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Aberrant RPG - [Aberrant: 2081 (AU)] The Heart of Arumat

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Cairo, October 24th, 2008

The Village of Nazlet el-Samman

The clang of picks chimed through the noonday sun along the excavation sight of one Dr. Randolf Adjule. The elder archaeologist had made history with the find of a site buried nearly a quarter a mile beneath the village of Nazlet el-Samman. It had taken nearly three years of digging to locate the site that pinged advanced sonar, but since then the finds and discoveries of this ancient site just a mere four hundred meters from the Pyramid of Khufu, had numbered in the thousands; each bringing with it new enigmas of the ancient Egyptian culture.

“Doctor!” A thickly accented African voice called out as the man it belonged to dashed across dusty trails to the small shanty that served as something as a collectibles storage. “Doctor! We’ve found something… Doctor!”

Although well in his seventies Dr. Adjule hastily ran out, a small brush and a magnifier still in hand. “Slow down boy!” He chuckled. “Slow down. What is it you’ve found?”

The young man, still panting from his long run looked at the doctor with a stare that was filled with an assurance that demanded his attention. “The Heart of Arumat.”

Hushed whispers of disbelief spread about the surrounding workers and archeologists. With a raised hand Dr. Adjule hushed the crowd. Calmly in a voice that carried the tone of a loving father speaking to his son, he simply requested, “Show me, boy.”

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Hartford, Connecticut, June 12th, 2081

Hartford University

”And now an update on the ongoing ‘Aberrant Rights Movement’.” The reporter on the plasma screen glanced casually to the small screen on the desk in front of him. “Today, Aberrants marched on the square in Zimbabwe in a peaceful protest for equal rights for the genetically deficient. The protest turned violent when civilians, in self defense, opened fire on the protesters, killing three and injuring several others.”

The screen showed the scene as civilians carrying automatic guns and an assortment of melee weaponry (everything from farm implements to knives and clubs). The protesters in an attempt to defend themselves fled away from the armed mob until one of them fired several shots mowing down a few of the protesters.

In retaliation the Aberrants fought back. Their bodies exploded into flame, ice, or electricity and they pelted their enemies with an assortment of near mystical attacks while even others picked up cars and trucks like they weighed nothing and hurled them at those who meant them harm, and then screen went black.

“Damn mutants.” Complains a handsome man in a lab coat holding a remote. “Can you believe those people? Starting a fight in the streets like that? And they want equal rights? They’re animals.” He shook his head in disgust.

“From where I’m sitting Thomas those people were defending themselves from close minded bigots. Those protesters weren’t doing anything wrong until someone fired upon them.” A rich English accent replied to him. The lovely brunette he called his ‘lab partner’ looked at him through low hung glasses resting upon the bridge of her nose. “Also, I believe they prefer the term ‘aberrants’, and where do they come up with that garbage? ‘Genetically deficient’? You’ve got to be kidding. Aberrants are in every way genetically superior, hands down. It’s rubbish.”

Thomas folded his arms. “Rubbish or not, those things are too powerful to be given a fair share, the less of them the better. What’s to stop them from just doing as they please, Michelle?”

“Personal responsibility.” She replied, becoming more and more visibly irritated about the topic. She let her pen hit the table with a ‘slap’, finally fed up. “And if you ever expect to share a bed with me again Thomas I recommend you put your racism to rest in a hurry. I’ll admit I have a shortage of patience with bigots, but what I do not have is a shortage of prospective ‘lab partners’.”

“Baby…” Thomas pleaded, realizing his opinions had carried him too far. “Come on now, don’t be like this. I’m sorry.”

She picked her pen back up and started writing again. She shook her head frustrated. “Keep apologizing. When you’re forgiven I’ll let you know.”

“Uh, how’s the translation coming along?” Thomas asked, hoping a subject change would save some face.

Michelle didn’t answer right away. She looked to her personal computer and continued to scrawl notes. “Not well. Thomas, I’m not a linguist or a specialist in dead cultures. I’m a geologist. I could tell you where this stone came from, but aside from that… where did you get this, anyway?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.” Thomas sat beside her looking at the screen flash several symbols across the screen in an attempt to match the glyphs that appeared around he outer edge of the one foot diameter stone disc that rest beneath scanning equipment. “It showed up in Dr. Gaspar’s office a few days ago wrapped in brown paper, no address, no anything.”

“You’re kidding right?” She asked incredulously.

“Wish I was. There were some guys from Rime Industries here earlier today asking him about it though; he gave it to me to see if there was something we could learn about it.” He glanced at the monitor again; there were still no matches to the glyphs. “Looks like we can’t.”

