(excerpted from Weird Luck, book one in the City of the Watcher trilogy)
“…Look,” Akaz said to Old Aleck, “help me convince the kid to get the fuck out of here and lay low. He’s jeopardizing everything we’ve done.”
“So what!” shouted Old Aleck.
“What?” said Akaz, cringing.
“I did all that work, for this?” Old Aleck flung his hands wide to indicate their entire surroundings. “This is carnage! This is the last thing I wanted to create!”
“You dingdong,” shouted Akaz, “what did you expect, a tea party? This is war!”
Old Aleck dismounted his bicycle and let it fall clattering onto its side. “God damn you, Akaz, you said our Cannibal-King would be a ‘master of moral restraint’! Those were your exact words!”
“Look,” said Akaz, “tomorrow I’ll argue would’ves and could’ves with you all damn day. For now, just get your younger self out of here!”
“To hell with you!” said Old Aleck. Turning to Aleck, he snapped, “Hey kid, do me a favor, go get javelined or something.”
“Aleck!” shouted Beth.
“Sorry,” said Old Aleck, turning to her. “What the fuck are we supposed to do?” He looked around at the crowd and the fire. He turned to Aleck. “Do you know what broke the Skull?” he snapped.
“What?” asked Aleck.
“The Skull of Kaios! What broke the Skull of Kaios!” asked Old Aleck.
“I have no idea,” said Aleck. “Why?”
“Maybe that’s why he’s crazy,” said Old Aleck to Beth. “It made him crazy when we put the busted Skull in his head. Or maybe we just got the wrong Cannibal-King. The broken Skull led us to the wrong one.”
“Or maybe your Guidebook screwed him up,” jeered Akaz. “Or maybe he’s exactly the Cannibal-King we wanted! Look around you! Melkhaios is free!”
“You look!” shouted Old Aleck, pointing. Aleck saw a dozen Shallow Ones hung on hooks, a mob of Deep Ones pelting them with rocks. “Look!” Old Aleck pointed at a packed crowd of a hundred unarmed Normals, surrounded by Diggers with carved sticks savagely pounding anyone within reach, Normals clambering over each other, shoving and trampling, to get away from the edge of the crowd. “Look!” said Old Aleck, pointing to the fire, where bound and struggling Normals, Shallow Ones, and Herax were unceremoniously flung one after another into the flames. Givers and wolves wandered through the depths of the Wargus-Fire, feasting on the charred dead. “Nyarlathotep!” shouted Old Aleck. “This is nothing but a gigantic Rite of Augermath!”
“It’s an Autonomous Zone!” snarled Akaz.
“And you’ve tricked me into summoning a genocidal maniac!” continued Old Aleck.
“You don’t know that,” said Beth. “We don’t know what went wrong, Aleck.”
“Yeah, take it easy,” said Akaz.
Old Aleck turned to Aleck. “Look, you need to understand. I’ve spent my whole life trying to get back here to fix this. I remember this from when I was your age. When I was you. I thought I’d be able to change the course of things, that’s why I wrote the Guidebook.” He grabbed Aleck by the shoulders. “You have to figure out what went wrong, so that when you grow up, when you’re me, this won’t happen. There has to be a more peaceful solution!”
“Aleck, now you stop tampering with him!” said Beth. “Is this conversation exactly how you remember it, from when you were a kid?” snarled Beth. “Because if it isn’t, then you have no idea what else you’re changing!”
“Yes,” said Old Aleck. “Sure it’s the same.” He self-consciously lifted his hands from Aleck’s shoulders. “Basically.”
“To hell with waiting,” said Aleck. “We need to do something right now.”
“What?” said Old Aleck.
“This is fucked!” said Aleck. “Those guys are no better than the Herax! They could turn out to be even worse!”
“Look,” said Akaz, “just let the goddamned dust settle, and clean up details later.”
“Shut up,” said Aleck. “Let’s go find that Cannibal-King. Get him to stop those massacres. If he’s an honorable revolutionary—”
“You’re out of your mind, kid,” said Akaz. “In more ways than one.”
“Is that what you said,” Beth asked Old Aleck, “when you were his age? When you were on his end of this conversation?”
“No,” groaned Old Aleck. “I just agreed to fix it when I grew up and went off with Akaz, and he helped me get back to Earth. And I found myself back at the wreck of Damon’s Camaro.”
“Good plan,” said Akaz. “good plan. Come on, kid, I’ll buy you a beer, then we’ll get you back home the way you came.”
“You hypocrite,” said Aleck. “What happened to ‘Fortune favors the bold’? He has guns. He can stop the killing if he wants to, and we can get him to do it.”
“There’s too much going on in one place, honey,” said Beth. “Too many of us overlapping. Too much Weird Luck. The Cannibal-King and his wife are parallel to me and Aleck; add you and Akaz and their Akaz, it’s just too much. You’ll start a Train Wreck.”
“Or summon the Reality Patrol,” said Old Aleck. “She’s right, man. We’ve been tampering with things, yeah, but not spontaneously! You have to plan it out, and you’re walkin’ a tightrope to not make stray waves!”
“Look, kid,” said Akaz. “My methods look haphazard to you, but A) you don’t know the whole plan, and B) I can see Fate the way you see day and night. You have no concrete basis for judging risk. For me, navigating risk is like driving on a curved road.” He looked at Aleck’s scars. “Bad analogy, maybe. All I’m saying is, if you go maverick with all these pandimensional motherfuckers around, I’m betting on a goddamn Train Wreck, and I won’t have it. You think this is a mess, it’s nothing compared to a Train Wreck….”
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