Episode 1 Scene 19
The pulsing Scyther icon comes and goes. My bike’s doing its best to keep a bead on it, but the temporal sink and the curtain surrounding it make it tough. We’re on the move, trying to gain an advantage in this constantly changing environment, trying to give me a clean first shot. My weapon tubes twitch every time the Scyther appears on the display. They’re looking forward to the action. It’s been a while.
“Is it always like this?” whispers Mikey.
She’s been good so far, nice and quiet and following instructions, but the ATV-sidecar combo she’s riding is another story. It works OK in the open. It can churn through the rough patches, but in a game of hide-and-kill, it’s a liability.
I shrug. “It’s never always like this. It’s always different.”
And this is basically the truth. Keepers operate across time and space, protecting their charges and hunting down Scythers. The consequence of this is an ever-evolving battleground, a constant changing of weapons and tactics. Right now, the fact that I have light shards and DUCs available as weaponry surprises me. I thought I was further back in time.
Light shards don’t come online until post-2050. I thought I was around 2015, maybe 2020 at a pinch. Access to this ammo shouldn’t happen until twenty years up the line, around 2035 or so. Usually our weapons are only one or two generations from where we find ourselves. Perhaps the time sink is influencing the rules.
The black Scyther icon blinks back in. My weapons twitch again, trying to get a lock. The tubes are an extension of my exo-armor and, like my ride, are semiautonomous, which means they listen to me. Most of the time.
“Why don’t you just pull the trigger? You know, take a shot at it?” questions Mikey.
“We’re not in a fuel depot. When I take a shot, all hell’s going to break loose.”
“So, my bike will protect me from the worst of it, but you’ll probably be outside its defensive parameters.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“If I shoot first and miss, you die.”
This gets me silence. We continue to curve around the edge of the curtain. The time eddies are denser here and are a major pain in the ass. Mikey no longer informs me of their locations. Fair enough. I wouldn’t either in her position.
We pull up next to a building. It was a restaurant or a bar. Mikey pops her head around the corner for a quick glance. No harm in that. My display has the Scyther at a safe distance away, and the time eddies between me and it make a decent shot improbable. There’s also no way it can see me. We’re going to have to get closer.
“What the hell’s that?” says Mikey.
She jerks her head back and presses herself against the wall. I lift my primary display. The echo of its image plays across my retina. If the Scyther gets too close, I should know about it. Whatever Mikey’s spotted, it’s not tech-heavy enough to register with the bike. Good old-fashioned eyesight’s going to have to do the trick.
I slide down the wall and belly along to the corner. Mikey has seen a lot of shit in her short time on earth, so if something surprises her, it’s best to be cautious. I peer around the corner. Twenty yards away is a good-size time eddy, and it’s just ejected a still-dazed War Clan Battle Master. I can tell what she is by the number of human bones woven into her hair. The more bones, the higher up you are, and this warrior’s at the top of her game.
“Battle Master,” I mutter.
“What’s a Battle Master doing here? Where the hell’s her Clan?”
“Really? You’re bitching about the fact she hasn’t got another hundred killers with her?”
“Right, I guess not. It’s just that . . .”
“You’ve never seen a Battle Master before,” I say.
This is far from unusual. For a normal citizen, the first time you see a Battle Master up close is the last time you see a Battle Master. The War Clans are a vicious and bloodthirsty lot, and to be an overachiever in this group means you know how to kill. The bigger anomaly here is, what’s a Battle Master doing in this zone when there’s a Scyther present? I’ve never heard of the two groups mixing.
“What are we going to do?”
“You’re going to do nothing. Let me take care of it.”
I yank down my visor, and the full heads-up display cycles back in. The Scyther’s still over by the curtain, only one time eddy between it and me. That’s not good. I need to be quick. The Battle Master barely registers on the display. This is normal. Knives and swords don’t carry enough of the heavy metals the bike’s currently geared up to detect.
The woman’s still lying on the ground, the eddy twisting and winking before her. She’s slowly sitting up and taking in her surroundings. She’s making noises that tell me she’s not a happy Battle Master. A time eddy does that to you. She gets herself up on one knee and is about to stand when I scoot up behind her, grab her under the armpits, and heave her back into the eddy. There’s a small sucking sound and she’s gone. Job done.
I walk back to Mikey, a small smile on my face. She’s looking at me like I just broke her favorite gun.
“Why didn’t you kill her?”
“What do you think two quick trips in a time eddy does?”
“You mean, that can kill you?”
“Beats me, but problem solved.”
“But . . . ,” starts Mikey.
My earpiece shrieks, and I fling myself forward, cannoning into the rig-rat. My ride fires up a shield, its defenses on max. There’s a roar and a shudder, and the building above erupts into shattered fragments of masonry. Shit. The other time eddy must’ve shifted. The Scyther spotted us and got off the first shot. My heads-up display’s now showing a misty orange overlay. This is not good.