Damon Waltz stood in the field across from his mother’s one-bedroom apartment. He stared at his small, brown dog as it paced back and forth through the sopping-wet grass. It was raining, and Damon’s clothes were soaked down to his skin. He shook his hand free from the clenches of his sleeve and adjusted his hood so he could still see without being blasted in the face by raindrops.

He adjusted his headphones under his hood and looked down to the shaking dog.

“Would you poop already?” Damon shouted at the little brown dog.

The dog didn’t care, turned away and began spinning in circles at the end of his leash. Damon sighed as the dog went back to pacing in the grass. He looked away, toward the city in the distance. It glowed blue; the clouds above it illuminated so he could see every bump.

He looked back at the dog as it looked up to him in shame from its squat. Damon unravelled a poop bag from the leash and stuck his hand inside, waiting for the dog to finish. He picked up the poop, tied off the plastic bag and slathered his hands in hand sanitizer.

The grass had become extra slick and muddy as he walked up the hill toward the apartment building. The dog sprinted ahead and pulled on Damon’s arm. His foot slipped out from under him and sent his face into the wet grass. The leash came free from his hand and the dog vanished at the top of the hill.

“Stupid dog,” Damon said, pushing himself off the grass, wiping mud from his black hoodie. He continued up the hill to find the dog sitting in front of their apartment door; the leash trailing behind him.

“Couldn’t be patient, could you?” he asked the dog as he unlocked the door and opened it for the dog. The lights in the hallway to the apartment dimmed a moment. Damon paused. The lights continued getting darker until he couldn’t see a thing.

Suddenly the lights burned to brighter than normal. The bulb at the far end of the hall surged, raining glass and embers onto the ground. A burst of blue particles danced across the wet concrete from where Damon had just come from.

Damon closed the door quietly and walked slowly toward the particles as they flickered out. He could hear breathing. He put his back against the building and peered around the edge. A man lay smoldering in the rain. His torso and legs were covered in body armor. He sighed.

Damon snapped back around the corner. The man began groaning in pain and Damon looked again, his whole body rounding the edge. The rain hit him again as he walked toward the fallen man.

“Excuse me?” Damon said, stepping closer to the man. He stretched out his hand, “Excuse me, are you alright?”

The man barely lifted his bloodied face to look at the boy.

“Help,” the man could barely mumble.

Damon dropped by his side and slid the man’s arm over his shoulder. He stood, bringing the man with him. They walked slowly back into the covered hallway. Once out of the rain the man shook free of Damon and slammed his back against the wall, sliding down to a sitting position.

“Kid,” the man said. His hands clutched his torso; they were red.

Damon stared down at the man.

The man reached into the front pocket of his kevlar vest and pulled out a small device with a screen on it. He lifted the device toward Damon. The kid took it hesitantly.

“Guard this… Let no one take it from you, no matter what. Only give it to the Ace…” The man’s head drooped, but his neck snapped back, “I need to go.”

“What? Go where? I can call an ambulance,” Damon said, reaching into his pocket for his cell phone.

The man shook his head. He lifted his left arm and pulled back his sleeve, revealing a glass looking bracer. A simple swipe over the inside of his wrist lit up the entire bracer. He pressed a couple of buttons. The bracer began to glow, illuminating a strip of light up his arm and across the armor on his body.

The man looked up to Damon one last time as the lights began to dim.

He smiled as the lights blared with brightness and he vanished in an explosion of particles. They skittered down the hallway and bounced off Damon.

They were warm to the touch as they dissipated. Damon stood frozen a moment. He examined the device until the door to his mother’s apartment opened.

Damon jumped, fumbling the device into his pocket.

“What’re you doing out here? Are you messing with the building’s fuses?” Damon’s mother whisper-shouted down the hall.

He shook his head no as he walked to the apartment.

His mother had already vanished into her bedroom and muddy paw prints disappeared down the hall. Damon stripped off his wet jacket and dropped it on the floor. He sat on the couch and rolled the device over in his hands until he fell asleep.

At 3:47 in the morning his phone let out a strong vibrate, warning Damon the battery was low. He jumped awake, tossing the device to the ground, and fumbling inside his pocket to find the vibrating phone.

