History Unwound: Scavengers

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Over the next two weeks, Howard and Lucy continued to secretly dig a grave for the homeless man. Howard picked up the body and carried it towards the grave. Lucy looked down in silence, then looked up in confusion. "Wait... How are you..." Howard's foot misstepped on the edge, both himself and the body tumbling to the bottom. The body landed on his stomach, and the head landed beside his own. "...Going to lower him down?" Howard moved the body off of his chest and realigned the body and head. Howard looked up at Lucy. "Can you see if there's a rope in this dump?" Lucy turned around and left to look for a rope.

Howard looked around the grave. A ghostly image faded into existence behind him. Howard spun around abruptly to face the figure. "Ghosts now?" The ghost shook his head, a ginger boy about 14 years old with a cocky smile and bright green eyes, brown jacket and pants, black shirt and bright red sneakers. "I barely understand what's going on myself. But I think it has something to do with what Kelsey told me and my sister. The thing about parallel universes." Howard pointed at the ghost. "You're April's brother? ...Bobby... Brandon... Benjamin..." The ghost held up his hand. "Baxter." "Baxter! Right! The kid who backflipped across the street during traffic, right?" Baxter clicked his tongue, winked and snapped his fingers into a point.

"So what are you doing here? How are you alive?" Baxter shrugged and turned around. "Haven't a clue, really. To be honest, I don't even know if I'm really alive at all. Then again, if this is what it's like to be dead, then why can you and I talk? Why aren't there like a trillion more of me?" Howard shrugged. "Valid point. Especially with the 4th of July massacre." Baxter turned to face Howard. "Never heard of it." "It's something from this universe. Speaking of which, in yours... You, your sister, and Lucy are acquainted, right?" Baxter made a very cocky but charming chuckle. "You got that right, Chipper!"

Howard took a step back. "Chipper?" Baxter chuckled again. "Come on, you've got to remember all the times we've called you Chipper!" Howard's mind started racing. "We knew each other?" Baxter planted his fists on his hips. "Man, oh, man. I thought that your best friends would be the one thing that you do remember." "We're friends?" As confusing as this new development was, it did clear up a thing or two. "Guess that explains why it went to me." "Why what went to you?"

A rope landed on Howard's head and phased through Baxter's. "Whoah! Now I kinda get what it feels like to be my sister." Howard looked up to see Lucy. "Is that..." Baxter winked. "You know it!" Howard climbed up the rope to the surface. Baxter tried to grab the rope, but his hand went right through. "Sorry, Baxter." Baxter shrugged. "Well, can't get everything you want. Just don't fill this up with me in it, huh?" Howard nodded. "And, uh, if you can, send me a magazine or something? I don't want to just sit here with some dead guy."

Later that night, Howard and Lucy returned to his room. Lucy looked at Howard. "Anything yet?" Howard checked his email. "Not yet." Howard stood up when the computer beeped at him. "Speak of the devil."

.........This... This is my third report. I'm just going to be blunt here: I screwed up. Everything's taken a turn for the crappy. And I can't even go back in time to try again and fix it. The time wristband is either missing, or destroyed. Needless to say, I couldn't stop the 4th of July massacre from happening. At least I know what it is now, and how it happened so that if, by some random luck, I get the wristband back, I can prevent it from happening.

I was just finishing up my second Vlog on Valkyrie's computer when Courtney walked into the room. "April," she said, "I have a theory about what's been going on. About what's going to happen." I nodded. "And?" Courtney scratched the back of her head. "I thought it was weird at first, but in my part-time job at Alex's diner, there was a new waitress. The strange thing is, I don't think that there was even an interview."

"Strange, but what does that have to do with anything?" "I'm getting there. She's been flirting with a lot of the customers. Totally against the employee code of conduct, but either no other employees notice or they just don't care." This was strange, but completely irrelevant. "....and?" Courtney turned around. "I didn't realize it until you warned me about the massacre, but every single customer she was flirting with was an employee of Resc.ue." I looked up. "Are you certain?" Courtney nodded. I stood up. "I think I need to see for myself."

In the morning, the three of us went to Alex's diner for breakfast. To anyone else, Courtney was just being a waitress, but Valkyrie and I knew she was spying on her co-workers. Because Alex's diner was just across the block from the bridge to the Sentinel, and because it served anything you could think of, it was the place most employees went to eat in their time off. A false waitress could easily find an employee or two and somehow compromise them. Courtney delivered our breakfast and smiled. "Hey, mind if I sit down with you two? I've got a few minutes to spare." I scooted to the side so she could sit down, and took a bite of my bacon. Courtney reached into her pocket. "Hey, Val, have you seen my new sunglasses?" Courtney pulled a pair of sunglasses from her pocket and put them on. From a distance, they looked like everyday sunglasses, but up close, they were very clearly mirrors. Courtney did a cute look to the side, angling the mirrors so that the waitress in question was visible. I turned my head to face the waitress while Valkyrie looked at the sunglasses. If Valkyrie had turned her head to face the waitress, her cover would have been blown.

