“I see you are still grieving,” Theta—correction: that version of Theta—had said, cupping Jericho’s cheek on that moonlit night all those years ago. The silver moonlight had made the tattoo on the right side of her face glow. “But there is no reason to be sad.”
“No reason to be sad?”
“They have died, yes, but in reality, all that has happened is that they have returned to the cycle of vitae. They have become a part of everything around you. They still exist all around you. That is how the cycle of vitae turns.”
“Yes, so you shouldn’t grieve. You will only make them sad if you grieve. In the end, everything will return to the beginning. Isn’t that reassuring?”
Yes, it had been reassuring. Having lost his entire family, his neighbors, his friends, his town in one night, Jericho had found Theta’s words a comfort. Although she had been among the group orchestrating that massacre, he clung to her like a lifeline. As did the other children who were picked up along the way.
“Conductors are inherently evil,” she had told him. “Their main purpose is to kill people, to bring an end to everything, to the cycle. They are unnatural. Our purpose, on the other hand, is… well, you needn’t worry about that.”
But when Theta had ‘died’, despite clinging onto every word she had said, Jericho had grieved. Just as he’d grieved when his mother was slaughtered in front of him by the same people who had taken him in.
One of the ELPIS members—perhaps an underling, perhaps not—took note of Jericho’s grief and the grief of the children who had become his friends under Theta’s care.
“Theta wouldn’t want you to grieve,” the ELPIS member had said to them. “Theta would want you to fight. Do you know what we’re fighting for?” A pause. “Would you like to know?”
Jericho had embraced the ideology fully then. Just as the other children had.
Bleaching his vitae was excruciatingly painful, but Jericho rarely ever felt pain afterwards. He used to think that all the pain he was to endure in life was concentrated in that moment, leaving everything else going afterwards numb. A trade.
Every generator conductor they destroyed together signaled a step closer to a hopeful future without reliance on conductors. Every Conductor killed represented one less murderer. But at the same time, death didn’t matter. All those who died were simply returning to the cycle. Over and over.
Jericho had carried this ideology even after he was taken in by Ophiuchus, by Alice. His perspective had only changed when he had put a bird with a broken wing out of its suffering and was discovered by Alice enacting the mercy kill.
“You killed it to put it out of its suffering, and it doesn’t matter if it’s dead because it’ll return to the cycle? Do you really believe that?” Alice had clicked her tongue and shook her head. “I can’t believe the other doctors haven’t handled this topic yet.” She looked him right in the eye then and said clearly: “That’s ridiculous. Even if that were true, even if someone’s vitae were to return to the ‘cycle,’ it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be ‘them’ anymore. Not really. The situation, the parts, the components will never be the same. That’s why they say life is precious. Do you understand?”
It was difficult to break out of that thinking. If he did not think of it as a cycle, how could he come to terms what he had done for so many years of his life? So instead, he stopped thinking of that aspect altogether. Alice had not been happy with his choice, but it had been the best he could do.
Twin Cities, Gemini
Recalling those memories that remained burned into his mind, Jericho stood on an empty street in front of a boarded-up liquor factory. The building was large and took up an entire block by itself. He had to leap a wired fence to get to this place. And upon his landing on this side of the fence, he was greeted by a large sign at its front that read—UNDER INSPECTION AND DECONSTRUCTION. STAY OUT.
Jericho was grateful to Cadence because she was the reason for why he was standing here. He had received this information from her when she had been in Theta’s room listening in to all of their exchanges. Jericho surmised that she had been too affected by the revelation of ELPIS’s origins at the time to pay any attention to what was really being said. Jericho conjectured Francis’s brothers were also too affected to pay attention. Jericho couldn’t fathom why. Even if everything that was said was true, the fact was that—
ELPIS was still ELPIS.
And because Jericho knew this, he wasn’t distracted and was able to pick up the quick exchange between Omega and Theta regarding the warehouse location that Fortuna had given Theta.
“A conductor-manufacturing plant renovated from a renowned liquor factory that went out of business fifteen years prior,” was what Theta had said. “Plant your mediums there and use my proto-conductor there.”
A quick check at the city hall and a dive into the records there paired with half an hour spent studying a map of the city had led Jericho here. To this warehouse. Amendment: to this warehouse that Omega was most certainly within.
Jericho could feel her presence in the way his heart pounded, in the way his senses sharpened, in the way his ears rang. This was certainty.
Jericho turned his head. A silhouette stood behind him.
