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Match Made In 

Max closed the lid to the laptop. "Ok, I've gotta make a run for some coffee." He looked around the motel room; there was no one else there. 

The cellphone rang again. He let it.


Point And Match

"Craptacular," Max said. He butted out a cigarette and glanced at his watch. He was dying for a coffee, since his head had begun to hurt.


Return of No Point 

Small specks of snow began to fall from the sky; not enough to warrant a shelter, just enough to let them know that winter was still here. 

"Shit," Suki said. She looked at all of them and shook her head. "It's worse than I thought."

"What do you - waitaminute..." Donnelly looked around at the others. "What's happening?" 

Suki frowned. She snapped the cell phone closed - no signal to the Professor either. "I told you, there's some sort of threshold event occurring. Or is about to occur. Or just occurred." She looked to Scorpio. "Somewhere in that LEGACY-tailored brain of yours is the all the data on your ex-team's shift protocols. Frank had it stored in his, you gotta have it buried somewhere in yours."

"And so what if I do? How did this Frank-guy remember these whatever-you-called-them?" 

"We need any stable reference points we can get if there's a shiftstorm happening - safe-houses, phone numbers, records, contacts, anything. Or we could all get lost." Suki smiled, with a hint of sadness. "Frank's recovery involved a warlock, a tattoo-artist and a bungee-jump..."

Father Donnelly looked around, scanning the rest stop. The barren trees, the faux-wood exteriors of the washrooms, the picnic tables gently frosted with white, all slow-cooked in the orange of the lamp-post. 

His voice sounded high-pitched when he finally spoke. "Where's Mayganne?"


Point Of No Return

Small droplets of water began to fall from the sky; not enough to warrant a shelter, just enough to let them know that spring was finally arriving. 

"Fuck," Suki said. She looked around at them all and shook her head. "It's worse than I thought."

"What do you mean?" Donnelly asked. 

"Means there is a lot more brewing here than the Professor informed me about!" Suki said. It was the first time Scorpio saw the woman snarl. And it scared the hell out of him. "Fuck, this is bigger than Version Orion."

"Version Orion?" said Scorpio. The mention of that name stirred something in his memory, but he couldn't quite place it. 

Suki tried the cellphone again, her thumb dancing over the keys and bringing it up to her ear. She shook her head. "There must be several major shifts going on; whatever has happened has caused a shitstorm in the plureality."

Donnelly glanced at Suki. Even though he had just met her a few hours ago, he knew in his gut that she was a good soul. He chuckled at that thought. 

"Max is lying low isn't he?" Mayganne inquired.

"Max doesn't lie low," Suki replied. "He stirs the pot."



"Thank you for meeting with me, Agent Light," Greg Logollos said, taking a seat across from the young man. He looked crisp and clean in his expensive three-piece suit. At the tables surrounding them other patrons of the Azure restaurant carried on their own quiet conversations. A background whisper of deals and bargains and secrets.

Simon tapped a key on his PDA, opening a file to take notes. "You have some information regarding a current investigation?" 

Greg poured a cup of coffee from the urn on the table and offered it to Simon.

"No thank you. I don't drink coffee." 

Greg smiled. "No, of course not. But yes, we do feel we can be helpful in certain matters, yes." Something about the man's smooth tone made Simon miss the gruff detectives from the other day. "LEGACY has always enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with all of the agencies such as yours. What is the current slang? The Alphabet crews? We've worked with the FBI, CIA, CSIS, NSA, DEA, MI6-"

"I understand, Mr. Logollos. Please, I don't have a lot of time." Things hadn't quieted down since he was first tapped to check out some potential terrorist activity. The diner, the building downtown - some sort of makeshift hostel based on the remains - both burnt down. The mutilated bodies, complete with a small arsenal of cutting-edge gear, splattered inside the warehouse. The body of Lon Lugerelli, killed execution-style. The appearance of the Fujimoria woman, taken off their watch-lists over five years ago when she was reported dead. The body of Aaron Quipton, found in an apartment along with signs of a kidnapping, killed by an as-yet-unidentified energy weapon. The action-movie-car-chase-gunfight on the interstate four days ago. A strange and violent set of tracks that Simon was trying to follow to whatever beast was stalking his territory. 

Greg nodded. "Indeed. Agent Light, you're aware of the recent incident at our research facility. We believe it is directly connected to your current pursuit of Ms. Suki Fujimoria for questioning in a number of deaths and incidents of arson."

Simon arched an eyebrow. "Connected how?" 

"In a number of ways, possibly. Most importantly, we believe that she is currently trying to locate the man who is the cause of all the recent... chaos."

