Emilio sat in his usual spot in the mess hall tent. His bowl of meat gravy was piping hot and his daily bread was just on the right side of stale so as to be slightly crunchy. He was near an open flap so he could watch the sunrise. The mistress of the island, Dr. Callie Kirke, would be up soon as well. After her morning routine she would seal herself up in her lab for the rest of the day. He didn’t quite understand what it was she was doing in there or what her experiments entailed, but he’d seen the results firsthand. He knew how dangerous this woman was.
A man with short black hair, a loose fitting shirt and glasses held together with duct tape sat by Emilio. A man he knew as Miller. In a previous life, Miller had been a scientist of some kind. Biology or chemistry or something. A leading expert in his field. But that wasn’t why he was here. Dr. Kirke wanted him not for his brains but for his body. If he was up to snuff in the bedroom he would be Kirke’s battery for a little while. Otherwise he would end up in the lab beneath the mansion and… experimented on.
The very notion that a woman thought so little of him infuriated him to no end. If he was to be a prisoner, at least let it be because of his brilliant mind. But no, this woman doctor had no iota of appreciation for what Miller knew. He was one among hundreds. Not special in the least. That’s why he became the self appointed leader of the resistance. One way or another, they would kill Kirke and escape.
Miller cleared his throat to get Emilio’s attention. “It’s happening today. At noon,” he whispered.
“I’m happy for you,” Emilio said.
“This is your last chance to get on board. After it begins, everyone will be involved, one way or another. There are no sidelines in this fight,” said Miller. Emilio dipped his bread in the meat gravy.
“I’m not doing your little resistance role play. You want to go die, be my guest,” Emilio said.
“You sound sure of our failure. What do you know that the rest of us don’t?” Miller asked suspiciously.
“You’ve seen what she can do. You know she has resources far beyond anything we can imagine. Do the math.”
“I have. Our chances are pretty good.”
Emilio shook his head. This bastard wasn’t going to let him enjoy the sunrise. “Do you know how confident she is that none of us are getting off this damn rock?” he asked. Miller waited for him to continue. “She has spies everywhere. Not unwilling moles, or coerced double agents. Traitors. Backstabbing, brown nosing suck ups trying to sell the rest of us out so they can get even the smallest of leg ups. She tells me about it every night before our sessions. It gets her in the mood.”
Miller sat in silence. “That can’t… that can’t be true,” he finally managed to say. “Who would want to stay here? This place is hell!” Emilio shrugged and went back his meat gravy. “No. No no, we worked too hard to get this far. If she was planning on stopping us she had a million opportunities to do so. The fact is, she doesn’t care one lick about anything that goes on outside the mansion grounds and that is to our advantage.”
“You are exactly right, but you’re still not getting off this island,” said Emilio.
“Maybe if you helped us we’d have a better chance,” Miller insisted.
“How? You think she leaves all her secret files and building schematics in her bedroom? Miller, realize what it is I’m telling you. She knows every detail about what’s going to happen today and she still doesn’t care. That’s how confident she is that your plan won’t work. None of you are going to make it.”
Miller nodded, then smirked. “I guess we’ll have to prove her wrong.” He got up and left Emilio to his breakfast. Emilio wondered if he could claim Miller’s shave kit after he was dead.
* * *
Earth Mirror 23
Scan One. Scan Two. Mirror locked. White Scale interlace.
Emilio looked around the empty loft. It was his apartment in black and white and grey.
Environment stable. Temperature: 5 Kelvin. Core Temperature within safety parameters.
“My God! Where did he go?” Emilio heard Katalina say in his ear.
“He’s fine. Look at the visualizers,” said Xiao.
“My God. All the color is gone. Where is he? Is he here?” she asked.
“Emilio is right now in negative space. Think of it as the universe’s subconscious if you like. Or it’s basement,” Xiao explained.
Emilio went to the window. The world outside looked very much the same as his own, minus the color and any sign of life anywhere. And the Sun. The Sun was gone too.
“How did he get there? Did the suit warp him somehow?” Katalina asked.
“Um, patent pending. Proprietary information and intellectual rights and all that,” Xiao said, invoking every legal clause he knew.
Emilio felt a hint of relief knowing he still had a place on this team. If Xiao was the brains, Emilio was everything else. Not that he wasn’t smart. He was something of an amateur engineer and had put a lot of work into the helmet’s design so it could fit everything Xiao wanted. Anyway, he knew enough to realize Xiao had a billion dollar idea and had poured hundreds of thousands of his own funds to seeing it become a reality. A suit that could pierce reality itself, that could step back behind the curtain and see the physical laws from the other side of things. A golden goose that laid golden tickets.
“Okay, Emilio, let’s see how the inertial dampeners are handling,” said Xiao.
Emilio opened the window and jumped outside. Gravity pulled on him hard, then less so until he was floating in zero G right above the sidewalk.
“Amazing,” Katalina said.
“The physical laws work sort of in reverse there. Not completely, but it’s enough that the suit was necessary,” said Xiao.
“It looks cold. It is like a mirror. Here there is life and there it is all dead.”
“You ready to come back?” Xiao asked.
“Yeah,” Emilio replied. He bounced off the ground and shot back to the window, inertia carrying him through the glass and into the couch, which didn’t budge as he flattened against it. A gash opened in the universe and within moments, Emilio rematerialized on the couch back in his world. He straightened to a sitting position, head pounding, body aching everywhere. “The dampeners are working, in case you were wondering,” he said when Katalina and Xiao walked in.
“This is it. This is a game changer,” said Katalina, obviously impressed.
“We think so too,” said Xiao.
“Oh no. I wasn’t talking about for you guys,” Katalina said, pulling out what was probably a gun but looked like a dildo from another dimension.
“I knew it! You are a spy!” Emilio exclaimed, sounding as vindicated as he did scared.
“No, my poor dear. Not a spy. Just a girl looking for a way home.”
“You won’t get there with the suit. That’s not what it’s meant for,” said Xiao.
“Besides, wouldn’t it be easier to buy a plane ticket?” Emilio asked.
“I’m not from around here, boys. I came here twenty years ago from a distant parallel,” Katalina said.
“What are you saying?” Xiao asked.
“I’m from another Earth, genius.”
“That can’t be. Those are purely theoretical. Scientifically unproven,” said Xiao.
“I’m all the proof you need,” she said.
“Maybe she’s from another Earth, maybe she just needs her meds. Either way, let’s not antagonize the lady,” said Emilio.
“You think calling me crazy is any better?” she asked.
“We can talk about this. Just please put the gun down,” said Xiao.
“Enough. You, take the suit off. You, hand me that tablet,” Katalina said, pushing a switch that made the gun vibrate and spin.
“Is that really just a dildo?” Emilio asked.
“Wanna find out?” Katalina replied, pointing it at Emilio.
“Hey hey, we’re doing what you asked. Just… here,” said Xiao, handing her his tablet. She grabbed it, gun still trained on Emilio, and started awkwardly one-hand typing in a set of coordinates into the navigator program.
“Do you need help with that?” Emilio asked.
“No,” Katalina replied flatly. Coldly. All the charm was gone, replaced by the determined grit of a woman who had nothing left to lose.