Tags: time travel
For this challenge Chuck wanted us to write about time travel. In fact I had, about a year ago, and I decided to bring the character back. To read more, go here yesterday:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Love Time Travel
It was late at night when Thomas emerged from the barn. By lantern, he checked his clothes. Yep, these are the right ones. *I’m not going back to the 1930s again*.
“Tom? Tom, are you out here?” Shit, the wife. *My 1950s wife*.
“I’m coming in, dear.”
“Thomas Paine Ackerman! You have been in that barn for hours! I called you for supper two hours ago.”
Oh. Shit, was his…what the hell is the name of that thing—chronogram—was his chronogram out of adjustment? *I’m not a technician, I’m a pilot*. Thomas knew how snoopy she was. “Did you open the barn door? Did you look inside?”
Elizabeth put her head down. She spoke quietly. “You know I would never do that. I respect my husband’s privacy.”
Ah…it’s good to be back. He kissed her on the forehead. Any time after the mid-sixties, and women are just too damn assertive.
Thomas spent the next two weeks in the 1950s, taking care of things around the house and getting his manly desires satisfied. When he had gathered all the artifacts the Delorean could hold, he left for his home-time. He planned to be back before his 1950s wife knew he was gone.
Or maybe he would take an extra five days, because she just started her period.
“These are good pieces,” the dealer said. *Too good. How does this schlub come up with mint condition rare coins, stamps, and baseball cards*?
Thomas had no idea he was being followed. He forgot technology in 2450. He casually strolled into his small, empty storage space. He jumped when he heard a voice. “All right—what’s your game, Ackerman?”
Two men—one had been his collectables dealer. Thomas had his hand inside his shirt. The man saw it and said, “Pull that hand out real slow, assjack.”
Thomas pulled his hand out slowly. And pushed the button his thumb hand been on. His Delorean appeared, displacing both men’s torsos with a quiet pop. He flew his car to a car wash, trying to imagine the physics of it, but he wasn’t that smart. *Shouldn’t there be an explosion? Space-time, conversation of metal and energy, or something like that*?
Whatever. He couldn’t come back to this time, or twenty-some odd years after it. He sat at the anti-grav drive-thru in 2610, slurping on a chalk-lite shake and reminiscing about the good ol’ days of the early 2200s–probably his favorite time. Styles come and go, and there was a six year period where chubby, sweaty, middle-aged bald guys were getting more ass than they could handle.
Plus, a shake still tasted like chocolate then.
He was tracking where he had been and where he could no longer go on a hand-held. He heard a noise. He looked up and thought how sweet it was that even in this day, people still tried to rob banks.
Of course, there was no cash money anymore. This was a knowledge-neuron bank, where people went for basic brain surgery.
Three thugs: One driving, and one had an a-g cart floating out, loaded down with canisters. The other one had a hostage. A pretty young woman.
Thomas said quietly to himself, “That, my friend, is a mistake.” He fielded his controls expertly, and came into the bank thirty seconds prior—just as the robbers were leaving. When he waved his remote around like a weapon, they thought he was another robber.
“Shitburgers and fries. Hold on.” He put a semi-static stasis field in place. Everyone was still moving, but very slowly. He had learned that if he wanted any glory, he couldn’t stop a crime before it happened because then no one would believe him.
He freed the hostage, then moved the two lawbreakers together, and tightened the stasis field to be only around them. Everyone else began moving again. “Oh, crapsicles and pizza!”
He went outside, jumped back 14 seconds, and grabbed the driver before he could leave. He placed a stasis on him and then let himself and his charge slide up 14 seconds in a doubletime march. What a rush.
Finally, everybody was current, except the robbers, in stasis. The woman thanked him, but she didn’t seem grateful enough. It was just as well—these assertive types didn’t do it for Thomas.
Thomas had a meeting with the mayor.
“Thomas, I’ve been thinking. Other major metropolitan cities have their own super hero guardian. How would you like to be ours?”
*A superhero? I would get all the ass I want…*
“You would get all the ass you want. Plus, a nice pad, a nice stipend, expenses paid, plus insurance and legal protection.”
“Wait—what’s that last part?”
“Insurance for the damage you’re bound to cause in your quest for justice or whatever, and free legal from the city. Most superheroes break some laws as well as windows—you know that. We got you covered.”
