Time to escape.
It was time to finally flee the Director’s clutches.
He’d brought me here from Earth, taking me through the back door in time and space, as he’d called it.
Back then, on Earth, I’d been normal. Average height, average looks, average job prospects. Average life. Nothing special.
I had a skill.
In this dimension, Earthlings like me with highly developed neural skills and with the correct devices could bend particles.
Sounds strange? Think magic, because that was essentially what it was.
For the past eight years, that bastard – the Director – had trapped me here working for him. We were in one of the largest city space stations in the quadrant. A whopping 3 billion ton floating chunk of metal permanently ported at an intersection of transport routes. The station was packed with every goods and service you could think of, from weaponry, to livestock, to rare foods, to, yeah, particle benders just like me.
The Director owned the station, though technically he only ran it under an official decree from the Universal Parliament. That wasn’t the point – the Director felt he owned everything he saw.
And it was finally time for me to flee.
“You’re running out of time,” I hissed to myself as I brought a hand up and placed it over my mouth, ensuring my breath couldn’t push out.
I was down on my knees, hands shaking as I drew the space cutter from one corner of my room to the other. A faint blue line escaped where the cutter met the soft, almost jellylike carpet.
As that blue line expanded, it set up a gate.
Once the spell was done – though nobody in this universe referred to the practice of particle bending as magic – it would form a gateway. One that would connect to a random galaxy somewhere, and some random planet within it. A habitable one, sure. But that was all I knew. For that was the only parameter I had given the spell. I couldn’t afford to give it an actual destination – do that, and the Director would be able to find me.
My hand shook as I delicately drew the cutter all the way across my office.
Ha, my office. Back on earth, I’d been a secretary working in a cubicle. I’d always dreamed of having my own frigging office. Well, the Director had given me my own space. It was generous. The room at the front was the reception area where I did most of my work for my clients – or at least, the Director’s hand-picked clients. The room at the back, which was separated by a smart, misted glass set of sliding screens is where I lived.
All my stuff was out there.
It was all piled in there, in fact.
Everything to the left of my spell would be taken with me. Including the room. From all the amenities, to the bed, to my cat, Ginger.
Everything to my right would remain.
Finally I drew the cutter right to the end of the room. It reached the wall, the specialized quantum tool letting out a buzz to let me know the gateway had been initialized.
The rest would be up to me.
Remaining on my knees, I pressed my fingers together, interlocking the two rings and two metal cuffs that permanently rested around my wrists and fingers and could not be removed, even by the best medical technology. As soon as the metal met, I focused my mind, pushing my mental energy into the task of warping space.
If there was one thing to be proud of, I was good at particle bending. One of the Director’s best, in fact. You see, he’d surveilled me on Earth for some time. He often went there hunting, as he called it. He’d found me, and he’d watched me, even taking samples and doing medical tests without my knowledge.
Then one day, he’d swooped in.
And the rest?
I still had no idea if my life back there existed. Hell, I still had no idea if the dimension I’d come from existed. I was only guessing that it was another dimension. It could have simply been another time zone.
The point was, I could only assume that my family and friends had moved on. I could only assume that the same amount of time had passed there as it had here – eight years. And by now, I would just be a distant memory.
But for me, I couldn’t push away the life I’d had stolen.
It filled me with determination now as I focused my mind until it felt like a knife.
A knife I sliced along the blue glowing line.
That was enough to set the spell in place.
I felt this hum fill the air.
The gate was set. It was calculating its last coordinate, choosing a random destination.
I had minutes.
I still hadn’t gathered everything from my office that I would need, so I whirled on the spot as the gate continued to make its calculations.
I grabbed anything within reach, throwing it to the other side of the room and over the gate line, always checking over my shoulder, always ensuring I couldn’t hear footsteps.
He’d be on his way. Presumably, with his skills, the Director would have realized something was up and one of his benders was casting a spell out of hours.
Hopefully he’d take his time, though. Hopefully he wouldn’t appreciate exactly what kind of spell I was casting and exactly which of his benders was casting it.
My office looked out onto a narrow walkway, beyond which were the rising rings of the central city. The station was that big that it had more than one city within it. The view out of the smart glass windows that lined the hallway was gloomier than usual. The same levels of the city had the same number of lights on as always, but that didn’t seem to matter. Everything felt darker as my body shook with fear.
“Come on,” I hissed once more, pivoting on my foot and throwing myself forward. I grabbed up a case of Orion flexible tools and hauled them over the demarcation in the room. The metal made a grating sound as it shifted over the soft ply carpet.
Instantly I stopped, back straightening until I thought it would punch out of the base of my skull. My hand slowly formed a fist, my nails grating into my palms as I waited for the pound of his footfall.
I… I thought I’d heard something. But it was still far off.
“This is it – I’m finally making a run for it. I’m finally going to be free,” I breathed.
I shifted around on my foot, checking my office. It was almost done.
Just before I could leave it behind and shift past into the gate shield, I spied something on my desk. A document I’d been working on. It was actual paper – salvaged from one of the old colony worlds.
Teetering close to the gate line, I shoved forward, heart banging around in my chest as I reached my desk, clutched up the paper, and paused by the door.
I could hear footfall. He was coming my way.
I jerked toward the gate line, my entire body shaking.
Just when I thought I wouldn’t make it, I pushed over the blue line flickering over the floor.
And that would be when my cat jumped down from his seat and wandered across the room to his water bowl by the door.
I tried to grab for him, but he was too quick.
I had nothing in this world. Ever since I’d been brought here by the Director, I’d been alone. That had changed when I’d spied a cat in one of the markets on the lower floors. Some disreputable trader had snatched it from a human colony.
I’d traded him a week’s worth of food credits for the cat, even though it meant I’d gone hungry.
And now that cat was the only thing that meant anything to me.
But the footfall was close. The Director was onto me.
He was just outside the door.
I thrust forward out of the safety of the gate spell.
I skidded to my knees, grabbed up Ginger in one hand, secured his water bowl in the other, and threw myself forward.
The Director was at the door. He thrust in. “Stop!” he bellowed. I could see his expression reflected off the glass dividers in my room.
I threw myself past them just as I watched his eyes boggle. Then he bent his fingers toward me.
I swore I felt gravity react – for gravity did react. The Director was easily the most powerful bender in the quadrant.
That didn’t matter. I was too close. I finally threw myself over the gate line, skidding to a stop with my cat in my lap, its claws indented into my knees.
I had time to stare at the Director, and he had time to lurch toward me.
“Initialize,” I spat.
The gate closed.
I was finally free.