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Chapter #11

Declan 1.1 (Black, White And The Gray)

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“Wha-wha-what?”
QD was shaking me.
“Shh, shhh. Be quiet. He’ll hear you,” QD whispered.
“What the hell?” I said softly as I sat up in bed.
“Shhh.”
The sound of plastic rustled underneath me as I rubbed my eyes, and I
looked down to see it. I blinked a few times, then muttered, “Hey, you’re alive!”
QD’s hands quickly covered my mouth.
Fear overwhelmed every fiber of my being as I became awake and aware
of my surroundings. The whole room was covered in plastic.
QD motioned for me to follow him as he whispered, “There’s not much
time.”
We walked past a surgical cart with torture tools laid out on it as we
sneaked out of the bedroom and crept down the hall towards the front door,
which was already open. When we walked through it, QD turned around and I
saw it reform. I’d never imagined a door like that before.
We walked around the peop shoot entrance, then past the elevator to the
emergency stairs.
I whispered, “Really?”
QD was unfazed. He was a bot on a mission. We entered the stairwell
through the door, and as it closed, QD hugged up against the wall and looked
at me. Then he opened up a large VeeM.
There I was onscreen, or rather a hologram of me, lying asleep on the bed
in the dimly lit room. David walked in rather nonchalantly, and then my holo-
double suddenly sat straight up. Startled, David jumped and dropped a bag of
zip ties.
Holo-me demanded, “Hey, what’s going on?”

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David pulled out a micro blaster, pointed it at me, and said, “Settle
down. Youse gonna tell me where Rhonda’s at.” He shook the gun with every
word. “Then youse gonna tell me where that robot’s hiding. And then youse
gonna give me that money you robbed from that bank, and I might let you live
to tell the tale.”
QD looked at me and whispered, “Where’s Rhonda?”
I just shrugged my shoulders. I really had no idea.
Holo-me said, “What makes you think I know anything about Rhonda? I
don’t know where she’s at.”
“You think I’m an idiot?” he asked, shaking his blaster at me. “She
disappeared right after talking to you. She knows things, incriminating things.”
Then he blasted a hole in the bed, right between my holo-twin’s legs.
Holo-me started freaking out. “Hey, what the fuck! Man, I don’t know
where she’s at!” my double screamed.
QD would make a good actor. Of course, the real me would’ve been
crying like a baby by now.
“Yeah, I’ll tell you what,” David said. “I’ll let youse walk out of here right
now if you tell me wheres the droid is. And if youse don’t, I’m going to blow
your knee caps off. Youse got five, four, three—”
“Okay, okay,” holo-me said. “The droid is downtown in the Synopsis Five
building, being decommissioned. He called while me and Tawana were in the
hot tub earlier. He called to say goodbye. He said that the CC found him.”
BLAZzzt! “Aye! Ayeee!” He blew my knee cap off. You could see my bones
and the meat sticking out, and blood was spraying all over the room. It looked
so real. Fuck. It had to, but fuck!
Then my holo-double screamed, holding his knee, “I’m not telling you
shit!” He pulled a gun out from behind his pillow, then BLAZT!
I saw as the VeeM faded that fucker shooting me square in the left eye.
QD said, “Run!”

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We ran down the stairs as fast as we could. Round and round and
round, and I didn’t know how many stories or flights we flew down. I knew it
wouldn’t take David Wayne long to figure out I was a hologram. We stopped a
second to catch my breath, and QD shot a little helium into his brains, and
then it was run, run, run some more.
We got down to the first floor and stopped again. My heart was racing. It
felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. Surprisingly, the droid was
breathing pretty heavily too. Even droids burned oxygen as fuel, I realized. Or
maybe it just cooled the motors and servos. I don’t know. We waited a second
until our bodies and minds calmed down.
QD said, “It seems the coast is clear.” We opened the door and walked as
nonchalantly as possible, scurrying down the long, narrow corridor towards a
side entrance door that read ‘Parking Garage’ over it. I reached out to open the
door, but it slammed inward. I jumped back and let it smack into the wall.
On the other side there was a tall black man with a short afro, wearing
thick-rimmed black sunglasses and shiny black patent leather shoes that
could kick a door right in.
BAM!
He shot QD in the chest with a taze dart. Shocked, I stood there and
watched him convulse a few times before freezing up in his stance.
“Ha, ha, haaa.” The man laughed in a very low, deep tone. “Did you really
think you and that fresh fish bitch could fool us? We’re the NSA, punk.” He
pulled the shades away from his face and pointed the gun straight between my
eyes. Behind him, more agents were screeching up in government-issued
roloballs. “Think I couldn’t see you hiding behind that stupid curtain in the
restaurant?”
I was mortified. He had an electric red eyeball, just like the ones Bat Doof
had.
Just then, as if I were possessed by some heroic, karate-chopping
demon, I swiftly raised my left arm into his, moving the gun so I was no longer

