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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Furor: That is an Absolute Last Resort (Part VIII)

Ace and Paige didn’t even open the lockbox until Dave had them back on Earth, and in their home. Once in the dining room, he set it on the table, and waited for someone else to do it for him. There was no telling what they would find in there.
Jesi wasn’t afraid, but Slipstream slapped her wrist away. “No, I’ll do it,” she conceded. Slip turned the key, and opened the box.
Ace half expected an orangey light to emanate from inside, but it was just a collection of what appeared to be junk. There was a dog tag, with the name Anatol Klugman etched on it, and an unremarkable watch. There was a little toy space gun, and a rock. The only thing that was remotely cool was this cute little baby gyroscope. He picked up the rock, and tossed it in the air a few times. “This is what we have to work with? What are these things?”
Jesi cleared her throat.
“Yes, Jes, you’re allowed to help, thank you,” Serkan said to her.
Jesi started pointing to the objects, and explaining them. “That’s a teleporter gun, that’s a paradox ticker, that’s the Hundemarke, that’s a baby gyroscope, and a rock. Personally, I favor the Hundemarke, but that’s just me.”
“What does it do?” Paige asked.”
“The rock? I have no idea.”
“She means the Hundemarke,” Serkan corrected.
“It kills people,” Jesi answered. She lifted the dog tags from the box, and fidgeted with the chain.
They had no response.
“Well, it doesn’t kill people on its own, but if you kill someone while you’re wearing it, you’ll create a fixed point in time. That way, if a time traveler goes back in time, and tries to create an alternate reality, this will still happen, no matter what. Most people’s deaths can be undone, unless you got this thing.”
“Who’s Anatol Klugman?” Ace asked her.
“He’s the one who created it,” Jesi answered, “using the Sword of Assimilation.”
“And what is the Sword of Assimilation?”
“It steals people’s powers. Well, it doesn’t so much steal as it copies, but there’s a lot of stabbing involved, so the original user usually dies.”
“So, you favor using the Hundemarke,” Paige began. “You want to kill him. I thought you were turning  over a new leaf.”
“I don’t want to kill him,” Jesi argued. “I think we should kill him. There’s a difference between being good, and doing the right thing. Sometimes the right thing is a hard pill to swallow, but some people just need to be removed from the equation.”
Ace took the dangerous object from her, and threw it back in the lockbox. “That is an absolute last resort.”
“Understood,” Jesi agreed sincerely.
Serkan carefully lifted the apparent teleporter gun, and held it in the palm of his hands, as if it were a caterpillar. “This is all we need. We can send him directly to the prison, and be home in time for lunch.”
“I don’t like that idea,” Slipstream said. She reached into Ace’s bag, and retrieved the special handcuffs that Dave gave them. “I would rather escort the man there myself. Who knows where that gun is going to send him? It could make matters worse.”
Serkan shrugged. “We can find someone smart enough to reprogram it; make sure it sends Rothko where we need him to go. Paige, what about your engineer friend?”
“Hogarth? She and Hilde are living in what they call a dead zone. I think it’s unreachable by teleporters and time travelers.”
Jesi frowned. “I don’t think those exist. They probably built some kind of protective shield themselves.”
“Either way,” Paige said, “contacting them is this whole thing. I can do it, but I can’t promise they’ll be able to help by the time the City Frenzy begins.”
“Do what you can,” Ace instructed her. He tossed the stone another time. “I need to figure out what this thing is. Perhaps, it’s the best option we have, and we don’t realize it. If Jesi doesn’t even know what it is, it must be pretty special.”
“I may still be able to help,” Jesi said to him with a sigh. I don’t know what it is, but I may know someone who does.”
So Slipstream and Paige broke off to call Hogarth, while Serkan and Ace waited for Jesi to call her friend, Ophir. He wasn’t the best person in the world, but he could remotely teleport them anywhere in the world; something Jesi called apportation. This was necessary, because if someone attempted to teleport the three of them directly, their powers would have been hindered by Serkan’s. Before she could even hang up the phone, they were whisked away. They were now standing on the porch of a rustic cabin, overlooking a resplendent body of water. A woman was walking up from the shore with fishing gear, and fish. She was neither surprised by their sudden arrival, nor perturbed by the intrusion.
“Doctor Buhle?” Jesi asked.
“I am!” the woman replied with an exaggerated wave of her fish-filled arm.
“I thought you knew her,” Ace whispered.
“I know of her,” she clarified.
The woman approached, and dropped all her stuff on the porch. Then she reached out and gave each of them a hug. “There. Now that we’re friends, you can call me Ladonna.” She sported a thick British accent, or maybe it was South African? “All three of you are teeming with temporal energy. “Except for you, I guess.” She smiled sadly at Serkan. “You’re more like a black hole of linear time.”
“Doctor Buhle here is a diagnostician, specializing in temporal objects.”
“And spacetime anomalies,” Ladonna added.
“We were hoping you could help us identify this.” Ace showed her the mysterious rock they had found in the lockbox.
Ladonna closed her eyes, and shook her head. “I never work on an empty stomach. Fortunately, I caught four of these beautiful salmon. Something told me I would need three extra, but we should eat them quick, while they’re still fresh.”
“How did you catch salmon in that lake?” Jesi asked. “Aren’t we in Wyoming?”
“That’s Brooks Lake, yes,” Ladonna said, nodding. “I didn’t catch the fish there, though. There’s a rift that leads directly to the Beaufort Sea. It’s not a pleasant trip, but I don’t accept anything but the best. Come on inside, you can help. Any of you gutted before?”
And so they prepared a full dinner of fish, salad, and Nanaimo bars for desert. Then they sat down, said grace to a god of time Ace had never heard of, and ate together. Ladonna could sense the tension between the two of them and Jesi, so she ordered them to literally break bread together. It was merely a symbolic gesture, but Ace was actually feeling less hostile towards her, almost immediately afterwards.
