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Guns, the medical profession, and bad history Part 2: The Wild West, the medical establishment and gun control, and Guns in peacetime

Continued fromPart 1
Continuing from where we left off, we enter the arena of crime from the Wild West to the present day. Faria points to the Wild West, as well as Kennesaw and Orlando's gun approaches as ideal while castigating (again) other countries for gun laws that enabled crime. He also lashes out at the medical community (specifically the CDC) for bias against guns, and brings back the gun-free zone tropes, among many others.
The Wild West and US Crime
Faria and his colleague Dr. Robert Young first point to the Wild West, Young stating that:
He easily debunks the myth of the Old West as territories terrorized by non-stop gunfights, when the greatest role of firearms was their use by citizens to suppress outlaw violence.
Ironically, in taking on one common misconception, the two fall into another. While the Old West certainly was not as violent as the countless John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Clint Eastwood films would have people believe, it was not due to light gun restrictions at all. Adam Winkler, a Professor of Law at UCLA, claims that
Frontier towns — places like Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge — actually had the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation. In fact, many of those same cities have far less burdensome gun control today then they did back in the 1800s. ... A check? That’s right. When you entered a frontier town, you were legally required to leave your guns at the stables on the outskirts of town or drop them off with the sheriff, who would give you a token in exchange. You checked your guns then like you’d check your overcoat today at a Boston restaurant in winter. Visitors were welcome, but their guns were not.
Frontier towns like those in Arizona and Kansas actually had stricter laws then than they do today. The result? As many as two murders per year. Winkler even mentions how the first law passed in Dodge City was a gun control law, and that in many frontier towns, only law enforcement could carry weapons around. Young and Faria, however, would have their audiences believe the opposite, that every citizen carried a gun (never mind that most arrests were for illegal gun ownership) and stopped criminals.
Applying the same lessons to the modern day, the doctors mention cases on the local level. In Orlando Florida, for instance, they allege that after a gun training program for women was heavily publicized from 1966-1967, that rape dropped to near-zero levels. Another example is Kennesaw, Georgia, which saw a drastic decline in burglaries after requiring each citizen own a gun in 1982. In both these cases, however, they omit important details. For starters, in Orlando, recorded rapes reached 0 in 1963 (before the program) and declined sharply in 1965, again before the program. As for the 1967 drop, keep in mind that these are recorded rapes. There could be more that occurred. I would mention some more research done by the guys at Science Blogs, but I'm not sure how trustworthy it is, so feel free to look at it and come to your own conclusions.
Kennesaw is also used as an example of why high gun ownership deters crime. In 1982, the city passed a law requiring that every household be armed. Fast forward a few years and burglaries dropped, with an 80% decline by 1985. Of course, what some proponents of the Kennesaw approach forget to mention is that 1981, the year before the law was passed, saw a 75% spike in burglaries. The years before were far lower in burglaries. Could Kennesaw's approach have prevented a burglary increase? Perhaps. But to simply promote this approach when placed into the grand scheme of things is a tad irresponsible.
Gun restrictions and crime abroad
Faria and his fellow doctors then scorn Europe for essentially enabling gun laws. Australia and Europe have seen many mass shootings (the Norway massacre coming to mind), Dr Young stating
Rising violent crime in Great Britain and Europe tells the tale of their increasingly restrictive gun control laws, even to forbidding self-defense.
Really? Because according to the EU, police-recorded murders and robberies have declined by 30% and 34%, respectively, between 2008 and 2018. Another canard that rears it's ugly head is
Australians learned the lessons of indiscriminate, draconian gun control laws the hard way. In 1996, a criminally insane man shot to death 35 people at a Tasmanian resort. The government immediately responded by passing stringent gun control laws, banning most firearms, and ordering their confiscation. More than 640,000 guns were seized from ordinary Australian citizens. As a result, there was a sharp and dramatic increase in violent crime against the disarmed law-abiding citizens, who, in small communities and particularly in rural areas, were now unable to protect themselves from brigands and robbers. That same year in the state of Victoria, for example, there was a 300% increase in homicides committed with firearms. The following year, robberies increased by almost 60% in South Australia. By 1999, assaults had increased by almost 20% in New South Wales. 2 years following the gun ban/confiscation, armed robberies had risen by 73%, unarmed robberies by 28%, kidnappings by 38%, assaults by 17%, and manslaughter by 29%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.”
Oh yeah? Because the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that:
  • “While 13 gun massacres (the killing of 4 or more people at one time) occurred in Australia in the 18 years before the NFA, resulting in more than one hundred deaths, in the 14 following years (and up to the present), there were no gun massacres.”
  • “In the seven years before the NFA (1989-1995), the average annual firearm suicide death rate per 100,000 was 2.6 (with a yearly range of 2.2 to 2.9); in the seven years after the buyback was fully implemented (1998-2004), the average annual firearm suicide rate was 1.1 (yearly range 0.8 to 1.4).”
  • “In the seven years before the NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate per 100,000 was .43 (range .27 to .60) while for the seven years post NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate was .25 (range .16 to .33).”
  • “[T]he drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback.”
In fact, this chart actually speaks for itself. The claim that Australians were assailed by crime after losing their guns is indeed bullshit. Crime did rise in the immediate aftermath for certain, yet in 2002, more restrictions were passed, and crime declined. You cannot argue that crime grew due to the gun ban when in the long run (and after more restrictions) it is lower than it was before the restrictions.
Swtizerland is used as an example of a safe country where gun ownership is legal. Yet Faria fails to mention some important details. Laws and referendums passed in 1999 and 2011 actually strengthened restrictions. From 1999-2010, Swiss gun laws were passed/amended that resembled those of their European neighbors. Since 1997, people with a "violent or dangerous attitude" are forbidden from owning firearms. Licensing is also implemented.
Another claim that pops up is that Europe has higher mass shooting rates than the US:
In fact, America is not the worst country for mass shootings and does not even make it to the top ten, despite the record number of guns in the hands of Americans. For example France, Norway, Belgium, Finland, and the Czech Republic, all have more deaths from mass shootings than the U.S., and in fact, from 2009 to 2015, the European Union had 27 percent more casualties per mass shooting incidents than the U.S.
