FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/24/18: Where We Go After Julio

Just a quick reminder: pretty much everything you’re going to read on this blog or its PDFs is an absolute first draft.  In most cases, you’re reading these pages before even I do as I write them and post them without even checking for typos.  The whole point is to write every day and worry about editing later.  If you want to read something from me that has been proofread and edited (WOW!), please check out manfromzero.com and buy my most recent novel.  It’s good and takes place in the same story universe as Fire Escape–just way in the futrure.  In the meantime, if you want to make it easier for me to write, why not support me on Patreon? Just go here: patreon.com/petenicholls. Don’t want to commit to Patreon?  Then buy me a cup of coffee!  Or hay, just let me know that you like my stuff.  That means so much, too. Find me on TwitterIG, or FB.
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Good old Uncle Julio was wearing a suit that day. Now, he’s definitely a guy who cleans up well. 

Thing is when we were kids, when we first knew Julio, he was never in a suit or a tie. It was always tank tops or t-shirts, jeans and, lots of times, sandals. So on that day and the few times previously when I saw him now, all these years later, it’s been pretty jarring to see him wearing dress pants, shoes and at least a button-down shirt, you know? He looked more professional before than he did when I was a kid, but on that day, he looked, well when I saw him, I was pretty sure he had just come from somebody very important or maybe a funeral for somebody important. 
See, Jill remembered a lot more from those two summers than I did—or maybe she had gotten to know him in these later years if working with him? I don’t know. 

The point is, she knew that eventually, he’d have a bad day and he’d want some comfort food from his favorite place in the city—it was a Dominican place back in Washington Heights, of course. It was done up in red velvet and wood paneling. It was small but not too small. It was easy for us to hang out in there without anyone really becoming suspicious. It was the kind of place people could hang out all day and just eat or drink. So we did that a few nights. Just Jill and I. I suppose I could go into what those first two nights were like but ultimately, it wasn’t that interesting. It was me trying to connect with my sister and her shoving her face in a laptop. Our dad used to call our devices “anti-personal devices” and he was right. It’s not even that surprising that she was ignoring me since that’s what she did for a good chunk of our teenage years.

Like I said, I could go into the attempted conversations we had but really nothing came up that was all that interesting. I didn’t feel like hashing everything out when Julio could walk in at any moment.

About an hour after we got there, he finally did.  He sat down and we waited until he ordered, then went over to his table and sat down.

“You should have asked for a table with one chair, Julio,” Jill said, sounding as cool as a cucumber.  Julio’s eyes went wide.  He was totally not expecting us.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/23/18: Reporting to Jill and Planning What’s Next

 Just a quick reminder: pretty much everything you’re going to read on this blog or its PDFs is an absolute first draft.  In most cases, you’re reading these pages before even I do as I write them and post them without even checking for typos.  The whole point is to write every day and worry about editing later.  If you want to read something from me that has been proofread and edited (WOW!), please check out manfromzero.com and buy my most recent novel.  It’s good and takes place in the same story universe as Fire Escape–just way in the futrure.  In the meantime, if you want to make it easier for me to write, why not support me on Patreon? Just go here: patreon.com/petenicholls. Don’t want to commit to Patreon?  Then buy me a cup of coffee!  Or hay, just let me know that you like my stuff.  That means so much, too. Find me on TwitterIG, or FB.
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“Nice–Department J–is that for Department ‘Jacob’?” KJ asked just after we got back to Nowhere House.  I shrugged and replied “No, man!  It’s Department ‘Jill’!”

“What’s this now?” Jill asked.

“Nothing.  If anyone asks, we’re called Department J.”

“Doesn’t that make it sound like we’re affiliated with Department M?” Dot asked.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said.

“I was thinking we’d call ourselves the Wise Agency,” Dot said.  I smiled and suggested: “How about the Dot Department?”

“Oh, hey! I like that one, kid!”

“Alright, so what did you accomplish?” Jill asked sounding like she was ready for bad news.

“We connected.  We exchanged information.  We seem to be on the same page,” I said.

“That’s great but what did you l-l-learn?”

I had to resist the urge to play the little brother and mock her stutter.  I’m a grown up and am perfectly capable of resisting childish urges.  

“We learned a bit.  I kept expectations low because she’d just seen a friend die and really it was about making contact.”

