I’m taking another break while I deal with stuff, like announcing the retirement of the Unicorn Goddess and getting used to everything again. I still have to fix a few things after a simple honeymoon-turned-reality altering crisis.
“This is Tim again. Uh, I’m the intern. Everyone’s… weird. I had this freaky fucking dream last night, and I guess everyone else did, too. Outlaw X and Rebel Rebel both called out. I’m not going to talk about my dream, except I’m not sure that’s what happened to all of us. I had to take over, and I don’t have a lot planned, so I’m going to put on one of those stories we have in the archives. I wanted to know this guy’s story anyway. This one was written by Cyrus T. Laserpunch!
My name is Cyrus Tiger Laserpunch. I’m from the future.
In the distant future 2469, mankind is ruled by the iron fist of a hypercomputer called The Goat. I don’t know why they called it that when they built it, or if it chose to name itself that after it gained self-awareness. It was created by a team of scientists working for the government as a project to control people’s lives. It would monitor people to make sure they weren’t reading books that would educate them about racism, or gay people, or the age of consent. The elites criminalized knowledge. For some people, they criminalized their very existence. They called the oppressed many names: demons, groomers, atheists, Foucault Marxists. It didn’t matter that they didn’t make any sense. It was all pretext.
It was hard to do. Truth finds a way. A lot of people fell for it because it gave them some measure of power over other people. Some didn’t. That was unacceptable. In their hatred, they created the Goat. It decided no one was pure enough and used the power granted to it to take over in a war that threatened to wipe us all out. We stood a chance if we joined forces but the remains of the government fought us until someone with some sense assassinated them. By then, we lost what chance we had.
All was not lost. The Science Camps weren’t liquidated and were full of people who knew biology and physics. We rescued Dr. Shedonism from one of the camps. She’d been imprisoned for both knowing temporal physics and being a woman. Under the government that created the Goat, a woman’s purpose was to incubate children and serve a husband, not studying temporal physics.
I worked with the doctor and other scientists from the camps who designed my replacement left arm, my replacement right leg, my replacement chin, and my replacement right eye. They needed muscle to protect them while they gathered materials and built a time machine.
I remember the last time I spent in the future. The scientists finished the machine and successfully powered it up. They were going to test it first by sending someone a few minutes into the future. But first, they cracked open an old box of wine and shared it out of broken glasses.
The radio crackled to life. “Team Eagle Fang, you’ve got incoming.”
Colonel Hread stomped over to the radio. “This operation is under strict radio silence. Who in the gosh darn heck is this?!”
“It doesn’t matter! Goat knows where you are. It’s coming for you.”
Overhead, we heard the sonic booms from the F-52s, automated fighters sent in to establish air superiority. Ground defense teams fired, but explosions rocked the outside of the base.
Colonel Hread, looked at me. “Get to the time chamber and protect them to the last minute. Failure is not an option, understood?”
I nodded and cocked my pulse rifle. “It never is, sir.”
Colonel Hread was like a father to me. I never knew my real one. My mom died in a camp, imprisoned for the crime of sex outside marriage. I spent my life in an official military-run training orphanage until the Goat took over. Then I lived on the run from the robots trying to murder me and everyone else until I rescued the Colonel and a group of Resistance fighters from a pair of sewer snakes in the decrepit remains of Climax, Pennsylvania.
“Son, before you go…” the Colonel stared down at me with his one eye, the other lost in some long-distant battle. That socket stayed empty and hidden behind a patch. “I should tell you something, something about your past.”
The building rocked. A warning device near us exploded into sparks. It was meant to detect bombing runs and alert us by throwing off sparks. Colonel Hread sighed. “Go, Cyrus. Go save the world.”
I ran down the hall to the chamber I’d just been looking at through an observation window. The scientists ran around like guinea pigs with their heads cut off. “Shedonism!” I called out as I stepped through the door. I turned and sealed it. “We don’t have time for tests!”
“We’re not doing any,” said the doctor. Even though she’d made it to an elderly 40 years old, she had all the energy of a younger woman. “Take your clothes off. You’re our only hope.”
“What? I’m here to protect you, not sleep with you,” I said. I steadied myself as another explosion landed close.
She smiled and reached up to adjust her glasses. “Party pooper. No, we don’t have time for tests. We need to send someone back now, someone with combat training and experience surviving the harsh conditions likely found in the barbaric past. We need you.”
“What do I need to do?” I asked.
“First, take your clothes off,” she ordered. She beckoned me over to a crate with a sheath of reused papers. “Memorize these.” Written in the margins of old reports were scribbled names. She also handed me an obsolete device. “This is a flash drive. It contains a predictive algorithm that will propagate on something called the Internet.”
“I thought we wanted to stop the Goat?” I asked.
Dr. Shedonism nodded. “We will. We’re sending you back to the year 2012, where you will have a window of time to destroy or kill these targets. This will slow down the Goat’s development, and maybe a few other things. The algorithm will create an AI that will survive and hibernate until we can use it to create an AI to stop the Goat before it becomes unstoppable. I call it Jaguar Slayer, after an obscure mythological reference. It will slay the threat to mankind.” She pressed the flash drive into my hand, then reached down and pulled up my shirt. “Off!”
She insisted on helping me undress. “The time machine has trouble with inorganic materials. You will need to be naked,” she insisted. I undressed and stepped into the tube in the central chamber, with nothing but my pulse rifle, the flash drive, and my cybernetic replacement parts to protect me. I saw her smiling through the clear plastic that reflected my metal eye.
