“Time’s up.” The voice is everywhere at once. And also no where. It is booming and whispers. It is raspy and melodic. It is every single voice that has ever spoken speaking together as one singular voice. And it’s incredibly annoying.
The mechanic lets out a sigh, almost in resignation. They set their wrench to the side and pushed themself away from the work table where the android lays with an open chest compartment. “I’m with a client.” But Death doesn’t discriminate. “I have already collected his soul, you must give me your end of the bargain.” It creeps closer, shadow falling over both mechanic and temporarily deactivated client. “Time. Is. Up.”
A nasty smirk crosses the mechanic’s face and they chuckle. “Ah, my old friend. It’s only just begun.” Death can see it’s own pitch black eyes bearing down on the person through their reflective goggles. It knows it doesn’t have much time to react. In an instant Death is reaching for its victim’s throat and then suddenly there is a bright flash of light. When it fades, both the mechanic and their client are gone.
“Excuse me,” a small voice calls from the doorway. “My android friend short circuited again. Could you try and help her?” Death let out an exasperated huff. This little game was getting rather old.
The year is 2054. Rich donors from all around the globe contribute to the cleaning of water and air, in hopes that they could try and restore the planet to what it had been in the early years of the century.Then came the Neo-Tech Renaissance, which also provided more jobs and larger incomes for all sorts of trades. The working class receiving the most assistance from that move. Great leaps in technological advancement have been made. Androids, fuel efficient vehicles of all kinds, and new safer forms have energy have been folded into everyday life with only minor hiccups.
The best example was Ciudad Electrica. The Electric City. It was the epicenter of progress, home to humans and androids alike. Many of the labs where new technology and medicines were developed are stationed within the heart of the metropolis. And while the city had a sparkling, flawless surface, there was a dark underbelly that more than a few citizens had dipped their hands into.
Even though so many things had improved, human morality was still recovering from the steep decline in the first decade of the 21st century. Evidenced by the many runaways, gangs, and crime rings that littered the back alleys of major towns across the continents. The life of one such former runaway turned petty criminal happens to be where our story begins.
This wasn’t how the Boss said it would go. “Gentlemen, I’m sure we can work something else out!” The unfortunate gang member stumbles over the munitions crates that litter that warehouse floor. Three large grunts stalk closer despite his protests. Damn. He had left his gun back at the base. He had been told he wouldn’t need it. Not for this deal.
It was a simple exchange. So innocent that he could even go in before dark. A crate of light guns in exchange for new masks lined with those neat glowing wires that had a very slim chance of short circuiting and literally blowing up in the wearer’s face. A few older goons had dropped the young blond off at the warehouse with the boxes as the sun was just beginning to go down and sped away. Now he understood why.
“Your boss thinks he can dupe us? Fill the box with sawdust instead of what we agreed on?” The leader of the rival gang leans in, putting his face right up next to his own. “The Electric Devils have screwed me over for the last time, boy.” He turned to his goons. “Take what few guns we were actually given out of the crate and dump it. Time to send our old friends a message.”
He wiped his brow, watching as one of the grunts reached into an open crate he had brought in and pulled out a brand new gun. Small, like a vintage hand gun, but a more abstract shape. It looked more like a prop than an actual deadly weapon. He switched it from safety mode to stun and finally to kill. A soft yellow light emits from the designs etched into the gun. He knew that one shot from that could kill him instantly. He swallowed hard.
“Really, I had no idea! Ever heard he phrase ‘don’t shoot the messenger’?! I feel like that applies to this situation, don’t y-“
“Shut up! All you do is babble. Blah blah blah! No wonder Dann sent you here by yourself.” He wasn’t sure what hurt him more. The fact that he was about to die, the insinuation that his Boss, the man he had valued as a father figure in his shitty life, would send him to his own demise, or the possibility that it was true. The roar of traffic just outside the warehouse walls fill his ears and flood his brain. It’s all he can focus on. All he wants is one of those sporty fuel efficient cars to burst in here and save him. Or put him out of his misery before they can do it themselves.
The sound of a crate being kicked over and sawdust spilling onto the concrete floors snapped him back to reality. Now the other two grunts are armed as well, both guns glowing with soft lights that are just oh-so misleading. “To be fair, kid, it’s not your fault. You’re just the easiest target right now. Speaking of.” He clicked his fingers and all three guns were aimed for his chest. “I’ll give you till the count of 10. But be warned, these things shoot crazy far, even if they aren’t that well made.”