“But what did you l-learn?” She was just speaking pretty forceful at this point but she wasn’t quite yelling.  KJ jumped in.  “We learned that the Double-Oes are just like you and me, apparently.  At least that’s according to Ms. Manchester.”

“Mizzz M-M-Manchester,” Jill said to herself without really sounding like she was making a judgement call on the “ms.” part, she was just repeating it. KJ continued.  “Yeah, seems they have families just like us and Tedesko was practically a local.  He lived in NYC for ten years and had become a real pillar of the community.”

“According to Mizz Manchester,” Jill said, staring off into space.  “Go on.”

“Well, it wasn’t all friendship and flowers,” I said.  “We also learned that Tedesko overseeing infrastructure–water supply, power grid–that kinda stuff.”

“Oh, well, that’s just g-g-great.  So glad he goes home to his own dimension so much!  That way he doesn’t have to remember all that intel he’s bringing back.  Wow–if I had kn-kn-known that when I was staking him out, I’d have just grabbed him then–or worse.”

Kate spoke up next, “Yeah, but Manchester said she didn’t think he was spying for the Double-Oes.  She seemed to think Teddy Ted was a pretty upright citizen and wouldn’t ever do such a thing.”

“What do you think, K-K-Kate?”

“About Tedesko?  I have no idea–I really don’t have enough data to conclude anything. You know what I’m saying?”

“What about Manchester.”

“Manchester?  She seemed cool enough.  Flustered, but that was understandable.  I’d say she was probably telling the truth.  There was a hesitation there, but that mighta been just about her not knowing or trusting us.”

I spoke next. “The other stuff we learned was that there are two factions factions of Conva and the one that wants an all out invasion is why the human negotiating team was put together.  They feel like they can find a peaceful way forward.”

“In the meantime, it’s like another Cold War and whatnot,” Kate said.

“Which is better than a hot war,” KJ said.  

“Only if it stays cold, you know?” Kate said,

“True,” KJ said nodding.

“Did she say why the “Invasion-Oes” w-w-wanted to inv-v-vade?”

“She didn’t,” I said.  

“I thought about asking her but decided to wait until our next contact,” KJ said. 

“F-f-fair enough.  I guess it’s time to see what we can find out.”

“As in?” I asked.

“As in, maybe you need to reach out to Uncle Julio and see what he has to say about things since you last saw him.”

“This assumes he’s alive,” KJ said. The thought of him not being, made my stomach a little queazy.  He wasn’t perfect, but he helped raise us for a couple years there.

“Yes and more data on floor is helpful,” Dr. Green said.

“On the ground, you mean?” Jim was correcting again.

“Yes, sorry.  On the ground.  In the other place land space.”

“Dimension,” Jim said.

“Jim, please stop correcting her, it’s really annoying,” Kate said.

“I’m helping her learn,” Jim said matter of factly.

“You’re A.I.splaining!  Cut it out!”

“A.I.–what?” He was flummoxed.

“It’s like mansplaining, only even more obnoxious,” KJ said.  “I try my best to always apologize when I find myself mansplaining.”

“Mansplaining,” Jim said like he was hearing the word for the first time.  Then his eyebrows went up. “Oh!  Holy night! I’m so sorry!  Presumptuous, rude, impolite, negging, gross.”

“Holy night?” KJ repeated smiling. “I didn’t know you were so G-rated, Jim!”

“So, what Dr. Green is suggesting, Jill,” I began, “it may be time for a reconnaissance mission to the Fire Escape Dimension?”

“Oh, sweet, that sounds so COOL!” KJ said. “PLEASE say yes!”

“P-p-probably.”

“WHOO!!” KJ said, throwing his fists in the air.

“Datas on all the things in the dimension would be help. Air, food, gravity strong, those things.”

“But first talk to Uncle Julio,” Jill said.

“Oh, man–just the sound of it is so cool!  A Reconnaissance Mission to the Fire Escape Dimension!!  So COOL!”

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/22/18: Meeting with Manchester Part 2

Just a quick reminder: pretty much everything you’re going to read on this blog or its PDFs is an absolute first draft.  In most cases, you’re reading these pages before even I do as I write them and post them without even checking for typos.  The whole point is to write every day and worry about editing later.  If you want to read something from me that has been proofread and edited (WOW!), please check out manfromzero.com and buy my most recent novel.  It’s good and takes place in the same story universe as Fire Escape–just way in the futrure.  In the meantime, if you want to make it easier for me to write, why not support me on Patreon? Just go here: patreon.com/petenicholls. Don’t want to commit to Patreon?  Then buy me a cup of coffee!  Or hay, just let me know that you like my stuff.  That means so much, too. Find me on Twitter, IG, or FB.
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“He could very well have been spying, I suppose. I just.. I’m sorry, you’re right. I just knew him for so long that when he came out to me, I just assumed he was telling me everything. And now he’s dead.”