Michelle grinned. “That’s not entirely true. I did run a few tests on its material.”

“Michelle, it’s a rock.” He rolled his eyes. “That doesn’t help us much.”

“Actually.” She reached over and pulled a sheet of paper from the printer. Swiftly her pen darted over the page circling several points of interest for Thomas to review. “And I think I know someone who might be able to decipher the glyphs.”

“This can’t be right, Michelle.” He scanned the page looking at what his partner had highlighted for him. “This stone would be oh god… I don’t have a calculator.

“It would predate recorded civilization, or more to the point, predate any civilization that used a language or dialect aside from cave drawings.” She said. “Which is why I wanted to call my friend. This would seriously interest her and if anyone knows about glyphs like these it’d be her. I just hope she hasn’t changed her number, again.”

She snapped a picture of the stone and its glyphs and started tapping away at the keys on her mobile phone.

Zizi,

Could really use your help, I’m stumped. I need your expertise; can you come to Connecticut to help out an old Sorority Sister? Plane ticket’s on me. smile

-Michelle

“We went to school together, top of her class.” Michelle smiled as she flipped her mobile closed. “You’d like her, she’s a real professional, and smart as a whip.”

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Manhattan, New York, June 12th, 2081

Obsessions Nightclub

As the beat vibrated the club’s dance floor New York’s finest gathered about to drink and dance the hectic days away. Out on the floor a beautiful Romanian woman seemed to capture the attention of several of the clubs men as her hips gyrated to the dance mix in a clubbing outfit that was probably illegal.

The silver micro-mini barely covered her backside as its owner ground herself into the stranger she’d just met a moment ago, his hands wandering across the polished silver fabric that barely covered her full chest didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest. The more he touched, the more she moved against him allowing her hands to wander as freely as he allowed his own. This was the purpose of dance: to move freely and uninhibited, no regrets, no worries, no judgment, just the rhythm and letting her body listen to everything it had to say to herself and all those around.

Like all things it came to an end and the beautiful dancer went on about her night out. A bangle about her wrist jingled, a lovely piece that had a variety of metals and stones carved with all manner of interesting glyphs attached to tassels that hung freely, as she tipped back and downed nearly an entire bottle of water almost dribbling some of it down her front as the sudden surprise of her mobile vibrating in her boot nearly startled her to death.

A bit ashamed to almost be drooling on herself in public the raven haired beauty took her phone and inspected it.

Zizi,

Could really use your help, I’m stumped. I need your expertise; can you come to Connecticut to help out an old Sorority Sister? Plane ticket’s on me. smile

-Michelle

“Michelle?” She said aloud, not that anyone could have possibly heard her over the club’s ear splitting music. “Good Lord, I haven’t heard from her in over a year.” She quickly grabbed her coat, a silver half trench that covered more of her legs than her skirt, and she left the nightclub.

Normally she’d have stayed until the dawn’s early light, but if Michelle was trying to reach her she knew it must be important. Although she’d never pursued a career in linguistics Zanzi Nabru was never the less, at the young age of twenty-six, hands down the world most talented linguist and foremost authority on languages, dialects and forgotten tongues. If the rest of the world knew that, she’d never have any time for things like clubbing, lounging, or enjoying life.

The cold, wet streets of New York in 2081 were a sight to behold. Breakthroughs in image technology (thanks almost solely to aberrants) lit up the streets with holographic displays of corporations advertising all manner of useless products. The times hadn’t really changed; they just did it 3D now.

Sleek, low slung cars moved up and down the busy Manhattan avenues and even in the late hour the streets were packed with all manner of people going about their lives, from the bums who preached doomsday to the corporate middle managers struggling to get a cab before someone got something on their fifty dollar suits.

As was typical while walking home from the club (which she seemed to do a lot) she got a few indecent proposals from the people she passed, some of them the middle managers, all looking for a good time and thinking that because she was dressed the way she was (or barely so), that she was a ‘working girl’. She just refused their offers politely or offered them a quick middle finger and a choice phrase to those who didn’t accept rejection very well.

She quietly complained to herself about the people here in New York. She did it every time she left the club almost to the point of it being a ritual to listen to her heels clack on the sidewalk in synch with her inner dialogue of how much she hated this city. By the time she got home she’d be in love with it all over again.

The traffic was backed up quite a good distance and as she drew closer she was drawn from her inner monologue by shouting and screaming. Up ahead another protest was going on, aberrants vs. humans once again and neither side was letting up at all. Anti-Mutant protests were as common as rain in Seattle these days.

