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I was at the cafe in the Unnatural History Museum when things exploded. Luckily it was on the first floor so we had time to run outside with our lattes as the building collapsed, and were safely across the street in time to see the massively previously-extinct Mesozoic-relative creature floundering to life, chomping and crashing and gasping for air as it destroyed the building.
Somebody must have gotten that fossilized fish skeleton wet. Just glad it wasn't me.
Boulders of concrete and portions of unnatural specimens rained over us, crushing bystanders. I maneuvered myself away from the fray and saw the giant creature pause and orient itself to the beach. It was a good ten klicks to the sea, but the airship docks were a straight shot. I needed to beat this dinosaur-fish to the water, but the public transport was down for sure.
"Rose???" There was a dusty body in the rubble before me. "Uh... we've met. I'm @Billy Sabab. I think I know what's going on here. Could you give me a hand?"
It was that bozo from Old Habitsform. What was he doing here?
I wrested him up from the dust. "If you have a quick route to the airship docks it would be real handy" I said.
"Yeah my crew has been itching for this. Just a sec," and he pulled a com-pad from his pocket.
Destiny City is all a bit too clean and shiny for my tastes. The Shining Spires are just an architectural gimmick to attract tourists. Some of the best food carts in the universe used to be here before they kicked them out to build the fancy new hotels. Sure, there's still the museums, but they lack the academic integrity they used to have. I'd take Old Habitsform any day of the week.
That said, the city does have all the modern efficiencies. I docked the Egregore at the state-of-the-art aerodrome and took the maglev downtown. The Voracious Mouths of Yesterday exhibit at the Unnatural History Museum opens tomorrow, so me and "The Traits, Features, Characteristics, Peculiarities, Mannerisms, Qualities, and Attributes of the Hymergian Man-Fungus," with fold-out illustrations intact, including one Fossilized Fish Skeleton neatly pressed between the pages, will be checking in at the Fritz-Carolsson tonight.
Grade 7 Artifactual Containment and Control is great against sinister and uncanny forces, but not necessarily waterproof. Or even water resistant. So it was really the worst time to be blindsided by a typhoonette while skimming the waters of Skrizoom, trying to shoot the needle. On a clear day at low tide, clearing the arches is child's play. Plush, it shaves hours off the long way around.
But somewhere between the gale-force winds shattering the windscreen, the torrential downpour that came through it, followed by the sea spray kicked up by the waves, my tea was overturned, nearly drenching the thin, transparent envelope with the fossilized fish skeleton in it.
Maybe I should put it between the pages of a book. Like a pressed flower.
A book like "The Traits, Features, Characteristics, Peculiarities, Mannerisms, Qualities, and Attributes of the Hymergian Man-Fungus," with fold-out illustrations intact.
Destiny City, here we come.
Mr. Sticks runs a clean, professional operation. The Manse du Mask was a brand new office park, and suite 227 was all floor to ceiling windows and hyper-white interiors. After proving my identity with my papers and a series of previously agreed upon hand signals, I was given an envelope.
"This fossilized fish is mighty slim," I said.
The agent humored me with a smile.
"Address and paperwork for the pickup," she said.
I took a bicycle taxi to the other side of town. The warehouse district. There were suitable areas for landing an airship--if you could clear out the ground transport.
I entered into a sister office of the first, all bright white and windows. I presented my credentials, and was escorted through a series of security checkpoints and increasingly thick steel doors, and finally to a high tech ice chest on a lab table.
The agent worked through a suite of biometric tests, opening compartments inside compartments in the box.
Using a pair of tweezers, she lifted a slim, transparent envelope from the innermost drawer, and handed it to me.
"Do not crease or fold. And whatever you do, DON'T GET IT WET!"
Ship's Log: Grabbed some quick pick-up work because we're in the neighborhood. The Egregore carries a Grade 7 Artifactual Containment and Control Rating, which is the only choice for the discerning collector. I run a tight ship, and the added safety is absolutely worth the fee I charge. But can you really put a price on resting easy? Is any fee too high to ensure the safety of a city block, or whatever the potential blast radius of your eldritch time bomb is? Or to prevent the unleashing forces that will consume this universe and shit it out upside down into hell?
I thought not.
