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.