Seeing Things


richard_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Seeing Things
Synopsis Richard Ray gets a little freaked out over a leaking book, but Squeaks is there to save the day.
Date December 10, 2018

Raytech Employee Lounge

The coffee machine in the employees’ lounge has been removed, replaced with a lower-sitting machine beside the counter that the Raytech Spot™ robots have been getting cups of coffee from to carry around to various offices when summoned via an app on the computers.

It’s a beta program. There have been some bugs.

The one place that Richard figures nobody will look for him is the employee’s lounge, so that’s why he’s here today; settled into a comfortable chair with a foot kicked up on a coffee table, paging through a copy of The Wolves of Valhalla as the radio plays tinny tunes from the Safe Zone’s own radio station, WSZR.

An enormous dog is sitting next to him, panting a bit as it idly looks around the otherwise-empty room. That’s new.


Squeaks’ voice comes from the doorway, where she’s stopped just inside, but by her expression she probably wasn’t expecting to find anyone in the lounge either. The giant dog is given a look, curious as always, but if she’s got questions about it they’re not spoken this time. She might wonder why there’s a huge dog in the building, but there’s also a cat and a lot of robots and the dinosaur that sometimes fills in for Sera.

So it’s accepted as just normal.

After making herself known, the teenager steps into the lounge — no one wants to be in the way of a robot coffee dog if it’s come to get coffee for someone. Not that she knows what would happen if she were in the way. Her feet carry her to the mini fridge, and she peeks at the book being read. She recognizes that title. But, the fridge is calling, and she opens it to dig around to where she’s stashed half a sandwich and two cookies.

A pair of hazel eyes flick up, a smile curving tiredly to the executive’s lips. He looks, in general, tired as all hell. “Hey, kiddo,” Richard greets, sliding a finger into the book and closing it upon the digit, “Everything going alright? You and your friends haven’t gotten into any more weirdness out there?”

He hopes. God knows there’s enough weirdness to go around lately.

Kaang makes a low chuffing sound, a heavy tail thumping against the floor a single time as he turns to watch the girl, ears twitching a little. He doesn’t move away from the man’s side, however.

“I don't know,” is an honest answer, spoken with her head and an arm still in the fridge. Squeaks comes out a second later with her snack. The fridge door is nudged closed and she looks at the dog. Probably she's deciding he's just part of the building now, or maybe part of the CEO, like how Bug is part of Brynn.

“There's nothing like video tapes.” No voices without bodies this time. Squeaks takes a couple of steps toward the table, but then decides against sitting just now.

“That’s a good sign,” Richard admits in wry tones, motioning to her with the book in his hand, “Have any of you had… well. Any weird visions, what with the overlay going on?” He pauses, then realizes he should explain, “The aurora thing in the sky. It makes people see things, sometimes.”

“The lights in the sky are really primal.” Squeaks’ head tips up slightly, like she might be able to see the dancing, color changing thing overhead. “It made the fireworks amazing. Like a… a firework-manipulator working with a light-kinetic.” Her tone sounds questioning, unsure if that’s what they’d be called or if there’s something better.

“How come you have a dog in here?” As the girl’s head comes back down, she puts a wondering eye on Kaang.

At the question, Richard’s gaze falls to the dog… and he breathes out a sigh, setting the book down in his lap and reaching over to ruffle the dog’s ears. “This is Kaang,” he says quietly, “A… friend of mine was doing something dangerous and left him with me just in case she didn’t come back.”

The tone of his voice, his expression, suggest that she didn’t.

“Oh.” Squeaks looks from the dog to Richard and then back again after some seconds. She isn't always great at understanding, but she seems to pick up on what isn't said. The little bag she took from the fridge is pulled open and part of the sandwich is torn off and set down for Kaang. “It's peanut butter.”

Kaang perks up immediately, tail thumping loudly on the wall behind him as he leans down to wolf down the sandwich-piece happily. Richard can’t help but chuckle, fingers running down the dog’s back before drawing away. “Thanks. Now he’s going to be spoiled,” he teases, “I’ll probably give him to the kids, they can use a lesson in taking care of an animal…”

As the snack is taken, Squeaks curls her fingers and scratches Kaangs chin. “He won't. Treats are okay sometimes.” She looks up at Richard. “I think that would be good for Ricky and Lily.” As if she's an authority on the matter, having only seen the twins one or three times ever. “He would probably like that. Having people.” She reaches to the dog again to give his ears a good scritching, then steps back again.

