Right, so the good news here was that we actually knew what the note in Mophse’s shoe had been about. The bad news was that we still had no idea why he would have something like that, or exactly what the specs were supposed to be used for. It had something to do with the wiring inside the computer, but why? Why did he have it, what was the wiring supposed to do, and why did someone kill him for it? Assuming that was why he was killed. It was the best guess we had at the moment, and at least gave us somewhere to start.
Taking all that in and thinking about it for a minute, I exhaled. “Okay, so we know all of this has something to do with the computer. Which makes sense, because we know they did something to it, or Sitter wouldn’t have been knocked out when he tried to access it. They left a trap, and they could only have done that extra knowledge about how to mess with it. So the wiring note had to be important. That’s why he had it and… maybe why they killed him?” My voice trailed off uncertainly as I tried to make sense of that.
Dakota hesitated before raising a hand tentatively. “Do you think maybe he was working with them and figured out those wiring things, but then he changed his mind so they killed him to get it?”
“Well hold on,” Marina put in quickly. “If they killed him to get the wiring notes, why were they still in his shoe? Obviously, they managed to do what they needed to do, because they got into the computer. But they didn’t get the notes from him.”
Sesh tapped the wall a few times thoughtfully before starting with, “Maybe he had another copy and they found that? Or maybe he already helped them get into the computer system, then he changed his mind after that and was going to confess what was going on, so they killed him but didn’t realize the note was still in his shoe.”
“Or,” Denny added quietly, “he never switched sides, but they didn’t want to pay him, or thought he was a loose end or something, so they killed him anyway. He’s not necessarily a completely innocent victim, you know?” She sounded and looked guilty for even pointing that out, squirming uncomfortably. “I–I’m just saying, I don’t mean he was definitely bad. I mean–”
Reaching out, I squeezed her shoulder before nodding. “Yeah, you’ve got a point. We’ve gotta keep an open mind. We don’t know exactly why he was killed, and definitely don’t know whose side he was on at the end. But we are at least pretty sure it has to do with those wiring notes. It’s just too bad we can’t wake Sitter up and ask exactly what these different bits are for. Cuz I don’t know about you guys, but it’s pretty Greek to me. Wait, I could probably understand Greek better than this.”
Denny held up the binder. “We could use this to try to figure it out. I mean, the diagrams match, so all we have to do is read the book and figure out what they’re for.”
Marina turned to look back through the doorway to the auditorium. “Yeah, we can do that. And maybe we could also find someone in there who knows about this stuff. I mean, it’s probably not one of them, right? We already know there’s three people missing, and probably somewhere else in this facility. So, you know, there’s no real reason for whoever was responsible for this to be one of the people who is still in this room.” She looked at me then. “Besides, you’ve already gone through their heads and they were all screwed up by the memory adjustment. Why would our bad guys do that to themselves if they had a plan beyond just ‘kill him and get away with it?’ Which, I guess that could be their plan, but the missing three people seem like… you know, they have to be related.”
I hesitated briefly, thinking about that before giving a little nod. “I guess that does make sense. They probably wouldn’t leave themselves in this room with the main group when we already know they have a way to be somewhere else. Probably looking for a way out, or for a way to take over this place completely.”
Sesh showed her teeth. “I bet they weren’t ready for us to be here. Err, mainly you guys.” She looked back and forth between Marina and me. “Having a couple Bosch Heretics probably really screwed up their plans. Maybe they’re regrouping and trying to figure out what to do about you. Us. All of us.”
She had a point, but I still grimaced a little at the thought that there were mysterious murderers somewhere else in this facility plotting out how to kill us. Plus, they had– “The computer room. Yeah, I put that alarm spell in there, but still. I don’t trust whoever’s responsible for this not to find a way around that. We need to get back there and–shit, we can’t leave the people in there either. If they’re all innocent and those guys show up…”
“Find someone who can help you with the tech stuff,” Sesh put in. “Take ‘em down there with you. I can stay up here and watch over these guys. If anything happens, I’ll use that emergency alert thing to warn you about it. Or that convenient taboo spell. Besides,” she added while we were thinking about that, “the people in there might be nice, but they’re not totally helpless. I’m pretty sure whoever’s responsible for this doesn’t want to start a head-on fight with everyone. Or, you know, they wouldn’t’ve been such sneaky cowards about it so far.”
Again, she was right. So, while I still felt the pressing urgency to get back to that computer room, Marina, Sesh, and I headed into the auditorium once more, while leaving Dakota and Denny in the elevator with Sitter’s body. Marina did the talking once we had their attention, asking if there were any computer and electronics experts in the group who would be willing to help us down in the server room.
