Midnight Plane Going Anywhere
rating: +45+x

Quinn scowled in the general direction of Ohio. Behind her was Harley, several unpleasant conversations, and a tense phone call. Ahead was a town she hadn't been back to in almost twenty years, that had been uprooted by the organization she was now acting as a lackey for.

"Mac, you okay?" Darnell asked, closing the dossier they had received. Half of it was documents pertaining to Grassroots, the other half talked about various SMILODON projects. Most of it was redacted. Quinn had lost interest around the time they began talking about suspicious activity in Las Vegas involving mutilated animals.

"…what do you think?" Quinn asked, finishing off another airplane martini. She knew it was unprofessional, but the Foundation handler was having some of his own. "I'm going home for the sake of an organization of psychopaths."

"Mac, the Foundation—"

"Fuck the Foundation," she hissed. "Green Pastures doesn't have a high school anymore because of them."

"All right," Darnell said, holding up his hand. "run it by me again. I got lost around the time you began explaining the Black Pasture."

"Right," Quinn swallowed, and began explaining again.

There have always been four families in Green Pastures.

When the town was founded in the 1800s, four families were feuding over a plot of land where the soil was fertile: the Schafers, the Storms, the Gardeners, and the Aldermanns. And I mean outright feuding; we're talking gunfights in the street, houses set on fire, distilleries destroyed, crops decimated, kidnappings, shotgun weddings…

Then, one day, the four families were going to go to outright war. It never happened. A man with violet spectacles and a black suit came to the battlefield when the first shot was fired. He plucked the bullet out of the air and turned it into a flower which he handed to the youngest girl in the Gardener family.

'I am the keeper of this Green Pasture,' he said. 'I have been watching you, and I have been disappointed. You four, together, could do great things, but instead you fight. And over what? Land that has been made barren?'

No-one had noticed, but the land they were fighting over had been made unworkable by the constant fighting that had been going on. All their efforts were for nothing.

'I shall make a deal,' the man said. 'I shall give you all the capacity to restore this land to a fertile state once more, but you must swear to never draw arms at each other again. If you must kill, it will be in self-defense. If any of you die by the hands of another family, the Black Pasture will overtake this land and all within.'

No-one knew what the Black Pasture was, and until… shit, 1998, no-one even thought it existed. When they got the… capacity, they didn't question it.

The Schafers — that's my family — are able to understand and exert their will over animals. My grandmother could talk to insects, and I have a cousin that can talk to wolves. It skipped my mom and I, and I'm pretty damn thankful for that.

The Gardeners, as their name might suggest, can make the fruits of the earth grow to tremendous sizes, weave plants into intricate shapes, and make entire forests bloom with life. I once saw Percy Swift — we don't keep the names of the original families, most of the time — make flowers grow all over the football field during a game to ask Karen Walpole to prom.

Karen was part of the third family, the Aldermanns. When they finally got married a few years later, she made their wedding rings from scratch. The Aldermanns have power over all stone and earth, and she pulled up gold from a quarter of a mile underground to the surface, and her father helped forge them. Another time, Jemma Adlermann pulled a meteorite out of the sky to give it to her beau.

Then there's the final family. The Storms. JoAnn — that's what was left of her back in Ohio — could call down lightning any time she wanted. The Storms could make it shine, or flood, or freeze. We would have snowball fights during the summer, and sunbathed in January. It was amazing.

Quinn fingered a pendant around her neck. "JoAnn and eleven other people from Green Pastures disappeared in 1998. Among them were Percy Swift, Karen Walpole, and Jemma Aldermann. They were never seen again, until earlier this week."

"…you get poetic when you're drunk, Mac."

"Yeah, you're right," she said, putting down the still-full airplane martini that she had just gotten. "Monday feels like three years ago."

"Still," Darnell frowned, looking through the dossier. "The heck did the Foundation do to your town?"

Quinn's cheeks puffed. "It would be like trying to describe what Japan feels like to someone who's never heard of it. It's… easier to see, believe me."

Darnell opened the dossier again. "Check out some of the evidence from the Grassroots case," he said, tapping one of the pieces of paper. "A hit-list. Look who's at the top."

Quinn peered at it. "McCarthy. Not surprising. And there's Dulles after that, CIA director… Hoover… this can't be right."


"This is what people find when they think they've found a hit list. These are just names of people in the government with contrived ways to kill them. Like… McCarthy has 'poisoned paper' by his name?"

"Yeah," Darnell's eyebrow raised as he flipped through the pages. "I think I know what made JoAnn Storm look like that."

Quinn looked through the pages. "Project BLACK LODGE… transmutation of matter… bone into metal for better conductivity — holy shit is this alchemy?"

"Yeah," Darnell said. "The main goal of BLACK LODGE was — say it with me now —"

"To make a Philosopher's Stone," Quinn rubbed her head. "They still haven't learned that's a bad idea? Look at what happened in New Dehli a few years back. Tried to make red mercury, everything was a mess."

"This is the part I'm more interested in," Darnell indicated the passage about 'bone into metal'. "I think that's what happened to your friend."

"Poor girl. She must have been in so much pain. But…" She frowned. "…why destroy a bank? Why did it have a portal underneath it?"

Darnell looked over her shoulder, out the window. He saw the light pattern underneath a break in in the clouds, and recognized they were going over Chicago. "Are we asking the right questions?"

"…hmm." Quinn looked at her drink, and put her finger into it. "The question shouldn't be 'why is it there'. The question should be… 'who put it there?'"

"And why did we find it?" Darnell poked his head. "Why was the Foundation digging into the bank vault? What incentive did they have?"

Quinn's eyes widened along with Darnell's. "…they had something inside of it," they both gasped.

"What the hell could they contain in a bank vault?" Darnell scratched his head. "Is that why they sent us away so quickly?"

"We're the only UIU agents in the Midwest," Quinn muttered, realization coming onto her, "Since they closed Chicago. They knew that we'd find something they didn't want us to if we stuck around. But what didn't they want us to find?"

Darnell snatched away Quinn's drink and downed it. "This is so far above our paygrade. The NSA's Abnormal Security Unit should be handling this, not us." He sighed. "So, now what?"

"We can't let our handler figure out that we know."

"Agreed. For now, let's look busy." He opened up the dossier again. "All right, so… who was Ainsley Kerrigan?"

Dr. Zhou looked at the chunk of mineral that had been recovered from the bank vault. He pushed his glasses up his face and picked up the faintly-glowing blue crystal, tapping it with a metal rod. He felt a soft jolt through the stick, and exclaimed, dropping it. "It still has some energy in it. That's good."

"We believe that the vault managed to protect it," agent Dexter Adams explained from behind some plexiglass, adjusting his shirt, "But beyond that, we got nothing. We don't know why it opened up a portal to New York, or how nobody on the other end noticed it."

Zhou looked back at agent Adams. "Where was this recovered from, exactly?"

Adams flipped through a folder. "Um… says that this particular rock was found in a 'suddenly appearing outcropping of crystals' found in… you're kidding."


Adams looked up from the file, looking like he was going to throw it into the air. "Found in Green Pastures, Iowa, 1910. The birthplace of Ainsley Kerrigan."

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