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Displaced I: The Exchange

By Kevin Provance All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Adventure

XXXI - Residuum

“The residue, remainder, or rest of something.”

*

Date: Friday, November 13, 2009

Location: Home, Bradenton, Florida

Age: 38 (current)

*

I

In the three years since discovering the 2025-quarter, and the life-changing journey it sent me on, my life has completely fallen apart. I’m a shell of the man I used to be. Connor MacKenzie wasn’t exaggerating when he claimed the TS-14 medication that curbs the side effects of temporal displacement was highly addictive. It is, and then some. Withdraw from it has led to the painkiller addiction that defines me today. Unfortunately – or fortunately for me – obtaining prescription painkillers in my area of Florida is all too easy. ‘Pill mills’, they call them. They hide behind the self-applied innovation of doctor care over the Internet. One need only make a call to one of these ‘pill mills’ and fax in an application printed off the internet, with identification. A doctor calls within 48 hours and asks about the condition causing the pain. In my case, I claimed a half-truth: severe back pain from an auto accident I suffered in 1990.

The habit is a very expensive endeavor. Payment for consultation and a three-month supply runs about four hundred dollars, excluding shipping and cost of the medication itself. Upon successful payment to the ‘pill mill’, the doctor will provide a choice of any Schedule II narcotic, including Hydrocodone, Norco, Vicodin, or any variant. Up to 120 pills a month, if requested. Finally, the mill sends the filled prescription FedEx to the door. Next day service is available, if one is willing to pay for it. This is the method in which I acquired the painkillers needed to stop my suffering of withdraw from TS-14. For three years, I’ve lived my life doped up on some variety of opiate, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

To be honest, my plan was to use the medication to tame the withdraw symptoms. They ranged from the shakes to headaches to vomiting, and a piss poor attitude that turned a lot of people off to me. When I stabilized myself, I planned to wean off the pills over the course of several weeks.

Those several weeks never came.

Instead, I began using the pills recreationally to mask all the pain I’d been harboring. The pain of my post-divorce life and the bullshit my ex-wife Marie Kirsch continues to dump on me, using our son as a weapon to extort monies. The pain of Rose Centeno, whose seduction and break up was more than I could handle. The loss of Kristina Ecklie and Ryan Capcoseve, either of whom may or may not be dead, but are most certainly gone forever.

Kristina. Without a doubt, I was attracted to her. Her long curly red hair, her accent, her mannerisms, and her intelligence, they all drew me to her. Her last words to me before she disappeared were, ‘I love you.’ I wanted to return those sentiments, even if I didn’t fully know I meant them. Connor operates under the assumption she and Ryan are dead. If that’s true, the last words Krissie should have heard from me was some return declaration. Should we have had more time together, I believe I could’ve fallen in love with her, very easily. Now I feel guilty about it. I should have told her the same, to bring her some kind of comfort in what might have been the final moments of her life. How I miss her, her company, and her soft British voice. I try not to think about it. It hurts too much. My twenty plus pill a day habit helps dull that pain, however. I know it must be killing me slowly. I don’t care.

I spend most of my mornings and afternoons sleeping. I’ll get up when required - on the days I pick my son up from school - and stay awake long enough to keep him amused. When he goes to bed, I’ll work a little, write a little, then get high and pass out from the euphoria.

It’s textbook chasing of the dragon. Whatever the TS-14 medication is composed of, the high I’m able to obtain from the mail order pills doesn’t come close. Every day I chase that fucking dragon, hoping I’ll catch it, knowing I never will. It’s a bad place to be. I schedule my time - my life - around how and when I take those pills, and how and when I can get more. The thought of running out scares me. I understand now why addicts lie, cheat, and steal to support their habit. The thought of coming down off a permanent high is scarier than death. Everything becomes second, sometimes even Spencer. The guilt I feel over that is more than I can handle, and so - like everything else I don’t want to deal with - I mask the pain with pain pills.

I’ve secluded myself in my home. I don’t leave unless I absolutely have to. I no longer interact with other people. To me, they’re all stupid and barely conscious, and dealing with them sets me off. Therefore, I hide away and am the best functioning addict I know how to be.

The truth is, I wouldn’t know how to get myself out of this mess, even if I wanted to. And I don’t. Not right now.

II

Bigger things are happening. Bigger things are coming.

You’ll have to let her go…

One more time, Becca.

One more time.

