"The Goods"

"Here. Just break the seal under your nose and inhale. It's that simple"

Jax made a poor attempt at feigning disgust at the suggestion.

"It's just a momentary high, then you get to the good part."

Her pusher always claimed Nirvana was only a sniff or snort or toke away, but in reality it didn't matter what she inhaled, injected or absorbed. There was no Nirvana. No great epiphany or revelation, no moment of oneness. This was just a chemical misfire incited by an external substance. It wouldn't lead her to any great advance, despite his continues salesmanship. Hell, even the high was elusive these days.



"I'm not here for the fix. This isn't about me." She almost believed her own words as she spoke. It was supposed to be about finding a nobler mind, but in reality it was simple escapism. Even Jax knew this was a false path. She took the small gel wrapped stick from her source. He smiled a crocodile smile and rocked back, smoothly putting one long, scaly claw back in his hip pouch as if to pat and comfort the rest of his present supply.

"Look J, we've been staging this dance for months now. I know scrip is short. Maybe this time we discuss alternative payments?"

Alternative arrangements. He'd finally worked his way up to propositioning her. He must have assumed based on her present disheveled state that she was broke, strung out and desperate enough to make payment through a more carnal method. Jax sighed noticeably and watched the crocodile respond as though it was probing scalding waters with its leathery insensitive tail. It seemed to feign a scolded response but it edged closer to its conquest almost imperceptibly. Except she noticed and she internally scolded herself for letting on.

"I have your payment. You going to take it?" Her right hand darted quickly into her jacket pocket and presented a small vacuum wrapped bag. Its contents held an interesting texture of raised bumps and she found herself tracing the outline of the rectangular chips subconsciously as she proffered the loot before the croc.

His eyes glistened and she saw him squint and focus on the bag. His demeanor shifted at the offering. His posture straightened, his shoulders retreated and his head tilted ever so minimally as he registered the offered treasure.

"New treats? I hadn't expected that." His hand lashed forth to claim his goods and for a second Jax could feel the leathery texture of his hands slide across her own soft, delicate skin. His touch was coarse and uncomfortable. "I have to say, I'm only slightly disappointed that we didn't have a chance to make other arrangements, but then again you'll be back. You always come back."

Jax ignored the comment and walked by though the crocodile seemed to breath uneasy at her as she left. "I'm not coming back." she tossed over her shoulder as she cleared the corner of the alley and turned out into the hazy evening's traffic, not giving the predator any opportunity to respond.

Walking was painful. It wasn't a physical pain so much as a hunger that hurt. Every step was a delay. Every footfall a sign she was delaying the change and every push off was mental effort. The slave in her soul wanted her to stop. The weakness in her heart screamed at the delay. This was what it needed. This was its salvation and its support, and Jax was fighting her own urge to find a wall to slump against on some corner of a building where she could break the stick and chase her current dragons.

She hadn't planned to walk far. Her rented room was only two blocks distant and she kept a pace as she left the crocodile that most observers would think was a light jog. Her legs carried her while her mind fought her urges. The trip was uncontrolled, she wasn't watching her surroundings, she wasn't guiding her gate and before she knew she'd passed through the entrance to the hotel and was standing before the lift.

Her left thumb and forefingers rolled the stick nervously in her pocket as she waited the seemingly interminable time it took the elevator to arrive. Once the doors opened she moved purposefully in and flicked the floor button with her right hand. The elevator was quiet, she was alone and it was fast. Everything she needed to get her through the waiting. When the doors finally opened to her appointed floor, she burst out without much thought, buried in her struggle and directly impacted something or someone who didn't move in response.

"Damn!" She exclaimed as she bounced and almost lost her balance. Her head cleared slightly and the broad muscled person before her came into focus.
"You mind not fucking blocking the door?" Jax growled at her obstacle. "You're lucky you didn't hurt someone standing there." The obstacle laughed and helped Jax steady herself.

"I generally don't have to worry about people bolting out of the elevator when I'm waiting." His voice was pleasant, the mood more humorous than offended. "Most people pay attention to the doors and see someone standing out before they exit. You seem a bit preoccupied." Jax felt the fog clear further as she looked this new acquaintance up and down. He was taller than she was, his skin was the color of black coffee and his eyes were an odd hazel shade. He was dressed in casual clothes, a simple shirt, jeans and older sneakers.

"Yeah. A little. Sorry." She had trouble matching his eyes.

