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Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:46 pm 
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"If I were you, I'd be worried, Rex." Wordsworth stated clearly above the rolling thunder. "It's been well over 5 minutes and I haven't heard a single gunshot. You know what that means?"

Rex, sitting comfortably in the teachers high-back chair, slowly opened his eyes and pushed away from the desk. "It means that the Chancellor hasn't found Max, yet."

"Interesting theory. You want to hear mine?"

"No."

Wordsworth smiled, "I knew you would. Much like your brother, you have a thirst for knowledge."

Rex rose from the chair as Liberty crawled out from under the desk. "I said, no, Words - worth. Open your mouth again and I'll use it for target practice." He punctuated his sentence by zipping up his fly.

"Max and he must have bargained an arrangement by now, I suspect. Right this minute, they are probably both out of this building. Max off to save Bella and the Chancellor lost among the ages with Potts Notebook. This reminds me of what happened in Rome. The whole place went up in smoke while Rex ..." He paused briefly to smile even wider. "Scratch that, while Nero fiddled."

Liberty dabbed around her mouth with the silk hankie before replacing it in Rex's outer breast pocket. "And just how do you know about, Bella, Wordy?"

Wordsworth's smile turned sullen. "Sorry," he shrugged. "I was told to shut up."

Liberty began to storm towards Wordsworth when she was suddenly grabbed by her arm and yanked back by Rex.

"Go check on the Chancellor!" Barked Rex as he released her arm and began to remove his jacket.

Liberty protested, "But he knows about, Bella?"

"He only guessed about her, but you - you confirmed it. Now, go confirm that the Chancellor is alive, well and in this century."

"He didn't guess," she declared through clenched teeth and turned her wild-eyed stare to Wordsworth. "That was no guess!" She returned her fierce stare back to Rex. "He knows about Justice and Bella!"

Rex back-handed her across the cheek as lightning sizzled and flashed, matching his tone and ferocity. "Go check on the Chancellor! NOW!"

Silently removing her belongings from atop the desk, Liberty snarled at Wordsworth as she left in indignant frustration.

Rex approached Wordsworth as he removed his silver cuff links. "You, Words - Worth, you are good. The way you can piece together puzzles and get people to tell you their secrets -- simply fan-fucking-tastic. Hell, I believe even now you are conjecturing my next action and are preparing a wonderfully sparkling repartee. Am I right?"

"No," commented Wordsworth with a stale certainty. "Words will not avail me in the upcoming conversation."

Rex completed the last fold of his shirt sleeves and smiled broadly. "Not witty, not sparkling, but right on the money."

Wordsworth silently endured the beating that was to follow.


* * *


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Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:17 pm 
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Placing the poker between his legs, Justice reached up and yanked the shard from his arm pit. He forced his handkerchief under his jacket and into the gushing wound, clamping down hard with his left arm to try to stop to flow of blood. "You are so gonna pay for that, bitch!"

Maya's giggled echoed throughout the room. "Blah, blah, blah. You keep saying such thunderous things, Justice. Your going to do this, I'm going to wish for that, blah. You're all talk, big fella. All talk and no medallion."

Justice searched his neck for the medallion. "Common thief and iniquitous whore!"

Maya echoed her voice from the far wall once again. "Ah, praise from Caesar. How fortunate I am indeed. But let's see, you still have 2 more items. What do you think, Justice? Can I get them before you get me?"

Justice, once again, blindly swung the poker around him in the dark. "And the lord shall smite thee down, harlot."

"This is what the lord says," announced Maya as her voice echoed consecutively from every corner of the room. "Put your house in order, because you are going to die."

Justice was near exhausted from flailing and the ever steady loss of blood. Near breathless, he announced, "Not tonight. Not by your hand."

She picked up another shard from the pile of broken mirror on the floor. Possessing 2 pieces again, she held both as daggers. Silently she maneuvered low across the floor, well under his swing. Timing her attack to the precise moment to use his strength against him, she waited for his swinging arm to retract. As he swung inward, she raised her blade horizontally and drove the shard through his right wrist, forcing him to release the poker. As she rolled away, she knew her palm was bleeding, as too were her fingers, but she also knew, Justice was incapacitated. Both arms were useless and all she needed to do now was wait for the blood loss to render him unconscious.

As Justice stumbled through the dark, he bellowed for his sister. "Liberty! Liberty, help me!" The numb fingers of his left hand fumbled for his vest pocket, desperately searching for his pocket watch. Pulling on the end of the chain, he found the other end severed. "Treacherous wanton whore!"

"Put your house in order, Justice, because you are going to die." Maya recited as she knelt and picked up the poker. "You will not recover."

"Blasphemy!" Justice slammed his body against the wall as he slowly dragged himself against it for support and direction. A large, wet, and continuous smear of blood marked his path. "You are not the Lord God, Maya!"

"Neither are you!" The brass knob hilt of the poker handle smashed several times against the back of Justice's neck and shoulders. "You are a depraved nut job, Justice. You liked to played god when you slaughtered those helpless women, didn't you? When they begged for mercy - for pity - did you feel like god? When you cut and brutalized them, did you shout the word of god at them? Were you going to do again tonight for Bella? Were you once again going to play god, Justice?"

Justice slumped to his knees and stared wide-eyed into the darkness. His face was pale and almost glowing in the darkness. Staring at no one, only into the darkness, he said, "The dragon stood in front of the women who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born."

Maya knelt down and removed the ring from his finger.

Justice suddenly jerked and reached out in his final moments of consciousness.

She stepped away and dropped the poker at her feet. Blood trickled from the tips of her lacerated right palm as she watched him slowly parish.

His torso slowly slid down and collapsed upon the carpeted floor. The bouquet of lavender and vanilla filled his nostril one last time. Staring skyward and in a barely audible voice, Justice spoke aloud his final words. "Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?'"

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:59 pm 
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Max stood, with his back to the wall, between the 2 glass doors of the main entry of the school. Hidden by the darkness due to power loss from the torrential storm outside, he watched the Chancellor, from behind, undetected. Even the crashing lightning that's glow spilled through the glass doors did not give away his position. The brick center column was well shadowed and maintained a perpetual darkness. With his night vision goggles securely in place, he covertly watched the Chancellor's every move with near crystal clarity.

"I know you can hear me, Max," continued the Chancellor, speaking into the empty auditorium with his hands raised above his head. "As you can see, I am unarmed now. Come out so we can discuss a trade, you and I. We are both sensible men, Max. Give me Potts' Notebook and we can end this whole ugly chapter of our lives."

As the lightning crashed outside, Max continued his silent vigil. The Chancellor briefly turned his head, but was blinded by the bright flash. He squinted and returned his attention to the darkened auditorium.

"I am going to lower my hands now. Either you are a man of virtue and will talk to me, unarmed, or we will end this the cowards way ... with bullets in the darkness." He laughed insincerely as he lowered his arms. "I don't believe you are a coward, Max. I don't believe you think me one either. I merely want the notebook. A small price to pay for the life of your beloved, Bella."

Max gripped the handle of his 9 mm tighter. 'What have they done with, Bella? Is he bluffing?'

"Are you listening to me, Max?" The Chancellor's accented query echoed in the empty theater. "Do I have your attention yet?"

'Oh, you have my attention,' fumed Max's little voice inside his head.

"It may not be too late? She may still be alive?" He opened his jacket with broad, casual, gestures and slowly removed it. Folding the black leather overcoat vertically in half, he draped it over his shoulder utilizing his forefinger as a hook. "But the more time wasted here will most assuredly seal her fate. A fate no mere time device can alter. If it could have, Potts himself would have saved his own wife all those years ago. As I know, and am guessing that you do too, he couldn't. His pursuit has lead him to a fruitless madness. I'm giving you a chance that he never received. Don't be a fool - take this chance that I am offering you in good faith."

Motion on Max's ring drew his attention away from the Chancellor. Another member of Rex's trio was headed towards them. He surmised it to be Liberty, knowing Rex had stayed behind with Wordsworth. That's what he would do, it made the most logical sense. Max continued his silent vigil and awaited what development would arise if the Chancellor were caught in mid soliloquy, selfishly demanding the Notebook for his own.

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 8:18 pm 
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Lana had gone through 2 tall glasses of iced tea and a 1/2 a pack of vanilla wafers by the time Maya had completed her story. She never paused or interrupted Maya, instead, she used mental bookmarks to reference for the question and answers portion later. After all, the story was strange, fantastic, but most of all, strikingly authentic. She didn't know what to make of this petite blind lady, but for some indescribable reason, Lana felt she spoke the truth; as insane as it sounded.

"As you can see," Maya stated as she held up the palm of her right hand. "I still bear the scars of that horrible night."

Lana sat her perspiring glass on the table before her. "So, you want me to believe that this life, this world as I know it, is all - all make believe? A fabrication?"

"A ripple." Maya corrected.

"Then none of this is real?"

"Oh, no, my dear. This is all real. Very real. It's just that some instances and segments have been crafted - altered - to hide the truth. To safeguard, to protect, certain people and items."

Lana reached for a sugar wafer and nervously nibbled on 1 end. "My brother, Max, is not in a coma in the hospital? He is living in the past, 1985, in his 15 year old body, but has retained all the memories over the past 20 years?"

"Correct." Maya said with a child like smile. "He needed the time and gained experience to be better prepared for his destiny. At 15, he was hardly prepared, but at 38, he has been trained and exposed to the perils that he is now enduring-"

"In 1985?"

"Yes." Maya raised the pitcher as if to pour. "More tea?"

Lana shook her head and watched Maya replace the pitcher on the serving tray. "Then who is in that hospital bed?"

Maya paused to wipe the corners of her mouth. "The body - shell - lying there is Max at 38. However, the soul inside that shell is Max at 15. One soul can not exist in 2 separate but same body, in the same time space." Taking 2 of the wafer cookies, she stood them side by side. "The beige side represents the older Max whereas the pink side represents Max at 15. Both are the same person, albeit older forms, but inside each resides the same soul. That soul can not exist in 2 of the same bodies because it can't be split or quartered, etc. However, the younger version of the soul recognizes the older souls existence, basically, it upgrades to the latest version. The old version then gets saved in the old body." She turned the wafer on its side revealing moth shades of the wafer and the creamy filling. "As you can see, old and new are joined with the soul holding them together. Unfortunately, both the younger soul and old body recognize something is wrong and both go offline in whatever time the older body happens to be at. Hence the coma her in the future."

"Basically, their essences have swapped places. So, Max, age 15 soul, is now housed in Max, age 38, body."

"Exactly." Maya exclaimed before nibbling on the wafer cookies in her hand.

"So then, why does Randy want this Max dead? Is he trying to forcibly return Max, age 15, soul?"

"Randy, that's sweet. You are still referring to Rex as Randy. Let me be clear on this, Randy is dead. The little brother you remember was just a product of this ripple. The real Randy, Rex, is extremely dangerous and cares nothing for anyone but himself. Not you, not Max and certainly not your children. But to answer your question, he doesn't want to kill the Max in the coma. He isn't even aware that our Max is in the Coma. He doesn't know that the Max in 1985 is really the Max from 2008."

Lana waved in protest. "But he sent this fax authorizing his euthanasia?"

"He didn't send that fax, I did." Maya's child like smile returned to her.

"You!" Lana slammed her fist down on the table disrupting the items upon its surface. "Why in gods name would you do such a thing?"

"To bring you here, Lana. Now is the time you needed to know the truth. As I have been telling you, this is a manufactured time-stream, a ripple. It was designed by your grandparents, Potts, and David. It was my duty to safeguard it until the time was right. Until you were ready."

"What!?"

"Until you were ready."


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Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 8:28 pm 
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Lana pushed away from the table and rose to her feet. All the while, she was very conscious that Maya was watching her every movement. "How the hell can I be ready? I can barely begin to believe everything you told me about Max and his time-traveling, soul-swapping adventure. Not to mention my reality - hell, everyone's reality - is a fabrication of my grandparents, some old watchmaker and David Lane? his, I'm assuming is the same David Lane who alienated himself from my brother some 23 years ago-"

"In 1985," inserted Maya as her head followed Lana's pacing rant.

"Who, if my memory is correct, still works at the same Drug Store he did when he was in high school. Now I know you're just some cookie old broad. That is the lamest person to have chosen in your fake little conspiracy."

Maya shook her head. "So this is all just a fanciful story? Even my blindness I suppose?"

"Especially your blindness. At 1st I thought you were blind, you were really doing well. But as the day drew on, you slipped up. The way you've been watching me and reacting to my gestures gave you away. I know you have been faking being blind this whole time."

Maya reached up and adjusted her cats-eye sunglasses. "Oh, I assure you, Lana, I'm not faking. Your brother Rex made me this way some 7 or so odd years ago."

"Ah-ha!" Lana pointed an accusative finger in Maya's face. "You told me you were blind when you killed, Justinian-"

"Protected Bella from Justice." She motioned quotation marks with both hands to encapsulated her sentence.

"Whatever. But that happened in 1985. You just said you've only been blind for 7 years years. Which is it lady? 23 years or 7 years? I know you can see me, your eyes have never left me."

Moving faster then a woman of her age should be able to, she was across the room and in Lana's face. Maya lowered her sunglasses and revealed her blackened orbs with the occasional white flash that sparkled from deep within.."Are these the eyes of a woman who can see, Lana?"

For the 2nd time this afternoon, Lana felt truly frightened.

Pushing the glasses back up with her index finger, Maya returned to the love-seat and continued, "I apologize if that startled you. It was not my intention to cause you anymore internal conflict then what you must already be going through. But, as the expression goes, seeing is believing. I had hoped that words would be enough for you."

Lana returned to her seat. "Wha ... how did Rand ... Rex do that to you?"

Maya poured Lana another glass of tea. "As I told you, Rex has become a collector of time objects. However, as with all collectors, he began to experiment and create his own items. He created a time viewer, much like that of Nostradamus. He longed to be able to see all items and the people who possessed them. He created a time mirror. This mirror would show you time trinkets, people of interest, even your future - or a ripple there of. One day he looked into that mirror and saw my face, but more still, he saw his own demise."

"At your hands?"

"No ... but through my complicity. So, to rid himself of me, he forced me to gaze into the mirrors time-stream. He forced me, in ways I'll spare you of the details, to stare into that mirror and behold every ripple, every crime against humanity, every wrong I had or would commit over my lifetime. No ... not just this lifetime, but every past life my soul had ever been born into." She sat the pitcher down and smiled once more. "I was not a good person. In the many lives my soul had been repeatedly reincarnated into, none of them were anything to be proud of. Certainly not the current life that I had been leading. Imagine, for a moment, all the sins over the course of your lifetime being displayed like a rerun on your television set. Each showing the minute and grandiose perforations of your soul. Being unable to denounce or reject them as anything but the truth. A truth we must accept. A stripped down and bare confrontation of who we really are inside."

Lana thought about every bad thing she could remember doing. The slight, the grand and deluded justification of reason. "How long-"

"I have no idea how long I was forced to stare into the mirror, but when it was over, my eyes had transformed into what they are now. Limpid pools of timeless voids that mare the passages of human existence. However, what Rex hadn't counted on, was that the mirror had cleansed my soul. It timeless watching my ageless progression of sins had purified me. More still, it had also ensued me with a gift. From that moment on, my only sight is of the objects of time. Objects like that watch you a wearing on your breast. I can see it with perfect vision, and it, being attached to you, allows me to see you as well. In a great world of pitch darkness, I can see you, Ms. Kittridge, and you are wonderful to behold."

Lana blushed for a moment before asking, "And the mirror? What became of it? If it can see into time-"

"After my ordeal, Rex left me somewhere in the canals of time to spend the rest of my days. It wasn't until Rex discovered that the mirror no longer showed the objects he was desperately seeking did he abandon it. It only showed people and ripples of what maybe. I had heard rumors that it still exists, somewhere in South or Central America."

"If Rex left you back in time, how did you end up here? And if this is, as you say it is, a ripple, how has Rex not been able to find you?"

"Well, to answer your 1st question, a dear man saved me, Archibald Wordsworth."

Lana quickly took a drink of tea to clear the wafer from her mouth. "Wait a minute. Wordsworth, the teacher from back in high school, Wordsworth?"

"One in the same." She blushed and gently fanned her face with her hand as she remembered him. "Wordy and I had met several times over the decades and centuries. Often on opposing sides, often on the same. He wasn't the 1st travelers to have stumbled upon me, mind you, but he was the 1st one to actually stop and talk to me. He recognized me, even in my present state, and treated me like a person. Like you, his time devise glistened and shined all around him. I could see he was good man. No, a great man. A man of compassion, of fairness, of wisdom, grace, and style. What I had never seen with my human eyes, my timeless eyes instantly fixated upon, and it was wondrous."

Lana couldn't help but smile as she watched the older Maya reminisce like a school girl. "So how is it that Rex can't find you here?"

Maya instantly snapped back to the matter at hand. "The medallion? Did I tell you about the medallion?"

Lana nodded. "The 1 you took from, Justice."

"Yes. It's a Time Ripple itself." She reached into her pocket and sat it upon the table table. The summer sun glinted and gleamed across its surface. "It makes people forget, clouds there minds with what may have occurred if the wearer hadn't been around. It was crafted by Justice himself to remove all trace of his presence from a time-stream. It prevents one from being detected or leaving any memory of one self behind. Even if Rex tried to find me, he couldn't. He could run into me on the street and not recognize me unless I wanted him too." Maya pushed the medallion across the table to Lana. "I want you to have this. This will even protect you from yourself."

Lana picked it up with he well manicured fingernails and examined it. Some strange writing about its border and tiny symbols were engraved into its surface. All in all, it looked gaudy, cheap, and very plain. "What did you mean it would protect me from myself?"

"You have your grandmothers gift, right? The second sight?"

Lana shrugged. "It comes and goes."

"But it comes on more when you wear that watch, doesn't it?" Maya received no response. "Well, doesn't it?"


* * *


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Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 8:47 pm 
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Maple Street was completely dark as Hiram Klein, slowly drove its blacktop in the pouring rain. Reaching his destination, the Bank’s home, he slowly drove his ‘73 Plymouth Duster into the driveway. Exiting the car, he pulled his windbreaker over his head to use as a makeshift umbrella as he dashed for the kitchen door. His large leather boots, and his thick heavy frame, made his footsteps echoed down the rain drenched drive.

The slotted windowpanes vibrated and clinked together as he pulled the door closed behind him. Lowering his windbreaker, he adjusted it as he made his way through the dining room and towards the living room. He pauses as he saw Maya sitting at the foot of the fireplace. A makeshift bandage tied around her right hand had already became blood-soaked. Klein instinctively cast his eyes up the staircase before addressing Maya.

“Is he ...”

“Deceased?” Maya concluded for him. “Most assuredly. Most definitely. Without a shadow of a doubt, deceased.”

Klein approached Maya and knelt to examine her hand. “Did he-“

“No, no, no,” she protested, as she patted his right cheek with her left hand. “This is from my own folly. Knives and glass are two different things. I’ll have this scar to remind me of that next time.”

“Should there be a next time.” He placed her hand near the fire’s glow to get a better look at the wound.

She grimaced as he exposed the laceration to the nights air. “How bad is it, Hiram?”

He smiled and spoke with a consoling tone, “Nothing a few stitches and some super glue won’t fix.”

“Remember, I want the scar as small as possible.” She jested to hide the pain. “I am a delicate lady, after all.”

Removing the old bandage completely, he threw it in the fire. He reached inside his windbreaker pocket and produced a roll of paper wrapped gauze. Discarding the paper in the fire, he wrapped her hand in a more professional manner. “There . That should hold you for a while.”

Maya flexed her fingers. “They feel numb.”

“Sorry, my dear. Half tourniquet and half loss of blood. Speaking of which ...”

Maya smiled with a cherub-like grin that was accented by the shadowy contrasts of the flames behind her. “As we anticipated. He went right after Bella. No romance at all with that one. No foreplay, no roses, he just went straight for the pay-off.”

Klein stood and walked to the staircase. “Did you prepare the room as we had discussed?”

“Of course. It worked like a charm too. The motorized shutters closed exactly when I encapsulated the room. I don’t think he even heard the mechanism over the storm until it was too late.”

“And the Banks family?”

“3 seconds out of phase, as we discussed.” She shook her head and joined Klein at the foot of the stairs. “Honestly, you act as if this was my 1st time or something. A restore Point was set in the room and everyone in house was random phased by 3 seconds. All we have to do is remove Justice’s body, restore the room back to pre his arrival, and re-sync the family. It will be as if we were never here. Same room, undisturbed family - peacefully sleeping, mind you.”

Reaching the top of the stairs, they entered Bella’s room together. Klein stared at the blood that adorned the carpet, walls, and bedding. His eyes followed the path of the melee as it was laid out before him. “He must have put up one hell of a fight?”

Maya had crossed the room and made her way over to the bed. Having flipped up the pillows, she grabbed the small silver cube with small sapphire sphere inside it. “Not as much as one would think. He kept babbling scripture and calling me a profanities, that as a lady, I care not to repeat.”

Klein cut the carpet around Justice’s body. He then rolled the body in the carpet 3 complete wraps. Heaving the body over his shoulder and turned to Maya. “Are we ready?”

“Almost,” Maya proclaimed as she knelt down where she remembered dropping the poker. Finding it, she stood and saluted with it like a fencing sword. “Ok, ready.”

“A fireplace poker? Man the guy was old school.” Klein mumbled as he staggered out the door and cautiously toward the staircase.

As Maya began to close the door, she left it opened a crack and then opened the silver cube. Light streamed through the sapphire shooting beams of red throughout the room. The room slowly began to reconstruct itself. Blood disappeared, the mirror rejoined, and the carpet returned to its complete pristine form. A bright flash of white from the lightning streaming through the window shades chased all evidence of the red sapphire hue and deeds committed within from the room. Joining Klein by the fireplace, she returned the poker to its stand.

“Alright, is everything as it was?” Klein asked as he continue his stride for the kitchen door.

“Just like we were never here,” Maya proclaimed as she followed after, unaware of the vacant space above the mantle where a small 5 x 7 frame once resided.

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 10:11 pm 
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Lana awoke to the sound of crackling lightning splitting the air outside her window. She glanced over at her nightstand to check the time when she discovered that the power was out. Yawning mightily, she rubbed the back of her hand across her eyes and slowly stretched. Feeling a warm body next to her, she peered at the shape and size. 'Bella ...' she remembered as she slowly slipped from the bed. 'That's right, she decided to spend the night here rather then go home during the storm.'

Stumbling towards her bedroom door, she paused at the bureau and, with clumsy, sleepy fingers, fumbled for the jewelry box. Upon opening the lid, the soft green glow of her grandmothers watch illuminated in the darkness: 12:59 AM. A strange feeling told her to take the watch. She tried to resist and paused 3 times before she actually gripped it. 'Well, at least I'll know what time it is,' she thought as she slid the pin clasp into her "Frankie Says, RELAX" over-sized nightshirt. Closing the jewelry box lid, she proceeded out the door, down the stairs and headed towards the fridge to get a drink. She still half expected the little light to come on when she opened the door. Grabbing what she believed was a 7-UP, she retraced her steps back to her room. Closing the bedroom door, she paused and stared at the darkened reflection in the full length mirror -- it was not her own.


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"Last chance, Maxwell," announced the Chancellor in no particular direction. "Make this deal with me boy or else the girl will die. Hell, who knows, it may already be too late. Then what? Whose fault will that be? Certainly not mine - I've given you the chance to prevent and nullify it from happening. All I ask for is the Notebook." The Chancellor waited for any sign of response. Shrugging, he shook his head. "You are allowing Bella to die, Maxwell. You have signed her fate to the wrath of a monster ... of a devil ... and you will only have yourself to blame. Is the Notebook of a madman worth more than the life of, Bella? Just give me the Notebook, boy, and I swear, your brother will never get it. Give it to me and go save her, Max. What do you say?"

A single gunshot roared in the silent hallway outside the auditorium. Although Max was wearing night vision goggles, he recognized the mist like spray around the Chancellor's head. He had seen it may times when he was stationed in Iraq, and like then, he knew the mist was made up of a warm, sticky, crimson composition. The Chancellor stumbled 3 steps to his left before collapsing on the tiled floor.

"You treacherous old man!" screamed Liberty as she stepped from the shadows with her gun poised and aimed before her; barrel still smoking. "I told Rex not to trust you." Standing above his corpse, she fired 2 more shots into the Chancellor's dead body.

Max's ring compass suddenly began to spin clockwise at a fantastic speed, then, just as suddenly, it stopped and began to turn counter clockwise. Staring at he figures before him, Liberty was slowly rewinding. Bullets leaped from the body and back into her gun. She reversed into the darkness as the Chancellor rose from the floor and the particles and mist reversed their course. Retreating 3 steps, he again stood in the middle of the entry. Once again, Max's compass ring stopped it rotation.

'Interesting,' Max thought with a smirk plastered across his face. 'So that's what Maya meant when she said this ring will protect me. Not only does it show me time devises, it negates their effects on me. Bitchen! I wonder what else it does?' Before Max had a chance to contemplate this development any further, the Chancellor was once again announcing his proposition.

"Just give me the Notebook, boy, and I swear, your brother will never get it. Give it to me and go save her, Max." Spinning on his heels, he turned and dove into the auditorium just before the Liberty fired at where his head was. The bullet sliced into a nearby locker down the hall as the report roared through the air. Rising to his feet, the Chancellor hurried down the aisle and retrieved his pistol before ducking behind a concrete column that supported the balcony.

