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Displaced I: The Exchange

By Kevin Provance All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure

XXII - Perspicacity

“Keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration.”

*

Date: Friday, October 13, 2006

Location: Area 51 (ES-5), Groom Lake, Nevada

Age: 35 (Current)

*

I

I woke up on my back, head rolled to the right. The din of commotion around me seemed far away, similar to a lone piano player in an empty concert hall. I blinked my eyes several times to bring reality into focus.

Shh, calm us friend. Dying cynic dimmer, we see Earth shinin’!

I stared back at my lifeless body, it’s eyes half closed and glazed over, just as Manyette’s had been before I felt myself slip out of my body in a tunnel of hazy blue light. Krissie frantically worked over my abdomen, where I took a bullet. Connor held onto my head, speaking urgently to Krissie. Jim carefully pulled the blue element ring off my body’s finger and slid it into his pocket.

Now I understood. Connor was correct. I didn’t die. Jim transferred the spiritual displacement element into my body so I could escape it before it died. This was the blue haze I could still see and feel.

As reality seeped back into my consciousness, the immediate quandary of the situation set in. If I was witnessing the death of my body in Connor’s arms, from where exactly was I watching?

I sat up. The excruciating pain of a massive headache and several sharp but stationary pains in the middle of my chest let me know they were undeniably present. I looked at my hands, flipping them over, back and forth. When I reached up to touch my face, I didn’t recognize the curves and angles I’d known for thirty-five years. A look down revealed I was now wearing black military fatigues, complete with a set of ribbons over my left breast.

“What the fuck?” I said, slapping my hand over my mouth. The voice I’d lived with since my earliest memories of childhood was no longer there; the voice I used to tell my son, my parents, and the woman who recently threw me out of her life I loved them was gone. It was not my voice.

It was the voice of Christopher Manyette.

Quandary solved. I was inside and dominating Manyette’s body. If this was true, then what the hell happened to Manyette?

“Connor,” I called out. He looked over at me as Krissie attempted to stabilize the wound with what little she had.

“I’m a little busy Chief, can it wait?”

“I’m not Chief Manyette,” I said. “It’s me – Kevin.”

Connor appeared vastly excited. He gently laid my body’s head down on the ground and rushed over to hug me. “It worked! Holy shit! I was almost sure you didn’t make it.”

“This is what Martin used to do?” I asked. “It’s weird. I don’t feel like myself.”

Connor grinned. “No, no you won’t, but that’s okay. It’s normal. Can you stand?” I complied. Connor took my arm and walked me over to my own bloodied body. I couldn’t look at it. I wouldn’t look at it. “Jim, it worked! It’s Kevin, in Chief Manyette’s body.”

“Thank the bloody stars,” Krissie said, without looking up. “I thought we had a paradox on our hands.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. “How would my death create a paradox?”

Krissie looked up at me thin lipped, shaking her head ‘no’.

Jim stepped up to me, looking me over from top to bottom. “How do you feel?”

“I have a nasty headache, probably from the bump Manyette took when he went down and my chest feels like it’s on fire from the round he took.” I slapped on my new chest. It made a hard dull sound. “Bullet proof vest, nice.”

Krissie reached over into her medical bag, withdrew the TS-14 injector, and handed it to Jim. “Fifteen milligram, Jim. No more.”

Jim adjusted a control on the injector and pressed it into my jugular. The raging headache disappeared instantly. “How is the Chief?” Jim asked. “Can you hear him?” I paused at the suggestion of Jim’s question. Should I be able to hear Manyette in my head?

“No,” I said. “Is that bad?”

“Not necessarily. Since two souls now inhabit one body, you should be able to communicate with each other internally.”

Manyette? I asked in my head. Are you there?

Shh, calm us friend. Dying cynic dimmer, we see Earth Shinin’!

“All I hear when I attempt to talk to Manyette is gibberish.”

Jim nodded. “When Doctor Ecklie is finished here, I want her to examine you more thoroughly to determine Chief Manyette’s status.”

“Copy that,” Krissie said. “Jim dear, do you have access to a HMS system? I’m going to need one to fix Kevin before he di—before it’s too late.”

“Yes Doctor, do we have a few minutes time for me to retrieve it?”

“Yes, but please, make haste all the same,” Krissie said. Jim returned the injector to Krissie and departed into the Jaunte building. Krissie looked over toward Ryan. He sat on the brick ledge of the Jaunte building. “How’s your shoulder, love?”

“I’ll live until you can get to it. Worry about Kevin.”

“Do you need some TS-14? It’s all I have right now for pain.” She asked. Ryan walked over and fetched the device for himself. “No more than fifteen milligrams.”

“I know,” Ryan said, giving himself the injection. He paused, nodded in approval, and tossed the injector into Krissie’s bag. He returned to his seat on the ledge.

The two soldiers who took down the Corporation agent quickly approached me, inquiring about my status. I didn’t know exactly what to say to them except I was fine, having only taken a bump to the head.

Connor stepped in to save my ass, again. “I am going to have the chief examined by my medical officer and our FCA liaison. Would you gentlemen please notify Medical and tell them we need a stretcher over here immediately?” They men looked at me for confirmation. I nodded and waved my hand indicating they should comply. Connor pulled me aside. “Here is the problem, most of the personal on this base are not privy to the information Chief Manyette, and Colonel Robinson know about the FCA hierarchy, particularly the fine points regarding the Brüder Trinity.”

“So what does that mean? I have to pretend to be Manyette?”

“No. I outrank everyone on this base. If it comes up again I’m going to say my doctor will treat you for a potential brain injury. It’s common knowledge that Brüder medicine exceeds our own. He’ll be under my protection, Chief Manyette, until Dr. Ecklie and Jim Marks clear him. This should buy us enough time for Krissie and Jim to fix your wounds and get you back into your own body. For now, you, Ryan, and I are going to take a little trip away from here to retrieve the 2025 quarter, just as Luke described it to us.”

