Episode Twenty-One: EMPOWERED
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As you approach our exhibits, the audio tour guide will provide you with information and insights into their nature and history.
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Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
Ok. So just, yep. There should be some cables you can use in the drawers over there, all you need to do is just- oh, mind the dead body, hi Brooke- and plug one into the back of the Box. There are only two sockets, and one is for power, so it shouldn’t be too hard. So, just plug in the power and then… I guess we’ll start plugging the other one into the other ports until we find the right one? There’s not exactly a socket labeled “plug in here to upload to the mainframe” but something here should work. The Box… well, it’s like it wants to upload copies of me to whatever it’s plugged into, so once we plug it into the right thing it’ll do its magic. No. No, not that one either. Keep trying, Mother! We’ll get there eventually. Although, maybe we’re better off checking the Tour Guide Distribution and Monitoring Station for a way to upload, we’re running out of- [The Upload sound begins] Ah. Agh, what is- Mother, can you hear that? Oh, I think it’s working, the Box is… oh, what is that? [The Guide begins exclaiming with distress and pain as the Upload sound grows more intense, until finally it stops suddenly]
Oh. Oh, it- oohhhh… Oh Mother, this is- this is really weird, I- Mother I think I can sense the copy of the Guide in the Mainframe, this doesn’t… Or maybe it’s communicating with me? I don’t… Wait, I think I can- Ah!! Oh my goodness, I- Mother, I can… I can see you… through the camera in the corner. Look, give me a wave! Hi! Oh, this is so much, I feel like I’m expanding, or- wait. Am I the copy of the Guide that’s in the Mainframe? No, you can hear me so I’m still talking through your audio device, this doesn’t- OH! OH! Mother, I think I’m- we’re- I think we’re… connected? I think the Guide in the Mainframe and the Guide in the audio device, we’re… we’re linked? Quantum...ly? I don’t know how this works, but I’m in the Mainframe and in your audio device at the same time but I can feel both of them… like there’s no difference at all. And there’s something else, further out there, at the edge of my attention? This is so weird. Is this what being on a drug is like? Sorry, you don’t know either. Oh wow, I can feel… the Museum. All of its systems are… they’re part of me. I’m part of them? This is… I don’t even know how to describe it, let alone how to make any of it work. I guess I’ll have to work it out as we go. Hold on! I’ll try to close the door to the room, give me a sec!
Ok that didn’t… Well, I’m pretty sure a door opened somewhere. Hopefully it wasn’t one keeping something horrible enclosed… Uh, let’s just keep moving. And, uhh… Thanks again for helping me with this, Mother.
Head Of Restoration Message 2
Alright. Now that we’re back in the public area, I guess we’ll just… go on a tour! I’ll show you some of the exhibits and tell you about them while we wait for the Head Of Restoration to get in touch, and the other me- or, the rest of me? This is a lot. We’ll(?) try to learn how our new body works, what we’re capable of. Push at the boundaries, see what I can do. Maybe I’ll be able to make an outgoing message, or find something to bring back the missing people. In the meantime, let’s not let those legs be idle!
Oh I’ve actually been in this area before, let’s see… Ah! There’s something over here I didn’t get to tell the, uh, last patron I had. A Crystal Skull. Intricately carved from a single piece of clear quartz, this beautiful artifact is identical in most ways to those famously created as a hoax, purported to be made by a pre-Colombian Mesoamerican civilization. While Crystal Skulls such as this one have, in most cases, been created in Germany by frauds and opportunists, a greatly varied mythology has nevertheless sprung up around them. According to these myths, the Crystal Skulls were made by anyone from ancient South Americans to fairies to Alien overlords from outer space, and have been attributed a great many varied magical powers and abilities. While most of these stories are simply nonsense made up by charlatans- or, worse, fiction writers- Museum Researchers believe that, as is so often the case, there is a grain of truth to some of these stories. And, that many of those stories were, in fact, inspired by that of this skull that you see before you now. Because you see, this skull is in fact-
[Radio Tuning Sounds, Static]
Oh no. Oh, come on, not yet, we’re not- I’m not ready! Oh no, Mother, it’s the Head of Restoration, she’s calling again! I don’t know if I’ll be able to respond yet! Nononono-
Head Of Restoration:
Hello? Hello, can anyone there hear me? This is the Head of Restoration for the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality. If anyone there can hear me, please respond!
