Accabish hurries into an alley and hides the scepter under her shirt.
She tries to reconstruct the events of the previous night. She recalls Daemon and the Naturalist leaving to infiltrate the warehouse around closing time. According to the plan, the Naturalist went in as a replacement janitor while Daemon entered via the wifi network and impersonated a researcher.
The rest of the Ring then moved the van into position after hours. Daemon and the Naturalist let them in. Accabish and Hunter then moved inside.
After that it got fuzzy. They located the lab with the Dream Machine. It was disassembled. Something happened. Monsters came for them. They tried to escape. Someone stayed behind. The building caught fire. She got to the van and they drove off. There was a tree.
The gaps in her memory torment the demon. She focuses on the cause. She remembers pale emaciated walking dead that seemed to suck up memories with a glance or touch. Some grabbed her, she is sure of it.
With that in mind, she traces the previous night connecting events around these gaps. A few details emerge.
The Dream Machine had been disassembled and core components removed. While they were in the lab, Weaver warned them of the monsters approach. Hunter and Nat hung back to guard their retreat. Hunter probably set the building on fire. Daemon tripped on the way out and she had to leave him behind.
The creatures swarmed the van as she peeled out. Weaver’s facade shredded as she fought them off. Accabish lost control and hit a tree. Shaken and worried about the arrival of angels, the demon ran away as best she could.
One thing is clear, the scepter came from the Dream Machine. It was a vital component they needed.
Then she spots her long dead daughter walking past on the street.
David Schmidt tours the charred wreckage of the warehouse, slowly winding his way to the yellow tape along the boundary.
Several SUVs pull up in front. Men in dark suits step out. The officer in charge intercepts them. Hunter inches closer to overhear them.
As the corporate men question the police about the crime scene, the demon feels a twinge as the one of the “bodyguards” scans the area. His eyes just skip past the demon, unaware that he isn’t human.
Hunter relaxes while the leader of this delegation from Keystone Pharmaceuticals demands access. They want to know who of their people have been accounted for. As the officer and the corporate employees talk, the demon learns that twelve people were supposed to be inside the structure last night. He glances at the eleven corpses laid out in the parking lot. With another in the hospital and a thirteenth in custody, someone is going to be asking some hard questions.
He recalls that the Naturalist should be accounted for in the cleaning detail. So either Daemon is dead or captured. Nat as well.
David finds some privacy outside the police tape and texts his allies. Found 11 dead. 2 in custody. Expected 12.
In the park, Jeanette slips out of the park as the siren approach. By the time the police officers reach the van, she’s already mingled with the growing crowd of onlookers. She hurries to a side street and makes her way home.
At the police precinct, Daemon hears arguing outside of the interrogation room. Despite his best efforts, the demon can only make out the detective’s anger. The other speaker refuses to rise to his volume.
Daemon debates leaving but lingers. A moment later the door opens and the detective shows in a blond man in a suit.
“Your lawyer is here,” he says grumpily.
The man places down his briefcase on the table and turns to the cop. “Could you give us a few minutes?”
The detective closes the door loudly.
The man turns to Daemon. “I’m Mr. Abrams.”
Instantly Daemon knows he is being scrutinized. Somehow this mortal can tell if he’s human or not. Fortunately his paper thin cover holds.
Abrams relaxes and sits down. Daemon shakes his hand, logging his identity.
Then the lawyer informs the demon, “Mr. Smith, you and I both know you don’t work for Keystone. Tell me what happened last night and this will go a lot easier for you.”
Daemon explains he doesn’t remember much.
“That’s not unusual.”
The demon begins to tell him the broadest details: there was a fire, it was night. “Perhaps if you told me what was going on there this might be easier.”
“The less you know the better this will go for you,” Abrams says. “Just stick to what you remember.”
Tired of this charade, Daemon steals Abram’s identity. The ‘lawyer’ slumps into a stupor as the demon discards his bloody lab coat for the professional’s jacket. He snags the briefcase and leaves the room.
The detective stops him outside. “You are ready now?”
“He’s writing a statement,” the demon explains. “Give him 20 minutes.”
“Better be a great explanation.”
“It will be.”
