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  • Sands of Time

    Atticus Gale

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    The overcast sky deepened to a dull lavender and a street lamp flickered on as the silver SUV pulled up to the razor wired fence gate. Atticus geared into park and left the engine running to keep the heat circulating. It was a cold Winter’s eve, but inside the vehicle it was toasty warm, one of many conveniences Atticus had recently learned to never again take for granted.

    Deep rifts and undulating drifts had been carved out of the deepening snow by relentless gusts. He’d have to remember to call the snow removal company to clear the yard but as it was he’d have little trouble four wheeling it through. He’d deal with the gate and the short trek once Mason showed up. He excitedly rubbed his hands together at the prospect of ‘awakening’ the relic once more, and of course, exploring the depths of her exposure. It had been over two years since he visited the monolith, about the same time he’d moved it to this new location. If she truly had been, somehow amalgamated with a shard of the Nevus the artifact would react to her. Otherwise this would all just end up being a colossal waste of time. Not that he doubted her word, rather, the interpretation of the signs. This wasn’t first time he’d come across such a promising example of pure magic only to be let down. The blood sample had tested positive for the presence of an evolved mutation but that alone didn’t prove it to be the result of pure exposure to Nevus radiation. The emissions themselves where impossible to distinguish unless they were from a fresh specimen. An invaluable test but one he had wished to spare her of, as the specimen required was a bone marrow extraction.

    Atticus awkwardly rolled out of his red and black coloured parka, rolling the high-tech fabric over one bowling ball sized shoulder, then the other. He tossed it on the passenger seat, then reaching into the back seat probed into a box of snacks he’d packed to make their stay in the warehouse a little more comfortable. He felt around until his fingers detected the sensation of the warm cylinder. He pulled out the thermos and poured the hot, chocolaty contents into the remains of the coffee in his travel mug. He then proceeded to take out his laptop which he set on the center console. He figured he’d make himself comfortable and catch up on some work while he waited, the mere though of it provoking a tired yawn. The responsibilities of a member of Pharos were often coupled with a legitimate position and the work load, especially for one in his position, could be taxing. Pressure upon which he normally thrived had turned tedious since his return. ‘Probably still in recovery’, he figured.

    Large snowflakes fluttered before the security lights of the building like moths in the summer. A few more inches of the white stuff and some of the streets in the industrial area would become impassible. At least for those vehicles lacking the capability of four wheel drive. Over worked snow removal crews didn’t have time to clear out all the roads of a commercial business area overrun with vacancies. Atticus didn’t sense an abundance of precipitation in the next few hours so by whatever means his guest was traveling she’d be fine.

    Appearing on the front page of ‘The Facility for the Treatment and Study of the Altered’ was usual corporate imagery. A welcoming picture of a model dressed as a doctor assisting a beautiful Elfin-looking woman. Below it was a username dialog box in which ‘a.gale’ was entered, followed by a twelve digit pass key, combined with an onscreen thumb-scan. Pharos security was always cutting edge. Mobile logins even had limited access, but Atticus had already transferred and cleared the files he needed to his personal account. Nothing left the safety of the secure server without authorization. In this, the ancient society’s symbol was more like an ‘all-seeing eye’, rather than a guiding light.

    Some time passed, Atticus eyes flicked to the dashboard clock. It was going on eleven. Late, as in ‘very’. He had half expected it, but not showing up at all? No. She was coming.

    Atticus continued to busy himself with work but honestly he hadn’t imagined he would have had so much time to kill and his focus was beginning to wane. Reviewing DNA samples was not a task for the weary. He needed a break.

    Logging off, he fiddled with the radio until he came across a station that caught his attention. It was an independent show, the host, your basic shit disturber bitching about the state of the world. Atticus would have passed her by if he hadn’t recognized the guest to be Armand Schelling. A reputable scientist, a pioneer in the field of ‘plant neurobiology’, a rather controversial branch of study. Leaning back in his seat, listening to the debate he learned that some recent ‘alterations’ had presented Armand with new insights. Another botanist possessed of an irritatingly condescending tone was openly discrediting this new research.

    Atticus closed his eyes and smiled as he listened to their heated debate. In this new world science could not ignore magic and by contrast, magic could not ignore science. In time he believed that the term ‘sorcery’ would apply to and encompass both, but until then the two sides would futilely struggle for supremacy. Armand seemed to understand but there was no convincing the devout scientist. Atticus knew well the passion, the overwhelming desire to shake society awake but it was far easier to hold onto a dream than to grasp the intangible truth.

    More time passed and sleep eventually enveloped the man but not all thought drifted into dream. Some yet touched upon the world… upon the winds around him. Stirred by Atticus’ slumbering mind, winds whipped through the yard, across the white dunes of the miniature desert aglow in the vehicle’s headlights.

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    • 1 month later...

    Gaspari had Matteo give her a tour of the venue she would be opening in about a month. It was supposed to be some sort of way to distract her from the fact that he had just declared a mandatory two week hiatus after her journey across the atlantic. She had lost the yelling match when her strength began to betray her exhausted status. To say she was pissed was an understatement.  `That Matteo had gotten a call and pawned the tour off on the stadium manager had been a relief as she felt less "babysat" since Paully was more scared of her than Matteo. Anything she had asked to "see", he had shown her and explained every system.


    That had been his first mistake. Giving her all the security codes had been the second.


    She had spent two days livid. The cop itching in her brain. She wasn’t mad at him. He was a dick, like every other dick that walked the earth. He either strung her along the first time, playfully teasing back her own words and joking over breakfast knowing full well he wouldn’t ever remember her, or he was playing an amnesia card on the ship to avoid dealing with her. Either way… a dick. No…. she was angry that she had ever mistaken him for anything but a dick.


    She was mad at herself for feeling anything.


    She had spent six hours at Satyr stadium, playing on the frigid open air stage. Angry 80's metal rock had trembled the very walls of the stadium, vibrating windows as far as two miles away after she had hooked up every speaker in the place to the stage. Flo had been in rare form, keeping up with the fingers that had poured out hostile euphoria until they bled, her crimson complimenting the old stains Vai had left on his old guitar before the world had gone to hell.


    Despite the cold, she had locked the stadium back up with sweat saturating every inch. Home was over a thirty minute walk from Satyr and she had Flo's case over her shoulder as well as a duffle with a change of clothes. She had thought to shower and clean up there but the water was off at the stadium while they worked to ensure the pipes wouldn’t freeze.  Instead she was hauling her gear home while sweat began to freeze on her skin under the leather blazer. She rarely went anywhere in a cab but tonight…..


    She had no idea how late it was when she caught a cab and gave them the address of the building around the corner from her own place. She never would give her own. Head back on the seat she flexed half frozen fingers, sliced fingertips had stopped bleeding just by being exposed to the cold. She was also pretty sure she had pulled one of the bite wounds back open. She had battered her body ruthlessly in the abandonment to the music but……. she felt better….released of her demons.


    As the luke warm cab vibrated down the street she rummaged for a cloth in her duffle to wipe the caked fluid from her fingers, a card abraising the side of her index finger causing a frown. Plucking it from the side pocket of her duffle she ran her fingers over it several times, scowling into the darkness.


    Mighty Mouse had been awfully presumptuous to insist she just show up on his time table. When was it? Three days wasn’t it? Which was….tonight.


    Fingers held the card trapped flat between, about to flick it onto the floor of the cab, but something kept it tucked between her knuckles. She didn’t even know where the hell this place was. Going was just asking for trouble. Best guess was it was well after midnight anyway so it was doubtful the mouse was still there.


    It was a dumb idea.


    Growling under her breath she leaned forward and wrapped on the plastic between her and the driver.


    [derrick]…hey… change of plans…..[/derrick]


    Card was "read" with a bit of difficulty as fingertips were almost numb but she made out the location and gave the number of a place at least 3 away from the actual number to help keep some discretion. The driver corrected course and she thumked back on the worn out seat, half grumbling under her breath about how stupid this was.


    It was after 1am by the time she felt the cab slow to a halt. The driver was paid as she slid out with her gear, grunting as she pulled the duffle over the left and Flo over the right shoulder. Waiting till the cab vanished from the street she shivered against the cold before pushing outward into the world. She was tired but she wasn’t going to walk into something new "blindly".  But even as she engaged and pushed her ability outward, the fumes of a car were picked up. The cab was gone long enough that the potent scent was not from the cab. As she moved towards the running vehicle she pushed through the outer case and immediately groaned recognizing the massive Nord's figure inside. She wasn’t sure if the fact he was still waiting for her was a relief or just creepy.


    Knuckles rapped abruptly on the window of the vehicle.


    This was stupid.

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    • 3 weeks later...

    The sleeping giant’s eyes flashed blue at the deadened sound of knuckles thudding against cold glass. Fully alert, the strong sharp corners of Atticus’ face were forbidding until he recognized the visage of Mason’s equally angled features. Eyes lit up, his face stretching into an almost comical smile as his large hand gave a quick fluttering wave.

    [atticus]Mason![/atticus] He boisterously greeted through the closed window.

    Quickly checking the clock on the dashboard he couldn’t believe the time, then noting the guitar case slung over her shoulder Atticus was quick to put two and two together. ‘A guilty, or most likely, curious, after-thought’, but Atticus wasn’t a proud man. Playing second fiddle was sort of his tune. He was just happy that she showed up in the first place.

    She looked cold. The snow and wind had continued through his slumber. The passenger side of the vehicle now caked with the white stuff.

    [atticus]C’mon, c’mon.[/atticus] He beckoned, quickly transferring his laptop and jacket from the passenger seat to the back, [atticus]You can put your guitar in the backseat.[/atticus] he suggested after pushing open the frozen door for her.