Jax could feel her internal voices scream at this delay, and she dropped her eyes in an attempt to hide her shame. "I'll watch next time." she attempted to move beyond the man and down the hall but nothing went the way she'd planned. Her head felt heavy and her vision went completely out of focus. Her next step went wrong and the hall, with its ugly hotel carpet of red and gold diamonds in a pattern suddenly got very close. Somewhere in the distance she heard a sound like a rubber hammer bouncing off concrete that an instant later she recognized as coming from her own skull Then the ugly pattern went stark white in a flash and black and she passed out.

*********************************************************************************
When her eyes opened next there was no ugly carpet pattern. She was warm and wrapped in a nice down comforter atop a soft, conforming mattress. It took her a moment more before she realized she was no longer in the hotel's hallway, or if she was, they'd done a hell of an odd remodel in the time she'd been out of it.

Once she became aware of her surroundings she did the next instinctual thing and spent a second trying to figure out if she was restrained and in fact she also spent time trying to make sure she could feel all her clothes covering her skin in the same way she had before her sudden loss of continuity.
Not all her clothes felt the same, but she knew she was still dressed. Her arms and torso were lighter, despite the comforter so she assumed her jacket was gone. Her toes were unbound by her inflexible combat boots as well. However she'd arrived here she hadn't been too molested or at least they'd had the presence of mind to re-dress her.

"Damn I'm untrusting" she thought before noticing the urge was gone. The hunger she lived with every second of her life was gone and her heart wasn't screaming. She felt calm but the lacking was strangely lonely. Her dragon was disconcertingly silent.

The room she was in was dimly lit and without moving overtly, Jax could see there was a door separating her from another room. It was too dark to clearly make out the decor but she could make out the impression of a bedside stand, wall-mounted lights above the headboard of the bed she lay upon and a sitting chair and table at the end of the bed. It appeared unoccupied. She concluded that she was alone in the room. Jax decided to move as quietly as she could to slide out of the bed.

The comforter slid away without making too much noise. The sheets were soft and silky, she guessed they had a much higher thread count than the usual hotel bedding which caused a slight bit of apprehension and fear to creep in. Adrenalin started to spike and she could feel the edge of anxious trembling at the edges of her composure. Jax pushed the trembling down. Now was not the time to crash. She didn't know where she was or how she'd gotten here and frankly she wasn't clear on why her mind was so clear. She hadn't felt this sort of clarity in months. Not since she'd lept off the mental deep end. Not since the incident.

Her feet were steady as she stood. On the chair at the end of the bed should could make out her boots and coat. Placed carefully and in an orderly manner. The room had another door and a large window. The second door offered no light so she figured it was a closet, while the window glass was opaque allowing no light through. No shades or window coverings were hanging above the four primary panes, and beside the bed she noticed a digital control. Her eyes pulled in all the available light and with a little concentration she could make out the window opacity controls.

There was a noise from the room behind the lit door. Someone was walking in the area beyond it but Jax couldn't tell if they were approaching or just traversing the room so she backed up and pressed herself flat against the wall beside the door. Survival instincts kicked in and she balled her fists to strike anyone who came through the door.Seconds later the door slid open like a pocket door. The light that spilled through was bright enough to blow her night vision and left her staring at a silhouette.

Jax prepared to leap at the arrival but held off at the last moment when she recognized the person's step. an instant later she recognized their clothing as well. Worn combat boots, faded denim pants, a broken in leather jacket and a woman's form. Recognition left Jax paralyzed as the figure flipped on the overhead lighting and she looked directly into her own eyes.

"What the fu..." The other her exclaimed. Jax pushed down her panic a second time, but the tremors caused by the shock were not as easily avoided.  Her doppleganger seemed less prepared for the shock than she was though, so Jax pushed by her and turned out into the unknown lit room beyond as fast as her unsteady legs would take her. She hip checked her clone and bolted into the space, reading it as quickly as possible, scanning for any obvious exit.

"Hey!" the clone shouted. "Jax! Stop!" Jax didn't pause in her attempt to flee but immediately she saw her escape attempt was done. The room beyond was featureless. The walls were white and the room was only barely perceptible. A universal light left no shadow and the floor and walls appeared indistinguishable. Jax was unsure where the walls even were. There were no doors and not readable features aside from a simple black plastic table, two similar black chairs and a setting for food. One the setting Jax could see and now smell freshly scrambled eggs, the appetizing scent of crisp bacon and fresh coffee. She took four more steps before coming to a halt. The oddity of the whole situation crashed down on her and she just stopped.

"Where am I?" she yelled as she turned back to the doorway she'd burst from. The door frame itself the only defined object present on the wall behind her.

"You done running?" Her other self asked. Jax was slow in response.

