The Eagle's Eye

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November 9th, 2018
A Hotel in Portland, Oregon

"Christ, what a fucking mess."

Special Agent Kenneth Spencer stared at the room. Overturned tables, trampled banners, spilled drinks — all the hallmarks of a political rally gone horrendously wrong. Half-a-dozen agents were busy combing the scene for evidence, looking for traces of the unusual or extraordinary. At the same time, he knew, half-a-dozen more were in the process of interrogating and geas binding the dozens of witnesses. And still even more agents were pursuing runners. As for Spencer and his partner, Robin Thorne, they had been pulled from their usual beat in Three Portlands to run fieldwork for the investigation.

The Unit was throwing everything it had at this one, and for good reason. Someone had shot Representative Raymond Caldwell in the head — and not only had he survived, he had gotten up and fled the scene. Thorne was currently assisting in the effort to track him down.

Spencer's earpiece chimed, signalling an incoming call.

He raised a finger to his ear and tapped the device. "This is Spencer, go."

"Good news and bad news, Ken," Thorne said, skipping a greeting.

"You found him?"

"That's the good news." Even over the phone, he could tell Thorne was grimacing. "Bad news is that he exploded the second we cornered him."

"He what?" Several of the other agents in the room stopped what they were doing and looked over at him curiously. He waved a hand at them, motioning for them to continue working.

"He blew up. Some kind of self-destruct mechanism, I reckon. Response team is collecting the wreckage now." Thorne paused. "By the looks of it, our Congresscritter was definitely an android."

Now it was Spencer's turn to grimace. "You think—"

"That it was Anderson?" There was an almost imperceptible snort from the other end of the line. "Who else? It's not like human replica robots are something you can just buy at Circuit Seelie. There's a very short list of people who could pull this off, and Electric Jesus is right at the top. We've finally got the bastard this time."

He frowned. "If we're wrong, the city will riot."

"They might do that anyways."

"Point taken. But we still need to make sure our case is iron clad. There's no room for error here. So, how do we tie the ex-Congressdroid to Anderson?"

"Well." They paused again. "I have one idea. But you're not going to like it."

"It's Merlo, isn't it?"

"Gamma-13 are the only ones outside the company who know what the insides of a Saker look like. She owes me a favor, we get her to do the analysis for us."

"You're right, I don't like it." He gritted his teeth. "But you're not wrong. I'll put in a call to Holman, ask him to have his people go over the wreckage for us. But that's it. We're not pulling Merlo and her task force into this."

"Of course. I'm not asking you to hand over a federal investigation to the Foundation. Hell, for all we know, they might have been the ones to do the shooting, if they knew he was a Saker."

"No bet."

They laughed. "I've gotta get back to it now. I'll let you know if we turn up any immediate leads."

"Likewise," he said. "Spencer out." He tapped the earpiece again, terminating the call.

He looked around the room, at all the agents busily searching for Clues, and sighed. It didn't matter what it was or how many people they put on it, things always seemed to find a way of involving the Foundation, usually at the most inconvenient moment possible.

It was probably anomalous.

November 12th, 2018
Site-64, Oregon

"I still can't believe they don't do weekends."

Spencer had spent the past few days wrangling an appointment with Site-64's Director for himself, Thorne, and the body bag full of robot parts waiting in the site's cargo garage, and his patience was nearing its end. Even after several hours of liaising and one blindfolded trip in the back of a nondescript sedan, the two agents had ended up being forced to wait outside Edgar Holman's office for a meeting that he had scheduled. It was a level of bureaucratic ineptitude that surpassed even that of the United States Government.

"It is Veteran's Day," Thorne said, pretending to be fascinated by a poster on the far wall that read, 'Dᴏɴ'ᴛ Wᴀɴᴅᴇʀ Tʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ Wᴀʏs — Aʟʟ Vɪsɪᴛs Tᴏ Tʜʀᴇᴇ Pᴏʀᴛʟᴀɴᴅs Mᴜsᴛ Bᴇ Aᴘᴘʀᴏᴠᴇᴅ Bʏ Tʜᴇ Fᴇᴅᴇʀᴀʟ Lɪᴀɪsᴏɴ'.

