Arc One; Chapter Two
Balance of Power
"Information overload," Ducky said. "Bet you wished you'd taken the blue pill, huh, Ed?"
Ed just peeked up from his arms and gave Ducky a very confused look, before letting his forehead plop onto his arms. "That's it. I'm in Hell."
April 24, 2006 – 5:45am
The John Doe in room 308 had become the talk of the nursing staff. And Heather Breach's personal headache.
For the past four hours, ever since her shift had started, Breach had been bugged and badgered about the poor boy. If it wasn't her coworkers asking her if the kid had regained consciousness, it was that damn Federal officer who'd been in the waiting room until visiting hours had ended. Every time he'd seen either her or the doctor in charge of the case, he'd asked if the boy was awake yet.
She was half-tempted to conveniently 'forget' to send someone for the man if her charge was awake. Poor kid needed rest, not badgering.
"Here are the charts for south hall; can I get the ones for east now?" she asked at the front desk, ruffling her hair in an attempt to relieve her headache.
"That's John Doe's hall, right?" the desk clerk teased, getting the requested charts.
"I swear, Rick, if one more person mentions that kid and asks me how he is, I'm going to shove my stethoscope so far down their throat that they'll hear their own bowels move."
"Touchy." Rick handed her the sheet needed for her rounds of the east hall, smirking. "Let's hope that attitude doesn't show up in your bedside manner, eh, Breach?"
"Can it." Clipping the form to her board, Breach stuck her tongue out at her coworker, and hurried off to her next set of rounds.
After two hours plus one short nap after being checked on, Al had cobbled together something of a plan, while working through what felt like some pretty heavy-duty pain medication and the headache to end all headaches. The idea was simple enough; the only question was could he pull it off until he found his brother?
He hoped so.
Settling more comfortably onto a pillow which crinkled slightly as he moved, Al turned his ears towards the hallway, waiting for someone to walk through the door.
He didn't have long to wait, thankfully; the soft squeaking sound of shoes on whatever covered the floor heralded the arrival of someone outside the door, and there was a thunk and some soft shuffling as whoever it was grabbing something from just outside his door. The shoes squeaked to his bed, and he made it a point to open his eyes, the eyelids still feeling heavy to him.
The brown-haired woman in front of him appeared to be in her mid-twenties, her uniform decorated with some type of stylized squirrel repeated all over it. She glanced up, obviously only intending on looking at him for a second, then nearly dropped her pen.
"Oh! You're awake!"
Al smiled on the inside, but made it a point to look confused. "Yeah..."
"Good; the doctor was getting worried that you weren't going to wake up again." The woman checked the machines he was attached to, writing things down. "Can you tell me your name, kiddo?"
Here we go, Al thought. "Name?"
"Yeah, what you're called. I'm sure you've got a much better name than John Doe, so why don't you tell me?"
He screwed up his face, feigning confusion, but not the exhaustion and pain. "I-I don't remember."
"You... don't remember?" The nurse got a look of worry on her face and reached to examine his head. "Can you tell me what you do remember, kiddo?"
Al winced as gentle hands touched his head, letting the woman examine him as he tried to think. "Rain. And a bright light. Then my head hurt a lot." With a worried look he didn’t have to work very hard to fake, Al watched the nurse as she gently let his head rest against the pillow once again. "What happened to me? Where am I?"
The nurse took pity on him, reaching for his right hand and squeezing lightly. "You're in the hospital, in Wichita, Kansas. As for what happened, you got hit by a minivan or something like it. And apparently have amnesia, in addition to a broken arm and a concussion." Smoothing the tuft of bangs not covered by the bandage on his head, the woman smiled. "Call me Heather, okay? I'll be coming in later to check on you again. And the doctor may, as well. Is that all right?"
"O-okay." Swallowing dryly, he looked up. "Can I have something to drink, please? My throat hurts."
Heather smiled again. "I'll see what I can do. You get some rest."
"Okay." Letting his eyes drift shut, Al allowed himself to calm some; relieved he'd gotten a nice nurse. "Thank you."
