I couldn’t hit shit with my six shooter. I missed every target.
J Robert Oppenheimer’s 10 year old son, Malachi, watched and nodded his head. “Did you really know my father from the war?” he asked.
“Sure, why not?” I replied.
“Whose side did you fight for?”
“Uh, Abraham Lincoln’s?”
“963rd, 9th battalion, 4th infantry, uhmmm, at the Battle of Waterloo?”
“Did you get injured?”
“Oh yeah. All over.”
Malachi scratched his head. He knew I was full of shit. “Are you sure that you didn’t know my father from the future?” he asked.
“How do you know about that?”
“He has a time machine in the barn.”
Malachi took me into the barn and lifted a large tarp off a time weapon—a similar looking time weapon that sent Mr. Ree, Oppenheimer, and myself back to 1879.
“Does it work?” I asked Malachi.
“Of course. My father built it. He can make anything work.”
Oppenheimer stood at the entryway of the barn. “That’s enough Malachi,” he said. “You run along now.”
Malachi shook his head. “Yes father,” he said and went back to tending to his chores.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this, Bob?” I asked Oppenheimer.
“It doesn’t work.”
“Malachi says it does.”
Oppenheimer paced back and forth, rubbing his hand across his face. “Look,” he said, “we can go over this all day. Sure, I can send you to the future, the past, whatever. But it’s almost impossible to get you back to YOUR timeline. I’m sorry James. But we need to look at the present. You’re here. Mr. Ree is here. I need help. This community needs your help. Please help me. I can’t fight Dickleburg on my own.”
I thought through his words. “You love Malachi,” I said. “But did you know that I have a child back in that timeline? If there is a chance, however slim, to get back there, I have to take it. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were me?”
Oppenheimer nodded. “If I’m going to help you,” he said, “then we have to secure these goldmines. There’s a property in gold that makes these time weapons work. To secure the mines, we have to defeat Dickleburg.”
I pulled out my Korth 357.
“I’m no good with those six shooters,” I replied. “But I can shoot a fly’s dick off with this 357. Can you help me make more bullets?”
“Bob,” I said, “you know us. Just set us free and we won’t cause trouble.”
Sheriff J Robert Oppenheimer locked Mr. Ree and me in jail. He sat behind his desk. He look tired, haggard, and was pounding a whiskey bottle.
“Sorry boys,” he replied. “But we have enough trouble with Dillon B Dickleburg coming into town and buying up all the gold mines. This town is a powder keg.”
“Well shit Bob! You are a man of science. You said that gold was a part of your time travel weapon. Just build another time machine and send us back to our timeline.”
“Like I said, even if I could do that, it’s highly improbable that I can get you back. In fact, it’s definitely impossible with 19th Century technology.”
“Have you even tried? Come on, you were a legend in our timeline. What happened to you?”
“You just don’t understand.”
A ten year old boy then walked into the jailhouse. He went up to Oppenheimer and gave him a hug.
“Who are these men papa?” the boy asked.
“These are just strangers Malachi, now go home to your mother. She’s been looking for you,” he replied.
The boy rushed out of the jailhouse.
“Ohh I get it now,” I said. “You’ve settled down. You traded in your lab coat for a badge.”
Oppenheimer put down the whiskey bottle.
“I arrived in this timeline through the spacetime ripple 15 years before you two showed up,” he said. “I met a woman, we settled down. I now have a son that I’d do anything to protect.”
“I’m just asking for your help,” I replied.
“I killed countless people with those damn nuclear weapons,” Oppenheimer continued. “Not again. I have an opportunity to do it right this time. I’m going to do whatever it takes to protect my family and this community from dangerous people like you.”
“Bob, please,” I said. “We’re not here to cause problems. In fact, if you need assistance handling this Dickleburg fellow, Mr. Ree and I can help.”
“You two have done enough damage.”
There was some commotion outside. I could hear one of the deputies ask “how can I help you Mr. Dickleburg?”
“Ah shit,” Oppenheimer said. He grabbed his shotgun and walked outside. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked.
