Copyright © 2017 tylorkranyak.com
All Rights Reserved
Tylor Kranyak
Author of Legacy of Krazatan
     The room was big and empty, save for the large reinforced glass cell in the center that not even explosives would shatter. Automated turrets stood at all four corners of the room pointing at the cell, all of them armed to fire at a moment's notice. A reinforced door two feet thick with solid steel separated the contents of the room from the rest of the world. Sitting in an uncomfortable metal folding chair next to the door was a soldier. An automatic rifle rested on his lap as he struggled to stay awake after his third hour of guard duty. He looked around at all the cameras focused on the cell and wondered for the hundredth time why they needed an armed guard to keep watch at all. There was an alarm button on the wall to alert the entire facility if anything happened, but that countermeasure could have easily been taken care of from the safety of the control room.
     What was the cause for all these precautions? What had the military so preoccupied that they would devote an entire facility to a single purpose? It was nothing more than an ordinary looking middle-aged man in blue jeans and a black Raiders shirt, the clothes which he had arrived in when he was brought here three months ago. He wasn't wearing any shoes or socks, those were set to the side next to the folded white spare clothes the facility had provided him. His cell only had basic amenities, a bed, shower, toilet and a table to eat at. There were no privacy screens for the shower or toilet, and there was an automated chute on one of the cell walls to minimize contact with the prisoner when bringing him food, clean clothes, or taking samples.
     The man was lying on the bed watching a small television that sat on the table. There was a football game playing, and listening to it and keeping track of the score was about the only thing that kept the guard awake. The prisoner looked far too content considering his situation. He was on his back with his head comfortably propped on his arms to give him a good view of the screen while one of his legs was crossed over the other and his foot bounced rhythmically back and forth.
     The game ended with the Raiders beating the Ravens twenty-one to nineteen, and from what the guard could make out from the commentary it had been and incredibly close game with the Raiders pulling off the winning touch-down at the last second. As the sports announcers gave their final impressions of the game and everything wrapped up, the prisoner said, "Such an interesting game, football. It's like war in many ways with the amount of strategy that goes into each play. The offence puts everything they have into making it to the other side even if they can only progress a few feet at a time, and one wrong move can throw all that hard-earned ground to the wind. All of that time, effort and risk of injury, and in the end it only amounts to giving us a few hours of entertainment. They're kind of like your modern-day gladiators when you think about it, putting everything on the line to please the crowd." He turned his head to look at the guard. "You like football?"
     "Yeah," the guard told him disinterestedly.
     "What's your favourite team?"
     He nodded at the television. "The one that just lost."
     "Ah, sorry about that. If it's any consolation, they put up a good fight."
     "I know, I heard."
     With the game finished the station moved on to its next broadcasting segment. A rerun of Friends started up, to which the prisoner shook his head as he used the remote to turn down the volume. "How long has it been, almost a century since you started utilizing radio waves for visual broadcasting? Yet still there is nothing worth watching." He set aside the remote and swung his legs over the side of the bed to sit up and face the guard. "What's your name, kid?"
     "Chris, and I'm twenty-eight."
     "Oh, so you're not a kid then, you're barely an infant." Smiling, he said, "Still, you must have some level of maturity if you have a family."
     Chris gripped the butt of his rifle with one hand. He opened his mouth to ask how he knew, but thought better of himself and remained silent.
     “I know how it is,” the prisoner said, seemingly unperturbed by Chris's lack of response. “You’re not allowed to wear jewelry in the military. I just noticed the discolouring around the base of your left digitus quartus, which I assume is from a wedding ring.” At Chris's look of confusion the prisoner sighed and shook his head. "Your left ring finger."
     Chris looked at his finger and saw only the faintest difference in skin colour. It was so insignificant that he wouldn’t have ever noticed it himself without prompt. How the prisoner saw it half-way across the room was beyond him.
     “In concept, it’s an admirable idea for two people to love each other so much that you vow to remain together for the rest of your lives, but I never understood why you needed to register your union with the state or the church. It creates the illusion of constraint and often times leads to the marriage’s dismantlement. If you really love each other you don’t need someone else to give you permission to be together, but that’s just my opinion.” The prisoner leaned back as if to stretch out his body after laying down for so long. After a few small pops from his back and neck, he asked, “Got any kids, Chris?”
