18 July, 2010

On the New Frontier...Now, What Does That Button Do?

     Sitting in my office, I fended off an attack of the mundane.  Paperwork through the ages, I mused in annoyance, may very well have moved away from paper, but it never lessened in volume somehow.  Fighting for the past two hours, I felt unaccomplished.  Staring at the screen, my eyes suddenly decided to cross.  Realising I needed a break, I arose and marched out of my office.
     Torli nodded as I approached.  My faithful secretary, she doubtless heard my frustration with her superior hearing.  She confirmed my suspicion by stating, "All calls held Mr. Kaden.  I hear there is a lovely jazz concert occurring this afternoon at 1."
     Grunting an acknowledgment, I stalked past her desk.  Casting about, I decided to head for the top floor of the building.  A quick trip up deposited me in the clinical confines of the research and development department.  I laughed faintly at the sound of an alarmed shout, coming from the far back corner.  Heading in that direction, I soon located Doctor Jersil Weki.  Waiting patiently for him to extinguish the smoking remains of something, I finally pulled him aside.
     "Doctor, " I said loudly over the general noise of the department, "anything new?"
     Weki stared blankly at me.  Tapping a foot impatiently, I waited for his brain to return.  In a moment he said, "Ah Norville."  With that statement, I noted with some frustration, ended his attempt at social pleasantries.  Waiting again, I knew from previous experience his distracted thoughts would catch up.  I hoped that is.
     I pulled his sleeve, dragging him away from the commotion and scurrying staff members.  Steering him to a quieter corner of the floor, he said, "Nothing new developed really Norville.  We thought, "waving a furry hand at the disaster I found him attending, "the solution of the Mystery of Talius presented itself."
     Nodding to him, I frowned in sympathy.  The Mystery of Talius represented a handful of true temporal mysteries not a soul seemed able to solve.  I sighed in disappointment, casting about in my mind for what to do next.  Weki sucked in a sudden breath, scattering my thoughts.  Pulling me along to his office, he produced a case and opened it.  I stared at the device within, puzzled beyond words.
     "Alright Doctor, I give.  What exactly am I looking at?"
     Weki pulled the device from the case.  Studying it a moment, he said simply, "By all appearances, a temporal projector.  A primitive one at that."
     "Alright Doctor, but why are you showing me this?  I see the non-standard design, and by the bulk it is fairly primitive, but-"
     Weki waved me to sudden silence.  Looking at it absently, he said, "Agent Colui discovered this item.  She found it on 19th century Earth.  It appears inert."
     Eyes widening, I pondered that statement.  Earth of the period was barely into a Class 2 society, and certainly unable to produce anything concerning temporal manipulation.  I studied the device in Weki's hands intently.  He turned it over, popping open a control panel.  Applying all my knowledge, I could not fathom the design on this device.
     Noticing a large button, I asked sarcastically, "Now, what does that button do?"
     Without a thought, Weki pressed it.  I began laughing...
     My laughter halted when I landed in a warm puddle of muddy water.
     I blinked, then again for extra good measure.  I scrambled out of the puddle, dripping to drier land.  Cursing loudly, I screamed, "Weki!"  Huffing from all the shouting, I looked about me.  Snapping my temporal locator off my belt, I groaned aloud.  The scrambled readings informed me I was quite on my own.  Sucking in a breath, I proceeded to clean mud from myself.
     Looking aloft, I noted twin suns.  No signs of advanced civilization greeted my eyes, scaring me a bit.  Regaining calm, I let my mind automatically run through a checklist.  Pulling out a simple scanner I decided to see if rain was going to pelt me.  Fiddling with the scanner, I barely noticed the ground shaking.  The ground ceased shaking as I determined no rain in the immediate area.
     Freezing suddenly, my skin crawled.  Pure silence greeted my ears, causing me to flick on my forceshield.  Growling, it refused to activate, doubtless from the muddy water. My eyes flicked left then right, showing nothing in range.  Slowly turning, I faced the opposite direction.
