Liminality #1

Liminality

lim·i·nal

ˈlimənl/

adjective (technical)

  1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
  2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

 

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Tien wound his ATV between the short trees that dotted Superior Crater. It was dark out, and no lights shone from the ruined city ahead. Rather peaceful, really, save for the occasional small mammal that he would swerve to avoid (or at least try to). There wasn’t a human in sight, or so the trackers told him. He let himself relax. It was nice to be out of the office.

He hadn’t seen the crater first-hand before. It was pretty, just like people said, if a bit… brownish. But brown grass was better than no grass.

The vehicle chirped and he looked at the dash. Fuel heat nominal; no threats or surveillance detected; no messages… ah. He’d entered the demilitarized zone between Canada and the US. This was, of course, expected, but the lack of markings meant that he had to rely on the equipment. Tien snapped out of his daydream, stopped the vehicle, and exited. He opened one of the hatches in the rear and pulled out the checklist and a pen. He would fill most of it out on his sleevetop later–best to do the paper part of the paperwork while things were quiet, since it took longer.

With the graceless efficiency of a seasoned public servant at the Ministry of Corrections, he began filling out the tedious form. Most of the legwork had been done by the computer, but for accountability’s sake he still had to check off all the right boxes, and then sign, date, and scan it for later filing. Not like it would matter much for him, where he was going, but it was quite important for future such experiments, and a duty was a duty.

About halfway through he reached back into the hatch and pulled out a black plastic briefcase. Opening it, he set aside some paperwork and pulled out a parcel of clothing–some nondescript suit, the kind you’d see on an extra in old movies–then stripped out of his Ministry jumpsuit and into the vintage design.

Back to the clipboard. Check. Check, check… he removed a device from the hatch and unfolded it onto the ground. Check. He turned it on, check, check… it activated with a whirring sound, and his sleevetop blinked green under the suitcoat to indicate it was the right kind of sound. Check.

After putting his old clothes and all the packaging and other detritus he’d managed to produce into the hatch, he checked one last box on the form, then signed it three times, dated it, closed the hatch, and fed it into the dashboard scanner. He detached a small rod from the vehicle and put it in his breast pocket with a practiced move, then stepped onto the device he’d unfolded. Finally he plugged the device into a socket on the side of the ATV, double-checked his footing, and pushed the only button on it he hadn’t already pressed. The whirring sped up, he gripped the pair of handles that stuck up from the middle, and vanished. A moment later, when the checklist had finished scanning, an antenna rotated briefly; one more moment and the ATV began flashing and then exploded with a cold, quiet spark, leaving a vaguely ATV-shaped scar in the dormant grass.

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