Like myself, Kat seemed confounded, "How? I thought we were the only ones with a time machine."
"I thought that as well, but it appears as though we aren't," I said rushiedly. We needed to leave this time now, if we ever wanted to make it out alive.
Kat glanced over at the school. I looked too, seeing what seemed to be a police officer making his way toward us. He wasn't running. I guessed due to the fatty bulge that was his stomach, but we needed to leave before he eventually caught up to us.
Having the same thoughts, Kat silently grabbed my wrist and started to run. She lead me past the school, the gas station, and the weather worn strip mall. Then, we came to a drugstore, and she pulled me around a tight corner, leading me to the back. We stood by the foul smelling dumpsters out of view of the street.
"So," She started, "I need an explanation."
We didn't have time for an explanation! He could find us. Then, I'd never be able to escape this time, save the future, save my dad, or see Storm again. There was too much resting on this, for wasted time! The fate of the world was literally in my hands, and she wanted an explanation?!
It's not like you have to bring her along, a little voice piped up in my head. You could just leave right now. Use the time machine and escape.
There was a deal though, I reminded myself. She didn't call the police on me when I appeared in her house, so I have to take her to, uh...2012. Right. I can't go back on it now. And, plus, that other time traveler might find her. It wouldn't be safe.
That isn't likely, the other side reasoned. And wouldn't it just be so much easier to leave right now? You could save Mom, Jered, and Storm from the war and Ovak's oppressive rule. You could get Dad back. Stop wasting time.
Despite this, I leaned against the brick wall, sighed, I had to keep up my end of the deal, so I began my explanation.
"About an hour ago, someone, not Derrick or your Mom, someone else, entered the apartment."
She chewed her lip, "How? Through the front, like you did?"
"Yeah," I rolled my eyes, "Though I'd prefer it if you didn't compare the intruder to me." I was trying to help her, and it would be great if she didn't think of me as the enemy.
"But, this is literally what you did! You're a time traveling boy that walked through my front door."
"He was wearing all black, and carried a gun."
"Also like you," She responded.
"Ugh. No. He-"I was cut off.
"Wait, how do we know he isn't just a confused time traveler like you?"
"Because he's dangerous! I know it!" And I'm not confused!
She looked taken back. I had said that a bit louder and angrier than I'd intended.
"Sorry," I apologize, "I just needed you to stop interrupting." There is a lot riding on this moment, I added silently.
She held her hands up, "My bad, dude. Continue."
"Anyways, this guy, upon entering, sounded like he just stood there for a second. He was saying something to his personal A.I, I couldn't quite tell what it was though. Then, he, all of the sudden, I heard his footsteps take off directly toward your room." I suppressed a shudder, "It was almost as if he knew exactly where the time warper was. Like he knew where I would've been."
"Oh god, that's super creepy." Kat gulped. "And I know you don't want to get off topic, but what happened to your personal Siri-guy, 'Richard', anyway?"
She was right, I really didn't want to get off topic. "I shut him off for now. And, as you said, can you please stay on topic. He might still be after me. Actually," I considered, "He is more than likely still looking for me."
Now was not the time to lose it, I reminded myself. I had to keep going with the explanation or else we'd never leave. "By the speed of his footsteps, I could tell this guy was running towards your room. Since, I was in the restroom at the time," I motioned to my hair, " Taking a shower." "I made sure the door was locked and kept quiet. After I hear him enter your room, I decide to go and confront this person. I thought it would just be some common common thug. But, as soon as I enter the room, I knew I was wrong." I shuddered, then recounted what happened next.
"He was turned away from me, looking down at a comm-screen. He was dressed in a solid black and had metallic black bandana covering his mouth. Once I realized, he was a time traveler, I knew I had to act fast. The time warper was still in your room, sitting on the desk. So, I ran into straight into the guy. He stumbled back, which was just enough time for me to grab the bag, and exit through the window." The quiet between us remained. Until I remembered, "Uh, you can talk now. I'm done."
Kat shot me finger guns, "Thanks. Alrighty, three questions for ya. Number one: Where was my mom during all of this? Was she safe? Number two: Were you able to tell what he looked like. I know you said he was dressed all in black, but what did his face look like? And numero tres: Are you good, bro? Like you jumped out of a freak'n window! "
"One, Your mom had left an hour before. I don't know where she went. Two, No, between the bandanna and the few seconds I had with him, I couldn't get much. Except his eyes," I shivered, "They were red. A blood tone of piercing red. And the way he'd looked at me...his eyes didn't seem to have any life in them." His eyes had made me question whether he was actually human. He could have been an android.
