The Color of Night
Passage to Heathrow
“I told you never to call me here,” said Max, as he answered his cell phone.
“Hey, Max,” Winter responded. “I need a favor.”
“Hey, yourself. What’s up?”“I need an introduction to your Templar friends.” Winter waited a moment, and when Max didn’t respond, she waited a little longer before saying. “Max? Are you still there?”
“Yo! Yes! I am still here. That’s complicated. Why do you need that?”
“I’m about to buy tickets to London. I want to do some networking in Europe.”
“Is Kolin going? What does he think about this?”
“No, he’s working out of town. I didn’t ask him.”
“You modern girls,” chuckled Max. “It’s cute how you act all independent.” He could practically hear Winter grinding her teeth.
“Well, it’s your lucky day. I happen to be free. When do you want to leave?”
“For London. When. Do. You. Want. To. Leave.”
“You want to come along?”
“Obviously. I’ve already been here too long. Besides, I hear Ichiko’s grandmother is here for a visit.”
“Why does that have to do with you wanting to get out of town?
“Oh, nothing really.” Max replied innocently. “Honestly, Kolin might kill me if I let you wander around Europe on your own.”
“Um, whatever. It’s not my first trip to Europe you know.”
“I can introduce you to a few people. There are some I can’t introduce to you. They’d freak out and start trying to kill us if they knew I told you about them.”
“You haven’t told me about them.”
Winter drew a deep breath and counted to ten in her head. “Well, I want to leave as soon as I can get on a flight.”
“How about Thursday?” Max countered. “We should check into St George’s Hotel Wembley. There’s a great bar nearby where we can have drinks.”
“Oh? What’s it called?” Winter asked.
“Wembley Stadium,” said Max.
“Of course it is. Fine, let’s do this.” Winter resigned herself to traveling with Max. Truthfully, she wasn’t nearly as annoyed as she pretended to be. She enjoyed travelling with friends.
“Just buy a one way ticket for now.” Max said. “We’ll want to go to a couple of other places afterwards.”
Winter and Max bought first class tickets from Columbus to Heathrow, London, leaving at 4:15PM on Thursday, July 12. The flight was scheduled to take just over eleven hours, with a stop at O’Hare in Chicago, and arriving at Heathrow at 10:35AM.
They boarded the plane around 3:50PM and settled themselves into the large cushioned seats. The seats were covered in beige leather, and resembled fancy recliners. There was a table between their chairs with plenty of room for beverages, and a large screen which would display the in-flight movies. The two seats across from them were empty.
A moment later, a gentleman in a business suit entered first class. He nodded to them, but chose not to sit across from them. As soon as he was seated, he opened his laptop and started working. Winter checked that he wasn’t listening to them, but he was muttering to himself and appeared to be editing some kind of presentation.
“He’s distracted.” Winter confirmed to Max.
“Good. Let’s talk about our itinerary for this trip.” Max was looking enthusiastic. “There are lots of places we could go…South America, Egypt, Africa, or…” Winter cut him off by raising a hand.
“Let’s stick to Europe for this trip, okay?”
“Western Europe or is Eastern alright?” Max asked, his enthusiasm not noticeably dampened.
“Either or both. I just don’t want to be gone for months. Grad school starts in August.” Winter grinned at her friend.
“That’s fine. I was thinking after we meet John in London…John will probably want to meet us for drinks. John’s not his real name, that’s Janos, but I call him John Augustine. He’s actually Hungarian. He owes me a favor you know, I haven’t seen his wife and kids in ages.” Max was rambling, as usual.
“Then, I think we’ll hop over to Ireland. There’s someone there you should meet. After that, we’ll go to Hungary. There’s a group there that used to be Templars, but aren’t anymore. That should be enough for one trip. Unless you want to go to the Isle of Man, and meet the Speaker for the Cailleach. How’s your Gaelic?”
“Well, I’d have to translate then. She only speaks Gaelic.” Max stated emphatically. He paused as they were approached by the tall, leggy blond flight attendant.
