True in Some Sense

Questions on the Long Road; Chapter 4

Thursday, July 22, 2010, around 10:00 PM and throughout the following two days

Before Gene arrives, Gidget sends another email to Dr. Henry Gutermuth, saying that she knows she didn’t hear from him and that she is currently away from the West Coast, but if he ever has the time, she would still like to meet with him. She also takes a moment to write some notes regarding her meeting with “M—” in Terra Lake.

Around 11 PM, Gene shows up, and after some discussion, he leaves for his apartment with Gidget and Paul following shortly thereafter. The evening is fairly low-key, primarily consisting of multiplayer first-person shooters, beer, and cigarettes. Gidget watches and interacts, though she notes that Gene seems particularly interested in her. Before Gidget and Paul leave for the night, she and Gene exchange numbers at Gene’s request. Paul then drops her off at her hotel so that she may retire for the night, though on the way, they discuss the possibility of going to a club or something.

The next morning, Gidget goes into D.C. to spend the day at the museums. In the afternoon, Gene calls and asks if she might like to get something to eat later, maybe Carraba’s around 6:30? She agrees, though she notes that she has made vague future plans with Paul.

After returning from D.C., she gets ready and looks to see what and where Carraba’s is. She then meets Gene at Carraba’s at 6:30. They have dinner and talk about themselves a little, deciding afterwards to meet Paul and determine where to go in D.C. They retire to Gene’s apartment, and after Paul arrives, they discuss what they might like to do. After looking for some of the clubs in the area, they decide on the Science Club.

Upon arriving at the Science Club, they find it to be a somewhat small venue playing reggae and dub dance music. Paul leaves Gene and Gidget alone to talk, dance, and drink beer. Toward the end of the evening, everybody returns to Gene’s place to talk and hang out, and Paul eventually takes his leave. Gene sits next to Gidget on the couch, but she shortly takes her leave and returns to the hotel. She checks her email, finding one from Dr. Morgan telling her that she has office hours on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. She also finds that she missed a message from Gillian Palmer saying that she received Gidget’s email, and when are they going to write together? Gidget then goes to sleep.

The next day, Gidget drives back to D.C. to visit the Library of Congress, hoping to gain some information. On the way, she receives a phone call from Gillian Palmer, again asking when Gidget plans on writing stuff. Gidget laughs it off, and asks again about Project: REGINA, though Gillian doesn’t really know anything new. When Gidget arrives at the Library of Congress, she gets to work.

Gidget spends over six hours at the Library of Congress before leaving when the building closes at 4:30 PM. During that time, she finds very little; she primarily determines that her patent is completely and totally gone, and that Dr. Katashi Kimura, a former colleague of Dr. Frye who is currently institutionalized in Seattle, apparently worked with one Dr. Aloysius Steiner on Project: REGINA.

Upon returning to her hotel, she continues to search, finding that Dr. Steiner was a roboticist from MIT who worked with the Army Corps of Engineers as a civilian. He did nothing from about 2002 to his death, though it is rumored that he was working on Project: REGINA at this time. Gidget also researches Dr. Rose Morgan, finding that she got her start in academia before working on robotics projects for the automotive industry. She then returned to academia in her current teaching role at Carnegie Mellon.

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Questions on the Long Road; Chapter 3

Sunday, July 18, 2010, throughout the day and following week

As Gidget gathers her things, she feels the subtle presence of another Promethean. She decides to look outside, and seeing nothing, she walks around the outside of the motel. Still seeing nothing, but feeling the same presence, she makes another circuit, and is then greeted by the sound of a clearing throat. She turns around to see a woman — tall, tanned, attractive, fit, and wearing sunglasses, a tank top, black BDU pants, and combat boots. With her strange double-vision, however, Gidget sees her as she truly is — a synthetic humanoid of plastic and metal, just like Gidget. Initially too stunned to speak, Gidget finally murmurs that the woman is just like herself. The woman agrees. Gidget excitedly extends her hand and begins to introduce herself, and as the woman returns the gesture, she only gets to introduce herself as “M—” before looking to the side and telling Gidget to run. Gidget glances to see two men in BDUs wielding submachine guns. They order the two to get on the ground; Gidget responds by running. As she runs around the side of the building, she hears the man in pursuit. She tries to lose him in the woods behind the motel, but he catches up to her and attempts to tackle her. She dodges to the side, and as he starts to raise his weapon, she stares him down, hypnotizing him. She instructs him to relax and leave her alone, and then scampers off into the woods and hides behind a tree. He seems confused and disoriented at first, but finally jogs back to the front of the building.

Gidget then scampers up a tree to see if she can get a look at things. After a bit, she sees the mysterious woman speed away on a motorcycle. Shortly thereafter, she sees the two men leave in a black Hummer. Climbing down, she returns to her room, grabs the last of her things, and quickly checks out. She drives after them, but is not terribly surprised when she cannot find them. She then finds a place with Wi-Fi and first posts a “Missed Connections” advert on Craigslist, obliquely referring to her encounter with “M.” She then calls Lilith, describing the encounter and asking her if she knows anything about “M.” Lilith says she is unfamiliar, but if she happens to hear any references to “M,” she will let Gidget know. Gidget also emails Dr. Zirpoli, referring to her discovery.

Gidget then starts driving for New Orleans. Along the way, she emails Billy Taylor to let him know that she will be in the area, and to inform him of her progress. When she checks her email as she nears New Orleans, he asks if she would care to meet him for lunch tomorrow. Responds affirmatively, and arrives in New Orleans around midnight. She finds a hotel and goes to sleep.

The next morning, Gidget walks around the city for a few hours before meeting with Billy at a nearby restaurant. They talk about how things are going with his oil recovery efforts, and Gidget tells him that she encountered another robot such as herself, though she had little opportunity to talk to her because they were attacked by the uniformed men. Billy says they sounded military or paramilitary, and said the whole incident seemed to remind him of something, though he couldn’t place what. He said he would let her know if he remembered, though.

After lunch, Gidget accompanies Billy down to the delta, where he puts his raft and netting to use, collecting tar balls. Despite the hard work, Gidget is interested in the process, and returns the next day to aid him before indicating that she is leaving New Orleans. He wishes her luck and says he will contact her if anything interesting happens or he remembers anything.

She stays in the city that night, leaving New Orleans on Wednesday morning. She makes the trip to Arlington, VA over the course of two days, sleeping in her car at night and calling Paul St. Claire to ask if he can recommend a good hotel. He indicates that he knows somebody who works at a hotel, and that he can get her a discount.

She arrives at the hotel Thursday evening, and meets Paul. He introduces her to his friend, Gene, who gives her the employee discount. Gene says he will catch up with them later, and then the two proceed to retire to her room and discuss what has happened. Paul says he has not been doing anything terribly exciting since returning to Arlington, and Gidget informs him of her encounter with “M.” She indicates that she has little to go on — just a description and the first letter of her name — though Paul then proceeds to ask about the uninvestigated leads she still has. She eventually determines that she still does not know the full scope of the mystery surrounding Dr. Frye’s death, and she also has not spoken to Dr. Henry Gutermuth in Los Angeles (though she did send an email and never received a response), Dr. Rose Morgan in Pittsburgh, or Dr. Katashi Kimura in a mental institution in Seattle. She also has not recounted the full events of her meeting with “M” to Dr. Zirpoli. In addition, they determine that this is all probably related to Project: REGINA that Gillian Palmer mentioned in Las Vegas. Paul also dissuades her from putting out information to search for “M,” particularly if some unknown government group is looking for her. Despite the fact that it occurs to her that “M” might stand for a title rather than a name, and thus she might have a little less information than she thought. She sends an email to Gillian Palmer to ask if she might know anything further about Project: REGINA, and she sends an email to Dr. Rose Morgan saying she is related to Dr. Robert Frye and that she is interested if Dr. Morgan could tell her anything noteworthy.