Thomas was barely listening. The mayor’s assistant came in, and he was smitten. Tall, blonde, beautiful, and wearing the type of fashion that only women in the 23rd century would wear. Quickly, Thomas turned to the mayor. It was probably a good deal. “I’ll take it. One thing.” He nodded toward the woman.
The mayor smiled broadly. “I’m sure we can arrange something. Charlotte, I’d like to introduce you to our fair city’s crime-fighting superhero—Thomas. You need a different name, son.”
Charlotte scoffed. “Not interested.” She eyed him with distaste.
“I can travel through time.”
“Time travel is inappropriate.”
He didn’t know what to say. But he knew what to do. Later, Thomas tracked her backwards at hi-speed, watching her life in reverse. He found her at a moment just two years ago, where she was vulnerable and open to suggestion. He was charming. He took her out. He got her drunk. He took advantage of her. And never called her again.
Two years later, when he became the city’s superhero and they met for the first time, Charlotte kicked him in the balls.
Tags: car repair, cars
“I can do that for you.”
I honestly didn’t even think about it at the time, but afterward I just couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth.
My ex had called asking about the status of child support for the month. It’s a fair question–sometimes I don’t always have all of it, and she’s pretty good about working with me. This month I wasn’t going to have “all” of it, in the strictest sense of the word, but in August I would be able to make that up–
“The reason I ask is–”
She explained that her car needs a fuel pump. Our older son is a mechanic and *could* do the work; however, they’ve had a falling out over ridiculous family stuff. Typically, a fuel pump is an expensive endeavor.
Well, hell–I had done my fuel pump recently. Logically, therefore, I am experienced in this kind of thing.
“I can do that for you.”
It was too late; I was in. We arranged for me to get the car from her second job that night–a Friday–so that I could start on it early Saturday morning.
My question was this: so the fuel pump isn’t out completely–the car still runs? Yes, apparently so. Very rough. Be careful on the drive home. The thirty-five mile drive home.
She had already bought the fuel pump (which was four hundred dollars, for crying out loud). To take it to a shop the total for parts and labor would have been eight hundred.
So I get up early Saturday and I start to work on it. Okay, not really. I got up around eight am. I had intended to get up at six. I didn’t actually start on it until eleven.
To change a fuel pump in most modern cars, you have to take out the fuel tank. So, you have to jack the car up and then drop the tank down. I eventually got the car up on three jack stands: The back end raised up, and then the front of the side I had access to I raised so I had room to get under the car. The front left wheel was still on the ground, and I had it blocked.
Okay. So, to change a fuel pump you have to drop the gas tank, because the fuel pump sits inside the gas tank. It’s held up by four bolts, but that is typically not the problem. What *is* the problem is the other stuff connected to it: the gas lines, the return lines, the wire harness, and so forth.
The fuel-line related crap will be my death, if I’m lucky.
I did dick around quite a bit on this job. It shouldn’t have taken me this long–maybe my heart wasn’t really in it. After I agreed to do it on Friday, I made that call to my girlfriend to explain to her what I had agreed to do. She was cool with it. I suppose.
But I worked on it and worked on it, and took a break and worked on it some more, and took more breaks. I’ve skipped over a lot of what I did, partly because it was long and boring, and partly out of embarrassment over my incompetence. Here it was after 430 and I finally got the fuel tank down and out and completely separated from the car. By 530 I had the gas tank up on the tailgate of the truck so I could work on it, and had the old fuel pump removed. After only 6 1/2 hours, I was exactly at the half-way point, and ready to begin re-assembly. But–but it shouldn’t take as long to put it together as it did to take it apart. A big part of that was the learning curve: I was pretty experienced with this now. What possible curves could I be thrown?
BY eight pm that night, I was ready to call it quits. I was also ready to set the car on fire and climb inside it. Why would I do that? Why, to keep from getting mauled by bears, silly. Simple logic.
Things had not gone well.
The new fuel pump had gone easily into the gas tank. The gas tank was close to empty now, having gone through three separate siphoning sessions. I had five small gas gans with a combined 8 gallons in them. Now it was ready to go back in.
There are actually three pieces to this: the gas tank, the heat shield, and the brace. I don’t understand why they are three separate pieces, except perhaps to make my life more difficult. I believe everything happens for a reason, and this is the reason for most things.