It took a little discussion, and we ended up with our volunteer, a small, older looking man with a long white beard and dark purple skin. He couldn’t have been taller than about three feet, and his eyes were big enough to take up half his face. They were also bright neon green, and had almost no white to them. Just enormous emerald marbles in the middle of his head. Back when I had been possessing people to check them for being the killer, he had introduced himself as Perrsnile. And yeah, I did recall that he did a lot of work with electronic stuff. In fact, before he was recruited to come into this place, he had been the primary electronics expert on board a small cargo vessel. His diminutive size meant he could get into a lot of very tight spaces easier than people who were bigger. And he had incredibly nimble fingers, which he absently showed off by flipping this tiny circuit board thing back and forth between them the way some people could do with a coin. His species, known as that Uusnar, largely made their living off being craftsmen, their dexterity and steady hands known throughout the universe. He would definitely be able to help with this. At least, I hoped he would. We could use the break.
Before we left Sesh there, I took a second to make sure she had the emergency alert coin, and knew how to use it, along with knowing my taboo word. The two of us had a quick conversation about what to do if something happened, and I did my best to answer a couple questions from the audience. Not that I actually had much in the way of answers for them just yet, but I did tell them that we had reason to believe the person or persons responsible for this whole thing were not in this room with them. Which seemed to help take a lot of the tension out, thankfully. I just hoped I wasn’t making a mistake by saying that much. Maybe I shouldn’t have. If there really was a bad guy in here and we had missed them, or if the bad guys were somehow monitoring this room, maybe it would’ve been better if they didn’t know how much we did?
In the end, I shook those thoughts off. I’d made my decision and was sticking with it. Telling these people they probably didn’t have to be afraid of each other was the right way to go. So, I made Sesh promise one last time to sound the alert if there was any trouble, then left.
On the way through the backstage area to the elevator, Marina and I warned our new recruit about what he was about to see. It felt like a bad idea to let this guy see the unconscious and dark Sitter without giving him any advance warning. He might justifiably freak out a bit, especially given what we’d already told these people about what was going on. And hey, maybe he could actually do something about the unconscious robot thing too.
The small man exclaimed in alarm when we told him about what happened to Sitter, vanishing that little circuit board into a pocket before twisting his hands around anxiously as he asked questions about exactly what the robot had been plugged into and what happened leading up to that. When he saw Sitter himself, Perrsnile went right past Denny and Dakota with barely more than a quick hello. In moments, he had pulled the robot down to a lying position on the floor and was looking him over intently. “Oh dear, oh no, oh dear, no no no. This is not good at all. No good whatsoever.” Clearly fretting as he twisted his fingers around together, he looked over to me. “I need to get inside our friend here and see what damage has been done, but I can’t do that without tools.”
We all exchanged looks before Marina started with, “Let’s get down to the computer room so we can make sure our… not-friends aren’t in there causing trouble already. Then you can check on him. Here.” She reached into her pocket, arm going much deeper than it should have before she pulled out a small red folded packet and opened it to show him a variety of small tools inside. “Would this help?”
“Yes, yes!” The man blurted excitedly. He reached out to take the packet of tools and looked through it. “I thought you weren’t a handyman. Handywoman?” He paused to consider shaking his head. “I thought you didn’t work with these things, Miss Marina.”
“I don’t,” she replied, “but I’ve been around people who do, and it pays to be prepared if they need to work.”
“I take it those aren’t the only tools you’ve got,” I guessed.
Sure enough, Marina blushed a little before confirming, “I have medical supplies, games, art stuff, basically everything I could think of that might be useful at any point.” She grimaced visibly. “So now that I say that, you know we’re about to run into a situation that I don’t have anything for just so I look dumb for saying that.”
“Don’t worry,” I assured her while starting to reach out to hit the buttons to send us back to the computer room. It was just the opposite of the way I’d brought us up here to begin with. Still, I had to stop and think before each button press. “Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it.”
Once I was done and the elevator started moving, Perrsnile tilted his head as though listening before giving a bright smile. “Good, nothing is in the way.”
“Wait, what do you mean?” I asked, blinking at him.
“If there was another elevator car in the location you requested,” he explained, “the system would have alerted you with a short chime, like this.” He made a chirp-like sound. “That would mean the elevator would be slower because it had to move the other car out of the way. If it did this…” He made a buzzer sound. “… that would mean the elevator car that is in the way has been locked down and can’t be moved.”
“Huh, good to know.” Taking that in, I turned my attention to Dakota and Denny and added, “When we get there, I want you guys to stay with Marina and Perrsnile while he works. If we can figure out which areas have the sensors blocked off, I’ll head down there and see what I can find.”
“Not by yourself!” Dakota immediately blurted, eyes widening dramatically.
Denny agreed with a violent shake of her head. “You can’t go by yourself, Flick. What if there are really bad people down there? There’s three of them, and they already killed two people.”
“Yeah,” Dakota put in, “and one of them was an old retired Heretic. He had to have a lot of powers too, Flick. But they still took him by surprise. You can’t go down there alone.”
Marina nodded. “They have a point. We shouldn’t let anyone go off by themselves.” For a moment, she looked conflicted, clearly not wanting to leave these two alone either. Powerful or not, they were still kids. But then, they would be with our new friend here, at least. Even if he definitely wasn’t the stand up and fight sort of person. He was even more of a civilian than Denny and Dakota. If something went wrong and a fight broke out, they would probably be the ones protecting him.
