The Device
Chapter 4

Copyright© 2013 by JOHNNY SACHU

It was a large machine shop filled with quite a few devices for working metals or softer materials, like plastics or composites. Lathes, drill presses, milling machines, sanders, cutting saws, water jets, a forge and a pattern making facility, and even a fifty-ton press, completed the shop. Various other small, hand operated items were available to David, too, all needed to configure metal into almost any kind of shape he wanted. Along with a full complement of metals of various types, organized in a shelving area, it was filled with high strength steels, numerous grades of aluminums, and titanium being the metals of choice and with those, only the imagination was the limit. It could have been the envy of any well equipped machine shop but made specifically for him and a facility capable of producing anything.

David knew how to use every machine and work with every variety of those materials. His training and doctorates in applied mechanics, along with several other doctorates and degrees had given him a vast array of knowledge and practical experience in theory as well as engineering through his school years and especially now with no restrictions whatsoever on his ideas, he was capable of anything. He worked on projects in the shop on a regular, almost a daily basis, and he had been concentrating on the construction of a small, almost finished, aircraft since his, the new house he'd dreamed up, had been completed. David had been taking lessons for the last few years, learning about conventional and experimental aircraft designs and how to handle something plowing through the air at hypersonic velocities. His unconventional propulsion system for his ideas of a power unit had been worked out on paper while the huge building that would be his home was being constructed. And the craft was nearly done. It was an aircraft capable of hypersonic escape velocities, and well beyond that, or so claimed the computer and his exquisite mind, and was over-built to withstand almost twice the atmospheric pressures required of it. David figured, Why not up the safety factor. It couldn't hurt.

Like the device he wore around his neck, David considered all his experiments exercises in the curiosity of nature, rather than plans to share with the world. He had come to the conclusion, a year ago, that man was not wise enough to know of or have available to them, the things that he could devise, such as his stasis machine, the device, something so enormous in scope and actual delivery, it was the most dangerous thing man had ever invented and he had done it by not listening to others. It was his idea and stay his because if it didn't, the world would destroy itself. He was absolutely convinced of that...

The shop was aligned and laid out for maximum efficiency, having gone through several different layouts. And adjoined to the huge garage that was half filled with high performance toys, David could get a lot done in a very short amount of time.

The shop and echoing garage provided David with all kinds of space for his pet projects. The cars and motorcycles that were his passion, now that he could afford them, they were recreation as well as nice diversions to the weeks he sometimes spent in the house enjoying mathematical and construction challenges.

David's study, too, was spacious. Several screens for his hugely powerful computer, seven screens in number, gave him the much needed flexibility to computate a lot of exercises at the same time that kept him sharp and up to date with most new inventions and his own thoughts, interests, and ideas. Ideas he cheated at, sometimes, with the device, such as stock market ventures, which was only a side line to earn legal money. But mostly, ideas that sprang from his head, like the device he obsessively wore around his neck.

It had a new high strength, stainless steel chain constructed in a chain-mail process that had quadrupled the strength of his former lanyard, a thick shoe string that had began to wear on his neck and smell rather badly.

He thought of the small machine as simply, The Device. What it did was stop time and then, if he chose to, permitted movement through it. Yes. A time machine. It made it possible for David to stop it, or travel forward or backward through time by creating a stasis around the user and anything he was touching and David had used it to amass a great fortune in the stock market. It had allowed him the luxury of buying properties and businesses, and building this very private mansion of his own design.

It was more a fortress than the cozy expansive mansion it seemed to be. From all outward appearances, it did appear to be nothing more than a lavish piece of extravagant, rich man's property; But David had filled it and surrounded it with a myriad of security devices and most of them controlled by computer, even though the house was not visible from any road.

