Episode 1: The Interview
By: Daniel James Solorzano
Copyright June 2017 by Daniel James Solorzano
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to my beautiful fiancee Kristi for sticking with me through thick and thin and my mother for reading every failed book I tried to write since I was 14
He knelt down before the grave his back groaning as he did so. He muttered a curse under his breath as he placed, the flowers on top of the headstone. Grabbing his back for support he slowly stood up with a faint smile.
“Sorry, dear don’t think I am going to be able to sit with you any longer. Hope you don’t mind if I stand,” He breathes deeply before continuing on, “Cancer. Just got the news yesterday. Can you believe it? After everything I have gone through cancer is going to kill me. Haha. Before you ask it’s the serious kind too. Inoperable. I haven’t told Roxanne yet. She is going to lose it. She is worried about losing me already. I can’t say I truly blame her.
After I got the news on the drive home I wondered what it would be like to be immortal. After careful consideration, I realize that I do not envy her. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her living day by day knowing that you are doomed to watch everyone you love die. At first, I felt guilty about it. Leaving her behind I mean. Then I realized that I am just a small blip in her life. Last night I couldn’t help but wonder if she would even remember me in a thousand years. I don’t suppose she will.
The other thing I can’t help but think about is my legacy. How will people remember me when I am gone? Will they remember me at all? God knows we tried to have kids but that didn’t work out. It’s not the first time I have worried about such things. You might recall I had a few rough months as I thought on this very subject about five years back. Do you remember what you told me then? You told me that I was being ridiculous that we accomplished something that would last forever. When that didn’t work you told me to write. Write about everything I have done and experienced.
Well, I finally took your advice last week and wrote. I was so proud of my work that I let Roxanne read the first chapter as soon as it was finished. I know what your thinking, that this wasn’t the smartest choice and as expected she did not hold her tongue. Haha. If only you were there to hear her tirade. I thought it would never end. What’s important to take away from the experience was that my writing skills are horrendous.
So I trashed the story and tried to go on with life. As the days rolled on I found that I still wanted my story told, though. So I reached out to a young author to come up to the house for the next few months and I will tell him all there is to know about my life.
I know that you think that this is a huge mistake for multiple reasons. Chief among them is that what we did is meant to be kept secret. I would wager that we won’t have to worry about that issue, however. I don’t believe that he will believe a word that comes out of my mouth. Who would? If you weren’t there would you believe it? Neither would a publisher if I had written the story myself.
Either way, my story would still wind up in the fiction section of whatever bookstore it found itself in. The writer is a young upstart who graduated top of her class. She has been sent job offers from every major newspaper across the U.S. but she has turned down all of them. Journalism is not what she wants to do with her life. No, she wants to write non-fiction novels and autobiographies. His name is Jade and she is coming down tonight.
Roxanne does not approve as you might have been able to guess. She thinks I am going to be mocked. I’m too old to fear something like that myself but there is one thing that has got me rattled. If he doesn’t believe me and leaves, what am I to do then? Haha.I fear if that happens then I may do something foolish in order to get him to stay.
It’s funny but I never in a million years would I have imagined living so long. With all the times that I have stared death in the face and laughed. Fear being forgotten as I ran into many a stupid scenario. Who would have thought it,” He kissed the tips of his fingers and placed them on the tombstone, “Sometimes I wonder just how much longer I have left. If I will regret anything when the time comes to say good-bye to my life. I assume that everyone does, no matter what they do, or what they accomplish. Well, with that, I must bid you farewell. Until nex time my love.”
He coughed. It started as a mild thing but within a few seconds, it was painful. Causing the back of his throat to feel raw, his chest like it was about to cave in, and for a brief second, he feared that he would hack up a lung. Then slowly it diminished and as quickly as it came on it was gone. As he pulled the handkerchief away from his lips he was thankful to find that there was no blood. He slipped the handkerchief back in his pocket and turned to Roxanne who looked at him with just a twinge of worry on her face.
“Are you okay,” She asked in a raspy voice that didn’t quite fit the body it came out of.
It still stunned him sometimes how she looked exactly the same as when they first met each other all those years ago. She looked like no more than eighteen years old with hair so blonde it might as well be white. Almond shaped blue eyes that could either pierce through your soul or light up a room. It was usually the former. When she smiled it was small but effective. All in all, she was cute. Nothing more nothing less.
He nodded his head, “I am quite alright thank you.”
He quickly turned away from her before she could discern anything from his facial expression and cast his attention instead towards his study. This room was the largest in the house and if you were to stumble into it, you might have believed you had stumbled into a museum.
Six-foot tall curios cabinets lined every inch of the wall. Housed within them where various artifacts and objects. Hanging above these were weapons from seemingly every time period. None of them had the look of an antique, quite the opposite, instead, they all seemed to be in pristine condition.
The center of the room was cluttered with display cases of various sizes and shapes that too housed objects and artifacts. So cluttered in fact, that in a few places you had to suck in your stomach to squeeze yourself through. I had once asked Cole if he ever thought of getting rid of a few things. He just grinned and told me that everything had its own story and reason for being there.
Up until now Cole himself hadn’t been in this room for years, not since his wife had died. As he stepped through the doors his heart gave a little leap. An invisible lump in the back of his throat began to form. As he slowly made his way farther into the room he began to examine the pieces on display he felt a mixture of different emotions overwhelm him all at once. Yet one emotion out-weighted them all. Relief.
The thought of death had been weighing on him for quite some time. Even before his cancer screening or his wives demise. It had been there practically his entire life. Now it felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Death was no longer something to be feared. As he stared at the skull of some creature that had never been seen before he begun to realize just how fortunate he had been. For all that he had seen and done. More than any man or woman on this Earth will every hope to accomplish in a hundred lifetimes. The fear of death began to finally dissipate as he came to terms with the fact that it was time for him to move on. It was time for him to at last see his wife again. It was time to leave Roxanne on her own.
Not yet, however. There were two things that needed to be done. The first thing was to have his story told. Roxanne stepped up behind him as he stopped in the center of the room and stared at a pistol. A flintlock that looked to be out of the 1700’s. It was crafted with care and respect with intricate patterns carved into the wood stock and the gun’s barrel.
The detail was still as stunning today as it had been when he first laid eyes on it.
He spun around to face another display case. He took notice of a beautiful golden head of a snake imbued with sapphire and emerald in the hood. It’s tongue black and sticking out of a gaped mouth. Long ago the snake once had a body and made up the rest of an equally beautiful staff. Now all that remained was the head.
He took a deep breath fighting back the urge to cough before turning to face Roxanne who stood slightly hunched over as usual. As he stared at her he knew that the second objective would be harder than the first by far.
“We need to talk,” He started his heart racing as he stepped over to Roxanne and placed a hand on her arm.
He pulled his hand away slowly not sure why he had done it in the first place. It wasn’t like he hadn’t done that gesture before a hundred times but he had never done it to her. As if in response her face twisted in return as she looked at the place he had touched as if some bug had landed on it. She turned to look at Cole clearly annoyed but the look quickly disappeared as she crossed her arms behind her back and stood up straight. Something she had grown accustomed to doing when he talked to her about something she deemed serious. He couldn’t help but give a small mental smile at the girl standing before him. How far she had come since he first met her all those years ago.
He knew what he wanted to tell Roxanne, he even knew what he wanted to say on account of how many times he practiced on the way home from visiting his wife. Yet now when he needed the words the most he couldn’t think of what he wanted to say. He couldn’t even tell her what he had said to his wife just a few hours ago. Instead, he lowered his head as frustration and guilt began to take rise.
“You’re dying,” Roxanne said flat and emotionless.
That’s what it would have sounded like to me or you anyway and If Cole didn’t know her as well as he did he would have believed the same. where Thankfully he did know her, knew her more than she would ever care to ever admit, even now after all this time. This is why he ignored the way she talked and instead focused on what she said. When it came to Roxanne that was all that mattered.
At least when she talked to Cole and the words she had said took Cole aback. She had known and for how long? Yet, could he truly be that surprised? He may have just begun to notice how much he coughed, how frequently he had begun to lose his breath, how often he had to sit down, and even how little he was eating. She, however, was on the outside looking in. Watching out for him day in and day out no matter how much he hated it.
“How long have you known?”
“Not long, a week at best. At first, I thought you were sick. I became worried when it never went away. It actually got worse. I knew I was right when a few days ago you went out. I knew that the story you told you me was a lie. You went to the doctor the other day.”
I nodded my head as I looked away from her.
“So what did they tell you?”
