Prologue: I Must Be Dreaming
It had been ten minutes by his count.
The sole light affixed to the ceiling illuminated the metallic table in the center of the otherwise dark room. Apart from the table he was cuffed to and the two accompanying chairs – one of which he occupied – the chamber was entirely empty. He twirled his thumbs, altering the direction of rotation at random, bidding his time. Prison life was interesting so far, he found. The meals, though bland, were adequate for his tastes, and he had great fun with the prison guards, even if they did not seem to share his refined sense of humour.
But then again, he had only been there for a mere sixteen days. The majority of his time was spent locked away in isolation to wither in a small, decrepit cell. And while he was able to find ways to alleviate the boredom, it was only ever a temporary victory, and he found himself staring at the walls more than anything else. It began to settle in that his sentence of twenty five years would be a long one at that rate.
The only things that helped him cope with the thought were the few material indulgences he was allowed, and the knowledge that he would soon break free of that God-forsaken hole.
So he was pleasantly surprised when the warden paid a visit to his cell just over fifteen minutes ago.
“Good news, Mister Jones,” announced Johan Lennox in his thick German tongue. “You have a visitor.”
And so he now sat fifteen minutes later, wrists tethered to the table with plastic cufflinks, whistling a jolly little tune that he had the habit of whistling. He wondered if his visitor was his appointed lawyer, Salman Kohl, who had come to delve deeper into legal issues Jones had no use for. But he quickly discarded the notion; his meetings with Kohl were preordained, and the legal representative wasn’t set to return until the end of the week. With surmounting curiosity, he waited, wondering who was so eager to meet him that they would disrupt his schedule and turn his ordered little world upside down.
He did not have to wait much longer.
The door opened with a sudden thunderous creak, and there entered a woman Jones had never seen before. She appeared to be in her mid-forties, dressed sleek yet conservative, with a neat blouse and knee-length skirt. Her chestnut hair fell in voluminous locks around her shoulders, which bounced slightly as she made her way with elegant strides to the chair opposite of Jones.
“Sieben minuten,” warned the guard.
The woman nodded, and the door was closed.
“Hello, David,” she said, pulling out the chair.
“Well, hello to you as well, Barbara!” replied Jones enthusiastically.
“Esther Dei, actually,” corrected the woman.
Smiling, Esther took her seat, placing the briefcase she carried beside her seat. She looked at him with bright emerald eyes, her piercing gaze contrasting with her matronly, warm demeanour.
“Oh yes, Esther!” said Jones. “Please forgive me, my dear. How could I ever forget such a lovely face?”
“We’ve met before?” humoured Esther as she removed her coat.
“Of course we have,” replied Jones. “You’re that one person I encountered that one time.”
Esther’s smile widened, accentuating the soft wrinkles around her eyes. It might have just been the lighting, but Jones found her to be a rather stunning woman; but even so, she had a weight to her presence that kept him at edge.
“I’ve missed you, you know,” said Jones playfully. “It gets kind of lonely in here sometimes. You should come visit me more often.”
“I’ll be sure to do that when I get the chance.”
A moment passed before Jones spoke.
“So, tell me, Esther. What brings you here on this fine day?”
“I have come to strike a bargain.”
Esther proceeded to place the briefcase on the table, removing a single document from within before sliding it across the metallic table’s surface. It appeared to be an aged parchment of sorts, upon which was depicted a cylindrical object; arcane glyphs ran down its length. Jones leaned forward, analysing the page at first with feigned disinterest, then with alarm.
“Do you recognize this?” began Esther.
“Where did you get this?” asked Jones, suspicious.
“Answer the question, David,” she prodded gently.
“Yes,” began Jones with reluctance, “I’ve seen this before. It’s an old relic that I came across at one point in my... pre-prison career.”
He continued to stare at the withered page before him, recalling when the time when he first stumbled upon it. Jones and his men acquired the artifact from an old, weathered Nazi bunker back in 1993, when he was still captain of Zeta Cell. It was, for all intents and purposes, your ordinary priceless artifact, save for the fact that it was constantly vibrating. His men managed to undo its top cap; the unleashed vibrations were so strong that they knocked down half the crew, and it took almost all of them to replace the cylinder’s lid. Jones smirked at the memory before continuing.
“But what I would like to know is why you are so interested in this peculiar object.”
“Oh, that doesn’t really matter,” replied Esther. “What matters is that you know where it is, and that I want to find it.”
Jones eyes narrowed. The cylinder was the third such artifact ZFT had found at that point, and they have found many more since then. The captains all agreed to keep them stashed away in various caches across the world, believing that they might prove to be useful someday. Jones knew where most, if not all, of the relics were hidden. But even though his loyalty to ZFT had been severed long ago, he wasn’t too keen on making Esther Dei privy to all his secrets.
“Forgive my nosiness, Miz Dei,” he said, “but I fail to see how such a trinket could possibly be of any interest to you. It would be more at home behind the glass panes of a museum exhibit than in your soft, delicate hands.”
“This is the Harmonic Stabilizer,” explained Esther, pointing to the parchment. “You are no doubt aware of its unique properties, and it is something of great value to me, which is why I seek to obtain it.”
