Thursday, May 05, 2016

About Time

You might think from that title that this is a primary-related post.  But it's not!  Instead, it's the second story I rescued from a floppy disk!  This one is actually significantly worse than the other (seriously, the lack of specific detail just kills it), but it's more interesting to me because I have zero memory of having written it.  Seriously, reading it after all these years sparked no recollection.  I'm not trying to wriggle out of responsibility for having written it; it's clearly my, uh, style.  But I do not remember it, even a little!  Go figure.

"Was the time-travel plot inspired in the Terminator franchise?"

No; I definitely hadn't seen any of them when I wrote it.

"How about Twelve Monkeys?"


"Well, how about the Orson Scott Card novel Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, which I know you read in high school, because I'm you?"

HEY!  Stop revealing embarrassing moments from my reading history, dammit!  Also, NO, this is dated 1995, and that wasn't published until '96.  So there.

Actually, if you think I was actually inspired by a "go back in time to stop bad things from happening" narrative, the most likely candidate would have to be Final Fantasy Legend III, which I definitely played in eighth grade, less than a year prior to writing this, though it doesn't have much in common other than the bare premise.  I dunno, though.  I have the sneaking suspicion that I just wanted to come up with something that could justify the title "About Time" as terribly clever wordplay.  Not proud, but there you have it.  Enjoy the story, though you won't.

The bustling marketplace gave no indication that anything was amiss. In fact, nobody present realized that anything was, except for one man. He impatiently elbowed his way through the crowd, ignoring curses and dark looks. Finally ducking into an alley away from it, he walked through the gloomy street until he reached a massive stone building. He ran a hand down its length until he found what he was looking for. He applied pressure to a certain spot and the stone momentarily faded away, revealing a room into which he quickly stepped as the stone rematerialized. Nobody was present to notice the strange happening.

The inside walls were, like the exterior, unadorned stone, but the preindustrial society of the time would have been astounded by what furnishings the room had. It was illuminated by soft, fluorescent lighting fix#tures on the ceiling. At a metal desk in the room's center sat a man, smaller than the newcomer, with dark hair and eyes, and cleanshaven. Over the desk a paper-thin computer screen was suspended by unseen forces. Although there was no keyboard, the man was working at it through direct mental input. He looked up.


The newcomer shook his head. "It was stupid to even come here. We knew from the start that it was hopeless; we were just denying the inevitable."

The first man stood up. "Look, Derek, just because the government won't refuse him doesn't mean all is lost. We can find and subdue him before he gives the weapons to them. But we'd better start soon; the chronometer says it'll happen in only a few hours."

Derek shook his head skeptically. "We'll see. You manage to locate him yet?"

"Fraid not. Why don't you try it? You're better at this system than I am."

Derek nodded and took the chair. "If we're lucky, it has DNA scanning capabilities." Concentrating, he was quickly able to connect his mind with the computer. "Request access, Upsilon level."

After a few moments, taken to verify this identification, the computer responded. "Proceed."

"Locate DNA sequence Eris, Simon T."

"Sequence is located at coordinates -15.397, 09.721."

A map of the planet appeared on the screen, pinpointing this location.

"Zoom sequence 200 times."

The computer showed a more detailed map that exactly pinpointed the location. Derek turned from it.

"Found him. But he's already reached the palace, as we had feared."

"How much time do you suppose we have?"

"The ruler won't be seeing anyone 'til tomorrow morning, so I guess we've got until then."

"Okay. I'll go scout the area; search for anything that might help us."

"Go ahead. I'll start our official report. See you, Cecil."


* * *

On the sixth day of January, 3027, Simon Eris, leader of the disestablishmentarianism movement threatening to reduce the republic to anarchy and scientific genius responsible for the manufacture of the deadly Neural Suppression device, was apprehended by the authorities and scheduled for permanent exile to penal colony 0364. Somehow, however, the stasis field holding him until his transport was disabled, and he managed to access the restricted physics laboratory where our scientists were experimenting with temporal shifting, a highly dangerous and unstable field. Apparently the scientists' work had progressed further than their press releases indicated, for Eris was able, after subduing them, to send himself far back in time to the year 1167, where he travelled to some highly pugnacious nation, exactly which one is unknown, in what used to be the European landmass, taking with him certain dangerous weapons. These he apparently presented to the country's ruler, thus allowing him to conquer the entire planet, with Eris as his advisor and developer of even more deadly weaponry. And so, for almost two thousand years, this nation dominated the Earth, a cruel dictatorship. Virtually all remnants of the alternate timeline from which I originate were obliterated, and Cecil Orton, a high-ranking government technician, was the only person from that alternate history that I could locate. Managing to appropriate a computer from the new regime, Orton and I ascertained that although in most technological areas they were far inferior to us, they had temporal shifting abilities greater than ours had been. I was able to easily manipulate the computer; its restricted access areas were no match for me; I speculate that under constant suppression the people's minds had atrophied slightly and nothing greater was necessary. After several weeks we managed a temporal shift, and we found ourselves a few weeks before Eris arrived. Since then we have been waiting, preparing for the confrontation that will decide the fate of the planet.

* * *

"Derek! Wake up!"

