Paused Fire - Part Two

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the conclusion to my time manipulation/explosion miners scifi story.

Submitted: February 02, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 02, 2015



20 hours and ten minutes until crystallization

The tunnel was originally supposed to be a straight shot to the VIPs on stage and in in the front rows, but the loops trashed that plan.  We had to burrow our way around them like worms avoiding rotten parts of an apple.  To my left and right I could see waves of fire looping over and over through the transparent firestone.  The thin carpet of the stage beneath my feet, I hacked away at the fires in front of me.  Sparks flew as licks of heat broke away and smashed on the floor.  A chunk containing a suspended microphone came loose.  The would-be-senator was bound to be close.  I imagined that the microphone had been one of those ancient corded ones and I might be able to tug on it until we found the base fixed in the paused politician’s hand.  I doubted he would let it go for much of anything.

The rhythm took over.  Crack. Fizzle.  Crack. Fizzle.  Crack. Fizzle.  The sounds did wonders for a man trying to shroud thoughts of guilt.  Sparks obscured Andon’s face like a Fourth of July show over a war torn country.  The only thing that could’ve stopped me was… two fingers tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around, almost hitting the figure with my axe.  It jumped back and squawked like a duck thrown into a boiling soup pot.  The fire dust in my eyes and the shifting light from the loops made it difficult to discern detail, plus the sounds of other guys carting away my rubble echoed mightily in the tight space.  I gestured for the figure to go outside and followed it, handing my axe off to the next guy in line.

The light of our second day at work hit my face as I exited the furnace-like tunnel.  Someone threw me a wet towel and I pulled it down my face, dragging streaks of red and gray dirt.  The towel was one of those new kinds with the little blue metal square in the corner; it flashed and all the dirt and grime fell off it in a murky trickle.  For a moment I was actually disappointed… I did work awfully hard to build all that up.  I tossed the clean towel back and turned to face the distraction that had pulled me from my work.

She was one of the more hideous things I’ve seen in my life.  The woman was short, plump, and hanging onto the last dark hairs of end-stage middle-age.  Her eyes were wrinkly but dignified while her ears propped up her dome-like bun of hair.  She was clearly of Joldish descent, which no doubt traced back to Rouba, then Fray-zan, and way back to her Chinese ancestors on Earth.

Her ridiculous yellow robe was decorated with layers of shiny golden silk.  Every one of her fingers held ornate golden rings with different frozen stones in them, half of which I couldn’t identify.  The only normal thing about her was her nametag: Dr. Druda Poi.

“Ma’am,” I said, blowing a hair out of my face.  Without the warm glow of firestone in my eyes I was seeing Andon again.  “You just wandered into a tunnel full of loops that have already killed six guys today.”  Her pleased expression did not change.

“I am aware,” she said.  “I was told you were digging around them now.”  Her voice was like lemon syrup, high-pitched and sour.

“Yes ma’am,” I said, frustration draining out of my voice.  She ticked something off on a paper pad.  She looked like she could afford a gilded data sheet so I couldn’t imagine why she’d stick with a big pad of wood pulp like that.  “What can I do for you?”

“You are Greco Barley, yes?  You’ve been making most of the progress in this tunnel here?

“Yes.”  There was a moment of silence where she stared at me expectantly.

“Well?” she asked.

“Uh… well what?”

“Well tell me about the tunnel!  How tough are the rocks?  What’s the spark output like?  How beautiful is the firestone?

“Beautiful?  Are you trying to help us or are you picking out stones for a toe ring?”

“Both,” she said without missing a beat.  “Walk with me.”  She turned and headed off towards the part of the field where the sculptor surgeons were hard at work.  The more delicate notes of chisels replaced the phoenix-peck sound of axe swings.  We weaved our way through several upright victims of the blast, standing like Medusa’s prized garden of trespassers.  The surgeons bent themselves into awkward positions to chip away at what frozen fire remained on them.

“Firestone has even more qualities to consider than most gems because of its unusual birth.  A greasy texture can indicate energy leakage.  A delicate curve in the dendrites of the flame can suggest the use of an accelerant.  Its shine can tell me what proportion of background radiation and time-related particles escaped the pause.  So its beauty is a matter of fact that can help me save lives.” She stopped next to one of the victims, an elderly man with weights of smoke still around his legs.  “My rings are an index of samples for comparison as well as accents to my beauty.”

