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Chasing The Iris

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            A hand belonging to the owner of a Seattle coffee shop known as the Bean Barn pats down a microphone with a tap tap. A brief test before the main event. “Thank you for coming tonight, folks! Happy Fourth of July!” The crowd cheers on the holiday as they all drink joyfully with one another. “You know what time it is - Karaoke Night! Uh huh, first up are two lovely ladies whom you may have heard of! They’re kind of a big deal! Give it up for Victoria Chase and Kate Marsh!”

            Victoria and Kate, both dressed casually for the hot summer on the West Coast, run up on stage and stand around the microphone, briefly adjusting it. Victoria lowers it a bit for Kate given the size difference between the two. As the instrumental beginnings of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” kick in, the two look into each other’s eyes and the lyrics come to them naturally:

            “ I come home, in the morning light,

My mother says, ‘When you gonna live ya life right?’,

Oh mama dear, we’re not the fortunate ones

And girls, they wanna have fuuun

Oh, girls just wanna have fuuuuun

            They keep singing as the lyrics fade into the world around them. For now, their focus is on one another. What a life to live together. It has gotten strange, scary, amazing, boring, saddening, beautiful. But what matters to the two of them is that they are happy together. Nothing will tear them apart. Especially not a passionate kiss as the song reaches the instrumental bridge to Verse 3. Victoria leans in and takes Kate into a kiss. The two step apart, smiling tenderly at one another, to continue the song as the next verse comes around.

            After finishing the song together, the two return to their table where Naton is sipping a tall mug of root beer. Nowadays, he dresses more like a regular human being rather than a caveman: t-shirt, cargo shorts, sandals and a plastic viking helmet he stole off some random man’s head… Victoria is still teaching him about being sociable.

            A waitress appears with two cups of coffee. She informs Victoria and Kate, "They're on the house! Thanks for singing!"

            Victoria tells her, "Hey, it was our pleasure.", and the waitress walks away.

            Naton raises his mug triumphantly and exclaims, "Dog bless America!"

            Victoria asks, "Max taught you that one, didn't she?"

            "Yus." Kate giggles and Naton grins at his friends.

            Victoria rolls her eyes jokingly and says, "Figures." Victoria turns her attention to Kate and smiles at her, "Oh my God, Katie, you did great up there!"

            Kate corrects her, "We did great up there."

            Naton nods his head and says, with root beer trickling down his beard. "Mhm!" He rasies his mug once more to the two girls and exclaims again, "CHAIRS!"

            Victoria giggles at Naton’s mispronunciation, pours some milk and sugar into her coffee and puts forward her cup. Kate raises a cup of green tea and the three clink their drinks. Together, Kate and Victoria tell Naton, "Cheers." They turn to face each other and just can’t help but smile some more.


 

            The drive back to Arcadia Bay is as peaceful as it has always been. The cityscape of Seattle fades away as the naturality of Oregon takes hold in this neck of the nation. Eventually, the little towns crop up and, before you know it, the Lighthouse is welcoming you into the Bay.

            Victoria is busy driving but she still has Kate, sitting next to her asleep up front, on her mind. Both her and the imminent end of days prophesied by that March dream. By Dolly. By Max. She knows that her marriage to Kate is supposed to come before it but, with the Storm Singer incident, Dolly’s continued interactions with Max, and now this little A-Team Max has formed with her other buddies - Project Morpho - the end feels closer than it should.

            As the bright beam of the Lighthouse gazes upon her car and the Bay comes into view, she puts these doubtful thoughts at the back of her head and looks forward to whatever good may- no, will - come with her friends around.

            Ring ring! A six-person bicycle rings its bell as it pedals closely past Victoria's car. Victoria sticks her head out of the window to her side and harshly tells the bicyclists, "Hey, be careful!"

            The driver, an elderly woman in a pink dress, glares at Victoria before turning her attention back to the road and speeding away. Victoria shakes her head and just drives on.


 

            In the office of a cabin deep in the Redwood Forests of Humboldt County, the drug manufacturer Merrill talks with top kingpin Teddy Iris over the phone. He urges his boss, “We need numbers, Teddy! These four workers here are fine, but they certainly can’t push for the results you want.”

            Coldly, Teddy tells him, “Then, you get them to recruit. Or you push them hard. Get livid or get lost, y’know?”