The counting starts and the gang member begins backing away. He knows better than to turn his blind side to these people. As he backs away the sounds of his executioners counting is drowned out by the traffic. It soothes him into a state similar to acceptance. It gets louder and louder the closer he gets to the back wall. Even when his back hits the wall it continues to grow. He let’s his eyes slide shut.
The sound of glass shattering and falling around him fills the air, accompanied by the loud hum of a motorcycle. The blond looked up and saw a slim, red motorcycle fly through the broken window and into the warehouse. It’s sleek with a pointed back end and a bullet shaped front that cuts off sharply before the wheels, which glow with a dark maroon light. It lands squarely between him and the grunts, startling them. The bike’s rider is wearing blue tinted reflective goggles, a tattered green scarf, and a ratty jumpsuit that is riddled with holes and covered in all kinds of stains. Their hair is blond like his, one side brushing their shoulder and the other barely passing the nape of their neck. It has clearly been cut choppily, like they got it caught in something and just cut it right then and there with whatever they had on hand.
“Who the hell-“
“Chase! Get on!” The rider threw out their hand, clad in a fingerless glove. They knew his name. How the hell did they know his name? Chase supposed that if they knew him, they were an ally. Or at least a better fate than being ripped to shreds by light guns. He took the mystery rider’s hand and swiftly hauled himself onto the motorcycle. He could smell the faint stink of motor oil on their clothes and skin.
He had a million questions. But before he could even start interrogating the rider, they revved the engine and tore through the warehouse. The bike maneuvered the floor smoothly, swerving around crates and general clutter that crowds the warehouse floor. Chase looked back at the goons. They seemed to be frozen in shock, as none of them were chasing after them or firing the guns in their hands. “Hold on tight!” The rider called. Chase obliged, wrapping his arms around their midsection. “Brace yourself!” They cried as the bike rocketed through the warehouse’s wooden doors. Chase threw up one arm to shield himself from the splintering wood that scattered around them.
The sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon, casting a subtle shadow across the city. For a moment all Chase could hear was his own heart hammering against his chest and the roar of the mysterious motorcycle. They zoomed up the ramp and onto the overpass that hung over the warehouse, melding into the traffic around them seamlessly. Chase looked back again. The grunts weren’t following them. At least they weren’t for now. A complete stranger had saved his life!
His racing heart was beginning to settle, and he let himself relax and lean into the stranger’s back. The scent of motor oil flooded his senses. He felt safe.
The glow-in-the-dark paint he had decorated his outfit with began to flare to life as the sun sunk lower. The glow from the street lights drowned it out, but he could still see it faintly. The word ‘Young Blood’ scrawled on his jean leg in Dann’s messy handwriting stared back at him and he felt his stomach sink. He had run away when he was 10 and joined the Electric Devils at 12. They had been his whole life for the past 5 years. They had been like a family to him. And they had left him there to die.
Death gently caresses the young man’s face as he slips into his final rest. It was oddly satisfying to feel a soul leave it’s vessel and fall into its hands. The thrill of a final breath releasing into the air and mingling with the night. It will happen any second now, it can feel it coming. Then, just before the sweet release, everything froze. Death let out an exasperated groan. It could feel the cause of the inconvenience across the city, speeding down a frozen freeway to their destination. “So you’ve outsmarted me yet again, Joey. Until next time.”
The mystery biker drove deep into the city and finally veered off of the bridge and underneath into a small, windowless building. The rider parked their bike just inside the doorway and cut the engine. Even though they dismounted, Chase remained perched on the bike’s still warm seat. The biker unzipped their jumpsuit half way and peeled it from their torso, revealing a simple grey tank top. They tied the sleeves around their waist and went to a large shelving unit near the back wall. They pulled out a tool bag and a few fancy looking parts before back tracking to the bike. Chase couldn’t see their eyes behind the reflective goggles but he knew they were looking at him.
