Author: Fribe PM
The adventure spills over into our planet, as the quest to unlock the full truth sends the young travelers on a scavenger hunt on the roads of America, filled with riddles and a revelation. Part 2 of 6 in the Extra-Ordinary series. COMPLETE.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Mystery - Chapters: 27 - Words: 38,682 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 12-14-12 - Published: 11-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3073607
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 17: The Man on the Bench
"Cory, I think it's time we had a talk."
There's nowhere to run, and Cory, eyes frozen on Jack, never has the thought cross his mind. Confusion swims through it. It was the same man from Fridala, from Red City, and from the apple orchard where he found his gateway home. At the time, Jack hadn't shown any indication of knowing who Cory was. And at their chance meeting at the diner, again, he seemed clueless, but didn't even recognize Cory at the time.
It was the same man, he was sure of it. Perhaps…older. Maybe by just a few years. Something is a hair different, but it's absolutely the same man, the leader of the MM. The same small, frail-faced man.
"What are you doing here?" Cory finally blurts out.
Jack stands up and paces behind Cory, who stands firm on the spot. "Congratulation, Mr. Danby, you're a winner! By god, you've done it!" He pats him on the back and finishes a lap around him. His limp is smaller, less noticeable.
"What?" Cory asks, weakly.
"Only a joke, don't worry." Jack sits back down on the edge of the bench, eyes twinkling. "Incredible! Here you are, again. You followed perfectly."
"What?" Cory beings to slink one of his hands towards a pocket that contained a key away from the bank. "You did all this?"
"I wouldn't say that the game was my idea, it was more of an inevitability." Jack closes his eyes and shrugs nonchalantly. "But I suppose that without me, this would have ceased to exist."
"The hell are you talking about? What am I doing here?"
Jack seems to ignore him, following his own script. "You've been doing very well, Cory. Found your way there and back, with three pieces now?" He cracks an eye open. "Three pieces? Aubna and yourself have found three?"
Cory's jaw quivers, anger boiling upwards. "Leave her out of this. Talk straight. What do you want me to do?"
Jack again brushes him off. "Well I'll hand it to you, you're doing a great job at piecing it together, kid. And everything's gone off without a hitch. But you don't need to know more than you have to, not yet. You'll figure it out someday." He pauses and tilts his head at Cory. "How'd you like to go home?"
"I am home."
"No. No, you're aren't," Jack disagrees firmly. "All of this," he motions around, "doesn't have to be real, it doesn't have to be the final verdict. Haven't you wondered yet what might happen when you connect all four pieces of that rock? I'm sure you've thought that over, that there's four total."
He keeps his chin up as he nods. "Sure. Every day."
"Well all right. Then why don't I just tell you?"
Cory gasps in a quick breath. Who is this guy?
"The stones that you've been collecting. There are two in each world, that scatters across it to random locations in a region. Sometimes, they seem attracted to places or people with which it will have a specific meaning or significance. The original that you found in Plant City was there for a reason. Regardless, finding all four and locking them together unlocks the key to you getting back where you belong, Cory. Away from here."
"And where do I belong?"
Jack looks him square in the eye. "The past. To go back to any point in your lifetime and start over from there. A place like, say…the second before you picked up that stone in the forest. Wouldn't that make life easier for you?"
Cory leans forward. "Why are you telling me this? And why should I believe you? What was the point of doing this in the first place if I'm just going back to where I started!"
"Because I'm the only one here whispering anything into your ear. You want a solution to your problem, you listen to me and do as I say. It's not hard. Everything will be fine."
He raises his voice louder, fists clenches. "So I can magically go back to the past! That's it? No catch? What, you just want to help me out all of a sudden? One minute you look like you want to kill me, then you don't recognize me, now all of a sudden you're my best friend? And why do you look older?
Jack chuckles under his breath. "I'll admit, I was impatient. But it's not important."
"Sure it is!"
Jack firms up. "But that isn't how it works, Cory. There's very little that you need to know. You'll find many red herrings along the path, but they're for you and you alone to sort out."
"Damn it, why? Why are you jerking me around?"
"And – I hate telling you this, but I have to – if you follow through and return to your original timeline, you'll never return to the other world, to Fridala. That gateway will close. And when you do, time will shift back for everyone there as well. No one will remember you or what happened to them over the past weeks. All erased." He smiles up at Cory. "But someday soon you'll understand the truth."
Cory slowly turns back around to face the bank. "Then…what if I don't want to fix anything? I can go to the police right now and make up a story. I can go home."
"Which would have worked well up until now. Until the security cameras could you inside of that bank. The manager's surely calling the police right now."
"What?" Cory croaks back at him.
For the first time, Jack appears to grow nervous, dreading the words that will come out of his mouth next. "And…with the history your family has with banks…I'm sure that would raise some questions."
Cory whips back around. "What the hell are you talking about? How'd you know this?"
Jack groans. "You had a much more persuasive tool than your brother. You succeeded where he failed. And all his task required was emptying out a few registers. You were given a much more intricate game."
Cory's eyes slant down at Jack. "The hell are you talking about?" he hisses.
Indifferent, Jack carries on. "I'm sorry that it had to be like that, I truly am. It didn't have to be Kevin, but it wasn't entirely my choice to make. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"You son of a bitch!" Cory grabs Jack by the shirt collar and throws him back against the bench, face red with rage. "You're the guy who set him up? That was real?"
Pinned back, Jack remains calm, although shaken. "Perhaps you should have gone and developed that film, Cory. The roll of film? You've forgotten it."
Cory releases him but holds his fists close. "Film?"
Jack issues a final warning. "You have until midnight tomorrow to go find the final quadrant of the stone. The MM is going to try and experiment with it that will probably render it worthless to you. It's in their possession, but I'm not sure where. General Vero has the key to open the box they're keeping it in."
Cory blinks, and stutters as he gathers up his furious thought. "Why? Why would you do this to us?
Jack opens his mouth and picks words from his mind carefully, with a momentary look of fear and dread. As if the next words had been rehearsed. "I…I'm doing it for Milo," he says, voice wavering.
A tiny, high sound of something very small flying through the air. From just behind them, a splintering of glass from the windshield of one of the parked cars. A shattered hole in the window. They each turn their head.
"And that's my cue to run," Jack announces, slipping out from under Cory. "Good luck, Cory Danby! You'll find me again someday, I'm sure of it!"
From around the side of the bank, a barrage of bullets spray the cars parked behind the bench, just over Cory's shoulder.