“Lung cancer. Inoperable. Stage 4,” I couldn’t help but give her a very nervous smile, “I didn’t believe it when the doctor first gave me the news. Some part of me deep down believed that he was pulling my leg as some kind of sick joke. When it became apparent that this wasn’t the case I was floored. I never smoked a day in my life. Turns out that hardly matters, he thinks that second-hand smoke is what caused it.”
“You may not have smoked but a lot of us sure did,” Roxanne smirked the closest she came to smiling most of the time but as fast as it appeared it disappeared, “ Is there anything we can do to fight this?”
I wrapped my arms around Roxanne and she nuzzled her head into my chest.
“I’m sorry there is nothing.”
“Nothing on this world sure but perhaps on another. All we would have to do is go and ask the council for help.”
Cole didn’t respond. He just continued to look Roxanne in the eye until she pushed him away and if he hadn’t seen it coming he would have surely fallen to the ground.
“That’s bullshit and you know it.”
“I know this must be hard for you Roxanne but you have to understand that I am only human. My kind is not meant to live forever. Yes, we could ask the council for help and we may even find a cure. For what? Even if there was something that could be done sooner rather than later I am going to die. I am no longer the teenager I was when we first met. I am an old man now and I am tired. I just want to be with my wife. You understand that right?”
“So that’s it your giving up just like that?”
“I am not giving up there is just nothing that can be done,” He grabbed her hand and cupped it tightly with the other, “I know you are scared of being alone again but I promise I will take you where ever you want to go before the end.”
“Enough,” She yelled as spit flew from her lips and hit Cole in the face, “ You may want to give up but I will not be so quick about this.”
She pulled her hand free and turned to leave.
“What are you going to do,” I asked.
“Right now I am going to cook dinner. There is a guest coming tonight after all. But I will be here when you realize that you are acting like a fool and I will be ready to stand by your side once more.”
Cole didn’t try to stop her as she walked out of the room closing the door behind her. Thankfully that conversation had gone better than he imagined it would.
Perhaps I don’t give her enough credit. Cole smiled as he walked over to a curio cabinet on the left side of the room in the back corner. This was filled with Roxanne’s things.
He couldn’t blame her for acting the way she had. Far from it. He knew full well that she thought of him as one would a father. In his mind, he wanted to believe that he would be the closest thing she ever had to one. He opened the door to the curio and pulled out one of the two daggers that rested on the second shelf, the blades of which were hooked like a sickle.
He remembered just how terrified he was as she burst out of her prison cell and with this dagger began to eviscerate everyone in her path. Laughing and smiling as she did so. At the time he had worried that after she was done she wouldn’t stop and she would kill him as well. Sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder what had stopped her. His wife believed that it was to thank Cole for saving her. He wasn’t quite sure that was right either and odds were he would never know. Even now he was too scared to ask.
He placed the dagger back carefully and closed it back up taking a step back before reaching for the handkerchief as he launched into another coughing fit. This time when it ended he could hardly breathe and was forced to fish out the inhaler from his pocket. After a few puffs and a few long minutes, his breathing leveled out. Not completely he still wheezed but he felt fine enough to get ready for dinner.
It took him longer than he would have liked to get ready. His fingers shaking as he buttoned the buttons on his shirt, as he tied the knot in his tie, and as he combed his hair. At one point as he pulled on his pants he found it hard to breathe and was forced to sit down for a couple of minutes as he worked on catching his breath. Roxanne had knocked at his door but he told her that he was fine. The last thing he needed was for Roxanne to get him dressed.
He walked downstairs carefully, holding onto the rail for dear life, scared that he was going to lose his footing and take a tumble. In that moment he felt a new kind of helplessness that he had never known. He instantly hated it. When he hit that last step he let out the breath that he didn’t even know he was carrying. He slowly made his way into the dining room taking a seat at the table placed underneath the window that looked out over the front of the house.
He took the handkerchief out of his pocket and placed it on the table within arms reach. After a few moments of silence, Roxanne shuffled into the room and he turned to find that she had dressed up as well. A plain white blouse, a red skirt that went down to just above her knee, and a pair of high heels. He gave her a quick smile and she rolled her eyes.
“Shut up old man,” She growled, “I never get a chance to dress up.”
It was true. He couldn’t recall the last time he had even dressed up let alone Roxanne. He assumed that it was his wives funeral but he couldn’t remember if that was right or not. He turned away from her and stared back out the window as Roxanne sat down in the chair opposite his. She studied him for a few seconds before placing her head in her right hand, her elbow on the table.
“If you’re scared you don’t have to do this?”
“After you dressed up so nice. Tell me, Roxie, after everything I have been through do you really think that this is the one thing that I would be scared of doing. No, I am just nervous. In a few minutes, a writer is going to make her way up that driveway and then I am going to tell her everything about my life.
I am going to leave myself bare. This person will know everything there is to know about me. My fears, my likes, my dislikes, and just about everything in between. What’s worse is I feel like I am betraying not only you but everyone I have ever known because this author will also learn about you guys. The only comfort I take is that they will not believe a word that comes out of my mouth.
She will no doubt hear my story and see dollar signs as she realizes that if they can tell this story right that she may have the next big fantasy novel. Right up there along the greats. I admit however that this could be my pride talking. Yet do you know what angers me the most? The same thing that makes me feel comfortable in telling this story. I can’t help but be angry at the thought that this person won’t take my life seriously.
Sure with a snap of my fingers, I can make her believe everything I am saying. I can show her what I can do and who I am. I can not however because who knows what that might do to a person. That single act could drive a person insane and I can not have that on my conscience. Not now. Not this close to my death when I don’t have the time to redeem myself.
Part of me wants to grab the phone and cancel this appointment. Put money into the woman’s bank account as an apology for wasting her damn time and go about living out the rest of my days with you someplace far way from here. A bigger part of me realizes this can not be. For even if I did cancel the appointment I can not leave this place. My wife and the home we built together is here. So I will stay, I will tell my story, and when it is done I will crawl into a hole and I will die.
With luck, the people of this universe will know my story even if they think it a work of fiction but I can die with the knowledge that my name will live on. In other universes songs will be written, statues will be erected, and tales will be told. Over time these too will become fantasy as people begin to pass my story down and my deeds become greatly exaggerated. Haha. When that time comes only this universe will have the true records of my account and they won’t even know it. I never quite got the meaning of irony but I am pretty sure it applies there.”
Roxanne smiled. An honest to goodness smile this time and Cole could feel his soul light up. The moment, however, was ruined as a burning smell made its way into the dining room. His nose twisted and Roxanne cursed as she turned towards the door.
“I should probably check on dinner.”
She got up and ran out the room as he grabbed the handkerchief and placed it over his mouth to stop the smoke from getting into his lungs. He listened to Roxanne curse in the kitchen for a few moments before turning once more to stare out the window.
“Think we are going to have to order some pizza,” She said as she walked back into the room and took her seat once more, “Or would you rather have Chinese?
“Pizza. Who knows if our friend is going to like Chinese but everyone loves pizza.”
With a nod of her head, Roxanne stood back up withdrawing a phone from her pocket and marching out of the room. It was at this moment that two pinpricks of light could be seen bouncing up and down the road. Slowly getting closer and in doing so the light getting bigger and bigger.
Cole stood up thankful for a reason to get out of the smoke-filled dining room and made his way outside. He left the door open so the smoke could find someplace to escape as the car pulled up in front of the house. The light making it hard for him to make out who was inside and when she, at last, turned out the headlights the dark fulfilled the role.
No matter, I thought, We will be face to face before long.
Cole forced himself to stand up straight, placing his hands behind his back, his body groaning and he knew that he would have to pay for it tomorrow when he was sore.The door opened and the woman stepped out of the car closing the door behind her. Her gaze never turning away from the house. Cole smiled at that. The house was one of the things he was most proud of. With its wrap around porch and the exterior made to look gothic and haunting.
After a time she recomposed herself and walked around to the trunk. She withdrew a rolling suitcase before at last walking up the steps of the porch. Cole had no idea what to expect but this wasn’t it. The girl in front of him had such short red hair that wouldn’t look out of place on a boy. She wore a pair of thick glasses that seemed to magnify her amber eyes. She was awfully short and scrawny but not overly so that he worried for her health.
“Hi. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” She exclaimed as she offered her hand.
She was clearly excited by the prospect of being here. For that Cole couldn’t help but be thankful. He shook her hand and nodded towards the suitcase at her side.
She chuckled, “This suitcase is filled with notebooks, pencils, a recorder, and everything else I thought I might need to tell your story right. You don’t mind if I record you, right?”
Cole shook his head and gestured towards the door.
