Lost and Found, Part 1
rating: +1+x


Nuri knew the letters only as symbols, because she could not read. Someone had tried to explain to her what they meant, but she had never understood these complicated words.

After all, she had just turned four a few days ago…

Nuri was an average-sized girl for her age, with very long, straight hair and asian features. At the moment she was wearing some kind of white pajamas. It bit terribly with the light brown that could be seen in her eyes. This sequence of symbols that meant I-Em-Be-We was also embroidered on the shirt in green.

She didn't really care what it stood for. She didn't like it here. The adults here considered her only one among many, there were hardly any children and if there were, then not of her age. Instead, there were very strange and creepy people here. Nuri therefore stayed in her room most of the time, even though she could leave it at any time. The only person here who seemed to treat her with honest kindness was a man who had introduced himself to her as Professor Voss. Nuri was allowed to call the brown-haired man Alex. She liked Voss, even though he smelled funny and had a very strange heartbeat. More like ticking. But sadly, the professor seemed to be the boss of the I-Em-Be-We, because he rarely stopped by. The two adults in their white coats, who now led her to the marble room, engraved themselves insufficiently in the little child's memory. Their friendliness was put on; to the girl it felt false. Like talking to robots. Nuri wanted to go home… She missed her mommy…

The Marble Room contained some kind of large, barrel-shaped machine. There was a hole with a porthole in it, and behind it one could see a support made of long rods with joints. Nuri couldn't help but think of two spiders trying to high-five each other with four legs at the same time when she saw it. The two adults stopped in front of the device with her.

"Well then, are you ready, Nuri?" the woman of the two asked.

"Hrm…", Nuri said.

She did not like what would come next…

"Come on, little one, you'll get some candy after this", said the man of the two.

It took a little while, but then she finally brought herself to obeying, though this could only be seen to a limited extent on Nuri's face. In her chest, some special muscles started to move and contract, until finally Nuri felt the reason on her tongue why she had christened the room as the Marble Room. Out of her mouth, she took a white, dull glowing bead, perhaps the size of a hazelnut, and gave it to the woman. She accepted the spit-stained gem with pointed fingers.

Nuri did not like it when this pearl was taken away from her. It seemed wrong to her, as if she were giving away her own hand, or foot. Meanwhile, the marble was placed in the holder and the porthole was closed. White light could be seen through the porthole, tenaciously emitted in the form of threads or worms onto the pearl and absorbed by the orb.

Nuri found the sight boring, but she wanted her marble back, so she waited impatiently. She was not allowed to kick the machine, she had already tried that. The people in the smocks would just get angry. But the machine eventually finished and Nuri got her marble back with pointed fingers and hastily swallowed it again. She didn't know why she did this, however, it made sense to her that something she could choke out, which caused a feeling of emptiness inside her, was better conveyed back. Each time it came out of the machine, however, the marble seemed to be a tiny bit heavier …

"There you go," the man sighed. He pulled a candy bar out of his pocket and handed it to Nuri. "Remember to brush your teeth", he reminded.

Nuri just nodded and was then escorted out of the room.

Special Agent Kurt "Freigeist" Damm sat bored in the surveillance room of the IMBW facility to which he was assigned. Unlike most special agents, he had no talent for combat or infiltration. His skills were better suited to defeating uncooperative elements. That's why he was in charge here, at this facility that housed individuals who could not be dealt with by brute force when they became unruly.

He shook his head as he read the paper that had been sent to him. His red curls, perched above his narrow face like a frayed paintbrush, wobbled back and forth as he did so.

"You already know I can't keep this guy under control when he rebels," he said to the woman and man standing next to him.

They had just delivered a new object of study.

"You're not the only one here, Freigeist," Magma-M countered, using her right prosthetic arm to fix her hair. "This villian may be immune to your powers, but he can be stopped with traditional fist-cuffs instead."

The brown-haired, thin man in a bow tie next to her just nodded.

"Although I wouldn't have put it as crudely as our charming Magma-M here," Professor Voss began, "what she says is true. This remarkable specimen was brought here in large part because the infrastructure here is the most resilient. This man poses no danger as long as he is not given a chance to escape. He was surprisingly insightful about that. I'm going to stay here through the night to begin the initial examination tomorrow."