“I’m … I’m sorry,” I stammered.

“I knew you two would hit it off!” Quid said, emerging from behind the old man.  “So when’s the wedding?”  His joke reminded me of Marcy.  It must’ve shown on my face because his smile faded.  He turned back to the old man and stuck a long curved metal rod down his open mouth.  It went sickeningly far down.

“What are you doing to him?” I asked with a grimace.  Quid didn’t look away from his work.

“He must have been pushed back by the shockwave before being engulfed in smoke.  The motion made him vomit.  I’ve got to chisel it out of his throat or he could choke to death when we unfreeze him.”

“How do you get it out of him?” I asked morbidly.

“We’ll have to suspend him upside down and just let the pieces fall out.”

“Boys, enough of this gruesome talk,” Druda pleaded with her hands in the air.  “Greco dear, come help me pick some things out.”

“I should be getting back to work Ma…”

“Nonsense!”  She grabbed me by the arm and pulled me towards a folding table under a tent with several paused materials spread out across it.  She busied herself, picking up the smaller pieces and examining them with an unusual gilded hand lens that had a snake motif and a small connected watch in the snake’s mouth tick-tocking away.  “Wonderful specimens,” she said with bubbling joy.  “Paused sports drink,” she said and pointed to a milky jade-colored stone.  “The electrolytes give it that smooth texture.”  She picked up one after the other, seeming to enjoy the gems created from the stadium’s snack bar fare most of all.  Paused perfume, paused chocolate/coffee/vanilla swirl ice cream, paused nacho cheese, paused beer, paused sunblock, paused dust bunnies, etc…

She picked up a thimble sized piece of paused cleaning solution that was probably used to wipe down the microphone before the speech.  Her bird-like fingers reached out and pulled a pocket on my jeans open so her other hand could drop the solution stone inside.

“Hey, what are you doing?” I said frantically as I tried to dig the stone back out.  “We’ll get arrested if we take anything paused.”  She slapped my hands away and giggled.

“I’m allowed to take whatever I want and give it to whoever I want,” she said.  “They wouldn’t dare risk losing my expertise over a few baubles.  That stone is for you.  It’s payment for being my little birdie.”  Her huge sleeves flapped by my face as she turned back to the table.  I could see her full set of peg-like teeth in the reflection of a huge chunk of firestone on the table’s corner.

“What do you mean?” I asked, still not sure how legal that was.  The tiny stone felt like a dumbbell in my pocket.  A rock like that could buy someone a decent lunch every day from here to retirement.  Druda picked up a flat cross section of firestone with surprising strength and held it between us.  Her face looked yellow and warped in places through the slab.

“As they suspected, something’s not as it should be.”

“The smoke and the loops?  Are they connected?” I asked.

“Not just those things.”  She traced a red line in the slab with her eyes.  “This fire was pushed outward.  There were at least two blasts and they happened almost simultaneously.”  She looked at me like she expected me to put it together.  A little tired of her trying to lead me around like a Pomeranian choking on its leash, I stuck my hand on top of the slab and pushed down so it was no longer between us.  “Look… why are you telling me this?”

“I have a feeling.”

“Yeah I’ve heard you old Joldish people always get feelings when it’s about to storm,” I scoffed.

“Shush.  This feeling tells me someone designed this unusual explosion.”

“What?”  I couldn’t believe it.  My brain started acting like an alarmist news channel, flashing headlines with lots of exclamation points and talking about evil mastermind terrorists.  “What do you mean designed?”

“The explosion came in two quick stages and the smoke contains debris not from this field.  So the first blast contained a dust-like material chosen so it would obscure this entire event in smoke.  Someone didn’t want us seeing the firestone.”

“But they had to know we’d get to it eventually,” I said.  I shook my head.  “I don’t see how hiding what’s paused could do anything.”

“Yes that is still a mystery,” she conceded.  “That’s why I need you.  You seem like such a nice young man and I heard you caught that thief.  You will keep your eye out and tell me about anything else you notice, no matter how small it seems.  Okay?”

“Well alright.  Shouldn’t you be giving this info to the police though?”  We both heard shouting from a nearby tent and turned.  The thief I caught was being led out of it and away.  He writhed and shrieked hysterically.

“It’s not true!  I didn’t do nothing!  I was just taking some rocks!  I wouldn’t kill anybody!  How the Hell would I know how to build a bomb!  Stop!  Hey, stop!”