He heard the smile this time. "No problem, kiddo. I'll be right back."
As she left the room, Al heaved a sigh of relief, letting his tensed body relax slightly. If he was going to get out of this place, he needed to be healthy first.
Ed awoke with a start and a wash of disorientation. Anxious butterflies swarmed in his stomach as he tried to recall where he was. He wasn’t anywhere familiar. The early morning light filtered dimly through the lace curtains, and cast the room in a subtle glow that thumbed its nose at his mood with the promise of a bright, clear day. Memory returned after a moment. He knew where he was… sort of. If ‘knowing’ allowed for no clue of location or time, that is.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. He knew he was in a state called Oklahoma, in a country called America, and it was supposed to be the 21st Century. Vague concepts for which he had nothing to compare to.
He slowly sat up and rubbed at his aching head. All around were loaded down bookshelves, but what exposed wall he could see was an irritating shade of pink; even in this dim light. He looked at the narrow bed and scowled. Pink flowered sheets, pink lacy beadspread. He looked up and groaned painfully. The closet doors were pink, too. Except they were painted in a horrible, eye-searing hot pink that only made his head hurt worse. He stretched and shambled out of the vile pink room, throwing the fleece shirt on as he went. Any place was better than that.
He made his way into the bathroom and tested the switch on the wall by the door. He winced as the room was flooded with bright light; but it was a relief to know the electricity had come back in the night. He saw a fresh towel with a new toothbrush still in the package sitting on top of it; and something else next to it. He picked it up; discovered it was lightweight, with a hollow handle and a head with two strips of thin metal in it. A razor? He thought with a snort. It hardly looked like it would handle even his light beard. He popped the clear cover off and lightly ran a flesh finger across the edges. His brows shot up when a little blood welled up. It was sharper than he expected. He looked around the counter, but couldn’t find a shaving mug and a brush. Then his eyes fell on a can nestled in the corner, nearly hidden by various items he wasn’t too sure about, and even less certain he wanted to find out.
After fishing it out of the tangle of alien items, he turned the can in his hand, and grinned when he found actual instructions written on the side. He pressed the button on the top of the can and an explosion of foam erupted from it. He jumped and dropped it. It clanked and clattered like gunshots in the sleeping house and he winced, hoping no one woke up because of the noise. He shook the foam off his hand and felt his chin. Maybe I can skip shaving for now, he thought.
Brushing his teeth at least seemed safe. The toothbrush didn’t look entirely alien, anyway. The package it was in was a different story. He fiddled and struggled and couldn’t get it open. Sighing in frustration, he listened carefully at the door, then lightly clapped his hands and brushed over an automail finger. He held up the finger that now sported a nice, sharp blade, and grinned. He used that to open the package. Take that, new world, he thought.
Looking around, he didn’t see a tin of tooth powder, but he was quickly figuring out that in this world, almost nothing was familiar. He spied a tube in a cup with other toothbrushes and he made the leap of logic that this must be what he was looking for. When he pulled it out of the cup and saw the writing on it, he nodded. It looked simple enough. Unscrew the cap; squeeze some of the paste on the brush.
He glanced down at the mess of foam in the sink and decided to proceed cautiously. Fortunately the toothpaste wasn’t under the pressure the shaving foam was, so Ed was relieved he could avert a second minor disaster.
Once Ed’s morning routine was completed without any more incidents and in relative quiet, he tip-toed through the living room and toward the kitchen. He tried his best to avoid the stacks of books and other clutter scattered about like landmines; but one stack snuck up on him and he toppled it with barely a nudge from a metal foot.
He froze in place when he heard a loud snort from the vicinity of the sofa and rolled his eyes cautiously in that direction. He had an apology ready, when he realized that Tom was still dead to the world. With a silent, relieved breath, he cautiously took a step away from the stack.
