Curveball Issue 36: The Titan’s Shadow

Part Eleven: Haruspex Analytics, Jason Klein's Suite

Phyllis, Michelle, and Simon say nothing for a moment. The only sound in the room is the zwip of the drawstrings to Michelle’s hoodie as she pulls the left side out as far as it will go, then the right, then the left, then the right again. Finally Michelle pulls both, causing the hood to scrunch up over her face. Then she speaks.

“Why do you think he’s lying?”

She looks and sounds very young, right now. Less sarcastic. A lot more vulnerable.

“I can read him,” Phyllis says. “Usually when he lies like that it’s because he’s trying to protect us from something. Not today, though—today he’s throwing us to the wolves.”

“Jason wouldn’t do that.” It’s more desperate rationalization than than flat denial. “He’s not like that.”

“I would have agreed with you,” Phyllis says. “Before… before Billy.”

“He didn’t know anything about that!” Michelle, deciding anger is the best fuel for denial, slams both hands down on her desk, one on each side of her laptop. Her mouse clatters to the floor.

“He did,” Phyllis says. “He didn’t know it would be Billy, but he knew what that woman was doing, and he knew what it meant. And now… I don’t know, now, but whatever he’s doing, it’s not a business trip.”

“He had his go-bag,” Simon says.

Phyllis and Michelle turn to look at him. Simon is slumped in his chair, one hand tugging at strands of his spiky hair. His eyes have a faraway look.

“How do you know?” Michelle asks.

“I’ve seen it before,” Simon says. “When I first joined the group he told me it was important to have one, and he showed me his. To give me an idea of what it should have in it.”

“That doesn’t mean anything!” Michelle throws her hands in the air in frustration. “He doesn’t know anything about the business trip, so he takes his go bag. Just in case.”

“That’s stupid, Michelle.” Simon’s voice goes hard. “And you’re not stupid, so cut it out.”

“OK,” Phyllis says, “let’s take it easy. Michelle, I know you don’t want to believe Jason would do this. I don’t want to believe it either. That’s why I’m so damned angry. But you don’t take a go bag on a business trip. You take it when you’re rabbiting. You know this.”

“I wonder if he meant me to see it,” Simon says thoughtfully. “Like, if management flat-out told him not to tell us anything, he wouldn’t. But letting me see the go-bag, that’s not telling us anything. Technically. It’s letting me draw my own conclusions based on known behavior.”

Michelle falls silent as she thinks it over.

“Something to think about,” Phyllis agrees, “but right now I think we need to find out what the Incursion Protocols are.”

“We’ll know in a few minutes,” Simon says. “I’m almost in.”

Phyllis stares at him levelly. “You’re going to have to stop surprising me like this, Simon. It’s not good for my constitution.”

Simon grins in spite of himself. “I knew they’d expect me to try to take a look. So I set up a really obvious brute force attempt to keep them occupied, then started my real hack in a completely different location. I’ve been working on it for days.”

“Nice,” Michelle says, sliding from open hostility into grudging respect.

“And…” Simon squints at his laptop screen. “I got it. Uh, Phyllis, you’re the speed reader.” He turns his laptop toward her.

Phyllis scoots over in her chair and looks at the screen. It looks like there are a number of technical specifications and policy documents. She opens one of the policy documents and starts skimming through it.

Her eyes go wide.

“What is it?” Michelle licks her lips nervously. “Phyllis? What are the incursion protocols?”

“Hold on,” Phyllis says, voice tense. She scans through the document, closes it, and opens another. Time passes. She closes that document, and opens a third—one of the technical specifications this time.

“My… God…” her voice drops to a whisper.

“What?” Simon peers over her shoulder, trying to make out the text on the page. “What is that? Some kind of math?”

Phyllis closes the document and rolls back from the laptop. “One of you bring up a schematic of the building. I don’t care who, but do it fast.”

“Phyllis,” Michelle asks. Her eyes are huge from beneath her hoodie. “What’s going on?”

“We’re in trouble, honey,” Phyllis says. “I’ll explain it when we have time. I don’t think we have time right now.”

At that, both Simon and Michelle spring into action, each working at their laptop furiously. Simon is the first to bring up a schematic. Phyllis looks it over briefly, then shakes her head.

