Green Cabin part 55

She watched me collect wood and pile it alongside the pit I dug and surrounded with large stones. After gathering dried leaves and twigs, I took out her prison shift and used a knife to rip it into strips. When done, the snap lighter ignited the cloth, which lit the leaves and twigs. Before I expected it, we had a nice fire burning.

“Wonder what kind or wild animals live here?” she asked.

“I suspect we will learn that during the night. We should sleep in the truck, the armor will protect us if the enemy discovers our hiding place, and from any carnivorous animals hungry and hunting.”

As we sat eating, Margaret said, between bites, “They told me you were an assassin who enjoyed killing too much so you were supposed to be executed, but instead escaped.”

I was nodding as she spoke. Reached for blades of tall grass next to me and pulled several free so I had an object to keep my hands occupied.

“Truth is I turned on them like you did, but I had more opportunity then you maybe. I didn’t have trouble doing as trained, because that was part of the training, and they used a method of chemical brainwashing that altered emotions enough to make me think without the need to deal with their burden.” I suddenly felt as weary as she looked and suggested we try sleeping. I really did not want to talk about the past. Nothing I said or did changed anything about it.

After I got her settled in the truck, I cleaned up and put out the fire, climbed in behind Margaret and sealed up in for the night. Or so I hoped.

Odd the way things happen sometimes. About 3am I awoke to the sound of someone or some animal at the front of the truck. I crawled forward and read the dash panel using the dim lighting of the LEDs that remained lit even when the truck was shut off. Not certain what I expected to find, but did see a switch marked front arming portals left and right.

Thinking about it I concluded they were either weapons, or portals through which weapons could be used. With an internal shrug, I flipped the switch on for the right side portal, heard a quiet whine and then a small red light marked ready to fire lit.

When whatever was in front of the truck jumped onto the hood I fired the weapon. A scream told me of its success. Now I lit the outside with all the lighting available, saw two human figures running into the tree line, grabbed my laser rifle, and exited.

The dead man was draped over the heavy metal bumper. It appeared he stood exactly before the portal so took the full blast in the chest.

I listened for Margaret, didn’t hear her so dragged the body into the forest far enough she wouldn’t see or even smell him. Then I spent the remainder of the night awake and on guard. It seemed by then that the ring world was extremely hostile and I wondered why.

The final refuge for the tattered remains of a dying species. I guess it’s likely that the men and woman brought to the ring world would be determined to succeed and survive regardless of what effort that required.

As the sun rose slowly Margaret became restless, and joined me before full light. She looked beautiful in the lighting and in her disheveled state. I brushed hair off her face, leaned and kissed her.

She smiled almost shyly. “Good morning.”

“You too,” I said. I thought briefly about telling her what occurred in the middle of the night, but decided against it. Instead, I went through what was needed to get us moving again and felt greatly relived once we were. Although by that time I had less idea where we might go and more the need to get us to a place with people who didn’t want us dead.

But does such a place exist here?I thought and knew I had no answer yet.

Green Cabin part 54

A while later, Margaret said, “I feel like I can move now, but I am starving.”

Feeling I could leave her alone, I located a small stream and washed the blood and dirt from her body armor, I returned and we ate field rations and drank water that tasted slightly metallic.

“I think I’ll live,” she said as if reading my mind. “This time. If they capture me again they will kill me like I heard them doing to others from my time.”

“Surely not everyone from the twenty-first century was DNA manipulated.”

“No only a small percentage of the population. But we did bred so our numbers grew.” She pressed her hand to her stomach and shyly looked at my eyes. “I think I’m pregnant now.”

“What?” I sounded in control, but panic played with me.

She laughed lightly. “That’s why they didn’t kill me right away but torture me instead. They wanted my baby.”

“Our baby,” I said defensively. “They won’t get it.”

“Good, I’d hoped you’d feel like that.” She leaned against me again and I felt more protective of her then I’d ever felt of anyone in the past including, I realized, Blythe. I fought with that realization for a few confusing moments, deciding that while I was a functioning assassin, emotions did not, could not have a place in my mind or life. Each decision was kill or don’t kill depending on the situation. Don’t kills almost always became, kills at a later date. So bringing a child into the world of mine would’ve been an extreme risk to me, and the child. It would likely have been used to manipulate me.

