Irregularities in Dimension



All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel.

Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.




After a tiresome workday at his advertising agency, Kinnetik, Brian Kinney had come back to his loft much earlier than he had intended. He had promised to meet his best friend Mikey at their favorite bar later, but currently he had time to sit in his chaise lounge and drink a bottle of his favorite imported beer. A languid smile lingered on his lips. It was good to be Brian Kinney.

Brian’s eyes found a picture on the wall behind the chaise that he was stretched out upon. His ex-boyfriend, Justin, had given the picture to him on his birthday, just two weeks earlier. After Justin’s move to New York in pursuit of his career as an artist, the two men had preserved their friendship but not their romantic relationship. Each had gone on with their lives in their usual way. Justin was in a conventional relationship with his third boyfriend since Brian, and Brian had neither conventional nor unconventional relationships in his life. He had his son, his business, his friends and his fuck buddies. He did not need anything else.

He let his eyes linger on the picture. Something about it held his attention. Sitting on the chaise lounge, it was impossible to see the picture well enough, so Brian stood up and went to take a closer look.

Once on his feet, however, he forgot why he had stood up. In the middle of the picture, in a mirror, a misty cloud was thickening, and, before his unbelieving eyes, the cloud transformed into a picture of him. He stared. Without conscious thought, he lifted his hand to touch the mirror in the picture. The Brian in the mirror moved its hand accordingly. Brian blinked. Right away, he felt a nauseating vortex overtaking him. Soon, he felt nothing at all.

The bathroom door opened, and a youngish, blond man in a gray suit stepped into the bedroom. He looked around expectantly, but nobody was there. He descended the stairs from the bedroom to the main area of the loft. Nobody was there either. He went to the front door and stopped there, his face to the closed metal door. He stood behind it as if he were waiting for something to happen.

It was not a long wait. Soon, there was a knock at the door. The man pulled the door open and let a youngish, blond woman in a bright blue dress walk in.

“There you are, Sapphire,” the man said without emotion. “Good.”

“For some reason, I ended up in an attic, Steel,” the woman uttered with a mild curiosity coloring her cultured voice. “Do you think there might be something in it?”

“There might,” her companion said, “but I think that the weakness is closer. In this flat, I presume.” He turned around and looked at the place once more. “There is something here, but it is like a whisper, hardly there. Do you detect it, too?”

“Yes, it is there, but, as you say, it is hardly there at all.”

The two walked around the loft for an hour or so, but they spoke no more. Then they both left Brian’s loft through the front door.




Without a trace

The next morning, contrary to Brian’s personal assistant Cynthia Radford’s expectations, Brian didn’t appear at his office by the time his first client arrived. Cynthia had tried to call him on his cell phone, and she rang his loft, all to no avail. The man was missing, so she pitched the campaign, successfully. Ushering the satisfied client out, she quickly returned to her desk to try calling Brian, again. Failing to reach him, she decided this behavior was unusual enough to warrant calling Brian’s best friend, Michael Novotny, and asking him to meet her at Brian’s loft; something must have happened to her boss.

Cynthia waited for Michael at the front door of Brian’s building. She was almost sick with worry. Michael was in an even worse state.

“What’s happened to Brian?” the frantic man asked. Of course. He already knew as much as she did, but that was Michael for you.

“Shall we waste time going over what I've already told you, or will you please open the door?” She thanked the powers above that Brian had told her that Michael had the key to Brian’s loft; it would’ve been much harder to persuade the janitor to open the door for her. If what Brian kept saying about Michael was true, Michael had never any qualms at using the key. This time was no exception. Cynthia followed Michael into the building and into the elevator and, finally, into Brian’s loft.

Michael went to the alarm device at the side wall. “He must be here, he wouldn’t leave without turning the alarm system on,” Michael said and turned to walk up to the bedroom. At the same moment, a man appeared at the bedroom door.

“Who are you,” Michael shouted, “and what have you done to Brian?”

Cynthia rolled her eyes upwards. That was so Michael. The stranger ignored Michael, and, predictably, Michael sputtered. Then, wonder of wonders, a tall, blond woman also came out of Brian’s bedroom.

“But—you’re a w-w-woman,” Michael stammered. “You’re not Lindsay, are you?”

Once again, Cynthia rolled her eyes. Of course it wasn’t Lindsay, the mother of Brian’s son. Why would Lindsay be there? She’d been in Canada for three years now. Brian visited his son frequently, but, since Lindsay’s income was nothing like Brian’s, Lindsay and Gus hardly ever visited Brian. Brian would’ve told her if he had expected them on a visit. Anyway, it was so typical of Michael to think that any tall, blond woman in Brian’s loft would be Lindsay. There was a resemblance; she had to admit to that. Both were tall, blond women with a waspy air about them.

“I am, I think, yes, a woman,” the woman said and smiled at Michael in amusement. “But no, I am not Lindsay. Whoever that might be, I am not she.”

“But who are you,” Michael repeated, “and what are you doing in Brian’s loft?”

With Michael leading the discussion for their side, it was getting nowhere, Cynthia decided; she needed to take the lead, right away.

“I’m Cynthia Radford and my companion here is Michael Novotny,” Cynthia chimed in. With precise words, she told the two strangers why they were in the loft, and then inquired the identity of the strangers. “And why are you two here?”

“Somebody has disappeared, then, Mrs. Radford?” the woman asked ignoring her questions. “That strengthens our suspicions, does it not, Steel?” the woman asked her companion revealing his name. “The weakness must be here.”

Mr. Steel nodded his head in agreement.

“What weakness are you talking about?” Michael asked defensively, as if the strangers had accused Michael’s best friend of weakness. Michael always defended Brian, whether Brian needed defending or not. Nobody listened to Michael, though. Why would they?

“I think so, yes, Ms.—“ she stopped for the woman to fill in her name, but she didn’t comply. After a second, she went on. “My boss, Mr. Kinney, seems to be missing,” she confirmed the woman’s assumption. “You’re from the police, I assume?”

“Your boss was not here when we arrived, Ms. Radford,” Mr. Steel said flatly. “Are you sure that he is missing? Absolutely sure that he has disappeared from this loft?”

“He’s not here, is he?” Michael cried, agitated. Mr. Steel’s companion put her hand on Michael’s shoulder. A fey light flickered on her face, and Cynthia saw the bright sapphire blue of the woman’s eyes. The soft touch seemed to calm Michael down a little.

“Mr. Kinney could be anywhere. In a hospital, maybe,” Sapphire pondered the options. “I hope that he is not dead or seriously injured, but I do hope that he can be found somewhere.”

