A Man of Stone, Part 1
"Okay, so let me get this straight. You're 21."
"You used to be Artie's partner."
"As in, you two retrieved Artifacts before Pete and Myka."
"And you're not five gajillion years old?"
"… No? Didn't you just ask if I was 21?"
Claudia was still adjusting to the fact that some random person that they had sprung from the Bronze Sector was going to be her partner. The fact that this person used be Artie's partner didn't help things at all. After all, the last person who came from the Bronze Sector and was Artie's former partner was McPherson. And that guy was bad news.
It didn't help that he had a very noticeable British accent. He might as well have been the love child of McPherson and H.G. Wells with all the flags he was throwing at Claudia. Okay, McPherson and H.G.? That was not a picture she needed in her head. H.G. was okay, but McPherson was as old as Artie and that was… ewww.
"So… Mrs. F says you were bronzed so that we could save you sometime later. What was that all about?"
Harry sighed. Things weren't going like he had expected when he had been bronzed. He had been hoping that Artie would find the right Artifact within a year at most. Then, he'd be back and they'd be hunting Artifacts as if nothing had happened. But he had instead been stuck as a bronze statue for eight years. Almost a decade had passed since he had been brought back to the world. Now, he was a figurative fish out of the water.
"It was a rookie mistake. One that you shouldn't have made given that you had four years of experience." Artie took Harry's silence as a cue to join the conversation. "You were lucky the Artifact didn't act any faster or you'd be dead."
"I know," Harry brushed his hand over his hair, "Don't chase after the crazy guy with the dangerous Artifact."
"Sometimes, working with Pete was like working with you all over again." Artie moved back toward his customary seat before the Warehouse computer, "No regards for the rules. There's a reason why we do things the way we do. In fact, you're the entire reason why the Regents raised the age barrier for Agents."
At this, Claudia had to give a potent glare at the new old Agent. "Really. You're the reason why Artie wouldn't let me go on field missions?"
Well, this partnership was definitely off to a rocky start.
Before she had left, Mrs. Frederic had indicated to Harry and Claudia that she had something else to discuss with them after she retrieved some information. Then, she disappeared. For both Harry and Claudia, this was nothing new. Mrs. Frederic seemed to have the mysterious ability to appear and disappear whenever she wanted and was least expected.
Harry had originally attributed this ability to Apparition, but there was no tell-tale crack or flicker of magical energy. In fact, he was about to start on his customary musing on how Mrs. Frederic seemed to be able to teleport before he got a meaningful look from Artie, who then gestured out towards the Warehouse.
Harry then went out the door, followed by Artie. Claudia had attempted to come with, but Artie had waved her off, mentioning that they were simply going on a simple tour since the Warehouse had changed a lot in eight years.
As they walked down the aisles, the silence was deafening. There was the occasional odd noise from one of the Artifacts, but words were not exchanged between the two. Finally, Harry had had enough.
"I'm sorry, you know." He felt it was appropriate to apologize. "Things might have been a lot more different if I had just followed the rules like you always tell me to."
"Honestly, it wouldn't have helped." Artie immediately shrugged it off. "The guy was about to get away with the Black Plague. You were right to chase after him like you did. Luckily, we managed to bronze you before you died."
"So, I heard you got a new team."
"Yeah, Pete and Myka. They're odd, but they've got some of the best teamwork I've ever seen." Artie actually seemed to glow with pride as he talked about the two. "Pete's kinda like you. He's got vibes, almost like your gut instinct."
"Does that mean that Myka has your rambling encyclopedic knowledge of everything that's ever happened on the face of the Earth?" Harry couldn't help but sneak in a jab at his former partner.
"Ha ha, very funny." Artie sported just the hint of a grin. "No, she's very rational. Her deductive reasoning is absolutely amazing. Their synergy is just something."
They continued walking in silence. After awhile, Harry just couldn't help but comment, "Eight years and you still haven't gotten the Regents to put up mesh screens? I'm a little disappointed, Art."
