Prose

An Uncertain Future- Chapter 15


by: CJ Fogarty

Duke

After receiving our brief, Rich and I were poised to take up our old occupations with less hesitation. But, before we got back in the saddle, we obviously had to be outfitted for the job. I myself was itching to try out some of the new toys available to us in this future, however, I requested that we do so with the help of an old friend. Since Rich and I were unanimously inclined to bringing Jim Redfield outta retirement, Miri complied, Philippe warning us not to scare the old man to death first.

For while his grandfather, Jeanne-Claude, was accustomed to such surprises and excitement, even in old age, Jim Redfield had retreated into the monotony of a sedentary, reserved lifestyle. In his youth, Jim Redfield was a brilliant engineer and inventor, yet, most people never thought he’d amount to anything. Despite coming from one of the most revered families in the Order, raising Guardians three centuries before Jeanne-Claude Trenaux Sr. of WWII fame, James Redfield started out with somewhat more, uhm, dubious origins. Ingenious yet at times proud and over-zealous, he often threw himself into projects that were either doomed to fail, poorly calculated, or simply lacked applicability in the digital age. The rumors we’d heard from his cronies at UCLA went from Jim charging his cell phone by plugging his charger into a watermelon soaked in saltwater to retrofitting an old record player to a 2006 Chevy.

Everyone thought the things he did were, “cool”, or, “unique”, but, since his projects didn’t involve medical breakthroughs or advance digital technology or come with a fancy Powerpoint, his professors let him off with, “you’re very gifted Jim, but I don’t think you hit the point you need to.” Since that was a nice way of saying, “you’re smart, but not our type”, he was, “friend-zoned”, by the collegiate scientific community and his family, while well off, decided not the pay his for education any longer. But, Jim’s pride wasn’t really slighted.

“They’ll all sell out the Apple and Google and be kissing ass the rest of their lives”, he said when we first met, “whereas I’ll make the electric company kiss my ass when I start teaching people to power their own homes!”

That was Jim for you. We always used to joke that he developed his feisty ambition because he was a ginger, but Rich and I both knew that all Redfields were known for confidence and red hair. Jim thought himself the best in his field and, to be honest, if he were born a century earlier, he’d be one of the world’s most revered innovators. I guess it’s a shame to constantly feel born out of time. Trust me, I know.

So, back to the wonderful year of 2069 in which cars fly, gas is gone, and Big Brother essentially gets his own flying city, we track Jim down to the Algonquin Woods retirement home in central Virginia. It works out that we’ve gone to the United States since Rich’s lead, Ezio Cortanza, hadn’t left New York City, or even his office some say, for eight years. My lead, meanwhile, Cardinal Arnim, is centered in Rome but is on sabbatical in the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, one of two Trappist monasteries remaining in the United States. There used to be eight. Guess that life ain’t quite as popular now. Then again, it never was popular in actuality.

Arriving at the retirement home, we’re relieved to find how familiar it appears. With modest, tan brick, and a lush pond in front and a tree line that captures a peaceful sunset in the back, what looks modern to us is actually a sixty-year-old facility kept up very well.

“I suppose with all the death everyone’s encountered over the past twenty years”, I ponder, “anyone able to make it to old age must be treated with greater value in this future.”

“Aye”, Rich affirms, “although I think I may be horrified at the cause of such a consequence. Given what we know.”

“Yeah”, I reply with spite, “what we know. Just when were you gonna tell me fifty years went by and a nuclear bloodbath happened on Mars, and millions more were killed by terrorist bombings! That is nothing short of the apocalypse, and you found it convenient NOT to let me know sooner!”

“This is precisely why”, Rich responds softly,”I kept it from you. By the time I learned of this, we were still in limbo trying to figure out what the fuck to do after missing fifty years. I figured it was better that you shoulder the burdens later.”

“Right, because your way of dealing with trauma isn’t destructive at all”, I retort.

“I will admit that substance abuse is NOT constructive, but I pull myself and when I can’t, I seek help. You shoulder guilt and remorse until it kills you and like a masochist, you refuse to let anyone in to help.”

“That’s because I only expose that part of me, that weak, ever-doubting part, to a select few”.

“That somehow always seems to include a plethora of prostitutes”.

