With a grunt, Lennie set the last box of books on the cart. “That’s all of them.”
Nickie checked the clipboard and the number on the box. “Yep. How did you manage to collect so much stuff?”
The squeaking wheels accompanied them to the elevator. “I’m sort of a pack rat. I hate to get rid of anything.”
A Scryer emerged from the elevator. “Lennie, congratulations on your promotion.”
A black outline surrounded the man and Nickie moved behind Lennie. That’s the guy I saw in the cafeteria yesterday.
“Thanks, Stan. How you doing?”
“I’m doing fine. I rarely come down here, but I needed to look something up.”
“This is Nickie Atlan, my Archivist Apprentice.”
He held out his hand. “Lynda told me about her. Nice to meet you, Nickie.”
Nickie quickly shook it and darted behind Lennie again. “Nice to meet you, sir.”
“I better get going. Looks like you have a lot to do as well. Lynda will call next week about the four of us getting together.” With a nod he wandered away.
“What has gotten into you, Nickie? You didn’t act this way around Lynda.” Lennie pushed the button for the fifth floor.
“That was the guy I saw in the cafeteria yesterday. The one with the black outline.”
“Are you sure? Stan’s one of the best Scryers in the Archive. He’s one of the rare ones, able to touch a person or object and gain information from them.”
Nickie wiped her hand on her jeans. “Shit! And I shook his hand! What if he knows about this ability I have?”
“The problem is, we don’t know what the ability is for. What do the black outlines mean? I searched the database last night, but didn’t find anything.”
“I’ll tell Brant about this. He might have an idea what it means.” Moments later she sent the message.
“Could it be tied to my memory loss?”
“There’s so much we don’t know about people who were affected by that damn comet. I think a lot are afraid to come forward, fearing they will be locked away.”
“I don’t blame them.” Nickie looked up from her computer. “You won’t let them lock me away, right?”
“If they tried, there would be murder, I can promise you that, Nickie.”
“Good. Ok, I’m logged into the Archive System.”
“Great. Start your official Journal and remember to keep to the facts. Your personal journal you can speculate and hypothesize. I’m glad we didn’t have to move the furniture in here. We won’t finish unpacking the boxes today, since Shannon and the others will arrive soon. I want to get back to that building tomorrow and begin the search for more metal pieces.”
“I hope that Shadow creature has moved on. Any new reports from that area?”
“Nope. That’s another thing I need to do; go through the reports for the city. I need more hours in the day.”
“I could do that for you. Weed out the ones that aren’t full of weirdness.”
“Good idea. Access the City Reports for the past two days. That should keep you busy while I run down to the cafeteria to get coffee and donuts for the meeting.”
The door burst open and Shannon Leary entered, bearing three bags and a box. “Lennie, if you hadn’t of requested me for this assignment, I would never speak to you again.” She kicked the door closed.
“Hi Shannon, early as usual. I’m glad Nickie suggested I get a table and chairs for this office.” Lennie gave her friend a hug. “What did you bring me?”
“Who says these are for you? After all, you have an Apprentice now and I bet you didn’t get the gear she needs for exploring abandoned buildings and the like.” She set the items on the table and held out her hand. “Hi Nickie, I’m Shannon Leary, the best explorer the Archive has.”
Nickie shook her hand. “What do you mean by ‘gear’?”
“The usual: walkie-talkie, GPS, hard hat, rope, tactical vest, tool kit, sample jars.” She opened the box, “and donuts. I hope you have plenty of coffee, Lennie.”
“Brought up a jug from the cafeteria, freshly made.” Lennie poured three cups.
“The others will arrive soon. They need to get cleaned up first.”
“Their jeep got stuck in the mud and they had to push it out. They were working at the Ansel Ruins outside the city. With the rain we had, it’s turned into a mud hole.” Shannon grabbed a donut. “Looks like someone else is digging around the Crayson Ruins, but I don’t think they’re connected with the Archive. Lot of tents and tarps hide their activity and they have armed guards.”
“Did you tell the Head Archivist?” Lennie set a donut in front of Nickie.
“Yes, I told Aunt Serena this morning at breakfast. She was not amused.”
“Your aunt heads the Archive?”
“Yup. She says the worst part of the job is dealing with politicians of various cities. They think they should have a bigger say in who gets to explore these ruins. A lot of rich people like to have these places searched and keep what they find for themselves. They pay a lot of money to politicians for this.”
“Which means The Archive loses out on possible clues and answers for what’s happened.” Fingers drummed on the table. “There’s one name that’s been cropping up lately, Reginald Aston. Word’s out that he’s willing to pay big bucks for anything people find in the ruins and abandoned buildings.”
“But aren’t there laws against this? Why isn’t anyone enforcing them?” Nickie refilled the coffee cups and grabbed another donut.
“When money talks, people tend to ignore the law. I’ve heard there have been break-ins and the only things stolen were old books, journals, and weird-looking items.” Shannon shook her head. “Lennie, I hope you have your stuff in a secure place.”
“Until Nickie and I move to a new apartment building, I’ve moved all my important journals, books, and items to the secure storage here. Only Brant, Nickie, or I can access them.”
A thud against the door made them jump. “Hey, open the door!”
“I believe James and Ryan have arrived.”
Nickie opened the door. The two men carried boxes of pizza and pop. The aroma of the pizza made her mouth water.
A black outline surrounded one of the men and she hurried back to her. Great, another one has that outline. I need to tell Lennie. She wrote a quick note and slid it to her.
Lennie read the note. Nickie grabbed a red pen from the table and scratched her head with it. “Ryan, was it your idea to get the pizza and pop?”
“Sure was. The last time the four of us had a planning session, I nearly starved.” Ryan Jones opened the boxes.
James Leary handed out the pop. “I see my wife provided the sugar boost we all need.”
“Of course.” She gave him a quick hug. “Lennie, why don’t you tell us where we’ll be exploring.”
Nickie helped herself to a slice of pizza, watching Ryan from the corner of her eye. Every once in a while a strange look passed over his face and she shuddered. I don’t like him. There’s something not right about him, but I don’t know what.