What is the shortest distance between two points?
Jackson stood before his window, watching the snow as it gently fell to the ground. It was the first snow of the season, and it was usually a comforting sight. The feeling of renewal, of the slate being wiped clean, a chance to start over would normally fill his mind as the flakes began to pile up. But not today. The imagery could not replace the knowledge that the DNA markers found in the dust matched those of Chen.
When Jackson arrived at his office this morning, he was greeted in person by the head of the forensics department. Though there wasn’t enough material to make a complete match with the DNA sample obtained from Chen’s college room, the he felt that he needed to tell Jackson in person that he believed that this could not be coincidence. Upon hearing this and weighing the possibilities, Jackson gave the order to have all the evidence from the other open investigations to check for dust that might also contain DNA of missing persons. He knew this would be viewed as a wild goose chase by his boss, and would probably be reprimanded for performing expensive exams on a hunch, but it was the only actionable lead he had.
Chambers asked again, “Father, where are we?”
“It is difficult to explain,” Father replied. “Please come closer. It would be easier for me to show you so you can understand.”
He cautiously walked closer towards Father and the platform. Behind the platform, Chambers could see the windows more clearly. They were jet black, though it was daylight outside when he entered. The glow from the console provided much of the light in the in the otherwise dark room. Father, as the figure chose to be called by, moved very little during the exchange. Reaching what Chambers felt was a safe distance, he stopped his approach, keeping an open eye out for anything suspicious. “I’m not here to hurt you, Bill. Please, stand beside me,” Father said.
Father asked, “Do you ever feel you could be somewhere else?”
“Yeah. Right now,” Chambers said sarcastically.
Sighing, Father shook his head. “Let me put it this way. From this platform, anyone is able to travel from one point to another as a form of energy…”
Interrupting, “You mean like a teleporter from Star Trek?” Chambers laughed, “For a moment there I was talking to God, but now I realize I’m talking to Captain Kirk.”
“I don’t know any Captain Kirk,” Father replied.
“I guess this is your starship, Captain? I don’t have time for this. I’m out of here,” Chambers said spitefully. Turning around, he started to walk out of the room until he felt Father grasp his arm firmly.
“Look,” Father said sharply. ” I know this is a lot to accept, but I am trying to answer your question. This platform allows the user to travel from one point to another as a form of energy.”
“Like a projection?” Chambers asked.
Pointing to the console, Father continued, “In a way. Since your body is built out of atoms, and those atoms contain electronic bonds, this platform will send that complex electrical profile from one location to another, leaving the physical body behind.”
“Do you build a new body when you reach your destination, or do you float around as a glowing blob of energy? That would be quite ‘shocking’ in you asked me,” Chambers joked.
“No, you appear as if you were physically there. However, interaction with people is a challenge and not recommended,” Father replied.
Barbara Jenkins. Darren Hernandez. Chen Liu. Bill Chambers. Four names joined a list of a handful of others where dust samples obtained off of evidence collected at various crime scenes contained DNA markers that match those of missing people. There was no coincidence there. The only explanation is that these individuals died in some mysterious way form some sort of human combustion. That was the only explanation.
Unfortunately for Jackson, he wasn’t going to find out. He feared that when he received a call from his boss that he was going to be punished for his use of the forensics department trying to find a connection between missing persons cases that didn’t seem connected. The call, however, was to inform him of the change in status of the cases, from missing persons to homicide. This change meant that he had to turn the cases over to a different department.
After packing file boxes with notes and CDs of the data he examined, he scribbled a note to the next investigator to inform the next of kin of the missing to inform them of the change in status of the investigations, and wish them the best of luck in solving the crimes. Picking up the phone, he called front desk to inform them of that the materials were ready for pick up and delivery. He didn’t hang up the phone, but rather laid it on the desk next to his cold cup of coffee.
The snow stopped falling a while ago. He invested so much of his time into these cases that the void created by closing the box had to be filled by something. Leaning up against the window, Jackson felt the frustration and the sense of failure wash over him. How he wished it was the snow.
Nodding, Chambers asked, “Ok, so I understand basically what you are saying, but that doesn’t explain how I arrived here. I don’t have one of these fancy platforms at home.”
“I am responsible for your arrival, as with those before you. If you might recall, you were laying on the ground in the wilderness suffering from numerous injuries. Between periods of consciousness, you would cry out for help. No one was around to hear your calls, but I heard you.” Turning around, staring through his dark windows, Father continued, “From here, your prayers for salvation reached me. ‘Help me,’ was the repeated message. I closed my eyes, focused my thoughts on your thoughts, and the platform activated, sending me to your location.”
“The silhouette…” Chambers said under his breath.
“Yes, that was me. I knelt down, placed my hand on you, and brought you here to safety. As you can see, you are healthy enough to walk through the woods to find me,” the Father continued.
“But the pain,” Chambers asked. “You are right, I shouldn’t be able to walk, but I still feel the pain. How can that be?”
Father smiled, “The pain is in your head, Bill. Pain is associated with physical problems, and you don’t have any physical problems.”
“Of course I do,” Bill responded. “Just look at my ribs, for example.”
“Bill, you weren’t paying attention when I was explaining how the platform worked. Only your energy has traveled,” Father said slowly. “You have no body.”