TIME TRAVEL POLICE CORRUPTION
by Chad Descoteaux
October 26, 2617
What was probably the nicest house on his particular cul de sac, the largest house with the shiniest gate, received a long look from its owner; forty-something fuel company exec Norman Bardsley as he wrapped his tired, shaky hands around the bars of the gate. There had been a power outage about twenty minutes prior. It would be resolved in another fifteen, so Norman had to move fast. He slid the gate open just enough for himself to slide into the yard, trudging up a steep grass hill towards the colorless, Gothic-looking house on top.
It was early enough in the morning that most of Norman’s neighbors were asleep, resting up before their alarm clocks, maids, and butlers woke them to start their respective workdays. So, they didn’t pay any mind to their neighbor, who was sneaking onto his own property after what appeared to be a rough night. His hair was sticking straight up and in four different directions. He was unshaven and he was wearing a trench coat that encircled dirty jeans, and sneakers. All these things were quite uncharacteristic of this normally well-dressed businessman; a man who never even slept in pajamas that had not been meticulously ironed by his servants.
The security robots, the artificial intelligence that monitored the security systems on the property were off-line, thanks to the power outage. They would not realize something that would seem obvious and alarming to a human security guard. Norman Bardsley was walking up the driveway, but Norman Bardsley was also asleep in his bed, snoring away in his expensive, pressed, silk pajamas as always.
The more-disheveled version of Norman entered his own house by jimmying open the door with his key card. He knew where he had to go and what he had to do and how quickly and quietly he would have to do it. His dog, Krypta, alarmed by what seemed to be an intruder in the house, barley barked as Norman greeted her in a voice familiar to the loyal Jack Russell Terrier. He dropped a chew toy that the dog was sure to be occupied with for the next few minutes.
Looking up, he saw a woman standing in his kitchen wearing the armor, weapons, and helmet of the last group that Norman wanted to encounter today. The badge on her bulletproof chest plate made it painfully obvious that she was a member of the Time Travel Police Department.
Norman knew that his past-self was sleeping in the next room and that the power outage had resulted in his alarm clock resetting. He knew that this alarm clock would not go off when it was supposed to tomorrow morning and he would be late for work. Power outages were something that Past Norman would not be prone to thinking about, because, for hundreds of years power outages only happened when EMPs were triggered. There are no power lines nor any other technology that involves power cords in the 27th century. Due to a protest that was happening a half-mile away at a government-owned electrical plant, an EMP had been triggered and knocked out countless electronic devices within a two-mile radius. This included cars. There were not many hover cars on the skyways at this hour, but the few that were traveling along crashed into the bottoms of the mammoth glass tubes that led them here or there, to this city or the next.
Norman knew that his not waking up tomorrow would result in his past-self losing his job. Tomorrow was probably the biggest business meeting of his career. He was giving a guided tour to a presidential candidate and five members of the Planetary Congress, to show them how safe and effective his new lava fuel plant was, hopefully resulting in more funding for his life’s work. The stress of this important meeting would result in Norman not falling asleep when he wanted to the night before. His always-obedient serving staff had been ordered not to wake him…ever, so he would sleep until 10 AM and miss this important meeting and guided tour completely.
He would be voted out of the company by the other members of the board when the failure of this important meeting hit the news networks. He would also lose the house. And he would start drinking. Norman’s scheming ex-wife would use his plummeting, spiraling life to take custody of his daughter away from him, prompting him to drink some more.
He had to make a deal with the Devil, or at the closest thing to the Devil that the Time Travel Cops regularly concerned themselves with. In Norman’s case, he found a time-traveling mob boss named Rupert Blix, whose crime syndicate was the only organization besides the TTPD with a working time machine. His men preyed on people who had regrets in their life. Most of Rupert’s targets would say things like “if only” over and over again. They all seemed to have clear ideas of what had gone wrong in their life and what they would change if they had a time machine. Norman was certainly one of them. He wanted to go back in time and reset his alarm clock.
That is why he had traveled back in time three years and snuck back into his own house and that was why there was a Time Cop blocking his way because changing time for any reason, even a simple one with minor repercussions, was against the law and punishable by death.
The dog was so preoccupied with her chew toy that she didn’t even see the time cop. Some guard dog you are, Norman thought, trying to figure out a way that he could make Krypta bark and wake his future-self up, even if he couldn’t get into his room.
“Hands up!” whispered the female time cop, loud enough to be heard, drawing a ray gun out of her holster.
Norman started to raise his hands, but when they got about waist-level, a metal rod appeared, one that he had been stashed in the sleeve of his trench coat for just such an occasion. Dropping to his knees, Norman used this metal rod, not to attack the time traveling officer, but to bang against the stove in this kitchen. The metallic clang was loud, echoing throughout the pipes of the seventeen rooms that were connected to this kitchen, including Norman’s bedroom. “Wake up!” Future-Norman screamed. “Wake up, you brown-nosing corporate schmuck!”
