art by Shothot Designs
by T. M. Thomas
Deugaw lifted his china cup again. He looked ancient, but gained fifteen years as his hands started to shake when the little cup came off the saucer. I watched as he took another tiny sip, smacked his lips again, sighed, and then went through the shaky process of getting both pieces onto the table. I tried to wait patiently, in an overstuffed chair that smelled like a wet dog, watching the fire dying on the side of the room.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like something?"
"Thank you, but no. I am quite honored that you asked me in, Sir, butů" I started.
He raised a hand. His breath rattled a bit as we sat in silence. When he spoke, there were pauses between each word almost longer than the syllables. "There's no need for pretense," he creaked.
"I'm afraid," I began, but he waved his hand again.
"My men tell me you've been doing a lot of work with glass jars and copper wires. Can you tell me about it?"
"I'm an inventor. I had an idea about ways to make light without fires."
"Intriguing. I could be a patron for that, I'm sure. And tell me, what of the foundry you have that's making rifled firearms a few years too early?" He moved his hand while he was talking, but not toward his cup. This time it kept moving, toward the velvet smoking jacket he was wearing. Out of the tiny chest pocket he pulled a little rectangle and slid it across the table. I was just staring at him.
A state of New Mexico drivers license. Issued in 2034. The picture was a hologram that leapt off the silvery surface. It was Deugaw, far younger. Back when he was Calvin Noonan.