     Yelping, I stared into a mouth full of teeth, big teeth.  Breaking my gaze from teeth straight from a childhood nightmare, I saw the rest of the large animal.  Swallowing hard, I said cheerily, "Nice doggy.  Want a treat, other than me?"
     The roar silenced me, nearly knocking me over into the puddle.  Thinking hurriedly, I fiddled with the controls on the scanner in my hand.  Smiling, I triggered a sonic pulse.  The beast roared and stomped about in rage.  I managed to miss most of it's performance, already running for the nearby trees.  Running harder, feeling the ground shake, I tripped over a stone, flying into the brush and skidding to a stop against a tree.   I crawled, barely missing teeth from the massive head poking in the trees for me.
     Huffing and counting bruises, I staggered away from being the main course.  Musing over the emergency checklist, I decided to add a few things should I return home.  Smiling at the absurdity, I formed the memo and the lecture in the same thought.  I couldn't, I thought mischievously, wait to get my hands on Weki.
     Landing unceremoniously on my behind, I yelled.  Adding a major bruise to my list I opened my eyes to identify the offending object.  Disbelief chased my pain away, as I looked up at a pair of spears.  Letting my eyes wander farther along, I noted with serious dismay what was holding them.
     Reptilian humanoids.  Primitive reptilian humanoids, with spears.
     Smiling, I managed to rise.  Reviewing things rapidly, I spoke slow and even.  "Hello.  I seem to have landed here quite accidentally.  Perhaps you fine chaps could direct me to a safe place?"
     Hissing, I realised the translator would provide roughly zero assistance.  I began pondering ways out of this particular turn of events.  Smiling for all my worth, the stony expressions I received in return did not endear me any.  Backing up slowly, the advancing reptiles with spears cornered me.  Swallowing hard, I wondered what effect my remains might incur on the time stream.
    The reptiles stopped advancing, turning and hissing.  Puzzled by this, I realised they possessed sharper senses than I, as the ground commenced rumbling.  Scrambling up the tree behind me, I climbed as far as I could get.  Willing my panting to quiet, I listened to the commotion below.  Roaring mixed with the reptiles, forcing a smile.  I turned my mind to the more immediate issue, of getting home and kicking Weki a few times.
     Pulling out my temporal locator, I saw in disappointment the thing was still quite scrambled.  I yanked out the pair of scanners in my pockets, glaring at them.  Ideas chased logic through my head, sadly to no avail.  Feeling my mind shift to hyperspace, I refused to stop it.
     Completely in a dimension of thought, moments passed before noises intruded upon my rampaging thoughts.  Blinking myself to my rather dismal reality, I glanced down from my perch.  Seeing a crowd of reptile humanoids all looking up, I tensed.  Frowning, I attempted to reason their thoughts.  Surely they would have climbed by now, I thought, so what in the worlds were they waiting for?
     Seeing a flaming stick, the answer rang in.  Leaning out, I saw in total dismay that my tree was surrounded by wood.  The flaming stick passed around the pile encircling the tree.  Flames sprouted, burning and beginning to burn up the tree.  I frantically searched the trees about me, finding none near enough to jump to.  Panic building, I hurriedly played with the devices in my hand.  Sweating, fire licking at my shoes, I pressed a button.  Screaming as nothing occurred, I threw the devices against the tree.
     Landing on my head, I wondered absently why death looked like the lobby of the building I worked in.  Scrambling painfully to my feet, surprise colored my features, followed by embarrassment.  Straightening my rather dirty and battered clothes, I strode past the astonished onlookers.  Entering the building lift, I keyed my code to override the security.  Going straight to the research and development floor, I exited the lift to mass commotion.  Smiling wickedly, silence descended slowly as I searched the floor for Doctor Weki.  Finding him bent over the device causing my misadventure, I broke his intense study.  Looking for all the worlds shocked, Weki rose.  Waving him from uttering a sound, I pasted him with a glare.
     "My office, 15 minutes."
     Smiling broadly, I simply turned away.  Entering the lift, I laughed, knowing Weki would sweat a bit.

