The message came in with coordinates that were ready to be plugged directly into the Sieve. This caused quite a stir and no small amount of speculation as to who the mysterious “M.C.” that had signed the hand-written note could be. Few outside the Initiative are even aware of the Sieve, much less the arrangement of harmonic frequencies and quantum resonances that comprise the data set for translocation to a specific place in the Verses.
The mysterious circumstances surrounding the arrival of the message further compound interest as the appointed time for the meeting draws nearer. There is always someone on the front desk, and most of the time, there are two agents. Even if one is on a break, the other remains; there is no time in which reception is unmanned. The piece of paper, addressed to you specifically, however, just seemed to appear out of thin air. Neither of the agents that were working the desk during the time that it must have been delivered remember anything or anyone out of the ordinary. The agent who found the note said that it was definitely not there no more than five decimes before he noticed it; the counter had been completely empty when he sanitized it per protocol.
Sure, a message that was dropped off without anyone noticing is probably far from the strangest thing that you’ll encounter with the Initiative this buildcycle, but coupled with the unusual knowledge of the Sieve’s coordinate system, the implication is that “M.C.” is an individual of unusual means. What they don’t know, however, is that the energy crisis that is plaguing the Initiative at the moment means that using the Sieve for travel is not feasible, particularly for a single individual to pursue a cryptic invitation.
The location in question, though, is in Proxima, but it’s close enough to the border with Gloom that the spark-charged Portarray’s resonant energy should be able to take a single agent there and back without issue. It’s not within normal safety parameters for agents to undertake solo missions unless they are going undercover, and that almost always means traveling through portals. Given the bizarre circumstances surrounding the note, and the fact that it was addressed to you specifically, though, the SEA lead relented on the policy without much resistance. Finding out exactly how much an outsider knows about the Initiative’s technology, and how, is essential to overall safety, so your plan to make the rendezvous was approved. Using the Gloomspark device for outbound travel and return might also facilitate lower energy consumption in the future, if it proves to be a workable solution.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
You expect the translation to take on some of the grim, staticky flavor you’ve experienced in the Sieve when traveling to Gloom, because of the nature of the spark’s origin, but you are pleasantly surprised to discover that it is warmer and brighter than you remember, before it fades away to the neutral, natural feeling of Proxima. You’ve arrived a bit early, and a small distance away from the indicated coordinates, for a bit of reconnaissance and familiarization with the territory on the off chance that things go sour during your meeting. The environment you find yourself in is a bit muggy, though cool, with the temperature falling in synchronous coincidence with the rising full moon that casts a soft white glow over the landscape.
As you cautiously crest a small hillock that stands between you and your destination, you realize that the appointed meeting place which you can now look down into is a graveyard! Of course, the last time you found yourself in one, the circumstances were significantly more dire than this, and it turned out well, eventually resulting in a new chance for the Cursed Kingdom and a friendship with Selena, not to mention the creation of the very technology that brought you here today. Still, you can think of a variety of places that you would prefer to use to arrange a parley.
As the appointed hour draws near, you notice a figure emerge from the shadows of one of the above ground mausoleums, though it appears almost as if it were a part of the shadow itself, breaking free from its tether to the dark space, and taking form. Rising up above the tombstones, the figure of a tall man, clothed entirely in swirling black, from Homburg hat down to shiny shoes, throws its arms back in a dramatic gesture at flight, and begins to float forward toward the point of the coordinates. His skin looks unnaturally grey, though it could just be a trick of the silvery moonlight. There’s no mistaking the deep garnet color of his eyes, however, appearing to radiate their own soft red glow.
He is not by any means the most frightening thing that you have seen in your adventures with the Initiative, but there is nevertheless a prickle running down your spine at the sight of something so foreign. He could be a character out of a scary text or vid, and his choice of meeting place doesn’t do much to take away from the sense of apprehension that you feel. Still, the note you received was written in a friendly tone, and it’s clear that whoever left it not only has the ability to do things unseen, but also the ability to gather sensitive information from inside the Hub. It’s likely that if harm was intended, it would have come in a different form than a request for a face-to-face in a cemetery.
You notice that the floating figure is starting to swivel his head to and fro, likely scanning the area for your presence. It will only be a matter of time before his scarlet gaze registers your position on top of the hill. You have to decide quickly what you think the best course of action is.
A: move back down the other side of the hill pronto? It might be the safest option, but removing yourself from his line of sight also means removing him from yours. It also likely means leaving without learning anything.
B: move forward as stealthily as possible and attempt to find a vantage point? You might be spotted as you go, but if you can make it to a group of tombstones, you should be able to see what he’s doing from a concealed position.
C: move forward with confidence and purpose? Announcing yourself and demonstrating that you aren’t frightened is in line with the Initiative’s core values, and transparency is the bedrock of strong relationships.
D: call out from your current position? If you sense rising danger, you can always flee back down the hill and ship retrieval before anything untoward happens, but you came here for information, and you’re going to have to talk to him to get it, one way or another.
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[Upon review of this anecdotal solo mission that exists more in the realm of lore than in official records of the Initiative, 8 agents concluded unanimously that the agent made the correct choice in proceeding confidently with the rendezvous. No votes for other options were registered.]
You came here to have a conversation, and you’re not going to let the impulse to judge a book by its cover govern your interactions. Especially not after making friends like Omni and Selena. You pluck up your courage, and begin your descent down the hill into the cemetery. As the figure turns to look at you, you raise a hand in greeting and offer a smile.