III

After eighteen years of silence, Becca Saccarelli has come back into my life. She happened upon me on MySpace, quite unexpectedly. She’s married now, although how happily is up for debate. She has two kids, a two-year-old girl, and a one-year-old boy. To listen to her talk about them and the state of her life, it seems to me she bit off more than she can chew. Her husband is always on the road, coming home only on the weekends. She’s obviously lonely, which is why I believe Becca has latched onto me, even if it’s only through instant messages on the computer and the occasional phone call. We reminisce about our past, a tragic story in and of itself. We’ll have the intriguing ‘what if’ conversations too. Those are my favorites. They suggest a life where she and I are together and living happily ever after, like the one we planned in 1991, the month following Wald’s disappearance.

Every morning as I lie half-asleep on my sofa in an opiate induced state of euphoria, I await the sound of an incoming message from her, hoping that’ll be the day she calls me. We’ll chat for most of the morning, and then she’ll go. She’ll come back in the evening and we’ll chat into the wee hours of the morning. She still loves me. She tells me so every night before she logs off the computer. We had such a strong connection once, in 1991. Sometimes I wonder if my love for Becca ever truly died, even after her parents tore us apart. Becca’s mother threatened me with legal action at the affair’s terminus. In the aftermath, I blocked it all out, for years. All that happened eighteen years ago, even if it feels like yesterday now. Now – even if they knew - her mother and father couldn’t do a damned thing about our renewed contact.

I think I’ve rediscovered my long buried love for Becca. Besides my son - on the days I have him - she keeps me sane.

IV

Another lonely, boring Friday night has come. I sit at my desk, slouched in my office chair watching Futurama on the 10 pm Adult Swim block of Cartoon Network. Such are the little things in life that still bring me some modicum of pleasure. I’ve been shifting my attention between the television and Becca’s open IM window on the computer monitor. This is the weekend I don’t have Spencer, so there isn’t much for me to do but get high, amuse myself with cartoons and reminisce with Becca about the one month we were together, so long ago.

We tried so hard to find ways to see each other after her parents split us up the first time, up to and including my assuming the phony identity of Mike Daniels. Getting away with such a thing wasn’t all that difficult. Through sheer luck, her parents never met me, as Kevin. They knew me only through letters I sent to Becca, in which they discovered we slept together. At the time, Becca was sixteen and I was nineteen. To avoid further scrutiny from her parents about her social life, she led them to believe I was her first sexual experience, when it was far from true. The biggest issue involved class. Becca came from a well to do family living in Montgomery County, Maryland and me, the ‘mutt’ from Carroll County. Between the stereotyping and the age difference, I never stood a chance with her parents. Meeting me face to face would’ve made no difference. Fortunately for Becca and I, her parent’s closed mindedness about meeting me became the loophole I needed to become someone else, someone younger, still in high school and from the area. This would imply to them that my parents had money. That’s all that mattered to the Saccarellis in the end. Money. I could have been a complete dick to their daughter and they would still approve, because I would have come from money. That’s how it works in Montgomery Country.

The Mike Daniels charade worked for a little while. Eventually Becca and I slipped up. Her parents quickly ousted Mike Daniels as the devil’s spawn known as Kevin, who wanted nothing more in life than to corrupt their innocent daughter.

My first vision of Wald came to me that week. He alluded to events I couldn’t recall back then; the incident at Liberty reservoir, the quarter with the 2025 date stamp. I would also need to find a way to see Becca, one more time. Bigger things were happening, bigger things were coming, he said.

You’ll have to let her go.

Twenty-four hours later, Becca and I met clandestine in the middle of the night, in an old barn near where she lived. That was the night she pushed me through my denial of Wald’s disappearance into accepting his death. Having taken a recent and rather violent beating from my father, leaving me a bloody and bruised mess, I suggested we run away together. We would leave them all behind, her parents, my abusive father, and Maryland in general. We gave ourselves a week and three days to pull a plan together.

The last time I saw Becca, she stood in her backyard, covered in moonlight. She turned and blew me a kiss goodbye.

Tears streamed down my bruised face as I watched her walk away. I feared - perhaps knew - the vision of Wald was no lie.

One more time.

That’s how I have remembered Becca Saccarelli for the last eighteen years.

The next day, through a series of unfortunate events that unraveled our plans, Becca’s mother stated a rather forthright threat involving restraining orders and charges of statutory rape. They were taking her away. I would never see her again.

Becca disappeared into the mists of time. I spent years wondering where she went, and what happened to her.

On my birthday of 2009, Becca appeared out of the blue to answer those curiosities. In the month following, we’ve began catching up, growing close again. Between her unhappy home life in Maryland and my lack of one in Florida, it’s true that whoever said ‘misery loves company’ was predicting my future.

After a chat session of reading what she did in her final year of college, she sprung this on me:

Becca: I’ve really missed you Kev. I wish there was a way I could see you.

