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Displaced I: The Exchange

By Kevin Provance All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure

XVI - Foreordination

“To determine or appoint beforehand; predestine.”

*

Date: Friday, June 13, 2025

Location: Bruder-2, in flight

Age: 35 (Current)

*

I

The stretching sensation normally associated with moving through the portal was lesser this time. It seemed each trip through became less traumatic. I chalked it up to the overdose of TS-14 in my system. The sick sensation of augmented euphoria disappeared once we were through, leaving me feeling considerably better and more coherent. The Earth, which had been prominent in the background of the view port, was now much farther away. Connor opened his eyes and nodded at Ryan. The ship pushed forward, gaining speed at an astronomical rate. As it had when I first flew aboard this ship, the surrounding hull rippled into a near transparent state, allowing us to experience flight through open space. The sensation of flying through space at least a quarter the speed of light was exhilarating. Amusement park roller coasters from this point forward would pale in comparison.

It dawned on me that ‘Krissie’ didn’t suffer from temporal sickness. I wondered if it was because the soul controlling her trained to tolerate it, or if Krissie herself trained to endure it. The host body seemed to take on traits of the soul, evident by Krissie’s loss of British accent. I had to believe whoever controlled Krissie had some kind of preparation to deal with the side effects of temporal displacement.

Ryan turned to address ‘Krissie’. “As I feared, it’s going to take us at least fifty minutes to reach Earth orbit. It’s not because of the distance. Temporal displacement took a toll on the ship’s power source. I can only get ninety percent efficiency from the Ion drive.”

‘Krissie’ appeared agitated. “Ryan, the ship’s engine is holographic. It’s incapable of flaws. Disable all the shit we’re not using to make up for the power loss.”

Connor interjected, “If you know this ship as well as you think you do, you’d know it doesn’t work that way.”

‘Krissie’ thrust the injector sharply into my neck, suggesting Connor not challenge authority. “I never claimed to know the inner workings of this ship, MacKenzie. What I do know is that holographically generated engines cannot fail or suffer from break downs as they are nothing more than projections of light and energy, so it should be very possible to make it so it runs better.”

Connor glared back with hard, unforgiving eyes. “We could prolong the use of available air by using the life support packs. Three of us consuming resources from the packs will save on the ship’s resources and maybe buy us another fifteen or twenty minutes.”

“I agree. Put yours on, MacKenzie.” Krissie turned to me. “You too.”

Connor nodded in my direction. “Just do what I do, Kevin. It’s not complicated.”

‘Krissie’ had hers on in no time flat. Another indication that whoever controlled her knew exactly what they were doing. I mimicked Connor’s actions, gearing up and starting the life support pack. Indeed, it was a simple thing to do. The device was nothing at all similar to scuba gear. The small backpack, once harnessed to the shoulders contained a rod extending to the height of the head. Once activated, an unseen energy field encompassed the entire head, with the backpack supplying the oxygen. Ryan was the only one left without any life support backup. For the first time since I became a hostage in this situation, I was pissed. Ryan should not be doing without. I looked up and gave ‘Krissie’ a hard glare. She met my glance, but said nothing. She looked back toward the front of the ship.

As the minutes ticked by, the Earth grew larger in the viewport. If one stared at it long enough, one could see it grow in size as we approached. ‘Krissie’ demanded silence, unless an update from the ship required attention.

After a half an hour of life sucking silence and boredom, an indicator flashed on the flight panel. Connor inspected it for a moment. He turned to ‘Krissie’. “The engine is down to eighty-eight percent efficiency. We are running the risk of none of us surviving this trip.”

“How so?” ‘Krissie’ asked.

“Life support in the ship will run out. The life support packs will run out as well. If we can’t breathe, the ship will enter Earth orbit with four corpses. See the problem?”

“Divert more power to the engine then,” Krissie’s captor demanded.

Connor sighed. “I already told you, it doesn’t work that way. Yes, it’s holographic, the Ion drive. It doesn’t draw actual power from the ship’s power source. The holographic generator is what draws power. Our displacement messed with the power supply. There’s only so much power to feed into the program that operates the engine.”

“Can you fool it into forcing more power to the engine?”

“Not that I know of,” Connor replied in frustration, turning back to the flight panel.

“Fine,” ‘Krissie’ said, nonchalantly. She pushed the injector into my neck and deployed another shot of the medication.

“Fuck!” I gasped, tossing my head back.

Connor whipped around and stood up. His defiant stance earned me the injector pressed so hard into my neck that it should have hurt. After that last burst, I felt no pain at all. Connor clenched his fists and hissed, “Why did you do that?”

