The complete 'Muddled Ages'
The Muddled Ages
Chapter 1 (By Brenda)
“Welcome to the Hotel California.” Toni slammed the snooze button hard enough to knock the clock radio off her nightstand. Toni found it harder than usual to summon the effort to drag herself out of bed. Funny thing, she usually would have been woken earlier by the endless stream of traffic that rumbled by her basement apartment. It was an eerily quiet morning, nothing but birdsong and what sounded like the distant rumble of garbage trucks.
As much as she would like to roll back over, Toni Templar had things to do today. Untangling herself from the sheets she got up to start the coffee. With the first of the three food groups Toni was living on taken care of, she fumbled to find her cigarettes and lighter. Toni figured that she’d quit soon but not quite yet, not with her schedule right at the moment. As she surveyed the street outside her window Toni was still struck by the lack of traffic. She tried to recall if there was any notices posted about street closings but still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.
The first meeting she had today was with her engineers - the Siege of Troy client wanted a real working trebuchet (she hated when they got ideas from Nova.) The engineers were doing feasibility studies and Toni wanted to know if they could bring this one in under budget. Despite the fact that she was on a first name basis with some of the richest people on earth, historical reenactments really didn’t make you any money. Why else would she be living under the New York City sidewalk? Generally even though a run of the mill World War Two reenactment cost more than the gross national product of the some her clients’ countries, she never seemed to have anything left at the end of the day.
Toni wondered how of all things that a smart single woman living in NY could do she ended up staging elaborate fantasies for men (mostly - there was the woman who wanted to stage Catherine the Great’s infamous encounter with a horse but Toni drew the line at the reenactment of mere innuendo) with a less than firm grasp on reality. If she hadn’t been drafted into coordinating that medieval festival for the Parks Department she might still be ignorant of not only what a trebuchet was but also whether the Siege of Troy actually occurred. Dr. Melinda Cosmo had approached her through mutual friends; Toni thought the woman quite out of her mind but the challenge appealed to her. It had been years since the last festival - Toni had a vague memory of banners, horses and men in armor. The plan was to reach out to inner city kids; this was too much of a hook for Toni to ignore no matter how weird she thought Dr. Cosmo and her role playing friends were.
“Now would be a good time for the traffic to become unstuck,” Toni thought as she walked up the steps of her brownstone to hail a cab. With the synchronicity that only taxis have one arrived as she stepped off the curb. “Kennedy Airport?” the driver asked. Toni could only nod because that was exactly where she was going.
Chapter 2 (By James)
Climbing into the cab, Toni was immediately engulfed by a thick cloud of smoke--reefer, by the smell of it. Waving one hand in front of her face while she pulled the door closed with the other, she asked the cabbie, “How did you know where I was going?”
“He didn’t,” a female voice said. “I did.”
Toni jumped and let out a little squeal. Crushed up against the far side of the cab sat an elegant middle-aged woman. Toni, squinting through the smoke, instantly recognized her as Dr. Melinda Cosmo.
Startled, Toni asked, “Wha...what are you doing here, Doctor? I expected to meet you in--”
“There’s no need to be alarmed, Ms. Templar.” Dr. Cosmo replied. “But there’s been a change of plans. I’ll explain on the way.” She leaned forward to tap on the bullet-proof partition with a long dangerous-looking blood-red fingernail. “Move it, Juan. Time is money.” The cabbie, merely a shadow within the smoke, nodded and the cab lurched forward with an impressive screech of tires.
“What do you mean, ‘a change of plans’?” Toni demanded. The whole situation was very weird. Why was Dr. Cosmo here, in New York?
“Put this on,” the doctor said and thrust something white across the seat. Frowning, Toni picked up the object and found it was a Marie Antoinette type wig.
“You’ll need it to be admitted,” the doctor told her, as if that explained everything.
“Admitted? Admitted to what?”
“Just put it on!” Dr. Cosmo suddenly snarled. “And for God sake, hurry!” Unaccustomed to being snapped at, Toni was just about to snap back when the cabbie took a corner fast enough to slam her hard into the door.
“Jesus!” she cried, her face mashed against the grimy glass. It was then that she noticed the streets were empty; no other cars moved anywhere. The sidewalks were barren of all pedestrians. Straightening up, Toni turned back to the doctor. “Is today a holiday?”
“You could say that,” Dr. Cosmo replied. “Now put on the wig!”
“Why? What the hell is going on?”
The doctor screamed, “Put on the wig!” Toni yelped in fear and instantly pulled the huge wig over her hair.
“Okay, are you happy now? I put on your stupid wig!”
“It’s backwards.” The doctor sounded extremely impatient. Mumbling expletives, Toni fixed the wig just in time to be flung to the opposite side of the cab, doing a face plant into Dr. Cosmo’s lap.
“Heavens to Betsy!” the doctor yelled. “Damn you Juan!” Pulling herself out of the doctors crotch, Toni was seriously considering rolling down her window and screaming for help. But had she been kidnapped? She didn’t know for sure, but it was certainly beginning to look that way. On the other hand, Melinda Cosmo was an extremely cherished customer and most likely would not take kindly to Toni hollering, “HELP! I’ve been abducted by a rich crazy woman who makes me wear wigs!” Instead of rolling down the window, Toni decided to give talking to the doctor another shot.
Chapter 3 (By Dave S.)
Dr. Cosmo reached out and adjusted the crooked wig on Toni’s head. It clicked into place. ”There, there dear girl, there’s no reason to get your panties in a bunch. We’re just going to attend a little soirÈe on Park Avenue.”
“What kind of soiree is this?” asked Toni, gritting her teeth.
“It’s more of a rendezvous really, a costume party of sorts. You won’t even be required to perform tonight.”
“This isn’t a re-enactment?”
Melinda Cosmo took a deep hit off of her joint, held the smoke for a bit and then exhaled through the left side of her frown. “No, but I’ll be introducing you to some very influential friends, some of whom may require your services in the future.”
Smiling, Juan altered the rearview to get a better view of Toni and her slight cleavage.
“Look Dr. Cosmo, I appreciate your sending business my way, but I was under the impression that I would be needed tonight for...”
“Stop worrying Toni, you’ll be paid your regular fee.”
Toni took a deep breath and sighed. “Ok, that’s fine. So, who are these influential friends of yours that I’ll be meeting?”
“Have you ever heard of Dr. Casper VanBlunk?”