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in his line of fire, and at the same time, I balled my fist around my middle
knuckle. Like lightning—KAPOW!—I plowed it into his scary, electric red
eyeball as hard as I could.
I felt a shock as his head flew back, and then his body followed all the
way to the ground. Six or eight agents were popping out of the mouths of their
roloballs and making their way towards us, yelling “Freeze!” I watched the guy’s
body hemorrhaging. I could smell his brains frying from the electric shock I
must’ve sent through his head.
In the same instant, I grabbed the dart and pulled it out of QD’s chest.
And just like that, everything around us multiplied. We were surrounded by
several hundred agents, Declans and QDs. It was like we were all in a house of
mirrors together. QD was so quick with the holo-projected illusions, it was
amazing.
The holograms were side by side like a mob, and I couldn’t see daylight
between them. The real QD grabbed my arm and pulled me down as shots and
blasters rang out in the parking garage. He pulled me through the crowded
maze while we kept as low as we could running. He led me to one of the agent’s
roloballs, pulling on my arm the whole way. We got in, and QD gave it the volts.
We lit out of there like a Teflon-coated photon.
Chuckling, he looked over at me and said, “Nice. An eye for an eye. You
just can’t make up irony like that.” He shook his head in disbelief.
“Yeah,” I said. “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
Then we hit the transit tubes like a cannonball on fire. The agents
weren’t far behind us, and they were closing fast. QD was struggling to keep
control of the vehicle. “Damn NSA. They’re hacking into the controls that I
hacked! And they’re freakin’ good at it.”
Great. I lived through all of this just to die in a fiery transit tube crash.
Just freaking great.

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QD said to himself quietly, “There, how do you like that?” We swiftly
accelerated straight up. He turned to me and said, “I crashed their network.
They’ll have a hard time playing The Jetsons now!”
I just held on tight as we banked around a right hand curve at about
nine hundred miles an hour. The Gs had me pushed up against QD so hard
that my neck hurt. I didn’t think it would ever end, and I screamed, “Whoaaa!”
Then I saw one of the transit directional cylinders roll its hole around to
line up with another tube on the right, and we went soaring around it. It made
a U-turn and doubled back. Warning lights were flashing on the dash, and
buzzers were sounding off. The inner body stabilizing suspension was trying its
best to keep up, but we were still spinning clockwise at a dizzying pace—until a
directional paddle popped up and rounded us almost straight down. Our
spinning became a tumbling motion, and it was like riding the Zipper and the
Hammer at once from one of them old-time county fairs.
I could see the ground getting closer and closer, and the roloball’s
window flashed like a strobe light. “We’re all gonna die!” I screamed, and the
vehicle swooshed past the ground. We leveled out into a part of the old
underground subway system just long enough for the vehicle’s gyro to bring us
back into some high-speed sense of normalcy. Two rows of lights at the top of
the tubeway tunnel ran down the length of the tube, dimly lighting the way.
There was a transit directional paddle up ahead that flicked to the right.
“No, no, no, we need to go left!” QD shouted.
As we rounded to the right, I saw the guy who manually shifted the
paddle. It was the blond-headed twin who looked like he was punched in the
nose a couple of times.
We started going up again and out of the ground. QD put the pedal to the
metal, and I heard him say, “I’m in the transit system computers now.” A
cylinder spun around, heading us back to the left. We were flying once again,
left and right, up and down, and all around, spinning and tumbling and
slowing and accelerating as more traffic cruised the pipes. The Gs were

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throwing us back and forth until I couldn’t take it anymore. I must’ve been
turning green, because I snatched a forgotten, shallow-brimmed hat from the
floorboard and started puking into it.
“Ugh,” I groaned, spitting into the hat. I was not one to ride these kinds
of rides at those old-time fairs. I puked until I dry heaved a few times, spitting
and groaning and ew.
We rolled up to a transit tube clog where we were stuck dead in our
tracks. “Thank God for traffic jams,” I said as I popped the door open and
threw the hat out. I turned to QD, who was taking a puff, and asked, “You got
any mints?”
He just exhaled some vapor out of his ears and shook his head no.
I could see several police balls coming up behind us in the rearview
monitor. I started freaking out, but QD was as calm as he could be. I guessed if
you didn’t have a heart, then—
One, two, three, they all dropped out of sight.
“I told you, man,” QD boasted. “I gots control of the system, man.” And
he turned and grinned an evil grin.
We inched up a little more as the jam started to ease up, and I saw an
airmobile levitate into view just outside the tunnel. It had an air pusher in the
front hood and two in the back that were pointing down. The ones in the rear
were fastened to a vertical tailfin, and they were spread top to bottom at about
a thirty-degree angle each way. You really had to hold on when they rolled up
onto a pair of parallel thrusters in a horizontal position, and the front one
turned to force air out the back as well. In an elevated backseat, there was a
man with a phozon scatter blaster rifle. He brought it up to his eye and pointed
it directly at us.
There was nowhere to go.
There was traffic in front of us and behind us, and we were all jammed
up. People all around us saw the scatter blaster, and they started screaming