The device lit up and Damon stopped digging. The whole room was illuminated. He leaned down and picked it up, a series of numbers scrolled quickly across the screen. They had a familiar pattern until he realized the last fourteen were today’s date and exact time. His eyes shifted to the fourteen numbers before them and quickly put together the date: January 7, 2096 14:56:32.

“Twenty ninety-six?” Damon whispered to himself.

The screen began to dim, along with the hall light. A car alarm rang out from the parking lot, whipping Damon’s head in that direction. His hand slammed over the screen blocking the light. He jumped from the couch and split two blinds open between his fingers.

A large, silhouetted man stood by one of the cars. Damon closed the blinds a little, still staring. The figure moved, the sound of gears echoing across the parking lot. It peered into the windows of a sedan and then clenched its fingers into the roof and slid the car out of the way as it moved to the next one.

Damon closed the blinds as car alarms started going off. He hadn’t noticed until now but he’d stopped breathing. The lights dimmed a moment and then there was instant silence outside. The boy peered through the blinds again. The rain poured down on the parking lot, spilling onto a line of damaged cars.

Looking down at the device he whispered to himself, “This cannot be good.”

He meandered across the room and sat back on the couch. In the silence of the apartment he could hear his heart beating in his ears. He vigilantly stared at the front door until his eyelids grew heavy and he slept.

The next morning was like any other; up at 6:45, showered, dressed, breakfast and out the door by 7:30. Standing at the bus stop he would lean against a nearby building and try to find pictures of naked girls on his phone. Once the bus arrived, he’d pocket his phone and sit quietly in a middle seat.

This was the worst part of his day. The bus always shook as if the suspension was gone and just like every day before there was a homeless man sleeping one seat in front of him. Damon’s eyes stared straight ahead, he dare not make eye contact with anyone else. He had nothing to be proud of and no stories to share with fellow passengers.

At the first stop he jumped off the bus, walked three blocks and stood at another stop. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and clicked the internet icon. He glanced up to make sure no one was watching and then he saw her.

Her long brunette hair was pulled in a pony tail, but her bangs swooped in front of her face. She wore a smart suit, and he immediately thought how odd it was that he thought the suit made her look smart. She glanced back at him and smiled, her green eyes locking with his. He dropped his phone back into his pocket.

The bus arrived and he climbed on through the rear doors. He sat in his usual seat and seconds later she sat next to him. She smelled like vanilla and it relaxed him. He smiled at her and then looked forward and down. The bus started moving and he continued straight forward, still taking in her smell.

“So… I guess I’ll start the conversation?” she asked, looking at him.

He looked at her, “What?”

“I’m Sam,” she said, sticking her hand out.

“Damon,” he said, placing his hand in hers and giving it a pleasant shake. Her hands were soft, and warm and it made his hair stand on end.

“I’ve never seen you on this bus,” he said to her, still awkwardly holding her hand.

“I’m new to the area,” she said.

He realized he was holding her hand and released it with a chuckle. She laughed as well and it was pleasant.

“So, where’re you headed?” she asked.

“University. I can’t afford to live in the city, so I bus in and out every day,” he said, slightly ashamed.

“That’s where I’m headed, what’re you studying?” She asked, her questions not bothering him.

“Pre-law,” he said, looking forward again.

She laughed, “Me too.”

“What year are you?” he asked, looking out the window. Something caught his eye. A figure standing in the middle of a used car lot watched the city bus pass by. The figure reminded him of the silhouette from the night before.

He contorted awkwardly to keep looking behind him. The bus continued on.

“That’s weird,” he said, spinning back to a more comfortable position. Sam contorted back as well.

“What were we looking at?” she asked, genuinely interested.

“I thought I recognized someone at Moe’s.”

The bus entered the city limits and Damon began to gather his bag from the ground. Sam grabbed the bag from Damon and dug into it. After a moment, a look crossed her face as if she couldn’t find what she was looking for, and then a sudden smile as she came up with a pen and a notepad. She wrote her phone number onto the paper and handed it, along with the bag, to Damon.

