"The Last Rocketman." A terrifying view of the future that might have been. The future that still could be. And the courage to face it!
The Last Rocketman
"A Rocketman Story"
By John Pirillo
He stood at the top of Mount Everest, his rocket suit shining a metallic green in the harsh light of the dusk. He was exhausted, beaten up and weary. He had done as much as any one man could ever be expected to accomplish. And yet it hadn't been enough. He still wasn't able to stem the tide of evil sweeping across the world and slowly, but surely stomping on every spot of Light that remained unblemished by the virus of hatred led by Hitler and his regime.
What had gone wrong?
What had he done then, that he could have done differently?
"Jet! I'm getting a very strange reading."
"What's new?" Jet's voice rang in his ears from the inserted receivers.
"No. I mean...really, really strange."
Harry adjusted his altitude and attitude controls, leveling out after his rocketing plunge from the stratospheric heights...his usual ploy to remain unseen until the last possible moment before he attacked his targets. For some reason the targets were getting harder to spot, and faster in eluding him. That wasn't a good thing.
"That isn't a good thing." Jet echoed his thoughts.
"What? Oh yeah. Right!" Harry answered, his eyes focusing on the blurry blip before him. He adjusted his altitude and again plunged deeper into the lower strata of clouds that still veiled the American skies. There were more clouds these days since Hitler had nuked Las Vegas. The one town he had left untouched, even though he had taken out Nellis and Area 51 decades before in his initial attack. He had saved the nukes for the larger cities. Evidently some of his generals had convinced the Fuehrer that gambling was a waste of bombs.
"I see something." Harry hollered, not meaning to.
"Easy on the ear drums, Harry. Remember. You're right in my brain."
"What you see?"
Harry swept through the final layer of clouds over the Mojave Desert and then almost wet his pants at what he saw. Huge towering constructions of metal and highly polished mirrors that stood dozens of stories into the air. The whole complex he was reading was off the charts.
"They've got some kind of weird energy structure built."
"Tez it back to me."
Harry nudged the Tez camera and shots of the desert structures began to line up on Jet's screen back at the base. Einstein and Tesla eyed them solemnly. "They've managed to do it."
"Do what?" Jet almost hollered at them, totally confused by the odd looking structures.
Einstein leaned over Jet's mike. "Harry, you've got to take them out. Now!"
"What are they, Al?" Harry's voice rang throughout the base.
Everyone was watching what he saw through his external Tez on huge screens about the interior of the base. When Harry fought, everyone supported him in prayer and anticipation, because the war effort hinged on whatever he did next. It had come to that.
"Your worst nightmare...and mine." Einstein almost gasped.
Jet looked at him. Al looked back and shook his head. "I'm all right. Chest cold."
Al leaned closer to the mike. "Harry, if those are activated they will create a screen of energies over America which are impenetrable to anything we have. We won't be able to pursue them there anymore."
"I assume they must be doing the same on the other continents." Harry sighed.
"Count on it." Tesla barged in, grabbing the mike.
"See the central tower?"
Harry angled his helmet to glance to his right. "Loud and clear."
"It's the one you must take down for certain. It's the power hub."
"Are you sure?" Harry asked. "I don't see any soldiers around that tower at all."
"It's a trick, Harry." Tesla blasted. "You know they're good for that."
"But what if their trick is to leave the real thing guarded, not the one that isn't."
"It has to be the power hub. The rest of the towers are too diminished. They have to be the ones that feed the energy screen once the power is added."
Harry shook his head as best he could in his helmet. "I have a bad feeling about this."
"You always do, Harry." Jet kidded.
"Suppose." Harry acknowledged. "But something stinks to Nazi hell about this."
Harry sent his suit into a sweeping arc of the complex. As he did he was able to see the complex better, weigh the positions of the guards. "They do look pretty nervous. The guards. I would too if I were standing in front of machines about to blast the skies with mega joules of power."
Al took the mike back. "Harry, you've got to take out the large tower. It has to be the source of power."