The Capricornian seemed tired.
Jericho wasn’t sure whether the man was exhausted because of his unconscious state or because he had taken on the brunt of Cadence’s pain. Jericho recalled his own bout of unconscious consciousness. It hadn’t been comfortable for him back then, so Jericho doubted that it was comfortable for Werner.
Werner’s image straightened and approached Jericho with a frown. “Engaging with an ELPIS leader without assistance is rash.”
Jericho could already feel the lecture coming on, but he had come prepared: “Leona’s file. Omega is a Manipulator. She specializes in observational mediums. Intuition. She doesn’t have strong combat abilities. If alone, she will be easy to kill.”
Jericho had to do this. He had to. It was time. His fingers ached for it. His heart felt like it was going to explode if he didn’t achieve it.
Much to Jericho’s surprise, Werner nodded and said, “The weakest link. There is a high probability that she is the main information gatherer for ELPIS. Targeting her first is a reasonable strategy.”
Jericho blinked at him, confused.
“I know I can’t stop you, Jericho,” Werner responded evenly. “You’ve fallen out of following orders, as you’ve said. And I admit your sense of self—of revenge—is too strong for me to attempt an override.”
Jericho stared at him, still confused.
“As I’ve said, engaging with an ELPIS leader without assistance is rash—which is why I am offering my assistance.” A pause. “That and limiting their inflow of information will allow us to avoid detection as True Conductors for longer.”
“Are you sure?” Jericho cocked his head and pointed at him. “Is it customary to assist in battle when you have been through torture?” He paused, frowned a bit, and lowered his hand. “Suggestion… You and Cadence should rest.”
“Your concern is acknowledged, Jericho,” Werner said. “But I will not waste my time doing nothing while I’m in this… state.”
Jericho stared at him. “… Thank you.”
Werner hesitated and then nodded. “What is your plan, Jericho?”
“I will kill her,” Jericho said simply. “This time. For certain. Intuition. Tonight. And then I will save Alice.”
“… We need to get as much information as we can from her first,” Werner returned. “And what will you tell Leona and the other Ophiuchian agents if they discover you?”
In an unusual display of physical frustration, Werner pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’ll think of something then.”
Jericho shifted in place, gripping his suitcase tightly. “I… would like to say a prayer.”
Werner lifted his head. “A prayer?”
“Yes.” Jericho stared into the darkness. “I do not remember a lot before ELPIS. I was young. But I do remember the prayer my mother taught me. A Scorpioan nomadic prayer. So, I would like to say it. Since I am ready. In control. It feels… ‘right.’”
“Like I said, Jericho,” Werner said quietly, “I am not here to stop you. I am here to assist.”
Jericho nodded, set his suitcase to the side, and sank to his knees. He then dipped forward, pressing his forehead to the ground, palms faced downwards. He took a deep breath—
“Although our land is barren,
Our spirit is strong.
Although we are spread far apart in these deserts,
We are connected through our spirit.
Each grain of sand we walk on is from a distant land.
Connecting our ancestors past to us.
When we pass, our bones will become the earth,
Our spirits will become the sun shining on the land.
That is how we will become eternal.”
Jericho rose to a stand, picked up his suitcase, and turned back to Werner. The man met his eyes and then nodded.
“We are dealing with a Manipulator who is skilled at creating observational mediums. We most likely won’t be able to take the element of surprise during our initial encounter. She will most likely attempt an escape when she encounters you. There is no solution to this. If she does engage, she will use Theta’s proto-conductors to her advantage. I suggest you take advantage of the portals as well.”
Listening closely to Werner’s summary, Jericho closed the distance between himself and the warehouse. On Werner’s suggestion, he slipped in through an open window on the second floor instead of taking the main entrance. He landed deftly on a high stack of crates just below and swiftly maneuvered his way down to the ground floor. In the darkness, he could make out looming machines and factory belts that criss-crossed across the ground.
An updraft of wind made him pause.
“My, my, the knight has finally arrived. I knew you’d come.” An airy laugh filled the air. “You cut an even more gallant figure up close.”
As expected, she’s already placed observational mediums in the building. By her tone, she means to engage. She’s been expecting you.
“I’ve always, always, always wanted to meet you, Jericho. I’ve been watching you from afar for forever.” A sigh. “From the moment the previous Theta took you in until now, I’ve been watching you. You’ve grown so, so, so much since then. And even after all this growing up, you’re still a—”
There was another updraft of air. This time from the left.
