Summary:Legion: Skin Deep
This page contains a chapter by chapter summary of Legion: Skin Deep. We hope this summary will make it easier to find specific areas of the book, as well as providing a quick plot refresher for anyone who doesn't want to take the time to reread the entire book.
- 1 Part One
- 2 Part Two
- 3 Part Three
- 4 Epilogue
- 5 Notes
Stephen Leeds tries to ignore Ivy and Tobias, two of his aspects, while on a blind date with Sylvia, the daughter of a Real Estate Magnate. Things go poorly when he starts talking to his aspects, and while he briefly salvages the situation with the help of Tobias, things go down hill when J.C. arrives uninvited. J.C. tells them that the perimeter is secure, but sees a woman he thinks looks suspicious. Sylvia leaves after Stephen tells her about J.C., who shortly returns telling them that they have a problem.
J.C. reveals that the woman he saw was Zen Rigby, a private security contractor who is paid to fix problems in "legally ambiguous ways". Stephen texts Wilson, his butler, to bring the car around, and receives a reply back telling him that Yol Chay wanted to speak with him. Stephen agrees to to meet with him. When Steve's limo turns up, Yol is in it. They start to chat, briefly talking about women. Yol asks if J.C. is present, and if he's annoyed to see him. Yol then donates $10,000 to a Gun Violence prevention charity under J.C.'s name, which causes J.C. to growl. Eventually he gets to business. He wants Stephen to help recover a corpse, and more importantly, what the corpse knows.
The car pulls into Innovation Information Incorporated (I3), a company Yol has bought out. Yol offers financial independence in the form of a 10% share of the company to Stephen, with the shares being non-conditional, relying on the fact that for the shares to be worthwhile, Stephen will need to solve the case. Yol just asks that he goes into the company and hears what the case is. Stephen agrees, pocketing the envelope with the shares.
They walk through the building, which looks very modern and welcoming. J.C. just complains about the security.
The engineers Stephen meets with explain their technology: they are making use of the human body as a way of storing a lot of information in a really compact manner. They say that storing works fine, but the problem has been reading and writing the information. One of their teammates, Panos Maheras, had been working on a delivery mechanism involving viruses. His virus worked but had the potential to be used in a dangerous manner. Their problem, however, is that Panos is now dead. He stored his research in his body, and now his corpse has been stolen.
J.C. continues to complain about security as they walk to Panos' office. Garvas, one of the engineers, continues to fill Stephen in on the details of the case. They finally reach the office, and Stephen's aspects get to work. Ivy quickly deduces Panos was Greek (probably second generation), and after he gets Stephen to shift some papers, Tobias tells them Panos was a maker, Ivy noting he went to lots of conventions. J.C. points out a rubber wedge on the floor which Panos would have used to keep his door from automatically locking. Stephen notices Open Source related stickers on the desk. Tobias gets him to have a look at Panos' computer (which is not password protected), finding he talked a lot on various technology forums. Using all this, Stephen can confidently say that Panos wouldn't have sold the company out - he'd have posted everything online over selling information to other companies. Stephen requests the list of rival companies, along with the coroner's report, including photos of the body, details on how the corpse vanished, and contact details of Panos' friends and family.
Stephen confronts Yol - by making Stephen a shareholder, if the feds come in and shut everything down, Stephen will get implicated in the whole affair along with Yol and the rest of them. He tells Yol he needs to talk to the authorities, to which he says they already have, and the engineers, and probably Yol, will be quarantined that night. Stephen asks how I3 could let this happen, and Yol explains that Panos was meant to be cremated as part of an in-house agreement, and that regardless, company policy dictated any data be encrypted using a one-time pad. Stephen comments on the fact that Panos didn't seem overly concerned about security. Yol gives Stephen a folder with all Panos' net interactions for the last few months. Stephen tells him he'll find the body, but doesn't think he'll give it back. Yol says that's fine, as what they're most concerned with is the information not falling into the hands of a rival company. Stephen leaves, and asks J.C. to use his phone to call the other aspects and send them to the White Room.
