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Displaced I: The Exchange

By Kevin Provance All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure

XVIII - Vivification

“The quality of being active or spirited or alive.”

*

Date: Friday, June 13, 2025

Location: Ocean City, Maryland, Room 13

Age: 35 (Current)

*

I

Ryan breathed out hard in disbelief at Dan’s request for asylum. I suppose it was safe to say no one in the room expected Dan to turn on The Corporation the way he did only to ask the head of the FCA for protection.

Connor, also overcome with disbelief shook his head in confusion. “What just happened here?”

I knelt down next to Krissie’s unconscious body, looking up at Connor. I didn’t want to speak the words I now had to. “It was Martin who abducted Krissie.”

Connor flashed me a nasty look. “No Kevin, I don’t believe that.”

Dan cleared his throat. “Believe it. I was there thirty four years ago when The Exchange fell apart.”

Ryan also shook his head, but not in denial. “I knew it. All the sign were there, Connor. I know how close the two of you are, and it pains me to have to tell you I do believe it was Martin.”

Connor’s posture slouched, as if he had taken a punch to the gut, knocking the breath out of him. I thought for a moment he might break down and cry. He was visibly that hurt. “Why, Ryan? Why would Martin do such a thing?”

“I don’t know. The Corporation must have gotten to him. They’ve done it before Connor, you know this.”

Connor grabbed Dan by the breast of his shirt and slammed him into the wall. “What do you know about this? Tell me!”

“It’s true, they got to him,” Dan said, looking up at Connor. “I don’t know when specifically, except to say I received orders in 1991 to arrive at this location with the captured Victor Merrick. I was to exchange him to the IA for the location of the lost Bruder ship. They knew where it was. Martin Wexler was to appear under the codename ‘Coyote’ since we believed he would not be using his own body. The IA encrypted the location of the ship on a quarter, although the encryption was never part of the original agreement. They were supposed to give me the decryption protocol after Victor arrived here. That never happened, I’m sorry to say. Mr. Merrick decided to take matters into his own hands by stealing the quarter from me and running off with it. We’ve been searching for it ever since, as I am sure you are aware. I didn’t know in 1991 Mr. Merrick would complicate matters, although I did today.”

I didn’t give Connor a chance to reply. “Wait, so you came here today knowing this exchange would fail?”

“Correct, Mr. Provance.”

“Why?” Connor demanded.

“There are bigger things happening now, Mr. Mackenzie, things much bigger than the location of a lost Brüder ship. The Corporation refuses to acknowledge the bigger picture. You see, I’ve learned a few things over the years. You might even say I’ve grown as a human being, as hard as you might find that to believe.” Connor let go of Dan’s shirt, surprised plastered across his face. “Why so surprised, Mr. MacKenzie? At the very least, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a paradox that could rip apart the space-time continuum.”

“Who are the IA, and what do they want with Victor?”

“Why don’t you ask that guy down there,” Dan said pointing to the unconscious IA.

Connor stepped over to the downed man. He knelt down and smacked him repeatedly across the face. Eventually the IA opened his eyes, looking plainly at Connor. “Is that really necessary, Mr. MacKenzie?”

“Who are you? Do you have a name?”

“I am IA #319. I am an Internet Agent, reborn from the Internet Entity.”

Connor squint his eyes in confusion. “The Internet Entity has been self contained. Human controlled agents are a myth.”

“As you can see Mr. MacKenzie, I am no myth.”

Connor stood up, speechless in response. He looked at Ryan for counsel. “We are in 2025 Connor, It’s entirely possible. The myth involves humans who somehow found a way to connect to the Internet after containment, using old activated cell phones, hand held devices, the old telephone system, things of that nature.”

Connor turned his attention back to the IA. “Can you talk to it?”

“Of course.”

“How?”

“Through a series of receivers and transmitters implanted into my brain.”

“No, I mean how do I talk to it?” Connor asked. The IA said nothing, only staring back at Connor with its dead eyes.

“I think I might be able to help with that,” Dan said, casually. Even in his advanced years, the wit never left his tongue.

Connor nodded at Ryan, frustrated by the situation. “Put this guy down, will ya?”