Toni took out a Virginia Slim and Dr. Cosmo lit it for her. She took a drag and said, “VanBlunk, why does that name sound familiar?” Toni had no idea who this guy was. “Let me guess,” she said, “Dr. Casper VanBlunk is the head of the Hell’s Angels, Santa Cruz chapter.”
“The choreographer for The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway?”
“An ex-roadie for Jimi Hendrix?”
Toni threw her hands up. “I don’t know... ...He invented Prozac?”
“Miss Templar! Phenomenal guess. As a matter of fact, he’s formulated a drug called Xynal, a similar antidepressant. That is but one of his many remarkable accomplishments in the world of science. I’m sure you’ll find him a delight to chat with.”
“I’m sure I’d rather drink a can of motor oil.” said Toni in a barely audible mutter.
“I’m sorry dear, I didn’t quite catch that.”
“I said: I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to it.”
The wig was not an ordinary wig. Dr. VanBlunk designed it to fit Toni Templar’s head exactly. Melinda Cosmo had given Dr. VanBlunk plaster molds of Toni’s head. Dr. Cosmo had made the molds based on various masks and wigs she’d had Toni wear from past re-enactments. All of these masks and wigs were lined lightly with a unique molding putty designed by VanBlunk. Dr. Cosmo constructed a fairly accurate plaster mold from the impressions left in the putty. Dr. VanBlunk constructed this tremendously astonishing wig directly from that plaster mold.
When Dr. Melinda Cosmo adjusted Toni’s wig and it ‘clicked’ into place, four miniscule electrodes from within the wig attached themselves to Toni’s head. The electrodes were monitoring Toni’s brain activity and sending the information to a tiny transmitter also strategically placed within the wig. The data uplink went directly to a computer in a certain penthouse on Park Avenue. At the same time, plastic tubing within the wig was releasing minute excretions of super-glue every couple of minutes, thus fusing the wig to Toni’s skin and hair.
Casper VanBlunk was eyeing his computer monitor with a sickly grin. His database was engaged in an import process from an uplink in a NYC taxi only a half mile away. “Ze vig is on! Ze vig is on!” he said loud and proud with a thick German accent. Dr. VanBlunk began waltzing through the room singing “Ding dong ze vig is on! Ze vig is on! Ze vig is on! Ding dong ze vig, ze vig is on!” to the tune of ’The Witch is Dead’ from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Dr. VanBlunk was ecstatic because all of this meant that tonight he was going to test his theories of time travel for the first time. His guinea pig, Toni Templar was going to be in for quite a ride.
Chapter 3 1/2 (By Taco Bob)
When Taco Bob was finally released from high school, he was informed that his aptitude tests had shown that he should pursue a career in either ranching or cab driving. He went into possum ranching, and was quite successful. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a nearly continuous stream of natural disasters that hampered his ranching endeavors.
Just last week, the winds from an approaching tropical storm whipped the latest wildfire up enough to burn out a good portion of the ranch in record time. Soon after they got the fire out, the tropical storm came on through and blew down most of the trees and buildings. Then of course, it rained constantly for two days and the floodwaters washed away most everything that hadn’t already burned up or blown away.
This would have been terribly discouraging to most people. But since it seemed to happen to Taco Bob’s ranch on a regular basis, he just cleaned up and salvaged what he could, and went off to give cab driving a shot in order to make enough money to start up the ranch again. TB’s old friend Juan wasn’t using his cab much since his latest conviction for vehicular homicide, so they worked out a deal on the cab, and TB was off on his first day driving in the big city.
It being so quiet this morning, TB was glad to have a fare. He kept glancing at an old photo of some of his possums that got lost in the latest flood, and was getting a little teary-eyed. He also kept looking in the mirror at the two women in back, especially the young woman named Toni with the funny wig and the interesting cleavage.
Suddenly Toni yelled, “LOOK OUT!” and TB slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching stop just inches from a short rat-faced man and a big guy with a cowboy hat. Pounding on the hood of the cab, and spraying spittle on the windshield, the rat-faced man screamed, “HEY, I’M WALKING HERE!”
Taco Bob and the two men then had a brief, but heated, discussion using colorful language that seemed appropriate for the occasion. They finished the exchange with a flurry of hand gestures and a few parting oaths. In the meantime, Toni was rubbing her head from the impact with the bullet-proof glass partition, while pounding a red -faced Dr. Cosmo on the back, who was coughing and gagging from having just swallowed the last of the still-lit joint.
TB found a half-pint bottle of ‘shine under the seat and slipped it over the partition to Toni and said, “Give that gal a snort a this!” Soon there was a new round of coughing and gagging, and TB made a mental note to stop at a service station after he let these ladies off and wipe down the back seat area.
TB continued driving and looking at the picture of his beloved possums. Things finally quieted down in back, and TB checked the mirror and thought he saw a wisp of smoke come off the place where Toni had been rubbing her head.
Chapter 4 (By Anonymous)
Casper VanBlunk sat fidgeting in his office, staring a hold through the door. When he heard the voices in the hallway, he leaned purposefully back in his leather roller, striking what he thought to be a CEO pose. Feet stretched out on the walnut desk, he began to examine his nails, rubbing them every few seconds on his white labcoat. The large door opened.
“Why can’t I take this thing off? It feels weird” Toni said trying to be polite, but wondering if the money she was promised was worth the humiliation. Melinda Cosmo ignored her question and smiled warmly at VanBlunk. Blunk rose from his desk a bit too eagerly, and raced to introduce himself.
“Vell, Miz Templar, Itz zooo niz to meet you” Toni started to reach out to shake the doctor’s hand, but VanBlunk surprised her by giving her a bear hug. Her arms forced to her sides, she stared blankly at Melinda Cosmo, who just shrugged and lit another cigarette. VanBlunk grinned like schoolboy and tugged quickly at Toni’s wig, before releasing her.
“Ouch” Toni grabbed her hair and stared in disbelief at VanBlunk.
“Zo, zorry. Must be done” He smiled with his arms crossed, nudging a wink at Melinda. “Zo, ve are apparently ready?” He clapped his hand together and jumped slightly. “Zo you are probably wundering why, ve have appropriated your servizes?”
“Uh, yeah I thought you needed...
“Vell, you have been chozen to be ze first to have the opportunity to travel back into zime, and ...
“Wait.. back in time?” Toni said staring gape mouthed at the small German in front of her.
“Yez, This is what I said, ‘back in zime’, izn’t it wunderbar?”
“What makes you think, I will do this for you anyhow?”
