‘This could have been worse,’ Sara Seeker said as she and Chris Lancier stalked down Covent Garden. ‘Max is extremely imaginative. He could easily have whisked up King Kong or a number of other film scenarios and incorporated them into this reality shift. He really loves films and TV. It could have ended up as a war or comedy. It took ages to talk him out of ‘Come Back, Little Sheba’…the Shirley Booth/Burt Lancaster film and turn the world into a Little America.
A drunken god would be even more dangerous. Had to keep reminding him what would happen if we turned Britain into an American suburb. I instilled in him a fixation of ‘The Prisoner’ if ever he got trapped. Selecting one TV series was bad enough. No idea what would happen when reality shifted back. Callane and Mac were lucky to only encounter something close to a 50s adventure film. Just didn’t expect it to be caused by a Pattern being not only able to duplicate him but take on his abilities and his ideas. Fortunately, also my mental inhibitions, even if he didn’t realise it.’
‘We’ve been trying to unravel everything. We couldn’t figure out the school or the ghostly children, although we do think it might have something to do with Max’s childhood.’ Lancier looked around. The busy Londoners were ignoring them. They should have spake but didn’t want the rest of the Stable listening in or the Pattern Max tapping in yet. ‘We threw wobblies to confuse him or them and get under their radar and change his focus and find out some of what was going on. All it really achieved was giving us time to think.’
‘And did it work?’
‘We got you here eventually. It’s all right living in a microverse but we had no idea who was really here besides ourselves. The fact that I took out a scheduled meteoroid meant Max shifted reality but not events.’
‘But you had doubts.’
‘We all had doubts. We were playing Max or one of the Max’s games as we later discovered until we found there were two of them. We were kept busy, Sara. So were you last night. Scanning from the Heath. Did you find what you needed?’
‘Needed a high point to scan from. You did, too, when you did your disappearing stunt.’
‘I felt the scan. That’s why I was waiting to take you to breakfast. Lots of confusion. I mean, we shouldn’t be able to walk in London like this. Even in the 1970s unless they weren’t real people.’
‘Oh, that’s easy. One of the Max’s. I told him we weren’t keen on lots of people thoughts messing about our heads. Must have resolved it. I doubt if it will last when things go back to normal. You are shielding?’
Lancier nodded. ‘So this is pretty much a fantasy?’
Sara stopped and looked around. ‘A reality distortion. People are here but not. Schrödinger would have a field day. If we can get things back to normal, the world might have shifted along as well. We could be trimming around the edges for ages. God knows how long or into what. The real world could be run by idiots or the Pattern by now.’
‘You know we found out they actually call themselves the Patrons. They think their rule is a good thing. If any were left on the real Earth without us blocking them, they could be ruling.’
‘And keep wanting to replace us. There’s more of them than in the old days. We’re a threat to them.’
‘Not all of them from Medea.’
‘The other gorgons?’
Lancier shrugged. ‘I had to parlay with the Patrons to get them to back off so we could focus on getting you here. I think even they want to go home. Seems they have different grades of talent and their Max is one of the extremes, able to copy ability as well as appearance. I take it you got some of it from your scanning that they aren’t all the same. The one that copied Max’s powers is unique. Imagine facing more than one of them. Their numbers are bigger than we thought.’
Sara paused and looked around. ‘Can we eat? You did say breakfast. I’m still hungry.’
This time they both scanned and instinctively walked to a pizza parlour.
‘This is the one that Scobie left her bag.’
‘Should I ask why? Something substantial than just cereal.’
‘Let’s hope they forgive her.’
They sat down so they could look out the window, Sara stared briefly at the waitress to make the order.
‘What happened to you?’
‘I suddenly discovered I was the only Psionic in the world in the switch. Bit scary.’
‘Not all of them are here. Harbinger didn’t come here.’
‘I never told Max about Harbinger. I never told him everything. Just enough so he would realise he wasn’t the only Psionic in the world. We could have done with Lull here. My mistake. He saw some of it as exaggeration. Never thought to correct that.’
‘But you told him about Polly. Even we didn’t know about Polly.’
Sara turned and focused on the waitress who brought across a jug of water and two glasses.
‘I needed him to think he had a real secret. It was. Polly plays the criminal. Made for great adventures. There was always the possibility that something like this could happen. Max is pretty powerful. That’s why we rushed to his rescue. If he did bring us across, then he would bring another team.’
‘So Ludomere Spear is one of them.’
‘I don’t know what she is. She was in the microverse I was left in. We have two of them? The Vampiri wouldn’t be that careless.’