Now without that risk factor becoming a father was a knife-edge of terror because I suspected I’d fail miserably. Finally knowing my silence was too drawn out, I responded hopefully in a way that would give her confidence in me.

“We’ll find a place where we can live safely.” I said, and then assisted her with her body armor. She didn’t want to wear the prison garment so I stashed it to use later to start a fire for the night.

“Can you tell me what it was like living in the years you were a mythical warrior?”

She glanced at me with a smile I found especially adorable. “I like the idea that you think I was some type of mythical creature who appeared in the dead of nigh to save mankind from itself.”

I too smiled, nearly laughed, but instead said, “Well I’m not sure about the appearing in the dead of night.”

She leaned back, closed her eyes, and folded her hands protectively over the small bump in her abdomen.

“I didn’t have a choice. They visited all the orphanages to individually select the best candidates. I really didn’t believe they take me cause I was small, short, and overweight. Turned out that was one of the criteria for the creature they decided I should become.” She stretched her arms over her head and then lowered them to her sides so her hands were again on her lap.

“To start they got DNA samples and using that began manipulating it. Periodically they injected it to study its effects. That was horribly painful when I grew wings. They were ecstatic when by concentrating with their supervision I managed to pull wings under my flesh. Then I passed out. They induced a coma state and finished with the DNA manipulation. When I awoke, I was the creature you’ve seen. The first night after I cried endlessly. The second night, the anger their work stimulated roared through me. I killed three scientists and was deemed ready to join the war effort.”

She seemed to shrink as she spoke and I was sorry I asked. “I shouldn’t have asked you to explain what they did to you.”

“I don’t mind, Stanton but I am truly weary from my recent time behind bars. They tried to force me to change, shape shift they called it, but I did not. I knew about our baby and wouldn’t jeopardize it.”

I went closer and pulled her close. “”We have to get far enough away that they cannot find us. We should travel when the sun rises.” I kind of jerked back recalling we were on a ring world. How did the builders make it possible for us to have night and day?”

I kissed the top of her head and stood. “I think I should build a fire so we’ll stay warm and we can heat up rations. Maybe then they’ll be less offensive.”

Green Cabin part 53

But I didn’t say a word. Almost everything I’d done since discovering the woman in the alcove was as much luck and timing as skill.

I drove us deep into a forest with a single road through it. It was barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass at the same time. But I was more concerned about what might follow us then what might lie ahead. We traveled for hours before I felt we were far enough away to be safe. Not completely safe, but enough so that I could stop and look at Margaret’s injuries. Thankfully, I still had my backpack, but Margaret’s gear was long gone.

I went over a hill and spotted a turnoff halfway down, turned into it, drove deep into a jungle of brush and thicket taller than the truck finally parking and shutting down the engine.

Climbing out and dropping to the ground felt different than back home. I quickly decided that was an emotional reaction after discovering I was on a ring world as impossible as that seemed.

Margaret had her door opened before I reached it. I helped her out and she collapsed in my arms.

We two survivors, I thought, reminded of something I once read. That was when I discovered I had blood on my hands. Margaret was seriously injured, perhaps about to bleed to death.

“Shit,” I said, and watched her wane smile. “I’ll get the first aid kit.” I did and watched her attempt to remove the shift they had on her. I assisted and saw the blood oozing through the body armor just below her ribs on the right side. I hoped it was not a liver wound, which I knew would likely be fatal especially here in the middle of a forest.

So that’s why they let us escape.

Mostly it was me who removed her body armor. Her flesh was very pale. I dug through my kit and found a coagulant, squeezed it into the wound and miraculously the blood flow weakened and finally stopped completely. Next I gave her a strong painkiller. It was liquid so started helping with her pain within seconds. I followed the painkiller with a dose of antibiotics.

As I dragged the body armor off her legs, I saw they had cut tiny slices into her thighs right above both knees. The sudden driving need for revenge flared dangerously. I bit my inner cheek to fight it and when Margaret reached out and touched the back of my hand, I calmed.

