When Dan became conscious again, he was sitting in a steel chair, not very comfortable, and surrounded by mirror images of himself stretching into infinity. He was dressed in a white uniform of the Academy, with a big bandage on his forehead, and scrapes on his face. The sight was the same wherever he turned, such that he started to become nauseous and had to close his eyes. The room was a cube of six glass mirrors, and save for a ceiling light and the chair Dan sat in, nothing else was in the room.
After about a half hour sitting like this, eyes closed, nauseous, and racking his brains of all that he had been through, Dan was at a loss to explain his present state of affairs. He was thinking to himself how real it all was, the mountain cave, his father, the ship and Marie. And, though it still felt real to Dan’s memory, the memory of Marie on the mountain in bondage and beat up dashed all the previous recollections to pieces. He was now awake, and ready to face reality, whatever it was.
The truth was, Dan hadn’t a clue who his parents were, or why he was raised from memory out of mind in that ghostly white orphanage, that he wasn’t special in any remarkable way, and wouldn’t be called upon, so he believed, to be some captain of a spaceship or general in an army of rebels. True, he was more intelligent than average, which earned him a place at the Academy, but then again such wasn’t so prestigious as Johnny might imagine. Rather mundane now that Dan thought on it. In fact, Dan continued to reason, the world was rather mundane, without much to strike up even a spark of interest, let alone wonder. No wonder the Dome wanted to remake the world in its own image: the Dome had better and more interesting ideas, when a mere kid of sixteen could dream up more interesting things than what was experienced from day to day. Why, better to trash the old and bring in the new…
Just then a crack in the mirror opened up widely into a door frame and a tall, broad man, in an all black uniform, with sandy-grey hair combed back, holding a black cap with a double SS and I bar insignia, walked through. Dan’s heart began to audibly palpitate.
“Goodman, I presume? Cadet Daniel Goodman?” said the man, in a gravelly voice. Dan was trying to suppress his anxiety. What should he say? “Yes, of course I am! We met only a day or two ago!” Dan thought, but then realized, or remembered, that was all a dream. Yet here stood before him a man exactly like the man he never met from his dream, from whom he fled for his life. “I say, your name is Daniel Goodman, correct?” inquired the man again, patiently, though with a note of a little irritation.
“Ya, yea, I mean yes, sir. My name is Cadet Daniel Goodman,” Dan responded, not a little shaky. The man stood directly in front of Dan who was seated still in the steel chair.
“You are being detained here to answer some questions, that’s all. You are not in trouble. Do not worry. We have been tracking the movements of a dangerous intelligence agent of the enemy, one whose alias is Marie, though the Dome in Central City Command have known her by another name, Agent 546, codename, Jara. She’s been operating here for about a week or so, so we’ve been able to gather. Thank the Lights she’s in custody now,” the man said, but at the word “Lights” Dan’s eyes shot up and stared directly into the speaker’s eyes, which were seemingly avoiding his, since the man was looking all around the small, cubical room as he talked, without looking at Dan. “Jara, or Marie as she’s known to call herself around here, has been, oh, how shall we put it, unpersuaded by our form of persuasion thus far, and has not told us why she contacted you, or what she has already told you, or what she intended with you at all,” said the man, still aimlessly looking around the mirrored room, avoiding Dan.
Dan’s head was set to explode like a bomb but for the nick of time interruption at the cracking again of the mirrored room wall.
“Sir?” said a man at the door.
“Can’t you see I’m with the witness!” shot back Dan’s interrogator.
“Sir, it’s important. She’s gone,” said the voice, trembling.
“Gone! You! She’s gone! A geeky little girl gone!” growled the man turning toward the door as if to leave, but looked back at Dan for a split second to say, “I’ll be right back,” and as he did so, Dan observed his eyes closely. Black as charcoal, then stepped out rapidly and closed the glass door behind him.
“Rutherford!” Dan thought, “I’d know those eyes anywhere! But that’s impossible! I was dreaming! All of it was a dream!” Dan continued in this state of utter perplexity for well over ten minutes, turning over in his mind all the possible, reasonable causes for why this man straight out of his dream could be interrogating him now, just as he was in his dream. “Either I’m still dreaming or I never was,” reasoned Dan, though not very convinced of his own logic.
Just then the man with the gravelly voice entered, observably agitated. “My apologies, Cadet Goodman, my apologies. It seems Agent 546 has disappeared. She’s managed to put three guards in critical condition, and has damaged or destroyed a considerable amount of Dome property in the process. I did say she was dangerous,” said the man, cold and matter-of-fact.
As Dan was pondering these things, the man looked down now intently at Dan, his eyes now a shade or two unnaturally dark brown, but not black like before. Did Dan merely imagine they were black?