This would work, yet Faria likely included the Paris massacre of 2015, committed by members of a terror cell (as opposed to lone wolves). According to gun rights advocate John Lott, the countries listed had higher per capita shooting deaths, not total deaths (except for Norway and France). Of course, this methodology has come under fire. Adam Lankford argues that according to Lott:
the Northern Mariana Islands has a mass shooting rate more than 100 times greater than that of the United States, even though the Northern Mariana Islands had only one qualifying incident from 1998–2012, according to their findings (2019, 66). By Lott and Moody’s view, the smaller the population of the place where a mass shooting occurs, the larger the rate, and presumably the risk. The same logic would suggest that Sutherland Springs, Texas—which is the home of approximately 600 people but saw 26 killed in a terrible 2017 church shooting—must be one of the most dangerous places in the world, rather than the spot of a tragic aberration.
True, Norway and France did have deadlier tragedies than the US, but how often do they happen? To Norway, the very idea of such an incident was unheard of. The 2011 shooting rampage was no doubt infamous in part because of just how out-of-left-field it was.
Lott also earned criticism from Lankford for other issues. While his studies insist that the US has more mass murders, Lankford has published a study pointing out that the US produces more mass killers worldwide, criticizing Lott for placing terrorist organizations (an each member involved in an attack) in the same category as individual mass killers:
Studying attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army will not help us understand and prevent the next Virginia Tech shooting, or vice versa. If all participants in group violence were counted, that would also result in the inclusion of many people who were far less lethal than public mass shooters who personally killed four or more victims themselves. Should all 28 guardsmen who were reportedly involved in four deaths at Kent State in 1970 be labeled public mass shooters, even though they averaged killing 0.14 victims each? Should they all be put in the same category as mass shooters from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas who personally killed 17, 27, and 58 victims, respectively? To analyze these distinct forms of violence together would be a textbook example of comparing apples and oranges.
Overall, to compare the actions of the Virginia Tech, Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas killers, individuals driven by mental illness, infamy, violent personalities, and other factors, to the Lord's Resistance Army, a terrorist organization lead by a religious extremist that is a party to a military conflict, is more than likely to skew the results.
The Medical Establishment and Other claims
One area where Faria, Young, and their ilk also lambast the CDC as partisan and biased. Yet while the CDC before the Dickey Amendment did have some PR issues (and perhaps some honesty troubles). Yet to throw the baby out with the bathwater would be absurd. While the CDC certainly came off as partisan in interviews (such as wanting guns to be as frowned on as smoking), the fact that these interviews in 1994 occurred when the US has a record-high homicide rate omits the context needed. They criticize Arthur Kellerman as fallacious for finding that gun ownership increases likelihood of being killed, yet neglect that scores of peer-reviewed materials that corroborate Kellerman's research. Many of these doctors have also insisted that they are not trying to ban guns, yet DRGO insists the opposite. Instead, they praise the research of Gary Kleck, who is best known for a 1995 study that projected around 2 million defensive gun uses per year. While the CDC's staff were certainly biased, Faria seems too willing to overlook the flaws in Kleck's research. Furthermore, an analysis of Kleck's 1995 study was done by David Hemenway of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and it stated that many criminals would have to have been sent to the hospital or testify that they were shot by someone in self-defense. He also recorded multiple uses that were "socially undesirable" and even illegal escalations. If millions of Americans did in fact defend themselves, scores of criminals would be dead or injured, yet interviews found that most were harmed by other criminals.
Also attacked is the use of "children as victims of gun violence" argument. Dr. Young states that such wording is used to elicit sympathy for victims who are often 14+ in age and often involved in gang shootings. Yet from 1980-2000, 42% of juvenile firearm deaths were aged 12 or under. Furthermore, While teens had higher rates, those who were younger also had high chances of death by firearm.For example, 10-year-old victims in this period actually had a 50% chance of death by firearm.
Gun Free-Zones and defensive gun use
Faria throws around some more nonsense, like the claim that television caused a massive crime boom in Canada, South Africa, the USA, etc. However, I'm not really going to cover it here (maybe-emphasis on maybe-in another post, although I'm sure most people will agree with the outcome). Instead, I'm going to focus on Faria's claims regarding Concealed Carry and related subject matter.
I already touched on the claim of millions of Americans use guns in self-defense. As such, my focus will be on the myth of the "gun-free zone" and other defensive gun use myths. Faria points to Chicago as an example, even though the past 10 years have seen these laws loosened and concealed carry legalized, yet crime has spiked (although not without decreasing first in other years). Los Angeles and New York City have stricter laws and for the most part have had lower murder rates. He also insists that before the Civil War, states enabled "constitutional carry". This has partial basis, yet states such as Tennessee, as far back as 1821, penalized people who would "degrade themselves by carrying around a banned weapon such as a pistol". Alabama and Georgia also had gun control legislation enacted as far back as 1837 and 1839, and some have done so for even longer. As far back as colonial times, bans on conceal carry have been in various states. Constitutional carry has always been a part Vermont since it's founding, yet that was the only state, and the concept itself only really experienced a revival in the early 21st century, starting with the state of Alaska in 2003.
Faria argues in favor of the claim that gun-free zones attract killers, blaming tragedies on lack of armed intervention. He celebrates numerous figures for thwarting crimes:
In November 1990, Brian Rigsby and his friend Tom Styer left their home in Atlanta, Georgia, and went camping near...they were assaulted by two madmen, who had been taking cocaine and who fired at them using shotguns killing Styer. Rigsby returned fire with a Ruger Mini-14, a semiautomatic weapon frequently characterized as an assault weapon. It saved his life. In January 1994, Travis Dean Neel was cited as citizen of the year in Houston, Texas. He had saved a police officer and helped the police arrest three dangerous criminals in a gunfight, street shooting incident. Neel had helped stop the potential mass shooters using once again a semiautomatic, so-called assault weapon with a high capacity magazine. He provided cover for the police who otherwise were outgunned and would have been killed. What would have happened if these citizens did not have the “assault weapons” to save their lives and others from these mentally unstable assailants or outright criminals?
