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Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 11:00 pm 
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Time And Realative Dimension In Space
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Shadows In The Rain

The living room filled with a pink hue as Loria materialized at three-twenty-three Spruce Street. Allowing her eyes to adjust to the dark, she moved around the rustic patterned recliner towards the matching rustic couch. A tan duffle bag sat beside the coffee table, it's dangling airline tags identified it as having been recently scanned at San Francisco International. Although a fresh pillow and folded gray blanket sat upon the couch's cushions, they remained unused. She unzipped the bag and recognized the unmistakable smell of Michael's cologne wafting from inside. 'Twenty years later and he still wears Drakkar,' she thought as she re-zipped the duffle.

Quietly, she climbed the stairs to the second floor as the storm helped to conceal her actions. The wooden steps creaked beneath the pressure placed upon them, yet she kept moving upward knowing that the continuous movement was less a disturbance than the repetitive stop and start. She removed her heels at the top landing and tip-toed down the hall. The bathroom door was open which left her with a choice of the three remaining doors and the kitchen stairwell. Ruling the stairwell out, she began at the door directly across from the bathroom. As she pressed her ear to the door to listen, she could hear no sounds. Opening the door slowly, she whispered, "Michael," but received no reply. Taking a peek inside, her heart sank a little as she found it stuffed to the brim with boxes, bags, an old sewing machine, and unfinished crafting projects. Closing the door, she continued to the two remaining doors at the end of the hall as the floor boards creaked beneath her.

Arriving at the right-hand, eastern door, something just inside it's boundary made her pocket watch vibrate as she stopped to listen. Extracting the opulent black watch from her pocket, the three diamonds upon the covers face held a faint pulsing glow as they vibrated. 'Max's room,' she thought to herself. The watch pulsated harder the closer it was placed near the door, confirming her suspicions. She returned the watch to her pocket and shook her head. 'He really needs to hide his device collection out of phase. You would think he would know these things.'

Lingering while the earlier incidents at the high school played back in her mind, she touched the door frame, running her fingers along its seam. As a teenager, she would have freely given her soul to the devil to be welcomed into this room; to make Max love her and her alone. Only tonight she learned that the Max she fell in love with wasn't that silly fifteen year old boy but the adult man he would become. The man that, for twenty-three years, had set the bar that she compared all other lovers to. Only now did she admit to herself how much of Max she saw in Michael and it frightened her. If she was to give herself to Michael, completely as she had with Max, would he too break her heart? Would Michael one day reject her for another's affection? She had played the game with him, always the tease but never the prize, yet still he remained. Time after time, he returned to her and endured all of her silly games and outlandish excuses. If Max was correct, he had silently accepted his unrequited role as suiter and pined for her. Tonight, she learned the truth, not only about Max and that magic night, but about herself. She now understood why she had kept Michael near but always away. They were both the men she had always wanted but never thought she could obtain. Both would put themselves in harms way for her, to protect her. Max did this for friendship and a sense of duty for the Gloria he remembered, the girl she once was. Michael endured her games, her petty whims, and would defend her to the bitter end because, despite her many flaws, he was in love with the woman she became.

She turned from the door, knowing now what years of therapy could not help her obtain, a sense of inner peace. The anger she had held on to, often embraced, for all these years had been lifted from her. Max was correct, she had a chance to make her life better. To change it. To reach out and take the love that has been unconditionally offered to her and not ignore it's possibilities. She just had to find Michael, the man who waited, the man who would always return to her. She needed to correct the wasted time between them. She stared at the last door, the west bedroom door. 'Lana's room. Maybe she's out? Maybe Michael is sleeping in her room?' Placing her hand on the knob, she slowly began to turn it when the floorboards creaked again, however, this time, she was not the origin of the disturbance.

"Don't scream and don't even think about trying to run, little girl," whispered a shrill male voice.

Loria turned her head toward the kitchen stairwell. A short, rain drenched, ginger haired man stood to the left and behind her. Cupped between both hands, he pointed a Forty-five automatic pistol. She recognized instantly as to whom the original owner and provider of the pistol was but had no idea as to it's current user. "Look, mister, I don't know what he's told you but-"

"Shut up and get in the room," he commanded while gesturing toward the door with the pistol. "Be quick about it. I don't want to have to hurt you, but I will if necessary."

She completed turning the knob and slowly rose her hands as she entered the room. As the lightning flashed and illuminated the room, she suddenly realized she was not in Lana's bedroom. 'If this is Max's room, what was triggering in Lana's room? She was taken aback by the room's neatness and order. Nothing out of place and no signs of a typical teenage room. She did a cursory scan of the pictures and paintings on the walls. All were neatly framed and all painted or drawn by Max. She only remembered his sketches from memory and was now almost overwhelmed at his talent, whether he was fifteen or thirty-eight. She was so impressed by the artistic array, she had almost forgotten about the threat of the gun wielding man behind her. Hearing the door close, she lowered her hands and turned to face him.

"Ah, ah, I didn't say you could put your hands down."

"Can I at least put the shoes down?" She tossed her heels beside the desk before raising her hands again. "I'd think you'd prefer me not having a weapon in my hand, am I right?"

He nodded emphatically. "Yeah, yeah, you're right? Good idea, little girl. I should have thought about that."

"I see you and I have a common friend," she used her chin to gesture towards the pistol. "That's his signature side arm. He doesn't just loan them out to people unless he trusts them. I sense he trusts you, mister ... mister?"

"Obtuse," he replied then angrily shook his head at his own comment. "Stop being obtuse, little girl. My name is not important."

"Okay? Is it alright if I tell you my name so you stop calling me, 'little girl,' all night? It's rather disrespectful and, frankly, it's beginning to piss me off."

"I know your name. What do ya think I'm stupid or something?"

'Or something,' she thought. "So, will you be so kind and tell me what our mutual friend wants from me?"

He wiped the dripping water from the side of his face with his shoulder. "Your watch, Lana. He sent me for your brooch watch."

'Lana? He thinks I'm Lana? He's not here for me.' Relieved at first before she interpreted the implications. 'That's what the hit was earlier. There's a device in Lana's room. Oh, shite, and Rex has sent this nut job to get it.' She smiled before replying, "Oh, that silly old thing?" She did her best to sound like a teenager. "It hasn't worked in years. You know, I only keep it for sentimental reasons. It belonged to my grandmother."

"Get it," he pushed the gun forward in a threatening manner. "Don't make me shoot you."

"Alright, alright already. I have to remember where I put it. Like I said, it doesn't work anymore. I just have to remember where I put it for safe keeping."

His eyes, and the pistol, followed her across the room to the desk. Opening each drawer, she shuffled through the odd collection of memorabilia, pens, brushes and other oddities one collects. His eyes examined the pictures on the wall. "You certainly have a lot of pictures of women on your walls."

Her blue eyes peered through the loose strands of raven hair that fell over her face. "You don't like women or something, mister?"

"It's odd being in a little girls room and seeing such a display. I expected-"

"What? Pictures of male movie stars, kittens and rainbow unicorn posters?"

He squinted his eyes questioningly, "Yeah. Something like that I suppose."

"What can I say," she replied closing the center desk drawer. "I like women. I mean I really, really like women. Do I need to elaborate?"

"Oh," he replied with a tone of shock in his voice. "You're one of those, are you? You don't look it."

"It's the eighties, mister. I mean, you totally need to get your head out of the stone age already. We don't all wear plaid flannel shirts and corduroy jeans. I guess I'm what you'd call a 'Lipstick' type."

He approached the portrait of Bella and examined the detail. "Interesting fact about lesbians. Did you know that neither the Greeks or the Romans recorded any historical information about woman on woman love. They were so male oriented, that they couldn't or wouldn't allow the idea of women deriving pleasure without a male relationships. But, they had no problem sharing the male on male relationships in art, writing, or recorded history. Now you think about that. Their society was so masculine dominated, they suppressed the act of Uranism from medical, historical and poetic documents. Sodomy was perfectly acceptable but tribadism was an unacceptable taboo. Now you think about that."

She caught a glimpse of the next picture as the lightning flashed again, it was of her younger self. "Not here," she announced as she slammed the roll top down. "Let me check the nightstand."

"Damn it, keep the noise down." He returned his attention to her. "I don't need your family interrupting us." He shook the gun threateningly. "There's no need for this to turn bloody but I'll do what I have to to get that watch, little girl. Do you understand me?"

"Apparently better than you understand me. I told you to knock that 'little girl' crap off. Now you've gone and made me angry, Mister Nobody. I don't want to play this little psycho scenario anymore."

He took three steps forward and pointed the gun at her head. "I said I didn't want to use this gun not that I wouldn't use it. You find that watch - now!"

"If you pull that trigger, little man, it will be the last thing you ever do." She stood defiant with the desk between them. "My father is an ex-marine, a Nam vet. What do you think will happen if he is suddenly woken up from a gunshot in his house? From his baby girl's bedroom? You better pray you miss me or he'll totally shoot you where you stand, before you can even utter, semper fi."

The rolling thunder gave McNulty time to pause. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out camping knife and opened the blade before stuffing the pistol into his jacket pocket. "I don't need a gun to deal with the likes of you, Lana."

"Ooh, a cutter," she mocked his displayed bravado. "You trying to get me excited, Mister Nobody?"

"You got one more chance to find that watch else there will be consequences. I'll start by taking little tiny pieces off you. An ear lobe, the tip of your nose, maybe even that wagging, spitfire tongue of yours. Oh, and trust me, little girl, I can make it last all night if need be."

"Ooh, don't waste your breath bragging to me about your stamina." She took a step back as he maneuvered around the desk. "I already told you, I like girls. I'm so not into boys with toys."

"Find that god damned watch, now!"

The vibration from her pocket watch started as she stepped back into the nightstand. She could see a slight glow beginning to form in her jacket pocket. "Okay, okay, like, give me a minute." Kneeling, she kept her eyes on him as her fingers fumbled on the drawer handle before it slid open.

"If I see anything other than a watch come out of that drawer, forget what I said about little pieces. I'll slit you like a hog come market time."

From the bottom of the drawer, something sparkled. A thin diamond choker with a heart-shaped watch attached. 'Liberty's booby-trap,' ran through her mind as a Cheshire smile graced her pretty face. "Found it."

"Give it to me, girl, and remember my warning. I'll slice you ear to ear, princess."

Handing the choker to him, her smile never faded. "One watch as requested."

"This isn't a brooch." He stated while examining the choker. "I was told it would be a brooch watch."

"It's nineteen-eighty-five. Brooch watches went out of style in the sixties," she coyly replied. "But like I keep telling you, it doesn't work anymore. The jeweler in the mall told me that the maker went out of business years ago. Some company called, Potts and Son."

He flipped over the watch and scrutinized the rear bevel: Belasco Potts Timepieces - Metro City, USA - 1936. "Little girl, do you not understand the significance of this watch? It's an original Potts design."

Loria's smile never vanished. "Big deal. He's probably dead by now. His company certainly went out of business and the stupid thing doesn't even work anymore."

Setting the knife on the desktop, he held the watch to his ear and shook it. "Did you try winding it?"

"Like, oh my god, mister," she continued to imitate a teenager, over emphasizing key words . "You mean, it doesn't run on, like, batteries?"

"Not everything in life runs on batteries. That's the problem with you kids today. You have no concept of clockwork technology," he complained as he pulled the watch stem up to adjust the time. "Everything nowadays is done with electronics. You don't appreciate the skillful craftsmanship of gears, cogs and springs. Now you think about that. For hundreds of years this world ran fine without modern electronic conveyances. When I was a boy, we didn't need all these electronic whos-its. Man's own ingenuity has taken a backseat to the instant gratification of TV news, TV diners and portable radios. Nobody reads anymore. Nobody goes for a simple walk through the park or a hayride picnic. Its all fast food, fast paced, get your information spoon fed to your brain from radio and TV. Your generation is living in the final declining years of western civilization. Now you just think about that." He paused from his tirade. "Do you know what time it is?"

"About twenty minutes to three," she pointed to the pendulum clock above the bed.

Spinning the stem, he set the watch to the time stated. "There. Two-forty A.M., exactly." He depressed the stem and wound the watch three turns. His eyes light up as the second hand advanced one click and Loria stepped back. The hands on the watch began to spin, the minute hand clockwise, the hour hand counter-clockwise. He tried to release the watch but his hand and body refused to cooperate. His eyes stared at Loria who had continued her backward movement across the bed and into the back corner. As the watch spun faster and faster, it emitted a dazzling white light that steadily illuminated the room. For the first time, he could see that she was not a teenage girl and the picture behind her revealed she was not Lana, as the portrait did not match the woman. "Who the hell are you? What have we done?"

Loria turned her head and raised her hands before her, shielding her eyes from the immense intensity of the light. "You may call me, Loria. And to be clear, we've done nothing. I told you it was broken but you didn't listen. This was not done by my hand. This is all your own undoing, Mister Nobody."

"I am not a nobody! Not obtuse," he spoke between his clenched teeth as the pain grew insurmountable. "I ... am ... McNulty!"

The bright light imploded upon itself, burning him to ashes that flittered piece by piece into the watches vortex. What seemed like an eternity, lasted but a few moments. McNulty and the watch were gone as if they had never been. The thunder growled outside as the room fell back into darkness. Walking around the bed, she retrieved the knife from the desk, closed the blade before depositing it in the nightstand drawer. Using her hands, she quickly rubbed the wrinkles from the bedspread and plopped herself in the desk chair, drawing a heavy sigh.

'Michael,' she thought as her head fell onto the backrest. 'Where the hell are you?'

Slipping on her heels, she envisioned Micheal in her mind's eye. His wavy hair, his brilliant blue eyes, his strong warm hands caressing her body. Envisioning their bodies entwined together, she slowly reached into her pocket and pressed the top fob on her watch. She began to shimmer, becoming bathed in pink and red hues before disappearing into time.

The rain streamed down the windows as lightning crossed the sky and the room fell dark once more.


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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:08 am 
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Loria's 1985 TBIT or The Dark Queens New Coke Trip

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Loria materialized is a shimmer of pink hues which, momentarily, dispersed with a sudden red flash. She found herself in the back seat of a car, brand new judging from the aroma. It had black vinyl seats, a racy interior and sported an AM/FM stereo complete with cassette player. The Chevy logo, proudly emblazoned on the steering wheel in gold flake plastic, instantly identified the car as a Camaro. 'Wonderful,' her internal monologue began in complaint. 'How stereotypically 80s. I couldn't have landed in a Mercedes or a Beamer, it had to be an American car. Well, at least it's not a Gremlin or a Pinto.'

As she reached between the bucket seats to adjust the rear view and examine herself, she realized her clothes had changed to match the timeline. She was attired in a Day-glo pink leotard with matching leg warmers. Her reflection also revealed that her hair was pulled back in a pony tail, held in place by an equally shocking pink elastic scrunchy. Her eyeshadow and mascara were both power blue but her lipstick was, once again, pink. She read the metallic gold embossed lettering across her leotard top in the mirror: Let's Get Physical. 'Really? I hated that stupid song 20 years ago.' She pulled the top away from her breasts and stared down at the iron-on lettering. 'Now I hate it even more.'

She searched for her purse and pocket watch. The purse was now a gray fanny-pack with pink piping. Inside, she did find her watch, still black with 3 diamonds in the shape of a pyramid, thankfully unchanged from her travel back in time mission. Unscrewing the pocket watch's back plate, she read the settings code inscribed inside and turned off the "Time Era Blend" setting. "There. That'll be quite enough of this. No more automatically dressing me to the appropriate timeline like I'm a Barbie doll. Just leave me dressed as I am, thank you very much."

She examined the contents of the fanny pack upon replacing the watch's cover. Locating the Rubix Snake, she placed it along with the pocket watch inside the inner zippered compartment. Her credit cards and ID, which were useless to her, were also inside but she found no cash. She placed the pack's belt around her waist and presseded the plastic 2-prong buckle together with a loud click. Taking one last look in the mirror, she removed the scrunchy from her hair, tossed it in the back seat without a second thought and opened the Camaro's door.

Exiting Lex's Diner, a young twenty-something blond man took a long drink from his wax-paper New Coke cup before tossing the beverage empty container at the trash can. He missed his target but continued onward, mesmerized by the visage before him rather than the litter he left behind. Climbing from the back seat of his new car was this beautiful raven haired creature in a pink aerobics outfit. He removed his white, mirrored lensed, imitation Wayfarers from the top button hole of his baby blue polo shirt and flipped the collar upward. Running his hands through his layered blond waves, he breathed into his hand, verifying that his breath was good, as he strutted towards his car.

"Freeze, Lady," he said in an obviously fake though deep baritone voice. "I'm calling the cops."

She glanced over her shoulder at the approaching young man and remembered the attire she was wearing. She arched her hips to accentuate her backside. "Cops? Whatever for?"

"For tryin' to steal my heart, Hot Stuff."

She rolled her eyes before turning to face him. "Oooh, aren't you the clever one? I've never heard that line before."

He raised his eyebrows 3 times above his sunglasses frame. "Liked that, did ya? Why don't ya give me your number? Maybe I can call you and we can go out sometime?"

She fluttered her eyelashes, "I don't know. I don't normally go out with strange men ... well, those I haven't been introduced to, anyway."

"Parker," he blurted rather than stated. He paused to regain his cool, before replying again, "Parker Kittridge, at your service."

"Kittridge," she looked upwards trying to place the name. "Not the same Kittridge as Kittridge Motors, are you?"

Retrieving the keys from the front pocket of his acid-washed jeans, he spun the ring around his index finger, making sure the company logo key tag was displayed. "One in the same."

"No wonder you can afford such a rad and bitchin' car. So cool. So totally, Knight Rider."

"No, no, no. That's a Trans Am. This," he elongated his arms as if showcasing it on a game show. "This is a Camaro IROC-Z28. It makes the Trans Am look like a soapbox racer in comparison. But enough about the car, my pretty young thing. What's your name?"

"Gloria ... Gloria Godwin."

Smiling, he began to sing, "Gloria, Gloria, I think I want your number-"

She placed her index finger to his lips to silence him. 'I swear to god, I should just knee him in the balls and take his car.' Dismissing the idea, she leaned in and whispered in his ear, "You already have my number. Meet me here at 7 PM tonight."

He stared down her top admiring her ample cleavage. 'Oh I got your number alright baby, 36C.' His eyes returned to hers, "7 o'clock sharp, Glo, and don't be late or else."

"Oooh, threats. I'm like, so scared right now." She took his hand and placed it above her left breast. "Can you feel how fast my heart is beating?"

He nodded with mouth agape, unable to verbally reply.

She reached out, closed his mouth with the finger of her left hand, before repeating, "7 o'clock sharp and don't be late. Oh, and," she waved her hands over his body imitating his earlier showcase gesture. "Wear something nice, a Miami Vice suit maybe. Surprise me."

Walking away, she accentuated the sway in her hips, feeling his eyes on her ass the whole way. Laughing to herself, she mused over the encounter. He was too young, too naive, too easy. He thought he could play the game but he is still on the sidelines watching. Just another fool that she neither had time or patience for. 'He probably believes I'll show up tonight.' But she had greater concerns on her mind. 1st of all, she needed money. 2nd, she needed different clothes. If she was to become her own aunt, she needed to look the role. The Jane Fonda workout attire was becoming embarrassing and drew too much attention.

Entering the 1st national Bank, she filled out the withdrawal ticket for $50 from her childhood savings account. She knew that her younger self never touched the account and the money would go undetected until she could replace it. She took the bills from the cashier in denominations of: (1) 20, (2) 10s, (1) 5, and (5) 1s. Placing the bills in her fanny pack, she left the bank under the watchful eye on 90% of the men inside. She smiled, knowing that the outfit did have it's advantages.

As she walked down the older business district, she stopped before a red and black brick storefront. Displayed across the window in faded bold print were the words: Metroville Thrift. Her mother used to bring her here when she was a small girl. She could buy last years fashions at bottom dollar prices. Although not poor, her mother could never resist a good bargain, a byproduct of herself having been raised poor. Also, her mother knew that no one from their social circle traveled in the skid row area, so she had no fear of being recognized and possibly bringing shame upon the family.

The dust covered Christmas bell wreath hanging from the doors handle chimed as she entered. The young girl behind the counter began to wave at her thinking she recognized Loria, then stopped realizing her mistake. She strolled through the aisles, noticing how little the store had changed from her formative years. She examined the clothes, discovering that they were not as she had hoped for. Some dated to the 70s whereas others were at least from this decade. Looking at a floral print, a mid 50s clerk appeared from the back of the store.

"Oh, Honey, those clothes are way too old for a pretty young woman like yourself."

Loria thought, 'Mind your own business, you old bitty,' but instead replied with, "Oh these are not for me, they're for my aunt. I think she'll love them. You know, she's probably close to your age."

The clerk dismissed the snarky comment, reconciling it to Loria's youth. "Oh, okay Hun. If you see any clothes for yourself, changing rooms are in the rear."

'I can read, you old bat,' she looked at the sign above the clothes rack which bore an old fashioned finger pointing sign showing the way to the dressing rooms. "Thanks ma'am," she replied to the woman who was in mid walk down the aisle. "I see some rags here I liked. I may just use that changing room after all."


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Last edited by DrMoreau on Thu Jul 20, 2017 9:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Original Storyboard by Mr.Z - see 1z: Outlines and X-tras


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Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:13 pm 
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Time And Realative Dimension In Space
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Location: In the cold chill that runs down your spine.
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The Curve Ball

David materialized on the front porch of three-eleven Maple Street. The hyacinth covered outer trellis provided both visual obscurity as well as protection from the storm's violent wind blown rain. He checked his watch and confirmed it was indeed eleven-fifty-five post meridian. He tested the front door and found it unlocked. 'Alrighty then,' he thought to himself. Time to get this show rockin'. Pressing the thumb latch of the large brass handle, he stealthily entered the Bank's home.

He had been invited into this home many times over the years and was well acquainted with it's Feng Shui layout. Being that Mister and Misses Banks were both "New Age" practitioners, their home was a collection of scented oil decanters, crystals, and other similar sensibilities. As always, the soft aroma of lemon-grass lingered in the air and greeted all who entered the front door. The low burning fireplace provided a gentle light as the charred logs burned from within. Not readily seeing Maya, he warmed himself by the fireplace before he searched the home. The space above and around the mantle had always intrigued him. The center piece was a large oil painting family portrait with a collection of individual family pictures staggered around it's frame. He placed the makeshift parcel upon the mantle when he noticed his compass ring began to spin. Slowly, he moved his hand over the photographs, one singular picture triggered the ring's activity. A small, floral etched five-by-seven wooden frame, picture of Bella.

"What are your doing?" Maya inquired in a low but authoritative whisper. As she descended the stairs, her hand slid down the banister in support of her graceful steps. "You were supposed to meet me in the bedroom."

He grabbed the parcel and turned to face Maya.

Her attire was most provocative. She wore a men's white dress shirt that barely covered her ruffled lace panties. Her petite size and frame gave the illusion that she was much younger than the woman he had met at the library.

"Sorry," he began in a normal tone before lowering his voice to a whisper. "He just told me to meet you here. He didn't tell me where you'd be."

She stopped on the intermediate landing between floors. Her bare legs and lower half remained visible while her upper half was concealed by the darkness. "He?"

"Yeah, you know, Max. He told me to bring this to you." He hastily untied the parcel, extracted the wrist watch and held it towards her. "He said you needed this watch but he didn't tell me why."

"That's a lovely watch. Dare I say, a perfect watch. It's exactly what I need. How did Max come to acquire such a watch?"

David began his climb upwards, "He didn't say. I think Wordsworth gave it to him?"

"Why didn't Max bring it himself? Why did he entrust it to you?"

"Max and Wordsworth are running their own operation tonight. Max asked me to bring it in his place." He stopped and offered the watch to her. It wasn't until she did not react to the presentation that he remembered she was blind. He lightly touched her hand and placed the watch in her palm. "I can show you how it works if you need me too?"

She gripped the watch and smiled her cherub-like grin, "Well aren't you a dear boy. It seems that this watch can perform several functions, are you sure you're up to the task?" She paused and wrinkle her nose. "Of instructing me, I mean."

Although he hadn't, until recently, really ever been flirted with in his young life, that definitely sounded like she was flirting. "Well, he said you knew what to do with it. I was just being polite."

Her hair whipped in place as she turned and climbed to the second floor. "And polite you have been, young Master Lane. But the time is growing nigh and I still have so much preparation. Do you, maybe, have a way of helping me before you scurry off?"

He couldn't help but stare at her swaying hips as he followed behind her. "Tit for tat, Miss Maya, is that what you are asking?"

She giggled but it bore no resemblance to that of a little girl. She entered Bella's room and outstretched her left arm behind her. Her palm turned upward as she beckoned him to follow with her index finger.

He closed the door behind him when he was suddenly force against it. Her left foot was squarely up against his throat as she stood side ways, supporting her weight with her crouched right leg. "That's a pretty pocket watch you have, David. Funny thing is, I don't remember you wearing it earlier today or you having that swollen cheek either. So tell me, are they new acquisitions too?"

For the first time, he saw Maya's face tonight. Her eye sockets bore inky black orbs that stood in sharp contrast to her porcelain skin tone; it scared the hell out of him. "Yeah, yeah. Fresh, shiny and new."

"May I ask?"

"I was advised not to answer," he struggled to reply as she applied more pressure.

"Max again?"

His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth before answering, "Wordsworth. He said it may alter things and create a ripple."

She removed her foot and stood upright. "Sounds like advise Wordy would give you." She examined his body language as he lingered by the door. "Have I hurt you? Nothing permanent I hope."

David leaned on his knees to catch his breath before he waved the remark off with his right hand. "Just caught me unaware is all."

"Good. I'd feel horrible if I hurt you unwarranted. You need to understand, you were not who I expected. And that shimmer you have around you, well, it gave me a pause of anxiety."

David rubbed his throat, "Shimmer? What are you talking about?"

"Your temporal shimmer. The watch you carry is quite old and rare. Furthermore, it appears to be bonded to you, genetically. It allows my eyes to see you vividly, even that swollen cheek of yours. Usually, only the devices themselves glow and create a nimbus halo around the possessor but not so with you, dear boy. So either you made that watch and have traveled ahead in years, in which case my actions would have been justified. Or, most likely, one of your ancestors made it and created a genetic stamp that activates certain attributes only accessible by a blood line owner. Judging by your expression, I'm fairly certain it's the later. Now let me see, you're not a Potts or even Potts himself, I met him several times. So, who are you, young Master Lane?"

"Lange," he continued to stretch and pivot his neck. "I only found out tonight that it belonged to my great grandfather. It was presented to me only a few hours ago, that's why I didn't have it at the library when you first met me."

Her cherub smile created delicate wrinkles around her pouty lips, "Lange. Part of the missing lineage I'd imagine. That would indeed explain your glow. But I wouldn't let that secret be known, it could be dangerous. Who else knows?"

"Just you, Max and ..." he remembered Klein's warning as he saw the tiny fragments of lightning scatter in her blacker than black eyes. "Wordsworth. He's the one who presented me with both the watch and my grandfather's true name."

"Has he taught you how to use the watch yet?"

"We're still in training mode."

"Well you couldn't ask for a better teacher." She straightened her shirt to hide her ruffled panties. "Wordy's the best at this game."

"He also sent these along." He held the parcel out before him, still afraid to get close to her, specifically, to her eyes. "He wanted to know if you could examine them. They identify as time items but have no recognisable triggers."

She opened the handkerchief and emptied the contents atop the vanity. Placing her finger on the key, she pushed it to the right. "This goes to something old, it doesn't belong to the other three pieces." She appeared to stare at the mysterious key as she pressed down with her finger, hard enough to leave an imprint in her flesh. "It's been temporally obscured and not by technical means. Something truer, something older than the key itself. I can't say for sure what it belongs to. These however," her hands moved to the case, stick pin and fountain pen. "These are a set."

"So, what do they do?"

"First things first." She adjusted the bezel dials on the wrist watch. "Did Wordsworth teach you about time manipulation - specifically, how to phase shift?"

David shook his head unable to advert his eyes from hers.

Her smile returned. "I don't bite, David. Not unless you ask me really nicely and maybe not even then. You're a little young and I'd hate to ruin you for all other women." She moved closer to the window to provide added light for his benefit. "You need to set your time phase in degrees, either ahead or behind. Then, set the offset dial to the seconds you want to shift by, three in our case. Now last, but probably most important, distance. If you fail to set this, it will only protect the immediate area around the watch. Each second is equal to one yard away. We will set it for the house, so twenty-three yards should cover it."

"Basically, you just described how to calculate a curve ball pitch."

"Yes," she turned her head to acknowledge his statement. "I suppose I did. Everybody speaks baseball, right?"

David recognised, perhaps too late, the trap she just snared him in. "Only what I learned in little league. I'm more of a chess man myself."

"A chess man, I see." She walked into the hallway and opened the linen closet. After she pulled the winding stem up on the watch, she placed it in between the comforter and towel shelf.

David waited for something to happen but nothing did. This bothered him because, as he had come to learn, something always happens. "Did you do it right? I didn't notice anything. No pulse, no shimmer, no nothing."

"Bring that compass ring over here and see if you can detect the watch?"

He waved his hand outside the door but nothing triggered. He opened the door and waved his hand directly over the watch, still nothing triggered. "It's right here. I can see it. How can this be?"

"It's not in the same time phase we are. In this phase, our current phase, it's just a watch."

He followed her back to the bedroom, still unable to divert his eyes from her swaying hips. "So, about those components. How do they work?"

She picked up the case and the stick pin. Locating a small hole next the the hinge, she inserted the pin until it snuggly engaged. She pressed the clasp to unlock the lid and revealed that the mirror was now a blackened liquid field with small lightning flashes.

"Hey, I know that. It's essence of time, right?"

"That's what I've been told," she said removing the fountain pen cap. "I've never seen it with my own eyes, but I'll take your word for it. Who are we sending a message to?"

"What do ya mean?"

She held up the pen, "You write on the mirror with this pen and it sends a message to the person who owns the case. Being that its time oriented, you could transmit messages to the past or to the future. Who owns the case?"

David half shrugged, "I'm not really sure. They didn't tell me."

She closed the case and removed the pin. "I can tell by the smell of the tobacco that still lingers in the case, it belongs to the Chancellor, David. What have you boys gotten yourselves into that you aren't telling me?"

"Look, Wordsworth didn't explain it all to me. He simply said to have you verify what these things are, what they do, nothing more."

"You're a terrible liar. Cute and polite, but just terrible at it all the same. Wordy doesn't need me to figure out these components. Hell, he probably designed it. He also doesn't speak baseball, I doubt he even knows the game exists."

"We spoke baseball," he protested indignantly. "You and I, not me and Wordsworth. I told you, I'm a chess man. You are a Queen, Wordsworth is a Bishop, Max is the King and I'm a Knight. And like all good knights, I'm just following orders here, lady."

She placed her hands on her hips and cocked her head, "Well, I'm certainly not the queen and Max isn't the king, dear boy. I don't know whoever put those ludicrous notions in your head? Probably the same person who said you were a knight, am I correct?"

David paused before he answered. Whether by intention or accident, she knew how to push a persons buttons and was quite experienced at doing so. Not wanting to reveal more than he should, he nervously spun the compass watch around on his finger. "Just my take when I observe the pieces on the board. Sorry if I read you wrong, I meant no insult."

"Insult?" She cupped his uninjured cheek. "My endearing young man, you flatter me. I'm afraid though, like Max, I'm merely a warrior ... merely a knight. Maybe one day I'll be queen, it will give me something to aspire to. 'Maya the Queen,' maybe someday."

"Are you positive, one-hundred percent positive, Max isn't the King?"

"One-hundred and ten percent certain." She Picked up the miniature remote switch and activated a button. The window shades in the room slowly began to close. "Both Max and Rex would be knights, if we are comparing this to a chess board. You know, I've never really thought about the game that way before but now that you point it out, it does make sense. You have your knights, bishops, rooks, pawns, kings and queens. All very organised indeed."

"But I've always assumed that The Chancellor was the knight and Rex was the king."

"Heavens, no," she climbed upon the canopy bed and pressed the remote button again to open the blinds. "Just because his name is Rex, it doesn't make him a king. The Chancellor, you see, used to be a knight, this is true, but when he abducted and trained Rex, he elevated himself to the bishop position. Bishops, like Chancellor and Wordy, they are the plotters, schemers and orchestrator's. They both have a natural ability to pose such interesting theories, persuasive arguments really, that causes one to pause and question. They can make individuals, or groups for that matter, doubt in themselves or even their staunchest beliefs.

"Knights, on the other hand, are warriors and have the talent of tactics and command. 'They,' listen to me getting all self removed. 'We,' can inspire or generate fear in those around us, even lead if necessary, but we too are limited as to what or who we can command. Then, I suppose, you'd have the Rooks. Blindsiders that are attack or defense oriented warriors, you know, mercenaries. Don't get me wrong, they aren't just mindless brutes by any means. Dedicated, strategic and steadfast. For example, Klein, Justice or Liberty. They do what the rest of us can't or won't, whether by nature, creed or personal code. "

"That just leaves the pawns and the royalty."

She laid back on the pillows, her hair covered half of her face ala Veronica Lake. "Well, how do I look? Could I pass for Bella in the dark?"

David examined her before he approached and sat next to her. The intoxicating fragrance of lavender and vanilla rose from the bedding. "Almost, but not quite. Bella always braids her hair along her temples before she goes to bed. Some sort of bedtime beauty ritual thingy that both her and Becky do. They've done it since they were kids."

"How very perceptive of you. Such a keen insight. What else have I missed?"

"She never falls asleep on her back. Only on her stomach or side. If she sleeps on her back she gets nightmares I'm told. Well, everybody's been told, because Becky can't keep a secret if her life depended on it. Oh, and she snores. Nothing loud like a chainsaw or anything, more like a small dog. Soft, low, but definitely noticeable. I've heard Lana and the other girls tease her about it."

She began to braid her hair as David described. "The other girls and guys you hang around, your clique, how do they fit in on your board of chess pieces?"

He thought about the question while he stared at her statuesque legs. "Pawns mostly, I guess. None of them have time devices or even know that Max isn't Max."

"What do you mean, Max isn't Max?"

"Well, he is Max, he's just not fifteen year old Max." Closing his eyes, he shook his head. "I probably shouldn't have told you that."

Her cherub grin returned, "It's okay. I already knew. I just hadn't realised he had told you."

"Are you sure you're not a queen or a bishop? You can persuade like no one I've ever met before, without even trying."

One at a time, she slowly pulled both braids behind her ears. "Oh, I'm sure I'm not. It's not your fault, you can't help yourself, I suppose. Men just like telling me things. Story of my life."

He rose from the bed and gathered the time components from the vanity. "Well, that just leaves the Kings and Queens. Loria appears to be the Dark Queen which is strange because Gloria is part of our clique. I think it kind of bothers Max but he doesn't talk about it. Personally, I think he may blame himself." He shook his head as he realised he was volunteering information again. "And that brings us back around to the Kings. If Max and Rex aren't Kings, that leaves both sides with unknown players, right?"

She flipped over and laid on her belly. The ruffled panties rode up revealing her round and molded lower posterior. "Then there's you. Where are you on the board?"

