Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fervor: Five Woman Band (Part II)

“Who the hell are you people?” I ask of these two women who just appeared in my house, and wrecked the place. I don’t feel bad about, they’re not supposed to be here.
Slipstream easily catches up, and creates a human barrier between me and the strangers.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” One of them holds her hands up defensively. “We’re not here to hurt anyone. We must have missed our mark. We were meant to land somewhere in the middle of Kansas, since Springfield doesn’t exist anymore.”
“What do you mean, it doesn’t exist anymore? My great uncle was born there.”
The strangers give each other a look. “She must be a chooser.”
“I was born in the 1960s,” I explain, because I just don’t give a fuh.
“She must not have been in the timestream when the city started disappearing,” the other postulates.
“Well, I’m glad we ended up here, instead of a house full of humans. That would have been hard to explain.” She presents her hand. “My name is Hogarth Pudeyonovic. This is my partner, Hilde Unger.”
“Paige.” I tilt my head towards my new best friend. “This is Slipstream. What year is it for you?”
“It should be 2025. We were on another planet.”
“Oh.” I’ve never heard of people going to other planets, but nothing surprises me anymore. “Yeah, it’s 2025. “By the way,” I say to Slipstream, “some people have special temporal powers.”
“I gathered,” Slipstream replies. “I’ve seen some things that make a bit more sense now.”
“Well, this isn’t awkward,” Hilde says after a silence.
“Yeah, I guess we should leave,” Hogarth says. “Sorry for invading your...” she trails off as she’s looking around at the mess they made made. It looks like a mad scientist generated a miniature tornado that broke free of its containment field. “We somehow have to fix this, even though I doubt I have any money...since it was all tied to the Springfield Central Bank.”
I shake my head. “We live in Countryside, we’re rich. Don’t worry about it.”
“No, we’ll find a way,” Hogarth insisted. “Come, love. We have to find jobs, and figure out what we’ve missed these last eight years.”
“Universal basic income,” I say before the two travelers could leave the room.
Hogarth stops. “What was that?”
“It’s actually a negative income tax,” Slipstream clarifies. “If you don’t make enough money to live on your own, the government subsidizes your income. If you do, you get nothing, and if you make more than enough, you pay taxes, just like before. President Clinton pushed for total universal basic income, but had to make a compromise with the Republicans. The new system started at the beginning of this tax year. If you don’t have any money, you would qualify, except...”
“Except that we don’t qualify for anything, because we don’t exist. Even if the records rewrite themselves, now that we’re back on Earth, we’ve been missing for the better part of a decade. Neither one of us has an identity.”
“The Forger,” I remember.
“Who?”
“A family friend, Detective Bran was telling me about the guy who gave him a new identity; an actual one, not just fake papers. He can rewrite your whole history. He might even give you money to start off.”
“There’s a guy who does that?” Slipstream asks me.
“There’s someone for everything,” I say, prideful of what I know about the world.
“Did this detective tell you how to find the Forger?”
I frown. “No. But I can ask him. I never went to his place, but he told me he lived at...uh, the Leon?”
“The Ponce de Leon?” Slipstream asks, impressed. “That place is pretty swanky.”
“He’s rich too.”
“You don’t have to help us,” Hogarth says with a worried look on her face. “We came here by accident, so you have no obligation to us.”
I smile. “If there’s one thing my dads taught me, it’s that a person in a position to help someone else..has a responsibility to do just. Bran protected me when I was in danger of a winter-making maniac, even though he didn’t have to. That’s what being a human is.” I step into the hallway.
“Is this all true?” Mireille asks me.
“Mireille,” I exclaim. “I, uhh...forgot you were here. But I guess there’s no rule that stops me from telling anyone this stuff. Did you hear everything?”
“Pretty much. You’re going to the Ponce?”
“We are.”
“Well, Slippy travels on foot, you can’t drive, and these two don’t have a car.”
“Oh, that’s true.”
“I’m glad I bought that SUV,” Mireille says. “Let’s go,” she offers the whole crowd.
Slipstream balks at the larger-than-necessary vehicle. “It’s not even two miles away,” she half-complains as we’re climbing it. I imagine she never takes motorized transportation, except maybe to get to the airport, or maybe not even then.
Five minutes later, we’re parking next to Mendoza Park, and walking the rest of the way to the condominium. We take the elevator up to what’s probably the most expensive unit in the complex, and knock on the door.
A woman answers, and she looks exhausted. “Yeah? Can I help you?”
