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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes, Charlie Boone! - 7. Chapter 7

Charlie and the others returned to the living room of Martin Jemeson's house. It was amply and comfortably furnished, though the evidence was plain that this was not a home of great wealth. But the personal touches were clear, the love of the place itself, and of the two people that called it home apparent in every nuance of the setting. A cheerful fire burned in the fireplace, filling the room with warmth, and Emma Jemeson looked pleased to have a guest to visit, even one from an alternate reality.

"We don't get enough company here," she told Akeeri. "Please have a seat and be comfortable."

But the giant Simisant looked around, and then gave a growling laugh. "I think my mass might not be good for the seating you have to offer. I will stand, for now."

Emma looked distressed at the notion, but Martin took her gently by one arm and pushed her down into a seat. Then he turned back to Akeeri and nodded. "What can we do to help you?"

"At this point, I am not certain. I have located Rimzi's whereabouts, but have not discerned his plans."

Emma gave a small shrug of her shoulders. "If you know where he is, can't you simply go and get him?"

"No. While Rimzi can change his shape and hold it for days at a time, my talent in this area tires me very quickly. In only minutes I am exhausted and have to revert to my normal appearance. That is not enough time to go to town, be among your people, and bring Rimzi out. My last attempt to get close resulted in my being pursued by your kind and their scenting animals. Uh--"

"Dogs," Emma filled in, smiling.

"This Rimzi...he's stronger with these powers than you are?" Martin sounded worried now.

Akeeri made the little growl that was a laugh. "No. Talents vary among my kind, with some being low-grade talents, while others we do with great proficiency. Shapeshifting is not a primary strength I possess. However, I am extremely able in other areas, which is why I was asked to do this particular job."

Martin looked relieved. "I see. So this Rimzi is in town, pretending to be one of my kind? Do you know who he is?"

"I believe he goes by the name Milton Strider."

Emma and Martin both gasped.

"Milton Strider!" Martin repeated, sounding horrified. "That's John Remson's right-hand man!"

The Simisant looked from one human to the other. "I don't know that name."

"He's the mayor," Emma said, her eyes wide.

Akeeri squinted uncertainly at the term. "A leader of your people?"

"John is elected mayor of the town, yes," Martin provided. "He's a decent man, too. I can't believe he would be involved in something like this!"

"He does not know, I am certain," Akeeri decided. "It is not in Rimzi's profile that he would take any of your people into his confidence."

Emma offered a faint smile. "As you have, with us?"

The Simisant laughed. "Yes. Rimzi is not the trusting kind."

"I always thought Milton was a bit of a brawler of some sort," Martin confirmed. "He's always made me a little uneasy. He drinks, and he likes to gamble, and often has a card game going evenings in the front room at the hotel. He hunts and traps game, but seems especially zealous about it. Overkill, I always thought. How he charmed his way into John Remson's good graces is beyond me. But he takes care of a lot of things for John. Looks after his horses, drives his carriage, helps him in the office and out at the house. John's wife, Clara, died of the influenza a few years back. Milton Strider showed up in town sometime after that, and made himself useful to John in his hour of need, I guess. John will not take kindly to learning he has an anarchist working for him."

"We will not tell him, so he will not know." Akeeri leaned forward pointedly. "Each of your people that has knowledge of this situation is one more incidence of interference in this reality. This cannot be allowed to build. Already, the indigenous peoples have created stories about Rimzi. It cannot become known here that he is a visitor from an alternate reality."

"Rimzi has been here so long," Emma said then. "You said two-hundred years. How is it that he is only now starting trouble?"

"Your culture here has taken this long to advance. Rimzi's first assignment here was to observe the scattered indigenous peoples that inhabit this valley. Their level of technology was very low, and they were separated by tribal customs and history. It was only with the influx of settlers from the continent across the ocean to the east that the level of technology and society here began to rise at a rate that first interested Rimzi. His observation time ran out after a century, and he did not return. It has taken this long since then to determine his goals and ascertain his intent to create trouble here."

"You mean the local tribes know about him?" Martin asked. "How is that?"

For several seconds, Akeeri was quiet. "This is most disturbing," he finally said.

Emma clasped her hands in her lap. "We can't help you if we don't know," she pointed out.

"Yes." Akeeri spread his arms. "You must know that my kind are generally peaceful. We do not condone violence, and shy away from it as a method of solving problems. It...it took a long time to finally understand what Rimzi was up to here in your world." He looked from one human face to the other. "The indigenous peoples know of him because, for a long time before it was discovered...he hunted them for sport."

