The Uncertainty Principle

From the Story Arc: The Charge of the Labcoat Brigade

Previous Story in the Arc: Conspiracy Theory by Krasnaya Zarya (Sunday, February 04, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Just Because You're Paranoid by Victoria Victrix (Tuesday, February 06, 2007)

(posted Tuesday, February 06, 2007)

The Previous Thursday

Alex sighed as he paced back and forth across the tram station, listening to the sound of the Rhode Island rain pound on the awning overhead. He had hoped that this particular meeting would be a little more secretive – now that the media had gotten wind of Garent’s disappearance – but his contact had told him to meet here on Talos Island.

“Is here fine or too public?”

Alex jolted and span around to the origin of the voice. He never would have thought that something so big would be so quiet. Must’ve been the rain…

“Too public, I would think.” He replied, eyes darting across the various people waiting for the next monorail car. Luckily, a giant robotic looking beast meeting a man in a lab coat was a normal thing in Paragon City. “Last thing we need is for the media to learn what's going on.”

The giant called Damascus Shrike nodded. “JTF Base secure enough?”

“I guess.” Alex shrugged before breaking into a grin. “If the JTF base is not secure, you've got worse problems than just Garent.”

“Tell me about it,” Shrike murmured darkly, as the pair walked down to the waiting teleportation system. It was only a hop, skip and a jump through the teleportation network to the JTF base.

Unlike the function-at-all-costs design of the CCCP base, the JTF base was all smooth metals and rounded corners, various shades of blue and gray gleaming under the bright fluorescent bulbs. After ensuring there was nobody around to eavesdrop by asking the kid at the front desk to take a “break”, the pair took a seat at a small conference table.

“Alright then...” Shrike’s large frame looked like it would break the metal chairs. “So you said there was further information on Garent's activities prior to his... Leave of absence?”

Alex was immediately bothered by the relative ease of conversational skills that Shrike was showing. The living body armor had, up-to-this-point, been known for a rather stilted mode of speaking.

“Quite.” Alex took his mind off the mystery of Shrike’s sudden lingual aptitude. “It has been brought to my attention that a specific battle might be a key to this mystery. It just so happens that I watched this battle take place. Those involved have been in some recent unpleasantness with the CCCP - Doctor Horatio Foxglove and the one known as Circus Master, first name Yogi - I never caught his last name.”

“I...” Shrike paused. “We are familiar with them. Is that unpleasantness an internal CCCP matter?”

Alex scoffed openly. “I think everybody was aware of the Grim Gambol's attempt on the Murdock twins... Both Horatio and Yogi were involved in that, to one extent or another.”

“Of course.” Shrike nodded. “So they had some sort of confrontation with Garent... This was the Tuesday prior to his last being seen?”

Alex tilted his head slightly in affirmation. “To put it more accurately, he had a confrontation with them.”

“Oh... I see.” The mammoth-man reclined in his chair. “I trust in your observational skills to sift the important parts out. Was he accusing them or something?”

“Yes, it was quite odd.” Sasha’s mind was starting to replay the events with crystal clarity. It was hardly forgettable. ”I'm not aware of Garent's background, but he was trying to push Yogi into a fight the entire night at Pocket D…”

The scientist went into a lengthy and – even to himself, boring – description of the confrontation between Garent and Yogi, dwelling momentarily on the former’s claims of the later stealing his powers, which the latter confirmed. Shrike, shaking his massive head, seemed skeptical enough, noting that Yogi could have been playing a trick on Garent to cause trouble. Amusing though the irony of Alexander’s coming to Yogi’s defense was, in this particular case the skepticism seemed to him to be unjustified. Which he patiently explained. Whatever was going on between the two, Garent was definitely upset. Upset enough to want to end with a fight in the Arena: Garent wins, Yogi leaves him alone; Yogi wins, Garent tells him how to kill him.

Yogi was nonplussed. He was a powerful mystic, and didn’t need Garent’s help for that.

“Right.” Shrike sighed. “So I'm already a bit out of my depth, now I guess I need some sort of Magic expert.”

“I'd suggest bringing Victoria Victrix from the CCCP in.” Alex replied before moving on to the part about Foxglove. Victrix was the technomage of the group, and apparently not a weak one. “She handled the issue with Grim Gambol, so she and Yogi are well aware of each other.”

“What about the part with Foxglove?”

“Well, it being the usual gathering,” Sasha continued, “Horatio showed up and stuck around after the general party ended. At this point, all that remained was Garent, Yogi, Horatio, the Tobias kid, and me.”

“That was everyone there? You are sure of this?”

“Yes.” Alex answered, fighting back his curiosity. Had someone else claimed to have been there?

“Alright...” Shrike waved a hand. “Sorry, please continue.”

