Saturday, February 17, 2018

Void: Crusaders (Part VII)

As the wedding day approached, Saga and Andromeda were asked to meet with a woman named The Officiant. She operated at a level of law that goes beyond humanity, and real time. Any salmon or chooser they’ve ever met whose been married was married by her. That was her one and only job, she took it very seriously, and she never let anyone do it for her. Right now, she was sitting across her desk from them. They were in a Justice of the Peace-like office that could travel with her across time and space, and apparently didn’t quite exist in this dimension. She regarded them warmly. “Do you know who I am?”
“The Officiant.”
“Do you know what that means?”
“That you marry people.”
“What kind of people?”
“People with time powers.”
She nodded, but like she was still waiting for a better answer, or for the most dramatic time to learn them the truth herself. But, then she just seemed to move on. “How long have you two known each other?”
“Four years,” Andromeda answered.
“Four years?” the Officiant repeated. “You don’t think this is too quick?” Her tone was ambiguously judgmental.
“No,” Saga said plainly.
“Good. There’s no room for doubt here.”
“I understand you’ve been having trouble with the locals.”
“As far as my world has come in the last several years,” Andromeda began, “there is still a lot of prejudice.”
“Has nothing to do with your genders, right?”
“Oh, heavens no.” Andromeda shook her head. “That’s never been an issue here.”
“So, certain peoples are just upset about a Durusian marrying an Earthan.”
“Durune,” Saga corrected.
“Tell me about the, umm...” she flipped through her notes, “the Dawidux incident?”
“That was a long time ago.”
“You think two years is a long time?” the Officiant questioned.
“I guess time doesn’t really matter to people like us. For us, it was two years ago. For Leona or Serif, it would be two days. For you? Maybe a literal aeon.”
She smiled and nodded again. “From what I gather, the Dawidux people were just one group of many.”
“I wouldn’t say many,” Andromeda disagreed. “There are others, yes. But they’re mostly harmless.”
The Officiant shifted in her seat. “I’ve heard people say that about Earth, but I’ve never heard an Orolakian say it.”
Saga grinned. “This is true.”
“I don’t know what an Orolakian is,” Andromeda lamented.
“Seems like a big part of your life, Saga, that she should know about.”
“The aliens, sweetie,” Saga said to her fiancée. “Remember? We sort of...started a revolution. Vearden and I.”
“You still need to finish it,” the Officiant told her.
“What?” Saga asked.
“That story is not over,” she added.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about your marriage. Your relationship with each other is...a problem for time.”
“For time?” Andromeda asked. “Time itself?”
The Officiant nodded.
“Time can get fucked.”
“Saga,” Andromeda scolded her.
“What? I don’t care what the powers that be want from me! Ain’t nobody gonna stop me from marrying you.” She turned back to the Officiant and added, “including you.”
“I’m not here to stop you,” the Officiant said defensively. “I’m just here to chat.”
“That’s what detectives say to persons of interest,” Saga spit.
“Saga,” Andromeda scolded again. “Be nice.”
Saga regained her composure. “You’re right. I just don’t like being questioned. I put a lot of thought into my decision to marry this girl, and I know that she did as well. I’m not true salmon. I can resist the powers that be’s whims. Is that the right grammar?”
“You can postpone them, to be more accurate. Do not underestimate their power, or their...mercilessness. No,” she said before anyone else could speak. “Cruelty. That’s the word I’m looking for.”
“This is happening,” Saga said clearly. “You can either help us with it, or we can find a Durune officiant. Most people here are supportive, and not on a crusade against our bond.”
“I’ll do it,” said the Officiant, embarrassed for having failed in her mission to instill them with confidence in her. “But you do need to understand the risks. Leona and Mateo were authorized. You’re doing this without that authorization. Make no mistake, lots of salmon marry people the powers didn’t explicitly approve of, and they end up fine. I’m not saying this can’t work, but don’t you dare think you’re safe. The Atlantians make the Dawiduxians looks like a basket of puppies.”
Andromeda nodded soberly. “We recognize the danger,” she said after a respectful moment of silence.
“Who the hell is Mateo?”
“Let’s hammer out some of the details,” the Officiant said, moving on once more. “Have you chosen your chief attendants?”
The two concordants looked at each other. “Hokusai and Loa,” Saga said.
“Yeah, you know them?”
She laughed quietly to herself. “Time, right? Any honor attendants?”
“Camden and Morick,” Saga imagined.
“And my mother.”
“My mother is going to be part of the ceremony, Saga. Stop resisting.”
“Do you not like her?” the Officiant asked.
Saga mindlessly examined her fingernails. “She asked me to help her daughter with her time powers a few years back. She wasn’t expecting us to fall in love. She blames me for all the...issues we’ve had with the Durune. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely woman, and she has no qualms with us being together. She’s not technically racist, but she’s one of those people—”
“Careful...” Andromeda warned.
Saga carried on, and repeated herself, “she’s one of those people who see racism in others, and think they’re helping by trying to get us to...avoid those situations.”
“She’s trying to protect us,” Andromeda reasoned.
“She’s victim-blaming,” Saga volleyed. “She wants us to change our behavior, when she damn well knows it’s everyone else who needs to change.”
“She just—” Andromeda didn’t want to have this fight again.
“She means well, and I know this, but I’m going to stand up for myself. You’re going to stand up for me too, and I would like—I feel I would like...her to do the same, instead of just saying we need to wait for others to wise up, and learn to do the right thing.”
Andromeda nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“You’re right, though, let’s not do this in front of company,” Saga acknowledged.
“No, this is important,” the Officiant said. “I can’t marry you if I don’t get to see what you’re going through.”
“You wanna see our baggage?” Saga chortled. How much time you got, doc?”
“Infinite,” she answered truthfully.
“That makes me think; they should make a time traveling therapist,” Saga noted, sort of off-topic.
