In the annals of history let it be said that one man can make a difference. That a man's heart and soul count for more than mere rockets and bombs, bullets and mortar shells. That one smile can bring a world of hate to its knees, and a world of light into life. --- Albert Einstein, World War Three
A burst of light. A symbol of hope spread across the heavens above Switzerland, dispersing the evil glows of the Nazi Thunder Blimps that girded the sky with what was to be hoped an impenetrable barrier of death and destruction.
Nazi Captains all turned their binoculars to follow the falling star, hoping to gain some kind of notice from their superiors instead of an early death for their inability to stop it from plunging through all their defenses as a knife cuts through butter.
The falling star rocketed towards Lake Lucerne and buried itself in the frigid waters in an explosion of mist and hot spray.
Soldiers and civilians out late in the village of Lucerne all turned to look, expecting an explosion to follow, or something worse. But instead, the waters stopped boiling, and then settled down. Even the geese and ducks, that had been frightened off in a massive evacuation begin circling back to rest again in their nooks beside the rocks of the lake.
Unseen by all a blue halo of light shot across the bottom of the lake, only spotted by the sharp eyes of an old fisherman who was also an agent for the Resistance. He tapped his collar, spoke into it, then spit into the lake, and continued to fish.
On the mountain behind him, a secret entrance began to roll up and out, and at the same time a blue halo of light burst from the lake near the forest shrouded edges and rocketed towards the entrance. Soldiers poised warily along the edges of the entrance, praying for the best, but uncertain what was approaching.
Then Rocketman arched up, and landed at the entrance.
Battle weary and just plain tuckered out, Rocketman stepped out of his suit to the cheers of his friends and fellow warriors. Captain Harry Jackson was finding it harder and harder to separate his own identity from that of the rocket suit he flew on missions. Good or bad, it was what was happening, but at that moment, when he saw the faces of so many he had never thought to see again, his heart stopped pounding in his chest and leapt into his throat.
Jet ran up and gave him a huge hug. "You're back. About time. Who gave you permission to go AWOL, Harry?"
Harry burst into laughter, wiping at tears in his face as the others ran up and began pumping his hand, slapping his back with congratulations and making him feel wanted and relieved to be back home. But he was still wary. He had been to so many different timelines. Some of them were so close to the original at first glance, then dangerously different upon closer examination.
"When's the last time Al put a frog in your bath tub?" Harry asked Jet, waiting for an answer he wasn't sure he was going to get.
Everyone dropped into silence, and then a voice from behind Harry said. "Just last night, but I try to not make a habit of it. And last time was two weeks ago after you decided to rush off to dance down with the Swiss miss."
Harry almost wept for joy.
He swung around and clasped Al to his chest. "God! How I've missed all of you!
Al's eyes were lit up with humor. "Then you won't mind letting go before you miss me permanently."
"Sorry." Harry said, letting go.
He turned back to Jet, who quickly hid a hanky he had been using to dry his own eyes.
"We've got a lot to talk about."
"I bet we do." Jet said, and then nodded to Al.
Al stepped around. "Harry, there's something you should know."
Harry gave them both a quizzical look.
Then they both parted, grinning like Cheshire cats. "Harry!" A girl's voice cried out.
Nurse Betty came running down a corridor of Techs, Soldiers, and Al and Jet to wrap her arms around him and kiss him over and over. He was stiff at first, conscious of everyone watching and then. "Oh Hell!" He blurted out and lifted her up into his arms and kissed her hard.
A barrage of applause and laughter lit the interior of the bunker.
"Roll 'Em!" Jet ordered.
The bunker doors rolled back into place, giving the hidden bunker an appearance of being nothing more than stone and moss.
Jet, Nurse Betty and Harry sat up all night talking. Harry would talk about what had happened to him. Al would join them, take notes, then leave. They would talk some more. Al would come back with fresh coffee and doughnuts. They would eat and drink, then talk some more. It was a long and joyful night for Harry.
In the end Jet sprawled asleep on one bunk, Harry on the other, with Nurse Betty squiggled against him, her head on his chest. Al sat there a long time watching the three, interpreting the notes Harry had given him and the ones he had taken. Much to discuss with Tesla and the others. Much that made sense and much that was frightening.
