Story – The Orange Marble (Part 6/6: The Moment)

Synopsis: Michael and Zoe return to 2016 to assassinate the president.

The time has come. After days of war both physical and emotional, everything the week has been leading up to is here. After retrieving the watch from Jacob Axiom’s wrist and hijacking a buggie from the Antipeace settlement’s garage, Michael and Zoe escape and begin their ride back to Zoe's home. As the buggie rolls across the wasteland, Michael and Zoe lean back and hold one another in their arms. The wasteland is as silent as it is the first time they ventured across it, the land now existing solely for the duo to enjoy each other’s company in the calm before the storm. After hours of driving, they arrive. They stop at the ledge overlooking the town, getting out of the buggie and taking, hopefully, their final look at a future spearheaded by hate. They enter an alleyway and prepare the watch.
Michael: alright, here goes…
Michael selects “2016” and presses it. A blue aura glows around them. They vanish in a glorious, electrified flash, reappearing in another alleyway just seconds later. Michael lands on his feet.
Michael: finally! I didn't land on the damn dumpster.
Zoe falls from above. She smashes onto a dumpster before splashing, face first, into a puddle. She lifts her face out of the water.
Zoe: fuck sake!
They exit the alley and look around. The buildings stand tall and clean, people roam the streets talking to one another, vehicles drift past, the sky is blue and the air is clear - they're home. They enter Michael's house and change back into 2016 attire before heading to the bathroom.
Michael: wanna wash your face first?
Zoe: sure.
She walks over to the toilet and gets on her knees, going to wash her face with the toilet water.
Michael: wait, that's…
She turns around, grinning.
Zoe: you think I'd do that again?
Michael laughs. 

After showering, the duo head downstairs, where Marie and Wendy are in the living room having just returned from shopping. Michael hugs them with a beaming smile.
Marie: hey Mikey.
Wendy: there you are, you been at that girl’s place the whole time?
Michael: yep.
Wendy: well you could at least phone us next time!
Michael chuckles.
Michael: I will, nan.
Zoe watches the family hug, raising a half smile. After talking with them for a bit, Michael and Zoe head into Michael's bedroom to begin outlining their assassination plan. While thinking it through, they both have a realisation. If they succeed, the timeline where this president won will be erased, meaning everything in the 2066 they visited will be erased. This includes the Zoe Michael's fallen in love with. They decide not to tell each other their revelation, not knowing the other had it too. After researching some dates, they settle on the assassination occurring at the final Presidential debate - October 19th. After looking up every detail they can on it and making a base plan (leaving it open to expand on when they get more information about it), the two put the schematics somewhere safe and turn to one another.
Zoe: so, uh… what do we do until then?
Michael locks his fingers with Zoe's.
Michael: there's just under four months until that date. We cherish them.
He tightens his grip.
Michael: you hear me?
He fights back tears.
Zoe reciprocates his grip and tears. They lean in and hold each other tight, mentally preparing for the months ahead.

In that span, they go out everyday, attending carnivals and cinemas, getting into music artists with one another, gaming with each other and, most importantly, just appreciating the time they have left together. The months accelerate. The summer turns to autumn and the autumn turns to winter. As mid October approaches, reality sinks in. The duo say their farewells to Marie and Wendy before heading to the airport. As their plane launches into the sky, Zoe stares out the window at her first view of the world from above.
Zoe: wow.
As the city becomes a blur and the blur is engulfed by the clouds, Michael and Zoe face each other.
Michael: well, it's almost the day.
Zoe nods and smiles, trying to suppress her tears again. She leans over and kisses him.
Zoe: I love you.
Michael wipes his tears away and looks into Zoe's soaked eyes.
Michael: I love you too, Zoe.
Feeling tired, the two rest on one another to get some sleep. Before they can drift off, an on-flight television screen starts playing a speech from the future president. The duo glare at his face while the crowd applaud him. The screen cuts to black, leaving a reflection of Michael and Zoe in each other's arms.

