Cold Spots

sun-icon

Summer so far had been especially hot. Sweltering as they say. Our small window mounted AC unit had given up and died a week earlier. Even with the windows open, it was hard to keep our apartment bearable. So we were sitting on the stoop, which was at least on the shady side of the building.

The apartment complex was low rent, part government housing, and not gated in any way so it wasn’t uncommon to see people walking through that didn’t live there. This one guy stood out though. He was walking from building to building offering tenants, also sitting on their stoops, flyers. Again not unusual but the closed trench coat he was wearing stood out.

When he got close to us, I noticed another odd thing, he wasn’t sweating. Even without a trench coat covering most of his body, I would have expected at least a sheen of sweat. He should have been drenched, sweat dripping from his hair, but instead, he looked as cool as a cucumber.

“Hello, ladies,” he said while reaching into his coat. I sat up straighter, tensing until he pulled a pamphlet out and offered it to me. The title read, “Beat the heat!!” with clip art flames on the bottom.

“Sorry, we’re not interested,” I said. Probably a recruiter for a cult.

“You haven’t even heard what I’m offering.” He smiled a genuine, honest, open smile that was still a salesman’s smile. I glanced at Selene, who shrugged, so I took the pamphlet from him.

“Okay, what are you selling?” I asked flipping open the pamphlet. Inside were instructions on drawing sigils and their placement within rooms.

“First I need to ask, do you believe in ghosts?”

“Only on the weekends and holidays,” Selene said.

“Sometimes,” I said.

“Have you ever walked into a room and felt a cold spot or heard of someone experiencing a cold spot in their home?”

Selene laughed. “I’ve heard about that.”

“Good, you know ghosts can affect the ambient temperature of a room in one spot at least. Now, what if you could move the ghost around the room in a controlled manner?”

“Are you talking about cooling a house with a ghost?”

“Exactly. The pamphlet, which is yours to keep for free, has instructions on how to draw the ghost management sigils and where to place them in your home.”

“So you’re giving away your big idea for free?” I asked.

“The idea is too easy to share and duplicate to bother selling. I sell ghosts to power the cooling system.” He reached deep into one of his pockets and pulled out a small octagon box wrapped in string with a wax seal on top.

Selene leaned forward to squint at the box. “So, you’ve got some grandma’s soul trapped in a box and you’re just going to sell it to us to cool our apartment?”

“Not at all. Our spirits are ethically sourced. We do not deal in souls or remnants or poltergeists.”

“How do you ‘ethically source’ something that comes from dead people?”

“The spirits-”

“Ah, so they are souls!” Selene crowed.

The man’s smile slipped to a tight grin. “Spirit is a layperson term we use for the psychically active emotional energy we collect from donors at the time of there death. It’s no different than organ donation.”

“Except there’s a huge difference between a liver and a soul.”

He sighed and began reciting from memory, “We don’t collect souls. At the time of death, a person releases a burst of psychic energy that usually dissipates quickly. In the case of violent or traumatic death part or all of the soul can become attached to this energy creating a classic ghost, remnant, or poltergeist. Since we only collect in clinical settings our donors die peacefully with no chance of that happening.”

“That actually does sound on the up and up.”

“So, are you interested in buying your first spirit, I mean psychically active emotion energy ball?” His smile returned in full force.

“How much?” I asked

“Seven hundred dollars.”

“We could buy three AC units for that much.”

“True but this is a cooling system that will never break down and won’t run up your electric bill.”

“Sorry, we’re not interested. Have you made any sales around here?”

“Nope.” He returned the sealed box to his coat pocket.

“I didn’t think so. Most people around here can barely afford regular ACs.”

The man shrugged. “I’m aware of the financial situation of the area but you can’t find new markets without looking for them. Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you ladies but I must be moving on.”

I watched him walk off to the next building and start his spiel over again.

“Do you think this could actually work?” I asked looking over the sigils closely. Selene touched the final example and mumbled words under her breath. The black ink flashed red and a shock ran up one of my arms and down the other. I dropped the pamphlet. “Damn, warn me before you do something like that.”

“Seems to be a stable containment sigil. A bit more general purpose than I would use but serviceable. The idea is sound if slightly unethical in most cases.”