“ Please come inside. You’ll have to forgive the smoke. My daughter- Sorry, I mean friend, was trying to cook dinner.”
She gave me a look before smiling, “Ouch. Look just give her time. My dad left when I was three. Showed up in my life out of the blue like a year ago. I just started calling him dad a month ago. She is just hurting right now but she’ll get there. The thing she has to come to learn on her own is that you loved her enough to swallow your pride and fear and to try to reconnect.”
Cole couldn’t help but laugh and she nodded her head before walking into the foyer of the house. He stayed there for a moment breathing in the fresh air before placing the handkerchief back over his mouth and heading inside.
Perhaps this won’t be so bad after all.
A half an hour later the windows were open, the smoke was cleared out, and he and Jade sat in the dining room. She had set up everything while Roxanne had worked to get the smoke out glaring at Jade every now and then. He didn’t even know if Jade noticed or she just didn’t care.
A thick notebook sat in front of her opened to the first page with pencils and pens to either side. In the middle of the table was an old fashioned recorder. A microphone was plugged into it and currently rested only a foot away from him. On the floor rested a box of pizza. Jade had two pieces on a plate. Cole wasn’t hungry. With one hand she pressed record and with the other, she grabbed a slice and took a bite.
“Can you state your name for the record?”
“Record? Um, Cole Frost.”
“No need to be nervous. If it makes things easier pretend I am not even here and in my place put someone that you would rather be telling this story too.”
“I’m fine. Where should I start?”
“Wherever you like. This is your story. I am just here to listen, to take notes, and tell it later to the best of my ability.”
Cole nodded his head in truth not sure where to start. His story was long and winding. As was the case with most people’s lives there were plenty of places where he could start telling his tale but none seemed right. Jade reached forward and turned off the recorder.
“I’m sorry I just don’t know where to begin. Is that a problem you see often?”
Jade smiled, leaning back.
“Honestly this is the first time I have ever interviewed anyone. Didn’t you know that when you called me?
“No, I did not.”
“This is a question I have been pondering for quite some time and now seems like a good enough time to ask it. Why me?”
“I wanted someone young so they would come into this story with an open mind instead of one that was all about the drive to make money.”
“So you called around digging for information on new and upcoming journalists and writers.”
She knew that part of the story at least. He had answered every question she threw at him. She wouldn’t have come otherwise.
“As it turns out I just ended up picking the greenest journalist.”
She wouldn’t pry any longer. Honestly, she couldn’t care less about the minute details of why he choose her. This was too good of a hand to bite.
At least it will be if this story is as good as he promises it will be, She thought as turned back on the recorder.
On the phone, he made it out the be the best story ever told and to his credit he spoke in a way that made her believe it was. Now that she made the almost thousand mile trek to get here she was eager to at least hear this epic tale.
“All I can tell you is to start in the first place your heart takes you.”
“Before we start I must ask you one thing. Just sit and listen. No questions or remarks until I give the OK to do so,” Jade nodded her head and Cole knew he would have to take her for her word, “As for letting my heart choose where to start, as you put it, that could be a great many places. In truth, I have been thinking about this since the night we spoke on the phone. None of these places sound right. So instead we shall start someplace else. The year was 2007 and I was just about to turn seventeen years old.
Back in those days, I had a full head of black hair that used to grow faster than weeds. I would go get a haircut every month or two to keep it short and clean. My eyes a deep shade of green which was uncommon for someone whose family came from Japan soon after World War Two. I was skinny and tall at just about five foot, ten and a half inches. Some would describe me as gangly.
Most teenagers my age would be busy worrying about making friends, finding a date for some school dance, or getting home to play whatever new video game had come out recently. I wasn’t like most teenagers. In truth, I couldn’t stand them and it wasn’t any fault of their own. I just found their lives and them quite boring. As I have stated before it was no fault on their part it was just because of the life I lived. While they worried about homework and not letting their parents find out about their shitty grades I was busy trying to stay alive. I was worried about being a leader and not getting the people under me killed. You see I was a Rift Jumper.”
Cole watched as Jade’s face went from one of rapt amusement to one of complete confusion before at last becoming one of disbelief. She looked at him with the look he had feared. The, you have to be kidding me look. Cole swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat.
Roxanne was right this idea was stupid. Yet it was too late to go back now. Jade was already here.
“What is a Rift Jumper,” She asked obviously trying to keep an open mind about all of this but at any minute that too could dissipate.
He was almost sure it would and he couldn’t even blame her.
“Have you ever heard of the multiverse?”
“Of course. It states that there are an infinite number of universes. On one universe I am here listening to your story but on another, you may be listening to mine.”
“Precisely. Now let’s say for a minute that alternate universes exist and sometimes two or more universes can collide with one another. When this happens a bridge between the two are created which is invisible to the naked eye. Just like a cut you may sustain the universes begins to heal and over time the universes disconnect on their own and the bridge no longer exists. Most of the time when these bridges come into existence nothing happens but on rare occasions, some poor bloke accidentally winds up someplace there not supposed to.
Other times people find a way through on purpose and begin creating chaos in a universe they are not even supposed to be in in the first place. In these moments it’s the Rift Jumpers job to bring order to the multiverse. In short to take the thing that doesn’t belong in one universe and bring it back to one it does.”
“Wow. I have to say when I came down here I thought I would be working on an autobiography. You do know I have never written fiction before?”
“That’s fine. I am sure you are going to do just fine.”
“I don’t mean to bite the hand that feeds me here but I never wanted to be a fiction writer.”
Cole sat back himself as a coughing fit started. He knew that if he didn’t act fast that she would leave without listening to his story. As his coughing fit ended he knew that he had to prove to her that what he was about to tell her was the real deal. He didn’t want to throw her into the deep end, she had to learn how to walk before she could run. As his coughing fit came to an end he knew what he had to do.
“What if I could prove to you that what I am telling you is the hundred percent truth.”
“I’m sorry,” She said as she pressed stop on the recorder, “I’m not your writer. I can give you the names of a few people I went to school with if you want. They would cherish this opportunity. Thanks for the pizza and your hospitality ”
“Roxanne,” Cole yelled.
He watched as Jade opened her suitcase and begun to pack up. He waited anxiously and a few moments later Roxanne walked into the room. She looked between Jade and him and after a small moment smiled.
“You need me to throw her out?”
“No, I need you to take off your shirt?”
Jade stopped packing and looked at Roxanne and then back to Cole clearly horrified.
“Your sick and need help,” She snapped before turning turning her attention to Roxanne, “You don’t need to take off your shirt. It’s fine. Your dad is just sick and needs mental help. I would suggest you get him some ASAP before he calls someone else.”
Roxanne rolled her eyes as she pulled off her shirt. Jade ran over to her, perhaps to help cover her up.
“You’re sure about this,” Roxanne asked.
Cole nodded his head while Roxanne shook her head clearly not agreeing with his judgment but she did what she was asked. She pulled off her sports bra revealing her breasts. Jade moved to block her body with her own when Roxanne’s wings unfurled. They were black as ash and sixteen feet from wing to wing.
Jade cried out as she took a step backwards, tripping over her own feet as she fell on her butt. She pointed at Roxanne turning to Cole.
“She has wings…Your daughter has fucking wings.”
“She isn’t my daughter. That’s just what we tell people. In truth, Roxanne is older than both me and you combined more than ten times over.”
Roxanne furled her wings, picking up her bra, and putting it back on.
“Can I go?”
“Thank you, Roxanne. You can.”
She left the room without another word.
“Roxanne is a Valkyrie. A race from another planet from universe X45B. I met her when I was eighteen. She was a much different person then. Be glad you are meeting her now.”
Jade picked herself up off the floor.
“How is she here? Shouldn’t the people you worked for be after her?”
“They would be if she were here without permission. My job was dangerous and hard and you are required to work with a team. The problem is not just anyone can be a Jumper so they can’t pair us together. Instead, we choose our teammates as we work. Taking people from other universes and making them deputies in a sense. They go through a class and if they pass they then can travel with us. They are given something akin to work visas. Roxanne was one of my partners.”
“You had others?”
“Ten of them, not counting Roxanne. Only one of which name would sound familiar to you. He is quite famous here in movies and novels but as far as I can tell is only a work of fiction in this universe.”
“Who would that be,” Jade asked as she slowly began to set up her equipment.
Obviously uncertain if this was the right course of action.
“Morgan Tera Vangalo .”
Jade stopped turning to look at Cole before shaking her head.
“Like the man who killed Dracula?”
“In his universe, he was a monster himself who became a monster hunter. As far as I know, he never killed nor faced anyone named Dracula and if he had it wasn’t as nearly as big of a deal as it was in the books for he never mentioned the battle to me.”