Stephen informs the reader that he has 47 aspects, with Arnaud being the latest to join, but that it is taxing to imagine more than 5 at a time. To get around this, he has the White Room - a room with non-reflective smooth white walls, floor and ceiling which has been soundproofed. His aspects filter into the room. When they are all present, Tobias tries to get their attention, but they are all making too much noise. J.C. pulls out a gun and shoots into the air, immediately silencing everyone, though Stephen complains he is going to have to imagine a hole in the roof now. Ivy hands out information sheets containing everything Stephen knows relating to the case, before handing a separate sheet to Stephen, containing everything he knows about I3's rival companies. The aspects spread out, all starting to work through the problem, analyzing it from different angles. Stephen, after reading through the papers he'd been given, strolls around the room, looking at everyone's work. After the circuit, he then dug into the stack of papers containing Panos's web and email history, which takes him an hour to skim through. Having gone through this, he starts a second circuit of the room. He stops when he walks past Audrey, who is writing text in the air with her finger. He imagines a glass plane for her, to make it seem like she'd actually been writing on something. He looks over what she's done. She had started to have a look at the biochemistry of the virus, but also had had a look at finding patterns in what Panos wrote online - Audrey was created when researching handwriting analysis, with a bit of cryptography. She asks him to do more crypotography research so she can do more analysis. Stephen tells her that he will see what he can do, telling her to focus on the forum post analysis, and not the chemistry. He pulls up a book on cryptography as he leaves, starting to have a read. Tobias reports to Stephen, telling him that the general consensus is that the virus technology is viable and the threat is real. He says J.C. suggests verifying independently that I3 is indeed in lock down. They plan the order of actions - call a contact in Homeland Security, then visit the Coroners office, then meet with Panos's family. Tobias finishes up by saying J.C. wanted to talk to Stephen. Stephen finds him, and J.C. tells him that he's got info on the assassin, Zen Rigby. He's worked that the reason for tailing him is to try and find the key to the information in the body. He suggests Stephen might have been bugged. J.C. asks Stephen to carry a gun, though Stephen reminds J.C. that the aspect can't shoot anything. J.C. then seems to have come to terms with the fact he's not real. He explains that Arnaud has a theory, and brings him over. Arnaud talks about multiple dimensions in which everything that could have happened did happen, so each of the aspects would be real in one such parallel dimension. Thus J.C. claims that instead of being a Navy SEAL, he's an Interdimensional Time Ranger. Stephen tries to offer a rational reason, but J.C. finishes the conversation, reminding him of the time. Stephen tells Tobias to have the standard team (Tobias, Ivy, J.C.) and who else they need in the garage by 7:30 A.M..
Stephen puts the cryptography book on text-to-voice and sets it to 5x speed, listening to it while having a long shower. After having breakefast, he gives Elsie,his Homeland Security contact, a call. He wakes her but she is still willing to check up on I3. Stephen then tries to call the coroner's office, though only getting to voicemail. He gets a text reply from Elsie, verifying that I3 was on lock-down. Shortly after Stephen leaves with his team (Ivy, Tobias, J.C., and Audrey), J.C. informs them that they are being tailed. Audrey asks Stephen if he wants to try some hacking. When he agrees, she writes down some instructions for him to follow. First he manages to get the last 4 numbers of Zen Rigby's credit card by calling up the restaurant and pretending that Zen was his wife and had used the wrong credit card to pay for her meal. Getting the last four digits, and the bank, he calls the bank's credit card fraud prevention number, claiming that his wife's credit card and mobile had been stolen. He checks what number they have on file for her, telling them that that was the number of the phone that got stolen. Having got Zen's mobile number, he asks which rival of I3 J.C. thinks she works for. J.C. tells him that it would probably be Exeltec, being the most desparate. Stephen downloads an app on his phone, and sets it up to make him appear as Nathan Haight, owner of Exeltec, when he makes a call. He uses the app to call Zen's number. When she answers, he signals Wilson (who is driving) to honk his horn. After hearing the horn over the phone, he hits a button on the app to imitate static, saying something, knowing it will be too distorted to hear. Zen tells him, presuming he's Nathan, to stop bothering her. The result of this is that they know they are being followed, and they know the company Zen is working for. J.C. says they should break into Exeltec's offices. Stephen says there's other ways of finding out what they know, starting to formulate a plan.
