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Displaced I: The Exchange

By Kevin Provance All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure

XI - Asymmetry II

“The quality or state of not being identical on both sides of a central line.”

*

Date: Friday, May 13, 1977

Location: Arthur Avenue House, Eldersburg, Maryland

Age: 35 (current)

*

I

Mom sat on the couch, staring at the floor. She used the tips of her fingers to wipe away the tears slowly welling up in her eyes.

I continued. “The next day I went to your apartment and told you Charlie and I had gotten into a spat and that I needed a place to stay until he cooled off. It was more of the same as far as you knew. The day after that, Sis showed up with the letter from Charlie, demanding I pack up my stuff and move out. He gave a much different story, which was complete bullshit. He claimed I had threatened to kill him and went on about how he could not risk me living in his house with that threat over his head. He gave me that weekend to pack up and leave while he stayed at his girlfriend’s house. Phil was pretty much living with you by then, so between the two of us, and Myer, we packed up everything I owned and moved it into your spare bedroom. Charlie and I have not spoken since.”

“What about your sister? Did she stay with Charlie after that?”

I rubbed my eyes suddenly realizing the white haze filling my peripheral vision had become dull red. “No,” I replied. “I think she was uncomfortable being the only other person living at that house. She didn’t move all her stuff at that time, but she rarely went back. Within a few months, she and I got serious about working full time. By the end of that summer, the four of us worked out a plan to move into a bigger house, albeit a rental one. The next summer in 1993, you and Phil got married. Then we moved to Florida. The rest is history.” I paused. “Future history, I guess.”

“I’m so sorry,” Mom whispered. “I won’t let this happen to you.”

“You can’t change these things, Mom,” I said, sitting down next to her. “If you try, life as I know it will change too. You have to understand something; there were other events in my life that happened because of what Charlie did. Those events led to my meeting the girl who I would eventually marry. My son - your grandson - is the result of that union. If you interfere with what happens - what I believe is supposed to happen - then my life will turn out different. I don’t know how this whole time line continuity thing really works, but if I go back to 2006 and there is no Spencer, I don’t know if I will be able to live the rest of my life with that loss.”

Mom was speechless. She had to know I was right. “I don’t know what to say, Kevin,” she finally managed to say.

“This is why I didn’t want to tell you any of this. I told you it wasn’t anything you wanted to hear.”

“I wish I hadn’t pushed you to tell me,” Mom said, still looking at the floor. “I can’t go around pretending everything is okay with your father knowing how our life turns out. I don’t want to.”

Now I was speechless. What does one say to that?

Connor saved me the trouble. “You won’t have to,” he said, startling the both of us. He and Jim stood off to the side of the dining room, around the corner from where Mom and I were sitting.

“How much of that did you hear?” I asked, fearing I was in some kind of trouble for disobeying his wishes.

“I heard enough,” he said, with sympathy. He looked at Mom and smiled, then back to me. “You realize now we have no choice but to wipe her short term memory, your mother’s.”

I nodded. “Yes, I know. I’ve already encouraged her to agree to the procedure.” I studied Connor more closely. The black detection ring on his right hand glowed red. When did that begin? The last I remembered, it was black with no glow at all. “How are you doing?”

“Turns out I’ll live, thanks to you, and Jim,” Connor said, nodding in Jim’s direction.

I looked down at the black ring on my pinky. It no longer glowed red. I looked back at Connor’s ring, then back at my own. “What did you do to me before you passed out?”

Connor sighed, glancing at Jim, who shifted uncomfortably. “I transferred my ability to temporally displace to you, when I thought I was dying. That ability would have been lost forever, had I not done so, and died.”

“Temporal what?” Mom asked.

“Time travel,” I said. I looked back at Connor. “It sure does explain some things. I’m seeing and understanding complex mathematical equations in my head, and I bombed at algebra in high school.”

Connor nodded. “That’s normal. Its part of what it does, that ability. It’s like a computer program for the brain, running in the background. Opening a portal to another point in space-time requires precise mathematical calculations across nine dimensions, so when you come out the other side you’re not floating in space or buried inside the planet.” Connor paused as I blinked in confusion, shaking my head. “The Earth is not a stationary object. Remember when we arrived here we fell to the floor, about six feet?” I nodded. “In a controlled displacement situation, a team of scientists double checks it, the arithmetic. I can do it without the backup, in a pinch, but the end result can sometimes be off target by some small amount, which is what happened when we arrived here.”

