2008-03-15: No Time Like The Present

Starring:

Jack_icon.gif FuturePeter_icon.gif

Summary: "Although prepared for martyrdom, I prefer it be postponed."

Date It Happened: March 15, 2008

No Time Like The Present


1701 - Prestige Midtown Apts.

When the dream begins, it's a dream that Jack knows well. Lost somewhere between memory and reality, he dances the steps that he's danced many, many times before. Always the same, never changing. Always questions, never answers. It's a copy of a copy of a copy of what was.

The glass tank slowly fills with viscous, purple fluid. Zero stands obediently in the center as he was ordered while it puddles around his ankles. Hands clasped behind his back in an imitation of the military at-ease posture, he observes the excited scurrying of men and women in lab coats as they attend to various control panels and banks of computers.

One man is wearing a suit instead of a lab coat. Igee Rasmussen is the only one standing still; he's only a few feet away from the circular tank that contains Zero. Hands clasped behind his back and feet shoulder-width apart, it's unclear which of them is mimicking the other. Igee locks his gray eyes on Zero's and blandly states, "There may be some momentary discomfort."

When the fluid level reaches Zero's thighs, he begins to feel fear for the first time in his short life. A strangled groan creeps out of his throat. When the fluid reaches his chest, he is unable to contain his fear any longer. He screams, using basic terminology and a voice that is raspy, rough, and uncertain. "NO! STOP! HELP!"

Cold and expressionless, Igee motions to one of the lab technicians without averting his eyes. "Cut the audio. We don't need to hear this."

Though the speakers are no longer transmitting, Zero's screams are audible from inside the enclosure. Finally, the liquid fills the tank completely. The screaming is silenced to a gurgle as his airway is obstructed. As one, the technicians breathe a sigh of relief when they can no longer see or hear his flailing struggle.

Then, suddenly, a hand becomes visible as Zero presses his palm against the inside of the glass. A moment later it disappears and is quickly replaced by a fist. It takes several impacts before cracks in the glass become visible.

"Sedatives!" Igee cries to his team. "Push Lorazepam, now!"

But it's too late. One more punch weakens the glass enough that it finally gives, spilling out Zero and hundreds of gallons of the purple liquid. Everyone recoils away from the spreading pool, even Igee.

Nude, gasping and retching for breath, Zero comes to his feet. He stoops and picks up a large, jagged shard of glass from the broken tank and then walks casually through the puddle toward Igee.

To his credit, young Igee Rasmussen shows no fear, despite being backed against the wall by both Zero and the fluid that everyone seems so averse to touching. With surprising agility, he attempts to vault away toward the lab's door.

It takes almost no effort at all for Zero to block his escape. He pins Igee against the door mercilessly, raises his improvised knife and digs it in at the corner of Igee's jaw. "Remember, there may be some momentary discomfort," he purrs. A crooked smile creases his face.

Then, slowly, almost lovingly, he slits Igee's throat.

—-

As the knife drags through skin, something seems to shift and solidify. A hand reaches out to touch the naked man's shoulder, gripping at the soaked skin. "Jack," a voice says, deep and raspy, as if speaking through a throat that's dry. Not a number. A name.

"Jack, look at me." The hand tightens. It's attached to a man, not tall. He has to reach upward a bit to touch the shoulder he's holding. Dark hair is slicked back out of his face, shadows cast angular lines. A deep rivet of healed flesh stands out in as shadows streak a thick line from forehead to cheek, between his eyes, missing them. Unlike the man he's touching, he's fully clothed, all in black.

"We need to talk, Jack."

In the room where Jack lays, a hand rests on his shoulder. Angle different, reaching down rather than up. "Jack." The hand tightens, trying to jostle the man out of sleep. "We need to talk."

—-

Jack's eyes snap open and he sucks in a gasping, terrified breath. The face peering down at him is familiar. He's seen it his past through a haze of fuddled, drug-addled memories. Memories that only come to him in fitfully snatched bits of sleep. "Christ…" he whispers. "Christ, it was you all along. You're… You saved me? It was you?"

