This story is by Shannon Sacoman and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
They will spin this. This was not the job I took. And it was absofuckinglutely outside the bounds of our arrangement. Debrief’s taking too long. “Terrible timing” he said. I wasn’t supposed to know.
Samantha Cass jumped. The grey holding room evaporated around her as she pictured every particle of her body back home, and then her cabin appeared, silent around her. She felt the chill of the room, reminded of the shock her first jump had been from the panic of the accident in Antarctica to the sudden heat of the desert.
She collapsed on the couch. What exactly was our agreement?
Two years ago, Mr. Anderson had appeared around a corner about 2 minutes after they’d jumped into New York City. As he stalked toward them, she sensed large agents over each shoulder.
“Ms Cass,” he’d murmured, “you have no reason to fear us, but it is vital we speak today.” He pointed to an empty cafe next to them.
Though they’d been intimidating, she knew even if they cuffed her she’d be able to jump them both away any time. But she didn’t like that he knew her name, so she’d been willing to listen, briefly.
Mr. Anderson all but ignored Makena, her hand tight in Sam’s. “Ms Cass, I represent a group at the United Nations. We know the disaster at the IceCube particle lab left you able to teleport at whim. We know where you’ve been and when. We’d like to offer you a diplomatic passport. License to be anywhere in the world anytime. But we would require your services as a UN peacekeeper. Think about every news story you hear, these women have been taken. These refugees trapped, this cave-in, this tsunami, this flood. . . We’d help you teleport into those places, and then we would care for the people you’d rescue. If you saw a job you wanted, we’d make it work. If we have a contract for you, we’ll contact you. You can deny the job if it doesn’t feel right.”
She’d looked at him, unbelieving. She’d wanted, no, she’d felt compelled to do something good with her power, but hadn’t had the resources to find anyone she could really help. She must have seemed reticent, so he’d added, “We’ll certainly pay you for each mission. With the millions in military funding you’d save our member states, I’ve been authorized to give you whatever you ask for. You could fund yourself, the charities you love, and your research on just a few jobs a year.”
“I can only jump one other person at a time.”
“We can work with that.”
Was that it, a mercenary bent he thinks I have, that let him think I’d do this job? Why didn’t I ask? Bias? The frequency of rescues from the region? Did I just trust power, trust my own heroics?
She googled the coordinates she’d jumped to. The man had just been elected, arguing against foreign militarized forces. Like the Americans and UN.
Sam moved anxiously around her cabin. She packed, emailed her research to the quantum physicist listserv, and jumped her hard drive into a professor’s office. A helicopter beat overhead.
Is it worth it? They’ve always been able to trace my energy signal. They could already be waiting for me. She steeled herself; she couldn’t leave Makena behind.
She jumped to Makena’s doorstep in Nairobi and leaned on the bell. She looked, but didn’t see any “inconspicuous” black SUVs.
“What the hell Sam!? Rules! Text first. Give me at least a day. And you are sure not supposed to lean on my bell like a maniac. I’ll have you know I was just getting a handle on that poem.”
“Makena, I’m sorry. We have to leave, you aren’t safe. The UN job…. Well, it’s gone sideways, pack a bag, let’s go!”
She pushed her in, where Makena gathered clothes and toiletries in a jumble, then filled another bag with notebooks and her slim laptop.
Impatient, Sam jumped to different banks. First, US dollars, then the secret accounts: Rubles. Yuan.
Her conscience nagged her, If you didn’t know this work was a bit shady, why’d you hide your money from them?
She jumped into Makena’s kitchen. Shit, Never straight into the house. She didn’t hear Makena tut, though. Maybe she didn’t know I was gone. She started filling stickered water bottles, “Let’s go, are you ready?”
Makena turned the corner. “Sam,” she caressed her cheek. “What’s going on? Are you sure it’s this dire?”
“Look out the window, if you see at least two new black SUV’s, it is.”
Less than 30 seconds later, they were in a shanty town in Lima.
Then, a pasture in Spain.
Then, under a torii in Japan. Sam whispered a wish or a prayer, then held her breath.
They saw crystal clear waters, Sam’s eyes squinted against the bright sun, but before she heard the waves or felt the sand, they were gone again. There seemed to be nothingness for a moment, and fear blossomed in her consciousness.
This has never happened before. Sam had never jumped them both again before fully resolving into a place.
Just as the full weight of dread settled in her, she saw grimy tile and a black metal door.
Sam put a hat on, changed her shirt, and pulled a long jacket around Makena’s shoulders, tucking her braids inside it. Then, she kissed her; a deep kiss full of both regret and promise.
Sam guided Makena across a square and through the Russian train station,and paid for four tickets in cash, two going in each direction.
The express pulled away a few minutes later. No one joined them, and Sam locked the door.
“Okay, I know this is awful, but we have to disappear.”
“No, I don’t understand. Who did they have you jump? What happened?”
“It wasn’t an extraction. I just had to unlock a door. I didn’t think why. Then they… I witnessed an assassination. Of a democratically elected leader. By either the UN or a rogue agent operating at a high level within the UN, with American participation.”
“What!” Makena hissed, fuming and confused.
“I jumped out before debrief. I needed to think, but the more I did, the clearer it was. Either they were going to kill me, or I was going to quit, which would mean they would kill me. He said I was never supposed to know.
“I tried to mask whatever they use to track me, with the half-jump. I’ve tried it before, but only alone. The train is the first step to hiding. Anyway, I hope you aren’t with me just for the limitless travel, because I shouldn’t do that anymore. They’ll track it.”
“Why did you drag me to Russia? I have work; I have a publisher; I have a whole life in Nairobi. We’ve talked about this!” Makena’s volume rose in anxiety and anger.
“Because they know about you!” Sam hissed back. “Because I love you and they know how often I jump to you and how long I stay. And if I didn’t extract you, they would. And they wouldn’t have believed that we weren’t in contact. I couldn’t … what they might do…”
“But I don’t want to run away from my life!”
“I don’t want to either. I don’t want you to have to. Just give this a month. We’re going to disembark in Mongolia and hide. We’ll find a place for you to write. I know someone. I can research. You can turn pages in on time. If they don’t find us, maybe then it will be safe to go back. But I don’t want you where I can’t jump you away from them if they find us.”
“I don’t understand. I thought you were just rescuing people.”
“I thought I was too. I thought I could help anyone…”
“What if you jumped to Anderson and stopped him?”
“What if they just promoted someone else? Or it created a power vacuum?”
“What gives him the right!”
“What gave me the right to jump around the world and help all these people escape? Power. Power makes him and the people he works for think they know best. Power made me think I knew what I was doing. Now? Did different people get hurt after I left? I want to help people, and I’m still afraid of the unknown effects. On me and the places I visited.
“I’m afraid. Just because I didn’t experience any limits to my abilities, doesn’t mean there weren’t any. I won’t be an experiment, and the jumping made it so easy to see you, and for us to see everything we ever dreamed of. And then to help people. I never slowed down to think about it like a researcher. I mean I started to run some tests, but… Makena, what have I done?”