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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Furor: A Very Dangerous Period (Part VI)

Glasses!Paige separated herself from the group as soon as they arrived back home. Well, it wasn’t exactly home. They had left the real world to go to the prison in the summer, but this looked more like a snowy death world. “I’m sorry I brought you here,” she said. “But the summer of 2026 is a dangerous time period for time travelers. Because of what happens, things can turn out wonky. We’re in the first winter of 2019 right now, so Jesi can take you back to when you need to be.”
“When are you from?” Ace asked his daughter with a frown. “What happened to you? I thought you needed photographs to travel.”
Glasses!Paige pointed to the movie theatre that this parking lot was for. “Security camera, right there. These glasses contain millions of jump points for me to access, via historical records, and a few other sources. I’m not giving you any more information about myself.”
It was obvious that she was about to disappear. “I love you.”
“I miss you,” Glasses!Paige said, before jumping into some other picture.
Ace scowled, and looked back to Jesi. “Ground rules.”
“Lay ‘em on me,” Jesi said, though there was no telling how sincere she was being.
“You do everything I say, when I say it. You can question it, but only if you have a logical argument against my instructions. I do recognize that you are more versed in the world of time travelers, so if what I plan doesn’t make any sense, you have an obligation to tell me. Once I have all the facts, I may amend those instructions. Slipstream, Serkan, and absolutely any version of Paige has this same power over you.”
“I understand,” Jesi said.
“There’s still one little problem,” Slipstream jumped in.
“What?” Ace asked. “That she can disappear anytime she wishes, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop her?”
Slipstream nodded. “That’s the one.”
“I’ve been thinking about that.” Since this all started several years ago, Ace had changed. He was still the same person he was brought up to be. He still liked savory egg-pastry dishes, he still used his intuitive skills to gamble, and he still loved the City of Fountains more than his hometown of Topeka. But there was also a darkness in him that only came out when his family was threatened, which hadn’t really been an issue until Serkan showed up. He was of a more violent nature than he ever knew, and this side of him frightened him far more than any time traveler he could meet. Yet it also held its advantages. He wasn’t the only one who noticed this aspect of his character, and if necessary, he would be more than willing to use this to protect his people. “One thing I’ve realized about this underworld is that y’all kinda know each other.”
“Right...” Jesimula was with him there.
Ace went on, “time travelers sort of pop in and out of your life, seemingly at random. When a regular human meets someone, say, at the grocery store, unless they make a point of staying in contact, there’s a good chance they’ll never see each again. But every time a time traveler meets another time traveler, it’s profoundly meaningful, which means the chances are high that they will see each other again.”
“I don’t know exactly where you’re going with this.”
“Yeah, me neither,” Slipstream agreed.
Ace prepared to finish up. “You could use your power to leave us whenever you want. But you’re a fool if you think we’ll never see each other again. It could be the next day, or decades from now, but I promise you that our paths will cross at least once more. You’ve agreed to help us with this Rothko guy, and if you break that promise, I assure you that the next time I see you, I won’t ask any questions. I’ll just fucking kill you.”
The transformation of Jesi’s face upon her hearing Ace’s last statement was not one he would ever forget. This was fear, from a woman who was every bit his superior, except in two arenas; he had people he loved, and he was physically stronger than her. Even Slipstream, who had made a career out of violence, as a vigilante law enforcement outlaw, was shaken by his words.
Jesi put her tail between her legs, and though she didn’t technically step back, she did shrink away. “I’ll help you. I’ll do anything I can, and I’ll only leave when you grant me safe passage.”
Ace breathed deeply through his nostrils. “One more thing. Don’t hurt anyone. Not anyone.”
“Not even—”
“Not even Rothko,” he interrupted.
“Yes, sir.” She could have said that sarcastically, but she didn’t. He was her commanding officer now, and maybe that was what she needed all along. Maybe all these so-called Springfield Nine had lacked strong role models who didn’t take their shit. He probably wasn’t the best candidate for it, but at least Slipstream was here.
“All right. I may think of more rules, and I’ll expect you to follow them as well.”
“Of course.”
“Then let’s get out of here.”