The plane arrives in the US. After getting their luggage and catching a taxi, Michael and Zoe arrive at the hotel they're staying at while they wait for the debates. After unpacking, the two of them get out the assassination plans and go over everything one more time.
Zoe: alright so, like I outlined, you'll head in through this security gate and then head up these side stairs here. Using the lock bypasser you brought back from the Survivalists settlement, you should be able to make your way up to the balcony behind the top of the breachers.
Michael: that… gulp… gives me a clear shot on the president as he insults… I mean debates, his opponent.
Zoe: and then you escape the way you came.
Michael holds the X27 sniper rifle in his hands. In his head, he goes over everything he learned with Ben in 2066, and Zoe between their return to 2016 and today. As he does this, Zoe throws the plans aside.
Zoe: but let's worry about that later.
The two exit the room and head to town to enjoy the US with one another. They return in the night and mellow out on the balcony with some drinks and talking - before their time together runs out. As the moonlight illuminates their drink glasses, Michael and Zoe sit beside each other and look at the US one last time.
Michael: well, tomorrow's the big day.
He forces a smile, trying to hide his true, devastated feeling. Zoe forces a smile back, doing the very same thing. Their glasses clink together before being raised to Michael and Zoe's mouths.
Michael: I just wanna say… meeting you, and getting to know you, has been the time of my life. I never thought I'd say this, but a bumbling, homeless man breaking into my back garden and giving me a watch is the best thing that's ever happened to me.
Zoe's forced smile turns into a real one.
Zoe: ditto… minus the homeless thing, I guess. When I first met you I was just some crazy…
She chuckles.
Zoe: quite frankly some crazy bitch angry at the world for taking her parents, but I'm not anymore.
They grip each other's hand, gazing at each other as they appreciate every crevice of the other’s face. Ultimately, he picks her up and carries her to bed. They fall asleep while holding each other.

Hours later, the alarm sounds. The time has finally come. Zoe turns over and looks at Michael, the two both recognising their time's almost over.
Michael: well, here goes.
The two get dressed. Michael looks at himself in the mirror, mentally preparing for his mission ahead. His X27 sniper rifle is folded and hidden in his pants, with a radio equipped to his watch so he can keep track of the debate’s progression. Zoe also has one for when she's sitting outside keeping an overview. She approaches him from behind and grapples his waist.
Zoe: so… I guess it's time to go.
They kiss. The duo get in the car they've rented and journey to the location of the debates. They park near the side entrance of the building. They remain immobile, just looking up at the sky. A plane whizzes overhead, the two watching it as if it were a butterfly.
Zoe: I remember seeing similar things back in 2066. We'd have these things called rockets, that people would go on to escape Earth and evacuate to Mars. I remember wishing I could be one of those people who got to go to Mars.
She smiles.
Zoe: I never knew I'd be even luckier, and get to fly over an Earth not lying in ruins.
The duo watch the plane disappear behind the clouds. An alarm they brought with them starts ringing, signifying it's time for Michael to enter. The two turn to each other.
Zoe: well, you should probably get going, aha…
Michael: yeah I guess, haha…
Neither of them move.
Michael: I'll miss you.
Zoe stops the alarm, pulls Michael in and snogs him passionately. Tears fill both of their eyes as they look at each other's face one last time.
Zoe: now you…
She breaths in and out.
Zoe: could you do one final favour for me?
He nods immediately.
Michael: anything.
She tightens the grip on his hands.
Zoe: complete the mission. Snipe that motherfucker so perfectly that it looks like you should be teaching Ben how to shoot.
Michael nods.
Zoe: and have a good life.
Her grip slips away.
Zoe: because you've already given me one, even if you fail.
They kiss one last time.
Zoe: now go, before I stop you.
Michael reluctantly exits the car and walks towards the security gate. He passes through it without any issues and turns around after reaching the other side. The two look at each other again. After a few seconds, Michael disappears around the corner. Zoe looks at the spot where he was standing, the doorway becoming blurry as tears shroud her view. His words to her, “I love you”, echo in her head.

