In this Twilight

The FBI field office in Miramar was planning on moving. The FBI-UIU office in Miami waited quietly. There was no chaos but a sense of confusion as cases were put on hold, possibly indefinitely, and personnel packed up in preparation. Everyone Fatima Cortes talked to had the same detached mood about them and the same clipped tone when speaking about events. She'd been debriefed and had filed her report on what had happened to her on the Metro Rail. That was the last time anyone in the office had spoken about it. The rest of the time she either sat in the office or went around asking about Rhiannon Locke to whomever would stop and listen to her over the substantially increased noise of traffic and the steady stream of police helicopters hanging low and heading southwest every quarter hour. None of them seemed to ever come back.

She roamed through Downtown, Overtown, Bayside, the Port of Miami, parts of Wynwood, Brickell and Brickell Key, begging for any sort of information on Rhiannon Locke or her cult. No one in the office questioned her about it anymore. It gave her something to do while waiting for anything new to happen.

News stations were divided between reporting on organized riots erupting along the Southeast coast — variously blaming liberals, immigrants, socialists, the Chinese — and the ongoing evacuations on the west coast and the increasingly absurd measures being taken to combat a massive moving cloud of disease and death that had wiped out nearly a billion people in less than five months.

News of a potential vaccine helped smother most of the riot coverage. The Foundation's involvement smothered the rest by bringing out the crackpots and conspiracy theorists who had gone around for decades with vague innuendo of supernatural "anomalies" and a shady multi-national scientific organization keeping it all secret. The heightened crisis meant some Foundation assets were getting sloppy and just enough new and not-so vague innuendo started to leak that now the crackpots and conspiracy theorists were being brought on to national news networks to give their "side" of the story.

Painfully little was known about Anabasis itself so stories of neck-snapping statues, monsters in comically elaborate containment chambers, scary video tapes, and homicidal teddy bears dominated most of the conspiracy discussions. Only the increasing realization of an increasingly unstoppable world-wide apocalypse and the increasing absurdity of these "SCiPs" kept the discussions from going beyond internet noise and light-hearted, condescending cable news fluff pieces to leaven the impending end of all things to come.

Fats had no way of knowing what, if any of what they said was true. The UIU jumped at any chance to work with the Foundation. It meant a new flood of data collecting not just on anomalous incidents but on the Foundation itself. The only thing she'd seen on the news that she'd heard about beforehand was the statue. The leaks probably would have concerned her if not for the noise of low-flying helicopters zooming past every fifteen minutes and the sound of thunder coming from out west on largely cloud-free days. It ceased to be a concern for her altogether when she came to work one day and found the office empty and the lights all turned out. A few other agents trickled in but nothing close to the full staff. She left her office door open when she left, and found it open the next day as well.

She crept over to Velez's office and peered in. He was staring out the window.

"Did anyone else come in today?" She asked.

"No. I don't know." He sounded panicked. His voice was strained.

"No? Or you don't know?"

"I don't know."

"What do you know?"

"Uh, hm. They left." He turned to face her, arms crossed. He had such a pleasant and commanding presence when behind his desk. Affable and charismatic. When he stood like he was now, slouched and drawn in, he looked small and frail. He was barely her height, she realized.

"Everyone else did?"

"The bosses, the people up in Miramar, they all left. I tried calling every in— everyone in Miramar, UIU and normal agencies. They're jus— They're all gone. They must have left."

She left him there and went to barge into the boss's office. Not only was it empty but it had been stripped clean of everything but the furniture. Every other office she checked, aside from a handful, were barren. Casefiles had been packed up and taken away. No one had bothered to tell her or Velez or the dozen others who'd skipped work that day but left their desks untouched. Yet somehow enough of them knew to evacuate without an announcement, an e-mail, even a phone call.

She went back into Velez's office. He was standing by the window again, looking outside.

"Pack up your casefiles and let's move."

"No," He said, his voice quavering even harder, "Look!"

She glanced out the window. One of the police helicopters was veering dangerously close to an office building. People were screaming down below. Another helicopter was coming straight for it. Someone was leaning heavily out of the side and holding an assault rifle. They started firing on the other helicopter, which tried to move out from between two office buildings and lure the other one out of the area.

The second helicopter lurched straight for the first one and the two narrowly missed one another. Gunfire kept ringing out. The first helicopter started to lean hard to its left. It began moving away from Downtown, out to the bay to avoid collateral damage. The other helicopter followed, the gunman firing wildly.

