The Man Out of Time

It is 1793. I await my turn to visit Madame Guillotine. My old bones ache, but there is no comfort coming my way in my last moments. The crowds cry for blood. Only two beheadings left until I too shed this mortal coil. I recall the nobleman and his wife whom I hid in my home while the patrols combed the streets for traitors to the new Republic. The Ancien Regime, the crown, the nobility, they are gone or crumbling. Civil society has broken down. The mob rules this land now. I chose friendship over ideology. The people think I chose wrong. I hope history proves the contrary. They lead me up the steps to le Rasoir National as more tumbrils unload their human cargo behind me. The madness, for me it is almost over. But for the kingdom, or the Republic I should say, it is just beginning. The blade is raised and I am placed beneath it. The crowd cheers as my final moment approaches. I curse this world. I curse my lessers. I curse every moment that led me here. The blade is loosed.

I die for the first time.

It is 1820. The pioneer and frontier hero, Daniel Boone, breathes his last. His merry band of frontiersmen are with him at his deathbed. I am the youngest by far. The future of the band is unknown. Can there even be a band with Boone gone? Who will wander the wastes, plains, forests and endless frontier, tracking unimaginable horrors and beasts beyond reason? One man is up for the challenge. He brags of whipping his weight in wild cats and out-roaring, out-dancing, out-whistling, out-drinking and out-fighting any man who dares to try. His name is Davy Crockett, self-proclaimed King of the Wild Frontier. He claims he was born from a comet and landed on his feet in front of his parents. He claims he bested the Panther King of the Mountains and juggled a dozen alligators with one hand. Only someone as bombastic as Crockett could have led the band. Everyone knew it. I knew it. So it is no surprise that Mr. Crockett is voted the next chairman of the Frontiersmen. With him at the helm, we embark on our greatest adventures yet.

It is 1836. The Frontiersmen make their last stand at a small Spanish mission turned fortress called the Alamo. There, next to Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and other heroes of Texas, we fight almost to the last man against the Mexican Army. For a decade and a half we’ve adventured across the wildest frontiers America has to offer; slayed the White Bison of the North, healed the diseased forests of the Appalachia next to a man with a tin pot for a hat and a giant woodsman with his faithful blue ox, traveled to the Pacific Coast in search of lost Indian treasure, somehow always surviving by the skin of our teeth. But not this time. This time Santa Anna claims our best fighters and under an unending fusillade, our men are laid low. Crockett’s decision to support the revolution down here in Texas split the Frontiersmen. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, Davy’s second in command and close confidant, would not throw her support behind Houston, Austin and all the rest. The Frontiersmen were explorers and adventurers, she said. Sometimes trackers and hunters. Not soldiers. Not pawns in the great game of global power. The group splintered. I chose to go with Crockett to fight for the rights of the Anglo-Texans. Apparently I chose wrong. After nearly two weeks of fighting, out of bullets and supplies and with no rescue coming, Crockett, myself, and the few who are left take the only course of action we think wise. We surrender. But General Santa Anna had been clear. No prisoners. And so we are set upon with bullet, blade and bayonet.

I die for the second time.

It is 1863. America is divided. Two years prior, by order of President Lincoln, The New Frontiersmen are formed to fight against the special weapons and strange powers of the Confederate States of America. While my philosophy doesn’t quite line up with the Union, my nostalgia for the old team prompts me to sign up for service as soon as I am able. The special agents in charge of the team recognize my preternatural skill with rifle and revolver, with cavalry sword and lasso, as horseman and tracker. It’s as if I am a seasoned veteran of several wars over several lifetimes, though I am but a lad. I quickly rise through the ranks, attaining a high position in the team. After our most important covert mission yet, assisting Army Spy Harriet Tubman in the rescue and transportation of 750 slaves in the Combahee River Raid, we immediately receive new orders. A Confederate Super Scientist leading a group of enhanced Confederates is making his way north in advance of General Lee’s invasion forces. We intercept him in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Not since the Alamo have so many Frontiersmen been lost. But in the end the Confederate Super Doc is soundly trounced and makes his retreat along with dozens of black captives. The Confederate Secret Society of Superior Gentlemen vow revenge once Lee’s army arrives in force. Agent Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind splits her forces up, one group to tackle the incoming Superior Gentlemen, the other to back up the approaching Union Forces. I, being a young and inexperienced operative, am told to support the Union troops. During the night, I sneak out of camp and follow Sally Ann’s group of hardened, veteran Frontiersmen. Apparently I chose wrong. The Superior Gentlemen ambush the New Frontiersmen just as I catch up to the group. The Superior Gentlemen’s mind-bending weapons, living engines of destruction, sentient automatons, and dark Christian Magicks strike us down one by one. I am hit by a flash of purple light just as my revolver disposes of one Gentleman’s grey matter.