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and freaking out. Some of them even tried escaping by crashing back and forth
into the other roloballs.
I looked over at the guy holding the gun, and I saw the shot as if it were
in slow motion. He pulled the trigger, and lightning flowed down the barrel of
the apparatus and balled up at the point until the energy was unleashed into
the air, where it instantly crashed into the side of the transit tube. Bits and
pieces of the tunnel crashed all over and around us, and I saw him take aim for
the second shot.
QD rolled our ball around so the underneath of it faced him just in time.
BLAM! It hit the bottom of the vehicle so hard that it caved in, and I raised my
feet just a little too slow. The shock wave hurt like a bitch.
“Ow!” I yelled.
QD jumped out of the ball and shouted, “Come on!” As I watched the
rifleman’s face fill with terror, a laser cut off the nose off his airmobile from a
distance. Then I watched it fall away and tumble to the ground a thousand feet
below us.
“I can’t! My feet! I can’t feel my feet!” I yelled as the crowd of people in
their roloballs around us screamed and pointed and videoed the whole incident
with their combands.
QD grabbed me by the waist and turned around to run just as I saw a
naval PT-class saucer coming up out of the bay in front of the Statue of Liberty.
Almost instantly it was hovering above us. A hole in the bottom opened up, and
a rope ladder came falling out just in front of us. A fucking rope ladder.
“Are you kidding me?” I yelled. “A rope ladder in this day and age?”
QD shrugged his shoulders, like, “What? Simple yet effective.” He shoved
me towards it and said, “Grab it or fall.”
So I grabbed the darn thing and started pulling myself up by the
strength in my arms mostly. The feeling was starting to return to my feet, but
slowly. QD jumped on and started climbing up the ladder with me. I could see
police helicopters headed our way in the distance. The saucer started moving

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pretty fast as the rope coiled up the rest of the way into an empty center
chamber. “Come on,” said QD, and he maneuvered over toward the inner edge
of the craft.
Then the laser turret came down to fill the chamber, and the top of the
craft closed just above it. Suddenly the inner space shrunk down to little more
than a narrow walkway. We accelerated very fast, and me and QD hit the floor,
sliding to the back. We both hit the wall pretty hard, like somebody pulled the
rug out from under us.
Over the whining of the engines, QD yelled out, “Did we lose them?”
Barely loud enough to hear, a high-pitched, squeaky voice replied, “Not
sure.”
As soon as we reached cruising speed, QD and me got up off the floor
and walked around the turret to the pilot’s cockpit. Inside, there was a small
Gray flying the craft. QD asked him for a damage report, to which the Gray
replied in his small, squeaky voice, “All’s well.” Then he coughed a little.
“And the weather?”
“All’s well.”
“Can they see us?” asked QD.
The Gray replied, “No way. We’re so gone.”
“Tawana!” I yelled, suddenly remembering we had left her behind when
David Wayne was trying to kill me. “We’ve gotta turn around! That maniac is
going to kill her!” I exclaimed.
“Calm down, Declan,” QD said as he pat me on the back. He grabbed my
shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and told me, “Tawana’s fine. David’s not
going to hurt her.”
“But he’s going to kill her! She heard everything!” I insisted.
“No, he’s not. Don’t worry. She was sleeping in the hot tub, underneath a
thin sheet of ice. Just like she always does. She never heard a thing,” QD said.
“But, but—”

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“Don’t you know? She’s the one he unloads all that guilt on. She sucks it
up and helps him justify all of them dirty deeds that he does. How do you think
she got you off the hook so easily at the Blue Judas earlier? You know, with
your bat freak buddy.”
Personally, I didn’t think Tawana was going to be all right, but what was
I going to do? Highjack a quantum-tech flying saucer?
QD continued, “She’s probably making him breakfast right now, listening
to lies about how you had to leave early for some reason. Trust me, I checked
out their communications. She’s like a sister to him.”
Thinking out loud, I replied, “Well, he did open the house right up to us.
I guess they must be pretty close. So where are we going?”
“New Mexico,” QD answered. “To the Virgin Airlines spaceport.”
“What are we going to do there? Let ET phone home?” I joked.
“I’ll eject you right here,” the Gray interrupted.
“Come on, I was just kidding. I’m Declan. What’s your name?”
“My friends call me Skylord, but you can call me Sam,” he replied.
“Sam I am, I am Sam.”
“That’s not funny either,” Sam replied.
“I do not like green eggs and ham.” I had to say it, but if looks could
kill…
I looked over at Jizmo and asked, “Dude, how do you crack into every
system just like that?”
“I told you before, Declan. I have a quantum processor. Cracking codes
is, like, my thing. My Q-bits can be ones and zeros at the same time, but this
process requires extremely cold temperatures.” Then he took a hit of helium.
I said, “Yeah, but how are you alive? Do you have a brain hooked up to
that chip? Let me guess, it came out of jar marked ‘Abby Normal.’”
“It’s really not all that complicated,” replied QD. “When the chip reaches
an efficient temperature, the entire quantacom becomes my subconscious.
Then information is optimized according to my individual needs and prioritized

