My arm is sore where she grabbed me. Pulled me into the building. This used to be a nice neighbourhood.
"Chester, you fucker," she hissed and pressed a pipe of cold metal against the small of my back.
"Francine," I try to sound warm and relaxed. I sound like shit.
"I should have gone first," she says and lets go. She turns away and walks deeper into the darkness of what used to be FabLab, our start-up incubator.
"We didn't know it would work," I say. It's easier to talk when I'm not looking at her. They say living under fascism adds ten years.
They don't really, that kind of talk can get you shot. Learned that quick. People five years in the future are paranoid for serious.
"Your trip broke the eastern grid," she says. Her voice is rough.
"I guessed that, what about the rest of it?" I wave my hand around the burnt-out shell of our lab.
I massage my sore arm while waiting for an answer. She doesn't answer me. When she speaks, it's on another tack. Words that come out off kilter, like she's saying out loud something she's said in her mind a thousand and one times before.
"It was slow, first the spying, then the censorship, then the laws, but slow'" then her voice breaks. "Shit Chester, they had the cool kids so distracted with video games, online shopping sales and prescription drugs that when the purges started south of the border, nobody gave a fuck so long as they could play another round of COD."
"You used to love Call of Duty," I say.
"Yeah? well now I'm playing it for real. Every. Fucking. Day."
"Francine, Why did you bring me here?" I had gone looking for her the moment I got here but turns out when you're new in town and looking for an old friend and that friend happens to be a leader in the fascist resistance it isn't as simple as knocking on doors and ringing old numbers.
Out of the gloom, things separate from the darkness, become human-sized. Patches of darkness upon darkness. Her people.
"You know why," she says.
"You really think I can go back and fix all this?" I say, backing away. "You know that's not how it works."
"Not back," she says.
Then I understand. My eyes wide.
It takes time and time is not our friend, not until we get it working. which was hard enough when the parts could be ordered in. Half are now scheduled and the other half are simply illegal. I write 'What do we want! A time machine! When do we want it? Doesn't matter!' on the lid of my laptop. Which is bullshit, it does matter. Every month brings more atrocities, deportations and dissappearances. My days blur into my nights, my months into my seasons.
Then one day, I'm standing on the spot where the Generalissima of the Universal States, The Supreme Colophon of America, Her Excellency in Perpetuity, Our Fearless Leader, will be standing in 48 hours.
Her annual roadside sermon of the Union address. Well televised, heavily guarded, but it's a public thoroughfare, no sense in blocking a major artery when there's nothing to guard. Video will catch us but our evidence will be somewhere they'll never find it.
The bomb is a new design, it will turn everything between the capitol building and the monument into a pool of slightly radioactive glass. Everything.
I flip the switch. The lights go out. The bomb vanishes. There is a pop of vacuum rushing to fill the hole but nothing spectacular, nothing hollywood. This is science, not science-fiction.
I stare at the shuttered Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and my heart is heavy with regret. I really loved this part of town.
It's eerie to drive away. In a sense we just turned downtown D.C. into Schrodinger's cat. It both exists and does not.
For we do not know the future but tonight, we made history.