Saturday, July 1, 2017

Flurry: Fringe (Part XII)

Click here for the previous installment...

Serkan was allowed to stay the night with Future!Ace before he was pushed back to his own time period where Present!Ace was waiting for him. Or rather he wasn’t waiting at all. He was still in the middle of his story about his first encounter with Quivira Boyce as they were leaving the lake house. There was only a slight skip, like a restarted DVR recording that doesn’t start exactly where you last left off. But Ace had no idea that anything had happened. Unfortunately, Serkan wasn’t quite prepared for the jump. He let out a mild grunt, which alarmed Ace, but Serkan was able to play it down. He thought about telling Ace about his sojourn in the future, but chose not to. There was no telling what would happen by revealing such information, especially the part about Serkan’s most likely fate to die. It just seemed like the best course of action was to keep quiet about it, just like he had done when he first went back in time and first met Ace for the second time. He had a hard time listening to Ace’s story about Quivira, instead being distracted by his own thoughts on the fact that somebody should make a list of rules for time travel that they could all live by.
The teleporter car was gone when they stepped outside of the house, so they just kept walking, hoping to find civilization. They needed something to eat before they needed to get home. They had walked a few miles through the woods, having long lost any sense of where the nearest road might be, when they could see something familiar.
A Stonehenge doorway of three stones appeared down the path. They walked through the stones and teleported to Stonehenge. The Delegator was pointing to another opening that served as a portal to a park. “You’re welcome,” was all he said.
Serkan and Ace continued talking to each other without saying a word to The Delegator. This was just sometimes how they traveled now. They found themselves right in the middle of Mendoza Park, suddenly under an onslaught of snow, with very little protection. Things had gotten so much worse since they had left, probably to the point of being categorized as a blizzard. Not a soul was around, hopefully holed up in their respective homes, with enough food to last them three days. “We have to get back to Duke,” Ace suggested.
“It’s time to end this.”
They stole an abandoned city bus buried in the snow. It took them awhile to get it uncovered, but that was at least the hard part. Neither one of them had any clue as to how to hotwire a vehicle, let alone a bus, but they didn’t need to. The Escher Card was fully capable of magically starting it for them. In fact, though it was the kind of vehicle still designed to be driven by a human, the Esher Card automatically maneuvered and navigated it. This gave them the time to huddle together near a heater vent and warm back up. It took them at least three times as it normally would to get to DNA Labs, only realizing then that everybody might have left for the day, and they were just wasting their time.
The lobby appeared to confirm this for them. The place was completely dead. The propaganda televisions continued to try to play the company’s selling points, but the power was going in an out. There were a few options here. They could try to find help elsewhere, go upstairs to check if the special weather task force was still working the problem, or leave Kansas City. Perhaps that’s what everyone else had done. Maybe the whole city had turned into a ghost town. How they were all able to get out so quickly was not obvious. They should have seen at least one person; be it a straggler, homeless person with no transportation, or a looter. But there was no one. They decided it couldn’t hurt to go upstairs and see if they couldn’t find someone who had stayed behind. It actually did end up hurting, because they knew the elevators weren’t reliable, and were forced to walk up the steps to the top floor of the tallest skyscraper in the city.
Still no one. At least they had a great view.
They looked in Andrews’ office, the attached situation room where his team had been furiously trying to understand the weather, and even the maintenance closets. Nobody was going to help them, so they tried to help themselves. They looked over the data still left in the situation room, and studied the maps on the table computer. It was pointless. Neither one of them had any hope of deciphering this information, let alone doing something about it. But then Ace completely unintentionally pulled up a different map. It was still the Kansas City Metro, but there were new layers. Colors as one might find on a local news weather report showed the temperature differentials across the area. Downtown, which was where they were, was purple, indicating it to be the coldest. The surrounding suburbs were orange and red, though, suggesting that they were still in summer temperatures. Ace and Serkan hadn’t really thought about where Keanu’s borders might have been. They hadn’t even thought of driving towards one direction to see where it ended. Looking back, that seemed foolish to them; a rookie mistake.
“Wait, look, what’s what?”
“Well, it’s just black,” Serkan replied. Beyond the suburbs lied some farmland, and beyond that, on the fringes, was nothing but blackness.
“It’s obviously not part of the temperature scale. This here is just how far the map goes.”
“That’s not how it works. Either the map shows the temperature in other areas, even if it’s not relevant to the viewers, or it’s just a smaller map. But I’m not seeing Nebraska, or the rest of Missouri on here. It’s all black. What would be the point? You’re just wasting all this screen space when you could make it bigger.”