With that the demon leaves the police station. Once safely away he glances inside the briefcase. In addition to some papers, he finds a 9mm and a syringe full of a golden liquid. BSNX-9 he guesses.
The Naturalist props itself in bed up a few minutes after the nurses leave. The demon hears two officers talking outside the door with a physician.
Nat twists to look out the window. Three stories down, a white owl sculpture looks back at the demon.
The Naturalist pulls on its demonic powers. Circuitry and electric light traces along its skin as the demon’s cloudy eyes stare through space to Dorian’s apartment. A moment later the demon is there too.
Nat grabs Dorian’s cell and texts the others. Ow.
Daemon pops up in the feed. Everybody check in.
One by one, the team checks in.
Meet? Daemon asks.
Tonight? Hunter texts.
Location? the Weaver asks.
Wings is Nat’s reply, referring to one of their regular bars, the Eastside, known for its appalling chicken wings.
Sooner, now, Daemon urges.
Later. Nat concludes before giving his injuries a rest.
Accabish watches the thing resembling her daughter wander down the street. She glances at her burner phone, texts the others that she got out and tosses it away.
The strange device shifts awkwardly under her shirt as she begins to follow the young woman. Her daughter hasn’t aged a day since her death.
It doesn’t take long though before the teenager spots her. Accabish attempts to simply walk away but she finds herself tailed in turn.
Accabish makes for an open 7-11 down the street. The young woman or whatever she is stumbles along the way. Accabish hurries inside and ducks behind a stand of potato chips. By the time her “daughter” reaches the store, Accabish resumes her cover as Priscilla Webb. The journalist exits with her daughter’s doppelganger none the wiser.
As the crime scene, Hunter walks slowly over to his car. The radio crackles to life. There has been a shooting on the campus of the University of Washington. A man by the name of Joseph Mutsinzi was the victim of a driveby shooting.
Shocked, the demon decides to investigate.
David Schmidt finds a couple of officers already at the scene. A small crowd is slowly being interviewed including his old friend Bob Jensen.
Bob tells them that Joseph appear out of the blue this morning, surprised to learn he had been fired. The pudgy man explains he took ex-janitor to get a bagel and calm him down. Joseph called someone on the way. Then as the two of them were finishing their meal, a car drove up and someone shot at them. Joseph fell down, dead he thought.
Hunter looks around. No body or blood marks the concrete. Cracks cross a window in the storefront, intersecting at a bullet hole. An officer is looking at a few casings by the curb.
Then Hunter finds two bullets on the ground.
The chunks of metal are deformed, like he’d expect if they hit a living target. But again there is no residue of blood.
Hunter approaches Bob and asks some follow up questions about the incident. Bob indicates he didn’t see all the action. He tripped before the shooting started and fell on the sidewalk. He saw Joseph lurch back, he assumed from being shot. He fell but when Bob got up, he was gone.
The demon steps away and calls Daemon. He outlines the strange situation and asks the hacker to grab the footage from a camera he spots across the street. A few minutes later, the demon watches the weird event on his phone.
In the video Bob and an oddly blurry black man are leaving the store. Everything else appears to be in focus. The blurry figure suddenly turns and pushes Bob to one side as a car slows in front of the store. The man stumbles back. Then suddenly a blast of white static envelopes him as he falls. When it vanishes, he is gone.
Hunter texts the others. Everyone should check on your other covers.
Nat replies back. We have a very odd problem on our hands.
An hour earlier, the Naturalist texts Jenny’s husband John. How are the kids?
They are with you? he replies.
Quickly the demon’s eyes cloud over as it scries its children. It finds Jane and Jacob scampering about a park. Smiling behind them is Jenny. Jenny, its cover.
Nat texts John. Old message. At the park having ice cream.
ha ha, he replies.
That potential compromise dealt with, the demon shifts into Dorian’s identity. It heads for the park and this imposter.
The bartender finds “Jenny” pushing the kids on swings, helping them on slides and generally being an enthusiastic and affectionate mother.
The Naturalist extends its supernatural senses into this woman’s mind. What it finds is someone who really wants to give her children a great day. Digging deeper however, it finds an eerie truth. While it has all of Jenny’s memories, every moment experienced by Jenny, it also knows it only came into being shortly after 2 AM. Right when the demon encountered the Dream Machine.
