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The Time Fugitive
I woke up in the middle of the night to the chiming of the vid-phone on my bed. Its light made enough illumination for me to crawl across the loft without having to feel my way. Ducking my head, I pressed the audio setting and held it to my ear.
“Whoever this is, it’s the middle of the night here, so you’d better have a good reason for waking me up,” I informed the person on the other end bad-temperedly. I can be a little cranky if I wake up in the middle of the night.
“I’m sorry, Miss Everant, but I have to talk to you. It is a matter of great importance,” a woman replied politely.
“It’s one in the morning, so forgive me if I’m not too appreciative right now,” I told her.
“Sergeant Danson of the Temporal Corps wants you on Riolus,” the woman said. This shut me up. My handler may literally be a world away, but it was common knowledge that he double-checked the time it would be on the planet. For him to call someone in the middle of the night was far from normal.
“Ok,” I said. I was about to ask a question, but the messenger hung up on me before I could. I put the vid-phone on silent and went back to sleep.
When I woke up, I went through my morning routine. A cup of tea, two eggs, and a slice of bacon were enough for me to wake up, then a hot shower. Instead of the normal colorful wear so popular in the tropical regions of Earth, I stepped into a demure dress and matching heels. My hair was tied in a cross between a long braid and a ponytail, which would mark me as a Miami-an, but I couldn’t help it. After all was done, I booked a seat on the first interplanetary flight to Riolus I could find with my work passport, then grabbed my hovercar and drove to the starport as fast as I could without breaking any speed limits. In a day where you can be anywhere on any planet within a couple hours, it would only take about 12 hours to get to Riolus, the world housing the headquarters of the aptly nicknamed Time Police.
I had been to Riolus once as a kid, but that a vacation. Then, I had spent more time on the famed beaches and walking through the malls. When I stepped off the shuttle, I was immediately struck at the difference in mood between Earth and Riolus. The vacation planet definitely had a more sedate pace than the hectic rush of Miami. The monorail was a part of the starport, another thing that it had on Miami, so I was able to find a ride easily. As it glided along the rail, I noted that the entire city seemed to be made mostly of concrete. There were some windows, but they were smaller. On the contrast, Miami was practically composed of glass. Stop doing comparisons and just enjoy the scenery, I chided myself. The self-aimed rebuke was enough to make me settle down.
By coincidence, the station I got off on was just a block away from the towering silver spire of the Temporal Corps. I stared in awe at it. Nowadays, very few buildings were made purely of steel as this one was. My reason for being here wormed its way back into my head, so I climbed up the many steps and entered the automatic doors. The lobby looked like a normal lobby, albeit much bigger. The desk was huge as well. I strode up to a brunette working at the computer on the desk.
“How may I help you?” she asked.
“I have an appointment with Sergeant Danson,” I replied crisply. She was silent for a moment, then pressed a button hidden below the counter of the desk.
“Go up to the elevator and type this in,” she told me, handing over a slip of paper. There were two elevators, actually, back-to-back with the desk. I walked to the elevator, which was one of the old-fashioned boxy ones, and stepped in. I saw a touchpad instead of numbers. Of course. The building was one of the tallest ever built. Of course it would have too many floors for buttons to fit. I took a look at the paper I had been handed. It had a series of numbers which I assumed to be for the highest levels of security. I tapped it in and pressed enter. As the elevator rose up above the city, I memorized the code like I had been taught as a recruit.
It stopped after almost five whole minutes. The universal ding announced my arrival. A man dressed in uniform walked across the room to meet me. Sergeant Danson himself! He and I shook hands. “Rebecca Everard, I take it,” he stated.
“Yes sir,” I replied.
“Come with me,” he said. As we walked, he explained why I was here. “Two days ago, an operative went rogue after completing his mission and killed a man he has harbored a grudge against for several years now. Several innocent people were killed as well. He has used his Time Transporter to go back to ancient Rome and live out his life there. His presence there, however, will change history in a bad way. As you have been to the Roman Empire several times, we believe that you are our best bet.” He motioned to a room off to the right. “Everything you’ll need is in there.”
He didn’t know it, but I absolutely hated the ancient dress. I would be unable to run, for starters. However, it is an unspoken rule to never object to the criteria given by a mission. It was why I kept my hair long. In the far past, short hair was reserved for boys, and boys only.
A full outfit waited for me, consisting of a chiton, a stola, and a pair of sandals. After I slipped them on, my hair was done, which took about an hour.
I stepped up to the daunting machine that would sent me back in time. It took up half the room and was affectionately called “the Delorian,” though it was in no way mobile.
“You are going back to 100 B.C.,” the Sergeant informed me. “Your backstory is the same as last time. Your target calls himself Marcus Cantus. Find him ASAP. Remember your Latin. And don’t you dare get caught.” He then turned to the technicians. “Fire it up.”
A low hum reverberated from the machine. Blue light began to blur my vision and cast long, sharp shadows across the room. Finally, I couldn’t see anything. I closed my eyes now, which just turned everything red. I felt strangely light, as if I were falling. My weight abruptly came back and the red darkened slightly. Voices reached my ears, speaking in another language. I opened my eyes.
It was midday, a little after noon, by my estimation. Hidden in the alley, I mentally ran over my mission. I recalled my superior’s exact words. Your target calls himself Marcus Cantus. Find him ASAP. Remember your Latin. And don’t you dare get caught.
I took a deep breath. “You are a Roman from Herculanium, visiting relatives in Rome. You came to see the Forum.” This was my backstory, and hopefully it would hold. I reviewed myself just to make sure I would not be noticed. My blue chiton was properly fastened, my long brown hair woven in elegant curles and coifs atop my head. I repositioned my white stola and stepped into the sunlight. I blended in perfectly with the crowd.
I was at the stadia listening to a droning senator when someone tapped my shoulder. I turned to see a Roman matron standing by me.
“Num es ab Roma?” the woman asked. You are not from Rome?
“Familia in Roma visitor,” I told her, smiling. “Forus venibam videre.” I am visiting family in Rome. I came to see the Forum. She nodded. Just then, I saw the man I was looking for. I broke away from the crowd and caught up to him. He looked like a regular person, but I could tell it was him. I tapped on his shoulder. He turned, looking a little surprised.
“Salve,” he greeted me.
“Esse Marcus Cantus?” I asked. You are Marcus Cantus? Then I pulled back my stola a bit, letting him see the tiny machine in my ear. The look on his face confirmed my guess. “My superiors want a talk with you,” I informed him in soft but crisp English. The time fugitive knew what I meant, from the look on his face. I pulled him out of sight and activated the device that would bring us back to the 27th century.