“You can’t fight them, Stanton. They number in the thousands. We are only two.”

I nodded numbly, and sat alongside her, wrapping her in my arms hoping the intimate contact would help us both. I hadn’t thought much about our captive, and decided I’d release her before we drove again.

Right then I climbed into the truck and removed the gag Margaret put on her. She wet her lips with her tongue, and then said, “Release me now and I can walk back before dark.”

I nodded agreement and united her, guided her out of the truck and watched as she walked with as much dignity as a person in her situation might manage.

Green Cabin part 52

“One wrong word, and you or the pilot, suffer. Convey my message exactly as I told it to you.”

I admit I was truly surprised when she did as I asked. I was still preparing for a snafu, but took a wait and see attitude.

“You would’ve enjoyed working with us,” she said after she finished.

“Who knows perhaps I’ll return in the future.”

“I will issue orders that if you return without invitation you are to be killed on sight.” She smiled deviously, which made me wonder what she’d done that I hadn’t detected.

“If I return you will never know until the middle of the night when I call on you for answers and believe me if anything goes wrong now, that night will not be one you and yours will remember.”

Removing the projectile weapon, I checked its load and found it fully loaded. Then I went in the cockpit and woke the pilot. He shook his head and drank the bottle of water I gave him, glanced at the pistol in my hand and grinned. “Didn’t fall for it heh?”

I smiled too. “Not really, but she came close to convincing me.”

He nodded. “Got me and it’s a lifetime commitment.”

“I’ll be leaving when we are groundside. Join me if you like.”

He glanced at his new landing instructions, looked at me and shook his head as if amazed. “Don’t know how you got this done but I think you will escape without getting killed. I’ll let you know about joining you by the time we are down.”

I pointed to my hostage. “She’s coming with me as insurance.”

He laughed dryly. “Well that adds a bit of amusement. She’s quite valuable to the men and women running this place.” He nodded toward the back. “Sit and put your harness on, we are going down.”

The journey groundside was blessedly silent. The pilot hovered the aircar above and to the front of what was obviously an armored vehicle.

I slipped out of my harness and joined him so I might see what I was facing if the woman I had hostage proved to be less important then it seemed she might be. But I saw nothing amiss, which triggered an alert in the back of my brain.

After getting her on her feet with her hands tied before her, I walked her to the exit side that would be closest to the truck. I was counting seconds in my head, which I always did right before I moved to hit my target. Then I saw two women in body armor escorting Margaret.

Margaret appeared weak and disheveled, like she been treated with violent retribution. She favored her left leg leaning into the woman on her right side. She was wearing body armor too.

They stopped when they reached the side of the truck facing the aircar. The woman not helping Margaret stay erect placed a package on the hood of the vehicle. She pointed at me and then at the package. My body armor, I assumed, but still something felt wrong.

“Put the aircar down and shut it off,” I told the pilot. When he didn’t obey I glanced back and saw he held a laser pistol pointed at me head.

I shot him in the right shoulder with the projectile weapon. “Land it now or my next shot will be your left knee.”

Blood was running down his arm and chest, but this time he did what I told him to do.

“Now opened the door and lower the steps, then climb down with your hands high. Any problems and you are the first to die.”

He passed the woman and muttered, “I’m sorry.”

She smiled at him. “You tried.”

Two minutes later I was on the ground donning my body armor, which was unlike any I’d seen or used. This suit molded itself to me and then I felt nothing, like it wasn’t there but it definitely was.

Of course, putting it on and watching my hostage was a challenge, but I succeeded. Then I waved Margaret over, helped her into the truck and finally the woman, who actually pleaded with me to let her go. That told me they planned to destroy the vehicle once we were moving, but I was certain they would not as long as I had their precious hostage.

When the vehicle was sealed, I reviewed the controls and jammed it in to drive. It jerked a couple times as I worked on controlling it, but finally we were racing away from the place that housed the elevator.

I had considered they might try using an aerosol knockout drug, but then hoped they would not as long as the woman remained with us.