It used to not be such a big deal. Around 2050 a few people began displaying genetic anomalies within their DNA, no one knew why but it sparked the outcry for another Human Genome Project like the one back in the early nineties. Like it’s predecessor it took nearly thirteen years to complete. What it found was that humanity was evolving, and in some it was evolving so rapidly it began granting some amazing abilities far beyond the normal human spectrum of capabilities. Scientists believed this was nature’s way of testing what capabilities the human body could handle. Often those whose bodies couldn’t handle it were ‘tainted’ by the power and their bodies and minds were changed by sudden rapid evolution; some went insane, others still mutated into bizarre monster-like creatures.

The study concluded that a particular chemical sequence of some of the three billion base pairs within the human DNA were mixing or conjoining with one another, which was causing certain individuals to suddenly display new abilities right around puberty. Although even to this day, they weren’t quite sure how it happened they dubbed the gene sequence, which acted as the catalyst for the mutation, the “X Genome”. After science discovered that it was apparently triggered by an anomaly within the male “X” chromosome.

Mutants, like any other new ‘race’ weren’t welcomed very kindly by the world at large, but now instead of black or white or Asian, the cultures of the world rallied together against this new breed of threat to their life styles; a race of super-humans who seemed to quickly make mankind an outdated concept. Back then there was so few however that they went on barely noticed.

In 2055 mutants only numbered in thousands, all chipped and controlled by world leaders who kept them under lock and key in attempts to still understand how they were able to do what they did, to better understand their ‘powers’. A revolution by a small band of captured mutants in military base in Denver blew the entire lid off the governments enslavement of the new species, but not until after a cyberkinetic mutant helped the Tomorrow People make their very first statement, by crashing the global economy in a single night.

Everyone across the world lost everything in the span of a few moments and in the wreckage that followed the mutant population rose from the chaos and declared to the world they were here, and they would be free. The public didn’t take it very well.

So, for the past twenty six years or so the mutant population has demanded reparations for slavery and abuse while the humans of the world have done what they always do, hate what they don’t understand. It doesn’t help that the mutant population has gone from a few thousand to god only knows how many. As the humans formed Anti-Mutant terrorist groups, so too did the mutants form Anti-Human terrorist groups, those on both sides who wish to have part in the conflict seem to stay as far away from the front line as possible. Most mutants now masquerade as humans unless their mutations have made them deformed in which case they are chased from the streets, forced to live in the sewers alone in the dark.

And people wonder why this planet is failing.

Zanzi’s perception snapped from the history lesson in her mind and shook her head quietly, disappointed in both sides as they just argued back and forth, not getting anything done, and she walked past without a word or another look.

The lock on her small apartment door clicked as her thumb hit the ID scanner bolted to the door’s jamb. The door opened and the hall light lent a compliment to her pleasing frame as the shadows of the room greeted her.

“Lights.” She requested, her voice thick with a Romanian accent, now that it could be heard without the roar of club music. Luminance followed as the thin heel of her silver clubbing boots or ‘slut heels’ as a few of her friends called them, echoed through the main hall that lead into her apartment. She collapsed onto her couch and started the ritual of unzipping each boot, casting them carelessly aside, followed by her skirt (which didn’t cover much anyway) before she wandered around her home for the rest of the night footloose and fancy free in little more than her clubbing top and her underwear (which covered slightly less than her skirt). It had become something of a ritual for her and the geeky guys that lived in the building across the way never seemed to mind. Mischievously she rocked herself up to her feet went about her business.

“Mail.” She requested again while walking to the kitchen, bootless but negotiating the clasp on the zipper of her skirt.

“Zanzi, it’s mom.” An image of a middle-aged woman was projected onto the table. It was obvious where Zanzi got her beauty, she was every bit as striking as her mother. ”Your I haven’t heard from you in months, is everything okay? Call me sometime please? I’m worried. Love you! Oh, and I opened up that new store in Lyon, I’d love to show it to you sweetie… well, anyway, call me, please?”

She rolled her eyes and grumbled as she searched the fridge. “I want to meddle in your life dear daughter, do call me sometime, please, I so miss doing that.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Delete.”

The purring of the best watch cat ever caught her attention, followed by soft fur rubbing against her bare legs. “I know, I know, I’m working on it you little booger.” She set a small plate on the floor, removed the plastic wrap and grinned as her companion dug in.

She collapsed onto her bed, relaxing her body, as she was lost in a sea of dark satin sheets pulled over an incredibly soft mattress. The walls of her cramped bedroom were covered with pictures of her and friends during college. Several of her as a child with her mother and father and other family members at all sorts of functions from backyard gatherings to school plays. Side by side along the wall that faced her bed three framed degrees were obscured in the shadows: a Masters in Anthropology, a Masters in Diplomatics and Doctorates in Linguistics.