David had learned to disguised his things cleverly, for if the world and the government knew of a number of his inventions, they would grab him and would and could force their inventor to reveal his secrets. But you would need a tank and/or a few missiles to get into the mansion, he figured, even though there were several tunnels he could use as escape exits out of a lower level, which was a highly secure protective bunker, well below ground level; it was still fairly secure from the casual thieves or small arms infiltration units

It had all began three years ago, when he'd first activated the device. Through its usage, David had become rich, at first, by stopping time and stealing from banks, and then from a casino in Las Vegas, just for the fun of it, and now exploiting the stock market. But unfortunately, when used for prolonged periods, such as several hours at a time, or more, the machine retro-aged him, so he had learned to turn it on and off in short spurts of time of no longer than a couple of hours. David had found himself, at age twenty, looking like he did when he was fourteen. That had been three years ago and at twenty-three, soon to be twenty-four, David had regain three years of his looks back. He doubted that he would, but David was sure he could live forever, baring some kind of physical accident, which was all too likely, considering his interests and youthful recklessness, at times.

Yet, even with all his resources and wealth, David Evans was a bored man in the company of others. And lonely. He had often tried finding a fellow friend and/or, even a girl friend, when he'd had the spare time, which wasn't much. With so many interests such as backpacking, and projects like designing and building hot motorcycles, hot rods, acquiring fast, mid to late sixties model muscle cars, then improving their basic designs, as well as world class testing and riding of his motorcycles, building and devising his very own aircraft project, and all the gaming he loved, too, plus his own branch of physics and their applied mathematical challenges, he was involved with some of the more exotic pieces of inventions any man had ever dreamed up. And inside those inner workings in theories and building of practical applications to them, there just wasn't enough hours to go around. He liked women a lot, but there never seemed to be enough time for them or any kind of a friend of either. Plus, there was always the problem of finding someone near his own intellectual level that he found stimulating enough to ask out a second time from either sexes. So far, he seemed pretty much alone in the world.

Emily, a former student he had tutored, was someone he'd liked, and could have fit the bill, but she was more interested in astronomy and getting an appointment at an observatory than finding a husband, or in the least, having a boy friend. That was alright with David. He understood, but she was someone he felt he would liked to have gotten to know much better. It had hurt just a little when she had said her odd good-bye, after three months without any kind of contact between them, but he'd been too busy for her at the time anyway, steeling a wad from the arm pit of the world, Los Vegas. And his projects were what he lived for, that, and having his own kind of fun, concerning, admittedly, his own selfish, sometime nefarious interests.

Having cleaned his hands from the day of working in the shop, David went into the house and ran up the wide curved stairway all the way to the fourth level of the house, to his large, lavishly appointed bedroom. He was packing for another road trip to a sci-fi Fanzine gathering, in Independence, Missouri.

He hadn't flown on commercial airlines since he'd gone to California to pick up his specially constructed super bike, three years ago. He had made it through the airport security with his device attached to his house keys, that time, but he didn't want to risk having it scrutinized, again, ever. Especially with the new airport screening machines. The device looked like a stop watch, at about the same size and shape of one, but with three stop-start buttons and no time face to it, it might seem suspicious. So David drove everywhere, these days. Or rode his bicycle around the town, nearby.

His old, low end, Italian, Firenze he loved so much, was just such a kick to ride. He'd found it in a dumpster during his college years and fixed it up into a single speed out of a fifteen speed configuration, as he'd found it. It was relatively light and simple and kept that way. With race bike geometry, it handled like a wild, high tech carbon fiber bike of today but was infinitely less desirerable to the rest of the world. But it was like an old friend and David took great care with it like he did any of his machines.

He'd have to get moving, soon, he thought. The Fanzine started in two days and he wanted to be fresh and rested when it started. He had half the width of two states to travel through and the complete state of another to get there and roughly calculating, it had to be at least eight hundred miles to a thousand or more of road travel. That would be five hundred miles a day, a semi-exhausting pace of driving even in the most comfortable vehicle he owned. Thinking to put in a couple to three hundred miles tonight, David was ready to go in a matter of minutes. Half his items, his costume, were already in the 1968 Dodge Charger he was taking. One of three he owned.