I heard the sounds of someone in pain, looked over and watched Margaret climb into the seat next to me.

“I used the roped I found in the back to tie that bitch into her seat.” Margaret spoke though her pain.

I waited to ask what they did to her, but knew if she wanted me to know she’d tell me when ready.

“Thank you for rescuing me, Stanton.” She leaned over and kissed my cheek. I turned my head and kissed her lips.

Green Cabin part 51

“That would require a thousand years to accomplish.”

“More like two.”

Suddenly I wanted to sit and think, but was almost reluctant.

Then I did and she joined me. “What do you want from me?” I asked.

The aircar began to move.

“When we return I will try to explain the journey you must undergo.”

“Great. What’s one more journey for a traveler like me?”

“You should not be bitter, Stanton. If you accept, and you don’t have to accept, you can wander out there alone, we will let your friend Margaret accompany you.”

It was then I felt intrigued, anxious too, but I live best when I have goals, even impossible to reach goals. I felt myself nodding and smiled.

“I see you have decided. You must care deeply for your twenty-first century friend.” She patted my shoulder gently.

“After you explain what your overlords desire from me, I’ll give you my final decision.” The term overlords made her wince just enough for me to see it, but not enough for me to determine whether it was a reaction because she didn’t want to be controlled or a reaction because she was one of the controllers.

Time will tell, I thought and sat back after adjusting the projectile weapon. Then I thought, we set mental traps for ourselves and blame others when they get sprung. Have I just set one for myself?

I honestly could not decide, stood and walked to the cockpit, opened the small door between the pilot and us, leaned in, lifted my laser set on stun and knocked him out.

When I turned back the watch my companion’s reaction, I saw the surprise and shock I expected, but also a strong hint of resignation as if I’d forced her to confront the false reality she attempted to establish for me by using my feeling for Margaret.

“Now here are my terms for your life.” I lifted the laser where she might see it easily and tapped the setting until the red kill light was lit. “You release Margaret and me in a place where we can not be assaulted by your army.”

I kept the laser pointed at her, waved for her to sit and when she did used rope from my backpack to tie her so she was helpless. “I will kill the pilot first. Right after I use the setting we soldiers call total disability on you. Even if you should survive the crash, you will be helpless for the remaining years of your life.”

“I made you a perfect offer. Why do you do this?” She seemed to think she sounded confused, but her eyes betrayed her. They were filled with rage and hate.

So I ignored her question, let her see me again change the laser’s settings and pointed it at the base of her neck where it would do as I said.

“And should you agree to my terms, you will be my hostage until I feel it is safe to release you.”

“That will not stop them from hunting and killing you both.”

I walked to where she placed her small tablet, tapped it and watched as the screen filled with data. I turned it to face her as if I thought she might be surprised at what I learned. “You are the daughter of the president of this place, whatever the hell you call it. You will not be killed, and therefore neither will Margaret and I.”

I dropped the tablet on her lap. “Decide now,” I said. “Your transportation is about to spiral out of control.” I pointed at the pilot. He was leaning against the control shaft.

“Once we are down at ground level and I have Margaret, I want an armored land vehicle waiting for us and body armor for both her and I. I will have a weapon pressed against the middle of your back so if I get shot or Margaret does, my finger will jerk reflexively and you die instantly. No one gets two choices. Tell your underlings that I will have no difficulty killing you if necessary and I decide what is or isn’t.”

She looked at me, green eyes hovering between real fear and acceptance. Finally she nodded. “Free my right hand and I will arrange everything.”

Green Cabin part 50

While we rode to whatever destination she had in mind she seemed to go inward after a tap on a small screen built into a wristband. She nodded, eyes out of focus.

The aircar dipped and swung to the right, then rose again. I studied what was outside and saw we’d entered traffic. Hundreds of matching vehicles although, all different colors and designs moved in many directions. We went straight up.

I must’ve dozed. I felt a jarring stop, opened my eyes and stared at the woman. She removed her harness and stood. The aircar was stationary but had not landed.

“Come here,” she said.

I did and when I looked to where she pointed I heard myself gasp my surprise.

