Chapter 1: Take My Hand and Fly

:PRIMEHOOK ISLAND, SOUTHERN BASIN, NATION OF FRIDALA:

A large, tranquil body of water tinted a mild blue. Land is only visible in one direction, a green-brown blur on the horizon. A shining ferry churns towards it through the open water.

The orange and white flag of Fridala flies from high atop the mast of the ship. Down on the bobbing deck below, young travelers Aubna Brummet and Jason Vermillion stand at the rail, looking down at the waves the ferry is creating.

From the interior cabin and seating area, looking seasick, Cory Danby walks to the doorway and leans out.

"Hey, come inside. We gotta talk."

Aubna and Jason slide into a bench up against the windows. A few dozen other travelers sit and mull around the large cabin.

Cory speaks slowly. "I've been thinking a little bit." He stops and takes a queasy breath in. "When Jason and I were first in the van last week, neither of us could really remember anything. It sounds like you got knocked out up at that train yard or something. But as far as I know, nothing happened to me. So what if when you do this, uh, teleport thing for the first time, there's a…side effect?"

"Could be," Jason nods.

"So before we dive in, you two ought to get acclimated." He leans down and forces out a burp.

"Are you going to be sick?" Aubna asks, concerned.

"Hope – please be a burp – hope not. I'm not used to big boats."

"How soon can we start?"

"I mean I'm never actually been on a boat before," he confesses. "Okay, well, as soon as we get to this island. If we're going for a third piece, it probably means it's far away from where I live, so we need a base on this side, somewhere safe."

"Yeah, that's good," Aubna says, creating her own question and answer, "because I'm not exactly sure where this house is. I've never come into the island by boat, there's a plane and an airstrip somewhere else.

Cory closes his eyes and sinks down into the seat, trying to find peace in his stomach. "Are you…are you both okay with the idea of doing it?"

"Warping to another world? What could go wrong!"

"What she said," Jason shrugs.

Cory tries to slip a small smile through his nausea. "Good."

Aubna raises a hand. "And you're sure you aren't all sick like this because you jumped back and forth?"

"Aubna, I swear, I'm just seasick," Cory winces, burping again.

:::

The ferry reaches its port of call, a glassy terminal on small Primehook Island, thirty miles out into the sea. The vacation home of the Brummets is across the island, away from the main town. An island similar to America's Nantucket, or Martha's Vineyard, if it were a few states further south. Many rural and open acres, roads they'll have to hike to reach the house on the opposite shore.

A dusty road weaves through a jagged sand pine forest. Off the road and just out of sight, Cory rematerializes. He blinks, and clenches and unclenches his hands.

It doesn't even feel like anything. There's no pain, no jolt, no dizziness, nothing. It's just a doorway.

He waves Aubna and Jason over from the roadside. "It's all ready. Tent's set up on the other side for you to snap out of it in." He pauses and scratches the back of his head. "I don't know what you'll see or what's gonna happen. Maybe nothing."

"You really think we should?" Aubna asks, slightly nervous.

"Are you afraid?"

"Oh, no, just…creeped out. Whole different plane of reality," she says, tossing her shoulders forward and back with anxious energy, "I thought that was only for astronauts."

"It's a whole lot easier than a rocket, trust me," Cory quickly says back. "Riding that boat got me more sick than jumping back and forth."

She paces away. "I can't believe it's happening to me. I always meant it metaphorically, being this moody, angsty- you know. I never knew what being privileged felt like until today."

"Right," Cory comments, letting her flutter off. "Jason?"

"Never better."

"Great." He gives them a short nod. "Let's go for it."

He leads Aubna and Jason a few feet through the trees. A symbolic barrier. Cory feels relieved, almost giddy to bring them to his world, to be the only person with the power to do so.

I was right. I knew that I was right, I knew that everything was real.

It's like I'm inviting aliens over for dinner. Hell, it's exactly like that. Now who's lost? Now who's scared, afraid, and clueless about everything they see around them? I don't blame them for distrusting me and getting tired of my sob story.

Aubna's mind is blank. After brief states of philosophizing, bargaining, and reasoning with herself over the decision and the impact it would have on her life – not to mention what the physics and possible explanations could be – she'd given up and submitted to the unknown.

I said I needed change in my life. Why not take a giant leap in that direction?

Besides…how much further away from my old life and home could I possibly get? A place where's no one's looking for me, where not a single person has ever seen or heard of me before. It's intriguing.

Cory kneels down on the pine needle strewn ground. "Come down," he motions, trying to speak calmly while he contains his excitement. "It's hands. Whatever I touch comes with me, so as long as we're touching, you should too. The stone to take us to Earth is in my left pocket. Aubna, grab my hand. Jason, take hers. When I do this…we should all leave at the same time."

The natives slowly sink to the ground and follow order, linking hands. Aubna wavers before making contact with Cory's beckoning fingers. "I can't believe it," she mumbles in awe.

That scared boy that showed up at the door a week ago. I never could have thought.

She presser her hand into his, and he clenches it lightly.

"What does it feel like?" Aubna asks, closing her eyes.

"When I do it now, nothing. What I see merges into where I go. There's no flash, it's not scary at all. But I don't know what you'll see if it's your first time. You trust me? Count of three?"

"Don't. Make it a surprise." She pauses, and then utters under her breath, "I never thought I'd come this far."

Only a second after Aubna's final request and statement, he slides his sinking left hand down into his pocket and touches the second stone. Skin contact is all the process takes; pockets are safe, leaves and clothing a sturdy enough barrier. But all it takes is one finger, one touch, and the reaction is instant. Whatever the force is behind it, it pulls them through the wormhole.

Bound together, they vanish away from the island, bound for the opposite foundation that Cory had established. The forest floor, just a shout away from his own home.