‘Pattern? Another duplicate?’
Sara shrugged. ‘Just missing a few cards. She might just have been drawn in.’
‘Polly Kettle has been an asset.’
‘She would have been interesting getting past security protocols. Criminal past.’
‘She said that was a cover.’
Sara laughed between bites. ‘You expect all Psionics to come from honest backgrounds or not using their abilities for personal gains? A lot of it is true. That could still work but we need some who work the system and Polly is one of the best and a dear friend.’
Lancier raised his eyebrows.
‘Time to bring her in from the cold.’
‘Or we could let the lie continue. We need someone with connections from time to time.’
This time they both laughed.
‘You have a plan?’
‘I’ve been here less than a day. You’ve been here…how long?’
This time Lancier shrugged. ‘We think a couple years.’
‘Well, I hope you haven’t been constipated all this time.’
‘You thought this might happen?’ Lancier quickly changed the subject but paused as the pizzas arrived.
‘Eventually. Maybe. Just not who. I kept an eye on Max. Kept him out of trouble and off the books. I do that with some Psionics. Would have been too powerful in the Stable. Reality shifters are awkward and a little unstable. Look at Mary and Scobie but we do need them.’
‘But the Patrons got too aggressive. Even with the change in reality, they were still coming after us. We’re going to have our work cut out when we get our own reality back.’
‘We’re going to have to expand our numbers and increase the talent pool.’
‘Speaking of which, who have you been looking for? Can you say the name aloud?’ Lancier bit into his pizza.
<No. Georgire Rothane.>
<Really. Georgire? George girl?>
<Another one with an odd name. Hope she’s not Vampiri.>
<Don’t get in an argument with her. I’m not sure if I’ve found her yet.>
‘Best not to. No sense putting Courtney in conflict with the bureaucracy.’
‘The Blanks know they need us. She’s been siding with us and keeping some things secret for some time. We’ve had to keep some things off the books. The Patrons are doing a full infiltration. There’s far more of them that we thought. Imagine if any of them took over countries and did adverse policies. We’d have to face down another world war.’
‘They want control. They see themselves as natural leaders like their forebears.’
‘And they might not all die young.’
‘As I said, we were surprised to discover their own tier system. Not just shape-shifters but some more powerful than others. That wasn’t in the history books.’
‘So you’re seeking out their leader circle?’
‘Been trying to. I don’t think they’re all here. If we compare to the Vampiri, we’ve only found a few. Only the Fey we know or who you told him about. Kat’s given birth by the way. A boy. One of the Maxs did release the Gorgons so we’ll have to go after them again.’
‘And they’ll be more wary next time, especially if they plan to go after Medea.’
‘The world’s going to get more complicated.’
‘The bureaucracy knows we tend to do things for the right reasons. This will be a bit harder to conceal.’
‘Assuming they know when things revert. We’re still not sure how much is real here and been cautious about injuring anyone.’
‘Spiking seems OK.’
‘We aren’t impaired, just running around in circles. Seeing what’s going on. I came back from South America with Auntie Badger. Sail. Couldn’t get an aeroplane in that time period.’
‘What about the Baroness?’
‘We found her thinking she was a private detective with no memory of her old life. We feared the same for you.’
‘Not being left behind completely.’
‘Protection or fear?’
Sara shrugged and continued with her pizza. ‘Look, I’m not going to pull some miracle out of the bag. If we can’t get Max alone and get him to do it, we might have to do it ourselves and risk a share.’
‘A share? That really would be unstable.’
‘It’s very hard to share telekinetic abilities. I’m still narrowing down a battle plan.’
‘Sounds like you’re lining up several.’
‘There’s a need to be flexible to the circumstances, especially when either of them are aware of our thoughts.’
‘And try not to be killed…’
‘Or marooned. This reality might still be there afterwards.’
Sara rapped her table and had to spike the waitress from returning to their table.
‘That’s the problem. We didn’t…we still don’t know what we’re playing with. Real or unreal. Dr. Schrödinger would have loved this.’
‘No dead cats yet, just multiple choices than merely two. We could have had a Max with a killer instinct. He might watch such films but he hasn’t got any interest in killing them.’
‘At least not intentionally.’
‘I never said he couldn’t be dangerous. That’s why I had to reveal he wasn’t alone even he never met any of you. Imagine being the only Psionic in the world.’
‘Like he did to you?’
Sara paused but didn’t eat. ‘I never saw it that way. He might have been trying to protect me. You don’t kill someone who you might potentially need.’
