Futures Lost II

By Alden Bates

‘Basically, entering a tax shelter would not be the wisest of choices. It may pay off in the short term, but in exactly nine years and three months from now, the tax department will catch up with you.’

The well known musician and entertainer slumped back in his chair wearily. The well-groomed man behind the desk in front of him simultaneously leaned forward in his moulded plastic chair.

‘I advise you to pay your taxes. They won't be as much as the millions you'll have to pay off if you don't,’ Edward told him.

The country music singer stood up. ‘I will certainly consider your information.’ His voice was tired. Edward got up to show him out.

The metal door slid back, revealing the foyer of the largest building in twenty-fourth Century New New York (named after the Earth city). The Stant Techno-building on Centralis, the security centre of the Federation, was run by a super-computer, Magnus.

The foyer, shaped like a doughnut around a central office area, had a thick, plush green carpet of organic grass like the one in Edward's office. A fountain played in its centre. Several oddly bent trees, native to the world, decorated the room. A lone security guard was seated behind his desk near the door.

The musician thanked Edward, shook his hand, and walked to the pair of huge transparent double doors. Through them, a wide, grey street filled with bland grey electric cars could be seen. Edward noticed that a tall blue box was situated outside the doors to the building. He had not seen it there before, but things appeared so rapidly in the twenty-fourth Century that he had given up questioning them.

Edward Rete turned back and returned to his office. The steel door slid closed to display the block lettering on its outside: Rete Time Prediction. Moments later a hand rapped smartly on the door. It slid open and the most oddly-dressed pair Edward had ever seen entered.

The man was wearing a piece of material on his head, a jersey which looked like it was made of real wool, and an off-white coat. The girl wore what looked like ancient cycle shorts, a flannel jacket and had a fabric bag slung over one shoulder.

Edward instantly detected trouble and bent over the intercom to communicate with Magnus.

‘Computer,’ he addressed it quietly, he disliked calling machines by name. ‘Send a couple of security guards to office F17 immediately.’

‘Complying,’ the computer replied.

Putting on his smiling business face, Edward sat back and waved for the pair to sit down. He wondered if they were escaped criminals.

The Doctor and Ace remained standing.

Disappointed that he couldn't make them feel inferior from behind his large desk, Edward leaned forward again. ‘Well, what can I do for you?’

‘It's not what you can do for me, it's what you can't do for the Time Lords,’ the Doctor told him. ‘They're clamping down on Time offences, and you're one.’

Edward was startled. ‘I beg your pardon, sir? We are a prediction agency.’

‘Yes, a Time prediction agency to be precise,’ the Doctor continued. ‘It says so on your door. And we have the Time dilation figures to prove it.’

‘What's in a name?’ Edward began to draw something from under his desk. These two seemed somehow strange in their manner as well as their clothing.

‘Doctor, he's got a gun!’ Ace shouted. She reached into her bag. Edward drew a short black laser pistol from a lower drawer as Ace's hand reappeared with a deodorant can marked ‘nitro’.

‘We are not asking for trouble. We are simply requesting that you cease all Time-related activities.’ The Doctor continued unabated.

‘What right have you to dictate the course of science?’ queried Edward, holding the gun steadily on him.

‘The Time Lords have had more experience with Time than anyone else. They have also made all the mistakes. I know, I was there for most of them,’ the other said ruefully. ‘The Universe and Time couldn't take another lot of mistakes. Not from amateur humans.’

Edward looked offended. He slipped the safety catch off on the hand weapon he held.

Ace made to prime the can of nitro-nine she was holding. Edward's gun swivelled to aim at the small cylinder.

‘I wouldn't,’ Ace warned. ‘This can is full of highly explosive material.’

Edward paled. Magnus was eavesdropping and had already radioed the information to the guards who were on their way. The building was quietly being evacuated as they spoke.

‘I know you are operating a Time scanner. I have seen the effect it can cause on a world. Surely you can predict what will happen when the time core's shielding becomes worn and disintegrates, when the core rages out of control. There will be a massive implosion which will destroy this world.’

‘We are not primitives!’ Edward protested. ‘The Time scanner this agency uses has an automatic shut-off, and since it runs at an extremely low power we can get a full life-time of use from it without disruption.’

The door suddenly buzzed open and a security guard launched himself through to disarm Ace. She struggled for a moment to get the canister back, then the Doctor gently pulled her back.

‘Kindly leave,’ Edward said as a second guard entered to escort them out.

‘You are making a big mistake,’ the Doctor told him quietly as he and Ace left. The metal door slid shut again and Edward slumped back in his chair.

A few minutes later he picked a file from the top of his desk and activated a wall panel. The panel slid open to reveal a circular viewer screen, a Time scanner. Edward turned it on.

Somewhere an automatic shut-off failed. The computer had neglected to check it recently. It had been co-ordinating an extension on the building. These things happen.

The TARDIS spun lazily away from a direct Time implosion. The Doctor checked the controls to see if the pull was having any effect on the time machine as it flew through the Space/Time Continuum, and Ace vanished from the control room to find some more nitro.

This item appeared in Timestreams 4 (April 1992).

Index nodes: Fiction