"That's a man I would be interested in meeting. What's your interest? This person was somehow responsible for the damage to your facility?" 

Greg nodded. He sipped his own coffee. For a moment he stared at the liquid in the cup. "Our principle concern is this man's recent attempts to sabotage an ongoing experiment being conducted by LEGACY. An act of corporate espionage, if you will."

"Who is he?" 

"His name is Max Cube."

Simon shrugged. "Should I know the name?" 

Greg studied the agent for a moment. "I thought you might."

"We'll need everything you have on him, of course," Simon said, tapping his PDA. 

"Of course," Greg nodded. "I am pleased to be able to inform you that we have a lead on the Fujimoria woman."


Greg leaned in closer and explained to Simon that an employee of LEGACY was currently being held hostage by Fujimoria, and that by using some classified satellite technology and an employee genetic-tagging system, they were in the process of locating them.

Greg smiled. "We'll have coordinates for you within 24 hours."


The Universes In My Coffee Cup
"You shouldn't be here," Suki said to Scorpio in a matter-of-fact tone. Scorpio could tell by her voice that she wasn't being smug; it sounded more like a teacher to a pupil. 

Scorpio looked at the woman and smiled; it was the first time it felt genuine. "I have no other options left. You made sure of that."

"No, you SHOULDN'T be here," Suki emphasized as she placed her coffee cup down on the table. The roadside diner was nearly empty at this time of the morning, except for a trio of truckers sitting at the counter and a young couple sitting a few booths down. 

"What do you mean?" Scorpio questioned. He hadn't touched his coffee; it sat in front of him black and cold. He couldn't drink anything since his mind was racing over the past few days. However now his curiousity was piqued about what she was going to say.

"First answer a question. And then I will explain it to you," Suki replied. She had taken the sugar packages and some creamers from the bowl at the far side of the table and placed them beside Scorpio's untouched coffee. "What do you remember of your life?"

Images and memories of his past came popping through his mind. As if a switch had gone on in a theatre and the movie began to roll. He remembered growing up an orphan, going from foster home to foster home. He remembered his first kiss with Jenny McRae underneath a huge oak tree in a park. He remembered while in college he was approached by a man in a black suit and how he joined the LEGACY fold. He also remembered his first kill, a middle-aged woman who was supposed to be responsible for the loss of many lives. He shook the last image away like someone brushing dirt off a jacket. "Standard stuff, why?" 

"Look at this coffee cup," Suki said as she pointed at Scorpio's untouched coffee. "Imagine this to be a version of reality; better yet your version of reality as you see it."

Scorpio nodded. Because, after all, it was just coffee. 

Suki brought up a sugar packet and tore one end and held it before her. "Now think of each of these individual crystals inside this packet as variables. And when added to this reality here, it changes."

She poured the contents of the packet slowly into the cup, making sure that Scorpio was watching the sugar dissolve as it sank into the depths of the dark liquid. 

"That reality is different now. It became different when we added variables. Instead of a dark bitter world, we now have a little flavour," she said with a slight smile. Scorpio watched with interest. "These variables change when added into the fold; it changes the world but you can't see it. It changes everything, but still it's unseen."

She placed the empty packet down and brought up the cream and she added just a tiny drop. "Now think of this as Max. See what happens to the coffee. It changes. It's not dark anymore but has gained a speck of colour. And watch what happens when more is added. So this reality changes. 

"A dark unseasoned version, spiced up with variables and changed by an introduction of another element to change it completely," Suki said.

"And?" Scorpio asked. 

"Just think of yourself as a variable, changed by the introduction of an element," Suki told him.



The Next Agenda 

Donnelly sat at her bedside. She looked so pale. She almost seemed faded, like an old photo. He finished his prayer.

The reverend had been praying a lot, both with others in the renegade church and by himself. Last night he had even tried praying to Odin. Standing out in the woods in the dark, remembering the mighty, terrible figure looming over him, wounded and wise. Donnelly had just improvised something, and his whispers had sounded like wind in the trees. He had started by asking for Odin's guidance, and protection, but eventually he had started talking, thoughts streaming from him, wishes and hopes. He had described the dream he'd always had of a beautiful cathedral, its doors open and welcoming. He had begged the Allfather to lead them to a world where they were safe, where Alice was better, where she and Max were married and happy, or where Max had never come to them. 

One of his prayers, to his God, had been answered. Mayganne was back. And another of his prayers as well; she had some answers.

While the Father had tended to the dressings on the cuts and bruises on her face, she had told him about her capture by LEGACY and her rescue by the mysterious woman, Suki. 