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Questions on the Long Road; Chapter 2

Sunday, July 11, 2010, throughout the day and following week

Gidget drives east from Los Angeles, deciding to drive during the day and sleep at rest stops by night. Her drive is uneventful, largely passing through desert, until she stops in Kansas on Tuesday night. She is awakened by a tapping at her door, and sees a disheveled African-American woman with mismatched clothes and a pistol. The woman demands a ride north, so Gidget unlocks the passenger door and lets her in. The woman seems overall intense, and mutters under her breath about “escaping them” and “going to Canada.” Gidget tries to make conversation, but as the woman does not seem terribly jovial, she simply drives north, driving about fifteen hours straight through. The woman asks to be let off as they approach the border, and Gidget stops the car, allowing her to get out. Gidget then gets her bearings and drives the roughly three hours to Fargo, North Dakota, before finding a place to stop. She emails Dr. Zirpoli to let him know that she plans to meet him in Terra Lake, Indiana, and then stops for the night.

Awakening on Thursday, she decides to drive straight through, stopping halfway to check her email. She finds that she has received an email from Dr. Zirpoli, and he indicates that he should arrive in Terra Lake on Friday and be there over the weekend. Gidget finally arrives in Terra Lake on Thursday evening.

Entering from the west, Gidget is initially greeted by a brick building with a gaudy neon sign reading “Bird of Paradise” and tagged on the side with the phrase “THE WHITE ZONE IS FOR LOADING AND UNLOADING ONLY” in white spraypaint. After seeing the sign for Terra Lake and passing what appeared to be a diner called Eddie’s, she finds herself in the town proper. She drives for a while until she sees that a carnival is occurring in the town square, and parks to investigate. She takes the opportunity to text Paul and Lilith to ask about things she should do while in town.

Gidget is greeted by the “First Annual Terra Lake Carnival,” apparently sponsored by Jones-Klein-Beauchamp, which she recognizes as a European pharmaceutical company. She acquires a pamphlet that features a map and some information about the town, and hears from Paul, who recommends the Super 8 as a place to stay, and recommends eating at the Emerald Dragon or Eddie’s. Lilith later responds, indicating that she didn’t do a whole lot while there, though her shack in the woods might still be around if Gidget needs a quiet place to stay. After having her fill of carnival food, Gidget goes to the Super 8 and gets a room for the night. Before going to sleep, she checks some news, first learning that she likely gave a ride to one Elinor Fossett, recently escaped from a mental institution in Kansas. She also learns that Jennifer Caulfield is in custody, as noted in Portland and San Francisco newspapers, though information about the shooting incident is pending. Finally, she reads a little about the town, learning that during the first half of 2009, Terra Lake was subject to a period of disappearances and murders. The FBI came to investigate, and uncovered a serial killer and corporate corruption at the local chemical plant. Around summer, the strange events in Terra Lake end roughly around the time about fifty members of a local small church called the Church of Ezekiel’s Divine Revelation commit suicide. The articles also mention the discovery of a new species of fish called the groetnich (Neouranolophus zirpoli) in Terra Lake, apparently the case that brought Dr. Zirpoli to the area in the first place.

Friday morning, Gidget awakens and decides to explore. She first calls Dr. Zirpoli and leaves a voicemail message for him, saying she is in the area. Then, she drives out to the woods — past a pond surrounded by a chainlink fence — and goes hiking. Not finding anything out of the ordinary, she drives back into town and does a little more newspaper research at the local library, though she doesn’t find too much more information. After hearing from Dr. Zirpoli, they decide to meet for dinner at the Emerald Dragon at 6:30 PM.

Gidget arrives around 6:30, finding Dr. Zirpoli already there. After exchanging pleasantries, she asks about the strange occurrances in the town. Dr. Zirpoli says he knows little about them, only arriving in the wake of a murder investigation to investigate the groetnich. He does know that one of the paranormal investigators in town committed the murder, unbeknownst to his fellows, and that the investigators were sickened by radiation poisoning. When Gidget inquires about this, Dr. Zirpoli explains that it was some sort of giant cockroach that produced a blue flash, though he knows no details about it, having been in the town for a short time. He did help clean the radiation, however, surreptitiously. He also mentions a series of caves under the woods, which he also briefly surveyed, and noted a gate to Another Place in them.

After explaining that he is in town to check on the progress of the Terra Lake Ichthyological Research Society, he indicates that she is welcome to join his survey. She agrees, and he indicates he will call her tomorrow, though he expects it to be around noon. The two then part company for the evening, briefly seeing each other at the motel before Gidget goes to her room for the night.

The next morning, Gidget awakens to explore more, possibly to look for Lilith’s shack or the caves. She finds the caves, but has to return to town to purchase a flashlight. After doing so, she goes through the cave network, filled primarily with old, gnawed animal bones and occasional streaks of dried blood. The most interesting thing appears to be a dead end marked with an old cave painting of a horned serpent. Underneath this is a smiley face, painted in spraypaint, and smears of dried blood mark the cave wall. Gidget recalls that the horned serpent was the guardian of the Underworld to the Southern Cult, but still is not certain of the significance.

She emerges from the cave and returns to her motel just in time to hear from Dr. Zirpoli, saying that everyone is meeting around noon. He says that he can drive her if she would like, and she agrees, taking a moment to clean up. Then, she and Dr. Zirpoli drive to the lake.

Upon arriving at the lake, they meet with the members of the Terra Lake Ichthyological Research Society — still primarily academics from Indianapolis — for the survey. They bring Dr. Zirpoli up to date on their findings, largely involving what little they are able to observe of the voracious predator. This also includes anecdotal evidence from old Indian legends and current urban legends. After a few hours of investigation and discussion, Dr. Zirpoli and Gidget take their leave. Gidget thanks Dr. Zirpoli for the opportunity, and then returns to her motel room.

Gidget then calls Paul to talk about what she has done and to ask him a little more about what he knows regarding the town. He mentions some of the people whom he encountered in town, though she doesn’t really find anything on them other than their involvement in several news stories of the time (and a lone YouTube video). She takes the rest of the day to do some more research, explore a little more, and read.

The next morning, Gidget awakens and after looking around a bit, decides to move on. She starts gathering herself to hit the road once again.

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Questions on the Long Road; Chapter 1

Saturday, July 10, 2010, about 8:00 PM (and throughout the following day)

Gidget makes her way out of San Francisco, prepared to drive to Los Angeles. Her drive is initially uneventful.

After making her way out of town, she decides to stop at a little roadside motel about three hours down the highway. She checks into the motel, and after checking email and whatnot — having not received an email from Dr. Gutermuth as of yet — she decides to go to sleep.

