Saturday, March 26, 2011

Decker 27

.Deckren concentrated hard on reviving memories of Decker, his former self. He (they?) tried to see the man who had fallen out of the Arizona desert into this strange long ago? Images of waiting tables, driving, lonely nights in that tiny apartment.... all seemed like reflections in a mist-veiled mountain stream. Eyes shut tightly, he struggled to bring that human self into focus as waves of disorientation washed over him. The sterile, flat echoes of the pressure chamber gave way to a chaos of voices, bells, electronic noises, clacking, ratcheting....the heavy smell of tobacco smoke, of deodorant and cologne, of alcohol and lust, so familiar....
Las Vegas! The three of them stood on psychedelic swirling carpet, surrounded by milling seekers. Flashing lights, green felt, spinning wheels, the ceiling perforated by constellations of color, boiling iridescent storms with chromatic lightning bolts, chandeliers, strange creatures and spacecraft circling under capacious vaults or close-hung skies. Reality was out of sync here too, Deckren thought, though the convolutions of inter-dimensional dancing somehow seemed less out-of-place in Vegas that it would elsewhere.
The games of chance all seemed to be operating normally, though the denizens at the various tables and machines were an odd mix of earthly and non-earthly species, still predominantly human but not overwhelmingly so. Scantily clad kangaroos served drinks and lit cigarettes, scaly rabbits fussed over their chips, bespectacled androids watched intently as dealers flipped cards, ambulatory octopoids monopolized rows of one-armed bandits, web-fingered humanoid bats plunked down stacks on red or black, odd or even. No one seemed perturbed by the incongruous mix of entities that swept like slow tides across the still-solid floors.
Still struggling to get their bearings, the Deckrens scanned the crowd for any sign of Furge or their Decker-self. Coxli leapt onto a row of slot machines and started pulling handles randomly. They crisscrossed the huge room, trying to cover as much territory as they could, while the little lizard-man scampered and scaled, fiddled and chittered. They were ready to give up on finding Furge when the noises of the big room began to dampen in a slow wave, starting from a down escalator near the center.
Behind crimson mirrored shades, resplendent in a bone-white Italian suit, matching oversized fedora with a blood-red band, broad, blood-red tie, and red patent leather penny loafers, surrounded by slender, well-endowed and near-naked females of several species, a gaunt, pale incarnation of Decker rode languidly down the moving stair.
He stepped off the escalator, moving like royalty through the obsequiously parting crowd. He was walking in their direction, though it was impossible to tell if he'd spotted them. He was smoking a long, slender cigarette and sipping from a brandy snifter, seeming little concerned by the fawning sycophants that approached him. Occasionally he'd bring his lips close to the ear of one of the females, whereupon she'd invariably break out in bell-like laughter.
The conversation in the big room had quieted to a bare whisper by the time the Decker incarnation was close enough for Deckren to speak to. The slot machines still chimed and beeped merrily, but all the roulette wheels had stopped and all the card tables had gone inert.
"Decker, or Furge, or whatever you're calling yourself," Deckren rasped uneasily, "remember me?"
The white-clad figure stopped and stared, unmanned at seeing two Degrens. His manner changed abruptly from gracefully regal to completely abashed. Fumbling off his sunglasses, he stuttered, "D-D-D....? Um, I..." Then his gaze hardened, and he thrust the glasses back on. There was only a slight quaver in his voice as he said, "Do I know you?"
"Of course you do, Furge!" The two Deckrens spoke simultaneously.
"I don't think I do," came the cold reply. "Now if you, er, gentlemen will excuse me, the ladies and I have to attend to."
"Furge, or Decker, whoever you've become, look around you!" Deckren swung a pointed finger around the room. "Things are messed up. This is supposed to be a planet of humans, with an ordinary sky and ordinary ceilings. You don't belong here. We've got to get you out of here and back to our, er, your home planet! We might be the cause of all this weirdness!"
"Total bullshit," the confused Furge/Decker spat back. "You're with the casino, aren't you? Trying to get me to take off and leave my winning streak behind! I practically own this town now, you bastards! You know it, and you're scared shitless of me! Get out of my face!"
"Furge, you know who I am," Deckren said, "and you know who we are. This isn't right. It's messing things up in a whole lot of places, in a whole lot of ways. Come with us and we'll try to set things straight. You'll be able to come back to me-er, Degren. This set-up isn't going to hold together much longer. We've got to try!"
For a moment he looked convinced, ready to return to his old life. Then an icy glaze came over his face. "And give up this crazy party? You freaks must be nuts. C'mon, girls. Table seven is waiting for us, ready to spill poker chips on us until we've got more than we can carry. Have a nice life, er, gents!"
