Saturday, May 16, 2020

Firestorm: Aeolia Sarai (Part VIII)

The year is 2027. I’m minding my own business, trying to take a nice stroll in the park, maybe shed a few pounds while I’m at it, when I suddenly find myself on my ass. Oh my God, this is it, I think. The terrorists have come for my town, and I’m collateral damage. Or I’m a target, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m in an immense amount of pain, and I’m not alone. Other people are strewn about the ground around me. They weren’t there before, though, I know that. I would have remembered if I had been in a crowd. I feel like I’m hurt more than most of them, yet they help each other up, and don’t so much as acknowledge me. Until one sees me.
He lifts me up. “Are you okay?”
“Not really,” I say, but I’m overpowered by someone else’s response.
“I’m fine,” says some guy who happens to be standing next to me. He’s brushing that dirt off his shoulder.
“I was talking to her,” the kind man tells him.
The rude man looks around. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about this stranger who’ve we just hurt! Correction, who you just hurt by keeping a weapon like whatever the hell that thing is in your closet.”
“Hey, you guys wanted to open the door; I told you not to.” The jerk looks around again. “I still don’t know who you’re talking about. I’m the only stranger to you people. You came into my office..unannounced.”
“Can someone please tell me what’s happening?” I ask, about as politely as I think I can muster.
“What’s your name?”
“Austin Miller, and I swear to God, if you try to call me—”
“I wasn’t talking to you! Just always assume I’m not talking to you! Go over there! Now!”
“Kallias, what’s happening?” one of the other guys questions.
He sighs. “Raise your hand if you can see this woman right here.” Kallias points to me.
No one raises their hand.
“I think you hit your head,” another guy suggests.
“Don’t assume that,” a teenage girl contradicts him. “Maybe she’s invisible.”
“Why would I be able to see an invisible person,” Kallias asks her, “but no one else can?”
“Why would anyone be invisible? That’s not a time power.”
“We don’t know what that explosion did,” the teenager reasons. “We don’t know what the gyroscope does.” She takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry I can’t see you. My name is Paige Turner. These are my fathers, Serkan Demir, and Ace Reaver. This is an asshole named Hello Doctor.” Hello Doctor doesn’t seem pleased by this designation, and I don’t know what it means, but if he doesn’t like it, then I’m gonna use it. The girl gestures towards Kallias, and adds, “I guess he can introduce himself.”
Kallias shakes my hand. “Detective Kallias Bran.”
“I thought you were an agent,” Hello Doctor spits.
“I am. I was a police detective before that, so it’s just a habit. Relax.” He turns back to him. “I know you said you weren’t okay, but...do you need medical attention?”
“I would just like to sit down,” I say to him.
He helps me over to a bench.
“She’s invisible, and we can’t hear her,” Serkan points out. “That’s weird. I feel like I just lost a few seconds of time too. I mean...I saw you standing right there, and now you’re by that bench, and I don’t know how you got there. I imagine you walked, but I didn’t see it happen.”
“Did this woman somehow make him invisible too?” Ace offers. “Temporarily?”
“No, that doesn’t make much sense either,” Paige says. “We didn’t see him disappear. It’s more like we forgot that it happened.”
“We forgot a few seconds ago?” Hello Doctor asks.
“Shut up,” a couple of them say in unison.
Paige tries to think about it more, and everyone seems to automatically understand that she needs silence. “Uncle Bran, do you have your wallet, or your badge, or something?”
“Yeah,” Kallias answers her. “They’re one and the same.”
“Hand it to your new friend, and ask her to throw it at one of us. Don’t tell us which one. Just pick one of us at random, and give it your best shot.”
“Gladly,” I say, taking the wallet from Kallias. I actually have a really good arm; I played baseball in college. I send it hurtling towards Hello Doctor.
He dodges it, then goes right back to how he was standing before I threw it. He blinks, confused. “What just happened?” He finds the wallet on the ground. “How did this get her? Is this yours?”
“Holy shit,” Ace says, dumbfounded. “Did she do it? Did she throw that?”
