Blink and You’ll Miss It

Episode 1 Scene 1

The Past

I was banging my best mate’s ex-wife when it happened. We, actually I, was about to climax when the room shook. I’d fucked my mate’s ex-missus before – it was far from our first time – but it was the first time the earth moved.

Lights flickered; glasses fell as ripples shook the house. Aftershocks – but we were in the middle of the continent and earthquakes were rare. I tugged on my shorts and went upstairs. The basement was a bad place to be.

Out on the street a dozen car alarms were screaming. One had a weird warning voice telling those nearby they were too close and to ’back away’. I hate those things; they had dickhead written all over them.

My motorcycle and the one next to it were on their sides. The initial shock had knocked them down. I levered up my bike. It was heavy, as usual.  It wasn’t the first time I’d had to pick it up. I did the same for Dave’s ride. He was my next door neighbor and he would’ve done the same for me. Besides, seeing a motorbike on its side was truly sad.

I looked up and down the street. People were sticking their heads out their front doors. What the hell was going on? There were the sounds of sirens in the distance; the dual cadences were a combination of fire and ambulance. I later learned a gas line had ruptured and a fire was raging. The stink of smoke that later became a permanent backdrop to life on this plane of existence had yet to register.

A cop car turned into the street. The officer in the passenger’s seat was on the mic and informing everyone it was ‘OK’ and ‘to go inside’. Most recognized this for the bullshit it was and stayed outside. The cops that day were ill-informed and useless. This was a sign of times to come. This wasn’t the cops’ fault. They hadn’t been trained for the events to follow. I know. Back then I was a cop, too.

Episode 1 Scene 2

The Present

My Keeper motorbike has more dings on it since I left the Deacons’ tender care. So have I. It’s unavoidable. Law and order in the traditional sense have disappeared. People look after themselves and those close to them. Society has devolved and returned to its tribal roots. In my opinion, that’s been happening for a while. The Blink just served to speed things up. The Blink also made it more feral; the law of the jungle, dog-eat-dog, whatever you want to call it, Darwin was mostly right. The fittest do survive, but only if they have luck on their side.

I‘m back in Saskatoon, and judging by the signage, back when this crap-storm all began. This is The Blink’s epicenter and I end up in this time and place more than anywhere else. Bad karma, I guess.

The signs of protest along the edges of the fortified compounds still sing the same tune. ’Man is not God.’ ’Leave nature to nature.’ The God-botherers and the greenies were hand-in-hand over this one. Their protests against science and the unknown outcomes of people tampering with the environment had fallen on deaf ears. Progress was king and humanity had the keys to the castle. The only problem was, the religious kooks and earth-lovers were right. We had the keys. Only they weren’t to a castle. They were to Pandora’s Box. And we opened it.

I shake my head to clear my thoughts. Trans-temporal shifts have a way of messing with your brain. I look down at the gauges on my ride. They’re familiar to me. This isn’t always the case. In certain times and places the bike’s almost alien, but right now one thing’s clear. A light’s winking. I’m almost empty. Time to fill up.

I pull down my visor and the heads-up display clicks in. There’s a broad, overall map of the city. Fuel depots are indicated in a pulsing red. Not as many as I remember; the time shifts must be hurting supply. The large, blank space to the north of the city is still there. It’ll never move. This is the epicenter. This is where the university was. This is where the trouble began. The Blink started here.

Episode 1 Scene 3

The Past

The days following the quake appeared normal in Saskatoon. Sure, the power was erratic and things broke down more, but this wasn’t unusual. Life proceeded as it always did in the summer. Roads were repaired, people had barbecues and everything was good.

Then the situation began to change. Slowly but surely weird shit started occurring. Stuff disappeared, pets mainly. People were concerned. They called the cops, we responded, we acted concerned, but it was animals we were talking about here. Cops had priorities and our four-legged companions didn’t rate highly. If you wanted to get your pussy out of a tree, call the fucking fire department.

A short time later homeless people became an issue. They disappeared, too. Well-known regulars downtown could no longer be found. No one knew where they’d gone. Their disappearance concerned the charities and church groups. The city fathers turned a blind eye. This wasn’t something they worried about. The city mothers didn’t give a shit either.

It was only when strangers started showing up that Joe Citizen paid attention. These new strangers were recognizably human, but they acted in ways that were different. It was subtle, but they just didn’t fit in. They were out of time; out of their own time.

Eventually the cops noticed the changes as well. These new homeless people knew things and carried items that were just wrong. They had diseases that had supposedly been eradicated or, more worryingly, diseases that were completely resistant to the most modern medicinal drugs. People, modern day people, or more accurately current day people, responded in the most typical way possible; they turned inwards. Family, neighborhood, religion, community – whatever grouping felt safest; these were the alliances people formed.

