FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 5/29/18: Suddenly–an ESCAPE!

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When we got outside there was literally a car waiting for us. It was a red two-seater  and it was very sexy. The only problem was—there was someone behind the wheel.


“GET IN, ALREADY!” She barked with a voice that was gravelly but somehow piercing at the same time. We ran around to the other side of the car and, as KJ opened the door for me, I stopped and looked at the woman behind the wheel. It was an old lady—complete with curly white hair and a house dress—she reminded me a lot of a high school friend of mine’s grandma.

“Get in! Get in!” She said.

“Where? There’s only one seat open!”

KJ shoved me into that one seat and then squeezed in beside me. Immediately I felt crammed into the seat as KJ swung the door shut behind him. The uncomfortableness increased when the old lady slammed on the pedal.

“Aw come on, man!” I said without thinking.

“Whatsa matter? I thought you two were close friends.”

“Uh, ‘good friends’ yes, ‘physically close’ friends… I just like my personal space.”

“Well, sorry kid—my selection of Earth cars was limited when I picked this up.”

“Why are we in such a hurry? The Conva totally let us go!” I said, adding: “How is this car even running in an atmosphere without oxygen?”

“It’s electric,” the old lady said.

“The who?” KJ asked.

“The Conva—what the Double-Oes call themselves,” I said.

“Because of the Double-O faction that seems to be trying to foil the plans of your pals back there,” the old lady said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.  The old lady continued: “Your sister did some more research while you were away and found that the Double-Oes don’t all agree on how to go about interacting with the sovereign beings who live in the Prime Trimension.”

“Ah, is that what we’re calling our set of dimensions now?”

“Nah, that’s what Department M calls it. Typical white-guy-savior syndrome, man,” KJ said.

“So, where do we go from here?  As in, what is the plan?” I asked. “We gonna head out to the Fire Escape that I used to get here?”

“Sorta,” the old lady said.

“What do you mean by sorta?”

“Look!” she said nodding at something through the windshield of the car.  I tried to spot what she was nodding toward, but all I saw was the literal end of the figurative road.  The ground we were racing across abruptly ended a couple hundred feet from where we were. 

“Uh-oh,” the old lady said in a disturbingly flat tone just as she slammed on the gas again.  

“Why are you slamming on the gas again?” I glanced over at her as she nodded through the back windshield.  I craned my neck and managed to see what she was referring to–it was two Conva ships, similar to the one I’d managed to hijack temporarily.  Aaaand they were closing fast.

“Uh, if we’re heading to the Fire Escape I used to get here, why are we heading toward that cliff?”

“Because we’re heading to the Fire Escape you used to get here, man!” the old lady said sounding like she thought I was an idiot.

“KJ, who is this lady?”

“There was a major battle fought on this asteroid while you were off with those other aliens, the Galak-ga.  A massive bomb went off around the Fire Escape.”

“What?!”

“Don’t worry, kid, it’s still there,” she said.  “In fact, we’re getting close.  Grab the Accessory in the back and turn on that AR whatsis thing so we can see the thing we’re aiming for and do it fast cuz we’re running out of landscape.”

I craned my head around again and saw the Accessory in the small amount of space behind the two front seats.  With a bit of effort I managed to get it, and pull it into the front seat with us.  I immediately activated it and pulled up the AR holo-map.  Just as the old lady pressed some button on the dashboard that made us accelerate so fast it felt like we were lifting off of the ground–and then we did.  I heard an explosion behind me as the old lady barked at me.

“Where is it?!?”

“It’s that one!” I said making sure to select it in the interface so there was an AR cube around it.  Then, she pulled back on the steering wheel and turned it to the left.  I could see her also stepping on a pedal that I thought was the gas pedal, but it turns out this car could also fly.

“Alright, kid, you do what you have to do to get us back to the Prime Trimension–preferably not to Nowhere House because this car will not fit!”

“Are you kidding me?!?!”

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 5/30/18: The Escape?

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I had precisely zero seconds to double check the settings and since I knew I couldn’t select the exact moment I’d left Nowhere House (not without destroying everything in Jill’s lab) I just picked something else in the history and hoped that I had done it fast enough so that we wouldn’t end up back in the hub.   I assumed that’s what would happen, anyway.
What did happen was a little bit worse because, as we zoomed through the air, I heard the old lady say something.

“Oh, crap!”

I realized the Fire Escape wasn’t in view through the windshield anymore.  We had missed it 
completely!

We were now flying into the void of space.

“Turn us around, lady!”

“Does this thing look like a spaceship to you, kid?  It’s a car.”

“Well, you were flying it like a spaceship, earlier!”