“Text me during class,” she said with a smile. Her teeth were beautifully white. He stared at them and became aware that he had forgotten to brush his teeth before heading for the bus. He gladly took the number and his bag.

“Do you wanna get coffee after class?” he asked, surprising himself.

Her lower lip bunched up, “I can’t today. Maybe tomorrow?”

He nodded approvingly as the bus came to a stop at the campus. Most of the bus emptied and Sam departed without saying goodbye. He stood for a moment and watched her go before turning toward his building.

The air was humid and made his navy t-shirt stick to his skin. The straps of his bag caused him to sweat; he was grateful for wearing a dark shirt. His first class of the day was a political science lecture. He hated the teacher, but found the course material mildly interesting.

He’d never really thought about his future. When he stayed at his father’s house both his father and stepmother had demanded he go to college. His father was a lawyer, as was his stepmother. They had worked in the same firm for ages, and Damon could only assume that she was one of the two reasons his father had left his mother.

Damon’s eyes snapped out of a trance that he hadn’t realized he was in. The professor’s voice dragged on. Damon had read studies about the “T;” the magical set of seats that supposedly allow the student to learn better. He didn’t buy into it and sat in the middle back of the four-hundred person lecture hall. Something about being a single face in a sea of late teens made him more comfortable.

He slowly began to slouch in his chair, pulling his cell phone from his pocket. It was an old phone, or at least old by technology standards, but it could text. And he’d planned on texting Sam the second she started walking away from him.

His thumb moved over the keys slowly, each press sounded like a tree falling in the woods. He nervously glanced up to the professor, who faced the white-board at the front of the room. His hands were becoming sweaty. His eyes moved quickly across the keys as he typed on the flip phone: Hey its Damon how goes ur class?

Send.

He relaxed a bit, but felt nervous when she didn’t respond instantaneously. The phone closed with a barely audible slap sound. Again he looked toward the teacher, she hadn’t noticed. He let out a deep sigh of relief, until the phone jingled loudly, an 8-bit version of the Piña Colada song.

The phone bounced in his hand has he fumbled it between his fingers, trying to find the vibrate switch. The entire class seemed to look at him as he clutched his phone.

“Sorry,” he said, ashamed. The professor stared at him until his phone vanished into his pocket. She seemed to scoff at him before returning to facing the white-board.

The professor ended the class the same way she had for the past three class periods, “And a reminder, we are collecting funds in memory of Doctor Buntin, who was murdered on campus just before Christmas twenty-five years ago. His killer escaped from prison, and authorities suggested Dr. Buntin may have been part of a series of killings. There’s an impressive article on the school’s homepage that covers Dr. Buntin and some of the materials he was studying, if you have time.”

She clicked the school’s home page and a photo of Dr. Buntin appeared, next to the face of his killer.

“See you all next time,” she said as the class began rising from their seats.

Damon stared at the photo of the killer. It was the same face as the man he’d helped in the hallway. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-eight, how had he murdered Dr. Buntin twenty-five years ago? He had questions, and didn’t want to sit through another class before getting answers.

He slung the bag over his shoulder and pushed past his fellow students toward the doors. He burst through, the air still sticky. The sky was cloud covered now as he rushed past more students. His hand shot into his pocket and pulled out his phone. It was a message from Sam: Boring as usual. Can’t wait for coffee tomorrow.

A smile crossed his face and he kept on toward the nearest bus stop.

He tapped his foot impatiently at the stop. He leaned against a sign post and stared down the road, waiting for the shape of the bus to round the nearby corner. His eyes shifted with his thoughts as he realized he hadn’t seen the device. He spun the bag off his shoulder and unzipped it. He dug through the bag.

Nothing. The bus came to a squeaking stop in front of him.

On the bus ride back to his mother’s apartment his whole body itched with anticipation. His fingers nervously tapped against his backpack. A homeless man watched him from across the aisle and then leaned in.

“Got any blow?” he asked.

Damon snapped out of his gaze from the window and looked at the homeless man, who at this point was well inside Damon’s personal bubble.

“Uhm… no,” Damon answered.

