Man of Time

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Chapter 8- One Step Closer

“You what!?”

Back at the factory, Ralph was explaining what happened during our outing. The most eventful turn of, well, events since I arrived.

“Look, getting this from the corporation means we’re one step closer to locating Alexander.”

Edith’s panicked expressions hardened, deep in silenced thought.

“With this, I can potentially locate him.”

Everyone’s jaw dropped. Looking at Ralph with disbelief in their eyes. Edith seemed overwhelmed with emotion, thus the shiny gloss collecting in her inner corners. She crossed her arms, trying to appear unphased.

“So, we can kill the dude now.” Helda propped her feet on the coffee table beside the stairs, lounging on a couch.

“No.” Edith scolded, “I will kill him. We will infiltrate his location and put a stop to this once and for all.” She instructed sternly.

Catori pursed her lips, “What if he’s in another country? What will we do then?”

“We all collectively have enough money saved for something like this. We’ll get on a damn plane and find the machine.” She confirmed.

“I have some contacts across some major cities in the world. If we fly out of the country, I’m sure I can book us a quality hotel.” Blake added hesitantly.

“I appreciate the offer, but you don’t need to get us fancy hotels.” Edith shook her head, annoyed by the concept.

“I would fight with you.” Blake stood upright, locking eyes with Edith.

The pent up tension simmered. Blake’s head was held high with a face of confidence. To Edith, it wasn’t a given that they’d risk their life for our cause. Blake had a life, a good life in 2020. Everyone was secretly amazed that they’ve stayed so long. Unlike the rest of us, Blake had the option to turn around and never look back, and they’d still have everything.

And we, don’t have that luxury.

“This could be the key to getting the time machine. You all deserve to go home. Those brainwashed Forgotten, deserve to go home. I want to put a stop to the corporation just as much as the rest of you.” Their mature tone resonated throughout the floor.

“How are you supposed to take down this big corporation. Aren’t there hundreds of powered at their disposal?” I asked, shifting my body with folded arms.

“I- I don’t know yet.” Edith stuttered, her intense persona dropping. “Once we find a location, I’ll come up with a proper plan.” She sounded uncertain, temporarily avoiding eye contact, “Blake, are you able to restore memories people have lost?”

“I mean, I’ve worked on several patients who’ve suffered from brain damage, but I’ve never tried to restore their memory, why?” Blake asked.

“If you’re able to restore memories, maybe we can erase the brainwashing the corporation’s done on the Forgotten. It would make things a hell of a lot simpler.”

“I don’t know, I would need a test subject to work with. I haven’t tried anything like that before.” Their forehead creased.

“Okay.” Edith inhaled deeply, “Ralph, go see what you can do about locating Alexander. Bhaskar, with me, I need your opinion on something.”

“What can I do to help?” Blake rested their hands, taking a step with haste.

“Aid Ralph in whatever he needs.” Edith gestured, starting to walk away with Bhaskar.

“Got it.” They nodded to themself, heading over to Ralph’s workspace.

Once everyone dispersed, only Catori and I were left.

“Do you really think Ralph will be able to find this Alexander?” I asked.

“I sure hope so. We have waited so long, but were too afraid to risk our safety. But if anyone can figure it out, it’s Ralph.” Catori smiled, turning to me with compassion.

“Who is Alexander?”

Catori gestured me to sit before beginning, “He’s the current CEO of the Lothar Corporation. Alexander Lothar, passed down by Christa Lothar, from Karl Lothar. Founded by the original founder, Otto Lothar in 1913. Otto had three sons, two of which disappeared. They’ve passed down ownership as their company expanded over the century. Despite their influence, Alexander is the last surviving Lothar. When we take him down, the rest of the corporation will crumble. Once we accomplish that, we can send everyone home to their times.”