This car wasn't the fastest Charger of the three, but it was the most exotic in the area of more radar jamming and radar detecting, microwave detecting and or jamming devices one could apply to a vehicle, to speed safely without the worry of being stopped by the local smokies. But it was no slouch, by any means, in the performance department, either. It had a large cubic inch aluminum Hemi engine made by Milidon, out of California, and tweaked to somewhere in the neighborhood of six-hundred and seventy horsepower on just carburetion. It sported a seventy gallon fuel tank, too, which gave it a decent enough range in between fill ups. The body, of course, had been reinforced with roll bars and other strengtheners while being completely redone inside and out to a better than new condition. It handled like a Porsche with exotic racing chassis appointments, where it mattered, and was space black and as shiny as deeply polished, dark glass. The interior was all white leather and had every kind of custom feature one could want in creature comforts and was the car David always chose if he were traveling more than several hundred miles away from home. One item that made this car easier to drive than the other two Chargers that were made for maximum performance, was the automatic transmission. It was a street racing unit, but it shifted smoothly and could handle all the horsepower the engine could throw at it without a problem.

Settled in behind the wheel, David, electronically opened one of the doors to the garage and backed the deep throated Charger out into the night air. He punched the close button and waited for the heavy door to seal itself as the thick steel plated three foot thick door of impact absorbing materials, of concrete, carbon and other fibers, rubbers and titanium backing, with paneling on the outside, made to look just like a normal garage door, slid into place along steel ground level rails. With car window open, David heard a hiss, and the door was sealed. Dropping the shifter into drive, David was off and running for the night.

He thought he could make it all the way to the Iowa border, but had to call it quits with drooping eyes about midnight, in a small town called Medford. When he got to his comfortable, single occupancy bedroom, David stripped down to his underwear and didn't bother showering. He slipped in between the sheets and was asleep in three minutes.

In the morning, David took a long, gaspingly hot shower, it felt so good, and stood for five or six minutes under the spray. He washed his dark hair three times, shaved his peach fuzz whiskers, and applied his original Old Spice deodorant, the kind with the brown stripe on it label. In the process of dressing, he happened to glance at his reflection in the mirror and was pleasantly surprised with his body building he'd put into his daily routine, when home. All through college, he'd been a scrawny little pencil-necked brainy-ack, with little interests in sports or physical fitness as men of those interests had always been bullies to him, growing up. But he'd gotten into the habit of working out when he'd stolen the thirty-three million in Las Vegas, two years ago, knowing that even one of the huge nylon bags he'd filled with small bills and stolen, would be heavy and exhausting, retrieving them from the deep underground vault. So he had gotten into a physical fitness routine that had served him well. After returning from that little adventure, David had continued his development. He looked darn good, he thought, and justifiably so, being quite dedicated to the high he got from working out. He was pretty close to looking like a male gymnasts he'd seen on television, but not quite as heavily muscled. Still, pretty good looking for a nerd.

Traveling through Iowa, David came to a slow down on the freeway and then to a full stop, along with several other hundred cars. There had been an accident up ahead on his side of the freeway and it took him almost an hour to get up and past a multi roll-over car. It seemed like the girl they were pulling out of the car, having had to cut her out of the it, had hit a deer a short ways back. He'd seen the dead animal off to the side of the road, where the police had dragged it, the bloody streaks clearly visible on the concrete. She had probably over corrected in the contact with it and tumbled her white car, which was an ugly mass of twisted metal.

David continued down the road a couple of miles, more than a little shaken at seeing the girl being pulled from of the car. He suddenly realized, he could prevent the accident and pulled off the side of the road, braked hard while taking out the device and stopping time. Everything froze like it was a stopped video. He made a U-turn and went back to the wreckage sight, dodging frozen cars and driving on the edge of the medium, mostly, till he returned to the crash sight. He got out, memorizing the license plate number of the car. He quickly glanced over at the girls face and body, now in the ambulance. She looked in terrible shape, blood everywhere, wrapped up, and bandaged to the max, strapped to that immobilizing board the paramedics used with tubes going every which way around and in her. But he was sure he would recognize her face and hair, later on, along with the license plate number. He'd find her easily, before the accident occurred.

