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Authors: Thalia Kalkipsakis

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Split Infinity

BOOK: Split Infinity
11.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

To Porter

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.
Corrie Ten Boom
































the surface of now. Reality shimmers around me. I’m sucking in hard, head dropped back, when I tip and stumble forwards. I’ve been too long gone to catch myself, and the floor rises to meet me. The hard boards hit my shins and palms with a sharp
, but even the pain is sweet. I am back, and wild alive.

An empty room greets me: off-white walls with reverse clean shadows where our comscreen and photo pads used to hang. There’s no bed anymore and no armchairs. Not even the rugs remain in this room that Mum and I used to call home.

A series of alarms spark in my mind but I take it all in, hands against bare thighs. Mum knew that time skippers always return to the same location; she knew I was coming back here. She’d never move out.

Not unless she had to.

All that remains is the empty frame of the kitchenette and the potable tap reaching over a wide hole in the bench. The sensor has been removed, so I have no way to access water. My hand lifts to rub a fingertip along the scar at the back of my wrist: proof that I have a chip just like every citizen. Except my scar hides a chip that’s not mine.

My eyes track to the entrypad beside the door. It’s still there, at least. But I decide not to head out yet. Mum might have left a message, some clue about where she’s gone, so I peer inside the familiar cupboards, brushing my fingers over the dark spaces at the back. Maybe she wedged a slip of paper in some corner or scrawled some words out of sight.

Nothing. Maybe she packed up years ago.

Maybe the police were watching.

I’m not even sure how far forward I’ve jumped, whether I’ve made it to 2095 or not. For a moment I think of the darkness of the tunnel, where no time exists. The dream world where we have no form. My heart slows as I remember the moments when I lost my focus, forgot even who I was. But I force the fug away.

I’ve made it back. Now I have to find a way out of this room and to the cave at the park, stashed with everything I’ll need.

The police could still be watching, I remind myself. Until I work out what’s going on, I have to be careful. I turn towards the window, assessing my options. Judging from the sunlight against the glass, it must be late afternoon. Spring, perhaps, or maybe early summer. It’s not so cold, even though I’m naked. I think for a moment, and then pad towards the window. Flip the latch and try to lift it.

It doesn’t budge. I push harder and it rises with a jerk. Instead of clear space I find a strong-looking metal mesh covering the window. My muscles tense. The mesh wasn’t there when I jumped from 2084.

I take a breath and push back the panic. This doesn’t prove anything; the mesh could be from a past I’ve escaped. Maybe the police have given up and shut the file. That’s the whole reason I skipped this far.

There’s only one way to find out.

I cross to the door with fresh determination. They won’t stop me. I’ll find Mum, maybe even catch up with Kessa, or at least the twenty-four-year-old version of her. Weird. And sort of wonderful. The others would be due to return, too, as long as we all timed it right. Echo, her parents, Boc.

And Mason. Warmth flares in my chest and ripples outwards at the idea of seeing him again. I didn’t expect to see him for ten years, but I’ve caught up now. At least, I hope I have.

The sensor clicks in response to my swipe and the door jolts, but the pad replies with a double beep: no go.

Maybe my chip needs updating.

Or maybe the police programmed the door this way.

I have to stay calm, think straight. I try a manual override. The process comes to me easily, and as I punch the keys I can’t help wondering whether Alistair still lives in the room next door. He taught me everything I know about hacking and would be way old by now, but he was on top-level rations with medical support to match. He might still be around.

I finish the override, but the pad returns another double beep.

My arm drops as I turn to take in the room again.

Nope. I swivel back. The only way out is through this door; I have to work out how.
Use your brain, Scout
. If it’s been programmed not to open, there must be a way to re-program it. I’ll hack my way past the sensor lock.

I’m able to get into the back-level coding, at least, but finding their block for the unlocking segment is tricky. I’ve been searching for about five minutes when I hear a dull clunk from somewhere else in the house. The door jolts faintly in response to a change in air pressure.

My attention zeros in on the stomp of footsteps along the hall: more than one set, moving fast.

I’m backing away as the door slides open to reveal Federal Police in black fatigues, stun guns raised at me.

I gasp at their speed, at my fresh fear. After so many years, they’re still watching for me. I’ve been illegal all my life, but stealing the chip also makes me a crim.

At least I can buy some time. They might have me trapped but they still can’t catch me.

My fists clench, and I disappear.

Three days later I’m back, more clear about the time that passes with short jumps. Pretty sure, at least. Now that I’ve seen the empty room, I don’t want to skip more than a few days ahead.

My mind swirls with unanswered questions. What year is it? Why isn’t Mum living here? I need to see that she’s okay, work out what’s going on. Maybe I haven’t managed to skip ahead the full ten years. Or maybe I’ve been gone even longer.

I land solidly on two feet this time, ready and alert. Breathing hard. They’ll be watching again. My guess is there’s an alert set to register my chip the minute I come back. But unless they camp outside the door, they’ll need time to respond. Judging from last time, about fifteen minutes.

A swirl of wind rattles against the window. It’s cooler today. I’m at the door and ready to try for a manual override but my first tap is greeted with silence. Not even a double beep.

I close my eyes.
. Swallow, and try again.

Desperately I punch at the pad, faster and harder until I’m randomly tapping everything and nothing. None of the sequences has any effect. The sensor’s not just locked – this thing’s disabled.

A flash of frustration, and I rest my forehead against the pad.
Think, Scout. Think

I need to find Mum, make sure she’s okay, but I can’t get out of this stupid room.

My eyes drop to the scar on the back of my wrist, hating the chip right now. It’s the reason I was caught before I jumped. And it’s the reason they know I’m back now. Each time I jump they see me disappear on the grid, and the exact moment of my return is visible as well. It’s the chip that’s giving me away.

I push my thumb hard against back of my wrist.

It makes no sense, what I’m thinking about doing. Growing up without a chip I was just a nobody from nowhere, with no rights, no life. I hesitate, but the longer I think, the more sure I become. As long as the chip is in my wrist, I have no chance to get out. No way to reach Mum. Decision made.

Okay. Game on.

It’s early morning when I return the next day, 5am or maybe 6. Pale light from the window makes it easy enough to see. My eyes adjust in seconds.

The potable tap is as good as dead with no sensor to turn it on, but I’m not planning to drink. The top lever unscrews easily before I start on the metal cover. It’s the spout that I’m after. Not even sure what I’m unscrewing, I just keep going until a bunch of different parts lie scattered on the bench.

It’s an old spout, some sort of metal. I test its weight in one hand. It should be enough.

The window’s old-style, as well. I start about three paces away, arm reaching back before I throw the spout at the pane with all I have. It clunks to the floor, leaving a chink in the glass.

Another throw, harder this time.

It clunks to the floor again. Same result.

If Alistair were still living in the next room, he would have heard me in here, might even have heard the Feds a few days ago. I listen in to the early chirps of dawn, but no other sounds reach me. No stomping along the hall. Yet.

BOOK: Split Infinity
11.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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