“I don’t know, man. I don’t know how this stuff works. I’m not a meteorologist, and neither are you.”
“No, but it’s’s just weird.”
“I agree, but I don’t think it’s all that significant.”
“Oh, it’s all the significance. Every significant.” Some guy had walked into the room, dressed in a cool leather jacket.
“Who are you?” Serkan asked. His tone wasn’t threatening, threatened, or accusatory. He had learned by now that when some random person showed up, claiming to have information they needed, that it was best to just go with the flow. That could be another rule for time travel. Treat people kindly, because you never know when they’ll return to your life, or what they’ll want when that happens.
“My name is Jupiter Rosa.”
“I’ve heard of you,” Ace said. “You run that weapons plant.”
Jupiter was noticeably offended by this. “Not anymore,” he said defiantly. “Now I help people; currently you.”
“How can you help?”
“Slipstream sent me,” Jupiter answered. “I’m here to get you out of this wretched world.”
“You know Slipstream?” Serkan asked. She was the founder and leader of the Tracer gang. She was instrumental to the creation of the New Gangs of Kansas City. She was a legend...a hero...a goddess. And as far as Serkan knew, she didn’t have anything to do with time travel.
“What do you mean by wretched world?” Ace asked.
Jupiter decided to ignore Serkan’s question—which was sort of par for the course for Serkan—and instead address only Ace’s. “You’ve been living in a nightmare, brother. This world you’re in isn’t real. It is a reaction; a punishment...and a test.”
“I don’t understand.”
He gathered his thoughts. “It’s a pocket reality, consisting only of the residents of Kansas City. Well...copies of the residents.”
“No one here is real? Or was real?”
“They’re...copies. They’re real. And they’re still here.” He pointed to the map on the table screen. “They’ve all moved to the red areas. You were in Wisconsin for longer than you realized. It took about a week to evacuate everyone from the coldest parts of the city. Pretty impressive from my side, but not all that surprising. This may not be the real Kansas City, but it’s still Kansas City. We’re stronger ‘an hell.”
“I don’t get what’s going on,” Ace argued. “Who’s being punished?”
“You are,” Jupiter said, with a near-laugh. “My friends are pissed off at you.”
“What did we do?” Serkan questioned.
“We’re dealing with time travelers here. You’ve done nothing to them yet, but you will, and they’re trying to get to you before that.”
Serkan looked around. “Seems like a whole lot of trouble. Couldn’t they have just killed us? Teleport behind each of us, and stab us. Then leave.”
Jupiter shook his head. “These people are fucking stupid. Pardon my language. They like screwing with others more than they like getting what they need. They have no sense of efficiency, or rationality. They get their panties in a bunch about a few people who choose to defy them, and they can’t just let it go. Now I’m no time traveler myself, but my theory is that all they’re doing to you in these moments is what causes you to go against them later. I tried to warn them, but they won’t listen to me. From their perspective, I’m not any more real than this little bubble.”
The two of them didn’t have any context for what was happening between Jupiter and this mysterious group of people that included Keanu. So they just continued the conversation from there. “How do we get out?” Serkan asked.
“Oh, that’s easy,” Jupiter answered. He popped his collar. “You just need one of these jackets.”
“They let you travel between dimensions?” Serkan pressed.
“Very good, yes,” Jupiter said with a teacher’s smile.
“Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on,” Ace stopped them. “What happens to this place when we leave? Where’s Paige and Daria? Where’s Bran? Where are Keanu and his friends? We’re meant to be stopping them, not just escaping.”
“They are all in the real world. Paige, Daria, and Bran were not copied, so you’ll only have one of each of them to get back to. Keanu is laughing his ass off in his real office, while simultaneously trying to locate Paige. You’ll still need to stop him from doing that, but you can’t do it from here.”
“What about all these people? The copies? What happens to them?”
Jupiter shrugged. “They’ll stay here. When you stop Keanu, the weather will go back to normal, and Kansas City II will just go on. It was designed to be self-reinforcing, whether you kill the people who created it, or not.”
“Completely cut off from the rest of the world?”
“Yeah, they only built a replica of the metro. That’s the entirety of the universe.”
“Which means they’ll have to survive without import resources.”
“Yeah, I guess. They should be fine, though. They’ve already realized something weird is up, and they’ll adapt. Like I said...they’re Kansas Citians.”
Ace didn’t like this. “They’ll need help. Someone should help them.”
“Maybe,” Jupiter said. “But you got other stuff to deal with. They’ll still be here, but you have to finish this Keanu thing.”
“He’s right,” Serkan said to Ace. “For Paige. For the real world.”
He was hesitant, but conceded. “Fine. But we’re coming back.”
“Hey, you can have this jacket if you want, along with this reality’s copy of it—which we need to find, by the way. I don’t need either one of them.” Jupiter turned and left the room. “Come along, dears.” Click here for the next installment...

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