Saturday, May 9, 2020

Firestorm: Hello Doctor (Part VII)

“My name is Agent Austin Miller, and I discovered something last year that’s going to change everything. And when I say it’s going to change everything, I don’t just mean my own life, or even the FBI field office where I work. It’s going to change everything about the whole world. Your children’s children will never know a world with war, or gun violence, or—”
“Hey, Hello!”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Sure thing, Agent Doctor.”
“What do you want!”
“There is a group of people in the lobby. They need to discuss The Ninth, and you are the agent in charge of that investigation.” He walks away.
“The Ninth. It’s shorthand for The Ninth Annual Frenzy City Event. While I’m the only one who remembers all the weird crap that happened, others noticed some inconsis—”
“Agent Hello, are you talking to yourself again?”
“No. I mean—I don’t talk to myself at all!”
“Okay, cool. Could you go ahead and collect your visitors? This isn’t a real doctor’s office. We really want you to be on time.”
“I’m not a doctor!”
“Yeah, we know, that’s the point.”
“Dick,” I mutter under my breath.
“Just go downstairs,” he begins, “Agent Miller.”
I secure my closet door, and head to the lobby, where three strangers are standing around. One of them steps forward as the apparent leader. “Agent Miller. I’m Agent Bran, St. Louis field office. These are my associates.”
Actually what I said earlier about them being strangers isn’t the whole truth. I do recognize one of these people. That’s Bozhena Horvatinčić, a.k.a. Armbreaker, a.k.a. Slipstream. She fancies herself a cop in this town, and the police here let her do whatever she wants. I don’t imagine I’ll be as accommodating to her. For now, though, I’ll hear them out.
“Could we speak in your office?” Agent Bran asks.
“What is this about?” I question.
“It’s about the Frenzy,” Slipstream says, “about what you remember, and what no one else does?”
Could this be true? Are there finally others who recall all the changes to reality that happened at that race? Someone erased everyone’s memories, but somehow missed me. I decided the law of probability demanded I wasn’t the only one who fell through the cracks, so I spent months trying to find like-minded individuals online, but they never revealed themselves.
“Sir?” the other guy says. “Are you still with us?”
“Yes, sorry,” I tell them. “We can talk in my office. You have your visitor badges, right?”
“I don’t have a badge,” the guy who doesn’t look FBI says. “It’s a laminate.” That sounds like a reference. Anyway, I lead them through the building, and into my office. It is only once the door is closed when they look like they’ve just dropped some kind of facade. Are they even connected to the FBI at all?
Slipstream stands in the corner like a patient bodyguard. Bran looks right at me, and the other guy sits in one of my chairs. “Way we understand it, you found something at the Frenzy?” Bran starts out like it’s an interrogation.
If anyone is interrogating anybody here, though, it’s me. “What do you know about The Ninth?”
“The Ninth,” the sitting guy asks, “or The Nine?”
That’s an interesting question. I decide to play it cool. “Both.”
Bran isn’t fazed. “You took something from that race. We need it back.”
“You are also in possession of other things you can’t explain,” the other guy says. “We need that stuff too.”
“Look—what’s your name?”
“Dammit,” Bran says in a breathy voice.
“Ugh.” Serkan palms his face. “I wasn’t supposed to use my real name.” He stands up, and almost looks threatening. “You can’t tell anyone I was here. If you ever see me again, you can’t say anything to me either. I won’t know what you’re talking about.” Maybe he is affected by memory wiping, just differently. “Look, Serkan, you people are obviously not really FBI. So tell me who the hell you are, or we’re gonna have a problem.”
Bran studies my face for a few moments. He then turns his head towards Serkan, but keeps his eyes on me. “I can just take a picture of anything?”
“Yeah, that couch would be perfect,” Serkan answers him, pointing.
“What the hell are you talking about? You can’t take pictures in here.” I lift up my desk phone, and search through the directory for the line to the St. Louis office. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”
Bran takes the photo anyway. Seconds later, three more people appear out of nowhere. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, but it was on stage at a magic show. This is no trick. This is real power.
I drop the phone back into its cradle. “I knew it! I knew I wasn’t the only one!”
“Yes,” the new woman says to me. “You’re not alone. My name Alexina McGregor. You may have heard of Gregorios Bank. That’s me. These are my friends, Ace Reaver, and his daughter with Serkan, Paige Turner.”
Paige curtsies, making Serkan laugh.
“You can all...” I hesitate, “do things?”
“Slip’s normal,” Alexina begins to answer. “Bran one really knows what Bran is, but he’s pretty normal too.”
“Oh my God.” I’ve been looking for answers for so long. Even before I found the artifact at the race, I’ve been trying to figure out who I am, and why I’ve always felt different. Now I’ve been vindicated, but I know what they’re going to tell me. They’re going to say I have to keep all of this to myself. It makes sense. It’s like most modern stories about vampires, or aliens among us. If people were allowed to know that teleportation was real, then they would already know it. I’m not sure if I can do that, though. I’ve seen the truth now, and I can see how to make the world so much better than it is. I can’t just let that go.
“We don’t know what you are,” Alexina continues, “or what you can do. We can help you understand it, but there are rules.”
I sit down in my chair. “I can’t tell anyone about it.”
