Simon Illyan stared at the man across the table from him in the interrogation room. He was blond, green eyed, and according to armsmens reports, had literally appeared from thin air into the gardens of the Imperial residence. Simon found this explanation rather unlikely.
The security breach was hugely embarrassing, not to mention highly dangerous. The man must have discovered some previously unknown passage into the palace compound. He was unlikely to be an assassin, Simon thought, considering he had loudly yelled "All right, which one of you dicks did it?" upon entry into the compound. Simon had seen overly complicated plots before, but the man was likely just very drunk.
"Where's my lawyer?" asked the man.
A very drunk Betan, Simon amended, although the man's accent was curious, very different from Lady Vorkosigan's.
"Barrayaran Imperial Security is not required to provide its detainees with lawyers," said Simon.
The man started at him blankly. "What the hell is Barrayar?"
Good God, the man must be even more drunk than he looked, or high as a wormhole on some illegal substance. It was a wonder he had manage to actually crawl through whatever passageway he had found without killing himself or becoming hopelessly lost.
"I don't suppose you'd care to answer some questions before we begin the fast penta interrogation?" Simon asked. Finding out the truth was important, but sometimes the lies they told could be just as revealing.
"Sure," said the man, pushing back his chair on to two legs. "What do you want to know?" He seemed more exasperated than nervous, a curious reaction for someone being detained by ImpSec. It was almost as if he were accustomed to this (or something like it), although Simon knew for a fact he'd never been arrested on Barrayar at least.
"Let's start with your name."
The name triggered a flash of recognition in Simon's chip, and he smiled. "Unless your parents had a passion for 20th century rock stars, I highly doubt that is your name."
Simon saw a brief flicker of movement in the man's eyes, but apart from that his face remain impassive. He spread his hands. "What can I say, my parents were big into music. I guess I'm lucky I wasn't called Bon Jovi."
Just as Simon opened his mouth to ask his next question, there was a knock at the door. A medtech entered, carrying a plastic flimsy. He handed it to Simon, saluting.
"Toxicology report sir. There was no trace of alcohol or any illicit substance found in the subject's blood. He's completely sober."
Simon frowned. This was not quite what he had expected. Perhaps the man a distraction, but security sweeps had failed to turn up another intruders. Nonetheless, Emperor Gregor had been moved to a saferoom, along with Lady Vorkosigan and Lord Miles. Still, it was time to stop playing around and start asking question with fastpenta.
"Go fetch a fastpenta kit," he said to the medtec, who saluted and hurried off.
Simon grabbed a test strip from his pocket, and pressed it to the man's forearm.
"The hell is that?" asked the man, trying to squirm away.
Simon waited the request few minutes, and then checked the patch. No allergy. Interesting. Surly a conspirator or assassin would have the fatal reaction induced to try and protect their plans, or was this only another level of a distraction, a trap ready to supply false information?
Just then the medtec bustled back in carrying a fastpenta kit. At a nod from Simon, he plunged the hypospray into the subjects arm. The man started, his eyes going wide before his face relaxed into a languid fast penta grin.
"What's your name?" asked Simon, beginning with the usual preliminary questions. These gave the fastpenta time to fully activate, and helped establish a rhythm with the subject.
"Dean Winchester," answered the subject. So not Mr. Sambora then. Simon hadn't though so. However, to his displeasure, the Winchester name triggered no memories on his chip. Oh, he knew there was a gun, used on old earth before the days of space travel, but nothing for a person. The name had never appeared on any list of spies, terrorists, guns for hire or even petty criminals Simon had ever seen, which was quite a feat, considering how many he had reviewed over the years. If anything, it made Simon even more concerned.
"What were your parent's names," Simon asked, moving on to the next question. They were designed to be easily answered and easily verifiable. In cases like this, they might be able to provide additional information that could assist in identifying the subject or his motives.
"John and Mary Winchester," said the subject, "But their dead now."