At least until she hears a scratching at her window. Wary, she opens the curtains to find nothing but the parking lot. She recloses them and returns to bed, but the scratching starts again. She initially ignores it, but figures she must do something when it grows insistent, thudding against the glass. As she throws the curtains aside, she sees a small, humanoid, reptilian creature with a toothed muzzle and elongated limbs throwing itself against the glass, putting a splintered crack in it. Initially confused, she begins to call the front desk when the thing breaches the glass, sending slivers in all directions with a great sound.

It snaps at her a couple of times, but she manages to evade it and backpedal her way into the hall, just in time to see the night manager making his way down the hall at a quick pace, evidently having heard the breaking glass. She looks to him, and hears a dull thud on the ground, her head swinging back around to see…a charred and burned log.

Though still confused, she tells her story to the night manager, explaining how she saw some animal thing battering against the glass and trying to attack her. Does the area have a zoo that might be the source of some komodo dragon or something? He says no, and eyes her warily. He throws the wood in a plastic bag and calls the police. She is sent to another room for the evening. After getting situated, she speaks to the officer that arrives, telling her story, and then goes to her room for the night. She does not sleep, instead reading for the evening.

Around 3:00 AM, she hears a scratching at her door. Looking out, she sees movement toward the bottom of the peephole, but does not actually see anybody at the door. Placing the security bar on the door, she opens it to be greeted by a slender, clawed hand reaching in. The thing quickly batters the door open, fouling the security bar. Gidget throws her suitcase at it, but the luggage goes wide, leaving her arm open to the thing’s slavering jaws. It bites a chunk out of the crook of her elbow. She manages to evade its further frenzied bites, evading it, grabbing her bags, and running out the door. Seeing a security door on her left, she runs for it, throws it open, and slams it shut. She feels the beast slam against it, and as she runs, she hears a gunshot ring out, accompanied by an indentation on the metal security door. A second shot is fired, and Gidget throws her things in her car to loop around for a better look.

Upon entering the front of the motel, she is greeted by the night manager holding a revolver at his side. He freaks out upon seeing her, telling her to get out of his motel. He fires three shots at her — all miss — as she runs out of the motel and speeds away in her car.

After getting away from him, she pulls to the side of the road to use her cell phone. She calls Lilith first, getting her voicemail, and leaves a message just seeing that all is well. Having texted Paul earlier in the evening, he calls back to see what is happening. She explains her situation, and he explains that she was likely attacked by Pandorans, the abortive attempts at creating more Prometheans that he has previously described. He recommends she finds a place to heal, and then bids her good night.

Gidget wraps her arm and decides to drive straight through the night to Los Angeles. When she finds her way to the city, she gets a first aid kit for future preparation and to better bandage her wounds, putting an Ace bandage on the whole thing to make her gaping wound less noticeable. She checks email and gets breakfast, and not having received an email from Dr. Gutermuth, decides to go south to San Diego. Along the way, she stops for gasoline, and goes to the bathroom, taking the opportunity to stick a finger in an electrical outlet. The lights dim, her wound closes, and electricity starts to arc from her as she removes herself from the outlet. She then pays and makes her way out.

Finally, she arrives in San Diego, deciding to go to the San Diego Zoo. Much to her chagrin, however, she finds that she sees little, as the animals actively avoid her presence, typically positioning themselves as far away from her as possible in their enclosures. Most stay calm, but wary. Some panic.

Saddened, she decides to wander in the Gaslamp Quarter, taking in the sights. After a bit, she realizes that she is being flanked by three fairly nondescript men who all look similar, like brothers. As one tells her that she needs to come with them and shows her his gun for emphasis, she screams “RAPE!” and all hell breaks loose. Most people hide or scatter, possibly calling on cell phones, but a few actually jump in to help. Amid the chaos and the gunshots, Gidget slinks away. She calls the police on her cell phone to inform them, as a bystander, of what is happening. Finally, she returns to her car, and despite not having heard from Dr. Gutermuth, decides that the West Coast is far too crazy. After driving out of the city a brief distance, she turns to head East.

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This Little Light of Mine; Chapter 1

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, about 11:00 AM (and throughout the following three days)

Wednesday is spent on the road. During the drive, Gidget feels a change in her system, as a built-up substance in her body effects its change. Unalarmed, she is aware that she can see hidden entities by concentration and possibly even revive herself in the event of an emergency.

Other than this revelation on the road, the evening is spent at a little motel. Thursday’s drive is similarly uneventful, and in the evening, Gidget and Paul arrive in Wolframbed, Wyoming.

Nestled in the eastern side of the Rockies, Wolframbed is a small place, a loose confederation of buildings bound by a single traffic light. Gidget and Paul drive until they find a little motel — unimaginatively called the Wolframbed Inn — and go to get settled.

The man at the desk does not introduce himself, and seems off — as if daydreaming or otherwise preoccupied. He asks a few questions about where they are headed and gives them a room for $60 a night.

After getting situated, they go back to the front desk and ask for a map so that they may determine what to do in the area. With the map, they return to the motel room and get the remaining portion of the elixir and the pendulum. Gidget consumes the stuff and starts moving the pendulum. It eventually comes to rest somewhere roughly on the outskirts of town. They note the location on the map.

Gidget and Paul return to the front desk to learn about places to eat nearby. The man at the desk replies that there is a diner a ways up the road — “The Diner,” he calls it. They thank him and go on their way, taking Paul’s car.

First, they go to the location noted on the map — which turns out to be a faded and abandoned building labeled the “Wolfram Bed Mining Co.” Strangely, a Camry with Indiana plates is parked out front of what otherwise appears to be an abandoned building. They decide to investigate the place, finding a building with worn surfaces, boarded-up windows, and a fenced-in yard with several rusting pieces of mining equipment. After some discussion, Gidget notices a shadow in the dark and speaks. She is greeted by a large man wearing flannel and denim and carrying a staff. He asks what they are doing there and says that residents tend to be jumpy, and that they should probably leave and return during the day. They acknowledge that, and return to the car.

After a bit of discussion, they decide to go to the diner and get something to eat. The older waitress takes their orders with the same distracted demeanor as the man at the motel desk. As they eat, a very large man with a brown uniform, gun, and badge enters. Greeted as the Sheriff, he says nothing when he sits at the counter, apparently either being expected or simply ordering his usual. He stares pointedly at Gidget and Paul before eating.

After they finish and pay, they are about to leave when the Sheriff clearing his throat gets their attention. They look and see him sitting with his back toward them, but with his hand sitting ominously upon his pistol.

After leaving, they decide to return to the motel. They return to the room for the night before discussing things further and deciding that they should probably try to retrieve the lantern tonight. Gidget is to talk to the motel manager while Paul takes their stuff to the car so as to be inconspicuous. Paul decides to leave money to pay the motel manager.

Executing the plan, Gidget asks about things in the area while Paul loads the car. She then takes her leave, going outside. They decide to take both cars so that they will have access to them, and drive them outside of the town to regroup.

After driving about a half hour outside of town, they park and decide to take a brief jaunt into the woods to pass the time. They manage to get lost, taking another hour to extricate themselves and return to Paul’s car. They notice that a police car is parked up the road with its lights off, and they decide to drive until they can lose it. Getting back into their cars, they start to drive with Paul in the lead and Gidget behind him. After losing the police car, they pull off down a side road and Gidget gets into Paul’s car.