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according to things like personal safety, physical needs, hygiene, plans that
secure my personal safety and physical needs for short and long-term futures
that may or may not require physical actions, and then some minor things, like
poetry, music, art appreciation, and other interests like physics and
astronomy.”
“Great,” I said, “every time you suck in a little helium, seventy-six
percent of your brain is filled with porn, masturbation, long-range
biomechanical sex gadgetry, and flogging. And what little is left over is filled
with violence, war games, and let’s not forget that mind-numbing phenomenon
we all know and love, The Jetsons.
No wonder they want you dead. They’re probably afraid you’re going to
take over the whole world and fuck everybody in the ass.”
“You sound a little worried about that, Dickey, but don’t be afraid. I’m
not planning to be a politician or an attorney any time soon,” he replied.
I asked, “So where did you get the money for all of this crap? This may be
a small PT-class saucer, but it must’ve cost you a bloody fortune.”
Sam smiled all proud-like and squeaked, “We stole it. We stole it right
out from under their noses. Not only that, but this is no ordinary naval PT
cruiser. It’s a highly classified super stealth U.S. Marine version of the vehicle.”
“I’m sure you paid off somebody along the way,” I replied.
“Oh yeah.”
Sam was so proud I was sure he was going to fill me in on all the details,
but QD cut him short and said, “You really don’t know, do you, Declan?”
“Know what?” I asked.
“Well, after you downloaded your contact information yesterday, I took
the liberty of collecting all the necessary information I needed to open up a
bank account in your name.”
“What!” I pretty much knew what was coming out of his mouth next.
“Well,” he continued, “An android can’t exactly open up an account on
his own, now can he?”

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I was livid. “What the hell did you do that for?” I asked.
“Well, let’s just say I lifted some funds from a few accounts and moved
them around a bit.”
Upset, I asked, “Now what? You want me to go cash the funds and pray
they don’t nab me and take me to jail forever? I ain’t doing it. No way, no how.
Forget about it.”
QD just looked a bit miffed and said, “Declan, I already got it. It’s right
here.” And out of a cabinet he grabbed and held up a very large bag filled to the
brim, so overstuffed that a couple of large stacks of Wal-Mart stollars fell to the
ground.
“You can’t let money this hot sit in an account like yours very long.
They’ll find out and be waiting for you,” QD explained. “I just hologrammed a
skin that looked like you, hacked into the computer, flirted with the teller, and
here it is.”
“I’m going to jail,” I said under my breath. “I’m done. Who’d believe this
crap?” I was done, a goner. I needed to sit down a minute.
“Don’t worry, Declan. We’ll be on the moon by this time tomorrow,” QD
said.
“On the moon!” I shouted as I jumped back out of my chair. “I am not
going to the freakin’ moon!”
“But I’ve already bought the tickets,” QD replied. He frowned and lowered
his eyes. With a sad face, he explained, “They’re nonrefundable.”
Oh my gosh. I started pacing the floor and yelling loudly,
“Nonrefundable!” I threw my arms in the air and repeated, “Nonrefundable! I
can’t believe you. You’re un-freakin’-believable. You have a sack filled to the
brim with cash—that you stole in my name—and you’re telling me that the
tickets are nonrefundable!”
I raged inside for a moment, and then I said, “I’m going to kill you. That’s
it. I have to kill you. You motherfucker, I’m going to get you for this. You just
wait and see.”

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I stood behind Sam for a moment and gazed at the monitors. They were a
collage of polygon windows spread out across a four dimensional VeeM pane.
There was a large one in the center that showed the clouds whizzing by in front
of us, and it was surrounded by several other views of what was all around us.
A long, skinny VeeM across the bottom showed a cross section of the ground
we were flying over, and its height varied so rapidly in places that I couldn’t
really comprehend the view. It came from cameras on the ground broadcasting
their signals over the quantacom. There were several hundred smaller monitors
arrayed around the main views. They were also polygon shaped, with thin
white borders. They looked like skin cells under a microscope. Some of the
smaller ones were also constantly changing views and size.
I asked, “What are these smaller monitors?”
Sam the Gray replied, “Quantacom cams, sync world realms, saucer fuel
gauge, engine and drive monitors, and weather tracking and other atmospheric
sensors.” His thoughts zoomed the cells larger as he named them.
“Jizmo,” I said, turning back to the droid, “you do know the serial
numbers on all of that cash you stole is traceable, don’t you? Do you think the
Federal Reserve isn’t keeping track of every dollar and every stollar that it
prints? I hear they can ping a dollar and find it anywhere in the world, anytime
they want, instantly.”
He just laughed and asked, “What? Do you think I’m some kind of
amateur or something? I pulled the ol’ switcheroo.”
I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. The ol’ switcheroo?
What was that supposed to mean? I didn’t know, and I really just didn’t care
anymore. All I wanted to do was get out of there.
I informed the crew, “As soon as this thing lands, I’m out of here. If
you’re smart, you would too, Sammy.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m going to. I’ve got big plans,” Sam replied. “I’m taking
my cut straight to Big Bob’s Body Shop. I’m going to pick me out a handsome
bod with blond hair and blue eyes, and then I’m headed to Holly Wood Island

