GAVON CROWE - TIME FUGITIVE
The dismay on his face was equaled only by the many empty stares he was getting from the long line of Gooplites who were unlucky enough to arrive after him. Gavon Crowe was visiting the Department of Teleport Clearing to apply for the privilege of teleporting to another system. The Solar System to be exact.
Crowe shook his head. The dismay came from the questions that he could only answer after clarification. And now, the DTC clerk, a woman Crowe suspected was a Metalite, asked another question that required too much explanation for him to answer.
“I just don’t know what that means,” he grudgingly admitted before the angry Gooplite mob standing behind him in line. “When did you all start asking these questions?”
The Gooplite's groans of anger simmered low like a field of frogs croaking back home in Missouri. It was in fact the same sound, Crowe thought. These Gooplites were a strange brand of humanoids. They were covered with matted, sinewy hair and their faces resembled cake shavings covered with a slime substance. It was the same slime that also covered their planet, Ro-Craudo III where the Gooplites lived within the Ro system. It was a three-planet system that dwelled so very alone in the galaxy. And they did smell awkward, Crowe thought. Maybe he smelled insane to them. One thing for sure, he smelled of lost time. Pun intended. Crowe smirked.
The DTC clerk was a beautiful woman in Crowe’s eye. She was a bit stiff but quite attractive. She was slight and had a short disorderly hairstyle. She was a brunet. Her dark eyes were piercing and very attentive. She had small pouty lips and looked somewhat Asian. He’d not seen a woman like this in a long while.
“Value status—your income, minus class, plus sociotomy contribution,” said the unbreakable DTC woman.
She was not from Ro. She could not be. He was hoping she wasn’t a metal woman because he was about to use his charm to try and obtain her help. There was just no way he was completing or defeating, the system. She was probably Metalite.
Crowe sighed. His head was down. He opened his puppy eyes and looked straight to her eyes. “I am just lost,” he said. “Just lost.”
The DTC Woman was taken aback. No Gooplite would ever admit to not knowing what was needed in any and all circumstances on Ro-Craudo III. Every Gooplite took pride in being prepared and well documented for every occasion despite being smelly creatures. That he was not Gooplite was a poor excuse for sloppiness.
Her right eye blinked. “You are unable to respond?” she asked Crowe.
Again, Crowe spewed the puppy eyes. He whispered his helplessness. “I need help.”
The DTC Woman stood erect. She backed up a step and tilted her head. Then she tried to match Crowe’s softness. “You are incapable of movement I’m afraid.”
She took a large metal device and slammed it onto Crowe’s application. REJECT!
“Next!” She barked.
The air on Ro-Craudo III was minty or leafy. The sky was what Crowe had seen before but it seemed to shimmer between his vantage point and the thin clouds that passed quietly overhead. The famous Ro-Craudo III goop substance that these icky Gooplites were known for surrounded him. The busy town square was glassy and humid in a greenhouse kind of way. Gooplites of every ilk walked past him as he sat outside the DTC wondering what his next move was. The thought of starting a time scam was overwhelming and he was desperate to get back to Venente and the treasure but he wasn’t sure the time device was working properly.
Venente. There was a pain at his center when he thought of her name. She really got to him but he only had so much time to pine before he literally ran out of time.
His time band had taken a hit on his entry into Ro-Craudo III and he was not sure he could jump again with any certainty as to the final destination. Worse, he was unable to track Venente’s chronolink that he slipped on her wrist the night of the heist. This was his backup in case they were separated. He never imagined they’d be separated by space but he knew seperated by time was a possibility. He was wise to give her the link. He closed his eyes and uttered a silent meditation. He could only pray she didn’t remove it or that it wasn’t damaged when they landed. Wherever they were.
Why he came to Ro-Craudo III was a mystery for another day. For now, getting back to Blissdane Naive was his main focus. Getting the necessary teleport clearing was the crucial first step. Upon gaining the ability to teleport he would return to Earth to visit his good friend, Dab, A.K.A. Dr. Argent Brand, the person responsible for the time band, which would not respond to his settings. His fear of time travel was increasing as more and more the reality changes and miscalculations were also increasing. He needed to be sure the time band was working. Fortunately, the band returned him to his time. A default setting that did do its job and returned him to the year where he started—3017 ET. Now he needed to get to Dab.
“I may be a Metalite but I am not heartless.”
Crowe looked up. The DTC clerk was standing over him.
She considered this a moment. “Technically, I am heartless.” She giggled. “But I shall assist.”
She stood so straight and firm that the calves of her fake legs appeared to billow. The firm heels of her shoes helped with that and Crowe quickly thought it strange that the Gooplites would want a beautiful metal woman working at the DTC. Especially one this sexy.
“What does that mean?” Crowe asked.
“I shall assist in your scam. Is sexy good?”
Crowe double blinked. She could read minds.
“Yes, I read minds,” she said. “I am called Clavi Toopree.”
“Toopree?” Crowe seemed surprised she had a name.
“For the purpose of assimilation and acceptance, I have a name.”
Crowe stood. He looked into her unreal eyes.
“These eyes are far better than your natural optics,” she answered his thought.
“Please stop reading my mind,” Crowe said. “Let’s converse.”
“Yes. Let’s.” Clavi smiled.
“How will you assist in my scam?” Crowe touched her arm. It felt very real and she smelled strange. Her scent was like a whiff of flowers with a touch of oil.
“I believe it’s best we discuss this at my flat.” Clavi started to walk away.
Crowe hurried behind her. “You have a flat?” This surprised Crowe.
“Is it your belief that I shuttle into some depot for the nights?” Clavi said.
“No,” Crowe snapped. Then, “Well, yes.”
“Mr. Crowe, your imagination is filled with walls. Think beyond the barriers.”
Crowe followed as she moved swiftly through the city. He then understood how it was she kept such firm legs. But that made him wonder about her.
She turned to Crowe.
“Sorry,” Crowe said. He had an indecent thought. He forgot she could read minds. He felt terrible.
“Fifteen years ago, that was my purpose—to please. But since that time, an enlightened Gooplite community has risen to end such treatment of...” Clavi paused. “My kind.”
“Is there any way for you to stop reading my mind?”