Finally, they return to Wolframbed around midnight. They park a little bit away from the Wolfram Bed Mining Co. building and then walk the rest of the way. After debating, they decide to just break down the front door, but are interrupted when Paul gets struck in the side by a large staff.

It appears to be the flannel-wearing man from earlier, wearing football pads and wielding his staff. Paul turns around to face him with his baseball bat, while Gidget grabs a chunk of concrete and smashes the door open. Leaving the sounds of struggle behind her, Gidget kicks the door open to find an office that appears recently used. A handsome man with slicked-back brown hair, lightly tanned skin, brilliant green eyes, and a nice suit greets Gidget. They stare at each other for a moment and he explains that the police are coming before she rushes at him. Though he somehow changes — appearing so beautiful that the thought of assaulting him seems highly distasteful — Gidget manages to throw off the sensation and shoves him to the side, gaining access to the next room. In this room, a lantern sits prominently upon a desk, and Gidget runs for it. Then she sees a pale, nude girl in the corner of the room. Heedless of everything else, Gidget throws the concrete at one of the plywood-covered windows. When it doesn’t buckle, she runs at a side door, battering through it with the lantern in hand.

Hearing sirens, she starts running. When the police SUV catches sight of her, she makes a beeline for the woods and quickly scales a tree. The Sheriff doesn’t see her, so returns to his car and drives away. She descends from the tree just in time to hear commotion, and sees Paul running up the road followed by the Sheriff, the night occasionally punctuated by the potshots he takes at Paul. Just as he stops to take another, Gidget runs out of the woods and catches his eye, concentrating to freeze him in his tracks. She tells Paul to get the car, and he runs up the road to do so. Gidget also notices the suited man walking calmly up the road. Just as he is about to reach her, however, Paul’s car barrels down the road, pulling up beside her. She jumps in and Paul takes off. As they screech away into the night, Gidget nearly falls out of the car before managing to secure herself inside. The sound of a gunshot punctuates the night, accompanied by a loud pop. Paul corrects and keeps driving down the road, throwing sparks from one of his rear wheels.

When he is convinced that he lost them, he stops to change the tire. They also check the lantern, and seeing its archaic shape and occult symbols, conclude that it is the Lantern they seek. He then returns to Gidget’s car and helps her load her stuff into it, including the Lantern. She thanks him for his help, and they say their goodbyes. He says that he will likely be in touch with her again soon, and they agree for her to call him when she arrives safely in San Francisco; she plans on driving straight through for the roughly eighteen hours it takes to return. Getting into their cars, he follows her until she turns onto the highway, and she starts the journey back to San Francisco, alone.

She arrives in the early evening on Friday. After calling Mr. Long to make arrangements, he gives her an address at which to meet him. Finding it to be above a laundromat, she follows the instructions to tell the manager her name and that she is expected.

She enters the office above the laundromat to meet Mr. Long and two of his bodyguards. She tells him about what she encountered in her search for the Lantern, including the poem from Juanita Doe. He thanks her and says that he will be unable to give her the papers he promised at this time, as she is done much faster than he anticipated. However, he will be able to deliver the identification the following evening. He says that she should return at that time and he will seal the deal.

She then asks if he can recommend some place for her to stay and some place for her to eat, and he says if she goes downstairs he will make arrangements. After she waits downstairs for a few moments, he joins her and explains that a car will come around to take her to a safe house, and that they can get her anything she wants. She thanks him and agrees to this, getting into the sedan when it arrives and finding the driver to be a tall man of mixed Chinese descent. She is taken to an apartment complex a few blocks away, and led to a room toward the back where she is put up for the night. She says she has no preference for food, and so is brought Chinese food from somewhere nearby. Before going to sleep she calls Paul to let him know that all is well, and she sends an email to Dr. Zirpoli to wish him well and indicate that she might be heading east, so could they possibly meet in New York?

The next day, she awakens and asks the guard outside her room if she can retrieve her car. He says she may and that he will drive her. After she gets situated, she goes with the man to get her car. They talk for a little bit, and she learns his name is Greg. He drops her off at her car, and she says she will likely be around at the safehouse later. She then goes to a café to get some breakfast, write, and work on her computer.

Much to her surprise, she hears the door open to see Jennifer Caulfield, her “brother” Daniel’s fiancée, walk into the café. She looks rough, haggard, and as though she hasn’t slept or bathed in days. When she sees Gidget, she smiles and looks genuinely glad to see her — this despite the fact that Jennifer never really liked her, and was probably the major reason why she left Daniel’s house in the first place. Jennifer sits down — the smell reinforces the fact that she probably hasn’t bathed — and when Gidget asks, she explains that she came looking for Gidget because she wants her to come home. Gidget says that she is flattered, but will likely continue traveling, at least for a time. When she continues to rebuff Jennifer’s attempts to get her to return to Portland, Jennifer finally seems hurt and stands to leave — before turning around and firing a pistol through the front pocket of her sweatshirt. Gidget is struck in the shoulder, and is almost too dumbfounded to react. As the café explodes into chaos around her, she starts to gather her things as another bullet pierces her shoulder. She manages to run most of the way across the café with her things haphazardly gathered in her arms when another gunshot sounds and a bullet punctures her back. She staggers through the doors into the kitchen.

She finally runs into an alley and collects herself, shoving her things into her bag. She calls Daniel to inform him of what happened — he says that she has been missing for several days — and then, while blending into the crowd, she calls Mr. Long. He says he will send a car to pick her up.

She waits for a while at the corner before Greg’s sedan arrives. He steps out and is quite surprised to see her, as she has apparently been shot — and even moreso because nobody appears to be reacting and because he overlooked a bleeding woman.

Upon returning to her room in the safehouse, she explains what happened while he bandages her — she gets the vibe that he is keeping cool despite the fact that he hasn’t seen too much of this, that he thinks there is something weird about her, and that he thinks she is rather cute and happens to be shirtless at the moment — and he explains that he primarily drives, and hasn’t really seen injuries like this before.

When he leaves to find clothes, she decides to try what she knows about electricity. She scrounges a penny and sticks it in the light socket, feeling a gentle vibration as the electricity flows through her. She feels fine in a few seconds, and stops when electricity starts to arc from her. The lights brown, but otherwise nothing untoward happens.

Greg returns with some baggy clothes, and she thanks him and takes them. After he leaves, she calls Daniel. He explains that she left after Gidget called him last week, and that he couldn’t find her. She didn’t take one of the cars, and she had been acting so weird that he wasn’t terribly surprised to hear that she starting shooting. He also called the San Francisco police just to inform them of what he knew.

After her conversation with Daniel, she calls Paul to find that he has already heard about a shooting in downtown San Francisco on the news. She explains what happened. Paul says it might be a byproduct of the Disquiet she instills in normal people, while Gidget wonders if she may have been replaced, like the Fae do to people. She also tells him about Greg, and he says that she should ask him out, because he sounds interested. She says she probably won’t.

