When we got back to Kyle and Pat's house I walked up to the door and waited for Kyle to make the seemingly solid door into something that was no longer a solid door so that I was able to pass through it.
"Can I get a key or whatever it is that allows you to make this thing work? I'm guessing it's not based on facial recognition."
"That's right, you don't have an ID. We'll probably have to get that fixed sometime soon."
"You're telling me that your driver's license opens your house?"
"Not exactly. Our identification is in the form of a chip that's implanted in our left hand that emits a radio wave that controls some of the objects we interact with on a daily basis."
"I can see how that might be useful. I just have to go down to the local DMV, fill out a form and then I'm all set, or what?"
"I'm afraid it's not quite that easy. These chips are installed at birth. They also serve as our social security cards, as I imagine you may be familiar with."
"We just had a stupid little piece of paper. This way probably cuts down on the amount of identity theft, huh?"
"It was completely wiped out. It has your DNA information stored right inside of it."
"So what you're saying is that it's going to be a bit challenging to get one without raising any suspicion. We'll probably just throw that on the back burner for now then. I'm going to go check out my room and get a feeling for what I'm supposed to be like."
"Good luck! Pat is kind of a science and technology nerd. I can't understand most of what he talks about since technology began taking insane leaps."
"Then maybe I'll be able to find something that tells me what I'm supposed to do while I'm here."
"Sure. You do what you do, homie. I'm just going to pass out for the night."
"Really? Eight thirty at night is your bed time? I thought my evil twin was supposed to be the lame ass that lived here, but I guess I've been lied to."
"Shut up and go save the world, bitch. Your room is up those stairs. If you feel like using the Internet, the computer isn't the box that we used to know before this new tech hit. It just looks like a lump of metal," he laughed as he walked towards his room.
"Alright, man. I'll see you in the morning."
I headed up the stairs to my temporary new room. As I looked around the place it looked basically just as messy as I would have kept my room if I lived in this world. I was immediately comfortable and felt right at home here. I walked over to his magical space machine that was considered an average (or possibly shitty, considering the way Kyle kept saying how broke they were) computer and decided I'd try to figure out how it works.
I started by trying to find an on switch, but failed to do so. I picked the lump of metal up to look underneath of it, but as soon as I touched it the thing flickered to life. It must have been a tap on kind of deal or something.
Now that the thing was running I tried to find a mouse or keyboard. When I was unsuccessful in this task I decided to go back to the touching method. When I placed my right hand back on the thing it popped up in the form of a woman's head and I couldn't help but wonder if this was a porn program that Pat had left open.
The computer asked me in a woman's voice, "How may I help you?"
"Uh, yeah. Is the world in danger or anything?"
"Inquiry not understood. Would you like to try again?" I really hoped this wasn't a head that was used for sexual gratification.
"What are currently the world's greatest threats?" I asked in a second attempt at making my job easier.
"There are currently no threats detected to the global population. Any threat would be outside of our planet, and therefore classified as unknown."
"I'm not sure how much I'm willing to believe that. What about grey goo? No one is worried about tiny self replicating robots one day breaking down everything and everyone on the planet in order continue to make more of themselves?"
"Not in the least. All robots are designed with three laws that govern them."
"Right… and could you refresh my memory as to what those are exactly?"
"The three laws that governs robot are a revised set of Asimov's three laws. They are:
1. A robot may not be deployed by a human without the human-robot work system meeting the highest legal and professional standards of safety and ethics.
2. A robot must respond to the designated humans as is appropriate for their roles.
3. A robot must be endowed with sufficient situated autonomy to protect its own existence as long as such protection provides smooth transfer of control which does not conflict with the First and Second Laws."
"Whatever the hell that means. Bring up a list of recent searches."
The computerized woman's head morphed into a tablet that was filled with a list of Pat's most recent searches. The first thing that caught my eye was a search of "hazards of inter-universal travel."
I clicked on the link and read the article that essentially said that a universe can survive with no problem with small amounts of matter being added to or subtracted from them. After all, recent research has shown that black holes destroy matter while enormous white holes that were recently discovered actually spew forth mass. However they tend to do so nearly in harmony with one another. Any change that would be much greater than this would upset the balance and the universe would either explode or implode depending on the disturbance.
I felt lied to by the head of the woman that I spoke with moments earlier. "What search engine are you using?" I asked.
The tablet reverted into the head to answer my question. "I have been programmed to use Microsoft's Bing search engine."