I was worried she was about to start crying but she didn’t. The lack of tears and sobs didn’t stop her from seeming so sad. Her mouth was draw downward, her brow sunk over her eyes. 

“I’m sorry.”

“Now what,” she said suddenly. “He was quietly helping us better understand the Conva people. 

He was helping us see the good in them. He couldn’t have been spying. Couldn’t have been.”

It was hard for me to not correct her on the spot. Tedesko had lied to me on the Conva ship, told me that my friends’ lives were in danger when I knew they weren’t. I remembered when I finally got back to them, I told them about it—told them he had lied and tried to manipulating me. Then, I heard KJ inhale—I looked to him as he started to speak.

“But, Tedesko lied to Jacob.”

Manchester’s brow crinkled as she realized KJ’s words and looked at him.

“How?” she said flatly.

“He told Jake that we would be killed if he—“

“Kage. That’s not important right now,” I said making a face that told him what I was thinking: 

‘SHUT UP!’

He shrugged, his face seemed to shrug as well, telling me what he was thinking: ‘What? It’s the truth.’

“It’s not important. What we need to focus on is what we can do to help.”

Manchester shot her eyes back at me with a laser-like directness. “Who’s this ‘we’ exactly, now?”

I had to think quickly.  “We’re from Department… J.”

Obviously, I made that up completely. KJ groaned and shot me a dirty look. “What are you telling her that for?”

“What it’s our group!” I insisted hoping KJ would play along.

“I know that!  But we’re supposed to be a secret group!”

“A secret group with a name?” Manchester said under her breath, adding: “You guys have an official website, too?”

Kate jumped in to get us back on track.  “The point here is that Jacob is right–we are here to help.  Please tell us how you think we can.”

I smiled confidently and turned back to Manchester as she spoke.  “Let me consider it.  How can I reach out to you?”

“You can’t. We’ll have to find you.”

“Here,” KJ suddenly said, holding out a small flip phone to her.  “It’s a burner, but you can leave us a message at the one number in the contacts. You can also text that number if you aren’t in a place you can talk out loud.  It’s end-to-end encrypted so you don’t have to worry about that.”

I looked at KJ and smiled.  “That works, too.”

“Thank you,” Manchester said, taking the flip phone and eyeing it somewhat suspiciously.  “Hi end operation you have here.  Is there a battery for this?”

“Oh, sorry!” KJ said, reaching in his pocket and pulling out a cell phone battery.  I looked over and saw Manchester holding up the phone so we could see the socket the battery slides into.  KJ held out the battery to her.

“No, it’s fine.  You are just being careful.  Leaving the battery disconnected stops the phone from being traceable while it’s powered down.  I get it.” Manchester took the battery from him but did not slide it into place.

“I also removed the coin battery on there so the onboard clock will be inaccurate when you turn it on.”

“No problem,” she said, placing both the battery and the flip phone into a jacket pocket. “Thank you for reaching out,” she said.

“You’re welcome.  Thanks for at least trusting us this far.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, adding “Now, can I get a ride to my apartment?  I have to check in by eleven.”

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/21/18: Learning more about Tedesko AND Manchester…

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“Close your mouth, man—you knew aliens were real even before this stuff started!” Kate said shaking her head at KJ.

“Yeah, but you never believed me.”

“That’s true but you shouldn’t be slack-jawing now.”

“I’m only surprised because there’s a secret international law that exists. Governments, plural, know about this and are cool with it. Come on, Kate, that’s not surprising to you?”

“Of course it is. i just don’t get why anything surprises you at this point—you been going on about all this stuff for years.”

I looked Manchester in the eye and spoke forcefully: “So, why were you keeping Tedesko’s secret identity secret? Shouldn’t the rest of your team be aware that one of their team is, or was, a member of the opposition?”

“Ted was barely a member of the opposition. He had lived in the city for ten years.”

“How do you know?” KJ asked

“I was his neighbor.”

“Oh.” KJ, Kate, and I all exchanged glances.

