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[Fiction] Telling Tales

Alex Craft

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Even in the middle of the night, Toyko's Shinjuku Station buzzes with activity. The Shinjuku district's clubs, bars, and red-light establishments close late (if they close at all), and patrons keep the district and its station alive far into the early hours of the morning. Even so, there are quiet places. The density of the local entertainment complex requires extensive infrastructure, including a maze of alleys, tunnels, and similar out of the way accesses. It is in one of these that Alex arrives in Tokyo.

To the human eye, the alley would look nothing but normal, but higher senses might reveal an brief twisting of quantum energies - silently releasing a faintly worrying quantity of X-ray and microwave radiation. Then, the alley is occupied as Alexander Craft steps through the short-lived warp interstice.

The warp leaves Alex disoriented as his quantum senses are momentarily 'blinded' by the energy discharge. Fighting off nausea, he leans against a convenient wall and lets his perceptions adjust to the local currents. After a moment, he shakes it off and stands, saying to the air: "Thanks Mary. I'll owe you, alright?"

Alex glances up and down the alley, then strikes out toward the sound of street activity. A quarter of a block later, he turns a corner and walks out onto the streets of Shinjuku. Unsure of exactly where the warp had dropped him, he sweeps the district with his higher senses, looking for point sources of quantum energy. There are a couple of concentrations, but the largest is unmistakable - only New Ground would be likely to have so many novas in attendance.

Returning his attention to his surrounding, Alex begins strolling through the clusters of club goers, relaxing into the unique background murmur of Tokyo at night.

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"C.T., I still don't like this," said Selena, looking up at the tower that housed New Ground.

"I know, Selena, but we need alliances outside of our normal circles. This could very well be an important step in that direction."

Selena's face grew even more grim.

"Lair of the beast," she whispered.

Preston looked himself over and nodded. It was time to go. He walked to the mouth of the alley, nodded to Selena as well, and then crossed the street, deftly avoiding the light traffic at this hour.

Selena and C.T. went back to the car and waited.

Preston waited in front of the tower, scanning the club-goers until he sees his target.

"Mr. Craft, I'm Preston? Why don't we take a walk?"

The direction he gestures is away from New Ground, not toward it.

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As Alex approaches New Ground, he begins to notice flaws in the pattern of Shinjuku. Gradually, they resolve as a secondary pattern, overlaid on the broader pattern of the nightlife. This would have to be the watchers - a handful of operatives from various agencies stuck here to observe New Ground, eternally hoping to catch some Terat with his/her/its pants down. It's all business as usual, but they could become a problem. Nothing insurmountable, though.

Arriving at his destination, Alex picks out Preston and begins to make his way over. As he does so, he focuses on the Shinjuku nightlife, committing the patterns to memory. When he reaches Preston, he offers his had, responding, "Glad to meet you, Preston - just call me Alex."

As the men shake hands, Alex taps back into the Shinjuku pattern, analyzing Preston and his position in the web. His eyes go vague for a moment as he carefully reorganizes elements of the pattern, perfectly weaving himself and Preston into the Brownian motion of the passing people. To outsiders, the two become just another part of the crowd. Nothing to see here. Move along.

"That'd be just fine. Lead on."

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{{Premonition running}}

"Its good to meet you, Alex."

After they have moved away from the tower and deeper into the district.

With a smirk on his face,

"So, Alex, state the nature of the medical emergancy."

"Sorry, couldn't resist."

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Alex flashes an easy smile, replying, "Down to business then."

Reaching into a satchel hanging from his shoulder, Alex pulls out a thick manila file folder, wrapped in a couple of rubber bands. Passing it to Preston, he continues walking, saying:

"Sorry 'bout the low-tech solution, but I wanted to bring as many original documents as possible. Just in case the physical connection would help you get a read. You can look over those if you want, but I'll summarize."

"You familiar with Utopia and Triton's 'grey' projects? Like those little labs the Terats tore up back in 2010 - just before the Corbin situation? Same deal here. You're not supposed to be hearing any of this so, again, I'll appreciate it if you keep this pretty private."

"The project ended up breaking down into at least three phases - each one handled by a different group of researchers. The first phase started six years ago. Then, it was being run by a small biotech firm down in Mexico. LifeSynergy. You probably don't know it - they never were able to produce a true product. Mostly they were in the business of playing around with proteins - trying to create supermeds. Then, in '07, one of their researchers, Ryan Brown, erupted. That put them on a more innovative path."

"Brown was a bona fide genius. I would've liked to meet him, but he committed suicide a few years ago - he had trouble dealing with humans, and he just couldn't take it when his wife and kids left him."

"Anyway, in mid-'08, LifeSynergy started a new project. Taint research, sort of. They proposed a solution for novas who erupt with uncontrollable powers or an inhuman form. They thought that it may be possible to induce dormancy, bypassing the lengthy and unreliable training we usually need to teach that skill."

"LifeSynergy's team started out examining novas capable of dorming down. They developed a battery of tests that allowed them to pretty thoroughly document everything that happens when you shut down or turn on your node. A good ten months of research later, they had a good picture and were about to start on the development stage of the project."