"I told Rex not to trust you!" she screamed into the darkened auditorium. "You told him about Justice, didn't you? Didn't you!?"

"You hear that, Maxwell? I told you Bella was in danger."

Liberty fired blindly into the auditorium. "I'm going to kill you, Chancellor! Then I'm gonna kill that little bastard, Max! The only way he'll see Bella again is by meeting her in the afterlife."

"My proposition is still open, Max - with a bonus." Retorted the Chancellor. "Help me kill this wild woman. She is just as evil as her brother, if not more so. You can rid the world of both Vanderhall's this night, Max. Help me! Together we can beat your brother Rex and save Bella."

Liberty shot 4 rounds into the center of the column before stepping inside the auditorium. She quickly ducked behind a row of seats. "I know where you are, Chancellor. Do you really think a 15 year old boy is going to save you from me? Especially after he finds out that it was you who suggested that Justice take out, Bella." Liberty ejected her spent clip and replaced it with a fresh one. Sliding back the barrel to load the chamber, she continued, "He probably hasn't told you that, has he, Max?"

"She's lying, Max." Shouted Chancellor as he fired at the seats near Liberty. "If Wordsworth were with us, he could confirm my statements. I may be many things, but a pedophile and woman hater I certainly am not - unless that woman is you, Liberty! "

Max lowered his 9 mm but otherwise did not move. He watched the flashes of gunshots between the raving banter of his enemies. He paid close attention to the tension in their voices, to their words, to their mutual loathing of one another. He trusted neither of them, but he did recognize that the Chancellor had been playing by a code of ethics. When he disarmed himself, he truly disarmed. He claimed that Bella was in danger and, it appears, he has been telling the truth. Of course, on the other hand, had he shot the Chancellor, that nifty little time reversal would have kicked in saving him. Which also brings to mind whether or not Liberty knew of his time reversal trinket and if this was part of some elaborate hoax.

Still, they speak of Bella, and his 1st instinct was not to run off after her. Instead, he felt a strange state of calm - like their isn't any crisis. Maybe it was his years or Army experience or that weird sixth-sense kicking in, but he didn't feel that she was in any danger. Yet, still both the Chancellor and Liberty railed on as if she was. Bringing the stopwatch closer to his chest, he positioned his thumb above the trigger in anticipation of the unknown as he maintained his hidden vigil.

* * *


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The sound of heavy rain was mixed with the sound of gunshots. Rex didn't acknowledge their existence any more then he did Wordsworth who sat stoically tied to the chair. His attention was wholly devoted to the small devise he had disassembled before him. He carefully used tweezers to manipulate some of the small components. As the lightning crashed outside, more gunshots echoed, yet still Rex did not divert his attention.

"Sounds like things are getting exciting downstairs," Wordsworth said jadedly with his toothy smile sprawled majestically across his wrinkled face. "However, as a footnote that I feel must be added, it sounds more like the Chancellor and Liberty are fighting among themselves. Ask me how I know this."

"The report of their guns," replied Rex without looking up from the desk. "The Luger makes a distinctive snap whereas the 38 snub-nose revolver has more of a bang-pop resonance about it." Setting down the small precision screwdriver, he returned Wordsworth's smile in mock amusement. "Surprise! Did you honestly believe I didn't know this trivial little fact, Words - Worth? Maybe Max and his little adolescent cronies are all impressed with the most basic of all observations, but I'm not. I'm well aware of the absence of a 3rd gun, but this doesn't mean that they are firing at each other. They could have him pinned down in a crossfire or didn't that possibility occur to you?"

"It occurred to me." Wordsworth stated flatly. "Highly unlikely though. Those 2 have a long history of bad blood between them. Him the Aryan Reich, her the Bohemian Avant Gard --" He made a loud clicking sound from the corner of his mouth as he twisted his neck and winked. "Just bad blood all around. Ya ... Ya ... Ya."

Rex made an awkward sound that could be interpreted as a laugh. "That's why the only person I trust to do the right thing is myself. Everyone has baggage and their own agenda's. I've come to expect this and calculate it into my plans, or haven't you noticed?"

"I noticed that you are working on a little device there. Mind if I ask what?"

Rex picked up the object he had been tinkering with and held it in display for Wordsworth. "Cheap little ordinary run of the mill digital sports-watch, right?"

"Why do I suspect it's something more?"

Rex poked Wordsworth forehead 3 times with his index finger. "Because you're a smart guy, Words - Worth. A guy that just keeps on yappin' away, even after I told you to shut the f@%k up under penalty of death. Most people would get that I'm not to be trifled with, but not you. You go right on talking and trying to play this pussy, 'I'm your buddy,' Stockholm shite." Walking behind the chair, he grabbed Wordsworth left wrist and strapped the watch on to him. "There! Now we're Best Friends Forever. How does it feel to be my new BFF?"

Wordsworth cocked his head around to look over his shoulder at his wrist. He exaggerated his squint before returning his attention to Rex. "I like the color. It goes with everything I own. "

"Good." Rex announced as he pressed the left side button and top right button simultaneously. A small digital chirp momentarily emitted. "That's better still."

"I hope that's not what I think it is?"

Rex maneuvered in front of Wordsworth and smiled broadly. "Alright, I'll bite - what do you think it is?"

"A Time Bomb."

"A tiny explosive on a count-down timer?" Rex's smile changed to a frown. "And I thought you were a smart guy, Words - Worth. That's the problem with you old timers, you think small, hence, you have remained small. I mean, come on? How long have you guys been playing this tired game? 50 ... 60 years?"

Wordsworth shook his head. "You know that's not what I meant. It's a Temporal Detonator. When the counter reaches zero I get sucked into the void where I zip ahead into the future aging rapidly as I go until - POOF - once again to the dust I return."

"Something like that, but a little more on the refined side and a lot less romantic." Rex grabbed the back of Wordsworth chair and dragged him backward toward the door. Positioning him exactly 5 steps in, Rex pushed the lower right button on the BFF watch; which chirped 2 long tones. Maintaining a 3 step distance from Wordsworth, he headed toward the door.

"What? You're just gonna leave me?"

"Yes."

"Am I on a counter?"

"Maybe?"

"What happens if I take the watch off?"

Rex turned the knob and opened the door. "I wouldn't recommend that."

"What did that last button press do?"

Rex turned and addressed Wordsworth. "I keep telling you, we are not friends. We do not have any past history and that whole getting me to tell you my plan won't work. Be content in knowing that these are your last moments of existence. Breath deep and appreciate all that this life has offered you. Put to rest the demons of your past and reconcile for your debts, because this is the end of your life." Turning, he walked away.

Wordsworth eyes followed Rex's passage until the door closed. "Well, this doesn't bode well at all."

* * *


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Dave's room was a glow with several different sized and shaped candles in a rainbow of colors. Some were previously used, whereas others were fresh from the plastic packaging. Regardless of their origin, his room was the brightest it had been since he hit puberty. Dave sat cross-legged in the middle of this flaming wax menagerie. Although his Hyphema did concerned him, his makeshift handkerchief eye-patch put his mind at ease so that he could concentrate on the sorting task at hand.

Neatly placed round him were boxes, books of photographs and family keepsakes, compiled through the years. They had always meant to be scrap-booked by each woman from each generation that acquired them, however, he knew his mother wasn't the scrap-booking type. She was more of a pack rat with good intentions that never came to fruition. He had found this batch tucked way back upon the upper shelf of the hall closet, hidden behind old romance novels and other half started projects.

His sorting method was simple, to his left his great grandparents, in the middle his grandparents, to the right his parents. After sorting through several shoe boxes, manila folders, and age worn scrapbooks, his simple 3 pile process began to branch off. His grandparents with their parents, his parents with his grand parents, the unknown relatives, and of course, those pictures of himself. Emptying the last hatbox filled with photos, he quickly delegated them to their respective piles.

He stood, stretched his legs, and carefully circumvented the well established piles of photos. He lit a cigarette as a treat for a job well done. Exhaling a thick whitish-gray cloud, he watched as it drifted and mixed with the candle smoke. The heat vapors created delicate patterns that pulsed and wavered in hypnotic fashion. The constant patter of hard rain beating against the outside of the house was calming, rhythmic, and numbing. He was susceptible to their effects and he knew it. He took another hit from the cigarette as he forced himself from his current state.

He picked up the computer printout from the edge of his bed. He knew there was more to the story of Vanderhall Woods. His great grandmother, Potts' wife, and Max's grandmother were all involved. Had he and Sloan just been that lucky to stumble upon this? Is this what old Fritz was trying to safeguard? Was there something more at hand? The questions kept piling in his mind as deep as the stacks of photographs on his floor. He didn't know how or why, but he felt as if he stumbled upon a great conspiracy. A conspiracy that was shaking the very foundation of his reality. Something worth time travel and murder to prevent its revelation. 'If this wasn't happening to me, I paid to see this show,' he smirked as the thought ran through his mind.

He slowly began to extinguish the candle flames as he circled the piles. As he approached his dresser, he snubbed out his cigarette and paused before the last candle. It was a large hollow white orb that Lana had purchased for ambient lighting during their "Sex Therapy" sessions. It held an herbal scented oil with a floating wick in the center, supposedly, to enhance the sensual pleasure. Being that Lana was his only sensual pleasure to date, he wouldn't know the difference, but the scent will always remind him of her. Maybe that was the desired effect of the candle in the 1st place?

Taking the left hand pile, his great grandparents, he studied them. He would flip to the backside of each in search of any date references, locations, or notes of interest. It was uncanny how similar he looked to his great grandfather. He discovered a photo taken in 1885 and compared it to his current picture. With the exception of hair styles, they were almost identical. Same build and looks. Dave ran his hand across his head and remembered that he no longer sported his new wave hair style. Now, he basically had the same style, right down to the part on the right hand side. A small shiver ran down his spine.

After he rummaged through his desk drawer to locate his magnifying glass, he diligently shifted through the photos and noticed the subtle changes of youth that faded into manhood. The dark circles and bags under the eyes. The creeping spiderweb wrinkles around the eyes and corners of his mouth. 'At least he looked like he was a happy man.'

He reached the photo from downstairs again and carefully examined his Great Grandmother too. Fashion style aside, she was a stone fox. Soft and delicate features with high cheek bones that made her eyes stand out when she smiled. He knew that smile too well, it was his grandfathers, and apparently, hers before his. He sorted through the pile of his grandparents and found a photo that was similar in positioning. There was no doubt about it, he was her boy.

He continued his scrutiny until he realized that he was barely concentrating on the photos at all. The aroma of the herbal oil candle had visions of him and Lana mid coitus. "God Damn it!" he proclaimed as he tossed the pile of pictures roughly upon his bed. Marching with purpose toward the candle, he scattered the branched piles into the main piles with his feet.

He mumbled, "For the love of god, " as he knelt to straighten them into a neater chaos. As he fanned his hands to gather the photos, he noticed something he didn't earlier. His time ring, that Max had taken from Fritz and gifted him, began to spin. At first he thought it to be just a reflection of light - an optical illusion. He brought his hand across the photos without touching them and again the ring would spin. He smiled, "Oh, thats too hip!" He fanned his hand a few times until the thrill had subsided. Finding a renewed zest in his search, he rapidly sorted through the piles and picked out only the photos that the ring identified. He haphazardly gathered the remaining photos and carelessly tossed them into the largest box. Spreading the Time Identified photos on his bed, he laid them out in 4 columns and 6 rows. The last row and column was left bare, totaling 23 photos. He brought the magnifying glass close to each picture and began a thorough examination of each.


* * *


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Lana stared wide-eyed at the reflection in her mirror. Although her room was dark, her eyes had grown accustomed to the shadowy ambiance. Besides, the mirror glowed like it it had its own cathode ray tube. As she looked closer, she realized it wasn't so much a reflection she was looking at, but more of a broadcast. Like she was looking at a closed circuit television of the person in the reflection. She reached out and touched the mirror. The glass was cool, yet showed none of her reflection, even when she placed he palms upon it. Although she tried to fight it, she had a strong compulsion to sit down and watch the mirror as she had the TV when she was a child.

Unable to fight her instinct any longer, she sat cross-legged and began to watch the reflection ... broadcast. The woman was middle-aged or maybe older. Her hair was dark and clothes were more of a summer fabric - light and airy. Her catseye sun glasses accented her small face, giving the impression that she was still a youth or very petite. The room behind her was ablaze with sunshine that refracted off of the glass pitcher and drinking glasses before her. This woman appeared to be deeply involved in conversation with someone, perhaps the camera operator. It wasn't until she blinked that she noticed the image blinked with her. She fluttered her eyes 3 times and the broadcast mimicked the flutter. A cold chill ran over her as she reached for Grammies brooch watch pinned to her t-shirt. Gripping it, she felt a sudden warmth and comfort reside over her.

As the thunder growled outside, Lana felt compelled to find the volume knob on the mirror, although she knew there wasn't one. She could see the woman's lips move but couldn't hear a word. Between the thunder claps, she still had to deal with the heavy beating of the rain and the heavy breathing of sleeping Bella. She broke her concentration and gazed back at her bed. She didn't know why, but something compelled her to have Bella spend the night, long before the storm set in. A nagging feeling of dread if Bella went home. More then just nagging, a dead certainty that something terrible was going to happen. Gripping the brooch tighter, she turned back to the mirror and concentrated on the women's mouth. She tried to block out all other sensory inputs and concentrate only on the woman's mouth.

"Lana? Lana? Lana did you hear me?" Inquired Maya, the woman in the mirror.

"Yes," Lana replied. "Yes, I can hear you now."


* * *


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Max watched as the flash from the gun barrels illuminated the darkened auditorium. He recognized that the hatred that the Chancellor and Liberty held for each other was all consuming. Although each would call out his name, neither were actively looking for him nor his support. Clicking the stopwatch he had been holding this whole time, the internal mechinism engaged. As time froze, he made his way to the East stairwell before reactivating time again with another push of the button. He waited to see if either of his adversaries noted the time abnormality. To his relief, neither had and continued in their open confrontation of bullets and condemnations.

Brandishing his 9 mm, he hastened up the staircase and paused at the top. Glancing around the corner, he saw no evidence of activity. He checked his ring and noted only 2 time presences on the floor. He knew that they would have confiscated Wordsworth time devises and surmised that the other blip on his compass must be his brother, Rex. Using his military trained stealth, he cautiously moved down the corridor to Wordsworth’s office.

He released his grip upon the stopwatch and let it flip back down onto its tied leather strap against his wrist. He maneuvered to the handle side of the door and cautiously opened it with his left hand as his body stayed protected behind the wall. He peered into the room and gazed upon Wordsworth, tied to a chair, just a few steps in from the door.

“Rex!” Max’s cry echoed in the room without any response.

Wordsworth shook his head, “He’s gone, Max.”

“When?” He asked lowering the gun and entering the doorway.

“Stop! He’s planted a time bomb on me. I’m not 100% positive, but I think he also has it on a proximity switch. If you get too close, we both get warped into oblivion.”

Max remained in the doorway. “How long ago did he leave?”

Wordsworth shrugged, “Without my glasses, I can’t make the time on the wall clock. To make an approximated guess, maybe 3 to 5 minutes.”

“Impossible - I would have run into him?” Max looked back down both ends of the hallway to verify there was no one there. “Which way did he go?”

Wordsworth shook his head again. “He dragged me over here, activated the watch, and left with the parting words, ‘these are my last moments.’ I watched him as well as I could, but without my glasses and the closing door, I can’t answer you with any certainty.”

The lightning flashed as Max carefully entered the room, keeping his back to the wall to maintain a safe distance. Giving a wide gap, he circled around Wordsworth.

“Damn it, Max! I told you he has me trapped. Leave me be. I have done all I can. My time is up.”

“I refuse to accept that, Wordsworth. There has got to be a way of getting you off that dead man’s switch.”

Wordsworth sighed heavily. “Saving me will serve no purpose in this conflict, Max. This is a young man’s war, and alas, I am no longer the man I once was. But you-“

“Goddamn it, Words! This is no time to give up. I can get you out of this. I know I can! I just have to think-”

“No, Max, you can’t. Rex has seen to that. Either I die and you live or we both die and he has won. I cannot accept the later and I refuse to allow you to become a martyr here in the past. That was never part of the plan.”

“Plan’s been changed.” Max exclaimed as he removed his night vision goggles. “1st by Rex, now by me. Where’s the detonator?”

Wordsworth flexed his arms as high as his restraints would allow. “On my wrist. But Rex did mention that is wouldn’t be wise to remove it.”

“Yeah - I’d say the same thing too. It doesn’t mean he was telling the truth.”

“Why would he lie?” Wordsworth commented sardonically. “During the course of our discussion, he was always verbosely terse and to the point. He does have 2 tells that really push his buttons, though.”

Max rubbed his chin with the back of his hand. “I want to hear all about them, but 1st, how many feet is the proximity switch set for?”

Wordsworth shrugged.

“Think about it. Remember that moment. What did he do?”

Wordsworth closed his eyes and tilted his head skyward. “I heard 3 foot falls when he stepped away from me. “

“OK, at 2 and a half to 3 feet a stride, that is roughly a 9-foot safety corridor.” Max gathered the largest fragment of chalk from the floor and etched a circumference around Wordsworth.

“Max, what are you doing? This will serve no purpose other than to further delay and detract you, which is exactly what Rex wants.”

Standing at the edge of the line, he studied the digital watch. He was still too far away to clearly see the display. Flipping his stopwatch into his left palm, his eyes darted from the stopwatch’s face to the digital watch. “All right, what do you think? Will the stopwatch allow me to get to you?”

“Possibly, but you have to ask yourself this. If it were you who set the trap, would you anticipate that tactic? This is your twin brother we are talking about, after all.” Wordsworth turned at an unnatural angle to address Max. “Let it be, Max. You can’t save me. Fulfill your destiny. My final grains of sand are slowly trickling through the hour glass where as yours is still near filled. “

“No.”

“I know this is hard for you, but you must let it be this way. My time is over.”

“NO!”

“Damn it, Max, I will not spend my last moments of my life arguing with you. We had a plan and we knew that this eventuality may come to pass. I have had long enough time to accept this fate - my fate. I will not allow you to sully everyone’s hard work and all those lives because of your foolish, albeit heroic, pride.”

Max paced outside the chalk circle with an agitated stride. “I refuse to let you go this way, Words. I f@%king refuse!”

“Accept it, Max. Embrace it. I have.”

Max shook a defiant index finger at Wordsworth. “Never!” His declaration was accented by a mist of saliva. His finger repeatedly punctuated his words as he spoke between clenched teeth. “Not you. Not now. Not like this!”

Wordsworth shook his head. “Just go, Max. Accept that this is my fate. Regardless of what you want, wish or refuse, there is nothing you can do here. Leave me. Fulfill your own fate, your own destiny, and stop, Rex.”

“I can’t, Words. I don’t know how. I can’t get my head around this whole damn time thingy like Rex can. You didn’t prepare me.”

“Yes I did and, yes, you can.” Wordsworth snapped. “You have 38 years of knowledge and training contained in a 15 year old body. You have no appreciation for the pain staking planning and sacrifice it took to get you to where you are now. Do you still believe that you just happened to buy that cube on a whim? At an auction that you had never attended before? It was all part of a plan, Max. A plan that was working until now. You, above everyone else, know . . . no, wait, understand the goal of a mission. Well, this is your assigned mission, Max, and you need to complete it.”

“Why?”

Wordsworth smiled his broad and toothy grin. “Because you are the only one who can. Don’t you get it, Max? The world needs a hero and you, my boy, you’re it.”

“Trust me, Words. I’ve seen what this world does to its heros. The days of honor, glory, King Arthur and John Wayne are dead and gone. There is no room, no need for heros anymore.”

“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.”

The digital watched emitted a long beep that instantly drew both mens attention. A short beep began to emit marking each passing second.

“Words!” Max began to approach.

“Step away, Max. There is nothing you can do for me.”

“I can use the watch. I can stop time. I can figure out-“

“No, you can’t. Just remember, Rex has lived in your shadow and is extremely jealous of you. His jealousy has turned to anger, which has turned to paranoid fear. Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes, Max.”

“Why, Words, why?”

“Because they will exult a villain in your place.” The digital beeps stopped as abruptly as they started. Smiling his tooth grin, he winked. “Remember me.“

A bright light flared from the watch and surround Wordsworth in a vibrant ball. With every passing second, time inside the sphere passed in decades. Max watched in silent awe as his teacher, his mentor, his friend, began to age rapidly and die before him. The body slowly decayed and rotted away into nothingness. With an ear shattering viiirrp, the ball dissipated and room fell dark once more. Max stood alone with the sound of the heavy rain for his company.

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:41 pm 
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The storm continued it liquid and wind bombardment upon the city with a renewed vengeance. The dark clouds filled the night air denying the moon and stars to pierce their billowing yet dense folds. Deep within its frigid mass a small particle flickered to life and slowly grew in intensity. Drawing more and more energy as it gathered, its charge was finally dispersed upon the tallest ground source - The Library. The sudden infusion of energy made every incandescent bulb inside the building instantaneous light briefly prior to exploding. Bright lavender and blue sparks crackled from the empty sockets.

"What the hell was that?" Exclaimed the Figure as he climbed the basement steps. Reaching the top, he could still see small remnants of discharge crackle in the cold library air. Walking over to the closest desk lamp, he could hear the shards of glass crunch under his shoes, which caused him to abruptly stop. He rocked from heel to toe and smiled as the glass crunched. He knelt and rolled his index finger across the powdered granules.Rubbing the thumb and index finger together, he smiled even wider as small smears of blood appeared.

The heavy door groaned as it was hastily shoved open. As he the figure stomped into the rain, he laughed as the deluge of water poured over him. "Finally," he screamed to the heavens. "Free at last, free at last. McNaulty - you're free at last."


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WTG Dr. M, you are a wonderful writer. I like that McNaulty is here , hopefully hes an allie for Max, and he could teach Max a thing or 2 about watches.

Keep up the great work.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:55 pm 
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"Do you remember me, Lana?"

Lana stared into the mirror and concentrated on the lady's face. Gripping her grandmother's brooch tighter, the mirror flashed a montage of images of woman and her home. A single image froze on a wall portrait with the caption, 'Maya the Cat Woman,' printed across the bottom. "Are you, Maya?" Lana mumbled rather than asked.

Maya smiled, "Yes, that's right, Maya. Are you with me now or somewhere else?"

A clap of thunder echoed as the lightning flashed very close to her bedroom window. "Well, I'm at my house but I can see and hear you. It looks very bright and sunny on your side ... are you in Australia or Asia where it is already afternoon?"

"Something like that - I am very far away from you, but closer than you may think. How are you seeing me?"

"With my eyes ... what do you mean?"

"Am I on TV or a reflection in a window-"

"Oh, in my bedroom mirror."

A cold chill ran down Maya's spine. "A mirror? What kind of mirror?"

Lana examined the mirror briefly. "Just a cheap full length mirror my parents bought for me a Penny's or Sear's or someplace. I wanted a vanity set but all my parent's could afford was this piece of sh ... crap." Gripping the brooch tighter she gave a half inquisitive cocked stare. "How is it that you can hear and see me? I mean, Lewis Carroll and Walt Disney didn't prepare me for this type of looking glass. Is this a video phone mirror that got activated by the storm or something?"

Maya sat stoically silent for several moments before answering, "If I told you we were having this discussion in my living room, would that frighten you?"

"I told you I was in my bedroom, did that frighten you?"

"At first, yes it did. You see, Lana, although you are in your bedroom where you are, you are also sitting across from me right now, in my house."

"Yeah, right. Next you'll be tellin' me Rod Serling is lurking outside my room giving a creepy monotoned introduction welcoming me and Bella into the Twilight Zone."

"Bella? Bella's with you?"

"Yeah? Do you know Bella?"

"It's autumn, 1985 and there is a storm happening right now. The worst in years and she's spending the night with you?"

"Yeah ... why is that so shocking?"

Maya's voice changed from questioning to concerned. "Your grandmother's brooch, are you wearing it right now?"

Lana looked down at her hand grasped firmly around it and near tearing a hole in her shirt. "Yeah, how did you know that? you can't see it through my fingers can you?"

"I need you to listen to me very closely, Lana. Tomorrow, I need you to get rid of the mirror. Break it, throw it away-"

"Why?"

"Just listen to me. Get rid of it. Tell Max I told you to, he'll understand."

"Understand hell - he better get me a new one."

"That's between you two. Tonight, take off the brooch and place it in a drawer or jewelry box. It's very important that you don't go to bed wearing it."

"Why?"

"Just do it."

"Why?"

"Because if you don't, he'll find you and you and Bella will die before morning?"

Lana released her grip on the brooch. "Who? Who will find us?"

Maya reaches over and takes the medallion from the older Lana's hands. As the broadcast began to dim, she could be heard repeating, "Just do it!"

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McNulty
----------------------

3 Minutes past the hour.

3 gunshots shot out, they enter the dark suited figure who's back was to the door, now the body crumpled to the floor.

" Max, your time ran out, now you think about that!" Spewed out from the lips of the man holding the smoking gun, [McNulty], " Now its my time to
control the time matrix, you think about that , Maxy----" McNulty stops in his tracks, his eyes are wider than pomegranates, staring at a living breathing rage-filled Max, McNulty is shocked.

