The cabin’s porchlight appeared through the trees. The cop in me couldn’t help wondering why Pete would leave a light on if he was on the run. The man I knew was smarter than that. Then again, that same man had mysterious figures in gray suits chasing after him.
I slammed the car door as I got out. I didn’t worry about the noise. I wanted him to hear. The inch-deep water soaked my boots as I marched toward the cabin.
I stepped up onto the porch, out of the rain, but far enough away to give me time to react in case this didn’t go well.
“Pete!?” I yelled over the downpour.
The front door opened, and Pete’s sallow face appeared behind the screen. “Grace? What are you doing here?”
I rested my hands on my hips, reflexively caressing the grip of my gun. “A lot of people looking for you, Pete.”
He nodded. “I know.”
“Care to explain?”
“Of course.” He rubbed his bald scalp. “You deserve as much.”
He stepped away from the door, moving further into the cabin. I followed Pete inside, taking long, slow steps.
The room was cramped and musky with only a pair of outdated couches for furniture. Pete opened a closet door on the far side of the small living area and pulled out a large trunk.
“I can’t tell you everything. There just isn’t…” he paused, laughing bitterly. “…time. But those men are right, I am a fugitive of the law. Or their law at least.”
I came up behind him as he opened the trunk and rummaged through the odds and ends inside it.
“I never told you my birthday,” Pete said.
I cocked my head. “Ohhh…kay?” This was a strange turn in the conversation. He had always been a bit of an oddball. But he was my kind of oddball.
“October 2nd… 2137,” he said.
Pete stood, holding a hardcover copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare. He opened the book, revealing a hollow center, which hid a fist-sized disc with a blue pulsing light.
He sauntered to the couch, and I joined him.
“The future is a dark time,” he said, removing the disc. “It’s all a long and complicated story, but suffice it to say things got bad after the United States’ second civil war. Hell, I barely remember what we were fighting about, but I know the result. A new regime took over and cracked down hard on potential dissidents.
“Resistance movements started forming.” He ran his finger over the edge of the disc. “I was part of a cell running guerilla attacks in the Southwest. Nothing major… until we got our hands on something that could change everything. A time travel prototype from before the war. Not the safest tech, but it was something.”
My head spun, trying to keep up.
“They needed to calibrate the thing. Figure out if it worked. So I volunteered. They were aiming for a week into the past… and I woke up in 2012.”
I stared into the blue eye of the disc. This was crazy, but Pete wasn’t acting crazy.
“So then what?” I asked. “You wake up in the past and decide to be a cop?”
Pete chuckled bitterly. “Not quite.” He tapped the disc. “I was able to use the little bit of tech I had to create an identity for myself. Tried to build a life and stay out of the way. I knew that any bit of paperwork I left behind would give the regime a better chance of finding me. But everywhere I looked, I couldn’t help seeing the signs of the war coming. Maybe things have always been this way. Maybe people have always been just a bad day away from killing each other. Or maybe I was just imagining it all. But I couldn’t sit back and stay out of the way.”
He smiled at me.
“So then I decided to become a cop. That way I could at least try to make a difference.” He sighed. “And the thing is, I was just starting to feel—”
Headlights flashed through the window. The agents. It had to be. Pete and I locked eyes for an instant. No need for discussion. He was still my partner. I reached for my gun.
“It’s them. We can barricade—”
Then—a blue flash. Something bit the base of my skull, and I collapsed to the floor, unable to move.
I felt myself being lifted up and carried to the closet. Pete set me down in the space where the trunk had been, tucking a pillow under my head.
“Sorry, Grace,” he said. “I know you’d help fight them off, and that means the world to me. But I can’t let you sacrifice yourself.”
He closed the door.
I struggled to stay conscious. New voices came from the other room. I caught glimpses of blue and green flashes through a crack in the door, followed by the crash of shattered glass and the dull thuds and cracks of a fist fight. Then nothing.
An hour passed, and I was finally able to push my way out of the closet. The living area lay in ruins. The windows were shattered. Black burn marks were on the floor, walls, and couches. And in the middle of the room, two bloody corpses in gray suits.
I never saw Pete again.