It texts the rest of the ring.
The Weaver rests at Jean’s apartment. Around noon, her friend Kelly calls.
The librarian was reminded of Jean by a patron asking about the craft class. They agree to meet up that afternoon.
With the recent texts in mind, the demon stops by work first. Nothing seems to be out of order and her coworkers saw no doppelgangers today. Mike, her boss, does mention someone came by with an offer of freelance work. This Dr. Ilyes wants a chemical analysis done. Jean takes his card with her.
Later at the coffee shop, she and Kelly chat about their recent activities. The demon soon realizes the the patron that asked about the class was interested in more than learning to make birdhouses. The questions he asked seem like those of a practiced investigator. Unfortunately Kelly only describes him as tall and thin.
At least it isn’t Cory, it decides.
The demons spend their afternoons trying to recall the previous night. Unfamiliar with forgetting, the experience frustrates them. Eventually they reconstruct the basic events.
Daemon and the Naturalist completed their infiltration flawlessly. The demons disabled the security system and opened the way for the rest of the ring in the van. With the Weaver waiting behind, they infiltrated the lab where the device was being worked on.
Then the Weaver noticed lost time and snatches of blurs entering the facility. It alerted the team. But it was too late. The creatures swarmed them and everyone else inside.
Hunter and Nat hung back to buy the others time to escape. The Saboteur targeted some propane tanks. Nat was too close to the explosion. As the building burned Hunter escaped in the chaos.
The fire and emergency sprinkler system hindered the monsters. Daemon tripped on the slick floor and several of the things grabbed him. By the time he squirmed free, Accabish had long since reached the van and peeled off.
The things entered the van while it raced away. The Weaver fought them off in demonic form until finally they crashed into a tree in a nearby park.
Daemon considers the Dream Machine. He can recalls it had been disassembled and how the 50s era machinery contained ever more complex electronics. The room had been vast, far bigger than they had been led to believe. The machine seemed to contain more material than it possessed volume for.
But one item stood out. A scepter with technology decades if not centuries more advanced than the rest. They had determined it was the core of the device. Right before the creatures arrived Accabish grabbed it. When he last saw her as the things swarmed him, she still had it. It at least escaped the blaze. He relaxes.
Daemon’s curiosity somewhat satisfied, he then turns his attention to the new Cover he is building. A job at the Seattle Internet Exchange would open many doors for him. With a little work he had located two possible targets for pacts. One was David Mitchell, frustrated programmer and low man on the totem pole. The other, Archibald Simkin had powerful position within the organization. But the recent illness of his favorite aunt left him torn and distracted.
The demon weighs the options and decides discretion equals safety. He types up an offer to Mitchell: a new exciting position for his signature. He readily agrees and the demon dispatches a courier.
Daemon trawls through the Knights of Chaos forum to fill time before the meeting. As expected Bob has brought up the shooting of Joseph. But the demon also notices a thread discussing a rash of missing time. Something is targeting his minions.
As night approaches, Accabish entrusts Vince with a long heavy brown bag. “Keep this safe and don’t look inside.”
One by one the demons meet at the bar. The Naturalist arrives with its hoodie up and a frown on its face. As they wait for Accabish to arrive, talk turns to the doppelgangers.
What are they? What do they want?
Hunter and Nat relate what they know which isn’t much.
“Perhaps they are fetches,” the Weaver suggests relating that line of legendry. “Or doppelgangers.”
Daemon checks the ring’s finances to ensure no one else has a double running about. They find that they are clear. Except that Joseph just bought some coffee from a 7-11. It seems death isn’t permanent with these creatures.
As Nat notes the time these doubles popped into existence, the demons begin to reconstruct the events of the previous night. Though they recall most of the events before the attackers arrived, they still have gaps in their minds, places where no record exists.
What were those things? From snatches of memory, they sketch out their appearance and abilities. Chalky skin, black eyes, blurry on video tape, inhumanly fast, invisible to mortal memory. Something clicks.
The Naturalist, Daemon and the Weaver each relate the rumors they’ve heard about the rare beings known as Memnovores. These “memory-eaters” share many qualities with vampires including a resistance to mortal harm. They devour the very memory of their presence granting them a form of invisibility.