" You @#$%$#@! , you killed my little brother Rex, time to pay!!!" Max shrieked out. Max rushes towards the man with the silver stopwatch ( McNulty) and shoves him to the ground violently, then pounds his head into the cement floor repeatedly until a hand grabs his own. Its Rex, he is alive. Max is also shocked, yet Rex stays his hand and says " Brother, you charged into my defense, I thank you and I end our grudge match, I see I was wrong, you do care, and I believe you when you say you did try NOT to get rid of me in Founders Park. "

Max's eyes are slightly watery , he expels" REX, Thank you brother, thank God you are alive, but how did you survive? And what should we do with McNulty?"

Rex unbuttons his shirt to reveal a black Kevlar vest, winks and says "MAX, I learned a thing or 2 from you ,bro. Now about McNulty, he may be a bombastic buffoon, but we should keep him alive, tie him up , and get his stopwatch. Now that we are united, lets stop the Chancellor, maybe McNulty got some info we can ( chortles) get out of him in regards to the Chancellor."

Max queries to himself ' Why does not Rex know more about the Chancellor? Maybe the Chancellor was a wild care ally who was useful to Rex, but was uncontrollable to a point?' Max notes to himself: maybe now's not the best time to ask Rex.

Max nods in agreement, and the 2 brothers in dark suits tie up McNulty, and start to devise a game plan.

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Unread postPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 11:58 pm 
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All the loose ends are tied;except , the time components need to put in place.

Max and Rex place the pieces of the puzzle in the right places, and a time portal opens to Max's original time frame, Max then...

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Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:12 am 
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Greetings All,

Sorry to interrupt the story but during some cleaning of the board I discover several "drafts" that hadn't been posted in this thread. They had shown up in the orphaned area of the board statistics, all by Doc M. I found this to be rather odd as Doc usually posts or deletes his drafts. After reading thru this fanfic, I came to understand why he hadn't posted several of them. Mr. Z had taken the story in a different direction & Doc M abandoned his story variance.

Cutting to the chase, my wife also read thru this tale being a fan of fanfic. When she became confused at certain forks the story took, I sent her the Doc M "lost drafts" as a road map. Several scenario changes had occurred that made the drafts unrelated to what had been posted. I explained that it is a time travel story & maybe they had happened & the readers haven't been made aware yet a la an Agatha Christie mystery. She argued that this aspect is never stated. I argued that it is a time travel story, it is otherwise implied. She shoved the following draft across the table & said this both implies & confirms, is impacting to the story without altering anything already written before or since. As a time travel story, it can go anywhere, right?

Trapped by my own words & to keep marital bliss, I obediently agreed.


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Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 10:18 am 
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Setup: The following occurs on page 1 of this story post after Max & Dave are arrested for the murder of Hiram Klein (Find the related topic by Clicking Here) but before they are released from jail. (Find the related topic by Clicking Here) - PJW

The Lost 5 Minutes

Tickity, tickity, tickity - click! Tickity, tickity - click!

A subtle aroma of perfume drifted through the holding room. The florescent lights seemed to glow brighter than they had been moments earlier. An approaching sound slowly registered as it grew closure. It was the clicking of high-heels against concrete intertwined with the sound of acrylic nails playfully tapping across iron bars.

Tickity, tickity, tickity - click! Tickity, tickity - click!

David glanced over at the other cells, the incarcerated remained motionless. He turned to address his cellmate only to find Max was also in a state of frozen suspension. Max didn't blink, appear to breath, or even be alive. He pressed his finger against his friend, who teetered then returned to his original position when the fingers were withdrawn. With eyebrow raised, he fanned his fingers while an unconscious, "Dude," was muttered on-beat with the approaching sound.

Tickity, tickity, tickity - click! Tickity, tickity - click!


The lights glowed as if ready to burst from the sheer intensity of power imposed upon them. This luminance, in turn, reflected off the sudo-polished cement floor and stark, dingy walls. He rose from the metal bench, leaned against the holding cell bars, and peered through the florescent haze. The metal-caged wall clock had stopped - whether from age, lack of maintenance or whatever was occurring was uncertain. The round, hubcap-like oscillating fan built into the wall had three metallic blue tassels for visual confirmation it was running. All three tassels had stopped in mid flutter like tiny horizontal ice cycles. He closed his eyes and listened for environmental sounds. Still, with increasing volume, the only consistent audible sound grew louder.

Tickity, tickity, tickity - click! Tickity, tickity - click!

The perfume fragrance began to fill in for the lack of visual stimulation. Although discernibly stronger, it did not over power nor repulse his senses. It was delicate yet primal in its intoxication. It was not an aroma belonging to a young girl, this fragrance belonged to a refined woman. An elegant, empowered and sensually experienced woman. A woman like Max described just an hour ago ... the Black Queen ... Loria. He swallowed hard as he knew without having to open his eyes, the pressure in his pants leg meant he was at full salute. With eyes closed and a deep inhale, he listened to the deafening sound that approached.

Tickity, tickity, tickity - click! Tickity, tickity - click!

As she passed through the doorway, her finger nails continued to tap the rhythmic pattern on the cell bars punctuated by her high-heeled steps. She continued across the room, still repeating her rhythmic pattern until she reached her destination, David. She examined him and quickly noticed his uncontrolled arousal. A large smile graced her lips, "My, my, Mr. Lane. Is that package for me?"

His hands instantly dropped from the cell bars and instinctively covered his erection.

Her tongue clicked off the back of her front teeth, "Tease."

"Go away, Loria," he demanded with eyes still closed. "Max has already warned me about your arrival."

"Loria?" Her right hand reached through the bars and caressed his cheek. "Were you cheating on me lover?"

The sophisticated fragrance filled his senses with a hypnotic intoxication. Subconsciously, his head leaned into the touch as if instinctual. "I would never cheat on you, Lana." He opened his eyes and realized the over intensified lights had faded back to a normal level. As his eyes adjusted, he was greeted by a matured Lana's smile. "Lana?"

"Hey, Stickman. I forgot how impossibly thin and adorably loyal you were." She ran her thumb across his bottom lip. "Not like the other men in my life." She released his cheek. "But those stories are best left for another time."

Dave wasn't sure how to respond to her last statements. Jealousy was his first instinct, then remorse. Had he did something in the future? Had she? He cleared the thoughts about the future and concentrated on the here and now. "First off, WOW! You look great. But more importantly, how did you get here?"

She tapped her acrylic nails on her antique brooch watch pinned above her left breast. "Family heirloom."

"I know that watch. You've worn that on some of our dates on Max's insistence" He turned to address Max. "Hey, did you know about this?"

Max remained still and unresponsive.

"He can't here you, David. No one here can. It's just you and me, just like old times ... well, current time for you I suppose."

"No offense, not questioning your wisdom or anything but why is he suspended too? Max is your brother. He's already from the future just in a younger body-"

"I'm here for you. Max won't know ... can't know about this. No one except you and me." She placed here index finger to his lips to silence future protests. "Young Max, the Max your age, has been forcefully pushed into future Max's body. Older Max," she removed her finger and pointed to the Max on the steel bench, "is strong both physically and spiritually because of the experiences he will go through later in life. However, the Max that is from this time is too weak to inhabit the future Max body and make use of it because he doesn't 'know' how. Hence, my Max - future Max - is in a coma in Metro General with a scared little boy occupying his body."

"But none of this has happen to that Max. No Rex. No Gloria. No Bella. No us-"

"No you, David. No you."

He ran his finger through his hair before reaching for a cigarette. He forgot he had smoked the last one and all that remained was a crumpled empty pack. "This doesn't make sense. Max and I are best friends."

"No," she said as she opened her purse and retrieved a vapor cigarette. She handed it over to Dave. "You and Max in your 'true' time-line stopped being friends. I wouldn't say you hated each other, mostly you just avoided each other."

He examined the vapor cigarette and stared inquisitively at Lana.

"Put it to your lips and inhale. It's battery operated."

He did as instructed and nodded, "High Tech smokes. Cool."

"The bond you and Max have now is unique. For some strange reason, it has not created a ripple. Almost as if this is the 'true' time-line and the other is a carefully crafted lie."

"A lie crafted by Rex and his minions you mean."

She shrugged, "Carefully crafted by person or persons unknown. For what extent, also unknown. It could be that future Max realized his time-line had been compromised and when he returned, he corrected it by re-cementing your friendship. Maybe by doing so others took notice of the crafted lie."

"Maybe by doing so he created us ... you and me. If Max and I fell out in the other time-line, then you and I never got together. Maybe he righted us?"

Again she shrugged. "I'd like to think so. The only thing we are fairly certain of is that you, David Lane, you are the catalyst."

He took another hit from the vapor cigarette. "You said, 'We are fairly certain.' Who are we?"

"That's not important to our discussion. That's not why I am here. I came to say I'm sorry for all of what you are about to experience. Not the good times between you and me but the other stuff that's coming. Things are about to go sideways weird and may not make any sense at all. It's important that you understand that it a manipulation of the time-line."

He handed the vapor cigarette back to Lana. "By person or persons unknown?"

"If it's any consolation, I'm told everyone has the potential of recognizing their 'true' time-line. Knowing when they have been led astray. Getting a sensation that things are not as they are meant to be. Knowing that the part someone is playing may in fact be a necessary role for the benefit of the greater good."

"That sounds a little too ominous, Lana. What is it you are not telling me?"

Lana reached through the gaps in the bars and pulled David close. She whispered in his ear for several minutes until his eyes rolled back and only the whites were visible. She wiped the tears that had formed from the corners of his eyes and gave him a long, loving kiss. "I'm sorry, baby. I'm truly, truly, sorry I had to tell you. But we all agreed, you need to know."

He closed his eyes to allow them to return to proper orientation. He slowly opened them and asked, "After you leave me... leave this time-line, I won't remember this conversation, will I?"

She looked at the floor and shook her head negatively. "Only the understanding of what needs to be done. Not this conversation or even what's yet to come."

"Hmmm. Probably better that way."

Lana looked up and wrinkled her nose, "Yeah."

With a fain smile, he returned to the steel bench and sat back down next to Max. "Hey, Lan? This ain't your fault, kiddo. Always remember that." He took one last long inhale and let her perfume fill his senses. "This ain't your fault."

"Don't worry, David. I'll remember for both of us." Lana wiped away her forming tears, outstretched her left hand to touch the cell bars where Dave once stood. Her broad smile returned as she turned to leave.

Tickity, tickity, tickity - click! Tickity, tickity - click!


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Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:53 am 
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Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:
Greetings All,

Sorry to interrupt the story but during some cleaning of the board I discover several "drafts" that hadn't been posted in this thread. They had shown up in the orphaned area of the board statistics, all by Doc M. I found this to be rather odd as Doc usually posts or deletes his drafts. After reading thru this fanfic, I came to understand why he hadn't posted several of them. Mr. Z had taken the story in a different direction & Doc M abandoned his story variance.

Cutting to the chase, my wife also read thru this tale being a fan of fanfic. When she became confused at certain forks the story took, I sent her the Doc M "lost drafts" as a road map. Several scenario changes had occurred that made the drafts unrelated to what had been posted. I explained that it is a time travel story & maybe they had happened & the readers haven't been made aware yet a la an Agatha Christie mystery. She argued that this aspect is never stated. I argued that it is a time travel story, it is otherwise implied. She shoved the following draft across the table & said this both implies & confirms, is impacting to the story without altering anything already written before or since. As a time travel story, it can go anywhere, right?

Trapped by my own words & to keep marital bliss, I obediently agreed.



Hi Mr. Whoopee, thanks for posting Dr. M's story variance. If I saw this, I would probably have written my parts, differently. Sorry for any confusion on my part.

I really like Dr. M's variance here, perhaps when Dr. M comes back we can add this in somehow, I can edit my part to conform to it, or it could be a time travel alternative
that could have happened, yet due to the end of Dr. M's variance, this may or may not have happened.

You are both right, the time travel part may not have been high lighted enough, which we could accentuate more; further, we could add it in the story as canon, or as one possible narrative in the story. Cheers to many more years of marital bliss :bell:

On my part, I was just trying to wrap up loose ends.

Again hopefully Dr. M returns soon, its been ages, sadly, he is sorely missed. Then we should be able to fill in all the holes, and variances, etc.

If your S.O. or yourself have any suggestions, please inform us :D

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Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:35 pm 
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Greetings Mr. Z,

No critique offered on my part. The added "lost draft" post was not intended to provoke a rewrite or edit of any kind. It was an orphaned post from the phpbb2 days before we started our own site. I have no talent or training to be a critic or writer. Basically that's why I generally don't critique episode or movies here on the board.

Over dinner, my wife an I were discussing your guys story. She cruised the board & likes where its placement is in the story. A reflection back to a happening that we weren't made aware of earlier.

PJW


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Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:18 am 
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Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:
Greetings Mr. Z,

No critique offered on my part. The added "lost draft" post was not intended to provoke a rewrite or edit of any kind. It was an orphaned post from the phpbb2 days before we started our own site. I have no talent or training to be a critic or writer. Basically that's why I generally don't critique episode or movies here on the board.

Over dinner, my wife an I were discussing your guys story. She cruised the board & likes where its placement is in the story. A reflection back to a happening that we weren't made aware of earlier.

PJW


Greetings Mr. W,

I never felt it to be a critique, nor do I. I feel you are too modest, you did add some to our story, which is and was appreciated.

I am glad the Mrs. read our fan fic, and enjoyed it and its form, as I mentioned above I too enjoyed Dr. M's variance, and hope we can add it in, I also hope one day we make a sequel after all is said and done. Dr. M's presence is sorely missed.

Z

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Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 9:43 pm 
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As the rain drop fell into the water puddle, a cascade of ripples erupted from it's point of impact. With each tiny wave generated, a new one, albeit smaller, trailed the last. The first wave hit the bank of the puddle and dislodged the silt that had gathered. It's force, mixed the already muddy waters along the outer rim, forming a murky cloud. Then, when the second ripple fell short of the puddles bank, for its dying crescendo, it churned the silt with even deeper sedimentation, making the murky cloud even darker. Upon the final ripple, having fallen yet shorter than its predecessor, it revealed immeasurable though infinitesimal sparkles that glittered in an almost willful act of defiance to the spreading darkness in which it was enveloped.

---


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 9:46 pm 
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Her heart pounded mercilessly as she ran up the Ti and Moon-flower lined path. A combination of salt, sand and sea shells bit at the soles of her bare feet which caused tiny lacerations with each hurried step. Elephant-ear sized leaves from the foliage slapped her unprotected ankles and calves, some left deep welts, still others sliced like razorblades. Her yellow pastel summer dress had become encrusted with a mixture of sweat, sand and blood. Her sweat drenched umber pony-tail felt like a cat-of-nine-tails across her shoulders as it swung in counter balance to her foot falls. She pushed herself ever onward, always forward, always ahead. She stumbled to her knees, grinding more sand and salt into the abrasion as she reached the plateau of the path. The momentum brought her just inches shy of the cliffs edge where the ocean waves roared below . Out of breath, she rose to her feet, turned her back to the setting sun, and faced her pursuer.

Max approaches with a steady and purposeful stride. He appears to be in his mid twenties, also dressed in light pastel colors of powder blue and beige. He wore his baseball cap back-wards and sported a pair of tortoise shell Clubmaster sunglasses. "Here we are," he said with his disarming smile. "No place to run to-" his smile changed in an instant to that of malice, "No place to hide."

The warm breeze brought with it the fragrance from the nearby Ti plants and the taste of the ocean's salt. Though, in truth, the salty taste may have been that of her own tears that freely flowed. Lifted in the air by her throat, her feet kicked beneath her as she was dangled over the cliff. She Clawed at his face with her hands, her voice squeaked and gasped, "Why Max? I love you."

He tilted his head away from her searching grime encrusted fingers. "I wish I felt the same about you," he coldly stated. "Actually-no I don't. Never will. Never have."

She gasped for what little air she could inhale as her battered toes desperately searched for the plateau's edge. She stopped her useless flail and seized upon his wrists. Her jaggedly chipped finger nails tore at the flesh on his tanned and muscular forearms yet his grip did not decrease.

He looked at the blood as it slowly began to seep through the fresh abrasions. At first, just tiny speckles formed, then a steady though trivial quantity filled the damaged tissue. "You stupid bitch. Here I am trying to make it look like an accident so your parents won't suffer as much when they hear of your death. But now-" He increased the pressure around her throat with his thumbs, pushing them hard into her larynx. "It's gonna have look like the murder it is. Do you even appreciate the amount of time I spent in preparation of this moment? Do You?" He shook her hard enough to dislodge the small bit of turf her toes had found, leaving her full weight back into his arms. "I wanted to spare them that pain. But as always, your selfishness just got in my goddamned way. It's all about you, ain't it, Bella? To hell with anyone and everyone who ain't you!"

As a last, desperate attempt to free herself, she brought both hands together and swung with her remaining strength, connecting with his jaw. When his head snapped backward and his glasses flew from his face, she tried to wrap he legs around his waist but it was no avail.

He laughed at the pathetic attack before he returned his full attention back to her. The sky's storm cloud purples and orange sunset reflected in his dark brown eyes which fixated upon his hands. Fixated upon her throat. With purposeful smiling malevolence, he increase the pressure greater still.

"Rex?" Her voice struggled to a barely audible level.

"Ah, hell you figured it out," he stated almost annoyed that she hadn't earlier. "For someone who professes to love my brother, you apparently fear him. Why else would you flee not knowing the truth? Not knowing that it has been me the whole time? Not Max, me! Thanks for getting my brothers DNA under your nails. Should add to the fun."

As his arms struggled to maintain her weight, he slightly turned at his waist and dipped at the knees. Using his momentum, he thrust with all of his might and released her to fall to the waiting gorge below.

Half falling, half spinning out of control, she inhaled deeply allowing her lungs to fill with sweet, sweet oxygen once more. She noted the jagged rocks and salty ocean spray beneath her which seemed to reach up to embrace her as she raced toward them. With no other option, the only thing she could do was scream.

"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

***


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 9:48 pm 
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A bright flash of lightning broke Max from his solitude. He quickly scanned his surroundings. A broken chalkboard with three gunshots in its face reminded him he was in a class room. Had Grammy's gift freed him from a ripple? Was it truly a ripple or just a premonition. Still, there came a nagging feeling it could be something else? Something unrelated?

He stood inside a chalk circle with pile of dust at his feet. He shook his head to clear whatever he had just experienced before returning his gaze to the dust. "Wordsworth."

He knelt and scooped the dust up with his left hand. "I'm sorry old man," he spoke aloud to the dust as thunder rolled outside. He let the dust spill through his fingers before he gathered another and squeezed it tightly. "I think I got lost in the ripples and tides there for awhile. I forgot why I was here. I forgot what you had taught me. I forgot ... you, but it was only for a moment." Opening his leather pouch, he placed a handful of the dust inside before he secured the leather straps with his teeth. "Only for a moment, old man, but never again."

Muffled by distance and the rain, gunshots still echoed on the floors below him. He glanced at the time ring compass and noted two entities. 'Liberty and the Chancellor,' he thought, 'but still no, Rex.'

Placing the pouch in his inner jacket pocket, he proceeded down to the first floor a little more cautious and mindful.

***


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2017 9:51 pm 
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Bella sat up in Lana's bed still screaming from her nightmare.

Lana slammed her closet door with a startled shock. Her left hand, that had been clasped around her Grammy's pinned brooch, riped free from her t-shirt creating a small tear.

Both girls stared at each other wide-eyed and adrenaline pumping.

"What the hell is going on in here?" Demanded Jason Seconds as he burst though the bedroom door with flashlight blazing. He shined it's beam and looked at Bella who was white as a sheet and covered in sweat. Her orb wide eyes squinted under the harshness of the flashlights beam. He then turned the light to Lana who was still positioned on the floor next to her closet door.

"Nightmare, Dad," Lana spoke first. "Bella had a nightmare."

"And why are you on the floor?"

"Survival instincts," she stated as she rose to her feet. "I was sound asleep when her scream jarred me awake. I hit the deck and rolled away like you taught me. Taught all us kids. It really scared the sh... heck out of me."

"Sorry Mister Seconds," Bella stated with an apologetic tone. "I guess the storm brought on some bad dreams."

"You alright, now?" He returned the beam to Bella. "You want some water or somethin? Some warm milk?"

"Naw-- I'm good." She smiled nervously from embarrassment and wiped the sweaty stands of hair away from her face. "Thanks."

Jason turned his attention and light back to his daughter. "What about you, puddnin?"

Lana put her arms around her father's neck and planted a big kiss on his cheek. "I'm good too, Daddy."

He lowered the flashlight and noticed Lana's clenched fist. "Whatcha got in your hand?"

Lana opened her left hand and revealed the brooch watch. "Grammy's watch. When we lost power, I pinned it to my shirt so I'd know what time it was if I woke up during the storm."

Jason nodded approvingly. "More survival instincts. I see my training didn't go to waste. Well put it away and get back to bed."

"Yes, sir," she replied as she returned the brooch to the jewelry box before climbing into bed. "Night Daddy."

Jason turned to leave and stopped shy of closing the door. "Bella, a little advice my mother, Lana's Grammy, always told us. There is nothing to fear about a dream, as long as you remember, you can always wake yourself up. Night girls."

As the door closed, Lana and Bella stared silently at each other for moments uncounted. Again, Lana was the first to speak.

"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."

***


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Unread postPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 12:04 am 
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The Rubic Cubes that started it all, seems the 7 is missing, maybe 6 and 9 can be symbolized on one cube, so 7 can be added.

Keep up the great work, Dr. M,

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Unread postPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 8:25 pm 
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Three knocks echoed from David's bedroom door louder than the thunder claps outside his window.

He gathered the twenty-three photos before him into a hurried pile and slid them under his bed. As he rose, he glanced at his reflection in the mirror and jerked the handkerchief eye-patch from his head. He extinguished most of the candles with his hands as he approached the door and cautiously asked, "Who's there?"

"Klein ... may I come in."

David thought about the response. What was Klein doing at his house this time of night? How did he get in? But most importantly, was that really Klein or one of Rex's associates? "What's the password?"

An uncomfortable silence lingered for several seconds. "Excuse me? What?"

"The password. If you really are Klein, then you know the password we devised so I knew it was you. What's the password?"

"We did no such thing," retorted the voice outside the door. "We've barely communicated -- ever. Stop being paranoid and open the door."

David retracted the deadbolt and turned the clasp on the doorknob. "Good answer," he replied as he opened the door and greeted Klein.

Klein entered the doorway apprehensive and on guard. With battle-action pose he examined the dimly light room. "Are you ok? You alone?"

"Yeah, yeah. Except for the eye and the swollen side of my face, I'm perfect-o. What gives, dude?"

Klein let his guard down. The joints in his shoulder and neck popped as he stretched them out to relax. "You made me nervous with that password thingy, kid. I thought you may be in trouble or something."

David closed the door as to not wake his parents. He wasn't sure how they'd react to a strange, older man being in their home with their teenage son at this late hour. Pushing the box of discarded photographs aside, he pulled the chair out from his desk and offered it to Klein. "Pretty clever, huh. If you had been one of Rex's agents, you might have tried to make up a password."

"If I had been one of Rex's agents," he replied instructively as he positioned his robust frame on the tiny chair. "I would have kicked in the door, shot you twice in the heart and then once more between your eyes. I definitely wouldn't have knocked and so easily surrendered the element of surprise."

David's exuberance vanished to a blank expression of disappointment.

"Hey there," Klein responded kindly and leaned forward positioning one elbow on his knee. "Don't look so down hearted, kid. If our enemies were American teenagers - like yourself - who knows, that password trick may have worked." Klein eyed David's swollen cheek and temple. "That little love bump there is a hard lesson learned that you are not on the playground anymore. You're in the big leagues now. No more fun and games. No more do-overs. The only reason Fritz didn't kill you where you lied was because he didn't take you as a serious threat. Others won't be so sympathetic."

"Sorry," he retorted snidely. "I get that this ain't like Dungeons and Dragons. But come on, its not like I'm Max. I'm not a thirty-eight year old war vet in a younger version of myself. I'm a sixteen year old nerdy kid who, up until a few weeks ago, never won a fight in my life. Hell, I'd never even kissed a girl before, let alone had one pay me no never mind and now I'm dating one of the hottest girls in school."

"Max's sister."

David nodded his head, reading the implied implication. "Yeah -- but you gotta understand, dude. I've had a crush on her since I was eight. That's half my life."

"That's not what I was trying to subtly point out?"

"Then drop the subtlety already," he insisted and lit a cigarette. "If you got somethin' to say, tell me straight out."

Outside, the wind whistled through the slats on the shuttered window making them creak under the tremendous strain.

"Because she is Max's sister, she has a big red target on her. And by close proximity and association ... so do you."

"Oh! Oh! So what you're sayin' is I need to stay clear or I'll just keep getting hurt?"

"No." Klein calmly stated to defuse David's growing agitation. "What I am telling you is the same thing I said when we started this conversation. You need to 'man up' if you are going to step back up to the plate."

"And like I just told you." David's cigarette bobbed vertically between his lips as he spoke. "I'm just a sixteen year old kid. I ain't got the skill set you and Max and them all have. How the hell can I 'man up' if no one teaches me how I'm supposed to go about it. All I know is what I've read in books and seen in movies. As you pointed out, that shite don't work in real life." He reached up and touched his swollen cheek. "Fritzie pointed that out to me but good."

