John gone, p.23
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       John Gone, p.23

           Michael Kayatta

  April 1st, 1974:

  Felix sat stunned in the black, wheeled office chair at his desk, unable to so much as consider sleeping. He hadn’t yet worked out every detail, but was extremely confident in at least one of his hypotheses: The company was sealing its laboratories shut and leaving their operators inside when they did it. It had made so much sense once Felix had figured it out that he’d become angry with himself for not noticing it prior. Why would a company so secretive that they built a facility far beneath the Earth’s surface trust a twenty-something with knowledge of their existence or the ability to recreate what discoveries they’d made while in the labs?

  Of course they don’t let the scientists free, he thought.

  His head swam with the indicators he’d missed: the gross amount of food and water stores, the special sun-lights and oxygen processing; even Calendar was a breed of tortoise known to live upward of a hundred years. The worst of it was that Felix sat with the knowledge that he’d delivered himself willingly to the cell meant to entomb him.

  And for what? Money? A six followed by a string of hypothetical zeros on a piece of paper? Who knew that so many nothings would actually add up to nothing?

  An hour after realizing the truth, Felix let himself calm. He sat crouched on his knees with his back against the wall, oblivious to when he’d left the chair and crossed the room.

  Having exhausted panic, Felix calmly decided to force his frantic emotions into practicality, trading his guilty self-loathing for proactive reasoning. He looked to his side and saw the painting of the man at the airport. There was no one waiting for him on the surface, but that didn’t mean he wanted to spend the rest of his life in a concrete prison. The time for looking to past mistakes was done; he needed a plan to get out of here.

  The watch had been an obvious first thought for escape, though after mere moments of consideration, Felix judged the option unrealistic. With the amount of information he knew about the company, and even more so now that he’d seen the doors, he was sure that they’d come after him if he tried to leave.

  A company that goes to the trouble of kidnapping and imprisoning its scientists would certainly have contingencies for escapees. After all, they were dealing with those whom they believed to be the smartest people on the planet--smarter, even, than they. Furthermore, all of the device’s real-time location data streamed from a tiny emitter buried deep within its circuitry. If he were to use the watch to get away, the company would immediately know to where he’d traveled. Even if he dropped the watch upon arrival, anyone hunting him would have a solid idea of where to start looking for him while Felix would have no money, direction, nor knowledge of the area.

  No, they have to think they’ve won. There are no cameras in this lab; if they think they’ve got me, they’ll never know to hunt me.

  The safest possibility, he concluded, would be to leave the laboratory after they’d sealed it.

  It wasn’t long before Felix had calculated the only escape option viable. He would need to clandestinely create a second watch alongside the first and use it once his own door disappeared. The main difficulty, of course, would be requisitioning the necessary components from Karen without arousing suspicion.

  Felix stood from the floor and rushed to his workstation, throwing open the drawers of his inventory, looking for anything already in his possession that could be used to clone the Diaspora. His best chance at going unnoticed would be to ask the company for as few components as possible and ask for none that couldn’t be explained by claiming constituent testing or repairs.

  The first thing he found was the full watch casing that had been given to him for comparative spatial logistics. He’d originally used it for judging size and spacing when choosing new components. It was perfect. Felix looked down to his wrist, removed the leather watchband from his own watch, and laid it next to the spare casing on the table. He had the vessel.

  Felix continued to search through his inventory, finding only a few assorted pieces that could be used, or that could be made to be used. In the final red drawer of storage, he found a small plastic bag filled with circled wires sitting on top of an assortment of bolts and cords. He lifted the small, translucent bag out of the drawer by its top and sighed.

  The wires in his hand were the first he’d ordered from the company eight months ago. Each was approximately as thick as human hair, and Felix had initially spec’d them as such when first commissioning their creation. They were the only component that had been specifically manufactured for his project and had also been the cause of the only chiding Felix had received since his work had begun. When he’d told Karen that the wires he’d asked them to produce weren’t going to work, she’d done little to hide the annoyance the company felt at having taken over thirty days to specially manufacture useless product.

  Per his original idea, Felix had first installed and activated the hair-thick wires before requesting the new ones, but initial testing had showed that increasing the number of wires and reducing their thickness by half would reduce the energy required by its user by forty percent.

  Without using new wires, as he’d tried to explain to Karen, the device could potentially cause bodily harm or death if overused. She had grumbled, but eventually relented and told the company to produce a new, thinner set. The Diaspora currently in Karen’s possession held the new wires, while the old ones had been left for Felix’s overage inventory.

  I’d only be using it for one jump, Felix told himself. The risk should be minimal.

  He placed the oversized wires down next to the empty watch face, band, and other components he’d scavenged. Using the thin black marker from his coat pocket, Felix began to compile a list of everything else he would need to make the Diaspora’s twin. The list ended long, and after its completion, Felix assigned dates and a note to each item for when and how he’d ask Karen to bring them to his lab.

  For a moment, he stopped writing and considered the idea of simply telling Karen that he’d figured it out. Perhaps he could make twin devices and they could escape together.

  Too risky for her, he thought. Who knows how she’ll react? She needs to make her own decision about leaving this place. But maybe I can do something else in the mean time.

  Felix opened the red drawers of his excess inventory and began to remove a new set of items: a thin, metal optical cavity, assorted colors of circuitry wires, a breadboard, two thick metal disks, two large circular mirrors, a small jar of gallium arsenide, a handful of small steel clamps, a power cable, a soldering iron and sponge, and finally another small plastic bag filled with tulip seeds. He lifted the bag in front of his desk lamp, allowing light to shine between the contents. He smiled.

  Felix loved working with seeds. His first major breakthrough as a scientist had been made through DNA tests performed on the same type of tulip seed he now held before him. Ever since, he’d never undertaken a project without making sure to have some on hand, just in case. They were more than a good luck charm to him; often, they were actually practical. He’d asked for the seeds from Karen on the second day of his stay in the facility. He was hoping she didn’t remember.

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