“If Time has taken him there is not much hope of either,” Mr. Steel said quietly to Sapphire. Then he turned to Cynthia. “Make sure that your boss is nowhere to be found. We need to know. Let’s go, Sapphire, we have things to do elsewhere.”

As Sapphire and Steel walked out of the front door without a backward glance, Michael blinked.

“What the fuck?” he exclaimed. “You can’t just leave! Cynthia, how do we know that those two were from the police? They didn’t show their badges. I know that they aren’t Brian’s friends. I know Brian’s friends, all of them. Those were strangers. What were they doing in Brian’s loft? At least we prevented them from stealing anything.”

“We should try and find Brian, Michael.” Cynthia wanted to tell Michael to shut up. “Let’s worry about his loft when we have found him first, OK?”

“I’ll call Carl, he’ll help,” Michael said with a forlorn hope.

Cynthia started to call the hospitals while Michael called his mother’s policeman boyfriend to help them in the search.




Bold and Beautiful

After suddenly feeling the nauseating vortex taking him, Brian found himself on a cold stone floor in front of the same mirror he had just spotted in the picture on his wall. He was suffering from cold, but otherwise he was fairly unharmed. The need for warmth drove him up from the floor and out to the empty courtyard which, because of the wind, was even colder than the room he came from.

There were several doorways from the courtyard, and, randomly, he selected one. He walked around until he came to a room with a made bed. By that time, he was cold enough to accept the thick bedcover for warmth. However, in the room, he found also a pile of wood neatly stacked beside the fireplace. A smile spread on his lips and face. Despite all the claims to the contrary, it paid to smoke, he found out. His old faithful lighter had come with him through the vortex. Soon he had the fire dancing in the fireplace, then he dragged a big, heavy armchair to the front of it, and, finally, he had a warm spot to thaw himself out. For extra warmth, he hauled the thick bedcover out of the bed and covered himself with it. The warmth lulled him into sleep.

The morning did not bring warmth with it. A look out of the window confirmed that he had awoken into the bleak light of a late fall morning. It was curious, since in Pitts it had been full spring. There was a more pressing matter to take care of, however, and so he turned away from the window to look for something necessary. As he assumed, he found what he needed under the bed: the chamber pot. What a relief.

He took a closer look at the room and found some clothes. There was a heavy, woolen cloak that was long enough to cover him from neck to ankles. In addition, he found a pair of gloves and a brimmed hat, the latter with a plume. Those should keep me warm, he thought, denying the delight, which he felt as the heavy material floated around him or the feather touched his cheek. He thanked all the powers above that he had not been barefooted like he usually was at home; he was wearing his favorite Prada boots. The warmth problem solved for the time being, he had set out hunting for something to eat. The room service of the place left a lot to be desired.

His hunt for food was unsuccessful, but it brought him to a tall, impossible apparition in a weird dark costume with his long, black hair in a weird pumpkin-like hairdo standing pompously in the middle of the library with a skull in one hand and a book in the other.

“By accident most strange, bountiful Fortune—” As he stepped closer, Brian could hear the familiar words spilling out of the strangely garbed man. “Now my dear lady, hath mine enemies / Brought to this shore; and by my prescience / I find my zenith doth depend upon / A most auspicious star, whose influence / If now I court not, but omit, my fortune / Will ever after droop.”

“Kai? The last of Brunnen G?” Brian rolled his eyes. “What are you playing at, man? A masquerade? And why the skull? Prospero never talks to a skull, it’s Hamlet who has the monologue with the skull, get your plays right.”

“I know,” the man said turning to Brian and, doing so, exposing a calla lily stuck in his hair above his ear. “I just don’t want to let go of the skull. I don’t know why. Do you?”

“That can’t be!” Brian exclaimed before he could catch his words. The man in front of him wasn’t just some guy masquerading as Kai. “You are Michael McManus, aren’t you? The Canadian actor. Why on earth are you wearing that costume again? That TV-show was ended years ago. I haven’t heard there being any plans to dig it out of the mothballs, not even for a comeback movie.”

“I’m not Michael McManus,” the man claimed, contrary to what Brian could see with his eyes. “He was the actor who played me in the TV-show the Canadians made. Are you talking about that Michael McManus?”

“If you aren’t him, you must be his twin brother. His identical twin brother.” Brian couldn’t help staring.

“I don’t have a twin brother, much less an identical one,” the actor uttered unaffectedly, just like Kai whom he was impersonating would’ve said it. Had the actor lost his sense of reality? Poor man, Brian thought.

“Have it your way,” he muttered. “Do you know where we could find something to eat? I’m hungry.”

“Why, in the kitchen, of course,” the actor said. “Follow me. I’ll show you.”





In Pittsburgh, the search for Brian had been unsuccessful. In order to decide what they would do next, Brian’s friends had gathered in his loft. Michael had brought his partner Ben Bruckner, their son Hunter and invited his mother Debbie. Debbie had arrived with Carl Horvath, the policeman Michael had called earlier. Cynthia had come from Kinnetik with their accountant Ted Schmidt and the party planner Emmett Honeycutt; both were also good friends of Brian’s.

“Brian’s not in any hospital in Pittsburgh,” Cynthia opened. “What about your sources, Carl? You checked the city morgue?”

“Nothing,” Carl said in a concerned voice. “In our files from the last two days, there are no traces of anyone fitting his description. Has anyone contacted Lindsay or Justin?”

“I called them both,” Emmett said. “They hadn’t heard from him, either. Justin is coming to town tomorrow, first flight in the morning. The girls and the children are staying in Toronto, I promised to keep them posted.”

“What about those two weirdos? Has anyone seen them?” Michael asked.

“What weirdos?” Hunter wanted to know, and Michael told the tale once more.

While the noisy bunch told Hunter the news about Sapphire and Steel, Emmett walked restlessly around the loft. He wanted to do something, and not just sit there without doing a thing for Brian. Brian was a dear friend. He found his attention captured by Justin’s birthday gift to Brian, the picture on the wall behind the chaise lounge. Brian had laughed when he saw the picture for the first time, but he had refused to tell what amused him about it. It was a good memory, so typically Brian. Back then, Emmett hadn’t had time to take a closer look at the picture, but he remembered that it had featured something quite interesting. With a mischievous smile he stepped closer. Soon, his eyes opened wide, and his mouth dropped. He saw himself in the mirror in the middle of the picture, and he was sure that his picture hadn’t been there before. Emmett started to shout to the others, but he didn’t have time to make a sound before he felt a nauseating vortex grab him and the world disappeared.

