False in Some Sense

Children of the Atom: Chapter 1

Saturday, May 2, 2009, and throughout the following few days

While Chuck, Elena, Katrina, and the Pucketts are staying in the hospital, Agatha is going to work and sleeping at the “Lake House,” making sure she is not followed home. During the month, she receives a newsletter from an organization called “Null Mysteriis” — the attached note from Dr. Joyce Gallagher indicates that this is a copy of the newsletter she was describing. She also gets to know some of her new coworkers at Phoenix Chemicals, such as Dr. Kala Leto and Dr. Christopher Smith.

Early in the morning on May 2, Elena is sitting in her hospital room when the surroundings chance to a featureless white room. She is in the same bed, though there is no longer a door or any equipment nearby. The Doctor is standing in front of her. He ignores her apparent alarm, instead telling her that he will send her a gift to make her feel better. He also explains that he will be coming for her on prom night. He then says that he has a question to ask, and that is when her mind is flooded with a chaotic stream of images. She notes lights and music and blood, and herself caught in the middle of things.

She awakens, screaming. The doctors and nurses come to check on her, and she sleeps no further that night.

The next day, Katrina awakens to find another set of flowers on her nightstand. On them, a note is attached, written in Russian, which indicates that there will be someone to meet her at the food court in the mall at 2:00 PM tomorrow. The note continues, warning her that if she notifies anyone of this fact, the party who sent the note will not appear, and will handle the matter independently of Katrina.

Everybody goes to their respective houses. Billy Jack and William go their house, where William starts looking around to determine how to enter the 2010 Congressional race. Billy Jack runs a brief errand, then returns, apparently having received reimbursement for a missing shotgun. Before going to bed, he unsuccessfully propositions his Fetch for sex.

Michael drives Katrina home. She spends a couple of hours researching Project: Kupala online — finding only that it was the Soviet psychic research program — and then spends the rest of the evening with Michael.

Chuck goes to his home and contacts Sklar about the shotguns missing from his car. Sklar indicates that they were taken as evidence and destroyed because they were irradiated, but he can reimburse the parties involved if they would like. Chuck says he will likely meet with him later. That’s when he gets the text message.

Elena and her parents arrive home to find a large box — about the size of a refrigerator box wrapped in red wrapping paper and a gold ribbon, tied in a bow — on their front lawn. Whatever is inside seems strange to Elena. Elena reads the note, which reads, “I hope this cheers you up.” After some deliberation, they decide to bring the box inside and open it. That’s when she texts “911” to Chuck, and briefly explains that there is a thing in the box that pings. Chuck says he’ll make his way over.

After Elena convinces her parents not to open it, they deliberate until there is a knock on the door. Elena answers it to find Chuck, who is operating on the pretense of checking on her. She decides to call Agent Sklar and notify him; he says that he will bring the bomb squad.

After squad arrives, the box is taken outside and opened. Johnny walks out, though he seems a bit odd and his movements are somewhat stiff. Agent Sklar goes over to talk to him, and returns, saying that Elena needs to tell him to go with the police officers. She does so, telling him that he needs to leave so that they can prepare for a party, but everyone will return later. He agrees and gets into the police van. After checking to make certain that everyone is all right, Agent Sklar says that he needs to go see about Johnny, and he drives away. After Chuck makes certain everything is all right, he calls Sklar and asks about the shotguns. This prompts Agent Sklar to call Billy Jack and Agatha, to inform them that they can also get reimbursed. When Chuck arrives, he runs into Billy Jack, who is also talking to Agent Sklar. While there, he picks up Agatha’s check. He then goes shopping for a pump-action shotgun before returning home.

Elena, meanwhile, spends some time alone in her room. Agent Sklar calls her later to inform her that the Johnny simulacrum should not be bothering her; it was an automaton, and it was successfully dismantled.