“It seems they’ve already made up their minds,” Druda said.  “I don’t know about you but that little skink doesn’t seem smart enough to blueprint a cloud like this.  And there are much easier ways to get your hands on paused material than blowing up a senator.”

“This isn’t right,” I said, more to myself than to her.  Roma Trist came out of the police tent and followed behind the officers.  His face was glued to his phone.  “I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time,” Druda shouted after me as I jogged over to Trist.  I tapped him on the shoulder and he quickly sheathed his phone inside his jacket.

“Trist… What’s he yelling about?”  I pointed to the thief who was kicking at the air like he was pedaling a bike.  Trist gave an exaggerated shrug.

“We think he’s the bomber.  Guy was caught stealing rocks, he’s got a couple arrests for assault… you know how it goes.”  He smiled and patted me on the back in a way that would’ve stung if not for my blast resistant uniform.  “You’re a hero for catching this guy.  I’ll call the papers in a bit so they can come down and interview you.  Might want to get that stuff out of your teeth though.”

In the second I took to slide a fingernail between my front teeth, Trist walked away.  I swore under my breath and caught up with him without failing to notice his walking speed had picked up considerably.

“Wait,” I said, “There’s no way that loser did this.”  Trist stopped and snapped towards me.  I could hear his phone beeping rhythmically from inside his jacket. 

“And why not?”

“Well the expert you guys brought in says the whole explosion was designed.  Why would a gem thief do that?”  Roma’s phone beeped again… every four seconds it seemed like…

“What does it matter; the expert’s full of shit.  Nobody designs explosions.  I told them not to bring that crazy old bat in.  She’s always going on about the ‘sublime crossroads of space and time’ or some shit like that.  Every time she sees one of these things she goes off about some grand paint brush hanging over the whole thing.”

“Well everyone else seems to take her seriously,” I said, feeling a little crestfallen.

“And that’s why I’m in charge.  If it was people like you the whole universe would’ve been accidentally frozen by now.”  Before I could respond Trist jumped into another line of attack.  “Why do you care about this thief anyway?  Guilty conscious?  Feel bad about all the times you’ve swallowed some fire pebbles in the middle of a job and then hovered over the toilet later waiting for your stolen fortune to come flying out like spicy food?”

Seventeen hours and thirty-nine minutes until crystallization

Several of the sculpting surgeons had taken my place at the end of the tunnel.  They were busy trying to extricate the senator from his temporary tomb.  The guy’s face didn’t even have time to change.  He was still in the middle of a syllable from his speech.  Instead of thinking about the stones around me like I should have been I was trying to identify the word the senator was mouthing.  Could’ve been freedom, but it looked a little angrier than that.

Since there were loops on both sides of us I had to wait for them to finish and haul him out of there before I could continue.  The light from repeating waves of fire washed over me like the tide.  My hand rested on the lump in my pocket.  Well I am getting paid… I thought.  It couldn’t hurt to dig around a little and maybe earn some of that solution stone.  The delicate chisel sounds helped me descend into my own brain, where I poured over the mystery novels I used to read as a kid.

What does the detective do at this point?  There’s a crime scene.  There’s a victim.  Somebody hates the victim, so they figure out why.

It struck me that there were technically dozens of victims in the blast, with most of the front seats being filled by important people.  Every victim was the potential trigger.

“Quid, do we have a victim list?” I asked.  He looked up from the chunk of fire he was chiseling off the senate candidate’s neck.  His eyes were watery and small, like an overworked welder’s. 

“Uhm yeah… there’s a big data screen in the surgeon’s tent with names.  Light blue tent.”

“Alright thanks,” I said as I rose to my feet.  I couldn’t dig while the surgeons were in my tunnel anyway, so I left my axe behind.

The cool and calm interior of the surgeon’s tent was a nice change of pace.  Every tool set out was clean and glistening in contrast to the barrels of rusty and grime-covered axes and shovels standing around near the tunnel entrances. A robot that looked like a cross between a faucet and a torso was busy washing several long chisels in the sink that protruded from its waist.  It paid me no attention as I approached the screen in the back.  The surgeons wouldn’t have appreciated it if I put my smoke-blackened hands all over their screen so I tried a few voice commands.