As the metal door was pulled open, everyone turned towards it with hope in their eyes. The hope died quickly, though, as it was not Brian who stepped in but Sapphire and Steel.

“It is here, Sapphire,” Steel said urgently as he rushed through the throng of people and further into the loft. “It has almost shut itself up already. It has to be a small one, but strong when something opens it.”

“I think it is in that direction,” Sapphire said pointing to the kitchen area of the loft. “What do you think?”

“What the fuck are you two doing, rushing in like this?” Debbie went after the couple that walked to the dining table. When the two ignored her she shouted in an angry voice, “What’s the trouble with you, are you deaf or what?”

“Did someone or something just vanish?” Sapphire turned to Debbie with her question.

“Why, no. We’re all here,” she answered. “Nobody has left.”

“Actually, Deb, uh—where’s Emmett?” Ben asked uncertainly.

“Everybody. Out. Now. Quickly!” Steel shouted. He grabbed Debbie’s arm and pulled her to the door, pushing her into the hallway. Then Sapphire and he ushered all the others out, too. There was a lot of shouting and cursing, but the two made a quick job of it.

“What the hell was that?” Debbie’s voice was the loudest. “You have no right to come to Brian’s loft and rush us out like that. Carl, tell them. Do something!”

“Silence, woman!” Steel turned his ice cold eyes to Debbie, and then he let his gaze touch every one of them. “The loft is a dangerous place. Two of your friends have already disappeared in there. Do you really want to risk it, all of you? Do you?”

“What’s happened to Brian and Emmett?” Debbie cried. “For fuck’s sake, man, if you know something, tell us!”

“Most likely, they are both dead,” Steel said sternly. “That is not important, though. My main concern is keeping other people from dying, too.”

“No! They can’t be dead,” Michael wailed. “There has to be something that can be done.”

“Most likely means that there is a chance that they are not dead, doesn’t it?” Ted reminded him. “Where did they disappear and how? You have to tell us.”

“I have more important things to do,” Steel said stonily. “Let’s go, Sapphire.”

“You will not need me, Steel,” Sapphire countered. “I think it would be good to speak with these people. We need as much information as we can get. You will find me here when you have finished.”

Without uttering another word, Steel stepped into the elevator. The others lingered at the loft door until they decided to meet at Debbie’s house. Soon, they sat around Debbie’s big dining table. Except for Sapphire, the most pressing matter for everyone was the fate of Brian and Emmett. Their friends tried to dig for information that would help the missing men, but Sapphire had no such knowledge to impart, quite the contrary.

“Both of your friends,” Sapphire said with her sympathy showing clearly, “are victims of a weakness in the Corridor Through Time in which you live. It is likely that they were pulled into the Time outside of the Corridor through a weakened point in its structure. No living thing can survive being outside the Corridor, not as you know being alive. Therefore, it is unwise to waste your thoughts on either Brian or Emmett any longer. If they even exist, they are nothing like what they were here, in the Corridor.”

“But—” Ted, surprisingly, started while all the more boisterous people sat in silence, but there was nothing to say, not really. Even though he did not understand everything Sapphire said, he did understand enough to realize that his friends were, if not dead, in a very bad situation. How could he hope to help? “Is there anything—? I guess not.” He fell silent again for a moment, and then he asked, “How do you know that? How can you know?”

“Steel and I, we are operatives,” Sapphire explained. “We were assigned to handle this irregularity in dimension.”

“By whom?” Ben asked, as befuddled as others.

“It does not matter,” Sapphire determinedly terminated that line of thought. “There is something we can do about this anomaly. It will not help your friends, I am sorry about that, but it will save other lives. You see, at the moment, the anomaly is in Brian Kinney’s loft, but it will not stay there. The anomaly will grow, and, as it grows, it will gain more strength, too. The weakness in the structure will rupture into a hole. If that happens, a lot of people will die.” She did not tell them that at that stage only transuranic elements would be able to handle the irregularity, or that the means the transuranic elements would use handling the irregularity in dimension would also cost lives: millions of them. As far as she or any other operative was concerned, in order to reinstate the stability of the Corridor, millions of human lives were expendable, but she had learned that humans did not agree with her. Humans were easier to deal with if they did not know everything.

“What is it that you can do?” Hunter asked.

“We can remove the weakness,” Sapphire explained. “We can strengthen the structure. But to do that, we first have to locate the weakness in the structure. For that, I need your help.”

“How? What are you looking for?” Carl wanted to know.

“The weakness is an anachronism—”

“A what?” Michael and Debbie interrupted.

“An anachronism is something that is no longer suitable or relevant to modern times,” Ben explained.

“In this case,” Sapphire corrected, “an anachronism is anything out of its chronological place. It could be something old situated within a modern furnishing or something new in something old. Something like that has to be in the loft, but it is not an obvious thing. If it were, Steel and I would have detected it already. In any case, it is something that is permanently in the loft; otherwise the anomaly would not have caused a weakness.”

“I can’t imagine of anything old being in Brian’s loft,” Ted said. “He has always preferred modern designs.”

“I should add that Steel and I think that, whatever it is, it must be a recent addition to the loft,” Sapphire continued. “The anomaly is a small one, still, but the weakness is very strong. In general, the anomaly cannot have existed for long.”

“Since Brian’s loft is a modern place,” Ben pondered, “we should look for something old, right? Something old that Brian has acquired recently. Can you come up with anything? I can’t.”

“How ‘bout that picture Justin gave him as a birthday gift?” Michael asked. “It was a picture of some old castle. Could that be it?”

“We noticed that picture,” Sapphire admitted. “It is an anomaly. Sometimes, such pictures do cause troubles. But there is nothing modern in that picture, so it cannot cause as strong a weakness as we are sensing. It must be something else. Think. What could it be?”

But they could not recall any other such thing existing in the loft. However, there was one more person from whom they could hope to find an answer: Justin. He had lived in the loft for several years. He should be able to tell Sapphire and Steel in more detail which things were recent acquisitions to the loft. They agreed to go to the airport to collect him as soon as he arrived. Sapphire left to find Steel. The others stayed at Debbie’s seeking comfort from each other. It was a difficult night for all the friends of the two lost men.




Cold Case

“Zauberer! Es ist der Zauberer! Auch ein andere.”

Unwisely as it turned out, Brian and his companion had found their way to other people by the castle. After consuming their breakfast in the kitchen curiously devoid of human life, the two had decided that it would be a good idea to explore the countryside in the vicinity of the castle. So, they had gone to the gate and, after brief struggles to get it open, had stepped through onto the drawbridge. They had come face to face with a group of guards. The men had started to shout at them. They also brandished their weapons at the two men.