Klein grinned big and large like himself. "Exactly what I wanted to hear you say. Your first time at bat in the big leagues didn't quite go your way, rookie. It's time to get you some batting practice in before your next time up to the plate."

David's previous exuberance returned as he contemplated Klein's words. His mind's eye picture himself with a red Rambo bandanna and two bandoleers criss-crossed across his chest. He could almost feel the vibration and kick of the machine gun in his arms firing at full auto. The thick, lingering cloud of gunpowder surrounded him. Brass cartridges were systematically ejected as the bullets blazed out the barrel. Sweat flying from his muscle bound and glistening body. Then his internal camera pulled back from close-up to expose the full view. His thin frame and spindly arms barely able to control the machine gun. The fatigue tank-top and bandoleers dropping on his undersized frame. The image was more of Barney Fife than John Rambo. His expression returned to that of disappointment.

Klein examined Dave's emotional discourse. "What's the problem, kid? Having second thoughts?"

"No. Just coming to the realization that I'm never gonna be a designated hitter or even the lead-off batter. I mean, look at me. You said it yourself, no one will ever take me as a serious threat."

"So. We use that to play to your advantage. While everyone is concentrated on striking out Murders Row, Max and the other boys-"

"Sloan, Jeff and Jake?"

"Yes, thank you. I never got a team roster. Anyway, nobody is giving you a second thought."

"Why would they?" David took a last hit from his cigarette before it burnt to the filter. His compass ring glinted in the candle light as repetitively crushed out the obstinate, smoldering butt in the glass ashtray.

Klein reached over and stopped the repetitive snuffing motion. "A Time Compass? Where on earth did you get that?"

"From Max, for bravery in the face of danger," David smiled proudly.

"Maya had given hers to Max to alert him to danger. Did he just give it to you and discard a precious gift?"

"No, dude. Max still has that one. We took this one off of Fritzie."

Klein rubbed his chin with downward strokes. "Fritz had a compass ring? There is only suppose to be three of those in existence."

"He had a stopwatch too. It's kinda like the one Max's grandfather left for him except it's a Lange and Sohne and not a Potts."

Outside, thunder shook the air, while inside, Klein shook his head. "Lange and Sohne didn't make stopwatches."

David flipped back the side of his silk smoking robe and pulled on the small chain connected to his belt loop. The silver watch slowly slid into his hand. He pressed the release clasp to revealed the inner plate with a 10mm round 30 second dial in the lower right-hand side. Engraved in elegant script across the top of the inner plate read: A.Lange&Sohne-Glashutte By Dresden. "See. What I tell ya."

Klein's eye beheld the watch in disbelief. "Fritz had an authentic Victorian era Lange Complication? How did that insignificant little schmekel get his fascist hands on that?"

"I'm not one-hundred percent certain, but I think he stole it from my grandfather."

David closed the lid and slid the watch back into his pocket before he retrieved the stack of photos from under his bed. Spreading them out across his comforter in the same 6x4 pattern, he waved the compass ring over them and demonstrated how the ring triggered over each. He stopped at the picture of his great grandfather. "This is my great grandpa - Daniel Lane. However, when he came to America, they changed his name at immigration from Dashiell Lange to Daniel Lane."

"Your great grandfather was Dashiell Lange? The missing son of Lange and Sons?"

He handed the picture of his great grandfather and computer print out to Klein. "I don't know about all that, but here, take a look at what I discovered before the storm knocked the power out."

Klein compared the picture to David and noted the unmistakable genetic resemblance. He removed his wire-framed reading glasses from his coveralls, rose from the chair and moved closer to the candles to read the printout. Mouthing the words silently as his eyes scanned the paragraphs, he looked over the glasses and sat the pages atop the desk.

"Is anyone else aware of this information?"

"I don't think so. I just discovered it myself." He pause briefly as he saw something on the bed, just out of perceptive view, hovering slightly above the photographs. The momentary distraction was short lived as the rain pounded harder on the roof, bringing his attention back to the conversation. "Oh, wait a minute. After Fritzie thumped me and left me alone in the basement, there was someone else there. He kept calling me Lange even when I corrected him. He was quite certain I was a Lange and refused to accept I wasn't. I didn't get a good look at him cause he mainly stayed in the shadows. Short and irritating ... was always spouting useless facts. You know, the know-it-all type. Kept tellin' me to think about all the trivial facts he was throwing out. 'Blah, blah, blah - now you think about that,' he'd say."

"Patrick Thomas McNulty."

"Who?"

"An irritating itch that comes back from time to time. A meddler more than a player. He doesn't belong to either team. A freelance Rookie League talent with delusions of one day playing in the big leagues."

"Hmmm. Kind like me then?"

"No, kid. I know McNulty, he's nothing like you." Klein stuffed his spectacles back in his pocket and casually tossed the picture of Dashiell Lange on to the comforter. He briefly saw something twinkle in the corner of his right eye. "Best to put all this away and get dressed."

"But I got more to show you about these picture."

"Save it. We got places to go and things to do."

David swept the pictures together. "Where we going?"

"The batting cages. I had you batting the wrong spot in the line-up. But now that I have some new information, I gotta coach you on how to use that shiny new bat and ball of yours."

"Great, so I'm the sacrificial player?"

Klein tossed David his trench coat that hung on the hook on the back of his bedroom door. "Oh no, kid. You're the clean-up hitter."

"Really? Are you sure?" David said as he placed the photos back under his bed.

"Trust me. You're going to be hitting the fast ball, the slider, and the curve like a seasoned pro before this night is over."

A new image filled David's mind while he laced his shoes. He wore a white pin-stripped baseball uniform and swung two bats simultaneously to time the opposing pitchers repertoire from the on deck mound. Putting on his batting helmet, he discarded the extra bat and approached home plate. The fans in the stands shouted out his name in conjunction with the lights on the outfield big screen: Lane! Lane! Lane!

"Ready, Kid?"

"What about the change-up?" David asked as he stood to place on his coat. "The fastball, curve and slider are all well and good but what about the change-up?"

"Well, there you are on your own. That's all in the skill of the pitcher versus the skill of the batter."

"Let's do this." David snuffed out the remaining candles as he followed Klein from his room exuding a new found confident bounce in his step.

***

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 Post subject: 1z: SQUARED TIME - Loria
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 Post subject: 1z: SQUARED TIME - Maya
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Unread postPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 8:02 pm 
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Ten Minutes Ago ...

"Lana? Sweetie, are you back with me?" Maya asked while holding Lana's left hand as she gently tapped the top.

Lana stared at the little white corgi that licked her left ear and nuzzled her cheek. Blinking, she gently stroked the dog between the ears and down its back until it calmed down. Sensing she was ok, Bella circled her lap three times before curling up in a ball and resting her head looking out-wards from between Lana's knees. "What just happened?"

Maya reached back to the table and slide her hand across its surface until she found the glass of iced tea and presented it to her. "You just experienced a time passage. It's when your past and present occupy the same consciousness simultaneously. I've only heard stories about it. You are the first I've ever witnessed it actually happen too. Just sit there for a moment of two. Don't try to move to fast. I've been told it makes the host a little ... jet lagged."

Raising the glass to her lips, she drank greedily.

"Do you remember what happened?"

The ice clinked on the bottom of the empty glass as she lowered it from her lips. "It was an odd sensation of seeing you here and now from a memory ... a distant memory I don't remember ever having. You and I were having a conversation but I wasn't in the now. I was in the past. A teenager I think."

"Do you remember our conversation?"

Lana placed the empty glass on the coffee table and touched her brooch. "We were discussing my brooch, my mirror and the storm. When I told you about Bella you got really uptight. Somebody was coming you said. Somebody but you never said who."

"What else did I tell you?"

She stroked Bella's fluffy coat and contemplated the question for several seconds. "Wow - it seems so long ago, just give me a second."

"Take your time, Lana. It's important you tell me exactly what you remember."

"Have Max get rid of the mirror you said."

"Did he?"

"Matter of fact, yes. He even bought me the vanity set I had originally asked my parents for after he took it away." She smiled looking back on it from a happy memory. "I still have the vanity, well, my oldest daughter uses it now, but I still own it."

"Did I tell you anything else? It's important that you remember the details."

"That was twenty odd years ago for me but you just had this conversation. Don't you recall what you told me?"

"Oh, sweetness, I do. But time streams are tricky things that can get altered so easily. They're like a pad of butter melting on warm toast. Just because I remember it happening doesn't mean it truly happened if you don't remember it the same way too."

"Like if I remember the bread being sourdough and you remember it being rye? Which is the true memory?"

Bella raised her head and looked back at Lana briefly before returning to her chin to Lana's knees.

Lana scratched Bella behind her ears. "I got it right, didn't I girl?"

"What else did I tell you, Lana?"

"The Brooch!" she shouted clicking her acrylic nails on its surface. "You told me to take the brooch off. If I went to bed wearing it..." Her expression changed to that of dread. "We'd die - me and Bella. Someone would come and kill us before the night was over. But you never said who would come."

"What did you do with the brooch that night? Please -- its vitally important you remember exactly."

"I put it in the jewelry box on my dresser top."

"Are you positive. One Hundred percent positive without a shadow of a doubt? Think about it and picture yourself doing it."

"I said I did, why would I lie?"

"Concentrate. Really, really concentrate. A false memory can mask the truth, especially if someone has manipulated the time stream. But if you really think about it, the manipulation fades and the truth is revealed. Did you do it because I told you to or did you keep wearing it?"

"If I left it on, I wouldn't be here now, would I?" She remembered what resides behind Maya's cats-eye sunglasses. Voided pools of pitch and ethereal lightning she could barely dare to comprehend. "Would I?"

Maya cupped her hands over her nose and mouth. She inhaled deeply before a long muffled exhale. "Because in the multiple ripples and tides I have experienced since that night. That terrible night of the storm like no other before or since," she remove her hands from her face. "I have had conversations with you here in the present, though not exactly this present, but a present none the less. I have met many a Lana Seconds, countless times and you all seem so real to me, but I knew you - they - were not right. Somehow, not true. Not really you." She shuffled uncomfortably is her chair like a young child telling a sworn secret they knew they weren't supposed to tell. "That storm is an immalleable fact in all time-lines. It is the impact point of the ripples. I've woken up many times to that twilight before the storm - to that fixed point in time - to just ... before ... the ripples start."

"And in these ripple you've met me?"

"I've known you when you were a haggard single waitress at Lex's Cafe. Not that you weren't pretty but you smoked too much leaving those little wrinkles around your lips. You've been a prudish spinster teacher at Beaumont Elementary. A cheery flight attendant for GSA Airlines who never seemed to settle down. Oh, and several times you have been a still living at home, with your mother, sales clerk at GC Johnson's Department Store. I particularly liked that Lana the most. She always took the extra time to assist me due to my 'Site Impaired' status."

"Meeting me in those other ... alternate time-lines meant I took off the brooch. Why do you keeping asking me about it?"

Maya shifted uncomfortably again. "Because more often than not, in the alternative time-lines, I stood in the back of the crowd that attended your closed-lid graveside funeral in nineteen-eighty-five. When you were eighteen. In all those time-lines in which you died, we calculated that you were stilling wearing the brooch at the time of your death. The other Lana's, those that lived, all told me that they had lost the watch that night, during the storm. They sat it on the nightstand, on the pillow next to them, even pinned to the lamp shade, but when they awoke-"

"It was gone."

"But you, sweetness, you are the first here in the present to still not only own the brooch but you proudly wear it. Cling to it like it's a part of you."

"So that makes you believe this is a true time-line? Because I still own the brooch watch?"

"The fact that you wear it in public without any conceivable danger in doing so, makes me want to believe. There are other differences about you that are also unique to you in this go through." She paused to pour more iced tea. "This is the first time you've ever come to my apartment. In all the other tide realities, I've searched you out. This is also the first time you've ever been a mother. All the other Lana's were childless and single. Not divorced. Not in a relationship even. Simply childless, loveless, and single. But you ... you are a mother of how many was it?"

"Five. And I am not in a happy marriage remember, I am in the process of getting a divorce."

"From Jody Kittridge. The same Jody Kittridge who inherited the largest luxury car dealership in the tri-county area. So, even divorced, you and your children will be taken care of financially. None of the other Lana's could claim that status either. You are unique from all others amongst the multitudes of tides and ripples I've experienced. So, forgive me for keep asking these questions over and over but I need to be sure that this is not just another ripple that I need to escape from. What did you do with the brooch watch that night?"

Lana thought about that night and concentrated on her old bedroom mirror. Instinctively her left hand reached up to claps the heirloom. She gently rubber the watch between her thumb and index finger, more as a time worn habit rather than a willful action. She could feel the coolness of the glass in her fingers. Feel the rain and its steady rhythm outside her window. See the vision of Maya slowly fade as her own reflection re-manifested in the mirror. Finally, she heard Bella's blood curdling cry above the winds, above the thunder, above the crackling lightning. "Bella's night terror scared the holy shite out of me. I ended up accidentally ripping it off my shirt. My dad burst in, checked if we were ok-"

"Bella was with you and had a night terror?"

"Yeah, like I said, it scared the shite outta me. Thats how I slammed my closet door and tore the brooch off my shirt. "

"We'll get back to that. Your father, Jason, came and checked on you?"

"Yes. He was up late, way past his usual ten o'clock shutdown time. I could tell he hadn't been to bed yet. He thought we were goofing around and came bursting in the room all military with his flashlight aimed at each of us. I can still feel my basic instinct to clench my butt cheeks together when he disciplined us. Yes, sir. No, sir. No other answer was acceptable unless asked for. Anyway, after we explained to him about the storm and nightmares, he came to realize it was just bad dreams. You know, I even convinced myself that our conversation in the mirror, that was just a bad dream too."

"What else can you tell me about your father that night?"

"I remember he smelt of Turkish blend tobacco and musk. I can almost taste it on my lips thinking about it. Just like when I gave him a kiss on the cheek ...and he told me to put the watch away!" Lana faux slapped her forehead. "How did I forget that. He asked what was in my hand and I showed him the brooch watch."

"That watch," Maya pointed above Lana's left breast. "Your Grammy's watch?"

"The very same." she said smiling broadly. "He told me to put it away so it wouldn't get lost. I placed it in the jewelry box before he left the room. I got in bed and then he told Bella my Gramma's tuck-in story."

"Tuck-in story?"

"Yes. Whenever us kids would stay with our grandparents, Grammy would always be the one to tuck us in. Before she turned out the light, she'd tell us that the trick about bad dreams was to remember it is just a dream and you can wake yourself up at any time." She paused and took the refilled glass. "Or did she say from any time?"

"A most perceptive woman, your grandmother. That's good advice ... practical advice, regardless of how she phrased it."

Lana raised the glass in toasting fashion, "That was Grammy. Always with her head securely fastened and a heart full of compassion."

"Getting back to your father. Do you remember why was he up late?"

She sipped from the glass before answering, "The airport I think. I had a premonition that Michael's flight was getting in earlier than scheduled to try and beat the storm. I told dad he'd be waiting all alone. Although my dad was a pragmatist and insisted on waiting for Michael to call, he had grown accustomed to my premonitions. Like Grammy, I am almost dead on every time. He complained that the traffic would be murder, Michael could take a taxi, but as usual, he left anyway and picked him up."

Maya tapped her finger on her temple three times. "This is new too."

"What is?"

"Michael's flight was either diverted or he was stuck at the airport until after the storm blew through. He never made it home before."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite. Unlike the rest of you, my curse," she briefly lowered her glasses to reveal her time void eyes. "Is also an unexpected gift when it comes to remembering the time streams. When I awake from the ripples or tides, their reality still haunts me. You, Max, Michael, and even Klein may have a vague recollection but it fades away. It never fades for me. I have heard your brother Michael's anguished eulogy at you graveside and it always started with: 'I'm sorry I wasn't there for you.' He blamed himself the most - even more so than your parents."

"What about, Max? Maybe his presence in this time-line has created the change?"

Maya shook her head. "No. This isn't Max's first go through."

Bella raised her head and barked at Maya before returning to her rest position with a low growl.

She brought her hands to her lips momentarily. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that." She felt around her chair until she found the medallion between the seat cushion and the arm. "No ... no, its ok. See Bella, I have the medallion."

Bella opened one eye to acknowledge Maya's statement, did a disheartening heavy breathed snort before closing her eyelid.

"We must be careful when we speak some names unless we alter the proceeding events. Your brother is one we must be protective of about past events. But the medallion will keep our conversation safe. At least we think it will."

Lana cocked her head. "So Max has done this before? This isn't his first trip back to eighty-five?"

"I'm afraid not and it's getting harder and harder to get him to return."

Bella let out another low growl.

"Stop that, " Maya said while pointing a disciplinary index finger at Bella. "That's quite enough out of you, young lady."

The corgi jumped down from Lana's lap and strutted indignantly to her small cushion bed beneath the dinning table. She looked back at the two women before she closed her eyes as the streams of sunlight bathed her.

She returned her attention to Lana with her cherub smile in place. "It's our own fault, really. We keep making sure he followed his post storm lifestyle as he should. ROTC, Army sign-up, Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. Its that damn gift you two inherited from your grandmother, your second sight, that prevents his reliable return. Sometimes he just refuses to take the lure of the time devices from here in the present regardless how tantalizingly we present them."

The ice clinked on the bottom of the empty glass as it was set upon the table. "You keep saying, we. Who are the proverbial 'we' you refer to?"

"Some familiar faces and names from the past, who, like you and I, are also caught up in this loop. The less said, the better. You and I shall just refer to them as 'we' for now, if that's alright?"

"Ok. Let me get this right. There is a group of you, who keep trying to bring Max back through time to rectify the ripples of the past? How do you know his returning doesn't create bigger ripples?"

"The ripples were here before we started to bring Max back in time. We discovered that Max, although not the catalyst, stripped away the false time-lines, the lies, due to his relentless pursuit of ..."

"Of what? Rex? Bella? Truth, justice and the American way? What?"

"We're not sure. If we knew, we wouldn't have to keep luring him back in time. His innate sense of duty would over-ride his second sight danger sense. But whenever twenty-first century Max is in nineteen-eighty-five Max, the altered time-lines schism. Collapse or retaliate - one can never tell but whichever the outcome, more of the true time-line is restored."

"Is he even aware of his past visits in time? Maybe, like me, he can time passage between our two selves, past and present?"

Maya shrugged. "That's one theory we have. Since he doesn't have a medallion or device that allows him to exist in both time-lines, he is able to utilize the inherited gift to shift places in time. However, if this theory is true, it still has its limitations. The Max's always revert places after the storm. Your brother is a war hero here in the present. He saved countless lives, both military and civilian, during his time in the Army. This too is an immalleable fact. Incidents and locations may vary but the results remain the same."

"Great. He is always the hero where I always get stuck in a lonely, single existence or dead. That hardly seems fair."

"Until now. As I said, this time, you have a husband, children, and a comfortable life. Almost as if someone is looking after you. Perhaps in the alternate tides, whomever thought they were protecting you by keeping you under the radar. Maybe this time, things have changed and now they are nurturing you within the radar."

"So now I have a time stalking Dutch Uncle? I wish they would have chosen somebody other than Jody for me. As you said, he may be a husband and a good provider but when it comes to love ... it's sorely lacking."

"Changing subjects back to earlier. Your father entered the bedroom having picked Michael up from the airport. That never happened in the other time-lines. You put away the brooch and still own it today, also never happened before. Miss Bella spent the night in your room, which never happened before- come to think about it, you and Bella were never friends before."

"Sure we were. I've known Bella all her life. She was always just Becky's little sister. It wasn't until she started dating Max that we ..."

Maya tapped her temple three times with her index finger. "See what I mean. You and Becky were always friends. You and Becky always hung out. I bet you two still exchange Christmas cards."

"Yeah. She was also my first friend on Facebook. What's your point?"

"Another, other, first." She trace the jagged scar on her palm with slow, purposeful diligence. "You said she awoke that night in your bed from a nightmare. Tell me about that."

Lana watched Maya's fingers trace the scar on her palm, first downward then upward, in continuous motion. "We were at the house waiting for Max and Dave to come back. My father had gone to pickup Michael from the airport. I had another premonition that she shouldn't go home, especially with the storm coming on. Oh god, that was the night, wasn't it? The night you killed Justice."

"Protected Bella," she corrected. "Please continue."

"We fell asleep waiting for the boys. The storm woke me up but not Bella. We had our discussion through the mirror when she shot right up screaming. She was soaked with sweat like she had just run a marathon."

"Did she tell you about the dream?"

"After my dad left us alone. She said she was running along a tropic coast line. She was older and Max was chasing her in Michael Meyer's style, slow and steady, never running. She reached the top of a hillside cliff and he started to strangle her and that's when she realized it wasn't Max. It was Rex."

"Are you sure she said Rex or are you speculating?"

"No, she said Rex. I thought it was kinda weird too. He told her he hated her and she was the reason all the bad things were happening. Just before she blacked out from lack of air, he threw her off the cliff and she screamed as she fell to her death on the rocks below. She woke up just before impact."

"Anything else?" Maya asked while still tracing the scar on her palm.

Gripping the brooch watch from nervous habit, she rubbed its surface between her thumb and index finger at the same tempo Maya traced her scar. "I held her the remainder of the night, close to my chest and stroking her hair like I do with my kids when they've had a bad dream. Maybe it was just the power of suggestion but she smelled like the beach. The scent of salt and an herbal fragrance lingered on her. I thought at first it was her shampoo but it was all over her and even in the sweat soaked sheets."

"Did you ever talk about her nightmare afterwards? In the morning maybe?"

"I tried to but she didn't seem to remember it or the smell of the sea she left in my bed. We talked instead of her dark hair."

"Why?"

"When she got out of the shower in the morning, it struck me as odd. Like the first time I really ever noticed it."

"Yet another first. They seem to keep piling up. Sorry, continue."

"Becky and her parents all had blond hair. I knew Bea, her mom, used hair dye and I thought maybe she was a brunette, but it turns own she only used it to cover her grays. When I asked about her grandparents, they too were blonds. I knew she wasn't adopted because I remember going to the hospital with my parents when she was born to see Becky's new baby sister. We joked that she was switch at birth by an absent minded nurse, but the other two girls born that night weren't Caucasian. Bea could of had an affair but a scandal like that in our neighborhood wouldn't have stayed secret very long. Republican middle-class WASPs and all." She let the brooch fall back against her breast. "Does any of this help?"

"The nightmare she had wasn't a nightmare at all. She was in a ripple that she woke herself from. My saving her as a teen may not have ended her ordeal. As I mentioned, the tides of time often retaliate when altered or have been altered by design. We only became aware of Bella as a possible target once she got involved with Max, which hadn't happened prior to this last return. Removing Justice was thought to have ended her peril but on reflection, it may have only postponed her demise. I agree, I think it rather odd that she said Rex was her killer. In nineteen-eighty-five, she hadn't met Rex or at least not the murderous adult Rex. It's possible that by her escaping the ripple, she reset other events that occurred that even I can't see." She stopped tracing her scar and smiled. "As for her hair color -- that's probably just an interesting curiosity of genetics. Let's take your children for example. You have brown hair and Jody has blond hair but all your children have dark hair. Odds of probability state that one of them should have been blond or at least a ginger, unless their is something your not telling me?"

"Hey! I may not be in love with Jody anymore, but I kept my side of the wedding vows. He didn't. All of his late night deals and out of town conferences. I'm not stup-"

"My apologies. As I said, I was just stating the odds of probability. I'm not making any moral judgements. Trust me when I say, I am one of the last people who would be hypocritical enough to do that. I had been the other woman behind closed door during many of those late night conferences. It's not something I'm proud of but it's who I was."

Lana rose, ran he hands on her thighs to remove the dog hair, and filled her glass with more tea. "I'm sorry. I guess I'm still a little sensitive on the whole fidelity topic. I swear, men are so stupid. They believe that they can keep secrets but it always come out." She paused as she took a drink to sooth her still parched throat. "Either one of them tells when things get complicated or boring. They slip up an tell someone else. They get caught bragging to friends. They haven't figured out yet that the only way to keep a secret is if you don't have any or if neither party is aware that there is a secret."

"Wait. Say that last part again."

"The only way to keep a secret is if neither party is aware that there is a secret."

Maya swayed her head as if listening to music no one else could hear. "That's fascinating. That's insightful. That's-"

"Another first?"

"I was going to say, f@%king brilliant, but yes - another first applies as well. What if we've been looking at this all wrong? What if instead of manipulating the past, in the past, someone was doing it from here in the future? It wouldn't be a secret because you're not hiding anything in that time stream. You are retro influencing. Allowing others to correct their own mistakes. It wouldn't be perceptible or create a ripple because you aren't making the changes."

"You mean like what happened earlier. You communicated with me in the past, through me here in the future. I've thought for all these years it was just a dream but it actually happened. The secret remained hidden in plain sight."

"Yes, yes - no. That only worked because of your gift."

"But you said it yourself, Max has the gift too."

"That would be a neat trick considering he's in a coma. He can't very well influence his past if he's in a coma."