No recognition their either, which while disappointing, was not unexpected.
"I was dead too you know," said Winchester, giving an odd tilt of his head. "But then Cas got me out."
Interesting. Simon hadn't seen any cryoprep scars on the man's neck.
"Who's Cas?" he prompted.
"An Angel of the Lord."
"Metaphorically?" Simon desperately hoped so.
Winchester shook his head. "Nah, Cas is a real angel. His real name is Castiel and he's got wings." He tried to spread his arms, likely to demonstrate the purported wing span of the…angel, but since he was cuffed to the table, all he succeeded in doing was rattling his cuffs.
Simon held in a sigh. It appeared that he was not simply dealing with a Betan (who could be rather difficult on a good day), but a fundamentalist Betan theist. Wonderful. Perhaps the man wasn't Betan though. At least that would be a small mercy.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
Finally, at least something Simon (or at least his chip) recognized. It appeared Kansas was a state (something perhaps analogous to a district on Barrayar) that was part of a country called the United States of America, which itself was part of the Greater North American Union.
Simon had tuned out Winchester's talking, but the man was still going on.
"…sleeping in motel rooms 'cause Dad would have to go hunting all over the country, except when he'd drop us off with Pastor Jim or Bobby instead."
"Us?" interjected Simon.
Winchester nodded. "Yeah, me and Sammy. He's my little brother, only he's not so little anymore 'cause he's taller than me now, but I'll still look after him 'cause that's what big brothers do."
That was a nice sentiment, Simon supposed, but he personally wouldn't have entrusted so much as a cat to Winchester. The man was clearly insane.
"Why does your brother need looking after?" Simon asked.
"Sammy can take care of himself, but hunting's dangerous," explained Winchester, "We've got to watch each other's backs."
"What do you hunt?" asked Simon. Perhaps this man was some sort of gun for hire. It was certainly possible if he was proficient enough with a weapon to go hunting.
"Ghosts, demons-nasty black eyed sons of bitches- witches, vampires, werewolves…."
Simon stared, and kept on staring as the man named nearly ever creature out of Barrayaran folk tales. The man was insane. Absolutely, completely insane.
"Stop," he said, holding up a hand, and Winchester ceased his babble. "How did you get into the gardens?" It was long past time to get to the heart of the matter. He should have asked this questioning first, as soon as the fast penta had taken full effect, instead of trying to ascertain who the man was.
"I don't know."
"How can you not know?" Simon demanded. He had meant it somewhat rhetorically, but under the influence of fastpenta, Winchester answered.
"Last thing I know, I'm sleeping in my bed, next I'm in this really fancy garden and there's guards."
"Right," said Simon. Memory loss. Perfect. "Do you have any idea how you might have gotten there?"
"Probably those dicks," said Dean, "They've tried things like this before."
"The angels," Simon repeated. This conversation was swiftly moving from bad to worse.
Winchester nodded vigorously. "One time, they made us think we were office workers and another time Zachariah took me to 2014 in the future where everyone died. I think the office one was worse."
Simon rejected his previous assumption that the conversation had already hit rock bottom. This was a new low.
"What year do you think it is?" he asked cautiously.
Simon needed a drink. Badly.
After questioning the man if he was part of a conspiracy against the Emperor, had any intention to hurt the Emperor or even knew who the Emperor was (and receiving a negative answer to all three questions), he passed the rest of the questioning off onto Captain Allegre and headed off to find some coffee.
He was successful in his quest, getting a rather large piping hot mug at the mess hall with in the palace complex. In a show of great restraint and sensible thinking, he did not add any alcohol to it.
He sat there sipping his coffee for a few minutes, pondering Dean Winchester. The man was insane, obviously…unless…A nasty suspicion tickled his mind. What if the Betans, or even worse, the Cetagandans, had found a way to beat fast penta, and this was a test run, or worse, a distraction from the real plot. Despite his paranoid thoughts, he thought this to be rather unlikely. Still, he sent a message to Captain Vormartin telling him to double the amount of patrols currently scouring the palace. ImpSec did not believe it was possible to be overly cautious.