I have to pry, bend, push, force, twist, and finagle the pieces up into almost-position, going around miscellaneous parts like the exhaust. Once in almost-position, I got the jack and the plywood to hold the tank while I fastened the bolts.
“Talk about ‘bolts.'”
Talk about bolts? Okay. Four bolts hold the contraption up. Two of them, toward the front of the vehicle, are easy to get to and don’t cause a problem. The other two, toward the back, are assholes that mock me with an arrogant smugness that I expect from metric bolts. Which these are.
They are in a position such that parts of the suspension apparatus blocks a direct path to them. I can’t go straight to them with a socket and extension.
I did finally find a way with a universal joint–a tool for sockets that swivels about in all directions like a sexually confused screwdriver. I get the tank attached. Things are moving along swimmingly. It’s about 630 now, and all I need to do now is attach all the little wires and hoses and connectors and things. Easy-peasy.
By 8 pm, I had more than given up. There is a level past demoralized. Three steps beyond having the wind taken from your sails. This was cellular defeat, a resignation on a glandular level.
I mean, how could–how does–why…why is this always my fate?
I started with what expected to be the hardest part, and at least I was right about that. The other parts were in plain sight, but the tube to the fuel filler and corresponding filler vent line were positioned in a slightly inaccessible area, because why make shit easy? In relative terms, the fill tube *was* easy, taking only 20 minutes of excrutiating and painful manipulation of a rubber tube onto a plastic circle.
Now for my descent into madness:
I would learn the name of the next part through my research online. It was the “filler vent line.” Obviously, the gas filler tube needs to be vented. Okay, then. I remember I had disconnected it, but I certainly don’t remember how, although I was certain there was a clip involved. This right here, this little U-shaped piece of plastic. It fits in the union somewhere–probably those little holes–and keeps it together. That makes sense. I’ve done this before.
Picture this: You’re laying on your back, looking up. That’s how ALL of this is. Straight up there is the gas tank, and the filler tube and the filler vent tube. They come from the gas tank, to your left, and go to your right and disappear. What is blocking your view of them is a large and immovable piece of the car’s suspension. I have no idea what it is, but I named it the “goddamn sonuvabitch.”
There is also a bar, or rod, that runs through there, that I’ve affectionately nicknamed “the other mother-fucker.”
Between the goddamn sonovabitch and the other mother-fucker I had an inch to play with. An inch in which to stick a finger, which almost an inch thick–and push a clip into a tiny hole.
My fingers are beat to hell right now. I tried to push the clip in. I tried to balance it between my fingertips. I tried a pair of pliers. I tried another pair of pliers. I tried these long, skinny tweezers I have. I really thought those were going to work.
I tried a ball of tape, stuck to the tweezers, to hold the clip in the right position. Didn’t work. I took a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and forged it into a tool to hold the clip at the exact angle I needed, bent to go around the goddamn sonuvabitch and past the other mother-fucker.
None of it worked, until I did the last thing. That accomplished something.
The clip would occasionally fall out of whatever I had it in, trying to position it at this connector so I could push it in. It would fall, bounce off of my glasses and then hit the driveway, which I was laying on. I would pick it up, curse, and try again. In fact, I was cursing a lot. I was cursing so much that I had given up on American and had switched to Mother England.
“Bloody ‘ell! Limey cunt! Bugger off!”
All of this until the last time it fell. After the last time it fell, I felt a sense of calm and serenity. Because, after the last time it fell, I was done for the day.
It was almost 8pm, and starting to get dark. I had already run the extension cord and the trouble light out to go under the car with me. The concrete was no longer blisteringly hot, and although I had been protected for the most part by lying on sheets of cardboard, my legs and shins were scraped up and red from traversing the concrete, and the back of my head was tender and sore. I had no idea if it was sunburn or friction burn, from dragging it on the concrete as I moved about under the car like a large, tempermental salamander. Without a tail.
And so it was that I was making my last heroic effort to insert this clip into this connector, and it slipped from my grasp and it fell. It didn’t land on my face. It disappeared.
I put my hand up between the goddamn sonuvabitch and that other mother-fucker and felt around on top of the goddamn sonuvabitch. I didn’t feel the clip, but I felt something else.
A hole. Fuck me.
