Shaw. It was Fractal.
The Fractal Universe.
For the sake of not repeating myself again I will once more say the following. Nothing is real! Except for the cupcake you ate for lunch. --- Boggle the Clown.
If you've followed my story this far, then you know I skipped a few things, like what happens next to Senator Murphy, who the two men in my classroom were, and why I let them get off so easy and how in the hell did I know that was going to happen.
First, let me say that I'm not going to answer any of your questions directly. Just take this hint instead and read very carefully what happens next.
The Senator sat deep in his hidden bunker beneath the Nevada desert, fuming and scheming. It was his nature to do both, since he was both a man of great power and a fool in pursuit of more. For only fools seek power when they could have peace of mind. And only those who seek peace of mind find true power.
Nonetheless, he sat there wallowing in his pit of worry and self doubt, agonizing over the details of what had gone so horribly wrong.
His fingers drummed repeatedly the edge of his armchair, tattooing a remarkable sequence of semaphores that told anyone truly listening that he was mad as hell and they better back off, or they'd be dead men or women!
A man stood looking at him, if you can tell by the fact that he appeared to be facing the Senator, even if his body was hidden in a curtain of softly susurating shadows and deeper shadows that forever cloaked his true identity.
"We are very disappointed." The man told the Senator.
"As I." He replied, unphazed by the seemingly casual remark.
"We expect greater from you."
The Senator stopped drumming his fingertips on the arm of his chair a moment, and without moving a muscle on his face, gently caressed an emergency button placed beneath his left index finger. Nothing happened. At first.
The Shadow Man cleared his throat.
"I'm waiting for an explanation."
"I have none."
The Shadow Man stiffened for a moment, and then relaxed. "You cannot harm us."
"I can try."
The Shadow Man laughed. "You're a fool on a fool's errand."
The Shadow Man vanished.
Immediately, the door to the shadowy room flung open and the Senator's most trusted men threw themselves inside, fanning out with very unusual weapons and scanners in their hands. They rushed past the Senator to where the Shadow Man had stood and then vanished as he had.
The Senator sighed, then got to his feet and exited the room, gently shutting the door behind him.
Chesterton put the finishing touches to the tuft of blue hair overlapping between his eyebrows, and then topped it with a crest of green sparklies. "Baby, you are so beautiful!" He told himself, and then someone swatted his butt. Hard!
"Hey!" He screamed.
Patti slipped into view on his right, grinning. "Someone's gotta knock sense into that brilliant mind of yours."
He turned about and pulled her close. He nuzzled her right ear with his nose, inhaling the fragrance of sandalwood she had generously doused there.
"And you intend to do that how?"
"Every which way I can." She told him, pressing closer.
We interrupt this story to allow the twosome to complete their romantic interlude and move on to Gerald Butler, a heretofore, unknown man who will figure quite prominently in this story.
Gerald is a small man. Maybe not more than five feet tall, but he is built like a tank and like a tank, he doesn't accept no for an answer. Just like at this moment when Chesterton and Patti are having one of those moments we all look forward to and long for, he bludgeons a man behind his right ear with a large lead pipe, sending him to the pavement.
He kicks the man over with a steel toed shoe and grimaces.
It's a homeless person.
"Damn me!" He curses. He feels for a pulse, and then lets out a breath of air, when he finds one. He whips out a sheaf of hundred dollar bills and wads them into the right hand of the homeless man, along with a credit card, which if the man has even an ounce of wits about him when he reawakens, he'll promptly test out and find himself a million dollars richer.
Gerald is not slouch, nor is he a cruel man. He just doesn't take no for an answer, and he doesn't suffer fools or bastards.
In his category of things a bastard is anyone who hates the world and is intent on making it an uglier place, especially with such things as crowd bombs, restaurant burn outs, and truck bombs that explode into supermarkets. Yeah. There's been a lot of those lately as the Black Orchid moved in for the kill on this miserable runt of a planet.
Wait! Did he just say planet?
Gerald is not just a runt of a man; he's a runt of an inhuman man. Were he somehow to get wounded and taken to a hospital, which seems unlikely at this point in time, the doctors would find he has a heart on the wrong side of his chest and a partner on the other, as well as three lungs, four kidneys and bones made of silicon. In other worlds he wasn't human. Except that he had a heart as big as Texas, although on his world Texas didn't exist.
He'd been following the bastards since the last universe imploded from their intrusion there. He had barely managed to escape with his life, sidestepping from it in the nick of time as it dissolved into a gentle whimper of disappointed electrons and neutrons and protons that scattered across that time and space into the vast nothingness of Creation.
He patted the homeless man's head, like a proud owner might his own mutt, and then rose to move on. He had felt for sure that he was being followed by one of those Black Orchid fellows, but for once his intuition had gone south and sour. He spit out a glob of yellow blood, and smashed it into the pavement, watching several bugs that had been gathered there toast in the acid he had sprayed upon them that existed in his blood.
