​​​​​Sync City

 

 

Episode 2 Scene 11

The Present


“You expecting someone?” asks my partner.

“What?” I answer, not really paying attention.

“You’re looking around. Looking for something.”

“Nah, just checking.”

I’m cycling through a program with my ride. The n-comm connection’s molasses-slow, and it’s pissing me off. Wherever we are has reset everything back to basics, not just the factory-settings basics, but the basic basics.

“Bullshit, Jack. What is it?” asks my unusually persistent partner.

I glower at my ride and give it a mental kick in the ass. It drools at me like an overstuffed bulldog and continues digging its glacial way through the software. Getting the ITC up and running is frustrating.

I sigh. I should answer the question. “My last gig, the one I was doing before I got yanked here . . .” I start.

“The babysitting?”

“Yeah. I thought she might’ve got pulled through as well. She was right next to me.”

“It doesn’t work like that.”

“You’re an expert all of a sudden?”

I stare at the landscape. It looks underformed, like someone’s idea of what a landscape should be, but they couldn’t be bothered finishing it. The area immediately around me, the trees, grass, and the earth all look fine, but as you scroll out, the detail becomes fuzzy. Even on full magnification, the scenery slips away from my eyes. It’s giving me the shits.

“Well, it doesn’t. You know that. We can’t pair up in a cascade, especially if you’re from different time zones,” continues Vic. “You need two events.”

She’s right. Whole communities can get cascaded up or down the line as long as the material and people inside the cascade zone are roughly from the same era. They all get scooped up in one time zone and plonked down in another. No problem.

Keepers, on the other hand, with their access to Deacon tech, are a mishmash of eras and don’t travel well with others. We barely travel well alone. The amount of energy it takes to move one of us and all the crap associated with us is immense, more so than cascading whole communities. It’s got something to do with keeping the integrity of the associated timelines intact. Apparently much of the energy used to cascade us is used in repairing rips and tears in the temporal web. At least, that’s what I heard when I managed to stay awake in Keeper school.

“I know that. But do you think this was deliberate? It felt off to me. Not like a Deacon cascade,” I argue.

“Hmm . . . something had to be deliberate if both of us are together.”

“Why us?”

“How the hell do I know?”

There’s a niggle forming in the back of my mind. Something scratching on the edge of my awareness. I’m tempted to access the wetware, but I can’t bring myself to do it. A couple of synapses decide to fire. Shit, it’s the rig-rat. It’s something to do with Mikey. Vic’s looking at me. We went through basic training together. She knows me as well as anyone. She takes a solid guess.

“Tell me about the kid, the rig-rat,” she says.

“Standard depot life, except she nailed a Scyther with a gun-rig.”

“Shit,” says Vic, impressed. “How’d she do it?”

“Shot the crap out of it as far as I can tell,” I answer. “And then shot the crap out of it some more.”

“She must’ve been lucky.”

Again I look at the scenery, and again it slides away from me. It’s doing my head in.

“Yeah, luckier than her granddad. He’s well dead.”

“She had a granddad? That’s weird.”

By this time after The Blink, it was strange to find three generations of a family together outside of major metropolitan centers. Either they’d been cascaded to different eras or were dead. Or often both.

“Yeah, turns out it’s not her real granddad; now it’s just her and Dwayne and some mechanic types,” I say. “At least until I took her away.”

Vic turns serious. My bike has almost finished running the program, so we’ll get the ITC up in a minute or two. My partner grabs my arm to get my full attention. My exo-armor hardens slightly.

“Was she in a fuel depot?”

“Sure, that’s normal, though.”

Depots are our primary source of Keepers-to-be.

“And she’s got a dad called Dwayne?”

“Well, he’s not exactly her dad, more of a guardian type and . . .”

My partner shoots me a look. I shut up.

“Yeah, Dwayne’s the daddy figure,” I confirm.

“And she has a brother?”

“Yep, but we took him. Why? What’s up?”

“Shit, Jack, I know the connection,” says Vic. “I was the one who grabbed her brother.”


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