“Yes.” The Officiant stood up and brushed the space dirt off the front of her pants. “Doctor Mallory Hammer. She’s very good, I’m sure you’ll meet her one day.” That didn’t sound so good. “Welp,” she continued, “looks like you two are ready to get married. I’ll be back next week for the ceremony.” She started handing them her business card, but then pulled it back. “Oh, wait, you don’t have phones here.”
“Uhhh...” Saga thought about it. “We do. Camden was carrying a sheetphone during the Deathspring. I’m sure it’s somewhere in our cottage. Battery would be dead, but we could find a way to charge it.”
“That’ll work,” the Officiant said. After handing the card over, she began to fade away, as did the rest of her office around them. They were left standing in the middle of the thicket.
“What is that?” Andromeda asked.
“Business card. Has her contact information on it.” Saga turned it over. “And a note. “Trust the ones in camouflage,” she read aloud.
“What does that mean?”
“It’s a warning from the future, for the future. I’ve seen these kinds of things before. The only decision we have to make is whether we trust the source.”
“I feel like we can trust her.”
“Then we’ll follow her instructions.”
That night, their cottage was attacked. A hate group dressed in black threw molotov cocktails through their windows, which Andromeda expertly sealed up with blast doors. Unfortunately, this was merely a distraction, for they were already inside the house. Camden, their most skilled fighter, was presently in the capital, consulting for a new law enforcement agency they were trying to get up and running. Andromeda tried to use her powers to build some structure that could help them, but one of the attackers knocked her out cold before she had the chance. Saga then tried to fight back the ol’ fashion way, but wasn’t strong enough. They must have knocked her out as well.
She woke up with her arms tied behind her back. Andromeda was already awake, tied up on the other side of the room.
“Finally,” the leader guy said. He removed his—what was that mask thing called, a baklava?—from his face, and grimaced.
They weren’t impressed.
“Do you not recognize me?”
“Should we?” Andromeda asked without fear.
“I’m the guy you dropped a tower on in Dawidux. Bet you didn’t think I survived, did you?
Of course, they did recognize him as the leader of the angry mob, but this guy survived on ego, and ego alone. They knew to not feed the trolls. “Honestly, I don’t remember you there,” Saga lied. “I remember that happening, but which one were you?”
This pissed him off immensely. “You stupid bitch.”
“Bite your tongue, assbutt!” Andromeda screamed, while clearly trying to use her powers against him.
“Not this time, sugartits,” he said to her. “This time your powers are being suppressed by an injection. You won’t be able to stop it with a knife this time.”
“What the hell do you want?” Saga asked derisively.
“I want a clean Durus. I hear you two are getting married,” he said with feigned excitement for their happiness together. Then he dropped the act. “We’re not okay with that.”
“Well, we would have asked you for permission, sir,” Andromeda said, besting him in the acting department by imitating a stereotypical obedient housewife, “but...who are you again?”
This man needed to find his center. His temper was getting worse. “I’m not going to try to show you the light this time.” He knelt down and wrapped his arms around Andromeda’s torso to cut her ropes apart. “You wanna be with your Earthan girl forever, then you got a deal.”
Now, this moment right here would have been a perfect opportunity to spit in his face, but Andromeda never did anything half-measure. On their upteenth date, she revealed to Saga that she had the ability to vomit on cue, which she decided to demonstrate again, this time for whatshistoes. Taking advantage of his absolute disgust, she snagged the knife from his hand, and totally jacked up his shoulder, then she prepared to fight her way through the other six men who had come into their home. Somehow, though, they had guns. A lot of them.
Firearms were incredibly rare on this planet. There were a healthy number of them in Springfield when it was sucked into the void, but few people around with the knowledge to make more. One of their terrible leaders was a man named Smith, who did have this knowledge, for he was a literal blacksmith. Overtime, however, production was able to cease, because he disappeared, or something, and had failed to pass his skills onto others. When a group of choosing ones started using their time powers to create mages, projectile weapons seemed too pedestrian to use, so they were locked up. They had been used on occasion since then, but not much. That these guys had them proved there was still at least one corrupt politician left in government.
“Sit back down!” one of the men with guns ordered. He then kicked the leader guy, who was now crying in pain, to his face. “Shut up, sir! I said sit down, you Earthanfu—”
He didn’t get to finish his derogatory term when a magical hole opened up in the ceiling. Above them they could see a hovering military helicopter. There were no helicopters on Durus. Soldiers wearing green camouflage dropped down on ropes and swiftly removed the terrorists from their respective waking states. The ceiling returned to its normal form. After the soldiers were finished, they turned toward the women. “We would love it if you could create a door for us. Our pilot would like to speak to you two. Please know you can trust us.”
“We know we can,” Saga said, disrespectfully removing the knife from the bigot’s shoulder, and wiping the blood off on his pants. “But she can’t make a door. Her powers have been suppressed.”
“Gadhavi?” she said to one of her soldiers.
Gadhavi stepped forward and held up a needle.
“Go ahead,” Andromeda consented.
He injected her with a serum that returned her powers to her, so she could recreate their front door. They walked out to find the helicopter on the ground. The terrorists who hadn’t made it into the cottage were all lying on the ground. The pilot was still finishing up a few things in his bird, but then he stepped out and removed his sunglasses.
Saga breathed a sigh of relief. “Sargent.”
“Nice to see you again, love.”
“How did you get here? Why?”
“We’re here to stop the New Crusades,” Adolphe Sargent, military strategist extraordinaire, said. “I also hear there’s gonna be a wedding?”

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