Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Microstory 92: Manifest Infinity (2 of 2)

Several years ago, the prototype of what was deemed to be The Perfect Race was discovered by a group of Fostean invaders. They kidnapped this individual and took it back to their galaxy. After much debate, they paired it with a second scientific endeavor. They were learning how to tap into the souls of living people and interact with the universes that lie inside. The inhabitants of any given universe is made in the image of its god, which meant that the godlings of the perfect creature were even more perfect than it, because they developed—from their perspective—by way of natural evolution. The Fosteans continued to hinder the intelligence of the prototype, but were unable to change the genetics of the people within its universe. These people were inescapably dependent on the original genetic arrangement of their god. One day, the laboratory was attacked by a group of insurgents, one of which was actually an Earthan human. In this man’s attempt to retrieve his friend’s daughter, they were both transported to the universe that was inside of the perfect prototype. Since time moves at a different rate in different universe, they spent over a thousand years there, while still tied to the timestream of our universe, where less than a minute had passed. This turned out to be a blessing, for this man and his ward lived adventures in the lower universe, and altered the course of their behavior. They instilled in them a sense of right and wrong so that they would choose neither to be soldiers for the Fosteans, nor exterminators for the rouge Lactean scientist faction. Instead, once they were all brought into our universe, they were found to be the most generous and loving race ever encountered.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Microstory 91: The Perfect Race (1 of 2)

Some time ago, a group of scientists from all over their solar system came together and formed a rogue faction. They were unhappy with the state of the universe, and decided to create the perfect race. This new creature would not be bred for war, or any kind of pedestrian violence, but it would be extremely difficult to kill, and its intelligence would be practically immeasurable. Its purpose would be to systematically end all life, using its superior intelligence, so that they could start over. My contacts in the system are still gathering data, however they have managed to relay to me key documents. The creature’s skin and bones are extremely strong, but also flexible, so that it can more effectively protect the other systems of the body. The muscles are much stronger than those of most other beings, and they are capable of manipulating their own mass in order to leap farther and run faster. They can extract energy from a number of different gases, and exhale at the same time as they inhale, so cardiopulmonary exchange is unhindered. Their bodies were designed to carry two of every single organ, with only one being used at a time. If one of a pair is damaged or otherwise fails, the other will take over. The failed organ will be filtered out and replaced by stem cells in a matter of months. If both of a pair fail, the body is capable of dropping itself into a state of extreme hibernation inside of a nearly impenetrable cocoon, so as to give the stem cells enough time and energy to regenerate. The most impressive feature is the fact that brain matter can be found throughout their entire body, giving them around 20 times the number of neurons as most people. When the government discovered this faction, the project was scrapped, however there was already a living prototype. It is illegal to kill any living being with a soul, so its neural processes were stunted to diminish the danger, and everything was all right; that is until the Fosteans discovered the project and co-opted the prototype in order to create the perfect soldier, leading to the story of Manifest Infinity.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 5, 2029 & ??? ?, ???

Leona ran up to him. “Is this what it feels like? Like nothing?”
“What did you expect?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“We have to find a way to get you off of my pattern.”
“That ship has sailed, sweetheart. Did you notice? I’m now only a couple weeks younger than you. I started jumping after I turned 28, just like you.”
“We don’t know that you’ve started anything. You hacked into my anklet. That might have connected your device to me...temporarily.”
She started digging through her bag. “I can get that off.” She took out a sinister mini blowtorch and tore through his anklet like it was butter.
“Stop right there!” Salinger had burst through the door again, and was pointing her weapon at them. “You look exactly the same. What the hell happened here?”
Mateo sighed. “It’s been a year for you, but not for us.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you’re time travelers?”
“Timeslippers,” Leona corrected.
“We prefer salmon.”
Salinger stared at them for a few seconds. “Get inside. Both of you. You have any idea how much trouble I got into for losing you after making a big deal about calling the feds?” She kept her gun trained on them as she opened the door.
