The year is 2017, and I'm in a fight.

My opponent is Maarookt, a brutal killer with the strength of a freight train. Fast for his size, though not quite as fast as me. He is the muscle of a team of villains -- though truth be told, he's like a team of villains all by himself. And here I am trying to bring him in. Alone.

Okay, I misspoke. I'm only mostly alone. I have my cybernetic valet Simon 2X3c(5B) with me -- the kind they started building when people got tired of actually having to carry their tablets and laptops and GPS devices -- but for all his technological plug-ins (most recently a program allowing him to do freestyle rap with aggressive hip-hop inspired stylings), Simon is pretty much useless in a fight. He can give me a quick rundown of who I'm up against and what their strengths and weaknesses are, but I already know these things about Marookt. This is not our first tangle.

I'm facing off against him in the middle of the street, in the blighted urban neighborhood where Maarookt's gang has stashed their weapons and equipment for a big job planned for the weekend. Not that Maarookt needs weapons, with those concrete-smashing fists....

The one other thing I have going for me is a weapon of my own (or weapons, if you prefer) more powerful than Maarookt's fists -- my temporal displacement boots. If I'm able to land a kick with just the right momentum, the force of the blow will align their built-in tachyon overflow generator with the tachyon fields which invisibly surround us throughout our daily lives, tearing open a rift into which the kick recipient will disappear, only to be spat out at some future point in time. Right now, the energy level of the boots is set at a fairly high level, which would propel someone even of Maarookt's considerable mass roughly seven to ten days into the future.

That's right. With these boots, I can kick him into next week.

====

Mysterious Ways is blasting on the radio, still a new enough song to refresh when it comes on. The year is 1992. Cherry Pills has just finished her business in a cheap boarding house. She is a prostitute. She is nineteen. She looks thirty. Her body is there but her mind is somewhere else, off floating in a kaleidoscope of jagged, swirling thoughts.

It is only after another nameless, faceless client has plunked down his cash and disappeared into the night that she realizes the condom had broken. By the time she gets home, she has forgotten all about it. In a few weeks, she'll remember again -- the man was massive and strong, but nothing to look at. Christo will be furious. Worn out as she is, she's not even worth the cost of an abortion.

====

The year is 1973. Donnette Pilinsky is midwestern farmer's daughter, rolling in the hay with a boy she likes. Sexy and sticky and sweet at sixteen years old, she gives no thought to the consequences of her actions.

====

The year is 2017, and Maarookt is confused -- when I kicked him, it was the middle of the day, and now it was suddenly after dark. What he didn't know just yet was, it was after dark seven days later. And landing that kick on Maarookt had not only knocked off his feet and into next week, spoiling his gang's long-planned weekend heist activities. It had, as well, given me the time to notify the authorities and set up a neat zone around the area so that when he thwunked back into temporal placement, there'd be a small army of law enforcement there with the tools to apprehend him.

====

The year is 1994. The coroner tosses back the sheet covering his latest visitor. Her friends told the cops that her name was Cherry Pills. She is dead from a drug overdose, leaving behind a loud and hungry baby boy born from some random encounter. His father's identity is unknown, so off the boy will be sent to be raised by a string of foster families. Some of whom would be unable to handle his rebelious, sadistic nature and already uncanny strength, and some of whom would attempt to handle it with a level of abuse and violence that would only feed his dark streak until it roared, turning him into a monster. A monster who will take the name, Maarookt.

====

The year is 1975. Donnette Pilinsky has reaped a whirlwind -- her pregnancy had resulted in her getting disowned by her family, kicked out, forced to live on the street. The father would have nothing to do with her now; maybe if she'd borne a son.... he was no good anyway, a bum as it turned out. Donnette, long dreaming of running off to France, had named her daughter Cherie. An affectionate name, but Donnette, as it turns out, will not be so affectionate, as the burdens of parenthood bear down on her.

So here she was, forced to wait tables and bag groceries all so she could raise this useless whelp of a daughter -- this daughter who she'll resentfully abuse any sense of self esteem out of.

====

The year is 2019, and Maarookt, escaped from prison the week before, is getting the better of me in a grocery store parking lot. I've landed my time-displacing kicks, but strangely they've had no effect.

There's a strange apparatus strapped to his wrist, a pair of metal tubes with a glowing energy between them. He sees that I've noticed it and grins savagely. "A temporal brake" he crows. "Keeps me from getting jumped into the future. Why don'tcha try kicking me into the past?"