The voice was the same. The whispers from the walls. The whisper inside of his head. The whisper behind his back right before he was pushed down the stairs of the Serpens Establishment several months ago.
“I was hoping that the trip down the stairs would be the end of you, but it looks like I accidentally kick-started your path to True Conductorhood. Whoopsies.”
She knows. You have to kill her here.
Jericho slowly undid his suitcase and pulled his conductor out.
“Don’t worry. Only Gamma and I know what you are. If I told any of the others, they would come right for you, and I don’t want that. It’s hard keeping a secret, you know? But I made it work.”
Another airy laugh.
“I want you all to myself. Which probably sounds weird since you’ve never met-met me before. You don’t know me at all. But I know you. I’ve been watching you forever, like I said.”
A loud boom resounded, and Jericho felt something whistle by his ear. Heat.
A bullet. She has a gun.
Jericho scanned the darkness. Metal piping, swinging chains from the ceiling, cold rectangular machines.
But her vision and aim are poor. Don’t activate your conductor, or she’ll be able to locate you in the dark.
Jericho hesitated and stared at his conductor.
Jericho, you may not be able to feel much pain, but your body can still take on irreparable damage. A pause. Given the others’ reactions prior to our first synchronization, despite your analgesia, for whatever reason, the others are still able to feel your injuries. Do not activate your conductor.
Jericho nodded, clutched his conductor tightly in hand, ducked low, and began to head in the direction of where the last updraft had originated.
“You’ve been looking for us desperately this entire time, waiting for an opportunity like this,” came Omega’s sing-song voice. “But you know, I’ve been seeking you out too for the same reason.”
A bang resounded in the darkness, and a bullet ricocheted on a protruding pipe just above his head.
She has an obsession with you. She’s not operating rationally.
“I hate you, Jericho. I really hate you.” Omega’s voice came out slightly higher-pitched than before. And it was coming from above his head. “I watched you, Jericho. The others have forgotten, but I haven’t. I’ve been active the longest out of all of them, you know? Ever since the Reservoir War ended…”
Another gust of wind.
A metal click-click, click-clack, click-clack resounded along the ground, and something rolled up to Jericho’s foot. He could barely make out its shape in the darkness. It was cylindrical, with a hollow glass tube lined with metal at its center.
“What you did to all the other little ones that were with you on that day—the ones who you grew up with—how can I forget? It’s burned into my brain. You lifted your conductor towards them, and you shattered them into nothing.”
The hollow glass tube began to hum and glow with a faint white light.
A conducting grenade. Jericho—
Jericho swiftly kicked the grenade right back in the direction it had come from.
“And when the peacekeepers took you in after you killed them all, they called you a tragic hero! And they hid you away, telling you that you were ‘strong’ for turning away from us, that you did the right thing by killing all the little ones.”
A fiery explosion erupted several meters away from him above his head. The fire illuminated the entire warehouse, stretching crooked shadows across the floor in between combing smoke. In front of that flame and on top of a factory machine, a woman stood with one hand snaking through her white hair and the other loosely holding both a gun and one of Theta’s proto-conductors.
“How do you think the little ones felt when they stared into the eyes of a friend-turned-murderer and felt their bodies crumble away into nothing? All because you thought for just one moment that what you all were doing was wrong,” Omega said, her voice barely carrying above the crackle of the flame. “I watched you spend all of these years without shedding even a single tear for any of them. You think we’re the monsters, but you’re the monster to me, you know? They were children.”
Children who were prepared to execute an entire community in cold blood because they had installed a generator conductor in their village. Children who wouldn’t stand down, who wouldn’t hesitate, in following through with their duties. Children—friends—whom Jericho hadn’t been able to deter with words.
“Yes, they were children,” Jericho agreed. “We were children.”
Omega’s eyes narrowed. “They became nothingness after you killed them. You know that, right? Because of the bleaching of their vitae, your vitae, our vitae… ‘It’s inevitable’ as Theta says, but… You should’ve become nothingness instead.”
“I said a Scorpioan prayer my mother taught me before I came here,” Jericho stated. “I will also say the prayer Theta taught me. For them. When I kill you. Will that be sufficient?”
Omega stared and laughed.
The sprinkler system went off, and a torrent of water came gushing down, soaking Jericho to the bone. The fire dimmed, and once again the factory became shrouded in darkness. Jericho continued forward, his footsteps sloshing around in the puddles that had formed on the ground. The sound was deafened by the pitter-patter and whining of the sprinklers.
