Connection to Disconnection“Kirsten you are being reassigned,” Alfa said standing up at the head of the table in the conference room.
Alfa, the chief of Kirsten's FBI unit was huge and six feet tall. He had tribal tattoos all down his arms that were visible with his black short-sleeved uniform button-down shirt. Alfa also had dark skin and big brown eyes. I stood up from my seat and walked to the front of the conference room, I could feel the stares of my co-workers prick the hairs on the back of my neck up like needles. The room had one long rectangular dark wood table in it. The wall facing the hallway of the National Data Libraries was bulletproof glass. The Data Compound was in the shape of a twelve-sided dodecagon. Offices and the conference rooms were around the perimeter of the building. The hallway separated the data floor from the rooms at the perimeter with another set of bulletproof glass walls.
When I reached the front of the room Alfa handed me a small black box and told me not to open it until I was at my office. I thought this was a bit odd but I took the box and gathered my things as the meeting dismissed.
Returning to my office I shut the door and sat down at my desk to open the box. I gently lifted the lid and pulled out instructions written in invisible ink. I set them aside, there was a watch underneath the note. The watch was band was made with a comfortable black silicone and the watch face was square but looked like a normal watch. Confused, I unlocked my desk drawer and rummaged through it to find my black light pen. Clicking the pen on from the top I started to read the message:
We have assigned you to a new mission. You will be useing this watch to find any citizens who have missing citizenship files with the United States. The watch is activated only by your telepathy. We have inserted the virtual reality overlay disk loaded with all files of the US citizenship database. Good Luck!
Alfa Allred - Head of Data Libraries
P. S. I believe that you are the perfect person for this mission and I have chosen for your mission to remain under classification between you, the national FBI and myself. You’ve never let us down Agent Esperson.
I lifted the watch from the box and put it on. Activate Data Chip I thought. Sure enough the watch powered on and the overlay came up as if part of my normal field of vision but I could see the green band at the top of my field of vision that said “Citizenship files data chip active.” Ready or not I had a duty to be an alien hunter. I felt queasy but I had a job to do, denying this duty could result in cruel punishment. I grabbed my keys from my desk, they jingled a little as I clipped them to my belt and I felt adrenaline rush through me. It was time for something to change but how could I change the government alone? I couldn’t, I knew that for a fact. The law had been passed, all unregistered aliens were to be arrested for further analysis and questioning. It made me uneasy to know that these aliens were for the most part probably innocent and misunderstood in the world like I was.
Even though I am human and a native to earth, my own kind has fallen mostly silent with me now. It wasn’t always that way, there was a time years ago when I was socially engaged and what you would call an extrovert. Then things really changed when our mobile devices could transmit our memories and telepathic thoughts. Our physical face to face interactions suffered, unfortunately my ambiverted soul suffered with the death of our old school interaction patterns.
I passed my friend Audrey on the platform walking towards the double glass doors to enter the data storage floor. I smiled and waved trying to conceal my nerves. Her file came up to the side of her saying:
Audrey Wood, Agent in Alfa’s FBI NDL Guardianship Unit, Natural Citizen, Registered at Birth.
Good, I breathed internally, you're safe from arrest. I scanned my hand and the double glass doors opened with a ding of approval for entrance.
“After you Audrey” I said to her motioning for her to enter first.
“Thanks Kirsten, very kind of you.” She replied as I entered behind her. “Ten at night and the day couldn’t get better, funny to think our day starts when most days end to the rest of the city.”
“Yeah, it’s fun though. Sunset to sunrise, off just in time for breakfast at the Cafe. Your coming this morning aren’t you?” I asked Audrey.
“Yep, I heard Reve is going to be revealing his long-awaited surprise to you.” She continued just before they had to split off to their stations for their shifts.
Audri was one of my only friends who really understood life as an FBI agent, there was a lot I couldn’t tell others about my profession. Even having Audri as my very good friend, work had become almost a monotone symphony to me. It a necessity but almost an interruption to my true creative power. I believed against the FBI values the more I worked under them, but without being able to find work in the city stayed under a system that contradicted who I really was. I’m not a person who likes to cause havoc in someone else's life. We have enough of that as it is.