    [atticus]You were playing tonight, eh?[/atticus] It didn’t take much to deduce where she’d been. [atticus]Glad I dozed off, otherwise I mighta left.[/atticus] He lied. Atticus would have probably stuck around until the break of dawn in anticipation of her arrival. He was just like that. [atticus]So, [/atticus] The large shoulders shrugged, [atticus]why’d you change your mind?[/atticus]

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    • 2 weeks later...

    What was she doing here again?


    The thought permeated every fiber as she nearly turned to walk away even as she rapped on the glass. Unfortunately Mighty Mouse was a light sleeper and quickly responded to the "knock" on the door.




    Cringe was instant. Regretting this spontaneous moment of insanity even more as the voice carried far too much eagerness for her taste. He had this kid in a candy store personality that only succeeded in making her feel once more that she was not much more than a lab rat for the big man.


    Behind her dark shades the ghost eyes were closed, frown puckering a brow that glistened with a bit of iced sweat as he invited her to put Flo in the backseat. Her map began to shut down, no point wasting energy. For all that he gave her a bit of the creeps, he didn’t seem to be a threat, his voice never held the hesitant vibrato of lies. Outlines dissipated until she was once more in the abyss of darkness that only she seemed to be able to read.


    The crack of ice sheering from the seam of the door betrayed just how long he had been there. He really was a nut job. Of course, what did that make the nut getting in the car with him? Flo and her duffle were slid onto the back seat before she slid herself into the passenger seat.


    [atticus]You were playing tonight, eh?[/atticus][derrick]…sorta[/derrick]


    More like purging demons, but sure… one might call it playing.


    [atticus]Glad I dozed off, otherwise I mighta left.[/atticus]


    Door was slammed shut, hand feeling for the lever of the chair, yanking it upward to allow her seat to tip a bit further back before grabbing under the chair to push the seat back as far as it would go to make room for far too long legs.


    [atticus]So…why'd you change your mind?[/atticus]


    Nostrils snorted softly as she propped the toe of her right boot on his dash, arm resting on her bent knee.


    [derrick]….not sure I have yet.[/derrick]


    Thumb rubbed her dried out lower lip, damp locks beginning to melt at the nape of her neck to remind her she was half damp from snow and half from sweat. This was probably a stupid idea, but she had nowhere else to be for two fucking weeks.


    [derrick]…need'a shower…..an' food….. then we can talk 'bout your lab rat needs Mighty Mouse.[/derrick]

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    Atticus observed the woman with a brief and guarded look, nodding to questions bouncing behind impossibly blue eyes. Without a word he exited the vehicle and sealed the door behind. Wearing only a light sweater, the tall northerner seemed immune to the cold. Icy wind whipped through his hair, against his skin with no effect. Booted feet crunched through the stiff drifts toward the gate, it would not move easily, but high winds curiously, peculiarly, worked in the man’s favour, blowing the snow away. He pushed the gate open, pulled the vehicle through and closed it behind, securing it once more with the heavy padlock and chain. Returning to the driver’s seat, warm gloveless hands fluidly gripped the steering wheel, guiding the vehicle through the snow swept parking lot.

    Tires had struggled to grip the slick snow as the SUV ploughed through and over the hard packed drifts but they eventually made it across the urban tundra. Atticus could only shake his head at his own neglectfulness. He should have better maintained his holding but like so many things in his life it fell to the wayside, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

    With box of food under arm, Atticus lead the way up a stairway of six steps, pushing aside the snow with his large boots to clear a path for Mason. Under the overhang there was less snow, only a large drift had formed before the two heavy steel doors which seemed out of place considering the common appearance of the brick structure.

    Rummaging in a pocket he produced a key which he pressed into an inconspicuous lock in one of the handleless doors. A small door slid open revealing a black pad of glass which Atticus promptly placed is hand on. A green glowing aura formed about the long fingers as the device scanned his unique prints and biorhythms, then another small door opened above and a camera analyzed his facial features. The whole process took about ten seconds then the thick steel doors pulled apart revealing a self lighting vestibule.

    [atticus]Haven’t been here in a while.[/atticus] Atticus stated as he noted the staleness of the air.


    Breaking through the drift with a swing of his leg as he entered, snow scattered across the black tiled floor of the entryway. The air temperature was cool but not uncomfortable… maintained. Moving to a subtle control panel in the wall to his left, Atticus touched the black pad and increased the building’s temperature by setting it for ‘occupancy’. Immediately the sound of circulating fans rushed through the vents.

    The heavy doors glided shut, silently sealing behind them as others, of a more commercial nature slid open on the other side of the room.

    [atticus]Right this way to my ‘secret underground laboratory’.[/atticus] Atticus joked, playing on the connotations of Mason’s ‘lab-rat’ remark earlier.

    A corridor ran to the right and left, they were in the office section of the building. Cool, dim lighting brought little life to the monochromatic decor. Brushed metal doors faded into subdued grey walls that seemed to melt into the dusty black floor. For some reason Atticus had always taken comfort in the dismal, solitary surroundings.

    He headed to the left, the west side of the building. Passing by a few doors their windows revealed furnishings but the rooms had otherwise never been used. Near the end of the hallway he turned into an open room that served as a lounge. Comfortable furnishings encircled a faux fireplace adjacent to which was a stylish kitchenette separated by an island that also served as a wet bar.

    Placing the box of goodies onto the dark counter top in the corner of the room, Atticus then strolled over and sat down on the the arm of a large lounger. His posture was pensive, his mind still pondering the legitimacy of her claim. It wasn’t every day that he was branded self-centered straight to his face. He might have even taken offence if not for the unfortunate truth. How he deplored the terminology — ‘lab-rat’, but the ugly reality of the situation was that she was without a doubt, a ‘test subject’, but hardly one without rights.

    [atticus]It was never my intent to make you feel powerless, Mason.[/atticus] His tone was calm and apologetic. [atticus]If you truly feel that I’ve taken away your choice in this matter then I can take you home but since we’re here, we might as well take a look. What could it hurt, eh? As for your previous requests.[/atticus] Atticus scrunched up his face and gestured to the box of snacks. It was full of such things as garlic sausage, cheddar cheese, carrot sticks, snap peas, fruit juices, cold samosas and his personal favourite, protein bars. [atticus]Afraid I can only promise that your shower will be hot.[/atticus]

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    Brow quirked as he exited the car. What the hell?


    Took a moment before she heard the movement of a chain and lock followed by the car…. moving? He was pushing it?


    Hand rubbed over her features as head shook. Damn Mighty Mouse. As he slid back behind the wheel a smirk played at the corner of her lips, mutter soft.


    [derrick]…show off.[/derrick]


    When he got out the second time she was sure they were where he wanted to be. She reached for her duffle and guitar case before trudging through the snow drifts behind him. Boot touched the sidewalls and realized he was kicking aside snow to make a path. The realization only drawing a sour expression from the headliner. She didn’t need anyone's pity.


    Steel door was not missed, nor the high tech lock on the building.


    This was a bad idea.


    Heart pounded a bit thick in her chest as she fought an urge to turn around and leave his ass. This much security could only mean trouble. Cough bubbled up in her throat even as he mentioned he hadn't been there in a while. The stale air already activating her sensitive nostrils as the cough was followed by three sneezes in a row.


    Sensitive ears listened to the air turning on before flinching at the sound of the heavy doors sliding shut. Bad idea or not, she was now committed.


    [atticus] Right this way to my ‘secret underground laboratory'. [/atticus]


    [derrick]…really?... should I wait for Igor to take my bag?[/derrick]


    Snarky retort came as she adjusted the duffle on her shoulder. She followed his heavy footsteps easily, mind carefully mapping the journey in case there was a need for an escape. Foot paused when her boot hit rug instead of solid floor. Head tilting slightly as springs groaned under his weight. A chair. This was what? An apartment? Inside his hideout?


    Coming closer her toe hit the corner of the couch, knee pushing forward to confirm the nature of the object before he broke the silence.


    [atticus] It was never my intent to make you feel powerless, Mason.[/atticus]


    Expression instantly became dangerously closed off as nostrils flared a moment before quiet words interrupted him.


    [derrick]….mistake me for feelin' powerless and I promise you; I'll put a bullet between yer eyes.[/derrick]


    Silence didn’t linger as the Nord pressed on. He wasnt looking for a fight. Truth was, neither was she. She had abused herself enough for one night. Nostrils flared again but this time it was at the box of snacks. Seemed like a lot of junk food for a boy scout.


    [atticus]….we might as well take a look. What could it hurt, eh? As for your previous requests. Afraid I can only promise that your shower will be hot.[/atticus]


    Guitar case was slid off her shoulder and set down next to the couch, resting the neck against the arm as she adjusted the duffle on her shoulder.


    [derrick]…just care 'bout the shower at the moment.[/derrick]


    She was moving even as he was still explaining where the bathroom was. Fingertips slid along the wall to delicately help her find her way, too tired to snap the map on. The quiet of the place let her footfalls echo down the corridor and betray where the doors were to her ears.


    Duffle hit the floor of the industrial bathroom as she shut the door. She had been naked in a shower with a man once in the last eight years and she had just spent the better part of the night purging his existence from her very pores. She wasn’t looking to have a repeat.


    Lennon shades were slid off, hand gliding outward until she found the countertop, startling when the water turned on by itself because her fingertips had come close enough to trigger the automated censor. Mutter under her breath was more than a little colorful before she found where the censor was and managed to avoid it as she stripped and tossed her damp clothes on the counter. Fingers gently pushed on the wounds that were still healing. She had ripped one of them open playing. Snorting she pulled the elastic from her hair before feeling for one of the shower stalls.