She stopped walking. He had to reel himself in, being unable to stop on a dime as she did. She reached into a front pouch on her dress. It was disguised quite well. She retrieved a sheet and a pen. The sheet had the appearance of a contract with an official seal and stamp. She started to write onto the contract. She completed her scribbling and handed the sheet to Crowe along with the pen. Crowe read the document. He looked up at her with his eyes and nose wrinkled.
“You want me to own you?
Clavi’s flat was on the 18th floor of an all-Metalite complex. A wall of large windows spread across one entire side of the flat. The glass was angled inward at the top and as it happened, it was raining. Crowe sat on an extremely comfortable chair and watched the Ro rain. He’d never seen anything like it. The drops, a mixture of rain and goop, were enormous and quite exhilarating to watch fall upon the glass. It was as if thick soap bubbles were landing and popping upon contact. Sometimes they bounced.
“Might I order in a meal for you?” Clavi returned from her room into the living area. She was dressed in a pair of shorts and a somewhat tight top. She looked every bit the part of an Earth girl, circa 2017.
Crowe did his best not to think about how good she looked but he knew she was already in his head. “I’m fine, thank you,” he answered. He held the contract in his hand. “If you were emancipated fifteen years ago, why would you give yourself to someone? Why is that option available?”
Clavi turned her head to look at the rain. “When the Gooplites changed the laws to free Metalites, they found that many Metalites did not want to be emancipated. Thus, they added the provision that each Metalite had the option of remaining property. They could remain the property of another only with that contract, which you hold in your hand.”
“Okay,” Crowe said. He shook his head. “Why do you want me to own you?”
“Quite simple Sir Gavon. I will help you to get your teleport clearing and in return you will take me with you.” Clavi now turned to look at Crowe.
Crowe stared. He tried so very hard not to notice her beauty but he was weak.
“It is okay. Your reaction to me is why I was built,” she said. She smiled.
Crowe threw the contract onto a small table, stood and walked to the large windows. “I apologize,” he said. He did not face her. “It is a strange thing you ask of me. Why do you want to leave?”
“I desire being away from this world,” she said. “There are no other emotions attached to my desire. It is simple. Ro-Craudo III is a very unappealing planet. I want to see other worlds. Other times.”
Now Crowe looked at her. “You know about my device?”
Crowe pondered the situation facing him. He wanted so desperately to return to Venente and to complete that timeline. That adventure. Was it the treasure? He didn’t think so. It was Venente.
“She must be an amazing woman,” Clavi said.
“I wish you would stop doing that!” Crowe snapped at her. He immediately felt bad but her reading his mind was really annoying him.
Clavi showed no emotion having been snapped at.
“Sign the contract. Own me. I will then stop reading your mind as dictated by my internal edict, which by default disallows reading of a Master’s mind.”
Crowe sighed. “Oh, no! That is not appropriate. You will not be calling me that! No way, no how! If I go along with this request of yours, you will not be calling me Master and that is nonnegotiable.”
“It is only a word, not a philosophy. You shall be addressed in the manner that is appropriate.” Clavi bowed her head.
Crowe turned back to look out the large windows. The rain stopped and the evening Ro sun returned to color the landscape. He looked at Clavi. She was sitting still. He was not certain she cared one way or the other of what decision he made. She had all the time she needed to find someone to take her off Ro. Who knows how many times she’d tried to get someone to own her and take her away. Who knows how long she would exist. He didn’t know much about Metalites but he knew enough to know, this one was different.
She pulled her legs under herself and sat playfully on a round sofa. He walked back to the chair he occupied earlier and plopped down. He sat looking at her. She smiled at him.
“Thank you for not reading my mind,” Crowe said to her.
“I am reading your mind,” she responded.
Crowe frowned. “Give me that damn pen!” He reached for the contract, took the pen and scratched out his signature. He threw the pen and contract down and looked at her. He had another indecent thought about her chest. She did not have a reaction. Crowe smiled.
“What am I thinking?” He asked.
“I am unable to read.” She hesitated. “I am unable to read.” Clavi tilted her head again. She looked at Crowe. “I am yours.”
The entire evening was spent going over the questions he would need to answer to get his Teleport Clearing. Clavi wrote everything down for him.
“There have been measures added just the last few weeks. Questions I believe are meant to weed out someone. You will have to memorize the answers to these questions,” she said.
“Why can’t you just do this for me when I come in to see you?” Crowe asked her.
“I am no longer a DTC employee. My internals have alerted the central Metalite server as to my status. I belong to you. I am no longer allowed to work for another. I am yours.”
Crowe stared at her for a long time. He started to feel a sense of responsibility. It was as if she were a child and it was his responsibility to see that no harm came to her and that she lived in peace and comfort.
“Wait a minute. This flat.” He looked around her flat.
“It is no longer mine,” Clavi said. “This evening will be my last here. We will have to teleport tomorrow.”
“Can we do that?” he asked her.
“Usually, yes,” Clavi said. “But a wait time has been implemented in the last few weeks. Three days. So, we will have to enhance our departure status.”
“Three days!” Crowe was getting hysterical. “Why didn’t you tell me this before I singed that contract?”
“Honestly? I like you.” Clavi smiled. “I wanted to be yours. I didn’t reflect on circumstances. It is not common for me to behave in this manner but your build is one of nice straight lines with taught tendons. Very appealing.”
Crowe sat with his mouth ajar. He looked at Clavi and could see that she meant the words she said. He shook his head.
“No. You are free. This is just an understanding. Once we are off Ro and on to Earth, you can once again have your freedom.”
“You would have to endorse me to another or to a government entity.” Clavi was no longer smiling.
Crowe saw the sadness appear on her face. “That is not freedom,’ he said.
“I wouldn’t know the meaning of that word. Not as humanoids know it,” she said. She stood and walked to Crowe. She sat very near to him. This made him nervous.
Clavi could sense his apprehension.
“I remember your feelings for her. You are my…” She stopped herself. “You are my priority. Your feelings are above mine. I shan’t do a thing to jeopardize our understanding.”
Crowe looked at her. He searched her eyes and was surprised to see moisture develop. “Are you crying?”
