The Psychic's Corpse
By Atom Mudman Bezecny
They called him “the Amazing Mr. X.”
He played on stages all across the country. He had worked with musical acts, comedy acts, and done work for the War effort (when that had been on). There had been some cons here and there, but there was no miracle, it seemed, that Alexis Xavier could not work. He read minds, palms, cards, and fortunes, and did tricks blindfolded, with his hands tied, and from the inside of safes. Fame, fortune, and occasionally love were all his; and he even came from a good family. He died a good man, protecting an innocent woman from a criminal. “Amazing” truly was the word for him.
But he did die, on that day in 1946, in the arms of a beautiful woman. To many, that was the last sign that he was destined for a good afterlife—despite the sins which may have marred his way to wealth. Even if he didn't find paradise, Alexis would at least find rest.
And he did.
For a time.
The darkness snapped open wide, sliced neatly by a thin sword. Alexis Xavier's sleeping spirit opened its eyes and gasped—a horror beyond comprehension filled him, in a time when terror was years past in his sleeping memory. Peering down at him was a face made of stone.
“Alexis Xavier,” a gravelly voice whispered. “You are still needed.”
The dead man began to scream, but a rocky hand closed over his mouth, and he knew no more.
Back in Kebertsville, Maryland, in 1947, Bloody Mary and Immorté were locked in a cell. It had bars at one end, like a jail-cell, but this was no conventional prison. Neither of their powers could break them out of here. Mary had tried her claws, and her tears, which she could make acidic; Immorté had tried to use his strength and telekinesis to get out but those were useless too. Mary could travel through the Mirror-Realm to escape, but there were no mirrors. And as a ghost, she could squeeze between those bars—if there wasn't a force holding her back.
Of course, it was because they were the prisoners of the witch Zahl Doone that they couldn't escape. They weren't supposed to be here—not in 1947, that was to say. Last they'd known it had been early summer, 1942. They had just routed the KKK from taking over Kebertsville, or rather, tricked the Klan into routing themselves. But now Zahl Doone had several Klansmen as her servants, and claimed that the Klan had possession of the town for the last five years.
She had explained to them at this point how it had all happened. Before she used her magic to throw herself and her two prisoners forward in time, she had also cast a spell which implanted a psychic suggestion in the mind of one of the Klansmen. He was to go back and implant himself in town, having been disguised from any witnesses by his hood. Then, he would acquire enough money to buy out the restaurant which had once occupied the same space as this prison. He would replace the restaurant with a headquarters for the Klan, complete with cells—likely with a front business. From there, more operatives could be guaranteed safe passage back into Kebertsville, and from that, they could set about installing themselves among the police, the mayor's office, and anywhere else that counted.
“It only took one of those five years for Kebertsville to become little more than a giant safe-house for Klansmen. They've even managed to keep it a secret from the media,” Doone had said. Immorté tried to read her mind to see if this was true, but she was shielding her thoughts. It was enough that the restaurant was replaced with a prison in five years, and that there were three Klansmen keeping this place safe. As if Doone needed guards—again, none of their powers could help them. They'd even tried mixing Mary's tears with Immorté's combustion powers to make a small blood-flamethrower, but it had only scarred the stones at the base of the bars. And yes, they had tried digging out too, and breaking the walls around the bars. No dice with that either.
The Klansmen weren't the only ones staffing this place. Now and again over the long hours, individuals would appear in the doorways beyond wearing ceremonial robes like those worn by Zahl Doone. They were probably her servants, her apprentices. Every so often Immorté would scan the thoughts of their captors and pass them on to Mary—not those of the Klan, because they weren't worth hearing. But these apprentice witches who served under Zahl Doone, they had some interesting notions. For example, they were about as fond of the Klan folk as Immorté and Mary were.
“Lure one of them over here,” Mary said to him, over their psychic channel. They were both doing the best they could to keep their thoughts protected from Doone. She was gone from the room but she probably wasn't very far.
