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Mind Over Matters

On her third day of solitude, Natalie got a call on the vid-phone. Hoping that it was Jacob, Natalie put on her best face and answered the screen with enthusiasm. It wasn’t Jacob. Instead it was her contact from the Re-Socialization Committee. He was a short, blunt, bald man with a constant frown that wrapped around his almost non-existent chin. Natalie was sure that he was the ugliest, most unfriendly person she had ever met, and of course, he was her boss.

“Oh, hi Mr. Jones,” said Natalie, suddenly losing her cheery disposition, “what can I do for you?”

“Hello Natalie, I need you to go to the Hotel where Jacob is staying.”

Natalie looked surprised, “Go to the hotel?! Don’t you think that would tip him off to the fact that I’m working for you guys?”

Mr. Jones grunted. “That’s not important right now. Besides, he probably already knows.”

Natalie was sure the Jacob already knew, but she still liked maintaining the charade with Mr. Jones. She saw it as her only form of job security. “Um, okay. What is it that you want me to do there?”

“He’s been ‘shifted’ for almost three days now and I need you to…”

“For three days! Fuck! What the hell did you do to him!”

“That’s not really any of your concern.”

“The fuck it isn’t! Jacob’s well being is my responsibility! I should get to know if you’re gonna seriously fuck around with his mind!”

Mr. Jones expression didn’t change a bit. “Calm down Natalie,” he said.

“Calm down! You want me to calm down! There’s no telling how fucked up he is! He could be completely gone! And you want me to calm down!”

“We have been monitoring him and have no cause for serious concern. We still aren’t sure about the side-effects of mid-career programming, but this is probably one of them. Jacob will most likely be okay.”

“Well, if he’s going to be so okay, then what the hell do you need me for?”

“He’s not re-adjusting as soon as we’d like and we need you to try and speed up the process.”

“You said he was going to be okay. Why can’t you just give him more time?”

“We can’t do that.”

“Well, why the hell not?”

“He jumps tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow! You just programmed him three days ago! You said yourself that minimal time between lab visits for a jumper is two months and you want to dump him in someone else’s mind in just four fucking days!”

“I’m sorry Natalie, but I have to follow orders just as well as you do.”

“Four days!”

“I’m doing everything I can to make sure he’s ready and so must you.”

“Does he know yet?”

“No, and he won’t know until we tell him. Is that clear?”

“Yes, but can you give me any reason why you’re doing this to him?”

“No.”

“Shit! Fucking shit!”

Mr. Jones waited very patiently while Natalie fumed. When her temples returned to a less than burning red color, he continued.

“I need you to go to the hotel and make him as comfortable as possible. Try to spend as much time in reality as you can. There will be plenty of shifting later. I need him on his feet and functioning and I need him tomorrow. I’m printing you a copy of the hotel address and a keycard to his room. Go as soon as possible. That is all.”

Natalie sat there staring at the blank screen. She couldn’t believe what they were going to do to Jacob. Why were they so willing to risk their most valuable jumper? Why were they fucking up everything that she had worked so hard to achieve? Jacob was almost a regular functioning member of society, but he sure as hell wouldn’t be after this. That is, if he makes it out alive.

She couldn’t believe it. She just couldn’t believe it.


Jacob was confused when the door vid started flashing next to him. Someone was out there. He didn’t know whether he was still trying to hold everything out or if things were okay now. How long had he been shifted anyway? And why is he still holding back the door? He was very tired and very hungry.

The door vid was still flashing.

Jacob spoke at the door vid, “Outside image.”

The door vid flashed blue and then showed an image of Natalie standing outside his door. The panoramic camera lens made her look smaller than usual.

“Natalie? Why is she here?” thought Jacob, “How long have I been out?”

Jacob just stared at her image waiting patiently outside the door. She looked flustered and concerned.

“Did the committee sic her on me?” thought Jacob.

He continued looking at her image in the door vid. He still wasn’t sure if he was supposed to keep her out or let her in. Everything was so confusing.

After a while, Natalie reached into her purse and pulled out a keycard.

“She has a keycard. How did she get a keycard?”

Jacob decided then that there was no point in holding off the door anymore and opened it himself. Natalie stood there with the keycard in hand and a surprised look on her face.