“Consider it a motivational tool,” ‘Krissie’ said, calmly. “I simply won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, MacKenzie.”

“Well, let me enlighten you then,” Connor snapped. “To make any changes to it, the programming of the ship’s operating system, I would need access to the original ship’s engine and a HoloProgrammer, neither of which we have on board. I’m not telling you ‘no’ to deceive you, I’m telling you that right now at this point in space and time, it can’t be done.”

“So you are telling me ‘no’, correct?” Connor didn’t answer. “Well let me clarify for you, MacKenzie. Any answer that doesn’t explain how to make this ship move faster will get your boy here another shot. Do you understand?”

“I do.”

“I’ll ask you again, are you telling me ‘no’?”

Connor’s lips trembled. “Maybe I have an idea. It’s never been tested, so the result would be in question.”

‘Krissie’ gave Connor a suspicious look. “So you’re saying there is something we can try to fix the power problem?”

“Yes,” Connor said, returning to his seat at the flight panel.

“Very good, MacKenzie,” ‘Krissie’ said, grinning. “I knew you’d be able to think outside the box.”

Connor looked at Ryan, who waited for Connor to share his idea. “We could disengage the fail safes on the HoloEmitter.”

Ryan’s widened as he gasped in disbelief. “Are you serious?”

‘Krissie’ spoke up, “What does that mean, ‘disengage the fail safes’. I’ve never heard of that before.”

Connor turned to face ‘Krissie’, “Are you familiar with a Level-10 HoloEmitter?”

“I am.”

“Then you know at any given time, only one out of the ten available is in operation to read the HoloLog core, the scanners. In the event of a failed module, the other nine remain powered up, ready to take its place. As exceptionally rare as it is, it’s happened before. If we bypass the safety protocols for the HoloEmitter and power down the other nine scanning modules, running on only the one, the power saved would convert into energy for the Ion drive program. In theory, we should get better engine efficiency.”

Ryan shook his head in defiance. “If the one operating scanner fails, the entire holographic system goes down and we all die. No air, no gravity, no heat, no nothing. Instant death.”

‘Krissie’ looked around at all our faces, even mine in its state of trying to keep conscious. “This is the only solution we have? Couldn’t we just turn off half of those scanners?”

“We could,” Connor said. “But it wouldn’t be enough power to get the engine back to the level it needs to be, in the mid nineties.

“Understood. How long until we need to make these adjustments?”

Ryan looked at the ship’s readout. “As soon as we came out of the displacement portal.”

“Okay,” ‘Krissie' said under her breath, contemplating the next course of action.

I sat there, eyes half closed, looking back and forth between the Earth on the view panel and Ryan. I felt like a stoned drug addict. I really wanted to go to sleep again, but curiosity over our current situation kept me awake. I wanted to know what was going on. Beyond that, I had a nagging feeling should I fall asleep I might never wake up.

Several minutes passed until ‘Krissie’ finally spoke. “Okay, do it.”

“Understood,” Connor said. He began preparations from his flight panel and an additional panel on the wall to his right.

Ryan sighed, lips pressed together in anger. “Connor, this is a bad idea. This ship was in storage for decades. What if the number one module fails?”

“I guess we’ll find out,” Connor said. “Trust me, old friend. Please? I am going to need you help with this.”

“Yes sir.” Ryan returned to his pilot’s position, making course corrections as we approached Earth.

'Krissie' waved her free hand in Connor’s direction to get his attention, “How long is this going to take?”

“Not long,” Connor said, making lightning fast adjustments on the flight panel. “Berechnen, deaktivieren HoloEmitter Sicherheit Protokolle, zwei bis zehn.”

Nothing visible or audible happened at first. After a few seconds, the hum of the Ion drive picked up, thrusting the ship faster.

'Krissie' peered over Ryan's shoulder. “Did that do it? Was it enough?”

Ryan studied the readout on the panel, considering the data. “Yes, but not by much. The less we talk the less oxygen we waste.”

“Okay,” 'Krissie' said. “No more chatter until we reach Earth, barring any other emergencies.”

With that, I finally let myself succumb to the blackness that beckoned. For good or bad, I could no longer maintain consciousness.

II

The sound of the soft ocean waves breaking on the shoreline fill my world. A pleasant sound, taking me back to my childhood when we would spend our summer vacations in Ocean City. I open my eyes to the beautiful sight of sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. The inlet beach of Ocean City is completely devoid of other people. I stand upon it. Off in the distance the sound of the buoy air horn completes the ambience.

“Kevin.” Wald. I turn and see my friend looking disheveled, out of sorts.