He sat there for a few more minutes, idly sipping his much needed coffee, until to his alarm, Lady Vorkosigan entered the room.
"What are you doing here!" he hissed, springing out of his chair to go to her, "You should still be in the safe room with the boys!"
"Relax Simon," Cordelia said, "Gregor and Miles are still in the panic room, along with half a dozen Vorbarra armsmen. They're perfectly safe."
"But you my lady, are not."
Cordelia raised an eyebrow. "I thought you caught the man in the garden. Reports from the ImpSec men at the door said that he wasn't in his right mind."
"He's not," Simon admitted, "He's been babbling on about black eyed demons, vampire's with retractable fangs, flickering ghosts and ever other creature that might appear in some sort of backwoods grandmother's bedtime tale. Still, there is some concern he might have had some help getting into the palace."
Cordelia pulled up a chair to Simon's table and sat down. "Simon, we need to talk."
"Is now really the best time? The palace is under lock down."
"It has to be now," Cordelia took a deep breath, as if she was stealing herself for something. "I don't think that the man is insane Simon."
"You cannot be serous!" interjected Simon.
"Alll those things he was talking about, they're real Simon. Ghosts, djinn, witches, shapeshifters. It's all true."
Simon just started at her, his brain unable to come up with a response to such a ludicrous statement, and from Cordelia Vorkosigan of all people.
"Call up Alllegre," Cordelia suggested. "Have him ask that man how to kill a vampire. He'll say decapitation. A werewolf. He'll tell you it's a silver bullet to the heart. A trickster. A bloodied stake. He could probably recit the whole of a demonic possetion ritual for you, right there and then."
"Of course he could," said Simon, "Everyone knows that. Just like everyone knows demons hate holy water and you kill shapeshifters with a silver knife. They're in every legend back to the colonization of Barrayar. What I want to know is if they are real why I've never heard of these things, or seen any reports of their existence."
Cordelia smiled. "Aral had an interesting theory about that. Have you ever wondered where the Barrayaran paranoia about mutants came from?"
"You can not be serious," said Simon, seeing what she was hinting.
"Why not?" she asked, "There's a fear of mutants throughout Barrayar's history, long before the Cetagandan atomics hit."
"I know that," snapped Simon, "but to suggest that our ancestors were afraid of mutants because they thought they might be some mythical monsters seems a little farfetched."
"The same stories appear everywhere on Barrayar about heroes of old killing all the monsters and making a safe world for their children."
Simon shook his head, still unconvinced.
"The man has a tattoo, doesn't he Simon?"
Simon blinked at this unexpected turn in the conversation. "Yes, on his chest. Its-"
"A five pointed star surrounded by flames," finished Cordelia, "I bet it looks a lot like this." She fished in the neckline of her shirt, and pulled out what looked like a backwoods Dendarii folk charm. The make was slightly different, the disc was made of metal, not wood and the cord was some synthetic material as opposed to the rough twine the hillfolk used.
Other than, they were identical, Simon realized, as he compared the item in fornt of him to one from his memory, down to the symbol etched onto the disc. It was, as Cordelia had said, a five pointed star wreathed in flames, which was identical to Winchester's tattoo.
"It's a ward against demonic possession," explained Cordelia, "When I was 14, a demon possessed my brother. We were lucky. There was a Hunter nearby, and he was able to exorcise the thing without killing my brother. He gave us these charm to protect ourselves, and I got him to tell me everything he knew about the supernatural. I didn't want to be caught off guard again."
Simon nodded, unsure of quite what to say to a statement like that.
"Go talk to him again Simon," Cordelia urged, "Please, trust me."
There was not much Simon could say to that except alright, so he cleared over his coffee mug and walked back to the holding facility, Cordelia following.
