|FIELD REORT: AGENT L-2500, SECTION D
REF: ARCHAEOLOGICAL DATA RETRIEVAL
These fragmentary journal entries were found in a remote section of a disused data storage facility during a routine sweep of the Northern European Metropolitan Complex for unauthorized data-processing equipment. The writings, which I submit for your disposal, were originally generated upon an antique computing device of such a primitive nature that it frankly surprised my colleagues and I. The device itself has been forwarded to the British Archive Section for Parsing and encoding before material destruction. The writings were ascribed to an evident former inhabitant of the apartment block under examination, a composer of music to judge from the collection of sound recordings upon obsolete platforms found buried at the third level. His name was El Reininger, as rendered in the latinate alphabet then current. Inquiries made to the musicological branch have found that he was of little or no significance in his period.
The skeletal fragments found at the site were mostly sound, though the teeth were in a disheveled state. The artefact appears to be a work of fiction, judging by its internal structure.
After the drugs wore off, I found myself plowing the armored Daimler at high speed through the concrete pylons lining the Interstitial 25 between Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming. If I had had the time, I would have remarked that those pylons reminded me of the uniform rows of white tombstones in that war cemetery for the noble dead that I had liked so much in Bologna.
As I watched the aft rockets demolish my pursuers in the rearview mirror, the car flew off the Golden Gate Bridge, landing nose first in the reeking mud on the banks of the Nile. Languid Egyptian aristocrats began to direct their slave to strip the car, always careful to avoid soiling their snow-white linen with even a hint of my low-caste blood. After making an inventory of my body parts, I realized that I had sustained a mere cut on the forehead, bloody but not terminal. Even before I saw the flashing blue lights of the war chariot full of temple guards, I knew that it was all over. The jig was up.
I had been trying to make it to Alexandria, where Hector was to meet me with an inflatable galley. We had planned to get The Jewel safely back into orbit, but these co-ordinates were swarming with goons from the Bete Noire. We had never had a chance.
The first time we had seen The Jewel, we were in London, strolling along the Thames, trying in vain to digest an inedible Vindaloo we had wrestled with a few hours before. It was that rarest of occasions in London, a sunny day and the tourists and locals alike were out trying to make the best of it. We had stopped for a moment to browse out of boredom through a stall full of the usual badges and earrings on offer by the street vendors when Hector spotted it. Without a doubt, it was The Jewel. We could have avoided the damn thing altogether if he had bothered to switch off his shades from Trans-dimensional mode, but Hector had never been one for details. He howled something in Catalan, which he was apt to do at the least provocation, and insisted that I switch my shades back on. When I did, I confirmed by the putrescent yellow glow oozing like bile from the cheap silver setting the Chinese vendor had obviously made himself that this was indeed, no other than The gott-verdammte Jewel its own bad self. As usual in such situations, I feigned indifference and ignorance, while Hector, geek that he is, positively tugged at my sleeve and hopped up and down.
"Deke, for chrissake!" whined the master of the obvious, "Don't you know what that is?!"
I tried to silence him with an elbow to the kidneys, but he kept on, and we ended up paying the Chinaman ten times what he thought the thing was worth. He said he had found it in Surrey at a church jumble sale or something. The poor man died not long after, of course, covered from head to toe in talking sores, but that was certainly not our doing. How could he have guessed that The Jewel could only be handled with the Templar Gloves which we had always in our kit bags?
After we had acquired it and had stripped away the pitiful setting, we could set about getting it back where it belonged before it began to gnaw a hole in this particular iteration of "reality". I could just see it all now, the whole enchilada, I mean, flat out every fucking thing falling through an open grave into the universe being forged for it by the powers massed against us, tearing with its claws the gossamer web upon which it all do hang.
As soon as we had crossed the bridge from Westminster, we began to search for one of the cones of silence left behind for us by The Order. Although Hector continued to jabber away, I waited until I was safely within the silent confines of the cone before I spoke.
