Babar Alvi, failed chemist postdoc, urban explorer
- Bob’s notes detail an Alaska expedition which uncovered a voracious and unknown lichen, which seemed clumped around a curiously eroded stump of wood. (1)
- One of the people on the trip, in the 80s, has the same face as Terra Knafferly, Bob’s niece. (1)
- Bob’s suicide note spoke of a gate and various incoherent things. (2)
- Adina Haun mentioned Bob’s expedition, which otherwise seems scrubbed away. She’s in the Anthropology department. (3)
Terra heads to Grace’s office, piles of folios to sort and catalogue on one desk, Grace almost buried amidst it all. They talk about material storage from old scientific trips.
Investigate: 3, 5
(Everything and something more.)
Storage was moved from the library basement back to respective departments, in the late 90s. It was actually something Bob Knafferly strenuously fought against. The effort had been led by Dr. Troy Gingery, now the head of the Biology department. Grace had figured Bob’s standing had been greatly diminished by Gingery’s ascendence.
Terra remembered some Sunday during winter break where the biology department was closed for a deep cleaning… Gingery had been there, directing workers, who donned chemical suits and respirators. She hadn’t thought much of it as she had been fighting tooth-and-nail for a grant at the time.
As she left Grace’s office, she ran into Dr. Samuels, one of the professors she’d ducked earlier, a biologist roughly her age and a million times more valued by the department. He glared at Terra, who bared her teeth.
“You forget to bring Lance back with you, Ben?” she asked.
His countenance flickered with confusion, some barbed quip caught in his teeth. He coughed as though clearing it.
“I just got here, Knafferly. Ah, excuse me.”
He brushed past her, then turned back at the threshold, smiling sharply.
“We don’t all have to struggle morning and night to make our way, you know.”
He closed the door. Terra fumed on top of the confusion - Samuels and Lance Gleason were both in the library earlier. She had walked right past them.
Terra insight: 6 +++
Terra pales. Blank expressionless faces stare at her in her memory, stare past her. Two bland men striding forth in perfect lockstep. As though connected. As though built together, conjoined, despite the distance between them. She rushes to the elevator, not noticing the rust flake with its branching nub stretching out...
“He wasn’t lying.” Terra said to Bar, who jumped in his seat.
“Fuck! Terra, you startled -“
“We walked past Ben and Lance on the way in, two professors from my department…”
“Ben hadn’t been in before I saw him. He had just arrived, as in, after us. But he was here before as well.”
“He’s just lying to you, Terra. You know how these Chosen Ones are.”
Does Bar believe this, really?
He does but he still gets an Insight Roll! => 4, ++
Bar is rubbing a bronze coin between thumb and forefinger. He begins sweating.
“He’s lying…” Bar repeats, quietly. “Lying. Just rust.”
Lies pile up, Bar thinks. You think they’re protection, but all you’ve really done is dug a grave and called the earth around you a wall. We’ve been lying to ourselves all the time, all this time. This thing has been happening for a long time. But we don’t look, we can’t. 1840s, that archeology class I took, read about some prospector out in Alaska who was haunted by someone with the same face as his dead wife. He died in a sanitarium. Walls closed in on him and became a grave...
He shakes his head. The one-year coin skitters onto the keyboard and he snatches at it.
“Did you find her schedule?”
Bar investigate roll: 6.
Insight check! 4, nothing.
“I did… but... Haun is a strange one, you know? Used to be very active on social media, posting all the time, her family, kids, activism, that sort of thing… In the last six months it’s all dropped off.”
“She might be busy.”
“Not here. She teaches one class and it looks like some of her research efforts have stalled. Also, this. She made one post in the last six months. A week ago.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO DECEMBER
“Not exactly her normal style,” Bar says, scrolling through older, erudite posts.
Two people walk in from the far end of the computer lab.
It’s Ben and Lance again, together. Their expressions are flat. They pan their heads around the room slowly. They don’t speak to each other but move in sync.
“We should go,” Terra whispers, ducking below the cubicle fabric wall before them.
Terra grabbed Bar’s shoulder and dragged him behind her, low. His one-year coin fell out of his hand and rolled off into the lab.
Behind them, soft footfalls on the carpet. Bar glances back and sees Dr. Lance Gleason sprinting towards them. Face placid as if he was sleeping, but for open eyes.
“Book it!” Bar pulls his arm from Terra’s grasp and they run, panting, faces contorted with fear.
Terra (using the library and campus as cover / obstacles): 3, 5
Bar: 3, 1
They run out of the library’s lab, through the ID check as someone exclaims and curses, but they are gone, through doors and into the lawn and turning. The footfalls follow for a while but are diminished. Eventually the two are behind the Philosophy department, it’s Corinthian columnade screening them from view as they hunker in a deep doorway.
“What the fuck was that? Those are professors you know?” Bar panted.
“I’m not sure.”
Terra: 5, no change
Bar: 4, no change
“Not my face, not my face,” she mutters to herself.
She shakes her head.
“We should head to the biology department. But first I need to pick up some supplies in the teaching hospital.”
“Are those two going to be… looking for us?”
Terra shakes her head.
“Why don’t you ask them, Bar? How would I know?”
She strides off. Bar looks after her for a moment, then jogs to catch up.
Terra Knafferly, biologist and academic
Babar Alvi, failed chemist postdoc, urban explorer
- materials storage moved to biology department
- Dr. Troy Gingery led this movement and a subsequent dangerous chemical cleanup that wasn’t really announced
- Dr. Troy Gingery was a rival of Bob’s.
- Dr Lance Gleason and Dr Ben Samuels have duplicates on campus