“So, Goodman. Do you have any information for us? What was she doing with you? Where was she taking you? Do you know where her hideout is here in Metro City? We need answers, Dan, for the good of the Dome. Jara must be stopped!” said the man, who was still looking directly at Dan. “I’m not sure, sir. My head is still swimming from my own injury, and I am not sure I would make for a very helpful witness,” Dan said, not untruthfully.
“Confound it all, man! I want answers! Where is your friend, Marie!” the man shouted down at Dan. Now Dan knew he had seen the true color of his eyes, for they were now again flaming charcoal black! Dan knew what he had to do, too.
In one fell swift motion, Dan did several things seemingly at once: as he bounded up on his toes, he swung the chair he’d been sitting back in round about his body and rammed the legs of it directly into the black eyed-man’s temple, sending him to the floor with a crash, then Dan swung the steel chair again behind him and let it fly into the mirror, shattering the whole wall into a hundred thousand shards of glass. Seizing his chance, he leaped over the ruin and sprinted through a much darker room to where a door was on the other side of the room. As he did so, he heard computer clicking and little lights blinking all around, and instruments of some kind aimed at where the wall had been only a second before. Passing through the door, he recognized where he was: the Academy! He was in some room he’d never been, in some section of the cubical building he didn’t even know existed.
As he sprinted down one hall and up another, he tried to find a familiar part of the building from which to escape. Dan saw no more doors or windows as he ran, but blank, ugly grey walls with short ceilings but brightly lit to increase the stupefying effect of the colorlessness and lifelessness of the place. “What am I doing,” Dan thought to himself as he ran, “I just assaulted an official of the Dome and broke Academy property myself. Now I’m a criminal!” But these thoughts didn’t last long, as Dan now spotted around a grey corner, the familiar sights of the Academy lobby with the vaulted ceiling and all-glass facade. “No one knows who I am or where I am coming from,” Dan thought to himself, so he quickly slackened his pace to avoid suspicion, and casually turned the corner to make his way out of the Dome Academy cubical building.
Doing so, he made his way straight up to the ten foot doors that led outside and to his freedom, when from behind he heard fast footfalls and shouts, “Stop him! Fugitive! Stop him!” Dan didn’t stop to turn around, but shot through the doors like a thunderbolt into a storm-laden sky and sheets of rain falling down. Looking about himself for a moment, he pondered his next move. Hearing a railcar overhead whiz past, he knew what he had to do. Sprinting into an alley to evade detection and capture, Dan then hunkered down to see which way his pursuers would try. After a minute or so he heard a guard say to another, “Did you see him? Which way now?” And the other, “No. I don’t know. Let’s double back. Maybe he stole into those apartments there.”
Dan could rest at least for a second and catch his breath, then he was off to the closest railcar platform, and in search of a business directory to look up all the antique shops in Metro city.
Riding along in the railcar Dan was scrolling through a directory he picked up at a platform kiosk, feeling uneasy to say the least. All his actions thus far rested on being taken in by a strange girl he really knew nothing about, who led him on a chase to a mountain to gather with fellow co-conspirators against the Dome, an organization with worldwide doctrinal and juridical dominion, only to be captured by officials of said organization, and, after being civilly treated, assault her hosts, smash out of her confinement, inspire him to do the same, and, once again, enter onto the chase. “Now,” Dan continued to think as he scrolled, “I’m suppose to know where she is based on a dream I had while getting knocked out following her! I must be mad or in love.”
“Wait! This is it! Bygone Years Boutique. The store front window, the long counter, everything! This is it!” Dan said aloud to himself, making a few passengers in the railcar with him look over. Dan took no notice. He was busy putting to memory the address of the shop, as Metro City flew by outside in streaks of light with trails of horizontal rain streaming along his railcar window. “Third to last stop on the West Red line. I have to make a switch next,” he thought to himself.
Hearing the familiar chime for the platform stop ahead, Dan arose and headed down the aisle to exit, not turning to see the faces of any passengers. Had he, he would have noticed a very familiar face indeed, that of the young man, John Smith, a fellow resident of the orphanage, who arose with Dan, and exited just behind, though at a distance.
After depositing one of the electronic directories back in a kiosk, Dan made the switch onto the West Red Line, and had seated himself again in a railcar, and closed his eyes. The shop was several stops away, and he needed the rest from the stress of it all. The warm seat, coupled with the rhythms of rainfall and railcar whistling and chimes all conspired against Dan’s fortitude and vigilance, and he fell into a dreamless doze.