Emma sat back hard in her seat, and Martin's eyes widened. "Hunted them!"

"Yes. I know it is a frightful idea. But an extensive psychological profile has been developed on Rimzi, which I had access to when I accepted this job." He turned towards Martin. "Your use of the term anarchist is very much the correct one. Rimzi is one who feels that the rules and laws of society do not apply to him."

"But...the world you come from is more advanced than ours," Emma said. "No one could see that about this...man? How was he allowed to come here, if he was so dangerous?"

"Rimzi is an expert at hiding his true self, it seems." The Simisant closed his eyes, thinking. "There is a word...ah. He is a chameleon. That, I believe, is a small life-form in your world that can hide its true nature by blending in with its surroundings?"

"Yes." Emma nodded. "I understand."

Akeeri looked relieved. "The screening process has since been intensified."

"So, how was he found out?" Martin asked.

"In our world, artificial intelligences monitor and calculate the world lines as they progress. The deviation of this world line caused by Rimzi's presence was quickly noted after he stopped behaving himself and refused to return home. The man sees himself as the chief actor on a world stage, with events of reality circling him, instead of him being a part of the flow. He revels in dramas of his own making. Recently, the indicators have come to suggest that conditions here have become ripe for Rimzi's sort of...showmanship...to escalate."

"What conditions?" Martin asked.

Akeeri looked uncomfortable again. "There was a conflict here recently, only finally ended a short time ago?"

"The rebellion, yes." Martin nodded. "It has been over for more than a year."

"Something is going to happen that will stir those fires again," Akeeri said. "Something that Rimzi will cause, if we do not stop him."

Emma looked at her husband. "We're so far away from those things here. How could something Rimzi does here affect all that?"

"It won't be here, I would imagine," Martin answered, narrowing his eyes. "Somewhere else--" He frowned in thought, and then his eyebrows jumped upwards. "Maybe the conference? That's all John Remson has talked about for weeks!"

Akeeri bent forward. "What is this conference?"

Martin turned to him. "It's to be a great gathering in the capital of the nation, Washington, which is far away from here. There is an assemblage to be held on the methods of rejoining and rebuilding the nation now that the rebellion is over. The governors of each state will be in attendance, along with picked representatives of finance, industry, and the regions of each state. The goal is to form a plan for restoring the country to prosperity once again."

"How could Rimzi be involved in this?"

Martin carefully licked his lips. "John Remson is a friend of Governor Fenton. John was selected to be a representative of our region at the conference. Milton Strider will drive John to the train station and accompany him on the trip to Washington, I'm sure."

Akeeri released a deep breath. "Ah." He closed his eyes and was silent a moment before opening them to stare at Martin. "If something violent were to occur at this conference, and that violence be blamed on the right people...it could start trouble all over again."

Emma looked aghast. "Violence? What sort of violence? What could one man do that would enrage a nation?"

Akeeri turned, paced a few steps to one side, and then spun about, and paced back to where he had started. The speed of this move was almost startling, and Charlie was again reminded of Kontus, who could move far faster than his bulk would suggest.

"Rimzi is now known to be in possession of proscribed technology," the Simisant continued. "A feerlik, it is known in our tongue. A pocket grenade, of fairly high yield."

Martin shook his head. "A grenade? Isn't that a sort of a bomb?"

"Yes. But not like the bombs your people know. This one could devastate a small city quite easily."

"Oh, no!" Kippy gasped.

The two humans in the room with Akeeri looked equally shocked.

"One bomb, that could destroy an entire city?" Martin shook his head. "How can that be?"

"It...is complicated," Akeeri told them. "A technology not yet available in your world. But I think I can see a plan here. You said that Milton Strider would accompany your mayor on his trip to this distant city. I have observed these rail-born transports your people use."

"Trains," Emma supplied.

"Yes. Some are quite long, and there are many cars that carry a variety of freight. The tracks for these conveyances run right into the hearts of many of your cities. I would imagine it is so in this Washington you mentioned?"

Martin nodded. "Yes."

Akeeri also nodded. "It makes sense. Were Rimzi to leave his feerlik on one of these conveyances, set to detonate at a later date so that he could escape, there would be a very great explosion. Your people would come to the conclusion that an entire trainload of the sort of chemical explosives available here in your world had been detonated in the heart of their capital city. Who do you suppose they would blame?"