Finally, he laid a blanket over Jet, then Harry and Nurse Betty, lit a new pipe, and then exited a happy, but tired smile on his face.
Harry woke up to the sound of light snoring and smiled. He couldn't' believe his luck. Then he heard a second and louder snore. He opened his eyes and saw Jet sprawled out on the other bunk, snoring like a steam shovel out of control.
He disengaged himself from Nurse Betty's arms, and then slipped outside to the commissary where Al and Tesla were having coffee and bacon and eggs for breakfast.
"Join us, Harry." Tesla suggested.
Harry went to the food counter, selected a tray, put a coffee mug on it, two packets of sugar, and three doughnuts, eight bacon and eggs and a stack of pancakes and one waffle, plus three French toast. He sat down and began to dig in.
The two men watched him eat in silence, their eyes wide with amazement.
"Remember when we used to be able to do that without busting out in our guts?" Tesla asked.
"I don't remember a time when I could not bust out in my gut from eating that much."
He shoved his empty plate back and eyed the counter where more doughnuts were being laid out.
"Go ahead, Harry. There's plenty of time to make small talk." Al suggested.
Harry went back. He put three doughnuts on a plate, then shrugged and pushed them all on his plate. He refilled his mug, poured some coffee in it this time and returned to the table.
Al and Tesla both snatched a doughnut.
"Spoils of war." Tesla said between bites.
Al just crinkled up into a smile, and said nothing.
A moment later Jet slammed into a chair between everyone and reached for the doughnuts. "I like your choice of breakfasts, guys."
Harry smiled. "Hey!
"Oh, yours, huh. Good I didn't want to hurt Al or Tesla's feelings." Jet grabbed three more from the stack and began eating.
Tesla leaned across the table. "When you translined as you called it. Did you get any unusual readings on your sensors?"
"Actually, I did."
He grabbed a napkin, Jet's pen..."Hey!" Jet cried out and Al's tobacco pouch. "Hey!" Al cried out.
Harry dumped the tobacco on the napkin, and then began stirring it into a pattern.
Al was about to grumble about his tobacco when his eyes caught what Harry was trying to communicate. He looked to Tesla, who looked as excited as a little boy.
Both men got up and hurried off.
Harry sat back. "I thought I'd never get rid of them."
Jet laughed. "Harry's back!"
Jet stopped laughing. "Harry, aren't you going to ask me how she got here?"
"Why should he?" Nurse Betty jumped in as she sat down and reached for a doughnut, yawned, then grabbed a napkin to put the doughnut on. "He's a big boy. He can figure it out."
Harry looked at her. "You look..."
"You would too after all I've seen." She told him.
The bunker she was in with Eisenhower and his staff was deep beneath the London Bridge. The British had built it prior to World War Two as a place to secure the royal treasury and their top secret weapons both. It could only be reached by several shafts that went miles deep in the earth.
Eisenhower and his staff had felt the bunker they were hidden in shudder.
Nurse Betty had been serving them coffee when it happened. She dropped her tray and let out a startled yelp.
Eisenhower stood up and took his cap off and bowed his head. "We must pray for those who no longer live."
She gave him a fearful look, and bowed her head.
Three days later Nurse Betty had been secreted from the bunker along with Einstein and the brightest of his men. The rest stayed to create the Resistance, which Harry would later on join in the future once Hitler's power over the world was cemented.
Eisenhower looked at her. His eyes stern, but soft and gentle at the same time. "Harry is lost to us. You know that."
She nodded, feeling tears start to turn from the corners of her eyes.
He put a hand on her arm. "But if you are brave, there may be a way for you to find him."
He took her and his men on a ride in a B-52 bomber, escorted by what remained of the British Air Force. As they rose above London she could see that it was mostly a smoking crater now. They passed over France and she saw the melted Eiffel Tower. It was the same across Europe, wherever the West had stood up to Hitler. Smashed and destroyed by nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
"They got them first." He had told her, his eyes filled with sorrow for all the lives lost. "But we shall not be defeated." He clenched his hands into fists.