“Are they talking about you, Michael?” Brian asked. “Have you met them before?”

“Stop calling me Michael,” the actor complained. “For the twenty-sixth time: I’m Kai. And, yes, I’ve met them before. The last time I went outside, they tried to stop me from leaving. I killed a couple of them. After that they started to call me that, der Zauberer. I have no idea why.”

“You killed them?!” Brian exploded. “You can’t kill people, Michael. You’re not Kai! You’re not an assassin. Michael, you’re an actor who played an assassin. Get your head out of your ass!”

“For the twenty-seventh time, Brian: I’m Kai. Stop calling me Michael,” the actor growled. “If I were not dead, I would kill you, too. You would be starting to get to my last nerve.”

“Wait. Michael,” Brian said his tongue planted in his cheek, “you said you killed them. They are armed guardsmen. How could you have killed them? Bullshit.”

“I did. Like this.”

And the actor lifted his hand—the one without the skull—pointed at one of the guards, and fired the weapon in his wristband. A bright ray of light emitted, and the guard vaporized, the vapor drifting away in the light breeze. The rest of the guards scattered like a flock of frightened hens. Brian almost fell on his ass.

“And Brian, I’m Kai, not Michael,” the last of Brunnen G said, pointing his weapon at Brian’s face.

For the first time in history, Brian Kinney lost all thoughts of sex.




Desperate Housewives

Back in Pittsburgh, Justin Taylor found his friends as soon as he stepped into the waiting room of the airport. Debbie and Carl, Ben, Hunter and Michael, Cynthia and Ted were there along with his mother Jennifer. He felt a prick in his heart as he took in the dear faces in front of him. One dear face was missing. Then he understood that there was another face missing, too.

“Where’s Emmett?” he asked first and then continued with, “Anything new on Brian?”

“Justin, come here. Let’s sit down,” Jennifer led his son to the group of chairs nearby. “Justin, we have bad news.”

Justin sat. He could not speak through the constricting muscles of his throat, but, with his eyes, he pleaded with the others to tell him what had happened.

“It seems likely that Brian is dead, Sunshine. I’m sorry,” Debbie said as gently as she could, her own grief almost stealing her voice.

“And there’s more, honey,” Jennifer said tears in her eyes. “The same fate that took Brian seems to have taken Emmett, too. They are both gone.”

“NO! No, fucking no. No,” Justin cried, tearing up also. “That can’t be true. They can’t be dead.”

“I am sorry, Mr. Taylor,” a stranger, a woman Justin hadn’t noticed earlier, chimed in.

“And who the fuck are you?” Justin exclaimed, barely seeing the woman due to his tears.

“I am Sapphire and my companion here is Steel,” the woman said, and Justin went completely still.

“Sapphire and Steel?”Drying his eyes, Justin took a good look at the two strangers. He stared at them in complete shock. “But—you’re fictitious characters. You don’t exist.”

“You have seen the TV-show the British broadcasting company ATV produced about us, I see,” Sapphire said with a crooked smile. “Peter Hammond is a darling, is he not, Steel?”

“You should never have told him as much about us and our assignments as you did, Sapphire,” Steel admonished her. “That has caused us troubles all over this planet.”

“Are you telling me that those weird stories were actually true?” Justin asked.

“Well, not all of them. Hammond has quite a vivid imagination,” Sapphire grinned.

“What are you talking about, Sunshine?” Debbie said with in a baffled voice. “A TV-show?”

“Back when I lived with Brian, we watched the show about those two. At first I thought it was weird for Brian to watch a show like that, but he said he had to. Brian’s a genius in advertising, but it’s not just his innate talent. He needs to know about such little cults as the fans of that show. He needed to know—“

“Justin, forgive me, but we need your help,” Sapphire said laying her hand on Justin’s shoulder. For a brief moment her eyes pulsated with intense blue light, and then Justin quieted. He looked at Sapphire with unnatural calmness.

“What can I do to help?” he asked flatly.

Soon Sapphire and Steel were on their way to Brian’s loft with only Justin in tow; the others they did not want there to disturb their work. They briefed Justin on the events of the previous day, including the information about the anomaly they were looking for. Back in the loft, they let Justin lead the way around the place.

“Something old here?” Justin pondered to himself. “Brian never was into anything old, not in himself, not in his loft, and not in his tricks.” A fleeting smile touched Justin’s lips. “And you think that it’s something that was not here when I was.”

Justin wandered around the familiar place. There weren’t many changes. A new chair at the window where the evening light was the best. Brian must have sat there, reading.

“Brian always bought books. Could it be a book?” he asked.

“A picture book, yes,” Steel answered. “But only if there is something out of the chronological order about at least one picture.”

“Why not in text? Couldn’t the anomaly exist in a text?” Despite the situation, Justin was curious.

“That is not likely, not at all,” Sapphire explained. “You see, text is just symbols on paper. Without a mind to interpret the text it has no meaning. So, the thought might appear in a mind of the reader for a brief moment, but it would not last. No human mind could hold a thought for, say, a week, constantly keeping it the same, unchanging. It just is not possible.”

“So, the same would be true about voiced thoughts, TV-images, images on a computer screen and so on,” Justin mused. “They’re ephemeral things, not capable of creating dangerous anomalies, right?”

Steel nodded.

“There’s no need to take a look at his DVD collection, then,” Justin concluded, and moved on from the shelves housing those.

For some time, Justin wandered from one item in the loft to another. Then he stopped in between two steps and turned back to the picture he’d given Brian for his birthday.

“Oh my God!” he exclaimed. “What have I done?”

Justin ran to the picture and blinked.

“Sapphire, Steel! Come here.” Justin turned to call the two operatives to investigate.

“We already have examined the picture,” Steel said calmly. “It is a mild anomaly, but not the real harm.”

“Even if this is not the same picture I gave Brian?” Justin countered.





At last in agreement of Kai’s identity, Brian and his companion had abandoned their intended trip to the countryside. Instead, they had turned back to the castle and found their way back to the library. Kai had gone back to his book, and Brian had tried to find a book to read, too.

“Kai?” Brian called after wandering a while among the shelves. “Have you been here for a long time?”

“Fifty-two minutes and thirty-four seconds,” was the answer he got.

“Smartass,” Brian commented and rephrased. “For how long have you been here in the castle?”

“Three days, two hours, and thirteen minutes,” Kai declared and went back to his book.

“Kai, put aside your book for a moment,” Brian said irritably, “something’s wrong here. We need to speak.”