"Hector," I said, "you are a fool. One of these days I may realize just what a moron you truly are and I will leave you to fend for yourself on this back-water planet in this putrid time line. Unfortunately, you are bound to me by The Order until such time as the next alignment of the communications pulsars sends me confirmation of your release. You know, do you not, what we must do now? We must call Dietmar in Zurich."
"Dietmar? That pimp? That pissoir attendant? What does he have to do with this?" Hector was always slow.
"Have you forgotten who acquired the Scimitar of Schicksal at the last convocation? Without that Scimitar we are well and truly lost, my old son."
To make a long story short, we booked the induction grid for Zurich at the desired locus with The Jewel hidden in a Templar Faraday cage in Hector's fundamental orifice. Unfortunately, the Bete Noire had managed to sabotage the aggregation lens before our boys had had a chance to secure the boundaries of the paradigm. We began to drift through un-differentiated space with only the compass that Hector had found in his chocolate egg to provide a fix. Luckily, I was a veteran of UD space, though Hector was disoriented by the altercation with the Chaldean priests who had materialized just when he was in the grips of that succubus. She had just begun to make a meal of his soul when they had pulled up in a set of random imaginary numbers. I was astounded by the fact that they had been not only been able to travel UD space in a systematic manner, but had also managed to devise a vehicle for that purpose. They certainly had had no intention of inviting us aboard for me to admire the design of their conveyance! They nearly cancelled us entirely as operators in the equation with some sort of weapon, for chrissake! Someone at our base must have been thinking because we were able to detect a sort of modulating beacon. I think it was a fragment of an old Temptations song that had been the first thing to hand when they had loaded the sequence.
Whatever it was, we formed around it and made it to Cyprus. What happened on the way from Nicosia is still a bit of a blur. They left an unwiped corner in my cortex that is faintly redolent of images of a safe house in Tel Aviv, a message in the facial spasms of a man drinking mint tea in a cafe, Hector lost in the market in the Old City of Jerusalem, a deal struck on the Via Dolorosa itself, near where a pilgrim was blessing his crucifix in rain water that streamed from a foor near a station of the cross. I am not now sure that I was not that pilgrim or whether we were ever in Jerusalem at all.
Somewhere along the line, I stole the Daimler from an ex-Mossad spook who had been renting it to a Kuwaiti pop star. That had been a bad mistake. Mossad was just then attempting to purchase our trans-dimensional hardware through agents in Dubai. It was only a matter of time, as we knew, before they resorted to less subtle means of acquiring the technology, and we weren't prepared to take on Bete Noire and the Israelis at the same time. If either of them, or any of the interested parties beginning to congregate around the Nile Delta station laid its hands on that god-forsaken Jewel, we were all dead. Deader than dead. Terminally, permanently dead, too far gone for even the most exhaustive re-constitution sequence to touch.
I think it was in Rome that we lost the damned thing. Carlos had had it in his bag along with his passport and his weapon when a common junkie thief had snatched it from his shoulder on a passing Vespa. I swear to God, that bozo was actually more concerned about his passport!
By now, The Jewel was probably around the neck of some Narcotraficante's consort. Soon, her new acne would start talking back. Maybe one or the other of us would stumble upon it again, but it would not be that easy. I had taken the risk of melting down of the Monoatomical Golden Templar Gloves and casting it into an ornate spherical cage. This could give it limited shielding against detection for a while. Even from us. Even if The Order failed to locate it and it fell into the hands of one or our enemies, it would not really be such a tragedy. The news of the whole sad affair would eventually show up on the desk of someone in the lower echelons of The Order. Perhaps a clerk in the records department, someone who knew us. He would be only mildly concerned to learn that this rivulet in the ocean of time and space and being had gone down the toilet, taking all of us with it, but that would be all. This could only ever have been a way station en route to somewhere a hell of a lot more interesting, a layover in a remote airport lounge. By that time we would be long past caring anyway.
Blaine L. Reininger
The Jewel by Blaine L. Reininger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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