On the other side of the threshold was not the police station. It was Stonehenge, but different. There were many more stones than Mateo remembered having seen. It looked complete.
“What the hell is this?” Salinger asked.
“A meeting,” a man answered from the other side. “You’re not invited, but you can stay if you want. I don’t really care.”
Curiosity got the best of her, and Salinger walked inside, no longer worried about getting Mateo and Leona into the station.
Leona admired the architecture. “Is this how Stonehenge originally looked?”
The man looked around. “Oh, this? No, it’s been partially destroyed by now. It used to be a building. Now only the stones remain. In time, many of those will be stolen for other things. That is, until a bunch of historians come out and say, ‘hey! Quit stealing stones from this henge! Ya dicks!’”
“May I ask who you are?”
“You may, Mateo, indeed. But you won’t get a very good answer. I’m afraid that my head has been filled with so much other information that I’ve lost all knowledge of my own life. I do not know my name. The salmon just call me The Delegator.”
“You’re a puppet for the powers that be?” Mateo asked.
Leona stepped forward and examined the Delegator more closely. “Or he is one of the powers that be.”
“I’ve not yet ruled that out.”
“What do you want with us?” Leona asked cautiously.
“He’s here to tell you what you’re supposed to do,” Salinger explained. They all gave her a weird look. Did she know something? “Well, isn’t it obvious? That’s what a delegator does.”
“Quite right,” the Delegator agreed. “If a salmon has trouble figuring out their job; be it because they’re resisting, or because it’s too complicated to inuit, I step in. Which is...pretty much always. I think I’ve met every single other salmon.”
“And you don’t know how you know what you know, but you know who to contact, where to find them, and what to do with them?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Do you always bring them to Stonehenge in the past?”
He looked around and smiled. “I do, mostly. I like this place. I don’t have to bring them here, but it’s become sort of my office. It provides a level of stability for me.”
“And I’m just here because I was in the way?”
“You’re here, Detective, because there was too little time between Leona’s initial jump, and you showing up. So I suppose you’re right; you got in the way.” He pointed toward the gap in the stones they first came through. “Step through that door and it will take you back home.”
Salinger began to walk towards the opening.
“Step through any one of the other doors,” he continued, “and it will take you somewhere else. And you’ll become one of us.”
Salinger looked back at him, unsure of what to say.
“You can do that?” Mateo asked. “You can just turn someone into a salmon?”
“She already is,” he started to explain. “She was initialized when she came into physical contact with a salmon after their own activation.”
Sad panda Mateo turned to Leona.
“She’s not your fault,” the Delegator said. “The powers still had to decide to activate her. If they wanted her, they would have found a way to get a preexisting salmon to touch her. If it hadn’t been you, it would have been someone else. Though, to be fair, you’re a package deal. They obviously wanted you together, which is why they put you on the same pattern.”
“That doesn’t explain how I can choose to be one by walking through a different door,” Salinger argued.
“We all agree to this,” the Delegator corrected. “Both parties must enter into the proverbial contract, or nothing happens. Yes, as Delegator, I’ve been given the power to...recommend an applicant, but I do not exercise this ability often.”
“I never agreed to this,” Mateo said.
“On some level, you did. These people making this happen, they don’t think in conversations and remarks. Communication is more complex and fluid to them. A part of you wanted to go, so the powers made it happen.”
“You son of a bitch.” Mateo unenthusiastically lunged towards him. “I wouldn’t have done this to my parents! And my birth parents wouldn’t have done this to me!”
The Delegator was unfazed. “There is something you have to understand, Mister Matic. The soul is timeless. Literally. That’s what makes time travel and teleportation possible. It’s why there’s no such thing as a sociopathic salmon. Your soul knows absolutely everything there is to know about the universe; past, present, and future. It’s designed to guide you through your choices. The only difference between a salmon and a normal person is that mine and your souls are giving us access to a little bit more information than one might expect.” He gathered his thoughts. “It’s true, you...consciously did not want this, but your soul did. And you have to do what your soul demands of you. Trying to escape that directive is, well...impossible, at best.”