He’s got me there. Yes, while Rich abuses alcohol and tobacco, I…sorta…go over board on having sex in order to deal with trauma. I’ll admit to anyone that it’s a terrible idea, and recommend counseling, opening up, even finding a wife if that’s your cup of tea. As for me, well, as I say,

“You have your way of coping, and I have mine”.

“Right”, Rich settles, “now let’s go see an old friend.”

Appearing in the reception office, the pretty receptionist seems, at first hesitant to believe two sketchy guys like us had an old relative to meet. We tell her that we’re here to see Jim Redfield. Ah good, she looks relieved, and with my disarming charm, she smiles and let us in. You know what though, I think she was more interested in Rich than in me.

“Hey, buddy, she’s mine”, I say playfully, gesturing back to her as we walk down the tacky-colored corridor.

Rich rolls his eyes, and then, “You honestly cannot help it, can you?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I and anyone else would, ordinarily, peg you as a sexual deviant. However, I think your real problem is that you’re someone who claims to be a satisfied loner, yet cannot help but to seek the fixated gaze of some wide-eyed female at every turn.”

“Women are God’s saviors to mankind from loneliness and boredom, as well as His most frustrating curse. Women can’t help but be interesting and attractive”, I resound.

“And here I thought that we were God’s saviors to humankind”, Rich humors. He doesn’t quite believe in the existence God. Yet, given the lives we’ve lived, he can’t quite deny it either. He’s just in a mood to question our existence in general which, by and large, has a very vague yet important purpose. !

“Nope”, I muse, “we’re more like his garbage men. Taking out what people prefer not to see so civilized life can continue.”

At this point, we arrive at the cafeteria. Instead of the prison mess hall I’d expected, it appears actually cozy and well lit, with wooden tables, cheap but nice- looking chandeliers, and a piano playing smoothly in the background.

The elderly crowd at dinner are as strange as they had been in the Brown Bess. Several tables were fixated on the television, which is paused and rewound regularly. However, the crowd is viewing baseball instead of soccer. Watching it myself, I notice that the camera gets up real close, like right in front of the batter as he swings, and I can almost make out the drops of sweat on his burly arm. I begin to wonder how they do it. Oh, that flying, bulbous drone in the corner of the screen. It looks like something outta Star Wars. But, I think that’s the camera. Very cool.

Looking at the chandeliers, however, I notice that they are specifically older by comparison, sporting incandescent bulbs. The people themselves, well, they are of a different kind. A lot of them sport those tight sweaters I’ve seen a lot of older people wearing. I think I read in a magazine somewhere that it was a new type of Underarmor that contoured the body in a certain way as to make it appear less flabby, supposedly by tightening the muscles. That reminded of those stupid bracelets that people said were supposed to relieve stress, back in my day, of course. One table, all women in conservative dresses, sits with joined hands in order to pray over their meal. Rich smirks in my direction, and tells me he thinks one of them had fallen asleep. Another group, all old men with unkempt, long hair, are gazing at a holoprojecter that shows a hockey game right above the center of the table on four screens facing each seat. A third table is of mixed genders, but EVERYONE is on their phones.

“Nicer than I expected”, I compliment as we walk past the digital age socialites.

But, Rich, as usual, isn’t as impressed.

“I hate these places. It’s like that song, The Hotel California. ‘You can check in any time you like. But you can never leave.’ “

“Well”, I retort, “aren’t you sensitive.”

Rich rolls his eyes, “They treat seniors like children, as their minds slowly slip away. Babying them all day and night, and of course they end up complaining like children. Age used to be synonymous with respect and pride, not deterioration and laughability. Remember when someone reached a certain age, and they were treated like royals for their wisdom and experience, and were expected to behave as such? Now it’s all just, ‘where’s the next new thing? Throw out those old blighters, for we are young and know all!’ ”

I nod, but counter with, “Rich, those were the days when reaching an age like that was rare. That’s why people treasure a long life.”

“And now”, Rich counters, “people live into their nineties by being spoon fed and shitting in bags. That certainly isn’t the quality of life I desire.”

“Me neither, I guess”, I reply, convinced. He’s right in a way, even if his way of putting it is caustic.

“Excuse me, mum”, Rich beckons a round, older woman in nurse’s attire.

She promptly follows Rich’s call, her face an unchanged, disarming grimace.