“She smiled. “I am sad. I liked you the moment I read your mind. You are an exciting human. You have a very large idea of yourself. But I did feel sadness within you. There is something blocking your imagination. I believe the more you depend on your device for adventure the more you cut off your capacity to create your life.” She reached for his hand. She kissed it. “You will find her again. I will be with you to remind you that she is the end of your searching. Your adventure ends with her. The red hair woman.”
“You saw her?” Crowe was surprised.
“No, you saw her. I just found her in your mind.”
They both sat quietly for a very long couple of minutes. For Crowe it was awkward but he knew she could stay in this moment for hours.
Crowe now held her hands. “Can you love?” He asked her.
“I do. I love you,” Clavi smiled.
Crowe shook his head again. “Don’t love me. I love her.”
“Yes. I love you. It matters not that you love her. I love you and will not ever lose that feeling. It is in me forever.”
Now Crowe sat back. “Can you love another?”
“Perhaps,” Clavi answered.
He chuckled. “Do you love another?”
Clavi looked off into her mind. She smiled large. “I spent time with a boy. He was very charming and very bright.” She suddenly turned sad. “He died in my arms. He was 10 years old and his parents never forgave me.”
Clavi stopped smiling. Tears fell from her eyes. Crowe could see the pain but she was like a faucet turned on and he knew she most likely could just as easily be turned off.
“But you love me now,” Crowe said.
She smiled again. “I do love you.”
Crowe realized at that moment that although she was exquisite in appearance and so very desirable, she was a Metalite. And although she could please, he wasn’t sure she could have that pleasure returned to her. This made him very sad and now very committed to her future. He would help her find her happiness.
“How much of a female are you?” Crowe asked her.
Clavi smiled. “I am all female.”
“All? As in everything inside you?”
“I am female,” she said.
“You mean,” he could not say the things he wanted to say.
She smiled. “My parts are female. My insides are female. And to answer the question that you and so many others wonder about—yes, I can have babies.”
Although it was late, Crowe had to get away from Clavi. She overwhelmed him in many ways. Her expression of love saddened him and he just needed to separate from her. His compassion was being tested and he could not bare the look on her face when she talked of love.
He’d encountered Metalites before on his teleports to Ro-Craudo III. He innocently made advances to a Metalite in a cafe. He learned then that these metal women were created by Doris Plethera to simulate Mujand women. The strange thing, he thought then, was that they mostly resembled Earth women of the late 20th century. Either way, they were all made to be beautiful, accommodating and very intelligent. He now thought of a male Gooplite having a Metalite. It made Crowe cringe. He was beginning to feel more for Clavi and he was determined to take her off Ro and to show her a better life.
At the moment, he could not figure out where that better life would be. She’d always be so pleasing that inevitably she would be taken advantage of. And then he started feeling that sadness again.
Crowe was walking outside Clavi’s tenement. It was a beautiful edifice that glowed phosphorescent at night. Although he was angry with the Gooplites for keeping this brand of Women, he appreciated the fact that they had tried to make amends by freeing them and taking care of them. Their lifespan was unknown according to Clavi and this made Crowe wonder if the Gooplites were doing them any favors. Although emancipated, the system of retribution received by the Metalites also had them trapped by that very system. In the end, they were not free.
Back inside Clavi’s flat, Crowe found her sitting in the same spot he left her nearly an hour earlier. He walked toward her and she stood.
“Can you control other minds if I ask you to?” He asked.
“I can,” Clavi responded.
“Perfect. You will come with me to Earth to find Dr. Argent Brand,” Crowe said. “He will repair the DAB and we will then teleport to Blissdane Naive, and then time travel to the same year I left Venente and the others.”
“I will be with you?” Clavi asked.
“For the time being,” Crowe answered.
He sat down and crossed his legs. Clavi sat as well. She placed her legs underneath herself as before and clasped her hands as if she were praying. Her eyes were closed.
“What are doing?” Crowe asked. He was surprised to see her praying.
“Envisioning the method we will use to deceive the system and find our way to Arth for the purpose you propose.”
“It’s Earth. Envisioning?”
“Yes.” Clavi’s eyes remained closed. “Conceiving an astute plan that an adventurer such as yourself would find acceptable.”
“Crafty.” Clavi smiled. She looked at Crowe. “Brilliant.”
“Oh. Sure. That’s me. A brilliant thinker.” Crowe chuckled. “So, what’s my plan?
The following morning, Crowe stood in a long line and watched how each Gooplite Teleport Clearing applicant moved smoothly through the process. He could hardly stand their stench but he marveled at their organizational skills. Each applicant was totally and perfectly prepared. The Metalite running the process today was just as beautiful as Clavi. Crowe marveled at her uniqueness and wondered if all Metalites had unique looks. That would be an amazing achievement. Then he realized he was thinking too much. He needed to concentrate and follow Clavi’s instructions. He was to think of a red ball. He was to think of a red ball.
He looked out a window and there he could see Clavi staring at the DTC clerk. She was blocking her ability to read Crowe’s mind. To make it easier for Clavi, she asked Crowe to think of a red ball. He asked for an explanation and she compared the mind trick she would use on the DTC Clerk as juggling balls.
“Juggling balls?” Crowe asked. They sat together late last night going over the plan.
“To distract the DTC Clerk I will use the red ball technique developed by Metalite creator, Doris Plethera,” Clavi said. She thought this was enough of an explanation.
On their trek to the Teleport Office earlier Crowe brought it up again. “So, what is this red ball technique?”
Clavi stopped walking. “The red ball technique is a mind trick used to confuse Humanoids. The idea is to take the thought process of the target subject and recreate their brain into a red ball. I will do this with your brain. She will not read your mind. She will read a mind I create for you. A different mind. Manipulating your red ball will be difficult because of the scattered nature of your thought process but I practiced while you slept last night.”
“Practiced?” Crowe looked at Clavi. What else did she do last night?
“I played with your red ball for hours. It took a while, as your dreams are unsure as to where you are. Your mind is unclear and ungrounded. You really must stop your time travel adventures. You are beginning to lose your…” Clavi paused.
“My what? Crowe asked.
Crowe considered this for a long minute. He never thought of his soul. He gave it little importance as he always considered the soul a mythical thing. But now, hearing Clavi refer to his soul gave him a sense of loss. He shook his head and tossed the idea out.
They started walking again. “How long did you practice?” He asked Clavi.
“Most of the night.”