“What will my directive be if I step through a different door?” Salinger was apparently seriously considering the offer.
“I can’t tell you that until you try it. That’s the drawback. There’s no preparing yourself, and there’s no changing your mind. Either you do it or you don’t. I can give your soul a nudge by outwardly showing you a choice, but you still have to make it. Again, you can’t go against your soul. Whatever decision you make is what it wanted you to make.”
“Then I guess there’s no point trying to run from fate.” She turned to Mateo. “And I guess I won’t know until later whether I should thank you or shoot you for initializing me.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Mateo begged. “I don’t believe in fate.”
She tilted her head and smiled. “I kind of do. Fate’s just another word for God.” She started to back up towards a random opening. “When I met you, Mateo, I knew that my life was going to change. I’ve been searching for my place in the world, and this is my chance to find it.”
“Detective Salinger, wait,” Mateo said. “I never caught your first name.”
She smiled sweetly. “It’s Danica. But I was adopted, just like you, because my birth mother was hardly ever around. Her last name was Matic.” She crossed the threshold and disappeared into nothingness.
“Aunt Daria,” Mateo whispered to himself.
After Mateo turned back around, the Delegator acted like he had known exactly what was going to happen. “Now do you see?”
“Enough the the puzzles,” Leona said firmly. “What is our job?” She put air quotes around the last word. “What are you delegating to us?”
“That’s the brilliant thing,” the Delegator began. “Every salmon is given assignments, and it’s my job to dole them out. But you’re different. To my knowledge, you two don’t have any responsibilities. It is my assumption that the powers that be want to see what you choose to do on your own.”
The sun blinked and both Stonehenge and the Delegator disappeared, leaving them back in Kansas. Mateo and Leona spent the rest of the day speaking very little at a picnic table in the triangle where 130 Road, Aa Road, and Highway 191 and meet.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Seeing is Becoming: Hunted (Part VI)

“Did they send you back to Earth?” Vearden asked after releasing Saga from the hug. “I looked for you, but found nothing.”
“They did send me back,” Saga said. “To 1868,” she added.
“I was there for three years.”
“How did you survive?”
“I met some friends. They’re like us. Two of them left 1994, and have been doing this a lot longer.”
“Three years,” he repeated. “I was in our time for only a year, using my alien blood to heal people.”
“Well, if that’s all the powers that be wanted from us, why are we back on Orothsew?”
“We call this planet Orolak now,” Vearden corrected.
He went about telling her what he learned from the Gondilak, as well as the things he had been doing on Earth before returning. She told her own stories about the mid-19th century. No supernatural healing for her, but life was never dull. Her and her new friends were always on some kind of adventure.
They were just finishing up their conversation when an arrow came out of nowhere and went right through Vearden’s shoulder. He casually broke it and pulled it out. “We have to go,” he said.
They began to run, zigging and zagging around the sharp needled trees. They ended up going through a dense area. Cuts and bruises formed all over their skin. Just when they thought that perhaps no one was following them, they discovered this to be untrue. There was a clear ruckus from behind. It sounded like a hunting party. “I thought you were on good terms with the Gondilak,” Saga said.
“I am. This must be the Orothsew.”
“No, they need us. They called us their champions.”
“Well, something’s changed.”
“Why aren’t you healing?”
Vearden looked down and grasped his wounded shoulder. She was right, it wasn’t closing up, and he couldn’t say why. He opened his mouth to question it, but found himself pushed down to the ground. An arrow flew just above his head and landed in a tree. A creature that looked not like an Orothsew, and not like a Gondilak, but like both, was on top of him.
“We have to go,” the creature said in a feminine voice. When they didn’t move, she yelled, “now!”