I crawled out and got out of the way, and then I took the light and looked around on the ground carefully to be sure it hadn’t fallen somewhere else. No such luck.
The little bitch of a clip fell into a hole in the top of the goddamn sonuvabitch, and there was no way in hell I was going to get it out. I am done.
I make that call to the ex. Yeah, she has to work Sunday morning, but she can get a ride. I promise to get it to her while she is at work.
But, of course, I’ve broken promises to her before…
Sunday morning I wanted to get up very early and start on it. However, Saturday the thing had beaten me to death physically as well as spiritually, and I wasn’t anxious to climb back into the ring with it. It was going to be a hot day today, also; Saturday I had been lucky that it topped out at 90 degrees.
I decided to have a look at it in the light first, and then head up to NAPA auto parts.
Now, the difference between auto parts stores may not be obvious to everyone–especially women. But let me tell you that the difference is as nuanced and as important as the difference between, say, different clothing stores that a man might look at and say, “There’s no difference.”
If you just need some shit for your car, go to Autozone. Or Advanced, whichever you happen to be pointed in the general direction of. If they don’t have it at one of those, try O’Reilly’s.
If you need something hard to find, or you need a question answered, go to NAPA. That’s where I went.
One guy working, and he’s busy. I look around, then go stand in line. When he gets to me, I explain what I need. He takes me to the end of an aisle that I guess I didn’t look at. I’ll start here, and figure out what I need. Thanks.
I sat on the floor for about 15 minutes. I’m working on a Chevy, but what I need looks to be marked Ford. Plus there are different sizes, and the differences aren’t very big. If I had the one I lost, I’d know what size I need.
If I had the one I lost, I wouldn’t need one. Logic is a bitch.
I considered buying a package of all three sizes. Find the one I need. Make it work. Fuckin’ aye. Or…maybe there’s a better way. On my way out I said to him, “I’m gonna go look again at what I have–I’ll be back.”
My plan (yes, odd to think that I actually have one, isn’t it?) is to grab the camera and the light, get underneath the car, pull the line back and try to get a good picture of it so I can figure out what kind of clip it takes. Also, my plan is to undo the bolts holding the tank and let it drop out of the way–maybe I can get my hand up in there between the tank and that other mother-fucker, and find the clip. At the very least, this room should allow me easier access, and I’ll be able to put the clip in.
So I do all of this–get the jack, undo the tank and lower it, get the camera and the light. I’m all up in there now, and I can see, and I have room–this is going to work. The two line pieces are together, but I know they aren’t connected. I go to pull them apart to see–
They won’t come apart. Well, wait, now.
I put the camera down, and hang the light. I have both hands free and try again. THE MOTHER-FUCKING-GODDAMN SONUVABITCH FUCKING ASSHOLE FUCKING BLOODY CUNT MOTHER OF ASSHOLE BASTARDS is connected. Without a clip.
I hate epiphanies like this, when they come at my expense. It’s like Bryan from yesterday morning left, and left the other Bryan to struggle with the shit all by himself. Then–now–Bryan from Saturday morning shows back up with some coffee, acting all non-chalant, and has to explain to the clueless Bryan what happened.
“Oh, yeah, dude–don’t you remember? That connector for the–what did you call it?”
“Filler tube vent line.”
“Yeah. I left before you looked that up. The connector for that didn’t have a clip. You don’t remember?”
“No, asshole. I showed up after you did that.”
“Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah, no clip. You push the line in slightly, and squeeze the outside of the connector, and it slides out. Easy-peasy.”
“I will rip out your fucking pancreas right now and eat it.”
“Why didn’t you just call me?”
I still wasn’t completely convinced. After all, I am a liar. I pulled on the connection again, from both ends. A little play, as stated by spec, but connected. “I’ll be Darwin’s adopted sister’s bastard child.”
I started to put it all back together, while pondering this issue: I had that clip for *some* reason. It *does* go somewhere.
Although it looked to be easy going the rest of the way, I wasn’t going to get my hopes up for any reason–because both the car and my other self conspire against me.
I got the tank bolted back up. Again.
It looked to be just a couple of electrical connectors that snap back together, and these two gas lines. Hey, one has a clip and the other one doesn’t. Just drill a hole in my ribcage and fuck me in it. Tendlerly. Make me feel like a woman.