“Oh. Uh, thank you. For saving my ass. I owe you. Is there anything I can-“
“You can start by getting off of my bike.” Chase nodded dumbly and slowly dismounted. He could see that the seemingly random place where the rider had parked was actually a platform that they could raise and lower with a switch. Chase watched as they grabbed the platform and scooted under the bike. “You’re lucky-“ he heard them say “-our little escape only scratched up the paint. Just a few tune ups under the surface and she’s good to go.”
“Your bike?” They peek out and nod. “Well I’m really sorry. You didn’t really have to save me though. I had it handled.”
“He was going to shoot you full of holes. Literally. Those light guns would not only kill you, they would rip you to shreds and cauterize your wounds. And severely burn the flesh around them. That would like mega kill you.” They wiped some grease off of their face and smiled a wiry smile. “So, yeah. I’m sure you had it handled.” Chase rolled his eyes. “How did you even know how to save me? Are you... are you with the Devils?”
If they were with the Devils, he could still be as good as dead. It was the only thing that made sense. He didn’t know many people outside of the gang, and none of the few outside knew where he was going to be. Unless he was being spied on. Equally unlikely, he was usually quite keen and it was nearly impossible to get the jump on him. Tonight was the exception to that, of course.
“Don’t worry, I don’t have or want anything to do with them.” Chase’s mind turned to any other possible affiliations. There weren’t many. “You with, like, the DTA’s?” The biker kicked out at him teasingly. “No way! Bunch of self-righteous creeps...”
“Well then who are you with? How-how did you know who I am or where to find me?” The platform began to lower and the mysterious person slid onto their feet. Chase couldn’t see their eyes from behind their goggles but he had a feeling that he was on the receiving end of an intense glare.
“You really don’t have any idea? Seriously.” A vigorous shake of the head. “Jesus....” They sighed heavily and reached for the goggles. They took their time with lifting them from their face, as if the reveal was being filmed in slow motion. Once it was finally removed he was face to face with steel grey eyes that matched his own. The biker’s lips quirked into a small grin.
“Long time, no see, huh?” Chase was speechless. His heart was racing with his mind and everything felt like it was spinning.
He was even more confused than before.
“I’m sorry, who are you?”
Chase felt a hard fist colliding with his jaw.
Chase lounged on the shabby couch near the back of the shop. “I’ve said I’m sorry.”
“But you haven’t answered my question either.” Chase snarled, pressing the ice pack to his sore jaw. He couldn’t believe a complete stranger had punched him for not recognizing them! As if physical violence would somehow jog his memories and send them into the teary, hug filled reunion they must have been expecting.
“I’m waiting for the right time. I had that whole reveal set up and you ruined it!” God, how could someone so badass be so dramatic? “Well when is the right time? Now? Can it please be now?” The biker rolled their eyes. Resignation. It would seem he had finally won.
“You really don’t recognize me?” Chase shook his head once more. The question had been repeated for the past 15 minutes, but it was now just starting to sink in. “I....” a long sigh. “I’m Joey? You know... Joey.....Vremya.” Chase had to strain to hear the last word as their voice had dropped to a low mutter as if they were ashamed of their identity. Of course, that had to be another lie. They couldn’t have that last name. It was incredibly uncommon in the city, and furthermore, it was his last name. There was no one else for miles that had that name. Just him, his mother, and-
And then it all made sense. The similarities in appearance, how they had known his name and location, the reaction to him being unable to recognize them. This wasn’t just another Joey. This was his Joey. His twin.
Chase slapped his hand to his forehead and let out a noise somewhere between a groan and a scream. Joey crossed their arms and hummed. “Finally got it, smart one? Took you long enough.” Chase didn’t know how to react.
It had been years since he had looked his twin in the eyes. Nearly 8, give or take a month or so, but it felt like so much longer. It was like he had lived an entire life between the last time the two of them had spoken and now. He didn’t even know where to start. Do you greet your estranged sibling with a simple “Hi, how you been?” or just launch into asking them where the hell they had been hiding for the past 8 years and how had they stayed alive?
Luckily, Joey seemed to have more than just the reveal planned out. “You’re probably curious. About everything. I’ll start with....” they looked around. “Actually, no. Let's start with you. What happened? How did you end up with The Electric Devils?”
“Oh. They, uh, took me in 2 years after we split up. The leader, Dann, he was basically like a Dad to me.”