"I'm not sure. I want to keep running," she answered, "but the only thing I can do is have breakfast with myself. I'm not even sure how to process this!" Her stress peaked and she let out a slight whimper. She felt tears brimming and pushed them back.

"Sit down. I'll clarify what's going on." Other Jax said as she walked past and took the far chair at the table. Jax put her hand to her forehead and rubbed it, then walked to the black chair at the black table and took a seat.

"I'm not here. This can't be a real place. Who are you?"

"Relax a second. Have some coffee while its still warm and I'll explain." Jax forced herself to relax.

"Why do you look like me?" She asked.

"Because I am you. You're me. We're both Jax." Her voice was calm and it seemed to lack Jax's usual cynical tone. It was like hearing a recording of her voice played back. Her own voice sounded higher than this Jax's.

"How can you be me?" She asked

"Because you are plural. Jax is not just Jax." Again, her response was measured and calm.

"I'm... I'm.. not even sue what that..."

"Listen, this isn't an rational conversation. You have absolutely no capability to process this the normal way, so let me cut you off there Jax." She interrupted, this time her voice betrayed some frustrations and sounded a but curt.

"Just eat. When you're done I'll help you process it." the Other pointed at the food, prodding Jax to pick up a fork or a piece of bacon. Jax found herself complying and she sat in silence for a few minutes while she devoured the food before her.

"There. Now." The other's voice was supportive and before Jax could respond the world shifted. The room flipped and she found herself on the other side of the table peering back at the other, who seemed to be finishing her meal. Except the other was now lacking her boots and her jacket.

"The fuck just happened?!?!" Jax yelled, as she pushed herself back and up out of the chair, her combat boots gaining purchase as the black chair fell aside behind her.

"Its always easier to show us. We never process the conversation when we first come back. Sorry." She told herself. The her she had been a second before anyway.

Jax was still confused, but she could feel herself relax a bit. "Pick up the chair and have a seat. It gets easier in a few seconds." She said, this time flashing a bit of a knowing smile. Jax righted the chair and sat back down.

"How did I get here?" She asked.
"Well, you're actually always here. Well except when you're not. I know that's confusing" she added, " but you were always heading here. The fact you're here now means you accomplished your awakening. Whatever goal you set for yourself, or we set for ourselves.." she paused a second and smirked, " I'm not sure there is a way to say this, languages aren't built for these concepts... anyway, you got the goods so you came back."

Jax blinked and scowled at the other. "What goods?"

Other Jax smiled. "The synth chem. We needed it. You got it and you came back."

"The synth? I didn't even take them. They were in my jacket."

"I know." she said. "Something went wrong. We lost ourselves, or my "you" rather. Again, language sucks to explain this. So we had to pull your plug. I took over."

"Did I die? Am I dead? The last thing I remember was ugly carpet. Then the bedroom."

"Yeah. That's a remnant of the crossover. Right now you're recovering. If I can figure out what happened I/you can go back to being in control of you/me." The Other seemed far more composed though with every second of the conversation Jax felt her fear and stress begin to bleed away.

"I got the synth from the croc. I could feel the need well up and I knew I needed a hit, so I was rushing back to my room to break the synth." Jax offered.

"Ah, there it is. I'm not an addict. The synth isn't a drug you know, its a stable compound. We use it to stay synchronized. All of us take it. Though you for some reason didn't have a stock. I need to figure that out." The Other took on a more clinical tone. Some part of Jax recognized that mode.

"If I'm plural, why don't I know that?" She asked, still confused.

"Well as I said something went wrong. I'm not sure what yet. I need to figure it out and while I love chatting with myself I'm afraid this conversation is not really advancing anything. Relax. I'm driving right now. Normally I know who I am, and now you know yourself as well." The other smiled and stood. Jax felt a wave of calm brush over her. She knew this was right but something kept her on the alert as the other walked over and put the back of her hand softly against Jax's cheek. The skin was warm and soft and real. A second later Jax felt a small prick at the base of her neck and she began to get tired.

"Once I figure out what happened I'll put you back, but I need you to rest right now." She said as Jax slid softly down, her body non-responsive and sleep overwhelmed her. This time the floor had no pattern and there was no thump, just a growing haze and fading light.

In the hallway Jax saw the haze clear. The man cradled her head in his lap and two hotel staff members were applying stim packs to her arms. She could feel the chill of the drugs flow over her and instead of a haze, the world came into sharp focus. She was back.

"Are you okay?" the obstacle asked Jax.

"I will be. Thanks." She responded, "I think I've gotten control of myself again." Jax slid her hand into her pocket, confirming the chem was still there as she thanked them and returned to her room.

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