"I think we can trust her, Mother," Donnelly said to the unconscious woman. "She seems to know a lot about Max... She wouldn't even come with Mayganne to our sanctuary, so its location wouldn't be compromised..." He sighed, and took hold of Alice's hand. It was hot. Better than cold, he figured. "Mayganne says she needs to find Max. We have his cell number. But I'm going back to the city; I need to meet her before I give her the number."

He glanced down at the satchel he had packed. He had gotten everything ready before coming to see Alice. He knew his resolve might weaken. Mayganne was already outside in the car. The handgun was in his pocket. 

"I'll be back, dear girl," he said, leaning in to kiss her forehead. Here eyelids, for now, were still. "Maybe I'll find out what's happening." And when he thought of everything that had happened - fleeing the city, learning about LEGACY, Luger being a traitor, doing the ritual with Max to kill the hit squad, meeting Odin - tears formed in his eyes. And suddenly he was thinking about everything, all the ways the world kept changing, all the faces of everyone in his church, the fear that they carried with them always, the sister he no longer had. And he was crying, leaning down, his face against Alice's shoulder, sobbing. All the words of all the sermons he had told falling like red snow through his mind, melting into nothing against the burning ache inside him.

When he finally left the room, Hank was waiting outside. 

"I'm against this,  Father," Hank said as Donnelly passed him. His voice was tense.

The reverend rounded on the younger, larger man. "I really don't give a shit what you think. You just keep everyone here safe until I get back." 

Eyes wide, Hank was silent as Father Donnelly went downstairs.



Damage Control 

"... upon initial investigation there was a rupture in the main gasline which caused the explosion at our research facility two days ago," Greg Logollos said into a podium full of microphones. He happened to be the man of the hour, with all the personality of a superstar and the charismatic appeal of a politician. Plus the soul of a snake. "It wasn't an outright attack as the media stated when the event occurred." 

It was his job. Damage control; to make sure that the recent events had no bearing on what was unfolding. To make lies become truth, and the truth to become fiction. He loved his work.

"So it wasn't an act of terror then?" a reporter from CNW asked. "Eyewitness' reported seeing a van heading in the general direction of the complex before there was an explosion." 

"Oh yes," said Logollos, with the skill of a snakeoil salesman. "We all know how the media likes to pick up on small details and bend them to make it look like one thing when in fact there is a simpler solution altogether."

"Does the security videotapes show anything unusual at all?" a reporter from ABNC News asked. 

"The video tapes show nothing," he said honestly. Because it was the truth, since an electromagnetic pulse wiped out everything in a ten mile radius of the facility. That was standard procedure in case something like this happened. "The matter is under federal investigation and until we know what they know, that is all I can say," Logollos said with a lie so thick you could call it titanium.



Standing in the Tide 

"She is not getting any better," Father Donnelly said once he had closed the door to the bedroom. Susanna closed her eyes. Hank clenched his fist.

"It's time we do something," Hank said. 

Susanna could feel the storm that was about to break in the hallway of the cottage. She mumbled something about checking on the children outside and headed for the stairs.

The reverend knew this argument was due. They had reviewed the options already, two days ago, when Alice first got sick. They couldn't risk going back to the city, or calling help to come here. Any doctor in the nearest town would only send her to the hospital; she clearly needed treatment of some kind. 

Fevers, vomiting, hallucinations. Strange bruising would appear and disappear all over her body.

They couldn't take her to a hospital, though. Max had been clear about that when the plan had been made to come here. No contact with the system in any way. Even Max didn't know their exact location. He said he would call when it was safe. 

Hank knew all of that, but Donnelly knew they were still going to argue about it. Because of Max. Donnelly trusted him, Hank didn't. And now Alice's health, maybe her life, hung in the balance.

He already knew everything Hank was going to say, most likely yell. He also knew that Hank used to have problems with anger; he hoped nothing bad was about to happen. He would let Hank have the argument though, because even though everything had already been said, even though nothing would change - the group had decided to wait - sometimes you still needed to have the fight anyway. 

Hank looked at the reverend, eyes hard and cold.

Johannesberg called up from downstairs. "Father! Milligan says there's a vehicle coming up the lane!"




"I'm out," Scorpio said as he looked at his gun and wished it to refill with ammo. He turned around in disgust since he had wasted most of his shots.

Suki swerved on the interstate, the car fish-tailing on the fresh fallen snow, making it hard to maneuver. She cursed under her breath; she knew she shouldn't be pushing 100 mph in a snowstorm. 