I sighed knowing she was probably as high and sexually depraved as I was. She recently sent me a photo of herself in jeans and a low-cut shirt. A reminder that even after all these years and two children later, she was still sporting a body close to what I remember from our youth. I glanced at her old senior yearbook photo, a treasure recently excavated from my box of memories from years past. I flipped it over.

Kev –

I love you. I’ll always love you. It IS magic. Don’t forget it.

- Becca

“Magic,” I whispered, looking into her youthful face. She had told me she thought of me when she smiled for that photo. In the years following her parents taking her away, it hurt too much to look upon that photo. I put it away in a safe place, hoping someday that pain would subside enough so I would smile when I looked at her. “It’s all around me.”

I sighed. Here it comes again. It’s all around me. It must be magic. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bits of lyrics from an old E.L.O. song we used to tell one another. Summer and Lightning.

Like Becca’s photo, songs that reminded me of her I also stopped listening to. I couldn’t remember the last I’d heard Summer and Lightning, or Cristifori’s Dream. Too long, I suspect.

Me: I’ve missed you too sweetie. Maybe sometime I can take a mini vaycay to MD and we could have lunch, or something.

Becca: Or something. What kind of something. :)

I chuckled aloud.

Me: Maybe you could find your way down here. I have access to a nice yacht. We could go sailing.

Becca: A yacht? Really?

Me: Yeah, it belongs to a friend of mine who only comes down here a few months out of the year.

That of course, was a lie. I couldn’t tell her it belonged to a comatose Brüder alien named Cristalstimus.

Outside - off the in the distance - thunder rumbled. I stepped away from the desk and sauntered to the front door. I wanted to go outside, to see the thunderstorm. Because of my many experiences with the Brüder type thunderstorms, they evoke a nervous response from me now. There’s no way for me to differentiate a natural thunderstorm from the cloak of an incoming Brüder ship. I must keep this paranoia to myself. Whom else can I tell? When Connor MacKenzie and I parted company three years ago, he left so much business unfinished. He promised he would return, but didn’t know when, or couldn’t say. He’s vague about that sometimes.

V

Saturday, October 14, 2006 – Three years and one month ago.

Connor agreed to return me to Florida one day after I discovered the 2025 quarter, even though I was gone for much longer. I wasn’t sure how many days had passed since Ryan rescued me from Corporation agents Buckley and Waters. At least three I could account for, possibly longer. TDI protocol dictated I should return to my current time index the exact amount of time I was away, so I would appear to age normally. Connor waived protocol in my case. It wouldn’t be possible for me to be off the grid for the entire weekend without someone noticing, particularly my ex-wife. If I didn’t call to talk to Spencer in the evenings, she would wonder why. Missing one Friday night would not arouse suspicion, so Connor agreed to bring me back Saturday afternoon.

Connor temporally displaced us to the next afternoon aboard FCA-1. We took the Jaunte to Area 51. Lieutenant Bowen had restored order there, more or less. We stayed long enough to greet him and for Connor to receive a quick SITREP. I don’t know if Connor heard, or cared. He wasn’t doing much talking to anyone or seemed especially interested in what was going on around him, short of returning me home. His eyes were empty. The loss of Ryan, Krissie, and Jim was taking its toll, even through his brave façade.

When Bowen finished, Connor dismissed him with a nod and a wave of his hand, informing him he was taking Brüder-2 long enough to complete ‘the mission’. He would then return the ship later in the afternoon.

“I’m taking us back to the spot on Turtle Beach where Ryan picked you up,” Connor said to me, once we were in the air. We flew steady, not in the same rush that originally brought me to Area 51. “I’ll drop us down in a severe thunderstorm to avoid any contact with civilians and land long enough for you to exit the ship.” He sighed deeply. “I assume you can find your way back there, to your car?”

“Yes,” I said, quietly, looking at him from the co-pilot seat. “Are you okay Connor? I mean, I know you aren’t doing so well right now, but, will you be?”

For the first time since interrogating Dan, he made full eye contact with me. “I won’t lie, the situation is bad. It’s one thing to lose men and women under my command, even when they are friends. I’ve dealt with it before, that kind of loss. But the loss of the spiritual and visual displacement elements, that’s a completely different matter. It’s bad for the FCA. We still have work to do, in 2095, and possibly other eras. Not having them, those two elements, makes our job so much harder, if not impossible. I’m not sure how we’re going to recover.”

“Ryan, I get,” I said with a lump in my throat. “But Jim could still turn up, couldn’t he?”

Connor looked off into the cloud cover. “He should have by now. We have protocols in place of Jim’s physical demise. I should have heard from him or from ES-3 already, where the cloning facility is.”

“Where is that?”

“Siberia.”