Faria's arguments would hold water, yet for each claim of heroism, there are also plenty of failures/overemphasized incidents:
John Parker Jr., an Umpqua student and Air Force veteran, told multiple media outlets that he was armed and on campus at the time of the attack last week. Parker and other student veterans (perhaps also armed) thought about intervening. “Luckily we made the choice not to get involved,” Parker [told MSNBC](mailto:http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/umpqua-student-talks-about-what-he-witnessed-537437763914). “We were quite a distance away from the actual building where it was happening, which could have opened us up to being potential targets ourselves.” Parker’s story changedwhen he spoke to Fox News' Sean Hannity. Instead of saying he “made the choice” not to get involved, Parker said school staff prevented him from helping.... There’s the story of Joel Myrick, an assistant principal who “stopped” a shooting at Pearl High School—but only after it was already over and the shooter was leaving. There’s the story of James Strand, the armed banquet-hall proprietor who “stopped” a shooting at a school dance he was hosting—but only after the student gunman had exhausted all of his ammunition. There’s Nick Meli, a shopper who drew his weapon in self-defense during an attack at Clackamas Mall—but Meli’s story has changed repeatedly, and local police say that his role in causing the shooter’s suicide is “inconclusive” and “speculation.” There’s Mark Kram, who shot a gunman fleeing on a bicycle from the scene of a shooting. Kram also ran down the gunman with a car. There’s Joe Zamudio, who came running to help when he heard the gunfire that injured Gabby Giffords and killed six others in Tucson. But by the time Zamudio was on the scene, unarmed civilians had already tackled and disarmed the perpetrator. Zamudio later said that, in his confusion, he was within seconds of shooting the wrong person. There’s Joseph Robert Wilcox, who drew his concealed handgun in a Las Vegas Walmart to confront gunmen who had executed police officers nearby. Wilcox was himself killed by one of the two assailants, both of whom then engaged police in a firefight. And then there are the fifth wheels—armed civilians who have confronted mass shooters simultaneously with police, such as Allen Crum, who accompanied three law enforcement officers onto the observation deck of the UT Main Building to end the 1966 sniper attack. That doesn’t mean there aren’t also instances of legitimate civilian gun use. The NRA points to phone surveys from the 1990s that suggest Americans might use their guns defensively millions of times every year, though even the most charitable efforts to actually document such incidents come up with fewer than 2,000 per year.
Overall, while there are cases of conceal carry saving lives, there are plenty of stories and anecdotes that contradict the narrative. Furthermore, many incidents also occurred after the criminal had ended their attack. Overall, the idea that there are millions of crimes stopped by gun owners when in fact there are as many as 2,000 recorded instances per year illustrates how flawed the thinking is. One model, even demonstrated that right to carry laws, as analyzed from 1970-2010, did not help stop most crimes. The As for factors that do lead to mass shootings, the FBI found that most attackers had a relationship to the area they attacked. Out of 23 workplace killers, 22 were current/former employees. School attackers yielded similar results. In fact, the study even concluded that more shootings (like the aforementioned Tucson) were stopped by unarmed civilians than by armed ones. Another study found that 36% of such incidents were often during the commission of another felony.
Another popular myth that gets parroted is that “Since 1950, 97.8 Percent of Mass Shootings have occurred in “Gun-Free Zones”. This, however, would include the aforementioned Oregon school, even though individuals with a state permit could bring them on-campus. Some criminologists disagree:
Klarevas uses three definitions: he refers to "gun-free zones" as places where civilians are not allowed to carry guns, and there aren’t armed personnel stationed on the property. He calls "gun-restricting zones" as places where civilians can’t carry guns, yet armed security is routinely present -- such as military facilities or certain college campuses. He refers to places that allow civilians to carry guns as "gun-allowing zones." Using these categories, Klarevas examined 111 shootings since 1966 in which six or more people had been killed in each incident -- regardless of whether it occurred in a public or private location or if it was in the commission of another crime. He found 13 took place in gun-free zones and five took place in gun-restricting zones. That means that the majority occurred in areas where there was no evidence that private guns were prohibited. Since Klarevas includes mass shootings in private residences or during the commission of another crime, that means that he counts several additional incidents that aren’t factored in by Lott. ... Lott says that the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon was in a gun-free zone and points to a school policy that bans possession of firearms "except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations." Umpqua Community College spokeswoman Anne Marie Levis previously told PolitiFact Floridathe school’s gun-free policy didn’t apply to students with a valid permit. "UCC was never designated as a ‘gun-free zone’ by any signage or policy," she said. "Umpqua Community College does comply with state law by allowing students with concealed carry licenses to bring firearms on campus."
Klaveras certainly is worth debating as a trustworthy source (for instance, he cites the Waco diner shooting of 2015 even though it was two gangs, not one or two people). However, his research was able to point out that the gun-free zone canard was just that: an empty canard. Klaveras points to Ft Hood and the Washington Navy Yard, both locations where armed guards were present, as examples of mass shootings where defenders carried guns. Peter Langmann, a psychologist who studies these kinds of tragedies, has pointed out that most of the perpetrators often do not care about their own well-being. As such, simply removing gun-free zone signs would not have any impact whatsoever. Indeed, as mentioned before, the FBI found that most shooters have some link with the location they attack, with most workplace or school shooters being formecurrent staff/students. In fact, for all the claims made of firearms being an "equalizer" for women, it was found that 43% of women killed in workplace shootings in 2015 were murdered by intimate partners/spouses, while men made up only 2% of the victims of such perpetrators. The study even went so far as to suggest a positive correlation between increased homicide and RTC laws.
Faria cites controversial criminologist John Lott in his claim that right-to-carry laws are responsible for crime drops. Is this the case? One study concluded that RTC laws stopping crime as calculated by Lott were discredited by a look at year-by-year crime rates. While rape certainly declined, robberies, murders, and assaults either increased or went back-and-forth. Some states saw a decline in murder, yet other crimes did not decline (some even increased after RTC was opened in several states). Another study, this time in the American Journal of Public Health, found that states with RTC had a higher rate of workplace homicides from 1992-2017 than those that did not have such laws.