Before Jesi could take the other two in her hands, a man appeared out of nowhere, holding a pair of what could only be described as futuristic handcuffs.
If Jesi wasn’t scared before, she was scared now. “Oh my God.”
“Who are you?” Ace asked.
“Name’s Tracker. I’m one of those few people who don’t put the word the in front of their cutesy little nicknames.”
“Ace, we have to go now,” Jesi warned.
“You are all fugitives of Beaver Haven Penitentiary, and I have been sent to bring you in.”
“I thought we were all immune,” Ace said. “You only got Jesi the first time because my daughter went after her.”
“That’s true, but once that happened, she became fair game, ad infinitum. And once you broke her out, you became fair game too.”
“That sounds fishy,” Slipstream pointed out.
“Ace, let’s go. Now.” Jesi was backing away, but slow enough to show she wasn’t planning on leaving without them.
“It’s too late,” Tracker said. “In addition to being able to follow people through their spacetime rifts, I can suppress people’s powers once I find them.”
“He’s lying,” Jesi said. “I know all about him, and he can’t do that.”
“If you try to slide into the future,” Tracker began, “it could kill you.”
“I’m gonna risk it.”
“It could kill all of you,” Tracker clarified.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Slipstream noted. “If you can suppress powers, it shouldn’t matter how hard she tries. Unless you’re not suppressing powers at all. You’ve put her on a leash.”
Ace was watching her as she was talking. Now he turned back to Tracker with hope. “Leashes can be broken.”
“Sure, by me. What would someone like you be able to do?”
“He probably can’t do anything,” Slipstream said. “Can you hold onto a leash when you’re unconscious, though?” She stepped towards him.
“Now, wait. I know what you can do, and no, I won’t be able to hold onto her once you knock me out. But I’ll be able to find her when I wake up.”
“I dunno,” Slip said. “It’s pretty cold out here. You sure you’re gonna wake up?”
Now Tracker started to back away. “Didn’t you, like, swear an oath that you wouldn’t use your gifts for evil?”
Slipstream scoffed and laughed as she kept inching forward. “No. Did you?”
He stopped, and stood up straight. “Yes.” His eyes darted to his right.
“What?” she asked. “Do you see a temporal rift over there, or something?”
“That’s...” Tracker was surprised. “How did you know?”
“I’m pretty good at reading people.”
“I know where you’re going,” Tracker said. “You knock me out, I escape through that rift, your mangy dog over there literally bites through his buddy’s leash.” He gestured towards Ace. “It doesn’t matter what you do, or where you go. We know that you’re headed for downtown Kansas City, summer of 2026.”
Jesi nodded. “That’s true, but you don’t wanna go there, do you? That’s a very dangerous period of the timeline, or so we’ve heard.”
“I’ll find a safe way in.” Tracker sounded pretty confident.
“Great,” Ace said. “And when you do, you can arrest Rothko Ladhiffe.”
“I will, and I’ll take you all with him.”
Ace placed her hand on Jesi’s shoulder. She shuddered a bit, but quickly realized he meant her no harm. Slipstream stepped back over and did the same. “You can try.”
Tracker pouted at them. Then he literally jumped into the invisible tear in the spacetime continuum.
With the leash broken, Jesi created a time bubble around the three of them, and slid them toward the future. Ace watched as the seasons came, and the seasons went. Cars drove up, parked in the spot they were standing in, and drove away just as quickly. Finally, the flashforward stopped, hopefully leaving them sometime soon after they first left.
Ace pulled out his phone, and called Serkan. “Hey. How long have we been gone, from your perspective?” He listened to the response, then relayed it to the group, “less than an hour.” He listened more. “We’re in Leawood.—No, don’t worry about it. It looks like Slip is already calling us a ride.”
“Dave will be here in a grayish rogue in four minutes,” Slipstream announced.
“We’ll be home in thirty minutes. I love you too.” He hung up.
Two minutes later, a grayish rogue pulled up next to them. “Bozhena?” the driver asked.
“Thank you for coming.”
They climbed into the vehicle.
“No problemo,” he said as he was driving away. “I’m Dave, but you can call me The Chauffeur.” Ah, shit.

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