He tried to think about the question, even tried to answer, but he couldn't. His eyes were magnetised on her butt cheeks. He returned to the bed and tossed the comforter over her exposed lower extremities. "Me? Well, apparently I'm not a knight. I guess I'm part of the pawns after all."

She giggled and, once again, it bore no resemblance to that of a little girl. "David, you said it yourself. Pawns don't have time devices."

"What are you saying?"

"Be a dear and press the button on that silver night light globe on the dresser. We wouldn't want any unnecessary lighting when Justice arrives."

He pressed the button and noticed that the globe seemed to absorb the light around it rather than stop being the source. He waved his ring across its surface but detected nothing.

"Time to take those trinkets away with you. Justice will be here anytime now and it wouldn't be good if you, or they, are here."

"Mmm, I almost forgot. There is a photo downstairs over the mantle-"

"Leave it, David. It will be here when I'm done."

He oscillated in place not sure whether he should leave. "It's kinda important. I think it's the missing piece to a collection I discovered."

Her giggle returned but he found no comfort in it. "Trust me when I tell you, Justice is a one trick pony. He's after Bella not mementos. It's safe where it is for now."

David looked at his watch, seventeen minutes after midnight. He estimated the time Klein arrived at his house was around one-forty-five and set the time to one-fifteen. 'If he has to take her home, then drive to my house, they need to leave here by one-fifteen. With the storm blowin', he might just have to leave by one. Yeah, one-fifteen is good. I can jump ahead, get the picture, and still be back in Klein's car with no one the wiser. God, I'm getting the hang of this.'

He activated the time mask crystal, closed the inner level and pressed the top button. He was bathed in a silver glow that began to sparkle and shimmer. A bright silver white flash occurred for an instant, then both David and the light were gone, leaving Maya quietly alone, waiting, patiently waiting.


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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:26 pm 
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The Dark Queen's New Coke Trip - Part 2

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The tiny changing booths were barely that. They were constructed of various plumbing pipes assembled in a u-shape and held in place by nonconforming sized flange plates. The velveteen divider drapes reeked of moth balls that she could only assume had been donated by the local Elks Lodge as they were the most garish shade of purple imaginable. The eyelets that held the sides together were hand punched, unevenly spaced, different sized, and tied together with leftover frayed pieces of thick packaging twine. The clothes hooks were haphazardly attached to a piece of 2-by-4 and bolted to the brick wall. A small, white, metal lawn chair, circa 1950s, sat askew in the corner of the booth, serving as both a seat and a makeshift table. The doors drapes were dull and bleak gray wool blankets that's eyelets made a hideous scrapping noise as they slid on the pipe frame. She couldn't help but smile as it was exactly as she remembered from her childhood, only smaller.

She placed the articles of clothing on the hook rack and watched the hooks precariously support their weight. Removing the fanny pack from around her waist, she placed it upon the lawn chair when she noticed the outer change compartment pulsating. She raised the Velcro secured flap and saw the small black nanite pill given to her before her departure back to 1985. Pushing her hair behind her right ear, she rubbed the pill against her temple with her middle and index fingers. 'This is your temporal operator. The call you are trying to make cannot be completed as dialed. If you think that you have reached this message by mistake or you have made this call in error, please try again later.'

"Very humorous, my queen," replied the thought transmission from the Chancellor. Even telepathically, his thoughts contained a thick German accent. "I assume everything is going as planned. It is T plus 8500 minutes after all. As you know, time is of the essence. Where are you now?"

'Trying on clothes. The pocket watch changed my attire to what it was programmed to select as timeline appropriate. I look like I just stepped out of an Aerobicise video.'

"It is a shame I didn't have the nanite transmitter connect to your optic nerves as well. I would truly love to see you in this outfit."

'Don't go getting all pervy on me now, Chancellor.'

"You misunderstand my intentions, my dear. If you remember, I informed you that your watch had certain features mein did not, the difference between modern digital and traditional analog. I am most curious in the wardrobe your watch has selected for you. I assure you, I have no interest in the prospect of seeing your beautiful feminine attributes as god created."

She made a stroking motion with her left hand 3 times. Well you certainly chose an inopportune time to "come out of the closet" to me, I must say.

There was a long pause before he replied. "I am simply stating my analytical interests supersede any sexual desires you may perceive I have for you, liebchen."

'Look, you're into men, I get it. It's nothing to be ashamed about. That explains your homo-erotic animosity towards Michael. He is sexy, isn't he?'

"If you say so, it must be true, my dark and lovely queen."

She could feel something tiny scratching on her temple, as if it were trying to bore into her flesh. 'Time is precious and we are wasting it away. I'll call you when I have executed the break-up party between Gloria and Max. Auf wiedersehen.' She pulled the pill from her temple before he could reply.

She stared at the nanite device as tiny micro-organic tendrils began to recoil back into the outer lining of the pill jacket. Placing the nanite pill back into the pouch pocket, she rubbered her thumb across her temple and examined the small pin-pricks of blood. She wagged her index finger at the fanny pack, "Oooh, you're a nasty little devil, aren't you? I'll have to keep my communications shorter from now on."

She re-examined the outfits one at a time. The deeply scarred full length antique mirror was placed outside the booths between the men's and women's changing area. This forced her to change, leave the booth to examine her reflection, then return to the booth and repeat the process for each outfit. As she examined her reflection, she could see the young clerk in the background appraise the outfits with a thumbs up or thumbs down critique. She mused to herself, Like I'm really going to take fashion advise from a teenager who thinks a concert jersey and denim jeans are the ultimate fashion statement. Please?'

Returning to the booth, she thought about her mother. She remembered that this was time of her self imposed exile from her family. When, at 18, she had moved into her own apartment to escape her father's constant negativity. She would only see her mother on weekends and their scheduled Wednesday night dinners. Her mother was only then a few years older than she is now but always dressed impeccably no matter the occasion. It wasn't so much as what she wore, but how she wore it. 'Her Halston phase,' she thought about her mother in 1980. 'God, I loved those outfits. I bet they are all neatly packed away. Mom never threw anything out.' She needed to get to her parents house and raid her mother's closet.

Almost skipping on the tips of her toes as she had as a girl, she returned to the woman's clothing aisle and examined the available apparel with fresh eyes. 'How would mom assemble an outfit,' she pondered as her her thumb rested below her chin as her index finger tapped her cheek? She picked a pair of 1970's black high-heeled boots, a pair of designer jeans, a black gossamer poncho with bright tassels and a simple basic black spaghetti strapped top. 'This will definitely work for an older aunt trying to stay hip.'

She grabbed her fanny pack, sneakers, and the light lavender maxi dress that the young girl gave the thumbs up to from the changing room. She placed the fanny pack around her waist, approached the checkout and casually dropped the merchandise on the counter. The matronly clerk approached the register when Loria held up her hand. "Not you. I want her," she pointed at the teenager.

The matron clerk harrumphed and turned away as the teenager came over to ring up the sale. The young clerk watched as her boss stormed into and slammed her office door.

"Oh my gawd," the girl clasped her hand over her mouth as she leaned forward and giggled. "That was worth my coming in to work today."

Loria stared at the young girl trying to remember her name. They had went to high school together but was not someone she would have considered a friend. Her brown hair had frosted streaks that stood out against her pale, almost boyish features. The glasses she wore were medium framed that seemed too larger at first glance but accented and drew one's attention to her chestnut eyes. Her mouth seemed out of proportion, slightly too wide, but it added character to her face.

"Well, I appreciated your assistance earlier helping me decide on outfits."

The young girl blushed, "Oh, you saw that?"

Loria continued to stroke the girls ego. "Your opinion was invaluable to my selection choice. I didn't want to see her claim your commission."

"Commission? Pfft, I wish." The girl pleasantly grumbled as she removed the tags from the clothes. "I get paid a lousy $2.75 an hour and get docked a 1/2 hour for lunch."

"$2.75 an hour, that's criminal." Loria slipped on her gray and pink sneakers.

"Tell me about it. She acts like she's doing me a favor for even paying me minimum wage." The girl began to fold the clothes and place them in the brown paper bag. "Sorry for asking, but you look really familiar to me. Not like TV familiar, more like, somebody I've met before. Do I know you from somewhere?"

Loria shook her head and smiled, "I doubt it. I just got in to town today and already I had my bags stolen from my car while I was at the gym. This neighborhood, right?"

"Oh," she waved her finger up and down at Loria's pink leotard and leg warmers. "That explains it. The only people I see in this neighborhood dressed like you are working girls, if ya get me meaning. Not that I thought you were or anything."

Loria looked down at the "Lets get Physical" lettering across her top. "Yeah, I see your point. Kinda cheesy, I know. It was a gift from my niece. Say, you might know her. I'm told we have a strong resemblance. Her name is Gloria, Gloria Light."

She rang up the total on the cash register. "Gloria ... yeah, I know Gloria. She dates one of my boyfriends buddies, Max I think." She cocked her head to the left and looked at Loria again, examining her more intently. "Wow, it's uncanny, you 2 do look alike. I mean, totally look alike. You could be mother and daughter or something."

"Or something," she opened the fanny pack and pulled out her cash. "As I said, I'm her aunt. How much do I owe you?"

"$10.97, but hold on. Let me give you my employee discount."

"Oh, don't do that. I don't want you to get into any trouble." She motioned to the bosses office with her head.

"No trouble. It's the least I could do for making my afternoon a little brighter. There, $8.53."

Loria placed a $10 bill on the counter. "Keep the change ... you know I never caught your name."

"Brenda," she happily replied as she placed the bill in the cash caddy. "Brenda Price."

"Loria Godwin," she replied reaching over the counter to shake her hand.

"Whoa, Loria and Gloria, that's kinda chill."

"I'll tell Gloria, hi, for you when I see her. Oh, and thanks again for the employee discount."

Brenda looked at her bosses door and saw it was firmly secured. From the window display, she removed the leopard skinned purse and stuffed it and the receipt in the bag. "Anytime. Normally I'd say, see ya soon, but I don't think that's gonna happen in your case. You don't seem the type who normally shops in thrift stores."

"Thanks again," she gave a thumbs up and looked at the purse in the bag. "oh, wait. Where might I be able to find some lady things? My make-up and other female products were in my bags that got stolen."

"Around here," she thought for a moment and scratched her head. "Best place would be Rodman's Pharmacy a few blocks over. They carry only top-shelf stuff, none of that brand-x crap you've never heard of before."

Loria thanked Brenda again and made her way to the Pharmacy. She endured several amorous honks, whistles and slow drive-byes to which she responded to with the appropriate, your number one, middle finger. Entering the pharmacy, she continued past the awkward stares from the clerks and patrons. Several rubber bats and child friendly ghosts hung from the ceiling reminding shoppers it was Halloween Season. A pair of horn rimmed cats-eye glasses caught her eye as she headed towards the make-up display. She carefully selected her fashionably mature make-up and other hygienic supplies. As she headed to the ladies room, she removed a folded white box, a spool of red ribbon, a roll of transparent tape and plastic handled scissors from the Party Supply aisle.

Upon removal of the powder blue and pink make-up, she applied her usual foundation, deep purple eyeshadow, rouge, scarlet lipstick, black eyeliner and mascara. She gazed at her reflection in the mirror and evened her tones in the harsh fluorescent lights. 'Much better,' she thought, making sure all was to her standards. 'Now for some age appropriate clothing.'

She changed from the leg warmers and leotard into the jeans and poncho ensemble. Upon pulling on her high-heeled boots, she approached the mirror and examined herself once more. 'Mom would be pleased. Definitely a look she could pull off.' She placed a pair of cats-eye novelty glasses on, brushed her bangs down over her forehead and pulled her hair up into a bun. Turning side to side, she frowned, 'Eegh, I don't see how Agnes thinks this is a good look on anybody. Who am I kidding?'

She removed the glasses and tossed out her hair. She transfered the contents from the fanny pack to the leopard skin purse along with the make-up. The remaining creams, deodorant, sneakers, fanny pack and leotard she deposited into the brown paper bag. She scooped up the used cotton balls and wipes, threw them in the trash before she headed to the check-out stand.

The young clerk gave her a strange, inquisitive look as she handed the opened packages across the register. "Just ring them up so I can pay the bill," she said dismissively to the bewildered young man in the red vest. "What? You act like you've never met an honest person before."

"Not in this neighborhood, lady." He methodically punched in the product codes, one by one, into the cash register. "That'll be $11.17."

She placed a $20 bill on the counter. "Now I understand why you are used to people ripping you off. $11.17? Usually, I get dinner and a kiss first."

"Yeah, yeah," the young man handed her the receipt and change. "You want me to bag these or something?"

"Or something," she turned and exited through the automated swing door.

A bright new plexiglas display beamed shiny and large in contrast to the dingy, faded red shell of the older soda machine. She folded and slipped the bills into her hip pocket before she deposited the coins into the machine. Pressing the large New Coke button on the face 3 times before the machine responded with an electro mechanical whine and a loud thump as the aluminium can was plummeted against the black flap at the bottom. She removed the cold beverage contained, wiped the top with the corner of her poncho and pulled the tab. She took the first of many gulps. 'It's not Starbucks but it will have to do.'

In the distance, a tolling church bell chimed the hour. '4 o'clock. My younger self should be at the apartment by now. I'll have to wait and raid mother's closet tomorrow.' She walked to the curb and waited to hail a taxi. As she finished the soda, she stared at the bright crimson can. 'New Coke, what's so new about it. It tastes like Pepsi to me.'

* * *

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:06 pm 
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The Dark Queen and the Princess - Part 1

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The yellow and blue taxi sped down the oak lined street as the orange and brown autumn leaves tumbled in the stirring breeze at Loria's feet. She stood before an imitation Tudor style apartment complex. The brass plaque adhered to the stone column at the gate read: 330 Lovely Lane. A smaller, thinner, but no less predominant, bow-tie plaque was adjacent just under neath proclaiming: Lights and Associates Properties. She climbed the steps and ran her hand across the lower plaque, 'Mother agreed to let me move out but only to some place she could keep tabs on me. Still, it was a freedom of sorts, I suppose.'.

Her high-heeled boots clicked against the brick walkway as she approached apartment C. 'Well, this should be interesting,' she thought as she pressed the door bell 3 times.

After several moments, Gloria opened the door, dressed only in a white towel around her torso, as she dried her hair with a smaller, matching towel. "Yes, may I help you."

'God, I had no modesty in my youth,' Loria thought as she waited for Gloria to look up and address her eye to eye. "You are Gloria Luna Light, I imagine? Daughter of Matilda and Yanto - sorry - John Light?"

Gloria wrapped her hair in a turban and looked up into the strange woman's crystal blue eyes. For a moment, she thought she was looking into a mirror albeit an older reflection. "Yes, that's right. May I help you?"

"Actually, it's the other way around. I think I can help you. I'm your Aunt Loria. You may no me better as Aunt Elinor or Aunt Nelly, your father's sister."

Gloria thought for a second. Every Christmas they did get a card from London, from an Aunt Nelly. She was her father's sister, but for some reason, he never wrote back or placed her card on the mantle with the other Christmas cards they received. Upon reading her letters, he would place them back in their envelope and discard them into the wall hutch drawer. Her mother, however, would always write back, often enclosing a check with the card. Over the years, usually around Christmas, her mother would re-read the cards. Sometimes, she would read them to the children, so that they knew they had kinfolk back in England.

"Aunt Nelly," she shrieked and threw her arms around Loria. "I always thought you were a fairytale mother conjured up for Christmas."

"Well, your mother may have conjured me," this was a true statement, she did birth me, she justified to herself. "But I'm no fairytale. And it's Aunt Loria now. I'm a wee bit too old for Nelly and far too young for Elinor. May I come in?"

Gloria released her hold and allowed Loria into the apartment. She offered drinks and sweet cakes, much as she had been raised to be the polite hostess. Loria declined the gracious offer as Gloria excused herself and dashed into the bedroom to put on some clothes. Loria reminisced as she examined the apartment and her fond memories she had enjoyed there.

"Tilly, your mother, tells me your father is being his usual irascible self. She's worried about you, about him, and this wee rift that has been driven between the 2 of you."

"If by irascible you mean an asshole," she shouted from the bedroom. "Then yes, he has been that. But this isn't a new thing. It's been building up over the years."

A pair of baby blue eyes stared at Loria from the kitchen counter. They belonged to Cumulus, a white Siamese cat who was unsure of her recent visitor. Loria sat on the devan and made quiet snapping motions over her lap. Cumulus cautiously came over, jumped upon the coffee table and acquired the scent of the familiar stranger.

"Since you were about 11, I'd say."

Gloria returned from her room in a tank top and pair of coveralls. "I see you've met Cumulus. She doesn't often come to strangers, she must like you. But, yeah, 11, that sounds about right. Did mom tell you?"

Loria slowly scratched the kitty behind her ears. "You know your mother, she never tells details, only generalities. I'm only guessing because I was around 11 years old when your father and I had our falling out." Again, another truth, she reminded herself.

"Really, what about?"

"It's so long ago now, I hardly seems important. I'm going to suspect it is probably the same disagreement, only now, he is taking out on you. Some unfinished business between he and I. Men are like that you know?"

"No, I don't know. I've never really dealt with men, partially do to him. I prefer to keep with my own kind, other women. They say we are the moody ones but they really need to look at themselves sometimes. Always blustering and ranting. Demanding one thing while expecting another. Women are just so much easier to understand."

"Aren't we though. That reminds me, I had a chance encounter this afternoon with a pretty young lass who mistook me for you." Her fingernails ran deeply down the cat's spine. "Can you image someone making that mistake, at my age? She told me her boyfriend and yours were mates. Let's see, ah yes, Brenda was her name, she says hi, by the way. Max, I think was his, does this sound correct?"

Gloria's face blushed beet red. "Boyfriend? Really? She said he was my boyfriend?"

"Unless I mistook her meaning," She drew the letter x over her left breast. "Cross my heart, she did say those exact words."

"Well I wouldn't say Max is exactly my boyfriend. We don't really sit around and talk much, ya know, but he does have a special qualities a girl can't do without."

"Here, here. In a round about way, that's what brings me here today. Your mother is worried about you living alone without any experienced female guidance in your life. Someone more than just your moggy, Cumulus here. She's worried some young man may try to take advantage of your living situation, maybe even try to move in with you. She's asked me to come across the pond and assist you anyway I can."

Gloria's bright blue eyes lit up as a wide smile graced her lovely face. "You want to move in with me?"

"Us, my dear. You are forgetting to include, Cumulus." Loria held up her hands, "First, we need an understandings between us girls. I'm here purely as a flat mate. I know I'm your aunt and all, but a young girl like you needs her freedom. I promised your mother I'd keep an eye out for you, not on you. Agreed?"

"That would be so bitchin,'" she exclaimed. "But what about daddy? What's he gonna think about this arrangement?"

Loria laughed. "Your father need never know. You mother will make sure of that."

"This sounds great. I have a spare room just off the kitchen. You can move in whenever you like."

"Wonderful. We should go out and celebrate. I know just the place, the taxi driver told me of this chic little nightclub downtown, The HQ. We should go out tonight, my treat."

"Oooh, the HQ," Gloria said hesitantly. "You gotta be 21 to get in there."

"Little Me, you could pass for 21, hell, 23 easy. I know just the thing." She reached inside the brown bag and retrieved a white box with a red ribbon bow. "A small present to make up for all the Christmas's we've missed together."

Gloria untied the bow and opened the box. She removed the light purple gown, stood up and draped it over her chest. She spun around in a circle to watch how it flowed.

"See there, a perfect fit. You wear that dress and I guarantee, no one will give you a second look, let alone ask for your ID unless they want your name."

"What time do we want to do this?"

Loria fained thinking about the time. "Let's say 7 o'clock. It's not too late for dinner, not too early for cocktails."

"7 o'clock? That's less than 2 hours. I gotta do my hair, put on my make-up, pick out the right pair of heels."

"Like mother, like daughter." Loria stood as Gloria rambled off all the preparations and accessories she needed. "I'll leave you to it then. See you at 7 and don't be late."

-----
6:59 P.M. - Lex's Diner and HQ Club

The left heel of Parkers foot bounced a mile a minute. He was dressed in a light weight off-white suit, a black satin shirt, 2/3rds buttoned with the collar raised up, and a pair of white topsider loafers without socks. His golden hair was heavily layered with styling gel, so much so, a typhoon would not move a single strand. His mirrored lens sunglasses were held onto his shirt through the top button hole. He breathed into his hand, verified is breath was good, and nervously eyed the time on his pin-striped faced Swatch watch.

At 7 o'clock precisely, Gloria entered in the light lavender midi gown. The spaghetti straps accentuated her shoulders and neck. Gathered at the sides, it drew ones eye to her shapely hourglass figure. Sparkling from beneath her raven hair, a rope-twist diamond choker, that was indeed made with real diamonds, highlighted her flawless neck and face. The white triple strapped stiletto heels gave her the extra arch that raised her already firm buttocks that much higher. As Loria had stated, the tuxedo dressed bouncer removed the blue velvet stanchion brace without hesitation or request for ID. She nodded her approval and smiled as she gracefully glided past.

"Hey, Hot Stuff, over here," Parker cried out as his left arm waved frantically to gain her attention.

She recognized him from her freshman year, Parker Kittridge. An idiotic spoiled little rich boy who lived on an allowance rather than the sweat of his brow. The privileged jock who was 2nd string at best but, due to his daddy's donations to the varsity team, he was promoted to 1st string quarterback. As he waved and shouted louder, people began to stare at the commotion. Not wanting to get kicked out for being under age, she reluctantly approached his table.

"I'm kinda busy right now. How may I help you?" She asked with annoyance in her tone.

"You joining me will help me allot, Hot Stuff." He patted the empty seat next to him 3 times. "I love a girl who's punctual."

Gloria sat in the empty chair. "Look here, Mr. Crockett, or is it Tubbs? I'm supposed to meet someone here at 7 o'clock."

"Yeah, baby, that would be me. You promised me a date earlier this afternoon. Here I am, right on time, wearing something nice as requested. Did I surprise ya?"

She examined the wanna-be Miami Vice attire, "I can honestly say, I'm definitely surprised." She scanned the bar and other tables to see if Loria was here already. "Sorry to disappoint you, stud, but my date was with my aunt, as heartbreaking as that must be for you. I think you have me mistaken for someone else."

Parker scratched his head and the entire hair helmet moved from the action. "Gloria, right? Your name's, Gloria."

"Last time I checked," she replied as her eyes continued to scan the room. "Look, it's been fun chatting and all, but, like I said, I'm waiting on my aunt. She's supposed to meet me here."

"Well, let's not allow her tardiness to ruin our night. Let's say I order us a round while we wait? If she looks as smokin' hot as you, I've got no problem with a third member joining us."

'Why do I get the feeling I'm going to regret this?' She shook her head, "Sure. Why not? What do I got to lose?"

"Man, you sure do like playin' hard to get, Hot Stuff."

"Okay, if we're going to do this, whatever this is, lets get 1 thing straight. My name is, Gloria. Not babe, baby, hot stuff, or any other demeaning chauvinistic term that's rolling around in your head. Got it?"

"Gaaa-rowl," He made a clawing action towards her. "Put away the claws, already. I get it, you like being in charge, head of the pride and all that. I'm hip. I can play the submissive to your dominance, Lady Gloria."

As the waitress passed the table, he ordered 2 rum and New Cokes before regaling Gloria with how much of an important player he was down at the car dealership. She nodded and pretended to listen, all the while seeking Loria out among the incoming patrons. Slowly sipping her cocktail through the thin red straws, she ignored his idle chatter and thought to herself, 'Where the heck are you Aunt Loria? If I get stuck with this D-Bag tonight, I'll never forgive you.'

* * *

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:27 pm 
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The Dark Queen's Ballet

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7:03 P.M. - After School Extra Curricular

The gentle yet robust refrains of Von Weber's, "Invitation to the Dance," filled the corridors of Metro High. It drifted through the halls, within the stairwells, to fill all 3 floors with music. The symphonic majesty of the strings reverberated from the acoustic ceiling tiles and metal lockers. Loria, once again dressed in her pink leotard and leg warmers, danced the same passages she had graduated from some 23 years prior, just as if she was still the same 18 year old girl. Red ribbons, the same ribbon that laced her slippers, were inner-twined within her ponytail braid. She danced past the computer room door, bathed in the dull green light emitted from the monitors. Though out of practice, her fouettes and pirouettes were still nimble and exact. Her Saut de chat leap caught the eye of the boys in the chess room, who abandoned their games to watch the dancer, before she had disappeared further down the hall. She completed her decent down each level of steps with a jete, never repeating the same landing twice. As she reached the recital room door, both the music and her dance, reached their finale.

Mr. Klein briefly stopped his his mopping of the hallway to applaud her dance, "Brava, ma belle danseuse."

"Merci," she replied, accompanied by a grande reverence curtsy. "Vous etes trop gentil."

"Invraisemblable," he recovered his mop and placed it back in the rolling galvanized bucket. He looked at his wristwatch, "I'm afraid I can not attend the encore. Time beckons me elsewhere, ma dame elegante."

"Jusqu'a la prochaine rencontre."

He turned and pushed the bucket with the mop handle, "I look forward to it, kid."

Loria fanned her face and neck with her hands. 'Mister Clean was fluent in French, who knew?' She thought to herself when the recital room door flung open.

Bella exited the ballet practice dressed in a rose leotard and drenched in sweat. Her hair was similarly braided as Loria's, except with a rose ribbon tying off the end. In her hands she carried her white ballet slippers, her Algebra book, and a canvas tote complete with her day clothes. Still looking down, she ran smack into Loria's bosom before she looked up. "Gloria! Wow, sorry. I didn't expect anyone to be standing here."

Loria smiled, hiding her annoyance, "Bella, mon petite fille aux gros yeux comme une biche." She paused to watch the young girl's expression. "I'm sorry, you don't understand French, do you?"

"Only my name and the petite part."

"I just had the strangest conversation with Mr. Klein. I had no idea he was fluent in French, did you?"

Her eyes shifted as she was distracted by the words on Loria's leotard top. 'Lets get physical. Why doesn't this surprise me?'

Loria waved her hand in front of Bella's face, "Bella? Hello? Bellissimo? Hey kiddo, you with me?"

Bella shook her head and focused back on Loria. "Yeah, sorry. I just got distracted their for a second."

'Okay, it's teenage teeny-bopper time,' she looked down at the the gold flake letters. "Oh, totally understandable. My father's idea of what hip kids are wearing. I swear, he's so 5 years ago. I mean, who listens to Olivia Newton John anymore, am I right?"

Bella stepped aside a walked past her, "Like I said, I'm sorry I ran into you."

"Completely my fault for standing there. I mean, like, I should no better or something, huh?"

'Wow,' she thought as she kept walking. 'Gloria's acting really weird. Usually she wouldn't give me the time of day. Maybe the rumor's about her are right? Maybe she's hitting on me?' "What's up with the leotard, Gloria. I thought you gave up ballet a few years ago because of, you know-"

"My tits got bigger than my hands can hold," Loria finished, reading the young girls discomfort. "It's kinda hard to concentrate on the dancing when most the jerks in the audience are making obscene gestures. It made me feel objectified and cheap," she paused.'That was too mature, even for me at 18. Keep it more like the kids you met today. Come on, you can do this.' She skipped little steps to catch up. "Like, I totally did something to deserve that, right? I mean it's not my fault, it heredity or something. But my father got so angry when he attended my recital, the only recital he ever attended, mind you, and saw how the boys behaved. He made me quit ballet, like it was my fault, like I did something wrong. When I tried to reason with him, he wouldn't even listen to me. I mean, like, it's not my fault I have breast like my mom, am I right or am I right?"

Bella reached the stairwell and stopped, "No. That isn't right. That's not right at all. My parents would have at least listen to my side before passing judgment."

'Bingo. Time to reel her in,' she began to emphasize the important words and use hand gestures. "Thank you. I thought I was going insane and it was me or something."

"That's so totally unfair. You didn't do anything wrong. How could he not see it was all those nut-tard's fault? Ballet isn't sinful, it artistic expression."

"I know, right?"

Bella started up the stairs. "Why don't you come join the dance club? I'm sure Mrs. Bedeker would welcome you into our troupe."

"Oh, gawd, I couldn't do that. I'd have to have my parents sign a permission slip and then my dad would have a cow if he find out."

"I thought that's why you moved into your own apartment, to get out from under his thumb?"

She smiled to hide her contempt. "You see, Bella, you know me so well. My life's like an open book to you."

"Not really, I just overheard Becky and Lana talking about you."

"Better to be talked about than not, I guess."

"Oscar Wilde, right?"

'Smart kid. Smarter than I gave her credit for.' She reached out to stop her at the top of the stairs. "Look, you need to promise me that you won't mention running into me tonight. Especially dressed like this." She looked up and down the hallway. "Can you keep a secret?"

Bella, before answering, also looked up and down the hall. "Yeah, of course. I know I'm only a freshman, and you're a senior, and that somehow our talking breaks the classman protocol, but you can trust me."

Loria leaned in to whisper, to keep it intimate, to better sell her lie of sincerity. "Every Thursday I come here, upstairs to the 3rd floor, and dance. You can hear the music through the air conditioning system, like tonight, you were performing, Le Spectre de la Rose." She pulled her braid around and showed Bella the red ribbons. "While you danced as the young girl, I performed up her, alone, as the Rose. I guess I got carried away and lost myself in the movement, in the moment. When the finale came, I leaped down the stairs where Mr. Clean, Mr. Klein, saw me." She leaned away to see if Bella was buying into the lie; and she was. "I've gotta dance, Bella. It's what I love. If I have to dance alone, so be it, but here," she performed a pirouette in place. "This is my private stage. The thrill of knowing I may be seen, may get caught, adds to the dream."

"Whoa, Gloria, I had no idea you had such a passion for ballet. You have my word, I won't tell a soul. It'll be our secret."

"Cross your heart?"

"And hope to die."

Loria hugged her to hide her look of disgust and triumph. "Thank you, Bella. I knew I could trust you."

"But what about, Mr. Klein? Aren't you afraid he'll tell somebody?"

"I thought about that, but you know what, who better to keep a secret than a janitor, am I right? I mean, all the stuff he's seen and heard around here could fill a book, yet nobody knows but him."

Bella held up her book and slippers, "Let me go put these in my locker and we can get out of here."

Loria let Bella walk a few steps before she followed. "What's your hurry? You got a date or something?"

"A date, me? Nobody's interested in me. I'm thin, I'm shy, I've got no figure or friends."

"Hey, that hurts my feelings. I mean, like, we totally share a secret now. That makes us friends." She could feel the bile in the back of her throat rise.

"Yeah, if you say so."

"What does that mean?"

"No offense, Gloria, but look at you. You're beautiful. You have a face and body any woman would die for."

"And nice tits," she added as they both laughed at the statement.

"Right, those too. Plus, you're a senior. In a few months, you'll graduate. That leaves me all alone, back at square 1, to start from scratch."

Loria leaned against the locker adjoined to Bella's. "Not necessarily? I happen to know a young man who thinks you are pretty and would absolutely love to go out with you, but he's too shy to ask."

"Yeah, and after he jumps through the window and flies away, I wake up and kiss the rose he emerged from, I suppose."

'A hopeless little romantic. Here I was worried this was going to be hard.' She reached out and flipped the tip of Bella's nose. "Gawd, you're hopeless. This boy is no spirit, he's flesh and blood. He's been right under that cute little nose of your's your whole life."

She placed her book and slippers in the locker and removed her ear rings and necklace. "If you say, Jody Kittridge, forget it. He hits on anything with a pulse."

"Jody Kittridge, eeew. Give me better credit than that."

"Okay, who then?"

"Max," she could feel her heart twinge as the words left her mouth. "Max Seconds, Lana's brother. You had a date with him, like a week or so back. The three of us danced together."

"Yeah - I know who he is. But Max, really? I thought you and he were, well, getting close. Becky said she saw you plant a kiss on him that was more than friendly, if ya know what I'm saying?"

"Oh, please," Loria looked at the ceiling to hide her expression. "It's Home Coming. Your sister talked me into being part of the 'Rent A Senior for A Week' fund raiser. Max, bless his heart, outbid everyone else. I still think Lana and Becky gave him the money just to mess with me. Come next Monday, that will all be over. My rental lease will be up." She leaned in to insinuate sincerity again. "Confidentially, I think he's got a huge crush on me. Can you imagine, me, a senior, dating a freshman. I mean, I could never hold my head up in this school again."

Bella pouted and pointed towards herself.

"That's different. You're, like, Becky's little sister. It's acceptable for us girls to look after one another, even underclass girls, but never, ever date an under classman boy." She had to pull this back to Bella's advantage to make this work. 'The poor, poor me angle worked once, let's go there again. She took Bella's hand and stared into her brown doe-like eyes. "If it makes you feel any better, I gave him a little kiss, okay. Nothing hot or heavy, just a small little peck. Now, its gotten all blown out of proportion into some full tongue make-out session under the bleachers. Yeah, I've heard the rumors too. "

She raised her eyebrow in doubt. "So, there's nothing between you too then?"

She released Bella's hands and drew an x across her chest. "Cross my heart, Bella." This was true, their Magic Night hadn't occurred yet, not quite yet. 'Head in the game, Loria,' she reminded herself. "Look, I like him and all, he's a cool kid. I just don't want to break his heart when he realizes that there is not going to be an us, ever going to be an us. What kind of monster do you think I am?"

She hooked the clasp of her chain behind her neck. "So, let me get this straight, you want me to be his condolence prize? Thanks anyway."

"No, no, no," she pulled Bella's pony tail out from under the necklace. "You are his obtainable dream prize. I mean, he is totally into you. He knows you're favorite movies, the bands you like, and you're favorite color. He even knows your birthday, do you know his?"

"No," she muttered as she tugged at the chain clasp caught in her hair ribbon. "I think he's maybe a Scorpio, does that count?"

"It's a start," she said as she untied the bow from Bella's braid that had become snagged. "That gives you a 30 day window."

"Don't get me wrong, Max is cute, really cute - ow! hair, hair - but he's never given me the same attention he gives you. Are you positive he feels that way about me?"

'And they tell me I play hard to get.' She grabbed the slippers from the locker and shoved them into Bella's hands. Tossing in the canvas bag, she slammed the locker shut.

"My clothes! You just locked my clothes in there. Why would you do that?"

"Because your locker's broken."

"No it's not, you just shut it before-"

"No, your locker's broken. You stick to that story. I'm going to go find Max and see if he ... see if I can convince him to open it for you. Men are suckers for damsels in distress. If nothing happens, nothing happens, but at least we tried, am I right?"

"So, like, what am I supposed to do while you're gone?"

"Finish taking out your braid. Put on your ear rings. What, do I have to think of everything?"

Bella contemplated the question, "Well, it is your plan, so, like, yeah."

"Just stay here, I'll be back soon. Remember, if anybody asks, your locker's broken, got it?"

Bella nodded as Loria bolted for the stairs. She made a pit-stop into the 2nd floor ladies room, where her change of clothes were waiting. She removed her leg warmers and slippers, and changed into her jeans and sneakers. She removed the ribbons from her hair and ran her fingers through to untangle the braid. She leaned over the sink to splash water in her face when she was startled by the loud bang as the ladies room door burst open.