David then drove back down the road a ways, maybe three miles, and only then, set time in reverse. He waited for a white car to come by with the red headed girl in it, preceded ahead of her by all the emergency vehicles and police cars moving backwards in time before her crash. With only a slight depression to the device, which slowed the passage of time, David found her after only a few minutes of waiting and looking.

Luckily, she was in the far right driving lane so when her car quit running, in his plan, she'd simply pull off to the side of the road and come to a stop. As time passed, she'd avoid hitting the deer and rolling her car. David felt good about doing it. It would save her a lot of pain and possibly her life.

He manipulated the device, stopping her movement, and backed up a little further and parked along side her car, off the side of the freeway. He took his garage door opener, which was more than just that, and deciphered her cars code for the door locking system and commanded the system open. With time stopped, he could do about anything he wanted and once the door locks slowly clicked open, letting time creep forward just a bit, David stopped it, again.

He opened the drivers side door and pulled the hood release to the engine compartment. David looked at the face of the young woman. There was nothing spectacular about her, just a young married girl, but someone he wanted to save. He pulled an ignition wire knowing it would bring the car to a stand still, then closed and locked all the doors.

He drove back to the last on-ramp and turned around on it, dodging a bunch of frozen-in-time cars, and parked off to the side of the ramp, in the grass. It was only then that he started time. He waited ten minutes, listening to some CCR over his killer stereo then took off.

The girl had pulled to the side of the road, just as he had expected she would, and he motored off the freeway in front of her, stopped, then backed up. She noticed him coming, but kept looking at the motor, probably a little nervous at his approach. He got out of his car and said, loud enough to be heard over the freeway noise, "I'm a mechanic. Mind if I take a look?"

The young woman was agreeable. "No, not at all. It just stopped working. I don't know why."

"Well, let me see," he feigned being challenged, looking over the engine. "Oh! Here's your problem," he said. "This little wire has fallen off." David pushed it back on, clicking it into place and said, "Try to start it, again. I'm sure it will run, now."

"Okay," she said, timidly, and walked around the edge of the car keeping a careful look out for the other fast moving cars. Wise.

Once in her vehicle, David said, "Go ahead," twirling his index finger. The car started right up. He closed the hood to the engine and waved with a smile and went back to his car.

She shouted, out her window, "Thank you," and David smiled again and waved, again, saying, "Your very welcome."

Falling into the bucket seat and buckling up, David left first, when there was an opening in the freeway traffic, and accelerating hard when it appeared. He noticed the girl move safely back into the traffic, too, and it gave him a good feeling to have helped her out, saving her from that awful crash, even though she'd never realize it. That's the way good works should be done, he thought. Without anyone knowing about it, if possible.

"Hi!" the girl at the fanzine said. "I'm Betty." She was a sweet young thing, a blond and quite well proportioned, but wearing a black wig, and dressed as cat woman in tight fitting lycra and a sexy looking, vixen-like mask. She had just come up and started talking to him out of the blue. David didn't know why but he was just a bit suspicious of strangers, as he had been for several years, now. He had just been standing there. He didn't know any one, especially her. Maybe she, too, was a government agent of some kind, but tried tossing the idea. He had to get over it, the fact that he'd once been investigated by Big Brother.

Maybe it was the Rocketeer costume he was wearing? It was an exact duplicate of the movie version and he looked all the part, he thought. Exactly the same as that romantic comic book character. He'd even cut and wore his hair specifically like the actor in The Rocketeer movie, for this fanzine. David knew he looked a little bit like that actor, too, so the image was a convincing one and the duplicate costume had been fun to make, even though the leather work he'd had done for him wasn't his doing. His fake jet-pack looked the same as the movie version, too, down to the last tiny rivet details and the items of those switches in the palms of his hand and the brace around each wrist of his black gloves, everything was movie-prop-perfect.