To his horror, Winchester was not alone in the interrogation room. Somehow Miles had escaped the saferoom and penetrated the ImpSec perimeter because he was now sitting in the room, talking with the prisoner.
Doing his best not to let his panic show, Simon approached the two-way mirror, and flicked a switch so he could hear what the two of them were saying.
"…sure ghosts are real," said the man, "Me and Sam have ganked them plenty of times. There not that hard to get rid of when you know how."
"Are they solid?" aksed Miles.
The man shrugged. "Sort of. They can move things around and attack people, but they sort of flicker."
"Like a bad holovid," stated Miles. It wasn't a question.
Winchester looked at him more seriously. "You've seen one."
Miles shook his head. "Not me."
"Right," said Cordelia, who had joined Simon at the mirror, "I think I've heard enough." Before Simon could do anything, she turned and strode into the interrogation room. After a moment's thought, Simon followed.
"Hello Miles, Mr. Winchester."
Miles whipped around at the sound of his mother's voice. "Mom! I can explain. I swear."
"I'm sure you can," said Cordelia, "But first you can tell me and Mr. Winchester more about this ghost Gregor's been seeing."
"What!" squawked Simon and Miles simultaneously.
"I never said this had anything to do with Gregor," protested Miles.
Cordelia fixed him with a look. "Kid, really. Do you think I'm stupid?"
"Well, no," said Miles, looking somewhat chagrined. Simon himself felt chagrined. How did he not know that Gregor thought he'd been seeing a ghost? It was his job as head of Imperial Security to know these things. What if it had been an intruder, or worse, the first stages of madness that seemed to lurk in the Vorbarra line?
"Its not that hard to figure out," said Cordelia, apparently responding to the confused look on Winchester's face. "Miles said it wasn't him, so it had someone he knew and trusted. He wouldn't have believed Ivan, Bothari would never have mentioned it, and while Elena might have said something, only Gregor could have ordered the guards to let him out of the saferoom." She turned to face her son. "Am I right?"
Miles nodded. "Gregor heard that they had some sort of ghost hunter in custody, so he Requested and Required that I go ask how to get rid of ghosts. He'd have gone himself, except he wouldn't be able to order ImpSec to leave him alone."
Simon shuddered. "At least the boy has some sense," he muttered under his breath.
"Wait, wait," Winchester interjected, "This Emperor of Barrayar I keep hearing about is some kid? And people actually listen to him and do what he says?"
"He's fifteen actually," said Cordelia, "Not that it makes it that much better for him. Aral is his regent though, until he comes of age."
Winchester just stared at her as if she were speaking a foreign language. On a second reflection, his confusion made plenty of sense. From what Simon recalled, government in the 21st century United States had been a Betan style democracy, with a leader who kept changing every few years. It seemed like a rather inefficient system. Better to have one leader who was trained from birth.
"Now," said Cordelia, interrupting Simon's political musings, "Let's go take a look at that ghost. Miles, where did Gregor say it was?"
"You're not letting that kid come," said Winchester, at the same time as Simon said, "I think Miles should stay here. They glared at each other, as if annoyed to actually be in agreement.
"Goodness no," said Cordelia, "Bothari will take Miles to the saferoom. We will accompany them to make sure they actually go in." She gave her son a well deserved pointed glare. "Then, the three of us, along with a squad of ImpSec soldiers will investigate…"
"…the South wing third floor corridor," filled in Miles somewhat grudgingly. He was obviously annoyed at not being part of the investigation.
That was quite alright with Simon. He was not, however, alright with Winchester coming along.
"I'm still not convinced about any of this supernatural stuff," said Simon, "and even if I was, I wouldn't want him coming. I don't know him, and I don't trust him."
Cordelia sighed. "I understand Simon, but we need another person who knows about the supernatural along. Besides, you've already checked under fastpenta that he doesn't mean any harm to the Barrayarn Imperium or Emperor."
