Taligunge tapped the side of her head reflexively. She prepared herself to receive a transmission that would never come – one that would tell her she was in the right place. Slinking out from a side alley, she surveyed her destination from across the street.
The warehouse was nestled in between a low-rent apartment building and a paper factory, neither of which advertised docility to the lone investigator. The owners had boarded up the windows to add to the forbidding atmosphere, though someone had broken a few all the same; the glass shards had long been swept away by some routine maintenance crew. Boards covered the front door as well and a small sign informed would-be petty thieves that they would be prosecuted for trespassing if they stepped inside the property. Taligunge studied the grey building to find another access point. A slim alleyway snaked around the building to the back where she squinted to see the faint outline of a ladder leading upward. She sped down the alley and mounted it, scaling upward onto the small fire escape, and entering in a broken fire escape door.
Darkness. Taligunge reached for her flashlight and the space burst into illumination; the floor was an empty expanse of sawed-off beams and dusty metal. Pricking her ears up for any suspicious sounds, she made quiet steps towards a door at the far end of the room. She jiggled the handle only to find it locked. From her pocket, she produced a matter dissipation device and began to disintegrate the molecules in the metal frame, muffling the sound with a noise canceling adapter attached to one end. After a few minutes, the door morphed into a gaping hole through which she stepped. Another room shrouded in darkness lay beyond, smaller than the last.
Taligunge shone her flashlight, looking down on a similarly furnished floor space. This room was somehow more tenuous than the last. She detected the faint hum of machinery, live and working machinery, coming from somewhere in the space. She pressed herself against the wall and searched for the source.
So focused was she on the humming sound, she didn’t notice when her foot connected with something softer than metal. Only when she picked up her foot to take another step did she notice the sucking sensation – the floor was pulling her left foot down into it with the force of a vortex. Surprised, Taligunge flashed her light over it and saw something not of this planet: a portal devouring the lower half of her leg. A booby trap set for curious humans on the lookout for the paranormal.
She clutched the metal struts in the wall firmly, turned on her matter dissipation device, and set it down. It vibrated violently as the portal drew it closer and closer in. Then, with a brief popping noise, it began to suck the portal into itself, returning physical solidity to the space and liberating her left leg. Whoever owned this operation had left a mile-wide sign of their questionable activity. Taligunge let go of the struts and rapped on the wall near the portal’s location. Hollow.
She had begun working in the homicide department right after they had hired her. They gushed over her credentials and told her that she appeared enthusiastic about the work in a way they hadn’t seen in a while. Taligunge had smiled with all of her teeth bared, like a lioness baring her fangs – the excitement of entering her first human profession made her feel triumphant.
When she had first come to this planet, it had not been up to her to mold her own life. She was involved in intergalactic maintenance: the protection of underdeveloped planets so that they could mature to decent level for admission into the Intergalactic Union. The task required an inquisitive nature and a unique level of deference. Taligunge knew she would be an observer from the start, but at that point her training was all through books and simulations, leaving her guides to fashion a life for her. First, they had started her as a private detective.
The work interested her only mildly – those that approached her were most often the very wealthiest of humans ready to spy on their marital partners or their colleagues and incriminate them in petty cases. The more interesting parts came when she was required to patrol: she observed humans in their own habitats, viewed their mannerisms and lifestyle choices.
Needless to say, the patrols varied. One night she would gaze up at the bright stars in a rural African sky and the next she would be transported to a dinner party in east Austria to schmooze with private business owners. They all thrilled her – she did not have a favorite. Human life and culture infused her with passion for further study.
At first, the guides stayed with her, linking with her skin to skin in order to experience her conduct in the situations, to correct for any faults. Then they moved further away. Taligunge began to send transmissions of the information she had received. She began to integrate herself into a single location and work through the human media and other channels to gain widespread information. She began to look for a steady job.
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