    Water again surprised her, the yelp followed by a string of sailor swears as the water started cold as ice before finally heating up. Still grumbling she planted her hands on the cool wall and stood forever in the hot stream, letting it pound on muscles that were chilled straight to her bones. Fingertips started to bleed again, the violent release having torn through even her tough calluses.


    She took her time, shoulders finally relaxing under the onslaught of heat. But as she relaxed, her side began to ache… no…. not ache…. pulse. Frowning, hand slid from the wall to trace over the catastrophic scar. The raised braille had turned ebony long ago, giving the appearance of a frantic tribal tattoo. But fingertips knew better as they traced over several throbbing lines, the ebony was coarse, like fine sandpaper. It hadn't throbbed like this since being attacked on the high seas.


    Snorting in agitation she finally extricated herself from the shower. Padding wet feet over the cold floor as she searched for a towel. By the time fingers found the handle of a cabinet she was beginning to feel the chill of wandering around wet and naked. Towel had the smell of dust, frowning she snapped it out of the cabinet several times before scrubbing over her skin.


    Duffle was carefully placed on the counter where she wouldn’t activate the damn water happy sink. Rummaging she pulled out a small plastic box. A large pre-adhesive bandage was pulled out, the towel used to blot the bite wound on her natural skin that had torn open before she sealed the wound once more behind the bandage. She then triggered the water on purpose to rinse her fingertips of any remaining blood before the small squeeze bottle was flipped out of the box and uncapped. The heady scent of superglue permeated the room as she put a drop on the tips of all the split fingers to seal over the callus once more. Old musicians trick.


    Fresh jeans were pulled on before she leaned her hips on the counter and tugged on some new socks prior to smashing her feet into her boots once more. It felt good to be in dry clothes. Dark gray hoodie sweatshirt was pulled over her wet head before she combed out the dark mahogany mane and pulled the damp locks back into a ponytail.


    Old clothes were tucked into the duffle, a flask taken out and tucked into the joey pocket of her sweatshirt before she paused, hand running under the soft sweatshirt to rub again on throbbing etchings of braille. What the hell was up with the dumb thing?


    Swiping the dark circular lennon shades from the counter, she slid them on before heading for the door. The moment the bathroom door opened she was assaulted by the scent of percolating coffee. Able to find her way back without a hand on the wall, she dropped the duffle next to the guitar case and joined him in the kitchenette.


    Leaning forward she patted the side of the box once before hand went inside to rummage, coming out with what seemed to be a granola bar, though closer inspection by flared nostrils said likely more like a protein bar. That worked too.


    [derrick]….take a cup of that joe too if you don’t mind.[/derrick]

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    Smiling, Atticus promptly saw to the woman’s request, placing a black mug next to his own and filling it with steaming coffee. [atticus]Right this way.[/atticus] He beckoned, picking up the mugs and slipping through a door off of the kitchenette section of the lounge. It lead to a meeting room. On the far side of the black, elliptically shaped table at it’s center, a platter of samosas beneath a glass cloche had been set along side a plate of vegetables. A few halved baby bell peppers and cherry tomatoes Atticus had brought along for a snack. There was also a bowl of red grapes and near that some slices of cheddar cheese.

    [atticus]Please.[/atticus] He apologetically offered, pulling out one of the grey coloured leather chairs for her, [atticus]I wish I’d brought more.[/atticus]

    He then picked up what appeared to be a TV controller, sleek and sliver, from the table and pressed one of it’s buttons. The vertical blinds on the wall beside them slowly opened revealing a window and upon striking another button, incandescent lights turned on in succession illuminating the warehouse beyond, bare, except for a few rows of empty metal shelves off to one side of the massive space.

    [atticus]When I purchased this facility five years ago it was never to start a business.[/atticus] Atticus disclosed, glancing over at his guest, curious if she was able to detect the ‘emptiness’ of the place. At that, he entered a twelve digit code on the controller and the dampened groan of unseen machinery echoed through the vast area.

    The floor began to pull apart. A large rectangular well the size of a standard swimming pool opened up and rising out of the blackness, hovering over a steel platform floated an enormous mass of the blackest stone, it’s glossy surface shimmering in the light.

    [atticus]Can you ‘see’ it Mason?[/atticus] He asked, using the term lightly in her presence.

    The observation window was high above the floor of the warehouse, overlooking the object. Atticus slowly rolled his gaze across the surface of the monolith before prying his eyes away, sitting down and enjoying a sip of his coffee.

    [atticus]The ‘Menhir’, as we came to call it, measures nine cubits in width, twenty-seven in length, by one cubit in depth and floats three cubits above solid ground at all times. This translates to thirteen and half, by forty and half feet, by eighteen inches of sixty tons of metallic, black stone defying gravity for a precisely four and half feet. It’s one of the greatest discoveries of the twentieth century that the world has never known.[/atticus] The doctor regaled, before pausing for a quick bite. His attention shifted easily, reaching across the table, plucking up a halved cherry tomato, sprinkling it with some salt and pepper and popping it in his mouth.

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    • 3 weeks later...

    Nostrils flared as the second cup of coffee was poured. She really would have preferred a strong bourbon but coffee was probably the better choice for the moment. The liquid finishing its pour, she went to reach for the mug only for Mighty Mouse to pick it up and beckon her to follow. Scowling over the dark shades, nostrils huffed softly, ripping the edge of the wrapping on the protein bar as she followed the big man, but steps halted on the threshold.


    Something wasn’t right. Hair on the back of her neck was rising up while the ache in her side intensified. Braille scars were pulsing, hand moving to rub over the Nevus etched flesh as she listened to a chair get pulled out for her. What the hell was she? Some Prima Dona? Normally she would have a bitchy comment but truth was, she was exhausted. Still there was hesitation as every fiber seemed to be humming at attention. Ears were attentive for a few more moments before determining that nothing seemed to be wrong with the room. Huffing again to herself she dropped into the chair like dead weight. Abused fingers finished pulling the wrapper off the protein bar, mouth full of a bite when he apologized for not bringing more. Shrug came as she pulled the wet tail from behind her to drape over the back of the leather chair instead of saturating the back of her hoodie.


    [derrick]….not exactly big eater… no big deal.[/derrick]


    Though the scent of the cheese drew her attention, hand sliding on the table in search of the bowl that held the prize, adding it to the protein bar she was already half through. Ears itched at the sound of the blinds on the track, the sound reverberating on the large pane of glass to betray a vastness behind it. The hum of the incandescents on the other side of the glass helping to distort sound to "show" her the space was not only vast, but fairly empty.


    [atticus] When I purchased this facility five years ago it was never to start a business.[/atticus]


    What exactly did this little speech have to do with her? But as if on cue he entered digits on a panel. Dangerous thing to do in front of one that could map sound. It would probably only take her a couple tries to get that code right.


    The sound of metal grinding on gears drew a flinch through her cheek, her feet able to feel the vibrations of movement even through her boots. To one that lived in sound and touch this little demonstration seemed to be determined to throw her world into chaos.


    Little did she know how right that thought was. It started the moment the seal of the heavy barrier that had been dampening the effect broke.


    [atticus]Can you 'see' it Mason?[/atticus]


    She didn’t have to, she could feel it. As he settled in to "revere" his view, she was recoiling from it. Legs were a bit unsteady as she stood from the chair and backed away from the window. Her skin was crawling under the old wound, ebony braille on the move.


    [derrick]….close it…[/derrick]


    The whisper so soft it didn’t carry over his excited explanation of what the object was. The chair closest to her was rolling several inches away from the table. Ability activated by her original injury was still not under her control and yet now it seemed to bleed out easily, loose bowl sliding across the table as the ebony braille became visible up the left side of her neck. It was spreading.


    Even behind the dark shades it was clear panic was setting in.


    [atticus]….its one of the greatest discoveries of the twentieth century that the world has ever known.[/atticus] [derrick]…I said close it.[/derrick]


    This time words were stronger. The creep of ebony braille now bleeding down the back of her left hand as several chairs shifted and rolled abruptly away from the table. Whatever "it" was, it was expanding the shard's possession of her skin and opening the reservoir that tapped into her telekinesis, the one ability she had yet to master. A fact that was growing more evident as a chair suddenly shot away from the table, slamming into the wall.

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    The Menhir’s effect upon Mason had been expected but Atticus had not anticipated this. Embroiled in the tell of his tale, the scientist studied the traumatic metamorphosis with cool, academic curiousity. Inhuman senses extending into the air around her, monitoring and relaying her vital signs. The doctor was not without his own particular set of sensory enhancements.

    He glanced out the window, Mason’s first request, to ‘reseal’ the Menhir falling on deaf ears; too distracted by the reaction of the relic below. Lights flickered. An eerie wind stirred within the warehouse. Purple coloured electrical-like bolts surged through and across it’s smooth surface, it’s black form pulsating with a radiant glow from within.

    It was happening. The Menhir was beginning to change. It’s featureless surface rippling with grooves and ridges, miniaturized structures forming, ancient cuneiform letters etching. Phantasms dancing across the shadowy plane.

    ‘… I said close it.’ The words reverberated in his mind, undulating upon the sensation of her elevated heart rate, her rising body temperature! So close! He just needed a little longer, the magic was so strong!

    The monolith descended into it’s sarcophagus. It’s surface smoothing once more to glossy black in the shadow of the closing doors. Atticus released his finger from the button, the remote sliding from his grasp onto the table. His eyes slowly panned around the room, observing the chairs that had been pushed away from Mason, one laying before a hole in the drywall. ‘The manifestation of a new ability or a reaction from the relic?’