"What the hell was that?" Rex inquired angrily. "Your mission here is to prevent those 2 from getting together, not to go play Little Miss Matchmaker of 1985."

"Look, I have a plan," she stated and returned her gaze back to the mirror. "You wanted me to handle this, so let me handle it my way."

"So far, your way doesn't look too goddamned promising?" He walked behind her and stared into the mirror. "Dancing through the halls like a school girl? Daddy won't let me dance," he impersonated her voice poorly, but on purpose. "It's all because I have big tits and a big ass."

She turned angrily and pointed, "I don't have a big ass. I've got a plan, a pretty damn good one too, if you'd just stay out of my way. You came to me, remember?" She imitated him, "Oh, Loria. I desperately need your help. Blah, blah, blah."

"Enough," he snarled. "Tell me about this plan of yours."

She turned back to the mirror and finished untwisting the braided ponytail. "Okay, the plot is set. I go find Max. I inform him that I found her crying in the hallway, locked out of her locker, wearing only her dance leotard. I complain about how incompetent she is, but, being so kind hearted, I couldn't just leave her stranded, crying and half naked in the school hallway. I'm not heartless after all, not a monster like some people I know."

"Get to the point."

"He comes to my aid, because I want so badly to help her. That's key, he does it to please me. We arrive back at her locker, he sees her all disheveled, the hopeless little doe-eyed twit she is, just as I described her to be." She turns back to Rex and places her hands on his chest. "You see, Max, it's just as I told you. We need to help the poor thing. I feel so embarrassed for her."

He pulled her hands from his chest, "So, what? That's it? That's your big plan?"

"Once he sees how pathetic and useless she is, he'll lose all interest in her. Yes, he'll help her, but out of his desire to impress me. Once all is said and done, my mission for you is over. You say," she again imitates his voice, "'Job well done, big kudos, Loria,' and I get to go home."

He laughed, "You have completely predicated you plan on the idea that he loves you, well, loved the old, young you."

"He did, he will again, and you hate that, don't you?"

He grabbed her by her hair and forced his mouth upon hers. "You have no idea how deep my hatred runs. Don't - disappoint me."

She stormed out of the bathroom, "I never disappoint." His mocking laughter trailed behind her but never left her thoughts.

She took her time and leisurely walked down the hall. She stopped at the computer room, saw lots of nerds, but no Max. Next, she tried the chess room, was waved at by a few boys, but still, no Max. Once again, she sauntered down the hallway until she came upon the Liberal Arts room. This used to be the Drama club, but due to budget cut backs, it was transformed into a combined Drama, Glee, Literature and Arts room. She slowly opened the door, not sure as to what she may find inside.

Peering into the room, she found her target, Max and a handful of other students, painting. Their subject was a fellow female classmate, draped in a white bed sheet, wrapped as a toga over her street clothes. Her hair was twisted into a top-knot, akin to a Greek goddess, as she held a wooden bowl filled with plastic grapes, apples, and pears.

Loria slowly crept in and sat next to Max, who scarcely noticed her arrival as he continued to paint. 'Christ, he's cute,' she caught herself in mid stare. "Psst. Psst." She half whispered, half blew into his ear.

He turned and did a double take. As their nose's touched, he found himself staring into her ocean blue eyes. "Hey, gorgeous. I didn't see you come in. Did you do something different with your hair? I like the kinky wave look, it suites you."

'Are you kidding me. Men are oblivious to small details like hair, but this 15 year old kid noticed? Heart breaker.' She smiled and fluttered her eye lashes, "Just for you, handsome."

"I thought our date was tomorrow night?" He placed the brush and paint pallet on his lap. "Crap, was it tonight? Tell me it wasn't tonight?"

"It was tonight, but I can call in sick to work. We can postpone it until tomorrow."

"Man, that's not like me to forget a date. I'm getting old I guess."

She rubbed her hand down his cheek, "Aren't we all?" She couldn't help herself, she leaned in and kissed him lightly at first before pressing harder. She remembered his kisses and the flutter in her stomach reminded her why. She forced herself to pull back. "But, hey, I know how you can make it up to me."

"Ahem, Miss Light," announced Wordsworth looking up from his desk. "I'm so glad you could join us tonight. It would be a great honor if Gloria could be our model next time."

Loria turned her head and stared at Wordsworth. She didn't quite like the way he phrased that statement. 'It would be a great honor if Gloria could be our model next time. Does he know I'm not Gloria, my younger self? His statement surely implies that he knows. How can he know?'

"That's a great idea, Professor," Max interjected to break the awkward silence.

"Yeah, great," she repeat more as a question than in agreement.

"Did you hear that, students?" Wordsworth placed his glasses on and slid them up his long, thin nose. "Miss Light will be our model next week. Let us all show our appreciation."

The students repetitively tapped there brush handles on the side of their wooden pallet trays.

Max held up his hand, "5 minute break, I'll be right back." Taking Loria by the hand, he tugged her to her feet.

As she followed Max in tow, her eyes refused to move from Wordsworth stare. She watched him point his index and middle fingers to his eyes, then at her, then back to his own eyes. She stuck out her tongue defiantly before she finally broke his stare.

"I hope that statement on your top is an offer and not a song title?"

"What?" She asked still not having her full attention back from the Wordsworth encounter.

"Your top, 'Lets get Physical.' Offer or song title?"

She smiled at his youthful flirtation. 'I'm so going to burn in hell. He's less than half my age,' she thought. "Which do you want it to be?"

He tugged her hand and spun her into his arms. "You know which I want it to be."

See looked down as the gleam in her eye intensified, "I know that's not a paint brush in your pants pocket."

He smiled back, broad and wide, "Yeah? Tell me something I don't know."

Standing in the shadows by the ladies room, she spied Rex. His white suit revealed just the proper amount he wanted her to see to make his presence known. "Mr. Clean speaks fluent French," she mumbled without emotion.

Max raised his left eyebrow, "I didn't even know he spoke English. It's not like he ever talks to anyone. Speaking of talks, what do you have to tell me other than I bungled our date?"

"It's Bella, Max. Oh my gawd, that poor thing," she used her practiced sincerity voice. "I found her roaming the 3rd floor crying. Wearing nothing but her leotard. How embarrassing, right? Everybody has that showing up to school in your underwear dream but, that poor girl actually had it happen. You gotta help me."

"Bella? Bella Banks? You sure?"

"Why would I make this up? I was looking for you when I ran across her. Her locker is broke, I need you to open it for me. We need to get her dressed before she's discovered. I can't leave her like that, Max. I need to help her. I need you to help me, help her."

Max looked up to the floor above them. "3rd floor? What's her locker number?"

"333."

He continued to hold her hand as he turned toward the East Stairwell, next to the ladies room. She pulled him back. "What? It's right up those stairs."

"You can't just barge up there, you'll traumatize her worse than she already is. Lets go up the other stairs?"

He pulled her back towards the east stairs, "This way is quicker. You asked for my help, let me help you?"

As they ran up the stairs, Loria stuck her tongue out as she past Rex. They reached the 3rd floor and turned left. Just as she had described, Bella was standing in her leotard, bent at the waist, resting against her locker with head in hands.

Loria whispered, "See, what did I tell you? The poor thing is devastated. What kind of monster would I be if I didn't at least try to help her?"

"No, you did the right thing," he whispered back. "Let me handle this. She knows me, I can defuse this situation if it gets weird. I need you to back my play if she starts cryin' or gettin' hysterical."

'Perfect,' her smile concealed he true intentions. "Thank you, Max. You don't know how much this means to me."

He released Loria's hand and slowly approached Bella. He expected the worst, a complete breakdown based upon the description. He had seen it many times in his years of service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Battle fatigue, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, call it what you will, the symptoms may be the same but the reactions often varied. 'Don't be cryin', don't be cryin',' he thought while he assessed the situation.'I hate it when they cry.' He casually approached, his big wide smile in place, "Hey Bella. I heard your locker's broke. Want me to take a look at it?"

Bella turned her head and looked at Max as she placed her right ear-ring in it's piercing. She had removed the braid from her hair and, combined with the sweat from ballet class, it gave her the MTV wild video hair look. She returned his smile before dialing it back, remembering Gloria's "damsel in distress" advice. "Well I'm not standing here with my ass hanging out 'cause I like it."

'Denial, well at least she's not cryin',' he found that to be a relief.

"We came as fast as we could," Loria commented with concern in her tone. She held up the OK fingers to Bella as Max's back was still turned to her. "Just like I promised, I found the help we needed."

"I knew I could count on you, Gloria." She looked at Loria who nodded her head approvingly. Max approach, a cool swagger in his stride, an undeniable presence she never had taken notice too. Cute, sexy, and in charge of the situation. She placed her hand on her hip and arched her back slightly. The rose pink leotard bunched slightly at her hand's pressure on her waist revealing a little more curvature to her exposed side boob.

Max examined Bella's posture and cute frame. His eyes were drawn to her exposed flesh and round, perk breasts. Seemingly, with a mind of their own, his eyes followed the path downward to her hips and arched backside. He felt the unwilled, uncooperative throbbing between his legs rise to attention again. He remembered why he hated being 15 the first time, unexpected hard-ons at inopportune times. He placed his hand in his left pocket and slouched to conceal his full salute. "So, what's your combo - I'll give it a try?"

"The same as my birthday. Makes it easy to remember, hard to forget."

"That's right, you're a Leo girl." He dialed in the combination, 8-14-70, but the locker would not unlock. "August 14th, right?"

Loria approached and mouthed, "Told you," as she made a heart symbol with her hands.

"Yeah, right on the money on both counts. You're a Scorpio, right?"

"No, Michael's the Scorpio. I'm an Aquarius," he paused from rotating the dial. "And please don't sing that damn song. You wouldn't believe how many times over the years people have done that. It's not original or cute anymore."

She looked at Loria and shrugged, "I tried it several times with no luck, just like you. Isn't there something else we can try?"

Loria whispered into his ear, "See how distant, how removed she's acting. She doesn't even seemed concerned, like this is normal or something. Help me, help her. I need to get her outta here. Ask about one of her favorite bands. If she answers normally, the poor kid has really lost it."

Max nodded, "Wild about the drummer from Def Leppard losing his arm, huh? They say they are going to build him a special drum kit."

"Oh, my gawd," she stared at Loria who smiled at her with a Cheshire grin. "I know, right. I thought they'd have to find a new drummer but they are going to stick with Rick Allen."

Max looked at Loria and nodded in agreement with her assessment. "Stand back, ladies." Ushering them aside, he snap-kicked the handle with his boot heel. The locker door flew open with a loud clang as it bashed into the connected locker. "And there ya go."

"My hero!" Bella grabbed her canvas tote from the locker.

Loria kissed his cheek before she whispered, "No, my hero."

Bella unrolled her corduroy pants and nearly hopped into them, both legs at a time. She hastily unfolded her rust and beige over-sized turtleneck and threw it on. She rose her hands in the air and spun in place. "Well, how do I look? Better right?"

"Oh, so much better, Bellissimo." Loria elbowed Max in the ribs lightly to get a response. "100% better, wouldn't you say, Max?"

"Oh, definitely better," he nodded enthusiastically. "We need to get Mr. Klein to fix the lock in the morning, though. Your stuff should be safe for tonight, however."

One at a time, Bella raised each foot behind her as she slid on her flats. "You're a true gentleman, Mr. Seconds. One of the good guys."

"Well, shucks, ma'am," he replied in his impersonation of John Wayne. "Just doin' my best to help some little ladies in distress, ah-ha."

"Come on, Bella," Loria tugged on her sweater. "Get your things together so I can take you home."

"If it's alright with you, I'd rather Max take me home."

Loria playfully pushed her, holding back her desire to hit her. "Don't be silly, my cars right downstairs. I can have you home in no time. Besides, we need to talk."

"You know, I think she's right, Gloria," Max gave Loria a look of precautionary safety. "She only lives around the corner from me. I can walk her home and let some of the cool night air get to her. Besides, I want to talk to her too."

"I really think I should be the one to take her home," Loria protested with her eyes as much as her words.

Bella closed her locker and took Max's arm. "Like Max says, he just lives around the corner from me. You live in the complete opposite direction. You've already done so much for me tonight, I couldn't impose myself on you anymore than I already have."

"I'll call you tomorrow about what we discussed earlier," he commented as Bella began to drag him toward the stairwell. "It'll be alright. I'll be sure she makes it home safely. I want to do this, for you and her, for all of us."

Loria followed after them, "But that's not how this is supposed to work. I should be the one to take her home. What will her parents think?"

Bella jumped with both feet together from the last step onto the second floor. "It will be fine, Gloria. My parents know Max, heck, we grew up together - they practically helped raise him."

"But that's not part of the plan, Bella. I really think-"

"Plans change, Gloria," she replied with a wink and a smile. "I really appreciate all the help you've been tonight. We'll talk in the morning, okay, I promise."

Loria stood alone at the top of the 2nd floor stairwell and watch the two descend downward, arm in arm. She yelled after them, "Cross your heart?"

"And hope to die," Bella's voice echoed from the floor below.

Rex stepped from the shadows and stood next to Loria. He completed the last knot in the red ribbon she had left in the ladies restroom. He had taken a piece of paper towel and twisted it tightly into a thin, origami style flower stem with delicate leaf pedals. The ribbon, itself, he had wrapped around the top of the stem several times to affix the neatly folded and knotted remaining ribbon to resemble a beautiful rose. Kissing her on the cheek, he placed the rose down her top, between her breasts.

"Good job. Well done. Hell of a plan. You f@%king disappoint me ... Kudos." He descended the stairs and disappeared from sight.

She removed the rose, brought it to her lips and gently kissed it. As her eyes looked forward, she threw the rose to the ground before stomping on it as she turned and walked away.


* * *


-----Story Notes-----

Ballet Quick Reference:

fouettes: a pirouette performed with a circular whipping movement of the raised leg to the side.
grande reverence: A stylistic bow or curtsey with flurried arm gestures.
jete: a leap in which the weight of the dancer is transferred from one foot to the other. The dancer “throws” one leg to the front, side, or back and holds the other leg in any desired position upon landing.
pirouette: an act of spinning on one foot, typically with the raised foot touching the knee of the supporting leg.
Saut de chat: broad leaping split in mid air.

French Quick Reference:

Ma belle danseuse: my beautiful dancer
Vous etes trop gentil: You are too kind
Invraisemblable: impossible
ma dame elegante: my elegant lady
Jusqu'a la prochaine rencontre: Until next we meet
mon petite fille aux gros yeux comme une biche: my little girl with big doe eyes

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 23, 2017 8:46 pm 
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The Dark Queen and the Princess - Part 2

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7:44 PM

The HQ Club began to fill to maximum occupancy as the line at the door began to expand, past the short walkway, and along the parking lot retainment wall. No T-Shirts, No Tennis Shoes, No Zoot suits, read the sign on the door. The exterior doormen were dressed in Marine Blues and Navy Whites. They strictly enforced both dress code and the checking of valid ID's upon entry. Once inside, the tuxedo dressed bouncers would allow the patron's through. The hosting staff were also attired in military dress attire, showing no preference to armed service or gender. The cocktail staff, on the other hand, were dressed in tuxedo and traditional cocktail waitress attire better suited for New York, London, Paris or Chicago during the 30's and early 40's. A cozy dance floor was set in the rear of the room with a bandstand suitable for a small orchestra or intimate quartet. At the old fashioned, oblong microphone was the establishment's owner, Lex, bidding his patrons welcome as he MC'd between acts.

Gloria's eyes examined the occupants of the room. Some were dressed for the ambiance of the period motif, others in contemporary clothing, but all were dressed in style. The two thin red straws rested between her lips as she languidly sipped from the same tall glass of rum and cola for the past half hour. Ever watchful for her long lost aunt, she would occasionally bring her attention back to Parker, who still droned on about this and that, always about himself. She would always politely smile and nod before casting her eye throughout the room in hopes of spotting Loria.

Her eyes, it seemed, would always return to an older patron who sat alone at the end of the bar. His blond hair was combed back, held in place by hair oil, pomade or a combination of both. He wore a white silk shirt, black vest with white silk backing and black slacks. A white and black broad striped tie was pined to his shirt and never seemed to move from it's position. She thought him handsome for on older man, her father's age or possibly older, but that is not why her eyes returned. He had a most unusual habit of smoking his cigarettes, which he seemed to do in constant regularity. He would hold them between is thumb and index finger, always from the bottom, place the cigarette in this mouth, inhale to fill his mouth with smoke, but inhale into his lungs through his nose. She had seen this technique in old movies but never thought people actually smoked that way. From time to time, he would pick up his cigarette case, remove an old fountain pen from his pocket, and scribble notes inside the case's lid. Not being a smoker, she assumed there must be a notepad inside. She wondered what notes he must be writing, because he certainly wrote a lot of them.

"So, it doesn't look like your aunt is gonna show, Hot Stuff," Parker sat his empty glass beside to the other two on the table. "You want to order something to eat? A steak or are you a salad and snail type girl?"

"Escargot," she corrected.

Parker hailed the waiter over, "Yeah, we can get that too. Shoot the works, baby, I gotta tab here."

Her eyes drifted back to the man at the bar. He had been joined by a pretty brunette in a sequined evening gown with long white gloves. Maybe it was her underage paranoia, but as they talked, both would look over at her table, more specifically her. Her attention was drawn back by the waiter, she ordered a refill, clean, and to make it a cherry cola this time. When she returned her attention back to the man at the bar, the lady had vanished from his side.

"Oysters and snails," announced the pretty brunette as she sat down beside Gloria. Her voice was neither pleasant nor grating, mostly loud and purposely Betty Boop cutesy. "Are we playing 'Let find out who we are tonight,' kids?" The woman stared at Gloria's cleavage before her eyes worked their way up her neck, lingered at her full lips and eventually stared into her eyes. "I bet I can already guess your preference."

"Is this your aunt?" Parker asked with an inebriated half squinting smile. "She's bodaciously fine."

"Well, you're not so bad yourself, Blondie." The woman extended her evening gloved hand across the table. "Enchanted, I'm sure."

"I have no idea who his woman is," Gloria protested as she scooted her chair away from the unwanted guest. "She most certainly is not my aunt."

"Oops, that reminds me." The woman pulled her hand back from Parker's groping fingers and placed her index finger to her dimpled cheek. "I was asked to inform you that your auntie is running late. Something about the police, luggage and clothes, I'm not quite sure what all that entails but it sounds mysterious and intriguing. Anyways, her majesty is on her way and should be here anytime, princess."

'Oh, thank god,' Gloria thought behind her polite smile. "Did she say how long she was going to be? How long until she gets here?"

The woman began to draw a large spiral with her gloved finger, wide at first, then tighter, smaller as it approached Gloria's face. "I'm sure I don't know but all good things come to those that wait." She punctuated her sentence by landing her finger on the tip of Gloria's nose, followed with, "Boop."

Almost as if on cue, the waiter arrived with two small appetizer plates, Escargot with a butter garlic dip and Oysters Rockefeller. The woman tried one of each of the hors d'oeuvres, showing preference to neither, before she rose and, with a bombastic sway in her hips, returned to the bar. She sat next to the older man at the bar, who, once again, began to write notes in his cigarette case.

"Man, if that's one of you aunts friends, I can't wait to meet her," Parker stated as he sucked the oysters off their shells with a loud slurp.

She brought the two straws to her lips and tasted the refreshed cola. Although it did have a cherry on the top, it contained both New Coke and rum, not the clean, no alcohol cherry cola she requested. She sat the glass down, removed the cherry and gnashed it between her teeth. "What time do you have?"

Parker held out his left arm and squinted at the dial. "Did I tell you about my Swatch? It's a limited edition, I had to special order-"

She grabbed his wrist and looked at the clock's face. The arms pointed to what appeared to be 7:57, but with only gray and white pin stripe background, she couldn't be sure. The watches face suddenly became a red neon outline which resembled a bull's eye. She shook her head, 'Must be too much alcohol on an empty stomach.' When she looked at the watch again, it was back to it's normal appearance. 'I must have hit a button or something.' She twisted Parker's wrist to see if she could locate the button she hit by accident, much to his displeasure.

"Hey, hey, Hot Stuff, my wrist don't bend like that. It's attached to my arm, ya know?"

"No shite, Sherlock? I was looking for the neon button I hit on accident."

"What the f@%k, Watson?" He replied as he continued to slurp down the oysters. "This little baby has got an alarm function settable for three time zones, a stopwatch with depth gauge function, and is water resistant to 60 feet. Pretty impressive, huh? What it doesn't have is a light function, neon or otherwise. You trippin', Princess?"

"Last time, my name is, Gloria. What's with this Princess jazz?"

"Ga-rowel, Glo," he mimicked a cat's paw scratching again. "I figured your aunt's friend called you, Princess, and you didn't complain. Is that your dominatrix name or something?"

"Or something," her eyes drifted back to the bar. The older man had been replaced by a younger man, she estimated in his late thirties, wearing a white suit. His red hair was dark and ruddy, more like bricks than a bright ginger. "Excuse me for a moment. This cola tastes flat and there is not enough rum."

He raised his eyebrows thrice, "When you get back, can we talk about what a bad boy I've been?"

"Oooh, while I'm gone I want you to think about two options, but you can only choose one."

"Yeah, what options, what options?" His words slurred but the excitement was overwhelming.

The thin red straws slid between her lips as she took a seductive sip, "Leather or Lace?"

Gloria strolled down the steps to the bar area holding her glass close as not to spill it. She placed it on the bar next to the red haired man. He looked at her and smiled as she asked for a cherry cola clean from the bartender. She smiled back, being polite as she was raised to be, but her attention was on the pretty brunette at his side.

"Excuse me, Miss?"

The woman turned to Gloria, "Oh, hey Princess." This time her voice was normal, not so loud and had a slight proper New England accent rather than the Betty Boop overtured emphasis. "What may I do for you?"

"You said my aunt was running late? Did she call back with an anticipated time or say anything else?"

"I don't really know, sorry. I was asked to pass the message along before my show started."

"Show?" Gloria inquired as she picked up the new glass of soda sat before her. She took a small sip to confirm it was both a cherry cola and non alcoholic.

She pointed to the large 16x20 inch poster at the end of the stage. In fancy, glittered scrawl, the poster read: Featured Performance Tonight, the Incomparable Song Stylings of Miss Liberty V. "Sorry about the Brooklyn Moll voice earlier, it's all part of my act. It sets a mood to my stage character that Lex adores. Besides, judging by that clown you are sitting with, you looked like you could use a break. Unless he's your boyfriend or something? Tell me he's not your boyfriend. You can do so much better than that bottom feeder."

Gloria sipped from the straws as she turned backed and looked at Parker. Even from this distance, sleeze ball douche oozed from his aura. "Him?" She returned her attention to Liberty. "I just met him tonight. He offered to sit with me while I waited for my aunt."

"You should be more careful whom you sit with, Princess."

"Why do you keep calling me that? Is it part of the act still?"

"It's your poise, elegance and grace," the man in the white suit interrupted. He took the drink from Gloria's hand, sniffed it and smiled before handing it back. He motioned to the bar tender to bring him the same. "Let me guess, your first time here and possibly," he leaned in and whispered, " you're underage? Shh, you don't have to answer either of those questions if you don't want to."

"Yes, to the first question," she placed the straws in her mouth and said nothing more.

Liberty and the man exchange glances. "I like her already. What do you think of our new friend, Rex?"

"A dream if ever there was one."

"Does this dream have a name, I wonder?" Asked Liberty as Lex waved to her from the performance stage.

"Gloria. Gloria Light."

As Liberty took the stage, she had a small exchange with Lex, as both looked back at Gloria. She then had a discussion with her quartet, particularly the rather sinister looking piano player, Gloria assessed, before the floor lights dimmed. Before the music could start, Liberty took to the microphone again with her Betty Boop voice. "I'd like to dedicate our first song tonight, to one of my dearest and bestest friends niece. This is her first time at the HQ Club and, hopefully, it won't be her last."

The piano began with a sweet, melodic arpeggio when Rex extended his hand to Gloria, "Shall we, Princess?"

"Gloria," she corrected and sat her drink upon the bar.

He shook his head and escorted her to the dance floor. "Not tonight, my little dream. Tonight, you are a princess." He held her close as a single spotlight fell upon them. He slowly twirled her as the remainder of the quartet joined in.

Loria had arrived and made her way to the side wing of the stage where she saw her younger self on the dance floor, in the light lavender dress she had given her. The man she was dancing with, however, was not Parker. As she moved around from behind the curtains, she could see that the man was Rex. 'This didn't happen," her mind reeled in the realization of the moment. 'This never happened. I never danced with Rex in 1985 as Gloria. This is all wrong.'

"Some day, when I'm awfully low," sang Liberty as she alerted Rex towards Loria with her gloved fingers and a head nod.

Rex turned Gloria's back to the stage, away from the curtain, so that he alone could see the expression on Loria's face. He relished in her anguish, in her anger, but mostly, in her despair.

"When the world is cold ... "

Loria held her hands together in prayer as she mouthed to Rex, "Don't do this. Please, for the love of god, don't do this."

"I will feel a glow, just thinking of you ..."

He brandished his superior, evil smile before he dipped Gloria. He brought her up, hard and tight against his body but his eyes never broke from Loria's.

"And the way you look ... to-night."

* * *

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Moonlight Mile

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The chilly October air had settled in after the sun had set. The night sky was criss-crossed with white and silver clouds that allowed the full moon to fill them with an luminance that only seemed to occur in autumn. Max had walked with Bella, the long way home, so that they could talk and to see where her mind was at currently. He had known Bella as long as he could remember, longer even than he knew Dave. The went to the same preschool, kindergarten and elementary schools together. Since Lana and Becky were best friends, he had grown up around her, grown up together. Her sudden breakdown tonight troubled him greatly.

One, to have a full blown manic meltdown was very, very out of character for her. Of the two Banks girls, she had always been the level headed one. Quiet and observing rather than the reactionary her sister had always been. He remembered her spending days on a jigsaw and crossword puzzles, where as her sister would lose interest and move on if something were too difficult. Pressure and difficulty were something to be overcome in Bella's world. It would make her concentrate, seclude herself even, to get to the completion but not breakdown. Not from frustration, anger or embarrassment.

Two, she seemed relatively calm about her being near nude in the hallway situation. Bella had always been shy and reserved. Her mother initially had to force her to take ballet to help her overcome her shyness, it seemed to work. Even over the summer, he remembered through the twenty year haze, she actually appeared publicly in a bathing suit. Granted it was a once piece and a robe, but still, she wasn't in knee length cut-offs and a t-shirt. He thought back throughout junior high and high school. She had always remained well clothed and wore nothing provocative, usually baggy or over sized, nothing too tight or revealing. Almost a phobia, actually more a fear as he thought about it, of appearing feminine or sensual, sexual for that matter.

Three, she had enlisted the aid of Gloria, of all people, to help her. Not that Gloria was a bad person or anything, he justified to himself, but, the Light family had always been standoffish towards the Banks. Many rumors circulated and speculated the reasons, some wildly elaborate and erotically provocative. Over the years, he had dwindled the factuality to a simple observed truth, lifestyles. Gloria was raised to be rigid and practical, self sufficient, and not one who sought praise for every achievement. Becky, on the other-hand, was a seeker of adulation and awards, thriving from praise rather than hard work. She couldn't pass gas without her mother pinning a ribbon on her. Bella, in contrast, was the proverbial wallflower. She avoided both confrontation and the limelight. Happier playing by herself or huddled in a corner reading a book than being the center of anybodies attention. Neither trait was an acceptable lifestyle attitude choice in the Light's world of business and self sufficiency.

In the event that any of these three instances had occurred independent of one another, would have been strangely curious. The possibility that all three occurred simultaneously, was almost impossible to believe. Almost as if it had all been plotted and planned out but to what purpose? It's outcome benefited no one. Not Gloria, not Bella, and certainly not himself. Well, the last part, he supposed, wasn't true, he got to play the hero for the two girls he had adored in his youth but never had the guts to tell either. On the other hand, it did bring to light certain qualities, about both girls, he had overlooked.

His mind was drawn back to Gloria's appearance in the art room tonight. A date on Thursday night doesn't sound like him, school night and all. The prospect that he had forgot a date with his childhood dream girl sounded less plausible the more he ran it over and over in his mind. There was something different about her tonight too. Something in the way she looked at him. Something behind her beautiful crystal eyes that both surprised and haunted him now as much as it did then. 'A long harbored yearning,' he told himself. 'An aching desire for something from long, long ago.' His mind replayed the encounter, her blue eyes staring into his soul, her raven hair with extra waves, her tight electric pink leotard top which barely concealed anything. The way she had forced herself upon him, kissing him in front of the whole art room without reservation, like none of them were even in the room. He placed his hand in his left front pocket and began to recite multiplication tables in his head.

"Thanks for coming to my rescue tonight," she stated to break the silence between them.

"How could I refuse? My two best girls needed me."

'Two best girls, huh?' She squeezed his arm tighter as they continued to walk. "So, if it had been any other girls, besides us, you wouldn't have helped?"

"I wouldn't say that. Gloria asked for my help before she told me it was you she was asking for."

"And let me guess, you'd do anything she requested, wouldn't you?"

'There's a self incriminating question if ever I heard one. Remember, she may be suffering from P.T.S.D.' He leaned into her hold slightly, "Within reason, mind you. It's not like I'm her slave or she's my master or anything. She's a friend and you should always try to do your best by your friends."

"So, like, if she hadn't of asked you, say someone you didn't know had asked you, would you have come to save me - from my situation, I mean?"

"As soon as I heard it was you, the seventh calvary couldn't have stopped me."

"You would have taken on General Custer and his entire battalion, for me?"

"And the whole Sioux nation too," he laughed not knowing why he found her question humorous. "And you know what, I would have won. Custer didn't have you for motivation, that was his problem. Had he, who knows how that story may have changed?"

She smiled, "Good answer. Definitely not one you'd find in a book of, 'Things to Say to Impress the Girl,' I bet."

"Impress the girl?" He thought about that statement. "Is that what I'm doing? I thought my boot heel to your locker already did that? Man, I'm outta practice. Guess I gotta work on that move a little more. Thanks for pointin' that out."

"That was a compliment, Max, not a complaint."

"And that was me tryin' to impress the girl by showing her I'm so cool, I can bag on my own short comings and still look cool doin' it." He smiled big and broad at her adorable face. "Did it work?"

She raised her right hand and twisted it to the left and right, "Eh, I'll let ya know."

"Oh, damn," He stopped walking and began to look through her canvas tote.

She giggled and pulled the bag away, "What are you doing?"

"Looking for some burn ointment."

"Oh, I'm sure that leather jacket of your's protected you from that little back-flare."

He took off his jacket and pretended to examine his muscular arms, "I guess you're right, my cool is still in check ... no thanks to you."

She grabbed the jacket from his hand, "The I guess you won't be needing this." She wrapped the jacket around her tiny frame. "Ah, it's so nice and warm. I think I'll keep it."

He grimaced in mock anger, "That'll learn me. It's always the pretty ones that'll hurt you most."

'Did he just say I was pretty?' She examined him under the moon light. He looked like the Max she had grown up with but lately he seemed so different. More mature, more self confident and less juvenile. "Is that so? The pretty ones, huh?"

"Well, it's been my experience."

"You and Gloria, I suppose."

"No, Miss Bella Banks, I meant you. Long before Gloria took a fancy to me, there was you."

'Before Gloria took a fancy for him?' She raised a dubious eyebrow, "Me? I don't recall this at all. Enlighten me, please?"

Closing his eyes, he bobbed his head to the left, exhaled an audible sigh before he returned her little girl lost stare, "Surely you knew?"

"First I'm hearing about it," she made an x across his jacket, over her heart.

"Tell ya what, give me my cigarettes and lighter, and I'll tell you all about it on the rest of the walk home. Deal?"

"Hmm," she sounded through her nose as she examined his jackets inner pocket. She handed him his Zippo lighter and quietly counted the remaining cigarettes in his pack. "Seven. You have seven cigarettes left. I'll give you one per enlightened story, deal?"

"Only seven, deal. But I've already told you one, so, hand it over."

She held the cigarette by the filter before her. "I just want to point out you telling me you think I'm pretty, and always have, doesn't really count."

He plucked the cigarette from her hand and lit it. "Really? Did you know for sure, without a doubt, that I thought you were pretty before I admitted it to you?"

"I had my suspicions."

"Well, now your suspicions have been confirmed. Technically, that should be worth two."

"Oh, no, you agreed to just one." She pulled the jacket tightly around her again.

"Damn," he turned and continued to walk. "So what do you want to know? You got six questions left, better make them good."

She skipped to catch up as she checked out his ass in his tight denim jeans. "When did you first think I was pretty?"

"Your seventh birthday. You were wearing a little yellow dress with big white stitched on flowers. You wore white cotton panties with little yellow flowers."

"How the hell do you remember that?"

"Is that your second question?"

"More of an addendum for clarification of your first answer."

He took another drag and smiled, "The teeter-totter. Remember how I wouldn't let anyone else play with you on it? I would raise you as high as I could to see your panties from below and then push myself up really hard to see your skirt lift-up on the way down."

She slapped his right arm, "You dirty little boy."

"You asked," he laughed as his smile returned remembering his childhood glee at the sight of her yellow flowered panties. "Ya know, Founder's Park still has those same teeter-totters. Maybe you can find a yellow dress with big white flowers and we can-"

"Not gonna happen, Max. Not anytime soon, anyways."

"That's not a no. So you're sayin' there's still a chance?"

"I'm not saying, yes, but I'm not saying, no, either."

He fake frowned, "See, I told ya. It's the pretty ones that always hurt ya. Tease."

She skipped ahead and began to walk backward to watch both his expression and his swagger. "Okay, question two. Earlier, when you knew my birthday and my locker combo - did Gloria tell you or did you really know the date?"

He coughed as a thick cloud of smoke burned his throat, "I knew it ... still know it. And before ya attach an addendum to my statement, same explanation as question one, teeter-totter."

"I'm beginning to think I need to find that yellow dress in an adult size."

He took another hit and pointed with the cigarette. "You find that dress and I'll buy it, cross my heart."

"And hope to die?"

"Of course, but not until after we ride that teeter-totter again."

She caught hold of the street lamp post with her left arm and spun around it. "You have a one track mind, Mr. Seconds. You're, like, totally incorrigible."

"Totally," he exhaled the smoke through his nose and crushed the butt under his boot.

Maybe it was the night air, the shadow of the street light or the full moon playing tricks with her eyes, but for a moment, she could have sworn Max was in a suit. A deep blue with matching tie and white shirt with purple pin-stripes. He had the faintest hint of gray at his temples but his face seemed different. Still handsome, still boyish, but a sadness etched upon it. A man who had carried great burdens that were not always fruitful. He looked up from the ground and the smoldering cigarette as the image faded away.

"Have you ever thought about wearing a suit?"

"Is that your third question?"

She shook her head, "No, just an observation. I mean, sure the leather jacket is rude boy and all, but it doesn't - excuse the pun - suit you. I see you in a nice charcoal, no blue ... Midnight Blue suit."