The bullet hovered inches from Sara’s head before dropping to the ground. Simultaneously, the man with the gun was one second walking forward and then directly into the window, slumping to the ground. None of the customers there seemed to notice. Saras had spiked them. Lancier swivelled his wrist, mimicking the action he just carried out and continued to eat as if thwarting as assassination was normal occurrence.
‘Someone doesn’t like you, Sara.’
‘I think we ought to eat on the run.’ Sara reached down and frisked the man, pulling his wallet and gun before both got up. She left a couple twenties on the table from the wallet, grabbed a piece of pizza and followed Lancier out of the restaurant, releasing control of the people at the same time.
‘Just like old times’, she muttered under her breathe.
<<I thought you were trying to stay under their radar?>>
<<I thought I had. We’re on their turf. We must be closer to them than I thought. The fact that you stopped the bullet so easily means it was literally a warning shot.>>
<<Now we’re out in the open.>>
<<A lot safer for bystanders than in a confined space.>>
They continued eating as they walked.
‘Some would say we’re slumming it.’
Sara spaked a question mark.
‘People are used to seeing people eating fish and chips on the move not pizza in this time period.’
‘They’d been even more amazed if you scooped it in the air instead of using your hands.’
‘If they remembered. This is a different sort of attack. Who were they scoping the future from?
‘My presence is stirring up reality.’
‘That’s a good thing?’
‘Only one assassin.’
They stopped eating and scanned outwards. Sara moved a step as a bullet clipped the pavement where she just stood.
‘Looks like you’re the target.’
‘Only using conventional weapons. Spiked him. Let’s go and have a little chat with him. Can you boost us up there?’
‘Not without a lot of latent energy. Best to climb up or take a lift.’’
‘The old-fashioned way then. At least he’s immobile.’
Lancier forced a lock and they were climbing a set of backstairs to the roof.
<<No energy dampening?>>
<<No. Just little energy to manipulate.>>
<<His signature doesn’t mean much. I doubt if either Max drew him out of the yellow pages.>>
<<First time we’ve had a direct attack.>>
<<Me, though. Not you. I’m the threat.>>
<<This going to upset your plans?>>
<<We need one of them to cause a reality shift. Better in our presence.>>
<<That’s a plan?>>
<<You have anything better?>>
<<An all-out assault?>>
<<Tried that and look what happened.>>
<<Two assassins within five minutes of each other. A league of them or an open contract and how so quickly.>>
<<I doubt if they do COD.>>
They reached the right floor and scanned. Normals with their own affairs. If they heard the gunshot they probably thought it was a car backfiring or just ignored it as background noise. Automatically, their scans intensified, looking for intense emotion and then expanded beyond the building itself.
<<Someone in the opposite building…with a gun.>>
<<Open season on Psionics.>>
<<They want to succeed.>>
<<A lot of gang assassins around in this time period. All open to control.>>
<<It might not even be the Maxs.>>
Sara paused, either thinking, scanning or both.
<<They do have a habit of self-destructing aims amongst themselves with earlier generations. Perhaps some of them want to stay here.>>
<<As if we don’t have enough problems. Still need to see this live body.>>
The guns stopped. A lot of cars backfiring.
‘Youse don’ts shoots nouse.’
Lancier hit the door and scooped the lock open with the vibrations. Waiting inside the room was the assassin.
‘Was easies. Onlys fives.’
The Baroness frisked the possessed body and handed over his wallet to Sara.
‘Hired gun. Not Pattern. I suspect none of the others. Jump back and have each of them facing each other.’
‘Sees youse ins awhiles.’
There was a shot by shot by shot by shot by shot.
‘No wonder the Maxs feared you both,’ Lancier commented. ‘I never realised the Baroness was always that ruthless?’
‘Only when she’s protecting us. We have some breathing space.’
The assassin before them dropped to the ground.
‘OK, sunshine, who hired you?’
<<Human or Patron?>>
Sara shook her head.
‘Now listen to me. On my giving you your gun, you will return to your boss and shoot him. Wound not kill. Tell him we could have just as easily gone after him. Leave town and get an honest job.’
The assassin got up and left as soon as Sara put the pistol.
‘That’s aggressive, Sara.’
‘I did say wound, Chris. If it is a Patron, then a warning across the bows. Can’t have them getting in the way. They can do their in-fighting when we get reality back.’
‘So much for you not being spotted.’
‘Nice to know I haven’t lost my range.’
