Thanks to everyone who read and Atashi Desu, rockyshadow, Makakom, Crukix, parkitcharlie, Cato, Mille Verity, islandsandi heap, Katharen Silver, Ermingard, and and two guests for reviewing. Apologies for the long wait...I was out of the country for work for a couple months, and then there was holiday craziness and all of that. Hopefully things will be a little more regular going forward.
As far as how far this story will go, my original plan was to run it to the end of season 3 staying with canon as much as possible (although I'm obviously including some of my own case stuff). However, I may end up including a couple things from season 4 just to tie up some loose ends, including the metronome my way. Which, for the record, means no (spoiler alert) magical reappearing parents.
Steve fingered his Tesla as the auctioneer held the machete aloft, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Myka doing the same thing. "Where's Claudia and her Tesla grenade when you need her?" he muttered.
"I don't think even Claudia could make a Tesla grenade with enough power to take out all of the people in this room," Myka returned. "Now, is it just me, or is she way too interested in that blade?"
"Maybe she just thinks it's shiny?"
From the sideways look Myka gave him she didn't believe that either, but unless they wanted to Tesla the woman in front of a room full of people, there wasn't much that they could do except wait her out. "Isn't there some kind of blinky-thing from the Warehouse that we can use to make the audience forget that we Tesla'd her?" Steve asked. "You know, like in Pete's secret agent movie?" Because the hand the auctioneer had under the flat of the blade to display it seemed to be sliding down towards the handle to join her other hand, and he really didn't like her expression. If she tried to use the machete on someone they were going to have to intervene and make up whatever explanation they could afterwards.
"Teslas at just the right setting can cause short-term memory loss, it happened to Pete once, but it's really dependent on the person and the frequency and all of that. With an audience this size there's no way that it will work on everyone."
Right, Artie had Tesla'd him once upon a time and he'd had no trouble remembering what had happened. He hadn't understood it, and he certainly hadn't been able to give his superiors at the ATF any kind of coherent explanation—'a little redhead with purple gloves and a tremolo bar and an old guy with eyebrows and a giant bag broke into the museum to play Jimi Hendrix's guitar' didn't count as coherent—but he'd remembered.
The auctioneer's free hand reached the handle and she let out an earsplitting yell and drove the machete downwards, and Steve let out a sigh of relief as she embedded it deep in the wood of the podium.
"Well, that's not going to come loose anytime soon," Myka murmured.
The auctioneer gave a few tugs and then seemed to reach that conclusion as well, and the despondence caused by the book finally came in handy because she gave up and declared it unsellable and then gestured for the next lot to be brought forward. The whispering among the audience was louder now, for which Steve couldn't blame them, but there was only this lot of stone bookends remaining before the first lot of books would come up. The one containing the volume that they wanted. "How much damage do you think a pair of bookends can do?" he asked Myka as they auctioneer picked up the first. "I think we might be all right, I mean, they look too heavy to throw very far."
"Did Claudia ever tell you about the time that Pete and I switched bodies?"
"Oh, great." Not only was his life weird, it was just unfair sometimes.
Despite himself Steve felt his lips twitching as he tried to sort out everything that had happened in the last ten minutes, and just when he thought he'd gotten himself under control he made the mistake of glancing over at Myka. Her eyes flicked up to meet his and—
They burst into laughter at the same time, and Myka shook her head. "We are never telling anyone about this. Ever. We're getting out of here, and when Artie and Pete and Claudia ask how it went, we are smiling and nodding and telling them it was a boring trip."
"No argument here," he agreed. He thought the world of Claudia, but there was no way that she'd ever let him live it down if he told her that he'd run out the front of an auction house—an auction house full of people—with an artifact in his arms. Well, possibly two artifacts. And Pete would be even worse. And he didn't need another lecture from Artie after the whole Halloween decoration thing. He glanced down at the pile of glass shards at his feet and was glad that he wore boots as a matter of habit.
The bookends had been sold fairly quickly, for considerably less than the seller had wanted if the groan from a man in the row in front of them had been any indication, but that hadn't been Steve's problem, and his focus had been on the auctioneer as she'd lifted a glass case out of the next box to show to the crowd.
Despite the fact that he knew that one of the books in the case was their item, Steve had felt a wave of absolute apathy settling over him as soon as he'd seen it. A majority of the other auction-goers had been affected as well judging by the sudden slump of shoulders in front of him, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to care about that either, and if it hadn't been for Myka's elbow striking him sharply in the ribs he'd probably have continued to sit there in silence. That elbow had reminded him that he was supposed to care, though, and he'd shoved his hands into the gloves she'd thrust at him and hurried forward behind her. The auctioneer at the podium was making a respectable attempt to sell the books inside the case, but no one in the crowd seemed interested in putting in the effort to raise their paddles, and after a moment of indecision he'd ended up picking up the entire case and hurrying out of the room. As Myka had predicted earlier—and despite the fact that she'd had her Tesla in her hand ready to take them out—the security guards hadn't even twitched.