"That figures. Where can I find more information about inter-universal travel?"
Rather than just giving me information or a link to a website it gave me an address in Sacramento. I wrote it down and would have Kyle drive me there in the morning. Now it was time to sleep. It had been a long strange day that I had spent in two different universes. Maybe some sleep would help to clear my head.
I sat down on my evil twins bed and took my shoes off. The bed felt pretty comfortable. I put my head on the pillow and kicked my feet up. The bed already had a perfect groove for my body. I threw the covers over myself and was soon fast asleep.
When I woke up the next morning I went downstairs to find Kyle eating a bowl of cereal while holding his forehead in the palm of his hand.
"Morning, sunshine. You look like a big old bag shit today."
"Thanks, pal. I don't know why I'm so hungover this morning. How are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling like a million bucks, thanks for asking. Last night I figured out where we should go to begin our search to find out exactly what it is that I was brought here for."
"Is that right?" Kyle asked sounding a little less than enthusiastic.
"Yeah, it's called Garcia Research and Development, or just GRAD. I found out last night that Pat had been researching inter-universal travel and this is a local place that says they are leading the industry in the field. Not only that, but back home I had a friend by the name Garcia, and if it's the same guy I sure would like to see him again. Our last meeting didn't go so well. He almost ate my hand and then his head got blown off."
"I really hope he turned into a zombie or that story has a whole new level of terrifying to it for me."
"Yeah, he turned, alright. But not before he was able to tell us how to find the doctor. Without him it would still be chaos back home."
"Sounds like a good dude. I guess we should hit him up. You gonna have any breakfast?"
"I don't know. What is there?"
"Do you guys have Wheaties where you're from? Because here that is what we call the breakfast of champions."
"Uh, yeah we've got Wheaties. I was just expecting something a little more... I don't know, impressive I guess."
"Nah, with breakfast being the most important meal of the day and all they've really tried not to screw with it nearly as much as they have with everything else. We stick to milk and cereal, oatmeal, bagels, and fruit mostly. I imagine that sounds about right?"
I began to pour some of the cereal from the orange box into an empty bowl that Kyle had set out for me. "Sure, that sounds about right. Still just regular old breast milk, too, right?" I asked as I lifted up the plastic jug.
Kyle spit out his mouthful of chewed breakfast. "Fucking breast milk?!? That's filthy! We use cow's milk here."
"Good, that's what we use, too," I said laughing at his disgust. "I just wanted to get the truth out of you. Don't think I forgot about that second harvest bullshit."
"Well played, asshole. Well played."
I proceeded to scarf down a bowl of what was, as far as I could tell, a totally normal bowl of cereal. After breakfast I went and took a shower and changed into some of Pat's clothes. For some reason I chose a green shirt and a pair of green jeans. I had no idea what would pass for fashion in this place?
"I'm all set to go whenever you are, Kyle," I said as I came down the stairs. Kyle was half passed out on the couch. I must have startled him, because he jumped before getting up and heading out to the truck without saying a word.
"So where did you say this GRAD place was?" he asked as he jumped up into the driver's seat of the pickup.
"That lady's head said that it was on Industrial Blvd. Is that near by?" I asked as I passed him the piece of paper I had written the address down on.
"It's not too far. This is back in Roseville, kind of by the bar. It shouldn't be too hard to find." He pulled out his phone and started tapping away when, "Uh-huh. Got it. Should be there in like twenty five minutes." He set the phone down and began to pull out of the driveway. "And no, I'm still not having the phone do the driving. It's way too much fun for me. I don't care how strange you think it may be."
"Not at all. In fact, I find it kind of reassuring. A little something normal every now and then sure as hell ain't gonna kill me. Being a passenger in a car that is piloted by a real person has a nice calming effect on me, like I'm a kid again. Even if the people all around us are asleep behind the wheel. Actually... I think that dude over there is banging his phone. Gross."
"I hope that asshole gets pulled over. It's illegal to have your driving app backgrounded."
"I guess that makes sense. Should I call the police on him or something?"
"No need," he said pointing up at the sky. "Traffic is monitored via satellite. When it comes to traffic violations you have about a fifty-fifty chance of getting caught. They have all kinds of complicated algorithms or whatever that makes the cameras' abilities to detect what laws are being broken where. But there are still a whole lot more people on the road than can accurately be viewed by such a small force."
"I see," I said finally ripping my eyes away from the man in the car with his junk stuffed into his phone. "That dude was really into it. And are those horns on his head?"