To your surprise, he smiles right back, a genuinely warm and happy grin that in no way resembles the rictus that you might have expected from a pallid, red-eyed, floating shade in a graveyard. He moves his arms forward, and as he does so, he begins to descend slowly, and gently alights on the ground.
“Hey, so you got my note! I was hoping you’d make it,” he says, then, in a moment of realization, looks around sort of abashedly before continuing, “Sorry about the… setting. I hadn’t even considered that it might put you off. It’s just close to my office in this part of the multiverse, and it’s quiet. Plus, nobody expects you to buy a drink or a cup of coffee, and I’m a little tight on funds right now.”
“Sure, no problem,” you reply, attempting to match his casual tone, “I’ve definitely been to worse places than this.”
“Hah! I bet you have. What with the Initiative and all, you must get around quite a bit.”
You offer no response to that conjecture, true as it may be, and let the tension of a long pause spur him into recognition of the fact that he seems to know much more about you than you do about him. He takes the hint.
“Well, look, anyway, I didn’t mean to put you out in making you come all this way or by being mysterious. It’s just that I have a business to run, and a couple of open cases at the moment, so I figured, hey, why not have one of your agents drop a friendly invitation off at the reception desk and see if you’d come through, if the time frame was convenient for you, of course.”
“Wait, what? One of our agents?”
“That’s right. Now, I’m not naming any names, but you shouldn’t be surprised at how easy it is to convince someone who thinks they’re obligated to do the multiverse some good that the simple act of surreptitiously dropping off a letter is part of an exceedingly important, top secret mission. Especially with your style of the chain of command. But enough about my methods. I should introduce myself. Name’s Cross. Macadam Cross, Paranormal Investigator. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“I.. um… Likewise?” you manage to say, confounded as you are by his charming forthwith approach, “But what exactly is a ‘Paranormal Investigator’? You can fly, you definitely seemed to melt out of the shadows of that mausoleum, you know about the existence of the various Verses– otherwise, you wouldn’t have had any idea about the Initiative or how to give me these coordinates. Investigating things that are ‘paranormal’ seems a little suspicious considering the amount of knowledge you have regarding their origins.”
“Oh, no, it’s nothing like that,” says Macadam, “It’s that I’m technically considered a paranormal entity myself. Murdered while investigating a loved one’s murder, little bit of the Dark Realm involved, binding contracts, long-term interest payments, yada yada yada, you know the deal. So, it’s Paranormal Investigator with the emphasis on Investigator, as in, I could use my unique position to seem to melt out of the shadows of a mausoleum if it was important to the case.”
“But,” he continues, before you can get a word in edgewise, “that’s not important to this case. I get around, keep an ear to the ground, hear things, you know, and I gotta say, you guys are making some noise lately. I figure you might could use someone with my particular skills, and like I said, I’m a little tight on money right now. Seems like we could come to a kind of arrangement.”
“Money?” you ask, confused. “We don’t really have that on Delphi. We came to a sort of understanding long before I was even born about currency. It’s wasteful to print all that paper, and as an intermediary, it pretty much only lends itself to manipulation by middlemen and doesn’t contribute any value of its own. Our trade is based on energy, easily measurable and not subject to inflation, unless there’s a big breakthrough, which more than makes up for the surplus.”
“Ah, no wonder I couldn’t get a decent sandwich when I was there to hand off your letter. People kept looking at me crazy when I tried to pay with cash. Anyways, you guys use real elements, copper, quite a bit of gold, for all those fancy electronics, right?”
“We do, but most of it is alloyed. For all of gold’s conductivity, it is waaaaay too ductile to use for high temperature applications, not to mention that it tarnishes,”
“Okay, okay, sure, but you could pay me in gold if I wanted it, for services rendered, right?”
“Uh, sure. Why you would want it is beyond me, and furthermore, I’m not sure exactly what kind of services you would render.”
“Well, you might decide you want someone to do some real investigation; if you do, I’m your guy."
You think to yourself that he might have a point, after all, he did figure out the coordinates to bring you here that would fit with the Sieve.
When you press him on that point, however, all he has to say is, “I have my sources. Anyway, listen, surely you don't think you have a monopoly on math, do you? Anybody with a decent map that knows how to get around the multiverse can make the conversions. 100001 is 257, isn’t it?”
He checks his watch and says, “Hey, I hate to cut this short, but I gotta catch a midnight flight. Turns out, in this world’s Minneapolis, Prince is still alive, and I’m headed that way to catch a show while I still can. You decide you need some real P.I. work, just drop me a line at this location. Don’t try and send anything bigger than a loaf of bread, though, okay?”
He extends a business card with Sieve-ready coordinates on it, just under his gold-embossed name. You take it, and make an indelible mental note of Macadam Cross.
As you turn to leave, you can’t help but mutter under your breath. “Many apples? And what Prince, of where? Who?”
[SHK-E Analysis: You lived up to the ideals of the Initiative. Showing bravery in confronting a situation head on is an example of a strong HEART. You traded information, though not exactly equally, and thus had a net loss of KNOWLEDGE. SAFETY precautions were not followed to a tee in this mission, but due to its apocryphal, off-the-books nature, it cannot be considered a mark against the Initiative as a whole. ENERGY costs were negligible.
SAFETY: Very Poor
Para Initiative Reputations:
Friend of the Keep
Para Initiative Inventory:
Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Untranslated Copy of Dear People