Finally, she asks Greg if she could go shopping for some new clothes until she can return to her car. He agrees, and takes her to Urban Outfitter at her request. She buys clothes for the next day or so, and then returns to the safehouse to be greeted by Mr. Long. He explains that the woman was arrested, and gives Gidget a box that should contain all her papers. She asks about the purpose of him taking the Lantern, and he explains that he hopes to destroy it, and that her information may help him do so. He indicates that he does this sort of thing — fighting these Fae entities — though he refuses to elaborate how he knows about them and why.

Upon returning to her room, she checks the box to find a birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, and the like. She also checks her email, finding a response from Dr. Zirpoli (he says that all is well and that he won’t be back in New York City for probably another week or so, but that they might be able to meet in Chicago), as well as correspondence from Billy Taylor and Ashley Moore, indicating that they are well and wishing her the same. She also writes an email to Dr. Henry Gutermuth, a former colleague of Dr. Frye’s in Los Angeles, essentially asking if she can ask him about Dr. Frye, much as she did with Dr. Zirpoli at first.

Finally, as evening approaches, she is allowed to return and retrieve her car. As she will likely leave the city shortly thereafter — Mr. Long recommends staying away for a month until things blow over — she bids him farewell and he gives her a business card and tells her to keep in touch if she encounters anything else from Faerie on the road. Finally, after he drops her off at her car, she gives Greg her number. Though initially surprised, he accepts and gives her his number for when she may return to San Francisco. Then, she gets into her car and heads south.

View
Bright Light City; Chapter 3

Monday, July 5, 2010, about 7:00 PM (and throughout the following two days)

After Gidget and Paul return to the hotel, Gidget decides to check her email. She receives a message from Billy Taylor, indicating that things are going well, that Ashley will probably stay with him another week (and that she was upset about some boy trouble), and asking how things are with Gidget, and how was Eddie Chang doing?

Gidget responded by saying that things were going well, though nobody was in Eddie’s shop when she went.

Gidget also receives an email from Dr. Zirpoli, indicating that he will be in Las Vegas from Tuesday to Thursday, if she wishes to meet him in person. Gidget responds saying that she would like to do so, and to let her know when he is available.

Gidget then does a little research about Wolframbed, WY. She doesn’t learn a whole lot about the town, though she does learn that there have been a few anomalous events in the surrounding area over the past year — namely two suicides, including a murder suicide, involving people who were just passing through. She also learns that the town itself was founded in the late seventies as a tungsten mining town, but has been in decline since the price of tungsten fell. Despite losing people each year and losing money, the town still survives and anecdotal evidence suggests it may even be thriving recently.

After informing Paul of her findings, the two wonder what to do before finally deciding to catch a Penn & Teller show. Upon their return, Gidget checks her email one last time to learn that Dr. Zirpoli should be available between 4:00 and 7:00 PM on Tuesday, or after 10:00 PM, and that he can meet her in the lobby of his hotel, the MGM Grande. Alternately, she can just call him; he gives her his number. She decides to make her way over in the 4:30 or 5:00 range and lets him know. Then, she and Paul go to sleep for the evening.

The next day, Gidget and Paul spend their time preparing for the upcoming trip to Wolframbed — particularly when it is decided that Paul will accompany Gidget — as well as preparing for Gidget’s meeting with Dr. Zirpoli. In the early afternoon, Gidget receives a phone call from Gillian Palmer, indicating that she has some information, and would she be willing to meet her at the same location as soon as she is ready? Gidget agrees, and after conferring with Paul, they get ready and go to Bally’s Las Vegas.

Gidget and Paul arrive to find Gillian already at the bar. After Gidget asks what this is about, Gillian begins by explaining that she paid somebody to hack into Gidget’s email. When Gidget begins to protest, she cuts her off, explaining that it allowed her to learn a few things; namely, that Gidget doesn’t really know anything about herself. The email to Dr. Zirpoli — who, incidentally, works for the government — indicates this much. Gillian explains that she found obituaries for Dr. Frye, but no actual death certificate; in fact, he is listed as missing in some places. She also explains that she researched Juanita Doe, and found her to be rather long-lived. She and Gidget agree to stay in contact, particularly since Gillian would be interested in her story and because she may have further questions or find more information. She also tells Gidget about her primary employer, Patmos Publishing. When Gidget asks why Gillian would have bothered to look up some college student, Gillian explains that recognition of the name prompted her to look up Gidget Frye, though she didn’t expect she would actually meet the Gidget Frye. Before she leaves, she tells Gidget to look for a decommissioned government project known as Project: Regina. She doesn’t know more than that. Gillian then leaves.

After she goes, Gidget spends the next hour or so looking for more information regarding herself and Dr. Frye, though she doesn’t exactly find what she is looking for. After 4:00, she arranges herself to go visit Dr. Zirpoli, and she and Paul part company for the afternoon.

Gidget calls ahead and makes her way to the MGM Grande. Arriving a little after 4:30, she finds an older, grandfatherly gentleman waiting in the lobby, reading the paper. He puts the paper down and stands to greet her, indicating that she must be Gidget. After he says that it is good to see her again, she inquires, and he explains that he has never met her in person, though he did see photographs and helped design her nervous system. At this, she brightens, relieved that he knows about her. She asks a few questions about her design, and he indicates that he knows little, mostly having read about her in journals of the time — otherwise, his correspondence with Dr. Frye mostly involved her electrical systems only. After some more discussion, in which he indicates that he once met Dr. Robert Frye but never met Dr. Elisabeth Frye, they decide to go to his room so that he may examine Gidget more thoroughly, particularly as she has never been given any sort of examination.

Dr. Zirpoli apologizes for the fact that he lacks appropriate tools, but says he will do the best he can with what he has. He asks her to undress, and then examines her breathing, heart rate, and the like. He determines that she seems more or less normal, though there are some anomalies (like a strange, fluttering heartbeat) that would indicate something wrong. After discussion turns to her supposed affinity for electricity, he asks if he may test this. After cutting her arm with a scalpel, he then indicates as she is an extranormal being, he could be considered such as well. As if to demonstrate, electricty arcs from the electrical outlet and into her, though as it does, the cut closes. She indicates that she felt no muscle seizure, though he indicates that she briefly appeared entirely robotic when that happened. When she expresses interest in an X-ray, he similarly does something uncanny when he examines her for a moment and then produces an X-ray photograph from his suitcase. She appears to be more or less human, albeit with some anomalies that would probably frighten a doctor or just generically seem strange. He tells her that she should probably avoid doctors whenever possible. After having her dress, they discuss a few more things. He makes it obvious that he has a huge admiration for Dr. Frye’s work, and he is sad that things went awry. He says that any coverup is likely goverment-related, though he doesn’t know for certain. He does indicate that he will try to use his government contacts to learn more — he indicates that he is a government contractor, and that he is in Las Vegas for this reason, though he is not at liberty to say more. He also talks a little about living in New York City, and mentions his wife Dalia. He also indicates that he knows Paul St. Claire, having encountered him in Terra Lake while researching a radiation spike and a strange species of fish — indeed, after Las Vegas and Chicago, he will likely go back there to see how research is doing. He asks if he may discuss Gidget with his wife, and Gidget allows that. He also indicates that, like him, Dalia is strange — possibly another stage of human potential, typically known by names as “wizard” or “magus” though, again, he is not at liberty to say much about them.