“And you think ten years in the city makes you forget your loyalties to your homeland?” KJ asked.

“He’s grown roots, invested in his community, got elected to office by his community, he’s got kids in school.”

“Is his wife Conva?” I asked.

“I, well, I’m honestly not sure. What difference does that make?”

“Dunno. Just curious. I mean, we have footage of Tedesko leaving his dimension  looking like a Conva and morphing into a human. The footage is from a month ago I think.”

“So?”

“So, if he visits home a lot maybe its for more than just to see family.” 

“What you think he’s spying on us? Funneling back ‘intel’ to the enemy, Mr. Rivera?”

“Maybe. Have you ever considered it?” I am sure I sounded like a newb to the world of interdimensional espionage but I thought my angle was a good one.

“What kind of stuff did Ted oversee in state government,” KJ asked, sounding like he already knew the answer.

“Uhm, infrastructure, mostly.”

“Uh-huh. Stuff like the water supply, power grid, bridges and tunnels?” Again, KJ sounded like he knew the answers before Manchester spoke them.
“Well, water and power, yeah, just because… well, he said his specialties from his home dimension translated over closely to hydro electric power systems.”

I suddenly realized where KJ was going with this.

“You don’t think he was in a position to help out your opposition being involved in all that?”
Manchester looked shaken.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/20/18: What EXACTLY are They Negotiating for?

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I thought as quickly as I could and then just spoke without a clear set of words I was about to use.  

“This is the thing… we don’t.  But I like to believe that all people–all sovereign beings–want the same thing.  To live and raise kids if we choose to have them and, generally, to live freely.”
Manchester’s eyes narrowed.  “How do I know that you’re not a Double-O?”

I smiled.  “You’re just going to have to trust me.”

She smiled, glanced to Kate, then to KJ and then back to me.  “We’re safe here for now, but I need to be back at my apartment by eleven for my check in with the other members of my team.  

But until then, we can talk and I’m going to need you to put all of your cards on the table, Mr. Rivera.”

“Yo, doing that would be stupid.  Why don’t we just take you back to our secret lair underneath Niagara Falls and show you our army of super robots, while we’re at it?”

“My colleague has a good point,” I said.

“We can go halvesies, though, right?” KJ said shrugging.

“Something like that,” I said.  “Here’s some of what we know–there’s an invasion happening.  

They call themselves the Conva. We call them Double-Oes.  They’ve infiltrated all parts of human society.  We want to know what you know about this invasion and exactly what you are negotiating with them for.”

“Obviously, we’re negotiating for peace.  There are two factions of Double-Oes.  One wants to quietly secrete themselves into human society and live normally, or as normally as they can, for the rest of their days–doing exactly as you said, Mr. Rivera.  They want to raise their families in a relatively free society.”

“Why can’t they do that in their own dimension?” KJ asked.

“We think it’s some sort of disaster that has happened. They won’t be more specific than to say that it’s of life-threatening importance that they leave.  The word they use is “setsuta”.  The closest word we can find in English is ‘imperative’.”

“What about the other faction?” Kate asked.

“They… they want all out war.”

“So, is this like an old school cold war, thing? Like back in the 1980s?” KJ asked.

“Pretty much.”

“Any defections?” KJ asked.

“Some.”

“You don’t think they might be spies?  Infiltrating our society?”

“Could be.  But we’re keeping tabs on them and the ones we officially accept into our society as part of the Alien Plan.”

“The Alien Plan?” KJ blurted out as though he was shocked to hear it.  Of course, so were Kate and I, we were just better at hiding our emotions.  Manchester looked me in the eye–I figured she had just figured out that we had no idea what the Alien Plan was.

“It’s probably above your pay grade.  Let’s just say it’s an international law that allows aliens to legally emigrate to Earth.”

KJ’s jaw dropped.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/19/18: A Quiet Meeting in a Secluded Part of Town

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“Miss Manchester, this is Kate Robinson and this is KJ Park,” I said.

She didn’t say anything, just nodding, as I continued.

“We know who you are and what you are a part of. We believe your life is in danger.”

“I already know that. Where are we going? Where are you taking me?”

“You already know?” 

“Yes, of course. You don’t sign up to be a member of a negotiating team whose sole purpose is to find peace with an invading force.”

“Word. Fair enough, Miss Manchester,” Kate said.

“Ms. Manchester is fine,” she said, adding: “I’ll ask again: what is our destination?”