“Who built this?” I asked awed and astonished, and pointed to what I knew was the edge of a ring world. The science to construct one was known to scientists for a couple centuries, but the application was impossible since using every planet, moon, and asteroid in a galaxy was necessary for construction. Then, if that proved successful centuries more would be needed to terra-form the inner surface, the surface facing the sun at its center.

“We do not know. But every time portal accessible on planet earth leads here. They are stories of people finding portals they could use to return to earth, but it is assumed they are stories only.”

“And Attrea meant for me to be here?”

“Attrea is assigned as a temporal guide. She selects and after spending time and research determines who might be um, helpful here.”

I walked to the opposite side of the aircar and stared into the universe.

“So her, feeling for me were fake?” I asked.

“Attrea does not, or is not to get emotionally attached to a traveler.”

“Ah, I’m a traveler.” She had not answered my question directly so I consider that Attrea had not faked her feelings for me. If she had, then she was a hell of an actor.

“Yes and now you belong to this world.”

“How large is the ring?”

She shook her head. “Impossible to say. It is at least large enough to circle an entire galaxy.”

“Good god. So no one knows who or what is living say on the point directly opposite this one?”

“No and I often wonder if that isn’t best.”

“Yeah, they might be the ring makers.”

“No, we know the ring makers.”

I tilted my head as I asked, “How do you know?”

“They left records etched into thousands of platinum disks.” She seemed to hesitate and I wondered if she was listening to instruction. Then she nodded. “Humans built the ring.”

Green Cabin Part 49

She walked closer and reached up, put her fingers under my chin and lifted as if needing to examine my injuries. Neither of the two newest ones were near where she looked. It was a feeble power play, and the assassin within me seethed with an intense need to deliver revenge.

However, I never killed a person undeserving. I know how that sounds but it you read through the list of the names of those I eliminated you’d understand without additional questions.

Her eyes shimmered and I thought they were about to change color, leading me to think perhaps I was in a land without true humans. However their green color was stable, though something about her was not.

“Where is this place?” I asked hoping to redirect conversation.

She turned and walked away, stopping when in front of a row of windowed French doors. Without looking back she said, “It is important that you are here, I suppose. The methods of those we respond to are unpredictable but the result always with meaning. We need your help.”

“Your answer is meaningless to me. I respond to no one unless the person who expects a response shows the need for it.”

She laughed. A beautiful sound, more like music and then she raised her arms to her sides. The doors before her silently slid open. A distant object slowly grew in size as it approached. Moments later an aircar, a vehicle that in my time was still under development, hovered at the edge of the balcony.

She glanced back. “Come with me and I will show you purpose.”

Moving with grace, she stepped onto the balcony and swung an otherwise invisible gate open. With an inward shrug, I followed her as she entered the aircar. We sat the door swung down and sealed the vehicle. It rose swiftly. I placed the laser rifle within reach.

Green Cabin part 48

The hall produced no sound as I walked it. I expected its length would match everything else I’d experienced, but was wrong. The hall ended at a pair of elaborately carved white painted double wood doors. I didn’t stop to examine details, but raised both hands and shoved my way through. They swung open easily, but my anger drove me on not stopping until I stood in the center of a room large enough to hold a concert. There were, a mismatched row of chairs along three walls. All looked like they were taken from different periods of human history.

Seeing them got me thinking about the farmhouse with the historical weapons collection. Putting the two together, made me consider the world I was on was at least in part preserving human history. And that did not bode well for humanity.

“Are they really all dead?” I asked no one. “Is this place where I now live a collection of history and people deemed worthy of living here?”

No answer. But then I didn’t expect one.

I also could not believe that might be true. I knew there were places on earth when I lived there where the pandemic did little or no true damage. It seemed the more technology, controlled life, the unhealthier we’d become. No one in generations practiced proper diet and exercise. “Why bother’, was the question often asked, ‘when we have everything we need without even stepping outside.’

Sure many were not that way entirely, but the food we had was processed. From what? Only the corporations knew. Machines told us when to do everything to conserve time and energy. And then the corruption I was created to destroy ran amok.