“NO.  I was flying it like a helicopter, only instead of an overhead rotor, it was electromagnetic repulsers I jury rigged into this thing.”

I chills ran down my spine as I noticed a full starfield surrounded us.

“And you can’t use those things to fly in space?”

“Dude, do you even know what the word ‘repulser’ means?” KJ asked.

“Um…” I said, not sure I did.

“With out something there to repulse, you can’t repulse, kid.”

“Oh.”  Now that I had a better understanding of the word ‘repulse,’ I now had a moment to completely give into the feeling of massive anxiety clawing at the back of my brain.

“Oh, don’t freak out, man,” KJ said.

“I… I… I…” was all I could say, as I felt every muscle in my body tense up.

“I got another trick up my sleeve,” she said, reaching down and pulling a lever.

“What was that?” KJ asked.

“I popped the trunk!”

“What’s that gonna do?” KJ asked.

“Not sure.  Change our trajectory a bit thanks to the escaping air?”

“Won’t that just push the back of the car down but not change our actual flight path since there only the crazy thin atmosphere of the asteroid?”

“Oh, yeah!  You’re probably right.  My bad!”

“Oh, come ON!  Who ARE you lady!?!” I yelled through clenched teeth.  Just then we heard a loud crunch and then saw land in front of us again.  My body almost completely relaxed.  It turned out we were still under the light pull of gravity from the asteroid and hadn’t even gotten more than twenty feet up, but the weird landscape of the asteroid made it possible that we couldn’t see it around us at all at that height, that is until the old lady adjusted our angle which kept us from seeing sooner the asteroidal mountain that was now in our way.  

Of course, we were now about to crash into it.

“Oh, crap–now is when I should have popped the trunk–this one’s on me, too.”

“I’m gonna drop an anvil ‘on you,’ lady!” I said, feeling my muscles start to tense up.

“Wait–kid–they said you can breathe this air, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.”  She pressed another button causing the roof of the car to flip up violently, shoving a blast of ice cold air down into the car.  And me without my fur coat!  I decided this is what that rose felt like when my sixth grade science teacher Mrs. Klimko dropped it into that tank of liquid nitrogen.

Then we felt a kind of crunch/thud combination as we impacted into the mountain, wheels-first.  Turns out the old lady’s move to pop the convertible top re-angled us just enough to land at an angle almost perfectly matched to the mountain.  The old lady hit the gas pedal and turned us around, bringing us down the mountain, back toward the way we’d come.
And that’s when we saw the Conva ships bearing down on us.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 5/29/18: The Hand-Off…

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There was one thing that ended up coming into play that I would never have considered.  

The Conva were not horrible people.

“You really don’t have to keep that gun to my head.  You found me out and now you’re trading me for one of your own,” the politician said.

“That’s great, pal, but we Earthlings aren’t so easy to fool,” KJ said sounding like some action movie hero.

“Yes–this is what I’m telling  you—you’re not being fooled.”

“Sure, sure.  Hey you.  You ready to trade?  Mine for yours?”  KJ was looking past me to the Conva guard to my right.  That guard shrugged and muttered something in his language and both he and the other guard who had each held an arm of mine tightly around the tricep area, let go. Almost instinctively, I took a step forward.  About twenty feet away from me, KJ shoved the politician forward, but kept his gun aimed at the politician’s head.

“Get walkin’, ya faker, and know this gun is still pointed at your head.”

“Oh, please, you’re surrounded. If you shoot me, they’ll all shoot you.”

“Yeah, well, then we’d both be dead.”

The politician rolled his eyes as we passed each other.  Just as he disappeared from my view, he added: “Earthlings…”

I reached KJ and gave him a hug—or tried to.  He shoved me away.  “Stop! I have to keep us covered!”

KJ jerked his gun from one of the Conva guards to the other and back.  “KJ, it’s good.  They are clearly cool.”

“How do I know they didn’t torture you into saying that!?!”

“They treated me fine, even after I killed a bunch of their people.”

“What?”

“Dude, put the gun down and tell me your exit strategy.”

“What? Oh, it’s cool.  We’ve got a car outside the hangar that’ll take us out to the the Fire Escape.”  He pointed toward a door on the far side of the hangar.

“Really?  OK, cool.  Let’s go then.”

“Yeah, definitely,” KJ said, slowly backing away from the ‘confrontation zone’ as I walked casually toward that door.  I stopped and, looking back at KJ, saw that I had gotten about twenty feet ahead of him because he was still backing away from the the politician, the Conva guards and all the other armed and unarmed Conva standing around.  Some of them stared at us, slack-jawed, while others shook their heads, while others just shrugged and went back to what ever they were doing.

