Saturday, June 25, 2016

Second Stage of Something Started: Wind (Part XI)

Vearden discovered after watching him disappear in a literal flash that Sargent’s first name was Adolphe. It was rather ironic, but almost certainly done on purpose by the powers that be. Even more strange was the fact that, upon joining the salmon battalion, he was arbitrarily assigned the rank of Sergeant. Shaking it off, Vearden instinctively stepped into a tent and ushered Saga in. After letting the flap close behind them, they walked back through it to find themselves in a different camp altogether. Everyone on the campgrounds was running around, somehow both chaotically and systematically. Saga recognized a few of them as salmon, and the others held themselves in a similar fashion. This was another major time travel undertaking. A woman was standing under a canopy behind a folding table, barking orders to the others in a sexy Louisiana accent. They were all wearing what looked like Canadian military uniforms.
The two new-comers approached her with haste, knowing that they needed to start there. “Who are you?” she asked of them.
“Saga and Vearden.”
“What do you do?”
“We’re the door-walkers. We travel through portals, assisting others on an as-needed basis.”
She jerked her head around, upset about not having been given all the information. “Are you salmon or choosers.”
“Oh, sorry,” Saga apologized. “We’re just salmon.”
She slid her fingers down a list that was taped to the table. There was a second list to its left, probably containing the names of choosers who were helping them. “Saga and Vearden...I don’t have you on my list. Who told you to come here?”
“We are rarely told anything,” Vearden said. “We walk through openings, and appear somewhere new. We don’t always know when, and we never know where.”
She nodded as he was talking, still perturbed by how long the two of them would take to explain things. “If you’re—Glaston!” she screamed, interrupting herself.
They looked over to see a man on the boundary point between two locations. A section of the ocean had been pulled into the area. He had his arms out to balance himself between solid ground on his right and the deep, cold water on his left.
The leader woman continued to scream, “quit screwin’ around! I need you to merge southern Saigon with New Brunswick!”
Glaston just stared at her like a kindergarten refusing to participate in naptime.
“Now, Glaston! You have your orders!”
He just flipped her off.
She dropped her volume down so that only those in the canopy could hear her. “I guess we know why you two were brought here. You’ll be replacing him.” She turned her chin partially towards the man on her right, but didn’t look directly at him. “Mister Kolby, please send The Merger to Beaver Haven.”
Kolby lifted a very odd looking gun towards the dissident, and pressed it against the side of his stomach. He quickly pulled the trigger, hitting his mark expertly. Glaston slammed his palms on his chest where the bullet had hit. As small amounts of electricity surged throughout his body, he started to yell, “Yippee ki-yay, mother fffffuuuuuuuuuuu...!” Before he was able to finish his expletive, he shuddered and disappeared. Saga and Vearden widened their eyes and looked back towards the leader woman.
“Don’t worry,” she assured them, “he’s not dead. Kolby’s gun just expels people to a special prison. I’m not here to babysit.” She took a deep breath and released it. “This is Operation Second Wind. Starting today—April 30, 1975, by the way—the United States will execute a contingency plan to evacuate soldiers and civilians from the city now known as Saigon, South Vietnam. Due to extenuating circumstances, fixed-wing aircraft cannot be used, so dozens of helicopters will be flying back and forth between the embassy and an armada of ships in the South China Sea.”
“Yes,” Vearden said. “I remember this from history class.”
Yeah, they should definitely not interrupt this woman. “Yes, well unfortunately, not everyone makes it out. Not everyone can. If we evacuate the entirety of Saigon—which we’re fully capable of—we’ll be too exposed. 1975 is just too close to the invention of the internet for us to brush it off and bury it to history. But we are going to take who we can and sprinkle them throughout the world twenty minutes into the future, primarily in Canada.”
“So, we’re going to southern Saigon.”
She ignored them for a second. “Kingmaker! Kingmaker! What are you doing here?”
The Kingmaker threw up his arms. “Trang wasn’t there!” He drew nearer.
She started itching all over her face from the stress. “Okay, we must have the dates mixed up. But we gotta get that kid and his family to Indonesia. Tai Trang is too important to the future!”
“If the powers that be don’t take me there, I can’t get there,” he said, in full agreeance with her.
She continued to itch herself, but seemed to be getting better. “Okay, okay, okay.” She pointed over to another canopy where an elderly man was consulting one out of hundreds of books sprawled out around him. “Go speak with The Historian again.” As the Kingmaker was walking away, she yelled up to crowd, “and somebody find me The fucking Emissary! I’m sick of being jerked around by the powers!” She pushed the air away from her face, “okay, who are you people again?”