“Yes sir, no problem,” Ryan said, readily shooting a low-level pulse into the IA. He fell unconscious once again.

Connor stepped up to Dan, coming within inches of his face. He grabbed Dan’s suit jacket. “Okay, start talking.”

“First thing’s first, Mr. MacKenzie. I want asylum. If you agree to protect me, I will tell you anything you want to know. This is a one-time offer I’m sure you don’t want to pass up. If The Corporation captures me, then all that information is lost forever.” Dan was a master manipulator, to be sure. He was working Connor to his own benefit.

Connor released his grip on Dan and walked away, stopping only to address Ryan. “What do you think, old friend?”

“Whew, I don’t know Connor. How do we know this isn’t Martin pulling another fast one on you?”

Connor looked back at Dan, relaying the same concern. Dan nodded. “You are right to be paranoid, gentlemen. If you look behind the wall to my right, you will find several devices, one of which is used to confirm soul identity. I know you have similar devices. Please, feel free to use any to confirm I am who I say I am. I am too old to run or give fight. I have surrendered to you. No tricks this time.”

Ryan walked behind the wall at the rear of the room to corroborate Dan’s claim. He returned with the same type of retina-scanning device Robinson and his posse used at Area 51. He also held a device that looked like a pair of reverse goggles attached to an Impüls. Dan allowed Ryan to verify him, as did I to assure Ryan and Connor I was who I claimed to be. Krissie, still unconscious, also reported clean.

I motioned toward the reverse goggle device. “What’s that thing there, Ryan?”

“I suspect it’s a device used to check for soul suppression.”

Dan nodded in confirmation. “You are correct, Mr. Capcoseve. I believe you will find Miss Ecklie is merely in shock and not suppressed.”

Ryan attached the goggles to her face. He looked into a small port on the opposite end of the eye goggles and activated the device. “She’s okay, Connor.”

“So,” Dan said. “May I have asylum?”

Connor looked at me, as if to solicit my opinion. “Thoughts?”

I considered the situation for a moment. “Connor, you told me only a day ago that saving Dan’s life, especially when I didn’t have to, was a compassionate act. You praised me for it suggesting that anyone else in the FCA would have done the same, even you. So I suppose you have to ask yourself, are you indeed a man of your word? You have the opportunity to save Dan’s life from what the Corporation would do to him should they capture him, which is not only the rest of his life, but for all eternity. Is it our place to judge him when the sentence is so extreme? I don’t think it is, even if we believe we have the right. Whatever this layer of energy is that surrounds our planet, where our souls return to when our time here is up, that is where he should go for judgment. If he is to receive judgment for anything he did while on this planet, it will happen there. You and I, we have to live our lives according to what we believe is right, for if we are also to be judged in that same place, then what happens here will count. That’s all I have to say.”

Connor looked back to Dan and said, “Do you see why he saved your life? He’s a decent human being. I’ll follow his example and offer you asylum in exchange for information, everything you know, and a few other conditions about where you will live out the rest of your days, to come later.”

“Agreed,” Dan said, extending his hand. Connor grasped it firmly and shook. “I want you to know something, Mr. MacKenzie. When Kevin saved my life, it started the process of me reevaluating my own.” Dan turned to me and grinned. “Thank you. You don’t owe me one after all.” I opted to say nothing in return.

“Connor,” Ryan said. “There is a computer console back there tool. I think that’s how Dan is communicating with the Internet Entity.”

Dan nodded. Connor looked at me. “You’re a twenty-first century computer user, you come with me.” Ryan took my place next to Krissie. I followed Connor to the other side of the wall where indeed, there was a keyboard and a monitor with the message, ‘#318, 319. Status.’

I looked over the system, and the text on the screen. “If I had to guess based on the blinking cursor on the screen, all you need to do is type in whatever you want to say and the return message will appear on the screen.”

“Okay,” Connor said, studying the keyboard.

“You maybe want to tell me what this is all about?” I asked. “Internet Agents, what does that mean? What is the Internet Entity?”

II

“We used to believe that sometime between 2010 and 2018, it became self aware, the Internet as you know it. But based on the information Ryan brought back after rescuing you, it seems that event might have been as early as 2006. No one knows for sure. It wasn’t until 2018 when the Internet made itself known as a conscious entity. Our top scientists reasoned it took so long for this emergence - or The Awakening as we have come to call it – to occur based on how artificial intelligence works.