“And rest? Don’t you require rest?” Crowe was concerned. “I mean, are you rested enough?”
“I rested the final hour before you woke. It was sufficient.”
Clavi was amazing, Crowe thought. He marveled at what this Doris Plethera had accomplished. She cooked up the loveliest creatures he’d ever seen, for quite possibly the nastiest creatures in the universe.
Then Crowe stopped again. Clavi mirrored his move. “Wait a minute. Won’t the Metalite Clerk have the red ball technique ability as well?”
Clavi thought on this. “I am unsure,” she said.
Crowe looked into Clavi’s eyes. “Are you lying to me?”
Clavi was surprised by the question. “I am not.”
“Then how do you know this will work on another Metalite?” Crowe waited for her answer and could see her developing a response.
“I have accomplished the technique with other Metalites already. I am unsure why they are unable to detect me.” Clavi seemed a bit lost.
This concerned Crowe. He was unsure if they should proceed. They would be taking a chance at being caught by a Metalite. But what choice did he have? She was his only choice.
“It’s not important. Just do your best,” he said to Clavi. They continued on.
“Next!” The DTC Clerk barked quite similarly to how Clavi had barked.
It was Crowe’s turn and he walked to the Clerk. He took one last look at Clavi. He could see how she was concentrating. He looked at the Clerk and then looked at her again. There was a strange delay in his perception. It almost felt like a déjà vu but he knew it wasn’t. Did he do a double take or did he just perceive his view twice. There was a strange feeling overtaking him. He felt like two people. He could hear the other him answering all the questions he was asked by the Clerk. It was a smooth conversation and before long he was completing the process to teleport. Within the time it took the Gooplites to complete their applications, Crowe had done so as well. But it really wasn’t him. It was the other him who was now starting to fade away as he exited the Department of Teleport Clearing.
Crowe walked down into the bustling traffic of Gooplites. Clavi coolly walked next to him and they walked away without incident.
“Where next?” Crowe asked Clavi.
“To the Teleport Center,” Clavi answered.
“Wait. This Pass reads valid two days from today,” Crowe held the pass to Clavi.
“Yes,” she said. She did not look at the pass.
“So, how do we change this schedule?” Crowe asked. “What’s the scam?”
“I must lie to a Metalite,” Clavi said. She responded with what appeared to be an attempt at a sigh.
“Yeah, okay.” Crowe did not follow. She would have to lie. “So you must lie. That’s it?”
Clavi stopped walking. “We are not designed to lie and especially not to each other.” Clavi displayed what closely resembled anger. But it wasn’t anger. She in fact could not be angry with Crowe. It was in her programming. She was made to please. Unless he ordered anger, she was unable to display anything close to anger. But she tried anyway.
Crowe laughed. “Let me guess—you can’t be angry with me.”
“But we will be lying to get our pass accepted today,” Crowe said.
“As I assisted in getting the pass at the DTC, you will assist me in lying,” Clavi said. She started walking again. Crowe followed as they made their way down the busy walkway.
The Teleport Center was bustling with activity. The Gooplites were swarming and the frog-like hum was at a fever pitch.
“What is going on?” Crowe looked to Clavi for an answer but she too was unsure as to why the teleporting Gooplites were this agitated.
“One moment,” Clavis said. Her eyes started to wander through the crowd until she spotted what she perceived as the angriest Gooplite. “Here,” she said to Crowe.
They moved through the buzzing crowd. Crowe was met with the awful Gooplite stench and did his best not to gag. Moving toward a fiery male Gooplite, Clavi stopped very near him. She just looked at the Gooplite. Then she walked away, pulling Crowe with her. Once away from the crowd she stopped.
“The Teleport Consortium has put a temporary halt on Ro-Craudo III teleportation,” she said to Crowe and pulled him away. They walked towards a gap between two buildings where only shadow occupied space. Clavi made sure that no one was looking at them.
“Why would they do that?” Crowe asked.
Clavi stared at Crowe. She said nothing.
He shrugged. “What?”
“It’s you,” she finally said.
They had nowhere to go. She no longer had the flat and they could not take a room for the night. Gavon Crowe was a wanted man and somehow they’d tracked him to Ro-Craudo III.
“It is logical that they tracked you when you first applied for the teleport clearing.” Clavi was going through her mind computing all that had occurred in the last day.
"And today," Crowe asked.
"It wasn't you today. They are unaware." Clavi was still thinking.
“Of course,” Crowe shrugged. “What about the contract? Can they track my name through you?”
“That transaction will take days to make all connections,” Clavi said. She was not concerned too deeply with the contract. “And the two agencies do not speak.”
They were sitting on a small hill deep in Fango Park far away from prying eyes. It was nighttime again and the temperature had fallen. Crowe was not prepared for the cool evening. He sat hugging himself trying to fight off the chill. Clavi stood and started to pace. He watched her as she moved back and forth in a human-like manner. Her hand was going through some motions that appeared as if she were conducting an orchestra. Then she stopped and looked to Crowe.
“You’re a wanted…” she started and then stopped. She moved to Crowe and sat next to him. She took her left hand and turned his face toward hers. She kissed him. He didn’t necessarily pull away but it was almost like that. The kiss ended with a smack. “Your temperature is too low,” Clavi said.
She rearranged herself to sit behind Crowe and she wrapped her legs around him and then clasped her arms about his body.
“Whoa,” Crowe exclaimed. He closed his eyes. He moaned a little. “That is very warm.”
“My design includes this ability, “ she said. “Humanoids are truly fragile. You need help.”
“Thank you. Really feels better,” he said. Crowe felt as if he were glowing. “It’s like you are completely inside me.” Crowe was smiling. “You’d make a good camping buddy.”
“I have memorized you,” Clavi said. She was still in a trance of sorts.
Clavi then eased her embrace but continued to keep a warm temperature near him.
“What does that mean? Memorized me.”
“Like your fingers, your body has a print. Everything you are has been downloaded to my system.”
Crowe seemed a little disturbed by this information. “That’s a bit strange,” he said.
Suddenly, Clavi stood and then moved to face Crowe. “I have it!”
"You have it? What do you have?"
Crowe and Clavi were at the Teleport Center blending within the crowd of Gooplites and other Humanoids. Many Teleportists arrived early in hopes of making their trip but it appeared as though they would not make that move today.
