Hi, I’m Riley. When you read the stories in the Tales from Atlantis series, you’ll be reading about me and my associates. They are also friends, but I think associates sounds more professional. The PTBs at Homeland Security don’t think the agents are DUE are nearly professional enough, but then, we’re not the kind of agents they’re used to dealing with. Almost all of the agents at HSS are military, or were before they became agents. Not a single DUE agent has ever been anywhere near the military. What we are is preternatural. This is also the reason DUE hired us, and well, you can’t have it both ways.
We take care of those things that the mundane agents can’t, which includes most cases involving supernaturals. There are a surprising number of those cases, in spite of the fact that most people still deny that we exist, but as a result, our numbers are growing daily, and the Norms at HSS never quite know how to deal with us. I figure that’s why they act like we’re either indestructible, or dispensable. Current money in the office pool favors indestructible, but it goes back and forth.
History says this all started about two hundred years ago when some scavengers hauled off the stones on the Bimini Road. When that happened, magic returned to the earth, and Atlantis rose. Now, Atlantis sits out there in the Atlantic Ocean and for some reason, no one wants to go there. Explain that! I certainly can’t, but on the other hand, I have no desire to go there either, so I can’t fault anyone else for not wanting to go. The thing is, after all the legend and myth surrounding Atlantis, it makes no sense that no one wants to go there. However, that’s a topic for another day.
Today, I just want to tell you about the case we’re working on in Digging Up the Past. In this case, we’re trying to find a spade. Yes, a shovel. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, this particular spade grants the holder immortality and can raise the dead, which makes it a bit more complex. The file says it was headed here to be on display at the Smithsonian, but it never arrived. The scientists on the dig where it was discovered have returned to Denton to their home university, and are working on a recent dig at the local lake. A number of the other people on the dig are also at this site, so that’s where we’re going to start.
No one can say exactly where the spade disappeared. It left Peru like it was supposed to, but it was not there when the plane arrived in Washington. Our job is to figure out which one of these people took it. The options are the Braden’s, the lead archeologists on the dig, the anthropologist Nick Manulito, Professor Jackson, who supervises the grad students, and the grad students themselves. Oh yeah, we have to find it before they get a chance to use it.
Just after midnight, I pulled up in front of the slightly rundown house near campus that the agency had rented for Jason and me. The adrenaline had worn off for me as well, but when I dragged myself through the door, it appeared that my luck was looking up. Jason was awake, and it smelled like the pizza was still hot. On the other hand, my odds of hot pizza are good most of the time with Jason around. Most of the time, he looks like your basic blond surfer, but he’s half demon, so he’s constantly hungry, and pizza’s his favorite food. Of course, he never gains an ounce. As a shape-shifter I do have a somewhat faster metabolism than most people, but my metabolism can’t hold a candle to Jason’s.
Oh yeah, in addition to being an empath, which means I can feel, and sometimes even see, the emotions of other people, and animals, technically, I’m also a shape-shifter, probably the only one in history who can’t actually change shape. If you think it sounds odd, try living it.
My folks were more than a little disappointed, but my maternal grandmother is a human mage, and she was ecstatic when my empathy and spell-casting ability showed up. That’s when she and my parents decided I would be spending summers and most vacations with her. My mom started out human too, and despite the fact that she and Dad never had a blood exchange of any kind, over time, she developed the ability to shift shapes. Our scientists are still puzzling over that one. After that, they’d just assumed that their children would also be shape-shifters. Functioning shape-shifters. My brother was. I couldn’t turn myself into anything, no matter how hard I tried.
“Hey,” Jason said when I walked in, sitting up from where he’d been stretched out on the faded couch. “You okay? You look beat. What happened?“
“Someone broke in at the Bradens’ house while I was out walking the dog,” I called over my shoulder as I circled through the kitchen, grabbed a paper plate, and pulled a bottle of water out of the fridge before collapsing in a chair. My chair, along with another semi-matching chair and the sofa, circled a TV that somehow seemed to be on sports no matter the time or day. I could sometimes commandeer it for the news, but not often. Jason is an equal opportunity sports fan. He watches them all.