The next day, Agatha goes about her business and Elena practices with her new kukri. William goes to a local evangelical church to absorb the emotions of the place. Katrina tells Michael that she has an errand to run, and goes to the mall. She wanders around the food court, and not seeing anybody, gets a drink and sits down, making sure she has a decent view of the entrances and exits. A man wearing a suit walks from behind her and sits down, a briefcase in hand. After she asks him a few questions, he introduces himself as Anatoly Kournikova — her father. When she seems incredulous, he explains that he was forced to fake his own death to protect Katrina and her mother. Having been burned by the Soviet government, he was forced to flee to America, making sure that loyal associates kept watch over his family in his absence. As she has now learned, her father was an agent of Project: Kupala, the GRU’s psychic research program, and it is with this expertise that he was able to find her. He also notes that Dr. Zirpoli is not one of his associates — he is a dangerous psychic, not to be trusted.

After Anatoly feels that he has explained everything, he explains his purpose. He believes that Katrina is in this town for a specific reason; he feels that she can be instrumental in turning it into a liveable place, free from malign psychic influence. He is willing to help — providing weapons and other resources before his task takes him elsewhere — but she has to show her dedication to ridding the town of all corrupting influences. That includes William Puckett, Mrs. Bishop, and most importantly, Michael. Anatoly claims that Michael will betray her some day, and that if she does not get him first, she will learn the hard way. He finishes by saying that he will know if she and her cell does this thing — she is free to discuss his offer with the others, if she so chooses — and then gives her the briefcase, saying that the firearm inside is unregistered and should not be traced back to her. Then, he leaves.

When Katrina returns home, she asks Michael if he has given any thought to returning to Russia with her when all is said and done. He says that he is likely going to talk to Agatha about it, but since his old life in America is relatively nonexistent, he is not opposed to the idea. She also sends a text message to Chuck, asking him about the Fetch ratio in town. She ponders the idea, knowing that she will have to broach the subject with everyone sooner or later.

Chuck, meanwhile, calls Billy Jack to talk to him. He gets William to agree to meet him at the Jumping Bean first, and confronts him with the knowledge that he killed Johnny. William denies it, saying that he ought to talk to Billy Jack. Chuck then tells William to instruct Billy Jack to talk to him. When William returns home, he instructs Billy Jack thusly, telling him not to tell Chuck anything. While Billy Jack is out, Duke returns, somewhat mangy, and William grooms him.

When Chuck meets with Billy Jack, Billy Jack indicates that he did not kill Johnny, and when asked about the demonic tattoo, he indicates that he does not have one. He shows Chuck that he is indeed telling the truth, which surprises him. When Billy Jack then recommends that Chuck should question William about these things, Chuck gives up and lets him go. He resumes planning for the rest of the day.

The next day, everyone goes to work. Agatha goes to Phoenix Chemicals. Katrina goes to the dance studio. Elena goes to school, and is welcomed back by her peers. They then explain that six students — Brad Dyson, Max Carter, Steven Green, Susan Nelson, Jenny Roberts, Barbara Scott — went to a cabin in the woods over spring break, where they were apparently attacked and murdered. Only Susan Nelson survived, and she is in a coma.

A little later in the day, Elena also offhandedly learns about her sometime boyfriend, Dirk Allen, when somebody gives condolences regarding her and Dirk. When she asks for clarification, it is explained that Dirk has started dating Noelle Isaacs — Johnny’s girlfriend. Elena immediately finds Dirk before class starts and yells at him about how he waited until she was in the hospital and Johnny was dead to do this, and how could he? At lunch, she finds Noelle, noting that she is dressed differently than she used to and that she seems strange. Elena asks her why she would do this to Johnny’s memory; Noelle merely indicates that since Elena is responsible for getting Johnny killed, Noelle is just taking her boyfriend away, too. Elena says that this isn’t over and storms off. She talks to Bill Frederick — one of Johnny and Noelle’s mutual friends — and asked when Noelle started acting strangely. He says after spring break.

She texts Paul, asking him to prom. He agrees, and the two decide to go to Indianapolis after school to shop for prom clothes.