The two of us exchanged silent looks while we tried to decide how to deal with that, before Marina gave a soft sigh and decisive nod. With that, she took an emergency alert coin of her own and put it in Dakota‘s hand. “I’ll go with Flick. If anyone comes to you guys, you set this off.“
Exhaling, I tried to offer them a reassuring smile. “Between that and the alarm spell I put up, that should be enough.” Plus, they knew the taboo word thing just like Sesh. Thinking about that as the elevator doors opened, I stopped the others from getting off. Then I carefully reached around and touched the enchanted stone I had left there, triggering the extra bit of magic I’d left on it to pause the alarm until I was ready for it to be active again.
From there, Marina and I carefully entered the room first, with our weapons ready just in case we had unexpected visitors after all. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t, given the alarm had still been active, but still. It paid to be careful. Especially given what these guys had accomplished so far.
A quick check-through confirmed that the computer room was as empty as we’d left it, and nothing seemed out of place. So, we went back to the elevator to tell the others to come on in. I carried Sitter and laid him down on the floor before looking at our new friend. “Would you mind looking in the system to try to figure out which parts of the vault are being blocked off before you do anything else? We uhh, we need some idea of where to search.”
Dakota’s hand shot into the air. “Are you gonna be okay? I mean, um, when Sitter plugged into the system, it knocked him out.” She cast a worried glance to the silent, dark robot before looking back that way. “I really don’t want that to happen to you.”
“Now don’t you worry, ahh, Miss,” Perrsnile assured her while giving what was probably a put-on smile meant to make her feel better. “I may not be all up there with the swords and the guns and the heeyawing, but I can fix a broken computer with the best of them, and I know how to watch for traps. Seems to me our friend Sitter here wasn’t aware that would even be an issue, so he probably wasn’t keeping his eyes open for it. And I dare bet anything they left behind was meant to stop a robot, not a determined little Uusnar. But I will need both your help, okay?”
They both agreed, and I gave the man a grateful nod. He winked at me before turning to the nearby computer and cracking his knuckles. “Now then, let’s see what we can find here.”
With that, he went to work, typing rapidly. I watched as line after line of code sailed past on the screen too quickly for me to even hope to pay attention to what was happening. A part of me felt anxious about what this guy might be doing when none of us could follow his work, but then, I had been in his head. I’d seen his desire to help, his love for the others in there, his earnest hope that they would be allowed to stay in the vault. He had a lot of memories about spending time with Valdean, and from every memory I’d looked at while I was in his head, he really loved the man like a brother. He was devastated about his death, and wanted to find out who was responsible. Yes, all of that could’ve been faked, given we knew their memories had been tampered with. But I had to hope that it wasn’t. Otherwise I would fall into a deep pit of paranoia. It was like we said earlier, we had every reason to believe that the bad guys were not in that room. There were three missing, and they had to be the ones responsible for all this.
So, I pushed down that paranoia and let the man work. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before he pushed away from the screen and turned to look at me. “Okay then, Miss Flick, I know what areas are being blocked from the sensors. Here.” Even as he said that, one of the nearby parts of the server was spitting out a few sheets of paper. I hadn’t even been aware that there was a printer there. He took them, showing me what looked like a set of blueprints on the first page. It was a floor plan. “The rooms that are blocked off are all connected. This is the floorplan here. And this–” He went to the next page, showing a list of buttons to press in the elevator. “This is how you get there. The second set is how you get back here from there, and the third is how to get to the auditorium from there.”
“Hey, thanks.” Taking the papers, I offered him a smile before swallowing. “Now umm, can you see what you can do for Sitter here? And, you know, maybe a bit of what they were doing with those wiring instructions? I know it’s asking a lot–”
“It’s no trouble at all, Miss Flick,” he assured me. “I want to find the neuthfah responsible for–” He stopped abruptly, grimacing with a look at Dakota and Denny. “Pardon the language, please. I… I will help in any way I can.”
I thanked him again profusely for that, and for everything else, before tugging Denny and Dakota away for a moment. “You guys gonna be okay here? You know what to do if anyone starts to come in, right?”
Denny gave a quick nod. “Introduce myself and tell them to lay down and not move or do anything.”
Dakota added, “And then set off the alarm spell and let you know what’s going on. You know, just to be sure.”
Marina confirmed that before putting in, “Be careful, okay? We’ll lock the doors behind us.”
They all agreed to be very careful, before Marina and I went over the papers once more. Apparently the areas that were blocked off were known as ‘Storage Wing Z61.’ From what Perrsnile could tell us, some of those rooms were meant to hold extra parts for the vault, some contained baby supplies for a dozen or more different species, and others had more general equipment. The point was, Valdean had been prepared for this place to last for centuries without having to go out to the regular world, and part of that included having a boatload of extra supplies.
With that in mind, I straightened up, looking toward Marina. “Alright, babe. You ready?
“Let’s go see if our missing killers are playing with the baby toys.”