Saturday, December 7, 2019

Source Variant: World Class (Part XII)

Before they could proceed, Saga!Three needed to know who this Cain individual was. Vearden!Two and Zektene took turns recounting how the two of them met, and how Cain was involved. He was genetically engineered by the white monster progenitors of the Gondilak. He and the hybrids were then sent to each of a very specific group of humans with time powers called Newtonian Expats, all of which were from this universe, but were accidentally sent to separate ones. Most of the hybrids rejected their mandate, and became friends with the Expats, but Cain stayed true. Or at least, if his agenda changed, it wasn’t to become a better person. They all ended up meeting up with each other at the same location. Vearden!Two was swept away with two of them, while they encountered Zektene later on her home world. Cain continued to operate against them, until he was supposed to have been killed. Though, when time travel is involved, things like that get complicated. They get even more complicated when you take into account other universes, so the Cain they saw on the monitors could be from anywhere in his personal timeline. There’s no telling what he’s been through.
After class, Zektene got back on the computer, and narrowed her search parameters. They wanted to find all instances of Cain throughout this continent’s history, and they also wanted to know exactly where he was right now. There wasn’t much to find. Since he was waving at one of the drones in the first picture, he clearly knew that it wasn’t just some bug flying around. It would be no surprise to find out he figured out how to avoid further cameras. There were a couple blurry shots here and there, but for the most part, they were unable to determine a pattern to his movements, reason for his being there, motivation for his actions, or plans for the future. In order to find that information out, they needed to speak with him first. They sought out his last known location, and Zektene tried to teleport them there instantly, but it didn’t work. The lighting was different that it should have been, which suggested they had missed time. There was also no sign of Cain, nor any way to determine how long he had been gone. So they went back to the main facility, and checked the computers. Two hundred years. They were back on their regular pattern, and Cain’s trail would have gone cold by now.
Zektene gets back on the computer once again.
“Any sign of him?” Saga!Three asks.
Zektene hesitates to answer. “No. No sign of anybody.”
Vearden!Two approaches to look over her shoulder. “Wait, what do you mean by nobody?”
“The drones haven’t been doing their jobs,” Zektene begins to explain. “They haven’t been monitoring the population for seventy years.”
“The system crashed?”
“No, the system is fine. I have weather and atmospheric data. It still knows what year it is, and the bots have been maintaining the facility. It’s just that the drones have their charging stations the whole time. And I think some of the footage has been erased.”
“Somebody disabled them,” Saga!Three presumes.
“Not someone,” Vearden!Two contradicts.
“Cain,” he and Zektene say at the same time.
“Emergency McIver hats!” Saga!Three announces.
They reach into their bags, and retrieve their respective illusion-creating headgear. “Maramon form,” Zektene suggests.
“It’s too late,” comes a voice from the hallway entrance behind them. “I didn’t see who you are, but I know you’re not Maramon.”
“Stay in character,” Vearden!Two warns his friends out loud.
“That’s okay,” Cain says. “I wouldn’t recognize you anyway, whoever the hell you are.” That’s comforting, that he at least doesn’t suspect who’s been living in this place.
“How did you get in here?” Saga!Three demands to know.
“Here’s a hint,” Cain begins, “it took me a century. Those drones did not want to be caught. I could have whipped up a trap, but that would have required technology, which I didn’t have access, because these people haven’t even discovered electricity yet. So I observed. For decades, I watched them flying around. There were a few false positives, of course. It’s embarrassing how many times I came to realize I was just studying real insects. But over time, I learned more and more about their patterns, and that eventually led me here. Then it took me some time to break in, but once I did, I had the run of the place. Unfortunately, I’ve not found what I came here looking for, so I placed myself in stasis to avoid the monotony of waiting, and programmed the pod to awaken me when something interesting happened. That brings us up to today.”
“You’re pretty forthcoming with your answers,” Saga!Three notes. “What’s your plan here. What were you looking for.”
“A very special object,” Cain answers. “I spent about as much time looking for it on Kolob first, and that’s what led me here. I don’t know where else it could be. It was stolen from Ansutah shortly before the Bridge Collapse.”
“How did you get back to this universe?” Vearden!Two asks. “You’re supposed to be in Flipverse with Lucius Deschamps.”
Cain is slightly surprised by this. “I know you’re not Maramon, so how do you know what my assignment was?”