“Vell,” VanBlunk rolled his eyes over to Melinda, who was browsing through a magazine, “You have the vig! You cannot remove it, only I can, and I vill not until you have completed your task”
“And what might this task be?” Toni said pulling at the wig, doubling over and rolling side to side in the effort. “Vell, zu must return to me DNA zamples I require in order to clone certain personalities”
Toni shot bolt upright, “HELL NO, I am not bringing back Hitler for you, you, you... .
“Noooo I do not vant to bring back that particular... “ but the doctor couldn’t think of what to say, so he just spit on the floor for effect. “Just some ozer smaller, species, if you vill”
“And what if I don’t agree?” Toni said, blowing the hair out of her face.
“Vell, that would be very zad. Ve would have to activate ze electrodes to full power, and I believe would be zapped, and you don’t want to zee that” Toni plopped down in the leather chair at VanBlunk’s desk.
“Ok, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I wouldn’t be hurting anyone right? No evil people, or you can fry me. I ain’t doing any evil people”
The doctor grinned, “Of course not! Just step into the inner office vit me pleaze” He ran to open the door for Toni. Inside the inner office was a huge guillotine.
“Hey! You said... “
Before Toni could finish, VanBlunk held up his hands and calmly said, “No this iz it! The device. My creation. Ze Zime Machine” Toni looked at him blankly.
“I have a zing for Marie, what can I zay?” Toni examined the blade, and found it was actually a hologram. Where the blade would have fit into the wood, sat a variety of lasers and some strange glowing purple substance. “So, I just sit here and ... poof?”
“Poof” VanBlunk beamed.
Two hours and several hits off some funny cigarettes, Toni laid down on the guillotine, as VanBlunk adjusted the equiptment and prepped her once again.
“You have ze list and ze bag. Just collect ze items on ze list and push ziz little button on ze vig. Ve will monitor your progress here. As you collect ze items, I vill move you on to your next location. If you do not collect zem, ppzzzzzzzPPPppzzz” VanBlunk shuddered and rolled his eyes back to illustrate his point.
“Yes, got it. Just let’s get it over with” Toni stared at the ceiling and the purple goo. She figured it wouldn’t work, and she would be home within the hour. New York was known for it’s strange populace.
Strange light filled her eyes, and she flew through a wave of liquid colors. It felt like a couple of seconds, and then blackness. And... it smelled funny. Like Chinese food, and old spice, with a hint of cat litter. A loud crash sent her jumping. Her head made solid contact with metal.
“Shit! Don’t tell me... it worked?” She reached up and pushed. Light filled her eyes and revealed the source of the stench, a dumpster. She was torn for an instant between delving into this new unknown world and just closing the lid and hiding. She pulled the slip of notebook paper out of her pocket reluctantly. She scanned the first item on the list, Abbie Hoffman’s nose hair.
“You have got to be shitting me” she said aloud to herself. “His nose hair?” She looked around the dumpster and found a New York Times at her feet. She smiled in spite of herself, she knew where to go. The date on the paper read, April 1967. The New York Stock Exchange was where he would be.
Chapter 5 (By Rob)
Rick Stills sat eating his lunch in the dark, listening to the storm that was raging outside and thinking about how much he hated his job. When he had applied for and been accepted into the Historic Preservation Patrol, Rick had considered himself one of the luckiest guys in the world. He had imagined himself chatting with Elvis, hanging out at Woodstock, or maybe even hitching a ride on the Hindenberg - but this was bullshit. This sucked. So far this week, he had been sent to the Crucifixion to wrestle a crowbar away from a disgruntled T.V. evangelist, traveled to 1800’s France in order to stop a guy from convincing Frederic-Augste Bartholdi to apply a little more hammer to the Statue of Liberty’s copper bosom, and he had shot himself twice - and it was only Tuesday.
Balancing his sandwich on his knee, Rick punched a button on his watch which lit up his face with a dull neon green glow. 12:50. His lunch break was almost over. A low, echoing moan coming from the surrounding darkness made Rick flinch, reminding him that he wasn’t alone.
“Sorry” Rick said to the dungeon’s only other occupant - a small, skeleton thin Frenchman who was chained to the wall at the other end of the vast room.
“I guess Indiglow is a bit ahead of your time” Looking around at his dank and dismal surroundings, Rick added, “ You people weren’t much on weatherproofing either, were you?”
Rick often spent his lunch breaks in the dungeons of the 1600’s France time period, because it was usually quiet and he could think. Today, however, it was night time outside, there was one hell of a storm pounding the castle walls - and to say the dungeon leaked would be an understatement. In the last twenty minutes the ceiling had begun to drip, the wall the Frenchman was chained to had become a small waterfall, and the rough stone floor had been transformed into an ankle deep flowing river. It was dark, cold, and water was coming in everywhere. Rick frowned and shook his head as he took another bite of his sandwich, then he stood up and sloshed across the room towards the sputtering Frenchman chained to the waterfall.
“You know”, Rick said as he held the remains of his Quarter Pounder to the Frenchman’s lips, “This reminds me of one of my past assignments. I was undercover as a third class passenger on the Titanic. I nearly drowned and froze to death on that one. The guy I saved was supposed to set the groundwork for a cure for cancer, but as it turned out, the only thing he contributed to the world at large was thumb tacks.”
Placing what was left of the Quarter Pounder in his palm so he wouldn’t lose a finger, Rick fed the rest of it to the starving Frenchman, then rinsed off his hands in the steady stream of water that was flowing over the man’s head, adding “ There were a lot of Smith’s on that boat, and those assholes down at Headquarters didn’t bother to tell me the one they sent me after spelled his name with a ‘y’.”
The little Frenchman tried to utter a response, and Rick did understand French, (he was required to know at least twelve languages fluently in order to do his job), but it’s hard to understand someone who is trying to chew with only three teeth while holding their breath at the same time. Rick had been using this particular dungeon for his lunch breaks for at least a year now, but the Frenchman had obviously been down here considerably longer than that. His skin was as pale as baby powder from the lack of sunlight, and he couldn’t possibly weigh more than 90 pounds. Rick figured that a haircut and manicure would probably drop the scales to about 60. He felt sorry for the guy, but there was nothing he could do. Everyone has their place in history. Wading back over to the other side of the room, Rick gathered up his trash and stuck it all back in the bag it came from. If someone wandered down here and found a plastic straw or paper cup that had been left behind, it could fuck up the world big time. Littering time travelers were responsible for all sorts of catastrophes - like Chia pets, bell bottom jeans, and the Reagan Administration.
