A cherry-red Jeep speeds its way up a winding road into the Don Alessandro Mountains. Inside is Tim Hajanian. A satellite phone is pressed to his ear and a cigarette to his lips.
Tim: This is an ecological nightmare on so many levels - Quartz Lake is forever changed...
He takes one final drag and tosses the butt out the window.
Tim: Still no sign of Erika? - damn - this is all so crazy - let me know the minute you hear something, I'll be back at SCU in a few hours - okay, bye, Shelby
A deep sigh is followed by the dialing of numbers.
Tim: C'mon, Geo, pick up, pick up - FUCKING VOICE MAIL - George, this is Tim, it would be oh so comforting to hear your voice right now... I miss you, hope you're okay
Tim throws the phone down on the seat next to him.
Tim: Son of a bitch, I'm so tired of being there only when he wants it - this has got to stop
He slows his speeds and pulls off on the shoulder. The view overlooks the entire Santa Conchita Valley with Mount Wiggins' thin trail of smoke fading in the distance.
Tim: It's time to go, it's past time to go - I'm getting the bag from the cabin and hoping on the next flight to Guam
Tim pulls out and drives a little further up the road. He's in the process of lighting another cigarette when three Eddington County sheriff vehicles block the road ahead.
Tim: (Quickly extinguishing the cigarette) Shit!
Three officers sporting moustaches and aviator shades quickly glance at each other as Tim stops. The oldest struts over to the jeep.
Tim: Good day, officer, is there a problem?
Officer: Do you have business here, sir?
Tim: My brother's cabin is five miles up the road - I needed to fetch some gear
Officer: Can I see your license and registration, please?
Tim: (Opening his wallet) Um, sure - why is this road closed off if you don't mind me asking?
Officer: Are you unaware of the events of last night?
Tim: Oh, I'm quite aware, officer - but we are well past the volcano's radius over here
Officer: We don't know that for sure, now do we?
Tim: Actually, we kinda do - see, I work at SCU and...
The officer looks to his buddies and they start to come over.
Tim: Right... anyway, I'll just be five minutes, that's all, I swear!
Officer: Sorry, no one goes past this point
Tim: Why is Eddington County blocking the road?
Officer: You sure like asking questions, don't you?
Tim: It's in my nature to be curious
Officer: Well, Mister Hag...gidgin
Officer: Now is not the time to be curious - the Santa Conchita sheriffs are a little busy right now and we're helping out... that's all you need to know
Tim: Look, I have a deputy friend at Santa Conchita - if I call him up, he can vouch for me - I really need to get my gear from the cabin!
Officer: (Shoving the license back at him) TURN YOUR VEHICLE AROUND, SIR
Tim thinks for a moment. The other two deputies take a defensive posture.
Tim: Okay, okay
Tim reluctantly swings a U-turn and heads back down the road.
Officer: Have a nice day!
About a mile later, out of earshot and visual range, Tim takes the Jeep off road and heads back in the direction of the cabin.
Tim: FUCK YOU, PIGS, YOU CAN SUCK MY ASS... on second thought, noo
Inside the cabin, shafts of daylight stream through the holes in the window shades. Morrigan, dressed in an oversized camouflage shirt, is asleep on a fold-a-way sofa in the middle of the room. Her body is covered with a wool blanket and her eyes are blindfolded with a red-striped necktie.
Morrigan: (Stirring) Uhh... ow, my head - I'M BLIND, I'M BLIND
Wearing a black silk robe with a Japanese character embroidered on the pocket, Erika steps over from the kitchen, sipping some tea.
Erika: (Deepening her tone) Relax, Morrigan, you are not blind
Morrigan: (Trying not to panic) WHO ARE YOU? - WHY ARE MY HANDS AND FEET TIED UP?
Erika: You know who this is... and why I have to keep you restrained
Morrigan: Please remind me again before I SCREAM MY FREAKING LUNGS OUT
Erika brushes a comforting hand against the side of Morrigan's cheek. The touch causes McBride to ease.
Morrigan: Fin? - is that you?
Morrigan: You sound weird... yet familiar
Erika: Take slow, deep breaths
Morrigan: What... what happened?
Erika: Breathe, Morrigan
Morrigan: I'm breathing, I'm breathing already - will you tell me what's going on?
Erika: You know what happened and why this is the result
Morrigan is silent for a moment trying to recall everything.
Morrigan: What time is it?
Erika: It is afternoon
Morrigan: AFTERNOON? - are we still at the cabin?
Morrigan: I was... I was going to the bathroom and... ooh!
Erika: I told you not to come inside - you chose to ignore my request and picked the lock
Morrigan: (Gasping) I saw...
Erika: I had to do what was necessary to protect us both
Morrigan: A woman... a human
Erika gets up and paces the room.