After work I got into my favorite teal lace dress and slipped on my heals. Reve said to dress nice so I almost wondered if he was going to treat me for my birthday. No, it wasn’t for another month. Was he going to take me to meet his siblings? I wondered. No, it’s a friday, they’re in school. I felt my heart beat faster, a little nerves, a little excitement. I stopped for a moment to watch the sunrise out of our huge glass windows in the apartment. These quiet moments of meditational thought no one seemed to understand now but it was in these moments that often my best ideas arrose. My roommates were still asleep. The sunrise brought a beautiful orange glow over the gradually awakening city.
Quietly I slipped out the door of our apartment again and started walking down the hall and down the staircase out onto the sidewalk. The morning air was a little chilly but not cold enough to justify bringing a jacket with me. The Cafe was only two blocks away from our apartment complex. Traffic was moderate this morning, usually wasn’t too bad this early but it was still faster to walk to the Cafe. Our reservation was made for five-fifteen am at our usual favorite table at the far left corner big “L” shaped booth.
I walked up to a homeless man on the corner of our block. I didn’t have much but I handed him a granola bar I had in my purse and sat down next to him for a moment as he ate it. He was a citizen too, his files came up saying that he had owned a printing press that went out of business in late July of 2020 due to the modernization of the New York library going strictly online. The facility just housed the audiobooks, public theater, and rentable E-readers now. I talked to him for a moment about his journey through homelessness.
When I entered the Cafe, Reve, Audrie, Alex, Callie, and Kaliea were already looking over the menu. I sat down next to Reve, and his files loaded. A moment later a message popped up: “Unregistered Citizen, no data files available” That’s strange. I thought to look around the table. Alex’s files came up just fine. I proceed to see Callie and Kaliea’s filles where normal.
I fidgeted uncomfortably in my seat as I tried to think of possible reasons that Reve’s filles didn’t come up. He motioned to hold my hand, I pulled away instinctively. He looked at me with a confused expression.
“Sorry” I told him quietly. “I’ve had the jitters since Alpha put me on the new assignment.”
He tentatively motioned for my hand again. This time I reluctantly let him slide his fingers between mine. It was weird not to like his fingers touching my own. What is wrong with me. I thought. There’s just an error in the chip. It’s going to be fine. I told myself, but the longer I thought about it the more the anxiety grew. Have I lost all feeling for human connection?
The usual waiter Amy came to take our orders and I ordered my usual friday breakfast. Two pancakes with the famous creamy peanut butter syrup, a cinnamon roll and a spinach mushroom omelet on the side. We started to converse about our night at work and Reve asked me what was in the box Alfa gave me.
“A mission assignment, rest is classified.” I replied trying not to give him too much information.
“And that sweet watch?” He asked admiring it as I took a sip of water.
Why didn’t I just take the watch off! I thought as he held my hand examining the watch.
Reve and I had finished eating and he took me down to central park. We walked along the sidewalk for a while until we sat down to watch the ducks.
“Kirsten, there's something I should tell you.” Reve started nervously.
“What is that?” I asked. That you're an unregistered? I thought.
“I think we should seriously consider life together. I could give you a bright future here.” He continued.
“You mean like marriage?” I laughed. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“Yeah, I guess that’s what I was trying to say.” he smiled.
“I don’t know Reve, with this new assignment Alpha’s gonna keep me pretty busy.” I replied. “It just may not be the best time now.”
“We’re always busy with an assignment.” Reve pointed out. “I have plenty in savings to get us a nice sized apartment. Enough room for kids too.”
“Alright, that all sounds good, but I need to ask you something Reve.” I commented. “Are you a registered citizen?”
“That’s an odd question, of course I am. It’s the law.” he answered. Reve fidgeted around a bit with this statement.
“That makes me feel a lot better about your files.” I breathed in relief.
“My files? How'd you get my files?” Reve asked bewildered. His eyes grew wide with concern.
“Alpha had me review some for him today.” I replied quietly.
“Hum, alright. What did you think was wrong with my files?” Reve asked.
“They are missing,” I said looking at him seriously.
Reve breathed heavily, “My files are missing?” he clarified.
He didn’t kiss me at the door like he usually did. I could sense something was wrong that he wasn’t willing to let on to. My stomach tightened into knots. My thoughts filled with horror scenes of my predicted worse possible outcome. I walked back through the apartment to my room and let myself fall onto the bed in a heap. Knowing that I was alone I felt myself drift to sleep as the tears stung my warm face. How could I break the trust we had built these past three years?
