Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Departure of Hokusai Gimura: Chapter One

The first thing I do after secretly leaving Analion Tower—which is in about the same state it was in the other reality—is return to the bus station and retrieve the money that The Repairman procured for me. The one benefit of living in that corrupted reality Yatchiko created was that I was a whole person, with an identity, and resources. I even had a girlfriend with immense time powers whose help I could use right now, but I have no idea how to contact her. Her phone number no longer works, which I discovered after borrowing a phone from a kind stranger. I still have my phone with me, but it only works with public WiFi, because my original wireless carrier has never heard of me. The only thing I was able to keep with me from the corrupted reality was my face. Melantha—or Meliora, as it were—used to give me deaging therapy, which somehow transferred over to the true reality.
After resting for a night in a seedy motel, I walk to a seedy car dealership, where they don’t ask many questions, and buy a crappy car. I drive the crappy car to the crappy part of the city where people do whatever they can just to get by. I’ve retained my memories of being a Kansas City police officer, and a corporate fraud investigator, in the corrupted reality. While most of that never actually happened, I still have knowledge of how this city works. When you’re a cop looking for really bad people, sometimes you have to let the not so terribly bad people keep living their lives, and doing their jobs. I never really had a problem with that since I don’t agree with every law anyway. I struck a deal with a couple who specialize in generating false identities for people. As my confidential informants, they would keep their ears to the ground for any nefarious activity. In return, I would let them keep helping people escape their old lives. Most of their clients were abused wives, and street gang members who wanted to get out of the life. They charged a lot less for their services than they could, and never helped violent criminals evade the law. All I can hope is they still exist in this reality.
“You smell like a cop,” the cliché of a freelance security guard says when I try to enter the forger couple’s den.
“I was a cop, and I left this operation running because I appreciated what they were doing. It was my job to stop gang violence, and they contributed to that cause. I don’t think they ever knew about me, but I wanted to extend my gratitude...and ask for a favor.”
He lifts his head to alter his perception of me.
I take a thousand dollars out of my pocket. “I just wanna talk. You can pat me down, if you want.”
“That won’t be necessary,” says someone from a dark corner. A young man steps into the light and offers me his hand. “Nice to meet you, detective. My parents spoke highly of you.”
“They did?” That’s impossible, I never actually worked for the KCPD, at least not as a detective.
“Yes, of course. In the corrupted reality, that is,” he says. “Follow me.” He turns around and walks back into the darkness.
As I’m following, his personal guard casually plucks the cash from my hand, which is fine.
“Who are you?” I ask him once we’re in his office. “How do you know about the corrupted reality? Do you remember it?”
He points to a mirror on the other side of the room. “That allows me to speak with my dead parents. Yesterday, they start talking about contradictions in their own memories, acting like they’ve lived lives that never happened. I figured it out.”
“You have a Mirror of Erised?” I ask, referring to an object in the Harry Potter franchise.
He grins. “Where do you think Rowling got the idea?”
“So you know who I am?” I ask, getting the subject back on track.
“Detective Kallias Bran, not really. Was the corruption centered on you?”
“It was.”
He nods. “But you broke through it?”
Trusting him, I take the Incorruptible Astrolabe from my bag and show it to him.
He dons a pair of his own steampunk goggles, and adjusts the magnifiers. “Very interesting. Got anything else?”
“Yeah, I do,” I say, guarded. “Questions.”
“That’s all right, I’m not in the business of stealing from people.”
“What are you in the business of?”
He takes a breath. “My name is The Forger. I help time travelers assimilate into their new environments.”
“You’re a time traveler?”
“I’ve traveled, but by aid of others . I can’t do it myself, this is my time period.”
“So you can help me create an identity.”
“You had an identity during the corruption, but now now?”
“The reality was created in order to give me that identity, which was stolen from me when my city disappeared from time.”
He’s taken aback by this. “A whole city?”
“Gradually. Eventually.”
“Holy shit, I need to talk to The Historian about that.”
“First, could you make me a real boy?”
Still preoccupied with the mystery of Springfield, Kansas, he steps over to the multi-function printer and punches a few buttons. It starts spitting papers out of one tray, and then a full passport from the booklet tray. He then moves over to the ATM. “Are you staying in 2017?”
“Yes, but I don’t need any money. The Repairman took care of that for me.”
“Oh, you met him? Kind of a weirdo, right?”
“He’s good people, though.” He pushes a few ATM buttons. A few cards fall out, which he hands to me. “He always hands out cash, so you’ll need at least one bank account, and a line of credit.”
