April 13th 2011
I had just gotten back from a trip to the library when I spotted them.
Your average person would just think it's a bunch of cops casing the area. A mix of uniformed and plainclothes ones running around. The higher ups in suits bossing around the grunts as they ran around, firearms open and ready for use. But I could see the signs. There wasn't any logo on any of them. Normal cops have a logos, whatever department they work for emblazoned on their badges. These guys had generic police badges.
There was also the way they moved, a normal cop when locking down an area was looking for a perp. Someone needed to be caught, who might shoot them. These guys, however, were moving like they were looking for something more dangerous. Like a guy who could make you explode with their mind, yeah I could see the signs. These guys were Foundation.
Part of me just wanted to roll my eyes and walk away. I hadn't been involved in three years. Just let them do their jobs, I had quit for a reason. But, you know, that damnable curiosity that had made me such a good agent back then still itched at me.
In the end curiosity won out, and I approached the place. Of course, one of the uniformed guys spotted me. I kept walking as he approached, barely giving him a glance.
"Excuse me." He said, "I'm afraid that we can't let you through."
I shrugged it off, "How goes the search Agent?" I said with a slight commanding tone.
"Err…" The agent stared at me for a moment, not really sure how to react.
"Well? We got ourselves some potentially dangerous anomaly out there and you're wasting your time chatting me up? I guess the search is going well then."
"Err, no Ma'am…" The poor kid said, clearly taken aback.
"Well then get back to work!" I snapped, and the fake cop nodded meekly and ran off to go find his own ass or something.
Now that one of them had chatted me up and let me go, the rest of them just assumed I belonged. Pretty easy, you know? It's actually pretty funny. Like all agents, when I started I was given a primer on covert field work. Lesson one was 'Act like you belong and most won't question you.' Every agent gets that lesson, and yet it still works!
The area cordoned off was a pretty big park, agents were running through the place. Hiking around and shouting orders. I saw forensics guys taking samples and a few field scientists making some obscure measurements. Now let's see, I bet the science guys will be talking about whatever things here…
I turned around and give the guy saying my name a big smile. "Well hey, how's things Jackie?"
Jackson Garcia had his arms folded as he gives me that ever so familiar look. The one he often gave me when I dragged him into doing something dumb and we got reprimanded afterwards. "What the hell are you doing here Allison?"
"Nobody here has told me to leave." I answered honestly, giving him my best innocent little girl smile.
Jackie, of course, was one of the plainclothes guys. "Allison, you know full well that civilians are restricted from Foundation recovery points."
"Yeah yeah." I said, "Are you going to take me in? Interrogate me? Hell, maybe this'll be the last straw that convinces the higher ups I'm worth the cost of amnesiacs."
Jackie rolled his eyes, "You're not worth the trouble really."
Right, we knew how it'd go. I'd tell my story about being Ex-Foundation and just a little curious about whatever thing they're catching here. Show my credentials and reaffirm I have no interest in exposing some crazy skip to the world or setting free whatever Dark God is being sealed forever this week or whatever. Then they'd let me go, maybe ask for some advice if whatever they're hunting I knew about.
I mean, I'm sure a lot of you guys have heard that working for the Foundation means You're There Forever. But that really isn't true, once I decided it wasn't for me I simply turned in my papers, let my contract run out, and was let go with the knowledge that as long as I didn't blab anything they'd leave me alone. Well I'm not really interested in blabbing. Instead I've been enjoying the hilariously generous retirement packages. Seriously they give you so much for a mere five years work because being a field agent means there's a risk of something biting your head off, and I worked for eleven!
"So how's the family?" I asked.
He gave me a look saying 'Really?' before naturally answering, "Mom's been pestering me, trying to get me to go to church more often, and set me up on some dates."
"Isn't God locked up?"
"I doubt 343 is actually God, Allison."
I shrugged, "Well, tell her I said hi next time you talk to her."