“Then why’re your fingers tapping like that?” the homeless man gestured to Damon’s dancing hands.

His eyes dropped to his hands and he stopped moving them, interlacing his fingers.

“Just…,” Damon said, intentionally not finishing his sentence and peering back out the window.

The bus leaned far forward and the brakes squealed as it came to a halt at Damon’s stop. He pushed passed the homeless man and made his way down the center aisle to the front. The driver smirked at him as he turned toward the door.

He continued briskly up the sidewalk, his feet smacking the pavement as they often did when he was late for class. It was a quarter mile from the bus stop to his mother’s apartment, it had never felt so far. His calves tightened with the brisk pace, but he knew he couldn’t stop. The ring of keys fumbled in his hands as he searched for his apartment key. He’d kept a key from all of his mother’s previous domiciles, and suddenly became frustrated at what a stupid idea that had been.

Finally, the correct key fit into the slot, and with ease the door unlocked and swung open. He snuck in and closed the door; his mother was out. The faint smell of stale cigarettes hung in the air. He didn’t smoke, but his mother always had.

The dog greeted him by the door, jumping up on him and yapping in a high enough pitch that he became instantly angry. He steadied the dog’s head and dropped his bag on the ground. He started flipping the couch cushions over, searching for the device. The dog’s bark lowered, almost chastising him in place of his mother.

Damon dropped to the ground and looked under the couch: nothing. He awkwardly rolled to look under the coffee table. There it was. He grabbed it and sat up, gently placing the device on the coffee table.

He lifted the monitor of his laptop and hit the internet browser icon. His eyes shifted to the device as the school’s homepage loaded. He clicked the link to the professor’s story and read it through, twice. Another tab opened as he used the keyboard shortcut and typed into the search bar: dr buntin murderer.

Damon waited patiently. The first link took him to the same article from the school page. The second two links were about a scientist who became an Olympic sprinter in Germany. The fourth link led him to a conspiracy page. He skimmed the first two sentences and moused over the back button, his eyes still reading. Before clicking he moused away and scrolled down. A report from a witness at a hospital described the murderer being attacked by a machine.

He continued reading. The murderer only escaped by vanishing into an explosion of blue particles. Damon’s jaw hung open as he finished the article. He picked up the device and spun it in his hands. His fingers ran over the screen until he found a seam in the construction of the device.

Suddenly it illuminated, a faint hum came from the lights in the kitchen. Damon jumped in surprise. The dog began growling at him. Lines of code began streaming across the screen. The kid’s eyes followed the numbers but all he could make from it was some sort of math equation. The lights in the apartment began to dim. The dog cowered away down the hall.

The screen on the device froze and a message box appeared: Located. The screen went dark. A straining metal noise came from the parking lot. Damon rose and moved to the blinds just like the night before. The silhouette was back. Damon’s eyes grew large as he saw a man with mechanical limbs lifting a car above its head. The machine’s head turned and made eye contact with Damon. It threw the car at his apartment.

Damon stumbled back and made it into the hallway as the car came smashing through the sliding glass door. It slid on its roof through the living room, crushing the coffee table, and destroying the countertop that separated the small kitchen from the living room. The boy watched from the ground of the hallway.

He looked down again at the device and touched the screen. It seemed to shift back a menu. A list of items appeared:

/Locate

/Transfer

/Purge

He pressed the transfer button and a different math problem appeared on the screen, followed by what looked like a geographical representation of the Earth. Another message box appeared: Location? The device chimed a pleasant tone.

“School?” Damon said. The sound of crushing glass came from the living room. The device let out an angry tone. The echoes of the machine began getting louder.

“Anywhere in Italy! What?” He surprised himself with what he said. The device chimed pleasantly. The machine rounded the corner and squinted at him. Damon’s vision became blurry and tinted blue. He felt a shock go through his body and suddenly he was on the ground on the side of a mountain. He was panting.

The device was hot in his hand and the screen was dark. It fell to the ground – melting snow and sending a cloud of steam into the air. He clutched his hand against his chest. He breathed a moment and stared at the view. It was dark out, and chilly. The snow on the mountains seemed to almost glow in the moonlight. The top layer of dusting had blown back in small circle around him.