They hopped to it and kept on running through the trees. The stranger quickly overtook them and began to lead the way. She would change directions suddenly, apparently in an effort to hide their trail. Sometimes, she would use a tree branch to swing herself forward, preventing her tracks from logically connecting to each other. They tried to do the same, and were sometimes even successful, but only sometimes. She was agile, tough, and extremely quick. It was clear that she was slowing down for them, but she didn’t act frustrated. She legitimately wanted to help.
Soon, they were at the swamp. “Get in,” she ordered. “This will mask your scent.”
“Perfect,” Saga said, gladly lathering the mud and moss all over her body.
Vearden was more hesitant, having just spent a year in civilized society, but he did as he was told. He flinched as he stuck some of the moss in his shoulder wound after the friend who introduced herself as Yalshi claimed that it would help protect his blood from infection. “We should keep going,” he suggested.
“Yes,” Yalshi agreed. “But move more slowly, and take every opportunity to step on rocks and roots. At this point, we want them to think that we’ve disappeared completely.
“Give it a couple days, and we might just do that.”
“We do not have a couple days.”
They spent the rest of the day, methodically escaping their pursuers. They hadn’t heard a peep from them in hours by the time they reached the creek. They waded through the water and proceeded upstream for another few hours, at which point Yalshi felt is was safe to clean themselves up and find shelter.
All they were able to find was a shallow and unsecured cave; just enough to get out of the wind and talk. “Why were they chasing us?” Saga asked.
“You are invaders,” Yalshi said plainly. “More than that, you’re human. A couple of your kind came here decades ago. One of them had the ability to heal, just like the Gondilak, and it is said that he used this to kill many on both sides. A Mongrel named Trijko took his opportunity to unite the Orothsew and Gondilak against the invaders. He dispensed with any who claimed that the two human invaders actually hadn’t killed anyone, but I’ve spoken with Uhyiopa, and I believe her. She knew the healing one personally and admitted to me that the massacre was a lie they made up to end the war.
“This was decades ago?” Vearden asked. Where is Uhyiopa now?”
Yalshi drew a frown on her face. “She was killed for speaking so-called lies to The Mongrel King’s daughter. But I know the truth now, and I won’t let my father do this anymore. Even if it means we reform the schism between the two races, I won’t let them dishonor the humans who have a history only of helping our great world. I promise you, friends, that you will be vindicated. I will make Orolak safe for you once more.”
“You’re the king’s daughter, right?”
“Yes, I am. But I’m nothing like him, I assure you. I—”
Saga interrupted her. “I’m not saying you are. But I assume that mongrel means that you are born of both Gondilak and Orothsew blood?”
“My father is the result of genetic engineering. Gondilak and Orothsew cannot reproduce together, as no creatures of two species can. But scientists from an unknown land experimented with us many years ago. The king has no mother or father, but I am the result of a natural birth from him and another like him.”
“I see,” Saga said.
“How long has it been since the last invader?” Vearden asked.
“Why, it’s been at least twenty years.”
“And how long since the last human?”
“I haven’t heard so much as a rumor of a human in my entire life. I have no reason to believe that another has come through since the infamous couple. But you’re here now. You can show them that you mean us no harm, and visitors will once again be allowed through their magical doors.”
Vearden turned to Saga. “Maybe that’s the point.”
“The point of what?” Yalshi asked.
Saga answered instead. “We were the couple decades ago. It is true that we killed no one, but perhaps the lie your father and Uhyiopa told was what needed to happen. I’ve always felt that we were here to unite the two races and end the war. I just didn’t know we wouldn’t actually be around to see it.”
“If that’s true,” Vearden began, “what are we doing back here? If we’re done with our mission, why send us back? My healing powers are gone, and this is dangerous territory for us now.”
Saga shook her head. “I don’t know, V. Maybe they just wanted us to see what we had accidentally accomplished?”
“Or to tie up loose ends by having us killed,” Vearden suggested.
“Are you two really them? Why are your healing powers gone?”
Saga thought about it for a moment after Vearden showed that he had no answer. “You said you spent the last year on Earth healing people.”