With her phone in hand she flipped it open and started tapping on the micro sized keyboard. “Connecticut huh?”

Shelly,

I’ll be on the first flight out tomorrow. Don’t worry about the ticket; I’m dying to catch up with you! Married? Kids? OMG You’re not going to be able to shut me up for hours!

Kisses,

Zanzi

The ‘file attached’ icon blinking on her phone went unnoticed as she slipped off to sleep planning her entire Connecticut wardrobe.

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Hartford, Connecticut, June 13th, 2081

Hartford University Campus, 8:27pm

The flight wasn’t unbearable, nor was waiting for her luggage, but when Michelle was over two hours late picking her up, and not answering her phone, Zanzi called a cab and requested the driver take her directly to Michelle’s home; a small apartment building not far from the University. She tried not to worry too much, Michelle was a workaholic and forgetting something like picking someone up from the airport, or even to eat dinner could easily escape her.

The entire trip her phone never left her hands as Michelle’s number was dialed repeatedly and always with the same result: an intro to her voicemail box. “C’mon, Michelle. Where the hell are you?” She muttered as her phone snapped shut in frustration at another failed attempted to reach her friend.

As the cab drove off the very frustrated and borderline worried to death, Romanian beauty picked up her three pieces of luggage, two suitcases and a matching backpack carry-on, and entered her friend’s apartment building. It was in the decent part of town, close to the University so it was well secured and decently maintained. In the distance she caught the thumping of music being blared through what was sounded like a pair of already blown speakers. The parties were starting early it seemed at a few of the fraternities.

The few flights up the dimly lit stairway wasn’t to bad, reading the numbers on the doors she quietly mouthed each as she counted up to apartment 423, the address Michelle had sent her. Her heeled boots echoed about the hardwood floor as she approached the apartment door.

With a sigh of relief Zanzi set her luggage down and anxiously knocked on the thick, faded white door and eerily the door squeaked open on it’s own just a crack. She looked about, giving the jamb a quick once over before spotting the latch was set properly but the inner casing of the door had been busted away; some one had kicked open the door.

“Michelle?” She called out into the shadows of the dark apartment, her rich accent almost faltered as a sudden creepy feeling washed over her. “Michelle? It’s Zanzi. Hello?” She stepped over the threshold and the light from the hallway illuminated, faintly, the state of her friend’s home. The living room was torn apart, the coffee table smashed flat, the furniture shredded. Books were scattered about all torn from the shelves their pages ripped and cast about the carpet carelessly.

“My god…” Zanzi said to no one in particular while her hand flipped the light switch on the wall near the entrance. The room remained dark as her eyes caught the broken lamps, one next to wall just below a mark in the wall where it had hit and shattered, and another laying broken in the kitchen, which was just off to her right as she entered.

Her feet brushed past all manner of debris as she softly stepped about investigating, looking for something that might offer some clue as to what the hell happened. The bangle she wore on her wrist had its tassel of metals and polished stones, resting within her palm, her thumb rubbing vigorously over each of the glyphs reminiscent of a women in prayer or activating a talisman of good luck, she settled on a dark polished piece of obsidian and clutched it tightly. Her hand pushed open the bedroom door, her heart pounding, as she feared the worst.

“Michelle?” she called out again, hoping, wishing her friend was somewhere near and this was some hallucination. “It’s Zanzi.” The bedroom was no different, the bed was torn to pieces, the mattress shredded with the innards torn out and thrown all over. Every drawer was yanked from the dressers, clothes lay everywhere, even yanked from the closet along with storage boxes. Zanzi looked about in the dim light from the single window in the room and her heart sank as she saw her friend’s life and memories scattered about the floor.

A reflection of movement caught her eye, across from where she stood a broken picture frame still dangled at an odd angle. In the glass where the light of the hallway still shown through she noticed it obscured for just a moment. The silhouette of a person, a man most likely judging by his size, came in from the shadows and turned to face her in an attempted to sneak up on her from behind.

Zanzi clutched the obsidian charm of her bangle tightly. He took another step and she spun about in a swift one hundred eighty degree turn, getting as low as the confined hallway would let her. The man reacted but not swiftly enough and Zanzi’s fist, the one holding the charm, smashed into the man’s chest.