The thought of having this awesome ability inside me - with the responsibility - made me uncomfortable. Now I understood why Jim appeared so rigid. “So, you maybe want to take it back now?” I asked.

“It’s not that simple,” Connor said. “It doesn’t work that way. I can’t just take it back. You have to give it back to me.”

“Okay, so tell me what to do. I don’t want this thing in my head anymore. It belongs to you.”

Connor looked troubled. “I can’t explain it to you, what to do. You have to know what to do. There are two things we can do here, the first is to ‘program’ you with that knowledge, which I would rather not do since only one chosen being is supposed to carry that knowledge at any one time.”

“Understood,” I said.

“The second is to use the original source of the element to transfer it back to me. In the end, we would need to the original source for either solution.” Connor taped at the glowing red ring on his finger. “It looks something like this, only bigger and far more reliable, as it’s Brüder in origin.”

“So what’s the problem then?” I asked. “Can you get to it here in 1977?”

“I hope so,” Connor replied. “When Jim chose Martin, Robert, and I to guard the original Bruder rings, we agreed to hide them at ES-5 in the year 1910.”

I studied Jim, who nodded slightly. “Are you some kind of leader where you’re from?” I asked.

“No, not at all,” Jim said. “You might think of me more of an advisor, similar to the role of a holy man in human culture.”

Connor continued. “The catch is, we hid the rings separately, each of us responsible for another’s ring. In the event of a security breach, we would be unable to reveal the hiding place of our own specific ability.”

My hopes quickly dashed. “Oh, well, that’s fucking great then,” I snapped. “How are we supposed to find the damned thing?”

“I have some theories,” Jim said. “First, we need to finish up here, and then proceed to Earth Station 5.”

Mom placed her hand on my arm. “Can you do what needs to be done, Kevin?”

I shook my head as Connor answered. “He cannot, Mrs. Garrison. I’ll be the one performing the procedure.”

“It’s okay, Mom. I trust him.” Mom nodded, apprehensively.

Connor sat next to my mother, opposite me. “You’ll go to sleep for about ten minutes,” he said. “The device we use is called a Löschen. It emits a beam of light into your left eye, which leads to the brain. With it, they will degrade, the memories of what has happened here over the last few hours. When you wake up, you won’t remember any of what has happened. Any memory that might have been committed to long term memory will seem like a dream, and will fade quickly.” Connor turned to Jim. “Would you get me a glass of water, please?”

“Yes,” Jim said, handing Connor a bottle of pills. He disappeared into the kitchen.

Connor opened the bottle and handed one small red pill to Mom. “This is our protocol for inducing sleep. It works very fast, within seconds. It’s very safe.”

Mom looked at me for confirmation. I nodded. “It’s okay.”

“Will you tell me about this day, when you get back?” Mom asked.

“No, I won’t be able to,” I said, feeling sad. “It’s still up in the air how much I will remember when all of this is said and done. There are things about my future I know, that I don’t want to know.”

Connor knelt down on the floor. “Would you lie down on the sofa please, Mrs. Garrison?”

“Please, call me Jayne, for whatever it’s worth now,” Mom said, complying with Connor’s request. Jim reappeared and handed Mom a glass of water. I stepped out of the way to give Connor room to work. Mom quickly shifted her glance to me, almost in panic. “Please, Kevin, stay. Would you hold my hand until this is finished?”

I knelt down at the head of the sofa and took her hand. “You’ll be okay, Mom. I’ve seen things here today that I remember from my childhood, so I do believe this has all happened before. I’ll be okay.”

Mom took the pill and swallowed it with water, giving my hand a squeeze. “It’s been a privilege meeting you as an adult, Kevi-bird. I’m so proud that you turned out to be the man you are. I…I love you.” Her grip on my hand relaxed as she drifted off to sleep.

Tears streamed down my face as I leaned over to kiss Mom on her forehead. “I love you too, Mom.” Connor withdrew the Löschen from out of the black medical bag. He gently opened Mom’s left eye. I reached out and took his hand. “Promise me, Connor. Promise me she will be alright.”

Connor stopped, giving me a warm grin. “Jim personally taught me how to use this device. Besides Krissie, there is no one better at this than I am. I promise you, Kevin, your mom will be just fine.”

I released Connor’s hand. He aimed the Löschen into Mom’s left eye and pressed an unseen button. A beam of white light locked onto the pupil. Connor carefully positioned himself over the other end of the Löschen and pressed another button. A narrow red beam of light locked into Connor’s left eye, beginning the procedure. His pupil flickered from side to side, as if he was watching several different things. The Löschen began to make intermittent beeps, each sustaining into the next, similar to an old camera flash attachment that needs to recharge after each use.