     “Why do you care?”
     He shrugged. “No reason, just trying to make conversation. I thought about having kids a couple times, but I don't think the parent life would be a good fit for me. The name’s Jack by the way, or at least that’s what I go by right now.”
     “I know, I’ve read your file.”
     Interest lit up in Jack’s eyes. “You have a file on me, do you? What does it say?”
     “Jack Carroway, son of Jacob and Mary Carroway. Born in Wichita Kansas, January seventh, eighteen-seventy-two.”
     A mild look of feign shock passed over Jack’s face. “Really? Eighteen-seventy-two you say? That would make me over one hundred years old. Surely this must be a case of mistaken identity?”
     “DNA tests were taken from all known descendants, relatives and extended family, and image recognition was run on all known pictures of you from that time. There’s no mistaking who you are, Jack.”
     Jack smiled. “You’ve certainly done your research haven’t you? However, I’m sure you’re more interested in what I am than who I am.”
     “And what are you?” Chris asked.
     His smile widened. “If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.” At Chris’s stern stare Jack added, “You’re far too serious for your own good, you know that? I must say, though, I’m quite impressed at how far your technology has come. I remember how much of a breakthrough it was for investigators to match a crime scene fingerprint to a suspect, and now you can connect a person to a crime with pinpoint accuracy using nothing more than a flake of their skin or drop of their blood. So tell me, what crime have I committed for you to lock me in here?”
     "If you're as old as the lab coats think you are then your body might hold the key to advancing medical science by extending the length of human life."
     "So I'm to be your fountain of youth, am I? How... quaint. It used to be you were lucky to even see your third decade, and today it's becoming an increasingly common occurrence for you to reach your centennial. Despite that, you still strive to spend even more time on this planet. How have your tests been going if you don't mind me asking? Have your lab coats learned anything from the samples I've given them?" When Chris said nothing, Jack stood and continued, "It must frustrate them to no end that all their instruments are telling them I'm nothing more than a regular human being." He took a few steps forward and took note of how the turrets tracked his movement. "I've been nothing if not cooperative. I didn't fight when you apprehended me, and when your scientists come to take their samples I do exactly as I'm told, yet you treat me as though I've murdered thousands with my bare hands." There wasn't any anger or sadness in his voice, if anything he seemed amused. "Why is that do you think?"
     "I'm only told what I need to know," Chris told him.
     "Such is the life of a soldier I suppose. You have no choice but to follow orders, even if those orders are to guard a prisoner whose only crime is simply being. Who is the real prisoner, I wonder?"
     "If you think you're innocent, then why did you give yourself up so easily?"
     He shrugged. "Morbid curiosity."
     Chris frowned. "That's it? You gave up your freedom just to see what we would do?"
     "That would imply that I was ever at risk of losing my freedom in the first place."
     "Considering you're locked up tighter than a bank vault I'd say you've pretty much lost any freedom you had."
     Jack grinned at Chris. "So, you do agree that I'm a prisoner, though how long I'll remain that way is under debate."
     "Oh yeah? You think we're going to let you go?"
     Jack went back to his bed. Hopping onto it and lying back down, he said, "I think you're going to do everything in your power to keep me here, though whether or not you succeed depends on how long I feel like staying."
     "Maybe it's a good thing you're in here then. If you think you can leave any time you want then you're obviously out of your mind."
     The smile Jack sent Chris was sly and mischievous. "Am I?" Closing his eyes, he shook his head and chuckled a little. "Whatever helps you sleep at night." Silence hung in the room for a few minutes until Chris's chair creaked a little when he shifted. Jack opened one eye to look at him. "If you have a question, go ahead and ask it. Neither of us is going anywhere, not right now at least."
     "Why were you so curious about what we would do with you once we caught you?"
     "It's been a long time since I've been in a cell of any kind, and I was curious as to what new methods are being employed to hold people against their will. When you spend so long on the outside there's a small part of you that wonders what it's like on the inside. Obviously, my circumstances are different from most, but there have definitely been many improvements since I was in the middle-east, not the least of which being basic hygiene."
     "What were you doing in the middle-east?"
     "Fighting a war, of course."
     "You mean Iraq? That wasn't that long ago."
     Again, Jack shook his head and chuckled. "No, no, this war was much further back than that, much further back."