07 July, 2010

On the New Frontier...One Last Day

(This is a story I have had kicking around in my head for quite a while.  It is mixes end of the world with my actual Life.  For those of you who know my actual family and me well, you will see just how true this can be.  I will warn you now, this is a very emotional piece.)

     Dad and I sat in the shade of the red maple in the front yard.  Both of us simply looked west, towards the airport.  The sounds of the gathering storm mocked us, light but intense.  Chugging water from a bottle, I reflected on Life, my father lost in thoughts of his own.  A proud and cranky old man of 82, I was uncertain what crossed his mind.
     "Going to need to water those tomatoes tomorrow."
     I nodded to my dad's sudden statement.  A loud boom gave me pause before I could answer.  "Yep.  Last time I saw a forecast, no rain for several days."  I stopped, staring at the browning grass.  Smiling sadly, I reached down and touched the grass at my feet.
     Dad reloaded his chew, allowing me a chance to light a cigar.  Blowing smoke, the light breeze caught it, blowing it easterly and away.  A series of loud rumbles caused me to jump in my chair.  My father, I noted in faint amusement, hardly even reacted.  He continued his long stare away to the distance.  I followed his gaze, just letting my thoughts randomly ramble.
     "Do you want to leave dad?"
     Even at this late of a date, the only response I received was a stern shake of his head.  My father said the words he always said when I asked.  "You go, you don't have to stay."
     "No dad, I am fine right here.  Got no where to go anymore anyway."
     Nodding, my father returned his focus to the sounds from the west.  I looked right, staring at the house.  A faint smile crossed my face, remembering everything that ever was.  My father had built the house with his own hands and a pair of uncles in the late 1940s.  A monument after a fashion, and the starting point of so many adventures and misadventures.  Empty now save the collected memories and pieces of living, it might even outlast all of us.
     An explosion of sound nearby dragged me unwillingly to the moment.  Squinting into the distance, I could see a pair of craft fighting overhead.  In moments, the F-22 exploded in mid air, leaving a fiery trail as a marker.  Sighing, I said to my dad, "Getting closer I see."
     Spitting chew contemptibly, he held his tongue.  Perhaps, I thought, he was right.  Not much was left to say about anything.  I drank some water, pondering this insight.  Green streaks of fire arced overhead, followed by more explosions.  I laughed suddenly at my jumpiness even now.
     The sounds of the storm, the battle drew nearer.  My father shifted, hefting his favourite rifle, an old 8mm German Mauser.  I did the same, with my 8mm Mauser.  Insane, I thought yet again, sitting here in the path of invasion.  Insane, I mused, cocking the Mauser, to not attempt to survive.
     As the wall of noise increased, I thought of my friends, of my brother and mother.  Of my friends not killed in the initial invasion, I hoped that humanity would prevail for them.  Of my brother and mother, I hoped they would find my sister, and remember.  Depending on events, I thought hopefully, they might even return to our home.
     Tears springing forth, I looked at my father.  Despite his full life, he too was crying.  When the aliens invaded, he simply said he would not leave.  Despite countless arguments, I remained.  Deep inside, I knew why I stayed with the stubborn old bastard.
     I could never continue living, knowing he died alone.
     Seeing the spearhead of the alien invasion heading towards our home, my father spoke the hardest words of his life, in his own fashion.
     "John, you're an asshole.  I love you."
     I cried freely.  I cried freely and unashamedly, for everything that was, everything that is, everything that could have been.  I let the tears roll, not for me, but for humanity, and my cat that I would miss dearly.
     Fighting tears the whole way, I spoke words I never said before to my father, as we sighted in aliens advancing through the browns and greens.
     "I love you dad."

