Saturday, January 26, 2019

Furor: A Difference Between Action and Inaction (Part III)

Five minutes to midnight, Ace ran up to find Serkan in his hospital room. He lifted him out his bed, and let him hang off his shoulders. He watched his watch intently, as the seconds ticked by. Kolby Morse, a.k.a. the future K-Boy was expected within the minute, but if he was even one moment late, then that was his loss. Ace’s primary concern was the father of his child, and he couldn’t let anything stand in the way of that. As soon as the clock struck 0:01, he activated the dimension-hopping jacket. This time felt different. There was a more violent tug as they transported back to the real world. He found himself face down on the floor of his own home. Serkan was there too, as was Kolby. At first, he was pissed off. Kolby must have screwed it up for them. The jacket was never designed to take more than two people at once. But then Paige’s babysitter, Mireille started helping me up, as Paige did the same for Serkan. Apparently it had worked, and Kolby’s transportation of them all the way back here had had something to do with it.
“Father Serkan,” Paige exclaimed. “You’re finally back!”
“Yes, dear,” Serkan said, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “It is so good to see you again. You too, Ace.”
“It must have been so lonely,” Paige guessed.
“It’s only been a month for him,” Ace explained. “Time moves differently in there.”
“Oh, so you’ve not been gone that long, have you?” Paige asked. “It’s been almost a month on this side.”
Serkan was having a lot of trouble staying standing. Mireille was doing everything she could to keep him upright. “He needs medicine,” Ace pointed out.
“I can go,” Serkan said. “You have a list, or prescriptions?”
“Yes, the nurse gave me this packet,” Ace said, pulling it out of his back pocket.
Kolby took it from him, and ran off.
Paige and Mireille were shocked, but not that shocked. “So...he’s fast.”
“I’ll explain later. We have to get your father up to bed.”
“Yeah, I need to nap too,” Paige agreed. “We can catch up in a few hours.”
Ace didn’t realize how little sleep he had gotten recently, so the three of them didn’t wake until well into the next day. They had a long conversation over breakfast, comparing war stories. They had gone through so much apart, and needed to reconnect. Quiche was good at supporting bonding experiences. Serkan evidently lost both of his legs from the explosion, but they were basically regrown using the miracle of science. That kind of technology was not quite up to par with federally regulated standards, but the hospital in the fake version of Kansas City didn’t have to worry about government agents breaking down their doors. Only time would tell if the limbs would cause Serkan problems. He could have them for years, and only then begin to experience rejection symptoms.
Paige had had her own fill of adventure since Ace left. Several new people fell into her life, and started wreaking havoc on it, in some cases on purpose. A woman named Jesimula Utkin commissioned her and a small group of other women, including Slipstream, to stop a version of herself from the past from destroying the world. Of course, since she had done something that could destroy the world in the first place, she wasn’t an entirely good person. She fulfilled her promise, but also forced Paige into becoming a carrier for a disease that did end up taking one life, which was a horror Paige would have to recall over the course of her entire life. Throughout the ordeal, she learned that she had the power to travel through time using photographic images. This was implied to have been caused by her having been holding a camera when her now-fathers accidentally brought her into the future the first time. Paige was still getting used to her new reality, and the other two would need time for that as well. They would have a year until things started to get crazy again.
July of 2026 was quickly approaching, which meant that Serkan was soon to catch up with his own timeline. The three of them weren’t sure what they were meant to do with that. When he first fell back in time, it appeared to be somewhat of an accident. Or if someone had done it according to a master plan, that plan was lost of its game pieces. They had spent this year getting to know each other again. Paige was going to school regularly, Serkan was working, and Ace was gambling. They hadn’t completely avoided the topic of time travel, but it also hadn’t consumed their lives. Now it was about to fold back in on them, whether they wanted it to, or not. There were a few decisions they would need to make.
“So, if there’s one thing I learned last April,” Paige began, “it’s that the timeline can be changed. Perhaps you are unaware of any alterations you made when you came back here, but you might have made them. Everything you describe about the weather, and everything else that’s meant to happen during the Frenzy race this year may have all been negated by your prior actions.”
“Or we made it worse,” Ace said.
“Or we are what ultimately causes it,” Serkan added.
“How?”
“Well, our first indication that something was wrong was the unpredictable weather events, as Paige just mentioned, right?” Serkan put forth.
“Right.”
Serkan continued, “then in 2024, we saw first hand how...out of hand weather can get when we’re dealing with people with powers. Keanu ‘Ōpūnui created a winter hellscape in the summer, which is why we started investigating his organization in the first place. We didn’t exactly put him in jail, which means he could still have plans for this city. We may have inspired him to those plans by working against him two years ago.”