They flew for several more hours, and then landed in a secret base in the Swiss Alps. The bomber was destroyed in the landing and swiftly removed from view and hidden beneath huge camouflage nets.
Eisenhower brought her to the shelter there. He took her through a long corridor that ended in a brilliant white room. Einstein stood there with Teller and several other scientists of enormous intellect and ingenuity. Einstein turned and beckoned to her.
She went to him. "The General informs me you are willing to search for Harry. This is so?"
She nodded swiftly.
He smiled. "Then let me show you and the General a little something I have worked up."
He led them into a side room where brilliant lights spotlighted a Rocket suit. Designed for a smaller person.
Harry took Nurse Betty's hands in his and pressed them. "You were very brave. They never guaranteed you would find me, did they?"
She shook her head, tears forming. "No and I never gave up, no matter what...what..." She began to weep seriously. "Horrors I saw or experienced. Oh Harry, Harry!" She sobbed.
He gathered her into his arms and held her.
Jet got up. "I think I got an appointment with Einstein or something."
He grinned and took off.
Harry rose and Nurse Betty rose with him.
Outside on the mountainside Nurse Betty and Harry sat side by side in the traditional pose of lovers across the eons. Her head on his chest, his eyes on the stars.
"Someday this will all come together for the world. There will be peace again."
Flashes of light smashed into his helmet, blinding him, as he continued to accelerate. His suit was badgering him to slow down, with multiple warning lights firing up. He didn't care. He wanted to go home. He'd had enough of this time stream. He kicked with his feet, as if that might propel him faster. He didn't bother to look at his speed. He knew it didn't matter. When the transline effect kicked in it was usually at the unpredictable moments, when his suit was failing, explosive situations, and now he knew it was somehow connected to his emotional outlook.
He had been blasted back and forth through time, from World War Two to World War Three where the Nazi Empire ruled supreme. He had lost the only woman he loved and found a new love in the future. He had been shot down and wounded, frozen and revived, then armed with a powerful suit of armor that ancient medieval knights would have considered to have godlike powers. But none of that mattered. Wars seemed to be the norm in all the translines he had traveled to and through. Maybe there were places where mankind had learned to get along, but he hadn't found one, or at least been thrown into one.
He didn't want to be Superman. Exiled from his dying world and trying to make up for his loss by nurturing another civilization. He wasn't the Superman type. He was just an air force pilot who got drafted to fly an armored suit that flew faster than sound. So? Science was great. He had great pals in Einstein, Edison and Tesla, but he would have given his right leg or arm to be back in the world of war he had left behind. Where his lost love probably still waiting for him and he would never arrive.
Or would he not?
Lately, he had begun to wonder if the transline was shipping other versions of him to the time streams he left to take up his position. When he talked with Jet about it on the first timeline, Jet didn't think so, because no one had shown up when he had translined into the alternate Nazi future, where Hitler ruled as a disembodied brain. So if not that one, maybe others? Maybe there was no rhyme or reason to him and his friend, but maybe there was a greater force. God or whatever...some kind of guiding intelligence that was using him as a knight on its gigantic board of chess to equalize the worlds in turmoil.
If so, he wished they would mind their own business. Once more he felt his heart tug at being so negative, but he meant it. He wanted out!
So he had no intentions of slowing down.
His suit began to cool down again as he continued to accelerate, the warning lights and sensors dimming again, but he had no intention of stopping.
Again, his helmet was splashed with unearthly bursts of light and color. Was he translining? Was he transferring to a new timeline, or returning to his original?
He opened his eyes when the lights dimmed again and saw that he was heading straight for the moon and that it was growing larger and larger. Then he dared to look at his speed. He closed his eyes, blinked twice, and then looked again. Impossible! He was not just going faster than the speed of sound; he was traveling faster than any missile ever constructed. He was certain he had already broken free of the Earth's gravitational pull, once he began spotting isolated chunks of rock...meteorites...in low orbit, but weren't falling into atmosphere.
Einstein had called it the perfect balance between gravity and the sun. The earth's pull and the Sun's gravitational pull. He hadn't invented a name for it, so he called it the Meridian Belt, the spot where Earth's gravity no longer pulled anything down, but also, nothing was pulled away.