    The doors sealed with a loud thud and as the holder was designed to repel various forms of energy the Menhir would quickly go dormant.

    [atticus]You alright?[/atticus] Atticus inquired, trying to hide his disappointment.

    Scratching his head the tall man crossed the room in a few strides and stopped in front of one of the three large wall mounted TV’s. [atticus]Your reaction to the Menhir doesn’t make any sense. I anticipated some feed back but not this.[/atticus] He explained, his hands churning, thrusting an pulling in the air as he focused on the problem. [atticus]You see, it works like a battery. Theoretically it should have drawn on the power within you. I was hoping it might have even extracted the raw Nevusian energy, like a poultice drawing out venom. Not this. I’m really sorry Mason.[/atticus] He added, sheepishly thrusting his hands into pockets and shaking his head. [atticus]This shouldn’t have happened. How are you feeling?[/atticus]

    For some reason, Mason had began to draw energy from the Menhir. This had never happened before. It was as if they formed a connection, an unfathomable one. Literally! The Menhir was an oblivion, a conduit to the mysteries of the universe. He didn’t even want to consider what might arise from her prolonged exposure to the relic.

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    She couldn’t breathe. The sensation of a living organism leaching her flesh had never been this strong. She was acutely aware that the braille that once covered just her left side had spread up the ribs, creeping over her shoulder to lick tendrils up the side of her neck as the rest plunged downward, covering the bicep and spilling further onto the back of her left hand. Skin so sensitive she had trouble wearing most fabrics was on fire, it felt branded.


    Whether he ignored her the first time or hadn't heard, she made sure her demands were noted the second time as she half stumbled back from the windows, from the table, from the man. This had been a bad idea…. a colossally bad idea.


    While one ability bled out with ease, shifting furniture and nearly tossing the bowl at his head; the others were inaccessible, dormant in her fatigue. Attempt to engage her mapping failed. She was in the dark, a place she had spent her whole life, a place she never feared. She could always "see" what was around her, she hadn't needed an "ability" to give her that, that had come to a three year old child that figured out how to navigate differently in the world. But now for some reason, the dark was disconcerting.


    Something had been lying in wait there in the dark…..waiting for her.


    Ears itched at the sound of gears and metal. He was acquiescing to her demand. Even so she moved further… backing up along the path they had come from. Her own rasping breath finally let the natural echo location tell her she was standing in a doorway, the exit of the boardroom. The kitchenette was not far. Right hand reached out to rest against the doorframe, the left fisting and pulling up into the sleeve of the hoodie as if to hide the marks she knew were now there.


    [atticus]You alright?[/atticus]


    She could hear the dip in his voice, displeased with the outcome of it all. Her own tone finding some of its old strength as she quietly snapped back at him.


    [derrick]…don’t ask questions that you don’t care what the answers are…[/derrick]


    When he stood and strode across the room in her direction, the air shifted, barrier slamming up without thought nearly twelve feet in front of her, a chair caught in its path ricocheting off the telekinetic structure to slam into the window on the other side. It had engaged unconsciously, protecting. She had not yet gotten this sort of control over the skill, and yet here it was ignited and perfectly positioned


    [atticus]Your reaction to the Menhir doesn’t make any sense.[/atticus]


    [derrick]…like any of this makes any sense at all in the first place Mighty Mouse.[/derrick]


    She only half listened to his explanation….battery…energy…venom. She felt like a frayed wire trying to hold a massive current, energy bleeding and snapping out in directions unknown.


    Breathing was still labored, but at least the pain throughout the braille had dulled to a constant ache. Lungs filled with passion finally, lifting her chest and shoulders and in doing so the shield flitted away once more and with it the vibrating intensity on every loose object in the room finally subsided it was unlikely anything more was going to get hurled at the Nord… at least for now.


    [atticus]Not this. I'm really sorry Mason. This shouldn’t have happened. How are you feeling?[/atticus]


    She was silent, scowl at him lingering. But ears had detected no lies, no ill intent now. He honestly had not expected what had happened and this time at least, he seemed to actually want to know how she felt. Nostrils huffed softly as her hand slid from the doorframe to stand on her own two feet while fingers pushed into joey pocket of the hoodie.


    [derrick]…like I just had my hand in a live socket…. thanks for asking.[/derrick]


    A glimmer of her sarcastic wit was returning. But the faint scowl remained as her attention seemed to be on the windows and beyond. He had invited her out here so she could get answers. But in the end, it looked like he didn’t have any.


    [derrick]…..so much for giving your lab-rat answers huh….[/derrick]

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    [atticus]But there ARE answers.[/atticus] Atticus corrected her, in that moment his youthful visage taking on the air of a maturity beyond his physical years. Far beyond. Then, as if right on queue, a feminine voice announced, “Compilation completed. Beginning data analysis.” The distinctly synthetic vocalization coming from the conference room.

    [atticus]This isn’t the first time I’ve exposed the Menhir to an unstable source.[/atticus] He informed her, grinning. [atticus]How’s that label work for you? ‘Source’. A little better than lab-rat?[/atticus] he poked at the insignificance of it all.

    He really didn’t understand some people’s preoccupation with associating experimentation with slavery. He wasn’t forcing her to do anything she didn’t want or taking away her civil liberties. You had your ‘experimenter’ and then you had the ‘experimented’. That was the basic process of scientific investigation. Cut and dry, black and white.

    [atticus]Anyway, I’m sorry if my treating you like a ‘test-subject’ offends you, but until we understand more about your condition you have to at least meet me half way. Look…[/atticus] Damn! He withdrew the statement and gesture as soon as he made them, [atticus]… Sorry. I just wanted to point out that you look strong, you seem healthy despite the skin-reaction. That goes a long way. Letting me run a few tests isn’t going to land you in a hospital bed, if that’s what you’re worried about.[/atticus]

    ‘Was it?’ Hands fell from his hips and into his pockets with an exasperated sigh.

    [atticus]Anyway, let’s take a look at the analysis, eh?[/atticus] He suggested, making sure to verbally direct her instead of relying on his gestures. [atticus]Just down the hall, back the way we first came. I think you’ll be intrigued by the format.[/atticus]

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    [atticus]But there ARE answers.[/atticus]


    Nostrils flared gently at his enthusiasm. It was the same giddy feel as when he first identified her as a potential lab rat. God this guy really had a one track mind. Though it was a little refreshing it wasn’t on the same track as most numbnuts she came across.


    Muscle through her cheek flinched as an automated voice came over speakers.


    [atticus]This isn't the first time I've exposed the Menhir to an unstable source.[/atticus]


    [derrick]….so now I am unstable as well?[/derrick]


    Brow lifted high over the dark lennon shades but a hint of a lift at the corner of her lips betrayed she found humor in the fact that the man was hardly what they called a "ladies man".


    [atticus]….I'm sorry if my treating you like a 'test-subject' offends you…[/atticus] [derrick]…I wasn’t offended.[/derrick]


    No….it wasn’t offense that itched at her. It was the callousness with which some experimenters could torment their subject in the name of science. She had vivid memories of her childhood, of random "cures" for her blindness forced upon her, some with devastating results. And then it had been her own damn mother that had been the experimenter. Who was to say a stranger would be more sensitive?


    [atticus] Letting me run a few tests isn’t going to land you in a hospital bed, if that’s what you’re worried about.[/atticus]


    Head shook as shoulders shrugged under her hoodie.


    [derrick]… I don’t go to puke wards Mighty Mouse…… I am a living cockroach….. I survive….[/derrick]


    There was something distant… almost soft in the tone as the shrug came again, this time less pronounced.


    [derrick]…I always survive……[/derrick]


    She had been a survivor her whole life. A loner and a survivor. Barring one minor hiccup that she did not plan to repeat.


    [atticus] Anyway, let’s take a look at the analysis, eh? Just down the hall, back the way we first came. I think you’ll be intrigued by the format [/atticus]


    The overstated grin was clearly emulating sarcasm as the tone held a saccharin sweetness.


    [derrick]…oh yes lets…. lets see what Digital Dolly has to say shall we..?[/derrick]


    Shoulders lifted to exaggerate the grin before falling down once more. Hands tucked onto the joey pouch of the hoodie, hidden fingers able to scratch at the braille on her side that still burned with raw electricity as she turned on a heel and started back they way they had come through.


    If she was completely honest, she really was curious what the female automaton had to say about what it had scanned during her reaction.

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    • 2 weeks later...

    The distant sound of thunder rumbled through the windows of the office section of the large structure. It was not the wind, though one would’ve naturally been seeking other explanations in the dead of winter. As the years had rolled past that reality turning event the frequency of weather anamolies had increased exponentially. Thunder-snow storms or lightning blizzards, while infrequent, were not unheard of, though this one in particular may have been influenced by through unnatural means.

    Atticus wasn’t surprised to hear the chilled winds beating against the glass accompanied by the all too familiar sounds of a summer storm. He had been expecting it.

    Leading the way to their destination the floor and walls resonated with the vibrations of thunderous after shocks. Through the outer windows in the offices to his right lightning flashed, momentarily illuminating the dimly lit corridor. An amazing marvel of nature of which his guest was unfortunately unaware, the scientist considered as he turned a corner to his left.

    Glancing over his shoulder Atticus made sure ‘Ms. I always survive’ was still following. In truth, he was worried about her. Those black tendrils, so like that inky vein that cut across the night sky were disconcerting. He’d already ran at least a dozen scenarios through his head and all of them ended badly for the woman.