"But that's not how it works." Lana stated while she knelt in-front of Maya and held her hands. "Earlier, when you spoke to my past self, I, the here and now I, went away. I wasn't even aware of the conversation. I was a conduit not a participant. Maybe that's what's happening to Max while he lies in a coma. Maybe someone is using him as a conduit to give advise to his past self?"

"I suppose it's possible but not likely. We watch over Max whenever he goes back in case Rex, Liberty or others try to retaliate here in the future."

"Right. You're on the look out for Rex and his cronies. Are you on the look out for one of the 'we' group members? They're not there to kill him. They're there to protect him. Someone like me, my mother or my kids wouldn't raise an eyebrow. One of your own wouldn't raise an eyebrow either - would they?"

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Tue May 16, 2017 10:17 pm 
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A new chapter

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The Life of Gloria (or How Gloria Lost Her G)

In the fall of '85

Once upon a time there lived a sweet girl who was a true dark beauty. Her dark hair hung low and canvased the olive skin of her face and neck. Her dark eyebrows furrowed over her stunning eyes of dark azure. Her features were akin to being Romanesque or Greco, which was surprising because her family was British. Although her mother always professed it was her families Black Irish ancestry, some say her mother secretly had an affair with a Mediterranean importer/exporter or a swarthy Spanish diplomat.

This dark vixen's name was Gloria. She was a resilient type, always with a smile and a chuckle. When her school mates would rib her about the song Gloria (the Laura Branigan song, circa 1982), that song echoed in her head but, she took it like a trooper. Also, other kids would poke fun by reminding her of Gloria Bunker( acted by Sally Struthers) . Through it all, she grinned and bared it. She kept reminding herself, 'kids can be cruel, its part of High School, they will grow out of it.' It lightly grated on her, at times.

Her full name, by the by and to be exact, was Gloria Luna Light. She worked in Billings Theater for 3 years before she joined Max's posse. She pined for Max from afar, even pretty girls can be shy. Though 3 years older, she never had the nerve to approach him, even with the knowledge that Max liked her too. She then did approach him on that one special day. It was a freak thing but it worked out. She didn't even mind Bella being a third wheel, "she was kinda cute," she thought to herself. Besides, the thought of a 3-some was enticing, well at least for a short period. She'd even allow Bella to hang around, until she could devise a plan to get Max all to herself.

3 decades later ...

Gloria Light is all grown up. She was the head of the Metro Banking firm. She wanted to cut some ties to her past so she erased the G from her first name: thus: Loria Light lives on (the Dark/ Black Queen). Loria looked in the mirror, noting that she was still the dark beauty after all these years. She just looked a little more weathered though also more refined in her dark jacket and skirt. Loria smiled a white devious grin of pearls, thinking to herself that she can have anyone and own anything she wanted. She was in the penthouse office (floor 30) of her high rise.

How did she get here? How did she become the dark queen, you ask? Those questions and more will be answered quite soon...


Doc, great image, thanks.
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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 6:19 am 
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Greetings All,

I'm glad to see this thread getting some attention again. Both with the return of Doc M & new additions by Mr. Z.
I did a little creative clean up for you Mr. Z using one of the hidden BB Codes: 2col
You may also note that a new BB code was added to the selection bar as requested: pte1

Keep up the good work guys.

Have Fun & Happy Posting,

Phineas J. Whoopee


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 7:58 pm 
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Nicely done Mr. Z - looking forward to the rest.

Nice layout framing, PJ. I forgot about the 2coloum blog tag. That looks very cool.

Thanks for adding the pte1 bbcode.


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 8:40 pm 
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I am truly honored, Mr. Whoopee that you used one of the hidden BB Codes: 2col. Very eye catching, I think it will keep interest high , if we utilize this device more. And thank you for the : PTE is #1 bbcode.

Thanks Dr. M for improving my story, I caught it ( wink). Please feel free to do that more often, it adds great depth and detail.

Z

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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 9:32 pm 
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Back in Time

Gloria or more precisely: Gloria L. Light, grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. She never had to wake up worrying where her next meal was coming from. She never, ever had to worry about monetary needs. Her raven hair was coiffed at the finest salons in Metro City. Her perfumes were precisely selected and imported from Paris. Her closet was filled with the finest name brands. Her linen was constructed from the highest thread count and her room was adorned with the most modern accessories Japan had to offer. Whether it was her television, VCR, stereo or even the digital alarm clock, nothing was out-dated by more than 3 years. Her only cause for concern was living up to her parents expectations and their most coveted respect; especially that of her father.

As obvious by now, her parents were filthy rich though they did not start out that way. Industrious and ruthless business people who once struggled to make a dollar in the old country had found bountiful prosperity in America. They were poor and meager immigrants of factory workers and farmers when they arrived to the US of A in the late fifties. Neither had met before but both were kindred souls. Raised to understand and appreciated the ethics of hard work, they applied this desire to their new found homeland and advantages it had to offer. Finding each other in the urban jungle, they made each other their own and by hook or by crook, made their fortunes. They expected, often demanded, the same "ethics" from their offspring. This expectation was most daunting on Gloria, who was the oldest and by tradition was required to accept the most responsibility.

Even though the Lights were millionaires by the time Gloria was born, they pinched a penny as far as a penny could be pinched. Being raise poor themselves, they took nothing for granted and maintained a steadfast paranoia that their fortune could overnight be wiped away. Yes, they were generous to their children to a fault. Yet, each child was required to hold down jobs in which to further instill a strong, independent self worth.

Gloria's first job was a lemonade stand owner at age 9. Figuring herself destined as an entrepreneur, she then became a babysitter with a steady clientèle at age 13. By age 16, as soon as it was legal to do so, she ran out to get application forms from all the local businesses in Metro City. After many heart breaking rejections, that claimed she lacked the required experience, J.T. Billings, owner of the multiplex theater, personally called her at her home to inform her he approved her application. He admired her self-starter attitude, however, due to her age, she had to start work from the bottom up. She worked as an aisle clean up crew member, then as an usherette, where she could put her good looks and charm to better use. Old Mr. Billings took quite a shine to gorgeous Gloria. He flirted with the pubescent but never took it farther then words. He did, however, ensure that she was briskly promoted and, some protested, gave her unfair raises. As always, Gloria was raised to be a lady at all times and took the petty snides as yet more jealous remarks from those who did not put their best effort forward. Her talent was recognized and she was compensated accordingly. Her long term goal, by age 18, was to become Billing's Assistant Manager. Unknown to her, his plan was to make her front ticket taker so that she would attract clients with her youthful sexiness. Again, it may have been inappropriate, due to her being a minor but he was using her to attract others and detract from his own lecherous desires.

By outward appearance, the Lights led, more or less, a traditional family life with the occasional hick up. There was even a darker side to her story. As mentioned, her parents were authoritarian when it came to child rearing but there was more. Her father secretly abused and berated her. His thick old country brogue, that he never lost, made his verbal attacks extra demeaning to her young psyche. Making harsh comments such as, "You are not my blood. Look at you, you do not even look like me." Often times he would raise the sleeve of his dress shirt and compare his fair skin to her tanned extremity. As time dragged on, his suspicions had gotten the best of him. "You hardly look like your younger brother and sister," he contemptuously commented at any opportunity. "Gloria ... pfft. I never even got a say in what name to call you. It was all your mother's decision, that was, not mine."

After many heartbreaking years, there reached a point where Gloria had a notion to change her name; because her father made her dislike it so. Although Gloria was a resilient girl, the daily abuse from her father, his daily harangues combined with Billing's creepy behavior, slowly but surely changed Gloria Light to the Dark side. Dropping the Luna altogether, she decided on a newer, double barrel name to go with her double barrel attitude. Thus, Loria Light was born.

Spring of 2008

Reintroduction to one, Ms. Loria Light. A mature dark beauty in an equally dark sophisticated suit. In her left hand, she dangled an impossibly black digital pocket watch from its gold and diamond chain. Upon the watches face were inset 3 perfect diamonds forming a perfect pyramid. Loria was transfixed on the digital time piece.
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Unread postPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 10:13 pm 
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The Dark Queen Emerges

Loria began spinning the watch counter clockwise from its fob and chain with slow, steady rotations. The diamonds refracted the room light creating intricate geometric patterns that lived briefly before the rotation erased their existence. A silky sleek black cat, that she referred to as Nimbus, watched the tiny light show with great interest from her perch beside her masters left hand. While Nimbus fixated on the spinning lights, Loria remained transfixed on the center of the watches triangle which had 3 rows containing digitally displayed information in blood red clarity.

The 1st, top, row contained the time in 24 hour format: 00:00. The 2nd, middle, row displayed the date: 10-23-1985. The 3rd, bottom, row displayed the location the time was set for: Metro City-USA. With a simple press of the fob button atop of the time piece, one can be transported to the set destination. A time, date and trajectory that beckoned to the auspicious devices owner.

Stopping the watches spin with her right hand, Nimbus simultaneously duplicated her master's action. Sharing a knowing glance, she positioned her manicured porcelain white tipped thumb upon the fob ready to press the button. It was precisely at this same moment the intercom chime rang on her desk phone. She let it ring 3 times before pressing the speaker button, answering with a mild annoyance in her tone, "Yes?"

A warm female voice replied, "Ms. Light, your 3 o'clock is here."

Debating for a moment on pushing the watches button or inviting her appointment in, she began stroking Nimbus' luxuriously soft fur contemplating her options. Finally, taking a deep breath, she smiled before responding in a positive, professional tone, "Yes, Agnes, let them in."

The tall onyx and mahogany door swung open. Entering the room, with a small white box in his left hand, sashayed Michael Seconds. His body language exuded the air of someone better fitted for a Hollywood movie set than a penthouse office. He stood 6' 3", had thick brown hair, slightly graying at the temples, and looked debonair in his charcoal gray with gold pin striped suit. Approaching her desk smiling, he asked in a deep, baritone voice, "Ready for Seconds?"

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Unread postPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 8:48 pm 
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The police cruiser dipped violently as its right tire plunged in and then out of the rain filled pothole. In the backseat, its lone passenger recoiled from the sudden action and awakened him from his medicated slumber. His eyes strained to visualize his surroundings as the cloudy feeling in his head matched the weather outside his transport. He sat up from his reclined position and discovered his wrists were secured behind his back. A strong, overwhelming smell of feces filled his nostrils while the steady, repetitive knocking of the wiper blades counted off the passing seconds. Between himself and the driver was a diamond cut black grate providing a barrier between the two compartments.

"Where are we going, Klein?"

"Sol," replied the driver as he glanced in the rear view mirror.

"Eeeh, god. What is that smell, Solomon? Does everything your kind owns smell like shite?"

"Sol -- not Solomon." He corrected while he sharply turned the corner. The sudden change of inertia forced his passenger roughly against the right-hand door panel. "I figured you would be most comfortable in the back of a K9 unit since you can't tell the difference between dogs. Tell me, does that excrement aroma smell German enough for you?"

"I wasn't referring to the dog smell, Jew boy." Fritz looked down at his legs. He remembered the cleaver wound he had sustained earlier that evening from his driver. His leg felt bandaged and numb but was hidden beneath a pair of camouflage pants. He roved his eyes up and down from chest to feet. He noted his attire was now that of black combat boots and a matching turtleneck sweater. "I see we stopped in the garment district to pick me up some new clothes. I like the sweater, not the pants so much. Didn't have anything in black? Your people seem to wear a lot of it, Solomon."

"Sol, not Solomon. I'm not Hebrew or Israeli."

"Well how the hell am I supposed to be able to figure that out." Fritz positioned himself closer to the grate between them. "Just listen to you and that thick I-don't-know-what accent of yours. Christ, it hurts my ears just listening to you. How long have you been in America anyway? Five Years? Ten Years? Longer?"

"As long as you - maybe longer."

"That's what I'm getting at. Your kind comes to this country and you don't even try to blend in. Sure, you may learn the language but listen to yourself. You still sound like a foreigner. Where as I, I rid myself of my accent to better blend in. I worked on it everyday. Listening to television newscasters and radio disk jockeys until I got it just right. Until I blended."

"You sound Canadian not American."

"But I don't sound like a foreigner ... an outsider. All they hear is an undiluted middle American accent that makes them feel comfortable when I talk to them."

"I doubt you make anyone feel comfortable once they hear your hate mongering. With or without an accent."

"The point I'm making is you have been here for years and have never tried to become more American. Never tried to blend in. Me, I blend. You sound like, I don't know what? Arabic ... Lebanese ... Kurdish? Come on, Solomon, help me out here. Tell me when I'm getting warm. Syrian ... Turkish-"

The cruiser skidded to an abrupt stop which forced Fritz's head against the grate before it projected him backward into his seat.

"Sol. Short for Solkasian. I'm Armenian you asshole."

"Armenian?" Fritz replied almost as a laugh. "There's some of you left? I figured between the Turks and Soviets, your kind would have been eradicated by now. Your insipid sect were considered so insignificant, you weren't even included as part of the final solution."

The cruiser began to move forward. Slow at first but it steadily increased its speed down the wind and rain hampered street. Sol stared through the rain covered window as the wiper blades continued in their steady rhythm. "Do you see this, Fritz. We are like the rain drops and your kind is like the wiper blades. As hard as you try to wipe us out, we are still here. Your kind is man-made. Your kind wears out, needs to be replaced and discarded over time. Whereas we are of nature, of god, of a higher power. We will remain steadfast and constant because these three things are stronger than anything man-made."

Fritz leaned his head back and stared out the rear window to examine the storm laden sky. "Possibly. But being a force of nature, you and yours will be gone with this storm. Whereas we, we will remain diligent and ready for use upon your return. Ready to wipe away you and all your mongrel diluted blooded vermin as fast as you fall. We only need to wait for the sun to finally purge you from the earth after we have done our job."

"So you are equating the sun, a force of nature, to your delusional 'Final Solution,' which was also created by man?"

His mouth was dry and his tongue felt thick. "God helps those that help themselves."

"Will those be the words on your lips come judgment day? The 'I was only following orders' defense no longer applies when no one is issuing orders. What you have done and continue to do is by your own volition."

"What did you drug me with? It seems to only get stronger."

"An anti-psychotic but not to fear, it was invented by your people, German scientists. The more violent and hateful your thoughts become, the more the biochemical levels in your body are elevated. Your own hatred feeds the drugs potency."

"An attempt to cure me of my hateful thoughts. To make me feel what it must be like to be a lesser being?"

"No, you already understand that you are your own worst enemy. Human beings don't treat others that way unless they see their own failures in those they despise."

A small quantity of bile rose in his throat as he swallowed hard to suppress it from his mouth.

"Even now you fight your own nature not to be hateful. Not to be cruel."

Fritz sucked his lips in and out to build saliva to coat his mouth. "This is just a short term effect. It does not - will not - change me or my opinion of you and your fellow subspecies."

"Perhaps not, but the only person your thoughts harm now is yourself." Sol again glanced in the rear view and watched the drug make Fritz convulse from his own hatred. "Even now you fight what you know to be in your own best interest but you just can't help yourself. You're like a junkie looking for another fix but we both know the undeniable truth. There is no reversing your fifty year addiction to hate and loathing."

"Then why the drugs? Why even try?"

"In an attempt to make you more socially tolerable. More human."

His head rested, slightly tilted back-wards, as the pharmaceuticals muddled his mind. His strength and mobility were also impaired, both by restraints and the narcotics inflected upon him. Outside the window, he watched the maelstrom continue its fury. A small poster with the letters, DSoOz, briefly stuck to the window before being peeled away by the winds and rain. Lightning flashed bright and blinding before thunder filled the outside air. The rear window behaved as a mirror which revealed to Fritz his own reflection for the first time. His hair had been colored deep brown and most of his wrinkles had nearly vanished. "What the hell is this? What have you done to my hair and face?"

"Shoe polish and hemorrhoid cream. I thought you'd want to blend better before you met your maker."

The torrent of rain water rushed along the curbed gutter which created a small lagoon where the curbside and drive entry formed a break. Large plumes of water sprayed out from the half engulfed tires as the cruiser turned into the Metro City High School parking lot.

"The high school. What are we doing here?"

Coming to a stop besides the only other car in the parking stalls, Sol placed his arm on the back support of this chair and turned to face Fritz. In a spot-on, southern revivalist preacher's accent and patter, he proclaimed, "Givin' Gaw-da ... a little assistance ... by helpin' those, who are in need of help."

"Cute."

"Yes, yes I am." Sol placed the police cruiser in park, turned off the engine, and unbuckled his safety belt. "But do I sound more American? Do I blend?"


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Unread postPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 2:04 pm 
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The Obtuse Man

The tiny brass bell violently rang as the glass storefront door slammed opened. The smell of stale tobacco mixed with the mildew of decades old carpet and permeated the air with an odor of decay, unique unto itself, yet still oddly familiar. Nicotine rimmed outlines where advertisement posters and product pictures once hung stained the dingy rose design wallpaper. The beige butcher paper used to cover the windows had drooped from age and allowed vague glimpses of the outside world. Bright bursts of bluish white light created by the lightning streamed through the window paper gaps. The light, in turn, reflected from the empty glass display cases which cast strange malformed shadows throughout the room. The items once held within the cases had been long since been removed but the faint, sun bleached outlines of these items still remained. The rain water that had leaked through the roof before it soaked through the ceiling tiles, slowly filled the multitude of white plastic buckets that were scattered throughout. A somber, dolorous tone echoed with each non-synchronous drip. The tiny brass bell resounded once more as the door was forcefully closed.

"Hello! Is their anyone here?" McNulty cried out as he brushed the rain from his hounds-tooth coat. "I'm not a burglar. I was merely trying to peer through the window when the storm flung the door open."

He waited yet received no response. As he circumnavigated the five gallon buckets and empty display cases, he could hear the water logged carpet squish beneath his brown wing-tipped Oxfords. He stopped at the counter top where the remnants of a plastic cover with green elastic bindings was fitted over an old cash register. He reached into his inner breast pocket and retrieved an old matchbook that had dampened in the rain. He pried a dry stick from its cardboard brethren and struck it upon the dry corner of the sandpaper strip. Obstinately, the match sparked and sputtered before a red flame rose from the white sulphur tip. Cupped in his hand, he slowly raised the match to examine the cash register.

"You won't find any cash in there, buddy. You're just wasting your time." Announced a voice somewhere within the darkness.

McNulty recovered his composure from the sudden surprise. "I called out but nobody answered. I said I wasn't a burglar."

"And there you are examining the cash register," the voice replied matter-of-factually. "Leads me to believe you're a liar as well as a thief."

He shook his hand to extinguish the match. "I'm no thief, I tell you. Obviously the store has been closed for some time now. How obtuse do you think I am?"

"Well lets see. Its past two in the morning and you are prowling around a business that has been closed for years. Yet, when you break in, you call out and announce yourself expecting a response."

"I explained, the wind blew it open."

"Yeah. Right after you said you're not a burglar."

"That's correct."

"An intelligent honest man would have closed the door and been on his way. A smart man wouldn't have just walked in. At the very least, a man with any common sense what-so-ever wouldn't be out in a storm of this magnitude without a raincoat or an umbrella."

"Umbrellas - fascinating fact. Did you know that they were invented by the Chinese over fifty-five hundred years ago? They were made of oil paper and bamboo but basically the concept is the same today as it was then. Imagine that, would ya. Fifty-five hundred years and they haven't really changed in all that time. Now you think about that? Fifty-five hundred-"

A hard metallic slide-click-slide sound emitted in the air louder than the drops of water or the shrill tenor of McNulty's voice. "That's the sound of a forty-five semi-automatic pistol being cocked and loaded. It was invented in nineteen-eleven by John Moses Browning. With the exception of a few ergonomic modifications, it's pretty much the same design. Fully loaded with up to eight Smith and Wesson bullets, its weighs approximately two pounds. It requires less than six pounds of trigger pressure to make it fire and blow your jaw-flappin' head clean off your pencil neck. Now you think about that."

McNulty raised his hands to match the height of his shoulders. "Hold on a minute, friend. This is just a huge misunderstanding of incidental events. The owner of this establishment and I are old friends."

"Name... give me a name?"

"Potts. Belasco Potts."

A single, bombastically loud, gunshot was fired into the cash register. Bits of metal and plastic cover flew from the antiquated machine. "Your name, stupid. I know who owned this shop."

"McNulty," he replied with a quiver in his voice. "Patrick Thomas but my friends just call me-"

"Mister Obtuse. That's what I'm goin' to call you. Any objections?"

McNulty grimaced, "No. None. After all, a rose is a rose by any other name."

"You ain't no rose, Mister Obtuse. Not by any stretch of the imagination."

Milky drops of water began to fall from the ceiling tile above McNulty. The tiny rivulets struck the top of his buzz-cut ginger head with increased repetition. "I'm just gonna take a step to avoid this, okay?"

"First intelligent thing I've seen you do."

"As I said, Potts and I are old friends," he stated as he brushed the clumps of chalk particles from his hair. "I've misplaced a watch he gave me twenty odd years ago. Being that it was made here, in this shop, I came to check if maybe someone brought it here. Maybe for repair."

"Was it broken?"

"Superficial crack to the crystal. Possibly some misalignments to the internal mechanism."

"Complications."

"I assume there may have been some."

"Complications are the internals of a watch, Mister Obtuse."

"I knew that."

"Liar."

"Would it be alright if I put my arms down now? My fingers are losing sensations."

"I never told you to put them up. I just assumed you were a coward and, like a puppy, decided to show me your belly as a form of submission."

Lowering his arms, he shook them to get the blood flow started. "Actually it was more of a cat's nature. Did you know that's the reason why cats walk with their tail up in the air. It's a signal to other cats that they come in peace when entering another's territory. Now you think about that for a moment-"

Another gunshot echoed as a second bullet entered the cash register. The machine tumbled off the counter and crashed to the ground with a half splat, half thud. Upon impact, the register's bell rang as the drawer popped open.

This time, McNulty saw the muzzle flash and identified the location of his conversational host. "You're right. Cats and dogs are like religion and politics. Best not discussed in polite company."

"Six and one ..."

"Half a dozen to another."

"No! Christ, do you even know how to shut up!?!" The tone from the voice in the darkness had changed from minor agitation to near rage. "Six bullets and only one target - you - Mister 'I can't shut the hell up to save my own life' Obtuse." The voice paused to gain composure. "Now, I've got a series of questions for you and you better hope I like what I hear because, depending upon your answers, either I shoot you in your smug face or you get to walk out of here with your know-it-all intellect intact. Nod if you understand me."

Perhaps for the first time in his life, McNulty nodded rather than speak his affirmation.

"What is your real purpose for being here?"

"To locate my watch or, at the very least, find Potts."

"Why at two-something in the morning? Why not wait till morning - and if you say it is morning, I swear to god I'm goin' to shoot you."

Lightning crackled and thunder vibrated the building. The waterlogged ceiling tile from earlier fell to the wet carpet beneath.

"As I already explained, I was checking if Potts or maybe his son still owned this shop when the door just blew open. I only just got back in town tonight and was verifying if my memory of this shops location was accurate."

"Where had you been if you just got back tonight?"

McNulty chose his words carefully. "Stuck between time ... zones. Yeah, you know, East Coast and Central time. My home office had me-"

"Liar. The trains and and highways have been shut down since yesterday due to the storm. Hell, even the airport is closed and all flights grounded. You need to start tellin' me the truth, Mister Obtuse or Misters Browning, Smith and Wesson here are goin' to start puttin' holes in that ugly sports coat."

"Okay, okay. I've been around, alright. Stuck ... doing time."

"An ex-con, then. That would certainly explain your attire. Did you escape, Mister Obtuse?"

Again, he chose his words carefully. "No, I was legitimately set free. Stroke of midnight if you want an exact time."

"Seems an odd time to release a prisoner."

He shrugged, "I didn't set the rules nor did I question the decision. The doors were opened and I walked out a free man. Free for the first time in twenty years. If you were in my position, I don't think you would have asked questions either."

"So, you're tellin' me, the first thing you did upon release was come here looking for a broken old watch? What, you have no wife or kids to go home to?"

"Funny thing that. I never found the time."

"Maybe you shouldn't have broken your stopwatch?"

"Yeah, well, no sense crying over spilt milk," he replied instinctively before he replayed the question in his head. "Wait, wait, you said stopwatch. I never told you it was a stopwatch. I never told you anything about the watch. For all you knew, it could have been a wristwatch?"

"True but we both know it isn't. Ain't that right, Mister Obtuse?"

"Have we met before? Do I know you?"

"No on both counts."

"But you know me?"

"You forget yourself, Mister Obtuse. I hold the gun, I get to ask the questions, but I guess there is always an exception to the rule, isn't there?"

"It's the exceptions that validate the rules. How do you know me?"

"You are the ultimate cautionary tale when it comes to time manipulation. The poster boy as to 'what not to do.' It's funny when you think about it. You always tried to impress people with your knowledge only to become yourself a tool for others to learn by. But I guess once a tool, always a tool."

"Patrick Thomas McNulty is no tool!"

"Au contraire. You are the biggest tool, or should I say fool, and your failure to see this fact only validates it truth."

"What fact? You hide in the dark with a gun, apparently know all about me, but don't even have the courage to confront me."

"Fact, you squandered the power of the watch on petty self serving indulgences. Fact, you didn't even try to fix the watch yourself. Fact, you discarded the watch soon after breaking it."

