A bolt of lightning from the Tesla coils on the roof crackled overhead, casting shards of fractured light onto the miles of endless steel-enforced levels that created the Stacks, where the artifacts, magical or unusual items that needed to be studied, were storied while waiting to be housed in a display in the other wings of the museum. There were plenty of other things Jamie could be doing instead of testing her wings. The Hong Kong team had couriered a vase that supposedly could transform into a raging dragon after an expedition in Malaysia a few weeks prior. She had had a few ideas of where to store it, but nothing definitive yet.
Jamie strapped on the harness for her bio-mech wings and stared off into the darkness above her. This test needed to yield better results than previous tests. The levels disappeared into a cloud of darkness after the first hundred floors or so and continued for what seemed like forever. Jamie wanted, no… needed to find out where the Stacks went. She had been on the roof of the museum on multiple occasions and could never figure out where the floors of the Stacks had gone.
The four oval wings slapped against each other as Jamie started to rise first an inch, then two. Soon her feet dangled a foot off the ground, then two. She was halfway to the tenth floor of the Stacks when a holographic bubble appeared over Jamie’s leather cuff, beeping softly for attention.
Her cuff continued to beep softly. Jamie sighed, continuing to ignore the grading beeps as she inched her way higher. She could imagine the to-do list Rudy was making for her, except he preferred to send his lists via the pneumatic pipe delivery system that covered the whole museum rather than text. Her cuff beeped again. Jamie gulped as she saw that the museum administrator, Dr. Woodhouse’s icon had appeared over her cuff. Jamie needed to go to the computer room.
She landed softly on the ground and shrugged off the wing harness and logged the flight time into the nearby computer workstation. Jamie squealed in delight. Time: eight minutes, forty-seven seconds. Height: one hundred and nine meters. Today was her best flight yet, though more tests were needed under lab conditions before she would begin outdoor testing with the artifact-generated weather patterns overhead.
The bubble with Dr. Woodhouse’s icon appeared again over Jamie’s cuff. The administrator did not tolerate tardiness with her employees, even lowly interns. Jamie wiped her hands on her denim overalls and hurried down the hallway to the central computer room at the heart of the museum. The metal door slid open as she approached.
“Thank you,” Jamie said to the air, as she stepped inside the computer room. It was dark, lit only by the faint light emitting from the wall of computer monitors. They had added more chairs to the room, Jamie observed as she headed to the high-backed chair at the center console. There were more tables too. Six chairs now faced the wall of monitors.
A single piece of paper sat on the keyboard. It was an internal memo announcing the hiring of six new agents by the end of the month and the announcement of a new curator. Jamie had read this notice a dozen times before. She didn’t understand the board’s decision to hire so many new agents at once. Her friend, Alex, was the last hire two years ago after the unexpected death of one of their agents in France at the hand of a fire goblin.
Jamie looked around the room for Dr. Woodhouse, though she half-expected Charles, Dr. Woodhouse’s administrative assistant, to appear and give her another list of chores to do. Nothing, nothing except the abnormal silence that always signaled impending doom or that’s what the movies Alex liked to watch said.
“Hello?” she called. One of the monitors flickered to life, beckoning her to log in. Jamie plopped down at the main computer chair and typed in her log-in credentials. She technically wasn’t allowed to access the museum’s system from this port.
It was one of two ports that had access to the most sensitive areas of the museum. After a handful of artifacts meant for the Catherine the Great exhibit ended up in a frat house in Dublin, the board had banned everyone except Dr. Woodhouse and the museum curator from having access. The only trouble was that the last curator and the assistant curator had vanished almost twenty-five years prior. No one would tell her more about their disappearance. It was just part of the museum lore, like the goblins that ran the cooling system.
Jamie peeked over her shoulder to see if anyone else had entered the room. She entered in her log-in information. A series of ones and zeros formed on the screen.
<Welcome, Curator Carter.> The words scrawled across the screen as the star disappeared.
“I’m not the curator!” Jamie hollered at the screen, still banging the mouse on the table. “I’m just Jamie… Jamie the intern.”
The computer ignored her, and the next line appeared on the screen. <Press any key to continue.>
Jamie pounded on the enter key. Suddenly, a beam of light stabbed into her eyes. Jamie couldn’t look away. Images flickered across her face. Every image, every audio bit, every video file. Jamie whimpered in pain, as she tried to pull away. It was all there. Hot tears poured down her face. Data continued to rush into her mind, flooding every inch of her brain with information. Jamie could hear her heart pounding madly in her ears. It was all too much. Too much, and then -
“Miss Carter,” said a familiar, calm voice. “Miss Carter, are you alright?” Dr. Woodhouse tapped Jamie’s shoulder with a perfectly manicured finger. She had chosen bubblegum pink for her nails, though her suits usually were in shades of purple.
“Huh?” Jamie groaned. Dr. Woodhouse repeated her question. “I don’t know. I guess.” Jamie pulled herself to her feet and looked back at the wall of computer monitors. They were black, not pulsing with secrets as they had been a few minutes before. Now, those secrets were pulsing inside of her aching head. “You called for me, Dr. W-Woodhouse?”
The older woman shook her head. “I did not, Miss Carter. Perhaps, you should pay a visit to Dr. Oh in the infirmary. Your nose…”
Jamie pulled a handkerchief from a pocket of her denim overalls and held it up to her nose. The light, blue-gray material was now spotted with red. “Yeah… I’ll do that.” Jamie ran a hand over the console as she headed towards the door. “Bye, Dr. Woodhouse.”
As the metal door slid closed behind Jamie, as single monitor flickered to life. On the screen, Dr. Woodhouse watched as a beam of light projected from the screen and streams of data ran down Jamie’s face.
“Interesting,” hummed Dr. Woodhouse to herself. “So, Jamie is the one we’ve been waiting for.”