Suddenly, far from being seated in an underground laboratory, Rodriguez was the metal almond. He was being removed from a tray, set in a bag, and then placed in a car by a man in a uniform who was walking backwards. The car backed its way to an old columned building, where Rodriguez was backed into a basement and set in a tray of other things like himself.

Then darkness–so much darkness. An occasional rattle and shake as the case was moved, until once again the drawer slid open and a hand withdrew him. Rodriguez was walked backwards to the outside of the building, now glistening and new, and thrown in a horse-drawn carriage. Images flashed by in rapid succession, a glimpse of docks, a boat, sunlight slicing through a hold, and then a donkey-cart in a light-dappled land, backing into the hills.

An older man seized Rodriguez and after holding him up admiringly a second, plunged him into the ground. Darkness closed in, such darkness and cold as he’d never felt, overwhelming.

A splash of red, and then a sensation of flying–so rapidly that Rodriguez had no chance to ponder what had happened. He was arcing through the air, though, with just the briefest glimpse of stony castellated walls beneath before he was caught in a worn leather loop. Three spins and he had come to a stop, dropping into the hand of a man in copper armor.

One quick glimpse of a smiling face and he was tossed into a basket with hundreds of other sling bullets. Hauled a short distance away, near a glowing kiln, Rodriguez had one last fleeting glimpse of an iron mold with the word “CATCH” writen in it, backwards, and in Latin. Then he melted away, and knew no more.

Until, gasping, he was back at the table as the ancient Roman sling bullet tumbled out of his fingers.

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