des2_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Bookworms
Synopsis The ink thickens.
Date December 21, 2018

Doyle Memorial Library

Sometimes, in the evenings after the day’s classes are over, the library is real quiet. It’s one of those times now, where only the very regular people are still occupying the building. There’s the usual few who had private tutoring that went late still sitting at a table with their heads together. But it isn’t closing time yet, that’s still an hour or so off. And then there’s a red-headed teenager who’s so familiar to the library staff that there’s probably a joke among them by now that she could help them find books among the stacks.

Jac has taken over one of the remaining tables and claimed several books for a new fascination. It’s those books she’s way more interested in than what’s obviously supposed to be schoolwork of some form. That’s sitting off to a far side, while two or three books on biology are stacked close by, and another couple rest open to pages that seem random at a glance right in front of her.

With her arms folded on top of the table, they form a comfortable perch for the girl’s head. Just high enough that she can see the book without the words getting blurry or her neck kinking at a weird angle. Her legs swing under the chair she’s seated in. And the toes of her shoes scuff lightly against the floor, giving a hushed soundtrack to her preferred studies.

Until recently, Des Desjardins had been seated at a computer terminal with a series of post-it notes stuck to a plain manilla folder, attempting to dig up information on a short list of names. It’s much more frustrating in this day and age than it used to be when high speed internet was the norm. Still, she’s gotten what information she thinks she’s going to get from publicly available files.

It was as she was about to leave that she spotted a familiar figure. Des pulls out a chair and comes to sit across the table from Squeaks, a warm smile on her face. She knows she should just leave, but she can’t resist stopping and saying hello to the girl. “Good to see you,” she whispers, setting a book down next to her. A copy of The Wolves of Valhalla.

At first, when the chair gets pulled out, Squeaks only glances up just enough to see someone sit down. Sometimes people join her table for a while, and that's okay. There's space enough for others. But when Des whispers, she raises her eyes and then her head comes up a little. “Hi,” she answers, surprise mingling with confusion.

A quick look darts to where an office door is, then to the counter where librarian is helping check out some books. Then it's right back to Des. The young teen looks almost like she's trying to decide if what she's seeing is for reals.

She sits up a little straighter and leans forward a teeny bit. “You're really here.” It almost sounds like a question, but Squeaks grins briefly after saying it.

“In the flesh.” A conspiratorial wink is given across the table. This is a calculated risk. Drawing attention to herself in any form, from anyone, is always a chancey endeavor. “How’re your studies going?” Des keeps her voice down, glancing about to ensure they aren’t disturbing anyone.

The cover of her folder peeks out from beneath her book and she taps it lightly. “Been doing some studying of my own.” The information Des has found so far hasn’t been the most encouraging. Still, any lead into her past is worth chasing down. But there’s no telling how deep this rabbit hole leads.

“These?” Squeaks looks at the books, all of them some form of reference and somehow relating to biology. The one she was staring at is opened to a small section on genetics. But it’s a children’s library, so much of the information is directed toward children, watered down and without all the jargon and hard to follow concepts. Brooklyn Library would probably be a better source, but she likes the Doyle Library best. “Just …I was curious about… There’s just some things I wondered. It’s not school.”

Her eyes travel from the book in front of her to the book at folder, politely curious. Then she looks up at Des. “Is it interesting? What you’re studying? Some things I found got scary. And I can’t tell if it’s more scary not knowing. Or finding out.” Because both parts are scary but for different reasons.

Perhaps Des should think it a little strange to see a child so interested in biology at her age when it isn’t for school, but her own studies were similar at that age. There’s a fondness to her expression, and she smiles absently. “Curiosity’s good,” she commends. “Keeps us sharp.”

Leaning forward slightly, she frowns a little at what Jac has to say about what she’s discovering. She can empathize. “I’m looking into my past,” Des admits. “Sometimes the things I find out are scarier than what I thought before. But I’d rather know the truth.” She might have accepted a comforting lie, if the lies about her life had been any comfort.

“I didn’t have parents growing up. I’m trying to find out more about who raised me when I was too young to remember.” As Des shifts in her seat, the book under her elbow shifts slightly, revealing part of one of the notes tacked to her folder.


“Me too.” The girl’s eyes stray to the folder again. Curiosity is going to get her into a lot of trouble, if it hasn’t already. “Kind of. Because I wondered about a memory I had, that I didn’t remember before. I wondered what… why Doctor Ford was talking about me and money and who Parkman was. And it just… there’s lots on the internets. They were both really bad people and Ford wasn’t even his real name. He was lying the whole time.”