I don’t know if we humans deserved to survive our techno-wizardry.And now I’ll likely never know what happened after my departure.

I heard distant footsteps, more than one or two. Glancing around the room, I spied a closet and went to it, swung open a door and stepped into the darkness. My eyes adjusted immediately, another alteration I received when training. I had the night vision of a cat and the day vision of a human with 20-10 eyesight and a chip inserted that allowed me to zoom in on a scene of a single object.

All of these things I’d mentally buried so to not be reminded of my other life. Now I focused my mental energy on survival and knew there would be little alive in this place that could best me. Monroe had been slightly better, stronger, swifter, even, more intelligent. My upper hand was surprise. Never allow an opponent the opportunity to act before you do, I was taught.

Whoever entered the room beyond the closet door stopped walking. Not close to where I hid, but near enough I could use my enhancements to hear them breathing. I counted fifteen, and knew the odds were not in my favor should I be discovered.

I thought of Margaret and how good it might be to have her in warrior form alongside me. Then I felt I had somehow done her a disservice. Margaret had not chosen the life thrust upon her by the greed and domination of the corporate demigods of her time. I thought of the ones I fought to bring down while I was a working assassin and then wondered if there was or would ever be a way to erase them from humanity’s fading existence.

Hell,I thought. If I don’t get out of here alive then, none of that matters so why bother thinking about it?

The footsteps I’d heard moved again and moments later I felt sure I was alone. I waited another five minutes and then stepped out of the closet and into a preprogrammed laser assault. I spun and vaulted, leaned and rolled across the elaborately carpeted floor, felt the searing burn on two glancing strikes before I managed to, after one last handspring and spin, find shelter.

“Nicely done, assassin.” A pleasant feminine voice spoke as if she was issuing a prize for my efforts. Since the lasers were finally silent, I stood and faced the direction of the speaker.

“Who are you?” I asked in my command voice.

She laughed and stepped from the shadows of the alcove across the room.

“And here I thought all of those alcoves were filled with mindless statuary.” I added as I watched her elegant movements.

“I suspect you didn’t really but then from what I’ve learned about you, Stanton you don’t miss much or you would’ve been long dead by now.”

She was strikingly beautiful, tall and slender. She had shoulder length auburn hair that hung in waves of curls. Her eyes were large and deep green in color. She wore a bodysuit that from the way it reflected and refracted light, hid more than it revealed. Surprisingly her feet were bare and I saw no sign of artificial adornment.

But then a beautiful woman like her doesn’t need it.

“How about we save time and you tell me what you want from me and when you’re through tell me where my friend Margaret is being imprisoned.” The wounds stung as I moved to meet her halfway. I knew they would not bleed since lasers cauterized too. I once saw a solider with a round hole through his abdomen that was not bleeding. It didn’t slow him down either until the next laser burn hit the center of his sternum.

She spoke quieter now that we were less then ten feet apart. “I wondered why you were granted passage to our home. When I’d heard my reaction was for you to be put to death immediately. Fortunately for you, I’m not in charge so you live. Yet you found your way here with a plan I suppose.”

I laughed at the irony of the expressed thought. “I had little choice. But I if my leaving here pleases you then have you thugs bring Margaret to me and we will gladly leave.”

Green Cabin part 47

“What are you doing here Monroe?”

He ignored me. “Were you surprised when your girlfriend turned into one of the monsters you were trained to track and kill?”

“Never saw one before. I think they were all annihilated by my time or our time.” I stopped and stared hard at his eyes. He knew something I didn’t. “Are you saying your marines were killing them?”

His grin was tainted with a sick looking joy. “See you do catch on when necessary.”

“How many?”

“Lost count overall, but in the thousands. Your masters and mine had only one thing in mind, which was total domination. Both of us played out part in their plans without questioning them or the men and women who set everything in motion.”

I felt used but knew that was part of what Monroe desired from me. I didn’t know and didn’t really want to know what he believed he might convince me to do where we were now.

He slid the knife back in its sheath and turned slightly as if wondering who might still be behind him.