Jade finished setting up her equipment and Cole watched as she moved to press record. He almost groaned in annoyance as her finger stopped a few inches above the button.
“Even if I decide to write this story nobody is going to believe it.”
“When I called you I had no intention of proving to you that any of this exists. I only did it to get you to stay. To get you to listen to my story and write it down for others to read. For my legacy to live on. I already have come to terms with the fact that others will read my story and think that it is fiction. Everyone except for you I suppose.”
“All it would take for others to take you seriously is a little proof.”
“You will get nothing of the sort. Telling this story is not against the code of the Rift Jumpers but proving to the world that they exist is. I will not turn my back on them so you can be famous. If you can not accept that you may leave and I will hire someone else.”
Jade stared at Cole and for a moment he thought that she would disagree with him. Instead, she nodded her head and pressed the record button, sliding back into her chair, and picking up a pen. She was ready and eager. He smiled. In another time he may have tried to recruit her to join him. Now he was a dying old man on the last legs of his life.
He cleared his throat.
“I am not going to start this story at the beginning. I fear that my time as a cadet in the academy would bore you after a time. Instead, I am going to start two years after I graduated. I had been on a few missions by this point in time and even had two partners. Morgan was one and the other was a woman named Angel Merrie Archer.”
(Nothing was changed or taken out everything you are about to read is what was said by myself and Cole).
Cole: The Morgan of your world usually is depicted as a man in his late thirties to early fifties who is skinny and dresses like a cowboy decided to shop at some goth store in the mall. This is not what the Morgan I knew looked like.
He was 32 when he saved my life from a skinwalker. Which was a man or woman who can transform themselves into an animal that they had eaten the heart of. This one had taken the shape of a mountain lion and had me pinned down. Trying to go for my throat, my forearm pressed to its neck. I could feel my strength weakening when Morgan ran out of the nearby woods and cut off the creatures head in one fell swoop.
I thanked him for saving my life and he didn’t say a word. I took it as he was not pleased to see me there and I wasn’t wrong. Though that wasn’t the entire reason why he didn’t speak to me that night. The real reason for that was that Morgan didn’t speak much in general instead he usually made a gesture choosing his words for the right moment.
As he gazed at me in annoyance I thought for sure that I was going to pee myself. This was someone who no doubt intimated a lot of people let alone a fifteen your old who was just about to graduate from the academy.
He was looked like some kind of reptile had found a way to impregnant a human. With the head of an alligator but the body of a human, the only difference seemed to be the scales which were a turquoise color. He was also tall at just about eight feet and almost just as wide in pure muscle. His hands were huge and his fingers ended in great big claws almost six inches long. They looked sharp and I knew that even if he attacked and if I somehow got the ax he was carrying out of his hands that those claws would do just as much damage if not more.
The ax itself was as big as he was and needed to be to behead someone in one swing. When he wasn’t using it he hung it from a makeshift sling that hung on his back. I watched that ax nervously waiting for him to make a move and when he did I raised up my bo, which was a weapon made out of flexible wood and looked like a walking stick.
He didn’t even flinch in fact he ignored me. Instead, he bent down to pick up the head of the creature and tied it to his waist. The entire time making no notion that he knew I was even there. When he was done he put the ax back in its sling and walked back into the woods. I stood there for a long minute before heading in the opposite direction.
Jade: I’m sorry but I am little confused. Morgan was a monster who hunted monsters? Why didn’t other monster hunters hunt him?
Cole: Morgan was classified as a monster but his parents were killed by monster hunters when he was still in an egg. When he hatched he waited for his mother to come and offer her breast to him but she never came. Days came and went and after enough time passed instinct kicked in and he left the nest. Not long afterwards he was found by a couple who raised him as their son.
As for your second question, people tried when he was younger but his parents protected him. As he got older the town begun to accept him. When he left the town after the death of his mother and father that was a different story. He fought off various monster hunters as he made a name for himself. After a while, he became famous and a well-known monster hunter. No one messed with him after that.
He didn’t join my team until the second time I ran into him after fulfilling my mission. He approached me and asked me if I wanted to be his apprentice. I was shocked but he explained that I had guts trying to kill the skin-walker and saw potential in me. He had been following me ever since and was impressed by my skills at taking down the creature I was sent there to kill. Little did he know that I was actually sent to bring the creature home but I didn’ tell him this until much later. Either way, I turned down his offer but instead asked him if he wanted to join my team.
At first, he was none too happy. Thinking I was making a joke out of him and his job which he took seriously. I knew the conversation was going nowhere so I told him if he came along and didn’t like what he saw I would bring him back and he could keep doing what he was doing. To my surprise, he agreed and by the end of the week, he was taking the test.
During our next assignment, we ran into Angel. Angel was 29 but she looked quite a bit younger. The Perfect example of the girl next door persona. She was five foot, ten inches tall with dark brown eyes and hair to match that was usually in a ponytail.
We met Angel after my chest had been carved up and was a gushing blood. Morgan carried me all the way back to town and demanded that a doctor heal my wounds as soon as possible. Nobody on that world had seen anything like him before and it was for this reason that they all ran away terrified or outright refused to help.
All except for Angel who walked into the room completely calm and full of grace. At least that’s how he described it to me later. I was passed out at the time.
What impressed me the most was that Angel actually had the balls to kick Morgan out of the room and before she got to work. After twelve hours of intense surgery, I was completely healed without a mark on me. I remained in a sort of coma-like state for two days thanks to the trauma my body suffered.
I should have died, would have died if anyone but Angel had done the surgery. You see Angel was the top doctor on the entire planet. One of the brightest minds and the fastest ever to graduate from medical school. This was all thanks to her father, who was an engineer, who turned Angel into his guinea pig. Placing a chip into the base of her brain stem that would allow her to store an infinite amount of information. At a moment’s notice, she can draw on anything stored within.
As thanks for saving my life, I offered her to join my team and she jumped on it without hesitation. The idea of learning about things that were unfathomable to even think of intrigued her and so we all went back to headquarters.
Now you would think that the decision to bring a doctor along on dangerous missions would be a smart idea. I sure thought so but when I brought her to headquarters to be tested I was about laughed out of the room. They, of course, gave her the test, they had to. It was one of the many laws that a Rift Jumper would not be denied his choice of companion. It was of course there life they were putting on the line.
They expected her to fail and I hate to admit it but I did too. She wasn’t like Morgan she had no prior experience handling any sort of weapon and she had never been in a fight. The test a potential companion must take doesn’t just test one’s mental aptitude but their physical aptitude as well. To everyone’s surprise, including mine, she passed but just barely. We bonded the next day.
Cole: Without going into to much deal a companion and the Jumper must go through a special bonding ritual. It links the two of us together in a way that would take to long to explain. To make a long story short if I were to die than this bond would be severed, headquarters would get an alert, and Jumpers would be sent to my team’s location to be picked up and taken home if possible. I will go more in depth about the bonding rituals, Morgan, and Angel in due time but I am eager to end this lengthy exposition and begin this story post haste.
So without further ado, this story begins in my old home back at headquarters.
The Jumper and his teammates share a barrack which consists of a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room area, and the bedroom which could accommodate twelve people. For a great deal of my life that barrack was my home. I knew none other till I retired and moved here to your universe. I used to think it was so big now looking back it seems so small. Yet, what it lacked in size however it made up for with how nice it was.
The living room was the biggest room in the house and had four coaches that encircled a TV where one could watch a show from any universe. If you think that TV here has too many channels than I envy you, my dear, because we had a near limitless amount of channels. A person could spend their entire life flipping through channels and die before they ever had a chance to see every single one. To the right of the living room was the bedroom, to the left the bathroom, and straight ahead was the kitchen which was the second biggest room in the house.
We sat in the living room. Me sitting on the arm of a couch reading a book, Morgan sat on the floor cross-legged cleaning his ax, and Angel sat on the couch flipping through the channels trying to find something that caught her eye or was in a language she understood. I remember her stopping on one channel and hearing the sound of chalk on a chalkboard that made my blood crawl. As the noise stopped it started up again but this one with a different pattern and consistency. I looked up from my book as Angel lowered the remote.
“Can you imagine living in a universe where people talked like that,” Angel asked.
Angel spoke in a thick Russian accent at least that is the closest thing to compare it too.
“Hopefully we never have to go there,” I responded as I turned my attention back to my book.
She turned the TV off as she placed down the remote and looked over at me causing me to close my book.
“Speaking of which I have been with you for two months now and all we have done so far is sit around. When are we going to get an assignment?”