He flew up and off his feet as if he’d just been yanked backwards by men pulling his cables. For a woman so petite a punch that powerful should not have impossible. With the added commotion several men poured into the room all screaming and pointing guns at her. In the blinding flood of flashlight beams she caught a glimpsed of the uniform of the young officer she just punched into the wall.

She hesitated to raise her hands for a moment, and just as the last bit of inky black had faded from her bangled wrist and fingertips she surrendered to the law.

“Lovely.” She said aloud as officers moved in to place her in cuffs. “Just, lovely.”

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Hartford, Connecticut, June 13th, 2081

Hartford Sheriff’s Dept., 10:18pm

Zanzi sat quietly in the interrogation room. She knew the procedure: let the suspect sit in a quiet room for several minutes stewing while the officers stood behind the pane of reflective glass and stared. There was some psychology behind it all but she wasn’t aware what, she never studied how the mind worked, dealing with crazy people all day or learning to screw with peoples heads never struck her as interesting.

Her manicured fingernails tapped rhythmically against the polished steel table as she waited patiently. She knew she’d committed no crime, accept maybe punching the deputy but she didn’t know he was law enforcement. As far as she cared, these guys were just doing their job, and hopefully after a statement they could begin finding out who broke into Michelle’s apartment and where she might be.

From behind the glass, looking in at the model-like beauty of their bored suspect a female deputy leaned against the outer edge of the observation windows frame. Her dark hair was pulled back and her attractive features shown a demeanor hardened by years of working with the worst society had to offer.

“What do we got Sommer?” A rich baritone spoke up as a middleaged man stepped through the door of the observation room. His nametag read ‘MacKenna’, pinned to his shirt just next to one of the straps of his firearm’s shoulder holster.

“Nothing.” The leaning woman replied. Deputy Sommer stood up straight and handed MacKenna a folder from off one of the tables not far from her. “Her story checks out, we called the cab company, driver confirms her story. She arrived just a few minutes before we did.”

“Her belongings?” He asked, flipping open the folder as he began to read.

Deputy Sommer pointed to file he was perusing. “Just clothes in one, several tops mini-skirts, a few dresses, and three pairs of pants. The other was assorted pairs of shoes and boots, none of which had less than a four to five inch heel, some stiletto. Her backpack was nothing but underwear, bras, nightwear and an over night bag: make-up, hairspray, toothbrush, etcetera. I don’t think this woman knows what casual wear is, but unless dressing like a complete tramp is a crime… then we have nothing on her.”

He looked up at her from his reading of her personal affects. “How do women wear this stuff?” He grinned and chuckled a bit before going back to his reading.

“Most don’t. We have sense.” She replied, grinning back.

“We still have her on hitting Reynolds,” He said, not looking up from the file. “Poor guy’s going to be in the hospital for awhile. She broke three ribs and collapsed a lung.”

Sommer folded her arms and covered her mouth with one hand, wincing at the poor deputy’s misfortune. “Poor kid. But how can a woman hit like that.”

MacKenna looked up as he flipped the papers back over to close the file. “I’ve got a few guesses.” His tone carried displeasure, as the thought of a deputy being put in the hospital on his watch didn’t set well with him.

A tap at the door caught the attention of both occupants. It opened slightly and a young deputy stuck his head in. “Uh, Detective MacKenna, Deputy Sommer, there’s a man out here to see you, he says he’s with the Department of Defense.”

The two gave pause and looked at the other incredulously. Sighing, MacKenna walked out of the room with Deputy Sommer in tow. “Could this night get any more messed up?” He asked himself as the door closed behind him.

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Hartford, Connecticut, June 13th, 2081

Hartford Sheriff’s Dept., 10:47pm

The heavy steel door’s knob turned and Zanzi’s hands fell lazily to the table, her bangle jingled as the various tassels ‘clinked’ upon the steel surface. About time. she thought to herself as she tried to shake away the laziness that had begun setting in.

The man that entered was tall, broad shouldered and very handsome. His black suit labeled him as a comic book stereotype of a government agent of some sort. His collar seemed stressed to clasp about his muscular neck while his dark tan complimented perfect cheekbones and short well-groomed sandy blonde hair. Zanzi’s red glossed lips curled into a slight grin of satisfaction; at least her interrogator would be easy on her eyes, it’d give her something to focus on while she ignored his boring questions.

“Ms. Nabru.” The man said as he walked in a pulled out the chair opposite to her. His greeting was more of an announcement of him knowing who she was rather than a greeting. “I’m agent Marcus Worthington, Department of Defense.”

A slight bit of panic crept up in Zanzi’s stomach. Nervousness was not a feeling she was accustomed to, but to find out the DoD wanted to ask you questions it certainly made one question exactly what the hell was going on how much trouble she might be in.