"How many?" Suki inquired. She really didn't have time to take a head count of the pursuers.

"Three sedans. Two black vans," Scorpio replied somberly. He knew this was serious business. This meant that it was a Cleaning Crew. He probably knew over half the pursuing party, as well. But he also knew one thing that they didn't know; that he was alive and part of the pursued. 

"Craptacular," Suki said. It was a word that Dexter had used several times in what seemed to be a forever ago and another several realities away.

"Is it the police?" Mayganne asked. She was lying down on the backseat of the car, amongst the shards of broken windows. They looked like small uncut diamonds. 

"No. Wish it were though." Scorpio replied as he tossed his gun on the seat beside him. He had checked the glove compartment on the off-chance that there was a clip or two waiting for him. "Much worse."



Armageddon It 

"Did you catch that movie '217'?" Randy asked. His shift was pretty close to its end and he wanted to make lite conversation to pass the time. He found it made the last half hour go faster. 

"Is it that movie that everyone is gawking about these days?" his elder partner, Vic, asked. Vic earmarked the page he was reading before he put down the pulp novel, The January Project. "The one where 217 Texans stave off the advancing Spanish army?"

"Yeah," Randy said. He was glad that Vic knew of it. "I saw it last week when it opened, I was thinking of going tonight again..." 

The walkie talkie sqawked.

Vic reached over and picked it up. "Sentry Station 7 here." 

"We have an unidentified bogey coming in your direction," the operator said. "It's not slowing down."

"Great," Randy said under his breath. Just what he needed, some bleeding heart liberal protesting something or another about this facility. He stood up and stretched, and he could hear the roar of the van approaching. 

"We're on it," Vic said. He hooked the walkie to his belt and unlocked the cabinet where the shotguns were.

"By the sounds of it this fellow is in a hurry," Randy commented. He couldn't see the van approaching but he could hear the squeal of tires as it took a bend. Randy stepped out and took the binoculars with him. "He's going to be within view in a few seconds." 


Max shifted into another gear, picking up more speed. Ramming speed. He brought up a bloody hand to wipe his brow; his knuckles continued to bleed. He took the opportunity to take the cigarette from his mouth, and exhaled a long plume of smoke. 

"Speak to me, baby," he said to the haze as it began to swirl. He cracked a smile, a rather pleasant happy smile. He glanced at the pack of cigarettes that was in the shotgun seat; they were open and three smokes danced about the seat. 

Should have stopped and gotten another pack, he thought. But then again a shot up cream-coloured van and a bloody driver might draw suspicion.

His foot had the pedal to the floor. Blood was still seeping from the gunshot wound on his right arm; there was no time to bandage it. 

He drove past a sign that declared: 

L.E.G.A.C.Y> Research Institute
Brightening Your Future So You Don't Have To

He glanced back at the giant barrel-like device that was anchored in the back, the time was counting down 10:00 minutes.

"Showtime," he said wryly. He shifted it into the fifth and final gear.



Where I Lay My Hat  

“Hank, I can’t thank you enough,” Alice said as she dropped her backpack onto the bed. Dust floated up in the beam of the flashlight. “It’s really nice, and there’s room enough for everyone.” 

Hank smiled, holding the light steady while Alice unrolled her sleeping bag and Susanna started placing some of her clothes in the dresser. It wasn’t the first time that they had relocated in the years they'd been together. As things changed, so did the places they lived. Some kept normal homes, most took to living communally in places like The Rave. Sometimes they moved by choice, sometimes they moved because their havens disappeared in a shift. New places and hangouts, and new passwords and signals. And each time there was Alice, waitress, college student, even an actress once, supervisor at a women’s shelter, her world and her life warping around her, while she remained constant, a beacon calling the lost home.

Hank realized that he was falling in love with her. He cleared his throat, worried the women could somehow read his thoughts. “I always hoped we could use this place, eventually,” he said. “ But it’s so far away from, well, anything really. Except the other cottages on the lake. Although they’re all abandoned too, since the land deal happened. They were the last I heard, anyway.” 

Alice smirked. “Unless that’s all changed.”

Hank smiled back. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe I should take Jo and check out-“ 

Alice interjected. “Hank, it can wait until tomorrow. You’ve been at the wheel for so long. Get some rest tonight.” 

“He’ll probably be up all night escorting people to the outhouse,” Susanna joked. 

The rest of the cottage was bustling. Beds getting assigned, supplies getting unpacked. A fire finally clawing into brightness in the main room. Seeing everyone come together, work together, here in the place where he spent his childhood summers… It made Hank’s heart full of rainbow feelings. Every time they learned that something had changed, Hank always tried to remember those summers, to make sure they were still there. He feared losing his past most of all. Now it seemed that his future, all of their futures, were at risk.