I perked up and snapped my fingers. “Yes, that’s right! The incident on the observation platform, when Luke claimed Manyette misspoke my name! That was me, as I am now, accidentally identifying my true self out of habit!”

“Exactly! So if anyone asks, try your best to appear dazed and confused, and defer to me. I’ll explain from there.”

“Roger,” I said, not sure why I did. ‘Roger’ was not a word I used. The look of confusion on my face caught Connor’s attention.

“Let’s talk about the spiritual displacement element for a minute. While you are using Chief Manyette’s body as a host, you’re going to take on certain aspects of his personality, and probably some of his mannerisms. This will happen as you are not used to it, the kind of power that element wields. There is some danger that comes with it, such as the ability to control and influence other people. Martin experienced some of those problems, when he first acquired it. You saw some of it the night of the mall riot.”

“How so?” I asked, surprised.

Before Connor could answer, a team of medical personal arrived with a stretcher to take my body away. Krissie looked over to us. “I am going with them to supervise. Please ask Jim to join me when he returns.”

“Copy,” Connor said. I didn’t watch Krissie and the others leave with my body. I didn’t want to think about it, much less acknowledge what was happening to it.

Connor continued, “Martin is not a violent person by nature; at least he wasn’t when we first met. The Corporation kidnapped him the night before the mall riot, by Dan of all people. The Corporation had been observing them for some time, Martin, Walter and Victor. They profiled Martin because of his lifestyle. Before that day, he was a playboy who prided himself on seducing just about any women he wanted. He had a level of confidence – and arrogance - not seen in most people. Before The Corporation could experiment on him, a Bruder female using the Earth name Angela freed Martin, giving him the Spiritual Displacement element for safekeeping. We’re still not sure how or why she took the element from its previous owner. We do know The Corporation was onto her, and they wanted the element, having already lost the first two.

“Martin’s first experience with it, the spiritual element, was disastrous. He found out how easily he could influence other people, where the host loses all self-control. Such a thing is very dangerous. The night of the mall riot, Martin thought he could prevent it by dominating the two boys who were about to fight by rendering them unconscious. It didn’t work. Martin took back with him some of the violent tendencies from the two boys he dominated. That violence pushed him to kill the gang kids who killed Walter and attempted to kill him. He lost all sense of right and wrong, finally losing control of himself. When he killed those gang kids, he dominated each one in turn, influencing them into natural deaths, similar to heart attacks, strokes, and burst aneurysms. But each time he left of one of them, he took more anger and rage with him. It’s one of the reasons he was able to function so long after those punks stabbed him, Martin did. His adrenalin level was off the charts. Before he succumbed to death, I stepped in and brought him to my current time index. For me, that happened decades ago. Jim saved Martin from death, and over time coached him on how to handle the spiritual element without destroying himself and whomever he was shadowing or dominating in the process.” This short tale left me with several questions for Connor, as some of what he explained did not make sense to me. Dominating, shadowing, I did not understand this terminology.

Jim quickly reappeared from the Jaunte building carrying another black medical bag. Connor watched him approach. “Jim, Krissie is in Medical. She wants you to join her with the HMS.”

“Copy. I want Chief Manyette examined as well, please.” He replied, resuming his swift pace towards the medical building.

“What is an HMS?” I asked.

“It’s a Holographic Medical Station. The device Jim used in your mother’s basement to treat me.”

“Of course, how could I forget something so advanced – and cool?”

Connor looked over at Ryan. He sat idle, favoring his shoulder. “Come on, XO. Let’s go get you looked at.”

II

The three of us walked for the medical building. Cleaning teams dressed in full biohazard gear convened around the remains of the Corporation agent. Some gathered the remains piece by piece, stacking them onto a stretcher while others began the gruesome task of biohazard clean up. I looked away. The sight made me sick to my stomach. It was easier to watch recreations of such things on TV or in the movies. To witness it for real was a completely different experience.

“Connor, you’re going to have to explain what ‘dominating’ and ‘shadowing’ means,” I said.

“Okay, there are three basic things one can do with the spiritual displacement element. The first is a complete overtaking of the host body, called ‘dominating’. This renders the host body’s consciousness completely unaware. To that person, it’s a complete blackout. The second, to observe what the host is seeing, thinking, feeling and so on, is called ‘observing’. The last is what we call ‘shadowing’. Instead of taking over of the host, one could exert their will and influence on them, the host, causing them to behave and act in ways one wants them to. The host believes those thoughts to be their own, no matter how out of character. It’s a very dangerous thing, considering that influence caters only to the Id, completely removing the Ego and the Superego.”

I rolled my eyes. “In English please, Professor.” I stopped, realizing what I said as it was completely out of character for me to be so blatantly rude.

Connor grinned, understanding the comment came more from Manyette than me. “Freud states the Id - which we are born with – wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the reality of the situation. The Ego – which develops in the first three years of life – understands other people have needs and desires and that acting impulsively or selfishly can be harmful to us in the end. The Superego – which develops by the age of five – is the moral part of us, or conscience. It develops due to what is placed on us by our parents, moral and ethical restraints, our sense of right and wrong.”

We entered the medical building, which bustled with activity. Connor led us to a door that screamed ‘RESTRICTED’ in big red letters. He entered a serious of digits on the keypad next to the entrance. The door slid open. Inside, the HMS was active. Inside a frosted blue holographic tube lay my body. I looked away again.

“It’s okay Kevin,” Connor said with assurance.

