Chapter 2, 45: Planted
Chris wiggled back away from his sister’s outstretched hand. He couldn’t believe it had come to this, but there was one thing that his alternate self would never have done. There was only one thing that could stop the Plague.
With a half step and a duck, Chris broke the sword clinch, parried a dozen quick blows from his sister as he slid to the left, then let his blade ride up and over his sister’s, two kin swords out of nine screaming, in pain or perhaps anger.
And then sucking air, and with a prayer, he delivered a killing thrust, straight for his sister’s chest. His side ached.
Charlotte’s eyes widened as she realised what was about to happen. Overhead, Ginger and Old Crow stooped, low, cawing as angrily as the swords. Chris had a moment to imagine his sister dead, and wonder what his mother would say.
And then thready green vines wrapped themselves around both the Pearl Harmony and the Blue Tranquility swords. The lights within them went out, and above them the crows pulled out of their dives.
Kumi rose from the ditch on the other side of the road. “Yeah. Don’t think we’ll be doing that today,” she said.
“What?” Charlotte demanded. “We ditched you!”
Kumi smirked. “No you didn’t. Tagalong.”
Chris reached into his hip pocket and carefully pulled the tangled devil’s club leaf out of it. A pearl of bright blood shone on its spines and dropped to the road. Charlotte’s eyes went wide again. “You tramp! What have you done to my brother?”
“I just used my sexy, girl. You should try it. You know, whenever you start to grow . . . .up.”
Charlotte thrashed angrily in the vines for a moment. “You are so dead, weedy girl.”
“Not bad, but your brother already gave me a codename.”
Chris, finally, spoke. “I trusted Kumi because I know that she wants what we want. A safe world, no Apocalypse Plague. Now settle down, Char-Char. We’re still in deep trouble.”
“Don’t call me that! You killed Aunt Yili!”
Chris looked at his sister. “No, I didn’t. Dad did.” It hurt a lot to say that.
“You have to accept it, Charlotte. It’s what Dad did.” He glanced at Kumi. Was he laying it on too thick?
Kumi Konoye looked back at Chris. “How do you get that we’re on the same side, Chris? The Professor wants to unleash the Apocalypse Plague.”
“You’re on my side because I love you. You’re my Morning Glory.” And it felt like the air the words came out on left a hole in his chest. Chris remembered his father telling him that he should always tell a girl that he loved her if he wanted her to do what he wanted. He never said that it would leave that empty feeling behind.
Kumi looked at Chris. “You’re a manipulative bastard, Chris Wong.”
“I bet your Dad told you to say that once.”
Kumi was a smart girl. Chris nodded.
And then she began crying. “But I believe you.”
The vines wrapping Chris’s arms released him, and he walked over to Kumi and took her in his hands. “Because it’s true.”
“Your Dad. My Mom. Professor Paradigm. They're all trying to manipulate us, aren't they? And we’ve got to do what’s right, don’t we?”
“Yes,” Chris said. “Now let’s get back to the Fleetwood.”
Kumi’s body slid across his as she went up on tip-toes to look over his shoulder at Charlotte. “Do we have to take Tagalong?”
“Of course you have to take me, Nature’s Biggest Mistake.” Charlotte said from behind him, her voice angry. “I’m the only one who knows where that deed is.”
“Duh,” Kumi said, “It’s. . .”
Just as Chris said, “The Institute.” Kumi and Chris looked at each other. “You go first,” he continued.
“No, you go first,” Kumi answered. They looked at each other, and Chris couldn’t help himself. He laughed. Kumi laughed. Or giggled. For a moment. And then you had to call it laughing, as they collapsed over each other’s shoulders.
After a long moment, his sister cleared her throat and said, “Oh, Lord, take me now.”
Chris pulled in with his right arm, turning Kumi around so that they stood, leaning against each other, facing Charlotte. Kumi spoke. “So, I guess we’ve all figured out that the deed is in the archives at the Institute.”
Chris nodded. “And I hope that it’s damn easy to find, because we’ve got, like, two minutes up at Now to find it and teleport across the continent to the courtroom with it.”
“No problem,” Charlotte answered. “We just haul ass to Lythrum, pick up Rose, and let her search the archives at superspeed.”
“Wow. Can your time machiney Cadillac do that?” Kumi wondered.
“Oh, God. No wonder they called that nasty yeast spread ‘Vegemite.’ Of course it can.”
“Charlotte,” Chris began.
“Joking. Oh, God, you’ll stab your own sister in the heart, but you won’t let me kid your girlfriend?”
Chris just stared at his sister. He was beginning to think that she didn’t like Kumi, for some reason. “Uhm, Battlecomp?”
“Yes?” A speck of air above them said.
“Was everyone spying on us?” Charlotte asked.
“Now you know how I feel, Tagalong.”
“Could we get to Lythrum and back to our Earth with Rose without using up time up at, you know, when it’s now?”
“Oh sure,” Battlecomp answered. “You honestly have no idea what that car can do.”
And that’s how they ended up appearing out of nowhere at the back of the Institute for Advanced Studies parking lot at 7:57PM, Eastern Time, three minutes before court ended in Osoyoos and the Valentine’s Day Dance started on Lythrum.
They all vanished from the car in the same moment. That was the advantage of having a teleporter along.
