The museum was a large building, one of the largest in the City, which was to be expected because it held all of the City’s most prized possessions, both those on exhibit and those hidden within the vaults. In their entire lives, the two girls had been there, with their Educator fifteen times—once for each year they were old—and for their own personal pleasure, never. Both supposed it would be a new experience without an Educator describing everything there with the lesson blurb.
Lav glanced at Are when they made it to the doors, “I still want to know what you’re hiding from me,” she muttered as they were screened for entrance. Seeing their credit information on the door pad, both girls pressed their hands onto it to gain access. After a blue light shone to indicate their identities had been verified, the door slid open to allow them entrance.
“I’m selling you into a marriage, along with the gift,” Are stated calmly with a simple smile for her friend. She glanced around the place and quickly took note of all of the cameras and other security features. The information she had been fed was correct and they were precisely where she’d expected. There were a surprisingly few visible, however, which definitely meant there had to be some in hiding. Those were the ones she still had to find on her own.
Lav laughed, and seemed to shake her head at her friend. What she was really doing was checking for weapons, people with cameras and for any other recording device. She checked over each person quickly, coming to conclusions about most of the groups. She counted forty-two people, which she was positive meant the museum was more populous than on average. Most of them had the cheekbone shimmer of an old bog plug and a few had the left eye glint of a flash plug, but those seemed to be the only recording devices—aside from the surveillance domes.
She leaned forward as if to whisper a joke into Are’s ear, “A few COPS, but I don’t think any of them are here to intercept anything, more likely for a little extra as security since they’re out of uniform. There are a lot of artists, old Rich and a few young Rich so we don’t stand out too much. There are three weird, though. They look like Rich but I don’t recognize them. New money? Maybe meebs dressing up as plebes to feel good. I can’t tell why so many people are here, though. It doesn’t seem to be a Lesson,” she whispered. “Maybe we should come back when there are less people around?”
Are smiled and coughed slightly, to give herself time to examine the people. She followed this with a roll of her eyes and a short, barking laugh. “Don’t say something like that in public,” she whispered loudly. “Someone might hear you.” She playfully shoved Lav and walked up to a piece of art on a wall.
Lav scoffed, “Right.” But she was wary. Her friend was acting out of character, almost as though she knew something that made her skittish. Lav shook the thought away and followed Are to the piece, staring at the lines of the painting. She squinted and turned her head, trying to see the appeal, but coming up with nothing. It looked like something a child would toss together while still trying to understand their motor functions. “What is the point of something so disastrous?” she asked loudly. She wasn’t a big fan of abstract art. She wasn’t really much on any art, but abstract art was definitely her least favorite—possibly because it was Gregor’s favorite.
Are elbowed her buddy in the side. “Dangerous words, friend,” she warned under her breath. Dangerous words, indeed, for several heads had turned sharply, accusing the strange child of blasphemies far beyond her years. The last thing they needed or wanted was to cause a scene and gain attention. It would cause questions about them being there, and neither had a good explanation for their trip—not one that would be believed.
Lav pulled the band from her hair to let it fall around her face, but didn’t stop speaking. “Maybe, but I don’t see the point in cacophony. Whether it be in the form of drawn, written, or sounded art.” She chose not to make any direct eye contact with those around her, because she felt the artistics around her readying to intrude. Eye contact would be the opening they needed to school her on the art.
Are sighed, not sure why her friend was acting as she was. Looking around, she used Lav’s comments as an excuse to drag her further into the museum, past the abstract and concept art, to the more realistic, which was closer to where the rock would be placed. “Hush your complaints if you want to live. I’ve heard nasty stories about art fanatics,” she said, trying to keep them off of any guard’s watch list.
Lav giggled, “Well you and I both know that I just cut our expected time in here by half,” she whispered into her friends ear before passing her, to stand next to a man she knew to be a COPS. Are smiled after her, as ever glad that she’d underestimated her friend’s cunning. Both girls tilted their heads at the sculpture the man was looking at. Lav tried to look at it from all angles, but for the life of her, she couldn’t understand what was holding his attention to it. In fact, the way he was looking at it told her that he was pointedly not looking somewhere else and she wanted to know where that somewhere was.
