By Eliza Partika
It’s dark when the teleport drops us in the middle of astroturf marshy from a recent rain; mud splats on our clothes as we roll over each other and finally skid to a halt in front of Alphabeta headquarters, our offices. The massive neoclassical pillars welcome me into the arms of the familiar trees, their wires stretching deep into the ground. harvesting geo-electrical current to power the entire complex. Their luminescent leaves guide our path toward the fresh scent of laser-cut glass searing the air.
“What happened back there?”
Bryant studies each tiny grain of rubber turf, collecting her thoughts. “We only had a certain amount of time to get you out. We ran out and they found our base.”
Her lip folds into a thin line. “You need to understand what we’re up against.” She heaves a long sigh through her nose. “Alright. Let’s go.”
I follow her through familiar halls, past my old office and down to where the Cognitive Research Building should be, but the only thing there is a tiny holo-shack. In the translucent haze of holo-shack walls I see a past version of myself, busily fiddling with wires connected to a brain. A past version of Bryant slides back the wall and enters the holo-shack. Bryant grabs me and thrusts me in after her past self. We press ourselves against the corner of the far wall, watching our past selves.
“Why don’t you try it on me, Luxor?” Bryant steps behind me. I swivel my chair to face her. “No. It’s too dangerous. I don’t know what it’s capable of yet-”
“Only because you haven’t tried it on a live human brain yet. Just try it. If it gets bad, just shut everything down.”
I remember the disbelief I’d felt when Bryant had consented to the testing, a painful uncertainty that now reflected in my past self’s face. After a moment of tense silence I, subdued, slowly nod my head.
“Alright. Hook me up.” Numbly, I hook her to the wires and sync her vitals with the computer and lead her into the testing chamber.
“You’re might feel an itch on your scalp.”
I glance at the present version of Bryant. She’s pressed herself further into the wall, all color drained from her face, her eyes following the memory of her slow descent into sleep.
I focus back on my figure at the computer, my eyes scanning her vitals to ensure that nothing would harm her.
Bryant’s body goes limp in the wires; familiar shock of fear courses through me her heartbeat spikes for a moment, then falls back to normal levels. I see myself rush to the microphone. “ Umm… I clear my throat. “Historians — no, all lower class citizens — are more than just a class. They’re human beings, like all of us…” My other self pauses, as if to say something more, then he wakes Bryant up with a couple waves of his hand across the computer’s movement sensor.
She wakes up as if from sleep, blanched white. She’s screaming, fighting her restraints, but they clamp harder onto her skin. I run to her; Bryant and I watch me comfort her.
“You’re here. You’re safe.” My rough mumble buzzes from behind the thin layer of glass separating the testing room from the rest of the shack. I feel a hand slowly snake down my arm to my hand. I take it; Bryant squeezes with all her might. I glance at her, breathing heavily as if reliving whatever it was she saw in her dream.
I squeeze back, and she turns to me, flashes a small, delicate smile. “I’m alright. Keep watching.” She motions back to the scene of our memories.
Bryant’s past self is curled into my past self now shaking and sobbing, restraint eased off. Through a thick veil of tears, she whispers, “Historians… no… all lower class citizens… “ She heaves a jagged breath, “They are good people — they’re more than just a class. They’re human beings… like all of us.”
Next to me, Bryant motions to the wall, where I see a holo-camera planted next to the computer system. In sterling chrome, a label engraved Amazonia Co. shines in the waning sunlight. As Bryant and my past selves exit the testing room, and round the corner, the holocam fizzes and fades.
Bryant tugs me out through the shack wall and throws a portable teleport onto the turf. The moment it springs from the ground she drags me through. As we exit the teleport, Bryant is shaking.
We are in another bunker, complete with the same furnishings of a TV and a few chairs. I glimpse the LA skyline from a window; the picture flickers and is replaced by a dense redwood forest. “ I was tired of looking at the city.” Rennelus walks up behind us, and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Glad you made it back safe. Bryant and I weren’t sure if teleporting to the past was going to work – looks like it went splendidly.” He flashes a grin of perfect white teeth. As soon as he lays eyes on Bryant, his expression changes to one of deep concern. “Let me get you some water.” He disappears down a hall, glancing hesitantly over his shoulder at her before departing. She’s gaunt and pale, her limbs shaking. She begins to sway; I reach out to grab her and lead her to one of the plush chairs. “What did you see?” I sit on the arm of the chair and grab her hand. “It was a war. Everything scorched, people burning, running from the charred remains of their lives… There was an army of ragabonds, lower class citizens with only their old world guns for protection… corporations had their fancy ships and laser guns, and they were just mowing everyone down as if they were only clouds, just wisps of air to be blown through… And I saw you, fighting for the other classes, and someone came up and just — they lasered you through the heart and those words… what I said when I woke up… they were you last.” She sighs and composes herself., blinking away the memory. “Your ID is not a ploy. It’s your father’s; his clone’s, actually. Your mother was part of the corporate class, but your father was a historian. When your mother and father married they knew he wouldn’t be able to see you because of the cass barriers, so he created a clone of himself and made it a naturalized citizen with a clone badge on its ID so he could store all its memories in his ID chip, so he could be your father. That’s why you were different. You cared about humanity because you were taught to do so.”
“Hear me out.” I fall silent at the dark tone in her voice.
“That is what they want to take away from you.When you did the experiment, you opened my eyes to the gross injustice of Class Law, and I will never be the same because of it. Amazonia wants your technology so it can stop you from doing what you did to me that day to the rest of the population. They want control, and right now, you have that. That’s why they wanted to kill you in Beijing, and that’s why Renellus and I will do everything in our power to prevent them from taking that power away from you.”
“You could change everything.” Remulus steps out of the shadows fiddling with his ID chip. He waves a hand to the TV screen, connecting the two devices. Videos begin to play on the screen. They’re memories. The family is picnicking in an astroturf field, basking in the bright sunny morning, laying out the picnic blanket. The father, from whose perspective we are seeing, picks up his son, and twirls him in the air, laughing. I study the woman’s familiar face. It’s my mother, and the child is me. I look to Renellus, and he smiles with the same amusement from when we first met. “I am proud of you, son.” He lays a hand on my shoulder. I can barely contain the joy welling up in my breast. My smile stretches across my face. I begin chuckling, a full robust laughter erupts from my chest and I hug the man who had saved my life more than once.