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All Fled
Timejacker #8Z.
© 2023 James LaFond
OCT/28/23
Precept: The Crew, Advent Horizon, 1936
Jamie woke to a prick in his hand. An IV was being withdrawn from a port in his right hand. He was seated in the same medical bay cot he had been in since the feeling of unfathomable lightness had overtaken him upon his awakening from that punch in the eye in the train changing room. He was somewhat queasy. Alaric and Major Super-me were standing before him. The doctor and the young medic were on either side of him.
“Mister LaFranc,” nodded Alaric with some compassion in his sky blue eyes.
“How you feeling, Old Man?” asked the asshole version of his younger self, actually seeming interested in a response.
“I would like to explore the ship. I’ve been in this one medical bay for, I don’t know…” he trailed off, having a hard time grasping current details.
“We have you braced up for just that,” answered Alaric, nodding to the braces on Jamie’s leg, and the gimp forearm crutches he was leaning on. “Doctor Burckhart thinks a walk about the passenger berths, the common rooms, that meeting with the teams we have assembled on your advice, might aid in your recover.
“To it then,” spoke Jamie and he hoisted himself with a ragged enthusiasm and shuffled forward on his crutches, unable to pick up the left one high enough, and fell forward, the floor rushing forward to meet his face…
Jamie came to in the medical bay, the vision in his right eye somewhat obstructed by the piled up nose.
‘No!’ he groused like litigious lightning in his kind. ‘It happened again. A damned seizure!’
The doctor was speaking in German to Alaric as he examined Jamie’s nose, obviously discussing surgery options.
Major Super-me was growing impatient and blurted, “He doesn’t want to be a burden. The poor, broken, old fuck wants to help! Congrats on the gun ho face fall, Old Man. Here, I’ve got this.”
“No,” said Alaric, as Major Super-me stepped up to Jamie, who was sitting up in an inclining medical bed, grabbed the piled up nose, dragged it to the center of his face, smashed it together between his iron fingers with crunching and popping and blood gushing and Jamie willed himself, ‘Do not swoon in this prick’s hands!’
And he got his wish, was blessed to experience all of the pain, as well of the antiseptic swabs of the German doctor forcing makeshift nasal passages through the mangled pile of broken and smashed ruin that was his nose. Soon the nose was splinted and taped and he had an obstructed field of vision in both eyes.
‘Capital.’
The medic and the doctor stood to his either side. The IV had been put back in, which he did not recall, and his pain dulled again. Alaric began to speak and Major Super-me, raised his hand, “Respectfully, Sir, I think Old Broken Me and I are developing an understanding concerning our self.”
“Major,” assented Alaric, who stepped back, and Major Bracken leaned close over the bed, “Boss, when we pierce Time, doing it robotically is dangerous. The Dreamer, the Time Holder, permits our jaunts on several conditions, one of which is that no artificial intelligence is employed in the crossing of an Advent Horizon.
Jamie nodded slightly in understanding.
‘I thought it was an Event Horizon?’
“Not to The Dreamer, who is an extra-temporal Celestial. That’s just more science bullshit.”
Jamie smiled and his nose bled as if protesting his rejection of science.
Major Super-me continued with a grin and a pat on the knee, “Boss, a dreamer on board is a must. We have abducted you as a needle-soul-finder in the goat-fucked haystack of Time. You were dying in the woods after fucking off down your writing rabbit hole. We did you many favors and Time—who is a big bad bitch—is exacting a terrible price. You’re fucked buddy. I won’t demean you with pity, but honor you with a call to serve on. You do not get any of the thrill of victory like we do and you are also the one guaranteed casualty. You are as much a soldier as me.”
Jamie was at peace, “Sure, Super-me, what can I do?”
Super-me stepped back and put his hands behind his back and spoke slowly, “We need your creative input, and every time we get it, it hurts you—Sir, we are killing you one slice of your mind at a time. The effects on your body are reflections, symptoms of the strip-mining of your mind. You are the only person on Time Ship Z that gets damaged when we pass through an Advent Horizon because it is you that is punching that hole. You are our transmission and you’ve got a few more drag races before your blow a rod. So, we need five men—and we need a replacement for you. One shot, Boss. What do you have for us?”
“Boss?” he mumbled.
“You bet—you are our captain and our engine. The Krauts are just the crew and we’re the marines.”
“Before 1937?” came the nasal crow from his mangled face.
“You got it, Boss.”
“Who do we have and what year are we leaving?”
“It is September 11 1876. We have just recruited 5 members of the James-Younger Gang.
“We have 6 of Custer’s killers, Crazy Horse commanding.
“5 Texans, Jim Bowie in command.
“7 allied Indians under Captain Tom Redstick.
“The fifth team consists of 6 poor Gaelic bastards and they are on me, my escort. That makes 30 dedicated combatants, including myself. We have room for 5 more and, your back up, some creative dreamer for whom you have the particulars of his parting with Time.
His addled brain took light, and focused a beam into the Inner Night.