“Hi, I’m Gracie,” she said in a posh British accent. “I’ll be taking care of you on your flight. What will you have to drink?”
The gentleman in the row behind them ordered a gin and tonic. “I’ll have a scotch and soda.” Max said pleasantly, while admiring the view.
“I’ll have the same,” said Winter. She amused to note that Gracie was eyeing Max like a cat with a bowl of cream. Gracie took her order, while barely making eye contact.
“I’ll have those right out Max.” Gracie said with a wink.
“Max?” Winter turned to him expectantly. “Do you know this woman? She seems to know your name.”
“She looks familiar,” Max admitted. “Give me some time to think about it.”
Winter and Max were chatting about London when Gracie came back with the drinks. She served Max last, and frowned slightly when it became apparent that he and Winter were traveling together.
“How do you know each other?” Gracie asked pleasantly, when there was an appropriate lull in the conversation.
“We’re colleagues,” Winter replied. Gracie’s smile widened at the implication that Max and Winter were not an item. Max proceeded to flirt with Gracie, and eventually remembered an extremely acrobatic and enjoyable evening. Eventually, they made arrangements to meet up in London, since Gracie was scheduled for a two day layover in London, where she lives.
When they arrived at O’Hare in Chicago, the third passenger in first class disembarked. Max and Winter were left alone, except when a particularly pushy couple tried to move into first class. Gracie handled them professionally, and eventually escorted them to their assigned seats at the rear of the plane. Winter and Max had returned to a discussion of their potential itinerary, when a gentleman followed Gracie into the first class compartment.
Gracie entered, saying, “Right this way, Mr. Parsons…” At that moment, the hair on the back of Winter’s neck stood straight up. She looked up at the new arrival, who was turned slightly away from her. She saw a nattily dressed man in a bowler hat. As he turned to glance in their direction, he froze, and for a timeless moment Winter and Victor Logue stared into each other’s eyes.
Max looks up, and his eyes narrow for a moment, as he recognizes Linus’ employer. Moments later, Max was on his feet, introducing himself to “Mr. Landon Parsons”. As Victor Logue broke their deadlock, Winter’s gift kicked in, and she immediately began to draw in her notebook. The moment passed quickly, and Winter closed the notebook to prevent the others from seeing her drawing.
Victor turned to Winter and extended his hand, “I am Landon Parsons, Miss…?” Winter was forced to stand and shake his hand. He deftly turned the shake into a continental kiss on the back of her hand.
“Ravenscroft, Winter Ravenscroft.” Winter replied.
“Of course, Miss Ravenscroft.” Victor leaned in slightly and dropped his voice. “And may I offer my condolences on the death of your father? I greatly regretted hearing of his death.”
He turned back to Max, leaving Winter discomfited and confused.
“Well, Mr. Calibur, shall we sit down and have a drink?”
“I think that’s a lovely idea.” Max replied. “Gracie,” he called out, and the woman quickly came to take their orders. All three ended up drinking scotch and soda, as the two men clearly preferred it, and Winter was too muddled to come up with a different drink. Victor settled into the seat directly across from them, so they could talk.
“So,” Max said after a short respite, where they all sipped their drinks, “Have you seen Magdalene lately?” He sounded wistful as he spoke her name.
“No, regrettably.” Victor replied, glancing at Winter, “There was an unfortunate series of events a few months ago, in Las Vegas. She was in a…car accident.” Max murmured the appropriate condolences, and looked distressed, but before Winter could ask him about it, Victor turned to her.
“Speaking of Las Vegas, how is Mr. Sean Flynn?”
Winter’s expression shuttered, and she replied stonily, “He’s fine.”
“Ah, Sean Flynn,” Max broke in. “I rarely see him. I don’t work with him much.”
Victor turned quickly to Max, and said, “Were you in Las Vegas recently?”
“No, I rarely have reason to go there.” Max said. “Why were you there?”
“I was there to…” He paused and glanced again at Winter, “to say goodbye to boon companions.” He looked at Max as he continued, “You’ll be interested to know that Mortimer Faust and I will no longer be working together.”