“Is James Redfield in this cafeteria?”, Rich asks politely.

“Sure is, honey”, she replies, ”Jimmy’s at the card table over by the window.”

She gestures to a group of two old men and one woman playing cards. The entire group is animated, arguing over hands like a family reunion, with familiarity and playfulness. One look, and we both pick out Jim, as the most victorious-looking of them all. It’s a strange sort of deja vu seeing him. That’s all I can explain it as.

His head is still very square with the pointed chin. His pointed nose is still there and while his face is now thinner, the cheery dimples made by his smile have held up over the years. He has gained a lot of weight, but aside from a thinning patch of whiter hair and liver spots near his temples, his is truly a warming, familiar sight. I just wonder how he’ll react to us.

We approach the tables with some caution, making sure our backs are to him first.

Then, I say, “Jim Redfield?”

“Who’s asking”, his voice replies, very raspy but with his classic whiny tone.

I then realize, however, that I don’t know how to respond. If we introduce ourselves outright, he might run scared, or collapse of shock, and that’d be a mess. Rich doesn’t seem to be thinking of anything either. Guess I’ll answer with the first thing that came to my mind.

“Those are some nice cards there. Did you just buy them, or were they passed down to you?”, Cards? Aw, hell! How stupid do you think that was? I was supposed to name an article of clothing. That’s how the code goes between Guardians. I mean, saying anything really works, but cards? Just stupid, but hey, I panicked a little. I got future shock.

He turns to us, his lower lip protruding with a grumpy look on his face. Grumpy? He doesn’t recognize us then,

“Hm, Guardians eh?”, he rasps, clearly not happy being interrupted. Then, with a sigh, “I fold”, and he throws his cards into the center of the table.

He then struggles his large frame out of his seat and, with the help of a blue metal cane, hobbles, yet with determination, down the corridor and into his simply-furnished room, where the two of us take seats on chairs in both corners of the room.

“Now, I feel like I’m supposed to know you two, but I can’t quite remember. Are you boys new?”, he asks, folding his arms.

We glance at each other then. I don’t want to believe that Jim has gone senile on us, making this visit fairly pointless. Looking to Rich, his smirk assures me that that probably isn’t the case.

“We might be”, I answer, playing along.

“We’ve only been active for about, three months, was it?”, Rich adds.

“Uh yeah, so I must confess that we aren’t all that familiar with some of the meeting protocol and stuff”, I reply innocently, feigning naiveté.

“I could tell”, Jim replies, showing displeasure, “so, then what does the Order want of an old man?”

Before I could reply, he, characteristically, interrupts with, “before you say anything, I’d like you both to know that I’m more than satisfied here right now so no matter what you say, nothing will get me to come outta retirement. Least of all of couple of pumped up kids trying to look like badass in their new Guardian attire. I’m eighty- something years old and I think that I’ve earned my right to retire.”

Rich takes his chance to speak, “that’s all well and good, Jim-“

“That’s Mr. Redfield to you, bo-yo”, Jim replies, mocking Rich’s accent.

Now, if this were any other person than Jim, we wouldn’t be putting up with him. But, we know him so well to the point where his ball-busting has almost been endeared to us. It’s funny the company we’ve decided to keep.

“Right, forgive me, Mr. Redfield”, Rich replies, showing no sign of irritation whatsoever, “what exactly do you think we’re here to do?”

But Jim’s brow furrows in confusion and frustration.

“Why the hell are you asking me”, he says, “you two approached me, while I was on a roll by the way. Jamie always cheats when we play cards, but he was gettin his ass kicked until you two showed up.”

I go to speak, but once again, am interrupted by his pointing finger, “And another thing, Big Boy. You ought to have shaved and gotten a haircut. You’re a Guardian, not a hobo for Christ’s sake. And you, Union Jack, should’ve gotten new shoes, cuz yours are stained to hell with gross green turf. And both of you, didn’t anyone tell you that it’s courteous to take your hats off inside? Take ‘em off, and maybe I’ll take you boys seriously.”

I had actually forgotten I was wearing mine. Our classic, wide brimmed black hats were our trademark, but, they did do enough to cover our faces, to the point where aged eyes would be unaware of our identities. I never even thought that that might be the issue here. So, Rich and I proceeded to take our hats off, me running my hand through my hair in order to part it backward. I guess it has gotten a little long.