“List of victims… List of identified victims… list of missing…”

The names that scrolled by were a little overwhelming.  There had to be a way to narrow it down.  All the factors of the case…  Did I really just call this a case? I thought.  After a quick check to make sure a deerstalker hat and a pipe hadn’t appeared on my head, I went back to puzzling it out.  What elements did I have that I knew were unusual?  Excess smoke ‘hiding’ the rest of the explosion.  Huge loops concentrated near the stage.  A common thief being arrested as a terrorist.

“Seating chart,” I whispered to the screen.  It pulled up a diagram.  “First two rows.”  Fourteen names.  The way I saw it, there was no way someone would design the explosions to get at somebody in the middle or back of the crowd.  There were just too many variables to assume that the person they wanted to get caught in a loop would.

That was the theory I was going off of.  The killer’s goal was to trap someone in a loop so they could suffer and die over and over again.  They wanted to trap someone in the closest thing to Hell the universe would allow.  What they might’ve done to warrant such heinous revenge… not a clue.

“People rescued from the first two rows.”  The screen pulled up six names.  One of the other teams from the sides had effectively extracted part of the second row.  There was a small word next to those names: thawed.  That was surgeon jargon for unpaused.  The peace of the tent was destroyed by my awkward rush to get out of it.  I slipped, hit a table, and sent a row of shining chisels into the air.  The robot managed to catch two in its hands and one in its sink.  “Uh, sorry,” I yelled back at it as I closed the tent flap, unsure whether the machine was smart enough to accept the apology.

Anyone who was unpaused would be immediately loaded into an ambulance and sent to a hospital for testing.  So I ran back to the entrance, scanning any stretchers for conscious beings.  If my witnesses were shipped off I wouldn’t have any excuse to follow them.  It would just look like I was playing hooky.

The crowd dammed by the police barriers had only grown since the last time I was out there.  Everyone was probably hoping to catch an errant pebble of something and buy all their friends a few rounds of drinks.  The only holes in the barriers were occupied by rows of ambulances and dump trucks taking their turns to pick up victims and paused materials.  Several stretchers were waiting for their turn to unload.  One man stood out as uniquely coherent among the group; he was sitting upright and dangling his legs off the side.  His sagging face and sour expression, coupled with his expensive but ill-fitting suit, made him look like a dried fruit slipping out of its supermarket packaging.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said.  Some of the other victims moaned behind him, keeping the attention of the two medics.

“Yes?” He said, friendlier than I expected.

“Uhm…  Could I get your name please?”

“It’s Jack Kipps.  Who are you?”

“Oh I’m just one of the miners.”  Jack Kipps was one of the names from the first two rows.  Before I could thank my luck, he had grabbed my hand and started patting the top of it.

“You young men saved my life.  Thank you.”  Kipps noticed he had dirtied his hand by touching mine, so he smeared it across the white cloth of the stretcher.  “What can I do for you?”

“Well I was hoping you could tell me if anyone in your row or the row in front of you was acting weird.”  The old man squinted.

“Weird how?”

“Did anyone seem afraid?  Fidgety?  Worried or angry?”

“Let me think now…”  Kipps stroked one of his cheeks, leaving a black tally of smoke dust behind.  “Mrs. Rareteen was clutching her purse pretty tightly but I think it was because she had that little dog of hers in there.  One time the little guy yelped when she was on live TV! Heheheh.”  Kipps coughed and wiped at his lips, turning them black.  In the midst of all this, it was getting difficult not to laugh.  If this kept up, he might look like a lump of coal before they carted him away.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“Eh… Donald Forung was a little antsy but… Oh that’s right…  Cecil Noone was definitely worried about something.”

“What?” I asked excitedly while memorizing the name.  Cecil Noone, Cecil Noone, Cecil Noone…

“I don’t know, but he didn’t put that phone of his away the entire time.  He had it out during the speech.  In fact… that’s the last thing I remember.  I was thinking, ‘Who in their right mind sends an E-mail in the middle of someone’s speech.’  It’s just plain rude.  That man is…”

“A spaceline owner?”  I asked.  Kipps nodded his head.  There was no need to memorize a name I already knew.  “Cecil Noone owns Yonder-Eon spacelines, doesn’t he?”

“Yes he does.  Never lets anyone hear the end of it either.  Man’s got more money than Hell’s tollbooth and the best thing he can think to do is brag about it.”

“Thank you so much Mr. Kipps.  I’ve got to go.”  I took off again, this time for the tunnel of the team that saved my witness.  I was probably moving across that field faster than any of the athletes who played there ever had.