04 July, 2010

On the New Frontier...Chasing Darkness Part IV

Day 7
     Jumping out of hyperspace, I entered an asteroid field.  Following the guide beacons, I settled into orbit around a large asteroid.  The data I acquired indicated this spaceport belonged to the Free Trade Guild.  Hopefully, I thought darkly, this meant I would not have to worry overmuch about people looking for me.
     Scanning the spaceport, I scanned the place intently.  Finding a clear location, I teleported myself down, glad my luck held.  No one noticed my arrival, and no alarms sounded.  Smiling, I set off for the nearest trade shop, in search of gossip and rumor.
     In minutes, I located one.  Entering the dim confines, I noted several other beings.  Dialing my forcescreen to maximum intensity, I poked about the place.  Looking through trinkets and artifacts, I became conscious of one of the beings following me.  Groaning lightly, I freed my ion blaster from its holster.  Drawing a breath, I waited, not wanting to initiate hostilities.
     The sound of projectiles being fired caused me to leap into the air.  Diving for cover, I happily realised I was not being shot at this time.  Coming up behind a battered crate, I peeked about.  Watching gunfire and knives flying, I yanked out my ion blaster.  Hearing a scream, I saw the creepy being who tailed me through the shop, pinned to a wall.  A tall girl stood before him, tagging him with a device.
     Smiling anew, I found myself struck by the girl's appearance.  Tall and redheaded, she appeared humanoid and damn attractive.  Snapping myself out of staring, I rose and continued my investigation of the shop.  The scanner hummed merrily, recording every detail.  Satisfied, I strode out of the shop, biding farewell to the keeper.
     Once on the street, I wandered aimlessly.  Try as I might, not an idea of how to proceed presented itself.  Skipping past thoughts of how to return home, I could not even fathom how to precisely survive in my current location.  Not one contemptible thing amounted to any form of sense.  Mood darkening, I searched for a spot to contemplate.
     Finding an observation deck, I entered, delighted no one was about.  Striding the the glass, I stared off into the alien space and asteroids.  Perhaps, I mused bitterly, revelation would just present itself in these blasted stars.
     "Would you mind explaining what you are?"
     Cringing, I revised my estimate of safety downwards.  In the reflection I could dimly make out a figure behind me, cutting off obvious escape.  Playing nonchalant, I said coolly, "I am afraid I am not following your question.  Mere trader am I, humbly scraping out an existence."
     The female voice behind me wasted no time.  "Acting suits you not my friend.  Again, "a fine edge colored her voice, "would you mind explaining what you are?"
     Sighing ruefully, I turned to face my questioner.  To my astonishment, the redheaded girl from the shop studied me.  Tilting my head, I spread my hands.  Waiting for a count, I said sincerely, "My fair lady, I am nothing more than a lost traveler looking for a way home."
     Flinching under the unfathomable gaze, I stood my ground.  I lost count of how long we stood there, before she casually flicked a wrist.  Puzzled when nothing occurred, I opened my mouth to speak.  Another wave of her hand stopped me, trying my patience.
     The door behind her opened.  Her senses and reflexes better than mine, she already had hit cover before I noticed an object bouncing into the room.  Exploding, my forcescreen took the blast, the kinetic force tossing me against the observation window.  Sliding down to the floor, I jumped as projectiles blasted at me.  Angry now, I ripped out my ion blaster.  Dialing in to maximum intensity, I fired at the offending wall where the shots came from.  A pair of gurgling screams later, no more fire issued forth.  Looking about, I spotted the women on the floor, a trail of jade blood behind.  Hearing shouting and klaxons, I grimly tapped commands into my palmputer.  Kneeling beside the woman, I activated the teleport, removing us both from potentially bad explanations.
     Onboard, I dragged the barely conscious woman into the medic booth.  Laying her on the table, I hoped the bloody thing could do something for her.  I sat impatiently, tapping feet in alternating rhythm.  No doctor, the readings puzzled me, but the basic diagnostic stated the bleeding and shrapnel had been removed.  Assuming that constituted good news, I waited for her to regain consciousness.  tiring of staring at her form laying on the medic table, I retreated to flight control.
     Punching commands, I shifted the Stellar Rush to a position affording easy escape.  Sitting, my thoughts returned from the place they bolted to in a crisis.  Feeling depression kick in again at the tangled mass of questions, I leaned on my hands.  My thoughts mocked me, the puzzle stretching to an infinity of stars.  Each piece seemed further and further away, eluding me.

On the New Frontier...Why Didn't They Clean That Up?