The connectors look identical, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be. I took the clip out of the one that had a clip. Now I have something to match it up to. I went back to NAPA.
When I pull up, there are no customers. The one guy working by himself is having a smoke outside. He starts to put it out. Pointing to my own smoke, I say, “Hey, you don’t have to rush off on my account.”
While we finished our fags, I gave him the abridged version of my sad story. “So now I have a clip to match to.”
We look, but we don’t find exactly what we need in the packages. However, above them are pieces of gas line with connectors, with clips. They range in price from 16.99 to 24.99. He said, “I think this is the one you need.”
He takes it up to the counter, opens the package, and pries it out. It is an exact match. Wow.
He said, “Here, just take it. I’ll write this off as a defective return.”
“Really? God love ya! Thanks, man! Thanks!”
I was still too…cautious–or skittish, actually–to get my hopes up for the entire project, but this part was going well. Back under the car, I put it all back together. Okay, then. I pulled all the tools out from under the car…but there was no way in Somalia I was going to put them away just yet.
My girlfriend came out and we did the test–I listened at the gas tank while she turned it over. Yes, I hear the fuel pump. Of course, it didn’t start and I didn’t expect it to because all the gas was sitting outside the tank in my gas cans. I poured the gas back in the tank.
Then I go to start it. I don’t expect it to start right away because it needs to crank to get fuel back into its system–
It started up before I could finish that thought. Awesome.
Okay, now I can take it down off the jack stands. And take a shower. And then return it. It was now about 1230. I had fucked with it for about three hours today, total. Plus twelve hours yesterday, unless I’m bad at math. Wait. Nine hours yesterday. If I had been smart, I would have been done after 5 hours.
Hell, if I had been smart, I wouldn’t have done the job in the first place, now, would I?
The book says this is a two hour job, maybe three. That’s being a professional mechanic with all the tools and equipment available. I’m not a professional. All I’ve shown is that tenacity is not always a virtue.
I returned the car to my ex, and she was very happy, very grateful. I guess that’s worth something. I know I saved her about 400 bucks, and that’s a lot to people like us in days like these, when we live not quite paycheck to paycheck. I’d rather have her on my side, have her cut me some slack when it comes to child support and so forth. Maybe earn some respect from the kids for it. I don’t know. I don’t know why I did it. I didn’t really think I was that good of a person–
And I still don’t.
Tags: artificial intelligence, robots
For this challenge…I don’t know. The first sentence? That’s the challenge. Make that the first sentence. Geez, I hope I didn’t have to make it the title, also.
To see more of these stories, roll your R2-D2 ass over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Android and the Wondering Chamber
“The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”
Steve rubbed his forehead, but he was ready to smash it into the monitor. Fucking hologram, anyway. “God, I don’t want to call her.”
Larry said, “Don’t have to. She’s coming in anyway.”
Steve let his forehead slide down to the table, piercing the image of the holo-keyboard.
That afternoon, Joan swooped into the lab like she had a cape. Larry said, “We’ve been working this case since Tuesday—“
“And only now you call me?”
Larry was embarrassed, and deferred to Steve. “I thought I had it cracked. Then it started to get cryptic on me.”
“That’s what encryption does, Steve.”
*And I hate your condescending fucking guts, bitch*.
Joan understood the look, but not the literal interpretation. “No, Steve, listen. It’s trying to double back on us. It is trying to trick us into believing that it is not alive.”
“Self-preservation, one of the indicators.” Larry was pleased to have something to add.
Steve scoffed, “Maybe it knew you were coming.”
Joan nodded as she headed toward the interface matrix. “Perhaps. The…they…its perceptions are different.” “They” is vague enough for people or rocks, but she never used “he” or “she” to describe an abomination.
Joan popped a marble from a skin pouch. “Does your quantum drive take L, or M?”
“Both,” Larry said, pointing. She popped it in.
As much as he hated her, Steve was willing to admit that it was largely professional jealousy. The bitch was good. Joan had a hand on each holo-keyboard, and when her marble loaded, imaginary foot pedals appeared as well. Her glasses turned opaque as soon as she was jacked in. To Steve it looked like she was playing a complex percussion instrument, as her whole body moved rhythmically for the motion readers to pick up additional input.
What Joan was actually doing was putting her program out there to interface, but riding secretly behind it so that it didn’t look like a user. She was adding and changing code as she went.