In the pale light of morning, he was able to notice more detail; such as the tons of framed photographs on the walls. Several of them were clearly quite a bit older than others; mostly of a young, broad-shouldered man in a military uniform, or the same man, a little older, in a police officer’s uniform. Newer photographs were of Reilly in groups accepting awards, or posing near crowds.
One framed item brought him up short. It was a newspaper clipping and the picture that accompanied it was of Reilly being led away… in handcuffs. Oh, great. I’m staying with a criminal. And she’s armed.
He squinted in the uncertain light, and peered closer at the article; and had to suppress a laugh. So, he thought. Not necessarily a criminal; more like an annoyance. She’d been arrested for something called ‘Civil Disobedience’. As he read closer, he learned she was among a group protesting some military action this country was taking over in the Middle East. He wasn’t so certain that what she did was smart, but he wasn’t about to begrudge her standing up for something like this.
Relieved that he wasn’t nesting amid a den of thieves, he tip-toed the rest of the way into the kitchen. Coffee was beginning to sound very good.
The sun was now higher up and filtering through the windows causing Ed to blink painfully at the bright yellow cabinets and white floors. In his opinion, that brightness was a cruel thing to do to morning eyes before any coffee was ingested.
He glanced around, wondering where Reilly kept her coffee pot hidden and saw the glass carafe sitting on a white base on the amazingly uncluttered counter. “Mr. Coffee” was spelled out in big black letters over the top of the carafe. Ed snorted. That was easy, he thought.
He looked the contraption over carefully and was grateful it wasn’t some bizarre thing with a million horns, bells and whistles. A place for the coffee, a place for the water, and a switch. Simple. It wasn’t difficult to figure out that the coffee wasn’t percolated, but brewed through a drip system.
Okay, maybe the 21st Century isn’t that bad after all, he thought as he pulled out the brass basket and dumped the old grounds down the drain with running water. He had everything set up, and popped the lid on the coffee can. The smell of ground coffee was something he loved and he felt his mood improve in anticipation of the bitter, black liquid.
He started to scoop coffee into the basket, when he heard Reilly’s front door open with a loud squeak. He hesitated and listened close; a knot of anxiety building up in his belly.
Whoever it was, they weren’t being sneaky. He heard heavy steps on the wood floor that stopped about the center. Then he heard an overly cheerful voice call out, “Hey! Reilly! Get your lazy ass up!” Ed relaxed just a little. Obviously it was a friend of hers. Albeit a rude one, in his opinion.
He crossed the kitchen and peeked around the corner. In the middle of the living room was a young man; not much older than Ed, with a thin case slung over his shoulder. His long black hair was pulled back in a pony tail, and he was wearing the loudest flower-print shirt Ed ever had the displeasure of seeing. Ed blinked and regretted looking directly at it when the after-image wouldn’t leave his eyes.
He stepped out and said, “Hello?”
The young man started and turned to him. He gave Ed an appraising look, and a slow, lascivious grin spread across his face, which didn’t endear him to Ed at all. “I didn’t know Reilly had a guest.” He took a few steps forward and held out his left hand. “Everyone calls me Ducky.”
Ed shoved his hands in the pockets of the sweat pants and nodded toward Tom, who hadn’t moved. “Might wanna keep it down.”
Ducky’s good humour didn’t dim any at the slight; but he snorted and slipped past Ed into the kitchen. “Dude, it would take a nuclear first strike at ground zero to wake his ass up. Trust me.”
Ducky unshouldered the case and lightly tossed it on the table. “Any coffee yet?”
Ed followed him in, keeping a wary eye on the case. “I was just making some.”
“Wunderbar!” Ducky said.
Ed stopped halfway across the kitchen and glanced back at the young man curiously. “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”
“I’ll take that as a ‘no’,” Ed said with a slight smile. He returned to the coffee, and started to scoop some grounds into the basket. He hesitated with a scoopful ready to dump, suddenly realizing he had no idea just how much he needed. He glanced back over his shoulder at Ducky and asked, “How strong does Reilly like her coffee?”
