Chapter 19: Prepare

When I opened up the file, I found some pretty interesting stuff. The file was less of a singular file, and more of a compressed folder full of almost a terabyte of information. And it wasn’t good information. There were several files detailing different iterations of blueprints for a place called Haven, and almost sixty individual device schematics. It was a hell of a lot to go through, but I eventually managed to narrow it down to the important details, and compiled it for easy reading. That didn’t mean it wasn’t still incredibly complex, but it was a lot easier to read than the shorthand and jargon used in the original documents. Basically, all it said was that there was a fortress. A massive place with thick steel walls and heavy artillery protecting whatever was inside. That was Haven.

It was up by the tail end of the Everest Range, just outside of any land own by any country. What made it really insane though, was the fact that it belonged to one Alphonse Harrison. There was also a great deal of information in there that tied him to a number of terrible events, including the Northern Apocalypse. It was pretty damning information, and pretty heavy stuff to read. There was one thing that stuck out to me though. None of the files were dated any later than the middle of last year, which meant that those who suspected he was involved with the Incident still didn’t have an answer, and I still had no clue what he wanted with Streamline. I had given the information I pulled to the helmsman, and I’d been given access to Walter’s office to see if I could find anything else. That was good for me, because it meant I could get into his computer and his safe, and I had brought the twins with me to do that.

There was quite a lot of stuff in there that I didn’t really notice my first time inside of his office, or rather any time that I went in there. There were small pieces of paper sticking out of books and disc cases on his massive wall of bookshelves. Those were probably all exactly what I thought they were, scientific papers and manuals for the devices aboard the Sandman, and a good number of them would probably be photo albums and other sentimental things. There were those wood carved statues, like Samantha had had in her office, and just one or two photos of him and his family on his desk. Riley and May started to look through the books on the wall while I moved over to Walter’s computer, and very simply logged in.

After I put the password in, a fingerprint icon popped up on screen, and a thumbprint scanner emerged from the desk, the wooden finish sliding open to reveal the wires for the surprisingly block device. Even if I wasn’t going to be able to get through into Walter’s stuff like that, I thought about what he had told me. He would’ve mentioned the thumbprint scanner if it was going to have any effect on what he wanted me to do. I pressed my thumb to it, and it pinged as the computer opened up. A series of files and folders sprang open on the screen, and I started shifting through to see if I could find anything pertaining to Haven. Of course, that would take quite a bit of time, and from the way Wallace had been acting after I gave him the information I’d already been able to grab, I was pretty sure that was what he wanted. After a few minutes of browsing though, I became more and more curious as to what was in the safe Walter had told me about, and instead of keeping up my search on the computer, I clambered beneath his desk to find the safe.

There was a dial and a handle set into the floor beneath Walter’s desk, and I put in the code I had been given to open it up. It came open with a thunk, and I found only two things inside. One large wad of papers, and a small silver thumb drive. I grabbed out the papers, and left the drive where it was for now, and placed the folder on top of Walter’s desk. I skimmed through the first couple of sheets, and realized why Walter would choose to keep them in a safe, rather than have them digitally available on his computer. There were countless references to Haven, and a detailed list of ideas, formations and plans.
“Holy shit,” I said, and the twins hurried over to me. Riley peered over my shoulder to get a look at the files, and pointed to one thing in particular.
“Look at that. He mentioned you by name, but this thing is dated almost two years ago,” Riley said. That would’ve been before even she was on the Sandman.
“From the looks of things, this all goes back pretty far. Walter mentioned something about my father having a hand in this,” I said, and Riley took a section of the papers to look through. She sat down on the floor next to where I was in the desk chair, and started flipping through papers.
“What’s Haven?” She asked. Oh yeah, she didn’t see what I gave to Wallace.
“It’s a fortress. Alphonse Harrison built it,” I said, and she nodded. I flipped through another page, and found a sheet that was dated nearly seven years ago. That was before the President’s term had taken the turn it had. It was a very detailed concept for how his reign would turn out, and the potential effects on his mind after an event the author referred to as “Activation,” It was entirely possible that the unnamed author was my father, but it was also pretty unlikely. I doubted he’d had much of a hand in anything other than the technical side of things. He wasn’t exactly a good people person.

