Saturday, February 9, 2019

Furor: Dude Thinks He Invented It (Part V)

The prison guard held the door open so Ace could call Serkan and Paige, and tell them where he was going to be. Slipstream needed to get her affairs in order with the tracer gang as well, though she wasn’t as honest with them about what she was doing. The reality was that neither of them really knew where it was they were going, though. They could be traveling to the other side of the world, to another world, to the future, or the past. Perhaps the prison existed in another dimension, or maybe somehow all of these possibilities all at once. Susan and Ennis seemed to think it was safe for them to travel there, but Ace didn’t exactly know them that well.
“No cameras,” the guard informed them at the doorway. He took their phones from them, and slipped them into his pocket. Then he started leading them down a passageway. “Who is it you need to speak with?”
“Anyone who can tell us about Rothko Ladhiffe,” Ace answered.
The guard flinched, almost imperceptibly. “He got out on my watch. I can tell you as much as anyone else here can, outside of his friends.”
Ace and Slipstream gave each other a look. “We should talk to his friends.”
“They are not allowed visitors,” the guard explained.
“We’re not here to visit.”
“Good point,” he admitted. He turned a corner that Ace didn’t even know was there. Some walls weren’t really walls. “Susan has instructed me to give you everything you ask for, but she is not my boss.”
“Who is?”
“The Warden, of course.” He ushered them into an office, where a woman was sitting at a desk, and just staring at the wood, like a powered-down robot.
Ace cleared his throat, but the warden lady didn’t react.
“Excuse me?” Slipstream piped up.
The Warden held up one finger, and didn’t drop it for a minute. Then she used it to point at what appeared to be some random point on the desk. “There. See it?” she asked the empty space right next to her chair.
“Yes,” came the voice of some invisible entity, right where the Warden was talking to.
“I want him moved to the other side.”
“I’m on it.” The side door opened and closed on its own.
The Warden finally looked up to the two of them. “What, you’ve never seen an invisible person before?”
“Well, no,” Ace said, “but that’s not it. We’re just not sure what you two were looking at on your desk.”
She smiled and reached under that desk. After a click, a holographic image appeared on the surface; apparent footage of the prison. “This is a live feed. We were looking at something that hasn’t happened yet, so you can’t see it unless you have a trained eye.”
Ace nodded. He didn’t fully understand what she had said, but he long ago learned when someone with more experience in the world of time manipulators said something is a thing that’s real, he was better of just accepting it and moving on.
“What can I do for you?” Who are you?”
“You just let us walk into your office without knowing us?” Ace questioned.
“Don’t you know the future?” Slip added.
“Not the whole future.”
“Well, I’m a salmon...sort of,” Ace began. “That’s what everyone calls me, but the powers that be have never asked me to do anything.”
“That you know of,” the Warden corrected.
“That I know of,” he agreed. “This is Slipstream. She’s, uhh...” Yeah, he still wasn’t clear how different people were going to react to a regular ol’ human.
“Bozhena Horvatinčić?” the Warden asked, with a proper fangirl squee. She stood up, and walked around the desk to shake her idol’s hand. “It is such an honor. What you did for Kansas City...”
“Was a group effort,” Slipstream said with flawless modesty.
“That’s my girl. We should do lunch. Are you hungry?”
“We’re...anxious,” Slipstream replied. “As I’m sure you know, our fair city is in danger.”
The Warden fell into seriousness. “Right, the ninth and last City Frenzy event.”
Ace and Slipstream gave each other another look. Neither of them knew anything about this being the last Frenzy.
“Whoopsie-doodles, I’ve said too much. I would hit the redo button, but I don’t wanna do that to you. You’re here looking for answers about Mister Ladhiffe. I can put you in a room with Keanu ‘Ōpūnui and Jesimula Utkin, but I’m not sure that’s safe.”
“You have ways of suppressing people’s powers, don’t you?”
“That’s not the problem,” the Warden said. “The Springfield Nine aren’t just dangerous because of their abilities. They’re also all insane. Well, Kallias isn’t, but that’s because he was immune to side effects of the...”
“What?”
“Well, I mean he’s not pristinely ungifted, like Brooke Prieto, but he can control how nonlinear time effects him, if at all.”
“Kallias Bran is one of the Springfield Nine?” Ace asked. “He babysat my child.”
“Yes, but like I said, he’s different.”
“Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. I read about those children,” Slipstream said. “I read about all nine. He wasn’t in there.”
The Warden nodded. “You’re probably thinking of Kayetan Glaston. No, he’s tight with them, but he’s just a regular choosing one. He was born that way. The Nine were made.”
“Are you gonna lock him up too?”
“Kayetan?”
“No. Kallias.”
“I don’t lock up anybody. I’m a warden, not a judge. But to make you feel better, I doubt it. Your child was safe with him.”
After a reverent pause, Slipstream continued, “what did we decide about the interview with Rothko’s friends?”
“Please.” She opened her hand, and pointed to their knees. “Have a seat.”
As soon as they sat down, they discovered themselves to be sitting in an entirely different room. Keanu was on the other side of a cold, metal table that was an awkward few meters long. At the far corner was a young woman Ace didn’t know, but guessed to be Jesimula Utkin. They were both chained to their respective corners. The prison guard from before was performing a beautiful impression of a statue in the corner.
“I don’t think she teleported us,” Ace said. “I think we lost time.”