Clavi held Crowes hand and they moved closer and closer to the gate. “Guess I’ll learn later what you intend to do.” Crowe mumbled through his lips trying to keep their words private. "When you do it."
The crowd was buzzing and the stench was remarkable. Crowe pulled his eyes into his forehead. Then Clavi stopped. Crowe stopped as well. She squeezed Crowe’s hand and closed her eyes. He held her and moved very close to her. Her breathing changed. Then there was a slight tremor coming from Clavi. Crowe kept his eyes on her and tried to hide this behavior from anyone near them. Then she let out a large amount of air from her body. She looked at Crowe and smiled.
At that point the boards lit up showing teleport destinations as active. They saw Earth listed.
“Arth,” Clavi yelped excitedly.
“We’re going?” Crowe asked.
There was a metallic snap that emanated from overhead: “Teleportists, please have your Clearing certificates out for examination and move to your assigned gates.”
There was a mild cheer from the Teleportists. Finally they would be able to move. Clavi smiled at Crowe.
“What happened?” He asked.
“I shall explain at a later time,” she answered.
It all went fine. They sat at their seats waiting for departure. Crowe marveled at Clavi’s excitement. She’d always been on Ro-Craudo III, she told Crowe.
“I could only hope to go somewhere else.” She looked at Crowe. “You’ve made this happen for me.”
“Really,” Crowe said with a dash of sarcasm. He felt he’d done nothing to get them to this point. “I have you to thank for getting me this far. But I am not celebrating until we are in Houston and at Brand’s home.”
Crowe and Clavi, and a handful of other Earth citizens, prepared to teleport. The Ro-Craudo Government restricted their citizenry from teleporting to Earth and Crowe was quite in agreement with that decision. He was happy to be away from the Gooplite stench.
The teleporting vessel was a large tube-like container, which had a completely white interior. Designed to move 48 teleportists, the seating arrangement was simple—twelve rows of four roomy seats. Each teleportist was strapped into their seats snugly. Today, only 30 were moving to Earth.
“Teleportists, prepare for movement.” The voice overhead crackled.
Clavi squeezed Crowe’s hand, which she’d not let go the entire duration of their wait. She looked to him. “I love you,” she said.
Crowe smiled. “You will love me more when you see Earth.”
Clavi trembled like a child. Suddenly the seats were moved apart from each other and Clavi had to let go of Crowe’s hand. For a moment she looked lost and worried. The seats were moved into a staggered arrangement and Clavi had to look back to see Crowe.
“Please be still,” the voice overhead said.
Then the seats seemed to inflate and embrace each teleportist until they could no longer move.
“We are go for movement,” the voice overhead said.
Clavi looked forward. She could do nothing else.
“CF one niner, three one, initial boost commencing.”
“Roger, initial boost a go… and… all well.”
“Confirm… Local Group…”
“Local Bubble, Orion–Cygnus Arm, Milky Way…”
“Earth… Longitude 29.7604° N… Latitude 95.3698° W…”
There was a pause. Clavi’s eyes were smiling. Then she heard two final words:
Crowe had made that Houston movement several times before and teleporting never became a common experience; it never lost its excitement or drama. The fear factor alone was enough to squeeze the bravest of men’s privates. Teleporting was beyond anything anyone could describe or explain. Crowe never tried.
For the moment, everything before Clavi was the same. The whiteness surrounding the container was the same, the seating arrangement staggered. Suddenly, the seats moved back to their original positions and deflated to release the passengers. Clavi was again sitting next to Crow. She had a look of splendor on her face but Crowe quickly reminded her of what she needed to do.
“You need to focus, Clavi. There could be trouble.” He was looking into her piercing eyes.
“I shall,” she said.
She readjusted her posture and sat still waiting for the first sign of human activity outside the teleporting container. There was a series of beeps and musical tones and soon all teleportists were removing themselves from their seats. Clavi and Crowe did not move. Then, as Crowe had feared, men with severe looking faces, wearing dark suits, entered the container and walked directly to Crowe and Clavi.
Clavi took note of a small gold dragonfly pin that one of the men wore. She did not let it distract her.
What happened next, surprised Crowe. All passengers on board, with the exception of Crowe and Clavi, stopped moving. Everyone looked confused. They searched their minds trying to remember where they were and why they were in this place. Meanwhile, Crowe and Clavi stood and walked away without any notice from the authorities or anyone else.
Once Crowe and Clavi were out of range, everyone in the teleport container resumed their activity. The authorities looked at each other, blinked and shook the confusion from their heads. They searched through the remaining teleportists who started to filter out but the fugitive was not on this teleport vessel. They mumbled words to each other, turned and rudely pushed their way through the teleportists to exit the vessel.
The teleport center in downtown Houston resembled a giant silvery carburetor with glass bubbles for windows. A mass transportation system flowed from the building like arteries headed out in several directions. Crowe and Clavi rode the artery going out to Nassau Bay to visit Dr. Argent Brand. With specific information provided by Crowe, Clavi would communicate with Dr. Brand by way of her mind, directly with his, to let him know that Gavon Crowe would meet him at their secret rendezvous point, A-12 at 11:00 AM.
“What is the significance of this rendezvous naming?”
Crowe started to answer and then stopped. He looked at her eyes. “I am curious,” he said. “Can another Metalite read your mind?”
Upon hearing his question, Clavi sat erect. She was going through her mind considering the significance of the question.
“I don’t believe they would try. But that is not to say it cannot be done.” Clavi continued thinking upon the matter. “The DTC Metalite was fooled into believing she was accessing your mind. I merely distracted her. I did not read her mind.”
“Would you know if your mind was being probed by another Metalite?” Crowe was trying very hard not to upset Clavi. In the few days he knew her, he learned that she was very sensitive and emotional, which to him, contradicted her existence. But who was he to hold on to these myths and prejudices? She was near human, he thought. Her life demanded respect.
“You raise a concern I have not had to consider,” Clavi said. “Metalites have no reason to read each others minds. I know only that I can distract other Metalites.”
“What if they were given a reason? By their owners?” Crowe was pushing for her to drag her thoughts down into the arena of unfair play, cynicism and tyrannical evil.
