Tiber took his first vigil since the initial set-up weeks ago. The transfer house in the Groenhou district was carefully guarded from outside attention. Interior inspection would reveal many luxuries unknown to colonial Arlington abroad. Local science provided some inventions. The remainder came from society members.
As a sensitive and local member of the Johannes Society, Tiber performed his duty with the utmost care. The room was large enough for what it held. He examined the vessels, checking for any neglect by another sensitive during his absence. Vessels intact. Levels normal. Master download approaching completion. Everything was satisfactory for the moment.
Tiber checked his pocket watch. Hanse was due back eight minutes ago. The docks situation must be worse than reported. As if responding to Tiber’s worry, the wireless clicked to life. He went to the recently moved station to review the message. He read, “BH routed. Progress on GG uncertain. X.” BH would be the Black Hats, GG the Grey Gentlemen, and X was Xarsi. Interesting. Xarsi was positioned a few blocks from the Duringham station, yet not nearly as close to the docks. Tiber tore the ticker paper and placed it in the fireplace.
Tiber sensed the Master stirring. Tiber checked the provisions at the table, making sure he had enough ready, before moving back to the transfer station, cloak and cane in hand.
“Master, are you well,” he asked.
“I am, Tiber. Thank you.”
Jaspar, certain the transfer was complete, waited for the upload to finish. He could not yet see. His limbs functioned, so he reached for the jack. Expecting a 3.5mm stem, he paused. He took more care with this jack, as it was almost larger than he could grasp with one hand. He pushed the release, twisted the stem, and pulled it out slowly.
Less than a minute later, his eyesight was normal. Lacking a heads-up, he assessed the room. Small. Colonial. The walls and furnishings were made of wood, brass and some tin. A fireplace crackled on a far wall. To the right, an old time Wall Street ticker sat silently next to a telegraph on a butcher block table. A larger, similar table occupied the middle of the room, just behind a man in a sharp brown suit and derby. Jaspar knew him from his waxed mustache.
“Master, are you well?”
“I am, Tiber. Thank you.”
“I have sundries here. Do you require anything else?”
Jaspar attempted to stand out of the transfer cell but paused. He was suddenly out of breath. He needed food and water now.
“Master,” Tiber asked.
“I’m okay.” Tiber raised an eyebrow. “I’m fine.”
Jaspar took the cloak and cane from Tiber and allowed the man to help him to the table. Lack of a heads-up meant it was possible the virus did not come back with him. He still questioned the efficacy of the filters. He would speak to Alexjandra when she released.
“How long before hers is complete,” he asked Tiber.
“Less than an hour, it would seem.”
Jaspar ate. Tiber replaced some of the empty plates with full ones. He refilled the water and offered wine. Jaspar held up a hand and shook his head.
“Where are the other society members,” Jaspar asked.
“They are all performing other duties.”
Jaspar cleared his throat. “Protocol requires at least three members in the transfer house at all times.”
Tiber answered firmly. “Apologies, master. We have encountered more turmoil in the past month than previous. Two new rebel factions wish to compete for what we have gained.”
Tiber attended to the other vessel. Jaspar didn’t like the general quite of the room, though that was disrupted by the slamming of doors elsewhere in the house. A young man burst into the room, nearly losing his goggles in the process.
“Hanse, what has happened,” Tiber asked.
The youth nervously adjusted his leather long coat. “Pardon me, Master Tiber. Master Jaspar. The Black Hats were in retreat when an unknown band ambushed our party. I snuck away at the first opportunity.”
“Where are they?”
“I left them in the Flagstone district.”
“Do you have the satchels?”
“I had to leave them in an abandoned alleyway. I made sure they were well hidden.”
“Please fetch food for the mistress, young man. She will be along at any moment,” Tiber said after studying the boy. Hanse nodded.
“What was in the satchels,” Jaspar asked after Hanse left.
“No time for that, master. I suspect Hanse was infiltrated.”
“Impossible. The technology does not exist yet. Unless…”
“It would seem so, master. Petyr had the satchels and was not in the same party as Hanse. The boy is lying as there is no way he could have had them. Or have hidden them.”
“Vigilance, my good man.” Jaspar took up his cane as he finished the last bits of roast on his plate.
The two men watched the door, waiting for Hanse to return. Tiber could not stay as the second vessel was ready. The men heard her breathe. Jaspar did his best to stand but needed the cane to remain steady.
Alejandra opened her eyes.
“You won’t be able to see yet,” Jaspar told her. “How do you feel?”
She only grunted. She reached behind her head with both hands just as Hanse returned.
“Food,” she said in a low voice.
After putting most on the table, Hanse brought one of the plates to her. Her eyes grew wide. She had the jack out. A sudden, sharp energy surrounded her, illuminating everything in yellow.
“Alejandra,” Jaspar said.
Hanse looked ready to wet himself as he stepped back. Her cover fell but she did not notice or care if she did.
“Mistress,” Tiber said, offering a cloak similar to Jaspar’s. She did not turn her gaze from Hanse.
She uttered, “Uthen,” as she reached, hands out, to Hanse. Some of that yellow energy crossed from her to him.
“Tiber run,” Jaspar said.
“It’s the virus. She’s just infected him with the Technophage.”