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January 23, 2023

Anachronocity v1p5

By Josh Brown

Swept Away - Part Five

After the interrogation, a little cell with barely enough legroom to stand became Alex's new home. Not that he wanted to stand; his left leg burned like a Taco Bell burrito trying to evacuate the bowels. At first, he suspected the police officer that placed him here forgot to lock him in. But the shock he took to his hand proved him wrong. An invisible barrier kept him locked inside the tiny cell.

As he lay there on the cot, Katlyn passed by on her way to her own little piece of heaven somewhere farther down. Every time she looked at him now, a permanent glare of death accompanied her face--definitely not a good sign.

If he learned anything from this experience, making flippant comments about bombs found its way to the very bottom of his list of things to do. Katlyn's accusations had pissed him off, though, and he didn't even consider the idea that someone bugged the vehicle. Had he taken two seconds to think about it--well, he still would have made the comment; that's how upset Katlyn's suggestion made him.

The whole situation bordered on the absurd. Of all the people in the world, the last person to finger for making bombs was Alexander Sterling. He couldn't bring himself to harm an ant, much less blow up an entire group of people.

The detective hammered at Alex, unconvinced of the sarcastic nature of his comments in the vehicle. As soon as Alex heard his voice played back at him, he lost any shred of self-control he had left. Blundering around, trying to talk to the cop had been a disaster. Words flubbed left and right in such a manner, half the time the cop just stared at Alex as if he had the IQ of a two year old.

Through it all, Alex maintained his innocence, somehow, without ever coming out and claiming to be from the past. He felt compelled to keep that a secret and wondered on the way to his lovely cell if Katlyn felt the same way. Given the chance, she might try to kill him--this Alex had no doubt about--but would she dare to tell anyone that she came from the past?

An electrical discharge followed by a yelp of pain echoed down the narrow hall filled with holding cells. Alex called out helpfully, "The barrier is invisible and hurts. I wouldn't touch it."

No reply. Now Katlyn wasn't even talking to him. Yep, par for the course.

Alex's mind kept going back to the interrogation. Something the detective said bothered him; confused him, really. After one of Alex's particularly disastrous blunders of the English language, the detective said, "We have a wonderful little moon only partially terraformed for people like you. In the Elders' infinite wisdom, they've taught us that hard labor on hostile worlds can do wonders to make people more cooperative."

The moon part didn't bother him so much. He'd seen enough bad sci-fi movies to accept that, and given the way pop culture influenced society in the past--Star Trek brought about many technological advances--he believed it highly possible even the worse of the worse could give people ideas.

The Elders, though, they brought up a question mark in his mind. Since he finally considered the idea that he found himself in the future, he'd been trying to pick up any clues as to the current state of things, and these Elders, from that little comment, sounded influential in the here and now. Where ever that is. Were they a new kind of government? Or perhaps a group of highly intelligent people all gathered in a massive, brain-swapping consortium of knowledge.

As time passed, Alex drifted in and out of sleep. His mind tried to roll over the facts too fast and too excitedly, but his body took a major blow with that lightning strike. Now he began to feel it. It struck him as a bit odd, thinking back, that all these disasters started when Katlyn showed up on his doorstep. Not much one for destiny, fate, the like, Alex admitted it seemed highly unlikely she just happened to show up at the exact time the storm rolled in and the machine went ballistic.

Rough hands seized Alex's wrists, jarring him out of his semi-unconscious state. A young police officer yanked Alex to his feet. The cop pulled a thin metal wire out of his belt, wrapped it around Alex's wrists in a criss-cross pattern, and when the two tips of the wire met, they fussed together automatically and began to glow green. Immediately, Alex felt his hands and lower arms go numb. He watched all this more fascinated than worried about what was about to happen to him. Then the officer pushed him out of his cell and walked him down the hall, knocking Alex's mind back to reality.

Up ahead, another officer led Katlyn down the same hall. All four of them merged at an elevator. The officer with Katlyn mashed his finger into one of the unlabeled buttons and the doors swished closed. A second later the doors opened.

Dumbfounded, Alex stared ahead as the cop guided him roughly. The walls of the corridor, painted in a deep red, gave way to a vast docking bay. A hub nearly five football fields across curved outward toward the vast expanse of space. Translucent walls made for a disturbing experience. Looking up, Alex could see forever into the star-dotted black. Hundreds maybe even thousands of ships scoured around the hub behind the invisible barrier. Alex watched, transfixed, as one rather clunky ship flew straight at the base. Alarmed, breath hitched in his throat, Alex gaped. The ship passed straight through the skin of the hub, only the faintest of blue outlined the clear wall where it entered and then vanished.