“Robert E. Howard, Cross Plains, Texas, June 11, 1936, shot himself in the morning, in the head, lingered through the day. He had always been suicidal, but could not bring himself to it while his mother was alive. She is in unrecoverable coma and he will be going to his car with a revolver, or using one that he stowed there, I forget. He would know where there were some out of work men, perhaps even oil field roughnecks, men who would be useful, violent, bitter about liberal America, and down for whacking hordes of Gros.”
The Major grinned, “Gros? I like it! Negroes is one syllable more than they deserve and the other word, is just unfortunately trivial in tone.”
Alaric touched his leg, which felt fuzzy, and said with a mournful quality to his voice, “Mister LaFranc, I truly thank you for your service and hope you survive the next too Advents. I am sorry for not being bluntly honest with you—the Dreaming aspect of your soul knew you would not be boots on the ground. You are holding up much better than past candidates.”
“How did Hemmingway do?”
Super-me snorted, “Fucker got drunk and sent us back to the Cambrian extinction event.”
“Hunter S. Thompson?”
Alaric answered, “Surprisingly accurate, but got obsessed with the end of the time line and burned out in two Advents.”
Bracken stepped forward with an enthusiastic grin, “Bro, you are the fucking time machine—got it! Jack London lost his shit after three flights. You’ve threaded the Eye of Time six times and you till have fresh parts. If you make it to the Big Show I will personally bring you a Gro head!”
He smiled and made a fist with the hand that still worked—the right one, and Major Super-me was so pumped up he slapped him on the back and some blob of a bloody gland ejected from Jamie’s mouth onto his hospital gown. As Alaric rubbed his head in obvious guilt and the doctors chattered in German, Major Super-me did not miss a beat, “Oh, Bossman here is good, he didn’t want that anyhow—what the fuck, he’s got at least one entire lung left in there.”
Jamie chuckled and grinned, and he felt his nose bleed under the bandage and did not care, and laughed out loud, the thunder in his head so loud that it knocked him out.
Cross Plains, Texas, June 11 1936
Father assured him that Mother would not recover and had stationed his various helpers to prevent Robert doing what Robert had ever yearned to do, to fly from this life to which he was so unsuited, to escape from his inner prison and merge with the cosmos. As he made his way to his automobile, an item of status and leisure and of familial practicality earned with his writing, a tinge of pride rose within him.
‘There is still some of that left, aye?’
Then he recalled the recent rejections of various short novels, including a rewrite, what had begun his career and now seemed to be ending it as his one reliable outlet was choked off and beyond swallowing much more of his work…
‘Honest to mystery, I prefer the few lines of my own epilogue typed this morning.’
Robert opened the door in his myopic haze, sat down behind the wheel, reached for the glove box where he had hidden his revolver, opened it, and it was gone—taken by some officer of his Father the warden, some well-meaning screw of this life from which he long ago wished in his soul he had fled…
A voice, at once deep and sure, not from a big man, emerging from an out-sized ego of a man of middling to small stature, somewhat as he imagined Xavier Gordon in his oriental flights of fancy, came from the back seat, where Mother had reclined so often on doctor visits and country jaunts, “The pistol is yours, if you hear me out, Robert.”
Robert turned and looked over his shoulder and looked into the steely eyes of an oddly dressed man, wearing a baseball cap with a military jaunt, armed with a .45 APC in a queer leg holster, about as small and fit as he sounded, a formidable boxer he supposed by the dented nose.
Robert, a part of Robert, wanted to strike this man. Then he sensed perhaps that this was an up-welling of an ancestral self, that perhaps he should listen to what this bold man had to say. It occurred that perhaps he had already died, that the gunw as now smoking in his hand, and that this might be gatherer of weird souls come for his.
Robert appraised the man, “Sir, I see you are a decade my senior. Let’s walk and discuss your theft of my steely bier.”
The man extended his hand and they shook slightly, Robert testing the grip and finding that he might not crush the smaller hand as easily as he wished, “How do you know me, and who, sir, are you?”
“Major Randy Bracken of the Timeship Z, bound back into the future and in need of a replacement for our navigator.”
Robert grinned, “So I’ve done it then, put a bullet in my brain and linger in a comic coma.”
“Robert,” the man said, pointing out the side window, “do you see that sausage-shaped cloud of perfect form on the northern horizon?”
Robert squinted and made out what might be a German airship, wondering at what damage his obsessive reading and writing had worked on his young eyes, “I see something I have not seen before.”
The man suggested, “Walk with me Robert, while I tell you of my life. Then, if you find me credible or not, and upon standing below Timeship Z, you still decline to accept the navigation post—a position that has proven lethal to your four predecessors, including the one lingering at the helm now—I will return to you your pistol so that you may escape this purgatory of meat-puppets by your own hand. God knows, I hated your future world as much as you dreaded lingering in it.”
“I so walk away from life, rather than type away another night? Let’s walk, Major of Shadows.”
Robert emerged from the car and walked toward the road, his eyes on the oddity on the horizon, not even noting whether or not the stowaway gun thief ghost in the back seat followed.
In ten steps, Robert extended his hands towards the weirdly symmetrical cloud on the horizon and bellowed, “And one reached for the Outer Dark,” and heard the clap of the front door behind him.
Not having the heart to see Father grieve over his body, Robert continued on his outward death flight, even into Time’s cold heart if he might.
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