He frowned as he watched Johannesberg and Milligan check over the hunting rifles they had brought on the retreat. He knew that Father Donnelly still had that pistol Max had given him. At the thought of Max the anger returned. The sense of pride and closeness he was feeling flared into a red rage as quickly as if he had shifted.

Maybe he had… maybe that’s why he had so many problems throughout his life dealing with anger. Something about his identity shifting… He tried to hold onto the idea, the sense of it… 

Johannesberg called him. “Hey Hank, will you walk us down to the dock?”

Alice and Susanna came downstairs as Hank led Jo and Milligan, both armed, out into the cold night. 

“Things feel…” Alice said softly. “It’s like they’re building to something.”

Susanna took Alice’s arm in hers. “I know what you mean. Something’s happening. We’re caught up in something. Maybe this Max is the key to figuring out what’s going on?” 

Alice thought about Max. She was still fighting the urge to call him. “I just feel… That it will somehow end badly.”

Susanna shivered. It was unnerving to hear Mother talk like that. She tried to change the line of conversation. “Did Hank ever say if this place had a name?” 

Alice smiled wryly, her tone sarcastic. “Maybe we should call it the Alamo.” 

“How about Helm’s Deep? They won that one.”


Forest Through The Trees 

Max was naked and covered in sweat. The paint on his body losing its contrast and beginning to blend in, making it seem like the patterns were moving. 

He sat there in the lotus position, finger and thumb still clenched, eyes closed and letting the heat and the feel of the smoke wash over him. He was beyond tired, beyond sleep, he was beyond it all.

The drumming continued. The chanting of an old native man, intermixed with the young woman's trill, continued on, echoing through his mind, becoming part of the soundscape. Imagery, faces, events, situations, watches, cards, houseflies and emotions going through him like a wave on a distant shore. 

The chanting continued, the drums as well; it seemed to pick up a little pace. Max was lost to it.

"Awnee, Max." 

Max's eyes flickered open; the pupils were like reflections of torchlight in a pond.

"What can I do for you?" the wolf asked. 

Max was standing in an open field where the 13 moons were shining overhead, intermixed with reflections from distant stars. With a hint of darkness and light from all around the horizon, like sunrise and sunset. Here he was in twilight.

A campfire lighting up the area around him, in the shadows of the trees he could make out red eyes, green eyes, black eyes all staring down upon him. He could feel their hunger, but he wasn't scared. 

"I think you know," Max told the wolf.

The wolf changed to the image of an old native man, who sat cross-legged across from him. Naked, covered in symbolic tattoos. "I cannot fight your demons for you. It is you and you alone who can face them."




“At this point the Cube’s implants will have become active. They will have been triggered by his use of tactical engagement against LEGACY. He will be doubting his course of action, feeling responsible for bringing conflict to the Aggregation of Variables. He will feel remorse at having to resort to violence. He will start to feel lost and alone. 

“The Cube will employ his standard array of Trances: Hunter to seek out LEGACY, Sage to analyze their agenda, Shadow to evade capture. The implants will continue to emit disruption frequencies targeting each Trance. He will wonder why he must always end up fighting, what choices he has made that always lead him back to the war. He will suspect that his belief in a LEGACY agenda for the church is a lie to mask his guilt over disrupting their sanctuary; that he secretly resents them for having something he never did. That he tricked them into running because he couldn’t bear to be with them. 

“The implants will begin tagging and enhancing any neuroforms that ascribe Causality to the Cube. That make him the source of what went wrong. He will begin to doubt the ontological status of any memories he has that provide Continuity, including the Dragons, the Metaplex, even Plureality. If he remains isolated enough for long enough, Version Null will begin to generate. 

“The threat of LEGACY will become the only Certainty, the only ground to the figure of his thoughts and actions. He will need them, like an addict. This is the standard equation. This is how it always happens. The trajectories launched by this iteration of the Cube will with 100 percent probability intersect with the vectors of Simon Light.”

Morganfokker pauses from dictating his report. His eyes look briefly haunted. 

“And that will be the end of Max.”


The Colour Of Scent 

Mayganne awoke to the sound of a cellphone chirping. It sounded like an FX from one of those cheesy sci-fi shows you would see on a specialty channel. For some reason it made her think of home, and her brother the sci-fi geek. He would be in paradise if he only knew the truth. But in this version she didn't have a brother. 

