Saturday, May 30, 2020

Firestorm: Bhulan Cargill (Part X)

Image cropped and filtered, but credit due to Tormod Sandtorv / CC BY-SA (
My life’s story can be told in four chapters. I was born in a timeline that I didn’t like. People were dead who deserved to survive, and two worlds were destined to destroy each other. I needed to fix things, so I went back to key moments in time for chapter two, and altered history to realize better outcomes. The third chapter was the shortest, and was only there to serve as transition to my fourth and final chapter. You don’t need to understand the first few chapters to really get who I am, so I’ll start my story on the cusp of the transition. This is the day I attempt to sacrifice myself for the greater good. Things did not go as planned.
I can travel through time at will, but that’s not all I can do. My brain works differently than most people’s, which is probably why sacrificing myself for the greater good doesn’t feel like suicide to me. I don’t just move through time, but I see how it moves. I understand causality on a level experienced by few others. It may take me a long time to study history, and I usually still have to gather the data somehow, but I’m an expert at processing it, so I can make the right changes at the right moments. If I surrender to this power, however, and more let time take control of me, it often takes me exactly when and where I need to go. This allows me to bypass all that research, and take a leap of faith. I’m kind of a control freak, so I don’t do this feature very often, but it does save time, and it’s seemed to work for me here. A man I admire named Mateo Matic has asked me to find Horace Reaver in 2027, so that’s where I’m trying to go.
I find myself standing in what I immediately recognize to be the Bran safehouse. I’m not sure why they call it that, though. Four people are evidently living here at the moment: Slipstream, Alexina, Alexina’s son, Alexi, and Agent Nanny Cam. That last one is presently petting some kind of weird creature that looks like a cross between a hare and a dog. Hare of the dog. Hm.
Alexina is the only one I’ve met personally. “Yay, Bhulan!” she exclaims, both jokingly, and unironically.
“McGregor. I’ve come for Horace Reaver.”
“No, it’s okay,” Slipstream says. “Ace is good in this reality.”
“No, I don’t mean I’m gonna hurt him,” I clarify. “I’ve been told we can help each other.”
“We don’t know where he is,” Slipstream explains to me. “We’ve come here to regroup, and try to figure that out.”
Suddenly, the front door opens. “Well, wonder no more!” Horace Reaver announces.
“How did you hear that?” Alexina questions. “The door and walls of this safehouse are literally soundproof.”
“Hear what?” Ace asks.
“Where were you?” Slipstream asks. She slides over to give Paige a hug, followed by Serkan.
“We were in another timeline,” Paige answers. “It took us some time to find our way back.”
“Where’s the agent?” I’m not sure who Alexina is referring to here.
“Huh?” Agent Nanny Cam asks.
“Not you,” Alexina says. “The other agent.”
“Hello Doctor is still in there,” Serkan answers. “He nobly sacrificed himself, so we could return.” Yeah, I don’t know who Hello Doctor is.
“Be honest,” Ace scolds. “We sacrificed him. He didn’t wanna do it.”
“He’ll be fine,” Serkan dismisses. “He wanted to be there anyway. That’s why he opened the portal to it in the first place.”
“That’s misleading,” Ace tells him.
The door opens again. Jupiter Fury walks in. “Well, wonder no more!”
Everyone just looks at him.
“Oh, was that someone else’s line?” he jokes. “Shit.”
Alexina sighs. “You’ll always find us. Goddammit.” She holds her watch up, turns a dial, and presses the button. I see immediately that she’s just reset time a few seconds.
“Be honest,” Ace repeats, just as he did before. “We sacrificed him. He didn’t wanna do it.”
No one else is aware of the time reset.
“Go home, son,” Alexina instructs.
“What?” Alexia asks. “I thought you wanted me here.”
“It’s too dangerous. Go. Now.”
Alexina takes his future wife, Agent Nanny Cam by the hand, then presses a button on his belt. They teleport away.
“What just happened?” Paige asks.
Jupiter barges into the condo, just as he did before. “Well, wonder no more!”
“Jupiter?” Ace asks. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here for the Omega Gyroscope! I know you’ve brought it here. I can track it anywhere, so there’s no point in trying to hide it from me.”
“Oh, this?” Slipstream reaches into her bag, and pulls the gyroscope out. Word is, it can do nearly anything. It can rewrite reality with a single thought. I considered seeking it out for my purposes in chapter two, but decided it wasn’t the route I wanted to go.