"I'll be on my way again," Magma-M announced meanwhile. "Good night, you two, and please, Professor, be careful with this man. He is more cunning than he appears. It took us forever to catch him, you were there."

"Of course," Voss replied with a smile. "I think we're in for a lot of fun tomorrow."

Freigeist leaned back in his chair and grinned humorlessly.

"I feel sorry for the poor guy already …"

Do you really want to leave your hair that long, Nuri?" her mom asked as she combed her hair.

"Yes!" she declared categorically. "I want to be a princess someday, and princesses have long hair!".

Nuri played with a few strands of her hair while her mother continued to work. Finally, she finished.

"There, that's it. Now come on, we still want to go to the fair."

She gave Nuri a kiss on the forehead.

"Love you."

Nuri had very fine hearing, with which she could even perceive the vibrations that some electrical appliances emitted, such as the neon lights outside her door. She was therefore startled out of sleep in the middle of the night when these normally omnipresent sounds were suddenly absent.

She sat up sleepily and tried to pierce the darkness with her eyes. An emergency exit sign in the distance still provided a modicum of light flooding in under her door. For Nuri, that was enough; she saw very well at night.
She opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. Except for the glowing sign, there was no light to be seen.

Wait, that wasn't true. The beam of a flashlight from a side corridor was reflected on the white walls. Soft footsteps indicated that someone was approaching. Nuri wondered if she should go back, but suddenly a completely new smell came to her nose. It reminded her distantly of a gas station, but there were extremely different notes involved.

The footsteps came closer. Nuri waited anxiously to see who was coming around the corner.

Sure enough, a blonde woman came, or more precisely, staggered out of the hallway. She squealed in fright as the light from her lamp fell on Nuri's face. Nuri prophylactically closed her eyes briefly to avoid being blinded.

"You can't scare me like that, you look like a ceramic doll from a horror movie here in the dark!" the woman hissed agitatedly.

Nuri understood only half of what the woman was saying. She had never seen a horror movie before. She actually only associated men with hockey masks and a big knife with those.

"I don't know you," she noted. "Who are you?"

"No one you need to waste an effort to remember for," was the reply. "The less we have to interact with each other, the better for you. One thing though, did you see a big guy with black hair get put in here? Probably complained about lack of cleanliness. Does that ring any bells?

Nuri thought for a moment, but then shook her head.

"Nah, I haven't seen him. But I'm sure I can find him. My nose is very good."

"Nose?" the woman asked, confused. "You mean like a sniffer dog?"

Nuri nodded.

"Why do you want to help me?" the stranger continued, raising an eyebrow. "Didn't anyone teach you not to talk to strangers?"

"There are only strangers here," Nuri noted in perplexity.

That was the truth. If Nuri was honest, she actually felt safer around this woman. She looked more beautiful. And she even looked at Nuri when she talked. Just like mom and dad.

The woman tilted her head.

"Astoundingly good point … All right, wait a minute …"

The woman rummaged a bit in a purse she was carrying and finally pulled out a human arm. Nuri backed away, startled at first, but the arm was obviously not real. Wires hung out of the end that was normally attached to the shoulder. Nuri was proud of herself for coming to this realization all by herself.

"This used to be part of him. Don't ask," the woman said, handing Nuri the arm to sniff.

Nuri did so, frowning in confusion. She smelled metal, plastic, lubricant and rubber, but nothing she could trace. The strange scent, which the girl had smelled before and now recognized as the stranger's mouth odor, didn't make it any easier. She turned around to take in the scent, but only that gas station smell came to her nose.

She walked a few steps away from the woman and tried again. The smell was still there. It was no use. The bad breath from the lady was too strong.

Then Nuri started moving anyway. Not because she smelled anything, but because something was knocking rhythmically against a metal door in the distance.

The glow of the lamp followed her, which told her that the woman was doing the same. Through the corridors, Nuri led her toward the knocking that came from the wing where all the machines were. The Marble Room was there, too.

The stranger suddenly stopped.

"Is that guy really knocking It's Not Unusual?"

She stopped in front of the door behind which the knock sounded. It was locked and made of tough-looking metal.