Saga!Three fakes a chuckle. “Well, we didn’t just randomly find ourselves on this planet. We know what’s going on, and we know about how Lucius and Abel shoved you into an airlock on The Stage. How did you survive that?”
“I shouldn’t have,” Cain says. “I got lucky. The outer bulkverse is to the multiverse what outerspace is to the planets. A human would be able to survive for about thirty seconds, but they’ll lose consciousness after fifteen, so unless someone else shows up to help, those extra fifteen seconds don’t matter much. Maramon were created to last closer to eight minutes. I reckon I was out there for five when a random universe came within spitting distance, and scooped me up. It’s a one in a billion chance, so I wouldn’t recommend you try going for a naked walk in the outer bulkverse, but it can happen.”
“Then how did you get back?” Vearden!Two presses.
Cain smirks. “I started a theatre company.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Oh, I thought you three knew things,” Cain teases. “Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat. He’s the only one who can use it to travel the bulkverse, but if you want to contact him, you have to put on a play where you act out his life. It requires over a dozen cast members, so it’s not the easiest thing ever, but it’s almost impossible to reach The Crossover, or something, so it’s your best bet.”
“I’ve seen that musical,” Saga!Three says. “I’ve never seen a magical traveler randomly appearing on stage.”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Cain says with a shrug, “but that’s not important. What matters now is the Newtonian Glove.”
“What’s that now?” Saga!Three asks.
“Kinda yellowish-brown, five fingers.” Cain describes vaguely.
“It can suppress powers,” Zektene adds. “Yes, I’ve seen it before.”
Cain is surprised again. “You have? Where is it?”
“No idea,” she says. “I didn’t see it here. I saw it...somewhere else, a very long time ago. I don’t know where it would be now, but I’m pretty sure it’s not here.”
“Yeah, we’ve been all over this building for the last several centuries,” Vearden!Two agrees. “We would have seen something like that. I assume whoever hid it put it inside some kind of protective case, instead of just stuffing it into the back of a sock drawer.”
He doesn’t remember Cain being so cordial and understanding, but that’s where the time travel thing comes into play. “Yeah, it doesn’t look too fancy, so you would remember finding some random glove kept in a case without a mate.”
Saga!Three actually did see that once, and something told her it would be too important to just leave lying around. “Sidebar.”
The other two exchange a look with her. That’s a codeword they came up with that means they need to go into the next room together, and then teleport to a secret location. “Excuse us,” Zektene says to Cain.
He doesn’t seem perturbed as they’re leaving.
“What is it?” Vearden!Two asks after Zektene transports them to the woods.
“I saw the glove,” she divulged, “and I hid it away.”
“Why? I mean, good. But why?”
“It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It wasn’t alone. There were other objects in there. This little gyroscope thing, what I believe is a teleporter gun, a stone. I don’t know what they were, but I was worried about letting them fall into the wrong hands.”
“Yeah, that was probably the right call,” Zektene admits. “Unfortunately, we have to give him the glove.”
“Why?” Saga!Three questions.
“We already have,” she replies. “Vearden and I are here right now because Cain showed up with that glove, which prevented Lucius from teleporting Vearden to a hospital. I took his place, and that’s when we ended up on this planet. If Cain doesn’t find that glove, nothing plays out as it’s meant to, including everything we’ve done here. That reality might be preferable to this one, but I don’t know for sure. Do you?”
Vearden!Two didn’t know what she was talking about, since he had been too hurt to understand what was going on, but he trusted her. If Cain was destined to take the glove, they had to let it happen, but that didn’t mean they had to make it easy for him. He sighs. “Okay, we’ll let him have the glove, but he obviously can’t have all those other things. Saga!Three, you’ll retrieve it, and hide it again. Then we’ll give him a hint about where it is.”
“We can’t just hand it over?” Saga!Three asks, confused. “You people say he needs it, then let’s just be done with it.”
He shakes his head. “We can’t do that. He’s expecting backlash. He’ll be suspicious if we just literally hand it to him. We’ll give him a general idea of where it is, and then we’ll jump two hundred years in the future, and wipe our hands clean.”
Saga!Three looks to Zektene, who doesn’t disagree with him, and doesn’t appear to have a better plan in mind. “All right. You’re the boss,” she jokes.
“I’ll be the one to hide it,” Zektene offers. “I can take it far from the facility, which is what we want, right? It’s best if you two don’t know where. Compartmentalization.”
“Yeah,” that’s smart,” Vearden!Two admits. He puts his hand in the middle of their little circle. “Everybody, hands in.”
No one else mirrors him.
“Okay, go team!” Vearden!Two chants anyway.
They execute the plan flawlessly, and then jump forwards in time. But this time, only a hundred years. And it is here that they meet their doppelgängers.

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