'Christ, it's like she's looking in my closet in the future, down to the color.' He shrugged, "Armani or Brooks Brothers?"

"No, I'm serious," she leaned against the lamp post. "This whole Max Vader thing you got going isn't you. It's more of the you, you think people want you to be. Need you to be. Does that make sense?"

"More than you know."

"Really? Nobody ever takes me seriously, even listens to me. Everyone thinks of me as Becky's stupid little wallflower sister."

"Trust me, Bella, I'm not like everybody else. I don't think you're stupid and you ain't no wallflower."

"Are you kidding me. All my life, all I've ever heard is Becky is so beautiful. So pretty. So blond, so perky, so perfect."

'I think I found the cause of her little meltdown tonight.' "Listen to yourself. She's blond, she's beautiful, she's perky. The Bella I know is smart, pretty, and talented. Outside of cheer-leading, what is Becky good at? She's a 'C' student at best. Yes, she gets by on her blond beauty, but when that fades, what will she have?"

"A rich husband she can divorce and take to the cleaners. Oh yeah, and two-point-five pretty, blond haired, perfect children."

"Not something to admire or even aspire to be. Besides, not everybody likes blonds, I don't, I prefer brunettes. I want a woman with an IQ larger than her bra size. A woman who can carry on a conversation about art, fine wines, politics and still have time to balance her professional life with being a mother. Does that sound like, Becky?"

"Sounds more like, Gloria."

He cupped her face between his hands and stared into her big, brown eyes, "That sounds like you. Just like me, you are living your life to what everybody thinks we should be like, look like, act like. But that's not us. That's not how we need to be. You and I need to be who we are."

"To thine own self be true?"

"Yeah, exactly. Shakespeare, right?

"Question three. When did you become this Max? The smart, mature, hopeless romantic, Max. 'Conversation about art, fine wines, music and still have time to balance her profession and family life.' That's not a fifteen year old kid's answer. That's a mature man's want ad in the local newspaper's personal column."

'Oh, shite. You're supposed to be a kid, Max. Think, think, think.' He released her face and shrugged. "I read some of Michael's college behavioral science books over the summer. Well, those and his Penthouse Forums, you'd be amazed how much they both have in common."

She frowned at his statement. "Really, that's the best you have? Psych and soft porn?"

"Well, I could lie to you and tell you I've traveled back in time to my youth. I'm really a thirty-eight year old, living out middle-aged fantasy to come back to high school and scam on all the girls I struck out with."

"Starting with Gorgeous Gloria I suppose?"

"Nope, ending with Beautiful Bella. The girl I always wanted but who never noticed me."

She walked across the street, "I'm sensing, somehow, this brings us back to the whole teeter-totter thing again, doesn't it?"

"Oh, the whole time traveling middle-aged perv story you believe. Thanks."

"No, the first and second stories I believe. The third story, I don't think you believe, either version. There may be a hint of truth in both but there's something lacking. You don't seem as committed to either answer as you were to questions one and two."

"When did you become so smart and mature?"

Stopping before her house, she turned, "My father's a therapist, Max. I can tell when someone is hiding the truth in their answers." She reached into the jacket pocket and handed him three of the cigarettes. "I'm being generous with the third cigarette because I really liked our talk."

"So did I. And, for the record, everything before question three, I meant every word of it."

"Aw, I really like the time travel part where you said you stopped at Beautiful Bella, the girl who never noticed you."

He smiled and stuck the cigarettes in his front chest pocket. "Okay, I spoke to soon. I meant that too."

"Good," she replied with a hint of approval in her voice. She turned and headed up the brick walkway, "But I still have three more cigarettes, that means I still get three more questions."

He rubbed his chilled, goose-bumped arms. "What about my jacket?"

"You think about that Midnight Blue suit we discussed and I may just use this jacket as a trade in."

"Trade in, for what?"

She opened the door and stepped inside, "For a yellow dress with big white flowers."

"I'm tellin' ya, it's always the pretty ones. Tease!"

She closed the door, turned and fell against it. "I noticed you, Max. I've always noticed." Her hands slid up and down the leather jacket as she smiled, larger than she could remember in a long time.

* * *

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Knight's Gambit

The bedroom looked like a war zone when David materialized. The vanity mirror was broken, the canopy bed was in shambles and a huge blood smear stained the west wall. The lifeless corpse of Justice laid in a pool of his own blood, his face as white as a sheet. His brown, almost black, sightless dead eyes stared upward towards the ceiling, towards nothing. David stepped around the body rather than over it to avoid the splatter that had soaked into the carpet. As he opened the bedroom door, the scent of lavender and vanilla was vanquished by the odor free stillness of the hallway. He peered over the railing and saw Maya seated at the foot of the bottom stair. The fireplace glow was much brighter than an hour ago and he could see the flow of blood that ran down her elevated hand.

"Are you okay?" He descended the stairs two at a time.

She tilted her head backward to view his approach rather than turn around. "David? I thought you left. Have you been here this whole time?"

He stepped past her to the floor level, knelt and examined her hand. "I jumped ahead an hour. Holy shite, this is a lot of blood. What did he do to you?"

She laughed, "Not a thing, he didn't even touch me. This is all my own careless folly. Knives and shards of glass may cut the same but you have to hold them differently. I guess I'll forever bear a scare to remind me of this fact."

He hurried to the kitchen, grabbed the roll of paper towels from the counter and returned to her. "Where's Klein? I thought he was supposed to be here to help you clean up?"

"He should be along any time now," she looked up to acknowledge his statement. "What about you, my endearing young man? Shouldn't you be somewhere else?"

He wrapped her hand with the paper towels while he cleaned up her arms and wrists. "I came for the picture I told you about earlier. It's the final piece to the puzzle I'm working on, I just know it. I wanted to go, knew I probably should have, but I just couldn't leave without getting it. So, I set my watch ahead by an hour. I figured you guys would have cleared out by now."

"What are you basing that presumption upon or would it be safe to assume that this information would create a ripple if you told me?"

David tried to look her in the eyes but the voided black orbs still freaked him out. "It would probably create a ripple."

"Then you should get what you're after and go. But be wary, David. Ripples are generated by more than just words."

He removed the handkerchief that Klein had given him, replaced the bloody paper towels for fresh, and tied the cloth around her hand. "Christ, you're freezing. Are you sure you're alright?"

"I think so. It's just the adrenaline rush is wearing off." She used his arms to support her weight as she stood. "But your right, I am freezing. Help me over to the fireplace so I can warm up."

He ushered her to the fireplace and gently seated her upon the tiled hearth. Over her shoulder, he noticed that the poker was no longer in the tool stand with the brush and scoop. He discarded the bloody paper towels in the fire when his eyes fell on to a warped and burnt remnants of what appeared to be a small piece of cardboard, a little larger than a post card. His eyes immediately went to the mantle, to where the picture of Bella he had identified earlier resided. The floral frame had been removed, sat upon the mantle, empty of its photograph.

"No, no, no!" he exclaimed as his head felt like it had swelled two times too large. His heart raced and his breaths came in short, wheezing pants. Opening the spark arrestor screen, he used the fireplace tongs to grab the picture from the flames. It crumbled as the tongs made contact.

"David," she turned to touch him. "David, calm down. What is it? What's wrong?"

"Bella's picture. The time picture I told you about. That freakin' bastard, Justice, burnt it."

She moved her hand upward and placed it upon his shoulder. "David, this will be okay."

"How? How is this going to be okay? It was a time picture. The missing piece of my collection." As he stared into her eyes, he no longer felt his earlier fear of their black nothingness. "I told you to let me get earlier. You said it would be safe but he burnt it. He knew what it was and he purposely burnt it."

"Impossible, the house was well phase shifted before he arrived. There's noway it would have been detectable."

He frantically gestured towards the fireplace with both hands, "Well he detected it. There's the proof ... or lack there of. Some how, someway, he detected it. Maybe he already knew it was here? Maybe he wasn't going to kill Bella after all? Maybe just hurt her a little? Maybe harming Bella was just a distraction from his real motive, destroying the picture?"

"David, calm down and listen to yourself. He was going to rape and torture her. Trust me, I was there, in that room. If it hadn't of been me up there, had it been Bella, he would have devoured her innocents and annihilated her flesh and soul in the process. You need to hear me. You need to understand me. Eventually, he would have killed her but not until he satisfied some twisted perversion of morality that only he understood. Do you really believe that that picture is worth more than Bella? Worth more than your friends eternal essence and being? Worth more than everything she ever has been or would one day be?"

She was right. He knew she was right. He recognised it was just an anxiety attack clouding his judgment. He really wished he had a joint right now to calm himself down, instead, he took a long deep breath and slowly exhaled. "No. I know Bella is more important. Without question, she is more important and not just because she's my friend. It's because it's the right choice, the morally correct choice." He took another long breath and slow exhale. "I just got so fixated on that damn picture. How can I make you understand?"

"I understand. You are just having a panic attack," she ran her hand across his back in small, calming, circular patterns. "Now I need you to understand something. The picture, it's still here, it's just been phase shifted. Those ashes in the fireplace are just that, ashes. Remember how I showed you the wrist watch upstairs? Once activated it became just a normal watch. This is the same thing. If we work together, as a team, we can get the picture back."

"How can we get it back?" The excitement rose in his voice again. "Justice threw it in the fireplace and burnt it up. Even if you end the phase shift, the photo will still be in the fireplace, in the flames, whoosh - gone forever."

Her cherub smile returned as she continued her circular patterns across his back. "Stay calm, keep breathing deep and stay with me. Stay with me. When we use the Restore Point, we can get the picture back. I had you set it earlier on the globe before you left. Do you remember?"

"The night light thingy on the dresser? Yeah, I thought it behaved strangely but I checked it earlier, when you had me switch it off. My ring didn't detect it as a time device."

"Not to be contradictory, but yes it did. You just didn't see that it had."

He leaned back and placed the tongs in the holder. "Not to be counter contradictory, but, no It didn't? I was looking right at my ring and it didn't budge one iota."

She giggled in that special way she had. "Your ring was under the influence of the sphere. The sole purpose of the orb is to hold a moment in time, to store that instant, so that it may be referenced again later. Did you happen to look at your ring once you moved away from the sphere?"

He shook his head and took another long breath, "No, why would I?"

"And that, young Master Lane, is part of the human condition. We, humans in general, get so used to tech being infallible that we never second guess it. Even when we get that gnawing suspicion that it just may be wrong, we trust it anyway. Often to our own detriment. You need to learn to trust your instincts more than you trust your tech."

"Well my instincts were to get that picture when I had the chance but you persuaded me against it." He took three deep breaths and slowly exhaled as she continued her circular patterns on his back. He concentrated on the spiraling circles she rubbed and tried to remain calm. "You tell me it's still here, okay, I believe you. So tell me, how do I ... how do we, get it back from the flames?"

"We? I like that. You're beginning to think of us as a partnership, that's good. An individual is rash and makes bad choices because no one else is there to challenge them. To point out the many alternatives the other was failing to see. But in a partnership, you and I, we can work together from a combined knowledge base and decide upon an informed strategy. Now, be the bright and rational young man I know you are. Please go upstairs and bring me the wrist watch and the orb. I'd go myself but-" She raised her bleeding hand. "I'll wait right here for your return. Together, David, we'll get that picture back."

David ran upstairs, retrieved the two items and returned to her, out of breath but attentive.

"Okay, step one. When I turn off the wrist watch, you phase shift yourself three seconds behind. Position yourself here," she pointed towards the end of the hearth closest to where the burnt picture had resided. "Step two, when I hit the Restore Point, you'll have time to grab the real picture before it burns. You'll need to be quick but, more importantly, you need to stay calm. Calm heads and hands prevail where anxious hearts fail. We have only one chance at this else it will burn in the flames for real this time. Just remember to keep breathing, don't get distracted and stay calm."

The sound of an old car pulling into the driveway could be heard outside the kitchen door. She slid the wristwatch onto her arm as he adjusted the dials on his pocket watch.

"Be sure to set the distance to one yard otherwise only the watch will be moved back three seconds. You don't want to be standing here like a dork wondering where your watch went."

He knew the comment was to try to break the tension of the moment, but it only added to his anxiety. "Okay, okay, three seconds, got it. I'm ready. You ready? Lets do this."

"Remember, stay calm, be alert, but stay calm. Together, we can do this. I believe in you."

He paused at that for a moment. He couldn't remember anyone, his family, his teachers, even his best friend, ever say those words to him before. We worry about you, we wish the best for you, even the occasional, we love you, but never, I believe in you. He could feel the anxiety melt away as a cool sense of calmness fell over him.

"I believe in you too," he replied, calm, relaxed and renewed.

She wrinkled her nose and smiled, "One ... two ... three." She pressed in the timing stem on the wristwatch.

As he pressed the fob button, the rest of the house advanced forward in time while he remained out of sync by the original three second duration.

Klein entered through the kitchen door and approached Maya unaware that David was in the room. They repeated their same actions they previously performed, redressing her hand before ascending the stairwell, removing Justice's body and returning down the stairs. David waited patiently for Maya to use the restore orb. Once she appeared at the top of the stairs, he saw the pristine picture appear in the fireplace and slowly fall. Grabbing it with his bare hand, he rubbed the burning corner to extinguish the flames. He briskly placed the photo in his jacket pocket as Maya approached and replaced the fireplace poker in the rack. Her freshly bandaged hand brushed across his cheek as she looked downward and winked. He found himself, again, entranced by her graceful glide and swaying hips as she headed towards the back door.

He waited for the old car to back out of the drive before canceling the phase shift. He felt himself being propelled forward to catch up with the world around him. He swayed slightly from the sudden rush of momentum and steadied himself against the mantle. As his equilibrium balanced itself out, he adjusted the time coordinates on the pocket watch to when he originally departed from Klein's car. He mentally felt the steering wheel in his hand, the tactile sensations of the finger moldings beneath the imitation leather wrap. He was about to press the fob button when he thought, 'What the hell. I got ten, maybe twenty minutes before he arrives at my house. I can always go back to the Duster, it will be just like I never left anyway.'

He adjusted the time back to one-thirty-five, thought about his bedroom and the picture collection beneath his bed. He concentrated on the aroma of Lana's white orb sex candle. It consumed his olfaction sense to the point he could almost taste it's potent mixture. He pressed the fob button and once again was bathed in a silver glow that began to sparkle and shimmer. Upon his departure, only the dim glow from the fireplace lit the Banks home as a small, floral etched wooden frame, sat empty upon the mantle.


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 10:33 pm 
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Tide Pools

July 21, 2008 - 5:47 PM

The digital thermometer read one-hundred-three degrees. Traffic had been held to a stand-still for the short trip from the suburbs to Greater Metro Community Hospital for over an hour. Lana had got off the Highway, used streets, took the toll roads, but nothing she attempted made the drive any faster.

She successfully negotiated with her oldest to pick up her brothers and sisters, this had been easier than she expected. It only cost an extra hour added to her curfew for the next two weeks. Since the mall closed at ten, she saw no harm in extending curfew to eleven. Besides, it gave Lana more brownie points against her soon-to-be ex-husband when he would try to set his curfew stipulations. An easy win/win in her book. Isn't divorce grand.

She looked at her passenger and, at this moment, she envied her blindness. By outward appearance, the traffic, the heat, even Lana's own frustration held little if any impact to Maya's own state of being. She remained quietly seated, rubbing her medallion between her thumb and fore fingers, all the while smiling like a little girl on picture day.

"Penny for your thoughts," Lana asked as she navigated around the mid-sized sedan.

"I dare not speak them," she replied as her finger rubbed harder on the medallion. "We've been trapped here too long. To speak them may create new ripples, neither of us want that, now, do we?"

"I thought ripples were a result of actions, not words."

"Words inspire actions and actions are spoken about, which makes them words. Everything influences everything. For example, why do you think you have been kept out of the game until now?"

"You told me earlier it was because I didn't have the watch in this timeline."

Maya looked at Lana as her smile faded. "Did I. I could have sworn I told you that this was the first time you wore the watch. For all I know, you may have owned it but not worn it."

"So you lied to me?"

"Lying is subjective. I told you the truth when I spoke of your funeral, your menial jobs, your loveless existences. It's also true, none of those Lana's ever wore the watch. I'm speculating that your other-selves no longer had your grandmothers watch because that is what they told me. But as we both know, people lie to others and themselves. All those Lana's that lived, they all claimed to have lost it sometime during that night, during that storm. My theory is that somebody took it. Maybe they knew who it was and were too afraid to tell me the truth? Maybe they were telling the truth and my own past life of lies and deception won't allow me to recognize the truth when I hear it? Maybe I'm lying to myself because I'm afraid of the answer I might receive?"

"So, what is it that you are lying about?"

She rubbed the medallion harder still. "Bella. You thought it was odd about me naming my dog after her, but didn't comment upon it. It was in your inflection, but you didn't follow up. After we talked about the mirror and Bella's nightmare, you never once commented about or asked what became of her. Almost like we aren't supposed to talk about her, even remember her, why?"

Lana thought about the question. The car behind her at the stop sign honked to bring her back to the present. "I don't know. I mean, Becky is still my best friend and all. It's funny, now that I think about it, we never talk about her. Why do you think that is? Her own sister doesn't talk about her, even in passing? I talk about my kids, about Max, and especially Michael - everyone asks about Michael - except you. Even being blind you must know who he is?"

"I know who Michael is," she replied incredulously. "I also know what he does and with whom he chooses to spend his time with, outside of what's reported in the Hollywood gossip rags. Being his sister, can you say the same?"

"I know he has a mystery woman on the side he keeps secret." She slammed on the breaks to the anger of the drivers behind her. "Are you telling me Michael's secret woman is Bella?"

Maya giggled but not the way Lana recognized as being amused. "Oh, that would have been so much better, wouldn't it? To spit in the eyes of these silly would-be gods and their whims of irony and damnation."

"So, is that a yes or no?"

"No, it's not, Bella. But that also means you don't know her whereabouts either. To the best of your recollection, has Becky ever mentioned her? Ever said her name aloud to you?"

Lana shook her head as she cutoff the semi and accelerated onto the on ramp. "I told you, no. Why is her presence so important?"

Maya rubbed the medallion between both hands, "Because she died. In every paradox, every ripple, she died. If not by Justice then by the hands of the one who stole your watch. But I prevented Justice and you have your watch. That means someone else got involved, but who? That's the answer that frightens me."

"Don't you know?"

"I know the ripples, what I've experienced. I'm not Miss Cleo the psychic." She imitated a Jamaican accent, "I see a tall handsome man in you future, girlie. OH, he's gorgeous and wealthy." She stopped and shook her head. "If ripples, alternate time streams, we're that simple, everyone could see them, not just me."

Lana shouted at the driver next to her for not yielding right of way. "Yeah, but you have time vision. Your eyes can see through time or was that a lie too?"

"It doesn't work that way. I can see temporal abnormalities not the future. Ripples as they occur, tears beginning to fragment or blown wide and gapping. If I could see time, true or fabricated constantly, I would be as mad as Potts."

"You can see me though, right?"

"That's because of the watch, objects that can manipulate the essence."

"No, you said I was hidden before. I have a purpose in this game and only now became active, like a sleeper agent in cold war conspiracy movie. So, besides you, Max, Randy and Wordsworth, who are or were the other players?"

"Ripples, honey, ripples. I can't tell you."

"Come on, that's bullshit!" she laid on the horn at the driver who just cut her off. "That goes for you too. You have the medallion. You've been rubbing it this whole afternoon. Isn't it supposed to prevent ripples?"

"It prevents time stream change detection. I can't be detected as long as I have hold of this. Any changes I make can't be detected either, but they still happen."

"So, by proximity, I can't be detected either, right?"

"I suppose that's true, why?"

"Early this afternoon, you told me that Randy was now Rex, some time space bad guy. Didn't that change things, create a ripple?"

Maya slowed her rubbing of the medallion, "No, not in that case. You discovered Rex and his attempt to end Max's life support. I didn't volunteer that information, only what an evil son of a bitch asshole your brother had become. That's different."

"But you also told me about Max and his soul-"

"Essence," she corrected.

"Okay, splitting hairs, but essence transference. His current thirty-eight year old self is stuck in his fifteen year old body."

Maya bobbed her head to the left and right, "Technically, you knew he was in a comma. You didn't know he was a traveler, but you didn't know you were one either. It was a chance I took in telling you but so far, we are still on course, no ripples have been created."

"Are you sure?" She used the emergency lane to cut around the slow moving camper in the fast lane. "How can you be so sure? You haven't let go of that medallion all afternoon. How would you know?"

"Trust me, I'd know."

"Okay then. Let's test your theory, tell me who Michael is dating. You said it yourself, I already know he has a woman on the side. He never brings her to Christmas or Thanksgiving get-togethers. Even when he's there he's always on his cell talking to her. Tell me who that someone is?"

"I can't. Ripples on that one for sure."

Lana honked her horn three times as a flash of inspiration hit her like a thunderbolt. "She's a time traveler, isn't she, and Michael doesn't know?"

Maya sat silent and still.

"Ah ha, I guessed it, didn't I. I'm right," she exclaimed proudly. "All this time I assumed she was married but it's far worse. She is a time traveler, isn't she? Oh my god, she probably plays for the other team too, I bet. Now you gotta tell me, that's the rules."

Maya shook her head, "No it's not."

"Yes, yes it is. You just told me that's how it worked. If I figured it out on my own, it won't create a ripple."

"It's more of a theory than a rule, sweetness."

"Don't wordplay me, Maya. I guessed correctly, now you need to tell me."

Maya pointed her finger defiantly at Lana. "It may create another ripple, a new ripple, and you'll have only yourself to blame."

"My learning my brother's girlfriends name, how bad of a ripple can that create."

"And that's the problem. To you it's insignificant knowledge but the universe may disagree. It may alter things you can't even comprehend."

"Christ, you sound like Becky's parents when I was a kid. The universal consciousness, karma, new age Boogedy mumbo jumbo."

"Now you sound like your father. Not that that is a bad thing, he had his moments."

"Damn right, he did. Like right now, he'd be asking the same things. For instance, in all the years you've been doing this, are you telling me that you never once took a chance? Did something you weren't supposed to?"

"I've done several things that I believed were the right things to do. Believing that they are right, were right, doesn't make them so." She placed her hand on Lana's shoulder and rubbed tiny, spiral patterns. "I saved Bella, right or wrong, I did it and would do it again without hesitation. I contacted your younger self in the mirror, to warn you, to save you. Again, right or wrong, I would do it all over without hesitation, sweetness. I helped Da ... a friend recover an important clue. One that I believe may help put an end to this ocean of ripples. Right or wrong, I can't say. I can only wait and see the outcomes of my choices, my actions, my responsibility. You need to understand, Lana, any or all of these things may have created or added to the alternative time lines we've all been lost in. Now, we are getting close to resolving them, getting so close to getting ourselves out of the ripples, and you want me to start it all over again?"

"No, I want you to tell me a name. It's the name of someone I already know about," she took offramp twenty-three to Greater Metro Community Hospital. "I doubt that is going to create a ripple based on your own theory of self discovered answers won't create new ripples."

"I don't feel comfortable putting that theory to any further tests. It would be better if we consolidate our resources and find out what became of Bella."

"Damn it, Maya, stop it!" she jerked her shoulder away from her spiral drawing hand. "You can't influence me to stop thinking about that name. I don't give a rats ass about Bella right now. I haven't thought about her in almost twenty years. Max hasn't thought about her in almost twenty years. You seem to be the only one who remembers her, so why don't you know where she is?"

Maya withdrew her hand and placed it, again, atop the medallion. "We will discuss this more after we see your brother. Because right now, I don't give a rat's ass about Michael or his girlfriend. The only brother I am concerned about is Max and by finding Bella, we might also find a way to bring Max home again. So if you won't help me, fine, I know others who will, who have, and I'll call upon their generosity again."

Lana turned the mini-van into the hospital parking and chose a stall closest to the main entry. She placed the van in park and examined Maya, who sat quiet and disconnected from her. "Why can't you see her? You, of all people, should be able to see her. Is she even alive anymore?"

"You've made it quite clear to me, it's not your concern. Let's forget we spoke of her, I think it would be best for both of us."

"Maya, I'm sorry. You know that I was upset, I didn't mean what I said about Bella."

"Sometimes, the only truth we speak is when we are upset." She smiled, but Lana recognized the insincerity within it. "Like I said, best we not talk about her anymore. Ripples, you know."

As they entered the sliding doors of the reception area, Lana realized that the hospital was a little over crowded. She escorted Maya to a chair facing away from the TV as they were less crowded. She left her alone as she went to go check in and investigate who may have also came to visit Max today.

Maya sat quietly contemplating the last words she had with Lana. She was a grown women and should have responded better to Lana's request but she was too old, too tired of the game, and too stubborn to let her chance to find Bella slip through her fingers. It may have driven a permanent rift between them. She needed to correct this and would tell Lana so upon her return. In the mean time, she listened to the early edition of the evening news on the television.

A young girl sat beside her. Maya guessed her age to be between ten and twelve as she didn't smell like candy or cheap teenager perfume and make-up. The girl was playing with an electronic portable game. She could hear the mashing button but particularly the sound effects of leaping, collecting reward items, and the scornful wah-wah-wah of the players death.

"Calm heads and hands prevail where anxious hearts fail," the young girl said aloud to herself before replaying the level.

Maya turned towards the girl, "Excuse me, little girl."

"I'm a young lady," the girl corrected.

"My apologies, young Miss," Maya wrinkled her nose and smiled her cherub grin. "That saying you just said."

"Calm heads and hands prevail where anxious hearts fail?"

"Yes, that's the one. That's very unique and quite clever. May I ask where you first heard it?"

The girl turned off the game and swung her feet from the chair, back onto the floor. "No."

"Is it something your grandparents told you? Or maybe your parents?"

"Nope."

"What about your friends? Maybe their parents taught you this saying?"

"Nope, I can't tell ya, lady."

"Well, why not? Is it a secret?"

The girl leaned over and whispered in Maya's ear, "Because it may create a ripple."

Maya felt a cold sense of dread run down her spine. Under the noise of the television news anchor and nearby patients, she heard the sound of the girl's sneakers scuff on the floor as she scampered away. She pulled the medallion from around her neck, rubbed it between her thumb and fore fingers as she nervously rocked in place.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 7:51 pm 
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Absolutely Nothin', Say It Again

The police station was eerily dark and still. Patrol vehicles stood abandoned with their doors propped open, some still with their motor running. The heavy deluge of rain bounced off their flashing red and blue light as the waters cascaded over the open doors. As the K-9 cruiser pulled before the station, Max turned on the police radio, the normal chatter was non existent. He looked over to Sol and noted the concern that slowly appeared in his expression.

"Don't cops have back-up generators for just such emergencies?"

Sol nodded but did not speak. He placed the cruiser in park and exited the vehicle. The rain quickly consumed his hair and beard, which made it difficult to distinguish where one stopped and the other started. He stuck his head back in the car, "Load up. This is no time to be on half spent ammo rounds."

Max inserted a new clip into his pistol, "What do you see?"

Sol shook his head, "It's what I don't see. What's your ring picking up?"

He stared at the compass ring and found just a single, stationary blip ahead of them, in the building. He held up one finger before he made a fist.

Sol motioned to the double doors at the main entry before he headed to the open patrol car beside them. A dead police officer laid in the seat, his tongue protruded between his purple-blue lips, thick and swollen. His lifeless hands still held on to the keys that he had used to unlock the shotgun retainment latch. Sol removed the pump action shotgun and emptied a box of rounds into his jacket pocket. He pointed the barrel at the ground and gave it a single pump to load the chamber.

Max cocked his pistol and flipped the stopwatch into his left hand before he exited the cruised. He pulled his night-vision goggles down and scanned the area, he saw no one.

"Any advice?" Sol asked as he joined Max who was already headed toward the entry.

"Yeah - don't get shot."

"Hadn't planned on it, Sargent Major."

"Good, that makes two of us."

Max took shelter behind the right column as Sol took the left. He clicked the zoom level down one notch and scanned the entry. Several bodies lined the entry floor but none gave off heat signatures. He crouched as he moved in through the doorway and double-timed to the station watch counter. Again, he scanned the area without finding signs of life. He motioned for Sol to join him.

"What the hell happened here, Sol. I don't see signs of gunfire. No blood, no concussive damage, nothin'."

Sol wiped his salt and pepper hair back from his eyes, "Temporal weapons, most likely."

An image of Wordsworth tied to the chair leaped to his mind, "What, like they did to Wordsworth?"

Sol shook his head negatively as rivulets of water sprayed forth. "No, this is different. This is referred to as being 'Double Phased.' Stuck in a time pocket a few moments out of sync with our reality."

"Sort of a suspended animation then? That's why there's no heat signature."

Sol shook his head again, "If this is Rex's work, their suspended but not animated. He would have stopped their hearts or lungs first. Made them suffer to just being on the brink of death before he shifted them ahead or behind in time. When time catches up, they are released from the phase bubble and their suffering ends."

"He can do that?" Max asked while he examined the chubby Negro Duty Sargent. He remembered her from his youth. Countless times he had been brought in and stood before her for his delinquent activities. She had always been tough yet fair. He remembered her big porcelain smile that dimpled her cheeks. Her expression reflected none of that now, only pain and deep suffering.

Sol nodded affirmatively, "Anyone with a device and enough malice with a combined absence of scruples can do this, Max. Your brother fills both those requirements. He was trained by the Chancellor, raised and conditioned to be heartless, efficiently cruel without mercy. He plays by a different set of rules, different code of ethics."

"You said, if he sends them ahead, their suffering ends. What happens if he sends them backwards in time?"

"Eternal suffering at the breakpoint of death." Sol closed the woman's eyes with his hand and stroked her hair back from her face. "You could be embalmed, buried, and still be conscious the whole time; for every aspect. Doomed forever to never truly die, lingering just on the cusp. Cremation would end it, well, I'd like to believe it would end the suffering after you endured the initial agony of your flesh being melted away, of course."

Max removed his goggles, "Of course. Cheery little bastard my brother's become."

"You have no idea, Max. You need to forget that he's your brother, ever was your brother. I guarantee, that's not how he sees you anymore. He may use the term against you, to taunt and play on your sympathies but you, ultimately, are his worst enemy. His Arch Enemy without sounding too melodramatically cliché."

Max looked at the room of slaughtered innocence around him before her returned his attention to Sol. "Why? Why me? I just don't get that, I didn't do anything?"

He pointed outside, to the cruiser. "The man you need to be asking is in the backseat of the cruiser. Unfortunately, he's still going to be out for a few hours. I don't think Rex is going to give us that much time if Klein is correct about the countdown."

"The temporal weapons he used in here, are they still active? We've never really talked before, do you have any experience with his tactics at all? Were they point and shoot or could he make booby traps with them?"

"Yes," Sol acknowledged all questions with a single answer. "You've seen combat, Sargent Major. You've been under manned, under equipped, and pinned down. How resourceful have you been, had to be, in that situation?"

Max had spent years coming to terms with those memories. He was not about to conjure them back from the grave now. "That's different, that was during times of war."

"This is no different. This is war to him, to the Chancellor, to all of them. We are the enemy - period."

"Great, if there are traps here, then they are out of phase and my ring won't detect them." He looked down at the single red blip coming from his left. "The device still hasn't moved. What do you think, trap or legit?"

"Does Rex know you're from the future or does he believe you're still fifteen, just an average teenager?"

Max thought about the nights events. "Loria didn't know until I told her. Liberty and Chancellor kept referring to me as a kid. Being a betting man, I don't think he knows."

"Good," Sol looked around the room and at the hallway door. "Then if there are traps, he didn't set them specifically for you."

"And why is that good? A trap is a trap is a trap."

"Because it wasn't set for you. To the best of their knowledge, Maya is the only member of our team that has the compass ring. They know she wouldn't give such an asset away, especially to an untrained teenage kid. If Rex set a trap, it's designed for her. She is the most cunning, most dangerous among us to his knowledge."

"That's a huge leap of faith," Max argued as he examined another of the bodies. "Why wouldn't he just set a trap? Why specify the target? This is war, we are the enemy, right?"

"Klein and I don't play the game same as the rest of you. We investigate, infiltrate, and eradicate. If need be, we blow it up, we go around, we circumvent. What we don't do, what we never do, is accept a challenge for honor sake. Honor and pride gets you dead. We are not knights or lorded gentry with titles. We do what needs to be done, damned the cost, save for the innocents. But even then, sometimes, innocents get in the way."

The bodies laid with faces in twisted torment behind their desks, in the walkways, some still holding half eaten food stuffs. Their expressions forever frozen in the moment of absolute pain. He reached over and shut the eyes of an old woman who was the apparent victim of elder abuse. 'Twice in one night,' he thought as he pointed to the old woman's body. "Different code, different set of rules?"

"We're Mercs, Sargent Major, we get the jobs done. The jobs you, no offense, are too conflicted to deal with because it breaks your code of ethics, your creed, your moral center. You, better than anyone, should understand the need for us. Nobody likes using carpet bombs or snipers, but some times, you need to use them, that's why everybody has them."

"Point well taken but this," he motioned through the room. "This isn't war, this is slaughter for slaughter sake. Not everybody has time devices or are even part of this, game everyone keeps calling it. These people aren't part of the game, they don't even have devices. I've never seen you use a device, Klein doesn't use one."

"Nobody suspects me because I don't carry unless absolutely necessary, it's safer that way." His eyes scanned the room again. "Was safer."

"It's easier to get things accomplished if you're in the shadows."

"Exactly. Klein's doesn't use his device because it was stolen during his attempted murder."

Max smiled big and broad, "No it wasn't. It's been here, in this building, in the evidence room." He tapped his time compass ring, "It's still here. This trap is set for him, not Maya, but Klein. Rex knew he'd come for it. Probably suspected we'd all come for it. But somethin' happened here. Somethin' or someone he didn't account for and it got out of hand. Seriously out of hand, beyond his calculated control. The only thing he could do was to leave, escape mostly, but not empty handed. If he couldn't take the clock with him, he'd make sure nobody else would either. So, using his own logic against him, who ever fought him here, wasn't Klein, but he knew he would come fore it. Had to come, that's why we're here now. Tell me, how would Klein approach this scenario?"

Sol thought about his friend and returned Max's smile. "Same way we are, head on, John Wayne style."

"Thought so. Klein doesn't impress me as a stealth type. He uses his size to his advantage, intimidation and all."

"Scare the crap out of them, you mean."

"What about you and Maya?"

"Me, side by side with the big man. Maya is more the stealth and weak point striker."

"A samurai ... a ninja?"

Sol smirked, "Combine the two, you know, an assassin."

"I knew I liked her for a reason." Max fanned his finger before his face. "What about her eyes? Does Rex know that he enhanced them or does he believe he just blinded her?"

"I'm sure he has his suspicions. You need to think of Rex as you would yourself. He's tactically smart and I hate to remind you, but he's better at this game than you are. You can fight and lead and everything but you are no match when it comes to temporal manipulation. He was raised with it. Trained in using it to his ultimate advantage."