"Was it the case, then?" he asked. "Amplifying it, I mean?" He made it out of the auction house but had ended up dropping the case on the near side of the parking lot…if anyone asked he was going to claim that it was because that was the fastest way to get to the artifact through the glass, but he was pretty sure that at that point he just hadn't cared that much about carrying it anymore. Myka had been the one with her wits about her enough to scoop the five books lying among the glass shards into an the artifact collecting bag, which was when his mind had finally cleared, but he didn't remember anything sparking purple when the glass had shattered.
"I don't know." She nudged one of the larger glass shards with her foot. "It's possible, but I didn't see any purple sparks when it broke, and it looks like every other display case that they had in the room. We should probably bag the pieces up and take it with us, though, just in case."
"What were the other books in the lot?" he asked as he knelt and began to collect the larger pieces.
Myka shook her head. "They were just listed as rare nineteenth-century first editions in the auction catalogue. You really think they'd have done better with the advertising."
"Maybe whoever was writing up the catalogue looked at the thing. It's…I didn't want to do anything once she pulled it out. Just bam."
"Yeah, it looked like it hit you pretty hard," she agreed.
"It didn't bother you?"
"Oh, I felt it, but it wasn't like getting hit in the head or anything. It was just general disinterest. And I knew that that was wrong because it's a case of books. I figured we'd better get out of there quickly before things got any worse."
Right, obviously his bookworm coworker not being interested in books would be a big red flag. "Different artifacts, different people." He sighed and waved a hand. It was annoying that he always seemed to be on the downside of that statement. Just once he'd like to see an artifact that made someone else do something ridiculous while he stood there unaffected.
He looked down at the pile of glass he'd collected and then shook his head. "Come on, we'd better get out of here because if the effect has worn off everywhere, there are probably going to be some security guys coming looking for us pretty soon." At least the glass shards were all fairly large and he'd dropped it on asphalt so they wouldn't have to worry about leaving a piece of something behind.
Myka helped him load them up into one of the purple bags quickly and then added the metal edge pieces as well, and the bag was made of sterner stuff than it looked like because he didn't see it starting to rip anywhere despite the sharp edges. Steve was still careful, though. Maybe the case was an artifact and maybe it wasn't, but he'd already been hit once thanks to a ripped glove.
"We are going to have to call Claudia about those security cameras, though," Myka said suddenly as they stood. "Did you see them on the way in? I didn't see anything that would be a control room anywhere in the building so they're probably on a loop, but we don't need that getting to local law enforcement."
Steve grimaced. He'd noted the cameras on the way in too, but he hadn't thought about them after that. Maybe the effects hadn't all worn off yet. And so much for keeping this quiet. "I'll call her from the room." And bribe her with something to keep her from showing the video to Pete.
Myka nodded, and if the security guards did end up leaving the auction house in search of them, it wasn't until they were on the road.
"You call Claudia about the security tapes, I'm going to take a look at the books," Myka said when they reached the hotel.
"Uh, is that a good idea?"
"I've got gloves, and I brought my reading goggles with me. And if it's not the case that was amplifying the artifact—and I'm not convinced that it was—we're going to need to know what the real culprit is before we shelve it. I'll do it in the bathroom so it won't affect you."
Steve thought that that would be better done in the Warehouse as opposed to in the bathroom, and he was pretty sure that Artie would agree…hell, under most circumstances he was pretty sure that Myka would agree, but then again, it was a book. "Be careful," he warned.
The Farnsworth flickered to life when he opened it, but it took several minutes for Claudia's face to appear. "Jinksy? What's up? If Myka took your tablet again, I'll have to fix it later."
"What? No, the tablet's fine." As far as he knew, anyway; Myka had ever actually given it back. "Although I'm telling you it could use a password."
She wrinkled her nose. "Passwords are so twentieth century. But if it's not the tablet, what's up?"
"We need you to wipe some security tapes for us. There was an…incident…at the auction house, and Myka and I were probably caught on the video." She'd no doubt watch the tapes for herself, at which point his prevarication would be for nothing, but he wasn't going to come out and say it if he didn't have too. "Are you still in Arizona?" he asked after a moment. Now that he was focusing that didn't look like the Warehouse or the B and B behind her, and usually she'd be reaching for her laptop by now. And…. "Claude, are you okay?"
She scowled. "This is totally Pete's fault."