*Please note this content contains adult language and themes. It is intended for a mature audience.*
By Tatum Throne
Ryker Winters was breaking the law.
It was illegal to time travel without government-issued walking orders. This time spin was an indulgence for a private contract that was about to fuck him up. He didn’t even make the score.
Time was running out.
It was suicide to time spin without walking orders if the Federal caught up. Ryker wasn’t planning on getting caught by Big Brother today. As a mercenary time soldier, he went where the money moved him.
Rule One. Get in, get out without fucking up history. Rule Two. Don’t die because no one will come looking for your body. There was enough mechanical hardware in and on his body to create problems if he was left in the past. He was a walking, talking billboard for the future.
Time was slipping away.
Ryker didn’t have to check his watch to know. The light pulse of electricity from the piece was his two minute warning in overtime. Ryker hurried through the torch-lit undercroft of the Vatican. Stagnant air made it difficult to breathe.
The command came from behind, but Ryker ignored it. Ryker felt the tingling that came from time warping. The stone facade of the tunnel rippled like a drop of rain hitting a pond. The ripples flowed all the way down the tunnel, causing him to feel fluid instead of whole.
There wasn’t enough time to get out of sight before he winked out. The Vatican guard rounded the corner in front of him, blocking him in with daggers drawn. Ryker slid to a quick stop on his leather soles. This wasn’t going to be pretty for him, if he survived. Ryker lifted his arm, blocking the first blow to his face. Steel sliced through the leather sleeve of his jacket. He ducked, swiping his leg out. The two guardsmen went down. He missed the third. Pain sliced through Ryker’s chest as a dagger ran through his body from behind.
Ryker crumpled to the ground. Electricity spun up his arm as light surrounded him. The time piece on his arm spun out. It was time to go. Blood leaked from the wound. He was badly injured. He could feel his life force draining away. He struggled to stay conscious. He was going back with weaponry impaled. The guardsman surrounding him backed away. Light shot around his body, catapulting his body back to his time zone.
He was going back with no one waiting for him. Ryker was going back to die.
Cold, wet pavement struck Ryker hard on the back. He screamed as the dagger shifted. The beep, beep of his time piece echoed into the night. He was in the middle of an old fashioned cobblestone street. He had a bad feeling he landed in the wrong time zone. He had to move or there was a good chance he was going to get picked up by the Federal Law.
Lights from the high rises twinkled above. Ryker landed in a shit part of a downtown skyline he didn’t recognize. His death would be all over the news for the Federal to make an example of what happens when you break Higher Law. Ryker took a long blink and a deep breath of air. Thunder rumbled through the darkness. Lightning splintered across the sky. Rain pelted Ryker in the face. It’d been years since he felt the steady beat of rain.
“Stay with me. Open your eyes.”
The voice came from above him. Ryker opened his eyes to see a blurry image of a man. “Leave me.”
Dark laughter cut the night. “Not going to happen. I’m moving you. There’s not much time.”
There was never enough time to get it right. Ryker bit his lip and groaned as the man lifted him with his strong arms. He blinked through the rain, studying the strong profile of the man who held him so gently. Why did he care if he lived or died? Nobody cared about him. No one knew what he did for a living.
“Where am I? What year is it?” Ryker asked.
“It’s 2844. You’re in Boston.”
“Fuck,” Ryker cursed.
“I’m guessing you’re not from around here.”
No. Ryker fell short of his mark by five hundred years. He was placed in a vehicle where his rescuer got into the front. The glass rooftop gave him a view of the world he landed in. The vehicle took them away from the city lights and into the darkness of the country. Ryker heard his rescuer speaking to him, but he couldn’t make out the words. He was talking to someone else.
Ryker’s eyes grew heavy and closed.
“I told you to stay awake. Open. Your. Eyes.”
The command was like a whip to his backside and had his eyes flashing open. The man loomed above him. Shadows played over his face. Bone searing pain rippled through Ryker’s shoulder as the dagger was pulled through. Everything in front of him went fuzzy and gray. Pressure was applied to his wound. He felt the jerking motion of something being tied to his arm.
“Eyes open. You’re not going into shock on me.”
Ryker tried to obey, but he felt his eyes grow heavy. He forced them open as he felt himself being lifted again. Their eyes locked and everything around Ryker faded away. He held on tight to this stranger.
“Why are you helping me?”
“You need me.”
Pain seared through his chest. It was getting difficult to breathe. “I do need you.”
“You’re not listening to me, are you? You need to stay with me.”
Several curses rolled off the man’s tongue. Why wouldn’t he just let Ryker go?
“What is your name soldier?”
“Ryker. My name is Ryker.”
Despite the fierce order whispered along his ear, Ryker’s mind refused to obey. Everything went dark.
Ryker awakened with a start. A chill raced over his skin. He was no longer dressed. All his equipment for time spinning had been unlatched from his arm. Panic began to race through his blood. Rule Three. Never lose your gear.
Ryker moaned as he tried to move. “My things.”
“I’ve got them.”
“I can’t feel my body.”
“They’ve given you something for the pain.”
His rescuer stood beside the table. Long, midnight-black hair hung down over his shoulders. Dark skin gave high praise to his exotic bloodline. Brown eyes stared down at Ryker as though they were willing him to live.
“What’s your name?” Ryker asked.
“Tuck. You have an old-world English accent.”
Ryker had worked hard to hide the fact that he was originally from the past. How had this man seen through? White walls and bright white light rained down on Ryker. There were tubes running from his body. The drugs that pumped into his arm were starting to make him feel loopy. This was no hospital. This looked like some back alley medicine.
The man leaned down close to his ear. His lips brushed against his ear. “You’re about to get stitched up. I had to yank it out. We can’t risk being exposed.”
A shiver ran through Ryker’s body. This gorgeous man wanted to protect him from the Federal.
A warm, strong hand gripped Ryker’s. He felt himself clinging to that warmth as though he’d never touched anyone before.
“I’ll be waiting for you when you come out,” Tuck said. “I won’t go anywhere without you.”
Ryker felt Tuck’s hand slip away as a nurse in all blue ushered him out of the room. What the fuck was happening to him? How the hell was he going to get back home if he lived through this barbaric surgery?