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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Furor: The Other Side of an Expanding Universe (Part VII)

Neither Slipstream nor Jesi seemed bothered by the fact that their driver just referred to himself as The Chauffeur. A few years ago, it would have been a funny anecdote to tell his friends, but everybody Ace met these days with a nickname was probably bad news.
“Sup, Davey,” Jesi said to him.
“Call me Dave, Miss Utkin,” the driver said.
“Sounds good, Davey.”
“How do you know him?” Slipstream asked.
Dave went on before Jesi could answer. “I hear you’re out looking for a Beaver Haven fugitive.”
“We are,” I admit, planning mine and Slipstreams’ escape.
“I also hear you’ve become fugitives yourself, because you recruited an unlikely ally.”
“I don’t think I’m that unlikely,” Jesi protested. “I’m very likable.”
“What are you going to do to us?” Ace asked him.
Do to you?” Dave echoed. “I’m not going to do anything to you. I’m here to provide you with resources.”
“You work for the prison?” Slipstream guessed.
Both Dave and Jesi laughed. “I work for The Sanctuary,” Dave answered.
Jesi clarified, “your daughter built a special place to protect humans when they’re in danger from time travelers.”
“Isn’t everyone’s life in danger from time travelers?” Slipstream pointed out.
“That’s a fair assessment,” Jesi said.
Ace was still hung up on the comment she made about this sanctuary having been built by his daughter. Again, a few years ago, that would have sounded completely crazy. But he understood that just because the Paige he was raising hadn’t done something yet, didn’t mean that it hadn’t already happened. Thinking on it, he was not really surprised she would grow up to help people in this capacity. It made him smile.
Jesi noticed it. “Oh, I’m not talking about Paige.”
Okay, that was stranger news, but not completely out of left field. He didn’t want to know too much about this daughter he hadn’t even met yet, though, so he continued to stay silent.
“Her name is Meli—”
“I don’t want to know too much about my future,” Ace stopped her.
Jesi laughed again. “Meliora is not in your future. She’s from an alternate reality. I think two major reality shifts ago, yeah?” she asked Dave.
“There’s no such thing as a major or minor reality shift, since time is fluid,” Dave contended, “but you could say that.”
“So, I had a child with someone, then that child grew up, went back in time, and changed so much that I never even had her in the first place?”
“Essentially, yes,” Jesi said. “It would have been worse if her actions hadn’t erased herself from history, though. Then there would have been two of them, battling for the timeline. Nobody wants that.”