The swelling had gone down in her left eye, so she could make out very blurry images about her. Her right eye was bandaged and useless at the moment.

She made out the form of the woman, who appeared to be tall and angelic in nature. She chalked that up to the morning sun through the window. But her eyes' fine-tuning wasn't kicking in, so the woman remained part of the static of her vision. 

"Professor," the woman said into the phone. "It's good to hear you voice. What little of it that I can hear."

Mayganne turned and she could make out Scorpio's form sitting on the floor by the side of the bed. His head was on the bed, and he was snoring a little. Her first reaction was of revulsion and she wanted to shove him away. Then she remembered that for the past two days he had been watching over her and tending to her like an orderly. 

It would be a long way to trust, but forgiveness was right there waiting to see.

"I missed him, I tried the diner but it's gone. Yes. Gone. Burnt, destroyed. Well, no shit Sherlock," the woman replied into the phone with a hint of smugness hidden in her tone. "I figured that. I checked the Brownstone and it's been vacant. Looks like for years. It's a squatter's paradise."

Mayganne saw the glass of water beside her bed and reached for it. But before she could touch the glass Scorpio had reached up and gotten it for her. 

"Thanks," Mayganne rasped through dry lips.

Scorpio just nodded. He knew there was nothing he could say. 

"The connection is getting worse. But don't worry. I'm hot on his trail." The woman looked at the phone and shook her head and then turned to Mayganne. "You okay, dear?" 

"I think so, now," Mayganne replied as Scorpio automatically took the glass of water from her hands and placed it on the table.

"I tried those numbers you gave me," the woman said. "No one is answering." 

"It's worse than I thought," Mayganne replied, sitting up some. The pain in her ribs made her wince. Scorpio was right there fluffing up the pillow, behind her back. "Everything has been compromised. In this version, at least. I think I know where they are heading to."

"Well, if you are up to the task of moving, I'd say we better start moseying," Suki told her.




Simon Light read through the police report. He sat on the desk, going through the files like he owned the world. Stone was pouring himself another cup of coffee, and taking a sip from it. It was late and he was tired. And he didn't feel like playing second fiddle to an Alphabet Man as well. A man that had apparently pulled a lot of strings and flexed a lot of muscle to waltz into a police station and tell the chief to take a breath of fresh air. 

"Eff-Bee-Eye," he muttered after taking a sip from the coffee mug. "Those bastards hear a rumour that a potential terrorist farts and they close down a city."

"Take it easy, Stone," Riveta warned him. "Piss a fellow like that off and he could bust your ass down to metermaid." 

"I don't look good in a skirt," Stone muttered before taking another sip.

Riveta chuckled. 

Simon stopped at a photo and focused in on the face off to one side. His eyes narrowed to study the face closely and a smile widened on his robot-like face. The smile made him seem not friendly, but menacing.

"Detective." Simon took the photo and dropped the rest of the file onto the desk, spilling some of the contents about. Simon saw that Stone and Riveta were approaching. 

"Find something?" Riveta inquired. Her curiosity was piqued; it had to be in order for her to continue without falling asleep.

"Where was this photo taken?" Simon asked. He held the photo in his hands like it was an ancient artifact and he was afraid to get it dirty. 

"Yesterday," Riveta said. "We always have a photographer get a few crowd shots on the off chance that the criminal returns to admire his handy work."

"You recognize a face?" Stone asked. He leaned forward to peer at the photo. 

"The woman there." Light pointed at a Japanese woman who appeared to be in her 30's.

"Is she dangerous?" Stone inquired. He couldn't see the dangerous look about her. He'd been on the force for 22 years and he had come to be a good judge of character. 

"Suki Fujimoria," Light said as he stared at the woman. "She's suppose to be dead."



Alice looked up at the stars. "I think I should call him." 

Donnelly added another stick to the campfire. They had the grounds to themselves - not many people were camping this time of year. There were seven tents in total, some scrounged, some bought hurriedly, different sizes, and some people were sleeping in their cars. It was the fourth time Alice had said she was going to call Max, but each time she hadn't. He had made it clear that he would reach them once he had finished up. They were only to call him if it was an emergency. The last six days had felt like one long emergency. The weight of the handgun was heavy in the reverend's coat pocket. He had had nightmares about the ritual every night since it had happened.

Susanna was singing some children to sleep in the large blue tent. 

Alice wasn't very old in terms of the calendar, but she had many different worlds behind her, passed through like the rings in a tree trunk. She had brought most of them together. It fell to him and others, like Susanna and Hank, to keep them together. Sometimes they would lose some to a shift - maybe they had lost many, but lost their memories of them too when the world had changed and changed again. Donnelly knew Alice felt responsible. Maybe even guilty in a way.

