Sunday, 4 April 2010

Episode 34

“Give me a minute,” Box scurried through a grey painted metal door, leaving the others staring bemusedly around them at the large underground space he’d led them into.

The deep dark hole they’d all climbed down into had turned out to be an access shaft leading to what was by the looks of it an old military or Civil Defence bunker of some kind. The large main room into which Box had led them was about twenty feet by twenty feet with several doors – one of which Box had just disappeared though – giving off to various side-rooms and tunnels. Relics of the place’s cold-war past remained in the form of an old PA speaker system mounted high on one wall above a row of dusty clocks, all stopped, labelled with the names of various capital cities. Below the clocks was a row of old-fashioned CRT screens, also dusty and non-functional. Of more modern addition, the walls also boasted some neatly-mounted slabs of stone engraved with what looked like someone’s – presumably Box’s - attempt at calligraphy using Greek letters.

Box re-emerged a few moments later, clad in a pair of crumpled khaki shorts and some sort of singlet that looked as though he’d made it himself by cutting up an old jute sack with blunt scissors.

So this was where Reverend Box lived, comfortably cool away from the desert sun. Comfortably cool and comfortably, period. Box was clearly no desert ascetic: all the amenities were here. In addition to the basics of electric lighting and power, a large refrigerator hummed away in one corner and on a counter nearby sat a microwave oven, coffee machine and toaster. On the other side of the room, a laptop lay open on Box’s desk – currently showing a split-screen picture of the wooden “church” above and its surroundings fed, presumably, by a number of hidden cameras.

“Saw us coming then , eh, Box?” said Mercury, seeing the display.

“A man can’t be too careful these days.” came Box’s gnomic reply. He wandered over to the kitchen area. “Coffee? Orange juice?”

“No thanks, we’re not staying long. We just wanted to ask you a few questions about project Dynamo.”

“That old thing again?” said Box, pouring himself a glass of juice from a cardboard carton.

“Again? What do you mean ‘again’?” asked Othello.

“Well, let me see it was…” Box stopped to scratch absently at his hairless scalp, “Hmm, It would have been about two months ago. I’d just finished researching the Eleusinian Mysteries as I recall. Did you know the Mysteries were celebrated for over two thousand years? Of course, we have resumed celebrating them here now rather than in Eleusis. Had to piece them together myself, though, from vase-paintings here and there and scraps of writing, because those old Greeks were very secretive and the rites probably involved the use of drugs of some sort which doesn’t exactly make for full and clear descriptions of what went on.” His eyes took on a faraway look, “I think Peyote might be an acceptable substitute these days and – “

“Box?” prompted Mercury, “ Project Dynamo?”

“Oh, yeah, sorry.” The snapping of Box’s attention back to the here and now was almost audible. “Yeah, a couple of months ago I got a call from a guy claiming to be from OGS asking about that old project, wanting to know if I had any records of it.”

“And what did you tell him?” asked Othello.

“I told him yes and that he could have them if he was willing to come out here and pick them up.”

“And did he?”

“He did. Well, when I say he did, what I mean is he sent a courier for them. There were several boxes and some old video tapes and whatnot, must have cost him some to get them Fed-Exed like that.”

“So you never saw the man?” Mercury could not hide his disappointment and annoyance. “Never met him in person and yet you let him have confidential OGS records without checking him out?”

“Who says I didn’t check him out?” retorted Box, “He knew all the right things when I challenged him, used all the right terminology and I was satisfied – and still am – that he was definitely OGS.”

“I’m sorry,” Mercury showed his palms in a conciliatory gesture, “I didn’t mean to insult you, it’s just that we lost an agent recently because of project Dynamo. We’re a little jumpy.”

“I see,” said Box, somewhat mollified, “But don’t go assuming that because I live in the desert, the sun has baked my brains. Don’t forget: I was an agent before your daddy had his first shave.” He took a slug of his juice.

“Excuse me,” said Harold, “Perhaps I missed something here, but what was project Dynamo actually about?”

Box regarded him coolly for a moment as though weighing up whether he should give anything away to one of the Fallen, one of the enemy. Eventually he said.

“Dynamo was all about us trying to find a way to detect your kind using technology. With Spotters being as rare as hens’ teeth, we were trying to improve our rates of detection.”

“So why was it shut down?” asked Prada.

“Because we spent a ton of money on it and we never got it to work.” replied Box, “It was deemed too costly to continue, so it was disbanded and all of us agents returned to our normal duties.”

“Were yours the only records of the project?” asked Othello.

“Agent Iris might still have some, I suppose.”

“Agent Iris?”

“Yeah, he and I led the project together. Haven’t heard from him in years though”

“Well, I guess we can look him up – OGS will have some record of his whereabouts I daresay,” said Othello, jotting down the name. “Oh, just one more thing: do you have a receipt from the courier company for the boxes they took?”

Box scratched his head again, “Probably, but it’ll take me a while to dig it up. I can email you the details when I find it if you like.”

“That would be great,” said Mercury, “Thanks for all your help.”

With that, they said goodbye and started the long climb back into daylight.

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