"You keep using, he can, he has, blah blah blah and a yackity smackity. He is reliant on his own abilities. He doesn't utilize those around him, if he did, he wouldn't be down key members or have been caught of guard by whatever happened here. Sure, I may not be an expert in time as a weapon, but you guys are. Wordsworth was one of the best, that's why he had to eliminate him. Not just kill him but obliterate him." Max patted the pouch of ashes around his neck. "You and Klein have survived multiple time battles, games, whatever name you want to place on this shite. Maya, like Wordsworth is brilliant at this. That's why I don't have to rely on my temporal knowledge, I have all of you. Hell, he still thinks I'm a kid, he's already under estimated me."

Sol smiled, "Utilizing us as a team, just like the good old days. Leadership without Wordsworth, this he won't be expecting."

"Exactly. I know what you and Klein are capable of, but Miss Maya, what can you tell me? Can she manipulate time? Can she see things out of phase?"

"I believes so, although, she has never admitted such to me. The less stated, the less that can be revealed."

"So, being as smart or smarter than I, Rex has based his plan around us; Maya, Klein, you and me. He doesn't know about Dave yet."

"He also is unaware of Justice, Liberty and Fritz's demise, but again, don't underestimate him, Sargent Major. He was trained by the Chancellor, he will have contingency plans already in place."

"Yeah, but we have him too. His chess pieces are falling around him revealing ..." He paused, "We still have yet to determine his main plan or his objective." He looked at the wall clock, "Twelve to three. That doesn't leave us much time for discovery?"

"You're forgetting about your friend, the dark beauty? Can she be trusted?"

"Loria," Max placed his palms behind his neck and stared skyward. After a long exhale, he announced, "I can't say. Deep down, I know she's still the Gloria I remember. She just got a little lost somewhere along the way. I wanna believe that she did not enter into this game on her own volition. She was manipulated, coerced by someone. "

Sol again motioned outside, "Coercion comes easy to men like him. If you believe she's a victim in all this, look no further than the cruiser's back seat. He is masterful at what can be accomplished with just the right words, at the right moment, in the right ear."

"That being said," Max looked back at Sol, "manipulated or not, in chess, the queen is still the most deadly piece on the board. Rex and the Chancellor still answer to someone or someones, she doesn't. After what transpired at the high school, I wanna believe she's left their side, gone rogue. And if that's true, she needs allies. She needs us."

"But you need to ask the bigger question, do we need her?"

"Somebody did this, they surprised Rex in here. A major miscalculation like this comes from someone with advanced knowledge, not luck. It's possible, Loria sought some retribution for transgressions committed by all of them. Liberty, the Chancellor, but especially, Rex." Max looked out at the cruiser, "I know the person who can answer that and other questions. Do you have an Adrenaline Epipen in your little black pharmaceutical satchel?"

Sol gave Max an incredulous look, "Of course."

"Okay then, before you tell me it's only done in movies, I've seen it done in movies. Does it work?"

Sol nodded, "Yes, it works ... of course it works. However, at his age, it may induce a heart attack. It's just as likely to kill him as get him up. Are you ready to accept the consequences of this decision?"

Max remembered Liberty's revelation in the auditorium and how it was the Chancellors idea to rid themselves of both Wordsworth and Bella. He tapped the small bag of ashes again. "f@%k him. I'm willing to take that chance to get answers to our questions. Bring him in, to the holding cells, I'll clear us a path." Max tapped the pistol barrel against his head as a salute, "Carpet bombs away."

"Glad to have you with us, Sargent Major." Sol crouched as he headed toward the doorway.

"Sol," Max shouted hoarse and at a near whisper level as he placed the night-vision goggles on. "That device of your's, the one you never wear. Nows the time to equip it. Shadow play is over."

He snapped a salute before he headed out into the rain.

* * *

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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:14 pm 
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Time And Realative Dimension In Space
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The Dark Queen and the Princess - Part 3

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Loria watched from the side-wings as her younger self danced with Rex. Although the song lasted just over three minutes, if felt like an eternity. For during this entire period, Rex's eyes never once left hers. He made it quite clear that he was in charge of both her past life and current. "Heartless" and "Son-of-a-bitch" were the two phrases that repeated over and over through her mind as she watched, helpless to end the dance until the song was over. However, once it had completed, she made an immediate bee line to her younger self as the audience applauded both Liberty's performance of the song and Rex and Gloria's dance.

"Little Me," she called out and advanced onto the small dance floor.

"Auntie Nell, you're here," Gloria squealed with out of breath delight.

"Sorry I'm late, damn police actually treated me like the criminal rather than the victim." She turned her attention to Rex and deadpan flatly asked, "Who's your new friend?"

He raised Gloria's hand to his lips and gently kissed them, "My friends call me, Rex, Auntie Nell. But you can call me-"

"Hi, Rex," her tight-lipped smile was insincere. "And it's Loria to you, not Auntie Nell."

He smiled a mischievous grin, "Ah, but I liked, Auntie Nell. It seems to suit you somehow."

"Excuse us," she took Gloria's hands from Rex's. "I think another song is about to start, you'll probably want to find yourself a new partner."

Rex refused to relinquish his grip upon Gloria. "I'm happy with the partner I have." He examined the bright eyes and beaming smile on Gloria's tender, young face. "I think she's happy too. Surely you won't deny her another dance?" He addressed Gloria, "What say you, my little dream? Another dance ... just one more?"

Gloria looked longingly at Loria, "Please, Aunt Loria, can I? Just one more?"

She looked into Gloria's desirous eyes, her own eyes, and saw the original pleading look she used to practice in the mirror, in her youth. If it wasn't that fact that she was trying to use the look on herself, it probably would have worked. "But I just got here, come, spend some time with me first. You can dance more later, I promise."

An imposingly tall, tuxedo clad bouncer crossed the dance floor and offered his hand to Loria. "I believe this gentleman already has a partner, Miss. Perhaps I can be an acceptable alternative?"

She stared at the man, astonished at his initial audacity.

"Bouncer," Gloria apologetically squinched.

She examined her attire before she clicked her tongue and smiled at the bouncer, "Dress code, right?"

"Afraid so, Ma'am," again, he insisted she take his hand.

"Okay, one more dance," she announced before she cupped her hand to Gloria's ear and whispered, "While you're dancing with him, pretend he's Max, not some stranger you met tonight."

Gloria gave her a strange look, "Really? Are you sure?"

Loria took the bouncers hand as the music began. "You'll thank me later."

The bouncer danced a few steps before he escorted her off the dance floor and over to the bar.

As Rex pulled Gloria into his arms, he smiled, "What did she tell you?"

"She said to pretend that this wasn't my last dance tonight."

"Did she, now?" Rex glared at Loria before he committed to the dance.

Gloria stared at Rex and found how similar his features were to Max. He had the same shaped face, same nose, and same intense stare behind his eyes. She noted that his lips were thinner and had a droop to them at the corners that gave him a sad expression. Max's mouth had more of an upturned slant as if he was in a perpetual happy place. As she twirled, she envisioned Max's face upon her new found friend. She realized her movements were more relaxed her posture less stiff, her spins and dips, more unrestrictive and care free. Upon the song's finish, she almost kissed him until his red hair broke her daydream of Max.

"Daughter? Am I right," asked the deep gruff voice from behind the bar.

Loria turned and examined the inquisitive man in the Marine Dress Blues. He was older, in his fifties and ruggedly masculine. He wouldn't be described as handsome but his face held a rough-hewed charm about it. "Niece," she politely replied. "We haven't seen each other since she was eighteen ... that makes it almost ten, no, twelve years now."

"A woman as young and pretty as you can't possibly have a thirty year old niece. She doesn't look a day over twenty three."

She smiled, "Good gene pool." She held out her hand, "Loria Godwin and you are?"

He kissed her hand before he brought his other hand on top. "The proprietor of this establishment, but you can call me, Lex - everyone does."

"Oooh, Lex hardly suits a chiseled and enigmatic faced man, such as yourself."

"Eugene Fletcher Lexington," he hummed and hawed.

She smiled and batted her eyelashes, "Lex, it is then. Those other names don't sing the charms of, well, you. Family names, I take it?"

He patted her hand before he removed it to clap for the band. "Yes, Ma’am. My father's first and my mother's maiden, but it could have been worse."

She leaned on the bar, "Do tell."

"I could have been a junior."

"Aunt Loria," Gloria wrapped her arms around Loria from behind. "You were so right. Oh my gawd, that was so fun."

Lex looked at both women, "Oh, this can't be true." He pointed at them both, back and forth. "This proves the existence of god if ever their needed proof." Both ladies stared as they waited for him to continue. "Two sets of the bluest eyes I've ever seen. Nature never repeats itself, only god does this kind of masterpiece."

"That line never gets stale with you, does it, Lex?" Rex stated and leaned into his barstool.

Lex sneered, "It's not the line that's stale as much as the company I keep."

"Wow," Rex mocked having his face slapped. "That was truly hurtful. One would almost get the impression you don't like me ... or my patronage to your establishment."

"As my old drill instructor used to say, don't sling it if you can't wing it."

"Excuse me, Lex," Loria interrupted as she yanked Rex to his feet. "As much as I would love to sit hear all night and listen to you insult this man, and believe me, I love it more than you know. I really need to have a few words with him, but rest assured, when I'm done, I'll bring him back for round two."

"Don't miss me too terribly while I'm gone, Princess," Rex ran his thumb across Gloria's bottom lip.

Loria pulled him to the near secluded booths by the restrooms. This area was left for the HQ staff to take breaks and was seldom used by customers. Out of site from Gloria and Lex, she asked, "What the hell is your problem? You have no right to mess with my time line, with my memories."

"I can do whatever the hell I want," His voice was low but his rage was evident in his tone. "You don't get to question me, ever. I gave you a single job to perform, a small, simple task that you failed to achieve. Not only did you fail, you f@%ked me in your failure. So I get to f@%k you back."

"The hell you do."

He smiled a superior snide little grin. "That little girl, you, almost kissed me just now. I'm already in her head," he poked her forehead roughly. "I'm in your head, even now, as a happy teenage memory. I can see in your face, you know I'm right. I'm in there," he poked her forehead again and pushed. "And there is nothing you can do about it. We danced when you were eighteen and I was you're first near orgasmic moment."

"Don't flatter yourself. I could have stopped that at anytime. Do you really think I don't know how to play the game?"

He laughed, "You stood in the wings and begged me to stop. I filled your mind with a new memory and you were helpless to stop me. And when your younger self asked for more, you failed to stop me. Gee, I see a pattern here tonight; it looks a lot like failure. You can vent all you want, but there is only one of us here who can't claim that title. Me! I am the one in control here. Not you. And never forget, I can either leave tonight's little memory a happy one, or I can make it into something all together unpleasant." He paused, looked upwards and smiled, "Well, unpleasant for you."

"I already have enough unpleasant memories of you."

He pointed towards the bar, "But she doesn't. Your current memories will haunt you for what, only a few decades? I can easily add two more decades worth of memories, choice is yours."

Her eyes filled with rage, "Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?"

"You f@%ked me tonight and I got no pleasure from it. You don't seem to understand that there are consequences for your failures. You know the saying, do unto others and all. Since your older self unpleasing, I'll try the younger version. If I find you’re still not pleasing, the worse your memories will become."

"If you open this box, I swear to god, you'll never put the lid back on it, ever. Don't do this!"

"It's already done. It's your first dance, with an older man, in a night club, that you sneaked into when you were eighteen. Tell me it's not there, in your memories, even now, and you were having the time of your life. Now remember, it was you who set all these events in motion. You set her up with that pretentious loser for her date. You gave her the dress, told her how to sneak in, and if your plan hadn't failed, would have left her to fend for herself. This is all your own handy work, own it. I didn't open the box, you did, I just stole the lock."

It was true; she had set these wheels in motion. She did set the scenes, set the time and she had allowed that dance to occur. What she couldn't let on to, never let on to, is that Gloria did exactly what she was told. Her memory of the dance, in both her memories, was with Max, not Rex. But she couldn't let his threat against her, especially the eighteen year old her, go unchecked. His intentions were quite clear what he meant by "unpleasant."

"If you touch me," she pointed to the bar, "I swear to god, I will make you suffer. I will bring the world down on your head and you'll not even see it coming."

"You're younger self's well being is entirely in your own hands. Every time you fail me, you f@%k me, I f@%k you." He looked at the bar. "Who knows, maybe I can wipe away that Max complex you've held on to for all these years."

She poked her finger in his chest, "You didn't have to walk this line. This is cruel, even for you. Put the lid back on, now, and we'll forget this discussion ever occurred."

He shook his head, "No. You need motivation and an understanding of failure. I am your motivation and, if need be, I will make you undeniably understand the repercussions of your failure. Don't f@%k me again, do you understand?"

She looked at the bar. She looked at Lex and her younger self chatting unaware of what was transpiring.

"Do YOU Understand?"

She nodded without looking at him.

He grabbed her face and forced her to look at him, look into his eyes. "DO YOU UNDERSTAND, ME!?"

"Yes," she jerked her head away from his hands.

"Be sure that you do. Whatever you did tonight, at the high school, here, is beneath you - stop it. No more little girl games. I need you to be the stone cold bitch I molded you to be."

A shiver ran down her spine as she remembered their short and violent history together. She made that mistake in her late thirties and allowed the affair to continue well beyond a healthy state. He preyed upon her, emotionally and physically, and she hated the fact that he still held a sycophantic control over her. A need to perform, to please, to prove she's worthy of being accepted. 'Thanks, daddy.' She recognized and accepted those mistakes, and as he so zealously pointed out, at least the memories would only last for a few more decades. However, his recent threat, his deviant ultimatum, was unacceptably evil, pure and simple. He had never, neither then nor now, respected, loved, hated or even feared what he may make of her. He was absolutely devoid of care, about her, about others, and especially his own actions, as long as they achieve the results he desired. She would not, will not, allow that to happen to herself - ever again.

'Fine, if he wants the game, he'll get the game. I'll be the stone cold bitch and be done with him, with the Chancellor, with this damn game forever.' She smiled to hide her own disgust, "Let the games begin."

-----

As Loria and Rex headed off for their private talk, Gloria drank her cherry-cola in nearly one long swallow. The ice had melted while she was on the dance floor, which allowed her to consume it without system shock. She sat the empty glass atop the bar and dabbed the corners of her mouth with the patriotic motif cocktail napkin.

Lex removed the glass, "That's some thirst you built up. Can I get ya another of the same?"

"Yes, please. Cherry-cola, clean."

His smile forced multiple wrinkles around his weather face, "Clean it is." He dispensed fresh ice and seltzer into a new glass and mixed the cherry syrup along with the cola before he topped it off with two cherries. "Here you are cherry-cola, clean, for the lovely lady as requested. Should I run a tab or put it on Parker's?"

She slowly removed the two straws from the bar cup and placed them in the fresh drink. "Better start my own," she stated before she took the first sip. "I'm not with him; he just kind of offered to hang out while I waited on my aunt."

"What about our boy, Rex's tab. I'm sure he wouldn't mind."

"Mmm," she removed the straws from her lips and gave her Cheshire smile. "I just met him tonight too. That really wouldn't be very polite of me."

His laugh was loud and ruckus, "You're in a Night Club. Manners and politeness are seldom observed when it comes to ladies and drinks."

She shrugged, "Okay then, if you think it will be alright."

"Alright? Little lady, I insist." He added the drink onto Rex's tab.

"I get the feeling you don't like him very much."

He looked up from the bill, "Very much is a broad term. Let's narrow it to, not at all, shall we?"

She peered around the bar and saw Loria and Rex consumed in their discussion. "Not to be nosey but can I ask why?"

"Plain and simple, he's an asshole. No that's too kind. He's a manipulative, misogynistic, S.O.B. who even his mother hates."

"Well, that was neither plain nor simple, but very descriptive, I'll give you that."

He placed another cherry into her glass. "My advice is to stay away from him, far ... far away from him as humanly possible. Don't think I didn't notice your infatuation with him during your last dance."

She pulled the straws from her mouth in mid drink as she nearly choked. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. I followed my aunt's advice and thought about my boyfriend. Okay, I guess I have a really good imagination, but that's it."

"Boyfriend? Now why'd you wanna go and break my heart?"

She blushed as she smiled and tapped her heart. "Sorry, I'm terrible at playing the femme fatale. I guess I'm a one woman type of girl."

He raised a curious eyebrow, but let the answer go. "So, tell me about your aunt. Is she single?"

"You know, I'm not sure. We haven't really talked much." She leaned closer, "Black sheep of the family and all."

"She told me you two haven't talked for a few years, five or more."

"Longer than that," she noted his undivided attention. That was the same look her father gave her when he back-ended around a question. 'Play it chill, he's fishing for your age not about Aunt Loria.' As she took another sip from the drink, the proper answer became clear to her, "The last time we saw each other, I was eighteen."

"Must feel like a lifetime ago. Light years away."

'There he goes fishing again.' She nodded and placed the empty glass on the bar. "Tell me about it, I mean, who doesn't remember where they were when The Beatles played Ed Sullivan?"

"Or when man landed on the moon?"

Her eye brows raised, 'Light years, now moon. Luna and Light? Oooh, he's either really good or this is just a coincidence. Play it chill, just play it chill.' "All in the Family? My gawd, it changed television."

He placed his elbow on the bar and rested his chin in his palm. "Changed it forever, I know, right. It doesn't get the credit it deserves. Who was your favorite character? Archie? Edith? Mine was, Gloria."

"Oh, you're good," she slapped the bar top. "You cat and moused me. How long have you known?"

"Since the moment you walked through my doors." He smiled and refilled her glass. "But you sold it. You stayed true and never flinched, never broke. You never lied, so your eyes and face betrayed nothing. You didn't freak at either the first or second hit; you stayed calm and cool as a cucumber. Freakin' ice in your veins, girl." He motioned to the back room, "Did you learn that from her?"

"Nope, I thought of that all on my lonesome. Like I said, we have never met before today. She's my black sheep aunt, the one they never speak of."

"If you don't mind me makin' the comparison, as beautiful as both of you are she must be your mother's sister, then?"

She lifted the glass and held it below her chin as the straws rested precariously close to her lips. "Actually, she's my father's." She started to take a drink but stopped just short, "You're not going to tell him I was here, are you?"

He waved his hands, "No, this we'll keep to ourselves. I don't need to deal with your father any more than you do. You parents are my land lords. I don't foresee them renewing my lease if this got out, for one."

"What's two?"

"Every dumb-ass kid will try to sneak in during the shift change, just like you did, note to self on that one. Either case, I don't really need those aggravations in my life. Your saving grace is that you're only drinking soda. If anyone asks, you're here as a performer, deal? I can have underage performers as long as they don't have alcohol."

She shook his hand, "Deal. Does that mean I get to stay?"

"No. When your aunt leaves, you leave." He held her hand and stared into her eyes. "You got lucky tonight, Miss Light, don't push it. If you're aunt hadn't of shown up-"

She sheepishly nodded. 'Great, another lecture. Okay, I get it; I did a bad thing by sneaking in your bar. I'll never do it again.' She tried to pull her hand back, "I understand."

He refused to release his grip, "I don't think you do. That man," he pointed to the back, "is not someone you want to associate with ... ever. I have no proof of anything, mind you, but there is something I don't like about him. As a club owner, I'm supposed to like everybody, it's the nature of the business, but I don't like him. Your aunt seems an intelligent woman, I'm betting, she doesn't like him either. Do us all a favor, stay away from him and his friends. You can comeback, perform a song for me, I'd like that, but not when they're here. I don't want to read any bad news about you in the newspaper, okay."

"Well doesn't this look very ... intimate," announced Rex. "How very spring meets autumn."

Lex nodded to Gloria and released her hand. "As usual, you got it all wrong, Rex, but that's hardly surprising. Young Miss Light here was just telling me how much I reminded her of her favorite uncle. You have no idea how good it feels to be thought of as an 'uncle' rather than a father figure. It warms my heart to no end. This young lady is like a member of my family now and you know how protective family can be?"

Rex’s sneer flashed momentarily, "Actually, I have no idea. My family and I aren't very close, estranged you might say." He wrapped his arm around Loria's waist and pulled her close, "Maybe I should try a surrogate family too? Who knows, it may make me feel all warm and fuzzy."

Loria pulled away and joined Gloria, her body language spoke volumes.

"Careful, Rex," his smile flashed briefer than Rex's sneer. "Being that Miss Loria here is her aunt, that makes her part of my family too and I've already told you how I feel about family."

Rex smiled broad and wide, "Well, that's all I want too. I just want us to be one, big old happy family."

"Sorry," he poured an Irish whiskey and sat it before Rex. "That sounded a little too Charlie Manson for me. Besides, I just don't have that much love to go around. “He turned his attention to the Gloria and Loria.”Ladies, thank you so much for you visiting the HQ Club tonight. Maybe next time, I can get you both to perform a song or dance for me." He turned his attention to Rex, "At the very least, I'll be able to provide a better class of clientele."

"Night, Uncle Lex," both ladies stated in unison before they turned and walked towards the exit.

Both men watched the ladies depart, each with separate agendas.

"Big mistake, Lex," Rex quaffed the shot and slammed the empty glass on the bar. "Huge f@%king mistake."

"Funny thing about my front door, it swings both ways. Anytime you want to leave and not return, suits me fine."

"One day soon, old man, I may do just that but I don't think you'll be around to see it. Then again, maybe that'll be the last thing you see, I haven't decided yet. In the meantime, make yourself useful and pour me another drink."

Lex slammed the bottle before Rex, "Pour it yourself; I'll add it to the tab."

He refilled his glass, "What no clever retort? How unlike you."

"One day, I'll take your childish threats as more than just petty words. Be careful of that day."

He laughed loud, threw back his drink, and slammed the glass on the bar top again. "That Simper Fi shite may work with the ladies, Lex, but I ain't no lady."

"True, but you are a little bitch."

Rex poured another drink, "Your day will come, old man, sooner than you think. Then it will be my turn to play uncle to our fair lovelies."

"What, you ain't man enough to take on the boys so you're gonna threaten the gals? That's a bitch response, pal."

He slowly drank the whiskey and gently sat the glass over the whiskey bottle's neck. "Do you really want to take this dark alley walk, Lex? I take your insults because I was told this is neutral ground, but all things are negotiable."

"I allow you in my club because I like the way Liberty sings and the discussions I have about World War Two with your old German friend. You, however, have no redeeming quality that makes me want you to comeback or even stay. Again, my front door swings both ways. Whether you get to walk out or get carried out is open to negotiation."

"Another time, another place," he hissed between his teeth. "I may just go looking for you."

"Why don't you start at Founder's Park, say around summer of nineteen-seventy-seven?"

Rex glared as his lips twitched. Lex's insight hit too close.

"Yeah, the old man talks when he's had a few schnapps in him. Do you honestly believe I haven't met your kind before? Haven’t had similar discussions to this before? The neutrality of my club is non-negotiable. I have friends on both sides that will make sure of that."

He pointed his finger at Lex, "One day ... mark my words."

Lex removed the glass from the bottle, poured himself a drink, and offered Rex a toast. "I have friends, on both sides, which can deal with you too. Welcome to my little Geneva ... to my HQ Club, where all can come and hang out, as long as they observe my rules." He tossed the whiskey back, slammed the glass on the counter and smiled. "Now, get outta my club."

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 3:47 pm 
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Time Pocket

David materialized inside his bedroom closet. Outside the slats he could hear Klein recite his rookie baseball analogy. He looked through the slats and observed the photographs sorted on his bed before he looked at the watch. 'The time is right, one-thirty-five; how the hell did he beat me here?' He watched the discussion, especially his own reactions to Klein's suggestions. Although only having occurred an hour ago, give or take, it seemed like a distant memory. 'Must be the side effects of time travel,' he speculated.

Now was his chance, he just had to slip the photo of Bella onto his bed before his earlier self scooped them into the box and shoved them under his bed. He removed the photo from his pocket and slowly slid the center rod upward on the slats. The entire array started to close before he lowered the rod to open them wider. He realized that no matter how he positioned the slats, he didn't have enough angle to get the photo on the bed unseen. He looked back down at the watch and activated the time mask function. As Klein looked down to retrieve his spectacles, he activated the stopwatch function, but nothing happened. He tried twice more but still nothing happened.

"You forgot to wind it," Maya stated as she took his hand.

David leaped from start and bursts open the closet door. To his surprise, neither Klein nor his earlier self noticed the occurrence. He looked at Maya, who still held his hand before he looked back at Klein and himself. "What the hell?"

"Time Pocket," she said and removed the picture of Bella from his hand. She held it above the stack on the bed, released her grip as it remained in position, hovering above the others. "I knew you weren't going to go straight back, you never do. There's a reason why he told you not to try for extra bases, David. We've done this before, you and I. Except last time, I couldn't find you because of the time mask crystal and you missed your crucial objectives. You really need to start listening to us; we only have your best interests at heart."

He smiled apologetically, nodded and examined her. She seemed different somehow, older than just moments ago. Her bleeding hand was healed, her hair was slightly salted with gray that framed her innocent, porcelain fair face. She was now dressed in a green business pant-suit with matching sunglasses rather than the men's dress shirt. He looked at himself who tried to explain to Klein about the photograph collection. "Can they see us?"

"No, as I said, Time Pocket. We're almost ghosts, like in A Christmas Carol. Your watch is good but it can't do this, all devices have their limitations. We are just outside of the current time, by a millionth of a second. They can't see or hear us as long as you don't let go of my hand. Watch what happens when you let go, look, see there, you just saw Bella's picture float above the pile."

He looked at Klein, "So has Klein. Why didn't he say anything?"

She brought his hand to her cheek before she kissed it, "Precognitive ripple. If he said anything, tonight’s events may not have happened. You wouldn't have come to help Max, help me, and in turn, me help you. What transpired this time was what needed to happen, in the order they happened."

"I don't thing I understand. This has happened but yet it hasn't?"

"Ripples, David, start very small from a single instance. If Klein stayed and examined the pictures, he wouldn't have met with Sol and Max at the school. His absence would have changed what occurred tonight. Let's leave it at that."

David's earlier self swept the photos into the box and shoved it under the bed. His face beamed brightly as he gathered his coat, snuffed the candle out and departed the room behind Klein.

"You mentioned earlier I missed objectives, what objectives?"

With her free hand, she removed the medallion from between her breasts and rubbed it. "Training exercises. Like now, you forgot to wind your watch. Every use drains the springs and windings at a greater rate. What time does your watch read now?"

"One-forty-three."

"You've lost twenty minutes."

"That would explain how Klein beat me here."

"You need to complete your training and overall objectives. It's imperative that you wind your watch after every use, David, every use."

"Okay, okay, got it. Wind my watch."

"No more distractions, no more side trips, get back to Klein and Max. Remember, wind your watch after every use." She let go of his hand and slowly faded into the ethereal.

He slowly wound the fob several times as he didn't want to over wind it. "Okay, watch is wound. Can I look at the picture collection now?"

A ghostly voice whispered from behind him, more akin to an echo than actually in the room. "Picture Klein's Car. Envision the rain on the windshield, capture the moment you left."

"Yeah, yeah, the steering wheel, the funky mold smell, I got it."

"Picture it in your head now."

He closed his eyes and did as he was told. Suddenly, it felt as if someone had slapped him between is shoulder blades as a thousand tiny lights streaked before his eyes. The sound of thunder and hard rain filled his ears. When his vision cleared, he found himself seated behind the steering wheel of Klein's car.

"What took you so long? We've lost ten minutes, kid," inquired Klein with a hesitance in his tone.

Dave shook his head to clear the sensation of nausea from his system. "I forgot to wind my watch. I got stuck for a few moments but I figured it out."

Klein looked skeptical, "One jump shouldn't have drained your watch. Did you try to steal home, kid, try for extra bases?"

He started the car and put it into reverse, "Nah, I did like you said. I helped the lady out and got outta Dodge."

"No side trips, then?"

He looked at Klein, "Where do I have to go other than back here to you?"

Klein nodded, "That's a lovely shade of lipstick on your hand. I don't recall Maya wearin' any lipstick tonight."

"Funny thing that," he replied as he put the car in drive. "When I got there, she asked for my advice about how Bella would look. I gave her a few pointers. You know, beauty rituals and what not. I commented that Bella didn't wear lipstick, so, she used my hand to wipe it off as to not leave any evidence behind."

"I see," Klein smiled and shook his head. "Anybody ever tell ya, you're a terrible liar, kid?"

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 3:51 pm 
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Holding Cell #5

Max was well acquainted with the holding cells, he practically grew up there, he recollected. Even twenty years later, he knew the average amount of holes in the ceiling tiles was five-hundred and fifty-five. The oscillating fans needed a good maintenance schedule and the walls needed not only a good cleansing but fresh coat of paint. In summer, you wanted to be in the east cells, whereas, in winter, the west cells. Cracks, leaks, structural abnormalities, he had examined them all over the countless hours of boredom. If there is a trap in the holding cage, he'd be the best choice to spot it.

His feet instinctively walked the path to the cells without conscious thought. This allowed his senses to stay alert and examine the darken corridor. He wondered if this moment was preordained, a fixed point in time as much as the ensuing storm. This would certainly explain his delinquent youth and repeated visits to this building, to the very rooms he was headed towards now. Through the doorway at the end of the hall, the holding cells awaited. More bodies lined the hallway, all appeared in utter, irreconcilable agony. He had no way of telling whether they had been transported forward or backward as his ring showed no indication they were even there. He made the sign of the cross with his gun hand as he passed.

He scanned the holding cells from the doorway. Huddled in cell number five, a single heat signature appeared, hidden in fetal position. He examined with extra care the room details down to the cracks in the floor. He counted the steps to the cell, twenty-three inwards and three to the left.

"Are you alright in there?" He waited for a response but received none. He repeated the question, again, without response.

He felt something graze by his boot. At his right-hand side laid Detective Padgett, his revolver still clasped in his hand. Unlike the others, Padgett's expression appeared more joyous than painful. The compass ring flashed twice distracting Max momentarily. When his eyes returned to the detective, he discovered the revolver was now pointed at him.

Max instinctively fired two rounds into the detective’s chest. Simultaneously, a girlish, high pitched shriek emitted from cell five.

"Thanks, kid," Padgett uttered as he dropped the gun beside him.

Max knelt and closed Padgett's eye with his left hand. He had been to war many times. He had fought many battles over the years but never at home. The civilian casualties he had encountered were most always nameless, faceless indigenous and not people he knew. This was a war he was unfamiliar with, a war too close to home because it was his home.

"Perry, you in here?" He called out to Padgett’s partner. "Perry, it's me, Max Seconds, are you in here?"

The crying continued from the corner of holding cell five. Again Max called out but received no reply, only whimpers that could be either male or female. He flipped his stopwatch back into the ready position in his left hand before he stood and proceeded towards cell five. His boots echoed in the stillness as he crossed the floor which only added to his already heightened state. He counted the cracks in the floors, listened to the rain outside and inspected any pin drop noise in the room.

He stood before cell five and tapped on the bars with his pistol. The large shape curled fetal under the metal bench trembled at the sound, but still did not move. "You okay in there? I'm not like the others, I'm here to help. You gotta name?"

A muffled whimper emitted nonsense.

"I can't understand you. Are you hurt? Do you need medical assistance?"

The shape slowly moved. A large gelatinous arm stretched out as its webbed hand slapped the floor. It pulled itself slowly, painfully, a little at a time until it had completed the extent of the reach. Again, the arm reached out, the hand slapped the floor and the methodical advance repeated. Each repetition took longer and the exhaustive effort more beleaguered than the last. Finally, like a snail that had crossed a salt flat, it reached the cell door.

Its head was large and devoid of any hair as a large expressionless face looked upwards. Two tiny holes where eyes once resided greeted Max with bloody tears. The nose had been removed altogether and left with flaps of skin to dangle without support. The lips were full and thick as if they belonged to a creature that dwelled deep below the ocean's surface and had been brought up too quickly to decompress. As it opened its mouth to breathe, Max could see its teeth had been shattered at their roots and the tongue severed, seemingly ripped away like a cloth torn asunder.

As mutilated as it was, Max recognized the horrible entity before him. "Johnny ... Johnny Parks?"

The creature reached for the bars, "Mhaaaaaacks."

He stepped back before he knelt down, "Johnny, what happened? Who did this to you?"

"Rheeecks," his guttural murmurs lacked elocution but their intended pronunciation was clear enough. "Kheehl mhee."

He pitied the agony his teenage enemy now endured but he needed to learn more. He knew it was a struggle for Johnny to even communicate as little as he could but still, he needed answers and what remained of Johnny "Judas" Parks was the only thing left to provide them. "Johnny, what happened here?"

"Rheeecks!"

"I know, Rex, but he didn't do this alone. Someone else was here, a battle between them and Rex. Who else was here?"

He struggled to speak, to enunciate the words, only to manage, "Fohr kweehns."

"Four queens?"

Johnny nodded, "Fohr kweehns."

"Four women attacked Rex. Did you know them?"

He nodded but couldn't manage to speak.

"Loria, the Dark Queen, was she one of them?"

He both nodded and shook his head.

"I don't understand. One of the women was Loria?"

He nodded.

The Dark Queen attacked Rex?"

He shook his head negatively, "Whie Kweehn."

"Loria the White Queen attacked Rex?"

He nodded in agreement.

"Yes! I knew Gloria was still inside her," he smiled triumphantly. "The others, did you recognize any of them?"

"Bhind wohmahn."

"Bind woman ... Blind woman, you mean, Maya?"

He nodded.

"Okay, yeah, that makes sense. Just two more to go, Johnny."

The creature that once was Johnny Parks violently spasmed as tiny scales and gills began to form on his face and neck. "Kheehl mhee, plheez, Maaacks."

Max winced as he shook his head, "I can't do that, not just yet. I need answers and you are the only one who's got 'em. Call it karmic justice, the price for the company you keep."

"Kheehl mhee!"

"Not yet. I need to know who the last two queens are. Tell me and I can end this for you. Don't tell me and I'll leave you here to rot or whatever the hell is happenin' to you." He watched Johnny's physical reaction to his declaration. He believed he was crying but there were no signs of tears, just more blood. "Who were the last two queens?"

"Awhna."

"Anna?"

He shook his head, "Shisher."

"Scissor. Anna Scissor?"

"Noh, uhr shisher Awhna."

Max repeated his gibberish over and over in his head until it became clear. "My sister, Lana?"

Johnny touched his flipper finger to his nose and nodded.

"Are you sure? My sister isn't part of this war. Christ, she's barely eighteen."

"Owhder, ike Ohriah."

Again, Max repeated the words over and over. "Older ... like Loria. An older version of Lana was here?"

Johnny nodded in agreement.

"Are you sure? One hundred percent positive it was Lana?"

He raised his hands and simulated an hourglass figure, "Awhna."

Max nodded, "Yeah, that's Lana, even after five kids she has the body of a Playboy bunny."

Johnny began to jerk and shake before he screamed a high pitched wail as his arms slowly withdrew into scale covered fins. "Kheehl mhee!"

Max moved closer to the bars and reached his arm through the spaces towards Johnny.

A loud thud followed by a shotgun blast filled the air. The shotgun blast hit Johnny square in his chest. The impact knocked him backwards as the sanguineous mass exploded from his back. The creature twitched as it lay in a pool of its own innards before it expired.

"What the hell, man!?" Max exclaimed at Sol.

"You were about to touch him," Sol replied as the smoke from the shotgun's barrel filled the air around him. "He was in Devo Stasis, if you had touched him, he would have spread it to you."

