This is the eighth installment in our ongoing serial story, The Time Traveler’s Scheme. In the previous section, we saw Daeva dealing with some of the unforeseen consequences of kidnapping Camille Winton, while the past was beginning to believe Melina Penrose may have been telling the truth about Jeffrey Jamison’s disappearance.
To read this story from the beginning, click here.
Davea wiped away some of the Kippo stew that had made its way onto her chin. Cook’s recipe was one of the best she’d ever had, and the warmth of the Mediterranean cardamom intertwined with chilli peppers open her sinuses and her senses. No matter how things my fell, the Kippo stew was always a fresh reminder that there was something good in this universe, even for her. Then for a moment, as she plunged her spoon into the crimson ceramic bowl for another scoop, her thoughts drifted to the chiseled jaw of William Setty. Had she ever shared Kippo with him? Did he like it or only tasted it to appease her? What was his favorite food? What was the one thing in the universe that felt like home to him? Was it hiking or the woods? Could it have been Davea herself? She lifted the spoon to her mouth ready to take another enormous satisfying bite when she felt a shake. Not a shake, she thought, but a rumble. A rumbling of the floor, of the building. What in the hell was it? The A.I.s noted that there was no seismic activity due on Gardotian-56 for another decade and it would be in the Southwestern hemisphere of the planet at least a thousand miles away. They might feel something, but not any actual shockwaves like this. This was something much, much different.
Daeva touched the commlink on her wrist that was connected to her Smartscroll calmly spoke. “Vareese, what’s happening?”
“Daeva, honestly, we’re not quite sure,” the A.I. told her. “This is not an earthquake, nor is it related to either of the moons or any attack from manmade objects we can see.”
“Is Tinsley there?” she asked.
“I’m on the line, D, yes. And I don’t have any – ” he paused.
“What is it?”
The rumbling finally stopped. Cook stood behind his nearby kitchen island still holding its stone top with a death grip. His eyes met hers searching for answers, but she shrugged signaling she had none.
“You need to get to the workshop,” Tinsley told her. “Now.”
Daeva leaped out of her seat and ran out of the mess in the direction of Tinsley’s area. “What is it, Tinsley? What did you see?”
“I think – ” he stuttered, then continued. “I think it’s a warrant for our arrest.”
She still wasn’t sure if she was happy with calling it the “Unified Penrose Theory” or not. “UPT” sounded too similar to some type of disease you caught from drinking unfiltered water in the jungle. She would eventually think of a more suitable, but as far as a working one went it’d do for now. Melina rubbed her eyes and glanced down at her commlink: 10:23PM. She’d been in the lab again late just as she promised herself she wouldn’t do. The story of the Winton girl had gotten her riled up, and she promised herself she wouldn’t do this again. She was still months away from a field test, let alone building a working prototype of her machine. And working sixteen hour days wasn’t going to help her stay fresh long enough to come up with anything useful. Her mind was already drifting during the day because she was so tired and Melina had begun to remember simple things like turning off the stove when she left for work or…there was something she’d forgotten now. What was it? Something about the loop? No. The Louvre? No, she didn’t care for art. But Louis did. Damn it. Louis. The chemistry Ph.D. candidate with the round framed glasses and messy hair. She looked down at her commlink: she’d hit the snooze on her alarm reminding her about grabbing drinks with him eight times, and he’d called three. This was the second time she’d miss out on an opportunity with him, and likely her last. Fighting for the greater cause meant sacrifices, she reminded herself. Others had witnessed it now.
The Winton disappearance was the proof she needed. Even if they didn’t believe it was a time traveler – which no one would openly admit to in public – the government knew it had some type of new threat on its hands the likes of which it’d never witnessed before. Someone was able to breach the system and quietly exit one of the most secure facilities in the world without some much as a chirp from the many waves of layered security. All the while kidnapping the daughter of the President. Any and every idea that could work as a new countermeasure against this invisible enemy would be funded, no matter how non-traditional that idea might have seemed. And that included the UPT. There would be other handsome chemists, Melina told herself, but there was only one chance to get this right the first time. There was only one opportunity to get Jeffrey and Camille back.
“Dr. Penrose?” a voice called to her from behind.
“You have to have your doctorate for that,” she replied as she turned to face the stranger. “I’m just Melina these days.”
He was young, perhaps a few years older than she, with dusty brown hair and sharp features that seemed to be well accented in the shadows thrown about by the sidewalk lamps and moonlight. He wore a dark brown motorcycle jacket and brown boots under denim jeans. This was an attractive man that was most definitely not a chemist.
