Saturday, January 19, 2019

Furor: Exit Strategies (Part II)

Ace didn’t know if he should be surprised that Kolby came back to help, because he didn’t know the guy very well, but he was certainly grateful for it. A security guard unlocked the door, and stepped aside. “Why is she helping us, though?” Ace asked.
“Professional courtesy,” Kolby answered.
“I won’t work for a tyrant,” the guard answered for herself. “Senator Channing’s response to my helping you escape will tell this new world just what kind of person he really is. If we like how he reacts, we’ll back him, but if we don’t...we’ll take care of him.”
Ace didn’t want to know the specifics for what that meant.
“Sorry I took so long,” Kolby whispered as they were sneaking away from the guard, and down the hall. “I was getting this first.” He reached into his bag, and pulled out the dimension-hopping jacket.
Ace widened his eyes, and took the jacket back. “I’m shocked they didn’t use it to go back to the real world.”
“I have a theory about that. I saw a lot of black SUVs and white technician trucks parked by that giant orange TV tower near the border of Union Hill. I was literally running around the city, looking for a hacker informant I once had, who does not work for the Census Bureau. Suddenly, I lost my speed. I think they built a power dampener on that thing, which ironically, means the jacket won’t work.”
“We have to destroy that tower.”
Yeah, we do. But they will just rebuild it, so I need you to do me a favor.”
“What?”
Kolby remained silent.
“Oh, you want out of here.”
“I take out that tower, you take me with you.”
“The jacket can only take two people at a time, and needs time to recharge.” Ace could have left that part out, and let Kolby just go on thinking that Ace would be able to help, but he didn’t want to make any enemies. “I don’t even know if this thing is ready to take another trip yet.”
“That’s okay,” Kolby said. “I may have a loophole to that. Worst case scenario, the two of you escape. I’ll survive.”
Ace thought about it for a minute as they were lightly gliding down the steps, thankful they were only a few stories up. He knew that a speedster named K-Boy—which was similar to Kolby—was destined to end up in the real world, and join the tracer gang. “You sure will. I promise you’ll get out of here. I know this to be true, don’t ask me how.”
He agreed to not ask how. Then they left the building, and headed South, towards the Union Hill neighborhood. It was just over two miles away, so it was going to take just under an hour. “Is it frustrating?” Ace asked on the way, “You must not be used to walking at such slow speeds.”
“I didn’t get my powers until the flurry,” Kolby explained, referring to the unseasonable winter storm that preceded the creation of this dimension. “So I’ve only had them for a few weeks. Running like that is what I’m not used to.”
“Do you like it?”
“I’ve never been much of a runner, but as a private security professional, I’ve always had to stay in pretty good shape, so it’s not like I lived a sedentary lifestyle before this. I have mixed feelings about my new gifts. I guess I won’t really be able to process any of it until I get back to Earth proper.”
They continued walking in relative silence, until arriving as close as they were willing to get to their destination until they had a good plan. At least, what was what Ace thought. As it turned out, Kolby had already been working on a way to destroy the tower, and he hadn’t done it alone. There was an entire team waiting for them in their secret headquarters. They were in what looked like a print center, complete with a giant printer, but also an ATM.
“Horace Reaver,” Kolby announced, “welcome to the Forger’s lair. We have Garen Ashlock, expert thief. Quivira Boyce, also an expert thief. Hm, do we need two? Maybe one of you should go.”
“Shut up, Morse,” Quivira said.
“You’re right,” Kolby conceded. “I guess Ashlock isn’t so much an expert as he is an amateur.”
Ace wasn’t paying too much attention, though. He found himself just staring at Quivira, whose life he had saved last year, and who had saved his life many years ago. She was smiling at him knowingly, but not saying anything.
Kolby went on, “Doctor Mallory Hammer, who can provide medical support.” He paused to gaze at the last woman, both affectionately, and with disdain. “And here we have Natasha Orlov, former mob princess, and possible lone Russian survivor of the 2023 Gang Wars. She has seen the light, but has not forgotten her past. She’s on demolitions. The Forger and  Micro are busy at the Census Bureau headquarters. The latter will be providing technical support remotely. She’ll make sure we don’t get caught. She’s not a salmon or choosing one—or spawn,” he added, looking back at Quivira, “but she’s a good ally. Keep your guard up around Orlov, though.”
“I’m doing my best here, Kolby,” Natasha alleged. “Not every Russian is bad. I never wanted the life my father set out for me. I was always trying to get out, even as a little girl.”
“Prove it tonight,” Kolby advised.
A buzz began to sound from down the dark hallway, and drew nearer. A minidrone appeared from around the corner, and hovered in front of Kolby, who was not nervous about it. A voice spoke from the speaker, “the time is quickly approaching. If you’re going to take out the tower, you better get going now.
“Thank you, Agent Nanny Cam,” Kolby said to the drone. “Please review the team’s exit strategies.”
“I’ll check to make sure the coast is clear outside the Forger’s den first.” The drone buzzed away.
“You people are so well-organized,” Ace noted. “Have you all been working together long?”
“Just since this happened,” Quivira replied.