Artie chuckled, "I haven't heard that nickname in forever. The team just calls me Artie now. Well, except for Mrs. Frederic. She still calls me 'Arthur'."
"She doesn't count," snorted Harry, "She's older than you are."
"Ahem." Harry jumped as if someone had stepped on his tail. Both he and Artie faced the sound only to see Mrs. Frederic. As Harry attempted to calm his heart, which was beating a furious rate, Mrs. Frederic fixed him with a strong glare.
"If you are done with mindless gossip," Harry and Artie nodded furiously, "Then we have work to do. We've picked up a ping in the United Kingdom."
Harry released a breath that he didn't know he was holding. While he had known that he was returning to Warehouse duty, his mind still hadn't settled in that particular reality. After all, it had been trapped within an immobile statue for the good part of a decade. Was he really ready to be heading back into the field so soon?
Even more, he'd be heading back to England, the country he had fled from four years ago. Or was it twelve years? Either way, he was heading back. Despite how long it had been, Harry had learned one thing about his life: things were never simple when he was involved.
The train sped away, roaring in the background as Harry and Claudia walked out of the railway station. Despite spending his formative years in the United Kingdom, Harry had spent little to no time in Leeds proper. While the Hogwarts Express clearly went through Leeds on its way from London to Hogwarts and back, it was hardly a proper tour of the city.
Claudia decided to go over the details of the case as they headed towards their destination.
"All right, we've got reports of an art theft in Leeds. Some guy just breaks through a foot of concrete and steel to get at a vault. In and out within five minutes."
"Sounds like an Artifact all right."
"Great deduction from the senior agent, that fact clearly escaped my notice."
Harry sighed. This had gone on for the last couple of hours or so, from the time they had left the Warehouse to now, Claudia had gone on and on about how Harry had been named the senior agent on the case. To be honest, Harry had little to no clue why was bothering her, but he had let it fly.
"In any case, let's just get to the museum. Maybe they'll have something for us."
"Again with the great ideas. They should make you senior agent. Oh wait, they did." If Claudia Donovan was known for anything, it was not subtlety. Harry had thought her biting sarcasm was funny at first, but enough was enough. Harry stopped in the middle of the street and put a hand on her shoulder as she walked past him.
"All right, that's enough," This needed to end here. Experience with Artie taught him that disagreements between partners could be deadly, especially on Warehouse business. "Claudia, you've been having my ear off for the last couple of hours about this senior agent business. Clearly, something's bothering you."
Claudia adopted a look of fake shock. "Oh, really? You could tell? As expected of—" She stopped abruptly as she saw the look on Harry's face. She shouldered her messenger bag and gestured in the air as she spoke, "It's—it's just that it's my first mission in the field without Artie or Pete or Myka, right?"
Harry nodded, partially as understanding and as a cue for her to continue.
"Well, I owe so much so much to them, you know? If it wasn't for Artie, I don't know where I'd be right now. When he took me in, made me his assistant at the Warehouse, he put a lot of trust in me." Claudia's voice began to break up as she continued. "Until then, I hadn't had someone trust me in a long time.
"So when Mrs. Frederic told me that I'd be getting my own mission, I just felt that was the next step. Artie put all this trust in me, and I thought that I could show him that it wasn't for nothing. That… that—"
"His trust wasn't misplaced and that he could be proud of you." Harry decided to finish for her, seeing that Claudia didn't look like she could continue. "And you felt that me being named senior agent instead of you meant that he didn't trust you enough."
At Claudia's nod, Harry continued. "Well, I think Artie is already proud of you. He sent you out here, didn't he? Knowing what I know about Artie, that means he's proud of you already. Artie doesn't do things by halves, you know that. He wouldn't send you out here by yourself unless he was absolutely sure about how you'd do."
Claudia sniffed and rubbed her eyes furiously. "I don't know what's gotten into me. I'm usually horrible with emotions, comes with being an institution girl." Claudia stiffened. "And now you know I used to be in an institution."