“I understand your concern,” Clavi said. “I shall begin monitoring for influence aimed at mental infiltration. Aware now, it should be easily detectable.”
“One more thing before we end this line of thought,” Crowe said to her.
“One more… thing,” Clavi repeated.
“Are you able to read my mind if I give you the permission to do so?”
Clavi looked at Crowe. “Yes,” she said simply and directly. “I am yours. I will comply and do as you request.”
“Very well,” Crowe said. He leaned closer to Clavi. “Should I be abducted, imprisoned or taken from you for any reason, I am giving you permission to access my mind for the purpose of finding my location.” He observed Clavi’s reaction to gauge any possible conflicts with her thinking. There were none. “You may share this information with those who I identify as my friends. Is that understood?”
“Clearly,” Clavi responded. “Your outlook is bleak, my love. Do you fear for our lives?”
This took Crowe by surprise. She was intuitive and sensitive to the point of an emotional tug on his heart. Crowe liked Clavi very much. He could not love her but he did have a plan for her happiness. It was a long shot but it’s what he believed was right for her. It’s what he wanted for her. After all, maybe he did love her.
“I have a fear of separation,” Crowe answered. He smiled at her. “That’s all.”
Crowe really wanted to know what her capabilities were with regard to defensive skills. He would wait for the right moment to ask her that question.
The South 45 artery stopped near the Johnson Space Center and Crowe and Clavi walked out into the clear air. The Historical Aeronautics Agency consisted of several structures and there was a large bustle of activity from people coming and going. Crowe and Clavi followed a path that crossed over the main vehicle access by way of a clear covered walkway. They did their best to blend in. Crowe was still feeling paranoid. He turned to Clavi. Tears were falling from her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Crowe asked.
“I love Arth,” she said.
“So beautiful. A clearness I’ve never seen or expected to see, ever.” Clavi’s breath escaped. “You were correct. I love you very much more now.”
They both laughed.
They reached over to the other side. There were shops and restaurants aplenty.
“I must get something to eat,” Crowe said.
“The time is 10:02:58,” Clavi reported. “There is time before your meeting with Dr. Argent Brand.”
Crowe looked at Clavi. “Please stop announcing that information.”
“My system is clean. I am not being monitored,” Clavi could see he was nervous. “I will stop announcing that information,” she said.
“Thank you.” Crowe turned to see the different places where he could sneak in for food and get back out quickly. Then it occurred to him that his access to money was nil. He could not use his bankcards, as that would give the authorities his location. “Well,” he said thinking things through.
Clavi sensed a dilemma. “Is there a problem?”
“Yeah. Money.” Crowe sighed.
“You are without banknotes?”
“Notta one,” Crowe answered.
Clavi took in this information and started to survey their surroundings. Crowe observed her movements. She was gathering data and finally turned to Crowe.
“I will communicate with Dr. Argent Brand to have sustenance available. It is best for us to not alert the system to our location.” Clavi awaited his reply.
“Of course, you’re right,” he said. “Let’s just go to our rendezvous point.”
They were not very far from their destination and they headed south of the space center. The number of people out and about dropped dramatically, which is why the A-12 location was chosen as a meeting point by Crowe and Brand a long time ago.
“Why is there a space center?” Clavi broke the silence. “They’ve done away with this mode of travel. Have they not?”
“Mostly. But Earth enjoys its history more than most,” Crowe said. “Makes us feel good about ourselves. About our accomplishments.”
Clavi considered this for a moment. “I wish I could have those feelings of pride. You should consider yourselves blessed. The Gooplites are just relearning these feelings. It has taken them a very long time.”
Crowe shrugged. “Pride is not always a good thing,” he said.
“It is when you can’t have it,” she said.
Crowe looked at Clavi. She continued to surprise him with her insight into humanism. They continued on and then came to the rendezvous point, A-12.
“What is this place,” Clavi asked.
“St. Thomas Apostle Church,” Crowe said.
Crowe had automatically lowered his voice as they approached the church.
“Shall we go in? Am I allowed?” She asked.
“Do you know what a church is?” Crowe asked her.
“A place of worship,” she said. “I would like to view the interior of this building. It is something I have never seen.”
“Of course. Other worlds, other times,” Crowe said with a smile. “Message Dr. Brand that we will be inside.”
Clavi paused a moment to find Dr. Brand’s mind. Once she did as asked, she turned to Crowe. “He is informed,” she said.
The church was modest in stature and detail but as modern houses of worship tended to go, it was above average in beauty. The sleek building pointed towards the heavens in a clean and simple design from 500 years earlier. Despite its ordinary looks, Clavi marveled at how the interior seemed to quietly rise to an incredibly high peak. The softness of the atmosphere created meekness in her. She was overwhelmed.
“There is an oddness here,” Clavi whispered.
Crowe was fascinated by her behavior. “Why do you whisper?” He whispered.
She looked to Crowe as if a secret was about to be revealed. “Why do I?” She asked.
This fascinated Crowe even more. He considered her whispering for a moment. “This person who developed the Metalites—her name again?”
“Doris Plethera,” Clavi said.
Crowe Chuckled. “Sounds so fake,” he said. He pulled away from Clavi and seated himself within a pew. He closed his eyes. Now he frowned. He tilted his head in many ways. He placed his fingertips upon his forehead. He did this for almost five minutes.
“Got it!” he said without whispering. His voice echoed. “Praise the Lord,” he whispered.
Clavi went into her computing mode. She turned to Crowe. “I am unsure. How is this relevant to our activity here today?”
Crowe shrugged. “I really don’t know.”
Clavi started to think. “There are many anagrams to be made from the name Doris Plethera. Most are nonsensical or unrelated to any information I’ve learned these last days. There is this, however. Earth is old rep.”
This got Crowe’s attention.
“Does this have meaning?” Clavi asked.
Before Crowe could answer, the church doors opened and a young boy entered. He was early. Crowe stood and walked to the boy. They embraced.
“I couldn’t wait,” the young boy said.
Clavi straightened her posture. A youthful person was not what she was expecting. She reviewed her mental conversations with Dr. Argent Brand and determined that she did not grasp this fact. Dr. Brand was but a boy of no more that 21 years of age. Perhaps younger. She felt uneasy. She no longer felt balanced. Her abilities were diminishing. She would have to adjust to her new self.