Martin paled. "The Confederacy!"

"But that no longer exists!" Emma cried.

"Perhaps not in form," Martin argued, "but certainly in spirit."

"Whoever it is blamed upon, it will not be the correct culprit," Akeeri explained. "The potential to cause trouble in your world is extreme if this plan is carried out."

"How can we be certain this is what Rimzi wants to do?" Emma asked.

Akeeri closed his eyes a moment, and then nodded as he opened them. "I have a sense...that this is his plan."

"But it didn't happen," Dick whispered, despite knowing he could not be overheard. "It's not in our history!"

"They stopped it, somehow," Charlie agreed. "Now we just need to see how!"

"I'll shoot the man, myself!" Martin said, looking to where his Henry rifle hung on the wall.

"You cannot," Akeeri said. "I must deal with him. The possibility is too high that if Rimzi feels threatened with death, he will detonate the feerlik right here!"

"How could he know?" Martin asked. "I could just smile, walk right up to him, and let him have it."

"Martin!" Emma said, aghast.

"Well...this is important!"

Akeeri held up a hand. "I must deal with Rimzi. Despite the potential I sense in you towards power, it is undeveloped as yet, while Rimzi's senses are too sharp to risk. If he were to decide you are dangerous, you would be no match for him."

"Power? In me?"

"There is not time to explain. When do your mayor and his aide plan to leave?"

"The day after tomorrow!" Martin gazed helplessly up at the ceiling. "I don't know what to do!"

Akeeri pushed his hand out at them, but it seemed to have no direct meaning. But Martin and Emma, both having appeared agitated, suddenly turned to the Simisant, took deep breaths, and looked to relax.

"What did you do?" Emma asked, looking enthralled. "I felt that way down deep, inside."

"Me, too," Martin agreed.

"I simply touched your own reservoirs of resolve, brought them to your attention. They are quite powerful on their own, should you ever learn to use them."

"Skwish," Kippy repeated. "I knew it!"

"We need a plan," Martin said, more firmly.

"You will take me to town tomorrow," Akeeri said. "In the conveyance you store in the other building."

"A wagon," Emma supplied, with some delight now at the teaching of new words.

"Yes. I will hide in the back. I will need a covering of some sort."

Martin nodded. "I have a big tarp, a new one. We can use that."

"Then you will take me to where Milton Strider can be found, and you will get him to come to the wagon."

Martin frowned. "That won't be easy." His brow furrowed in thought, and then he suddenly smiled. "Or, maybe it will." He turned to look at his wife. "The pot for the Thanksgiving deer!"

She blinked at that, but it seemed the idea quickly took hold. "The way Milton loves to hunt, that might work!"

Akeeri peered at them. "Please explain."

Martin nodded. "Milton is a crack hunter. And, it seems important for him to be seen as one. There's a lottery in town for the man who gets the prize buck before Thanksgiving. Milton got himself a ten-pointer the other day, and so far is leading. Now, if I were to go to him and tell him I shot a twelve-pointer, and ask if he'd like to see it - I think I could get him to come to the wagon."

Akeeri gave a little shake to his head. "I am lost, but it does not matter. If this plan will bring Rimzi to the wagon, we will try it."

"You can deal with him, if he comes to you?" Emma asked.

"Yes. One of my primary talents is...yes. He will do as I say, if he is close enough to me."

Martin held up a hand. "What will we do with him then?"

Akeeri looked around the living room. "If you agree, we will bring him back here. I would rather take him back to my world than to kill him. But I need time to work on him to make him agreeable to returning without causing trouble. I also must remove the feerlik, if he is carrying it with him."

Martin blew out a breath. "It sounds like a plan, anyway."

"Nothing for me to do?" Emma asked, looking unhappy.

Akeeri grunted out another laugh. "It is a very simple plan."

"You stay here," Martin said firmly. "If there's trouble bringing Rimzi back...you stay here."

Akeeri moved closer to the woman. "If, while we are gone, you would move some of this room's furnishings to the side? I will need a clear space in this room where I can hold Rimzi in place. He must not be able to grab anything nearby."

Emma nodded. "I can do that."

Martin went to his wife and took her arm. "I don't want you to be hurt."

She looked defiant. "If something happens to you, I don't want to be left alone, anyway."

They stared at each other, until Martin relented. He sighed, and pulled her closer. "I love you."

