Chapter 2, 43: Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
Chris took a long moment. He was surprised at just how mad he was at his sister. He was also wondering where she’d been hiding the Thirties-appropriate outfit, complete with flapper hat. Were girls still flappers in the Thirties, or what that a Twenties thing?
Finally, he said, “What are you doing here?”
“I just came along for the ride,” Charlotte answered, putting her hands on her hips, the Pearl Harmony’s scabbarded blade poking down to push the hem of her skirt back against her calves. It was beginning to stiffen in the rain immediately, making a stiff wave that wasn’t the only thing stiff around here. Charlotte was in full “not backing down because I know I’m right” mode.
“Where?” Chris looked around. A trunk was swung open in the back. He should have figured that there was a reason that the Fleetwood had changed into the coupe-chassis. It still looked like an awfully small space to hold Charlotte, complete with outfit and sword, but of course the Fleetwood wouldn’t make the space too small for its passenger. . .
“Battlecomp?” Kumi said, and Chris looked back. Kumi was on the road, too, closing the passenger’s side door as she spoke in through the window. She was wearing a white and black Cowichan-style Indian sweater that came midway down her hips, blue jeans, black cowboy boots with sliver tips, and her hair was draped, not quite tied, with a turquoise scarf. His heart caught in his throat, and he could not look away. She caught his eyes, and smiled.
“Yes, Ms. Konoye?”
“Why didn’t you tell us that Tag Along was hiding in the back?”
“Two teens off on their own? You needed some kind of chaperone.”
“And the fact that it was Chris’s fourteen-year-old sister. Oh, and the fact that she was eavesdropping on us?”
“I was not eavesdropping on you!”
“You need pants, so you can be on fire.”
“Okay, okay, maybe I was listening a little,” Charlotte said, putting her finger to her mouth to indicate that she was trying very hard to remember something. “Let’s see: ‘Oh, I’m so mad at you Chris, for perfectly valid reasons that aren’t bugnuts crazy at all.’” Charlotte pitched her voice a little lower and continued. “’And I’m mad at you, Kumi, because you said mean things about my Dad, and also you’re totally a spy for the bad guys. Which I was, like, the last person on Earth to figure out.’” Charlotte paused for a second and went high again. “Wait. What was I saying about being mad at you, Chris? Actually, I’m so crazy that I think you’re hot.’” Pause, low again. “’And I’m so dumb I think you’re hot. Hey. I have a plan. Let’s make out!’”
Charlotte dropped her finger. “Oh, wait, no. I wasn’t eavesdropping, because I just made up your entire conversation! Or, you know, prove me wrong. Anyway, it’s like Battlecomp said. You guys need a chaperone, and if it’s gotta be Chris’s little sister, that’s who it’s gotta be.”
“I have,” Chris said, reaching into his pocket, “Fifty cents that says that you can be a better chaperone down at the drug store.”
“Okay, a) fifty cents was probably a lot more money in the 1930s, but seriously? B) Drugstore? Is that a 30s thing?”
“London Drugs is pretty cool. Check out the magazine rack. Maybe there’ll be a Frank Sinatra pinup,” Kumi said.
“The who now?”
“Like Walgreen’s, only Canadian.”
“No, Silatra or whoever.”
“Sinatra. He was big in the 30s. Or the 40s, maybe. 50s?”
“Sigh,” Battlecomp said. “Sigh.”
“So you’re just going to treat me like some annoying little sister tagging along after her big bro, is what you’re saying.”
“Why, yes. The first clue was when I called you ‘Tag Along.’ Now stop being such a drag and run along.”
“Don’t ‘whatever’ me, young lady. If you were my little sister…”
“Okay, okay,” Chris said, stepping between his sister and his …his whatever. “So you’re, like, on a mission from Buzzkill. Where’d you get that outfit?”
“Black Rose can teleport between dimensions, duh. Where do you think your outfit came from?”
Chris thought about that, and realised that he was wearing a cowboy hat. And a long, light wool coat over a black sweater and jeans, and a Doctor Who sweater. It was hot, but, on the other hand, he pulled up the sweater so that nestled snugly over his mouth. “Woo-hoo! I’m the Shadow!”
“Who?” Kumi asked.
Battlecomp spoke from inside the cab. “A mysterious avenger of the night who liked to lurk in the shadows. Ms. Konoye.”
