Aviario: The Archivists

03. The Betrayer's Trunk

In which training takes a hard, fast turn.

It is June 2012 – two months have passed since the events in New Orleans. Nick and Shandra have been training with their Organization seniors on a weekly basis … specifically, anima training with Crowley. Shandra is fine with this development, Nick far less so – to the point that he calls Caroline after each training session to vent his frustrations. On the way to this particular Saturday morning session, the pair hatch a plan to get the drop on Crowley during training. Nick “borrows” a ring from the archives which will render Crowley mute if he manages to land a punch to his face. They head up to their lesson, only to find that he isn’t on the 2nd floor of the Organization in the training room.

In his place is Bart, a member of the old guard who has been retired for quite some time and is happy to be so. He informs Nick and Shandra that Janus and Crowley are busy in a meeting, and that he will be training them… and is extremely amused to hear that they’d planned to knock Crowley on his smug ass. Nick makes an instant ally, and after he and Shandra fill Bart in on the extent of their training so far, the retiree decides to take things a step farther.

Down in the basement – which neither really visited due to it only being the site of the mill kitchens – Bart asks Nick to open a ley line. He does, and finds that he is able to control the energy so that part of the line will follow open behind him … the real-time equivalent of map trails in movies. Thus outfitted, Bart leads the pair into a narrow, dark underground corridor, where Shandra learns how to create and hold fire, and Nick learns a bit about how to manipulate earth. Their new skills come with many more questions, though: why is there a maze beneath the Organization? Why are the walls made out of solid dirt? Where does it go? Interesting …

Shandra makes a poor decision by releasing her fireball into a stack of cans in the basement, which covers them all in sticky soda. Only Bart’s quick reflexes with his own Earth skills save them from being covered in aluminum shrapnel, as well, and they clean up in the kitchen. When Nick complains that it’s still not clean enough, Bart turns the sink hose on him, then sends him up to the third floor to wash off in the spa room while Shandra chills out and chats. Nick is more than happy to clean himself up … but is dismayed to see Felicia Sabrien, Janus’ right-hand-woman, discovering the purloined archival ring in his clothes. She withholds punishment, but tells Nick that Janus will still, indeed, hear of the development. By the time Nick returns to the training room, they have a visitor: Officer Troy MacLaren, Janus’ newest Informer. He tells them that a sinkhole of sorts was discovered in the North End, with a large trunk inside.

Shandra and Nick hitch a ride to the sinkhole site with Troy in his cruiser (Nick drawing the short straw and having to cram himself into the backseat). The site turns out to be where a shopping center was meant to be built, before the head of the project, the town selectmen, put a rather abrupt end to his life two years ago. The trunk in the sinkhole is very clearly an artifact: ancient, but in near-perfect condition. Nick pulls it up out of the hole with help from his newly-discovered ability, but Shandra’s hands begin to shake as she reaches for the trunk. When Nick expresses his concern, they argue, and Shandra blasts him for “trying to be her father” and reveals that she’s been “seeing a shrink” since shortly after they returned to New Orleans. Angry and frustrated, she storms off to the opposite side of the construction site, leaving Troy in the middle to try and smooth things over. He calls Ral to come and use his van to haul the trunk to the Organization, then speaks with Shandra, telling her there’s no shame in seeing someone to talk about how crazy life can get.

Back at the mill, they have an awkward reconciliation, then attempt to open up the trunk. It is sealed with some form of magic, and Nick manages to wrangle it open with help from an enchanted, lime-green 6" prybar. After a little mockery, they examine its contents: a diary dating from the Civil War era, and dossiers on every member of the Organization in Aviario from that time period. The diary belongs to Eustace Preston, and it details his purpose for becoming an Informer: to be a double agent and record everything he can about the Organization for his original employers. He does not mention the employers by name, but there is a very familiar symbol inscribed on the inside cover: the same circle within a triangle that Shandra saw on Hali’id’s desktop wallpaper. The last recorded entry in Eustace’s journal is addressed to his son, Grant, telling him that he needs to flee the country for his family’s safety. Eustace tells Grant that he will find the trunk in the basement, and that the information within is his inheritance and will help bring him good fortune. Clearly, the younger Preston never found his inheritance, but Nick finds dossiers on Janus, Felicia Sabrien, Amelia, Owen, someone named Aaron Hopewell, and their new friend Bart among the pile. Upon showing Bart their findings, he explains that Eustace Preston’s house burned in a fire in 1871, and took him along with it. They decide to interrupt Janus, important meeting be damned.

Janus comes out of his quarters and meets with the three of them, and is ecstatic that they recovered the trunk, much to Shandra and Nick’s surprise. He is not worried in the least, mostly because he knows that the information is safe and never fell into the wrong hands. When Shandra brings up the correlation between Eustace’s journal and the data she hacked from Hali’id, however, he becomes disturbed. Shandra laments her inability to recognize the language the data is coded in, and asks Bart if he might recognize it. Luckily for them, he does: it’s Sanskrit. A few language packs on her smartphone later, Shandra is staring at a file full of scientific terminology she doesn’t understand, but doesn’t like the look of, either. The Laptop File is almost its own language, but there’s mention of DNA sequencing, gene therepy, and an anagram: SUNEX, which Shandra rearranges to NEXUS.

As they begin to pick at the threads they’ve found, Shandra begins to poke around on her phone, trying to find the meaning behind the mysterious symbol. Success yields a simplified version of the eye-in-the-pyramid: a very old insignia of the Illuminati. Horror engulfs Nick, as he remembers a pair of his father’s favorite cufflinks: gold triangles with a diamond set high in the center. His father, who worked for an auctionhouse which dealt in antiques …

The game closes with Janus promising to try and find them a scientist who can help decipher The Laptop File, and Shandra and Nick resolving to find out as much as they can about Gregory Forsythe’s auctionhouse.

h3. Quotes

  • “No one pays you to be a hacker.”
    “Does Janus pay anyone for anything?” – Nick & Shandra
  • “Do you forget it’s Saturday EVERY Saturday?” – Nick
  • “Pop-tarts are lies. Filthy, sugary lies.” – Nick, while discussing what constitutes proper breakfast food
  • “If nothing else, he’ll die laughing, so either way, it’s gonna work.” – Shandra, on their plan to overpower Crowley in training
  • “I will name him Franklin.” – Nick, re: his ley line ‘shadow’
  • “You know, for someone so smart, you’re a DUMBASS.” – Shandra, to Nick

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