Crowe and Brand walked towards Clavi. Clavi smiled.
“Mr. Brand,” Crowe spoke smoothly. “This is Clavi. I believe you’ve connected with her mentally.”
“We did. Which scared the hell out of me.” Brand held his hand out to Clavi. She smiled and shook his hand. “I was very surprised to get your messages as I did,” Brand said.
“I hope it wasn’t too intrusive.” Clavi gave Brand a charming smile.
Brand stared at Clavi for a moment and Crowe stepped in. “Okay, time to go.” Crowe separated them and pulled them towards the exit.
Dr. Brand drove Crowe and Clavi to his home on Galveston Island. His traverse was modest. It blended with the others on the road. Clavi sat in the back and listened to Crowe’s explanation of how he and Clavi made it to this point.
“It startled me at first,” Brand said. “But she explained who she was and why she was in my head.” He shrugged. “Still weird.”
“Yeah,” Crowe looked to Clavi who then smiled. “She can read minds, too.”
“Oh.” Brand raised his eyebrows. He tried very hard not to think of anything.
“Thank you Dr. Brand,” Clavi said with a warm smile.
Dr. Brand turned to Crowe and chuckled.
“I told you,” Crowe said. He laughed.
Dr. Brand was impressed with Clavi’s abilities but he was most impressed with Crowe’s adventures on Blissdane Naive.
“You'll be taking an awful risk trying to get back there,” Dr. Brand said to Crowe. "To time travel and teleport? Very risky.”
“I know,” Crowe said. “But they’re waiting for me. Somewhere, some time out there. I have to get back before they’re found. The Andaqesh Government will most likely have them killed.”
Dr. Brand looked at Crowe. “Boy, you sure have become a softy, haven’t you?” Brand shook his head and chuckled. “Knucklehead. You broke rule number one; do not get emotionally involved.”
“This one is different,” Crowe said in self-defense.
“What about O-Cea LiBerti?” Brand asked.
The name got a reaction from Crowe. He shrugged. “Why did you have to bring her up?”
“Who is O-Cea LiBerti?” Clavi asked.
“She’s in that head of his somewhere.” Brand looked at Clavi. “Oh, that’s right. You can’t ready his mind anymore. Well, I can tell you. She’s a dignitary from Blissdane Naive that your owner fell in love with.” Brand was smiling.
“Why you being a jerk?” Crowe was not taking the subject well.
“Remember Sadie Wentz?” Brand asked Crowe.
Crowe sighed. “Hey. Said I was sorry.”
Clavi could see that Crowe was uncomfortable. She needed to change the subject to bail him out. “How is it you are so young?” She asked Brand.
Crowe and Brand looked at Clavi.
“The data shows you inventing the time device at the age of twenty-one in 2982.” Clavi’s right eye blinked. Her head nodded a few times. “You were born in Texas in 2961, October 02.”
Clavi looked at Dr. Brand. He looked at Crowe.
“You should be in your fifty-sixth year. Please explain,” Clavi said.
Again Dr. Brand was impressed with Clavi’s abilities. “Is she legal here?” Brand spoke softly trying his best not to be heard.
“She can hear you. If not she can read your mind,” Crowe said.
Dr. Brand looked to Clavi. She was smiling.
“Damn uncomfortable,” Brand said.
Dr. Brand lived in a beach house on Galveston Island. The great Alkyd Firth Wrong, a brilliant architect from the latter part of the twenty-eighth century, designed the home. Clavi noted how singular the structure looked. Upon entering the home, Clavi could see how minimal and efficient the design and the décor were. She smiled. The windows were large, which afforded a wonderful view of the gulf.
“Y’all must be hungry.” Brand said.
“I am,” Crowe answered.
“I’m fine,” Clavi said to Dr. Brand.
He moved through the house with Crowe and Clavi following. Crowe stopped at a cabinet. He reached down and opened a door and pulled out a bottle. Clavi could see that it was a bottle Tarrotch, which was the alcohol drink made on Ro-Craudo III and banned in nearly every system.
“How is it you have Tarrotch here?” Clavi asked Brand. She smiled at him. “How long have you all been playing this game?”
Dr. Brand illuminated the kitchen. He looked at Clavi. “A while,” he said. “Bacon and eggs?” Brand announced.
Clavi sat watching the two men eat. She marveled at how they enjoyed their food. She always wished she could enjoy food in this manner. She wasn’t designed with the capacity to take pleasure in her nutrient intake. Keeping a clean operating system was all that mattered.
Later, the three sat on Dr. Brand’s deck looking out to the gulf. The men sipped coffee with Tarrotch. Clavi consumed water.
“I’m not understanding how you ended up on Ro,” Dr. Brand said. He was completely perplexed. “And everyone else is… somewhere else.”
“Is it a memory thing we’re dealing with here?” Crowe asked.
Brand thought about it. “I just don’t know. Something I overlooked.”
“Well, that’s scary.” Crowe had a nervous look on his face.
Clavi watched them go back and forth. Every now and then her right eye blinked and her head tilted.
“Time and space,” she said. “A concept that lends itself to interpretations based on perspectives from different realities.”
The men looked at her with curiosity.
“What is time to me?” She asked. “Versus time to you and to that of an atom?” Clavi just stared off to the beach. The tide had her mesmerized. “We never return to the same space. Can we?”
Both men looked at Clavi. She was staring off to the sea.
“Well,” Crowe started, “I just know I need to get back to Blissdane Naive.”
“May I receive an answer to my query?” Clavi chimed in. “I would like to understand the scenario that brought you to this age at this point.” Clavi did her mind calculating again. Both Crowe and Brand saw her working it out. She looked at Brand. “You time traveled to this point. Where are you?” Clavi looked very confused. She continued to calculate without any help from Brand or Crowe. “You are dead,” she finally said. You died in 2985, three years after creating the device known as the DAB… Made illegal to use two years after your death.”
“How is it she can access everything?” Dr. Brand was amazed at Clavi’s uncanny ability to find data easily.
“It’s horrifying,” Crowe said to Brand. He turned to Clavi. “Don’t think about it.”
“He’s dead but he’s here. Please explain,” Clavi said.
Crowe was about to start but Brand stopped him. Brand looked to Clavi. “I came to this time and learned of my death. I have not returned for that reason.”
