Dekker's Dozen: The Last Watchmen

Ezekiel



Dekker’s Dozen #004

*clink* *clack*

Dekker breathed hard and heavy, mimicking the noises a sleeping body should make. He barely moved a muscle as he silently wrapped his fingers around the pistol that he always kept holstered between his mattress and wall.

Whoever was in his bedroom, they didn’t belong. A thief? Definitely none of the Dozen; everybody knew this was his most holy sanctuary.

The only question he wondered, as he listened to the intruder’s random shambling in the dark, is how such an inept burglar got past all their sophisticated security systems. The shambling noises stopped; some item had the thief’s attention.

Dekker let his vision adjust to the darkness as they scanned the silhouette near his closet. His eyes picked the intruder out from the darkness; he pulled his weapon to bear and sat up.

Ezekiel

“Put your gun away,” spat the intruder with a raspy voice. He chided Dekker as if he should’ve expected him. He flicked on the lights, blinding Dekker.

Surprised, Dekker winced and discharged the weapon, blowing a hole though the wall a half meter from the intruder.

“Wow,” he examined the smoking weapon with wide eyes. “I don’t remember you shooting at me.” Holding the Reliquary, the old man shambled over to the bedside and set the massive gun down on the mattress, examining it in great detail.

Dekker recognized him because of the heavy, bronze amulet that hung from a chain about his neck—he would never forget what happened just after their last encounter. Ezekiel, the self-proclaimed time traveler possessed an identical talisman to the one hanging on Dekker’s wall nearby—a gift from his father.

“What are you doing here?” Dekker demanded, still too bewildered to address the trespass into his private sanctum.

“Yes, I see,” Ezekiel muttered to himself, giving Dekker no heed. “So that’s how that works.”

Frustrated, Dekker shook his head wryly. “Nobody knows how it works. And it’s been examined by a lot of people but its technology simply doesn’t exist.” Dekker set his weapon down beside him. He didn’t exactly understand what was happening, but he figured the old man was mostly harmless.

“Well not here yet, it hasn’t… or maybe not anymore, I mean,” Ezekiel muttered. He whirled around to take two large shells from the nearby ammo box. The stain of ancient dirt clung to the old box; it had been encased in clay for several millennia. Unable to locate any more, the reliquary’s ammunition supply was limited: about half the box. Ezekiel examined the engravings on a shell casing, about the size of a fist, and smiled. “I remember now: the sequence of Greek alphabetic characters.” He chuckled to himself and rammed one canister-like cartridge into the chamber and clicked it shut.

“Whoa,” Dekker squinted against the light and snatched the gun away. He safely unloaded the shells. “That’s a terrible idea. A double-load is a bad idea, but never triple load it.”

“Oh, it’s quite alright,” Ezekiel reassured him. “I built it. Or at least I will… I think. It’s one or the other. I lose track sometimes.”

Skeptically, Dekker looked at him and rubbed the sleep from his face. Ezekiel looked exactly as he did when he last saw him several weeks ago. In fact, Muramasa’s blood still looked wet on Ezekiel’s shirt.

Ezekiel took a strange device from the leather satchel that hung at his side. It attached by an adjustable band which he strapped over Dekker’s left forearm.

“What’s this thing?”

“I guess you must not know me yet, so you won’t recall any of this.” He muttered his thoughts aloud, “Yes, that’s it; that is why I’m here… It’s a temporal phase-stabilizer, obviously.”

“Oh sure,” Dekker said sarcastically. He fidgeted with its fitting and stood up. He wore pants, but was otherwise shirtless. Dekker always wore pants to bed; he’d had to leap from sleep into action often enough that he’d learned to prepare.

“Don’t take that off.”

“Or else what?”

“You’ll fall out of time.” Ezekiel put a cartridge in his satchel and slung the Reliquary over the half-sleeping Dekker’s shoulder. “Now hang on, we’re going to jump through the Great Engine.”

“Wait, what?” Dekker heard a loud knock on his door. With a bright flash of light, like a sudden blow to the head, he felt suddenly heavy, like he was falling, and slipped into unconsciousness.

* * *

Cold. The chill wind startled Dekker to his senses. Slow, like waking up hungover, Dekker felt as if he’d mostly recovered consciousness, and yet, through the groggy haze, a fog of memories, barely perceivable, washed over his brain like a slow tide.

Ezekiel extended a hand to help Dekker to his feet. Craggy plains stretched away in one direction and a rocky wall blocked the other. They walked towards a rising slope; the current scenery didn’t matter much to the accidental time-traveler.