He did so. Nothing too strong—just a lure of curiosity. Wizards were weak to 'em. Slowly, nervously, the young man approached the cage. He pretended to be looking over them in the interest of occult scrutiny. After all, one of them was a bloody-eyed ghost, and the other a towering man with skin like velvet, whose transparent wild-haired head contained a glowing skull. All the same Immorté could sense his feelings.
“Come closer,” Mary said.
Immorté lured him in a little closer when she said that.
“You know what those Klansmen say about you behind your back, right?”
He said nothing.
“You've had to work with them for the last five years, right?”
“Stop trying to talk to me,” he told her.
She grinned. “I'm not that bad, don't worry. I'm much better than those KKK goons in any case.”
“...they are rather insufferable.”
She nodded. “You know, he and I fight people like that.”
“I can't let you out.”
“That's not what I'm asking. Though, if you did do it, then—”
“I said I'm not letting you out!”
“—then you would have fewer problems to worry about.” She took a step back and crossed her arms. “Tell me. Does the Klan really control this area?”
“I'm not at liberty to disclose that information,” he said.
“He's lying,” Immorté “said” to her, reading his thoughts in the moment.
“You don't need to tell me that. No one says, 'I'm not at liberty to disclose that' if they...well, you know,” she “replied.” “Tell me,” she said then. “Since the Klan doesn't control this area, under what threat are you?”
“I'm not under threat. I work here by my own consent, because I serve Mistress Doone.”
“What does she offer you?”
He stayed silent.
“What does she do for you?”
“We haven't seen her until today.”
“She's been gone all these five years, leaving us only psychic commands from the future. I suppose to her it's easy...” He sighed, like he had said too much, but kept going. “She jumped forward from your perspective in the past, didn't she? That's why you appeared suddenly. She said it would take years for you to appear in the prison. To her, this was just a matter of days or hours. But I've been at this post for five whole years now waiting for her to return, to teach me something...anything.”
The two prisoners sensed his anger. Mary, a master of anger, snapped that up.
“She's not the only witch in the world, you know. There are others who could teach you. Why, I hear there's even an academy of a sort in northern Scotl—”
“I've thought of that, but if I try to escape her...she'll come for me. She's powerful—she's linked to the heart of the Stone God.” And his face twisted, as if he said too much, but he read the curiosity in the faces of his prisoners. “You've never heard of the Stone God, have you?”
“There aren't too many mythologies I've heard of where there's a god of rock or stone,” Mary confessed.
“But stones do have importance in different faiths. In the Hellenistic world the Omphalos stone was the center of all their civilization. It was the stone Rhea switched out for Zeus when Cronus came to eat him. Omphalos meant 'navel,' as in the navel of the world. Some say the Omphalos contained the Python, the Earth spirit conquered by Apollo—that's why the Oracles at Delphi, where the Omphalos was kept, were called 'Pythia.' This may be one of the roots of the tradition of the king-stones—like the Stone of Scone or the Lia Fáil on the Hill of Tara. The Stone God is a god of centrality—he is a god-king, in the sense very much like our own kings. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” Mary replied.
“I was able to find a link between the Stone God and Stonehenge,” the young wizard said, his voice dipping low. “There was a cult out near Stonehenge who installed a stone to the structure much later than its original build date. The record show this stone was used to celebrate 'Samhain,' but it's strange...it never makes clear whether they were celebrating Samhain as we understand that word today, as in the holiday...or if they celebrated a deity named Samhain. In any case the old stories say that at the hands of this cult, the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.” He paused, sucking in a deep breath. “The Stone God is very powerful, but you must have seen a hint of it when Mistress Doone carried you into the future.”
“Yes...I do have to wonder why she brought us here,” Mary said. “Not just so she could have a prison built for us in a relative second. She could trap us in other ways if she's that powerful. She must have needed to wait for something that was time-sensitive...a time-capsule, maybe, or...hm. Maybe she's waiting for a wine vintage to finish fermenting, I don't know.”
“Fermentation...” the wizard said then. But he shook his head. “I've wasted enough of my time here. I need to get back to work.”
“Doing what? Waiting for Doone to give you orders that'll never come?”
