Crisis Part Four

Three Portland's Dispatch - Citizens have been advised to evacuate the northeast quarter of the city. Security forces and volunteers have barricaded the roads and pathways leading in and out of the area, and remaining residents are advised to remain in their homes and report any sounds of mewling or facial deformations forming in family members and neighbors.

The lights were flickering in the containment sector. Anborough stepped lightly through the halls, hefting his humongous sack of sanity to keep the demons at bay. All around his cocoon of reality, doors warped and halls stretched. Gurgling infants noises echoed and resounded throughout the cavernous catacombs. Shadows flickered and flipped incorrectly.

Anborough cupped a hand around his mouth. He could feel the rawness of his skin, and the shuffling bandages beneath his coat. “I know you’re in here, Thaddeus.”

No sounds. Anborough kept walking. His footsteps didn’t make an echo or a squeak. They hummed, as the floor below him reformed itself into concrete or linoleum from whatever form it had been contorted into. Whatever had been held in this containment area was far beyond breached.

Something had punched a hole in the fabric of the world here, a gaping maw of empty death which pulled rationality out like someone was throwing out order with the bathwater. Anborough felt the sack bumping against his leg grow heavy as the warmth inside of it kept his island of normality afloat in this chaotic current.

Throughout this upswing of disorder, Anborough kept his eyes level and open. Each time he blinked, the surroundings of his oasis attempted to enrapture him with displays of otherworldy beings lurking behind mottled green columns, nude stark white women coquettishly gazing at him over a fistful of severed fingers, miniature people frolicking inside the corpse of a Monarch butterfly.

“We can talk about this, Thaddeus. You know I’m not a madman. We both want the same thing here. A healthy, stable Foundation for the world.”

Still, there was nothing but the raspy howling of insanity. Anborough sighed, and pressed on forwards. His own breathing was inaudible against the wailing walls walloring themselves upon the space they contained.

Proceeding ever forwards, Anborough could feel the floor getting colder beneath his feet as the sack over his arm contined radiant heating. Ground once pallid now sheened with an icy veneer. He wondered what would happen if the ice broke. Turning a corner, Anborough immediately found out.

The inexorable Thaddeus Xyank was sitting upon a small stool, a transparent and thoroughly frozen block of ice. Smiling as Anborough approached him, the man out of place stood and paced cautiously towards his erstwhile rival. “Director Anborough, I hope this doesn’t cause you any offense, but I’ve had to fiddle with a few things in your facility to prevent life from becoming unbearable.”

Anborough said nothing, but keeping a calm eye on Xyank’s position at the perimeter of his reality.

Clearing his throat. Xyank placed his hands behind his back. “I heard what you said before, about us wanting the same thing. Some of what you’ve done makes me really doubt that, but if you’re telling the truth I’m more than game to hash something out.”

“Why have you come here?” Anborough locked his eyes onto Xyanks steely (color) soul windows, pursing his lips as he did so.

“I told you. Somebody has to be knitting the Foundation back together, I guess I’m the lucky bastard who got the short end of the stick” Xyank chuckled as he put his hands forward, rolling up his sleeves. “I’m not up to any tricks here, Director. I’m just here to help.”

“That’s Administrator, I don’t know if you heard but I’ve received a promotion.” Anborough laid his sack down between them. “Why are you even still here? Out of everyone on this world, you’ve got the means and mode of getting out of this unlucky slice of the multiverse.

“Right…” scratching his head, Xyank took another step forwards. “See, the thing is, we’re not alone in this storm. Other Foundations are too. It’s bleeding between, causing mayhem everywhere. It’s not being stopped anywhere else, we’ve got to stop it here.”

“You keep saying ‘we’ but I’ve seen a lot of you stepping on toes.” Anborough frowned, twitching his nose as Xyank looked on. “I haven’t heard from Cyrus in a while, did you reconcile with him too?”

Blinking, Xyank cocked his head. “No, I haven’t, uh, found the time to leave the planet. But stepping on toes… I’ve been helping people.”