Valkyrie nodded. "There's a lot of rumors going around the office by the water cooler. Some even say that the boss is having an affair." I faked a laugh, understanding her message. The waitress was flirting with Valkyrie's boss. The two got up and left the building. I bit my lip. "Excuse me, is there a bathroom here?" Courtney waved her arm to the bathroom. I got up and walked to the bathroom. Once inside, I made sure that nobody else was in the room. I phased through the wall, exiting the building. I turned the corner to find the waitress talking to Valkyrie's boss. The waitress stepped to the side and held up her arms, then stepped to the other side. She just danced back and forth in front of the guy. Back and forth, back and forth. At first, I didn't have a clue what was going on, but I noticed that I was starting to feel sleepy. I thought it was because that I hadn't gotten any sleep last night, but it wasn't until later that I realized that the two were connected.

Next thing I knew, I was in Valkyrie's laboratory, and I had a massive headache. The first thing I saw was Valkyrie putting away a large steel pipe. "What's going..." All of a sudden, I found myself on a large bed, Valkyrie and Courtney standing before me. My headache remained, but it wasn't nearly as bad. "What the hell just happened?" Valkyrie held her hands behind her back. "When you didn't come back from spying on the waitress, we went to look for you. You were just standing there, barely even blinking. We had to bring you to the lab. Once we figured out that you had been hypnotized, we tried everything we could think of to bring you out of the trance." That made sense. The waitress was hypnotizing the guy, and by spying on her, she accidentally hypnotized me too. But the fact that I was just standing there means that she didn't know, and that she never gave me a suggestion.

"Ultimately, we resorted to the barbaric solution. Hitting you really hard in the head." That explained my headache. And my sudden arrival in this room. "How long have I been unconscious?" Courtney sighed. "Six hours." My headache was suddenly the least of my problems. I bolted to my feet. "It's 4 pm?" We didn't know what time the massacre was, but now there were under eight hours left. Valkyrie kneeled down to be level with me. "If all the staff have been hypnotized, then warning Resc.ue to shut down the Protectors won't make a difference." I stepped off the bed. "So we need to..."

I couldn't finish my sentence, because a loud blast shattered all of the windows. The three of us ran outside to see what was happening. The Protectors were high in the sky, unleashing bullets, missiles and lasers on the city. Entire buildings were mowed down in mere seconds. What wasn’t damaged by the Protectors was destroyed by the fire caused from the devastation. The three of us ran back into the house to protect ourselves. We hightailed it for the basement, but unfortunately, I blacked out again. All I saw was a flash of light and a very loud ringing in my ears before losing consciousness.

I could have sworn that I was dead. As soon as I woke up, all I could see was the remains of the house. That’s when I realized what had happened. One of the missiles had struck Valkyrie’s house and turned it to ash, and the explosion phased right through me. If I had any other power, there is no way I would have survived. Unfortunately, this version of Valkyrie had no powers, and neither did Courtney. I searched the basement for them, but remembered that I saw the flash of the explosion before blacking out. There was no way they could have made it down there in half a second. Not that it would have helped if they could.

I had failed to prevent the 4th of July massacre from happening. I sank to my knees. This was almost as bad as that fateful night when I killed Jason. I had plenty of time to stop the massacre once I figured out what was happening, but I spent half of it standing still and the other half unconscious. But unlike my first fight, it wasn't just the boy I loved who died. It was the vast majority of Geo City. And for those of you who don't know, Geo City is colossal. Over ten million people. And maybe a few thousand remained. A few thousand may sound like a lot, but compared to ten million, it's nothing. And it only lasted maybe two minutes. Ten million deaths in two minutes. It's like if you took the swiftness of the Hindenburg or 9/11 and combined it with the devastation of the Holocaust. Yes, I'm serious. It was that horrible. So I did the only thing I could do after taking all that in. I fell to my hands and knees and threw up.

Then I had an idea. I knew how the massacre happened now, I could just retrieve the time wristband and go back in time, and try again. I got to my feet and ran back for the fast food restaurant I left it in. But when I got there, the place was nothing but a pile of rubble. I dug through the pile as much as I could, but I couldn't find the wristband. Either they unlocked it quicker than I expected and someone took it, or it was destroyed with the rest of the building.