Tesla took the mike away from Al. "No. It's the smaller ones. Leave the larger one be. Take out as many of the smaller structures as you can."
Jet looked at the two scientists, took the mike away from Al. "Harry, this has to be your call."
Harry began to sweat profusely, even though the interior of his suit was a cool seventy degrees. "This really, really stinks."
"Okay. Al I'm going to take out the big tower."
Harry launched towards the larger structure. He let go with a barrage of his hand missiles. Below Nazi Storm Troopers looked up at the sound of the approaching rockets. Then they looked towards the large tower. As the missiles struck it, there were no explosions. The large tower shimmered for a moment and the missiles passed through it.
"Harry, get out of there. Get out of there now!" Jet screamed at him.
Harry lit his rockets and shot upwards in arc of power.
Even as he did the smaller structures began to light up one by one, like Christmas tree lights. The soldiers below rushed away from the structures they had been sent to guard and turned to look, cheering and triumphant as the towers spewed massive forces of energy that gathered together in a swirling funnel, vortex of massive energies that slowly expanded upwards and outwards.
"Come on, baby!" Harry coaxed his suit, giving it everything he had as his rear Tez showed him the inverted bowl of energies flaming upwards towards him.
"Jet. Calm down. Worst that can happen is that I'll get stuck here. This suit can handle anything."
"No Harry." Al hollered, taking the mike. "It'll fry every electronic in your suit. You'll fall like the dead piece of metal you'll become."
"Damn, don't go easy on me, Al. I gotta enough to handle." Harry spouted comically.
Then beneath his breath. "Come on, baby. Come on!"
Sheaths of furious energies closed in on Harry as his rocket suit climbed higher and higher. "You didn't tell me those things could reach into the stratosphere!"
"We didn't know. Till now." Al told him.
Harry looked behind him and the energies were hot on his heels and closing fast.
He felt the heat of them through his suit, even with the cooling now turned up sky-high. He kicked at the air beneath him, as if that would help, and then grinned. "Idiot!"
"Not you guys! Me!"
Harry angled his suit and gave it full power towards the rapidly rising curtains of energy that threatened to engulf him.
"What the hell are you doing, Harry?"
"Playing out a hunch!"
Harry gathered speed. The glare of the waves of energy smote his eyes so powerfully that he had to raise the sunshield to protect his eyes. Even so, he could barely see. He eyed his sensors. "Closing in fast."
"Harry turn around. You'll fry!"
Harry did what was probably the most stupid thing he had ever done in his life. He fired his hand missiles into the conflagration about to overwhelm him. For just the briefest of moments as the missiles exploded, the energy bubble wavered.
Rocketman burst through the narrow opening and shot across the skies beneath the flaming canopy of catastrophic forces.
Harry swiped the sweat on his face with an invisible hand that did absolutely nothing to get it off his face, but he still relaxed. "It worked, Jet."
Harry frowned, and then realized he was cut off.
He did the only sane thing he could at that point. He headed for the Pacific. Maybe the shield didn't go deep. He could.
Harry stood on the top of Mount Everest. From there he could see the towering, overarching shields of energy that enveloped Asia, Europe and the Americas. They were so large and massive and so bright and terrible that not even daylight could hide their horrible magnificence.
The Nazis had done it. They had finally won the war.
There was no way he could effectively stop them now. The continents were sealed. He had managed to escape beneath the dome over the Americas, hoping to return the same way, but soon afterwards the Nazi Command had extended the dome to include at least ten miles of offshore sea as well.
He was permanently and effectively locked out of America, Europe and Asia.
There was nothing more he could do.
He couldn't even speak to his friends in the Alps.
He stood on the peak of Mount Everest, storms of snow blasting around him and didn't care. There had to be something he could do. Something he could do to change this horrible course of history.
For there would be no more Rocketman. He knew his friends. He knew their abilities. His suit was the last one they could build with the resource they had. The jump suits didn't have enough reach and would run out of power once they were unable to secure more supplies from the Americas. This was now. This day.