“It is illogical,” Clavi said.
“It is illogical but it’s what we have,” Crowe said to Clavi. “If he goes back to his time he will be killed. So he will live out his life here in the 31st century.”
“It is illogical,” Clavi said again.
“To hell with logic,” Crowe spouted.
“At some point Dr. Brand will travel back and meet with his fate. It is written,” Clavi said.
Crowe and Brand became quiet. They looked at each other and sipped their drinks. Clavi looked at her surroundings. She considered the house and its contents. She turned to Crowe.
“Your time movement created this wealth.” She looked at Brand. “Did he do this for you?”
“I invested where we knew we’d win,” Crowe admitted. “It keeps him here in comfort.”
“And alive,” Clavi said.
“Yes. Alive.” Crowe fidgeted with the ice in his glass whirling it in circles. Dr. Brand became very quiet. Nothing was said for a few quiet moments.
“I’ve created negative tension. I apologize.” Clavi was saddened. “I love you both very much and want to help you get what you need.”
Dr. Brand smiled. “Thank you Clavi.
She smiled back at Dr. Brand.
Later, Dr. Brand sat alone in his shop looking over the DAB. He had it in pieces and was looking through a digital magnifying glass at extreme intricacies.
The afternoon sun was dipping low but a bright orange still colored the sands of the beach. Crowe sat on the deck watching Clavi enjoy the water and the sand. The wind blew her hair wildly as she watched the tide roll in wave after wave. It seemed she never tired of this and kicked the water joyfully. Then she stopped. She looked at Crowe. She looked out to the gulf and then lowered her head and started walking back to the beach house.
“I got it!”
Crowe turned to see Brand standing there with the DAB. “You fixed it?”
“I did. Just a minor adjustment needed and it’s good as new,” Brand said holding out the DAB.
Clavi reached the deck. The freshness of the beach radiated from her. “You’ve completed the repairs on the DAB,” she stated.
“I have,” said Brand.
Clavi looked at Crowe. “I will miss Earth.”
Crowe and Clavi sat with Brand. They were discussing the plan to travel off Earth.
“She can get us through the Teleport Center and back to Ro,” Crowe said.
Clavi turned to Crowe. “You’re taking me back?” She looked panicked. “Have I done something to displease you? Did I ask too many questions? I can alter my behavior.”
“No,” Crowe tried to explain.
“If you tell me my deficiencies I will make the adjustments immediately,” Clavi said. She stood at attention. “I am ready to do what is needed to repair myself.”
“Clavi, no.” Crowe said. “There are no repairs needed. I’m not taking you back. We must return to Ro to then move on. I am taking you to Blissdaine Naive.”
Now Clavi softened. She smiled. “Apologies,” she said. “Please continue.”
“At this time, Earth and Blissdaine Naive do not have a travel agreement,” Crowe explained.”
“I understand,” Clavi said. She was much lighter and pleased. She shared a smile with Brand.
“My concern is the residue we left from our teleporting here,” Crowe said. “They must know we came through. The question is, can we sneak through again?”
All three looked at each other.
“And you,” Crowe nodded to Brand. “Are you going to sit still until I return?”
“Of course!” Brand said.
“Do not go back!”
“I’m not going anywhere!” Brand snapped at Crowe. “Besides, my other units aren’t working.”
Crowe seemed doubtful. But he did eventually nod and smile at Brand.
The Houston sky was a clear thin blue. Clavi, Crowe and Brand walked towards the Teleportation Center.
“Why would so many people purposely go to Ro?” Clavi shook her head.
“Concentrate, Clavi.” Crowe looked in her eyes. He whispered. “Concentrate.”
Crowe’s fears of trouble getting past the Teleport Center security were not realized. Clavi slipped them through as easily as before or easier, now that she was practiced. She felt satisfaction in her ability.
Satisfaction? What was this sensation, she thought. No, she needed to continue to concentrate. She would think on it later at a more appropriate time.
The Teleportists sat in the familiar setting and again Crowe and Clavi sat next to each other. The Houston Teleport cylinder had a glass window where people could look on as their loved ones disappeared to another system.
“Why the transparent wall?” Clavi asked.
“It’s an Earth tradition to see friends and family off on their journeys,” Crowe answered.
Clavi could see Dr. Brand. She smiled and waved. She elbowed Crowe. The three made eye contact. Clavi smiled brightly. Crowe begrudgingly nodded and pointed to his good friend.
Clavi turned to Crowe. “Why do you address him as Dr. when he is not?”
Crowe smiled. “Just a little joke we share.”
Clavi did not get it. There was nothing humorous that she could detect in their little joke.
“Concentrate, Clavi,” Crowe said.
She did so.
The Teleportation sequence started and once again Crowe and Clavi’s seats were separated and the countdown started. Clavi closed her eyes as the final sequence was near the end. She opened her eyes and saw Dr. Brand holding up his left arm. He was wearing a DAB. It was the last thing she saw as they teleported away from Houston and away from Earth.
Their arrival at Ro-Craudo III was flawless and identical to their arrival to Earth. Clavi had a look of concern on her face. Why did Dr. Brand show them that he was wearing a DAB on his wrist? What did that mean? She ran through scenarios and could only come to one conclusion. Dr. Argent Brand was returning to his time to meet his fate. This made her panic. She was certain he would return to his time and he would then fulfill his destiny as it was written. She did not want him to die. In the short, very short time she knew Dr. Brand, she developed an intense liking for him.
They would have to return to Earth, she thought. There was nothing else they could do. They must return to Earth, time travel back to his time and save his life. She was convinced that they needed to take action.
She turned back to announce this to Crowe and to verify he saw the same strange behavior displayed by Dr. Brand. Her eyes were wide with fear.
“Did you…” Clavi started to speak with Crowe but she quickly learned that he was not in the teleport tube with her.
She searched around but no one had stood yet and Gavon Crowe was not on board. The seats returned to the side-by-side arrangement. Crowe’s seat, now next to Clavi, was empty. She was frightened. She was once again alone on Ro-Craudo III.
MUJAND REPUBLIC TERRITORY OF WEST JUNEE THE KUNINGANNA TERRITORY NATION OF ANDAQESH PERISH ISLAND PONEET ISLANDS