The crowd cheers as the stage is set. The debate moderator, Isaac, sits down at the panel in front of the stage. As the supporters sit down and the moderator welcomes them to the debates, the two candidates walk onto the stage and stand at their respective podiums.
Isaac: alright so before we begin; Candidate One, are you ready?
The Future President: fantastic question, Isaac. Well first of all I'd just like to thank the wonderful charities worldwide for what they're doing. I think all the work they're doing is fantastic, and I truly respect the great American people for the support they've given to these brilliant causes.
Isaac nods.
Isaac: Um, ok. Are you ready, Candidate Two?
Candidate Two: I get asked this question a lot, Isaac, and you know what I always say? As a proud mother, aunt and family woman, the work brave American women are doing makes me so proud. I strive to be like them, and I hope every woman out there feels the same way.
Isaac adjusts his glasses.
Isaac: Um, right. Let's, uh, let's get into it then. Candidate One, what are your plans to handle the US’s current foreign policies, and any issues affiliated with them?
The Future President: superb question, Isaac. I think the charities sponsoring this event are amazing, and I implore the equally amazing American people to go out and support these charities whenever they can. Unless they're Mexican.
The crowd cheers.
Isaac: right. And your response to the same question, Candidate Two?
Candidate Two: as a proud mother, I just want to say I really respect the American people's decision to vote for me. My opponent is a scumbag, but I'm confident that the brave American women will do the right thing and make the right decision!
Isaac adjusts his glasses again.
Isaac: Um, yes, but what about the US’s…
The Future President: I just wanna butt in for a moment to say how much I respect the troops that are fighting for our great country. I think it's great the charities sponsoring this event help support them.
Isaac: what about the fighting in Syria?
The Future President: the what?
Candidate Two: my proud mother, something I also am now, once said to me that a country is built on hope, built on…
Her phone gets a notification. She quickly checks it, seeing that it's an email from “ShadesMcDarkAlley45” (to her account “ProudMother12@IAmAFemale.net”).
Isaac: fuck my life.
Downstairs, Michael finds the stairs leading to the rafters. He turns the radio on, hearing that the debates are around half way done. Zoe hears the same from her radio outside. After taking a deep breath, he approaches the door and tries breaking the lock with a device he brought back from 2066. It works. He looks around, adjusts his mask and begins his ascent. After a few minutes he reaches the top, walking out to a small balcony area overlooking the debates. 
Michael: holy fuck, I'm really doing this. I'm really about to assassinate the future president of the United States.
He takes the X27 out of his pants and prepares it. The radio informs Michael the debate is nearing its climax, prompting Michael to hurry into position.
Isaac: and finally… to both of you… what are your thoughts on the current state of the US economy?
The Future President: charities, American people, Mexicans.
Candidate Two: proud mother, brave women, don't trust my opponent.
Isaac: I should have remained a stripper.
The Future President walks into the center of the stage.
The Future President: one final thing. I'd just like to say…
Michael: ok, here goes… my only shot.
He steadies the rifle. He maneuvers the scope. The reticle rests on The Future President's head.
The Future President: … and, most importantly, let's MAKE…
Michael's hand shakes. His body refuses to pull the trigger.
The Future President: AMERICA…
Sweat gushes down Michael's forehead.
The Future President: GREAT AGAIN!
The crowd cheers as The Future President raises his hand, giving one final wave. He turns to walk off stage. A bullet rips through his head. The crowd’s cheering morphs into frenzied chitter chatter. The audience, officials and camera crew look around to see where the shot came from. Michael looks up from his scope, seeing The Future President's body sprawled on the floor. Sweat races down his face. His heart pumps at maximum speed. He is debilitated. Alarms start blaring around the building.
Voice: get… get…
Michael shakes his head.
Voice: get out of there.
Michael: what?
Zoe (through the radio): GET OUT OF THERE.

He snaps out of his trance. He folds the X27 away and sprints off the balcony. Cameras capture him as reports of a “fleeing masked assassin” hit the news. As henchmen, police and FBI officers rush to the building, Michael boots the stairwell door open and heads downstairs. After taking the mask off and igniting it with the X27’s lighter attachment, he throws the burned rag aside, conceals the gun and continues descending the staircase. He reaches the bottom and opens the door leading to the exit. However, the exit doors are locked down, making him turn around before he's seen. He continues down the stairwell, heading to the fire escape they planned as a backup. He reaches the bottom, where he's met with the sight of a moderately sized hallway. There's a few rooms along the way with a left turn half way down - at the very end of the hallway is the fire exit. He reaches the fire escape door but, upon pulling the latch down to open it, realises they've locked down the lower quartile doors too. He looks back at the staircase.
Michael: the roof.
Michael dashes towards the stairwell. However, as he makes it halfway, a police officer lunges out from the hallway's left turn. The officer swings the butt of his gun, knocking Michael down with a twist and causing him to land on all fours. The officer begins handcuffing him. Michael squirms in panic.
Michael: stop, you… ngh… YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG GUY, I SWEAR!
Backup arrives. As Michael tries to get up, another officer smashes Michael's head with the butt of their gun. This knocks him unconscious. News of The Future President's assassination spreads, Zoe hearing it over her radio. She looks up at the building, a smile breaking through her crying.
Zoe: you did it.
She fades from existence.