<<You still think a direct approach will work?>>
<<It’s what caused the first shift.>>
<<With one Max, it has to be something decisive, two just intensifies the problem. What better way than shock? We now have to move fast. Distractive thoughts. No laid down plans if anything goes wrong. Just hope we can pick up the pieces. I’ve sent Libertine ahead. Can you get me across London?>>
<<Do you know where they are?>>
<<Two places. The Prisoner’s home in London was 1 Buckingham Place, SW1. The place he goes to resign is Abingdon Street at Park, General College Street, SW1. Beginning to think I should have made the series required watching for you all. Buckingham first.>>
<<We can’t fly.>>
<<This is London.>>
Two taxis drove past in the traffic. Sara glanced at the next one and it immediately stopped and its two dazed occupants stepped out.
‘Where you want to go is just across there’, she pointed to them, handing them some money. ‘I’ll pay. It’s a good theatre show.’
As they got in, Sara didn’t even bother to verbal as they drove off.
‘That saves a lot of arguing.’
‘You’re still being very aggressive.’
‘It’s rubbing off on me. I know this isn’t real.’
‘Even the pizza?’
‘Just checking. I’m getting the others into position.’
<<This has been rather too smooth.>>
<<Crap! Scan the taxi.>>
<<Your presence here is causing all these changes?>
<<Why do you think I wasn’t allowed in this pocket universe? I thought I had slipped below his radar.>>
<<What’s supposed to be happening now?>>
<<We ought to get to the first address as soon as possible. This reality is about to explode or vanish or change.>>
The taxi began to accelerate.
<Will things go back to normal?>>
<<How would I know? It could become a screwball comedy. You’re already experiencing some of the horrors.>>
<<Not seeing this reality implode simply because you’re here, Sara.>>
<<Why do you think Max didn’t bring me here in the first place?>>
<<But why run? Things will get back to normal?>>
<<There’s two of them. The Maxs are the epicentre. I don’t know what will happen. The closer we get to the nexus…the Maxs, the more likely we’ll get through together and draw everything through and we’d be on the spot. The others are already on their way there.>>
<<We aren’t going to go into slow-mo like the Troughton Doctor Who if we’re late?>>
Sara shrugged. ‘I tried to restrict his ideas from that direction Think happy endings. Maybe one or both will opt into one of them. Give us time to act.’
<<All we need now is the Prisoner’s car going in the other direction.>>#
<<Or we arrive in a hearse.>>
<<Why couldn’t it be a matter of choosing between a red and a blue pill?>>
<<Do you really want a fight in mid-air? You could pull that one off.>>
<<Our luck and we could end up with Mad Max scenario.>>
<<Too many films to choose from.>>
<<I bet Schrödinger never figured on more than one reality option.>>
<<We need to win one. I doubt if the multi-reality theory was around in his day although he probably inspired it.>>
<<Maybe we should just imagine red shoes and no place like home.>>
‘We’re broadcasting deep enough.’
Lancier reached out and felt nothing behind him and glanced back. Reality was pixilating and the only thought he had no more assassins.
‘No wonder one of the Maxs didn’t want you here if this happens’, he muttered.
‘My meetings with the original Max was more than just give him tales of the Stable. A certain amount of conditioning…’
‘Max is more telekinetic. No share.’
‘We’re here.’ Sara turned to the taxi driver. ‘What do you see outside?’
‘A busy London street.’
‘That’s what you see. Wait here.’
They strode in a quick walk towards Buckingham Place.
‘If it was number one, why was it in the centre of the street and not the corner.
‘It probably was. Just the way the cameras took it. Hollywood is full of bigger mistakes.’
‘Must be a tradition. Why can’t we go for a comedy?’
‘A screwball comedy? Do you want to live in a reality that would appeal to Scobie?’
‘Better than a sharp comedy. Since when did they jump over anything?’
‘A sharp comedy? That’s pointed.’
Lancier shook his head. ‘Shark. Pointed toothed thing with fins.’
‘If it hadn’t ate people, it might have had a whole different career.’
‘So why not a comedy?’
‘Depends on who’s present. We haven’t always been caught in Mary’s…’
<<I’m scanning two but…>>
<<Have they gone through?>>
<<Let’s hope to the same place.>>
They reached the doorway. Standing there was two people. Not identical. The other Max was a female and then they both vanished. Reality was shifting.
Glancing behind themselves, they saw London pixilating and vanishing.
They stepped through.
<<At least I’m not saying, my god, its full of stars.>>
<<Why is everyone wearing mask?>>
© Psi-Kicks: Sara Seeker, Chris Lancier,
Libertine Rush 2022
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GF Willmetts 2022