“Indeed. I never really knew why. But I would have a dream with a sick or hurt person’s face, and their general location. When I woke up, I would have no choice but to go there and give them some of my blood. It worked every time.”
“And the last person you healed was one of us? That sounds significant. You must have been losing a little bit of yourself every time you healed, and this guy took the last of your special blood. Who was he?”
“I’m not sure. I did see his chart out of the corner of my eye.” He tried to remember. “It started with an M. Mark? Or Matthew?”
“Mateo?” Saga asked, surprised. “Mateo Matic.”
“Yeah, that sounds right.”
Saga just laughed. She laughed and laughed and laughed.
“What is it?”
Oh my God, we’re all connected.”
Yes, you are.” A man was standing outside, but he wasn’t exactly all there. He was between two large stones that were holding up a third stone. It looked like a portal to another place. “Please. Step into my office.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

Microstory 90: One True Mate

There is another universe, right next to ours. It wasn’t ever supposed to be so close. The void between universes is designed to be immeasurably large, but due to a little human ingenuity, and one or two cataclysmic accidents, theirs and ours were brought closer together. This caused significant problems for our God, but that is another story. The interesting thing about these travelers is their biology. They were, in almost all respects, human. In fact, being the rightful humans who evolved legitimately in their universe, they were considered pure. But there was an aspect of their reproduction that, all things being equal, made them unique. When a male and a female copulate for the first time, they are inextricably connected. Certain chemicals are released in each other’s bodies that prevents each from reproducing offspring with any other partner, which means that there is no such thing as a half-sibling. Other chemicals are released in their brains that tighten a psychological and emotional bond between the two. A final, and extremely mysterious, process occurs at the same time. The two mates are linked by time and their lives. If one dies, the other will die as well. When the relatively small population was drawn towards our universe, most of them lost their mates to the void; with only a handful of couples surviving together. Not long after arrival, one such of these lucky couples was torn apart by a machine that propelled one of them into the future. The other was left immortal, doomed to spend the rest of his days waiting for his true love’s return. Gavix doesn’t know that his mate will one day return to him. He knows only that he has been alone for [redacted] years.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Microstory 89: Gift Horse

Maxwell Morgenstern’s best friend in the entire world, Maria Gali died a week ago. They had met when they were young children, and their families soon learned quite how difficult it was to keep them apart. They never developed romantic feelings for each other, but their profound connection still put pressure on relationships they tried to form with others. After the burial ceremony, Maxwell began to see Maria’s face everywhere he went. It started off subtly, as the faces of strangers tended to look more like her than he would have previously thought. Soon she became her own person, appearing in full view, and even striking up conversations with Maxwell the likes of which they would have had when she was alive. His continued relationship with his dead friend raised concerns amongst his family, despite the fact that it wasn’t interfering with his responsibilities. He finally felt forced to visit the doctor about the situation. They ran scans and discovered a mass in his brain, which they had no choice but to remove surgically. He put off the procedure for as long as he could, but time eventually ran out. When his mother asked him if he now knew that the apparition wasn’t actually the ghost of Maria, he responded, “I knew from the first second that she wasn’t, strictly speaking, real. But I held on to her because I considered it a blessing; a gift that my brain gave me in order to help my transition. I know the tumor needed to be removed, but I do not regret the extra time my perception allowed me to have with her.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Microstory 88: Ghosts

