The caller ID on my cellphone showed the call came from HQ — which meant either that I’d been forwarded Prime’s call through HQ or that someone in HQ had called me.
I took the call.
“Nick,” Vaughn said, “you’ve gotta take a look at Double V’s forums. Go to the Grand Lake section. It’s totally crazy.”
So I did.
I went up to my room, and with Rachel looking over my shoulder, checked out the forums. In the very few minutes since the interview aired, someone had taken the video, and uploaded it to Youtube. They’d also linked to the page where News 10 mentioned that the full interview would appear on their daytime interview show.
Sometimes I suspected that our fans were more interested in watching us than we were in doing the things they wanted to watch.
That wasn’t the crazy part. I’d visited the forums before, and that was expected.
The crazy part was the 128 post discussion entitled, “What the F@&# is Old Frankish?”
“Did you get to the Old Frankish part yet?” Vaughn asked. I’d put the cell on speakerphone.
“Just now,” I said.
Next to me, Rachel pointed at one of the comments. “I love how the second poster managed to weave my butt into the discussion because that’s got everything to do with Old Frankish.”
“I’m not defending him,” Vaughn said, “but at least he was complimentary.”
“And that makes him not an asshole?”
I lost track of the conversation at that point because I started to read the thread. It was more interesting that I’d thought. Some of the posts were from an actual linguist. It turned out that we didn’t have any examples of Old Frankish. All we had were words from the various languages that descended from it.
Rachel and Vaughn must have started talking about the discussion at some point because the next I heard her say was, “Not only do we have to fight off the Executioner, and Prime, but we might get invaded by linguists.”
In the phone’s tinny speaker, Vaughn said, “He’s already called us. I didn’t pick up, but no joke. The guy wants to speak to Lee, and he’s not the only one.”
I kept on reading. Somewhere around the sixth post, the topic turned to Lee. It went like this:
Eliminator232: so how do we know that’s really old frankass?
CrusherDood: Because it’s the Immortal talking, moron. The guy’s been kicking around for thousands of years. Look at the Double V db entry…
CrusherDood included links to the db entry, plus “the Immortal’s” usenet group, and the collection of websites devoted to finding records of Lee in history.
One of them claimed he’d killed at least two Roman emperors and partially corroborated his story about becoming emperor for a month. Another claimed to have found Sumerian records that described him. They posted translations along with pictures of the tablets. Not knowing how to read cuneiform, I had no way to verify them.
The translation of a medieval grimoire claimed it was possible to imprison him with the use of “blasphemous, eldritch symbols,” but didn’t say which ones.
Outside of his time as Gunther, I couldn’t find much on him within the past sixty years. They’d missed his attempt to start a cult, but he’d been posing as an enlightened being at the time, and hadn’t killed anybody.
That’s how they usually picked up on him. Given that he could completely become a new identity, his only identifying characteristics were his tendency to not die, and an ability to always have edged weapons available — even if he had to pull them out of thin air.
“I’ve never seen him do that,” Rachel said.
“Right,” Vaughn said. “He’s always got swords and stuff around the studio, but I’ve never seen him get one out of nowhere.”
“Me neither.” I checked over a few more sites, and was relieved not to find any references to his martial arts studio.
“Makes you wonder if any of his enemies will show up, and what they’d be,” Vaughn said.
* * *
I woke up twice on Saturday morning, once to say goodbye to my grandparents who left for the airport at six am, and again at ten.
After breakfast, I walked to HQ. Sitting in front of the computer screen, smelling the bunker’s mustiness, I couldn’t help but think that I was spending way too much time down there.
The voice mail program showed more than one hundred messages.
I deleted anything that came from a newspaper, TV or radio station without listening to it, but most calls came from private numbers. In the end, I deleted calls from a lot of linguists, and cultural anthropologists, plus a pile of calls from people who just wanted to speak with Lee.
By the time I finished, I’d gotten so deeply in the habit of pressing delete that I almost deleted calls from Lee, and Isaac Lim.
I listened to Lee’s voicemail first.
“You didn’t get a call back from Prime yet, I bet. He’s been busy, and he hasn’t been watching TV. Check for Ionia Maximum Security Prison in the news. This is the kind of thing I was hoping to avoid by challenging him, but hell, it’s not the end of the world. It keeps things exciting.”
News 10’s website linked to the breakout directly from their front page. The news footage showed a bulky man breaking down a concrete wall. Bullets didn’t faze him, though sometimes he stopped to throw a chunk of concrete outside the camera’s view.
The newscast segued into a slideshow of the escapees, showing all the people we’d fought at that old house on the north west side of town including the man who’d melted the Rocket suit’s arm, and the guy whose leg Cassie cut off.
Apparently he’d gotten better.
Once all the pictures had flipped past, I decided I could be relieved that Man-machine, Mayor Bouman and the guys we’d fought at the convenience store hadn’t escaped. They were in there too.
I sat back in my chair and closed the browser.
And that’s when Prime called.