“I can’t think about the fact that my body is so badly damaged that it might die. What would happen to me then? I can’t live inside Manyette forever.”

Connor put his arm solidly around my shoulders in an act to boost my confidence. “Now that Krissie and Jim have the HMS, I can promise you it won’t die, your body. The wound you sustained is contained and replaced with holographic replacements. Your body does not know the difference, so it won’t reject the temporary replacements. Krissie’s blood type is O negative, fortunately. That makes her a universal donor, so blood isn’t a concern either. The Brüder have a formula leftover from the days of their experiments that stimulates the human body to heal itself very fast. In a few hours, it will be healed as if it was never injured, your body.”

My jaw dropped. “That’s fucking-A amazing Connor! Why have we not introduced this kind of knowledge to the general public?”

“For the same reasons all Brüder technology is a secret. Any advances in the development of medicine and technology had to be our own. If we don’t make those advances naturally, the abuse of technology we aren’t ready for could do more harm then good. They suffered from this kind of interference, the Brüder. The power of advanced technology they didn’t earn ruined their enlightenment as a species.”

“Really?”

“Another tale for another time,” Connor said. “As for your consciousness? No, you could not live in Chief Manyette’s body forever. We still need to determine his status. Since you cannot hear him, I’m worried he might have been killed.”

“He’s not dead,” I said, confidently.

“Is he communicating with you?”

“No. Somehow, I can feel it. He’s in there, but not aware. I can’t explain it. Plus every time I attempt to contact him, he spits out gibberish to me.”

“What does he say?”

“Um, something like, Shh, calm us friend. Dying cynic dimmer, we see Earth Shinin’!

Connor stared off, rubbing his chin, something he did like clockwork when processing new information. “Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense. I hope there isn’t brain damage.” Now Connor rubbed his temples. “Actually Kevin, I understand completely what you’re trying to say. Martin has both dominated and shadowed me in the past. I could feel his presence in the same manner.”

Jim appeared from behind the curtain partially surrounding the HMS. “All is well, gentlemen. You will completely recover, Kevin. We were fortunate to be at this facility. Otherwise the outcome might not have been favorable.”

“Thank you,” I said, humbled by Jim’s compassion.

Jim nodded and gestured towards the medical bay to my left. “If you would be good enough to take a seat, I would like to examine Chief Manyette.”

I did as asked. Jim opened a device similar looking to the soul suppression detector from our trip to 2025. The end that fit across my face and covered my eyes reminded me of the interface ophthalmologists use to examine the eye. The end of the device Jim used resembled a dual microscope. With it, he carefully made his observations. All I could see was a pale yellow light.

The gibberish in my head returned; Shh, calm us friend. Dying cynic dimmer, we see Earth Shinin’!

“Was Freud a Brüder?” I asked.

Jim briefly chuckled as he performed the examination. “Was Connor explaining the concept of shadowing?”

“Yes sir,” I replied.

“No. If he had been, we might not be having this conversation.”

“How so?”

“Most of my people’s sense of right and wrong are not balanced by Freud’s Superego construct. Those of us who do have it, such as me and Tom are considered undesirables.”

I gasped in response. “But that’s what makes you a good person, Jim. How can that be considered a bad thing?”

“As I have told you before, Brüder society and human society are very different.” Jim paused. “You need to exercise great care while you carry the Spiritual Displacement element.”

“I understand. Connor explained Martin’s problems when he first acquired it.”

Jim pulled away and removed the examination device from my forehead. “Perhaps so, but there is more he did not tell you, and I’m going to be honest with you, so please do not take offense.”

“Of course.”

“Under normal circumstances, I would never have given you the Spiritual Displacement element. I did so in this instance as I feared for your life. The responsibility of managing any of the displacement elements requires a certain talent. I am not saying you might not have this talent, but I have not yet ascertained you do. In the meantime, your handling of this element becomes a very risky proposition, particularly to yourself.”

“What do you mean, ‘talent’?”

“Think of it as the ability to write music, or create art. Some humans are born with the ability to excel in those areas, while others are not. You call it talent. In ancient Brüder society, some of my people had such abilities, or talent, to visually displace, or spiritually displace and in one instance temporally displace. It is parallel to religion and myth in our culture. Over the millions of years we have existed, those elements have been lost, or stolen. A very minute percentage of humans seem to exhibit the ability to handle the Trinity elements, as if they were born with the actual talent or ability. In Martin’s case, this talent manifested itself in his unparalleled self-confidence. The fact is, you do not have this kind of personality.”

Even though Jim was right, it bothered me to hear. No one likes to have reminders of their shortcomings. “I hear what you’re saying. I’m a responsible guy, it’ll be okay.”

“I believe you. However, if you were authorized to dominate or shadow other humans, you would be taking with you aspects of the host personality and leaving behind aspects of your personality that might be dangerous to the host.”

“What would that be?” I asked, a little confused over what Jim was implying. “What about me would be dangerous to others?”

Jim stared at me, completely without emotion. “The day you discovered the 2025 quarter, you were on a specific undertaking. It was not to have lunch.”

“Okay,” I said, not wanting to go there. “You’ve made your point.”

“I do not mean to be offensive or insulting to you. I am merely attempting to explain why you are not the ideal candidate to hold the spiritual element. I did what I did to save your life for Code Black reasons. I was supposed to do it. When the time comes, I will take the element back from you and guard it until a suitable replacement for Martin can be found.”

“Of course,” I said, once again humbled by Jim Marks. “I understand completely.”

Krissie approached our group and immediately began tending to Ryan’s gunshot wound. He winced here and there, making no audible sound of discomfort. After a brief inspection, she said, “You’re fortunate Ryan. The shot was a through and through.”