Paige kind of snorts. “She’s not invisible. She just...erases our memories so quickly that we can’t even recall that we’re looking at her right now.”
“How is that even possible?” Serkan asks.
“How do I time travel through photographs?” Paige counters. “We don’t really understand how any of this works, and as I said, we really don’t understand the Omega Gyroscope.”
Kallias approaches Hello Doctor threateningly. “What is it? What does it do? Where are we?”
“We’re in another world,” Hello Doctor replies with a shrug. “As far as I can tell, it’s only different from ours by its history. They had different presidents, different TV shows, different people altogether. It’s otherwise just like our Earth, though. Same geography, same animals, same relative technology. I was just starting to compare climate history when you guys showed up.”
“It’s an alternate reality,” Paige clarifies.
“What are you doing with it?” Serkan asks Hello Doctor.
“Nothing,” Hello Doctor defends. “I’ve no interest in this place. It’s just the world the gyroscope sends me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to control it, so I can take it anywhere. I’m hoping for a world that doesn’t have any people at all.”
“For what purpose?” Ace asks.
“To exploit its resources without hurting anybody. I’m not a bad person! Again, you barged into my office!”
“Never mind that,” Serkan dismisses. “We just need to figure out how to get back. First, though, we should find somewhere to go before someone in this world sees us. This grass is all dead. We don’t want to have to explain it to one of the natives.”
“You can come to my house,” I tell them. “I’m Aeolia Sarai, by the way.”
“There’s someone here who will let us into her house,” Paige says for some reason.
“Yeah, me. I just said that. Wait, can you hear me?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Serkan agrees, “but who?”
Kallias is less confused than I am. He’s almost getting used to this. “Which direction should we go?” he asks me quietly.
“That way,” I point down the street.
“Say it louder than me,” he prompts.
“My house is that way,” I say in my outside voice.
“Let’s go this way,” Serkan says, like it was his idea.
“What the hell?” I lament as they’re all walking in the right direction.
“They can forget you,” Kallias begins as we hang back from the group a little, “but they can’t forget what you taught them. You told us where to go, and they respect that, even though they have no idea where they got the information.”
“Hey, man, is this yours?” Hello Doctor is presenting Kallias with the badge I threw at him. “Why am I holding this?”
“I dropped it,” Kallias lies. He speaks up to address the group, “the invisible woman’s name is Aeolia Sarai.”
“Who’s invisible?” Paige questions.
“Jesus Christ.” I’ve never felt so disregarded.
“We need to find out how powerful you are,” Kallias puts forth.
“Well, we need to find out why it is you can remember me when no one else can.”
“Oh, it’s kind of my thing,” he explains. “There are lots of things I remember that no one else does. I’ve never met anyone like you before, but I’m not that surprised. If you can conceive of a way of manipulating time or memories, someone probably exists who can do it.”
I look at him like a sad puppy.
He smiles, and lowers his voice. “Tell him to do something that he wouldn’t do on his own.”
“Take off your shoes,” I order Hello Doctor.
The guy actually does what I say, and removes his shoes. He doesn’t know why.
“Agent Miller, could you keep up, please?” I’m not sure why Serkan is using the guy’s normal name. “What are you doing?”
“I have no idea,” Hello Doctor says truthfully. “Why are my shoes off?”
“Ace, clap your hands three times above your head,” I order.
“Honey?” Serkan asks after Ace does exactly as I’ve instructed. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. We just need to get to this person’s house.”
“Take a left.” Now I’m just the satnav voice.
Everybody turns left. This is becoming awfully frustrating. People are listening to me, but they don't know it. I don’t need credit, but this can’t just be my life now. Kallias can’t be the only person I ever talk to again. That isn’t fair to him. He deserves freedom...from me.
“Wow,” Kallias says. “You need to not, like, abuse that power.”
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely. How can I communicate with people, though?”
This saddens him. “I don’t know. Maybe you can control it. Maybe you could voice your opinion without forcing others to share it. Maybe you just need time to learn.”
“Take your gun out of its holster.”
He doesn’t budge.