"Pack up your casefiles and get out of here." Fats said once the fight moved away. She didn't wait on him and went straight to her office to pack.

Dr. Marlowe's days were getting longer and louder. School had been cancelled for the foreseeable future and some of the students had fled north with their families. People were now starting to crowd around the school each day loudly demanding answers to a myriad of questions. Some of the younger men were screaming about SCiPs and lizards while the older, predominantly Hispanic people were asking about Anabasis, the Red Death Cloud, and the vaccine. All pretenses of the Foundation's hidden presence at the school were gone. Foundation agents with the distinctive logo were out in the open with local police keeping people back from the school entrance. Someone fired shots in the air two days ago and everyone panicked and fled. The next day they were all back, just as many and just as loud.

Dr. Kohn stepped into her office with Dr. Horner. Marlowe sat up straight with dread.

"You didn't do anything this time." Horner said in that malevolently deadpan way that made it impossible to tell if and when he was joking. He was a big man with thick eyebrows and a military look to him. His whole expression was constantly one of profound disinterest that never managed to put anyone at ease no matter what he had to say.

"How are the talks going?" Marlowe asked, scooting her chair up and motioning for them to sit in the chairs across from her.

"Good," Kohn said nonchalantly, "Maybe. Militants have agreed not to fire on Foundation personnel as long as personnel aren't armed or seen conversing with WestCiv types. Everyone's aware of us so there's no pressing need for subtlety."

Marlowe furrowed her brow, "Unarmed? We can't do that."

"Yeah we can."

"But…" She looked back over her desk and sighed, "How long before they take over?"

Kohn shrugged, "As far as we're concerned they've already taken over. Until we start seeing guajiros with AKs in front of the school building? Later tonight. Maybe tomorrow night. They aren't being real specific with gringos."

"Are they expecting a fight?"

Kohn shrugged again. He was about to answer when Horner butt in, "The fight is already here. WestCivs have broken and scattered, they were never really a big presence down here, but they've got a hell of a lot more clout up in north Broward and down in the Keys. There's a reserve air base down in Homestead that's fallen to the rebels but we haven't heard of them using any of the planes there yet. The National Guard is rallying at Fort Lauderdale 30 miles away waiting on the WestCivvies to mass up with them. From there, they'll start attacking in a sweeping motion, going southeast, then southwest. The strongest pockets of resistance are gonna be out west so depending on how hard they hit the Cubans we don't know whether they'll end up hitting us from the northeast or the northwest. If resistance is significant they'll get the Army involved but for now they don't want to risk mass civilian casualties from air strikes and long range artillery."

Without a map to help her, the talk of troop movements and sweeps and pockets was wasted on Marlowe. The emphasis Horner placed on it made it seem like it should be something she was on top of. Locke was right; Marlowe needed to be more involved with things outside of research and studying. She was the Site Director and this was her site and it was going to be the site of urban warfare very soon.

"Which situation is worse? Northeast or northwest?"

Horner raised a brow. Was that the slightest hint of surprise on his face? Was he actually mildly impressed with her question? "If they come from the northeast, it'll hit us the worst. Their current strategy heading southeast is to shock the militants out of hiding and scatter them. The southwest sweep is to kill as many of them out in the open as they can. It'll be like smearing shit on a windshield and wiping it back and forth with the wiper, only the east-west swipes will be harder."

"Be like a hurricane forecast," Kohn butt in, "So start locking down the site. Get everything together and secured. Make sure Anabasis has everything it needs."

"Are we going to use it or not?"

Kohn shrugged again. He'd been suspiciously calm and unfazed throughout the entire conversation and it was starting to unnerve Marlowe, "Maybe. Only thing for certain is the WestCivvies are going to be out in front, and you know how those fascists are. Don't let any of them in until the National Guard arrives."

"You mean shoot them?"

Kohn smirked slightly, "That's a thought, isn't it? The Hispanic militants don't want to see any guns out in the street, so it'd make sense to keep them all someplace safe."

"You ever been in a firefight, Jaime?" Horner asked suddenly.

Marlowe blinked rapidly up at him. He'd never called her by her first name, nor asked her something quite so unusual before. "No."

He didn't respond, just nodded and turned to leave, Kohn following after him.

"Wait," She called out to them at the door, "What about civilians?"