Kyle glanced over. "Wow, he's really abusing that thing, isn't he?" he chuckled. "Those horns are just piercings, homie. It's not like he's Darth Maul or something awesome like that. He just wishes that he was."
"That's a little bit unsettling."
"You mean you were hoping that he really was a Sith Lord?"
"At least then it would have been a lot easier to imagine that was a light saber that I saw..."
"I see what you mean. Well, to your disappointment and mine, there are no light sabers in my world. All you saw was a dick. Sorry to be the one to break the news to you."
"Are we gonna need to stop for gas anytime soon?" I asked leaning over and checking for the fuel gauge.
"We stopped using fossil fuels thanks to new tech that came out a few years ago. It was mandated that all vehicles be converted to the new engine system that is powered directly by the power lines over head. It's cleaner and cheaper, so no one argued with any of it. Once you converted over you saved a ton of money, and there are only a few moving parts, so the wear and tear is really minimal. Maintenance is a breeze."
"Awesome," I said looking up at the power lines. Now that he mentioned it, the ride was rather smooth and quiet. I hadn't heard a single vehicle with an obnoxious exhaust like kids had back when I was in high school. "How doesn't the engine work?"
"They say that good technology should be indistinguishable from magic. In this case I think they succeeded. I have no idea how it works. I heard someone explaining it once, but it was way over my head, so I'll just say magic."
"I guess that works for me, then. It's better than saying it's run by means of Pixie Dust and happy thoughts."
"Oh, hell no! In the wrong ratio those two are extremely volatile together," Kyle laughed.
Kyle exited the freeway into Roseville. After a few turns I saw the big blue street sign that read Industrial Boulevard.
"It should be right up here, right?"
"According to the map it should be right passed a set of old railroad tracks. Just like those," he pointed out as the tracks showed up right on cue.
After we passed the tracks we saw a building on the right hand side with a blue metal roof, and beyond it was the turn off. On the corner was a big white sign that said in red lettering Garcia Research and Development. Kyle turned in and parked his truck in one of the empty spaces.
We jumped out of the truck and walked across the parking lot and through the glass doors that slid open automatically. Although we had this back home before the zombie outbreak it seemed somehow more impressive here. This feeling was possibly due to the woman I saw sitting behind the desk in the lobby area.
As soon as I entered the building my senses were overwhelmed. The smell that was so familiar coupled with the extreme beauty sent my head spinning. And then it was the sound of her voice.
"Welcome to Garcia Research and Development. How may I help you?"
As I tried my very best to reach into my brain and pull out any words at all while standing around with my mouth agape I heard Kyle say, "I'd love to answer you, but I really don't know exactly what we're doing here. This was all his idea."
I shook the mental shield from my mind and finally was able to spit out, "I really hope you don't remember me."
To my utter amazement she chuckled and said, "How could I forget? You kind of ruined my night."
"I was kind of afraid you might say that."
"It's really ok. Everyone has their moments when they aren't exactly at their best. No hard feelings, ok? Looks like you got yourself all fixed up, I see. Are you feeling better?"
"So much better," I flashed her a smile of relief.
I must have missed my cue to respond to her initial question because after a few awkward moments of silence had passed as I contemplated the implications of a fresh start with Evelyn she asked once more, "So what brings you in today? You're not just stalking me, are you?" she half joked.
"Sorry, I'm just a little - sidetracked I guess. You really remind me of someone that I was really close to back home."
"Really? You've never said so before. I thought you were from Sacramento?"
"Well, sort of. It's hard to explain, but I'm trying to work on that."
"I see. So what brings you in today? Your order still won't be ready for another two days, I believe."
"What order would that be again?" I asked trying to mask my confusion.
"Really, Pat? You don't remember your order? You must have had way more than your fair share last night, I guess. The augmented ID that you ordered, of course. It's some pretty exciting stuff."
I looked over at Kyle to see if he had any clue as to what the hell was going on, but the bewildered look on his face informed me that he did not.
"It's still not ready? Man, I'm getting really impatient waiting all this time."
"Impatient? This technology is still in trials. You'll be the first person to have their own to actually test out. Why would you be impatient? Is everything ok? You don't seem yourself at all these past two days."
"There's a reason for that, and I'll tell you all about it someday. Until then I'll just have to say sorry and I hope I'm not too much worse lately."
"Actually, I'm kind of enjoying it. No offense, but you're normally a bit of a stick in the mud."
