My mind reels with the dizzying effort of comprehending the passing of time, and dark memories flash across my mind. I can see the shadowed shape of Hiram, its evil edge splitting the light into seperate segments of time. The plans flash over the inside of my skull, and I remember the horror of first discovering the designs to Project Slice on my network's hidden folder.
And as a background to this sickening sensation, the red numbers continue to dance skyward. I stagger toward the bomb, but my senses are detached from my mind, and the technique of walking has become infinitely more difficult. I hit the ground hard, a timeless moment passes, and then a delayed wash of pain moves through me.
I can feel the focus of Hiram; the pressure surrounds the room and gravity ebbs away into only a dull ache. I somehow find myself leaning over the digital display of the bomb, my breathing all but gone, and time continuing to be forced in the wrong direction.
The numbers have reached 9 minutes and 12 seconds, but they've cheated time. I have cheated time. I have to escape this temporal segment of backflow, but I know about the boundary between Hiram's focus and the rest of the world. I cannot pass through the boundary between forward and backward flowing times. I can only hope that their prototype fails. Surely they cannot have completed the weapons already. A single thought in the back of my mind wonders if an error in Hiram could possibly be beneficial. It is as if I am their test subject.
I stare down at the bomb's numbers again. 9:45. And then I frown as a series of calculations breeze through my mind. What purpose does the bomb play? Would it not propell the boundary out into the rest of the world?
I freeze in sudden horror. The Conspiracy Engineers must not know of the bomb! Surely they would not test their precious weapon with a bomb in the room! Then who started the bomb? My mind goes numb as my consciousness is suddenly yanked out of my eyes. 9:58!
I am hugging the bomb as it clicks past the threshold, and the reaction is one of sudden simplicty. The horror, the fear, the worries, the confusion--all of it--gone. It is as if the world has been loaded into a new system that does not support any background noise or unnecessary movement.
I turn my head. I see the window. Nothing moves. All is still. One thought comes into my empty head: what happened?
And then the door swings smoothly open from behind me. I turn. Hiram is pointed directly at me, and the woman that I'd heard is standing cold and sinister directly behind it. Her eyes are like steel. Her hair is frozen to her head. Her expression is caught in a single moment. She is rigid. And she isn't breathing.
And then, walking quite calmly, a man appears from around the door. He calmly takes Hiram from the woman and then gives me a wink from one of his small grey eyes.
"And you thought you'd be going out with a bang," he says to me.
I move forward. My entire body is light. Everything is easy. Everything is straight-forward. The entire world is patiently waiting for me. "Who are you?" I ask.
The man remains where he is. He looks at the bomb. The lights are out. "The zeros are flashing," he says.
"How did you know that time would stop when the bomb detonated?"
"I designed it that way," he replies.
"And why aren't you frozen too?"
"You and I were the only one's not hit by the receding boundary. I stepped in front of Hiram before our Miss Ice pulled the magic trigger."
I look back to the woman. Her face slowly moves. I gasp, and the man gives a laugh. "Hiram is losing power. At least, that is one theory. The other theory states that the receding boundary is still accelerating to infinity. Once it reaches the edge of the universe, then the entire universe will be within the same time frame, and everything may move again."
I gape at the man. "And how long will that take?"
"That," he says cheerily. "Is an invalid question." And then he turns calmly and walks away.