Seeing that her chatty friend was about to say something, Are grabbed Lav’s arm and swung her to look at a painting up on the wall. “You see that? That tiny little figure in the distance over behind that pathetic shack-like building? How much do you want to bet that it’s an authority figure?” she asked, her voice bland as she tried to determine if her other half realized that she had been about to converse with a COPS. That was a horrible idea, considering that any COPS worth his or her grain recognized members of the Adela family.
Lav smiled innocently, “And why would you think that?” The way she said it told Are that she had missed something, that her friend had noticed something she hadn’t.
Are raised an eyebrow. “Who else would be sneaking around the buildings like that with children playing in the foreground, eh?”
“An assassin, a politician, a parent, a thief, a murderer, a kidnapper, or you. No one knows why you’d do it, but you would.” Lav turned away from Are when she was done talking, ignoring when Are gave her the driest look that she could, only to see the COPS had moved away to another part of the building. She squinted after him, but he kept moving. She started to head after him, but a metal conceptual piece caught both girls before they could keep moving further in, to the main exhibit room.
They walked to the strange metal sculpture, something that looked like it was reaching towards the sky, but falling into a very dark place. Tapping her implant, Are listened to the information on the piece. It was a recent contribution from a small-time artist that seemed to strike a resounding emotion in the Seer. It was made of twelve separate parts, each simultaneously lifting but falling, and all different. Listening, they were told that the structure was made of plastic, metal, gems, gold, wood, and clay, and then painted the silver of metal before being splashed with black paint. It kept their attention far longer than any other piece.
“Huh, how peculiar,” Are stated once the voice finished its explanation.
“It, it symbolizes our life, in a way,” Lav said softly, trying not to let anyone overhear her. That was definitely a statement that would stick in other’s minds, given this statue was clearly striving to leave what it knew, what was holding it down. No Rich child should have been saying anything like that.
A smile played on Are’s lips as she thought about what her friend said. She could find no fault in the statement and she kind of liked the comparison. “Definitely,” she mumbled. As she stared at the statue, she noticed a tiny discoloration in a shadow. She quickly pretended to sneeze, which came very naturally to her, relaying a message to Lav through it. “Hidd’n cam’ra,” she let out in her real-sounding sneeze. “Uh-oh, I think there may be a little dust in this place. Or maybe I’m allergic to peculiar,” she said and laughed lightly.
Lav looked skeptically at the art for a moment, looking for the camera. Once she spotted it, she nodded. It was a standard fare, though much less ubiquitous than the ceiling domes. “I’d go with the second. Let’s look at something less clangy.”
Are’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t use that word,” she snapped and walked to another piece several feet away.
Lav grinned. Whether on a job or not, she couldn’t help but take the time to tease her friend with street slang, particularly the rude ones, “What word? You mean,” she looked slyly at her friend, “Clangy?” she asked before shouldering Are, “What about drongs?”
Are quickly covered her ears and hummed to herself, trying to keep the words from reaching her sensitive eardrums. “Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew,” she said until Lav walked away. She shuddered and glared at her friend, though she was noting that there seemed to be an increase in people in the main exhibit section.
“Bugger,” Lav muttered when the two stopped outside of the main exhibit hall to stare at the sign. The rock exhibit was three days early. “Wasn’t it supposed to be here Friday?”
Are nodded, scanning over the people around them. Seeing the trio she was searching for, she nudged Lav. “Go on in,” she said loudly before whispering “And find the cameras.” She giggled and twirled her hair on one finger, attempting to seem far emptier in the head than she was. “I wanna look around here first.” She didn’t have to say the implied ‘for exits and to change strategy.’
Lav paused for a moment before nodding and entering the enclosed space, allowing Are to walk towards a huge painting on her own. In front of said painting were three older people, the ones that Lav had pointed out to Are.
“Wow,” she said, awestruck enough to almost run into one of them. “This is so huge and pretty,” she said quietly. “Can you see the stars?” she asked one of them, one who held himself very tall and contemptibly. The man nodded slightly and walked away, followed by those around him. In passing by her, he handed her a small computer chip, which she immediately palmed into her locket. Everything seemed to be happening too quickly ad she couldn’t help but wonder if they’d planned that.
Feeling a bit disoriented, she turned on her heel and started into the main exhibit hall to find her friend. She was side-tracked, however, by the sight of what looked like a side deal between a guard and a plainclothes COPS, who handed he guard a small, fluorescent vial. When both glanced up and around, Are quickly moved into the exhibit to hide. This entire situation was problematic, she decided, and it was time to pull out. She had what she came for. She could try for the stone some other day, when everything hadn’t been changed. Little did she know that the situation was becoming even more problematic as she tried to look as unobtrusive as possible.