Hours later, the news has spread worldwide. Marie and Wendy hear it on the UK news.
Marie: oh my God, did you hear that?
Wendy: Christ. I'm not even that surprised though, he did have a lot of enemies.
She shakes her head.
Wendy: but still…
Reporter: a suspect has been taken in but we've yet to hear more. We'll keep you updated on any developments.
Marie: Michael and his girlfriend are only 30 minutes away from there, I wonder if they've heard about it.
Wendy: yeah true, give them a call.
Marie tries phoning Michael a few times.
Marie: no answer.
Wendy: weird. I wonder where he could be?
Back in the US, Michael wakes up as a bucket of water is thrown over his face. He gasps for air before shaking his head and looking around. He's in an interrogation room. Handcuffs are on both of his wrists and the time travel watch has been confiscated. A middle aged detective, called Detective Andrews, is looking at Michael with a now-empty bucket in his hand. He places the bucket down and sits opposite Michael - a table is between them. He remains silent for a few moments, ultimately lifting up a slip of paper. Michael remains silent, not daring to speak before he's spoken to.
Andrews: so, you're Michael Drake, is that correct?
Michael nods.
Andrews: says here you're a UK citizen…
Michael nods again, Andrews acknowledging it with a glance.
Andrews: so, given that's the case… what are you doing all the way over here, in the US?
Michael: well I came for the elections of course. I'm super into politics, and I couldn't imagine missing ALL of the 2016 debates, you know?
Andrews: of course. You'd have to be “super into politics” to want to assassinate a potential US president.
Michael: well of course, but assassination isn't my thing.
Andrews: is that so? Then, care to explain these photos?
He pulls out two photos from under the slip of paper. One photo is a CCTV shot of Michael, masked, running, and the other is a CCTV shot of Michael, unmasked, moments before he's taken down. Detective Andrews pulls the photos back after Michael says he's done looking at them.
Michael: what's there to explain?
Andrews: well, for starters, you can explain how you and the assassin just happen to be wearing the exact same clothes.
Michael shrugs.
Michael: given all the people there, I don't think it's a reach that two of them would be wearing the same thing.
Andrews: Uh huh… and be the exact same height and weight as them, AND be in the same location.
Michael: of course we'd be in similar situations, we were both escaping at the same time.
Andrews narrows his eyes.
Michael: I had heard gunshots, sirens were sounding, I was scared, officer. I ran straight out of those stands to the fire exit, and the next thing I know I'm unconscious and waking up in an interrogation room. Look, I wish I could be of more help, I really do, but I'm afraid you've got the wrong guy.
Michael maintains eye contact with Andrews, surprising himself with his confidence. Andrews bends down and picks something up off the ground; a plastic evidence bag with the charred mask in.
Andrews: this mask, the mask the assassin used, has your DNA all over it.
Michael glares at the burned piece of cloth in the bag.
Andrews: what's your excuse for that?
Michael looks at Andrews in silence. Andrews stands up after a few seconds, knocking the door to be let out.

Later, Michael is put into a cell for the night while his fate is decided. He sits on a bench, looking down, anxious over his future. A younger man, also in the cell, glances at him.
Man: so what you in for?
Michael: me?
The man nods.
Michael: suspicion that I assassinated the potential future president. You?
The man nods again, much slower.
Man: they, uh, they think I stole $10.
The two remain in silence for the rest of the night. The following morning, an officer approaches the cell and calls Michael's name. Michael awakes, rubbing his eyes and sitting up.
Michael: y-yeah?
The cell door is unlocked.
Officer: You're free to go.
Michael breathes a sigh of relief.
Michael: why the sudden change of mind?
Officer: not enough evidence. The only thing they really had was the mask, but there's no way to tell whether the one matches the assassin's.
After recollecting his goods, including the watch, Michael exits the station. He gives a small smile and nod to Andrews, who is standing on the station stairs. Andrews glares in silence. Michael avoids his stare and continues ahead, heading to his rented car the police retrieved and exiting the area. After paying the hotel, car rental service and everything else, Michael heads back to the airport and flies back home to the UK. After hours of travel, Michael prepares the watch for what's hopefully one final trip to 2066, to confirm the future is saved. He walks with a brisk pace towards his house but, as he does, the college bullies, Gary, Anderson and Parker approach him.
Gary: hey, Drake…
Michael raises his hand.
Michael: save it, asshole.
He enters his house without breaking stride.
Gary: ieugh… have a nice day, Michael.
After reconciling with Marie and Wendy, Michael heads upstairs to his bedroom. He puts his bags down and fiddles with the watch.
Michael: here we go, the moment of truth.
After taking a deep breath, Michael activates the watch. 

