The metro ride took a few hours, but by the time Carson got to Upper Denver, he was no more prepared than the day before. Well, it wasn't really possible to be prepared for something like this.
As soon as he stepped out of the metro station, the bright afternoon sun blinded his eyes, as if the sanguine atmosphere was eternally mocking him. The most stupid excuse to go somewhere beautiful, Carson chided himself. The first time as an adult to see above ground because you're a fugitive from the law? So low.
Children played in the park across the street from the metro, something that would never happen in the industrial town of Ithaca. Upper Denver seemed to be a completely new world. Under Denver was the same as Ithaca. What makes above ground cities so different?
After the short and sweet sightseeing, Carson punched in the Terrence Ephemera into the GPS on his handheld and then followed the route. The world of above ground astounded him. His handheld led him to a quaint street with a large supermarket. The Terrence Ephemera was just across the street.
The building itself was covered in smooth salmon marble with white marble highlights. A beautiful terrace sat on the top floor with live plants hanging off the side. It all looked even better than anything he remembered as a child. The world aboveground was amazing, almost amazing enough to lift Carson's spirits. Almost.
The lobby of the building was as impressive as the outside, an expansive circle with a receptionist in the center of the floor mosaic. A woman with a ponytail sat behind the granite counter in front of four computer screens.
"Hello, how may I help you?" Her silver tag read, "Retired TKC Trainer, New York City."
"Um, I'm here to check this place out," Carson said. "Is this the Terrence Ephemera?"
"This is the place. Are you meeting someone?" she asked, pausing her furious typing.
"I actually want to join," Carson clarified. "I heard this is the place for…"
"You a TKC?" the receptionist asked.
Carson gave her his badge and she typed something on the keyboard, humming while she worked. She looked twenty, but Carson felt like she was much older, perhaps an unfortunate accident like his. He almost wanted to ask, but it didn't seem appropriate. She hadn't asked him.
"Well, Mr. David Carson, looks like someone from your zone is staying here right now," the woman said, looking up from her nest of screens. "Would you like me to call them down and give you the tour?"
Carson frowned. Someone from my zone? I know everyone in my zone… that means someone was a murderer the whole time and I didn't even know it? "Um…"
"I know this is a jarring experience, Mr. Carson, but you made the right decision coming here," the receptionist said. "Sometimes, seeing a familiar face helps. I'll call her down." She clicked something on her mess of screens and smiled. "All set. Here's your tag, and you can wait here in the lobby."
"Thanks." Carson took a seat on one of the couches and put on his pink colored plastic tag. It read, "TKC, Ithaca-Babylon Area." Carson stared forlornly at the polished bronze elevators, watching the way the sunlight from the window played with the bronze. The whole place felt like a fancy hotel, even though Harrison made it sound like a support group.
A message rang on his handheld. "You on break, David?" It was his coworker, Theodor.
"Yeah, Armistice," he texted back.
"Happy Armistice, bud," Theodor replied.
"You too," Carson typed back perfunctorily. He sighed. Happy? This break is anything but happy. This "break" is full of s–
The elevator dinged and the last person Carson expected stepped out.
"David, are you the greenie?" Allison asked. "They told me he was from Ithaca-Babylon, but I didn't know it was you." On top of her casual clothes, a rose gold badge read, "TKCM, Ithaca-Babylon Area."
"Sir, what are you doing here?" Carson blurted, shocked frozen.
"Drop the formalities, David," Allison chuckled. "Though I do want to hear your story."
"I'm sorry… I didn't know–"
"Come on, let's talk about it at the café," Allison offered.
"There's one upstairs. There is so much I have to show you, now that you're here!" Allison said. She turned and pushed the up button for the marble elevator.
They went into the elevator as a young couple exited. They were grinning ear to ear about something private. Their rose gold tags said Chorus City. More Time Killer Catchers went awry, it seemed.
"Where are all these people from?" Carson asked. "Are there really that many like… this?"
Allison's smile faded a bit. "There's a lot of secrets in this world. TKC accidents are much more common than we let on. We only lock up the ones who go overboard."
Carson sighed. He wasn't sure whether he was more surprised about his boss being here or the sheer number of people here. ns22.214.171.124da2