"Hmm, I'll look in my bag for that one," the blonde muttered, rummaging around in her purse until she pulled out what was probably the strangest key Nuri had ever seen. It appeared to be liquid, but none of the metallic gray fluid dripped down. The key slid into the lock without resistance and turned on its own.

"One-way door opener," the woman explained. "Once they solidify, you can only use them on the door you opened with them."

The door swung open. Nuri had seen several huge guys here before, but this one at least looked like someone she wouldn't want to run away from right away. He had black hair and, like Nuri, was wearing pajamas.

"About time, Elli," he grumbled. "Thought you didn't hear me."

"I didn't, Dean," the woman now identified as Elli countered. "You were sniffed out."

She pointed a finger down at Nuri.

"I did hear him. Not smell, you have bad breath," Nuri replied truthfully.

"HA! Well roared, Bottlebrush!" complimented Dean delightedly.

"Bottlebrush?" asked Elli in wonder, seemingly scanning Nuri for a clue to that nickname. "Why Bottlebrush?"

Dean raised an eyebrow.

"Elli? Didn't you notice that you were traveling with a demon fox?"

"This is highly unusual," said Professor Voss as he hurried to the central control unit with Special Agent Damm and several guards.

"I'm aware of that, Professor," Damm replied, annoyed. "If that was an EMP from your new gem, then we're really in trouble."

"Unlikely, I would have picked up on that, RTI Titans register that sort of thing," the professor objected.

Special Agent Damm had to remind himself again that he wasn't talking to the real Voss here. Okay, he was talking to the real Voss, but he wasn't physically present. What was walking around here with him was a robotic doll that the real Voss was probably controlling from hundreds of kilometers away. Damm had only seen the professor's real body twice; it was huge and completely hidden under clothing and a full-face helmet, ostensibly because it had hardly anything human left on it.

They reached the central control room. Inside, the special agent found cut main cables after he unlocked it.

"And then there is this …" he muttered.

"Let me take a swing at this," the professor requested, stepping past his subordinate. His left hand folded up and disappeared into his sleeve to make way for a welding-torch-like device that emitted molten copper when activated. With it, he soldered the cables back together. Gradually, the lights in the building came back on.

"Why do you have a soldering iron built into your arm?" asked Damm, perplexed.

"These bodies are modulatable. This is a long-term test for working prostheses," Professor Voss explained amiably. "I've got a bunch of other tools in here, it's like a Swiss Army knife of the heavy industry. By the way, did you notice it when you opened up the room?"

The special agent frowned.


"You had to unlock it," Professor Voss explained with a smile. "We only have two keys to this door, and we know where both of them are. Whatever entered this room didn't use the door. Come on, I bet our little burglar is still in the building."

Damm rolled his eyes. Voss had just found something new to play with …

Elli frowned her brows. She had noticed slight reality fluctuations from the little girl, but hadn't thought anything of it; after all, this was the IMBW. Now, however, parts of Nuri blurred for a moment before consolidating again. Two pointed, long fox ears now perched on her head and between her shirt and pants a matching black tail with a white tip protruded from her rump. Furthermore, the pupils of her now red eyes were no longer round, but slit-shaped. A kumiho, Elli realized. Known to disembowel humans and eat their livers…

"Oh," she made dryly, secretly glad that this specimen here was apparently still too young to develop murderous instincts. Actually, demon foxes were quite cute when they were small, but that held true for most mammals at a young age, in Ellis' opinion.

"How did you not notice that?" asked Dean. "She has ears and a tail."

"Uh, Dean, demon foxes have a glamour when they're not using their powers," Elli explained. "Now that I know what Nuri is, it loses its effect, but until just now, she looked like a human to me."

"What?" asked Nuri, confused, looking down at her hands. "What do I look like?"

"Uh, Nuri, right?" began Dean. "Like I just said, you have two sets of ears and a tail."

With a sad face, Nuri pressed her fox ears to her head and hid her tail behind her back.

"Way to go, Dean," Elli growled angrily. "You can't just tell a little girl she has a tail and four ears!"

"Sorry," Dean muttered.

It occurred to Elli that Dean had no experience with small children, having barely interacted with any before. Nuri, meanwhile, relaxed again and looked at Elli expectantly.

"Now what?"

The lights suddenly came back on.

"Now we go," Dean said. "Elli, would you please?"