Emma nodded. "I know. And I love you, with all my heart. So we either do this together, or not at all."

The man nodded. "Together, then." He turned to Akeeri. "You're welcome to stay the night, though I don't have a bed that will fit you. Some blankets, though, and a few cushions. There's plenty of room on the rug here to sleep."

"I will be fine," Akeeri said.

Martin nodded. "We should leave fairly early. John doesn't get to his office until mid-morning on a Saturday. I'd like to catch Milton at his hotel."

"Then, that will be the plan."

Charlie felt a small sense of dislocation, and then he and the others found themselves standing again in Mildred's yard. Once more, it looked as if very little time had passed. It was still light out, though dusk was clearly settling around them now.

"That was amazing," Dick said, shaking his head.

"It was," Mildred agreed, turning to smile at Charlie. "Your abilities are respectable, Charlie Boone."

Charlie laughed, and laid a hand over the dragon medallion on his chest. "I get by, with a little help from my friends."

Rick looked around the yard. "I guess this is another little break, for us to digest what we've seen?"

"There's a lot to think about!" Adrian said.

"There is," Horace agreed. "Yet we know that no bomb was detonated in Washington at the end of the Civil War. This history did not come to pass."

"We can take from that that our friends in the past were successful," Dick said. "I guess we will see that success unfold next?"

Charlie looked around at the decaying carriage garage, and then at the spot in the underbrush where he knew the foundation of Martin and Emma Jemeson's house now lay. "I suspect it's not going to be an easy resolution, though. Everyone should be prepared for some hardships ahead."

"Nothing can hurt us," Kip reminded, frowning at Charlie.

"No. Not directly. That's not what I meant. We may see or hear things...just be prepared."

Kippy frowned, and then moved closer and put his arm around Charlie. "I think I know what you mean."

Charlie nodded, and put his own arm around Kip, and pulled him closer. Sometimes, history has sharp edges, he thought to himself.

 

* * * * * * *

 

The buckboard wagon rolled into Norwich, which was scarcely the town that Charlie and the others knew in their own time. The roads were dirt, and the streets sparsely lined with period houses. Main street was home to businesses, but included shops like a blacksmith, a wainwright, a cabinet-maker, a tobacconist, a bakery, a butcher, a gunsmith, an ironmonger, and a saddler. The people out and about on the cold autumn day were dressed in clothing that looked heavy and bulky, a far cry from the the sleek and comfortable-looking cold-weather clothing of their own times. The men mostly wore wide-brimmed hats, thought there were a few Etons, bowlers, and straw hats in evidence. The women mostly wore bonnets or oval hats, with cords tied beneath chins to hold them in place.

"Looks cold," Kippy said, noting the vapors issuing forth from the mouths of people as they greeted each other in passing. "And reminds me of Christmas cards I've gotten before, that show little, old-fashioned towns like this at the holiday."

They, of course, could not feel the chill, even perched as they were just behind the seat holding Martin Jemeson as he guided the wagon among the light traffic in the streets. It was as if they were standing just behind the seat, in the back of the buckboard, which would have surely been impossible in reality, for the back of the wagon held Akeeri, well-concealed beneath a tarp.

"Try not to move," Martin said over his shoulder, as they pulled up near the center of town. "You don't want to attract attention."

"I will remain still," the Simisant replied. "You must get Rimzi to come to the wagon somehow, where I can apprehend him."

"I still don't know how you intend to do that," Martin returned, rubbing gently at his beard to cover his mouth as he talked. "Right here in town, and all."

"My kind all possess varying degrees of talents you seem not to possess in your world. All I need is to get close to him - or, in this case, for him to come to me - and I can take care of the rest."

"Oh." Martin sighed, and looked around at the people on the street. "Well, we've arrived then.

"It's not a skwish power this Akeeri has," Adrian said. "I don't get that feeling at all."

"I don't, either," Kipp returned. "Bet it's more of that itch stuff. How about it, Mildred?"

"You could be right." The old woman sounded hardly put off by the question. "I can sense itch in others. But since we are not actually here, I cannot be certain what sort of magic this Akeeri possesses."

"I sensed skwish in Martin's wife, Emma," Kippy argued. "And, a little, in Martin, himself."

"I don't think you did. I think you intuited it. Not the same as actually sensing it. I cannot sense the force by which Akeeri operates, so I find it hard to believe you can sense any other forces in any of these people. I am not being argumentative, I am simply pointing out something that a lifetime of experience is telling me."