The resistance was over.
Sure, there would still be pockets of resistance. But inevitably, they would be crushed.
He rubbed at his eyes in a futile gesture, but his armored hands could only thunk the hardened glass of his faceplate.
Alone, like a Superman cast off from Krypton, he stood on Mount Everest, again and again trying to figure out what he could have done differently. Then he heard this weird sound. He turned around and looked up. It was Rocketman! Arching down from above, blasting way merrily on its twin thrusters of powerful forces.
"How?" He asked.
Then a voice rang in his ears. "You're not the last Rocketman, you big jerk! Stop thinking with your emotions and use your brains!"
Then the second Rocketman, the one that should not have existed, vanished as if it had never been there.
Harry stared at the empty skies a long time, his Rocketman suit pounded by the almost hurricane force of the winds and snow about him. He finally looked towards the horizon where the glowing domes lit up the skies.
The last Rocketman?
He grinned. "I don't think so!"
He raised his arms and shot up into the sky, accelerating faster and faster. He remembered now. What he had tucked back into the interior of his subconscious. There was a way. A way to get back. To change things.
He shot upwards, higher and higher.
He had tested the theory one other time and it hadn't worked. But then he had chosen the situation and it hadn't been a true risk of his life. This time it was. Whenever he was in mortal danger. About to die, the timelines blurred and he was translated into an alternate timeline. It was his one and only chance.
He took it.
He arced around and shot like the rocket he was towards the nearest of the huge domes of energy. "Well, Harry, no one lives forever!" He cried out as he shot at the nearest of the domes at a speed that broke the sound barrier over and over.
Jet laid down his hand, grinning at Harry, while Al smiled from his side of the table and Tesla from his. They were playing poker. "I win!"
He had three aces and two kings.
Harry slammed down his cards. "You're cheating!"
Jet spread his hands calmly. "Since when have I ever had to cheat at anything, Harry?"
Al stood up and then Tesla.
"Good night, gentleman." Al said, and then exited towards the right, tapping his pipe on his coat sleeve as he walked away.
Tesla swept his chips into a hand and pocketed them. He looked to Jet. "Tomorrow night?"
Tesla nodded to him, then to Harry and rushed to catch up to Al, whom he put an arm around his shoulder.
Harry heard them both laughing and gave them an angry scowl.
"Harry! Lighten up! It's not like you're facing death or anything."
Harry froze for a moment, the flash of huge columns of flaming energy burning in his vision, and just as quickly as the vision flared, it vanished. He let go of his anger. "Sorry, it's just the stress catching up, I think."
Jet swiped all his chips into his hat, and then stood. "Spoken like the man you truly are. Have a good one, Harry."
He strode off, leaving Harry pondering the meaning of his vision for a long time. Finally, Harry also rose. He yawned. "It's been a long day." So saying, he headed for his room. Enough thinking. Enough...everything!
Below the dome a Nazi WarWing was roaring towards its destination. The co-pilot excitedly pointed upwards. "Something's striking the dome!"
The pilot looked and shook his head. "Probably another one of those meteorites."
The co-pilot nodded. "Nothing could ever pass through those monstrosities. Not even us."
They both laughed.
The Nazi War Wing banked and headed for its destination, the lone disruption of the shield above forgotten and filed away as just another meteorite strike.
It was their first and final mistake as a barrage of missiles stroke their WarWing and it exploded.
Rocketman shot through the exploding debris of the demolished plane and headed for the Pacific on a mission to return home.
Death and Destruction
"A Rocketman Story"
By John Pirillo
He was taking a pounding that's for sure. The swashes were beating the hell out of him and he wasn't able to do a thing about it as long as his power pack was recharging. A couple dozen more charges of their hammer guns and it was all over.
How in God's name had he gotten stuck in the missionary position to the merciless bastards pounding his suit into atoms?
"A swash is a slang term for Nazi foot soldiers." Einstein told him as he sat at the edge of the cliff overlooking Lake Lucerne.
