Smiling into the twin sunset of Talia, I breathed in the warm air. For all the time I spent managing Temporal Troubleshooters Ltd., occasionally I got to head into the field. Today's assignment: Ensure an election and wedding go off without a hitch. Smiling broader, I reflected on the joy of this simple assignment.
Beeping from the temporal locator disturbed my thoughts. Frowning, I flicked it open, pouring over the readings. My frowned deepened, as I noted a temporal transport signature. Noting the unregistered temporal signature, I moved to my rented air cruiser. Once in, I headed for the co-ordinates on my locator hurriedly.
In minutes I reached a deserted building. Jumping from the air cruiser, I dialed my forcefield to maximum. Cautiously pushing open a door, I pulled my scanner, searching for life forms. Negative readings displayed, prompting me to slowly head inside. Resetting the scanner, I searched for temporal signs or equipment.
Pinging from the scanner lead me to the rear of the building. I stopped, the scanner showing me no equipment, but a strong temporal displacement. Edging the door open, my eyes confirmed no one was home. Entering, I stared about the room. A sigh escaping me, I realized staring would accomplish nothing. Walking out and back to the cruiser, I thought.
Sound intruded on my wild musings. Listening carefully, I realized the local version of the police decided to show up. Growling lowly, I deduced a carefully laid trap, one which I fell straight into. Knowing I had but seconds, I flicked the temporal locator open. I hammered the controls, holding in a breath as I hit the emergency relocation function. To the instant I and the air cruiser disappeared, avoiding some rather odd questions.
Reappearing at the (thankfully empty) overlook, I thought anew. My thoughts ran the entire gauntlet of speculation. Only one thing seemed certain in my troubled mind as it hoped on a race car: Friendly people did not leave traps. I huffed at that particular thought, pondering how to rate the offense according to Universal Etiquette.
Shaking my head, I forced my brain to ponder more serious matters. Obviously, whomever decided to visit this time on Talia held little good will. Also as obvious, I noted in contempt, was the simple fact 'they' scanned for another temporal signature upon arrival. Glaring, I attempted to find a thread of logic in the little information I possessed.
Appearing in the distance of my mind, a thought raced forward. Freezing in place, realization struck home. My mystery counterpart knew of my presence, and more importantly enough to lay a trap. Skin crawling, I pulled out the scanner, setting it to scan for anything. Watching the readings, I sighed in relief as they returned negative. Laughing at my paranoia, I returned to thinking.
A rustle startled me, causing me to jump. Acting first, I flicked my forceshield to maximum. A fortunate thing, as energy bolts streamed at me, throwing me to the ground. Pushing myself up as the energy beams searched me out, I bolted for the air cruiser. My half baked notion of running away died a miserable death as three beams nailed the cruiser. Pulling my locator, I did the only thing I could, and jumped out of the area.
Using the locator, I bounced all over the capital city. On the last jump I set the locator to go on it's own and disappear. Concern washed over me, as without it, I was at something of a disadvantage. Growling, I commenced the walk of a half mile to my hotel. Letting my thoughts roam, I pondered briefly how the rental agency might react about their air cruiser.
A thought raged through my mind. Stopping roughly a block from my hotel, I looked about. Walking across the street calmly, I disguised a scan of the area in a casual stroll. Upon passing the hotel, I sighed in relief. My unknown 'friend' appeared not to have set me yet another trap. Entering the hotel, I marched to my room.
Throwing myself onto the bed, I glared at the ceiling. When the ceiling refused to provide answers, I closed my eyes. One overriding thought chased me to a restless sleep:
Why where they here?
Hitting the floor, I awoke with a thud. Pushing myself up slowly and wincing, I checked the time. I groaned, realising how early it was. Knowing sleep would elude me now, I hauled myself to the hotel bathroom. One hour and three yelps later, I exited the hotel. The twin sun appeared in the western sky, chasing the mist away as I strolled down the street.
In minutes, I arrived at the election counting center. Flashing my credentials, I gained admittance. I smiled as I entered, seeing Talians and computers checking election results and tallies. I marveled as I always have at the general distrust, even in a modern era, of people for machines counting election results. I strolled around, chatting with various workers, playing the guise of Talian Elections Control Inspector to the fullest.
Using my standard scanner, I kept a wary out for anyone else being 'involved' in the process. To my utmost delight, nothing registered out of the ordinary. After about an hour or so, the final, official, tally received confirmation. I congratulated the assembled staff of the Election Control Bureau. I waved aside the honor of announcing the results, saying simply, "This was a team effort. Let the efficiency speak for the whole Bureau."
After sharing in the celebration for a bit, I departed. Hailing a local taxi, I jumped in to head for the second destination. In short enough order, I arrived at a massive wedding chapel. Paying the fare, I checked the time. The ceremony would not commence for about two hours, giving me time to ponder yesterday's little mystery.
Walking slowly down the street, I pondered, appearing to be casually sightseeing. Guessing, I decided my unknown friend would appear at this wedding. I shrugged to myself, as this seemed the only logic about it. Well, I thought sourly, the only apparent logic about it. At that, my thoughts managed another gallop.
Bumping into a random person, I smiled apologetically at the rude glare I received. I nodded and moved off, once again amused by my ability to get lost thinking. Shaking my head, I returned to my random thoughts. Finding no direction, and realising I strolled a bit far, I spun about. Disenchantment echoed on my footsteps.
Returning to the wedding chapel, I entered and milled about the crowd waiting to be seated. As I did, I grabbed my second false ID and pinned a Talian Order of the FireStorm to my lapel. Smiling, I registered with the official on duty, just as the hall opened to allow people to be seated. Following the usher, I sat on the groom side. I watched, looking to spot anything out of the ordinary. My unknown friend, I thought in expectation, has to appear.