Jones sat silent, questions whizzing through his mind. For what purposes did she require the artifact? How did she figure out its connection to him? And how exactly did she even manage to obtain an audience with him in the first place? Caution, he decided, would be crucial from that point forward.
“And why should I reveal the location of this Harmonic Stabilizer to you?” he asked.
“Oh, don’t worry, dear,” assured Esther. “I wouldn’t ask such a thing of you if I wasn’t prepared to give you something in return.”
After replacing the parchment in her briefcase, she removed a folder from her purse, which came to rest before her.
“I have something here which I’m certain will be of great interest to you,” said Esther as she removed a specific file from the folder and pushing it forward.
Jones looked down for several moments, taking in what he saw, and raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
“Think about it, David,” said Esther. “This would give you a significant advantage in the Silent War. You would be the envy of the other captains. Not to mention that this is the perfect way to bring Doctor Bell down a notch or two.”
He broke free of his engrossment and looked back up; Esther continued to wear her warm smile, to stare at him with those damnable all-knowing eyes. He was taken aback at how much she seemed to know, about him, his organization, but most of all, of the ongoing war against the Other Side.
“...How do you know all this?” asked Jones warily.
“I know many things about you, David.”
A chill ran down his spine.
“You have information on something that I want,” she continued, “and I have information on something that you want. So, what do you say? You give me the location of the Harmonic Stabilizer, and in return, I’ll give you the rest of the information on your...significant advantage.”
Jones remained silent, weighing the prospects of the offer as Dei held up the folder, teasing the man with the promise of its tantalizing contents. After an instance of consideration, he spoke.
“Well, Miz Dei, you sure know how to drive a hard bargain. But before I reveal the location of the artifact, I wish to ask you something. How can I be sure of the authenticity of these documents? For all I know, you could just be playing me like some incarcerated fool.”
Esther was silent for a moment, seeming to consider her next words. She appeared genuinely stumped, causing Jones to smirk at her apparent naivety and lack of experience. Jones brought his eyes back to the file, then tossing it back across the table, resigning in disappointment at the waste of what could have been the greatest of opportunities.
“Well, Miz Dei, I suppose that this brings our first date to a close,” announced Jones. “I would love nothing more than to kiss you goodnight, but as you can see, I am cuffed to–”
“Do you remember those London summers at the bakery?” interrupted Dei out of the blue, staring into the distance. “You would help mum roll the dough to make loaves of bread. And you would be covered in flour, and your little six year old arms would be sore by the end of it, but that didn’t matter; you were just happy to help mum out. And she would whistle this lovely little tune; in fact, it was the same tune you were whistling when I came into this room. Isn’t that right, David Robert Jones?”
His mouth hung open, prepared to respond, though no words escaped his lips as the woman recounted his intimate memories with disturbing accuracy, things that only he would know – should know.
“Who exactly are you?” Jones managed to say through his stupefaction.
And she peered deep into his eyes, her face unchanging, and her voice echoed in his head, filling every crevice of his mind.
There are forces at work here far beyond your understanding, child. It would be in your best interest not to hinder them.
Jones’ face remained frozen while he processed the chain of events that had just occurred. He had seen many strange things in his heyday, so much so that he was nearly desensitized to all that was extraordinary and bizarre in the world. This occurrence, however, would rank near the top of his list. But even with all her novel parlour tricks, he still held his reservations about this strange woman. And yet, the more he thought about it, the more he realized, much to his chagrin, that documents she possessed were much too valuable to risk losing.
“The artifact can be located in safety deposit box 8014 at the Berenberg Bank in Hamburg,” started Jones suddenly. “In order to access it, you will need the key to the safe, which is currently in possession of my representative, Mister Salman Kohl. I will arrange to have him accompany you when you go to retrieve it.”
Esther wrote down everything he said on a small notepad. Satisfied, she handed the rest of the folder to Jones, who devoured its contents with eager eyes. As she replaced her things in her purse, Jones suddenly looked up from his documents with a puzzled expression, as though struck by a sudden realization. He then proceeded to pinch his forearm, wincing at the self-inflicted pain.
“What are you doing, dear?” asked Esther, confused.
“As you can clearly see,” he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m pinching myself.”
“Now why would you do that?” she asked.
“Because it just now occurred to me that I might be dreaming.”
“Would you like to know a little secret, David?”
She leaned forward, with an almost childlike glimmer in her eye.
“You are,” she hushed.
Before Jones could question her about the meaning of her cryptic statement, a buzzing noise resounded. The guard opened the door, signalling the end of the meeting.
“Pleasure doing business with you, David,” said Esther as she rose from her chair.
With that, Esther Dei left the room, and the guard shut the door behind her, leaving Jones to himself. He redirected his attention to the documents on the table, reading once more the note that Dei attached to the photograph of a young woman:
The woman you see in this picture is William Bell’s Gatekeeper.
Her name is Olivia Dunham. She has yet to be activated.
What you do from this point forward with the information contained in this folder is none of my concern.
However, I’m sure you’ll be able to put it to good use.
Love and Light,
A smile drew itself on the face of David Robert Jones. A significant advantage indeed, he thought to himself.
PULLING THE STRINGS
A Fringe Fan Fiction Series by Omniscient_JayPart II: The Deceived