“A safe place.”

I had the Lyft driver drop us litterally on the side of the road about a quarter mile south of the old arched driveway that leads into Fort Tryon Park. I used to hide there when hanging out on the fire escape of our apartment wasn’t enough.

It was one of the most secluded parts of the park if not the most secluded.

We had to jump the concrete divider separating the road from the grass.  We walked along it up to the entrance to the arched driveway.

“You should say something to her, man!  Make sure she knows we’re not trying to kill her,” KJ said as we walked.

“Ms. Manchester, I really appreciate you trusting us.”

“No problem–I am prepared if this turns into some sort of ambush.”

“Oh… that won’t be necessary.  We’re just on a fact finding mission,” I said, sounding as ‘professional CIA’ as I could.  We got about halfway up the drive way and stopped.

“And what facts can I help you with?”

“Well, first, we’re curious if you or the other members of the human negotiating team are aware that your team has been infiltrated by your, is ‘enemy’ the right word for them?”

“Anything else?”

“The next question will be determined by your answer to the first question.”

“I am aware, but it seems like the infiltration has been put to a stop.  With the… apparent death of my colleague, State Senator Tedesko.”

“It does seem that way, but we’ve run into quite a few surprises on this… mission,” I said.  

“Uh-huh,” KJ said nodding.

“The question I have for you is simple: how do you know I’m not a Double-O?”

I think all three of us were thrown off guard by that question.  To be honest, I was speechless.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/18/18: Jake Picks Up a Woman in a Coffee House (back in time).

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The more I thought about what Jill said about everyone coming back with us as long as they stay out of my view, the more I thought about other possible options. Along those lines, I decided to find a third Fire Escape that might land us earlier even if we had to travel farther so we could factor in the standard longer-than-expected wait time for a ride-share driver. I ended up finding one and it ended up paying off. KJ, Kate, and I were able to pop out of the Fire Escape, get a Lyft and get on our way. 

Our driver was pretty enthusiastic. I don’t remember his name (it was Kate’s Lyft account) but when we got stuck in traffic and told him we were in a rush, he managed to get us there just barely in time. As we screeched to a halt in front of the coffee house, I didn’t even think about old me (previous me?) outside watching the event happen, I just needed to focus on getting Manchester out of there. 

I took a deep breathe and stepped out of the car. Without a thought I stepped forward, onto the side walk. Almost too controlled, I stepped up to and then through the front door of the coffee house.  As I walked, I saw the last of the shadow disappear. I felt there was something weirdly awkward and unnatural about my walk.  I realized that every move I was making was being watched by someone in the future–it was being watched by me in the future.  I suddenly felt most of my muscles stiffen–at least they felt stiff, but I was still able to walk.  I did feel like I was about to trip over my own feet and face plant on the floor.

I didn’t, but that’s what it felt like.  It was as though foreknowledge of exactly how this was supposed to go was somehow forcing my body to do everything the way I’d seen it. By the time I’d considered all this I’d been standing at the woman’s table for a few seconds.  She only just looked away from Tedesko’s body to me. She looked understandably concerned. 

That was when I realized that I had to actually talk to this woman.  I had no idea what to say.  I wanted to be persuasive but not obnoxious.  I certainly didn’t want her to think I was coming onto her.  I knew none of my concerns were relevant because I knew no matter what I said, she came with me because we’d seen it in the hologram, so, I just blurted something out that made as much sense as I could manage without thinking about it.   

“Mary Manchester, I’m here to rescue you. Uhhhhm, come with me if you want to, uh, not die, please.”

She looked at me with fear in her eyes and nodded.

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/17/18: How is This Not Violating Causality???

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“You didn’t get her? What happened?” KJ asked after seeing my materialize from the Fire Escape.

“You did! Well, technically, you me and Kate oh, and who ever drove, did.”

“So…. what?” Jill said, sounding puzzled.

“I was walking across the street when we came out of nowhere in a car.”

“Was it my red baby?” Dot asked. 

“No—I’d remember that car. This was just some generic car.”

“Probably a ride-share,” Kate said.

“Well, do we have any other cars than Dot’s?”

“We do have other vehicles but nothing like Dot’s space car,” Jill said. “Or any regular c-c-car, so yeah, you probably did a Lyft or whatever.”

I was thinking about the two choice Jill’s algorithm gave us–the other choice is farther away but closer in time.  “We’d almost have to take a car to get there in time. Well, this plan makes enough sense, let’s do it!”