His skin felt dry, and his mouth tasted like nickels. He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and flipped it open. The screen remained dark. He pressed the power button but nothing happend. It was fried. He chucked it into the snow.

A chime came from the device. He picked it up. The screen was opened to the menu again. He pressed the Transfer button again. He followed the same steps as before. When presented with the location he stated the address of his father’s law office.

A fingerprint icon appeared on the screen. Damon placed his thumb on the symbol. A percentage appeared next to it: 17%. He gave the device a perplexed look and pushed himself up from the ground. He could make out a road a ways down the mountain. He put the device in his pocket and started walking.

As he got closer to the road the wind began picking up. His arms clutched close to his chest to keep warm. Thick clouds came from his mouth as he trudged through the ankle deep snow. He stomped his shoes on the concrete once he got to the road. Chunks of snow fell from his frozen pants. He’d lost feeling in his lips and his fingers ached from the cold.

He pulled the device from his pocket again and placed his thumb on the icon: 48%. He continued on down the hill. Lights from a village glowed in the distance. For the first time in over an hour he felt hope.

His legs were tired as he stumbled into the square of the town. Every building was dark. Only the street lights shined. He let out a deep breath, a cloud coming from his nostrils. The device chimed from his pocket. He checked it quickly. The screen had one familiar and threatening word on it: Located.

The lights began to dim. He tripped over his legs as he headed for a small stone wall. He backed out to the menu and touched his thumb to the fingerprint icon, 87%. He pressed the screen to his chest to hide the light.

Like before the street lights went from completely dark to full strength again. The machine appeared in the center of the town with a small blast that sent snow, small rocks and particles in every direction. It’s dark eyes scanned the square for movement. Damon held his breath while his body shook. The device let out a chime.

The machine turned and entered a full sprint toward the stone wall. Damon crawled away as the machine smashed through the wall. Rocks and debris flew through the air; a stone crashed into Damon’s forehead. Damon rolled into the street and struggled up to his feet. His head pounded. He slammed his thumb onto the icon. Everything went blue and blurry.

Damon fell forward onto the warm concrete in front of his father’s work in Irvine, California. The device bounced away and into the grass. He lay unconscious. He could feel the world spinning.

#

He tried to move his arms, but couldn’t. He opened his eyes and saw the familiar tribal art his stepmother had decorated his father’s den with. A blanket was tightly wrapped around him.

“Dad?” Damon said as loud as he could, barely above a whimper. He coughed to clear his throat and tried again, “dad?”

The door to the den opened and his stepmother came in.

“Damon, how’re you feeling?” she asked.

He liked her. He always had. When he was younger she would sneak him extra dessert at his father’s company Christmas party. When she married his dad, she had made sure it was okay with Damon first.

“Better, I think. What happened?”

“We found you outside of the office. How did you get here? We’re not supposed to see you until the end of the semester.”

“I… I just needed to get away,” Damon said, pulling his arms free from the blanket.

“You were freezing. I thought you had a fever.”

“No, I was in the mountains,” he sat up, “or…” Damon’s words drifted as he started to check himself over. “I had a little computer with me, do you know where it went?”

His stepmother smiled and pulled the device from her back pocket. She handed it over willingly, “It doesn’t seem to work.” She said with a half smirk and a shrug of her shoulders.

Damon held it tightly in his hands. He pressed the button on the side and it didn’t light up. He pressed it again and waited impatiently for the screen to light. It didn’t. Sadness crossed his face.

“So what are your plans?” she asked him. He looked up to her with tired eyes.

“How about you get some rest, and when your father gets home we all have dinner?” She continued.

Damon nodded, pleased with her plan. She excused herself and closed the door behind her. He shook the device once more before gently placing it on the coffee table. He slid onto his side and stared at the device until his eyes grew heavy and he passed out. A few hours passed, and his stepmother checked on him. He didn’t stir, but slept soundly. She smiled at him.

The smell of her homemade chicken noodle soup filled the air. His father was home, changing from his work clothes and chatting with his wife. She updated him on Damon and asked how the remainder of his day went. They sat and ate with their pre-teen daughter, Valerie.