He appears in 2066 moments later. This time, however, it's not the 2066 he's been to before. It's the 2066 where Candidate Two was 2016 US President. After rubbing his back and adjusting his clothes, Michael exits the alleyway. He reaches the ledge overlooking the area. Every building is completely run down; what isn't already rubble is a collection of fractured bricks standing on their last legs, their empty, hollow insides housing nothing but space for their inevitable collapse. The town no longer looks like a town, it looks like a war torn desert. The red sky and smog only exemplify the feeling of isolation. Michael shakes his head in disbelief.
Michael: no… no it can't be!
Michael slides down the embankment and sprints across town, seeing the library is still in the same position as it was before. He enters through the back and locates the library computer. He searches “2016 US President”. Candidate Two's profile pops up. Michael leans back and holds his head, angered and confused.
Michael: it can't be… it… it can't be!
Michael stands outside the library.
Michael: deep down, I guess it seemed so obvious. One's a sexist, racist bigot with no political knowledge, and the other's a big headed criminal that's more familiar with corruption than a damaged hard drive is. Either way, the US was fucked.
He notices a family crowding around a fire in a bin, sharing the flesh of a dead rat they captured. The family laugh and hold each other close.
Michael: huh…
After finishing their food, they walk away, heading into one of the buildings so they're not seen by one of the bots monitoring the streets.
Michael: the reality is, the world is always gonna be a fucked up place. But if we all support each other and make OUR worlds a pleasant and welcoming place, things won't be so bad. I mean I thought 2016 sucked ass until Zoe showed me otherwise…
His eyes widen.
Michael: Jesus, Zoe!
Michael heads to Zoe's home. He peers through the boards blocking the shattered windows.
Michael: I wonder if she's still in this house, uh, building, uh, structure… location, in this timeline.
He squints.
Michael: it's too dark, I can't see a thing.
He sneaks in and looks around. He peeks around the corner where Zoe tied him up when they first met. No one is there.
Michael: damn...
He turns around. A figure pounces at him. He's smashed against the wall. A laser gun is pressed against his chin. Michael gawks at the figure, a smile rising when he sees who it is. Zoe.
Zoe: what the hell do you think you're doing!?
He gazes into her eyes for a moment. A few tears blur the view. Zoe looks back, confused.
Zoe: why are you crying? Who are you?
Michael: someone you used to know.
Zoe: … what?
Michael: I… I must be in the wrong house. I thought my friend was here.
Zoe: well they're not. The only person here is me, and I sure as hell am not your friend.
Zoe lets him go.
Zoe: so are you gonna get out, or am I gonna have to make you get out?
She cocks the gun.
Michael: no, no… I'll go.
Michael takes one final look at her dirt-covered face. 

He exits the alley beside her house and heads into the street, wiping his tears away before heading back towards the library. He searches the database for “Zoe Piper”, swiftly finding her profile and the profiles of her parents. After jotting down the circumstances and date of their deaths (24th May, 2053), he returns to 2016 in a huge, blue flash. Seconds later, another blue flash occurs right where he stood. A 55 year old man lands back-first on a dumpster. It's Michael, who has teleported from 2053. He exits the alleyway and reaches the ledge overlooking the town, subsequently heading down the side and walking to Zoe's house. He gazes through the boards on the window. After a few seconds, he sees Zoe sitting in a corner next to a fire. Her mother is next to her. Zoe is being held in her mother's arms as they talk and laugh together. They're interrupted by another person. Her father. He enters the room with food to cook over the campfire. The trio huddle together as they warm their food, smiling while they talk and wait for their meals to be done. Zoe is the happiest of the three, holding onto her parents and constantly looking up to and laughing at their jokes and banter. Michael watches for a few more minutes, tears in his eyes and a smile beaming on his face. Ultimately, he realises it's time to go. After taking one more look at Zoe's smiling face, he walks away from the Piper home back to the alleyway. As Michael smiles, he activates the watch again. A blue light surrounds Michael and, seconds later, a flash sends him back to his time. A time where, despite not being with Michael, Zoe is finally happy.

End of episode six.

Epilogue

In 2066, Sanjid Jr., son of Michael's friend Sanjid, enters a building.
Sanjid Jr.: hey… hey, are you here? It's Sanjid, don't leave me hanging, haha.
Sanjid Jr. sees a figure in the corner.
Figure: yeah yeah, I hear you.
The figure chuckles as it turns around. The figure is the old man who gave Michael the time travelling watch.
Sanjid Jr.: what are you up to?
He gestures to the watch on his wrist.
Old Man: I just gotta stop a time paradox, I'll be like five minutes.
The old man stands up and activates the watch. A blue flash launches him into the past. Sanjid Jr. sits down and shakes his head.
Sanjid Jr, laughing: Michael Drake, you crazy old man.

The end.

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