Title: Things Undone 4: Alchemy of the Word, part 4
Authors: Erynn & Sally
Email: inisglas@seanet.com, sallyh@flashcom.net
Archive: Ephemeral, Gossamer, LGM, FLO, all others ask first so we know where we're being kept.
Rated: R for grownup stuff
Spoilers: We assume you've seen the series
Category: Gunmen -- angst, humor, a little romance
Summary: Sometimes words are more important in our lives than we think.

Stories in the Things Undone series:

Things Undone, by Erynn; a 5-part story wherein the Gunmen deal with some unfinished business.
TU 2: Mending the Tears, by Sally; a 6-part story wherein Fro and Langly go to the ER.
TU 3: To Carry On, by Erynn; wherein the Gunmen begin to deal with the repercussions of their adventure.

Disclaimers: We don't own the boys, but we sure wish we did. They and the other characters from the series are owned instead by The Powers That Be at Fox and 1013, the boys were created by Morgan & Wong, and they're all controlled by the folks at The X Files and The Lone Gunmen series. Other characters are ours, some of whom are blatantly based on people we know, frequently at their request. Don't blame us, we're being coerced. Quotes from Rimbaud are used without permission. Deepest thanks to Mel, our Tech Consultant Queen and resident cartoonist.


"Decidedly, we are out of the world. No more sound. My touch has gone."

~~Rimbaud -- "A Season in Hell"~~



I arrive about ten minutes before eleven. I can hear quiet music inside the door of the apartment. Ms. Thomas' abode is in one of the older parts of Georgetown, near the University. This would make her research easier, give
her access to experts, spaces to rent for the inevitable fund raising activities, and the chaotic color of a University in a residential area.  They breed cultural activities, political debates, and intellectual livelihood in their neighborhoods. And all that color and activity must be fine fodder for her poetry, as well as her work as a lobbyist.

Her building is an old brick four story. She's in a third floor walkup, which must be good for her aerobic health. I'm not sure I'd want to live at the top of three flights of stairs, but elevators are a risk during a fire.  She is in apartment 303, close to the stairs. The door is painted red, that bright cinnabar color of so many Chinese artifacts. Above the door hangs a mirror surrounded by the trigrams that make up the I Ching. I assume this is some sort of 'feng shui', designed to draw good luck or drive away bad influences. As I get a little closer, I realize that there is some subtle painting along the sides of the door; imperial Chinese dragons. At the foot of the door, on either side, are odd looking statues with mouths open and teeth exposed. I suspect they are guardians of some sort, although my brief studies in classical Asian religious iconography aren't helping me much. I was more familiar with Edo period Japanese material, and this is quite outside both the period and the culture I know. I get the feeling that Ms. Thomas knows exactly what they are.

Having finally finished examining the artistic design of the opening area, I look down at the door mat. This is definitely out of place. It says "Wrong address. Nobody here by that name," and underneath this is a justice department seal surrounded by the words 'Federal Witness Protection Program.' At least she has a sense of humor to go with her style.

I knock on the door. There's a slight commotion inside. I can hear several locks being undone. She peeks around the edge of the door warily, but recognizes me and smiles, then lets me in. She's dressed, but still in bare feet, and there's a damp towel on her head. She rubs it briskly with both hands, and the cloth muffles her greeting.

"Good morning John. It's nice that you're prompt. I'm afraid I'm the one running about 5 minutes late this morning. Come this way -- the office is in here." She continues drying her hair, then pulls a comb from her back pocket and proceeds to discipline her short hair into something resembling proper comportment.

I take a chance to look around as I enter, being escorted toward her home office. The things that people keep in their houses can reveal an incredible amount of information about their most private lives. This living room is...austere is the wrong word, as is spartan... it's more like a zen-influenced Hindu garden. The walls are lined with bookshelves, partly obscured by Shoji screens. In the western wall, there is a deep bay window, with a cushioned seat, but the most spectacular thing about this window is that it is covered inside with living ivy and the canes of miniature climbing roses. Sitting in the center of the window behind the seat are two strawberry pots, each opening growing a different kitchen herb.

There are plants thriving everywhere, and the air in here smells green and soothing. Scattered around the room, on those walls not covered in bookshelves, are glass fronted cabinets and individual wall shelves displaying all manner of Hindu statuary, from simple peasant work made of Ganges mud, to a wildly painted Garuda bird carved in wood and facing the front door, and a joined Shakti and Shiva made of brass. There's a dancing bronze Ganesha, a large, serene marble statute of Sarasvati, and a painted, monkey-faced clay Hanuman. They look like they've seen use over many years, and I suspect that they're antiques imported from India.

