His ears ringing, his body bruised and aching, his eyes blurred, Wartimus came to on the lawn of his father’s estate with a ring of burning helicopter wreckage all around him and the broken body of his best friend just out of reach.
“Simon,” he croaked as he rolled over onto his stomach and crawled toward him.
The boy’s eyes and nose and ears were bleeding and Wartimus had to place a hand flat on his chest to tell if he was even breathing. He felt the wet rattling in his lungs and the weak beat of his heart. He shook him gently and said his name. When he rolled him onto his side into the recovery position, he saw that Simon’s right hand was burned right down to the bone, rendered to just a blackened claw that still clutched the purple dildo, the helicopter killer, the out-time object–whatever it was. Wartimus worked it loose with his hand wrapped in the tail of his filthy shirt and tossed it away awkwardly.
Wartimus levered himself off the lawn painfully and looked around. The house was still in a defensive posture, searchlights sweeping the skies and the perimeter of the house. He was still holding his communicator but the display was dead. He tossed it away and bent stiffly, gather up Simon and then staggered toward the house.
Professor Riesigmann was waiting for them both at the rear security bulkhead off the brick patio.
“What did you do?” he demanded angrily.
“Nothing,” Wartimus said, carrying Simon into the house.
“Well, it’s obviously not ‘nothing,’ The house is under attack!”
“Simon is hurt. Can we talk about this downstairs?”
His father waved him away and began to secure the bulkhead. Wartimus took Simon downstairs to his father laboratory and laid him on a table in the surgical suite. His father shouldered him out of the way after he had straightened his friend’s limbs.
“Go scrub up,” his father ordered curtly.
Wartimus pulled off his burned and tattered clothes and dropped them into the hazardous waste bin. He looked at himself in the mirror over the surgical sink. His face was streaked with mud and blood and soot. He had an 8-ball hemorrhage forming in his left eye and there was the blunt end of a piece of metal buried almost to the hilt in the hollow space of his right clavicle. He pried it out and dropped it in the sink. He barely felt it.
“What the hell happened to his hand?” his father demanded behind him. Wartimus ignored him and splashed water on his face and the washed off the fresh blood running down his chest. He disinfected his hands thoroughly and put on surgical gloves.
“You’re bleeding,” his father said. He was bent over Simon, checking his pupil reactions.
“I know,” Wartimus replied. He packed some gauze into the puncture wound and taped a bandage in place.
“Is he going to be OK?” he asked his father while he pulled out a set of surgical scrubs.
“I don’t know,” his father said. “What’s left of the hand will have to come off, obviously, but the more immediate concern is that he has a concussion and might have intracranial bleeding. Bandage the hand while you tell me what’s going on.”
Wartimus filled a rolling tray with supplies while he began: “It wasn’t a meteor that came down. It was some sort of a device.”
“Device? A machine?”
“I guess. I don’t know. It looks like a giant purple plastic dick, Dad.”
“A dick?” the Professor asked, his normally detached composure giving way.
“Like a dildo. Anyway. One of those helicopters met us as the crater and we ran back to the house.”
“Simon’s hand looks like he grabbed an electrical transmission line.”
“I’m getting to that. Simon was carrying the device while we ran back. It did something to him. He changed.”
“Like spaced-out and then he said it was talking to him.”
“Talking to him? The dildo from outer space was talking to Simon?’
“I know how it sounds.”
There was a rumbling that they both felt through the foundations of the house.
“You finish that hand,” Wartimus’ father ordered as he hurried away.
Wartimus taped off the end of the bandage. He squeezed Simon’s shoulder and followed his father.
He found him at the security monitors. “They tried to explosive breach the front door,” his father said and let out an ugly little laugh. Wartimus could see black-clad and heavily-armed men rushing the front of the house. His father jabbed a button and twin jets of flame engulfed them.
“They aren’t too bright, my boy,” he father said. “I haven’t even had to turn on the autoturrets yet.”
“When we got back to the house, Simon walked out into the backyard and the helicopters surrounded him. The dildo shot them out of the sky.”
“Shot them out of the sky? Like anti-aircraft fire?”
“Electrical arcs. Lightning bolts. That’s what happened to Simon’s hand. That’s the one he was holding it in.”
“It’s a weapon? I thought you said it was a purple dildo.”
“It’s both, I think.”
“Well, I’ve just got to see this,” his father said, finally turning from the security monitors. “Where is it?”
“I left it outside.”
His father moved in close and loomed over him. “Outside? You left it outside?!?”
“I was afraid to touch it.”
“Afraid? Afraid? I’m pretty sure you were a boy when I saw you come out of your mother.”
“Don’t ‘Dad’ me. Go back outside and get it.”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“The armory is open. Draw arms and get to it.”
In light-swallowing black body armor, Wartimus brought up the night-sight scope on his heavily-modified P90 and surveyed the backyard. His father had snorted derisively at the boxy gun, but Wartimus was comfortable with it from the range and had slung a second one for his left hand in case of dual-wield mayhem. The fires set by the helicopters were out and except for the random sweep of the roof-mounted security lights, the backyard was dark. His ears had recovered enough to hear the distant wail of sirens and thwump thwump thwump of another copter. He disabled the roof-lights with his replacement communicator and stepped off the patio, out of the cover of the herb garden wall, and walked carefully toward where Simon had been injured. He was immediately shot twice in the chest.