"Devo Stasis?"

Sol knelt down and picked up the Chancellor's unconscious body. "De-evolution," he grunted as he rose with a fireman's carry. "Basically, it's a reversing process back down the evolutionary scale. He'd already gone through the homo groups and was devolving into the aquatic. There was nothing you could have done for him."

Max stood but was unable to stop his stare back at Johnny Parks. "He had answers."

"He had a time bomb living inside him, one that he was going to pass on to you." He kicked the door to holding cell three, "You want answers, I've brought the one who can give them to you. Open this cell; we'll put him in here. I don't trust cell five at all."

"You mean because of the remains of Johnny?"

"I mean I don't know if he got Devoed before he was placed into that cell or because he was placed in that cell."

Max removed the keys from the wall hook and unlocked cell three. "He told me four queens fought Rex. Maya, Loria and my sister, Lana. He said Lana was older, like Loria. Did you know she was a traveler?"

"News to me," he hurled the Chancellor onto the steel bench."Then again, that's above my pay grade and ripple awareness level. But, you said there are four queens in play. Whose our forth queen?"

"I don't know. You blew him away before I could find out!"

"Sorry I saved your life. Next time I see a land mine, I guess I should just let you go on and step on it, right?"

Max removed his night vision goggles, "Wrong. I'm bein' an asshole, got it. It's just this whole crap is messin' with my mind. Two steps forward, three steps back."

"I'm sure seeing all this doesn't help matters much. Not the type of war you were prepared for, was it, Sergeant Major?"

Max looked back in holding cell five, at what had become of Johnny Parks. His attention drifted to Padgett lying in the cell walkway, dead his own hands. "They're people I know, Sol. We should be helpin' them, saving them from this ... whatever this is."

Sol unzipped his little black attaché, "I know its cliché, but we didn't start this. These are cops who got caught in the crossfire. Your friend over there chose the wrong side. Feeling sorry for the innocents is one thing but don't get confused, we're not the bad guys here."

"Well, I don't feel like much of a hero."

"A hero is someone who makes the best of a bad situation, kid," Klein announced as he entered the room. "Sol's right, don't get confused, your ex-brother did this, not you. That stinkin' anti-Semite hate mongerin' piece of shite on the bench over there made him into the monster that could do somethin' this god awful. Ya wanna blame someone, blame him, blame Rex, hell, blame whoever started this game. You're a good and decent man, Max. Your actions tonight prove that."

"Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes," Max stated in retrospect.

"What's that?" Asked Klein.

"It's Shakespeare," stated David as he picked-up Padgett’s nine-millimeter from the floor.

"Bertolt Brecht," Sol corrected.

"You're both wrong. It was the part of the last words Wordsworth said to me before he died. Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes, for they will exalt a villain in his place." Max looked over at the Chancellor, "Wake this bastard up because that ain't happenin' on my watch."

"Remember my warning? Are you sure you want to do this?" Sol removed the cap from the epi-pen.

Max looked at Klein and David, "You two, go get Klein's clock but be careful. There may be traps in place," he pointed to cell five. "Johnny Parks got Devoed."

"Devoed, what's that?" David asked as he approached cell five.

Klein grabbed his arm, "Don't go there, kid, I'll explain it to ya as we get my clock."

"Before he died, he told me that four queens fought Rex. Maya, Loria and Lana."

"Wait," David interjected. "My Lana?"

"A future Lana, but yeah, my sister. Did you know, Klein?"

"Ripples, Max. We can't speak of things yet to come."

Max waved his arm around the room, "Well it's come and gone," he glanced at his watch, Zero-three-Hundred. "So has the countdown, so what gives?"

"Not necessarily. This is still a ‘what might come,’ it's not a hard fact. We need to confirm the countdown significance and what it meant. We'll talk more once I get my clock. Come on, Dave."

Max looked over at Sol who stood in the ready to give the injection, "Fire his old ass up. Time for some answers."


* * *


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Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:07 pm 
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Wasted Time

The rain and winds continued their barrage upon Metro City as the workshop attached to the garage at two-thirty-two Spruce Street began to glow from within. Faint and pink at first, it became a brilliant red for the briefest of moments, then returned to pitch black again. The smell of wood oil and sawdust lingered in the damp air. An old refrigerator sat quiet having no power to run its motor. The old camping lantern upon the workbench had long since spent the last of its primed white-gas fuel. Quietly, she pumped the primer handle and lit the cloth bulb wick with a wooden match. As the bright light filled the area, she lowered the intensity to a calm, candle like glow.

"Michael," she whispered into his ear as he slept at the drafting table. "Michael, sweetheart, wake up."

He opened one eye and raised his head from the table. He felt his neck pop twice as he pushed himself upright. "What time is it?"

"Almost three in the morning, handsome," she replied as her fingers passed through his wavy brown hair. "I've been searching for you everywhere. What are you doing out here?"

He stared into the big blue eyes that shown like stars, cutting through the fog in his head and the darkness of the workshop. A lop-sided smile crossed his face in recognition of his visitor. "Hi, beautiful, are you really here or is this a dream?"

She spun the work stool around, climbed on to his lap with the grace of a feline cat before her legs wrapped around his waist. "You tell me. Does this feel like a dream?" Gently tilting his head backward, she slowly nibbled on his neck as she worked her way to his earlobe. "Do I feel like a dream?"

"Oooh, trick question," he replied as his arousal grew. "Yes, you do feel like a dream. Warm, delicate and wonderful, however, your hot breath and soft kisses on my bare neck do feel most real. So, can't it be both?"

"Always the charmer, weren't you?"

"Right now, I feel more like the entranced snake than the charmer."

He gasped as she ran her tongue up his throat, past his chin, and stopped when she reached his lips. He parted his mouth to speak, only to find the moist tongue gently insert itself. Her lips followed and created an air-tight bond. His hands instinctively ran down her back and stopped at the rise of her hips, when she responded with a slow purposeful grind, just one time. As she pulled back, her full lips suckled the length of his reactive tongue.

"Good lord, I hope this ain't a dream, Loria-"

She placed her fingers to his lips. "Gloria," she corrected with a soft, seductive tone. "You, my lovely man, and only you, may call me by the name my mother gave me."

"I will call you by any name you desire." He kissed her again with passionate lips, neither forced nor submissive, before he pulled his mouth away. "All you need do is desire it of me. Truly, without conditions and without reservations, I will give myself unto you as completely as you give yourself unto me."

She had heard this pledge from him once before, in the future. However, her vanity and insecurity would not allow herself to take the vow as seriously as he did then. A mistake she would not repeat. "I will love you more every day, every year, forever until the end of time." She held him tightly to hide the tears that began to rise before she continued, "You must believe me, Michael, I have only sworn this pledge to one other."

He whispered in her ear, "Never tell me who else you have made this promise to, as I'm already terribly jealous."

She returned the whisper, "It was you. In another life, in another time, it's only ever been promised to you."

He gently pulled her head back and gazed into her tear filled eyes. "Then I was a fool to ever let you go, to not follow you through the ages, to not uphold our promise."

She leaned her forehead against his, "No, my love, the fool was me. The fault was all my own and mine alone. It may have taken a lifetime for me to accept your love but you have never faulted me. You have always waited, always endured, always forgiven me without reservation. Even my greatest mistake of not accepting the love you offered, without conditions, just as we promised. I will never, ever, allow that mistake to happen again."

Michael had no recollection of her mistakes or even of his own endurances of them, but none of that mattered. He was still unsure whether he was asleep or awake, but he knew one thing with certainty. Dream or not, when a beautiful woman professes her unconditional love to you, you accept it and promise yours back. "You ..." he wiped her flowing tears from her cheeks, "you will always be worth that wait. Whether it was a thousand lifetimes ago or a thousand yet to come, I will always wait, for I will always love only you."

"Oooh," she guffawed with an emotion tightened voice. "I bet you say that to all the girls."

"I've only ever said it to you."

She forced her lips upon his and found no resistance, only receptive passion. This was right, she knew this was right. This was what her heart had always desired yet her insecurities had long denied her. This was not lust, not mere animal groping, this was a wanton love shared equally. A love she hadn't felt since she was eighteen, a passion that had for so long haunted her. A love that she believed was never achievable again, yet her it was, offered freely without ulterior motives. This time, she returned the offer without reservations. Her hips grinded ever harder, ever faster, without conscious thought as she allowed herself to respond rather than control. As she lost herself in the moment, she felt her own release and broke her impassioned kiss to catch her breath.

His breaths too came in short, heavy intakes of air. He hadn't had this experience in quite some time; he knew he had released his passion too soon. The sudden flush of heat rose to his face from embarrassment. "I'm so sorry. That's never, this has never ..."

She released her weary embrace upon him and slid from his lap, weak but not spent. Her hand ran down to the wet spot in his jeans before she arched up, kissed him again and smiled, "No apologies necessary." Her voice was hoarse and breathless. She swallowed hard, "We got the easy one out of the way, that's all."

"You deserve better than this. I should have had better control, showed more restraint."

Again, she placed her fingers to his lips. Taking his hand, she guided it her own wet spot. "You were wonderful, don't apologize. We both needed this more than we care to admit. This is nothing; we just got the easy one out of the way, handsome." She fell back into his lap, wrapped his left arm around her waist while her right arm reached behind her and wrapped around his neck. From her pocket, she produced a foil-sealed cellophane package containing a little blue pill and placed it into his hand.

"What's this?"

"Round two, three, and maybe four," she giggled like a school girl. "You'll want to take this then go get yourself cleaned up. A nice hot shower will do you good and we can continue this inside, somewhere more proper."

He removed the pill from the container, placed it between his teeth, and reached for the half drank bottle of beer on the table.

She stopped his hand and lowered the bottle back on the table. "No, no. No more of that, sweetheart." She rose and, with weak knees, made her way to the fridge. Inside, she found a bottle of ginger ale, removed its cap, and handed it to him. "I want you at your best, no more alcohol. That pill will keep you at your peak for hours and believe me, I do mean hours. Now drink up, take the pill, go relax from a nice, hot, shower and I'll meet you inside."

"About inside," he paused, removed the pill, and spoke almost ashamed. "When I left for college, Max took over my room. I don't really have a place for us-"

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him long and hard, which sparked his arousal again. Lightning split the air followed instantly by the thunder. "Max's room is perfect. I know for a fact he won't be home tonight, we can have the room all to ourselves. We can have this night all to ourselves."

He turned his head, placed the pill in his mouth and swallowed it down with the ginger soda.

"Go on now, take your shower, I'll meet you in the room shortly." She drew a circle three times around her left breast, in the size and location he could only anxiously assume was her areola. "Cross my heart."

He kissed her hard before he hurried through the rain with a confident stride she had come to know so well. He paused as he entered the kitchen door and looked back at the elegant dark haired beauty. 'I better not be dreaming this. God, don't let this be a dream.'

She rested her left shoulder on the workshop's door's frame for support and crossed her legs. The red LED timer on her pocket watch continued to count down with eight minutes and thirteen seconds. The little MG Midget pulled along the water swollen curbside, dousing the mailbox with a wave as it came to a stop. She tucked the black watch back into her pocket and waited for her younger self to approach.

Gloria exited the car and shuffled to the driveway. Her high heels and slippery ground made her short walk treacherous. She gracefully leapt over the small river that rushed along the curb before continuing up the drive as her heels clicked her approach.

"Little Me," Loria called out from the doorway but the storm drown out her voice. Again she called out, "Gloria!"

Gloria peered through the darkness, winds and rain. She saw her aunt's statuesque silhouette in the back lighted doorway. ‘How on Earth did she know I was coming here?' She ignored Loria's repeated call to her and continued up the drive.

"Gloria Luna Light, come here, please." She heard her mother's tone in her voice. In her teens, she had learned to tune out her father, ignore his constant criticizing but her mother, she always responded to her. "Please, Baby Doll, we need to talk."

"Leave me alone!" her voice cut sharp through the winds. "We have nothing to discuss. This is my life not yours."

Loria approached her as the storm soaked her body instantly in its ferocity. "Gloria, please, we need to talk."

"No more, talking," Gloria quickly removed her arm from Loria's grasp and began to push past her. "Not with you anyway. I know what you are going to tell me, same as you always tell me."

Loria shook her head, "No, it's different this time, I promise. Come into the workshop and out of the storm. Please, Little Me-"

"I'm not you! Stop calling me that."

Loria stepped into her path to prevent her further travel. "Please, Gloria, listen to me. Five minutes, just give me five minutes, that's all I'm asking. I owe you this. If after five minutes you still want to tell me to go to hell, so be it."

Gloria held her hand up with fingers spread wide, "Five minutes. And you're right, you owe me not the other way around."

Both women entered the workshop as Loria closed the door behind them. The camping lantern still maintained a low, comfortable glow just enough for each to see each other. The pungent smell of wood cutting and oils filled the air as the room showed signs of all Seconds men within.

Gloria allowed her eyes to adjust, "What do you want, Loria? Haven't we had enough discussions?"

"Please sit down and listen to what I have to say. This isn't going to be easy for me; I'm still working through how to express my feelings."

"You've never seemed to have that trouble before," she stated matter-of-factly as she rolled her eyes.

"That's the act. You and I are good at the act. Daddy, your father, made us experts on how to put on armor but we never learned how to take it off. Even now, we both have our armor on, ready for battle, ready to defend and deflect." She took off her jacket and let it fall on the floor with a wet slap. "I've grown tired of the armor, tired of the isolation. If I can't be honest with you, with myself, then what use does it actually serve?"

"You said five minutes."

She smiled realizing that her younger self was not ready to drop her defenses quite as willingly as she had hoped. "So I did, Little Me-"

"Stop calling me that! I am not you! I will never be you!"

"I don't want you to be me either. That's why I'm here. That's what I'm trying to prevent, right now, at this very moment. I don't want you to ever be me. To make the same mistakes I made again and again, and am still making. Let me help you, help us, if you just hear me out."

"This is about Max, isn't it? I don't care what you-"

"Gloria, shut up! You said you'd give me five minutes, please give me those minutes and I can change your world. I can change us both."

"Who says I want to change? Maybe it's you who needs to change? You're a liar and a manipulator just like daddy. You came to me and offered hope and guidance, since them, all I have gotten from you is his negative criticism. You're just like him, two peas in a pod. I'm so stupid for ever trusting you, ever listening to you."

"Maybe I know why daddy resents us. Maybe you can tell him something I never got the chance to."

"Daddy doesn't resent me. Mom says it's just his old country ways, just the way he was raised."

"Stop defending him! God, listen to yourself. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, he will always be ashamed. Not of you, not of me, but of himself and he will use that shame against us." She leaned on the drafting table and tried to calm down, back off of the angry attack mode. Even after years of counseling, her anger towards him was ever present, unresolved. "Your mother loves you, always has, always will, but she loved ... loves him too. She kept his secret and accepted the responsibility upon herself for what he told her was unacceptable. Being a good and proper wife, your mother accepted a perceived shame that was not her's, certainly not your's or mine, because that's what good and proper women did. That's how she was raised, right or wrong, your man must never look weak."

"What secret could make him so ashamed that he would reject me?"

"Do you know why your mother named you Gloria?"

"She told me that when I was born, the first thought that came to her when she saw me was glorious."

"That's true, hold on to that, never doubt that." She grabbed Gloria's hands and laid them on the table next to hers. "Your father's mother, your grandmother, had olive skin like us. She had raven black hair with beautiful eyes bigger and bluer than robin eggs, sound familiar?"

Gloria looked into Loria's eyes and they were exactly as she described. She also saw the tears that slowly began to well and she knew her words were true. "Sounds like us."

"Your grandmother's name was Nora, but he never spoke of her, did he? Never showed you pictures of her or told you anything about her."

She sat on the stool, "He told us that she died when he was a boy and it was too painful to talk about."

"Yeah, that was a lie, just one of his many. Do you know what Nora means?"

She shook her head, "Sounds old world, Irish or Welsh. Mom always claimed Black Irish-"

"Black Irish my ass. Again, the lie mother told to protect him. Nora means 'Light,' the name your father chose when he came to America."

"That's why you're a Godwin and not a Light." She thought about her own statement. "So, daddy took the meaning of grandma's name for his - our - new last name? Why?"

"Escaping the past is always easier with a new name. He loved his mother, very much so, and that was the one thing he could hold onto without shame."

"I still don't understand why he was ashamed of her, of me ... of us?"

"You're grandmother was Moroccan. Your grandfather had met and courted her when he was stationed in Tangier in the late twenties. They fell in love, married and he brought her back to England. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Your aunt, well," she ran her hands lengthwise to showcase her body. "She looked like her mother but your father, he looked like his father, fair haired and most of all, white. However, the people in the village knew he was only half white. He was constantly told he was inferior to the townsfolk, to his class mates, to the whole of England because he was tainted by the brush."

Gloria drank the remnants of beer left in the bottle from earlier. "So, because I look like grandma, his secret of not being pure blooded was exposed."

"Exactly. The very thing he was desperately trying to escape caught up with him. You exposed his secret, in his new home, in his new country and when your mother wanted to name you Nora, after your grandmother, he flatly refused. Not because he didn't love her or you, didn't think you were good enough to be his child, but because you exposed his dirty little secret and for that, he could never forgive you. He actually wanted to put you up for adoption, to hide his secret, but your mother, god bless her, wouldn't hear any of it. You were her baby girl, a pretty, perfect baby girl and forever glorious in her eyes."

Gloria sat speechless. Her head swam in the revelation of both her family and herself. She gazed at the empty brown bottle before she sat it on the table.

"I know how you feel. All those thoughts and memories that are spinning through your head right now can be quite overwhelming." She opened the fridge and removed two ginger ales. She handed one to Gloria, "Have you ever heard the term, closure, before?"

Gloria opened the bottle and took a deep drink. "Yeah, it's what shrinks tell everyone they need to find so they can move on with their life."

"Closure's bullshit! When a psychiatrist or therapist has nothing more useful to say, that's their golden ticket they pull out of their hat. Closure won't change the past, it won't get back the years; it won't even stop the pain. It will however get you to come back next week for yet another session on how to go about trying to find it."

"Maybe I can sit down with daddy, express my feelings and try to make him understand?"

"There is nothing you can do to win him over. Nothing will ever be good enough, ever be grand enough to stop him from seeing you as a reminder of his shame, his short comings, his own stupid self loathing. I spent all my life trying to please him, to get some sort of recognition from him but never could. Hell, I spent a fortune in therapy trying to figure out why. What had I done that had been so bad as to drive my own father away, to hate me like he did? The only thing I ever discovered was the fault laid in him, not me, but he wasn't on that therapy couch, I was. All those sessions with all those therapist only taught me two things. One, all my failed relationships with men I ever had were an attempt to seek the acceptance I never got from him. Two, I could never find 'closure' until I confronted him. But I can never find closure because my father died years ago and even on his death bed, he resented me." She opened the bottle and took a long drink. "You can't get closure from a dead man but you, you can. You can take this new found information, free of charge, and confront him. Not to seek his acceptance or make up for all his transgressions but to let him know he wasn't good enough for us. Thank you for making us a stronger person than he ever was but we don't need his approval or acceptance because we were, are and have always been, better than him."

The ginger ale bottles clinked together as they both tearfully toasted.

"Why did you wait so long to tell me? You've been here for weeks, treated me just like him. We could have had this talk and both gotten the closure we need. Your father may be gone but your brother, my father, is still alive. We can confront him tomorrow-"

"My brother is your confrontation, your moment of closure. If you make that happen, we can both be free. Both move beyond our need to impress and seek acceptance from him, from any man. Allow ourselves to be thankful and accept those who come into our lives for who they are not what we expect them to be."

Gloria looked out the door towards the house, "That brings us to my visit tonight. To Max, have you had a change of heart about him too?"

She wiped the tears from her cheeks and smiled, "The armor and the act, Baby Doll. I never meant those things I said. I was trying to seek acceptance from a man, well two men, neither of whom would love me but were only trying to use me for their own ends."

"You mean, Rex, the guy from the HQ club?"

She nodded, "One in the same. He threatened me with harm to you. Do as he wanted or you would suffer his wrath. I would never allow him to harm you. Again, I was trying to please him to prevent him from hurting you; I didn't realize I was harming us both, perhaps fulfilling his own threat by trying to prevent it. Daddy Issues, don't let them ruin your life as they have mine."

"So, me and Max, you're fine with that now?"

She caressed Gloria's cheek, "You love, Max. For the rest of your life you will remember and be reminded of him; and your special magic night together."

"You knew?"

She placed her forehead against Gloria's, "I knew. I had my own Max when I was your age. Furthermore, I know, without any hesitation in my heart or mind, that there is a young man waiting upstairs for you right now. This man will be the love of your life, the one true love who will always protect you, always forgive you, always accept you without judgment or reservations. He has been waiting all your life for you to find him. He's paid his dues though there should have been none to ask of him. Don't make my mistakes and leave the love of your life waiting too long, after all, you don't want to be me."

"I don't know, this you, I kind of like. No armor, no act, just ... you, stripped bare and human. I wouldn't mind being this you."

"Then help me to remain this way." She pulled her close and hugged her tightly. "Yours are the memories I will hold onto forever. Make them good; make them something to be proud of." Her tears fell again as she tried to both breathe and speak, "Make us both someone we can be proud of."

A loud alarm emitted from Loria's jacket upon the floor which instantly drew both women's attention.

"Time's up."

"I guess you weren't kidding when you said five minutes." Gloria used her thumbs to wipe away Loria's tears.

"You need to go upstairs now. Go find the love of your life and hold on and never let go. Don't let anyone tell you any differently."

"What about you? Will I see you at the apartment later?"

She released her hold before she retrieved her jacket from the floor and brushed off the wood chips. "Only time will tell." She slid on the jacket and smiled at her younger self, "You look great in Halston, did anyone ever tell you that?"

She looked down before she returned the same smile, "Just you."

"I guarantee you, I won’t be the last. Now skedaddle," she shooed her away with her hands. "You're in for a long and passionate night. Just go with it, Little Me, and show him what true love really is."

"Thanks, Big Me," her smiled beamed large and wide. "I hope to see you in the morning."

Loria watched as her younger self eagerly ran through the rain, across the driveway and waved back at her before she entered the kitchen door. She removed the pocket watch, flipped open the cover and revealed the countdown had reached zero. "It is the morning, Baby Doll. Three o'clock to be exact."

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 11:28 am 
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Time And Realative Dimension In Space
Time And Realative Dimension In Space
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Location: In the cold chill that runs down your spine.
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Time and Blood

3:00 A.M.

The sky erupted with a new found vigor. The rain fell harder, heavier, as the lightning dashed through the night sky in a near constant array. Inside the empty store, the butcher paper fell away from the windows. The water logged ceiling tiles pulled back their streams and restored to their near original luster. The ceiling fluorescence flickered and buzzed as the first light finally sprang to life, then the next, then the next. The empty display cases began to fill with various styles and shapes of watches. Wrist watches, sports watches, analog and digital, foreign and domestic, systematically filled the shop. Finally, the cash register reassembled its broken pieces and flew back onto the counter top where it had originally resided.

At the rear of the store, a rotund man in a white smock, which was much too small for his frame, sat behind his worktable. He stared though the large magnifying glass as he meticulously adjusted the gears and springs of the tiny complication. His gray curly hair had bird-nest balded in the back but the wild mane that remained was in desperate need of a good trim as was the exaggerated mustache beneath his large and porous nose. A pair of bifocals peeked out from within the curly mass although at first glance you would be hard pressed to detect their presence. His pudgy, round face was offset by a pair of soft gray eyes that hid themselves under his bushy and equally wild brows.

"We're closed," he commented to the lone patron as he sat down his tools. "I meant to lock the front door, I guess I forgot."

"You have to be the 'and Son' part of the equation," stated Rex with an air of confidence that the answer would be a definitive yes.

"No, sorry, Milo the stock boy. Like I said, we are closed."

Rex smiled his evil sneer, "Well, go fetch your manager, My-low. Tell him that the shops open and, in case he ain't heard, tell him that the customer is always right."

"Sorry, store is closed. That customer is always right, by rule of thumb, only applies from nine to five." He examined the clock beside him. "In case you hadn't noticed, it's well past five and we have six more hours until nine rolls around again. So, like I said, the store is closed."

Rex leaned on the counter and tapped the business end of his pistol on the glass top three times. "I say you're open, old timer. Since we both appear to not only speak but understand the English language, let's try this again. You have a customer in need of service."

He pulled the bifocals from their curly nest and placed them over his bulbous nose. "Fine, have it your way. Whatta ya need, hmmm?"

"Answers and then I'll be on my way."

"I doubt that. People with guns are rarely satisfied with answers, but, what the hey, I'm game. Ask your questions and I'll answer them the best I can?"

"Belasco Potts-"

"Dead, next question."

Rex dragged the barrel site across the glass counter as he approached. The metal and glass created a loud screech as the barrel grooved its passage. "You didn't let me finish. That was rude, downright unpleasant, even. Let's try this again, shall we? Belasco Potts created a notebook. I have access to the notebook but I don't have the cipher key to transcribe the writings within. Do you follow me so far?"

"Yeah, I'm with ya. More of a statement than a question, really but to recap, you need the cipher key to unlock the notebook's code."

"Very good," he tapped the counter with the gun barrel thrice again. "And they say fat people are stupid."

"Now, that was rude, unnecessarily so," Milo extracted a menthol cigarette from the pack that protruded from his shirt pocket. A wooden match flared to life and ignited the tobacco as he exhaled a thick plume of smoke. "But my answer is still the same, Belasco Potts is dead. Any cipher key to unlock the code died with him, Randy."

An inquisitive eyebrow was raised. "Rex," he corrected with a harsh undertone. "Only my family calls me, Randy, and being that I don't have anyone I consider family ... it's Rex, Fat Boy!"

"Rex? That's a dog's name. How 'bout I just call you, Fido?" He slowly took another drag from the cigarette and left it to dangle between his lips. "Fido and Milo, it's got a nice ring to it."

Rex leveled the pistol at Milo's head, "Not as nice as the ring that a forty-five cartridge makes when it ejects from my Browning."

"Squeeze that trigger, ruff, ruff, puppy dog. I dare you, hell, I double dare you." He exhaled a stream of smoke through his flared nostrils. "I told, Heinrich, he grabbed the wrong kid. You're brother wouldn't have hesitated, then again, he wouldn't have started the conversation with a gun in his hand. He has better manners than that. Better looks, better skill sets, probably even a bigger cock. Hell, I'm guessing just about everything about Max is better than you?"

Rex pointed to the mirror behind Milo's head and fired one round. The cartridge ejected, the muzzle flashed but the bullet moved at a snail’s pace as it left the barrel. He exhaled with frustration and placed the gun in his shoulder holster. "Time Pocket … cute, Fat Boy. No wonder you just sit there and talk shite like I can't retaliate. Tsk, tsk, tsk. You know what the problem with time pockets are?"

The ash flew from the cigarette as he replied, "Oh, educate me, puppy, ruff, ruff. Tell me what you think you know."

He touched his index finger to his wristwatch and then to the back of the bullet. The bullet returned to normal speed and shattered the mirror on impact. "Time streams inside a pocket can still be manipulated."

He coughed a deep bronchial hack, removed the cigarette from his mouth and placed it in the metal tray. "I hope you brought a lot of bullets, Fido. Even at my age and weight, I can probably get out of their way before you hit me with one. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Surely Heinrich trained you better than this?"

Rex smiled as he touched his watch and materialized beside Milo. He forced his right palm upward into Milo's thick, rubber-like throat and knocked him backward off his stool. He placed the heel of his oxford against Milo's chin, "Wouldn't really be hard to snap your neck right now, Fat Boy. Hell, next to no effort at all. Just a quick kick and ... no more My-low."

Milo reached his beefy hand over to grab Rex's ankle but Rex retaliated with a quick downward stomp.

"Don't even think about touching me!" Rex spat venomously. "You really want to find out how much the Chancellor trained me? f@%king try touching me again! I dare you! I double dare you!"

Milo slapped his hand on the floor and the two men instantly exchanged places. Rex looked up from the floor as Milo applied more pressure with his tennis-shoed foot.

"I don't need to touch you, ruff, ruff. Do you really have no idea who you're dealing with? I am the son of Belasco Potts, the tormented memorialist of time. I am the mad chronologer's heir, your ruling master of time, the Dark King."

Both men stared into the others eyes, neither blinked nor flinched, before they broke into laughter. Milo extended his hand to Rex and pulled him to his feet.

"Still have to work on your anger management issues, Rex, but you've come a long way."

"Always interesting to see you too. 'Max is better than me in just about everything?' You're lucky I did manage my anger and didn't just Double Phase your fat ass on the spot."

Milo picked up the smoldering cigarette and took one last drag before extinguishing it. "I'm glad to see you refrained. I would've hated to pass the process back on to you, then this whole affair would have been a useless exercise. Not to mention a waste of Heinrich's precious remaining years. Speaking of which," he shrugged as he looked around the room, "Where is our friend?"

"Still at odds with my brother I imagine. You know how he loves that whole mental mind f@%k game of his. Not to worry though, I left Liberty behind to assist him."

"So, all is going as planned? Good, good," he asked as he sat the stool upright and returned to his seated position. "Sargent Major Max showed up after all, good. You know his younger self came to visit me?"

"Yes, no and yes. The plan is still proceeding on schedule, minor annoyances over come. Max, well, I think old Wordsworth had been training him how to be a player here in his youth. No sign of him as the soldier boy."

He poured a fresh cup of stale coffee from the dingy peculator into the equally stained and dingy Styrofoam cup. "Curious and curiouser, the Sargent Major hasn't arrived yet?"

"Nope, Max is still just a fifteen year old punk kid and, no thanks to you, he's carrying one of your father's devices."

He sipped from the cup with a loud slurp, "You can't place that on me. He showed up with that old stop watch in hand, I just replaced the crystal. That lifetime guarantee allows access to the shop whenever one of our complications gets damaged. Awfully annoying but, hey, a man's word is his bond, especially when it's engraved in sterling silver."

Rex examined the sign before the workbench which listed the warranty policy and limitations. He noted that the last caveat clearly specified "any damages or defects in perpetuity." He shook his head, "Alright, I can't fault you there. Your father does have pride in his craftsmanship but you ... you didn't have to call him afterwards when I had Liberty pay him a visit. You ruined my surprise."

"How many times have I told you that time has a set point. That time wasn't that point. Besides, you had Libby and Justice impersonate my parents. Of all the people in this little game you could have recruited, you had them play my parents? You should be thankful I only called and warned him. My family is precious to me and especially my mother. That psycho Justice kidnapped and tortured her right up to the time of my birth. She was too week, too damaged, to survive both his atrocities upon her and my birth. I have only known her through photographs, but my placement of her and the pedestal on which she resides is unmalleable. Let's keep some things sacred, shall we?"

"Family should never be sacred, mine certainly isn't."

His thick fingers fumbled for another cigarette, "That's by your own choice and not by my insistence. Besides, if not for your grandmother's opportune intervention, who knows what may have became of me."

Rex smiled his evil grin, "Yeah, you could have been calling Justice, daddy."

"Not funny," the lit match reflected in his angry eyes as he held it before his cigarette but did not light it. "He sadistically mutilated my mother, Rex. His mere necessity is the only reason I allowed you to recruit him." He inhaled to ignite the cigarette before he wave the near spent match out. "His impersonating my father was blasphemy. Sending him to kill your brother was to be step one of his duties. Killing your sister, if deemed necessary, being step two."

Rex placed his hands on the side of the coffee pot to test its warmth. "Plans have a need for fluidity, for evolved change. Like I said, older Max hasn't traveled back yet. I believe Wordsworth and Maya have been training young Max as a back-up substitute but, again, I took care of that little side project personally."

"How so?"

"Wordsworth is dead. I tied him to a chair, placed a proximity trigger switch that, when activated, phase propelled him to the end of time. If everything went to plan, Max was there to witness his decomposing demise. No more teacher, no more mentor, no more leader, and young Max probably pissed himself when it happened. Regardless, the Chancellor will deal with Max, if he hasn't already."

He exhaled the smoke into his cup as he raised it to his lips. "Your over confidence will be your end. You reported earlier that you killed Klein, yet still he remains alive and well."

"Fritz is dealing with Klein, but yes, I did kill that old Yid. The whole affair was wondrous and spectacular, I smashed his damn head in like I was cracking open a boiled egg. Somebody-"

"Let me guess, Maya?"

"I'm almost certain of it. Anyway, she cheated. She brought a ripple version of Klein into our time stream, my time stream, to ruin an otherwise plan of perfection. I killed Klein, to that I have absolutely no doubt. I had young Max set up for the murder, which would of rid us of his youthful and future selves interference. Max would have never become a soldier or a player in our game. It was clean, simple really, and we would have rid ourselves of Klein in the process, until she meddled where she didn't belong; in my path. But I have something special set aside for her too, don't you worry."

He placed his bifocals back atop his bushy crown, "If memory serves me correctly, her earlier betrayal warranted death yet you only abandoned her in time. You forced her through a mirror of pure time essence."

Rex poured a cup of coffee from the old peculator, "That just left her blind and tormented from time, that should have been enough. Now, we've come to find that she has willfully played against us. This time ... this time I kill that bitch!"

"Speaking of bitches, what are we doing about your sister and her annoying gift of second sight? Maybe not today but she can become troublesome if she ever learns of her full potential."

He took a sip from the coffee then let it drain from his mouth back into the cup as his tongue recoiled from the abhorrent taste. "Justice is dealing with her even as we speak."

"Justice again," he replied as the mere use of the name dripped repugnancy. "As I've always warned you, he's not the most reliable resource."

"His orders are to go get the watch - nothing more, not yet anyway. But, if he makes a side trip to sooth his passions, so be it."

"Side trip?" He took another drag from the cigarette and tapped the ashes into the metal tray. "What side trip?"

"He did take quite a shining to that little girlfriend of Max's, Bella. I figure it's safe to assume that no one better than you knows what may come to pass?"

"That Banks girl is still in the picture? Are you kidding me? Loria was supposed to sort out that problem for us. All she had to do was seduce Max, either in her youth or now. Get Miss Banks out of the picture, out of his life altogether, how hard can that be? Love is a powerful motivator. If you take away his love, his reason to fight, he has nothing to fight for, no love to protect. An unmotivated Max is an uninvolved Max or at the very least, he will be easier to maneuver away from our game plan."

Rex held up his hand to defect and disarm. "Our dark beauty may have done just that. Give me a little credit, Milo. I gave her one of my motivational speeches after her first half-assed plan was a miserable debacle. She wasn't as thrilled as I was with her price for failure, still she accepted the arrangement and has been a team player ever since. To her or my credit, soldier Max isn't here in nineteen-eighty-five now, is he? Perhaps she did her assignment too well, better than even I expected. After all, she is a resourceful and cunning creature, all thanks to yours truly. She may have solved that little issue permanently and he won't be joining us tonight or ever."

"Excellent point. If you've killed Wordsworth and we only have an untrained fifteen year old Max here, that removes both leadership and tactical advantage from their ranks. It leaves us with just two small and inconvenient problems, Klein and Maya. If either Justice or Fritz fails, however?"