“Someone is here,” Jim said, looking out the curtained bay window. I turned to look with him. With the exception of Jim’s Dodge parked off to the left side of the road, the street was empty

“I don’t see anyone,” I said, turning back to watch Connor work.

“What do you mean, Jim?” Connor asked.

“Strangers,” Jim whispered.

This time Connor stopped his work, looking at Jim. “As friends?”

“No, I do not think so.”

I looked back out the bay window. The day outside, which had been sunny and clear, quickly became overcast and windy. Dark storm clouds rapidly worked their way in. I understood what was happening.

“How long do we have?” Connor asked, returning to his work.

“Impossible to say,” Jim said, flatly, as he searched out the bay window. He wasn’t looking for them, he was feeling them, The Corporation or someone involved with them.

“I’m going to need at least two more minutes here,” Connor said, advising Jim as he continued to work.

“I do not think we have that much time,” Jim said.

“Is this The Corporation again?” I asked, anxious. Jim looked back and nodded. “How in the hell do they keep finding us? First in 2006 at my home, then in 2095 in the moon of all places, and now in 1977 at my mother’s house? They’re always one-step ahead. I don’t get it.”

Connor answered. “That, Kevin, is a very good question. One I will get to the bottom of soon enough. The truth is, I have no idea, and believe me when I tell you it bothers me more than you realize. I think there might be a mole in the FCA. Nothing else makes sense.”

Connor’s theory warranted Jim’s complete attention. He turned around and looked down at Connor, who continued his work. “That is a serious allegation, Connor.”

“Don’t I know it,” Connor said. The frequency of the Löschen’s beeps became more frequent. “It’s that 2025 quarter they want, every time. The rest of us are moot, but they’re not afraid to kill to get it.”

“What is so special about this quarter?” Jim asked. “I understand it needs to go back to where it came from. Aside from that, I cannot see any reason The Corporation would have any interest in it. Even if the compromise of the coin was their fault, they would not become this obsessive over it.”

“I concur,” Connor said.

Jim turned to me. “May I see the quarter, Kevin?” he asked in his courteous, well-articulated way. I looked at Connor for approval, who gave it with a nod, not even looking in my direction. Cautiously, I handed the quarter to Jim. For reasons I couldn’t explain, I had become protective of this quarter, much the same way Frodo was of The One Ring. Jim thoroughly inspected the coin.

Outside, thunder rolled.

Jim withdrew a device from his black bag. It looked similar to an eye inspection instrument one might see in a doctor’s office. He used it to inspect the quarter more closely. “This explains a lot,” he said, rotating the quarter in his fingers. “There appears to be a series of microscopic inscriptions around the edges. It is not a language or encryption I recognize.” Jim paused. “It is a form of code.”

“That’s what The Corporation wants,” I mused. “That’s why they care so much about getting their fucking ‘anomaly’ back, right? Whatever information is on this quarter, they want, bad.”

“Seems that way,” Connor said, not looking up from the light beam. “Contact them Jim, see what they want.”

Jim returned the quarter to me and withdrew his communicator, flipping it open. “Bruder ship, please respond.”

“Who is this?” The communicator snapped in reply.

Connor stopped working and looked up. “They didn’t use the security protocol.” Then he looked at me. “They’re not with us.”

“This is Jim Marks, FCA #89912101. Identify yourself.”

“So, it’s the traitor,” was the reply, which came across rather sour. “You’ll make a fine prisoner, Maurkardus.”

“Daniel,” Jim said. “I do not suppose I need to ask who sent you.”

“I think you know where my orders come from,” Dan said, clearly irritated. “We want the anomaly.”

I nodded my head in frustration. That damned quarter. Connor returned to his work with Mom.

“To what end?” Jim asked.

“Maurkardus, you of all Brüder should know information behind orders is on a need to know basis,” Dan said, with notable sarcasm. “My mission is to retrieve the anomaly using any means necessary and return it to its owner.”

Jim spoke to us in the room. “He is probably telling the truth.”

“Which ship are they using?” I asked. “There are only supposed to be two left. One is missing and the other is wrecked, right?”

Connor sighed. “Bruder-1 is very, very safe far away from this country. Bruder-2 should be at ES-5 under heavy guard. However, in this time, Bruder-3 is still in use and under control of The Corporation.”

That did not jive with what Ryan had told me. “But Ryan said it was destroyed a long time ago.”