“Mr. Rockwell up in them hills has been chasing us off that land,” I could hear Dickleburg saying.
“I’ll have you know, Mr. Dickleburg, that Mr. Rockwell is the rightful owner of that property. If he wants to chase you away, he’s well within his right,” Oppenheimer said.
“Why sheriff, all I want to do is offer him a business proposition.”
“Now Mr. Dickleburg, I’d advise you to leave that man alone. If you have a message for him, I’ll make sure he receives it.”
I could hear Dickleburg pull out his six shooter. “I own this town Sheriff,” he said. “I am the rightful owner of that property and all the property around it. That means I own you.”
I could hear the clicking of Oppenheimer’s shotgun. “The people of this town are the rightful owners,” he said. “You go back to that company of yours in Helena and you tell them that if they come back, there will be a bloodbath.”
“I’ll be back,” Dickleburg said. Him and his men galloped away on their horses.
Oppenheimer came back into the jailhouse. He took the keys, opened our jail cell, and handed back the 357.
“Men,” he said, “I now pronounce you deputies of Elkhorn, Montana.”
“It’s hard being a gay man in the old west,” Mr. Ree said.
“Word. Wait…you’re gay?” I asked.
“Well I wouldn’t say I’m gay. But I exclusively have sex with men.”
I took a sip of whiskey. My mind was on other things.
We were in Montana. I reckon the year was 1879. Mr. Ree and myself have been stuck out of time, out of place, for the last two years.
Time travel does strange things to a man. For one, it strips you completely naked. Mr. Ree and me were found in San Francisco, ass to ass, behind a brothel on Haight Street when we emerged from the plasma ripple. But it does something else: you realize that everyone, and everything, you’ve ever known is out of reach.
I’ll never see Miriam again. Or my unborn child that I left back in another timeline.
But Mr. Ree maintained hope. “We might as well get filthy fucking rich,” he said. The gold mines in California were stripped by 1879. Resigned to our fate, we travelled to Elkhorn, Montana to start a new life.
As we sat in the local tavern, townsfolk glared at us. One burly man came up to our table.
“We haven’t seen your kind ‘round here before,” he said.
“We don’t take kindly to strangers. I reckon y’all better drink your whiskey and ride out before sundown.”
“Why don’t you mind your own business buddy?” I said. “We ain’t bothering you. How about you ride your fat ass back to your table?”
“Them are fightin words.”
“Damn right pal! You don’t want none of this!”
“Now gentlemen,” Mr. Ree interjected, “there’s nothing here that can’t be settled by a good old fashioned duel.”
The burly man nodded. “I’ll see you outside.”
“The fuck are you doing Mr. Ree?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it. You got a Korth 357. You’ll blast his ass into the future,” he replied.
“Ree, this is 1879,” I said, “they don’t make bullets for this gun yet. I gotta conserve my ammo. Besides, wouldn’t I be disrupting the timeline?”
“Nah. According to J Robert Oppenheimer, this is a new timeline, remember? We can do whatever the fuck we want.”
I just shrugged and walked outside. The burly man was standing in the street. The townsfolk all stood around.
“Alright,” I said, “fastest draw wins, or however this bullshit works.”
The burly man opened his duster, exposing his six shooter. “Ready whenever you are,” he said.
We had a stare down. The townsfolk stood around nervously, waiting for the fireworks.
Suddenly he reached for his six shooter. I drew my 357. The sound thundered from my gun, echoing across the town and down through the mountains.
I shot off the burly man’s suspenders. His pants fell down, exposing his ass and penis.
I twirled the 357 and placed it back my holster.
Suddenly a shotgun blast went off. The townsfolk scattered. Out of the shadows appeared a man dressed in black. His spurs jingled as he walked towards us.
“I won’t have this nonsense in my town,” the man in black said.
I recognized the face.
“I’m James,” I said. “And this here is my partner, Mr. Ree.”
“I know who you are,” he replied. “And if you fire that gun again, I’ll shove this shotgun right up your ass.”
“Doesn’t sound like much of a threat,” I said.