“October Seventh, 2011, both Cynthia Harrison and her mother Margaret are found to be amongst the dead in the fires that claimed the St Andrew’s Grammar School. Cause still unknown. That’s bad, right?” Riley asked, and passed me the newspaper article she’d found. If it meant what I thought it did, very. I pulled open Tempest’s blog, where he’d been sparking rumors about Alphonse, and skimmed through it. There were a few articles related to events in 2011, but all I could find on St Andrew’s was that there may have been a warning about it. I hated to think about that. 2011. Alan would’ve been about thirteen then, so I guess Cynthia would’ve been pretty young. Probably no older than nine. I flipped through a couple more documents, and found one very interesting one.
“Alan and Penelope were moved to protective custody in November. The official word was they went to live with relatives because work was becoming too hard on Alphonse,” I said, and Riley looked up at me.
“I remember that. Penny was pretty rare at school, and pretty distraught when she was there,” Well, I guess that meant this was accurate.
“She didn’t say anything about her father, did she? It’s just, I’d rather not mention this until we know everything,” I said, and Riley smiled. She was being really helpful.

“Not that I remember,” She said. Now that I thought about it, I think the idea of carrying on her father’s work appealed to her. She and May hadn’t always had the same exposure I did. My father was murdered and I was adopted by one of the richest families in the city, and I then went on to do some pretty ludicrous stuff. But while they were from one of the most well-known families in the city, they weren’t really known for much else. Nobody considered them particularly intelligent, especially when I was in the room, and I think the fact that May was blind had really shoved them out of the limelight. I suppose doing something impressive like that would be great for them, but I also didn’t see the reason to want the limelight.

I flicked through the documents a little more, and found something that I hadn’t realized.

“The northern apocalypse was just over a year after Cynthia died,” I said, and Riley looked up at me.
“Yeah it was. Do you think that it could have had an effect on that?” She asked me. Nobody knew who had chosen for that to happen, not even Alan, who seemed to know everything about his father. If it had been up to him, it was incredibly unlikely that it didn’t influence him. I kept flipping through the papers, hoping to find anything else pertaining to Haven, but all I could find were a few scrawled notes on the sides of some sheets of paper. Thing like, “What’s it for?” or, “Is that even possible?” I was quite curious about what those meant, but I had to assume Riley had the answers mixed in with her papers.

“Oh,” Riley said. That didn’t sound good.
“Oh?” I asked her, and she handed a sheet of paper to me. It had a not-so-pleasant title.
“Haven Destruction or Acquisition. A theory,” I read aloud, and May looked at me.
“What does that mean?” She asked, and I frowned.
“Well, I assume,” I skimmed through the notes on the page, “That Walter planned on either taking Haven from Alphonse, or destroying it,” Riley passed me some more notes, and I gladly took them. I swung back around to look through the files on the computer, and the story became more and more coherent.
“Walter had proof. Proof about Alphonse’s crimes, and apparently, a few more that no-one else knows about,” I said, and Riley looked up at me once again. I refrained from mentioning something that seemed to be popping up over and over again in these documents, something called Project Echidna.
“That’s a good thing, right?” She asked, and I half smiled at her.
“Yeah. The only problem is that he only had the information here, and all of the evidence that comes with it. The rest is in Haven,” I said, and May glared in my general direction.
“Which means?” She asked.
“Which means that we have to go and get it, right from beneath his nose,” I said, and Riley grinned. That looked like something she was prepared to do. Maybe it wasn’t to try and push herself into the limelight then. I guess she just wanted to honor her father’s memory. She pulled herself off of the ground, and placed her pile of paper back on top of mine.
“I’m going to go work out, then. I guess you have work to do,” She said, and waved at me as she made her way out. For some reason, I couldn’t help but smile at that.

*

I stumbled into the diner on tired legs, and looked around with bleary eyes. I’d spent the past few months up all night finalizing what the team would end up doing on the day we headed out to Haven, and it had been one hell of a slog. I had to work long nights with Wallace, and many other team captains to co-ordinate what we all intended to do, and in accordance with Wallace’s request, we were spending our time getting in and getting info. As he’d put it, this was a military issue for soldiers, not superheroes. Our job was to work like superheroes, and do good for the innocent people being hurt by our government. So far, planning was going pretty well, but it had almost been two, maybe three, months since Walter had died. God, I’d almost lost track of the date. That had been on the… third of September? Around then. I pulled myself up onto one of the stools in the diner, and rubbed my eyes. I looked into the kitchen, and slapped myself in the forehead. I had probably slept way past breakfast, so it was completely understandable no-one was in here. I slid myself off of the stool, and stumbled out of the diner. I almost slipped and fell into the wall as I walked down the corridor, and headed into the Doughnut. If I wasn’t going to get to eat breakfast, I could at least attempt to entertain myself while I fully woke up. I lazily pressed my hand against the lock, and scurried through the door before it shut. I climbed down into the little pit the ring-shaped couch sat in, and slumped down onto it. It felt so soft…