My capture was apart of something much larger than I could have ever imagined. Me, being turned into a brainwashed soldier? It’s hard to imagine what would have happened if it weren’t for Blake. Instead of being turned into a rogue pawn serving a supremist queen, I was instead liberated from that fate. But liberation has led me scrambling to find temporary identity in this twisted world. In the world of kings and queens, I struggled to find purpose. I was being shaped to serve others. But now, I’m among other victims who want to reshape the playing board. To take back their purpose and place their destiny in their own hands.

I didn’t have control over my capture, but I’m realizing I do have the power to turn the tides towards justice. Only justice, can bring peace. This was bigger than my desire to return home. I needed to help those who are enduring a much worse reality.

I couldn’t turn a blind eye.

When I return to 1920, I’ll return to a painfully mundane existence. I’m no one special. Not in this time or any other. I know my life has no value. Despite my best efforts, I’ll never achieve excellence.

Because I’m nothing.

“I want to be apart of it.”

But, if I could make a real change in this reality…

“Apart of what?”

“I want to help take down the corporation. I’ll fight with you.”

And help those who have value get their lives back.

Catori narrowed her eyes, “You’re not much of a fighter, Raymond.” She tilted her head.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to get back to the people I love. I can’t sit around and watch the rest of you make sacrifices while I do nothing. There are people like us who need help. People who deserve to be free. If I can play a small part in their liberation then, I think I deserve to go home.”

Catori looked away, squinting her eyes before facing me, “You’ll need to train, the people we’ll face will kill you in an instant.”

“Then I’ll train. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

I could tell Catori wanted to say something, but she refrained. Instead, she nodded. She carried the conversation into what kind of tasks I’d be needing to accomplish. The physical and mental challenges that would follow until Ralph finds Alexander.

After being alone for some time, I heard quite footsteps behind us. We glanced back, seeing Bhaskar approaching. His face maintained his typical neutral tranquility.

“Is everything alright.” Catori asked.

Bhaskar nodded, pulling a deck of cards out of his pocket, gesturing the table. Catori agreed to the silent request, inviting him to sit. Bhaskar took the cards from the case, his fingers wrapping around the card’s creased edges with delinquency.

“What did you both talk about?” Catori referenced Edith.

After shuffling his cards, he set them down. He spoke calming with his free hands, a language I did not understand. I couldn’t read sign language, and frankly, was too nervous to ask. So I sat silently, and listened to Catori’s half of the conversation.

“Ah, I see.” Restrained vain consumed her tongue, “I’ll have to talk to her about that.” Her gaze fell onto the cards, “What game are we playing?”

Bhaskar moved his hand in response, “Jin, yes.An excellent game to play.” Catori repeated his word, trying to distract herself from their conversation.

“Uh, how do we play that?” I moved next to Catori, leaning towards Bhaskar for observation.

I watched as he laid the cards before us, gesturing for me to pick up the pile placed in front of me. Catori explained the rules, and helped me in the first round. The two of them were very supportive during the game, patient with my indecisiveness. After a few rounds though, things became more competitive.

“Jin!” Catori giggled in triumph, smacking her cluster of cards against the table.

Bhaskar rolled his eyes in defeat before mimicking Catori’s action, pointing to one missing card from his set. I congratulated her victory and gave Bhaskar some encouragement.

By now, the factory’s tan walls reflected a soft, orange hue that poured in from the windows. We joked and made light of each other’s defeats. I even got to boast a few rounds. With the help of Catori, Bhaskar and I were able to bond for the first time. Having a conversation about the little things this reality had to offer, the textures in newer materials, buzzes of technology, and the pleasantries in modern foods.

Soon the generic question of my past was asked. I explained the same story, and was given the same understanding reaction. I asked for his past next, causing him to set down his cards to speak;

“I was born in India.” Catori translated for me. “I was the only one in my family who had powers. I started street performance to feed them. I got very popular… And one day, I signed a contract for a local cirques. Thought it would make me famously rich. I was wrong. The director sold me to an international buyer, who took me to America. I was apart of a freakshow for 6 years.”

“That’s insane. Was it scary?” I asked.

“Very. I had to learn the language all on my own. Even then I didn’t pick up on it well. Not til I arrived here.”