Jim, meanwhile, stares directly at us, his wrinkled eyes alternating between Rich and I. His eyes rest on me for now. Now they slowly turn to Rich one last time, before widening intensely. His hand jerks right to his head, and he starts breathing loudly in short intervals. He closed his eyes then, and I could tell that he was trying to remember us, but had to sift through fifty years of life, five of which had been very docile, in order to find us.

“Well”, he says, his tone suddenly changed from displeasure to coolness. His eyes opene and, “isn’t this a surprise. I thought it might have been you two when you both walked in.”

“Did you really?”, Rich replies, smugly.

“Oh yes”, Jim assures, “a big, blondish American next to an Englishman half his size, both in Guardian attire. I obviously wasn’t sure until you took those hats off. Richard, you’re missing your mustache and Michael, or sorry, Duke, you’re missing the scar down your right jaw.”

“Well, looks like you’ve got it right now”, I reply, containing my joy at finally being recognized by our old friend.

An awkward pause follows, however.

It is broken by Jim with, “So, have you boys rejoined the Order then?”

We both nod.

“Alright, and I’m guessing you’ve only been up and running for about three months like you said. Did John send you to me?”

At this, our eyes are both down.

“No, John’s dead”, I reply, “we were sent by the new grandmaster.”

“Oh. I see”, Jim laments, but, then he turns it around with, “well, we’ve all got our time. I just didn’t think his would come before me. Well, anyway, so Carson’s the new grandmaster then?”

“No”, Rich answers, to Jim’s confusion, “Miri Larkin was appointed.”

“Miri Larkin”, he repeats, “little Miri has taken over the world’s most powerful secret society?”

We both nod.

“But she’s too young.”

“But a damn good leader if I may say”, I defend.

“Aye”, Rich adds, “she’s a determined lass, and carries authority exceptionally.”

“Well, she was always good at that. And I’m glad to see that she’s found herself a purpose in life”, Jim relates, “ ‘cause you know, she was off on her own being a bit of a rebel and all. Joining up with them cyberpunks. Painting her hair and hanging around in alleys and nightclubs.”

“Were you any different, Jim”, I remind him, “were we any different?”

“Sure”, he replies, matter-of-factly, “we were contributing to society. Even if the movies and music sucked, my generation was working hard to get by, despite crushing debt. Thank God the price of schooling went down massively and more people invested in other alternatives to higher education Honestly, it’d have been nicer to go to college now. But, I’m pretty satisfied with the way my life went.”

At this, Jim finally smiled warmly.

“Ah, you guys”, he says, happily, “it’s so good to see that you’re back. We really could’ve needed you eight years ago.”

“We know”, Rich and I both reply, knowing the weight of those words.

“But, now that you’re back”, Jim affirms, “what can I do for you? Just ask for anything, and I’m your man.”

“We need weapons…”, I answer.

“…and gadgets and equipment…”, Rich continues.

“…and perhaps some body armor too”, I reply, to see Rich rolling his eyes. He never really understood my fetish for body armor. He reminded me that modern warfare was about being fast enough so the other guy doesn’t even have time to land a shot on you. Added to it, its reliability is never 100%.

“Body armor has saved us both on more than one occasion, Rich”.

“Yes, but it’s often too expensive and too heavy”.

“Maybe five decades ago”, Jim smiles with a gleam in his eye, “but if you boys are looking to be protecting and deal some damage, I can certainly help you out there. Follow me.”

Jim picked up his cane and slowly gets up. We go to help him this time, only to be promptly shrugged off.

“I’m old, not crippled boys. Old.”

“Jim, you’re so proud you’d probably refuse pallbearers at your own funeral”, I quip, which stirred enough laughter to dispel any awkwardness of the situation.

“That’s right, Duke”, Jim resounds, hobbling on his cane towards the walking closet, “I’ll carry myself to my own damn coffin and just lie and wait. Now come on. If you have to patience for an old guy, he’ll take you to where he keeps his toys.”