He made to continue on, but the two Deckrens blocked his way. A dark snarl curled his lip. "Best you step aside, boys," he uttered coldly. "The management doesn't take kindly to people messing with VIP's." He waved one hand and several large, dark-suited men materialized out of the crowd, sidling between the Deckrens and his posse, then he locked elbows with two of the girls and strolled toward the poker tables.
"Here's a little something to keep you happy," one of the thugs pulled a double handful of drink chits and ten dollar chips out of his jacket pockets and dropped them in front of the Deckrens carelessly. "You don't want to press the issue, take our word for it." He cracked his knuckles and spun on one heel, a move that he and his cronies must have choreographed, as they all turned in perfect synchronicity.
"Shit to the power of SHIT!" Deckren stood, teeth clamped firmly together; angry, indecisive. Then the seriousness of the situation galvanized him. He brushed through the crowd, the other Deckren at his shoulder. They marched past the small army of black-suited goons toward the poker tables. The goon who had spoken to them tried to grab him by the shoulder.
"Um, excuse me, si-" Taken aback by the adamant strength of Deckren's shrug, Goon One practically hit the floor, but managed to regain his balance. "Okay, we've got a couple of wise guys here," he said as he motioned to his crew to close on the two Deckrens, "but let's see if we can keep the disturbance to a minimum. Watch out, they're stronger than they look."
There were nine of them. They fast-walked up to make a semicircle behind the Deckrens, then closed it up to form a full ring. Goon One was at the nexus now, facing them. "Sirs, this is your last warning. If you don't intend to stop harassing the clientele, we will be forced to eject you from the premises."
The Deckrens shrugged and moved to walk past. Goon One grabbed his left shoulder, this time determined to hang on even if it caused pain. Deckren brought his left arm up and over, locking his elbow over the man's rather ham-like forearm, then let his knees go limp and his body drop straight down. When the pressure on the man's elbow was almost equivalent to Deckren's weight, he lifted his right knee and turned his left shoulder inward. Before the big man could get his legs under him, he was being urged painfully toward the floor. He tried to swing a left-handed roundhouse into Deckren's midsection, but Deckren had already set his feet and sprung into a forward roll, still holding the arm bar. The reversal of inertia was too quick to compensate for, and Goon one had no choice but to fall under the pressure or have his shoulder dislocated.
In the meantime, the other Deckren was keeping several of the other goons at bay by spinning like a dervish and leaping six feet straight into the air, unleashing with the occasional devastating circle kick when one of them got too close. Two were already incapacitated when Deckren bum-rushed Goon One's face into the stiff carpet and concurrently slipped in a well-placed palm edge at the side of the bullish neck.
The other six goons stood confused for a second before rushing silently but menacingly toward the two Deckrens. When the two sinuous, gray-furred men passed through each other in a front flip phalanx, they were too dumbfounded to defend themselves; four heels struck behind four ears, and then there were two. The two took up defensive crouches, to little avail; the Deckrens feinted, then blurred in with sleeper holds. With minimal fuss, the nine big security men were sleeping like babies.
Furge was oblivious to the fray, firmly ensconced in his poker game. When the Deckrens appeared behind him and each put a hand on his shoulder, he jumped like a scared armadillo.
"You're going to need to show us to your room immediately," they both urged him. With a meaningful glance at the prostrate goons, they lifted him from the chair. He allowed them to lead him to the up escalator.
"Um, Stephie's got my room key," he said, pointing at a lissome female with mouse fur and semi-human but splendidly attractive features. Gotta get it from her."
"Bring all your girlfriends, Furge," Deckren said, "Wouldn't want any of them to feel left out!"
They made it to Furge's suite without further incident. It took up an eighth of the twenty-second floor, stretching out before them in wide-open opulence.
"Call the main desk and tell them you don't want to be disturbed, Fu-er, Decker, or whatever you are," Deckren growled. It was really disconcerting to be looking at this odd incarnation of himself, his lover, feeling homesick, feeling.....what? Unrequited? Alienated?
Coxli appeared at the door just as it was starting to close behind the other Deckren, dragging a tablecloth full of coins and chips behind him. "Holy Hindu headwrap, Hedwig, here's a helluva hootenanny, hey?" He was winded by his exertions, but obviously exuberant.
"Coxli, what the hell are you going to do with all that?" Deckren shook his head, then turned to make sure Furge was making the call. "You are coming with us, Fu-" another combination name popped into his head, almost making him laugh out loud, "u-um, Decker... you know that, right?"
"I don't know anything of the sort, fuzzball! Yeah, kick my ass if you want, but I'm not coming with you willingly! Where the fuck would you take me, anyway? Fuzzball land?"
It suddenly dawned on Deckren. "You don't remember anything, do you? Your spirit quest, our home together... do you remember any of it?"
