Si-Fi coming up!
This story was originally meant to become a book, but it has been sitting idle for years. Perhaps a short story is all it should be.
Jennifer Leigh Crandall
Three deep breaths and Ian managed to control the headache. Shaking the fog from his brain he began the usual inventory of his personal state.
Date/ time: Unknown. Near dusk, cloudy day.
Physical: Headache, pain in left knee (minimal), wound on right shoulder (healing nicely), tired, hungry, and cold.
Mental: Alert and wary.
Ian finished his inventory then looked around. There was not much to see. The back alleys of one city looked much like those of any other. This must be a slow day, not too much noise. He moved on to the inventory of his armaments.
Arms: Browning 9 mm loaded, two spare clips.
Throwing knives: six in all, three up the left sleeve, one up the right, one in each boot.
Laser rings, two, fully charged.
Cold pack, one, functioning.
Revival pack, one, low charge.
This last one caused Ian concern. If he went cold for too long and the revival pack
did not work he could suffer from hypothermia. He had been through that once before. One had to go cold to escape the heat seeking weapons, but if the pack didn’t revive you in time you were in deep trouble.
Suddenly Ian froze. That old twitch between his shoulder blades had begun again. That old warning twitch, it had saved his life on several occasions.
Ian slid back against the wall and dropped a throwing knife into his right hand. As it touched his waiting fingers a gang of young punks turned into the alley. “Oh shit, thieves,” he muttered softly. “I hate thieves.”
“Hey man, looky here,” said one gang-banger, “a donor to our community improvement fund.”
Ian took a step farther back into the alley. “What city is this?” he asked trying to get as much information as possible before the shit hit the fan.
“What city is it? Hey man, this guy must be a drugger or something,” laughed the ganger.
“Yeah, or something,” Ian replied. “What city is this?”
“Our city asshole, that’s all you need to know,” said the punk whipping out a knife. “Let’s have that donation then you can be on your way!” All five of them laughed.
“Why don’t you just go home and live to see tomorrow’s headlines,” Ian replied softly, stepping farther back into the alley. Where had he lost the silencer for the damned nine mill? He was low on ammo anyway; this would have to be done by hand and quietly. The gangers moved slowly toward him, joking among themselves. Four of them would never know what hit them. One would live.
Ian whipped his right hand forward then launched himself at them. The mouth-piece died with a knife in his throat. A second took a blow to the head which killed him instantly. The third screamed as his leg was broken by a big boot. A whipping motion of the left hand sent a knife into the brain of the fourth killing him instantly. The fifth man ran for his life. He did not reach the end of the alley before an arm clamped around his neck and a sharp blow to the head broke his neck. His body was thrown back into the alley. The man with the broken leg stopped whimpering as a nine millimetre pistol was pressed against his left nostril. He looked into a pair of blue eyes as cold as death.
“One chance only for you to live,” said that soft voice. “What fucking city is this?”
“Vancouver,” stammered the gang-banger. He awoke hours later with his dead friends lying all about him. Some of their clothes were missing as were their weapons and wallets. He began to crawl toward the entrance to the alley, screaming for help.
Ian had knocked the kid cold then stepped away to puke his lights out. It never got any easier. They’d have killed him for a ten dollar bill but it still didn’t matter, he hated the killing. These kids seemed to think they were invincible but they weren’t. They hadn’t realized Ian was only being cautious, he was not afraid. They had paid for their stupidity and the streets of Vancouver were a little bit safer tonight.
Ian stepped back to his task, the taste of bile still in his mouth. Taking some clothing to disguise himself, he took all their money and threw most of their weapons in a dumpster, keeping only two extra knives and another nine millimetre with a spare clip. The fool kid had a gun, but had panicked and ran. Ian could have let the kid escape but he was running on auto-pilot by this time. He had made the mistake of letting a man escape before. That is why he was here.
As he walked the rainy streets, keeping to the shadows as much as possible, Ian let his mind wander back to that first battle over eleven years ago. It had been his first trip to the city. Ian was just nineteen years old, hell, he hadn’t even been away from home before.
He had gotten off the bus in Boston, on his way to visit his uncle Bill who had offered to pay Ian’s way to university in the big city. It had taken his dad’s last dollar to buy that ticket, but Bill’s offer had been too good to refuse. Outside the bus depot life went all to hell in a hurry.
Ian stepped out of the bus depot and took a look around. A tall blonde girl had given him a cursory glance before turning away. When he tried to steal a second look at her he spotted the gang of punks. They surrounded her and one grabbed her purse. He ran the wrong way. A big arm snaked out and clotheslined the purse-snatcher. A flick of the wrist retrieved the purse. Grinning, Ian held the purse toward the blonde.
“Look out!” she screamed at him. Too late. There was a sharp pain in his side as the attacker hissed at him, “Die fucker!” The second knife blow never landed.