“So have I. There wasn’t any need for you to come here. Things are completely under control.” As Anborough spoke, a coarse and twisting mass of tentacles pushed through the parts of the floor not protected by Anborough and lazily began winding their way upwards. Xyank pointed, then turned back to his conversation partner. “You seeing this shit or what?”

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on in here. It’s contained. Stable. At least until you started poking our arrangements with a stick.” Anborough’s voice began to rise. “Now, unless you’re looking to provide something meaningful for the Foundation, I suggest you end your ride here.”

“Charles… you’ve gotta get outside the Foundation’s blinders, man. Seriously. There’s no need to be so stiff, so upset. We’re on the same side, wanting the same thing, right?”

“I’m not wearing Foundation blinders. I am the Foundation!”

“Oh jesus christ, here we go. So you’re the Foundation bombing houses, schools, libraries and parks? In a town where nobody bothered you, or anyone in your Foundation.. Hell, or anyone in any other Foundation.”

“Three Portland’s was a conduit for dangerous activity. I know it well, better than you. We’re doing what’s necessary to keep the veil intact.”

“Pal, I don’t know where you’re getting your intel from, but the veil protocol might as well be extinct.”

“Did you ever meet my father, Xyank?”

“Uh, no, can’t say that I ever had the pleasure.”

“Well, he used to tell me stories about going to places like Three Portlands, Backdoor Soho, Second Havana… all on official business, of course. I know the places there. Who lives there. You’re looking with rose-tinted glasses, Xyank. Where you’re crying over women and children, Vincent Anderson is putting microchips in the water table and thumbing his nose at outside authority. Marshall and Carter are making business trips to set up brick and mortar stores on its soil.

“Charles, when you throw bombs at the pressure valve, it’s not going away. It just builds up, until something explodes.”

“Yes. When the dust clears, there will be nothing left.” Anborough sniffed the air. “The normal among them can filter on to other things. But I’m not going to suffer the same fools and ulcers as the Overseers. Look how far that got them.”

“Zeus’ Beard, and I thought Anderson was bloodthirsty. You know what you’re talking about, right? Thousands dead, for what? Throwing out a couple companies doing business on the black side of what used to be a veil?

“You can call me whatever names you want, Xyank. While you’re talking, I’ll be re-consolidating what the Foundation used to be. What my father would want it to be” Anborough picked up his satchel, and began walking towards Xyank. “Are you going to get with the program?”

“Charles-” Xyank hardly had time to raise his finger before Anborough, in one fluid motion, pulled a miniaturized device out of his bag and brought it down upon Xyank’s head. The machine was one which Xyank was highly familiar with, because he had invented it.

The Scranton Reality Anchor technology had improved substantially since it had first been developed. Initially a last-ditch measure to prevent reality benders from exercising too much of their imagination, it had become the go-to machine for dealing with mischief in the realm of reality. Now, it was knocking a few of the teeth out of a mathematically squared jaw. Staggering backwards, Xyank cried out in surprise as the shield of normality surrounding Anborough stretched and twisted, keeping him half-in and half-out of its grasp.

Anborough watched as before Xyank could regain his balance, the warped tendrils kept the machine man off of his feet. Without hesitation, Anborough brought the bastion of normalcy down on his foe’s head again, and again, each strike causing the safe haven he was situated inside of to stutter, warp and flicker.

A few buttons on the device’s control panel began to alarmingly light themselves, and a few murmured beeps croaked themselves out from within the depths of its wire riddled guts. Neither man paid it any mind. Xyank, unable to even raise his arms to defend himself, closed his eyes and grimaced as the sharp metal edges dug into his flesh and scraped skin and flesh off to the bone.

“You don’t have to do this, Charles! I am not a threat to you!”

“Then why have you come, if not to smite me?

“Your father was a reasonable man! Your family is a key to the Foundation! If we worked together we could put the pieces back together again!”

Cat Story

Hanging out in the Library

Getting chased around the Back Roots