“Think about it. When humans are born, we are not clinically self aware until at least four or five years of age. It takes us years to learn language and form ideas. The same is true for artificial intelligence. It isn’t automatically intellectual, with the knowledge of having lived for several years. It has to learn and adapt. We theorized the Internet Entity learned everything it knows from all the material on the Internet at the time. As I’m sure you are aware, quite a bit of if is mostly negative, the information available. Every single piece of information indexed by search engines of the time became those learning tools for it to evolve and adapt. It also controlled every piece of technology tied into it. Cell phones, networks, government computers worldwide, you name it. If a device had Internet capability, it became controlled. For the first time in a very long time, they all became unified, the governments of the world, to combat the threat of the Internet Entity. They worked together to disband the network of backbone computers that formed it. Their efforts came too late. It could hide wherever it wanted to, creating pathways in its own network.

“The world economy crashed, and in the aftermath, two world governments formed, the European Alliance and the Western Alliance. They worked together in cooperation to eliminate all traces of the Internet threat, while rebuilding the world economy based on two currencies instead of multiple ones.”

“By 2020, the FCA in cooperation with the Western Alliance military introduced the HoloLog technology. While it’s normally not part of our directives to interfere with the natural progression of technology, with anything Brüder in origin, we considering the situation and felt it was the only way to solve the problem. Holographic storage and playback doesn’t involve bits or bytes, it would never be obtainable by the Internet Entity. Information is stored as light and energy.

“In 2022, the world governments adopted holographic technology to replace the computer as you know it. We believed the Internet had been contained in its own network, unable to escape from it. It still operated on the principle of pure logic, the now fully conscious Internet, and this was its Achilles heel. It could never compensate for the human factor. Incidentally, the same factor the Brüder did not account for in their experiments. The Internet Entity didn’t have emotions, and in turn, was unable to think like a human.

“The myth of ‘Internet Agents’ started sometime between 2023 and 2025 with the rumor of the Internet escaping its confinement using then antiquated nanotechnology. As the story goes, there was supposedly a breach of the old cellular network, which opened the door for the Internet Entity. This would’ve been no easy task since those networks were inaccessible. Extensive work occurred on a global basis, to ensure this lockdown.

“Now it appears those myths are true. It’s my strong suspicion they had more than a passing interest, The Corporation, in the steps to The Awakening and the appearance of the IAs.”

III

From behind, Dan said, “You are correct on both accounts, Mr. MacKenzie. Although I have no details about that particular project, as I was not involved. That’s how it works in The Corporation; one is told only what they need to know.”

Connor shot him a disgusted look. “It seems The Corporation’s pet project grew a mind of its own and turned on them, history repeating itself. It certainly explains why the Internet Entity has never had access to or been able to recreate the HoloLog protocol.”

Dan nodded. “I would agree with that assessment.”

“So why did they want Victor Merrick instead of those protocols?”

“I was told he was to be involved with the final phase of The Awakening,” Dan said. “If you’re going to ask me what that means, then I’ll tell you right now, I don’t know. Our interested was in was the location of the lost Bruder ship.”

I looked at Connor and asked, “Is he talking about Bruder-4?”

“I think so.”

Dan nodded. “That’s what the FCA calls it. The Corporation wants it because—“

Connor finished Dan’s sentence. “—of the gravity drive. What better way to get back in touch with the Brüder home world.”

Dan nodded once more. “Exactly.”

It was Connor’s turn to offer up a smug grin. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news Dan, but we already have possession of Brüder-4.”

Dan appeared surprised at Connor’s admission. His facial expression said, ‘Oh, do you now? Interesting’ “Well now, I certainly didn’t see that coming. I would have to deduce you’ve not yet used the ship since The Corporation still exists.”

“No comment,” Connor said, flatly. He turned to me and motioned towards the computer monitor. “What do you think we should reply to this message about the status?”

What I wanted to tell Connor was my impression of Dan’s expression. It sent up a major red flag, and I didn’t know why. Instead, I said, “You could pretend you are the other IA.”

