Tales from Site-91 - Part II.
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The Specialist

July 3rd, 2001

"First!" Shouted a thirteen-year-old boy with sandy hair sitting on a low oak branch as he watched another, slightly younger boy try to climb up behind him. It was a pleasant morning in the countryside, the grass was covered in dew and the sun was slowly working its way into the sky.

"But it was my turn to hide today," said the younger boy.

"Too bad, you know the rules. First one up the tree gets to hide."

"But you're always first! I don't want to look for you."

"Well, we can switch then. When you find me…" His older friend replied, trying to talk him down.


"Sure," he smiled at him. "Turn around and count to twenty… no, no, no… thirty!"

The younger boy sighed and started counting. It was an awkward thirty seconds of just staring at the bark of a tree by the side of the road while his older friend ran for cover in the woods a little further away, since it was the only place in the area to hide.

"Coming!" He exclaimed solemnly.

First of all, he searched through the thicket, the trees, and reached a small hill in the woods, but found no one. Then he thought to look in the bushes, for that was where his friend had hidden last. But the older boy was still nowhere to be found. So he already knew where he must have hidden. But it's not fair, he promised him he wouldn't hide there. His friend knows he's afraid of that place.

It didn't take him long to reach an old abandoned cabin on the edge of the woods. Had he been older and seen some horror movies, he might have thought it looked rather stereotypical. No one had lived in it since long before the two boys were born and the door was always unlocked. That wasn't so much scary as it was a sign that some thieves had left them that way when they had taken all the valuables, if there were any, from the house years ago. The cabin itself was quite small on the inside and there wasn't much furniture, which meant few hiding places.

He pulled on the door handle, which with a creak revealed a view of an empty hallway where no one was hiding. At the end of it, it flowed seamlessly into the living room, where only an old dusty armchair stood. The boy walked slowly down the hallway, knowing that when he found his friend, he would be the one to hide. He would choose a much better place.

Unfortunately, the old hut had many broken windows and the floor was strewn with shards. This was one of the few legitimate dangers of the place, and it was also the reason why their parents had forbidden them to go inside. But his parents weren't here now, and his friend was happy to disobey their prohibitions.

At least there was light shining in through the broken windows. He checked the kitchen door, but it wouldn't open. At first he thought it was strange, but then he figured they were just old and maybe one of the older kids in the neighborhood had broken them. He and his friend weren't the only ones who visited here occasionally.

The last remaining place was the bathroom… and the attic, but he wouldn't hide there. Even his friend wouldn't go up there. He walked into the bathroom, where the only place to hide was practically in the bathtub behind the curtain. He pulled it away and froze in shock. Someone was hiding in the tub, but it wasn't his friend. It was a girl, a few years older than both boys. Her dark hair fell over her shoulders and she looked as confused as he did.

"Who are you?" The girl asked. There was a faint hint of fear in her voice, but also annoyance. She held her side.

"Mom said not to talk to strangers," he replied, feeling a sense of pride inside when he could finally use the phrase he'd learned.

"What are you doing here?" She asked again, a little more quietly this time. He noticed that she was wearing a black tight-fitting suit and looked like secret agents from the movies.

He frowned. Should he tell her about his friend? He hadn't found him yet and she might have seen him. Maybe she was playing hide and seek too, and some friend of hers would be looking for her in a minute. Finally, he spoke nervously, "We're playing hide and seek."

The girl sighed and tucked her gun back into her backpack in the tub, which the boy couldn't see from his angle.

"Well, go somewhere else, this place is already taken." She said a little annoyed.

"But… have you seen my friend?" He asked as if he still expected her to be hiding somewhere behind the girl.

"Boy, I didn't see anyone here," she remarked, mentally regretting that she had chosen this place to rest.

"But-" He was suddenly interrupted by a loud knock on the bathroom door. The boy panicked and quickly turned around, afraid his parents might come in and find him here. Instead, he saw his friend, who had a wide smile on his face and declared. "Gotcha! I won!"

The boy was suddenly confused. "But, I was looking for you."

"Hehe, no, you wanted to hide, remember?"

"Yeah, but you said…" It didn't matter, I'm sure it was one of his friend's jokes. He won't admit it. "Whatever, Philip…"

"What were you doing in the bathroom anyway? I mean, it's the worst hiding place," his friend Philip laughed.

"I was just talking to-" He turned around. The girl was gone, as if she had never been there.

"Talked to who? There's no one here."

"She- She was right here!" How could she disappear? He was standing at the door…

"She? The girl? Did you dream of a girl in the bathtub?" Philip teased him.

"No… It was nothing." He said quickly to cover what must have been obvious. That he was dreaming the whole thing. But it felt so real to him.

"Well, come on, Oliver. I'm sure Mom will have lunch ready by now." Philip said, and headed out of the cottage.

Was it time for lunch already? He must have been looking for Philip longer than he thought…

He spent the rest of the day and into the night thinking about the girl. She couldn't have just disappeared, it wasn't possible… It wasn't normal…

Alison took a breath of fresh air. She laid in the middle of a clearing in the woods, her hands shaking slightly. She had her backpack beside her. It was one thing to jump using the Passage, but to do another one shortly afterwards, and that too while lying in a bathtub, was unprecedented even by her standards. She wished she hadn't been disturbed by the boy, but what the hell, she was only going to stop there for a moment anyway.