“Department of Defense?” She repeated. “Look, I punched one officer, an officer who failed to identify himself in the dark while pointing a gun at me. I’m sorry if he’s hurt, but it was just an honest mistake. I didn’t know who he was.”

“Deputy.” Agent Worthington corrected her. “You hit a deputy, and you are correct, even the other deputies admit that Deputy Reynolds failed to identify himself, in the dark, while training his sidearm on you. The Hartford Sheriff’s Department won’t be pressing any charges, so you can rest easy. That’s not why I’m here.”

She sighed, relieved slightly that she wasn’t in any trouble over hitting that man, although she certainly felt bad for him, she had no idea of knowing he was one of the good guys. She had just assumed he was one of the people who trashed Michelle’s apartment. Her eye narrowed as the gears in her astute mind started to turn. “Then, why are you here?”

He sat down casually and produced a small pocket secretary; a portible PC that acted like a planner and computer, and mobile phone all in one. Agent Worthington looked at the device’s screen letting Zanzi see the reflected script scroll illegibly in his eyes. “Zanzi Nabru, age 26, born February 9th 2055.” He looked up at her. “The year of The Collapse.”

She nodded silently. She knew she was going to hate this, instead of getting to he point he’d have to run off all unimportant facts of her and her parent’s life before he got to the point.

“Mother, Mai Nabru. Father Petru Nabru.” He continued to read off facts as they came up on the screen. “Born in Romania, the Black Sea Coast? That must have been beautiful country. Never been there myself.”

“It was.” She replied, trying to sound as interested as she could. “Very lovely, especially in the spring.”

There was a long silence as he read some more, scrolling several years she assumed, before he looked back up at her. “Quite the intelligent woman Ms. Nabru. Nearly ten years of schooling in only six years. Graduated with a Masters in Anthropology, and Diplomatics, and a Doctorate’s in Linguistics. Very impressive.” He nodded, twisting his lips into an impressed frown. He looked up at her. “What exactly is ‘diplomatics’, if I may ask?”

“It’s forensic paleography, basically.” She complied. Despite not pursuing a career in her chosen mastered fields, she didn’t mind talking about them in the slightest. “Specifically, diplomatics is a branch of study that seeks clues as to the provenance of written documents, especially handwritten documents. It seeks to validate or disconfirm the alleged origin and authenticity of written documents by studying the materials upon which they were written; the penmanship and alphabets or other scripts used in them and the language and style of language they were written in, including their vocabulary, usage, and literary style.”

“Text book answer.” Agent Worthington grinned.

“Text book question.” Zanzi replied, a bit shorter than she intended.

The man across from her smiled politely. “I know this has been a trying night for you Ms. Nabru, but I only have a few more questions.”

“Will any of those include a point to all of this?” She asked as calmly as she could. “My friend, Michelle is missing. She won’t answer her phone and her apartment was demolished. You should be out looking for her, not playing twenty questions with me.”

“I assure you Ms. Nabru, the Harford Sheriff’s Department is doing the best they can to locate your friend.” He reached into his pocket and produced Zanzi’s mobile phone, a purple and black rectangular device that folded out into a mini personal computer reminiscent of the late laptops. An iridescent decal on the front cover declared: ‘Party girl.’ With a sexy drawing of a female in revealing club wear with devil horns, a tail and trademark trident. “Do recognize this, Ms. Nabru?”

“Yes. It’s mine.” She answered, wondering what the big deal was with her phone.

Agent Worthington flipped it open and pressed a few buttons.

“Hey, you can’t go through my files without a warrant!” She snapped. “I know my rights Agent, and I’m telling you to stop right now.”

He ignored her and kept pressing buttons until finally setting the phone down and sliding it across the table to her. “What do you know about that image Ms. Nabru?”

Hesitantly she picked up her mobile device and looked at the screen, looking up once back at him wondering what he was playing at. She didn’t keep anything illegal on her phone, well, maybe a few thousand songs she downloaded, but certainly no images. She looked at the image, a flat stone disc with its center carve out in an octagonal shape. Glyphs and runes were etched all along the outer edges leading inward in a spiral pattern to the central hole.

“I’m sorry, I’ve never seen his before.” She clicked a few buttons and looked to when the file was downloaded and from whom. “Michelle.” She said aloud. “Michelle sent this to me last night, but I didn’t notice it, she’s never sent me files, I didn’t think to look. What is it?”