     Landing on one's face is surely not the way to begin a Monday of work.
     Rubbing my bruised jaw, I moaned in agony.  This action halted a sudden rise from the floor, giving time to my banged knees to clamor for attention as well.  Cursing feverishly, I composed a memo to the building cleaning service inside my mind.  Third time this bloody year, I noted sourly, one of the cleaning droids decided ceasing function inside my office constituted a good idea.
     Pushing myself up gingerly, I called out for the lights.  Wincing as I turned, the lights revealed the offending cleaning droid.  Primed to kick, I halted mid swing, shock hitting at full power.
     Lying on the floor, staring back at me, a body lay.  Suppressing a shriek, I slowly moved to touch it.  My eyes saw no blood, which I thanked.  No need to adding fainting to the list of things I might accomplish today.  As I reached to touch the body, I stopped.  While appearing quite human, I suddenly remembered this could be one of 65 or so species of human looking humanoids.
     Stepping to my desk, I dragged out one of the many tools of my trade.  Setting the life scanner to general, I pointed it at the body.  Letting it hum merrily, I waited for it to give me answers.  The wait turned short, as it confirmed two suspicions for me.
     First, the man laying on the floor was indeed human.
     Second, he happened to be quite dead.
     Before any further thoughts issued forth, my secretary stepped into the office.  Neatly avoiding the body on the floor, Torli remarked evenly, "Another droid quit in here Mr. Kaden?  I think the cleaning people hate you."
     Knowing I refined the art of astonishment to a new, and quite possibly grotesque level, I accept the stack of holocards from Torli.  Looking at them blankly, I felt the puzzled glare from my secretary.  Smiling sheepishly, I said, "Thank you Torli.  Contact the masses for a meeting in three hours.  Please divert any incoming calls to the usual response as well."
     Shaking her reptilian head, she simply strode out.  Staring at my now closed door, then the floor, I blinked several times for good measure.  Rooting through the nearby closet, I located a stick from Alcazr VI.  Smiling fondly at the memory, I turned and poked at the body I saw.  After smacking the body, I leaned down and touched it.
     Frowning, I moved back to my desk.  Sitting down, I called up video and scanner feeds for the last 72 hours.  Pouring over them, nothing amiss registered.  In point of fact, nary a thing registered in the slightest, including the arrival of the 'body'.  Smacking the communications system, I dialed up the duty attendant for cleaning services.
     "Cortil, one of the cleaning droids cleaned its last in my office.  I would like it removed immediately, as I have a client coming for a visit."
     Cortil spoke back, "Of course Mr. Kaden.  I know that is the third this year."
     Thanking him, I leaned back to wait.  In quick enough time, my door opened and a repair droid strode in.  Clicking to itself, I held my breath.  Surely, I hoped, the droids sensors would reveal the truth of the matter.
     To my utter dismay, the repair droid picked up a cleaning droid and neatly tucked it away.  The repair droid closed the door, leaving me baffled beyond words.  The body on the floor mocked me further, just laying there unmoved.  I leaned back further, thinking furiously about the matter before me.
     Tipping my chair right over, I deposited myself on the floor.  Laughing a moment, I rubbed the two new bruises I acquired.  I whined as I rose, wincing from all of the bumps.  Looking across the room, I found my gaze arrested by the figure lying on the floor.  After a moment, I walked towards it, worry running across my mind.  Leaning down, I rolled the body over to study it.
     Concentrating, I recorded every detail of the figure.  Quickly rifling the pockets, nary a thing turned up.  Kneeling, I contemplated what I knew.  After that passed in the space of a deep breath, I began wondering.
     Why did I get out of bed?  And what exactly was this?

     Standing,  I frowned at the mess I found myself in.  Acting on impulse, I exited my office.  Perhaps I needed some fresh air, I mused, in order to fathom this annoying little puzzle.  Heading out into the main area, I pondered options for fresh air.
    "Norville old chap, have I got a deal for you!"
     I cringed at the rough voice calling to me.  Groaning mentally, I turned to confront the source.  To my complete contempt, Drebin Nordberg stood smiling at me.  He waved his case about, full of useless gadgets no doubt.  Following closely behind, the look on Torli's reptile face indicated Nordberg might yet lose a limb.  Or perhaps, all of them.
     Waving Torli off before she murdered Nordberg, I manage a happy smile.  Drebin Nordberg, crackpot inventor and peddler of useless temporal gadgets.  I fingered my right forearm in memory of his last invention.
     "Drebin, hello.  Dreadfully sorry,-"
     "Norville, just one moment! Look, "Nordberg deftly opened the case, producing a gizmo, "a temporal transmitter and general science scanner, all rolled into one!"
     Disguising a smack to my head, I forced the smile to stay home.  Listening halfheartedly as he prattled, I attempted thinking a way out of this unwanted mess.  Nordberg continued, happily gushing about the product, scanning and waving it all over the place.  A sudden pause in the outpouring of words dragged me back from a world devoid of the clinically insane.
     Nordberg frowned, staring intently at his device.  Punching buttons, I began to believe I could make a hasty retreat.  As I backed off, the readings on the screen caught my eye.  Yanking the device out of his hand, Nordberg launched a sales pitch at my apparent interest.  Tuning him out, I stared in abject amazement at the readings on the device's screen.
     Astonishment set every nerve buzzing.  Scrambled, the readout changing information by the blink of the eye, I recognized the pattern and the meaning.
     Chronostatic emissions.  Loads of chronostatic emissions, originating from my office.
     "Drebin, mind if I test drive this little puppy?"
     Nordberg exclaimed joy, shoving a manual and a few other trinkets at me.  Muttering some words, I entered my office.  Throwing the manual and assorted items on a chair, I tinkered with the device's setup.  Aiming the newly configured contraption at the body only I could see, I sucked in a breath.  Exhaling, the display readout a temporal shift measuring minus 30 of the Byrd scale.
     Reading the manual, I double checked.  Resetting Nordberg's device I checked one more time for good measure.  Without nary a doubt, the readings displayed true, minus 30 no matter what adjustments I made.  My thoughts jumped through hyperspace, leaving one behind.
     Insanity turned viral overnight, or, this body on my floor truly was a dead human from the future.
     Rifling through my office, I located every piece of temporal equipment.  Checking each, I removed one item from the list, never stopping.  Once the list checked out negative, I commenced a check of the office in general.  Clearing the office completely, I rounded on the offending body.
     After my third intensive search of the morning, I stood.  Frowning at my lack of result, I reigned in my thoughts.  Tapping a foot, I drifted off in a sea of thinking.
     Jumping almost to the ceiling, the interoffice comm screaming for attention, I snapped back to reality.  "Yes Torli, " I called out.  "What seems the bother now?"
     Torli sounded apologetic, saying, "Reminder Mr. Kaden, new hire class meeting in five minutes."
     Growling a response, I moved out of the office.  Sincerely wishing to skip this task, I remembered I was stuck.  With all my other agents out, the job fell to me.  I reflected on what was worse, new hires or a mystery making zero sense, delivered from the Future no less.