            Merrill shakes his head and tiredly says, “I get it, man.”

            “Good. That’s why you’re the man, Merrill.” Teddy pauses and adds, “It’s just, with that damn Rachel Amber out of my hands, out there in Arcadia Bay, things are getting stressful.”

            “The bureaucrats givin’ you crap again?”

            Teddy chuckles. “The Agency’s given me a bit to be honest. I certainly wouldn’t use the word ‘crap’. Their new wormhole watch was good for what it was worth - its elegant design with the gold and black, and its ability to… well, time travel.. And my money was surely worth it to them.”

            Merrill huffs in shock, “Time travel? That’s some scary shit, man.”

            “Don’t worry, I’m not fucking with the past. They highly advised against it. The future on the other hand. That’s fair game.”

            “Figures. Where’d you go?”

            Teddy scoffs, “I didn’t go anywhere. Can’t, remember? Had two of my guys go to the future, 2038, grab a robot or android or whatever. Now, he’s all mine.”

            Merrill laughs a bit. “You’ve got the sick inner workings of a supervillain, my friend.”

            “Amen, brother. Ah. Gotta go. Stay safe out there.”

            “Yeah, you too.” Merrill hangs up the phone and says to himself, “This shit’s crazy.”

            A young woman’s voice arises from within the office: “Yeah. Life gets weird like that sometimes.”

            Merrill grabs his shotgun from underneath his desk and aims it at the female intruder standing in front of his door. He demands to know, “Who the fuck are you?”

            The young lady waves and another woman’s rougher voice tells him, “That’s Max Caulfield. Goddess of Time.” The other woman steps out of the shadows, revealing Chloe Price. She takes a seat at a table and puts her feet up on it.

            “Who are you exactly?”

            Chloe introduces herself to Merrill: “Chloe Price. Badass punk zombie. I believe you can help us and we can help you.”

            Merrill begrudgingly asks, “You two lookin’ for a job or something?”

            Max crosses her arms and tells him, “No. We’re looking for information on Teddy Iris. You just had a conversation with him.”

            “For your sake, you should forget about it.”

            Max steps away from the door to stand with Chloe and adds, “I know, but he’s a threat. You know he’s a threat.” She pauses and asks him, “You’re worried for your daughter. Maya?”

            Merrill steps around and approaches Max and Chloe with the shotgun. “You should be worried for your life, bitch.”

            Chloe looks at Max and yells out, “Max!”

            Max puts a hand on Chloe’s shoulder and softly tells her with a smile, “I got this. Let me handle it.” She stands in front of Chloe and adds, “We can help y-”

            Merrill prepares to hit Max with the butt of the gun, yelling, “You need to shut the fu-” Max grabs the gun and pushes it away. “You’re fast. My gun’s faster.” He aims his shotgun at Max’s face and pulls the trigger.

             CLICK . It’s empty. “What the hell?”

            Max reveals to him that she is holding the rounds in her hand. She tosses them aside and tells him, “Merrill, I can help you.”

            “Bullshit! You’ve just endangered my family’s life! If Teddy finds out-”

            “You mean this family?” Max shows him a photograph of Merrill’s wife and daughter smiling with Rachel and Rose Amber.

            “What is this?”

            “It’s my gift.” Max shakes the photo while looking at it and it begins to glow before growing into a wormhole. “Oh, you might wanna toss the gun away.”

            Merrill tosses his shotgun aside and Chloe tells her, “Y’know, Max, you probably should’ve started off with that.”

            Merrill steps away and out of the wormhole steps his daughter, alive and well. “Dad!”

            “Maya!” He hugs his daughter with a smile on his face. and his wife, Lorna, steps out of the portal with Rachel and Rose Amber following behind. The wormhole closes and Max hands the photograph to Maya.

            Maya tells her father, “Dad, these people are so cool!” She points to Rachel and Rose as they walk up to Max and Chloe.

            Rachel says to Chloe, “Hey.” Chloe smiles and the two fistbump. “It was a tough fight, but we got them out. Not a hair harmed.”

            Chloe says, “Awesomesauce.”

            Maya asks her, “Did you just say ‘awesomesauce’?”

            Chloe shrugs and tells her with a smile, “Uh huh.”