"What do you mean?" Kohn asked, as if the sound of them outside the building weren't threatening to drown out his voice with the door open.

"Once the fighting starts they're going to start coming here looking for shelter. They also know about the vaccine work and the testing going on in here."

Kohn casually looked away, hands in his pockets and a placid smirk on his face as he thought for a moment. Then he said, "Let them in. Hope that more than a few can handle a gun."

Then Horner did something Marlowe had never seen him do. He let out a sharp, staccato laugh, "Ho, ho, Jesus!" Then he and Kohn were out the door.

All the doctors checking up on Locke each day described her recovery as miraculous. The bacteria had burned out fighting with her immune system and the last of them began to die off almost as quickly as her immune system had been killing them.

After each checkup she had to force herself to stand upright while her legs went numb and the pain in her guts sent acid shooting up her throat. Feeling returned to her legs soon afterwards, accompanied by a deep and penetrating ache in her knees that made her throw up if she bent them or put any sort of pressure on them. Then she'd throw up again if she straightened them out or rested them on a bed.

Aurianne suffered worse. It was another week before she could be released. They wanted her to use a wheelchair but she refused. Her stomach was much stronger than Locke's, but it was clear she was heaving at the slightest pressure in her knees. Her face was blotchy and red, with blood vessels burst in her cheeks. She looked as if she was bathing in rubbing alcohol.

"Tell me more about your coma dream." Aurianne said. She lay sprawled out on the couch in Locke's house, legs kept straight to keep from aching.

"I just told you the whole thing, that was it. You want me to explain everything again?"

"I mean, yeah, that would be interesting. But I'm more fixated on the parts about you," She sat upright as best she could, gripping the armrest of the couch to keep herself steady, "You think you're not from this world? That maybe you came with the Anabasis from another one?"


"What put the idea in your head, then?"

"I don't know." Locke said honestly. Seconds after speaking, thoughts flooded into her head that seemed to make it a lie, "I just think of certain things that seem a bit weird when put together with that. I have no memory of any part of my life before I was six. I remember one time when I was eight or nine and I was leaning against a fence looking out over the ocean. My mom shouted something like 'Don't let it happen again' and then Rhiannon pulled me back from the fence."


"And what?"

"So speculate! Go fucking crazy. Don't leave me lingering in silence trying to figure out what it is! Give me some ideas, entertain me."

Locke shrugged and shook her head. A quick rush of nervous excitement went through her, then faded. Any other time and she would've shouted, gotten angry and defensive about her psychoanalyzing herself for the amusement of others. The momentary rush was an interesting reminder of how she used to be, but she quickly went back to feeling nothing at all.

"I have no ideas. No theories."

"You want me to come up with some for you?" Aurianne started to perk up more, "Maybe you, the You from this universe, drowned, and then somehow your parents got ahold of the Anabasis or someone using it and they abducted You, originally from another universe, to replace the You from this universe. Maybe Rhiannon was with the other you when she drowned and felt guilty about it, so she spent her whole life looking after the You-you to make up for it. Or, maybe, they were refugees from another universe, and they like, replaced the original versions of your family, but you were already here so technically you weren't the same as them."

Locke shook her head again, "I honestly don't even care. It doesn't matter. None of this matters."

"I feel like it does. It should. You should tell Marlowe about your dream. There's definitely some kind of connection with it, between you and the Anabasis."

"No there isn't."

Aurianne turned herself around and sat upright with her back against the couch cushion and her legs sprawled over the coffee table. She patted the cushion beside her for Locke to sit down, "There is. There has to be. You were the first one to figure out how it worked."

Locke didn't sit, "I don't— I didn't know how it worked. I still don't."

"What do you mean you don't?"

"I mean I don't know how any of it works! I… You turn the dials and they extend to some kind of thing. Space, area, perimeter, whatever geometry. It's a fucking hassle just to get the lines to straighten out into a cube so we don't cut off our fingers or toes. Then it… what? Teleports? Cuts a hole through time and space? Does it create copies of us in the new world or does it replace them with us? One of the scientists said it 'merged' universes into one, but only temporarily, and it had to be 'finalized' somehow? Otherwise it would snap back and send us back to where we started?"

"See, I didn't know any of that stuff."

Locke tensed up and felt another rush of anger, "Because you don't listen!" She shrieked unexpectedly at her.