"Right, so they'll do a federal holiday but not a Saturday?"

"I'm sure they do for emergencies."

"This doesn't count as an emergency?"

"They don't know what 'this' is," they said, perfectly indicating the scare quotes just by intonation. "Which you are well aware of, or else you wouldn't be talking about it euphemistically."

Spencer grunted. "I can't believe you, of all people, are giving them the benefit of the doubt."

"Someone has to play the good cop." Thorne shrugged. "Besides, we're not talking about the Foundation in abstract, we're talking about Holman and Merlo — people we've worked with, that you've worked with, plenty of times before, and who have been nothing less than reasonable, even when you have deliberately stonewalled them."

"You are being unreasonably reasonable about this," he muttered.

"You can't save the whole damn world by yourself, Ken." They turned to look at their partner, leaning forwards to make eye contact. "At some point you have to learn to trust people."

"I trust people," he protested. "I trust you."

Thorne opened their mouth to respond, but was interrupted by Holman's secretary.

"Agents Spencer and Thorne, the Director will see you now." As the secretary spoke, the door to Holman's office opened and released a pair of Foundation agents whom Thorne recognized as Sasha Merlo and Daniel Navarro. The two were deep in conversation, and if either of them noticed the UIU duo, they didn't signal it.

As Spencer led the way towards the waiting door, Thorne leaned over and whispered to him, "This conversation isn't over."

"Looking forward to continuing it," he whispered back.

The interior of Holman's office was exactly what Spencer had come to expect of upper-level bureaucrats — mostly paperwork by volume, with a desk and a few uncomfortable chairs as the only concessions to its human occupants. Somewhat unusually, opaque sheets of plastic had been placed on top of each stack of paperwork, presumably to deter any curious individuals who had perfected the art of reading upside down and backwards.

"Agent Spencer, Agent Thorne," Holman said, nodding to each of them in turn. "I do apologize for making you wait, but I'm afraid it couldn't be helped. Please, sit down." He gestured to the two chairs in front of his desk.

"Of course, I'm sure Merlo had some urgent business for you." Spencer said, taking a seat. He met Holman's gaze and raised an eyebrow. "Another lead on Anderson, maybe?"

Holman was good. His expression didn't change at all. But his carefully controlled non-reaction was its own kind of tell. He maintained eye contact with Spencer for a few seconds, then cracked a thin, humorless smile.

"We are aware, of course, of the federal activity surrounding Congressman Caldwell's campaign event on Friday, although details are scarce — your people have done an impressive job on information control. Even so, it would hardly take a genius to suspect a connection when you reached out a few hours later requesting a comparison between the remains of an android in your custody and the intact Saker components that Gamma-13 has managed to recover."

The aged site director clasped his hands together and rested them on his desk. "Sasha Merlo is not stupid, although her dedication to capturing Anderson is somewhat single-minded at times. She believes he is involved."

Thorne nudged Spencer's ankle with their foot, although they refrained from actually saying 'I told you so' in front of Holman. Looking at the Director, they nodded and said, "That makes two of us."

"To be clear," Spencer added, "We are not asking you to get involved in our investigation regarding the Congressman — in fact, I would respectfully request that you stay the hell away from it."

He clenched his jaw, then continued in a less confrontational tone, "We would appreciate it if your researchers could do their own analysis of the parts we've recovered, just to see if it's definitely a Saker or not. That's all we'd need to get a warrant against him."

Holman was about to answer when his pager went off. He offered an apologetic wince to the two FBI agents before glancing down to check the device. A moment later, he sighed and looked back up at them.

"I really do apologize, but something's just come up and I'm going to have to cut this meeting short. Of course, we're more than willing to offer any assistance, if you'll accept it. Talk to my secretary, she'll help you arrange the details of chain of custody documentation and the like." He stood up, preparing to usher them out.

