There was another problem, though: since our gear (presumably including the time-field controller) would self-destruct if someone unauthorized got nosy, the thugs might regret ripping us off. I don't know how big the blast would've been.
Unfortunately, Allen was still holding the controller, and the head goon noticed it. He wasn't real observant otherwise. "Hey, is that a computer or a player?"
Dolt. If it had been either one, it would've had a screen. With a bit more imagination, he might've thought it was an old-fashioned satellite radio.
"Let me see..."
His voice trailed off, and the light dimmed for some reason. I could barely see that Allen's right hand was empty.
My right shirt pocket, on the other hand, was full, and I suddenly realized that everyone else had stopped, though I caught the movement as Allen's left hand returned to his side and he lapsed into normal time. That's when the light dawned: he had gone to compressed time and extended the field so he could resume his earlier position unnoticed. Otherwise he would've still been drawing his hand away when he left the field and reverted to normal. Once I entered the time field, I had slightly less light to work with because it was moving through the field faster than it was entering. I pulled the controller out of my pocket, held it behind me, and turned it off.
"So you're a magician or somethin', huh?" the goon finally said. "Well, I can make things disappear too." He reached for Allen, and I re-activated the controller.
Now, if what follows seems juvenile, it was; but it was also desperate. Even with the controller I didn't have much time to think of a plan. Rod was obviously weighing his chances, and Charlie was praying quietly. Why couldn't one of them have been standing next to Allen?
But as everyone else ground to a halt, a recent threat came to mind, and I decided to do to them what Allen hadn't done to Rod. I reached over and yanked up on the head guy's undies. It was the world's fastest wedgie.
Then I noticed that the second in command was usefully close. "Idle hands are the Devil's tools," Grandma used to say, and his were unemployed. So I placed them in a convenient spot and resumed my original pose and speed.
The boss gasped. Then he spun around, catching his associate in an awkward position. "What's the matter with you? You been hangin' with Manny?"
The other man protested that someone had moved his hands, but he didn't seem to believe it himself. I couldn't blame him: when I repositioned them, they were limp, because they entered my time field and his brain was no longer telling them what to do. Their report on events--every sensation--got stopped at the edge of the field. So did their blood flow. It only lasted a second or two, local time, but it must've been confusing to get all that backlogged info in a split second, especially when he also found himself holding the bag, so to speak.
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