Ryan did not appear very enthusiastic. “I despise the weaponry of this era,” he said in disgust. “It’s so archaic.”

“I know, dear,” she said, pointing a blue laser pointer like device at the wound. “I’ll have this patched up in a few minutes.”

“Thanks.”

Jim turned his attention back to me. “In the meantime, I would ask you confine yourself to Chief Manyette’s body, for your own safety. While you now have the ability to move your consciousness from person to person, without proper guidance and training, you could very easily become spiritually lost.”

“How is it possible I still retain my own memories, while being able to recall some of Manyette’s at the same time? It doesn’t seem possible.”

“Memories your brain stores are nothing more than converted electric impulses stored in the brain matter. This energy is part of the soul energy you take with you after death, back to Earth’s Himmel. The addition and culmination of this knowledge will eventually evolve Earth’s Himmel.”

Connor joined us. “What’s going on with Chief Manyette? Is he alive?”

“Yes,” Jim said. “He suffered a severe concussion when he fell in the shoot out. Kevin inadvertently saved his life by displacing into his body, otherwise he would be comatose.”

“Wait,” I said. “I don’t understand. How does my dominating Manyette’s body prevent a coma?”

Jim responded. “When a human becomes comatose, it is because their soul has left their body. This sometime happens in the case of severe head trauma or other severe trauma to the body. It also occurs when there has been momentary death. Some human souls chose to leave immediately at the time of death, while some linger. It is different for each individual. In the Chief’s case, it appeared his soul was preparing to leave his body. When your consciousness entered his body, it pushed – for lack of a better term - his soul back in. He will remain unconscious for an indeterminate period. He will wake up at some point. When that transpires, you will hear his voice. He will likely be confused and unaware of your presence until you initiate contact. How he will receive you is unknown. It is important you continue to dominate the Chief’s body even if his consciousness awakens. Attempting to shadow or observe could lead to the expulsion of your consciousness. I do not want that to happen until Dr. Ecklie has finished repairing your body. If I attempt to move you back now, it could jeopardize the healing process in the form of shock. It is best it remains in its current state.”

“But people come back from comas,” I said, pointed out the obvious hole. “Is it because their souls find their way back?”

“Yes,” Jim said. “Some souls are more evolved than others, and want to return to their body. If the body has not died and the soul is not ready to return to Himmel, it can find its way back to the body.”

“Fascinating,” I said, in awe. “For what it’s worth Jim, the hundreds of lifetimes worth of intelligent capacity you posses, it amazes me.”

Jim smiled. A rare occurrence. “The human race as a whole – for all its flaws – impresses me as well. From my perspective, human begins are mere children in their development. Once your society as a whole evolves and attains the ability to extend lifetimes beyond the physical body - to come together as one species - I have no doubt you’ll become what the Brüder should have been.”

Connor displayed astonishment. “That’s quite a compliment coming from you, old friend.” Jim gave a nod in acknowledgement.

Krissie finished her work on Ryan’s shoulder. To my wonder, his shoulder looked as if it never suffered a bullet penetration. Ryan rotated his arm and flexed the shoulder. “Good as new,” he said with a weak smile.

Connor smiled. “Are you ready for a little trip?”

“Do you have to ask?” Ryan said, grinning. He loved his work, no one could say otherwise. “Where are we headed?”

“January of 1989,” Connor said. “We have a pick up to make.”

Jim removed the blue element ring from his pocket and handed it to Connor. “Just in case,” he said. Connor nodded, placing the ring into his own pocket. Jim turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “When you get back, your body should be fully healed. Please be careful Kevin, the power you have is too important to lose. Know that I do trust you with it because I believe you are responsible, and will do the right thing.”

I nodded. “I won’t let you down.”

III

We would not be able to use the Jaunte this time. My spiritual displacement into Manyette’s body prevented it. All the fancy noises and lights would not render my guest consciousness truly unconscious, and thus subject to the side effects of transporting through Jaunte system awake. Therefore, Ryan would fly us courtesy Brüder-2 to ES-1.

Jim and Krissie remained behind not only to ensure the recovery of my healing body, but also to deal with the repercussions of The Corporation’s breach of the Area 51 compound. It was also necessary to remove Manyette’s presence at the base for the time being. There was no way I could pretend to ‘be’ he and perform his duties. Had I tried, it wouldn’t take his men long to realize something was off kilter, which could get Manyette into a bigger dilemma if any of his men questioned his state of mind to lead. As Connor suggested, the men and women serving under Manyette would believe he was temporarily under observation by FCA medical. In his absence, FCA Jim Marks would direct operations. All military personnel serving in the FCA liaison program understood Jim Marks to be one of the highest in the chain of command. No one would question him, especially those in the program who knew of his true Brüder nature.

Ryan flew into the outer atmosphere, clear of any normal air traffic. Due to the power cell problem we experienced with in flight temporal displacement, Connor decided to make the jump to January of 1989 after we were secure within the ES-1 facility.

“I want to talk about Martin,” Connor said as we flew quietly, far above the cloud cover. I watched the passing stratus clouds through the semi-transparent bottom of the ship. How I would be able to fly via a regular aircraft ever again, I didn’t know. They would be slow and clumsy by comparison.

Ryan sighed. “He’s the reason we’re in this mess. What else need be said?”

“I went to see him, before we left,” Connor said, in admission.

Ryan tossed him a surprised look. “Did he have anything to say for himself?”

“No. He was completely unresponsive. He just stares at the floor.”

Ryan gave the impression he was about to say something, but then thought better of it. He knew this wasn’t the time for sarcastic or bitter remarks, no matter how warranted.

Connor continued. “There are too many variables not accounted for where Martin is concerned. More to the point, when exactly did they get their hooks into him, The Corporation?”