Job claimed by Rose Nomenclature 2019-04-06 22:40:00
Fossilized Fish Skeleton needs transport to the Voracious Mouths of Yesterday exhibit at the Unnatural History Museum, Destiny City.
Pickup at the Manse du Mask, suite 227, Cloverton. Half up front, and half upon return.
I'm really quite happy just merely OWNING "The Traits, Features, Characteristics, Peculiarities, Mannerisms, Qualities, and Attributes of the Hymergian Man-Fungus." It looks good on the coffee table in my cabin. There's no other crew on the ship except me, so I don't have to worry about anyone else opening it and losing their minds. And when I want to look at it, I put on the glasses so I can safely enjoy its lurid illustrations.
Ah, the glasses. They turned out to be a real added bonus. I think @Billy Sabab threw them in just because, well, the book will drive you mad if you look at it without them. But I've been looking at other things with them. Clouds. Landscapes. Maps. Depending on how you adjust the dials and switches all over the glasses, you can see all kinds of different things. Too bad they don't come with their own manual.
"The Traits, Features, Characteristics, Peculiarities, Mannerisms, Qualities, and Attributes of the Hymergian Man-Fungus," with fold-out illustrations intact. You can't even look at it without the right glasses or you go crazy. And I got a pair of those too.
Met Bill, some junkman, who sold them to me at the Rotting Worm Book Faire in Old Habitsform. He wasn't even a licensed Dangerous Antiquities Dealer. However, unless the glasses are their own elaborate hoax, it appears to be authentic.
Bill obviously didn't know what it was worth, and he wasn't terribly interested in haggling. Either he just needed the money quick, or he was trying to figure out how to ask me to dinner.
I didn't give him the chance for the latter.
The whole "dangerous and haunted artifacts" thing can get to be a grind. After a few dozen enchanted animal skulls; a small gym's worth of possessed swords, daggers, sentient shuriken, demon whips; whispering and bleeding statues that moan in the night; soul-famished sweaters that bind the face and neck to extract the spirit of the wearer; baseball hats that give visions of indescribable horror; it can feel like you're just some kind of removalist, hired by the hour by another whiny rich collector who wouldn't know a dybbuk box from a Basano vase if it hit them in the head. And I've been tempted.
But the Cessation caper has reawakened my interest in books. Books! What beautiful, powerful things. A quick flip through the Zeppelin Nickel Ads & Estate Sale Register indicates that the Rotting Worm Book Faire in Old Habitsform is within range. Surely there will be some dangerous and haunted booksellers there with wealth and taste who may have need of my services. Perhaps I'll pick up something for myself while I am there.
Well the Psychic High School adventure turned out to be a near thing, but the retrieval of dangerous and haunted artifacts often does. Especially when they're held in a library as well guarded as Psyhigh's.
The easiest (and safest) approach was to check the book out, and then "forget" to return it. For such an endeavor I'd need to create a "fill-in" for myself, a homunculus, a rapid prototype clone which could take my place perfectly, reacting in all the right ways, having all my memories and idiosyncrasies, but with the distinct difference of not being "me" -- merely a robot, made out of some old roots, green tutia, sulfur, some fingernail clippings, and a page from my diary. Then, this body-double homunculus would apply for a library card, dutifully wait for the library card to arrive in the mail (successfully passing the battery of physical and psychic tests), then calmly walk into the library, check out the book, and walk out. Once back at her dorm room (we'd have to enroll my double into the school as well) I would creep in through the window at night and remove the book, delivering it immediately to the client (you don't want to remain in the vicinity of dangerous and haunted books for any length of time if you can help it). Then, when the book was overdue and the Library Police break down the door of my double, she can honestly claim that she lost it (and did not steal it) and instead of the usual punishments for stealing library books, she would only be subjected to the minimum sentence of working in the Psyhigh cafeteria for 17 years, the best 17 years of her life, where she made friends with all the lunch ladies, engaging in the camaraderie of hard, unappreciated labor for years upon years, then upon release consider getting a master's degree. That would be the easiest and safest.
But in this case, we had a deadline. So skipped the whole homunculus thing and just walked out with it. Bit of a scuffle on the way out. Delivered the book to the client and dropped their payment into my growing "vat of wishes." Just don't seem to use those up fast enough.