With her eyebrows bunching a little bit, Squeaks frowns at the corner of note that’s peeking from under Des’ book. “But… it only made more questions. And my mom — Gillian — said we could do more looking at memories and maybe things were hidden.” She looks up at Des again, still kind of frowny. “There’s things that happened that I don’t know.” She pokes a finger at the partly showing note, but she doesn’t touch.

“Cindy Morrison? Jac’s tone is, like it almost always is, matter of fact. Even though she’s asking a question. Ciphers have been good for puzzling things out.

Doctor Ford gets Des’ attention like a whip snap. That it’s followed up by Parkman only serves to sharpen her interest. That gives her a better jumping off point for her research than she already had. Of course there’s a Company connection of some sort. Some shit just doesn’t change.

What’s even more startling is when the partial name on the note is recognized. Des stops just short of shifting her book out of the way to take notes with a pen she pulls from her coat pocket. Blinking away her confusion, she finishes the motion and reveals that, yes, the name on the note is Cindy Morrison. There’s also another note reading Doctor Ford??? circled in blue ink.

“I have large stretches of my memory missing,” is offered empathetically. She understands what it means to uncover memories she couldn’t recall before. That she doesn’t quite recall now, except as though it was a segment she saw on television or a file she read. “Cindy Morrison supposedly was my first guardian, but I don’t remember her at all. I want to find out more about her. Who she was and why she… Why she didn’t keep me.”

It often feels like the list of people who never wanted Des is a lot longer than the list of people who do.

The reaction to her guess at the name is missed, because she’s still looking at the half-showing name. Her eyes dart up at Des then back down again when the book is moved, and her face scrunches a little. “He adopted me first,” Squeaks says, pointing toward the second name. It’s only a guess that it’s the same Doctor Ford, but she’s less and less believing in coincidences. “I found stuff about him on the internets. He wasn’t a good person, and that’s not his real name. It’s Stefan Morrison, he’s Cindy’s uncle.”

Her finger moves to Cindy’s name next, and hovers there. She can’t claim she knows anything about the woman. “She… she… was helping Maury?” It’s hard to know for sure, and the memory she has still seems really fake. The girl pulls her finger back slowly and she looks up. “I don’t remember her at all. I saw… I saw me a long time ago, with Maury in a… maybe a prison place? But I was like a puppet or something and… I don’t know. I don’t remember it.”

The connection to Maury Parkman draws a deep frown on Des’ face. There are too many coincidences colliding all at once in her worldview. How is any of this possible? There’s a strong urge to reach across the table and grasp Squeaks’ hand tightly in her own. There are too many similarities between the two of them that make her heart just break. No child should have to have gone through a life of being unwanted.

The frown softens some as Des loses herself in thought for a few moments. When she looks up again, she nods her head slightly. “If… If I gave you a way to contact me, do you think you could share what you find out about the Morrisons? I’ll share anything I find, too.”

Folding her arms on the table in front of her, Squeaks nods a little bit. “Yes. I got asked about Cindy before, because her last name is also mine. And… and I asked if I could look for stuff about her, before the memories. Before… before I found out that… She had me, but not for reals?” The whole thing is confusing still, and probably the reason for reading about genetics.

Looking at the books in front of her, the girl shrugs. It’s just a small upward bump of her shoulders. “So my boss said it’s okay to use the computers to look. It’s way safe there, safer than internets in other places. Just… I haven’t looked yet.”

Des lifts her chin slowly, then dips it down again, a slow nod. “That’s why I’m here,” she says with a small smile. “Safer here than just about anywhere else in the city.” At least she trusts that Gillian won’t turn her in if she spots her amongst the patrons. That’s still assuming that Gillian would be the only one to spot her.

“You wanna see something wild?” Shifting the subject, the dark-haired woman grins slyly. “I was reading through my copy of this book, right?” She cracks open the cover finally and leafs through the pages, looking for something specific.

“This!” comes in a triumphant hiss. One chipped nail points down to the page where Japanese text is scrawled. “It’s backwards. But I wrote it all down.” She procures a sheet from her file folder and turns it around for Squeaks to see.

I can't feel my body anymore.
It hurts to think.
Will I ever make it back?