“I was hoping you could tell me.” Agent Worthington slid over a picture he’d pulled out from his pocket. It was the same image Zanzi had on her phone, only blown up and printed. “We have reason to believe that your friend Michelle went missing over this object. Now, why would she contact you about it and send you an image?”

“I don’t know.” Zanzi said honestly. “Perhaps to help her translate it, she’s a geologist, you see. About a year ago she sent me a few pictures in the mail of ancient glyphs she found painted on the underside of a stone her team uncovered in South America, I helped her then with identifying whom they belonged to and their meaning. I’m sure this was no different, although why she clicked an image of it instead of mailing pictures this time, I couldn’t tell you.”

Can you translate this disc, Ms. Nabru?” Her captor asked with a bit more enthusiasm than he had any other question so far this evening.

She quickly picked up on the change of tone in his voice and a wry grin spread over her lips. “This lighting is terrible for scientific pursuits. You, see, I’ve had a long day, I’m not guilty of any crimes, and yet here I sit.” She leaned in a bit folding her hands on the table. “You’re with the Department of Defense? Tell you what, you get me out of here, get me a good night’s sleep in a five star hotel with room service a shower and a soft bed that’s to die for, and then we’ll see how the lighting is tomorrow.”

Agent Worthington grinned the Devil’s grin. She certainly was a smooth one, and thankfully easy on his eyes so it gave him something to focus on while he ignored all her boring answers. “I didn’t hear a ‘yes’ in all that Ms. Nabru. A lot of requests, but no guarantees.”

“There are no guarantees Agent Worthington, I haven’t had time to properly study this thing, but I’ve already finished half of it just in the first glance.” She tilted her head to the side and teased him with a playful smile. “If you want the other half I’ll need a few things first as token of good faith, besides, do you think I’m going to lie to an agent with a gun and a ‘do what I want and get away with it’ badge?”

He stood up and grinned before he turned and walked to the door. “I’ll see what I can do.” He knocked on the door and when it opened he slipped out of the room. “Wait here.” He added as the door closed.

“Very funny.” Zanzi shot the closed door a snide look before leaning back in her chair with her arms folded.

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Windsor Locks, Connecticut, June 14th, 2081, 11:26am

The hotel room wasn’t bad, the shower, the meal and the soft bed that came afterward last night were simply divine however. Now somewhere in the middle of nowhere the well-rested Zanzi looked at the countryside as it passed her by. They’d only been driving for about ten minutes but it seemed like forever and Agent Worthington wasn’t much for conversation, unless she wanted to comment on him adjusting the rear-view mirror three times to get a good angle down her low-cut top.

As the car passed the sign declaring they had entered the small city of Windsor Locks Zanzi’s curiosity piqued. “Where are we going?” She asked, looking away from the window and to the handsome man beside her.

“We’re here.” He replied rather flatly. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet, someone whom I think can help us with locating your friend.”

She smiled. The idea of someone who could help find Michelle was certainly well worth the trip a thousand times over. She’d agreed to help Agent Worthington with deciphering the disc, but him helping her find Michelle wasn’t part of the bargain. She looked over at the attractive agent and silently admired him for a moment, whether he’d known it or not, he’d just greatly impressed her.

“Thank you.” She said quietly. “I know you don’t have to do this, and I appreciate it.”

“C’mon Ms. Nabru, don’t get all weepy on me.” He smiled at her, trying to lighten the mood. It seemed discussion of Michelle seemed to lead her right to a somber mood. “You’re helping me, it’s only fair I help you. Besides, I have a lot of bad karma to burn off.”

Her melodic laughter filled the small cabin of the car. “Is that so?” Zanzi asked resting her fingertips to her chest as she tried to catch her breath. “And just where did you get all of it, and please, call me Zanzi.”

“Long story,” He replied smiling, glad to see her sour averted. “And here we are.”

The low hum of the vehicle’s engine was nearly silent, as it turned sharply to the right through a massive set of wrought iron gates. Beyond was a mansion that, to Zanzi, seemed to go on forever to either side. At three stories tall the Victorian era construction of the home seemed out of place in today’s society of holographic technology and over populated Archologies.

The car drove up to the front entrance and all the way the bushes were well trimmed while rows flowers made up the marker for the edge of the driveway.

“With whom are we meeting?” Zanzi looked out the window of the car like everything was simply a dream and would all fade the moment her door opened.

“You’ll meet him soon enough, come on.” He stepped from the car and his shoes crunched in the drive’s gravel as he exited.

She followed suit a moment later, still overwhelmed by the sheer size of the entire place.

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?????

