Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Departure of Hokusai Gimura: Chapter Two

Click here for the entire story.
Click here for the previous installment...

I spend one day looking over every document that Hokusai left me in that frightening knife dimension—and while it’ll be helpful in understanding how the world of time travelers works—it doesn’t give me any leads as to where she went. From this failure I give myself a week to rest and recharge while indulging in the kinds of things rich people have access to...namely time. With more than a million dollars in the bank after buying a unit in the Ponce de Leon, I don’t have to worry about working. I don’t know how much I’ll end up having to spend on my personal investigations, but at least for now, I’m not even going to consider finding a job. Ennis Patton, a.k.a. The Courier drops by a couple times to check on me. Out of pity, he ends up giving me a little bit information that can help. As it’s his job to know lots of different time travelers and time manipulators, he’s able to provide me with some connections I wouldn’t be able to get on my own. He first directs me to a wealthy investor who uses his ability to see the future to play the market with zero risk. Apparently everyone who can, in some way, manipulate time has to have a nickname, but this guy is different. He never gives me his birthname, no, but nor does he have his own code name either. Instead, he belongs to a class of precognitives called Investors who see money and power as the only benefits to their gift. He throws a single tip my way, saying that this investment is too minor to be worth his time, but could set me up for life if I live frugally.h
More money is great, but what I really need is to meet someone who can get me answers. Investors live in their own respective worlds, not inconveniencing themselves with problems like disappearing towns, or door scribbles that magically turn into books. So Ennis gives me another lead, this time a twentysomething guy who lives in a safehouse, for a reason he won’t tell me. He jokes that the guy might be able to open some doors for me, but I have no idea why that’s funny. Since it’s my only good lead, I make the drive out to Overland Park and knock on the safehouse door.
A man opens with a juice box in his face, completely apathetic to my arrival. He stands there waiting for me to say something, but I don’t know what I should say. After a moment in the awkward silence, he crushes his box, and lets it drop to the floor. Then, leaving the door open, he just goes back over and sits on the couch.
“I’m sorry,” I say to him from the threshold. “My name is Kallias Bran. I’m looking for a few people, and was told you might be able to help.”
“Where are they?” he asks in monotone.
“Well...I mean, I don’t know. That’s why I’m looking for them.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“You have powers?”
He chuckles and burps. “Quite the opposite. I have...no power over my life. I’m salmon.”
“I’ve heard that, what does that mean?”
This finally gets a reaction out of him. He turns his head, but slight enough to still be looking at me sideways. “You must be pretty bloody new. I’ll give you the run-down. Some people have powers. Ya got your teleporters, your time travelers, your precogs. Then you got the weird ones, like the bubblers, and the ripplers. They can all do whatever they want with whatever power they have. Since they get to choose how to use them, they’re called choosing ones. Then there are the people like me. We travel through time too, but we do so at the behest of some mysterious group of shadow people. Someone told me once why we’re called salmon, I can’t remember.”
“What do these shadow people make you do?”
“Are you gonna sit down, or just stand there like a weirdo?”
“My mother taught me manners.”
He burps again on purpose. “Manners aren’t allowed in this house.”
I start walking in.
“But take your shoes off. Goddammit, animal!”
I just sit down in the chair he probably uses to tie his shoes when he leaves the house.
“What were you saying?” he asks.
“It doesn’t matter. If you don’t think you can help me yourself, maybe you know someone who can.”
“Well, what do you need?”
“Maybe there’s someone who can...track people? Or someone who can send messages across time and space.”
“A spacetime email?”
“Yeah, sure. Can someone do that?”
“Prolly.”
“Shit,” I say under my breath, but he could definitely hear.
“I don’t know that many choosers, Elias. Where did you last see these missing people?”
“Springfield, Kansas.”
“Did you try going back there and retracing their steps?”