Without thinking about it, Ed was using his right hand and he suddenly felt self-conscious when he noticed Ducky was looking at it. Staring, actually. The young man blinked, and reddened. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean…”
Ed shrugged. Too late to hide it now. “Experimental prosthetic,” he said.
“Impressive,” Ducky said.
A smile tugged at the corner of Ed’s lips. “Thanks. I’ll let the person who made them know.”
Ed pointed down at his left foot and wriggled his toes to demonstrate. Ducky made a silent ‘O’ with his mouth.
Ed held up the scoop of grounds and raised his brows in a silent question.
“Oh. Two rounded scoops,” Ducky said. “Reilly likes her coffee to slap her awake.”
Ed started the brew while Ducky opened up the case and pulled out another one that looked a lot like what Reilly was using the night before. He watched curiously as he reached for the refrigerator door. Then his attention was pulled into the vast, white cavern filled with food. His eyes went wide and it took everything he had to keep his jaw from dropping. It was an unbelievable amount of food. Ed hadn’t seen this much at one time outside of a celebration in his life.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a hand on his shoulder and spun as Ducky sauntered past.
“Don’t bother,” he said, as he opened up a box on the counter and pulled out a bag full of bagels. “No one eats a big breakfast here.” He dug a sharp knife out of a drawer and sliced the bagel in half, then dropped each half into slots in a silver box and pushed a lever down. A moment later, Ed could smell the appetizing scent of toasting bagel. “Toss me the cream cheese…” Ducky hesitated and blinked. “You have a name, by the way?”
Ed searched the refrigerator and found a tub of cream cheese. He tossed it to Ducky, who caught it without actually looking; he was paying more attention to pulling out a plate from the upper cabinet. He set the plate down and pulled the lid off the tub, flipped it onto the counter, then pulled a cup from the tree next to the toaster box. He concentrated on pouring the coffee into the cup and casually picked the plate up, holding it in the air. With a low buzz, the lever for the toaster popped up and the two halves of the bagel were launched into the air. Ducky caught them on the plate deftly without even looking.
Ed just stared.
The other man glanced expectantly over at Ed, then broke out with a huge grin. “Name? Or are you another one of the anonymous toy-boys Reilly collects?”
Ed blinked and suddenly remembered the door to the refrigerator was still wide open. He shut it hastily and felt his face heating up. Toy-boy?! He’d never heard the phrase before, but he didn’t need to be a genius to figure out what was implied.
Ducky snickered and started spreading cream cheese on the bagel. “She’s always had a thing for the young blonde ones.” He shook his head. “Too bad about the others, though.”
Ed didn’t like where this conversation was headed. His back stiffened and his brows knitted in a scowl. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Ducky looked at him innocently and Ed couldn’t tell if it was real or not. Then the man’s expression became serious. “She did tell you about the gremlins, right?”
Ed shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. Now he was completely lost. “Gremlins?”
“Yeah, you know? Bugs? Glitches? Malfunctions in the electronics?”
Okay, Ed thought, I got malfunction. “What does this have to do with…” He choked on the phrase. “Toy-boys?”
Ducky snickered, and took a bite of his bagel. “The others tried to escape, but Reilly caught them and locked them in the shed out back. I’ll lay you ten to one odds that the ghosts in the machines are spirits of the ones she starved to death after she got bored with them.”
Ed was now firmly convinced Ducky was certifiably insane.
“Ducky,” a very sleepy and disheveled Reilly said through a yawn as she shuffled into the kitchen. “Keep fucking with his head like that and you’ll be the next one in the shed!”
He snorted and took his coffee and bagel to the table.
Reilly slipped past Ed and squeezed his shoulder. “He’s full of shit, Ed. Just remember that.”
“Ah-hah! So the new toy-boy does have a name,” Ducky said.
“I’m not a toy-boy!” Ed snapped.
Reilly turned from slicing her bagel and faced Ducky with the knife pointed in his direction. “You’re pushing it, shit-head.”