Being in this odd incarnation of Las Vegas wasn't helping Deckren's memory, either. He tried to bring back scenes from his time in Arizona, from Minnesota... it was all pretty hazy. The only things that held clear came after he'd eaten the peyote. So Furge probably only had memories going back to the moment when he'd come to Earth.
"You don't really have much of a memory, do you, Furge? You probably don't even remember that name, Furge... don't you want to know who you are, where you came from? I mean, are you content with just falling out of the sky, full grown, in Sin City? What a shallow, meaningless little existence, Furge!"
"I-I don't know who this Furge dude is you keep calling me, but I'm Decker, Decker Quall! Here, wanna see my driver's license?"
"Where did you grow up, Decker Quall? Who's your mother, your dad? Who did you know before you came to this freaked-out, avalanching cesspool of a bad movie?"
"This is my life, and I'm keeping it!" Decker/Furge seemed to be deeply upset about his lack of a past, but not so much that he wanted to give up the party. "I may not know who I was, but I know who I am, and it's all going my way here! Why would I want to change my luck?"
"Because you're changing everybody's luck, dickweed, and yours isn't gonna stay so good if you stay here, I can assure you!" Deckren's head was starting to reel, and the walls of the suite were beginning to breathe in color. "We've got to get you out of here before the whole timespace shittle-crack does a big ol' backflip, leaving nothing but some dirty toilet paper where Aunt Wednesday's back yard used to be!"
"You're making less and less sense, fuzzball. What difference could I possibly make?"
"Look at how your luck is running, pasty-boy. How could that be normal? You're at the nexus of something, or something."
"Your lizard buddy is having the same luck as me, fuzzball," Furge said as he scratched at his cheek, discomfited to feel a thin coat of soft fur there. "Now what the hell... what did you do to me?"
Deckren squinted in the pulsing light. Dude was growing fur just like his... what did that mean? "You... um, we...." Why couldn't he think? "Coxli! Deckren! We've got to get back to, um, the turtle guy, the duck..." He made a grab for Furge, who almost managed to elude him, then dragged him toward the other Deckren, concentrating as hard as he could on the weird pressure chamber he was pretty sure he'd come from, not too long ago... Furge seemed to melt into him a little, but the other Deckren was still a long arm's reach away as the suite started to fade....

Friday, March 11, 2011

Decker 26

The two Aidas stood at dueling distance, eying each other suspiciously, uncharacteristically taciturn. Degren and Decker kept a careful distance from one another as well; the ramifications of their recent body-swap was more a motivation for this than their disquieting mutual attraction. Coxli perched on one of the three arcing tables in the huge hyperbaric chamber, munching something that looked like a granola bar and letting his saucer-eyed gaze flit nervously from one face to the next in no discernible order.
"By Bacchus' absinthe-steeped bib, I've no plausible explanation for the temporo-spatial distortion you experienced." Tut's left flipper tapped meaningless Morse code on the flat of his shell as his right adjusted and re-adjusted his huge soda-bottle-bottom spectacles. "I've read and re-read the manual, and the settings I engaged were for surveillance only. According to current science, physical laws disallow any possibility of reality transference when the device is so engaged. There should have been no physical interaction possible while you were in the Cradsell 4 virtual transmission!"
"The only change is constant, or some such drivel, I seem to misremember," Coxli addressed the distant metal ceiling, trying to imitate the disgruntled turtle's professorial tone."Methinks the machine is kaput-ski."
"With shit as warped as it is," one of the Degren/Decker clones observed, "who's to say whether anything is real or virtual? I'm less and less convinced that I'm not laying on a piss-stained mattress in a busted-up shack in the Arizona desert, tripping my brains out. Or maybe more and more convinced. I mean, hells bells, people! How could this be a hallucination, could it not? Am I making any sense?"
Degren/Decker nodded his head, confused, wondering whether he'd been the one who'd spoken. "Anyway, what's next?"
The walls of the chamber were beginning to distort; a little like pea soup coming to a slow simmer under dull cellophane with areas of color glowing through. The floor still seemed stable. Decker/Degren had a minor epiphany. "Okay, so what if it wasn't the device that caused the temp-er, made us actually 'go there'?"
Tut's leathery pate crinkled dubiously. "The odds against gratuitous travel to the point specified by the device while in surveillance mode are astronomical."
"But what if it wasn't gratuitous? What if it was our intent that, er, took us there? Everyone here knew where we were, um, going."
Tut still appeared dubious, but it was easy to imagine the gears turning inside his skull. "Cognizance and collective intent...conscious sine wave alignment...hmm.." He seemed almost to vanish into his own thought processes.
"Well, we've lost Tut for the moment," Decker/Degren said, and nodded to himself. "Let's do a little layman's experiment. Let's imagine a scene we've all witnessed and see if we can bring it up without the machine."