McNulty shook his head negatively. "No. That's not true. Well, maybe the first part is but I did try to fix it and I didn't just discard it. I went to the library that day and found a book on watch repair. I placed the stopwatch on the page as a bookmark. When I went down in the basement, to the maintenance office, I searched for those tiny precision tools. You know the ones. Flathead and Philips drivers and some tweezers. Then suddenly, without warning, I became trapped. Time had started again without me. Do you know what it's like to be trapped between seconds? To exist out of phase with the world around you. You can shoot me if you want to, but, you think about that. Long and hard and ask yourself what you would do to get that time back? To find away to reverse it, would you steal for it? Would you kill for it?"

"If we are talking about me, yes. Yes I would and yes I have. But you, Mister Obtuse, what about you? Are those just words of anger that carry no more weight than the air in which they are spoken or is there a hint of conviction behind them? You don't strike me as a man of action or of passion. Talk, talk, talk but when it comes down to it, could you really steal for those years back, kill if necessary?"

An evil sneer crossed McNulty's thin lips. "Yes."

"If you're serious and you really have the balls you think you have, I'll give you a chance. The only chance you'll ever get to regain those years, Mister Obtuse."

"McNulty! Patrick Thomas McNulty not Mister Obtuse!"

"No! Mister Obtuse. You want your name back, you have to earn it. You inherited that name from your father and his father before him but I'm not your daddy. If you want me to call you, McNulty, Mister Obtuse, you need to prove to me you deserve the right to that name."

"You give me that chance you spoke of and I'll prove to you I can earn it back."

A short pause followed as the rain collided with the exterior windows. Their impact sounded like tiny hand claps of applause. The wind whistled its approval through the gaps in the door seams as the thunder roared like the cheer of the crowd.

"Very well then. Three-twenty-three Poplar Street. Second floor, east bedroom. There's a brooch watch there that doesn't just stop time, it allows one to travel in it. It belongs to a teenage girl who doesn't even know what power it contains. And you want to know the best part of it, Mister Obtuse, the irony of it all? Her last name is Seconds. The very thing you were once trapped within."

The storms pressure exerted upon the glass door forced it open again. The doors impact against the wall contained such momentum, it knocked the tiny brass bell off its holder and across the darkened room. The lightning illuminated the early morning sky like a beacon which beckoned to any who was willing to follow its signal.

"Your destiny awaits, Mister Obtuse. You only need to find the nerve to seize upon it. Take it! Kill for it if necessary."

McNulty looked at the open door, then back to his host in the darkness. The sound of something metallic and heavy was placed at the end of the counter before him. It made the chalkboard scratch sound as it slid across the glass display case and stopped before him: The Browning forty-five semi-automatic.

"Go earn your life back, Mister Obtuse. Go earn your name back."

McNulty placed the pistol and the matchbook, which he had been holding this whole time, in his coat's inner breast pocket. He was surprised how well it fit, almost as if the pocket was tailored specifically for the gun. "Three-twenty-three Poplar Street?"

"Second floor, east bedroom."

He flipped the collar of his sports coat up before he hastily exited the store. He never looked back, never wavered, never paused to seek shelter. He was driven with one all consuming thought, the brooch watch at three-twenty-three Poplar Street.

Rex stepped into the doorway of the store and stared at the small man who ran down the sidewalk. "God speed, Mister Obtuse. Your destiny awaits."


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The Dark Queen's Court

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Briskly walking down the metropolitan sidewalk, the man in the black leather trench coat hastened. His black tailored suit was Italian in origin, complete with old-world pleats and cuffs. Glistening in the morning light, his scrimshawed pearl cuff links accented his ivory silk scarf and matching band on his equally black fedora. In his right hand was a silver wolf's head ebony cane that fell in thoughtless syncopation with his stride. The echoing sound of the tapping from its silver tip filled the surrounding air, alerting all within his vicinity to his natural born authority.

Tapping the brass plaque with his fingers for superstitious luck before entering the revolving door to the L.L. Ltd. Building, his style and grace was only amplified in the reflective counter charged marble flooring. Using his cane to press the elevators 'UP' button while rocking on the heels and toes of his patent leather boots, he timed the lift using his single reflex white gold wristwatch. Tipping his hat to the ladies who exited, he commanded, "Penthouse," to the young operator before stepping inside the mirrored lift. Continuing his rocking heel to toe, he impatiently used his cane to press the 'CLOSE DOOR' button before repeating his command to the lift operator, "Penthouse."

Meanwhile, inside the penthouse office on the 30th floor, Loria's hungry blue eyes devoured her visitor, one, Michael Seconds. The gold pinstripes of the fashionable suit accented his carefree stride, giving a glistening nuance in the dim light of her immense office.

"Well," he asked having not yet received a response to his earlier question. "Are you ready for Seconds?"

"Oooh. You know me too well," she punctuated her words with a feline growl as she placed the pocket watch into her jacket pocket. "I always love a man who is punctual. And I must say, Mr. Seconds, you are ..." She paused for 3 seconds and emphasized her concluding word, "Punctual."

Nearly tearing the lapel from his collar as she pulled him closer, her lush scarlet lips found his eager waiting mouth as they entwined their bodies together. Using the long locks of her raven hair on the back of her scalp, he pulled her head back and began kissing the nape of her neck and slowly, passionately worked his way lower. He tossed the small white box upon the desk, never detracting from his current objective. Wrapping his now free hand around her lower back, he slowly tilted her backwards as his lips travel ever downward.

Suddenly, the office door flew open. Without warning, Agnes, her executive assistant, burst into the room nearly knocking over the pedestalled vase.

Now, contrary to the vision the name implies, Agnes was not a gray haired spinster wrapped in a woolly cardigan, wearing orthopedic shoes and locked behind thick coke bottle glasses. In actuality, she was a very lovely young woman who was sabotaged by her private boarding school upbringing. She had the shape and curves a swimsuit model would try to surgically buy hidden under an elaborate lack of self esteem. Her auburn hair desperately needed both styling and conditioning. It was often unkempt and simply bulled back into a loose off-centered bun held together with a whalebone hair clip. Her daily fashion sense ran more to that of an 8th grade decoupage than a mid twenties business professional. Long, Laura Engels bangs in front and at least 2 pencils pushed awkwardly through her bun in back. She wore vintage cats eye glasses that were popularly referred to as Catholic Birth Control. Unfamiliar with the process of properly applying make-up, she seldom wore any save lip gloss and mascara. To say she dressed shabbily would be unkind. Usually attired in ill-fitting, boring gray suits with billowy dress shirts, which, subconsciously revealed she did have romantic desires, she keep the top 3 buttons undone.

However, Agnes did have her charms regardless of her purposeful self-imposed dourness. Her pristine porcelain face was the most affected. She had rosie pink cheeks, a fashion model smile that intensified her exquisite bone structure. This usually went unnoticed by most solely based upon her nerdy 1st impression. For those who made it past that initial hurdle soon discovered she had the cutest dimples that would form when she smiled, but rarely did. Looking past the eye wear faux par revealed the bluest of eyes. That blue typically associated when one thinks of or says the word: blue. Held within, one would believe they contained their own light source that sparkled when her mood required. Underneath the mousy exterior was a strong woman used to dealing with rash impertinence of Loria's guests who believe they can walk all over her, but soon discover how mistaken their 1st impression could be. She could be as confrontational as a prizefighter and seldom showed anything less than a dominating high pressure professional attitude her station required.

Loria shot a most disdainful look at the unannounced and inopportune invader. "This better be good, Agnes."

"It's the Chancellor," she stammered beneath clenched teeth, a recognizable sign she was her losing her patience with the visitor. "He's in the waiting room."

Loria slapped Michael's shoulder as a hint to stop. "Of course he is."

"I told him he didn't have an appointment but ... he was rather insistent."

Michael straightened Loria and released his impassioned hold upon her. "I take it we will have to continue this later?"

Pulling the gold pocket square from his jacket, she wiped her smeared lipstick from around her mouth. "Rain check, my pet. This time I promise."

He removed the hankie from her hand and continued removing the lipstick himself. "Promises, promises. That's all I ever get from you."

"This time I mean it." She ran her finger across her left breast in teasing fashion. "Cross my heart."

"What shall I tell the Chancellor?" Agnes interrupted with urgency.

"Inform him I'm finishing with my 3 o'clock appointment and it will be just a few minutes. Offer him some coffee and cakes while he waits."

Agnes hesitated, poising her hand around the vase to ensure it would not fall before leaving, closing the door behind her.

Loria looked at Michael longingly. She smiled and raised her eyebrows playfully. "So, what's in the box?"

"You know, I never seem to get to find out?"

"Ooh," she purred while quickly adjusting her hair in the windows reflection. "Not my box, you wicked boy, the one you placed on my desk."

"Oh, that. A present I found in L.A. Something from our childhood with a little kink to it."

"Kink you say? Color me intrigued." Picking up the box, she shook it it slightly before removing the lid. "A Rubix Snake?"

"A gem encrusted Rubix Snake I'd like to point out. The saleswoman swore to me it would be like a trip down memory lane."

"Saleswoman?"

"Don't pretend your jealous. Just promise you'll call me so we can continue where we left off."

"I promise, Michael, I promise."

Turning, he crossed the room is his casual stride. Reaching for the door handle, the door suddenly burst open. The Chancellor barged into the room, never acknowledging Michael's presence as he marched passed.

Nimbus awakened from her seat on the couch and hissed her feline disapproval for both the Chancellor and his unwelcome visit to her domicile. While Agnes reprimanded the Chancellor for his impertinence from the doorway, Michael place his thumb and pinky to his cheek and mouthed, "Call me."

"Chancellor, how lovely to see you again. We were just finishing. How may I help you?"

Without looking up, the Chancellor swiveled the meticulous bezel on his watch before announcing:

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:22 pm 
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The Magic Night Mix: Side One

The pink flexi-straw slid easily between her full lips as the warm blast of cherry cola and rum shot into her mouth. Gloria never realized how much she hated her apartment lifestyle until the storm knocked out the power. At home, or rather her parents house, she had her little brother and sister to occupy the time. Now, out on her own, she was left to fend for herself on nights like these. She couldn't watch television. She couldn't listen to the radio. If not for her Walkman and the fireplace, she would be alone, in the dark, in silence except for the storm. Its not that she disliked the rain or the thunder, but she preferred to be next to a nice warm body she could rub up against. The sound of the rain, the crackle of the fire and its warmth upon her skin alway made her long for another's touch. As of recently, one particular person's touch.

Sitting cross-legged in her white satin and lace camisole before her fireplace, she swayed to the music of her mixed tape. While track three, Imaginary Lovers by Atlanta Rhythm Section, played with stereophonic seduction, she couldn't help but close her eyes and let her mind drift back to that night a month ago. The night that, for the first time, she had ever felt truly like a woman. Was made love to like a lady in need of love not just lustful release. The passion and yearning so often expressed in sonnets, written about in her romance novels, sung about in love songs, had become real for her. She could feel those tingles surge through her body again as the music brought the memory back. The way he caressed her in his strong hands. The way he showered her with warm, experienced kisses. The way her body responded to his every touch, stroke, and wanton desire as the music, this music, played on like it had on that night. That perfect, unforgettable night she never wanted to end. The night before they came between them.

The last of her cola and rum mixture struggled past the air pocket in the straw but she could not hear its reverberative gurgle in the glass tumbler. She opened one eye, peered at the emptiness within its confines and frowned. Initially reluctant to leave the fireplace's warmth, she exhaled, rose into a ballet Releve stance, then transitioned to a Saute position in time with the music. The dance started at the fireplace, swiftly crossed the living room as it moved towards the kitchen with a fluid group of arabesques and pirouettes. The ballet continued from ice cube replacement, to liquid replenishment, to the insertion of the straw into the glass and, for the finale, the straw to her lips. She sucked, swallowed, smiled and sang along with the music, "Satisfaction guaranteed."

Her body shimmered like the wet pavement outside her apartment in the moonlight. Reflections from the fireplaces gas flamed logs danced within the tiny droplets. She dabbed her perspiration with the decorative towel that hung from the refrigerator handle. As she patted down her olive toned neck and cleavage, an item on the fridge's door caught her attention. Held in position with a magnetic frame was a five-by-seven group snapshot of her friends in front of the high school. Max and David were positioned in the center. Lana rested her head on David's shoulder whereas she rested her head on Max's. Everyone else were paired as couples in front and around them except Bella. She stood before both David and Max, each with a hand placed upon her shoulders, alone and unpaired. 'Third-Wheel Bella,' she thought as she rubbed her thumb on Bella's face in a conscious attempt to remove her image from the picture. 'You were the first to try to come between us. But just look at you, poised in the middle waiting for leftovers. You and your stupid puppy-dog eyes and little girl lost expression on your face.' She rubbed the image harder but, try as she might, the image of Bella did not fade. She pounded her hand on the fridge as she yelled at the photograph, "He's mine, Bella. Just go away. Go away!"

As if on cue, track four, Year of the Cat by Al Stewart started as Cumulus, her white Siamese cat, jaunted from the guest room with tail held high. Cumulus rubbed against Gloria's bare legs, her rough tongue licked the salty beads of sweat gathered at the back of her knee. Gloria held her hand above the counter and made silent repetitive finger-snaps. Cumulus jumped atop the counter knowing that her master's attention was now hers.

"Where have you been, my little moggy?" She asked while she scratched Cumulus down the back from neck to tail. Placing the tumbler on the counter, she lifted the cat into her arms. "What mischief have you been up to? Have you been in Aunt Loria's room again?"

Cumulus diverted her baby-blue eyes, burying her head against Gloria's chest. Her purrs and mews grew louder but still betrayed nothing of her misdeeds.

Gloria detached the magnetically adhered flashlight from the side of the fridge, turned it on, and entered the guest bedroom. The glow of the fireplace light ended just outside the rooms threshold which left the yellowish beam the sole source of light. The drapes were still pulled tight as Loria was not a morning person. On the nightstand was a half drank glass of champagne, long since gone flat, with a scarlet lipstick stain on the rim. She turned the beam to examine the dresser and closet when Cumulus frantically jumped from her arms. She aimed the beam at Cumulus who pranced across the queen sized bed. It was neatly made with the right corner flipped down, just as Gloria made hers each morning. However, unlike her bed, at the foot, wadded without regard, was a black Halston sheer dress with silver beaded neckline. 'My mother would be horrified at such wanton disregard,' she thought while the light beam sparkled off the beads. Her mother's words echoed inside her head, 'Everything proper has a proper place and the floor is neither of these things.'

She picked the designer dress up off the floor and scrutinized it. Tiny, asymmetrical, and stylish even on someone Loria's age. She shook her head as she placed it properly on the bench at the foot of the bed. 'Loria, the other person that has come between me and Max. Family or not, she has no business telling me how to live my life. Her mistakes are not mine, I'm so sick of her making her nonstop comparisons. Especially the way she constantly calls me, Little Me. Little Me this and Little Me that. If I was really her, I'd shoot myself.'

Again, she picked the dress up from the bench and turned towards the full length mirror. She draped it across her body and examined her flashlight illuminated reflection. She stood on her toes, turned and posed to the music in her ears. "Holy shite, I do look like a younger version of her. A little less in the hips and a better butt, but damn, we could pass as sisters. Mother and daughter at the very least." The aroma of perfume rose from the dress and wafted in the air around her. She held the dress to her nose and delicately sniffed the fabric. "That bitch has been wearing my perfume, I'd recognize it anywhere."

She stormed from the room, retrieved the tumbler from the counter top, pushed the straw to the side and quaffed the contents. Forcefully, she yanked the headset from her ears and unclipped the Walkman from her shorts. 'That woman is ruining my life. Telling me what I should and should not do, yet all the while, she's trying to be me. Living in my apartment without paying rent. Using my perfume-a perfume specifically blended for me. Telling me who I can and can't be friends with, sleep with, aggh! It's like I can't do anything right. She tries to micromanage my every decision.

She poured another shot of straight rum into the tumbler as Loria's voice played in her head like a movie montage. 'Max is no good for you. His parents are one step up from being white trash. Stick with him and you'll be living in a trailer on the outskirts of town for the rest of your life. You realize he's only fifteen, Little Me, and you're eighteen. In the eyes of the law, that makes you a child molester. A wee little strumpet.' Okay, the last voice was her father's, she knew that. As hard as she tried to ignore him, he was always there, always belittling, always criticizing. He's the reason she got this apartment in the first place, to get away from all his negativity. But now Loria has stepped in and brought that same sense of disapproval. She missed her mother terribly. She had hoped Loria would fill that void but that didn't happen. Her mother was always the nurturer, alway tried to raise her by the golden rule, to be a lady. Whereas her father always made her feel unloved, unwanted, illegitimate and dirty. Humiliating her at social events, even at her own sixteenth birthday. Telling everyone she was not his blood but look at Loria. 'She's his own sister. She looks just like me and acts just like him. How can he deny I'm his blood? What dirty little secret is he trying to hide?'

She pushed the rum away. She knew it was only fueling her anger just like it fuels her father's. Another sign that they were blood related. That's heredity at work, not environment. But tonight, she didn't want to be angry. She didn't want to think about her father, about Loria, or even about Bella. She only wanted to think about Max, about that magic night, and how to get it all back. Just like it was before they mucked it all up.

She grabbed the Walkman from the counter and resumed her position at the fireplace. Placing the headphones back on, she noticed she was on track five now. She hit rewind to start the song from it's beginning - that's when it dawned on her. She had to hit rewind on her own life if she wanted to make it all right again. Make it like it was before. Sitting here sulking and reminiscing wasn't going to change anything. Blaming others wasn't going to change the fact that she was allowing Max to drift away. She needed to be the woman her mother raised her to be. A take charge woman with no regrets, no excuses. Removing the headset, she stood and stripped out of her camisole and put on the little black Halston dress. Rushing to her room, she grabbed her black stiletto heels from her closet and her transparent full-length rain jacket from the hall. Headed out the door, she took the Walkman from the mantle and the key ring from its holder on the wall.

She fumbled with the keys trying to unlock the drivers side of the convertible MG in her parking space as the winds and rain hampered her situation. Entering the vehicle, the glass began to fog from the change in temperature. She started the little midget and turned on the heater and defroster. Transferring the cassette tape to the car stereo, she pushed play, backed out of her drive and sped down the wet, puddle filled street. Ignoring the hazardous road conditions and limited visibility, she sang along with track five as she hurried to her destination. "I am so into you. I can't think of nothing else."


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Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:39 pm 
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The Queen's Court Part 2

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The Chancellor
"Time plus 1,000 minutes, my Dusky Queen. Best to be on your way." Looking up from his watch, he became irritated at her lack of response to his direct orders. "Snap to it, woman! You are wasting both time and my patience. " His eyes returned to his watch. "Time plus 999 minutes now."

Michael grabbed the door frame with his right hand and stopped himself dead in his tracks before he turned back into the office. "Excuse me. Perhaps you should rephrase your request to the lady. Need I remind you, you are in her office, in her building. Show some decorum and respect."

The Chancellor dismissed Michael with a wave from the back of his left hand, not even looking in his direction. "Where I come from, common people don't interrupt in matters that don't concern them. Especially when those matters are being conducted by their betters."

Michael felt the hairs on his neck rustle when the endorphin charge hit him. Pulling away from Agnes's hold upon his arm, he made a beeline toward the Chancellor. "Come again, old man? I didn't quite catch that."

Michael stood a good 4 inches taller and outweighed the Chancellor by at least 50 pounds. Looking up into Michaels imposing eyes, he smiled. He indiscreetly revealed the Luger in the inner pocket of his coat while removing his silver cigarette case. "I said don't interrupt your betters in matters that don't concern you. Obviously you have no idea who I am and your ape like behavior reveals what truly lies beneath that tailored suit."

"Michael, stop!" pleaded Loria to no avail.

"I don't care if you are the resurrected body of Socrates. Say what you want about me but nobody comes into this lady's office and disrespects her in such a manner. I mean nobody!"

Tapping his non-filtered cigarette on the silver case, he reinserted the case back into his inner coat pocket, again revealing the Luger.

"If you think that gun intimidates me, old man, you better think again. You'll have a hard time reaching for it once I ram it up your ass along with that fancy cane."

Loria waved Agnes over to help her pull Michael away from the Chancellor. "Michael, you made your point. Come on now, let this go, sweetheart. Don't mind him, he's German. It's in his upbringing, he doesn't mean anything by it. I'll deal with this my own way."

"Do you like this cane, Michael?" The Chancellor asked as he discarded the spent wooden match in the ashtray. Exhaling a voluminous plume of smoke into Michaels face, he smiled contemptuously. "Perhaps Loria will one day regale you with a few of our stories and the wicked things I've done with it."

Michael smiled at Loria and whispered, "Sorry," before stepping forward. The Chancellor swung the wolf's head end of the cane upwards connecting with Michael's scrotum as Michael's fist came downward upon the Chancellor's nose. Nimbus jumped from the couch as both men stumbled back one step. The Chancellor plopped himself on the couch, in the space once occupied by Nimbus, while Michael staggered into Loria's and Agnes's arms.

"Stop this, NOW!" bellowed Loria with a volume that could be heard 3 floors down. "This is noway to conduct yourselves. Honestly, this is my office, damn it. You should be ashamed of yourself."

"Quite so," proclaimed the Chancellor, holding his white silk handkerchief to his bleeding nose.

"That goes for you too!" she reprimanded with an accusative finger pointing at the Chancellor. Turning her attention back to Michael, she kissed him on the lips and placed her hands upon his chest. "Baby, I got this. I've got some business to discuss but I'll call you soon. I promise. This is something I have to do." She raised her hands, caressed both his cheeks and stared into his blue eyes. "I need you to be okay with this. It's business. It's just a business trip and nothing more. I swear, it's nothing more."

Michael regained his composure and subdued his instinct to complete the confrontation. Stroking Loria's cheek, he glared at the Chancellor, "Another time, another place, because this ain't over."

The Chancellor retrieved his burning cigarette from the Persian rug, placed it between his smirk laden lips and nodded in agreement.

Loria and Agnes escort Michael to the office door. As she kissed him once more before he departed, Loria reassured him, "I will be back in no time at all, I swear. Please be patient with me a little longer and I will have a wonderful surprise for you when I return. I promise, promise, promise you're gonna love it. I swear to god, Michael, I'll make this up to you."

Agnes escorted him the rest of the way through her office, his stride slightly worse for ware but his swagger still intact.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 10, 2017 10:21 pm 
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The Queen's Court Part 3

Loria closed her office door. The ambient audio control was integrated into the wall plate next to the light controls. She raised the volume level 3 decibels as 'Modern Love' piped through the hidden office speakers. "Are you out of your ever-loving mind? What the hell was that all about!?"

"His impertinence annoyed me."

"You purposely provoked that response from him."

"In my youth, I would have had him lined up against a wall and shot." His hand gestures streamed a trail of cigarette smoke in their wake. "He's lucky I'm less impetuous in my autumn years."

She returned to the wing backed leather chair behind her desk and leaned forward on her elbows. "Michael is a good man - no - a descent man. Do you have any idea how rare that is in this day in age?"

"He's a mouth breathing cur. I assure you, once he has tasted what's between your exquisite legs, he won't be so cavalier with his impulsive chivalric readiness to defend your honor. I know his type quite well."

"You don't know him at all." She picked up the small white box and removed the jewel encrusted Rubix snake. "That's your problem. You've never given him a chance. You see everyone as inferior to you."

"Well, they are ..." He took a final drag from his cigarette, crushed it in the decorative ashtray and allowed it to smolder. "To one degree or another."

Wrapping the uncoiled bobble around her wristed, she stared at the sparkling gift. "That includes me I suppose?"

"Nein, meine königin - my queen." He nodded as a sign of respect. "You are a rare exception."

"Now, you see that. Right there, you were kind and considerate. If you had entered my office like this ... like the way you are now, that whole ugly affair could have been avoided."

"As I said, his impertinence annoyed me."

"Are you sure it is only that and nothing else? For instance, he is Rex's older brother."

"You forget, my dear, I am the one who made Rex the man he is today."

"Yet now you take your orders from him. I'm sure, for a man like you, that must raise a smidgen of resentment." She raised her thumb and index to simulate the quantity. "An emotion you dare not show to him, but his brother, well now, that's a whole different story all together."

"What a fanciful imagination you have. How I wish I could fritter my time away on such carefree daydreams. Such wonderful nonsense." The Chancellor rose from the couch and produced a small electronic scanning device. He pressed the scan button and began to examine the paintings, lamps and furniture. "Alas, my sense of duty drives my focus elsewhere, to more important aspects of reality."

Nimbus emerged from her safe place and jumped upon the desk. Her tail wisped to and fro, showing her great displeasure for the unwelcome guest before coming to rest next to her master. She too seemed interested in the shiny object that sparkled and twisted upon her masters wrist. Loria stroked her pet cat under the chin as she adjusted the diamond collar, which coincidentally, contained a tiny web-camera. She turned off the live feed while continuing to stroke the cat's soft coat. "Sense of duty or paranoia? How many times are you going to scan my office until you are satisfied? I have turned up the music, per your standing instructions, in case any external listening devices might be placed on the neighboring buildings and aimed at my windows. Still you persist, on every meeting, to scan for electronic bugs."

"Merely an ounce of prevention. It's for your protection as well as mine." Pressing the off button, he returned the device to his coat pocket.

