Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Mystery of Springfield, Kansas: Chapter Four

As part of my research into Analion, which is this window manufacturing company I’ve never heard of, I look at their website. I have lots of different windows open at the same time, and I’m multitasking, because sometimes that’s just how I work. I stop everything else I’m doing, however, when I find a picture of all the Vice Presidents, because I recognize every single one of them. They’re the kids who disappeared at the same time as Rothko Ladhiffe. They’re a little older now, so they don’t look exactly the same, but it is undoubtedly them. I just can’t believe it. I should have kept better track of them, but I was just so obsessed with protecting Springfield, so everything beyond its borders seemed irrelevant. So not only did they stick together, but they formed a company. I don’t recognize the President, or the Executive Vice President, though. Either the two of them are even more powerful than these kids, or there’s some other reason they’re not just in control of the place themselves.
Regardless of whether there’s a mystical artifact in the President’s office, I need answers, and it’s about goddamn time that these vice presidents give it to me. I rush out of the coffee shop to jump in my car, only then remembering that I don’t bloody have one. I barely got to Topeka, but now I have to figure out how to get out of it. That will be next to impossible, because I don’t have an identity anymore either. Though I was outside the boundaries of Springfield when it made its final descent into the void, I had no life elsewhere. I’ve tried getting back to my bank account, and the like, but they’ve been erased. I might as well have never been born. Completely out of options, I just start walking. I don’t plan on getting all the way there like this, but maybe I can bum another ride from a nice man in a truck.
No truck, but a man does approach me after a half hour of wandering on the streets. “Kallias Bran?”
“Is your name Detective Kallias Bran?”
I just stand there in shock. Who the hell is this guy? “Yeah?”
“I’ve got somethin’ for you.”
I instinctively place my hand at my hip, readying my sidearm.
The stranger pulls an envelope from his coat pocket.
“What’s this?”
“Money? Why are you giving me money?”
His face betrays some slight level of horror. “Wait, I did this wrong. I totally messed up my line. I’m supposed to call it a letter. We need to go back and try again.”
He snaps his finger and disappears. I revert back to the position I was in just before he showed up, as does everyone around me. He’s just reset time.
He walks up again. “Kallias Bran?”
“We’re not gonna try it again. Just tell me what the money’s for.”
He looks surprised. “You remember that? But...but, I reset time.”
“Yeah, I’m immune to some of those things,” I explain to him, not fully understanding it myself. “What do you want?”
“Ah crap. It was this whole bit. It’s not raining, though, so I don’t know why we were trying.”
“What in God’s name are you talking about?”
“The money is just for you, to spend as needed. We are aware that you are in a bind, and require transport to Kansas City. I am not authorized to transport you myself, but this should be enough.”
I look through the envelope he hands me for the second time, and thumb it open. “There’s, like, thirty thousand dollars in here.”
“There is?” he asks, still just as surprised as maybe he always is. “Oh, here ya go.”
He flicks the envelope with his finger, which causes a second envelope to magically appear just under the first one. He does it two more times, and I nearly drop them all on the ground.
“I don’t need a hundred and twenty thousand dollars either.”
“Oh, that’s only a hundred twenty? I’m not great at math.” He tries to flick them again.
“No, no, no. That’s quite all right. I would just like to know who you are, and why you care what I do?”
“Have you ever heard of a deus ex machina? God in the machine?”
“Yeah...” I say, because I sorta remember that from High School English class.
He smiles and tips his hat. “Sometimes the machine breaks down. I’m The Repairman.” Then he disappears, leaving in his place a greenish bag.
I open the bag, but close it quickly. Of course, it’s more money; at least a million, probably closer to two. A little note is safety pinned to the handle. As I read with my eyes, I can hear an actual real-life narration in my head. “We have reviewed your case, and determined that about twenty-six years have been stolen from your life. Though we cannot fully repair the damage caused by the temporal anomaly, we hope these funds will sufficiently compensate for any loss in wealth that you should be enjoying from those years of hard work.” There’s a post-script on the back. “Do not spend any of this on a bus ticket. You have a magic door knob that can cross into other dimensions.
