* * *
“Timeline Anomaly in Progress. Repeat, Timeline Anomaly in Progress.”
* * *
Timekeeper Felicity Frey sat in front of her terminal, in her tiny room at the Timekeeper Command Station, on Calaxia. “Alert acknowledged,” she stated, setting her cup down. “Display details.”
“Since when?” she said aloud, flicking the screen with her finger. This was a first for her; the system had never done that before. The details were always forthcoming.
“I see someone is still mucking about with the system,” a soft, male British voice commented. Felicity turned to see Timekeeper Noel Barret standing behind her, looking around her and at the screen.
She turned back to the screen. “Or it’s a bug. It happens occasionally,” she said, scarcely acknowledging him.
“True enough, but this has been going on for awhile. Bugs are normally dealt with before we’re aware of them.”
Felicity turned around in her seat towards Noel. The Timekeeper with the long, black hair looked more like a 1970’s British Glam rock singer than a Timekeeper. However, he was typical of most of the Human/Calaxian hybrid beings – completely obsessed with different aspects of Earth culture. And being that he was assigned to Great Britain, he was drawn to their glam rock era.
“Explain,” she ordered, as Noel put his hand on her seat and leaned in.
“Ever since you left for that John Adams gig, the system has been glitching all over the place,” he replied.
Felicity narrowed her eyes at him, as her nose started to twitch. She had been over the whole “gig vs. mission” talk before. Noel chuckled nervously.
“Sorry, mission,” he corrected himself. “It almost seems that something or someone is trying to prevent the information from coming through. It always does, but it causes a delay.”
Felicity turned back to her terminal, picking up her cup and taking a drink from it. “They should be able to prevent that. Native Calaxian are a very technologically advanced race, I’m sure they’ll be able to sort it out soon enough.”
“Soon, I hope,” Noel replied, as the terminal made a loud, whirring sound. “It’s a bloody pain in the arse.”
“Well, it looks like it worked itself through whatever was blocking it, we should see something in a minute.”
The small room fell silent – awkwardly so for Felicity, since she wasn’t used to anyone hovering over her while she was in her station. And Noel made her feel especially uneasy, the way he always wanted to make small talk with her, usually some topic that irritated her.
Which was most topics.
“So,” he said, breaking the silence. “How was dinner with your mum and dad?”
“And there it is,” she thought with a scowl.
Felicity took a deep breath in order to hold back any sort of emotional response. The last thing she needed was Noel (or anyone else) knowing that her family drove her to the brink, because they would start psycho analyzing her.
“It was the same as it usually is,” she replied coolly. “Wendalyn is the 23rd human to get on the cover of Calaxian Fashion Monthly, which isn’t a shocker because she’s beautiful and perfect in every way. And Chantal is brilliant because she helped improve a light drive for the new 2414 model Stingray. Of course Chantal chimed in, as per normal, to say that I saved the universe from another cataclysmic backlash, but that’s not praiseworthy because it’s expected of me.”
Felicity turned to Noel, who had opened his mouth to say something, but quickly closed it. “I don’t know why you ask,” she said.
“I have hope that it will change,” he replied softly.
“Well, it hasn’t and it won’t,” Felicity said, impatiently slapping the side of the terminal. “My family is about as predictable as—“
She was interrupted when a high-pitched “beep” sounded throughout the small room. Both Felicity and Noel looked at the screen as the long awaited message appeared.
* * *
Cause of Anomaly: Premature Death
Place: Austin, Texas, USA, Earth
Subject: Joel Preston Holton
Date of Birth: September 3, 1971
Updated date of death: July 18, 2014
Cause: Homicide by person or persons unknown
Consequences: Still processing…
· * *
“Well, we all know the drill. “Terminal, upload all relevant data to Rusla database immediately,” she ordered, addressing the terminal, as she got out of her seat and gently pushed past Noel.
She didn’t give him another thought as she made her way down the corridor. The moment she got an alert such as this, she was to report to her supervisor, Timekeeper Dashiell, explain the situation and immediately leave Calaxia in order to correct the anomaly and bring the person or persons involved, to justice.
“There’s a timeline anomaly on Earth.” She approached his desk. “I’m preparing my ship for departure immediately.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Dashiell said, as she turned to exit the office. Delete the information and forget it.”
Felicity whipped back around and stared at the thin, beady eyed and prematurely greying Dashiell, dumbfounded. This was not protocol, and Dashiell should have known that better than anyone.
“Did you hear what I just said, Miss Frey?” he asked, leaning back in his chair.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, sir, but my occupation is Timekeeper?” she asked; she could feel the palms of her hands start to sweat and tremble. “I’m supposed to fix the timeline when something goes wrong.”
