2nd City

The Strings That Control the System

Chapter 4

On a warm summer morning in Chicago, an office stirred with the first hints of the work day ahead. Through the large windows, the ever-growing, ever-changing skyline was visible, host to the tallest buildings in the world. Blueprints and drawings papered the walls. Rows of slanted drafting tables stood empty, save for a rare few early risers.
A man, a little overweight, with a round nose and thin hair, entered the office, picked up a coffee, and approached one of the desks. At the desk opposite, a tall, thin man with slicked back hair was already at work, his coat draped across the back of his chair rather than hanging on one of the nearby racks. The sitting man looked up, eyes falling on the other man’s coffee.
“Stuff’ll kill you, Simon.”
“Worse ways to go. Good morning to you, too, John.” Simon lowered himself into his seat. “What are we doing today?”
“Same thing we do every day,” John answered. “We’re going to change Chicago.”
Half a century later, Elsa, all pink hair and scraped elbows, asks Tycho “Do you really think he’ll burn it?” They’re in the front of Tycho’s car, and she’s looking back at Ethan, who’s passed out from sheer exhaustion and pain. He’s holding the Chicago Working folio tight to his chest. They’re parked in front of a hardware store.
Inside, Don was browsing the shovels. He thought back to what Ethan had suggested that morning – that he and Joyce pretend to be looking to move in together when they went to investigate the Bucktown converted church. Don had responded that it wasn’t the right time. That had been an understatement. A few nights before, Joyce had come over. She had Don make her tea, then, the two of them sitting at the kitchen table, she told him that his leaping into the burning house to save Ellsworth had been brave – a level of heroism that she didn’t expect from him – but also selfish. That she couldn’t be with someone so willing to risk everything for someone they barely knew. Don tried to convince her it was a one-time thing, but her mind was made up. Don was brought back to the present by his phone ringing, a call from his sister. Despite not really wanting to answer, he did so reaching out to take a shovel at the same time. As his fingers wrapped around the handle, however, his phone shorted out and the lights in the store flickered. He shrugs this off as odd and buys the shovel.
The quartet travel to three locations given in Ellsworth’s will and speak to the people living there, getting a feel for what extent, if any, these people knew Ellsworth.
Don received another call from his sister Ashley, and this time he answered it. “Tell Ethan to come get his phone.” Some creepy guy who sounded like a brunette version of the agent at the church had given it to her. Ethan realized he’d left his phone in the basement at the church, where he’d been almost choked out by a plaster man. So they got out to Aurora, and after making sure everyone was alright (and that Ashley had had the smarts to meet that guy in public to get the phone), they headed back into the city and for bed.
The next day, back to business: only one of the owners of a potential Ellsworth burial plot had actually known the old man, so they decided to try to bury him there. Ethan set to trying to convince him (with bribery), which backfired. The group started talking about sneaking Ellsworth’s ashes onto one of the properties, Elsa got pissed, and she made a final (successful) appeal to the house owner, John Milovic, who remembered Ellsworth as the man who renovated his house when he was just a kid, and whose dad had some kind of relationship with the old man.
So they buried Ellsworth, and Ethan gave his late friend a moving eulogy.
Over the next few weeks, the group studied the Folio, learning quite a bit about sacred geometry and geomancy from it, getting a crash course in basic occultism.
They found that upon entering the city, however, they were experiencing unusual sensations – the buildings and streets seemed almost to hum or glow with emotional power. The angled cross streets made them feel like they might fall along them towards the center of the city. Each of them experienced this slightly differently – Ethan felt powerful deja vu; Don feelings of power and order; and Tycho strong hunger, a racing heart, and cold sweats. But mostly they felt a strong sense of the emotions the buildings themselves seemed to want to inspire.
They got in touch with Elsa and learned she was hearing music and feeling a sense of vertigo. They decide to go down to Ukrainian Village to see if it was more potent where they buried Ellsworth, but in the cab, Don began hearing snatches of phantom radio broadcast. He got the driver to tune in to the news where they found out that two men dressed exactly the same way had jumped onto the tracks at exactly the same time at two different L platforms. their cabby dropped them off at the Damen L stop. As they got on the train, Tycho noticed a number of things: signs for an upcoming series called Grey’s Anatomy, a brochure for a local hospital, an ad for Zoloft, that made him realize that the area’s energies are focused on healing.
They got on the train and as they rode along, they saw the city through the window begin to twist and curl, ribbons of light bending along the L lines and streets. Then, in the interplay of light and reflection in the window, Ethan saw the image of Simon Ellsworth.

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