"Intuit it?" Kippy repeated. "How does that work?"

Mildred sounded patient, as if she was perfectly happy to answer questions. "You have come to know others that use the same sorts of powers that you do. You have come to have a feeling for those whose minds work likes yours does. You have come to recognize the pattern that your skwish presents in those that use it. So, you recognize it when you see it, even if you don't sense it."

"That kind of makes sense," Kip admitted.

"It does," Adrian agreed.

"It doesn't matter right now," Charlie inserted. "I support your view, Kip, that Emma and Martin both seem to have some skwish talent. But it appears to be dormant, and only functions to interpret their views of the world, and the people in it."

"That was enough for them to decide to help Akeeri," Horace suggested. "They sensed the same truth in his words that we do."

"I kind of like the big fella, myself," Dick put in. "I always wondered what sort of things you and your group got into, Charlie. This is some really interesting stuff. I mean, look at this town! To be able to step back and see the world as it was so long ago...it's pretty amazing."

"We've been there, too," Rick added. "To the past, I mean. Some of our friends can go there, instead of just show it to you."

"This reminds me of when we went back to see what happened to Lance Tallfield in his hometown," Adrian said. "This Norwich has the same old-fashioned feel to it that his town did. Though this one is a lot bigger."

"Wait," Kippy said then. "Let's listen."

Martin was looking around at the buildings lining the street. "The hotel is over there." He pulled a pocket watch from his vest beneath his coat and looked at it. "It's early enough that Milton should still be there."

"Proceed," Akeeri replied, with a small grunt.

Martin released a nervous breath, nodded, and knickered at the horse, while giving the reins a toss. "Come on, girl. Move up."

The wagon moved forward another fifty feet before Martin reined in the horse. They were now stopped before a two-story brick building that was one of the more impressive-looking structures on the street. Martin looked around nervously before tying off the reins and setting the wagon's brake. "Alright. We're there. What do I do now?"

"You must go inside and get Rimzi to come out to the wagon."

"He's probably having breakfast about now. With any luck, he'll be in the dining room, and I won't have to go up to his room. I think I can get him out here, if he thinks he's going to see a twelve-point buck."

"The quicker we do this, the better," Akeeri said. "All you need to do is to get him to come to the wagon. I will take it from there. Once he is close to me, I can get him to board the wagon. After he has done that, we will return to your home."

Martin shook his head again. "I don't believe this." But he climbed down off the wagon and looked up at the facade of the hotel. For a moment he looked undecided, but then he frowned. And then he appeared as if he'd made up his mind.

He climbed the five steps to the twin entry doors, and went inside.

In the same deft fashion as before, Charlie's group swooped after him.

"Can he just walk in and see this guy?" Rick asked. "I would think the mayor's right-hand man wouldn't be alone. The guy will have security, and everything."

"This was a different time," Dick countered. "And this is a small town. Public officials simply didn't have the layer of people between them and their constituents that our own politicians maintain. In a small town like this, the mayor will be lucky to even have a secretary."

"I can't believe how easily Martin is taking all this in," Horace said. "I would have thought people of this time period would have a hard time comprehending something like this, let alone believing it!"

"Skwish," Kippy said again. "It makes people different."

They followed Martin through the twin doors with frosted glass panes, on which was neatly lettered, Chenango Hotel, and to a front desk where a woman was busily arranging papers. She looked up as Jemeson approached. She was an older woman, graying and slightly chunky, but with a smart twinkle in her eyes and a pleasant looking smile on her face.

"HI, Martin. How's Emma been?"

Martin smiled. "Hi, Maggie. She's fine. Still working on that dress for the Thanksgiving bash. I have a feeling it's going to be an eye-opener."

"I'll bet. There aren't too many ladies about that are as good with a needle as your Emma." The smile relaxed a bit. "What can we do for you today?"

"Is Milton Strider about?"

The woman leaned forward to look into a large room off the hotel foyer. "There he is. In that back corner. Just finishing his meal, I'd say. You want to see him? Go on back."

"Thanks, Maggie. Hello to Joe."

Martin entered the dining room, and Charlie and his group along with him. The man in question was seated in the back corner, by a window, reading a newspaper, an empty plate pushed to one side of the table, where also lay a sharp-looking bowler hat. His eyes came up as Martin crossed the large room, and for a moment watched him without expression until he was certain that Martin was making for his table. The he lowered the newspaper and rose as Martin neared. Tall and beefy-looking, he was perhaps less of a stretch for a sizable creature like a Simisant to approximate. He held out a hand in greeting. "Martin. Good to see you! How's Emma?"