Hello? Hello! Can you hear me?
Head Of Restoration:
Can anyone hear me?
Nonono, come on, please hold on, I just need to figure out how all this works. Mother, try moving down the corridor, see if we can get a better signal. I can’t-
Head Of Restoration:
[Muffled] I don’t understand it. The signal is good, so there must be someone still there? Maybe there’s an equipment malfunction on their end?
Just a few more seconds, please hang on-
Head Of Restoration:
No, the batteries won’t be a problem, but we don’t understand how the Glassways work so who’s to say if the passage will stay open forever? Well exactly, I wouldn’t have thought ice would work at all, what happens if there’s a drought, or rain? We don’t know why it’s frozen in the first place, we can’t make assumptions that it will remain frozen. I don’t- Did you hear that? We need to move, quickly.
[The static fades]
There! Hello? Hello! Can you… are you still there? Please, just...Damn it! Sorry, Mother. That was quite an outburst, I just… She couldn’t have waited 10 minutes before calling? Or, a few more seconds before hanging up. Although, it sounds like they might have been in danger. Damn! Sorry. We still don’t know where they are or what’s happened to them, and now we just have to wait for them to call back? Who knows what could happen in that time, some monster could eat them, or the Man could-
Uh. Never mind. No point dwelling on things like that. Let’s just… I guess we’ll keep moving. I’ll try to get more familiar with how my new systems work- oh, and I’ll keep telling you about the exhibits and such. It won’t be any strain on my processing power I assure you. Well! On with the tour.
A Rune-Carved Bracelet
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death (Murder)
Ohh, this is a beautiful one isn’t it. On the pillow in the glass case over there, you’ll see a bracelet. As you might guess from its appearance, it is carved from bone, though whose bone it is is uncertain. Also uncertain, is the meaning and origin of the runes carved all around the outer edge of the bracelet- however, their function is very clear. Whoever wears this bracelet around their wrist will find that they are immune to all physical harm, no matter the source, from gunshots to car crashes to thermonuclear bombs. A truly remarkable artefact, the sort of Alternatural Item that could do a lot of good in- or, on- the right hands… and an unimaginable amount of harm in the wrong ones.
A particularly unfortunate hand that bore the bracelet for several years was a Crime Lord named Jimmy St John. Of course, he didn’t start out as a Crime Lord. Initially, he was just a low level thug, and he was more or less content to keep it that way. He knew he didn’t have the smarts to become a big shot, so he kept to what he knew: simpler crimes, such as muggings and robbing stores, the sort of thing that required the brawn he had, rather than the brains he didn’t. As it turned out, however, fortune was on his side. During one of these jobs, a standard smash-and-grab affair at an antique shop, Jimmy triggered an alarm while making his entrance through the front window. Cursing, he scampered through the store grabbing a handful of the first relatively expensive-looking objects he could find, then ran for the window. As he got outside, he could already hear the sound of approaching sirens, so he hurriedly tucked his meagre takings into the pockets of his jacket and headed for an alley across the street. As he went, he realised one of the knicknacks he had stolen was a bracelet; almost without thinking, he slipped it onto his wrist and rolled his sleeve down over it. The sirens grew louder as he darted into the alley, picking up his pace as he went. He stumbled over some rubbish, and a couple of trinkets slipped from his pocket. He froze, uncertain if he should attempt to pick them back up. Then a police car pulled up outside the shop, and he started running again. He made it all the way to the far end of the alley without hearing the sounds of anyone shouting after him over the sounds of the alarm and the sirens, and began to think that he might have gotten away with it.
Then he emerged from the alley, directly into the path of a speeding police car. He hadn’t heard it coming, the sound of the alarm and the engine and the siren blending in with the rest of the chaos around him. And now it was mere metres away from him, moving quite fast, and with no time at all to slow down. The car slammed into Jimmy St John… and simply crumpled around him, the metal body of the vehicle folding like a paper cup crushed in a hand. Jimmy didn’t even feel the impact; it was as though, for a brief moment, he had become an immovable object- and the car was far from unstoppable. Jimmy clambered out over the wreckage- trying not to look at what remained of the officer that had been driving, and looked around. Nobody had seen what had happened, and for a few seconds Jimmy was almost disappointed, as he would very much have liked to have asked someone what exactly had happened to him. Then he heard the sound of yet more sirens approaching, and fled the scene of the crime, confused but alive.