"Claudia, I used to go to St. Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys. That doesn't scare me at all. And I'm pretty rubbish at emotions too, to be terribly honest." Harry snorted. It seemed that after all these years, one of the Dursleys' vile rumors would actually help him for once. "Looks like we've got more in common than we thought."
Hearing that, Claudia brightened up fairly quickly. "Well, since we're done with the icky stuff, how about we get back to the job? I think it's about time to bag it—"
Almost instinctively, Harry interrupted, "Tag it—"
Claudia and Harry paused, momentarily stunned upon realizing what they were doing, before finishing together with a laugh.
"And snag it!"
Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, England
There was a hole in the wall. A foot of concrete and steel didn't seem like much when you heard about it, but seeing it in person was something entirely different. The authorities had cordoned off the area, but as Claudia and Harry gazed through the hole, they could see just how much damage the culprit had done.
One of the police officers walked up to the duo. "The security footage is ready for you and we can tell you what the thief stole as well."
As the officer walked Harry and Claudia towards a nearby security booth, he took the cap off his head and scratched the back of his head. "We're not exactly sure how the thief got in. We didn't find any trace of explosives and the wall doesn't show signs of drilling."
They arrived at the security booth and the guard present there proceeded to show them footage from the museum security cameras.
"At first, there's nothing. For the first five minutes before the break-in, the cameras don't pick up any movement either inside or outside the vault. Then…" The guard quickly hit a key. "Here. Part of the wall just caves in." The guard proceeded to press a few more keys. "Here's the footage from right outside the vault."
Harry could barely tell the details through the grainy security footage, but he took on a grim look as a figure slowly walked up to the vault wall. The figure paused for a second and the wall simply collapsed inward. The figure walked in, headed towards the far end of the vault, picked up a large something and simply left out the new entrance. Harry started to wonder what could cause a twelve-inch thick wall of steel-reinforced concrete to break so easily.
The police officer cut into Harry's musings. "That thing he left with. It was going to part of a new exhibit. A new excavation dug up a part of the Walls of Babylon. I can't remember exactly what it was, but there was a design of some kind of a goat."
Harry nodded in response to the security guard and gestured for Claudia to join him in a secluded corner of the museum.
"Any idea what could've done that?"
Harry shrugged. "It could be any number of Artifacts. Ali Baba's scimitar could break through solid stone with a single swipe. To be honest, Art's better with Artifact knowledge than me."
Claudia nodded. "We might be able to get farther with what he stole. Any clue what that might be?"
Harry was stumped. Of the many famous walls of antiquity, the Walls of Babylon weren't one of the ones that he had committed to memory. Warehouse missions tended to immerse an agent in history, enough that most competent agents could moonlight as history teachers within two years or so. Harry himself knew of the Great Wall of China, the Walls of Jericho, and a few others but details about the Walls of Babylon escaped him.
Claudia pulled out the Farnsworth and flipped open the cover. Artie's face popped up on the minuscule screen.
"How's the investigation going?"
"We need you to look into something for us, Artie." Claudia said, "The thief stole a part of the Walls of Babylon, apparently a mural of some kind of goat."
Artie stared intently through the Farnsworth, his eyes tightening. "A goat? Are you sure it was a goat, not a lion or—or some kind of dragon?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, the guard said it was a goat or something."
Artie looked almost crushed. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he replied. "Then we have another problem on our hands. The Walls of Babylon were famous, the eighth and final gate in particular. Constructed by King Nebuchadnezzar II in 575 BC, the Walls were famous for being impassable. In fact, with the technology of that time, the Walls made Babylon impervious to any kind of attack.
"The Walls were so famous and monumental that the final gate, which was the biggest and most elaborate of them all, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Ishtar Gate was decorated with glazed bricks depicting a procession of lions, dragons, and aurochs which were the goats the security guard mentioned. However, in the 6th century, the Walls were stricken from the Seven Wonders and replaced by the Lighthouse of Alexandria."
Claudia gave Harry a sideways glance. "Okay, that's cool and all, really appreciate the history lesson, but what exactly does the goat thingie do?"