As he took one last look around to make sure he had everything he came with, Rick said, “Take it easy, Pierre - I got to get back to work. There’s another mad scientist out there who thinks he’s the first one to invent time travel, so I gotta go rescue some guy named Tony and set the world right again. I’ll be back tomorrow and introduce you to chili dogs - you like mustard?” The little Frenchman responded by gargling rainwater and rattling his chains. Taking that as a ‘yes’, Rick nodded “goodbye” and went back to work.
Toni had just finished climbing out of the dumpster and was picking garbage from her clothes and wig, wondering how you go about asking someone for one of their nose hairs and why she was chosen for the job. Unfolding her shopping list, she was shaking her head at some of the bizarre things she was expected to retrieve when someone behind her said, “You’re not a guy” Jerking violently as if a stick of dynamite had just gone off behind her, Toni whirled around to find a tall, good looking man standing in the alley. He looked kind of like a thin Fabio, and was holding a McDonald’s bag and wearing wet sneakers. He also had a Band-aid on his left cheek. Holding out his free hand, he introduced himself by saying, “Rick Stills, Historic Preservation Patrol.”
Not knowing what else to do, Tony shook his hand and stammered, “You’re a... WHO?”
“Time Cop” Rick said, tossing his McDonald’s bag into the dumpster.
Toni was about to lose it. This was way too much shit to comprehend in such a short amount of time. Looking around the alley, she half expected Toto, the Tin Man, and a tornado to blow through. At least it would be something she was familiar with.
Not knowing what else to say, Toni looked at the Band-aid and asked, “What did you do to your face?”
“I shot myself”
“A pellet gun”
Now Toni was really confused. “You tried to commit suicide with a pellet gun?”
“No, ‘mam, it wasn’t suicide. It was self defense,” Rick answered, obviously annoyed by the question.
Toni shook her head violently in an attempt to clear her mind, then asked, “How does a person shoot himself in self defense?”
Heaving a deep sigh as he rubbed his eyes with his palms, Rick said, “Look, lady - we don’t have time for this. I have a schedule to keep. If you must know, I went back to when I was 10 years old to try to convince myself to learn to play the harmonica. I thought I was a burglar, so I shot myself”
Starting to feel a bit woozy, Toni shook her head to show she didn’t understand and whispered, “ What would make you do that?”
“A bad day at work and a bottle of Jack Daniels. You would be amazed to find the things that seem either funny or profund when you’re drunk.”
The next thing Toni knew, she was on her ass. She had been trying so hard to think, she had forgotten how to stand up.
Chapter 6: (By Q)
It was a good night for Tricky. He was diesel tonight. Cock Diesel. A new bar, a new hunting ground. It was closing in on ten o’clock and he had already pocketed more than a hundred bucks. The idiots that packed this joint were about as careless as newborns on a playground. People thought nothing of wedging themselves together in an attempt to get to the bar. Loose bills were put in open jacket pockets while purses hung free and available to anyone from shoulders of uncaring women. Tricky’s eyes gleamed like a predator. The worst part was listening to the fucked up music being pumped through the joint’s sound system. If he ever got meet this Sedaka cat, he’d punch him in the face. Trick had written better songs in his sleep, he thinks as absently fingers guitar chords on his half filled glass of soda water.
It had taken no small effort to reach this new venue. The lower side city where he normally plied his trade was a far cry from the upscale strip in which he dipped his fingers this night. He had gone out, hocked his twelve-string and bought a jacket (a dark colored linen thing that snugged his shoulders in a way that made him feel diesel) that went well with the black Levi’s (silver rivets lining the back pockets) that had been lifted from an ex-lovers husband some years ago. The Italian leather boots were the Crown Jewel of the ensemble. The heels shined like obsidian blocks while the eye was drawn toward the slim toe and the silver plate that wrapped the point. The pair were completely unmarred, pampered and preserved. An expert would be hard pressed to assess the date of sale though they were four years out of the store. The boots were a prize possession. Tricky’s brother’s prize possession. It would mean Tricky’s life if anything happened to them. But tonight was a night for taking risks. He was Diesel. The big score was here somewhere. All he had to do was wait and let his instincts take the wheel.
At ten till midnight fortune smiled down on Tricky. His mark had stepped up to the bar, paid his tab with a hundred dollar bill and told the bartender to keep the change. Tricky had to smile. It wasn’t the young man’s slight build and bowl haircut that made him smile. Nor was it the Harvard sweatshirt and round wire-rimmed glasses the man wore that amused young Tricky. Even the roll of C-notes stuffed into the man’s wallet didn’t fully account for the hungry grin that followed him from the bar. No. It was an aura of misplaced power that surrounded the guy. An arrogant confidence and authority that emanated from his round smirking face. Tricky knew this man. He was the welfare officer that visited his mother, condescending in his manner and impatient to be done with her. He was the parole officers that dogged him, wielding their ball point pens and spouting advice on how to live in a world that they, themselves knew little of. This man was every guidance counselor that had ever told him to learn a trade because higher education would be beyond him.
Down the moon-lit street, a block and a half ahead of Tricky the mark moved, staggering slightly. Tricky followed silently after, slipping from shadow to shadow like spilled mercury. As he closed the distance, his mind began to paint a picture of his days to come. I’ll get my guitar outta hock. I’ll surprise the shit outta Mamma; fill up the ‘fridge with groceries. All name brands, none of that generic shit. I’ll get me some real weed. I’ll... I’ll... Tricky stopped for a moment and raised his chin. I’ll buy me my own goddamn pair of boots. Fifty feet and closing. Twenty feet. The Beatles haircut is turning the corner ahead of him. Tricky can tell the street ahead is not well lit. Ten feet. Time to move, time to close, time to dance, time-
-someone stepped (outta nowhere?) in front of him. A tall man with long hair. He smiled and said, “Sorry”, and threw a right cross that caught Tricky flush on the jaw. The world spun and the pavement quickly rose up to meet him. Too many thoughts tried to elbow their way into his fast shrinking consciousness.
Voices. A man and a woman standing over him, talking.
“So, what the hell was that about?”
“Just another job. Damn, my hand’s starting to swell.”
Tricky tried to focus on the fuzzy image of a couple now walking away from him.
“You were sent to thwart a mugging?”
“Yep. Does that look swollen to you?”
“Who was the guy that was gonna get it?”