I die for the third time.

It is 1888. I meet him for the first time.

It is 1898. I have chased him for over a decade. He is elusive. A shadow. A ghost. His very existence is a mystery waiting to be solved. His strength is beyond measure. His fortitude godly. His senses sharper than any beast of the field. I have seen him juggle Bison with no effort spent. I have seen him leap the Mississippi in a single bound. I have seen him derail a locomotive simply by standing in its path. He is not a man in any conventional sense. As a long standing member of the Frontier Club, I am able to direct considerable resources toward his pursuit. My reasons are both personal and professional. I must learn more about him. Is he, like me, a man cursed with unearthly power? Is he an angel or a demon guised in human flesh? What are his goals? Can he be recruited to the club’s cause? Years on his trail and I have very few answers. All I know is that someone like him cannot remain a free agent. Were the European powers to sway him, or worse an African colony or Asiatic kingdom, the world would be turned on its head. His non-interventionist attitude cannot remain so. Therefore, he must be made to see my point of view.

It is 1910. Another decade gone and I am no closer to tracking him down. The Frontier Club is no more; lost to financial ruin. Some say thanks to my own folly. They blame my obsessive pursuit of this unnamed, unknown man. They couldn’t see what I saw. I who have several lives under my belt knew the world would hinge on this man. Already I am being proven right, too late for my unfortunate club, but right nonetheless! Victoria’s age is over. A Second Industrial Revolution has arrived with America closing in on the lead. The British Empire teeters on the edge of prosperity, looking ahead at its eventual fall, as all empires must. But the game is early still. He could step in at any moment and change the course of history with his might alone. Were he to reveal himself to the world, he could easily amass a million followers in days and only grow his base from there. A cult of strength to rival any nation on Earth. If might makes right, what says the ultimate might, the greatest might in all of history? I spend the last of my fortune on a tip from an old contact. He was last spotted in Egypt following the assassination of the Egyptian Premier, Boutros Pasha Ghali. The assassin confesses to shooting Ghali but the cause of death, asphyxiation due to crushed windpipe, is not listed on any medical reports. Closer to my quarry than ever, I pick up his trail again in Albania just as a revolt against the Ottoman government begins. I find him cavorting with the leaders of several Albanian rebel clans. I introduce myself to him, reveal my knowledge of his exploits and entreaty him to join a new Adventurers Club I am developing based in America. He listens patiently to my pitch. Then he crushes my windpipe with one hand. The Albanians watch with amusement as I slowly suffocate.

I die for the fourth time.

It is 1925. I am a young explorer and adventurer, coming up alongside other superhuman men of action on the world stage. I spend my days unearthing Egyptian artifacts, raiding lost tombs, fighting savages and unfriendly locals the world over. I quickly amass great wealth and clout and with it, I create a grand Explorer’s Club based in New York City. Our public mission is the filling in of what little of the map remains unexplored. Our secret goal is the finding of my elusive mystery man and turning him to our side. I cannot fail again. The Great War, a war to end all wars, destroyed the old order. America stands poised to inherit the new one, but it is no guarantee. We need him on our side. Failing that, we must be ready to destroy him so he cannot fall into another’s hands.

It is 1939. I learn that my mystery man has sequestered himself in a remote Himalayan village for the last five years. Thanks to a sizeable donation to Hitler’s war chest, the Führer grants me special access to a German expedition to Tibet. I expect to find him living like a god, worshipped and served by the locals. Instead he is living among them as an equal. Thankfully he does not recognize me in this reborn body. I approach cautiously. I introduce myself as a man of learning, hoping to find out more about the area and curious as to what a pale faced stranger like him is doing in such a remote region. He says nothing to me. I talk about myself. My life. I regale him with tales of adventure. My fight against the Black Guard on a Nile cruise boat. The time I bested twenty of the strongest natives of a tiny Siam village to win the hand of the Chief’s daughter. How I fought the Boxers in China alongside the US Army. I gloat and boast, hoping to hear him share his own god-like feats. I bare my soul. I laugh and I cry. Still, my mystery man spoke not a word. Finally, my patience running thin, I ask him if he’s lost his voice. He turns to me and speaks, saying that he has been chased for decades by someone. A particular someone, he knows, because he can sense their desperation. The same desperation coming from me. He says he knows I am not who I say I am because I couldn’t possibly be old enough to have fought in the Boxer Rebellion of 1899. He punches me into the stratosphere, atomizing my body and spreading my remains into low earth orbit.