“Well, knowing the way Yogi's mind works, I decided to help Garent get his fight…”

It hadn’t been too difficult, in the long run. Garent’s constant badgering was getting nowhere, simply because it amused Yogi to keep refusing the fight. But therein lay the key to the matter: Yogi’s amusement; all you had to do was pique his interest, make a show, and he would play along. It was especially easy with Horatio around – he had some secret inner drive pushing him to fight with the heroes of Paragon City, so the suggestion by Sasha of a fight between Horatio and Tobias or Garent was taken up immediately.

In fact, this led to a whole series of fights, with every single possible match up between Horatio, Tobias, Garent and Alexander being implemented. And the great showman himself, Yogi, was watching every single fight.

“I gather Yogi was drawn in eventually?”

“Yes.” Alex grinned at his own cleverness. “Apparently, the fight between Garent and I was so close that it made for an excellent show - you can ask Tobias about it, he was yelling 'That was awesome' afterwards.” He rolled his eyes. “So, Yogi decided to give Garent his fight.”

“Yeah... I need to speak with him anyway.” Shrike muttered darkly then shook his head. “So, right, and was it the same as the others?”

“It seemed to be.” Alex cleared his throat and dove back into his explanation. “Garent gave a good kick at Yogi at first, but once Yogi got his magic going... Well, it was not pretty. All the weather magic in the world couldn't save Garent from Yogi's dark magic. And that's when it got weird.”

“Which is saying something for a magical duel,” Shrike added in jest.

“At the end of the bout, Garent was, well...” Alex grimaced. This was a bit hard to explain. “He looked down at out - just like any of us do when the emergency medical teleporter kicks in and saves us. But there was no port, no safety protocols. To my eyes - and I can assure you I'm no sap - he died.”

“Wait... huh?”

“Exactly. No pulse, nothing.”

“And there were no alarms or anything signaling foul play?” Alex had the impression that Shrike would be gaping, if his body allowed it.

“None whatsoever.” The event had surprised Alex the same way it was surprising Shrike now; the emergency safeguards in the Arena were top-notch. “Then he, um, screamed. Cursed, to be precise. How a corpse does that I don't know... But...” Alex shrugged, “He screamed, grabbing his head, and evaporated. Poof.”

“Umm. Huh. Garent's abilities were water-based right?”

Alex shrugged. “I believe so. I have never been privy to his life.”

“Makes three of us.” Shrike muttered once more. Alex noted this in his mental log as further proof to Garent’s secretive nature. “I need to get those access codes set up so I can look at the files. But I have a slight theory going already... As uninformed as I am about the metaphysical.”

“Well, I know what you're thinking - it's what I thought, too, at first. Uncontrolled transformation. Some new power of his.”

“Close, I think. Or perhaps he's always altered his form to some sort of quasi-liquid state... Hence no pulse.” A slight surprise for Alex; very few people outside the CCCP were rational, reasoning types. Garent had been one of them… Turns out, this was another.

“But after my trips to Croatoa,” Alex explained, pulling a small device out of a pocket in his lab coat, “I've adapted my PDA to record spectral activity - I can't hit what I can't see, otherwise. And according to it, when his body disappeared, two spirits appeared in its place and quickly flew away. Don't ask me why.” He shrugged. “Perhaps he was possessed or sharing his body with another spirit... I have no idea. Since Garent reappeared the following week, I thought nothing of it - until his recent disappearance.”

“There’s more,” Alex announced quickly before Shrike could interject and continued: “When Garent disappeared, the two spirits had flown away and Yogi, complete in his Circus Master persona with a cadre of zombie performers, watched them leave. He turned to his little resurrected horde and ordered them to chase after him. The zombies vanished, and even though my scanner caught them as spectral entities, the spirits moved too fast for my scanner to get much info on them. Just there and gone, with a wild and lazy blur of random motion. I asked Yogi what happened, and he simply said "Blueboy is taking a trip; I put my boys on it". I asked him where, and he said he didn't know, and wasn't sure if his minions would even find Garent or not.”

“Amazingly enough,” Alex added, “Yogi actually sounded serious and sane in those short moments afterwards.” He chuckled in remembrance. “I pointed that out to him, and he claimed that he was having an off day.”

“Well, I'm glad for that.” Shrike shifted in his chair and straightened up, appearing instantly taller. “Any recommendations of someone I might want to... get to assist in investigating these? I have a feeling my hands are kinda full just taking over the JTF leadership.”

“As I said, Victoria would be handy. And, who was it you said, Mandragora? I hear she's a strong mystic type too.” Alex shrugged to indicate his lack of knowledge on that count. He’d never even met the woman.

