"A Rocketman Story"
by John Pirillo
Harry stood before the Rocketman suit, which was hanging by its arms in a clench of metal clamps that held it at a perpetual 12 inches above the pressed concrete flooring that covered the interior Swiss base of the Resistance. Behind it hung a second version, and behind that a third and so on through about ten versions. Each version was smaller than the last, but still far too big.
He then looked at the smaller jump suit, as he called it, that was slung casually over a work bench where Einstein and Tesla were clucking like mother hens over their new babies. It looked similar to the old movie serial he had seen in the States before he had been transferred to the Allied front in Britain It was, however, powered differently, and modular. Each part of it could be replaced by simply removing the entanglement field that kept it in place.
The entanglement field was something that Edison had come up with on a whim. He had been researching electromagnetics in hopes of finding a way to automate the building of his cars...and now the war effort's weaponized vehicles more rapidly, with them being easier to fix when things blew up. Which was often. It was based on some law that Harry didn't have the slightest comprehension of. Science was not his forte. Flying was. He frowned, but flying a ticking bomb had never been on his list of flying objects when he woke up in the future, or in the past and was drafted into the war on the Nazi regime.
"Don't worry, Harry, they'll work it out." Jet told him from the side.
Harry, startled from his reverie, and turned to eye his friend. "It's getting worse."
Jet put a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "I know, brother. Believe me I know. I'm the one that has to listen to you scream at night, remember?"
Harry sighed, then dug his hands into his uniform pockets, letting his frustration drain away. Jet was right. He always was. It just fretted at him that he had so little control over what was happening.
Al, perked up, probably feeling Harry's upset and nodded to Tesla, who gave Harry a wave, then returned to probing the jump suit with a tiny tool that had headlights on it. Al brushed his hands off, wiped them carefully on a dirty cloth, then on a cleaner one, and came over, all smiles and perky. "Harry, my boy. So good to see you. And so bright and early."
Jet gave Al a cockeyed grin. "As if anyone could sleep in this hole in the wall anyway."
Al clapped a hand on Jet's right arm. "Always shooting from the hip."
"Just be glad you're not the one in my sights."
Al laughed, patted Jet's arm, then gave Harry a more serious look. "You had them again?"
Harry adjusted his flight attitude and zoomed in a descending arc towards the newly reconstructed Eiffel Tower. It was late at night and only a few guards stood there, but they were Sturmgiganten. The giant, genetically enhanced soldiers cooked in Hitler's massive genetics labs buried somewhere in Asia and out of the reach of the Resistance.
For now. Harry thought grimly. One day. He let the thought subside as he dropped lightly onto the semi-lit platform at the top of the tower. It was similar to the one he remembered from his youth, when his father and mother had taken him to Paris for part of an European vacation. Those had been happier days. For Harry. But they had ended badly for his parents. His mother had contracted cancer and went through what seemed like an endless series of tests and remedies, which left her weaker and weaker over time.
A stomping of a boot.
Harry snapped out of the past to the present. This present. Not the one he had been born to. Which was in late twenties. Not this one which was a thousand years later and the hollow shell of the world it had once been. Its peoples decimated by a constantly warring faction of Nazi soldiers and Eastern Global warriors and weapons. The Second World War had ended with nuclear strikes at all the major western capitals of the world. The Eastern Block and Nazi Germany had divided the planet into two zones. They lived an uneasy peace between them, which was enforced locally by zombie soldiers...citizens whose minds were preempted by electronics...and Sturmgiganten...huge genetically modified soldiers that stood over eight feet tall, had muscles as thick as tree trunks and fists the size of hams. No, it wasn't a pretty future, or past as he remembered it.