"I have Liberty in the wings. Trust me, there is no love lost between her and any of our remaining players. Justice will deal with Lana and if he gets side tracked, McNulty will take care of our little would-be White Queen."

"McNulty ... really? How did you manage that?"

"Good fortune of the storm smiles upon us. He walked through that very door," he pointed over his back with his left thumb. "He came in hopes of finding your father but ran into me instead. I convinced him where he could acquire a replacement to the watch he tragically lost, also of Potts design. I pushed all of his know-it-all buttons, emasculated him and set his mind to 'kill as needed' mode. Soon, if not already, my sister will be lying dead or at the very least, relieved of her watch and as a featured player in our little game."

"That leaves us with my father's code to unlock his secrets. He may have driven himself mad but he's not stupid. I've tried every trick he has ever taught me and then some I've learned along the way. Nothing I have tried has worked." He took a deep inhale from the cigarette and blew three smoke rings. "Does Heinrich really have the codex key or is his claim just more of his self posturing?"

Rex stepped back to avoid the smoke rings. "He has a key, a very old and untraceable key that is temporally blocked."

"Okay, curiosity peaked again, what does it belong to?"

"Something old. Something your father would have devised to safeguard his secrets. Something as old as time and blood."

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 2:37 pm 
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Time And Realative Dimension In Space
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And the Truth is Plain to See

The noise of the hospital grew ever louder, ever busier, ever congested. Maya continued to rub the medallion with a fervent pattern as she rocked back and forth in the hard plastic chair. Under the sirens, the P.A. system and the television, she listened for the return of the young girl. All the while, she repeatedly mumbled in a barely audible voice, "Calm heads and hands prevail where anxious hearts fail."

She wanted to leave. She wanted to stand up and exit through the very doors she entered but she knew, without a doubt that was not going to solve her problem. The rhyme was one she and Wordsworth had made up after he had found her abandoned in the time streams. It was part of her recovery, part of her adaption to being blind. A way she had to keep herself calm, to sooth her anger, while she endured the tedious frustration of having to relearn how to do everything she instinctively knew all over again. A phrase she would repeat over and over as she taught herself to be reliant of her other senses. Her sense of touch to read and write, her sense of smell and hearing to navigate her surroundings, a combination of all just to eat and drink. This rhyme was her’s; she created it and utilized it. She knew of only two others in which she told it to, Wordsworth and David. Wordsworth had been dead all these many years and David was single, a recluse with no family and, with the exception of herself, no friends to speak of. Yet an ambiguous, unknown girl sat beside her, quoted her rhyme verbatim, and even knew the consequences of ripples if she told where she had learned it. A girl who gave off no time signature, no glow, not even a nimbus sparkle, yet somehow, that ambiguous oddity knew the rhyme; and it frightened her. "Calm heads and hands prevail where anxious hearts fail."

Had Lana been right? Had she been so afraid of a new ripple being created that she failed to see ones that were started? Had the medallion not only protected her from being detected but prevented her from being able to detect any new distortions? There were too many questions and not enough answers, save for one that she had refused to say aloud. A name, that's all it was, the only answer Lana wanted. Just a single, solitary name that belonged to her brother's love interest. What harm would it have caused if she spoke the name aloud? She already knew about the relationship? Ripples are created by more than just words but also by deeds. Had her denial to reveal the name actually created its own ripple? Again, there were too many questions and not enough answers. All she could do was contemplate, rock in place, rub the medallion, and all the while repeat to herself, "Calm heads and hands prevail where anxious hearts fail."

Maya was too absorbed in thought as she listened for the girl’s scuffed foot falls to notice the sound of high heels click across the marble floor in her direction. A sensual perfume engulfed the area and drew her attention back to the immediate situation.

"You're never going to believe who checked in on the visitor’s log," Lana announced as she approached.

"Loria Light."

"What? No? Who?" Lana responded in a dumbfounded quandary of questions.

Maya raised her head and repeated her declaration, "Loria Light. You asked me on the drive over the identity of Michael's secret lady, remember? It's Loria Light."

"Holy shite! Loria Light, the Dark Queen, Loria Light?"

Maya pulled Lana into the empty chain next to her as she rubbed the medallion harder. "Why did you call her that? Why did you call her the Dark Queen?

Lana shrugged, "That's her newspaper nickname. She's a real ball-buster here in the city. Real Estate, Corporate Investments, City Consul, you name it, she's involved. They say she makes Donald Trump and Bill Gates look like an amateurs."

"But why the," she lowered her voice to a near whisper. "Dark Queen? Why do they call her that?"

"Are you kidding me? You've lived here for years now, surely you heard her called that before?"

Maya nodded, "I've heard her called that many times, by many people, but not on radio or even television. They certainly don't print newspapers in Braille, so how would I know?

Lana saw her tremble. She placed her hand upon the medallion and braced her to cease the agitated rocking motion. "Okay, calm down. It's not a secret, certainly not one that will create a ripple or anything. 'The City Post' first dubbed her that back in the nineties as a play on her last name, you know, Light and Dark. Since then, other newspapers picked up on it, referencing it as a connotation to her cold blooded business savvy and gorgeous dark looks, so the Dark Queen moniker has sort of stuck ever since."

She tried to rock in place again only to have Lana continue to prevent her motion. "Are you sure that's all there is to it? Nothing more?"

"Dark hair, always dresses in black, and her office building looks like a medieval citadel among the other skyscrapers. It's not that hard of a leap to make, really, you act as if this is something new-" She paused at her own words. "Is this new? Has this not happened in other time streams, other ripples?"

Maya took deep breaths and repeated her rhyme in her head several times. She thought long and hard on the question posed before she answered, "Yes. Loria has always been here. She's always has been a prominent player in this city, like her parents before her. That has never changed in any time stream. I just didn't know her nick-name, as you called it, was known in the tabloids."

"They're the ones who started the nick-name."

"If you say so."

"What? There's something more to it, isn't there?"

"Not about Loria or her nick-name."

"Good, nothing to worry about then, right? No ripples, no changed events, the time streams still intact."

Maya pulled her hands free and began to rub the medallion again. "Something happened while you were gone, when you left me alone. It had nothing to do with Loria or her being Michaels lover."

"Michael and Loria, I still can't get past that. Sorry, but, holy shite on wheat toast, I would have never put those two together." She watched the concerned expression return to Maya's face. "It's just a coincidence, right? Max and Gloria, now she's with Michael, it's just a coincidence."

"Maybe, could be," she replied upon the completion of each full circle rub on the medallion. "That's not what has be worried, sweetness. Sorry to say, that's the least of my concerns."

Lana placed her hand atop Maya's, "Okay, then, what is it?" Her head looked up to the ceiling, to the floors above. "Oh, god, is it Max?"

"No, Max is fine, he's safe here."

She removed her hold on Maya's hand. From habit, she nervously began to rub her brooch watch. "Okay, now you've got me worried. What happened while I was gone?"

"Do you remember the child who was seated next to me, where you are seated now?"

"Not really ... no, I didn't really pay attention. There could have been a boy or maybe even a girl, I don't really recall. I just remember them playing on game pad."

Maya listened to the area around her for the sound of the girl. "She spoke a rhyme out loud and when I asked her to tell me who taught it to her, she said she couldn't. It may start a ripple."

"Get outta here!" Lana’s fingers began to rub harder on the brooch. "She said it may start a ripple? That's a little more than coincidence."

"I know," her thumbs rubbed vigilantly on the medallion's face. "I thought maybe she was a byproduct of a ripple, but she didn't glow. She wasn't temporally charged, I couldn't see her, but she knew. She knew the rhyme and the consequences if she told where she heard it."

"Okay, we both need to stay calm." Lana released he watch and took three quick breaths. "So, what's the rhyme? Maybe I've heard it before too? Maybe you just think you heard the rhyme and you heard her wrong?"

Maya listened to the area even closer than before for the girl's presence but heard nothing. "Calm heads and hands prevail-"

"Where anxious hearts fail," Lana completed the rhyme. "Yeah, I've heard that rhyme before myself. Funny, I can't remember where though. But what's the difference if she knew it or not? You know how kids are; they pick up things from TV and the playground and repeat them. I think I might have even heard it from my own kids. It's kinda like the 'My Bologna Has a First Name,' jingle from that old commercial. Once it gets inside your head, it's pretty much stuck there forever."

She shook her head incredulously, "This is different. I didn't just hear that rhyme, learn it in my childhood. I made it up, some thirty years ago after my - well - vision impairment. It was my calming rhyme to get me through my recovery, through my times of frustration and anger. There is no way she just heard that somewhere. Not on television, not on a playground or schoolyard. And now you ... you somehow know the rhyme too."

"Like I said, I can't remember from where, it's just kinda ... in there, in my head." She looked around the room to see if she could spot the girl. "I don't see her anywhere, not unless she ditched the game pad. Do you know which way she went, where she is now?"

Maya hesitantly pointed down the south hall. "She went about twenty paces or so down that hallway and then to the left. After that I lost track of her, Sweetness. I'm sorry; there was too much noise, too many distractions."

Lana stood and pulled Maya to her feet in the process. "Come on, you're coming with me. We need to find that kid."

Maya protested and tried to return to the chair, "No, no, no! Just leave me here."

"No can do. I need you to help me find that girl, it's not like you can describe her to me. I need you to identify her to me 'cause I don't really want to be that woman on the eleven o'clock news who was arrested for attempted child abduction at Metro General Hospital. That wouldn't go well for me or my child custody suit. I'm in the middle of a divorce, remember."

"Please, Sweetness, leave me here. I'll be fine here. How many little girls are here unescorted with an electronic game clutched in their hand?"

"Are you kidding, it's two-thousand and eight. That describes half the kids between eight and eighteen. Besides, what if she comes back and I'm not here?"

Maya thought for a moment, "I'll scream really, really loud. Now go, leave me here, I'll be alright. I've got the medallion, I'll be safe."

"My point, exactly," she retorted and wrapped Maya's arm around her own. "You've been rubbing that thing for hours and so far, it's done its job. You are to come with me, now, old lady. I'm not going to let you out of my sight again; I don't care how much you protest."

Maya loudly exhaled her discontent, "And if I scream elder abuse?"

"I claim you're schizophrenic with delusions of persecution. Then you'll be stuck here for seventy-two hours of observation."

"You wouldn't!"

"Try me," Lana said with a mother's authoritative tone. "I raised five kids and you think your tantrum is going to shock or shame me into submission? You just hang on to me and keep hold of your medallion and everything will be fine, you'll see -- figuratively speaking of course."

"Of course," her cherub smile returned though it lacked its usual sincerity. She felt Lana begin to walk and followed her lead. "May I remind you that I'm not one of your children? When I protest, there is generally a good reason behind it and not just a temperamental outburst. I've been at this game for a long time, kitten, and when I get nervous, there's good reason behind it."

"Reason or just a good old fashion case of paranoia?"

"Maybe a bit of both. That kid has me nervous and I'm not the nervous type; nervous gets you killed."

They paused before the elevators as Lana pressed the UP call button. "You're nervous; you should be on my side. I find out that my younger brother can travel through time to his younger body, I can be a time conduit between my past and present selves, am part of some time war-"

"Game."

"Splitting hairs, but, fine, game. My older brother is involved with the Dark Queen, also a player in the game-"

"For the other team."

Lana snickered, "Well, that wouldn't be her first time." Both women giggled like school girls. "Now, you tell me that there is some temporal aware little girl in here who has you freaked out and you're nervous, welcome to my world."

The elevator doors opened and dispersed its current occupants before the ladies boarded. "Welcome to the game, Ms. Kittridge, I'm sorry I didn't have time to better prepare you."

"Kittridge? Whose Ms. Kittridge," asked the young girl as she pushed the button for the third floor?

Maya clung tighter to Lana as she heard the voice.

Lana looked at the girl and examined at her reflection in the polished button array panel. The buttons and smudges made it hard to define her face but from behind she had long dark hair. She wore a bright yellow summer top with large white flowers and white, cut-off, jean shorts. Her yellow sneakers had tiny retractable wheels that she rocked on to keep her balance.

Lana covered Maya's hand with her own to keep her calm before she replied, "I am, princess."

"No you're not," the girl announced before she turned to face them. Her eyes were shade of morning sky blue. A star-like pattern of caramel encircled her iris, similar to that of a kaleidoscope. Her lips were tightly pursed below her button nose with tiny freckles that delicately distributed across to her cheeks. "You're my Aunt Lana, you're not a Kittridge. Kittridge is that jerk car salesman on TV in the top hat and old fashioned tuxedo. You know the one who tap dances across all of his cars while he makes his sales pitch. Such a tool." She pointed to Maya with her game pad encumbered hand, "Who’s your friend?"

Lana had no recollection of this pre-teen girl. Her features seemed familiar, but she knew, without a doubt, they had never met before. "This is a family friend I brought to see Uncle Max; surely your mom or dad introduced you to her before."

The girl made a lop-sided smile and shook her head, "Nope. I've met a lot of my parent’s friends, but she wasn't one of them. I'd remember her."

"Ah, maybe you were too young. Speaking of your parents, are they here?"

"Nope, they're off doing their own crap, I mean stuff, as always. Uncle Dave brought me here to visit Uncle Max. It's kinda silly, if you ask me, he can't hear us 'cause of his coma and ... stuff."

Maya's grip increased in intensity upon Lana's arm.

"And Uncle Dave is?"

"He's in the room with Uncle Max."

Lana smiled as she peeled Mayas embedded fingers from her arm. "No, honey, I meant who is Uncle Dave?"

She retracted the wheels into the bottom of the sneakers as the elevator came to a stop, "Only, like, your husband - duh?"

"I think you're mistaken, kiddo. My husband's name isn't, Dave, its Jody."

The automated voice announced the floor number as the doors opened.

The girl rolled her eyes, "Whatever." She exited the elevator, extended the wheels from her shoes before she quickly turned around and asked, "Are Merriam and Becky here with you?"

She felt Maya’s finger bite into her arm again. "No, they're home with their older sister," Lana escorted Maya from the elevator before the doors closed behind them.

"Dang, I wanted to show them my new game," she complained as she rolled down the corridor. "Come on, the room is just down here."

Maya whispered, "Your niece?"

"I don't have any nieces," she whispered back. "Neither Michael or Max are married. To the best of my knowledge, they don't have children. Are you sure this isn't a ripple?"

Maya shook her head and continued to whisper, "This feels, right, but still it doesn't. I can't detect anything out of the ordinary, even her. Are you sure you don't have a niece?"

"As positive as my husband's name isn't-" she paused as she entered the room. A middle-aged man was seated at the side of the bed in a chrome metal chair with green tortoise shell vinyl upholstery. He held Max's hand in his and appeared to be in mid conversation when he stopped and turned to view the new arrivals. Bathed in a greenish glow from the vitals monitor, the heartbeat display rose and fell as the tone rang out with a steady rhythm. "David Lane?"

"David," repeated Maya with both exuberance and shock as her smile returned. Around him, there was a glow, but not that from a simple time device to define his outline. To her eyes, he glowed like a million suns. "What have you done, my darling young man?"

"He's protected us," stated the girl as she smiled a large lop-sided grin again. "He has sacrificed himself to safeguard all of us. His family and friends," she turned to Lana, "Even you, his wife and children."

Lana looked at David and his matured yet still sheepish stare. His freckles had faded and his brown hair had silver with white influx within it. Crow’s feet and wrinkles began to form around his face but essentially, this was still the same teenage boy she remembered. "What do you mean his wife and children?"

He released Max's unconscious hand and neatly returned it on the bed. Trepidly, he approached her, "Lana, sweetheart, let me explain."

"David, what have you done?" Maya repeated.

He stopped and took Maya's hand before he kissed her on the cheek. "Only what you and Klein trained me to do; who you taught me to be." He turned to the girl, "Hey, Sport, come over here. I want you to meet this lady."

"Is this that lady you always talk about? The one who taught you the rhyme you taught me?"

David smiled, "That she is. She helped me when I needed help most, when I lost my way. She taught me to believe in myself." He took the girl's hand and placed it in Maya's, "She is the defender of innocence, keeper of the truth, and bringer of enlightenment. This is my very, very good friend, Ms. Maya."

The girl ratcheted Maya's arm up and down vigorously. "A pleasure to meet your acquaintance. So, you're the one my cousin Emmy's named after then?"

"I don't know," her eyebrow raised above her sunglass frame. "Am I, David?"

"That's a long story and not mine to tell."

"It may cause a ripple, huh, Uncle Dave."

David smiled and ran his hand down the back of the girl's head, "It may indeed, Sport, it may indeed."

"Excuse me, Sport," Lana interrupted. "You said he sacrificed himself for his wife and children. What did you mean?"

"Ah, not you too, Aunt Lana," she huffed in aggravation. "You promised you'd never call me, Sport. Only Uncle Dave calls me that."

Lana looked over at David for assistance but received none. "Sorry, Princess, I forgot," she turned back to the girl. "What did you mean about his wife and kids?"

"Princess ... that's better," the girl skated over to the bed and plopped down at the end. "I think Uncle Dave should be the one to tell you. It'll be better coming from him, less chance of ripples."

David gave his jacket a sharp downward tug and adjusted his tie. "You may wanna sit down, ladies, this is gonna take a while."

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:45 am 
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Time And Realative Dimension In Space
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Slider

Klein used his miniature Maglite to illuminate the hallway of the police station. He had traversed too far inside the building for any ambient lighting from the exterior to penetrate. The air was still and stale. He knew that soon the dead bodies of the main lobby and those that were littered throughout the station would begin to rot. He knew that odor well and furthermore, he knew that there was nothing he could do to prevent it. He had a clear cut objective, retrieve the clock and get out before the ripened smell of death began.

David followed a short distance behind and periodically glanced at his compass ring. The green blip behind him was Max, the red blip in front and around the corner was Klein's clock, still in the Property Lock-Up room. "So," he spoke aloud as his voice echoed of the hard walls and down the deathly quiet halls. "Why would Rex leave the clock behind? Obviously he needed it to complete his collection, this doesn't make sense."

"Nothin' about this does," Klein lit up the empty offices and rooms with his tiny light before they past. The random appearance of bodies that were revealed remained frozen in their state of superlative pain. "If the girls got here first, they could have prevented this slaughter. They must have got here after the fight began but the question is, who was he embattled with first?"

"Loria?" David questioned as his eyes avoided the rooms with bodies and stayed fixed on the compass ring. "Maybe she got tired of all his orders and she snapped? Hell hath no fury they say."

"I don't think so; she's not a killer, even to save her own skin. Everybody's got a moral code of some sort they abide by, you, me, even the Dark Queen. This type of chaotic carnage isn't in her. This is somethin', if she knew about, she would have told us. Well ... she would have told, Max. That lady has carried an unhealthy romantic attachment for him for years now. Her candid discussion with Max back at the high school wasn't an act. She was honest and sincere, from the heart, clear conscious sincere. Somethin' this reprehensible, you bet your sweet bippy she would have told Max about."

David ejected the clip from the nine millimeter and counted the rounds as he slowly reinserted them. "Maybe it hadn't happened yet? Maybe she went back in time to engage him after she helped eliminate his key players?"

The beam from the light reflected off the chrome lock plate on the Property Lock-Up door. Three bullets had been shot into the locks cylinder core that destroyed its functionality. "How many shots you got in the Glock?"

He counted the bullets yet to be loaded, "Twelve, why?"

"That was the gun used to access this room. These holes are too small to be Rex's, his weapon of choice is a forty-five. Strange, though, you picked that piece up from Pagett. A cop would have had access to keys and wouldn't need to shoot the lock open."

"Maybe he panicked and improvised?"

"If you had a police thirty-eight in your hand, I'd be inclined to agree with ya. Padgett used a nine milli instead of his police issue, that's just bad lead-off judgment. Why in the world would he choose to use a pea-shooter when he had a cannon?"

David shrugged as he slapped in the clip and cocked the barrel. A spent casing ejected as a fresh round was loaded into the chamber. "Maybe this was his backup piece. Could be he downgraded firepower for more bullet capacity?"

Klein shook his head, "Padgett was close to retirement age. He'd want to shut you out rather than try to catch you with the ball count."

"Unless he didn't want to kill what he aimed at, just wound them. Maybe Rex got to Perry first and Padgett wanted to suppress rather than kill his partner?"

The door creaked as Klein pushed it open and shined the light through the room. Positioned in repose before the caged window were two uniformed police, both with thirty-eight revolvers still clenched in their dead hands. He raised the light's beam over the counter and caught a glimpse of a plain clothed figure slunk down against the back wall; a large pattern of exit spay smeared downward to mark his path. "I think I found Perry."

David peered through the gap in the door and examined the body the light was fixed upon. "Yep, that's Perry alright, but those don't look like nine millimeter holes, they're too big."

Klein moved the light to the left and saw his clock radio upon the small table cart that partially obscured Perry's body. "There's my clock but somethin' doesn't look right about it."

"Whatta ya think, a trap?"

"I don't know? There's somethin' odd about it and there's white paint or somethin' on its side. That wasn't there before."

"Time," announced David as his recollection of the night in the park began to fill his mind. "Back in October, the night of your murder, we had a fight with Johnny Parks and his crew. He had scribbled 'TIME' on it."

"That stupid kid," he groused in anger. "That's a one of a kind prototype from nineteen-thirty-eight by Samuel G. Frantz. It's irreplaceable."

"Dude, its just paint. It'll come right off."

That's not the point," Klein squinted as he kept the light beam trained on the clock radio. "I don't know ... I don't like it, there's somethin' more to it. There is a reason Rex had him paint that on it. Stutterin' Johnny never struck me as a cerebral comedy sort of kid. This type of joke is a little outta his ball park."

David slipped past him and into the room, "You still haven't answered my question, ya think it's a trap?"

"Oh, definitely, that’s Rex's type of lour, a slider pitch if ever there was one. We just need to figure out what the implication of 'TIME' is?"

"Well, it is painted on the side, maybe he's tryin' to tell us, 'Time is on my side?'"

"Rex never struck me as a Stone's fan. Nice try though, kid." Klein stepped into the room cautiously as he allowed the door to close behind him. "See if you can get those guns from their hands. We don't want any late inning surprises."

David looked at the two bodies in disgust. "I'd rather not. I mean, dude, look at them, they're dead. Swiss cheese dead. Even Christ would need his full three days to rise from those wounds."

"Okay, rookie, so now that you've learned a thing or two, you think you're in-charge?"

"Dude, I'm just sayin', look at 'em. They ain't gettin' back up."

"And I'm just sayin' I've been in this league too long not to recognize a trap when I see one. Now, get their guns, kid, or they may be washin' your stains off the wall in the mornin'."

David reluctantly knelt and pried each man's gun from their death gripped hands. He opened the cylinder and ejected the spent casings. "All bullets have been shot," he announced before he opened the second gun's chamber. "This one too. Unless you know of a way to re-shoot spent rounds, these two weren't gonna be any trouble even if they did come back to life." He discarded the revolvers and noticed that the light beam was still trained on Perry's body and the clock. "Let me guess, you want me to get his gun now too?"

"Yeah, but I'd hold up for a second if I were you, kid." He moved the light to only the clock. "You see that red crystal bulb lit up on the radio tuner? That indicates my clock is on and the timer's been programmed."

Dave raised an eyebrow as he stared at the faint red bulb. "Timer ... programmed? I thought you said it's from nineteen-thirty-eight?"

"It is and I did. I also said it's a one of a kind prototype by Sam Frantz. It has a six preset function built-in to it that can be set to turn on or off at any programmed time, to any programmed station. It's a true work of scientific wonder that was years, decades, ahead of its time."

David eyed the tweed power cord that was wound and twist-tied together. "And let me guess, it doesn't run on batteries?"

"Nope, it don't run on batteries. You better get your family stop watch ready to stop time, just in case."

David pulled the gold chain as the watch flew his trouser pocket into his hand. His thumb rested on the fob button as he slowly approached Klein and the door. "Can a time device really stop another time device?"

"Theoretically, yes, but there are several factors to take into account. Age of the devices, the maker's expertise, and the intricacies of the complications."

"So ... will my Lange trump your Frantz?"

"We're about to find out, kid, but first I gotta ask. Did you wind your watch after your last jump?"

Before David could answer, the radio turned on. Klein tackled David like a professional lineman as he carried them both through the door and out of the room. The three dead men materialized back on their feet, without wounds, and began their shootout all over again. David pressed the fob button as he was slammed to the ground and both the music and gunshots ceased.

"Yes," grunted David from the impact of the floor as well as Klein's weight pressed down upon him. As he coughed to catch his breath, a small trickle of blood ran from his lips. "I think you cracked one of my ribs, dude."

Klein lifted his large frame off of David, "Better your rib than our lives, rookie."

He looked at the pocket watch and then back up at Klein, "How is it you didn't freeze when I stopped time?"

Klein extended his hand, "I had a hold of you. You had a hold of the watch, by that same token, we both stopped time."

"Kinda like a time pocket." David took Klein's hand and pulled himself upright. "As long as we are connected, we are both under the same temporal influence."

"Time pocket, huh?" Klein re-examined the lipstick print on the back of David's hand, "Looks like someone has been doin' a little batting practice without me."

David ignored the statement but his smile acknowledged it all the same. He slowly opened the door and scrutinized the scene. Both officers were restored to full health without signs of previous bullet wounds. The empty bullet shells were no longer on the floor and both men had their guns in hand. Klein shown the light on Perry as he entered and found he was also returned to full health with gun reloaded and blood stains cleared from the wall.

"A restore point?" David asked as he swatted at the halted bullets in mid trajectory.

"My clock never did that before," Klein entered the caged area next to Perry. "Rex has made some serious modifications but yeah, that’s a programmed restore point. What all did Miss Maya teach you, kid?"

"She had me set the globe thingy back in Bella's room; she called it a restore point. She also showed me how to Phase Shift."

He picked up the clock and turned the switch to off, "So, she showed ya the Curve Ball, did she? I guess that's a good thing, that'll save us some time."

David removed the guns from the patrolmen's hands again. "You know what? This all gives me an idea. I think I figured out how to hit the Slider too, check me."

"Check, one, check," Klein removed the gun from Perry's grip and likewise swatted the bullets from their frozen position. "Whatcha got rookie?"

"Rex modified your clock to be a preset timed restore point, a repetitive time loop. These guys aren't really dead or alive; they are stuck in a moment and repeat their last actions, in this case, a shootout."

Klein opened the side of the clock radio where the word "TIME" had been painted. Inside was a glass phial filled with the murky essence of time. "Check. He added essence of time to the clock as a repository that can be written over and restored. Check two."

"Since we stopped time with your watch and turned off the restore point before these guys killed each other again, if I restart time, they should still be alive, right?"

"It depends on whether Rex set the restore point before or after they died. Being that it's a time pocket restore, he has time being reset inside the pocket. If they were alive before or as he set the pocket, yeah, they'r most likely alive. But if set the pocket after they died and has them phased backward in time, then the restore brings them back to a previous point except it only effects things or people in that pocket. Now that the pocket's turned off, when you restart time again, if they were dead, they will unfortunately remain dead. Remember Justice, he wasn't in the house when you set the restore point for Maya. He wasn't under its influence, so when the house restored, he remained dead."

"Check me again. If we record a time point and stop it, then you program the clock to auto restore, would the restore point reset everything within the sphere of influence it recorded back to normal? Even if things were no longer in the same place, say across town from one another?"

Klein smiled as he exited the cage and approached, "Check three, yes. Say you recorded a set of china dishes, stopped the recordin' then broke the dishes and threw them away. You wait a week later and activate the restore point; the dishes would be whole again, only not in your home but somewhere in the city dump."

David laughed aloud and slapped Klein on his back. "That's how we did it. He screwed himself and didn't even realize it."

"Okay, kid, ya lost me. Who screwed who?"

"Rex. He killed you back in October with this clock and set me and Max up to take the fall. You told everyone it was some narcolepsy thingy or some malarkey."

Klein nodded, "Yeah, I remember, I woke up in the morgue. I figured Rex or Stutterin' Johnny screwed up. I had to tell the mortician somethin'."

David smiled, "But he didn't screw up, he killed you. Only we, you and I, are gonna use his own trap against him." David tapped the clock three times with his index finger. "We go back in time, set a restore point earlier that night when you're alive with this clock, the modified version. All you have to do is program it to activate that restore mode on Monday evening, when you're in the morgue, and viola, you are alive again, all thanks to Rex. He both kills and restores you with the same clock. All I have to do is jump back and switch the clocks."

"Okay, where do I fit in to this you and I scenario?"

"You need to program this clock to record and restore. You're past version can't know anything about it otherwise, you would already know this information tonight, which you don't. Which means, top of the ninth, I hit the slider, I beat Rex at his own game. God, I'm gettin' good at this whole time travel stuff."

Klein explained the operations of the clock's programmable capabilities while he performed a cursory examination of the modifications. "Now, remember, you have to set a restore point, switch clocks after Rex uses the original, then swap it out again here in lock up so that it's safe when the restore point activates. Rex must have made his modifications after he killed me but before he gave it to Johnny to set up you and Max. We need to make sure he doesn't see the clock already modified."

"Perfect-o, dude, I'm all over it. I can stop time before they haul Max and me into the principal's office."

"Are you sure about this? I’ve got it programmed; you just make sure you get it done in the right order. Neither Rex or I can see this clock."

"Like I said, perfect-o. No problem, I'll be in and out without anyone being the wiser."

"And, kid, remember to wind your watch."

David pressed the button on the fob to restart time. Perry and the two officers fell dead on the ground with bullet holes and blood stained walls intact. "Damn, I had hoped he did the restore point before they died and they weren't just looped."

"Not Rex's style. Don't underestimate him, kid, you're still just a rookie. He's an all-star in this game and you need to respect that talent, no matter how evil or perverse. Now wind your watch, do whatcha gotta do and get back here and, for my sake, don't screw this up."

Dave twisted the winding pin, "Not to worry, you're still here aren't ya? Now go on and head back to Max and Sol, I bet they're in need of your expertise with the Chancellor."

He turned to leave but stopped just outside the door, "Hey kid, nice work here the whole 'how to hit the slider,' plan. Don't go gettin' cocky on me and try to steal those extra bases. Keep your head in the game, ya won't have any backup this time."

Dave set the last time and date coordinates before he activated the time mask crystal. "What, you worried I can't hit the Change-Up?"

"You just keep your head in the game and play the Slider. There's plenty of time left for you to hit the Change-Up and I wanna be there when you do."

David held tight to the clock radio, pressed the fob button on the watch and became shrouded in silver. The glitter and sparkles grew denser before they eventually merged and warped him away. The glow where he once stood slowly dissipated as the darkness reclaimed the room once more.

Klein held firm to the door and began a mental countdown from ten-Mississippi. When he reached one-Mississippi, he ran his hand over his body and checked for any damages. He uttered a heavy sigh of relief, "Ya did good, kid, I'm still here and in one piece." He released the door and headed back to the Holding Cells. "Now, get your ass back here."

* * *


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Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:52 pm 
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Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:59 pm 
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Thursday, November 2nd 1985 ( evening)
Metro High School Gym

Max and Gloria dance under the spinning pumpkin disco ball. They are dress like Mrs and Mr. Dracula.

"Max, this night is like none other, I am honored to dance with you sir Maximus."

" Glamorous Gloria, as am I, holding your silk like hand sends shivers up my spine."

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Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 9:35 pm 
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The 2 central figures , Max and Gloria ( the soon to be Loria) spin under the ethereal glowing disco ball that
emits a multitude of colored ray beams like a kaleidoscope against the stark white walls of the old gym. Reds and Pinks and blues and purples
dance against the cement.

Gloria gazes deeply into Max's luminously lit eyes and gets lost in them, she is swept away into a fantastical Feifdom, where
she sees ever flowing fields of tall green grass, and favorful fruit trees, the fields are carved up by brilliant brick roads, dotted with colorful hovels and hamlets and crimson clock towers, and several other immense infrastructural buildings.
At the end of the main red brick road, stands a daunting all impenetrable fortress, a magnificent mansion, a collosal castle
of immense fortitude and magnitude, it towers over all the sturdy stoic structures in this magical land, its a fierce formidable whiteand black stucco
monument of royalty and richness.

Inside this booming behemoth of a building, Gloria envisioned Max in his gigantic gem encrusted throne, wearing an equally lavish crown,
with Gloria in her matching cathedra, donning a similar head gear and vermilion vestment, sitting adjacent. Both of them holding each others regal hand,
and in their other hand holding a supreme scepter as representations of ruling over their respective feifdom.
--------------
Gloria had an intense twinkle in her beautiful blue pool of water of an eye, a glint of " You are mine, Max, all to myself."
Max caught note of this, and brought the gorgeous Glo closer to him, enjoying her female globes upon his hardened chest.

Glo smiled deviously, and said " Oh You naughty Boy." Then she nibbled on Max's ear, and whispered more" Let us leave hence fore here
and go to my place." She smiled more, wanting Max to be her King, and she his Queen.

Gloria then recieves a neural ring in her head, and she concentrates to answer it, she tells the Chancellor the truth, that plans have changed. The Chancellor
is in shock, then yells " Noooooooooooo!!!" into Gloria's neural phone, she gets a jolt from this, then decides to hang up.

Max takes her( Gloria's) ivory porcelain hand and makes a bee line to her place, yet first tells Bella he will see her later, and blows her a sweet kiss behind Gloria's back, Bella is saddened, yet finds comfort in the blown kiss.

Agnes and her beau look on in stunned amazement and delight seeing : what looks to them as a love connection between King Max and Queen Glo.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:08 pm 
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Back to the present ( 7/30/17)

Agnes picks up Loria's black feline, and strokes his long dark mane, the curious cat dwelves deeply into Agnes grey green eyes,hidden behind her own cat eyed spectacles.

The quadriped opens it delicate mouth and says " Agnes, listen to me."

Agnes leaps back, looking more disheveled then she usually does, shouts " You can talk?!!!"

The black cat speaks again " How perceptive," He snickers at this and continues " In a world of time travelers and traveling devices, I expected better of you, surely a cat that is possessed by a human speaking is probably not the most shocking thing you have seen I presume."

Agnes is breathing heavy for a while and then catches her breath" You presume alot, is this a joke?"

Nimbus says " This is no joke, I really can speak, and the sooner we can expedite our conversation the better."

Agnes still looking wild eyed rattles out " For now I will believe this is real, that you are not implanted with a robot speaking chip, or whatever, and that I am not completely wasted, nor gone insane, I will listen you out, Mr. Cat.This best not be a prank"

"Smart choice" the smarmy mammal utters, then licks its lips " First off I prefer beef and chicken by Gourmet Kitty cat food, Second, I am General Warren Watchman, Officer Max Seconds the senior served under me
for 5 years, he was a great soldier of duty. I have been reincarninated I guess to make sure Gloria aka Loria
does not finish her nefarious plans, she must be stopped, I need your assistance," The onyx one demands.

Agnes, being no fool bargains" I will help, if there is something in it for me."

The military cat looks Agnes squarely in her eyes and said" Yes of course, your station here will level up considerably, yet I ask one favor."

Agnes asks what it is and the furry one says " Please steer clear of Michael, he is instrumental in stopping Gloria,
you will get in the way. If all goes according to plan, we will easily find you another suitor or 3, whatever your heart desires."

