Hemp fuel powers her rocket pack, her hemp twine will ensnare you, her hemp-woven body armor shields her from harm — but since that bulky armor hides her shapely figure, she’s known to the world as Hempman!
Stan Vaughn’s wife left him mere days before the men wearing black suits and wayfarer sunglasses from Crown Petroleum showed up with that check for one million dollars. If Sheila had seen all those zeroes on that thin slip of paper, she’d have surely forgiven Stan for all those nights he spent in his garage instead of by her bedside — or all the times Stan bored Sheila to tears trying to explain how bursts of light from imploding bubbles in liquid, if excited by sound, can produce unlimited amounts of power without any residual pollution …
Sheila would’ve wanted to move out of Kirkland — the only home Stan has ever known, even though he spent his nerdy life a target of bullies — and buy a mansion on Mercer Island, but Stan had other plans for that money. The whole point of Crown cutting Stan that check was for him to abandon his attempts to derive clean energy from common tap water, but instead, he used Crown’s bribe to buy the rotary converters necessary to find the right set of frequencies that’ll enable him to use a single glass of water to power all of Seattle for a week.
That was two weeks ago, and after missing days of work, Stan squealed joyously once he realized, “I’ve done it!”
Stan leaned over and kissed the sky blue, 1987 Camaro, which was now running on an eyedropper’s worth of water thanks to his breakthrough. The sound of its motor turning over combined with the feeling of driving it out of his garage and onto Lake Washington Blvd. would forever be Stan’s fondest memory. Stan cried out to any neighbor within view that his Camaro was being fueled by a drop of H2O, but no one listened, for they had heard this from him before.
This is probably why no one paid much attention when two dark sedans with the Crown Petroleum logo emblazoned on their doors pulled up and ominously blocked Stan’s path. He recognized the two men in black who initially gave him that million dollar check and nervously noticed they had brought several, similarly dressed associates with them.
“We had a deal, Mr. Vaughn,” one of the black clad men sternly said while subtly revealing the holstered gun underneath his jacket, “and from the looks of things, you broke it. Get out of your car and get into one of ours. Now.”
At that moment, the men in black suits and sunglasses sadly reminded Stan of the bullies from his youth who used to call him a “lab rat” and would also demand his submission. However, just as he was about to open his car door, a white, shimmering hole in space and time — accompanied by a sonic boom and a sharp blast of wind — opened up just above Stan’s front lawn. Out of it flew someone in a padded, leathery armor, akin to a medieval knight’s, with a helmet that completely concealed any facial features. Stan, his neighbors and pursuers all saw this mysterious figure hover in mid air as the blinding white glow closed upon itself. Once that glow was gone, it could be clearly discerned a small rocket pack strapped onto the armor’s back was what made this hovering possible.
The agent from the oil industry whipped out that gun of his out of reflex and aimed it at the armored individual flying towards him, but it was too late. In the span of time he took to unsheathe the gun, the agent’s arms were already pinned to his sides by strands of fiber, which shot forth from the forearm of the armor. Two other agents then tried to brandish their weapons but each of them was quickly entwined with rope as well. Those agents who were still in the other Crown Petroleum company car began to emerge, only to find themselves either kicked or punched into unconsciousness no sooner than they exited their sedan.
With the men in black tied up or out cold, the one wearing flying armor finally touched down by the driver’s side of Camaro. “Stan Vaughn?” A slightly distorted voice was heard from the helmet.
Stunned that this strange savior would know his name, it took Stan a moment to answer. “Yes?”
“You should come with me,” the voice from the helmet continued. “These men intend on killing you, but let’s go back to your laboratory first and gather your notes so they can’t destroy them, as I’m sure they would.”
Stan blushed from feeling so flattered. “Lab…? You mean my garage? Yeah, sure.”
Once Stan drove the Camaro back into the carport and the garage door was closed, his leathery armored savior removed the helmet and stunned him even further by doing so, since the savior turned out to be a very beautiful woman. “I didn’t want to take this off until we were alone. Even though I’m not from this reality, it’s best if there aren’t too many people who know what I look like; I’d just as soon them assume I’m a man, as people often do.”
Stan shook his head as if he didn’t hear her right the first time. “What do you mean; you’re not from this reality?”
“We don’t have much time. Those assassins will return or your neighbors will call the authorities, so listen carefully and keep an open mind. There’s backwards time travel, there’s forwards time travel and then there’s sideways time travel — that’s what I do. There are infinite realities: There’s a reality in which Hitler’s Nazis took over the world, there’s a reality in which the Confederacy won the American Civil War and there’s the one I’m from — in which hemp was never criminalized in 1937, as it was in yours.”
Taking a step towards the woman who saved him, Stan reached over to touch her shoulder in order so he could feel the armor’s surface. “You’re saying this is hemp?”
“One hundred percent,” she sounded proud, “and my name is Marilyn Janeway, by the way. Look, we’ve been observing your work and we want you to defect to our reality. We’re a truly free society, our environment is so much cleaner,” Janeway grimaced as she tasted the air, “and you’ll be given everything you need to continue –”
“–you want me to stay there, permanently?” Stan interrupted. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. Kirkland’s my home, for all its faults.”
“But they’ll kill you!” Marilyn Janeway blurted out.
“Here, take my notes,” Stan handed a stack of papers to Janeway, “take them with you, but I can’t leave.”
Without saying another word, Marilyn Janeway turned away from him, pressed a button on a handheld remote she produced from her belt and stepped into the white, glowing hole in space-time that opened before her, disappearing into it.