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Uno and Fog: The Problem With Secret Identities

April 24, 2019

My adversary, who was almost certainly the LMSK, was at a huge advantage over me at the moment.  I had just been speaking with the counter guy and any use of my abilities could give me away, so I was going to have to be careful.  Granted at the moment none of them knew me other than just some suit and memories are a tricky thing in such events but you can’t count on that.  The last thing I needed was someone figuring out who I was and what I could do.

I hit the floor.  I didn’t duck, there wasn’t time for that.  I dropped, hitting the linoleum hard.  Part of me noticed that the floor was in dire need of being cleaned.  My suit was going to the cleaners, but that was the least of my worries.  Whatever those tattoos were, I didn’t want to be hit with them, the black, tar like energy struck the entryway door and started to corrode it.

I took that opportunity to cut the power to the place, hopefully everyone would think it was the result of tattoo guy and not craven suit guy hiding on the floor.  It didn’t make it dark, but it did make the room, especially the back area, gloomy.  The hum of the ovens stopped, although the barely noticeable tick of the heat from them became more apparent.

There were shouts of consternation from the youths in back and curses from counter guy, which made me like him a little more.  I could sense all of them, the faint grid of their nervous systems glowing., the panic beginning to register as their brains lit up, their nerves firing, getting them ready for fight or flight.

Tattoo guy was already in that mode.  I reached out carefully to put him to sleep and immediately came in contact with a barrier that seemed to ripple and move into position to block me.  It had to be his tattoos and I wondered what they were.  If they were a manifestation of his abilities or if it was something else.  Ms. Teri’s reference to old gods had me thinking in a direction that I didn’t find pleasant.

Tattoo yelped realizing he was under attack and ran for the back door.  I let him go, grateful he had chosen to run.  I thought about giving chase, but decided against it.  I didn’t know what I was actually up against.  I preferred patience and carefully preparation to improvisation and possible death.

There was always someone faster, more deadly, more desperate.  Charging into unknown situations was a major way for endowed to get killed, right after straight up stupidity.  Infernal is the classic example.  He died going into a volcano thinking he was invulnerable to its effects.  He was to the heat, but he didn’t account for the gas.

I picked myself up, tried to brush myself off as best I could, and started the current to flow.  The lights flickered back on.  I looked over at counter guy.  “You got a name and address?”

“Yeah.”  He didn’t argue with me, maybe there was something in my face, or maybe he was too flustered from what happened to argue.  He rummaged around in what looked like a ledger then wrote a name and address on a piece of paper.

“Thanks,” I took the scrap and placed it in my pocket, and glanced at the doorway. It was still slowly melting onto the floor and the outside sidewalk.  I thought about calling Teri but I didn’t trust her.  I could call the police, but I didn’t like doing that either.  Being the guy that just happened to be at incidents like these got you on lists.  The kind of lists where detectives tell you they don’t like you and think you’re up to something.  Which, unfortunately, was all too accurate.

“Where’s the back door?”  I would take it slow, just in case tattoo decided to try an ambush.

Meanwhile . . .

As The Fog related to me later, the Natural History Museum sits across from Greenward Park.  It is a series of interconnected buildings with fifty or so exhibit halls,  a massive library, planetarium, a maze of backrooms, storage, research stations, and a number of urban legends.  Among those legends were that the Museum housed the remains of the last mermaid, a cursed ruby plucked from a statute of Kali, an underground warren of tunnels filled with artifacts including the Holy Grail, the jarred brains of various mad scientists, the map to El Dorado, the horn on a unicorn and of course that it is haunted.

I can say, without equivocation, that it does not house the remains of the last mermaid.

The original building looks like a hotel from the turn of the twentieth century, followed by what looks like a bank vault, and various other buildings and wings, the most questionable were done in the favored style of the sixties and seventies which I can only describe as brutish, ugly and with a color palette weighing heavily on the spectrum of manure and nothing else.

The Fog made his way up the steps and through the main entrance.  A large group of children on a field trip were being ushered into the museum.  He took the time to grab a map of the museum.  There was a separate map for each of the floors, as well as the other entrances.  A hall in the northwest corner of the first floor was dedicated to Mesoamerica.

He made his way through the que, until a woman wearing beige slacks, and a blue museum shirt beckoned him over.  He paid cash for admission and made his way into the bowels of the museum.

He had to travel through three exhibit halls before getting to the one on Mesoamerica.  Careful not to hurry, he didn’t not linger either in each of the halls.  People moved slowly from one display to another, and he let their ebb and flow guide him.  He noted the security guards and their movements; the staff in their beige pants and blue shirts.

When he got to the hall of Mesoamerica he took his time at each exhibit.  Noting the regions, the diorama of the temple of the Owl, pieces of the Dresden Codex, the Olmec civilization, and all the subsequent civilizations that rose and fell.

There were a couple of staff only doors that he saw in passing.  He would wait for an opportunity to check that part of the museum.  As he progressed in the hall, a woman entered from one of the staff entrances.  Grey jacket and suit skirt, glasses, dark hair pulled into a tight bun. Pretty in a severe way.  A security guard wandered by on his rounds and nodded his head to the woman in recognition, “Professor.”

She said some greeting in response, but her back was to him and it was too faint for him to hear.  He kept tabs on her as he made his way farther into the exhibit.

He stopped when he came upon a part of the Laud Codex depicting human sacrifice.  The priest twice as large as the victim, the colors subdued except for the deep color of the blood.  As if the only real thing in life was the blood.   There was an entire display on blood letting and sacrifice and the tools used, from ropes with thorns to a stingray’s spine.

The Fog contemplated the display.  This is where the knife would have been, he was certain of it.  He looked at the glass and saw the small pressure sensor on the edge.  It wouldn’t be hard for him to circumvent it.  He wondered if it had been a smash and grab or something more subtle.

The professor came up beside him.  He glanced at her, only because it would be unnatural not to, but he had heard her approach.  She nodded at the display without looking at him.  “All that effort to keep their gods at bay.”

The Fog recognized her, but made sure he didn’t react.

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