“It depends on the jobs they have available and if they think we can handle it?”
“Is there faith in us so low that it takes this long to get a job?”
“I guess so,” I shrugged as I threw the book on the couch beside me, “We waited a year before we were given the mission that lead us to you. Besides, once we do get an assignment you might be wishing we were back here. Sometimes they last for months. Morgan and I were on your world for eight months before we came home.”
“It took a year for you guys to get a mission?”
“About that. As our number grows the missions we can handle will also go up and it will be easier for us to get missions. So do me a favor and enjoy this quiet time while you can.”
“Aren’t you guy’s bored?”
“Nah, I enjoy this downtime. It’s nice not just because we are home but because it gives us a chance to get to know each other and gain trust. These two things are the most important aspect of working together. Without it, we would crash and burn rather quickly.”
She understood what I meant of course. Nodding her head at me in understanding. “You have to be able to trust and know your team just as much as you do yourself. If not there is a chance someone may act foolishly when all hell breaks loose and get everyone killed. In order to succeed and come back home alive, you must act as one.
This is why we train every day. I need to know that you have my back and vice versa.”
She must have been content with this answer because she stood up and gave me a smile, “I am going out to get something to eat you want anything?”
“No thanks,” I said picking up my book.
“And you big guy.”
Morgan looked up and stroked the horn that protruded from his chin a few times before shaking his head. She took a single step towards the door before the barracks light dimmed and the siren went off. I put down my book with a sigh annoyed that I wouldn’t be finishing my book for quite a long time.
“Looks like it’s your lucky day Angel. We got a mission.”
The briefing room of the Rift Jumper HQ was the most boring room you would ever lay your eyes on. The walls a musty brown, a long table in the center big enough to fit forty people minimum, and a monitor hung on the back wall that was no bigger than the average TV.
When I had first stepped into the room to accept my first mission I was greatly disappointed. Expecting something larger than life. It took me a long time to realize that the room was not meant to awe you it was just meant to do its job. Which was to not distract you while you get briefed on your mission.
We all sat next to each other, me in the center, facing the monitor. An aging man in his early sixties stood to the side. This man was the commanding officer of the entire Rift Jumper organization. My team knew him Albert VanRess but he went by many names. This was because other species sometimes had a hard time understanding or speaking English and the Rift Jumpers ranks were not made up of only humans. In fact, most Rift Jumpers weren’t human at all. A great deal of them were not. VanRess was one of these people.
He was unlike anything you have ever seen before. To try to describe him would be a mockery and I have too much respect for the man to do that to him. So instead picture something entirely alien. Something that shouldn’t exist but does. With six arms instead of two and three legs.
“Welcome,” He exclaimed in perfect English, no doubt Russian to Angel, “As you may have already guessed we have an assignment for you.”
He raised up three hands while pointing to the folders with the others. He then placed them before us. I opened mine skimming the page knowing that he would go over the information shortly, Morgan had his ax on the table as he continued to clean it, and Angel began to commit everything in the folder to her chip for access later if they needed it while in the field.
I looked up from the folder as VanRess continued, “An escapee from universe 26MNB has been found on 7Y65A. He has flown under our radar thanks to him not doing anything to cause any long term damage to the fate of the universe or its inhabitants. That has all changed and rather quickly I may add. He has amassed an army of quite a notable size and if we are correct he plans on overthrowing the King of the biggest country on 7Y65A’s Earth known as Ragnarok. If he succeeds it will create a power vacuum among the other nations and he will command an army ten times the size of any other. He must be stopped and fast. It won’t be long we fear before he makes his move. You are to locate him and either kill or send him back to his universe whichever you find easiest. One more thing you should note is that our reports also show that someone else is with him that has no visible pulse.”
“How is that possible,” I exclaimed
“Our best guess is that he or she is dead.”
“You’re telling me this guy is dragging around a corpse?”
“He may be. In case he is you must send the corpse back to its universe there is no telling what the locals of Shondara would find if they harvested DNA from the body in question.”
“And if the person is alive?”
“Then you kill him or her or send them back to their own universe as always. Now the person you are being sent to collect goes by the name of Ettrian Vensys his real name is unknown to us at this time.”
I flipped to the last page of the folder and locked eyes with the man himself. A photo that had been taken of him while he was behind bars from the chest up, no doubt on his home world. He had ivory colored hair that was so long it couldn’t be captured in one picture, almost black eyes, and he smiled at the camera like some beast about to strike its unsuspecting prey. Yet against all that he looked like any ordinary human being.
“Three groups have already been sent to Shondara you will be the fourth and last. If you find him do not act until you call us and backup arrives. I don’t think I have to tell you that three people versus an army would be a grave mistake. I know that this mission is asking a lot of you and your team but I believe with a level head and plenty of teamwork you can all get the job done and get home safe. You leave tomorrow at 0700 hours. Dismissed.”
We stood up leaving our folders on the desk and walked out of the room as if seem to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. As if my back was about to give way with the burden of everything that was just said stopping and watching as Morgan and Angel walked ahead of me. They stopped after a time and looked back at me.
In their faces, I could see the doubt that I had at myself I that very moment. I couldn’t blame them for that sentiment. I was only seventeen years old. Most teenagers would be having sex, doing drugs, and worrying about college and grades. I was worried about getting two people killed. Hell, getting myself killed. Angel took a step towards me.
“You okay,” She asked as she reached an arm out.
I withdrew as I stood up straight. A leader is meant to instill confidence in their team if they saw that I was scared then when the going got rough one of them would try to take command. That could get us all killed. As a leader, I had to make my team believe that everything was okay.
“Yeah, I am fine. I am going to stay behind I have a few questions to ask VanRess about our mission. You two can go on ahead just be sure to meet me in the training room in an hour.”
“Everything in the folders I stored what do you need to know?”
“What I need isn’t in the folders but thank you, Angel.”
I tried to sound confident but I had no idea what I sounded like. I do know however that they turned around and left talking among themselves. At least Angel was Morgan seemed to be nodding or shaking his head in response. When they were out of view I turned around and entered the briefing room. VanRess in the middle of cleaning up didn’t even look up as the door closed.
“Cole what can I do for you?”
“You can’t be serious right,” I asked as he picked up the folders.
“About your mission, of course, I am. I wouldn’t waste the time or energy to give you all a fake briefing.”
“This mission is suicide. You are giving my team and I a death sentence.”
“Do you know why I am giving you this mission?”
He didn’t turn to look at me as he walked to the back of the room and threw the folders away.
“No, I can not say that I do sir.”
“It’s because I have no one else for the job,” Only then did he turn to face me and I could see remorse on his face, “Everyone else is off on missions and only three graduated with you. Just so happens that only you have recruited anyone. Others are more picky about the process. Either way, we needed more hands for the job and you happened to have four more than the others.”
“I can’t do this.”
He crossed all of his arms behind his back and walked over to me only stopping when he was a foot away. He smelt like wet clay.
“Cole regardless of what you think at this moment in time I would not send you or your team off to die. Recruiting Rift Jumpers is a long process, finding ones that can actually graduate is even harder. You and the others like you are a rare breed that we can’t afford to waste. That is why we are careful on what missions we send you all on. So we can send you on a mission that is almost a guarantee you will come back from. At the end of the day, this process is useless. What it really comes down to is the Rift Jumper. His skills, his ability to lead, and how good his diplomacy is. The right person can beat all the odds and prove that they are just as capable as the person who has been doing this for years.
I would not send you on a mission I didn’t think you can do. You’re a Jumper with a lot of potential. If anyone can beat the odds I believe that you can pull it off.”
I nodded my head.
He put one hand on my shoulder, “Looks like you have a mission to prepare for.”
I turned around and moved towards the door.
I stopped not turning around to face him.
“Be smart and come back.”
I clenched my fists and nodded my head as I walked outside and closed the door behind me. My heart racing as I walked away from the building. Each step getting heavier and heavier as I wondered if I made the wrong choice.
The training room was one of the most cliched places at the academy. A huge domed building with eighteen rooms, each one the size of an average auditorium. The rooms themselves were huge empty spaces but with a single voice command they transported you anywhere you wanted to go and could put you in any scenario you could dream of. So real it was that your brain tricked you into believing it was all real.
I had decided that combat training was in order today. Diplomacy and the like would get us to the man we were hunting but when all was said and done it would be how we reacted in the heat of battle that would determine if we came home alive or not.
The computer recreated Shondara and its inhabitants. The ground we were standing on was hard and cracked. Ash coated it from the volcano only forty miles away. It had gone off recently, the cracks coming from the earthquake which had set it off in the first place. Morgan stood to my left, Angel stood to my right.