So, sorry, but there's really nothing more that I can do at this point. This is my last vlog, I was very lucky to find a working computer to record it in the first place. I just found this one by random chance a week later. I'm going to sign off here. I couldn't stop the massacre from happening, and I can't go back and change it, but maybe I can try to repair the damage as much as I can. Goodbye.

Howard clicked on the X button and closed the video player. “Well, she tried.” Lucy sighed. “I guess that’s the end of the vlogs." Howard picked up the time wristband and took a look at it. "Yeah. There's nothing to do without this." Howard spun the device around in his hands. "Unless... She gets some form of help." Lucy shook her head. "Do you have any idea how to use that thing? You could end up in the prehistoric times, or inside a wall."

Suddenly, a loud noise thumped in the ventilation shaft above them. Howard looked up and held his finger to his lips, backing out of view of the grate. Howard and Lucy silently watched as the grate fell off of the shaft. Someone slowly lowered themself out of the shaft before letting go and dropping to the floor. Howard crossed his arms. "Can I help you?" The person quickly spun around, startled by being caught. Howard was about to say something when he noticed who it was.

"Oh my god. April?" April Pride took a step back. There was no mistaking the fact that it was her, even if she looked a smidgen older. Her hair had gotten much longer, and the dyes had faded away. "How do you know..." April smiled. "You saw the vlogs, didn't you?" Howard nodded. "My name is..." April held up a hand. "I know who you are." Lucy tilted her head. "You do?" Howard scratched the back of his head. "Of course. Baxter said we were friends."

Now it was April's turn to be confused. "Baxter's alive?" Lucy shrugged. "We honestly don't know. He looked like a ghost. Acted like one too." April held her hands to her hips. "Define acted like a ghost." Lucy chuckled. "He was just like you, phasing through things." April breathed a sigh of relief. "And here I was worried that he was going... Ooooh!" April raised her arms up with limp hands to imitate a ghost. Howard and Lucy couldn't help but laugh. April put her arms down. "Wonder why he's like that right now. But I'm glad he's okay."

Howard shrugged. "So what are you doing here?" April sat down on Howard's bed. "It's like I said in the last vlog, about a year ago. I'm trying to fix the damage." Lucy sat down next to April. "That's another thing. You said that one year ago, everything was like what you're used to. But Howard and I have been slaves for much longer than that. So what's that all about?" April held open her palms. "Beats the hell out of me." April lied down on the bed. "Anyway, I'm exhausted. It's been a long year."

Lucy nodded. "You've got to tell us everything." Howard handed April the wristband. "And you're going to need this." April held up the wristband and looked at it. "Hello, old friend." April turned her head to face Howard. "How did you find this?" Howard sat down. "We found it in the garbage dump we were relocated to." April nodded. "Garbage dump... Oh yeah. I almost forgot." Lucy looked down. "He's dead, by the way. The homeless man, the Twirling Tyrant hypnotized him to suicide." April dropped her arm. "That's... That's horrible."

Howard looked up. "The Twirling Tyrant. April, you said that the waitress was spinning back and forth in front of that guy, and that the agency was being hypnotized." April snapped her fingers. "Yep. I discovered that exact connection six months ago. And if the Twirling Tyrant was responsible for the massacre, a major change in the timeline, then that means that the Emerald Emperor and his lackeys can't be far behind. Only he would have turned the remains of the Sentinel into that crystal castle they call the Citadel." Lucy nodded. "Explains why we were digging up gemstones. Can't be the Emerald Emperor without a few emeralds, right?"

April spun the wristband in her hands. "According to rumors, his armor is made of real emeralds and whatnot. I've never met him, but I've heard a lot about him. If it wasn't for all this, I wouldn't be impressed." Howard turned to face April. "Why not?" April sighed. "He's just so... Generic and bland. His evil plan? To take over the world. Points for originality, right? Also, most supervillains have an army of henchmen, but not this guy. Just the four lackeys. I'm genuinely surprised that he's responsible for all this."

Howard sat down beside April. "So how do you intend to free everyone from the hypnosis? I mean, two of the greatest scientists tried everything they could think of." April sat up and held her hand to her chin. "I don't even know if that was relevant. Remember, she didn't know that she hypnotized me, and never planted a suggestion. The blunt force might have just been to break me out of the trance. I don't know how to get rid of a post-hypnotic suggestion, much less for everyone in the Sentinel."

Lucy nodded, and rubbed her forehead. "I wish we could help, but I've got no clue. The whole thing is going to give me a headache." April turned to face Lucy. "We can ask Valkyrie when we get back." Howard looked confused. "We?" April smiled. "You didn't think that I would leave you two here, did you?"
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