Click here for the first series (Frenzy).
Click here for the second series (Flurry).

April Fools

Nine months ago, my adoptive fathers were in hot pursuit of a madman who was threatening the safety of everyone in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. They actually seemed to think he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, but was trying to help the world, and didn’t think through the consequences of his actions. He has a special temporal power, as do many other people throughout time and space. He can open microscopic tears in the spacetime continuum, which are mostly only large enough to allow tiny particles, and waves, through. With this, he can alter his environment, by sharing it with some other environment, from some other time. He created a summer snow that the city was not prepared for. As far as I know, no one died from this, and even if they had, their deaths would have been erased from history, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong. My fathers ended his reign of terror in the city, by somehow going back in time and preventing it from ever happening at all. Ace hasn’t given me the details, saying only that I would understand when I was older. I usually hate when adults say this, but the way he says it, it’s not dismissive. I think he literally means only Future!Me will have all the facts.
Unfortunately, in retaliation for what my dads did to his little global warming experiment, the madman enlisted the help of some friend of his, and created an exact duplicate of the entire metro. There is a second version of nearly everyone within the blast radius, running around some nearly inescapable pocket dimension. Only a few people were spared duplication, but that doesn’t mean they have it easy. My other dad, Serkan remains the one and only, but he is now stuck over on the other side, and I’ve been worried this whole time that we would never get him back. Ace was with him when they finally caught up to their enemy, who in one last desperate attempt to prevent our collective happiness, set off a powerful explosion. There were two magical jackets capable of crossing the dimensional barrier, each of which can only carry two passengers at a time. One of them caused the explosion that sent Ace, a new friend of his, and the friend’s son, I guess, back to our side. The problem is that, not only did Serkan not make it through—and may even be dead—but the other jacket was damaged.
The man with them apparently imbued the jackets with their power, but was not able to fix the surviving one right away. He claims to have been working on the issue since Ace hired him to get Serkan back, but it has been so long, and still nothing. I know I should be patient and compassionate. After all, he’s raising two versions of the same baby, pretty much on his own. Yet I can’t help but think that, with each passing day, week, month, my father gets one step closer to being lost forever. Time is not kind to people in our world. It jerks us around, moving us through the stream in the wrong direction, and forcing us to places we don’t want to be. The longer he stays there, the less time we can spend together, and that’s not fair. I wish I could do something to help, but I’m just a dumb teenage anachronism. I was born in 1959, but Serkan and Ace accidentally brought me with them when they tried to get home a couple of years ago. Like I said, time moves differently for people like us. But my coming here was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I will always be in those men’s debt for taking me out of a horrible life in the 1970s. I have to have both of them. I don’t know what I would do if we never find Serkan. I just don’t know.
Ace is knocking on my door, even though he knows he’s not supposed to. We had to start going to family therapy right away. Here I was in the future, surrounded by technology, cultural norms, and topic references that I didn’t get. The only people who could take care of me were willing to do that, but it was a complex situation. They had only just met each other—as sort of a love at first sight, brought together by time travel, kind of thing—so I was just another complication. Anyway, of course we couldn’t tell the therapist absolutely everything, and I think she picked up on that, but she gave us some good advice. She said that I need to adjust to living in a new country, which was what we claimed had happened. In order to feel comfortable here, I need to be able to spend time alone, and not bombarded by constant attention. Together, we decided on a rule. For one hour after school, I am to remain alone in my room. I’m meant to sit quietly and reflect, or even meditate, but I usually just put on my headphones, and catch up on a half century of movies and television. We’ve come a long way since Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Hawaii Five-O, and Ironside. Now we have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hawaii Five-0, and Ironside.
Ace is still knocking. It’s not loud, but it’s persistent, and annoying. It’s his way of being cute. “What!” I finally yell through the door. “This is Paige’s Hour!”
“I have a surprise for you,” he says, fairly quietly.
“Let me guess...you’re gay.”
“Ha-ha. I’m pan, you know that. No, it’s an actual surprise. I think you’ll be happy.”
“I’m never happy.”
