By Kevin Low, Yale-NUS ’17 – See bio
Last week, on Agent John Locke:
This story starts with an explosion…If it ain’t young Johnny Locke…don’t think we can be any judge of religious standpoints…see that it was a sculpture of a leg, life-sized, from the knee down to the foot…Do yer want ter know why I use a blade…easier way to kill yer is far better’n one that’s complicated…rather attractive woman in the black, form-fitting combat suit…head hit a rock, and his mind went blank.
Chapter 2: Through the Locke-ing Glass
Laughter hammered through the skull of Agent John Locke, and dragged him back to consciousness. Various aching body parts started vying for his attention. His right leg started kicking up a fuss, his abdomen complained that it couldn’t stomach this any longer, and his left arm very rudely flipped him the finger and began asking for handouts. His throat, however, was strangely mute, and wasn’t screaming in pain at all.
He did not open his eyes immediately. After a couple of years in the business, you soon learned that, after being knocked unconscious by person or persons unknown, there are generally very few nice things you can expect to wake up to. He was lying on something soft, and there seemed to be a pillow under his head; he took this as two promising signs, but kept his ears open just in case.
“…wait, it gets better. When the patient woke up, his skeleton was missing, and the doctor was never heard from again! Hahahahaha!”
That one was not good under any circumstances. Ignoring his screaming abdominals, he vaulted upright, crashed his head into the halogen lamps hanging overhead, and collapsed back onto the mattress.
“Ah, my patient is finally awake! I will have to call you back, Galen. Take care, my friend.”
One hand nursing his forehead in an extended facepalm, John Locke opened his eyes and took in his surroundings. Once the stars cleared, he found himself face to face with a wrinkled smile below wire-rim glasses and a head whose hair had migrated south for the winter and liked the chin so much that it decided to stay there.
“How are you feeling, Mister Locke?” he asked.
John Locke let out a primal groan. “Hippo…crates?”
“Of Kos!” said the man called Hippocrates, and laughed. “Haha! I never get tired of that one.”
“Not… funny, doc.” John Locke said as he slowly propped himself up on one arm. “What… woman… Ockham… throat…?” His hand instinctively reached for his neck, and his searching fingers found a rectangle of material taped there.
“Ah,” said Hippocrates, pulling on a pair of thick rubber gloves. “Well I don’t know what happened to Mister Ockham, and I sure don’t know anything about any woman; but as for your throat, I sewed up your wound using a wishbone of a chicken and a horse’s hair, and then I applied an ointment made from intestines of a goat, two sprigs of wolfsbane picked at full moon and a dram of lunar caustic, all blessed by a priestess of the demi-goddess Hygeia, who-”
“Oh come on,” said Hippocrates, visibly disappointed. “Where’s your sense of humours?”
“Oh haha, I see what you did there, very witty, ho ho ho.” Hippocrates picked up a long metal instrument which would not have looked out of place in a medieval torture chamber. “If you must know, I sutured the wound shut with a surgical laser and stuck on a bio-regenerative patch which is slowly knitting the flesh back together. You’ll find talking a bit painful for now, but you’ll get better in a few hours. It’s a good thing Mister Ockham didn’t cut too frenziedly; any deeper and he might have ruptured your windpipe.”
“Guess… it was… a close… shave.” John Locke sat on the edge of the examination bed, and looked around. He was in one of the Consortium’s medical facilities, surrounded by windowless white walls and sterile, lifeless implements. Hippocrates was bustling around his workbench. John Locke respected the old man, who was one of the best medical officers in the organization; if you were admitted into his charge, you would usually make it out alive. John Locke thought he was a bit eccentric though, and was constantly under the impression that the man’s grubby off-white lab coat hung more like a toga on his bulky frame.
“If you’ve regained your faculties of speech enough to make unhumourous jokes, Mister Locke,” Hippocrates said, opening a refrigerator with what looked suspiciously like human hearts lining its shelves, “I suggest you go and see the Brain. He informed me that he wished to see you immediately after you had regained consciousness.
“Talking… is… night… mare,” said John Locke hoarsely.
“Not to worry, Mister Locke,” said Hippocrates, “I understand the Brain will be doing most of the talking.”
The Panopticon, headquarters of the secret global organization the Consortium, was so named because it was meant to observe the world in its entirety. It was a tall skyscraper lined with tinted windows, and its four walls tapered to a point at the top like a tiny pyramid. The building was a pointed glass spike piercing the heavens.
John Locke made his way through the sleek corridors of the Panopticon, heading for the Brain’s office. He passed few people along the way, so he only had to growl a few greetings as he made his way to the access point on the same floor as the medical facilities. It looked like an ordinary elevator entrance, but there were no buttons, only a fingerprint scanner with a brain motif watermarked on its surface. John Locke waited for a moment, then the doors slid open silently and he stepped in.
The Brain’s office was known amongst his employees as “The Think Tank”. It was a large and cylindrical chamber, and rode up and down on a system of pulleys and gears in the hollow centre of the tower; its floor, walls and ceilings were made of transparent, bulletproof plexiglass. The Brain sat ostensibly in the centre, surrounded by very normal furniture – a desk, a roller chair, a set of drawers, and filing cabinets – but also surrounded by the entirety of the Consortium itself. The incumbent Brain enjoyed his office, and often wondered at the ironic wit of its designer: he could see everyone under his charge, but everyone else could also see him. He often quipped that for a secret organization, they sure placed a lot of emphasis on transparency.