She nods toward the book while fishing out the rest of her sandwich. “I have that one.”

Not long after the nod to the book, something about it seems… different. The letters seem darker in places, seemed to shift slightly as if the light had changed. A line of liquid formed near the spine, dripping down, almost like someone had spilled something. Something black, blacker even than most coffees, moving like a liquid shadow along the edge of the cover. A movement too slow to be explained by gravity. And going the wrong direction. It seemed to be moving toward Squeaks, like lead-laced putty might move toward a magnet.

“Really?” Richard sounds surprised, “Well, I suppose a lot of your friends’ history is touched on— ” His gaze drops down to the book, and he spots that shadowy shift across the book and immediately comes to the absolutely wrong conclusion.

Samson,” he yelps, and chucks the book across the room, springing to his feet in abrupt panic. Kaang, catching on to his new master’s alarm, starts barking in the direction of the book in deep, chuffing roofs.

Yelling and a flying book and barking dog are probably a combination for disaster. Squeaks’ first reaction is to cringe. Panicked yelling and protective barking are unnerving. Her sandwich and cookies drop to the floor and her hands press against her ears. In a delayed response, she chances a wide-eyed look over her shoulder, roughly the way the book flew, so she can eyeball at Samson for… being Samson?

But all she sees is the book, after some seconds of looking, laying on the floor. That’s puzzling, and she turns a worried look back at Richard and Kaang. “There’s no one…” It’s a little loudly said, to be heard over the noise and her own ears being muffled.

“There was something… like living shadow,” Richard’s unsure of himself now as he stares at the book where it’s laying on the floor, his jaw set. Like my old power, he thinks to himself. Then he’s moving slowly over to look at it, the dog padding by his side protectively.

“Maybe I was just seeing things…?” He has been missing a lot of sleep lately.

Maybe he was seeing things… or maybe there’s a little bead of shiny black that’s slowly snaking out of the book along the floor with a line of shiny black trailing behind it. It’s offset against the colors of the floor. Again heading right in the direction where Squeaks stands.

A living shadow, that has the girl’s expression scrunching with confusion. Sure, someone could maybe be able to manipulate shadows but… Her head swivels one way to stare at the book, then turns again to look at Richard. “Maybe like ink?” Her tone implies she might understand better what just happened, and probably is pretty familiar with it. “Like an inky something leaking out of your book?”

“Ye— there,” Richard thrusts a finger at it, “Tell me you see that.”

He’s unsure what to do about it, but he’s sure he sees it. A look back to Squeaks, uncertain, then to the book. Kaang certainly does, lowering his head and rumbling a deep, low growl as he eyes the trickle of black.

The black trail grows until it’s about a foot long, but only the width of a pencil, sliding across the floor.

Following the finger, she does find it. Squeaks nods and then drops to sit on her knees as the inky snake thing works its way across the floor. “It’s the ink-lady,” she explains. It’s a normal thing too, apparently. Richard has his dogs and dinosaurs and Sera, and she has random ink splots leaking from books. She scoots forward some and reaches for the black trail with cautious fingers. “Part of her anyway. She won’t hurt you.”

Richard’s gaze slides from the black trail to Squeaks and back again, his expression somewhat dubious. One hand falls to Kaang’s neck to reassure the canine, even as he asks, “Are you… absolutely sure about that?”

He’s still on a bit of an adrenaline rush from that first mis-identification of the power.

The line of slick black stops moving closer and begins to break apart, forming into sets thin numbers in rows.

83 19 11 43 41 97 43 2 41 11 23 67 13 23 43 23 67 19 11 7
97 47 73 83 23 37 37 19 2 79 11 13 47 73 43 7 41 11

“Yes.” Squeaks sounds sure, and she definitely looks unsurprised and even not bothered by the appearance of ink that’s moving toward her. “So far it’s not evil. It’s someone who needs help. She turned herself ink and was hiding, but all the pieces got sent everywhere because she was in the Wolves of Valhalla books.” Her hand falls back a little bit when the inky snake thing breaks apart and starts forming into numbers.