J.C. advises Stephen to jump out the car as they turn into the parking lot, using the hedge at the turn for cover in an attempt to get behind their tail and capture the assassin. Stephen tells Wilson what he's about to do, telling him to keep driving as if nothing has changed. At J.C. prompting, he jumps out, assisted by a push from J.C.. He hides in the hedge as the car that has been following them passes, and then parks. He creeps up to the car, pulls out his gun, and jumps up, pointing the gun through the open window of the car, only to find that it wasn't been driven by the assassin.
Stephen finds a dark-haired kid in the drivers seat. Stephen gets into the back of the car. He asks where Zen is, but he quickly works out the kid has no idea about who Zen is, guessing instead that the kid is Dion Maheras, Panos's younger brother. Stephen puts his gun away, and walks Dion to where Wilson had parked the car. After both entering the car, he asks Dion why he was following them. He explains that he thinks I3 stole the body, and he knew Stephen had something to do with the company, having seen pictures of him getting into a car with Yol. Stephen explains that I3 doesn't have the body, and that he is just trying to recover the corpse. He tells Dion that he needs him to stay in the car while he talks to the Coroner.
Stephen enters the medical complex, and knocks on Liza's door. Her secretary lets Stephen in, telling him that she's waiting for him, but that she's not excited though. She tells him she's got nothing for him. He refers to the missing body, but she tells him it's not her problem anyway, that he should ask the morgue about it. He pushes harder, knowing he needs Liza to let him in. He asks about the police, if they're are involved, and then pushes harder, reminding her about all the paperwork, interruptions, and meetings that'd be involved in the investigations. Eventually, he bribes her with an offer of an interview. He lets her chose who conducts the interview. She accepts the deal, but only if the interviewer gets as long as they want, to which Stephen grudgingly agrees. Liza takes him to the morgue, opening it up, and given Stephen 15 minutes to have a look around. He looks around the room, and then lets his aspects get to work. He asks Liza if one of the workers could have been bribed, but she doesn't think so, continuing on to say Security says no one came in overnight. He asks who else was in that day. J.C. says they need to fingerprint the place. Stephen asks if the police has done forensics, but Liza says this case isn't high enough on the priority list. He then asks about security cameras, at J.C.'s prompting. Tobias tells Stephen they're going to need Ngozi, their forensics expert. J.C. gives her a call, and then they use a video call to get her advice remotely. Stephen walks around with the phone, scanning everything. Having scanned everything, they check the other draws, but Panos's corpse isn't in any of them. Ngozi then gets Stephen to scan the obvious contact points around the room. When looking at the door, Ngozi spots dusk marks on the floor, indicating that tape had been used. Stephen gets some tape and puts a strip over the same spot, and leaves the room. The door shuts with a thump, but doesn't lock, allowing Stephen to enter without use of a key-card. Now knowing how the thief entered, they leave the morgue to go speak to the security officer.