“You once were.”
“For, like, a second, when Serkan was here,” I argue.
“That’s the surprise,” he barely says before I’m one more arm day from tearing the door of its hinges.
“Really?” I look over his shoulder. “He’s back?”
“I...guess I should have worded it more carefully. He’s not back, but I am going to get him. The jacket is fixed. Jupiter sent it via courier, and it will be here soon.”
What the hell? “He’s having a one-of-a-kind interdimensional portal opening piece of highly volatile equipment sent via courier?”
“It’s someone from the tracer gang,” Ace says in a reassuring voice. “It’ll get here.”
“If that’s true, then I don’t doubt it, but why isn’t Jupiter going to take the jacket himself? He’s the one who built it. He’s the one who destroyed it, and he’s the one who fixed it. This is his mess. He owes us.”
“He has to stay for his son.”
“You have to stay for your daughter.”
“I promise, I’ll be back. And I will be with Serkan.”
“Why don’t you promise that Jupiter will be back instead?” I suggest. “If you’re that confident.” I think I have him now.
He sighs at my rebellious attitude. “I’m confident in my ability to complete this mission, not his.”
That...is sound logic, and I can’t argue against it. I switch to my mature face. “You get him back. You find him, you come back, and you bring him with you.” He doesn’t say anything as I’m trying to muster my courage. “But if you can’t find him, or if there’s nothing to find, you still better come back.”
The doorbell rings.
“I promise.”
We head down the stairs together, and open the door to find none other than the infamous Slipstream herself. She was not just any member of the tracer gang, but its founder. She was instrumental in the creation of the New Gangs of Kansas City by protecting the original Gunbenders, and starting a movement of anti-gun violence by promoting a form of martial arts that emphasizes the well-being of everyone, including one’s enemies or attackers. She did more for aikido than The Walking Dead ever could have hoped for. She’s pretty much my hero, and she’s standing at my door.
“Hi,” Slipstream says.
Oh my God, she just spoke.
“I’m Bozhena, and I’ve been sent to deliver this.” She hands Ace a package, wrapped in that ol’ timey brown paper, tied up with twine.
“You introduced yourself with your real name?” I ask.
Slipstream smiles. “That ain’t my real name; not anymore. I’m just trying it out. A friend got me wondering whether I should hate it as much as I always have.”
I’m speechless.
“That was what you were looking for, right?” Slipstream-slash-Bozhena asks.
Ace opens it up, and reveals the special jacket. “This is it,” he confirms. “Thank you so much.”
“Do you wanna stay for tea?” I offer as she’s trying to leave. I’m such an idiot. Why would I ask that? Dear God, send me back through that Stonehenge portal. I’ll take my abusive birthparents over this humiliation.
“Uhh...sure,” my idol says. She actually said yes. I wanna go live and announce that she said yes to all my friends online, of which I have none since my birth certificate is fake news, and they don’t allow that sort of thing anymore. “If it’s all right with your dad, that is.”
“Fine with me, I trust you. I do have to go. He starts whispering to Slipstream, but isn’t really trying to keep me from hearing. “You can leave anytime, though. She can spend a little time alone, and the babysitter will be coming soon.”
“Da-a-ad,” I groan. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
“But you love Mireille.”
I try to play it cool with Slipstream. “She’s not my babysitter, we’re friends. She’s only, like, three years older than me.”
Slipstream doesn’t make me feel like a child. She smiles genuinely. What a cool chick.
“All right, play nice,” Ace says, determined to embarass me. “I’m going to grab a few provisions, then be gone. I’ll be back by end-of-day tomorrow.” He kisses me on the forehead. “I love you.”
“Love you!” I call up to him as he’s walking upstairs. “Leave a note in the usual spot if you get trapped in the past!”
“Will do,” he says. We actually have that. It’s an old tree stump that we check regularly for messages from ourselves, or each other. We’ve not seen any yet, but all three of us know the protocol, and only us three.
I realize that a stranger just heard me casually mention time travel to my father, but instead of covering, I act like it’s totally normal. I don’t mind being a mystery to her.
She stays longer than I ever thought she would, and when Mireille shows up that evening, we decide to throw an old-school slumber party. We watch movies and eat popcorn. That’s really it. We don’t braid each other’s hair, or talk about cute boys, which is good, because I’m not interested in boys. I keep expecting they’ll offer to give me a makeover, but actually make me look ugly, then take pictures and shout, April Fools, but it never happens. We just laugh about how I’ve never seen the Captain Marvel trilogy, then we fall asleep on the couches. We wake up the next morning to an explosion from the other room. Mireille cowers in fear, while Slipstream tries to protect me from whatever that was. But I know it’s my fathers, back from the other dimension. I slip under her arm, and race around the corner, but I don’t see Serkan, or Ace. Instead, it’s two random women. This feels like the beginning of something that’s not perfectly great.