"We'll have Bothari, and then an entire squad of ImpSec men" protested Simon.
"They won't know what to do if they see a ghost. They'll panic, or freeze. He won't. And if you're worried about him doing something, you just mentioned all the people you'll have to watch him."
There was no way he was going to win this one, Simon realized. "Fine," he agreed, "I'll com the safe room and have Vormartin's squad waiting for us there."
Cordelia nodded. "Good. I like him. Make sure they have salt and iron."
"They can get salt from the kitchen," said Simon, "but where exactly are they supposed to get iron? I don't suppose steel would suffice?" Most of the decorative swords around the palace were made of steel.
"No," said Winchester and Cordelia immediately, but Cordelia added, "Tell them to get the pokers from the fireplaces for the Green Dinning Suite, the Octagonal Sitting Room and the North Parlor. Those are all definitely iron."
Those were all rooms where Cordelia had ordered redecorating, Simon noticed. He cast his mind back over the improvements Cordelia had instituted over the past decade. It seemed that the palace now had three devils traps worked into the stonework, a secondary water supply filled with what he highly suspected was holy water, and a saferoom made of salt soaked iron.
Oh, he had known about all of these projects when they were first instituted, but their true meaning had never been apparent until today. In his defense, it wasn't like he should have recognized that the pattern in the flooring by the main entrance was actually some obscure symbol from a book he had read years before, or the reason Cordeila had invited that backcountry priest over to the palace the day the plumbers finished.
Simon put the home improvements out of his mind, and called Vormartin, telling him to prep his squad. Cordelia called Bothari, who was already on his way over. Apparently the Emperor Requesting and Requiring it was not reason enough for Bothari to let his charge out of the safe room, so the Gregor had distracted him while Miles made a run for it.
As soon as he realized what had happened, Bothari followed after Miles, but he had errorusly assumed that his charge had headed to the furnace room, an assumption that Miles sheepishly admitted that he had purposefully cultivated. This had given Miles the window of opportunity he needed to sneak past the guards-how had he done that?- and start interrogating Winchester about ghosts.
Bothari finally made it to the interrogation room five minutes later, and the five of them set off for the safe room, where they would drop off Miles and his bodyguard, but pick up Vormartin and his squad. They passed though lushly carpeted corridors, passing the occasion guard or palace servant, who would take one look at their party and give a respectful curtsy or salute.
Up ahead, Simon saw a figure that looked to be staring out one of the windows. He was back lit from the setting sun, so Simon couldn't quite see who it was, though he hoped it was a member of ImpSec he could send on with a message to Vormartin.
When the figure suddenly flicked. Simon blinked, trying to clear his head. Had his memory chip started to malfunction? No, perhaps it was just a trick of the light.
The figure flickered again, seeming to move closer.
"Simon, did you see that?" Cordelia asked, her voice a controlled calm, but her eyes tight with worry. Not a trick of the light then.
Flicker. What was going on?
"Miles…" began Cordelia.
"I didn't know!" he interjected, his eyes wide as he stared at the ghost, "Gregor only ever saw him on the third floor."
So Miles hadn't lied about the location of the ghost to try and see it before going back to the safe room.
"Does anyone have salt? Iron?" Winchester asked. Everyone shook their head no, and Winchester swore. "Run."
They all took off down the corridor, Bothari carrying Miles, who for once was not protesting that he could run on his own. Simon felt somewhat foolish, but a look over his shoulder to see the figure-no ghost- flicker then move a few yards closer, cured him of that.
"Quick! In here!" said Cordelia, throwing open the doors to one of the palace's smaller dining rooms. She raced to the fire place at the far end of the room, the rest of them following. She grabbed one of the ornamental urns from the edge of the mantle and started pouring the contents around her.
"Salt," she explained, at Simon's confused look.
"Right," he said, "Should I get the other one?" He nodded towards the jar at the far end of the mantle.
Cordelia shook her head. "It won't do any good. It's filled with hypos of dead man's blood."