Spencer opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again, but Thorne cut him off before he could say something undiplomatic. "Of course, Director, we understand you're a busy man. Don't let us detain you."

They grabbed Spencer's arm as they stood up, pulling him to his feet, then guided him out of the office. Holman trailed behind them, apologizing again for the interruption, then set off at a brisk walk deeper into the site, leaving the two agents — one bemused, one very unamused — standing in his waiting room.

"Unbelievable." Spencer shook his head. "Un-fucking-believable. They're fucking with us, you realize that?"

Thorne patted him on the shoulder. "I'm pretty sure Edgar Holman has more important things to do than deliberately waste your time."

"Like what?"

"Like accidentally waste your time. Come on, we got what came for."

Their conversation with Holman's secretary was brief, and not because she left in the middle of it. She already knew what they were there for, and had prepared everything they needed. It took only a few minutes to finalize the details of the evidence transfer — maintaining a continuous chain of custody when dealing with a clandestine, quasi-legal conspiracy is a lot easier when that conspiracy is even more obsessed with documentation than the federal bureaucracy. Once they were done, she directed them back to the site's garage, where a technician would be waiting to collect the remains of the android.

The man who met them there was just under six feet tall, with the build of a former linebacker who had lost weight to fit into a lab coat. He introduced himself as Doctor Ferro while he shook hands with Thorne and — after a moment of reluctance — Spencer.

With that ritual courtesy out of the way, Spencer unlocked the trunk and checked the tag on the body bag, just to confirm that it hadn't been tampered with. Then he and Ferro lifted it onto a nearby gurney.

"Decent weight to this thing," Ferro commented. "You said this was just one Saker?"

"One android, at least," Thorne replied. "We're hoping you'll be able to tell us if it's actually a Saker."

Ferro nodded, then leaned down to open the bag. He paused and glanced at Spencer. "May I?"

"Just make sure to retag and document it when you're done."

Ferro nodded again, then broke the seal on the evidence tag and unzipped the bag, revealing the jumbled mess of broken circuitry and releasing a faint smell of rot. Despite the circumstances of its demise, the android was remarkably well-preserved — the head had been reduced to shrapnel, but the mangled torso was recognizably a torso, the limbs were still mostly intact, and patches of scorched and decaying skin still clung to the mechanical parts.

Ferro whistled. "Pretty clean kill. The Lawbringers have had a hell of a time getting even single components from Sakers — most of the time, all that's left is a puddle of goo. How'd you manage it?"

"That was me," Thorne said. "I managed to get a hand on him and hit him with a little taser spell — non-lethal, we still thought he might have been the real Congressman at that point, and I was just trying to knock him over. It should have shut down his nervous system for a tick, but he just sort of wobbled a bit. And then he blew up."

"You probably shorted out the primary self-destruct system, which triggered an explosive secondary." He prodded at the wreckage with a gloved finger. "Located in the upper chest, it looks like. How close were you at the time?"

"Too close. I got lucky, I already had a ward up and most of the shrapnel missed it anyways."

"Most likely a shaped charge then, designed to destroy the brain. A shame, taking that intact would have been a real coup."

"When you say brain…" Spencer trailed off.

"Probably not an organic brain, no. As far as we can tell, the skin is the only biological component."

"Any idea where it comes from? It's not literally wearing someone's skin, is it?"

Ferro blanched slightly, but shook his head. "It's definitely not that, at least. Best guess is that they grow it over the mechanical frame in a bioreactor, using a sample of the target's DNA."

Thorne frowned as they were struck by an idea. "The skin cells would be genetically identical then, right?"

"It would be strange if they weren't."

They processed that for a moment, then asked, "Do you mind if we keep a piece?"

Ferro shrugged. "It's your robot."

