A slight numbness was the first sign. A tingling scalp... some gooseflesh, perhaps. Soon enough, he would hear a crack in the sky and notice visual noise amplifying across the spectrum.
SLAKE was undergoing another temporal shift.
He had not energised his personal Time Displacement Beacon — this was being done from afar by the APF’s HORLOGE team locking onto his subcutaneous transponder to bring him back to Point of Origin.
SLAKE’s last visual before Transition was that of a woman’s face staring him straight in the eyes. Outside of the Kilowatt Klub in Heritageville (Stratum XXVI), the neon had cast down upon the two in the waning night. The time displacement effect was disorienting him. The sight of the woman changed in his eyes. It became like watching her on a movie screen. And then it was like watching himself watching her on a movie screen. Meta... and Meta, Once Removed.
And then he was gone.
SLAKE appeared on the platform back at the HORLOGE lab and collapsed. Team members rushed up to him (not overly concerned, for this was a normal part of the experience) and took him directly to Briefing.
“Glad you’re back,” Director Gutts said with a reassuring hand on the shoulder.
“By the way,” he added sheepishly, “Subsequently in that timeline, she became a pilot. We knew you were becoming somewhat attached. We had to bring you back.”
“At least I finally got to speak with her,” the chrononaut shrugged.
One month later (current time) the woman’s face again appeared before SLAKE — but this was no side effect. There she was, on the television, a face in the crowd at a concert in the round. A beaming smile, head and shoulders teetering to the music. The sense of joy was palpable to SLAKE.
“Godspeed, and blue skies ahead.”