    He walked down the short hallway and pushed open the door at the end. Mason’s sensitive hearing would have already detected the noise of the machinery within made audible to Atticus as he broke the seal on the heavy sound-proof door. The large room was abuzz with the sound of a massive 3D printer whittling away. A massive slab of grey coloured plastic equal to the dimensions of the Menhir, slowly passed through one end, the finished product emerging out the other.

    [atticus]Over here.[/atticus] Atticus called out. Drawing Mason to the three foot high conveyor belt upon which an intricately sculpted slab slowly inched forward. A mosaic of sculptures, minute structures, engravings, reliefs; a chaotic mishmash of objects arranged in no discernible pattern spanning the entire width of the slab.

    [atticus]You can touch it.[/atticus] He invited before continuing, [atticus]It’s a copy. A life-size replication of the Menhir after it’s exposure to the radiation of the Nevus.[/atticus]

    [atticus]Commonly, the relic holds it’s form for some time, but even then it’s hardly enough to make heads or tails of a fraction of the information, so I started making duplicates of the reactions. It’s surface is scanned and the data is relayed to this printer.[/atticus] He momentarily paused to marvel at the extensive information yielded by momentary exposure at a distance. He couldn’t even began to imagine what would happen if Mason were brought within the typical proximity to the Menhir.

    [atticus] ‘Digital Dolly’[/atticus] using her term, [atticus] then analyzes the model and reintegrates the information based on the data provided by past research.[/atticus] he explained. Of course it still wasn’t a fool proof method. He still needed to lend his intuition to the process, which could take time.

    There were were several enormous monitors in the room all of which displaying graphics that were already morphing and rearranging the shapes carved in the incomplete slab. Walking over to one, Atticus stood before it, hands tucked in his pockets as he studied the computer’s ongoing analysis.

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    • 2 weeks later...

    The vibrations of distant thunder registered long before it rumbled against the windows. Shiver ran up the back of her neck as though nature had just reminded her she was exhausted, wet and cold. Nostrils huffed softly against the sensation.


    She didn’t do weak well. Never had.


    Hands stuffed into the joey pocket of the hoodie, she fingered the flask she had hidden there after her shower. It was filled with Stroh, the rum ridiculously strong and rich and beckoning her name. She metabolized liquor quickly but that wasn’t a great excuse for the liquid being a staple in her diet. For now she left it tucked away, fingers instead scratching at the braille under the soft sweatshirt. The sensation of the entity undulating under her skin still made her flesh crawl…literally.


    Her steps were disturbingly quiet as she followed the Nord. Her natural echo location was lagging in her fatigue so her body moved to compensate. She seemed to float, feet slid a hair over the floor rather than stepping, the glide allowing her to register the terrain in a way that didn’t look as though she lacked site. It was a trick learned as a child that allowed her to move without a cane or with her hands wobbling out at her sides.


    The sound of his steps echoed harder off the walls, the hallway was short. Right hand slid from its gloved pocket to itch at her ear long before he opened the door. The hum beyond was irritating in its pitch and volume. Oddly muffled until he pushed on the thick door. Now the sound blossomed, almost overwhelming in her fatigue. Scowling she hesitated before following him through the door.


    [atticus]Over here.[/atticus]


    She had paused in the center of the room, turning slightly listening to the machine when his voice interrupted, turning she moved closer. Frown dipped over the lennon shades as he invited her to touch it. There was hesitation before fingers that could "read" more with their sensitive tips than most could read with their eyes reached out and lightly traced the edge of the replica.


    Hand pulled away after several seconds as though the printed sculpture was hot. Chest lifted and sunk with a bit of anxiety before the breath pulled bigger and she reached out again to touch it. The memory sensation it had ripped from her had knees a bit weak. She had only been conscious seconds when she had been skewered beneath the earth, but in this few fleeting moments she had laid her hands on the stalagmite. It was a memory lost to history until the moment she touched the replica. It had edges and crevices so similar.


    Mighty Mouse was going on about something regarding the thing changing shapes and making duplicates. Truth was she was distracted by the sensation memory that had been invoked.


    [atticus]Digital Dolly..[/atticus]


    Head turned to him, the repeated expression finally catching her attention.


    [atticus]…. then analyzes the model and reintegrates the information based on the data provided by past research.[/atticus]


    She was quiet as he moved, the shift in his breathing betraying he wasn’t facing her anymore. She took the opportunity to again run a hand over the replica. Her compensations for site made touch and smell memory recall very visceral. She could smell the dank air from the underground tomb that should have been her final resting place, feel the heat of blood pooling against her skin. Waking to her name called by….


    Hand snatched away from the replica with a deep snarl, stepping away from the damn thing. Chest rose and fell several times before hands rammed into the front pocket once more, tugging down on the hoodie, dark stain of water from her wet mane pulling over her shoulders.


    [derrick]…it was the same…[/derrick]


    Mumble was half under her breath. Deeper breath came and the tension eased from her arms and shoulders.


    [derrick]….one that injured me…..was real similar.[/derrick]

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    ‘HOLY SHIT!’ Atticus stared incredulously at the revelation, mouth agape in stunned silence. ‘It all made sense!’ The Menhir’s reaction to her, the black tendrils running up her neck, the biochemical amalgam. The shard she had been impaled upon hadn’t been Nevusian energy at all! It had been the jagged fragment of another Menhir! ‘Or, whatever the hell the thing actually was.’ It was a fragment and it sounded like it had been activated at the time, no doubt due to a close proximity to ‘pure magical energy’. ‘That’s why it fused with her? And ever since then she’s been a walking ‘receiver’, her body sensing magical sources and interpreting or adapting to them.

    Aside from his familiarity with it’s physical form and knowledge to it’s reaction to ‘pure magic’ Atticus knew little else about the ancient artifact. When they had first discovered it they had attempted every method possible to view it’s interior, find out what made it tick. Nothing worked and eventually they just gave up, Atticus became complacent with the ’mysteries of it’s magic’, but now he suspected something that chilled him to the bone. Mason was changing! What she was becoming, he feared, lied within the Menhir. It was a sarcophagus! Perhaps not in the traditional sense but what if the structure of the Menhir itself was the end result of the transformation?

    [atticus]The Menhir is comprised of a compound that doesn’t exist on the periodic table, perhaps the galaxy, or any galaxy.[/atticus] Atticus began, [atticus] It can only be described as ‘solid energy’. In that it is comparable to the shards of the Nevus with one profound difference. One is completely void of light, the other produces it. What’s inside you, I fear, is a piece of an artifact not unlike the one here. It’s like the dark matter of the Nevus energy.[/atticus]

    Atticus leaned heavily against the side of the 3D printer. [atticus]It’s changing you. Into what…[/atticus] he exasperatedly shook his head, trying to consider all of the variables. There were simply too many.

    As rippling arms folded across his chest in thought, ever examining eyes were torn between appraising her condition and falling to the floor out of respect of her privacy. Here he was in the presence of an artifact as monumentous as the Menhir itself and it just so happened to be a person. One that he had met under completely different circumstances as well. He was ever plagued by ethical dilemmas! One of the most significant finds in recent years and it just so happened to exist within the form of a living person. Well, not exactly an upstanding member of the community. He stopped himself right there. Atticus had stood at the archway of that dark corridor many times before and knew that once a scientist started down it, there was no return. Of course, the metaphor was subjective, he could have just the same been staring out into the light from that dark place, he figured. He was no saint but he liked to think that he had learned from his mistakes.

    Behind him, the machine continued to slowly whittle away at it’s replicating sculpture. Rhythmic noises churning with the wheels in his head as he considered the opposite occurring. What if Mason’s proximity to the Menhir caused ‘it’ to change? He had never seen it react to an energy source as it had when exposed to her. There were strange forces at work, fate pulling these two together. It was all beyond him and when faced with too many questions the old man hidden within the youthful form of Atticus Gale had learned to step back and reassess.

    [atticus]I think we’re done for tonight. This printer can take days to re-create the details of the Menhir and you look as though you could use a good night’s rest.[/atticus]

    Atticus thought it prudent to get Mason away from the Menhir until he was able to analyze the data from the exposure. Things weren’t adding up and it seemed safer for them both if she got as far away from the artifact as possible. Unfortunately, considering the weather outside he wasn’t entirely sure that was going to be possible.

    [atticus]I’ll take you home, but first, if I could trouble you for a blood sample? It’s in your best interest as well as mine.[/atticus] He asked kindly.

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    He had gotten suspiciously quiet and his breathing betrayed excitability….anxiety maybe. What exactly was going through that head of his. Was the fact that the stalagmite was similar to his Menh-whatsit important? By his reaction it seemed it was. She had that creepy hair raising sensation again at the back of her neck.


    He talked too much for her taste. But the truth was she didn’t particularly like this silence either. When he finally did speak, it didn’t do much to reduce the creep factor.


    [atticus]…. What’s inside you, I fear, is a piece of an artifact not unlike the one here. It’s like the dark matter of the Nevus energy. It's changing you. Into what….[/atticus]


    His great scientific revelation fell short. The answer clearly eluded him as he let his words trail off with ominous effect. The silence lingered, the Nord seemed unable to come to a conclusion.


    [derrick]You know Mighty Mouse…. your bedside manner is decidedly lacking…. [/derrick]


    Back leaned against the wall, arms crossing over her chest as she pondered the question herself. Tonight had galvanized the braille, but it wasn’t the first time it had crawled under her skin. And then there were her abilities. The "infection" had tapped into and magnified her neural connections, taking her Nevus abilities to a level they might never have achieved had she been left alone.