A frightened look passed over Kumi’s face. She glanced in through her window, and then her eyes swept across the forest edge. “Chris! Charlotte! Duck!”
Time slowed for Chris as his Eight Spirit Dragon training took over. The whistle of something coming at him very fast was suddenly clear in his ears as he spun, dropping as he did so, his own eyes taking in the threat faster than his mind could process. With his right hand, the Blue Tranquility cleared the scabbard that hung under his jacket, while his left made a precise jab into the air. A stinging impact told him what he’d done, and without even thinking about it, he threw the explosive shuriken back the way that it came, arcing beside the one originally aimed at his sister.
“Swords and kung fu are nice, big bro, but right now I wouldn’t mind a gun,” his sister said, crouching beside him, just before the projectiles detonated.
The two of them swung out to either side, sword leading, headed for the undergrowth. Ninja or not, they could pin him from the flanks and take him out quickly enough. Bits of twig rained gently down around them, and the smell of sawdust and the dry pine of the Okanagan forest wafted around them. Chris felt a wave of nostalgia, and tightened his grip on his sword.
He slipped through the heavy wall of green that marked the edge of the road and the limit of the sunlight that hit the roadside, clipped between the mass of Anarchist Mountain to the northwest and the forest line to the southeast, his senses strained at the danger, and not just from the explosion-mangled devil’s club, hanging from their branches and oozing green.
I have no sympathy for you, you murderous plants, Chris thought. Kumi might, though, and that thought alone made him wonder for a moment if there was something he could do for the poor things, before his sword swept up, almost of its own will.
Blade clashed on blade, as the Blue Tranquility sparkled aquamarine in the gloomy dimness of the forest, taking the Ninja’s curved, Japanese-like blade in a neat angled parry that neutralised the Ninja’s advantage in strength. For a second, Chris stared into the mask of the Black Ninja in the gloom, before the big figure took a giant leap forwards.
Chris jumped after him, but off the trajectory and more slowly, cautiously. His caution was rewarded by a boobytrap going off in the woods to his left. “Damn!” He heard his sister say. They landed together, on either side of a windfall tree. Where had the Ninja gone?
In the woodlands silence, through the rain, Chris heard a familiar voice, booming, back towards the road, considering that he’d only heard the big, black ninja speak a few times. “Morning Glory, you bitch! I told the Professor you’d turn.”
“Come on, Charlotte,” Chris yelled. “He’s got between us and Kumi!”
His sister rolled her eyes, but turned with Chris back towards the road. He led her, caution forgotten, scanning the bush, but even his keen eyes couldn’t see the source of the voice.
“I won’t let you hurt Chris, Ninja! Now get in here and talk, or get out of my woods before I make you!”
A long moment, and then a familiar, bulky figure suddenly emerged from a shadow of the road’s edge ahead of them. Chris scanned around as he walked by the Ninja back onto the road, once again between supervillain and road. “Where’s Decurion?”
Behind his mask, Chris imagined that he could see the Ninja’s eyes flash red. Or almost red, anyway. “Pleased to see you again, too, Wong. Decurion’s not here. He had places to go.”
“So why are you here?” Chris asked.
“To tell you to go home. To 2013. Now. Let the past be.”
“I need to talk to someone in this year. So I can stop the Apocalypse Plague.”
“Don’t you understand? You came back last time, too, and you caused the Apocalypse Plague.”
“What?” Chris felt his stomach turning. His trained ears heard no lie.
“There’s another world, a dimension, where the timeline has advanced two centuries past the Plague.”
Chris nodded. His sister began to speak, but he waved her to be quiet. It was too bad that Rose wasn’t here, but if the Ninja didn’t know that Rose was from that timeline, they had no business telling him.
“My people have records. And access to control dimensions, and, thanks to the Professor, time travel. We know that something happened here that led directly to the Plague being released in 2012, and we know that it’s your jaunts that caused it.”
Chris shrugged. “What else do you know?”
“Not much. We can’t get near this place in the other timeline. Something out of the last decay of spacetime lives in Oroville now.”
Battlecomp spoke again: “The Shining Darkness.”
“Yes,” the Black Ninja simply replied.
“And yet your world survives.”
“It was invited, and its power is limited, by the invitation, and by this place.”