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on the California Straits, where I’ll commence to ruling the babes with my good
looks and charming, debonair demeanor. I can hardly wait.”
Just about the time Sam started daydreaming about all of those tanned
beauties, one of the small polygons grew a little larger and moved across the
3D pane of monitors, closer to front and center.
Sam said, “Hmm, that’s a little unusual. Looks like a small
electromagnetic fluctuation in the ionosphere up ahead. Strange.”
A little worried, I asked, “Is it dangerous?”
“Nah,” Sammy answered. “It’s hundreds of miles away. It’s probably
nothing, just a solar flare being deflected by the Van Allen Belt.”
QD chimed in with, “Declan, don’t you want to know who got the stolen
serial numbers? The ones on the dollars and stollars.”
“No,” I sharply replied.
“But I put several nanoseconds of thought into it,” QD wheedled. Then he
sang in a high-pitched voice like a child, “I think you should know who it wa-A-
as.”
“Okay, Jiz. Who’d you swap the numbers with?” I asked.
“Well, when I downloaded possible candidates for your position—”
I cut him off right there. “My position? I am not working for you. An eye
for an eye, that’s it. That was our deal, and we’re even. I’m out of here as soon
as we land.”
Looking anxious, QD said excitedly, “Let me finish.”
“No, I don’t want to hear it,” I answered, and I put my hands over my
ears and started singing, “La la la…”
“Geez, Declan. Why are you so pissed off at me?” QD asked.
So I told him. “You saved my life, but you screwed me. An eye for an eye,
but you’re the reason David Wayne wanted to kill me in the first place! How is
that fair?”

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In an annoying, self-righteous tone, QD whispered, “I distinctly
remember him wanting to know Rhonda’s whereabouts first. Think he wouldn’t
have tortured you to death until believing that you really didn’t know?”
I really didn't think he would have, but I conceded, “Yeah, well, so who’d
you swap the serial numbers with?”
QD puffed his chest out, put his nose into the air, and sniffed, “Well, I’m
not telling you now.”
“Fine,” I replied.
The ionosphere anomaly’s white border changed to yellow, and what
started out just looking like a pimple in the atmosphere had multiplied into
several pimples that were pulsing up and down.
“What is that?” Sam murmured to himself. QD looked at it with great
interest as we got closer to it.
QD asked Sam, “Where is it exactly?”
“Over New Mexico.”
A quick survey revealed what was now looking like an array of small
electromagnetic cyclones, with the tails spinning up and down while their
heads stayed on the same atmospheric plane.
I asked, “Can we get a better view of it?”
“Not really,” Sam replied. “You can’t see this with the naked eye. The
color array simulates energy density.”
QD puffed some helium before asking, “What’s causing it?” We were
headed almost straight for them.
Sam said, “They seem to be forming over this no-fly zone.” He pointed to
the GPS cell. “It’s a government facility known as Area Fifty-One.”
The pimply twisters started getting larger and better organized, shifting
into an equally spaced array of pimples.
“This is amazing. Check this out,” Sam said as he enlarged a monitor
showing the earth and its ionosphere from a distant space perspective. He
pointed at a few satellites. “These satellites are projecting particle beams into

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the ionosphere. The matrix of the algorithms is causing the ionospheric
anomalies to form.”
“We’ve gotta get out of here, fast,” QD insisted, raising his eyebrows just
as another monitor turned yellow and enlarged. It showed radio waves
bouncing back and forth between the pimple vortexes and the ground.
Another polygon enlarged, and the white boarder started flashing red.
‘Engine Part Failure Pending’ flashed in time with the border. Underneath the
flashing text was a diagram of a ball tumbling and spinning very fast, with an
arrow pointing to its center. The words read in large letters, ‘Monopole
Simulator Membranes Failing.’
“We’re slowing down,” observed Sam.
“We’re all going to die!” I yelled, pointing at the pulsing pimples pulling
together and forming larger and larger cyclones.
“They’re drawing us in,” the Gray said excitedly. “They’re distorting the
ion hover buffer, and they're pulling us towards them.”
I looked over at QD puffing helium, and it scared me. He was an arrogant
bastard that always had everything under control, but I could see he was
worried.
I saw something shiny flash in the forward display, and it thudded
against the saucer.
QD zoomed one of the ship’s cameras in on Area Fifty-One and said,
“Look. Very large energy receivers are raising up out of the ground.”
“I can’t steer!” Sam squeaked out. “I have no control! Something’s wrong
with the rudder!”
“We’re all going to die!” I screamed again.
Nervously, QD said, “Yeah, you might be right. Prepare for a crash
landing.” And we sat down and buckled ourselves in tight.
“I hope the airbags work,” Sam shouted.
“We’re all going to die!” I shrieked for a third time.
“Shut up,” QD commanded.