She checked the wound on her side, which was slowly healing, but unfortunately wasn't in perfect condition yet. She managed to scramble to her feet to take in her surroundings. She couldn't use the Passage to get back, partly because she was too weak to do so, and also because she couldn't open this particular Passage. She could use it as an exit point, but it wasn't made for going back.

Alison went over her plan carefully. She still didn't like that she had to act as a messenger, but it was true that few others could do that and this was a relatively easy way to get information. Information about her father. Wherever he was.

Anyway, the letter was still in her backpack, as well as half a clip in her pistol, spare clothes, some supplies, and her personal belongings. Most of all, she'd like to get back to the Library, or somewhere she knew… Site-91 didn't mean much to her, though she understood the obvious of course. It's a foundation site. And that was enough for her. She didn't even know the 'Slavík' she was supposed to deliver the letter to. In fact, the only thing that made sense to her was delivering a letter across time and space to another universe. What year is it now? 2001?

Whatever, she'd rather not think about it. Not now. She's relatively safe here, but it'll be dark soon and she should be on her way. There should be a small research foundation somewhere around here overseeing the Passage. And from there, it should only be a short walk to Site-91…

It wasn't a stunt. Turns out Alison miscalculated somewhere because this wasn't the right universe. And it wasn't close to Site-91. Not that it matters, because this Site-91 was different anyway…

There was no 'Slavík' she could deliver a letter to, it wasn't even in the Czech Republic. She was in England and had her own worries.

Of course, Alison didn't find that out until she arrived at the place where the site was supposed to be. There was a power station there instead. With a sigh, Alison set off for the nearest town, where, using tried and true magical methods, she found another Passage. It only took her three days.

Finally, there was one Passage atop a 16th century watchtower in the historic center of town. She knocked by feeding a flock of the ubiquitous hungry pigeons and before she knew it, the world around her spun again. It was about time.

July 6th, 2001

It was evening and darkness had already fallen outside. The Site Director had just written an entry in his approval diary and was preparing to report to the O5 Council when it occurred to him that he could do it much more easily with a bottle of whisky. Site Director Slavík, as everyone called him even though most of the staff here knew it was a fake name, was an older and troubled man and as such loved alcohol.

Most people who stay with the Foundation for a long time develop some way of coping with what happens every day. The Foundation itself encourages this in the form of amnesties, but they only fugn when you're in a lower position because the people in charge have to remember everything. Besides, Slavík thought whiskey was a much more elegant solution anyway. And he liked the taste.

He rose from his comfortable chair and walked over to the cabinet by the office window, as he had so many times before. And like many nights before, he enjoyed the peace and quiet of the night area. That's why he was completely thrown off guard when he heard the door open behind him.

It was a sharp sound, somehow out of place, not only because it broke the moment of silence, but there was something unnatural about it. Slavík didn't doubt for a moment that he was the only person in the building who had noticed the intruder. The Site Director poured himself from the bottle of his favourite drink and then moved quietly to the table so that the person standing in the room with him would not notice that he knew about her.

Opposite him at the door stood a nondescript figure, so ordinary in appearance as to not even be worth describing, except perhaps for the tweed cap on his head. The girl beneath the cap was inspecting the Site Director's office, holding her hip and clutching a letter in her other hand that had caused her to cross three universes, get shot, teleport out of a bathtub, and feed a lot of pigeons. All for a small promise from whoever wrote the letter that this Director Slavík would give her information about her father.

It seemed like a bargain to Alison.

After a while, Slavík got tired of pretending that he hadn't been trained against antimemetic anomalies a long time ago and cleared his throat. Alison looked at him instinctively and found herself making eye contact with the older man. It would have been quite an awkward moment if Slavík hadn't already taken two glasses moments ago and was now offering her one poured.

Alison hesitated for a moment, but finally accepted the offered whiskey. It might taste awful, but at least it made her forget about the pain in her side for a while. Slavík enjoyed his drink patiently. Finally, he spoke.

"Who are you and why are you here?"

"I have something to give you." Alison placed a thin envelope on the table, which miraculously still looked good after several days of traveling through the problems. It was white and unmarked. Slavík cautiously reached for the envelope, but Alison stopped him. "I'd like some information first."

"What would you like to hear, miss?" Slavík settled back in his chair and took a drink. Alison realized at that moment that her disguise was completely unnecessary and took off her hat.

"I want information on someone who works for your Foundation. His name is Charles Gears."

Director Slavík thought for a moment. "Dr. Gears… Yes, I know the name, but you won't find him here. He works in Site-19, that's on the other side of the world…"

"Where exactly?"

Their gazes met. Alison had something on her side that Slavík was slowly losing with each year of service. There was determination in her eyes.

"I'll write you an address, but I want to see the letter first."

"Be my guest, it's a job reference."


"He says you have a problem and need a specialist."

July 13th, 2001

Two men were sipping coffee in a Site-91 hallway during a break.

"Who's the new guy?"

"I have no idea, some Dr. Ike or something."

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