“It was…” Dekker tried to explain the haze of images bleeding out of his mind like a fading dream. “I can’t describe it.”

“The great machine,” Ezekiel labeled it. “Don’t worry. There aren’t words in the tongues of any created beings sufficient to describe it. The gears, the wheels, the sheer power. The raw energy it generates powers this,” he indicated the contraption on his back and the device on Dekker’s arm.

Awestruck, Dekker grappled with words. “It’s like infinity… spinning eternal. Time? Life? Love?”

“The thing about infinity,” Ezekiel said as he pointed Dekker toward the nearby mountain, “is that it’s not specific enough.”

Dekker gave him a confused look. Ezekiel had yet to give him a straight reply.

“Nonexistence and timelessness are both as infinite as an eternal progression of time and reality. It’s a dreadful irony.”

“But I exist. Time exists. Nonexistence, timelessness cannot be infinite if existence is truly real.”

“Is it?” Ezekiel chuckled as he walked onward, beckoning the investigator to follow.

“What do you mean? Would you start making some sense,” Dekker demanded.

“My mission. I told you about it when we met at Muramasa’s funeral, or, I will tell you about it when we meet.”

“The machine—you intend to keep it running? You’d said something about the engine seizing, stopping, or something like that.”

“Quite right. If the machine breaks,” Ezekiel pointed to a staircase carved in the stone of the mountainside and started climbing, “then the function ceases.”

“The function?”

“Time. Existence.”

“Wonderful. So the fate of the galaxy, reality, and all time itself rests on my shoulders?” He still barely knew what was going on and such a mission out of the blue had Dekker all but convinced he’d fallen into some sort of lucid dream state. He didn’t put it past Guy and Vivian to prank him with a dosage of psychotropic neuro-stims.

“Ha! So full of yourself,” Ezekiel laughed. “No, you failed. Err, you will fail? In fact, you need to. It’s what happened, or will happen. But in your defense, you were setup, outmatched—that is… you will be.”

“What! Then why am I here?”

“Because this has all happened,” Ezekiel looked around into empty space, trying to make sense of it himself. “It needs to happen… in my future—your past. No wait, maybe it’s the other way around?”

“You’re a nutjob, I think.”

“I seem to recall you saying that last time too,” Ezekiel winked at him and continued the climb. “Time stopped being linear for me quite some time ago. My apologies for the confusion.”

Dekker followed him. Still befuddled as ever and unsure if even Ezekiel really knew what was going on. The whole surreality of the situation further convinced Dekker that he was dreaming and so Dekker followed in silence; he looked at the gizmo the time traveler had given to him.

“So how does this thing work, anyway?”

“It’s the same technology as the machine. It draws power from it if you understand the mechanical operation. The engine literally fuels it and tether’s you to the device on my back. It creates a kind of piggyback system.”

Dekker looked more closely at the device hanging from Ezekiel’s posterior. It didn’t look like much. “So this ‘engine’ travels time?”

“It does more than that! Time, reality, is infinite. The great engine spins the very fabric of time and reality, but that stuff is linear. As much as it splits and divides into eternal substructures, each nanosecond replicating the whole into another strain, each of those remains linear and, thus, someone could jump to any place or time in reality by passing through the engine. The machine’s power allows me to skip across the woven strands and insert myself into them.”

Dekker glanced at Ezekiel thinking of him as some kind of quantum superintendent. “So this power that fuels this,” he shook his banded wrist, “it’s not going to go nuclear or irradiate me to death or anything is it?” He scratched an itch under the device’s leather strap.

“No,” Ezekiel stated. “There is no danger; it’s the same basic energy source as your ‘Reliquary’ takes. Based on what the future holds, I do suppose that an alternative fuel could be found, although no force is as powerful as the great engine. Perhaps the power of an entire star might do the trick—it might even allow one the capability of a horizontal jump—not through time, but perhaps through space.”

“So,” he fidgeted with the gadget, “it moves through time or space?” Dekker blew out a breath of thinning mountain air. He shuffled up another leg of steps. “Why didn’t you teleport us to the top of the stairs then, instead of to the bottom?”

“Linear time is a funny thing. We didn’t do that last time. And we can only do what we’ve already done before.”

Dekker looked at him, about to complain again. Ezekiel stopped him. “We already had this conversation at least once before. For now, we must climb. It is time for you to play the hero.”

