The Device

By Andrew Looney

The battered black '71 VW Beetle sped across the desert. The Sioux Indians, though on the warpath, were unable to keep up.

The driver, now wearing an elaborate Indian headdress, said "Where to now?"

Spudly and Tor were in the back seat. Spudly was eating Doritos. Tor asked, "How's our supply of serum holding out?"

Opus, the driver, said "Our last injection is good for another 171 hours."

"Then let's deuce it."

Antag pulled a small mechanical device out of the glove box and began calibrating it. He turned to Opus. "You ready?"

Opus remained silent. Antag took this to mean that he was. He pressed a small green button on the top of the device. There was a moment of swirling disorientation, and they appeared on Park avenue in New York City. It was deathly silent. The city was cold, desolate, and gray. It was as devoid of life as the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. A newspaper blew past them. It was dated June 7, 1991.

[ The plague had originated in Baltimore. It invaded the circulatory system and made the blood thicken up like jello. Once contracted, it caused death in 48 hours. In spite of a massive quarantine, which was expanded to cover a larger area almost daily, the epidemic spread at a terrifying rate. Dr. Freitag, of the Atlanta Center for Disease Control, developed the serum shortly before his city was wiped out. After testing it, on himself, he flew to Denver in his private jet and thus saved the world. ]

The time pirates seated themselves in what had once been a fine French restaurant. Antag removed four decks of cards from a small leather case and they each took one. Opus went to get drinks. Spudly started dealing while the others shuffled their decks.

The game was hearts. They had played six hands when a small red light lit up on the device. Antag picked it up and turned a few knobs. "Something's coming," he said.

"Are you sure?" asked Tor.

"Yes. Temporal distortion, 56 years away. That gives us... three minutes."

"It's probably Rob and his crew. I think it's time we took care of them."

"We need a new car anyway. We'll leave from in here."

Antag pressed the green button. They found themselves on a large rock shelf beneath a smoking volcano. A pteradactyl flew over them. Tor lit up a cigar. Spudly was confused.

"What are we doing here?"

"Standard misleading tactics," said Antag. "We come back here and wait for a while and it throws them off the track."

"Oh."

They all sat down.

"That's good enough. Go to 1982."

Soon they found themselves on a suburban street. It was hot. Some kids were jumping around in a sprinkler and screaming and shouting. They waited. When a white rusty van drove by, Antag activated the machine for zero seconds per second travel. Everything froze. Tor and Spudly pulled a balding fat man out of the driver's seat and carried him over to the sprinkler. Then they all got in.

"Head for a major highway," said Tor.

"Here they come," said Antag.

The van roared down a four-laned highway. A brown pickup truck slowly materialized beside them. Spudly slid the door open and started firing a machine gun at the three guys standing on the flatbed. At the same time, one of them tossed a Molotov cocktail at the van. It missed, and exploded in the path of a beautifully reconstructed 1920's roadster. The guy who threw it, now dead from multiple bullet wounds to the upper torso, fell out of the truck and landed in the path of the now burning roadster.

With the three in the back dead, Spudly and Tor leapt across the void into the pickup truck, one armed with a .45 automatic, the other with a short sword. The driver started to weave back and forth across the road, making the truck careen wildly. Spudly was knocked against the door at the back, which fell open. He grabbed the side and pulled himself back in.

Tor smashed the window, tossed a grenade in, and flattened himself. Next, an explosion, and the driver slumped against the wheel.

Opus maneuvered the van close to the truck, which was slowly going out of control. Spudly and Tor jumped back in. The pickup truck smashed into a police car, the driver of which had pulled over a speeder, and exploded. Antag pushed the green button.

They appeared on a frozen tundra, and all got out to look at the northern lights. Spudly said "I'm hungry. Let's go home and eat."

"We'll leave the van here," said Tor. "It's served its purpose."

Next they appeared in a small medieval town. It was dusk. A mob of peasants, angry about something, were moving towards them with torches and pitchforks. A blue indicator lit up on the machine.

"I've just got to get this thing fixed," said Antag, turning some knobs. A few moments later they arrived in front of a large castle by the sea. Rain poured down from the cloudy skies, and they bustled through the door. Servants came to meet them, and they relaxed before the fireplace while waiting for dinner to be served.

After dinner, they played cards and argued about what to do next.

"I still need a good confederate uniform for my wardrobe."

"When are we going to ancient Rome?"

"I think we should steal the crown jewels."

"We need new wheels. How about a helicopter?"

"Can you fly one?"

"I think so."

"Where do we get it?"

"Vietnam."

Flying over Vietnam in their new helicopter, they discussed the next course of action.

"I wonder what would happen if we stole the Declaration of Independence?"

"Let's find out. Set for 1776, Phila-"

An explosion ripped the copter. Tor was sucked out through a hole in the floor and Spudly managed to grab his wrist just in time. Bombs exploded all around them.

"Get us out of here!" yelled Opus, trying desperately to keep the copter under control, and moving it closer to the ground.

Antag struggled to set the controls. "I'm not ready!"

"It doesn't matter where we go, just get us out of here!"

Antag turned a final knob. "Got it!" He pressed the green button. Simultaneously, another explosion tore the copter apart, and sent its occupants tumbling.

Tor landed in a snowbank, in Germany, in 1943. He was placed in a P.O.W. camp.

Spudly landed on the deck of the Lusitania. He hoped it was not the voyage on which it sank.

Opus landed in Tokyo in 2072. He calculated that he had about three weeks before the nuclear war began, and hoped that he'd be able to get on a ship bound for the Martian colonies in time.

Antag landed in the ocean near a small South Seas island. He dragged himself up the beach and leaned against a Tiki statue under a palm tree. He looked down at his hand and smiled. He still clutched the time machine.


This story appears in My Secret World. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew Looney.