A loud bang resounded again, but Jericho did not hear the ricochet of the bullet.
Jericho, your arm.
Abruptly, Jericho found his left hand resting on his upper right arm. The fabric just above his Ophiuchian sash had torn. It was damp. The bullet had grazed him.
Omega knows where you are. Even if she’s filled this factory with mediums, her precision is too exact. She may have placed an observational medium on you without your knowledge.
Jericho paused and reached for his bleeding arm.
He ripped off his Ophiuchian sash and stared at it.
He threw it on the ground and started off into the dark. After ducking behind a network of interlaced, low-hanging pipes, he fell into a crouch and stared out into the dark.
Jericho, we don’t know what other locations she’s placed her mediums. This hiding location is not—
Intuition. She has only placed observational mediums at the entrance and where she thinks the modified conductors are being stored. Not here. I don’t think.
Jericho waited, listening intently to the tap-tap-tap of the water around him, tuning his ears to any discrepancy of sound.
Several bangs resounded in the dark. Sparks erupted around where Jericho had dropped his sash from bullets ricocheting off the ground. After that, for a long while, there was nothing.
And then, a figure emerged from the network of low hanging pipes opposite of him. Omega. She slowly stepped forward in the darkness, clutching her gun loosely in one hand as she extended the other blindly outwards. She stopped short just in front of the white band and squinted down at it.
“Oh my. You’ve grown smart, haven’t you?”
Jericho activated his conductor with a flick; and with precision he assumed was from Werner, he threw out a whip of vitae across several meters right at her. Instead of piercing her through, however, he split his vitae out into a web that formed a bubble around her. He flicked his wrist, tightening the cage of vitae and leaving just her head exposed. He stepped out from his place of hiding as both the gun and Theta’s proto-conductor tumbled out from her hands. The water from the sprinklers sizzled as it pitter-pattered onto the white cage.
“I really am not suited for this kind of thing, am I?” Omega laughed airily as he approached her. “This is more of Iota’s thing. Oh, Iota will be so mad at me…” Her eyes widened. “You took Iota’s arm… that’s right. I can’t forgive you for that either….”
“Tell me where Theta keeps the prisoners,” Jericho stated. “Tell me how to use Theta’s proto-conductors.”
The corners of Omega’s eyes crinkled as she seemed to trace his face with her gaze. “You really have grown up since then.”
“Congratulations on getting closer to your goal of completely eradicating us. Vengeance for yourself? Or for your blood family? I still can’t figure it out your reason… What did you call us when you were speaking to Talib? I was watching then too, you know? You called us ‘false hope’?” Omega hummed. “What will you do now that you know that just killing us isn’t enough? Will you hunt down our resistors too? That’ll be a long road ahead, you know?”
Jericho brought up his suitcase and cracked it against her face. She stumbled to the side, pressing into the cage of vitae.
The smell of burning flesh filled the air paired with an unpleasant sizzling sound.
Omega righted herself quickly, pulling away from vitae. The contact was not long enough, leaving her skin intact.
“I said shut up,” Jericho stated.
“You should know. I’m just like you. My sense of pain is super-duper dulled,” Omega replied, blinking away the blood that had dribbled into her eyes from the wound at her temple. “So, things like this won’t work on me. And killing won’t work either. Not right now anyways.” Her lips turned upwards. “I’m not afraid of dying. It’s the same with you, isn’t it?”
Jericho didn’t respond. Merely tightened his grip on his suitcase that was dripping with her blood.
“After you eradicate us, what’ll you do, Jericho?” she continued. “Do you think peace happens instantaneously? You should know. We’re not something physical. If you really want to eliminate us, you have to eliminate ideology, you know? And that’s really hard—”
“You keep talking. But all that’s coming out of your mouth is garbage.”
“Could it be that you’re a bit of an airhead, Jericho?” Omega gasped. “I mean, the color of our vitae is the same, isn’t it? So, to really destroy ELPIS, you would have to—”
Jericho cracked the suitcase against her head again and again. She rattled against the small cage but righted herself.
“What is the syzygy?” Jericho found himself asking.
“Syzygy…” Omega cocked her head and then chuckled. “Who knows? I think I forgot what it was five lifetimes ago, but who knows, who knows. I don’t think Theta or Omicron remember either. Maybe just bits and parts. The records are falling apart now too… We just know that we have to stop it and how to stop it—which is by eliminating conductors and killing True Conductors like you, hm… that’s why we need Gamma—Wtorek Izsak, this time. Gamma’s barely been initiated so Gamma remembers almost everything.”
