Worlds Apart

W.A. heard Logan mumble something under her breath about wondering why he and Sarah should be the team leaders, but she didn’t press the issue, so he ignored it. “Well, the way it always worked before was to draw straws,” W.A. said, “so unless anyone has objections…”

Everyone agreed, so they drew straws. Sarah’s team consisted of Mia, Aaron and Latasha. W.A.’s team consisted of Logan, Miles and Mama Latasha. (It never seemed like a good time to ask Mama Latasha her real name. It seemed like everyone just used her nickname. W.A. could relate to that.)

W.A. and Sarah gave each other a quick hug and kiss. “Hurry back to me,” Sarah said.

Since neither of them had control over the time on their timers, they both knew W.A. couldn’t technically hurry back, but they both understood the emotion behind it. It’s not like W.A. hadn’t just accidentally disappeared for a couple of days in recent memory. So he simply smiled and replied, “You know it.”

Sarah’s team took a timer, opened the vortex and headed out. W.A.’s team headed out shortly thereafter.
______________________

Sarah landed rather gracefully, with the other, less experienced people tumbling out.

“Wow,” said Aaron as he got up and then helped Latasha up. “You sure have the hang of this.”

Sarah shrugged. “I guess the years with EarthForce paid off.”

“EarthForce?”

“It’s a…”

“Long story,” Aaron said. “Yeah, there seem to be a lot of those.”

Aaron brushed off his clothes. Sarah noted with some amusement that he was wearing the clothes W.A. was when she caught up with him and this group back at the hotel. They were very “millennial.” W.A. had explained to her that they were moving in disguise. She wasn’t surprised to see that he donated his clothes to whoever else was happy to wear them.

Mia looked around. “Well, this isn’t a promising start.”

The others also took a look at this San Francisco--what was left of it. Buildings were destroyed and covered in graffiti. There was definitely a Mad Max vibe to the place.

“Well, let’s see what we can find out,” Sarah said optimistically, “and try to stay out of…”

“Who are you? And what are you doing here?” came a voice from behind.

“...trouble,” Sarah finished with a sigh.

They turned around to see a young man in army fatigues and a gun pointed at them. “Are you part of the pro-Shiva force or the anti-Shiva force?” Then, after he looked at them more closely, he lowered his gun and pulled down the scarf that covered his face. “And why do you have some dude that looks like he could be my twin brother?”

With the scarf down, it became clear that the soldier was a double of Aaron’s.

“Hey, Mia,” Aaron said. “You know how I thought when we first met that I must have been losing my mind?”

“Yeah.”

“I take that back. This must be what a nervous breakdown looks like.”
______________

W.A., who hadn’t been trained by EarthForce, took his usual tumble out of the wormhole with everyone else taking a turn falling on him. They all apologized (except for Logan, who giggled) and W.A. stood up and told them not to worry about it and stretched to make the back pain go away. This definitely wasn’t as easy as it used to be.

“Well, this place looks nice,” Miles observed, glancing around at the buildings. “There’s something different about the architecture, though. Can’t quite put my finger on it.”

The others looked around too. San Francisco seemed cleaner and more well kept-up than the one on their own Earth. There wasn’t even hardly any litter on the ground. The buildings looked shiny and polished.

“It ought to be easy enough to find the contact that Agent 47 gave us in this place,” Miles added.

Looking up, Mama Latasha said, “Somebody wanna tell me what those are?”

Everyone else looked where she was looking. There was a digital billboard advertising a dating site featuring a girl...and a Kromagg.

Mama Latasha and Miles didn’t know what they were looking at, but W.A. and Logan both realized it. “The architecture,” Logan said. “It’s half-human, half-Kromaggian.”
Slowly, they all realized that about a third of the people walking on the street were Kromaggs, casually going about their business like it’s no big deal.

Miles looked at the expressions on W.A.’s and Logan’s faces. Then he turned to Mama Latasha and said, “Just curious: Is it actually possible to hear someone’s blood boil?”

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