Saturday, April 4, 2020

Firestorm: Volpsidia Raske (Part II)

I don’t know what Alexina’s problem is. We used to be friends. And I don’t just mean we would smile at each other in the hallway in high school. We were really close, even before we got trapped in the Purple Rose Lane pocket dimension together. She acts like she grew up, and grew out of our old ways, but every single one of us was a precocious child. The way we are is the way we are because of what we can do, and she can hide from that side of her all she wants, but eventually she’s gonna realize that it takes up the majority of who she is, and she won’t be able to hide anymore. Whatever. It’s not going to do me any good right now. I need to get the hell out of this prison, and now I know what to do. My first pawn was far too strong for me, but her replacement will do quite nice. I just need to get him to trust me.
“Aren’t we already talking?” Ace asks.
“We are,” I say, “but we need to talk where guards can’t hear us, and if we go into our pocket dimensions, we can. They can’t spy on us in there. We are afforded a modicum of privacy.”
“Did they not just hear you say that, though?”
“Temporarily, no.” I’ve been able to get myself into one of the guard’s heads. It’s not enough to compel him to break me out of here—partially because he isn’t in a position to accomplish it anyway—but he does manipulate some of the surveillance to keep me out of trouble. He gets suspicious when I’m controlling his mind too much, though. I need my cell neighbor in a certain spot so I can break my connection with the guard on my own terms.
“How can we talk from the pockets? The weird magical phones they give us in there surely are indeed monitored.”
“They are, which is why we’re not going to use them.”
“What do you need me to do?”
“You have a bookcase.” It’s not a question.
“Yes,” he answers. “What about it?”
“I need you to lift one side of it, and swing it outwards to a ninety degree angle.”
“Is there a secret phone behind it, or something?”
“Do you want the instructions, or not? If you do this for me, you’ll be able to see your family.”
“Okay, go on.”
“Swing the bookcase out,” I continue. “Tear the carpet from the floor. It might be kind of hard, so you’ll have to use a fork, or something. Or use a knife, because you’re gonna need it anyway. Once you have enough of the carpet out of the way, carve my name into the wood underneath. V-O-L-P-S-I-D-I-A-P-H-I-L-L-I-P-R-A-S-K-E.”
“Phillip with two Ls, you said?” he asks.
“Yes.” He’s buying it; it’s working.
“What next?”
“After you’re finished carving, go to bed. Repeat my name over and over again in a low whisper. Keep doing it until you fall asleep. What you’re doing is sending a message to the universe that not even the dimensional barriers in your prison cell can ignore.”
“Is any of this real, or are you just hazing the new guy?”
Okay, maybe he’s not buying it. Let the line out a little, then slowly start reeling him back in, Volpsidia. “I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve done this before.”
“Okay, fine. Tear up the carpet, carve your name, chant your name. I can do that.”
All I can do now is wait and hope. He never comes back out to give me a progress report, so he’s either actually trying it, or he’s figured out that I’m lying, and isn’t doing anything. The guy in the cell on the other side of me has his own slight psychic abilities, so if I’m going to break myself out, this idiot is my only hope.
That night, I start to feel him, and now I know he did what I asked. As the minutes go by, the stronger I can feel his mind. I’m a genius.
No, you’re not.
Who’s that? I ask. There’s someone in my head, and it’s not Ace. Who the hell is that? It’s a female voice, so I know it’s not my neighbor either.
You’re right, the voice in my head agrees. I’m not your neighbor. I am nowhere near Beaver Haven. You see, I haven’t broken any of McAllister’s rules, which is why I’m still free.
Who are you?
The name’s Erlendr Preston, he says. I can hear the smile in his thoughts.
I’ve heard of you. You’re a man.
I sense a shrug. I can be whatever I want to be. Feel free to authenticate my psychic signature.
Holy crap, he’s telling the truth. I cannot piss him off. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. I should probably be ready to plead for my life.
Tell me, what are you doing with Horace Reaver? Why did you make him chant your name like a frickin’ psycho? I can hear him all the way from the 20th century.
It’s a psychic prompt, I reply. Erlendr Preston is not a good guy. If he wants to stop me, he can. If he doesn’t, then it’s fine for me to be honest. In fact, it’s probably best, because I imagine he can tell when people are lying, and I don’t wanna know what he does to those people. I can read his mind, just like I can read anyone else, but I can’t control him unless he lets me in. Most people don’t realize that psychic powers are real, which means their minds are closed to pushing. If I want to hack in, I have to make him want me to. I have to make him think that we’re friends, and that I can help him.
Horace Reaver is very important to my plans. What are your plans? Do they interfere with mine?
I have no idea. What are you trying to do?
Nevermind that, Erlendr says. You explain your goals, and I’ll decide if I’m going to let you reach them or not.
I sigh. I’m just trying to get out of Beaver Haven.
How is being psychically linked to another inmate going to get you this?
This body is just a vessel. If I can get out of here mentally, I can find myself a new one. Ace’s body would just be temporary until I can find someone I like better.
Will Mr. Reaver survive both your possession, and your leaving him mind later?
Absolutely. If all goes according to plan, he won’t even know I’m still there. I’ll be dormant until I find the right host.
Erlendr doesn’t send another telepathic message for a while. Is it true what you told him? Can you let him see his family while he’s locked up? Do you have remote viewing capabilities?
Uhh... It’s hard to explain. I him what he expects to see his family doing.
What happens when he gets out, and realizes what you showed him was an illusion?