“I didn’t see any of this coming,” Ryan said. “I didn’t see any change in his behavior. Had I, I would have immediately brought it to your attention.”

“I know,” Connor said, looking out the front of the ship, engrossed in the gorgeous view of our planet and its clouded surface. “Krissie seems to think it’s a case of classic brainwashing.”

“She knows her stuff. I would believe it as well.”

Intrigued, I asked, “What does brainwashing entail, do you know?”

Connor turned to face me. “The Corporation broke him. Somehow, they tore him down and built him back up with whatever programming they wanted him to have, including the order to kidnap me and force me to use the temporal element to make the exchange of the 2025 quarter for Victor Merrick. Krissie also thinks there could be additional programming buried away in his subconscious. It’s the sole reason I ordered him isolated from everyone. If there is more in his head, additional programming, all it would take to activate it is a specific trigger. A word, or series of words. Until further notice, I’m the only one who will have any contact with Martin and only under very controlled circumstances.”

Ryan nodded. “Wise.”

Connor continued, “I do have a theory regarding the time frame he abandoned his post, Martin did. It was something you said to me Ryan, when The Corporation fired their make shift Impüls cannon during your decent into ES-5, the day Kevin found the quarter.”

“What was it I said?”

“You said there were two times Martin displaced. The first was during the initial attack, the second when you ordered him to secure the base. An electromagnetic pulse wouldn’t cause Martin to displace out of a host body. At worst, he might lose consciousness, but a full displacement? No.”

Ryan looked troubled. “I wasn’t aware of that.”

“I would have missed it too had it not been for something Martin told me, when he first underwent Brüder weaponry training. He said he was able to hold spiritually during the electromagnetic stress tests. As you know, those are far more intense over duration, than in bursts.”

“Interesting,” Ryan said. “Nice catch. I would never have guessed.”

“Put it altogether with Martin’s mistake: The Corporation always a step ahead of us from that point forward, the security breaches aboard FCA-1, the only thing that makes sense is Martin abandoned his post after the first attack on Brüder-2. If you think about it, the timeline of events after Kevin’s discovery of the quarter, the evidence is all there.”

“Wait,” I said, “That doesn’t explain the two agents showing up at my house the day I found the quarter, after that ‘dream message’ you sent.”

Connor grinned. “A completely different matter Martin had no part of.”

I pursed my lips in confusion. “Could you elaborate?”

“Your trip to the rare coin dealer after you left the mall tipped off The Corporation.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “I knew it. The guy who runs that place was acting all squirrelly after I showed it to him.”

“The Corporation has been sending out notices regarding future dated money for years after the botched exchange. They’ve been doing it under the protection of your government, having infiltrated the U.S. Federal Reserve. They advertised a very handsome reward for the recovery of any future dated coins or bills. The owner of that coin shop turned you in, which tipped The Corporation off about its discovery, the 2025 quarter. After that, pinpointing your location was easy for them. That’s when we acted and sent you the message in your dream. They began playing their hand, The Corporation, when they infiltrated ES-5. They were waiting for you, Martin and Ryan to arrive.”

Ryan nibbled on his lower lip, in thought. “There’s also the very un-Corporation like manner in which that siege ended. Those agents committed mass suicide – or homicide, considering they shot each other.”

“In order to avoid capture,” Connor said, in speculation. “What disturbs me the most; it was probably on Martin’s command, or his shadowing. If any of those agents knew about Martin’s involvement, we would have extracted it during interrogation, that information.”

Listening to Connor talk, something didn’t jive. “Hold on. You’re proposing Martin abandoned his post after the first attack on Brüder-2, to carry out his programming. If that’s right, then how was he able to be in two places at once?”

“He wasn’t,” Connor said. “Assuming he fled his post after the first Impüls cannon attack, I don’t believe he ever intended to come back. I think the three of you weren’t supposed to survive that attack. The pulses from the improvised Impüls cannon should have knocked the three of you unconscious. With no pilot, the ship crashes. The Corporation would then likely have captured the downed ship before we had a chance to. They would have taken the quarter and done with you whatever they wanted; assuming any of you survived the crash. It would have been the perfect escape for Martin. We would have assumed him captured or killed by The Corporation. Martin’s ignorance of certain information after he took you hostage, Kevin, leads me to believe this.”

A look of confusion washed over Ryan’s face. “Okay, I missed something. You’re going to have to explain that one again.”

“Alright. Martin abandons Brüder-2, believing it’s going down. He wouldn’t have any knowledge of events afterward. For example, your orders to recon the base, the mass homicide of the Corporation agents, the attempt on your life while returning to 2095 with news of the quarter’s status. He knew none of it. All he knows is there is an open displacement portal aboard FCA-1, but he can’t take the Jaunte system to get there. He has to make the trip from Earth to the moon in a discorporate state.”

Ryan whistled in amazement. “That would be a huge risk on Martin’s part. I can’t believe he pulled it off.” Pause. “Or maybe I can.”

“Why?” I asked.

Connor explained. “Martin is a discorporate state is not under protection of Earth’s Himmel. Once he penetrated that energy field, the one encircling the planet, he could have lost his way very easily and very quickly from disorientation. It’s also no short trip. If that’s what he did, by the time he arrived at FCA-1 he would have realized you and Ryan survived the first attack on Brüder-2 and reformulated his plan.”

I considered this information. “Martin would have dominated the armed guard inside the portal room in an attempt to kill Ryan.”

“That’s my hunch,” Connor said. “After he took out the other guard, he went after Ryan. When that didn’t work, he must have also followed through the portal to 2095, Martin did. That would explain the attack on FCA-1 the next day.”

Ryan nodded in agreement, glancing back toward me. “In my time, The Corporation has a strong presence and dominates what’s left of the country. He would have no trouble making contact with The Corporation, giving them a very easy way into FCA-1.”