“New code.” Not one she recognizes though, and she sounds a little confused. “Do you have paper to write on?” She peeks up at Richard, still acting like this happens all the time.

At the story, Richard’s lips twist into a sympathetic grimace. “It’s… hard to kill us— them, it’s hard to kill a bodymorph,” he says, inwardly cursing himself at the slip. “They’re pretty resilient, but that just means there’s a lot of terrible things that can happen… I take it these are clues on where the rest of her is?”

He looks down at the numbers for a moment, then pulls out his phone, tapping the camera. “I’ve got better than paper,” he observes, “I have an Alia.”

Click. Thumb taps a few words into a quick text, and then there’s a ping from the phone almost instantly.

“Prime number cipher,” he reports, “‘When my name is finished, you will have found me’.”

“Maybe,” but Squeaks doesn't sound too sure about these morph people being hard to kill. Two people she told about the ink-lady said the energy was starting to feel less alive. “Some of them have been saying what happened to her, and some about what we’re looking for. She uses codes because being scattered it's hard to talk I guess?”

When Richard starts tapping on his phone, the girl returns her attention to the numbers. Maybe if she stares hard enough they'll make sense. And if not then she'll find paper and write it down.

It works this time since he's explaining what the numbers mean in just a few seconds.

“Her name.” Squeaks’ face twists as she thinks. “Is that the marks or something else to find too?”

As she stares intently at it, one of the 7s breaks off and moves towards her, sliding up onto her skin and joining the rest on her arm, closing the bottom part of the symbol. And starting a new one right below it.


“What… marks are you— oh.” Richard stares at the marks on the girl’s arm, “Those marks.”

There’s a long pause, and he clears his throat, “What the hell have you gotten into, kid?”

Those marks. The ones she’d been working so hard to keep hidden aren’t so hidden anymore. Squeaks’ arm is bare to the elbow, sleeves pushed up, because there’s no reason to keep it a complete secret. And most lookers would probably, hopefully, just think she’d drawn on herself.

As the ink climbs onto her arm, she sits back. Her legs fold so she’s criss-cross, still on the floor. “She’s an ink-morph, and she needs help.” That’s the simplest explanation. The girl looks up at Richard. For all her calm about the ink and codes and strange marks, she’s very serious and maybe worried. “She got scattered and needs help getting all her pieces back together, like I said. She told me, she talks in codes and uses my journal.”

Speaking of journals. Squeaks pats at her jeans until she finds the leather-wrapped book. It’s taken out of the usual pocket and opened to what seems like a random page, then set down on the floor for the rest of the inky bits.

The ink on the floor shifts around, pulling together into a single splatter that is shaped oddly. Almost like one of those paintings that certain people seem to find interesting but they look like paint just splashed onto a canvas. Once Squeaks has offered it the page, the ink slides up onto it and settles into place, into a bunch of odd letters, much like it often has before.

“Huh.” Richard watches the process, eyebrows both upraised, “Well. I’ve seen stranger, but not much… have you had a telepath try to contact them? If it’s hard for her to communicate through ink and all, possibly mental contact might be easier. Maybe even allow triangulation to find her other— parts.”

He steps slowly to the book, leaning down to pick it up and flip it to the title page with a frown, “I wonder where they were printed…”

“No.” Asking a telepath to try and talk to the ink-lady never occurred to her. Probably because the ink-lady has already said talking is hard, and codes are easier, but also the information hasn’t been the most detailed. Squeaks carefully closes the cover after the ink is off the floor, more to be polite and not just slam the journal closed. “Maybe, but… I don’t know. I don’t know what’s triangulation or if it works for this.”

She tucks the journal into her pocket again, and looks up at Richard. “I don’t know either. But I’ve been trying to find her for a long time. She’s been missing for a while, longer than I started looking. Since she very first asked me for help. And she has a daughter, she told us.” The girl looks at the floor where the cipher was. “If we find her name, we can get her home.”