I die for the fifth time.

It is 1956. Eighteen years since the first superhero, Right Cross, stopped a bank robber’s getaway car with his bare hands. I didn’t pay much attention to superheroes when they first appeared on the scene, especially once I found out their physical prowess was dwarfed by that of my mystery man. When I came back after ’39, however, I realized there was great potential hidden away in the superhuman. Potential I could use. Cultivate. I simply had to bide my time. With the Cold War underway, my mystery man’s field of choices had significantly dwindled. He could either choose to back the US, the USSR, or the Third World. After decades of studying his patterns, I conclude that he will stay out of the fight between the two superpowers and focus on smaller issues affecting smaller locales. Thus my path became clear. I would no longer seek out my prey. I would lay a trap and have him come to me. I just had to use the vast arsenal of tools the superhuman minds of the world had made available to me. It wouldn’t be long then. Not long at all until he was mine.

It is 1972. The quicksand of Vietnam is heating up to a boiling point. Signs of my mystery man abound, but I choose not to make my move. Let him act while I gather intelligence. He has been moving around Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia for years, saving villages from foreign military interference, averting natural disasters, and protecting innocent people from warlords and drug gangs. He has not yet acted on the world stage and when he does he does not do so impulsively. He picks and chooses when to step in. Almost like he is playing his own manipulation game. But I have many decades of experience more than he. It is almost too easy to push the Black September Organization to kidnap those Israeli and Jordanian Olympic athletes in Munich. The guns and funding can never be traced back to me, but the attack itself isn’t perfect by design, though I could have made it so. Instead there is just enough of a breadcrumb trail to lead my mystery man down this long path I’ve created for him. And follow it he does. First tracking down the terrorists who did the deed, then their handlers and suppliers. Around the world he goes, turning over stones, barking up trees, following the breadcrumb trail. Like a puppet on strings he dances to the tune of my song. When he finally reaches my island fortress a year later, I am ready. Every defense has been tested countless times. Every layer of security peels away another layer of his. By the time he gets to me in the deepest bunker on the island, he will be defenseless against the many restraining tools I have at my disposal after years of superhero hunting and super gadget collection. Superheroes do love their gadgets. But I am surprised once again. His speed, his strength, his durability, he blows past every limit I thought he had. He is almost unscathed when he reaches me. Every restraining device fails as he steps inexorably toward me. This time he recognizes me right away. He asks me what I’m trying to accomplish here by hounding him across the 19th and 20th centuries. I tell him the truth. I want him on my side. The world is spinning out of control. It is already unrecognizable to me and soon it will be even less so. Only a Great Man like him could slow the spin, could direct world events enough to guide it toward a better future. A future where women and blacks can’t vote and everyone knows their place in the hierarchy and Anglo and Christian ideals are at the center of the American Project. A future where undesirables are bred out of the population and a man’s place in this world is earned by the sweat of his brow. A world represented here and now by this man. This mystery man. He gives me a look of pity. He tells me that the world is too big and complex for any one man to change it. Even a man like him. He puts my head between his hands and presses them together.

I die for the sixth time.

It is 2001. The world is different once again. Long gone are the dirt roads of my second and third birthplaces. Long, long gone are the country homes where I spent my first youth outside Paris. It keeps speeding up. Keeps leaving me behind. My mystery man has not been seen by anyone since the day I last died. I do not care. I spend this latest life extremely depressed. I run away from home as soon as I am able, and wander the world as a lost soul. I am resigned to an eternity of wasted living. Forever a man out of time. Forever a man lost in the swirls and eddies of fate, watching as people continue to devolve; as dignity and decency is sucked dry from the marrow of America’s loins. My dreams, if ever I really had any, are long dead. Though I have walked through some two hundred years of life, I am still just a man. I walk the back roads and byways of the world. I float with the human detritus of modern society; watch as the Western World is destroyed by liberal ideals. Then, two planes strike a pair of towers in the heart of New York City. I am left cold. Bereft of emotion. Every empire falls, as all empires must. Even the American one. Then… inspiration strikes. Of course. The tools were there all along to strike at the American Juggernaut. All that was missing was the will. A giant can be felled by mortal men. They just need the right tool for the job. My mystery man may be a super being beyond comprehension, but he is still a part of this world. He can be killed. I just need to find the right tool. And so, for the next twenty years, I plan. And plan. And plan. Soon, I will have my mystery man. Soon. Very soon.

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