"Beautiful view, pops."
Al ignored his tease and went on. "The tropes are the super swash, genetically enhanced super soldiers capable of pounding you into the ground with one fist behind their back."
"I wonder if they still sell raspberry chocolate down there."
Al ignored this comment as well. "The zoms are civilians who have had their minds wired to remove all sense of self. They are still whole beings, but no longer in control of their senses. That is why we try not to kill them whenever possible. Instead we try to turn them."
Harry turned to eye Al, who was tamping his pipe onto the rock beside him, and reloading from a pack he pried from his jacket.
"Zoms are nominally still human people, just altered so that they have no control over their own body."
"A term I picked up..." Harry paused, trying to remember where he had heard it, and then shrugged. "From somewhere...somewhen."
Al nodded in a kind of fatherly way, and then scooted closer to Harry, examining his eyes. "The time dilation still hasn't worn off."
"Tell me about it. I feel like a taco turned inside out."
Harry turned to Al. "You really need to get out more."
Al laughed, and then tapped Harry on his right knee with his pipe stem. "Your next mission is critical. You must not harm the Zoms, even if they block your way to completing the mission. If it comes to it, you have to turn back."
"What if they're about to kill me?"
Al was silent.
Harry sighed and took a deep breath. "Life sure sucks sometimes, doesn't it?"
"Now that..." Al smiled. "That I understand."
Harry sighted the landing position in the cross hairs of his scope and began banking his rocket suit in that direction. He hadn't seen a single Swash jet since he had entered lower Lithuania, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your sensibilities. He took a quick suck off his water stem, then clicked it shut and eyed the landing trigger. It was square on. He initiated thrusters and his suit slowed, then turned in a quick arc and landed him on his feet. He bent somewhat to absorb the impact, leaving a deep groove in the pavement he had landed on.
"Glad that was you and not me." He told the pavement, and then headed for the rendezvous point. He was meeting with a resistance leader, a pretend Zom, who was known to be faulty by the Swash, but ignored as long as he continued to do his job, which was loading and unloading weapons.
Harry's job. Rocketman's job was to make sure that loading and unloading came to a quick and timely end. The Allieds were mounting a quick thrust into the region in an effort to sweep out all the Zoms and return them to their own control, so they could join the resistance, which was spreading across Europe, however slowly.
Harry dreaded sometimes the work he did, because it kept him from returning to America, where the brain of Hitler ran everything. New Nazi New York it was called. The skyscrapers, the Empire State Building and the Monarch Building were now the headquarters for the Nazi party in America, which now led the war on the rest of the world.
When America fell during the last days of World War Two, it had ushered in a long period of subjugation and experimentation by the Fourth Reich, the reborn Nazis, led by a brain only Hitler, who lived through a robotic counterpart. It was Harry's determination to end that body that drove him on every mission in this alternate timeline.
Sometimes he missed the real timeline, but these days he wasn't so sure any timeline was real anymore than the other. No matter which one he lived in, he was getting shot at, battered and bruised, and the love of his life was dead.
But funny enough, the person he missed the most, was Jet, who had survived in the first timeline to be his best buddy and helper, but in this one, somehow didn't exist.
Harry parked his rocket suit inside the designated building, and then headed for the meeting place.
"Raspberry." Harry whispered in the ruins of what was once a beautiful church, its gothic spires marred by bullets and bombs, its beautiful stained glass windows shattered, its pews broken and scattered across the interior of the once magnificent structure.
"Chocolate." Came the counter answer.
Harry grinned, and stepped forward, and then as he lifted his hand to shake with the other person, he almost had a heart attack. It was Jet!
The person facing him gave him a blank look. "Who is that man?" He turned to see if he had been betrayed by Harry, someone hiding in the shadows perhaps.
Harry's emotions battered him. "Don't you know who I am? Your best friend. Your battering ram. Your personal line of envy."
Jet, a tall and well muscled black man, with deep brown eyes and a face marred by a slight scar on the left side of his neck frowned. "I've never seen you before in my life."