“You are not thinking in four dimensions,” Jim said. “Ryan was born in the twenty-first century. From his perspective, 1991 is in fact a long time ago, almost a century. The ship I am communicating with is Bruder-3.”

Then something else clicked in my ever-confused brain. “Bruder 3 went missing in 1991?”

“Yes,” Jim replied. “It disappeared, literally out of thin air in June of 1991 and has not been seen since.”

Cold shivers floated over my body. June of 1991 was the month Wald disappeared in Ocean City. I had a very strong feeling the two were connected and that it was no coincidence.

Something else didn’t make sense. “How do you know all these things, Jim? You’re living here in the 70s, yet you have knowledge of events that haven’t happened yet.”

For the first time, I watched a slight grin creep across Jim’s face. “Your reputation is well deserved.

“What?” I asked, confused by Jim’s answer.

“Jim knows everything I know,” Connor said jumping in, clearly covering Jim’s faux pas. “When we formed the FCA in the mid-twenty first century with the original der Widerstand members, Jim became our liaison, beginning in 1910.”

I could not help but look at Jim in disbelief. “Exactly how old are you anyway?”

“In Earth time, I am 3,879 years old,” Jim replied, without a flinch. “The concept of time and space works differently where I am from.” I heard what Jim said, but my mind couldn’t wrap itself around his reveal.

Our Corporation friends interrupted my new case of surrealism. Based on the worsening weather, they were much closer now. The voice from Jim’s communicator broke the conversation. “Maurkardus, are you willing to surrender the anomaly?”

Jim did not answer, but spoke to Connor. “There is something encoded on Kevin’s quarter they want. The fact that The Corporation has gone to such lengths to retrieve it suggests that whatever this information is, it would have negative consequences for the FCA.”

“Agreed.”

Jim addressed the communicator. “I am sorry, Daniel. I will not comply.”

There was no further communication from the Bruder ship. Connor was still working; beads of sweat spilling down the sides of his face.

“What do we do now?” I asked.

“We have Earth Station One,” Jim said. “My people believe it to be destroyed, as did I until this afternoon. We go there and Jaunte to Earth Station five. We will be better armed and protected there.”

“What about my mother?” I asked, slightly panicked. Nobody answered. Now I was petrified. Was The Corporation kidnapping Mom part of this timeline or was it going to create a paradox? I had to believe whatever we decided would be the right action. I turned my attention to Jim. “Will they kidnap her as a hostage in an attempt to get their precious quarter?”

“Possible?” Jim asked. “Yes. Probable, no. When The Corporation wishes to eliminate someone, an Agent will isolate the soul of that individual and trap it inside his or her mind, or steal it outright. That individual then becomes comatose.”

“What?” I asked, not believing what I was hearing. “Soul?”

Jim held up his hand. “Unfortunately, we do not have time for a metaphysics lesson. What we need to do is—”

Dan’s voice from Jim’s communicator cut him off. “Are you still there, Maurkardus?”

“I am.”

“I would like to propose a face-to-face meeting,” Dan said. Connor scoffed. Jim frowned at the request. “I realize we might have some trust issues to overcome, so I offer to come to you. Alone.”

“I don’t like this,” Connor said, still working. “The Corporation doesn’t negotiate.”

“Indeed,” Jim said in agreement. He pressed the equivalent of the ‘talk’ button on the communicator. “Alone and unarmed.”

“Of course,” Dan jeered.

“Agreed.”

The wind outside picked up considerably. The noise of machinery began far off, warming up. Goosebumps raised on my arms. The sound was the same from the thunderstorm in Ocean City, right before the lightning strike took my friend Wald off the pier. I dashed for the bay window and threw the curtain aside. All I saw were dark storm clouds and the beginning of rain.

“What is that?” I asked. “I think a lightning strike is coming.”

“Yes,” Jim replied, calm. “It is the crudely designed transport system aboard Bruder-3.”

As predicted, lightning stuck the field, about a half-mile from the house. The flash and noise from the event caused me to cringe. The wind died down some, but did not dissipate as it had in Ocean City. Bruder-3 was hiding up there, inside those storm clouds.

Jim’s words brought clarity. I understood now what happened that night in June of 1991. That freak thunderstorm in Ocean City, the sound of the Brüder ship transporter activating, the lightning strike that hit the Ocean City pier, and Wald’s disappearance into thin air. I wasn’t crazy after all. I knew through and through I watched him disappear that night. Nobody believed me. The Bruder-3 transporter system took Wald that night. It was why they never found his body and why he reappeared fifteen years later as Martin’s host body.