I scoffed in wonder. “Let me guess, Tunguska?”

Connor managed a weak smile. “I was a fan of the X-Files too, you know.”

“Is that a yes?”

“It’s close to Tunguska, sort of. It’s so far underground, ES-3, because of the Ausrottung flood that reshaped Earth. It’s difficult to pinpoint it from the surface.”

“Did the Tunguska Event have anything to do with that Earth station?”

“Before The Corporation formed on Earth, a group of Brüder hiding here believed ES-3 was there, only closer to the surface. The used Brüder-3 to deflect an asteroid from the Beta Taurid meteor shower, to impact it where they believed ES-3 was located. Not only did they miss, they didn’t realize it was over five miles underground, the station. They only way in and out is through the Jaunte. That’s what happened with that.”

“Not quite as exciting as the X-Files version.”

“No military installations mining rock for alien black oil, sorry.” Connor actually chuckled for a moment. “The Russians don’t even know it’s there.”

“No Russkies in the FCA?”

“Countries run by dictators are under Corporation control. While I realize Russia is no longer communist, um…who’s running things over there now?”

“Ugh, Putin.”

“Yeah, the KGB guy. He’s a major Corporation puppet. Russia might no longer be communist, but with Putin in control, he’ll say they have and promote democracy, but it’s not true. That guy, he’ll be in power until he dies.”

“You know this cause you’ve seen it?”

Connor actually laughed this time. “No, I stopped following world politics in 2003, when I left to head the TDI program. There’s no need really. I’m only saying based on what I‘ve heard of the guy and knowing how they operate, The Corporation. It wouldn’t surprise me if he stays in power, Putin, until he dies or is killed, either one.” Connor stopped smiling and looked at me. “I really need your help now, Kevin”

“Whatever you need, where are we going?”

“Where I need to go, I have to go alone,” he said. My look of enthusiasm faltered. “I need you here, in 2006, and onward.”

“I get the idea you already know I’ve agreed.” Connor said nothing. “What could I possibly do from 2006 that’s so important to you?”

“Jim is MIA, that’s a big deal for me, for the FCA. I have no idea if or when he’ll be back. I’m not asking you to take Jim’s place, but until I know his status I need a liaison, especially now. Do you still have a communicator and an Impüls?”

I slapped my pockets and my front waistline. I felt both still on me. “Yes.”

“Keep them. If Jim reappears per protocol, it’ll be in line with when he went missing. He’ll reach out on all FCA frequencies. Chances are ES-5 will pick up on it first. If that happens, I want you to brief him on everything that’s happened since Martin escaped ES-5. Up to and especially what happened with Victor Merrick and his evolution into Vincent.”

“I can do that, but why the Impüls?”

“Just in case they interfere, those who are…not our friends.”

I swallowed. “You think that’s going to be a problem?”

“I don’t think so, but I take no chances, especially in this line of work.”

I looked out the viewport, at the view above the clouds. Such a beautiful sight. “Will you be back?”

Connor put his hand on my shoulder, gripping it with confidence. “I will, I promise. I can’t tell you when, but we will meet again.”

Can’t…or won’t?

I paused, looking down at the distorted view of clouds passing underneath the nearly transparent ship. “Okay then,” I said, looking up. “Tell me everything I need to know, to do what you ask of me.”

VI

Present day

Lightning flashed in the distance, followed by another light rumble of thunder several seconds later. I wrote it off as another late night Florida thunderstorm. It was a little unusual for November, but not unheard of.

I returned to my desk. Another message from Becca waited.

Becca: That must be nice. Do you go out on it often?

“Ha!” I said to the monitor.

Me: No, not really.

Another lie. Twice a month I have to take the damned PrinzessinErde out to ES-12 to check on Vincent Rettori and Cristalstimus, both of whom remain in stasis. It’s become a major pain in the ass to make the three hour drive to Captiva Island to take the damned yacht into the gulf for two hours. And for what? A five-minute visit at ES-12 to ensure Vincent and Cristalstimus are still alive. One of the many things I agreed to do for Connor as his liaison. Sometimes I spend the night on the PrinzessinErde, staring up at the stars, and occasionally the moon. I no longer call it the moon. It’s FCA-1 now, and although operational, remains unmanned in 2009. Sometimes I try to find the speck of white light where Krissie and Ryan disappeared. I know it’s not visible to the naked eye yet, but I still look. Connor says it won’t be visible until well after 2032, after the war that will devastate the country, and the world.

Thunder rolled in the distance, coming closer now.

Becca: Why not?

Me: It’s expensive, and I hate gong alone. It’s an experience best shared.