"That's when TechReg pulled the carpet out from under them. Surprising it took that long, really. The spooks cauterized the entire project - even telepathically killed key portions of Brown's memory of the project. That, officially, was the end of the whole thing."

"Unofficially, TechReg passed the confiscated research on to Triton to see what we could do with it. That happens sometimes. The idea is that while a project could be dangerous in the hands of an independent, Triton's research can be carefully monitored. Make sure nothing bad happens. I'm unconvinced, personally."

"The Triton staff for the project's second phase included myself, another nova brain - Jackson 'Thought' Reid - and the standard complement of supplementary researchers and support staff. We weren't told anything about the data's origins - didn't find out myself until a little more'n a year ago. It was implied was that it was all research from another Triton lab."

"Even then, this had 'ethically questionable' written all over it. While it could end up seeing use as originally intended, the security clearances involved strongly suggested otherwise. And hey, it really doesn't take a lot of imagination to see a nova 'off switch' being used as a weapon. But still, we'd all seen things like this before, and we got to work."

"In the end, the project got taken from us, as well. We worked out some potentials - mostly chemical triggers, with a couple of electromagnetic alternatives and a suggestion that another group start looking into psi applications. Then, we were taken off of the project, and it moved into a theoretical testing and implementation phase at a higher clearance level."

"That's what I'm interested in. Ever since I left the project, I've been making it my business to find out what happened to these kinds of projects. Lately, I've been just running into walls - I've pretty much exhausted every lead I have. So, yeah, I need a little help. I have a few other possible projects, but I think this one is probably the easiest bid right now."

Alex reaches into a pocket and fishes out a sealed vial, half-filled with a clear fluid.

"I don't know if this will help, but you might take a look at it. This stuff is a useless chemical - absolutely no application in any industry. It's also rather difficult to make, so you don't see it often. However, if someone injected that into you along with some mox and a couple of catalysts, you might find yourself losing your third eye. I can't be sure, since we never got to the stage of figuring out how to catalyze the reaction."

"However, last year someone in Utopia - not Triton - was regularly having this stuff made by the gallon. Whoever it was has moved on now, and the records dried up suspiciously quickly. My guess is that someone's been playing with my old research."

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Preston shows zero surpirse. He keeps leaping deftly throught the files, closing them only long enough to take the vial. He keeps the vial in hand and goes back to reading as Alex keeps talking.

"You need to talk to Dr. Aeon. He was here about 4 years ago, though he hasn't had the resources to keep up that pace."

"I warn you, though. He is a squirrely bastard."

"Do you want me take a reading on this vial?"

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"I've seen some of Aeon's work - my boss got a hold of his notes at some point. Not sure I want to know how."

"I would appreciate it if you took a look. I don't know how strong a connection it might have, but I'm relatively certain that sample was handled by someone in the project. Wherever they were working, they had the remainder of this stuff put in registered storage when they moved on. A friend of mine lifted that from the locker."

"Anything you can get me would be useful. A name, a location, anything."

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Over the next minute, Preston's eyes flash, dim, then flash again. All in all, nearly a dozen visions are called for, but Preston persists.

Preston takes a deep breath, thinks for a few more seconds, then starts jotting down addresses and names.

"Here you go. The first name is the pharmacutical company that created the stuff. Without a clear chain to follow, I can't find who put the order in, but here is the contract number. The ones in the next group are most likely dead ends. The third group are shell companies that all lead to the final address. I don't like the feeling I get from that place, and I sensed that they are still recieving the chemical in small quantities."

"Sorry that I can't be more precise, but the link is pretty weak. Also, tell you associate that aquired this that she had better be careful. Once they detect you sniffing around, there are likely to be consequences and repurcussions. Understand me?"

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"I look after my own."

Alex takes Preston's notes and glances them over, nodding at a couple of new connections. Looking up, he adds, "And I also pay my debts. I definitely owe you - this should be more than enough. If you need anything, you know how to contact me."

He shuffles everything back into the folder, wraps the folder in rubber bands, then slips the bundle back into his satchel.

"I couldn't help but notice that you don't seem particularly surprised by all of this. Why is that? I get that this could be a sensitive topic ... but I have to at least ask."

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"Not surprised? No, I suppose I'm not. If you can find Dr. Aeon, maybe he will tell you why. As for me, this city has too many ears, and there are more lives than just my own to think about."

"If you need help with this later on, let me know. It has been a pleasure, and helpful."

As he turns to leave,

"Be careful with this, Mr. Craft. Once you've become a persistant threat, you can expect things to get nasty. Until now, I've known just enough to be damaging, but not enough to be terminal."

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"... Thanks."

Alex's brow furrows momentarily, but he seems to quickly shrug it off - either good acting or a atrophied sense of self-preservation. With a quick grin to dispel the mood, he pulls out his cell phone and checks the time, saying, "It has been a pleasure. Anytime you need something ..."

He snaps open the phone, then pauses, adding, "Oh, just so you know. I've been running some shoestring stealthing on the two of us. It will probably decay rapidly once you're out of my range, but you might be able to stretch it out by acting like you're out clubbing."

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