Dance to the Death
"Wish me luck. April out." Howard and Lucy turned to face one another. April had been pantomiming the actions and doing voices to explain her story. Being in the computer lab of a high school, doing so grabbed her a few odd looks from students who happened to walk by on camera. Lucy scratched the back of her head. "She said my name. The girl who encouraged Baxter, that was me." Howard nodded. "You remember that?" Lucy shook her head. "No. It's the same girl, though. As the one in the dream." Howard held his hand to his chin. "Huh. But she mentioned you. Maybe the email was meant for you?" Howard's rank allowed him the privilege to use a computer, but Lucy was not a high enough rank to earn it.
The next day, Howard and Lucy returned to the cave, digging up gemstones. They weren't sure whether or not to tell anyone about the vlog. Howard carefully carved the bits of rock off of the gemstone he unearthed yesterday. "It's just really hard to imagine a world other than this one." Lucy nodded. "That girl Kelsey sounds really cool. I'd like to meet her." Howard shrugged. "If she even exists anymore." Lucy looked up. "Which reminds me, why do you think that April hasn't changed?" Howard glanced at Lucy. "You're asking me? I still find it hard to accept that any of that is real, but the coincidence between your dreams and the vlog..."
A loud whistle cut through the caves. Howard and Lucy turned around and gathered with the rest of the slaves in the main cave tunnel. A beautiful blonde woman with green eyes in a crimson dress walked up to the slaves. Lucy poked Howard in the side. "It's her. The Twirling Tyrant." Howard nodded. April had mentioned the Twirling Tyrant in the beginning of her vlog. It was one of the few things he recognized.
The Twirling Tyrant was an evil ballet dancer, and according to rumors, her dancing was hypnotic. She was also the Emerald Emperor's right hand woman and second in command. Sometimes he wondered if the Emerald Emperor made her his second in command by choice, or if she simply hypnotized her way to the top. But if the latter were true, she probably would have the Emerald Emperor as her second in command.
The Twirling Tyrant held one of the slaves by the chin and smiled. "It has come to our attention that your efficiency has been steadily declining. Fortunately for you, the demand for gemstones is no longer a priority for us. As of today, you are all being retasked. Proceed to the surface and gather scrap metal. This should be a little easier for you, so consider yourselves lucky." The Twirling Tyrant spun a pirouette to face the other way and elegantly left the caves.
Howard and Lucy gathered scrap metal from a nearby garbage dump. Lucy stopped in her tracks and pointed. "Howard, look." Howard turned to face what she was pointing at. There were two pairs of binoculars tied together with a rope. Howard picked up the binoculars. "She made this." Howard turned around and saw a homeless man lying on the top of the dump, happily eating a candy bar. "Are we stealing from him?"
"Excuse me, this is Slave territory." A voice called out. The homeless man sat up to see the Twirling Tyrant walking up to him. "Yeah, right. This is my home. Don't think you'll be as generous as Ginger, so don't expect me to be." The Twirling Tyrant started to scowl when something caught her attention. "Ginger?" Howard and Lucy exchanged nervous glances. There was no doubt that this was the same man, and by now they knew who he meant by Ginger. But did the Twirling Tyrant know about her too?
"Teenage Girl? Purple Highlights?" The homeless man gave her a confused look. "And how would you know about that?" The Twirling Tyrant grew angry and stepped to the side, spreading her arms out. Howard and Lucy covered their eyes with their hands, knowing what would come next. The Twirling Tyrant spun around to the left, and back to the right. The homeless man watched as the girl danced back and forth, back and forth. The Twirling Tyrant began to look blurry in his eyes as he began to feel as though he were sleepy. The Twirling Tyrant did a 720 spin to end the dance, and whispered in the homeless man's ear. Howard and Lucy uncovered their eyes, as the homeless man grabbed a large broken window and threw it at the bottom of the dump. The homeless man turned his back and jumped backwards. Howard and Lucy could only gape in horror as he landed with the broken window right through his neck. Lucy threw up in her mouth. The Twirling Tyrant turned around to face the slaves. "Let that be a lesson if your efficiency drops too low again." The Twirling Tyrant walked off. Howard sank to his knees. "He didn't even do anything."
