Saturday, April 18, 2020

Firestorm: Kallias Bran (Part IV)

I’m not in hiding, but I have been laying low for a while. Back in the year 1990, I started investigating a child’s disappearance. It was my first case as a detective, and the weirdest thing I had ever seen up until that point. Things like it would eventually become commonplace for me, but back then, I couldn’t explain it. Escher Bradley was missing according to his supposed father, but according to the mother, he never existed. I spent years trying to figure what the hell was going on. More children disappeared over the next decade, and I was the one assigned to them all. Other strange things happened in Springfield, Kansas until it all just ended when the entire town itself disappeared. I continued to investigate, though. I traveled to other planets, other points in time, and even other universes. My life was non-stop adventure, so when I was given the opportunity to go back to where it all began, and lead a more normal life, I took it. Sort of.
The first moment I experienced nonlinear time was, as I said, way back in 1990. But since then, I’ve seen all kinds of technological advancements. Living in a time before I could look up literally anything in an online encyclopedia, or navigate to a new location on a little computer phone, was something I didn’t think I could do. I hitched a ride back to the future—the 2020s, to be exact—and I’ve been generally avoiding other time travelers ever since. There are some good people in this underworld, though, and I should have left myself available to them if they ever needed me. I don’t know how he did it, but one of them did finally manage to find me, and he apparently needs my help.
“Where’s your family, Ace?” I ask him.
“They’re still looking for you,” he says. “We got separated, and I found you first.”
“Can’t you call them?”
He pats his pants. “I don’t have a phone.”
“How did you know where I was, but they didn’t? Why were you separated?”
“I was in prison,” he explains. “Don’t worry, I didn’t belong there, and The Warden let me go. I came into possession of some intel while I was on the inside, which led me to you. If you don’t help us with our mission, you’ll still need to bug out. Not everyone who knows your location is on your side.”
“Am I, like, wanted?”
“I don’t know,” he answers honestly. “My cell neighbor seemed particularly interested in you, though. You could better understand what it is that makes you special. I just consider you a friend.”
“Okay, I appreciate the warning. And I’ll definitely help with whatever mission you’re talking about. I’m sorry I haven’t reached out lately. I’ve been kind of staying out of the game, but I think I’m ready to be involved again.”
“We appreciate that. Come on. We’re based out of your safehouse.”
The condo I bought a long time ago has been used for many different things by many different people. I probably lived there for the shortest amount of time, but I still technically own it. I’m glad it’s been there to help so many people. It is a joy.