In short enough order, the ceremony commenced. Continuing a good streak for the day, nothing seemed amiss. The ceremony lasted a good 90 minutes, with the reception following immediately after. I smiled, moving and chatting amongst the crowd. I fought a frown however, during my mingling. Disturbing, I mused sourly, to be forced to wonder constantly about the moves of the unknown.
Following the wedding party, the guests watched the happy couple board an interstellar cruise ship. Waving them off, I smiled, my dark thoughts chased away. From this point, nothing would happen to this particular and important couple. In fact, I mused in enjoyment of silly facts, they would inspire much peace in this local region.
Walking back towards my hotel, I allowed myself to relax. My thoughts throwing about aimlessly, I managed to trip about three times. Despite my worry about the appearance of another time traveler, everything seemed surprisingly good. I shrugged, rounding the corner to see my hotel. I entered, making my way to my room.
Checking the time, I decided to pack. I kicked on the local news for some noise, grabbing everything and stuffing it in my case. As I did, a sudden news alert intruded on my work.
"-ing live from the Minister's residence. Approximately 15 minutes ago, Outgoing Prime Minster Ataei Okuni's body was thrown from the roof of the residence. New elected Prime Minister Tasi Hocli was supposed to be meeting with Prime Minister Okuni. No word fr-"
Snapping off the holoviewer set, I liberally scattered the contents of my pack across the room. Grabbing everything device I packed away, I dashed out the door. Pounding out of the hotel, I hailed a taxi. I informed the driver to take me to an extremely specific address. Arriving quick enough, I hoped out and skidded right through the door to the deserted building the other temporal signature originated from.
Using my scanner, I once again noted I was alone. Making adjustments, I used a more intense scan to search the building. To my delight, the scanner detected a cleverly shielded temporal transport mechanism. Locating the offending machine, my delight vanished. The scanner translated the language, but I twas not an engineer by any stretch of the imagination.
Running through the controls on the device, I panicked. I knew only moments remained before the owner returned. I hammered away at the control panel, guessing for everything. Hoping I had not managed to enter a self destruct sequence of some kind, I ducked behind the machine and a wall. Taking a chance, I shut down everything on me, hoping the equipment would hide my physical prescience.
I fidgeted continuously, waiting. I attempted everything possible, inventing new things on the scene, just to keep from going batty. Patience, I reflected sadly, a virtue for some.
Suddenly, a faint noise intruded on my madness. Holding my breath, I remained stock still. No other sound followed, prompting me to exhale. A deserted building probably resounded with all manner of sounds, I thought glumly.
Just as restlessness reared its ugly head, sound once again resounded. No mistaking it, footsteps approached. A heart stopping pause, and the door to the room slowly pushed open. My heart sank, noting not one, but two unknown individuals entering. I barely repressed a groan, before noting something about one of them.
Realization cracked me clean across the face. Despite his haggard and seeming drug induced appearance, I realised my unknown 'friend' had abducted the newly elected Talian Prime Minister, Tasi Hocli. Following that thought, I realized why the out going prime Minister received such an inglorious death.
A double of the new Prime Minister, inserted into a brutal situation, to destabilize an entire world, if not more.
In seconds, I knew the other chap would see his controls had been tampered with. Yanking out a small writing device, I tossed it into the farthest corner of the room. The noise cause my 'friend' to turn, allowing me to sneak out of my hiding spot. Moving as silently as I could, I grabbed Hocli, my destination the open door.
The whine of an energy weapon stopped me cold. I really, I thought in pure contempt, need to work on better plans. Mind cycling, a rough voice filtered through me, speaking gibberish. For a moment, I frowned, then remembered; my language translator was off.
Turning slowly, I kept Hocli between me and my companion of the moment. Making a face I prayed communicated confusion, I spoke, "Terribly sorry my friend, but I am afraid you sound like an electronic kazoo."
Keeping his weapon squarely on me, the being commenced fiddling with a device on his belt. A beep from my watch caused me to smile slowly. Spreading my hands, the alien before rattled some more unintelligible speech at me. Smiling broadly, the temporal locator rematerialized in my left hands. I nodded to the apparent look of bewilderment, saying evenly, "Violating Article 42 of the Intergalactic Temporal Accord carries some severe sanctions. Would you kindly refer me to your temporal location of origin?"
I flinched at the outpouring of speech the alien spat at me. Unsure about how my words translated, I noted the alien advancing on me. The move inspired little confidence in me, causing me to shove Hocli out the open door and dive after him, energy bolts sizzling the air. I scrambled to my feet, grabbing a mess of metal. Skidding it across the floor, I staggered to my feet as the alien crashed to the floor. Dragging the dazed and drugged Hocli, I rounded a wall. Grabbing a firm hold of Hocli, I stood, tapping commands into my temporal locator.
When the alien skidded around the corner, I merely laughed. My display struck a pause from him, forcing a louder laugh from me. Pressing the transport control, I said sarcastically, "Terribly sorry old man, but I must dash." Temporal transport took hold, whisking both Hocli and I from that astonished face.
Arriving on the grounds of the Prime Minister's residence, I noted no one near us. Huffing a sigh of relief, I located a simple message pad in my pocket. One quick note to the authorities about cellular scans, cybernetic impostors and rogue alien plots, I pointed Hocli to the door of the residence. Watching him walk towards the sentry, I felt a snigger of regret. I could only imagine, I thought wistfully, the absolute surprise the real Hocli's sudden arrival would cause.
Punching the sequence to bring me home, my thoughts rambled. All kinds of questions haunted me, paddling alongside the intense speculation. One question fought to the surface amongst the tide.
Who exactly said this would be easy?
Punching the control, I disappeared, wondering who in the office won the betting pool on the difficulty I would face for this assignment.