Howard and Lucy returned to his room after the day. Howard sat at the computer and dropped his head in his arms. Lucy sighed and lied down on the floor. "She knows about April? How?" Howard's computer beeped, grabbing their attention. Howard opened up his emails, seeing a new notification. Howard opened the email, which automatically opened up a video window. "Well, here we go again."
Hey. It's me again. I've been doing a bit of research around here. Turns out, this isn't the point I'm looking for. Unfortunately, I can't go back any further. Not yet. Like Kelsey told me, the wristband ran out of power, and is currently recharging. Let me tell you, for such a small device, it sure seems to take a really long time to recharge. But it sure gives me a lot of time to get ready for whatever's coming.
Let me summarize what I have discovered during my time here. The first thing I did was to go to 2 Concord Drive. This was a time period I lived in, so it should still be there. To my dismay, it wasn't. On the plus side, it wasn't a garbage dump. It was a fast food restaurant instead. Maybe I just lived somewhere else in this timeline? That was what tipped me off that I was in the wrong time period. So the first thing I did was try to use the time wristband again, but it didn't respond. That's when I remembered what Kelsey told me. I don't know how I forgot, I mentioned it in the last vlog.
I removed the wristband and opened the compartment Kelsey put her blood in. Turns out it hadn't drained a single drop, so it just needed electricity. But that brought up an interesting question. Kelsey said it might take a while to charge, and I couldn't afford to sit around and wait for it. So where could I charge it that it would be safe, where it wouldn't get lost or stolen? Turns out, the answer was staring at me in the face.
I walked into the fast food restaurant and went straight for the ladies' room. I entered an empty stall, and locked it behind me. I opened up the wristband, finding a compartment that looked like a power outlet. I pulled on the compartment, and a plug emerged from the compartment. I plugged the wristband into a power outlet, and looked under the stall to see if anyone else was in the bathroom. Once I was sure that there wasn't, I stood up and walked through the wall. I pulled on the door, testing to see if the trick worked. Sure enough, the door was locked from the inside. It probably wouldn't take too long for someone to alert the management about the door, but I figured that I probably had around 24 hours to retrieve the wristband before they actually got around to unlocking it. So now that I had solved the charging problem, I figured that maybe I could do a little bit to fix the not-too distant future. I didn't know what the 4th of July Massacre was, but I knew that it was somehow related to the Resc.ue Protectors. Now I knew my first stop: Resc.ue headquarters.
I took a bus to the pier, and walked a long bridge to a man-made island just off the coast. The island was large enough for one building: A monolithic skyscraper known as the Sentinel. I always loved the feel of the building, like if medieval castles were built in the present day with modern technology. It doesn’t look exactly like a castle, but the architecture gives off that feeling. This was the base of operations for Resc.ue. I knew the place by heart. I went straight to the main gate and scanned my ID card. It beeped negatively with a red light, and an automated voice said, "Card. Not. Valid." The guard turned to face me. "Try it again." I scanned the card again. "Card. Not. Valid." The guard pressed a button at his desk and nodded at me. "Try entering your ID number." I typed my ID number into the numpad. Again, it beeped negatively with a red light. The guard shook his head. "Sorry, kid. Go home." I handed him my ID card. "Sir, I'm level one." The guard typed in the info on my card. "There's no such ID number in our database." The guard took another look at the card. Obviously, he thought I was trying to get in without authorization, but the card was definitely authentic. If I tried to explain why, he'd probably call the cops on me.
I tried a different tactic. "There must be someone who can validate me. Can I speak with Kelsey Nightingale?" The guard typed on his computer. "There's no record." I scratched my head. "What about Kelsey Raines?" Raines was Kelsey's maiden name. Maybe she never married Uncle Rodney. The guard typed on the computer and shook his head. Kelsey did say she might cease to exist, maybe that's why there was no record of her. She was the expert on time travel, so who else was smart enough to believe me? "Sir... What about Valkyrie Pine?" The guard typed on the computer and picked up the phone. "Sorry to bother you, ma'am, but some kid at the main gate's trying to get access, and asked for you."