Dan was awoken by a hand gently nudging him and a voice saying softly, “Young sir, sir, end of the line, sir.” Dan opened his eyes and looked up at a roundly featured elderly gentleman in a conductor’s uniform, standing beside him in the aisle. He looked at the window and saw he was in a foreign part of Metro City.
“End of the line, sir?” Dan asked, rubbing sleepiness from his eyes.
“Why, yes sir, the end of the line, sir,” said the old man with a knowing gleam in his eye. As Dan arose to depart the empty railcar, he turned back at the sound of the conductor’s voice, “These aren’t the safest of parts of Metro, sir. Watch your back,” and then stepped out onto the wet platform, shining in the evening sunlight that started to gleam through a broken sky.
Dan could see from his elevated position well over most of the buildings and the streets and sidewalks below, and into the distance toward the westward mountain range. As he walked along, it slowly dawned on him that he had clean forgotten the address to the boutique, his slumber supposedly wiping his short term memory clean of it. “No worries,” Dan thought, “I’ll consult another up here at one of these kiosks,” and proceeded there. As he did so, a strange, uneasy feeling came over him, deep from within, and terminating in tingling feelings all down the back of his neck. The sensation stirred him to stop and to turn his head quickly and look behind himself. Just an empty, slick platform, with a railcar speeding back down the East Red Line. “Nothing,” he said aloud. “Just some feeling brought on by that man’s warning, perhaps. Watch your back, yea, I will down there. Nothing to worry about up here,” and proceeded to walk in this confident vain across the platform.
The air was a cool and comfortable and refreshing evening air, as was normal for rainstorms in the desert, not the hot and humid air of other climes. Dan was sauntering toward the kiosk, quite enjoying himself now and the lovely turn of weather, when his pace slowed to a stand still and stood motionless, staring like a frightened deer in headlights at the media monitors mounted to the wall of the information kiosk. Dan was looking straight at his own face being displayed on four different screens at once, with the following caption in big, bold red letters over a strip of yellow background.
Wanted for Reward: Cadet Daniel Goodman, Fugitive of Dome Authorities, Dangerous, Mentally Unsound, Use Cation.
Dan tried to swallow but found he couldn’t. His eyes darted from the screens to anyone around. Luckily, no one was on the platform or around the kiosk to notice the public announcement or see him. He did not stop to grab a directory tablet. Now with a brisk pace, Dan made his way to the elevator to ground level, and, upon entering it, he looked out just at the last second to see Johnny’s face turn round the corner toward him.
“Johnny! What in the world is he doing clear out here, and at this hour of the evening?” Dan thought to himself, as the elevator made its decent, then stopped and opened its doors for him to exit out onto the city sidewalk. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw that the doors closed and the elevator returned up to the platform. “Johnny’s getting on the elevator!” Thinking now to himself that Johnny may be following him to turn him in for the reward, he quickened his pace down the street. “This won’t do,” he thought to himself, seeing he was in a main thoroughfare, with passersby and sidewalk traffic everywhere. The evening was busy bustling now at outdoor cafés, with people laughing and chatting over their drinks and meals. And, though no one seemed to notice Dan walking briskly by, he did not want to take any chances. Nor was he too keen on being seen by Johnny.
He sharply turned down a side alley, not well-lit by the street lights. As he walked down the dark alley, steam emitted from just over head from a bright vent duct, which caught the warm glow of the lights behind. Passing under the vaporous discharge, Dan saw dumpsters lined up down either side of the increasingly narrow alley, and every now and again a clerk would carry out a load of garbage and hurled it into one with a thud and and a slam. Dan did not care for the startling noise, which made him jump after the first few times, and soon he became indifferent to the noise. His body was with his mind back in the past several hours trying to account for what was happening to him. Where was he going now? And how could he get there anyway with his face being broadcasted over all of Metro City! He was a fugitive with a bounty on his head.
“Psst! Psst!” came a small mouse-like voice, which Dan didn’t even look up to notice who it was.
“Beg from someone else. I’m as broke as you,” Dan said, still not looking in the direction of the call.
“Jelly brains!” came the voice again. Dan’s head popped up and turned toward the familiar voice.
“Marie!” There she was, wrapped in a dingy white apron, holding a bag of garbage in front of her, and standing at the backdoor of some pizza parlor.
“Get in here before the whole city sees you!” she commanded, and tossed the garbage into the dumpster with a thud, and motioned Dan to follow her into the building. She led Dan into the pizzeria’s backroom, where a little table and chairs were, along with shelving stocked with jars of banana peppers, artichokes, and other condiments, and big cans of tomato sauce piled one on top of another to the ceiling. Marie sat herself down at the little table with the checkered red and white tablecloth, and motioned Dan to do likewise. “Good thing I spotted you on my break,” Marie said, taking a sip of some dark soda from a transparent red cup.