He won’t. When he gets out, and tries to compare his visions with reality by talking to his people, everything they tell him will rewrite his memories of those visions. He’ll start remembering what they experienced when he wasn’t there just by them telling him about it.
That’s impressive. I’ve never met a choosing one with such...delicate power.
I laugh. I’m not a choosing one. I’m a Springfield Nine.
I know. He laughs too. I’ll be sure to make your life comfortable when I create my parallel reality.
I’m not sure what he means by that, but it’s best I express my gratitude. Thank you. I’m sure my alternate self will appreciate it.
You have a week, Erlendr says to me. Horace has to do something for me, and I need his mind free and clear for that. Find another vessel by then, and I’ll let you have this one for now.
Well, this version of me appreciates that deeply.
Just remember that next year when we meet each other again.
Oh, that doesn’t sound good, but I still need to be humble. Okay.
That was a psychic conversation, which is innocuous, and I have them with people all the time. Even though most don’t have powers, their minds instinctively know how to block out intrusion, so if they want, they can always drop the conversation as if hanging up a phone. But now I am fully inside Ace’s brain, so I can make it look like we’re occupying the same physical space. He’ll be able to see me; I’ll be able to see him, and we can interact with each other on a more intuitive level. The manifestation of a door appears on the wall in each of our respective pocket dimensions, like two adjoined hotel rooms. There is only one step left. In order to maintain a permanent presence in him, I need to open my door, and he needs to open his. We do so at the same time.
“Are we really here?” he asks.
“No, now we’re connected psychically.”
“What was all that with the bookcase, and saying your name out loud?”
“I’m sorry I had to make you do that. When I said you were reaching out to the universe, I really meant you were just reaching out to me. I’m the one who can show you how your family is doing, but I can only do that if you’re open.”
He looks around at our two pockets, which were contrived from our memories. “I look pretty open now.”
I nod and smile. I almost feel bad about using him. He seems like a good man. Which is probably why he’s going to get out of here one day. That has only ever happened once, as far as I know. I wasn’t able to get all the way into Slipstream’s mind, and I tried for a whole year, so this is my only chance to be free. “Yep. You did everything perfectly. Now I can show you what’s going on in the real world. I don’t have to ask you to concentrate on their faces, or anything. You’re the kind of guy who’s just doing that all the time.” I wave my hand at the double threshold, tearing it apart in the center. A new opening forms in its wake, opening enough to let us pass.
We walk into what looks like a magic show. Waiters and waitresses are walking around with drinks and fries. The place is pretty full. It’s informal, so people aren’t paying the man on stage their undivided attention, but they are being respectful. They’re whispering things to each other when they need to. We spot Ace’s family and friends. Serkan, Paige, Slipstream, and Alexina are sitting in a booth in the middle of the audience, right up against a retaining wall. They’re watching the performer, but differently than everyone else. They’re studying him.
“Now, folks!” the magician cries. “I know you didn’t come here for cold readings and trick rings! You wanna see me make something disappear!” He opens his palm, letting a dove suddenly appear on top of it. “Maybe this bird?” He pops his hand up, prompting the dove to fly up into the rafters. This is a weird vision. I can’t actually see what’s really happening in the rest of the world. I can read minds, and control people, but I have no connection to anyone here, except for Alexina, whose mind I agreed to never violate. This is only meant to be what Ace thinks is happening out here, and when he meets them again, his memory of this moment should change so he doesn’t realize it’s fake. Why would he think his family is at a magic show when they’re supposed to be on mission? “Today, I have a very special treat for you! I have been working on a new trick, and I need a volunteer! It takes a lot of energy, so I would prefer someone with less mass!”
“I’ll do it!” Young Paige volunteers.
Serkan tries to stop her quietly.
“It’s fine,” she whispers to him as she’s standing up. “I understand what he’s doing. He can’t hurt me.” She walks up towards the stage, bowing graciously at the cheering crowd. We follow, but of course, no one can see us since they’re not real.
“You look familiar,” the magician says to her, “what is your name?”
She leans in to the microphone. “I’ve been at your show before. My name is Paige Turner Reaver-Demir.”
“Well, folks, now you know she’s not a plant! I could never come up with such an interesting name!”
The audience laughs, except for Ace’s family.
The magician goes on, “Paige, have you ever teleported before?”
Paige leans in again, and very seriously—and without hesitation—answers, “yes.”
This surprises him for a moment, then he wises up. He covers the mic with his hand. “Are you a choosing one?” he whispers.
“I’m not,” she replies. “I’m spawn.” Oh, man, those are rare. I didn’t know that about her. “But don’t worry, I’m just here to have a good time. Go ahead and do your trick, it’s fine.”
After a little more performance to build up the suspense, the magician asks Paige to stand on the right side of him. Then he uses whatever chooser power he has to teleport her right over to his left side. The crowd is shocked. They start cheering again. Everyone is giving him a standing ovation. They’re eating it up. It’s not very impressive when you’ve seen what I have, but humans are ignorant wee babies. The magician seems proud of himself at first, but then his nose begins to bleed. He looks like he’s about to faint.
Paige notices this too. She takes her phone out of her pocket with one hand while trying to hold him up with the other. “It looks like that took a lot out of him, folks! I’m going to have to take him to the hospital.” She pulls up a picture of what I assume is a hospital, looks right at it, and they both disappear. Now the crowd freaks out.

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