Damon slowly emerged from the den and made his way to the dinner table, still wrapped in the blanket. He sat in the empty chair and was greeted by a giant-crooked-toothed smile from Valerie. He smiled back.

“Hey, kiddo, how ya feeling?” His dad asked, patting him on his back.

“Better… Starving, this smells amazing,” he said as his stepmother filled a bowl with soup.

He took a sip and then another and another like it was the first time he’d eaten in ages. Valerie stared at him. It had been a couple of years since she’d seen him, and she was amazed at how different he looked with slightly longer hair and the beginnings of a beard.

“How’s school?” his father asked.

Damon swallowed a large gulp before responding, “Grades are good. Classes are still boring, but keeping that four-point-zero.”

“Well, there’ll be a bedroom here for you if you want to transfer to USC next semester. Get out of windy Chicago, and maybe meet a lady here,” his dad said with a grin.

Damon chuckled and continued eating. He’d always thought his father was the better parent, but unfortunately couldn’t prove it when his parents went through their divorce. They continued eating dinner as a family. Valerie ended the meal by showing off her sketchbook. He had missed his little sister.

The next morning Damon’s father dropped him off at the airport on his way to work. They caught up in the car, discussing everything from Damon’s mother’s mental state to Damon’s plans after college. “There’s a place for you at my company,” his father always said. Damon wanted to earn his place in business and his father respected that. His father gave him fifty dollars and waved as Damon walked into the terminal.

He waited in line patiently, staring off just beyond the TSA agent. The flight ended up delayed for three hours. Damon checked the clock, carefully figuring the time difference from here to Chicago. His foot bounced as he sat in a chair near his gate. He meandered through a shop beyond security; he found nothing he needed.

The news echoed out of a nearby TV as he sat in a blue pleather chair. The device turned over and over in his hands. The wait was starting to get to him. He pried at a seam, but couldn’t get the parts to separate. Boarding time came and he waited patiently in line. A little girl in front of him slammed her wet palms against the window and squee-d in excitement at the site of their plane.

The flight was smooth with minor turbulence coming into Chicago Midway.

He caught a bus and sat quietly in his normal seat. After two changes he got off at his campus. His feet walked with purpose as he briskly moved toward the on-campus coffee shop. Sam sat at a table in the corner. She was staring out of the window.

“Excuse me, miss, this seat taken?” he said as he approached.

She glared at him.

“Sorry I’m late; I had a really weird night…” He said, looking out the window behind her.

She smiled at him, “Tell me about it.” She smacked her hand on the table across from her. He sat.

“Two nights ago I found this,” he said, placing the damaged device on the table.

“Found it?” Samantha asked, staring at it.

“Or it was given to me. But then yesterday, this…” he paused, searching for the right word, “machine-thing, threw a car through my mother’s apartment. And then this device somehow teleported me to Italy. The machine somehow followed me.”

“Heavy.”

“What?” he asked, confused.

“The machine’s name is Heavy,” she said, placing her hand on the device. They made eye contact. Her demeanor was different, her eyes narrower; the light in them gone.

“I don’t understand,” he said trying to take the device back from her. Her fingers wrapped around the device and he couldn’t get a grip on the smooth polycarbonate shell. She looked out the window drawing Damon’s attention to Heavy, standing beside the glass.

“Oh shit,” Damon said, falling from his chair to the ground. Samantha stood with the device. She stepped over Damon and headed toward the door. Her hair tossed over her shoulder as she looked back at Damon. He stood facing Heavy.

“Thank you for your help, Damon,” she said, blowing him a kiss. She paused, her eyes growing wide.

Heavy spun around as a full-size pickup truck slammed him into the coffee shop. Glass and debris littered the air and floor. People ran screaming in chaos. Damon pushed the table off his leg and looked around in confusion. He stared at the driver as she climbed out of the shattered windshield.

She leapt from the hood, landing near Damon and sprinted after Samantha out the front door. He watched a moment and then pushed himself from the ground, sprinting after the women. His legs were sore and he coughed up dust as he ran. He was gaining on the girl from the truck. The pain in his leg soared up his muscles and he plummeted to the ground; his hands scraped on the concrete.