Harry slid in a sliding curve with his left foot and the other one jacked up and caught the Nazi giant in its right kneecap. It grunted in pain. They had no voice like normal, but spoke in a kind of apelike grunt. Harry knew the one on the opposite side would be coming fast. For some reason these creatures always knew what was going on with the other. Knowing that, he swiftly followed the kneecap kick with a double punch into the giant's privates. The giant grunted even louder, the pain of its crushed testicles...thank God it had something normal...being so excruciating that it doubled over. That brought its chin into Harry's reach. He slammed his right elbow into its throat, then shoved with all his strength and sent the giant tumbling against the railing, where its giant yellowed eyes glared at him angrily, promising hideous torture. It wasn't going to happen. Harry drop kicked the giant in its stomach and it flew head over heels from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Its grunts grew louder and louder with pain as it fell into the large metal struts holding up the massive tower.
Harry never got to listen to it strike the bottom, because even if he could have heard it, the second giant was on him. He spun around powered his suit and flew like an arrow of destruction into its chest, sending it falling back against the railing. Harry didn't wait to struggle with it. He clasped one of its arms, gave his suit a power surge and lifted it off the platform, dangled it over the ground below and let go. He didn't listen for any grunts. He had a mission to do. He lit on the platform again and went to the strange device that topped the tower. It was, according to the Resistance informants, a death ray, that once activated. That one and a score of them about the city. That once activated, would create a lethal dome of blazing energies which no living thing could survive.
His mission. It's not going to happen.
He set the charges he carried in his side flaps, planted the timers carefully on all of them, set them for sixty seconds and leaped from the tower.
He flipped on his jump suit and waited for the rockets to kick in.
Harry's face was flushed and sweating by the time he had completed the retelling of his dream. Jet looked at him, his jaw hanging down. "God, Harry, I never knew. Man!"
Al took out his pipe, which he always did when he was considering something weighty, or something that bothered him deeply, proceeded to tamp tobacco in it, then light it. He took several puffs, then said. "We're going to find out what is causing these time loops, Harry. I promise it."
He said nothing more, but he gave Harry a quick side hug, then stepped back to rejoin Tesla, who looked up then, saw Harry's face, gave him a worried look, then returned to his work, with Al whispering words to him so Harry and Jet couldn't over listen.
Harry slumped against the work table behind him and wiped the sweat from his face. He felt like crap. Probably looked like it too.
He and Jet went to the small eating area that was allowed the base, took out two mugs and filled them steaming black java. They plugged the liquid with dabs of sugar and milk, then sat down, eyeing the activity going on, even at such an early hour.
A platoon of Resistance Forces were training in one corner, their Squad Leader, hollering at them to stay trim, stay in line, be quiet, get down and all the other nasty things those guys did to save the lives of those in their command.
"It's like I'm unhinged in time, Jet." Harry finally said, lifting his eyes from the activity in the base, to Jet's.
Jet nodded. He waited for Harry to go on.
"I never feel the death, but it always ends up that way. Why do I only remember the deaths?"
Jet laughed. "God's keeping you humble, man. God knows you need it, Flyboy."
Harry laughed despite the sadness and dismay he felt. He took a long sip of the hot java, the coffee streaming down his throat and igniting the nerve endings in his body, bringing some semblance of reality back to him again as he got further away from the dream.
Then he remembered. "Jet, it's been happening to me when I fly the suit."
"Yeah, man, we knew that."
"Yes, but it only happens after I've been in battle."
Harry jumped to his feet and dashed off.
Jet set his coffee down. "Now, I know why they call him Rocketman. He never keeps his feet on the ground long."
Jet sighed, threw the rest of his drink down his throat, then ran after Harry.
Harry struggled into the Rocketman suit while the Techs helped him lockdown. It was like squeezing a soft tomato through the top of a wine bottle. It had to get inside without bursting. At least that's what it always felt like to Harry at first. He eyed the jump suit and wished it were stable. He needed the flexibility it provided. No use living in the past, he thought, then stuffed his arms into the arms of the Rocketman suit and waited as he was closed inside.
Jet tapped on his faceplate. "Reading me, Harry?"
"Only too loud and clear, pal."
"Good, next time you run out on me like that I'm charging for the time."
The Techs about them laughed too.
