Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Craig Danielson breathed through his nose, trying to keep his heart from jumping out of his chest. He hung upside down, his legs twisted securely into the plastic rafters of the research building. The sound of his persuer's footsteps echoed through the deserted room. He held his breath as they passed by the doorway and continued on down the hall.

He slid his slim palm-pulse into his left sleeve pocket and carefully pulled himself up onto the rafter. It would only be a matter of time before proper back-up arrived and they searched out his heat signal. Only a short matter of time, he thought in disgust.

This was suppose to be a simple smash and grab. The building had not been rumored to be secure and during his pre-op days gathering intel for the job nothing out of the ordinary had been spotted. Now security were crawling through the building like bees in a hive.

Craig fingered his prize, securely hidden away in a secret section of his coat linning. His sponsors had payed great money and he would see it delivered. His entire reputation was staked on this one job. The theif backed up on the rafter until his back was against the wall. Now came the tricky part.

"Hold on to your buckles." Craig muttered under his breath.

The adrenaline rush thrilled through his vains and he had to work hard to keep himself focused. He stood slowly, took a steadying breath and pushed himself away from the wall with a mighty jump. The wind rushed past his face.

Craig reached down and tapped a circular insignia on his thick, black boots. An anti-gravity field erupted around him and he came to a soft stop a few inches from the floor. With another quick tap he was on his way, running silently towards the only exit available to him. A large, floor to ceiling window that ran along the length of the room.

He slid out his palm-pulse, a small flat weapon that used extremely focused heat lasers to destroy whatever they targeted, and pointed it at the glass. The window pane shattered into a million pieces. Craig ran as fast as he could and dived out the window. He prepared for a hard landing. The ground was soft and not far below, but if his anti-gravity field hadn't recharged then he would be left with a deep few bruises at least.

He landed hard and on his back, the object he had stolen hitting the ground hard. There was a bright flash of blue light. Craig brought an arm up to protect his eyes. Then there was nothing but silence and darkness. The theif tried to stand, but his legs wouldn't respond. He pushed himself up into a sitting position with shaking arms and looked around.

He was not on the lawn outside the research building. He turned his head and his eyes bugged out. There was no buildling behind him - none in sight. He was in a small meadow at the center of what appeared to be a lush, green forest. Sunlight peeked down from between tall tree limbs.

Craig stood up and brushed his clothes off. He knew that it couldn't be a real forest. They had all been destroyed years ago. Now only halo projected trees could be seen if one paid enough. Craig took a few steps forward and reached out towards the tree. His hand did not fall through thin air as expected, instead colliding with rough, hard bark. He shuddered.

"Unnatural." He whispered. "Freakish. Wrong."

The man turned in a circle. He breathed and smelled dirt, grass and all manner of unusual smells. He felt for his coat linning and the object within. He did not know what it was he had been comissioned to steal, but he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was responsible for his arrival in this place.

His fingers shook as he pulled it out. Flat, gray, no writing. It looked the same as it had when he had taken it from the thrice protected vault. It had been his most difficult job and now he wondered if it might have been best to have skipped this one. Craig's mouth fell into a thin line.

"What are you?" He asked the thing in his hands.

Quite unexpectedly, it responded in a monotone voice. "I am The Time Machine."

His body spasmed in surprise and he almost dropped it. "What?"

"I am sorry, you must restate your query. I do not understand."

"Did I travel through time?" He asked.

"Yes. eight hundred years, three days, two hours, four minutes, fifty-seven second -."

"Enough!" He said fearfully. He ran a hand through his hair. This had to be a mistake, he thought. "Where am I?"

"I am sorry, you must restate your query. I do not understand."

He growled. "Where have you taken me?"

"I have taken you nowhere. You are where you were."

This confused him. He looked around again. Nothing looked familiar. Nothing looked the same. How could he still be where he had been? The research building was gone. His fear began to grow quickly.

"Can you take me back?"

"I am sorry, you must restate your query. I do not understand."

"How do I get home?"

"I am sorry, you must restate your query. I do not understand."

"Take me to the future, where I came from."

"I am The Time Machine. Only the past is accesible through me."

Craig swore.

This could not be happening. He clenched his hand into a fist and tried to push down the impulse to blast the tiny machine into oblivion. This had cost him a sizable payoff. His buyers were skitish - too skittish. If he didn't show up at the meeting place within five minutes of the prearranged time they would split and never look back. To lose their anonymous status was not worth it.

The man knelt on the soft, green covered ground and slammed his empty fist into the Earth. This natural entity that had betrayed him. Craig wanted to shoot something, he raised his palm-pulse and aimed it at a random tree then squeezed.

An explosion of splintered bark echoed through the forest. Immediately he was surprised by the sound of many woodland creatures rushing to escape. It was a strange sound that his ear had never heard. The soft flap of a flock of birds flying away and pounding feet from a nearby buck now running scared in the opposite direction. Craig unfolded himself and straightened to his feet.

Nothing about this place felt right. The constant hum of technology that had run through his viens since childhood could no longer be felt. It's absence frightened him and fear, being an unforgivable weakness, angered him. Craig clenched his jaw and tried to reign in the feelings.

He refused to be bested by a forest. He spat at the ground in disgust, this motion made him feel more in control. He could insult the ground, he was the master. He took a step forward.

"You!" A strange voice shouted to his left.

He turned, automatically aiming his palm-pulse at the speaker as he did so, and saw a young boy exiting the trees. The young man appeared to be no older than sixteen and he wore a strange cloth suit of dark green. Long blond hair fell over his blue eyes and he swept it away with a dirty hand.

"What are you doing? You scared away my prey. I have been after that stag since before dawn!" The boy said angrily.

Craig watched the boy's lips move in unfamiliar patterns and thanked the gods that he had worn his ear translators that morning. He knew that without it he stood no chance at understanding whatever language was being spoken at him. As it was he felt glad to meet another human.

The history books had never mentioned the many races of space faring beings that had recently become allies, but Craig had always figured that they had been there, in the shadows of the world's governments. Some of them were plain meddlesome.

Humans he could deal with. Slipping the Time Machine back into the lining pocket, he walked towards the youth. If he was to find a way home, he needed to be someplace safe where he could better study the machine that had sent him into the past.

"I am Craig Danielson. I didn't mean to scare away your...prey." He said soothingly. A velvet voice could do wonders to convince gullible ears. "I need a place to stay. You wouldn't happen to know of one would you?"

The boy looked at him blankly. "Excuse me, sir, I had not realized that you were a foreigner. I will take you to the knight's - they will want to see you." The boy bowed and backed away fearfully.

Craig watched this all, calculating. Obviously the boy thought that he was someone important and this worked well for the man. The mention of knights sparked no recognition in his mind. He had never heard the term before. He assumed that they were the local leaders.

He chose not to speak, the boy would not understand him anyway, and instead motioned with his arm for the boy to lead and nodded encouragingly. The boy smiled and turned on his heel.

A bit hesitantly, he followed into the forest. It felt closed in and alive. A disconcerting feel in the extreme. It gave Craig the shivers and he hurried faster. The sooner he was out of the horrid forest the better.

"The knight's will be glad to see you. They always love the strangers." The boy chatted amiably, his earlier anger apparently forgotten. This was fine by Craig, he let the boy talk.

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