Author : Julian Miles

“They’ve got reinforcements!”

I checked my chrono. Down to one thousand, eight hundred and forty-three instances. I warned Flank Axel Leader as Scout Axel Second cut into our channel.

“Looks like two full companies.”

Damn. That meant twelve hundred grunts. I instructed Scout Axel.

“I need to know when they’re ten seconds out.”

“TEN seconds? Ye gods, Commander. That’s cutting it fine.”

“I know, but this is where we hold them or this sector is history.”

“Tick tock, sir. We’re on it.”

I smiled. One thing about working with two thousand temporally shifted instances of yourself was that you never failed to get the in jokes. The battle was going as well as could be expected. We had the kill ratio down to one and a half me to one of theirs. A new record. Scout Axel Fourth came on.

“Lost Two and Three, sir. You are fifteen from enemy engagement on my mark… Mark!”

I counted down on open channel so all of me could synchronise.

“Five, four, three, two, one, Hawkin!”

With a purple flash, eighteen hundred instances of me appeared in six-hundred me combat deployments, at the flanks and rear of the enemy reinforcements. There were cheers on the open channel.

“Pick it up, Axels. We have five minutes to finish this.”

From then on, things got brutal. I was just about to singularise chronome when Scout Axel Seven ruined my day.

“Fifty gravtanks incoming sir! Low spec, but coming fast.”

Left with no choice, I phased in the last forty-three instances of me.

The world around me slowed down as causality and a few of its friends finally noticed that I was cheating. The rules were simple. I could take time from my past when I had been idle to get an instance of me to fight now. Of course, everyone has only so much free time. Behind my eight months, three weeks and four days in combat lay twenty years in training, which included at least two hours a day standing at full combat readiness but doing absolutely nothing. While the latest me was alive, causality took the path of least resistance and any of me that died just vanished, temporal ghosts that never existed. Of course, as they never existed, idle me’s were available for the next battle.

Assault Axel Nineteen came on the tactical line.

“We’re getting pasted, sir. They have advanced suits with reflective fields.”

Scout Axel Thirty-Two confirmed.

“They’ve got more gravtank support and I can see at least five different flavours.”

They were coming for me. It was the only explanation of such a costly manoeuvre. My chrono worked overtime as I ran temporal and flat strategy predictions. But they all agreed. I was dead. The only variable was how many of them died too. So be it. I overrode the chrono and set it to get a me from tomorrow. With a smile, I phased an impossible instance of me into existence. Causality put its foot down hard and deleted me and the planet I stood on.

I appeared in a maintenance locker on the regen ship Alexandrya at the exact time I’d entered the battle. I had no chrono and was speaking in tongues. My body is apparently twenty years younger. I suspect twenty years, eight months, three weeks and four days if it could be gauged accurately.

A month has passed and they’re still taking notes. Because the chrono-trooper project was stopped ten years ago, after all of the early subjects developed chronic multiple personality disorder, with all other personalities being me.


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