What did The Corporation do with him over the last fifteen years in my time line? How did he become a prisoner and end up as part of the FCA? Moreover, why was Martin using him as a host? If Martin truly did have the ‘displacement’ ability to move his soul from body to body, where was Wald’s? Jim said The Corporation ‘captures souls’ or traps them inside the mind. Which applied to Wald?

“Kevin?” Connor asked. “Are you listening?”

I turned around, facing him. “Sorry, I was thinking about Wald. I think The Corporation kidnapped him in 1991.”

“Yes, I suspected as much,” Connor said. “It’s one of the many things I need to figure out, the why of it. Until then, listen to me very carefully. This Corporation agent does not know you are carrying my temporal displacement ability or that Earth Station One exists. Say nothing of either. In fact, let Jim and I do all the talking.”

I held my hands up to signal I was hands off in this dialog. “No argument here.”

“Take it off, your detection ring, and put it in your pocket,” Connor added, doing the same. “We don’t want to give anything away. Do you have an Impüls?”

“Yes,” I said, lifting my shirt to reveal the weapon. “It’s yours. I picked it up after we escaped 2095.”

“Good. Keep it hidden. Don’t use it unless either of us does first.”

I looked back out the bay window, toward the empty field further down the dirt road that branched off the end of Arthur Avenue. It was a long private driveway to the homes settled father back in. A man dressed in a black suit slowly walked up that dirt driveway, toward this house.

“Here he comes,” I said, with dread. Jim stepped forward toward the front door, motioning me back.

“How much longer?” Jim asked Connor.

“This’ll have to do.” He turned to me. “I induced her for a longer sleep, your mom. It should help bury any memory remnants I might have missed. We don’t have time for me to recheck them all.” I tightened my lips with concern. “She’ll be fine. Help me move her into her bedroom.”

I assisted Connor. We laid her on the bed and closed the door to the room. Connor slapped me on the shoulder as we walked back into the living room. “Trust me, your mother will be fine. She’ll wake up in an hour or so thinking she took a nap.”

“I believe you. Thank you for taking care of her.”

Connor grinned and slapped my shoulder again. “Think nothing of it.”

Jim opened the front door for Dan. He stood on the front steps, arms extended out, his suit blowing in the wind. Jim carefully and thoroughly patted him down for weapons. Satisfied, he allowed this stranger entry into my childhood home.

Dan walked into the living room, surveying the three of us. Another one of those ‘super déjà vu’ moments came to me again. Although I was certain I had never met this man, I recognized him. I had seen him somewhere before.

Unfortunately, Connor’s request to keep quiet completely left my head. “I know you,” I said to this well dressed man.

He looked me up and down and shrugged. “I’ve never met you before,” he said. “But I do have ‘one of those faces’.”

Jim looked back to me. “Kevin, meet the human turncoat we know as ‘Dan’.” Jim turned back. “Daniel, meet Kevin.”

Dan offered his hand. Instinctively I declined. He clumsily withdrew and twittered his fingers. “Interesting choice of words, Maurkardus. Turncoat,” he said, smirking.

Jim remained expressionless. “If the shoe fits, as you like to say. My reason for abandoning the original Bruder mission was to help save your race from extinction. What is your excuse?”

“It’s better to be the right hand of the devil then in his path,” Dan said, almost in a giggle. He struck me as a cocky little pissant.

Dan then directed his attention toward Connor. “Connor McKenzie, the only known human to carry temporal displacement! My how you’ve aged. How long has it been since we last saw each other?”

“Not long enough,” Connor said, carelessly.

Dan threw his head back, howling in laughter. “You haven’t changed a single iota, Mr. MacKenzie.” Dan turned his attention to Jim. “Of course, it’s only been about three years since Connor and I met. I guess he was in his early thirties.” Dan turned back to Connor. “But now, my, my. How old are you now?”

“Classified,” Connor said, smugness beginning to emanate from his responses.

Dan brushed off the comment, shaking his head in amusement. “When I think about what you could do for us? You should seriously think about joining the good guys.”

“Good guys?” Connor asked. “What was your price to become an agent of genocide?”

Dan chuckled in his obnoxious way. “Connor, Connor, Connor. You completely misunderstand The Corporation. The Brüder want to understand us, how we’ve evolved. Not kill us.”