    Question was…. where would it stop. Seemed Mighty Mouse was wondering the same thing.


    [atticus] I think we’re done for tonight. This printer can take days to re-create the details of the Menhir and you look as though you could use a good night’s rest. [/atticus]


    The tone was different. He wanted time to think. She would argue she didn’t need rest if it wasn’t so damn true. She had never planned on meeting up with the Nord, she had left everything on the stage in the empty stadium and now was lucky to still be upright. The plan had been a bottle of rum and her collapse in the cozy folds of her soft comforter. She was up now hours past that planned event.


    [atticus]I’ll take you home, but first, if I could trouble you for a blood sample? It’s in your best interest as well as mine.[/atticus]


    Brow quirked upward, hands shoving down into the front pocket of her hoodie.


    [derrick]…the gallon left at your place wasn’t enough?[/derrick]


    She found it hard to believe he didn’t sample from what had been left in his bathroom after they came home from the disastrous ocean adventure. She suspected this request was due to an eagerness to see if there was a difference now. If she had been a rat she was certain he would be conducting experiments by now.


    One track mind.


    Shrug came as she rolled up the sleeve on her right arm. She didn’t trust giving him the left. Ebony Braille was still agitated and for all she knew, if he approached it with a needle he might get attacked.


    [derrick]….take what you want Mighty Mouse. I seem to be sparing a lot of it lately.[/derrick]

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    She’d been right on the money with her assumption but the doctor didn’t bother confirming that the sample was to compare it to the previous. He wasn’t ready to admit that he’d already extrapolated and isolated the anomalous energy surging through her veins. Before her arrival he wanted to be sure how the artifact would respond but all his efforts were in vain. The previous tests were negative. The ‘black magic’, he supposed one could call it, once drawn from her body was rendered inert. Separating it from her blood only further destroyed it’s unique properties, in fact it took on all the characteristics of one of the most common elements, carbon. The power of the ‘dark energy’ residing within her body was a part of her. It was impossible to separate, at least through the methods of science. All hopes in remedying her now lied in magic.

    As she offered her arm, he gently took it and steered her to the door. [atticus]This way, please.[/atticus] There were no syringes in the ‘copy room’, for that he lead them back to the main corridor where they continued on to the other side of the building. On the way, Atticus noted the snow. A significant amount had fallen. The gate would be buried, travel, even in a 4x4 would be slow and sluggish. He yawned just thinking of the journey, already considering the alternative.

    Turning left and left again they stood before the typical double sealed entrance to a laboratory designed for biological study and the synthesizing of drugs. As Atticus walked toward the biometric security system, a beam of light scanned his retina and analyzed his facial features while his hand was placed on a scanner to read his prints and bio-rhythms. The first set of doors then parted and the procedure was repeated for the second set. As those doors slid open the lab brightened. Automated lighting illuminated pale blue flooring, white cabinetry and scientific equipment neatly organized upon stainless steel tables and countertops.

    Atticus directed his guest to a comfortable orange coloured counter stool in the center of the lab, [atticus]Please, have a seat.[/atticus] The doctor requested while he procured the necessary items for drawing blood. There was no hesitation as he deftly inserted the syringe into her offered right arm, tapping the vein and quickly filling three vials. Silently then, he directed her fingers to apply pressure to a wad of gauze on the pin-prick, gently guiding her arm into a bent position.

    [atticus]Well, I’ve some bad news, and some good news.[/atticus] Atticus began as he checked his phone while placing the blood samples into a glass doored refrigeration unit. [atticus]Good news is, you’re blood’s still red. Bad news is we’re snowed in.[/atticus] It was a feeble attempt at humour to prepare her for an unwanted stay, well perhaps there was a little truth to the joke. Atticus had been prepared to siphon black blood out of her considering the inky tendrils spidering along her exposed flesh. He'd been quite pleased to see it still 'appeared' normal.

    [atticus]The couches in the lounge are very comfortable.[/atticus] He attested, having slept on them a number of times himself. [atticus]Yeah,[/atticus] he continued, double checking the information on his weather app, [atticus]The airports and most of the major routes have been shut down. I could attempt to get through if there’s someplace you really gotta be before noon tomorrow or today, that is.[/atticus] He corrected checking the time on the phone to remind himself just how late it actually was.

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    • 2 weeks later...

    Muscles tensed as he gently took her arm, cut across her skin betraying the strength hidden behind the lanky frame, the hours spent tirelessly in the gym. It also betrayed her mistrust in the touch of others. He could have been "family" known to her for the last nine years and the reaction would have been the same.


    She fought the instinct to snap her arm away, settling instead for a gentle twist to free from his grasp as they started down the hall, following instead his weighted steps. This place was larger than she had first thought, her fatigue preventing her from properly echo-locating the size of the entire building. Thoughts nearly prevented her from noticing he had stopped. Abrupt halt of her own swaying slightly to graze the massive back before she stepped back once more frowning at herself.


    Tired ears picked up the sound of current flicking on as the second set of doors opened. Lights most likely. Foot nudged the stool before she knew it was there, a faint grumble under her breath as left fingers reached for the stool before pulling it under her hips.


    The place smelled antiseptic, the scent burning sensitive nostrils as the muscle through her bicep flinched upward at the press of the needle into her skin. Nostrils snorted softly as she took over the job of holding the gauze, arm folding upward to pinch the artificial wound. Fortunately it seemed the shard braille had seemed to ignore his "attack".


    [atticus] Good news is, you’re blood’s still red. Bad news is we’re snowed in.[/atticus]


    [derrick]…I have mentioned you have lousy bedside manners, Mighty Mouse.[/derrick]


    [atticus]The couches in the lounge are very comfortable.[/atticus]


    Frown considered the options and in all honesty, there were not really any. At this point she was likely not missed anyway. Bakkhos had all but tossed her out for the next two weeks. Of course hanging out with a stranger who was poaching her blood was probably not what Gaspari had in mind when he told her to "get her ass on a vacation".


    Lips pursed a moment before finally responding to the half hearted attempt to offer to take her home now.


    [derrick]… I have slept on worse.[/derrick]


    Standing the stool rolled away from her calves as she pulled the sleeve of the hoodie down over the "assaulted" arm, both hands shoving into the Joey pocket to finger the flask. A nightcap before bed.


    [derrick]… I sleep very light because I can hear bugs walk across a wall… and I sleep with a gun so waking me is hazardous to your health Mighty Mouse.[/derrick]


    A not so subtle way of telling the big guy to keep his distance.

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    Atticus placed a folded blanket and pillow on one of the couches. He was still smiling at Mason’s not-so-subtle threat, contemplating ’if he really came across as being that creepy?’. Then he recalled her recoil at his touch, the guarded stance, the excessive defensiveness. ‘Abuse?’ He wondered, but dismissed the curiosity as quickly as it came. It was none of his business.

    Alerted by the whistle of the electric kettle, Atticus strolled into the kitchenette and prepared himself a cup of tea.

    [atticus]I was flying into New York when it happened.[/atticus] Atticus began. There had been no prompts, no invitation, he simply started talking. [atticus]I flew a lot, saw a lotta storms, but nothing like that. It was…[/atticus] he struggled to find the right word but gave into the cliche descriptor, [atticus]… otherworldly.[/atticus]

    He gently poked the tea bag with a teaspoon, stirring the cup, the deep red bleeding into the water.

    [atticus]Thought it was the end. I was ready.[/atticus] he shrugged, [atticus]I’d lived a life, paid my dues. I remember feeling bad for everyone else, though. Their lives cut short. It wasn’t fair. Then it happened.[/atticus]

    Compressing the teabag to the side of the cup with the spoon, Atticus squeezed out the remaining tea before discarding it in the trash. He then stirred in some milk and placed the spoon in the sink.

    [atticus]I was in the bathroom at the time. Didn’t make much sense to head back to my seat. We were still over the ocean, the impact would kill everyone no matter where you were sitting. I was praying it would be quick. I remember staring into the mirror, hair standing on end from the static of the storm. It was the last time I’d see that person… who I was. There was a bright flash and the next thing I know I was outside the plane. The fuselage was under me, the wind was whipping around but it’s like I was stuck to it. I was flying. The plane was going down and then I decided it wasn’t. It’s all a blur after that.[/atticus]

    Atticus gently blew the steam off the surface of his milk and tea and tentatively took a sip. [atticus]I woke up on a beach. I still remember the sensation of cold wet sand against my back, warm sunlight on my face. It felt alien, like I was experiencing these sensations for the first time. Like I had been reborn and in a manner-of-speaking, I had. There was a yacht club just down the beach. I felt so strange, my clothes felt tighter. I remember running my hand through my hair, feeling it’s thickness. I caught my reflexion in the window of the first yacht I passed and saw a young man I hadn’t seen in fifty years.[/atticus]

    Atticus took another sip of the hot beverage and sat down on the arm of one of the couches, letting the admission of his actual age sink in. He couldn’t really say why, but he wanted her to know his true age, to give her a glimpse of who he was. It was important.

    [atticus]You’ve seen what I can do and you seem fine with it. Like you, I didn’t ask for any of this, but it’s who we are now. We deal with the ‘change’ every day, but some of us continue to change; continue to evolve. How long have you been displaying telekinesis?[/atticus]

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    She had sunk into the couch that still propped up her guitar on its arm. Toe of the left boot hitched on the heel of the right to tug it forward and off the bare foot hiding inside before the action was repeated, ridiculously long legs folding under herself Indian style as the flask was unapologetically slid from her joey pocket and opened. The first draught was deep before her head rested on the back of the couch, letting the heat move through bones that were still cold. It was a bit of a miracle she could maintain any body heat in her exhaustion.