Five Woman Band

“Who the hell are you people?” I ask of these two women who just appeared in my house, and wrecked the place. I don’t feel bad about, they’re not supposed to be here.
Slipstream easily catches up, and creates a human barrier between me and the strangers.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” One of them holds her hands up defensively. “We’re not here to hurt anyone. We must have missed our mark. We were meant to land somewhere in the middle of Kansas, since Springfield doesn’t exist anymore.”
“What do you mean, it doesn’t exist anymore? My great uncle was born there.”
The strangers give each other a look. “She must be a chooser.”
“I was born in the 1960s,” I explain, because I just don’t give a fuh.
“She must not have been in the timestream when the city started disappearing,” the other postulates.
“Well, I’m glad we ended up here, instead of a house full of humans. That would have been hard to explain.” She presents her hand. “My name is Hogarth Pudeyonovic. This is my partner, Hilde Unger.”
“Paige.” I tilt my head towards my new best friend. “This is Slipstream. What year is it for you?”
“It should be 2025. We were on another planet.”
“Oh.” I’ve never heard of people going to other planets, but nothing surprises me anymore. “Yeah, it’s 2025. “By the way,” I say to Slipstream, “some people have special temporal powers.”
“I gathered,” Slipstream replies. “I’ve seen some things that make a bit more sense now.”
“Well, this isn’t awkward,” Hilde says after a silence.
“Yeah, I guess we should leave,” Hogarth says. “Sorry for invading your...” she trails off as she’s looking around at the mess they made made. It looks like a mad scientist generated a miniature tornado that broke free of its containment field. “We somehow have to fix this, even though I doubt I have any money...since it was all tied to the Springfield Central Bank.”
I shake my head. “We live in Countryside, we’re rich. Don’t worry about it.”
“No, we’ll find a way,” Hogarth insisted. “Come, love. We have to find jobs, and figure out what we’ve missed these last eight years.”
“Universal basic income,” I say before the two travelers could leave the room.
Hogarth stops. “What was that?”
“It’s actually a negative income tax,” Slipstream clarifies. “If you don’t make enough money to live on your own, the government subsidizes your income. If you do, you get nothing, and if you make more than enough, you pay taxes, just like before. President Clinton pushed for total universal basic income, but had to make a compromise with the Republicans. The new system started at the beginning of this tax year. If you don’t have any money, you would qualify, except...”
“Except that we don’t qualify for anything, because we don’t exist. Even if the records rewrite themselves, now that we’re back on Earth, we’ve been missing for the better part of a decade. Neither one of us an identity.”
“The Forger,” I remember.
“A family friend, Detective Bran was telling me about the guy who gave him a new identity; an actual one, not just fake papers. He can rewrite your whole history. He might even give you money to start off.”
“There’s a guy who does that?” Slipstream asks me.
“There’s someone for everything,” I say, prideful of what I know about the world.
“Did this detective tell you how to find the Forger?”
I frown. “No. But I can ask him. I never went to his place, but he told me he lived at...uh, the Leon?”
“The Ponce de Leon?” Slipstream asks, impressed. “That place is pretty swanky.”
“He’s rich too.”
“You don’t have to help us,” Hogarth says with a worried look on her face. “We came here by accident, so you have no obligation to us.”
I smile. “If there’s one thing my dads taught me, it’s that a person in a position to help someone else..has a responsibility to do just. Bran protected me when I was in danger of a winter-making maniac, even though he didn’t have to. That’s what being a human is.” I step into the hallway.
“Is this all true?” Mireille asks me.
“Mireille,” I exclaim. “I, uhh...forgot you were here. But I guess there’s no rule that stops me from telling anyone this stuff. Did you hear everything?”
“Pretty much. You’re going to the Ponce?”
“We are.”
“Well, Slippy travels on foot, you can’t drive, and these two don’t have a car.”
“Oh, that’s true.”
“I’m glad I bought that SUV,” Mireille says. “Let’s go,” she offers the whole crowd.
Slipstream balks at the larger-than-necessary vehicle. “It’s not even two miles away,” she half-complains as we’re climbing it. I imagine she never takes motorized transportation, except maybe to get to the airport, or maybe not even then.
Five minutes later, we’re parking next to Mendoza Park, and walking the rest of the way to the condominium. We take the elevator up to what’s probably the most expensive unit in the complex, and knock on the door.