            Merrill jumps in and asks, “Okay, this is cool and all, but what about after all this? Teddy’s a tough man and he won’t just accept me leaving.”

            Max snaps three passports into her hand. All for Merrill and his family. “We can help you with that too. Just tell us what you know about Teddy.”

             "Fine. 'You scratch my back, I scratch yours'. He's a ghost of a guy. I've never met him in person but he gave me this job and it paid nicely for my daughter."

            Max asks, "He said something about an android from the future. What could he use that for?"

            "Muscle, no doubt. I mean, you quit on him-” Merrill points to Rachel “- and now, he has all of you to worry about." Merrill points at Max, Chloe, Rachel and Rose.

            Chloe lets out a laugh and says, "Makes sense."

            Max tells her, "It's the same thing Eric told Daniel a few days ago."

            Merrill can only shrug, "Hey, it's true."

            "It is." Max hands the passports to Merrill and his family. "Alright, thank you for your help in fighting the forces of evil, Mr. Merrill. Or should I say…"

            Even though Lorna and Maya seem to be extremely happy with what they’ve gotten, Merrill almost throws his fake passport away in anger: "'McLovin'? Are you kidding me?"

            Max laughs, taking away the passport, and tells him, "I am. Here you go." She hands him a new passport with a name that is longer than one word.

            "'Jax Remington'? What am I, in a fighting game?” Max shrugs innocuously. “Sure, that can work. Thank you, Max." Merill puts his hand forward to Max, who shakes it.

            "All in a day's work. C’mon, you guys. Hold onto me." Chloe holds Max’s hand. Rachel grabs Max’s shoulder and Rose holds Rachel’s free hand. Max looks into a photograph of Blackwell Academy and the four enter a wormhole after it opens. It closes behind them as they all go through.


 

            Oregon State Penitentiary: a home for some of the Beaver State’s cruelest minds. They are meant to be rehabilitated. But some minds never change.

            In the cafeteria, prisoners eat dinner as fireworks erupt in the skies outside. And especially enjoying his holiday meal of burgers is the cantankerous Tangi, the Happy Clown. He bumps the shoulder of the inmate next to him to say, “This is just scrumptious! Whaddya think, Jeffy?” He holds a half-eaten burger up to Mark Jefferson’s angry face and shakes it a bit.

            Jefferson shrugs and crosses his arms. “It’s fine. I’ve had worse.”

            Tangi looks over at a new inmate sitting at a far away table. An older man with bruises covering his face. He was once the Storm Singer, but he sadly sings a jailbird’s tune nowadays. “What’s the new guy’s deal?”

            Jefferson corrects him, “He’s been here for two months. He’s not new.”

            Tangi laughs at this remark. “Try telling him that! Hah! Look at him, a sad little Christian.”

            Jefferson thinks back to his days of freedom. He thinks back to his old victims. “Heh. Yeah.” Jefferson turns his attention back to Tangi and asks, “Hey, what’s the status on you and your girlfriend?”

            “She’s not my girlfriend. And she’s getting both of us out. Real soon.”

            A devious smirk crosses the ex-professor’s mouth. “I like the sounds of that.”

            The cafeteria grows silent and time seemingly freezes as everyone besides them - prisoner and guard alike - pause at a standstill. Squeaky wheels roll closer and closer to the devious duo. Tangi smiles to himself and Jefferson asks, “What is this?”

             Ring ring ! Psychic supervillain Dolly pulls up to the two’s table while riding a six-person bicycle. Sitting behind her in is a big man with a golden scarf wrapped around his head and darkness with two white eyes underneath, a monstrous being of loose clothing with a feathery chicken mask for a head, and a man in a leather jacket with spiky metal hair flourishing across his body as if he were a Muppet. Hovering around the bike is a black leather box, closed with a metal latch.

            Dolly points at Jefferson and Tangi, and tells the two, “We’re your meal ticket outta here, Dahmerson. Hop aboard Dolly’s Trolley!” Tangi rushes onto a free seat and Jefferson reluctantly takes the seat behind the clown.

            Dolly snaps her fingers, putting helmets on the heads of herself and her villainous compatriots. “Next stop: Culmination!”

            Jefferson groans, “That’s so far away!”

            Tangi shrugs and looks back at him to tell him, “Live a little, El Jefe-rson!” And with that, the gang of villains are off to the races, pedalling to their next destination.