Harry didn't see the scar at first, but when Jet turned to look to his right, he did. Harry tensed. A Zom! Then he relaxed. Of course he was. He was an underground Zom, one who the rewiring had failed in.
"Where's your suit, Captain?"
Harry ignored the question and came closer, looked into Jet's eyes. The man stood stock still, as if frozen in place for a moment, and then he backed up. "I need to see the suit."
"Why would you need to do that?" Harry asked, his worry radar going full blast now. Something didn't pickle right in his brain. He gave Jet a closer examination. "The man I met was supposed to have a scar on the left side of his neck. Yours is on the right."
Harry ran for the exit of thee building, just as ten Swash entered, carrying their hammer guns ready to fire. Harry dove out a stained glass window that had been shattered to his right, and landed on his back, rolling to his feet. In seconds he launched himself swiftly towards the hiding place of his suit.
He felt, rather than heard the hammer guns fire. Their weaponry was so powerful that it fused the air about him, causing the skin closest to the blasts to blister from the intensity of the heat caused by their searing beams of energy.
He dove to his right, then threw himself into a cellar, crawled swiftly across it as quietly as possible, then levered himself to another window, and crawled out. He looked round, listened a moment, hearing nothing, he ran towards his hiding place. He reached it, just as the sound of alarms rang out and Swash lanced the air about him with their hammer guns. He landed inside the hiding place in a ball, rolled to a stop at the foot of his suit, then climbed inside of it. He clamped it shut, sealing it against the outside, then turned it around to exit.
That was when a trope stormed into the building and landed a hammer like punch to Harry's helmet. Harry stumbled backward and with the weight of the suit so great, he couldn't maintain his balance. He fell onto his back, just as the swash burst inside.
"The Fuehrer wants the Rocketman alive." The trope ordered, and then grinned. "But he didn't say in what condition...alive."
Stunned by the blow still, Harry shook his fog away and launched a mini-rocket into the midst of the swash, blowing up half of them, but the rest plowed through the death and destruction, trailing guts and blood, then dove on him and began pummeling him.
He could no longer move, or resist. Several of them had placed some kind of magnetic clamp to his arms, causing them to seal together. He was helpless as a baby. He couldn't fire rockets, couldn't get out. In other words his ass was cooked!
Harry looked at his charge. Not enough to launch horizontally without frying every circuit. And no way to know if the magnetic clamps did anything else than hold his arms together. He might become a flying torpedo and hammer himself to death against a wall, his stabilizers and softeners running at low ebb.
He watched his charger begin to renew his power supply. It was a new one altered from the last by Tesla, who had used a new form of energy to power it.
"It will make you nearly invincible." He had promised.
"Yeah." Harry quipped to himself, unheard by the swash or the trope. "At least my suit. Meanwhile, I'll be turned into soup inside this bell!"
The Trope shoved the remaining swash aside and grinned into Harry's face. In a very bad imitation of German...even though he was German...he said, "And now I shall smash your face into atoms."
"I thought you needed me alive!" Harry joked.
"Not you. Just your brain."
"Then you better aim a bit lower, as now you're aiming right at my brain pan."
The trope gave him a confused look.
Harry's suspicions were confirmed. The trope couldn't see through the helmet plate glass. It was too dark inside the room. Harry glanced at his charger. Almost full. "I bet you're so strong you could handle me all by yourself, even if I had my arms free."
The trope grinned. "Yes. And still take your brain."
The trope laughed, and then smashed Harry's midsection, breaking the clamps.
The suit rang like a bell, even more so than when the swash had been pounding him.
The trope yanked Harry to his feet as effortlessly as if the Rocket suit was just a suit of clothing, instead of armor and stuck his face into the Helmet's glass, peering inside.
Harry's eyes went round with horror.
The trope had no pupils.
The trope swung its fist back, preparing to complete its death stroke.
Harry smiled, and then flicked a switch with his tongue.