The army standing before us were a mixture of different races from humans to trolls to dragons and trees. This was every sentient being on the planet standing before us.
“You’re kidding me right,” Angel asked nervously as she scanned the battlefield.
“This is every sentient being on Shondara. Every creature and race that have complex thought. Odds are he doesn’t have command of everything you see before you but this is only training and it is best to be prepared. Get rid of all creatures.”
I watched as the dragons, trees, and animals disappeared. The scene before me didn’t get any better. We were still greatly undermanned.
“That’s better,” I joked. Angel didn’t laugh, “Begin training.”
Morgans fists tightened around his ax as the army charged towards them. I withdrew the sword at my hip as I counted down from ten. Angel bounced from one foot to the next and for a second I feared that she would run in the other direction. Then I reached five and the army ran into us.
An orc twice the size of Morgan whipped at him with a rusty looking sword. He jumped backward as he swung his ax cutting clean through its head. As it fell a goblin jumped off the corpse of the orc brandishing two daggers. Morgan brought up his ax in the nick of time. The goblins blade struck the hilt of Morgan’s ax and the goblin used this momentum to vault over Morgans head.
He twisted around to face the goblin and a second later groaned as he found a knife in his side for his trouble. An elf standing behind him now. Morgan growled as he threw his elbow back into the elves stomach. The elf stumbled back and Morgan used this free time to rip the dagger out planting it into the goblin as he jumped for him once more. Before he had a chance to turn around the elf jumped onto his back holding on with one hand as he grabbed a knife from his boot.
I would have helped him but I was too busy worrying about myself. In the academy, you are forced to train with countless different weapons. One of the jobs of a Jumper is to blend in with the world you are sent to protect. As I have said Rift Jumpers do not want their existence known. For this reason, I have chosen to bring along a sword. Something I wasn’t so proficient at using.
Before me stood a Dwarf who was so muscular it looked like his shirt was about ready to rip. In his hands, he held a hammer that was just as big as he was. I walked backwards slowly. Every so often he would swing that great hammer of his. I watched for an opening but I just couldn’t seem to find one.
Out the corner of my eye, I watched as Angel faded away. The training room’s equivalent of dying. She could still watch us of course but she could no longer act. The dwarf smiled as he swung his hammer once more and I used this moment to get in quick. I rushed forward tackling him to the ground. Bringing up my blade and brought it down into his chest. I jumped up and looked over to Morgan.
He was in the middle of fighting the troll. Twenty feet of pure destruction. The thing didn’t even carry a weapon of any kind. I mean why would you if you were so big? Your body was more powerful at that size anyway. Morgan dodged its mighty blows but he couldn’t keep it up forever and before long the troll swatted him like one would a house fly. He flew backward tumbling before landing on his stomach.
The troll moved forward and I charged as fast as I could. In movies or TV when a person is blown up to the Godzilla-like size they move slow and lumbering. A step seems to take seconds. In reality, they move just as fast or me and you. They just cover more ground.
So I watched as the troll reached Morgan before I made it fifteen feet. Before Morgan ever had the chance to even recover from such a colossal blow. I watched as the troll brought up its fist and… I didn’t see what happened next. A blade was thrust into my back as an elf appeared in front of me bringing a knife to my throat. It drew the blade across my neck and as it did so Shondara disappeared. Leaving the bare white room in its place.
Morgan stood up and brushed himself off and Angel sat on her knees, her soles tucked under her butt.
“I am just going to say what we are all thinking,” Angel said breaking the silence, “We can’t do this. We can’t fight an army with three people.”
“Our job isn’t to fight an army it’s to kill the guy leading it.”
“How do you expect to do the latter without doing the former? I have information on countless leaders and I do not believe one of them would leave the safety of the army they hide behind.”
“Your forgetting that there are going to be more Jumpers than just us?”
“Are you forgetting this is a freaking army we are talking about here? An army of hundreds of thousands if they have enough men and woman to challenge the biggest city on the entire planet.”
“What if we challenged him to an open duel?”
“How do we even know something like that even exists on that world? Even if it does, who says he would accept it?”
“He would look weak in front of his men otherwise.”
“Could you win that duel? It’s clear by the way you were holding that sword and by the way you fought that you’re not comfortable using it.”
“I could fight in his place,” Morgan said as he held out his ax.
“You would put up a better fight but you would be just as likely to die. You are relentless in your fighting style. Standing your ground and hitting hard but you have no finesse. Against someone with real knowledge of swordplay, you would lose quickly.”
“So what do you suggest,” I asked as I sheathed my sword.
“I suggest that we use training for what is it meant to be used for. To work on our faults. Morgan has to learn that he isn’t fighting monsters anymore he is fighting things that can think just as well as he can and you must learn how to use a sword. It needs to be an extension of your arm.”
“And what about you?”
“Me? I have to work on not freezing up. I have information on fighting styles, combat tactics, and well-regarded leaders but none of that does any good in the moment. I need to learn how to hold my own or during a real scenario you guys are going to get killed protecting me.”
She was right of course. Today was the first time that Morgan hadn’t been killed trying to come to her aid. Cole himself had died numerous times trying the same thing. In a training scenario, it was easy to laugh these things off. To tell her it was okay when she apologized and that she would get better at it. In a real world scenario, she would be dead. As much as it pained him to admit he would not come to her aid and he doubted that Morgan would either.
“Morgan do you agree with her assessment?”
He shook his head, “Not everything I fought was slow and stupid. Some of the things I hunted you couldn’t even imagine. Things that feed off the minds of others to gain unprecedented knowledge. Sometimes I would plan for weeks or months. Learning everything I could about my prey from what it liked to eat to where it liked to take a shit. I would then spend hours laying traps before I lay in wait and pounced. Some monsters are easier prey than others,” He whistled low, “You wouldn’t believe how fast the hunter can become the hunted.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend.”
“I know. I just want you to realize that my job was no cake walk. In honesty, you’re a good person but don’t let all that knowledge get to your head. You may know the teachings of great warriors and leaders but you are green and you never lived them. Take it from someone who has. Words and knowledge can get you a long way but they are nothing next to experience. Just because you read how to kill a vampire doesn’t mean that your ready to go out and do so.”
Angel nodded her head slowly looking down at her feet. I walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder to reassure her. After a moment I pulled it away. He wanted to say something to her, something to make her feel less guilty perhaps but he couldn’t think of a single word. In fact, he agreed with everything Morgan had said. Angel’s problem was that she leaned too much on the gift her dad gave. Knowledge isn’t everything and the sooner she learned that the better. He feared that if she didn’t learn it soon it was going to get not just her but all of them killed.
“Start training. Three active training dummies.”
Three human-like figures appeared at the far end of the room. The same color of the room with no distinct features. They stood legs spread, hands at their side with their fists balled up. Angel looked up before preparing herself for another round.
Cole: *Coughing* I apologize. You must understand that I have never truly sat down and told this story. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t think about it and wonder how I could have done things differently. What happened between me and Thorne is one of the things I think about more often than anything. She was my first friend. A part of me wishes that I could tell this story and leave her out of it but our lives were intertwined from the first day we met. To tell this story without her in it would make it incomplete.
(Sighing can be heard as a chair scraps against a wood floor).
Jade: We can take a break if you want.
Cole: *Cole’s voice is faded* No, it’s okay. It’s just *Pause* I feel like I must apologize to you. After I called you and I lay in bed thinking about what I would and wouldn’t tell you one of the things that came to mind was actually a person. Her name was Thorne. I pondered for days if I could get away with telling this story without bringing her up and even as you sat down and turned on your recorder this was my intention.
*Coughing* What happened between me and Thorne is one of the things I think about more often than anything. As I already stated she was my first friend. Later as time went on and we grew apart we became enemies. *Chuckle* It didn’t have to be that way of course. We were fighting for the same side but at the moment it didn’t seem that way. At night when I am alone with my memories Throne haunts me. Guilt coursing through my veins, and my heart feeling like it is going to beat out of my chest. Sometimes I cry and other times I don’t.
Now I realize that I was being selfish, foolish even. To try to tell this story without her in it would do nothing but leave you confused and searching for answers. Same goes for whoever reads your book.
(Footsteps on the wooden floor, the sound of creaking as he sits back down in his chair).
Jade: Was she a lover?
Cole: *His voice louder now* No. *Laughing* Throne wasn’t even human. Far from it. In fact, Thorne was an anthropomorphic teddy bear, twelve inches tall and light brown in color, and she also happened to be the fiercest warrior that the Rift Jumpers had ever known.