Morrigan: I... I didn't see your face, just an outline of a body
Erika: I could not allow you to see my face - I threw the shower curtain over you and rendered you unconscious
Morrigan: YOU KNOCKED ME OUT?
Erika: I did what I had to do
Morrigan: OH MY GOD, HOW COULD YOU?
Erika: How could I not? - now, if we are through with your childish histrionics, maybe we can speak normally
Morrigan: Are you the one that's hogtied and blindfolded taking to a... a... I don't know what to call you
Erika: Fin seems to be working rather well and I had to secure you so there would be no more surprises like last night
Morrigan: Okay, I'm sorry I picked the lock - could you please untie me now?
Erika: I am still in an altered state - you cannot see me this way
Morrigan: Fine, let's make a deal - untie my arms and legs and I'll keep my blindfold on
Erika: You expect me to trust you to keep your hands from whipping off the blindfold the minute I release them?
Morrigan: Damn, are you a lawyer?
Erika goes over to the closet and searches through it.
Morrigan: You have a very valid point, I understand - BUT MY FEET ARE KILLING ME - isn't it bad enough I had to go through this with The Clergy?
Erika finds a balaclava and slips it over her head. She now dons fishing waders and a hooded parka.
Morrigan: Fin... are you there?
Erika: (Trying to find boots that will fit her) Right here
Morrigan: Why is your voice now muffled?
Erika: I am trying to find a solution for you
Erika finishes with a pair of gloves and goes over to untie Morrigan's feet and hands.
Morrigan: (Sighing) Uh, that works... thank you
Erika is deliberately standing in back of Morrigan as she slowly sits up and stretches out.
Morrigan: I want you to know you have my word and I will not remove this blindfold
Erika: Good, because I cannot stay dressed like this for very long - it is too warm, not to mention hideously unattractive
Morrigan: (Turning around) Can I see?
Erika: Your word?
Morrigan: (Turning back again) Sorry
Erika: I would simply retreat to the bathroom again and barricade the door better... but we need to discuss matters
Morrigan: I agree, we definitely need to talk - but I definitely need to pee - lead me there?
Erika: (Taking her hand) This way
Erika directs Morrigan to the bathroom and closes the door.
Erika: Let me know when you are finished
Morrigan: (Through the door) Could you please get me a glass of water while I'm doing this?
Erika: Of course
Erika goes into the kitchen and takes down a metal mug from the cupboard. A pounding at the door startles her and the mug goes clanking into the sink.
Officer: HELLO, THIS IS THE SHERRIFF - OPEN UP
Officer: WE HEARD SOMEONE INSIDE, WE NEED TO SPEAK WITH YOU
Erika: (Stripping off her clothes) Um... I'LL BE RIGHT THERE
Wearing nothing but the silk robe, Erika answers the door.
One of the younger Eddington County officers from earlier is standing outside. He takes in the full view of Erika before he responds.
Officer: (Smirking) Good day, ma'am - are you the owner of this residence?
Erika: (Leaning in a seductive manner) No, sir - it belongs to my boyfriend
Officer: (Peering inside) Is he here?
Erika: No, I am waiting for him to... come
Officer: (Leering at her breasts) I bet you are... I need to see some I.D.
Erika: Is there a problem?
Officer: Not at this time but we are suggesting that those in this area pack up their belongings and leave
Erika: Huh, I was under the impression that it was only a voluntary evacuation?
Officer: (Brushing himself against her leg) Technically, it is - but we wouldn't want a pretty thing like you to get all melted if the mountain blows again
Erika quickly glances back at the bathroom.
Erika: (Her robe now falls open) It blew really long and hard last night
Officer: (Not hiding the bulge in his pants) Oh, yeah
Again, Erika glances back at the bathroom.
Officer: Is there someone else here?
Erika: No... I was getting ready for a bath when you arrived - I do not want the water to spill over - get the wood floor all wet
Officer: I'll let you get back to that but first I need to see some I.D.
Erika drops her robe to the ground and slowly turns around.
Erika: As you can see, I have nothing on me
Officer: (Now leaning against the door) I can see that
Erika: I was so busy gathering candles and wine and lotion, I forgot to bring my purse
The officer's only response is heavy breathing.
Erika: And since I have no wallet, no pockets, I am afraid I have no identification
Erika now presses up against him.
Erika: But I see you have plenty of pockets
Her hand slides inside one and grabs hold.
Erika: May I pull out your badge?
The officer's face is now red and sweaty as he gasps.
Erika: (Working him furiously) I wish to stay at this cabin
Officer: (Getting ready to climax) I'm still... making up... my mind
Erika: Give me and my boyfriend until tomorrow... please?
Another sheriff's vehicle turns up the road and honks. The officer quickly backs off as his knees start to buckle. He catches himself and walks stiff-legged away.