“Kim John!! Would you come on!” I yelled, adding, “You’re embarrassing us!”

“What? Why?!?”

“Just let’s go!”

We moved quickly toward the door and then through it as KJ literally flipped up a transparent hood on the jumpsuit he was wearing and then zipped the hood’s front, creating an air-tight seal.

We stepped outside and saw a brilliant, huge, starry sky above us.
  

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft update for 5/28/18: So, THIS is How It’s Going to Go?

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At some point, the discussion turned to how they would actually get me out of the facility I was in. They assumed rightly that it would be effectively a prison camp. High security. Lots of guards and defenses.

They quickly realized this was not something a former government scientist on the run, an AI, and my two best friends could handle on their own.

If only I had a handle on my ability to change into a Conva, or whatever killing machine I had turned into back on that Conva saucerquadcoptership I could have broken out and met them half way, not that they would have know about that ability of mine.
Regardless, what they eventually came up with was novel, but risky.

I had just caught the worry stone in my right hand after tossing it in the air out of boredom a few times when the doorway materialized in the wall again.

Two Conva guards barked orders that I could not understand but their waving gesture told me they wanted me to leave my cell.

“Really? Already? But I just got here!” I said, fully not expecting them to respond to me or even understand.

I did as I was gestured, stood and left the cell. They ushered me surprisingly politely to the hangar bay. I saw the ship I’d managed to hijack on the right three ships down. The paint patterns on the outside of each ship were very different from each other.

Then I saw KJ. He was standing with some sort of gun pointed at the head of that politician guy—the same one that had pretended to be human with me.

My stomach immediately turned to stone as I realized the bigger picture.

What was KJ thinking risking his life and mine with a stunt like this?!? This is not something he is qualified for—he has zero military or fight training and if this thing goes south he’ll need both big time. At that moment I was pretty sure the only direction it could go in was south.
I stared at the gun KJ held and I wasn’t even sure it was real. Then I remembered the last time I saw him with a gun of any kind—it was in a photo of him doing some sort of wilderness training program. Only, the more I thought about it the more I thought it was not a hunting rifle he was holding in the photo.
Maybe he had military training after all?

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 5/27/18: More Time Travel Minutia

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“But what would happen if we actually did use the history on the Accessory to go back to that exact moment that Jake went to?” Kate wasn’t ready to give up yet.

“Well, th-th-that’s not really something we should bother doing, is it? He’s not being kept on the asteroid, is he? He’s in the Fire Escape Dimension. So that’s not something we’re gonna do.”

“Could you just answer my question? What would happen?”

“We don’t have a lot of time for these hypotheticals but if you t-t-to use the exact same entry in the history, going the same direction, the system would auto-correct and skip you 6 seconds forward in time so you would not come in physical contact with yourself or accidentally exit a F-F-Fire Escape inside of someone else. Now I need to get to work with Jim on that tech for finding my brother.”

“Wait, so, if the Accessory skips you forward 6 seconds, can’t we kind of adjust that variable? Use it to get us there 6 seconds earlier.”

“Uh, yeah, maybe, but the system’s not that granular yet. It’s taken me a long time just to get it to where it is now.”

“But we’re outside of time here.”

“D-d-d-didn’t we have this discussion already? Time marches on for us here and every day I am aware that my little brother is in an alien prison cell is another day I am stressed even knowing a second hasn’t p-p-p-passed for him. I still know he’s there.”

“Right, got it, I understand. So, how can I help?”

“Uh, you can’t.”

“What? Yes I can!”

“You’re a soldering iron jockey. For the kind of stuff required at this level you need to be able to think in binary.”

“You’re not serious.”

“D-d-d-deadly.”

Kate’s face sank.

“Jim, I gotta go to the bathroom but get to work and I’ll join you shortly.”

Jill left the lab area and Kate approached Jim.

“Yo Jim, any chance you could do a sister a solid and catch me up so I can be of some use?”

“Oh, hey, Kate, that’s a great idea. Thing is, I don’t think Dr. Rivera would appreciate using processor time helping you while her brother is trapped in an otherworldly alien prison cell do you?”

Kate shrugged and then realized something. “Hey Jim—what about your AI girlfriends? Couldn’t they help me?”

Jim looked past Kate and smiled. “Hey ladies, can you give my friend here a hand?”
Kate turned to see Iris, Axela, and Gail standing behind her smiling.

“Of course!” they said enthusiastically and in perfect unison.


“Oh, man…” Kate said.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 5/26/18: A Time Travel Experiment

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“Wait—can’t we just stop Jake from getting captured in the first place since we have the Accessory?” Kate asked.