Dead man's what? Simon didn't even want to know how she had gotten a hold of that.
Winchester flashed a charming grin at her. "It's nice to meet someone so well prepared for once. How long have you been hunting?"
"I'm not a hunter," explained Cordelia, "I just take reasonable precautions."
Cordelia had a sense of paranoia and degree of caution worthy of ImpSec, Simon reflected, although perhaps that wasn't quite accurate. It was only paranoia if there wasn't anything out to get you.
Cordelia finished the circle and they all stepped inside. Winchester tossed Simon one of the two fireplace pokers he had just grabbed. Bothari put Miles down, and was now brandishing a pair of metal tongs that were usually used for moving hot coals.
They waited in silence for a little while.
"Is it coming?" asked Simon after a few minutes of stillness.
"Probably," said Winchester, "It saw us and started following us earlier. Each ghost is different though."
"Did anyone get a good look at who that was?"
Everyone shook their heads.
"His uniform was really old fashioned though," said Miles, "like something from one of my history vids."
Simon felt a weight lift that he hadn't even realized was there. Not Prince Serg then.
"Have their been any violent deaths here?" asked Winchester, "Something that might make a sprit stick around?"
Simon and Cordelia shared a look while Miles nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah! There was Emile Vorbarra who was hacked to pieces by his borhter, Andrew Vorsmythe who was pushed from the roof, Crispin Vorgrims who was poisioned by the cook, Julien Vorbarra who was accidently stabbed by Stephen Vorbohn who then killed himself, Marcus Vorbarra who-"
"I think that's enough," said Cordelia, putting a hand on Miles' shoulder.
Miles looked disappointed. "But I'm only halfway through the first century of the Time of Isolation. There's loads more!"
"Well, that really helps narrow it down," muttered Winchester under his breath.
They stood in silence for another few minutes, waiting. Simon was just opening his mouth to ask Winchester how much longer they were going to stand here for when the doors to the room slammed open. A figure flicked into view between them, and started advancing towards the group.
The figure was suddenly right next to them. It stood at the edge of the circle, and to Simon's shock (and relief) actually seemed unable to pass the salt line. Simon felt a stirring of relief and triumph, which vannished the moment he saw the ghost's face.
It took all of Simon's will not to flinch backwards, but instead to lunge forward with the poker. His strike missed, but Bothari, who had reacted at the same moment, manage to land a solid blow. The figure dissipated.
"Is it gone?" asked Simon.
Winchester scowled. "Only temporary. To properly gank it, you have to salt and burn the bones, or whatever's left of the body."
"That might be somewhat difficult," said Simon.
"Of course it is," muttered Simon to himself. Then, louder he asked, "Why?"
"I recognized him."
"You knew him?"
"No," said Simon, "but Yuri Vorbarra was rather infamous."
Behind him, Simon heard Cordelia echo his swearing, and a sharp intake of breath from Miles.
"So I'm guessing this Yuri fellow wasn't a nice guy," said Winchester.
"He killed almost his entire extended family, and started a bloody civil war in the process," explained Cordelia. "There were only a few survivors, Aral and Ezar among them."
"Aral as in your husband Aral?" asked Winchester.
Cordelia nodded. "Yes, Miles' father."
"And I'm guessing this Gregor kid is related to the other one?"
"The Emperor," said Simon, stressing the words, "Is Ezar Vorbarra's grandson."
"Are they any other relatives?" asked Winchester, "I'm guessing this guy wants to finish what he started."
"None in the palace" said Simon, "Ivan Vorpatril is currently visiting relatives with his mother."
Winchester nodded. "Well, at least there's that." He paused. "Why the wait?"
"Sorry?" asked Cordelia.
"This guy's been dead for a while, right?"
"Nearly forty years," answered Simon. He paused, seeing what Winchester was getting at. "Ah. So why hasn't he been seen before? He's certainly had plenty of opportunities to strike."