Max nodded at that, and replied, “I ran into old Morty down in Florida. He seemed to have lost his head.”
“Yes, poor Mortimer. Pity about his…reduced state.” Max smirked, and Victor chuckled lightly under his breath.
Finally, Max said, “So, have you spoken to Linas recently?”
“No, he generally worked with Magdalene and Mortimer.” Victor responded.
Winter was unable to prevent herself from commenting, “Max, you do have the most… varied… acquaintances.”
Max nodded. “I am unusually well-traveled. Here I am, returning to the “mother country”. It’s been far too long.”
“England is lovely in the spring.” Victor replied.
“Are you British?” Winter asked Victor pointedly, but he busied himself pulling a book from his bag. When he retrieved the volume, he made an attempt to turn the conversation to Max’s heritage. Max replied noncommittally, and went to sleep. Victor shrugged and began to read his book.
After a time, Winter asked him, “I admit I’m curious. What sort of book are you reading?”
“I’m reading a history of World War 1 called “The Guns of August”. Tell me, Miss Ravenscroft, are you a student of history?”
“Not really,” Winter replied, “unless it’s art history.”
“Who is your favorite artist?” Victor asked idly.
“Titian.” She replied. “I particularly like his Assumption of the Virgin.”
“Ah, the classics. I prefer the post-modernists. Jenkins, Warhol. Of course, I also enjoy Van Gogh.”
Winter and Victor began a long, in-depth conversation about art. They agreed that Dali was sublime, but disagreed on the best of his works.
They came to an agreement on the works of Tim Shaw. As the conversation paused, Victor looked over at Winter and suddenly said, “What are you planning to do in London?”
Max woke up yelling, “The Spaghetti Wolf! It’s behind you…and me! It’s behind us all!”, Victor clenched his jaw momentarily in irritation as Max neatly interrupted the conversation before Winter could reply, disrupting the rapport he’d carefully built over the previous two hours.
Not long after Max’s explosive disturbance, Gracie came in, saying,
“Max, would you prefer the sea bass or the chicken for dinner?” After they all ordered, Victor leaned back in his seat, still frowning slightly.
Max stretched his arms above his head, yawning. A moment later he asked Victor, “I have a question for you, and I just have to ask. Who was the most difficult opponent you’ve ever faced?”
“Hmmm,” said Victor. “Say I agree to answer your question. I wonder if you, both of you,” He paused, and nodded at Winter, “would agree to a proposition to pass the time?”
“Like what?” Winter asked, with some of her former suspicion.
“I suggest we play something I call the Question Game. The rules are simple. We must all agree to answer truthfully, or forfeit. If you refuse to answer you’re out of the game. If you answer, you gain the right to ask a question.”
Winter and Max looked at each other, and Winter shrugged. “That’s fine by me.” Max nodded his agreement.
“No ganging up on me now,” Victor said, with a smile. “I’ll even let Max go first.”
Winter considered a moment, and then also nodded. “OK, I’m in.”
Max jumped right in, restating his original question. “Who was the most difficult opponent you’ve ever faced?”
Victor thought for a moment, and then asked for clarification, “What did you mean by difficult, and by opponent?”
Max considered the question and responded, “A matter of life and death, and someone with whom you are, or were, at meaningful cross purposes.”
Victor answered promptly, “A man named Bêla Kiss.”
Immediately, he asked Max and Winter, “This question is for either of you. How did you become affiliated with the Eric Raven Foundation?”
Max responded promptly, “I was recruited to verify the history on a number of South American artifacts. It was more of an audition than a job, and they’ve had me “on the rolodex” ever since.”
Winter opened her mouth to answer, and then fell silent, realizing that by the rules of the game, she didn’t have to answer. Victor looked disappointed.
“Well, Ms. Ravenscroft, I believe it’s your turn.” Victor said smoothly.
Winter queried, “What is your opinion of the Eric Raven Foundation?”
