They left the house in casual clothes, though Amy was, for a change, dressed appropriately for the weather in jeans, boots and a shapely black jacket (though only because she was wearing her costume, minus the high-heeled boots, underneath).
Since she absolutely insisted on him being fully equipped for visiting the house on the mountainside – even if his ravens had already scanned it and designated it as abandoned for years – they had to go to his lair first.
Fortunately, the girls had left to go home to their worried families and they would not be back until later in the afternoon to watch the TV special. So they were free to enter and suit up.
“I told you that heel-less boots would be better”, he told Amy as she stripped out of the upper layer of her clothes. He was just slipping into his black bodysuit.
“Oh, go play with your screwdrivers!”, she replied hotly as she shifted into Mindstar’s white-skinned, purple-lipped form and pulled her mask over her head.
“I will. Later. Now let me just slip into my spare armor”, he said.
“Was the one you used damaged so much?”, she asked, worried.
“It is pretty much a loss, really. That black blast would have blasted a hole through steel. Fractured two of my ribs”, he explained. Since he was currently turning his back to her, he did not see her face go even paler than it already was.
“How are your ribs?”, she asked, much more subdued than usually. Not that he picked up on it, since he was currently sealing his suit.
“Oh, do not worry. Gloom Glimmer threw up some kind of healing field after the battle. I am good as new.”
“Good”, she answered, then shook her head. “Now, are you ready?”
He checked his equipment over one more time. “Well, my stun gun is gone and I have not had a chance to build a new one. Otherwise, I am ready to go.”
“Then off we go!”
“Wait. Take these”, he interrupted her, handing her a pair of shoes like the ones he had made for Tyche’s costume. She had no footwear, currently, and her feet were bare save for the stirrups from her bodysuit.
“Ooh, presents!”, she said, trying them on. “And they fit? How come?”
“I made them so they stretch to fit most feet. It pays to be prepared”, he replied.
“Wow, they are really comfy. No wonder Gloom Glimmer wears them too.”
“Well, if I was not wearing full power armor, I would use those as well. But anyway, I guess we are ready to go.”
“Then off we go!”
* * *
It had not taken Basil long to locate the Mountainside House, as he had a pretty clear memory of the direction from which the city could be seen – it was located on the slope of Mt. Flannmoure, northwest of the city.
The house was built with no clear access by land – whatever path had existed had long been overgrown by trees and shrubbery, leaving it largely inaccessible unless one was willing to hike through very difficult, hard to navigate terrain – or simply fly. It was ringed by a tall wrought iron fence with a matching gate. The garden on the inside had long since grown completely out of any design it had been given in the past.
I did not know you could turn yourself invisible, he said to Amy as they touched down in front of the mountainside house.
It’s the kind of power you want to keep secret, she replied.
But how do you do it?
I bend light around myself – as well as nullify any sounds I create. Downside is, I can not use my telekinesis for anything other than this and flight if I do.
So that is why you had to carry me by hand instead of just lifting me directly with your telekinesis?
I would think that bending light around you to become completely invisible would be impossible to do without extreme mental enhancements. And you never mentioned something like that.
I don’t have them. It’s a kind of knack I have, I don’t do it consciously. And as I said, it still shuts down all my other telekinetic abilities other than my flight.
Still a great trick. Would you allow me to study it? Maybe I can replicate it for a stealth version of my armor.
Of course. But first, let’s take a look at this creepy spookhouse, she continued, pointing at the mountainside house.
Looks old. Really old. Victorian style. Faded blue paint job… This house looks like it jumped out of the Hardwick House estate, he commented.
You know, that…
No, Basil, I don’t know. I don’t go to Wikipedia and randomly click myself through articles as a hobby, she replied, annoyed.
It is called a WikiWalk, and it is a most noble pastime.
I so don’t need that kind of information. Let’s just concentrate on the matter at hand, shall we?
Oh, don’t get grumpy just because you wanted to do some exposition! Now, concentrate!
They walked towards the front entrance.
* * *
The door proved to be unlocked, though it took Amy’s telekinesis to open it from the inside, as the outside doorknob had been broken off.
On the inside, they first saw a narrow corridor that led to a broken staircase leading up and a door that probably lead into the cellar.
On the right were two doors, on the left three.
Should we look through the entire house first? Or do you remember where whatever you’re looking for is supposed to be hidden?, Amy asked him while looking around.
I am pretty sure it is in the living room – which should be behind the first door to the right. Ah, this is it!, he replied as he opened the first door.
The floorboards creaked under the weight of his steps as he walked in, followed by a floating Amy, who was ready for an attack.
He, however, was too excited to really take care – whatever was hidden here might shed some light on those strange visions he had experienced.
The dark red love seat was just where he remembered. It had probably once been a joy to sit in, not to mention that even now, half-decayed, it still looked stylish beyond belief. Got to get something like that for my hideout.
He moved to push it aside, but Amy stopped him with a telekinetic grip on his shoulder.
Step back. Let me do this with telekinesis. Safer that way.
You are right, sorry. I am just… excited, I guess.
I understand, but please be more careful. The last thing I want is to see you hurt.
Stepping back, he watched the love seat seemingly move out of the way by itself – unlike many other telekinetics, Amy’s power had no visual effect.