Agnes shakes her head in agreement and states " I am at your service, General."

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Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 4:34 pm 
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The Long Way Home

The lightning erupted with a force that shattered the storm laden sky with arcs of bluish electricity. The thunder that followed was almost instantaneous with less than a few seconds in delay. The persistent rain hammered on the roof top of the work shed with a relentless, angry rhythm. Loria swallowed the last of the warm ginger ale and placed the empty bottle into the small wooden crate beside the refrigerator. A smile graced her face as her tongue licked the remnants of soda, tears and Michael's fevered kisses from her lips.

For the first time in a very long while, she looked forward to the mornings light and the memories yet to come. Memories that, even now, had began to scratch their way into her consciousness like particles dust in a beam of sunlight, tangibly visible but not solid enough to hold. She just needed to stay patient a little while longer, to stay the course as all good things come in threes. She could finally, once and for all, be rid of her father issues, gain the love she had always searched for but most of all, put an end to this stupid game. Closure was at hand but she knew that her closure was not the only one at stake. She needed to amend the remainder of her transgressions if her altruistic dream was to come to fruition.

She cleared the alarm from the red LED display and examined her watch again; five minutes after three, November sixteenth, nineteen-eighty-five. Her thumbs rapidly set a new destination point: October twenty-ninth, nineteen hours and forty-six minutes. She inhaled deeply through her nose and swiftly cracked her neck with a sudden jerk. The tension released made her light-headed and was felt all the way down her spine as she exhaled. She pressed the fob button as the faint red light whirled around her and the sparkles transported her backward to days earlier.

When the lights and sparkles stopped, she stood in the same place, just inside the work shed door. The night sky was absent of both the rain and storm as the warm autumn breeze stirred around her. She briskly walked down the drive, turned to the left and cut diagonally across the street. As she turned down Third Avenue, she saw a man's figure approach, partially shadowed between the two street lights. "Jason," she shouted in a professional, courteous voice and continued her advance towards him. "Jason, do you have a moment?"

The glint from the cigarette's tip shone brightly about his face which, in turn, cast orangish hues and shadows across his defined features. "Haven't we said enough for one night, Miss Godwin?" A calm yet aggravated pitch lingered in his tone. "Let's simply agree to disagree about my son, about your niece, and both the false accusations directed at Max over the past few days."

She held her left hand up, "I understand that you're angry, really I do. I don't want to end the night with us both being angry and upset with each other. I have a competitive nature, well, combative would be more precise. I went too far tonight and probably said some things I shouldn't have."

He removed the cigarette from his lips and stood before her, "Damn right, lady. What you accused Max of at the Banks home was unfair. We were there to discuss him being exonerated of a false accusation that he was wrongly arrested for. He didn't kill anyone during a home invasion robbery as his supposed victim is, 'A,' still alive and 'B,' testified that Max wasn't the perpetrator of the assault or robbery."

"Again, I'm not here to contradict or dissuade; I agree, Jason. Max was setup to take a fall for a crime he didn't commit." She paused to verify the acknowledgement of her statement in his expression. "As I originally stated, I went too far; unjustly so. I owe you and your son an apology. I am here now to offer you just that, an apology for things I said about Max tonight. He was exonerated in both the eyes of the law and in the press but more importantly, I should have never brought up his relationship with my niece. That was reprehensible on my part, I clearly over stepped my bounds. I am truly, truly sorry for any insult I have inflicted upon you or your family."

"Save it, Lady," sparks flew from the flicked cigarette as it hit the asphalt street. "I don't give a rat's ass about you, your niece's love life or any apology you have to offer. Save it for someone who may believe your oh so false sincerity. So, please, go flash your baby blues to some other sucker, sister, just so long as you wiggle that little ass of yours down the sidewalk and away from me and my family." He paused to verify the acknowledgement of his statements in her expression. "Are we good now? May I continue home?"

She stared at his accusative finger that still pointed in her face. "I have apologized for my behavior so that we both may put this night behind us on a good note, on a proper and positive note. I admitted I was wrong, you should at least have the common courtesy to accept my apology regardless of how you personally feel towards me."

"Unh-uh, you don't get off that easy," he placed his brown and beaten attaché at his feet which freed his hands to further emphasis his words. "First of all, you just don't waltz in where you don't belong and stir-up a hornet's nest with accusation then think you can say, I'm sorry, and that's the end of it. I don't know what kinda Dynasty and Falcon's Crest fantasy world you live in, lady, but here in the real world, it don't work that way. Real people don't forget their yesterdays quite as easily as they do on TV soap operas. Your little stunt tonight is gonna haunt my family for years to come and for what? Nothing, that's what, my son is still innocent of a crime he didn't commit. Secondly, his and your niece's supposed love affair has been exposed which in those people's eyes, is just cause for gossip and ridicule. Max is a tough kid, a smart kid and he'll move past this little bump in the road, of that I have no doubts. But Gloria, on the other hand, she's a different story. I've known that girl most all of her life and she's always been a good kid." He began to count on his fingers, thumb first, "She's well mannered, respectful of others, and so what if maybe she's a little amorous of her same sex. I can accept that, hell, it's something we have in common, the love of women. But for you, her own aunt, someone who has only recently stepped out of the shadows and proclaims to just want to protect her, you hurt her most of all. Her reputation in this little section of the community, our own little Peyton Place, where she's always been known as 'a good girl' has been tainted forever. Truth or lie won't matter after tonight. Her name will now always be preceded by, that little slut, all thanks to you. Hoo-Ra, good job, Miss Godwin, I hope you're proud of yourself."

She closed her eyes as the full magnitude of her actions fell upon her. His words were delivered with the same tone and emphasis of disgust that Rex often used but it made them no less true. In her youth, she had often wondered how she had acquired her loose and slutty moniker. The only boy she had ever been with was Max and outside of their little group, nobody knew about them. Now, as it was so poignantly pointed out, she had created her own tarnished public image. "What's done is done, I can't take that back. But on a personal note, it has ... it will make her a stronger person."

"You cold hearted bitch-"

"Don't call me that!" she pointed her finger into his face.

"Why? If the shoe fits, wear it! And from where I stand, right her, right now; them shoes were custom made to order." He pushed her hand out of his face and stared into her eyes. "You don't even care that you have forever branded that kid as a slut in this town and all you can say is it will make her a stronger person?"

"That's unfair, Jason. I can see now where your son gets his spiteful ways from."

"No, no, no," he waved his finger to dismiss her statement. "You alone created this little scandal at Gloria's expense. You couldn't leave well enough alone. You had to have the last word to prove you were superior to everybody in that room tonight. Don't you dare even try to throw this back on me or Max."

Her angry blue eyes glowed in the shadow of the street light, "I didn't mean, Max ... I meant, Randy."

"Shut your mouth, bitch," his finger again pointed in her face. "Don't you ever speak his name! You’ve never met my son, you don't even know him."

"Oooh, you'd lose that bet, slugger, and I told you not to call me that!"

He placed another cigarette in his mouth, "What's wrong with people like you? You're not satisfied with your attempt to ruin one of my son's lives, now you're gonna go after my youngest, the child that was stolen from me?" He struck the lighter and brought the flame to life. "You claim you came here to offer an apology but that was a lie. You just want to continue the argument from earlier. You've found new material and want to insult my family further, is that it? Insult an innocent child taken from us? You're right, you aren't a bitch, you're a-"

Her porcelain tipped finger pointed in his face again, "Don't you say it!"

The word, "twit," emitted from his mouth packaged in a stream of cigarette smoke.

She pulled her watch from her jacket pocket and hurriedly sat the timer as she spoke, "I came here to offer an apology, Jason. To put this wrong behind us so that we, our two families, could move forward as friends, not become enemies. But every extent of my courtesy you have swatted away. You have refused the olive branch, reprimanded and insulted me, when all I've tried to do was the proper thing, to give us both closure."

"You're still living in that fantasy world, lady. You speak of my baby boy and me like we are one in the same. Who knows, maybe he could have been me, but he was taken, kidnapped, and here you stand to rub salt in that wound. You say I'm angry and spiteful, you're damn right I am. Self righteous and pretentious people like you think of only one thing, yourself. The rest of us don't matter. Your olive branch apology was for you, to make yourself feel better. I refuse to let you have that closure, to let you find that little bit of peace to not nag at your conscious when you’re old and alone. I will never find the closure I need with my son and I'll be damned if I allow you to try and make me feel guilty. His memory is real pain, my pain and your mock pretension to know him only inflames me more. The sorrow you feel tonight over a stupid argument is nothing, nothing in comparison to the loss of a child. Go on now, get the hell outta here and wiggle that ass on home. You lay down tonight and the rest to come and suffer through your own guilty conscious because I refuse to allow you closure; I refuse to accept you petty little one-sided apology. One day I will find my closure but it won't come from an apology, not from you, not from anybody!"

The LEDs pulsated and glowed with a blood red luminance in the night air: zero-eight, fourteen, nineteen-seventy-seven, thirteen hours, twenty-three minutes, Founders Park/Metro City. Again, her eyes burned bright and blue, "I found my closure tonight and there is no way I will allow you to take it from me. You say you want closure, Jason; only you want it on your terms. Fine! I will give you the closure you wish for, but let me warn you slugger, you may not like the closure you find. Karma and time do not take orders, not from you, me, not anyone. Just say the word Jason and I can bring you closure. I can show you what became of your precious little boy but believe me; you're not going to like the closure you find."

He blew a thick cloud of smoke that enveloped the space between them. "You're sick, lady. Whatever psycho ward you escaped from, you really need to go back to. Whatever little dementia you suffer from, you can count me out. There ain't no one gonna bring me any closure with my grief this side of heaven and although you may be pretty as an angel, you ain't one."

She held the watch face before him so he could read the display. "I never claimed to be an angel, Jason, only that I can help you find closure. You say you want it but do you really mean it? Do you want closure, honest and truly or do you want to continue in your delusional fantasy? Last chance, slugger. This offer is almost off the table, if you want closure, you just have to say the word."

"Screw you, bitch!"

She grabbed him by the wrist, "I told you not to call me that!" She pressed the fob button as the red and silver sparkles swirled. The outside world raced around them in a stream of seasons and years. Images of different people and places streaked by so fast they created a rainbow of transitional shapes and colors. When the light show finally ended, she pulled the fob ring up to cloak them both in a time pocket, just out of phase so they could remain unobserved and protected in a time masked cloak. "Are you ready for closure, Jason?"

He looked around and removed the cigarette from his lips. The sun streamed through the twisted crepe ribbons and balloons as children played around them. Kites flew in the summer sky, tethered to the ground by both children and adults alike. A nearby transistor radio blared out, "Undercover Angel" as the subtle aroma of sativa wafted in the warm breeze. At the birthday decorated picnic table, he could see his wife and Bea Banks were busy with the birthday preparations. He looked past the picnic table towards the teeter-totter and swings where Randy and Max were at play. Just off to the right, he saw himself seated upon a small wooden bench along the cobblestone path. A cigarette burned in his hand and a large broad smile was embedded across his face as he watched his boys at play.

"How? How can this be real? How is this possible?" He asked and took a drag from the cigarette.

"It's complicated but you need this. Trust me - you really need to know what your memory has blocked out. You need to come to a point of awareness; to a point of closure."

Long kept in check emotions began to surface. He tried to pull away as a tear flowed down his cheek, "Randy, is that really my boy? Is that really him?"

She held fast to his hand and nodded. "Yes, Jason that is your little boy and this is the day you failed him."

"The hell with you, lady," he snapped angrily and again tried to free his wrist.

"Don't pull away," she warned him. "If you do, you will become that man on the bench again, the younger you who idly sat as his son was stolen from him."

His heart raced as he could not look away from his child. "I don't care, I need to hold him. I need to feel him in my arms again."

"Then your search for closure will have been wasted," she pulled him back and forced him to face her. "If I let you go, you will never know what became of your son."

"You're wrong," he took another hit and exhaled the thick white smoke. "I'll know to keep a closer eye on him this time. I can stop it!"

"If you break free, you will be outside of my protection, outside the watches influence. You will forget everything beyond this day ... beyond this point in your life. You'll never find the truth I brought you here to find. You'll have to relive it all again. You'll have to suffer through all the pain, all the uncertainty, all the blame you imposed on both yourself and your family."

"If I can't change it, why bring me back?" He tossed the cigarette to his feet and stomped it into the dirt and yellowed grass. "What kind of closure can I have if I can't change it?"

She gestured to the area around them, "To gain the knowledge of what time and your memory have robbed from you. Look around us, Jason and tell me what you see."

"I don't need to look," he stared only at Randy, at his five year old freckle faced son. "Max and Randy were at play, taking turns on the teeter-totter."

She stood behind him and wrapped her arm around his waist. "Wrong, that's what your rose tinted memory sees not your eyes. Yes, Max is on the teeter-totter but he won't let Randy play. Go on, look closer; see if my words aren't true. Look, really look this time, not from memory but from here and now. Look!"

Jason watched the scene play out and saw that Max refused to give up his turn. Not just to his little brother but to any who tried to get on the ride.

The summer breeze blew through her raven hair and half obscured her face, "Do you see what I see?" She brushed her hair behind her ear, "They aren't at play, Max is but Randy can't get either his turn on the teeter-totter or his brother's attention. Max has monopolized both the ride and the birthday girl's attention all to himself."

He turned his head and viewed the rider at the other end, "Bella. This was her seventh birthday party and Max refused to let anyone else ride the teeter-totter with her."

"Now look at little Randy, does he look happy? Call me crazy but he doesn't look happy to me, does he look happy to you?"

He shook his head as he fumbled in his shirt pocket for another cigarette. "No, he's upset. He wants to play with Bella but his brother won't allow him his turn. He wants to play with Max, but Max wants Bella all to himself."

"Max wants Bella all to himself, I guess the signs were there all along," she commented wryly. "Now look at you, stoic as always, all alone on the bench. You see what's going on, but you ignore it. Why did you ignore it, Jason?"

"To toughen him up," the metallic lid sharply clicked shut as he returned the lighter to his breast pocket. "To make him strong."

She removed her arm from around his waist, "And you called me a bitch? Gloria is a teenager; an adult ready to take on the world but Randy was just a kid. Five years old but you needed to toughen him up ... to make him strong?"

He drew the smoke into his lungs and watched his younger self lean forward to observe but not intercede. "Boys are different than girls. Boys need to be strong at an early age, to face adversity, to rise to challenges. That's the way I was raised, that's the way I raised my boys."

Stacie Seconds called out to her only daughter, Lana, to go check on her little brother. Both Lana and Becky broke from their game of ring-around-the-rosies with the other kids and raced over to Randy.

"I see that's not the way you raised, Lana."

"Lana is her mother's daughter," he turned back to face Loria. "I was an only child. I knew how to raise boys but Lana ..."

"She was different; she was your baby girl. You knew how to protect her but not how to raise her." She turned him to watch his wife and how, even from a distance, she could over-see and supervise. "You left that up to Stacie, to teach her to be a nurturer, a care giver, even from an early age."

"I make no apologies. Lana is the lady her mother made her. Our boys were my responsibility, my job to make them into men." He watched as Lana and Becky consoled Randy and led him over to the swings. The strong breeze blew the smoke back at him as he pointed with his cigarette, "See there, they got him over to the swing-set. Even though he didn't want to go she coaxed him over, got him on the swing and, see there, he's happy again."

"Watch Jason, just watch." Lana and Becky took turns as they pushed Randy on the swing until little David Lane came over and pulled Lana's pigtail before he ran away. Lana chased after him in full sprint when Becky noticed, pushed Randy one more time and followed. "Now look at yourself on the bench, your back is turned, why?"

He tried to observe his younger self and make out his actions as his memory didn't recall the reason. "I don't recall."

"Now look back at, Randy." She pointed to the swings, to direct his attention, "This is the moment you failed him."

From behind the swing-set, the Chancellor approached. As Randy swung backwards, the Chancellor would push the swing forward. After the swing returned for the third time, he grabbed young Randy from the swing to the boy's violent protest. Undaunted by the boy's struggle, he held fast and touched his wrist as both were enveloped in a white glow.

Loria pressed the lower right diamond on her pocket watch and froze the scene. "This is when you lost him, when your back is turned. Why was your back turned? Tell me, Jason, what in this world could ever be more important than your child?"

He turned to rush toward the swings, toward the Chancellor but Loria refused to let go of him. "Goddamn it, bitch, let go!"

She pointed to his younger self on the park bench with his back turned to the scene. "What was more important than your son, Jason?" She pressed the diamond again and restarted time. "You want closure? You want to know the truth? Look!"

He watched as his younger self turned back to witness the empty swing, between his lips dangled a freshly lit cigarette. "I lit a cigarette. The breeze was too strong for me to get it to light; I had to block the flame from the wind."

She advanced inward to the scene as the younger Jason called out his boy’s name. The older Jason followed as she guided him, "Are you kidding me? A cigarette was more important than your son. A little bit of tobacco and nicotine superseded your duty as a father."

"No!" he screamed in a deep baritone denial. "That man, the blond man, he stole my son!"

Her hair and coat tails blew in the breeze, "Only because you had your back turned. Had you not turned to light that cigarette, to block that wind, you would have saw the man who stole your son. You may have even stopped it when he first approached to push the swing, but your attention was elsewhere."

He looked down at the cigarette between his dark-yellow stained fingers before his eyes returned to the scene. The adults ran to the swing-set and began their search. Younger Jason held his wife, the cigarette still between his lips as he consoled her before he joined the search.

"Even afterward," Loria continued her voice distant and emotionless. "That cigarette was as important to you as your son. You didn't discard it, not even to console your frantic wife. Not even to kiss her lips and assure her everything would be alright."

He tossed the cigarette to the grass and dirt beneath him then mercilessly ground it with the ball of his foot. "That man still stole my son from us. Cigarette or not, he kidnapped him. He already had a mindset to do so."

"Had you not been a smoker, not been the type to try to make their boys become men to soon, this wouldn't have happened. Who knows, you may have been there at the swing, it may have been you and not Lana who pushed little Randy into the summer sky. You could have kept your son safe and prevented him from ..."

"From what? What!"

She began to set new coordinates on the pocket watch. "It doesn't matter, that section of the story is not part of your closure."

"Closure? Closure!?" He vehemently spate, "This hasn't brought me closure!"

"I have opened your eyes to the truth, Jason. The man who stole your son, you allowed to do so because those damn cancer sticks in your pocket were more important to you."

"This was not my fault! My son's abduction was not my fault. The blond man, he had a wrist watch that behaves ... can do things similar to yours." It was his turn to make her face him as he pulled her around to look into his eyes. "You know him, the blond man. You knew what he had done. That's why you brought me here. How did you know? How do I know that you weren't a part of all this, lady?"

In the distance, the name, 'Randy,' was repeated over and over by many voices, by many people. The small gust of wind blew across them once more, "I am not, was not and never have been involved, at least not the way you have suggested. I am, however, a participant in a different installment of this sad and maudlin tale. I have only now come to terms with my own truths, my own need for closure but make no mistake; my own passages and verse were just as dark, just as cruel."

His temper and patience had reached their apex. Reactively, he followed his first instinct; he grabbed her by the throat and began to squeeze, "You god-damned, bitch! Randy wasn't enough for you and your kind? You had to try to ruin Max's life too, didn't you? Didn't you!?"

"Jason, stop," she pleaded as she tried to pull away but his grip ever tightened.

"What has he done with my son? What have you all done with my son?"

She struggled to breathe as his hands restricted her wind pipe, "Jason, stop." Her fingers fumbled as she pressed a sequence on the three diamonds of the watch.

"Not until you tell me the truth! Tell me the truth!"

Slowly, the diamonds flickered and flashed before they grew in syncopated momentum. As all three diamonds came to a solid, steady glow, she pulled her weakened arm back and punched him in the chest; the watch flashed a brilliant red glow around him. His hand instantly retracted from her throat and clawed at his own. A loud, audible gasp emitted as her lungs filled with fresh air. She reactively grabbed him by the nape of his neck and forced him to his knees.

"I brought you here to help you, Jason," her voice was harsh and raspy but most of all, angry. "To try to make you understand, to make sense of all of this and you try to kill me? You're as evil as your son. I thought the Chancellor had made him into the monster he has become but now I see, the monster, it was already inside him. Just like you, his monster lurks beneath and waits to escape, to be free, to commit atrocities that are not even dreamt of in a madman's nightmare." She knelt beside him and watched his slow transformation from healthy and virile to frail and weak. His musculature began to recoil as his veins and skeletal frame emerged beneath his skin as it constricted. "Do you feel that pain, Jason? Do you know what that is? That's your body in a full cancer and emphysema collapse caused from that nasty little habit of yours. Mark this knowledge well because this is how you will die. You will become a withered old husk who can no longer breathe, no longer stand, no longer sustain your own weight. These are the last years of your life condensed into mere moments with each level of unbearable misery increased along with them. How much pain can you endure? How much longer do you want to endure?" She pulled his head back so he could look her in the eyes. "This is the taste of your own death. I can make it stop, monster. I can make this pain go away but know that this is what awaits you. We all owe a death and this; this is the one that awaits you, the one you have chosen for yourself. So let me ask you, monster, would you like this bitch to make it go away? Do you want me to stop the pain?"

His sullen, bloodshot eyes pleaded as he tried to nod for he could not speak. His face had sunken in and his lips had turned a violet shade of blue.

She pressed the sequence on the diamonds once more and waited for their lights to once again sync. "Know that I am not a monster, not like you and Rex. I am not a bitch, not a whore, not some mixed breed slut. Who I am is the bringer of truth, your truth, Jason. You can accept it or not, that's your choice, I can't help you there but this is the truth. I only wanted to help you find peace and closure. Your violent attack only shows me that you aren't ready for closure because it's not the truth you want. It's not on the terms you want, but that's how life is, we don't get to set the rules or the terms. We can only pick ourselves up and try to move onward." She took a deep breath to calm herself. "Hear me when I say this, I forgive you, monster, as I hope you can forgive me." She placed the watch to his forehead and the light flashed white around him. She released her hold upon him but not her contact.

He fell backwards and coughed, deep and moist, as he tried to inhale. His lungs ached in a way he had never experienced. From his days in Viet Nam, he had inhaled gas, burnt jungle smoke filled with flesh, human and otherwise, even remnants of Agent Orange but nothing in his life compared the absolute raw intensity to which he had just succumbed. The color slowly returned to his lips as he stared upward at the woman who knelt beside him.

"I told you, my participation in this story is equally as dark and just as cruel." She ran her fingers through his hair as he lay on the summer grass, fetal and shaken. "It was a few years ago that I met your adorable youngest, however, the Randy I met, wasn't a child any longer. He had become a grown, charming yet brutal and sadistic monster that now prefers the name, Rex. The experience you just felt is something he likes to call, the Death Toll. Oooh, believe me, Jason when I tell you, it was his favorite form of punishment. He would inflict this torment upon me whenever I displeased him. Like you, I would feel my own death rapidly come upon me until that very moment of final mortality, then he'd freeze me in that moment, leave me in that state; maybe minutes, maybe days, there is no way to judge time when your are frozen in it. Apparently, I displeased him so often that I eventually learned how to perform the skill myself, as a defense, a little of his own medicine against him. That just infuriated him more and soon I would suffer a new trick, a new evil delight that he would find for me. After countless exposure to these new torments, I would eventually learn and add them to my arsenal too. This twisted game of my pain for his pleasure went on and on ... until one day. One day he just left with no goodbye, no explanation, he was just gone. It was then I learned his last punishment was not as easy to recover from. As cruel and hateful as he was, after everything that was done and said between us, I missed the attention. I mean how sick is that? To actually miss the shark's razor bite when it stops and spits you out. Until five minutes ago, I thought it had been the blond man, the Chancellor he likes to call himself, who turned your little boy into the vile monster. I see now that the evil and cruel monster was always inside him, it just needed to be nurtured and encouraged."

"Is that why," he coughed as phlegm expelled from his lungs and filled his mouth? He turned his head and spat the blackened slime onto the brown summer grass. "Is that why the man took Randy?

She gently caressed his sunken cheek, "There's something unique about your bloodline, Jason. You're parents recognized you harbored that monster inside you but raised you never to acknowledge it, always to suppress or channel it to another purpose. One of your parents, I'd bet your father; also had his own monster, as did his father and so on. You had three boys, you get where I'm going, right? Odds were that one or more of them had their own monster too."

His lungs still felt as if they were on fire. "Randy was not a monster." With every breath, every spoken word, the agony and pain reverberated through his body. "He was just a little boy ... my little boy."

Her hand returned to his temples as his cheeks began to restore to their normal state. "The pain you felt, the pain you still feel, is the love your son showered upon me in great abundance. It's a terrible thing to know how you are destined to die. Most of us experience it only once, mercifully only once, but you and I ... we both know what awaits us at the end. That is the love in your little monster's heart. You saw that evil even at his young age and knew you would have to confront it. Perhaps you even allowed the abduction to occur and your knowledge of your actions have gnawed at you ever since. Better to live in denial than face the truth, you allowed Rex to be taken because you wanted to be free of the burden. Secretly, you were relieved he was gone by another's hand and you could distance yourself from any blame."

His arms shook as he struggled to push himself up from the grass. "I could have trained him to subdue his monster. I never wanted him gone."

She lifted his face upward by his chin as his sunken gray eyes began to return to their healthy shade of blue. "No, that's not true. I need you to look at me, really look at me this time and tell me what's in your heart. Don't listen to your monster, Jason, listen to your heart. We've shared a death together you and I. You can tell me what's truly in your heart. You've kept it to grave or near enough to count. Tell me the truth, tell me your truth and you can begin your life anew."

He looked into her enigmatic aqua eyes and believed she did indeed speak the truth. "Yes, I knew he was a monster; I've always known. A monster can always recognize another monster but I didn't want him gone. I didn't want him out of my life. I could have fixed him. Stacie could have fixed him. We just never got the chance. That doesn't make me a bad person, a bad father."

She shook her head and let the breeze blow through her hair. "I'm not here to judge you, Jason. We both know your son. We both know what evil resides in him. You know that your monster was no match for his even with Stacie's help. You hoped beyond hope something would intervene, you just never expected what you hoped for would be this." She pointed out to the seekers who continued to scour the park grounds. "We all have issues ... a monster inside that most of us never get to confront. Your monster lashed out in fear, to keep that memory suppressed, to keep you from the truth you didn't want to accept. Your monster couldn't allow you to accept the fact that you could have stopped Rex's abduction. He diverted the blame, passed it on to others, your wife, your children, the police, even the unknown man. Your monster wouldn't allow you to accept that he made you allow something as mundane as a cigarette cost you your child. I think subconsciously that's why you smoke so much. You want to believe, need to believe that every time you light up, you may get another attempt to replay this moment, to get a second chance. We all need a second chance, Jason, some of us more than others."

Again he coughed and expelled a mouth full of brownish phlegm as his upper body began to expand. His arms and chest once more filled out his shirt. "So, have I missed it or is this my second chance then?"

"No, you haven't missed it," a smile of reassurance spread across her face. "This is your moment of redemption, it may not be the chance you wanted but it’s the chance you need. You can finally admit the truth. You chose to allow your son to be taken because you knew he was a monster. You knew it would have come down to him or you and how could you justify the death of your child by your own hand; worse yet, what if he won? It was a burden lifted from you but the guilt of your actions is still with you, still here, in this park, in your heart, in that pack of cigarettes in your pocket."

He pulled the cigarette pack from his breast pocket and stared the satyr emblazed in gold on a red field. He wanted to crush the pack between his fingers, squeeze it as he had her throat. The harder he tried, the more he knew he couldn't, "You don't understand, I can't! God damn it, I can't, lady, it's just no good. I've been this way too long now."

"I thought the same thing of myself a few hours or so ago but Ma- my friend showed me I could change. I just had to accept that chance, the second chance he promised was out here. I've found that chance, you can too but you got to reach for the brass ring now. It's called a second chance not because it is a numerical place in the order of things but because it only lasts a brief second, a single solitary second that will never come again."

He flicked his wrist as a cigarette leaped up through the foil lined hole at the top of the pack. He placed the filter tip between his lips and slowly extracted it from the pack. Tiny fragments of tobacco were carried off in the breeze as he looked back at his family. "His monster and my monster are not the same. My monster won't let me remember, he won't let me open myself up to the guilt."

She removed the cigarette from his mouth. "It's time to let this guilt go, it is what will ultimately kill you. The cancer, the emphysema, everything else is just byproducts of your guilt. Let it all go, Jason. Admit the truth and free yourself, deny your monster. Let me help you make sure that the death you just experienced never comes to pass. Admit the truth, if not to yourself then tell it to me."

He crushed the pack in his hand before he threw it with all his might. It bounced a few yards away before the breeze caused it to tumble across the landscaped slopes and onto the cobblestone pathway. "Natus Malignitas," he screamed to the heavens as he began to cry. "On the night he was born, my mother laid her eyes upon Randy through the hospital window. Surrounded by all the newborn children, she gazed upon him and proclaimed him, Natus Malignitas, malice born. She looked into his future from that first glimpse and knew he was the bad child, the one who carried the monster with-in him. She didn't need to hold him or even look into his eyes, from behind the glass, she knew he was evil. But I, I was a proud father and refused to believe her, argued she was wrong, her gift was wrong this time. How could such an innocent child be born of malice, I thought. The old girl had finally lost it, I convinced myself, and so I ignored her and her words to my own regret. On Randy's third birthday, my father took me aside and handed me a silver box, I thought instantly it was a gift for Randy. He told me it was for Max and I would know when the time was right to give it to him."

Her eyebrow rose in curiosity, "What's in the box?"

"He swore me to never look inside or open it and I never have. He died later that night and the coroner could find no cause, natural or otherwise. My mother always claimed that he died from Randy's birthday wish but I chalked that up to grief. Just before his fifth birthday, my mother gave her old brooch watch to Lana. When asked why, she told us because his birthday was soon upon us and so was his time to wish for things. Her prophecy was right, she too died on the night of his fifth birthday and again the coroner could find no cause, natural or otherwise." He stared into her emotionless face, "You want the truth? My monster saved me from my own despair. I was trained to allow him to protect me, intervene when needed in times of stress, times of peril. Randy was evil and my monster protected me, protected my family as I was incapable of doing so myself. Oh, believe me; I was glad he was gone, out of our lives but most of all, out of my life. I know that's wrong, a terrible thing to wish for but god as my witness, I still tried to love him. When I later asked him what he wished for, he told me it had already come true, his wishes always come true. I knew, without any doubt, my mother had been correct. Her words of warning, from his birth to her death, haunted me everyday like a specter. He did have the monster in him, he was Natus Malignitas, and I had ignored it at the cost of my parents. That's my guilt, not that he was gone but because I waited too long to recognize the truth. My monster finally had enough, he allowed me to look away that day, this day, this is true, but the lie he told me was to protect me from the consequence of my inaction, from my own memory of what I did, not to harm me. Not all monster's are bad, lady, just like not all angels are good, and sometimes they serve a purpose that we don't always understand."

She ran her hand across his shoulders, "You were right, Jason, he was, is, a greater monster but you are free now, your secret is no longer yours to bear alone. You have surrendered it to the heavens and have finally bared your soul's burden. If the gods, angels or whoever didn't listen just now, to hell with them because I heard you. I, perhaps better than anyone else, understand your pain at the hands of your malice born son. I listened, I understand and I forgive you. Now it's your turn to forgive yourself."

He rose to his feet and watched his family. "I did what I needed to do, I did it for them," he looked upward at the blue summer sky, "I did it for my parents but most of all I did it for me!"

Her hands gentley squeezed his shoulders, "It feels good, doesn't it? To bare your soul, to start again with a clean slate. To know that from this day on, your destiny is your own."

As he turned to face her, a smile spread across his face, "I feel a thousand years younger and a hundred pounds lighter. So when we return to the present. All of this will be behind me. I can remember this moment, my second chance. I can finally look back on this day and not bear the shame and guilt as I have for the past eight years."

"Well, yes and no," she wrinkled her nose as the breeze blew across them once more. "You won't bear the shame and guilt but only from the point I return you to, where we left from. I can't wipe away the past years, those you will have to remember. Now though, you will remember why you did what you did and not allow your monster to protect you with an artificial love, you will remember the truth, Rex the monster not the innocent."

He looked at the ground, then to his family before he returned his attention back to Loria. "I can live with that. I can live with this truth."

"You also won't remember this, you and me in this time stream I mean. You'll remember aspects of what occurred but not the entirety. It will be like a dream, fragmented and disjointed, but the truth, your second chance will remain with you; just not your memory of me I am afraid."

He frowned, "After everything we have just gone through, I won't remember you helped me? I won't remember it was you gave me this second chance? We just go back to being at odds with each other?"

"I said you won't remember me. If you have come to forgive me, accept that I helped you, those feelings will still remain. You may not know why you've had a change of heart but if your monster can shield you from the truth about Rex for so long, maybe it can hold on to this for you too. If you and I are friends, and after this, I'd like to believe we are, maybe he will allow us to remain so."

"You know, for a cold hearted bitch," his smile was big and playful. "I think you're kinda sweet on me."

She smiled as she held his hand, "Okay, monster, let's make another small change before we go back. You will not refer to women as bitches anymore. You won't allow your boys to use that word, ever, not just about me but about any woman."

He looked at her olive toned hand in his, "Okay, deal, but, what the hey, why stop there? Since I'm not gonna remember this anyway, you want to make any further changes?"

She pressed the fob button on her watch, "Yeah, you're gonna give your father's silver box to Max."

The red and silver sparkles began to engulf them, "Why?"

"Because it's his and it's what your father wanted."

He looked into her eyes as they began to glow, "Okay, got that but why now?"

The whirlwind of colors and lights transported them back to October twenty-ninth before she could answer. They once again stood on Third Avenue between Maple and Spruce Streets, at his feet was his brown and weather beaten attaché. A smoldering remnant of a cigarette slowly rolled across the asphalt street as Loria and Jason stood in the shadows between the street lamps.

Jason looked down at his hand and realized he had a hold of hers. He shook his head to clear the fog that lingered. "I'm sorry, I’ve lost my train of thought. What were we-"

"You had accepted my apology for my bad manners and unwarranted outburst tonight at the Banks home."

He shook her hand thrice before he released his grip, "Alright then, are we good?"

She looked into his eyes and smiled her Cheshire grin, "I believe we are, Jason, I believe we are."

He picked up his attaché before he stepped off the curb to crush the cigarette that smoldered, "If you'll excuse me, Miss Godwin, I really should get home now. I need to talk to Max. We have some unfinished family business that is long overdue."

"Give him my best, Jason," she turned to leave but suddenly stopped. "Oh, and remember, you promised me you would stop with the Miss Godwin formality. You may call me Loria."

He snapped his fingers and nodded, "Yes, of course." He shook his head again, "This night air, I guess it's got me all light headed. Good night ... Loria and give my best to your niece. Remind her that she is always welcome in my home."

"Thank you, Jason, I'll do just that." She turned and proceeded down the street as her thumbs busily set new coordinates on her pocket watch. As she turned onto Maple Street, in the shadows between the street lamps, she was engulfed by the red glow and sparkles as the street fell empty once more.


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