Officer: (Wiping his face) You have until nightfall
Erika shuts the door behind her and watches him leave from the window. She now runs over to the sink and scrubs her hands.
Morrigan: (Still in the bathroom) Fin?
Erika: DO NOT COME OUT YET
Erika grabs the balaclava and a blanket and disguises herself the best she can. She goes over to the bathroom and opens the door.
Morrigan: Did you bring my water?
Erika: (Sighs) No... I was preoccupied
Morrigan: I heard voices - they were real, voices - right?
Erika: Unfortunately so
Morrigan: I stayed inside, I stayed quiet
Erika: You did not peek outside?
Morrigan: I wanted to but the blindfold stayed on - I promised you
Erika: Good, thank you
Morrigan: Now, if there was screaming, all bets would have been off
Erika: I would hope so
Erika leads her back to the sofa.
Morrigan: What happened?
Erika: We have to be out of here before tonight
Morrigan: Just as I was getting used to this crap hole
Erika: But we still have enough time... to talk
Erika: Let me go get you your water - anything else?
Morrigan: The truth, all of it!
Erika: As much as I know
Morrigan: You know plenty
Erika brings the water over and takes a seat next to the still blindfolded Morrigan.
Morrigan: So... what's your favorite music?
Erika: Excuse me?
Morrigan: You are human, so you must have human likes and dislikes
Erika: We do not have enough time to discuss my likes and dislikes - we need to cover the essentials
Morrigan: I think that's pretty essential in understanding you better
Erika: It is not me you need to understand - what did you learn when you were with The Clergy?
Morrigan: That I'm special... but not pure
Erika: Go on
Morrigan: That I'm a living treasure map and my mom and Joe Tiszo - both dead - communicate with my thoughts somehow
Morrigan: Father Greg is... was one of them... us
Erika: That does not surprise me
Morrigan: Oh, and that my supposed friend Amy is one of them and that candle-lighting bok choi-eating landlord bitch backstabbed me... and Zach - dear God, PLEASE let him be alive!
Erika: What else?
Morrigan: You're not like us
Morrigan: You confound The Clergy
Morrigan: And me
Erika: What I do not understand is why they keep me alive - they could have easily killed me if they really wanted to
Morrigan: I know, but you have something they want... or need
Erika: They have had several opportunities to take my trident
Morrigan: It goes beyond the trident - they want you... alive
Erika reflects on this for a moment.
Morrigan: And, so do I
Erika gets up and takes a seat across the room with her arms folded.
Erika: Do you remember exactly what happened before I found you in the river?
Morrigan: The Leader, the one in the white robe, used me to find the exact location of the Nereidium - Joe sacrificed himself to save me...
Erika bows her head in sorrow. Morrigan falls silent as tears run past the blindfold. Erika takes some tissue and stands in back of Morrigan. She removes the tie from her eyes.
Morrigan: What are you doing?
Erika: (Gently wiping Morrigan's eyes) I trust you
Morrigan: About time
Fully wrapped in the blanket and with the balaclava covering her head, Erika takes her seat. Morrigan can't help but look but there is no telling who Darkfin is.
Morrigan: Your turn
Erika: From what I have been able to gather, The Clergy are a meta/super - whatever prefix you want to use - hominid that diverged from our lineage and evolved on their own
Morrigan: So, they evolved faster than us?
Erika: "Faster" is not the right term except for a Sigma7 script - these hominids look like us and act like us but they were performing organ transplants while our ancestors were inventing the wheel
Morrigan: Aw, I knew I should have paid better attention in biology!
Erika: There is a theory that they are tied to extra terrestrial beings but I highly doubt that
Erika: I have a hard time believing in little green men from Mars
Morrigan: I never believed in big green mermaids from the sea either so I'm not ruling anything out
Erika can't help but chortle.
Morrigan: If these homonyms...
Morrigan: Whatever - were so super, why aren't they ruling the planet right now?
Erika: Who says they are not?
Morrigan loses the color in her face.
Erika: I do not know the extent of their infiltration but there is only a limited number of their species - according to Sam's ancient text, there was a great virus approximately 30,000 years ago that wiped out over 90% of The Clergy yet all other creatures were immune - in order for them to survive, they could no longer isolate themselves and had to interbreed with Homo erectus... regular humans
Morrigan: Guess who's coming to dinner
Erika: The offspring are known as "Taints" since they are not of pure stock
Morrigan: How can any of them be pure since they had to mix in?
Erika: It is a sliding scale of purity - think of alcohol in beverages, 20 proof as opposed to 80 proof - their robes denote the level of their purity
Morrigan: So, a brown robe is melon liqueur but the white robe is straight Smirnoff?
Erika: Something like that
Morrigan: Why do they call themselves The Clergy?