“Good morning, Mister Locke,” said the Brain, not looking up from his paperwork.
“Morning… Tot,” rasped John Locke, automatically sticking his hands into his pockets and taking a look around the room. He knew that Aristotle hated being called “Tot”, but always called him that anyway.
The Brain continued to move papers around on his desk, occasionally passing them under his eyes. “I heard about your unfortunate incident with our old friend Mister Ockham,” he said.
“Yeah,” muttered John Locke, unconsciously scratching at the patch on his neck. “I guess… you could… call it-”
“A close shave, yes,” interrupted Aristotle, as John Locke sauntered over to one of the cabinets.
“You… take all… the fun… out of… everything, Tot,” said John Locke.
Scribbling, Aristotle said, “You must be wondering why I called you here.”
“Not… really.” John Locke had opened the cabinet and was inspecting one of the bottles of whiskey therein.
“All men by nature desire to know, Mister Locke.”
“I’m… not… natural,” said John Locke, who had pulled out the cork and was sniffing the dark liquid.
“Well, I would refrain from arguing with you there, Mister Locke. I believe that each man judges well the thing he knows. Don’t drink that, by the way,” he added, as John Locke raised the bottle from his lips.
“Why… not…? Alcohol… kills… germs.”
“That’s the hemlock poison that killed my predecessor,” said Aristotle, calmly.
For a moment, the room was quiet. The Think Tank juddered slightly as it started its ascent, up into the heights of the Panopticon.
“Why… is it… in your… drinks… cupboard…?”
“I keep it as a reminder of the work we have to do.”
John Locke looked at the bottle and carefully put it back in its place on the shelf. He pointed at another one and asked, “How’s… this… one?”
“Should be safe,” said Aristotle, stowing a file in his desk drawer. He looked up at John Locke. “Please, sit down, Mister Locke.”
John Locke took a swig of the whiskey and lounged in the chair facing his boss. John Locke, by his very nature, could lounge in any seat imaginable, whether it was a chiffon chaise longue or a wooden milking stool. He could be sentenced to death by electrocution, and he would still be leaning back, legs crossed, with a martini dangling from his right hand as they pulled the switch.
“I’ve been debriefed about your encounter with Mister Ockham,” said Aristotle, giving John Locke a piercing stare. “Unfortunately, he got away with the artefact, which we will have to retrieve as soon as poss-”
“What’s so important… ‘bout a statue anyway?” rasped John Locke.
Aristotle sighed. It was the sigh of a man who, having preached for moderation in all things for most of his life, was this close to exploding with anger.
“Do you know what that statue was?”
“Not really,” admitted John Locke.
“That was the only surviving replica of the Golden Calf of the Homophonists, the Christian denomination which died out thousands of years ago, according to their scripture, because they ‘maid a full off thee spoken whirred, witch insighted thee Lawed two lei waist too dam, and inn ate daze and ate knights He reigned down haught friars and bass-sick-lee beet damn inn-two paced.’”
“So it is an important religious artefact!” said Aristotle, loudly. “Apart from being referenced in countless religious texts in an incident known as ‘Thee Shin off thee Calf’, it-”
“It’s just a… golden statue, Tot. I’m sure Ockham… will melt it down and… sell it off; he’s… not very complicated.”
Aristotle’s brow furrowed as he steepled his hands together. “It’s not that simple, Mister Locke. I wish it was, but it isn’t.”
With a deep sigh, Aristotle stood up and went to stare out the glass walls of his room. Brightly lit floors descend past his field of vision, keeping a slow rhythm with the low hum of the electric motors winching the Think Tank upwards.
“Why do things exist, Mister Locke?”
“That’s not really my… area of expertise,” croaked John Locke, polishing off the bottle of whiskey.
“Things come into existence due to four causes, Mister Locke. With the theft of the Golden Calf, I fear that right now the materials for disaster are being brought together with a ruthless efficiency; I know not what form the final product will take, but I am sure that its ultimate purpose will be devastating to mankind.”
“It is as I just said, Mister Locke. Thanks to the intel obtained by Recon Agent Bacon, we have reason to believe that a number of other philosophical artefacts are in perilous danger. We have been content to keep surveillance on them up till now, but your mission, Mister Locke, is to retrieve each one of them, and bring them back to Consortium HQ for safekeeping.”
“If you’re sending me… on some wild goose chase… based on some rumour, Tot…” John Locke began.
“I do not believe in the immaterial, Mister Locke, whether it be ghosts or conclusion, and neither should you. Time is of the essence. You will need gear, and a team. We’ll be stopping on the floor of the Armory. Once you’ve talked to Archimedes, you will find the rest of your team waiting in the bar.”
John Locke perked up at the word “bar”. It was worth talking to mad old Archimedes if there were a drink at the end of it.
“Good luck, Mister Locke,” said Aristotle, waving his field agent out the doors, which had opened onto the entrance to the Armory. “And remember: no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”