Saturday, January 5, 2019

Laymen’s Terms

Ecrin Cabral stepped into the machine, known as The Prototype. She was led there by a white monster called Relehirkojun ‘Relehir’ Rokoglubederi, a.k.a. Repudiator. With them was Vito Bulgari, and together they were set to travel to other universes, fighting against Relehir’s people, the Maramon. Though Ecrin had said all of her goodbyes to her friends, she did not know that they would leave so soon. As if it had a mind of its own—which it very well may have—the machine started up, and spirited them away.
“Where the hell are we going?” she demanded to know.
“I’m sorry,” Relehir said. “I copied the files for our recruits onto the machine’s computer. It must have interpreted that as a directive to head for them. We’re leaving the universe now, and entering the bulkverse.”
“What exactly is that?”
“It’s a higher dimension,” Vito answered instead. “Technically, we’re always in the bulkverse, because it describes every universe collectively. But now we’re going to an area of space outside any universe.”
“Why would we leave our universe?” Ecrin asked. “Aren’t all the recruits in ours?”
“Yes, but they exist all throughout time. The only way this thing can travel the timeline is to leave it first.” Relehir took a look at the screens, which were displaying information in a language Ecrin didn’t know. “It looks like the computer has chosen our first recruit for us.”
Ecrin looked at the screen as well, and was able to recognize one word. “She’s the one person I was completely unsure of, because I do not know the others personally.”
“This is a different version of her,” Relehir said.
“I know that, but Leona told me about that other version. She was evil there too.”
“We need a strategist,” Relehir argued. “and she’s one of the best in histories. I can guide you, and operate the Prototype, but we need someone to plan our battles.”
“I understand, which is why I didn’t reject her like I did three of the other candidates you provided, but I’m still concerned.”
The computer made a noise, which Relehir consulted. “This is your last chance to decide.”
Tristesse Ulinthra was a flavor of temporal manipulators called salmon. She could less manipulate time, and more be subject to other people’s manipulation. At the end of every day, she would go back in time, and relive it. She sometimes used this gift to save lives, but she sometimes used it in the reverse, by killing people for fun, and then evading the consequences. People had memories of her in multiple realities, and she was never good. She could theoretically, however, become good, if given the right tools. They were planning to recruit one of these other version of her, mostly because the one Ecrin knew best was erased from history, and the only reason she knew about that was because another time manipulator had the power to alter memories. This other version was also considerably less murdery than all the others.
“I’m in, but how do we handle this? Do we try to talk them into it where they are, or take them and ask later?”
“We have to take them. They’re all going to be living in precarious times, so we won’t be able to hang around, or we’ll disrupt the timeline. If they don’t agree, I guess we’ll rebuild that bridge when we get back to it.”

After they grabbed Ulinthra just before her timeline collapsed into oblivion, the Prototype navigated them back out to the bulkverse, and then back into the real world. They landed on an island. Vito, who was apparently capable of turning invisible, agreed to take this one. He snuck up behind a group of four people as they were arguing on the beach. One magically apported a gun into her hand, and pointed it at one of the others. Vito reached for it, turned it invisible, and snatched it out of her hand.
“What the shit?” she questioned. “Who’s there?” Then she noticed one of the others holding what appeared to just be a pen. “Where did you get that? Give it to me!”
Not knowing what the pen would do, as soon as the guy clicked it, Vito took ahold of their recruit, and teleported her back to the Prototype.
Once they appeared, Relehir injected the woman with a sedative, just like they had Ulinthra. “Lady and gentleman, the infamous Arcadia Preston.” He gently laid her down on the cot, and restarted the engines.

The Prototype landed on the edge of town, which Ecrin recognized as Kansas City. They walked down the street until they came across another four people arguing, this time in a warehouse. Instead of holding a gun, however, this woman was the only one without a weapon. The other three men were holding theirs towards each other’s heads. Ecrin realized that two of them had served on the ship she once captained, The Sharice Davids. This was the past, though, so for them, that had not happened yet.
“Now, fire!” the woman argued. She was Volpsidia Raske, the next one on the list.
Vito thought quickly again. He placed the men in a time bubble. The bullets were practically stopped in mid-air, just before they could hit their targets.
The woman looked over at the newcomers with curiosity. “Who are you people?”
“Your new bosses,” Ecrin told her.
Vito shook his head like a disappointed mother. “Trying to kill three people on your first day. Not a good start.”
“First day of what?”
“The rest of your life,” Relehir said. He looked over at Vito. “How do you wanna do this? You catch one bullet, and I’ll catch the other two?”
Vito scoffed. He waved his hands towards the men, and disintegrated all the bullets at once, like it was nothing. “What bullets?”
Volpsidia watched it happen in awe. “Whatever this is, I’m in.” She let a small bag slip off her shoulder, and drop to the ground.