With some further research, they even find a video purporting to show the autopsy of one of these creatures. The picture jerks about as the filmmaker moves the camera about a homemade autopsy room.
“Take a look at the late great Francine Johnson,” someone says.
The handycam focuses as best it can on the emaciated creature on the metal gurney. Its pale skin resists focus however, smearing in the video even though the rest of the shot is clear. A Y-incision has been carved into the bony humanoid torso and the top of its skull have been removed.
A different male voice off camera says, “Here is an associate of ours with some medical experience.”
The camera turns toward a man in hospital garb who quickly shields his face with one hand. “I don’t want to be on the film,” the first voice says. “Please keep me off this, I’ll provide medical experience.”
“Okay”, a third voice, likely the cameraman, says. The video settles on the blurry corpse. “Tell me about the creature.”
“By all biological rights this specimen should have been inanimate for the last twenty or thirty years. If this was found in the Mojave desert, I’d believe you.” This “expert” then begins to list his findings. The video jerks a couple of times before clicking into a steady shot.
“One of the things we are trying to find out is what it was using in lieu of a circulatory system,” the doctor says as he begins to speculate on the biology of the creature. “There was no sign of a brain whatsoever.”
“Well it was a woman,” the second voice quips. He laughs for a moment before a smacking sound is heard. “Ow.”
The video jumps momentarily as several minutes of intervening footage is cut.
The cameraman continues to interview the expert. He notes the lack of any forgetfulness about the Sandman though it still appears blurry on film. “Maybe it is inactive.”
A female voice says, “Maybe it has to be conscious.”
The doctor continues his speech. He delves into the particulars of its bodily structure. He pauses as he considers the slow repairs to its body. “Where is it getting the material from? It has nothing to metabolize into tissue.”
“It might be pulling material from the air,” the woman says.
Then a few moments later the video suddenly ends.
The ring then contemplates if “Joseph” or “Jenny” is a memnovore or directly related to them. Daemon hacks Jenny’s laptop camera to check, confirming that she does appear blurry on video.
At that point Accabish arrives, delayed by traffic.
She reveals that the scepter they retrieved is safe. The team related their own experiences and the surmises about these doppelgangers.
Accabish points out that only those demons with more than one cover have been affected. Without fully revealing her own problems, she suggests that the others might encounter doppelgangers replicating people from their pasts.
Talk turns to how to remove these threats to their stolen lives. The Naturalist recruits Daemon’s help in determining the true nature and threat of Jenny.
Later that evening Daemon teleports into Jenny’s apartment after she falls asleep. Using his superior Aetheric senses, aura reading abilities and the augmentations granted by Lilith’s rod, he examines the sleeping “woman”.
Her aura resembles the outermost edge of a demon’s. But inside there is nothing. She is like an empty cover. She also displays heavy traces of God-Machine influence.
He teleports out and reports his findings.
Meanwhile Accabish examines the scepter. She discovers that this too was a creation of Lilith’s. While it possesses many powers, the most accessible include the ability to allow one’s cover identity to act as an independent being and to suppress the supernatural powers of angels and demons.
She confers with the Weaver. The other demon agrees an inadvertent use of this device might have spawned the doppelgangers. But if they could kill one, returning it to a temporary nascent state, then the second power could nullify it entirely.
The next day the Weaver calls Dr. Ilyes.
The voice of the doctor from the autopsy video thanks her for her time. He explains he works as a freelance CSI and needs an independent opinion on a sample from one of his jobs.
She invites him over to the lab.
A few hours later he arrives. The pudgy man shows her a vial of a strangely colored dust, dust that shifts and shimmers like the remains of the memnovores she killed in her escape the day before.
As she conducts several tests, Ilyes questions her about various highly technical procedures. The demon gauges this 30-something man is checking its skills. What does he suspect, it wonders.
The sample itself defies investigation. It matches no element known to the demon, possess no spectrographic signature (despite clearly having a color), and fails to appear on X-Rays or other active sensors.
Suspicious, the Weaver asks to keep the sample or part of it for more tests. Ilyes refuses, explaining his employers refuse to part with it.
Before returning the vial to the doctor, the demon quietly steals a trace amount. More than enough for its own, internal mechanisms.