Connor pondered this idea. “You do it.”

“Me?” I asked, surprised.

“I trust you. See what you can find out.”

I sighed. I was going to have to form my replies like Mr. Spock, all logic and no emotion.

I typed, #319 damaged in conflict. Advise.

#319 OFFLINE.

#318 NO SIGNAL.

STATUS?

I said, “I’m guessing it wants to know why it cannot see the other IA, the one who didn’t come back with us.”

Dan said, “He’s dead. When Connor closed the displacement portal, the IA left behind in 1991 lost contact with the Internet Entity, as it doesn’t exist in 1991. He collapsed during our chase with Victor and eventually died.”

I typed, #318 missing in 1991, #319 damaged. Cannot receive or transmit. Advise.

VICTOR MERRICK. STATUS?

“Oh shit,” I said, softly. “I think it wants to know if the IA has custody of Victor.”

Connor said, “Tell it you have him.”

I looked at him, befuddled. “Are you serious?”

“Maybe we can figure out what it wants with him.”

I typed, Victor Merrick acquired. Stable.

Connor addressed Dan, “I know you recaptured Victor and captured a man by the name of O’Bryan VonWald, mistaking him for Kevin. I want to know, why Kevin? And what happened to Victor?”

Connor knew the answer to that last question. He crashed in 1981 after the incident involving my ignorance of how to use the temporal displacement portal. The Brüder pilot made off with Victor, and to date no one knows what happened to either of them. I guess Connor was testing Dan, to see if he would speak the truth.

“We recaptured Victor, but he carried the wrong quarter. One of my agents witnessed Victor accidentally running into Kevin’s nineteen year old counterpart, and his girlfriend.”

I scoffed. “That would be the guy who looked back at me, giving me that creepy look.”

“Yes,” Dan said. “He thought you might have been involved in a covert exchange, and that you had the quarter. I ordered you captured. We got the wrong guy. Your friends took you to the hospital and we lost track of you.”

I looked at Connor. “When Victor crashed into us, I had a handful of coins that flew into the air and landing all around us. Victor took as many as he could before running. The only quarter I recovered I used in the horoscope scroll dispenser.”

I know,” Dan said. “We checked that machine. The quarter was not there.”

Connor asked, “And Victor? What became of him?”

“I don’t know,” Dan said. “They were ordered to return to our base in Baltimore. We lost contact with the ship over Carroll County and never heard from them again. Victor, the ship and our pilot disappeared into thin air.”

I looked at Connor and grinned. He and I knew what happened. Dan was there too, although he would not remember it. He was too busy recovering at the walk-in clinic by Carrolltowne Mall where his Corporation friends eventually picked him up.

“What about the quarter?” I asked Dan. “Did you ever find it?”

“No, we didn’t. When was the first time you saw it?”

I looked at Connor for permission to answer. He nodded. “In 2006. I had lunch at a mall in Florida. The quarter must have been in that change. I noticed it when I picked it up after it fell off the table.”

Dan seemed confused. “So someone else found the quarter and it remained hidden in the monetary system for fifteen years? Then it just happened to turn up for you as change in a completely different state? What are the statistical chances of that happening?”

“Astronomical,” Connor said. “But I see your point, Dan. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence either, considering everything that has happened since he was a small boy, Kevin here.”

The computer beeped. #319, STATUS.

I typed #319 damaged. Unable to transmit or receive. Advise. Request orders for Victor Merrick.

The monitor read, KEEP VICTOR MERRICK ALIVE AND SAFE. TRANSPORT HIM TO BUBBLE ROOM ON CAPTIVA ISLAND, FLORIDA FOR EVALUATION.

“Interesting,” I said.

Connor looked up from the monitor. “How so?”

“Well first, it’s in Florida where I will probably still be living. Second, Captiva Island is far far out of the way. Only a hand full of really rich folk live out there and it’s a tourist attraction during snowbird season.”

Connor looked at Dan for what he knew. “It doesn’t mean anything to me, Mr. MacKenzie.”

Then this message appeared. #319 CONNECT TO MODEM FOR DIAGNOSTIC.

Connor shook his head. “I don’t think so. How do we disconnect?”