The rocket didn't work as a rocket, of course, but he could make it imitate and sound like a rocket with the high speed fan inside the motor whirling at 3,000 r.p.m. and the hidden loud speakers he'd built into the shell of the rocket body. David had made the engine out of aluminum so it shined like the 'real' but imaginary rocket engine and was quite light in weight, so it was no problem walking around with it. The only problem was the leather jacket. It was hot, along with the black gloves and winged helmet. He would start to sweat unless he removed the helmet and opened the leather jacket's buttoned front, a little ways.

"Are you going to be here for the celebrity speeches?" Betty was asking? "I hear they're going to have four movie stars, this year."

"Sure am. Can't wait to hear them tell us to, 'Get a life'. Hey! That is a great costume," he said, looking Betty up and down, and meant it. It really accented her gorgeous hips and narrow waist, as well as bringing out the finer qualities of her magnificent figure. But he liked her accessories, too. "Especially the whip and your high boots, and those little ears," he said.

"Thanks. I made it myself. Cat woman costumes come in so many variations, you can make them up almost any way you want and they're always convincing. I never get mistaken for anyone but the Cat babe. Yours looks real convincing, too. Is that a real broom handle, Mauser pistol? The C96?"

David glanced at the German gun strapped to his hip.

"Naw! It's one of those fake replica things you can buy. I just got it for the costume. It looks like the real thing, doesn't it? Do you know guns? Not too many girls know what a Mauser is, much less that it's a broom handle C96 model."

"My brother and dad are gun nuts, among other things. I hear them talking guns half of every day. I can't wait to move out."

"Well. It's all copied from the movie and fake," he lied. The German Mauser, holstered on David's hip, was a real firearm. David had bought it specifically for his costume and had fired five hundred rounds through it, already, just to get a feel for it. He did have ammunition on him, in the three attached extra clips, on his holsters belt, and more in the trunk of the Charger, but he somehow thought, they wouldn't be needed. He just liked having a real gun, lately.

Ever since his little jaunt into Area 51, David had gotten very cautious and just a little paranoid about protecting himself. On this or any other trip, he felt he'd be better prepared for trouble, with a real gun. It probably was irresponsible to bring it into the hotel, but it was part of the costume. No one would question if it were real, except Betty. But she was unusual. And the pistol made him feel just that tiny bit more secure, it being with him, and knowing it was handy. But David wasn't about to load it for this fanzine gathering, with the clip chamber empty, but it looked right, with the costume. At least one person there, thought it did.

Betty and he talked a bit longer and she seemed just on the edge of being too enthusiastic for him, even though that was quite common at a fanzine of any kind, especially when people started downing their mini-bottles of booze. Yet he was surprised how much he was enjoying speaking with her. He often remembered Cheryl, that F.B.I. bitch that fooled him into thinking she was honestly interested in him, and somehow got through his defenses. She had approached him, not the other way around, so David was always suspicious of people that walked up to him. Betty, like Sheryl, though, was awfully cute not to talk to, but David had his radar up, looking for any kind of tell that she was anything other than what she appeared to be.

"Are you here by yourself," she asked.

"Yeah. I enjoy coming to these things, seeing people that have similar interests and get a little crazy with them. They're always fun to be around, unless they get too drunk and nutty."

"I know what you mean. I was flying back from Phoenix, a couple of years ago and there was a bunch of drunk fanzine people I recognized from the event that were being way too loud as we boarded the plane. They almost kicked most of them off or weren't going to take off unless they quieted down. I hate drunks."

"You look too young to drink, anyway. I guess you don't, huh, drink?"

