7 February 2010

Time and Time Again

There was a distinct possibility that the whole thing was going to start again from the bloody beginning.  Alice turned up the volume on the shabby TV set, while on screen the President approached the microphone and began the speech that she'd heard over a dozen times already.  It was the third time she'd sat through this particular President deliver this particular speech.  Through the various temporal manipulations she and others like her had carried out, they'd managed to change the actual identity of the president several times by sending a butterfly effect rippling through time.  But when she got back to this point in history the message had remained almost completely unaltered again.  They'd hoped to change it, or more accurately change the events that led the President to give the speech in the first place. 

She listened intently and at first it sounded as if there had been a few changes.  She hoped desperately that her work had been fruitful this time, but as it drew on, it became apparent that the focus of this public address had not changed at all.  The President was moving the country into a political standoff that would inexorably lead to a devastating war.  A war which would in the long term, cost the lives of almost two billion people.  She'd seen it before, she'd tried to stop it before and like this time it would seem, she'd completely failed before.

She looked around the dingy motel room she sat in and sarcastically mimicked the recruitment speech which had convinced her to sign up for the Agency "Travel through time to see the most interesting and historic moments unfold right before your eyes.  Agency K making sure our yesterdays secure all of our tomorrows… yeah right". 

She picked up the small K-Terminal sitting on the bedside table and tried to work out a new time vector from this date.  The machine was highly advanced, in fact it was without a doubt the second most advanced piece of technology on Earth at this precise moment.  The first, was wrapped around her left wrist.  The K-Band looked like nothing more than a heavy duty diver's watch, its face showed a simple countdown timer in bright blue digits, currently reading 'three hours and sixteen minutes'.  It was this innocent looking device that allowed Alice and all the other K-Agents to travel back and forth in time, correcting the errors that were destroying the future.

The terminal in her hands made a small chirp once its calculations were complete. It indicated that there were no solid time links to this moment from her original starting point in the far future, apart from the one she was already on. That meant she had to return to the Agency until they figured out where and when to send her next and she hated having to do that.  Jumping from one time to another was simple and it just felt like a mild tingle over your skin as you shifted through the temporal framework, but to get back to her original time, she'd have to let the K-Band timer expire and that meant being yanked back and passing along her own timeline… and that felt like being ripped apart by red hot fish hooks… it hurt like hell.  She checked the terminal again and then set it to do a complete multi-band, temporal breakdown of the current time frame.  If she could find even a slight chance that there was something she could do to continue her mission without returning home she'd take it.
She glanced over to the TV screen again and thought of just how much she hated this time period.  Things were advanced enough to make things difficult, but not advanced enough for anyone to accept or understand why she was here.  She thought back to the last time she'd had to do a multi-jump operation and the hoops she'd had to leap through to complete that mission.  It had started out simple, kill some guy with mafia connections called "Jack Ruby".  Piece of cake she'd thought at the time, but it hadn't worked out as expected after the job was done (it never did).  She'd had to do another two jumps and kill another two people just to get that particular time line back on track. First up was a nobody called "Lee Harvey Oswald" or something like that and when that didn't work out she'd had to go back even further and take out of all people a bloody President! It hardly surprised her at all when the word "Kennedy" popped up (she’d lost count of how many times that name made the mission lists). 

The terminal would take a while to complete the full scan she’d requested, so she decided to fill out her mission report card.  She should have completed it already, but she was always reluctant to do it… it wasn't in her best interest, the Hindenburg incident had proven that. 

Mission report cards were supposed to be used in situations where something had gone wrong and an agent could not get back.  The card was unusual, so unusual in its make up and content that it would almost certainly be filed with local authorities. That meant the K-Agency would be able to retrieve it in the future and find out what went wrong.  But the Agency had used information from a report card before and taken things too far in an effort to correct mistakes.  In the end they'd destabilised hundreds of timelines by destroying of all things a fucking airship full of people.

She finished filling in the card and placed it in its slot on the side of the terminal.  She hoped nobody ever had to retrieve hers, because generally it meant the agent involved was dead.  Suddenly the terminal started to bleep.  It had found something.  She hoped desperately it was something simple, this mission had gone on far too long.  She carefully examined the readout, but what it showed was perplexing!  It listed quite clearly something that should not have even been possible… it showed a clear indication of a recent temporal incursion… according to the terminal, another time traveller had arrived in this period.  This was generally considered impossible, the K-Field generated by her wristband was actually larger than the earth and no other K-Fields could be stabilised within it.  And yet there it was, right there on the screen as clear as day, a temporal incursion about 15 minutes ago.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door which almost made her jump out of her skin.  She relaxed when she realised it was probably the motel owner again, he'd already called on her twice asking if she needed fresh towels or pillows.  She guessed he'd taken a fancy to her.  She stood up and crossed the small room and opened the door.

The first two bullets hit her in the chest, lifting her clean off her feet and slamming her across the room.  The third carefully aimed shot hit her square in the middle of the forehead as she lay crumpled against the back wall of the dirty little room.

Dante entered and closed the door behind him.  He waited a few moments to see if anyone was coming to investigate the noise.  The gun was totally silent so that wouldn't have alerted anyone, but she'd made quite a crash hitting the wall. Once he was sure nobody was coming, he looked around and found her K-Terminal laying on the floor beside the bed where it had fallen.  He pulled a small silver device from his pocket and held it over the clunky almost primitive terminal and then vaporized it along with her mission report card just as he'd been instructed to. 

He hated missions like this, but it seemed they were becoming more and more frequent.  He sat down and checked the L-Band on his wrist.  It was without a doubt the most advanced piece of technology on Earth at this precise moment.  The L-Band looked like nothing more than a heavy duty diver's watch, its face showed a simple countdown timer in bright blue digits currently reading 'five hours and eighteen minutes'.  It was this innocent looking device that allowed Dante and all the other L-Agents to travel back and forth between Universes, correcting the errors that were destroying the Multiverse.  He sat and waited for the butterfly effect to ripple through the cosmos and hoped desperately that his work had been fruitful this time. There was a distinct possibility that the whole thing was going to start again from the bloody beginning.