"I'm awake. What is it?"

"We've got to hurry. Eris is just about to get an audience with the ruler. I don't know how, but he apparently managed to convince the authorities of its importance. I think he might suspect someone's trying to stop him. You have your temporal flux device ready?"

"All ready." He grabbed the neural stunner that was lying on the computer desk. "Let's go."

Outside, the streets were virtually empty of citizens, as they always were at night, though several watchmen were always patrolling the city. Fortunately they were not very alert, and Derek and Cecil had little trouble avoiding their notice as they hurried to the palace. It was a new moon, but the stars were out, and with the sky being as devoid of air pollution as it was at this time, they could see their surroundings well enough.

After five minutes, during which neither of them spoke, they paused before the palace's solid oaken gates. Though no guards were currently visible, the duo knew that several were always patrolling the grounds. "Any thoughts on the subject of getting in?" Derek inquired.

"No. Not really."

"Well, how did Eris get in?"

"He demonstrated his weapons on one of the guards. Never having seen anything like it, the other was sufficiently awestruck to let him in."

"Well, we'll have to try that. Think the stunners'll be sufficiently impressive?"

"Probably so. Hey, here they come. Get ready."

He drew his neural stunner, narrowed its range, and waited to be seen.

"Halt! Who's that?" the one of the guards called.

Without answering Cecil fired the weapon. A loud, high-pitched tone sounded, and one of the guards silently collapsed to the ground and lay still. Meanwhile Derek, who had been working his way behind them, grabbed the remaining guard, pinning his arms to his sides. Cecil walked up to him.

"That just shriveled your friend's brain," he lied. "Although quickly fatal, it's not a pleasant way to die, wouldn't you agree? I get the impression that it's quite painless, but I have been known to be mistaken. And if you let us in to see your ruler, you won't have to find out for yourself."

The terrified guard merely nodded. As he opened the gates for them and led them inside, occasionally conferring with other guards in their way, they hurriedly confirmed their plan in whispers.

"So we stun everyone in the room, accost Eris, and then initiate a temporal flux."

"That simple. Watch out for him, though. He'll see what we're doing and may have some technique to counter us."

By now they had reached a set of heavy doors apparently leading to the throne room. Guards in front of the doors moved to intercept them.

"Absolutely no one is allowed to enter. The king is-"

He and the other guard slumped to the floor. There was no time to talk. Derek turned to their guide.

"Return to your duties." Gladly, the guard hurried off.

Cecil put his ear to the door, listening intently. After a few minutes Derek spoke.

"Well, how many people?" he whispered.

"I can only hear the king and Eris. But I would be surprised if there were no guards."

"Well, we'll soon find out, won't we?" Taking a key from the body of one of the guards, he silently unlocked the door, then turned to Cecil. "Ready?"

"As I'll ever be."

Throwing open the door, they saw that there were, in fact, four guards present. The king was seated on his throne with Eris kneeling before him. As they burst in, they made quick work of the guards and the king. Eris watched them, a look of mild annoyance on his face. When Cecil turned his neural stunner onto him, nothing happened. As they stared in puzzlement, a look of amusement crossed over his face.

"I kind of thought someone might try to stop me, so fortunately I took certain precautions. My mind is fully protected against neural attacks. Your attempts have all been in vain." Holding up a device the use of which Derek and Cecil did not know, he pressed several buttons. Though nothing appeared to happen, something had. They found that their feet were rooted to the floor, completely immovable.

Eris laughed. "Impressive, no? It temporarily stops all molecular movement in a designated area. I could've just stopped you totally, as well as permanently, but I wanted to think of a more suitable punishment. Ah, that will work." He picked up another device. "This," he said, "carries molecular manipulation to a whole new level! It's rather technical, but basically what it does is devolve you into mindless protoplasm over a period of ten minutes! Now that should be unpleasant! Just give me a few minutes to prepare it-"

Derek's mind raced frantically. Molecular degeneration had formerly been used as capital punishment but had been banned because it was cruel and horribly painful, to judge from the screams of those going through it. His mind raced desperately, searching for a plan--yes--it might work. He pulled out his temporal flux device and quickly changed the coordinates. As he had known would happen, Eris noticed him.

"No, no, no! How rude, trying to leave before the celebration. I'm deeply hurt. Never mind, though, I forgive you. Now, you'd better just give that to me for safekeeping." He walked over to take the device.

Derek quickly pressed the initiation button. "Three seconds to flux," it said in a mechanical voice. "Two seconds to flux. One second-" He hurled the device at Eris, striking him hard on the forehead.

"Bon voyage, Simon!" he called, "don't forget to write!"

"-to flux. Fluxing now."

With an outraged scream, Eris slowly faded out of sight, along with the temporal flux device.

"Not bad. Where'd you send him?" Cecil asked. Despite his casual demeanor, great relief was evident upon his face.

"Four billion years into this planet's past. It was still under construction then, so there's no way he could survive there long enough to initiate another flux. Besides, I doubt there's enough energy left in the device to take him far enough to do any damage."

Cecil nodded. "You ready to go back now?"

"Of course."

Both of them held onto the remaining flux device and disappeared.          


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