Faria and Young also try to point out that other means of murder can lead to countless deaths:
Do they have any grasp on how blunt force trauma can be as or more deadly as gun and knife attacks? ... If they can’t do it with guns, they do it with explosives (Oklahoma City), trucks (Nice), airplanes (9/11), poison (Tokyo), arson (Kyoto) or any other of a thousand other ways.
First off, a look at US murders from 1965-2012 demonstrates that homicide by shooting made up 57.2-60% of all deaths. Blunt force trauma took up a fraction of all deaths for each year, not once reaching 1,000 deaths. Guns, by comparison, killed 5,000 at a minimum. Furthermore, the events Young lists lack context. Oklahoma City, Nice, 9/11, and Tokyo were all done by terrorists/cults. Aside from lone wolves (Nice and OK City), each group was organized, with a clear ideology. Furthermore, Oklahoma City and 9/11 both lead to extra security measures to prevent a repeat, and a there are plenty of other terrorists who used firearms to attack (Orlando, San Bernardino, Ft Hood). From 2002-2014, 85% of deaths in domestic terror attacks in the US were with guns. What does that say about the issue?
Another approach that's used is to argue that other means of murder exist. Terrorist attacks are cited:
Dr. Faria states, “Before closing on the issue of Islamic terrorism, a word should be said about the most recent incident in New York City, which underscores not only the increasing new terroristic threat to American cities but also the use of cars and trucks to plow into unsuspecting crowds with mass casualties of innocent civilians. A vehicle driven into a crowd is becoming the terrorists’ weapon of choice in Europe, and the sanguinary practice seems to be taking hold in the U.S. as well. “The Halloween truck attack on October 31, 2017, in Manhattan, a few blocks from the site of the Twin Towers [where the largest terrorist attack in the US history occurred on September 11, 2001], is the most recent egregious example. The atrocity also emphasizes the switch from mass shootings caused by deranged citizens to deliberate jihad by foreign and domestic Islamic terrorists. The courts’ disapproval of President Trump’s ban on immigration from seven countries with strong ties to terrorism has permitted dangerous individuals to continue to enter the country.During the annual Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, two homemade pressure cooker bombs detonated ... killing three people and injuring several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs… Three days later, the FBI released images of two suspects who were later identified as Chechen Kyrgyzstani-American brothers… They killed an MIT policeman, kidnapped a man in his car, and had a shootout with the police in nearby Watertown, during which two officers were severely injured, one of whom died a year later. One brother terrorist died. The other brother stated that they were motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs… Will banning guns stop these crimes?
Faria's attempts to distract with the Manhattan and Boston terror attacks neglect to mention other factoids. For instance, is he seriously forgetting how many extremists used guns in attacks on the US? Did he forget about Orlando and Ft Hood? Is he seriously citing San Bernardino one moment, then forgetting about it later? And look at extremists of other ideologies, such as those in Dallas, El Paso, and Charleston. Second of all, he is literally blaming US courts for the Manhattan rampage, never mind the fact that the perpetrator in question was not from a country impacted by the travel ban? Does he realize that most Islamic extremists in this country since 9/11 (especially those who have actually killed people) are overwhelmingly from countries not on Trump's travel ban list but were born here or came as children/radicalized here? The Cato Institute has found that more terrorists in the US came from Croatia than they did from any country on Trump's travel ban list, and yet he claims that the ban would stop terrorist attacks.
DRGO's well-intended efforts to defend gun ownership and take on various reasons for opposing it certainly pose a mighty gauntlet, yet at the end of the day, they are superficially researched and rely on completely dismissing any opposing views. Faria, Young, and others are too absolutist in their arguments, refusing to see any gray areas. Arguing that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime is not totally untrue, but neither is it always true. Looking through a case-by-case approach is what arguably makes more sense. Faria, Young, and others focus on details that are convenient, yet end up failing to produce an honest picture of the situation. Trends, situations, context, and certain details are all glossed over. To put it bluntly, the research is dishonest, flawed, and prone to non-sequiturs.
FBI, A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013
Lankford, Confirmation That the United States Has Six Times Its Global Share of Public Mass Shooters, Courtesy of Lott and Moody’s Data
Hemenway, David and Mary Vriniotis, The Australian Gun Buyback Harvard Injury Control Research Center
Harms, Paul D. and Howard N. Snyder Trends in the Murder of Juveniles: 1980-2000
Aneja et al, The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy
Duwe et al, The Impact of Right-to-Carry Concealed Firearm Laws on Mass Public Shootings
Crifassi et al, Right-to-Carry Laws and Firearm Workplace Homicides: A Longitudinal Analysis (1992–2017)
submitted by Someone-00 to badhistory


I can time travel a week into the past, but now something has gone wrong. [Part 2]

Part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - Final
Jonah and I arrived at the safehouse a few hours later, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you where it was located. I ended up falling asleep pretty quickly during the drive there, the combination of physical exhaustion and mental anguish finally catching up to me. After pulling into a makeshift vehicle bay, Jonah elbowed me awake, apparently seeing no reason to rouse me gently.
“Hey, kid, wake up. We’re here,” he said and hopped out of the car. “Come with me.”
I followed suit and trailed behind him as he led me through what appeared to be a bunker of some sort, complete with long, narrow corridors made of solid cement. Every now and then, we’d pass by a metal door with one of those submarine-style locking mechanisms, and at one point, Jonah made me wait in the hall as he entered one and came back out carrying a satchel. We continued on our way, and when we finally reached our destination, he stopped and turned to me with a stern look on his face.
“Okay. Before we go in, I need you to remember a few things,” he told me. “First, don’t speak unless the General asks you to. Keep your answers brief and to the point. She hates ramblers. Second, don’t lie about anything. Don’t even omit something you feel is minor because it’s embarrassing or makes you look bad. And third…” He tossed me the satchel. “Change your pants.”
Newly decked-out in a pair of loose-fitting cargo pants with a musty odor to them that was arguably a lateral move from the previous smell, I walked through the door behind Jonah and surveyed my surroundings. This was what I would describe as the “War Room” of the bunker - the walls were lined with an array of weaponry and military-grade equipment, as well as some high-tech gadgetry that I didn’t recognize. At the center of the room was a large circular table with computer stations set up all around it and people clacking away at their keyboards. Lurking near the back wall was an imposing woman dressed in full paramilitary regalia, and she was busy giving what sounded like orders to a small group.