“That’s not real,” she says. “It’s too much of what you’d expect. I need to see the real building. But only look in the areas we’re allowed to look in for now. Eventually they’re going to notice your trick, Simon, we don’t want them to notice faster.”

“I have something,” Michelle says. “Look at this.”

Phyllis gets out of her chair and leans over Michelle to look at her screen. The schematic is definitely the building, but there are parts of it that very much don’t fit.

“This is what we need,” Phyllis says. “OK. We’re getting out of here. The three of us. Together. Problem is, we don’t want them to notice. So we need to find an exit route that minimizes detection. Michelle, you see this floor?” She points. “It looks like the security system just isn’t there.”

Michelle’s brow furrows. “Yeah. There’s not a lot of anything there.”

“If we can get there, I think we can take that stairwell down to the sub-basement.”

“Right,” Michelle says. “Then we can get to the stair leading to the delivery entrance.”

“We just need to figure out how to get there without being noticed,” Phyllis says.

“Show me,” Simon says. Michelle spins her laptop around. Simon scrutinizes the screen.

“Give me a second.”

Phyllis pulls her cell phone out of her jacket pocket and calls her husband.

Her husband sounds sleepy over the phone, which doesn’t surprise her given the time. “Hey, you. What’s up?”

“I’m gonna have to put in another long one,” Phyllis says.

There’s silence at the end of the line. When her husband speaks, he’s a lot more alert. “Sorry to hear it.”

“Me too,” Phyllis says. “I’ll call when I know more.”

“All right. Don’t work too hard.”

He hangs up first. Phyllis nods in satisfaction. They got Billy. They won’t get him too.

“OK, so I maybe have something,” Simon says. “So the security system here is tied into this central—”

“The Labyrinth,” Phyllis says. “Yeah, we all sat in the same briefing.”

“OK, OK.” Simon shrugs. “Hopefully they’re not listening in right now, or we’re pretty dead. Anyway, they recently had an upgrade and it’s been drawing more power than they can sustain. I think we can use that.”

“How?”

“When they trip the power, they start drawing it from the city power grid,” Simon says. “That’s why there have been so many brownouts all over the city lately. But it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes, and during that time the system has holes in it. That’s our window.”

Simon starts describing all the locations where security will still be active, and he and Michelle plan a route that avoids most of them.

Phyllis nods in satisfaction. “Great work, you two. Now let’s get our go-bags.”

51 comments

  1. At last! Muchas gracias. Read the whole thing, mind is thoroughly blown.

    You may wish to fix the typo at paragraph 6, first line. The “f” is missing from Red Shift’s name.

  2. Typo immune to spell check, part 6, paragraph 91, sentence 3. Did you mean, “The small one jumps to his feet” rather than “his feat”?

  3. Re-reading part two, section where the scene shifts to Jenny: second paragraph refers to Liberty as Toby’s grandfather, third paragraph refers to Liberty as “his great-grandfather.” In context, the intent of the second reference could have been “his grandfather” again or “her (Jenny’s) great-grandfather”.

  4. Great to have you back in the harness – so to speak.
    Minor typo: Part Two, Para 5: a ‘d’ is missing in: one arm hangs limply by his sie as the empty sleeve…

  5. Part two, second section (Jenny), second paragraph, last sentence, linguistic quibble: “At the moment he’s laying down” should be “At the moment he’s lying down”. It may be said that in the previous episode when David moved Toby after casting his protective spell, he laid Toby down, but now Toby is lying down. For edification and amusement, you may wish to go to dictionary.com, enter the word “lay” in the definition blank and hit enter, then scroll down to the “Lay vs. Lie” video and enjoy.

  6. Part 9, paragraph beginning “He can see the Chairman”, last sentence: Richter is misspelled “Reichter”. Possibly Freudian slip?

  7. Part 10, first paragraph, second sentence, first word should not contain the apostrophe. (Autocorrect does that to me sometimes, substituting the contraction for the possessive pronoun. Bad autocorrect!)

  8. Part 22:
    – second paragraph, first sentence speaks of “dimly lit florescent lights” but I think you meant “fluorescent” since the dictionary says “florescent” means “flourishing”.
    – fourth paragraph from the end, beginning “There is a low hum”, another “it’s” that should be “its”.