A horrible screeching sound rang throughout the building. He had planted the resounders shortly after he landed, just in case. It was the just in cases you had to be the most cautious about, not what might be's.
The trope clamped its ham sized fists over its ears and screamed, joining the screams of the swash.
Harry saluted the soldiers. "Say bye-bye."
The trope gave him a blank look. "Bye-bye?"
Harry launched a mini-rocket into the trope and the swash, launching straight up and through the ceiling of the church. He wasn't there long enough to see them explode, or hear them scream. As he raced from the building's roof, he turned to the south and there below him stood the zom Jet.
The zom stood there watching him fly off, making no move to fire the hammer it held in its hands. Just watching, a hand over its eyes to watch him as he blasted into the skies.
Harry's heart pounded in his chest.
"I'll be back, Jet. I swear it!" He promised, his eyes watering from the pain of leaving the only real friend he had ever had. He blinked the tears away, and then accelerated across the skies, towards Switzerland and home base. Away from death and destruction. And away from a friend who meant more to him than life itself.
"I will return." He swore to himself, as he fired the rockets that steered him north towards the Alps.
"I will, Jet. I swear it by everything I hold Holy. I will return for you. Or die trying." He said, his eyes misting even more as he shot up above the clouds and became a speck of light to those below.
The zom, who might be Jet, dropped his weapon and put fingers to his eyes. They were wet.
"Why? He asked no one, and then leaving his weapon behind, he marched away, a lone figure in a land of war and destruction.
Alpha and Omega
"A Rocketman Story"
By John Pirillo
A slice through the shadows. Fall back deeper.
Heartbeat so loud his chest feels like it's going to explode.
Maybe this time.
Maybe the search has ended!
"Come on, bucket head." Jet whined.
Harry swiped at the sweat pooling across his brows, his concentration unwavering as he studied the battle plans before him.
Jet, leaning over the plans, anxious to get going, fretted like the little child he was sometimes. Got to love him, mused Harry as he finally swept his pawn across the board to block the only exit that Jet's king had.
Jet grinned so big that Harry immediately knew he had made a tactical error.
"You should have blocked the rook, not the castle." Einstein said, as he hovered over his shoulder, the sweet smell of his cherry blend whispering between his teeth from the pipe he was smoking.
"Easy for you to say." Harry complained. "You plan a hundred moves ahead."
"Well, one tries." Einstein replied humbly.
Harry gave him a scowl, then waited for Jet to close the game.
Instead, Jet yawned, stretched real big and got to his feet, stretching like a lion does before leaping upon its prey.
"I'm whacked. Think I'll catch some shut eye. 'Night!"
"Hey!" Harry complained.
"You win, Harry. As always." Jet said, the hint of a snicker in his voice as he swept off to the right and their bunks deeper in the underground fortress. A fortress that was deep inside a series of natural caverns inside the Swiss Alps. Left there by ancient Romans on their way to defeating the rest of Europe. You could still see some of their statuary in deeper pockets of the fortress, where even some of their simple columns supported the cavern roof with beauty, while not actual need.
Einstein sat down and pondered the board a moment. "Actually, he's right. You do win."
Harry looked at Einstein. "You're kidding, right?"
Einstein gave him a stony face, then broke into laughter. "Night, Harry."
He walked off slowly, heading a different direction, probably to work with one of his fellow scientists on suit modifications Harry had suggested. He just found it harder and harder to fly the damn thing. He felt like a walking tank. Not like a bird flying. More like a bomb flying the wrong direction.
Brenda, one of the Nurses on station, slipped into a chair opposite him and set down two cups of Java. "Thought you'd need this."
"Thanks." He said, grasping its warmth, allowing it to warm his numb fingers. While the base was comfortable enough, no amount of work could change the temperatures inside, which were usually just this side of freezing. You could always see your breath. When he complained about it, Einstein laughed. "Would you rather it got hot and our electronics blew up, causing a thermal nuclear meltdown of our reactors?"