“I thought I already explained this,” Jill said.

“Right, you said, history can’t be changed since traveling through time is part of history but what if you’re wrong?”

“I’m not wrong.”

“But how do you know?”

“I’m a scientist, that’s how.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I have evidence through trial and error.  Every time I tried to change something, something went wrong or got in my way or I made a mistake.”

“Fate was working against you?” KJ asked.

“Fate is an abstract concept.  There’s just no way to literally change time.”

“How many trials did you do?” Kate asked.

“A hundred.  All I tried to do was change something simple, too–and every time, I failed.”

“Something simple?  Like what?”

“Just tried to get this person to not buy a banana.  Every morning a neighbor of mine would buy a banana from a corner place by my building.”

“What happened?”
“I did.”

“Huh?” KJ said, perplexed but still smiling.

“I staked out the corner place from across the street one morning and thought I’ll just go over there and buy all the bananas.  Then I saw myself turn the corner and stop just outside the door.  I saw myself look toward me with a determined face and then go in.”

“What the–?!” KJ was perplexed but not smiling now.

“Yeah, that was future me.  I thought I could just observe how my neighbor would go in on a particular day and then go back and get in there earlier.  But I literally beat myself to it.”

“So, what happened then?” Kate asked.

“I still made my observations.  I saw myself come out of the corner place with an arm full of bananas.  Then I joined myself by the look out.”

“Wait—I thought that was a recipe for an imploding universe,” KJ said.

“Don’t worry—I was careful not to touch myself,” Jill said missing any double entendre in her statement.  Of course, KJ didn’t miss it.  He snorted and smiled.  “Uhhhhm… OK?”

“You mean you didn’t come in physical contact with yourself.”

“Yes,” Jill said, still oblivious.

“So, did you say hello to each other? Or just focus on the mission?” KJ fought back a giggle.

“Yes, we watched as my neighbor went in and came out with a banana.”

“But you bought all of them,” Kate said.

“I did buy them all.”

“But you couldn’t have,” KJ said.

“Well, I confronted myself.  I asked her what happened.  And she told me she was sure she’d gotten all of the bananas.  I shook my head at myself.  ‘Impossible!’ I said, ‘we just saw our neighbor walk out of that place with a banana!’ She replied by saying: ‘Yes, and I knew that would happen—remember, I’m you, like ten minutes ago!’ and she had a point.”

“And?” Kate asked, on the edge of her seat.

“I told her she had to be wrong.  ‘I’m not and you’re not going to believe me until you see it for yourself!’ I knew she was right, so I just stormed off to my apartment and went back in time and then went down to the the corner place, but stopped outside the door and gave myself a dirty look.”

KJ and Kate laughed.

“Then I go into the place and demand every damn banana.  I tell the guy I need every banana they have.  I got pretty emotional.  The guy even went in the back to make sure there weren’t any more bananas waiting to be put out.  There weren’t, he said.  Then, after I paid for them, he asked me to leave because his other customers were annoyed with me taking over the store just for some bananas.”

“So, that was it?”

“Well, with two of me already in the same are of time, it gets a little messy to go back and try again, but I did try with different scenarios and I never could work out a way to not get in my own way.”

“Incredible!” Kate said, adding: “I still want to try to do it some time.”

“Once all this strife stuff calms down, we should do it together,” Jill said.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 5/25/18: Meanwhile, Back at Nowhere House

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“Who the hell are you?” KJ asked.

“And how did you get the Accessory?” Kate asked.

“And how did you use it without my brother’s DNA?” Jill asked.

“Sorry, I explain, here:” Dr. Green said before showing them a hologramatic letter that I dictated.

“How do we know Jake actually wrote this? Letters can easily be faked,” KJ said.

The good thing was that after I wrote the letter, I figured it wouldn’t be enough. So, Green showed them the video I shot.

“Hey guys, it’s me,” I said in hologramatic form.  “Everything in the letter is true.”

“How do we know this video is the real deal?” KJ said.  I paused and said “KJ, this video is one hundred percent real, OK?  Who else would know how skeptical you are?”

KJ smiled, knowing that I knew him well.  My video finished and Green seemed to think it had persuaded them.  Buuuut it didn’t.

“I still need more proof,” Jill said.  Green held her hand out toward Jill.  “I am doctor. I understand proof.  Take di-en-ay.”

Jill approached Green with one of those little jabbing things that pokes holes in skin so a small blood sample could be taken.  She used it on Green before Green jerked her hand away in pain.

“What!” She said grabbing at her finger.  “Not fluid—skin!  Did not change my di-en-ay!  Just on top of skin.”

