"Mr. Joe," A whisper cut through Joe's shallow sleep, "Wake up, we have to go now."
Joe rolled away from the whisper and fell to the ground with a thunk, "Whoa, who's there."
"It's me, Penny," The whisper came out of the dark shadows of the room, "The girl you helped all those years ago?"
"Years?" Joe said stunned by the comment, "It wasn't years ago at all."
"We don't have time to argue this now," Penny said still in a whisper, "I'm helping you get out of here."
The door of the bedroom slammed against the wall as Maxine burst into the room.
"Who are you?" Maxine yelled throwing Penny to the floor with a dagger to her throat, "Are you planning to kill Joe too?"
"Maxine!" Joe said in a hushed yelled, "She's okay, she's here to help."
"Tell that to the two dead guards at your door!" Maxine said still holding the knife to Penny's throat.
"Oh no," Penny said with a faint smile, "They aren't dead, they 're just sleeping from a herb I put in their soup."
Joe pulled a reluctant Maxine off of Penny and helped Penny up off the floor. He marveled at how it could be the same young girl he had talked to before.
"I couldn't kill anyone....Again," Penny said under her breath as she stood, "We really need to hurry now."
Penny helped Joe and Maxine sneak through the castle and out of the kitchen side door. On their way through the kitchen, she packed them a couple days worth of food.
"Penny, come with us?" Joe said as they stood outside the castle,"We can all escape together."
"No," Penny said with a frown, "I believe there is a good man inside of Justin someplace. Someday I will be able to find him and get him to make things right."
With tears in her eyes, Penny closed the door, leaving Joe and Maxine out on the grass under the moonlight.
Maxine reached up and touched the place on Joes face where the whip had cut him open. Joe could see that she wanted to say something about it, but instead, she turned and began to walk away from him.
"Maxine, wait," Joe said walking after her, "Where are you going?"
"I 'm not going to just let Justin continue to rule people with an iron fist," Maxine said heading back behind the castle, "I bet he keep his time slaves on that airship."
"Maxine, that ship is going to be full of men ready to shoot anyone who climbs aboard," Joe said grabbing her arm, "It's a death sentence to just go climb aboard. Let's go find a place to sleep, gather some supplies, and come back another day."
Maxine turned to face him with tears in her eyes, "Part of me doesn't care if I die. My dad is gone...he is gone forever! There's a hole in my heart that couldn't possibly be filled."
Joe reached out and pulled her into a hug before he knew what he was doing, "I know Maxine, I have a hole left by my parents too."
The pair stood in an embrace crying together for a long while before they heard a commotion from the front of the castle.
"We have to go!" Maxine whispered, "They must have found that you are gone."
Joe took Maxine by the hand and headed back towards the woods behind the castle, "There is a path to get back into town, or at least there was in my world."
The pair headed back into the woods for the second time in just a few hours. Just inside the tree line, Joe found the path he had expected. It was paved with cobblestone and had grass growing through the cracks.
"This hasn't been used in years," Joe said in amazement, "It comes out at a long ago abandoned stone cottage near the river. Maybe we can camp there until we get a plan together."
The path wound its way around large rock formations and over a couple small streams before coming out at a ridge above the stone cottage. The cottage itself did not appear to be abandoned at all. There were lights shining through the glass windows and smoke puffing gently out of the chimney.
The scene was more beautiful than Joe had remembered. He stood at the edge of the forest looking down at the neatly kept stone cottage. Beyond the river, the lights of the small city stretched out over the landscape. The scene looked like it had been painted by a great artist.
"This is amazing!" Maxine said with tears on her face, " My father would have loved this, he always wanted a place on the river."
Joe took her hand and led the way towards the cottage, "Maybe the person that lives here is friendly. It's the only place we can get to without being easily seen by guards."
Joe led the way down the gentle slope. It was covered in pine needle making it a treacherous journey. After a couple falls each they finally made it to the front of the cottage. They walked towards the home cautiously and slowly.
"What business do you have here?" Came a mysterious voice from the cover of the dark front porch, "You best stop there before you lose your heads."
Joe felt Maxine grab her daggers and ready herself for an assault from the porch while he staggered backward from the surprise of the unknown voice.
"We...um...just need a place to stay for a couple nights," Joe's voice came out more shaky than he had intended.
"The girl needs to put away the daggers," The man said, "Then we can talk more openly."
"I'll do no such thing!" Maxine yelled taking a step towards the porch, "How do we know you won't kill us or turn us over to Justin?"