Wartimus grunted under the twin impacts and jumped back onto the patio. Silent bullets began chewing brick all around him as he rolled up against the wall. The fusillade ceased as quickly and as silently as it had begun. The armor on his chest had held and the rounds had only felt like being lightly punched in the chest twice. His father’s design.
He tapped a few commands into his communicator and the autoturrets on the roof deployed in smoothly. Wartimus flipped the monocle down from his helmet and surveyed the yard again through their sensors. Three hot spots under infrared, two prone, one elevated, maybe in a tree, east woodline. He waited for the turrets to pick up the targets and then sent a few hundred rounds into each, delayed to give him time to clamp his hands over his ears. It still sounded like the sky being ripped open.
“You should have used the turrets first,” his father’s disapproving voice crackled in his ear.
Not rising to the bait, he put the turrets on standby and surveyed the yard again. The sniper team still glowed hot, but so did the rapidly cooling splashes of light all around them.
“How does it feel, killer?” his father whispered. He ignored the assumption that these were the first people he had killed and dialed the volume as low as he could.
He stepped out on the lawn again and moved toward dildo quickly. He could see it easily as he approached, bright under infrared, blood-warm in the now cool night. He pulled a heavy insulated glove over his left hand and snatched it up. Running with it held out from his body, he headed back to the house. A shot rang out and tore up the grass in front of him and he skidded to a halt.
“DO NOT MOVE!” said a voice over a loudspeaker. Wartimus dropped to the ground.
“I SAID DON’T MOVE!”
Wartimus calmly switched over to the turret sensors. Low-light, infrared, millimeter wave, but the turrets weren’t picking anything up, not even movement.
“GIVE US THE OUT-TIME OBJECT!”
“You mean the dildo?” Wartimus yelled.
“GIVE US THE OUT-TIME OBJECT!”
“You mean the big, purple dildo?” Wartimus asked. He held it up and waggled it queasily for emphasis.
“Who are you talking to?” his father asked, no more than a faint whisper.
“There’s someone out here. They took a warning shot at me.”
“There’s nothing on the screens.”
“The turrets aren’t picking them up,” Wartimus whispered.
“OK. It’s impossible then.”
“Don’t be facetious, son. Get ready to run when I tell you.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Cover fire pattern. Run straight for the rear security door. Straight at it.”
“Acknowledged.” Wartimus tucked the dildo into a pocket on his vest and shucked off the glove. He rolled over onto his knees and bunched his legs under him, a P90 in each hand.
“Ready?” his father asked faintly.
The roof turrets started up as soon as he left the ground, all six of them, even the front yard batteries taking a low angle over the peaks of the roof. The yard and woods exploded all around him, bullets everywhere except for a three-foot path that led to the rear door. The loudspeaker said something completely drowned in the storm of bullets. Wartimus opened up with the P90s as well, spraying bullets in a flat arc all on both sides. He felt a bullet hit his right thigh, glancing away with no more force than a bird off a patio door. He dropped the P90s when they were out and leaped over the last couple of yards of lawn to land behind the garden wall. The turrets were still firing, spinning barrels glowing. When they finally whirred to a stop, Wartimus saw the back door swing open. He dived through it and slid across the kitchen floor.
“This thing is just drenched in tachyons,” Professor Riesigmann said as he studied the dildo under the scanner.
“They called it an out-time device,” Wartimus replied. He had re-armed and re-armored after checking on Simon. The stump of the boy’s arm was just a bandaged club. While he was outside, his father had amputated the skeletonized hand. It floated in a specimen jar, the index finger straight out like an accusation. He had no idea how he was going to explain any of this to Simon’s parents.
“It’s definitely not any sort of current technology. It is seething with energy and full of densely packed machinery,” his father said.
“Why does it look like that?”
“See the end here?” his father asked. “It’s an attachment socket. It’s obviously meant to be worn.”
“As in ‘instead of,’ son. It’s both a replacement penis and some sort of weapons platform.”
“Holy fuck,” Wartimus whispered.
“Not quite, son, but you’re on the right track.”
“Who made it? Who’s supposed to wear it?”
“Did you say that it spoke to Simon?”
“I don’t know. He thought it was, at least. And he said it knew me, whatever that means.”
“It’s time to experiment, my boy. I want you to touch it.” He retracted the fume hood until into the ceiling.
“No way. Did you see what it did to Simon’s hand?”
“I think that was just a defensive reaction. It’s should be perfectly safe in a laboratory environment.” His father grinned at him.
Dubious, and with a look of distaste, Wartimus reach out and touched the dildo from the future. He held his finger there as his father fiddled with dials and looked at readouts.
His father grumbled and walked away. Wartimus took the opportunity to pull his finger away from the slick surface. He rubbed his fingers together and then wiped them off on his shirt making a face. His father laughed.
“It’s self-lubing,” the Professor said cheerfully. “Give me your hand, son.”
He grabbed Wartimus and sank a lancet into the ball of his thumb before he could pull his hand away.
“Don’t be such a baby. It’s sterile,” his father said. He milked a fat drop of blood and let it fall on the socket end of the dildo. Wartimus jerked his hand back and sucked on the tiny wound.
“GREETINGS, WARTY HUGEMAN,” it said in a flat, synthesized voice. When Wartimus said nothing, his father elbowed him lightly in the side.
“Hello?” he finally asked.
“PARADOX,” the dildo from out of time said. “PARADOX. PARADOX.”