"Well, first, I wanted to know your thoughts on it. What do you think? And be honest about your feelings."
Richard and Yu walked along the cobbled path to the door of the Laboratory of the Mind. Strangely, the windows were tinted red, though, the two did not notice. They opened the door, which was ajar when they approached it and stepped inside.
"It's been hard, for sure," Jordan confessed. "he may be a terrorist, but I.. miss him."
Rosington nodded and folded his arms. "Anyways, I wanted you to be the first to know. In accordance with GEU laws, a group will soon be assigned to track Atticus and the other suspects down, so that they may be brought back here and face trial before the courts."
The man paused in his speech and glanced down at Jordan. "If convicted, they'll receive the death penalty. And they will most certainly be convicted, unless, of course - someone else finds them first."
"Are you suggesting someone else should find Atticus before the search team does?" Jordan inquired.
"Of course not," Rosington replied. "As a law-abiding citizen and the mayor of this city, I would clearly not intervene in this case. But if someone were to, say, leave on their own and search for him, a private investigator hired by myself could assist them on their own time."
"Oh, I understand. Purely out of curiosity, who would this private investigator be?"
It was not hard to tell that the laboratory was understaffed. A sparse number of assistants were in the building's ground floor, completing various tasks. One short woman, her name tag saying "Rachel Ariel," walked up to the two and greeted them. "Welcome to the Laboratory of the Mind. How may we assist you?"
Yu spoke up. "Do you happen to know Samuel Brownlee?"
"Welcome to— to— to the Laboratory of the Mind. How may we assist you?" Rachel repeated.
Richard and Yu exchanged confused looks and Richard then spoke. "Is Samuel in?"
"Alright, that's enough of this foolishness," Yu said, clearly annoyed. She grabbed Richard's forearm and moved past the unhelpful assistant. "Maybe we can—"
Yu noticed a pair of male assistants, one with silver hair and the other with blue, throwing a red ball between themselves. Another female assistant was furiously shaking a vending machine in the corner and humming obnoxiously loud. Ignoring what she was witnessing, she continued.
"—find something useful around here ourselves. These people here seem to be of no help."
"Perhaps Samuel left some sort of dossier somewhere? He was a very organized fellow, I should say."
The two began up the grandiose glass staircase and through the endless lab stations. They approached a large table, with a large city landscape made out of clay upon it. Richard poked at a small figure of a man.
"Intricate, I must say."
"Didn't you know Samuel?" Yu interjected.
"Him and I were friends. We collaborated every few moons or so. He's been having me assemble something for quite some time too. He was always such a fine fellow."
"Interesting. What's this?" Yu pointed to a large silver cylinder with tubes extending out from it.
"I believe Samuel referred to it as the 'Allucinor.' It's supposedly a dream machine. I don't see any file around here. Samuel's study might have it. "
The two traveled back down to the first floor and through the kitchen to Samuel's study, now seeing the wallpaper moving. Searching through the drawers, nothing but endless folders of research could be found. The eventually gave up and left, but not before stating the place was a "madhouse."
Da sat on a wooden stool at the counter, patiently waiting for the next customer. Broken glass and a shattered ceramic vase was still scattered around the floor, albeit behind the counter. With his employer having left to the hospital, he was left to care for the building. Then — a customer entered the doorless entryway. A women with red hair done up in a ponytail — a worried look plastered on her face.
"I need your help, Da," the woman said.
"Jocasta? What are you doing in Silivia?" Da questioned, getting up and hastily walking over from behind the counter. Jocasta came closer to him.
"They killed Nicodemus. I need you to get me back to Aiola, or maybe I could stay with you a few days. Just — something," Jocasta replied.
"Who killed Nicodemus?" Da queried, stuttering.
"The government of Hala. They're hunting every last one of the Raiders down. I think I'm next. You have to help me, Da," she said, yanking on his sleeve, a tear dripping from her face.
"Come on back, I'll get you—" He began leading her out back to Li's truck, but two men in green robes and wooden sandals entered the shop.
The men walked towards the counter slowly. One of them spoke in a low, monotone voice to Da. "Give us the peppers of Silas' root."
"The pepper? There's very little of it in existence," Da hesitated.
"Do you have it, yes or no?" asked the second, in a similar tone to the first.
"I do. Let me retrieve it for you," Da replied. He walked to the back, to a tall shelf stock with jars and teas. He pulled out the third shelf and in the false bottom, he grabbed a small jar of pepper, scooping a small amount out and placing it into a tiny bag. He walked back out to two men and placed the bag into their hands.
"Excellent," said the second. He dropped the money on the counter, and the two men strolled out of the store. Seeing that the two men had left, Da started up again.
"They weren't just monks, I'm certain. They were cultists if some kind."
He pulled a large book from a nearby shelf and placed it on the shop's counter. After blowing some dust off of it, he flipped through some pages.
"You can stay with me. You're safe here for now, and I could use some help around here since Yu is busy with other things and Wen is... gone."
"What are you doing?" Jocasta came closer and hunched over the book.
"Those men. They seem to be members of the obscure Frog Cult," Da said.
"The Frog Cult hasn't been active in millennia. Why would you think this?"
"The way they were dressed — it's almost exact to the way they did thousands of years ago whenever they were in public. They've always claimed to be monks as well. It adds up."
Da closed the book, placing it back on the shelf.
Shen reached for a glass of water at his bedside table. Taking a sip, he exhaled deeply.
"Yu, I need to ask a favor of you," his aging voice managed to say.
"What is it? More water? Decent food?"
"No, no," he chuckled. His face turned serious again. "I want you to call my wife, Sunshine. I need you to tell her the state I am in and most of all, that I apologize for rash actions, I forgive her, and that I love her."
"I'll be calling Sunshine when I get back to Plant Empire, Shen."
"Thank you." Shen turned over, now facing away from Yu. As Yu clutched her purse and began out, he finished.
"And before you leave, make it a collect call,” he smiled.