“You look like shit, dude,” I say.

Wald half grins and nods. “I feel like shit, thanks for noticing.”

“What's the matter with you?”

“I could ask you the same,” Wald replies in his cryptic manner.

“I don't remember,” I say, closing my eyes and rubbing my forehead. “It's all so hazy. I'm just happy to be here. This is my Happy Place you know.”

“Indeed, I do.”

“Well, now how’s that?” I ask. “Nobody knows this is where I go when it all feels so hopeless, nobody.”

Wald throws his head back and laughs. “You still don't get it, do you? I am you.”

“Is that why you look like you've been hit by a truck?”

“Or maybe I was drugged up against my will by a mad man who stole that hot red head's body. You know the one I'm talking about.”

I have to think about this for a moment, staring off out at the point where the sky meets the ocean. “Yeah, I remember that, I think. How did that end? I don't remember.”

“It hasn't,” Wald admits, frowning. “You have to go back, you know.”

“No,” I say immediately, panicked. “I'm so tired, man. That shit Krissie pumped into me sucks. It's making me sick.”

“I know it is, brother. You have to fight it and hold on just a little while longer.”

“I can't, you have no idea how bad it is.”

“No Kev, I do know. I also know things you don't, or can't remember.”

“Like what?”

“Sorry dude, I'm not allowed to say.”

The voice of my high school girlfriend, Christina Buchanan, fills the air, originating from far away.

(do you love me, kevin?)

(Yes, I love you, Christina) I hear my echo reply.

I am pissed. “Then why did you bring it up, fucker?” I ask Wald.

“Because, soon you will need to remember, you are going to remember, and then it's all going to make sense. Until then, you have to hold on and fight what is happening to you.”

I sigh, taking in the beauty of my Happy Place. “I love it here. I wish I could stay here, all the time, forever.”

“Why don’t you then?”

“I don’t know. It’s not my time yet, I guess.”

“That is true though, Kev. It’s not your time yet. When your time does come, why not come here? Be at peace.”

“Maybe,” I say. “Maybe.”

The ground starts to shake. Off in the distance a fiery streak blazes across the sky, as if a meteor or a craft is reentering the atmosphere. “What's happening?”

Wald is gone. The ground is shaking so hard now I cannot stand up straight.

III

It took a massive effort to open my eyes. Sick euphoria and the vertigo it caused filled my world. The ship shook violently. We appeared to be flying through fire. I should have be scared, but at that moment I didn’t give a damn. I felt too lousy.

“What's happening?” I managed to ask through slurred words.

Connor looked over. “We're entering the planet's atmosphere. Its okay, this is normal.”

“I don't feel good,” I said. “Can you give me something to make me feel better?”

“No,” 'Krissie' said.

“Fuck you then,” I said under my breath. “You're a prick.”

'Krissie' scoffed. “If you want to blame someone, blame your friend Connor. One way or another, it's his fault were all in this mess.”

I scoffed in return, barely. “He didn't poison me, you did.”

'Krissie' ignored me. She directed her attention to Connor. “I know I don't have to tell you to stealth our presence here, do I?”

“No,” Connor said, with a hint of an attitude. “You need to tell me where we’re going. Since this ship has no transporter program, we’ll have to land.”

“That’s the plan. Thirty-eight degrees latitude and negative seventy-five longitude.”

Connor entered information into the flight panel. The ship changed course, but not before the color drained from Connor’s face. His eyes met mine, lips pursed in concern.

“What?” I asked.

Instead of answering me, he directed his inquiry to ‘Krissie’. “Ocean City, Maryland?”

“That’s right,” ‘Krissie’ said. “Do you know the area?”

“I’ve been there, in my youth,” Connor replied.

“Do you remember the island preserve off the inlet?”

“Assateague State Park, across the channel from the inlet parking lot.”

“Very good,” ‘Krissie’ said, grinning.

I wondered briefly if I was still dreaming. “Wait,” I managed to say. “Why Ocean City, in – um, what’s the date?”

Ryan looked at the control panel. “Berechnen, sync uhr.” Data flashed across his screen. “Friday, June 13, 2025. 5:05 PM.”

I forced myself to look up at ‘Krissie’. “Why Ocean City at the start of the summer season? Where the hell do you think you can land this thing and not attract attention?”

“Don’t worry about it, Kevin,” ‘Krissie’ said. “We’ve been planning this for so long, every contingency we could think of has been taken into account.” She looked at Connor. “Roll a fog bank over the island, the inlet too. That should be enough cover to land once the ship comes out of stealth.”

Ryan looked around to ‘Krissie’. “You want me to land right there in the middle of that island, just like that?”