That, naturally, would be a stupid idea. Though technically possible, kicking an evildoer into the past would simply supply them with an absolutely devastating power to alter future events to their liking. Unless.... unless....

THWACK!! I dodge too late, and Maarookt lands a blow which knocks me clear across the lot. I'm disoriented. Can't tell which way is up for a moment, and now he's walking toward me, blotting out the setting sun.

====

The year is 1987. Unable to take the abuse anymore, Donnette Pilinsky's daughter has run away from home. She is fourteen years old. Hungry and tired and terrified, she somehow ends up in the company of Randell Christo, handsome and stylish in his leather and fur, occupying a plush private room at the back of the club. He is nice to her, he promises her safety and gives her some pills to wash down with champagne, which make her feel like she is floating in a kaleidoscope. He tells her she's going to help him make his living, the other girls will show her the ropes.

"What's your name, sweetheart?" he asks, eyeing her teenage frame up and down.

She is too overwhelmed by her surroundings, by the rush of events, by the pills. She can't even remember it right --"Ch- Cherie P-p-pil-- Pilin-- Pillsk--

"Cherry Pills." He interrupts, nodding to himself -- she doesn't see his sinister smile as he glances at the pill bottle with which he controls his women. "I like it already."

====

The year is 2019, and Maarookt is making his way over slowly, almost casually, relishing whatever brutal thoughts were rolling through his head. His glare leaves no doubt that he aims to finish me. "Well We'll see about that," I muttered.

A few adjustments to the boot controls, hurriedly, as Maarookt's meaty fists fast approach -- and I rolled to my feet, ducked two swings, then spun, got my bearings -- this one would have to be really damn hard to work -- and kicked him again, this time aiming squarely toward his abdomen. The blow landed solidly, knocking him off his feet, and me off mine, but he absorbed it and rebounded as though he hadn't felt a thing. He stood there and laughed -- for a moment. Then he stopped laughing. And then he got this really weird look on his face....

====

The year is 1992. And suddenly, things are not the way they were. Cherry Pills feels something coming over, something weirder than any drug she'd ever tried -- and she'd tried them all.... suddenly, she was floating in a kaleidoscope, but the kaleidoscope was blurring and fading and dissolving all around her.

====

The year is 1973. And suddenly, things are not the way they would be. The sex act consummated and the farm boy gone, Donnette Pilinsky found herself thrown from her feet and halfway across the barn, by a sudden sharp pain -- down there.... Barely able to breathe, she curled into a ball on the barn floor, coughed a trickle of blood, and wept.

====

The year is 2019, and Maarookt is frozen in place, as if his feet were welded to the asphalt.

"What the.... what the Hell?" He realizes that he is beginning to dissolve. It starts with his extremities, hands and feet, slowly moving inwards. No blood, it doesn't even look like he's in pain -- but nevertheless his body parts blur and recede from view and fade away, one by one, until nothing is left but the confused look on his face, and then even that fades away, leaving nothing but the memory of one utterly confused look. My memory, and Simon's, still beside me. No one else's.

This was no temporal jump. Simon, despite his logical underpinnings, is baffled. "Wha-- Wha'd you do to him?"

I shrug, "his existence was undone. He was never even born."

"But-- but how--"

"That last kick, it was to the womb."

Simon assumes a half-digital frown, still not understanding, "Dude was a-- well he was a dude. He didn't have a womb."

"I know," I grinned.

====

The year is 1975. Donna Pilinsky is graduating from high school. Certain that that pain she'd felt in the barn was the Lord's immediate punishment for her indiscretion with the boy, she has since sought to live a worthwhile life. She is a model student, loved by her peers, the object of her parents' pride. She will lead a blessed life. She will marry a good (if boring) man, and though she has never borne, nor will ever be able to bear, a child of her own, she will adopt several, raising them with a love and a patience that overcomes the harshness of their histories and turns them into decent men and women.

====

The year is 2019, and except in my own dreamlike recollections, and Simon's digital reflections, there never was a Maarookt, never even was a Cherie Pilinsky to become a Cherry Pills.

"Since I couldn't kick him forward in time," I am explaining to Simon, "I simply reversed the temporal polarity and amped up the power to the maximum threshhold, so my kick would follow his genetic time stream into the past. Like all of us, Maarookt started as a sperm and an egg. And the egg that went into that process, it came from a woman who was herself once a sperm and an egg. I undid that first egg."

Understanding dimly dawns on Simon. I nod.

"That's right. I kicked him so hard.... his grandmother felt it."

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