“It’s like someone left a code in the book. Isn’t that just weird?” This has to be a welcome distraction from the topic of evil scientists and absentee guardians, right?

“It’s safe here,” the girl is quick to confirm. The library is one of the few places she feels safest. It’s where the only bad things that happen are books are already checked out and bad guys are in stories. “Probably safer than Raytech or even Yamagato and there’s not even security or check ins or anything.”

As the subject is changed, though, and the book comes out, Squeaks leans forward a little bit. She’s glad for something different to talk about, and the book — Wolves of Valhalla specifically — is a wonder all its own. She looks at Des’ sneaky grin, curious and oddly hopeful, then at the book while the pages are found. “A code,” she starts to ask, but not quite.

Excitement replaces hope and her eyes dart from one page to the other. “She’s talking. She’s still alive!” Kind of. And the exclamation blurts out before she can stop it. At least she’s not very loud, and most of those who go to the library a lot are used to her occasional bursts of enthusiasm.

“But she hasn’t used that before.” Which doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot, just a statement of a small possibility. “Probably definitely the same because it’s backward first, and it sounds like her.” Squeaks sits back and reaches beneath the table to dig into her backpack. In a few seconds she’s laying a leather-bound journal on the table. “Don’t freak out,” she asks as she starts turning through pages in the journal until she’s found a blank one.

While Squeaks exclaims, they may or may not notice that the little finely drawn Japanese symbols have started to move. A little shift to the side, then sliding down in the general direction of the youngest of the two, and then off the page entirely to move about on the table. They form into two characters, much bigger than previously.


When the ink seems to flow off the page and onto the table, Des leans back and blinks her eyes rapidly, startled. Fortunately, she’s acclimated enough to all things bizarre that she doesn’t cry out in surprise, but only breathes out a whoa of awe.

Des squints at the writing, finally getting up from the table to come around to Squeaks’ side so she can read the kanji right-side-up. “Tomodachi,” she whispers. “It means friend.

It’s possible that the teenager is probably expecting something like moving ink, because she’s intent on the journal and only looks up when Des moves around the table. At first, she looks like she’s about to explain that the ink is safe — as far as she knows it is — but since Des doesn’t look freaked out she turns her head to look at the ink instead.

“This is the ink-lady,” Squeaks says quietly. “She …something happened and her ink-form got scattered in the books.” She reaches into her backpack again, leaning so that she can still see the table and sort of see the mark, and fishes out a pencil and paper. “She showed up at the bookstore first, and I’ve been trying to collect all the pieces.” It’s the simplest explanation.

Sitting up again, the girl starts trying to copy down the marks from the table. It’s not great, she has to erase a few times and try again, but it does finally get printed onto paper. “She said she had to hide and then she got scattered.” Friend is added beside the two characters.

As they look on pieces of the characters break apart and form into new characters. At first it looked like print, now it seems a little more like handwriting (or an invisible brush leaving it behind).


“The ink-lady?” Des peers at Squeaks in question, then watches as the ink on the table shifts and changes shape. New letters form. “Mou sukoshi,” she whispers. “A little more.” Her brow furrows deeper at this puzzle presented and the deeper ramifications. How awful must it be to be separated from one’s body? It reminds her of the way some technopaths end up.

“What do you plan to do? Has she told you what you need to do to help her?”

“I’ve been trying to help her.” Squeaks’ face scrunches a little at the new characters, confused even as they’re translated. But after a second she copies them down too. “I have to collect the pieces to make her whole again. She asked for help in this journal. First it’s just letters on the pages then suddenly she’s talking in dots and dashes. She told me she was trying to hide and then got lost and scattered and I’m supposed to look for her in Wolves of Valhalla.”

She sets the pencil down and looks up at Des. “But not in the books like reading,” she explains. Even though it’s safe to guess she’s probably read it anyway. “But really for reals in the books. There’s been inky splots that come out that are part of her and she puts a mark on me then puts a code in the journal.”

The letters get smaller and smaller because now there’s so many of them to see, but there seems to be a delicate way in which each of the kanji and hiragana are formed. They no longer seem to tremble into being like many of the previous codes, almost as if someone were using a pen to paper to form them.


After a moment the last few pieces break off and start to slide toward Squeaks, moving up her body to settle onto her arm, adding two more brush strokes to the second kanji being formed on her arm.


Des’ eyes get wide again as she reads the writing that appears on the page, amazed to discover that what she’s saying can be heard. She silently reads along, puzzling only a moment or two over some of the kanji before she translates. “She says you need to find all her scattered pieces.”