Once more he froze at Mary's words.
He turned around, having faced away from them to leave. “Fine. I'm letting you out.”
“You're doing the right thing.”
“I hope so.” And the young man waved his hand, first removing the invisible charm over the cell. Then, he produced a key from his robe, and opened the cell door.
As she left the cage, Mary leaned close to him. “Nadine Ingomar. In London. She can help you find teachers.”
“Okay,” he nodded, hoping she was right—and that he could afford to fly to London.
But even as this transpired, three familiar figures marched into the room. Mary had her claws out in an instant.
“What're you doin', lettin' 'em—” the first Klansman began. He would only ever begin. Mary lunged out in a second.
“We shoulda killed 'em when we had a chance!” screamed the second of them, but in a moment his breath was cut off, as he was held in the psychic grip of Immorté.
The third man fired his long-barreled rifle wildly at Mary, to no effect. Once Mary clawed her target into a hospital bed, and Immorté threw his target against the wall into the realm of unconsciousness, she took the gun out of his hand while the Lost Prince lifted him up.
“Where is Zahl Doone?” Immorté asked.
“Tell him,” Doone's apprentice urged, trying not to look at the mess Mary had left. (He was trying not to envision the messes the Klansman had left in his life, either.) “I want to know too.”
“Sh-she's in Florida...” the bigot choked. “Florida, where the guy she needs died...”
“What does she need with a dead man?” Mary asked.
“She needs the r-right psychic profile...” he grunted. “I don't understand it myself. Sh-she said that she wants to get back at you, Immorté, for the son you stole from her...”
“Son?” Immorté asked.
“Oh, please, Immorté, don't hurt me!” the Klansman screamed then. “You...you fought my grandpappy once, and when I was a kid I was so scared of you giving me a lickin'...”
“Well, I'm giving you a licking now 'cause you didn't learn your lesson then,” Immorté said. “In any case, it's Bloody Mary you Klan bastards should be scared of. She hates you guys.”
Mary grinned and nodded at this. And as she'd hoped, the Klansman fainted.
“Florida, huh?” she said then. “And a dead man. Let's go see what we can do.”
“You can't mean, though, that we're searching the whole of Florida,” Immorté said. “I should've kept him awake just a bit longer.”
“No, I can help you there, too,” the apprentice said then. “I mean...I won't go with you to Florida. Not if Zahl Doone is there—after all I've done. But I think I know who you should be looking for.”
“Who?” Mary asked.
“One of the projects I did get a chance to look at over the last five years was an examination of different psychic profiles for some sort of...'hosting project.' I never thought it would be some sort of...potential future child. If that's what his words meant.”
“The Wild Hunt pulled their own children from the future before they were born using magic before,” Immorté said. “There was Sivas Blood, alias Ultrablood, back on Rheton. Y'know, I still can't get over that—what will pass for good monikers in the later part of the century.”
“Ultrablood is dead, and that's what matters. I'm worried about the child of Zahl Doone and Riven Blood. Crossed with the power of the Stone God it could be—” Mary cut herself off. “What did you mean when you said 'psychic profiles'?”
“Well, there were a bunch of different mediums with legitimate powers whom the Mistress thought would be make a good host for what I guess now is her son-who-never-was. From a dead father, if I'm hearing your words correctly.”
Mary and Immorté said nothing.
“She had to wait for the host to die. Some of the people she had me looking over were already dead, but the one from Florida wasn't prophesied to die until 1946...”
“Doone predicted the deaths of those men?” Mary asked incredulously. “There seems to be no limit to her power. She must not have tampered in their deaths, then, because she didn't want to contradict what she had seen...” She thought back to the Golden Guardians of Time. They were probably why Doone had shifted them into the future. The man she wanted to use was meant to die in 1946 and therefore she couldn't murder him early to use his corpse without alerting the Guardians. But if she moved forward to a point a few months after his death, then she could use his body without trouble.
“Who is the guy were looking for?” Immorté asked at last.
“His name is, or was, Alexis Xavier,” the young sorcerer replied. “Sometimes known by the moniker 'the Amazing Mr. X.'”