A ludicrous existence.
“We could go ask him too, but I’m sure he’s off wandering somewhere… I wonder what he’d think if he saw you now.”
“Hm-hm, I used quite a lot of my vitae this time around actually,” Omega said suddenly. “There might not be enough of my vitae left to be me… I really might become nothingness this time.” She stared off into the darkness. “That doesn’t scare me though. I’m only afraid that if I do make it back, I won’t remember everything. I won’t remember you or what you did at all. Nobody but you will. Ah… such troubles.”
“I will ask you one more time,” Jericho stated, tugging on his conductor and tightening the vitae cage around her. “Tell me where Alice is. Tell me how to use the proto-conductors.”
Omega paused in her airy laughter, straightened herself, and locked eyes with him.
“I hope you suffer,” she answered, her voice losing its light tone. “Just as they suffered, you hypocritical traitor.”
With a grunt, Jericho pulled his conductor backwards, tightening the cage of vitae around her. The lines tightened, tightened, pressing into her skin, constricting her like a snake, until the contact was enough and the crumbling began. The cracks crawled up her arms and legs, connecting at her chest before ascending to her face.
And then she crumbled away into nothing. Not even a dusted trace of her left. The cage of vitae fell loose in the absence of her body. Mist-like whiteness rose into the air and dispersed.
Jericho retracted his vitae back into his conductor, leaving him in the cold, wet dark. Slowly, he bent down to pick up Theta’s proto-conductor and the discarded gun and stored it in his suitcase. After a brief moment’s hesitation, he sank down onto one knee, bowed his head, and placed a hand over his chest. He recited in the original Ophiuchian language—
“There is no end,
There is no beginning,
There is only a cycle.
Whether enemy, whether friend,
Whether family, whether stranger,
Whether on land, whether on sea, whether in sky,
Whether alone, whether in company,
Whether in peace, whether in war,
May all return to where all began.”
Continuously repeating the chant under his breath, Jericho stared at the spot where Omega had drawn her last breath.
“—no beginning, there is only a cycle.”
He had succeeded. He had killed her. She had said there was not enough of her left ‘to become her’ when she returned to her resistor. But her resistor didn’t seem to be on her person. He would have to find and destroy her resistor to be sure. But if she was re-initiated in the meantime, ‘it wouldn’t be the same’…?
Conclusion: destroy all of their resistors.
Until there was nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Like how there was nothing left of her now. Eliminate the false hope. Completely. His reason.
“—whether in peace, whether in war, May all return to where all beg—”
A hand on his shoulder.
Jericho turned his head.
You should leave. The Romano Family will send people to investigate the disturbance here.
* * *
Still dripping wet, Jericho made his way through the streets of the Twin Cities. He didn’t really have a direction in mind.
Werner was still synchronized with him lightly. Jericho could feel his presence, like he could feel the moonlight hazily seeping through the smog clouding the skyline. Jericho didn’t understand why Werner was still present despite the task being completed. Perhaps it was customary.
Jericho lifted his head and looked left then right. The streets were familiar to him. The windows of the shops and the people walking along the streets skirting around him scratched at his memory. Yes, familiar. Werner had been steadily directing him back to the Abaccio, Jericho realized.
“Jericho!” came the shout again.
Jericho turned his head.
It was Talib, coming along down the walkway and waving his hand wildly in the air. The Manipulator came to a stop in front of him before bending over and panting. Even after all of the cases they’d had together, it seemed as if Talib’s cardio still hadn’t improved much.
“How did you find me?” Jericho asked after a beat.
“Leona is looking for you,” Talib said slowly, straightening himself. “I tracked you with my medium.” He tapped Jericho’s chest pocket.
Jericho reached into the pocket and pulled out the damp origami paper Talib had slipped in there several days earlier. Jericho had completely forgotten about it.
“You saw,” Jericho concluded.
“I overheard,” Talib corrected. “… You weren’t directed to chase after the ELPIS leader by Leona, were you?”
“No, I was not.”
“How did you know where that one would be?”
Jericho remained silent.
“And you didn’t get any information on Alice’s whereabouts…”
“You… killed them.”
“Yes, I did,” Jericho affirmed. “Will you tell Leona this?”
This time Talib remained silent.