“Oh!  Sorry,” Jill said, going back to a first aid kit she had stashed underneath one of the consoles.  She handed a band-aid bandage to her.  Green just stared at it as Jill took scalpel and, without drawing any blood, scraped off the flakes of skin and then guiding them into a petrie dish.    

Kate saw Green’s confusion at the band-aid still in its wrapper as a little dot of her blue blood on her finger began to roll over to the underside of her finger.  Kate snatched it from Green and opened it.  “Sorry, Dr. Rivera isn’t a medical doctor.”

Kate peeled the two paper bits off of the adhesive parts of the bandage and then wrapped it around Green’s finger. Green smiled and nodded and Kate smiled and nodded back.

Meanwhile, Jill was already scanning the skin flakes and staring at a computer screen. 

“Hey Jim, can you do the honors on this DNA?” Jill asked.

“Should take about ten minutes or so,” Jim said.

“Why are you doing this?  For Jake, I mean?” KJ asked Green.

“I help because I know massacre was not his choice. He changed against his choice. He–”
“Massacre?” Jill blurted out, interrupting Green. “Not again!”

“Yes, he killed many in self-defense needlessly as Conva only want hold him as prisoner of strife.”

“Why don’t you unpack the dynamic you, Jake, humanity, and these Conva guys have.” KJ said.

“My understanding not good.”

“You’re a doctor and you don’t understand the politics?”

“KJ, she probably means she doesn’t understand you.”

“Yes,” Green said, nodding. “But I understand now. Politics.  Politics difficult in mother language or other language.”

“True that,” Kate said. “But help us understand.  Where is Jake now?”

“Held until end of strife by Conva. My people, the Galak-Ga caught in the middle.”

“Galaga?  Like the old arcade game?” KJ asked.

“She said GalaK-Ga, dude.  Listen more closely,” Kate said with a smirk.

“What about Wise?” Jill asked.

“Jake’s friend—was killed in break attempt.”

“Oh,” Jill said, her face looking even more grave than usual.

“Did you know him or something?” KJ asked.
“Sort of,” Jill said.

“He could have helped a lot with all of this,” Kate said.
“Sorry. I did not know him but he was criminal to Galak-Ga.”

“Criminal?” Jill sounded more surprised than you’d expect for someone who only ‘sort of’ knew Wise.

“Yes, Jake trapped in case not by choice.”

“DNA scan results show both her DNA and Jakes DNA present in sample,” Jim said suddenly.

“OK, thanks,” Jill said.

“So, where is Jake now?” KJ asked.

“In ConvaSpace. In holding in unknown place.”

“Greeeeat, that should be easy to find,” KJ said shrugging.

“When he left you with the Accessory, what was your plan for helping us save him?”

Green looked down at the Accessory and shrugged, herself.  “No plan. Jake said you smart people.”

KJ cracked a toothy grin.  “Well, I’m glad he thinks so.”

“Dude!” Kate said staring at him.

“He’s right, we are smart people,” Jim said.

“Jim, you’re a hologramatic AI, you’re not a person!”

“That’s racist,” Kate said punching KJ in the arm.

“Ow!”

“Apologize to him!”

KJ shrugged.  “Sorry, man.  HLM.”

“What’s that?” Kate demanded.

“Hologram Lives Matter.”

Kate and Jill both rolled their eyes at him.

“It’s true, our lives do matter,” Jim said.

“Hey—look,” Kate said, pointing to the Accessory still being held by Green in her left hand.  

“The little accessory to the Accessory—it’s missing.”

“Do you know where it is?” Jill asked.

“He just gave this.  What other thing is there?”

“He must still have it,” Kate said.

“How do you know?”

“Because, I remember him talking about it when he got back from your dad’s funeral.”

“Really? I don’t remember him talking to you about it,” KJ said.

“Well, he did to me.  He said it was something he found at home and he kept it with him from then on.  Even when he was in his bathrobe around the apartment.”
“So, all we have to do is wait for him to fiddle with it and then we can trace the signal it gives off straight to him,” Jill said, sounding confident in the plan.

“Yo, but can we even do that from here?  Where is ConvaSpace, anyway?” Kate asked.

“The Conva are what we call Double-O people, right, Doctor?” Jill asked.  Green nodded.

“So, ConvaSpace is the Fire Escape Dimension,” KJ declared.

“Sounds like it,” Jill said.

“Word, I like ‘ConvaSpace’ better than “the Fire Escape Dimension.”  It rolls off the tongue better.”


“Alright, then we better start working on some tech that can let us know when it picks up a signal from that thing,” Jill said.