“General!” Jonah called out, catching the woman’s attention. “I’ve got someone here I’d like you to meet.” He turned to me and motioned with his head for me to follow him. “Come on, kid.”
We strode up to the General and she acknowledged us with a quick nod. “Jonah,” she said in a clipped, no-nonsense tone. After noticing me, her countenance grew dark and she snapped, “Who the hell is this? I didn’t authorize you to bring anyone new personnel here!”
“This is Max Darby,” he stated. “When I was scouting ahead during the mission, I saw him stumbling around looking for the Time Bomb. He got himself arrested and then Tempus tried to snatch him.”
“Why’d they want you?” the General asked me. She stared at me with hard grey eyes that felt like they could pierce into the darkest recesses of my mind, and I don’t just mean that metaphorically. Between what I could do and the other crazy things I’d seen recently, I couldn’t rule out the possibility that she might really be able to read my thoughts.
“I can send my consciousness back in time one week. I’d noticed some discrepancies with certain events lately when doing so, and the first time I traveled back this week, I saw a news story about an explosion that I was sure hadn’t originally happened. So I went back again to try to stop it. I ended up getting arrested for my trouble, and that’s when those Bob guys tried to kidnap me.”
A look of concern crossed the General’s face, and she asked Jonah, “They sent the Bobs for him?”
“Yeah,” he replied grimly. “I had to wreck my truck to stop them. Put one in each of their heads for good measure, but you know the Bobs…”
“I do,” she said, and I noticed her reflexively clench her fists. “Did you at least act like you had some sense and scan him before you brought him back to the safehouse?”
“Of course,” Jonah answered, the slightest hint of offense slipping out in his otherwise steady tone. “I checked while he was asleep on our way over here. I didn’t see anything to indicate Tempus will find us.”
“Fine,” she said. Looking back towards me, she resumed her authoritative demeanor. “Okay, Max. Like it or not, you’re in this with us now for the long haul. If Tempus already has you in their crosshairs, then you’re not going to be safe until we stop them. As such, you need to know what you’re up against.” Searching the room, she spotted a diminutive man with glasses and long hair and called him over. “Emerson!”
Emerson snapped to attention and hurried over to where we were standing. “Yes, General?” he said as he saluted. The General rolled her eyes.
“Emerson, stop saluting. This isn’t the army,” she snapped. “I need you brief Max on Tempus.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
“Jonah, with me,” the General ordered. “We have to go over the plans for tomorrow.”
The two departed, leaving me with Emerson, who was giving me a goofy smile. “So you can actually time travel, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I answered. “I was under the impression that was sort of run-of-the-mill with you guys.”
“Oh, nope. Not at all,” he said. “Some of us have special gifts, like the General and Jonah, but actually being able to move through time isn’t one of them.”
“Well, what about Tempus? Can they?”
“Not at the moment. I presume that’s why they sent the Bobs after you. They’d kill to get their hands on your abilities.”
“Lucky me,” I said sarcastically. “So what exactly can they do?”
“Oh, right!” Emerson exclaimed. “Sorry. The briefing. Okay, so how much do you know about Tempus?”
“Their name and that they have two guys named Bob who tried to abduct me,” I stated. “That’s basically it.”
“Right. So the short version is this: Tempus has been developing ways of altering time for years, but they’ve only recently started to make any serious progress. Their founder, Desmond Reaves, used to run this institute meant to research unexplained phenomena, including people like you, and help them learn to better control their abilities. However, a lack of success drove Desmond to resort to increasingly-extreme measures, performing radical experiments on those at the institute.
“When the test subjects finally had enough and confronted him about it, a fight broke out between them, but it ended in a number of deaths. For a long time, those who managed to escape believed Desmond had died there, too, but when he eventually resurfaced, he was running Tempus and had created the temporal manipulation technology they use. He also started abducting new test subjects with special abilities to continue his research. The General was the first to discover this fact, and she got us together to try to stop Desmond and Tempus from reaching their final goal.”
“Okay. So what happens now?” I asked.
“Now we wait for the General to tell us her plan for our next move against them,” Emerson replied. “I’ve got some things I need to take care of, but you’re welcome to help yourself to some food from the commissary. If you go out the door and make a right down the corridor, it’ll be the third door on the left. Just stay away from the tacos. I haven’t seen ground beef on any of our delivery manifests in weeks, so Lord only knows what they put in them.”
“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”
I bid Emerson farewell and headed out of the War Room, following what I naturally assumed had been accurate directions to the commissary. However, when I opened what should have been the correct door, I was instead greeted by a blast of rotten air. The stench stung my eyes, forcing me to squint, and making it difficult to make out what was causing the horrid smell. There was a soft hiss coming from the far side of the room, and my blood went cold when I realized it was the sound of labored breathing.
I could just about see the silhouette of what appeared to be a hospital bed and medical machinery connected by a series of wires and tubes when I felt a powerful hand fall upon my shoulder, sending me into a fit of terrified screams. The hand gripped me and pulled me back out of the room before spinning me around and slamming the door shut behind me.
“Calm down, kid,” Jonah said, “It’s just me.” My pulse was still thumping hard in my ears, but I managed to wrangle my fear enough to regain some sense of composure. Jonah gave me a curious look and asked, “What the heck were you doing in there?”
“I...uh,” I began, still struggling to catch my breath. “I was looking for the commissary. Emerson told me to make a right out of the War Room and it’d be the third door on the left.”
“That dolt,” he spat in annoyance, shaking his head. “You’ve gotta make a left out of the War Room, and it’s the fourth door on the right. I swear...that fella’s been here as long as me, and yet he still gets lost. He’s got a great head for numbers, but still can’t tie his own shoelaces.”
“Jonah...what’s in that room?” I asked hesitantly, not sure if I really wanted to know the answer. He sighed heavily and fiddled with his gun holster before looking back up at me.