"No," Betty said. "My parents are drinkers and I don't go in for it. I hate the way they act, sometimes. Drinking makes people stupid. I've got a brother, though, that's really going off the deep end and they don't even know it. No. Drinking's not my thing. I'm into make believe stuff, like this," she tugged at her costume, pulling a bit of lycra way from her lovely hip. The lycra snapped right back of course. "You look too young to drink, yourself."

"I could. I'm a bit older than I look, but no, I don't drink. I'd rather have a cherry coke."

"I'm a root beer, girl, myself," she said, kinda perking up, and they both laughed easily.

"Want to go get something to drink?" Betty said. "It's so hot in here with all these people. It's kind of expensive, though, the food and drinks, but I saved for a little extravagance. Have you ever noticed," she rattled on. "Unless you know someone, it can get boring pretty quick at these things. Even at a gathering like this, there are clicks. A lot of people come in packs. I usually come with a girlfriend, but she couldn't make it this time."

"Where are you from?" David asked.

"Winner, South Dakota. It's a small agricultural town, in the south end of the state. How about you?"

David told her. "They ship a lot of grain and raw steel out of there. But about those sodas? It is hot in here, isn't it? And lets get something to eat? I'm starving."

"Sure. I'm game, if we can get through this crowd."

"Okay! But let me buy it. I always bring more money than I need to these things. You never know what might interest you at a crazy gathering like this. Lots of books, toys, and other gadgets that get laid out are always a temptation for me. I seem to always find something I want."

"Thanks. I think I'll take you up on that, Mister Secord."

"Call me Cliff, Betty," and they smiled each other's way. They were both completely aware of the two main characters names, in the movie and comics of the Rocketeer. Betty was Cliff Secords girl friend. "Too bad you don't have a costume for Betty's part. We could be a couple," he told her, as they made their way through the shoulder to shoulder crowd.

"As I remember it, she didn't wear a whole lot of clothes. She did a lot, nudie-cutie pictures, cheese-cake photos, they used to call them, to make a buck, in the comic books. Not much costume in that kind of part."

"Hey! That works for me," David said.

Betty hit him, lightly. "Besides, I doubt anyone even remembers her. She was usually fighting off creeps, half undressed and tied up, most the time, in both the books and the film. You know, you kind of look like the lead, in the movie. You even combed your hair like him, too, didn't you?"

"Just trying to fit in."

"You're pretty convincing. What do you do?"

"Oh, this and that. I play the stock market sometimes. It gives me enough money to live on."

"Really?"

"Yeah. How about you?"

"I turned eighteen, just before graduation. I've been working as a paralegal, the last couple of months, but I've been thinking of going to college, if I can get a grant. I'd like to go into law, I think. But I hear the hours are horrible. I want to put my feet up at the end of the day, not go interview people or stay up all night working on ten different cases at a time. There's got to be something better, I keep thinking, but I don't know what it is?"

"So fanzines aren't your life, then, huh?"

"I wish. I love these things, if I have company. You know us girls, we've got to go in pairs or packs."

"Yeah, why is that?" David asked in front of the refreshment stand. "A coke and a root beer, please," he told the hotel guy behind the tables.

"I don't know. Maybe girls are just more gregarious. Besides, there's strength in numbers. Men are just plain stronger than girls and a bad guy is less likely to force himself on a girl if there's two or more of us."

"You're probably right. Let's get something to nibble on, too. Get whatever you want. It's my treat, remember."

Betty looked things over and chose a piece of carrot cake already on a plate. David got a piece of chocolate swirl.

He handed Betty her root beer, in the paper cup and she thanked him. "You're welcome," he said, his tone soft and unused to dealing with a girl. He paid the hotel guy, telling him to keep the five dollars in change, and took a sip of his drink, spilling a drop or two on his fingers. "Napkins. I need napkins," he said. Getting more than he needed, he handed a couple to Betty.

"Want to go see some of the junk they've got for sale?" he asked.

Betty nodded her head, her mouth full of cake.

