This story is by LJ Newlin and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
At a dirty work table, in the center of a dark cavern, Micaela worked on the circuit board from her cell phone.
“Nick, hold the light closer.” Micaela wiped her brow and pulled her hair back behind her ear.
“Hmm, I think if I solder a bridge between these two points…hand me the soldering iron.”
“Micky, it’s not going to work. We don’t have enough battery power to produce the amps we need,” Nick opined as he handed her the iron.
“One, it has to work, we need to get out of this shithole. Two, I don’t need to power the door, only increase the reach of the signal to the other side.”
“What if the coordinates were changed?”
“One problem at a time…ah shit, this iron burns too hot. Ouch…damn…I need to take a break.”
With her finger in her mouth, Micaela stood up, tilted her head from side to side, and then stretched her arms above and behind her neck. As she flexed and unflexed her fingers, her eyes trained down on the two bound men Nick dumped on the floor.
Nick checked the restraints of both men. He dwarfed most people, a solid block of muscle whose loyalty bordered on obsessive. What an odd pair they made.
They met when she worked at Amisil Pharmaceutical company, in Colorado Springs. It was a front for a high-security research facility, funded by the government. The Amisil project NDPR stood for Nuclear Demolecularization Phasing, and Reconstruction.
One day, Joshua, the company’s mastermind, thanked Micaela for her work on achieving multiple transfers. It was an odd thing for him to say, since that wasn’t her job.
Later, while at a honky-tonk bar, she sat sipping a drink to mull over this conversation. “Multiple transfers? Of what? To where?”
Everything was peaceful until some drunk airman hit on her. Nick took offense and within a blink of an eye, pool cues, and noses, were broken. Unconscious bodies were strewn on the floor and pool table. When Nick got hold of the offender, he held him against the wall with one hand and drew back his fist. All the while two airmen tried, ineffectively, to pull his arms away.
Micaela decided now was the time to intervene.
Leaning against the wall she put her diminutive hand on his beefy paw.
“Put the man down, brawny.”
“Not until he apologizes to you.”
“Ah, dude, it’s really hard to apologize when you can’t breathe. I think he’s sorry. You’re sorry, aren’t you?”
While the airmen desperately tried to prevent his punisher from extinguishing his life, he faintly shook his head in a yes motion. Before the MP’s could arrive, Micaela enticed him to a cup of coffee down the street.
Nick didn’t seem to have a moral compass, so he clung to hers.
She discovered Nick was stationed, within the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Both of their positions surrounded the mysterious NDPR. Only, Nick volunteered for the biomolecular enhancement division.
With a rash of missing persons, Micaela and Nick followed clues that led them to the science lab. Whatever was going on, the answers were inside.
They broke in but set off an alarm. Soldiers were there in seconds as if they were expected.
They held them at gunpoint waiting for Joshua to enter. His look of disappointment was clear.
“You couldn’t leave well enough alone, Micaela. Now, I have to deal with you and your big lummox, but at least you’ll provide some answers in the process.This is the fruit of your labor. Put them in the transporter. I need to see if I fixed the dissonant modularity problem.”
They emerged in a poorly lit cavern, confronted by two soldiers. It didn’t end well for the ill-prepared soldiers, who now lay bound and unconscious on the floor.
One of the bodies moved, bringing her out of memory lane, snapping her back to the present.
“What all did you find on them?” She asked.
“I found this peashooter. A couple of… I’m guessing handheld radios? No cell phones or anything useful.”
Micaela shivered, “I don’t know what the rest of their world looks like but our sweet corner is cold, dank, and smells like rot. Some paradise Joshua sent us to.”
A voice from the floor eeked out, “Hail Joshua!”
“What the hell did he just say?”
“You want for me to beat it out of him, boss?” Nick said, punching his right fist into his left palm.
“A little honey here, Nick.” She said, taking a deep breath to calm herself. “Help him sit up and offer him some water.”
She waited a few minutes to let the man get his bearings. Micaela squatted down to his level, just out of kicking distance.
“What’s your name soldier?”
“Hm, it must be similar to our social security number. Okay, Poo, what can you tell me about your friend and mine, Joshua?”
“I don’t talk to no parasite woman, nothing but takers. ”
“Well, Poo, from what I’ve seen of your world there is nothing here worth taking.”
“Don’t call me Poo!” the soldier spat.
“Then what should I call you?”
“Poo,” Micaela interrupted.
The man glared at her with complete and utter contempt and the conversation was over.
“You want for me to beat on him now, boss?”
“No, move him to the corner and put some tape over his mouth. I need quiet, to think…What coordinates did Joshua punch in?”
“Hail Joshua, what a rube.” Nick spat, “The smart one was that physicist … ah,…that German guy.”
“It’s funny, I always thought he was the creepy one and Joshua… the charmer.”
“I know Joshua ran like a little mouse every time he saw me.” Nick grinned like a Cheshire cat.
Micaela sat on the stool next to the workbench, deep in thought.
“Everyone does, Nick. There’s something else…”
Nick looked over at the handheld radios and could see a display panel light up. Picking it up, he read the display, P0096. With deliberate intimidating steps, marched over to Poo.
“You were next in line to go through, weren’t you?” With that question, Nick kicked his feet. The soldier mumbled through the tape so Nick ripped it off, taking skin and beard along with it.
Nick’s hambone hands wrapped around his neck, lifting the man up to his eye level. This left his feet dangling about two feet off the ground.
“What’s Joshua’s number?”
Nick squeezed harder but another soldier panicked and responded.
“Alpha, niner, niner, zero, one, niner. But you have to wait until Joshua punches in that one’s code, which isn’t going to happen until he gets the all-clear code.”
The man had stopped speaking at that point. So, Nick lumbered towards him.
“Oh shit, it’s Bravo, seven, Papa, zero, niner, Alpha, six.”
“You been in the military, weasel?”
“Ah, yes sir. Army Air Corps.”
“Huh, we haven’t had that since World War II.”
“Yes sir, I know sir, but we’re still fighting ours.”
“You’re still fighting the Japs?” Nick asked incredulously.
“The Germans, Russians?” The man shook his head in the negative after each. “Then who?”
“Not who sir, what!” the soldier pointed to the sky.
“You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me!”
Micaela hypothesized, “So, we were the lab rats for multiple transfers for interdimensional travel?”
“And they’re making us into bigger, stronger soldiers to fight your war? But why is that one so freaked out?” Nick asked.
“They have been genetically altering our captured and they look a lot like you, sir.”
“Why so hostile to Micky there?”
“They use women to control the soldiers. They implanted some kind of parasite in them, making them scary smart.”
“Not so different from where I come from…just joking. Wait, how did Joshua contact ya’ll in the first place?”
“Through there. From the other side. We only heard him at first. Then he came through and helped us with strategies, to battle against..them.” The soldier pointed at the wall.
“Do they ever implant those parasites in men?” Nick asked.
The soldier’s eyes widened, “I don’t know, sir.”
“Hm, so you’re not all brawn,” Micaela said with a kind smile and a wink.
“But sir?” The soldier interjected. “What if he is on our side? It’s programmed for two people. Once we go through, he said the transporter will shut down, permanently.”
“But what if he isn’t who, or what you think he is? What if it opens a door to let them through?” Micaela wondered.
“Then we destroy it on the other side. Do you have a fail-safe?” Nicked barked.
“We do. Just in case they found us.”
“Sorry, we have to protect our world. If we aren’t back in an hour, you know what to do.”
As Nick and Micaela slipped through the transporter, they felt the aftershocks of a large explosion.
Stuck in limbo, they watched as soldiers marched through to their world.