I opened my eyes to bright sunshine and felt the mugginess of intense tropical heat. My head felt dizzy and I turned onto my side to look around. I appeared to be lying near a large jungle, in some sort of clearing, where all the trees appeared to have been cut down for about ten square miles. In the middle of the clearing stood a large cluster of crumbled buildings, with a barbed wire fence roundabout. It looked very familiar, but different somehow, as if I was in a different time. I looked down at my clothes and realized that I was wearing an assortment of winter clothing. At my left I recognized a woman with short black hair, who was lying face down in the grass. She was wearing jeans and a purple T-shirt; blood was dripping down slowly from a wound on her head.
"Kira?" I asked gingerly.
Kira groaned as she rolled onto her side. She then opened her tantalizing green eyes and asked, "Wha…where am I?"
I replied, "I think we're back near the ruins on Janus 5. How in the heck did we get here?"
I continued, "I remember driving us home from the office. I remember getting bumped around, and then seeing a bright white light." I touched the side of my head where it seemed to hurt the most. I winced. "It must have been cold where I was, since I'm wearing all this stuff."
I slowly took the excessive clothing off and helped Kira sit up. I saw the wound on the top of her head.
I said, "Here. Take my scarf, Kira. Hold it and press against the wound. We're going to have to get help, somehow."
Kira took the scarf, and then said, "The last thing I remember was holding you near those ruins, and then I saw a flash of light. How did we get here, Max?"
I replied, "I wish I knew." I looked more closely at her and said in a bewildered tone, "Hey, you have short hair now." I grabbed her hand. "No wedding ring, either."
Kira appeared aghast and replied, "Married? You must really be off your rocker, tiger." She made a weak attempt at a laugh as she winced in pain.
I remembered bits and pieces of the "other" Kira, who I had been married to, who had long hair, and who liked to hit me in the shoulder frequently when she was upset. The other Kira never called me "tiger," either. This Kira obviously wasn't the one riding in the car with me when the accident, or event, or whatever it was, happened. I recalled that the other world was real, and Janus 5 was just a simulation in some kind of virtual reality game. The Kira I saw before me now must be the same one which I knew in the game. If it was a game. Am I back in the game? I didn't want to think about it right now.
I said in a concerned voice, "If this is Janus 5, we ought to be able to make it back to the settlement by taking a path back through the jungle. Let me help you stand Kira, and let's start walking that way. Keep that scarf pressed on your wound. I just hope help is waiting there; this place looks different than I remember."
The crumbled buildings were indeed familiar, but the barbed wire fence was new to me. The light dimmed as we entered the forest, and I turned back to look at the ruins one last time. There was a sign posted that read, "Danger. Keep out. Ruins unsafe." I wondered what the heck was going on. I supported Kira as we made our way down the path. We said very little on the long walk through the jungle. At last, we came to its end.
Base Two, being the first of the eight bases to be seen upon coming out of the forest, seemed to be worn down, as if many years had passed since I was last here. A few more structures had been built to the west of the residential building. I wasn't interested in exploring them just now.
I was relieved to see several people traversing the area. We didn't stop to talk to anyone; the first priority was getting Kira medical attention. I supported her as we climbed the stairs and entered the residential building. I waved to the guard on the right as we entered the vestibule.
I said, "We need some medical attention here. She's got a head wound that needs to be looked at right away."
The guard, who appeared to be in her fifties, nodded that she understood. She talked briefly on the radio, and then told us to go straight in and take our first right. I did as she asked. Two nurses met us on the way; they led us to the medical treatment area. We entered the room, which had several hospital beds lying about, with privacy curtains hanging open between them. The nurses led us to one of them and treated Kira. They also put some antiseptic and bandages on my cuts. After treatment, we were asked to wait for Base Two's captain to arrive, for some questioning. We did so.
"You two must be our guests," stated a young woman in her thirties, who spoke immediately upon entering the room. She had short, red hair and pretty hazel eyes. "I'm the captain of Base Two, Sheila Davis. I was informed of your condition, and am glad that we could help you. Are you two from the settlement way up north?"
I asked in a surprised tone, "There's a settlement up there? Since when?"
Captain Davis frowned a little as she said, "We have sixty four bases on this continent. I take it you're from one of them?"
I was taken aback and said, "Really?" I rubbed the side of my head and added, "We must have gotten roughed up a bit more than I thought."
The captain said, "You don't remember anything? Who are you two?"
Kira answered, "We just woke up in the forest like this. We don't even know how we got there. I'm Kira, and this is Max." She pointed at me.
Captain Davis just laughed. "Kira and Max, eh? Very funny. You must be here for the reenactment. I think you two need to rest up a bit, and maybe your memory will return. We have a guest quarters set up for you in the southwest corner of the building. I'm going to have to ask you to stay in the building until we can question you to our satisfaction. I'll set up a meeting for ten tomorrow morning with my assistant, Shawn Jackson. We'll send someone to fetch you when the time comes." She snapped her fingers. Two guards entered the room, and the captain said to us, "Please go with them; they'll escort you to your quarters. I'll see you tomorrow."
She walked out and we allowed her men to lead us to our room.
When the guards left, I briefly examined the quarters. It seemed pretty similar to what I remembered of them. There was a bed and dresser on the right. A comfortable chair and sofa stood on the left, along with a video screen. The quarters came furnished with a refrigeration unit, oven, dishwasher, and restroom. Kira sat on the chair; I chose the sofa. She spoke first.
"So, what are we going to tell them? They probably aren't going to believe that we just dropped out of the sky."
I thought for a second, and then replied, "We should tell the truth. If we try to make something up, we'll probably just get into trouble."
It was then that I spotted a calendar page on the wall for…May 20th, 2512!
"Kira, look!" I exclaimed. "We're almost a hundred years into the future!"
Her eyes widened in astonishment, and she asked, "What is going on?" Neither one of us spoke for a few moments, and then she inquired, "Say, what's this reenactment the captain spoke of? Do you have any idea what it is?"
I replied, "I guess we'll find out tomorrow." I walked over to the fridge and checked some of the cabinets. "They stocked this place with some food and drink. Let's chow down and get some rest. I'm too exhausted to think about any of this right now. Maybe we'll wake up tomorrow and find out that it was all just a dream."
After dinner, Kira took the bed and I took the couch. We were completely exhausted and quickly fell sound asleep.