Crossing to the closet next to his small bed, he opens the doors to reveal a walk- in. He beckons us to follow, and so we enter single file, pushing past rows and rows of coats, which make the closet noticeably stuffy and uncomfortable. Our pace is slow due to the old man in front, yet, it forces us to walk a little slower, since I surely would be knocking all the clothes down. I begin to feel the path almost start going down a ramp, which leads me to believe just when the hell this trek would end. Eventually, the light disappears and we find ourselves in a more open space. But I can’t see anything.

“Just a minute”, I hear him shout in front of me. And then I hear a click and lights turn on. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a long room with a tile floor, lit by four, incandescent bulbs from the ceiling. Yet, the walls themselves appear very dark.

“So, just where have you taken us?”, Rich asks.

Jim smiles, and flips a switch up, and the walls light up, revealing a spectacular sight. The walls are really giant class cases framed in wood, in which are held an array of shining tools of war, some old and familiar, others of a different type altogether. In addition, there ware all sort of other equipment from bullets to grenades, yes, body armor, hanging panoplies on the far wall.

“Welcome to the armory boys”, Jim states proudly, “just give me the you boys will be doing, and I’ll see to it that you’re equipped.”
“Just like old times”, both Rich and I say aloud, which causes old Jim to beam, just as he once did all those years ago.

We take some time too look around. Like I said, some weapons I recognize: ordinary assault rifles and pistols which look a little different, but, all in all, from the outset, I’m not shocked by what I see.
“It doesn’t appear as though weapons technology has changed all that much”, I think aloud, “nor has bunker building changed either, eh?”

“Maybe on the outside that’s true”, Jim replies slyly, “but on the inside, you’d be surprised.”

And with that, he flips another switch, and another wall out of the darkness behind us. But hang on, wasn’t that the way we just came in?

“This room has rotating walls”, Jim explained, “while that may be the way we just came in, after we entered, that wall shifted in order to cut it off from the retirement home.”

“All this done underground?”, Rich responded, amazed.

“Oh yes”, Jim replies proudly,”what with all the bombings we endured, the bunker-building business has come a long way by necessity. Lasers and what not allow for digging to be done in half the time. The Order gave this modest abode to me when I retired. Since people born eighty years ago are used to construction projects taking longer than they should, nobody questioned nine months taken to fix a broken water main. Although, they all complained like hell, and we got this close to being found out. Oh and let me tell you, that woulda been a scandal, considering all these weapons.”

“Yes, I suppose explaining a bloody arsenal under a retirement home would be tough”, Rich affirms.

“I’ll say, especially with the new guns laws in place. Personal use of firearms is not allowed, except for government and city employee. And by that I mean cops and soldiers.”

“Can’t you file for a permit?”, I ask.

“You can”, Jim replies, then, with annoyance, “but they have you on hold for seven hours, paying tons and tons of service fees, that it’s hardly worth it.”

“Hmm”, I conclude, “and I’m guessing that cops have unlimited warrants to confiscate anyone’s guns whenever they feel like it, eh?”

“Now Duke”, Rich warns, ever the voice of reason, “gun control lowered gun-related crime in several nations. The majority of public shootings take place because of personal handgun owners, not necessarily affiliated with the Black Market in any way.”

“That doesn’t do shit when the wrong people are still able to get guns illegally, harming people whom the government says aren’t allowed to defend themselves. I supposed they repealed the Second Amendment or something, right?”

“Alright, Duke”, Rich answers, attempting to soothe, “is this really the time?”

I let out a sigh.

“No”, I admit, “it’s not. At the end of the day, I respect a government that attempts to pass laws in the interest of safeguarding its people.”

“But there are sometimes when we must be able to do what is necessary”, Rich adds, “even if it conflicts with such laws.”
I nod in agreement, and the debate stops there. When you’ve been around someone you don’t agree with for long enough, you become an expert at self-control.

“So, tell me, boys”, Jim says, rubbing his hands together, “what kind of mission are you involved in this time?”

“Well, it’s sort of reconnaissance.”, Rich begins.!

“We each have a target…”, I continue.

“…and one of them, perhaps, is aiding former members of The Forgotten.”

“We are to follow them..”

“…examine them…”

“…and perhaps interrogate them.”

“in order to determine their motives”, Rich concludes.

At this, Jim noticeably become downcast.

“John always suspected that we hadn’t seen the last of them”, he sighs.

But wait, now he’s perked back up. Turns out it hasn’t gotten him that down.