Immorté took a moment, and opened his mind up to the psychic networks of this world. If this Xavier fellow was a true psychic, then he would leave a trace of himself radiating from his tomb in Florida. At this point, he was on the offensive, and he didn't care if Zahl Doone sensed him. They'd be coming for her, and her stolen corpse, whether she liked it or not.
Eventually he got a fix on the upscale Miami cemetery where Alexis was laid to his final rest. He had the image perfectly captured in his mind, through the power of remote-viewing.
“Let's get this done and over with, Mary,” Immorté said. “As long as Doone is still active, and as long as she can time-travel, she's a threat. I sense she wants to get back to Rheton, and rule in Riven's stead, in his name.”
“Yeah, she's dangerous...she's crazy enough to do all this. I don't even know what her end goal is, aside from...seeing to it she and her dead lover have a child, I guess.”
“Doone sees time as a thing as malleable as space,” the apprentice said. “She steps in four dimensions like we walk in three. That's what makes her dangerous.”
Immorté looked the apprentice over then, glad that he had helped him.
“Listen, son—you remember what we told you?”
“About getting out of here? I do. You just have to make sure the Mistress doesn't wind up at my back.”
“We'll give her bigger problems—you can count on that,” Mary said.
The two from the past nodded at him, and he gave them a little bow. Then he left. Once he was gone, Mary and Immorté remained wordless, but Immorté slashed at the air with an invisible psychic blade, and the mauve wound once more opened in space. Through this portal they would find a direct link to Miami, Florida—to the graveyard where Alexis' tomb was.
When they arrived, the sky overhead was gentle and pleasant. Mary looked up into it and said, “I wonder what Loretta and Ormond are doing in 1947. I met them in a cemetery, and so I always associate cemeteries with them...”
Immorté said nothing. Instead, he merely pointed. Near to where they'd landed—as he calculated—there was a tall gray mausoleum, with the name “Xavier” etched over the door. There was a lock at the door, but a recent dent marred the sphere of the doorknob. Mary tried to the door and found that the lock was broken completely. The work of whoever had extracted Xavier's body, no doubt.
She went in. There was nothing more she could say about tombs at this point in her life—they all sort of became the same after a while. Some were dank, some were dusty; that was the primary difference. This one was dusty, but the dust at their feet was stirred too much by natural forces to show clean footprints. There was a staircase that wound down into the burial chamber, and the pair followed it. The darkness of the crypt was no object to them.
The expansive line of coffins would be imposing to most, and even Mary found herself a little shaken here, despite her earlier expression. Generations of Xaviers lay here, buried in a single long row. At the far end were the distant colonial ancestors, and slowly, they came down the line, through the Civil War and the years beyond, to Alexis Xavier's parents, both deceased; and then onward to the coffins unfilled, hungrily awaiting occupation. These must be Alexis' brothers and cousins. His brothers Jerold and Maurice were dead by 1947, but someone named Brian was still alive, as was a boy named Charles who looked to be Brian's son. They and a few others were the last surviving Xaviers.
It was Alexis' coffin, of course, that they were looking for—and the one which caught their eye first. Their examination of the rest of the tomb had largely been a formality, for it was plain to see that Alexis' coffin, made of stone, had been smashed open by great strength. Perhaps the strength of stone itself.
“Well, we've...confirmed they stole the body, at least,” Mary said. “I don't know what else we can do from here.”
“I'm not giving up,” Immorté said, and he closed his eyes. He began to reach out with his mind again, trying to find any hint of the psychic signature he was looking for.
Maybe he could probe into the coffin and find a shade of the cradled ghost of its occupant. From that he could sniff out where that ghost had gone, stolen along with his body...
He remembered Rheton. He remembered the hope he had for his homeworld, and how much of that hope was fueled by anger. He didn't seem to notice that he was sending out that anger, that gnarled hope, to Mary. To her it was familiar—only recently had she been exorcised of it. But she was in position to stop that anger if he chose to unleash it.
“She's below,” he said finally. “He is, too. Doone—and Alexis.”