The young man snickered and ducked his head; suddenly very intent on the hard case he’d opened up. Ed heard a series of whirs, beeps and chirps emanating from it, then saw it begin to glow. He really wanted to get a closer look at the thing, but he didn’t want to get any closer to this “Ducky” person, either. He knew if he was within swinging distance and Ducky made another toy-boy comment, he’d be forced to smash his face in with an automail fist; and he didn’t think Reilly would appreciate blood all over her white floors.
Instead, he parked himself on the opposite side of the kitchen, next to the coffee, and concentrated on getting some of the black liquid into his system. He was pretty much left to his own devices at that point as Reilly settled across the table from Ducky with her breakfast and opened up her own case.
The two of them tapped at their keyboards in silence for a bit, then Reilly glanced up and asked, “Ready?” Ducky nodded. And she hit one key.
A moment later, Ducky said, “Got it.”
A horrible sound erupted from Ducky’s case that made Ed jump and his teeth itch. “What the hell is that?” he asked.
“EVP,” Reilly said absently. She didn’t even look in Ed’s direction. Instead she was concentrating on her own case.
“Maybe,” Ducky corrected. “This is pretty dirty. Where’d you get it?”
“One of the kids in the group caught it night before last at the old Abbott Mansion.”
Ducky looked up, and it was the first genuinely serious look Ed had seen from the guy. He didn’t think he was capable. “B and E? You know that makes it invalid.”
Reilly took a sip of her coffee and nodded. “Yeah. Stupid shit. We’ve been negotiating for months and he pulls this crap. But I’m still curious. And he insists there’s something there.”
Ed just listened. None of it made much sense to him as it was, but from the way the two of them were talking, he had a feeling that the meanings should be obvious.
That was, if he was from this time.
Reilly would understand his confusion, but Ducky had no idea of his situation, and Ed had no intentions of volunteering the information.
The strange, teeth-itching sound burst out of the case again. It sounded to Ed like wind in a tunnel, with a lot of static thrown in. Ducky’s head tilted as he listened intently, then he shook his head when it stopped. “I’m not hearing it.”
“That’s why I asked you to clean it up, noob.”
“Damn, and all this time I thought it was for my bubbly personality and sparkling wit.”
“Nope, I just want you for your—“
“My body?” Ducky interrupted, with a hopeful look on his face that made Ed think of a begging puppy.
“—mad computer skills,” Reilly finished, thoroughly unphased.
Ducky just snorted, and played the sound back again. The wind-tunnel noise had been reduced and the static was almost gone; and Ed heard something very vague underneath.
“Hmmm. Maybe he did catch something,” Ducky said, then tapped at the keyboard again.
“By the way, I have something else for you when you get done here,” Reilly said.
“I should start charging you.”
“I feed you.”
“You win,” Ducky said with a grin. “So what do you want of me, now?”
Reilly nodded toward Ed, and said, “His brother is missing. We need to find him.”
“That’s Tom’s thing, Reilly.”
She gave Ducky a level stare and said, “You do freelance for Tom in missing persons, too.”
“He pays me.”
“I let you live.”
If it hadn’t been for the mild tones in their banter, Ed would seriously question his personal safety. The more he just kept quiet and listened though, the more convinced he was that they may be nuts, but they weren’t a threat. Except maybe to his sanity.
Once the coffee had circulated his system and kicked in, his mood wasn’t quite so prickly. Ducky seemed more intent on making bizarre sounds come from his case, anyway; and Ed’s curiosity was starting to get the better of him. He poured himself a second cup, and crept closer to the table.
He made it about halfway, when Ducky played the noise back again; cleaner this time. The sound that came from the case chilled his blood and made him feel faint. He barely registered the sound of something shattering, or the feel of hot liquid splattering on his bare, flesh foot.
Through the staticky wind-tunnel noise that had been damped down, Ed could swear he heard a plaintive, frightened child’s voice. “Mommy!”
“Wrath?” he whispered.
His knees became liquid, and he felt a strong hand on his left shoulder. “Ed?”
