The Hundred Year Mug Shot
“Niko, it is time!” Sachin jovially leapt from his beanbag and began clapping.
“Oh yeah?” Niko said with a smile, happy for his roommate.
“I just got confirmation that the coco coir and nutrients will arrive in three hours!” Sachin now broke into an intricate arm-driven dance. “C’mon, let’s clear out that stuff in the basement.”
The pair scrambled from their sedentary positions and made their way to the basement.
The house itself was a gorgeously modified Victorian that featured a cantilevered rooftop garden. Niko had taken advantage of the building’s original paint scheme and purchased plants, both organic and Amplified, to complement the color palette. One plant, though, had already arrived and marked its territory.
Niko’s most prized possession, a colossal Sumatran Rafflesia named 貴乃花 (Takanohana), had been delivered before even his bed. The plant resided in an even larger glass semi-bowl with several companion plants. Its flesh was a blistering vermillion and every now and then it would shudder. The plant had clearly approved of this location, given its tendrils had already woven and implanted themselves within the structure.
Sachin had only said yes to the house because Niko agreed to let him setup a hydroponic paradise in the basement. The house had, in Sachin’s eyes, been a bit too small for the four of them to found a company in.
The floors sounded good under Niko’s feet. A nice solid clunk resonated with each of his surefooted steps.
After several twists and turns, they arrived in the basement.
There were a few boxes, but for the most part, it was empty. White wooden countertops lined most of the initial room. Sachin located a cold metal light switch and flipped it.
Surprisingly clean light now engulfed the two men.
They next used that light to explore the three additional rooms that had been revealed. The first room had an emergency eye washing station and a floor drain.
The second room was entirely bare, and the third room looked like an abandoned dark room.
“Hey Niko, come check this room out,” Sachin beckoned.
Niko walked in and immediately noticed the photos hanging on a line with wooden clothespins.
The photos were few, but the light they possessed struck Niko with an air of familiarity.
Sachin plucked one of the five photos down and brought it over to the light fixture. In it, a sepia Woodrow Wilson reclined next to some ferns like a proud and well-dressed grasshopper. Sachin turned the antique over in his hands and noticed writing on the back:
“Whoa!” Sachin blurted out.
“What?” Niko had mindlessly plucked a different photo and brought it over with him to Sachin.
“Check this out,” the Indian from Pune showed Niko the writing.
Instantly Niko had a headache.
“Aieeya…” Niko said, pressing his fingers to his temples.
“Dude, what are you holding?” Sachin said, his shock overriding his concern.
“What’re you talking about?”
“The picture! Look!”
Niko at last looked at what he held.
It was a mugshot.
There was white writing on the bottom.
Nikoleaus Ito Sanzenbacher, 30 Apr 1916
Niko’s headache spiked.
“That’s you! How!? How…” Sachin’s voice faded away along with everything else. Niko blacked out and collapsed onto the floor.
Water splashed onto Niko’s face, jarring him awake.
Where am I?
“Toime ta wherk!”
Niko sat up, his head throbbing, and noticed the fetters on his ankles.
“Best be on yer feet lad,” a voice close by intoned.
Niko rose and was astonished at his stench. Looking down, his shirt was equally as wretched.
Someone handed him a pickaxe.
“Oo Well we’re the king’s of it all, yeah, since the day we were born…” a fat and bald bloke began singing and swinging a hammer. Like clockwork, all the other men chained together began breaking rocks in concert.
“Best be getting’ ta swingin’ lad,” the same voice implored.
Niko flexed his fingers and eventually joined in.
After twenty or so minutes, Niko couldn’t really tell, the voice spoke to him again.
“Won’t be long now lad. Don’t turn ‘round, but on your left is the weakest spot of the cage they keep us in. Run that way when it ‘appens.”
“It?” Niko managed to work passed his dry vocal chords.
“Shh… You’ll see,” the voice then stopped.
Several minutes later, a commotion.
“Oi, wass satt?” The man to Niko’s right pointed a gnarled finger at several flaming carts rolling down the hill the labor camp was built up against.
Niko was able to see pairs of barrels had been strapped to the front of the carts. The fiery wooden transports smashed into the walls rather anti-climactically.
“Thass it?” The horrid looking man next to him grumbled.
One by one, the pairs of barrels began exploding. At the same time, shots rang out near the entrance.
“Told ya. Now go!” This time a firm push accompanied the voice.
Niko looked down and noticed his fetters had been undone. Looking up, he was able to catch the guard that woke him intercept with his forehead a bullet meant for a ricochet into obscurity.
Niko broke into a full on sprint for the weak spot. He slid in the mud and began banging on the panels until one easily gave way. He clambered through the small opening and felt the presence of another person following close behind.
The second person threw a burlap sack over Niko’s face and the pair tumbled down an embankment.
“O’er ‘ere!” Niko heard a muffled voice, the same voice from earlier, call out.