“Give it to me,” Jupiter orders. “I need it.” And then, in the blink of an eye, he’s on the floor. He was badly hurt, as if having just finished a fistfight. “What the shit was that!” He tries to stand back up, but something forces him back down. It isn’t like there’s some invisible person stopping him. It’s more like falling back down happened, but then someone erased all of our memories of it.
I turn to Alexina. “Someone is altering time. They’re making us forget. You can push through that.”
“You want me to get myself out of a memory block?” Alexina asks.
“I’ll try.” She closes her eyes, and breathes out deliberately and slowly. “There’s a man, and a woman. He beats Jupiter up, and we just watch. We’re confused, but we just watch, like we trust him.”
“Why don’t they want us to remember?” Paige asks.
“Remember what?” Alexina asks back. She’s lost her memory again.
I look around. Everyone has lost their memories again. I’m the only one strong enough to recall the moment that Alexina described, though I still can’t actually recall the moment itself. I sigh, frustrated. I ask her to do it again, this time trying to get a name of these mysterious memory-wiping individuals. She gets more than that. Kallias Bran and Aeolia Sarai are not wiping memories on purpose. They’re stuck like this, unable to truly communicate with anyone. They can impact reality however they please, but no one will ever remember them. Apparently this happened because of a coin. When it’s done, Alexina feels taxed, though of course, she has no idea why. I’m still the only one who has any clue what’s going on. I also feel a lump in my pocket. When I take a peek, I see this whole purse of coins. If these can remove anyone from the global consciousness, I have to keep them safe, and away from others.
I look back over to Jupiter. He looks worse than before, suggesting he’s suffered further beating. “Whatever you do, I’ll always find that gyroscope. Sooner or later, it will be in my possession, so you might as well hand it over now.”
“I don’t understand,” Serkan says. He kneels down to get on Jupiter’s level. “We’re friends. Why are you acting like this?”
“We’re not friends.” Jupiter spits some blood on Serkan’s shoes.
Serkan’s not fazed by the blood. “Yes, we are.”
“You’re thinking of Jupiter Rosa. I’m Fury. He’s my alternate. I’m the real one.”
“He’s right,” Alexina confirms. “This isn’t the man you know. It’s just like you’re not the same Serkan who still lives with his mother and little brother.”
Serkan frowns.
“You’re gonna have to kill me,” Jupiter says. “It’s that important to me.” In another blink, he’s lying unconscious on the floor. Kallias must have knocked him out for us.
“We have to get rid of it,” Slipstream decides. “Can it be destroyed?”
“No,” Alexina replies. “Not something this powerful.”
“Yes, it can,” I disagree. I step towards Ace. “The hundemarke can do it”
“No,” Ace says, shaking his head. “I know the only way to destroy the hundemarke, and I’m not letting it happen.”
“What way are we talking about?” Paige asks.
“Someone would have to kill themselves,” Ace is disgusted at the prospect.
“No one’s ever been willing to do that,” Alexina adds. “I don’t know anyone who would.”
This was always meant to be the last chapter of my life. I tried to start a new life once my mission was complete, but I’m finding myself very unhappy. This is my chance to end it on my terms, in a way that cannot be changed. “I would,” I say plainly.
“No,” Ace decides.
“You don’t know me,” I say to him, “but this is what I want. I’ve been thinking about it for a very, very long time.”
He just keeps shaking his head.
“I can’t be responsible for someone’s death. It’s not fair for you to ask me to do that.”
Suddenly, the hundemarke is hanging around my neck.
“Holy crap,” Alexina says, stunned. “How did you do that?”
“Thanks, Kallias,” I say with a smile.
“Who’s Kallias?” Paige doesn’t like not being in the know, and based on what I know of her future, she’ll dedicate her life to the pursuit of knowledge, so she never feels ignorant again.
“Okay, great,” I say with an air of finality. “Now the gyroscope.”
“No!” Ace cries. He runs over, and takes it from Slipstream’s hand. Then he steps back defensively. “I’m not letting you kill yourself! Violence is never the answer. I’m putting my foot down. We’re gonna find another way to stop Jupiter from getting his hands on stop anyone from getting their hands on it, or the hundemarke.
Paige walks over to him. “Dad. Let’s talk about this.”
“No,” he says. “There’s nothing to talk about.”