“Um, we must have the wrong apartment,” Slipstream apologizes. “We were looking for, what was the name?”
“Kallias Bran,” I reply, upset. “I know he lives here.”
“Paige?” The woman squints her eyes at me. “Holy shit, it’s little Paige.”
A giggling kindergartner runs straight into the woman’s hip. “You’re it!” she cries.
“Brooke, pause on the game. We have company. Please, come in,” she says cordially. “I think you’re in the right place. When they gave this to me, they called it the Bran Safehouse. I didn’t know what that meant.”
“How do you know a fourteen-year-old girl?” Slipstream questions protectively.
“She wasn’t fourteen last time I saw her.”
“She’s a time traveler,” I whisper to Mireille.
The woman offers Slipstream her hand. “I’m Leona Matic, and I am from the future.”
“Told ya,” I say.
“Why are you and your daughter in a safehouse?” Slipstream continues the interrogation.
“She’s not my daughter. I had to take her when her mother...disappeared. I brought her to this time period, and I’ve been waiting for further instructions.”
“Where’s Kal?” I ask her.
“I have no idea,” Leona says seemingly truthfully. “The Repairman just set me up here and told me all he knows is that I’m meant to wait. Maybe I was waiting for you. I don’t suppose any one of you would be related to an Angelita Prieto—oh, you wouldn’t remember her. Goddammit! Or does the corruption have an effect on the past? How does this work?”
“I..don’t know,” Slipstream answers tentatively.
“Prieto was my mother’s maiden name,” Mireille says quietly. “My father’s French, but she’s Spanish.” She looks down at little Brooke, who is cautiously attached to Leona’s waist.
Yet another woman suddenly appears in the middle of the condo. A bubble of warped spacetime that was surrounding her dissipates. “Good, you’re all here. You have no idea what it took to get Mrs. Voss here to be your babysitter.” She gestures towards Mireille. “She can take care of Brooke while the rest of you are working.”
“My last name’s Travert,” Mireille says, confused.
The new woman chortles. “Right. For now...”
“What’s the meaning of this.” Slipstream; ever the leader, and protector. “You act as if you brought us all together.”
“I did,” she says. “I assembled a team of ragtag elites to take me on.”
“Take you on?”
“Well, not me. Past!Me. I like to call her Asshole!Jesi.”
“What are you talking about?” Hogarth asks.
This Jesi person prepares herself for a story. “In the other timeline, I killed a bunch of people with a virus from the future that I did not understand. I was trying to inoculate the human race, so they wouldn’t be affected by it later, when the virus shows up naturally. But it mutated, and got out control. I need you to stop me from making that same mistake again. Bozhena, I convinced Jupiter to have you deliver the transdimensional jacket to Horace, so he could go get Serkan back, and you could meet Paige.”
“The what jacket?”
Jesi continues, “Hogarth, I brought you and your lovely assistant here so you could provide the Book of Hogarth.”
“The what?”
This time, Jesi stopped. “The Book of Hogarth. Your book, that you wrote? It codifies the principles of time and space? Shit, do you not have the book?”
“What book are you talking about? I didn’t write any book.”
Jesi pinches the bridge of her nose. “Jesus Christ. I need to figure something out. You didn’t actually write anything. You...birthed it, for lack of a better term. I thought you’d find it on Durus. Well, you’re just gonna have to find it now. You can do that tomorrow.” She gestures to Leona. “Leona’s gonna need it in the future, so it’s kind of important, okay?” She’s looking pretty frazzled. “Okay, um. Let me rework the timeline to account for that hiccup. I would have contacted you earlier, but you two were still on Durus, and Ace was still here. We don’t need him in our way. Miss Travert, please stay here with Young!Brooke. I’m sending the rest of you someone who can help. She probably won’t be part of the band permanently, but she can lead you to the Book of Hogarth.” She opens a new mostly transparent bubble, and disappears.
“We’re not gonna do what she wants us to do, are we?” Hilde sounds confident.
Never do anything without having an answer why,” Leona recites, like it’s her credo, or something.
Hogarth is staring at the space that the cryptic woman from the future was once occupying. “When I was about Brooke’s age, I witnessed a group of older children being pursue by a giant monster. It’s what inspired me to build my machine, so I could study the portal they disappeared through.”
“I remember you telling me about that,” Hilde says, taking Hogarth’s hand.
“There were ten children. One of them was named Jesimula Utkin. Everybody called her Jesi.”

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