"Sometimes something will just set them off," explained Winchester, "Like tearing down their old house, or some big change happening where the used to work. Has anything like that happen recently?"
"No," said Cordelia, "But Miles just turned eleven. That's how old Aral was on the night of Yuri Vorbarra's Massacre. They killed his mother and brother that night, but he got away"
Winchester's face clouded with some unreadable emotion. "Right. That would do it." He set his jaw into a determined line. "Now let's go burn this son of bitch before he comes back. Where is he buried?"
"This is why it might be somewhat difficult," said Simon, "While Yuri's body was destroyed following his dismemberment, his scalp remains on display at the Vorhartung Castle museum."
Winchester's face was a picture of disgust and incredulity. "His scalp is on display?"
Faintly, Simon caught Cordelia's characteristic mummer of "Barrayarans!"
"It's really cool!" piped up Miles, who had been listening to the conversation quietly for some time. He paused reflectively. "But I think the exhibit on the cavalry is still the best. One of the horses in the paintings there looks like Fat Ninny."
Hearing her son speak seemed to reinvigorate Cordelia. "We should get Miles and Bothari to the safe room before the ghost comes back. They should be safe there- the walls are made of salt soaked iron."
Winchester nodded approvingly. "Nice."
The party set off for the room, and reached it with no further trouble. When they arrived, Miles went inside with characteristically few protests. Bothari went with him both to protect him and to make sure he didn't try to sneak out again.
In compensation for Bothari's loss, Simon picked up Vormartin and his squad of six ImpSec men, who were all awkwardly carrying fireplace pokers. They had, however, kept their nerve disrupters and plasma arcs. Simon approved.
The odd little party, himself, Winchester, Cordelia and the ImpSec men, made their way out of the palace compound as quickly as possible. At the gate, Simon commandeered two ground cars, and before too long they had made it to Vorhartung Castle.
"Sir, what is going on?" asked Vormartin, glancing down at the poker in his hand.
Simon glanced at the rising mass of Vorhartung Castle in front of him, sighed, then turned to Vormartin. "Ghosts, among other supernatural menaces are real. Yuri Vorbarra has come back as a ghost, so we are going to get into Vorhartung Castle, remove the scalp from the museum, and salt and burn it so as to kill the ghost. Any questions?"
"….No sir?" Vormartin's eyes flicked down to the poker again.
"Iron dissipates spirits," said Simon, in response to the unasked question, "As does salt."
Vormartin nodded and looked marginally less confused, which Simon supposed was the best he was going to get.
The group assembled by one of the side doors. Simon knocked on the door, and the guard on duty only took one look at him before letting them in.
"Imperial Security business," said Simon, in lieu of a better explanation. "Carry on." The guard saluted, and then returned to his post.
The party made their way to the museum, moving as quickly as possible while still making sure the area was clear. They saw no sign of the ghost, and it was starting to make Simon nervous. It seemed too easy.
It was almost a relief then, to find the door to the museum locked. In his hurry to get to the museum as soon as possible, Simon had forgotten to go over to the main security office and pick up the keys. By tradition, the door wasn't palmlocked, instead opening with a time of isolation style metal key. The security features on the inside though, were as modern as possible. Well, he'd deal with those as they came, mostly by force. He had no need to be subtle.
Winchester pulled what looked to be an archaic set of lockpicks out of his pocket, but Simon waved him aside. His way would be much faster, although he was sure the Vorhartung Historical Society would throw a fit. He pulled his plasma arc out of his pocket and fired it at the door. Half of the door was immediately reduced to ash, and the rest caught fire. As he had thought (or rather, hoped), the sprinkler system inside museum put of the fire in a matter of moments. Simon was gratified to see the expression on Winchester's face, which was a combination of shock and awe and jealousy.
They stepped through the remains of the door into the museum. Simon made a mental note to build more secure doors when reconstructing the entrance. Tradition was all well and good, but sometimes security was more important.