"Right, fine. She did like you, after all." Jackie said.
"So," I changed the subject, "What exactly attracted you guys here?"
"You really think I'm going to tell you?" He said.
"Well you haven't thrown me out yet, so I figure you still like me enough to talk to me, and if you answer then I can leave you alone with my curiosity sated."
Jackie let out another long sigh, he's always been bad at saying no to people. "Fine. We got reports about impossible animals in the town."
"Unicorn Tigers, birds the size of a bear, that sort of thing." He said.
"So what, a tiger with a unicorn horn on its head?"
"So why not send in Animal Control?" I asked.
"Two reasons. First, the animals leave no physical trace. A bright blue elephant stomped through streets and didn't leave a footprint. They can get caught on film, but there's no other evidence they exist once they vanish." Jackie reached into his pocket, pulling out a printed out photo, "Second, we caught this on film."
I took the picture, there were two things in it. The first was the titular Unicorn Tiger, exactly as I imagined it. The second… was a girl, around twelve from the looks of it, petting the thing.
"So," I said, "You think girl's the one responsible for the animals."
"Yeah." He said, "At the very least she's a person of interest."
There was a silence between us before I sighed and folded the picture back up.
"Ally…" Jackie started saying before I shoved the picture back into his hands.
"No no, it's fine." I said, "I get it. Secure, Contain Protect, right?"
"Yeah, it's not always the greatest job." He said.
"So, thanks Jackie." I said, my smile coming back. "I guess I'll leave you to your search now. Good luck in finding it." I waved to him, walking further into the park.
The girl was obviously in the park, the Foundation had probably already locked down the rest of the place. As I walked around her parents were being questioned, asked if anything strange was going on with her daughter.
They'd spring the cost of amnesiacs for them, of course. Give them some job at "Sane & Profitable Functions" or something, let them move out of state and while they forget they ever had a daughter.
Still, I had to admit, this girl was pretty good, if she was able to hide here with dozens of agents on the look out for her.
So animals appear, but they don't effect anything.
The little girl can interact with them…
My mind was putting together the pieces, I knew that there was no way there weren't others thinking about it.
She's around things that don't actually exist.
If I was a little girl with strange powers trying to hide, where would I go? There's no way they weren't combing everywhere. The perimeters of the park no doubt have motion sensors around, and I highly doubt she has any means of bypassing them.
Well, unless she's a Type Green, but if that's the case we'd better hope she doesn't figure that out any time soon.
Agents were looking under every rock and bush. I heard some scientists considering just digging the park up. See if she had some mole dig a hole or something.
Honestly, I bet Jackie's already figuring it out, so I'd better hurry.
If you want to hide from them, you need to do it in plain sight. Some port-a-potties had been set up for the agents. They're pretty big and comfy, you know, for giant plastic septic tanks. There are three of them, I opened one, looked inside, opened the next, peeked in, and opened the last one.
From the looks of it, my theory was right. I opened up the second one and step in. The inside was completely mundane, a small box with a toilet and hand sanitizer dispenser. Completely unremarkable, no?
Except the inside this particular stall was slightly smaller then the other two.
I reached out to the left wall, there's nothing there normally, and as I thought, my hand passed through it to touch the real wall.
The illusion vanished, and the little girl everyone was looking for was staring up at me. Wide eyed with fear.
"Hi there, my name's Ally, what's yours?"
The girl swallowed, "Uh uh uh…"
"I'm not going to hurt you." I knelt down to her level, "We can talk here for as long as you want."
She noticed right away I don't have any uniform or suit on, just a long sleeved shirt and jeans, no sign of a gun or anything. "Larissa." She finally answered quietly.
"Hi Larissa." I said, giving my best smile. "So, you can make these things appear, right?" She nodded, "So all the animals are from your imagination?" Another nod. "Can you tell me how long you've been able to do this?"