“What do you mean? What’s wrong?” Kai still read his book.

“Where do you think this castle is?” Brian asked directly.

“Somewhere on Earth, I think,” Kai responded with a glance up from the book at Brian. “You’re a human, aren’t you? Humans, in this universe, don’t dwell on any other planet, do you?”

“Your viewpoint on matters is quite fresh,” Brian admitted. “We’re on Earth, but where? Do you know?”

“No,” Kai said.

“Aren’t you interested in knowing?”


“Well, I think that we’re somewhere in the German speaking part of the world, Europe, I would hazard a guess.” Brian had mulled over the shouts the guards had voiced earlier. “However, the real question is when we are. Kai, there are no books here that are from later centuries than the 17th. I think we are in the latter half of that century, somewhere in Germany.”

“What about it?” Kai looked at Brian, clearly bewildered.

“I wasn’t born until 1971, Kai,” Brian said in frustration. “I’ve been transported back in time, I think. What about you?”

“I was born in another universe at least six thousand years ago,” Kai said setting the book on the table. “I died at least six thousand years ago. I was an animated corpse at least six thousand years of those. About four thousand years ago I came to this universe. Then, some time ago, I ran out of protoblood and, therefore, ceased functioning. Now I’m animated again. That’s all I know. As far as I’m concerned, 17th century Germany is as good a place to be as any other.” Then an odd expression spread over Kai’s pale face.

“What?” Brian became worried. “Is something wrong?”

“I must be malfunctioning,” Kai admitted. “I feel a weird pressure behind my codpiece.”

“Those were out of fashion in the 17th century,” Brian told him. Kai rewarded him with a withering glance.

Without another word, Kai started to remove his coverings. First he unfastened the materials covering his upper body. Despite the way they looked, they were not cotton.

“Hey, where are the controls?” he wondered looking at the smooth skin of his chest. He pointed with a finger, “I should have controls here.”

“Don’t ask me,” Brian muttered as Kai removed the rest of his coverings. Then they both stared.

“Well, if I remember the show correctly, you shouldn’t be having those,” Brian commented on Kai’s well formed cock and balls.

“I shouldn’t,” Kai agreed, clearly befuddled. “I haven’t had anything down there but the codpiece for at least six thousand years. Where did those things come from?”

“Don’t look at it like that, man,” Brian laughed. “You’re well endowed.”

“For ages I had nothing there, and now that I have it’s nothing like the organ I had.”

“What are you talking about?” Brian watched mesmerized as Kai examined his endowments with those nimble fingers. Brian swallowed, hard.

“It looks different, and it feels different; not at all like—wood.” Kai had a reminiscent ring to his quiet voice. Then he looked at Brian. “It looks like what Stanley Tweedle had in his pants, only bigger. Stanley was a human.”

“That’s a good thing, that yours is bigger, I mean. Do you still feel the pressure down there?” Brian asked with a cocked eyebrow. Kai nodded. “Don your coverings and take your skull. We need to find some place where we can take a leak.”

“You mean I need to piss?” Kai wondered. “For the first time in at least six thousand years I need to piss.”





“What?!” Steel barked as he pulled open the loft door which someone tried to force open. Justin smirked. He had expected the clamor at the door. Brian’s friends never listened to anyone who tried to deny them access to Brian’s loft; not even if the one doing the denying were Brian.

Steel argued with the people at the door and succeeded in squeezing out of them the promise not to enter the loft until Sapphire and he had located the anomaly. They could watch and listen but from the safety of the landing outside the loft. Steel joined Sapphire and Justin at the picture.

“What do you mean, Justin?” he asked the young human. “Is this not the picture that you gave to Brian?”

“It is and it isn’t. In the picture I gave Brian, the room wasn’t empty. There was a man, there.” Justin pointed at the right side of the picture.

“Who was it? Justin, this could be it,” Sapphire said excitedly.

“Which one?” Justin asked uncertainly. “The original or the one I put together for Brian?”

“You gave Brian a manipulated picture, then, did you not? A combination of two different pictures?” Sapphire guessed.

“Actually there were three pictures,” Justin corrected.

“You created this using your computer, did you not?” Steel asked. “You would not have the file with you? Or even better: the file and the original pictures, too?”

Justin fetched his bag, and soon he had opened the files on Brian’s computer. For the composite picture’s background he had used a painting in which a pale woman was fleeing into an empty room inside a medieval looking castle. He had hidden the woman behind a picture of a pale, black haired man who had a skull in his hand and a calla lily tucked into his weird hairdo. In addition, Justin had pasted the picture of the man’s backside into the mirror in the background picture. Sapphire and Steel looked at each other; then they walked back to the picture on the wall. Justin trailed in their wake.

“Look at that, Steel,” Sapphire breathed. “No wonder we did not find it.” She looked at the picture silently for a moment. Then she called the people in from the landing.

“Justin has caused a major problem,” she told them. “First of all, he put a person from your era into a painting from a much earlier era. That is a painting from the 17th century, is it not, Justin?” Justin confirmed the conclusion with a nod of his head. “Then he put that person also in the mirror of the old painting.”

“It is the mirror that triggers the anomaly and feeds it with power,” Steel took up the explanation. “Whenever a man stops at the picture, he will see himself in the mirror. That must have happened to your friends. Do not look at the mirror, Justin!” Steel pushed Justin away from the picture just as the young human started to feel nausea. “That is what Brian and Emmett must have done, causing them to vanish!”

As the shaken Justin was tended by his friends, Sapphire and Steel were involved in a telepathic discussion.

The Corridor has been seriously damaged by this foolish human, Steel sent.

You recognized the person he used, did you not? Sapphire asked, and Steel confirmed her guess. If only he had used just the actor that played Kai in the TV-show the Canadians made. That would have caused enough trouble.

True. But we are not that lucky. Steel shook his head. By a weird accident, Justin found a picture of Kai himself. What bad luck. He used the picture of the actor for the castle room but Kai’s picture for the mirror. He put Kai’s picture into the outside, into the Time, and created a conduit for Kai’s essence to return to the Corridor of Chronological World from the Time. When Kai ran out of protoblood, he should finally have been pulled out of the Corridor for good; his essence should have been permanently closed into the Time with other essences that have left the corporeal existence. I had hoped that we had seen the last of that one. He has been causing anomalies for more than six thousand years.