I take the cards from him, which are completely blank, except for the chip, and the magnetic bar. “Which bank?”
“You choose. “The cards will fill in themselves once you decide which issuers they’re from. I recommend staying away from Gregorios, though. They’re even more corrupt than regular banks.”
“Ah, man, this is amazing. Thank you for all you’re help. How much do I owe you?”
He laughs and taps on the ATM a few times. “I don’t need your money. Just tell me what kind of life you would have led had you not lived in this mysteriously disappearing city. The documents that printed were just the initial ones. You’ll still need a history.”
I sit down with him and discuss what I’ve been though. I make a few things up, but most of it is just my real past, conflated to Kansas City, instead of Springfield. He prints out two copies of each document, and keeps virtual copies in a magical network that apparently disseminates them to time and space. He’s not just giving me papers to show people as needed. He’s actually somehow rewriting history to reflect my presence in it. I ask him whether he’s met Yatchiko Ishimaru, who could do something similar, but he just says he stays away from all those people, as most salmon and choosers do. Whatever those are. The Children of Springfield, as I’ve decided to call them, are a special class of temporal manipulators that no one wants to talk about, according to the Forger.
He collates all the documents, handing one set to me in a manilla folder, and placing the other in a large envelope. He then steps over to a mailbox, opens it once before closing it, then lifts the red signal flag. He stands there for a few moments, playing with his phone, while I review my new information.
There’s a knock on the bathroom door, through which a twentysomething guy walks when the Forger announces that it’s open. He’s wearing traditional courier garb, complete with shorts, and a flimsy hat. I can see burn scars peaking out on the side of his face. “Detective!” he cries upon seeing me.
“Do I know you?” I ask. He does look familiar, but I can’t quite recall.
“Ennis. Ennis Patton. You helped me and my family move.”
I look at my folder. “Wow, these papers work fast.”
“What?” Ennis asks. “This was years ago, in Springfield.”
“You remember Springfield?” I ask, surprised.
“Yeah, I’m from there. Born and raised, like you. Though...I suppose not anymore.”
“You’re a time traveler,” I guess. That must be why he remembers a city that no longer exists.
He smiles proudly. “The Courier, at your service.” He flicks the brim of his hat. I never got a chance to thank you. You got us out. Had we stayed in our neighborhood one more day, we’d have been toast.”
That’s it. I used to go around finding ways of moving people out of the houses that were about to be swallowed up by the ravages of broken time. I do remember him now. “Ennis Patton. You were the one...” I trail off, not wanting to be insensitive.
“Who got blown up in that package bomb?” he finished my sentence. “That was me.”
“They could never explain that, how three houses in a row exploded at once. That’s not how blast radii work, but I guess it had to do with time travel.”
He nods. “That’s exactly right.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“Don’t be. That block disappeared soon thereafter. It was another several years before our new street went with it. I don’t think we would have believed you had that package not blown up. It was after that that I started having some weird time experiences, like the Purple Rose Lane pocket dimension. And now my parents are safe in Wichita, and I have a job that I love.”
“Speaking of your job,” the Forger jumps in, “I need you to get the Detective’s new documents to The Archivist so he can update his file.”
“I have a file?” I ask.
“Everybody has a file,” Ennis explains. He takes my identity package from the Forger and stuffs them into his delivery bag.
“Well, I’m glad things ended up okay,” I say to him. “It still shouldn’t have been so...painful.”
“These scars haven’t exactly been a hit with the ladies and gentlemen,” Ennis says, lifting his shirt to reveal them to be much worse on his back, “but they’re mine now, and I accept that.”
“Still,” the Forger begins, “Doctor Hammer could probably do something about them.”
“Thanks,” Ennis says. “I’ll consider it. Right now, though, I have deliveries to make. It was nice seeing you again, Detective Bran.” He tips his hat and turns to leave back through the bathroom door.
“You as well,” I say before he vanishes.
“Well, you’re all set up,” the Forger says with finality. “Unless there’s anything else I can do for you.”
“No, you’ve been a great help.” I take the Astrolabe back out of my bag and set it on his table. “Put this somewhere safe for me. You’re obviously familiar with the time traveler underground. I wouldn’t know the first thing about hiding a magical object, and I certainly don’t want to keep looking at it.”
“Will do,” he says quietly.
I exit to use my identity to buy a really nice condo at the Ponce de Leon through my new bank accounts. There’s no reason I can’t be comfortable while I’m looking for where Hokusai ran off to.

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