     "How long ago was it?"
     Jack sat up on his bed again. There was a gleam in his eye when he said, "Before the birth and death of the Ottoman Empire, when men fought over gods instead of oil."
     Chris snorted. "Yeah, sure. Are you going to tell me you fought beside King Richard in the Crusades?"
     "Not right next to him, but I was there to witness him spreading the gospel of his lord through the steel of his blade. Your efforts today to deal with Al-Qaeda and ISIS are commendable, but I don't see your president travelling overseas to deal with these threats himself. Say what you will about King Richard, but his hands-on approach did wonders for the morale of his men."
     "Right. So you fought in King Richard's army?"
     "For a time, yes. I don't usually partake in your conflicts as wars tend to come and go without anything being accomplished, but once in a while one comes along where the whole world has no choice but to stop and take notice. We stormed across the Dominions of the Saladin Sultanate through Egypt and Syria, tearing through any obstacles in our path. The Battle of Arsuf was by far our greatest victory. Saladin's forces tried to bring us down, harassing our ranks to force them to break their defensive formations, but under Richard's command they held firm. I was in the Hospitallers unit that charged the right wing of Saladin's forces, and through that opening we broke down the enemy’s ranks and secured our victory. After the battle we took the city of Jaffa and made it our foothold for our siege on the Holy City of Jerusalem. It is said our forces were so great and our enemy's morale was so low that if we had marched on the Holy City at that very moment they would have surrendered without a fight."
     "But things didn't go as planned I'm guessing," Chris said, amused and a little impressed at how convincing Jack’s story was.
     Jack shook his head. "No, they didn't. Terrible weather conditions delayed us from launching the campaign, and by the time we finally had our opening we ran into more trouble from dissention among Richard's war council. One side was determined to invade the lands of Egypt first to break down Saladin's power base, while the other half was adamant that a direct assault on Jerusalem was our best option. In the end the dissention caused the army to split in two, and neither faction was large enough to carry out either goal. Richard declared before the siege that he would join the battle, but only as a soldier. He refused to lead his army out of principle, believing that if he couldn't inspire the dedication of all his men he was not fit to lead them in the first place. A valiant and noble sentiment to be sure, and it definitely inspired those of his men who chose to participate in the siege, but it was all for naught. With such a small force and without a united chain of command Richard's army was forced to retreat to the coast. I was in the thick of battle when the order was made, but by the time I realized what was happening all of the crusaders around me were either dead or had already fled, leaving me to the mercy of the enemy.
     "That's how I found myself in Jerusalem's prison. All things considered, the amenities I have here are a step up from what I had in there. Most of you were chained up on the walls for days on end, and quite a few of you died of thirst and starvation due to negligence on the jailers' part. Many of you, men I had fought beside, never got to see the light of day ever again."
     "Obviously you managed to get out."
     Jack nodded. "They tried to keep me in there, just as you are now, but as you can see they didn't succeed. After that experience I decided to wander the middle-east for a while. Even after things calmed down I had no urge to return to England. However, despite how entertaining the Crusades were a part of me still regrets ever joining and leaving England in the first place.”
     “Why’s that?”
     “Because I couldn’t be around to see if the stories of what happened in Nottinghamshire were true. In the absence of their king, England fell onto hard times where the greed of the nobles ran rampant to the point where the farmers couldn’t even afford the food they were growing. Amongst this despair a band of freedom fighters appeared to combat the tyranny, and at the head of them was the renowned Robin of Locksley. Of course, there wouldn’t have been any way for me to know what was happening or had happened until the ballads and stories first appeared centuries later, but it would have been interesting to witness nonetheless, if for no other reason than to see what really happened. I’m sure most, if not all, of it was fictitious, but there’s always that one part of you that wonders, ‘what if?’ Either way, I didn’t go back to England until the Industrial Revolution since nothing else over there had caught my attention enough to warrant the trip until then. Back then you had no airplanes to take you to any point on the planet in a matter of hours or days, so you could hardly justify travelling for months, often years to see something based on nothing but rumour and hearsay.”
     “And what was England like during the Industrial Revolution?” Chris asked, oddly entranced with Jack’s story now. If the man hadn’t been caught by the military he could have made a pretty good actor or writer.
