Our Story Begins...
LabCorp Technician #34, old man Mr. Dungaree, pedaled the rickety bicycle along the rainy, miserable side of Highway 101, as fast as his short legs, and the even shorter allowance of the stitched inseam to his soaking wet cotton pants, would allow.
So all in all, this was terribly slow.
Plus, he had a near paralytic fear of bicycle contraptions.
And cars kept whizzing by, spitting foam and debris into his red, chapped face. Cold water stung his eyes and blurred his vision. The air smelled just like Pine Forest-scented sink cleaner. The black garbage bag jacket that he had so carefully duct taped together to make sleeves, suddenly ripped apart at the seams, cold water pouring down his neck as it fluttered behind him like a failed parachute.
Cardinal rule: Don’t Attract Attention.
Well, screw all the fools’ rules.
When his wobbly front tire hit potholes it made his teeth snap shut like a shark. For which he had already twice paid the price for mouth-breathing, and bit his tongue like a self-eating madman—and suffered the uncourteous swallow of his own sick, rusty blood.
Too much ferrous oxide in this most vital fluid.
The broken seat springs went chrricka-chrricka, threatening to crumple away and expose a potentially impaling metal post—and this made the unmistakable entrance to Mr. Dungaree’s internal organs cringe.
The autumn rain storm, along the northern coast of the Pacific landmass of what was still considered California, had gone utterly insane.
Or maybe real weather had always been like this—how would he know?
Mr. Dungaree wanted to holler into his lapel Tele, Turn the showers down, you dolt!, but LabCorp UB12 was now, oh—a mere two hundred years into the future, and telepathic technology didn’t even exist yet.
Mr. Dungaree was the dolt now.
And all for the love of eggs.
He could kick himself in the pants if his own pants and the broken seat of this stolen bicycle weren’t kicking him there enough already. How had he managed this time machine blunder? No self-respecting scientist would have made the mistake.
But then, of course, having time-machined backward into the strange year 2017—and appeared here naked (ahem), homeless, broke, and having to resort to thievery—he was fresh out of self-respect.
He was flush with stupidity, however.
Could build an empire with his stupidity. If empires could be built that way. Oh wait, that’s right, empires had been built on stupidity; and that’s why the whole Earth had an apocalypse and they’d all been underground for forty years, and would be for at least a hundred more.
Kinda like Noah’s ark but they didn’t all get happily along. And there weren’t two of each.
Because right now, if Mr. Dungaree had a double copy back in LabCorp UB12, he’d go ahead and steer this version of himself into traffic straight away.
The brake lights of a truck flashed red, steering off the highway and down the off-ramp to the little town of Trinidad. Mr. Dungaree followed, his arms beginning to shake in earnest with cold, griping the handlebars with white knuckles.
Chrricka-chrricka, the seat laughed.
Then Mr. Dungaree’s teeth started to chatter like chipmunks. And just about the time he had a swell of hope that he could coast this terrible, evil bicycle to a full stop, he lost his balance and toppled sideways into an oily mud puddle anyway.