Ghosts are real; to an extent. They aren’t the fleeting consciousnesses of the recently deceased. They aren’t the remnants of those who have “unfinished business” and aren’t yet ready to crossover to the other side. That wouldn’t even make any sense. Unless there are a significant number of mediums in the world, there aren’t enough ways available to logistically help this kind of ghost. And if there aren’t, and that’s the problem, then there must only be a handful of people in the afterlife, because the majority of us will die while we’re technically in the middle of something. No, ghosts are not people. The soul of each and every one of us (sociopaths excluded, of course) currently exists in a lower dimension. It is tethered to the mind and body using a form of quantum entanglement. When a person dies, their mind, body, and soul are separated from one another. The consciousness begins to lose its electrical charge, and eventually breaks down completely. The body decays and transforms. Atoms fly away to form new bonds, and become new things. The soul recedes into its subdimension. In it are the true feelings, morals, and general characteristics of the person that was. It is not thinking. It is not moving. It can be connected to other souls via quantum entanglement, but it can no longer change. It had its chance during life, for that is when we are given the opportunity to determine what kind of people we want to be; what kind of world we want to leave for our children. Each infant is born at Zero. Each time they make a good decision, they move towards the positive side of the scale. Each time they make a bad one, they move towards the negative. At death, the soul of that person will spend eternity either in eternal bliss or eternal itch, depending on their life choices. The ghosts we sense are merely the harmless souls of a person who happened to die in that vicinity at any time beforehand. That is, unless we’re talking about physical ghosts. Those are very real and manmade, but they don’t exist on Earth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Microstory 87: The Delegator

No one knows when or where the Delegator was born; not even himself. His first memory was of his first mission. He found himself in the middle of Stonehenge while it was still being built. A few moments later, woman appeared out of nowhere. When she asked where she was, the Delegator’s first thought was that he didn’t know, but he somehow did. He told her that she had traveled through time, and was there to learn what her job was supposed to be. She was hesitant to trust him at first, but this wasn’t the first time she had been thrown through time. It was just that he was the first human she had seen in days. She had previously been surviving alone in the Siderian period in her escape pod after her spaceship exploded. She was in the middle of trying to run from a rauisuchian in the Triassic period when she was sent to Stonehenge. She took the news that she might not ever get back home in stride, which made sense. It would have been inconsiderate to make the Delegator’s first job too difficult. He soon learned that he had the ability to pull the travelers off of their usual pattern in order to meet with them, something that no one else was capable of, and he’s used this power to delegate tasks to hundreds of other people that he calls salmon. He doesn’t know why he does this, but he knows that he must, and that bad things happen when he doesn’t. He chose one time to ignore his duty, and the consequences of these actions have caused trouble throughout all of time.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Microstory 86: The Intersection

When I was your age, people used to control the operation of cars. They would push a button with their foot, and turn a wheel with their hands to make it go. And their movements would be regulated on the streets by lights. Green meant go, and red meant stop. The vehicles weren’t deeply programmed, and they couldn’t talk to each other. They would even run into each other, sometimes killing the passengers. It was a dark time. During the transition to heavier automation, the traffic lights on one of the busiest intersections of the city shut down. All the lights turned to green. Fortunately, no one in the front of the lines took that seriously, so they didn’t collide with anyone else, but they couldn’t go anywhere either. I was eating ice cream on a bench with my grandfather when a man pulled his car onto the sidewalk next to me. He stepped out and walked to the middle of the intersection. He started waving his arms around, directing the cars manually. Keep in mind that he was just a normal guy, and this was not his job. He just took it upon himself to help. Before too long, the traffic was moving smoothly. A technician drove out and started to fix the lights, and two cops came by to arrest and replace the man. I and the other people on the corners starting booing and yelling at the cops. Before they could resolve the situation, a human driver who wasn’t paying attention to the road crashed into and killed all three of them. The following year, the last of the holdout states passed laws allowing driverless vehicles.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: April 4, 2028

The first thing Mateo felt was the air below him. The ground rushed up towards him and he crash landed onto a dirty mattress. It wasn’t perfectly aligned, so he rolled off onto the cold, hard concrete.
Leona was panting heavily and sweating as she helped him back up. “I’m sorry. I had a hard time getting back in here. Reaver Enterprises bought up this whole warehouse district. We had to break down the little makeshift hospital and get out quick. They have a surprisingly heavy amount of security, even though this particular unit is empty. It took me forever to get in here with a mattress.”