“Springfield doesn’t exist anymore.”
“They got rid of it? Good riddance. Frickin’ Red-Tailed Hawks, always beating my Cardinals in the postseason.” Yet another person who’s heard of a town that was taken out of time. I’m starting to think that never happened.
“I’m sorry to have wasted your time. I’ll let you get back to your LOST marathon.”
“Now, hold up, he says. I might have someone for ya. But we’re gonna need two things.”
“What?”
“Number one: another juice box. I’m parched, and the kitchen’s way over there.”
“I can get you two.”
“My man! Thinkin’ big. You’re okay, Alias. You’re okay.”
As I’m retrieving the drinks from the fridge, which is about five feet from where Vearden is sitting, I ask, “what’s the second thing, a pudding cup?”
“Oo, three things.”
I hand him the juice and pudding, then sit back down, trying to stay patient.
“A gun.”
“A gun?”
“A gun. You got a gun?”
“I used to a cop, I got a gun. Why do we need a gun?”
“You ever heard of cell phones?”
I don’t even bother answering.
“Dude, we’re time travelers. I’ve met people who haven’t heard of phones before, including my first wife. Don’t act like that’s a dumb question.”
I just show him my cell.
“Guns..are like cell phones, but they only call one person. His name is...The Action, but I just call him Ashlock.”
“The gun is a phone?”
“Like how you stand in front of a mirror in a darkroom and say bloody mary three times. Lots of choosers have special ways of contacting them since cellular networks don’t work past, what, the 1930s?”
I take my gun out of its holster. “You want me to fire my gun in your home?”
He seems confused. “This isn’t my home, it’s a safehouse. My real home is nine years from now in an alternate timeline. And you can’t just fire a gun, otherwise, Garen would have to be in a million places at once.”
I take in and release a deep breath. “What do you want me to do?”
He starts chowin’ down on that pudding. “His calling card is on the TV stand, if you can figure out my filing system.”
“You mean this pile of trash?”
“I’ve heard it both ways.”
I sort through the mess and find the card from Garen Ashlock. On the back is a script I’m apparently meant to recite, which I reluctantly try, ultimately shooting a hole in the baseboard next to a small closet. Nothing happens.
“Nah, you gotta do it right. Once more with feeling, and all that.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have to act it out, Elsa. Again, he can’t risk some rando just stumbling upon his code phrase.”
I take another breath, then try again, moving around to mimic the way the original characters said these lines as best as I remember them. First I reholster, and re-unholster. “Say hello to my little friend!” I then point it at Vearden. “You’ve got to ask yourself one question; do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” I toss my gun to the floor, which I was never explicitly taught at the academy I shouldn’t do, but it was kind of implied. “Trinity! Help!” Then I awkwardly pick the gun back up and place it point blank at Vearden’s head. “Dodge this.” Before squeezing the trigger, I swing over and plant another bullet in the same hole I made earlier. Again, nothing happens. “Son of a bitch!”
“Oh, that was beautiful, I don’t know why it didn’t work,” Vearden says. “Let me see that.”
I give him the business card.
“Oh, you know what, I think this is his old one.”
“I feel like I’m not getting anywhere!” I shout louder than the gunshots. “I do all this work, and nothing really does any good! Sure, I got money now, but who the hell cares! I’m just looking for Hokusai, Springfield, and the missing children! Is there no one who can help me with that!”
Suddenly a beam of light shoots out from my double bullet hole, and shines on the opposite wall. This light expands to form an opening vaguely in the shape of a doorway. There’s a staircase on the other side of what I can only guess is a portal. A woman and a man are walking down the stairs, but only the woman steps through. “Thanks for the ride, Juan,” she says to the man, who just smiles and nods. He then snaps his compass shut, giving the impression that this act is what causes the portal to close too.
“Garen Ashlock?” I ask of the woman.
She shakes my hand. “He couldn’t be here, so I’ve been sent in his stead.”
“Sent by whom?” I ask.
“The powers that be, of course,” she answers.
“You’re salmon.”
“Indeed,” she replies. She shakes my hand again, possibly hoping I don’t notice that we’ve already done that. “My name is Sanela Matic...but you can call me The Screener.” Click here for the next installment...

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