After about ten minutes, and I really do mean ten minutes, Valkyrie came out of the building. The Sentinel is freakishly huge. I actually sat there on my phone playing sudoku while waiting for her. Valkyrie looked down at me. "This is the girl who asked for me?" I stood up and handed her my card. "Valkyrie, if something or someone were to appear from a parallel universe, how would you determine it?" Valkyrie scratched the back of her head. "Ah. That's a good question. Let's see... Well, every atom contains electricity in its electrons, but the electrons all follow the exact same wavelength. Perhaps the atoms of something from a parallel universe would have a different electron wavelength." I held out my arm. "Care to put that theory to the test?" Valkyrie pulled out a small device and scanned my arm, reading my wavelengths or whatever. Valkyrie then scanned everything around her.
Valkyrie looked up from the scanner. "No way." The guard gave Valkyrie a suspicious look. "You can't seriously believe her." Valkyrie held up the scanner. "I don't. I don't have to believe anyone. I believe what science says. Let her through." The guard reluctantly opened up the gate for me. Valkyrie and I walked inside the Sentinel. "So you're from a parallel universe? This is the scientific discovery of the millennium! How did you get here?" I shrugged. "Honestly? I just went to sleep, and when I woke up, everything had changed. Everything was a living nightmare." Valkyrie gave me a confused look. "Nightmare? This place?"
Valkyrie and I stepped into the elevator, and I told her everything on the ride up to her laboratory. "I don't understand. How can the Protectors be responsible for this so-called '4th of July Massacre?'" I shrugged. "That's what I'm here to find out." Valkyrie stepped out of the elevator and looked out the window. "So that you can stop it from happening in the first place." I snapped my fingers into a point. "Bingo." Valkyrie held her hand to her chin. "We know the date. That's blatantly obvious. But what about the year?" I lowered my arm. "Not a clue." Valkyrie turned around to face me. "Then let's try and figure it out. Let's assume that the date you arrived in the parallel world is one day ahead of the date you went to sleep in your own world." That had me confused. "Not the exact same date?" Valkyrie smirked. "Midnight."
I slapped myself on the forehead for missing something so obvious. Valkyrie continued her calculation. "What matters is, the years should be identical. People's ages should be identical. How old am I, in your world?" Now I understood what she was doing. "Thirty-Seven." Valkyrie looked up. "I just had my Thirty-Sixth birthday the other day." I nodded. "So that leaves this year and next year. I went to sleep on October 5th." Valkyrie's breathing shortened. "Even with a massacre, that kind of change can't be caused in three months." I held my hand to my chin. "So it's this year?" Valkyrie grabbed me by the shoulders. "April. Today is July 3rd." Every fiber of my being tensed up. I could not have picked a worse time to arrive. There is no way in hell that I'd be able to figure out anything in time. And yes, I said is, not was. It's currently the midnight before, so you can tell that things are a little stressful right now.
The door opened up as Courtney Locke entered the room. I probably would have been confused if I wasn't about to have a panic attack. Why was she here? Unless... "Hey, Val. Just returning your datapad. Thanks for letting me borrow it." Valkyrie gave Courtney a nervous glance. "N...no problem." Courtney walked up to Valkyrie and held her by the shoulder. "Is something wrong?" Valkyrie turned to face me and explained everything to her. I learned a thing or two while filling her in, as well. Turns out, Courtney was only a waitress part-time. She was a level-five member of Resc.ue, Science division. Valkyrie was a level-four scientist. Now, the whole thing about levels in Resc.ue, a lower number is a higher rank. Level one is reserved only for superheroes. All superheroes have an obligation to Resc.ue, so crime-fighting is actually a part-time job when you think about it.
Courtney came up with a plan. "So we have within thirty-six hours to stop this from happening. If we try and warn everyone to shut down the Protectors, it won't work. Everyone will think we're nuts, talking about time travel and parallel worlds. But if we warn all the high level scientists, then we could have a feasible reason to shut down the ships." I held my hand to my chin. "I don't know. If I've learned anything over the years, the government doesn't take too kindly to the majority of scientists trying to make a difference." Valkyrie held up a finger. "This is different. Keeping the Protectors running provides no profit for anyone."
