You Can't Win Them All

rating: +56+x

"Okay, let's start from the top. Tell us everything that happened, in order. Starting from the dispatch."

"I got the hit on the radio — '42-7, 459 at 38657 Green Street'. Only a couple blocks away. I hit the siren, pulled a U-turn and went straight there. Got there before any backup did. Couldn't wait, bust down the door. Whole place was silent. Had my pistol out. Moved door to door on the first floor, kicking them down. Some were open already. Got to the kids' bedroom — shoulda guessed, the sicko — and bust it down. Didn't have time to take in the scene, only noticed the 'sitter sprawled out on the floor afterwards. First thing I saw was this… mime? It was a tall, skinny man, in all black and white and wearing black and white face paint. Held a big rainbow umbrella. Slick, oily black hair. It looked like it was supposed to be a mime, but it was really smeared. He was bruised too, so it was black and white and purple. He had both kids under his arms, hunched over almost sheltering them. They were crying hard. He yelled something about a tourist trap, and… the floor opened up behind him and he fell back into it. Pulled the two kids in with him. I was so taken aback, I shot instinctively. Heard a yelp, so I must have hit him somewhere. He fell into the hole with the kids, and it closed up after him. Like a wormhole or something. The place has been looked up and down, no sign of no nothin' odd like that in the house."

"Have you ever had episodes before? Hallucinations, a history of mental illness?"

"You don't very easily get into the business with a history of mental illness. No, I've had none of that."

"Any other odd kidnappings recently? Anything… clown related?"

"No, can't say anything comes to mind."

"Police sketches have come up with nothing, I see."

"Behind that face paint, it could really be anyone."

"Alright, stay here."

Wójcik stood up and left the room to meet with his comrades. As he closed the door behind him the familiar hiss of gas and the subsequent panic from the policeman was shut out by soundproof walls. It clicked behind him, and locked on its own.

"It certainly looks like he's got more than just a magic car, but it's all got to do with teleporting. Guy said that he was chanting something about a tourist trap before he fell through the floor. What did the girl say?"

"She says that the guy said he lived there. Command is looking through the previous inhabitants of the house as we speak. Said that he wasn't armed or anything. Looks like he didn't expect anybody to be home."

"I'd say we've stumbled into some basic detective work — pretty rare in our neck of the woods. Looks to be following the normal arc. His first two victims were accidents. We're probably looking at some kind of pedophile. Knows his way around the internet, can pick anybody up anywhere. As far as kidnappers go, he's got quite the gig."

The door behind the two faux FBI agents popped open, and a young man, almost considered a boy, poked his head in and eagerly awaited recognition.

"What's the news?"

He bounced a little. "Two more kidnappings in East India. Same car — spray painted black Ferrari with some pink sticking out from under its new coat. Same situation of kids just sitting on the side of the street waiting to get picked up. Same story of losing the car behind corners when they could have sworn they were right up on its tail." The kid sprung out the door and sprinted to wherever it was he needed to go.

"Seems he likes India and Egypt."

"It certainly seems like it."

Nothing for days. Operative Baxter had heard that those over in India had gotten close one or two times, but Cairo, Egypt was as quiet as ever. Well, it had the bustle and hustle expected of a city its size, but kidnappings were in short supply. A lack of kidnappings would have been all fine and good if Baxter didn't feel that any kidnappings that didn't happen in Cairo were just happening somewhere else. If they ended up in his jurisdiction, he thought, he could put an end to them. Mark just sat in his car — a modified blue Mercedes Benz — with Operative Lynn to his right and chewed on tobacco. Lynn was loudly consuming a burger that she had gotten a couple hours ago but was only hungry for now. The two operatives stewed in silence, minding their own business and staring at the kid on the corner.

The little boy (most of his victims were little boys) was wearing a green shirt that said "Keep Calm & Read a Book" and some torn up khakis. The kid couldn't have been more than 10. What he was doing out and about with no supervision in the city was purely odd. He just stood there, looking around him a couple times, and kicking some trash around. He was like this for at least an hour and a half, because they had been spying on him that long. It bugged Lynn that they weren't going to try and save him from anything, but she understood why. No kid, no kidnapping, no catching a kidnapper.

And so they waited, and waited, and waited. The shadows stretched as the sun kept going down, people passed back and forth, cars zoomed every which way, and the kid just kept standing there. Lynn had long since finished her burger, and pulled out her laptop. The child had sat down on the curb by this point. Lynn was typing away at something — a .txt file from what Baxter could tell. Something fictional.

"What's that?"