“The white guy? He’ll go on to make a big splash in computers.”
“Oh. So you keep a computer magnate from getting killed on the street in order to... “
“No, no. He wouldn’t have killed him. Just knocked him down and taken his wallet. Maybe roughed him up a bit. Heh. Shame, really.”
“Then why bother with... “
“Our friend lying over there with the cast-iron jaw would’ve been filled with bullet holes by two cops with eager trigger fingers and too much caffeine in their veins. They’re parked about two blocks from here, if I remember the file correctly.”
“Okay, so you saved his life. Not to sound harsh, but it seems like a lot to slip time just to keep...“
“NOW, in two weeks his older brother will finger him to the cops. Can’t remember the charge. He’ll go to the pen for three years where he will write a blues tune that will eventually be picked up by a major record label. He’ll follow that up with an album that will go on to sell millions. In five years he will be free, wealthy and even own stock in the company of the man he intended to mug.”
“Oh. I see.”
“What can I say? It’s one of my favorite albums. Look at that! Tell me that’s not swelling.”
“Quit whining and get us back to... you know... back.”
”’Kay. Now about this Cosmo prick... “
Most of this was a wash of meaningless noise to young Tricky; lying in heap on the pavement. The dude with the hair and the chick in the George Washington wig had faded along with everything else in his head. Everything except the nagging worry that follows him into darkness. The worry that the boots have been scuffed.
Chapter 7: (By Brenda)
Toni and Rick were sitting at a table near the back of Sammy’s Falafel on West Fourth Street in the Village. As Toni tucked into her sandwich (she insisted she would not move another inch without getting something to eat and Rick was extremely fond of Sammy’s thick bitter coffee) they discussed the little Toni knew about her current situation. Rick wouldn’t reveal much about either why Drs Cosmo and VanBlunk had sent Toni back or why he had interfered. The only thing he would say was that it was vital to get the wig off Toni’s head before they could continue with the next part of the plan. Toni was just grateful her appearance hadn’t received more attention from the NYU students rushing to their classes.
“Are you going to eat that pickle?” Rick said as he grabbed for Toni’s plate.
“Why did you ask if you were just gonna take it, you remind me of my last boyfriend.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Just keep your mind on getting this thing off me so I can get back home” Toni said through a mouthful of baklava. ”If I don’t get back to my Troy meeting the engineers will use that as a license to build a fucking Trojan Dinosaur.”
After lunch Rick led Toni to a street near the East River. “I have just the thing for that pesky wig” Rick reached into what looked like an old carpenters bag and pulled out a silver tool.
“That looks just like a screwdriver,” Toni said.
“In fact that’s exactly what it is.”
“You’ve got to be kidding, where do you get your ideas, old cheesy sci-fi shows?”
“If you must know it’s the other way around. Now just hold very still.”
“I know you have to get this off but I really didn’t like the ppzzzzzzPPPppzzzz sound VanBluck made.”
Rick inserted the screwdriver between the wig and Toni’s head. He made a quick twisting motion and Toni heard a pop and smelled burning hair. The next thing she knew the wig was lying in a heap on the ground.
“Great, now I’ll have hat head for the rest of the day.”
Rick took Toni by the arm and led her down the deserted street.
In an office in a certain penthouse a shrill alarm had sounded. “She has taken off the vig, she has taken off the vig” Dr Casper VonBlunk shrieked to his associate. Dr Cosmo merely lit another cigarette. “This does not zeem to overly concern you.”
“You know that very few things overly concern me. We have many ways of making Ms. Templar cooperate.”
“Do ve zend out the flying monkeys now?”
“I have something a little more creative in mind Herr Doctor.”
Chapter 8: (By Dave S.)
By mid-1974, Tricky finally recorded his first album called “Black-Eyed Blues”. It was picked up by Casablanca Records and by January of ‘75, the title track hit number one on the Billboard Charts. Number one with a bullet.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As Toni and Rick were shuffling down the alley, Rick was checking out his TTUWW (Time Traveler Utility Wrist Watch) saying “Ok, this has to be timed perfectly... c’mon Toni, this way.”
Rounding the corner, Toni asked “Where are we headed?”
“Wisenheimer’s Deli, on 89th Street.”
“Oh... but, we just ate.”
“I know, we just go in, sit down and wait.”
“Wait? Wait for what? and we’ve got to order something or they’ll kick us out of the place.”
“Just order a drink or something.”
“What are we waiting for?”
Casper VanBlunk looked up from his monitor and smiled at Melinda “You are a smart cookie, Cosmoz, a real smart cookie! I can’t believe you zought of zis.”
“Toni’s a very resourceful girl, Casper. I had a feeling she might find a way to remove the wig. Back in the cab, I asked Juan to drive like a maniac and take sharp turns, making it easier for me to plant a homing device on her, just in case. Besides, I was curious if the device would still work from a different time.”
“Did it verk, Melinda? Did it verk?”
Mocking his accent, Dr. Cosmo said ”No, Casper. It didn’t verk.”
Casper gave her the abused puppy look.
Dr. Cosmo shook her head smirking, then looked over at the monitor. “Look, they’re turning on Second Avenue towards 88th, I’ll bring the laptop, you grab the morphine, the tweezers and the guacamole.”
Bryce Mahoney sighed heavily while taking in the sights. Today, the ‘sights’ consisted of one quarter of a pastrami on rye with honey-mustard open and face down on the floor, a strawberry milkshake dripping off the edge of a table, various ketchup coated pickle slices sliding down the storefront window and all kinds of crumbs and condiments decorating the floors, walls and ceiling. Animals. They’re all Animals! The pigs that come into this place during the weekday lunch rush. The mess they make is difficult to comprehend, even for a New Yorker.
Bryce was not going to be a dishwasher... *Ahem* ...excuse me... a ‘dinnerware service technician’ all of his life. Oh no, Bryce had plans, big plans. One day, Bryce and his band, ‘Peyote Pillow’ will be headlining at The Garden. That’s right, Bryce will be famous. He’ll be up on stage wailing on his axe just like his guitar hero, Tricky; and everybody will love him. Bryce has talent, drive and just enough insanity to make it in the music industry, if the right place would one day meet and get very friendly with the right time. For now, Bryce Mahoney had to deal with cleaning up the mess here at Wisenheimer’s Deli.
