13: A Scientific Investigation
Lance Algar, on the other hand, wouldn’t know a coincidence if it fell out of the heavens and slapped him across his tanned face. In fact, he would probably giggle and try to make idle conversation with it. Imagination had a habit of running away with him, leaving his common sense to rot from neglect. A native of the wilderness, with natural blond hair and a keen eye for thrift-store fashion, he was everything the Cities had come to oppose and detest — and that was why Chris liked him. He appreciated his friend’s innocence, that childish sense of curiosity, the way he developed crazy theories and absurd stories from the most banal of situations. It made the world a brighter place. Just a few minutes ago, Lance had declared the Scar “some kind of crazy necropolis, filled with dead people. Dead people in hiding, like, mooching around being dead and grey and all lifeless and stuff, but not coming out ‘cause they’re too embarrassed.”
Presently, his attentions were on a tendril of the mysterious ash as it seeped out of the shadows and across the street. “Dude! Zap it!” he cried, jabbing his finger in the phenomenon’s direction. “It might be, like, a spooky ghost or something!”
Chris pointed his quantum pen at the phenomena. There was no sign of a breeze. He traced its path until it slithered into a nearby alleyway and vanished from both sight and sensors.
“I told you to zap it,” said Lance. “Can you zap ghosts?”
Chris lowered his pen and sighed. “How many times must I tell you that this is a scientific instrument, not a death ray? And even if it was, I wouldn’t know if it could zap ghosts because I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting one.” He would have to eliminate all other improbable possibilities before he considered something as implausible as a ghost. There were strange forces at work in the world, without a doubt, but it was best not to go blaming them for every little gap in scientific understanding. “I imagine it’s some kind of electrostatic levitation,” he said, leaving Lance’s imagination to fill in the blanks.
The further they moved into the Scar, the more common the flurries of ash became. Chris observed and recorded each one, noting how streams moved in relation to both each other and their surrounding environment. He noticed how they often avoided the buildings, save for a few so inundated with the substance they almost appeared a part of it. Something about those buildings in particular left Chris feeling cold, but there was nothing to suggest a genuine drop in temperature. He blamed his nerves; there was no telling when the Sophist Aristocracy might turn a corner and demand his arrest. It wouldn’t look good on his record if the Foundation had to bail him out.
Chris would like to model himself on that mythological figure they called ‘the Doctor’.