That wasn’t a lie. I’m not sure where Cristalstimus acquired the funds and the resources to keep the PrinzessinErde in shape and afloat. When Connor asked me to take her out to ES-12 to monitor Vincent bi-monthly, I mentioned the cost involved with docking and maintaining such a vessel.

VII

Saturday, October 14, 2006 – Three years and one month ago.

It didn’t take Connor long to explain some of the more intricate features of the FCA communicators. Twice a month, or as needed, Connor requested I file a status report via the communicator to FCA-1. Its automated system would receive and store the report for TDI-1, Connor’s eyes only. In an emergency, I could contact the nearest military liaison in Tallahassee where the FCA kept a small base. Lieutenant Klaus Faber, who keeps vigil on all open FCA frequencies, would be my contact. Each state has one base and a small unit for emergency Brüder ship landings, apparently.

Connor wanted the bi-monthly report to include the status of Vincent Rettori and Cristalstimus, both in stasis at ES-12. Since there was no Jaunte access, I would need to drive to the yacht launch on nearby Sanibel Island and sail from there. Connor programmed my communicator’s version of GPS to find the well-hidden underwater station.

Originally, I didn’t have a qualm about running such an errand. After all, who in their right mind wouldn’t want access to the kind of yacht Cristalstimus owned and take it sailing twice a month?

The man paying the bill for storage and fuel, that’s who.

“I have absolutely no problem taking that yacht, the Prinzee-something-or-other out for a spin. Sound like fun, actually.”

PrinzessinErde. Connor said. “It means Earth Princess.”

I raised my eyebrows. It was a pretty name for a boat. “I didn’t know that. Anyway, I’d be happy to take her out, but I need you to understand I can’t afford the upkeep or the fuel on that thing, especially sailing her as often as you want. Those things are fucking expensive, that why only the rich own them.”

Connor grinned ever so slightly. I was glad my dry wit could get one out of him, especially in his somber mood. “I’m aware of the cost. I don’t expect you to cover it. I’m going to ask Lieutenant Faber and his team to investigate the paper trail on her, the PrinzessinErde. Cristalstimus certainly didn’t buy her on his own. I suspect The Corporation owns it. Either way, we’re going to take possession of her through one of our shell companies, who will cover all the costs. All you need to do is show up and take her out.” Connor paused, and then nodded. “Tell you what, take her out whenever you want, call it a perk of the job.”

My eyes widened. “Really?”

“Sure, why not? All I ask, is you not take anyone with you when you’re making your ES-12 runs or on any other FCA business. Otherwise, have a blast with her. I’ll have him send all the necessary information to your house address, Faber.”

Connor’s generosity humbled me. “Thank you,” I said, softly. “That’s way kind of you.”

“No, it’s the least I can do, considering what you’ll be doing for me. I’ll also have Faber set up an expense account for you. I only ask you use those funds strictly for FCA business; gas, meals, things of that nature, whatever you need to make trips to Captiva, or anywhere else if the need comes up. I don’t want any of it to fall on you, the financial burden of our work.”

I was speechless for several seconds, jaw agape. “Absolutely Connor. You have my word.”

He slapped my back in a brotherly gesture. “I trust you, Kevin. You’re one of the good guys.”

“I could say the same of you,” I said in wonder. “I wish I could do more.”

Connor looked over, nodding ever so slightly. “That time may come sooner than you think.”

VIII

Present day

I’d been staring off into space, recalling that conversation with Connor so many years ago. Sooner than you think, he said. I suppose for someone who lived on the other side of the century, three years doesn’t qualify as ‘sooner.’

Becca: I’ll bet it is. What kind of yacht is it?

That was a good question. An older one? I didn’t know a damned thing about boats, except how to pilot the PrinzessinErde.

Thunder rolled again, much closer this time. I could see lightning flashes through the semi closed window blinds.

Me: No idea. A huge one big enough to live on, built sometime in the 80s, I think. It’s nice tho.

Me: A big thunderstorm is coming. If I go offline, it’s coz I lost power.

Becca: Ok.

Becca: You taken any other girls out on it? Or will I be the first? ;-)

I snorted. Other girls, indeed. She knew damned well there no other girls since Rose Centeno bailed on me. As for Krissie, nothing really happened between her and me. Even so, I couldn’t tell Becca about her. So much time had passed since that day in 2006. It hardly seemed real anymore. None of it did. Then again, I’ve spent the last few years higher than a kite. Everything feels like a dream in retrospect.

Me: You’d definitely be the first.

Becca: Yeah?

Me: Well, you can see my door is constantly falling off its hinges due to the endless well of women I have knocking it down.

Becca: Smartass.