Ladonna could also sense their anxiety over the stone, so once dinner was finished, she volunteered to take a look at it for them. She examined it carefully and methodically, turning it over in her hands, smelling it, and even touching it with the tip of her tongue. “Hmm. It’s a recall object.”
“Recalled to where?” Jesi asked her.
“To the beginning,” Ladonna said.
“Of time?” Serkan asked, amazed.
She laughed. “Where were you when you first traveled through time, if ever.”
“Where did I go, or where was I just before I traveled?” Serkan asked.
“The second one,” she answered.
“July 16, 2026.”
“Ah, not far from here. Well, the stone would take you back there, right to where you were when it happened. Well, maybe a few seconds after. If you’ve aged since then, which you always have, the stone will reverse it. Now, it’s not an undo button. Everything you did since that moment has still happened, but it might give you a chance to start your life over if you lost out on a lot by being gone. I don’t think it would be useful to you, Serkan, since your past is in the very near future, and you’re gonna get back there soon anyway, but I can think of one or two people who would cherish the opportunity.”
“Hm,” Jesi said. “You can give it to one of them. We have no use for that here.”
“Now, hold on,” Ace disagreed. “Are you sure?”
“Rothko is a superpowered maniac who’s about to expose the whole world to time travelers. If he goes back to when we were kids, nothing would change.”
“Sure it would. You said you got trapped in another dimension together, and he spent more time there than anybody. If he could avoid that before it happens, maybe—”
“It won’t matter,” Jesi said in a raised voice. “He’s already experienced it. You can make him as young as you want, and take him to whatever point in time you want, he’ll still be angry. If you’re not gonna Hundemarke him, then you should at least send him to prison, where he belongs.”
“The Hundemarke?” Ladonna questioned. “You have that wretched thing?”
“It was part of the white package we got from Meliora.”
Ladonna lost her bubbly attitude. “Give it to me.”
“Hand it over, right now.”
“It’s not with us,” Serkan said.
“Then go back and get it, so you can give it to me. I’m the only person in histories who both knows how to destroy it, and wants to.” She was not playing around.
“But what if—”
Ladonna interrupted, “that object was created during one of man’s worst mistakes: a war. It was created through blood and death. It is used for more blood, and more death. It has the potential to save us all, but the only thing anyone ever thinks to do with it is kill their enemies. No one can be trusted with it.”
“Well by that logic...” Jesi began.
Ladonna interrupted for a second time, which didn’t seem like something she would do. “I can’t be trusted either. I’m still just human, despite what choosers say about us being a different species.”
“What are you going to do?” Serkan legitimately wanted to know. “Throw it in Mount Doom?”
“No, not Mount Doom. Darvaza Crater. Lucky enough, there’s a rift over there that will get me to the Caspian Sea.”
“I thought it would go to Beaufort,” Ace recalled.
“Brooks Lake is a hub,” Ladonna explained. “It can take you to any other large enough body of water, and any large enough body of water can get you here, if you know what you’re looking for.”
Ace shook his head. “I want to find a way to do this peacefully, but we need a last resort. I don’t like violence any more than you do, but we need the Hundemarke, just in case nothing else works. We can give it to you after it’s done, but not before.”
Ladonna sighed loudly. She stood up fast enough to knock her chair over. Then she walked to her desk, and removed a small mirror from it. After setting the mirror on the table, she grabbed Serkan’s hand, and cut his finger with a knife that came out of nowhere. “What’s your daughter’s name?”
“Ouch, let the hell go of me!”
“What’s your daughter’s name!” Ladonna repeated.
“Paige! It’s Paige Tuner!”
Ladonna calmed down, and let a few drops of blood land on the mirror. It swirled around, then revealed a bird’s eye view of Paige. She was sitting at their own table with Hilde, and a woman Ace presumed to be Hogarth. They were working on the teleporter gun, and were paying the voyeurs no mind. Ladonna set the stone on the glass, and let it sink into it as if plasma. The mirror then turned back into a regular mirror.
“What did you just do?” Ace questioned her as he was making sure Serkan’s wound wasn’t too bad.
“You said you found her in 1971?”
“Yes why?”
“What a coincidence. The Darvaza Crater was created in 1971. You get me the Hundemarke, you get Paige back from 1971.”
“Your reputation does not suggest you would anything something like this,” Jesi pointed out.
“I’ve never been this close to getting the Hundemarke. And before you get any ideas,” Ladonna began. She removed the special cuffs from Ace’s bag, confident he wouldn’t make a move against her. She placed one cuff on Serkan, and the other on Jesi. “If you try to retrieve your daughter without doing what I asked, you’ll never get these off, and neither of them will be able to help you ever again. Serkan is simultaneously suppressing Jesi’s time sliding power while being unable to suppress anyone else’s.”
Ace stood up and scowled at her. “How am I meant to get back to Kansas City?”
Ladonna jerked her head towards the lake. “On the southeast corner of the lake is Brooks Lake Creek. Start swimming right where they meet, and you’ll end up in Brush Creek, which I believe is close to your house. You have one hour.”
Ace called upon the spirit of Serkan Demir, and ran as fast as he could to the creek portal. It was a little embarrassing climbing out of Brush Creek, since it cuts through the middle of town, but he was able to get back home fast enough to quickly brief Slipstream on the situation. She was then able to run much faster back to Wyoming. Ladonna honored their deal, and returned all of his people, along with the stone that could send people home. But having to go back to her birth parents, if only for a few seconds, was incredibly traumatizing to Paige. So what Ladonna didn’t realize was just how terrible of an enemy she had just made.

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