After swallowing and taking a sip of soda, she asked, "You never told me your name, Cliff?"

"David. David Evans."

"Nice to meet you, David."

"Back at cha, Betty," he said. They grinned, taking more bites of their cakes as they shouldered through the crowd.

"How did you get here," David asked. "I mean to the city."

"I flew out of Pierre. I borrowed the Dark Knights bat wing, of course."

"Of course. You are a bit of a thief, aren't you?"

"So they say. I can't remember. The bump to my head, you know?" Betty was reminiscing the story line of Cat Woman, how she had been created in the comics.

David couldn't help but notice how pretty her smile was and wondered what she looked like beneath her mask.

"Don't slug me, but where is Pierre?"

"It's the capitol of South Dakota, silly."

"You're kidding? I've honestly never heard of it. I must have been sleeping that day in geography."

"No matter. It's not a really well known state, except for a couple of national parks like Mt. Rushmore and The Badlands."

They came to the tables with all the books and gadgets and wandered here and there, taking in the nifty little items for sale. David bought a couple of books and a neon-like Star Wars light saber. He also bough Betty a couple of small items she wanted, convincing he had a lot of money to burn. It was crowded in there, too, but less noisy than other rooms. They had fun together and David was pleasantly surprised by how much of it they were having. Betty put no demands on him and he tried not to be too generous with his money by buying her things that might embarrass them both, like very pricing items. He didn't want her to think she'd owe him anything for being nice, like he'd heard some guys do, hoping to get laid for buying a girl dinner and a movie, or some drinks. He had no experience like that and didn't want to be some kind of low-life that expected such things.

Towards the end of the night, David asked what she was doing for dinner.

"I thought I'd go to the dinning room for a late supper. Why?"

"Well, I hate to eat in crowded, public places, and the dinning room's going to be packed like a sardine can. I was going to order in, through the hotel, and was wondering if you'd like to join me? No strings attached, Betty. Really. And real casual. I'll be wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and no shoes, probably. I'd love to have your company. Like you said, we don't know anyone but each other. If that's too private, we could go out somewhere. I'll understan..."

"I'd like that, David, eating in."

So they agreed and later that evening, they got together and ordered the most lavish things on the menu. Lobster and King crab. They had a good time, talked and David was rather surprised at just how beautiful, she was without her Cat Woman's mask. A classic country beauty, big farmers-daughter shape and all.

As they spoke about things and themselves, David admitted to his degrees and doctorates and she admitted to having a weakness for dark chocolate. Any kind and the darker the better. She found it, "erotic," she'd said.

"Guess I'll have to go get some dark stuff, then."

Betty pushed him backward, pointed her finger at him in mock sternness, "You behave yourself, young man!" she said.

"What?" he asked, in total innocence.

The following day, David took Betty out in his car, in the pink morning light of day. They had breakfast at a little, out of the way, a greasy spoon of a place, but it was good food. He wanted to see Independence and look over Kansas City, which in fact was one big city, including the one across the river, in Kansas. After the noon hour, they had a nice meal at an upscale restaurant, before coming back to the fanzine hotel.

They parted ways, going to their separate rooms and David let Betty do as she wished, by not making further plans to meet her anywhere. He wanted to give her some space. He was a little taken with her and he was certain she liked him, to a point, but he wanted to let her breathe a little. Besides, she had his room and phone number. They had just met, after all, and he wasn't entirely certain as to Betty's feelings concerning him, as a woman of eighteen. That she was quite a bit younger than himself, having admitted to being twenty-three, even if he didn't look it, he wasn't quite sure how she felt about dating him. If you could call what they were doing, 'dating'. But maybe he should call her? He had her name and hotel phone number, too, but he'd decided against it in his admitted ignorance. He'd go to the shin-dig this afternoon and tonight on his own. If he met her, that would be fine. If not, he'd just try and enjoy things by himself, if they didn't meet.