Victor responded forcefully, “I think they’re a collection of gormless twits who are going to get us all killed. My turn. This question is for Ms. Ravenscroft. Do you have knowledge of who destroyed the old Adana market?”
Winter stared into his stony eyes and responded, “Yes.” He nodded to himself. Max gestured for Winter to take the next question, and she followed up with, “Are you interested in knowing the location of the new Adana market?”
Victor smiled at her and responded, “I do know the location of the new Adana market, but I would appreciate an introduction to its master.”
“I see,” Winter said thoughtfully.
Victor cleared his throat and continued, “This question is for both of you. How much to you know about the Ouroboros Institute?”
Max and Winter looked at each other blankly. Both responded,
“Nothing?” Victor nodded to himself at their replies.
Max said, “My turn. Who or what is the Oroborous Institute?”
Victor returned, “They are a collection…a society…perhaps the best word would be a club, all of whose members are immortals. And by immortals, I use the term synonymously with ageless.”
Victor looked calculatingly at Max and Winter. “My turn again?”
When they nodded, he turned to Max. “Who are Tony Akira’s sponsors?” Max and Winter were both startled by the bald question.
Max shook his head. “I’m not going to answer that.”
“A forfeit then.” Victor said easily.
“Apparently so.” Max said forcefully.
“Well then, Ms. Ravenscroft, it seems to be down to you and me. I believe it’s your question.” Victor seemed unruffled by this turn of events. Winter wondered if Victor had deliberately asked a question that Max would refuse to answer, and prepared herself to watch for the man’s real intent.
Outwardly, she tried not to appear uncomfortable. She decided to respond in kind, and ask a question Victor might not want to answer. “What are the goals of the Scions of Solomon, and how to they differ from those of the Eric Raven Foundation?”
“That’s technically two questions, isn’t it Ms. Ravenscroft?”
“True, but if you answer the second one, you’re basically answering the first, aren’t you?” Winter set her jaw stubbornly.
“Very well. Your question is pushing the rules, but I am enjoying the game, and do not wish it to end yet, so I will give an answer. If you find my answer too vague, you may consider it a forfeit.”
“Agreed.” Winter replied.
He nodded to her and continued, “The goals of the two initially started on a similar path. The Scions are a group I started, once the Foundation and I came to irreconcilable differences. It began with the Babylon Working. My group and the current management of the Foundation have differing opinions on how to progress toward the improvement of the human condition. Is that answer acceptable to you?”
“It is,” she said.
Victor thought solemnly for a moment and then asked, “Ms. Ravenscroft, do you have an objection to letting Max back into the game?”
Winter shook her head, “I do not.”
“I propose that we do so. My question regarding Mr. Akira was, possibly, inappropriate.”
Max said pointedly, “I’ll reenter the game if we all agree that we won’t ask questions about people by name, or about people who are not present.”
Victor said quickly, “I agree. We can just call it the ‘Don’t Be a Prat’ rule. By way of apology, Maximillian should get the next question.” Winter agreed, and the turn passed to Max.
Max looked at Victor and inquired, “Regarding the question you asked me, did you already know the answer?”
Victor laughed, and said, “No, but I had a good idea.”
Victor looked from Max to Winter, “If you like, you can consider this an invalid question and I’ll choose another….Is your little group as deeply involved with House Teruel as Mr. Flynn?”
Max said, “For my part, no. But I don’t necessarily consider myself part of ‘your little group’.” Max made quotation marks in the air with both hands. Winter tried to conceal how revolting she found the idea of involving herself with monsters.
Max turned to Winter, “I have a question for you, Winter.” Victor looked intrigued. “What is it about the first world that you dislike the most?”
“I hate watching monsters prey on the defenseless.” Winter answered quickly. She didn’t need to think about the answer to that question.
Victor smiled and said, “Cheerio. Good on you, Ms. Ravenscroft.”
Winter nodded briskly and said, “This question is for both of you. What would you improve about the human condition?”
Max demurred, saying “I’m just a humble explorer.” Winter rolled her eyes, but didn’t debate the matter with Max.