Zach: How does a teddy bear become a Rift Jumper?
Cole: Anyone from any universe no matter how big or how small can be a Rift Jumper. All you have to do is stand out in the universe you originate from. A supercomputer deep within the core of the planet in which The Rift Jumpers call home analyzes billions of candidates every day from a multitude of different universes. It then processes whether or not they have the makings to be a Jumper off an algorithm it has used since the beginning of time.
When it finds a match the computer pings headquarters and they send a representative to meet with the individual and offer them a job or at least a chance to go through training. Sometimes the computer pings every few years other times every other day it’s for this reason that no matter what the individual looks like he is given a shot.
When Thorne arrived everyone thought it a joke. They waved her off. The tests to graduate from the academy were long and arduous and only the truly strong willed succeeded. To their surprise and horror, she passed with flying colors. Blowing through every test with ease and grace. Earning the top marks in just about every category. Destroying records that had been held for centuries and millennia
Even after all was said and done people sill had the tendency to look down on her. No one took her seriously no matter how hard she worked to prove them wrong. This caused her a great deal of anger which she in turned used to push herself forward.
She would of course, in due time, get the resignation that she deserved. That she craved even though she would be hard pressed to admit it.
When I met her however she stood in the garden located in the southeast section of Rift Jumper headquarters where plants from just about every universe could be found. It was for this reason that it was also one of the biggest areas and in the center of it all was a statue of the first ever a rift jumper. She sat on a bench in front of the statue, alone. It just so happened that I was walking through the garden myself that night as I tried to work off the nerves I had for tomorrow’s mission. It was on this night that Throne and I meet for the first time.
This was from an audio log that was taken the night I arrived at Cole’s estate. This next section will focus on Throne the night she met Cole. Things I pierced together after reading my notes and listening to the audio logs a few dozen times. Thorne was such an integral part of Cole’s story that it would be an injustice not to at least try to understand her side of the story as well. I just hope that the above quote will make me justified in my decision to do so. I don’t think I have to tell you that this is just my interpretation of events and unlike Cole’s story I can not guarantee its authenticity.
She turned to see who was approaching as she heard his footsteps against the cobbled stone pathway. She turned away just as quickly obviously not impressed with the teenager with his head down and his hands in his pockets. He looked up a few seconds later to see Thorne looking up at the statue in front of her.
“Your Thorne right,” He asked as he stopped.
“I’ve had enough of the bullshit today if you don’t mind.”
Cole’s eyes lit up and with butterfly’s in his stomach and a nervous lump in his throat he walked over to the bench but didn’t take a seat. Thorne cast a glance towards him once more.
With a smile, he at last sat down.
“I’m just a massive fan of yours.”
“Yeah, I mean you’re a legend. When I was going through the academy I tried to be as good as you but no one will ever be as good as you. I think I have goosebumps.”
“Are you fucking with me right now kid?”
“Well, then I am glad you think so and thank you for the kind words I don’t get them very often.”
“Yeah I have heard what people say but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. I try to defend you from time to time but it never works. I think most people are just upset that they were beaten by something that is a child’s plaything in most universes. I just don’t understand that mentality because there are an infinite number of universes out there I am sure there is one where I would be seen as a child’s plaything but,” Cole shrugs his shoulders, “Just know that you have one supporter and I doubt I am the only one. This place is just huge and you can’t meet everyone.”
Thorne didn’t know what to say. She was speechless. Deep down she was waiting for something to happen. His friends or team to pop out and laugh at her for believing his words but she knew that he was being honest with her. You could see it in his eyes, they were as if he was staring at something awe-inspiring. Not to mention the way he talked as if he was nervous to be in her very presence.
“Thank you,” She said as she nodded her head, “So how many missions you been on kid?”
“Five. I will be leaving for my sixth tomorrow morning.”
“Is that why you can’t sleep?”
He nodded his head as if not wanting to admit to his idol that he was terrified.
“It’ll be fine I’m sure they wouldn’t send you on a mission that they didn’t think you or your team could pull off.”
“That’s what I thought until this afternoon. This guy I guess amassed an army in a universe that he isn’t even from and is getting ready to lay siege on one of the capital cities of that universes planet. Other teams were sent and we are the last one. The plan for us is to find him, call headquarters, and then we all take the big bad down together.”
“An army? That is a first I wouldn’t have thought it possible. All the same just be smart, keep your head down when you need too, don’t be a hero, and you’ll come home in one piece.”
Cole nodded his head.
“Do you want to come with us?”
Thorne chuckled and it would have turned into laughter if she hadn’t noticed how completely serious Cole was being.
“I am sorry but I work alone. Besides what your asking is unorthodox, Rift Jumpers don’t join each other’s teams. I’ll tell you what though when you make it back you and your team can meet me at The Bitter Spider. It’s a bar on the southeast side. I will buy you all a round and we can chat.”
She hoped off the bench.
“It was nice meeting you,” She paused as she grasped for his name.
Cole got up himself realizing it was time to get back himself.
“Cole,” He said sticking out his hand with a smile.
“Thorne,” She said as she extended her paw.
Cole bent down and shook it vigorously. When they were done Thorne headed left and Cole went back the way he came a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.
Jade: So you asked for help and she turned you down.
Cole: (He nod’s his head) You have to understand that she was right. In those day’s no Jumper, every joined another for a mission. We looked at other Jumpers as our competition in the same way that I suspect car salesmen do. The only way to prove yourself and to get better jobs is to prove your skills by successfully completing a mission. If two Jumpers went how can you tell who did the most work. It was an archaic rule. One that made Jumper’s rivals rather than friends. In fact, it was rare to see two Jumpers together at all.
Jade: But you were going on a mission were you would be working with more than one team.
Cole: Yes this is true and believe me we will get to that in due time. Just know that after the job was done I looked into how many missions there were like ours and there had only been two other instances.
Jade: Was the rule ever changed?
Cole: In the years to come a lot was changed. When I left the Rift Jumpers it was far different to what it was when I first arrived. Some people hated the changes but it needed to happen. If it didn’t I don’t know if we would still be around today. What people have a hard time realizing is that everything has to change eventually, evolve to survive. That is what Thorne, Charles, and I understood. We started the movement and before long others followed suit.
Jade: Who is Charles?
Cole: I have said too much too soon. I fear that if I start rambling I will never get back on topic. Charles appears later in the story.
Jade: If you don’t mind me asking what was he up too while you were getting ready for your mission?
Cole: He was in New York City if I remember correctly begging for change somewhere along time square. Every few hours the cops would chase him off and he would set up shop somewhere else. Around that time, however, was when he was contacted by Mr.Omori.
Jade: Was he from another universe?
Cole: No, if had been the Jumpers wouldn’t have known about him. The computer that watches and analyzes every universe only pings if something is wrong. If you walked through a rift and ended up in a universe exactly like this one but the only difference was that Johnny Cash was never born that would be a crying shame but the computer wouldn’t ping unless you started going on a murderous rampage. Now if Thorne had ended up going through a rift and ended up here she would get pinged because she is causing people to go nuts from the fact that a teddy bear is walking around.
Jade: So you leave people in universes they weren’t born in?
Cole: There would be too many jobs if we started worrying about every little difference. So we just focus on the big stuff. Charles was an ex-Rift Jumper who left after an accident that involved the team that he had built up. That is all I am going to say for now. (Cole clearing his throat. When he is done he spits into his napkin) Now let us continue on with this story or it will never get done.
New York City.
It was hot, a record high the newspaper had said. The people walking down the street were miserable. At least more miserable than usual as they pushed and cursed at each other trying their hardest to get inside where there was air conditioning. No one, however, hated it more than Charles did at that moment as he sat in the scorching heat. His legs and butt seemingly on fire thanks to the sidewalk which was so hot he could have no doubt cooked an egg.
That was if he had one. He didn’t. He couldn’t even afford one. Most days by this time he would have scrounged up maybe six dollars in change if he was lucky he might even have gotten fifteen, but today there was nothing but a nickel.
He had tried to pick up the cup and wave it at the herds of people. Most days that did the job. Today it got the cup slapped out of his hand twice, three people got in his face, and one had punched him in the eye. That punch was how he got his nickel. A gentleman saw the incident and out of pity reached into his pocket. He apologized when all that he had produced was five whole cents before scampering off. As if scared that he would say something.
He turned his head around to read the clock in the bank he was sitting in front of. A quarter after twelve now. He cursed to himself as he realized that the altercation was two hours ago. The other thing he knew was that he couldn’t sit here all day. The heat would boil his brain. He would have to go to Central Park soon where he could take cover under the trees. He would at least give it to one o’clock, however. Too afraid that there would be fewer people in Central Park today due to the heat.