‘Krissie’ shot Ryan a look of surprise, as if he was stupid. “Um, yes Ryan. The Corporation has already blocked off the entire section of beach on the north end as a biohazard in preparation for our landing. Agents posing as the EPA are guarding the island. There’s only one road on and off the island. It’s closed and we control it. No one will be there, except us.”

Connor did his fog magic with the control panel. The ship flew into it, slowing down enough to deactivate its stealth. The interior returned to its holographic covered black shell. Ryan circled the area once, bring the ship to a hover above the taped off section of the beach. Corporation agents approached the ship as she set down.

With the ship secured and powered down, Connor stood up and left the cockpit. ‘Krissie’ watched him walk away toward the back of this ship, visibly flabbergasted. “Where do you think you’re going?” Connor did not answer. “Mackenzie!”

Ryan gave the German command to open the ship’s entrance. Immediately after, Connor did something in the back causing the holographic interfaces of the ship to disappear. Ryan covertly removed the flat key used to activate the ship. He slid it into his pocket as ‘Krissie’ obsessed over Connor’s actions. He returned to the cockpit area holding the ship’s operating system HoloLog. “If you think I am leaving it here, this ship, for your guys to steal, think again.”

‘Krissie’ laughed and shook her finger at Connor. “They don’t want this ship, MacKenzie. You have nothing to worry about.”

This ship?

Connor grinned, shaking his head. “I’d rather not take any chances, if it’s all the same to you.”

Two armed men in black suits stepped up to the opened entrance. The first agent addressed ‘Krissie’. “Are you The Coyote?”

“I am. Feel free to scan me.”

The second agent brought forth a different type of retinal scanning device, although its function remained the same. ‘Krissie’ passed the test. The agents lowered their weapons.

“No,” ‘Krissie’ said to the first guard. She removed the injector from my neck. “You keep your weapon trained on this one at all times, mid level pulse intensity. Shoot only if I tell you too.”

It was a relief to have that nasty injector off my neck. I wasn’t sure what a ‘mid level intensity’ pulse would feel like, but it had to be better than overdosing on TS-14.

The second agent stepped forward. “Do you have Connor McKenzie?”

‘Krissie’ pointed to Connor and nodded. “As long as you keep Kevin there under threat of fire, he and his friend won’t do a thing.”

“Understood,” the agent said. “Shall we go?

The two agents directed us to a waiting stretch limousine. We made the trip off the island and into Ocean City in silence, per ‘Krissie’s’ order. The town seemed nearly deserted. Very few people walked the sidewalks. I remembered Ocean City as a much busier place, especially in the summer months. The year 2025 didn’t look much different from the world I knew in 2006. It was difficult to imagine that in a short seven years from this point in time, humanity would be all but gone. The limo turned right onto 21st street, stopping at the dead end in front of the boardwalk. Cheap rental units sat on opposite end of the road.

“We’re here,” ‘Krissie’ said. “It’s the building to the right, room thirteen, let’s go.”

We walked, single file to the door of unit thirteen. Connor assisted me while one of the Corporation agents walked directly behind me to keep his Impüls out of public view. I looked out onto the beach I hadn’t seen in almost thirteen years. I longed for the simpler time this place represented. I inhaled deep, savoring the salty beach air. The sparsely populated boardwalk caught my attention as we rounded the shoddy gate work surrounding the building. There were so few people around. The first agent broke my thoughts as he flipped open his communicator. “We’re here. Please open the door.”

The door to unit thirteen opened. The sizable room appeared gutted of all separating walls all the walls, save for one at the back of the room. Two other men stood off to the left, awaiting our arrival. These two were different. They didn’t look like Corporation agents. Instead of black suits, they wore white buttoned shirts underneath black vests. The ruffles covering the shirt buttons stopped at the collar, under a collar amulet. I couldn’t get a decent look at the intricate artwork encompassing it. The only thing I could see were the letters I and A. Victor mentioned these mysterious people. He called them the IAs. They were reminiscent of the ‘agent programs’ from The Matrix with their mannerisms. The two IA moved a large sofa from the middle of the room to the right wall revealing a faded red square painted on the floor.

A black suited elderly man walked around the corner of the rearmost wall of the room. He had to be the oldest Corporation agent I’d seen to date. I’d wager he was pushing eighty, at least. He stopped short of the two waiting IA, surveying the situation. When his glance fell upon me, he shook his head in disgust. “You injected him, didn’t you?” He asked, firing off a mean glare toward ‘Krissie’.

“I had no choice. MacKenzie wasn’t being cooperative.”