9:00pm and my alarm is blaring. I moaned rolling off the bed groggily, I hit the floor with a loud thud burritoed in my blankets. The apartment felt it was mid July. Coming to my conscience I humphed at the thought that Taylee had probably turned the heat up to inferno super volcano again while I was sleeping.
Arriving at work I passed Reve but ignored him. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to him after last night. Something was very wrong with him. Something was also pretty wrong with me. The person I had come to trust so much had become a stranger to me that I knew everything about yet we didn’t speak to one another. Reve had walked a few paces down the hall before turning back to talk to me.
“Kirsten let me talk to you after work, please. I don’t think you understand.” Reve said.
“No, you don’t understand Reve. You're in great danger! As long as I am with you I am in danger too whether or not you're innocent!” I pleaded with him as I struggled to suppress the emotion in my voice.
“Why are you so afraid of my missing files?” Reve asked with his teeth clenched a bit in frustration.
“We are going to get arrested. You know the law Reve.” I whispered intensely, getting a little more up close and personal with him.
“Yes but I really have to explain, just meet me here later alright?” He begged and then strode off in his original direction.
I didn’t want to meet Reve after work. I didn’t even want to be at work knowing that something was either wrong with the data files or that Reve was still holding something back from me. I feared talking to Alpha, if Reve really was alien they could sentence him to death. I felt numbness make its way from my heart spreading its pledge all through me. Then it hit me all at once in a crashing wave, I was afraid of losing him. I had lost so many friends before him that he was the only special one that I felt comfortable giving access to my memories. He had my memory chip as a medallion of hope. He could see the memories from any computer. I wore his memory chip as a medallion of trust. He took a part of me with him as he briskly walked down the corridor alone. I stood there just watching him breathlessly. I couldn’t feel our connection, it was dead as my smartphone without service. It was over, as broken as my shattered phone screen when I had dropped it through the six floor elevator shaft last summer.
Finally coming to myself I entered the data storage floor. Very slowly through the shift an idea dawned on me. I could steal a business information chip to find out if Reve had been working for anyone else. It wouldn’t be as useful as the shape shifter registry, but that was highly classified under multiple code names. Only Alfa would know where it was, and the data chip could only be pulled from it’s storage compartment by his bio scan. I could steal a chip with practically any kind of informational registry I wanted. Life form identifications, vehicle registry, active drivers, registered alien immigrants or even the international food nutrition index.
“Hey Audri, would it be crazy if I tried asking Alfa for the shape shifter registry?”
“What do you want to do with that?” Audri asked giving me a suspicious look while we continued filing away data chips. “You know that chip is only available to the elite few in the mega elite circle!”
“I want to know … “ I started but stopped mid sentence. I couldn’t tell her that I suspected Reeve was up to something. I couldn’t put that kind of bad taste on him. “Nevermind, it's classified above your clearance.” I sighed.
“What in the world is Classified above my clearance?” Audri asked taken back by my comment.
“I can't put someone else in harm's way to tell you Audri. I'm Sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
After work I didn’t return to the corridors. I had enough confusion for one night. The last thing I wanted was to run into Reeve again. I didn't want to face my fear that he was lying to me. Yet the thought of him ran cold down my spine as I dug for my car keys leaving the building out into the freezing air of dawn.
“Kirsten?” Reeve said behind me.
“Reeve, I don't want to do this but I have to turn you into Alpha. I want to believe you're innocent but … the law is the law. I have to report the problems with your data.”
“I have to tell you something really important Kirsten. There's a reason you can't find my records. I'm not who you think I am. I'm an alien, a Trizdonian refugee.”
“You lied to me?” I shouted turning to face him.
“I was protecting you.” He said looking at the ground.
“You should be ashamed! You have put an entire nation in danger Reeve!” I growled at him angrily between clenched teeth raising my arms.
“Let me explain, please. I have lived alone and in fear of who I really am for years. You of all people should know what that feels like Kirsten. You are an unregistered data chip engineer. That’s why I am able to trust you with this.” Reeve said trying to look at me.
“Reve this is different, I told I was unregistered because I had to under Alpha’s command three years ago. I’m actually registered with the Elite FBI agent’s circle, but this Reve is something else. I could be fired because of this.”
