***Part 2 of a 2 part story***
By Ben V.
Reynold pushed open the front door. The sky was already darkening and people dressed up for the evening were walking about the streets, heading to their party of choice.
Some of them already showing signs of what was sure to come to many as the evening progressed. A man sloshed back and forth spilling some sort of drink as he tottered. A woman across the street was being helped, practically carried, into a taxi. Even in her state she was pretty and Reynold recognized, as he had started to do more frequently, what The Professor said about women.
His thoughts turned to Olive who wasn’t exactly a woman yet, though he, similarly, wasn’t a man. He strolled a little further, now with that not quite a woman on his mind. He wasn’t even sure what it was about her he liked. He settled on a little bit of everything. He was still heavy with the thought of her when he met the errant path of the stumbling man. He was as startled as Reynold with their near collision, though he reacted more poorly.
With a yelp and a hiccup the man shoved Reynold out of his way and into the street. He landed in a sprawling mess as the taxi he saw the woman being helped into came to a stop too late. Curled up, waiting for the impact, the taxi struck the backpack hitting the gravity ball. Rather than crushing Reynold, the force was magnified in the ball and launched him in a high ark and into one of the tall oak trees that lined the street. His body, especially his spine, ached but the realization that he was alive came rushing over him in a wash of relief, panic, excitement and confusion.
Clinging to the branches high up in the tree, Reynold began to wonder how he would get down. Looking around he noticed the people gather around the accident scene below him. His eyes widened with alarm as the thought struck him that if they haven’t already, they would be wondering what happened to him. He was hopeful that the drunks might take some time to figure it out, but he was worried it wouldn’t be long before the taxi driver looked up. It was possible that the woman didn’t even notice what happened, and if the drunk was able to put it together, no one would believe him, but the driver would have likely seen the blur of Reynold as he shot into the tree.
“They’re going to tell people,” he said to himself dismayed. “Maybe the papers will find out and write a story about it. The word it going to get around and The Professor is going to find out for sure.” Reynold reached frantically into his pocket for the controller box. He checked the dial and saw that it had shifted to low gravity. He figured it must have been luck that he broke instead of his head when he hit the pavement. He timidly experimented with the dial, hanging onto one of the branches with one arm. He turned the dial slowly and felt the backpack shift slightly with the added weight. He cranked the dial back up and looked for a lower branch he could reach. He hoped that with the gravity ball as light as it could be, he would be able to drop lightly to the next branch. Bracing himself he shoved the controller box back in his pocket and dropped down hitting the branch hard, knocking the wind out of himself all over again.
Reaching out to stop his descent, he slipped and dropped down several more branches, hitting each of them with a thud and a corresponding crunch as the smaller ones gave way. Reynold’s plummet was abruptly stopped when the backpack caught on a stronger branch. The noise from the cracking branches and Reynold’s subsequent yelps was enough to get the attention of the cabbie and the group of people who had gathered to gawk at the scene.
“Hey you, kid,” the cabbie yelled.
Reynold hurriedly reached up, trying to get the backpack free from the branch. His movements caused him to sway and the branch to groan under the weight.
“Weight,” Reynold exclaimed. He looked down to see the cabbie pushing through the confused crowed towards the tree. Fumbling again in his pocket Reynold turned the dial as high as it would go. With a loud crack the branch gave way to the massive weight and the bag that had kept Reynold hanging in the tree was now pulling him towards the pavement.
Reynold barely had time to crank the dial back before he hit the sidewalk. Luckily the pull of the backpack caused the gravity ball to hit first. With a thud that was part cement and mostly his back, Reynold hit the ground. The rebound that resulted from the low setting of the gravity ball sent him up and forward. He was in an approximation of upright and a little higher than he would have liked, but Reynold managed to make a safe, if not graceful, landing on all fours facing away from the perusing cabbie.
Without waiting to hear the shouts behind him, Reynold was off, half running half limping down the sidewalk. He turned down the first alley he came to and left behind the commotion he had caused.
