Saturday, July 8, 2017

Flurry: The Jacket (Part XIII)

Click here for the previous installment...

“Do we need both jackets?” Serkan asked after catching up to Jupiter. He was used to walking slowly to accommodate normal people, so it was a nice literal change of pace to be around someone just as fast.
“We do. The jackets need time to recharge, which we’ll only be able to do in the real world. They can take no more than two passengers at once, so without the copy, the other two in our group would have to stay behind.”
“The other two? There are three of us.” Ace noted. “Who’s the fourth?”
“I came here to rescue you, yes,” Jupiter began, “but only as a favor. My true mission is to retrieve someone important to me personally. I promised to protect him, always. I can’t break that promise.”
“If he’s here, then he was copied, right?” Serkan asked.
This made Jupiter stopped dead in his tracks. “Does that mean he doesn’t matter; that I shouldn’t save him?”
He misunderstood. “No, I was just wondering about what happens when you take him back. Will he live with his duplicate, start a new life somewhere else, or what?”
Jupiter turned back around and pushed the door to the stairwell, ready to begin the long journey back down. “I’ll raise them both.”
If at all possible, the weather outside was even worse than when they sought shelter in the skyscraper. Serkan and Ace had stolen a few extra layers of clothing that had been left lying around the cafeteria, and still felt like they were about to turn into icicles. Jupiter seemed perfectly fine...warm even. When asked about it, he said, “oh this jacket runs real hot. It’s not really meant to be worn while you’re not using it. The Weaver built it to be stylish, but she never did figure out the overheating problem.”
“Do you know where the copy of it is?” Serkan asked as he was restarting the bus with the Escher Card.
“I know where it should be. Whether it was stolen in the meantime, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t believe my old friends know about it, but I can’t be sure. They’re tricksy hobbitses.”
Serkan handed Jupiter the Escher Card so he could input in the coordinates. “Tell me about this group of friends of yours. Did you have a falling out?”
Jupiter shook his head in disappointment. “Technically yes, technically no. Jupiter Rosa is still very much friends with all them, and works with them happily.”
“I thought you said that you were Jupiter Rosa.”
“That’s the technically part.”
“You’re a copy,” Ace realized.
“I am. The first. Since then, the quote-unquote real one has figured out how to assimilate and destroy his copies as needed, but he could never bring himself to destroy me. That’s our sentimental side, I guess. Still, we avoid each other; stay out of each other’s way. But now he threatens someone I love, and that I cannot abide.”
“Is it your son?” Serkan asked. “You said you would raise them both; him and his copy.”
“He’s not mine, no. But I suppose...he is.”
This reminded both Serkan and Ace of Paige. “We’ll get him back,” Ace said, trying to comfort him. “We can relate to raising someone else’s child.”
“We also have experience with multiple versions of that child,” Serkan added.
Jupiter cracked a smile and nodded. “Oh yeah, that’s right.”
“What happened to the birth parents?”
“The closest the mother could find a decent job was in Ottawa, so she drives down there and back every day. She happened to be there when the metro was duplicated, which means there’s only one of her. She’s presently looking after that reality’s version of her son. Meanwhile, this world’s copy is with daycare.”
“Do you know where he is now, I mean, since the city was evacuated?
“Olathe’s weather is okay right now. They should still be there, waiting for the last of the parents to return. It’s possible that they’ve gone somewhere else, but with no communications, I can’t be certain unless I check there, and the apartment.”
Ace was looking out the window, and up. The weather was less tumultuous the farther from the center they drove, but it still wasn’t great here on the edge of the county. The bus was slowing down. “Why are we stopping here, then?”
“I know this place,” Serkan said. It was the tagger homebase, located at the confluence of the three of the five central metro counties. This was where he sought sanctuary with the taggers, and learned more about Crispin, the rabbit dog. “In the future.”
“The other jacket is here,” Jupiter explained. “This won’t be tagger territory until next year.”
They got out of the car and entered the building. Jupiter led them up the stairs, down the hall, and up to one of the units. When he noticed the door ajar, he reached to his hip...exhaling in frustration upon realizing he didn’t have a gun. It looked like instinct to reach for his sidearm, though, so maybe he had law enforcement experience, or military. Armed or not, he could come in handy whenever they ran into Keanu again. Which was happening right now.
Keanu ‘Ōpūnui was standing on the other side of the foyer, holding a baby with two arms. “Yes, do everyone please come in. But not any further than that. You’ll track slush on the floor.”
Jupiter tried approaching him anyway.
“Uh-uh-uh.”
“You wouldn’t hurt a child,” Jupiter hoped. “An infant.”
Keanu shrugged. “It’s a fake baby. Like the one from that Bradley Cooper movie. See, I could just toss it...” he lifted it up in the air, as if he were about to throw it across the room, but didn’t. The baby started crying.
“Jesus..Christ, man! What the hell happened to you!”
“I had everything,” Keanu began to explain. “Then you people show up and screw me over.”
“Looks like you got your arm back,” Ace pointed out.
Keanu held up what was once a missing arm. “This..is a shitty prosthetic.” It looked just as real as any other.
Jupiter’s anger was rising from his feet to his face. He was breathing heavily, and on the verge of doing something he was going to regret.
“That’s right, Jupi. Let it all out. Come back to us. None of this pansy hippy BS. You are a gunrunner. Act like one!”
The baby cried louder as Jupiter yelled louder. “You wanna see my gunrunning side again! You wanna see my rage!”
“Yes! Yes!”