Connor took a firm stance. “That, sir, is a big stinking pile of bullshit. We’ve seen the future, you and I. We know what The Corporation does and the hell they bring to our planet. Our planet, Dan”

Dan seemed truly taken aback. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Connor. I suppose all that business in 2062 was a little disconcerting at first, with that ugly red sky, but the society The Corporation built from the ashes of the Last War? It’s utopia!”

“You would believe that, wouldn’t you?” Connor said, sourly. “When The Corporation is done with you, they’ll turn on you too. Mark my words, you mindless little automaton.”

“What exactly happens that is so bad, Mr. MacKenzie? I mean, after we parted ways in Cincinnati?” Dan asked. I couldn’t tell if Dan was making a genuine inquiry, or if he was continuing his exercise in obnoxious prickery.

Jim stepped in between the two. “Sorry Daniel,” Jim said. “Our Temporal Directives prohibit sharing of that information.”

Dan scoffed. “Sure, Maurkardus, whatever you say. Who’s full of shit now?”

“Think whatever you like,” Jim said. “Why did you come here?”

“My superiors would like me to find out what it will take for you to surrender the anomaly.”

Jim took a step toward Dan, towering over the short little man. “Then you wasted a trip, little human. All I will give you is the same answer as before, I will not surrender the anomaly.”

“C’mon, Maurkardus, everyone has their price,” Dan said, in his taunting manner. “What if I told you all would be forgiven if you cooperate?”

“Not interested,” Jim said, without hesitation. “The Corporation has nothing I want.”

“Are you sure about that?” Dan asked, a smirk pasted across his smug face. “I understand you have family back on Oberen. It must be hard for you knowing they’re over three thousand light years away, completely cut off from you. They know you are a traitor, and no longer speak your name. When they do, it’s in shame.”

Jim’s expression did not change. He wasn’t letting Dan into his head. “You are speaking of things in which you have no understanding. If you have nothing productive to offer, you should leave.”

Dan shifted his attention to me. “Who exactly are you anyway?” I didn’t reply. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand Dan was fishing for information. I wouldn’t give him any. “Nothing to say, young squire?”

“You’re stalling,” Connor said, taking the attention off me. “Why?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dan said, feigning offense. “I’m here to negotiate for the anomaly.”

“There’s nothing to negotiate,” Connor said. “This meeting is over. You can leave now.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Dan said. There was too much confidence in his voice. He knew something we didn’t, leading him to believe he had an advantage over us. I cautiously slid my hand into my right pocket and pulled out the detection ring. It glowed a dull green color. We were not alone. Dan had unseen reinforcements.

I stepped toward Connor and behind Jim so I would be partially out of Dan’s view. I slipped the ring on my pinky finger and wiggled it so Connor would see.

Dan noticed my movement and pointed at me. “Hey, what are you doing there?”

Connor glanced over, eyes shifting to the ring I held against my hip, out of Dan’s view. Connor put his hand on Jim’s shoulder and spoke, “braun-Benachrichtigung

Jim turned back, “hier, jetzt?

Connor nodded, “ja, Sie glaube, es war besser

Dan threw up his hands and shook his head in frustration. “Hold on, wait a minute. I don’t speak Bruderese, or German, or whatever it’s called now. What are you saying?”

Jim maintained his rock solid composure. “We know you have visually displaced men here. Since The Corporation does not have these abilities, I can only assume you found the price of some of my FCA colleagues to do your work.”

Dan grinned. A real shit eating grin you’d just want to slap. “Very good, Maurkardus, you’re right.”

Jim looked mildly perturbed, not an easy feat. “You gave your word you would come alone,” he said, reminding Dan of his promise. “It would appear - in fact - that your word means absolutely nothing.”

Dan giggled. “Like I care what you think about me. I do what I have to do to get what I want and right now, I want the anomaly. So please, hand it over before it gets ugly.”

“It’s not here,” Connor said, stepping in to diffuse the situation. “We hid it in another time where you Corporation goons won’t ever find it.”

Dan’s usually cocky face changed to one of intense disappointment. “Don’t lie to me, MacKenzie,” he said in warning. “My orders are to return to my ship with the anomaly. Do you really think I’m going back empty handed?”

Jim let out a chuckle, quickly squelching it. “I guess your superiors will be rid of you sooner than you thought, Daniel?”

Dan’s face pruned into anger. “We are always tracking you, Maurkardus,” he hissed. “When you leave that little hole you live in, we watch you, and if necessary, follow you. We also picked up bits and pieces of the conversation you had with Conundrum, so I do know the anomaly is indeed here. If I have to, I will tear this house apart to find it. If you make me do that, I will have all of you killed.” Dan Paused. “Well, once we relieve Connor of the temporal displacement element, that is.”