Chris interrupted. If he just let the smart kids go on and on, he’d never get to talk, he figured. “So some evil sorceror’s pet lives in Oroville in your dimension, and you have no idea what’s going on here. Don’t you think that’s a pretty significant difference between your timeline and ours?”
“It’s not here now.”
“So I’m going to cause the Apocalypse Plague and invite Cthulhu’s cousin to move in? I’m going to be busy little trailer trash. But, hey, one question.”
“Just because the Apocalypse Plague gets released for one reason in 2012 in one dimension, does that mean that it can’t be released in 2013 for another reason?”
“But it wasn’t.”
“In your dimension,” Chris guessed. Not that it was much of a guess at this point that the Ninja came from Rose’s dimension.
“We’re here to stop it being released in 2013. I don’t know about this time travel stuff. I guess that we could end up causing its release in 2012, like in your dimension, but we know it’s going to be released right now, today. Well, today in the future. Monday, February 11th, 2013, at 5:01PM, Pacific Standard Time, I’m saying. That’s what we’re here to do, and you can shut the hell up and fight, or get out of our way.”
“I. . . .” The Black Ninja began, then trailed off. He started again, “If I could just talk to. . . .” He trailed off again, and stood, silent, immobile for a long moment. “You have no idea what you’re asking me for, Wong.”
Chris looked at him for a long time. Finally, the black-clad figure spoke again. “I’ll be watching you, Wong. Do the right thing.” He lifted a black-gloved, meaty hand, and black smoke billowed around him. When it dissipated, he was gone. Of course.
“Cliché-olicious,” Charlotte snarked.
“He moves fast for a guy so big,” Kumi said.
“Very fast,” Battlecomp said. “He’s not going into that creek is he?”
“Brr,” Kumi answered.
“He’s swimming now? Doesn’t he know about the waterfall?”
“He knows about it,” Kumi answered. “It’s just that he’s tough enough to go over it, and that way he’ll be out of our range.”
“Speak for yourself. I’ve lofted some nanodrones. Oh, hey. Did you know that the mayor sneaks across the border? He’s considerate though. Closes the gate behind him so the Sinclair’s stock can’t get out. There’s some flowers on his passenger’s side. Think he’s dating a Sinclair on the side?”
“What kind of flowers?” Charlotte asked.
“Is it important?”
“Sure,” Kumi said. “If they’re cut roses, it’s one thing. If it’s a flowering plant, it’s another. Most girls like cut flowers in a situation like that.”
Take a memo, Chris heard Kumi say. He wondered where he could get a flowering plant in Oroville in November. What he said was, “Uhm, could we focus? The Sinclairs, you say?”
“Is there a big concrete barn in the southwest of their property? Because I’ve never got a good answer about what they were doing there.”
“Yes,” Battlecomp said, “There is. And it looks like the mayor’s headed there. Weird place for a liaison, if you know what I mean. And I think you do. Wink wink nudge nudge.”
“Oh my God,” Kumi interrupted, “The computer is a Monty Python fan.”
“Focus,” Chris repeated. “Okay: in one scenario, Old Man Sinclair is some evil genius, waiting for the last Wong to die so that he can seize control of Chinese Bar and –I don’t know, maybe pump it out to grow snails, maybe unleash the Apocalypse Plague, maybe summon the Black Goat of the Woods with A Thousand Young to Put Through College.”
“I’ve played Arkham Horror and I don’t remember that one,” Charlotte responded.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t call it likely, either,” Chris answered. “But the important point is. . .”
“. . . That until your grandfather gets back from China, you kids have nothing to do but play Hardy Boys, anyway,” Battlecomp finished.
“Who?” Kumi asked. “Whatever. So we go look at the barn. If giant robot warriors show up, we know we’re on to something, if not, we’ve killed an afternoon?”
“We go crash with Chief Daniel on the rez,” Chris said.
Charlotte said, “Oh, I like that idea. Hope he’s as mellow at forty as he was at eighty.”
“Me too,” Chris answered. “Okay, everybody aboard. Same plan as before. Up to Anarchist Summit, down the highway on the Canadian side. There’s a bootlegger route across the border just up the road, and we should be able to get the flivver up it. “
“It’s no flivver,” Battlecomp reminded them. “Of course you can get it up to the highway. And back to the present, if there still is one.”