“No,” Alexina says. “You can tell your significant other, or your parents, or even your kids. You just can’t tell the whole world. You have to be able to trust the people who keep your secrets, because it’s not only about you. Everyone you tell puts all of us at risk.”
“We won’t be the ones to stop you,” Ace says. “We don’t have that kind of pull. There is a prison, though. She and I have been in it.” He gestures towards Slipstream. It’s true that she hasn’t been seen in public for the last year, and though her gang never reported her missing, she has had a lot of fans worried.
“This prison is run by people from an old timeline,” Alexina adds. “They saw what it looks like when regular humans find out about us, and it doesn’t go well.”
“Their methods are becoming...shall we say, less respectful?” Serkan puts forth. “Less gentle. You don’t wanna piss them off. For the most part, they don’t care what you do with your powers. If you’ve gotten on their radar, it means they think you’re on the verge of exposing us. They sent us in to stop you, and while we will try to be gentle, we won’t be able to protect you if we fail in that. The team they send to fix whatever we do wrong...just don’t let it get to that point.”
I’ve always been really good at telling when people are lying, and I’m a hundred percent certain that these people are not lying. “This is bigger than me, though. Operation Firestorm is too important.”
“Oh no, he’s named it,” Paige laments casually.
“What is Operation Firestorm?” Agent Bran asks me, if he even is an agent.
“You want me to be secretive, then I will.”
“Paige was right about the closet,” Alexina says to her friends. “There’s something in there. I think it may be bigger on the inside.”
How does she know about that? I back myself up against the door, and stretch my arms out like a hockey goalie. “You’re not getting in here. I’m pretty smart. If you could teleport just anywhere, you would do it. You need a picture, which is why so-called Agent Bran took one of my couch.”
Bran places his hand on his service weapon, but doesn’t remove it from its holster. “We don’t need powers to get into that room, Hello Doctor.”
“His name is Agent Miller,” Serkan says like a mediator. No one has ever defended me like that. Everyone I’ve ever met has been totally down with making fun of my name history. “We can all be civil. Agent, we’re doing this to help you. I don’t know what Operation Firestorm is, but it’s not worth your life. We won’t hurt you, but like I said, they will.”
“This is worth my life,” I argue. “Firestorm is everything.”
Ace steps around my desk, and reaches for the doorknob. “I’m going to open this door, whether I use this knob here, or my own.”
I don’t know what that means, but I can tell they’re not going to stop. I’m outnumbered, and if I don’t let them into my world, they’re going to force their way through, and I can’t let anyone get hurt. If for no other reason, then it would reflect poorly on me if my colleagues find a dead body in my office, or something. Besides, perhaps them opening this door is the best thing that could happen to me right now. I step to the side and let Ace pass.
He turns the knob, and opens it up to see what I have there. “It’s here. I don’t see the rabbit dog, though.”
Oh, is that what it’s called? I just keep that as a pet in my house. It has nothing to do with this.
“What is it doing?” Serkan asks, peering into the closet.
I smirk. “It’s maintaining the connection.” I start to step back. This room is far too small for me to get myself clear of the blast radius, but I don’t plan on exiting through the door either.
“The connection between what?” Ace questions. “Do you know this is? It’s called the Omega Gyroscope, and we’re told it’s dangerous, but we don’t know what it is.”
“It’s a whole world,” I explain cryptically. “You’ll see soon enough.” I pull out my gun, and hold it to the girl, Paige’s head. I don’t want anyone hurt, but I don’t have the resources I need to escape that gyroscope, so if I don’t leave right now, none of us ever will. So, you see, it’s for the best that I do this.
“What do you want?” Serkan asks. His calm demeanor is gone. He’s gone into full father mode.
“I don’t want anything from you,” I say.
“Guys?” Slipstream interjects. “Is that thing spinning faster now?”
“The light inside of it is growing brighter too,” Ace agrees. “What is it doing?”
I have to hold back a laugh. “It’s powering up, because you let in the light.”
Ace immediately slams the closet door shut.
“It’s too late. It’s gonna go critical.” I cock the gun. “Now, Miss Turner, kindly do that thing you did when you got here.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” she says. She doesn’t seem scared of the gun, but she does still respect the threat it poses. “I need a picture.”
“I know. You can take out your phone. Slowly.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Anywhere but here,” I answer.
Paige carefully removes the phone from her pocket, and lifts it up. Then, without warning, she jams it into my face. It’s not enough to do any permanent damage, but it distracts me long enough for Slipstream to attack, and free Paige from my grasp. No, this was my last chance. We’re seconds away from being sucked into that thing.
Suddenly, a woman appears in the middle of the room.
“Daria!” Serkan cries.
“Who needs to get out of here?” this Daria woman asks.
“All of us,” Agent Bran replies.
“I can only take two at a time,” Daria explains. She takes Slipstream in one arm, and Alexina the other, I suppose because they're closest to her. They disappear.
What’s apparently called the Omega Gyroscope reaches critical mass, and drags us into the other world. I wouldn’t be so afraid, except it’s like I said, this was an unplanned trip, and I don’t have a way to get back. We’ll be trapped forever.

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