INT – night – back in Helton’s cabin on the Tajemnica
Allonia comes up to the open door. A couple of the many computer screens that double as lights are on “dim”, providing a low, diffused light to the room. The bed is made. She looks around and doesn’t see him.Allonia: Knock-knock?
Helton: (OC, from the bathroom) Come in, be there in a minute.
Allonia comes in and sits down at the desk. While she sits, she runs her eyes around the room, and she sees the book that Helton found in the tunnel on the foot of his bed. She looks at it curiously for a moment, then lazily reaches over to pick it up and look at it. She leafs through it casually, looking at the large hole in one side where the grenade blasted a shallow crater about 7” across the book, and nearly halfway through it. The edges of the “crater” are tattered and blackened. The rest of the pages are silvery white. She runs her hands over the undamaged side, as if feeling for something she cannot see. She looks more closely.
Allonia: Lights 50%
The lighting in the room brightness up a bit. She looks closer at the book, angeling it to get the light just right.
Allonia: Lights 80%
In the brighter light, as she turns and angles it, we can see, faintly, very faintly, some sort of design on the undamaged cover. It looks like a set of 12 interlocking cogs, loosely encircled by a chain. Helton walks in from the head.
Allonia: What are these marks?
Helton: What marks?
Helton examines the book closely.
Helton: Hmmm… Odd. That looks like… almost like some of the things carved into the stones at Planet Movers Grav-Post sites.
Allonia: So, you think it might be a book someone was writing about them?
Helton: Could be. Huh. Looks like there are a few faint marks inside too.
Helton holds the book angled to the light, and looks more closely at the edges of the pages where they are damaged by the grenade crater. There are faint scattered marks, and a lot more around the edges of the crater. There are no obvious groupings or patterns, but most marks are very small lines, or not much more than dots. More than just noise on a bad photo-copy, but nothing legible or of obvious interest.
Helton: I wonder?… I’ll have to borrow microscope or scanner from Stenson tomorrow to get a closer look at that. See if there is anything legible inside. I’m sure it wasn’t there earlier.
Allonia: I was just dropping by to say thank you for sending Kwon and his family this way! He’s a great cook, and I was going CRAZY down there, trying to get three meals a day for everyone. He makes it seem easy. And knows what to do with just about everything! And little Kimi is the cutest thing! Quinn has been treating her like a favorite little sister.
Helton: Kwon’s an old friend, and he’s helped me out more than once. And trying to find someone I can trust here, that isn’t being leaned on by Seymore, is difficult. Just when I think things are turning to shit, something good pops up.
Allonia: Unless it’s more shit, first.
Helton: Well, yeah, there’s been that too. But things are looking good at the moment. Anything else before I turn in?
Allonia: No, just thanks, good night, and see you in the morning!
Helton: Thanks. G’night.
INT – DAY – Engineering
Stenson and Helton sit in engineering, the book on a workbench with a device over it. They are looking at a screen with an image of the book cover. It starts to zoom in.
Stenson: Let’s see what we have here. Visible first.
The image zooms in a bit and becomes only slightly more clear.
Stenson: (thinking out loud) Enhance contrast a bit…
He fiddles with the controls, and the images get much sharper.
Helton: OK, cogs and chains for sure. Definitely Planet Mover style. Any matches with known engravings?
Stenson: Let’s check… (taps at the computer for a second) Nope nothing comes up. Hmmm… Twelve gears, 144 links. Pretty common gear and link count, fairly typical gear ratios. Looks like a pretty basic style composite. Nothing very exciting. OK… IR?
The image changes, but not much.
Helton: UV next, I suppose?
Stenson fiddles again with the controls, and the image changes again, but not hugely, and Stenson adjusts things and looks at the varying results on the screen.
Stenson: Chem scan says… Hmmm… OK, that’s not a grade-school item… interesting chemicals. Looks like they should be both photo AND oh-two reactive.
Helton: So it’ll react to light or oxygen?
Stenson: (cautiously) Nnnnooooo… I think… I think it’ll only react to oxygen in the presence of light, or vice-versa. Have to play with it a bit to find what sort of concentrations and intensity and wavelength it likes best, but I’d bet that’s it.
Helton: So, not your garden-variety desert guru text?
Stenson: Nope. THAT, it most assuredly, is not, unless you consider the Garden of Eden to be “garden-variety.”
Helton: So, what’s inside?
Stenson: Be my guest (waves Helton to move the book)
Helton removes the book from the scanner, opens it to the first page on the undamaged side, and pops it under again.
Helton: Can you composite all those?
Stenson: Patience, patience.
Helton: Visible first?
The screen shows a few faint marks scattered about the page when are then highly contrasted, but there is nothing obvious worth further attention. Clicking to IR and UV show the same lack of pattern, though in different colors. Scanning shows most of the page to be a sea of chemical signatures, with no distinct patterns.
Stenson: Well, nothing there – or well, a LOT of nothing there YET.
Helton: So, we just leave it out in the weather and wait?
Stenson: Pretty much. Lots going on here, so I don’t really have time to experiment properly. In the meantime, I’d leave it out, open, and with a wide-spectrum light on it, and see what happens.
Helton: So, any ideas what it is?
Stenson: More ideas than Harbin has ways of killing you, but until we have more information, it’s just wild speculation. I like having enough to base my guesses on that it has SOME reasonable chance of being correct.
Helton: So, the answer is… be patient?
Stenson: Yup, ‘fraid so.
Fade to black
Oh I hate being patient, it’s like waiting for the next installment of a great story on the inter…hey, wait.
its almost as bad as waiting on the next episode of your favorite TV show. Except this comes every day.
I sneak a few moments at work to read it before I go back to fixing computers.
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Awesome as usual! And yeah, bein’ patient sucks. LOL
Nitpicks: Near the beginning: “Helton holds the book angled to the light, and looks more closely at the edges of the paged where they are damaged by the grenade crater”, “paged” should be “pages”
Talking with Stenson: “Stenson: (cautiously) Nnnnooooo… I think… I think it’ll only react to oxygen in the presence of light, or vice-versa. Have to play with it a bit to find what sort of concentrations and intensity and wavelength it likes best, but I’d bet that it.” Should be “that’s it”?
Yup, indeed. Thanks.
Don’t worry – they DO eventually figure out what it is, mostly, well enough. It presents a bit of a conundrum for them.
And of course, feel free to speculate on what it might be – I’m curious to know what paths people might suspect I’m leading them down.
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