Lynn just glanced up at Baxter and pursed her lips for a second. Eye contact was held for around ten seconds before Lynn turned away and closed her laptop.

"I'm going to get another burger."

"Stay on the radio."

The door slammed behind her. Now that she was gone, Baxter rolled down the window and pulled out a cigarette. His hands were a bit shaky, and it was more challenging than normally would be. The cigarette was lit, and Baxter's nerves were calmed. Then, of course, he waited… and waited, and waited, and waited. The street became black. Baxter noted just how long Lynn was gone. He knew she was mad, but this was bordering on compromising the mission. Was that…? In the heavy traffic, Baxter thought he spotted a black car with pink undertones — the door opened and startled Baxter.

"You were gone a long time."

"I needed some air. Where's the kid?"

"The kid?"

The kid was gone, and they both spied a black Ferrari careening around the corner. Lynn slammed the door shut, Baxter slammed the gas, and they were off. The car squealed into gear and drifted around the corner, prompting multiple honks and displeased drivers. They had until the car got out of city limits to tag it; the car could only disappear if nobody could see it. Lynn scrambled to get her seat open, and pulled the tracker rifle out of it. Baxter pulled out his phone, hit a button, and had the car suddenly burst into police sirens.

The Ferrari, windows too tinted to make out the passenger or driver, drove erratically. It swerved and slid and skid on the pavement, blowing a noxious grey emission behind it. The pedestrians on the sides screamed and fled into buildings, confused cars pulled over at the sound of sirens.

"We've got him, requesting backup by Garden City, find us on the radar!" Baxter yelled into the transceiver. This place was far too crowded to really get out of sight, why would he have come here? They turned another corner, and the Nile was in sight. The Ferrari grated against the pavement as it hit a street light with its right bumper. Click. They needed to stop them from getting to the water.

A couple shots resounded in the streets as Lynn leaned out the window and shot the tracker rifle. The Ferrari barely escaped the two shots, one landing on a garbage can and another breaking a window. For such an anarchic driver, they must have been blessed with some unholy luck. Lynn began to clamber out of the window, sliding on two slabs of magnet into the heels of her shoes. Her feet made a loud clang as they stuck onto the sides of the car, and the sound moved up onto the roof. Baxter bee-lined for the kidnapper, who in turn headed straight for the river.

Lynn steadied the rifle as best she could while she got jostled from side to side, clinging to the roof by the soles of her feet. She fired just as the Ferrari turned the corner. Why did it do that? The thought was interrupted by her insides pushing to one side. Baxter turned the corner and the car screeched. There was a commotion as the Ferrari ran over someone's leg. Baxter, caught by surprise, turned the car sideways and was forced to stop to make sure he didn't hit the crowd. Lynn, seeing the Ferrari darting out of sight, made her movements quick. Reinforcements weren't going to get there fast enough, and Baxter was incapacitated by the crowd. She found a stopped car, pushed the driver aside and started driving. She kicked it into gear and slid onto the sidewalk and pressed on the car horn. Civilians fled this way and that, and Lynn ground her teeth. The Ferrari was getting too far away for comfort. She saw the break in the railing on the side, a few more feet that way. The car was too far away to hit, how would she bridge the gap?

There was a big cargo boat in the Nile. She only had the faintest idea of what to do, but her instinct pulled her to the left. While the car was still running, she rolled down the window and climbed out onto the hood of the car. She had to use the momentum of the impact to make this work. Her heart felt like bursting, but this child abducting bastard wasn't going to get away with this. Not in a million years. Not on Lynn's watch.

She remembered at the last second that she was tied down by her magnetic heels.

Trying to mitigate the damage, she attempted to jump, but was only able to get one foot off of the hood of the car before the crash. Sure, she was able to get off of the car, but she could tell that adrenaline was a merciful drug. Her left knee was more than dislocated; it was shattered. She spun three times in the air before her right foot banged into the side of the boat. Reeling in pain and lurching forwards to keep her head out of the water, she spied the Ferrari crashing off of the street and lurching towards the river. Using her hatred and the last of her strength, she ignored what was now both of her broken legs and raised her rifle.

The scope dipped in and out of the blue swaying waves. Each time it got closer to the car. Closer, and closer, and closer. Almost, almost, almost —


The car crashed into the water and began to sink. Lynn dropped her rifle and stared at the wreckage as it sunk into the Nile, out of sight. She heard commotion as crew members noticed her hanging off the side, and began to help her up. She collapsed onto the deck and recoiled at the pain. Staring at the grande Egyptian starlit sky, she grinned in smug victory.