She stroked Nimbus one last time and turned the camera back on while doing so. "Satisfied or do I need to ask Agnes to come back in while you pat me down?"

"Tempting," he replied more as an actual consideration than a lecherous thought. "But let's move on to more important concerns, shall we?" His attention was drawn back to his wrist watch. "Time plus 987 minutes now. It appears the grains of time stop for no one, not even you."

"What is this oh so important mission, pray tell? And please explain to me why it requires my immediate attention?" She smiled as she laid the snake across her arm, admiring the contrast between the jewels sparkle and her own olive tone.

"It's a TBIT operation."

"Tea-bit?"

"Travel Back In Time. I'd go myself, but it's never wise to cross your own timeline." He off-handedly remarked as his discarded his bloodstained handkerchief in the ashtray. "Unlike your time device, mine does not have the added accoutrements to offset the paradox of duplicity."

"So, let me get this right, what you're saying is, mine's better."

His eyes embodied the look of a child who had just been teased on the playground. "No, I said yours had added features."

"Yeah - mine's better."

He nodded in agreement and approached her desk. "If you say it is, my queen, then it must be true." Outstretching his right hand, he revealed 2 oblong pills, one black and the other white.

"Thank you, none for me," she declined with simultaneous hand gestures. "I stopped taking those kinds of party favors in my 20s."

"They are nanite communication pills. They allow us to communicate with each other through the utilization of our own bodies electro-chemistry to power them."

"A cell phone pill?"

He smiled at her naiveté. "Something like that, yes." He placed the black pill on her desk while tossing the other in his mouth and swallowing it dry. "You are correct with your notion they are like cell phones. We have to willing place the call and the other willingly accept. We can't send and receive thoughts without the others consent, so no fear of unwanted eavesdropping. These will allow us to communicate, even over as much as 3 centuries, while you are on your mission."

Crossing the room to her mini-bar, she placed the bejeweled snake in her pocket. Opening the mini fridge, she continued the conversation slightly obscured but audible. "But there's no cell towers or satellites that far back in history. How does this nanite cell phone work?"

"Microwave beams aren't limited to the here and now. They can actually pierce the veil of time and space itself. How do you think Nostradamus was able to see the future in a little brass bowl? He mixed the right chemicals in the right quantity and, hier hast du es, you get a liquid crystal display."

The ice cubes cracked and split in two when she introduced her favorite beverage from youth, cherry-cola, into the glass tumbler. "I must have missed that episode of 'Believe It or Not.' But okay, for sake of argument, let's say that's true. Will I be able to talk to your past self too?"

Watching her return, he mentally noted she did not offer him a drink before answering, "No, only to me, my future self. As I told you, I can not venture back personally else run the risk of creating a paradox. The 'me' in the past has not taken the pill yet."

Rolling the pill across her desk with her palm, she picked it up between her fingernails. "Is there any side effects I should be aware of? Will I set off airport metal detectors? Become sterile or get a brain tumor? Run the risk of blindness, stroke. or in rare occurrences, death?"

He rolled his eyes, "You just saw me take it." Snapping his heels together twice, he came to attention and slapped his hands off his chest. "See, fit as a fiddle and no ill effects."

Placing the black pill on her moist pink tongue, she swallowed it down with her cherry-cola. "So, what now?"

"It takes a minute or 2 before your body absorbs it. After which, if you concentrate on me, I will sense it, sort of like a ring-tone playing in my head."

"So, what about this tea-bit mission. Why is it so important?"

"It's part of Rex's previous request for you to journey back to 1985 and join him. However, there is another part I need you to deal with while you are there. It is vitally important for us that you do this."

Taking another drink of soda, she winked and pointed with the glass. "When you say, 'us,' you really mean, 'you,' don't you?"

"You, me, that's all just semantics. Lets just agree it's for the greater good."

"Alright, for the greater good then. What is it I need to involve myself with?"

"While reviewing my journals and transferring them to digital records, I came across several references of Gloria Lights and Max Seconds. It seems you were somehow romantically linked."

"I don't remember that," she shook her head negatively. "I wasn't into men in high school. I definitely wasn't into younger men. I do remember having a thing for his sister, Lana, but like, who didn't. I swear, that girl could wear a pair of jeans like no other."

Cutting her off, he continued his tale. "My journals are quite specific, yet, like you, I don't remember the events being described. However, yesterday morning, an event detailed in an entry I transcriber weeks earlier had changed. I compared the written to the digital and they were indeed different. Oddly enough, the new transcription had become a vivid memory. Though, the night before, I'm positive it wasn't there."

"Sounds easy enough. I go back in time, pretend to be my father's sister and behave like him. I figure I'm still paying for therapy for his child rearing years, what's it going to hurt if an aunt is added into the mix?"

"How very pragmatic of you, my queen."

"Well, it's easy since it never happened. Can you imagine, me sleeping with Max in the past and dating Michael here in the future? That would make for some uncomfortable family gatherings."

"It's vitally important that your younger self doesn't become romantically involved with him. I don't know why I recorded it then and only now vaguely remember it. Maybe its part of Rex's plan, maybe its something else, but you need to prevent your younger self from getting involved with Max at any cost. It will create a ripple here and this life, your current life and all that you have made, will vanish having never occurred."

Holding her index and middle fingers to her temple, she concentrated on the Chancellor. Rubbing her temple, a distant sound of an old telephone rang in her head.

'Very good my dear,' he replied in thought.

'What ring tone did you hear? I bet it was "Pretty Woman," wasn't it? Come on, it was, wasn't it?'

Turning, he gathered his cane and hat from the the couch before heading out the office door. 'If you believe it was, then it must be true.'

'Yeah, I thought so.'

Entering the waiting elevator, he donned his fedora and nodded to Loria and Agnes before the doors closed. 'Time plus 960 minutes. Remember your agenda. Do as Rex requires but safeguard us from your younger selfs impulses. Good luck in 1985, I'm counting on you.'

Loria removed her fingers from her temple and the connection ceased. "Agnes, is Michael alright?"

"Yes ma'am. I made sure a taxi was waiting before he departed." She paused briefly and flipped her monitor around. She rewound the cat's perspective web-camera feed and paused before Loria placed the pill in her mouth. "What was that pill he gave you?"

Holding out her hand, she showed the black pill between her middle and index finger. "I don't know, but I'm sure it's not as tasty as the black licorice mini jelly bean I swallowed."

Agnes's dimples were revealed as she allowed herself to smile. "You don't trust him, do you?"

"I don't trust men in general, daddy issues, but especially not those who try to force fringe drugs on me." Placing the pill in her pocket, she sat on the corner of Agnes's desk. "While I'm gone, research nanites, and send what you find to my phone."

"Yes ma'am."

"And find something special for Michael, something unique, and charge it to the company account."

"You really like him, don't you, Ma'am? He's different than the others. More than just a trophy, isn't he?"

Loria neither confirmed nor denied the innocent accusation. "While your at it, find something nice for you too, preferably not from from Target or Kmart. You are representing me and the company after all, I need you looking your best. Your attire is fine for the lower floors, but you're not lower personnel. You're my right hand. Think grander, something from the new Anne Klein collection. Remember, you'll be in charge while I'm gone. I need you to feel the role and look it too."

Agnes's smile revealed her dimples once more. "Yes ma'am."

Agnes rewound the recorded feed to the point where the Chancellor entered the office. After watching the fight loop multiple times, Loria gathered her purse and jacket before entering the executive elevator. Reminding Agnes not to forget to feed Nimbus, she took the ride down to Parking Level 3 and exited the elevator. A chirp came through on her phone, from Agnes, regarding Nanite Technology. She removed the black pocket watch from her jacket, verified her earlier coordinates, and pressed the red button on the top. As she began to glow and shimmer, she smiled at the thought of Michael punching the Chancellor in defense of her honor.

* * *
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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 9:44 pm 
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An Agnes in Waiting

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An avalanche of browser tabs were opened on her monitor as Agnes searched the Internet for something both special and unique per Loria's departing instructions. Positioning the mouse cursor over each tab, her decision was made easier by the watchful eye of her feline cohort, Nimbus. The black Persian positioned herself atop the desk, sprawled between the monitor and mouse, assuming a supervisory role. Letting the cursor linger at the tab, Nimbus would simply use her paw to either tap Agnes's controlling hand twice for approval or push the mouse to the left, signifying disapproval. Systematically, each tab would be closed out as the decerning feline dictated.

"Nothing. Are you kidding me, Nimbus? There were at least 2 dozen tabs and none of the were good enough?"

Replying with a simple, "Mew," she rubbed her cheek against Agnes's hand.

Scratching the cat's cheek and ear simultaneously, Agnes blew the fallen strands of ginger hair from her eyes. "You're killing me, kitty."

Looking into the young assistants blue eyes with her orangish-gold, she blinked both eyes in unison while increasing the volume of her purring, caring nothing for the woman's complaint.

"Killing me," she repeated while returning the single both-eyed blink. There were times when the cat seemed almost human in her reactions and responses. She knew that Loria believed in reincarnation, a concept her own Catholic upbringing stringently forbid, but still, their was an undeniable awareness behind those feline eyes. She often contemplated whom Nimbus may have been in her previous life.

Whether on purpose or by happenstance, Nimbus's paw moved the mouse to the task bar, restoring the media player where the fight footage was paused in loop mode.

Agnes's dimples appeared as she transitioned from scratching to stroking her feline supervisor. "Okay, just 1 more time but we have a gift to find, young lady."

Neither Agnes nor Nimbus noticed Michael's return into the office until his knuckles rapped upon the threshold frame 3 times. "Am I interrupting?"

Quickly pausing the video as Nimbus leaped from the desk, Agnes caught her breath from the sudden startle. "Michael ... Mr. Seconds, I thought you left?"

Approaching her desk, he glanced at the monitor screen. "May I get a copy of that? I can add it in my resume to prove to casting directors I can do action scenes."

Blushing, she quickly minimized the media player window, "That can be arranged."

Michael smiled at her apparent embarrassment, "Much obliged. I was waiting downstairs for 'The Germ' to leave. Is Loria still here, I wanted to apologize," he pointed to the monitor, "for that little incident. I should have handled that differently."

"You just missed her. You probably past each other in the elevators."

"I took the stairs. I needed to get out some of my aggression before speaking with her."

'I have some ideas to help with that,' she though, bringing her dimples and smile to her face again. "You still might be able to catch her. I can call her-"

He waved the suggestion off with his hands. "That's okay. I guess it's not that important. How was she when she left? Upset?"

"Not with you," she looked into his sparkling eyes. "She was actually in a good mood. I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but we rewatched that clip several times before she left. Each time, her smile grew bigger and eyes brighter. She even left me in-charge while she was gone. She's never done that before. Oh, and we, Nimbus and I, were instructed to find you a present to express her regrets. Something special and unique, she said, but Nimbus here didn't like any of my choices."

Nimbus rubbed herself against Michael's legs as she encircled him.

"Well, Nimbus is quite the perfectionist. I'm sure if it meets her standards, I'll love it." Reaching down, he ran his hand across her back and down her fluffy tail. "How are we, Agnes? You deserve an apology too."

"Me?" She replied not expecting his question as to her well being. "I'm fine."

"I'm sorry I put you in that position of having to separate 2 grown men. That was inexcusable."

"Are you kidding me? I wouldn't have missed that for the world. The way you defended Ms. Loria and thrashed that old fart for being a misogynistic a-hole. That clip I have is going to be my new screen saver. After every break I get to watch you smack him in his condescending, arrogant old face." She mimicked Michael's punch. "Bam!! Right to his nose."

They both laughed at her comments and poorly thrown punch. For the 1st time, Michael truly noticed her young, vibrant beauty hidden like a diamond in the rough. With just some minor changes to her wardrobe and general styling, she would be envy for the upper floors. "What are you doing tonight, Agnes?"

Her eyes grew big like saucers behind her old-fashioned cats-eye glasses. "Why do you ask?"

"I have a premier I am required to attend tonight, contractual obligations and all. I was supposed to take Loria but with the sudden business trip for 'The Germ,' it leaves me without a plus 1. I was wondering if you would like to accompany me?"

Agnes was left speechless and her eyes just as large or possibly larger. 'Oh, my god, is he really asking me on a date?'

"Look, I know it's short notice and the movie is just a silly Rom-Com, I'm not even the principle player, but it would mean lot to me not to show up alone."

"Are you asking me on a date?" Her heart skipped a beat.

"Well, I was asking if you would be so kind to be my plus 1 and save me from embarrassment." He could see the disappointment rising in her facial expression. "Would you like it to be a date?

'I'd love it to be a date.' She placed her hands over her mouth not sure if she said her response aloud or only thought it. "Yes, I'd like that."

"Good, then it's a date then."

"But what do we tell Ms. Loria when she finds out?"

"We tell her the truth. She left you in charge while she was away on business. You were being dutiful and fulfilling a required need. And trust me Agnes, we are in need."

'Yes we are,' she justified to herself.

"Besides," he continued, taking her hands in his. "She did ask you to find me something special," he kissed her left hand, "and unique," he kissed her right hand. "You definitely qualify for both these prerequisites."

'Oh, my god, is this really happening?' She could feel herself blushing. "Oh, my god, what do I wear? I've never been to a premier before?"

"Not to worry. If we leave now, we can swing by the mall and get you everything you need. A new gown, make up and hairdo, under garments, the whole works. It'll be my treat."

"Well, Loria did tell me to get some more stylish clothes, Anne Klein and what-not, and to charge it to the company account."

"Better still. Shall we?"

* * *

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 11:37 pm 
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Seventh Inning Stretch

Max descended the east stairwell, mostly from habit over the past month as it was the closest to his locker. He kept a close eye on his time compass as he now had the third blip appear. While Liberty and the Chancellor continued the shootout in the auditorium, the unknown blip was situated outside the building. Gently, he depressed the brass crash-bar and once again entered the deluge of wind and water. The shrubs and darkness provided excellent coverage as he serpentined between the bushes. He examined the two vehicles parked in the teachers lot, a police car and Klein's old Plymouth Duster.

David stepped from the passenger side of the Duster as, he too, also stared at his compass ring. He raised his head and signaled his best friend to join him before he returned to the protection of the warm, dry car. Max examined his surroundings before he dashed across the waterlogged lawn and near stream like parking lot. He entered from the rear passenger door and removed his night-vision goggles.

"What the hell are you two doing here?"

"Batting practice," replied Klein as he turned and positioned his large arm on the back of his seat.

Max thought over the connotations of the statement. "Okay. What's with the cops?"

"Oh, that's my man, Sol. He's babysitting our relief pitcher before we start off the inning," Klein winked and smiled impishly. "You remember our boy, Fritz?"

Max stared over into the confinement seat of the K9 unit parked next to them. He almost didn't recognize Fritz from the hair dye and attire nearly matching his own. He turned back to Klein with left eyebrow raised.

"Don't ask, it will spoil the surprise. Who we got playing in the infield?"

"Chancellor and Liberty, but nobody at Home Plate."

Klein grunted while he nodded his head to the right. "Shame there, but it is what it is." He turned his attention to David. "You ready for some warm up swings?"

"Born ready." David's statement exuded self confidence.

"What ya lack in experience you certainly make up for in spirit, kid, I'll give ya that."

"You sure you're ready for this, Dave?" Max inquired out of legitimate concern.

"He'll be fine, mom," Klein interjected. "Neither of us stated as All-Stars. Both of us had to take some lumps coming up, speaking of which, have you seen this kids cheek. Anyway, look at us now. Top of our game, am I right?"

Max nodded and shrugged. "Yeah."

"Besides, this kid's got chutzpah. He's already been beaned once and he's back at the plate, ready for some payback. This time, however, we're going get him warmed up first."

David rubbed his hands together, eager with anticipation. "What are we startin' with, Coach? Fastball, curve or slider?"

Klein and Max exchanged glances, "Fastball."

"Perfect-o. So what's the batting order?"

Klein pointed to the time compasses that the boys wore. "You two need to sync up first. See how you both are blinking, big and bright. Touch the rings together and they will link with each other."

With a perplexed look on his face, David made a fist and held it up to Max. "Wonder Twins power activate."

Max smiled as he remembered the childhood Saturday Morning Cartoon reference before he returned the gesture and bumped rings. The bright red dots subdued and changed to green on both compasses. "Form of vapor."

"Shape of ... hey, wait a minute, dude. That makes me the chick."

Max's smile broadened. "Stop complainin'. Jayna was a bad ass."

"Do I dare even ask?" Klein interrupted.

"Hey, you're the one who started all the baseball references. Let us have this moment."

"Fine." Klein snorted rather than spoke. "I just wanna point out that everybody understands baseball. This whole 'form of this' and 'shape of that,' I can't wrap my head around."

"Welcome to the club," David retorted.

"Okay, we're synced up now." Max slapped Klein on his shoulder, "What's next coach?"

"Time for the kid to start putting his namesake watch to good use. Pull the fob outer ring up, turn it to the left and press the inner button."

David removed the watch from his pocket and followed Klein's instructions. Not only did the lid pop open but the faceplate flipped open as well, which revealed a third level delicately hidden within the complications. Embedded upon the silver plate was a small, oval shaped, crystalline window with what appeared to contain an ever fluid, inky, mercury-like substance. Within the darkness, minuscule flashes of silver streaked like tiny lightning bolts. Below the oval window, two small articulating wing-arm windings with triangle heads were positioned, just off center, forming a symmetrical pyramid pattern. Engraved numbers, ordering zero to fifty-nine, in a counter-clockwise rotation, circumferenced the left-hand winding. Spaced in peculiarity around the right-hand winding were nine mathematic and mystical symbols.

"What's this do?"

Klein removed his spectacles from his coverall chest pocket and examined the markings closer. As he explained the meanings of the symbols and dials to David, Max's attention waned back to the building, more specifically, to the auditorium and those inside.


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 25, 2017 9:44 pm 
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The Fastball

The vastness of the room insulated against the outside storm and only heightened the occupants sensory stimulation as to what occurred within. The hard soles of their shoes echoed in the darkened auditorium. Each step had a sharp report from the concrete floor and rows of wooden theater seats. Each breath resonated off of the arched ceiling and cement columns. The near silent rustling of fabric resounded through the air as sharp and as clear as an operatic soprano. Yet, outside, the raging of the tumultuous winds and deafening thunder barely penetrated the cinder block walls.

"Liberty, can we not come to a rational arrangement?" The Chancellor asked in a calm authoritative tone. "You and I don't need to squabble like school girls over the notebook. We can both share in its knowledge."

A bullet flew low and to the left of his current position before the report split the air. The chime of the brass shell as it bounced off the epoxied concrete was approximately twenty rows behind and to his right.

"Keep talking, Blondie. I'll find you yet."

He tucked and rolled across the aisle and laid prone between the upraised seats. He concentrated on Loria, but his telepathic link went unanswered. 'Damn it, Loria, answer your masters call,' his thoughts screamed out. His eyes, having adjusted to the room's darkness, scanned beneath the rows in search of either of his targets. Viewing the balcony was useless. The emergency lights had long since drained their batteries and the pitch blackness was thick and impermeable. "Damn it, Liberty, would you just stop a moment and hear me out? You and I are both old friends. We need to work together and convince young Max to join our cause. Wouldn't that be best?"

Somewhere in the darkness, Liberty responded, "Best for whom? You? Me? Rex? Your illustrious Reich?"

"That was a long time ago, sweet lady. I was a young man swayed by a convincing orator. Not just me but an entire nation."

"Once a dirty lying fascist, always a dirty lying fascist."

He remained prone and maneuvered his body backwards, under the rows of seats, toward to the stage. "We are both descendants of Deutschland. Does that make you a dirty little liar too?"

"My ancestors came from Holland, Chancellor. Not Bavaria, not Prussia, and definitely not Berlin!" She ejected the empty clip, inserted a fresh, and slid the chamber to load the first round. "My family has been in this country even before it was a country. Don't try to play that tired old 'our common Aryan blood' bullshit with my heart-stings. You'll find no goose-stepping in my bloodline."

"Perhaps not, but don't try to convince me that you and yours are pure. Lie to yourself if you need to believe you are all lily white but we both know the truth. Your ancestors vested in the art of slave trading for nearly three-hundred years. Yes, my little liebchen, my brethren may have killed some Gypsies and Jews but we didn't sell them into slavery. We were kinder than that."

"The systematic slaughter of over a million people was kind? Justify that for me." She shot three rounds blindly into the darkness to punctuate her words.

"You can only kill a Jew once, just one time, but slavery, tsk-tsk-tsk, enslaves not just that one person but all of their descendants in perpetuity. How many hundreds and thousands were brought under the lash, for just your family's greedy profit, from just one of their ancestors? Do the arithmetic for yourself. You sold one, who birthed three. They in turn each birthed three and so on and so on. Multiply that over the hundreds of individuals a year, that just your family alone sold, for three hundred years, and all of their descendants being raised in slavery. For all that you accuse me of, your families iniquitous little skin trade of misery, makes my unkindness insignificant in comparison."

"The sins of the father are not mine but you, Blondie, you were a willing participant."

"Scheisse, your brothers twisted little games make my sins look like kinderspiel. And to that, liebling, you were a willing participant."

"I am not my brother's keeper," she roared defiantly as she exited the cover of the right balcony pillar.

"Nor was I the Fuhrer's. Nor Goebbels', nor Himmler's, nor any of them." He paused again to concentrate on Loria, still without a successful telepathic connection. "But why argue this, my sweet lady Liberty? You and I know each other. We know each other's sins and each other's graces. What we don't know ... what we need to know, is any imperative information contained in Potts' notebook." He emerged from the front row and rolled stage left toward the small steps that led to the stage. The small barrier between the stairs and the audience seating provided just enough cover to maintain a concealed position. "Keep your eye on the true prize, Liberty. Young Max does not have the experience to unlock its mysteries and lets face it, without Wordsworth help, he may never. We, the three of us, need to come to an arrangement. An understanding. We may all benefit or all flounder if we don't at least try to cooperate."

Her high-heels resounded in the empty theater as she confidently strolled down the right hand pathway. Her pistol held fast in both hands, lowered, but in the ready. "What are you suggesting, Darling? How can a fifteen year old boy benefit us?"

"Not to point out the obvious, but, he does have the notebook."

She paused by the row next to the exit door and knelt behind the seats. "Not to point out the obvious, but, have you noticed Max hasn't fired a shot? How do you know he's even still in the theater?"

'Loria. Loria. Loria! Damn it, where is she?' He continued trying to make contact with no avail. "Well, he didn't get past me. Did you let him slip by?"

She kicked at the exit door and found it secured. "Not a chance."

"Then he's still here. He's listened to us bicker this whole time. Perhaps he even has one of us in his sites."

"My bet's it on you."

"It could be me? If I were to play the odds, I would bet he has his sites on you, liebchen."

Her cackled laughter echoed in the empty auditorium. "Because you and he are such good friends I suppose?"

He knew she was by the exit door but still could not make out her form. His best chance was to keep her talking and zero in on her position. "I didn't offer him a booby-trapped gift for his beloved, Bella. A gift that would have accelerated her to the future, burning her to ash and dust."

"A plot of Rex's, based on your experienced design." She slunk along the row not wanting to remain in one place too long. "The same plot and design that was used on his mentor, Wordsworth. Really, Blondie, you need to add to your official bad guy handbook of dastardly deeds."

He fired two shots at her triangulated position. Splinters of wood flew around her as the bullets shattered the seats before her.

"I suppose sending your psychopathic brother to abduct, torture, and kill her as a follow-up plan was mine as well?"

She returned two shots that bit into the plaster and lath stairwell wall he hid behind. "Again, Rex's plan spurred on by your own child rearing. Oh, wait, I forget. Does Max know it was you who kidnapped Rex all those years ago? Does he know that it was you who twisted his mind into the monster you raised him to be?"

"I know everything now!" announced Max from the balcony balustrade.

-----

David pressed the top button of the watch while simultaneously pressing his index finger into Fritz's sternum. "Fastball!"

-----

Without hesitation, both Liberty and the Chancellor aimed and fired their guns at Max. Blood sprayed from his black turtleneck as the bullets tore through his body. Wavering, his knees buckled as he fell forward and down to the seats below. Landing like a rag doll, he bounced and slid before ending in a puddle of flowing crimson blood.

Liberty's cackled laugh returned as she continued to squeeze the trigger of her empty pistol.

The Chancellor rose from his place of cover and rushed up the aisle. "The notebook. Get the notebook before the blood soaks in and makes it useless."

Liberty continued her maniacal laughter as she ejected the spent clip from her gun and searched for a replacement in her purse. Pulling out the Rubix Snake from her purse, her laughter increased in volume.

As he reached the body, he quickly turned it over as the notebook was nowhere to be seen. He patted down the body but found no signs of the notebook. Grabbing Max by the sweater, he shook him, "Where's the notebook, Max? The notebook?"

"Hilf mir, mein freund. Rette mich."

Shocked at the plea of help in German, he hurriedly retrieved his lighter from his pocket to illuminate the area. As he brought the flame closer, he realized the body beneath him was not Max but Fritz.

"Help me, my friend." Fritz coughed and wheezed as blood flowed from his wounds. "Save me."

The Chancellor grabbed his friends face with his free hand but could not maintain his grip as the blood and cream made his skin too viscous. "Fritz? Fritz!" He turned back to Liberty, "It's Fritz. Max is still here."

