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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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'Sunglasses, Time-Travel, & Iced-Tea' Part 17

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

17. – John Paiten

       We stayed crouched against the bottom of the ATM machine. The armed men had the people in the bank under control – everyone was quiet – and all I could hear were the men giving everyone instructions not to move as his partners dealt with the delivery truck.

       “I don’t believe this,” Brian whispered. “We walk out the door and end up part of a bank robbery!”
“Sshh!” I hissed. “Don’t move. Even our Ray-Bans won’t protect us now.”

       “Well what else do you have in your bag,” Brian hissed back. “Surely you have something!”

       Outside, the armed men screamed instructions and threatened the driver of the delivery truck, which was evidently carrying the bank’s money.
       Brian seemed to be getting ever more agitated. “I don’t like this, man, I don’t like this at all. We need to bounce through time again, we need to disappear, we need to get Imad to fix the machine so we can get away!”

       “Calm down, man, it’s alright. This won’t last…the police will be here soon.”

       As if on queue, sirens could suddenly be heard. The men out at the truck reacted instantly and began firing their weapons at the advancing police car. As I looked inside the bank, the other two men readied their weapons upon the crowd. I noticed Eva, Kelly, Marissa, and Chris – all from my classes at college – huddled on the floor within the crowd. Chris, one of the older students, cringed at the counter – evidently he was a threatened bank teller in this reality. I also noticed several friends of Jason and Leonard’s, including Sophie, Lloyd and Jordan standing ramrod straight at the counter. No doubt they were frightened to death.

       “If any police officers enter this room,” one of the gunmen said, “we start firing.”

       A police squad car screamed to a halt near the entrance to the mall, and two police officers got out and started firing immediately back at the robbers. They ducked and used the delivery vehicle as cover.

       “I don’t know how much longer I can take this,” Brian agitated. “I need to get out of here.”

       “No! Stay put,” I said urgently. “They’ll shoot you!”

       “Look in your bag for something!” he demanded.

       “There’s nothing left in there! Watch, I’ll check.” I rummaged through the knapsack, hopelessly finding very little, until I remembered I had several normal, everyday objects that John Wharton and I had modified to do radically different things. Feeling a high rush of adrenaline, I pulled out a dust-buster.
       Brian looked relieved.
       “This won’t work,” I quietly said with a note of resignation. “It just folds out into a hovercraft.”

       “Find something else then,” Brian said urgently.

       I thrust my hand inside my bag in desperate need of something more useful. Grasping something, I pulled out a folded tripod.

       Brian looked at me, both worried and quizzically.

       I silently flashed him a thumbs up, then put the tripod next to the bag. John Wharton and I had modified it into a time-altering device. To put it in simplest terms, it could stop time completely, bring it to a halt. We also had a coffee pot that could slow down time to about a microsecond, but that wasn’t in my bag.

       I flicked the ON switch, but time still continued.

       “Come on…” I checked the battery compartment. Empty.

       “Shoot!” I exploded.

       “You two! Front and centre!” yelled one of the armed men. “Give me your bag!”

       “Aw, crap!” I stood up and threw my arms downward. Nothing else that was modified remained in my bag. “All I have left is nail clippers!” I exclaimed in severe annoyance. I turned to Brian and said, “can you just see me fending off a gunman with nail clippers!?”

       Obediently, I started to walk towards the nearest gunman, but Brian, ready to go crazy, started running as soon as we started to walk.

       “No! Brian – “
       The gunman raised his pistol, aimed, and fired, catching Brian neatly in the centre of his back. He fell forward, ramming his forehead against the exterior door of the lobby as he went.

       “No!” I screamed as Brian slumped face-first against the door. The ever cheerful, supportive, grinning character seemed to be gone. As he lay there, I realized that there would be no more incorrect song names, no more surprised ‘damn its,’ no more thumbs up. The guy had always been so happy, even when the High Society of Iced-Tea Drinkers couldn’t give him that much advice…I even gave him that sloppy introduction about him being an ‘extra spot,’ and he still gave me the thumbs up. I suddenly realized how much I’d lost in the guy, right there, right then. It was tragic.

       Just as I turned back to the gunman, who was ready to hit me if I turned and ran as well, a door burst open and several members of a S.W.A.T. team entered the room at a rush, armed with noticeably far superior weapons than these criminals were armed with, and ready to use them. The leader of the group, who looked like Jason’s high school acquaintance, Kevin, raised his firearm and shouted at the two men to drop their pistols.

       Their guns clattered to the floor.
       I followed suit, and thudded to the floor myself, stricken with shock, agony, and grief. Outside, the three other men were also apprehended, according to what I heard on the walkie talkies.

       “Raymond is down, over,” one of them hissed. “Constable Raymond Dorsey has been hit, one attacker dead on the scene, over.”
       Brian’s apparent death was starting to hit me very hard. I couldn’t protect him. This was so fast and so sudden…he was gone in an instant. And what really drove deep was that I’d let him come on this ‘test run’ – I hadn’t texted him, and I shouldn’t have let him join us, but I did. If I hadn’t, he would have probably been one of the many people we would have ran into in these realities – maybe the truck driver we hitched a ride with or one of the members of the Iced-Tea Drinkers. If I hadn’t let Brian come, he could have been the police inspector that had forced the gunmen to surrender, not the one dead guy slumped in the outer lobby. Of everyone, including those who appeared as people we knew in our reality, in the bank – it had to be Brian who got hit. I had never experienced such a finality before.
       I covered my face. I could not have felt more terrible, wounded, and in pain. Nothing mattered anymore…nothing at all…

The event in this story is based on a real attempted robbery on a security truck at Bayshore Shopping Mall in 1984. Originally I had the real name of the police officer wounded, but I decided to change it.

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