Team Leader Baxter and Quartermaster Wójcik and a handful of other random nameless field operatives and researchers were split between a couple of helicopters and talking over intercoms. They were high above the Pacific Northwestern wilderness, somewhere over the tall woods of Washington. If business wasn't so serious, Baxter might have taken the time to enjoy the greenery. However, he was missing a partner, and it was getting to him. Wójcik's haggard old voice came through the ear piece and startled Baxter out of his intimate moment with the landscape.

"We're coming up on the blip, get ready to drop."

Baxter shifted in his seat and grabbed onto a pole to steady himself as the helicopter dove low over a small valley between the hills. The big metal vehicles hovered as ladders were tossed down off the sides. Operatives and researchers alike began to scale the ropes and drop onto the forest floor. People still in the helicopters threw down large bags full of tents, stoves, weaponry, reality readers, deconstructed work stations, MREs, and the like. Everything needed to keep a search-and-research-and-rescue operation in working order for a week or more. Baxter caught another bag full of something heavier than he was expecting. The impact made him release an "oof", and he plopped it down next to a group of idlers who were beginning to pick things up and separate the supplies into useful organized piles. After it was all said and done, and the last stragglers remaining in the helicopters had hopped onto the ground and saluted the pilots, everyone but a small group began constructing tents and impromptu laboratories. Some set up shooting ranges, others constructed rifles out of parts, others had begun constructing some fire pits. The place was buzzing with humming conversation and the sounds of hard physical labor.

Team Leader Baxter, Quartermaster Wójcik, Lead Researcher Voynich, and a handful of other operatives and researchers of various types all began a hike to the blip. They wanted distance from it, because it is usually a smart decision to not sleep too close to an anomaly. No matter how benign an oddity might seem, the baseline is that they were unpredictable, and you don't want to be faced with unpredictability while half awake — and you most certainly don't want to deal with the consequences of unpredictability while unconscious. The walk was mild; mostly flat and only took about an hour or two. Along the way, Baxter could hear some of the researchers at the front mumbling something about the trees. Baxter looked intently at the wood, and noticed that all the trees were oddly elongated. It was as if they were being stretched towards the center of this area. Even their branches were thick and thin at odd intervals, giving the area a discomforting distortion to it.

Soon enough, they arrived at the blip. After Lynn had hit the Ferrari, the GPS tracker disappeared off of Cairo and landed right here. The center of this whole disproportionate woodland was the blip, and it had a pervasive shrine-like feeling. All the elongated trees clearly pointed to this spot as the center. At the very center, several disfigured rodents and birds were laid and fused on top of each other. Voynich suggested that no one step over the spot. The sentiment was unanimous. Some simple experimentation showed that people on one side of the blip could not hear people on the other side of the blip. Just standing a foot away from someone around the blip and you would have to yell to make any impression on them. An operative took a tangerine they had been carrying with them and tossed it onto the blip. It stayed in shape at first, but within a minute it rapidly flattened and its contents oozed and spiraled out from the center. Its rinds became intertwined with bird feathers and squirrel skin, and its juice dried extremely quickly. Finally, Voynich handed Baxter a GPS tracker and walked to the other side of the blip carrying a separate GPS tracker with him. Wójcik stared at his devices for a second, and then showed the results to Voynich. They both circled the blip and came back, uncomfortably close to Baxter so as to disclose the information with no threat of hearing issues.

"The trackers don't lie, and they say that this side of the blip is more than 4 kilometers away from the other side of the blip. We can't hear each other because whatever magic is making our bodies stay intact as we move is not hiding the fact that sound is having to travel miles to reach the other people. Speaking of bodies staying intact, we should vacate the area. Who knows what prolonged exposure can do to someone. Should we walk and talk?"

Baxter and Wójcik nodded.

"Good, then. The easy assumption to make here is that KTE-12079, 'Child Predator', is somehow inside the 4 kilometer long space inbetween where we stood. The original assumption that 'Child Predator' entered a pocket dimension or extradimensional space is far less likely than him — we think it's a him, correct? — having a space that exists on planet earth but is being masked by a spatial anomaly surrounding it. The way the trees and landscape are stretched suggests that it's trying to fill in where the previous space used to be. It's probably some separate extra magic that allows us to walk through the area without stretching ourselves. I suppose we should be thankful we are dealing with someone who likes to keep up an appearance, whether that be makeup or otherwise."

Voynich stopped suddenly and addressed the small crowd of researchers jotting down notes.

"We know where it is, we know what it is, we have our fair share of anomalous operatives and devices on the case — now all we need to do is take the blip and crack it open. Men, get ready to face off against this century's most creative pedophile."

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