He stepped a little closer.
Could it be?
“I’m Oppenheimer,” he said. “SHERIFF J. Robert Oppenheimer.”
“This is science gone haywire,” J. Robert Oppenheimer said. “I should have never agreed to help Dr. Sí.”
“Don’t beat yourself up,” I said to him. “We’ll get you out of here and back to your own time.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” he replied.
“Sure it does. It’s science! Anything is possible.”
“We can’t just go ‘back in time’. Doing so would violate all sorts of Newton’s laws. When the quantum field is generated, the individual is transported to an alternate timeline. The laws of physics remain the same and the outcomes in these timelines might be similar to our own, but it’s not the same timeline. Am I making sense?”
“Nope,” I replied. “But we’ll get you as close to your timeline as humanly possible.”
“Forget it,” Oppenheimer replied. “Our best option is to disarm the weapon to prevent this from happening again.”
“How do we do that?”
“There’s a special property in the element of gold that penetrates through space and time. If the gold is removed from the nano chambers, the weapon would be powerless.”
“Sounds like a plan Bob.” I looked over to Mr. Ree. “Do you think the Kill Squad will alter course and find us?”
“I doubt it,” Mr. Ree said. “I don’t even know where we’re at.”
“We’re at the bottom of a dormant volcano,” Oppenheimer said. “They’ll never find us.”
“Shit,” I said. “Then we have to take matters into our own hands. We just need an opportunity.”
Angelika then peered through the opening of our cell door. “James,” she said, “just hold tight, I’m gonna get you out of here.”
“Angelika,” I replied, “I thought you were with Dr. Sí.”
She then reached her hand through the opening to touch my own. “Dr. Sí is no friend of the Ionian Liberation Front. He’s no friend of peace and justice. I don’t want this technology to fall into the wrong hands.”
“Get us out of here and we’ll destroy it,” I said.
“No! Think about it James. With this weapon, we can right all the wrongs. We can undo our violent past and create a better future.”
“I don’t know Angelika.”
“Please, I’ll get you out of here. But let me have the weapon.”
I thought for a second and agreed to her terms. Then she grasped my hand tightly.
“What’s your wife’s name?” she asked.
“She’s a lucky woman. Perhaps in another time….”
She let go of my hand and closed the opening. I heard some rustling outside, then a few gunshots. After a few moments, the cell door blasted open.
Angelika walked across the rubble wearing a skintight leather suit and holding a Heckler & Koch M27.
“Alright boys,” she said. “Let’s blow the top off this volcano.”
“Well shits assholes,” I said to Dr. Sí. “We’ve been looking for you. I guess the search is over! Can I go now?”
“Not so fast,” he responded. “I need to know where your Kill Squad is going.”
“First I want to know what happened to Angelika,” I demanded.
“Fair enough,” he said. Then Dr. Sí turned to the corner of the laboratory. “Angelika, come join us.”
Angelika stepped out, all dolled up with her red hair flowing down to her shoulders. “Sorry James,” she said. “You’re not my type because Dr. Sí is my type.”
The two kissed passionately in front of me.
“I do want to thank you, Colonel James, for returning her to me,” Dr. Sí said.
“Hey, not a problem,” I replied. “Can you return the favor by removing this explosive collar from around my neck? Once when they realize Angelika’s missing, this thing will blow my head off.”
“First, where is the Kill Squad going?”
“They’re probably coming here!”
“We are certainly not at where they are going.”
“Then what are you worried about?”
The doctor turned around and looked at a computerized map of the Hawaiian islands. “I am a man of science, colonel. In order for my experiments to work, I need EXACT measurements. I cannot afford unpredictability. So again…where is the Kill Squad going?”
I was running out of time. The collar was going to detonate at any moment. Then I remembered…
“$2 million,” I said.
“Yes, $2 million and I give up the coordinates of the Kill Squad plus any other state secrets you want in order to sweeten the deal,“ I replied.
I was bluffing about the state secrets part. I didn’t know shit.
“$1 million,” Dr. Sí responded.