* * *

A broad expanse yawned open at a clearing on the mountainside cliff. Squarely in the middle, an old monastery stood in defiance of the raw nature around it, and also lived in harmony with it.

Ezekiel paused. “Don’t be too free to offer up information,” he warned. “You don’t want people to think you’re crazy.” He waved to a man in the distance and then hurried to meet the monk at the temple gate.

Dekker followed.

“As promised, Diacharia,” Ezekiel stated. “I’ve delivered you a champion.”

“My friend, you continue to amuse me,” Diacharia replied warmly. He was young, but wore the clothes of a monastic priest, an outfit Dekker had not seen in many years. “You are Ezekiel’s friend?”

Dekker shook Diacharia’s hand. “I know you.”

Diacharia regarded him skeptically.

Ezekiel pulled Dekker aside for a moment. “These things already happened. You must simply play your part.”

“But Diacharia is the old priest who gave my father the Reliquary. I remember him… I was young, then.”

“Where and when do you think he got it,” Ezekiel slapped Dekker on the shoulder. “Diacharia, show our friend, Dekker, to his room.” He leaned in one last time and whispered, “Just don’t freak out when you meet your father.”

Dekker shot Ezekiel an incredulous look.

Diacharia led Dekker through the temple grounds. In the courtyard, young men and women methodically practiced Wushu moves as a part of their self-discipline. Across from them, others used wood bokken as swords as they went through a series of Kendo maneuvers with trained precision.

Just inside the monastery, a group of nearly thirty foreigners reclined. They looked earthy: road weary, agitated, and most definitely out of their element. Diacharia led him past and Dekker could feel every eye follow him.

“That was my flock, the ones Ezekiel brought you here to protect.” He saw Dekker to a nearby room where clothes had been laid out for him. “You must be tired. I’ll let you rest until our next meal.”

* * *

Dekker woke to the sound of voices, not realizing he’d been sleeping. The concept of sleeping while in his dream amused him for a moment.

He stepped into the hallway and walked back the way Diacharia had led him. A small group of young men sat with Ezekiel, engaged with intense conversation. The old man, his bloodied shirt now soiled by dirt and mire, waved him over to join them.

“Sorry. I did not wake you,” Diacharia said. “You looked as if you needed rest.” He scooted a bowl of rice to Dekker.

He graciously accepted the food and examined those at the table. Incredibly, he saw the much younger versions of several men he already knew, men from a past life. Muramasa, perhaps thirty years old, sat next to him. Diacharia had been an old friend until he’d disappeared several years ago, or many years in the future, as Ezekiel would point out—they’d only found a hand-painted red tree on the old priest’s floor and friends assumed he’d gone on a private journey—perhaps to meditate on nature—and never returned.

Across the table sat Dekker’s father, Jude. Dekker grinned as he ate; Jude was quite a bit younger than Dekker was now.

“Well,” said Muramasa, “We certainly agree that the Krenzin are keepers of dangerous doctrine. While their philosophies look good externally, their end result is that they would assimilate our culture and dilute our beliefs, our passions. I think they are still too new to this galaxy to have our full trust.”

Jude nodded. “I still can’t thank you enough, Muramasa. Despite a thousand secret religions waging thousands of secret wars on each other, it’s good to know that we still have friends… that not every religion seeks the death of all others. And yes, the Krenzin might be included in the assumption of the latter.”

“Well, we share love as a common, core principal,” Muramasa smiled. “Right or wrong, theologically speaking, is moot if we cannot practice that love which we pledge ourselves to. So we can easily pledge ourselves to your protection. Besides, this man who hunts you is also my enemy. He’s tried to leverage his influence against my brother in law for years, now.”

“Love is the one thing that is true,” a young woman said. She walked up from behind and wrapped her arms around Jude. Dekker immediately recognized his mother. “We can agree on that.”

“You do know, though,” Muramasa pointed out, “The Watchmen would be very welcome in the Jerusalem fortress. No force has ever broken through the great city’s defenses. Your group would be quite safe there, I’m sure—given your common ground on certain historical events.”

“We’d become useless,” Diacharia interjected. “Our mission, what we stand for, demands we remain in the world, not outside of it, cloistered away where our message is silenced.”

An explosion suddenly rocked the building. An alarm blared throughout the compound.

“It is them,” Muramasa jumped to his feet. “The Druze. Your enemy has tracked you here; we must defend ourselves.”