“That will never happen,” Connor said in retort, with a smirk of his own.

“We shall see,” Dan said, clapping his hands. “Gentlemen!”

Three visually displaced men appeared behind us, pointing Impüls weapons at our backs. A forth one appeared behind Connor, securing him in full nelson hold so he couldn’t move. Another agent attached a collar device around Connor’s neck, locking it in place.

Jim’s demeanor never changed as he stared the shorter Dan down. “What do you hope to accomplish here?”

Dan paced around the front of the room, hand on chin as he contemplated the question. “Well, Maurkardus, that device my associate placed on Mr. MacKenzie’s neck will prevent him from displacing. Just because The Corporation doesn’t have temporal displacement doesn’t mean don’t know how to stop it.”

What was I supposed to do here? My first instinct was to run as fast as I could, hide, and trust in Connor and Jim to rescue me, but that would mean leaving my sleeping mother behind, vulnerable to Dan and his minions. The alternative was to let Dan capture me with the FutureQuarter and Connor’s Displacement ability. Both of those in the hands of The Corporation would be exceedingly bad.

Whatever you do, it will be the right thing, I thought. This has already happened and Mom lived through it.

Dan stood close to the front door. Conceivably, I could rush him, sending us both through the screen door and into the lawn. With the Impüls I was hiding under my shirt, I could take Dan hostage with the element of surprise.

Yes, that’s it! I thought wildly. The front screen door!

I couldn’t say when the date was or even how old I was when I first remembered seeing the front screen door in the basement mutt room. I only recall it ending up down there one day for no apparent reason. Mom said an afternoon thunderstorm damaged it, blowing it off its hinges.

I knew now what I had to do. Further, I would have to trust in Connor and Jim to take care of the rest.

I returned to my original spot in the room, to the left of Jim. This caught Dan’s attention, again. “You!” he said, pointing in my direction. “Stop moving around!”

I sprinted forward and threw myself into Dan. The force knocked the both of us into the screen door, tearing it off its already flimsy hinges. The door clumsily fell off to the side as Dan and I forcefully fell into the wet grass. Dan took the brunt of the fall with my superior weight and height crushing him. The result knocked the wind out of him. I heard the low-end buzz of an Impüls discharge, the rush of the pulse buzzing above us. Dan writhed in the grass, gasping for breath, drenched from the pouring rain. I pulled the Impüls out of the front of my pants as one of the Corporation agents appeared in front doorway. I didn’t give him the chance to fire. Out of pure reaction, I aimed the alien weapon at him and fired. It took the one shot to drop the agent where he stood.

I quickly stood up and dropped on my knees behind Dan. He remained incapacitated from our tumble. I placed Dan in a chokehold with the Impüls pressed against the side of his head, making him a human shield.

Inside the house, I heard several discharges of Impüls fire, but couldn’t determine who had the upper hand.

I forced Dan to his feet and began dragging him toward the road, away from the house. “C’mon, you,” I hissed in his ear. “We’re getting out of here.” Dan attempted to reply, but was unable. He could not yet catch his breath. I looked over my left shoulder at Jim’s car. It was maybe fifty feet away.

Another figure appeared in the doorway of the house. The black suit gave him away as a Corporation agent. He aimed his weapon in our direction, but did not fire. Dan waved frantically. “Shoot!” he gurgled through short breaths. The agent fired, missing us by mere inches. The shot hit the rear end of Jim’s Dodge, sending the back end skidding across the shoulder of the road.

I tightened my arm’s grip on Dan’s throat and yanked him backward; blocking any potential Impüls fire the agent might try to take. Dan struggled, forcing me to drag his ass to the driver’s side door of the Dodge. The heavy rain and wind made this a difficult task.

“Get in the fucking car,” I snapped, wiping the rain off my face. Another Impüls burst flew overhead, missing the car. The blast took out a honeysuckle bush further down the road. Dan’s breathing became heavier as he began to recover from the earlier fall. He glared at me in anger as he opened the door and shuffled across the driver’s side, into the passenger seat.

Overhead, the eerie sound of machinery warming up filled the air. I glanced across the hood of the car, realizing I was closer to the empty field where Dan arrived than I wanted to be. Somewhere up above, the Bruder-3 transporter system was charging. Was it to send reinforcements, or to take me and or Dan aboard? I wasn’t going to hang around to find out.

With the Impüls still pointed at Dan, I slid into the car and slammed the door shut. The keys dangling from the ignition jingled.