Victor answered simply, “I would give humanity the tools to defend itself, and achieve the greatness of which it is capable, but has yet to achieve.”
He turned to Max and asked, “So Maximillian, what are your principles? What will you fall for?”
“Those aren’t necessarily the same things,” Max said shortly.
“What do you think, Ms. Ravenscroft? Are they different? Which question should I ask?”
Winter considered this and answered, “I do think they can be different things. You should ask the question you most want to hear him answer.”
“Very well, Maximillian” said Victor. “Answer the second question please.”
Max responded, “I don’t actually know of anything that I’d be willing to die for, so I guess I’d have to be in that situation.”
“That answer revealed something of the answer to my first question, didn’t it Maximillian?” Victor said snidely, looking down his nose at the other man.
Max shrugged off the other man’s disapproval. “What led to you and Mr. Faust parting ways?”
“I grew tired of his cavalier and ill-considered definition of humanity. One can only deal with Nazis for so long.” Victor scoffed. “Ms. Ravenscroft, why don’t you take a turn?”
Winter asked him, “If you leave out the Scions and the Foundation, what do you think is the most dangerous faction in the First World?”
Victor pondered the question for a few minutes, and then asked, ”What do you mean by a faction?”
Winter retorted, “A group of individuals who refer to themselves by a name that represents their shared goals or philosophies.”
Victor said in reply, “Well, that’s a bit of a toss-up. I would have to say that it is either the Possessed, even though they aren’t a group as such, since they may be acting under the same direction. Then, there are those daft mugs who worship the Old Gods, and finally, House Teruel.” He paused a moment and said, “Maximillian, I’ll defer to you while I consider my next question.”
Max nodded and asked Victor, “I have to know, who does your tailoring?”
Victor smiled. “Jeffrey West. I think I have a card, if you’d like. It’s bespoke, of course.” He pulled a card from inside his jacket and signed it, handing it to Max. “Here. Tell them René sent you, and they’ll give you an appointment. I’d recommend a haberdasher as well, but given your taste I’m not certain they could accommodate you.”
“A great hat speaks for itself.” Max snarked back.
“Well, you should never try to wear a hat that has more character than you do.” Victor shot back.
“Is that something they taught you at Hogwarts?”
Victor wrinkled his nose in reply, and turned to Winter. Max murmured, “Well, I can’t say I got nothing out of this evening,” and pocketed the card.
“The next question is for Ms. Ravenscroft, and I mean this with all sincerity, do you need a teacher?” He leaned forward, looking directly into her eyes.
Winter responded with a frown, “That’s a difficult question to answer, because the comprehensive answer is always yes. We are always learning.”
Victor said, “I will accept that as an answer, if you will accept a corollary statement.” When she nodded, he continued, “If you ever decide that you do, reach out to me.”
Winter queried, “If I did, what would you choose to teach me?”
Victor answered, “I would teach you what you really want to know, and that is how to carve yourself a place in the first world.” He handed her a white card with a long string of phone numbers printed on it. She accepted the card from him, and looked at it with her brows drawn together. The he turned to Max, gesturing for the game to continue.
Max said, “I’ve heard some rumors, and I’d like a little confirmation. Honestly, what do you think will happen when all the crystal skulls are gathered together? Honestly. Assuming such a thing is even possible.”
“Impossible? I rather think it’s inevitable,” replied Victor. “That’s a big question, but I won’t call foul. The Next Step…either something wonderful or something terrible, depending on who is present.”
Victor turned to Winter swiftly and shot out another question, “Do you actually have a goal, or are you just stumbling around in the dark like this one?” He gestures to Max.
“Are you asking about me personally, or my friends and I? Our little group?” Winter made quotations with her fingers, as she parroted Victor’s earlier statement.
“I will accept either as long as you define it.” Victor stated.
“Then I will answer for myself alone.” Winter nodded, as much to herself as to Victor or Max. “I have a goal, but recent events have caused me to reevaluate it.” Victor hadn’t asked her to define that goal, so she kept it to herself, thinking that she would make him use another question to define it.
