A great start yesterday, I was very pleased with it. Today we must thicken the plot.
Note to self for future reference – next time you put a shadowy conspiracy into Chapter One in order to boot the action off in high gear, try to have at least some vague idea of why they are, what they want, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. It makes writing Chapter Two soooooooo much easier!
The switch to Daylight Saving Time is kicking my ass. I’m falling asleep at the keyboard, so more of Chapter Two tomorrow.
While I normally put in a lot of internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.
“Any word from Lewis?” asked Winston.
“Not yet, sir. The last we heard he and his team had confirmed Ms. Aoki’s presence at Homolacrum.”
“Keep me informed. I want to know immediately if there is any new information.”
Winston collapsed into one of the chairs surrounding the chrome and glass coffee table in the center of the room. Rather than relax, he immediately sat forward on the edge of the chair, leaned forward to take one of the small figurines from the table, and began to turn it over in his hands, examining it.
At the glass wall behind him, bathed in the soft, blue-green light from outside, Stover stood calmly, his hands clasped behind him. He stared intently out into the water, watching the occasional fish or drifting piece of kelp wander past. Outside the top of the curved sweep of the window, sunlight danced and flickered as the choppy waves broke against the side of the building.
Stover glanced back at Winston to watch him playing with the figurine.
“Be careful with that. I’ve told you that those are extremely delicate, as well as expensive.”
Winston said nothing, but gently put the small glass sculpture back down. He again tried to sit back in the chair, but was soon on his feet again, pacing.
“I hope you give yourself a heart attack before you drive me insane,” said Stover without turning away from the window. “You need to relax.”
“I can’t relax until I know that Lewis has the woman,” Winston said. “If this isn’t handled properly it could be disastrous for us.”
“You said that he was our best man for the job. Just let him do what he’s supposed to do.”
“There are too many things that can go wrong. I told you that this was a bad idea from the first time you suggested it.”
“It was necessary to implement a slight escalation in our efforts to secure Ms. Aoki’s cooperation and talent to help our mission. Since our previous efforts to entice her to join us on her own have failed, we must press the issue. You know time is getting short.”
“I know that you say time is getting short,” Winston said, “but that’s just a matter of faith for us all.”
The third person in the room, who had been silently meditating during this exchange, spoke up softly.
“Are you having a crisis of faith, Evan?”
That stopped Winston in his tracks. He looked at the woman, still sitting calmly with her eyes closed.
“No, of course not, Suni,” he said. “I have been a faithful servant of Jordin and you since your first Communications. I only fear that if we fail to tread lightly we will draw more attention to ourselves than would be prudent.”
“The changes coming to the world will come whether we are ready or not,” said Suni. “Jordin and I have been blessed with the vision to see those changes on the horizon where others do not. We must all work together to weather the coming storm. Jordin will guide our vessel, your task is only to bring form to his commands as they arise.”
“We have discussed this in the past, Suni. I am a flawed tool for your hand if I do nothing but blindly obey and stay silent when I see errors or danger. In all good conscience I must…”
“Silence,” commanded Stover. “This is a waste of our spirit and our energy. We will proceed as we have planned. If this plan does not work, we will go to another. If we are exposed in some way, we will deal with that as we must, but in the end we alone will be prepared for the coming changes.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Winston after a short pause. “As you command.”
“Evan, Suni, join me. They will be here soon. I feel that they are near.”
Before anyone could move, a chime sounded.
“I have a call for Mr. Winston from Mr. Lewis,” a soft female voice said.
“Go ahead,” said Winston.
A portion of the glass wall became opaque and the image of a man appeared. He was sitting in a car with an office building and parking lot visible behind him.
“We failed to make contact with Ms. Aoki, Mr. Winston. She wasn’t at Homolacrum, even though her car is still here.”
“Couldn’t you get Homolacrum to cooperate with finding her?”
“No, sir, that’s not it at all. They were cooperative and seemed to be as surprised as we were that she wasn’t there. They gave us access to the building security records and we see where she was there all day. Then she wasn’t.”
“What does that mean?” asked Winston. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“She was working on a project of some sort with a deadline coming up quickly. She had given instructions to be left alone, but there was some kind of disturbance or argument between her and another staff member just before we got there. We were unable to determine who that person might have been. However, everyone says that she was in her office when they last saw her or spoke to her today.”
“Did any of your team ever see her at all?”
“No, sir, we did not, and I do not know why. We identified ourselves as we had planned and were taken to her office, which was locked. When the system unlocked the door, we found the office to be empty. No one saw her leave. We checked the security video and they confirm everyone’s story. We see her leaving her office and locking it behind her just as we’re arriving, then walking into the restroom. A few minutes later she walked out of the front door without being seen or speaking to anyone else.”
“Wait. Your team was there when she walked out the front door?” asked Winston. “Yet somehow none of you saw her or stopped her? How could you have not been watching the front door?”
“We did have someone at the front door,” Lewis said, sounding defensive, “as well as every other exit to the building. There should have been no way in or out of the building without us seeing it. Yet she walked right past us, as if she were invisible. You can clearly see it on the security video.”
“Unbelievable. So she walked by you, got in her car, and drove off. Do I have that correctly?”
“No sir, not quite. Once she left the building whe walked across the parking lot and out of sight down the street. She never went to her car, it’s still here, hasn’t been touched.”
Winston finally seemed to be at a loss for words. He turned toward Stover, mutely asking for help, his face a mass of confusion and frustration.
“Mr. Lewis,” Stover said, “you said that you have evidence that she walked out past one or more of your team. Let us set aside how that happened for the moment. It can not be a coincidence that she pulled her magical disappearing act just as you were arriving. Have you been able to determine how she was tipped off to our arrival?”
“No, sir, there’s no sign of anyone knowing anything about us before we got there. We’ve pulled the data drives from her computer and we have a copy of the building security data. We’ll bring all of that back with us for review.”
Stover looked back at his wife. “Any questions?”
“Yes,” said Suni. “Mr. Lewis, was there any sign that anyone at Homolacrum has any suspicion that you are not who you claimed to be?”
“No, ma’am, our credentials were never questioned. Everything seemed to go as planned, except that Ms. Aoki was not found.”
“You left the Homolacrum with the instructions and orders we had prepared for such a situation?”
“Yes, ma’am, just as we had discussed.”
“What are you doing to determine where Ms. Aoki went after she left and where she might be now?”
“We’re canvassing the area and we have put in a request to see any video from any traffic or other municipal camera, but that will take time.”
(CHAPTER TWO to be continued)