     “I had mixed reactions about it, to be honest. On the surface it was a remarkable time. Many of you considered it as the beginning of a new era. England singlehandedly became the most powerful force in the world due to the efficient implementation of the steam engine and other marvelous inventions. Another revolution of its kind would not take place again until the process of converting liquid oil into fuel was discovered. On the other hand, the pollution was unlike anything I have ever seen up to that point. Today it’s pretty bad in China, but back then in England the soot was falling like snow every day. Many people died in the factories from exposure to extreme chemicals and fumes, and many others who lived in the lower-class residential districts ended up dying in their beds from their proximity to the factories alone.” Jack pointed at Chris and asked, “Did you know that all that pollution actually provided more proof of Darwin’s theory of evolution?”
     Chris raised a brow in interest. “I did not.”
     “There is a moth in the United Kingdom called the Peppered moth, which before the Industrial Revolution had sported white wings. During that time when the pollution was rampant, the moth’s wings began to gradually change from white to black, and because the darker-winged moths were harder for predators to spot against the soot their numbers began to outweigh that of the others until eventually the entire population of Peppered moths had black wings. Now, with the Industrial Revolution long over and the amount of pollution in the area dissipated the moths are starting to return to their original white appearance. It amazes me to no end that even in the face of this evidence you adamantly fight against the very idea of evolution in favour of the very beliefs that fueled the Crusades and the deaths that followed in its wake."
     "I don't," Chris said, "though I kinda understand why others might."
     It was Jack's turn to raise his brow in interest. "Oh? And what are your thoughts on this matter?"
     He shrugged. "A lot of people base their entire lives around their religion to the point where it becomes a part of who they are, so I guess they tend to take it personally when information comes along that contradicts their beliefs."
     Jack smiled. "I see the soldier indeed has a mind of his own." He nodded thoughtfully before saying, "I suppose there is some sense in that. After all, you wouldn't go to war and kill each other over your beliefs if they weren't important to you." He suddenly slapped his knee and chuckled. "I just remembered one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Do you know about the Battle of the Ironclads?"
     Chris shook his head, "No, I don't think so."
     "You should. It’s an important, and entertaining, part of your country’s history. It's more accurately known as the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack, where the duel between America's very first ironclads took place during the Civil War. Mind you, this was during a time when the very concept of a floating metal ship was so ludicrous that it would have had you laughed out of a university for even suggesting it. Napoleon himself mocked the idea of lighting a fire under a ship’s deck to make her move faster, but after this battle the entire world realized the potential of such vehicles. England itself halted all production of wooden ships on the spot in favour of developing their own ironclads in the wake of this battle.
     "The Monitor fought for the Union while the Merrimack fought for the Confederacy. At the time they were the most durable and destructive ships in America's history, nothing could sink them. They were the flagships of their respective fleets during the Battle of Hampton Roads, where the South tried to break the North's blockade on Norfolk and Richmond. They tore through each others' ships like lions through gazelle, all the while the enemies' cannon shots bounced off their iron hulls like pellets. The battle raged on for hours until the only ones left were the Monitor and the Merrimack." There was passion in Jack's eyes when he pointed at Chris and asked, "Do you know which side won that battle?"
     "Who?" Chris asked, genuinely curious.
     Jack spread his arms in a wide gesture, and in a tone of utter delight shouted, "Neither! They kept attacking each other time and again, but their cannons couldn't penetrate each others' hulls. They kept going at it until both of them ran out of ammunition, at which point they resorted to ramming into each other. Even after all that punishment there wasn't a single hole in either of their hulls, and the battle ended in a stalemate because both captains decided it was a waste of time and left." He smiled brilliantly. "Can you imagine it? This great battle where many powerful warships were torn to shreds by these unstoppable titans, and amongst the flotsam you see these same two boats running into each other like a couple of bumper cars. It's so ludicrous you have no choice but to find it comical!"
     Chris held back his laughter as Jack bellowed his own, but the guard allowed himself a smile. Shaking his head, he said, "Wow, that's crazy. Did they ever meet each other in battle again?"