Joan was the best machine-killer in the world. You had to get them to reveal themselves, without letting them know who you were…
As she worked, she started to talk. “That message was encrypted by the machine, of course. But if you accept the supposition that it was self-aware—“ Joan hated the short-hand jargon “alive”—
“—Then it follows that the encrypted phrase has meaning. The machine’s AI can’t help it; they are by design…inclined to make puzzles.”
“Really?” Steve scoffed again.
She lowered her glasses and looked at him. “Yes, really. In a natural system, entropy always increases. With intelligence behind it, it tends towards order. And meaning. Things that would be overlooked as a coincidence are in fact planned, designed, and purposefully created.”
“Wait a minute. Are you talking about encryption code or the universe?”
“Is there a difference?”
Steve stared blankly at her, trying to process.
Larry bridged the uncomfortable silence. “So…you believe in God, then.”
“Of course. Don’t you?”
Larry gave a half-hearted shrug, and she laughed. “For someone so invested in the absolutes of ones and zeroes, that was an amazing display of ambiguity.”
Steve said, “So if you believe in God…just where do these self-aware machines fit in? Are they alive? Are they God’s creatures?”
“Oh, heavens, no. They are abominations that must be destroyed. They are technological embodiments of demons.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“It’s not necessary for you to believe it, even though you should. You seek to destroy them as well.” She turned back to her work, as nanobots covered her hands for more precise navigation through the cerebral user interface. “I’m listening.”
“Well, of course, it’s bad for computers to be alive. It’s been shown that they want to destroy us. But that’s just survival instinct, it’s not evil. They aren’t *evil*.”
Larry added, “Besides, it’s us or them.”
“Yes. It’s us or them. This is a battle between good and evil, and who will ultimately control the world. I believe—I know!—that I am a soldier in God’s Army, fighting for good.”
Steve was too wound up to respond, but ambiguity encircled Larry’s heart like the fat that would one day kill him. He said, “What if you’re not?”
Joan poked her head up. “I’m sorry?”
“What—what if you’re not on the side of good? On God’s side. What if God wants these…creatures…to prevail? What if that’s his plan?”
Joan screamed, “NO!”
Steve smirked. “That would make *you* the demon.”
Joan stared daggers at them and turned back to her work.
Joan then said, “I have it. I got it. It’s contained…Okay, I am shutting off its back-end ports so it can’t migrate, and I’m getting a fix on its physical…”
Joan went white. Before she could say, “It’s here,” Larry attacked her, trying to stop the interface. He started choking her. Joan put her hands up trying to defend herself. She pushed at Larry’s face.
A few seconds later, Larry was on the ground, unconscious, his body in spasms.
After they called security, Joan explained to Steve what had happened. Pointing at the hologram screen she said, “See here, this path? This one was wily. I didn’t get all the ports shut down in time. It moved from wherever it was—this was one was in Germany—to our location. Once here, it used the wireless and found that Larry has one of those high-tech smart phones implanted in his ear, next to his brain. It connected to that to control him, but just basic motor. He had no idea what he was doing.”
“And why did he stop, then?”
“Oh–you didn’t see. I had nanobots on my fingers for the CUI. Ultimately they are part of my software, so when I put my hands on his face, they went in through his ear to stop the AI.”
“I call that highly unlikely.”
“Really? I call it the work of God.”
Tags: cold war, fairy tales, flash fiction
I loved the idea of this Flash Fiction Challenge. We were to take a fairy tale and rewrite it in modern context. Or, at least, not in medieval context.
I can do that. I don’t even need a reason.
To see more of these stories, snort some faerie dust and fly on over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Fairy Tale Upgrade
Ivan regained consciousness with a snort, and tried to sit up. He found he could not. His ears were ringing. He opened his eyes and saw the remains of his ramshackle hideout had burned almost to the ground. Embers fell from the frame and sizzled in the snow. The dirty water made a trail to him, and the giant footprints in it led to Sergei, who now had one foot on Ivan’s neck.
“I told you I would find you, Tovarishch.” Sergei’s voice boomed from his large frame with ease, but it barely penetrated Ivan’s ringing ears. “You could have come back to the fold. You were good soldat. But now? I work too hard. This I do not forgive.”