Before his meeting, he says that he will go get dinner, and he asks if Gidget would care to accompany. They do, and have a pleasant dinner and conversation before Dr. Zirpoli calls her a taxicab and they part company for the evening.

Gidget calls Paul, and getting his voicemail, leaves a message. Upon returning to the hotel, she knocks on the door and enters the room to find no one there. With nothing else to do, she calls Lilith, and they decide to hang out.

Gidget drives over to Jenny’s trailer, and the group talks for a bit before Gidget and Lilith decide to go back into town. Jenny decides to stay home, and will probably stargaze a little later. Gidget and Lilith discuss what to do for a little while before finally deciding on wandering around town looking for other Prometheans by sensing their Divine Fire. They have no luck, though Paul does call back. Once he learns that everything is okay, he leaves them on their way, but indicates that he should return later.

Eventually, Gidget and Lilith make their way back to the hotel room, joined shortly by Paul. The three chat and hang out before going to bed.

The next morning, Gidget awakens early and decides to research some more things. She looks for her patent, but finds that she cannot find it. She can find some of the lesser components of her system, but only things that are used in other applications — anything invented by Dr. Frye solely to create a humanoid robot is gone. Gidget starts by calling her “brother” Daniel. She is greeted by an uncharacteristically chipper Jennifer, his fiancée, who asks about Gidget’s trip before giving the phone to Daniel. She asks about her findings, and he indicates that he never renewed the patent, and indeed, never really maintained any of that stuff. He apologizes that he doesn’t know more information, and the phone conversation ends awkwardly, as most of their conversations do.

Next, she calls Dr. Zirpoli, who says he will make his way over. He does so, and introductions are made. When Gidget asks about the patent, he explains it is his understanding that a patent should stay in a given database even if it was not renewed. Given everything Gidget has explained, it seems likely that the patent was taken out of circulation, likely to keep the information out of someone else’s hands. For somebody to do that, it was likely a government operation. She asks if he might be able to learn anything, and he indicates that he only has limited access and limited information, but if he manages to find anything, he will let her know. He then takes his leave.

Gidget and Paul then get ready to leave Las Vegas. After packing, they take Lilith back to Jenny’s trailer, everyone exchanges farewells and promises to maintain contact. Then, in separate cars, Gidget and Paul start driving to Wolframbed, WY.

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Bright Light City; Chapter 2

Monday, July 5, 2010, about 2:00 PM

Gidget, Lilith, and Paul decide to hit some of the casinos — after watching Paul play poker and do reasonably well, Gidget decides to try and does all right for herself. Lilith just watches.

After a bit of wandering, Gidget and Paul decide to return to the hotel to plan their next move, and Lilith decides to go wandering around the Strip. They bid her farewell, and return to the hotel.

Finally, after some discussion of things with Paul, Gidget feels confident with going to Montevista to see Juanita Doe, and so decides to go visit. Paul will stay in the car in the event of any trouble.

Upon arriving at Montevista Hospital, Gidget goes to the reception desk and introduces herself as Ginger Fries, considering that people apparently recall her name. She claims to be working for a blog, and she would like to see Juanita Doe. At the name “Juanita Doe,” the receptionist’s demeanor changes and she nonchalantly just sends Gidget to see her. After speaking to a few orderlies, she is allowed to see Juanita.

Upon entering, she is greeted by a small, old, Hispanic woman, just as described in the things she read. Over the course of the conversation, Gidget doesn’t get much out of Juanita’s cryptic ramblings, but learns that Juanita remembers nothing before 1952. She speaks mysteriously of an entity known as the Inevitable and Subtle Light which may own or may even be the Subtle Lantern — this thing apparently takes people away for unknown purposes. After producing a deck of playing cards, Juanita then lays out ten, apparently as a sort of reading. Prompted by the reading, Juanita asks Gidget for paper and a pen and writes the following poem:

Go round & round a twisty road until you find the mountain

The cave was dug and lit by the dragon and blood flows from a fountain

The lantern screams murder at the breaking of the dawn

Only shattered by the maddening tunes of Huitzilopochtli’s Song

Juanita explains to Gidget that she will need that poem with the new book she acquired that will tell her where the Lantern is, though the paper will likely be destroyed in the process. After some more discussion and asking for clarification, which Juanita cannot really provide, Gidget thanks her and takes her leave.

After getting into Paul’s car, they sit for a moment as Gidget tells Paul about her unnerving experience in the institution. Then, they decide to return to the hotel so Gidget can research some things.

First, Gidget decides to look up her father — specifically, what happened to change the reception he received over his robotics research. Strangely enough, there didn’t seem to be any particular even that did the trick; just sometime in the late eighties or early nineties, scientific opinion turned, his experiments were declared hoaxes, and he was discredited. When she looks up herself, Gidget finds very little — certainly not enough to warrant the reaction she received from Gillian Palmer. This is a story only really considered by conspiracy theorists and the lunatic fringe anymore.

After these things, Gidget starts looking for references to Huitzilopochtli’s Song. Paul contacts Lilith for help, and goes to get her. Once she arrives, they decide that “Huitzilopochtli’s Song” may refer to the hymns that Gidget found, the fact that Huitzilopochtli was a hummingbird, or may be entirely metaphorical. After a few more questions, Lilith asks what this is all about, prompting Gidget to explain the trip through San Francisco and the quest for the Lantern. Lilith says that the bargain to find the Subtle Lantern in return for an identity may have been a fae contract, making Mr. Long one of the people taken by the True Fae. The fact that his group seems to oppose slavery — as indicated by raiding the brothel in San Francisco — would further imply this. The group then decides that it might be a good idea to determine why Mr. Long wants the Lantern — does he want to destroy it, hide it, or use it to make himself more powerful? As such, Gidget says she will call him once she knows a little more about the Subtle Lantern. As she has one major thing remaining, the group decides to perform the ritual in Secret Wisdom of the Rose Cross, which provides an alchemy elixir for map dowsing.

After going around town to gather components, the group goes to Jenny Handspun’s trailer to enact the ritual. After Paul fumbles with it for a time, Lilith builds the fire for the kettle. Paul mixes the ingredients and manufactures the elixir. Gidget drinks the stuff, and feeling a bit lightheaded, holds a crystal pendulum over the maps that they purchased. After ensuring that it is in the United States, they narrow its location down to Wolframbed, WY, in the Rocky Mountains.

The ritual finished, Gidget thanks everyone for their assistance, and Lilith bids everyone good night, as she plans on staying with Jenny for the evening. Gidget and Paul then return to the hotel so that Gidget can perform some more research.

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Bright Light City; Chapter 1

Sunday, July 4, 2010, throughout the day (and the following day)

In the morning, Gidget and Paul get ready to leave. Before leaving, Gidget sends two emails — one to Gillian Palmer and one to Dr. Ebenezer Zirpoli — and then gets a cheap, pay-as-you-go cell phone before leaving San Francisco proper. In separate cars, she and Paul hit the road.

The drive is long, and there are a couple of stops as Paul still needs to eat regularly. Around lunchtime, he asks Gidget if she would be opposed to meeting another friend of his — another Promethean, in fact — and she says she would not be opposed. He indicates that he has no real way of contacting her, and that she might not be home, but Gidget still agrees. Then, back to the open road.