Mary looked down at her feet. “The Xaviers are one of those eccentric families, huh? Hidden catacombs under the mausoleum?”
“I guess so. Let's just find the way down.”
Mary looked around, and at this point she'd grown the detective's eyes. There was something up with Jerold Xavier's grave: each of the Xavier coffins had an inscription of a sort on the stone they were mounted on, chiseled into the base. Jerold's honor carving—“Stopped the Moon Killer Murders, 1930”—had a seam around it. She pressed in on it and sure enough, across from where she crouched, the stone slid back on a spring or piston of some kind. There was a doorway, and it was immediately obvious that this led to another set of stairs. Immorté pushed himself into this passage and began leading down, not waiting for Mary. She worried about him, though she also knew it wouldn't be a bad idea to worry about herself.
The large chamber below the Xavier crypt contained yet more of the Xavier family, post-mortem. This was the central nexus of the main family, here in Miami, ever since there was a Javier aboard one of the Spanish ships that came to Florida in search of gold and immortality. The old Spanish Xaviers were buried here, their coffins long unattended to. Some of their bones were flopped out over the womb-like curves of the dank stone space, and standing among these bones, cradling the rotten corpse of Alexis Xavier, was Zahl Doone.
She was almost entirely alone now. She had her followers over the world, who had wanted to learn the spells of the Caspak cavemen through her. The young man they'd left in the Klan prison, in the town now free of the Klan's stink, would spread the word of the deceit of Doone. How she viewed her servants as slaves, or as pawns on a chessboard. But one woman, with fierce dark eyes and wild black hair to rival Mary's and Immorté's, was still with her, and she bared rotten teeth at them as they came up on them in the dark.
“You know, the Stone God has yearned to enter this world before,” Zahl Doone said then. She was staring down at Alexis' dead face, and seemed to pay no mind to the two intruders. “In 1944, the experiments of one Dr. Charles Randolph, later called Charles Conway, drew the Stone God to Earth. He demonstrated his power to bring the dead back to life, leaving them with a so-called 'Face of Marble.' This was a sign of the Stone God manifesting within them. Now a dead man will walk again with the Stonehenge-God in him—and with the powers of a true psychic, the Stone God will be able to bring over his full body from its prison. To this I dedicate the soul of Lucas Blood-Doone, the son my beloved Riven and I never had, to the Stone God.” She turned then to look at her apprentice. “Stop them, Gielgud.”
Bloody Mary didn't know why she had hesitated—maybe the witchcraft of this pit had held her back. Or maybe she felt bad for the woman whose love for a man left her down below a grave, in the darkness, cradling a corpse.
The witch named Gielgud wasn't hesitant to make a display of her power. Drawing from the same source of magic as Immorté, she sliced a door open in the air—but her gateway led to into an orange glow, and not a violet one. Before Mary and Immorté's eyes a small horde of minute creatures poured out, like short humans but much lumpier, more deformed-looking. They were dressed in brownish tunics, and wielded spears, but both of them could sense there was a bloody magic in those spears that could rip either of them apart.
As this horde of creatures beset the pair, Zahl Doone got to work, reaching into the potentialities and eventualities of time and bringing forth the spirit of the child she'd wanted to mold in her image. Her beloved son, her Lucas, began to crumble and break apart and she invoked him, as she pulled him from his nested rest in the mingling timelines, just as the Stone God had pried forth the soul of Alexis Xavier. Doone reflected angrily on Mary's tears of blood, and thought them just dew-drops next to what she cried for this act—for killing her son. But the energies it realized and released lit up the grave with a golden light, and this light was the holy glow of the Stone God. Zahl Doone, widow and child-killer, began to shape the power of her god into a singular essence that she would deliver to the psychic's corpse.
Dodging the long and narrow spears of the small troll-like things, Mary was making progress by way of her claws. Immorté was doing the same, and much more easily—he had his hands too, but he also had his telekinesis. And once the monsters sustained cuts it was a simple matter to burn them. They were so small they burnt quickly. He seemed to show a strange delight in that.