“Whoa–hang on,” KJ said holding his hands out. “What about causality?”

“Oh, you’re theoretical physicist now, Kage?” Kate shook her head.

“No, but I’ve read up on it and I just want to know how this is even possible!  How is it that something we haven’t even done yet is influencing what we’re doing now?”

I shrugged and quickly explained: “Because we went back in time and influenced us in the past.”

“But that should not be possible without creating an alternate reality.”

“No,” Jill began, “well, yes, but no in any practical s-s-sense.  Like I said, before, time travel as far as I have experienced is part of time.  If your way is true, we’d have no way of knowing it anyway, right? You’d-you’d-you’d go back in time to get the woman, then get the woman and go on with the timeline.  If something went wrong, the first time you go to get the woman, you’d come back to Nowhere House, get your posse together head back and get in your own way, thus creating this new future, that removes the original reality from your memory because now, the only experience back in time that you remember is the one where you got interrupted by yourself, not the one where something else went wrong, but cause now you’re in a causal loop.”

“Uuuuuuhm, I’m sorry I asked,” KJ said, shrugging. 

“No, it makes perfect s-s-sense, KJ!  Listen to me.  If you were changing the timeline, either your memory gets erased or there’s a duplicate you now in this reality because you’ve just come over from that alternate reality.  Since there’s only one you, or in this case, there’s only one Jake and, 

Jake, you don’t remember things going wrong the first time, right?”

“Huh?  I mean, I no–I mean, them being in my way was the first time,” I said, only barely following what Jill was saying myself.

“Exactly–so this hypothetical alternate timeline that existed before you went back to get in your own way, effectively no longer exists because you can’t recall it.  If it did exist, it’s not relevant anymore because you now g-g-got in your own way. Therefore, time travel is part of time.”

There was a long moment of silence, broken all at once by words.

“Well, now that that’s settled!” Dot yelled. “Let’s go save the woman!”

“Actually, Dot, you weren’t there,” I said somewhat sheepishly.

“Whaaaaat?  Why wouldn’t I be there?”

“I don’t know–but you weren’t.”

“Well, we all c-c-could have been there if we kept out of Jacob’s line of sight!  So, just decide who needs to go and who doesn’t, aside from the obvious players and do it.  You think you’ll need a doctor?  Bring Green, you think you’ll need a mechanic with experience in extra terrestrial–“

“AND temporal!” Dot interjected.

“–and temporal issues, bring Dot.”

“Yo, what about you?” Kate asked.

“Me?” Jill looked at Kate surprised.  “Why would you need me?”

“I dunno, cuz, like, you’re the one who knows everything about the technology we’re using?”

“Nah.  You’ve been studying with Jim for a few months now.  He’s told me how quickly you’re learning.  I think you’re more than adequate for the mission.”
I
 cracked a grin.  “WOW.  More than adequate?  Kate, you should be proud–that’s a helluva compliment coming from my sis!”

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 6/16/18: The Coffee Shop Part 1

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I chose the Fire Escape that was closest to the coffee house. I figured that there were always things that could go wrong with traffic or trains or even just walking.

So, I killed time window shopping, literally since it was after 8pm and most shops were closed except for food. I hadn’t had much Earth city food over the last few days so I grabbed a couple Papaya dogs and made my way back up to the coffee place. As I jaywalked across the street to the coffee house—half way across, a car screeched to a halt right in front of me. I stopped, obviously, unsure what to do.

The rear passenger door closest to me opened and KJ climbed out, eyeing the coffee house. He knocked on the roof of the car with his knuckles. “It’s all good, Jake! Manchester is in there! Traffic is good, too.”

The other passenger door opened and I saw another me run into the coffee house. Then KJ 
glanced around as though he were looking for something. Then he spotted me. “Ah! Hey, Jacob!”

“Hi!” I said waving.

“Will you guys quit goofing off!” Kate said from the front passenger side window. 

“Hi Kate!” I said.

“Yo Jake.”

“Can you guys tell me what’s going on?” 

“Quick! Kage! Here he comes!” Kate said, causing her and KJ’s attention to turn back to their missing before they could answer my question.

Just then the other me came out of the coffee house, with Manchester following.  They climbed into the back seat and the car sped off. 

I shrugged and then decided to head back and get a third Papaya Dog and then head back to the portal and back to Nowhere House.