Nothing good is going to happen here. - Brian
Wood Pulp & Blood*
"I always wondered what happened to that gorilla," Stevie mused aloud.
"Funny you should ask." Sphinx dug around a worn satchel for a moment and came up with a book. "He turned up not long after that, in the diary of one Ellen Gardener. At least I assume it to be the same ape."
"Where did you get that?" Muse sounded a trifle indignant.
Sphinx remained unruffled. "Around. It's an interesting story in itself, really...."
* * *
Finally, the sign I have been waiting if only half-hoping for all these weeks since the university let me go. With the world in the state it's in, they're shutting down whole programs, and there's no room in the budget for research assistants in parapsychology. Closing up the place last night I knew where I was supposed to go today, and I did. They were surprised to see me. Said they don't advertise. I explained why I had come. A couple of quick tests and I was hired.
No more long hours at the diner, thank goodness; I get good tips but I have the feeling I make some of the customers nervous. Can't wait to tell Aunt Lydia I'm leaving. Farewell to her and her horrid little dogs (will send her a Christmas card of course).
Learning my way around. Bureaucracy here works just like it did at the university. Spent much of the afternoon at the practice range, brushing up.
They don't waste time here. I've only been with the agency three weeks, and they want me to go on a case! I'm to work with two agents I met this afternoon, described as "one of our most experienced men" and "an expert in languages," and also as people who would not be intimidated by the fact that I am considerably stronger than most people, let alone most women. I expected to encounter some unusual people working here, but....
Adam Prime, as he is called, is a gorilla. That's not a metaphor. An albino mountain gorilla, in fact, taken from the wild in some dark corner of Africa and raised by humans in New York City, one of them a linguistics researcher who discovered a gestural language that can be understood by all intelligent beings. Quite astonishing. As I understand it, his adoptive parents were killed in a bungled robbery, and after a stint in which some criminals took advantage of his strength and confusion he was rescued by Astro-Man and ended up here. Seems a very calm, civilized sort of being, so much so in fact that most people who seem him strolling about, impeccably suited and well-mannered, do not realize what he is; indeed, they assume they are hearing rather than seeing him speak. This sounds ridiculous on the face of it, I realize, and yet I have witnessed the effect several times now.
Kane Roberts is a vampire. This is not a metaphor, either. I'm not sure how long he has been one--long enough, it seems, that he is not entirely vulnerable to the traditional dangers his kind face--but he is very experienced agent, having spent many years with the Treasury Department before joining the PAA. He seems to have an intense dislike for counterfeiters. I must be careful to avoid physical contact with him, lest I find myself reliving the moment of his death; the unpredictable nature of these gifts continues to burden me at times.
With Adam and Kane, it seemed inevitable that my code-name would be Eve. It also seems likely that our team will be doing most of its work during the night.
Today we received our pre-assignment briefing. [Department head played by Joe Don Baker in a wheelchair, having been unfairly set upon by a group of ninjas who all attacked him at once.] We are headed for Millinocket, somewhere in the middle of Maine, which puts it close to the far edge of nowhere. I can't imagine what about the place has attracted the department's attention, but I hope we will be equal to the task.
We're on a boat. Or is ship the proper term? I can never remember the distinction, or even if there is one. A Navy vessel at any rate, they're on good terms with the PAA and don't mind taking us as far as Bath. The weather is less than one would desire, though warmer than it would be in Chicago at this time of year. Having never been to sea, I am greatly relieved to find that I do not appear to suffer from seasickness, as at times the motion of the ship (or boat) has been rather violent. The damp cold does bother me a bit where the bullets struck all those years ago, but so far I have successfully overcome it.
My comrades appear to be taking the journey in stride; I would have supposed Adam to be in discomfort, so far from anything like his natural habitat, but he appears as well acclimated to the cold as any human, and has the benefit of fur as well. Kane has been taciturn as usual. Fortunately for the crew I suppose, he is able to live off stored blood if need be.
Agency policy states that we don't find out the specifics of our mission until we are about to begin it. This is, I'm told, to keep any psychic aliens from discovering what we're about to do. As we approached the harbor, we opened the sealed packet in our cabin and found a half dozen typed sheets of paper. Also according to policy, each sheet contained only every other line, and had to be matched up with a mate and the two held up to a light in order to read the information. This, in theory, keeps anyone at the agency from knowing too much about what we are doing. It seems rather oddsomeone must know in order to give us any orders at allbut then I remind myself that the program exists at least in part as a makework project, and those of us in the office must keep busy somehow.
From the briefing papers we learned that there have been numerous, intermittent sightings over the past twenty days of flashing lights emanating from both ground and sky, and also strange sounds, from the area around Baxter State Park. Some people claimed to have seen strange things shuffling about in the night, described as bipedal but not human, although it added "witnesses not entirely trustworthy according to FBI (ha!)."
*From the Adventures of Adam Prime, Gorilla G-Man! (Also starring Agents Kane and Eve of the PAA)
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© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson