implausible. I spent the last few hours before dawn reading through some apocalyptic texts looking for specific mentions of earthquakes but nothing jumped out.
We were on our way to see Dr. Klein about the quake when Dan arrived back at the office with disturbing news. He’d called his mother to find out that a white chess piece had been placed on the doorstep of their family home. He hadn’t told them what it might mean, not wanting to scare them, but clearly we needed to do something. Dahlia excused herself to go call her brother and I went with Dan to see Prator about getting some protection in place. Markus would have to talk to Klein for the lot of us.
Prator was very understanding of Dan’s fears for his family and after a few calls we were assured that Crucible 2 would be at the house within six hours. Strangely Prator also told us that they would have to be relieved in order to be able to attend Wednesday’s party. I was surprised that their attendance was deemed more important than Dan’s family’s safety and also that the relief team would be Crucible 8, another group had been assembled over the last two weeks.
We all met back in the office and Dahlia told us that her brother was fine and hadn’t experienced anything out of the ordinary. Markus reported that Klein was eager to learn more about the quake and had begun setting up equipment immediately. He was also apparently hard at work on creating the Ghost-shot. I made sure that Dan was still feeling up to checking out the Church, which he assured us he was, and we head out.
Once again the Church of the Sacred Mother had been established in a somewhat rundown, disused, building. It’s pale bricks were cracked and dressed in climbing vines. The wooden facade was faded dirty except for a bright patch in the shape of a cross. Clearly this had been a place of worship some time ago. Being the middle of the day there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic but the door was open and we could hear music coming from inside. I elected to project and accompany the party in ghost form.
Inside we found a hall, complete with the folding steel chairs we’d seen at the last place. They’d all been packed to one side which left the room feeling vast and eerie. A door near the back of the room had been propped open with a brick and jazz could be heard playing beyond. Markus called out a hello and a man appeared. He was a geeky looking guy, with his polo tucked into jeans that were pulled up a little too high. When he approached I noticed that he was wearing makeup over what looked to be a rather swollen cheek. Markus struck up a conversation, expressing the group’s interest in the church they kept hearing about, and I took the opportunity to do some unseen snooping.
I ducked into the man’s office, if you could call it that. The small room had a single filing cabinet and a folding table which was covered in administrative papers. It seemed that our new friend had been doing some accounting when we interrupted him. He had told Markus that he was a simple administrator, not a full member of the church, and this seemed to back up his claim. Looking around the room, however, I spied a particularly dirty patch in one corner of the floor and bent down to take a closer look. This dirt was large, grey, and grainy, the same texture as the mortar holding the brick walls together. I glanced back to the brick that held the door open and noted that it was the same as those used in the walls.
Turning back to the wall I sent out a silvery thread from one hand and began to tug at the bricks one by one. Sure enough, one of them slid outwards at my insistence and I peered into the space behind it. There I spotted the pigment, maybe a dozen bags of it, enough to fuel a hundred trips. I felt a momentary urge to grab it all and sneak out but fought it down. I don’t need that stuff any more. Still using Helter Skelter I slid one bag out of the stash and placed the brick back in carefully. I could that hear that the accountant was trying to get rid of the others so he could return to his work so I flicked the bag of Pigment upwards and held it on the ceiling. I slid it across the roof where he wouldn’t notice and out the door, dropping it into Markus’ hand.
Back in the car we decided that giving the Pigment to Dr. Klein would be the wisest course. He would be able to tell us if it was some weird strain that reverends like Thaddeus Green were using in order to see the dead. As we were about to leave Dahlia suggested that she could Forbode in the office to get a clearer picture of what had happened so the two of us went back inside.
The accountant had no idea we were standing next to him and continued to sing along to his music as Dahlia sat down to Forbode. When her eyes opened again she cast the man a sorry glance and told me that he had been beaten by a thug after the stashed bags had been miscounted. He’d been accused of being short and had almost paid for it with his life.
It took another fifteen minutes to get the bag back. I had to wait, with the Pigment held up against the ceiling, until the accountant left the room. At least he wouldn’t get killed over our investigation. It was also worth noting that any theft could be traced back to us by someone with the ability to Forbode. Someone like Bishop.
We did however have a small pinch of the stuff to take back to Klein, so the search wasn’t entirely pointless. The doctor placed it under a microscope to examine the substance and was taken aback by what he saw. “Everyvone, vash your hands!” he commanded and we did as we were told. Apparently the Pigment we had taken, and likely the whole stash we’d seen, was laced with Strychnine, a deadly pesticide.
As to why Bishop’s gang would want to kill it’s customers, especially in such a roundabout fashion, we have no idea. Needless to say, I’m fucking glad I didn’t run off with the stuff.