He grabbed the cup and wondered if he should stand up and wave it around again. Sure it was hotter but that didn’t mean that he shouldn’t try. He was just about to stand up when he felt something nudge his foot. He looked up bringing his hand up to block out the sun.
“You look like hell Charles,” Mr.Omori said as he bent down to Charles eye level.
Charles gave a mostly toothless grin at the sight of his old friend.
“Shit,” He said as he leaned over giving the man a brief hug, “What brings you here?”
“We need to talk Charles. Is there somewhere we can go for lunch? You hungry at all or have you already had something to eat?”
Mr.Omori stood up his hands in the pocket of his pants. Charles stood up as fast as a person could, a smile on his dirt covered face.
“No, I haven’t eaten yet.”
Mr.Omori smiled himself and a moment later Charles was part of the very herd he was watching not long ago.
“How long has it been,” Charles asked.
“Close to twenty years ago now I would wager.”
“Wow, that is a long time huh? Doesn’t seem like it. Just seems like yesterday that we were going through the academy. Just me and you that graduated in that group if I remember correctly.”
“You remember right.”
“What brings you by after so long?”
“Just wanted to check up on an old friend.”
“I may be homeless but I am not stupid. If you wanted to visit you could have done so at any time in the twenty years since I have left. So let me be blunter with you. What do you want?”
He smiled and turned into a diner Charles following close behind him. The diner was a small thing, more like a hole in the wall mom and pop restaurant, and even though it was right off of Time Square it wasn’t overly packed. It was actually quite empty.
Charles almost ran into Omori who stopped in front of a podium no more than ten feet in front of the door.
“Even after all these years, you have quite the lip.”
“It gets me out of trouble,” Charles paused, “Sometimes.”
“Is that how you got-”
He pointed to Charles’s eye.
“Begging for change is a tough job. Sometimes people do not enjoy to be heckled. Doesn’t help when its 102 degrees outside.”
“How can I help you,” The waitress said as her eyes looked Charles over in what could only be described as horror.
He wasn’t surprised. It was as his old friend said he looked like hell and he hadn’t set foot in a restaurant in years. Unless you count fast-food. He was 4’5 feet tall with curly blonde hair and violet eyes so bright they seemed inhuman. He hadn’t shaved in close to three years which left him with a beard that went down to the middle of his chest.
Only fifteen of his teeth remained and he smelled like something gone bad. He would try to sneak off to take a bath in a bathroom every week but sometimes it didn’t work. He was banned from a lot of nearby establishments for doing just that. His clothes weren’t any better. A white tank-top, a pair of jeans, and flip-flops all of which were caked in dirt and mud.
“A table for two please,” Mr.Omori proclaimed as if not noticing the waitresses face.
She turned back to the well-dressed man and nodded her head grabbing two menu’s and leading them to a round table in the back corner of the restaurant far away from the other guests. After they sat down she withdrew a pad and pen.
“What would you guy’s like to drink?”
“I will have a glass of apple juice if you don’t mind.”
“And you,” She said giving Charles the biggest smile she could probably give.
“I’ll take whatever beer you have on tap.”
“Can I see an ID?”
“We have to ID here it’s the managers rule. I can get him for you if you want?”
“No, it’s fine. Just bring me whatever you think is best.”
She gave him one last smile before walking away.
“I haven’t been carded in forever. Christ I am going to be fifty-one in just a few months.”
“You chose to come to a universe where there are laws about the drinking age.”
“I also came to a universe where money is the way of the world. I had the choice to go anywhere I wanted. Why did I choose this one?”
“I recall you telling me that you wanted to go home.”
“Home? Turns out after I got back that both my parents were dead. They had a daughter after I left but I never got in contact with her. I figured there was no point in opening that bag of worms.”
The waitress returned with their drinks and promptly pulled out her pad.
“You two ready to order?”
“I’ll have a hamburger, bloody if you don’t mind,” Omori said handing her back the menu.
“I’ll have the same but make mine well done and with bacon.”
She hurried off once more and Charles took a drink.
“Fuck,” He said as he recoiled, “I hate tea.”
“You told her to bring you whatever she thought was best.”
“Well she is out of her fucking mind,” He said as he pushed the drink away, “So you ever going to tell me what the hell you are doing here?”
“Do you remember what you told command after you got back from your mission?”
“That something wasn’t right with the mainframe. It was wrong about the severity of the situation. You all told me I was out of my mind that I was trying to project failing my team on someone or something else.”
“We are now open to the possibility that you may have been on to something.”
“Is that so?”
“One week ago we got a red alert from universe 26AA. We thought nothing of it until we read the report. A creature from another universe built an army and is planning on attacking one of the key cities on the planet. The computer should have sent us that red alert soon after gaining a few followers. That alone should have been substantial of enough impact on the universe but there was nothing.”
“The thing I can’t figure out is why you are telling me all of this. I left and not on good terms either.”
“We are currently building a team to go down into the mainframe and repair it if need be.”
“HAHA. You think I know the first thing about fixing that thing, shit, you all must be pretty desperate.”
“Nobody knows how to fix it. The mainframe hasn’t be accessed in thousands of years if not longer. There are notes but not nearly enough to piece anything valuable from them. So yes we are desperate Charles.”
“So why me?”
“Your the first person to realize that something was wrong in the first place.”
“If you’re the first person to notice that your getting headaches and you can’t remember basic things are you going to be the one to analyze and fix the problem. Of course your not. You’re going to go to a doctor who will do x-rays and if there is a problem he will send you to a surgeon. You don’t need me you need someone certified.”
“There is no one. Look, I know this is a lot to ask of you but just think about it. If you decide to help then meet me in front of this diner in three days time. If you’re not interested then you can go beg for change anywhere else and I won’t come looking for you.”
The waitress returned and placed the food in front of them. Charles didn’t wait long before shoveling the fries into his mouth. The waitress tried her best to ignore him.
“No, thank you.”
She smiled and off she went.
“Now if you don’t mind Charles I haven’t seen you in twenty years and would love to catch up with you.”
Charles took a bite of his hamburger and relished in the taste. Much better than fast-food. He then turned to his old friend and smiled.
“So my friend,” Mr. Omori said as he grabbed the ketchup, “What have you been up to?”
I couldn’t sleep. It evaded me at every turn. Tossing and turning as I tried to get comfortable, my eyes feeling heavy. The worst thing was that I knew that I would have to be up in just a few short hours. I cursed as I sat up. Never had I felt so anxious before a mission.
There was just something about this one. Something I couldn’t quite shake. As if something terrible was going to happen and there was nothing I couldn’t do to stop it from happening. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths.
Nothing was going to happen if I listened to Thorne’s advice. All I had to do was keep my head down and try not to be a hero. Out of all the teams that were sent mine was the smallest. Command wouldn’t blame me for doing just that. I would do my job until I found the son of a bitch and then I would sit back and watch the action.
If they happened to give me a hard time about later I would figure it out then. The most important part would be that my team and I came back alive. I laid back down, eyes closed, believing that in no time I would be sound asleep. In reality, I didn’t sleep a wink that night. When the alarm, at last, went off I slowly stretched and rolled out of bed. To my surprise shockingly alert. I watched Morgan and Angel crawl out of bed themselves and I knew that the only job I had was to get them both home safe and sound.
TO BE CONTINUED…
I must thank a few people for helping this story come to be.
The first is my mom who has read every story I have ever written. Some that I had finished and others that I never did.
The second shout out goes to a group of people. Five to be exact and their names are Kyle Bosman, Ian Hick, Bradley Ellis, Micheal Huber, and Ben Moore. Though I have never met these five individuals it is the crazy stories they tell while playing Dungeon and Dragons that made me realize that any story can exist as long as it is engaging and good.
Last but not least is the people who read this book to the end. Thank you very much. It was years in the making. As you read this I am already hard at work on the second episode of season one.
If you would like to see the second episode be written faster as well as read other woks that I have ideas for or that are currently being written than please visit my Patreon account at https://www.patreon.com/danielsolorzano and again thank you for reading my novel and I hope you enjoyed it.
Here in these pages lies the tale of Cole Geyer and his time as a Rift Jumper. This story may seem like fiction but I promise you that everything you are about to read is the 100% truth. Of course, I don’t expect many readers to believe me if any do for that matter. In truth, I wouldn’t believe it myself if I hadn’t seen proof with my own two eyes. In this Episode, you will meet Cole and his two-person team, you will learn about what a Rift Jumper is, and above all else, you will begin a long and winding tale surrounding the greatest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.