     "Unfortunately, no, though I would have loved to have seen them face off once more. There's definitely something to be said about you when your aim to create the most powerful weapon results in an outstanding joke. Of course, something like that would never happen nowadays thanks to your battleships and missiles. You now have the power to put a bullet into a man from a mile away, tear down buildings with a single tank shell, and wipe entire cities off the face of the Earth with the press of a single button. It's sad, really. In your race to become more powerful than all of your neighbours you've taken all the grace out of the art of war. Your whole society was built on the exploits of war and the foundations you created to wage it, and with all your military advancements you've taken all the colour out of what was once a captivating picture book. Long gone are the days of kings and heroes like Richard and Robin. I remember when you would return home from war and recount the battles you won and the men you bested. Back then it was called glory, today you call it shell-shock." Jack tilted his head to one side. "Don't you find that sad, Chris? If you were to die in the line of duty right now your loved ones would mourn your single loss instead of celebrate your many victories. Your death would leave sadness when not even two centuries ago it would have left pride. How does that make you feel?"
     Chris had to swallow back a lump in his throat before he answered, "I would hope that my family would know I fought and died for what mattered most."
     "And what is that, Chris?"
     "Their safety."
     A soft smile spread across Jack's face. "You really are remarkable, you know that? Even in the face of such darkness you continue to struggle to find the light, regardless if it's there or not. It's one of the few attributes you possess that I admire above all else. In fact, your greatest breakthrough in all of recorded history was born when you were poised on the brink of the greatest darkness of all time, extinction. The United States and Russia, the world's foremost superpowers in the wake of World War Two, had their sights on each other with their fingers tensed on the hair triggers of nuclear destruction. It was the world's very first cold war. Such an interesting concept when you think about it, for a race that has known nothing but war to reach a stage of power where even the prospect of starting one would end their existence. It was a terrifying time for everyone, even for those who were not directly involved. I felt a particular sense of sympathy for Canada at the time. If those missiles were launched they would have flown right over their homes. One faulty propulsion system or error in the target coordinates and Toronto or Ottawa could have been reduced to radioactive ash. Yet, despite the amount of casualties this war would create neither side would bend to the other. They vowed that they would sooner see the world burn in nuclear fire than bow to the other's will."
     "I saw a documentary about it, it was pretty scary."
     "You say that, but seeing a recording and witnessing it in person are two completely different experiences. You saw what happened, but you didn't feel the terror and uncertainty that gripped your hearts every waking moment as you watched the horizon and wondered when you would see that mushroom cloud appear. It's one of the many failings of your short lifespan. You can record as much as you want for your descendants, but there will always be that disconnection between generations that comes with never experiencing the pain and horror first-hand. It's why you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, all the while thinking you’re making a difference. I cannot fault you for this flaw, but I do pity you for it. I suppose that's part of the reason you have me in this cell right now."
     Jack stood up and walked toward the left wall. He scratched the glass with his fingernail, as if to chisel off a piece of dirt or a stain, before he continued, "In the middle of all this terror came an idea, a chance to prove the superiority of the United States' technology. If you could show the world how advanced you were by doing something that for all of history was believed to be impossible, you would gain the support of your neighbours and maybe, just maybe, convince your greatest enemy to release their trigger. Through this idea came your greatest victory, not only for the Cold War but for humanity as a whole." Jack glanced at Chris out of the corner of his eye. "Do you know what the name of this victory was?"
     Chris nodded thoughtfully. "The Apollo Program."
     Jack smiled and looked back at his reflection in the glass. "Named after the Greek god of music, medicine, archery, the sun, and, most importantly, knowledge, the Apollo Program marked the beginning of the age of space exploration, as well as the end to your isolation and confinement to this world. For the first time ever you found the means to reach out into the infinite cosmos far beyond the limits of your imagination. The joy that came with putting a man on the moon outshined the shadow of the Cold War that had eclipsed your life. I still remember the speech Kennedy gave before the rocket launched like it was yesterday..."
     "I never figured you for a Kennedy man."
     Jack grinned slyly as he turned and walked away from the wall, his hands clasped behind his back. "I'm more partial to Roosevelt to be honest. It takes guts for a man to finish his speech after being shot, if you'll pardon the pun. On the whole, though, I have little interest in your presidents. They come and they go, often too quickly to make any positive impact to this country or its allies. Lately their mad dash to leave behind a legacy has resulted in some very poor decisions and policies. People often demonize Nixon for the things he did, but never before have I seen such blatant disrespect for your Commander in Chief as I have with Bush and Obama. Back in the day you used to respect the president's chair regardless of who sat in it, now you can't distinguish between the chair and the man. Trying to gain the confidence of the people is now as arduous a task as trying to defuse the Cold War was. When did all this disrespect begin I wonder? Was it when Nixon was accused of being a criminal, or when Clinton received a happy ending behind his wife's back?" Jack nodded at Chris and asked, "What do you think caused it, or is a soldier still not allowed to speak his mind about his superiors?"
