Saturday, June 10, 2017

Flurry: Timeline (Part IX)

This was a side to Horace Reaver that Serkan had never seen, and hoped he never would. From what little Lincoln said on the matter, Ace was not a great person in some alternate timeline. Exactly how the timeline they lived in was created was not something they knew, but they had decided to leave it alone. Trying to learn more about this other version of Ace could do them absolutely no good. Their best bet was always to distance themselves from it as much as possible, and continue on with their lives as if they had never heard anything about it. Unfortunately, it was starting to look like that wasn’t going to be possible. Upon contacting some other friend, Keanu disappeared, leaving Serkan, Ace, and their new friend, Daria literally out in the cold. So the three of them went into the house to figure things out. For now, Daria was waiting in the other room so the two of them could discuss some personal issues.
“She’s our daughter,” Ace said in his own defense before Serkan had had a chance to say anything.
“I know that.”
Ace was still operating in fight or flight mode, with enough adrenaline pumping through his body to power a city. He paced back and forth, which Serkan wanted to stop, but it was actually probably gradually dissipating his frustration. “I’m not going to let that man hurt her. Whatever she does in the future, she’s just a little kid right now. I have to protect her.”
“I’m not saying we don’t, but you have to remember that we’re dealing with people who can manipulate the spacetime continuum. Keanu even said that he knows someone who can enter other dimensions, which is where Paige is right now.”
“Exactly! So I couldn’t just let it go.”
“Beating him into the snow wasn’t going to help anybody. We have no idea what kind of power these people have. Petty human tactics don’t work anymore. We have to be smart.”
“Oh yeah, and how do you suppose we defeat them? You say they have powers, right? Well, if that’s true, and we can’t even begin to comprehend, then I guess all we have in our arsenal are our bare hands. Savages fighting a nuclear bomb with rocks and sticks might sound foolish, but they can’t disarm it with their rocket scientists, because they don’t have any! I have fists, I don’t have powers, so that was my only choice.”
“Words are a choice.”
“Words mean nothing. People talk all the time, nothing gets done. All change has been executed with action. Sometimes that action is violence.”
“I’m not going to believe that,” Serkan said.
Ace had calmed down somewhat, or maybe he was just crashing. “Well, that’s where you and I differ.”
“That’s what I’m worried about.”
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” Ace said after gathering his thoughts. “But maybe it’s best it happens now, rather than later. That’s always been in me. When Rutherford said I did bad things in the other timeline, I wasn’t surprised. And I was glad when The Delegator sent Ulinthra to wherever he did, because I could see in her eyes that she’s even more dangerous...because she doesn’t have you.”
“Then use me,” Serkan pleaded. “Whatever it is that I provide for you that stops you from becoming whatever it is you think you are, hold onto it. Whenever the anger starts building inside, picture me. Give my avatar that anger...and I’ll take care of it.”
He took a deep breath. “I could try that. We still need to do something about Paige. She isn’t safe here. This much is true”
Serkan nodded, because he certainly agreed with it. It Keanu really could get into Bran’s secret dimension—and all evidence pointed to this being the ase—then she would probably be in even more danger than if she were just with them in the real world.
“Give her to me.” Daria had come into the room, as if she had been listening to them the entire time.
“What do you mean?”
“This mission has taken too long,” she told them. “Most last minutes...seconds even. I get in, save a life, and get out. I don’t stick around. When the powers that be leave me in one place for an extended period of it, it’s usually because there’s some kind of perpetual threat that can’t be fixed with just one quick jump.”
“Where can you take her?”
“I can’t go anywhere off Earth, but I can run. And I can hide. The powers won’t let this chooser group catch us. I’m sure of it. Bring her back from wherever she is, and I’ll take her away from this.”
Ace and Serkan looked to each other to see if either of them had any objections, but they didn’t. Maybe it was the wrong choice, but they were already trusting Kallias Bran with her, who they barely knew. That didn’t mean they could just pass her out to anyone they came across, but they had to believe that there were genuinely good people out there. Keanu and his friends could be playing the long con by sending Daria with lies, but that wasn’t any more or less plausible than someone who could open dimensional portals.