  9. APOLOGIES FOR THE FORMATTING:
    I just finished reading an excellent and enthralling tale (obviously shaving your head did nothing to kerb your style – I was worried a la Samson and Delilah that you might lose your talent).
    Anyhow, the following typos, misspelling(s), and possible misunderstandings, by me, of your choice of words/phrases to this left-pondian, who only lived in the US for 21 years, triggered my antenna – but the story demanded that I keep reading. This resulted in a quick copy and paste (without commentary) and then a quick insert of the Part Number (so that you have a vague clue where to look).

    Part Seven: Haruspex Analytics, Jason Klein’s Suite

    He wouldn’t be the first to abandon a good team in favor of a promising promotion. To become “a suit,” as Billy would to say.

    Part Eight: New York City, Downtown

    David grins in spite of himself. “Because it’s better ‘Doctor Weird, Warlock Supreme.’”

    Part Fourteen: Haruspex Analytics

    Shewatches, calm and remote, and waits.

    She at Justin. Without hesitation, he bolts toward the still glowing tear.

    Part Eighteen: Haruspex Analytics, Ground Floor Lobby

    The torso comes together in a rough outline, and in a matter of seconds he can the pieces of rock fuse together as the golem begins to reform.

    Blue light flares up again, but it’s different this time. It flickers erratically, like a fluorescent light just before it does.

    Part Nineteen: Haruspex Analytics, Upper Floors

    Street Ronin crouches on the landing tile, his rifle trained on the closed door

    Part Twenty Two: Manhattan, Alpha Checkpoint MCV

    “That’s right,” the Senator’s image says. “Remember when I said the first virus—the that didn’t kill

    It’s bad, Captain. Bad in way that, historically, cuts across old boundaries. . . . .. We’re talking genetic plague, Captian.”

    Part Twenty Seven: Metamorphosis

    As the wind rises, so dow the sound, the thummm growing louder, and behind it a second sound.

    Part Twenty Nine: Downtown Manhattan

    Para 2: It can’t move beyond this spot because the buildings surrounding it are too fall.

    Alishia flies closer to the golem, keying up a volley of anti-vehicle missles

    Part Thirty One: Ingress

    No games, Sky Commando. We have a way to take out thegolem.

    Part Thirty Three: Haruspex Analytics Golem, The Labyrinth

    he knocks a new hole in the side dof the building and jumps.

    Part Thirty Four: Aftermath

    David starts looking through the crowd. “Now we round everyone up and go back to the Nautillus.

    HTH

  10. Back again. Just checked the amendment that you made re. Part Nineteen (which is the deja vu all over again and again) and “on the landing tile” appears at least 5 more times – thanks be to Ctrl-F.

  11. Sorry, my misunderstanding, my septuagenarian vocabulary didn’t extend to ‘landing tile’ as a thing, but google.com showed me the error of my ways – since multiple peoples being advertizing them are.

  12. part ten

    not fighting against the other awareness, but fusing to cede what remains of his own identity.

    refusing to cede?

  13. part seventeen

    She twists his arm, and the he cries out in pain as the carbine clatters to the floor.

    then he tries?

  14. part 24 “Where are these thingscoming from?” Jenny keeps

    not sure if missing a space?

  15. And now to see where Regiment was during all this kerfuffle…
    Thanks for coming back!

  16. Part 22, paragraph 43: “Sky Commander” should probably be “Sky Commando” unless the point is that Captain Banks (understandably) is so badly shaken he isn’t even using Sgt. Webb’s proper title. He gets it right two paragraphs later.

    Part 22, paragraphs 39 and 41: not sure about this. 39 refers to “the worst of the group” as a tossup between Crossfire and Overmind. In 41, Sky Commando tells Captain Banks that Haruspex is “much worse than either of those groups could hope to be”, where “either of those groups” seems to be a reference back to Crossfire and Overmind. Am I misreading this, or is she calling Overmind a group?

  17. One of those typos that spellcheck will never catch: Part 26, paragraph 1, last sentence: “standing father back”: s/father/farther.

