The Midland Branch

“I need a transport” Genesis barked at the technician. She wasn’t angry with the man behind the large glass walls separating her from everyone else.

“Right away Agent Hart” the man replied through the intercom. “Have a safe landing.” He added as the room darkened and the flickering light of the portal began to show.

 Whenever she had to jump realms and walk through the portal she was isolated. Not just at the time of the jump, but before and afterwards. Being chosen for the job was a military honor, but it came with a price. She was truly, utterly alone.  No other human being on earth, or her version of it, did what she did. No one. The very few people who knew about her treated Genesis with deference, even fear. Only her superiors, which was a council of international world leaders, spoke more than a passing word to her, and that was generally to give orders. The only people who knew anything of her experiences on any kind of a personal level were not people at all. Genesis’ existence was a lonely one, but she didn’t complain.

She inhaled deeply and stepped into the glittering light of the portal. It was like flying. It was like flying and being immersed in freezing cold water and drowning all at the same time. Crossing was pain and it was ecstasy. She could never write that in her report after she crossed. That would land her right in the center of a psych eval, but it was true. No matter how badly it hurt, she loved jumping and for that she hated it all the more. It felt as if her cells were exploding, like she was coming apart and being remade each time she crossed over. It was death and rebirth. It hurt like hell, but it was something else. It was life giving. It was freedom.

Genesis stumbled from the portal onto a tile floor, and crashed into what felt like a brick wall, a brick wall with arms. Immediately Genesis fought to pull herself free. She was still a bit stunned from her jump. The world was a swirling mass of shapes and colors for her.

“Easy there missy.” A voice said in a gentle growl, if ever such a thing could be gentle. “I’ve got you deary. That was some rough jump.” Genesis began to recognize the voice and the growl. It was Grimmly. He was right, that was a very harsh jump. He’d caught her as she flown through the platform into the Midland Station.

“Thanks Grimmly, I’m good” she managed to compose herself quickly and pull at her blue jeans and leather jacket until they were straightened, or until he let her go.

“Good… right”. Grimly was no fool. Genesis didn’t want his help, or the help of any of the rest of his kind. Grimmly was Artair, which literally translated to “bear-man”. He worked at Station as something of a security detail with some of the other Artair. He was roughly 7’8 and brawny to boot. His face was covered in beard –like stubble, but Genesis knew that under the right circumstances, or rather the wrong ones, that facial stubble would spread across his face and entire body as he transformed into a bear unlike anything her world knew or cared to know about.

“Anyway, you know the drill. The girls in the office need to see you before you can get clearance to move outside the Station.” Grimmly shook his head, seemingly disappointed. Genesis wasn’t unaccustomed to his sad eyes and disappointment in her. He had somehow convinced himself that she’d come around. He believed that Genesis would change and come to see the people of the Nether-Realm as something besides a threat to humankind. Genesis had no intentions of changing. She was who she was trained to be, simple and to the point. She often wondered why it mattered to him at all. His kind rarely wandered into her world anymore. It was too dangerous with all the deforestation and hunting of bears both legally and illegally.

Genesis nodded her regards stiffly before making a military-esque about-face and headed into the office to check in with the coven. They managed all of the legal jumps from one branch to the next. They were the most human of all the creatures of the Nether-Realm. They looked human for that matter, down to the very last detail and ranged in as many shades and racial distinctions as those on the other side. Some believed that witches evolved from human beings, others thought humans devolved from those from the Nether-Realm. Because no one knew the exact origin of the coven, where or when they were from or how they became, no one truly knew, and the coven wasn’t known for being open about its inner secrets.

Genesis rounded the corner and approached a reception desk under the dim florescent light of a reception office not unlike any back home. Bureaucracy was bureaucracy on any branch in any realm.

“Ms. Hart” The receptionist said with cool reserve as she approached.

“That’s Agent Hart” Genesis retorted. She hated the way the receptionist could read a person before they approached, it felt violating. If she knew so damned much, why make her come and check in in the first place?”

“It’s protocol Ms. Hart, I don’t want to talk to you anymore than you want to talk to me.” The woman said from behind the desk, narrowly lifting her bright green eyes to acknowledge Genesis as she shoved a clipboard forward. “You know the drill, sign the lines highlighted in green, initial where you see blue, write in your race, sex and species where indicated, list all manner of weaponry, potions or protection you’re carrying in the provided space and give the reason for your visit and approximate duration of your stay.”