“Hero,” Ezekiel tossed a shell to Dekker as the air crackled with another detonation. “You’ll need this.”

Dekker grabbed the Reliquary and sprinted to the courtyard, following after Jude, Diacharia, and Muramasa. Outside, under the shadow of a hovering platform, the trees burned as Muramasa’s men fought hand to hand against the intruders. The monks easily overwhelmed the invaders with superior skill.

After minutes of intense fighting, many of the insurgents retreated, climbing rope ladders back to their hovering transport. A figure appeared on the platform’s edge.

Prognon Austicon. Dekker immediately recognized the ageless assassin as he leaned over the platform edge and pointed a rifle at Muramasa. Too far away to react, Dekker watched as time seemed to slow down. Jude leapt in front of Muramasa as the weapon discharged.

Blood splattered from Jude’s chest and he and Muramasa tumbled to the dirt. Vesuvius’s uncle wrapped his arms around the young man who’d saved him and dragged him away from the battle.

Dekker roared in anger as he slammed the cartridge into the chamber of the Reliquary. He aimed the barrel skyward. Austicon turned and looked into Dekker’s eyes, seeing this enemy for the first time in the terrorist’s life.

Pulling hard on the trigger, Dekker unleashed a torrent of white, lightning flame. A conduit of intense, emerald energy, wider than he was tall and crackling with power, blasted through the hovering platform, smashing it to atoms.

Hurled sidelong, the smoldering wreckage collapsed to the ground. As the defenders cheered, Dekker ran to Jude’s side where Muramasa held him upright.

“Medic!” Muramasa demanded. “He saved my life.”

“I know. Now I’m gonna save his.” Dekker ripped open his father’s shirt. The bullet glanced off the serpentine amulet he wore, deflecting it away from Jude’s heart, though it still lodged dangerously close.

Dekker knew how to treat bullet wounds; he’d lost enough comrades in the past that it had become an acquired skill. It looked grisly, but so long as Jude got proper attention he would be fine.

While Dekker applied first aid, Ezekiel picked up the reliquary and gave it to Diacharia along with a hand drawn map. “Take care of this. You saw what one shell does. Two shells will unleash the very finger of God upon your enemies. But never triple-load it, that powerful blast could quite literally destroy the universe.”

“And what’s this?” Diacharia asked, holding up the map.

“Buried treasure,” he replied with a wink.

Several long minutes later, Ezekiel tapped Dekker on the shoulder. “The worst of it is over. You saw him through it, Dekker. You saved his life. Mission accomplished.”

“I thought you said I was destined to fail?”

“Not here and now. But we do have to go.”

“Don’t we have all the time in the world?” Dekker challenged the time traveler.

“Yes, but we can only do what we’ve already done,” Ezekiel restated.

Dekker didn’t like his answer, but he stood anyway and followed Ezekiel towards the temple doors.

“I will tell him that you saved his life, Dekker,” Muramasa promised. “I am sure Jude will honor you in whatever way he can.”

* * *

The humidity clung to the stone stairs in the deepening night air. Backlit by the burning wreckage of Austicon’s attack, Dekker’s foot slipped and he skidded down a couple of the steps as he trailed after the old man. “What was that all about?”

“We had to make sure that we prevented your father’s death, obviously.”

“Did we just change history?”

“No! I’ve already told you, we have to do what’s been done already. It’s all part of the plan. We are not changing any history; we are just participating in it so that it does not change again. We had to make sure that you were conceived; your parents have only begun to recognize their love for each other. In one year Diacharia will perform their marriage ceremony.” Ezekiel paused. “It was a beautiful ceremony, but the lamb was a bit dry for my taste.”

Ezekiel continued down the steps.

“So this was all about me?”

“Well, don’t get such a big head, but yes. If you aren’t conceived, you couldn’t be here now.”

Dekker stopped. He couldn’t figure out all the details in the logic. He assumed that Ezekiel didn’t understand them all either.

He chased after the old man again. An unexpected hope sprang up within him; perhaps there was a chance to save Aleel in all of this.

Ezekiel spoke aloud again as he fiddled with his machine. He talked more to himself than to Dekker whose thoughts were suddenly consumed with formulating a rescue plan. “We can only do what we’ve already done. We are in the past, after all,” he chuckled, and then took Dekker’s hand, slipping into the ether.

* * *

Dekker’s eyes opened and he sat up on his seat. He’d been propped up on the bar like a drunk, though his return to consciousness had fewer nasty effects than alcohol. He shook off the grog.

