Saturday, March 9, 2019

Furor: Five People With Different Ideas (Part IX)

Before they knew it, the City Frenzy was right upon them. There were a few things that needed to happen to prepare for the day of the race. Ace needed to separate himself from the group a little bit, so he could be ready to meet—supposedly for the first time—a very young and naïve Serkan Demir. This version of Serkan was living a normal life in Kansas City, oblivious to all things time travel, and trying to get ready for an athletic competition he had not trained for. Because of his current notoriety, the older and wiser version of Serkan had to be extra careful to stay out of sight, lest the camera collective notice a paradox of presence. Meanwhile, Slipstream was coordinating all the tracers, including those in the reserves, to clear the streets as much as possible. For a few years, they were the de facto police force in the metropolitan area, which had no official unifying force of its own. After they had helped remove gangs from power, and dramatically lower gun violence, they turned control back over to the real cops. Still, that wasn’t too long ago, and many civilians still recognized the tracers’ authority. Paige was responsible for protecting Serkan’s ignorant family. And Jesi was missing.
At the moment, Ace was tending to his future boyfriend. He had fallen on the ground the night before while training for the City Frenzy race, using unauthorized, and unethical, visual hindrance technology. He was only now waking up. “Where am I?”
“My apartment,” Ace said.
“Why am I not in the hospital?” Young!Serkan asked.
“Because they would have held you back, in case you had a concussion. You have a race to run.”
“How do you know about that?” Young!Serkan was getting nervous.
“You’re famous.” Ace directed his attention to his home automation system. “Thistle, turn on all screens.” The wall transformed from a blank, to a few different views. One screen was showing salmon spawning up river, while another a time lapse of clouds rolling overhead. A third had the news on mute.
“Could you unmute that?”
“Do what the man says, Thistle,” Ace said.
The news anchor was already in the middle of her story, “ it’s going to be a lovely sunny and cool day for the ninth annual City Frenzy event. Hotels were booked up solid for weeks, as this will be the highest number of visitors ever recorded for this occasion. One of the biggest related stories is that three-time winner, Serkan Demir is returning for one final push before he ages out. He registered as a late-comer, here to fill in for his younger brother, who has reportedly fallen ill.
“Mute that,” Ace said, deep in thought. That wasn’t right. Old!Serkan recalled the news story with pretty high detail. The news reported on odd weather events, reminiscent of the 2024 debacle with Keanu ‘Ōpūnui. Young!Serkan was also supposed to have gotten himself in a pre-Frenzy obstacle course race with a professional rival, who was then supposed to have become injured. Something had changed. This proved that history could be rewritten. Perhaps whatever Rothko Ladhiffe was going to do wasn’t actually ever going to happen after all.
“Thanks,” Young!Serkan said. “I don’t really like hearing people talk about me, even if it’s all good things.”
Ace was having trouble listening. “Yeah.”
“ obviously already know my name. Could I have yours?”
“Horace Reaver.” He generally just went by Ace, but he was still trying to figure out how they changed the future, and what that meant for their mission to send Rothko back to prison.
Serkan wanted to say something else, but was interrupted by Ace’s phone ringing.
It was Slipstream, but he couldn’t say that in front of Young!Serkan. “Bo. What is it?” Jesi was finally back. “You found her?” Yes. “I’ll be right there.” What was he going to do with Young!Serkan, though? “He is, yes. I’ll take care of it.” He needed to usher the kid out of here, so he could go deal with this. “He’ll be fine. I’ll explain later. Where are you?” Back at the house. “Okay.”
“I think you’ll be okay,” Ace said to Young!Serkan, shutting his phone. He quickly started shoving some of his world-famous into a baggie. “You need some energy if you wanna win. I’m afraid I have to go take care of some business. You better call a car to Frenzy headquarters, or you’ll be late.”
“I understand,” Young!Serkan said, getting out of bed, and massaging his head.

“Whose blood is that?” Ace once he was back at the house.
Jesi reached down the neck of her shirt, and pulled the dog tags from her cleavage. They were even bloodier than her face. “I think you know.”