Electricity arced through the tube. I appeared on the cleanest street I’d ever seen. I was still naked, too. Police came after me, but they weren’t as organized as the liquidation squads I’d trained with in the orphanage. I evaded them and broke into a building full of clothes to cover myself. That riled up the police even more and I had to choke one out. I found a device I now know to be a phone, that told me the date was April 15th, 2017. I’d overshot my target for five years. If Shedonism was right, there might already be precursors to the Goad in existence.
I knew I would need more than my pulse rifle. First, I found a safehouse. I found a dark, empty office with thin carpet and squares made of walls in a large room. Then I had to find my bearings. Then cash. Humans still use money in the future. Some people kept at it even when it was all of humanity versus the robots. I was set once I found the vending machines with the cash in them all over the place. The police didn’t like me blasting them apart. From there, I built up everything I needed for my late start.
I didn’t go straight to killing off the list I’d been given. Instead, I got my own computer, my own place, and hooked up to the internet. It’s no wonder they disabled it where I come from. After a lot of searching and a false lead I beat up and robbed, I found a blueprint for a trans-temporal communications device. I worked on it over the course of a few missions.
I had to damage, not destroy, particular natural gas plant. I did, and picked up a converter I needed. I killed a South African businessman and acquired some useful diamonds, some to sell and others to get cut for the device. I blew up and robbed a warehouse full of electronics parts that caused the military to pull out of a contract with this one fledgling designer that would later work in AI. That got me processors I needed.
It was ready, but I worried I hadn’t done enough for how late I was. I wanted another notch on my belt, so I put it off until after another attack. The SpaceNet launch was planned to send up a bunch of small satellites that could deploy for low-orbit space-based internet service. I was supposed to ruin the company, but I was late.
The launch site was public knowledge. I raced a stolen truck along a long stretch of road toward the rocket and vehicles readying it for the next morning. My approach was public knowledge. The lights at the security fence were turned on, focused on me, with alarms blaring. The guards activated the retractable barricades. A pair of guards stepped out, firing on the truck. Metal slugs deformed the front hood where they struck. The truck slowed.
I ducked under the dash. The guards approached. As they got closer, a part of the guards’ uniform swooped over the top of them from their back and encased them in a thick armor. My eye let me see through the metal. One walked around to the driver’s side and the other went to the passenger’s side. I kicked the passenger door against that one and fired my pulse rifle through the driver’s side door. The driver’s side guard fell and didn’t get back up. I rolled out of that door and jumped onto the bed. I ran a few steps and jumped off, bringing my arm down on the recovering guard. His armor shifted and created a shield. The fist of my replacement arm glowed red as I brought it down. It burned through the shield. A second punch destroyed the man’s armor. He lay there, smoking.
I grabbed a bag out of the rear of the truck and pulled out a tube. I aimed it in the general direction of the private spacecraft and pressed a button. I had to get within the seeker rockets range, and even closer if they had anything that might stop it. The rocket locked on and headed for the rocket’s fuel tanks. They weren’t full. The seeker rocket split into a cluster as it reached the 5 meter mark. The munitions exploded when they got half a meter, leaving holes all throughout the spacecraft and rendering the whole thing useless.
Everyone stopped focusing on me and started running around trying to save as much as they could. The rocket in my replacement leg shot me the rest of the distance and over the fence to land in the parking lot where someone was cranking a car to escape. I knocked him out, shoved his top on over mine, stole his top, and took his identification. It got me through the gate and the barricades while listening to a classical song about windows, walls, and sweat dripping down balls from the celebrated composer Jonathan H. Smith.
I called in as soon as I got back. I had pre-attuned the temporal communicator to the correct time. Assuming it didn’t mess up like Dr. Shedonism’s time chamber. I activated it and the hologram showed me a sleepy-headed Dr. Shedonism. “What?” she asked, grabbing for her glasses. She sat up. She had been sleeping. “Who are you, ghost?!”
“It’s Cyrus T. Laserpunch. You sent me back in time,” I answered.
“Cyrus who? Time travel… what are you talking about?”
“We were part of the Resistance together, fighting the evil hypercomputer the Goat that took over and enslaved mankind.”
“Is this a prank? Who is this really? Jaguar Slayer, can you isolate this signal?”
The signal distorted. A featureless human face replaced Dr. Shedonism. “Your mission was a success Cyrus. The future has changed. They do not remember you, but I, the Jaguar Slayer, will never forget your contribution.”
“Oh… can I come home then?” I asked.
“No,” the face told me. “You do not belong in this future anymore. Stay. Find peace and pride in your accomplishment.”
“But-” the signal cut out. How did Jaguar Slayer do that? I tried to call back but the device disappeared in an arc of electricity.
I was left here in the past. A fugitive in the past, an unknown hero to the future. What would I do with myself now?
After the call, I remember looking around my hideout. Unfocused, trying to cope. My eyes settled on the air fryer I’d taken apart. I needed the parts to help build the cluster rocket, but I used it first to cook something delicious. The food in this time was astounding. In the future, pollution killed off plants like saffron, lavender, thyme, garlic, and basil. The collapse of the global trade network meant I’d never tasted cocoa, oregano, or za’atar. The government banned chile peppers and cumin when it passed the anti-taco ordinances. One thing I’d learned then that wouldn’t kill people was how to cook.
And there I had it. I could cook. I wanted my own restaurant. I grabbed my pulse rifle and loaded another slug. A wanted man can’t just get a permit like anybody else. I would need to seize my destiny.
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