“Oh my God, I forgot about her,” Paige apologized.
We were back at the house. Ace had left Jesi and Dave in his car, so he could have a private conversation with his family, and Slipstream first.
“Paige, you knew about this Meliora?” Serkan asked her.
“Yeah, I met her just before you two came back to the real world,” Paige said. “I mean literally just before. I got so caught up processing where you had been, and trying to take care of you, that it slipped my mind.”
“You met her too?” Ace was getting too worked up. Paige had done nothing wrong.
“She’s the one who undid Jesi’s aging thing,” Paige explained.
“Jesi did imply Meliora was a very powerful person,” Slipstream reminded Ace.
“If she’s anything like your current daughter,” Serkan began, “she genuinely wants to help with our Rothko problem.”
“That’s assuming the driver even works for her,” Slipstream cautioned.
“I think we should speak with her directly,” Ace decided. “Dave says he has resources to help us bring Rothko in. I’m inclined to take any advantage we can get, but you three and Kolby are the only people I know I can trust, and maybe not even Kolby.”
“You can,” Slipstream promised. She stepped out of the door, and waved the other two to come on in.
Dave and Jesi walked in, the latter with a coat draped over her arms, in front of her stomach.
“Little hot for that, isn’t it?” Paige pointed out.
Dave removed the coat from Jesi’s arms, to reveal them to be bound together via handcuffs. “Our first gift to you.” He handed Ace a small device. “The cuffs suppress powers, but they can keep her immobile in a more traditional sense. Press that button right there.”
Ace pressed the button. The cuffs separated from each other, but each half remained on Jesi’s wrists, respectively.
Dave went on, “her powers are still being suppressed. If you push that button right there, you can restore them, and easily turn them back off when you want. There’s also a recall function, in case she travels to a different time without your permission.”
Paige took the controller from Ace’s hand, and looked it over like a curious cat. “Will these cuffs work on anybody?”
“Anybody,” Dave said. “Even you. You’re immune to the ones Beaver Haven uses, but not these. They’re one of a kind, so be careful with them.”
Having gotten used to modern technology by now, Paige expertly pressed a new button. The cuffs fell off of Jesi’s wrists, and headed for the floor, but before they could reach it, they stopped in mid-air, and docked themselves to the end of the remote. They obviously belonged there when they weren’t in use.
“What are you doing?” Slipstream questioned.
“We’ll need these for Rothko,” Paige replied. She handed the full set back to Ace, and stepped closer to Jesi. She was the one who had been most slighted by the prisoner, so even though she wasn’t an adult, this was her prerogative. “Jesi isn’t going to screw us over, are you?”
Jesi frowned at the girl. “If I had a team like you guys to help me when I was trying to stop the pathogen that destroys organic humans in the future, I could have figured out how to do it without killing anybody, or violating your body’s age. I am sorry, and I legitimately want to help now. I didn’t start out evil; none of us did, not even Rothko. We got our powers from a pocket dimension that had terrible psychological consequences that we didn’t see until it was too late. I don’t know how Kallias Bran has survived so long.”
“Are you saying Rothko can be saved?” Serkan asked her.
Jesi stood up straighter to consider the notion. “No. He’s lived through more trauma than any of us could imagine. His happiness is on the other side of an expanding universe. He’ll never see it again.”
“I have more treats,” Dave said after a brief pause in the conversation.
“I want to meet my daughter,” Ace said.
Dave looked perturbed. “Jesi shouldn’t have told you that. Meliora is not your daughter. Everyone thinks there’s such thing as an alternate version of yourself, but that’s impossible. Why, you’re not even the same person as you were seven years ago.” He gestured towards Ace. “The fact that you’re not running around, killing people, is proof of that in a multidimensional sense. The other Horace Reaver is you in name only. He wasn’t a good father, and he wasn’t a good person, and he’s not you. You are no more related to my employer than I am.”
“Your employer,” Paige began to argue, “called herself my sister. She used the word.”
Dave was mildly surprised by this. “She did? She said that?”
“Indeed,” Paige confirmed.
Dave cleared his throat, and shook his arms for no known reason. He took a freaking flip phone from his pocket, and opened it up. He didn’t dial a number, though. “Request sent.—Request received.—Processing.—Pending response.—Acknowledged.” He closed the phone. “Accepted. But only you two.”
Ace looked over to Serkan, who smiled understandingly. “That’s okay. Slip and I will debrief Miss Utkin while you’re gone.”
“Very well,” Dave said. With no warning, he lifted his arm, and snapped.
The three travelers were suddenly standing on dusty stone floor. A man was smiling at them cordially. “Welcome to the Great Pyramid of Giza.”
“We’re just passing through, Stargazer,” Dave said.
“Headed back to Dardius?”
“We are.”
“Have a nice trip.”
Dave closed his eyes, and breathed deeply. He faced the window showing the night sky above them. “Hold onto my waist.”
Paige and Ace grabbed hold of the teleporter, and held on tight. Dave lifted one arm towards the window, then pulled them off the ground like some kind of Asgardian god. They couldn’t really see anything, but they could feel themselves rushing through time and space; outer space. Within minutes, they were standing in the lobby of a hotel.
“Good afternoon,” a bellhop said from the other side of the counter. “Checking in two guests?”
“They’re not staying,” Dodeka,” Dave said to her. “Where’s the boss?”
“Right here,” came a voice from behind them.
“Here they are,” Dave said. “Call me when they need a ride back to Earth. I’m going to check on our defenses.”
“You don’t need to do that every time you show up,” the woman who was apparently Ace’s Alt!Daughter, Meliora said. “You’re not breaking through them, you’re unlocking them.”
“Yeah, and I need to make sure they’re locking behind me. I hope you or Doty are doing the same when I leave.”
“Yes, sir,” the bellhop said.
“Thank you, Dave,” Meliora said, both warmly and dismissively.
“Thank you, Dave,” Paige said to him as well, but he was gone before she was finished her sentence.
“Mister Reaver, Miss Turner,” Meliora began. “I was not planning on us meeting until much later. You haven’t even had your brain blended yet.”
“What does that mean?” Paige asked. “It sounds painful.”
“The pain is temporary.” She paused for a moment. “Are you here on business, or did you just want to meet me?”
“Both,” Ace said honestly.
Meliora had a sad expression on her face, exposing her superior intelligence to them, like a mother trying to avoid teaching her child about death. “He’s explained that I’m not really your daughter, right?” She grimaced under emotional discomfort.
“That’s not what you indicated when you saved my other daughter’s life,” Ace volleyed. “You wanted to be sisters.”
“I feel a closeness to people that they can’t reciprocate. I built this place, because everyone feels like a sister or brother to me.”
“That’s bullshit,” Ace argued. “If a lab tests our blood, what are they gonna find? Are they gonna conclude that we’re genetically related?”
“Well, they would, but—”
“But that’s all I need to know. There are three kind of parents in the world: those who are related to their kids, but don’t raise them; those who raise their kids, but aren’t related to them; and those who are both. I don’t know you, but I love you, and nothing you say will stop me from feeling that.”
“I’m a distraction,” Meliora said to him. “You have work to do. Rothko is just the latest in a long line of challenges you and your family are going to have to face. I can’t have you trying to include me in that, because I have my own work to do.”
“If that’s true, why did you send Dave to us?” Paige asked. “Why did you reyoungify me? If you wanted to stay out of it, then you should have.”
“I should have,” Meliora agreed. “Merton could have handled that, and I could have simply given The Courier your gifts.”
“If that’s how you feel,” Paige said, “I guess we have nothing more to discuss.”
Meliora looked to the bellhop, Dodeka. “Please retrieve that little brownish lockbox from the back. They’ll be taking the downgraded package. I can see they don’t need as much help as I had originally instructed Dave to provide them with.”
“Sir,” Dodeka said obediently as she was leaving.
Meliora turned back to her fake family. “You can stay in the hotel as long as you would like. She can provide you with any amenities, and will be sending you of with everything you need to defeat Mister Ladhiffe. We’ll see each other again, under better circumstances, and with less...hostility.”
“We do appreciate the assist,” Ace said as Meliora was walking away.
Dodeka returned with a whitish lockbox. Meliora must have been mistaken about the color. It also didn’t look that little. The bellhop set it on the counter, then lifted a brochure from its holder, and opened it up to show them. We currently have three swimming pools—”
“We won’t be staying,” Ace said, taking the lockbox from the counter. “Please call the Chauffeur back for us.”
“Very well, sir.” She reached into her back pocket, and returned with a lighter. Dave appeared as soon as she ignited it, and wasn’t happy about being interrupted, but he agreed to take Ace and Paige back to Earth.

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