Part IV - Chapter 16 - Time Traveling Thief

Year 2170

Pete ensured that he arrived at the laboratory at night. No one was around and the lab felt darker than Pete remembered. Pete passed the cages that once held captives and found that Jayne's body had been removed. As Pete approached the center of the room, he noticed that it had been tidied. He began opening up various drawers, beginning with the one that contained the journal when Pete last searched for items of value in the lab. But the journal was nowhere to be found. In fact, there were not any papers anywhere. It looked like someone had cleaned out every scrap of paper from the entire lab. What is going on?

Then Pete noticed an all-white board nearby with words scribbled in the center. The wording was so small that Pete had to walk towards it until his face was only inches away from the board before he could finally read the words: GOT YOU.

Just as he read the words a chill went down Pete's spine and the lights went on in the lab. Pete turned to see the scientist in front of the door. His hair looked more frazzled than normal and his eyes were red from sleepless nights but what Pete was most interested in was the journal in the scientist's hands.

"Looking for this?" mocked Charles as he held the leather-bound book up so Pete could take in the scene.

Pete didn't say anything but simply stared at Charles as he tried to figure out how to resolve the situation. The plan of sneaking in and out with the journal and escaping without detection had been destroyed.

"You can only understand so much of the POS, without a teacher or instructions. Mind you, it looks as though it has ingratiated itself to your biology which it has not done with individuals in the past. While I am not surprised that it reacted differently to you, I had not anticipated it to so quickly bend to your will."

"How am I different?" Pete asked cautiously.

"The POS had to be turned on when I placed it on a lowlife's wrist and would only activate it when I set the coordinates or called it back. I have tried utilizing my computers and even implemented an associate's notes but nothing has worked to bring you back. I won't say that the bracelet has a soul but it certainly seems to be connected to you on a level beyond my ingenuity."

"So-you can't bring me back here?" inquired Pete.

"Not yet," he said smirking. "But I will find a way soon enough."

With that Pete decided that stealing the journal of notes could wait for a different day, if it was even needed now. He knew that he was safe and that he had a bracelet that could enable him to travel in time and space.

Pete turned his gaze from the scientist to the bracelet, "Oh the places we'll go!" Pete winked at the scientist before saying, "Home."

Charles smiled to himself before sitting back down at his computer. Pete would be back soon enough, Charles would make certain of that.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

1913 - San Francisco

With Pete's newly found freedom, he decided to test his limits and then to take advantage of this situation. Afterall, who knew how long he would have to travel before Charles solved the puzzle of bringing him back to the future? Might as well live life fully. Unfortunately, Pete seemed locked into the United States as a geographic area and his options to travel were the previous 5 years or and the only future time available was the time of his kidnapping. Unfortunately, he seemed unable to travel back to prevent his abduction or to give aid to the Pete of yesterday in the future. The future seemed to be locked in its time stream and Pete could not move ahead or behind that timeline.

While it was a minor frustration to learn that Pete would not be able to steal from European kings and queens, Pete was still able to make the most of his limitations. He would travel geographically to different parts of the country to learn about bank movements and then would go back in time to complete a robbery. It was amazing how free flowing the words would come from guards imbibed with enough alcohol, especially if the mission was over and secrecy no longer seemed to matter. Soon, Pete had amassed a fortune. He transitioned to use the same skill of growing his wealth to obtaining women out of his league. Pete was enjoying his new life and almost forgetting about the dystopian future he had escaped. And then it happened.

Pete was sound asleep after completing another successful raid when a bright light began to shine around him. The difference being, he had not told his bracelet where or when he wanted to go. Additionally, this time a pain started to move up his body. Not unbearable but certainly uncomfortable. He had just touched his toes to the ground and realized that he was back in the lab staring at the smug grin of Charles. Before Charles could do anything, Pete shouted, "Home!" Within moments the bracelet transported him back, this travel experience also contained the pins and needles feeling.

As soon as he landed back in his room, he grabbed his gun and hat before running downstairs to the bar. The bar was practically empty but Ellie was there cleaning up glasses, wrapping up for the night. "Ellie!" he managed to shout before running to the bar.