Mary realized more and more that he was losing himself to his anger. He was so desperate to get to Zahl Doone now that he was bound to make a mistake. Or maybe it wasn't even a matter of that. Zahl Doone worked quickly—they should have figured she would have. Even moving the power of a god was not beyond her. And she moved it now, very hurriedly, into Xavier's body. The Stone God, too, moved fast, as he yearned for full release after all these years.
It began slowly, they saw. Alexis' eyes opened wide, and they stared hatefully at Zahl Doone as hs face drained of color, and began to harden. The so-called “face of marble.” But she was not deterred by the sight, and continued to pour the power of the deity into the dead body. The eyes, Mary realized, were not full of hate for the one summoning him, but for those who had imprisoned him, whoever that had been, so long ago.
The skin continued to harden, and slowly Alexis Xavier sat up. His hair, was remained of it that was untouched by rot, began to fall out—the handsome, preserved mustache which had once lit his charming face decayed to a pile of gray strands on his torso. Stone had no place for hair; and once Xavier was completely without it the whiteness of the stone turned to a deeper gray, as the body slowly began to grow in size.
Soon he was tall enough to scrape the top of this grave-chamber—and when he stepped, he kicked up the bones of the dead Javiers and Xaviers at his feet. All the humanity of his eyes vanished. Instead there was flame, magma flame. The towering creature definitely looked like a god-king.
Immorté had killed the last of the hobgoblins. Absently, he noticed Gielgud was gone—back through one of her gates. Perhaps she, too, feared the wrath of the Stone God. It didn't matter. She was a minor witch besides Zahl Doone.
“You handle the big, ugly guy,” Immorté said then. “I'll take her.”
Mary nodded, knowing that Doone's magic would be as deadly to her as the Stone God's mass would be to Immorté. She could sense powerful energy coming off the Stone God, but most of his punches would go right through her. At least, if she let them connect.
Once their battle began, however, she found herself asking a simple question: how good were her claws going to be against solid rock?
Zahl Doone, no longer burdened with carrying the power of the Stone God, unleashed her full fury on Immorté. Beams of white-hot light sparked cyan from her fists, flying towards him; he dodged them until he was up near to her. He knew that battling her physically was the key, but she wasn't going to go down easy. When his heavy fist found her, she was already shielded by the same energy she'd launched at him. Then, with that same power coating her own fist, she threw a punch of her own back at him.
He lost a solid five feet of ground on that.
The Stone God now lurched towards Bloody Mary, intent on grabbing her and crushing her in his mystic-matter fist. He was lightning fast, and once he found out he could hit her (so much for her hopes, then), he had laid several strikes against her to drain her already-tested strength. Most of the hits were glancing but they stung. Now, she had no choice but to turn her tears on him, but the momentary pause to grab her chalice was enough of an opening for him. He managed to seize her in one titanic fist, but by then she had her cup of tears. She tossed them.
But she missed. The Stone God's hand, the one gripping her, was diverted by Zahl Doone, flying fast at him via a psychic throw by Immorté. Immorté had lost track of the battle and now only some small droplets of Mary's tears struck the Stone God's shoulder.
She could see from just that, though, that it was no use. The drops that did land hissed weakly against the smooth rock. She had set her tears to be made of the strongest acid she could imagine, and even that hadn't even scarred his surface. He truly was a God, or at least tantamount to one.
Immorté now picked up Zahl Doone and threw her again. It was clear from the anger in his cries that he wanted to bring her pain. She felt it, certainly, but the fight was far from over for her. She could shrug off this pain if it meant bringing Riven's killer down.
Watching Immorté, Mary realized that when he returned to Rheton he would carry the curse of that rage with him, if he did not change now—and that would be Doone's final victory over him. The Wild Hunt would still rule Rheton, through the man who had once destroyed them. But she had no choice. That blood attack had been her last chance, and now the firm hands of the Stone God set to crushing her.
“Immorté,” she grunted. “You have to kill her.”
He hesitated. He had just spotted a cut at the base of her neck—a thin one, nearly invisible, but enough to expose her blood to the air.