I’m so fortunate that I was only taken 20 minutes from where I lived. I couldn’t imagine coming from another country, and having to learn another language.

“What was the first thing you thought was too good to be true?” I returned my cards for another round, catching a glimpse of Blake walking toward us.

“Honestly, clothes. I wore rags in 1850. But clothes here, incredible. I like the way different cloths feel in my hand.” He smiled.

“Me too. Thank you for letting me borrow your clothes until I get my own.” I thanked.

“Speaking of which, when are they supposed to arrive?” Catori noticed Blake as well.

“They said the company they ordered from is having shipment issues…”

“Hey everyone, I was going to pick up some dinner, does korean food sound good?” Blake asked, resting their hand on the railing of the stairs.

“No complaints from me.” Catori responded sweetly.

I held my biceps, “I’ll try it.” My chest tightening.

“Alright, I’ll be back in about 30 minutes.” They nodded before disappearing down the stairs.

We continued our small conversations over the game, exchanging remarks over modern pleasantries. Edith had made her way around the corner, coming to investigate our gathering. She leaned over Catori’s shoulder, hands pressed into the couch to hold her weight.

“Hello dear,” Catori’s body loosened by her presence, “Should I play this card, or keep it?” Catori’s head lingered fairly close to Edith’s chest.

“Mmm…” Edith pointed to a certain card, nudging her head.

“My apologies Raymond, but I believe I just won the game.” Catori smirked, setting down her champion set.

“Darn it!” I exclaimed, “I’ll beat you next time!”

“You guys still playing that card game.” Helda joined us in the living room, curiosity lingering from her slim figure.

“Yes, and Catori won.” I commented.

“You should join us. Both of you.” Catori looked up at Edith.

“Maybe next time.” Edith spoke with warmth in her tone.

“How about you, Helda? Want to join?” I focused on the bubbly teen.

“Nah, I’ll pass.”

“Too good to play with a couple of boring adults?” Catori teased.

“No!” Helda tensed, curving her brows.

“Yeah, we must be so boring. So boring compared to that phone of yours.” Edith joked, acknowledging the phone in Helda’s hand. “When we were kids, none of us had technology to depend on…”

Helda rolled her eyes dramatically, “You’re just like every other boomer.”

“Am I now?” Edith’s playfulness turned sour.

“I’m back!” Blake called from the stairs.

Perfect save.

“I’ll get the table set…” Catori moved quickly to remove herself the the awkwardness in the air.

“I’ll help!” Helda leaped to Catori’s side, brushing past Edith’s judgmental stare.

Bhaskar cleaned up the cards as Edith asked us a question, “What does everyone want to drink?”

Everyone else responded before me, “I’ll have a lemonade please, and Ralph will probably want water. I’ll go get him.” I dismissed myself from the company, walking around the corner to the open workspace.

Ralph clearly hadn’t heard our conversation, his head was buried too deep into his work. An intense expression glossed over his glasses. My shadow caught his attention, leading to an exhausted smile;

“Hey.” He said, hand under his chin.

“Blake just arrived with dinner.” I informed, joining his side to observe his work. “Seems intense.”

“You have no idea…” He chuckled, “Tell Blake to put my food in the fridge.” He tuned back into his work, hands typing away.

“10 minutes.” I said, “Is that too much to ask?” My tone reflected sincerity, “How often are we all here to dine together?”

With our differing schedules, it was a rare occurrence for everyone to be in the same place. I found that eating together brought a sense of community that I desperately longed for. It was nice getting to know people. Getting to know friends. Although it’s only been a little over 2 weeks, I began to feel at ease around them. For now, this is the kind of life I’ve been given. I knew resisting change wouldn’t help me return to the people I loved. Bonding with these people evoked a happiness I never knew I could have.

My family would be proud of me.

The best I could do is make the best of this bizarre situation. I already accomplished the first step, making friends. And now, I needed to do everything I could to get to that time machine, and return home so this horrible nightmare could end.

“Okay, I’ll join.”

On second thought, maybe this nightmare wasn’t so horrible...

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