"The coming thing is trying to take me away!" he shouted.

"Pete, it was just a nightmare. Just sleep it off! You'll be fine in the morning!" she called over her shoulder, completely unphased by the panic in Pete's voice. However, just as the words left her lips, the light began to start again and the pins feeling started moving up from his toes. Within moments, Ellie was alone in the bar with her mouth open.

Year 2170

Pete appeared in the lab when he felt the jab of a stick being jammed into his stomach before a range of electricity began to overtake him. The shock sent Pete to the floor and Charles momentarily stopped the electricity to survey Pete, just long enough to say, "Thanks for making it easy for me to find you. People tend to notice thieves who appear and disappear out of thin air, especially if it's considered the greatest crime mystery of any time or any place."

As Pete caught his breath and looked up at the scientist, Pete noticed dark circles under his eyes and his hair had receded a lot, indicating that time had not been so kind to Charles since their last conversation. "You have become my new life's mission. I own your life and you will be part of my plan!"

Charles attempted to hit a button on the taser to continue to inflict pain on Pete but the button didn't work which gave Pete enough time to kick the feet out from under Charles. Within seconds Charles was on the floor with Pete but waving the taser around wildly with electricity sparks flying through the air. Pete had to get the taser away from Charles and he raised his gun to shoot Charles but heard the click of an empty pistol. Pete aimed again but his heart sank further as another click occurred without any help of a bullet.

Charles slowly stood back to his feet while laughing at Pete's misfortune. Desperate, Pete slid further away from Charles. As Pete moved backwards, he threw off his hat to better survey his location and to find anything that could assist him. He realized that he was near Livi's play corner as there were a variety of rags that had been gently placed around a circle drawn onto the ground - almost like a group of dolls at a tea party. Pete grabbed one of the rags and found that there were tiny stones hidden inside to give the rags a round and head-like shape. In a David vs. Goliath desperation, Pete threw the first rock which missed the scientist but managed to impale a screen.

Charles let out a vehement scream with eyes bulging, he began spewing every foul word that he could think of or create. During the barrage of words about the scientist's tenure and reputation, not to mention his work, Pete began to form a plan. Pete scooped up the rest of the rags and expertly threw the rocks at various pieces of machinery. In an effort to protect his computers, the scientist absently lowered the taser and hurried over to his precious data. The scientist only needed to turn his back for a second to enable Pete to rush up behind the scientist, yank the taser of Charles' grasp, before electrocuting Charles. Unfortunately, it only lasted a couple seconds, enough to knock Charles out but not enough to do any permanent damage. The taser must have been used once too often or maybe it had been scavenged for parts because it would not start again no matter how often or hard the button was pushed. The scientist seemed down for the count but Pete gave the man an extra kicks to the head and stomach to ensure that his enemy would stay down.

Pete did not have the time to do a detailed survey of the room but Pete's gut said that the scientist was probably in trouble with the bureaucrats as he was out of convicts to test on and Charles did not have a suitable traveler to go back into time on his behalf. Assuming that Pete would only have few moments of isolation and safety, Pete took advantage of the moment to turn his attention to the desk. He began throwing anything that looked like machinery onto the floor and stomping on them to ensure that they would need serious repair. Once he felt that enough damage was completed, he began to rummage through the desk drawers, again finding nothing. Panic began to fill Pete and he felt the sweat begin to slide down his back as he could feel the seconds march on. A scientist would have to keep a record or document of his work and experiments, wouldn't he?

Pete began to move around the room flipping over chairs, opening every drawer, and throwing everything that came up empty across the room. The scientist began to stir. Where would a sadist keep his documents? And then the realization came over Pete like a cold bucket of water. Pete slowly entered Jane's cell. He tossed the mattress onto the floor and found the journal with a couple folders of papers. Pete scooped up the papers before running back to his piece and hat. The scientist began moaning as he was starting to regain consciousness. Pete kicked the scientist in his lower back as a going away present. Looking at everything in his arms, Pete looked down at the bracelet and stated, "Ellie's bar." The pain was still uncomfortable and a little numbing and Pete recognized that he still had a few more jumps before the pain would begin to set in.