And if that wasn’t enough, the ink transforms itself further to become writing on Squeaks herself. “Whoa,” Des breathes out. “Without more context, I’m not sure what it all means. We’ll need to complete the second kanji before I can understand what the first is meant to tell us. It might be a name? Or a place?” She shakes her head. “It looks like the first part of lapis lazuli, but…”

She doesn’t try to copy the size of the characters, but she does try to get the shapes right until they’re too small to be really sure. It’s still nowhere near as perfect or neat as the invisible brush makes. The pencil stills when Squeaks feels that familiar, still weird, sensation of the ink moving to join the rest, and she looks at her arm to see where the new lines are.

“Primal, right?” The teen holds her arm so Des can see all of the lines easily. “She does this, and then the rest should go into my journal the same way.”

She takes another few seconds to copy the marks, but pauses to consider Des’ theory. “That’s her name I think. Last time she said we needed her name.” It’s a guess, because a place could also have a name. Squeaks looks up at the woman. “Could you help with reading the Japanese? If we find more?”

As if to answer Squeaks’ words, those characters still shift around on the surface, pieces of kanji breaking off to reform elsewhere, shifting and molding into words.








The more it shifts, the more the change seem sluggish, slow, the longer it takes to settle in place, until eventually they just start to pool together again into ink splotches that slowly move to find that journal. This time, when it joins the rest of the ink, it starts to form into Japanese. Printed to read like a Japanese novel would.

むかし、 むかし、 その また むかし、 海 べ の 村 に
うらしまたろう と いう わかもの が おかあさん と
ふたり で すんで いました。
ある 日、 いつも の よう に さかな つり に でかけたら、
はまべ で 子ども たち が かめ を つかまえ、
たたいたり、 けったり して いました。
うらしまたろう は かめ が かわいそう
に なりました。

"You are a great help," Des translates as the ink forms shapes and shifts to new ones. "I'll meet my daughter again… I think you can find your family… I'll help if I can."

Once the small paragraph of words forms, she falls silent and takes a moment to read the whole block before she starts to offer an explanation. "Once upon a time, in a village by the sea, there was a young man called Urashimatarou who lived with his mother. One day, he went out to fish as he always does, when he reached the beach, some children there had caught a turtle, and were hitting and kicking it. How cruel, he thought. Urashimatarou felt pity for the turtle's plight."

Des shakes her head, puzzled. "It's a folktale. Well, part of one." She offers a smile to Jac and nods her head then to her previous question. "Yes, I'll be happy to translate for you. Whenever you need."

While Des starts translating the ink again, Squeaks looks down at the lines to watch as they change. She’s seen it happen before, but it’s still fascinating to watch it happen. She even nudges the journal closer when the ink pieces start moving toward it, so there’s less distance to cross.

“A story,” she wonders out loud after the folktale is read. She turns her head again so she can look at Des. “Maybe one she told her kid? Or learned as a kid.” It’s hard to know for sure, and she looks at the characters that now cover the page. To her they make even less sense than the scrambled letters that were on every page when she first found the journal.

“Primal.” Squeaks sits back as the last bits of ink settle. “Thank you,” is said to both journal and Des, as her eyes again flick between the two.

“You’re welcome.” She still doesn’t quite understand exactly what this is she’s stumbled into, but someone needed her help, and Des was able to help. Sometimes, that’s all that matters. “If you find more, you can get in touch with me through…” Des frowns and thinks about the best point of contact. “Richard Ray, at Raytech. He’ll know how to find me.”

At least, he has a better chance than most of tracking her down. And it’s safer than revealing her dead drop location. “I should get going…” Des reaches across the table to pull her book and her file over to the side she stands on now. “If you find more information about Ford or Morrison, you can share that with him, too. I really appreciate it.”

It shouldn’t be a big surprise to learn that someone else knows Richard Ray, but Squeaks casts a wondering look at Des when she names him as her contact. “He… he asked me about Cindy one time.” But that was before she knew anything. “I work for him.” So getting any messages moved won’t be hard to do.

She closes her own journal and tucks it along with the pencil and paper into her backpack. The books she’d been busy reading before are looked at, and then closed also, since it’s probably now getting really close to closing. “I will,” the girl promises. That rabbit hole has a lot of traps, but there’s answers somewhere.

For both Des and Jac.

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