It was. There's no question in Jack's mind now. The man who carried him off and whisked him to safety that day is right next to him. The memory that had been so elusive in the past has solidified. He remembers.

It's all happening so fast. It's a good thing that Jack left the hotel room he's been sharing with Trina. He spent the evening wandering around his former apartment. Collecting his thoughts. Speaking to himself. He never intended to fall asleep but the recliner had looked so inviting…

"Holy shit," he says, summing the situation up nicely.

—-

"You were dreaming," the same voice says. The tone whispered and deep, still raspy. Not from anger or frustration, but definitely different than it should be. There's a strain around his eyes, familiar as the haze of dream fades away. The dream may as well be real where he's concerned, he looks the same. Sounds the same. Everything else twisted around him is different.

The hand pulls away, giving the man on the reclincer more room to move. There's a pause from the man in black, as if he's considering something, before he looks away. "I did what I could to help you. I promised I would." The looking away adds to a distance, as if he's reluctant to speak, but unable to fully stop himself, either.

When he looks back, the tone lightens just a fraction, the apartment's lighting bringing out certain features that pull more on a present, less dream-addled memory. "Things are happening. There are promises we all need to keep."

—-

It takes a moment for Jack to shake his surprise. The sudden revelation is… very revealing. It was Peter who saved him, and years before they'd ever "met" each other. "You traveled back in time for me," he says, his voice tentative and husky with gratitude. "You really do always keep your promises."

The situation is starting to come into focus. Practical to the core, Jack knuckles at his eyes and shakes his head to dispel the last of his dreamed memory. The emotional thank-yous will have to wait until later. For now, Jack settles for a firm, manly handshake and a blunt assessment of the situation. "You wouldn't be here without a very good reason. What can I do to help?"

—-

Years before and years after. That's the problem with time travel. "I'm sure you would have been able to save yourself, whether I'd been there or not," Peter says, that distance coming between them again. It could be modesty, or faith in the man's ability. There's something far less open about him, more strained. A tired look in his eyes. Things aren't quite the same, and it's not just the obvious wound across his face.

The firm handshake seems to settle things somewhat. Eyes stop drifting away from him, settling on his face for a longer timeframe. A redness around his eyes hints toward sleep deprevation. He'd been doing that to himself already, but something about this seems longer term and slightly more intense.

"I'm from the future," he explains, voice tightening again. "Further than the last future you heard about. Different." The future always is. "When you helped get rid of Danny Walsh…" A name that he shouldn't remember, but does. Maybe it's a name he can't forget, considering the situation that caused his death… "You knew exactly what to do to dispose of bodies. You know what other people, people who know the same, would do to get rid of them, places they might go to."

—-

This is a conversational vein that Jack doesn't like. Not that Peter is from the future. He can accept that readily enough. What bothers him is that the future obviously hasn't been a kind one for his friend. Though Peter had always been the older of the pair, now he just looks tired beyond his years. The signs of insomnia are plain to see, especially to a fellow sufferer like Jack.

"I do," he agrees, standing and moving toward the kitchen. Making coffee is a simple, domestic task that seems to conflict terrible with the seriousness of the situation, but caffeine is a salve for all wounds.

"There's lots of ways to get rid of a body," he continues. "What's wrong, Pete?" The Irishman lowers his voice to a gentler tone, one that's at odds with his usual basso profundo. "Kid… You look like shit and I'm not just talkin' about your face. What happened?"

—-

Caffeine likely will not be rejected. Peter follows in slow steps that make little noise on the new floorboards. Everything got fixed up since their fight, more or less. Thanks to Trina, thanks to Logan. "Four years is what happened, Jack," he answers softly, giving a number to the time spent in the future. "Everything's on the path already. A different path, one going back as long as…" He trails off, there's tension around his mouth again. It's almost as if he's… "I'm not sure how much I can tell you," he finally says, shaking his head and looking away.

