Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dvorak Classic: Chapter Sixteen

Dvorak Classic
Chapter 16 (or, "The Basics of QWERTY")

Yesterday’s Episode: Mac and Carissa were introduced to Rue, a person who might just have some of the answers they are looking for.

   Mac sat down on the cafeteria table. There was still smoke around them, but since they were frozen in time, they could breathe the air around them fine as it filtered in from who knew where. Carissa sat next to him, closer than either of them anticipated. “My head still hurts a little,” Carissa said, and Mac let her sit close, even though he didn’t know the full meaning of her statement.
    He wished he did.
    “So,” he said, looking straight at the woman who had broken through their reality slip and crashed their party, “tell me who you are. Like, really. No fooling.”
    The woman nodded. “My full name is Aurora Radilla de la Pasquale, but everybody calls me Rue. You may, as well. I am an associate with the Quintessential Works for Everyday Reasons To Yield, Llorin Division, Dealey Faction.”
    “The what now?” Mac asked. He noticed that Carissa wasn’t speaking up, most likely because her head still hurt. Very well. He was fine with interrogating this Rue solo, and he wasn’t going to go easy on her.
    “I told you. The Quintessential Works for Everyday Reasons To Yield. It’s a top secret, cross-dimensional platform that makes sure rules and regulations are adhered to. I know all about your issues with reality, how it keeps starting and stopping, and how people don’t remember it, and how you didn’t know how to do it yourself even now.”
    Mac looked down at the apple that Carissa had taken a bite out of. He looked over at Carissa herself and saw that she had her eyes closed, probably dozing. And for good reasons. Today had been a long day. In fact, these had been several long days in a row now.
    “What’s with the apple thing?” he asked. “We’re seeing apples all over the place now. I mean, it clearly means something, but I don’t know exactly what it is. I’ve been trying to figure it out, but there’s no simple answer. Do you know what kind of adventures we’ve been on?”
    “I hadn’t, but before I got here, I reviewed your file to make sure I understood the case,” Rue said.
    “Oh. File?”
    “The one Carissa’s representative set up.”
    “You’re not making any sense. Can you speak in a language I can understand, please?”
    “I am. I reviewed your file, so I know all of the so called adventures you and this girl have been on. I do believe you had a question for me?”
    Mac tried his best to contain himself. “The apples.”
    “Oh. That is the symbol that Carissa’s representative has set up for this project. If you see an apple, you know you’re on the right track. And, as you can see, Carissa has figured out that using an apple stops the flow of this dimension, for as long as you like.”
    So we can get her to a hospital after this, Mac thought to himself. Heck, I could take her and get her right there before reality starts up again. “You keep talking about Carissa’s representative. I’m just curious: is that the creepy old lady she keeps running into?”
    “You would be correct. But she’s not old and creepy in the dimension I call home. That’s just the way she has decided to appear to Carissa.”
    Mac thought back to the picture of the two people that they had found, the one Dan had analyzed at Kofenya. “So that picture really was the lady, and the man who died, but in another dimension? Where the old lady is younger like she is in the photo?”
    Rue nodded her approval. “You understand well, Macardle Irving Taggart. In fact, you understand so well that I bet, if your circumstances were different, then you would have been picked to assist us with this project instead of the girl.”
    He looked at Carissa, then back at Rue. “What are you talking about?”
    “She’s pretty well asleep, so I’ll make this clear only once, Taggart. QWERTY monitors everything that happens in this universe, and several others that you can barely imagine. We monitor for inconsistencies and do our best to make sure they are fixed, that the rules of each universe and world are adhered to. Do you have any clue as to what I am speaking about, Mr. Taggart?”
    He did. He did know. And it was something he had never spoken to anyone about. “What does my...inconsistency have to do with all of these reality slips?”
    “Nothing as far as triggering them. But you remember how hard it was for you to get into this school? That was my doing. You’re not supposed to be in this school, Mac. You were supposed to stay in Brooklyn. And hindsight tells us now that you were supposed to stay in Brooklyn so that you wouldn’t get involved in this project that Carissa is working on. But that’s free will for you. You think you know best, yet you never get the full story.”