A woman answers, and she looks exhausted. “Yeah? Can I help you?”
“Um, we must have the wrong apartment,” Slipstream apologizes. “We were looking for, what was the name?”
“Kallias Bran,” I reply, upset. “I know he lives here.”
“Paige?” The woman squints her eyes at me. “Holy shit, it’s little Paige.”
A giggling kindergartner runs straight into the woman’s hip. “You’re it!” she cries.
“Brooke, pause on the game. We have company. Please, come in,” she says cordially. “I think you’re in the right place. When they gave this to me, they called it the Bran Safehouse. I didn’t know what that meant.”
“How do you know a fourteen-year-old girl?” Slipstream questions protectively.
“She wasn’t fourteen last time I saw her.”
“She’s a time traveler,” I whisper to Mireille.
The woman offers Slipstream her hand. “I’m Leona Matic, and I am from the future.”
“Told ya,” I say.
“Why are you and your daughter in a safehouse?” Slipstream continues the interrogation.
“She’s not my daughter. I had to take her when her mother...disappeared. I brought her to this time period, and I’ve been waiting for further instructions.”
“Where’s Kal?” I ask her.
“I have no idea,” Leona says seemingly truthfully. “The Repairman just set me up here and told me all he knows is that I’m meant to wait. Maybe I was waiting for you. I don’t suppose any one of you would be related to an Angelita Prieto—oh, you wouldn’t remember her. Goddammit! Or does the corruption have an effect on the past? How does this work?”
“I..don’t know,” Slipstream answers tentatively.
“Prieto was my mother’s maiden name,” Mireille says quietly. “My father’s French, but she’s Spanish.” She looks down at little Brooke, who is cautiously attached to Leona’s waist.
Yet another woman suddenly appears in the middle of the condo. A bubble of warped spacetime that was surrounding her dissipates. “Good, you’re all here. You have no idea what it took to get Mrs. Voss here to be your babysitter.” She gestures towards Mireille. “She can take care of Brooke while the rest of you are working.”
“My last name’s Travert,” Mireille says, confused.
The new woman chortles. “Right. For now...”
“What’s the meaning of this.” Slipstream; ever the leader, and protector. “You act as if you brought us all together.”
“I did,” she says. “I assembled a team of ragtag elites to take me on.”
“Take you on?”
“Well, not me. Past!Me. I like to call her Asshole!Jesi.”
“What are you talking about?” Hogarth asks.
This Jesi person prepares herself for a story. “In the other timeline, I killed a bunch of people with a virus from the future that I did not understand. I was trying to inoculate the human race, so they wouldn’t be affected by it later, when the virus shows up naturally. But it mutated, and got out control. I need you to stop me from making that same mistake again. Bozhena, I convinced Jupiter to have you deliver the transdimensional jacket to Horace, so he could go get Serkan back, and you could meet Paige.”
“The what jacket?”
Jesi continues, “Hogarth, I brought you and your lovely assistant here so you could provide the Book of Hogarth.”
“The what?”
This time, Jesi stopped. “The Book of Hogarth. Your book, that you wrote? It codifies the principles of time and space? Shit, do you not have the book?”
“What book are you talking about? I didn’t write any book.”
Jesi pinches the bridge of her nose. “Jesus Christ. I need to figure something out. You didn’t actually write anything. You...birthed it, for lack of a better term. I thought you’d find it on Durus. Well, you’re just gonna have to find it now. You can do that tomorrow.” She gestures to Leona. “Leona’s gonna need it in the future, so it’s kind of important, okay?” She’s looking pretty frazzled. “Okay, um. Let me rework the timeline to account for that hiccup. I would have contacted you earlier, but you two were still on Durus, and Ace was still here. We don’t need him in our way. Miss Travert, please stay here with Young!Brooke. I’m sending the rest of you someone who can help. She probably won’t be part of the band permanently, but she can lead you to the Book of Hogarth.” She opens a new mostly transparent bubble, and disappears.
“We’re not gonna do what she wants us to do, are we?” Hilde sounds confident.
Never do anything without having an answer why,” Leona recites, like it’s her credo, or something.
Hogarth is staring at the space that the cryptic woman from the future was once occupying. “When I was about Brooke’s age, I witnessed a group of older children being pursue by a giant monster. It’s what inspired me to build my machine, so I could study the portal they disappeared through.”
“I remember you telling me about that,” Hilde says, taking Hogarth’s hand.
“There were ten children. One of them was named Jesimula Utkin. Everybody called her Jesi.”

Part III

Coming soon...

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