Chapter Eighteen: Ashe
In a Dark Room with Boxing Gloves
Gorgons made him nervous. Not that she wasn’t a perfectly decent person. Probably. But it was like staring down the barrel of a permanently loaded gun.
“Sit. Tell me what is so urgent that jou resort to such strange tactics.” Dr. Zoss stared up at them expectantly.
Rolly and Tibo took the two available chairs. The goblin was being uncharacteristically quiet, from what little Ashe knew about him. Despite his better instincts, he was slowly growing to not hate Tibo. Not that he’d ever admit it out loud.
Ashe and Jaxx leaned against the walls of the small office.
“We’re here,” Rolly began. “Because something happened to us… well, to Tibo and our phoenix friend here, that sent us on separate journeys. Tibo…”
“She died right in front of me,” he said.
So much for tact.
“And Ashe?” Rolly threw it over to him.
“Someone killed my father.”
“I’m sorry, but I fail to see what that has to do with myself, or the institute.” Her hands were shaking. What would make a gorgon nervous?
“Shandi, the little goblin girl who was run over in New York just over a week ago--she was working on something…strange. Something we thought you might be able to tell us about.”
Dr. Zoss’s left eye twitched. She was definitely worried. “What sort of thing?”
Rolly looked at Tibo.
“Holes?” he said.
“I’m going to need more.”
“Something about using dark energy to move things through holes in reality from one place to another. She was working on these equations. They said...they said it was advanced magical theory she shouldn’t have known.”
That sounded crazy, even to Ashe.
“Can I see them? These equations?”
Tibo looked uncomfortable. “They were on her laptop. I don’t actually have them with me.”
Now the gorgon’s brows drew down over her tinted glasses in annoyance. “I can’t help you, if you don’t have anything to show me.”
“I have something,” Ashe said. He pulled the flash drive out of his pocket and held it out to her.
“What is this?” She had the same look on her face that she might have worn if she had just been handed a dead cockroach.
“It’s a flash drive.” Ashe felt stupid for stating the obvious. Oh well… wouldn’t be the last time today. Or even probably during this conversation. He plowed ahead. “It has the details of some program, called D-v2.”
She dropped the drive on her desk. “I’m not putting that in my computer.”
“It… it might have a wirus.”
“I’ve already tried it. It seemed clean to me. Besides, it was from my mother.”
Dr. Zoss looked up at him, searching his face. “I don’t see how that’s relewant. Was she a computer scientist?”
“She dabbled in it. But no, she worked for US intelligence. Her name was Nancy Heyoka.”
The look of surprise on her face was well worth taking the chance of dropping his mother’s name. “I haven’t heard that name in jears,” she said, her face turning even whiter than before.
“She passed away about ten years ago. You knew her?”
She nodded. “Not well, jou understand. We attended many of the same conferences. Jou… Jou’re Ashe Heyoka. She spoke of jou often.”
“Yes,” he said, gratified she’d remembered his name.
She picked up the flash drive again, turning it over and over in her hand.
Tibo was staring up at Ashe, as if re-evaluating him.
“All right. I’ll take a look. For jour mother’s sake.” She popped the flash drive into her computer’s USB port. “It needs a user and password,” she observed, squinting at the screen.
Ashe wondered if she ever wanted to turn it to stone. He certainly would have. He hated computers. “It’s “mita” and “dandelion”.”
She typed them in and looked at the results. “Jou’re right. It looks like a project file of some type. Let me look at some of these files.”
Tibo gave him the thumbs up.
“The protocol they used looks a little dated…”
“The files are probably at least a decade old.”
“Look here.” She turned the screen to face the four of them. “See this document code at the bottom?”
“That indicates this file was created here, at the university. This seems to be some kind of adwanced breeding project...”
“We thought it had something to do with dragons,” Jaxx said from behind Ashe.
“It looks like it. But…” she frowned. “I’m not aware of any adwanced genetic work being done on the species here at that time. Maybe a black box program. Hmmmm.”
“Could it have been something Dr. Bach was working on?” Rolly asked.
Dr. Zoss’s hand froze on the keyboard. “Why would jou think that?” Her voice had turned to ice.
“A friend sent us. To talk to him,” Tibo said. “When we heard he was dead--"
“You need to leave my office. Now.” She pulled the flash drive out of her computer without ejecting it, handed it over to Ashe, and pointed to the door. She scribbled something on a small piece of paper, as if she had already dismissed their presence.
“But… surely you can tell us something?”
“I am sorry for jour loss, Ashe. But I can’t help jou any more.” She got up and ushered them all out of the door. As she pushed him out, she slipped something into his hand, whispering in his ear “It’s too dangerous.” Then she shut the door firmly behind them.
“Well, that happened,” Tibo said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Ashe stared at the closed door. At every turn, there was another mystery. Sometimes he felt like he was blindfolded in a dark room with boxing gloves on. “She freaked out when you mentioned Professor Bach.”
Rolly nodded. “Too bad we can’t speak to Dr. Bach himself.”
Ashe opened the paper and read its contents. He frowned.
“What is that?” Tibo asked.
Ashe handed it over. “It looks like Professor Bach’s home address.”
Tibo’s grin was just shy of evil. Ashe knew Tibo well enough already to be sure that was a bad sign. “We can’t talk to the poor old dude himself. What if we could do the next best thing?”