It was dark and the fibers of the sack covering her face made her face itch like mad. She’d spent the past several hours listening to her captors play video games and trash talk each other; the whole time she wriggled her wrists and vainly attempted to free herself from her bindings. Her heavy breathing had sweat-soaked the covering over her and the thing only stopping her from breaking into panic stricken tears was an obsession to free herself or die trying.

A knock at the front door broke her attention away from her freedom and onto the events unfolding outside the room she was in.

“You have the scientist?” An alluring female voice requested.

“You know it.” Replied a voice that Michelle quickly labeled as a black man who was possibly in his late twenties. “Lil’ sumtin’ extra too. We got yo’ disc thing while we was there.”

“Mmmm…,” the woman purred. “You’ve out done yourselves… for once.” The biting sarcasm on the last part of her comment was obvious. “Where is he? Introduce me.”

“Uh…” a third voice spoke up. “He?”

“Yes, ‘he’.” The woman replied but suddenly paused. “Damn it, what did you two do?”

“You said grab the scientist! So we did.” Michelle could hear them explaining to their boss as their heavy footfalls echoed upon hardwood flooring and the woman’s thick heels were hard to miss. “She was looking over the disc, we figured it had to be the right person.”

“I gave you a picture.” She shot at them as the door swung open and their captive felt them and heard them all approach.

“We kinda, lost it.” Replied the black man.

“You don’t say?” Came the woman’s biting sarcasm as she tore the hood off Michelle’s head, taking a few strands of hair with it.

She struggled to focus but the cooling air was a welcome sensation as she finally was able draw an oxygen rich breath that the hood had denied her for hours. The looked about and saw her three guests, with two more standing out in the hallway near the exit door. She’d guessed right about the black man, he certainly was. Although obviously African American in appearance his skin was a jet black along with his eyes. His clothing was all black as well. The other man, who was an obvious Caucasian just by the tone in his voice was rather handsome and didn’t show any odd mutations. His dark hair was cropped and his clothing was rather unremarkable.

“Edena?” Michelle said as she looked upon her third captor, a stunningly attractive blond woman whose beauty was nothing close to natural. Her icy blue eyes complimented her business attire, a white blazer and skirt with matching heels, until Michelle noticed it was leather then she wondered if she actually wore it to meetings and what not.

“Michelle?” Edena laughed for a moment. “Oh my day keeps getting better.” She chuckled.

“What the hell are you up to now Edena?” With Edena here Michelle didn’t really seem afraid of her captors any longer and began fighting her bonds a bit harder.

She stopped chuckling a got serious, looking Michelle right in the eyes. “Destroying the human race. Wanna help?”

“Uh, no.” It was Michelle’s turn to be sarcastic, replying with wide eyes and a common sense expression that read ‘duh’.

“You know her Boss?” The Caucasian man asked.

“Afraid so.” Edena replied. “We were in the same sorority in college.”

“Heh,” The black man heaved. “Small world.”

“No, not a small world, De’ Shade.” She turned and scolded him face to face. “I knew she was at the college, that’s why I was specific by giving you a picture of the man you were supposed to bring back to me. Idiots.”

“If we could side track ourselves from your lackey’s incompetence for a moment.” Michelle’s thick British accent put all eyes on her once again. “What’s this nonsense about destroying the human race?”

Edena knelt down by her and smiled. “Sorry Shelly, need to know basis, and I really don’t think you need to know, unless you’ve changed your mind? Feel like wiping out billions of people who’ve done nothing but cause us grief for decades? Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Cut the crap Edena,” Michelle scowled at her old friend. “Tell me now, or pay for it later. Regardless of your scheme what you’re proposing will never happen, quit while you’re ahead.”

“Or what?” She laughed aloud. “Shelly, I’m beautiful and rich, do you know what that means?”

“You’re shallow and superficial?” Michelle replied rather off the cuff.

“Well, yes, but it also means I have zero accountability.” She tilted her head as she explained it to Michelle, raking her perfectly manicured fingernails through her ex-sorority sister’s mangled locks. Suddenly she gripped a handful of hair tightly and yanked it back as she stood up to look down into Michelle’s eyes. “That means I can do as I please, and not have to worry about the consequences.”

Michelle winced as her hair was nearly torn from her scalp. She looked into the eyes of her captor and sore deep down that she’d pay for this moment above all the others led up to it. Slowly though her mood lightened and her muscles relaxed, the longer Edena gazed upon her with her eyes now fashioned of brilliant diamonds the less she cared about the abuse and more she understood the silent unspoken message that seeped into her mind.

By the time Edena had let go and thrown her to the floor, chair and all, Michelle could focus on nothing more than how hard she was going to work at regaining Edena favor again.

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