Just as suddenly, they stood in the ancient, decayed hallway where the old papers were kept. Teleporting through Yggdrasil was not fun, it turned out. Chris felt nauseous. He glared at his sister before she could make a crack about Kumi making her throw up.
Charlotte shut her mouth while Rose flew into action. A blizzard of paper appeared in mid-air, spreading down the hallway and just as suddenly returning to the ancient filing cabinets. Chris led the girls after it, his stomach feeling increasingly abused as the seconds ticked by.
With 90 seconds to go, they were in the abandoned living room. The blur of motion in mid air turned back into Rose. “Blood type blood type ancestor ancestor. Blah. It’s all stupid old medical records. And pictures. Do you want to know what untreated cancer looks like? Yech.”
“So nothing?” Charlotte asked.
“Oh, God, we’re running out of time,” Kumi said.
Chris looked around the room. At the old photograph of Elizabeth and Tom on the mantle. “Of course!” He snatched it down and turned it over. Then ducked, drawing the Blue Tranquility as he did so.
He wasn’t stupid. The blade came up and clanged against Decurion’s gladius, catching it fair and sheering right through the metal of the blade to carry back into the boy supervillain’s arm, because Chris didn’t have time for this crap. The Blue Tranquility slashed through the villain’s arm to the bone. He would heal, and probably pretty quickly, Chris told himself, although he was feeling guilty already. That was the problem with having a sharp superpower. It didn’t do you much good if you weren’t prepared to cut people.
As blood gushed on the carpet, Chris tried to keep his cool. “You can turn invisible now, too, hunh? You know, with all the powers you’ve already got, I’m sure you could beat me if you’d just learn some kung fu.”
“It’s just a gadget,” Mario/Decurion sneered. “So I could sneak up on you when you came for the formula.”
Chris couldn’t contain himself any more. “You moron! There is no formula. You’re not a super-soldier. You’re some kind of super-secret mutant or something, and if you want to know more about it, you can either ask the Sentinels politely or find the guy who told you there was a formula in the first place!”
And with that, they were back in the Cadillac. Teleporter. “Go, Battlecomp, go!” Chris yelled.
And then, somewhere on the interdimensional highway from who knew where to whatever, in the space between the timelines, Chris threw up out the window. From the sound coming from the back seat, he wasn’t the only one.
“I thought we were going to run into Black Ninja again,” Rose said. She sounded almost disappointed.
“Maybe at the courthouse,” Chris said.
But he wasn’t. All there was at the courthouse was a judge. He wasn’t even in court, ready for someone to run in with the evidence just before he ruled, like in some TV show. When Kumi led Chris dashing up the corridor from the He was standing at his office door with the key in the lock when Kumi came running up to him with the photograph.
“Hello, Ms. Konoye. This would be the document that supports the motion for an injunction, I take it.”
Kumi stared back, speechless. Chris understood. He would be speechless, too, if he didn’t have his wuxia powers. It was a long sprint from the parking lot.
“You know, I would have been happy to stick around for a few minutes if you’d just called to let me know that you’d be late.”
Kumi was still staring. And now Chris was staring, too.
“But I’m glad that you’re taking such an interest in the environment, and the legal process, Kumi. Your mother would be proud of you. Speaking of which, why wasn’t she the one who brought this to me?”
Now Kumi finally spoke. “She’s at the lab today.”
“And you came instead. You’re such a nice girl. And this young man. Is he someone . . . special?” The judge said it like adults did, with that heavy emphasis that tried to say, oh, look, the Konoye girl has a boyfriend. To his credit, Chris noticed, the Judge seemed to realise what it sounded like as it came out of his mouth, and looked embarrassed. At least, the part of Chris that wasn’t blazing in embarrassment noticed. Embarrassment all around! That’s the ticket, he thought to himself.
“I knew you’d bring me something solid. I’ll just text the registrar and tell him to release the injunction, and we’ll have no more messy end-runs around environmental protections on my watch.”
As they walked away, Chris pulled Kumi close to him. “That’s my special girl.”
“Watch it, or I’ll feed you to some devil’s club. I’ve kinda been holding back in our last few fights, you know.”
So that’s it?” Kumi asked.
“I guess,” Chris said.
“Seems pretty anticlimactic,” Kumi answered. “Where’s the descending action?“
“Life isn’t a stor—“ Chris began.
“Wait. Oh God. Descending action.”
“The smuggler’s tunnel. Sinclair can pump water out of the slough into the lake through it any time he wants.”
One more time, Chris’s poor, abused stomach dropped. “Well, why doesn’t he?”
“I guess the whole point of his plan is that releasing the plague last November didn’t do what he wanted in the other timeline, so he decided to release it in the February thaw instead.”
“But he’s gone through all this rigamarole to, what, make it look like it was an accident? To someone who is watching him? I guess? It won’t be an accident if he suddenly starts using an illegal tunnel to pump water out into the lake!”
“Yeah, but which part will he care about more? The not looking like an accident, or the not releasing the plague?”
“So we go and block the tunnel,” Chris said.
“He’s got a time machine, sweetie. He could be doing it right now, if ”
“We don’t find him and arrest him before he hears about the injunction---Come on! We’ve got to go right now!”
“To where?” Kumi asked.
“Lythrum. To the dance.”