“Thanks for bringing it.”
“Well, I literally wouldn’t be alive without you, so...”
“I love you too. I have one question.”
“Did we share a dream during the surgeries?”
“I guess that answers it.”
“So...we’re, like, connected?”
“I would call it Quantum Entanglement.”
“I do not know what that means, but it sounds good.”
“Here, I brought these too.”
While he was putting on the change of clothes that she had for him, they heard a ruckus outside. Someone was about to come into the warehouse. Leona grabbed Mateo’s hand and bolted. “There’s an exit in the front.” They ran to the other side, through the office, but they were blocked off. They saw flashlights and heard the garbled sounds of a radio. They were either security guards or police.
“Come on,” Mateo whispered loudly. “Upstairs.”
“To what end?”
“Just follow me.”
He led her up the stairs to a carpeted area. It was dusty and extremely hot. Fortunately, it was also dark, and there were a few large empty boxes left behind by the previous tenants. He directed her to the corner. “They can’t keep a guy like me in jail forever, but this would go on your record.”
“What? What are you doing?”
Back down on the main floor, they could hear the security guards talking to each other, “someone’s been squatting here.”
“How did I miss that? I come in here to call my husband every night.”
“Guy must have just moved in. He must be upstairs.”
“Mateo, don’t do this,” Leona begged.
“If you make a sound, you’ll ruin my plan. Just let me do this for you.” She tried to stop him but it was too late. “I’m here! I’m here!” he called out as he began to walk back down the steps, arms over his head.” The security guards held their futuristic taser-thingamajigs towards him. “No need for violence. I was just looking for a safe place to sleep.”
“We’ve already called the cops,” one of them said. “Here are your new bracelets.”
The other one handed Mateo something that resembled handcuffs. There was no chain between the two pieces. Instead, it had a completely straight bar. On it were blinking lights and a small speaker. “Whoa, what is this thing?” Mateo asked with fascination while he attached them to his wrists.
“Standard issue law enforcement pacification cuffs,” Guard Number One said. “But our company is allowed to use them since we designed them.”
“Why does it need an electrical system?”
Guard Number Two smiled. “Because of this.” He tapped a button on his phone.
A small jolt caused Mateo to jump on instinct. “Oh my God, that’s awesome!”
“With these, we can keep you in the designated area; like a mobile invisible fence,” Number Two explained.
When Number One tapped on his own phone, it just made the cuffs vibrate. “We can send you audible warnings, and even tag things we don’t want you to be around like weapons or computers. If you get too close to the contraband, it’ll shock you.”
“The cops have sedatives in there that can be injected at their leisure.”
“They said we have no reason for such a thing, though.”
“Nonsense!” Mateo said as they escorted him out of the building. “You’re the first line of defense. If anyone needs that sort of thing, it’s you.”
“Right?” Number Two asked rhetorically.
A police cruiser pulled up beside them. Number One opened the back door, and let Mateo in. He was completely alone in there. “Where the hell is the driver?” he asked.
Number One shrugged. “Don’t always need them anymore.”
“That’s badass,” Mateo said, but they couldn’t hear him. They had already closed the door and let the car return to the police station on its own. He imagined that the security guards were trying to figure out whether he had been living under a rock. He just hoped they moved their conversation to a second location so that Leona would have a chance to escape.
When the car pulled up to the police station, he was greeted there by an Officer Salinger who calibrated her tablet to the pacification cuffs. “Are we gonna have any problems?” she legitimately asked.
“No,” Mateo answered genuinely.
“Look, personally, I’ve known people with no place to live. Unemployment is getting worse. Even we’re feeling it, as you saw by the fact that no one actually arrested you on scene.”
“Is that legal?”
“—ish,” she replied. “I just want you to know that, even with all this automation bullshit, I think we have better things to do than drag in someone who just needs to get out of the elements, but the owners of the building you stumbled onto have deep pockets, so I have no choice but to put you through processing.”