“You’re getting smarter,” Keanu said to him with a grimace.
“It’s been so long,” Jesi said to Slipstream.
“Is that a joke, or has it been longer for you?”
“Just a year, but I do miss the time we spent together. What’s the deal with this table?”
“No touching,” the guard clarified.
Ace took a moment to pretend he was alone with Slipstream. “As a feminist, I grapple with this idea that hitting a woman is worse than hitting a man, but I know if I punch this guy in the face right now, everyone who heard the story would shrug it off. But if I did the same to—”
“I catch your drift,” Slipstream interrupted. She stood up, and punched Jesi in the face for terrorizing Ace’s daughter.
The prison guard immediately opened a cabinet on the wall, and pulled out a med kit. He removed a piece of cloth from a container, and placed it on Jesi’s face. “Sixty seconds,” he said to her before going right back to his corner, and freezing.
Jesi leaned her head back and sighed while she waited to heal.
“What is it with you people and hitting?” Keanu asked.
“What is it with you people and harming others on a grander scale?”
“Hey, I stand by my winter wonderland!” he shouted jovially.
“They let you stand in here?”
It was a silly retort, but offensive enough to the prisoner. “What is it you want?”
“Rothko.”
Keanu scowled. “That bastard promised to take us with him.”
“So, you’ll help us catch him?” Slipstream imagined.
“Hell no! Springfield code!”
“Oh God,” Jesi said as she was finally removing what was obviously a healing mask. “Enough with that bullshit! We owe him nothing.”
“We owe him everything,” Keanu argued. “He got us out of the pocket dimension.”
“Agree to disagree.”
“It’s a fact, Jesi. You can’t just ignore it because—” Keanu stopped short. “Oh, I see what you did there. Pitting us against each other, making us give you information about the pocket dimension. You’re a couple of sneaky snakes. I see you.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ace said honestly. “You started fighting all on your own. If you don’t want to tell us what we need to know, then you are free to go.”
“They’re not free to go,” the guard said.
“Oh, my bad,” Ace said. “Looks like you’ve been compelled to help us.”
Jesi pursed her lips and regarded them with exaggerated disdain, like a lady thug. “Yo, watchu wanna know?”
Slipstream took this one, stooping herself to a way of talking that Jesi was already pretending to have. “Yo, like...what does he want? What beef he got with the City Frenzy?”
“That ol’ thang?” Jesi went on. “That dude thinks he invented it.”
“He did,” Keanu argued.
“Puh-lease, ain’t nobody remember him talkin’ about it when we was kids.”
“Well, he did. To. The. Letter.”
Jesi sucked her teeth, and brushed that dirt off her shoulder. “Yeah, right. And I introduced the world fleek.”
“You did,” Keanu reminded her. “That wasn’t meant to be part of English vernacular until 2049.”
“Oh, for reals? Schway.”
Slipstream reached towards Jesi’s face. “No. No. Use whatever accent you want, but no one is uttering that word in my presence.”
“What, schway?”
Slipstream stood up so fast, her chair fell back. Ace picked it up for her while Jesi assured them she wouldn’t use it again.
“Getting serious, guys, Rothko is not all there.” Jesi gestured to Keanu as her voice got quieter. “These kids love him, but he is not okay. He had this thing with this girl, on this other planet. But then there was this other guy, and I don’t know what happened to him, but no one’s ever seen him again. He don’t talk about it, but I think Rothko killed him.”
“Allegedly,” Keanu interjected.
Ace decided it was time to get to the point. “What’s his weakness? How do we stop him.”
Jesi laughed. “How do you stop gravity?”
“Lift?” Slipstream offered.
Jesi thought that was a pretty good answer. “Tell ya what, you get me furlough, I’ll bring him in...dead or alive.”
“You’re not getting furlough,” the guard said abruptly.
Ace looked back at the guard, and then back to the prisoners. “Can you do it.”
“They’re not getting out of here,” the guard said, growing angrier.
“Yes,” Jesi answered.
Steaming was coming out of the guard’s ears. “I won’t let two more people get past me.”
“Not two,” Jesi said. “Just me.”
“Traitor!” Keanu cried.
“I need backup,” the guard called into his radio.
“We have to go now,” Jesi urged. “You’re untouchable. They can’t hurt you. Either of you.”
“Okay,” Ace decided.
The guard tried to make a move, but Slipstream was too fast. She took him down without breaking a sweat. But then his jackbooted backup arrived. She pushed back on the door to keep them out, but they were too strong. Keanu jumped up and helped her. “You have a plan to get us out of here?” he questioned.
A pigeon suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and landed gracefully on the table. It started cooing, and looking around for food. The backup was now banging on the door harder, and it looked like someone was coming with a breaching bar to knock it down.
“Now would be nice,” Slipstream said.
“Read the note!” Keanu ordered.
Ace carefully removed the little note wrapped around the bird’s leg. “Take a picture,” he read. “I don’t have my phone with me.”
“They’re in his pocket,” Slipstream reminded him. She and Keanu were starting to lose the match against the guards.
Ace dove down and grabbed his phone. He flicked up the camera app, and snapped a photo of the floor. An older version of Paige wearing glasses suddenly appeared. She took Ace in one arm, and Jesi in the other.
“Wait. Slip!” Ace yelled.
“Everyone who wants a ride has to be touching me,” Glasses!Paige said.
The door was too far away from Jesi. “Go!” Keanu said to her. “I’ll hold them off, just go!”
“I won’t forget this,” Ace said to him.
As soon as Slipstream’s fingers were at Paige’s shoulders, the latter spirited the four of them away.

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