Exekiel patted him on the back and pointed to the video screen. It was midday and so only a few patrons milled about in the bar—mostly chronic drunks; the newsfeed played to the delinquents who made this place home. “Do you recognize this?”

He squinted through the smoky air that dried his eyes. Recognition made his heart pound; newsfeeds showed the Parliament Courtyard burgeoning with protesters quietly demonstrating their disapproval. It was the day! “This is the day I lost everything.”

“The day that made you what you are now?”

“It redefined me. What time is it?” he demanded, frantically searching for a clock.

“We can’t change what happens today, Dekker. Only play the part we always did in its events. I know you’re confused, but we have to stop Dodona.”

“Who?”

“They are religious zealots, the same group that tried to assassinate your father on the night we just came from. Prognon Austicon commands them, on behalf of the Verdant Seven.”

“That was the Druze, not Dodona! And this is the day my father dies! The day they all die!”

“I know; Dodona uses whatever tools are available—for a time that tool is the Druze. And today, we stop Dodona and Prognon Austicon!”

“Then we have to go,” Dekker implored. “There isn’t much time.”

“First, you must know your enemy. How long have you chased Austicon? I’ve diverted his plans for many years, well, just days in my time. The last two decades alone I’ve concentrated on saving your father.”

A moment of understanding hit Dekker. “Austicon’s not human. What is he?”

“He was a man, once: an archaeologist who found a vile, cursed thing beneath the Phoenician sands. A man twice possessed, by both the seed of a dead intergalactic entity and a vengeful Baal. Nothing remains of the man. After nearly a millennia, he’s become an incarnation of the Arbolean race and represents their hopes and dreams.”

“Arboleans?”

“Even they don’t understand the danger of Baal, the demonic entity within is the real threat to the universe—far more than a grove of once-sacred trees. Come, we must go, now.”

“To stop Austicon?”

“Indeed.”

Dekker hoped against hope. Maybe I can fix this! Perhaps Aleel could be saved! Long had he dreamed of the opportunity to save the life of his wife and unborn child.

* * *

Digital flashbulbs popped and recharged as the MEA Tribunal on Religions called upon Jude Knight to take the podium inside the Parliament building. A young lady in the advanced stages of pregnancy escorted him.

“Thank you, Mr. Knight for joining us today,” the chairman stated. “Your religious group, The Watchmen, however small, is well respected by what few legally operating faith groups remain.” A few in the audience sneered. “Most of those humans clinging to old faiths instead of the Universal Philosophies have grown unquestionably dangerous in recent years, especially more so since citizenship was offered to the Krenzin. Here is the purpose of this council, to decide: Are Religions Dangerous?”

“Well,” the graying Jude replied, “Belief and nonbelief are both matters of faith. But I am no expert, as were the others before me. What weight can my opinion carry?”

“Even in those cults deemed terroristic in nature, interrogation always brings up your name. Across the board, you are respected by your contemporaries. Could you explain explain this?”

“We just love.” Jude shrugged. “Our beliefs come from out conviction, faith, and even evidence. Living out our faith is our only need to proselytize. We do not need weapons; we don’t force conversion. We proclaim our beliefs through our lives—it is the best and truest testimony.”

“And yet,” the councilman pressed, “most religious groups’ primary activities seem to include waging war on their enemies: other cults or religious factions.” The councilman set a large binder down on the podium. “We’ve collected a vast amount of material on what has been called the ‘Secret Wars.’ Because of your nonviolent tradition, your voice is the one the council chose to hear as we determine whether or not all groups of faith should be permanently banned.”

“I am aware of that,” Jude spoke into the microphone. “I think it a testament to my position, and to the cooperative mission of inter-faith peace, that so many men and women you claim are bitter enemies stand outside, unified in support of my testimony here today.”

The walls rumbled slightly. A dull roar from the cheers in the Parliamentary courtyard, where the proceedings were broadcast live, shook the building.

“This is our greatest testimony,” Jude continued. “Life. Genuine love and faith are the keys to peace and truth.” He motioned for Aleel to step up to the microphone. Jude patted her round belly. “This is Aleel, my daughter in law and mother to my first grandchild. Raised in a sect that pledged to destroy all supporters of the sovereign Jerusalem nation, she was raised to hate, but she now lives to love. I will let her tell you how important faith groups are.”