Thorne donned a pair of gloves before selecting a piece — the left hand, which was entirely intact except for a missing pinky, and covered in mostly undamaged skin — to place into a smaller evidence bag, which went into one of the impossibly spacious pockets inside their suit jacket.

Spencer raised an eyebrow, but countersigned the evidence transfer without asking the obvious question.

And then it was time for another blindfolded trip in the back of an unmarked sedan.

November 13th, 2018
Moses Howard Federal Building, Three Portlands

"I should have thought of this before," Thorne said.

They had spread a map of North America across the floor of one of the unused holding cells, and were in the process of drawing a chalk circle around it. The robot hand hung from the ceiling on a piece of string, suspended directly over the center of the map. A pen had been tied to one of the fingers.

Spencer had worked with Thorne long enough to recognize the setup of a locator spell, even one as unusual as this. "I don't know why you've thought of it now. What makes you think there's anything left of the original Caldwell to even find?"

"Nothing, it's just a hunch. But it doesn't hurt to try it."

They finished the circle and started drawing an adjoining triangle. Their familiar, a spirit of intellect bound into the semi-spectral form of an albino robin, was serving as a guide marker by standing at each of the points of the triangle in turn. Thorne had acquired its services about two years ago, but had taken to keeping it a lot closer in the last year, ever since their duel with Dustin — although it wouldn't have made much of a difference there, since its nature didn't lend itself to combat evocation. Still, Thorne preferred having the extra layer of security, minimal though it may be, and so now it rarely left their side unless they had business on the other side of the Veil.

As Thorne finished drawing the last side of the triangle, the bird opened its beak and twittered something in modern Celtic.

"No, it's fine," Thorne replied. "We can do a compass tracker when we get close. If we get close. Now scooch."

The familiar hopped out of the triangle while Thorne took up a position inside of it. The bird fluttered over to perch on Spencer's shoulder, where it tilted its head from side to side as it stared at him with a look of distinctly non-avian cunning.

"Yes, I see you, Crowe."

The name was Spencer's appellation, since Thorne had never bothered to give it one. He poked it gently with his finger, causing the bird to fly off to perch above the door to the holding cell.

Ignoring the pair's antics, Thorne closed their eyes and focused their will, reaching out with their occult senses towards the circle, the map, and the hand — and through the links of contagion and similarity that bound them to the rest of the world. They took a breath.

"Show me."

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the lines of the circle flared up in blue-green light, and the hand began to swing, pendulously, back and forth above the map, before coming to an abrupt stop at a fifteen degree angle from the vertical. A drop of ink welled up from the end of the pen, then fell, straight down, onto the map, leaving a perfect circle.

Thorne opened their eyes, and the circle went dark. The force guiding the hand vanished, and it swung back towards its prior position.

"Got something?" Spencer asked.

"Maybe." Thorne crouched down to examine the map, then groaned. "That can't be right."

Crowe chirped something that was almost certainly Celtic for, "I told you so."

Thorne waved a hand dismissively. "Shush. The problem isn't the geometry."

"What's wrong?" Spencer came over to examine the map for himself. "This looks like it's somewhere in the Oregon Portland."

"Yes, but look at where it is in Portland."

Spencer squinted. "Just south of Government Island?" Comprehension dawned. "That's not—"

"The FBI building? Can't say for sure at this scale, but I'm pretty sure, yeah."

Spencer rubbed his temples. "It's the Way. It's gotta be."

"Yep. Which means—"

"He's here. In Three Ports."


Spencer shook his head in disbelief. "We aren't that lucky."

"We'll see."

Thorne snapped their fingers, summoning Crowe back to perch on their palm. Grabbing the robot hand with their free hand, they closed their eyes again and started humming softly.

After a moment, Crowe emitted a wordless croak.

"You've got it?" Thorne asked.

The bird repeated the noise.

"Alright." Thorne opened their eyes and let go of the hand, then wiped their own hand on the leg of their pants. "We've got a fix on the contagion link. Let's find the real Caldwell."