“We’re the—”
She cut Saga off, “the door-walkers, right. Southern Saigon. Kolby, please find me Glaston’s mission files. Hopefully he didn’t throw them to Jupiter or some nonsense like that.”
Kolby pulled them to the side so that the leader woman could move on with her very important work. “I’m not going to hunt for those files, that is not my job. He very likely could have left them on Jupiter.” He pointed to a tent next to the Historian’s. “The Archivist lives there. Tell him that you’ve been given the Merger’s assignment.”
“Understood,” Vearden said.
“Hey, how are Mateo and Leona?”
Saga shook her head. “We’ve not seen Leona lately, but we left Mateo over a hundred years from now. They’re not great.”
He nodded. “Give them my best if you ever see them again. I believe they refer to me as Guard Number Two.” He smiled warmly, but briefly.
“We will.”
They walked briskly over to the Archivist, dodging fake soldiers running through their path. They hesitated at the tent, not wanting to just walk in without first warning him. But there was no way to knock. “Umm...Mister Archivist, sir?”
They heard the sound of glass dropping, but not breaking. “What?” He did not sound well.
“We’re looking for, uh...the..the Merger’s mission files.”
“What do you want with that?”
“We’re replacing him. We, uh...we’re the door-walkers?”
“The Freelancers,” Vearden added in a quiet voice.
“The Freelancers,” Saga repeated so that the Archivist could hear.
They could hear him cough and scramble up, sticking his head through the opening. “Saga and Vearden, as I poorly keep track of records and breathe.” He tried to worm his hand through the opening as well, presumably to greet them. “Uhh...I need pants. Half a moment.” He pulled his head back in too quickly. The flaps separated just enough to reveal his member as he was turning around to look for clothes. He awkwardly laughed from inside. “If I managed my pants the way I manage my files then...well, then nothing would be different. I’m not very good at my job. I’m the fourth one, and this isn’t even my time period.” He reopened the flaps so that they could walk in. He hurriedly tried to clean up the bottles of cliché all over the place, but there was really nothing that could be done. “Sorry for the mess. I’m just the Historian’s red-headed stepchild, so no one visits me.” He took a swig of mouthwash but swallowed it quickly.
“It’s quite all right,” Saga lied.
He spoke rapidly. “Now, you’re looking for Glaston’s files—hold on, do you want something to drink? No, of course you don’t. You’re on duty. I have water, though. No, I don’t, I don’t know why I said that. I can find water. No, you don’t need water, you’re in a hurry. Of course, Glaston’s files.” He turned towards a metal filing cabinet. “You wanna see something cool? You’ve probably seen it on TV, but this one is real.” He smirked and released the catch on the top drawer. It started rolling open at a medium rate. The drawer was much longer than could fit in the cabinet. Had they no experience with spacetime manipulation, they would have looked behind the cabinet to find out what was going on.
The drawer continued through the flaps, and apparently hit someone walking outside. “Ow!” she yelled.
The Archivist warped his face, only playfully concerned about the woman’s safety. “Whoopsidoodles.” He clapped his hands together in preparation, and then started to run his fingers through the folders. “Chooser Kayetan Glaston, also known as the Merger, born June 25, 1982. Keeps mostly to the 20th and 21st centuries on Earth. He’s a total dick, and nobody likes him. And he...” he trailed off while looking through one of the folders.
“What is it?” Vearden asked.
The Archivist looked up at them then clumsily put the file away. In a clear attempt to downplay whatever it was that he had read, he said, “that’s from an alternate timeline, don’t worry about it. What you need is the mission file from today.” Without looking, he smugly reached over and pulled a fairly full accordion folder. “Here ya go. Don’t spend it all in one place.” He winked.
“Thanks,” Saga replied with almost a curtsy that she hoped she managed to hide well enough.
“Did you just curtsy?” Vearden asked after they left the tent through a portal to southern Saigon.
“Shut up.”
They spent the rest of the day, and part of the next, extracting South Vietnamese and third country nationals from Saigon, some to their respective homes, others to nearby ports, and yet others to random points in Canada. They had to give these refugees specific instructions to, of course, never mention to anyone exactly how they survived. Glaston’s mission files included packets of false stories that the refugees were asked to memorize so that they would have a credible explanation for getting out of the war zone. It seemed to work, because no one in the future suspected that anything unnatural had happened during Operation Frequent Wind. The question they had now was who wrote all those falsified documents, and how many other historical events had happened differently than the world knew?

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