Thunder crashed much closer this time, barely a second after the lightning flash. The branches from the tree outside my office window snapped against the glass from the intense wind. I questioned my decision regarding the source of this particular thunderstorm. It became violent much too quickly, much faster than the standard Florida thunderstorm.

I reached for the FCA communicator sitting on my desk, in front of the monitor. Normally I kept it locked in one of my desk drawers, but since Spencer wasn’t with me this day, I kept it out in the open. I flipped it open, accessing the FCA frequency bands. They were all flat. No one was broadcasting. Still, the weather outside didn’t feel natural.

Me: brb, I need to check something.

Becca: ok

I went back outside with the communicator in hand, looking to the sky. Lightning danced between the storm clouds. The wind violently whipped tree branches into each other. An empty heavy-duty plastic trashcan rolled down the street.

No rain.

“Uh oh,” I whispered to myself, flipping the communicator open. I opened the locator program hoping to reveal the signal of other FCA communicators. The holographic display showed nothing. I switched back to the frequencies interface and opened the one used for ship communication. “Brüder ship, are you a stranger who comes as a friend?” The readout indicated my message went unprocessed. No FCA or Brüder communications device received it.

A fractured bolt of lightning blazed down from above, touching ground somewhere on the other side of the neighborhood. Less than a second later concentrated thunder roared, shaking the entire house. I covered my ears from the intensity of the thunder’s low-end frequency. The electricity wavered for a moment, causing the lights in my office to flicker. When the sound of thunder died and the power opted to stick with me a while longer, I decided I was still acting paranoid. No one was up there except Mother Nature, and for some undefined reason, she was pissed this night.

I returned to my desk, and Becca. She left a message in my absence. The brief interrupt in the electricity didn’t affect my computer or the Internet connection. Both ran on a surge protector with a battery backup. Worst case, I could get an hour out of it to power the CPU, the monitor and the cable modem.

Becca: Everything ok sweetheart?

Sweetheart? Hmmm.

Becca used to use that word me constantly, back in the day. I smiled.

Me: Yes, love.

A pang of guilt came over me the instant I sent that reply. That was Krissie’s word. It seemed wrong to use it with someone else.

Me: The storm here is getting way intense. I thought I was going to lose power there for a sec.

Becca: That sucks.

Becca: I like it when you call me that.

Me: Call you what?

Becca: Love

“Ugh,” I said to myself, wishing I hadn’t used it. I would have to come up with some other pet name, should the need arise.

It then occurred to me the garage door was still open. If it started raining, which it probably would, I didn’t want my Corvette to get wet. The car spent too much time in the rain when I returned in 2006, because I asked Ryan to stash his busted SUV in the garage.

IX

Saturday, October 14, 2006 – Three years and one month ago.

“Connor?” I asked, breaking the silence of the trip. Connor had stopped talking in lieu of staring out the viewport as we flew, lost in thought. He looked so sad when he turned to make eye contact. “What am I supposed to do with that SUV Ryan hid in my garage?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Dump it in a parking lot. It’ll be towed to an impound lot eventually.” I look at him, confused. “What is it?”

“You do remember Ryan T-boned the Lexus Buckley drove. He fled the scene of an accident…”

Connor started nodding furiously. “Yes, and they probably has an APB on it, law enforcement does. Damn it, it completely slipped my mind.”

I offered him a sympathetic half smile. “It’s okay, after the day we’ve had.”

“No, you don’t understand. If you moved it, the SUV, and they printed it, the prints would come back to you, and you’d have some serious explaining to do. Remember, I used to be a detective. I’m guessing Buckley fled the scene as well to avoid the authorities, but all the same, that SUV needs to disappear.”

“So what should I do with it?”

“Nothing,” Connor said, hard. “You don’t even touch it. I’ll have Faber organize a pick up for it, and they can deal with it. In the meantime, leave it in your garage, and leave it alone! Do you understand?”

“Completely,” I said, solemn, similar to how Ryan might have answered Connor when taking an order.

“I should think three more days and the cops here will stop looking. After that, I’ll order Faber himself to pick it up, so you two can meet.”

“Excellent idea,” I said, careful with the tone I used. Connor’s state of mind seemed to be all over the place. I didn’t want to anger him unintentionally.

Eventually, Connor looked over apologetically. “I’m not upset with you, Kevin. I’m grateful you remembered the problem with that SUV. I’m upset with myself for not remembering it. I’m not on top of it right now, my game.”

“I don’t expect you to be, I don’t think anyone would.”

“No. I expect me to be, and it’s a problem I’m not. That’s why I need to leave for now, go back to my time index, and figure some things out. Part of why this mission got so out of hand - and frankly, fucked up - is because we didn’t follow protocol. But considering what was involved, we had no choice. There were too many variables not accounted for.”