He had spent many nights reassuring her. Reminding her that her gift was helping people. He wanted to reassure her now, but he knew things were different this time. That they hadn't shifted, but that the world had changed. His words didn't mean the same thing anymore. The church didn't mean the same thing. Now that they had learned about LEGACY. 

It hurt her to think that somehow she had been serving the goals of evil men. But she clearly trusted Max's assessment; that's why they were here, out of the city, on the run. Not everyone did; there were many who still marked the start of the troubles with Max's arrival. And they weren't exactly wrong. He had asked Alice why she had decided to trust Max; her answer had been a strange one. She said that he had written out a list of names, to see if she knew any of them. The fourth name on the list had been her mother's nickname when she was younger. 'Angst'.

Donnelly supposed his own reason wasn't any less strange. He had faith in Max. 

Alice looked down at the fire. "Maybe I should call him."



The Endless Beginnings 

Detective Stone knelt down amongst the rubble and shifted some of the debris with a pen from his pocket. A ring. Melted away but still maintained its shape. It could mean something or nothing at all. 

A fire had gutted this place, but it had seemed suspicious when it had appeared to burn down in less than ten minutes. He took a small brown envelope from his jacket and slid the ring into it. With the pen he scratched down the date and time and the place he found it. Stone was very thorough in his work. 

"You think this has any connection with the dead body half a block away?" his partner, Det. Riveta asked. She was looking into some debris on the counter. "It's too close to be coincidental."

Stone stood up and stretched. He glanced around the place and remembered that he had come here for coffee on a few occasions. The waitress, Arlene... Arliss..., her name at the moment slipped his mind. But he knew it began with an A. 

"What was the vic's name?" he asked of his partner.

"Lon Lugerelli," Riveta replied after consulting her note pad. "He was a snitch for the police a few years back. I guess he got pricey and they dropped him from the program." 

"Snitches," Stone replied. "They have no loyalty. Only greed."



Reckoning Song 

When Mayganne came to she could hear Scorpio's voice. He sounded like he was talking to someone in the room, and her head was not on some hard cement floor but a pillow. Her face was bandaged up and she couldn't see anyone if she tried. 

"I'm sorry, so sorry. You understand it was only my job. I was ordered to do those things, right?" his voice had the tone of a repentant man asking forgiveness.

Mayganne continued to feign unconsciousness. 

"I understand." The voice was definitely female and it seemed to hold a note of authority and sorrow at the same time. "We do things that we have to do in order to survive. Sometimes those things go against our own morals and beliefs."

Mayganne could hear the sound of a cloth in a wash basin, and she presumed it was Scorpio who was wringing water out to apply to her wounds. 

"You're feeling better," the statement from the woman was aimed at her. Which made Mayganne ponder a few doubtful seconds before replying.





Hank took a deep breath. Johannesberg toyed with his eyebrow ring. Laughter trickled down from the dorms; Susanna had organized some kind of game for the others to play. She was a great addition to the group, a teacher. She still worked professionally; the last shift had changed the location of her school, but the students still knew her. 

"I hate to see it all fall apart," Hank said. He scratched his beard. Jo kept quiet. He looked a little uncomfortable seeing the big man get so emotional.

"It's bullshit," Hank continued. "This one guy shows up and suddenly people are going missing, then he's got the Father convinced we're part of some big conspiracy. Bullshit." 

"I don't know..."

Hank rounded on the young man. He had a flash of grabbing the kid by his mohawk and ramming his face into the door. It had been a long time since those outbursts of rage; part of his former life. But since Luger had disappeared, then the Father, then Mayganne, Hank had started to feel the surges of violence return. Father Donnelly had returned in the middle of the night, but spouting nonsense, and Hank wasn't feeling any better. 

"What do you mean 'you don't know'?"

"How about we wait and see what Mother says?" 

Hank felt his hand tighten into a fist. "Fine. I'm going for a walk." He started down the hall. He heard Susanna's voice calling out instructions for the game. Johannesberg caught up to him.

"Hank, listen. Please." The older man took another deep breath. Jo continued. "K, you're gonna think this is nuts too. But I have to tell someone. You wonder why I don't seem worried about this Max guy..." 

"Things have gotten worse since he showed up."

"Well, stranger anyway. If that's possible. But listen... The thing is... I saw this anime when I was younger, and the main character... Well, the series was called Aeon Triumph Gun Messiahs-" 

The door opened to Mother's room.

"I've made a decision," Alice said.