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We were going down fast, but not really. True, we were getting sucked
into the direction of the array of energy cyclones, but we were still flying. Hell,
we were gliding down pretty smoothly, like a well-thrown Frisbee, actually, just
easing its way on down.
I looked at the ground monitor, and it was a blank. Steady text said, ‘No
information available.’
I glanced over at Sammy the Gray; he was as white as a sheet. He was
mumbling something just under his breath, and his eyes were getting wider
and wider as he spoke the words louder and louder. “Oh my God, oh God, oh
God, please don’t let me die.” And he kept repeating it louder each time, and
the more he repeated it, the more the fear of crashing intensified within me. I
dug my fingers into the arms of the chair and started crying and praying and
chanting with him.
“Oh God, oh God, please don't let me die. Oh God…”
A couple of chants later, I saw Sam grab his left arm and say, “Nooo!”
Then he was out of breath.
I saw out of the corner of my eye a ball of lightning, and it was filling the
entire horizon from in the atmosphere. And then—BAM! All the power in the
craft went out as the lightning came funneling down. It was the last thing we
saw.
The control VeeM went blank, and the cabin went dark. Then we hit the
ground and bounced up like a stone skipping across the water. An emergency
light came on, and I saw Sam’s body go limp. His hand had moved from his
arm to his heart, and I had a bad feeling that we lost him.
The first skip wrenched my back, but I kept holding on tight. QD just sat
there with his eyes closed pretty much the whole way down. The airbags
inflated just before we hit, and cushioned the blow pretty well, but I didn’t
think my back would ever be the same.
The PT finally came to a sliding stop on the desert floor. QD wasted no
time unbuckling and getting up.

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“Are you alright?” I asked.
He replied, “I guess so.”
And then shwoop—in an instant, everything everywhere shifted into
black and white.
There was no color.
There was no color anywhere anymore.
Only shades of black and white.
“My eyes!” I yelled. “My eyes! I’ve lost all sense of color!”
POW! and my ears started ringing. QD had popped open an emergency
hatch with explosive bolts at the top of the cockpit. He moved quickly to grab
the cash and throw it to me, saying, “Carry this.” Then he grabbed as many
helium tanks as he could.
I was crying hysterically, but I unbuckled myself and frantically made my
way over to Sam. I placed two fingers on his jugular, searching for a pulse, but
there wasn’t one to be found.
QD said, “We have to move. There’s not much time.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
He replied, “There’s only one thing on Earth that could use that much
energy. It must be the government experimenting with time bomb technology. I
do believe that we are in an impossibly large time distortion field. And we have
to get out of here fast!”
“But we have to bury Sammy! We can’t just leave him here,” I argued.
“I don’t care how much energy they sucked out of the ionosphere, they’re
not going to be able to keep a ball of the past this size open very long,” QD said.
“No, not long at all. And we need to be as far away from the epicenter as
possible.”
As he talked, he was crawling out of the hatch that’d popped open, and I
was right behind him.
When we crawled out, I could see the shiny thing that had flashed across
the main monitor on the way down. It was some kind of high altitude weather

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balloon. Apparently it had wrapped itself around the rudder after hitting us on
the way down.
As soon as I got out of the saucer, I could feel the desert heat. It was hot,
and the sun was just past high noon in the dusty sky. The lack of color was
freaking me out. I wondered if I’d ever see in color again as I gazed out at the
dull gray landscape and the clear white sky.
We started running toward a highway that looked like a big black snake.
Besides a couple of cactuses and an unusual-looking tree, it was the only
feature visible besides an old car driving towards us. It looked like an upside
down bathtub that somebody had put wheels on. It drove off the road and
pulled up about twenty feet in front of us. An older gentleman behind the wheel
jumped out and asked, “Are you guys okay?”
“Well, my back is hurting quite a bit. We could sure use a lift,” I hinted.
QD looked a little pissed off at me for talking to the guy, who was looking
at the flying saucer with wide, staring eyes.
“What the hell is that thing?” he asked, and he cautiously started
walking towards it.
QD gestured for me to get in the car, which was still running. He jumped
into the driver’s seat, and the old man turned around as I closed the big car
door on the passenger side. I heard him yell, “Hey! Come back here! That’s my
car!”
The back tire spun out in the desert sand before we accelerated back
towards the highway in a cloud of dust.
“Where are we?” I asked QD.
“New Mexico, just outside of Area Fifty-One,” he replied as we barreled
down the highway. “But I think the bigger question is, When are we?”
“What do you think is going to happen when the present time snaps
back?” I asked.
QD said, “I’m not sure, but I’m afraid if we don’t get far enough away
from the epicenter of the distortion, we might get trapped here in this time. Or

