Chapter 4, Part 3

The floor of the building was made of marble. The smoothness and polish of the stone belied its violent history, and its age. It had been torn from the earth by civilizations now almost forgotten, and laid down in the turbulent nascency of the first global society of united humans. A society that needed no name, for it was no mere nation or clan. It was a multifaceted machine of human cooperation, held together by the Central Government.

Two cogs in that intricate machine stepped briskly over the polished stone beneath them. They, unlike the students and staff that frequented the place, were first time visitors. And yet they, just like those regulars, had no attention to spare the historical uniqueness of this building.

In fact, most of the structures on the campus of Durvell City University dated from the decades immediately preceding Year 0 of the Central Government’s Standard Calendar. The main building of the Department of Experimental Physics, which had recently been expanded to include the sub-department of Materials Science, was no exception. It was aesthetically pleasing, having been constructed by the faction that valued art and freedom of expression.

It was this more decorative form of architecture, replete with ornaments all over the pillars, balconies, and evenly spaced windows, that was putting James slightly on edge. That, and the unsettling presence of Josh’s influence electrifying the air. Though well trained, James was ultimately human and susceptible to biases in his perception. In this case, one born from memory.

The style of the building reminded the former soldier of the places where he had conducted raids, and lost comrades, during the Year 120 Rebellion. In that year, a resurgence of the Free Expression Faction had declared all structures made over a century ago in an artistic style to be sovereign land of their new nation. Barely an adult at that time, James had willingly killed those traitors and terrorists because he could not agree with the way they valued ideas over peace.

Of course, his elevated stress could not escape the notice of his partner, who was well-attuned to such things in a way he would never comprehend. As the two reached a set of descending stairs at the end of the main hall, Faye looked over, concerned.

“Something the matter?”

“This building. Free expression styled.”

Faye nodded in understanding. She focused on James for a moment, then nodded again, this time reassuringly. “You’ll be fine. You aren’t feeling anything that will impair your judgement.”

James laughed quietly. “Thank you doctor.”

At the bottom of the stairs was a clunky humanoid robot with wheels for feet. Everything about its slapdash appearance suggested that it was the offspring of a passionless student project. In place of a face it had a head mounted hologram projector. It looked up as the two agents cleared the last steps, servos whirring obnoxiously.

Welcome To Sub-Level 1. For Directions, Say ‘Directions.’ For The Weather, Say-

“Directions,” Faye cut it off impatiently. Its speech was just as cobbled together as its design, seemingly a product of concatenating single-word sound samples with no consideration of how words would flow into one another.

One Moment Please.

The hologram projector activated, and a translucent 3-dimensional rendering of the sub-level presented itself before the agents. On it were labels, such as ‘Superconductivity Lab’, ‘Graviton Dynamics Lab’, ‘Technician’s Office’, and more.

James closed his eyes for a moment, concentrating. A moment later, he had what he needed.

A thick, brown finger pierced the hologram and settled on a hovering label. “This is it,” James said, pointing at a room marked ‘4th Generation Lepton Chemistry Center’.

Faye looked pointedly at her partner. “Heavy leptons?”

“I know. We can’t overlook the connection.”

The path to the chemistry center wasn’t a straight shot as James would have liked. With some displeasure, he committed the necessary details from the hologram to memory, then began to walk again, without a word. Faye followed behind without missing a step. The two  were working like clockwork again, trusting each other absolutely.

Ignoring the “Have A Nice Day” from the android, Faye felt her surroundings, then recoiled as if burned.

“I feel him,” she said, knowing James would understand.

“What do you feel?”

“Excitement. Giddiness would describe it well. Pleasure too.”

“Your analysis?”

“Must be the effects of whatever he’s using to amplify his power. Do you think it’s related to the heavy leptons? You have experience working with heavy lepton technology.”

This was not at all a jab at James for his earlier secrecy. In the midst of a mission, Faye had no interest in stirring up conflicts. She was simply asking if he had any information that could put her one step further ahead of danger.

James shook his head. “I can’t think of any prototypes that could have such an effect. Besides, 4th generation leptonics are not open to the public yet. Only scientific research is allowed at this point.”

He truly felt regretful that he could not offer anything more useful than that. In one way or another, James was determined to make his violation of Faye’s trust worthwhile. If he had no knowledge that could benefit her, then one of the technologies he carried on his body would have to be made to serve its purpose successfully. He would break whatever link was empowering Joshua Brooke. Of that he was resolutely determined.

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