Dark*Matter #6–The Last Equation

  1. Game Date: 2016 March 5
  2. Markov, Lester, Bill, Maverick
  3. Investigating the leads
    1. Maverick recognizes the name Fascius Claudan and is able to plunge into the various internet theories about him and his most famous work – the Libri Plures Admiratio, or the Book of Many Wonders.
      1. Claudan was a Brussels-born sage who lived from 1535 to ~1561.
      2. First 6 books were published on astronomy and mathematics and responsible for many minor breakthroughs in science and technology. Some of his pulley systems, cog works and early machinery for pumping water as well as various knots are still in use throughout Europe.
      3. In the later years of his life, he was said to travel to Asia and Africa to learn from their sciences. Upon his return, he was said to be withdrawn and strange. His defaulted on his debts, and wrote a series of articles he called “Wonders” on astronomy, Asian and African-influenced science and alchemy.
      4. These were collected into his last book called the Libri Plures Admiratio. It contained a code which was thought to be an equation – this was regarded in small circles to be an epiphany or complete gibberish. Mathematicians and cryptographers throughout the ages have spent hours plugging away to solve the glyphs, with little to no success. This equation was called the Laqueus, a math puzzle he claimed to have learned from an Arab in Istanbul (Constantinople) in 1560. The book claimed that the Arab was 600 years old and had seen the “grand library of Nakotic,” wherein lie the secrets of the ancient architects of the world.
      5. Caludan was incarcerated in an alms-house in the summer of 1561 and assumed to have died that summer from an outbreak of cholera which swept through Brussles and killed thousands.
      6. Only 6 known copies of the Libri survived to the modern age, and all but one were lost during WW2. What is believed to be the original copy resides in Brussels.
    2. In examining the photocopied book Bill had found in Wei’s room, they learn that it was a photocopy of a copy in the university’s library. It was published by an “Educationals Studies Book” and translated by Maurice Ester.
      1. The company ceased operations in 1944. The location of the company in the lower East side of Manhattan is now a Shack Burger, having previously been a Dunkin Donuts, a tire repair store and an art gallery.
        1. Ester died from progressive Alzheimer’s disease in 1986.
        2. Lester, Markov and Bill begin cautious examination of the text.
        3. In the last pages, Lester and Bill realized that some of Wei’s mathematical scrawls in the margins are interpretable.
          1. Lester makes out 2012 October 11 1458 followed by his own date of birth and then his own social security number and “hello!”
          2. Bill reads out 2012 October 11 1458 followed by his date of birth and 42.634 and -70.156
          3. The date and time correlate to this exact moment they are reading the book.
          4. Recognizing this, Lester realizes that everything in his life is predetermined by this equation; nothing that he does is going to change it, and starts to become particularly fatalistic.
    3. Determining that the others who had seen the equation may be in danger, Maverick hacks into the googlelists’ moderator’s email – one Dr. Julio Kimbrel, a professor of math at Alfred University in upstate New York. He sees that the email is unread in his account and recalls the email from the list and deletes all evidence of it from his computer.
      1. Maverick then begins to hack into the email accounts of the various list members. They include:
        1. Kelly Casselman, 29, a math teacher in a high school in Brinkman, Montana.
        2. Ben Philbeck, 44, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore labs, California.
        3. Kelly Pletcher, 21, a physics student at the University of Columbia, Missouri.
        4. Julius Sward, 31, a house-husband in Modesto, California.
        5. Tia Markell, 29, a math dabbler from New York City.
        6. Emile Tumlinson, 51, a chemist for Tyson Foods from Miami, Florida.
        7. Jamie Izzi, 19, a biochemistry student from Paris, France.
        8. Noreen Kuder, 22, a math student from Manila, Philippines.
        9. Dr. Eve Mehaffey, 39, a physicist from Brighton, England.
        10. Lawrence Badek, 42, a math and chess enthusiast from Wiesbaden, Germany.
    4. They spend the afternoon in a rented hotel as Markov and Lester continue their attempts at deciphering the Libri and Maverick works to hack the emails.
      1. Tia Markell’s email is first as she is closest in NYC. The account proves easy to break into and Maverick removes the email from her Inbox.
      2. Maverick is able to confirm that Kelly Casselman had indeed read the email the day prior, but Philbeck’s email sat in a spam folder unseen. Tired from the all-night drive as well, he is not able to stay up yet another full night.
