Black Heart – Chapter VII Part VIII
by Steppen Sawicki
Andrade going full Counselor Troi here.
Bryan didn’t react. He wasn’t sure how to react. “That’s impossible,” he said, not sure whether it was impossible.
“We were unloading them,” Connors went on, “and I noticed they were particularly light. So I unscrewed the lid off one and… no body parts. No blood. Completely clean.”
“Are you sure those are the right containers?”
“I saw them packed myself, like I could forget. And we labeled them. They’re the same ones.”
“Was anyone watching them in quarantine?” Harper asked.
Bryan and Connors looked at her blankly.
“Well we’ve been so busy…” Connors said.
“Half our crew quit…” Bryan said.
“They were sealed so tightly…” Connors moaned. “I’m sorry, Ivers. It should have been a priority.”
“Well who would have expected that thing to open the containers or whatever it did. Never mind it. What do we tell the others?”
“Are you implying we don’t tell the others?” Harper said.
“Well that’s why we’re whispering, isn’t it?”
The three of them went silent. It was an option to just pretend the containers were full and chuck them through a gate as if nothing were amiss.
“Wait here,” Bryan said, and went back through the crowd of agents, back to Andrade. He took her arm and dragged her over without a word, only explaining the situation when they were back with Harper and Connors, where he realized he was still gripping her arm and nearly jumped back. Andrade, however, didn’t even flinch the whole time.
“God,” she said when he was finished.
“What’s the atmosphere here?” Bryan asked her. “Are they good or is everyone about to break and run?”
She looked around them. Skinner’s voice rose above the others, shouting at Greene, and one of the Spotters moved between them to break it up. Nerves? Or just typical Possessed behavior?
“They’re worried,” Andrade said, “and a little scared. But determined. They’re here because they chose to be, and they want to help. I think you can tell them. I think you should tell them.”
“We don’t have enough people here to be positive we can contain the gate outflow as it is,” Connors said. “I don’t doubt Andrade’s perceptions, but they are scared.”
“I have to wonder if it would be better they don’t know,” Harper put in. “There’s enough for them to worry about.”
“But it’s your decision, Ivers,” Andrade said.
He looked over the containers piled at the foot of the platform. Containers only the four of them knew were empty. “I can’t play a charade. I have to tell them. If I didn’t and one of them died because of that…”
He couldn’t finish. Because in eleven days a death or two wouldn’t matter. But he climbed onto the platform and called for attention and everyone looked at him, including the batch of scientists.
“The Eternal escaped,” he told them all. “These containers are empty. As before, um, stay on your guard. We don’t know what its next move will be.”
Murmurs filled the room. “Is it here?” Mouse asked. “At the synagogue?”
“Uh…we don’t know. We don’t know when it got out. But…don’t think this changes anything. We’ve got momentum on solving the problem of the gates. We need to work together now. Tonight with the trainees to help us we may have enough Possesseds to contain the demons. But even if we can’t, we can still run some experiments.”
He jumped into the plan for the night before anyone could catch on that behind his hopeful words he was hopeless. Whether they were able to hold the outward blast that propelled the demons away, either way they would use them in the few seconds they were present to make another gate – a gate to nowhere. This would allow their guests to take a few measurements and see how things worked. When that gate collapsed, everyone was to let the demons go out over the city.
He looked up at the end of his speech. All were silent and staring at him. They were wide-eyed. Worried. A little scared. Determined.
Connors separated the remaining Possesseds into three groups as if they were operating as usual, but they were groups of about six each, and only that much because of the trainees mixed in. Andrade took a group of Spotters and told them to watch the front yard for anything that might be trying to ambush the place.
Then, with the sun going down and having nothing to do, Bryan joined the academicians. They had brought in more equipment, piled in between the Office’s equipment. The floor was a mess of wires running to humming generators. There were perhaps ten college students sitting at monitors, and four professors overseeing them.
One of the students leapt up from the crate he was sitting on when he saw Bryan coming. “Agent Ivers,” he said, “I hear you’re in charge in light of Hussein’s absence.” He stuck out his hand, grabbing for Bryan’s own. Bryan jumped back and the kid was left grabbing air.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” He snatched his hand back and gave a simpering apologetic look. “I forget how touchy you Possessed guys are.”
“That’s not something you want to forget,” Bryan said low.
“Ah…sorry,” he said again. “It’s just not everyday us normal folks get a chance to talk with Office agents, never mind view a gate opening and measure a group of demons. I’m specializing in demonic studies at the University of Chicago.”
“That’s a thing?”
“Unofficially, yes, if you make your major. We’re trying to make it an official field though. Our club tracks – ”
“Yes, the Demonic Studies Club. We track the occurrence and location of demon activity. We’ve tried to set up a joint venture with the Office, like we’re doing here, but unfortunately it couldn’t be arranged.”
“You mean we shot you down.”
“You could say that. So I’m really excited to be here. Oh, geesh, I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Dan. Dan Grant.” He stuck out his hand again but caught himself and retracted it with another apologetic smile.
A woman in a dark suit stepped up to the two of them. She had long blonde-turning-gray hair tied back in a ponytail and the discerning eyes of a teacher. “Dan, don’t bother the agents. We’re strapped for time.”
“I’m not…um.” He looked back to Bryan. “Maybe I could talk to you after the gate? I’m just dying to pick your brain.”
What a choice of words, Bryan thought. “Maybe,” he said aloud, and Dan grinned and returned to his monitor.