“Well, you boys will need a few things from “the toy room”. Come on.”

He picks up his cane and we turn around to follow him. The way we came in is now a blank wall and, to the right, there was suddenly a corridor that we had no idea was there before. It turns right until we entered a sort of chromium workshop, the sign over the door reading ‘The Toy Room’.

There are several metal tables over which old fluorescent lights hang. Four tables in all, divided in half by a booth with several sinks. Additionally, on the right side closest to the entrance is a disorganized mess of parts, cords and wires, empty Erlenmeyer flasks and other things you’d find in a tinkerer’s room. A monitor on the upper left corner shows an empty room, Jim’s I assume, and as our eyes turned towards the left, we saw an array of gadgets hanging on it.

“Now, for reconnaissance, you’ll be needing a few, basic things.”, Jim begins, “so first, take these.”
He takes two silver discs with three buttons glass centers from the wall, which refract a line of rainbow as I turn it over in the light.

“And what do these do?”, I ask.

“Clip them on a place where nobody will see ‘em immediately”, Jim commands.

Rich and I glance at each other, and put them in the first places we see fit: inside our wide-brimmed hats. The device clips on almost by itself, digging into the felt.

“Well, I guess nobody’s thought to put them in there, but, whatever, that’ll work”, Jim ponders, “by the way, where’d you two get those old uniforms anyway?”

“So Guardians don’t wear these anymore?”, Rich inquires.

Jim shakes his head, which isn’t a surprise.

“We found these in an old Guardian outpost, outside of New York, where we first woke up”, Rich explains.

“We were aware of several places we could go, but we spent three months relentlessly searching, only to find that one post. It was abandoned”, I continue.

“Hm, yeah we’ve had to move a lot of things around”, Jim replies, “what with Interpol hunting us now. Anyway, that’s another conversation. Reach in there, and press the center disk.”

We do so, and, like a sheath, my vision suddenly changes, from clear to colorful. Literally, my vision is dominated by several colors, and every light is suddenly a very bright ray of rainbow. I look forward and I can see Jim, but Rich has disappeared. It’s surreal, but soon disorienting, and as my eyes struggle to process everything, my head begins to hurt and my footing is turned into a swagger.

“Oh shit”, I suddenly hear Jim exclaim, “turn ‘em off, quickly!”

I reach up and fumble around, but I can’t find the disk. I simply knock the hat off my head and, after shutting my eyes, I find I’m on my knees, but can see again, and quickly get to my feet. To my right, Rich has managed to turn off his device as Jim looks on, for once, ashamed.

“I’m so sorry”, Jim says, uncharacteristically,”I completely forgot that you can’t go using the invisibility cloaks without wearing one of these.”
In his hands, he holds a very modern pair of glasses with wide, rectangular lenses.

“Here, Duke”, Jim says to me, “put these on, and try it again, if you’re up to it.”

Shaking off my dizziness, I put the glasses, then my hat, and press the button again. Immediately, it’s a better time as I can perceive everything clearly.

“This is much better”, I say, in admiration. I looked down to my hands, and find that they and my whole body are highlighted in green.
“Ah, yes”, Jim replies, relieved, “I’m sure that’s much better. Now, my eyes are old, so, I easily see through the missteps, but, Rich, can your young eyes see Duke at all.”
“No, I can’t”, Rich answers admiringly. Then, he quips,”and just who are you calling young?”

We all laugh at that.

“Well, you certainly look young, old boy”, Jim replies, mocking Rich’s accent more playfully this time.

“I think Miri was telling me something about this”, I change the subject, “something about light perception and casting a field of one spectrum or…something. I dunno, I couldn’t quite understand.”

“No, that’s just about it”, Jim replies, “we see things the way light bounces off of them. So, casting a forcefield of just one spectrum of visible light can fool all but the sharpest eyes. Those glasses you’re wearing, pierce the field, allowing the wearer to see clearly. They also highlight your own body so you don’t lose yourself, as well as anyone else wearing an invisible cloak.”

“It would make sense that Miri knew about all this”, Jim says, while I turn the cloak off, “she basically invented the technology herself. She was a devoted tinker once, and a regular Redfield like me when it came to getting the job done.”

“Miri invented these?”, Rich and I both exclaim.