After twisting and turning through alleys, cutting through a park, ducking through a cafe and hiding behind a dumpster Reynold stopped to catch his breath. Leaning against the wall he finally started to relax. He kept trying to tell himself that the cab driver couldn’t have gotten a good look at him, that there was no way anyone could have followed him. After a moment to steady his nerves he decided he should find out exactly where his escape had lead him. Cautiously he walked to the mouth of the alley and as casually as he could manage, peaked his head around the corner to get a look down the street.
There were more people in this part of town, but many of them were preoccupied with the evening, heading into restaurants or bars. After a moment Reynold recognized where he was and realized he wasn’t far from the area where Olive tended sell her flowers. He checked the controller in his pocket, smoothed down his hair and walked out onto the sidewalk doing his best, “nothing to see here,” impression.
The sky was turning a dark red over the tops of the buildings and shadows crept up the street around Reynold, bringing with them the feeling of early night. The streetlights blinked on and he could see people in full celebration as he passed the various establishments, the lights from their windows spilling out onto the sidewalk. Reynold hurried down the emptying streets until he came to the corner where Olive was usually set up, selling flowers to couples as they strolled by. He hoped she would still be there, that there would still be enough people making their way to their New Year’s parties to keep her on the street.
He pushed on, seeing a couple across the street, stopped to kiss under the sign of a romantic restaurant. The pretty girl had a bouquet of flowers. Reynold was spurred by the sight and started to pick up his pace when a big hand grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around.
His stomach sunk as he turned around, expecting to see a man in a uniform, figuring that the cabbie had called the cops. He thought of The Professor and the experiments he would have to endure when the cops brought him in.
His eyes came into focus, but Reynold was shocked when, instead of a stern officer with a pair of handcuffs, he saw a burly man with a wrench and a couple of his pals.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here,” said the thug with the wrench, in a low grumble.
“It’s some stupid looking kid with a dumb looking bag,” one of his friends piped in, his voice higher than Reynold would have expected.
“What’s in the bag runt,” the first thug demanded. Reynold tried to back away, but the hand on his shoulder was like a vice. Panic rolled through him as he tried to assess the situation. He knew that they thought he had something valuable in his bag. He did, but not anything they would have expected. Reynold thought whether he gave them the bag or not, they would probably kill him.
His leg hurt and he was starting to become annoyed. The panic started to make way for anger and with nothing left to lose Reynold came up with a desperate plan. He slowly dropped his hand into his jacket pocket feeling for the dial.
“You don’t want it, it isn’t worth anything to you,” he said, half hoping they would listen.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” the one with the wrench growled as he snatched the backpack off of Reynold.
With the thug’s attention on the bag Reynold cranked the dial hard, increasing the weight of the bag, pulling the man down with it. Manipulating the dial up and back down again Reynold kicked out hard sending a low gravity ball flying at the face of the hunched man hitting him at high gravity. The impact sent him reeling back, blood flowing freely from his now ruined face.
The other thugs were stunned staring at their downed comrade, giving Reynold time to reset the gravity ball, grab the bag and take off before they could figure out what had happened.
Running hard away from the still shocked men, Reynold glanced back and saw the spot where Olive was selling flowers. He had made enough commotion, again, to get the attention of Olive and a couple who had stopped to buy a bouquet. They looked between him running away and the scene he had just left. He could only guess at what they were thinking. He wondered if Olive had recognized him, or if she even knew him enough that she would.
He couldn’t stop and see her anymore. He had to get away before the men thought to chase after him. There was no chance he could come back later either, for fear that The Professor would have discovered the damage to his lab and his invention missing. He was likely to send the police, or worse, after Reynold.
It was nearing midnight when Reynold turned the corner to the railroad tracks out of town. He could hear the cheering of people from all over the city counting down the last minute, ushering in the coming year. He had missed his chance to say goodbye, not that it mattered to anyone but himself, but the realization was sinking in that he had something valuable in his possession. It was a dangerous and amazing item that had helped him into and out of a couple of dangerous scrapes.
He didn’t really have anything keeping him in the city, but now he had a very good reason to leave and perhaps the one thing that could turn things in his favor. He chuckled to himself thinking that he might have taken the one invention The Professor had made that actually worked. Keeping up his pace, Reynold put his hand in his pocket, feeling for the dial, and lightened his load.