The mid-sized pair of speakers, shelved on the back wall of Wisenheimer’s, reverberated an overly-inflected voice reserved only for DJ’s and game-show hosts. “...That waaaazz ‘If I Only Had A Brain’ by The Scarecrow. Nowwww, here’s a huuuuge blues hit from the mid 70’s... ...’Black-Eyed Blues’ from Tricky right here on W-M-U-D where our name is mmmuuuudd!!!!..”
Bryce always jams along with Tricky. If his guitar is not around, he’ll play air guitar. Since he happened to be holding a mop at the time, he started playing a little mop guitar. ’What the hell?’ thought Bryce ‘Mr. Wisenheimer is on vacation and the only customers in the place is that dude in the corner with the chick having the really bad hair day.’ So, Bryce closed his eyes and imagined himself up on stage at The Garden with Tricky. He started swaying and mouthing the words to the song...
My baby done punched me
Right in the eye
She called me a loser
And said goodbye
I think I still love her
Why even Try?
Cause she’s my baby
Without her I’ll die
I still can’t use
Those Black-Eyed Blues
It ain’t no use
Be Black-Eyed Blues
I gots no excuse
For Black-Eyed Blues...
Bryce was in some kind of trance, rocking back and fro to the driving 4/4 blues beat. His greasy, shoulder length hair in his face, whipping it to and forth with the rhythm. He’s swinging his mop around, like a blinded little leaguer with a Louisville Slugger.
Toni leaned into Rick and whispered “Isn’t this that song...”
“Yup,” said Rick “look who’s coming in the door.”
Dr. VanBlunks eyes lit up when he saw Toni sitting in the corner. He began to make a dash to snatch her up, when Bryce’s mop swung around and clipped Casper right in the peepers. Casper went down fast, grasping at his eyes. “My eyeball, my precious eyeball,” he cried.
Rick got up, leaped over the whimpering mad scientist and made a beeline for Dr. Cosmo. Melinda’s eyes met Rick’s with trepidation as she instantly recognized who he is.
“Damn! Rick Stills! I hate Time Cops.” Dr. Cosmo flew out the door like a greased, naked co-ed on a homemade slip ‘n slide.
Chapter 9: (By Rob)
Dr. VanBlunk was having a nightmare. He remembered being poked in the eye with a broom, he remembered being socked in the jaw by someone who looked like the guy on the cover of the romance novels he liked to read - but he couldn’t remember how he got here. Dr. VanBlunk was dreaming he was trapped inside a wooden barrel, and was about to float over the edge of Niagara Falls. It was dark and cold, and he could both feel and hear the water rushing around him. Just as the barrel toppled over the edge, VanBlunk jerked full awake - but the sudden relief that usually comes when you realize it was just a dream was replaced by paralyzing fear. Dr. VanBlunk started screaming. He wasn’t dreaming at all. He was surrounded by falling water, and would surely plummet to his death on the sharp rocks and churning water that he was positive awaited him in the darkness below. Sucking in all the air his lungs would hold, VanBlunk held his breath and waited. And waited. And waited. “Damn”, he thought, “Niagara Falls is vun hell of a drop.”
Slowly opening his eyes, VanBlunk blinked as his pupils adjusted to the darkness and the water that was flowing down his face. Something was coming towards him. Dr. VanBlunk tried to get up, but found that for some reason he was in chains and he couldn’t move. Helpless to defend himself, he sat trembling from the cold and fear as he watched the figure come closer and closer, until he could see that it was a man. A skinny, pale man with long stringy hair and a beard. VanBlunk began to cry. He must be dead. He must have drowned. It was the only logical explanation, because why else would Jesus be standing before him, offering him a half eaten chili dog?
Toni and Rick were sitting at the other end of the dungeon, and had watched silently for a moment as Pierre got up and waded over to his new roommate to see what all the hollering was about. Licking chili and mustard from her fingers, Toni studied Rick’s silhouette, trying to make out his facial expression in the dim light.
“Nice place,” she said, trying to lighten the mood. “You bring all your dates here?”
Showing a slight hint of a tired smile, Rick said, “The service sucks and you have to watch for rats, but it’s usually a lot drier and quieter than this.”
Turning her attention back to Pierre and VanBlunk, Toni tried to hear what they were talking about. She was only able to catch bits and pieces of the conversation though, because VanBlunk was now chained to the waterfall in Pierre’s place, and was sputtering and gasping for air between his sobs. She was probably hearing it wrong, but to Toni it sounded like Dr. VanBlunk was asking Pierre for forgiveness, and was confessing to a pretty impressive list of sins ranging from income tax evasion to masturbation.
“What are you going to do with him?” she asked.
Standing up to stretch, Rick arched his back and groaned. “Which one? VanBlunk or Pierre?”
“Both,” Toni said. She could tell that she had obviously hit a nerve, because Rick started to pace back and forth in front of her as he gave his answer.
“Let me tell you something about the good Doctor over there,” Rick said. “I’ve been cleaning up after that moron for over two years now. Do you want to know how we first discovered that he was tinkering with time travel?”
Rick paused for a minute, because even though it was dark in the dungeon, he could see that Toni’s eyes had grown wide from the sudden change in his mood and voice. Speaking in a softer tone, he said, “Sorry. It just pisses me off” Rick sat back down beside Toni and heaved a heavy sigh, then went on with his story. “VanBlunk’s first attempts at time travel involved sending inanimate objects back to the past. One day I woke up to find that 1/32nd of the world’s population just wasn’t there anymore - mostly people with the last name Lunkwill, and the letter Q was missing from the alphabet. It took us almost a month to figure out what had happened and who was responsible. VanBlunk had sent a bowling ball back to the Jurassic Period. A cave man found it and got it stuck on his fingers. Since it’s hard to run very fast when your lugging a 16 pound Brunswick around with you, the caveman got himself eaten by a dinosaur - thus the loss in population. The alphabet was altered when the dinosaur choked to death on the bowling ball.”
Rick sat quietly for a moment, then looked over at Pierre, who was feeding Van Blunk the rest of his wet chili dog, then said, “What I should do is leave that bumbling prick right where he is. It’s a miracle his little stunt didn’t wipe out human existence completely. Instead, I’m going to have to put Pierre back in his chains and take the Dr. with us. Man, I hate this fucking job.”