As evening approaches in the desert, a few fireworks from isolated communities and homes are visible. Finally, Paul calls Gidget and informs her that he is going to be moving down a side road. After making the way to a dirt road, Gidget and Paul find themselves at a run-down little trailer. The windows are illuminated, indicating that someone is within.

As Paul and Gidget approach, Gidget feels the fire in her stomach respond to the presence of two others in the trailer. She comments on this, but Paul says it’s probably all right. When he knocks on the door, the door cracks open and only half a face with glasses is visible. Upon seeing Paul, the chain comes off the door and it opens all the way. He and Gidget make their way inside.

They are greeted by a small, sparsely furnished trailer. The woman who answered the door is a young, thin woman with mousey brown hair and glasses. Gidget can also see her true self — that of a withered, desiccated corpse with a missing left little finger. The second woman in the room is another young woman, pale with black hair and stormy grey eyes. Truly, she appears pale and leathery, with great rents in her skin leaking black mist, and her completely black eyes displaying dim and distant stars. Paul introduces Gidget to Jenny Handspun and Lilith, and indicates that Gidget is new to their society. They ask Gidget a few questions, mostly about her being a robot, and then proceed to explain a few things. Lilith explains the ritual of the Measure, whereby two Prometheans can acknowledge each other and get a first impression of whether they will like each other — though as with all first impressions, this can be wrong. Next, she describes the Ramble, whereby Prometheans share their stories with each other. She starts, explaining that she comes from Terra Lake, Indiana where she lived with her creator, This Way Comes. When he mysteriously disappeared, she waited for him for a time before finally meeting a group of people, along with Paul, who tried to stop the weird, bad things of the world. After meeting Paul, the two went west, going to Las Vegas and then making their way to San Francisco. In San Francisco, she sensed the presence of This Way Comes on a truck headed east. She and Paul followed and contacted the humans from Terra Lake for help. They came upon the truck and broke into it, freeing This Way Comes and another Promethean, unknown to them. The second Promethean tried to attack, and when clones appeared — the company that captured This Way Comes was apparently using Prometheans to help make human clones — he ran away and they gave chase. Lilith, Paul, and her friends escaped in the confusion. After getting situated, Lilith and This Way Comes went to Chicago to look for a friend of This Way Comes to see if he could help with an amputated arm — taken, apparently, as part of the cloning experiments. Lilith, meanwhile, separated from him to look for the second Promethean, particularly since she suspected that he was the killer known as the South Side Slasher at the time. When the killings stopped, she wandered aimlessly until coming west when she heard that Paul was out that way and had encountered the South Side Slasher.

Jenny indicates that her Ramble is a lot less interesting; she never knew her creator, and instead spent much of her time wandering around Las Vegas. She currently switches locations every month or so to avoid creating a Wasteland. However, when she met Lilith and Paul, she did find herself in a poker game against another Jenny Handspun, who challenged her to the right to exist. Jenny, obviously, won.

Paul explains that he is from Arlington, Virginia, and that Lilith hit most of the interesting points. He has mostly been traveling, though he will probably shortly travel home to be with his family, at least for a time. Particularly since his father has been after him to come work for Lockheed Martin.

Gidget then proceeds to explain her story, mentioning her creation, her life in Portland, and her current trip.

Afterward, Lilith explains a few things about Prometheans — primarily how they organize themselves into Lineages based upon the attributes of the founder. After a little more chatter, the group decides to part company for the night.

Finding a hotel, Gidget checks her email to find responses from both Gillian Palmer and Dr. Zirpoli. Dr. Zirpoli merely writes back indicating that he is glad to answer any questions she has, and that he will be in Chicago shortly, if she happens to be out there. Gillian writes back indicating that she remembers the piece, and that Gidget should give her a call — Gidget does find her abrasive writing to be relatively off-putting.

After Lilith calls Paul to ask if they want to hang out tomorrow, Gidget and Paul spend a little bit of time at the Bellagio so that Paul can explain something about gambling. Paul only manages to break even, and Gidget doesn’t really make anything on the nickel slots. Then, the two go to bed for the night.

The next morning, the two awaken and Gidget calls Gillian around 11 AM. The two decide to meet at the hotel bar at Bally’s Las Vegas at about noon. Gidget and Paul get ready to go; Gidget asks Paul to stay in the area to keep watch over things.

Gidget arrives just before noon and orders some bar food. About ten minutes later, a woman of mixed descent looks around before settling on Gidget and sitting next to her. After they introduce themselves, Gidget explains her question and Gillian explains in her curt manner, after ordering a gin and juice, that it was just a crappy piece that she did for a local newsletter, and that she didn’t even really do a lot of research. The people at Montevista Hospital seemed to give up on Juanita Doe, though, and would probably just let Gidget see her, though she could pose as a journalist if it matters. Afterward, Gillian asks Gidget what she might happen to know about a photograph in her possession, and proceeds to slide a folded piece of paper over to Gidget. Unfolding it, she finds a picture of herself and Dr. Frye onstage, presumably at some conference. Gidget plays it off, but Gillian indicates that it seems unlikely that someone has not aged at all in roughly twenty years. When Gidget indicates that she doesn’t want to discuss it further, Gillian acknowledges this fact and leaves.

Paul approaches Gidget to ask about what happened, and despite being shaken, Gidget is appreciative of what little information she obtained. Then, the two decide to visit with Lilith, and after deciding on Jenny Handspun’s trailer, they make their way over there.

Once arriving, Gidget explains what just happened, and Jenny and Lilith indicate they don’t really have any advice. Gidget could ignore the woman, or try to talk to her; she’ll really have to determine what is best. Gidget decides to wait and see what happens about it. In addition, Lilith explains a little more about the different paths to humanity that Prometheans may take, called Refinements.

After chatting for a bit, Gidget and Paul are ready to take their leave, and Lilith asks if she may accompany them. Everyone agrees, and bids Jenny farewell before heading back into Las Vegas.

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Stranger on the Road; Chapter 5

Thursday, July 1, 2010, around 2:00 PM (and throughout the rest of the week)

After looking, Gidget decides to check Fields Book Store first, followed by Black Swan. She and Paul then get into her car and proceed to go to Fields Book Store. After looking around for a few minutes, some of the help asks Gidget if she needs anything, and she asks about two books she encountered at the library: Sojourns of the Subconscious (mentioning the Subtle Lantern tales in 1950s New York) and Threads of Superstition (recording a 19th century folk legend from Indiana featuring something that sounds like the Subtle Lantern). After checking the inventory, the man indicates that they are in stock, and he directs her to their locations (Psychology and Myths & Legends).

After getting these books, Gidget and Paul continue looking for about an hour. They find nothing else directly relevant to their claims, though they do manage to find a book entitled Secret Wisdom of the Rose Cross which contains instructions for map dowsing; potentially helpful when looking for a lost item.

Satisfied with her selections, Gidget purchases the books and returns to Paul’s hotel to read over the relevant sections of each. Secret Wisdom of the Rose Cross contains an alchemical elixir for communing with the “Stream of Mind,” allowing for automatic writing or map dowsing (though learning about a specific thing may require some sort of sympathetic connection). When Gidget asks, Paul indicates that it sounds legitimate, though it may be difficult to tell whether something is useless until it is tried.