  4. 2012 Oct 12, Friday
    1. The next morning, Markov, Lester, and Bill opt to physically investigate Tia Markell as well. After confirming she is still at work at as a accounting aid at Morgan Stanley, they break into her apartment and confirm there was no sign of disordered thinking.
    2. Shortly afterwards, a call from State Trooper Blanet, who informs them that he had gotten a lead on the origins of the murder weapon. It was a Remington Model 870 shotgun serial number 2022998 that was registered to the New York Police Department and supposedly still at the 24th Precinct in NYC.
      1. The agents meet with Sergeant Marquez at the desk who escorts them to the basement weapons storage lockers. The locate the wooden storage box still nailed shut in the locker. Upon opening it, four of the 870s sit undisturbed, but an empty cutout in the foam shows where a fifth is missing.
      2. Markov stays with the box as Lester and Bill accompany Sergeant Marquez up to get a forensics team for fingerprints and find out who was responsible for checking the weapons in and out.
      3. The computer records show that Sergeant Marvin Herrera had checked out dozens of weapons on the morning of 2012 Oct 10 as part of the quarter weapons maintenance program. They were moved to the precinct parking lot for the gunsmith to work on for the day and just brought back down at the end of the day.
      4. Herrera is brought downstairs and questioned about the missing gun, but swears he knowns nothing about it. He is a 19-year veteran of the NYPD with a sterling record and informs them that it was a simple “pipe” replacement of the shotguns under the care of Jose Lopez of Long Island Firearms. He claims he never left the guns unattended.
        1. Upon further questioning, he remembers that he did walk away from the guns “for a minute or two” when an accident occurred at the other end of the parking lot as an exiting squad car hit a dog.
      5. They pull up video surveillance of the lot on that day and “around 9 or 9:30”. As they watch, Herrera and Lopez are in the foreground with several wooden boxes of weapons. Bill makes out in the background of the video, Michael Wei standing just across the street from the parking lot. For about 20 minutes, he just stands there with a duffel bag regularly looking at his watch. Suddenly, he begins to walk to the west parking lot entrance. Some fifteen seconds later, a patrol car pulling out of the east entrance jerks to a stop as a terrier runs out in front of it chased by an older woman. The struck dog and frantic woman draws a crowd as well as the attention of Herrera and the gunsmith, who get up and walk to the other entrance. Just as they leave, Wei arrives at the boxes, uncovers the them and pries them open with a hammer he removes from under his jacket. He takes one of the shotguns and places it into the duffel bag, then hammers the box shut again before covering them and walking back away. The time stamp shows 09:21. A minute later, Herrera and Lopez return to their work.
      6. The Sergeants are obviously disturbed by what they saw and asking “how could that psychopath know we’d be gone for a minute?!?”
    3. Maverick continues to work on the email accounts of the mathgeeks as the agents investigate the driver of the squad car (Officer Jonathan Levy cleared), the owner of the dog (a pensioner Alice Richardson – cleared), and Jose Lopez.
      1. They drive to his home on Long Island and break in when they convince his wife that he had been in a bad car accident and they needed her at the hospital.
      2. The only math book of note they find is a picture counting book “for ages 2-4”, likely belonging to one of the 11 grandchildren pictured in the various family photos.
      3. Maverick meanwhile finds that Kelly Pletcher had accessed the email the previous evening. Julius Sward’s inbox was full of unread urgent messages “CALL ME NOW!”, “what’s going on?!??!!”, “OMG are you ok???” from this morning. The googlelist email was read in the morning shortly after it was sent on 2012 Oct 10.
        1. Further research revealed on news sites revealed a house fire in Modesto, California that is suspected to have “claimed the lives of the Sward family – investigators on the scene now”.
    4. With two suspicious events now connected with the Laqueous, Maverick calls Field Director Jones about the list of potential exposures and requests resources for help in containing the equation. They are requested to track down Casselman while the Hoffman Institute were sending other assets from St. Louis to investigate Pletcher and from California to Modesto. He states that he would be contacting sister organizations in Europe and Asia to look into the non-US names on the googlelist.
  5. 2012 Oct 13, Saturday
    1. The four catch the first plane to Montana from NYC in the morning (with Maverick buying a nice hat prior to boarding).