The woman, Mary-Anne, had memorized the speech, as she’d given so many times. There weren’t other humans who crossed over into the midlands to get to the Nether-Realm , but plenty of other creatures who crossed back and forth for sport, holidays, visits, and even business. Then there were enforcers, like she and Christian, who traveled the branches quite frequently.

Genesis took the clipboard and complied with orders, something she was quite used to doing.  She signed her name and title where indicated and initialed in the same manner. The major difference between these and any other random bureaucratic paper work was that the highlights on these pages were enchanted to record the truth, despite the writer’s intentions. Genesis dropped the clipboard on Mary-Anne’s desk for her to review.

“Good luck” Mary-Anne said in a nearly sincere tone. Genesis knew that the receptionist had perceived that she was there to visit Gramtag. He was a Vamp with quite the reputation.

Genesis left the facility on foot, as was her routine. There was a storage facility not too far off from the jump site where she kept a bike. That was one thing about leaving her world and crossing over that she had to love. There were wheels in the midlands and the nether realm that weren’t legal, or even in existence back home.

Once to her storage, she unsheathed her bike, which looked trim enough, and climbed on. She had a bit of a ride ahead of her if she wanted to jump into the Nether-Realm anytime soon. To jump into that world, she had to drive to a completely different portal and go through a whole different set of customs. This one was run by the Coven as well, but they tried to keep the jump sites well away from each other. If they didn’t, what would stop someone running from one set of authorities from hopping worlds to escape justice? They did at least have a firm set of rules there that applied. If you break the laws in one reality, you stay there until you’re released as innocent or time served. Nobody likes a criminal, no matter what world they were from.

It only took a few hours to make it to the next Midland station where Genesis could hop into the Nether-Realm. The time made no difference in this realm. It was never night here, just as it was never day. The Midlands stayed in a constant state of twilight, or sunset, depending on whom you asked. This realm was truly in between in every way.

The ride would be long to the next station, but uneventful. That was the nature of the Midlands. nothing ever happened there, or at least it wasn’t supposed to. The colors here were pale compared to Earth, but Earth’s were pale compared to the Nether-realm. This realm lacked wind or even a breeze. It was neither cold nor hot, beautiful nor grotesque. Sometimes Genesis wondered if it were even real at all.  To be the gateway between two worlds, the Midlands were remarkably unremarkable.

The Midlands was a neutral zone. When the Midlands were disturbed, all the realms were disturbed. If anything, either positive or negative, threw it off balance the realm would purge itself and send whatever energy there was out in every direction. In the Nether-Realm that meant periods of constant night, full moons, long winters or even droughts. In the Barren-Realm it meant earthquakes, tsunamis, monster hurricanes and all kinds of other atmospheric disturbances. It was in the interest of all that the Midlands maintained its balance, or at least that’s what they told Genesis at the Agency. She hadn’t personally seen it in action.

“Agent Hart” the woman greeted her at the front desk. It was the same woman from the other jump site, or at least appeared to be. Genesis knew better. This was either an identical twin or some conjured up clone. Whichever she was, the routine did not change. “Please take the clipboard to a seat and fill in all the highlighted spaces.” This version of the clerk liked Genesis no better than the last.

“Thanks” Genesis remarked as politely as she could manage. She may not like witches, but she knew not to bite the hand that fed her. One of them could easily arrange for her to never make it through the portal, or to make it through… one piece at a time. She’d actually had that threatened before. When she raged to her supervisors about the threat made to her person, they only suggested she use some manors and diplomacy… right, because that’s why they hired a trained killer.

She popped a large pink pill and swallowed it without water. That was never fun, but she found that the water in her bottles often evaporated when she jumped realms, and skipping her pill was not an option. Genesis turned in her paper work and waited in line for her turn to cross. This portal was no different than the others, except that all jumps were done outdoors. It was perfectly legal to take vehicles from the Nether Realm into the midlands and back. Genesis could appreciate that. She revved the engine on her bike and waited on her cue to jump. She knew to enjoy the ride while she could. There would be nothing entertaining about finding or meeting with Gramtag… assuming she survived.


The End

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