Screened away in one corner, I note what looks like a Hindu altar, set with statues of Sarasvati and another deity, which I believe may be Avelokateshvara; both deities of learning, if I am not mistaken. I believe the latter is a Buddhist figure, not Hindu, which strikes me as interesting.  The altar is laid with a bowl of fruit, a vase of flowers, a cup of water, and a small burning stick of incense that has the light odor of sandalwood. The overall effect of the room is one of overarching order in fertile, restful chaos. It's comfortable here -- friendly and welcoming, neither sterile nor messy.  It feels lived in. I could sit in a room like this and read books for hours, or talk with a circle of friends over Turkish coffee and baba ganouj, if I actually had friends other than the guys. I get the feeling that it's used for things like that frequently. I don't have a chance to see the contents of the bookshelves before I'm escorted into her office, obviously a remodeled bedroom.

"Here's the problem, John," she says. "I haven't touched it since I ran Saint Norton on it right after it fell over, burned down, and sank into the swamp. Maybe the next one will stay up, you think? I did manage to recover a bit of the main directory information." So she's a Python fan, too. I like that in a person.

I am a little wary. From her description of the problem, I might need to put 30 hours or so of brain sweat into this project to save what's salvageable. "I'll need to look at your system for a while, to determine the extent of the damage. That should take about half an hour. After that, I can give you an estimate of time and difficulty for the job, and that will enable me to make an informed decision about how I need to proceed, and what I'll be charging you by the hour."

"All right. For the moment I'll leave you to your own devices. I've got to go put something on for lunch. If you need anything, just give me a shout.  I'll be in the kitchen." She vanishes silently into the hallway.

The office is not unlike the organized chaos of the living room. Everything obviously has a place, but the way that things are stored here doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It's like she's working from a filing system in an entirely different language. Over the desk is a large Japanese sumi-e painting of crows on a branch, with a calligraphed haiku. I'm not sure, because I don't read Japanese calligraphy very well, but I believe it's a classic Basho. There are books and piles of papers on the bookshelf on the desk, with a small ceramic Han dynasty cup tucked between a couple of the piles. A large potted ficus inhabits a corner near the window. There is a Tibetan prayer wheel on the wall next to the desk at a convenient level for spinning by whomever is seated there, more Hindu and eastern iconography, including wall hangings of Hindu and Sikh rituals, and I note that she's also hung her diplomas and certifications on the wall in here. The name listed on them is Sarasvati. I had thought that Sari was a rather unusual name, but this is quite out of the ordinary. I have to wonder what kind of people would give their child a name like that. Then again, I narrowly avoided being named Bertram. Jesus, Bert Byers. I think I'd have died of embarrassment in early childhood. There's no accounting for parents.

On top of another short bookshelf is a dry fish tank that appears to be being used as a desert terrarium. I wonder how long ago she had fish? Then I note that something in the tank is moving. And it puffs up a little around the neck and chirrs. After a momentary startlement, I realize that the tank has a few small anole lizards in it. They're actually rather attractive.  Their colors are quite pleasing, and I hadn't realized that anoles sang.  "Lizards?" I call out to Sari.

"Porthos, Athos and Aramis," she responds from the kitchen.

"What, no D'Artagnion?"

"Used to be. Cardinal Richelieu ate him."

I laugh. "You're kidding, right?"

"No, that's the cat. He doesn't like strangers. He's probably under the bed." She chuckles.

I need to concentrate here for a while. By the end of the half hour I requested, I know that this job will take me about twenty hours. Things are a mess, and she's got a nasty virus in here that's going to have to be removed. There's something odd about the way this machine was hacked. On the surface, it appears that it was done simply for the purpose of destruction, but one or two files look like they were given special attention. I won't know why until I can get them repaired enough to recover and open them again, but considering that my employer is a lobbyist, I suspect there may be some political motivation here. Call me paranoid if you like, but this definitely feels like a targeted hack. It's time to go into the kitchen and talk to Ms. Thomas.

"Sari? I've got..." I'm halfway across the living room when I'm overcome by dizziness. The room goes grey, and my knees buckle.

end part 4