'If this isn't Hell,' Kharan thought to himself. 'Then I don't know what is.'
He was at a concert, which was in itself not a problem. He had always been partial to the occasional live event. No, his beef was with the 'band' playing, although calling them a band was heresy in his opinion. The five young men jumped around on stage in time to bad pop music, amusing an endless sea of teenyboppers, many with concerned parents trying to shelter them from the other overzealous masses.
But he wasn't here for the atmosphere. His current target resided backstage.
Kharan easily slipped past the security, eluding them with a simple screen. 'Old Jedi mind trick,' He smirked, giving one clueless guard the finger. The man smiled uncertainly, as if unsure whether Kharan was even there. Within seconds the man became distracted by another screaming female attempting to force her way backstage, and Kharan faded from his mind like fog on a windy day.
Threading his way through empty amp cases and bustling roadies, Kharan made his way to a staircase in the back and descended into the theater's basement, the roar of the concert muffled to the dull thuds of the bass. Pipes and cables intermixed on the concrete walls and ceilings. It was vaguely damp, and chilly. Kharan rubbed his arms, wishing he had brought a jacket despite his superhuman tolerances for heat and cold.
Around the next corner clanks and rattles emerged, the sound of a metal lid slamming and the tinny sound of headphones attempting to drown out the noise overhead. Kharan smiled to himself, glad he wasn't alone in his hatred. He turned the corner and observed the man before him.
Scott Keyor was different now, to be sure. The trials and tribulations past had changed him. In the end, he had been returned, but the world he came back to was not the one he remembered.
The science of dimensions was inexact and difficult to comprehend, but Kharan knew that while the two universes had been connected, the violence in one had affected the other. Scott had returned to find that his family believed him dead and moved on, the mourning process long over. Most of his immediate family had been killed in a car crash, and now it was his turn to grieve. GPSS was long disbanded and should the government know of his return they would most certainly complicate his life in ways he didn't want it to be. He was friendless, jobless, and had few relatives, all of whom weren't open to the idea of having this strange new Scott Keyor staying with them.
Legally dead and known to only a few, Scott changed his name and wandered across the country, finally taking work as a handy man's assistant in Bremerton, Washington. Not a day went by that the irony of his situation didn't hit home. He had spent all that time wishing to be exactly where he was now, and when he finally made it there it was worse than he had ever imagined it could be. Somehow, it had just seemed like things would go back to normal if he returned home. He should have known better. Things just weren't that easy.
Kharan sighed. Really, he should have done more, and he knew it. But he was making amends now. Whether it was voluntary or not wasn't the point. He walked over and tapped Scott on the shoulder.
Scott pulled the headphones out of his ears and hit the stop button on his player, turning tired eyes in Kharan's direction. "Yes?"
"Hey. What's up?"
Scott motioned towards the pipes he had been working on. "Just a small leak. Why, you work for the manager?"
"Nope. Right now I'm in the same business as you are. Fixing things."
"Well, I don't actually need any help, thanks."
"Yes you do."
Scott frowned. "No, I don't. But if I do, I guess I know who to go to. Later."
With that, Scott turned his attention back towards the battered piping. Kharan rolled his eyes, and tapped him on the shoulder again. This time Scott didn't turn around. "Look, are you just here to bug the crap out of me, or do you actually want something?"
"Michelle misses you."
That got his attention. "What?"
"Michelle. About five five, great smile, lives at the Garden."
To Kharan's surprise, Scott just let out a bitter laugh, placing his head against the wall. "Great. Wonderful. What now, your world is invading ours? Yours is better you know."
Kharan shook his head. "Okay, just shut up, all right? I'm trying to help you here. The name's Kharan. Spell it K-H-A-R-A-N. But it's pronounced 'Karen'. Just wanted to get that straight, I get tired of people called me all sorts of stupid names just because of the spelling. Now hold on."
Scott watched in confusion and Kharan dug around in his pocket, before extracting a crumpled piece of paper. Spreading it, Kharan read it off with a look of resignation, his voice wooden. "I, Scott Kharan, hereby apologize to Scott Keyor for any and all psychological damage he may have incurred as a result of my negligence. As part of my reparations (as ordered by the Court of Elders) I will do whatever is necessary to improve his life, blah blah blah, must comply or be subject to harsh repercussions, blah, banishment, blah blah, to be completed with all due haste."
"What in the hell are you talking about?"
"The whole thing with Hyne and the portal, it all ended up okay but apparently the Elders, fuckemall, decided that wasn't enough and as 'appropriate' sentencing for my 'negligence', I have to haul your ass back to the other universe and the arms of Michelle so that you will live, and I shit you not, they actually said this, 'happily ever after'. Wow, I need a tissue."
Scott saw no point in trying to pretend he was dreaming. Reality had become far stranger than fantasy at some time long past. Kharan reached down and hauled him to his feet.
"So enough with the socializing," Kharan said. "Lets get going. Oh, but we have to make a quick sidetrip. Won't take long."
Before Scott could get out a word the basement dissolved into blackness.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
He found himself in a hallway, much like any other. It was a dull white color, the uniform wood doors lining the walls were evenly spaced. There were no markings on any of them, and no visible source of light that Scott could see. Kharan watched his reactions with amusement.
"Nice huh? No really, it's nothing to look at. This hallways only represents what we are really seeing, that being something mere beings like you and me couldn't comprehend. When it comes to seeing the true nature of the spaces between and how all this crap fits together, that's all best left to the Maker. He's called many things. You might call him God. Of course, since you people can't actually agree on what sort of God he is, I don't think you should be allowed to call him anything."
Kharan pointed to one of the doors.
