29-4

In the first of them, they’d been met with more chimeras like the ones in the subway. These ones, while similar in general appearance and condition, had been more varied in size and shape; Zarah had seen what she assumed to be cats, rats, and even a few birds, although the latter had been incapable of flight due to their mutated state. That site had not proven particularly dangerous, but only reaped a commensurately small benefit – a photo that had fallen behind a filing cabinet and the wall and forgotten. It was tattered and faded, but clearly depicted Metzin and the same woman from the photo on her desk at Aruspex, along with a group of others. They were both younger and fresher-faced than in that photo, though, with Metzin’s usual stony mask actually cracking slightly, the faintest upward tilt at the corner of her mouth as she glanced up at the dark-haired woman next to her.

It was… disconcerting.

The second location had given them a torn half-sheet of incomprehensible numbers and notations, including a section of a photocopy of an x-ray that seemed to show the shape of a head blocked out entirely in pure white. Whether that would be useful was still to be seen, depending on how long it took Kihri to work up the courage to actually read it over.

There had been no chimeras at that site, which would have been pleasant if not for what had been there instead. Strands of… something had criss-crossed the entire room in a thin, uneven web, connected to thicker ‘nodes’ at certain points. That had been unsettling enough on its own, but the part that pushed it over was the way that the entire web had been pulsing. Rhythmic and faint, it had occasionally been accompanied by faint flashes of light that travelled along the strands from one node to the next.

It had been located inside a utility shed on the outskirts of the city, which meant none of them had any compunctions about burning it to the ground as soon as they left and salting the earth afterwards.

(The last part had been insisted upon by Kihri, after an incomprehensible, panicky, ten-minute rant about ‘spores’ and ‘infections’. She’d also wanted them to burn all their clothes, but they had managed to talk her down from that one once she calmed down).

This site, the third of the successful finds now, was in an abandoned, half-finished office tower, close to the top and with the stairs and access ladders strategically destroyed or removed in non-suspicious ways. Without Kihri to guide them, they’d never have found it even if they’d known which building to look in. The exits from the stairwell onto the floor itself and the ones on either side of it had been blocked off, and in the end, they’d had to up to the next available floor before Kihri could lead them to a rough access shaft with a ladder hidden inside a partially-constructed bathroom.

As for what they’d found once they were there, well…

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