Thorne led the way back upstairs and out the building. Once they were outside, Crowe stretched its phantasmal wings and leapt into the air. Watching it drift across the open sky, it was clear to Spencer that the familiar didn't quite grasp flying — it flapped its wings too early or too late, and its trajectory was too regular, unaffected by the wind or the light drizzle of rain. It was just another reminder that the creature only looked like a bird, and was governed more strongly by the laws of thaumatology than the laws of aerodynamics.

The not-bird led the two agents through the city, following the invisible thread of the contagion link that Thorne had discovered, taking them towards the real Caldwell — or whatever might be left of him — on the closest thing to a perfectly straight trajectory. After fifteen long minutes of trudging through the rain, the familiar landed on a windowsill on the second floor of an apartment building near the Periphery.

The building itself was co-op owned, and was better maintained than most of its neighbors in the outer city. As a result, its walls had become a canvas for competing anartists, who had covered the entire exterior surface in murals and graffiti — and then, when they had run out of empty concrete, had started covering up other works, sparking off an anartistic arms race of techniques and methods that now made the building hazardous to look at for more than a few seconds at a time.

They met no opposition on the way inside, and made their way up to the second floor. It didn't take long to find the unit that Crowe had indicated.

The two agents looked at the door. There was a faint thrum of hip-hop coming from inside the apartment, and the air was filled with an unmistakable skunky scent.

Spencer knocked.

The music stopped.

The door opened to reveal Representative Raymond Caldwell, in his pajamas and very clearly stoned.

"Mister Caldwell?" Spencer asked cautiously.

"What? Oh, yeah, that's me. I don't use that name anymore though. Just call me Barry." He looked between the two agents, a frown breaking through his laid-back expression. "You're not from the housing co-op, are you?"

"No." Spencer did not offer any further clarification, but that seemed to be enough to allay his suspicions, because the frown vanished.

Thorne cleared their throat. "Mister, uh, Barry, have you, to your knowledge, ever been a member of the United States Congress?"

He blinked. "I don't think so?"

"Could you tell us what it is that you do, then?" Spencer asked.

"I dunno. I just chill. Mister Anderson pays for the place."

Thorne coughed to mask their surprise. "Anderson? Vincent Anderson?"

"Yeah, yeah. He lets me live here. Sometimes he stops by to see if I need anything."

At this point, Spencer withdrew his badge from his jacket and held it up. The other man went cross-eyed trying to focus on it. "Barry, I'm Special Agent Kenneth Spencer of the Unusual Incidents Unit, and this is Special Agent Robin Thorne."

"Whoa, you're g-men?"

"Yes, Barry. And it is critically important that you come with us."

"What, now? Why?"

"Because you have just confirmed that Vincent Anderson has instigated a seditious conspiracy against the United States of America, and I doubt he'll let you keep living here once he realizes it."

"Oh." It took a few seconds for the implications to work their way through his brain. "Oh fuck."

Thorne patted him on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Barry. You're not under arrest. This is just a precaution. To keep you safe."

"You really think he'll try to kill me?"

"No," Spencer said. "We're going to arrest him first."

|| HUB || The Falcon's Flight »

rating: +42+x

The Eagle's Eye

By GreenWolf

"Christ, what a fucking mess."

Special Agent Kenneth Spencer stared at the room. Overturned tables, trampled banners, spilled drinks — all the hallmarks of a political rally gone horrendously wrong. Half-a-dozen agents were busy combing the scene for evidence, looking for traces of the unusual or extraordinary. At the same time, he knew, half-a-dozen more were in the process of interrogating and geas binding the dozens of witnesses. And still even more agents were pursuing runners. As for Spencer and his partner, Robin Thorne, they had been pulled from their usual beat in Three Portlands to run fieldwork for the investigation.

The Unit was throwing everything it had at this one, and for good reason. Someone had shot Representative Raymond Caldwell in the head — and not only had he survived, he had gotten up and fled the scene.

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