The group stops by the restroom for Tobias' sake on their way to the security station. Stephen washes his hands and looks in the mirror while he waits for Tobias to finish. Afterwards, they go to the security office to review the camera footage. The security officer gives Stephen a USB with the footage. Stephen leaves, and then walks around to the back of the building to look for possible entry points. He gives the back door a shake, to check the lock. Shortly later, the security officer bursts out the door. Stephen inspects the door, noticing the deadbolt and observing that the tape trick wouldn't work on the door. Stephen continues around, going halfway down the next alleyway before being interrupted by Zen Rigby, who has a gun. She gets him to toss aside his sidearm, and then give her the USB. Stephen stalls, asking her how she pulled of the heist. She frowns. When she remembers his aspects, he is able to hit his head against a window a few times before Zen pulls him away from the building and throws him to the ground. He stalls futher by telling the Panos gave the information for free on the internet, to which she responds that they know Panos tried but was prevented by I3. At this point, the window he had knocked against is opened by the security officer, which frightens Zen away, letting Stephen run to his car. As they drive around, Stephen thinks about what they know, before deciding he needs to talk to the rest of Panos' family. He calls Yol, letting him know that the company involved is Exeltec, and they have a hit man working for them, who had just cornered him in an alley. He tells him to follow the instructions he was going to send via email, and then questions him about what they weren't telling him, about why they were monitoring Panos. Hanging up, he starts composing an email while watching the video footage. As he is doing this, he asks Dion if his family was religious. He tells him that their Mother is, but that he and Panos were Atheist. Stephen asks Dion who the family priest is, finding out that it was Father Frangos, who was listed as having been to the morgue near when the body could have been taken. Stephen questions Dion about Panos, and his views on I3. Stephen's aspects interrupt him, telling him to look at the video. They see a cleaning lady moving about, entering the coroner's offices. Reviewing the footage of previous nights, they notice that the lady on the night the body was stolen was different, and had a large bin, one that could fit a body even. They arrive at Dion's house, get out of the car, and walk towards the house.
As they approach the house, J.C. wishes that Stephen would hire a proper bodyguard. Wilson drives off so that Zen doesn't interrogate him if she turns up, waiting to be summoned back to pick Stephen and his aspects up. Dion enters the house, with Stephen holding the door for his aspects to go in before him. As Dion looks for his mother, Stephen looks around the living room. Ivy tells him that they are Greek Orthodox when he sees a cross and assumes they are Catholic. Audrey gets him to look at the family pictures on the other side of the room. They discuss what they know about the type of person Panos was, and how he'd likely act. They figure that Panos was further ahead in his research than he let on, which is why Yol had be worried, but also that he'd have left any form of encryption key to his family. Dion heads out the back to call his mother, and Stephen follows after a few moments, breaking up an argument between Audrey and J.C. He asks Audrey to look for any inconsistences in what Panos searched for, and she tells Stephen that Panos spent more time looking into viruses as a delivery mechanism after the project moved away from that idea than before. The conversation continues, leading to Stephen realizing Audrey was insane - all his aspects were (Tobias had schizophrenia, Ivy had trypophobia). He realized Audrey's psychosis was that she thought she was imaginary. It just happened that that aligned with reality. Snapping out of his revrey, he notices Dion watching. Stephen asks him if he's found his mother. Dion indicates that she's out in the backyard, so Stephen goes outside.
Stephen goes out to the back, and finds Mrs. Maheras in the garden. After small talk fails when the relevant aspect isn't close enough, he asks her about what she knows about Panos's research. Dion fills in that she thinks it took him away from the church. Stephen tells her he's working for I3 to recover the body, asking about the priest, saying he was the last person to see the body. Mrs. Maheras tells him that the priest was here at the house, giving a blessing at the time. He asks if Panos gave her anything that could have been a key before his death. She says he didn't, and refuses to say anything else. Stephen thanks her, and leaves. They decide that their next move is to break into Exeltec.