“Okay,” Ace said.
As Ace ushered Daria to stand around the corner, Serkan took out the Escher Card and hovered it over the wall where they had first used the original Escher Knob. This was as good a time as any to test this new time object, and it proved functional. The portal opened, revealing Paige and Kallias sitting on the couch, watching cartoons.
“Is it over?” Bran asked.
“Can I come back home?” Paige asked.
Serkan just shook his head. “It’s just no longer safe here.”
Bran stood up. “Where can she go?”
Now Ace shook his head. “You can’t know that.”
Bran completely understood. “Okay.”
Paige gave her babysitter a hug, grabbed her backpack, and headed for the portal. “Remember. You owe me that camera.”
“I’ll find one,” Bran told her with a kind smile. “Somewhere. Some time.”
Once Serkan closed the portal, it was safe to let Daria come back around. They needed to keep Bran from seeing her to compartmentalize the plan. The less he knew, the better. Daria knelt down to Paige’s level and reached out her hand in greeting. “Hi, my name is—” But before she could finish her sentence, they both disappeared. As soon as her fingers touched Paige’s, they were connected.
By then, Ace had calmed down so much that this seemed completely normal. “I sure hope we’re right about her.”
“We know Paige grows up to be—what was she, twentysomething? Maybe thirties?”
“Yes,” Ace agreed in monotone, “but we do not know what happens to her along the way. Obviously she makes enemies on her own.”
“Let’s hope for the best, and plan for the worst,” Serkan mused. “What we need to do right now is figure out how we’re gonna deal with our Keanu problem. Clearly he never needed his company to alter the weather. And now we see how serious he is about keeping to whatever his grand plan will turn out to be.”
“We edge,” Ace continued the conversation. “An advantage. We need to find some way to surprise him. Even if he’s powerful enough to handle it, maybe it’ll be enough to stop him just because he doesn’t see it coming.”
“You mean something other than the Escher Card?”
A young man they had never seen before came up from the stairs, looking like a house-sitting nephew of a work friend who didn’t realize they had already returned from vacation. “Maybe it’s not something you need, but someone.” Were people just gonna waltz into their lives as if scripted? Maybe their lives really were being controlled by these powers that be people were always going on about.
Ace put himself into fighting stance, ready to get that adrenaline flowing again. Serkan did the same. “Who are you, and how did you get in here?”
“Whoa,” the teenager said, “it’s cool. We’re cool. I got the key you taped to the underside of your neighbor’s doghouse. Very clever of you; keeping it close enough to walk to, but far enough that random intruders wouldn’t be likely to find it, but also secure in a spot that doesn’t generally move.”
“You can’t be all three impressed, smart enough to have found it, and confident enough to have used it,” Serkan pointed out.
“Fair assessment. She told me where it was.” He just nodded to the wall, as if someone were standing next to him. “I know you can’t see her, but she’s there.”
Serkan actually believed it. A ghost certainly wouldn’t be the craziest thing he had encountered over the last year. Still, he had some snark to spill. “And are the voices telling you to hurt people, or yourself?”
“It’s nothing like that. We help people. I’m from the future,” he claimed. Further than you are. And I’ve come back to bootstrap my life.”
“You what?” Ace probably didn’t believe him at all.
“The time we’re in right now is a temporal crossroads. From here, many possible timeline branches can form. I’m here to make sure that the branch I come from is the one that’s ultimately chosen. If I don’t...” he nodded to the wall again, “...she’s never born, and my life never has purpose.”
“What in the world are you talking about?” Ace asked impatiently
“I travel backwards in time, changing history for the better. It’s what I do. It’s But I wasn’t the first. If you don’t act...if I can’t get you to help us, my predecessor will die before she has a chance to start her own mission.”
“You change history for the better?” Ace asked.
“You could even say that you...put right what once went wrong?”
“See, that’s funny,” the stranger said. “My predecessor loves movies and TV. She would appreciate that reference so hard.”
“What exactly are you expecting us to do?” Serkan asked of him.
“You have to save her life.”
“Whose life?”
“Quivira. Quivira Boyce. Also known as The Renegade.”

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