He was tempted to see if the theory held and he would just float there in the Belt, but his determination to free himself of the barbaric future that lay on the Earth below was too powerful. Yes, he could have stayed like the older Rocketman he had left behind. And maybe the two of them could have made a difference. Maybe the American he spared would remember that not all Americans were cannibals and ruthless murderers. Maybe a tiny spark of rebellion would be planted in his soul, and America could possibly change over the years. He didn't know. He didn't have the patience to find out. If he was stuck there as the other Rocketman, maybe yes then. The other had made his choice. He acted determined. But Harry could tell the man had a great deal of remorse for his choice, probably remembers the woman and friends he had lost because of the choice, even as Harry now felt.
"Okay, Baby!" Harry sweet talked his Rocketman suit. "Let's see what you're really made of!" Harry gave the suit ever ounce of power it had and it had a lot. Usually, he kept it restrained at about five percent power levels. Now he raised it to the maximum. As he did so the tremendous force of the acceleration caused him to black out at the same time as every warning sensor and sound in his suit went berserk!
"Under no conditions, Harry." Al told him, seated in his classic pose of pipe in one hand and leg crossed over the other, his fuzzy hair flying in orbit above his eyebrows. "Under none whatsoever are you to ever unleash the full force of your power unit."
Harry grinned at Al, egging him on, teasing the old man...who at thirty something was getting ancient in Harry's eyes. "Afraid of me coming back as a milkshake?"
Al didn't bite. "No. Afraid of you becoming one with the universe!" He made a gesture of boom with his hands, and then waited for Harry to respond.
Harry had gotten a cold chill when Al demonstrated what happened.
"Hey tap toes!" Jet greeted Harry with his favorite tease, dropping at the table next to Al and Harry, hugging a mug of coffee between his strong hands. "What's up, brothers?"
Al's eyes twinkled. "We were just discussing my new theory...E=MCSquared."
"Oh, isn't that the one where everything turns to atoms?"
"Oh, much smaller than that." Al explained with an amused look on his face. He got up and sauntered off, not looking back or saying goodbye.
"Smart man, but lacking in social graces." Jet noted.
"Not really." Harry rebutted. "Just got a lot of jets blasting at the same time."
Jet gave Harry a narrow eyed look of suspicion. "You been sniffing his tobacco when no one's looking?"
Harry gave Jet a blank look.
Jet's eyes widened. "You didn't know?"
"The old man..." He made gestures of someone smoking pot.
Harry laughed. "You're nuts, Jet. He hates those kinds of things. He won't even touch beer, let alone anything stronger."
"Yeah. Now you know why I think he gets jazzed, Harry."
Harry laughed. "You're impossible!"
Harry smiled. "And you love every minute of it. Without me, you wouldn't know who to pick on or insult. And who would let you go out with their girlfriends but me?"
"Oh yeah. Like that's really a gesture of kindness. I have to patch them back together again after you break their hearts."
Jet winks. "Must be fun trying though."
Harry shook his head. Stars swam in his vision. Billions of them!
"Harry you're getting that far away look again." Jet blurted out, worried for his friend.
"Stars. Millions and millions of them." Harry answered, trying to wave his hands through them to see if they would move or alter in some way.
"Harry, you're really starting to worry me!"
"Jet, can't you see them?" Harry pleaded. "Even you are made of stars!"
Harry looked at Jet and his body appeared to be galaxies of shining stars.
"AL!" Jet screamed. "AL! Then everything turned into a blazing tunnel of stars that Al and Tesla were racing through to Harry. He waved at them and then said. "You're too late, guys. But nice try."
"It's all right, Baby. It's all right." Nurse Betty told him, holding his head in her lap, where he lay on the concrete floor of the secret bunker. His Rocketman suit was discarded to the right, smoking as if it had caught on fire.
Harry knew better. He had flown through stars. And stars and stars!
"You're home, Baby!" She cried, her eyes filled with tears.
He reached a hand up, not believing it had worked. His fingers trembled as they touched her moist cheeks. "Betty?"
"Boop to you." She joked, and then burst into more tears.
He tried to sit up, and then groaned from the effort.