"Do you two really think that you can warn enough scientists who will understand? I mean, Valkyrie's work alone puts most scientists to shame." Courtney nodded. "Well, yes, there aren't many scientists here who would understand the science behind a parallel universe. But surely there are some who will. And due to their level of intelligence, it won't be easy for the lower-level scientists to doubt them." I stuffed my hands in my pockets. "Fair enough. Let's go save the world."
...Aaaand, that's it, I'm afraid. Valkyrie and Courtney are busy alerting the high level scientists. I'm at Valkyrie's computer right now, finishing up this vlog. If all goes well, or even if it doesn't and I don't die in the massacre, I'll tell you all about it in the next vlog. Big day tomorrow, and I need to get some sleep. April out.
"April out." Lucy held her hands on her hips. "Well, this one was short." Howard rested his head on his hand. "So, suppose that she succeeds. Suppose she stops the 4th of July massacre. What then? What happens to us?" Lucy looked up. "Maybe the universe will change around us, and we'll finally be free." Howard stood up. "Lucy. Her house was a fast food restaurant. She said so herself, she's in the wrong time period." Lucy shrugged. "So?" Howard turned to face Lucy. "The 4th of July massacre was last year. Now, I'm no expert, but I'm fairly certain that I've been a slave for much longer than that." Lucy held her hand to her chin. "Huh. So that means... Actually, what does it mean?” Howard dropped his head on the desk. “I don’t know. This Time Travel stuff is messing with my brain.”
The next day, Howard and Lucy returned to the junk pile to gather scrap metal. When nobody else was watching, they walked up to the homeless man’s body. “Should... should we do something for him?” Howard kneeled down in front of the body and held his shoulder. “You may have had a rough life. Probably for most of your life. You probably wanted to be one of us. Treated horribly, but we get food and shelter. But in reality, I wish I could have been like you. Life treats us both horribly, but you have nobody to boss you around. And in the end... you achieved what I can only dream of. You died a free man.” Howard stood up as Lucy slowly clapped her hands. “That was pretty nice.” Howard nodded silently. Lucy crossed her arms. “Though, to be honest? He didn’t really die a free man.” Howard shrugged. “Yeah, that’s true. But I think that the injury wasn’t what killed him. He was dead the moment she started dancing.”
Howard and Lucy picked up his body and placed it on a flat stretch of the dump. “Think we can bury him with what we’ve got?” Lucy shrugged. “Maybe over the course of a week. Two, assuming we only dedicate half our day to actual slave work.” The two started digging a hole in the dump. Howard moved the scraps they dug up and threw them onto the collection pile. Lucy pulled up another handful of scraps for the grave when something fell out of her hands. Howard walked up to the thing that fell out of her hands and picked it up. “What is this?”
The object was metallic and shaped like a ring, about half a foot in diameter. A pair of prongs were sticking out of the ring, like a plug. There was a series of buttons on one of the segments, and underneath it was a compartment. Howard rubbed his fingers on the compartment, and looked at his fingertips, seeing a trickle of blood. "Uh-oh." Lucy gave Howard a confused look. "Uh-oh? What uh-oh?" Howard looked up. "I think that this thing is the time wristband." Lucy ran up to Howard. "All by itself? Then she's... She's either stranded, or... or she’s..." Howard snapped a look at Lucy. “Don’t even say it.”
The Twirling Tyrant walked up the stairs to the monumental crystal castle known as the Citadel. She continued towards the main elevator shaft to get to the top of the spire in the Citadel's center. A man in a tricorn hat and trenchcoat, eye patch on his left eye with red skin, yellow eyes and no nose or ears walked up to her and planted his hand on her shoulder. "Hey, look at who finally decided to show up." The Twirling Tyrant turned to face the Crimson Crossbones and brushed his hand off of her shoulder. "I need you to summon the Order."
The Crimson Crossbones scratched the back of his bald head. "They're all pretty busy at the moment." "This is urgent. And if they're all too busy, then why aren't you?" The Crimson Crossbones laughed. "H-hey! I'm just kidding! Give us a couple of minutes." The Crimson Crossbones flickered out of existence.