I snapped up at the sound of a helicopter nearby, and sparks flickered around my hands. Riley jumped away from me, and I dropped my hands. I rubbed my eyes again. I felt more awake, but I was still really tired. I’d probably only gotten eight hours of sleep over the past week, and a decent chunk of that would’ve been this morning. I looked over at the TV, just as the camera flicked away from the traffic report.
“Sorry,” I yawned, and Riley giggled. It felt like she was making fun of how tired I was, but then again, that wasn’t exactly her style. I felt oddly happy that I’d had the forethought to dress myself earlier, even though I probably looked like a mess now.

“It’s okay. You know, you talk in your sleep,” She said, and grinned at me. Oh, I’d said something embarrassing, hadn’t I? She laughed even more as I stared at her.
“What did I say?” I groaned, and she laughed at me.
“You didn’t really say much through all of your babbling,” She grinned at me. She seemed happier than I’d seen her in a long while. She pulled her phone out of the purse she was carrying, and quickly tapped away at her phone. She was texting someone. She stood up off of the sofa, letting her dress flow down around her legs. She grabbed my hand, and pulled me along with her as she walked out of the Doughnut. Her eyes seemed so bright as she smiled, like sea-blue gems. I shook my head a little, trying to wipe that last little remnant of exhaustion from my body, and followed Riley closely. She stopped in front of my room, and pointed to the lock on the wall.

“Open it,” She said, and I suddenly felt my cheeks get very hot.
“Hurry up, Eddie. You can’t go out like that,” She said, and I looked myself over. She was right, but there was just one problem.
“Who said you could call me Eddie?” I asked as I put my hand on the lock. My door slid open, and Riley put her hands over her mouth.
“Sorry,” She said meekly. I smiled at her.
“I’m kidding. You can call me Eddie if you want to, just, don’t let anybody else know, okay?” I said, and she smiled.
“Alright then, Eddie. You want me to wait out here?” she asked, and swung her purse in front of her to hold it with both hands. I pondered it for a moment as she rocked back and forth on her heels. I could always embarrass her, but that wouldn’t feel right.
“Honestly? I really don’t mind. Do whatever,” I said, and walked into my room. I flicked on the light. I must’ve slept for a while, because the sun was setting outside.

“It’s cleaner than I expected,” Riley said as she walked in behind me. I turned to glare at her, and she giggled. There wasn’t much to say, really. I pulled off my T-shirt, and tossed it aside, and Riley immediately turned her back as her cheeks turned rosy-red. I pulled my wardrobe open, and started going through my clothes. I would hazard a guess the I’d need something in the same vein as her outfit, kind of formal, but more casual than that, and started to pick out clothes based on that. I turned around once or twice to see what she was doing, and saw that she’d put her bag down on my side table, and had pulled out some hair bands. She was struggling to tie her hair behind her head. I nearly laughed, but instead, I just pulled on my outfit, and walked up behind her to help her. Riley looked behind her as she felt my hands on hers, and dropped them away quickly after. I pulled her hair into a simple braid, and she looked at me once I was finished.

“Well, you look much better,” She grinned, tentatively touching her hair to make sure I hadn’t done anything funny to it. She picked up her bag as I walked over to my desk, and grabbed up my essentials. I stuffed them into my pockets, and Riley grinned at me.
“Where did you learn to do that?” She asked as she felt her hair. I didn’t really have a good answer for that. Iris had probably made me learn it at some point.
“Where are we going anyway?” I asked Riley, and she just kept smiling.
“A party,” she said. I had gathered that much from what we were wearing.
“For who or what?” I asked, and she laughed.
“For you, silly,” She said. I contemplated that for a moment, before the realization struck me.
“Well, you’ve got me there,” I said, and she smiled as the two of us hurried off together. I didn’t know where we were going. All I knew was that today was the twenty-third of November, which made it my birthday.