The clouds were a deep orange, and James stared out across the horizon, irradiated wind blowing across his exposed face. The mushroom cloud that once was Manhattan Island was still blooming in the sunset, and the silhouettes of the UAVs could be seen, illuminated by the destruction that they left behind.

The door to the shelter slid open an inch, three feet of lead sliding quietly over well-oiled tracks.

"What the hell are you doing outside? Get back in here!"

James ignored him, and instead glanced at his watch timer. He'd woken up almost five hours before, in middle of the a world thick with political tension. Still, he's woken to worse. He took a few more steps away from the shelter into the rubble that littered the streets. He heard the man swear and slam the door shut behind him.

The bombers were closer now, and James looked at his watch once more. Every five hours. Always the same. He could have taken more precautions for the radiation; they were still in the lethal radiation zone of the blast. But James didn't care.

He checked his watch.

The bombers were above him now; he could hear the engines roar over the ringing in his ears. Something detached, and started tumbling towards the ground.

He glanced at his watch again, and looked back up on the falling star, counting under his breath.

Three. Two. One.



He blinked away the orange clouds, and was looking into the last rays of the setting sun, scattered in all directions by the towering chrome skyscrapers. Twisting metal catwalks flowed between the buildings above him, the path of those few stragglers walking home before it got dark.

Oh yeah. And the flying cars, defying gravity and crisscrossing every which way. He'd seen so many of these realities now, that it seemed completely normal.

A watch was still on his left wrist. It wasn't the same, but he got the timer to tick back from five hours anyhow.

The ground level was covered in sewage, as to be expected in such superfluous cities, and he scanned around before he spotted a lift leading up to the city-above. He waded towards in in his rubber boots.

On his way up, he checked all the pockets on him before he found his identification. Printed on laminated stock, with a computer chip embedded onto its surface. James Holland, Mechanic. Room 2349, Apartment Block T, Lower Jersey City.

Not the best profession, but at least he was himself. A few times he woke with a different name, or different body, and those were strange. But he enjoyed it the most when he had his own name, in his own body.

He checked the time, and found it as he expected. It was only a few minutes after the bombing of New York.

That never happened.

James found a map, located Apartment Block T, and began to make his way there.

He didn't know why the realities changed around him every five hours. Nobody else knew anything about the events that happened. Every time he woke, he was in new clothes, and his body in perfect shape, no matter how much cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns or amputations he had suffered in the reality before.

But he still remembered

He didn't know why any of this was happening. Was his consciousness skipping between universes, like a rock across water? Was he a bystander to the temporal results of a rogue time traveler? He hadn't gotten himself examined yet. It was hard enough finding out what was going on in five hours, let alone convince a scientist to test you with whatever diagnostic tools they have at their disposal.

Out of habit, he looked down onto his watch again. Might as well make the most of these four hours, before he gets thrown into some other conflict.

Better not waste any more


For the SciFiQuest 2011: The Undiscovered Nodegel

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