“Oh yeah”, Jim replies proudly, “she wasn’t naturally gifted, but, when she thought she could do something, she tried and tried until it got done. These took her almost a year, and she was in here almost every night her sophomore year, but, she got it. And now, all Guardians use them. She truly is a remarkable girl, that one. I’m not saying Carson couldn’t have done a good job, but she’s one to rise to the challenge.”

“I agree”, Rich affirms, to which I nod in agreement.

“Although, to be fair”, I quip, “if you couldn’t see Rich, his booze breath could still get us caught.”

“Fuck off, Duke. I haven’t had a drink in days”, Rich replies defensively, while Jim happily laughs.
“Now, Rich, let me find you a pair of those glasses. Also, Duke, that pair is a model only, and doesn’t have a full range of abilities, so if you’ll just let me have those. There’s much more you two can do with ‘em.”

Jim turns around, and his hand searches the wall, finding nothing. He then moves to the desk itself, then into the drawers, but still nothing. At this, Jim wrings his hands and rubs his chin. Reluctantly, he lowers himself on one knee and, opening the bottom drawer, removes two pairs of glass goggles with leather linings and straps. Supported on his cane, his gradually stands back up and hands the goggles to us with a hint of disgust.

“These”, he says, unenthused, “are much older models. We’ve had tactical goggles for years, but Miri retrofitted these in order to be used with the invisible cloaks. I personally wish we had some new ones to give you, as those are ugly in my opinion.
“Actually”, I interject, “I like these. They conform to the eyes, and have an older feel to ‘em.”

“I think so too”, Rich concurs, “newer’s not always better.”

“Well, you boys are a little too agreeable, but, alright”, Jim replies, characteristically, “anyway, let me show you what they do. You should be able to rotate the right lens. Do it once a few times and I think you’ll get the idea.”

One turn to the left makes everything greenish, which I assume to be night vision. Another turn makes Jim and Rich glow various colors of red and orange and everything round them gray, so I guess this to be infrared vision. Looking at Jim, though, I notice that his right leg is bright blue, when the rest of him shows a normal heat signature.

“Jim”, I exclaim, “your leg!”

“Well why do you think I needed this cane? Because I’m old!?”, he replies, dismissing the issue, “I lost it in a house raid. I’ll tell you about it later sometime”

“Laser rifles”, Rich asks, changing the subject.

“Save that for another time too, old boy. Keep cycling through.”

Another turn of the lens, and everything mechanical, Jim’s watch, the monitor, etc., suddenly turns a bright yellow, while everything else turned purple. I guess this is for detecting non-human threats. Which makes sense. There much be an overuse of drones nowadays if people said they were utilized too much fifty years ago. The final turn left makes everything a simple, digital blue.

“What’s this last mode?”, Rich asks.

“What color s everything?”, Jim asks back.

“Blue”, we both reply.

“Ah”, Jim answers,”one of my students thought this up. Duke, turn to Richard and press the button on top.”

I do it, and yellow squares appear on both him and Jim.

“Focus it on Rich”, Jim commands.

I do so, and suddenly, my friend was highlighted yellow.

“OK, that should be good. Now, Rich, take a step out.”

Rich does so, crossing across and out of the lab, out of sight, although, not really, because I can still perceive his highlight through the walls. This is awesome.

“Can you still see Rich?”, Jim asks excitedly.

“Yes”, I reply, “I can. This is incredible.”

“Is that right, Duke?”, Rich replies playfully, “so what am I doing now?”

I can barely make it out, but it looks like Rich’s left hand was up, with two fingers pointed up.

“Yeah, you’re giving me the finger. Okay. Ha-ha”.

“That’s for earlier, you twat.”

“Very nice”, Jim states, eyes rolling, “now, what else do you think you’ll need?”

“How about something that can get us outta handcuffs or pick locks?”, I ask, which I had been meaning to do ever since our humiliating capture a few weeks earlier.

“Ah”, Jim resounds, “then you’ll need a Hacker’s Glove.”

From the wall, the old man removes a normal-looking, black glove, and that same stupid, thin cord that acts as the new handcuffs the pigs use on people today.

“Modern electrobracers work on the principle of magnetism. These bracers are actually a material made up of tiny, metallic rings that conform to the wearers wrists and then tighten when a guard sends of signal that sends a charge through the entire brace.”