Dan could hear sounds of kitchen work just beyond in the other room, and beyond that the sound of lobby music playing out over the din of diners eating and laughing and chatting. “Your break? What, you work here? I thought you were captured and just broke out, and put Academy guards in critical condition! Marie, my head hurts. I can’t keep up with all this. It is just overwhelming.”
“I just swiped this gig tonight. You’ve heard of the night-hire programs, where businesses open their doors to the homeless for a meal for an hour or two of work, right? It’s how the city feeds them. It isn’t that hard to believe or understand Dan,” Marie said, and got up.
“Wait, where are you going?” Dan asked, standing up, too.
“Sit down, Dan. I thought you could use a drink, too. What’ll it be, Mountain Mist or a cold Cola?” Marie asked with a smile which eased Dan’s heart, though offered little to settle his mind.
“What you’re having’s fine, thank you,” Dan said, and sat back down. As Dan sat there waiting for Marie’s return, thoughts about his dream came back, and he tried to make sense of the images and places and things. The antique shop, the light weapons, the spaceship, all of it, and these memories and images harshly clashed with the mundane, almost tired and homely surroundings he found himself presently reposing in. A pizza shop with greasy walls and a sticky floor. The clash would have made him chuckle but for the dread fact of the bounty on his head.
“How long does it take to grab a fountain soda,” Dan said quietly to himself. Then, an uneasy feeling started to settle again on his head and heart. “Was Marie who she said she was? Or does she mean me harm, too?” Dan thought to himself, squirming a little in his chair. “Of all the places I could have been in the whole City, multiplied by all the moments, how could she have spotted me there in that alley, unless she knew I would be coming down it, and just at that time! This is ridiculous! She knows more than she…” Just then Marie returned with a fizzing soda in one hand and a sizzling hot pepperoni and cheese pizza, with yellow banana peppers in the other.
“Signed you up for work, too, for dinner. Hope you don’t mind banana peppers. I love ‘em,” and put the pizza on the table and drink at Dan’s elbow. Dan didn’t notice.
“How did you know, Marie. Tell me. How?” Dan’s voice was grave and sincere, which made Marie sit down and look intently upon him.
“I’ve always known you, Dan,” Marie said, with a soft light in her eye unmistakably affectionate.
“What do you mean you’ve always known me? We’ve only known each other a few days.”
“You mean, you’ve only known me a few days, Dan. I knew you before I met you on that railcar that morning,” Marie said, and motioned to touch Dan’s hand, but he pulled it away.
“Before then? How? I don’t remember you! Who are you anyway? And how do you know where I am at any moment? What’s going on, Marie!”
“When you cross over, Dan, you lose a part of yourself. It can’t be helped. That’s why it has been tradition to cross over in twos. This won’t be easy for you to understand or believe, but please, do try, dear,” Marie said, the sound of her voice, smooth and intimate.
“Understand or believe what, Marie?”
“For starters, Dan, I’m your wife,” Marie said, with a note of sadness in her voice that pierced Dan’s heart.
“My wife? What are you talking about! I’m a sixteen year old boy? I’m an orphan. Thanks to you, I’m a fugitive with a bounty! I’m no husband!” Dan said, starting to visibly shake and made motion to stand.
“Wait, Daniel. I have proof. You don’t believe me. How could you? Go to the Guides on the mountainside. They will explain me and our mission here. But our mission is more important than us and our marriage. You have world-crossing amnesia, a rather hard case, too. I retained enough knowledge of the Guides to revitalize my memory by them. I was taking you to them to do the same, and to gather with other operatives in the secret cave near there to receive further orders, but we were found and captured first.” Dan sat back down while Marie spoke, his shakes starting to subside. She went on, “When we first met, I said yes, not because you were handsome and charming, not because you were caring and warm, or strong and gentle at the same time. You were all these, yes, but mostly because you said you couldn’t see yourself growing old with anyone else,” Marie said, now with tears welling up in her powder blue eyes. Her beautifully dark, flowing hair was pent-up, imprisoned in a tightly wound knot, like her heart.
These words, along with the soft voice and earnest nature of Marie’s countenance and demeanor, began to have an effect on Dan, and, though his memory was silent on the matter, his heart seemed to answer Marie with tones as soft, I remember, I remember.
“Okay. I will go to these Guides, and see if what you say is true. But promise me this,” Dan said, looking across the table into Marie’s eyes, “Promise me you won’t leave me alone again. Promise me,” and as he did so, Marie held out her hand as if to summon his, and he reached out to hers.
“I won’t, Dan. I won’t,” and silently wept onto his hand.