Yuri Vorbarra's scalp was currently being kept in a glass case near the entrance. Simon started towards it. It was at this moment that Yuri Vobarra's ghost chose to attack. It flickered into existence and then somehow flung one of the soldiers into a glass case on the far wall. The man did not get up.
To their credit, the remaining of the ImpSec men acted well. After a few shocked curses or hurried prayers, they grasped their wits enough to swing at the ghost. All their shots missed, though Vormartin's came the closest. He didn't have another chance to strike though, his poker was torn from his hands by an unseen force and thrown halfway across the room.
The ghost flickered/lunged for Vormartin, but stopped then vanished mid motion when something hit it square in the eye. It was a bag of salt, Simon recognized. He turned to see Winchester standing ready with another one.
The man shrugged. "Shot guns loaded with rock salt are much better." Simon filed this suggestion away for further consideration.
Suddenly there was a scream. Simon whipped around to see one of the Imp Sec men lying on the floor, a piece of glass in his chest. The ghost flickered back into existence. Vormartin was able to fend it off with some of the salt he must have procured from the kitchen. This fix was only temporary, and a few seconds later, the ghost appeared again. One of the men swung at it with the poker, but missed. The ghost then somehow made one of the display case move, sending it from its location on the far wall to crush the solider.
"Son of a bitch!" swore Winchester. He ran over to the fallen man and grabbed his poker, taking a swing at the ghost. "Get that case open!" he yelled to Simon.
With Winchester distracting the ghost, Simon turned his attention to the display case. Cordelia had been trying to get it open, but with no success. There was a palm lock on the side that was specifically keyed to the curator's print. Simon could deal with that, given enough time. Buggering the palm lock would make it unusable, but Simon's priorities were more in line with not getting killed by a vengeful ghost rather than avoiding property damage.
He pulled off the panel, and started expertly pulling out and replugging wires. His perfect memory made what should have been a very technical process the work of moments. Soon enough, there was a very satisfying click, and the case popped open.
Without a moments hesitation, Cordelia reached inside and grabbed the scalp. She drenched it with what looked to be a very expensive bottle of Escobaran wine and salted it. Simon pulled an emergency fire starter out of his holster, and threw it to her. She immediately lit it on fire.
Simon turned around just in time to see Yuri Vorbarra's ghost go up in flames. It was highly satisfying.
"Sir?" asked Vormartin, looking over towards Simon, "What the hell just happened?"
"The very first operations of ImpSec Supernatural," replied Simon, "Congratulations Vormartin, you're promoted, and are now a section chief. Come see me in my office tomorrow and we'll talk."
Two days later, Simon was finally able to send Winchester back home. Cordelia had spent the last few days looking through books in the Palace library, and she had finally found something that she though would allow Dean's friend Castiel a way to find him.
Simon, on the other hand, had spent the last few days interrogating Winchester on everything he knew about the supernatural. Simon was determined that ImpSec would not be caught unawares or unprepared.
He still thought it odd that he had never encountered anything supernatural previously, but Cordelia seemed unperturbed. "Would you go to a planet where every inhabitant is likely to try and kill you?" she asked, "There's much easier pickings than Barrayar out there." Still, as Barrayaran anti mutant predujice became less and less widespread, it would aslo be less and less of a deterrent. ImpSec would need to be ready.
Simon procured the ingredients, and Winchester preformed the ritual. Nothing happened for a minute, and then there was suddenly a dark haired man in a beige coat standing in the middle of Simon's office.
"Cas! It's good to see you!" said Winchester, "What the hell happened?"
"It was Zachariah again this time," explained the stranger. "He was never the most imaginative. He has one trick at his disposal, and seems to believe it will always be effective."
Winchester rolled his eyes at that. "Well, that's not really working out for him."
"Indeed." The stranger tilted his head. "We should return to 2010 now. Your brother is waiting."
Winchester nodded, and just like that, they were gone.