Yonder-Eon was the spaceline that we always used between planets, in that system anyway.  The complimentary meals were lousy, but they made up for it in entertainment.  Live shows all the time on little stages every few rows or so.  Not two weeks prior Marcy and I were holding hands and watching a guy juggle toy-sized robotic acrobats.  The little figures would spin in the air and hang onto his fingers, pretending that their little electric lives would end if they fell.  Marcy had laughed.  One of the little bots cannonballed into her plastic cup of ginger ale, the splashes on her shirt just making her laugh louder.

How she would laugh when I told her how I figured it out.  “No way you did that,” she would say in disbelief.  I had it though.  The key was the E-mail.  The E-mail that was still being sent.  That would earn me the stone in my pocket.

I flung myself into the tunnel Kipps had been pulled from.  I dodged the sparks from everyone’s axes as I weaved my way through their work.  Every time I saw a loop playing out behind a thin wall of fire I stopped to time it.  Three seconds. No.  Half a second. No.  eleven seconds. No.

I caught up to the end of the tunnel, where two lead diggers were hacking away.  It was Hilcox and Muller.  Hilcox was fast, but his strikes looked like weak flicks on a dying lighter compared to Muller’s.  The massive Goldrian man grunted every time he raised his axe and brought it down like an asteroid impact.  A flash from one of his strikes blinded me for a moment.

“Guys!” I called out.  “Stop a second, I mean stop for four seconds.  Just stop!”  They lowered their axes, making room for me to press my hands against the wall next to them without worrying about Hilcox taking my head off with his backswing.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Hilcox said.

“SHHHH!” I responded and stared into the loop.  It took a moment to notice the jump: the exact moment where the fire stopped flowing and reverted back to the beginning of the loop.  It was like spotting a sneaky edit in an old movie.  1… 2… 3… 4… perfect.  I counted again just to be sure.

1… 2… 3… 4… still perfect.

“Muller, I need you to come with me.  I might need some muscle.”  I started to exit the tunnel, but he wasn’t following.  “Muller come on!  Trust me.”

“Alright,” the big lug moaned and followed.

“Whatever this is I’m not missing it,” Hilcox said.  He tapped two other miners and told them to take over before following us out.

Seventeen hours and six minutes until crystallization

It could’ve taken me half an hour to find Druda.  There were black and orange boulders, tents, trucks, miners, surgeons, overseers, trash, and torn up patches of fake grass everywhere.  Even something as colorful as her could easily blend into the chaos.

It could have taken half an hour… but an affronted wail led us straight to her.  While we traced the sound to a clean-looking tent, Hilcox compared the cry to that of a stork with a French horn caught in its throat.

“Yeah that’s her,” I said with a smile and pulled open a ten flap.

“Greco!  Good boy!” Druda yelled at me.  “You’re here just in time.  Take that away from him.”  I looked over and saw Roma Trist on the other side of the tent.  He was bent over trying to pull a heavy metal device off the ground.  It had three joined cylinders, each with a little clock face.

“You’re fired if you touch this!” Trist shouted.  Druda had already gotten him red in the face.  “It’s company property that she was trying to steal!”

“I would never!” Druda shouted back and lapsed into her native tongue.  Whatever she was saying, it sounded like something that might get bleeped out on television.  “That’s the stopwatch!” she yelled with a forceful return to English.  “They just pulled it out and he tried to take it away.  It’s been altered.  There are three small ones instead of one regular one! They went off at the same time and created all those extra loops!  I was right.  Someone built that cloud of death out there.”

“Yeah and I know who,” I said.  Everyone looked at me.  Another moment where time seemed to stop.  “You did it Trist.”  His face swelled into a new shade of red.

“How dare you accuse me!  I was just trying to return this stopwatch to headquarters.  We always do that with stopwatches.”

“Grab him Muller.”  The Goldrian hunched over and came into the tent where his presence silenced everyone.  He wasn’t violent by nature but he knew to trust me over some corporate type threatening to fire anyone that looked at him funny.  The man’s huge hands clasped down on Trist’s shoulders.  He dropped the stopwatch and fumed silently.  I reached into his jacket and pulled out his phone.  It beeped.

“Just a ruse to steal from me eh?” Trist said.