“I couldn’t, I mean, alright.” The man seemed completely flustered. “Melina. Yeah, Melina. Right.”
They stood in the lamplight smiling warmly at one another. A soft mist of rain was beginning to settle in around them.
“Well, this has been great,” Melina told him glancing at her commlink, “but it’s really late and I don’t want to catch cold. If it’s alright with you, I think I’ll be on my way.”
“It works, Melina,” the man smiled. His eyes seemed to shimmer in the light. She could see the stubble on his face now. A sandpaper five o’clock shadow. If this was an academic, it was the sexiest one on the planet.
“I’m sorry, what works?”
He shrugged. “Penrose Law of Warp Stability.”
“Penrose Law? Warp Stability? What in the world are you talking about?”
The man furrowed his brow. He lifted his hand covering his mouth and Melina could hear a muffled conversation.
“2068?” the man shouted. “Sutton, that’s ten years off! What kind of Dunny Rooder operation are we running here, man? C’mon!” He held a hand to his ear, apparently engaged in an argument via the commlink. “Imprecise my ass! Ten years is not imprecise it’s incompetent! Ohhh, don’t give me that ‘operator error’ b.s.! So help me -”
Melina snapped her fingers at him. “Hey, guy, you have about five seconds to explain yourself before I smack the panic button on my commlink! Who are you and why are you here?”
He dropped his hands and in the process seemed to relax from his momentary frustration. The mist quickly turned to heavy drops trapping the pair in a torrential downpour. Locking eyes with Melina he answered, “My name is Gravity. And I’m here because you sent me.”
“It wasn’t an earthquake.” Tinsley didn’t directly acknowledge Daeva as she entered the room, he simply began speaking.
“Then what was it?”
“We’ll get to that in a second. First, I want you to know about the warrant.”
“A warrant for our arrest? By whom and how is that even possible.”
With his attention still aimed towards the viewscreen in front of him, he answered her question. “I did more research after discovering time travel had been invented earlier than it should have been. Prior to the founding of the Kingdom the nations of Earth signed something called the Stockholm Temporal Accord of 2109. It completely outlawed the use of any and all temporal-based machinery. Time machines, temporal computer systems and their A.I.s like Vareese, the predictive algorithms, all of it. It authorized the use of time travel only for official government corrections of paradoxes caused by unauthorized users and provided historians with ‘temporal visas’ to over watch historic events in real time.”
“Okay, so we’ve always been outlaws, Tinsley. This isn’t news.”
“We didn’t have someone openly chasing us before, sister,” Tinsley stressed the word marking his irritation with her. “The Accord formal established the Temporal law Enforcement Authority and Reconnaissance. Fittingly, they refer to themselves ‘TEAR.’” The holo-projector above Tinsley’s desk now displayed what appeared to be a bird of prey with an hour glass in one talon and something of a shadow-boxed three dimension triangle in the other. “That imagine in the right claw you’re probably trying to figure out is called a Penrose Triangle. It’s the symbol of P&J Industries.”
“Ah,” was Daeva’s only reply. Tinsley motioned in the air swiping the image to the left. Now a memorandum with the TEAR seal prominently at the top and the word WANTED in bold black letters at the top of it hovered in the projection space. It was dated for Standard Month Three in the year 2357. Stepping closer to the projection she said, “Tinsley, something is wrong with your machine. That’s almost two hundred years in the wrong direction.”
“I don’t know how it’s possible either, but Vareese can pick up data through rips and disturbances in space-time and this is what he’s seeing. Apparently, in their protection efforts agents of the future coordinate directly with agents of the past.”
Daeva read the memo out loud. “’Request any and all information on the abduction of children ranging from ages two to ten in various years through the mid to late 21st Century of Earth. Children appear to be individuals who died in their original timelines. Identity of suspects unknown at this time, but believed to be working outside of the confines of Earth somewhere in the 22nd century while utilizing illegal temporal technology. Suspects considered extremely dangerous.’ How is any of this possible?”
“I believe the rumbling we heard and felt was due to the increased instability of space-time. I don’t know if it’s because of the archive bubble or the simple fact that the very essence of space-time resists change. It’s why you can still feel Setty even though the adult version of him never existed. As best as Vareese and I can deduce, our facility is the apparent focal point of a major inflection point at some place in space-time. Maybe it’s already happened, maybe it’s a mistake still to come. Regardless, it seems as though we are the origin.”
Daeva was so confused and exhausted from everything all she could do was nod and whisper. “So, in good old fashion layman’s terms, what does that mean for us?”
“We’ve ripped the very fabric of space and time, and someone wants us to pay because of it.”