Dashiell leaned back in his chair, clasping his hands together. “Correct. What’s your point?”
“There is a problem; I have to fix it.”
“And I’m forbidding you to do so. You know that disobeying a direct order is a crime.”
“A bigger crime is ignoring an anomaly that could potentially be disastrous for all life in the Universe,” she replied through gritted teeth. “So please give me a reasonable explanation as to why you want me to break Calaxian law?”
Felicity could tell Dashiell was getting angry, the way his face grew red and his eyes lids started to twitch, but his anger didn’t matter to her.
“Just do as you’re told, Frey.”
“That doesn’t answer my question. Why should I risk going to prison and allowing the Universe to be torn apart?”
Dashiell stood up and stormed towards Felicity. “The Universe is not going to be affected by some insignificant voice actor from Earth. You are to leave this one alone. Do I make myself clear?”
Felicity narrowed her eyes at him, suspiciously. She gave him no details about the person involved; even she didn’t know his profession. How could Dashiell?
“You didn’t answer my question,” she said.
“I’m not required to answer a thing; you do as you’re told.” His nostrils flared. “You seem to forget that I am your superior.”
“Only in rank.”
As she walked back to her terminal, knowing that there was something going on, something bigger than just some random man on Earth. Anticipating that her superior would erase the information before it could reach the Calaxian Elders, she made a backup copy of all the information stored within the terminal, then changed the passcode so Dashiell couldn’t access it, then retired to her quarters.
That night as she sat on her bed, holding a tiny, black square that held the entire contents of her Timeline Terminal, she wondered what she was going to do about the premature death of Joel Holton of Austin, Texas. Felicity’s first thought was that she could have sent a copy of information she saved to the Calaxian Elders, but seeing that Dashiell was up to something, she knew that he could very well intercept the file or tamper with it before the Elders had a chance to read it.
She didn’t know what she was expected to do now, just sit at her terminal or in her room, waiting for another anomaly? She then looked around her room, suddenly realizing just how dull and lifeless it was.
She had one bed: white sheets, grey blanket and two pillows – not a ruffle in sight. The thin carpet was grey, and she had no windows, so there was no need for blinds or drapes. Her small writing table doubled as a dining table. There was a bathroom with a shower, and a small area where the food dispenser was kept. She didn’t have a television, a radio or even books.
Felicity looked at the walls surrounding her.
There were no pictures on them, no knick-knacks, flowers or any other type of decorations about.
She sighed. Dull.
She got off her bed and looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Her dark red hair looked faded – her hair wasn’t turning grey, despite being days away from her forty-second birthday, the color just appeared to be fading. Her green eyes were dull, and her skin was pale.
She looked at the numbers tattooed on her left wrist:
The numbers appeared one day; Felicity had no memory of how they got there or what they meant. Was it a prison tattoo she had gotten for not obeying orders in the past? She didn’t think so, there’s never been any mention of her doing anything of the sort, even if her memory of the event had be erased. Coordinates to some place or time, maybe? Not enough numbers, she thought. The numbers couldn’t have meant anything significant, since nothing ever happened in her life outside of her Timekeeping duties.
Felicity would normally have questioned herself when she got like this, why she cared so much. Her dwellings didn’t matter. Her dull appearance didn’t matter.
But this time, she knew why she questioned it all.
The one thing that he father had told her when she was officially appointed a Timekeeper was:
“Do your job. No matter what.”
And now, she was being told to “leave it alone.”
Felicity sat back down on her bed, staring at the large, blank computer screen on the wall near the bed. “Something isn’t right,” she thought. “The system glitching, now this. They’re not allowed to do this and they know it.”
Since the moment she saw the name, “Joel Holton,” there was an ache in her soul, and her heart to beat faster than it would normally.
Suddenly, she felt a quake in the Universe – which meant that the timeline was starting to shift.
Felicity couldn’t ignore this. She couldn’t just “leave it alone.”
She stood up and tapped on the computer screen. After several seconds, a message popped up:
“GUS IS OFFLINE. GO TO SLEEP, FELICITY.”
Felicity frowned and continued to tap at the screen. “Boot up, Gus,” she commanded.
This time, a computer-simulated face of a human male appeared on the screen. “What the hell do you want?” it snapped, with an Irish accent. “I’m trying to sleep.”
“You’re an AI,” she said. “You don’t sleep.”
“Granted, but I have to power down once in awhile or else I get cranky.”
Felicity raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t see how it’s possible that you could be any crankier than you normally are.”
“Touché, irritating female. What the hell do you want?”
“I need you to transfer to Rusla and get her ready to leave.”
Gus blinked. “Any particular reason why?”
