The Perfect Getaway

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap. Tap tap tap, tap tap tap.

A small pigeon lands on the car’s black bonnet, distracting its driver from his rhythmic wheel tapping. Malcolm Reynolds looks up, his youthful face – defying the sands of both time and activity – throws the bird a wry smile. He stares at it for a moment, it stares right back. Then, as if aware of what is to follow, it quickly flies back into the welcoming arms of the morning sun.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap.

“Ten, nine, eight…” Mal pulls up the creased sleeve of his checked shirt. The elegant, gold watch around his wrist reads 9:01am. “…five, four…”

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap. Tap, tap, tap…

The Midland Trust’s heavy steel doors burst open and three men – each carrying a black sports bag – storm out. Mal reaches back and opens the driver’s side back door. The three men make a beeline for the vehicle and pile inside.

Mal glances over his shoulder. “Any problems?”

The first man in removes his balaclava, revealing the face of man deep into his fifties, grey hair already winning the battle of the scalp. He shakes his head. “Clockwork.”

Mal forces the car into gear and removes the handbrake with relish. Rubber quickly defeats concrete and the car screeches away from the curb. He gently presses down on the accelerator and joins the morning traffic.

The other two men remove their balaclavas. The youngest of the three, sat in the centre, leans forward and places his head in between the two front seats. “Why aren’t we smashing it?”

Mal sighs. “Jesus, kid, how many times.” He checks his rear view mirror. “Draws unwanted attention. They’ll find us soon, but not too soon. We went over this.”

The kid slumps back down. The older man nudges him in the ribs with one arm, grips onto the door with the other as Mal swings the car around a bend. “Sorry, Doc,” he says.

Mal laughs. “You’re alright, Marty. Just relax, kid.”

Mal swings the car around another right turn and past a stationary police car. He looks in his wing mirror, just to make sure. “See. What did I tell ya?”

The kid wipes his brow. “Cool. Yeah, cool. I know, I know.”

He shifts down a gear, making a final right turn into the industrial district. Soon, they’re surrounded by nothing but factories and private buildings. The sound of a siren quickly reaches their collective ear.

“Here we go!” Mal exclaims, unsure if he has successfully hidden the excitement this part of the job still gave him. He fears he hasn’t.

He flicks a few stray strands of sandy brown hair from out of his eye line and presses down hard on the accelerator. Forty, fifty mph, he shifts up a gear, sixty, seventy mph. The sirens are louder now, pounding inside cars and heads. The once stationary police car joins another and together they flank the car. Mal knows they are currently radioing for further back-up. It won’t matter.

As Mal swings around a final bend a disused, decrepit industrial unit comes into view. As they approach, the outer gates slide open. Mal accelerates through the gate and into the unit’s large open entrance. As quickly as they slid open, the gates automatically close shut, seconds before the chasing police cars brake and skid to an inauspicious stop. Mal peers over his shoulder at his passengers. “Clockwork.”

He drives deeper into the unit, out of the sight of the helpless police officers. “Right, home stretch. Don’t forget what I told you.”

The old man grips his sports bag tight. “We got it, Doc.”

Mal reaches down and pulls a pair of black sunglasses from the dash, slips them on. “Remember, cover your eyes,” he says.

With only two-hundred metres separating them, the ramp comes into focus. Mal gently squeezes the pedal, his attention on the speedometer. One hundred metres, fifty metres, twenty metres…

The car hits the ramp with a thud, its base evidently raised slightly from the ground. Mal makes a quick mental note to deal with this issue later. As the vehicle rises into the air, a bright white light fills the entire world around it. For a second, there is nothing but light. So bright it hurts. The three men cower in the back. Even now, it forces Mal to squint behind his sunglasses.

As the white light fades, Mal shifts the car into neutral and prepares his foot above the brake. The three men uncover their eyes just in time to see the pile of tightly arranged cardboard boxes break their landing. Mal grips the wheel tightly and brakes hard, the car coming to a comfortable stop. Just as planned.

