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This work was created for a flash fiction challenge with the following requirements: 
Genre: Sci-fi
Object: Seatbelt
Location: Townhall

21st Century Farming

            Everything is fine. It's going to be fine. That was what he kept telling himself at least. As he looked around at the carnage though, he wondered how exactly his careful plan had gone so wrong. This mystery had been the entire reason he’d become an agent: to have access to the gear he needed to come back here. His ancestor had been killed in this middle-of-nowhere townhall and no one had ever solved it. So, here he was in gear he had “borrowed” after hours.

            Cal had made the untraceable journey to 2025 in pursuit of answers that hadn't really mattered in the grand scheme of his life. Nine adults between the ages of 47 and 62 had been killed by an unknown weapon and an unknown killer. It had quickly become a cold case and had eventually been relegated to small-town, folk-legend status. Over the years it had gone from alien invasion to religious smiting until it eventually had been mostly forgotten by history.

            He’d arrived 12 hours before the event and searched the property with the suit's stealth mode on. Everything was by the book. No one saw him, he disturbed nothing. After the initial reconnaissance, he’d sat outside and watched everyone enter. He’d verified each person as a victim of the massacre, including his ancestor, Michael, and he'd then followed the last one in. He’d moved to the front of the room where he could use his wall scanner to watch for anyone approaching the building’s only entrance. Everything had proceeded exactly as planned. Until they’d started talking ten ago and Cal's skin had started to crawl with the dawning horror of what they were discussing.

            “This will be the final planning meeting before this year’s harvest,” Cal had  heard as he started to zone out, waiting for the culprit to arrive. He didn’t know much about farming and the suit had a recorder so he figured he could go over everything later if he missed anything important.

            “Joe, Lissa, Cameron, Joel, and Michael,” the leader read off, “you all live closest to Fall Forest, the men will meet you at the eastern edge by Waterfall Lane. As a reminder, anything over the age of 4 need to be zip tied. Let’s not have a close call again this year, Mikey,” the crowd chuckled but at the mention of zip ties, Cal suddenly tuned back in. His ears started to buzz as he listened to the rest of the announcement and a sick feeling of dread worked it's way up his spine.

            “After you drop off the harvest, you’ll proceed down Waterfall Lane where Jessa will meet you with the quads. As usual, if you’d like us to take the chaff back and finish the disposals, the fee is 7%. If you do the grunt work yourself, the fee is only 5%,” the man went on, giving the remaining people their assigned meeting locations and drop offs.

            “This year’s culling location is the Wilson Farm so don’t forget to make sure the herd has the correct entrance location. We can’t have them all being seen driving down Old Mill Road in the middle of the day. Please make sure they use the entrance off of Gable Drive. There will be a barbeque after so don’t forget to sign up with what you’re bringing. Janie, if you don’t bring that strawberry pretzel salad of yours, I will exclude you from next year’s barbeque,” everyone chuckled again but Cal started pacing.

            "And finally, Jackson will be arriving at 8 pm this year to start loading the herd's cars for scrapping. As usual, none of them have anything worth the chop shop so we will be loading and compressing all vehicles and splitting the scrap profit equally. Any objections?" There was a quiet rustling but no one spoke up.

            Cal had been watching through the wall scanner as all of this finally sank in. No one was approaching. The time of the massacre, though, was approaching. The coroner’s report he’d read had put the deaths between 8 and 10 pm. It was already 9:15. No one had entered with strange weapons. A couple people had hand guns but that’s not anything a coroner in this time period wouldn’t be able to identify. As the minutes ticked by and the speaker went on about the auto salvage for the “herd’s cars”, Cal’s hands started to sweat and shake. His heart was racing with the realization of what these people, his ancestor included, were planning to do and the question of how many times they’d done it already. He felt sick.

            The meeting adjourned and everyone gathered their things and headed for the door. Cal moved without thinking. He was standing in the doorway and pushing the button to turn off stealth mode before he’d even considered what it would mean. Everyone screamed; one person shot at him. The bullet bounced off the suit and ricocheted around the room. Everyone went momentarily silent when he lifted his arm and ripped the wiring out of the left side panel. He’d taken several engineering classes in school and knew if he diverted the power supply from the left side panel into the right arm and short circuited the return module, it would quickly become a weapon. He pointed his newly minted, albeit highly unstable, photon gun at each person as they scattered throughout the room, feebly looking for an exit that didn’t exist.

            In the end, they were all dead and he was standing in shock at what he’d done. It hit him, there in that room, surrounded by their bodies: he was the unknown killer; his suit was the unknown weapon. The next realization dropped him to his knees: he could never go back. The suit was destroyed, and he was a killer. Not just any killer though, he had altered history. Or had he simply preserved it? Either way, he’d just obliterated his career and his life in 3 minutes of carnage.

            He looked around at the chaos he’d wrought, stood, and walked calmly out to the stream he’d seen earlier and heaved the contents of his stomach into it. When that was done, he looked around and made a new plan for his life. Heading back into the hall, he rifled through the pockets of the nearest person until he heard the rattle of plastic and metal. In one of his engineering classes, they’d gone over 21st century transportation. He pushed the button with the unlock symbol and walked over to the car that had beeped. As he got in and pushed another button to start it, he tried to remember everything he could about this new era that would now be his home. The car dinged at him and he looked at the message. Remembering the novelty of the safety devices of this century, he grabbed the seatbelt, and clicked it in.

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