“So, holowatches work the same way”, Rich says, as Jim slips on the glove and then the cuffs, “only, without the signal and charge.”

“Correct. Ow-dammit”, Jim replies as the cuffs constrict his wrists at the push of a remote, “and within this glove is a tiny jammer that breaks that signal and dispels the charge. If I could just get it to work.”
He taps the index finger of the glove several times to the cuff, grunting as he does so. Finally, the cuffs loosen, retracting back into the malleable cord.

“Ooh”, Jim exclaims, clenching his fists, “as if arthritis weren’t bad enough. I think I’ll need to ask the nurse for another pill. Ooooh. Anyway, um, I think I had a few other things to show you.”

Jim goes through a couple of more gadgets. He explains that since he only has one pair of Hacker’s Gloves, Rich and I each take one, mine on my left, his on his right. He shows us a personal drone, which was essentially a tiny, black ball with an even tinier camera, carried by a small, gyrating propeller and controlled via a program downloaded onto our own personal holowatches.

“Those holowatches”, Jim says, “will allow you to communicate through a two ear pieces which I’ll give you. They’ll also allow you to interface with a few machines, tune into other frequencies, download programs off of desktops, all with room to tell you the time. Now, these are older models, so they shouldn’t be too hard to use. They work basically like old model IPhones, if you remember those.”

We both nod, and, indeed, the holowatch works just like an IPhone, only, the watch part itself is the only, physical thing to it, since all other programs are done,duh, holographically. The final gadget is a grapnel apparatus, which fits to the wrist. Now, in our long lives, we have made us of several of these kinds of devices. Never, however, had they been so carryon. It consists of a black brace with a bar, shaped kinda like a Wii remote, if that’s even a relevant example, underneath to hold the mechanism itself. The firing is simple enough: you start with your hand flat, then jerk it upward suddenly in order to fire. Jim said that it had enough line for five meters or fifteen feet. There’s an added bonus, however: instead of just launching a cord, the grapnel has enough juice to speed up to three hundred pounds with it.

“Wouldn’t that need a bigger motor?”, Rich asks, incredulously.

“Not these days, man”, Jim replies, proudly.

“Wouldn’t that need a lot of battery changes?”, I ask, equally in disbelief.

“Not these days, man”, Jim repeat, “technology has come a long way since the Information Age. Some try to call this the Second Industrial Revolution in the future. That, of course, will be up to you guys now, not me so much.”

He’s right, but, frankly, I truly wish he wasn’t. The future either really scares you or it doesn’t if you know that you won’t be around to see it. But, if you’re like us, which nobody is, you don’t really know what to think most of the time. So, you try your best to ride along.

“Now, the last thing you boys will need is guns. I’m guessing you’ll only be needing one for this kind of job?”, Jim says, leading us out.

To this we both nodded, so Jim goes on, “Well, then I won’t shock you boys any more with futuristic weapons. Since you’ll need to depend on these the most, why don’t you just pick the first one that looks familiar to you.”

Coming back into the main arsenal, that means choosing our old favorites: a .45 caliber Glock 30 with full auto for me, and an old Webley .303 Mark VI for Rich. I suddenly reconsider upon seeing the Desert Eagle, which fires a much bigger bullet, one second thought, since I, technically, hadn’t fired a gun in five decades. As for Rich, there is no hesitation. Long after it became practical, Rich has loved his old British guns. They reminded him of a better time.

Armed and ready, Jim turns off the lights, flips a few more switches, and with the lights of our holowatches, we grope our ways out. Jim admits that lighting hadn’t exactly been the first priority in building this bunker, but he said he’d work on it. We proceed out of his room and back to the cafeteria. To Jim’s buddies, it seems like only a few minutes have gone by, versus the actual hour or more. Jim sits back down, regains his position, takes a hand of cards, smiles at what he saw, and waits for the others to consider their hands. He whispers that they’ll take significantly longer than him.

“You will come back and visit an old man now and then, won’t you?”, Jim asks cooly.

“Absolutely, old boy”, Rich replies warmly.

“We wouldn’t trust anyone else as our tinker”, I conclude, smiling.

“Off with you, then”, he commands, gesturing flamboyantly, “and don’t break my toys!”

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