Serkan Demir runs over and tackles his boyfriend when we arrive at the condo. “How did you get out? Did we win? I don’t remember winning.”
“It had nothing to do with this,” Ace explains as he was peeling Serkan off so he could hug their adopted daughter too. “A friend I won’t have until the future broke me out.”
“They broke you out?” Slipstream asks. I’ve never met her, but she’s famous in all of Kansas City, and beyond. It’s an honor just to be in her presence. “So they’re coming for you.”
“Well,” Ace begins, “when I say he broke me out, I mean he literally broke the bars on my cell. I don’t understand who he is, or what our relationship will be in the future, but the Warden basically said he can do whatever the hell he wants, and she has no right to go against him. I’m in the clear.”
“So, is that it?” Paige asks. “Do we not have to do what it is the Warden charged us to do?”
“I still need to,” Alexina McGregor says. She’s one of the Springfield Nine, like me. She got her time powers from another dimension, and while most of them are amoral, at best, she’s recently tried to redeem herself. I hope she makes it. “I still have to get the rabbit dog from the FBI. I can’t ask you to continue if you don’t have to.”
“Of course we will,” Ace assures her. “Now we have some real firepower to back us.”
Is he referring to me? “Are you referring to me?”
“Slipstream has some clout,” Serkan says. “She’s still a civilian, though. We could use a real law enforcement officer on our side. Ace, how did you find him?”
Ace looks like he doesn’t want to explain how it is he found me. He told me it had something to do with other people in the prison, but maybe it’s a lot more complicated than that, or it’s something bad. There’s a phrase I’ve heard before, which serves as what I guess you could call the time traveler’s way of saying shut up. To avoid paradoxes, and other timeline problems, all you have to do is say, “eh. Time, right?”
Serkan still wants answers, but he’s letting it go for now. “Right.”
“What exactly do you need from the FBI?” I ask them.
And so they go about telling me what they’re hunting for. There’s some kind of psychic hybrid creature, and a temporal object that’s so powerful, no one seems to know what it does. They’re both being protected by a federal agent who probably has special time powers, and he may be in possession of other things they don’t know about. What his motivation is, or what his ultimate plan is, they don’t know, but they know they have to get these things back, because he can’t be trusted.
“And what do you need me for?” I go on. “I’m not a detective in this timeline. I don’t have a badge, or even a gun.”
“We can make you a detective again,” Paige says. “We need it to be you, because you know what questions to ask; how to get into people’s heads.”
“Are you planning on taking me to The Forger to get my badge back?”
“That was the idea, yes,” Paige acknowledges. “Do you not think that’s gonna work?”
I sigh. “It probably will, as long as we give his bouncer a thousand dollars. I’m willing to do just about whatever it takes to help you, but I don’t know if I want to go back to that life. I gave up the force a long time ago.”
Paige comes over, and takes my arm in her hand. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. We weren’t going to contact you, but Dupont dropped your name, and it made us realize we could do with a little more help.”
Delmar Dupont? The magician guy? Hm. Weird.” I sigh again, and watch them watching me, wondering what I’m going to do. “Okay. Let’s go make me a cop again.” I start heading towards the other side of the condo, while everyone else heads for the exit. “Where are you going?”
“Where are you going?” I ask them. The Forger is this way.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Ace questions. “He’s downtown.”
I study them a moment, to see if they’re joking. “You’ve been living here the whole time, and you didn’t realize he and The Communicators moved here last year?”
Slipstream and Serkan tilt their lizard brains.
“Yeah,” I go on, “they’re in the closet. Come on.”
I lead them to the closet, which gives us access to another dimension. We step through it to find ourselves in a much nicer facility than the one these people were working out of before. It’s cleaner, brighter, and modern. I was in here once recently, since I’m the one who gave them the money to upgrade, but I haven’t been here since they finished fixing it all up.
“This used to be a clothing warehouse,” Paige notes.
“Yeah, they moved that to The Hub,” I explain, but it’s clear they don’t know what that is yet. That’s okay, I’m sure they’ll see it later in the timeline.
The same bouncer is standing at the entrance. He seems to recognize everyone, except for Alexina. “She’s cool,” I tell him.
The bouncer nods his head towards Ace. “He owes me a thousand dollars.”
I pull two thousand bucks from my back pocket. “I got it covered.” Ace doesn’t look happy, but I shake my head. “I’m rich, and I didn’t even work for it. I don’t want you to bother paying me back. Money isn’t gonna matter much in the future.”
We keep walking down the great hall. A wide-smiling Ennis waves to us through the glass of his new post office. Susan’s office is darkened, with a red light above the door, which indicates that she’s currently napping. Allen and Richard’s restaurant is open to the public on the other side of the kitchen, and it sounds like a lot of people are dining right now. The time traveler side, however, is almost empty. Only one young woman is eating right now, and she looks a little worried about this group of people walking by her. The Salmonday Club isn’t open at all right now, but we see somebody cleaning the entrance. Finally we’re at the Forger’s new den. I open the door, which knocks into a little bell hanging from the ceiling.
The man himself, Duane Blackwood, comes in from the back, and lifts his arms in a welcoming fashion. “All of you together in one place. My heart is warmed. Mr. Reaver, I heard about your jailbreak. How do you know Mateo Matic?”
“I don’t yet,” Ace answers.
“Ain’t that how it always goes?” Duane asks rhetorically. “How can I help you fine folk? I’ve expanded my business. I can now offer direct transport to another time and place, and discount prices on certain living places. I would just generate the cash myself, but that can screw with the local economy too much, so you’ll still need to pay a little yourself. We even house a Nexus replica on the premises, so if you need to get to Tribulation Island, that can be arranged.”
“That’ll be all right,” I say to him. “I just need...I need you to make me a detective again.”
Duane frowns, but not too sadly. “I thought you were done with all that.”
“My friends evidently require access to the FBI building,” I say. “I’m the only one they know with enough experience to help them.”
“You need access to the fed building, then you need to become a fed, not a detective,” Duane suggests.
“You can do that?” Paige asks.
“Hell yeah, I can,” Duane says. “With my new digs, I can make authentic badges, and appropriate firearms, as well as necessary identification papers.”
“I don’t know much about what it takes to be FBI,” I say honestly. “They’re very different professions.”
“You just need to get through security, right?” Duane asks. “That’ll be easy. I do...umm...ask for payment these days? Not money, of course. Like I was saying, I have my own bottomless ATM, but I do need a favor.”
I was worried something like this would happen, but I’m not gonna freak out until I hear what it is he wants from us.
“There’s a guy at the front door,” Duane begins. “He comes every single day. He knows there’s something here. I’m not a hundred percent sure what he wants, but he’s just human. The Salmonday Club has had to let people in the side entrance, so he doesn’t notice them.”
“What’s the Salmonday Club?” Paige asks.
“You know how there are only seven days a week?” I pose to her.
“There are eight, as long as you enter the club thirty seconds to midnight at the very end of the week.”
“Everyone rushes in all at once,” Duane continues for me. “This place is a madhouse on Saturday nights. This dude saw the clubgoers coming into this building one time, and I guess he’s been obsessed with us ever since. The power/pattern detector filtered him out, and just showed him a regular abandoned building, but he knows something’s up. Security can’t get him to leave.”
“Is he there right now?” I ask him.
“Yeah.” Duane walks up to the counter, and reaches over to swing the computer monitor around. It’s showing security camera footage from the main entrance of this building. A guy in a button-up shirt and skinny tie is leaning up against a pillar, hastily writing in a journal, or something.
“Oh my God,” Paige says with a bit of disgust. “That’s him. That’s Orson Olsen, the mormon I accidentally inspired to start a religion.”
I sigh one last time. “You make me FBI credentials, and I’ll get him out of here.”

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