A flash of blinding blue light erupted from the porch with a shower of sparks and thunderous boom. In the flash of light, Joe saw the outline of a normal sized man with what looked like mechanical body parts.
From the sky, a bat fell and landed in front of Maxine. Joe looked down and realized that its head had been cleanly sliced from its body. Joe looked back up at Maxine who was staring at it with all the color drained from her cheeks.
"You take another step and you'll join the bat in the headless corpse party." The man chuckled at his sadistic joke.
"Maxine," Joe whispered under his breath," Put the daggers away if he was going to kill us he would have done it already."
"Yes," The man chuckled again, "If I was going to turn you into living robots, I would have killed you at the top of the hill."
Joe turned back to the man on the porch, surprised that he had heard his advice to Maxine, "Please, we don't mean to invade your home. we are in a spot of trouble with Justin and need to find a way to escape him."
The porch creaked as the man walked across it, "Ah, anyone who is an enemy of that man is a friend of mine."
The porch filled with electric blue light as the ceiling of the porch lit up with static electricity. The air filled with the buzzing and crackling of the thin blue lines of electricity dancing about the ceiling. The ceiling was made of glass, and beyond the glass was a large metal probe that the electricity seemed to be radiating from.
The man standing before them was very old and had some kind of machine strapped to his entire body. The mechanism on his legs had a tight group of gears at the knee joint and a shock style spring from the knee to the heel. His whole body was covered by these gadgets, and on his head sat a basket that appeared to control the thing.
"My name is Wade Vanderhousen," The man said with a toothless smile, "But the locals just call me Mr.Gadget. You can call me whatever you would like."
"Mr. gadget, I'm pleased to meet you." Joe stepped up onto the porch and reached out his hand.
"Best not touch each other under the static light," Mr. Gadget smiled, "It is great for an effect, but it makes for a shocking greeting."
Mr. Gadget laughed hysterically at his joke in a high-pitched wheezy kinda laugh. Joe smiled politely at the charismatic man before him. Mr. Gadget didn't seem to notice that Joe and Maxine were not at all amused by his joke.
Maxine stepped up onto the porch and her hair pulled out of its neat bun and stretched out towards the ceiling, "What is happening to my hair?"
"Static electricity," Mr. Gadget said as his laugh died down, "It is the stuff the ceiling lightning is made of. It tends to gather on hair and pull it towards the highest source of the stuff. In this case, it pulls towards the static generator in my ceiling. Wonderful isn't it?"
Joe watched as Maxine tried quite valiantly to gather her hair back into a bun. It was a fruitless effort, however, as her hair stood on end again the moment she let go of it.
"Let's go inside and have a chat," Mr. Gadget said reaching for the door knob, "I really hate opening the door after having the ceiling light on."
The built up static electricity released the moment he touched the door knob. The flash from the small explosion was bright enough to make Joe turn and shield his eyes. The buzzing sound that filled the porch suddenly stopped as the ceiling slowly went black.
Joe and Maxine followed Mr. Gadget into his house wich were just as unique as the front porch they had been standing on. The layout was the same as most homes Joe had ever seen but the decor was much less...normal.
The kitchen table appeared to be the hood of an old car that had been welded to an axle with a wheel still attached to act as a base. The table chairs themselves had been made from 55-gallon steel barrels. The barrels were cut half round with a seat welded into the middle and neatly upholstered with black leather.
"That is quite a table there Mr. Gadget," Joe said in awe of the craftsmanship that had gone into it, "Where did the parts come from?"
Mr. Gadget smiled his toothless grin before reaching into his pocket and grabbing a set of false teeth. He popped them in and licked his lips before speaking.
"Ah... that is much better." He said pulling a chair out for Maxine to sit in, "The parts from this table have come from one of the other dimensions. I like to call them time lines really, so many changes between them that it is hard to imagine you are even in the same years or technological time frames. This table was made from a 1961 Dodge D-series pickup. The axle and wheel came from the same vehicle."
"How did you go to another timeline?" Maxine jumped in before he could continue, "Is there a way to get back to 1419?"
Mr. gadget looked at Maxine intently, "Back to the time before Justin's beginning? Well, I have tried many times. He has set many blockades along the way, he is a brilliant man. I am the only man to ever have challenged his technological prowess. But he has altered so many things near and around his place of origin that it is tough to get to the true timeline. See if you or I could move back or forward in a timeline on our own, we would be limited to moving forward. If we move back in time to try and change something, time rights itself."