The relevant section from Sojourns of the Subconscious talks about rumors about a dread lantern in Utica Psychiatric Center in the 1950s; though these rumors were eventually quelled, they were traced to a woman named Juanita Doe since her past is unknown and she appears to be of Hispanic descent. The rest of the section in the book is just an interview with her and her situation in Utica, as of 1976 (the book’s publishing date).

The relevant section from Threads of Superstition describes a 19th century folktale of two traders who purchase a lantern from a traveling salesman. They claim that the lantern shows them many terrible things, and though they try to get rid of it, it always returns. The tale ends with the traders paying an outrageous sum to get the merchant to buy the lantern back.

After reading through her books, Gidget decides to look for Juanita Doe. After determining that Utica Psychiatric Center closed in 1978 and that its patients were released or transferr, she continues to research more. Eventually, she determines that Juanita currently resides in Montevista Hospital in Las Vegas; this is especially strange considering that she was described as a little old lady in 1976, and should be truly ancient by now. As for Juanita being in Montevista, the article was a human interest story written for a little Las Vegas paper by one Gillian Palmer, for whom Gidget determines contact information. Gidget informs Paul of this information, and the two decide to go to Las Vegas once their affairs are in order. After a bit of hanging out, the two decide to go to bed for the evening.

The next day, the two retrieve Paul’s car and go sightseeing, going to Alcatraz, Haight-Ashbury, and a few other spots. In the afternoon, Gidget decides to look to see who among her father’s colleagues are still around. She manages to find the following:

  • Dr. Henry Gutermuth was among naysayers, though conspiracy theorists note that he only claimed the proceedings to be a hoax when rumors started to circulate that he was not only a homosexual, but extremely sexually deviant. The rumors disappeared, but he left his teaching post at the University of Southern California and became a special effects technician. Within the past five years he has “come out” and lives with his partner in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Dr. Rose Morgan did not believe Dr. Frye’s claims, though she noted him to be a genius in the field and did concede that “if anybody could create artificial life, it would be Doctor Frye.” Despite her doubts about Frye’s claims, she kept in touch with him up until his death. Most people note that she repeatedly expressed concern over Dr. Frye’s mental health after the passing of his wife, though conspiracy theorists claim that this is merely a ploy, and that she was paid or threatened to deny the possibility of the “Genius” system. Dr. Morgan currently resides in Pittsburgh, teaching engineering at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Dr. Katashi Kimura supported Dr. Frye’s claims and were close colleagues, but some sort of falling-out occurred in the late eighties. Dr. Katashi Kimura is not mentioned in periodicals or other such sources until 2006, when his nervous breakdown is recorded. Since 2006, he has resided in the West Seattle Psychiatric Hospital in Seattle, WA.
  • Records indicate that Drs. Frye and Frye engaged in several decades of correspondence with one Dr. Ebenezer Zirpoli, though no meeting in person is ever recorded. Dr. Zirpoli currently resides in Queens, NY.

After a little bit of searching, she only manages to find a little more information on Dr. Zirpoli, though it’s quite scattered. She does have enough information to contact him.

Having finished her research for the day, Gidget and Paul decide what to do next. For entertainment, they consider clubbing again, though for proper planning, they decide to go the next night, and they decide on Club Six. The following day, they decide to go to Las Vegas.

The following day, after readying themselves, they go to Club Six where Gidget primarily people watches. She and Paul dance a little, and make their way back to his hotel before midnight. Caught in a sudden and violent thunder storm, they make their way back to the hotel, and to Gidget’s surprise, she feels a certain sense of peace and fulfilment when she first hears thunder and sees lightning while in the driving rain. She excitedly tells Paul that he was right before the two rush inside.

After drying and preparing for bed, the two go to sleep, ready for the open road the next day.

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Stranger on the Road; Chapter 4

Thursday, July 1, 2010, throughout the day

Gidget awakens first, and finding the room more or less as is should be, decides to take a shower and dress. Upon exiting, she finds Paul awake. He agrees that this is a decent idea, and does likewise. Paul then calls his Chinese contact and relays the information that they are to meet at noon in Golden Gate Park. Afterward, he asks if Gidget can follow him to an auto garage so that he can get his car repaired, and then if they can get breakfast. Gidget agrees, and after Paul consults with the front desk, he takes Gidget to her car, and then the two drive over to an auto repair service so that he can get his windshield and convertible top repaired. The two then go to Denny’s, and finally make their way to Golden Gate Park in Gidget’s car.

After wandering for a bit, they find three Chinese men, sharply dressed, sitting on a bench. One is the large man whom Gidget recognizes from the previous day. Another is a slight man, quite small, wearing spectacles. Both are flanking a third man, a regal man in a fine suit. Once introductions are made — he introduces himself as Mr. Long — he indicates that Gidget must be the one requiring these papers, and that the price as mentioned yesterday will be $5,000. When Gidget indicates that she does not have that money just at the moment, he makes a counter offer: if she is willing to retrieve something for her, he will do it for free. When she asks for further details, he explains that he believes he may speak freely with Gidget and Paul; it is a magical artifact of tremendous and terrible power known as the Subtle Lantern. It may have once belonged to an entity known as the Inevitable and Subtle Light. Otherwise, he does not know anything about it. Would she be interested in this offer?

As she indicates that she would, he explains that she will have a season, roughly three months, to retrieve the object. Once done, he will ensure that she has the appropriate papers. Similarly, during the time of her retrieval, he will make sure that she has the tools necessary to complete her task, including a legal identity. Additionally, if she requires more time, she may ask him in person, though he may ask for an accounting of her time to ensure that she is actually doing something. If she fails, she will die, pure and simple. After deliberating for a moment, she agrees to the terms. He says it is official, then, and Gidget feels a brief feeling like elation or heart palpitations before everything feels normal again. Then, the three men take their leave, leaving Gidget and Paul to comprehend the proceedings. After some discussion, and a few comments on how weird the whole conversation was, the group decides to go to the library.

Gidget and Paul spend a little under two hours at the library, finding little. They learn that the Subtle Lantern is also known as the Illuminated Lantern, or alternately as the Terrible Subtle Lantern or the Terrible Illuminated Lantern. There are references to traders and miners seeing it in dreams and visions in the nineteenth century in Indiana, as well as some who claim to have held it. A rare case of folie à plusieurs in an insane asylum in upstate New York in the 1950s also records the dread object in the visions of patients. Finally, internet message boards record a rash of sightings and visions in Indianapolis, Gary, Chicago, and Las Vegas, all in the past year. Despite these few leads, Gidget does post a message on an internet forum mentioning the Subtle Lantern, claiming to be a student doing research and asking if anyone in the San Francisco can speak to her personally. Deciding that this is a good time to invest in a computer, Gidget and Paul decide to leave and look for a Best Buy.

On her way out, Gidget is stopped by a librarian, who claims that she dropped something — a pocketbook. Somewhat surprised, Gidget thanks her and leaves. When she and Paul return to her car, she checks it to find a driver’s license, debit card, and bank book all bearing her name. Before going to Best Buy, she checks her balance and determines that she likely will not need Paul’s help in buying a computer. She then goes and purchases a small laptop.

After some discussion, Gidget and Paul decide that their next stop to learn about the Subtle Lantern is to check out some occult bookstores. Gidget finds a Starbucks with free Wi-Fi and starts looking.

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