Next, she moved the rug, which seemed to be made of dust by this point, aside and he could already see where the floor boards had been moved. She saw it as well and forced them up, then lifted something about the size of a very thick remote wrapped in faded blue cloth out of the space beneath.
The package unwrapped, revealing a smooth, featureless black box, large enough to just fit into a hand. The cloth itself was nothing special and there was nothing else inside the package.
What do we do with it now?, she asked as the black box slowly rotated in midair. It was the same from all sides, a smooth, featureless black box that did not reflect any light.
Give it to me. Maybe it reacts to me?
Alright, but I’ll stand ready to pull it out of your hand the moment anything happens. Just to be safe.
She levitated the box to him. He reached out, grabbing it – and nothing happened.
Huh. How anticlimatic.
I can’t pick up any emotional resonance. Either this has been here for so long that no emotional charge is left, or it was completely insignificant to whoever made or hid it, or it was somehow wiped clean.
Is that even possible?
Erasing emotional traces? It’s a rare ability – I don’t have it, for example – but it exists.
Hmm. Maybe I need to touch it directly – skin contact might be required.
Absolutely not! That’s too dangerous!
Oh, come on Amy. What did we come here for, if we do not do everything we can think of to find out what this is? Besides, I really do not think that whoever placed this here wants to harm me.
Alright. But slowly…
He took off the left glove of his power armor, then separated the glove of the bodysuit. Finally, he grabbed the floating box again. It felt neither warm nor cold. But nothing happened.
Well, so much for that theory, Amy commented.
I would like to take this to my laboratory. But first we should look through this house. Split or together?
She raised an eyebrow at him.
Together, then, he concluded.
* * *
Well, that turned up nothing, said Basil.
Oh, I don’t know. I learned some interesting things about how many different kinds of plant life can grow in old houses, commented Amy as she, again, wiped herself off – there had been a very, very uncomfortable incident involving mold, fungi and an attic door. And he had it recorded in 3D.
This kind of reminds me of that strange warehouse, only far more filthy.
I found a strange warehouse near the harbor. Filled with empty sealed crates and, at least when I found it, completely clean. Does not even exist officially and neither I nor the girls have been able to find out anything about it.
That does sound strange. Maybe, if I find the time, I should take a look as well?
I would appreciate it – I am absolutely intrigued by that warehouse.
Alright, we’ll see about when I can squeeze that in. Not today, anyway. Do you want to examine that box in your laboratory?
Not now – not much time left until the girls come over to watch the tv special with me.
Right, same for me. I’ll just fly you over to your lair real quick.
* * *
He had just seen Amy off when his mobile phone rang. It was Prisca.
“Hi”, she greeted, sounding much more awake than earlier.
“Hello Prisca. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. Sorry about earlier – I hadn’t gotten much sleep last night.”
He chuckled. “That makes two of us. I hope there were no other problems?”
“No, not at all. I’ve got another reason for calling you.”
Smiling, though she could not see it, he replied: “And what would that be?”
“There’s going to be a TV special on HeroView about last night at 5 o’clock. I wanted to ask if you wanted to watch it with me?”, she asked hopefully.
He thought it over – he really wanted to see her, but the other two…
“Is there a problem?”, she asked, concerned.
“No, no, it is just that I was going to watch it with the girls – but it is not a problem, you take priority”, he explained.
“Oh no, I don’t want you to break a promise because of me!”
“I did not promise anything. Besides, you are my girlfriend – they will understand”, he replied.
“Alright. Thank you. See you later, then”, she said, audibly relieved. Then she hung up.
He was just about to put the phone down again when Vasiliki’s ringtone played.
“Hi Basil”, she greeted him the moment he picked up. “Say, I wanted to ask you a favour. I’ve already asked Dalia and she’s alright with it.”
“Hello Vasiliki, nice to hear from you”, he greeted back. “I am listening – what kind of favour would require both Dalia’s and my approval?”
She did not answer for a few seconds, probably figuring out how to phrase it. “Well, I’ve told you about my friend, haven’t I? The one who knows about me going out in costume and all?”
“Yes…”, he replied, an idea of just what she wanted dawning on him.
“I would like to take Stephi along when we watch the special. Dalia has agreed, even to telling her her real name. If-“
“I am not that comfortable with showing my face to someone I barely know – showing it to you guys, even, was mostly due to you needing emergency treatment.”
“I know, and I’m sorry for asking this. But if you want, I can blindfold her when I lead her to your hideout and you can keep your mask on or something-“
“No, that would be just rude. Besides, sooner or later, we were going to bring more people in – I will probably have to spill the beans to Timothy as well… Either way, you can bring her along – but make it clear to her what risks she takes if she associates too closely with us – and what responsibilities she will have to shoulder.”
“Alright, thank you!”
“Wait a moment, I have something to say as well”, he replied. When he had her attention, he said: “I want to watch the special with my girlfriend. Unfortunately, she can not come to the lair, so I thought I would go to her. We can set up a secure connection and talk over that, then.”
“Ohh, we get to know this mystery woman? I’m all in and I’m sure Dalia will love that, too.”
“Alright, then we will talk later. I have got to prepare some stuff”, he said, hanging up.
Got to modify one of my laptops to make sure that the connection will be as secure as possible…