“What am I meant to do?” Ace offered.
Kolby laughed. “We’ve only been planning this particular job for about a day. We can’t risk throwing another variable into the mix. I wanted you to know who was helping you here, but you’re not a part of this. You need to get to the hospital, and find your man.”
“But, I can do stuff. I have really good intuition. Like, a supernatural sense of intuition.”
“That doesn’t work here,” Kolby reminded him, “especially not while that tower is operational. We have contingencies. Everyone has a backup plan if something goes wrong. We are going to make this happen, but it’s possible that Channing and Andrews have built their own backup at the Entercom towers. If that kicks in, you may only have seconds before the jacket stops working again.”
“You can just run me there.”
“I have my own contingency.”
“How am I meant to take you back?”
“You don’t worry about. Put your family back together, Reaver. We’ll take care of everything else.”
Ace wanted to argue more, but Kolby ushered him out of the lair, and directed him to Serkan’s hospital, which hacker Micro had uncovered. Not knowing how long it would be before the people on the A-team turned time powers back on, he ran towards the hospital. He was there well before midnight, which he assumed was go time, but the hospital wouldn’t let him in. It was the middle of night, and the whole metropolitan area was in a state of emergency.
“Please!” he begged the nurse. “I have to find my boyfriend; the father of my child!”
“I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow,” the nurse argued.
A man with the air of authority walked up from the other side of the room. “Is there a problem here?” He didn’t look like a cop, or even a security guard. He did, however, look like a runner.
“You’re part of the tracer gang?”
“We protect this facility,” the tracer responded.
“I need to speak with Bozhena.”
“Who?”
“Slipstream,” Ace clarified.
“She doesn’t have time for you.”
“Tell her Jupiter sent me!”
“Like, the planet? Or the god?”
“Tell her Jupiter sent me!” Ace repeated.
The tracer lifted his chin, and eyed Ace with caution. Then he looked over at another tracer standing guard. He closed his eyes, and nodded.
“Is that a good nod, or a bad nod?”
“You better hope she knows who this...” he stopped in thought. “Jupiter Rosa? The gun manufacturer?”
“He doesn’t make guns anymore, but yes.”
“Interesting.”
“Can I help you?” came Slipstream’s voice from behind him.
He turned around. “The love of my life is in your hospital. I need to see him.”
“Why would I let you do that? I would need confirmation from Census, and they’re not working right now.”
He started walking forward, and looked around at the walls. “You know where we are right now?”
“We just established that it’s a hos—”
“I mean the world.”
“Andrews said it was a pocket dimension.”
“It’s a duplicate. The perpetrators didn’t tear Kansas City out of the ground. They just made a copy. Of it, and everyone in it. There’s another Slipstream out there, and right now, she’s having tea with my daughter, Paige. Well, I guess that was a couple days ago, but it happened. Serkan is a runner, like you, and a different version of him will one day join your gang. As far as I’m concerned, you’re part of the family. I need to get upstairs tonight.” He consulted his watch. “By midnight.”
“That’s fine,” came another voice. “We can all go; have a chat.” It was Senator Channing, and a posse of thugs, pointing guns at them.
Slipstream stepped over to one of her tracers. “Deep six,” she ordered cryptically. He ran off. She then got in between Ace and the men, to protect him. “I got rid of the firearms in this town once. I’ll do it again.”
“You did that slowly,” Channing laughed, “not in one fight.”
“Actually...” Slipstream began, “I once disarmed twice as many guys as you have, all in one go.”
“Alone?” Channing questioned in disbelief.
Slipstream smirked. “No.”
Tracers appeared out of nowhere—a couple from above—and took all the guns away at once, dropping their wielders to the floor if they had to.
Suddenly, Ace’s jacket began to hum as it powered up. “They did it.” It wasn’t quite midnight yet. Either this was always the plan, or they had to move up the timetable.
Channing looked at this phone. “The tower’s down, good for you. Fortunately, I have three extra. They should be coming online within a few minutes.”
“Shit,” Ace said. He nearly got down on his knees in front of Slipstream. “I need to get to Serkan now. Please.”
“Take him into custody,” Slipstream ordered her people. “We need to have a talk with the mayors tomorrow morning.
“Wait!” one of Channing’s men shouted. “Horace, this is Quivira! I’ve come from the future to fix this! You have to wait for Kolby. He’ll be there at midnight. Exactly at midnight.”
“The towers,” Ace argued.
“Will be taken care of,” Quivira said, using the voice of the man she was possessing. “That’s why I came back, but if you don’t take Kolby out of here, both of our worlds are screwed.”
Ace inhaled, and redirected his attention to Slipstream. “Take me to him right now. I don’t care about the worlds.”
“Bozhena, please!” Quivira pressed. “Wait until midnight. If that man finds his husband a minute too soon, we’re all dead. Remember what I said to you when you were young. Vous aurez un mouton...”
“...si vous avez la vrai nourriture,” Slipstream finished, astonished.
The jacket abruptly stopped buzzing. The towers were back online.
“I’ll take you to him,” Slipstream said to Ace, “at midnight.”
Twenty minutes later, the jacket turned back on yet again, but it still wasn’t midnight, so Ace had no choice but to wait.

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