I hoped that, too, Sapphire agreed. But now he is in the Corridor again; in the 17th century Germany, it seems. He did not stay in the confines of the picture for long. And do not forget the woman in the original picture. By putting Kai in the reflecting position, Justin created a contradiction in reality. The woman was hidden behind the actor, so, if Kai was in the mirror, she should have been there, too, and she was not. That forced the woman out of the room. So, in addition to dealing with this anomaly, we have that ghost to hunt down, too.

But there is a possibility that Justin has also done something good, Steel pointed out. We should tell them the good news.

“Are you unharmed, Justin?” Sapphire asked. “No lasting damage, I hope.”

“I killed them,” Justin cried. “Didn’t I?”

“Actually,” Sapphire said with a genuine smile, “there is a slight chance that, while doing the Corridor great harm, Justin also gave your friends a chance of escaping the harm. He created a conduit that led not just out of the Corridor but also into another era here on Earth. It is possible that your friends are there. If we can get to them soon enough, we might be able to save your friends.”

“It is a chance, nothing more, so do not let your hopes rise too high,” Steel warned. “Even if your friends were there, they would be in grave danger. The Time is breaking through in that era as well as in yours. We have to destroy the anomaly before that happens. If we cannot locate your friends quickly enough and bring them back here, we will have to leave them there.”

The operatives asked Justin to look at the mirror. As he was beginning to feel nauseous, they pushed him away and stepped into the vortex themselves. Then they were gone.


Sapphire and Steel materialized in the 17th century castle somewhere in Germany.

“Do you feel them?” Sapphire asked. “I get the feeling of something anomalous in the north wing, but I do not think it is them. The ghost, maybe?”

“It is possible. You are more sensitive to that kind of anomalies than I am. The impressions I get of the place are confusing. On one hand, I think that the missing people are heading to the north wing, on the other I have the feeling that they already are there. The only thing I am sure about is that they are on the move. Let’s split, Sapphire. We need to cover more ground.”





While the operatives tried to find Brian and Emmett, Brian and Kai were trying to find wood in order to keep Brian warm through the night. Apparently, Kai’s weird coverings effectively insulated him from cold, and so he did not suffer from the late fall temperature in the castle, but Brian was not as lucky as Kai. Brian had come to the 17th century wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and a flimsy, short sleeved shirt, and, of course, his Prada boots. For the night, they needed wood.

“I would like to find a comb, too,” Brian lamented as he looked at his reflection in a mirror in one of the rooms they checked. “I’m definitely having a bad hair day. A comb would give just the first aid, though: my hair needs washing. Correction, I need washing. Maybe we could find a bathtub, too.”

“My face, that’s not my face!” Kai exclaimed. He had stopped behind Brian and, apparently, since coming to the castle, was for the first time seeing a mirror image of himself. “No wonder you thought I was that Michael McManus guy: that is his face. Why am I wearing his face?”

“Don’t ask me,” Brian said. “I’m as surprised as you are. However, I think that you have more than just the man’s face, Kai. I think that you have the guy’s whole body. And if you do, where is the man’s spirit? Are you alone in that head, Kai? I’m a bit suspicious about you, you know. You're an assassin, and you are hauling a skull with you, after all.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone but me in this head, and I did not kill this one,” he said lifting the skull. “At least I think I didn’t. I had the skull in my hand when I found myself in this castle.”

“Really convincing, Kai, really convincing,” Brian drawled with a smirk. “What’s that?” he then asked turning to the door.

The sound of someone running came from the corridor. They went to investigate. A man was coming down the corridor towards them at full speed. Kai lifted his weapon hand preparing to fire when Brian struck his hand aside. The ray of light passed the man by a fraction of a hair.

“Don’t shoot, Kai! That’s my friend,” Brian exclaimed struggling with Kai’s strong arm. As soon as Kai stopped trying to fire, Brian turned to the newcomer and said with a smirk, “Hi, Honeycutt. How’s it going?”

“Brian!” Emmett gasped. “Am I ever happy to see you!”

“Well, that’s a first. What are you doing here? Planning a theme party, perhaps?” Brian drawled.

“This would be a wonderful place for a medieval party, yes, but I wouldn’t invite that woman,” Emmett said pointing towards the direction he just had come from. A pale woman in a nightgown was coming at them. Emmett bolted once again down the corridor. “Run!” he shouted to Brian and Kai.

Baffled, Brian and Kai ran after Emmett, who, in a full panic, sprinted ahead. They followed Emmett for a moment until Kai put his hand on Emmett’s shoulder and brought the man to an abrupt stop.

“Why are you running from that woman?” he asked sternly. “She doesn’t look like a threat to me. Explain this need to run.”

“She’s—, she’s horny,” Emmett said panting. “She doesn’t take no for an answer. She almost ripped my pants before I escaped her clutches!”

“You escaped from a woman who wanted to fuck you?” Kai wondered. “Stanley never did. Women ran from him. Is that a human mating ritual, to chase the one you want to fuck?”

Neither Emmett nor Kai noticed the grin that appeared on Brian’s face.

“What—, s-s-s-Stanley who?” Emmett stammered. Then his demeanor turned darker. “You’re making fun of me.”

“Stanley Tweedle was the captain of LEXX, a human. Your accusation is unjustified: I am not making fun of you. You insult me. According to human norms, I’m entitled to retaliation, am I not, Brian?”

Brian’s grin faded into a worried grimace, and he hurried to grab Kai’s weapon arm. “Kai, no. Emmett believes that you’re a human—you look like one, remember—and for that reason he can’t imagine that your question was made in honest ignorance. Please, forgive him,” he pleaded, then he turned to Emmett, “Despite his looks, Kai is not a human. He’s an assassin, and he would kill you in a heartbeat, so watch your mouth, Emmett.”

Emmett looked from Brian to Kai and back again. Then he said with a tentative smile, “You look awfully lot like a human to me, Mr. Assassin. Please, forget I said anything. I never say anything important anyway. Brian can tell you as much. I didn’t mean to insult you.”

“You didn’t insult me. The dead don’t have feelings, so you can’t insult me. It was a misunderstanding, right?” Kai asked, and Brian and Emmett nodded their heads in agreement. “OK. I just tried to act according to the human norms.”

“Kai. I hate to upset you, but I think that you’re wrong about something,” Brian said with a crooked smile. Emmett swiveled around to face him in alarm. “You’re having feelings, Kai.”

“No. The dead don’t have feelings. I haven’t had them for at least six thousand years. I can’t have them.”

“What?” Emmett exclaimed.