“Oh, thank you, Jim,” I said to myself, turning the key to start the car. Another Impüls blast connected with the passenger side of the car, causing it to lift slightly on an angle and ultimately back down. The force caused Dan to smash his head into the door window. His body went limp. I turned the key again. The car’s starter finally did its job as the engine roared to life. I pulled the automatic transmission lever on the steering column into drive and stomped on the gas pedal, turning the steering wheel violently to the right. The Dodge fishtailed around a full one hundred eighty degrees putting us in the direction that would take us to the top of Arthur Avenue and out of the neighborhood.

The read end of the car didn’t feel entirely stable due to the hits it took from Impüls fire. I had to hope it would hold long enough to take me away from this place.

I looked out the driver side window as I passed the house. An agent, now on the front lawn pointed his weapon in my direction. I feared at this close range, an additional Impüls hit would flip the car over and onto its roof.

That blast never came. I looked over my shoulder as I sped away to see the agent fall to the ground. I smiled knowing we might get out of this mess yet.

I reached the top of Arthur Avenue and took a right toward Route 26 without stopping. The weak power of the Dodge’s windshield wipers didn’t do much to combat the rain that pounded down on top of us. Dan’s limp body rolled with each curve in the road. I could see now the hit to his head caused more damage than I thought. He was bleeding from an unseen gash. Considering the amount of blood on him and the passenger side door, he was in bad shape.

I stopped at the Route 26 intersection. A badly injured passenger in the car was too much baggage. I seriously considered leaving Dan on the side of the road. The screaming sound of the Brüder transport system crept up on us. Somewhere up in those dark storm clouds Bruder-3 followed. I needed to keep moving. I looked around. Route 26 was empty. Where does one hide from an advanced hovering ship cloaked in a natural phenomenon that could swallow one up in a single lightning strike? To this question, I had no answer. To complicate matters, where would such a place be, in a time where one does not belong?

I needed to get somewhere public, with lots of people around while avoiding interaction with any of them. Nothing came to mind. Where to go? Where to go?

II

When to go?

III

The dull red haze lingering around my peripheral vision (which I became used to and consequently dismissed) faded to white. Bright white. Complex mathematical equations once again buzzed through my head, stealing my focus. I had no control over what was happening inside my head. I understood the equations and their results but couldn’t tell you why I was having them. They seemed to revolve around a universal point in the space-time continuum that translated to Earth time June 13, 1991, the day The Corporation kidnapped Wald in Ocean City. I had been thinking about that day, having recently understood the mystery surrounding Wald’s disappearance. The question of space-time differences between the present day in 1977 and that day in 1991 were resolving themselves. The alignment of these two points in time and space were merging, not necessarily into each other, but on top of one another other. A bridge between the two points formed. I could feel it, this ‘bridge’. In my mind, it manifested itself into an object I could release. This bridge would become the displacement portal.

“What the hell is happening in here?” Dan asked. I heard him. I knew he was next to me in the car and yet he was as far away as a dot of light on the opposite end of a tunnel. “What are you doing?”

I couldn’t answer. In my mind’s eye, I was staring into an opening. I was seeing what was directly in front of me in two frames, the now in one frame and the other now in another. It was the worst case of double vision I could recall. The two frames, the two nows, began to come together. I knew when the two frames became one I would be able to cross into the other now.

I would be able to cross into June 13, 1991.

“You have temporal displacement!” Dan screeched. “You have to stop. We’ll both be killed.”

“I can’t,” I heard myself utter. The white light filling my world, the white object forming around the two frames, they were rapidly coming together, to make one now between two points in time.

“Not here,” Dan said, with authority. The sound of his voice was distant, as if he spoke to me from across a stadium. I could not move. In a far away place that was reality, I felt Dan step on my foot, sending the Dodge across Route 26 onto the unused Old Liberty Road on the other side. The car veered to the right, sending us straight down the old unmaintained road. It would quickly dead end into the Liberty reservoir.

It was all out of my control now. Whatever was happening to me would have to see itself through to the end. The Dodge stopped, probably because Dan stepped on the brake.

I felt the white object with the frames of two time periods move out of my mind and into my space-time in 1977. Inside the Dodge between Dan and me, a bright white light emanated, as if a small bright star sat in the car between us.

It was in fact, a temporal displacement portal to 1991.

The size of the portal grew exponentially, ultimately enveloping the entire vehicle. The sensation of stretching across the coil of time took me completely.

Then it was over.


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