Ian’s awareness shifted into overdrive. It seemed like everybody else was moving in slow motion. A big left hand had snapped out. The fist cracked against the purse-snatcher’s head sounding like a gun-shot. He fell slowly to the pavement and his knife was in Ian’s hand. The other gangers were on him by then. Two more were down before the rest fled. Ian stood alone among the bodies with blood running down his side.
That was the first time it had ever happened, and it both frightened and excited him. His senses and reactions were working at quadruple their normal speed. His opponents had been helpless against him.
The girl vanished as the police arrived. Two cops were advancing cautiously toward him with their guns drawn. Ian stood very still but alert. He was having trouble understanding their words.
“Drop the knife pal,” said one cop moving toward him. The policeman’s movements seemed absurdly slow to Ian. The other cop circled behind him. Ian spoke slowly so they could understand.
“That one stole a purse. When I tried to stop him he cut me,” Ian said.
“ Sure, sure,” said the cop. “Drop the knife and we won’t have to hurt you.” Just then the other cop tried to jump him from behind. When he side stepped and tripped the man, the first cop opened fire. It was over in a heartbeat. Both policemen lay dead, one with a knife in his chest, the other with a bullet through his brain.
A car squealed around the corner, the blonde at the wheel. “Get in!” she screamed. Ian leaped for the car and barely made it as she sped away.
Slowly his awareness and actions returned to normal. She drove through the back streets of the city without speaking, finally stopping in front of an old warehouse.
“Inside,” she barked. “Ask for Tom. Tell him Jill sent you. Tell him you are a speeder.” With that she pushed him out of the car and drove swiftly away.
Ian half staggered, half ran to the door where a man leaned against the building. “Are you Tom?” he asked.
“Yes,” replied the man.
“Jill sent me. Can you help me?”
“In here,” Tom said. “Let’s get you patched up.”
“She said that I am a speeder,” said Ian. “What does that mean?”
Tom sat him down in the tiny office, where he began cleaning Ian’s wound. “Got a name?” he asked.
“Ian. My name is Ian.”
“Well Ian, I’ll tell you what a speeder is,” said Tom as he worked, “and it has nothing to do with cars. A speeder is a man who can do some extraordinary things. For example, you have been in a fight. I’ll bet that you killed at least one man, maybe more. Do you know what a fight or flight response is?”
“Not really,” answered Ian.
“A fight or flight response occurs when you are in physical danger. Your body prepares you to either fight or run away. You get an adrenalin rush that allows you to fight harder or to run faster.”
“Is that what happened to me?”
“Sort of,” Tom went on. “When your mother was pregnant with you she took an experimental drug to help her through the pain, yes? Killed her too, didn’t it?”
“She died when I was born if that is what you mean,” said Ian softly.
“Yes, well, that drug did something to you too. It supercharged your natural body defences. Most of the affected kids were found early and taken away for study. Most of them died. Some took longer to trigger the response. You must have led a pretty quiet life up to now, or maybe you just needed a bigger jolt to trigger you. There now, all bandaged up. Only took five stitches. Didn’t really feel them did you?”
“No I didn’t. Why is that?” asked Ian.
“Lingering effect of the adrenalin rush,” said Tom. “It will wear off in another hour or two. You’ll be plenty sore then. It was not a bad wound, though. The rib turned the knife.”
“Tell me more about what happened to me,” said Ian.
“It works like this kid, when you get really mad, scared, or hurt, your body pumps out a rush of adrenalin. In your case, it pumps out a mutated form of adrenalin. That’s when you shift into super speed. You enter an altered state of existence. You are then living at four times the speed everyone else is. Everyone else seems to be moving in slow motion. You become much stronger and faster. A punch that would normally blacken your opponent’s eye will kill when you are in this state. Your senses are super keen, you are aware of everything that is going on all around you, but you have trouble understanding the spoken word. That’s because it seems like they are talking in slow motion. You’ll get better at it with practice.”
“Practice. Hell, some speeders can even time shift.”
“Move back and forth through time.”
“That’s bullshit Tom, pure sci-fi,” said Ian.
“Think so?” asked Tom. He pointed his ring and a shaft of light the size of a pin neatly sliced a wine bottle in half. Tom retrieved the bottle for Ian’s inspection.
“Then you..,” Ian stammered.
“That’s right son,” grinned Tom. “Where I come from hasn’t even happened yet.”
“And Jill too?” asked Ian. He knew the answer to that one before Tom answered it.
“Why would you help me?” asked Ian.
“We need good soldiers,” answered Tom.
“What if I don’t want to be a soldier,” said Ian softly.
“You are a wanted killer by now,” said Tom coldly. “We can always put you back on the street.”
