As promised, here’s the second installment of the short story.
Reconciliation: Part 2
For a while, he was content with those feelings but soon the urge to get up and go began to burn fiercely in his heart. Theodore had never previously felt the need to go anywhere but the world he encountered in the book had put wonder in his dry heart. He found himself dreaming of the wild, of places teeming with life that he had never encountered, had never even suspected might exist. Did they exist, still? He wondered, and doubted. Surely he would have heard of a place like that, if it were real. How could he not have known? How? What else did he not know?
First, he would need a passport and to get that he needed a letter from his employer, a character reference, putting in writing the humdrum of his daily existence. On time and regular was the key. That was easy. People at work were curious about where he wanted to go, and why, but he lied copiously about that, claiming to be still undecided and offering the standard tourist destinations in a popular cruise package as options he was considering. Everyone had an opinion; everyone had advice.
“Off-world, that’s where I would go,” said his shift-supervisor as she approved his Request for Documents.
“Yeah? I don’t think I’ve got the stomach for that. I’d be too scared.” Theodore looked at her and smiled his trademark self-deprecating smile.
“Well, think about it. You only live once, you know.”
It was in the High School records that his claim to citizenship in America was warehoused, so on his day off, Theodore rode the bullet train to the school and presented his employment documents to the guards at the front gate.
“Go straight in through the door on the right, and keep right all the way to the end. Can’t miss it,” said the burly guard with the big gun across his chest.
Theodore didn’t need any instructions. He remembered, and nothing had changed in the years since his graduation. That had not been much of an event, with all his friends gone. In fact, he had been the only one from his class to graduate. He had half expected that the teachers would have been impressed, but they all looked bored as they pronounced the platitudinous clichés and showed him the door. It had been disappointing, a bit, and he had left that afternoon feeling guilty about something. They told him that his diploma would be in the mail, but it never came. That never bothered him as he was already working at the hospital as an engineering intern and his supervisor was very much aware of his situation at his high school. Upon graduation he was automatically transferred to the regular staff and placed on the payroll. The paperwork was expected to follow; nobody noticed when it never came.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t find anything for you. I’ve got you up to the Ninth Grade, then it looks like you were shipped out with your class.” The young woman behind the barred window looked very concerned. “Why didn’t you ship with the rest of your class?”
“Simple. No mystery. They went military, I stayed.”
“Well, no. I’m sorry, but that’s not what the records say. You were shipped with them. The entire class record was transferred to the military. And you should have gone with them.”
“But that can’t be right. I stayed right here and graduated from the Twelfth Grade.”
“Well, I just can’t find the paperwork. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to go to your military unit.”
“But I don’t have a military unit. What are you talking about?”
“Maybe you should have. Anyway, that’s where your records must be. They’re not here, I can tell you that. I’m really sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.”
Melanie watched him go, sadly. He seemed like such a nice young man. She really hated it that she would have to submit an incident report about his application, but it was required in cases like these. His records would require reconciliation. She sighed.
Melanie’s report arrived in the Investigator’s in-box the morning following Theodore’s request at his high school. Because it involved a possible Anomaly, he sent it over to QB Processing for analysis. Since Corporate had commissioned the computer they all called ‘The Quarterback’, there was no processing backlog, so he expected to see the full report on his desk that afternoon. He hated Anomalies; they always demanded special treatment, and more effort from him. Always left him with a bad feeling too, truth be told. But the records had to be reconciled; that was all that mattered. This was definitely an Anomaly, with no records anywhere, except at the Hospital, where the subject had been placed on the payroll five years ago, and where he had worked quietly ever since. How was that possible?
He arrived at work the next morning determined to find the answer. Theodore’s Anomaly was the first thing he tackled that day. It was the most glaring Anomaly he had ever seen, one with no records anywhere, except the isolated payroll files from the Hospital where the subject worked. This didn’t make any sense. He enumerated the possibilities in his mind. Someone in the school had helped him, planting false papers to see him through the system, and removing them once he was in, out of fear that the documents might be traceable to their source. Or he had exploited a breach in the Hospital security to get into the system, faking the whole high school student thing and ending up on the payroll, sans documents. But why risk everything with a passport application now? Where did he have to be so urgently that he would place himself under the Department’s scrutiny? The Investigator reached for the phone on his desk.
“I have an Anomaly and I need a pick-up,” he said to the young woman on the other end. He always thought of the voice as young and female but today it was thin and bored and the business was completed quickly.
“You have an address?” asked the voice.
“Workplace, Atlantis Mercy Hospital.”
“Asap. I need this one now. There’s an open door out there that must be locked, and this one is the key.”