I didn’t care. My first kick landed solidly on the side of his head heel finding the soft spot in front of the ear. He dropped unconscious at my feet. Without waiting or thinking, I lifted him by the head and when his neck was stretched, broke it with a single angry twist.

I stripped him of his gear and weapons one of which was a projectile pistol that looked old by design. It felt heavier than a laser but more like it belonged with my fist around it.

I stuck it in my belt behind my back. He had also carried a packet of key cards. Each had an alphanumeric code and nothing more. I jammed them in the pouch in the front of my knapsack.

Before I went after Margaret, I opened the elevator doors and dragged Monroe’s body into it, pressed down and strode down the hall were I’d seen them carry Margaret.

Monroe had revitalized the assassin and now, I knew, I might not be able to jam the monster I once was back into the mental compartment were I needed him to live so I might exist with any comfort.

“I’ll save her and after that deal they with me,” I said with a confidence I knew I didn’t dare to believe. As an assassin, I enjoyed my work, disengaged from a vastly corrupt society run by the same type of people Margaret was bred to serve.

And I wondered if, this place, the portal brought me to might also be controlled by them. If that were the situation allowing me entrance would prove to be their undoing.

Green Cabin part 46

Margaret was watching me her eyes showing her hunger and thirst. After sitting alongside her we shared everything. The food had an odd taste like it was synthetics created from anything but true food. Back home we had both real and artificial, but both tasted authentic. What we ate now, from its appearance, was beefsteak, greenish potatoes, and soft corn kernels mixed with a sauce which when combined with everything made it passably palatable. The liquid was flavored water, and I could not decide the flavor.

At least we both had enough sustenance to function, I hoped since I had no way of knowing what I’d confront when the damn elevator finally stopped rising. There was a small toilet in a recess in the corner, which was used with a total lack of privacy.

We went through the cycle six more times spaced out several hours between. I was bored and angry by the time the elevator stopped. But I was not ready for what happened with the doors slid silently open.

At first we were alone in a hallway that looked like it belonged in a mansion. There were statues set into recessed about every fifty feet. I assumed they were sculpted to represent important people to those who lived there. As we passed the last of them we stood in a dead end, then the wall before us dissolved. My hand went to the laser pistol, grabbing it flipping the power on and automatically adjusting the setting to stun.

“Well Stanton Wilson, I was not expecting you. Normally we get a heads up on new arrivals, but I wonder why not with you.”

I was facing a man whose life was once mine to take or not. At the time I chose not and now wondered why.

“I didn’t know if assassins would be allowed here,” he said ignoring the laser pointed at his chest. “I do know that no one from her time,” he jabbed a thick forefinger at Margaret, “Can be here and free.” He waved over his shoulder and three uniformed women joined him, and then surrounded Margaret.

“You can leave her,” I said. “She is my responsibility.”

“No she is not.” He stepped aside and with a quick movement had a long deadly looking knife pressed against my throat. “Be stupid so I can tell everyone I killed America’s most ruthless and successful assassin.”

Shit, I thought. Didn’t see that coming.

Margaret looked terrified. “Stanton?”

I shook my head in warning. “I’ll find you.”

Then she was lifted and carried away as if she was nothing by trash.

“Monroe,” I said to my companion. “My orders were to kill you slowly and as painfully as possible.”

“Perhaps you should have.” He was a squat barrel chested guy with broad shoulders and arms and legs to match. His complexion was darker then mine with black hair and eyes that matched. He was also deadly a leader of a force of marines breed and trained to be invisible. He was their leader, and I had found him.

I had no idea how anyone on this side of the portal knew my past secret, identity. I was among a group of street kids living off panhandling when I was scooped up and brought to a training center deep in a mountain somewhere in what was left of the Rocky Mountains. There I spent the next ten years becoming a living weapon, an expert with every armament, including my body, hands, and feet.

By the time I was 28, I’d killed hundreds of what our government considered enemies of the state. I escaped after allowing Monroe to live and with the aid of a friend, created an entirely new identity for me.

Now, the urge to kill was boiling just beneath my flesh. If I lost control, but I knew I couldn’t so didn’t.