Aurianne went quiet and Locke immediately felt sorry. She sat down on the couch beside her and closed her eyes.

"What's downstairs?" Aurianne said suddenly in an ominous voice.

"The first floor. The first floor? Just… stuff. Old furniture, my parents' stuff put away in boxes, documents, that sort of thing. Storage."

Aurianne glanced sidelong at Locke, "Are you there? Is your body there?"

Locke felt suddenly uncomfortable. Acid rose in her throat and she felt her hands get cold and clammy, "There aren't any bodies down there. It's just stuff. Maybe some dead rodents or lizards. A ton of mold and mildew."

"In your dream. You thought there were bodies there. When was the last time you were down there?"

She shook her head, "By myself? Like when I was five or six…"

Aurianne jerked, "You just said you have no memory of anything before you were six."

Locke huffed and suddenly got up to her feet, "Let's go down there and look."

Aurianne shook her head, "No. I'm not going down there. And you—" She started to cough and retch, "And you shouldn't either. Not without like a hazmat suit. It's got a ton of mold and mildew!"

Locke turned and went out the door, Aurianne shouting after her. She made her way down the steps, grunting as pain shot through her legs and acid churned in her throat again. She fished her keys out of her coat pocket and opened the door to the first floor of the duplex and stepped inside.

Her foot immediately crunched on an empty box filled with something fragile. Another few steps and she was holding her hands out, hesitantly pressing against the piled up boxes and stacked furniture to keep from slipping and falling. All the windows were covered with hurricane blinders except for one in one of the bathrooms carved into the stone wall and covered with a thin mesh. Most of the lights worked but junk and debris piled up to the ceiling blotted out some of them. Desiccated worms coiled up in every corner and a thick layer of dust had built up behind some of the boxes almost as white as snow. Most of the living space in the residence wasn't actually occupied by junk but hidden behind it. Once she got past the entryway she could actually move around and hold her arms out without knocking anything over.

The room to her right was dark and had two sagging mattresses propped up near the doorway, partly blocking entry. A river of books and papers poured out from somewhere in the room and seeped out into the hall. To her left were the two bedrooms and a second bathroom. One of the bedrooms was locked. She moved into the hall to her left and peered into the unlocked room. A cracked bedframe was propped against the wall and open boxes piled at the foot of it. She felt along the wall for the switch and the room lit up. Nothing but dust and mold along the ceiling and tracing around the blocked window. The boxes looked to be full of comic books. She didn't want to get any closer to find out and moved over to the next room.

The bathroom had completely fallen apart. Tiles looked to be broken off from the floor and the toilet had been completely destroyed. Shards were chipped away as though someone had come in specifically to loot porcelain. A jagged outline was all that remained while mud and garbage was stuffed into the pipe. The bathtub had holes broken into it and eyes reflected back at her as she turned on the last remaining lightbulb of the four that emerged from over the mirror. Whatever creature it was began scratching wildly as it bolted for its hideout deeper into the foundation of the house.

Throughout it all, Locke realized, the place smelled fine. Wet, humid, dank, but not overwhelmingly so. Most of the residence was shielded from the worst of the elements. The longer she gazed down the hall to the living room and the entryway, the more she relaxed. It was nowhere near the fetid, swamp-like crypt she'd dreamed it to be. It was just an abandoned part of a house. Neglected and irrelevant. A home for dust mites and ants and vermin and nothing else.

She looked back again at the doorknob of the locked bedroom. It had a keyhole which had been worn down to a flattened rectangle. She tried pressing some of her keys in. None fit. She realized then the door was hollow and the wood along the doorway was rotted. She leaned against the door and pressed with her shoulder. Eventually something near the lock snapped and the door loudly skid along the floor, getting knocked back about an inch or two before hitting something on the other side.

She stepped back from the door and pressed up against the opposing wall, squeezing her eyes shut and yelping. She hadn't seen anything in the darkness but the smell from the room had physically shoved her back. Rot, and dryness and mothballs. What it didn't smell like was mold or mildew. She started to cough as the dryness of the air from the room ravaged her already tender throat and she reached out to forcibly pull the door shut.

Rot, and dryness and mothballs. She started to cry, gasping and gagging as her stomach twisted and churned. She staggered into the bathroom and vomited on the spot where the toilet had been. The stench hadn't been what shook her; it was the familiarity. The bedroom smelled exactly like the room where they'd found the Anabasis.

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