They were travelling well above the four and five story buildings that dominated the neighbourhood. As the cab travelled south, it provided Zak with a panoramic view of what many people called the city with a split personality. Sol Kappur proper glittered in stylized patterns of light, which gave no hint of the neglect that actually existed on the east side of the Serpent River. The skyline on this side of the river was low level, no buildings over ten stories, and by day its dingy depressed personality was exposed for all to see. Sol Kappur West, as the inhabitants who lived on the west side of the Serpent River so quaintly named their section of the city, was a dramatically different story. Downtown not only reached up to the sky in rich lustre, but many of the buildings disappeared into the haze of cloud, ranging over six-hundred meters tall. This is where the mega-corporations chose to build their lavish offices, Grimrok among them. These huge giants of the metropolitan area were surrounded by lavish estates in the outer areas. Even though Sol Kappur and Sol Kappur West were technically two segments of the same city, they had come to exist pretty much independently of each other.
Lights from the far side of the river seemed a thousand times more dazzling in the darkness. Gazing off into what seemed like a spectacular wall of luminance, Zak’s mind drifted back to the Grimrok theft. Whoever pulled it off had to have had a good deal of clout behind them. It wasn’t only the level of sorcery that almost certainly had been involved or the skill that was needed in disguising the entire operation. In order to learn about the SHIAM prototype in the first place, and then to plan the break-in and execute the operation without a hitch would have needed top notch intel and shrewd planning. Vennhim’s suggestion of a foreign government agency or organized crime being involved was certainly plausible.
But Zak couldn’t rule out the possibility of corporate espionage. There were several corporations attempting to develop android technology in order to compete with Grimrok for the market. And none of them had even come close to developing anything as sophisticated as the SHIAM. And it wasn’t only Aragne corporations who wanted a piece of the pie. Grimrok refused to export to foreign markets, not even to the Dwarven nations. In spite of being Dwarf, Grimrok knew where the butter for his bread came from. The fact that the SHIAM were exclusively Aragne technology didn’t sit well with many of the other countries around the world of Amaco Loch.
Zak had never been involved in a case this completely sealed up and lacking of clues, even during his time with ASID. There was always at least some small hint of a clue. He had found no physical evidence. A virtual tour of Grimrok’s internal network had turned up nothing in cyberspace as well. The only single solitary thing Zak had come up with so far was one transient hint of magic he had sensed. But it had been neither sufficiently tangible nor distinctive enough for him to even be certain that he’d actually sensed it.
The comm continued to blast away from the front dash.
“Yes sir, folks, that was Purple Dragon with their new release ‘On The Far Side Of The Second Moon’. We’ll continue with our night of electro explosions, but first the newest news brief for the hour.”
The loud sing-song voice of the DJ was replaced by a deeper, more sombre voice of the newsman.
“It’s day two of the big storm!” Dramatic pause. “Two nights ago our twin cities were hit by a freakish storm and it refuses to leave! Meteorologists are puzzled over the strange phenomena as it seems that the electrical storm has become stationary over the metropolitan area in spite of prevailing winds and air currents. While the weather experts remain puzzled, several occult scholars have come forward with concerns that this bizarre weather is due to some sort of disturbance within the ethereal layer surrounding our city. We’ve spoken with Dr. Galen Raghnall, Master Wizard of the Institute of Occult and Paranormal Sciences. He confirmed that a disturbance does, indeed, seem to exist in the ethereal layer. This is what he had to say.”
“Two days ago,”Dr. Raghnall began. The deep resonance of the wizard’s voice seemed to immediately reach out to Zak, pulling his attention toward the words being spoken. “Our Dimensional Reality Department noted a strong disturbance within the ethereal layer of our world. The source of this disturbance seems to be centered somewhere within the greater Sol Kappur area, but we are unable at this time to discover the exact location or cause for this disturbance. We are doing everything...”
The idea may not have taken shape had it not been for the allure of Dr. Raghnall’s voice just as Zak wrestled with the mystery of the Grimrok theft. The storm began two days ago. The Grimrok break-in happened sometime on the evening before. Was it more than a coincidence? It was a crazy thought. Zak wasn’t even certain why it had come to him.