  18. Part 27, paragraph 15, sentence 4: the word “shifts” is missing an “f”.

  19. Part 29:
    Paragraph 33:
    – sentence 5: need a space here: durabilityconverging. “durability” is in italics in the actual text.
    – next to last sentence: “it’s attention” should be “its attention”.
    Paragraph 44, next to last sentence: “one a little to low” “to” needs another “o”.
    Paragraph 48, last sentence: “She adjusts her position, putting as much of the base of her cable between herself and the ones closing in.” “as much” seems to want another “as” but I’m not sure exactly what you want here.

  20. Part 30:
    Paragraph 11, first sentence, after the second dash: “is throws it”: s/is/it
    Paragraph 31: last sentence: “keeping out of site” out of “sight”?

  21. Beautiful, beautiful work. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Partway through Part Seventeen there appears to be some paragraph-level cleanup needed at the point where the Chairman nearly comes in to check on Artemis, but then changes his mind. Two versions of the same passage? –>

    “Our guest…” Suddenly the Chairman sounds weary. He sighs. “The resources we will need to expend to keep him in check will be… prohibitive. I fear we will be forced to leave him behind.” Phyllis is surprised by the amount of regret in the Chairman’s voice. Who is he talking about?

    “I should, at least, say farewell…”

    Footsteps close in on the door, and when the door handle begins to turn her heart nearly stops. But it stops, then returns to its original position as the hand on the other side lets go.

    “No,” the Chairman says. “We don’t have the time. It galls me to leave him behind

    Ah. Yes.” The Chairman hmmms thoughtfully. “I fear we won’t be able to take him with us. The resources we’d need to expend to keep him in check are best used on other things. Come, the door is here.”

    The group comes to a stop, and for a terror-filled moment Phyllis is convinced they’ve stopped in front of her door. Seconds pass, then something clicks on the other side of the hall, and the footsteps move off carpet, onto stone. The door clicks a second time as it swings shut. The hallway is silent once again.

  22. @cuatroojos: thanks for the extra updates. They’re all fixed. Sidenote: the issue with the two words being crammed together without a space between them is an oddity because it never shows up in my original text — it’s a result of dumping the text into WordPress. So far I haven’t figured out what it is that’s making WordPress remove the spaces. I assume it isn’t random, though it looks that way to me.

    @Christopher Krebs: aaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAaaaaaaaaAAAAaaaaaa fixed now. 😀

  23. You’ve done a terrific job keeping so many different narrative strands going without getting all tangled. Bravo.

    Part Twenty-Eight, paragraph 4, another sentence-level blip: “He grimaces, thrusting his right hand left arm and his side.”

  24. Part 17, third-to-last paragraph, last sentence: “careless” needs to be in its adverbial form, “carelessly”.

  25. Part 6:
    – Paragraph 73 begins “Int he”; “In the”?
    – Paragraph 93, beginning “David doesn’t reply”: in the second sentence, “exends” looks like it wants to be “extends”.
    – Paragraph 11, first sentence, “more than match”, maybe “more than a match”?

  26. > It was literally SURROUNDED by other instances of the word spelled correctly. Sigh.
    If your fingers are anything like mine, they don’t *care* how many times you have spelled a given word correctly. And I echo your Sigh.

  27. C.B., Thanks so much for this! Amazing!

    It’s been so long since 35 (and 35 made no sense to me at the time!), that I just bit the bullet and reread from the beginning, and then crashed straight through 36. Wow. Really well done – I can see where the breaks would be for 36a, b, and c if you could break from “year 3”, but boy does it work as a whole.

    I actually thought it would be the complete wrapup, since it took that long to “pull in all the loose ends and stories”. But no – it’s just the cliffhanger to Year 4, “on the clock” as it were. Can’t complain about that!

    Since I did do a compleat runthrough (spelling intended), I then did it again, trying to pay attention to blips and continuity issues. I have a bunch of notes (some on 36 might already be noted here), plus a Liberty Family Tree – what’s the best way to get them to you, should you want them? I could post it here or the forums, but it is the size of one of your smaller chapters; plus some of the questions are “I could very easily be wrong here, having not understood context”, so, not sure you want those ideas that public.

    Note: the email registered with my account is live and commonly read, if you don’t want to put anything out in the open yourself!

    Also note: there were threads running through the story that I only saw on the “editing runthrough” – and I’ve read (what was, at the time) the whole story, I think 5 times now. Love the world and character-building that has clearly always been there, but I haven’t noticed happening in serial form.

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