“You should talk to a telepath,” Richard suggests, pointing at her with the book, “Try my sister. You’ve met her when you were doing paperwork and such, Kaylee— she’s a telepath. See if she can ‘talk’ to this ink lady, maybe we can get some more information out of her that might let us help.”

He shrugs slightly, “If nothing else, maybe get the name of her daughter. I… hm. You could also ask SESA if they have any inkmorphs on record, they might be able to help.”

“I don’t think Aunt Kaylee will do more mind melding for me.” Squeaks’ tone is matter of fact in that statement. “But I have help for looking and doing codes.” Of course, whatever texting happened was way faster than sometimes even the computer. Probably that Alia person is a genius? “Only one SESA person knows and she pinky sweared she wouldn’t say unless it got dangerous. The big part I think I need is finding all the pieces into one place.”

“Maybe she can check the records for you,” Richard’s head tips in a nod, “Alia can help with any codebreaking if you run into anything too— complicated for you. You can just ask any computer in the building for her and it should connect you.” An odd thing to say, but he says it fairly matter-of-factly. “It wouldn’t be mind-melding, but…”

He grimaces, “She is a bit overworked lately.”

“Yeah,” the teenager agrees quietly. Kaylee is overworked. And there’s other reasons she couldn’t ask the telepath. “Is… does the Alia person on your phone a computer… Computer empath?” There’s animal empaths, so that only makes sense that a person could do the same with computers.

“They call them technopaths,” Richard explains with a grin as the teenager guesses Alia’s identity, “She handles all of our electronic security. She has some problems communicating verbally, but don’t let that fool you— she’s one of the smartest people we have.”

“Technopaths,” Squeaks echoes the unfamiliar word. So that’s what computer empath people are called. After a second she nods her understanding. “I never met one before.” Or she might have without knowing. “That seems like a good ability to have sometimes. Useful for ciphers and finding things on the internets.”

Kaang steps over to sniff at Squeaks, snuffling at one of her hands consideringly. “They’re fairly rare,” Richard admits, “I only know of— maybe five that are still extant, although it’s possible there are more out there. They’re— well. Their abilities are pretty powerful this day and age, even with the internet damaged as it is.”

“Really powerful. Probably can't hide anything from them unless it's for reals hidden and not computer hidden.” Squeaks looks at Kaang and holds her hands up for his investigations. “But if it's for reals hidden, then I could find it. That's how I found the journal. It was in a table that looked solid, but I could see it wasn't all the way around. There was a drawer all covered up.”

“Huh.” Richard’s brows raise a little, “The journal you found this, uh, ink-woman in?”

Kaang happily starts licking her hands with a big, slobbery tongue in the way that dogs of his size tend to do.

“Yes.” Squeaks’ face scrunches slightly at the dog. It’s gross, but it’s what dogs do. Maybe she’s got peanut butter taste on her fingers still or something. “You couldn’t see the drawer just by looking. Except I could.” Taking one hand from Kaang’s face, she scrubs it against the leg of her jeans so she can pat him. “But not like… looking looking. I see things because sounds bounce off. Like bats and dolphins.”

“Echolocation.” Richard’s head bobs in an easy nod of understanding, a faint and wistful smile tugging at his lips, “My— well. I’ve spent a lot of time around audiokinetics. Liz would probably love to talk to you about it, when she gets back.” When.

Kaang’s tail thumps heavily on the floor as he’s patted, appreciating the attention.

“Yes, that’s it.” Squeaks grins, for a second. “It’s how I find things and don’t get lost even when I can’t see.” Curling her fingers, she scritches Kaang’s neck and ears. “She’s who got lost, right? You said before I think. She found how to get back?”

“I hope so,” Richard replies, shaking his head, “We’re doing our best to get her back for Christmas.”

“I bet it'll work out,” Squeaks decides after spending some seconds to think about it. “Because Raytech’s got all the primal inventions and things. And if she's your friend, she's probably really smart too.” As she gives Kaang one last good scratch, she stands and looks at the marks on her arm.

“Thank you for asking Alia about the cipher.”

“If you need any more help, let me know,” offers Richard with a wry smile, “One of the little-known perks about working here… I can probably help out with whatever weird problems you run into.”

“My whole life is a series of weird problems, after all.”

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