Suddenly, there’s another unexpected appearance. A portal opens up, though most of us aren’t at the right angle to see where it leads. It looks like there are stairs though. Something in it catches Ace’s eye. “Protect this thing!” he yells. Then he reaches back, and hurls the Omega Gyroscope into the portal. It snaps shut.
“Where did you just send that?” Serkan asks him, stepping forward himself. “Who were you talking to.”
“Mateo Matic; A trusted future friend.”
I nod. “That’s about as good as you’re gonna do. I still need to use the hundemarke, and I could do with your help.”
“I’ve already helped you,” Ace spits.
“Mr. Demir,” I go on. “I would like you to come with me. The hundemarke should prevent anyone from stopping me from doing this, but it can’t hurt to have a little extra help in the way of some power suppression.
“I can do that,” Serkan agrees, “if this is what you really want. And I don’t have to say, there’s no going back.”
“I’m ready. And Ace, if you could protect me from physical threats? What I’m doing will save lives.”
It looks like he’s finally resigned. “All right.”
“I’m going too,” Paige declares. If this messes with reality, I need to be in the same place as my dads.
Her fathers want to argue, but they see the logic.
We all four hold hands, and I transport them to the Darvaza gas crater in Derweze, Turkmenistan. It’s not the only place where it can be destroyed, but it’s a good one. To the average human, the fires burning here are like any other, but the flames are of special temporal significance. They can actually kill a time traveler better than they would anyone else. It’s reportedly instantaneous. It’s not been studied much, so we don’t know why, but they’re just particularly more dangerous to our kind.
“Do you need a minute?” Serkan asks reverently.
I smile. “No time like the present.”
Arcadia Preston suddenly appears a few meters away. Both Serkan and Ace fall into defensive positions. “It’s okay,” Arcadia says in a sincere voice. “I hope you appreciate what I went through to get this. She hands me a parchment of paper.
I take a quick look at it. “The LIR Map?”
“I decided life isn’t fun when you have all the answers. Just...get rid of it.”
“Okay,” I respond.
As soon as Arcadia disappears, she reappears, but she’s dressed in different clothes, suggesting she’s from a different point in time. “I have one more thing for ya,” Future!Arcadia says. Then she hands me the Insulator of Life.
“Is someone in here?” I ask her.
“Would you”
I reject her with my eyes.
Arcadia gives in, “it’s my father. He’s incredibly dangerous. I need you to do this, not for me, but for everyone.”
“Is he the one using the hundemarke to assassinate people all over time?” I ask.
“Yes,” Arcadia says.
I’m not a murderer, but...okay. “Okay.”
A third—or second?—person wants in on this action. At first all we see is the business end of a knife, appearing out of nowhere. It slides down, like it’s cutting through the fabric of spacetime. It opens enough for the feminine figure of what looks like a futuristic astronaut to slip through. She stands there a moment, sizing us all up. Then she smashes a button on the back of her neck, which acts to retract her helmet. “My name is Zoey. I’ve been all over the bulkverse, looking for this. I finally found it in omegaverse.” She removes the Omega Gyroscope from the hardback backpack on her back. “If I had known that’s what they called it, I probably would have started there.”
“Um. Thank you?”
“I need someone to get a message to Lucius and Curtis,” Zoey requests.
“I just saw them,” Ace says. “In prison.”
“It’s important that you find them again,” Zoey continues. “They said, if there was one thing they regretted, it was how they treated Yatchiko. Just tell them to be nice to her.”
“We can do that,” Serkan agrees. “Should we tell them the message comes from you.”
Zoey shakes her head. “They won’t know me yet. Say it’s from their future selves.” She takes her knife back from its magsheath, and jams it into a new portal. She tears it apart, and slips herself back through.
I wait for a moment. This is not what I expected. I look around. “Does anyone else wanna give me somethin’ to destroy?” I call out to the aether.
“All right, good! Then I’m gonna do this,” I go on with my outside voice. “Here I go!” I continue waiting, and still nothing. I take one last look at the Reaver-Demirs. “Something profound and poetic.” With that, I throw myself into the fire pit.
Before I reach the flames, gravity shifts, and pulls my feet down to a floor.
“Oh, hi,” a woman behind me says. “Are you my first guest.”
I turn around to find none other than Danica Matic, Concierge to The Constant. “Something went wrong.”
“All right. Well,” Danica begins. “Let’s figure it out together.”
This was how chapter four of my life began.

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