“That’s Henry,” he said in a regretful tone. “Tempus went after him cause he could teleport. They believed he was actually manipulating time in order to appear to move from one place to another in an instant. I don’t know, maybe that is how he did it. When he popped up on our radar, we knew Tempus knew about him too, and when I looked into his future, I saw them trying to grab him like they did with you. The General sent me to get him first, and I succeeded.
“Problem was, they’d spotted him long before we did and got to him first. You can’t really just do a snatch and grab on a teleporter - they’ll just disappear the moment they realize they’re in trouble. Tempus also needed him alive, so they couldn’t just kill him. But they only needed him to be physically alive, and even then, just barely. Sent some girl in undercover to chat him up at a bar, flirt with him a bit, and slipped something into his drink. Even the fastest acting drug would’ve still given him enough time to make a jump to safety, so they opted for a slow burner.
“He was already halfway gone when I brought him here. Whatever they gave him, it ate away at his mind bit by bit, until his head was nothing more than a soggy potato. We’ve been keeping him alive in the hopes that we might be able to reverse the damage, but with Tempus stepping up their game, Henry’s unfortunately slipped way down on the priority list. We don’t have the resources to take care of him right - it seems cruel to leave him that way, using those machines to keep him alive long past his expiration date, but the General wants him alive, so we fall in line.”
The idea of what Henry had endured horrified me, but I think what made me even more sick was that the people in whose hands I’d placed my life would prolong someone’s suffering like that. I gulped down the hard lump in my throat and asked Jonah the question that had settled like a stone into the pit of my stomach.
“Could they have done something like that to me already?” My mind raced back to all the random encounters I’d had with strangers in the past few weeks, trying to remember if any of the interactions seemed suspicious given this new information, but nothing stood out. I would often have some drinks with fellow gamblers, sometimes buying everyone a round when I had a “lucky” streak going.
“Maybe,” Jonah replied. I suppose he wasn’t the sort to offer a comforting lie. This was really, truly not good. “Look, try not to worry about it, kid. Why don’t we go grab a bite to eat?”
“I’m not really very hungry anymore,” I said.
Before Jonah could respond, an announcement came over the P.A. system.
“Attention all personnel - there is a mandatory meeting set to begin in the Briefing Room in fifteen minutes. Please report there immediately and await further instructions. Thank you.”
“Alright. Guess that wasn’t in the cards for us right now anyway,” Jonah remarked. “Come on, I’ll take you over to the meeting so you don’t get lost again.”
The rest of the day in the bunker was a blur of frenzied activity. After everyone had gathered in the Briefing Room, the General came out and presented the plan for their next move against Tempus. Her analysts had located one of the facilities where they were producing their tech, and she intended to raid it. The intention was to steal as much of it as they could and then destroy the rest. However, expecting it to be heavily guarded, she was going to lead the attack personally, and wanted nearly all of their top operatives to join her. Once we’d been dismissed, everyone set about preparing for the mission.
“Don’t worry, kid, you’ll be safe here,” Jonah assured me after escorting me to an empty bunk room. I wasn’t sure if he did this out of kindness or to make sure I didn’t stumble upon any more of their unsettling secrets. “Just try to get some sleep and recover from the shock of everything that’s happened lately. We’ll be back by morning, and the General will probably want to have a more in-depth conversation with you before you start your training.”
“You know, the only time I’ve ever even fired a gun was at a turkey shoot my town had around Thanksgiving when I was kid,” I said. “I don’t think I’m cut out for this kind of thing.”
“Look, most of us started off just like you. But you’re gonna have to learn how to take care of yourself. Even if you decide to hop back when the week’s over so you can stay home and keep away from this whole mess, it’ll only be a matter of time before Tempus finds you. One way or another, the fight’s gonna land on your doorstep, so it’s better if you’re at least ready when that time comes.”
“I guess that makes sense,” I admitted reluctantly.
“Course it does,” Jonah said with a grin. “Go on and rest. I gotta get going.” As he turned to leave, he added, “Oh, and there’s a storm blowing through the area right now. Don’t freak out if the power goes off. We’ve got generators that’ll kick it back on after a minute or two.”
“Hey, Jonah,” I called out before he departed. “Good luck.”
“Thanks, kid.”
Despite the fact that I was exhausted and the only sleep I’d gotten in the last thirty-six hours was a restless nap in a speeding car, I was still wide awake no matter how long I laid in my bunk. Finally, I decided to get up and try to distract my overworked mind. I slipped out of the room, checking down the corridor for any signs of the few who remained behind in the safehouse, but the coast was clear. I didn’t really have a plan of action - I just figured I’d explore the place and see if I could get a better handle on what kind of operation these people were running.
I cautiously checked a few random doors that I passed, but thankfully there was nothing unsavory behind them. Nothing interesting, either, though. A few other bunk rooms, an empty holding cell, and a storage room filled with unopened cleaning supplies. I did my best to keep track of every turn I made so I could find my way back, but the uniformity of the hallways and doors made it difficult to really tell them apart. At some point, I must’ve gotten turned around, because the next door I opened happened to be my own bunk room.
I was just about to give up and return to bed when I noticed a few muddy footprints on the carpet. The floors out in the hall were already filthy, so a trail of mud wouldn’t have stood out, but Jonah had told me this room wasn’t being used by anybody else. I checked the soles of my boots just to be sure, and while they were caked with some dust and debris, there wasn’t any mud on them. The treads also didn’t match. I nervously glanced around, praying that I wasn’t about to be ambushed by a hidden assailant, but there wasn’t really anywhere for them to hide.
Any relief I normally would have felt was overpowered by the sense of dread knowing that someone had been in my room. I paced around for a bit, trying to piece together a plan in case whoever it was came back, but I didn’t get very far before the lights suddenly cut out. I froze for a moment, but remembered Jonah had mentioned the storm might knock out the power. The storm! It hit me like a ton of bricks - someone would have trailed mud into the safehouse if they’d been outside in the rain. And the General had specifically ordered a lockdown until they’d returned from the mission. There was an intruder in the bunker, and I had a sinking feeling about who it could be.
