Current Location: London
The university town of Oxford is notable for several reasons, but most obviously its spectacular academic holdings. At the end of my vacation exploring the British Isles (having failed in my primary goal of discovering some source of internal or external fortitude to weather the strain of managing my cover job and my Mouser responsibilities) I decided to ameliorate my disappointment by making a pilgrimage to the dreaming spires of which I had heard so much but never seen for myself.
The town itself is very charming, even if the weather sometimes disappoints. I caught a mild fever while exploring on a rainy day, and spent much of my remaining vacation sleeping it off. I grew restless on my final night, though, and left the hostel to wander through the town.
Even though it was a weeknight there were sufficient pubs and nightclubs open for the streets to be busy. I did not feel my constitution would weather these, though. Indeed, I was at pains to avoid interaction of any kind until I ducked into an alleyway, dodging the unwelcome crowings of a hen party (a wedding ritual which, as with many rites of passage in these isles, necessitates a great deal of drunkenness). It was then that I saw a glyph which I had never seen on the Surface before. It was, however, of a variety I had been briefed on just before I took up my position in London. It was a symbol of the AL15R.
I knew that the symbol would fade soon, that it was calling for a meeting. I was not at my strongest and they would likely have protection. But I also knew I had a duty to the Organization. And so I pressed on.
The alleyway had several doors, all locked, but only one had been sealed. Lucky for me my key talisman was where it always was– around my neck. I entered expecting resistance, but they hadn’t even put anyone on the door. Such arrogance, imagining their sophomoric charms enough to protect them from discovery.
The building was along the backside of one of the colleges. I honestly don’t remember which one, it was dark and I wasn’t entirely there. What’s important is that it was old, and dusty, except for the stairs leading down. I could hear voices below, and one of them was definitely not human.
The cellar was lit, and warm. I don’t know if they’d been using it as a Surface base or a safehouse or simply a meeting place, but there they were. I saw half a dozen, there may have been more. It was surprising how young many of them were. Masquerading as students, perhaps? They didn’t see me: I had my piece of blank slate firmly in hand. I was a brick in the wall, a slab on the floor to them. They were gathered around a lantern on a table. I saw only snatches, while sticking to the perimeter, but I’m certain it was a genie. A weaker variety: perhaps these dropouts and greenhorns had worked together to imprison it. It spoke, and they listened. One was even taking notes. They had many questions and were well-briefed on procedure. Clearly one of them had actually finished their training. Mostly they asked about Mr. Jim. His movements, his objectives. The genie was not terribly helpful– it didn’t know much. They noted everything it said, anyway. They seemed particularly pleased when it mentioned the name ‘Ariel’. The lead interrogator was a young woman with a cold, hard voice. Stony features. I felt like I had seen her before. While I was trying to place her the genie spoke up.
“You have many questions, and I have answered where I can. A question of my own: who is your shy guest by the wall?” Half a dozen heads turned. Half a dozen sets of eyes suddenly found focus on me, not the end of a wine rack but a Mouser. Only this Mouser was already holding his sunstone. I flung it at the lantern, smashing both, and a searing blast of light filled the room, dazzling everyone. Howls of pain and fury both human and genie, and I staggered up the stairwell, fumbling in my overcoat for my nail talisman. It would buy me a few seconds, at least. From behind a hand groped at my arm, but I thrust an elbow back into something satisfyingly meaty, and slipped through the door, the slam masking my assailant’s cry. I slotted the nail in behind me. Sealed. There were pubs at the end of the alleyway and across the road, but I didn’t fancy my chances of hiding in either of them. Nor the prospect of hiding behind Surface folk. A bus rolled past the alleyway and I saw my escape. A breathless run, the rattling of the door and angry cries of AL15R in my ears. Though the driver seemed bemused by my fear, he said nothing of it. The bus pulled away as I stood in the stairwell, hoping to avoid detection. I could hear them emerging onto the street, shouting instructions, scattering to search in vain.
Obviously I am pleased to have come away the better from this impromptu recon, but it worries me that so many agents of AL15R were topside, and in one location. I am wracking my fever-addled memory for precise details of their interrogation, but the only thing of any relevance I can recall is ‘Ariel’.
I need to follow this up. They were sloppy before, and I was lucky. Perhaps they will be preoccupied with firming up their security before they can pursue their lead. I only hope they don’t manage to recapture that genie. I was loath to release one on the Surface, but it would only be more dangerous under the thumb of Grayman Chau’s goons. Especially now they know I’m on their trail.
All things considered, it was quite an eventful vacation.