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the reverberations of the back flash could possibly leave us in a different time
altogether. There’s no information on anything like this ever happening, as far
as I know.”
We passed a road sign that read, ‘Roswell, five miles.’ A small fueling
station down the road was cresting on the horizon.
It took a while to drive to it, but QD pulled into the fueling station when
we finally reached it. As we drove past the pumps, we ran over a weird rubber
hose that was lying on the ground. It was stretched out in between the gas
pumps, and a bell attached to the building went bing bing as the car’s tires
rolled over it.
QD got out and grabbed a different rubber hose, one that had a sign over
it with big black letters that read, ‘Water.’ He fumbled around, not sure how to
turn it on. He finally turned a knob and took a large drink out of it, spilling it
all over the front of his shirt. Then he drank some more. He kept the water
going to fill up a spare canister in the car.
Well, I got out and stood in line there behind him. I was quite parched as
well.
About that time, an attendant came out of the station through an already
opened glass door. There was a fan just on the other side of it. Eyes squinting
from the bright sunny day, the man cocked his head to the side and said with a
quaint country accent, “They’s a water fountain just inside this garage door
he’a.” He pointed at the large bay garage door.
I was intrigued. A water fountain? What was that all about? I imagined
the fountain outside of my mom’s neighborhood back in Florida, spewing water
fifteen or sixteen feet into the air, and I just couldn’t believe that anyone would
build a water fountain inside of a greasy, oily pit with broken cars in it.
I walked over, peeked around the corner, and saw a small machine
attached to the wall, with a spigot on the right and a drain hole on the left. It
took me a second, but I figured out that if I turned the little knob on the spigot

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with my thumb that water would come out in a skinny little bow-shaped
stream. I was amazed.
I bent over, and it was cold and refreshing as it moved over my lips and I
sucked it in. Dude, it was quantum.
I looked up and said, “Thanks, mister. How much do I owe you?”
Miffed, he rolled his eyes and replied, “It’s water. I don’t know what
planet you’re from, but around here it falls right out of the sky. We don’t
charge for it. It’s a courtesy.”
“Thanks, mister,” I said again.
“You fellas didn’t see any flying saucers crash out there, did ya?” the old
timer asked.
QD laughed and said, “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know,” the attendant explained. “This young whipper snapper
from the newspaper just filled up his tank and lit outta here ninety miles an
hour. He was yakking away about some flying saucer that crashed back the
way y’all came from. Just wondered if you’d seen anything.”
“Nah, we didn’t see anything,” I lied. “Thanks for the water, though.”
We got back in the car, and there was a line of Army jeeps, a couple of
Army trucks, and an old-timey police car heading towards the crash site. We lit
out of there and headed straight through town without stopping. QD was on a
mission and wasn’t wasting any time.
“I can’t believe we’re still here,” he muttered. “There’s no way they sucked
that much energy out of the ionosphere. No way.”
I said, “Maybe we’re here for good. Maybe the snap back to the present
already happened.”
“I don’t think so, but maybe,” QD replied, and he pressed on down the
lonely desert highway.
We both sat there quietly, listening to the engine hum. I couldn’t believe
how nice this old, primitive car rides. It was hot with no A/C, and I put my
hand out the window, letting the air float it up and down as I turned my wrist.

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QD and me looked at each other, then back down the road out the
windshield. The car climbed a low hill that spread the length of the flat, sandy
horizon. Just as we started to crest the hilltop, the sun darkened and faded
from the white sky in a haze of fuzzy colors. They took over the entire view,
both directly in front of us and far away in the rearview mirror. A mirror to see
behind us, how quaint.
There was a roaring sound growing louder and louder, and it sounded
like waves crashing onto the beach or the sound you hear when you put a
conch shell up to your ear. It engulfed my entire being as the wave of fuzzy
colors flowed over us, and then my entire body jolted as the energy passed
through it.
I opened my eyes and saw a colorful, wobbling world that was
momentarily re-stabilizing.
Jizmo looked over at me, and his eyeballs looked like they’d shrunk down
too small for their sockets. Then all of his hair fell out onto his lap and
shoulders, except for a few patches here and there.
The car stalled in the middle of the highway. A roloball went around us,
honking its horn. I could hear the driver yelling something at us. I was just
glad he was the only traffic on the road at the time.
“Jiz,” I fretted, shaking him. “Jiz, are you okay?”
He was sort of stiff, and his face was frozen.
Fuck, I’m out here all alone with a bag of stolen money and a dead
android. I took a bottle of helium and put the nozzle up his nose. I’d been
wanting to do this ever since I met him. I really don’t know why. Then I gave
the bottle a long blast, and the vapor poured out of his mouth and ears.
He shook his head around and then took a deep breath. “Wow! That’ll
wake a droid up!” he shouted. QD looked at me and said, “The absence of color
must’ve been a compression technique designed to sustain a past presence of a
position for an extended period of time, also allowing for a larger area to be
morphed. Interesting.”

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What the fuck. I nodded, “Uh huh, yeah, whatever, dude.”
My skin ached with every move since the reformation of the present, and
it smelled like I’d been welding without any leathers on. I was red as a lobster,
just like a Florida tourist who lost his sunblock.
QD took a few big slugs of water, and his eyes started inflating back into
their sockets, thank goodness. He looked bad enough with little more than a
few patches of hair left on his head. Then he laughed, “Your hair is as white as
snow, and your eyes are so red that they’d probably glow like tail lights in the
dark.” I’d been burning pretty bad and seemed to be getting worse since the
flashback.
We got out and pushed the antique automobile to the side of the road,
out of the way of any more roloballs. ‘Nash’ was written in shiny chrome on the
front fender, and I wondered what the car’d be worth today with only a few
hundred miles on it.
We were in the middle of nowhere.
QD said, “They’ll be looking for us. We need to keep moving.”
I wondered if Sam was still back in what I could only imagine must’ve
been the late forties or early fifties.
Climbing back in, QD turned the key a few times and pumped the gas
until the car finally started.
Whew. I was glad it started.
QD pulled it out onto the road, and we started driving down the highway
again. A few miles later, he suddenly turned and drove right off the road. The
car bumped and thudded in the sand.
“This vehicle is way too obvious,” QD explained. “We’ll have to ditch it
right away.”
“Where are we headed?” I asked as the car bogged down in some of the
softer desert sands.
“There’s an old missile testing site just up ahead. We’ll dump the car in
an old explosion hole and walk to a nearby Indian reservation from there.