If Tempus had managed to infiltrate the safehouse, I couldn’t just sit there waiting for them to find me. I couldn’t be certain if they’d known this was the room I was supposed to be in, or if they were just checking everywhere, but I wasn’t going to just stay there and hope they didn’t come back. I was completely defenseless at the moment, so my only shot was to try to find something with which I could put up a fight. I was pretty sure I could find my way back to the War Room, where they had those wonderful walls full of weapons, so that’s where I needed to go.
I waited until the power came back on, and then I slunk back out into the corridor, moving as quietly as possible. Every moment I was out there made me feel increasingly exposed, but I couldn’t risk going any faster and alerting the intruder of my presence. When I finally reached the door to the War Room unscathed, I heaved a sigh of relief and opened it as slowly as possible, trying to keep the creaking from the gears to a minimum as I spun the wheel handle open. I pulled the door open and stepped inside, but I nearly wet myself again when my eyes fell upon the sight in front of me - everyone was dead.
Forgetting all about being silent, I rushed from body to body, desperately checking for any signs of life, but it was pointless. The crew manning the computers had been brutally slaughtered. I didn’t see any bullet or knife wounds - it looked like they’d been beaten to death with a sledgehammer. I rushed across the room towards the wall of weapons and the knot in my stomach tightened when I saw they’d been battered to bits. Kneeling down on the floor, I rummaged through the shards of metal and broken armaments in a frantic hunt for anything that might still be usable. All the way in the corner, I found a small handgun that looked to be intact and grabbed it. It was better than nothing.
I held the weapon out in front of me and could hear it rattling from how bad my hands were shaking, but I pressed forward and exited the War Room. The safehouse had become an enormous tomb, and I had no desire to let it be mine as well. If I could escape from the bunker, I at least had a chance of hiding out somewhere until I had some time to figure out what to do next. Right now, though, I just kept picturing what would happen to me if I got caught, and it wasn’t helping my already shredded nerves. I crept down the corridor, retracing the path Jonah had brought me down when we first arrived, but I didn’t get far before the sound of a voice behind me made me jump out of my skin.
“Hello, Maximilian Darby.”
I twirled around and fired, but the only thing I hit was empty space. I quickly turned back to check in the other direction, but nobody was there.
“A bit skittish, are we?” the voice said, punctuating his remark with a cackle.
I looked up and down the corridor again, still seeing nothing. That was when I realized the voice was coming from the intercom speaker back down the hall. I gave one more glance around before returning to the task at hand, but I quickened my pace a bit.
“I know you’re down here, Maxy-boy. A couple of your old friends are looking for you. Why don’t you be a dear and just give them a shout. You and Jonah have already given them enough of a headache.”
So it was the Bobs that killed those people. They’d already scared the heck out of me before, but now I was downright terrified of them. I thought about poor Henry, and how Jonah had said they’d only needed him to be barely alive, wondering how many hits from whatever weapon the Bobs had my body could take and still qualify as barely alive.
“Look, I’m sure Iris -- ahem -- I mean, ‘The General,’ or one of her flunkies have already told you who I am. If not, my name is Desmond. I’ve spent a long time helping people with special gifts, and now I want to offer my expertise to you. You’re special, Max. Well, special-er. Actually being able to go back in time and relive the past - it’s extraordinary! But there are limits to it, right? A couple of days? Maybe a week? I can help you go back farther than that, my friend. Much farther.
“Imagine what you could do if you were able to return to when you were just a wee lad! You’d have decades of experience and foreknowledge at your fingertips - you could build the life you’ve always dreamed of from the ground up without ever having to even use your abilities again! No more worrying about looking too suspicious if you suddenly became a stock market whiz or kept guessing the right lotto numbers, because everyone would just believe you’d been a tiny little genius from the start.”
I hated to admit it, but that did sound appealing. Not that I believed he actually could help me do that or had any intention of letting me go if I let the Bobs take me in, but his words hit close to home. I’d spent so much of my life alone, not wanting to get too close to anyone and risk them finding out what I could do. At best, any relationships I might have would always have the pall of suspicion hanging over it, wondering how one person managed to have so much luck. Or they’d just think I was a criminal of some sort.
When I first discovered my power, I didn’t have the foresight to use it to build a foundation for myself that I could use later in life. I was a decent enough student, and the idea of having to relive an entire week just to change the score on a math test from a “C” to an “A” didn’t seem worth it to me. Besides, at the time, I was more interested in using my abilities to have fun. In the summer between junior and senior year, I extended the break for myself from six weeks to four months, most of which was spent going to different parties held on the same nights. By the time I realized I could’ve used time travel to make sure I got into a really good college, it was far too late, as going back a mere week wouldn’t change anything.
“Think about it, Maximilian. My boys will bring you in one way another, so why not make it easy on yourself?” Desmond said.
That was thankfully the last I heard of him over the intercom, but creeping around in dead silence wasn’t a vast improvement. I was about to round the corner leading to the lift back to the surface when I heard the sound of heavy footsteps coming from that direction. Poking my head around just long enough to catch a glimpse of who was there, I immediately broke into a sprint back the way I came when I saw the two Bobs striding down the hallway. I turned back around and realized they were closing in on me fast, despite appearing to be walking at a casual pace, and I fired wildly in their general direction. Their heavy footfalls only ceased for a moment - if I actually managed to hit either of them, it clearly didn’t have much of an effect on their pursuit.
I rushed back down corridor after corridor, the suits still keeping up with me no matter how fast I ran. I saw the door to the War Room still hanging open and forced myself not to look inside as I passed, needing to stay focused on trying to escape. I was nearly to the end of the hallway when Bob appeared from around the corner with a grin plastered on his sharp face. Whirling around, I was about to take off away from him when the other Bob appeared, blocking my path that way. I dove for the nearest door, opening it as fast as I could, and slammed it shut once I was inside, turning the handle again and engaging the lock. That was when the foul stench hit my nostrils, and I realized where I was - I was back in Henry’s room.
Forcing myself not to regurgitate from the combination of disgust and fear, I backed towards the hospital bed holding the catatonic teleporter and hunched down behind some of the medical equipment, aiming my gun at the door. A loud thud echoed through the room. Then another. And another. I could hear the door’s hinges groan from the force of the whacks, and soon the only barrier between me and the Bobs was bending inward. With one final blow, the entire door crumbled and was knocked into the room. Standing there with bloody fists was Bob, flanked by other Bob. The terror of realizing that the only weapons they had on them were their fists made me gasp for air. There was no way out. They had me pinned in here like a rat about to be pounced on by a pair of vicious tigers.