"If you would just let me finish," Artie cut back in, exasperated. "if the aurochs really was a part of the Ishtar Gate, then it would be an Artifact. As Babylon declined, the fame of the Walls disappeared into the mists of time—"
"Yeah, yeah, we don't need to hear about your childhood, Artie—"
"—AND certain parts of the Ishtar Gate were imbued with a certain hatred for the other Seven Wonders, especially towards the Great Lighthouse. Ishtar, as you can, was a very very self-centered goddess. Each brick that makes up the aurochs is essentially an Artifact bomb. As long as they remain in close quarters to another Artifact, the bricks will charge with explosive energy, eventually detonating with the force of small briefcase nuclear bomb."
Harry's eyes widened. That didn't sound good at all. Harry already suspected that the thief broke into the vault with the help of an Artifact. If he stayed close to the aurochs, then it would only a matter of time before—
—something bad happened.
Whew! Done with another chapter. This one took a lot longer than I thought it would. Between work, family trips, and tons of paperwork, I barely had time to work on my writing. For all of you prospective college students, I have a tip for you. Pick your college wisely. Transfer applications are a lot of paperwork, especially if you got credit through exams and such.
Another reason why this chapter took so long to come out was the fact that I was really overwhelmed with the response I got. At most I thought I would get a couple of views and maybe a follower or two. 1,381 views, 54 followers, and 31 favorites later, I realized that this little diversion of mine might be a bit better than I thought it would be. I had the basic formations of a plot in my head, but I took the last couple of weeks to flesh out exactly what I wanted to do.
I'm still nowhere near a distinct plot, but I'm a lot farther along than I was after Chapter 1. I have a plan on how to integrate the Potterverse in with the Warehouse-verse, although it might be a little messy. Some more time was spent on brainstorming Artifacts, which is harder than it sounds. There were quite a few Artifacts that had cool abilities and histories that I were interested in, but I had no idea how to integrate them in a story. On a related story note, Warehouse 13 fans will be able to tell at this point that Harry's taking the place of beloved character Steve Jinks. Unfortunately, I felt like I had to do this because I don't believe I'm skilled enough to juggle several characters. If you liked Jinksie, I sincerely apologize and hope you will continue reading.
I'd like to both thank and blame Sid Meier's Civilization V for this chapter. I had gone without Internet for a lengthy period of time during the writing of this chapter and the Civilopedia provided much of the inspiration and information I needed for this chapter's Artifacts and a few of the ones you'll see in the future. However, I did spend a lot of time that I had planned for writing on playing the new expansion, Gods and Kings, after I got enough money to buy it.
P.S. I've gone back and edited my previous chapter, namely giving them titles. Also, I noticed an error with the Rod of Asclepius. The object I described is actually a caduceus, the emblem of Hermes. The proper Rod of Asclepius has only one snake, not two.
Aurochs from the Ishtar Gate:
The aurochs is a Eurasian ox believed to be the ancestor of the modern domestic cattle. It was one of the animals emblazoned on the Ishtar Gate along with lions and dragons. The Ishtar Gate was itself part of the Walls of Babylon. Erected by King Nebuchadnezzar II, perhaps the most famous of the Babylonian kings, the Walls served as an integral part of the ancient city's defenses. The Ishtar Gate, and the Walls by proxy, were of such renown that, until the 6th century AD, it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Estimated to be 14 meters high and 30 meters wide, the Ishtar Gate stood proudest among the eight gates of the Walls of Babylon. At this period in time, weapons technology was fairly low-key and the Walls were impenetrable to any army that sought access. However, Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great in 539 BC at the Battle of Opis, when the Persian king diverted the great river Euphrates which ran through the city. With the water level lowered, the Persian marched under the Walls and conquered the city with most of its inhabitants unaware.
The aurochs on the Gate was composed of glazed bricks, each filled with the great resentment that came with being ousted from the Seven Wonders. Proximity to any Artifact causes a brick to gather energy, eventually reaching a resonating point and exploding. Proximity to any Artifact from the Seven Wonders speeds up this process.