    Brows drifted inward at the pitch of the kettle, noise offending sensitive ears before his words came. Why was he still talking? Head back and eyes having lost the battle to maintain a semblance of sighted, she was only a few deep breaths from oblivion.


    His coming. He was talking about his coming into his Mighty Mouse abilities. Damn cop had told her about being a boy scout, Bakkhos ammo dealer spilled about his nanny and living in the French Quarter. For being as horribly antisocial as she was, people seemed to want to talk to her. She didn’t get it. She was all snarl and bark and they spilled their secrets.


    Brow furled deeper as she pulled on the flask for some internal heat as nostrils were assaulted by the heating of tea leaves in water.


    Odd how he talked about having lived his life and paid his dues. If she had to guess by his build, the strength and clarity of his voice, he couldn’t have been more than twenty five or so at the time of the Nevus.


    [atticus]I woke up on a beach.[/atticus]


    She couldn’t stop the faint snort. Why didn’t it surprise her that Mighty Mouse here had his great cataclysmic change and woke up on a damn beach. She had woken up in a pool of her own and her attackers blood on a dirty alley floor.


    But as the story continued both brows lifted in an expression of pondering disbelief. Fifty years? So…..he had been like….seventy?? so what? Was eighty now? Ok that just got weird. He gave a whole new meaning to creepy old man.


    In an odd way he made more sense to her now. The way he talked, his manners, they were not that of a strapping thirty five…forty year old man…. they had a grandpa charisma. That was why he felt weird to her, now he actually made sense. The soft snort now was in amusement as she let herself relax into the couch.


    [atticus] You’ve seen what I can do and you seem fine with it.[/atticus]


    This time the soft chuckle bubbled up in her chest, the sound rare and rich.


    [derrick]…why wouldn’t I…. been a "freak" since long before the Nevus got a'hold of me, Mighty Mouse. More than most I take this shit in stride.[/derrick]


    [atticus] Like you, I didn’t ask for any of this, but it’s who we are now. We deal with the ‘change’ every day, but some of us continue to change; continue to evolve. How long have you been displaying telekinesis?[/atticus]


    She was silent a while. So still she might have been mistaken for asleep. She should be asleep, not pondering spilling things others didn’t know about her. Not even her Boss knew the nuances of how she had come about it all nor even what all she could do. Flask was finished before she leaned forward to place it on the table in front of the couch. Arms rested on her thighs as her hands dangled between thoughtfully silent. Finally she broke the silence with a shrug


    [derrick]…. needless to say we weren't all so lucky as to wake on a beach fifty years younger than we started.[/derrick]


    There wasn’t malice in the words. She didn’t begrudge anyone how they had changed. Change had corrupted them all and they all dealt with it their own way. Long fingers scratched the back of her neck, the chill of the wet ponytail still penetrating even through the soft sweatshirt.


    [derrick]….been a freak since I was born. Started echo-locating at two. Brain just works different.[/derrick]


    Shrugging she dropped back again in the couch, hands stuffing into the joey pocket as she stared up at nothing on the ceiling still pondering how much to say.


    [derrick]End of the world came and went and didn’t think much of it other than the death that came of it. Few months later got attacked. Always could fight but brain took things to another level. Could map with the echo-locating. Almost just…. I don’t know… natural progression of the freak I already was I guess.[/derrick]


    Right hand lifted to pinch under the dark shades. Why was she sharing again?


    [derrick]…moving shit started after I died.[/derrick]


    Hand patted the giant scar on her side that she knew he had already seen. No one was supposed to live through being skewered by anything that large. It just wasn’t possible. She had died. It was the only explanation that worked in her mind. She left out the part about the shield she seemed to be able to create as well as the fact that she didn’t really control the telekinesis yet. No point in spilling all the secrets. Truth was he likely had an inkling of both based on her raw display in reaction to the damn rock he had hidden away.


    [derrick]… on a more positive note… since the Nevus I am no longer the biggest freak in a room most of the time…[/derrick]


    Smirk lingered on her lips as bare feet pushed deeper into the cushion of the couch trying to ward off the chill.

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    Sitting across from her, balanced on the arm of the opposite facing couch, his expression finally befit the man’s youthful visage. The wisdom of lingering years outshone by the brilliance of his bright watchful stare as he took in the elegant form of the sour yogi. Nuzzling his hands round the hot cup of tea, Atticus nestled in, curious to learn more about his guest. He was not surprised to learn that she was what he liked to refer to as a ‘pre-mutant’. An individual endowed with an enhancing mutation prior to the resonance. Some kind of physiological sensory adaption. There had been a few documented cases, most undocumented, like his friend Vacily born with a stronger than normal electrical field, later enhanced by experimentation, further tempered by the alteration to the world. She would have had a leg-up on all those altered in the year 2010, many, like himself, still trying to adjust to their new abilities; struggling to find that mid-way point between what they were now and what they once were.

    ‘Lucky’ She had said in reference to his returned youth. Perhaps now but in the beginning Atticus had felt cursed, that is until he saw it for the blessing it truly was. A chance to start over, to right past wrongs, well, he had more or less ended up falling into old habits, but through her he finally had a chance to make amends! She was his map, his guide to the ‘holy grail’. Even her ability to ‘see’ beyond sight could be taken as a sign, that and she had died and come back. Returned from the beyond to impart the secrets of life and death, she just didn’t know it yet.

    ‘Not the biggest freak?’ Atticus might have agreed due to his disdain for the terminology but if his theory was correct she was far from common. She was the Lazarus of the new world but such a revelation would afford neither of them any vantages. He merely responded with a subtle, acknowledging [atticus]Uh, huh.[/atticus] before his mouth stretched wide into a yawn.

    His body becoming all the more aware of the late hour, Atticus slumped onto the couch in a sleepy slouch. [atticus]Guess I’ll let you get some sleep. I got some work to catch up on.[/atticus] he mentioned through yet another teary yawn but remained firmly stuck to the cushions. Several nights burning the midnight oil was finally catching up with him, and with a vengeance.

    [atticus]So what do you do exactly?[/atticus] Atticus inquired of her, hoping some stimulating conversation would snap him back into work mode, [atticus]Kinda got the feeling that you’re not, how to put it? On the level?[/atticus]

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    Ears had caught the soft movement of his form to sit across from her. She didn’t react. By now she was comfortable enough to say he wasn’t trying to slit her throat at the moment, and his yawn betrayed there was a good chance he was as exhausted as she was.


    The Stroh she had polished off was finally beginning to warm from her gut outward. The oppressive chill only lingering now at the back of her neck where the still damp mane was pulled back. Long fingers tucked under it to drag it out from behind her, the long mahogany cord draping over the back of the couch as she leaned for the duffle, hand sliding along the cushion until the top of the duffle that rested against the couch was touched. Curling around its edge she pulled it over to snap open and rummage around in. Fingers finally caressed the holster, custom leather pulled out by the center cinch. Dropping it in her lap, the two glocks tucked on either side of it caught the light as she continued to stuff her hand down into the Marry Poppinesque bag. As the bag remained visibly full, she dropped on the table an oversized bowie knife still in its sheath, a heavy and well worn box that had a guitar pedal inside, a coil of over fifty feet of cable to connect to her amps, a leather toolbelt filled with wire cutters, pieces of copper, snips, caps and other assorted electrical repair tools, and a backup pair of shades. Bag still thick she was continuing to push its contents around inside searching for her prize.


    [atticus]Guess I'll let you get some sleep. I got some work to catch up on.[/atticus]


    She merely nodded still rummaging in the duffle, though she noted his shift in weight implied he had just sunk deep into the other couch. Trying to fool himself it seemed. The long army bag shifted finally half up onto the couch as she reached to the very bottom and finally came up victorious. The half full bottle of Stroh that had filled the flask finally set on the coffee table beside the array of gear that she now began to stuff back inside the bag.


    [atticus]So what do you do exactly?[/atticus]


    She paused, hand half in the bag pushing the amp cable away as the menacing glocks sat on her lap and the large bowie remained on the table. Brow quirked high over the dark Lennon shades.


    [atticus]Kinda got the feeling that you're not, how to put it? On the level?[/atticus]


    Was he serious? Tone of his voice said he was which was just…. dumbfounding ….as she sat with an arsenal in her lap and a litany of battle scars from a voyage across the ocean on a ship that had held more mob muscle than a Sicilian pizzeria in Little Italy. He really was an odd duck. But the knowledge that he was about eighty made the question make more sense.


    She resumed pushing the cable into the worn army bag.


    [derrick]…. you get to that nugget on your own Mighty Mouse?...or the dumb cop walk you to it?[/derrick]


    The latter had fused with a dark tone in her voice that warned there was a grievance between the two that the Nord was best to stay out of the middle of. Handle of the bowie was plucked from the table, the weapon tossed to flip end over end and caught once more by deft fingers that knew precisely where it was in space before it came down. The threat sliding into the confines of the canvas once more as the shoulders shrugged.


    [derrick]….am a musician. And I protect my family.[/derrick]


    Everything once more concealed, she let the duffle slide to the floor, half under the coffee table. The Stroh and guns the only items that remained free as she plucked the bottle from the table and leaned back into the couch once more.


    [derrick]….and on occasion a human radar.[/derrick]


    Which was how they had originally met. Shoulders shrugged slightly as she unscrewed the top and drew long from the neck of the bottle before the glass was held lightly to dangle off her folded up knee.


    [derrick]…that’s pretty much what I do. And it's on the level for me.[/derrick]


    Head tilted, studying the sound of him across the table.