The women rounded a corner into an alleyway. Samantha stood facing the truck driver. She was panting. Damon limped around the corner and hunched over, resting his hands on his knees. The woman from the truck removed a pistol from a leg holster and aimed it down the alley.

“Drop it, Vasden,” the girl said.

Damon looked up to her. Her long blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, her face was serious and marked with a scar on her right cheek; her gun locked onto the cornered Samantha.

“Is this what you’re looking for, Ace?” Samantha asked, spinning her hand from behind her back to show the device, “Ya know, Landon fought so hard to hide this from us, yet here we are. How naive to trust a college boy with all this responsibility.”

All the hair on Damon’s neck instantly rose with the pull of Ace’s trigger. His whole body jumped and tensed. His eardrums pulled in only low dull tones and a single high-pitch ring. His stomach twisted and his chin seemed to tingle as it usually did before he vomited.

His vision became blurry as he saw blood pour down Samantha’s arm. The device bounced off the concrete as the street lights burst with electricity. Samantha vanished in an explosion of warm particles.

Damon hit the ground, hard. The particles danced across the damp cement. They blurred in and out until everything went dark.

#

His face burned like a skinned knee; his muscles ached as he forced his eyes open. He recognized nothing. Ace passed in front of him and his eyes slammed closed.

“You need to rest Damon,” her voice said pleasantly. “You’re safe here.”

He did as was asked and slept.

When he awoke again his face was damp. He reached up slowly to find a wet rag on his scratched face. His eyelids slipped open, silhouettes of two women stood in front of a large screen.

He rose, taking his time before trying to stand. His head spun.

The shorter silhouette turned to face him and walked close, it was Ace. She knelt in front of him, placed her hands on his cheeks and stared at his eyes.

“Good, no concussion,” she said, finishing with a smile.

He pulled the rag from his face. The other silhouette was now standing over Ace.

“Abigail, we must plan our next assault if we are to find Captain Daniels.”

Ace nodded and followed the tall woman back to the screen. Damon moved slowly to the screen and the console the two women were using.

“So much blue,” he said staring out a nearby window to the city beyond the glass.

Abigail smiled at him and continued typing at the console.

“Where are we?” he asked.

“Chicago. Twenty ninety-six,” Ace answered.

“What? How?” he continued in surprise.

The tall woman looked from Damon to Ace.

“Abigail, we should not inform him anymore. It could change the timeline,” she spoke sternly.

Ace looked from the woman to Damon, “I think we’ll be fine.”

“We are time travellers, Parker and I. We stole the device you were holding on to so that it wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands….”

“Sam,” Damon muttered to himself.

“Exactly. We don’t know what they want to do with it, but we know that whatever it is, it can’t be good. We’ve been trying to stop them for years now.”

“If you’re from the future, can you tell me how my life ends up? What do I do? What do I become? Am I remembered?” he asked, the light from the city illuminating his shoulders.

Ace looked to Parker and then slowly back to Damon. A small smile faded from her face.

“I can’t tell you that,” she said, her voice lower. The console chimed, whipping Ace’s head back to the screen.

“It appears Captain Daniels’ last jump landed him somewhere near Nome, Alaska 2019. I’m calculating a jump scheme now,” the taller woman said in a stern and completely focused voice. Damon looked her up and down, she wore a skin tight suit seemingly like a wet suit. Glowing strands of blue wire ran down each limb.

Abigail placed her hands on Damon’s shoulders, “We have to go, and you have to stay. You will be safe here.”

“Wait, I don’t understand,” Damon said as Abigail moved away from him.

The taller woman pressed a button on the wrist of her suit, and made her way to the the far side of the room. The ceiling illuminated with perfectly white lights. Damon shielded his eyes. He watched as the woman stepped into knee high armored boots.

“You’ll barely notice we’re gone,” Abigail said, standing next to the armored woman. As she finished with her torso armor she made eye contact with Damon for the first time, “Don’t touch anything.” She placed a helmet over her head.