"She's well," Martin said, stepping forward to take the hand and shake it. He looked a little nervous now, but was doing his best to relax.

The man at the table picked up on it, though. His eyes narrowed just a bit as their hands unclasped, and he cocked his head to one side as he waved Martin to a seat. "Everything well up at your place? You look a little tense."

Martin smiled, and somehow managed to look more relaxed. "Everything's fine. I'm just anxious to see your reaction to what I'm going to tell you."

Strider waved a hand at the chair to one side of his own. "Then sit, and tell me."

Martin moved forward and dumped himself onto the chair. "Remember that ten-pointer you got the other day?"

The other man blinked in surprise, as if this was not at all what he had expected; but then he just as quickly changed gears. A smile appeared on his face, as if he understood what was coming next. "Oh. Get yourself a deer?"

Martin nodded. "A twelve-pointer."

Strider's eyes widened, and he looked surprised. "All tines, no nubs?"

"Yes." Martin tossed a thumb over his shoulder. "Thought you might like to see it before I take it home. It's out in the back of my wagon."

"Well!" The man behind the table rose again so quickly it was surprising. Martin blinked and jumped to his own feet, smiling now as Strider pushed back his chair and moved to stand beside it. He turned, pulled a coat off the back of the chair and shrugged into it, then grabbed his hat off the table and popped it onto his head. "I would most definitely like to see the animal that might take the Thanksgiving pot!"

Martin grinned. "Might?"

"Well, I still have some time to hunt! Come, and let's look at your prize!"

Charlie was slightly amazed at this, wondering if the disguised Simisant had actually come to love deer hunting as much as his human facade seemed to indicate. Had the visitor from an alternate reality actually been here long enough to have adopted some of the ways of this time and this world?

"Amazing," Horace said. "I do believe he's really interested!"

"At least he's moved to hunting deer rather than the Native-American population," Rick said acidly.

They went back to the hotel foyer, and waved at Maggie behind the desk, and then exited through the front doors.

Outside, Milton Strider took in the wagon and the tarp-covered form in the back, and smiled. "A big one, too!"

They descended the steps, and went around to the back of the wagon. Strider reached across the tailgate and made to pick up the edge of the tarp, when he suddenly froze. His head turned slightly and his eyes fixed on Martin, hard lines suddenly appearing in his face, and his eyes filling with rage. Martin took a step back, obviously startled by the change. Strider continued to stare at him a moment longer; and then his eyes seemed to go glassy, and the man's face softened into docile lines. He pulled his hand back slowly from the tarp, turned, and circled around to the front seat, and hoisted himself aboard.

"We should go," came Akeeri's voice.

Martin looked stunned at the suddenness of the change, but nodded, and hurried around to the other side of the wagon, and climbed aboard. He took the reins, released the brake, and urged the horse forward.

"What just happened?" Rick asked. "Is this some form of mind control? Like Lane Tallfield had?"

Charlie watched Milton Strider, noting the stiff way the man sat, the complete lack of motion in his body. "I don't know."

"I've seen this before," Browbeat offered then. "It isn't mind control. It's body control. Rimzi has lost control of his own body. Akeeri must have it now."

"Motor center interception of some sort?" Horace asked. "Overlay the brain's own impulses that cause movement with your own, somehow?"

"Scary stuff," Dick said. "If that's what it is."

"Scary, even if that's what it isn't!" Mildred countered. "This strikes at the very heart of who we are. Losing control of our bodies is a primal fear among humans."

Martin circled the wagon and headed back the way they had come. They were out of town quickly, and soon among the trees again on the dirt road heading back to Martin's house.

The tarp lifted, and Akeeri peeked out. "Is there anyone in sight?"

Martin's eyes did a quick survey of the road ahead. "No. I won't be able to see any oncoming traffic until it's fairly close, though, this road winding the way it does." He looked back over his shoulder. "What on earth did you do to him?"

"I've cut off his access to the neural network outside of the brain. That network will only respond to impulses I place into it for now."

Martin swallowed hard. "It seems a devilish power you have."