The elderly man scoffed. “I doubt that.”

He walked up to me and raised my lowered head with his hand, observing my half-conscious state. “Are you okay, Kevin?”

He knew me. How was that possible? “I’ve felt better,” I managed to say. He seemed familiar to me, but due to the never-ending vertigo, I couldn’t get a solid look at him.

“I’m sure you have.” He reached into his suit jacket and withdrew another injection device.

Connor stepped forward in authority. “What is that?”

“Something to bring your friend a little stability,” the elder man replied. “I was concerned something like this might happen. I assure you, it’s quite safe.”

True to this man’s word, when he injected me in the neck, the vertigo disappeared. I didn’t feel completely recovered, but certainly felt much better.

“Thank you,” I said with a nod.

“Now it’s you who owes me,” the elderly man whispered to me. I squinted in uncertainty.

“What?” I asked. “Do I know you?”

Connor nodded at the old man. “I think this is our old friend Dan.”

I saw it then, like a puzzle piece snapping into place. Standing before me was The Corporation mouthpiece Daniel Wilson, still alive and kicking in 2025.

“Connor is indeed correct,” Dan said, giving Connor a gratuitous nod.

The first IA stepped forward, addressing Dan. “We are ready when you are.” Dan turned to ‘Krissie’ and nodded.

Krissie in turn stepped in front of Connor. “Step into the rectangle.” He did as instructed, without question. She then pulled me into the rectangle with her. The Corporation agent assigned to watch me joined us. Lastly, the second IA stepped in.

‘Krissie’ looked at Dan. “Aren’t you coming?”

“Sorry. I must remain here.”

Connor looked to Dan, then back at ‘Krissie’. “What is this all about?”

“I want you to take us to June 13, 1991, seven o’clock in the evening, exactly. Once we’re there I want you to keep the portal open.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Whoever abducted Krissie was asking Connor to take us to the very night, the very hour The Corporation abducted Wald. This was no coincidence, whatever was about to happen was going to tie this whole thing together. I looked at Connor who was already looking at me. He had this ability to speak sentences merely by the look he gave you. In this case, what Connor said was very clear. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t say a fucking thing. This is no paradox. This has to happen.

Connor looked back to ‘Krissie’. “If you want it to remain open while you’re on the other side, the portal, then I can’t go through. You should know this if you know anything about me or the FCA.”

‘Krissie’ appeared caught off guard. “Why?”

“I control the portal. If I cross through, it must be closed or it becomes unstable.”

Dan switched his glance to ‘Krissie’. “He’s not lying. That’s how it works.” Dan paused, and looked at me. “I speak from experience.”

‘Krissie’ sighed in frustration, rubbing her temples. “Fine, so be it. Dan, I want your men to stay behind to keep MacKenzie and Ryan honest. I’ll take Kevin with me to insure the portal stays open. MacKenzie won’t risk anything happening to him.”

Dan stepped up to ‘Krissie’, coming within inches of her face. He looked deadly serious. “No more injections. We’re not in the business of killing.”

“Well what do you suggest I do, use harsh language?”

Dan took the Impuls rifle from the first Corporation agent and thrust it into ‘Krissie’s’ hands. “Low intensity only. Now get on with it.”

The Corporation agent assigned to watch me stepped out of the red rectangle and positioned himself to observe Connor and Ryan. Connor stepped out as well and sat on the old sofa. He closed his eyes, beginning the task of opening the displacement portal. The bright star like anomaly appeared before us, within the designated area. The twilight effect filled the room, dimming it considerably. ‘Krissie’ grabbed my arm and the arm of the IA. She walked us into the heart of the bright white light.

IV

Four men awaited on the other side. There was a slight shift in our positioning as we stepped through. We literally took a step down to compensate for the difference. The room was newer and brighter, even though it was late in the day. The painted red lines on the floor were no longer faded.

I immediately recognized a significantly younger Dan, flanked by two Corporation agents. One of the agents held the arm of an older teenage boy, clearly a prisoner.

A look of horror flashed over ‘Krissie’s’ face when she saw the teenage boy. “Victor?” She asked, in a small trembling voice. Victor expressed confusion, not recognizing the woman who addressed him. Forgetting about keeping the Impuls rifle trained on me, she stepped forward and pointed the weapon at Dan. The remaining Corporation agent raised his weapon in retaliation. “You never said anything about this exchange involving Victor Merrick! Did you kidnap him? Have you been holding him all this time?”

Dan remained unfazed by it all, smiling that creepy shit-eating grin I remembered from our first encounter in 1977. “You’re right on time, Martin. Welcome back.”


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