Curved glass walls lowered down around the women from the ceiling. As the panels pressed against each other they formed a tight seal. The tall woman pressed a couple more buttons on the wrist of her suit. A large concussion blast slammed against the glass, sending with it particles dancing off in all directions. Damon jumped slightly. The women were gone.

Damon took in a deep breath. Half a second later a burst of light exploded in the glass room. Particles danced again. The women seemed frozen in a battle stance. Ace was strewn over Landon, a hand on his chest and the other raising a handgun away from the group. The tall woman held out her rifle over both Ace and Landon. Her armor was littered with bullet holes, the visor of her helmet cracked.

Landon’s head dropped back as both women lowered their guns. The glass burst open and raised to the ceiling. The tall woman knelt and lifted Landon from the ground. She sprinted passed Damon and toward an infirmary bed. Ace ran by, not looking at Damon.

Hours passed as Damon stood watching the two women operate on Landon. The tall woman pulled three slugs from Landon’s chest and dropped them into the stainless steel tray. Ace monitored his vitals and replaced an I-V bag.

A tap on Damon’s shoulder woke him up. Ace stood over him.

“It’s time to go home, Damon,” she said quietly. Landon rested soundly in the infirmary.

“Is it safe?” he asked.

“We have the device now, and we can drop you wherever you want to go,” she said through a smile.

#

He stood in the center of the glass room and waved to the two women. The glass panels sealed tightly, popping his ears. His stomach was heavy and throat ached. He still had questions. The room became warm.

A bright flash burned momentarily in his eyes as particles danced away from his feet. He stared at his father’s garage doors as the embers burned out. The sounds of crickets filled the cool air. He took a step forward and bright flash came from behind him. He spun and the Heavy machine stared at him.

Damon fumbled backwards and down to the concrete. Heavy took a step forward. The tall woman appeared from nowhere, her helmet still cracked and armor riddled with holes. She landed on the machine’s back.

He spun her, flinging her against the concrete. He armor ripped small chunks from the stone as she rolled up to her feet. She lifted her arms as if she was holding a rifle and one formed from her armor. She fired off a shot.

The bullet ricocheted off Heavy’s arm. The lights in the house kicked on. Heavy lunged at the woman knocking away the rifle. His metal hand slammed against her throat. She slammed against the concrete. Heavy’s foot crashed onto the woman’s chest.

“You were so useful, Parker,” Heavy’s metallic voice echoed out. He began pressing down with his foot. The gears in his leg began to grind against the resistance of her armor. He pushed harder, her armor bending and beginning to buckle.

Another shot rang out and the bullet pierced a cooling tube on Heavy’s leg. The pressurized air froze the concrete and Parker’s armor as Heavy whirled away to see his attacker.

Damon’s father stood on the front step of his house holding a shotgun in his hand, his bathrobe swaying in the wind.

“Dad?” Damon asked just before Heavy knocked him out of the way. He tumbled to the ground. His head spun as he watched the machine get closer to his father. His hand came to a rest on Parker’s rifle. His neck twisted to her. She lay unconscious on the ground. He careened back.

Another shot rang out, jolting him from his shock. A spark shot from Heavy’s chest and into the driveway. His father cycled another round. He picked up the rifle, hoisted it to his shoulder and looked down the small scope. He exhaled and squeezed the trigger. The bullet pierced another coolant tube leading up from Heavy’s back to his head. Freezing air rushed from the tube.

Heavy dropped almost instantly, rolling and reaching for the damaged hose. The rifle fell to the driveway. Damon’s father looked over the fallen machine to his son.

“Damon, what on Earth?” he asked, winded.

Parker marched passed Damon, her armor dented and the paint scratched off. She grabbed the rifle as she moved, it folded back into her armor. She placed her hand onto the machine’s head and looked back to Damon.

“Mr. Waltz, may you discover your future.” She spoke sternly before pressing a button on her wrist. A light concussion blast shot across the driveway, knocking Damon’s father off his balance.

There was an odd moment of silence between Damon and his father.

“Are you alright?”

“Are you alright?”

They both spoke in unison and then laughed lightly. Damon pushed himself from the driveway and walked slowly to the front door.