I sighed. I didn’t know what to say. Connor would need to work this out on his own. All I could do for him was my part here in 2006.

A short time later, Brüder-2 touched down on the isolated side of Turtle Beach, long enough for me to bid Connor farewell. I offered him my hand. He embraced me instead. I held him in return. I believed for a moment Connor would break down and cry. I know I wanted to.

He pulled away, lightly gripping my shoulders. “Your call sign in now FCAL-3. Before I return to 2095, I will make sure the FCA communication system recognizes you as such.”

“Copy,” I said, voice trembling. “I won’t let you down.”

Connor held out the FutureQuarter, hanging on neck chain. All the encoded information on its edge now removed. I asked Connor if he would let me keep it, with all the sensitive information involving ES-1 and Brüder-4 destroyed. The damned thing had followed me most of my life. In a way, I felt bonded to it. Initially, Connor said he would consider my request, but made no promises. It was still considering a piece of the future from my perspective. FCA and TDI protocol expressly prohibited the displacement of such things. I reached for it, hesitant. Connor nodded, signifying his approval.

“I know you won’t. Understand I trust you and your judgment. I have the highest confidence in you and your ability to carry out my orders. We will meet again. Until that time, please take care of yourself.” I nodded, feeling a little frightened in a way. I would be on my own again, with much more responsibility than before, for a greater cause.

One I believed in. One I had faith in.

Brüder-2 sealed herself up as I stepped onto the wind-strewn beach. She lifted off and out of sight as quickly as she landed.

My Corvette was exactly where Ryan and I left it, parked next to the maintenance building on the far end of Turtle Beach. The stormy weather dissipated quickly. Blue sky slowly poked through the scattered and dissolving cloud cover. By the time I reached the south bridge of Siesta key to cross back onto the mainland, the storm was completely gone. The wet roads quickly began to dry in the hot sun.

No one would question the unusual weather pattern, a thunderstorm coming and going in the blink of an eye. This is Florida. Such things are part of living in paradise. And, it is paradise. At least it will be for another twenty-six years. Perhaps it might be time to start appreciating the days ahead, knowing what no one else does. Those remaining days are numbered. The end is coming.

X

Present day

The SUV is long gone now. True to Connor’s word, Lieutenant Klaus Faber arrived a week later with a large flatbed truck to take it away. He was clearly German and afforded me a lot of respect, calling me sir at the end of every sentence. I wondered if he was Brüder. I also let him that calling me ‘sir’ wasn’t necessary, as I was not military. He seemed bemused at my statement, letting me know I was FCA, and FCA outranks those serving as military liaisons (but not the actual military, who know nothing of the FCA.)

Overall, he was a pleasant guy. We talked briefly about his team in Tallahassee, and the work they do there. Faber let me know I was always welcome to drive up and visit.

The newfound position I found myself in was disconcerting, at first. I wasn’t comfortable with US military personnel referring to me as ‘sir’, as if I was somehow above them. One earns that kind of respect, and I didn’t believe I had. I was acting as a temporary liaison due to Jim’s disappearance, nothing more. A temporary post at best.

Now, three years and one month later, I couldn’t help but wonder how temporary the job actually was. If Connor could see me as I am now, he’d be so disappointed. Yes, I still made the trip to see Vincent twice a month and filed the requested reports, but otherwise I’ve become a doped up pill junkie who doesn’t want to quit the addiction anymore. Hell, I depend on it now. Connor once mentioned becoming addicted to TS-14. I wonder if it was this bad for him too.

I also wish Krissie were here to help break me of it, because I’m certain she too would disapprove and would not see me as the man I once was.

That might not be altogether true, my mind’s voice said. She fell in love you because of what will happen when you meet here, which is sometime between now and December 31st.

I grinned at the thought. It’s true. With all the time I spent messing around with Becca Saccarelli over the Internet, I forgot a younger Krissie was due to drop in on me sometime soon.

I closed the garage door and returned to my desk. Several minutes had passed since Becca last messaged me. Another waited.

Becca: You still there, Kev?

Me: Yes, sorry. I was watching the thunderstorm. The lightning is beautiful; the way is dances among the clouds.

I sighed, and waited for her response. The wind outside began to die down as the sound of fat raindrops splattered against the office window and the roof.

Becca: Sounds beautiful. I wish I were there with you, so we could see it together.

Wow. Becca was coming on strong tonight. I didn’t know how to reply to that. Should I offer the same level of suggestion, or simply be polite about it?

Me: Summer and Lightning? It must be magic.

Becca: OMG! I haven’t thought about that song in forever!