     Skidding to a stop with the help of a table, I smiled at the 15 new faces of my Temporal Troubleshooters Ltd. agency.  Scanning the faces, nothing seemed amiss as I got the show rolling.  I condensed the company history section in to five sentences, trying to hurry things along.
     In the middle of describing all the (boring) required information on company policy, something in my jacket beeped.  Continuing as the beeping kept up, i tried to remember the source of this noise.  Stopping my recitation, I fumbled through my pockets.  Pulling out Nordberg's device, I contemplated smashing the contemptible thing right there.
     Looking for an off switch, the readings display caught my eye.  Processing the readings, I detected the chronostatic buildup of earlier.  This time I noted in amazement the readings seemed more intense.  Almost like a...
     In a flash of color, a hooded figure appeared in the room.  My new hires managed reactions all across the spectrum.  My reaction consisted of yelling, "Excuse me!  Unauthorized teleport entry carries stiff punishment under Galactic Code."
     Turning burning eyes on me, the cloaked figure said nary a word.  Raising an arm suddenly, I narrowly managed to avoid a blast of energy.  One half of the new hires bolted for the door, and doubtless to turn in resignations.  The other half tossed chairs, tables, shoes, anything not attached to the walls or ceiling.  Smiling at them, I suddenly spotted one figure huddled in a corner.
     Looking intently, realization paid a visit.
     The man in the corner was the same one on my floor.  Alive, but with the hooded menace advancing, ignoring a shower of objects pelting it.  Watching and scrambling for a weapon, I saw the boy produce an electric stunner. 
     In a flash, I saw.  Scooping up my glass of water, I shot past the hooded figure, throwing the water in its face.  Bouncing off the wall, I slapped Nordberg's device right onto the face, taking it down as I tripped over the cloak.  Yelping, adding to the day's bruises, I limped away, grabbing a fistful of the boy in the corner.  The remaining people dashed out.
     Thankfully holding onto the wall, the explosion shook the entire floor.  Turning, I watched the assembled new hires look at the room, then me.  Smiling grimly, I said cheerily, "Lesson concluded.  First floor reception.  Torli will take you on the full tour."
     Turning my attention to the lad before me, I stuck out a hand.  He handed over the electric stunner wordlessly.  Smiling suddenly, I affected my professor's voice.  "Son, rule 2.386.  Never use an electric weapons device on androids."
     Nodding in pure confusion, he accepted the admonishment.  Pocketing the stunner, I escorted him to reception.  Handing him over to Torli, I entered my office, happily not finding anything waiting to trip me.  Sitting carefully, I spent a good amount of time attempting to reason how all this came about.  In the end I decided I would never be certain, the change in outcomes erasing whatever prompted the oddball message to myself.  My only thought centered on a freak of temporal displacement, perhaps a time echo.  A shudder gripped me, reminding me about the vast variables of temporal cause and effect.
     Settling in, I prepared to dive into the day's mundane events.  Torli's voice interrupted my attempt to accomplish work.
     "Mr. Kaden, Mr. David Sidar on line six.  He said he will wait, all day if needed."
     Swallowing hard, I wondered if in the other outcome I survived talking to the building owner.  Huffing in hope, I answered the line.  The nonstop screaming greeting me sucked the hope clean from me.