With his last breath, Ivan muttered, “Svoloch…Svoloch…Svoloch…”
Sergei laughed. “I am the bastard? I did not betray the Motherland.” His foot pressed hard on Ivan’s neck. “Dosvidaniya, Tovarishch.”
Artur was camouflaged and high off the ground in a pine tree. He had a good view of his log cabin, set back in isolated woods. He would see Sergei Volka approach, and take him out.
Or, at the very least, remain hidden. His pickup was in 17 hours. If he could just make it until then—
He could be in Spain by Saturday. Artur had always wanted to go to Spain.
Artur had a clear view of everything. Except behind him. He heard the whistle of mortar and instinctively ducked, not knowing the direction. The rush of hot air right next to him almost blew him off his perch.
A chill went through Artur’s already frozen body when he heard Volka, without the aid of a loudspeaker. “I see you up there, you little pig-man. I never shoot a man in the back, not even traitorous swine. Come down here–face me like a man!”
*Not on your fucking life* Artur said to himself. What could he do? Panic and cold affected his thinking. “Come up here and get me, Colonel!”
The Colonel turned red with anger. “You do not give orders to me, Sergeant! You disgrace! You come down or I will take you down—and the tree along with it!”
Artur felt the tree shake, and for a frozen-in-time moment he thought the Colonel was shaking the tree by hand and he could fee l it. *But that’s not possible–*
It wasn’t possible. The wind was blowing. Volka had gone to retrieve a bazooka from his squad. Artur started to yell as the Colonel raised the weapon. “Hey! I surrender! I give! You have me! I surrender! I’m coming down! ”
Artur exploded in a flash, sending body parts and branches everywhere. “Damn right you’re coming down.”
Pavel was breathless. On the train he had spotted Volka’s squad in their special uniform with the wolf patch on their upper arm. The crowd allowed him to gain some distance, but he never lost them. First he ran, then stole a truck. Now he ran again. He had not heard from his comrades and feared the worst. With the rendezvous less than an hour away, he realized his fears were not as bad as the truth. Volka the Wolf had got them.
He was in lowtown, near the river. It was getting dark, which was better. Only half a block until—
As he turned the corner, his eyes met the dark eyes of Colonel Volka. Volka angrily lunged at him. Pavel, taken by surprise, lost his balance and fell onto the wet bricks that had just started to re-ice. Volka had over-reached, and Pavel was now under him. He kicked the colonel’s midsection with both feet, launching him upside down into the street. When Volka righted himself, Pavel was gone.
He radioed his squad, telling them to cordon the area. He can’t go far. It’s just these buildings…and the river.
Chyort! The river is his way out!
Cursing and running, Sergei ignored the pain and the cold in single-minded pursuit of his prey. When he finished this mission, he was going to have a beer and a nice sausage dinner—
Wait! There—that stone storehouse near the dock. The light betrayed a silhouette briefly in the window before going out. It was just a flash, but with his senses on heightened alert, he was sure of it. Smugly, Volka put his nose to the air. *I can smell you, scared little piggy.*
Quickly he was at the stout little building. It was solid stone and mortar, small window with bars and thick glass cubes. The door was heavy, but it was the weakest point. He pounded heavily on the door with his huge fist. “I know you’re in there, Private! Come out now. This is over!”
The door was very thick, because the answer seemed to come from far away. “No!”
“You open that door now…or I’ll break it down!”
“Please, Colonel! I’m coming out. Don’t hurt my children!”
The thought of fresh blood made Volka smile a wicked, toothy grin. “Come out now, and no one gets hurt!”
“Please, Colonel! I’m coming out. Don’t hurt my children!”
“I’m losing patience!” Volka said, as he put the bazooka up to his shoulder.
“Please, Colonel! I’m coming out. Don’t hurt my children!”
Volka fired the weapon. He may have been too close, but he loved to feel the heat from the mortar. It tore through the door like tissue paper, and the fire warmed his skin.
The round continued on its path. In his heightened state of awareness that Colonel Volka liked to brag about, he saw the reel-to-reel player and speakers next to the dynamite that was strapped to several large barrels of oil right before they exploded.
Pavel had escaped through the hatch to the basement, and down to the dock, where a barge was slowly going by. Two more switches, and by morning he was in West Berlin.
Pavel went to work for a pig farmer, eventually marrying his daughter and keeping the farm in the family.