Harry and Jet were base favorites. Their humor and stamina were well known, as was their battle readiness.
Harry activated the controls in his suit with his chin, tongue and nose, then dropped lightly to the floor as the overhead clamps released him. He turned towards the rising hanger door. He twisted slightly to look at Jet. "Make sure Al and Tes are monitoring my flight this time. It's important."
"Not telling me why, pal!" Jet exclaimed in aggravation.
Harry smiled through the face plate. "No time. Just tell them. Please!"
"Gotcha!" Jet dashed off.
Harry turned the Rocketman suit towards the opening to the Swiss air, then ignited his suit's rockets. He kept them tuned low so the radiations didn't backwash into the crew scrambling to clear his path, then punched them into full gear when he reached the opening. They could never leave it open more than a few seconds for fear of the Nazi Fume Fighters catching wind of them. So far they'd been lucky.
Harry launched into the clear blue skies of the Swiss Alps, Lake Lucerne below him as he angled towards the clouds. He checked his radar and spotted a Fume Fighter. They had won that name from the ugly black smoke they emitted as they tore through the atmosphere, leaving a smoking trail of black fumes and stench.
"Closing." Harry said into his communicator.
"Gotcha, Harry." Jet said.
"Be careful, Harry." Al told him.
"My middle name." Harry chuckled. "Except when it's he who drops like a rock."
Jet whooped with laughter. "That was good, brother. Really good."
"Here goes!" Harry warned, then accelerated the suit, closing in rapidly on the Fume Fighter which was high above. Obviously, the pilot had his attention forward, instead of below, for Harry was able to launch a series of rockets into its exhausts before the pilot awoke to the Rocketman behind him.
Harry didn't give him a chance to warn anyone, not even himself. He launched a deadly one, two whammy salvo of rockets which sent the Nazi pilot back to Valhalla.
Harry circled the area he had struck the Fume Fighter in, waiting for his theory to be proved. Nothing happened.
"Well, Harry?" Al finally said, his voice sounding a bit worried.
"Nothing. Not a damned thing." Harry groaned.
Realizing he had just shot down his own theory, he headed back to base. He shot through the entrance, backed off on his rockets, then lit like a dandelion on his favorite spot. He waited impatiently for the Techs to unlatch him, then thanked them, and raced to the back where Al, Tesla and Jet were standing next to the jump suit, which was still in pieces.
Al gave Harry a searching look.
"I thought the weapons somehow triggered the response that threw me between timelines."
Al nodded and turned to Tesla, who had been jotting notes in a small tablet in his hands. "I think you're wrong, Harry. "
He held the tablet up. Harry squinted at the mathematical symbols on it.
"What's it mean?"
But the words that left his lips seemed hollow, empty, as if he were in some kind of deep echo chamber. He jerked his eyes towards Jet, who was reaching for him and then...
Harry was falling and falling. The rockets had failed. He would die if he couldn't fire up the engines. Finally, he did the only thing he had left for him to do, if he hoped to survive. He jettisoned himself.
He watched the jump suit smash into a building and explode, sending scores of storm troopers from their quarters to see what was going on.
And there Harry was, dangling from a parachute high above their heads, but plainly visible if any of them looked up.
"Harry!" Jet screamed.
Harry shook his head. Jet shook his body.
Harry snapped out of the vision he had been experiencing and realized he wasn't falling anymore.
Tesla wrote more notes in his tablet. "You were gone for..." He looked at his pocket watch. "Three seconds."
Harry let out a whoop of joy. He hugged Jet. "It worked. It worked!"
Al smiled comfortingly. "Yes. It did. Now..." He sighed, as he and Tesla exchanged glances. "We have to figure out why you are disobeying every law of physics known to man."
Jet patted Harry on his back. "That's because he's Rocketman."
Everyone laughed, except for Harry, who secretly wandered if someday he would be able to use the new knowledge and return. Return to the woman he had left behind. He had loved and was stricken from his life forever by a quirk in time.