Though, I'd never met an android. They were only for the people in the hovership. They usually bought them to serve them like slaves. It could be from Ovak, recently I'd heard he'd been employing androids to spy on foreign governments. That idea made me nervous. There was no way he knew I was gone yet, I reasoned. How could he be behind this?
"Max? Max, are you okay?" I heard Kat ask.
I snapped out of it, "Yeah, I'm fine. Which, if I recall, was the answer to question three."
She nodded, then asked the question I'd been waiting for, but wasn't exactly ready for. "So, now what are we gonna to do?"
I looked up at the sky, the clear blue sky. Untouched by the eternal nuclear winter in which I had lived my entire life. One with a visible, shining sun, unobscured by dark black clouds. I shut my eyes, and took a deep inhale of the cleanest air I'd ever breathed. It may have been the past, but it was so much better, then the time I lived in.
I exhaled and opened my eyes once again, my thoughts returning back to the future. The reality. Time to answer Kat's question.
"We have to time travel."
"Right here? Right now?" Kat asked. "We're not going somewhere safer?"
"Now that that red-eyed man is after us, nowhere is safe," I said grimly.
"The time machine is up and going? Like it's not going to fail or anything?"
I pulled the time warper out of the bag, and brushed a strand of hair out of my eyes, "Look, there's no guarantees when it comes to time travel." I spoke as if I'd done this hundreds of times, but I'd only done it once, and failed miserably.
Regardless, I just tightened a bolt on the machine and continued with a firm tone, "So if you're having second thoughts, you can stay behind."
"No! You are not leaving me behind, and I am not having second thoughts!" She said.
"Alright then," I finished up securing the reactor inside the warper, "Well, let's leave."
"What time are we even going to?" She asked.
"The first event that I believe contributed to starting the war was the assinatation of a British representative on June 26th, 2057. So I'll take us to June 24th, to be ready for the attack."
Kat had a raised eyebrow, "You 'believe'? What if it isn't, and we get more people killed by messing up the timeline?"
The truth was I didn't really know. But, growing up in the wartime and under Ovak's rule, I used to construct lengthy timelines of what lead up to the war. I'd done it mostly because it's what my dad had done, before he was imprisoned. He'd stay up 'till the odd hours of the night, just digging through piles and piles of research on his comm-screen. I think he did it for his articles protesting the war, Ovak, and mostly all the other world dictators. Or, maybe just as a weird hobby.
Whatever it was, after he was taken away, I continued his work. And, now I was pretty glad I had, or else I'd be alot more lost. I didn't have the time (or patience) to explain this to Kat right now though.
"Yes-," I started my sarcastic reply, but was cut off by Kat pointing behind my shoulder, looking panicked.
"Max, who's that?!"
I turned, already knowing what I would see. My eyes traveled up the black clothed figure, and, as soon as I meet with his red eyes, I grabbed Kat's hand with my right. And grasped the time warper in my left palm.
Then, initiated it.
My vision went completely black, and I felt consciousness leave me. The only thing I could feel was Kat's hand clasped around mine, as the darkness swirled around in my head. Then, a second later I felt my feet hit ground. We'd arrived at our destination.
I was immediately emerged in sound. Car horns, the ongoing march of chaotic footsteps, pop-y storefront music playing only able to be barely heard, and yelling. Yelling? I listened closer. Yelling at us?
I opened my eyes, to find a bit of tricky situation. Luckily, Kat was still attached to me. She hadn't gotten lost in space time. Phew! But, we had materialized in the middle of busy London street. All around us, cars were stopped, and their horns were blaring. A few individuals in those cars, were leaned out the window, bellowing obscenities at us. While others just stared at us in vague annoyance, waiting for us to clear the road.
So we did. I ran, with Kat in tow, across the street, and to the nearby sidewalk. Only it wasn't a sidewalk. It was an esclo-side, a moving sidewalk. The whole of the London city central had been instituted with these back in 2048.
This meant I'd successfully time traveled! Well, for the most part. I'd intended to land us in a deserted butch shop alleyway an English village 200 km from here so we wouldn't be seen materializing. But, we'd ended up the middle of downtown London. I had wanted to distance ourselves from London, so we could adjust and discuss strategy away from the threat, but so much for that, I guess.
