Saturday, January 21, 2017

Voyage to Saga: Flights, Cameras, The Action (Part I)

Vearden Haywood was almost completely alone. He once traveled the galaxy, completing missions, and going on adventures, with his best friend. But Saga was gone. She had sacrificed herself to save thousands of lives, and now she no longer existed. He found himself in a new reality; one in which an ally named Mateo Matic was never born, and neither was Saga. They had been battling an enemy who liked to call himself The Cleanser...or The Cleaner. Whatever it was, he was not a good person. It was he who tried to destroy The Pentagon with some kind of quantum duplication trick, but in order to achieve this, he needed to share some of his power with the two of them. Saga held onto this power, and used it against him, leaving Vearden to regret allowing it.
Vearden was able to maintain some power for a while after Saga’s disappearance, but not enough to find a way to bring her back. Once all this power had been drained from his system, he happened to be stuck in the year 2017. Not that it mattered, really, but it would have been nice to have gigabit internet. At present, he was sprawled out on the couch of a safehouse, watching trash TV, just like he was doing before he knew that time travel was real. He could hear clicking sounds on the other side of the door. Ashlock must have been trying to break in again. He said it was weird that a guy with his last name couldn’t pick a lock. Vearden didn’t really see a relevant connection. Garen Ashlock was a fellow time traveler, except instead of being beholden to the whims of the powers that be, he could choose how he used his powers. Not surprisingly, people like him were known as choosing ones. He had an interesting limitation, though. He could send someone from present day to any time and place in the future or past, and then bring them back, but was unable to travel himself. They called him The Action, but Vearden preferred Ashlock.
Fifteen minutes later, the door swung open. “I think I may have broken it,” Ashlock said apologetically.
“Whatever,” Vearden replied. “The only people I’m worried about getting in here can teleport anyway.”
Ashlock looked at the TV. “Why are you watching this crap again?”
“Well, I just finished watching LOST for the fourth time, and it was left on this channel.”
“Do you think watching your friend’s favorite show is gonna bring her back?”
“I can’t imagine it’s preventing her from coming back.”
“But it prevents you from moving on. This life is not healthy. How long has it been since the powers that be gave you a mission?”
“They keep opening portals to Stonehenge, but I think they know by now that I’ve figured out how to subvert them.”
“Well, you’re the only I’ve ever met who’s been able to do that.”
“The other salmon just aren’t working hard enough.”
“And they were never temporarily granted the temporal powers of one of the most powerful people in histories.”
“There’s that too.”
“Come on,” Ashlock said, like a worried mother. “It’s time to get out and about. I wanna send you somewhere.”
“No, thanks, I don’t feel like it.”
“I didn’t say you had a choice.”
“You didn’t say I didn’t.”
“Do you want to talk in circles?”
“Do you want to talk in circles?”
“Very funny.”
“I thought so.”
“If you don’t get up and get dressed right now, you’ll be going on the trip in your jammies.”
“It’s a robe.”
“Then I’ll send you to a transport ship in the 24th century, and you can pretend to be Arthur Dent.”
“I don’t get the reference.”
“Yes, you do, I know you do.” He waited. “Seriously, this is happening. I consider it my duty and honor to extract you from your funk.”
“Fine,” Vearden said finally. Then he got dressed.
“Bring Saga’s camera, by the way. You’re gonna want it.”
“It better be somewhere cold this time,” Vearden said from the other room as he was retrieving the camera.
Ashlock cracked his knuckles, and his neck. “Thank you for flying Ashlock Airlines. Here at Ashlock, we understand that you have a choice in transport options, and we thank you for not choosing Dave. Dave’s a dick.”
“Okay,” Vearden said dismissively.
Ashlock didn’t care. “At this time, please ensure that you have removed any citrus from your person, as it will explode during transit. If you cannot afford to leave your citrus, a napkin will not be appointed for you.”
“Could we be quite quick?”
“Your wish is my command.” He snapped his fingers, twitched his nose, then crossed his arms and bobbed his head.
“We get it,” Vearden cried. “You have superpowers, and you like TV!”
As one final flourish, Ashlock reached back and began to punch Vearden. An invisible force propelled Vearden backwards, before Ashlock’s fist could make contact, sending him to another time and place.
He was standing in a field, which was where all good stories start. At first he thought that that’s all it was, but then he turned and saw something familiar. Ashlock’s voice came to him from the aether, which was something he could do to people he’s sent somewhere. “I’m sorry. It’s for the best.
Vearden was looking at a Stonehenge archway. But that’s all that was there. Only one archway of three stones had been built. The rest were presumably on their way. Though never this early in the timeline, he had been here before. A man called The Delegator liked to use it as his office. He would summon salmon—time travelers who had no control over their movements—to his location in order to tell them what they’re going to be doing to serve a mysterious group of people ominously called the powers that be.
“I have been waiting for you for a very long time,” the Delegator said.
“That’s BS,” Vearden argued. “You can manipulate time. I bet you just tried to take me back several times within the last five minutes, from your perspective.”
“Then correction: you have been waiting to return for a very long time.”
“Whatever,” Vearden replied, his catchphrase. “I’m not gonna fight with you about this. I think I did a pretty good job of avoiding it, but that’s over now. There’s only one archway, which means I don’t have a choice in the matter this time. Either tell me what I’m doing, or let me walk through and figure it out on my own. I’m fine either way.”
“If you had come when you were first called, you would have learned that this is a mission you might actually want.”
“I doubt it.”
“The archway will take you back to Saga.”
With no further question, Vearden started walking towards the portal.
“Wait,” the delegator stopped him desperately. “It won’t take you directly to her. You’ll have to go through a whole lot of trouble on the other side in order to find her.”
He would not be deterred. “Fine, that works for me.”
“Not so fast. Right now, she feels no pain. She feels nothing. If you do this. If you go on this...journey, you’ll be subjecting her to the pain of life. If you walk away, you’ll go back to your tighty-whities and microwave popcorn, and the powers that be will never bother you again. Hell, I’ll even throw in a one-way trip to a time and place of your choosing, at no extra charge. Walk through that portal, and the deal’s off. If you get Saga back, you’ll both start going on dangerous missions again.”
Vearden laughed. “As if that’s a real choice.” He continued towards the portal.
“Can you do that to her? Can you bring another human being into our terrible world?”
“The world is better off,” Vearden said without turning back, “with Saga Einarsson in it.” He stepped forward...and began his voyage to Saga.

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