“Kai here is a bit older than he looks, Honeycutt,” Brian explained for Emmett’s benefit. “He is also dead. I admit that most corpses don’t wander about or look as fresh as he, but that’s the case.” Then Brian turned back to Kai. “I have to disagree. You definitely have been having feelings. You lost your temper with me, and then you were surprised when you discovered your cock and balls. And later, when you noticed that your face was not your face; you were surprised then, too. And, just a moment ago, you were insulted. You’re having feelings again, Kai.”

“That can’t be true,” Kai said with his suspicion clear on his face.

“At the moment you’re feeling suspicious,” Brian uttered with false regret.

“You’re exasperating,” Kai growled.

“Just call me asshole; it might help. Does it help, Honeycutt?”

“Don’t call me Honeycutt, asshole,” Emmett answered before he caught his words. Then he cursed, chuckling, “Damn you, Brian. He’s right, Kai, it helps.”

“I think that your girlfriend has lost our scent for the time being, Honeycutt,” Brian said smirking. “Poor thing, men bolting from her like that.”

“You would have bolted, too, if she had stuck her hand down your pants,” Emmett snorted, “And don’t call me Honeycutt, asshole.”

“You still haven’t explained why we must escape if a woman wants to fuck us,” Kai reminded them. “That didn’t seem to be the case on LEXX.”

“Oh, Kai, you don’t need to run, not every time,” Brian corrected. “The woman back there was an exception. Sometimes, if you don’t want a woman and the woman doesn’t take no for an answer, it is best to remove yourself from the situation.”

“But you and I had not said no to her,” Kai remarked, “and yet we ran, too, Brian. Why did Emmett tell us to run, too?”

“Emmett knew that I would say no to her,” Brian explained, “but he shouldn’t have made that assumption about you; you’re heterosexual after all.”

“No. What gave you that idea? The Brunnen G were bisexual, myself included.”

“Really?” Brian said cocking his eyebrow.

Emmett rolled his eyes and muttered, “He has experimented with everything else; why not try out necrophilia, too? He’s a hot corpse, after all.”


Sapphire had a short while ago felt a change in the anomaly she had been chasing.

Steel? Did you notice the change in the castle a while back? she sent.

Yes, Steel answered. If it is the ghost, it could have come into contact with Kai.

I thought so, too. Kai’s vicinity would affect the ghost like that. I thought I felt the men briefly just before the change. I lost the feel of them, though. Sapphire’s frustration came across with her thoughts. Are you any closer to them?

Not really. I think that they stopped for a moment, but I could not get to them then. Now they are on the move again.

I hope we will find them before it will be too late.
Sapphire’s thoughts faded from Steel’s consciousness as she continued with her hunt for the ghost.





Meanwhile, the three men had resumed Brian and Kai’s former pursuit of firewood. For the better part of the hour, they walked from room to room. When they all were burdened by an armful of wood, they hurried to the room in which Brian had stayed the previous night. While Brian and Emmett kindled the fire, Kai fetched their supper from the kitchen. They were eating in companionable silence when the door to the chamber was suddenly pulled open. A man stood at the threshold.

“You are here: all three of you. Good.”

“Steel?” Brian exclaimed. “What the fuck?”

“You know this person, Brian?” Kai asked.

“I know him, but I can’t believe my eyes. But, if you exist, why wouldn’t he?” Brian shook his head. He turned to the man at the door. “You are Steel, aren’t you? An elemental operative, the companion of Sapphire?”

“Yes. You are Brian Kinney and Emmett Honeycutt?” Steel asked but did not wait for their confirmation. “And, despite the appearance, you are Kai, the last of the Brunnen G.” It was not a question. “Is that the lily that was in your hair when you materialized here? It is? Good. Do you have the skull, too? Brian, Emmett. Do you have everything you had with you when you arrived here? Fine. Now discard those cloaks, hats and other things that are from this era, not of your own. Do it, both of you. Quickly, we have to move fast. OK. Now, follow me.”

“Why are you giving us orders?” Kai asked warily.

“Kai,” Brian chimed in. “If Steel is here, there is a trouble about, most likely a life threatening trouble. Right, Steel?” The operative affirmed Brian’s assumption. “We’d better follow his lead in this.”

“The apocalypse must be at hand,” Emmett said with a smirk. “Brian Kinney is being submissive.”

“Shut up, Honeycutt,” Brian said with quiet anxiety. “The magnitude of the problems Steel and his companion, Sapphire, deal with is such that no individual life has any meaning. Give Steel or Sapphire any trouble, and they will let you die. We are in dire straits. If it takes being submissive to survive, I will be submissive.”

“You never thought that anything good could come of the TV-show the British made, Steel,” Sapphire said with a smile as she appeared next to Steel. “Brian here proves you wrong.”

“I admit to my mistake,” Steel said flatly. “Now we need to get these people out of here. Follow Sapphire. I will be guarding your backs. If you see shadows, let me handle them: do not stop. If you arrive at the anomaly too late, we cannot help you. Let’s go.”

They started to walk at a brisk pace. In order to reach the room in which the anomaly was, they had to walk through the north wing. Suddenly Sapphire stopped.

“Get back to the last corner, quickly,” she ordered. “Steel, keep Kai out of sight!”

Steel ushered the men back.

“What is happening?” Brian asked. “Why must Kai be out of sight?”

“There is a ghost, a succubus, we think. We must destroy her, but, since she cannot exist in the vicinity of Kai, his presence would make it hard for Sapphire to trap the ghost.”

“Emmett’s girlfriend? A female shaped ghost, craving sex?” Steel confirmed Brian’s guess with a nod. “What would have happened if Emmett had not gotten away from her?”

“A succubus feeds on sexual energy. She would have fed as long as there was any energy left, leaving behind a corpse.”

“I guess it was the smart thing to do to run,” Kai concluded.

“Is Sapphire in danger?” Emmett asked.

“No. Succubae only feed on male sexual energy. It is tedious work, though, disposing of them. Depending on how many victims there have been, it might take awhile before Sapphire has extracted all the energy the succubus has hoarded and thereby destroyed her.”

Fortunately, it did not take long. Soon the party was once again on the move. With the pace Sapphire set, nobody had the breath to talk.

“Steel!” Sapphire suddenly cried.

“I feel it. I will go,” Steel said and disappeared.


“The shadows are closing in on the mirror chamber. Steel went to keep the room free of them. Steel has to prevent any shadows from reflecting from the mirror or everything will be lost. If necessary, he will destroy the mirror and with it your only chance of getting back to where you belong. If you want to get back to your own era, you have to run as fast as you can. Beware the shadows; to touch them is to die.”

They raced through the corridors. Their lungs were laboring, their hearts were struggling, their feet were groaning. Fear was on their heels like a pack of rabid dogs.