1913 - San Francisco

Pete arrived back at the bar in a flurry of light, sound, and loose papers flying around him. Many papers caught on fire as they had moved through time so Pete quickly began stomping the flames out in an attempt to keep as much of the data available as possible. Once Pete was certain that all of the flames were out, he took a deep breath but jumped at the sound of Ellie's voice.

"Pete, what the hell did you do?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Pete caught Ellie up on everything related to the future dystopia and what he understood about the bracelet thus far. He also detailed his conversation with Brisco which had lacked any helpful tips. However, Pete was careful to not disclose his recent crime wave of theft or female conquests. As the two talked, they took shots of whiskey and spread the papers and journal across the bar to review.

Ellie was the one who figured out how to release the bracelet. Based on notes in the journal, it was a simple process of holding down two buttons for 30 seconds and the bracelet would unlatch and slide off Pete's wrist. As it slid off, it felt as though part of his arm was being amputated. Not the pain of amputation just that the bracelet had made him feel whole, even more than his piece ever had. The reality that he could be attached to anything more than his piece caused Pete to shudder. Instead of putting it back on, he left it lying on the bar for the rest of the conversation. He would occasionally eye the tiny yet powerful piece of technology. After reviewing the notes for over an hour, Ellie made an odd face as she threw one empty bottle away and began to open the next.

"What's that face for?"

"Just thinking what our next step should be," responded Ellie.

"Our next step?" Pete asked while incredulously folding his arms across his chest.

"Yes, ours. I can help you with the science aspect of the bracelet," Ellie responded as she poured out the next batch of drinks.

At Pete's unconvinced gaze, Ellie continued, "You knew that Professor Wickwire let me attend his science classes over the years in exchange for wholesale alcohol-"

"That never really made sense to me," recalled Pete.

"Because I'm a woman or because I'm a bartender?" asked Ellie.

Pete shook his head while muttering, "Just felt like a forced plot device."

Ellie elected to ignore him and pressed on, "I know how people work but it's never fascinated me as much as what I'd learned from Wickwire. My knowledge and background could be an asset to you."

Pete processed her offer and debated giving her the journal or papers but decided against it. While he trusted Ellie more than anyone else in his life, he wasn't really open to allowing anyone to have more power than him. Especially after all that he had lived through recently. He began gathering up all of the papers and the journal and did his best to ignore the disappointment in Ellie's face.

"How do you fight someone in the future without allies?" pressed Ellie.

Pete ran a hand through his hair before shrugging. "It's not like I can enlist in the military without some kind of record going on file for the future scientist to find or be inducted into an underground spy ring to get training on how to build a network or fight an unseen force."

"Why can't you?" asked Ellie.

Pete laughed but stopped after a few moments when he saw Ellie's sincerity. "You're serious? Who is going to give me a recommendation? Pete Hutter, thief, gambler, and associate of many criminals, including John Bly."

"Former deputy and colleague to Brisco and Bowler..." countered Ellie.

Pete rolled his eyes as he stood up. "Ellie, there's no way that it would work." As Ellie opened her mouth to continue her argument he held up his hand to signal that he was done with the discussion for the night. He finished his last shot, tipped his hat goodnight and began moving towards the stairs.

In a final attempt, Ellie called after him, "Pete, did Bowler ever talk to you about spies?"

Pete turned to give her an incredulous stare. "No, why would Bowler talk to me about spies?" Pete began moving towards the stairs but after a couple steps he turned back to look at Ellie. "Actually, Bowler told me that Brisco was working with a guy east of here, Oklahoma, I think. I don't know a lot about it because that's not something people generally share with their deputies. Are you planning on sending him a reference on my behalf?"

Pete shrugged and was out of sight and up the stairs in a matter of moments. Ellie was left alone at the bar to begin to create a plan of her own.

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