“Okay... er. Yeah, there was also something about a ritual to sever some sort of bond between Circus Master and Garent.”

“Bond?” The scientist paused, filing the information away in his head. ”That would make sense. There definitely seemed to be something long and nasty going on between the two of them, and his recent disappearance might be connected. Though I don’t think Yogi made him vanish... Yogi seems to be inquisitive, not malevolent.”

“I really don't know,” Shrike said, his massive shoulders making a semblance of a shrug, “that was what the memo said. Maybe Yogi would be happy to shed some light for you... in the pursuit of knowledge or something?”

Alex smiled, nodding. “I might be able to work out some information from Yogi... Sofia and I have a generally civil rapport with the Isles' folk. Horatio, for instance, is a generally decent, smart fellow.”

“Yeah... in the end, a lot of them are just people like... us. Heh... or something. Figure I'm going to need all the help I can get. This is starting to feel a bit... ominous.”

“It could be that Yogi is trying to find the source of Garent's powers... Perhaps that was the second spirit.” Alex frowned as he voiced his wandering thoughts. This whole thing was becoming more complicated than it had first appeared. “Another symbiote, like the Kheldians... It gets too confusing, two people in one body.”

A strange echoing laughter emitted from Damascus Shrike. “Uh... yeah, sort of like a time-share double-occupancy sometimes.”

“But yes, I'll try and get something from Yogi. That might have to wait until the next Pocket D meeting, though...” He grimaced. He generally despised dance clubs. “My only opportunity for contact.”

“Is Yogi affiliated with any of those organizations in the Isles?”

Alex spent a long time in thought before answering. He was tempted to say no, but his brain was quickly piecing together random tidbits of data, weaving a bright picture to the contrary. “I believe so, though I wouldn't know its name. Once, back before the whole issue with Grim Gambol and the Murdock twins... I heard Horatio and Yogi talking about Grim, about ‘a spectre that haunts their base’ or some such. Grim showed up and I met him then. The ‘our base’ bit at least shows some affiliation between the lot of them; and I always seem them together. Of course, that was a half-year ago, and that might have changed.”

“Yeah...” Shrike waved off the answer. Without a name, there wouldn’t be much to go on in that department. “Well we've got something to work with now. A good start, I think. You can speak to Circus Master for me; unfortunately things are a bit unstable here for any real risky moves in that sort of thing. For me at least.”

“That's fine.” Alex smirked. “The CCCP is used to bad press and glares from the uber-patriots of the city, so we can handle that. Besides, you need to be careful: if Yogi is tied to this, then that means there could be some very tough people involved. Not to mention how many enemies we heroes have that would love to take advantage of a leaderless group. You need to get him back fast, or get a replacement. Quick.”

“Well for the moment, that's me.” Alex got the impression of a grimace from the impassive face. “Communication issues and all. I know the line, never let them see you sweat and such. Yeah... Well, case of bad timing here or something. Either way, if it's going to be me... it's going to have to be enough.”

“And these Isles folks don't play stupid, like the thugs we fight here. The Tsoo or the Council might raid us, but only Grim Gambol would think of slaughtering children in order to flush out bait. You can't protect against everything, but, well...” Alex paused a moment in thought. “Get Victoria in, and soon. She's paranoid, very. In this case, I think you need it.” A wry grin crossed his face. “Just don't tell her I said that.”

Shrike nodded. “I'll keep that in mind. Again, thank you.”

“Farewell, then, Shri- Oh, wait...” Alex slipped his hand into his coat pocket for a moment before handing Shrike a small card. “My card, as they say here. Has my office hours, phone number, et cetera. Just in case.”

The giant took the card with great care not to destroy it with his thick fingers. “Okay... thanks. And, uh... I'm Sharpe. Shrike is the body... person... host. Something like that.”

Alex smiled. Suddenly Shrike’s change in attitude and language all made sense. “Question, Shrike, Speech, Impeded?” He asked in jest.

“It's a matter of translation... Shrike has to use really simple terms for the vocalizer to work.”

“I figured.” He calmly placed his hands in his pockets as he stood up in preparation to leave. “I was merely trying to confirm that when you talk normal, it's you; otherwise, it is Shrike.”

“Pretty much...” Shrike - Sharpe, Alex corrected himself mentally - nodded. “Since I – uh - think in the right language or something. It's only one-way though, Shrike usually understands what people are saying just fine. Complicated.”

“Always is.” He sighed heavily. “You should have Sofia look at that thing, though; if anybody can figure out how to build one that works with Shrike, it will be the resident psycholinguist.”

“I will.” Sharpe raised a hand in farewell. “Thank you once again for your help. Farewell.”

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll see each other again,” he grinned, returning the wave. “Once I’ve found Garent.”