"We have a bigger issue than Max, Blondie."

Rising to his feet, he turned angrily towards Liberty. "What issue!?!"

"Me," replied Loria as she held Liberty's right arm behind her back and a forty-five automatic pressed under her chin.

Closing the lid of the lighter, he inquired, "My queen, what are you doing?"

"Something I should have done the first time you walked into my office."

-----

David and Max's time compasses both lit up with a new presence in the auditorium.

"Rex?" David questioned, looking at Max for confirmation.

"Maybe Justice?" Max shrugged.

"It ain't, Justice, boys," Klein insisted. "That I can tell you with certainty."

"Bella!" Max shouted with urgency in his tone. "Justice was after Bella. I heard their plot."

Klein exited the cruiser and opened the trunk of his car. Pulling back the blood stained rug, he showed both boys the lifeless body of Justice wrapped within.

David turned and vomited having never seen a dead body or that much blood before. "That's been in the car this whole time?"

Max and Klein ran towards the building as Sol removed the body from the trunk and hoisted it into the police cruiser. David vomited again at the stream of blood mixed with the muddy path left by Sol's foot prints.

-----

Loria forced Liberty into the aisle.

"My queen, stay calm. You are confused, Fraulein. I have never been in your office before."

Tightening her grip on Liberty's arm, she used her as a shield. "Maybe not this you, but your future self has been there many, many times. But that's where you messed up, old man. This whole time I've been in the past, you never once referred to me as anything other than Loria. Now, suddenly, you refer to me as, my queen?"

"He thinks he's charming when he does that," commented Liberty. "He means none of it but keeps trying anyway."

"Precisely," he ejected the empty clip from his Luger behind his back. "It's all part of my charm, like Liberty says. I fear the tension of this night has proven too much for you."

"He's lying again." Liberty whispered. "Shoot him. Shoot him now, Loria."

"In my office, you told me you were transcribing journals from the past to digital format, but the current transcriptions hadn't changed. They weren't transcriptions at all but correspondents between now and the future. You figured out a way to communicate between past and present in real time, didn't you?"

"Oh, that's clever, Blondie. Did you figure that out on your lonesome or did Rex help?"

"Shut up, Liberty!" he bellowed while inserting a fresh clip into his gun.

"And the nanite communicator that's only supposed to allow me to communicate with your future self. Funny how you kept calling me all night long. Did you really think I couldn't tell the difference between a white 'Good and Plenty' and a pill?"

Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved a small electronic device the size of a car alarm transmitter. "You are mistaken, liebling. How could I cross my own timeline and take such a futurist pill here in the past?"

Liberty whispered again, "You can always tell he's up to something when he starts speaking in German. Don't trust him."

"Stop trying to manipulate me, Chancellor. You may not be able to cross your own time line but Rex doesn't have that limitation, now, does he? I'm sure you convinced him to bring the pill back to you here in the past. Nanites have a near limitless life span as long as the host remains alive."

He smiled his evil smirk. "How very true. I see you've done your research, my brush tainted beauty."

"You'll have to do better than that. Your mind games about my bloodline hold no sway over me."

"Pity." He pressed the button on the electronic device.

"Shoot him!" screeched Liberty. "Shoot him now!"

A small explosion ripped through the fabric of Loria's jacket pocket. The minute charge was about that of a firecracker and was not lethal at its present state. Had the nanite been ingested, however, it would have severely damaged her cerebral system. The surprise from blast did make her relinquish the hold she had upon her captive. Both women jumped from the aisle in opposite directions as the Chancellor opened fire.

"I told you to shoot him," Liberty cried out as she crawled through the row of seats.

The Chancellor laughed from behind the balcony pillar. "That dirty little breed wasn't going to shoot you or me. She doesn't have the required courage to take a life. She's purely Rex's financial resource and sexual play thing."

"That explains his need for release earlier."

The Chancellor laughed again. "Gather your weapon and let us dispose of this mongrel harlot together, once and for all. She serves no further purpose to our cause."

"I claim dibs on that pretty watch of hers." Liberty accented her words with the sound of a fresh clip being inserted into her gun.

He stepped out from behind the pillar. "Come out, come out, my dusky queen. It's time for your execution."

Liberty repeated his words more in a singing style than spoke word as she too advanced upon Loria's position.

Loria, remaining hidden in the rows of wooden seats, reached into her jacket pocket for the watch only to find it was gone. The hole created by the explosion had allowed it to fall free somewhere between her current position and the main aisle. Holding the gun tightly as her hands shook, her hunters now approached, together in song, as their voices resonated through the auditorium.

A third voice joined the macabre opera from center stage and rose above the others. "Come out, come out, my blue eyed queen. It's the time for your salvation."

She took a deep breath to calm herself. She knew the voice belonged to Max, more importantly, she felt safe.

"Max!" announced the Chancellor. "So good of you to join us. Nice trick with Fritz. I must say, I am impressed. Perhaps I chose the wrong brother all those years ago in the park? Let me deal with this little vermin here and we shall discuss Fritz's death in greater detail."

Loria rose from her position, braced her arms on a chairs backrest and fired at the Chancellor, hitting him in his left thigh. Retuning to her cover behind the seats, she shouted out, "I may not kill you but I can damn well hurt you."

Liberty cackled as the Chancellor fell to one knee. Ducking again into the seat rows, she worked her way towards Loria's position.

"This does not concern you, Maxwell." The Chancellor demanded as he applied his handkerchief and pressure to the wound. "This is an internal problem we are sorting out."

"You tryin' to kill one of my friends kinda makes it my business."

"This pampered sow is not your friend. Her teenage self may be, but not the whore she's become."

Max jumped from the stage into the orchestra pit. "Watch what ya say 'bout the lady, asshole. Unlike the rest of you, she's never tried to harm me or any of my friends."

"She's sat at the same table where we plotted and conspired. That makes her an accessory."

"He's right, Max. I did listen though I never participated, I never tried to warn you either."

Working his way through the orchestra pit, he turned on his night vision goggles. He scanned the area and saw Liberty moving in on Loria's position. "You're as guilty as the wine glasses and table clothes, Loria. Don't group yourself in with them. I don't know what happened between us in the future and I don't care. You have the ability to change it all now. Whatever we did or will do can all be erased. We can change it."

"Yes, yes," snide the Chancellor. "You just need to believe in him, Max Almighty."

"No, she just needs to believe in herself. I can't make that change for you, only you can."

"It's too late for me, Max. I've been this way too long."

Aiming his pistol at Liberty's head, he continued, "Then do it for my friend, do it for Gloria. Do it for the girl who hasn't become you yet. Do it for the woman you've always wanted to be and I swear to god, I'll be here to help you in anyway I can."

Liberty reached out, grabbed Loria by her hair, and yanked her to her feet. Forcefully, she rammed her pistol into Loria's side. "Throw the gun down, Max, and get out here. Because I swear to god, I'll shoot her where she stands."

"Brava, Miss Liberty," announced the Chancellor rising to his feet. "Best to do as she says, Maxwell. She's not known for making idle threats."

Max cracked his neck. "I have you in my sites, Liberty. I'll blow your pretty head off your pretty neck in three seconds if you don't drop your gun and let her go. One."

"Don't believe him, liebchen. He'd never shoot a woman. He's just a boy."

"Two."

Liberty positioned Loria in front of her as a human shield. "In the velvet darkness at twenty paces, give it your best shot, kid. Just know, when you miss, I won't and it will be just the same as if you killed her yourself." She ran her tongue up the tear trail on Loria's cheek. "What's it gonna be, Maxie? Your friend here is shivering with anticipation as are we all. What's it gonna be? One ... two ..."

"Three." Max squeezed the trigger and Liberty's lifeless body slammed upon the seats before it fell to the cold concrete floor. Her sightless eyes stared at the black pocket watch beneath the row in front of her before the blood gushed over her wide staring eyes.

Klein stepped from the darkness and placed his left forearm around the Chancellor's throat as his right hand locked behind his head. Although he kicked and thrashed, the Chancellor was not capable of breaking the choke hold placed upon him. Slowly, Klein lowered him to the floor as he succumbed to unconsciousness.

Max ran up the aisle to Loria who had slumped into a chair, her hands still trembling as she cried uncontrollably. Ripping off the night vision goggles, he stepped over Liberty's body. "Are you hurt? Are you alright?" He snapped his fingers. "Loria. Loria."

Her blue eyes stared through the tears at Max's boyish face. She touched his cheek and ran her hand down to his chin. "I'm F.I.N.E. fine."

Three rapid beeps went on in succession, repeating itself over and over. Max looked under the chairs and retrieved the black pocket watch just before the flowing blood had reached it. "Thirty minutes? Thirty minutes to what? Loria, thirty minutes to what?"

She shook her head, "I don't know. Some countdown that Rex and the Chancellor devised. They never shared that part of the plan with me. They just kept using it as a reference point."

Max looked at Klein for an explanation. "Any ideas, coach?"

Heaving the Chancellor over his shoulder, he grunted and shook his head. "A time limit of some sort. Maybe it's significant only to Loria here. Neither his watch or Liberty's is going off. Speaking of which, grab her time device. She doesn't need it anymore."

"Oh damn, the snake." Loria shouted as she stepped over Liberty and frantically searched for her purse. "She had my Rubix snake. Rex gave it to her. It must still be in her purse."

"Your watch is so much better," remarked Klein. "The Rubix tech is limited in capabilities -"

"It was a present from Michael, in the future. He didn't know it was a time device when he bought it. He thought it was just some nouveau riche trinket."

Max's trademark smile beamed broad and wide. "Wait, Michael? My brother, Michael? You are the special lady that he pined for but would never talk about?"

"Guilty as charged. Now will you help me find it." She got on all fours and shoved her hands around near the exit door where she first took Liberty hostage. "Pined for? Really?"

Max turned on the night vision goggles and examined the area. "Two rows up on your right."

"Why do women always act surprised when men show they have emotions?" Klein grumbled as he lumbered up the aisle with the Chancellor swung over his shoulder. "Of course he'd pine for you. Why wouldn't he? Your a beautiful woman. A tad bitchy for my likes, but still beautiful."

Searching through the purse, she grabbed the snake and brought it to her chest.

"Klein, where are you going? We still got a mess here to clean up and we need to find Rex."

Stopping at the auditorium door, Klein turned around. "If her alarm is any indication of a dead line, I've got less than thirty minutes to teach David how to hit the curve ball and the slider. Kid's got talent but he ain't gonna make it in the big leagues if one of us doesn't coach him. I'll send Sol in for the bodies, you do what you do best. Kill the bad guys."

He watched Klein turn and leave before approaching Loria. "Do you know where Rex has gone?"

She shook her head. "They all used to talk about Potts and this storm. It was like they knew it was coming. They had some plan regarding Potts, someone named McNulty and something about the hidden answer being revealed."

"What hidden answer? To what question?"

"Didn't you pay attention, they never told me, they just used me. They all used me. My father, my friends, you, Rex, the Chancellor. Everyone I've ever know has used me in one way or another."

"That's not true. Michael's never used you. The way he tells it, you've never given him the chance or requited opportunity. I've never used you-"

"Yes you did! Maybe it meant nothing to you, but it meant everything to me. Everything. And you just discarded me for Bella. One wonder night I surrendered myself to you. I thought I was your sun, your moon, your everything, because that's what you had become to me. But the next day, the very next day, you could care less about me. You treated me like dirt, less than dirt if that's even possible."

Max sat down beside her. "Oh, god, Loria, it wasn't you. It wasn't this Max. I mean it was me, but I'm not the fifteen year old Max you think I am. Like you, I have traveled back in time. I'm thirty-eight trapped in my younger body."

"And that's supposed to make me feel better? I was jilted by a thirty-eight year old and not a fifteen year old?"

"What I did was wrong. I took advantage of a teenage fantasy I had held on to for over twenty years and I had a chance to make that fantasy come true. I didn't think it meant anything to you, that I meant anything to you. I just assumed I was just another notch for you collection. You did have a reputation after all."

"So your assumption that I was a slut made it all ok then?"

"Stop, stop. That came out all wrong. That's not what I meant." He gently turned her face to meet his. "I was an asshole. I am still that same asshole. I wish I could take it back if only to save you that pain but I can't. If I need to find your younger self and express this to her, I will. However, let me tell you this from my heart. I will always cherish that memory regardless of how old I was when it happened. If it means anything at all to you at this point, I've never slept with Bella. I never jilted you for her. I've never even kissed her the way I kissed you that night."

She reached out and touched his boyish face again. "Thank you, Max. God, I wish I could have told you how I felt then. I wish I had heard this when I was eighteen."

"Whose to say you can't? All those things you wish you could have done differently. All those things you wished you knew then, you have the ability to change now." He placed his hand upon his cheek covering her hand. "I always missed you after I went away to military school. I looked for you when I returned but you were a socialite by then. You didn't have time for the little people like me. Like Michael, even as much as you wanted to but couldn't allow yourself. What I'm sayin' is I miss my friend, Gloria, and wonder what became of her. Because this Loria person ... I don't know her. And I'm willin' to bet, she doesn't know herself either."

"Puuuuah," she exhaled through her full lips, lacking the words required to convey her emotions. "What is it about you Seconds men that can cut right through me?"

He helped her to her feet. "It's that we only want what's best for you, even if that means saving you from yourself, at the cost of our own selves."

"Where's Michael now? The one I had drinks with at the HQ Club."

"He should be at my parents house sleepin' it off. He tied one on pretty good and you, missy, left quite an impression."

She bit her bottom lip and searched through her jacket pockets. Finding a sheet of individually wrapped pills, she tore three from the sheet and tossed the remainder to Max.

"What's this?" He asked examining the pills.

"Viagra," she winked.

"He's twenty-three. I don't think he's gonna need it."

"Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. Why take chances?" Retrieving the black pocket watch, she flipped the cover open and input the coordinates: Three-twenty-three Spruce Street, Metro City, Current date, Current time. Pressing the top button, she smiled as she began to shimmer, "Wish me luck."

Before he could reply, she was gone with faint pink glow where she had once stood.


* * *


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Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:38 am 
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Time And Realative Dimension In Space
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Mound Visit

Trudging through the water soaked lawn, Klein left heavy boot prints in his wake. As the rain poured down, he opened the the rear door of the police cruiser and placed his leg between the frame and the door to stop the winds from slamming it shut. Throwing the unconscious body of the Chancellor in the back seat, he removed the silver wristwatch and inspected him for any other temporal devices.

"Hey kid," he cried out over his shoulder. "Wave that ring of your's over him and see if he has any more surprises up his sleeve."

David fought to open the driver's side rear door, slid inside the back compartment and scanned his ring hand over the Chancellor. Stopping at his breast pocket, the compass ring began to spin. He removed the silver cigarette case and handed it to Klein. "Got something here."

Placing his spectacles on, he pressed the release clasp and examined the ornate cigarette case. "Keep searchin', kid. This kraut probably has at least one more device and I'm bettin' more."

By the time David had completed his temporal sweep, he had identified a silver tie stick pin, a silver fountain pen, and an odd tiny brass key. He handed all three items to Klein. "He's clean now. What do you make of all this?"

Turning on the over head light, he inspected the cigarette case closer. Inside the lid was a mirror and there was nothing unusual about the cigarettes themselves. "Are you sure about this case? It doesn't appear to have controls or anything."

David removed a cigarette and lit it as he passed the ring across it's surface. Again, the compass needle began to spin clockwise as it got closer and slowed its spin as he withdrew his hand. Exhaling a stream of smoke through his nose, he commented, "Pretty sure. The ring don't lie. What about the other stuff? Maybe its Japanese and some assembly is required?"

Klein moved to the front seat, opened the glove box door and used it as a make shift table. He carefully examined the items individually. The fountain pen didn't seem to write, the stick pin was just a pin, and there was no keyhole on the case or wristwatch for the key. Wiping his bald head , he stared at David. "Beats me. If I had more time, better light, and a break from that cancer stick you're puffin' on, I might be able to figure it out."

The Chancellor let out a low, sorrowful moan.

"I don't think chuckles here is going to give us that much time." David tossed the cigarette into the storm as he exited the backseat and entered in the drivers compartment. "I think he's waking up. You gotta back-up plan? Chloroform, ether or something?"

Klein shook his head, "You watch too much TV, kid. In real life, that crap doesn't work like they show. But, we do have something even better." He pointed out the rain drenched window to the two lumbering figures approaching. "We got a Sol."

Reaching the cruiser, Sol opened the trunk while Max deposited the corpse of Liberty Vanderhall next to her brother's body. Sol, in turn, placed the broken and bloody remains of Fritz on top and slammed the trunk closed. Opening the back doors, both men slid in seeking shelter from the storm.

"Sol, our guest is waking up. What do you have to keep him out of the game for the last few innings?"

From the thigh pocket of his cargo jeans, Sol removed, unzipped and unfolded an ominous miniature attache. Inside were several phials of assorted fluids and sterile hypodermic needles. As the rain thumped atop the cruiser like a muffled drum roll, he carefully mixed the cocktail components, tapped the fluid chamber with his index finger, and depressed the plunger to remove any air bubbles. Turning the Chancellors head to the side, he injected the needle into the large pulsing carotid artery on his neck. "A simple mixture of benzodiazepines should suffice."

"Whatcha got there, coach?" Max asked while staring through the grate at the items on the glove box lid.

Klein shrugged, "Other than the watch, I'm not sure. They all rang true as temporal items, but they are unlike any I've dealt with before." He changed the subject. "What did you find out from the beautiful Miss Loria? Did she share their game plan?"

"What little she knew, which wasn't much. She did mention that Rex and company knew that this storm was going to happen. Almost as if they had devised their whole plan around it. Possibly their using it to conceal or reveal something they called the hidden prize. Does that mean anything to you guys?"

"Only rumors, more like myth, actually." Sol commented as he checked the Chancellor's pulse rate. "Potts found the hidden secrets of time while trying to save his wife from her torture and demise by Justice back in thirty-eight. He is said to have endured over a million ripples and recorded his alterations to his own complication in that notebook. Can you imagine the accuracy he could have achieved? You, Max, you were the first to have actually set foot in his store in over twenty years. Many other travelers have tried to pierce that veil but only you did. More importantly, you have the notebook - the holy grail."

"The problem is, it's undecipherable without the codex key." Max hit the grate three times with the butt of his left palm. "And it still doesn't explain the significance of this storm."

"This storm may be a by-product of those ripples and temporal tides," Klein interjected. "A million ripples all converging on one spot in time would be quite devastating."

"But why here? Why this exact date in time?"

"Seekers, looking for his notebook and shop have most likely added to the time displacement. Each creating and adding their own ripple to it's ferocity. That maybe why Rex and these schmucks are trying to find all the time devices in the here and now."

Sol tapped his temple twice. "Eliminate the continued disruptions and identify the prize?"

"But is it to identify or conceal? Is it all Rex or is he working with someone?" Max contemplated as he reached for a cigarette.

"We know it's not the Chancellor," Klein stated shaking his head as Max placed the cigarette in his mouth. "So who is actually setting the batting order?"

Max lit the cigarette anyway. "What about McNulty? Loria stated they either brought him into the game or he freelanced his way in."

"McNulty ... pah, small time wannabe. Nobody is working for him. He's probably a thorn picked up along the way. He's a pawn who stumbled upon a time device and promtly lost it, not a king."

"But Loria, she is technically a pawn but they kept calling her queen?"

"Oh no, Max. She's no pawn, she proved that in there." Klein cracked the window to let the smoke out. "The queen is the most dangerous piece on the board. She took control early, surrounded herself with her own, and scarified a knight and rook. She may have been in peril but she came through it unscathed."

"So which queen is she? The Light or the Dark?" David asked having finally understood a fragment of the conversation.

"Lets call her gray for now." Max passed the cigarette through the grate hole to David.

Klein nudged David and pointed to his window. "Did she know where Rex is and why she alone had a timer on her watch?"

"Maybe she wasn't the only one with an alarm set? It could be Rex has that same alarm? She did say that both the Chancellor and Rex kept referring to that time dead line but never told her why. Odd, right? Why would they only entrust that key element to her?"

"Key? You may have hit the grand slam, Max. Maybe the key is a precise moment and not a physical item at all."

"Maybe it's both things?" Sol suggested as he took a drag and passed the cigarette back to Max.

Klein picked up the key from the glove box lid. "What about this key?"

"A clock winding key? A chest key maybe?" Sol observed.

"A shop key. Something in Potts's Shop?" Max stated between puffs.

"So what's the plan, dudes?" David asked as he breathed into his palms to stimulate warmth.

Klein gathered the devices from the glove box. "Sol, you and Max move on to the third stage of our plan. David and I will meet up with you two at the police station."

"Where are we going?"

"To teach you how to hit the curve ball and get some answers from the one person who can tell us about these trinkets. Come on, Kid, back to my car - only this time, you're driving."

"Me? Why me?"

Klein smiled his impish grin, "You got the watch, kid."

David exited the cruiser, darted through the wind accelerated rain drops and entered the drivers side of the Duster. Klein entered the passenger side, less hectic and more dignified before emptying his pocket of the time components into a handkerchief. Loosely knotting the ends, he placed the makeshift parcel on David's lap.

"What am I supposed to do with this?"

"You're going back in time. I can't go because I'm otherwise occupied with events that will prove vitally important. Anyway, we don't need to add any additional ripples to this storm if that is indeed what this is. You'll find Maya inside the house, give her the parcel. It's especially important you give her the watch, she's expecting it. We didn't know where you had got it from before, so don't tell her who it belongs too. Although, knowing Maya, she will already know. Just don't confirm her suspicions."

"What do you mean, before? Where just doin' this thing now. How was I there before?"

"It's time travel, remember? Trust me, you were there before. Remember that time element window in your watch protects you from getting in a time loop. It's encapsulated time itself so you don't leave an unnatural temporal signature. Maya told me it was you who played the postman during our post game on the ride home. Why do you think I came to your house tonight?"

David shrugged, "My rugged good looks and love of baseball?" Klein frowned before David smiled. "I'm kiddin', dude. What can and can't I tell her?"

"To play it safe, anything I've taught you tonight, replace my name with Wordsworth. Maya won't question that he trained you. She may ask questions if you tell her I did and that would be a bad thing."

David nodded as that statement seemed reasonable to him. "So, why did I show up or is that okay to ask?"

"The parcel in your lap. Give Maya the watch, she'll ask about it, tell her Max asked you to bring it. Ask her if she can figure out the other items too. You didn't have those last time you came but it shouldn't generate any ripples. You're just getting answers, you're not changing anything."

"Okay, final silly question. Why are we in your car if I am using my watch?"

"Think of my car as you home plate. It'll give you an anchor to pinpoint back to on your return, sorta like when you linked up with Max earlier. Set your watch to twenty-three-fifty-five yesterday, the Banks house on Maple Street. Hold on to the steering wheel, picture the car in your mind, and press the button on your watch. When you want to return, think of this car, set the time and date to current with Metro City as your destination. When you press the button, you'll end up just like you are now, behind the wheel ... theoretically."

David looked at Klein questioningly, "Theoretically? Have you ever done this before?"

"Me? Personally? No. But Sol, over there, he has plenty of times."

David rose the eye brown over his swollen eye the best he could. "Honestly?"

"Cross my heart, kid. It's a ball four, take you base, scenario."

"Can't I just use the ring or something?"

"Not everyone has a compass, kid. This is how the less privileged players do it. Besides, my car is hardly a DeLorean. It is not a time device and it can't travel in time."

"But I'm linked to Max. Why don't I just return to him as home plate?"

"I suppose you could jump to him but if he's in the middle of a gun fight with Rex," he rose his left hand into the air and cast it back, discordantly. "You'd feel pretty silly with some holes in your chest and no gun in your hand, now wouldn't ya, kid? Just stick with the game plan and you'll avoid the suicide squeeze play at the plate."

"Not to change the subject, because you know how much I love baseball and all, but you said the Banks House earlier. I assume that's my destination. Isn't that where the dead body in the trunk came from? He was the one sent to kill Bella?"

Klein diverted the question by not giving too many details. "He wouldn't have stopped at Bella, kid. Justice was as twisted and sick as they come, make no mistake about that. It's imperative that you hit the curve and don't get beaned. You understand what I'm telling you, right? Do what I've told you, how I've told you, and stay outta the action. Don't lead off, try to steal or try stretching your single into a double. Once you're on base, it's Maya's turn at bat. Got me?"

"Got ya, coach."

David set the coordinates, time and date as Klein instructed. Gripping the watch and parcel in one hand, he wrapped his fingers around the steering wheel and pictured the Duster in his head. Pressing the fob button, David began to shimmer and disappeared from the drivers seat leaving Klein alone in the car. Klein looked over at the cruiser and gave a thumbs up sign.

Sol started the cruiser's engine and slowly backed out of the parking stall. Placing the car in drive, he turned to Max, "Don't worry. The kid will do fine."

"shite, he's just a sixteen year old kid. In the past we had a falling out, but I corrected it when I came back. He's my best friend, you know. If I'd known it would lead to this, I may not have altered those event. We may not have remained friends, but he'd be safe."

"You worry too much. Nobody is forcing him to do anything he doesn't want to do." Turning on to the street, Sol slammed on the breaks as the little sports car raced passed at breakneck speed. "Crazy driver!" He shook his fist angrily. "You're gonna get somebody killed driving like that."


* * *


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