"The Company that Logan works for, that I was working against before… they have to be getting rid of bodies somehow. Bodies of people they experiment on." There's a tension in his voice still, something about experiments on people bothers him quite a bit. Then again, after the dream he interrupted… "For a biotech firm, I imagine the job is easier than it is for people on the streets, but you might know a way to find out what they're doing. And possibly where they're getting the people— before they start experimenting on them."

There's a pause. "There's a lot I don't know about what happened in the spring of this year. A lot I need to find out." But when he looks at the man there's something else behind the hardness in his eyes. While he has a request, there's something else behind choosing to see him… Something far more personal, less business.

—-

"Whoawhoa, slow down." Jack spreads his hands helplessly at the sudden influx of information. There's fear and recognition in his eye, though. This situation is far, far too familiar for his tastes.

"First things first, you gotta have people to make bodies. That's no problem in this city. Know how many people go missing every day?" He shrugs. "Me neither. They probably use the homeless, single people without any family, shit like that. They'll have a system for selection. There's always a system."

There's a moment where Jack sucks in a deep breath and holds it. Steadying himself. There are more memories at work here. He grits his teeth and continues. "Gettin' rid of 'em is even easier. They probably use a commercial furnace somewhere in their research facility. Incineration is the only way to do work like that in quantity."

Standing with his feet shoulder-width apart and his hands clasped loosely behind his back, Jack fixes his good eye on the face of the man who has been his protege, mentor, friend, and brother. "The only way to find out what's goin' on for sure would be to have a look around for ourselves."

—-

Homeless. They may not be important in the grand scheme of things, but for a moment Peter looks tense on the subject. The way he stands seems to be hyper perpared, ready to move at any moment, restless. A lot can happen in four years. Not just the nasty mark slashing across his face.

"Ourselves…" he repeats, before suddenly shifting, moving away a step or two as he reaches into the side pocket of his coat. What he pulls out is a pocket watch, by all appearances. Silvery in color, with a fancy design on the outside. A circular pattern, very complex. Flicking it open he looks down at it for a moment.

Waving his hand over it once, there's a small sound, a click, as if he reset a dial. "Not us. You," he finally says after a moment. "You and the people here, in your time." Even from a distance, the pocket watch looks far more complex than it should be; multiple dials, more than three hands.

"There's a lot going on. Changing one thing… could change everything. And there will be distractions… things that will take your attention away from what's happening in Pinehearst. You can't let it," he looks over at him. "Even if it means delaying on promises."

—-

"You're worryin' me, Pete," Jack says, his brow furrowed with concern as he reaches out to clasp his friend's shoulder warmly. "But it sounds like this is somethin' to worry over. I'll have a look around. You gonna be… in town?"

His stance is tense and taut. He was raised as a soldier. A tool. A weapon to be directed and discharged. Though he has some experience as a leader, the thought of handling this alone isn't one he relishes. "Tell me you didn't just drop by for a message. You can help. I've seen it."

—-

"You won't have to do this alone. I can give you contacts, people who can help you," Peter says, closing the overly complex watch and shoving it back into his pockets. "Names, at least. I have current adresses on some of them. But you're the first one that I've tried to see." The first one of all his many friends, all the people who might matter just as much to him?

While he hadn't pulled away from the touch on his shoulder, it took a few moments for him to reach up and return the gesture, squeezing the other man's arm. "I'll be around. There's a lot that I need to do. I don't know which move will change the way things are yet. When I stop coming back, you'll know I fixed it." Or gave up. Or died trying.

—-

The last two parts are implied. Jack doesn't need to hear them spoken to understand them. He nods nods briskly, a single bob of his head and then releases Peter. "I'm honored that you came to me first. I hope I've been as much a friend to you in the future as you've been for me in the past and the present. I'll do my best to find out what the hell is goin' on. You give me this… this team… and I'll lead it for you."

The coffee is done, which helps to break what might otherwise have been an uncomfortable silence. A great deal of trust as been extended and a great deal is owed. More than that, here stand two men who will do anything to save the future.

One so he can live it. One so he may never have to.

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