The run blew the cobwebs from Brian’s mind. He could not understand the complacency he had experienced during the last two days. He had not seen anything odd in his sudden change of scenery: from his loft to the castle. He had not thought of going back; he had almost forgotten Pittsburgh, Kinnetik, his loft, his son, his friends. He had been ready to give it all up, all his life. No more. As Brian ran through the castle, he ran to catch his memories; he ran to reach everything that was dear to him.

They ran through a doorway and came to a courtyard. Brian felt his hopes soar as he saw that the mirror chamber was just a few steps further. Then he saw a black mist rolling out of a doorway into their path. He screamed his vehement objection. It could not end like this, not so close to success. Not like this!

Then Sapphire let go of her human form. In a heartbeat, a great blue gem appeared in the air above the black mist, the shadow. Sapphire pulsated with bright blue light, brighter, brighter, brighter. It was like a visible heartbeat, a heartbeat that became faster and faster until Brian no longer was able to distinguish between the individual beats. Then the light intensified into a white flare. Brian had to cover his eyes with his arms. He heard soft, sibilant sounds, and then he heard nothing. The brilliant light faded quickly. The shadow had retreated.

“Brian, Emmett, Kai! Now, run, quickly!” Sapphire, once again in her human form, cried, and they ran the last few steps to the doorway. As soon as Brian stepped inside the chamber, a terrible coldness enveloped him.

“Kai! You are first, then Brian, and Emmett will be last. Look at the mirror, at your own image, and let the vortex take you. NOW!” Steel cried.

Kai stepped in front of the mirror and, suddenly, vanished.

“Brian!” Steel urged, and Brian looked at his reflection in the mirror. He welcomed the vortex as it came.




All in the Family

The next thing Brian knew, there was a blue light above him. Sapphire, he thought, before he got his brain in gear. Of course, it wasn’t. It was the lights above his bed, in his loft. He was home. He wasn’t alone in the bed; Kai was sleeping peacefully beside him. He enjoyed the comfort and warmth for a moment longer; then he left the bed to investigate the sounds coming from the living room area. As soon as he was noticed at the bedroom door, everyone enthusiastically welcomed him back to the modern world. Almost all of his friends were there; only the Toronto contingent was missing, but—

“Where’s Emmett? Did he—?” Brian asked, the concern eating him from inside.

“He’s here, sleeping like a baby on your sofa,” Cynthia said with a wide smile. “He seems to be fine.”

“And the picture? Do you know about the picture?” Brian asked anxiously.

“Yes, we know,” Michael assured him. “Sapphire and Steel told us everything. The picture is gone. Even the file Justin made was destroyed. Everything is fine. You don’t need to worry.”

“Sapphire and Steel were here?” Brian checked. “They weren’t figments of my imagination, after all?”

“We saw them, too, Brian,” Justin confirmed. Then he grinned, “You can appreciate the surprise it was to meet them at the airport. If I hadn’t been devastated by the news of your and Emmett’s untimely demise, I would have been sure I was hallucinating. Once you stopped the DVD player after we had watched the last episode of the show, I never expected to see those two again. It was like I’d been Punk’d.”

“I felt about the same when I first saw Kai there, in the castle. At the time, he was spouting Shakespeare.” Brian smiled at the memory. “Apparently, in addition to causing a lot of trouble, you also managed to gift Kai with a fully functioning body, a hot male body, I might add. And, I shouldn’t forget: he has you to thank for that skull and flower, too, brat.”

“At the time, it felt like a great idea,” Justin said with regret. “It was such a funny picture of Kai.”

“Anyway, after meeting Kai, it wasn’t such a stretch to believe that I really was seeing Sapphire and Steel, too,” Brian said with a ghost of his patented smirk.

Justin gave him a brief hug. “That’s from my mom; she told me to tell you that she loves you, too.” The young man put his hand on Brian’s cheek. “I was so afraid I would never see you again. You know I want you around for a long time, Brian, don’t you?” he whispered.

“I know,” he murmured, “I know. Hug Jennifer for me, will you? I love her, too.”

Brian sat down on the floor, his head resting against the seat of the sofa close to Emmett’s hand. Cynthia handed him a mug of hot, black coffee as she did every morning at Kinnetik.

“I need you in your office barking at me all the time, Boss. Yesterday, I got nothing done,” she claimed with a warm smile.

“You’ll be complaining about my rudeness soon enough, I promise you.” Brian grinned back at her.

“You can be as rude as you want to me, Brian. I would still fuck you,” Hunter said leering.

“In your dreams, would I fuck you, brat,” Brian gave back his best leer. Hunter pretended to swoon.

“Stop encouraging my son to get into trouble, Brian,” Ben said in mocking reprimand. “It’s good enough that you get yourself out of them.”

“I’m lucky enough to have you to get out to, Ben,” Brian said sweetly. “With a friend like you how could I stay in trouble?”

“Without a friend like you, how could I stay out of trouble, Boss?” Ted asked with a crooked smile. “You sign my paychecks, after all.”

“Just keep up the good work and they’ll keep coming,” Brian assured Ted with a genuine smile. “Without you, what would I have?

“You would have just an old war horse to guard you and your precious things,” Carl said with an affectionate chuckle. “Without you to keep out of trouble, his days would be as gray as his mane.”

“It is one of my guilty pleasures to give you more of those grays,” Brian grinned openly. “I never thought I would have a gray hair I liked that much.”

Debbie closed the distance to Brian’s side and cuffed him on the top of his head. Brian winced. “Ouch! I’m definitely back,” he chuckled.

“It’s good to have you back, kiddo,” Debbie said quietly, a tear rolling down her cheek. Brian dried it with his thumb, telling her with soundless words that he loved her, too. Debbie smacked him softly on the head. “Come on, people. Let’s go. Brian needs more sleep; he’s not yet acting like himself. He’s not even smirking yet.”

Soon the loft was empty except for Brian, Kai, and Emmett. Everyone in the loft slept.


The next morning, Kai woke up in a strange place. Apparently, he had arrived somewhere through the vortex that had rendered him unconscious. He found out that whoever had put him in bed had stripped him of his coverings, too. He could not find them anywhere. His hunt for his coverings took him to bathroom; he took care of his morning ablutions and donned the robe that he found there. Then he went to investigate the place and the people. He found Brian and Emmett at a table having breakfast. He was welcomed to join them.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“This is our time and our world,” Brian said. “The place is my loft, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, part of the USA. You and your skull are welcome to stay as long as you both need a place to stay, but get rid of that fucking daisy!”


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