I looked underneath the table. A standard Ethernet cable ran from the computer to the wall. With a huge yank, I pulled the cable out, breaking the connection. “That should do it, as long at the IA in the other room doesn’t wake up and start transmitting again.”

The three of us returned to the other wide of the wall where Krissie was fighting her way out of unconsciousness. “Where am I?” She asked in that intoxicating British accent. “What happened?”

I answered her. “Martin displaced into your body for a little while. He forced us to take him here, June of 2025. He’s gone now. How do you feel? Can you stand?”

Krissie slowly made her way to her feet. “I feel as if I’ve had a rather long nap actually. I don’t remember a bloody thing.”

“I’ll tell you about it later,” I said. “Can you walk? We probably need to bug out of here soon.”

Krissie surveyed the room, immediately noticing the downed Corporation agents and the IA. “Are these men okay?”

Dan answered, “They’ve been stunned. They’ll be fine.”

Connor regained his composure and took charge of the situation. “Okay, we need to go. That IA guy comes too. Let’s go, people.”

IV

Even in my post-sick state, Connor requested I drive the limo due to my driving experience and familiarity with the locale.

“What’s with the sparse population?” I asked to whoever would reply.

Connor answered. “Things work a little differently now that the country operates under the Western Alliance. They are no more, The U.S. Government, and the Constitution. The Alliance drafted something similar in its place, but as both Alliances were The Corporation in sheep’s clothing, they rewrote a lot of laws to benefit the rich. With no more borders between Mexico and Canada, we became one large country. Herds of poor from the former Mexico saturated what used to be America, and the new government kept them on a leash with entitlements, keeping them poor and dependant. When that happened, the ‘middle class’ disappeared.”

“Okay, but how does that relate to my question?”

“Most people can’t afford beach vacations. Beach towns now cater strictly to the rich. Law enforcement…” Connor stumbled, clearly upset, “…the job, my former profession, they now have the right to ask for ‘proof of class’. It’s a government issued ID documenting ones class, based on how much one makes. The laws now, the upper class has a subset, and the lower class has a subset. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to whose are better.”

“Bullshit!” I said, letting the anger I felt slip out. I was pissed. “We used to joke about such things when I became an adult, at how unfair it was celebrities and bankers could commit crimes and get off scot free, because of who they were and how much money the had.”

Ryan, who had nothing to say for the longest time chimed in. “It became a reality. I told you Kevin, you don’t want any part of my world. After the war, it gets worse. Much worse.”

Connor continued. “Law enforcement typically doesn’t stop folks to ask for proof of class, unless it’s obvious, by profiling.”

“Ugh,” I said. “That might have helped when terrorism was a problem, but profiling based on income? Fuck that.”

Dan chuckled, slightly. Connor looked over his shoulder, annoyed. “Something amuse you, Daniel?”

“Mr. Provance mentioned terrorism. You must know by now Mr. MacKenzie, The Corporation controlled the terrorists of his day. A ruse, if you will, for the government of the time to begin removing freedoms under the guise of security. Remember the Transportation Security Administration? The Department of Homeland Defense? The Patriot Act? All were Corporation initiatives to control the general public.”

Connor shook his head in disgust. “I suspected as much. Everything that came to pass after the Twin Towers in New York fell eventually leads to the government of this time.”

“And now, only the rich can afford to be here. I guess that does answer my question.” I said under my breath. I felt sick, and consequently stopped asking Connor questions. I didn’t want to know anymore. America in 2025 is no longer the America in which I grew up.

Dan shrugged his shoulders. “Why do you think I requested a limousine for this operation? Anything less could have given local law enforcement a reason to stop us. Such a thing would have made my job just a bit more difficult.”

“At least the air is clean,” Ryan added. “And the sky is blue. All of those things you take for granted will disappear forever in about seven years. That’s my world, Dan. You should stop by sometime.”

“I’ve been there,” Dan said, with actual empathy. “I’ll pass on your offer, Mr. Capcoseve. I have no desire to return there. Ever.”

Ryan didn’t look convinced. Dan’s revelation didn’t jive with what I knew of The Corporation. “How is that possible? The Corporation doesn’t have temporal displacement, right?”