He blinked and turned to see Reilly’s concerned face hovering nearby. He let her guide him to the chair and he slumped down into it, not really feeling it under him. She gripped his chin and tilted his head up. “Breathe, Ed.”
Ducky snickered and said, “Damn, I know it was creepy, but I never saw anyone freak out like that befo—Ow!”
Reilly cuffed Ducky across the back of his head and that snapped Ed out of his shock. “What the bloody hell was that?” he asked.
Reilly gave him a satisfied smile, and went to clean up the mess he’d made when he dropped his cup. “It’s called EVP,” she said as she knelt down to gather up the broken shards of ceramic. “Electronic Voice Phenomena.”
Ducky spun his case around so Ed could see. The boy blinked at the brilliant color on the inside of the lid; a picture of verdant green hills under a brilliant blue sky. It looked like a photograph, but unreal in the vividness of the color. At the bottom of the picture was a black band that went all the way across. Within the band was a thin gold line that formed irregular spikes.
“EVP is collected by recording the ambient sounds in a place that may, or may not be haunted,” Ducky said. “Sounds that the human ear won’t pick up can, in theory, be captured with recorders. Then we filter out the white noise, clean it up, and maybe have something that might be a ghost.”
Ed gave the other man a disbelieving look. “You believe in ghosts?”
Ducky smirked. “Not really.”
Reilly settled back in her seat, and said, “We’re skeptics in this. But we don’t discount the possibility of ‘if’.” She pointed at the picture. “Problem is, paranormal research isn’t exactly considered ‘science’, and morons like the kid who collected this don’t help matters. We have to be extra careful to follow the rules of research, if we’re going to prove anything one way or another.”
“Which means, this particular EVP is inadmissible as evidence,” Ducky said. He glanced up at Reilly. “Delete?”
She nodded. “It’s useless, and my curiosity is satisfied.”
Ducky taped a few keys, and the black band disappeared. Ed blinked. “How’d you do that?”
The other man gave him a puzzled look, but Reilly prevented the question from finding a voice. “Ducky, there’s something on the coffee table I want you to see.”
Without another word, he got up from the table and went to the living room. Reilly gave Ed an apologetic look. “I went through your pockets last night. Sorry, but I wanted to be sure.”
Ed nodded. He could understand.
“What the fuck?” Ducky shouted from the living room. A moment later he was back in the kitchen with a Reichmark in his hands, staring down at it in awe. “How the hell did you get your hands on a museum piece like this?”
“It’s not a museum piece,” Reilly said.
Ducky looked from Ed, to Reilly, and back. Comprehension slowly flooded his face and he sunk slowly into the chair. “No fucking way,” he whispered.
“Way,” Reilly said over the rim of her cup.
“You know what this means?” he said with a huge, excited grin.
“It means we can’t say jack shit, Ducky.”
Ed cast a wary look from Ducky to Reilly. She shook her head. “He’s a psycho, but he’s ethical, Ed. He won’t tell anyone.”
Ducky suddenly started laughing hard. He gasped between fits and said, “This is just too rich. Typical Reilly luck!”
“Oh, kiss my ass,” she said with a mock scowl.
“I don’t understand,” Ed said.
“Ed, I’ve been researching leylines and the theory that where several of them connect there is a gate. You’re proof that I was right. Except I can’t use you as proof. I’m not going to let you be locked up in some lab somewhere.”
Ed shuddered at the very thought. “Thank you,” he said softly. “Really.”
Tom shuffled into the kitchen rubbing his eyes and everyone turned to him. “What’s all the bru-ha-ha?” he asked. His bleary gaze landed on Ed first, then Ducky, who was wiping his eyes and finally getting himself under control. “Oh,” he said. “I take it Ducky’s been told Ed ain’t from around here, huh?”
“So what’s next?” Ducky said. “Getting him settled and integrated?”
Reilly gave him a seductive smile and he winced. “Aw, man! Do you know how much work I’m gunna have now?”
“Let’s not forget we need to locate a little brother, too,” Reilly purred.
