A Time of Death
A Rocketman Story
By John Pirillo
He was determined to leave this fallen world behind. He could not fight for men who lived off the lives of other men...literally. America, the proud and once beautiful country he had loved with all his heart and fought in the war for, was gone forever here with little hope of it changing. He could only hope his one act of kindness left some kind of mark in this timeline, though he couldn't, at that moment, see how one man could make that much of a difference.
"Jet, I know you can't hear me, at least not the jet I know and love. I know you're far away in a place I no longer know how to reach, but even so, I want you to know that I won't give up until I return home again."
He grinned inside his Rocketman suit, a kind of grim smile. He didn't know if he would ever return home anywhere he knew as home anymore...he had already been in five different timelines, and only one of them was the one where America had won the war, and there he hadn't been allowed to stay long enough to be sure his friends and loved ones were still alive, but had instead been bounced midflight to home into another parallel timeline, the one he was seeking to escape now.
Tesla and Einstein had done their best to spare this tall American Captain more grief. They had adjusted the energy emitters on his flying suit numerous times, tweaking it and updating it, but every time they did so, the suit still got side locked into a new time continuum or one he had already visited. He was starting to grow a sense of helplessness towards his life, which he had to fight in the form of melancholy, stupor and the needs to escape.
Not a drinker by nature, he had even fallen, last time he had been with Jet, into guzzling beer like root beer. He had gotten so sick the next day he wanted to throw up his insides, but the night before he had forgotten about Nurse Betty and the efforts to beat the Nazis to the Atomic Bomb that Ike was spearheading.
"I'd say more, but I don't even know if this is any use anymore, other than to hear someone who makes sense...since no one else does anymore."
The atmosphere bled behind him and finally his arc brought him into orbit above the earth. Einstein had said his suit was capable of doing that, and this time he had found out, having no real interest in such flying before. He loved the idea of space travel, but only in so far as it came to movies like "Things to Come" with Raymond Massey, or "War of the Worlds," that really cool Martian invader film he had seen with Nurse Betty clutching his arm painfully on one side, and Jet laughing at the violence nervously on his left.
He remembered how he had watched it like a child seeing his first bike, thinking how fascinating it would be to meet aliens, creatures from another world. He no longer felt that thrill. There were enough aliens on his world.
"Penny for your thoughts, Harry." He laughed to himself, and then he gasped. Below his orbit the United States came into view. He knew the continent was no longer the once beautiful lands he had come to know and love, but if their peoples could see what he saw now, maybe some of their pride and dreams would return to them once more. But he had no way of sharing that with them. That was a journey they would have to make on their own, if they made any journey at all, he fell into a sour musing once more.
"Al, I'm going to do something stupid and I want you and Tes to know I appreciate everything you've done for me if this doesn't work. We know that somehow the emitters have some kind of erratic alignment with the 4th dimension of time and that is causing it to launch me into these parallel timelines. We also know it usually happens under extreme battle conditions when I'm pushing it to the limits."
He paused, considering his next words carefully, even if no one would ever hear them. He would hear them and that's what mattered now. Satisfied, he began. "I'm going to do a very, very stupid thing. The suit is so heavily armored with the force fields about it that most armaments don't have much impact on it, but what if the suit was to strike the earth...not from a mile up, or even ten miles...." He swallowed hard. "What if it were to strike the earth at full velocity?"
And at that moment he made up his mind finally and adjusted his controls. He aimed the Rocketman suit towards the American continent below. "I may not live there." He whispered in awe for a moment, then fiercely. "But I can at least find peace there."
He gave the Rocketman a goose and it flew sharply into the atmosphere again, gaining more and more speed as he gradually nursed the speed higher and higher. He didn't even bother to read the data flow on his helmet screen. It didn't matter anymore. This was either going to work or not. Either way, he would find home. Find peace.
Below on the plains of Arizona near Sedona, a lone refugee of the wars sat on a bluff looking up at the night skies. He gnawed at a prickly pear from a cactus that grew abundantly in that region. He was not a cannibal. He would rather die than have that happen. He wiped at the juices spilling over his lips. Ever since he had crashed his suit about ten miles from here, he had been fighting an urge to just give up and go back to where he had come from, but he resisted. He knew they must have given up by now. No one survives that kind of crash, not even in a Rocketsuit.
Captain Harry Jackson, of the USofA, sighed wearily. He had spent years resisting the overwhelming American forces, but known, as most that one day they would flood onto the continent of Europe and sweep like a hungry tide...which they truly were...into the Capitols of that empire and destroy all that was left of beauty and grace. But even that didn't bother him anymore, for the enemy was no worse or better than they themselves had become. War had not made their planet just hell, but intolerable for souls like his. He was meant to sail the skies like a bird, not sink to the depths like a rock.
He looked up, measuring the stars with sweeps of his tired eyes. He had stayed up later than usual, feeling the need to give some meaning to his absence in the war. Also, because he had heard the American forces nearing. They HAD learned about the crash site, and they were searching for him and the Rocketsuit. They would never find the Rocketsuit. He had used an emergency explosive to utterly destroy it, but they didn't know that and even if they found out, they'd have him and with him they would have what they needed to build their own.
Einstein and Tesla had not built the suit, but his father and him. His father was one of the first casualties of the war, but before he had left to go into battle in one of the first Rocketman suits, he had told Harry. "When war becomes the end goal in itself, then civilization has lost its way, its soul, Harry. Remember that, son!"