He motioned to hold me in an embrace but I did the only thing I could. I started to run. It’s what I had always done when trust was broken. This time maybe forever. How could I love someone and not know their true colors? One stomp after another I channeled the rejection through my feet. I was let down again and it was destined to destroy me from the inside out. Yet, feeling the air rush past me I was reminded of the life Reeve and I had before I knew something was very wrong with him. The memories haunted me flashing through my mind, ghosts of my perfect past.
I could hear Reeve running after me. I ran faster until I couldn’t run any farther. There was a bus just a few yards away ready to pick up a load of ten passengers. I ran into the bus. I watched from the window as Reeve stood watching the bus pull away. I turned to sit down in my seat. Just when I thought I found someone who understood me, I lost them. It happened like that every single dang time, fate had its way of getting in the way and screwing it all up. I angrily yanked his chip from my neck snapping the cording in half that tied it into a necklace. He wouldn’t be able to hear my thoughts at will now. I wanted to melt the chip down to liquid glass and erase every memory it stored, but that involved throwing it into Mt. Sinoration the active volcano in Canada that reached temperatures of a million degrees fahrenheit.
My phone started ringing. I dug it out of my bag. It was Reeve. I let it keep ringing. He couldn’t fix this no matter what he did now. He betrayed me, but then it dawned on me. Reeve lost everything. He could be the last Trizdonian left. Even though I had come to the conclusion that Reeve had shattered our relationship, I still loved him. I loved the goodness I knew was still in there somewhere. Why should it matter if he was an alien. In many respects I am an alien too. I thought. I got off the bus at the next stop and Reeve called again.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Kirsten, I’m really sorry.” Reeve said. “I should have let you know the truth a long time ago.”
“Reeve, I’m kind of an Alien myself,” I replied. “I’m misunderstood like you are too. You were kind of right in a way. I’m sorry that I disconnected our chips.”
“Kirsten?” he said pausing for a moment.
“What?” I asked.
“Your a chip engineer, we can get new chips. I’m more worried that you are alright, I read a book about humans going into shock of extraterrestrial life forms. I feared that I had shut down your processor.”
“My what now?” I asked bewildered.
“Your processor, that is what you call it right?” He reiterated.
“My brain?” I suggested.
“Ah yes, that’s right.”
“You didn’t shut me down, but you scared me. Why didn’t you tell me the truth to begin with? You could have really hurt someone!”
“I wanted too, but I was afraid that you wouldn’t accept the truth.” Reve said nervously.
“Reve, the truth is that we can’t hide what makes us who we are. I can’t hide the fact that I am a highly intelligent trained FBI chip engineer any more than you can continue to disguise your identity as a Trizdonian refugee. At some point we all have a hidden part of us, something no one knows. It will alienate us from the world until we come to realize the potential of it. Ultimately you will chose if your imperfection will make you unbreakable or an outcasted alien. Depression will either tear me apart from the inside out or build me up as a phoenix from the ashes. Your upbringing will either haunt you or it will make us stronger together.”
“You have Depression?” He asked surprised.
“Yes, it can destroy even the best of us.” I sighed having a hard time admitting to it. “I’ve struggled up and down for a long time, Reve. It’s a lonely road. An invisible battle one on one with pure evil. It stays that way until I remember that I am not alone. There is an outside force, not equal, not opposite, but united if we invite it. This force has lifted me from the depths of all imaginable suffering.
Depression is darkness so dark that it is tangibly cold, a void filled with my own echoing regret. It is feeling everything and nothing all at once. It is a sensation that you are missing something, that drives you to insanity until you find it. When you find what was lost it finally allows you to feel glorious dawn. You see, now that I accept a flaw within myself that has stigma attached to it, I am open to others. Are you going to really accept your past or will you continue to suppress it, Reve? The more you hide it, the more you try to cover it up, lie about even, the more miserable you will be with yourself.”
“I have a lot of work to do.” Reve said looking at his feet.
“Then I’ll be the one to take the first step with you and every step that follows know that we are in this together. No one will hear us if we do not speak. It is time to accept us, even the horrible parts of us Reve. This is what it means to be human. You now live in a human world, this will be new to you. However, if you agree to talk to Alpha tomorrow, I will let you turn yourself in.”
“Your generosity is beyond your age.” Reve said walking me back to my car.
“It’s all about learning to let the suffering become the strength and being humble enough to know when you can’t go on alone.”
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