For a moment, silence. No talk, no engine, no sirens. Silence. Mal often finds his clients need a moment or two to gather themselves, so he allows it. After a while, he speaks. “OK, job done. You good to go?”

“Sure.” The old man removes several bundles of fifties from his bag and leaves it on the back seat.

He peers down through the passenger side window which has been rolled down. “You wanna count it?” Mal shakes his head. “Course, why would you.”

Mal smiles. “Remember, Marty, be careful with it. They won’t cotton on immediately, but somewhere along the line they’ll realise there’s two sets. And if they catch you-”

“Don’t worry, Doc. It’s not like I know your name anyway. And I’m not that stupid.”

“Good,” Mal says, offering half a wave goodbye. “Oh, and don’t forget to turn your watches back.”

“See ya, Doc.”

Soon, the three men are out of sight. Mal checks his watch: 08:01am. He grins at the watch as though thanking it for confirming his continued perfection. He turns the ignition on and the car fires into life. He sits for a moment, waiting. Then, his phone rings.
“Hey. Yeah, yeah, all done … Well, the ramp needs looking at … Give me an hour to get back and take care of the Repeats and I’ll meet you back there … No, they didn’t even ask, can you believe that? … OK, see you then.”

Mal throws the phone onto the passenger seat. As he pulls out the unit’s back exit, he can’t help but laugh at the sheer ignorance of the day’s clients. At no point did they ask what happens to their own doubles.

Survival

The heavens opened and the rains fell, filling the sky with fire and death.

Within days, I was deep underground. Anyone with any sense did the same. The surface was their territory now.

I’ll never forget the first one I saw. Towering over the city, crushing buildings like twigs. Every footstep an earthquake, each breath a tornado. Little wonder the civilians have taken to calling them Gods.

I wish I knew more about them. The Scrolls speak of their arrival but not of their intentions, of what happens next. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

We can’t stay down here forever.

Dead End

John flags down the taxi and leaps inside, its warmth a welcome relief. He slouches into the seat as it pulls away.

All clear.

The driver doesn’t glance back, or ask his destination.

“Marlow St, if you wanted to know,” he says dryly.

“Not today.”

John’s eyes narrow at his tone. “You what?”

“Not today. He wants to see you immediately.”

How the fuck does he already know about-

“What you did doesn’t go unseen, friend.”

John scrambles at the doors: locked. The windows: jammed. No escape this time.

Fuck, fuck fuck.

“Relax, friend. This will all be over soon enough.”

Revival

They put up a strong resistance, stronger than most. But twenty days ago, London fell.

Ten days later, the rest of the UK had followed. They were outnumbered 10:1. The odds were never in their favour.

But the human race is strong, resilient. Two days ago, a lone soldier reached my bunker. He was wounded, mortally so. He had just enough life left to release me.

Ninety-seven years is a long time to be asleep. To do nothing but watch as your adopted home is taken from you. Feeling so powerfully hopeless. But I’m free now.

Tomorrow, I take it all back.

Second Chance

Dr Vega has finished the device. Just in time.

No one will ever know just how close we came to blowing it. All they’ll know is what I tell them. I’m our last hope, the record keeper of earth’s demise.

In twelve hours, all this will be gone. In twelve hours, I’ll be in a place where it’s all yet to happen. Vega still can’t ascertain where and when I’ll be going. He found the wormhole, but I’ll be the first and last person to ever pass through it.

Then my work really begins. Trying to ensure this doesn’t all happen again.

Grandad’s Story

No mules this week. Sorry.

Grandad’s Story

He gently tucks the covers under Sam’s chin, wrapping him up in a warm duvet cocoon. He stands up and turns to leave. “Goodnight, Sammy.”

“Story!”

“I’m sorry?”

“May I have a story Grandad please?”