Ivy questions whether its a good idea to break into Exeltec. J.C. and Stephen say it's their best option. Stephen notice he had a missed call from Yol, and calls him back. Yol is frantic, as the feds have tripped something on Panos' system which wiped it, leaving only a message saying he'd already released his infection. Stephen checks whether Yol had followed his instructions. He had, or set things in motion, but was unsure if he'd be able to finish. At that point, the call is interupted, and Stephen assumes Yol's phone has been taken from him. J.C. tells them that they should get moving, but Stephen is worried he has missed something, because there has been no sign of Zen. Waiting and thinking, he realizes there may have been more to Zen's ambush, and checks where she had grabbed him, finding out he had been bugged, so she had heard everything he'd said since the ambush. He thinks back to remember if he had said anything about his plan aloud, but is confident it was only in the email he had sent. Taking advantage of the fact Zen doesn't know he's figured out he has been bugged, he starts calling various informants for news outlets in an attempt to create a media frenzy around Exeltec's involvement in the I3 affair. His aspects are concerned that he is making Exeltec desperate, and thus dangerous. In response, he writes some instructions for Wilson, knowing that his aspects will catch on to his plan. It begins to dawn on them, with Audrey liking and Ivy still of the opinion it is very dangerous. Giving the instructions to Wilson, he asks to drive the car. After a bit of coaxing, Wilson lets him do so. Stephen gets in the drivers seat, with Dion entering the passengers seat, and they take off. J.C. receives a call from Kalyani - Arnaud has information. He and some of the other aspects have worked out that Yol has been lying to them still - Panos' research was progressing too well for it to have been shut down. However, his research is not at a point where it has a cancer threat. Kalyani then introduces her husband, which frightens Stephen. This hasn't happened before, and it's a sign to him that he's losing control. Stephen pulls into a Denny's to get an omelet as an excuse to spend some time thinking.
They enter the diner, asking for a table for six (lying that they were expecting more people). Stephen tries to calm himself down while looking at the menu. Dion tells him that he is crazy, to which he responds that he is maybe a bit insane, but not crazy. Stephen manages to get Dion talking about Panos, and his goals. Panos had wanted to cure all disease by modifying something like the common cold so that it would immunize people from all other diseases. He tells him that their mother hated technology, but wasn't a bad person. Stephen asks him about some form of key, but Dion doesn't have it, Ivy agreeing that he doesn't. Dion tells them they should probably be looking for a device - Panos was a maker. Stephen forces himself to finish his omelet. Knowing he couldn't stall any longer (not having received a message from Wilson to know if he'd followed his instructions), they leave the diner. As Stephen gets into the car, he feels a gun press against the back of his head.
Dion climbs into the passenger seat before realizing that Zen is there. Zen tells Stephen to shift to the backseat, and then tells him to give her his gun and his phone. Stephen complies. Zen then tells Dion to get into the drivers seat, and to drive off once she and Stephen exit the car. She indicates for Stephen to open the door. He does so, letting his aspects exit first. After J.C., Ivy, and Tobias exit, Stephen is about to exit before Audrey when Zen pulls him back, slams the door shut and forces Dion to start driving, to separate Stephen from his aspects, not knowing that one was still in the car. He looks out the window to see Tobias and Ivy looking confused. Zen comments about having done her research, when Stephen realizes hadn't noticed J.C. when he first looked. Turning back to the window, he sees J.C. keeping up with the car until Audrey points out he is running impossibly fast. Zen then comments that Stephen is a dangerous man, that seeing as he'd managed to topple Exeltec's fortunes and gotten the government onto them, they no longer wanted any involvement, just wanting remove Stephen. Zen gives Dion directions, refusing to talk to Stephen any longer. They eventually arrive in a new development area, driving to a solitary house. Zen escorts them into the cellar, and locks them in while she goes to report.
Stephen tells Dion that he doesn't expect they'll be done there for weeks, that Zen only said that to make them think they had more time than they had so they didn't get desperate. He smashes the bug from under his collar before continuing, saying that they'll be fine unless she comes back to take them for individual questioning. Dion doesn't cope with the turn of events, so after checking the room for a way out, he talks to Dion to try comfort him. He asks why Dion is frightened of death. He asks Dion if he thinks time is infinite. After some prodding, he agrees that probably. Stephen responds that then Dion is immortal. Random chance lead to Dion's existence with all his memories and personality. If time is infinite, then eventually events will lead to him being alive again. He goes on to talk about anything that is possible will eventually happen, if time is infinte, meaning that at some point, there may be a Dion with Batman's backstory that will let him confront death by saying "I will not listen to you, for I am 'infinite Batmans'." Stephen then goes to talk to Audrey, who is also not coping well, trying to get her to focus. Eventually, as Zen is returning, she exclaims that she knows where the body is - neither Exeltec or I3 has it, but she knows who does. Zen enters the room, asking Stephen to come with her so she can question him alone.