"Uh, well, I've always had imaginary friends…" She mumbled, embarrassed of such a normal kid thing. "Then one day people started to be able to see them. Then I found out I could make anything appear by imagining it."
"But they're not real." I said, "You're the only one who can interact with them."
"Yeah. It's still fun though." She said. A perfectly normal kid, who likes animals and has an active imagination.
"But a bunch of scary guys are now looking for you." I said.
"Did I do something wrong?" She asked me.
"No, you didn't. You just did something different. And there are people in the world who don't want different things running around."
I adjusted myself to sit next to her, "Why? Well, part of it is that a lot of the 'different' stuff is dangerous. Like, horrible monsters. So in some way you could say that they're protecting everyone."
"I'm not dangerous." She said.
"Yeah, I know." I said, "But they think you are. Anybody that's different then a 'normal' person is considered dangerous."
She looked up at me, "So what are they going to do if they catch me?"
"They'll lock you up for the rest of your life." I answered, "They've probably already gotten your parents, you don't really have a home to return to anymore, I bet."
We sat in silence for a few minutes, Larissa doing her best not to cry. Yeah, this is enough, I have to act now. Standing up and stretching my limbs, I held down a hand to her, "So, Larissa, do you want some help?"
She looked at my hand, her confusion evident, "What can you do? I can't hide from them anywhere else."
"Then we'll go somewhere else then, where they can't reach." I said. It may not be possible to get out of the park normally, but I haven't been involved with this insane hidden world for fourteen years for nothing.
"You're not the only special one." I said with a grin, "I may not have anything like your ability, but I've learned some things."
After another seconds consideration, she took my hand, and we shook on it.
"Perfect." I said, pulling her up. Now we were both standing in this crowded stall. Letting her go, I pulled my card out of my pocket. Holding out my other arm, I rolled up my sleeve. Preparations complete, I ran the card against my arm, cutting it.
Larissa's eyes widened in surprise, she didn't really get what I was doing. That's OK, it's complicated.
You see, Doors exist in a lot of places. But it's possible to make your own temporary one. Granted it comes at a cost, but it was one I was willing and able to pay. Really, the worst part of this would be the smug look on Henry's face when he learned I actually had a use for some of his hippy bullshit.
Dipping my finger into my cut, I scribbled some words onto the door of the stall. I waited a minute, and pushed open the door. Larissa's eyes widened in surprise as she saw what was beyond it. No longer was there a park leading out, instead there was a vast Library.
"Head in there and wait for me, read a few books if you'd like." I said, "I'll go check up on you in a bit."
"Uh…" She looked nervously at the expanse of shelves beyond the door.
"Go!" I pushed her through the door, just before the ritual faded, and I shut the door again.
It took a minute to wash off my blood and make sure my cut was hidden by the sleeve. With that done I opened the door to the stall, now leading back into the park. Sure enough, Jackie was right there.
"Allison?" He said, "What are you still doing here?"
"Well, isn't it obvious?" I said, "This is a toilet, right?"
"Yeah, it is…" Jackie pushed me out of the way, stepping into the stall. He looked around, even ran his hand against the walls, "Oh, damn." He muttered, stepping out again.
"What were you doing?" I said.
"Well, I had thought she might be hiding in here. I think she doesn't make anything at all, just conjures up illusions… does that make sense?" He asked.
"As much as anything." I said with a shrug.
"Anyways, after thinking about that I figured that the best place to hide would be someplace enclosed, that people aren't going to pay much attention to."
"So you thought she'd hide in the toilet?" I said.
"Yeah, but she isn't here." He said, "I guess she's hiding somewhere else then."
"Could be anywhere, if she really can make illusions." I said.
"Basically." He groaned, "We really are going to have to tear apart this place."
"Well, good luck with that." I said with a wave, "See you later Jackie."
"Yeah, I guess. See you later too Ally." He waved back, before going back to thinking about his search. I myself just walked away, I didn't have any reason to be here at all.
Really, I need to get my curiosity under control.