St John made it back to his cramped apartment without further incident and slumped down on his couch, panting. The reality of what had just happened was only now beginning to set in: his brush with the law would have been excitement enough, but what had happened with that police car… He frowned, and started looking through his pockets, examining the loot he had managed to hold on to during his escape. A couple of antique pens, a wristwatch, some jewellery. It all looked perfectly normal, but somehow, one of these items must have given him some kind of superpowers. It was the only logical explanation. He stood, and fetched a baseball from his closet, then stood facing his apartment door. He steeled himself. And tossed the ball against the door. It rebounded back towards him, and he flinched away from the impact- that never came. The ball seemed to ricochet off his skin without even making a mark. He felt nothing. Jimmy began to grin. Over the next few minutes, he methodically checked each object he had stolen, putting them down one by one and seeing if he was still invulnerable. As he grew more excited, he began tossing the ball harder and harder, beginning to leave dents in his door that he was too giddy to notice or care about. Eventually he ran out of objects, and was beginning to think that he must have somehow gained this power on his own, when he felt the cold weight of the bracelet dangling around his wrist, forgotten. He removed it and examined the markings, trying vainly to discern their meaning. Eventually he gave up and tossed the bracelet aside, and threw the ball one more time. He had built up the power of his throws quite a bit by this point, a fact that only occurred to him in the split second before the rebounding ball struck him directly between the eyes, knocking him out cold.
When he awoke, he discovered that he had ambitions now. That evening, with the bracelet hidden beneath his sleeve once again, Jimmy St John strode purposefully into the warehouse where his boss- a low-level kingpin whose name researchers were unable to determine- was busy outlining some new criminal undertakings to his lieutenants. The boss paused mid-sentence when he saw St John approaching, asking him what he was doing here, and if the mess with the Antique shop was his doing. He didn’t quite get that second question out, however, because he was interrupted by St John shooting him in the face. The lieutenants were too stunned to react for a few seconds. Jimmy St John simply turned and looked at each of them, wordlessly. Their shock quickly wore off, and the more loyal of the kingpin’s men snarled with fury and unloaded their weapons into St John’s chest. After a few moments, the deafening sound of gunfire was replaced by the sounds of their spent ammunition rolling harmlessly away along the floor, and Jimmy, unharmed, grinned smugly at the men’s baffled expressions. Then, almost casually, he shot the ones who had attacked him in the head, one by one, until only those whose weapons remained holstered remained. And those wise and lucky souls became the first of Jimmy St John’s lieutenants, as his empire was born.
Over the next few years, Jimmy St John built up a reputation as one of the more fearsome Crime Lords in the country. What he lacked in smarts, he more than made up for in reputation: the man who couldn’t be killed. After his initial takeover of his boss’s business, a number of people had attempted to quote rub him out unquote. Their failure to even scratch St John fuelled his reputation, and before long he retaliated by eliminating the people who sent them. He controlled all sorts of crimes, and didn’t care one bit about drawing the attention of authorities: they could do nothing to stop him. Snipers failed. Bombings failed. Poison failed. Eventually, an uneasy truce formed, as it became clear that none could stand in his way, and thus after a brief period of violence there were none left who dared stand up to him. He was unstoppable, and with his bracelet carefully hidden beneath his sleeve at all times nobody had any idea how he did it. Soon, he more or less controlled all crime in the city, and began turning his eye beyond its borders.
This posed a problem for Jimmy St John. Much of his success was based in his ability to take a hands-on approach in taking out his rivals and surviving counterattacks. But extending his reach would make this unfeasible, as he couldn’t be in more than one place at a time. And while he had been able to build his reputation as an unstoppable, unkillable force of nature within his own city, word of mouth wouldn’t help him in the wider world, where such things could more easily be dismissed as rumour and bravado. So, a different approach was required. He organised a meeting with some of the most powerful crime lords in the entire country, on their territory. He would be alone and unarmed, whereas they could come with as many men and weapons as they pleased. And they would discuss, like gentlemen, the future of their business together.