“What about George? He wasn’t a very nice person when he was alive. It would almost be fitting to put him to work cooling the apartment.”

“You said released his energies.”

“Maybe I only confined him to the cupboard over the fridge? Look we never use those cupboards anyway and it was easier than passing him over.”

“Hmm, well as long as we have a ghost we don’t mind tormenting let’s give it a whirl.”

5D Bounty Hunting

“Plasma Spike” Bob and “Grinning” William were just two low-level thugs running a protection racket until they got a little too rough with one of their clients. With three dead at the scene and two more injured during their escape, they had shot up to the top of the wanted list. A one million credit bounty had been issued for their capture, dead or alive.

One of my sources tipped me off that the two were holed up in one of a warehouse on the dark side of the station. I’d been to three so far this cycle and was beginning to think they had fled planetside. I snuck in a side door of the next warehouse and started working my way around the inside perimeter to the office. A radio played softly inside but not softly enough to keep Bob and William hidden. I placed a hand on the office doorknob and pulled my gun from its shoulder holster. The radio cut off suddenly and chairs scrapped against the floor. In a single motion, I pulled the office door open and stepped inside. The bullets slapped into my guts before I heard the boom of their guns. Red blossomed on my shirt. This wouldn’t do.

I stepped back one minute. The door was still closed. I turned the doorknob and flung the door open staying out of the doorway. Three bullets thudded into the plastisteel crates nearby.

“Why don’t you make this easy for me and just give up?” I called around the door frame.

“Slag off copper!” one shouted.

“Yeah slag it!” the other said followed by a round of laughter.

“I’m not a police officer but they are on the way. I’d rather have you all wrapped up for them but if you want a big shootout that can be arranged.” They answered with another round of bullets.

I sidestepped into a frozen moment and walked into the office. I plucked Bob’s gun from his hand and emptied the bullets into one of my coat pockets. After doing the same with William’s gun I returned to outside the office. Time restarted.

“Is that your final answer?” I shouted. I slowed time and strolled into the office. They raised their guns slowly, from my perception, and tried to shoot me. I savored the looks of confusion on their faces as their guns clicked on empty chambers.

I punched William in the forehead and felt something snap in my hand. That wouldn’t do. I stepped back five seconds. Using the butt of my gun this time, I knocked William out. Bob followed right after. Time resumed it’s normal flow, while I secured their hands with disposable handcuffs. Their guns went into the same coat pocket with their bullets. I dialed the police.

“What the nature of your emergency?” the operator asked.

“Hello, what is the current response time to my location?” I asked.

“Current response time is twelve minutes. Do you require police, fire, or medical?” I hung up, stepped back ten minutes to call the police, and returned to present time hear sirens just arriving outside.

After giving my initial statement, I moved off to one side and stayed out of the way while allowing time to slip by at twice normal speed. When a CSI approached, I slowed down to hand over the guns and bullets then I sped up again. A detective I knew walked up to me. I stepped back a minute so I could catch her eye just before she walked over and give her a grin of recognition.

“Another pair of criminals put behind bars. How many is this for you? Fifteen?” the detective asked.

“Eighteen. I nabbed three of the Red Shift Gang over the weekend,” I said with a smile.

“Why does a fifth-dimensional alien care about catching criminals on a backwater space station?”

“I’m just trying to do my part.” I casually leaned back against the wall.

“I’ve been reading up on you fifth-dimensional beings.”

“Have you really? And what have you read?”

“Well a lot of the technical jargon went over my head but one thing I think I understood is you can move through time like we move through space.” The detective paced as she talked.

“That’s true.”

She spun to face me. “Then why don’t you just go to when these scumbags committed their crimes and stop them?”

“I could do that … but what would be the fun in that? Where’s the game for me?” I leaned forward to watch as the meaning of my words sunk in. Her face twisted into a snarl and she raised a hand. I stepped back one minute thirty seconds.

“… when these scumbags committed their crimes and stop them?”

“Unfortunately my people have Time Laws that prevent us from altering the past in certain ways. For the safety of the universe, we dare not violate them,” I said as sincerely as I could.

“Huh, I didn’t read anything about that,” she said doubt soaking her words.

“It’s not something we talk about.”

“Well, your help is always appreciated.” The detective walked away.

“I’m sure it is.”