Lav had gone through the exhibit, searching for the telltale signs of hidden cameras: spaces that seemed purposely left clear, strange shadows, off-colored walls, gleaming from flashes. Getting into the security system would be easy, she could tell. The locket she wore, a twin to Are’s in appearance, was already working into it and the light shock she got every time it made it past a firewall had stopped a few minutes previous. That either meant that it was stuck or it was in, and she would bet on the latter. The physical security was a bit more of a problem. The date change of the exhibit as well as the number of plainclothes COPS told her that they had somehow been tipped off that the stone was in danger of being redistributed.
Unable to take the suspense anymore, Lav leaned against a wall, where Are had left her, and opened the locket. To any watching, it would appear she was checking the entertainment feed, but the secret coding in her optical implants showed that the locket had been stopped by a firewall. It wasn’t a particularly difficult one, because she could see a way around it simply looking at the coding, but it was one her locket was incapable of executing on its own. A new shock from the locket made her frown as she watched the code change into a repeated string of words “You’ve been caught.”
Hastily closing her locket, she looked around for her friend. Not seeing her on her level, she turned her attention upwards. It was there that she spotted that same COPS from before looking down at her, then his attention shifted and she followed it to Are, who was staring at an old painting of indigenous people with the rock. He was watching them, and not with the eyes of someone making sure they didn’t break anything or annoy too many people, but seriously watching them. She twitched slightly, and as his eyes turned back in her direction, she immediately turned her head away, well aware that her hair flying would let him know that she had seen him. She shoved herself off of the wall and calmly walked over to Are, although her heart was pounding with fear and she wanted to run to her friend.
Are was frowning at the painting, oblivious to anything, as she was actually interested in the art. There was something strange in the painting, something familiar. Double blinking took a picture of the painting so that she could look at it later. She felt someone coming near her and feared it was one of the COPS from the deal, but she didn’t move.
Lav almost reached her side, but a hand enclosed around her wrist, and a palm covered her mouth. No sound of the scuffle was heard as she was lifted off of her feet and away from her friend quickly and silently while Are stood still for a minute, listening intently to what was happening around her. She heard normal noises, people talking quietly, rustling of clothes, the wheezing of an old man, the steps of classy shoes on the faux marble tiles heading in her direction.
Lav’s heel kicked into the shin of the man holding her, causing him to give a muted groan, but she wasn’t able to hit hard enough to make him let go of her. Keeping her mouth covered and her arms to her sides, he managed to get them through a side door and took her down an abandoned hall that seemed to be used for maintenance. He reached another door and this time she kicked against the reinforced glass paneling to keep him from gaining authorization to use it, pushing him back against the wall. Caught unawares, he dropped her and Lav fell hard, landing against the door, which shone red for unauthorized entry.
“Bugger,” she muttered under her breath, turning to confront the man, only to see empty air where he had hit the wall. Somehow, he had managed to disappear without making a sound. And worse yet, he’d left her in this part of the museum. Making quick work of the panel with her locket, she managed to shut off the alarms as well as open the side door she’d been brought through. Hurrying back to where she’d last seen Are, she checked to see that the COPS was missing from up top, leading her to conclude it had been that man who had attempted to kidnap her.
Luckily, Lav’s entire encounter had taken less than three minutes, and Are had yet to move. “Someone is watching us,” she whispered into her friend’s ear, holding her right shoulder up as if her left arm were a sling.
Are laughed softly. “Fine, you’re right. I’m bored. Can we leave?” she asked, directing her nervousness into a small, twitching hand muscle. They needed to get out of there, and fast.
“Fine. With. Me,” Lav bit out through clenched teeth, still trying to hold her shoulder blade in place, in hopes of not having to have a sling at best, or at worst, a cast.
Are clutched Lav’s and helped her move quickly out of the museum, making their escape with a perfectly amused face. Lav glanced back over her shoulder only once, to see the COPS watching them from the door. He grinned and waved after them, his eyes silver and a small rock in his hand. She turned her attention back to Are quickly, and pretended she hadn’t seen it.
Next part of Chapter Two: Cell
Next part of Rich: Chapter Three