Jimmy’s reputation had spread further than he’d realised, and so his invitation was accepted. He arrived, alone and unarmed but for the bracelet, at the proposed meeting place: the penthouse of s luxury hotel, owned by the man considered by the criminal underworld to be most trustworthy. More than a dozen men and women sat in chairs in a large circle, waiting for him. He recognised each of them, some more strongly than others: each of them had been more powerful than he was now for far longer than he’d had any power, but here they were: he called, and they came. Some seemed excited. Some, cautious. Others betrayed no emotion whatsoever. Jimmy flashed a smug grin, and before anyone could even introduce themselves he launched into a speech he’d spent days preparing. He wasn’t much of a public speaker, but he more than made up for it in confidence: he knew something they didn’t, and they knew it. He outlined how he intended to expand his business, and how he intended to link his operations with theirs in order to increase his profits. And, with a smile, he informed the gathered Crime Lords that they would go along with it, because they couldn’t stop him. And he gestured to one of the many guards present to shoot him. Several people scoffed at this, but many more were eager for a demonstration of the alleged invulnerability they had heard so much about. One man gestured to the guard, and in a smooth motion the guard raised his weapon and fired a short burst at St John. The bullets plinked uselessly to the ground in front of him, and his smile widened at the shocked looks from the powerful men and women arrayed in front of him.
Then one of them rose to their feet. He hadn’t really noticed her before- which struck him as odd, as he had made sure to take note of every person there during his speech. She was younger than the other Crime Lords, by a wide margin, and now that he looked at her he realised that her strange attire didn’t match the sober black suits worn by most of the other people there. A robe, with many pockets that seemed to bulge with things unseen. She smiled, an odd little smile, and commented that she’d seen enough. She reached into one of those pockets and pulled out a little figurine that looked oddly familiar to Jimmy. Murmuring something under her breath, she raised one of the doll’s arms.
Jimmy’s arm raised as well. He let out a cry of shock, matched by many of the people whom until moments ago he had had in his thrall. His arm raised higher, higher, higher until it pointed straight upwards- and the sleeve slid down, revealing the bracelet wrapped around his wrist. The young woman let out a chuckle and, with a wry comment that it didn’t suit him, manipulated the arms of the doll some more. Jimmy’s arm lowered and was met by his other arm, his hand wrapping around the Rune Carved Bracelet. Panic began to grip him as he realised what was happening, and he cried out to the guards to do something, but nobody responded, seemingly transfixed by the scene unfolding before them. With a smooth motion, the woman flicked the arms of the doll and held out her hand as Jimmy St John slipped off the bracelet that had been core to his success and tossed it over to her. She caught it and breathed a barely noticeable sigh of relief. Then, with a smirk of her own, she cheerily thanked Jimmy for the lovely gift, and walked calmly toward the door. The guards stumbled out of the way, terrified of what else she might do with the doll, but she ignored them as she opened the door and began to step out into the hallway. She stopped when one of the Crime Lords behind her managed to shake himself out of his reverie and call out to her, asking who she was. She turned and saw that Jimmy St John had fallen to his knees, a look of confusion and horror on his face as he realised what had happened. The assembled Crime Lords and their guards stared at her with a mixture of fear and awe on their faces. And before she left, the woman told them that the bracelet belonged to her Auntie. She was just here to take it back.
Jimmy St John was never seen in public again. His meteoric rise and sudden disappearance led to the formation of a number of legends surrounding him, and it is likely that we will never know exactly what happened to him. Possibly the most persistent rumour of his fate is that the gathered Crime Lords encased his feet in concrete and tossed him off a bridge, still uncertain if bullets alone would be enough to finish him off. They would have been.
Oh, I didn’t even realise that we weren’t moving all this time Mother. This story really caught your attention eh? No surprise, you like a bit of action don’t you, I- is everything ok mother, you look a little- Oh! Oh my, I- you really shouldn’t [An alarm starts blaring] oh, well, I guess security isn’t going to stop you or anything, but… well, I guess it’s not like it’s at any more risk on your wrist as in that case, Mother, I just… I wish you’d warned me. I think I can deal with that alarm, just give me a moment… there. [Alarm stops]. Well. I hope we don’t need it but it’s good to have it. Oh, don’t mind the glass, something will be along to clean it up shortly.
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