“Maybe I just need you. You’re the only one who’s immune to me.”
“I shouldn’t be, though.”
“Take the next right,” I direct the group. “What do you mean?” I ask Kallias.
“Serkan is special. He can suppress other people’s powers. There only seem to be a few exceptions. His daughter is immune to him, and apparently so am I, but that doesn’t explain why you are. He should be able to see you, if not also make other people be able to see you.”
“I’ve not had this—I wouldn’t call it a power...”
“The term we use in your case is time affliction.”
“Yeah, that describes it well,” I agree. “I’ve not had this time affliction before. It probably happened because of this gyroscope you keep talking about. How do other people get their powers? Is it from that, or something else?”
“Different ways,” Kallias begins. “Ace was born with a special pattern. His soul lives through every day twice. His memories don’t go with it, so he can’t remember what’s going to happen in the future, but he has really good instincts when his boyfriend isn’t blocking this power. Somebody gave Serkan his power, but we don’t know why, and he in turn, gave Paige hers. That was an accident, though. I got mine because I spent some time in another dimension. We think Agent Miller was born with his power, as most people are, but we don’t even know what it is yet. We just know he can do something because he too remembers things other people don’t.”
“He doesn’t remember me, though. This is it right here.” I walk towards my front door, and find the keys in my purse. “Follow me, everyone.”
They all come inside. “Whose house is this?” Paige asks.
“I don’t know, but we’re safe here,” Ace responds. I guess that’s nice to hear, even if it’s not directed towards me specifically.
“Can we speak privately?” Kallias asks me. “I’m still not sure I understand when they can hear me talking to you, and when they forget.
“My bedroom’s this way.”
Once we’re alone,” he continues. “I know I just said that I don’t want you to abuse your power, but we may need it.”
“You wanna control someone,” I imagine.
“I just want answers. “We’ve been investigating this rogue FBI agent. I haven’t been part of the group that long, but...well, you’ve met him. He’s being difficult. He found this very powerful device.”
“The Omega Gyroscope.”
“That’s right. He said we can’t get back to our reality. He said he didn’t have time to prepare, which there may be a little truth to that.”
“You don’t think it’s the whole truth.”
“He’s too relaxed. He should be freaking out that he can’t ever, ever go back home. He has some way, though, and I need to know how. There must be some reason he’s not telling us.”
“I can ask him, it’s fine.” I start to get up to go do that.
He stops me, “the problem is, when we go back...you’ll be alone. If you can’t talk to me, I’m not sure you can talk to anyone.”
“Oh, I’m going with you.”
“You are?”
“The guy said this world is kind of superficially different. You don’t have sharks with lasers on their heads, or damn dirty apes enslaving humans, right?”
“Not that I know of.”
“There’s nothing left for me here. I don’t have any family, and even if I did, they wouldn’t know me anymore. That is...if you’ll have me.”
“I would love for you to come. You just have to be certain about this. When we go back, we’re taking that gyroscope, and securing it. We can’t let Miller hold onto it, and we probably can’t use it ourselves either. It’s just too dangerous.”
“I understand. I’m ready. And I can pay my way,” I say with a grin. “Look, I have all these gold coins my late uncle left behind. He was a survivalist. I just came from the bank, where they told me they wouldn’t take them.”
“Hmm,” he says, holding up one of the coins. “Heads you don’t have to pay with the coins. Tails you also don’t have to pay.” He flips it. Heads.
“Whew,” I joke. “That was a close one.”
“I feel different.” He runs his hand through his hair. “Like I’ve had a headache my whole life, and now it’s gone. Whatever. Let’s go ask the man some questions.”
We return to the living room, where everyone is sitting on my furniture, presumably trying to decide what to do next. “Okay, I know none of you remembers our new friend, Aeolia, but she might be able to help us get out of here.”
No one reacts.
“Guys?”
Still no one reacts.
“Guys!” Kallias shouts louder. “Hello?”
Nothing.
“Umm,” he says tentatively. “Everyone, stand up.”
They stand up, confused. Oh, shit.

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