“What did you do?”
“I took the revenge that you couldn’t. I know you can’t thank me for it, but my soul is already damned, so I took care of it for you. I consider it a gift. I get that you don’t, and I think we should leave Paige out of it.”
“Ladonna threatened my child,” Ace began, “but she was a human being, and we don’t kill those.”
Jesi breathed deeply. “”
“I suppose you were wearing that terrible thing at the time, and it can’t be undone.”
“Dead is dead is dead is dead,” Jesi said.
“Take it off right now,” Ace ordered her.
Jesi started taking off her shirt.
“Not that,” Ace stopped her. “Well yeah, you probably should wash up if you ever want to go out in public, but I mean the Hundemarke.”
“Why would I ever go back in public again? I broke the rules. I left the time period, I hurt someone. Aren’t you sending me back to Beaver Haven?”
Ace decided to just take the dog tags back for himself. “I can still use you.” He tossed the deadly object back into the lockbox. “And when we’re done with Rothko, you and I are taking a trip back to, uhh...that crater place, and destroying the Hundemarke before it hurts anyone else.”
Jesi did start stripping completely. “Fine with me, as long as we keep it with us long enough to stop Rothko, should it come to that. Do I have permission to use your shower?”
Ace just gestured towards the bathroom.
Slipstream hadn’t said a word this whole time.
“You think I’m letting her off easy?”
She chuckled. “I made a lot of deals, with a lot of devils, when I was working for the Gunbenders. I wasn’t always proud of who was in bed with, but it got the goddamn job done.” True, conventional wisdom dictated you didn’t want to be on her bad side.
Ace’s phone rang again. “Serkie, you’re on speaker.”
It’s already starting!” Old!Serkan shouted at them. “Things are getting weird downtown! Every door to every building north of eleventh street is missing!
Ace went over and banged on the door to the bathroom, where the shower was running. “Sorry, you gotta cut this short, Jesi. We’re leaving right now.”
“I’m here,” Jesi said, walking into the hallway from the kitchen, fully clothed, and clean.
“How did you...?”
“I’m still in the shower,” Jesi explained. “I’m from twenty minutes in the future.”
“Does that mean...”
“I don’t know what happens,” she interrupted. “I was relaxing the whole time. Let’s go.”
The Jesi that was still in the bathroom yelled back, “I’ll be out in twenty minutes!”
The ride to downtown was awkward and slow, as this was one of the worst days for traffic of the year. They had to park several blocks away, but Slipstream had a monthly pass to a garage from an apparent real job she had in Crown Center, and a designated parking space of her own. “Who are you?” Jesi asked of her as they were stepping out of the car.
“I don’t know how to put this,” Slipstream replied, “but...I’m kind of a big deal.”
“Do you guys feel that?” Ace asked the group. “The air feels thicker.”
Jesi sniffed and smacked her lips. “It’s a little vegetably too. Is vegetably a word?”
“That’s not vegetables,” Slipstream realized. “That’s weed. The air is laced with marijuana.”
“Shit. Is everyone getting high? Even children?”
“Weed makes me slow, guys,” Slip warned them.
“It’s makes everyone slow.”
“Yeah, but like, speed is kinda my thing. It’s going to take us forever to get downtown.”
“I can help with that.” It was Doctor Mallory Hammer, whom Ace had only met in a parallel dimension. She was holding a medical bag in one hand, and a little plastic case in the other. She removed three injectors from the case, and tapped her finger under her chin. “Place it right here, and push the button on the other side. It’ll counteract the effects of the drugs.”
“You had these ready?” Ace asked, taking the injector.
“Mister Ladhiffe has been contaminating the air everywhere he goes for days, so Baxter and I have been working on it.”
“He wants the people to be docile and compliant,” Jesi explained.
“Well, on the bright side,” Dr. Hammer said, “the traditional cover-up story that there was a massive gas leak is almost true this time ‘round. I gotta go deliver more of these to key people. Stay safe.” She walked away.