“I will meet with Leona,” Jericho said after a beat, turning back towards the direction he’d been walking.
Talib placed a hand on his arm. “Not with that look in your eyes, partner.”
When Jericho turned to Talib in confusion, Talib nodded over to a closed store with darkened windows. In the reflection of the pane, Jericho found his reflection captured. His face was pale, his lips were drawn tight, and his eyes were wide—wide and faintly glowing with a ring of white light.
“You can trust me, partner,” Talib said. “I won’t tell Leona what happened here, but I think we both need to talk with each other for a bit.”
They made their way over to a bench that rested on a desolate walkway and sat down. Talib ran into a nearby bar and returned with a towel. Jericho accepted it from him and began to dry his hair slowly.
“Did you know the framework of most conspiracy theories is based on fundamental attribution error?” Talib asked suddenly. “We as human beings tend to favor dispositional explanations for things rather than situational explanations. Say someone bumps into you and glares. You tend to think that the person doesn’t like you instead of considering that they might be in some sort of pain and bumped into you and glared accidentally. Say you choke on a piece of food while at a restaurant. Say instead of thinking that you choked on accident because you were eating too fast, you end up thinking that the chef is an assassin sent by a shadowy organization to kill you.”
That was one gigantic leap… wasn’t it?
Yes, it was.
Werner. Still present.
“But it’s not always circumstance,” Jericho said, pulling the towel from his head.
“Or is it?” Talib responded automatically, arching an inquisitive brow. He cleared his throat. “But most of the time it is. Or so we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better.” Talib slid his hands into his pockets and stared across the empty street. “Say someone you respect hands a message off to someone else you respect. Then that latter person tells you to fulfill that message. That message involves you looking into yet another person you fear but respect. But the very first person who is a part of this chain turns their back on everything they stand for, while the person at the end of the chain begins to exemplify everything that the first person stood for. What is it? Situation or disposition? Coincidence or purpose. You can lose your mind in the conspiracy.”
“Gabrielle asked you to investigate Leona,” Jericho concluded, piecing together the details from Maria’s end of things. He paused and thought on Talib’s words. “Gabrielle received a message from… Izsak before he became involved with ELPIS.”
Before a resistor was used on Izsak and he became ‘Gamma.’
Talib would be sad if he found out… correct? Yes. Cadence was sad about Francis. Theta…
Talib nodded. “Izsak gave a coded message to Gabrielle before he… converted. It was very strongly coded, so the decoded message was terribly brief. Just—‘saint candidate’ and ‘vitae reservoir.’ Two concepts that could be connected. Or not. The thing is… Is this a wild goose chase that Izsak has sent on us or…?” Talib whipped out his notebook from his pocket and flashed it at Jericho. There were nonsensical scribbles within. “And then there’s you, Jericho. You were formerly involved with ELPIS too. Situationally, your aim is revenge. Dispositionally, your aim is revenge. You’re a constant. Alice was right about that.” Talib’s shoulders drooped, and he pocketed his journal. “Alice said you were very trustworthy…”
Jericho stared. “Are you… saying you trust me?”
Talib nodded again and then bit his thumb. “Saint candidates, ELPIS, vitae reservoirs. Alice, Flannery. Leona, Izsak.”
Talib shook his head. “I say Leona is exemplary, but at the same time, I have this sinking feeling that she doesn’t really care what’s going to happen to Alice. That doesn’t bode well at all.” He frowned. “Perhaps Leona’s involved in the Organization? No, that’s a separate thing. Or is it?”
“We will find Alice then. Together.” Jericho paused. “But, Talib, be careful.”
Talib startled and then chuckled. “I’m not the one who’s tackling ELPIS head first.” He rubbed his knees. “Well, if you know anything, I’d appreciate it if you told me. And if you want to know something, I’m all mouth.” He pointed to Jericho’s pocket where Jericho had restored the origami sheet. “I put that on you out of concern, but if you don’t feel comfortable then—”
“Talib… can I ask you for something?”
Talib stared at him. “Of course, partner, anything.”
“A paper crane. One that you manipulate as a medium. Can you place it on someone for me? I think they might be involved with ELPIS.”
Talib nodded. “Of course. Anything that’ll help us get closer to finding out where Alice is.” He paused. “Do you know what they look like? Can you give me a name? Maybe a picture?”
“I can draw one,” Jericho said as Colonel Fritz von Spiel’s face drifted into his mind.
… Thank you, Jericho.