In the far corner sits Susannah Toren; she is quite literally dirty, covered with earth, mud caked around her fingers and under her nails. Clenched in those fingers is a stone, an almost perfect black orb of obsidian, marked by a single jagged red crack like a scar. The guttering red light from that scar gives the impression that it is alive; that it breathes.
Like all the impressions Black Thirteen gives, this one is true.
Black Thirteen; the most terrible and dangerous of the crystal balls known as the Bends of the Rainbow, an order of magnitude more powerful than any of the others. It sees into the world behind the world, the merciless and irrational abyss behind the carefully-constructed world of order, and it speaks in the voice of oblivion and suicide. Supposedly destroyed, but he'd known--known within ten pages of King's story The Things They Left Behind.
It survived. Somehow, it survived.
How long has it been hidden here, weaving its glammer through the roots of the rose's own white magic? Long enough to get a hook into all the employees of the Tet Corporation; long enough to put them out of the way for a short time, anyway, send them partially or wholly todash at desperate need.
And given two hundred years to work--yes, here is Michael's missing factor. The goodmind, the an-cal, going up bit by bit like a fortress around the rose, and the worst enemy already inside with them. The corrupter; the defiler. Like worms crawling under the skin.
Oh, he thinks, aghast.
Yes, that explains everything.