* * *

Dekker followed Ezekiel as they skirted the edge of the massive crowd arrayed outside the parliament. His eyes fixated on the jumbo video projection screen… on his beloved Aleel. He knew exactly where his younger self stood at this very moment, at the head of the crowd and just in front of the closed Parliament doors.

“Where are we going? I know where Austicon strikes next! We’re going the wrong way.”

“You’re not seeing the big picture. Before we can consider the events in the Parliament, we must stop Dodona from kidnapping Corcoran Andrews. He needs to disappear.”

“Never heard of him.” Dekker hustled to keep up.

Ezekiel had quickening his pace as he checked his timepiece.

Dekker adjusted the fit of his temporal phase-stabilizer strapped to his forearm. “Who is he?”

“The scientist who destroys Earth. His invention instigates the eradication of Jerusalem and enables a doomsday weapon to consume the planet. Without Earth, the colonies on the outer planets eventually wither and die. Humanity ceases.”

“That’s what stops the Machine?”

“No. It’s you who destroys reality.” He checked his watch again. “Well, by extension, when Austicon kills you, or if he kills you, or if you kill you. The end was very confusing, what with the planet blowing up and all. But that’s not for almost twenty years, and there is plenty of time to set all the pieces in motion.”

Ezekiel led the flabbergasted Dekker into a research facility a few blocks away. “You must protect Andrews at all costs, even on your life. If Austicon takes Andrews now, all is lost, and if he kills you today, then you won’t gain the vengeance-fueled drive to stop this madmen for the next two decades, and my mission would be rendered redundant. Andrews is on the second floor.”

“Wait. If this has already happened before, in the past, then wouldn’t you already know if I saved Andrews or not and if I die saving him?”

“Now you’re catching on.” Ezekiel winked and then turned to leave.

“Where are you going?” Dekker asked, more convinced by the vagaries that he could possibly save Aleel.

“I’m going to save your life—even if you apparently don’t remember it.”

* * *

Dekker walked quickly through the hall, scanning the nameplates on the office doors until he found Andrews. He knocked briefly and then entered. “Corcoran Andrews?”

“Yes?” A young man looked up from his workbench. “Who’s asking?”

“Listen. You’re probably not going to believe me, but there are some dangerous men looking for you.”

Andrews pulled a small caliber pistol from under his desk and pointed it at Dekker. “Are you one of them?”

Dekker put his hands up, chuckling. “Hang on to that piece. It’s going to become illegal in about two days. And that will make it very valuable.”

“So which are you? The guy who’s been trying to steal my research or the one who wants to kill me for posting unpopular opinions about the Krenzin on the DBB?”

“I hear you. I’ve got no love for them either, but I don’t even know what you’re working on. I just know that there’s a group of men who are planning to kidnap you and I’ve been sent to stop that.”

“Women, actually,” said a female voice.

Dekker felt the barrel of a gun prod him in the back through the doorway. She motioned for Andrews to drop his gun; the scientist complied.

Three females, each waving assault rifles, pushed Dekker inside the office.

“You,” the leader barked at Andrews, “gather you’re research. You’re coming with us.”

Andrews looked to Dekker. Dekker nodded. Andrews inserted a portable drive and punched in six sets of passcodes to unlock his secure data and transfer it to the drive.

The leader snatched it from Andrews’ hands and put five bullets into Andrews’ computer and backup systems. She pointed her gun at his head.

Andrews winced and yelled, “My research isn’t done yet! It’s no good with me dead.”

“That’s why you’re coming with us. She cuffed his wrists together with a self-locking tie and shoved him towards her accomplices. “But you? You’re expendable.”

Three flashes burst from Dekker’s right hand and the three kidnappers lay dead on floor. He looked down the sights of his smoking pistol, “And you’re way too slow.”

Dekker cut Andrews’ bindings and pushed the scientist’s small pistol into his hands. “Believe me now?”

The stunned scientist only nodded, scrambling to retrieve the drive containing his life’s work. Shell-shocked, he verged on hyperventilation.

“Follow me, then.” Dekker led him to the building’s security suite on the first floor. “You have to listen to me. These people, they will not stop. You’re creating something that they want very badly. Whatever it is you create, it’s powerful enough to destroy the galaxy.”

Andrews gave him a funny look. “But I’m working with theories of inter-dimensional travel and mass gravitational dynamics.”

Now Dekker gave him a wry look.

“It’s just transportation… a kind of long range teleportation. There’s no weaponization to it at all. And how do you know so much about what I will do?”

