"Holy Hell, Micah," panted Louis as he slammed the door shut behind himself. He leaned forward, his lungs attempting to expel the smoke they'd taken in while attempting to evade patrols. "You know, for someone so capable in terms of telling the future, your sense of timing could definitely use some work."
"We made it, didn't we?" Micah countered, after his own coughing fit subsided. He rubbed his sore chest and groaned as he straightened. He took a breath of the fresher air and ran a hand through his shaggy ash brown hair.
"Barely," Louis retorted as he shook clumps of dust out of his own salt and pepper locks. He looked at his watch, a twenty year old Rolex his wife had given him on their second anniversary just months before the explosion that had killed her. "What time did the broadcast say?"
"Sixteen after three in the morning. Here. Why? What time is it?"
"Three seventeen," replied a female voice from a nearby shadowed corner of the room. What little light there was in the chamber reflected dimly off of her long white hair, slate gray eyes, and youthful, faintly luminescent skin. "Your friend is right, Micah Timmons. Your sense of time does need some improvement."
He took a small step forward, his weapon gripped tightly in his hand. A small blade, double edged, glinted in the dim light. Micah eyed the woman warily, his every instinct on high alert after the journey that had brought them to their location.
"You're the one. You're the person who summoned me here, right?" he asked, his green eyes studying her as he saved the sound of her voice to memory.
She shrugged, her hair shifting ever so slightly with the movement. "It wasn't so much of a summons. The Minds would have picked up on it," she commented, tilting her head to the side as she tried to explain her form of contacting Micah. "It was more of a careful manipulation—"
"Red flag. You manipulated him into coming here?" Louis said, his hand going to his belt for his own blade. How he wished he could have a gun at times like this. Against the Blaze though, anything flammable was too dangerous, so he was stuck with a knife, much like his young friend. "I knew I was right to come here. This is—"
"It's not a trap. Manipulation was simply a poor choice of words on my part. I've been told that I'm far from the most eloquent of creatures," she said, attempting to calm the man before her. "I did what I had to. I mean you no harm. Young Micah here would know if I planned on harming either of you." She raised a slender white hand and pointed to the person in question. "His powers are quite a bit more useful than what you give him credit for apparently. Now, may I please continue?"
Micah looked to Louis, who was just barely twice his age, and nodded. "She's right. I would know. The next time there's any sort of trouble heading this way is in twenty minutes, and we'll be gone by then."
"Then you already know—"
"No, I just looked for soldiers. I can't seem to figure out why you brought us here," he admitted. "Something is blocking me from seeing that much."
"All right then. I suppose I should hurry then, as we only have twenty minutes," she said with a soft frown on her lips. "Now, I'm sure, you both know the history of this place. What brought about the world we live in."
"Yeah," Louis stated, his tone bitter as he recalled hearing of the beginning. "Twenty years ago, terrorist attacks all over the world took place. Within two years, the defenses of the world's superpowers fell and the Blaze Regime took over."
How could he forget that much? His wife had been killed in the first of the explosions. She'd been on her way home from a business trip, on the phone with him, and then the line had suddenly gone dead. He'd simply thought that she'd lost signal until he saw the report about the bombing. He didn't need the official notification to know that much.
She nodded, her eyes lingering on Louis' expression for a moment. "That is correct. Now I'm wondering if you've ever heard of the one called Dancer."
"The Dancer Battalion," the older man said with a slight incline of the head.
"No. Not them. The Urban Legend. Some girl who died. One of the first to fall in one of the battles before the current regime took over," Micah corrected. "She made sure I knew of her. Same way you brought us here."
"No. I dare not project those images in such a manner. To do such would be dangerous," she stated, her words hurried and frightened. "The Minds have made a great effort at suppressing those memories in the populace. The more susceptible one is to manipulation and coercion, the faster the memory loss. Ones who struggle are the ones who remember longer. Those with reasons to remember."
Louis looked down thoughtfully as she spoke. "I think I remember something like that. The bit about the Dancer. Some legend about how she almost killed their leader before this whole mess started. Would have saved the world a whole mess of trouble."
As Louis recalled faint memories, he felt a vein start to throb with growing intensity in his head. "They're working on wiping her. That's why it hurts to try and recall the story."
"Ah, proof that her influence isn't completely gone," she stated, reaching out for Louis.
Her fingers were trembling as they drew closer to his face. His skin was cool to the touch beneath the pads of her fingers. She brushed the tips of her fingers over his brow and over his temple, feeling the soft pulse at his temple as small beads of sweat formed on his skin. A flash of memory, a young woman with short dark hair, crossed his mind only to fade into obscurity once more. The pain subsided after a moment and he blinked at her.
"The Blaze's little cadre of psychics have been working to erase all memories of rebellion and those who dared to resist before the takeover. That includes any mentions of Dancer." She pulled her hand back slowly and let it rest against her abdomen. The look on her face was one of sadness as she let her eyes fall to the ground. "Memory blocks meant to kill anyone who starts to remember too much. It's nice to know that they're not completely functional. More than young Mr. Gray here should be allowed to remember her influence. Perhaps the Blaze would have fallen before now if some did."
"You remember her, though," Micah pointed out. "It has to live on in more than myself."
"I only remember because I am forced to serve as a frame of reference," she stated. "I'm still here so that others can forget. So they'll know what to delete."
Louis tilted his head to the side, his salt and pepper hair reflecting in the dimness. How was a person supposed to be...
"A point of reference?" he asked. He knew he asked the wrong question when he saw Micah immediately tense up.
"You're one of the Minds? Shit!" Micah stated, raising his blade, ready to strike the killing blow. "You are one of those damned psychics."
Louis reached out and grabbed the young man, careful not to find himself on the business end of the knife.
"No, not at all!" she cried softly, her tone trying to lull some of the alarm.