    2. Upon arriving in Brinkman mid-afternoon, they surveil the unassuming single-story ranch house in a quiet neighborhood. No car in the driveway, and no lights on in the house. Various neighbors go about their Saturday business.
      1. Markov and Lester sneak up to the house and notice the front door slightly ajar. The stealthily move in and see the living room covered in a bizarre mixture of ripped and arranged pictures – mostly of teenagers.
      2. Moving further into the house, they find the young woman seated at her desk working on a computer spreadsheet; a Mossberg shotgun laying across her lap. As they approach, she smiles at them and asks quietly, “What is the answer?”
      3. Quickly replying “9920.29…” before trailing off, Casselman suddenly raises the shotgun. But Lester was anticipating the move and fires a pair of shots from Johnson & Johnson – hitting the gun and causing it to fall. A scuffle ensues with Casselman’s Tai-bo put to good effect against the surprised Markov before they successfully restrain her.
      4. On her spreadsheet, a variety of math calculations has resulted in a series of seven 9-digit numbers. They delete all files on the computer (after Markov makes a backup copy). Then a quick call to Field Director Jones has them calling the police to detain the woman while being recommended to track down and destroy the copy of the Libri in Brussels.
    3. They depart on a red-eye to Chicago to head to Brussels.
  6. 2012 Oct 14, Sunday
    1. The long flight gives time for Maverick to catch up on his rest while Lester and Markov study the Book of Many Wonders.
    2. Arriving in Brussels that evening, they secure a hotel room near the L’Universite libre de Bruxelles, where the Libri is located.
    3. While checked in the room, the news began running a breaking news story about an “unfolding situation” of a middle-aged man threatening suicide at the top of the Marktkirche Cathedral in Wiesbaden, Germany. Later that evening, the man had unfurled what appeared to be a bed sheet with numbers written on it in shoe polish. They recognize the same numeric sequence as at the Ridgway house. Sure enough, the man was later identified as Lawrence Badek, a previous math teacher. Even later, the Spezialeinsatzkommando stormed the rooftop to try to secure Badek, but it ended when Badek fell to his death along with one of the SDK SWAT commandos on live TV.
    4. Markov and Lester continue studying the photocopied English translation while Maverick finally manages to break into the email account of Emile Tumlinson. Scattered among a multitude of unread emails, are the occasional ones which had been read. Fortunately, the mathgeeks one is buried on the 12th page, unopened. It is quickly deleted from the email.
      1. Having spent close to the entire day trying to puzzle out the Laqueous, Lester manages to convince himself further that no only were his actions predetermined and non-malleable, so were those of everyone and everything in the world! To deal with these depressing thoughts, he wanders into the night of Brussels where he acquires – and immediately begins using – cigars; they calm his mind to rest from the constant thoughts intruding into it.
    5. Bill is able to get into contact with an acquaintance, Franc Petri; Franc had spent some time with Bill at the Hoffman Institute in New York. He was able to provide the agents with some pistols as they were unable to bring their guns into Belgium.
  7. 2012 Oct 15, Monday
    1. Maverick works through the night and day to break into the remaining email accounts while the other three go to the Brussels University Library.
    2. The three find it quite easy to draw the attention of the librarian away from the small closed room where the special collections are stored and for Lester easily secreted the book away in his waistband. After a quick debate as to the merits of keeping the book, Lester regretfully sets it alight with a cigar.
  8. Epilogue:
    1. The NYPD informs the agents that the fingerprints on the weapons box indeed matched that of Michael Wei
    2. Kelly Casselman was arrested and placed into a psychiatric ward. The numbers on her spreadsheet corresponded to the Social Security Numbers of 7 of her students.
    3. The Hoffman Institute also informs the agents that the body of the FBI mathematics crypto-analyst, Special Agent Sarah Comox was found Oct 15th at the Shaver and Sons – a small stock trading firm on the lower east side of Manhattan. Firefighters responding to the fire in the building (located at 229 9th Ave East) found her body on the ground where it appeared to have fallen nine stories from the room. It required several hours to id the body. Surveillance photo showed she accessed the safe and destroyed 2.3 million US dollars worth of bearer bonds by setting a small fire. Interestingly, the phone number of Shaver and Sons is 212-333-0229.
    4. XP 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *