I have this new story idea brewing. It’s sci-fi, of course, but I’m trying to ease myself into a semi-contemporary type of manner. It might seem like I’m ripping off Time Trax (that old PTEN TV show), but I’m trying to keep it humor-infused… anyway, I want to post what I wrote, here, and I’d love to hear some commentary. Thanks
By Michael D. Garcia
January 1, 2000
0037 hours Pacific Standard Time
San Francisco, California, United States of America
The Royal Windsor Hotel
Recorded Track Number 1101.3447
The winter nights were delightfully brisk in the city by the bay, he had decided long ago. New Year’s Eve was no exception to the rule, but the city seemed to be alive and kicking on the special night. He had successfully petitioned his manager for the day off to prepare for the evening, with the condition that he return to work the very next morning with no ill effects. He worked full time for a software company, programming and reprogramming products for large clients. It was only his second year, there, but the stock options and opportunities were difficult to ignore.
He had moved to San Francisco from the southern tip of the bay to take the job, and he had not regretted it since. He did not move too far away from his friends back home, and he met a whole new set of friends by working. One of them was Kerri Peterson, who worked in the same department, but managed her own team. He felt his heart strings tug at him whenever she walked into the room, and they became acquainted with one another through various projects that included both her team and his. After a year and a few months, she agreed to have lunch with him every now and again.
Kerri looked absolutely beautiful that night. During one of their lunches together, he mustered enough courage to ask her to accompany him to the New Year’s Eve party in the hotel’s lobby. It was a formal affair, and an excuse to dress up, but also an excuse to see what she might choose for such an occasion. He was not disappointed when he, his friend, and his friend’s date arrived in the stretch limo to pick her up and take her to the downtown area of San Francisco.
Pulling up his pants, he could still hear the sounds of celebration in the lobby of the hotel from inside the bathroom’s stall. Earlier in the evening, the countdown was without incident and the world did not end. None of the purported “Y2K” panic occurred, in spite of all the media hype. He finished making himself presentable so he could rejoin his friends and his date for the evening. He had rented a tuxedo from one of the local merchants recommended to him by his co-worker and friend, Matt. Though he was usually not given to wearing formalwear on a regular basis, he had to admit that he looked very good in the outfit. After admiring his reflection in the mirror, his expression of satisfaction turned to one of horror.
The door to the bathroom from the supply closet slammed open without warning, and woman in a black jumpsuit appeared amidst a gust of air. She looked as though she had jumped into the room from the ceiling of the closet. Blood had matted against the material of the jumpsuit, at least, the portions of the outfit that were still intact. Pulling herself up from the hunched over position against the counter, her black hair flipped back and her large green eyes found him.
“Rick?” she asked in between deep breaths. Blood dripped out of a head wound and onto the floor of the bathroom.
“What?” he asked. That was not the first thing he expected her to say. “Are you all right?”
She shook her head and waved him off. “Are you Richard Francis James?” There was a sense of urgency to her question that demanded an immediate answer.
He gaped in surprise at the scene before him, and in response to the question, all he could do was nod. “Yes, I am. Are you all right?”
“I will be,” she replied. “I have something for you,” she said as she unzipped a pocket and pulled a slim black case from it. “Take it.”
He hesitated, but accepted after she nearly tossed it at him. The moment it hit his hand, he heard the sound of a click; as though two pieces interlocked into one another. He looked at it, and could not see how to open it. It was large enough to look like a personal data device, but there was no stylus or input screen that he could see.
“What is it?” asked James.
She smiled. “It’s the end of another successful mission.” Her tone seemed to indicate it was some sort of special saying. Though, immediately after saying it, she groaned loudly and held her sides while collapsing to the floor in obvious pain.
He put the object into his jacket pocket and reached down to help her up into a seated position. Her blood began to soak his tuxedo, but he did not care. “You’re hurt. Stay here while I go get help.”
She reached up with her right hand and grabbed his jacket’s lapel. “No! It’s not necessary, and besides, I have to warn you.”
“Warn me?” he asked in an incredulous tone. “Warn me about what?”
She coughed and blood began to spill up and out of her mouth. “Beware the madness.” She smiled at him, and reached up to caress his cheek. “I’m going to miss you, Rick.”
The object in his pocket chirped at him once, then twice. On the third chirp, she vanished quickly. Her body was there in one moment, and in the next, he could see through her to the floor. He looked about him, and noticed all of the blood disappeared and the door to the closet was now closed.
But the object in his pocket was still there.
“Where were you?”
Richard looked up from the table and at his friend, Matt. “Oh, I was just taking care of business.”
“Okay, well, Kerri almost left you behind. She’s on the dance floor with some other guy.”
Richard shrugged, still thinking about the events that happened in the restroom. “She’s free to do as she pleases.”
“Damn, Richard,” Matt said. “What the hell happened in that bathroom?”
“Nothing,” Richard lied. “Y’know, I think I’m actually going to turn in for the night.”
Matt grinned widely, “That’s the spirit. You want to use my suite upstairs for a little rendezvous with Kerri?”
Richard rolled his eyes. “I mean, I think I’m going to go home and sleep. I do need to rest up before work tomorrow.”
“Aw, c’mon, man. Live a little!”
“Thanks, man, but I think I’ll just go home,” Richard said as he rose from the table. “Will you tell Kerri I said good night?”
Matt turned around to look for her, and shook his head, “I think you might’ve lost your opportunity to even do that. She’s gone.”
Richard looked up at him, and shrugged. “If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.”
Leaving the party behind him, his mind continued to replay the events in the hotel restroom. Who was she, and where did she come from? Why did she call him ‘Rick’? For that matter, how did she know his name, and what the hell was the object in his pocket? And what was that warning supposed to mean?
After being delivered to his apartment in the Sunset district, her entered his home and began to strip off his tuxedo so he could return it to the rental place on the second. Emptying the pockets, he placed the object on the table along with his wallet and accumulated change.
Once on the table, the object flashed a small light and drew it around the room.
Richard’s eyes were caught by the light, and he realized it was active.
A man appeared before him. He looked older, with silver hair and a kind expression on his face. He wore the same black jumpsuit that the woman had arrived in. “Richard Francis James?”
“Jor-El?” Richard’s attempt at levity failed when the man did not respond for a moment.
“Voiceprint identification confirmed,” said the man with a slight nod of his head. “New user registered. Thank you. Returning to stand by mode.” The holographic image disappeared and the unit shut itself off with a chirp.
“Wait! Who are you?”
The object did not respond.
“Hello?!” Richard picked it up and tried to see if he could turn it on by means of a switch, but the surface was smooth and unbroken. “Come back! Uh, turn on!”
The object did not respond.
The object chirped in his hand, and responded with the same image as before. The man spoke, “Online. Command?”
“Uh, what are you?” he asked.
“I am the Bi-Directional Temporal Displacement Device, model twenty-three, production unit number seven,” responded the man. He looked at Richard, “Command?”
“Where did you come from? Who was the woman who gave you to me?”
“I’m afraid the answer to the first question exceeds your access level. The previous user’s identity was Elizabeth Nicole James,” said the man. “Command?”
“Where did she come from? Is she related to me?”
“I’m afraid the answer to the first question exceeds your access level. I’m afraid the answer to your second question exceeds your access level. Command?”
“What is my access level?”
“User Richard Francis James has been granted security level Sigma.”
“And what does that do for me?”
“Sigma access grants temporal displacement commands and limited informational access.”
“What is temporal displacement?”
“Temporal displacement is defined as the method used by this device to transport a user from one temporal track to another.” When Richard said nothing further, the man asked, “Command?”
“Is that… time travel?” Richard asked, trying to keep his tone level.
“That is correct. Command?”
“My access allows me to travel from one point in time to another?” asked Richard.
“That is correct. Command?”
“Is this some kind of a practical joke?”
Richard laughed at the deadpan response. He decided to find out a little more about what he could do with his new toy. “What kinds of commands may I give?”
“Commands regarding temporal and physical destination, holographic imagery, and methods of input may be modified at your access level. Command?”
“Correct. You may alter the interface image to your liking.”
“And Elizabeth James preferred your image?”
“This is the default image. It is reset when this unit is transferred from one user to another. Command?”
“Who has access to control you from this period of time?”
“Richard Francis James. Command?”
“Is there a comprehensive list of people who have access to you?”
“There is. Command?”
“May I hear it?”
“At your current access level, the complete list is not available. I can make a partial listing available. Command?”
“What I want to know is, if you should fall into the hands of someone else, will you register them as a new user?”
“Negative. I can only register new users when the current user executes the release protocol. Command?”
“What is the release protocol?”
“It is a series of words, numbers, or phrases used to indicate that you no longer wish control of this unit. Command?”
“Elizabeth did not use such a protocol before giving you to me.”
“The user expiration protocol was enabled in that instance. Command?”
“Okay. What happens when I die?”
“You will no longer be alive. Command?”
Running a hand through his hair, he tried to keep a straight face and failed. “Very funny. Okay. How would I ask to visit a different time and place? Can I travel to the future?”
“Destination points may be opened to any point in time that has already expired. Movement beyond the unit’s time is not possible. Command?”
“What is the unit’s time?”
“Year 2381 of the Common Era. Command?”
He could not believe his ears. “2381?”
“Can you stop asking me that? It’s getting rather annoying, and I get that you want a command from me.”
“Okay,” he paused again. “Do you have a name?”
“This unit will respond to any name you wish to use.”
“What do you respond to right now?”
“I am unit number seven.”
“Can you show me the future?”
“Please provide a specific date, time, and location for temporal imaging.”
“Sure.” He thought about it. “Show me January 30, 2000, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. Can you track events?”
“I want to see the final score of the Super Bowl.”
“Temporal imaging command complete. Generating image; please stand by.” The man disappeared, to be replaced by a floating picture. The scene within the image was a football field, and the scoreboard showed the Rams over the Titans, 23-16.
Richard smiled and talked to himself, “I could make a lot of money with this thing.”
The image disappeared and the man came back. “Is money requested?”
“You can give me money?”
“A stipend is permitted within reasonable limits.”
“Where does it come from?”
“I’m afraid the answer to your question…”
“… exceeds my access level,” said Richard at the same time as the man spoke. “Is there a point to all this?”
“As a member of the Temporal Team, you will undertake missions on behalf of Temporal Command,” replied the man.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” said James with both of his hands raised in protest. “I didn’t join any ‘Temporal Command’ or whatever.”
“You are Richard Francis James, Temporal Corrections Agent. Serial number…”
“Whoa! Stop. ‘Temporal Corrections’?”
“The Temporal Corrections Agency was created in 2360, and is mandated by the government to respond to gross temporal incursions by unauthorized personnel.”
“Hmm,” he said, “I’m pretty sure I would remember joining some secret government agency to control time.”
Seven replied, “Your date of selection by the agency is recorded as November 22, 2377.”
Richard said in an exasperated tone, “I was born in 1976! How is that possible?”
“I’m afraid the answer to your question exceeds your access level.”
Richard paused, thinking about it. Coming to a decision, he said, “Fine. Then take me to November 22, 2377.”
“Temporal transfer point protocol enabled. Physical destination?”
“Put me in the lobby of this agency you said I’m a part of.”
“Unable to comply. This unit’s program will not allow external transfers to the Temporal Corrections Agency. Would you like to return to the transfer pad directly?”
“Engaging pre-transfer protocols. Please make certain this unit is on your person before entering the transfer point. Now opening transfer point.”
The man disappeared again, and a small hole in the air began to form. The hole took the form of a funnel, with the point facing away from him. The edge shimmered and flashed at him, and made itself large enough for a medium-sized dog to enter. Following the instructions, Richard picked the unit up and kept it in his hand.
The unit spoke to him, “Please enter the point, head-first.”
He did so.
“He’s coming around,” said a woman’s voice he did not immediately recognize.
Richard opened his eyes slightly to let the light in, and he realized he was looking into the face of the woman who gave him the unit in the first place. She looked very different, if not at least younger. Her tall and muscular build was garbed within a slim black jumpsuit just as wore the first time they had met, except this time it was not marred by damage or her own blood. She wore her hair differently; shorter, as opposed to the long hair she had in the bathroom. Her eyes were the same green color, except they did not regard him in the same manner as before.
He realized he was sitting down in a chair, but the light overhead was so bright, he could not make out the rest of the room. Whatever it was, it was cold and hard. He tried to speak, but his throat was dry and he felt very cold. He could not move his arms or his legs, no matter how hard he tried to move them.
The woman turned to another man, standing behind her. . She shrugged, “He does not have the TCA marker on him, but he’s carrying a unit. It’s possible he’s from an unrecorded track, but the uniform is remarkably inconsistent with any variations of ours.”
Shorter than she was, he looked older and worn. His dark brown hair had hints of silver at the sideburns. They both wore black jumpsuits with no other signage, but Richard guessed them to be some sort of uniform The man spoke in a deep baritone voice. “What did the unit say?”
“It denied me access.”
“That’s not possible,” replied the man.
She offered, “Unless it was a unit from the future. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.”
“So, this is another future agent?” he asked.
Richard tried to speak; this time it was successful. “Can you help me? I’m a little lost. I think I took a wrong turn at Tomorrowland. I’m looking for Main Street, U.S.A.?”
She turned back to him, and for a moment, he saw she had to work to keep her composure. “Please identify yourself.”
The man said nothing, instead looking at Richard with a stern expression.
Richard coughed. “At least you said ‘please.’ Seven?”
He heard the unit activate behind him, “Online. Command?”
The woman looked behind Richard, and then back to the man. “It’s a TCA unit, sir.”
The man nodded, then approached Richard. “Agent, I need your name and serial number.”
Remembering that Seven nearly told him all of that, he called out to the unit once more, “Seven, can you tell these people who I am?”
“Affirmative. Temporal Corrections Agent Richard Francis James. Serial Number KK-113. Rank: Major,” replied Seven. “Security Level Sigma.”
“Sigma?” asked the man.
James sighed, “I don’t know what all of that means.”
The woman released him from the chair with the flick of a device on her person. “We didn’t know you were an agent, sir.”
“That makes three of us,” admitted James. The light level reduced enough to allow him to see, and it looked as though he were being held in some sort of interrogation room. There was a table behind the chair, and it had four walls, but no door to leave. He stood from the chair, and shivered. Turning around to see the unit active, he smiled. “Thanks, Seven. I owe you one.”
Seven did not respond, except to say, “Unrecognized command.”
The man stepped forward, “Identify yourself, Unit.”
James echoed the command for the benefit of Seven’s security protocols.
“I am the Bi-Directional Temporal Displacement Device, production model number twenty-three, unit number seven. My initial activation date is February 1, 2381 in the Common Era,” said Seven.
The woman folded her arms across her chest. “That explains that.” She returned her attention to Richard. “Major James? We would like to debrief you from your latest mission, as soon as possible.”
“I’m not a major,” said James in an annoyed tone. He looked down at himself, realizing he was still wearing the rented tuxedo shirt and pants. “Damn. I need to return these.”
She wrinkled her brow, “You’re not a major? Who are you, then?”
“It’s a long story. Who are you two, anyway?” asked James, pointing at each them as he spoke.
The man spoke first. “Our apologies. I’m the duty officer, Lieutenant Colonel Martinez. This is the junior duty officer, Lieutenant Wellesley. I assume you know where you are.”
“Only because Seven told me. I’m on a pad of some sort, within the Agency,” replied James.
“I don’t understand,” said Wellesley. “You’re an Agent, aren’t you? Or is the Agency from your time very different from ours?”
James shook his head, “I’m not an agent. I’m from the past. The year two thousand.”
“That’s impossible,” she replied, unable to keep the amusement from her voice. “Units won’t respond to anyone outside the Agency. The unit identified you as an agent.”
Richard turned to the image of Seven’s current form, and asked, “Seven, what is my birth date?”
“May 24, 1976, in the Common Era.”
Martinez nearly choked. “That’s impossible.”
Richard merely smiled and gestured with a single hand. “Well, there you have it, folks.” He tried to put on a casual air in spite of the situation. “It’s been really fun visiting with you all, but I have to go to work in the morning. Do I click my heels three times or something?”
Wellesley gave Martinez a look of alarm, and immediately reached for something. With her palm faced toward him, she braced her wrist and struck a pose. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to take you into custody, sir.”
James peered at her curiously, and tried not to laugh as she took a hostile pose and threatened him with her hand. He looked to Martinez to share in the humor, but he realized he also had his hand in a similar position; palm open and facing him.
Martinez sighed. “It’s for our protection, and yours. We want to confirm your identity.”
“Uh, huh…” Richard could not help himself. “I’m sorry, but it looks like you guys want a high-five or something. I’ll play along. Lead the way.”
They did not have to. Reaching with her index finger to touch her wrist, Ensign Wellesley activated something. Moments later, a bright light filled the room, and his surroundings changed. He appeared to be in another room, but this one had a modest bed, a table with a single chair, and an alcove leading to what he guessed might be a bathroom. As with the other room, there was no door to enter or leave through, but he guessed the teleportation device made doors obsolete.
“Wonderful,” he said. “I’m trapped in a psycho Star Trek episode. Why couldn’t you guys pick on my buddy, Dan? He’s a total Trekkie.” Settling onto the bed to lie down, he realized that in all of the excitement of being whisked away hundreds of years into the future, he left the party to go to sleep. Closing his eyes, Richard fell asleep, hoping when he woke, it would all be a dream he could laugh about in the morning.