Her eyes were swelling shut so she couldn't see the next fist. It connected to her temple again, a ring, had looked like a high school ring she thought, took another chuck of flesh off her face. 

I'm dying, she thought. Maybe I can finally find peace.  

At least she could still hear clear as a bell out of her left ear; her right ear was caked over with blood.  

"I don't get it," the one called Scorpio said. He was the one with the ring. "Why are we working her over? She's just a girl for christ sake."  

"Getting soft in your old age are we, Scorp," the other, named Quip, chided his partner. "We just follow orders. Do what needs to be done. No questions."  

"But this ain't right," Scorpio said. She could hear the hint of disgust in his voice. "She's just a kid."  

"Maybe you want to be the one sitting there getting the facial reconstruction," Quip told his partner.  

Mayganne had seen a lot in her 17 years of life. She was born in the lower slums in what she gathered was her Prime Version before the realities began to blur. She had fought her way against the stereotypical downfall that her mother had gone through. There was no way that she wanted to end up like her mother. In fact, she was sort of glad that this was quite the distance away from her mother's path.  

"Well, I ain't doing what they want to do to her next," Scorpio said; his voice showed that little quiver in a man's voice when he had to face the tough decisions. "I draw the limit at that. No friggin' way man."  

"Man, you're wimping out," Quip scolded his partner. "Can't you wrap it around your mind that this girl is..."  

There was a sound of a window shattering in another room.



The Jigsaw Jig
Max closed the door to the warehouse. The night air was cold, refreshing after the smells of gunpowder and blood, incense and woodsmoke. 

Donnelly rubbed his arms. “I really didn't think it would work... They're all dead."

Max slipped fresh clips into his pistols, offered Joy back to the reverend. “It doesn't always.” 

The Father looked shocked at the admission and confused at the offer. “You mean it might not have? I won't need that anymore, since-”

Max put the gun in the man's hand, went about lighting a cigarette. “That was only a cell, like I told you. And the ritual... Well, not even a god's plan always works out.” 

Donnelly nodded, glanced at the weapon he was holding. “I guess mine's didn't.” He slipped the gun into his coat pocket.

Max nudged him to start walking. “So, we switch from fugitive-warrior mode to crafty-detective. Who ratted to LEGACY?” 

“And why did they come after me? You said they could have taken all of us out anytime they wanted.”

Max stopped at the corner and looked up and down the city street. Normal evening traffic. He spotted a coffee shop and started walking again. “They followed me there.” 

“And why were you there?” Donnelly asked.

Max's eyes flickered from shadows to pedestrians to cars to shop windows. “I wanted to talk to you, about the sermons you deliver at the Rave. About the group you're gathering.” 

“It's a church. Or that's how I see it. But not a stale and static institution, like so many have become. A real living community of people who are lost, who need each other.”

Max nodded, thoughtful. He held open the door to the coffee shop. They found a table, the waitress brought coffee over. It was another type of ritual, one Max had used throughout plureality. 

“And it's Alice who sends most of the people to the Rave?” Max continued once they were settled and warming up. The reverend looked exhausted; they had been on the run a long time. 

“It's not always the Rave; that's the location we've used for the past few shifts. It was Mayganne and Johannesberg's turn to design one. But yes, Mother finds most of the lost folk.” 

Max sipped his coffee. He imagined what it would have been like, to be found by someone like her, like Father Donnelly and the rest, found sooner. Before so many bad things had happened. But the bad things were still happening... 

“Father,” Max said. “There's a problem. You wondered why LEGACY hadn't moved on you or your friends earlier... The only reason could be that somehow your church is helping their agenda.” 

Donnelly's cup rattled in the saucer. “That's absurd! Are you implying that-”

Max raised his hand calmly. “I'm just saying that maybe it's time we talked to Mother.”




Mayganne didn't know what the hell was going on, but she knew her world, this current version of the world, just got wilder. Not because of a shift in reality, but due to a major factor named Max. 

Ever since he came into the fold, strange things had begun to unravel as if the cosmic cloth had a tear. She was going to get to the bottom of things one way or another. 

She knew that she was being followed, but she couldn't see who it was or what they wanted. She figured them to be suits of some kind; maybe one of the Alphabet Soup group that had received some word of a fringe cult. 

First Luger had disappeared. Then Donnelly too; the strange part that he wasn't answering his cellphone either. It seemed like they were being picked off one by one. She had wanted to confide in Mother before doing what she thought needed to be done. 

She checked her long coat once again for the feel of the .38 like it was a cobra ready to strike. 

Max Cube must die.