“It could even be more complicated than that,” Paige said. She was sixteen years old at this point, and behaving a lot more like an adult than before. “The weather man does his thing by borrowing the conditions of other times and places. No one has answered what happens to those other times and places. Maybe he’s not using his powers at all this summer, but at some other time, and he’s borrowing it from July of 2026, which impacts the now. We have to find him again to know for sure.”
“No, we can’t do that,” Ace argued. “Serkan just said it, our actions could be causing the future events. Interfering with Keanu could be what causes our later problems.”
“What do you suggest we do?” Paige asked him. “Nothing?”
“Maybe.”
“If we’re living in a time loop, it doesn’t matter what we do, or what we don’t. Everything we try will be the quote-unquote right choice, because it all comes down to fate.”
“That’s true,” Serkan said, “but I still think that I came back for a reason. It may not be my reason, and it may not be a good one, but there is a difference between action, and inaction. The weather is the least of our worries during the race. Something was happening downtown while I was running around with Crispin. I never found out what.”
“Okay,” Paige said, but stopped to think. “We don’t know everything that happens in the future, but we know some things. What we need to do is consolidate all of that information. Amongst the three of us, there must be no secrets. Serkan, you’re going to have to draw us a map of the race. Not literally, I mean...we need every detail possible. From the color of the underwear that Future!Ace lets you borrow, to the model of the car you and Krakken steal to chase after that guy who stole the rabbit dog. Having all that information in one place might give us clues about what else happens that you don’t know about.”
Serkan was nodding. “Are we sure that’s a good idea? Maybe I should have told you nothing about it. What was that thing about boots your new friend told you?”
Paige understood. “Bootstrap paradox, yes. Knowing the future calls into question the source of originality. If Future!You tells you how to build a time machine, then after you build it, you go back in time and tell Past!You how to do it, who exactly first came up with the design for a time machine? That’s the thing about paradoxes, though, they’re impossible. If one is about to occur, it simply won’t. The universe won’t be destroyed, the forest won’t turn red, it just won’t work. And isn’t that all that really matters, the consequences? We could be facing our greatest threat since the other Kansas City. Whoever is responsible for the mayhem may already know the future too, because we know these people have friends. We need to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible.”
Serkan sighed and nodded again. “Okay, I’ll type up everything I know, and send it to both of you.”
The doorbell rang.
“You get on that,” Paige said, acting like their leader. “I’ll answer the door.”
“I’ll answer it,” Ace challenged. “Don’t you have summer reading to get back to?”
“Finished all of them,” Paige claimed. “I also went back in time and spoke personally with the authors.”
In most households, that would have been a clear joke, but this was something Paige could have actually done. “Just to be clear...” Ace started to ask.
“I’m kidding,” she said. “J.D. Salinger refused to see some random sixteen year old girl.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Serkan said as he was leaving.
Ace walked over and opened the door to find Slipstream on the other side. “Slip, what are you doing here?”
“I need your help.”
“Help with what?”
“Once you meet someone with time powers, you can’t really escape that world. You know what I’m talking about.”
This was worrying. He stepped onto the porch, and closed the door behind him. “I do, but...what are you trying to say?”
“I became obsessed with it. I started looking into Jesimula Utkin, the one who terrorized me and your daughter. She did tell you about that, yeah?”
“She did, yes.”
“When you can change the timeline, like Jesi and her friends can, it’s hard for people to really know who you are. That little cabal has taken great pains to keep themselves hidden. Fortunately, I know people too now. Kolby and I—”
“Wait, you’re working with Kolby?”
“Didn’t you send him to us?”
“I might have accidentally let it slip that he has a place in this world, and that I know something about his future.”
“Well yeah, we’ve been working together, away from the other tracers. They all still think he can’t speak. We met someone called The Archivist. He has the records for every person who can manipulate time, across ever alternate reality. He wasn’t really allowed to give us any information, but he’s a confused drunk, so we were able to convince him.”
“Where are you going with this, Slippy?”
“I have a list; a list of Jesi, and Keanu, and all of their friends. They all come from the same town. This town no longer exists, because it was ripped out of time.”
“I know,” Ace said. Kallias Bran was a friend of theirs, who explained to them everything about the city that never was. “Springfield, Kansas.”
“These people aren’t supposed to have powers. They weren’t born with them like you guys.”
“Okay...”
“They all got them from the same source. They’re called the Springfield Nine, and one of the most powerful of them just broke out of this prison called Beaver Haven?”
“Yeah, Keanu mentioned that place. Who broke out?”
“His name is Rothko Ladhiffe, and he’s apparently taken issue with the City Frenzy event. I need that intuition of yours.”

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