Now it was Toni’s turn to be emotional. “Why?” She asked, looking over at Pierre. “Why can’t you let Pierre go? It’s cruel to leave him here when you have the power and the means to set him free”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Rick said, trying to explain. “This is were Pierre is supposed to be. To change that could be just as damaging as Van Blunk’s bowling ball. You can’t go back and stop Hitler by kidnapping him as a baby and placing him with a family that will raise him to be a concert pianist, because that would create an unknown. Things have to be kept as close to the way they are now as possible. I don’t change history, I maintain it. Besides, it wouldn’t do any good anyway. If you stop one Hitler, eventually another will just take his place. If you keep a war from happening, someone will still find something to fight about a little further down the line. History doesn’t repeat itself - society is just to arrogant and stupid to learn from it’s mistakes.”
The two sat in silence for awhile, then Rick got up and said, “We’ve got to get moving. Pick up everything we brought with us while I deal with Pierre and VanBlunk.”
Toni watched as Rick walked towards the flooded end of the dungeon and waded through the ankle deep water, then she did as she was told. It wasn’t fair. Pierre seemed really nice and harmless. Toni started to cry. For the first time in her life, she felt ashamed to be at the top of the food chain. She understood Rick’s point, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. Still, just the thought of her own existence being compromised was pretty scary, so she got down on her hands and knees, inspecting the cold stone floor to be sure there wasn’t so much as a bread crumb left behind.
Chapter Ten (By Lara)
Toni did not watch Rick as he gently shackled Pierre to the wall. The prisoner made no effort to resist; he bleated once, a sacrificial lamb, as the irons closed about his tender wrists.
"Sorry, old boy," Rick whispered. He reminded himself that he was not the executioner. He was simply working maintenance. "Maybe you'll be born again; sometime and someplace with storm windows and central heating."
"I'm sure he appreciates that," Toni muttered, wiping a tear from her nose and then snatching a piece of a sourdough roll from the paws of a bedraggled rat. It glared at her through malevolent red eyes. "Maybe he'll come back as a cat and you'll be his little mousy meal." She returned the rodent's glare and it scurried back into the shadows.
"And maybe, just maybe, another Time Cop will come along and snatch you from his jaws because it just so happens that you are the mouse that is to be the subject of a future experiment that is performed by a sadistic scientist who ends up discovering the correlation between scabies and Jerry Springer."
"You're finally catching on to how all of this stuff works."
"No. No, I'm not. I am catching on to how you think it works."
Pierre watched their discussion with peaceful acceptance. He considered them to be mildly irritating demonic hallucinations that occasionally fed him.
"I don't care if you think it will louse up the Space-Time Continulum... contiminum... contin- whatever! Rick, this isn't right... don't you get that?"
"Listen to me closely, Toni. Not only is it against the law to take him with us, it is impossible to take him with us. I don't have time to explain." He looked down at his watch, pressed a few tiny buttons and set the coordinates. "We've got about 30 seconds before the next shift."
"I can fit of plenty of words into 30 seconds..."
"Did I say 30? I meant 3..." and the dungeon vanished.
* * * * * * * * *
Traveling forward through a time phase is like grabbing onto the tail of an F-15 Strike Eagle during take-off... and then letting go. There is the sense of being caught up, yanked from the earth and thrown headlong into the colorful abyss that is mass converted to energy at the speed of light squared. Then there is the tumbling sensation, the dizzying, twisting fall and the abrupt halt as the energy coalesces, draws together unto itself to form mass, clinging to the soul like iron filings to a magnet.
"Sweet Jesus," Toni clutched her side. It was cramping as though she had just run a 100 yard dash while holding her breath and drinking a glass of JD and hemlock. Her vision was blurred and the earth rocked under her prone body. A fuzzy form leaned into her hampered view. Rick's voice pushed through the loud static in her head.
"Nice deep breaths, kiddo. You'll feel better in a few minutes." He could relate to her pain. Sometimes, if he jumped into a time stream too soon after a heavy meal, he also got the cramps.
"Did you get the license of the train that hit me?" She groaned as her small intestine knitted one and then pearled two.
"Jumping back in time is easier because the past already exists. Anything forward requires a hell of a lot more energy. And don't ever try to jump into your own future. It's like hitting a brick wall."
"Worse than this?"
"Fatal. That is why we couldn't bring Pierre into the future with us. A person cannot exist ahead of their natural time. It's something about the balance of matter and interacting with organisms that have yet to be integrated into your own reality... a bunch of scientific bull that doesn't make any sense, even to the people who study it, but I can vouch for the consequences. My partner tried to jump forward just one minute..." He blanched at the memory. "It wasn't pretty."
"I can't feel my nose."
"You'll get used to it."
"No, thanks. I'll step off this roller coaster ride from Hell, if you please. I don't feel well and I think I hear my mother calling."
Crap. Time travel-related dementia usually required several days of recovery in real time. The brain needed a chance to assimilate the overload of new information. Rookie Fever, they called it down at the 22nd Century Precinct. Sometimes it was fun to fuck with the new kid's head but this time, he didn't have the heart. After all, she hadn't signed up for this gig. "Do you really hear your mother's voice?"
"All of the time. She usually says things like, 'when are you going to give me grandchildren?' " Her side was releasing the cramp and as the pain dulled, she realized she was experiencing a light euphoria. "I tried to give her some one year for Christmas but their parents insisted I return them." The world stopped spinning. "I'm ready to stand up now but I can't seem to make my arms and legs work."
"You've got a little Time Buzz. Sit back and enjoy it. Man, there's nothing like the first big jump forward. Sometimes it can hurt like a bitch but once the pain wears off..." He whistled through his teeth. "Better than sex."
"If you think this is better than sex, you've been sleeping with the wrong people."
"I think the Buzz is wearing off now," she said sharply. "Why didn't this happen when I went backwards in time?"
"Imagine climbing a rope. Your natural time, the time you were born into, is near the top of that rope. Going back in time is easy; you simply release your hold and slip down until you tighten your grip again. Climbing back up the rope is harder, takes more energy."
"How many time travelers are there?"
"Everyone can travel forward in time; we're doing it right now by just existing. A select few know how to go both directions."
Toni's high was fading fast. She stretched her limbs, one by one. "What if someone got their hands on your little watch gadget? Could they wreak some serious havoc?"
"It takes more than the watch. Time travel isn't possible unless you believe in it. Otherwise, your mind won't let your body go for the ride. In your case, a part of you must have thought it was possible."
"Bullshit. I did not believe in time travel and I did not give my body permission to do anything at all-"
"Maybe that's why you're so cranky."
She threw a handful of dirt at his knees but did not have the energy to follow through with a right hook. "And yet, here I am, back in time... speaking of which; when are we?"