"Boom!" Einstein made a cute explosion sound, then laughed.
So that ended that.
"Harry. Base to Harry. Come in, Captain!" Brenda teased.
Harry focused on her face, the hint of a smile on his lips. "Sorry, just thinking."
"Ask me flight boy, you ding that old noggin a bit too much for comfort. Some day you're likely to turn into one of those steel brains like Al."
Harry barked with laughter. "He'd love hearing that. Then he could have a real partner to beat chess with."
She smiled, then took a sip of her Java.
Harry did the same. Then his eyebrows rose. She gave him the hint of a mischievous smile. "Woke you up, did it, fly boy?"
"You shooting for bedpan duty, Nurse?" Harry quipped.
"No skin off my back. I've been doing that for years, Penguin."
He laughed. "Sometimes I wish I were."
"Yeah. Read you loud and clear."
They both sat there lost in their thoughts a moment, then Harry said what was really on his mind. "Do you think they're still alive...out there...somewhere?"
Betty's face grew impassive. "Facts are not always pleasant, flyboy."
"Atta girl, fast thinking. But not as fast as my jenny."
"Your jenny is nothing more than a firecracker with metal slung around it." She countered, then put a hand on his hand, not liking the direction their talk was taking.
"Sorry, Harry. Didn't mean to blow out your tanks."
"Likewise." He said with a grin.
She softened. "We would all like to think she was still alive, but..."
He grew somber with that thought. "So many gone. So many."
"You still seeing the split?"
"Must feel like being stuck in a Mae West double barrel salute when that happens."
"Worse." He admitted.
She looked into his eyes. "What's it like in that other world?"
"We were winning."
He didn't say anything more. What more could he say? On his own timeline the Allies were beating the crap out of those brown shirts, but here...they were on the run...hiding in rabbit holes and taking pocket shots, hoping for a big break.
"You live back then sometimes, don't you?"
"Yes." He sighed, put his head in his hands a moment, then looked back at her. "It's like a dream...this world...when I'm there, but now that world..."
"Like a dream?"
"Al or Nicolai come up with anything yet?"
"Not a damned thing."
She put a hand on his wrist and he could feel the warmth of her seeping into his body. He flinched at first, but she didn't let go. "Whenever you want to talk more about it."
She got up and smiled. "Why don'tchu come up and see me some time, big guy?"
"You been looking at those old reels, have you?" He smiled at her.
"Oh yeah. Those movie stars had it all down." She returned the smile, then walked off, the same time as klaxons blared throughout the underground cavern.
Harry bounced to his feet, spilling his Java on the table top. He ignored it as he ran as fast as he could to the rigging area. He, along with a myriad of penguins, who supported the operations, raced in every direction. Checking power. Checking radar. Checking entrances and exits. Checking fuel. Checking supplies. Hauling out fire equipment. All the things that penguins did to make sure the flyboys were safe and the secret base secure.
He mused over the term penguins a moment, thinking it funny that his fellow airmen would be called something as cute as that, but such was the slang of the times...even in this alternate reality. Which brought him back full circle to the klaxons blaring. Either there was a major battle coming, or something had gone terribly wrong.
"Suit up, Captain!" Ordered his commanding officer of the day. Colonel Windser. The man was an uptight asshole, without the slightest clue of good manners or mercy. He would just as readily swap a fellow airman down into the ground as a Nazi storm trooper.
Harry ignored him as always, leaped up the ramp into his suit, twisted around and slipped inside. The ground crew sealed him in quickly and made sure his electronic network was active and ready. Others manned the new electronic consoles that kept track of his heart rate, his air, his munitions and more importantly his amp out if need be. He'd only amped once, and it had cost him a month in rehab from the shock of impacting the ground. He was determined...not to let that ever happen again.
Amping was a term for bailing out, but in his suit, it just meant being enclosed with a super inflated cushion that was supposed to protect him from earth impact. It did, but it usually left him in shock for weeks from the violence of the impact. They had tested it once without him and deemed it okay, but he knew better. It was experimental. Which was why he was begging them for lighter suit.