“Come on out Max,” Bob said.
“Do not make us come in there to get you,” Other Bob sneered. “It smells bad, and it will put us in a foul mood if we have to go into this room. You would not like us when we are unhappy.”
“Can’t say I like you much now, either,” I called out, trying and failing to keep my voice from wavering. They simply laughed in response.
“Have it your way.” Bob turned to the other Bob and said, “Go get him.”
Other Bob balked at this and replied in a lower tone, “No. You go get him.”
“I just had to break down this door,” Bob hissed. “It will take at least an hour for them to heal. Now go get him, and if he refuses to come quietly…”
“Fine,” other Bob relented. He stepped through the doorway, and I could see his face wrinkle up from the fetid air. However, this didn’t impede his progress, and I only had moments before he’d be upon me. I vainly aimed my gun out from behind the machinery and pulled the trigger, but I didn’t need to check to see that the recoil had caused my shot to miss, hitting the wall near the ceiling. I tried aiming lower and fired again - this time there was a sickening squelch when the bullet made contact with Other Bob. Taking the opportunity to peer out from cover, I saw him sprawled out on the ground. By some miracle, I’d actually shot him in the head.
“That was unwise,” Bob growled. He sounded angry. I definitely didn’t like it. With a roar, he charged forward, ripping the heavy equipment out and tossing it aside like they were made of cardboard. I brought the gun about to fire, but he clamped his hand down around the barrel as I did, forcing it upward. The bullet went through his palm and came out the other side, but it didn’t seem to phase him. He yanked the weapon from my hand and threw it behind him before grabbing me around the throat. His grip tightened, and I could feel the blood in my head desperately trying to pump down to my heart. “You should have listened to us!” he sneered.
Bob slammed me against the wall, his fingers still squeezing me around my neck, and as my vision began to fade, I flailed around in a panic, trying to find anything to grasp onto. My fingers brushed against a tray sitting atop the table next to Henry’s bed, and out of the corner of my eye, I could barely make out the shape of a scalpel of some kind among a few needles and medications. I tipped the tray over enough for the instruments on it to slide forward, snatching the scalpel before it fell and slammed it as hard as I could into Bob’s arm. I then pulled it downward, slicing cleanly through enough tendons that he released his hold on me and allowing a rush of less-than-fresh air to once again fill my lungs.
“Pathetic,” Bob scoffed, but he was cradling the arm I’d just cut, and it looked like he was struggling to move his hand. I summoned every last ounce of strength I had and dashed at full speed for the door, but even in his injured state, Bob was still faster and stronger. Using his good arm, knocked me back, sending me stumbling towards the hospital bed. I tried to steady myself on one of the pieces of medical equipment that hadn’t been tossed around earlier, but I only managed to pull out some wiring as I fell. An alarm started blaring from the machine, and Bob suddenly stopped in his tracks. He wasn’t looking at me anymore - he was looking behind me.
I turned around to see that Henry had shot upright in his bed, a hoarse wheezing noise sputtering from his mouth. He was clawing at his chest, unable to breathe without the machine. The air around him started vibrating, and without thinking, I leapt to my feet and grabbed his arm. With a teeth-rattling crack, I felt a heavy weight nearly crush me, and I closed my eyes, thinking that Bob had gotten ahold of me again. But a moment later, the weight was gone, and I realized I could hear the sounds of cars passing by outside. Opening my eyes again, I found myself in someone’s bedroom. There were posters for popular bands plastered on the walls, and a guitar sitting on a stand in the corner. I glanced at the ground in front of me and found Henry lying there motionless. He was dead.
Running my hands through my hair, I walked over to the open window and looked outside. The tall buildings and glittering street lights illuminating wet asphalt made it was clear I was in a city - I wasn’t sure which one at the moment, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t stuck in the bunker with any more Bobs, and that was at least something. I inspected the room to see if I could get any clues as to where I was, and I discovered a wallet sitting on the dresser. Opening it up, there was a driver’s license with a picture of a vibrant young man smiling and a name: Henry Joseph Watts. I sighed. This was Henry’s room. In his final moments, he instinctively teleported himself somewhere he felt safe. He went home.
I felt terrible for him, but I also knew that it wouldn’t be wise for me to stick around and be found in Henry’s room with his dead body, especially with the condition it was in. I was already wanted as a suspected terrorist by the police, and this would definitely land me back in custody, where Tempus would have no problem getting to me again. I’m not proud of it, but seeing as Henry no longer had any use for it, I took the cash he had in his wallet and changed into some clean clothes. As I was pulling the money out, a small piece of paper slipped into my hand alongside it. The only thing scrawled on it was a phone number, but I kept it in case it might be connected to our mutual friends.
I carefully exited his room and listened for any signs of activity, but it seemed like the apartment was empty. If Henry had lived with anyone else, they at least didn’t appear to be home. I went to the fridge to grab some food, but everything was spoiled. No roommates, then. At least, I’d hope not. I rummaged through the cabinets and spotted a box of breakfast pastries, so I pocketed them. On my way out of the apartment, I grabbed a sweatshirt off the hook near the door and pulled it on.
Maybe I could’ve stayed there a bit longer - after all, if Henry had been reported missing, the police would have gone through the place already, but it didn’t look like anyone else had been there. But I had no way of knowing if Tempus would look for me at his place, since presumably, Bob saw me teleport out of the safehouse with someone else, and it seemed like the list of known teleporters was pretty short.
I think I mainly didn’t want to stay there because I didn’t want to be alone with Henry. Seeing him like that was forcing me to consider the possibility that the path I was on could very well lead me to a fate just like his, and I didn’t want to think about that right now. I needed to figure out where I was, and then find a way to contact Jonah, the General, or anyone else from the organization. They would be finishing their attack soon, and if they’d survived what very well might have been a trap, I needed to warn them about what had happened. The only thing I had to go on was that phone number, so I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head and started walking, hoping I could find one of the few payphones still in operation to give it a shot.
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