I don’t spend the money on a bus, but I do figure out how to command the Escher Knob to take me to the Kansas City bus station. Here I stash the cash in a locker since I don’t really have anywhere else. I try to get the knob to take me to the upper levels of Analion Tower, but it won’t do it. I pull up the memory of the pictures I saw of the building from their website. D’uh, I can’t magically teleport myself in there. The building itself was constructed into the shape of a cylicone, which is the same technology used to make the Escher Knob work. It’s basically warded against unauthorized entry, like a giant safehouse. When you can manipulate time to the degree of the kids I know from Springfield, you’re bound to form an enemy or two, so it’s no surprise they sought protection. They can’t hide from me, though. I simply pull up a trusty map of the city, and Knob to the closest building. Then I just walk.
I get into the lobby, but security won’t let me by, because what reason would they have to do so? I could have all the money in the world, but I would still be nobody. As grateful as I am to that Repairman, and whoever he may be working with, I would have been happy with just a driver’s license. I leave the lobby and sit down on a bench next to a lavish water fountain. I open my bag and examine my resources. Okay, I already know the knob won’t work. I don’t know exactly what the HG Goggles do, but probably nothing useful right now. What I could really use is some psychic paper, but all I got is this half-empty pack of gum, a broken shoestring I’ve been meaning to toss, and the Rothko Torch. Oh and my gun and badge, but I don’t really wanna do that, because what if they look close and try to figure out what Springfield, Kansas is? Plus, I have no official business with the vice presidents, and whether I’m a real law enforcement officer or not, I still respect the badge, and I refuse to abuse its power.
So it looks like we’re back to the flashlight, with its indeterminate power. If the building is cylicone, then time magic should work while inside it, just maybe not against it. From what I’ve learned about these objects, along with other crazy things I’ve encountered throughout most of my adult life, is that you have to be creative, but also remember what things seem to be. The goggles don’t have the power to paint the future, because goggles aren’t a tool for painting. You would need a cylicone paintbrush for that, if such a thing exists. A normal flashlight is used for one thing; to shine light. You can use it to illuminate your path, or it can brighten your surroundings to find something. Or it can be a beacon.
I stride back into the lobby, giving off the impression that I am up to no good, which isn’t what I was going for, but whatever. A security guard standing guard in the corner approaches from the corner of my eye to corner me for security. Before she, or the receptionist, can get anywhere near me, I raise the Rothko Torch up in the air, pointing it towards the top of the giant atrium that runs all the way up. I flip it on, and suddenly feel the light pulling me upwards, like an alien abductee—oh, I’m experiencer.
“We got the message.”
I’m standing in a conference room of some kind. At least that’s what it looks like it’s going to be, once they finish construction. Apparently the building isn’t quite ready for prime time, despite being in full use. “Ishimaru,” I say to the one woman in the room with me.
“Hello, detective,” she says.
“You don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t teleport in and get me up to speed. What the hell is this place, Yatchiko?”
She looks at the walls in a more general sense. “A failed experiment.”
“What were you trying to do?”
“Save the world,” she answers.
“From a window company?”
“The company was just the beginning. Is the beginning,” she corrects herself.
“Forgive me,” I say to her, “I’ve forgotten what your power was. Are you the one who can read minds, or whatever?”
“No. I can change time. Move things around.”
“I read the literature. The company’s older than you.”
“No, it’s not. I just make people think that.”
“I need your help. I need to find Springfield. I hear you have some kind of astrolabe?”
The word seems to smell bad to her. “I know what you’re talking about. It is not here.”
“Well, I read—”
“Then what you read was fake news,” she interrupted. “The astrolabe couldn’t be further from Analion Tower. I would never let it within these walls.”
“Then what good are you?” I ask callously.
“I’m not,” she says as profound truth.
I let me breath go, realizing only then that I’ve been holding it for however long.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t help.”
“Please. I’m desperate. If there are survivors, and they’re lost, or hurt, somewhere, they need my help.”
“Sometimes we help people in ways they don’t want, but instead need. You want to find your missing town, but you need purpose. You’ve lost that, but I can get it back.”
“Whatever you’re about to do...don’t do it.”
She smiled coolly. “It’s done.”
I start to feel drowsy, and then I’m drifting down towards the floor, or maybe my bed. When I wake up, I’m a retired former detective of the Kansas City Police Department.

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