Coxli quivered as warning-light colors radiated across his scaly hide. "Negative, negative, numbskull! Never nudge neck into noose, ninny!"
The two Aidas were as rotating poles around the chamber, still eying each other suspiciously. "I'm not imagining anything," one said, pointing a wing, "until we identify this feathered hussy!" The other giant duck doppelganger-ed the pose, replying, "Everyone here knows who I am. Who are you?"
Degren/Decker let an exasperated groan slip between his teeth. "Aida, meet Aida. We've somehow managed to pull versions of you from different timelines into the same one. I had read in some old science fiction books that there was some kind of physical law that would make that impossible or dangerous or some such, but here you both are, one and the same. I'd say kiss and make up, but you might explode, or tear the fabric of space/time, but then...well, who knows? Are we going to just hang around marking time until something even weirder happens? If this is my peyote dream, I'm vetoing that plan."
Each Aida stood dumbfounded for a moment, then cautiously waddled in for a closer inspection of the other as recognition dawned simultaneously in their eyes.
"Heavens, I'd thought Tut was tossing me over for one far more attractive than I! You are a gorgeous example of the species, aren't you, dear?"
"My thoughts exactly, Lady Aida," the other giggled. With the tension broken, the two ducks waddled off to the perimeter to converse.
"That's one distraction taken care of," one of the Degrens muttered."Shall we get down to cases? What's our next move?"
Tut seemed to be surfacing from the sea of equations that he had been immersed in. He pulled off his glasses and absentmindedly wiped at the lenses. "I begin to see an hierarchy of integration emerging. The temporo-spatial matrix is at some sort of duality or multiplicity nexus, as evidenced by the recent doubling of Aida and the uncanny morphing of the Decker/Degren fractal. As the time/space segregation fabric dissolves, the laws of coincidence manifest as a fractal paradox. By my surmise, more such doublings are likely to manifest, possibly at an exponential rate. I am troubled, however, by the notion that there may be a third Decker/Degren entity in the flux. The Furge entity is, logically, another "doubling". But that would indicate a fourth, you see? It doesn't seem to fit that we haven't any evidence of a complementary entity for Furge."
"Whatever. Shit shit SHIT, man! You're the damned genius turtle, what do we do now? Do we have time for all this goddamned extrapolation?"
"Er, you may have a point, Deg-er,... you may have a point. Perhaps the search parameters of the device will allow us to focus, there doesn't seem to be a function for DNA coding... but we would be well served to locate the Furge entity...."
"I have an idea," A Deckren said. "Get me to the southwestern U.S., and I'll focus my thoughts on my Decker memories; look for myself in your, um, timespace matrix. Furge has most likely transformed into me, right?"
"That is one possibility. What leads you to surmise that you could direct the focus of the device?"
"We directed the function of it on Cradsell. We were only supposed to be able to view the scene, not interact in it. That was us, not the machine."
A glowing blue-green trickle on the chamber wall caught Deckren's eye. He blinked and looked again. Still there. It oozed out of a pea soup bubble and seemed to flow back into another a foot or so below. Scanning the chamber brought several more little streams to his attention. "Um, well, whatever we're gonna do, we'd better get on it, unless those leaks are just me hallucinating."
"Though I can no longer discern which of you Deckrens is speaking at any moment, I will confess that your line of reasoning seems sound." Tut waved a flipper toward the device. "My own cogitative process seems less transparent. Though your limited. er, plan would stretch the definition of advisability, evidence suggests that you are more attuned to this temporo-spatial disturbance than I."
While Tut prepared the device, Deckren tried to remember who he had been before the peyote trip. It brought his heart into his throat to note that he saw himself as a soft-furred desert denizen; his memories of life on "Earth" were almost as dreamlike as his current existence. "Decker. Decker..." Wait. Furge! Wasn't it Furge they were looking for? He glanced at his other self, who was just looking up at him. "We need to think of both", they blurted simultaneously.
"Here is a map of the Southwestern United States," Tut offered. "Kindly offer me a coordinate."
"Well, Decker was here," Deckren pointed to the middle of Arizona, "but his destination was way up here." His finger now rested over east central Minnesota. "What Furge would do is beyond me. He would probably go where the wind took him."
"Let us assume, then, that his movements would be random with a slight bias to the north northeast." Tut calibrated the unit and waved them into the device's area of effect.
"Anyone else coming?" Deckren intended it as a joke, but Coxli surprised them all by racing over.
Numb my nictating nostrils, I never needed numbskull nudges, but now I'm not feeling nice about napping in this nervous now. Engage, ninny!" He shook his scaly finger at the dumbfounded turtle. The three strange beings clustered up and Tut hit the switch