* * * * *
Ian broke from his reverie. It was night time, cold, and raining. He looked up to the sky, muttering to himself. He had been in this city before; it always rained here. He knew where he was, the next question was, when the hell was he? “Should have asked that kid before putting him to sleep,” he thought. He checked the money he’d taken from the punks. It looked funny but he could understand it. He entered a cafe and ordered coffee and a sandwich.
Ian watched the news on the TV while he slowly ate his food. There was a live broadcast from the scene of his landing; they were interviewing the survivor. The kid was busy blaming a rival street gang. The interviewer signed off with the day’s date - April 28/ 1996. Three days before the intended hit, and a day’s drive from the right city. “It is better to be lucky than good,” he grinned to himself.
1996. The technology was pretty good, yet it still left him with vastly superior skills, weapons, and anonymity: the public was still unaware of the speeders’ existence. Ian could make his way to Calgary, where, with luck, he would save a pregnant teenager from a car accident. Well it was supposed to look like an accident. If they succeeded, a young woman would never live to lead her people to freedom from slavery.
Slavery, if Ian had succeeded in blocking their last hit, slavery would not exist in North America at this time period. He’d failed; in fact he barely escaped with his life. Now he was in Vancouver and it was raining. Ian hated rain. He ordered another coffee and sandwich to go then stepped onto the street.
“Shit,” he thought shivering, “I really hate rain.” He slipped around to the back of an old hotel and climbed the fire escape then he cut the locks with his laser ring. Just as he’d hoped, the alarms didn’t activate. “Laser rings make great lock picks,” he thought as he drifted off to sleep.
He awoke with a start. Sirens! Damn! No wait, they went past and on down the street. Ian reviewed his inventory then he was ready to face the day. He took a look out the window. Still raining. Damn. Ian left the room and walked downstairs to the front desk. The night manager was asleep so he walked on by and out into the street.
As he walked his mind wandered back to the day he had broken free. Tom had taken him to a secret training ground where they taught him to control his abilities. Ian had been an avid student. He quickly discovered his talents were greater than expected. Ian discreetly started to hold back. Within a few months his true abilities were known only to himself.
It also became obvious these people were ruthless. They were changing history by assassinating key people before they were born. Pregnant women are easier targets. It was also apparent to him they had access to technologies too far advanced for this world. Someone from somewhere or somewhen was supplying them.
Ian applied himself to his training, but his only thought was for escape. Sadly, he would never be able to go home. He was wanted for killing two policemen there.
Eventually, Ian finished his training and was ready for his first assignment. They would move him through time, he’d make the hit, and then they’d retrieve him. They underestimated both his abilities as well as his intelligence. Big mistake.
Ian’s first job was to eliminate a speeder who was a danger tothe cause. Tom accompanied him on this job to evaluate his performance. His target was Jill.
They found her in 1969, hanging out with some hippies in San Francisco. Ian went into combat mode as he stepped out of the alley. Jill saw him, gasped, and then tried to hit combat mode herself. “Too slow!” she thought, “I’m dead!”
She wasn’t. By the time Jill made the shift, Ian’s left arm had snapped out, burying a knife in Tom’s brain. Ian took three running steps and vanished. The fastest speeder alive had just gone renegade. Worse yet, he had time shifted on his own without a time pack.
That was eleven years ago, as nearly as he could estimate. During those years Ian had both eluded his hunters and spoiled many of their plans. He had also honed his skills to a razor’s edge, and now he was headed for Calgary.
Ian spent the last of the punks’ money on a bus ticket. The sun was just rising over the prairie as they left the mountains. Ian pulled the cord and the driver let him off. He sat at the lonely intersection to wait. He did not have to wait long.
The cab pulled over and the big scruffy man climbed into the back. “Calgary,” he said softly.
“Yes Sir,” said the pretty native girl who was chained to the steering wheel. She had the electronic tracking slave collar around her neck as well. A valuable slave for sure.
“When is the baby due?” he asked her as she pulled out onto the highway.
“Six months,” she replied, surprised. “How did you know?” He didn’t answer, but stared out the window instead. She shrugged and drove on.
She had driven only a few miles when the cab was rammed from behind by a big black sedan. The car then came up beside them. As the black car swept the cab over the embankment, the girl screamed. Her passenger fired some kind of weapon out the window and the black car exploded just as the cab took to the air. The girl screamed again.
That is when everything became fuzzy for her. Her passenger reached ahead and cut her chains with a beam of light. In a single motion he pushed her from the airborne car. Somehow he was on the ground to break her fall. Gently he put her on the grass and used the light ring to cut away her slave collar.
“Go to your people in the mountains,” he said gently, then turned and blew up the cab. “Go on, they will think you died in the crash.” She watched with wide eyes as the scarred warrior took three strides and vanished.
Five years later a man sat on the site of that crash, nursing a savage headache. Slowly the big man arose and started walking toward Calgary. At least the sun was shining; life was good.
Jennifer Leigh Crandall
Copyright July 1998