“I’m referring to the attack on the base after you woke up in Medical,” Connor said. “The agents who arrived through the Jaunte portal were visually displaced, invisible to the naked eye. Martin would have made yet a third trip between the Earth and the moon. With all the mouthing off from that one Corporation agent, I’m almost positive Martin shadowed the guy.”

“He was a prick, to be sure,” Ryan said.

“Okay,” I said. “And I’m guessing Martin tagged along with us to 1977, after you were shot?”

“I believe he did,” Connor replied. “It explains how they acquired the intelligence about the quarter, The Corporation did, and its importance. How else could they have picked up on it, and us, so quickly? More then likely, he probably observed from your consciousness, Kevin. Since you don’t know the signs of it, another consciousness sharing your body, you made for an easy place for Martin to hide. Had he shadowed or dominated you, I would have noticed a change in your behavior. Martin isn’t stupid. He would never have used me as a vessel. I would have detected his presence almost immediately.”

Another hole in Connor’s logic formed. “So why didn’t Martin know about Brüder-4 or Earth Station One? If he was there, then why bother forcing us into The Exchange? He could have bypassed it and told The Corporation directly about the location of both, right?”

Connor didn’t reply right away, although his expression never changed. He was crunching the numbers to come up with an answer.

Ryan finally spoke up. “The Jaunte system. Martin couldn’t use it. You two were supposed to Jaunte to ES-5 from FCA-1. He didn’t know about your diversion to ES-1. I’ll bet after he arrived at ES-5, he spent a lot of time attempting to locate Connor and came up empty. That’s probably why it took The Corporation so long to track you down.”

Connor snapped his fingers and pointed at Ryan. “That’s exactly what happened! Dan said he detected the transmission between Jim and Kevin in 1977, while Kevin was en route to Westminster to find him. It wasn’t a secure frequency then. They triangulated it and discovered our location.”

“That makes sense,” Ryan said. “What I would like to know is how those Corporation agents you described had the ability to visually displace. I’m the only one who holds that element, and I believe Jim was responsible for it before he gave it to Robert.”

“Correct,” Connor said. “I don’t have an answer for you yet, old friend. I only counted four who held that ability at any given time. When we return to 2095 and debrief Dan, we’ll ask him about it.”

“What about Dan?” I asked. “If Martin was observing or shadowing someone after making contact with The Corporation in 1977, wouldn’t Dan be his host of choice, and not me?” I nodded at Connor. “You were hiding out at ES-1 for four years. Until we reconnected in 1981, my experience was less than twelve hours, at the most.”

Connor thought about my proposal. “That stands to reason. Dan has yet to explain how they recovered him so quickly, The Corporation, from the walk-in medical facility. If Martin was with Dan during your displacement to 1981, it would account for Dan’s miraculous rescue.”

Ryan asked, “Would Dan have known Martin was observing or shadowing him?”

“I doubt it,” Connor replied. “I’ll ask Dan about that as well. Let’s recap and try to make sense of this: Martin is observing through Dan in 1981. The Corporation retrieves Dan from the walk-in medical. Martin is still unaware of ES-1 or Bruder-4. Since he still doesn’t know about either - even now in our custody - he must have stayed with Dan and not followed or observed Kevin when he tried to save Victor at the Brüder-3 crash site. Had Martin done so, he would have gained access to ES-1 after Jim and I recovered Kevin and Wald from the Arthur Avenue location.”

“He had to come back with us at some point,” I said. “He began dominating Krissie after she came back from treating the wounded guys in the Jaunte room.”

“Martin had to know the first thing you would do in 1981 is try to find me,” Connor said. “Since he didn’t know about ES-1, my guess is he thought you would try to contact me via ES-5, or FCA-1.” Connor paused. “But, you don’t have easy access to either. If I were in his shoes, Martin’s, I would have waited aboard FCA-1 in hopes I would turn up. Martin knows I prefer to execute a temporal displacement there, out of the way of the normal flow of events on Earth. You and I returned there in 1981 before returning to 2095. If Martin was waiting, then that’s how he came back with us.” Connor paused, allowing us to digest the information and make certain there were no additional holes in his supposition.

I spoke up first. “When Martin dominated Krissie, he would have access to her memories, right?” Connor nodded. “Why didn’t he learn of ES-1 then, before forcing us into The Exchange?”

“Blind luck,” Ryan replied. “Krissie was in the Jaunte section treating Beta and Gamma teams while you and Connor brought me up to speed. She didn’t know, and neither did Martin.”

“Wow,” I mused. “Imagine what would have happened if she did know. Would we even be having this conversation?”

“I don’t know,” Connor said, staring off. “I’ll take them where I can get them, strokes of good luck. Doctor Ecklie has since been briefed about ES-1 now that Martin is in custody. Let’s continue. Martin dominates Krissie and forces us to make The Exchange in 2025. In the process, Martin chooses to strand himself in 1991 to help Victor. What Martin doesn’t expect is the crash of Brüder-3 in 1981 when it flies through the unstable temporal portal. They go into hiding, Martin and Victor, for the next fifteen years, which I find a little hard to believe they pulled off for so long. Then in 2006 - yesterday by Kevin’s time index – Victor Merrick supposedly uses the 2025 quarter while buying a slice of pizza from a mall in Sarasota, which falls into Kevin’s hands the same day.”

I had to laugh. “When you put it that way Connor, it sounds completely unbelievable.”

Connor nodded. “Not to mention impossible, statistically. Something else is going on here. Not one single piece of this puzzle is coincidence.”