Instead, Victor stood up. “Please excuse me, while I step away to refresh myself.” As he got to the door he paused long enough to say, “Just remember, it would be considered ‘bad pool’ to go through my things while I’m gone.”
Winter immediately opened her notebook and looked at the drawing she made when Victor first boarded the plane. She had drawn a man in a bowler hat, with his face in shadow. Behind and around the figure are indistinct but inhuman shapes. It is clear they are chained in some way. She showed the drawing quickly to Max and closed the notebook again.
“I can’t believe he mentioned the Babylon Working,” she said. “Do you know what that is?” Max nodded, but Victor reentered the cabin as he began to answer, and he fell silent.
“Whose turn is it, or are we still playing? I admit while I’m a little tired, I’m not inclined to sleep yet.” Victor settled himself back in the seat and looked expectantly at his companions.
“I’m not inclined to give anyone the red card.” Max quipped. Victor titled his head in recognition of the jest.
“Red card? Oh, you mean soccer.” Winter said sarcastically to Max.
Max and Victor rolled their eyes in a simultaneous expression of European solidarity.
“I don’t have to take that from an American, when you people refer to a sport played mainly with your hands as FOOTBALL.” Max said acerbically.
“I believe it’s my question,” said Winter, with as much dignity as she could muster after the football comment. “What can you tell me about House Teruel?”
“A great deal,” Victor said seriously. “It could take a considerable amount of time to answer that. Let me ask a clarifying question…what do you want to know?”
“I’m interested in strategic information, vampiric strengths and weaknesses, that sort of thing.” Winter realized she was giving away her own ignorance, but the recent hunt through the alleys of Columbus was motivation to gain what information she could.
“Again, that could take some time, but I can give you some interesting information. What do you know about vampires?”
Winter sighed, and replied honestly. “The simplest answer is, not nearly enough. I know they’re fast and strong.”
“The older they are, the stronger and more powerful they are. They gain more abilities. They are heavily influenced by their sires.” Victor ticked off the facts on the fingers of one hand. “Do you understand the difference in nature between the feral and what you consider vampires? By that, I mean those such as Aloysius and Lilly Valiant.”
“I suspect I don’t.” Winter decided that to get something, she was going to have to give Victor something in return. “I’ll explain my interest. Lilly Valiant came to my home, to demand a service, based on our association with House Teruel. She asked me to invite her inside.”
“You didn’t let that creature into your home, did you?” Victor asked swiftly.
“No, I refused, and probably offended her.” His expression leached away, until his countenance was blank, displaying nothing of his thoughts.
Winter struggled on, “One of House Teruel’s ferals had come into her territory, and she demanded that we kill it. We agreed to do this.” Winter shuddered, remembering Lilly floating outside her balcony. Her hand gripped the armrest more tightly at the recollection.
Victor nodded and said, “Let’s go through some old myths…the mirror reflection thing is bunk, unless the mirror is silver-backed, and those are hard to find. They are generally faster and stronger than your typical human. The sunlight legend is true, and fire is effective against them. Most things are at least inconvenienced by being set on fire.” He smiled coldly. “The old legends about a stake through the heart have legitimacy, but only if you put it through their heart. It will make them inert, but may not kill them. Sunlight, silver and fire are universally anathema.”
Winter nodded, feeling as though she should be taking notes, but she was afraid to ask him to pause. He continued, “There are many variants. Once a vampire is old and powerful enough, their spawn will exhibit different attributes based on the sire’s personality. They all need blood to subsist. They can exist without but it is unpleasant, and they often go feral.”
Max interrupted, “I suspect that the reason so many creatures are affected by sunlight and fire has to do with the nature of fire. It’s a cleansing force, so to speak. Sunlight comes from a giant ball of….fire. Hence, why it kills vampires.”
Victor looked over and said, “You surprise me, Maximilian.”
“As for silver,” Max continued, “It has antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It’s a powerful natural purifier and first world entities are…not natural.”