“Sorry ‘bout the bag, lad. But we canna take na chances. I trust ya, they don’t.”
Niko was now on his feet. He wobbled and slipped his way over to what he believed to be a riverbank. Several seconds later, he was on a boat.
“’e’s a black!?”
“So what?” the voice said.
“Sean’s not gonna loike dis…”
“Sean can deal wiff it, ‘e’s our golden ticket…”
At last the day came.
It was only a week later, but to Niko it felt like months. Without his plants, Takanohana in particular, Niko could barely function.
Niko still had no idea how he had gotten to 1916 Ireland or why he was in a mugshot from this era. Sachin simply didn’t exist, and technically neither did he. He had no official record in this era, but the owner of the voice, Michael Sullivan, knew exactly who he was. The problem with Michael though was how cryptic and round about he would say things.
So far, Niko was able to piece together that he had been drafted into the Irish Citizen Army to foment “something”. This “something” also had ties to Woodrow Wilson, who had turned out to be a particularly vehement racist.
“Have to keep ya in the dark lad, sorry ‘bout the pun…” Michael Sullivan would say.
What does my being black have to do with anything?
On Monday, April 24, the Rising began.
Niko was told to cover his face and serve as a propaganda piece for the volunteers.
Niko was trotted out onto battle sites and photographed. These pictures were then developed and sent to a non-descript mail sack in Washington DC.
“Mr. President, look.” Ira Peterson handed several photos of a young black man posing victorious with Irish nationalists. A willful fighter accepted by like-minded oppressed peers…
“…I see. Do it. Withdraw…” Woodrow Wilson took the photos and aggressively hurled them into the waste bin.
On Sunday, April 30 1916, Niko had his mugshot taken shortly before being sentenced to death for his participation in the Easter Rising.
Due to his race, he was to be executed in a private, secret ceremony.
The executioner read the charges and the sentence against him. The men raised their guns and aimed.
Niko took a long drag on his last cigarette and stared at the gunman directly across from him in the eye.
Niko was sucked back to the present.
“Dude!” Sachin was shaking him violently.
“Wha…” Niko groggily rose to his feet, his head hurting less and less.
When he saw Sachin, everything came flooding back.
“You’re here to kill Masafumi Ushikawa!”
“I was wondering when you’d catch on,” Sachin immediately dropped the act and lunged at Niko, who was able to dodge.
He fought his way up the stairs and noticed the roof was shaking.
Niko heard Sachin bounding up the stairs after him. He knocked over some boxes and continued his scramble until he arrived on the roof.
As soon as his foot crossed the threshold to the rooftop garden, the door snapped shut.
“What?” Niko said out loud.
Behind him, Takanohana began to shudder violently.
He could hear Sachin progressing up through the house. Niko looked around for anything he could use as a weapon.
After several minutes of waiting though, he noticed he hadn’t heard any noise for some time.
“Sachin!” He called out.
Niko stomped around on the roof calling the man’s name.
The door popped open.
Instead of Sachin, a pink and green miasma emitted from the opening.
After the cloud of who-knows-what dissipated, Niko covered his face and entered the house. He walked down the spiral stairs to the top floor.
He walked down the hallway and was put on edge by the loneliness.
At last, Sachin.
His one-time friend lay facedown on the floor. Niko nudged him with his foot.
Niko then noticed pustules on Sachin’s arms.
He placed his right foot under Sachin’s rib and flipped his friend to a supine position.
Sachin’s face was blanketed in a pox. Yellow-headed boils consumed his face. His tongue was green and bursting from his mouth. Niko was able to suppress his vomit long enough to notice a burst pod dangling from the ceiling.
It was about the size of a football. Two large purple leaves opened like hands, revealing a gleaming yellow core sporting Romanesco-like protrusions.
Upon looking at the pod, the roof began to shake.
Niko plodded back up the stairs and was met not just by a shuddering Takanohana, but also a beautiful woman.
“Hello Niko, congratulations.”
“H-hello, thank you?”
“Mmhmm, yes. Mission accomplished. I said Mission Accomplished,” the woman seemed a little agitated.
“How did you get up here?”
“Hmm, it seems the effects of the gel haven’t yet fully worn off.” She was tall, over six feet. Her hair was an enticing green and her skin olive.
“I’m your CO, Nour Tawfeek. You were selected to incite the Easter Rising to force Woodrow Wilson into not helping the British permanently enslave Ireland. His subsequent introduction of segregation set off a chain of events that ultimately allowed for our would-be assassin, Sachin Sharma, to arrive at this nexus in time where we could intervene and kill him. Emperor Ushikawa lives on, the Planet is safe. Thank you for your service.”
Niko took a step away from the goddess and winced as the memories found their way back.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine in a day or two, and when you are, call me,” Nour said with an enticing wink.
The air around them swirled as a platform descended. Nour stepped aboard and blew Niko a kiss as the UN-branded airship sped away.
Niko turned to Takanohana.
Takanohana simply shuddered.