Me: Well, it’s always summer in Florida and there’s plenty of lightning about this night, so why not? It’s all around me.

Becca: Yeah yeah yeah

Me: I wish you were here too. :)

That was as good as she would get for now. She wanted to pull me into an emotional affair, I was sure of it. As appealing as it sounded, I didn’t know if I was ready to deal with it, not in my current dilemma.

Becca: Ever made love outside while the rain falls?

Me: Can’t say I have.

Becca: Me neither, but I’d like to try it sometime. ;)

“Oh boy,” I said under my breath. I could feel blood rushing to my extremities. Her suggestion was turning me on.

Without warning, there was a knock at my door. I glanced at the clock on my computer. It was 10:26 pm. Without thinking about it, I unlocked and opened the desk drawer where I kept the Impüls. “Hold on!” I called out.

Me: Someone is here, brb.

Although the wind died down some, I could still hear it whipping around the house as I approached the front door. I turned the outside light on. To my dismay, the builder of this house opted to install a door with no peephole. I had no way of knowing who was on the other side. I pushed my face closer to the door and said, “Who is it!

“I’m a stranger who comes as a friend,” she said in her instantly recognizable British accent.

My blood ran cold, pooling in the gut. OH MY GOD! IT’S HER, SHE’S HERE! I pushed the Impüls into the front waistband of my pants. “Is everything as it appears?” I asked in return.

“No, it most certainly is not!” She replied. She was FCA and was not in her current time index. Of course she wasn’t. In 2006, Krissie would be six years old.

I opened the door, slowly, wanting to see her for myself. There she stood, visibly younger by several years, holding a fussy baby. “Kristina?” I asked, hesitant.

“Are you Kevin Provance, FCAL-3, formerly know as ‘Conundrum’?”

“That would be I,” I said with the widest grin I could manage.

She looked at me cautiously. “Have we met before?”

“Code Black,” I said. She nodded, understanding the situation. “Would you like to come in and get dry?’

She looked over her shoulder, past the huge black backpack slung over her shoulder, obviously expecting someone else. “Yes, but my colleague isn’t far behind.” She stepped into my house’s excuse for a foyer, immediately taking care of the baby, who was sopping wet.

“What’s that baby’s name?” I asked.

“Casey. He’s my colleagues’ son. The Corporation wants him in his time index. Connor and I got him and his father out. You registered on our system as a liaison in this year, which makes this a possible safe house.”

“Connor MacKenzie is with you?” I asked, surprised and happy to know I might see my mentor once again.

“Yes,” she said, with shifty eyes. She was hiding something pertaining to Connor. “He piloted the ship.”

“Brüder-2?”

“Of course Brüder-2. What other ship would it be?”

I bit my lip. “Nothing, sorry, I’m just surprised is all.”

Krissie looked closer into my eyes. “And high on something. Opiates would be my guess.” I looked away. “Do you have a drug problem, Mr. Provance?”

Mr. Provance? The cold formality bothered me.

“All I can say to that is, at one time I required injections of TS-14. It left me in a state of withdraw I was sure would kill me. I did what I had to do.”

“TS-14?” Krissie asked, surprised. “You went through the temporal displacement portal?”

“Multiple times. When Connor dropped me off three years ago, it must have slipped his mind that I was all but addicted to it. I didn’t know how to stop on my own. I couldn’t tell a hospital a future medication did this to me.”

Krissie looked away, toward the baby. “No, I don’t suppose that would have been very wise.” She paused to look up at me again. “When we get settled here, I can help with your addition. Pain free withdraw. You’ll be as good as new in a few days.”

Her words disappointed me on the inside. I didn’t let it show. I wasn’t ready to quit getting high. I still enjoyed the euphoria too much. “Okay, when we get settled here. Where is Connor?”

“He’s taking Brüder-2 to our base in Tallahassee and driving down. We have no other place to hide the ship.”

“Okay, so who is your colleague?”

Outside, around the front of the garage, I could hear footsteps. They approached the sidewalk that led to the front door, where Krissie and I stood.

“That’s him now,” she said, reaching out to touch my arm. “Kevin, prepare your self, okay?”

I scoffed. I thought I had seen it all and could no longer be surprised. Krissie’s colleague approached the door, the light of the 60-watt incandescent blub falling on his face as he walked out of the shadows.

I was wrong. I could still be surprised.

When he stepped up to me, he stood frozen in place, offering a half smile. My jaw was open, my eyes squinting. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing was real. In slow motion, I reached out to touch the stubble on his dirty face. I knew who he was. It was no mistake.

“This can’t be,” I whispered. “Spencer, is that you?”

He sighed. “Hi, Dad.”


TO BE CONTINUED…


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