Drummond rolled across the ground, but not far—not far enough to kill him. He bled mildly on both legs and one arm, but not from any bones poking through the skin. In the sudden calm, the stench of his clothes made him grimace more than the pain did. He sat up and noticed that the dipping flagpole with its comical dish for a flag had struck the ground fist. It had absorbed some energy from the crash like a spring. A swarm of policemen trampled over the debris and dodged the falling half-deflated balloon.
They hauled him up and frog marched him to a desert pilgrimage of police vans. Hefferman ran up and huffed alongside them, sweating like a wrestler.
“Charting out the stars, Drummond?” Hefferman asked.
“Just following a few instruction manuals,” Drummond replied.
“Well you sure didn’t follow mine,” Hefferman said. “I told you to read the contract.”
“I did.” Drummond scuffed his feet until the flanking officers had to drag him. “The penalties only apply for footage gathered while working for, eh, Blair.”
“Nice. So you’ll only get charged with trespassing and flying a Rube Goldberg balloon.”
The police helped Drummond onto a gurney just outside a waiting ambulance. The grumpy paramedics strapped him down for stability given the rough terrain, though the straps make their wild-haired patient look completely insane.
Hefferman looked at another pair of officers picking up and bagging parts of the shattered laptop. He snapped his head back to Drummond.
“Did you see the big guy?” he quickly asked. His brow looked shiny and wishful.
Drummond laughed silently, and it started to hurt. Every part of him hurt worse with the shock wearing off.
“Come on, Drummond,” Hefferman pleaded. “You think I haven’t made the same coordinate calculations myself? You think I didn’t how special this particular hour would become? Did you see the big T? The you-know-what?”
“Leave the projecting to the probes, Heff,” Drummond said.
“You mean we got it wrong?” Hefferman asked. He looked as excited as a six-year-old on Christmas morning.
“You’ll see,” Drummond said as the paramedics hauled the gurney into the ambulance. Two policemen crammed in with them. “And you’ll change. So will your paranoid assumptions. Even stone can change. Whole planets too, with enough time.”
The words, though rehearsed, felt wrong. Drummond could see his smashed laptop through the evidence bag as the police carried it away, and that felt wrong too. That greatest gift, the most coveted knowledge, had smacked the ground like a slap in Hefferman’s face. A paramedic slammed one of the back doors of the ambulance. Drummond tried to think of a hint, something that would give Hefferman the most wonderful knowledge a man could ever ask for, a surprise that would stay in his eyes forever.
“Come on,” Hefferman said. He looked to the cosmos past all the hazy blue sky. The paramedic reached for the other door. “What did you see? Just a hint? From the man who did something?”
“A woman who did something,” Drummond said.