“Can you two run?” Slipstream asked them.
“Can you run slowerly than usual?” Jesi asked in return.
“Done it before.” She ran off, forcing the other two to catch up.
Twenty minutes later, they were in the heart of the city. Serkan’s description didn’t really do it justice, or maybe things had gotten much worse since they last spoke. A restaurant was melting like a stick of butter in a microwave. A group of children’s hair was spontaneously shifting colors. They weren’t particularly bothered by it, but there parents were. Most of the cars were sliding down the street upside down, totally out of control of their drivers. A few wild animals were chasing each other up the side of a skyscraper, and a cloud looked like it was literally falling towards them. Two Frenzy racers Ace recognized, but couldn’t name, were struggling to wade through the sidewalk, which still looked like concrete, but moved like quicksand.
Ace, Slipstream, and Jesi stopped running now. The further they went down Walnut, the worse things got, so this was no time to be hasty. Most people were trying to get away from the chaos, so when the man at the center noticed three people heading right for him, he smiled villainously.
“Jesimula Utkin,” Rothko said, “It has been so long. How are you, my beautiful girl?”
“Even more beautiful than when we were kids,” she answered.
“That is the truth. You’re no Savitri, but I wouldn’t mind—”
“You best not finish that sentence,” Ace advised.
Rothko didn’t like being interrupted.
Slipstream stepped slightly in front of Ace, to protect him, wielding the special power-dampening cuffs.
“I was gonna say I wouldn’t mind taking her on the Bamboozler,” Rothko managed to say. That was some kind of ride at the amusement park. “Why don’t we go right now?”
With but a thought, Rothko turned the entire intersection into a thrill ride. The ground beneath Ace’s feet start spinning him around in a random pattern. Slipstream was spinning on a different path, as was Jesi. The few humans who hadn’t found a way to escape were experiencing the same thing. Several people just sliding along the road, criss-crossing each other, and sometimes falling down. Serkan suddenly appeared from up the street to join the ride, but only along the perimeter. He was locked in a cage, and never got within fifty feet of Rothko. He was holding the teleporter gun, which Hogarth had supposedly programmed to send any target directly to the intake area of Beaver Haven Prison. Every time he tried to target Rothko, though, he would unwillingly spin around, and lose tracking. He finally just decided to take a shot, and he might have hit Rothko too, but the time bullet started weaving around, just the people were. There was just no stopping the man. At least not without a secret weapon.
Paige used her power to teleport to appear out of nowhere, right in Serkan’s cage. She held up the Paradox Ticker, which was evidently designed to alter reality. In this case, she was using it to put things back to how they were meant to be. The cage faded away, freeing Serkan to run right up to Rothko, and finally suppress his powers. Everything stopped, leaving everyone to return to their original location before the ride began. Ace saw the time bullet Serkan had shot from the gun shift direction as well, and head right for Rothko. Unfortunately, Rothko saw it coming too, and used Serkan as a human shield. The love of Ace’s life disappeared, but not before Slipstream had covertly run up to him, and placed the cuffs right on his wrists before he could start using his powers again.
“Good,” Jesi said. “Let’s end this.” She removed a secret gun from her waist band, and pointed it at Rothko’s head. She walked forward with purpose.
“Jesi, don’t do this,” Ace begged her. “It’s over. He’s going back.”
“That’s not good enough,” Jesi said. “He’ll get out again.”
“You don’t even have the Hundemarke. This can all be—”
Jesi pulled the dog tags out of her cleavage once more. “I broke the rules again. I really am sorry. Well, I’m sorry for betraying you, but not for doing this.”
“You need to learn to work with a team. Things aren’t always going to happen how you want them to.”
“We’re not a team,” Jesi argued. “We’re just five people with different ideas.” She was about to do it.
“Wait,” Ace said. “Take this first.”
“Take what?” Jesi asked, but she had the thing in her hand before she knew what it was.
Ace squeezed her fingers shut, which activated the home stone. But he was touching her at the moment, so he went back in time with her.

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