We, the cops, were neutral – at first. We were the front line. We put out the fires. The citizens were our responsibility. Everything else might be falling apart, but you could rely on the police. We tried to keep the peace. Times, however, were changing. The situation inside the police force was also changing. We were no longer unified. Our weapons and training couldn’t cope with the increasing number and groups of interlopers: groups like the War Clans and the Scythers. Shit was happening that we didn’t understand, and the higher ups weren’t helping.

The overall response was predictable. Those with money and power, which most definitely included our bosses, dug in. They formed the first of the truly weaponized enclaves. They had the big guns and the equipment. A lot of the cop force went with them, and who can blame them? The enclaves had the fire-power and they needed grunts to man the weapons. It was a good fit. Some of them survived. Some didn’t. No one really cared either way. They were pricks.

The remainder of the force stayed in the community. We weren’t saints, but the citizens deserved better than having the cops completely abandon them. Too bad we were next to useless; out-muscled by the past and out-gunned by the future. The writing on the wall was so big you could read it from space. We had to change.

After the initial skirmishes, one thing became clear. The world as we knew it was different. Not completely changed but changed enough. Time was blended, and it was up to us to adapt or die. And, in the beginning, it was mostly about dying.

Episode 1 Scene 4

The Present

I approach the fuel depot with caution. If you’ve operated a depot through The Blink event and survived, you know what you’re doing. It also means you have contacts, contacts through time and space. If you have these, then you know what I am. And if you know that, it’s you who should be cautious.

A gun turret sways its way across the thick compound wall. Its beady red eye flares and twin targeting spots appear on my chest. Standard protocol. Good protocol. I’m not overly impressed, but it’s good to see their operational capability. I’m identified.

"What do you want, Keeper," growls a harsh metallic voice.

It isn’t a question; it’s a challenge. The individual at the other end of this rig is probably a kid, a teenager most likely. They take their responsibilities seriously.

It was the kids that adapted the fastest to the crap that happened in the aftermath of The Blink. They had the gaming and tech skills to operate this quasi-future weapons shit. However, their greatest asset to the community is a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. The adults value this clarity and effortless decision making. The lack of conscience that goes along with this is of occasional concern, but those problems can be dealt with later. Survival’s now the key.

"Fuel. Scan me," I answer.

I’ve already turned off my motorbike’s over-developed survival mechanism. Scanning my ride or me without the primary defenses shut down automatically results in a crater the size of a basketball court appearing at the source of the scan. Everyone knows this. The Keepers make sure of it.

The gun barrel droops like an old man’s erection and a white light blinks on. The light dances across the bar code embedded in my body armor.  There’s a pause – again, protocol – and then the heavy outer gate slides open. Bar code accepted. It’s the smart choice. If the right choice hadn’t been made, I would’ve blown a hole right through the front gate. I have my own form of protocol.

I notch the heavy bike into gear and it burbles forward. The motorbike’s a beast: a semi-autonomous piece of machinery that’s designed to blend in with whatever era we cascade into. At the moment it’s an over-engineered, over-powered, black muscle bike. I love it.

In other eras it takes on different forms; it even turned into a bizarre bio-horse when I had to deal with a pack of marauding Mongols down the line. It fooled no one; everyone knew I was a Keeper, but the bike changed anyway. It’s part of the rules.

The makers of these killing platforms, the Deacons, insist that our level of weaponry be only one or two generations ahead of the time in which we find ourselves. The idea’s to preserve parity in terms of weapons capability. If I go down, the Deacons don’t want advanced tech introduced into the wrong time. This works fine when going back in time, but it’s a bitch moving forward. Much beyond the 26th century and I need to have my partner with me or I’d get smoked.

I tweak the throttle and the bike rolls through the outer gate and into the interior kill zone. Any well-established fuel depot has a primary kill zone between the inner and outer gates. This one’s seen recent use. The shiny scars on the inside walls indicate that one of the trigger-happy teenagers had let loose when confronted with a problem too complex to comprehend. I bet his parents are proud.

I swing my leg over the bike and stretch. Trans-temporal travel, or cascading as it’s commonly called, not only gives your head a tweak, it also plays hell with the spine. That and I really want a drink, like right now. I stride up to the inner door and bang on the outside with my ultra-enamel glove. It rings loud off the steel.

"Hold your damn horses, Keeper," swears an older voice. "You’re inside. You’ll get a drink soon enough."

I smile. My reputation precedes me.

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