“I could say the same to you,” I retorted.  This whole mess was just a ruse to steal from Cecil Noone.”

“The guy from those flight magazines?” Muller asked.

“Yeah.  I’ll prove it.  Noone is trapped in the loop you guys were working near.  He was seen sending an E-mail the moment before the explosion.  Now come with me.  Keep him quiet Muller.”

The five of us exited the tent and returned to the tunnel.  Muller kept one hand over Trist’s mouth and leaned forward the whole time, using his bulk to obscure their prisoner’s shape.  I led them back to the loop and stood in front of it, letting the light from the repeating fires outline me.  Everyone stared expectantly.  I held up Trist’s phone.  It beeped and a little green alert light flashed.  We waited four seconds.  It beeped again.  We waited. It beeped.  I wasn’t sure how many times it would take for them to get it.

Druda realized first and her face lit up almost as brightly as the fires.  “You did it boy!  I knew I could count on you.  You just looked like such a smartypants to me!”

“Wait, what’s happening?” Hilcox asked.

“They’ve gone insane that’s all,” Trist growled before Muller put his hand back over his mouth.

“They synch up,” I said to Hilcox.  It took him another minute but I could see realization dawning.  “Trist here gets an E-mail every four seconds.  This loop is exactly four seconds long.”  I could see Trist’s eyebrows rise.  He squirmed in Muller’s arms like something with lots of legs under the heat of a magnifying glass.

“It got into my head when I first met him but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.  It was just so weird to get messages with such a pattern.  That beat stuck with me all day though.  Four seconds… beep.  Four seconds… beep.  When I found out who was trapped in this four second loop and what he was doing, everything clicked.”

I activated the phone’s screen and pulled up a hologram of the incoming messages for everyone to see.

Payment made to Personal account courtesy of Yonder-Eon Spacelines.

Payment made to Personal account courtesy of Yonder-Eon Spacelines.

Payment made to Personal account courtesy of Yonder-Eon Spacelines.

“If I admit that you’re smarter than me will you explain this better?” Hilcox asked sarcastically.

“Trist planned all this to make money off of one of the few guys richer than him,” I said.  “He had someone build the bombs to trap his victim in fire and smoke.  Then he paid someone to build a special stopwatch that would create much larger loops.  The bigger the loops, the higher the chance he would catch Cecil Noone in one.”

“I knew I picked the best one” Druda said.  “She waddled over to me, pulled open a pocket, and poured paused jewels into it.  “Don’t worry there’s plenty for you two as well,” she told Muller and Hilcox.

“Ahem,” I coughed.  Druda dropped back. 

“I’m sorry dear, continue.”

“Roma here was blackmailing Cecil Noone.  He showed up at this event, sat in the back, and sent Noone a message ordering him to send a payment at a precise moment in the middle of the speech.  When he saw the payment hit the phone, he triggered the bombs and the stopwatches.  Doing it here ensured everyone would think it was some terrorist.”  I took a moment to breathe.  For a second I was afraid I had forgotten something small, that an overlooked detail destroyed my elaborate theory.  Then I saw the defeat and anger in Trist’s eyes: two raw emotions twisting around each other like parasitic vines pointlessly stealing each other’s life force.

“His plan worked.  Cecil got caught in a loop.  He made the payment, got engulfed in flame, and then repeated the process.  Even though it was the same payment every time, every signal was new.  So that one payment, repeated every four seconds, was steadily siphoning off all the wealth from his spaceline company and dropping it in Trist’s pocket.  That’s why he added the smoke.  The longer it took us to find him or break the loop, the more payments he would receive.  He’s nothing but a pickpocket.  A pickpocket in a nice suit.”

“Woah,” Hilcox and Muller said together.

“Well let’s go turn him in.” Hilcox chimed.

“You guys can do it.”  I tossed the phone to Druda.  “I’m tired… and I’ve been pausing something I shouldn’t have.”

“I’ll take care of the official stuff,” Druda said and gave me a bow.  I returned it and wished them luck before running to the tunnel’s entrance.

As I exited the furnace and hit the sun for the last particular time on that particular field on that particular planet, I realized my moment with marcy should have been nothing more than a moment.  I had to go back and fix that.  The other guys could finish upt here without me.

When I saw her, we felt that moment and its passing.  Something solidified between us as we waved goodbye to that scene in time.  Crystallized.

© Copyright 2020 Blaine Arcade. All rights reserved.

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