He smiles. “Okay, okay. We might have time before your mother gets home,” he says, slumping down on to the end of the bed. “I’ve got just the thing.”

The covers ripple with excitement. “Yes!”

“Shh, shh. Okay, okay. Now, listen closely, Sammy lad. Listen closely.”

Sam slips deeper into his cocoon. “I will.”

“There once was a knight-”

Sam’s eyes widen.

“Settle down, settle down, not that one. This was a much lesser-known knight, but lesser-known does not mean less important. It does not mean that. This knight commanded thousands of men, men who followed him without question-”

“Was he-”

“I’ll take questions at the end, lad. Questions at the end. Are you listening?”

A little heads pivots up and down.

“Good. Now, this knight was a very good knight. He was brave and strong and some might say handsome. He won many great battles and defeated numerous evils. The Grand Queen noticed this and one day came calling on him…”

He feels Sam’s toes wiggle in anticipation.

“…she told him there was an army of monsters rising, monsters intent on destroying the entire kingdom. He agreed to help, without hesitation.”

“Because he was such a good brave knight?”

He smiles. “Well yes, but he wanted to help save his kingdom and all of the people in it, too. But that wasn’t the whole story. The Queen thanked him for his bravery and dedication, but told him there was more. The Grand Queen was also a prophet you see.”

“A what?”

“A prophet. It meant she could see into the future, she could see things that were yet to happen. She told the brave knight that with his help the kingdom would be saved, but that he would die. His last act as a Knight of the Twelfth Kingdom would be to save it.”

Sam pulls the covers up tighter around his neck. “And did he fight the monsters, Grandad?”

“Yes, lad. Yes he did. It was a massive battle, with many soldiers from each side falling. Soon, all but one of the monsters had been slain. The only monster still standing was the Monster King. He was the biggest and meanest,” he wiggles Sam’s big toe, “and stinkiest of them all.”

“Hehe!”

“But this was no time for laughter. Remember, our good knight was to die this day. After an epic battle which lasted for two whole days, the Monster King was defeated. But our knight suffered such fatal injuries in the fight that he was soon to follow, just as the Grand Queen had foreseen. As the entire kingdom rejoiced, the knight began to slip away.”

Sam lets out the a child’s version of a sigh. “He didn’t deserve to die, Grandad.”

“And you weren’t the only one to think so, Sammy. You see, just as the knight began to close his eyes one final time, the Grand Queen appeared before him. She told him that, because of his unprecedented bravely and sacrifice, she had made a deal with the God Oah to spare his life. As well as saving his life, the knight would be allowed to live out the rest of his days in peace and quiet. But, he had to agree that when the next big battle arrived, he would be ready to stand again at his Queen’s side.”

“What did he do?”

“He accepted this most humbling of gifts, of course. The God Oah filled his body with life and the Grand Queen allowed the knight to find a quiet place in the kingdom to raise a family and enjoy the rest he very much deserved. He found a piece of land, and a farm-”

“Like ours, Grandad?”

He smiles. “Exactly like ours, lad. Exactly. Except, this wasn’t enough. You see, being a knight was all he had ever known. He soon found himself missing the life he used to have. But he knew he could not rise to fight again until called on by the Grand Queen. To do so before this day would make him appear ungrateful for the gift of life Oah had given him.”

“So he never fighted again?”

“Until this very day, my lad, he never did. His sword has never been raised since the day the Monster King was slain. But it stands ready, ready for the day the Grand Queen calls on the knight to once again fight to protect the Twelfth Kingdom.”

“He’s still alive?”

“Oh yes he’s still alive, lad. He’s still alive and hoping the Grand Queen hasn’t forgotten about him. He’s waited patiently all these years, and hopes he’s got one last great battle left in him.”

“What’s he been doing, Grandad?”

“That, my little knight,” he says, leaning forward, planting a kiss on Sammy’s soft forehead, “is a story for another night.”