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They’re pretty close to each other, and the missile testing ground should be
coming up in about an hour.”
About this time, my skin and eyes were really starting to burn. I don’t
ever remember having a sunburn this bad in my life. I told QD he might have
to carry me.
“Hang in there, champ. We’re going to make it, just a little bit longer,”
QD assured me.
As the hour passed by, we pretty much drank all the water reserves,
short of emptying out the radiator. The helium was starting to run in short
supply as well.
We were driving around some shallow blast holes that had filled in with
soft sand over the years when the old Nash backfired a couple of times,
chugging until it was completely drained of gasoline. QD steered it up to the
edge of the biggest hole within coasting range and said, “Well, this is it. Bye-
bye, birdie.” He got out of the car and opened the back door, grabbing the
moneybag and the last helium bottle.
It was dusk, and the sun was setting fast. Thank goodness the
temperature had started to drop. My entire front was on fire.
We could see the Indian reservation in the distance, and we started
walking towards it.
QD said, “I’m going to run out of helium shortly, probably before we
reach the reservation, Declan. I’m going to save a blast for when we get in
range of their quantacom connection and tap into their network.”
I was walking like Frankenstein’s monster. I could barely move, let alone
walk. Finally, I groaned, “Dude, I need a doctor. I’m going to die from the
radiation poisoning. I’m on fucking fire.”
“Listen carefully, Declan. I’m going to give you a false identity, but it’ll
only be local, in and around the Indian reservation. Maybe we’ll get lucky and
there’ll be somebody that didn’t make their flight or something. We’ll assume
their identity and take their reservations, or figure something else out when I

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get online,” he explained seriously as we trudged along. “You’ll have to give me
the last blast when we get really close. Don’t take any chances. I’ll probably be
zoned out, but don’t worry. I’m just like any high-end droid when my quantum
function fails. I’ll recognize you as my owner.”
“Great. Yup, that sounds like a real good plan there, Dilroy. I always
wanted to be the dead owner of a roboslave. I can hardly wait,” I drawled. “How
about this? I turn your ass in and live happily ever after.”
“You wouldn’t,” QD replied confidently. “You can’t. They’ll lock you up
forever.”
“Oh no,” I said, “I’ll just make up a bunch of lies and blame you for
everything. Yup, that’s what I’m going to do.” He doesn’t know how much I hate
droids, especially those that are nothing but trouble.
We bantered on about this for quite a while. We kept walking and
walking, and here and there QD had to drag me, holding my rib cage up under
my arms. But the pulling on my skin was too painful for him to drag me very
far.
The burn was only on the front half of my body, like a sunbather that fell
asleep in a lounge chair. I was dying. Man, I hurt so bad I couldn’t stand it,
and that damn Indian reservation just didn’t seem to be getting any closer.
I was starting to think it was just a mirage.
QD slowly lost consciousness, and I could see his eyes shrinking and
slipping into the back of his head.
He started turning his head around in circles and clacking his teeth
together. It was weird and freakish. He’d open his mouth and look at me with
his scary face and his nappy head, closing his jaw several times, clack, clack,
clack. His head spun one, two, three, and then clack, clack, clack. He looked
like a freaking zombie. I was worried that he might eat me like one too.
Funny. I did smell like something roasted to perfection.
QD wasn’t the only one out of touch. I was starting to lose my mind as
well. And to make things worse, I just couldn’t walk anymore. Until the sun

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went down, I walked backwards as much as I could to keep it off my front half.
But I was still dehydrated and starving.
I couldn’t take it anymore. Not one more step. The radiation burn was
too painful. As much as I knew it was going to hurt to move my arms, I
fashioned QD’s arms at right angles and put my own around them, telling him
to drag me by walking backwards. I clutched the moneybag and the last puff of
helium tightly with all that was left of my strength before finally passing out
from exhaustion.
○ ○ ○
I woke up sometime later when QD crashed us to the ground. He’d
tripped over a curb, and my head slammed into the pavement of a casino
parking lot. I looked up and saw a sixty-foot Indian in full headdress, lit up and
holding a sign that read, 'Welcome to Geronimo's Vacation Resort and Casino.’
I cried out in pain as soon as I moved but shifted to make my way back
up on my feet.
QD was out. He was lying there on the pavement with his eyes open, but
he wasn’t really moving, just twitching every few moments. He was a goner for
sure.