"Germany. 1825. We've got some luggage to drop off." He indicated a crumpled figure that rocked back and forth on the ground next to her, sobbing.
She wrinkled her nose. The scientist had obviously soiled himself. "Professor VanBlunk, I presume?"
The pile responded to the name with a low groan and then began stammering. "And zen... zen there vas zee time... I spanked my little pony vith zee riding crop and... and discovered zat leather vorked much better zan my own hand..."
She frowned down on the professor. He was curled up on the ground, balled into the fetal position, sucking his thumb and... and... she turned quickly away when she realized what he was doing with his other hand. "What are you going to do with him?"
Rick pointed towards the low hill behind which the sun was coming to rest. The grassy countryside was turning crimson and gold in the waning light. The smoke from a chimney rose into the sky. "Miss DaagenBlath lives just over the rise. She is this bugger's great-great-and then some more greats- grandmother." "She'll find this poor old sod in her field tomorrow morning. She will take him in and nurse his major head wound, bringing him back to perfect health, save for the fact that he will have amnesia. They'll fall in love, get married, make some babies and the rest is soon to be history. He will be trapped in this stitch in time. Forever looping back to this moment."
"But he doesn't have any major head wound."
Rick kicked Professor VanBlunk in the head.
"Well," she said. "There you go."
* * * * * *
Rick made sure the next few jumps were shorter, setting them for every fifteen years until Toni got her Time legs.
* * * * * *
During a brief rest in the late 1800's:
Toni asked, "When is your natural time?"
"If I tried to travel with you to the 26th Century..."
"You wouldn't survive. You'd hit the end of your natural time like a bug on a windshield. Splat."
"So, I could not visit my great-great-grandchildren in the future but they could visit me in the past."
"Yep." He admired her ability to grasp the convoluted theories with such ease. He had cheated on most of his written tests.
"Could I write them a letter and give it to you for delivery?"
"Do I look like a mailman?" He was getting a headache.
"I think there should be a way to get into my own future," she pressed.
"Are you that anxious to see what our children will look like?"
"Slow down, lady. We just met..."
"Do you know something that I don't know?"
"I know about that sexy little tattoo on your left buttock..."
"I do not have a tattoo!"
"But now you have the irresistible urge to get one."
He shifted phases before she could question his logic.
* * * * * *
The fact that they had materialized on the deck of a sinking cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean did not help her concentration. "Time must be circular. Like a snake eating its own tail... or better yet, a roller coaster with numerous loops and blind corners..."
"Look, the band really did play on..."
"You said earlier, 'History doesn't repeat itself - society is just too arrogant and stupid to learn from its mistakes' but I think..."
"Is that Leonardo?"
"...no matter how hard we try to alter course, the mere momentum of existence carries us through the same patterns... over and over again."
"I think the bar is still open."
"And maybe the reason we cannot go forward in our own time is because of the speed of light sort of thing..." she pulled at her hair in frustration. "Our bodies cannot race natural time and win. Maybe we need to think in other directions..."
"Does this life jacket make me look fat?"
"Even if we mess with the past and erase the details of history, time will still follow the same path because changing the passengers on a roller coaster ride does not alter the tracks. Every generation, every civilization is like a new group of tourists on the ride..."
Rick was distracted from the conversation by a man who stumbled across the slippery deck and nearly knocked them flat.
Both men spoke at the same time. "Whoa, careful there, buddy," and then, "It's you!"
"Glad I ran into me." Rick grinned as they grabbed onto each other for balance. He pointed in the direction of a passenger climbing the railing, about to jump to his death. "That guy over there. It's spelled with a Y."
"Thanks!" Rick's previous incarnation winked at Toni and shook a finger at himself. "I can't wait to meet this hitchhiker!" He dashed towards the poor fellow on the brink of oblivion.
Toni's jaw scraped the planks. "That was-"
"Now I remember why you looked so familiar," Rick mused. The ship lurched and began to tilt at a sickening rate. "Come on, we don't have much time left here."
"We're on the Titanic-"
"You catch on fast," he took a firm hold of her elbow. "Hold tight."
Their feet slipped out from underneath them and they began to toboggan inexorably towards the freezing black waters. As they slid into the shimmering time phase that opened above the ocean, Toni swore she heard a voice call out in the cold, black night behind them:
* * * * *
Several centuries later:
"How did it go?" Laura looked up from her animated holographic Kama Sutra screensaver.
"Pretty damn good." Q sat down and lit up a tar-less, nicotine free cigarette that was chock full of Vitamin C and Rogaine. "Chuck slowed the cab down by stepping in front of it which gave us time to rig the wig's destination readings so your grandmother would drop into the garbage, right in front of Rick, although that part was just for fun. We rigged twenty years worth of local weather so the cab would be driven by the Taco guy so Juan could be a blues DJ at the low-powered prison radio station and therefore answer my request to play Tricky's 'Black-Eyed Blues' so that Bryce would get distracted and whop the professor in the eye so that your grand-folks could make their escape in a timely fashion." He paused for breath. "There was a whole lot more but I am too tired to go into it right now."
Laura reached out and tickled the image of a double-jointed woman performing a brilliant act of love upon her partner in the screen saver. The figure giggled and lost her balance causing the man to wince as an elbow landed in his lap. "If my grandmum had not joined the Time Force Research Division and then discovered that the key to leaping into one's own future was to go so far back into the past that it became the future..." she whistled through her teeth. "She wouldn't have been able to visit me and arrange to set things up so she and grandpa could meet."
Q squinted at the glowing cherry of his cigarette. The smoke tasted like Chianti. He thought he might switch over to the more fashionable Guinness flavor. "I tried to sell a script in New Hollywood about a world that existed only in real time but Pierre checked it out and told me it would bomb in the theatres. Audiences thought it just wasn't plausible enough. And then he told me not to even bother auditioning for the new Vin Diesel movie because when I got the part I was going to break my leg in a stunt involving a camel and a trampoline."
"Imagine... not knowing the consequences of your actions before you did them." Laura shuddered. "Ugh, even the thought of it gives me the willies." She wrinkled her nose. "I really wish you wouldn't smoke in here. You know that I believe the average human lifespan should remain 300 natural time years."
He blew smoke in her direction and enjoyed the pleasant high of a boosted immune system.
She sputtered and waved the wispy tendrils away from her face. "Dammit, Q. You just added twenty years to my life!"
"It's not like you didn't know I was going to do that."