Ducky buried his face in his hands and shook his head. “You’re so gunna owe me for this, Reilly.”
“I’ll buy an espresso machine if you pull this off.”
Ducky looked up and grinned. “Deal.”
Ed barely listened to the conversation that rolled around him. This morning was quickly taking on a sense of absurd unreality, and he wasn’t sure how to start dealing with it.
The conversation concerned him as well, but other things caught his attention. Like the little box that kept popping up in the lower corner of the picture on Ducky’s case and fading right away.
“What’s that,” he asked finally.
“What’s what?” Ducky asked.
Ed leaned forward and squinted. A moment later, the box popped up again, and Ed pointed. “That.”
As his finger came closer, however, a small static charge leapt from his finger to the screen; the picture jumped, and looked like it was breaking into a million little squares. Ed jerked his hand back and the picture returned to normal.
“Whoah,” Ducky said. “Major pixilation!”
Reilly gestured at the picture. “The image on the screen is made up of tiny squares called pixels. Looks like you have an effect on computers, my friend.”
Tom moved to stand between Ed and Reilly, and stared down at the cases. “The metal limbs, you think?”
Ed looked at each of them, not comprehending exactly what the problem was. Tom gently gripped his shoulder and said. “You might not want to touch the computers around here very much; you seem to attract a lot of static, thanks to those limbs.”
Ed groaned low and rubbed at his temples. He decided he was officially overwhelmed. Pixies, computers, EVP. None of it made any sense, and everything around him was starting to look more and more alien. He slowly laid his head down on his arms on the table. And I thought coming through the gate to 1920’s Germany with their planes and zeppelins was bad, he thought. What else am I going to come across that makes no sense?
“Information overload,” Ducky said. “Bet you wished you’d taken the blue pill, huh, Ed?”
Ed just peeked up from his arms and gave Ducky a very confused look, before letting his forehead plop onto his arms. “That’s it. I’m in Hell.”
He’d been stranded here for four years, and he still wasn’t used to any of it. The culture was frenetic, the air was a mess, the people were all idiots, and he was sick to death of everyone always asking the same damned question.
“Is that your real name, Agent Bond?”
He wanted to murder the woman. “Yes!” he wanted to yell as he reduced her to her component alchemic parts. He knew how to do that, too. He’d been working on some terribly interesting methods in Xenotime, and he’d just been itching to test a few out. Unfortunately, murder wasn’t conducive to information gathering, and it was generally frowned on in society. Especially when it came to agents of the law. He thought it a rather stupid way to go about keeping people under control, but that was America for you.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and wished for the hundredth time that he hadn’t used his real name when he created his identity in this strange world. “Yes,” he finally ground out, “my name is James Bond. I prefer to go by Sidney.”
The nurse, Breach according to her nametag, seemed unaffected. “Your parents didn’t like you very much, did they?”
Sidney wanted to strangle her, have a smoke, and get a decent cuppa. In that order. But she was the only moderately informed person in the entire building, and that simply wasn’t going to work. He ignored her comment and went back to his line of questions.
“Can you elaborate on the boy’s condition? I need to question him regarding the chain of events of last night.”
The nurse shrugged noncommittally. “He woke up once, but he’s really in no condition to answer questions yet.”
That was it. He had been shuffled around through all the red tape and sidestepped for at least four hours and now he was being given the runaround by the most useless human being he’d ever met. He turned his wrist, ostensibly to check the time, but mostly to activate the array he’d drawn into it. Just a quick twist and Nurse Breach would be nothing more than an unpleasant memory, just like so many Ishballans.
Sidney abruptly remembered that this was not Amestris, the free-kill order under Generals Grand and Hakuro had lapsed, and they were standing on white linoleum. The bloodstains would never come out, and there was the pesky issue of killing someone in open public. Damnit. He could always claim it was in the interest of national security. It wasn’t strictly a lie, either; it just wasn’t in the interest of American national security. He decided to give up on the nurse, and he stormed down to the cafeteria. At the very least, he wanted a mediocre cup of tea.