Victor nodded his head and went on, “A vampire in its baseline state is little more than a hungry animal. Eventually, if they survive they can grow to be more. A vampire can choose to create its spawn and avoid that step. They are influenced by their sire. Additionally, there are indications that the progression in power is not solely tied to age, but also to the number of spawn it has.”
“How many spawn does a vampire sire usually have?” Winter asked.
“The largest European clan of vampire, the Vasilescu, has maybe thirteen members that are a century or older.” Winter swallowed hard at the thought of fighting over a dozen full vampires.
Victor held up a hand to regain her attention, “House Teruel has at least thirty that we know of. A normal clan has limited relationships with mortals, such as thralls or what is now commonly called a “Renfield”. House Teruel actively cultivates living family members, and Aloysius has competitions every generation among the best of them, the victor among whom is raised to vampirism. Its unheard of, and not well understood by the other clans.” Winter’s eyes widen, as she realized her worries about Lilly Valiant may be misplaced in light of the threat presented by House Teruel. “Have I answered your question sufficiently, Ms. Ravenscoft?”
“Yes, you have certainly given me much to consider.” Winter agreed.
“Alright, this may not be in the rules, but I will ask it anyway, for either or both of you. It’s only fair, based on the broad question presented to me,” Victor said smugly. “What would you do if you possessed one of the crystal skulls? What would you do with it?”
Winter realized she had been played, but responded truthfully, “I would hide it and protect it, to prevent the skulls from coming together, since no one seems to agree on what would happen if they did.”
“When, Ms. Ravenscroft…when.” Victor said softly.
Max stepped in, saying, “I would study it. After that, it belongs in a museum.”
“Interesting.” Victor smiled to himself. “Now, I believe you both get to ask me a question. It seems only fair.”
Winter finally decided to ask the question that had been burning in the back of her mind since his first comments to her. “How did you know my father?”
“I worked with him, and with many of his family members, at the Eric Raven Foundation. Had he been born then, he would surely have been part of the Babylon Working.” Winter was shocked to hear Victor say that her father had been a member of the Foundation.
Max shot back, “What can you tell us about the Babylon Working?”
Victor looked amused and said, “I could tell you lots of things, but what I’m willing to tell you is that the Babylon Working was an attempt to pull the divine down to an earthly plane and elevate humanity.”
“I’m guessing they failed,” said Max snidely.
“That remains to be determined, but it was not successful in the way its progenitors hoped.” Victor didn’t acknowledge Max’s sarcasm.
“Is the project now over, or does it just continue on in a different way?” Max asked.
“More the latter.”
Max decided to press the issue. “What is your opinion on all that business? Your take on it, as it were.”
“Let’s just say that I’m here to clean up the mess.” Victor replied. He continued, “This next question is for either of you. What do you know about Dipple Pharmatech?”
Winter said, “I know they are a pharmaceutical company, and RITSS provides much of their software. I suspect they are involved in first world research.” She watched Victor closely, but he didn’t visibly react to her statement.
Max said, “That name sounds familiar, but I don’t know anything specific.”
Victor rejoined, “Bonus question, do either of you realize they are involved in the Reanima Project to reanimate dead brain cells? You don’t need to answer that.” He smiled confidently.
Max jumped back into the conversation with, “What hard and fast rules of the First World can you tell us about?”
“Well, it’s not like there’s a playbook.” Victor said. “It does vary, depending on who you’re dealing with. “A good rule of thumb is, don’t deal with fairies.”
“You could say that about most first world beings…” Max shot back.
“To explain all of them and their vagaries would be very time consuming.” Victor was being cagey now, and Winter sensed they were pushing their luck.
“Can we agree on two examples?” She asked both men, who both nodded in agreement.
“Amongst those of the first world, promising something three times is considered binding. It is extremely bad form to break that agreement. If you break it, you mark yourself as not of their world, and therefore not entitled to the niceties. The other is politeness, as monsters don’t like to think they are monsters. Simply put, be polite, keep your word, and pay your debts.” Victor looked each of them in the eye.