As his helmet sealed off and his scanners lit to life, his screens for monitoring the outside of the suit, his armament, his flight navigator, his communications gear came to life as well. "Rocketman, loud and ready." He quipped.
"Gotcha, Harry." Jet rang in from a receiver near his right ear.
Harry activated his legs and began disconnecting from the ramp. He turned and faced the ramp he would be launching from. He began racing up it as the mountainside ahead began to part like the fabled walls of Ali Baba's forty thieves.
"Rocket!" Harry shouted, then shot up into the midnight black of the Swiss night. No moon, no stars. Clouds thick and dreary. Perfect for his flight to stay hidden from the Nazi base below, but bad for his systems readouts, as the fog caused a lot of false readings.
"Jet, what's going on? Nothing in range."
"This is Colonel Windser, you are to stay air born until further instructions. We have a bogey. I repeat we have a bogey."
"Colonel, that tells me zero!"
"Heads up." Jet ordered.
Harry turned his helmet up.
The clouds were thinner there. As he flew higher, they thinned further and he became aware of something metallic coming into view. It was larger than him, and armed to the teeth. Another Rocket suit...with a huge Swastika on its chest.
"Jet, we have a problem."
"What is it?"
Static blasted into his ears, then Colonel Windser's voice blasted through. "Shoot it down. Now!"
"Captain, are you disobeying a direct order?"
"No sir, just not interested in shooting my own self."
Long silence. "What?"
"It's me. Rocket me."
"Holy crap, Harry, how's that possible?"
"How are you possible, how am I?" He shot back. "Some kind of new split in the timeline. Jeepers, you're rattin' up the wrong tree, if you wanna make sense of this."
"Other suit is arming, Harry."
Harry did the only thing he could, he amped.
Inside his suit, he became compressed in a soft substance that would save him from any impact. The suit was made of a highly resilient metal that nothing short of an atom bomb could destroy. He was the only breakable part.
"Harry, you crazy!"
The last thing he saw was the face in the other suit as it closed in. His own. The eyes were in shock, then it shot to the right and vanished as he plummeted towards the earth.
That was the last thing he remembered for about a week. The next thing he remembered was Nurse Brenda's voice talking to Jet in a low murmur. Then he realized it was just him surfacing from dreamland.
He opened his eyes. He was hooked up to all kinds medical scanners and body fluids. "Hey!"
They both gave him looks of relief.
Colonel Windser stormed into the room, his face bright with anger, but instead of hollering at Harry, he wiped at his eyes, which were clearly wet with tears. He touched Harry gently on his shoulder. "Damn you, Harry!"
"Damn me, sir!" Harry joked back.
Colonel Windser jerked his eyes to Jet and Brenda. "You make sure he has everything he needs to recover fully."
He looked back at Harry. "And then you got a lot of explaining to do." He smiled. "I'm glad you made it, son."
He paused as if about to say more, then left in a storm as he had entered.
Jet whooped it up. "Harry, you just got cussed out by the meanest guy on the earth and survived."
"Didn't sound that way to me."
Brenda laughed. "You should have heard him when you amped. My ears are still healing from all the swear words."
"So what happened?" Harry asked, genuinely confused.
"You survived." Jet said gently, his smile warm and soothing. "You made it, fly boy!"
Harry laughed. "You should have seen the look on the other guy's face."
"I'll bet." Jet snorted. "Bad enough to have one loser in the air, let alone two!" He laughed. But what he was really thinking was "How could Harry be sure the other Harry would recognize the gesture of surrender and not blast him to kingdom come?"
Brenda joined the laughter, but Harry didn't. What had happened to the other him? Did he realize that Harry was not the enemy like he had the other? And why was he flying a suit with a swastika on it? Those questions boiled in his mind as he slipped into a much needed, and deep rest.
John Pirillo"Writing fuels the heart and soul!" Science Fiction, Fantasy and Adventure Tales to Take Your Breath Away!