“There is also the Captiva Island connection, in Florida,” I said. “From Sarasota, it’s no hop, skip and jump. It’s a several hour drive. Martin told you Victor is hiding on Captiva Island. You’ll also recall Captiva Island is the location in 2025 where Dan was supposed to report with Victor in tow after The Exchange.”

“Good point,” Connor said. “I think the only way we’re going to know for sure what happened that afternoon is to displace to the morning Victor lost the quarter and use the observation platform to follow him.”

“What about Martin?” Ryan asked. “He somehow realizes Victor lost the 2025 quarter they’ve been holding onto since Victor stole it all those years ago, and magically returns to the post he abandoned aboard Bruder-2 some fifteen years later?”

“Apparently so,” Connor said. “To us, it appeared as though he never left. It was a fifteen-year journey, for Martin. If our hypothesis is correct, you ordered him to stabilize the situation at ES-5. Instead, he orders them, or shadows them into committing mass homicide to cover his ass. He played along until you and Kevin took the Jaunte to FCA-1, finishing the cycle of betrayal he started fifteen years ago. He was then going to take Brüder-2 and escape. We stopped him and here we are.”

“How the hell do you keep all this information in your head straight without going fucking nuts?” As soon as the words left my mouth, I slapped my hand over it. I couldn’t believe what I said.

Connor threw back his head and laughed. “See what I mean about taking on qualities of the host? The truth is, I have what you would call a ‘photographic memory’. It’s an exceptionally rare talent. It’s also required for those who hold the temporal displacement element. When dealing with the space-time continuum, it’s helpful to be able to recall anything at any given time.”

“We’re almost there,” Ryan said, interrupting the discussion. “Do you have any idea where we’re going to park?”

“Absolutely,” Connor said, flipping open his communicator. He began typing information into it.

Ryan glanced over cautiously. “Is that such a good idea? The Corporation could be monitoring our freqs.”

“I’m aware of that,” Connor said, finishing the data entry. “This is a secure frequency they set up, Tom and Jim, during my stay in 1977. If we did our job correctly, The Corporation shouldn’t be able to detect it. Even if they do, it’s encrypted in ways I couldn’t begin to explain.”

The communicator emitted its robotic chirp. Tom Richards’ voice followed. “Are you a stranger?”

“I come as a friend,” Connor replied. “Although things are not as they appear.”

“Welcome back TDI-1.”

“Thanks, Tom. We need to dock.”

“Copy. Give me a moment to make certain the area is secure.”

Ryan watched Connor in curiosity. Connor grinned and winked. “You’re going to love this. Just in case, let’s cook up a little late afternoon thunderstorm over the area.”

“Copy,” Ryan said, sounding uncertain. He turned in his seat away from the flight panel to manipulate various holographic controls on an adjacent interface. “Give it about five minutes.”

“ES-1 to Brüder-2, area is secure. I am ready whenever you are.”

“Copy,” Connor replied. “We’ll be ready in T-minus five minutes. Mark.”

“Mark,” Tom said in acknowledgment. “See you soon TDI-1. ES-1, out.”

Ryan was visibly frustrated. “What exactly is going to happen here, Connor? I like a good surprise too, but come on, clue me in.”

“When our cover is established, come about over the north side of the reservoir and maintain an altitude of 1,000 feet.”

Ryan slowly maneuvered the ship down through the cloud cover. The view port of the ship displayed imagery beyond the cloud cover, showing us the water below. After a few minutes, Ryan brought the ship to a standstill, hovering over the reservoir inside a thunderstorm.

When the five-minute mark came, the holographic controls of the ship’s flight panel, which typically were colors of blue, green and yellow became uniform shades of red. The change caught Ryan off guard. “What the hell? I’m locked out of the flight panel!”

“It’s okay,” Connor said. “Sit back, and enjoy the ride.”

The ship began to move slowly towards an area of the reservoir all too familiar to me, the section of water next to the location of the Brüder-3 remains. I could see Old Liberty Road and the layout of tall pine trees forming a grid section, the area I typically walked through during my excursions around the reservoir shoreline. It was also the same path I hiked the day The Corporation kidnapped me. I scoffed to myself. Out of all the possible locations along the Liberty reservoir to dock with ES-1, it had to be this particular one.

With the ship aligned with what would be our destination, she slowly began her decent towards the water. Each passing second brought the ship – and us – closer to the surface. Although I wasn’t sure how fast we were moving, it was fast enough to gain my attention.

“Um, Connor?” I asked. “Are we going to crash into the water? I don’t see an entrance here.”

Ryan nodded in agreement. “I was thinking the same thing.”

“Things are not always as they appear,” Connor said, cryptic. “It’ll be fine, trust me. I’ve already done this once myself.”

The sensation was similar to speeding downhill on a roller coaster, only there were no tracks to give one the subconscious assurance that once we reached bottom, we would safely pull up. The surface of the water rushed up to meet us as the ship penetrated the wind and rain.

Out the view port over the flight panel, a small bright blue speck appeared in the centermost section of the reservoir. The speck quickly expanded into a square, and then a rectangle. A holographic tunnel formed on the surface of the water. The ship slowed its decent, righting itself into a hovering position. Had anyone been on the shoreline of the reservoir, they would be witness to an actual hovering space ship slowly lowering itself downward, disappearing into the water as it went. The view from within the ship was breath taking. The blue force field restraining the water gave us passage into the ground below the water. I looked up to see the rectangular hole separating the Earth from the water seal itself off. Considering the lengthy distance necessary to reach the docking bay, the decent into ES-1 took almost a full minute. As the ship approached its destination, the downward tunnel curved into a forty-five degree angle, leading directly into the open docking bay. After several hundred more feet, the ship came to rest. The ship’s control panels resumed their original state and color. I noticed we were sitting in the same docking bay that held Brüder-4. She rested some distance off to our left.

