The Glibening, Part Five:
Suddenly, Gilhooly and Kestrel found themselves in a circular domed chamber lit by tasteful indirect lighting reflecting off the underside of the dome. Protruding from the walls of the chamber were seven cocobolo wood columns, each carved into a minimalist representation of a squirrel standing on its hind legs. At the center of the chamber stood a rectangular larvikite plinth topped by a thick crystalline box; inside that box were two human brains. Each brain was floating in its own personal cube full of straw-colored fluid, with myriad strands of what appeared to be black thread connecting the stem of each brain to the bottom of the cube, perhaps to unseen machinery below. The brains still had eyes attached and the eyes were fixed looking outward in the direction from where Gilhooly and Kestrel had appeared. One brain pulsed with orange light, the other pulsed green.
Gilhooly and Kestrel had been here before, and didn’t like it. They approached the brain aquarium with trepidation, halting a yard away from the plinth.
“To say that the Squirrels are angry is an understatement,” said the green brain pulsating in time with the dialogue. There was no actual sound within the chamber, except for the sussuration of the life support system which kept the chamber at a perfect three hundred ten kelvins at Earth normal sea level pressure, etc. Gilhooly and Kestrel didn’t hear the brains so much as they were painfully aware that the brains were streaming directly into their auditory cortices through means unknown.
“Dmitri Gilhooly, Regina Kestrel, you have failed us,” pulsed the orange brain.
Gilhooly and Kestrel remained silent. They had learned the hard way that it was unwise to say anything unless directly asked by the brains.
“But Charles, is it the Humans who have failed us, or the Fabricians,” asked the green brain.
“A fair point, David.” conceded the orange brain.
“But you told us to slowly ease Gilhooly and Kestrel out and replace them with younger, more millenial-friendly staffers.” Said a new, petulant voice. “I had to endure years of of baby powder and Jean Nate perfume. If you had let me ride that girl I could have kept her under control.”
Kestrel glowered but said nothing.
“Shut up, Xylpig. We should be grateful to the Humans for providing us with employment and purpose,” said an exasperated voice. “I thought Jane’s complaints about the Squirrels were just part of her youthful exuburance and would come to nothing. I was wrong.”
Gilhooly tried to relax in case things went poorly. He looked at the plinth and defocused his eyes losing himself in the reflections coming from the stone. Even though he was standing still, the minute autonomic movements of his body shifted his vision just enough that the lights shimmered like stars in the night sky. He thought he could discern a familiar pattern of several bright lights, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“Xylpig, you could learn much from the contrite example of Korb,” pulsed the green brain.
Xylpig yelped and twitched, causing Kestrel to cough most unpleasantly.
“Indeed, our patience wears thin with all of you,” pulsed the orange brain. “You’re going back there and you’re going to clean up the mess you made.”
“Don’t fuck it up. We need for Thought! Magazine to remain respectable.”
“If you do we’re going to reassign you Fabricians to duty as santorum towels for Senator Lucius Greene.
“No taint of scandal from this. You know how long it took you to live down the intern incident.”
The brains flashed in unison and Gilhooly and Kestrel disappeared to the accompaniment of a bright trumpet note. The lights in the chamber dimmed at a tasteful rate until the only remaining illumination was from the brains themselves, and the shimmering reflections from the plinth.
“You said ‘taint,’” giggled the orange brain.
“You used ‘duty’ and ‘santorum’ in the same sentence,” snickered the green brain, “and not one of those maroons reacted.”
“They were trying not to think about it.”
“Except the humorless one; it didn’t even register with her.”
“Well David, what nefarious scheme should we advance next?”
Ramesh and Murphy rode in silence. Murphy turned right onto Sixteenth Street. At the next intersection Murphy came to a rolling stop before whipping across traffic to turn the wrong way onto Fifth Avenue and parked in front of a fire hydrant, nose to nose with an NYPD cruiser.
“Buck up, kid. Your boss has a hardon for these people. That 911 call lets us waltz in there without having to get a warrant. We’ll do a little meet and greet with the Officer in Charge and get up there ASAP.” Murphy and Ramesh got out of the car.
More government vehicles with flashing lights pulled up in front of the building. A white Dodge Sprinter van with magnetic signage for Sunshine Cleaning Services crossed behind them down Sixteenth. A uniformed officer approached them as if to shoo them away. Murphy opened his sportcoat to show his badge hanging from his belt.
“Who’s your friend?”
“US Attorney’s Office,” answered Murphy. “Where’s the OIC?”
The uniformed officer pointed towards a large black man in an NYPD uniform with sergeant’s stripes huddled in the leftmost entrance of the building with his back toward the sidewalk, talking on a walkie-talkie.
Ramesh remembered that he had a badge and pulled out the badge wallet and hung it over his belt so the badge was facing outwards, just like Murphy. This is as close as he had come to actual police work and he was kind of enjoying it.
“And we got ‘friends’ on the way,” said the radio in the hands of the big cop.
“State,” asked the big cop into the radio.
“Feds. That scumbag Murphy from Liaison is escorting some fed guy.”
“Why are the feds interested in a crazy girl?”
“It’s the magazine they’re interested in, not the girl. I’m on my way down.”
“Roger that, ell tee.”
“Shee-it.” The big officer turned to see Murphy and Ramesh standing behind him. “Murphy,” spat the big cop.
“Brown,” said Murphy. “this is Deputy US Attorney Ramesh Gupta. His boss has a hardon for the magazine and asked if Ramesh could come down and have a look. Ramesh, this is Sergeant Mike Brown; this is his precinct so it’s his show.”
“‘My show,’ my ass,” thought Brown, deciding that his day couldn’t get any worse. When Liaison showed up with a fed, particularly a civilian, it meant that the mayor wanted to suck up to someone. The federal guy had ‘ivy league puke’ written all over his ass. And his boss was on the way to micromanage everything. The feds loved procedure, so he was going to give it to him good and hard, stalling him until the ell tee got there.
“Mr. Gupta, we have two officers on their way up there now to assess the situation. If they say the scene is safe I’m going to send up the EMTs. You and Sergeant Murphy can go up if the scene remains safe and the EMTs say it’s okay. It’s a new day, Murphy – no more interfering with treatment unless someone’s life is at stake. Some new federal thing.” Getting in a jab at the feds felt good since fedboy had ruined his day by turning a routine crazy girl call into a three-ring circus.
“They know to hold off on the thorazine, right,” asked Murphy.
“I will request that, but you know how they can be. I don’t know this team, but one of my guys says they’re okay.”