Jupiter let out a battle cry and punched the wall, which delighted Keanu to no end. This turned out to have been a ruse, though. After he quickly pulled his arm back out from the drywall, they could all see that he was now holding a gun. His rage was completely gone, and was probably never really there in the first place. He calmly said to Keanu, “give Luken to me, and you will be spared.”
“You think you’ve won? You still did what I wanted. You’ll have to go back to your office and reset that sign of yours. How many days has it been since you held a weapon in your hand?” He chucked. “Well...zero, I guess. It feels good, doesn’t it? Like a jolt of electricity to your balls.”
“Have you ever noticed that you never stop talking, but you also never say anything?” Jupiter asserted.
“You can’t shoot me. I’m holding Mendoza’s son. You shoot, I drop him.”
“If I shoot you in the head,” Jupiter replied, “your body will seize up. You’ll fall straight to your back. Luken will go down with you, but your body will break his fall, with your arm cushioning his head and neck.”
“That sounds like it might not work, dude.”
“It’s like you said. He’s just a copy anyway. I can always go back to the one in the other world.”
“That world may be different than you last left it. And you’ll need two jackets, won’t you?” He bared all of his death in this creepy clown grin.
“What did you do?”
Still grinning uncomfortably, Keanu lifted his phone. “The wonderful internet of things. Ya know, you can connect anything these days, even if it makes no practical sense.” He pushed a button, set Luken down, and ran through a portal behind him.
The microwave in the kitchen started sparking. “Run!” Jupiter screamed before dashing over to shield the baby.
Serkan tried to protect Ace, but it was too late. The microwave exploded.
Slowly, Serkan started working on opening his eyes. At first, they were sealed shut, but then he got them to flutter. Eventually, with enough practice, he was able to open them all the way, and keep them open. Before him was a wall with tiny little holes in them. No, that wasn’t a wall, but a ceiling. He was on his back. His whole body ached, and he couldn’t move. He struggled to look to his sides, and was able to see just enough to know that he was in a hospital room. A television attached the wall was barely hanging onto its brace. The walls were dirty and oily, and the lights were barely on. So, not a very good hospital.
A silver fox walked into the room wearing scrubs. “Mister Demir, do you know where you are?”
“A hospital, I don’t know which one.”
“You were in an explosion. You’re at the Kansas University Medical Center.”
“How long has it been?”
“Mister Demir, you have to understand that you suffered terrible injuries from the explosion. It caused irreparable damage to your body.”
He stopped the nurse from continuing his speech, “I need to know the time first.”
“It’s been nineteen days.” He looked at his watch. “Almost exactly since they found you. You were placed in a medically induced coma so that your brain could recover, as best as possible.”
“As best as possible,” Serkan repeated. “So not really.”
“The doctors did all they could,” he answered. “But we’re in a new world, and resources are scarce.”
“What’s wrong with me? Be honest. I couldn’t care less about bedside manner. I need to know what I can do next.”
“You were paralyzed from the waist down. You will not likely ever walk again.”
His brain injuries must have been extensive, because he was having trouble with rational and logical thought. There were pressing questions. “I was with people. My friends. One was a baby.”
“The other three were fine. You were evidently closest to the blast. I don’t know where they went.”
“Am I still in the other Kansas City?”
“The other Kansas City?” the nurse questioned. “We found out about that while you were asleep. How do you know about it?”
Serkan shifted his body as much as he could to get comfortable, but of course, his legs were stuck. He winced in pain. “I’m friends with a scientist,” he explained, referring to Duke Andrews, sort of. “He figured it out sooner than anyone else.” Obviously telling this guy he was a time traveler could put his life in danger. If people were trying to figure out how to escape this dimension, Serkan could be of use to them.
“Does he know how we can get back to Earth?” See?
“He told me not long before the explosion. I know nothing. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do now.”
“There are a few options. I don’t know if we’ll be able to accomplish them here, though. We’re completely cut off from the world, living in a bottle. There’s only so much we can do to help.”
“I have no money.”
He laughed, but it wasn’t funny-haha, more like funny-oh God. “Your money is literally no good here. There is no use for it. We’re gonna have to figure something else out, but for now, all available resources will be allocated to anyone who needs it. The leaders of this hospital have decided that, and the tracer gang has been called in to provided added security.” He paused to pull up a chair. “We have access to a phenomenal new procedure that could make your legs good as new. You have to know that it does not come without sacrifice, is not—strictly speaking—legal, and is still extremely experimental.”
“What would it entail?”
“Amputating your legs and giving you new ones. We probably wouldn’t even suggest it if we weren’t now in another dimension.”
It had been tough to wake up, and to think clearly, but things were really coming into focus. He was a runner, and needed his legs. They were the most important part of him besides his soul. He had to do everything he could to get better, even if it was dangerous. “Do it.”
They performed the procedure that night, apparently having already been in the process of 3D printing his new legs. A few days into his second wave of recovery, Ace walked into room, wearing the special leather jacket. Not bothering to say anything other than “finally,” he scooped Serkan up in his arms, and transported him to a different version of the same room. It was much cleaner and nicer, as if someone had actually had time to maintain it. The sun was shining. It was April of 2025.

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