I pulled Kat into the midst of the crowd on the esclo-sides, to blend in. Randomly appearing in the middle of the street, with possibly dozens of direct witness, didn't do us any favors in the stealth operation. All around us, people stood pressed onto the together, making an immense herd of shoppers.
Most had on simple VR caps, with just a dropped a comm screen down to their face, operated by a small clicker in their hand . While others had on early prototype comm-glasses, which were huge, bulky black glasses that held all the operations of a basic computer, and were operable by neural activity. So, it was safe to say no one was paying attention to us, or our out of date clothing, or our sudden, unexplained appearance.
At a walking pace, the esclo-side carried us down the street, past a multitude of different storefronts. Each was encased in a slick glass exterior, which was lit by theme-inspired lights. The lights all bounced, and danced to different music played by each store. It was an intriguing display, but I don't think much of anyone was looking at it.
For me, all of this tech and glamor in cities had been discontinued years before my birth. It was simply just unsustainable while all of the countries were at war. In the end, all of these extra amenities and exsourabint spending were what brought most countries' governments, including the U.S.'s, into major debt. Then, that was what made them fall apart, and become vulnerable to dictatorship rule. So, I took all the 'extraordinary' sights and sounds with a grain of salt.
I glanced over at Kat. It looked as though she might explode. Her eyes were wide, and her head was swiveling all around, in an attempt to catch everything that was going on.
I almost laughed at her expression, but then soon realized her behavior could become a problem. If people noticed we were acting strangely, it could draw more attention to us. Which was exactly the opposite of what we needed. We needed to keep a low profile, not become a time traveling spectacle for all of London to enjoy.
"We have to get out of here," I said to her.
She didn't give back acknowledgment, or even seem to hear me. Her head was turned away, facing the storefronts' dancing light display.
I tugged on her hand, "Come on, Kat. Snap out of it."
After a few seconds, she shook her head a bit, and turned to me, "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
"We need to get out of here," I repeated. "I'm going to find a place for us to stay the night."
"Like a hotel or something?"
"Yeah," I said. "Just try not to act too stange, okay?
"Yeah, I can't act too 'strange'," She puffed, "It's not like we're in freaking futuristic London!"
Around us, a few people diverted their eyes from their VR, and gave us weird looks.
I dropped her hand, and cursed silently. "You need to keep your voice down. Do you really want to broadcast that to the entire city?"
Her cheeks reddened, and she glanced away.
I rolled my eyes. I definitely could not keep her on the streets any longer, until we went over some some stuff about the future. "Come on, let's find a hotel," I grumbled.
After about fifteen more minutes on the esclo-sides, I came across a hotel that would suite of needs. It was located down a moderately quiet road, with only a few seemingly unpopular shops and a small fish and chips stand. The hotel was pretentiously called, "The Five Star", but definitely looked three and a half stars at best.
Kat snicked, "The Five Star? I don't think they got the rating quite right."
Before I could stop myself, I smiled and said, "You know, that was exactly what I was thinking."
"Yeah, I mean, if a place has to declare the number of stars it has in its name for people to notice it, it doesn't deserve them." She laughed.
Into "The Five Star" we went. The smudged glass doors slid open, and we strolled into the foyer. It looked like a pretty standard hotel on the inside, neutral colored walls, and a light gray and brown peppered carpet. Nothing out of the ordinary, and it didn't look like hoards of people were going to flood into it. A perfect place to lay low for a couple of days.
Kat and I approached the service desk, which was just a large screen where you selected your room, paid, then it would spit out your key.
"Huh," Kat said, "I guess they got rid of receptionists. Not too much of a leap there."
Meanwhile, I chose two rooms across from each other on the second floor. I took out the roll of pounds I carried in my backpack (They were left over from my time stationed in Britain.), and inserted some of them into the payment slot. While nearly no one in well developed countries used paper currency anymore, the official use of paper currency in the U.K. wouldn't end for another nine years. When we would later travel to any time after that, I'd have to set up a temporary account for the money. It would be bothersome, but making bank accounts in these times was relatively simple, not much personal information was needed by the banks. Because they needed to make it easy and accessible to everyone, since no one could use paper currency. Which was great for people who didn't actually belong in that time.
After I'd finished booking our rooms in the mostly vacant hotel, we headed to the elevator, and stepped onto the second floor.
I turned to Kat, "Okay, to make sure we don't have another incident like today, and to show you the plan I have for preventing the representative's assassination, we need to have a meeting."
She nodded, and we both entered room 221.