Surprisingly, Akeeri laughed. "I am not well-liked in my own world, for that very reason. My talent is exceedingly rare. And, exceedingly useful, in some circumstances." The Simisant sat up and looked around. "The trick in this case is removing Rimzi's ability to act physically, while not also causing his ability to shift to fail. He is effectively locked in the form of a human now, until I release him."

"What will you do with him?"

Akeeri looked around again, and then got to his knees behind Strider, and reached around to gently pat the man's clothing. "I want to see if...ah." He reached inside the man's coat to what must have been an inner pocket, and carefully withdrew a flat metal case. "That was easy enough."

Akeeri looked closely at the device a moment, and then did something with it that Charlie didn't see. But the case disappeared, just the same.

"That was cool," Rick whispered. "My uncle couldn't have done it better!"

Akeeri resumed patting Strider's clothing, found a small pistol, and tossed it out of the wagon into the woods. He resumed checking the other man, until he had satisfied himself that there were no more hidden surprises. He slid down then, and pulled the tarp back over himself. "Let me know when we have arrived.

Martin nodded, cast another look at Strider, and then went back to guiding the horse on the road.

"Think that was the bomb?" Horace asked.

"Probably," Charlie said. "It's really tiny to be such a dangerous device, though."

It didn't take long to get back to Martin's house. Soon the wagon was pulling up the rutted drive, and stopping before the carriage house. Martin jumped down from the seat, opened a door, and drove the buckboard inside. Akeeri threw off the tarp then, and climbed out of the wagon. Martin busied himself unhitching the horse, while the Simisant waited patiently and Milton Strider sat blankly in the wagon's seat.

Soon, Reedy was in her stall, fresh water in her trough, and a blanket thrown over her back. "I'll be back as soon as I can," Martin told the horse, patting her nose.

Akeeri returned to the form of Calvin Bloom, the town drunk, and led Milton Strider up to the house, while Martin brought up the rear. As they ascended the steps to the porch, the front door opened and Emma came out, looking tense. "That was quick."

"It was," Martin agreed "I found him right off and got him to come out to the wagon. And, here we are."

Strider was led inside, the door closed. Emma had cleared an area in the living room, moving the furniture back against the walls, leaving the carpet empty. Akeeri led Strider to the center of the carpet, and stopped. "First things first."

He slowly and carefully ran his hands over the other Simisant, not even watching where he was going, but seeming to concentrate nonetheless. Finally, Akeeri seemed satisfied. "He just had the one device."

Then Akeeri stepped back from Strider, and seemed to concentrate. Strider's outline wavered, and then the man flowed into a larger, broader form, another Simisant, though one not quite as large as Akeeri. That wasn't saying much, though. Rimzi still topped seven feet in height, even if Akeeri had him by another half-foot.

Rimzi's eyes blinked, and then filled with anger. His head turned and he glared at Martin, though his body remained rigid. "I won't forget this!"

"Save your threats," Akeeri said. "You are immobilized, and unable to harm anyone."

Rimzi looked down at his frozen body, and then back at Akeeri. "So it would seem. You are one of Circal's freaks, I would guess."

Akeeri bowed his head and smiled. "At your service."

"You have no right to take me back."

"Considering what you were about to do here, I have every right." Akeeri held up the flat metal case then. "Recognize this?"

Rimzi looked surprised, but only for a second. He turned his head to look at Martin and Emma. "It would have been no great loss. A few thousand of these, in exchange for shutting down these immoral operations into worlds not our own."

"These are people, with every right to live their own lives," Akeeri said, looking amazed and angry, all at once.

Rimzi shook his head. "They're primitives, who cannot even get along with each other." He turned to sneer at Akeeri. "You know nothing! I have been here a very long time, and seen the way these barbarians treat each other. They are savage, lawless, cruel, and destructive! They just completed a terrible conflict, in which over a half-million of them were killed!"

"It's their business," Akeeri stated flatly. "Good or bad, it's their world. You have no right to interfere."

"And neither do you. Nor Circal, nor his observers."

Akeeri nodded. "Then we'll both go back, and this bit of interference will be over." He brought the flat metal case near his chest again, and once again it seemed to magically disappear.

"I'd love to learn that!" Rick whispered.

Rimzi watched Akeeri a moment, and then smiled, showing sharp teeth "I don't think you can take me back. You surprised me in town, and I was not ready for you. But now--" He closed his eyes, and grimaced in concentration.

Akeeri's eyes narrowed, and he took a step back from Rimzi. He continued to watch the other Simisant closely, and then turned his head without taking his eyes off the other. "Martin. Emma. Go outside!"