Harry had remembered it and even as he fought against the Americans, secretly he was planning for the time he could escape the clutches of the Chinese who had taken over Europe and their cronies from the Latin Americas. He sought a higher purpose. He missed Red. God! How he missed her, but he couldn't live with what he had become in the war and still keep his soul intact.
He was about to drift off to sleep when he heard a distant rumbling sound. At first he thought it was one of those monsoon-like storms that irritated the desert lands this time of year, sweeping swiftly across the sands and cacti, searing the desert with forks of lightning and the skies with blasts of light that could be seen for dozens of miles in every direction. It was spectacular and beautiful. At first he had thought the Americans had discovered him, but when he saw the barrage of lightning instead of mushrooming clouds, he knew it was Mother Nature, and not man disturbing his peace and tranquility.
But tonight was different. The bolts of lightning were not coming from above, but below. On the dusty plains that led to the bluff he sat upon. The bolts did not vanish as lightning might either, they froze in place. Stopped.
He got to his feet in alarm and quickly snuffed out the fire he had started. What a fool to think he wouldn't be found. That they wouldn't discover the remains of Rocketman he had buried as best he could in the thick patch of Cacti, cutting himself all over in his efforts to blindside them from finding him or the instrument they sought for their ongoing violence against humanity and decency.
He saw tiny figures get out of the battle wagons that had stopped with the troops they carried. They formed a defensive ring. He smiled. They still weren't certain if he was armed or not. They didn't realize he was powerless now. Just a half naked man trying to survive on the naked lands that God had made for him.
He dropped flat to his stomach and peered more closely from the bluff. Finished, circling, the troops were all dismounted from their vehicles and forming squadrons for the search that would spread out from there. The search that would surely find him. There really was only one direction for them to search and he knew that and when one of the soldiers gestured his direction, he knew they also knew that.
Then he and the ones below felt this series of thunderclaps from high above, like a series of detonations, one after the other, each successfully louder as if bombs were exploding in a perfect line towards them, reaching out to annihilate them.
He and the men below looked up.
A searing blast of light was arcing towards the desert floor, raging faster and faster against the burning grasp of the atmosphere as it accelerated in a death plunge towards the desert below. Harry gasped. It wasn't going to land near him, but near them. To be precise.
The soldiers finally understood and began scrambling to get away from the circle of battle wagons, leaping and pushing their way over each other and the vehicles. Most stumbling and falling while others leaped over or on them to try to reach safety in time. It was like watching a tiny army of ants racing to get away from a human's foot as it struck towards them. Hopeless and futile!
Harry threw an arm over his eyes as something brighter than the sun struck the desert floor. A small mushroom cloud of blazing forces and energies erupted from where the American Battle Wagons had stopped. When Harry lowered his arm, the Battle Wagons and men were gone, but a very strange thing was going on.
He dashed down the bluff's side, trying to avoid any rattlers slumbering on the path, cacti in his way and small stones, but his naked feet were torn and bleeding by the time he reached the edge of the blazing pit that had been made by the mysterious force from the skies. He had to stop a foot from the edge and even then his toes felt as if they might sear off from the heat they were exposed to. The center of the explosion was a boiling mass of energies and for a brief moment Harry could have sworn he saw himself on the other side of it, standing on a bluff, looking into the pit of energies from that direction.
The man was in a Rocketman suit. It had to be him. Everything about the frozen figure rang out as him, and only him. And when the helmet slid open to reveal the face. He knew the answer. It was him. Somehow he had saved himself.
He waved at the Harry on the other side of the roiling energies and smiled. Maybe there was hope for his world after all. Maybe fate had other designs in store for him. And that's when he began thinking about the second Rocketman suit that he and fellow rebels had hidden away in California.
Harry stood at the edge of the huge gulf in the ground his impact had created, wondering how he had survived such an impossible impact, but as the forces about his suit began to calm down, he recognized that it was more than his force field that had protected him. He had transitioned just a split second before impact, or maybe even during it. He wasn't sure. His brain had switched off for several moments. And then he had found himself switching off power and standing over the pit he had made, but not on the original side, but the other side.
That's when he saw himself. Standing near the pit looking at him as he was looking at that fellow. He was stunned for a long moment, then he released the helmet faceplate and it slid aside, revealing his face. He raised his hand to wave at the other man, who was also Harry. The other man seemed to take forever and then he also waved.
Harry got this strange feeling that he hadn't got the whole picture when he was in that timeline, that information had been withheld from him, but he also got the feeling that now he had left there was one person left, maybe two now, who could and would make a difference.
"Harry! You sonuva bitch, where are?" Jet screamed into his helmet.
Harry felt his heart lift. "Jet?"
"Jet, don't misunderstand me when I ask you a question."
"Are you Latino?"
A burst of laughter filled his head. "Yeah. And Ike's a Chinaman. Come one, Harry, what you been drinking since you've been gone, brother?"
He slid his faceplate back and looked to the skies. They didn't look so lonely anymore, and then he launched himself again, but this time he was going home.
He felt his eyes well up with moisture. But he didn't care. God, he didn't care.
Home! He was going home!
A new star shot across the Arizona desert that night and many Americans woke up startled and ran to their windows to look and then made a wish as the st