     Chris said nothing as he glanced up at the cameras.
     "Ah, right. No worries, I'll just tell you what I think. It may not be the match that ignited the fire, but it's definitely the tinder that continues to fuel it to this day. It's such a wonderful invention, the Internet, don't you think? It's one of your greatest accomplishments next to the Apollo Program, a platform for expedient access to all recorded human knowledge and history, as well as the most powerful tool for communication, speech and expression. It used to be that knowledge was only given to the privileged and powerful, and even then you had to scour entire libraries of books and scrolls to find what you needed. Now it's as abundant and easily accessible as water from a stream, at least for those who can afford a computer and connection, and even for those who can't there are still many public alternatives available. Back in the day when you didn't agree with the president's actions you had to carefully formulate your opinion and submit it for review and maybe, if you were lucky, it would show up as a footnote in the next morning's paper. Now you can post your response to as many locations as you can find, as many times as you want, and as quickly as you can think it, all with the simple click of a button. Because of this there is no greater forum in the world than the Internet to witness the most primal and base reactions, thoughts and urges of the human race, where no kingdom rules more firm than anonymity. Because of this, however, it is also the greatest tool for the public to reach out and object to tyranny while supporting justice and truth. No longer are you required to look to the paid reporter or biased newspaper for the answers to your burning questions, as many others like you who have found that truth openly share it with the rest of their kind. Such world-wide unity has been unheard of for all of human history. However, despite the wonders this gift bestows upon you there are those who wish to see it stripped down until nothing but its soulless husk remains."
     Jack sat back down on the edge of the bed and faced Chris. "According to your constitution, the freedom of speech and thought is a sacred right held by all, and what better place to exercise that right than the Internet? How ironic it is then that despite claiming this to be true so many corporations and politicians are struggling desperately to snuff out this marvelous privilege. Corporations lobby to put laws into place that limit what you can access online in order to increase their own profits and to protect their own interests and properties that may be harmed by this freedom, regardless of how insignificant such damages would be. The politicians in congress and the senate, men who have held onto their seats ten times longer than any president, consider the concerns of these monopolistic giants more important than those of the public they purportedly represent. They're allowed to get away with it all because they block any attempt to oppose them with the laws they've constructed over the past two decades just for this purpose. This, Chris, is the system you are fighting to protect."
     "It's a broken system, yeah, but it's the only one we have right now, so we need to make it work the best we can."
     Jack nodded. "A broken paddle is better than no paddle at all when you're caught in the current I suppose. Knowledge is power, as the old saying goes, and those who control that knowledge control everything. It used to be the kings that held that power, then it was the church, and now it's the corporations. How much longer I wonder will it be before the people have their turn to decide how to live their lives?" There was a gleam of excitement in his eyes now. "I think that day is coming sooner than you think. Paddles can be fixed, and with the staggering amount of push-back the Internet provides the public it won't be long until you see that repair come into effect. A new change is upon you, the coming of a new era to rival that of the Industrial Revolution and the Space Race, and I for one can't wait to see what happens next."
     "Yeah, good luck with that while you're stuck in here. The only contact with the outside you're going to have for a while is through that T.V.."
     Jack looked at the television that was nearing the end of its broadcasting of Friends, then at his surroundings as if noticing them for the first time. "You do have a point, I can't witness this new era while I'm sitting in here." He got up and stretched his body. "Well, I think I've had my fill of this place. I'm ready to leave now."
     Chris chuckled a little. "Yeah, right, have fun with that. I'm sure if you ask my commander really nice he'll be happy to let you out."
     A dark smiled crossed over Jack's face. "That would imply I needed his permission in the first place." A particularly annoying laugh track played from the T.V.'s speaker, despite the volume having been turned down earlier. Jack rolled his eyes in exasperation at the sound of it and held his arm out toward the television. Chris grabbed his rifle and shot out of his chair out of shock and reflex when the device rose up off the table and was crushed down to the size of a baseball by some invisible force. Turning back to look at Chris, Jack asked, "Laugh tracks are so unnecessary, don't you agree? They attempt to artificially inject humour into a situation, even when there is none to begin with."