“You have to kill her!”
Immorté killed her because he hated her. He didn't do it for his people, or for his planet. At least, not in the moment. He did it because she had nipped at his heels like a dog, and been a thorn in his side. Her blood boiled but so did his. The only difference was he only came close to death.
Previously, she had been able to recover from his power, but he kept it on her until even the Stone God turned his head. Mary saw her chance and took it, wriggling out of the rock fingers. They would be gone soon, anyway, but when the anchor linking the Stone God to Earth collapsed, she didn't want to be dragged off to whatever Hell he came from.
And then it was over. Doone's power failed her and collapsed, and she collapsed with it—crumbling to ashes. The Stone God saw this, and realized he was about to return to imprisonment. But he did not scream. From his face of marble, he looked to as though he was unsure he had ever been free to begin with.
The magma-fires that burned in his eyes grew hotter and hotter then, until they at last exploded, turning the stone of the God's body to lava. But before this oozing rock's heat could reach them, there was another flash of orange, and it was gone.
Mary and Immorté were now alone in the Xavier family tomb—now a ruin. There was no trace of Alexis Xavier's body, but somehow, both of them knew he had finally returned to his peace. Hopefully, no others of his family would be victimized as he had. There was a shade of energy left here suggesting that Alexis was not the only psychic of the Xavier lineage.
Immorté looked down at the pile of ashes that had once been Zahl Doone. This was the final conclusion to the story of the Wild Hunt. All of them—all the wielders of their terrible power—were finally gone. Now it was just him, and Rheton. He knew that Mary was going to ask him about the future, but neither of them knew what that could hold, and as such Mary never did ask him. There was no point, because there was no clear answer.
So he cut right to the chase.
“I imagine you're disappointed in me, for what I've done,” he said.
“No,” she replied.
“I've shown you no side of my story but fanatical violence. Only your own good faith has kept you with me—or maybe your own foolishness. For all you know I'm the bad guy in this story.”
“Except for the record of your exploits on Earth,” she said. “And what we did back on Rheton to help those people.”
“But I got what I have now only with destruction. That feels empty to me. Hollow.”
“Perhaps that's your own business.”
She said that not to be cruel, but to be honest. She was not bothered by what he'd done, and perhaps that was a reflection of faults all her own—but that, in turn, was her own business. She didn't know if she could help him fix something she wasn't bothered by. And she only said all that because he had priorities to get to. Responsibilities.
He seemed to understand her then. He felt the clock ticking. “I've never been a King before,” he said. “Come close. But I guess it's something new to learn...like riding a horse, or lassoing a dinosaur.”
“So you're leaving then?”
“You don't seem to have a problem with it.”
And she grinned at him, with a certain sadness in her face. “Perhaps that's my own business.”
He nodded then, and smiled back. She liked how she could still see the outline of his smile, even with his head as weird as it was.
“Keep in touch,” she said. “I don't know how the communications systems are on Rheton, but check in now and then. Especially if you need help.”
“I don't think I'll ever need help on anything, with those people with me, and what they do to my heart. But I won't be a stranger.”
And if he had a hat, he would have tipped it.
“So long...” And she left the pause in, deliberately. “...Immorté!”
And he opened a wound in space, and stepped through into the mauve within.
Then she paused.
“Wait a second...” she said to herself in the dark. “Ah, rats! He wasn't a time-traveler, was he?”
To her surprise, the mauve light returned, and the skull-faced head poked back through. The purple winds rippled his long hair around wildly. “Nope. I'm as stranded in 1947 as you are.”
“Oh, okay. I just figured with your portals...” She let herself trail off. “Get back to work!” she barked at him then.
“Will do! But say, I know you're still needed five years back. So good luck...” And now he had his pause. “...Bloody Mary!”
She laughed as he vanished again.
But as her laughter stopped, she realized she was truly alone. She knew she needed to get back to her proper time before certain gold-plated legions started on the march for her again. But how to do that? How to get back from 1947?
She knew she would relish finding out. After all, it was another adventure in the making.