While watching an old movie star giving a short speech, David felt hands on either side of his ribs, shaking him. He turned around to see Betty, smiling up at him, hesitantly.

"Hi, stranger." she said. "Is that you under there, David?"

David removed his Rocketeer helmet and said, "Hello. I was hoping I'd see you. This crowds really getting to me. It's no fun without you."

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming down?"

"I wanted to give you some room. I'm not very good, I mean, I don't know a lot about girls, Betty. I don't, hardly, really, even date, ever, at all." It was awkward for David to try and explain. "We've spent so much time together, yesterday and this morning, I didn't want you to feel as if I was being smothering or pushy."

"What do you think I'm feeling," she said, taking off her mask and touching his wrist with her finger tips, letting her hands slide down into his hand and holding it tightly. She stepped up, very close to him, beneath his chin, looking up into his eyes.

There was a look of longing in those pretty blues of hers, and he easily recognized she was feeling something very real. It was almost as if she were begging for a kiss and for the second time in David's life, he wanted to kiss a girl. He could smell Betty's sweet perfume. He took her in his arms and kissed her, the leather from his costume crackling in that muffled, expensive way leather does. He could feel her body pressing into him and it was a thrill he hadn't known for quite some time. It wasn't the greatest kiss for either of them, though, at least on David's part, because he wasn't that experienced at kissing. But they both enjoyed it and parting, to get a breath, the second one was much, much better as they always were, David thought. With Betty in her lycra costume, it almost felt like he was holding a naked girl. They were exciting moments for him.

Cat calls and hoots sprang up all around them, along with stupid comments bordering on and indulging in vulgarity, but they laughed together amidst the flashing cameras and applause, as if a kiss were a big thing to all these half-wits and nerds.

Then out of the mulling voices of the crowd and the speaker's voice, up on stage, three loud explosive shots were heard, coming from the direction of the front of the hall and stage, and then a forth and a fifth noise. They were gun shots and were easy enough to recognize. They both knew what gun shots sounded like and crouched down.

Almost on instinct, David pulled the device out from beneath his leather jacket as both he and Betty stood a bit taller as the crowd began to surge for exits.

"Get out of here, Betty," David shouted, giving her a push towards the door. In that instant he depressed the button to stop time, but noticed, in that reckless moment, she was staring right at him. That would be a problem, later. But there was time enough to figure it out.

David moved through the crowd, making his way to the shooter. It was some guy dressed in a lame costume as if he were Robin hood, and he had a short barreled revolver pointed at the actors on stage. The one was already down, and the other three were falling. This twisted low-life was killing them.

David rolled back time, slowly, and replayed the scene in slow reverse motion, starting time now to forward.

The creep pulled the revolver out from behind his pants and fired up at the speaker first. He watched the actor fall backward and down onto the stage as the gun went off again and again, the other actors being hit with each bullet, even the one woman, whom he shot twice.

David didn't care about the guy's motivations, he just wanted to stop it. He rolled time back, again, before the first shot, stopped time and loaded his Mauser pistol. Just in case something went wrong with his plan to take away the guys gun. Then he had an idea. A great idea that he thought would be fun and funny to pull off, maybe. It would suit his heroic costumes theme of crime fighting and stopping the bad guy. Yeah, he was gonna love this and the news reports.

David put on his helmet, strapping it in place, then let time creep forward as he held the pistol arm of the killer up towards the stage, between and above the actors. David aimed each shot precisely into some heavy wooden beams, so the bullets wouldn't go through anything else, and kept it pointed at them, exactly, as each shot was slowly fired, but in different spots for each of the five rounds.

He let the five shots ring out, still in slow motion, counting them. They sounded like muffled, super heavy barbells being dropped on a concrete floor. When the fifth bullet fired, all that the big caliber revolver held, David lowed the arm of the creep, took careful aim, while he was now in stopped time, and slugged him as hard as he could on the jaw. He wasn't about to give the guy a chance at escaping.

There is more of this chapter...
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