“No. I guess I didn’t have to slit his throat. But I’ll be damned if I was going to give him the D7 and slit my own throat.”
“According to Mr. Diggs, you”, Captain Parks read from the PDA in front of her “’deliberately dropped the first pill, stepped on it, and said ‘oops, guess you’re gonna have to go the hard way’.”
She had me. I smiled sheepishly. “My hands were sweaty! I dropped it. I apologized.”
Parks just stared at me. With my razor sharp senses, I could glean that maybe she didn’t believe me.
I was being questioned about my last out; the last case I’d been sent on. Rundor Diggs; Turd Extraordinaire. He’d used the system to travel back in time with every intention to, well…let’s say, spread his seed in the 20th century. His plan was apparently to place his own progeny, people who he would later be able to prove were his relations, in powerful, rich families. Then, back here in 2164, he could approach them and take advantage of these long lost relatives. I’ll give him points for originality, but, I mean… ewwww.
“Captain, the asshole got two agents captured by Linear police and he almost got me, not to mention a bunch of Linears, killed with a little reckless driving through the streets of . Tell me you don’t think he deserved to suffer a bit.”
The Captain sighed, pressed a button on the table that controlled the recording devices in the room and stared me in the eyes. She’s a good starer.
“What?” I asked, as if I didn’t know.
“This is the third complaint of Chaser brutality against you.”
“Hey! Hodges was just a big whiner. He tried to club me over the head with that scepter. He missed. I didn’t.”
“Even if he hit you, you know he couldn’t have done the damage you did to him”.
“He got a black eye”.
“He got a crushed cheekbone and a broken nose.”
“He got better. They don’t always come willingly, Captain. You know that. You’ve been out there.”
“Yes. I have. And I’m very glad I’m not anymore. The increase in non-linear crime is up a thousand fold since my time and I understand how frustrating that is. But, Ashlyn, you’ve got two years to retirement. How about behaving yourself a bit better till then?”
Phew! She wasn’t going to throw the book at me after all. I smiled my best charming, yet appropriately chastised smile. “Okay”. I said.
Maybe it was the fact that she rolled her eyes and shook her head as she rose, but I still sensed that she still wasn’t quite buying it.
“See you tomorrow, Cap”. I grabbed my jacket and headed out the door as fast as I could without seeming to be running.
The halls in the Department of Non-Linear Criminal Investigation, or N.C.I., were sterile, but pleasant enough. Vid monitors lined the walls with various public service announcements intermingled with scenes from days gone by, back before the world became a smog filled concrete covered mess. Ok, maybe it isn’t that bad. But relatively speaking…
I walked quickly toward the Underground to catch the first train home. I’d been on assignment for nearly two weeks and I couldn’t wait to get home and call Dillon for a little fun time.
Dillon Carter and I have known each other since we were children. We grew up together and even got jobs at the same installation. He worked his way into an assignment at N.C.I. in Monitoring. He never seemed to resent that I got the far sexier work, but I knew he wished it was him sometimes. Well, not when I come home beaten and bruised and still feeling the intense ache you feel after you’ve been run through the heart with a broad sword. But on a normal Slip and Grip, I know he’d love to be the one jumping back and forth, chasing criminals through time.
Now that I’ve got a few minutes, maybe I should step back a bit. Get you caught up.
My name is Ashlyn Miles. I’m 28 years old and I’m a Non-Linear Criminal Investigator. Fancy word for a time traveling cop. Actually, Chaser is the more common term. Ever since the big brains figured out how to slip people into different streams of time, it was just a matter of time (pun intended) before someone started figuring out a way to break the rules and make some profit.
Now, I don’t pretend to know that much about the actual physics of time travel. All I know is the physicality of it. You get into a machine today, they send you sometime else. In order to come back, you have to cease to exist in that time. Then you magically appear back here. Someone tried to explain it to me one time. It has something to do with the discovery that Dark Energy, the mysterious ‘non-stuff’ stuff that makes up about 75% of the universe, is actually time; a “physical” manifestation of time. By tapping into that Dark Energy, you can move back and forth in time.
And this where I get confused; somehow all of time exists simultaneously, just in a different form, a different state of something other than matter, but something that has an effect on the universe, it’s gravity, it’s composition. Because we’re in this particular time, this particular set of matter, of actual particles, exists for us. But in other times, other sets of the exact same particles exist. The exact same planet Earth exists in every other nanosecond of time, just on different planes. Tap into Dark Energy and you can move between planes, and, thereby, move between times.
And when you die in another plane, somewhere other than where you were born, the Dark Energy squeezes you out, since you didn’t belong there anyway, and you’re brought back here by the TALIS machine, reassembled the same way you left, for the most part, and only a few hours have gone by.
And yeah, it made just as much sense to me and I apologize for the ridiculously unclear explanation. But honestly, the travel itself isn’t the most interesting part of the stories I can tell you. In the case of time travel, getting there isn’t half the fun. Matter of fact, it can suck.
Going back isn’t too bad. The technology is able to sort of suspend your body in the microsecond of travel time till you get back there. You feel it, but it’s a fleeting sensation. But coming back, that’s the twist. You have to die (cease to exist on that plane, get it?) to come back. So they invented D7, which the captain and I were discussing earlier. You take a D7 capsule, you fall asleep, your heart stops and you come back home. But if you lose your capsule, or if you, like me, sometimes end up in situations where death by napping just isn’t viable, well that takes its toll. Oh you show up back here intact, but you just died a few seconds before. Believe me, you still feel the wound. Sometimes for days.
And the more you do it, the less effective the system’s built in suspension is. In the eight years I’ve been chasing, I’ve been through the portal about 225 times. Only 150 of them, give or take, were D7 deaths. The other 75 or so hurt like a motherfucker. You know the crap they try to feed you that when you fall from a great height, it’s not the landing that kills you, it’s the shock of the fall? Nyuh huh.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that I can only stay back in the Non-Linear stream for a limited amount of time. After a while, it starts to take a toll on the body, as if the Dark Energy knows you don’t belong there. For people who are going back legally, for research or anything like that, they use Chronolix. Just like Melotroynan is used for jetlag to help your body adjust to the time zone you’re in, Chronolix allows your body to adjust to the different placement in the continuum. This allows someone to stay back as long as needed, as long as they keep taking the shots. When they get back, their body is reset for to the present.
Problem is, Chonolix actually changes your DNA to blend you in with the surrounding dark matter. After a few unfortunate trials in the early days of the technology, they realized that you can’t use it more than twice without some serious side effects. Since Chasers go back and forth regularly, we can’t really use Chronolix. So, we can only go back for a limited period of time. Just adds to the excitement, right?
A standard job (known as a “slip and grip”) usually only takes a day or two, so no problem. They can send norms in, meaning regular humans, not genetically enhanced like I am. Me, I rarely get slip and grips. I specialize in non-idents, people who snuck back in time, unauthorized, and without an ident chip, which is standard issue for every human on the planet. More on that later.
So, you go back and everything’s just fine for the first couple of days. But after that, you start to experience The Push. About 48 hours in, I’m more tired than I should be. After three days, its more like exhaustion, after four, I’m actually sick. On the fifth day, some things start to not work so well and any longer than that, I’m wishing for death. After that, the clock is ticking loudly and things will just start to shut down. I saw someone come back after 8 days, a delta, like me, but an earlier model by about seven years, which was before they developed our enhanced healing abilities. She didn’t make it and no one likes to talk about it. Needless to say, we’re all mindful of the clock.
The Push is a government quasi-secret. People who are just going back for a vacation are told that they can only stay back for three days for biological reasons…their germs and the germs of the period they’re visiting don’t mix. People who go back for research are told that the Chonolix corrects this condition and allows them immunity. We don’t advertise The Push because we don’t want anyone with criminal intent knowing what happens to Chasers who stay back there too long. Makes sense to sort of keep that to ourselves, huh?
6 days, 14 hours was my longest stretch. It took me more than three weeks to recover. So I’m really cautious nowadays. There’s a built in subdural timer right behind my ear that pulses and let’s me know how much time I have left. (Can’t exactly walk around with a digital watch during the middle ages, now can I?) I’m what you might call mindful.
Now, how do I know where to go and what to do? Well, that’s the fun part. See, they managed to create a history (called, appropriately enough, The History) outside the timeline. The History can’t be affected by changes a Non-Linear traveler (meaning someone from a different timeline) may cause. You know, if someone went back and saved , well, the current history books would change and everyone’s memory of the events would change. So the only way we could know if someone was screwing with the timeline was to create an unchangeable source of information.
There’s a group of people, like my friend Dillon, who are monitoring the timeline against The History every minute of every day. Boy, would I not want that job. But they seem to like it well enough. Dillon is my handler. He monitors me and two other Delta Chasers. Gives us our assignments, provides us with research and scenarios, even helps us strategize. And when we get back, he goes through our reports to add any information we’ve learned into the historical database.
And he gets to be in on all the interesting stuff that happens at N.C.I. He even gets to see the downloads, reports that are recorded through optical enhancements and memory chips we all have implanted. As we’re walking around in the past, we’re literally recording history. Imagine watching video from the American Revolution. I brought one back. Everything I saw and everything I heard is now part of The History. Well, almost everything. There was this really cute field medic…you know what? That’s another story.
Dillon has been a Monitor as long as I’ve been a Chaser. If you find something you like, well, I say, stick to it. He’s quite the expert. Me, I’m just not built for that kind of detail.
Oh, yeah. Built. Genetic engineering. See, most people just have kids the old fashioned way, popping them out the way nature intended them, as long as they’ve been licensed to breed, of course. DNA manipulation is still a very risky business and it doesn’t always work out. I’ve seen a few of the mistakes; pretty horrific. But we, as in Deltas, are the success story. Test tube babies specially constructed and born to specially chosen parents for special work. We’re trained for our careers from the moment we’re in the crib.
Me and my brothers, we’ve been amped; made so that we can manipulate our bodies to perform at an accelerated rate. People like me are built to be physical; athletes, soldiers, cops. And I can ramp up more when I need it through hard wiring they’ve installed in my brain. The chip talks to my hypothalamus, which creates more adrenaline on demand, meaning I can be a bit stronger and faster as necessary and all the stuff that comes with adrenaline, i.e. thinking faster, heightened senses, healing faster, reacting faster, all that good stuff. I can manipulate other body chemistry to a certain extent as well. Lower my body temperature, slow my breathing, ramp up production of pheromones; all these things come in very handy.
I also learn a little easier, but that’s due more to a memory chip they added to my brain, an after market enhancement. It allows me to instantly retain anything I look at. Left on my own, I suspect I might not that bright. After you hear a couple of my stories, I’ll let you make your own call on that.
So, they show me things such as foreign or ancient languages (and pronunciations, whenever we have them…otherwise, I have to punt a lot), building blueprints, city maps, and a general history of whatever and wherever and whenever I’m going and I memorize them instantly. Of course, keep in mind, we only have general history. We can’t possibly have all the details. The big events are documented, not the daily grind. And believe me, that is where I’ve been bitten in the ass more times than I care to discuss.
Well, that’s not true. I actually love discussing it. I lived it through it. I can look back fondly now.
All right. Now you’ve got the gist of my work, let’s get back to the sordid details of my life.