"Uh, yeah, about that …" began Elli, smiling apologetically. "The IMBW keeps reality-bending people here, there are anchors all over the place …"

Dean rolled his eyes.

"You don't have a plan, do you?"

"No?" replied Elli truthfully. "We always go all Indiana Jones on these things, don't we?

"In a facility in the presence of one of the most deranged men in Europe?" continued Dean. "Elli, the guy overpowered me. And welded my arms and legs together."

He rolled up his sleeves and presented lines of his burned skin covering, revealing the metal that made up his body. Nuri looked at the damage with childlike fascination.

"Whoa! You're a robot?" she asked with bright eyes.

"Uh, android," Dean corrected, seeming unsure how to handle Nuri's enthusiasm.

Usually the revelation of his non-human nature was followed by shock, fear, or cautious amazement, Nuri's delight had to be a completely new experience for him.

"Um, Dean, shouldn't we start getting a move on?"

"What, oh yeah. Do you know which way is out?"

Dean followed Elli as they left the room. Nuri was the rear.

"Shouldn't you be getting back to your room?" asked Dean of the girl.

"I dun' wanna," she replied, shaking her head. "I wanna go home to Mom and Dad."

"Hrm," Elli went on. "Dean, she's been helping us, I think it's only fair we get her out of here."

Dean turned to her emphatically quietly, so the demon fox couldn't hear them.

"You're going to unleash a creature known for its viciousness and brutality on the world just because she helped you once?"

"Dean, she's maybe four, five at most," Elli returned angrily. "She didn't attack us, and you and I have already met another Kumiho who didn't want to get us1. We have no reason to deny her our help just because her species is known to be bloodthirsty."

"And when she gets older?" asked Dean.

"You want to see what Voss does with her or the knowledge he gains with her?" countered Elli.

"Okay, fair point."

"Hey, am I the bad creature?" Nuri suddenly exclaimed, seemingly having
to restrain herself greatly from crying. "I'm not bad! I always finished my plate and went to bed when the Sandmann was over!"

"You-you could hear us?" asked Dean, startled.

Elli, for her part, was more puzzled by Nuri, being of obvious Korean descent, referencing German television2. Well, she told herself, Nuri spoke accent-free German, presumably she was the child of emigrants.

The girl, meanwhile, nodded angrily. Elli watched with amazement as Dean shrank under her gaze. No one had managed that since Elli had taken him in!

"Sorry," Dean said. "Didn't mean it …"

"Nobody believes you," chimed in behind them.

Nuri hastily took cover behind Elli. She was shaking all over. Whoever that voice belonged to, the girl was mortally frightened of him. When Elli turned around, she became aware of a man in tactical gear. He had red hair.

"Wasn't very nice to cut off our power," he commented. "Voss has his hands full trying to patch the wires back up."

"You shouldn't have kidnapped my buddy," Elli returned, shrugging her shoulders.

"Touché," the man replied with an unhappy smile. "If it were up to me, I'd let you go, anyone who gets this far without being noticed causes more problems than I'm willing to solve."

He scratched the back of his head.

"But unfortunately, the Prof has a keen interest in you. My condolences, really, but if we could get this over with without violence, that would be lovely, I'm already working overtime."

"Nuri, who's that?" asked Elli of the demon fox clinging to her.

"He's creepy. He's got ghosts. He's been hitting people with it. I don't like him …"

"Ghosts?" asked Elli.

"Ghosts?" echoed Dean.

"Toast," the man chimed in dryly.

Something invisible grabbed Elli by the ankles and lifted her up. Before she knew it, she was dangling upside down in the air. Nuri squealed in fright and took cover behind Dean instead. Just when he was hit on the chin by the same invisible force, lifted off his feet and crashed lengthwise onto the floor. Nuri stood there with shaking knees.

"Uwah!" made Elli, meanwhile, dumbfounded.

She hadn't perceived any change in reality, and it didn't feel like mundane psychokinesis. So this phenomenon had to be of a different nature. Was this guy actually commanding ghosts?

"Okay, that's new …"

"My name is Kurt Damm, by the way," the IMBW special agent introduced himself and grinned. "Welcome to my facility. Enjoy your stay, because you will never leave…"

Next time on Nuri:
Lost and Found, Part 2

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License