At the end of the day, the janitor Mr. Webb catches Elena’s attention. He apologizes for not visiting while she was in the hospital — indicating that it would probably seem odd if he did — and he asks how she is doing. He then makes sure that she knows what happened in her absence. He explains that Noelle Isaacs started acting differently, that some woman moved into the Sherman house, that the drug trade is back — and that Chase Montgomery, the teen who was wounded during Roger Mason’s attack on the school, might be involved — and that the Church of Ezekiel’s Divine Revelation has apparently been recruiting in the chaos. He says that he doesn’t quite know what Elena is doing, but that these seem like things she ought to know. She thanks him, and then contacts Paul to go to Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, during the day, Chuck goes into work to look at some things. Pulling up the records regarding Billy Jack’s missing firearm report, he learns that the rifle was reported missing at the same time as the revolver — even though he remembers Billy Jack only reporting a revolver stolen.

After this, Chuck calls Agent Sklar. He asks how one might falsify a police report, to which Agent Sklar replies that it might vary from police department to police department, but it seems likely that hacking is involved; if someone just altered the police report, it would probably leave a timestamp of some sort. Chuck ends up asking Agent Sklar if he wants to meet at Eddie’s, and he agrees. They discuss these things further, with Agent Sklar deducing that Chuck probably suspects Puckett, but he says that this would probably require tampering with official police records. He also reminds Chuck just how illegal that is.

He also takes the opportunity to inform Chuck that the Johnny simulacrum was a robot, made of clockwork. He also indicates that five teens were killed over Spring Break, with a sixth in a coma. Apparently, they were staying in a cabin in the woods when Lydia York — a serial killer with an outstanding warrant — apparently approached and insighted them to murder each other. She died in the melee. The only survivor, again, is in the hospital, unconscious.

Finally, Agent Sklar suggests that, if Billy Jack didn’t hide the rifle in his holdings or in Indianapolis, then it is probably in Terra Lake and probably in a hiding spot that Chuck might know about.

Once lunch is finished, Chuck decides to investigate the woods. Not finding anything, he looks around in the caves, and decides to examine the gate to the dead place. However, he decides that he should have assistance, and so calls Elena. After some discussion, Paul turns the car around and they start to drive back to Terra Lake.

Once they arrive, Chuck, Elena, and Paul go to the caves. Chuck only indicates that he is looking for something that might be down here — he refuses to elaborate. He cuts his hand — much to Elena’s alarm, since she does not recall how to open the gate — and smears some blood on it. When the door only shudders as if to demand more, he gives more blood. Feeling a little woozy as the wall crumbles away, he turns on his flashlight and the three descend into the darkness.

Along the way, they start meeting figures in various states of injury and disarray. Some try to lap at the blood from his bandaged hand, but he tries to avoid them. Once he gives one some gum and asks about the lost rifle, the shade explains that the one known only as the Law holds it. He uses it to guard against anything that might arrive from below. When Chuck asks if he can be taken to this man, the shade agrees.

The three descend, moving through twisted passageways until they come to a boiling, fiery river. A little motorboat sits off a rickety pier, while a man in police uniform stands guard. Elena is alarmed by the river, but Paul comforts her while Chuck speaks to the Law. He eventually gets the Law to agree to part with the rifle if Chuck will return to the land of the living and take care of the one who killed him, either by killing him or bringing him down among the dead men. Chuck asks for some details, and learns that the Law was Officer Ed Dunn of Indianapolis, on patrol on October 18, 2005. He heard struggle, and rounded an alley to take four shots in the chest. He got a look at the shooter, though — Hispanic male, with black hair, hard, brown eyes, gaunt demeanor, and so forth. Chuck agrees and begins to ascend again when he is found by a nude man with a noose around his neck who says he can get the rifle if Chuck deigns to leave someone behind. Chuck refuses and the three return to the land of the living, with the appropriate donation of Chuck’s blood to open the gate.

Having returned to the woods, Elena and Paul decide to return to Indianapolis, and Elena explains the current happenings to Paul. Chuck indicates that he will likely need to go to Indianapolis, though he will plan his trip a little later. He also mentions that he will probably call a meeting within the next day or two, so that everyone can make their plans for the coming of the Doctor on prom night.

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