“I understand. And I appreciate how I’ve been treated. I’ve been...away for a while, and wouldn’t have expected such manners.”
She laughed awkwardly. “I should definitely not be saying this. But as the job becomes more about directing drones and cross-referencing security cameras, and less about tackling black people for no reason at all, we’ve weeded out a lot of the more aggressive applicants.”
“I should say so.”
After a pause, she began to escort him up to the processing area. She set him down in one of a row of interview tables. He was the only one being processed at the time. “What is your name?”
“Mateo Matic.”
She showed him her palms like she was setting up for a high-ten. “Hands up like this.” He mimicked her. She lifted her tablet and took a picture of his fingerprints. She eyed the screen curiously. “How do you spell your name?”
“M-A-T-E-O M-A-T-I-C.”
She tapped the keys as he spoke. “You are not in the system. I don’t suppose you have any identification?”
“I do not.”
She tapped some more keys, trying to figure out who he was.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. She wasn’t going to understand, but she had this way about her that compelled him to be honest with her. “Check—”
“Check death records.”
She looked at him apprehensively, but seemed to give it a shot anyway. She read from the screen once the results came back. “Mateo Matic, born March 21st, 1986. Declared dead in absentia five years ago following a year of officially being missing, and several years of an unusual lack of activity.”
“That sounds about right.”
“You fell right off the grid. You didn’t so much as check your email. Why did you fake your death?”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
She looked back at the screen. “Your adoptive parents died in the meantime. Your birth father is unlisted, and your birth mother actually went missing back in 1994. Forgive me, but this is all very strange.”
“Well, when you put it like that...”
“Are you a secret agent?”
“Are you part of some strange religious cult? Do you live on a boat? This is a safe place. If a crazy science fiction writer is keeping you hostage, you can tell me.”
“No, it’s nothing like that, it’s...” She made him feel like he wanted to be honest with her, but that didn’t mean he was going to reveal to her the whole truth. “I’m fine. Nothing nefarious.”
She switched off her tablet and put it away. “I’m calling in the big guns. You’ll spend the day in holding while you work out your story. I wanna help you, Mateo. I really do. You have kind eyes. But you’re keeping something from me, and I don’t like that.”
“I get it,” he said. There was nothing more he could say.
She quietly removed his pacification cuffs and replaced them with an anklet that was clearly based on the same technology.

He was sitting up on his bunk minutes before midnight when Leona’s voice came to him out of the aether. “Mateo,” she whispered. “Mateo. Can you hear me?”
“Where are you?”
“I’m in your leg.”
“You hacked my anklet?”
“I hacked the whole system.” The gate to his cell slid open. “All you have to do is get through the treeline and hold out until your jump. Then they’ll lose you forever.”
He checked the hallway to make sure that no one was watching. The gate to the holding area opened on its own. “Just keep opening these doors and I’ll see you next year.”
“I’m waiting for you out here.”
“Quiet!” She whispered. “You’re not wearing a cone of silence.”
He moved as stealthily as he could through the station. As he stepped out of the back door, the anklet sent a surge of pain throughout his body. He could see Leona standing on the other side of the parking lot. “Dammit! I can’t turn that off!”
“I can make it,” he struggled to say. He half-walked, half-crawled across the asphalt, hoping to be out of sight of security cameras before his jump. It was looking more and more impossible.
Officer Salinger burst through the door and pointed her weapon at him. “Stop!”
He looked over to Leona. “Go! It’s almost time! I’ll be all right!”
Time blinked, but not everything changed. Different cars were in different places. The air was a bit warmer. But Leona was in the exact same place, wearing the exact same clothes, and with the exact same expression on her face. She hadn’t so much as moved a centimeter. She looked at her watch and jogged towards him. “It’s past midnight. Why are you still here?”
“I’m not. Look, everything’s different.”
She looked at her surroundings. “Holy shit, Mateo. You’re right, it’s 2029. I just jumped through time with you.”