"See that one? Lord of the Rings. Timeline should be about the middle of the second book by now. Never did like that universe. Nobody has a sense of humor. That and it's currently caught in a loop, the whole war for Middle Earth thing repeats itself. It should break free sometime in the next three hundred thousand years. Not my job to keep an eye on it though, so whatever."
Kharan walked over to another door that looked exactly the same, knocking on it. "This one goes to Star Wars. I've been there a few times. A lot to look at, not much to do. That whole thing with Luke is long over, they're all dead now. Things have gotten pretty slow around there."
"Now this one," Kharan indicated. "Is a bit of a mystery. It's empty right now. When the Maker crafts a universe it's sort of like a cup waiting to be filled. We all look forward to see what he'll come up with next."
Scott broke the monologue tentatively. "Are you.. Angels?"
"What? Noooo. Kharadjai. Separate order. Different species, really. Angels handle the spiritual side of things. Us, we're just people, like you. Imperfect, flawed. We just happen to be immortal. But not in the way you might imagine."
"Look, I could get into the whole thing. I could tell you how the power we come with is prepackaged but takes a lot of practice to control, how even lifting a cup up off a table isn't like using the fucking 'Force' or something, it's a carefully calculated equation in which you have to determine how much raw power to exert on the cup to lift it and on which angles to continue it to get it to float there. I could tell you how if I anticipate a bullet I can block it by having it disintegrate on impact with my skin but if it catches me by surprise I'll get hurt. I can heal myself instantly, but that takes a lot of energy, and if I keep getting hurt and having to heal myself eventually I'll get too tired to do anything else. We can't die, of course. You could drop a house on me. I'd get smashed into a fine pulp and it would take hours for me to pull together the energy to regenerate my body, but I'd live eventually. I could also tell you that due to that nature of the power it is a little iffy to use it in combat since if you fuck up, say, try to exert force on a guy to throw him back into a wall but mess up and use too much and instead explode his body with such force the bone shards hit innocent bystanders with killing speed, so we instead use regular weaponry. I use the 1911A1 .45 as my weapon of choice. But I'm sure you wouldn't be interested in all that now, would you."
"I didn't think so." Kharan turned back to the doorways. "This one here is one of my favorites. Universe1234567a. It has a number because it hasn't been written about yet, or made into a movie or anything. But let's just say it's filled with a lot of hot Elf women who are quite willing, if you get my drift."
Without stopping to see if Scott did indeed get his drift, Kharan strode down several more doors and stopped at another one, putting his hand on the knob. "And this is the door we will be going through. I'm sure you'll recognize the time period. When Hyne pulled our dear Private Randall through the Knot it messed a few things up, so I'm supposed to go in and check on the Kharadjai who was sent to fix it, see if he's done yet."
With that Kharan opened the door, and everything went black again.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Yet again, it was raining. The rubble was slick under Scott's feet as he tried to keep up with Kharan. They moved through the upper levels of a shelled out building, the rumble of distant fighting filtering through the foggy air. It was like being inside a cistern, ringing with wet drops splashing on rock and cold rivulets running down the back of his neck.
"Hey!" Kharan whispered. Scott looked up to see him trying to get the attention of a man lying in a crack in the floor, sniper rifle cradled against his body as he peered through the scope out over the city. "Malin! Dude, over here!"
"I know Kharan," Malin muttered. "Always great to see you."
Kharan and Scott moved over next to Malin's prone form. Kharan leaned back against a pile of shattered bricks, look for all the world as if he was basking while attending a picnic in the sun. "So Malin, what's the word?"
"Word is you're doing community service."
"But enough about me. What's the word on you, Malin?"
"Look through the scope and see for yourself."
Kharan scuffled over and Malin moved aside. Kharan put his face up to the scope. "Damn. Nice shootin' Tex. If you got him, why are you still here?"
"Waiting for you," Malin grumbled. "Took you long enough."
"Okay, well, nice work. I'll let them know you're finished."
Scott was lost throughout the proceedings. Kharan noticed, and took it on himself to explain. "That Randall guy was supposed to kill an officer of the S.S., but since he was in Final Fantasy eight dimension he never got around to it. This Waffen creep goes on to create a nasty little piece of technology that really fucks things up for the world. So Malin goes to a different here and now, Stalingrad, and snipes the bastard. The joys of silenced weaponry. They never knew he was anywhere near."
"Malin goes to the here and now thanks to your friend here," Malin added. "Nice work on that Kharan."
"Hey, you have no right to judge. You weren't there for any of it."
"I didn't have to be. I know you."
"Yeah, whatever man. Just don't expect much from me next Christmas. Let's go Keyor."
They were back in the hallway again, Scott hurrying to keep up with Kharan's stride. Slowing, Kharan stopped again. "Okay. This is it. Now, I'm pretty sure this is the right thing to do, but on the off chance you have seconds thoughts and want to stay in your own world that's okay too, because even if you end up being unhappy because of that choice I'm off the hook. It would be your own dumbass fault. In my opinion, you should go back to the Garden. You have friends there now, you're fairly familiar with the world, and on a similar note I checked the books and you and Michelle are soulmates. Thought that might interest you."
For the first time in a long time, everything seemed too good to be true. The last few months had shown him one thing at least. There was nothing left for him back 'home'. He needed a new one.
Maybe the Garden already was.
"Send me in."
Kharan smiled. "I figured you'd do the right thing. This is what the Elders wanted for you, so you're actually following destiny at the moment. Doesn't weird you out that fate is nothing more than the machinations of a bunch of creepy old guys? It does me. But at least this way you know you'll be happy. Fate, read- 'The Elders', always rewards those who follow it, or in your case, did a great thing for the universe. I couldn't be happier with the way you came through. Mostly because if you had failed my ass would be rotting on some god forsaken ice rock of a planet in what we Kharadjai call a 'Marooniverse'. Later."
With a push, Scott was through the door.
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