The Twirling Tyrant arrived at the top floor, entering a chamber with six thrones. Five slaves were polishing the room when she walked into the room and sat down in one of the thrones. Five out of the six thrones elevated to different heights, with a separate platform rising by their sides, each carrying a different slave. The thrones stopped when the Twirling Tyrant's throne was the second highest. She looked down at the shortest throne of the ones that rose, only to see a woman made entirely out of water flicker into existence, already seated in the throne. The woman scratched her pointy ears and opened her yellow eyes. "You called?" The Hydro Hydra asked.
The Twirling Tyrant looked down at the second shortest throne, watching a man flicker into existence above the throne, wearing a bright red cape and black jumpsuit with two M’s on the chest. The man gently descended into the throne and sat down, holding out his hand. A golden chalice flew into his hand. "I was in the middle of something important, so make it quick." The Hydro Hydra crossed her arms. "Mr. Magnificent, surely you can wait for half an hour." The Crimson Crossbones flickered into existence in the middle sized throne and sat his legs over one of the armrests. "Ha-ha! Now we're just waiting on ol' Mister Master here!"
Everyone looked up at the highest throne, watching the final member flicker into existence. He was tall, thin, wore green armor, and for some reason looked like static on a TV screen, making his face impossible to identify. When he spoke, his voice was garbled electronically. "Forgive me, my friends, but I have my hands tied at the moment and can only transmit a hologram to your time." Mr. Magnificent huffed. "Oh, so your high and mighty majesty can afford to stay, can he?" The Hydro Hydra shook her head. "The Twirling Tyrant said that it was urgent."
The hologram of the Emerald Emperor turned to face the Twirling Tyrant, arms firmly on the armrests. "What have you to report?" The Twirling Tyrant cut to the chase. "April Pride is alive." Everyone backed up in their thrones. Everything metal flew away from Mr. Magnificent. The Emerald Emperor’s hologram stood up abruptly. The Hydro Hydra held her arms out. “That’s impossible! We made sure!” Mr. Magnificent returned the chalice to his hand. “We all made sure. How is she alive?” The Emerald Emperor's hologram tightened his fists. “Does she know about us?” The Twirling Tyrant shrugged. “There was an intruder in the slave grounds. He said he had seen a girl Ginger. I asked him about the purple tips, and yes, it was her. I didn’t actually see her, but who else could it have been?” Mr. Magnificent clenched his fists. “If she’s alive, even though we changed the timeline against that fact, then it stands to reason that she will have memories of her former life.”
The Emerald Emperor’s hologram weaved his fingers through each other. “So there was a witness?” The Twirling Tyrant glanced at the slave by her side. The Crimson Crossbones adjusted his legs on the armrest and picked up a pair of flintlock pistols. He twirled the pistols in his hands and shot each slave in the forehead without turning his head or wasting a single shot. The Twirling Tyrant smirked. “The intruder is no longer alive.” Mr. Magnificent nodded. “I had a feeling you killed him.” “Now, Mr. Magnificent. You know I never take lives. I get people to take their own.” The Hydro Hydra nodded. “We are continually fascinated by your creative take on operations.” The Twirling Tyrant turned to face the Emerald Emperor’s hologram. “Regardless, we must double our efforts. This could be a serious problem, my love.”
The Emerald Emperor’s hologram nodded. “Agreed. Make her pay for what she has done to us. Council adjourned.” The Emerald Emperor’s hologram shorted out. Mr. Magnificent huffed. “All that hard work. None of it meant a thing.” Mr. Magnificent flickered out of existence. The Hydro Hydra held her hand to her chin. “We are very troubled by this revelation. Still, the girl cannot be a threat to us.” The Hydro Hydra flickered out of existence. The Crimson Crossbones twirled his flintlocks and blew on the barrels. “Boy, the big cheese sure seemed pissed.” The Twirling Tyrant snapped a look at the Crimson Crossbones. “You would be too. You can’t possibly understand how he’s suffering.” The Crimson Crossbones chuckled. “And I suppose you can?” The Crimson Crossbones flickered out of existence, leaving the Twirling Tyrant alone in the room. The Twirling Tyrant turned to face the sixth throne that had not elevated an inch. A tear fell from the Twirling Tyrant’s eye.