“Okay,” Relehir said after they stepped back into the Prototype. “We have our strategist, our mascot, and our fighter. The next one is going to be a bit tricky. Our medic is on The Crossover, which is the finished version of the machine we’re in. This will probably be the only time the two machines are in proximity. I don’t know who is operating it, and I don’t know how they’ll react to our showing up.”
But it was Relehir’s reaction that was the most interesting. A woman named Mindy greeted them at the door. She did not seem surprised or perturbed by their arrival. She led them down the hallway, and into a room, and then she left. A monster was standing there. He looked like a Maramon, which was Relehir’s people, but different. All Maramon that Ecrin knew of were white. This one was black.
“Oh my God,” Relehir said. “What are you?”
The other monster was speechless for a moment. I’m, uhh...” He took a moment to gather his own courage. “I am Enarkased Edcubijmohjac, first Maramon operator of The Crossover since The Shepherd relinquished control, but you can call me Exile.”
“A black Maramon,” Vito said. “It is is an honor to meet you.”
“No, it is an honor to meet you, forebearer,” Exile said.
“You’ve heard of this?” Relehir asked Vito, almost scared. “I left my universe when it was in such infancy.”
“They’re incredibly rare,” Vito said, nodding his head, “and they are not very popular. They’re usually killed soon after birth. How did you survive?”
“A group of sympathizers saved me,” Exile answered. “They smuggled me to Eden Island.”
“The human refuge,” Vito understood. “And they accepted you?”
“To an extent.” It didn’t sound like his life had been super easy. “I hear that you are seeking to recruit our prisoner?”
“He’s your prisoner?” Ecrin asked.
“Yes, is that an issue?”
She shook her head. “It’s probably for the best.”
Mindy returned with the man they were looking for in chains. “Enobarbus Agnelli, a.k.a. Barbwire, your sentence is hereby commuted. You are the Prototype’s problem now.”

Their last recruit was a man named Smith, and they couldn’t have missed him if they had tried. As soon as the Prototype landed, they could hear the shrillest cry ever. Ecrin had heard it before, as had apparently everyone else. It was the Time Shriek; a pervasive sound that could be heard all over time and space, apparently throughout the bulkverse. But this time was different. It sounded like it was coming just meters away from them, and then echoing throughout the Prototype itself. Perhaps that was why it could be heard in other universes. Had they just created the Time Shriek?
They could hear the conversation as they rounded the corner. “I can still see you!” their recruit shouted, but there was no one to hear it. He was all alone, except for Ecrin, Vito, and Relehir, who he hadn’t noticed yet.
“Smith,” Ecrin said.
Smith turned around, and put his arms up defensively. “What the hell do you want?”
“To give you a purpose,” she answered him.
“I have a purpose. I protect this town from this world’s monsters.”
“And you have done that,” Ecrin said unconvincingly, “in your own way. Now we are the ones who need you to fight the monsters. These are much worse, for they are intelligent and self-aware.”
He snarled, and nodded in Relehir’s direction. “Like him?”
“Exactly,” Ecrin confirmed, “but not him. There are a few good ones. You will never meet them, though. We need you to fight all the rest...and perform repairs and general maintenance on our ship.”
Smith wasn’t completely convinced, but he would be around for the big speech that Ecrin was planning to give the whole team. Once the drugged people were reawakened, they all stood in a semicircle, and waited patiently for a full explanation.

“My name is Captain Ecrin Cabral. I am a chosen one. This is something my closest friends don’t even understand about me. I was born human on Earth in the year 2012. I was in Springfield, Kansas when it was sucked into the portal that sent it to Durus.”
“I don’t remember you,” Smith pointed out.
“I was a child, but not a special child,” Ecrin explained. “You only cared about the time babies. After you left, which was just moments ago, from your perspective, Springfield spent years without true leadership. When those time babies were old enough to think for themselves, they sought a proverter, who aged them into adulthood. They then started forming a new society. They used their own powers to create others like them, which they called mages, but on Earth, we would be considered chosen ones. I am hundreds of years old, and have gathered lifetimes of experience as a law enforcement officer. I was recruited by this man here,” she said as she gestured towards Relehir, “to start a new assignment. We are taking this machine to other universes, where we will hunt down and fight against all Maramon, until they have been wiped from the multiverse.
“We have brought you here to join our crusade. Each and every one of you has been a villain in someone else’s story. Except for you, Vito, you’re different. I am offering you the chance to become heroes in a new story.”
“You mean like Legends of Tomorrow?” Volpsidia questioned.
“No, not like...” Ecrin began, but then thought about it more. “Okay, maybe a little bit like Legends of Tomorrow.”
“What will happen to us if we don’t agree?” Arcadia asked.
“Sometimes time can be changed, and sometimes not,” Ecrin said. “You were all taken at a specific moment in your lives when no record of your future could be found. For some, your disappearance was a mystery; one which our current situation explains. For others, you were barely noticed. The fact of the matter is that we cannot allow you to return to these moments, and alter the timeline. If you don’t come with us, we will find a lonely planet in an empty universe, where you can live out the rest of your days in a sort of penal colony.”
No one protested.
“Ah, it doesn’t look like anybody wants to do that.”
“I’ll gladly fight, but it won’t be alongside that thing!” Smith scowled at Relehir.
“Shut up, racist,” Volpsidia said to him. “Get woke! It’s 2028.”
“No! It’s not!” he yelled back.
“This is gonna be fun,” Vito noted.
Suddenly, a black portal opened in the ceiling, and dropped a man to the floor. He was alive, but clearly in a lot of pain. He struggled to turn over to his back.
“Looks like you have your first patient, Enobarbus,” Relehir said. “Heroes and villains, may I introduce you to our last recruit for the group I’m tentatively referring to as The Laymen, Platinum Creaser.”

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