The hotheadedness of youth was something that she'd easily forgotten about. While it had been tempered in Louis, young Micah was another story entirely.
"I'm simply what I told you. I'm just to remember Dancer until all mention of her is erased from the memories of the people, and thereby history."
"A save point," Louis breathed after a moment. "Something a little before your time, Micah."
The woman laughed softly as she considered his choice of words, making herself feel rather old, even if she didn't look much older than twenty.
"To use a slightly more archaic term, yes," she nodded. "Like a video game I suppose."
He shook his head and chuckled for the first time. "I wouldn't call it archaic. That would mean calling mysel-"
"Can we get back to why we're here?" Micah interrupted, growing agitated without a means of taking out his spiked aggression.
She sighed and shook her head. "The impatience of youth. I suppose you do have a point. I summoned you here because there was something in the records. In the urban legends surrounding Dancer, there is a mention of others."
"Runner, Racer, and Streamer. The lost," Louis said, finding the memories becoming clearer as the moments passed.
"As they so came to be called in the last days," she affirmed. "There was another. Little is known about him due to the lack of title. The importance of names… Who knew such a little thing would prove so vital." She closed her eyes for a moment, as though recalling a memory of her own. "The four fell to Western elements, but he fell in with a separate cadre."
Micah felt a sharp stabbing pain directly behind his left eye. For a moment, a half formed image appeared in his mind. A woman with short black hair and pale skin fighting with a man with light brown locks. There was a third, blurred figure he couldn't discern the features of amidst other, unmoving people. Small flames flitted from her fingers towards the frozen figures with frightened expressions on their faces. The only thing clear about either of the two fighting together was the woman's eyes. They were dull, lifeless, and dark. There were pained wrinkles forming at their corners with orange light reflecting off of the liquid pooling along the lower lid.
"Time. He dealt with the flow of time. But time isn't an element," Micah stated. "It's a concept, so it's not—"
"But you still measure it with seconds, minutes, hours, and the like. It does exist, but not in the way that many would consider," she stated. "But to my point. Supposedly, he did work with time. Those I've conferred with believe that he betrayed her. You may have heard that bit of the legend yourself. Don't believe that much."
"What does this have to do with me though?" Micah asked.
"Everything," she replied. "If they're right, then perhaps this time can be changed. If he has indeed betrayed her, then he must be stopped. And that is why I contacted you."
"How?" Louis interrupted. "We're here and now. He's then."
She quirked a brow and grinned. "Young Micah's ability is more than precognition. In fact, if I'm correct, then his ability to peer into the future has grown more difficult to tap in to. It's his reaction to the fact that his very involvement in this may just cause this very time to change if not fail to exist entirely."
Micah nodded mutely, wanting her to continue explaining. He'd not told anyone of that fact. His powers had been his strength. He didn't want to risk being abandoned once they stopped working.
"Your abilities are in tune with the flow of time. The capability of transference along such a medium is not completely impossible. Your powers would just need amplifying, and I can aid you in that."
"How can we trust you with that?" Louis asked.
He saw a flash of hurt cross her features, and he wanted badly to take the words back. The very fact that he wanted to trust her made him wary. He'd never been given to trusting easily, and she crashed through that wall without him realizing it.
She looked at him with a small smile on her face. "Because should I betray him, you'll be here to shove that pretty little knife of yours into my throat and end my treacherous existence."
"You expect me to let him help you fuck with the past, possibly to the point of making it worse? How do you plan on doing that? Send him to the past?"
"She said she could boost my power. She didn't say she could do it enough send anyone to the past. Influence it, maybe," Micah stated. "Besides, I'm sure it'll be better in some alternate future than it is here. I mean how much worse could it be? Maybe Elise would actually have a chance to know her mother. You and I know that if she had more family-"
"We're more than enough family for her. You're not blood, but you are most definitely a brother to her and a son to me," the elder man adamantly professed.
Micah sighed softly. "I appreciate that, Louis, and you'll have to understand when I say that's why I have to go. It'll be the one thing I can do to improve my family's life here."
"Pardon me for interrupting, gentlemen, but I'm afraid our time is up. There were twenty minutes until the ones on patrol overran this place, and I'm afraid that we've burned through fifteen of those minutes. You need to leave before you're discovered."
"If I agree to do this, where I do I go to find you?" Micah asked.
"Here in three nights. The same time," she told him. "Now, go. They're getting closer."
"Three nights," he muttered with a nod before heading once more towards the exit.
Louis followed close behind but turned and looked at her before exiting. He studied her careful expression closely, hating the fact that from where he stood, her eyes were a mystery to him. Up close, they'd been familiar, like a dream or a portrait he'd seen once. Now, they were taunting him from the shadows of the room while the rest of her seemed to glow in the darkness.
"I'll grant that Micah trusts you, even if ever so slightly. He's young and you're dangling hope in front of his face. I'll need more than that if you want me to help you in any way," he stated after a moment.
"I've given you all I can, Louis. Whether you trust—"
"You talked about the importance of names. You know my name. You know his name. You even went one step further to tell us the known names of the lost. You told us how, despite the stories, the unnamed one didn't betrayer Dancer in the past, if she existed," he stated. "That said, I ask for one thing from you. Give us a name to call you. Do that and I'll do what I can to make sure he's here."
She tilted her head to the side. "It's been a long time since anyone called me by any name. I almost forget it at times. But, if that is what it will take, then you may call me Lis. Now, go. There isn't much time left. And please, whatever you do, take care of each other."
He watched her for a moment, feeling as though there was something else she wanted to say. He breathed deeply and nodded as he turned and followed Micah out the door. He peered in through the window one last time to see if she were escaping, and frowned softly when he saw that she'd disappeared only to leave a small white feather in her place.