Dekker flashed him the device on his wrist as he queued up the news feeds from the nearby Parliament. “I’m from the future.” He didn’t bother trying to explain, thinking it too ludacris an explanation to bother—he’d figured it was all a dream anyhow and there was no sense in fighting it.

“That makes perfect sense,” Andrews said, fully buying in. “That device enables your time travel?”

“Yeah,” He replied, only half paying attention to the scientist. “Crap!” Dekker switched between news feeds; his anxiety about Aleel grew. “It’s about to get really bad out there.” He turned his attention back to his primary task. “You’ve got to get lost, disappear. Make up a new identity, whatever, but if you don’t vanish, they will find you and very bad things will happen.”

Andrews nodded and agreed with him, but his curiosity was fixed upon the stabilizer on Dekker’s arm. His inquisitive nature seemed to override everything else, even the tense political climate streaming on the live video link.

* * *

Ezekiel finally pushed through the edge of the crowd and up to the top of the steps. He found a much younger Dekker waiting for the guards to let him enter the closed Parliament doors after the proceedings. “So tell me about yourself,” Ezekiel made small talk, watching his timepiece.

The young, unassuming Dekker rambled, trying to let small-talk take his mind off the importance of the political proceedings inside. Ezekiel already knew his story, how Dekker’s family led a small group, the Watchmen, ever since the disappearance of Diacharia, their priest. They guarded the last of the sacred writings and traced their order’s history to Solomon’s Templars. The Israeli remnant had survived within the Jerusalem fortress, existing as a separate entity from the MEA, but the Watchmen, not connected by lineage, remained outside, chiseled down through the generations of Secret Wars. Of course, Dekker didn’t share all that history—just that his wife and father were inside and he was anxious to see them—especially after recent threats against their lives.

With Dekker obviously distracted by his thoughts, Ezekiel glanced at the nearby flat-topped buildings and stepped back. He pulled a small mirror from his pocket and angled it against the sun; flashing a nearby tower, he blinded his rooftop target at the precise second. Moments later, two guards next to him fell dead, their chests’ torn open by sniper fire. The bullets’ cracking reports erupted just after, sending the masses into panic. Dekker scrambled for cover as the other guards sprang into action and Ezekiel ran for his life.

Shrieks roared from the crowd as more gunfire erupted all around. An all-out riot boiled over, hateful screams and insults, punctuated by bullets as the normally opposed religious adherents hurled accusations and fists. The parliament went into full lock-down as the panicked crowd imploded upon itself.

The guards fired over the riotous assembly trying to back them down. Unknown assailants returned the favor with opposing gunfire, wounding three more guards. The Parliament sentries retaliated, opening fire; they mowed down both violent and passive protestors alike resulting in total massacre.

Military vehicles swooped in, blasting more fire into the assembly. All who fled were either seized by nearby police or gunned down.

Ezekiel slipped away through a blind-spot just as constables tackled the young Dekker near at the Parliament doors. They slammed the Watchman to the ground, crushing his face into the pavement, and bound his hands and feet.

* * *

Corcoran Andrews listened to Dekker’s advice with only half an ear. As equally distracted as Dekker was by the newsfeeds, Andrews was by the mechanics and science of Dekker’s wild claim.

Violence trickled in via the real-time video. Dekker said, “In a few minutes, the area will be secure and we can make a run for it. Just follow the plan and you should be able to disappear with your new identity. I’ve got to leave you in a few minutes, but first I’ll see you safely past the containment checkpoints.”

Aleel consumed Dekker’s mind. He knew exactly where to find her: the safe-house on the edge of the city. He could be there in just a few minutes! He had plenty of time to spare.

The media networks boiled with the event. Every public official decried the violence exhibited by all sides of the conflict and expressly condemned what they saw as the root source of the turmoil: uncontrolled faith-groups.

“There’s blind rage inherent in every religious faction! They’re all zealots and need to be control,” one politician urged.

Another channel broadcasted MEA Chief Magnate Layle; he promised new laws which would require all religions to register. Layle boldly guaranteed forced submission and regulation to the laws and direct oversight by the Pheema, the great peacemaker of the Krenzin race, in order to squelch radical faiths.

Reporters and politicians each made bids to condemn the violence over the airwaves and advance their careers. Officials verbally attacked both protesters and the military, demanding the immediate confiscation of all lethal firearms and heavy restrictions.

“The MEA is on the verge of total peace. We always have been,” a commentator urged. “We need only a little more regulation to see it become reality!”