Looking at Zen, Stephen knows that she does intend to eliminate them. He asks her if her employers really intend to get rid of them. She intially denies it, but eventually stops any pretence when she puts a silencer on her gun. She tells Stephen that he pushed them too hard. As she prepares to shoot him, he unnerves her by talking about his aspects - telling her that his aspects are surrounding her, watching her. As he responds her telling him his aspects are just a genius, he asks her why he wants her just where she is. At that point, the moment is interrupted by Stephens phone going of in her pocket. He tells her to check the phone, but she doesn't move. He is worried, but then hers goes off too. Her phone rings off, before receiving a text. She eventually decides to look at it, staring for a few moments before laughing. She quickly calls back, having a quiet conversation. Stephen helps Dion, who asks what's going on as Zen laughs again. Stephen tells him that they are safe, asking Zen to confirm that. Zen giggles, responding with a 'Whatever you say, sir." Dion questions the 'sir', and Stephen explains. Knowing Exeltec had an unstable footing, he had got Yol to pressure them economically while Stephen spread rumors of their involvement with the I3 case, the results in the company crashing, allowing Stephen to buy the company - this is what he had got Yol and Wilson to do. He now owned 60% of the company and had voted himself president, meaning he was now Zen's boss. With the threat resolved, they go to collect Panos' body.
The scene opens with them finding Mrs. Maheras in the garden again. With sirens sounding the background, she realizes that her secret was out. Ivy comments that she should have seen it, knowing most Orthodox branches are against cremation. Stephen guesses that Mrs. Maheras had been a cleaning lady when she was younger, and that she had impersonated the cleaning lady to steal the body after the family priest had laid the tape on the door. She asks what gave her away, to which Stephen responds it was the numbers she'd written for the cleaning time - she had practiced the other cleaning ladies signature, but not her numbers. She asks if they'll take the body again (she had buried it in her garden), to which he responds that yes, they would take it. He goes on to say that she wouldn't likely be in much trouble as the body isn't recognized as property, but also, they will likely freeze the body in case they want to search all his cells for the information in the future, rather than cremate it. As she walks back inside, this improves her mood. When Stephen and his aspects walk into the kitchen, they notice an empty space on the wall. They realize that Panos would likely have know the picture on the wall would have been removed upon his death (to be placed on his coffin). Stephen pulls on the nail, which comes loose. The string attached to the nail pulls something in the wall, and they hear a click. A light switch on the wall slides forward. Inside they find a USB with a quote on the side (1 Kings 19:11-12). Ivy speaks the quote, and then Stephen pockets the USB as someone knocks on the door. He pushes the holder back into the wall before going to talk to the feds outside.
Four days later, Stephen is waiting in the White Room (the hole in the roof now patched) for Audrey. She walks in, dressed in a blue swimsuit, and gives him a sheet of paper. They had found two things on the USB. The key to the data on Panos's body as well as a second file. After taking awhile to realize the quote on the USB (1 Kings 19) was the passphrase for a private-key cryptogram, they had finally gotten access to the file. It was a note from Panos to his brother Dion, explaining that he'd stored data in the DNA of bacteria on his hands, which would have spread to others as he shook hands with them. He explains that he's left the key to the data to Dion so that he can choose if he wants to release the data to the world or not. Stephen discusses with Tobias what to do with the USB. He decides to put it aside, and get it mailed ti Dion when he graduates, but intends to check what the data was, to make sure it isn't dangerous. Stephen notes that it is funny that the whole time they had been looking for the data, it had been on everyone one they'd met, and that Panos had even left them a clue in one of the slogans he had put on the wall - Information for every body.