"Yes," Joe said frustrated that he was reminded of the cut above his eye, "I am well aware of that."
Mr. Gadget stared at Joe intently as if he was trying to figure out how he could possibly understand what he had just said.
"I know because I have tried to change the past," Joe said, "I have been exposed to the day Justin created this ability to jump between worlds."
At this statement Mr. gadgets face twisted in agony, "You are a time slave? I should have known, you two look out of place. why would you come here? You have tracking devices and will be tracked through anytime and to any location."
Mr. Gadget got up and started to usher them towards the door. He seemed as though he didn't want to be rude, but knew he couldn't afford to be caught harboring runaway time slaves.
"I'm not a time slave," Joe said angrily, "I'm Justin's grandson!"
At these words, Mr. Gadget collapsed back into his seat. He buried his face in his hands and proceeded to run his hands through his white hair.
"I don't have a tracking device," Joe said trying to assure the man, "I'm the original Joe. I was reading a book on the lawn in front of the castle just a day couple days ago. That is when this time capsule came up out of the ground in front of me. I drank the liquid Justin had preserved for the future and went back to his time."
Mr. Gadget sat upright in flash, "Wait for you...That means...You can get back to the past while remaining within your future!"
Mr. gadget stood and began to run around the house gathering paper and pencils in a hurry. Joe and Maxine watched as he grabbed straight edges and boxes full of little gadgets. After only a few minutes of mad scrambling, he returned to the table.
"Jigga doodle!!!" Mr. Gadget screamed looking back over his shoulder, "Hurry out here, we have some guests that need to drink something."
From around the corner came a young man about Joe's age. He walked like he had just run a marathon with long heavy steps.
"This is my very own humanoid," Mr. Gadget smiled, "Unlike Justin, I didn't kill anyone to make this beautiful robot. He is 100 percent mechanical, with the exception of a brain borrowed from a cadaver at the medical center in town."
Joe and Maxine both eyed the very realistic looking humanoid suspiciously.
"Jig, Would you please fetch these lovely guests a cup of hot coffee, please? I'll take a hot cup of cinnamon tea." Mr. Gadget said turning his attention back to the gadgets and drawing utensils he had grabbed from around the house.
"What is all of this stuff for Mr. Gadget?" Maxine questioned still looking around the house suspiciously.
"We're going to have to start planning our attack ship. If my calculations are correct, we should be able to have a battle worthy airship constructed within about three months. It is going to take a lot of teamwork to gather the materials needed." With the last bit, Mr. gadget looked at Joe and Maxine.
"We hardly know who you are," Joe said concerned by Mr. Gadgets overwhelming eagerness to start helping them, "I don't even know who you are, for all I know you are stalling until Justin can get here to collect me."
Mr. Gadgets face changed suddenly. Since they had been able to see his face, it had been filled with smiles. Now, however, his face was marked by deep sorrow. With a tear rolling down his face he looked at Joe and motioned for him to follow him.
Joe followed him down a hallway and a long flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, Mr gadget opened a heavy steel door. The instant the door opened joe could hear the sound of steam rushing through pipes.
In the middle of the room was a large brass tube standing upright with a window in the front of it. Inside was a woman with her eyes wide opened staring at him. The top of the tube had hoses running this way and that way, every corner of the room was filled with small steam powered motors and glass vials that were filling and emptying themselves with different colored liquid.
"This is my wife," Mr. Gadget said with tears rolling down his cheeks, "She was a time slave before Justin started putting tracking chips in them. He used her to get to our time, and he used her so many times that her mind shut down and refused to accept reality. She slowly started to die of hypothermia as her brain forgot how to regulate temperature. By the time I could save her, she was nearly brain dead."
Mr. Gadget walked to the chamber and put his hand up to the window, "I love you, darling, we will find a way to change what has happened."
Mr. gadget turned to Joe with a tear stained face, "This is why I was so eager to help you. This is why I grabbed hold of the opportunity to change what Justin has upset."
Joe couldn't help but remember his parents sitting as though dead, waiting to be Justin's puppets. Before he could stop it tears began to stream down his face and cloud his vision.
"I understand what you mean," Justin said trying to hide his emotional state, "We will do whatever it takes to help right this terrible wrong."
Without another word, the two of them returned to the table with Maxine who was breathing hard. Joe could see that she had eavesdropped on their little basement trip. Her eyes betrayed her innocence, they too had been wet with tears.