Heflin rolled over to his side. With hands caked in dry mud, he wiped away the dirt covering his eyes.
"Is that you, Heflin?"
"Where are we?"
Heflin could hear Sogal shifting around in the darkness. his hand rubbed the soil then the metal walls encasing them.
"I don't know."
Heflin pulled the data orb from his pocket and sniffed it.
"I have no power. Do you?"
Sogal's orb was likewise dead. They crawled slowly towards each other's voice until Sogal hit his head on something metal.
"Bars. Metal bars." Sogal knocked on them with his fist. "And judging by the echo, this is not a very big enclosement we're in."
Heflin raised himself to his feet, but before he could reach his full height, another dull thud of head-on-metal rang through the narrow cells.
"Don't try to stand up, Sogal. There's--"
A hatch above Sogal opened, and white, blinding light poured into the cell. A man with a full and matted beard reached down to Sogal.
"Time's up. Your boys need you."
Sogal inched away from the outstretched hand. He glanced towards Heflin, but could see only darkness.
"Let's go," the man said. He wore a gray uniform with yellow sergeant markings. Over his shoulder was slung a Springfield rifled musket.
Sogal took the man's hand and disappeared into the light above the cell. A moment later, the hatch above Heflin opened, and both Sogal and soldier stood over the opening.
The soldier lifted Heflin from the box and suddenly the two travelers found themselves in an expansive green field just outside an ancient city. The soldier led the men along the tree line to a campsite just beyond the town's borders. In the middle of the camp, surrounded by soldiers carrying and cleaning rifles, stood a circle of men playing base ball.
"Can either of you men twirl?" one of the men called to them. He held a small brown ball and flicked his wrist. "Twirlers?"
Sogal nodded cautiously.
"What the hell are you doing?" Heflin whispered gruffly.
"Anybody can throw." Sogal took the ball from the fellow prisoner.
Heflin reached into his pocket. The data orb was vibrating.
"I have a charge," he whispered. "Draw their attention."
Heflin jogged to right field and slipped a hand into his right pocket. He fiddled with the orb as the first batsman came to the metal serving dish, which acted as home plate for the capture soldiers.
Sogal threw a pitch high and away. It sped past the catcher's spread fingers and ricocheted off a nearby tent peg. The tent half collapsed as the peg and twine spun into the air. The catcher retrieved the ball and trotted to Sogal.
"Not so hard, now. Just a friendly." He patted him on the shoulder. "Can you throw an in-shoot?" The catcher held the ball in a special grip.
Sogal took the ball and repeated the grip.
"Give that one a go," the catcher said, then trotted back behind the plate.
Heflin pinched the orb, then rolled it against his thigh. The centerfielder, noticing Heflin's vigorous pocket movements, stepped a few paces closer to left field.
Sogal threw the in-shoot.
"Strike one!" the umpire -- a Union officer -- bellowed. Sogal threw another in-shoot and the batsmen swung and missed so hard the bat spun away towards the third baseman.
Heflin peeked inside his pocket. The orb was glowing green. He sniffed it again. It smelled like a plum. He dropped it back into his pocket just as a red line appeared in the sky. Like a sliver of God's red tape, the red band of light bisected the blue sky in a smooth and unbroken curve.
"Can you see that?" Heflin pointed at the red crack in the sky. "Can you see that red line?"
The centerfielder looked up and then edged another two steps towards left field.
Sogal threw a fast ball high and the batter again missed. On the next batter, he threw an in-shoot and then a fastball for two quick strikes. Sogal started inventing grips. He threw a reverse-spinner, a no-spinner, a slow ball, a double slow ball. The batters fought the pitches away off their front foots. They swung so awkwardly they even fell into the opposite batter's box. Sogal threw a fast ball hard down the middle and the batsman, an artillery officer with bushy sideburns, swung so late the catcher's calloused and aching hands were already winding up for the return throw. Sogal notched three strikeouts on a dozen pitches to end the first half inning.
The artillery officer marched towards the mound. "Who is this fella anyway? What's your regiment?"
"That's First Lieutenant Carmon, isn't it?" the catcher said, following the artillery officer to the mound. The third baseman trotted towards Sogal and examined his face.
"You're Carmon, aren't you?"
"That's not Carmon." The batsman marched poked a fat pointer finger at Sogal's chest. "Who are you?! Are you some local ringer these boys bring in here to make me look a fool?"
Heflin pulled the data orb from his pocket. It glowed bright green like a neon light. The aroma of gouda cheese and strawberries permeated the outfield. Both the left fielder and center fielder looked at Heflin, who was winding up a twirl of his own. He stretched the green orb far behind himself and then slung it towards the red line bisecting the sky. The orb started curving back towards earth, then sucked up towards the red line.
The men arguing on the mound silenced. The outfielders tilted their heads skyward, then the infielders followed their gaze. A bright purple burst of light filled the sky. The purple melted away and split to reveal a blackness dotted by bright and near stars. The field morphed from a bright green into a sickly purple. Behind the row of Confederate guards stood a row of enormous creatures with six hoofed legs, long, sagging eyes, and neat, sparkly bracelets.
"Sogal!" Heflin sprinted to the engineer's side.
Sogal grabbed the orb in his pocket, and both he and Heflin covered it with their hands. The orb glowed so bright it turned their hands green from the inside. Then it began raising, slowly at first.
"Hold tight." Heflin said. "It doesn't have a home base. And I didn't have time to set a destination."
The orb rocketed into the sky with Sogal and Heflin dangling from it. The soldiers and captured soldiers watched in silence as the two men disappeared into the night sky, then the night sky dissolved back into the blue day.
Birds chirped. The wind tousled leaves in the nearby treeline.
After a prolonged silence, the first baseman said: "I think that was Robert pitching."