“Deal. The coordinates are 113.998N 737.746W. Now get this collar off of me!”
Dr. Sí laughed and ordered the guards to remove the collar. “Thank you for your cooperation colonel,” he said. “But as an insurance policy, I’ll place this collar on one of your acquaintances.”
The guards rolled in Mr. Ree, strapped to an upright gurney.
“They kidnapped me too,” Mr. Ree said. “Can you believe that bullshit?”
“Ohh come on,” I said. “Don’t kill Mr. Ree! He’s cool! Besides, that thing will detonate before the squad reaches its destination!”
“That’s just a chance I’m willing to take,” Dr. Sí replied.
“Look, I don’t give a damn about Admiral Majors or the Kill Squad. But there’s a woman that’s traveling with them: Izzy. Please don’t kill her,” I pleaded.
“Colonel, relax,” he said. “I’m not looking to kill anyone, except for Mr. Ree over there. I just want to see that thing go off.”
“I don’t understand.”
Dr. Sí put his arm around my shoulders and started walking me around the laboratory. “I understand your confusion. You see, has anyone told you the truth about that missing nuclear scientist?”
“To be honest doctor, for this entire mission, I’ve kinda been asleep at the wheel. I don’t even know that scientists’ name.”
“Ah, let me show you.”
Dr. Sí opened a door and out walked an old man in a lab coat. I think I was supposed to be impressed by this.
“I don’t know who this is,” I said.
“That’s J. Robert Oppenheimer.”
“J. Robert Op…the father of the atomic bomb?! What are you? Some kind of fucking moron?”
“You cloned him?”
“No asshole! I brought him from the past into the future! Don’t you get it yet? I invented time travel!!”
I walked up to Oppenheimer and looked him up and down. “Welcome to the future,” I told him. “We killed Hitler.”
“I know that, dumbass,” he replied. “We should have dropped the bomb on him!”
I looked back over to Dr. Sí. “So what? You invented time travel. Big whoop. How can you use that against the Kill Squad?”
“That’s why I brought my friend Oppenheimer to the present. You see, we created a new kind of weapon: a time weapon.”
“That sounds pretty fucking stupid, Dr. Sí,” I said. “How can you weaponize time?”
“Well you see, if you can triangulate the space time continuum, the quantum field fluctuations will…”
“Okay, sorry I asked,” I interrupted. “That science shit is boring. Cut to the chase. What’s gonna happen to the Kill Squad?”
“I will fire a plasma energy weapon at their coordinates. When the weapon reaches them, it will generate a quantum field around them and they will be transported to a different time and place.”
“My god,” I said. “A non-destructive weapon. You’re a genius Dr. Sí.”
“So you’re not a complete fucking idiot after all,” he replied. “It is far more humane than the nuclear weapons of the last 80 years. Imagine: no more nuclear fallout, no more mass death…we simply transport our enemies to a different time, different place.”
I looked around the laboratory…at all the scientists running around, to Oppenheimer, to Angelika, and then over to Mr. Ree.
“I cannot deny your genius, Dr. Si,” I said. “But it appears that the only one in danger here is Mr. Ree. If you’re really are humane, you’d remove that collar.”
Dr. Sí nodded. “I suppose you’re right, Colonel.” He looked to the guards. “Remove the collar.”
The guards walked over to the gurney and removed the collar. As they were about to dispose of it, it detonated, killing and maiming several of them.
Out of the confusion, Oppenheimer attacked one of the guards, grabbing his machine gun.
“Put down the gun Oppenheimer,” Dr. Sí said.
“No,” he replied. “You’ve been holding me hostage here. I’m not your puppet!”
“But Bob,” Dr. Sí pleaded. “We’ve been building something special here. Don’t you want to finish our work?”
“No! No more weapons!”
More guards rushed into the room, forcing Oppenheimer to drop his gun.
“Sorry Bob,” Dr. Sí said. “It appears your time is up.”
Mr. Ree was released from the gurney. The two of us were ordered to raise our hands and were rounded up with Oppenheimer.