"It's all right, Baby. You don't have to move. You don't have to fly anymore. Just stay with me. Everything will be all right." She promised, kissing his cheeks with tear moist lips. "I promise you'll never have to go out there and fight again. Ever and ever and ever."
"And ever?" He said with a grin, which somehow felt incredibly painful.
"And ever!" She said with finality.
Jet came running over where Harry lay and scooted close. "Harry, you old bag of bones. Where the hell have you been all these years?"
Harry smiled weakly. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. "Everywhere. Nowhere. In the stars!"
Jet touched Harry gently across his chest, pressing his palms over that of Nurse Betty's. Then Harry realized his chest was where the hurting was coming from. More and more. He made a face and stared up at his love and his best friend. "I guess I didn't make it after all, did I?"
"What are you talking about, you lousy Joe!" Jet screamed, and then lowered his voice. "I'm sorry, Harry, you just got me a bit wound up is all. Everything's fine. Fine!"
Harry looked at Betty and her eyes answered his questions. "I didn't make it."
She shook her head. "No, you made it, Harry. All the way back home. All the way!"
Harry closed his eyes. "I think I can rest now."
"Harry!" Betty shrieked.
"It's been a long time since I've really rested." Harry said a little more weakly.
"Hang in there, Harry, helps on the way!"
"I love you guys!" Harry said with his last breath.
Nurse Betty cried against Jet's shoulder as Harry's body was marched past with the highest of military honors. Behind were the remains of Rocketman, also carried with full honors. An American Flag was draped over both bodies.
Al stood before an open grave.
Everyone at the base was there. It was night. No one wanted to give away their position with so many exposed like they were, but tonight they were taking that chance. Even the grunts who manned the anti-aircraft artillery were there, hats over their hearts.
Jet looked around the somber scenario, noting that there wasn't a dry eye there. It was hard to see them clearly though, because his own eyes were blurred with tears. Betty shrieked again in anguish, wrenching at his chest. He held her closer. She needed the comfort of his arms now. Now that...
"Harry!" Jet whispered as the body was lowered into the grave.
"I will always remember you, pal!" He said a bit more loudly.
Al stepped before the grave when Harry's body was deposited, opened a small journal to read from. "I was going to make up something wise and spiritual to read to you. Maybe a piece from the old bible, but when I found this and read it, I thought it said everything.
He began to read. "I am really going to miss having all my friends and family of friends around me when my time comes to go into the Big Beyond with that Giant Palooka in the sky. I just hope that when the time comes, you'll all forgive me for the stupid jokes and tacky remarks I made sometimes...well actually..." Al looks up. "...That was Jet who did that, but I feel somehow responsible for the monster I created."
Jet broke into sobs and shook his head.
Al continued. "I want you all to know that no matter what happens. To keep fighting the good fight. There are people out there depending on us. I love you all, you jerks! Harry!"
The ceremony was deathly silent for several minutes, and then everyone began working their way back to the entrance of the bunker.
Jet and Betty were the last to leave.
Jet suddenly whirled around, grabbing for his sidearm. "Did you hear that?"
Betty gave him a scared look. "What?"
"Like someone laughing."
Jet listened, but heard nothing more. Finally, he took Betty's arm and they headed back into the bunker, whose huge doors silently closed.
A man stood in the shadows of the nearby trees. He watched them enter the bunker, and then stepped out to look at the fresh graves of Harry and the Rocketman suit. He grinned. "So that's what it's going to be like."
He laughed again, and then turned. Harry smiled. "I'm coming for you, pals. I'm coming for you!"
He exited into the woods.
Several night owls screeched in alarm as an armored suit soared into the atmosphere, leaving a freakish light show behind it as it lifted higher and higher.
Harry sucked in a deep breath as he shot higher and higher into the atmosphere. The blues of the skies gradually began to darken and the stars overhead transitioned from blurry blobs of light to sharp pinpricks of hard light that dotted the heavens so thickly it looked like a vast carpet of illuminated lights plowed across the skies. He adjusted the temperature in his suit again. As he rose the air became colder. Fortunately, his gear was not flame bound, or he would have fallen from the arc he had struck from the cold beach he had left behind.
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