Erika: Humans came up with that name - although similar to Latin, their language existed long before, it parallels Sanskrit - no one knows for sure what they call themselves
Morrigan: I do...
Erika is frozen in her seat.
Morrigan: I heard it - from my mother, Joe... what overtook me last night - I can't, I can't even pronounce it
The tears reappear as Morrigan becomes flustered. Erika goes over to her side and the two sit close to each other.
Erika: It is not important right now
Morrigan: The Clergy have nothing to do with human religion?
Erika: Not exactly - they have a mythos and ceremonies surrounding it are similar to the world's great religions but it is based on the Nereidium, not mono or polytheism - science will ultimately be their downfall as well, we simply need to catch up
Morrigan: You hope
Erika: It is strictly a matter of time
Morrigan: I know you've told me a little bit about this Nereidium before but, forgive me, I didn't really pay attention in chemistry either - what is the big deal?
Erika: It is the rarest substance on earth - it is the most powerful substance on earth - even the smallest amount is highly sought after
Morrigan: (Gasping) The clasp on the Duquesa's Tears!
Erika: Correct - that is why it was stolen, the pearls were irrelevant
Morrigan: God, it seems so long ago yet like yesterday at the same time
Erika: There are trace elements of Nereidium in Clergy blood and Clergy blood only
Morrigan: So, that's how I can control your trident?
Erika: Part of the reason
Morrigan: What's the rest?
Morrigan: I should have seen that coming
Erika: As part of their ritual and foretold in their writings, The Clergy had to wait for the day when a "Marked One" would arrive and pinpoint the exact location of the Nereidum vain here in Duquesa Bay
Morrigan: Why this place? - why me?
Erika: The vein in the Indian Ocean is too deep and an unsuccessful attempt to reach it years ago nearly ended up wrecking the biosphere
Morrigan: Were you there?
Erika: (Pausing) The vein off the coast of Ireland is too weak and has become corrupted - why you? - I am still trying to understand the specifics
Morrigan: Answer my other question... were you there?
Erika: (Voice cracking) Yes
Morrigan: That's how Sam died?
Morrigan reaches for Erika's hand but she resists.
Erika: (Sniffling) A select few in our government know about The Clergy - there is a whole black ops unit devoted to keeping an eye on them
Erika: They were hoping to discover the vein first and use the Nereidium against them but that is moot now
Morrigan: (Disgusted) Huh, everyone can't wait to kill each other
Erika: The Nereidium will be used as a weapon of mass destruction, but it will also be used as a tool of infinite creation to keep the humans dead or under control - The Clergy will finally be able to fulfill their destiny
Morrigan: At the expense of everyone and everything else?
Erika: Essentially, yes
Morrigan: Okay... if they were forced to get it on with ordinary folk to survive, surely they must have developed feelings for us?
Erika: You know how a farmer adores his prized pig but will not hesitate to slaughter it when necessary?
Morrigan: (Standing) I REFUSE TO BECOME BACON - WHY HASN'T THE MEDIA EXPOSED THIS?
Erika: I believe you can answer that question better than I can
Morrigan groans and rubs her face as she plops back down next to Erika.
Morrigan: As much as I'd like to go back to worrying about car payments and what to get for my coworker's baby shower, it's not going to happen... is it?
Erika: That seems less and less likely
Morrigan: Can all of this be stopped?
Erika: Stopped? - no - altered, maybe... I actually have a real issue about interfering with the natural evolution of The Clergy but I also realize how powerful they are and what a detriment they would be to every other living creature if not kept in line
Morrigan: All of this is so much to digest... especially on an empty stomach
Morrigan gets up and heads over to the kitchen.
Morrigan: (Searching the cabinets) Cookies, I need cookies - do you... can you eat cookies?
Erika: I prefer not to ingest processed foods but I technically can
Morrigan: (Digging past a bag of beef jerky and a can of baked beans) Well, you don't have much of a choice here
Morrigan settles for a box of crackers and returns to the sofa. She offers some to Erika but is politely refused.
Morrigan: So, what about you?
Erika: What about me?
Morrigan: I understand The Clergy a little better but I'm even more confused about you
Erika responds with silence.
Morrigan: I guess that means no lost underwater kingdom of Atlantis to escape to or other Aleta Oscuras to come rescue us?
Erika: Sorry to disappoint
McBride focuses her gaze on the bird statue at the other end of the room.
Morrigan: That freaking bird is driving me nuts - where have I seen it before?
A sudden thump outside causes both women to jump.
Erika: (Whispering) Get in the bathroom!
Morrigan quickly follows instructions as Erika grabs a hunting knife and scans outside the window. She spots the backside of a man as he rummages through a utility shed.
Tim: (Spotting a small black rucksack) There it is!
Surfaced on July 1, 2000
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