His blood would be hostile to any living creature of this world. Another reason to stay out of hospitals and away from doctors.
He hefted his lead pipe like a knight his lance, and allowed it to slide inside itself, until he could safely tuck it away into his boson jacket. The boson is a shape shifting material he had worn from his home world. It could simulate any clothing material of any planet he visited. It could even act as a second skin for him in a pinch. It was bulletproof, fire proof and dragon proof.
That's right dragon proof. On his world dragons were quite the rage, and often used to attack those stupid enough not to wear boson.
He stepped from the alley and began walking south. He made it several blocks when the sun peaked enough over the scrapers in front of him to allow its light to illuminate a flat structure with odd looking yellow vehicles parking in front and letting out hordes of shortkins. Kids. He loved kids. They made his job safer in many ways, because they didn't attract Black Orchids, and their natural naivety made them invulnerable to their influences, unless they were hawking something more familiar than power and fame.
Middle school kids loved power and fame, but not the kind that Black Orchids sold.
He thought about it several long moments, then tucked his boson tighter, made some sensory adjustments so he looked more normal to the humans he might meet, and strode purposefully towards the structure. Something about it was ringing a silent alarm in his intuition and he had every intention of finding out why and what.
Chesterton made a yawn large enough for a small dragon to fly through, then capped his mouth and stretched. He finished using his dry marker...a black colored one...to post the daily routines and objectives for the kids. They usually ignored it, but the administrations that overlooked the sacred halls of education, found in their infinite wisdom to bless this exercise of futility in the name of providence of good will and direction.
They so misunderstood the generations of Smartphone and Minecraft kids that most schools were crumbling under the constant onslaught of rebellious souls determined to break out of the factory mold that the administrations claimed they weren't doing.
He laughed inwardly.
The more things changed. The more they stayed the same.
The bell rang.
In came the hordes of the future. Small ones, tall ones, brown and white, gold and tan, male and female and genders as yet unborn and unknown or at least unspoken.
He watched red heads, yellow heads, spiked hair, and no hair, hair with messages, tattoos of unknown origin, body piercings and ear buds that were carefully hidden beneath folds of hair or uplifted shirt collars.
Just as carefully, he danced among them, exposing the ear buds, removing them and tucking them back into their shirts and pockets with a knowing smile. No one ever complained. It was useless. Whenever someone did, the buds mysteriously vanished and no amount of angry parents could ever prove he had taken them even if everyone, including Patti, who knew better, did!
Once he had closed the classroom door, after kicking the door jamb back inside, he grabbed his pretend mike. He didn't really need it. He could bend the air molecules with fractals that magnified his voice, but he had to make the pretense so as not to frighten them. "Hey guys and girlies!"
"Hey back at you, Mister K!" They greeted enthusiastically.
All except for Morris, who as usual was mining his oral orifices for significant chunks of masonry he could ply the bottom side of his desk with. Chesterton shuddered at those times he had to clean them up. He didn't dare ask the janitors, because they had gum and candy to clean up from the rugs. How could he bear to ask them to handle those nuggets of joy as well?
Morris looked up, a finger still stuck in his right nostril, as Chesterton waited for him to finish. "Well?"
"Well, what sir?" Morris asked in his most intelligent voice.
"Ready to rock and roll?"
"Not really. My dad says that stuff rots the soul."
Chesterton sighed. The fruit never falls far from the tree.
He turned to the other more expectant and alert kids. "Did you do the homework?"
Shandel rose, a drawing in her hands. "I did. May I read it?"
Chesterton nodded. She always asked if she could read her drawings. This made him think either she was pulling his leg, or she was a certified genius in the making. Not one to discourage intelligence on the moon, he nodded twice to be certain she got the signal.
She went to the front of the class and held up her picture.
Chesterton's casual glance turned rock hard. What the hell?
"I call him the bone crusher. He's built like the Thing, but about three feet shorter, has a weird coat that can shift forms and he kills Black Orchids."
The class went wild.
Chesterton raised his hands and they calmed down.
"Yeah, Mister K, the guys that are trying to destroy our planet."
The kids went crazy again.
Again Chesterton raised his hands.
"Wait a second! Did anyone else see this?"
About half a dozen hand rose.
The kids slowly stood and raised their own drawings for everyone to see and the same man stood in the drawings, even if somewhat differently shaded or proportioned.
Then the door to the classroom slammed open and Gerald Butler walked in with a grin large enough to fly a squadron of dragons through. "Good morning, shortkins. My names Gerald Butler and I'm your friendly Black Orchid slayer, and I'm here to kick some butt!"
The kids went crazy!