“But he sent you to be obliterated by asshole’s with faulty light guns.” Chase nodded once more. The pain of being betrayed by his family was still fresh in his mind, but knowing that the twin he had thought long dead was not only alive and well but also kind of a local badass helped numb it, if only slightly.
"I dunno. That's pretty much it. Went to school, gonna graduate in a couple months. The usual. What about you, you've been doing anything interesting?" Joey sort of froze for a moment. "I don't mean to pry, if you don't wanna tell me. But you kind of disappeared on me for a while."
"You disappeared first." Now Chase froze. "That's not-"
"I learned to do this." Joey cut him off, not willing to hear whatever excuse their brother was about to offer. They gestured to the surrounding warehouse, lined with shelves of mechanical parts. "It's 2054. Androids are everywhere and some mechanics refuse to do the procedures that I do. So I taught myself how to do them and eventually I got here. Got my bike."
"...That's it?" They shrugged. "That's.... really boring. That's not the Joey Vremya that I know at all." Joey opened their mouth and poised their finger like they were about to lash out. That they were about to say that maybe after all these years, Chase didn't really know Joey Vremya at all.
But they didn't. There was no yelling and screaming like he had expected. Instead he heard something he hadn't heard his twin say since they were still in diapers. "You're right."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"You're right. That's not all I've done. I'm willing to bet that what I've done is far more exciting than what you've been up to." They accented their point by jabbing their finger into Chase's chest. He quirked his eyebrows. Though he didn't let it show, he was glad that Joey seemed to remember their competitive nature.
"Well then what're you waiting for? You gonna show me?" Joey smirked. Held out their hand. Chase smirked right back and grasped it. He let his twin tug him off of the couch and through the workshop. Past grease coated benches and past their shiny bullet bike. Out into the world where the sun had almost dipped beneath the horizon and cast an eerie orange glow over the two of them.
"Are you stalling? I've known you for 17 years, I know when you're stalling."
"Shut up and watch." They kept walking and tugging their brother behind them, all the way up the ramp that veered off of the main road and back onto said road. Finally they stopped on the shoulder. Chase looked around. Honestly he was more than a little confused by all of this. But he did as he was told and kept his mouth shut as he waited.
Joey kept looking back and and forth. Like a child watching traffic for the perfect moment to cross. But the street was clear. So they were clearly waiting for something else. That something else eventually rolled along.
A large truck barrelled down the road, barely noticing the pair of blond twins. The driver had no time to react as the shorter of the two tugged their brother's hand and pulled both of them directly in front of it.
Chase realized what was going on a second too late. He tried to pull free, to yank them back to the safe zone on the shoulder. But if Joey had anything going for them it was their iron grip. The truck is racing towards them, horn howling for the pair to move because there is no possible way for it to stop before it slammed into them. All he could do was brace himself and hope that it wouldn't hurt that bad.
It didn't hurt at all. Chase slowly opened his eyes, which he didn't even realize he had closed. He wondered if Joey had pulled them back at the last second. They were always a notorious thrill seeker.
Instead he was met with the grill of the truck mere inches from his face. It had come to a halt only milliseconds from crushing the two of them. Joey was laughing hysterically. "You think that's funny?! We could have died!"
"You don't think it's funny?" Was their response. Chase was furious. He tried to wrench his hand free but his twin held tight. "You don't get it?"
"Get what? Why you would try and flatten me after going through all of the trouble to save me back at the warehouse?! Because I don't-"
"Shut up. Look around." The world around them seemed.....off. Even at night Ciudad Electricia buzzed with life and light. Now it seemed like he was looking at the city through a haze, or a photograph. It wasn't just the truck that had stopped. Everything had. Joey, still clutching his hand in a death grip, led him back to the shoulder. "That's just the half of it." They waved their right hand through the air and a streak of pale grey seemed to follow its path. Then the streak widened and contorted and got bigger and bigger until the two were engulfed by the blinding light emitting from the streak.
Chase blinked the haze from his eyes. He was still clutching Joey's hand tightly. It felt.....different. Once his vision returned he could see that the sky was lighter. There was no frozen truck in the middle of the road. "Pretty cool, right?"
"I don't understand. What-how did-?" Joey finally separated their hands and moved it to his shoulder. "I told you that wasn't all I had done." Chase gaped. "Not as fun as joining a gang, but I'd say time travel is pretty exciting."