David had visited the National Archives before, a typical class trip that at the time was no more than time out of the classroom. Now of course, he wished he’d paid better attention. They were already several levels below the Rotunda, the one part of the building he remembered. Now Agent Diaz flashed her badge at the access panel to an elevator, heading further down.
“I’m perfectly capable of walking,” David grumbled, trying not to fidget in the wheelchair, feeling awkward and conspicuous. “And I look like Fidel Castro in this thing.”
“Castro wore fatigues,” Diaz said with a grin, then caught herself and cleared her throat. “Sorry. The flight suit was the best we could do on such short notice. Your street clothes were unsalvageable. And they wouldn’t have concealed your ballistic vest.”
“There was too much ground to cover on foot,” added LeMoyne, pushing him along an impossibly-wide corridor. “And you had lost too much blood, too recently. It wasn’t worth chancing.”
“Fine,” David half-whispered. “Then let’s get back to it.”
“Of course,” nodded LeMoyne. “Well, as Lorelei told you, the Glastonbury remains did indeed contain a very small amount of viable DNA. Teeth and bones can harbor it for tens of thousands of years. And, as you’ve learned, the Protocol Six initiative successfully matched a sample of your donated blood to those remains.”
“How the hell is any of that legal?” David scowled.
“It was done under scholarly auspices, rather than those of law enforcement.”
Another elevator, likewise card-keyed, and another two levels down.
“It would be illegal to use the information from this program in an investigation, or in court,” Diaz said as they descended. “But that’s not the purpose anyway. You’re not a suspect.”
“And yet I feel like a prisoner.”
LeMoyne nodded as the elevator pinged their arrival. “Handlers, bodyguards, managers… I imagine the VIP life must be similar to that of an inmate in lots of ways. At least the food and accommodations are better. And they did let you keep your cell phone.”
The doors opened to a small room, a heavy gate not unlike from a prison waiting behind an armed guard. LeMoyne presented his credentials and signed a register, and the guard issued him a key with a deferential smile. The automated gate rumbled, straining under its own weight, and rolled away in painful lurches, finishing with an immense clang. Here was a passage to a smaller room, featuring an immense vault and similarly guarded. LeMoyne submitted his badge once more and the guard slowly dragged open the vault door.
“So,” David mused, “James Koenig helped you with all of this, and became persona non grata. Why?”
The interior to the vault was roundish, and red-lit as if they’d entered a photographer’s darkroom. There was a palpable sense of a temperature and humidity change, as well. The walls were covered in thick, vertical slats, and LeMoyne unlocked one of these. It slid outward on telescoping rails to reveal a document, handwritten on parchment, ancient-looking, and carefully preserved between panes of heavy glass.
“David,” Diaz answered apologetically, “Professor Koenig read what you’re about to read now. His reaction… was not positive.”
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