“I’ll tell you about it once I get there. Once you get her powered up, the first thing I need you to do is hack into the building’s security system and fix the surveillance cameras so they can’t see me going to the docks. Then, I need you to hack into the planets security system and make sure their tracking software for Rusla is disabled so they can’t find us--”
“Okay, hold it. What other illegal activity do you want me to do next? Transfer more currency into your credit chip? Maybe make an account for Timekeeper Dashiell on an interspecies dating site?”
Felicity closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It normally wasn’t like her to become anxious and frustrated, but she felt that ache in her heart grow, and really wanted to get off Calaxias and find out what Timekeeper Dashiell was up to.
Although she had to admit she liked the idea of the website profile – considering how bigoted Dashiell was about interspecies couples.
Felicity started tapping on Gus’s screen. “Just do it, Gus! I’ll explain everything once we’re out of orbit. Make sure you let me know once you’ve got the security cameras taken care of.”
“Fine then.” Gus released a metallic huff, and disappeared off screen.
Felicity looked around, wondering what she needed to bring with her, considering it would be a very long time before she would be coming back to Calaxias. But she realized that she had nothing in this lifeless living space. Everything she had was onboard her ship, Rusla.
As she waited for word from Gus, she knew there was a very real possibility that she could never return home again. As Timekeeper Dashiell had told her, disobeying orders from a superior is a crime punishable by serving time in prison. And even though she knew deep down that she wasn’t doing anything wrong, she was certain that Dashiell would do everything he could to make her look guilty, or even frame her for a crime even worse than willfully disobeying a superior.
Felicity didn’t care; she was going to do her job and make sure that Joel Holton of Earth didn’t die before his time: even if that meant that she would probably never see her parents or her younger sisters, Wendalyn and Chantal, outside of a prison cell.
Felicity wasted no time flipping on several switches on the control panel, as she stepped into the flight deck.
“Wait, wait,” Gus protested, as Felicity sat and strapped herself into her seat. “Automatically booting up the thrusters and warming up the light drive? What happened to our pre-flight check?”
“We don’t have time,” she said, as the sounds of someone banging on the hull echoed through the ship. “I thought you said you turned off the security cameras?”
“I did.” A green light started to flash on Gus’s screen. “You seem to forget that you live on a planet full of psychic aliens. They must have anticipated you. By the way, you have an incoming video message from I’dow Zin Jahz…”
“Reject,” she stated.
“Ignoring a direct request from the Supreme Elder of Calaxia. Cheeky.”
“I know what he’s going to say,” Felicity replied, ignoring pinging sounds of projectiles ricocheting off the hull. “Come and speak to me, Miss Frey, I’m positive we can work this out without risking your career.’ He could be behind the whole thing, and I would never make it out of his office alive. Blast off, now.”
After Felicity piloted the ship out of Calaxia’s jurisdiction, Gus appeared on the screen. “Give me a date,” he demanded. Felicity took the miniscule disk that she copied from her terminal and inserted into computer.
“Load Anomaly file for Holton, Joel,” Felicity said, rubbing her eyes.
“Okay, so if this guy snuffs it…”
Felicity groaned. She hated it when he acted crass about a person’s death.
“…On July 18, 2014,” Gus continued. “Then I’m going to assume that you’ll want to be there a week early to get a jump on the killer?”
“If I’m right, and it was Dashiell or one of his associates who arranged this, then we won’t be able to.” Felicity pressed a couple of buttons on her console. “They will have hired a Ulteranian assassin, and you know how difficult they are to get a jump on.”
“Then we’ll have to actually make contact with Mr. Holton. Make up a story and figure out how to protect him.”
“We won’t be able to keep him hidden forever. They will find him eventually. We’re going to need help.”
“I’ll contact our agent at the FBI field office in San Antonio before we land, have him meet us in Austin.”
“Good idea. Can you boot up my Timeline Terminal?”
Seconds later, Felicity’s computer screen turned into an exact simulation of her terminal back on Calaxia. She took a deep breath and looked to see if Joel Holton’s fate had returned to normal while she and Gus were discussing the situation.
“The report has been erased in the Calaxian database,” Gus stated, reappearing on the screen.
“Of course it has.” The muscles in her body started to tremble as she flipped some switches on the control panel. “I located the nearest black hole, so I’m prepping for the light jump now. Be prepared to jump to light speed once we get there.”
“As soon as we hit light speed, I’m going into hyper-sleep; make sure you wake at the least, an hour before I have to prepare to land.”
“July 11, 2014, Austin, TX?”
“Affirmative. And please make sure you have contacted Agent Wildman before you wake me.”
“You got it, lass.”