    Mac was silent for a moment, digesting this latest bit of information. “What is this project that Carissa is supposed to do?” he asked. “She’s received some clues from the lady saying to stay away from that Saint Arbucks, and to solve something before the fated day.”
    “That girl is the one out of your group with the power to bend this reality now,” Rue said. “She has temporarily become one of us. Therefore, she needs to stay away from our operations base – that Saint Arbucks – or else time and space will warp on their own. And she will need to fix this reality before the chosen day, or all of the inconsistencies around her will automatically try to fix themselves.”
    He didn’t like where this was going. “What do you mean?”
    “If the inconsistencies are not fixed, they will be automatically eliminated by the system. I’m sure you understand why you can’t inform her of any of this information. She must decide for herself what she is to do with this reality. There is potential for greatness here, but there is an end goal. To reach that end goal, it may be necessary for some of the inconsistencies to be eliminated anyway. But the decision is Carissa’s alone. If you influence that decision and Carissa fails in her mission, you can be sure your inconsistency will be exposed.”
    “So...I can’t tell her?”
    “Precisely. And it’s a bit late to try and fix your own problem, is it not?”
    “I’ve beaten the system once before, and I’ll beat it again if I have to.”
    “Oh, but you’re not supposed to break the rules. My boss doesn’t like it when people break the rules.” Rue grinned and sat her head on her hands, propping it up. “Isn’t that right?”
    It hurt. He tried to ignore it, but it was impossible. “So what can I do?”
    “Well, since you’re here, you can help her with her mission. See if you can decode the clues that her rep has set up. The Saint Arbucks is her home base, as I mentioned, and that’s why you can’t go back there. Every time you get close, it will set off another slip, as you saw last time. Any other Saint Arbucks is fine.”
    “Okay. When is the fated day?”
    “Nuh uh uh, you know I can’t tell you that. All I can say is that it’s much closer than you think. You’ve wasted too much time, although now that Carissa has figured out how to manipulate this dimension, you’ll have a distinct advantage.” Rue stood up. “And with that, I’ve given you all of the information I can at this time. You’re doing good, Mac. Better than I thought you would be doing, considering it all.”
    Mac had a feeling Rue wasn’t talking about just this project. “You mentioned you’re my representative. What does that mean?”
    As she stood in the window, the smoke seemed to glow with the way the sun hit the panes. Rue turned back at Mac. “What do you think it means?”
    And then she was gone, without any warning. Time was still frozen, and Mac knew now that was Carissa’s doing. What puzzle did she have to figure out? What kind of power had she been given? And what responsibility with it? He still didn’t have it figured out, but he knew now that he had to.
    Rue had made it painfully clear: his own inconsistency was on the line.
    He touched Carissa on the shoulder. “Are you still asleep?” It then occurred to him that, maybe, Rue had done something to Carissa to make her sleep like this. Maybe that conversation they had just had had been meant for his ears only.
    He would do with the information what he could. And until then, he just had to get Carissa to the hospital before things got worse.
    He touched her on the shoulder again, then moved her aside and steadied himself. He reached under and lifted Carissa into his arms, holding her close. Perhaps the most important question was: who was this girl who had been thrust into his life without any warning? According to Rue, he only had a limited amount of time to figure it all out.
    She stayed asleep as Mac carried her through the burning building, as he sat her sleeping form next to his bike and ran back to get her duffel. She stayed asleep as he steadied her and powered on the bike, not pedaling at all, holding her with one arm and steadying her weight with his knees, steering with the other arm. She didn’t wake up as they passed by a frozen city, cars and traffic lights and people and dogs and pigeons not moving a single inch, yielding all of their power to a school age girl temporarily gifted with the literal ability to change the world.
    He didn’t know what this QWERTY organization was up to. All he knew was that he would help get the project done, or else.
    And Carissa slept as they rode across town, to the hospital. She slept up until Mac had her safely seated in an emergency room armchair and her name written at the top of the list.
    Then she -- and the rest of the world -- woke up.

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