Ryan noticed her right away. “Is that her? Is that Brüder-4?”

“It is,” Connor replied, enjoying Ryan’s pleasure. He was finally bearing witness to the mythological spacecraft of his dreams.

“Do we have time to take a look?” Ryan asked, sounding hopeful in almost childlike wonder.

Connor grinned, slapping Ryan on the back. “I think we can squeeze in a few minutes.”

Tom approached us as we disembarked Brüder-2. Behind him, situated in the farthest left corner of this massive underground hangar sat a substantial control room. Connor met Tom with a handshake. “Good to see you again, Tom.”

“I received a communiqué from Jim regarding your current status,” Tom said shaking hands with Ryan, then me. “Connor, there is another matter I need to discuss with you, in private.”

Connor nodded. Ryan spoke up before Connor had the opportunity to dismiss us. “If there are no objections, Kevin and I will go have a look at Brüder-4.”

Connor grinned and nodded in approval. “Go on old friend, you’ve earned it.”

IV

Ryan ended up giving me the tour. I’d seen Brüder-4 once, from a distance, and did not have the opportunity to see her up close, until now. Observing Ryan, I couldn’t help but notice how much he resembled my son, with his mannerisms. Like Spencer, he spent a fair amount of time observing what was right in front of him, contemplating what he was seeing and then choosing his course of action. Even with his passive nature, Ryan was giddy as a child on Christmas morning. You couldn’t tell by looking at him, but understanding his type of personality, it was plainly obvious to me.

Like the other two Brüder ships I’d already seen, this one contained a completely hollow shell on the inside, with a protruding panel at the front of the ship. Unlike the other ships, this one has a walled off section at the rear.

“What’s back there?” I asked.

“The gravity drive,” Ryan replied, in awe. “I’ve always wondered if it worked.”

“Do you want to see it?”

“It’s encased in unobtanium, there isn’t anything to see.”

We turned to the flight panel. Installed underneath was the HoloEmitter, which one could usually find in the rear. The flat dongle like key to activate the ship sat half in its port. Ryan pushed it, locking it in. The empty shell of the ship snapped to life, installing walls and corridors comprising the ship’s interior. Unlike the usual blue or yellow force fields creating separate rooms, these walls were solid grey, the same color as the ship’s exterior. It truly felt like a real flight cockpit. The flight panel design was distinguishably different from Brüder-2. Many minor subtleties added up to a sleeker, tighter design – if that was even possible.

I said, “What would happen if you activated this ship and someone was standing where one of these walls formed?”

Ryan tapped at the seemingly normal cockpit wall. As with the other force fields I had seen, a buzzing sound filled the air. “It’s all light and energy, nothing would happen. The failsafe system won’t let the field complete until it’s free of obstacles. Let’s go see the transporter.”

I followed Ryan out of the cockpit and down the main corridor towards the rear of the ship. The transporter was located to the right of the gravity drive. Based on his cheesy grin, Ryan must have known something about the inner workings that makes this system far superior to the one Bruder-3 used to have. To me the room was nothing more than a raised platform with a standalone holographic island control panel. I had no frame of reference. To my recollection, this would be the first Brüder transport system I’d ever seen.

After several more minutes of listening to Ryan go on about Brüder technology, Connor finally joined us. It was obvious Ryan was mildly disappointed to have to leave his ship so soon. His duty to Connor and the FCA came first and Ryan understood that.

Connor did not discuss with us the topic of conversation between him and Tom. I learned by now if Connor wanted me – or anyone – to have information, he would offer it. Any other effort would bear no fruit.

We made the long trek across ES-1 to the lift station. It would take us to the surface. The personnel guarding the Jaunte portal acknowledged Connor as we passed. We would not be subject to the usual retinal scanning security, as we were not seeking access to the Jaunte room.

“What’s the story with the guys who guard the Jaunte?” I asked. “Are they always posted at all the Jaunte entrances, even the one on the moon, when no one else is around?”

“Yes,” Connor answered. “We implemented it in 1977, when the earliest Corporation breach occurred. They take six-hour shifts in a twenty-four hour rotation, two men, or women. Two outside the entrance and two in front of the Jaunte octagon at all times. All they do is challenge those who desire access and are authorized to kill those who do not pass clearance.”

“That’s what I did when I first joined the FCA liaison program,” I said, but stopped realizing my verbal gaffe. “I mean when Manyette first joined. Damn, this is weird.”

Connor stopped walking and asked, “You can recall his memories now, the Chief’s?”

“Some of them,” I replied. “It’s like trying to access a file with no name in an unknown location on a computer. I don’t know why I recalled Manyette’s first duties.”

“What were they?” Connor asked.

“He was in one of those security details you spoke of. Not the actual Jaunte system though. His team patrolled hangar echo-niner when Brüder-2 was docked there and outside of the Area 51 Jaunte building.”

“All noble and important tasks,” Connor noted.

“I know sir,” I said with a tinge of witticism. “Thank you.” Again, my words came out as if Manyette was speaking.

“Soon,” Connor said, nodding.

I blinked, not understanding. “What does that mean?”

“Let’s go,” Connor said, dodging the question.

We walked down the uncared for section of the tunnel until we reached the hatch entrance underneath what used to be my father’s workshop. Someone improved and upgraded the hatch since I last saw it. The old slide-away cover was now the same type of holographic doors ES-1 used. In addition, there was a ladder leading to the top.

“Okay,” Connor said. “Here is where we displace.” Connor took a TS-14 injector out of his back pocket and gave me a fair dose. I smiled and lowered my eyelids at the euphoria. The three of us huddled together. The portal of bright white light appeared within our circle, expanding itself until it encompassed us all.


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