“Um, hi,” said Natalie.

Jacob just stared at her for a moment. He still couldn’t decide how he felt. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Jacob stepped aside to let her in.

Natalie put the keycard back in her purse in stepped inside, being careful not to touch Jacob. She had no idea how sensitive he might be. Once she was inside, Jacob closed the door and followed her over to the bed. Natalie sat down on the bed in a very stiff fashion and kept her purse on her lap. She noticed that it hadn’t been slept in.

“I know that you like to be alone after a visit to the lab, but I was worried about you.”

“Yeah,” said Jacob.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” said Jacob, scratching the back of his head.

“Are you hungry? I could order some food.”

“Um, yeah. Sure,” said Jacob still scratching is head.

Natalie took a deep breath and quietly got up to walk around the bed to where the vid-phone was. Jacob just stood there and stared off into space as Natalie spoke with the waitress on the vid-phone. She ordered one of everything on the menu. She wasn’t sure what Jacob would be willing to eat, but she was sure that the committee would pick up the tab.

While Natalie was ordering, Jacob concentrated on staying in this reality. The room kept shifting and swirling around in his vision. Natalie’s voice seemed to be echoing everywhere. He couldn’t allow himself to shift, not while she was here.

“What is she doing here? Does she want to get killed?” thought Jacob.

After she was done ordering Natalie just sat there and watched Jacob. His breathing was irregular and he couldn’t stop fidgeting. He just stood there and stared off into space, nervous as all hell. Natalie didn’t know what to do with him.

“What is it that they expect me to do here?” she thought.

When the food came, Jacob went to work on it immediately. He ate and ate and ate. Natalie was glad she ordered so much. When he was done, there was hardly anything left but bones and pieces of parsley. When he finished, he went and spent a good half an hour in the bathroom. Natalie waited patiently outside, thinking that there wasn’t much else she could do.

When Jacob was finished, he felt better, more focused, and ready for conversation.

“So, did the committee send you up to see me?” asked Jacob.

The look of surprise on Natalie’s face was only in jest.

“Yes,” she said.

“Why?”

“They want you to jump tomorrow.”

Sure, she wasn’t supposed to tell him yet, but what did she care? She would probably be out of a job tomorrow anyway.

“Oh,” said Jacob.

Natalie sat there and waited for some other reaction other than “oh” from Jacob. There wasn’t any.

“Doesn’t this piss you off? Doesn’t it seem horribly unfair?”

“Nobody said life was fair,” said Jacob.

Natalie was frustrated. “How can you stay so damn calm at a time like this?”

“It’s my job,” said Jacob. It was that simple.

Natalie just stared at him. Now she remembered why she loved him so much. On the outside, he seemed to be the most calm and patient man she had ever met. But she knew that on the inside, he was a raging firestorm. She had to respect that. She had to love that.

“I don’t want to lose you,” she said.

“You won’t,” he said.

As soon as she told him that he was jumping tomorrow, everything seemed to slide into place. The military guy he jumped into and the generals present at his programming. There was a war going on, and he was being sent in to fight it. He just had to make sure he was ready.

“How do you know you’ll be okay?” she asked.

“I just do.”

“But how?”

“I can’t tell you that,” he said.

“Shit!” said Natalie, “Not even you can tell me what’s going on! What the hell is the conspiracy here? Why does everyone know but me? What’s so damned important that they have to try and kill you tomorrow?”

“I’m sorry,” said Jacob.

Natalie put her hands up to her face and started sobbing. She didn’t know if she could trust Jacob to come back tomorrow. She expected the news to shock him. She expected that he would need her to get through this. Instead, he just stood there like a ready-made martyr.

Jacob watched Natalie cry. He wanted to tell her what was going on, but she would only end up getting hurt as a result. Instead, he walked over and sat next to her on the bed. He wrapped his arm around her and let her rest her head on his shoulder.

Natalie cried on his shoulder for five minutes before she realized that she wasn’t sensing any emotion from him. Maybe he would be ready in time.


The next morning, Jacob slipped out of bed, got dressed, and left the room as quietly as possible. Natalie lay there silently and watched him go.

“Good luck,” she whispered, “Please come back to me.”


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