A sleek white ship loomed ahead. Another officer waited on the ramp that led into the vessel. He unfolded what looked to Alex like a piece of aluminum foil, tapped at it. "You sure they want these two on this ship?" the officer asked without looking up from his foil. "I was under the impression the cargo is too sensitive to risk anyone else."

The officer holding Alex's upper arm shrugged. "Orders is orders. These two are scheduled to go with you. Take em, then you sort it out. They probably work for the bitch anyway."

Rolling his eyes, the officer folded his foil, stuffed it in his pocket, and then waved them in.

They walked through the ship, Katlyn and her officer first, Alex and his right behind. The officer from the ramp led the way through a maze of twists and turns until they came to a small room with benches lining either wall. Katlyn's officer shoved her on the bench, yanked her arms up. As soon as the green light binding her wrists hit the metal bar, the light died long enough for the metal wire underneath to fuse to the bar. In the middle of the room, Alex received the same treatment, but he found something else to distract him. With his attention absorbed on watching Katlyn, he failed to miss the passenger at the end of the room.

A hard-faced woman with brilliant orange hair caressing her cheeks occupied the end of the bench. Her wrists were all fastened to the bar overhead. Unlike Alex and Katlyn, the illuminated green wire around the woman's wrists also wrapped down her arms, spiraled around her chest, down across her hips, all the way down to her toes. The excessiveness of it wrenched at Alex. Despite the numbness that must accompany the woman's entire body, he admired how she refused to give in. Her head remained up, her eyes defiantly watching everything the police officers did, her nostrils flaring with the desire to lash out at those that dared to try to humiliate her.

The officers filed out of the room one by one. After the last cop stepped out, he turned back and yanked the door down. It crashed into the floor, sending a rolling vibration under Alex's feet.

Nobody said anything.

Several minutes later, the ship jerked upward.

A sob to Alex's right caught his attention. He looked over his upraised arm at Katlyn and frowned as the muscles in her face fought to keep the tears away. All of this was his fault and for that he could never be sorry enough. Part of him hated himself at that moment, but he never lost sight of all the facts. She chose to come down to the basement. She didn't leave when he asked her to--several times. She could have avoided all of this... in theory.

"What's your story?"

Alex turned his gaze from Katlyn to the mysterious woman. "My story?"

"Why are they taking to you Vool?"

"Vool?"

"Are you deficient?"

"Just lost."

The woman narrowed her eyes. "Who you with?" She paused. "Forget it."

"What's your story?" Alex asked.

Slowly, the woman blinked her eyes. "You kidding?"

"Uh... yes?"

Those hard eyes narrowed again, but she said nothing.

Alex had no problem with the silence; she started to creep him out. He relaxed his shoulders, sat there slumped in on the bench. Welcome to the future, he thought. May your stay be pleasant. About as pleasant as a visit to the proctologist. This entire situation made Alex laugh--almost. Had his brother truly intended him to discover a way to travel to the future just so that he could explore that future via the criminal system?

The trip lingered on in silence.

Then, without warning, a shudder ran through the ship.

Alex jerked his head up. "What was that?"

Again the vessel that divided Alex from the vastness of space shook, this time forcefully. The restraints holding his wrists above his head held his arms in place, despite his body's attempts to fly free with the rocking of the ship.

A tinny alarm blared somewhere outside the holding area.

The only person that might be able to shed any light on this subject sat to Alex's left. He looked toward her, surprised to find a tight smile on the strange woman's lips. Maybe this didn't mean anything, just part of the normal routine space flight here in the good old future.

The heavy door separating the passengers from the rest of the ship flung open and two police officers rushed in, guns in hand. One of them had a deep gash on his forehead. Blood stretched along his face. He charged down the aisle toward the woman at the end, eyes blazing.

"My orders are clear," he said. "You get off at Vool or you die."

"What would your precious Elders say about that?" the woman asked calmly.

Bristling, the officer brought his gun up and slammed it against the woman's temple.

"Hey!" Alex shouted. Not much wanting to get involved, but he couldn't just sit there, especially not with the woman bound like that.

Screeching metal filled the air, loud and abrasive, tearing at the eardrums without mercy. The sudden onslaught of mind-shattering noise distracted the officers long enough for Katlyn to pull herself into the air. Her legs shot out and wrapped around the waist of the younger, uninjured officer. Then she twisted at the hips, hurling the officer back. His head slammed into the wall; he dropped to the floor unconscious.

Alex watched all this more than a little shocked and amazed. As the sound of shredding metal subsided, Alex jerked his head back to the mysterious woman and her police harasser. The cop looked back at his fallen partner, and then spun on the orange-haired woman, barrel pointed at her face.

"Not sorry in the bit," he said. Then he stumbled, tripped over his feet, and crashed to the ground.

Alex blinked. What just happened? He looked down at the fallen officer and nearly gagged.

A knife stuck out the back of the officer's head.

To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-01-31
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