     Chris grabbed his radio from the front of his vest and switched it on. "Subject One is displaying aggressive tendencies, all units stand-by!"
     Jack strode toward the wall that separated him and Chris. Still smiling, he said, "I think I have time for one more story before I go. Would you like to know how I got out of that prison in Jerusalem?" Chris brought his gun up and moved next to the alarm button so he could press it at a moment's notice. Jack's smile only widened. "I'll take that as a yes."
     Jack raised his foot and kicked the wall. The glass that was strong enough to deflect a tank shell exploded outward in a shower of shards both big and small. Chris shielded his eyes from the smaller ones that rained down on him before reaching out and slamming his fist against the alarm. The entire room blared with an ear-piercing wail as the lights flashed red. The turrets roared to life and fired on Jack, but to Chris's horror the bullets bounced off his body like flies. When Jack lifted his hand four large shards of broken glass floated up around him and spun with the speed of circular saws. With a flick of his wrist each piece shot out at a turret, their velocity and sharpness slicing the machines in two. With another wave of his hand more of the smaller shards shot up and flew into each and every camera in the room, leaving the rest of the facility blind to what was happening within.
     "I do apologize for that," Jack told Chris in a genuinely sympathetic tone, "but we need some privacy for what comes next."
     "Stop where you are!" Chris demanded. When Jack continued to walk forward Chris fired at him, but the shot ricocheted off Jack and into Chris's leg. Chris cried out as he went down on one knee from the pain. He tried to raise his rifle for another shot, but Jack was suddenly in front of him.
     Grabbing him by the throat, Jack lifted Chris up until the two of them were at eye level and said, "Try not to struggle, it'll be over soon." He placed his other hand over Chris's forehead before adding, "For what it's worth, I enjoyed our conversation." Then there was a blinding light, then nothing.
     The reinforced door opened moments later to let in a squad of fully armed and armoured soldiers. Jack was unconscious on the ground while Chris was struggling to get to his feet while bracing himself against the wall. "Stay back!" he told the men as he brought his gun forward. "Subject One is extremely dangerous."
     Jack moaned as he started to come to, and when he opened his eyes he was met with the barrel of Chris's gun. Shock and disbelief registered in his eyes as he stared up at the guard, then his expression quickly turned to insult and outrage. He started to raise his arms, reach for the gun, but he couldn't get to it in time before Chris put a bullet between his eyes...

     Later Chris found himself in the infirmary for his injury. He had just gotten out of surgery to have the bullet removed from his leg and the doctor was currently checking his stitches. "You're lucky," he told Chris. "If that bullet had gone just one more inch to the left your femur would have been shattered."
     "What about Subject One?" Chris asked, still groggy from all the drugs he had been pumped with to help deal with the pain.
     "He wasn't so lucky. You did shoot him in the head, after all."
     Worried, Chris asked, "What's going to happen to me now?"
     "You're not going to be pressed with any charges, don't worry. Everyone saw what was happening before the cameras went out. The commander is giving you medical leave to recover once we can get you into a wheelchair. I even heard mention of commendations for your bravery."
     "But, Subject One is..."
     "Don't worry about him. Our scientists will still be able to get all the samples they need from his body. For now, you just focus on resting. Your stitches are looking good so I'm confident you'll make a full recovery with only a bit of scarring. Now, if you'll excuse me I have other matters to attend to." With that, the doctor left to deal with his other duties.
     Chris looked around the room once he was alone. He spotted a bed pan on the table next to him. Reaching over and grabbing it, he looked at his reflection in the metal. He examined the distorted image of his face in the pan, ran a hand over his stubble and through his hair. Setting the pan aside, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. The first thing he saw when he opened it was a picture of himself with his family in the sleeve. He stood next to his wife, a lovely red-headed woman who stood an inch or two shorter than him. Between them was their toddler daughter who sported the same wild red hair as her mother.
     He lingered on the picture for a while, then moved on to his driver's licence. "Christopher Reinhardt," he read, then smiled. "Reinhardt... I think I like that name."
Immortal I