Author : Bob Newbell

It seems like it was only yesterday when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. From my perspective, of course, it literally was yesterday. July 20, 1969. But it shouldn’t have happened then. It was April 18, 1966 when Alan Shepard, not Neil Armstrong, became the first man to walk on the Moon. If the perp had stopped there, I might have let it go. Correcting history is a tricky business. And it’s never, ever totally restored. You can’t step twice into the same river.

The Bureau had sent me out to investigate. This guy wasn’t hard to track. He was leaving a chronon trail any rookie could have followed. I followed him to 1992 and discovered two things. First, he’d already jumped ahead. Second, the Soviet Union had collapsed. Trite. I’m surprised he didn’t try the old Kill Hitler act or the Rome Never Fell routine. Why do I always get assigned the mundane stuff? Rodriguez and Thanasukolwit always get the good cases.

I trailed the perp to 2001. No Moon Colony. No Mars landing. The Internet, of course. Funny how society always goes into a postindustrial information economy whenever somebody derails space colonization. The Twin Towers in New York City knocked down by terrorists with thousands dead. Barrett took care of a similar altered timeline last year, except it was a bioterror attack on New York using a weaponized virus.

I finally caught up to the guy in 2012. A house in Kennesaw, Georgia. I kicked in the door and leveled my web gun at the punk. He wore jeans and a t-shirt and had a few tattoos and was playing with a smartphone. These guys always seem to “go native” in whatever alternate timeline they end up creating.

As I read him his rights, he glanced to his left, hoping I hadn’t noticed the temporal hoist on the chair. Of course, I had. He leapt for the chair. A split-second later he fell to the floor completely enmeshed in a web of contractile filaments. I went over to the chair, picked up the stolen temporal hoist, and inserted my Bureau override key into a slot on the back of the device. I placed the machine on the floor next to the perp and stepped back. The Bureau locked onto the chronon beacon and pulled the guy and the machine 4,218 years into the relative future.

Now I have to go and try to put history more or less back the way it was. I always dread restoring World War III. Nearly one billion dead. But you have to be detached and professional if you want to do this job. As I turn to leave, a newspaper on a table catches my eye. A war in Iraq? It’s a separate country? There’s no Ottoman Empire in 2012 in this timeline? I sigh. The paperwork on this one’s gonna be a bitch.

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