"What's going on?" Horace asked, sounding unsettled. Charlie knew exactly what the other man was feeling. The look on Rimzi's face was terrible for the energy of its utter fierceness!

"They're both power-users," Browbeat said. "Something's happening!"

"Go!" Akeeri hissed, stepping closer to Rimzi again. A small device looking like a pistol appeared in Akeeri's hand, and his arm came up and the weapon pointed right at Rimzi's face--

The other Simisant suddenly surged forward, brushing the arm aside and going for Akeeri's throat. But Akeeri was not to be handled so easily, and leaned into the surge, his own hand raising and clamping around Rimzi's wrist. For a second the two giants struggled, pushing against each other, straining mightily. But then, it seemed, that Akeeri's superior size and strength was making an advantage for him. A look of fear and rage supplanted the expression of purpose on Rimzi's face, and his eyes darted sideways to lock on the two humans.

Martin and Emma, until then frozen in shock at the turn of events, suddenly moved. Martin stepped quickly to his wife and grabbed her arm and turned as if to flee to the front door.

But just then the two Simisants moved sideways, each trying to force the other back. Akeeri was trying to bring the pistol back to point at Rimzi, while that one was doing his best to keep inside Akeeri's outstretched arm. They turned then, and Rimzi grunted and swept out one arm and backhanded Emma in the side of her head. She immediately fell sideways, pulling Martin backwards, and both the humans crashed to the floor.

Martin scrambled to his knees, and yanked hard on Emma's arm, pulling her out of the way as one of Rimzi's large feet, powered by the thick muscles of his short legs, came down against the floorboards where she had been only moments before, causing the wood to crack at the impact. Akeeri suddenly howled in anger, and lifted Rimzi right off his feet, and pushed the other Simisant across the room, away from the humans.

Martin sprang to his feet, pulling Emma up with him, and pushed her again towards the front door. She was dazed, though, and stumbled a moment, and then stopped suddenly.

"No! We can't leave him!"

Martin's eyes were frantic; but he turned back to the two struggling Simisants, and nodded. "Stay here!"

He released his wife's arm, and plunged across the room, to grab his Henry rifle from its rack on the wall. He turned then, throwing the lever action to chamber a round...and froze.

The hands of the two Simisants were glowing. A misty white light, like the one Akeeri had used in the carriage garage to incinerate the bucket, crawled back and forth between the two combatants. The pistol had disappeared from Akeeri's hand, and now both of the Simisants had their hands grasped together. The mist crawled, first up Akeeri's arms from Rimzi, and then was pushed back, and crawled up Rimzi's arms. The light slowed, and was pushed back again, and Charlie came to understand that whichever Simisant allowed the misty light to reach up to his head, was done.

The two Simisants pressed at each other, struggling mightily, and then Rimzi bellowed with such rage that Charlie flinched at the sheer power of it. Rimzi smashed forward against Akeeri, and the mist surged up Akeeri's arms--

Martin stepped forward then, laid the barrel of the Henry against the side of Akeeri's arm to steady it, and shot Rimzi squarely in the chest. The explosion of the gunshot sounded thunderous inside the house, and what happened next occurred so quickly that Charlie and the others were stunned. The room blossomed with misty light, and everything - the carpet, the furniture, the walls, the very floor, exploded into flames.

Suddenly, Charlie and the others were outside the house, once again facing it from over by the carriage garage. The windows exploded out of the house and flames billowed outwards, along with the glittering shards of glass from the window panes. The flames were white, intense, and looked to be all-consuming.

Charlie and his group were shocked into immobility at the violence of the explosion, and by the knowledge that those they had come to know and care about were still inside.

Copyright © 2023 Geron Kees; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

21 hours ago, ColumbusGuy said:

Hmm, a theory suggests itself, but should I voice it or wait?  Let us pose a question: to cross from one world to another, are there any limitations on what can cross, or the form it takes?

For there to be Jemesons a century later, then our residents must have survived or had other relatives to inherit....  

 

 

Yep. Maybe. Possibly. :)

 

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20 hours ago, drpaladin said:

I'm going with the idea Akeeri knew what Martin was about to do and what would result. Martin laid the rifle across Akeeri's arm. He had to know. My hope is he was able to protect Martin and Emma somehow.

Aw. You're only saying that because you have a kind heart, and you don't want to see them get hurt! :)

 

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