I received the call from Gematria concerning Ash, and hurried to the Steeltopia office, arriving just in time to help put him in the stasis chamber. At least we can preserve the chassis for his return of his soul chip. My first question was "Can you sense him at all?"
Gematria's negative response was as emotional as I have seen her since her last transformation. As we moved him upstairs to the chamber Gematria murmured, "His robe is open." I blinked, and realized she was speaking of the protective cowling over Ash's central mechanisms. "Checking the log... 'maintenance'? He was tricked into offering access to his soul chip?" She was unable to access who was the one to request maintenance access, so we returned to analyzing the notes.
I turned my attention to the desk, where I found his notes. " Augh, his handwriting is neat, but I can make no sense of this outline." I puzzled over the fact that though they took the book, the notes remained. The handwriting was Ash's - or at least I recognized it as his style - very neat and precise, but written with a hand that first learned to handle reed and papyrus, rather than fountain pen and paper.
"Time travel?" she asked, reminding me of the family's braided Möbius history.
"Even so, that does not account for much of this." I shook my head, "Jeremiah must have had drugs stronger than normally available."
When she had fully scanned the notes, she handed them to me, and we puzzled over the contents. "Factoring out the journal outline... This... contradicts Jeremiah's personality profile." Gematria murmured, analyzing the content against the wealth of information stored within her memories. "Yes, he defeated Aleister... we know that... Mrs. Rachel Mason was his... sidekick...?"
"Assistant." I absently corrected, penning a note for the research division to search for evidence of her memoirs, if there were copies that were not in the Steeltopia Library. Perhaps we could cross-reference with the Council records concerning actions on the power nodes on the steppes.
She continued with her musings aloud, "...Rescued her family's village from Baba Yaga...?" Her confusion in trying to align these notes with what we knew of history caused some odd exclamations, "...power ring???" When she pointed out the section concerning the scientific explorations, she said, "Here it states he conducted the cloning experiment to free the family from Bloodwing curse...opposite of his own statements..." My conclusion was this was not the Jeremiah we fought in Avaria.
My eye caught the brief notation that Jeremiah had reported to the Council of Clans, arresting enough in the fact that this had never come to my attention before when Gematria commented, " The narrative falls apart after Rachel refuses treatment for ailment with reanimation fluid...due to...corruption factor..."
I said what first came to mind, "She feared him by then, and for him, perhaps, but we will not know until we have her first-hand account." Another hastily written note, "I am advising the Baron, he might need to do without me for a bit. Not a great task for him, but he should be warned." I checked the security devices in the building, and nothing registered as out of the ordinary, so the one who had been here has been cleared by Ash. No surprise if it was someone he trusted enough to allow maintenance access. I had no idea he had a contact of that security level, it was as if we were discovering he had a secret paramour. Then I was struck by the thought, "There is one witness that is still here." and I turned to Ash's pet Yog.
The poor thing had no idea why Ash had not romped about since the "little white spinny" had come to visit. I comforted it as best I could, but the information led Gematria to show it a doll key, taken from her satchel. When she twirled it in her fingers, there was a flash of dim recognition, and the Yog started searching for Ash again. Settling Yoggy with a treat, I turned to her, "That would seem to be the clue, but I do not know the Doll community well. Could it be one of Dr Steel's cadre?"
"Ash would be wary of peri after our past connections with her. I will investigate that angle as well," she said packing up.
"I must check the wards at the safe-houses, and set protections for the staff that might be affected... and avoid telling the Jägers , for they are needed in Steelhead now." I tried to hide may fatigue by shuffling through the papers at the Baron's desk.
Gematria paused before leaving, "The rumors that Jeremiah is in Steelhead? Would the Jägers who journeyed with us to New Erebus not recognize his scent?"
"There was scuttlebutt that they did scent Jeremiah in Steelhead, but the one they suspected has a changed scent. I still do not trust that one entirely. It is exceedingly odd for a blacksmith to smell of incense, if he has not just come from Mass...wrong formula for the churches and temples nearby, as well."
Gematria tilted her head to one side in an approximation of the human puzzlement stance, "Changed? Incense would be explained by his residing in the djinn's house."
I nodded, "However, she no longer holds the scents of the Mideast about her. I am worried, for it also seems a trial for her to even smile anymore. The whole situation smells wrong."
There was a pause, and Gematria finally said, "I thought I detected sage particulate from that direction."
"I have not smudged her house, though she was present for Madame Kitla's smudging of Frau Skytower's residence." I thought a bit more, "Augustus smudges the Station whenever he comes home, but both sources are across the Harborside district from Miss Burton's house. Could you take samples from the Station and compare them? I will check with Madame Kitla and Frau Skytower for permission for particulate sampling."
Gematria nodded and left, to continue her investigations.
Alone, I rested my chin on my hands. The worries were compounding. Miss Burton's thaumaturgical healing seemed to be arrested, by what I did not know. The stress of waiting to go to trial was also wearing on her, it seems. She fatigued so easily, still. I wanted to trust her farmhand would help, but he turned up at such a convenient hour. Mr Sawyer seems to be more than a blacksmith, but why hide other abilities in a town of Sparks and Mages if there were no other factors? Now the attack on Ash, and I have not been able to reach Amarantis. The last time I saw her was shortly before the death of Marcus, when she mentioned something about finding Koen.
A small flash before my eyes, and a courier tube landed on the desk in front of me. Quickly reading the note, I knew things were going poorly on more than one front. The note was from Mother, letting me know Augustus and Uncle Nico are in chambers, and have been for some days. She said the indications are the Council is gathering forces - all clans together. The one thing in that pulled them all together in a unified front once before was horrifying.