Saturday, July 9, 2016

Second Stage of Something Started: Resignation (Part XIII)

Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).

Vearden looked out the window to see the clouds flying by faster than they should have been. They were moving through time at an abnormal rate. He looked back to see The Cleanser dancing his fingers around in the air like he was lightly playing a floating piano. As he did so, everyone on the plane except for the door-walkers started drifting their head around in some kind of daze. “What did you do to them?” Vearden asked, probably a bit too curious.
“It’s like when you wake up and think you’re late for work but eventually realize it’s Saturday,” he tried to explain, “but that on crack.”
Saga violently grabbed him by the shoulder. “Forget about that! What did you say about crashing into the Pentagon?”
“Exactly what I said, bitch! Get your hands off me!”
“This isn’t what we signed up for.”
“What did you sign up for? Nothing? That’s what I thought. Now sit down and let me do my job.”
“And what exactly is your job?” Vearden asked, uncharacteristically more relaxed than his partner.
“I’m The Cleaner,” he replied.
“Don’t you mean cleanser?” Vearden asked.
“No, I mean Cleaner. What are you even talking about?”
As Vearden just stared at him in confusion, Saga quickly figured out what was happening. This was a past version of the Cleanser they all knew and hated. He did look significantly younger than before. For whatever reason, this chooser chose to change his name to the Cleanser, possibly as a response to whatever made him quit his chooser job and go rogue. Strangely, it would seem that Vearden had given him the idea for his new nickname all along. But if this were true, who came up with the name in the first place? “Nothing, sir,” she said, hoping he would drop the subject. “His bootstraps are just on too tight.”
The Cleanser Cleaner seemed to have understood the reference, and did make a point of letting it go. “Well, it’s my job to clean up the timeline. Some events are so pivotal to the timeline that when a chooser prevents them from happening, someone has to go in and put it back the way it was.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Saga pointed out. “I remember the 2001 and 2005 Pentagon attacks. The planes aren’t from the future. I mean, the government would have certainly tried to cover that up, but the events were so massive and far-reaching that we would have heard at least rumors.”
“First of all, you’re from a timeline where the 2005 Pentagon attack was carried out by humans, with regular airplanes that appropriately predate the event. Secondly, the government won’t have to cover up anything. We have ways of adjusting people’s memories by merging them with an alternate version of themselves through a quantum entanglement connection. I don’t expect you to understand how it works, because I certainly don’t.”
“We’ve heard that word before,” Vearden noticed. “Merging. We encountered someone called The Merger in 1975.”
“That’s quite interesting. I’ll have to remember that for my future, but I’m not talking about physical merging. I’m referring to blending.”
Remembering the problem at hand, Saga brought the conversation back. “So you’re going to send this plane to 2005 so it can crash into the Pentagon. Why would you need to do that? That human attack was successful.”
“Again, in the timeline you remember, but someone went back and stopped it.”
“Oh right,” Saga said. “I still see one problem with your plan.”
“That I’m short about four planes?”
“Oh yeah,” Vearden said, too excitedly. “Guess you better give up!”
The Cleaner smiled while he was interlocking his fingers to pop them. “I’ve not tried autocatalysis before, but I’ve seen it done, and I know that it’s one of my capabilities. I think I can do it for the whole plane, but I’m going to need your help.”
“Screw that, we’re not helping you,” Vearden argued.
“You keep acting like you have a choice. I recommend you get over that.” The Cleaner prepared himself and aggressively took both of them by the arm. He was incredibly strong, more so than he looked. Saga couldn’t think of any time manipulation function that would allow that, but maybe there was something. This particular chooser seemed to be excellent at finding loopholes, and using his powers in ever-creative ways.
They could feel energy surge through their bodies. The power didn’t move only from them and to him. Their combined powers cycled between all three of them like flowing water, methodically trickling out before shooting into the aether. With this power came knowledge. Both Saga and Vearden began to better understand time travel and the timeline. They saw the past, the future, alternate realities, spatial merging, extracting, regression, paradox stabilization, quantum blending, and autocatalysis, among others. They could feel the airplane split into two equal parts, and then those two separated into two more, and then those into one more pair. The Cleaner disintegrated the sixth plane across time, because it was not needed to accomplish his objectives.
The five remaining planes flew away from each other, headed toward the same spot. The three travelers could feel themselves in disparate places all at once, conscious of the slight differences, but still aware that they were but mirror images of only one thing. There was still only one plane, and it was about to crash into the past of the Department of Defense five times. In the original timeline, a powerful group of terrorists, angry from the ultimate failure of 9/11, coordinated a strike with five relatively small, but still powerful enough commercial airliners. Instead of hijacking preexisting flights, they simply stole the planes as they sat in their hangars. There was no lack of security, but certainly less than for aircraft being used for travel at any given moment.
The Cleaner had, probably inadvertently, bestowed upon Saga and Vearden a special level of perspective. A chooser, whose name was not relevant at the moment, traveled back into the past upon discovering her gift, before anyone else had a chance to introduce her to the world. A disproportionate number of family members of hers had died in the 2005 attack. So she used her foreknowledge to change the outcome of events, anonymously sending the authorities to the hangars before the terrorists could abscond with the aircraft. Her family was saved, but April 30, 2005 was too significant of a day in history. The powers that be were not happy with this change in the timeline. Though they did not particular enjoy the death of hundreds of people, they considered it too dangerous to prevent. Some events give rise to so many variables that not even the powers are capable of comprehending the ramifications. These variables stretch out beyond their purview, and create wrinkles in the fabric of space and time. Thousands of people are born or not by this single variation. And so they employed their Cleaner to repair the timeline for them, and restore their dominion. He was not the only one they used for this purpose, but he was one of their best. Ruthless and clever, he could always wrangle the variables. Or rather, he usually could. For one reason or another, he did not accurately predict what Saga would do.
The replicated time displaced airplane(s) plunged towards the building with even greater temporal precision than their counterparts in the other timeline. Vearden reached forwards with his mind and looked upon the faces of everyone in the affected area, including none other than Mateo Matic. He was standing in the middle of the courtyard, looking up at them with determination. At time slowed down from their point of view, the door-walking freelancers looked at each other in a way they never had before. In that moment, they both knew everything about the other one’s past...and Saga knew about Vearden’s future. She smiled. He frowned. But he understood. He couldn’t do what she had to. He had more work to do, and his time was yet to come. Her life was over, but he would see her again, in other ways.

Five copies of Saga Einarsson harnessed the fumes of the Cleaner’s special chooser powers to teleport themselves to five centers of the Pentagon’s roofs. They held their arms to the heavens, almost welcoming to the oncoming airplane barrage. She used the remnants of both her and Vearden’s power to transform herself into continuum bombs. The planes recombined into one and flew through a portal to a distant locations. The pilots reawoke and sprang into action, somewhat safely landing the plane in the ocean as if they thought it was the Hudson River.
Having lost his temporal insight and returned to salmon status, Vearden Haywood quietly crawled out of the airplane and swam to shore. He walked up to the stargate replica and stepped through. It sent him right back down the ramp, but about five years earlier. Harrison was waiting for him on the beach. “How long have I been gone?” he asked.
Harrison replied, “Several hours.”
“Mateo has yet to experience the tribulation.”
“Correct. Where is Saga?”
“She is not in this version of events. We changed history. She did.”
“What does that mean for what happens now?”
“It means I quit.”

No comments :

Post a Comment