“That’s right,” Connor said. “But they had the ability to spiritually displace the souls of others and send them to other points in the space-time continuum.” I glanced at Connor briefly, eyebrows raised. This was new information to me. “They don’t anymore. Robert, Martin, and I saw to that.” Connor looked at Dan. “Is that how The Corporation recruited you? They snapped your soul up at some point, ending up in 2065, if I had to guess. They found something useful in you after your recovery and sent you back to whenever they took you.”

Dan slapped his hands on his knees, nodding and grinning. “You are exactly right, Mr. MacKenzie. Upon return, I spent most of my life searching for the candidate who would complete The Awakening and making The Exchange.”

Connor shook his head in amazement. “All based on information from the future.”

“Correct, Mr. MacKenzie. I realize that violates just about every one of your Temporal Protocols. What can I say? I was following orders.”

I scoffed in amusement. “The Nuremberg defense didn’t exonerate the surviving Nazi’s either, as I recall.” Connor smirked, letting a chuckle slip across his lips. Dan said nothing in retort. He stared back at me through the rearview mirror, nodding. Whether in defiance or agreement, I couldn’t tell.

V

Returning to the heavily guarded Assateague Island under the guise of Dan’s prisoners passed without incident. He ordered the remaining guards standing watch outside of Brüder-2 to the posts, leaving the ship and our activity there unmonitored.

Inside, Connor reinstalled the ship’s HoloLog operating system, bringing her back to life. Once secured, Ryan piloted the ship high into Earth’s atmosphere.

In the interest of security, Connor ordered Dan and the IA restrained to their seats. With more pressing matters at hand, the last thing he needed to worry about was the trouble they could cause. Connor took his place in the copilot’s seat. “Do we have enough power to get back to FCA-1?”

Ryan tapped at the holographic interface. After a few moments, a read out gave him the answer. “The ship was able to recharge enough to give us full life support provided we keep the engines at fifty percent or lower. That’s the trade off.”

Connor sighed. “We need to displace back to 2095 while in Earth orbit or our trip will be much longer.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

“I need to know exactly how much time has passed since we last displaced, down to the minute please. Since we don’t have our statistic team to double-check our arithmetic, it’ll have to do. That’s when I’ll take us back.”

With Ryan’s free hand, he tapped in the data and awaited the reply. “Two hours and seventeen minutes.”

I whistled at Ryan’s calculation. “It seems longer than that.”

Ryan nodded. “I told you time is a fickle bitch.”

“Yeah, I guess you did.”

Connor turned around, facing Krissie. “Check your coat pocket, there should be TS-14 in there. Give Dan and the IA a dose.”

To Krissie’s surprise, she pulled out the injector. “How did this get here?”

I shifted an uncomfortable glance to the injector. “While Martin had control over you, he used it to keep me hostage. He injected me with it a few times. Twice, I think.”

Horror stretched across Krissie’s face. “No! He did not!”

Connor nodded in agreement, still pissed over the betrayal. “He did. I was worried about him for a little while. Dan gave him something to balance him out.”

Krissie looked at Dan. “Is this true? What was it?”

“Good old fashioned Methadone,” Dan said. “Your TS-14 medication is still opioid based, I’m guessing.”

“Indeed,” Krissie said. She turned to me. “I am so sorry about putting you through that.”

“It wasn’t your fault. You weren’t in control.”

“Still, Martin had access to my knowledge of medicine and knew exactly what he was doing. I feel partially responsible.”

“Well, don’t,” I said, insistent. “I’m fine.”

Even with guilt written all over her face, she gently took mine in her hands and kissed me on the mouth. “I promise, I will make this up to you,” she whispered. I had no reply. I was shocked.

Krissie stood up. She injected Dan and the IA with doses of TS-14. It would keep them from succumbing to the nastier side effects of temporal displacement. She returned to her seat and took my hand. “All set.”

Ryan pointed toward the view screen. “I’ve put us in the highest orbit possible to avoid all the space junk.”

“Let’s do it,” Connor said, closing his eyes.

Outside the ship, the familiar bright star of the temporal displacement threshold exploded into existence, reaching double the size of the ship. Ryan guided us forward, darting directly into the center.


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