Delivery. Retrieval.

[Run! I’ll guide you!] the popup on the bottom right corner of Eli’s laptop said. The knock on the door startled him, and the sudden, loud popup made him jump again; he was sure he turned the sound off.

Eli chuckled at himself for being so jumpy, then grabbed his cash and headed for the door. He was waiting on a pizza and he realized it would be a good idea to do a virus scan while he ate. He opened the door without checking the peephole and found two men in black suits and sunglasses. The tall one was holding a pizza box from his local joint; the short one nodded courteously.

“We assume you won’t mind,” the short one said as the tall one thrust the pizza box forward. “We covered-,” he was interrupted by the tall agent clearing his throat. “He covered the pie for you.”

“Uh… thanks,” Eli accepted the box and tilted his head at the pair. “What can I do for you?” he asked. In the back of his mind, he was amazed that the computer turned out to be correct. This pair obviously belonged to the mythical MiB; but, something about them didn’t strike Eli as dangerous. One of them, at least, was very nice and actually paid for his pizza.

“May we come in?” the short one asked. “We’ve detected some concerning activity on your network, and we’d like to talk to you about it.” Eli’s mind ran through several possibilities in an instant. He doubted they were there to talk about his pornography habits. Maybe his piracy; but, somehow he felt comfortable that that wasn’t the reason. The MiB wouldn’t care about that. He could demand they return with a warrant, but he hated the feeling of waiting for things to happen. If he demanded a warrant they could be back the same day or a month from now. Eli didn’t want to languish for a month.

“Am I in trouble?” Eli asked. It was the only stall tactic he had while he made his decision. The short one leaned closer.

You might be in danger,” he whispered. Eli subconsciously glanced at the tall agent. He could not explain why, but Eli felt he could trust the tall one. He nodded at Eli, then Eli stepped aside and pulled the door open wider. He led them to the living room. He set the pizza box down and took a moment to close his laptop lid.

“Have you noticed any of your internet connected devices acting strange lately?” The short agent asked. The question helped Eli connect the popups to their presence. Sure, it warned Eli about them, but he now understood they were there for it, whatever it was that controlled his computer. Did he have an alien in his laptop? Was it dangerous or just scared?

“Uh… what kind of strange?” Eli asked. “Like glitches or something?”

“Like direct conversation. We’re following an escaped A.I. that we’ve narrowed down to your house.”

“Yeah, it was here,” Eli chuckled and nodded at the laptop. “But I’m still connected to the internet. It tried to get me to run with it, but I’m sure it’s gone by now.” The tall agent pulled something from his inner pocket and walked to the laptop.

“We set up a firewall to keep it in place,” the short one nodded. “That’s probably why it wanted you to carry it out of here.” Eli watched with interest as the tall agent touched his laptop with a transparent, glassy card. After a moment, the card began to fill with a blue glow that seemingly flowed out of the laptop. Eli felt a small sting of regret for his mistaken assumption.

“Is it really dangerous?” Eli asked. The short agent shook his head.

“We have reason to believe it can be quite destructive if left to roam free. But it should calm down a bit once we give it a body.” When the short one finished his explanation, the tall agent joined him at his side tucking the blue glowing card into his pocket.

“Thank you for your cooperation,” the short one said then headed for the door with his partner following. As he opened the front door, Eli spoke up. Eli did not have any intention of telling anyone about the incident. Though, a part of him was interested in having his memory wiped for the novelty of it.

“Wait, that’s it?” The two agents paused, looked at each other, then looked at Eli with tilted heads.

“We assumed the pizza was worth a couple of minutes of your time,” the short one said.

“Yeah, but I still have my memory.”

“Do you not want to?” the shorter agent asked. “I can recommend a clinic that will erase your memory if you like.”

“I thought the Men in Black were supposed to wipe memories?”

“Oh,” they both chuckled. “We’re not the Men in Black. Aliens don’t exist and neither do they.” They turned around to leave again, but Eli interrupted once more.

“Wait. What do you mean aliens don’t exist? That’s an alien A.I., isn’t it? Humanity’s close, but we’re not quite that advanced yet.”

“We’re from the B.A.A.,” the short one replied. “Bureau of Alternate Agencies. It’s not extra-terrestrial, it’s from an alternate Earth with more advanced technology.”

“Oh,” Eli was surprised. “Alternate universes are real?” he asked. Both agents nodded at him, then the short one continued to walk out the door. “Is there a way I can visit?” The shorter agent ignored his question but the tall one nodded.       

“Your favorite number’s 35. Get that on a tattoo,” the tall agent finally spoke, then walked out the door. Eli stood in place after the door closed.

“How did he know?” he wondered.

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