    [derrick]… kind of an odd question when you think about it, because what one does… is always "on the level" for them…. maybe not from others perspective…but from theirs.[/derrick]


    Elbows rested on the folded knees as she leaned a bit forward, the contorted posture only accentuating the length of her limbs as the bottle swayed from side to side thoughtfully.


    [derrick]….could ask and say the same of you Mighty Mouse. What exactly do you do? Cuz I get the feeling you're not, how do I put it…… on the level?[/derrick]


    Lips smirked a bit at him. She had felt it from him already. The secrecy of his "lab", the way he got excited and eager at the thought of having something or someone to experiment on, how he had paused when she had asked him to close the doors to the monolith because despite what was happening to her… he wanted to push further to see something to fruition. There was a distinct undertone of mad scientist running beneath the surface it seemed.


    She wasn’t the only one in the room not "on the level".

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    The woman’s reliance on alcohol was neither here nor there, Atticus didn’t judge. The weapons, however, raised a few concerns. He didn’t care much for guns, for all the good they did a person might have just as soon put the barrel to their head and squeezed the trigger. History was painted red with their misery but he had long since given up on humanity’s moral obligation on the subject. Now, with the arrival of arcane arts and empowered individuals their need was truly justified; a required equalization. ‘But what the hell did he know?’ Staring up at the ceiling that damn spot was driving him nuts. He’d originally thought it was a spider, kind of looked like it but it never moved. Every time he sat in the same particular spot on the couch he plotted it’s demise… but he always got distracted.

    ‘Dumb cop? Slate?’ He had struck a bit a nerve there. Morrison seemed to excel at pissing people off. A gift really. He’d never elaborated on Mason’s exact position in the ‘family’ and her current explanation, frankly was, a little insulting, but he took it in stride. Considering the situation he owed her some attitude. [atticus]Protector.[/atticus] Was the ‘job title’ he took away from her generalized illustration. Kinda suited her. Guitars and guns, ‘A Rebel with Applause.’ He mused.

    ‘… maybe not from other’s perspective…’ Now she was getting philosophical. ‘Subjective.’ He considered, nodding in agreement, but there was a fundamental difference between her particular type of livelihood and his. Of course by that accusatory tone of hers she probably didn’t think so. ‘Did he truly come off as being so sinister? Or was she just so damn paranoid?’ Maybe a little of both. Honestly, he couldn’t read her. She possessed the visage of Egyptian art. No expression.

    [atticus]Well, you certainly don’t pull any punches.[/atticus] Atticus chuckled, flashing a bright boyish grin. Holding up his hands in a playful gesture of surrender as he conceded with an, [atticus]I think I’ve pretty much checked off all the boxes on the ‘Are you a film noir sci-fi villain’ list.[/atticus] he joked, conceding to her accusation by holding up his hands in playful gesture of surrender.

    ‘Damn.’ He scolded himself as he his physical actions would be lost to her. ‘Or would they?’ He couldn’t be sure. All he could hope was that she, of all people, could respect the need for secrecy. She had demonstrated the implementation of a code and Atticus had always implicitly trusted the strict guide of the street. He supposed it was why he trusted her.

    [atticus]To answer your question I work for Pharos, as in, an agent of. I specifically work for the ‘Facility for the Treatment and Study of the Altered’. I’m a researcher but back in the day I owned my own company. Molecular genetics, cybernetics, all those ‘etics'. Not to be confused with ‘ethics’.[/atticus] He joked, but as always there were half truths hidden in humour. [atticus]As you’ve already guessed this place here is off the radar. If Pharos ever learned about it they’d classify it aggressive and hide it away in one of their archives. The goddam Vanguard would turn it to a weapon and the Order of First Light would only use it to strengthen their regime. Am I illegally exporting and importing contraband? Extorting small business owners? Trafficking illegal substances? No. If I’m guilty of anything it’s taking on the responsibility of harbouring a potentially dangerous artifact capable of destroying a city and using it to unravel the mysteries of this new world.[/atticus]

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    [atticus]Well, you certainly don’t pull any punches.[/atticus]


    Shrug was light as she wriggled back into the couch, his chuckle washing over her, the guns left in her lap as she swiped the bottle from the table.


    [derrick]…. I play it straight Mighty Mouse. Never had a lot of patience for those that don’t.[/derrick]


    The chuckle didn’t hold the weight of age it had not that long ago, it was a brighter sound. He was an odd duck. His film noir joke lifting a brow before lips curled faintly upward as well. Not all "stuffed giant" it seemed.


    The headliner had a while ago determined the Nord was a straight shooter. At least, as straight as one tended to be while still keeping their secrets. She was no different.


    "Facility for the Treatment and Study of the Altered"…… the faintest snort escaped her nostrils. Sounded about as inviting as the Center for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind. Place her damn mother had tried to put her when she was little to "Rehabilitate" her. The great Center however wouldn’t take her. She was not learning to cope with her blindness but had long before learned to cope, not just cope but excel in her awareness of the world. There was nothing more they could teach her. Her mother seemed to have thought "Rehabilitation" would mean her daughter would suddenly become sited… and perfect……..…and a boy.


    Memory was buried once more as long fingers worked the cap back off the Stroh.


    [atticus]………Not to be confused with 'ethics'.[/atticus]


    Top of the glass neck paused in front of her lips as a brow quirked over the dark shades. That played right into her earlier thoughts about him not being entirely "on the level"; a fact made even more apparent by the confession that the place was off the grid. She had suspected as much but had not really expected him to confess it. Stroh was drawn on deep as he ran the scenarios.


    Pharos would hide it, Vanguard would weaponize it, Order would likely do the same. And Bakkhos….?


    It was an interesting thought. What would the family do if they knew there was a big rock that might amp altereds or possibly destroy the world? Would they weaponize it? Hard to say. Gaspari wasn’t after world destruction. He just wanted their family to be the biggest in the world, help direct the fate of it.


    But power corrupts… hard to say what Bakkhos would really do with it.


    [atticus]….Am I illegally exporting and importing contraband? Extorting small business owners? Trafficking illegal substances? No. If I’m guilty of anything it’s taking on the responsibility of harboring a potentially dangerous artifact capable of destroying a city and using it to unravel the mysteries of this new world.[/atticus]


    [derrick]….and working to activate its nature…. you forgot working to activate its nature.[/derrick]


    Smirk lingered on her lips. That she had seen firsthand when he hesitated in stopping the reaction it had when she and "it" were near. Bottle was pulled on deep again before resting on her knee as she "looked" at the ceiling, head dropping back on the couch.


    [derrick]…. which… you do know… might still blow up the city.[/derrick]


    Base of the bottle tapped her knee to a rhythm only she heard as thoughts seemed to wander. Other hand reaching over to scratch absently over the old wound on her side, soft sweatshirt scrunching and unscrunching under the abuse before the quiet words were added.


    [derrick]…. it has a sentience you know….. for all you know….. your experiments are exactly what "it" wants out of you…..[/derrick]

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    [atticus]Activate it. Yes.[/atticus] He conceded her point with a smile and a nod trying not to let on that the deductive leap had caught him off guard. It wasn’t every day he revealed the artifact to just anyone. Mason was only the third person to ever witness the Menhir and she was a perfect stranger! A criminal; a representative of a syndicate that might seek to exploit such a relic. He’d considered the factor but Mason’s connection to the artifact superseded the risk. Perhaps curiosity had gotten the better of him. Whatever. As far as he was concerned the gamble had paid off.

    Atticus could neither confirm nor deny the potential for blowing up the city. [atticus]Perhaps.[/atticus] He replied, absently shrugging. He supposed there had always been the risk, but there always were when one strived to touch the stars. Even he could be the victim of such a gross miscalculation but he was thorough. Only magic was the one problematic factor to weigh in. The closer he got to quantifying it the more he discovered just how little he knew about it’s nature.

    [atticus]There are several fail-safe’s in place to keep the risk down.[/atticus] He assured her; always confident that he’d have time to counter any adverse effects produced by the artifact before the situation turned critical. He was unconcerned, only pausing the weary rubbing of watery eyes when she uttered the word, ‘sentience’. He might have fallen off a chair were he not lounging on a couch.

    All at once the ‘consciousness’ he had always suspected to exist within the monolith had been verified. It was difficult to contain his excitement. The Mehir was incapable of conveying intelligible thoughts it seemed, rather it communicated in through what he theorized was metaphor and empathy.

    ‘For all he knew…’

    It wasn’t as if Atticus had never considered the possibility of the subconscious manipulation, he just didn’t see it effecting the outcome. For him, the end justified the means. The level of consciousness possessed by the Menhir had always been a source of curiosity for the scientist. He’d devised several experiments to determine it’s intelligence and awareness but they’d all been inconclusive. Even the employment of a psychic had produced little more than the sensation of a strange chill one could’ve just the same blamed on an open window. But now there was Mason. She and the Menhir had a connection, one that Atticus theorized would grow stronger over time as the Nevusian energy continued to alter her physiology.

    His eyes narrowed. [atticus]It would seem, however, that you might be able to provide some much needed insight into the mind of the artifact. I’ve seen them before, the dreams. It communicates via the subconscious, the connection strongest during deep sleep.[/atticus] But not for her. Mason seemed to be able to channel it’s empathic form of communication while conscious.

    [atticus]Did you see or feel anything at all, Mason?[/atticus] He inquired, sitting on the edge of the couch, anxiously fidgeting. ‘That was of course if she was able to decipher any insights at all?’

    [atticus]Thus far, I’ve been the only one to establish a line of communication with the artifact, if one could call it that.[/atticus]

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