I laughed. "You know, I've heard that. And I assure you, there has been no offense taken."
"You're sure everything is ok? I must confess I've been a little bit worried that we haven't seen you in a while. You were acting kind of paranoid and then it was like you just disappeared."
"Everything is just fine. I just had a bit of a scare. I hit my head and thought I might have suffered some sort of brain injury, but it turned out to be nothing. I just sustained a little bit of amnesia and some things are still a bit foggy, but it's nothing to raise alarm."
"With such a recent trauma to the head do you think it was wise to take your friend out drinking last night?" Evelyn asked Kyle.
"Clearly I thought it was or you wouldn't have seen us last night. Besides, he's fine. See?" he shoved me and I nearly lost my balance and just narrowly kept myself from falling on the floor.
"I think we should probably be on our way if my new ID isn't ready. It was good to see you again, Evelyn. And I'm really sorry if I caused you any worry," I said with a smile and a wink.
"It was really good to see you again, too. Try to keep away from the bars or anything else that might cause you any further brain damage, ok?"
"I can't make any promises there. I'll see you around." I turned and headed out the door, but before it could even shut Kyle had his mouth open to describe her boobs to me.
"Oh my god, she is fine!" He put his hands up to his chest imitating a set of breasts for himself. "She had really big... eyes," he laughed.
"She sure does. Believe it or not, that was my girlfriend back home."
"There is no way in hell I believe that I'm going to believe that anyone would leave a girl that fine to come here. And not only that, but how the hell did she not get eaten?"
"It's all a pretty long story, so to cut it all very short I'll just tell you that we ended up splitting ways a little while before I came over here."
"Really? The big hero got dumped? That's rough, homie."
"I didn't get dumped; it was a mutual thing. She had to go do her thing and I had stuff that I had to work on."
"You think you had more important stuff than her? You are an idiot, aren't you?"
"I really am. Thanks for reminding me. Can we get back to the reason we're here? You have no idea that your best friend and roommate was coming here and getting some new experimental technology implanted into himself?"
"I had no clue, Pete. Sometimes he was kind of shady and suspicious about what he was doing, but I never really put much thought into it. I guess I just figured he was doing some nerdy shit. And by the looks of things I was exactly right."
"But why would he get his new... thing here? Is it supposed to make him jump between worlds? If so, what the hell for?"
"GRAD makes a whole bunch of stuff. They actually were one of the companies to pioneer the Claytronics industry years back. Just because they have expanded to universe-jumping technology doesn't mean they've abandoned everything else. There are heaps of money still to be made elsewhere."
"Have you heard of anyone making augmentations to their IDs? What's the purpose behind it?" I asked as we got back into his truck.
"It could be anything. But what it should mean to you is a key to the house. That being said, please don't steal our shit."
"Me? You're the one that gave me permission to take Pat's money in the first place!"
"Oh yeah, I kinda forgot about that - I mean, that was a test. And you failed, pal. Once a thief always a thief. Stay out of my shit."
"That was no test, you dick."
"Ok, it was no test. I just wanted to go have some drinks. I'm sorry I called you a thief. Now don't make me eat those words, ok? Whenever Pat shows up we'll just tell him someone broke in."
"And just stole a few bucks out if his room?"
"Good point. We're going to have to steal some more of his shi-"
"Or you could just try to pay him back, Kyle."
"Ok, ok. Or WE can try to pay him back. Damn, where did all these morals come from all of a sudden?"
"I can't help but wonder if there is a universe out there in which you're not a pain in my ass. You're lucky that so far all of you make me laugh. So, thanks for that I guess."
"I'm afraid that my being a pain in the ass is just in my DNA. You'll be hard pressed to find a me that you won't want to punch while I make you laugh. Now that we're done here, what's our plan?"
"I don't know, dude. You live here, what do you usually do during the day?"
"Since I got hurt while I was working as a lawn care professional I haven't really been doing too much. Do you want to go bowling or something?"
"For real? Bowling is the best you can come up with?"
"Hey, if you're going to be all watchful of Pat's money, that leaves me as the bread winner out of our new partnership. If you want to do the cool shit that your crappy planet doesn't have, then you're going to have to make your own scratch."
"Alright, chill out, lady. Bowling it is. Let's go."
Kyle started up his truck and put it in drive. As we started to pull out of the parking lot he looked over at me and then back at the road before saying under his breath, "Bowling... how friggin' lame."