Dekker grimaced as the Pheema spoke on a different network. “All this hate-speech from radical faith groups must be quelled. Some groups even outlawed if necessary; it is to the benefit of all beings… All have rights to belief, except for those exclusive hatemongers who withhold peace from the many. People are capable of choosing a new belief set. It happens all the time; we find new truths as we advance our personal evolution and knowledge.”

Detecting a hint of smugness, Dekker felt compelled to throw a brick at the screen. All the violence and death that Dekker knew would amass over the next two days would escalate; millions would die before the worldwide, reactionary riots ceased. Amid the storm, Dekker only cared about saving Aleel. To that effect, he hoped to put a bullet in Austicon’s head, and he knew exactly where the terrorist would be ninety minutes from now.

“Time’s running out. Are you ready to go?” Dekker’s eyes remained fixated on the news-screen. He didn’t even glance at Andrews as he plotted the quickest escape route.

“If you’re saying this is my last chance, I’ve got to look at this device, quick.” Andrews unsnapped the temporal stabilizer on Dekker’s arm.

“No! Don’t touch that!” Like a flickering connection, Dekker disappeared, winking out of existence, bare-wristed.

Stunned, Andrews held the device in his hand. Remembering Dekker’s instructions, and the danger he was in. The reality of his situation suddenly hit him and Andrews bolted for the door.

* * *

A dim indicator light flashed on Ezekiel’s belt when he checked the status LEDs indicating Dekker had been flung from the timeline. “Well, you succeeded in the task at hand and Andrews is secure, at least.” He sighed heavily, hidden within the shadows. He’d secretly hoped that Dekker could somehow manage to arrive by his side and prevent what happened next—but he’d seen the investigator try and fail that before. It always ended the same.

Ezekiel watched a silent group of assassins move into position across the alley. Prognon Austicon strolled down the sidewalk and skipped giddly up the safe-house steps. The terrorist pushed the doorbell, waited two seconds, and then kicked in the door.

“Dodona,” the time traveler spat, identifying the assassin team that revered Austicon as a god and worshipped the trees he communed with. Ezekiel turned his face away. He knew what happened next; he didn’t need to see it. The ringing gunfire and Aleel’s screams were more than enough. “I’m sorry, my old friend. But this is how it always happened.”

Ezekiel wiped a tear from his cheek and picked up a rusty spade shovel. He dialed in his next coordinates and picked up the heavy, fully stocked ammunition crate he’d just sealed and then slipped off the current plane. He needed to dig a hole, yet and then locate Diacharia.

* * *

Dekker blinked his rapidly. Fractions of a second ago, he’d been in the past. Now, he stood in his bedroom at the foot of his bed, holding the Reliquary in his hands. The door to his inner room remained sealed, but he could hear Guy banging against it with ham-fisted, reckless abandon.

“You alright in there, Dekker? We heard gunfire!”

Glancing over to his private alcove, Dekker saw he’d nearly missed putting a bullet through his, priceless tome. Long had he guarded the ancient relic—the last of its kind, it had been outlawed during the riots he’d just relived. Dekker was the last Watchman. Next to that, and almost as valuable to him, were the photos: albums, clippings, and framed prints of Aleel. Near that, research materials that had helped him track Austicon all these years. The bullet had torn a clean hole through Prognon Austicon’s forehead on an old bounty poster.

The door slid open and Dekker stepped out. Most of the Dozen had arrived, weapons in hand, after hearing the gunshot. Vesuvius vainly tried to sneak a peek inside Dekker’s inner sanctum as the door closed behind him.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re sure?” Vesuvius looked skeptical, obviously worried.

“Yeah. But I don’t really want to talk about it.”

The others started to shuffle out, knowing better than to press Dekker for information. Shaw came into the room, completely oblivious to the rest of the chaos. “Dekker, some stodgy MEA guy just dropped this off. Said it was for your eyes only. He said something about the level of confidence we displayed at the Osix job—awfully odd to come by so late at night.”

A fingerprint scanner sealed the locked case. Dekker activated it with a thumb and removed the data: details on a job—a high paying job. Red letters marked the top page: DNIET. The next few pages contained dossiers, mostly of unheard of scientists at a distant space-bound research station.

One photo jumped out at him, although older than their last meeting, Dekker couldn’t forget the face. The subtitle listed him as Doctor Abe MacAllistair. Dekker knew him by another name: Corcoran Andrews.

“Everyone get ready. We’ve got a new job.”


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