Soon, Norman was in a headlock as the loyal Time Cop continued to do her job. She was trying to pull Norman away from the stove, but Norman’s feet were planted. He was a few heads taller than her. Norman got a few more licks in (on the stove) as he struggled with the short but wiry TTPD officer who was trying to take out his legs. “Nice try, Miss Piggy!” Norman shouted scornfully, laughing out loud, as the cop reached for a small button on her belt.
This button opened a time portal. Beams of light poured out of the fabric of the space-time continuum, wrapping around both the female cop and her suspect like they were shiny, clawed fingers. This portal sucked both her and Future Norman back through it, back to the interrogation room of the Time Travel Police Headquarters, three years later.
Norman dropped out of this portal into a dusty, dimly-lit room with cement walls, deep beneath the building that was the TTPD Headquarters. He was surrounded by four more time travel police officers, much taller than the first, who could only be seen as the light from nearby lamps reflected off their helmets. They jumped the time-traveling lawbreaker without delay and cuffed him before he realized where he was.
As Norman was being chained to the only chair in this room, the first cop, the one who had arrested him, left the room. She pulled off her helmet and let her curly brown hair fall out of it. This was Detective Aileen Buckman, age twenty-seven.
“Excellent work, Detective,” said a familiar, friendly voice, much friendlier than it was before Aileen had left for her assignment. This was the voice of sixty-something, heavily-mustachioed Time Travel Police Commissioner Linden Bonin. He was standing next to a two-way mirror where he could see Norman getting chained to the chair from outside the interrogation room. “He’s a tall one too.”
No one ever says that to the male cops, Aileen thought, annoyed. She was trying very hard not to glare at this high-ranking official with a look of disgust. Can’t figure out if it’s because I’m a woman or because I’m shorter than the others. This guy’s a sexist pig anyway. Just ask Kat or Ebonee or…that girl who just got transferred.
“The bigger ones fall harder, sir,” quipped Aileen, trying very hard to repress her heartfelt disdain for this man. She succeeded when she smiled at him, politely laughing and being quite professional around her normally-stern superior, because there was something, a deep dark secret, that she had to make sure that Commissioner Bonin didn’t know.
She knew about something that this arrogant man had done, something that proved how he was abusing his power in a most despicable way. There was no way that she could prove it at this point without illegally time-traveling to when it happened and risk getting arrested herself. The Commish didn’t seem to know that she knew anything, but he certainly had the power to kill her if he suspected her. Kill her? Heck, he was the Time Travel Police Commissioner. He could travel back in time and kill someone hundreds of years before she was born that would result in her and numerous ancestors never existing. For the Time Travel Police Department, time travel is an exact science. All of these things could be figured out beforehand and executed with the precision of a surgeon and his blade.
Norman Bardsley now found himself in front of four screens. He was briefly introduced to high ranking officials in the Time Travel Police Department (two humans, two extraterrestrials from two different planets) before the charges were read to him. “Conspiracy to change time…” said one of the alien judges. “This is a serious charge, as the word ‘conspiracy’ implies premeditation.”
For numerous obvious reasons, time travel makes things (even court proceedings) move a lot faster than it would if one were forced to follow a fluid, forward-moving sequence of events. The verdict had been decided before Norman had even arrived here to be interrogated. Realizing how badly he had been railroaded and that this verdict was likely to be “vaporizing by ray gun”, Norman started to beg for his life.
“I just wanted to reset my alarm clock!” he shouted, tears streaming down his face as time cops charged their ray guns, setting them to the highest setting. “Please! I lost my job. My daughter. Everything I worked for. I lost everything because of one stupid alarm clock!”
This made Aileen extremely uncomfortable. Watching time criminals get executed made her feel depressed for days afterward. She was always trying to shift the duty of actually executing the criminals to someone else whenever “zapping duty” landed on her. The fact that this man was sobbing and pleading for his life after committing a relatively minor offense didn’t help her contain her emotions. But that was before she knew what Commissioner Bonin was up to.
It was three years prior (fluid time), about the same time that Norman was trying to sneak back into his own house to reset his alarm clock, that Past Aileen was on stakeout. She had set up magnetic thumbnail cameras all over a certain warehouse and was monitoring them from a safe distance. She was in a hover van in a trash-strewn alley a few miles away, gawking at hologram screens that fed her grainy 3-D image feeds. She was trying to collect evidence that Rupert Blix was smuggling art from the Renaissance period into the present so that the price for this “long-lost” artwork would go up twentyfold. This was the warehouse that he was using to store the paintings and sculptures, at least according to her source.
It was gutsy for her to go on a stakeout by herself. Some would call it foolish, but her increasing suspicions about her colleagues made a solo stakeout the most viable option with the cards that she currently had in her hand. She kept a toolbox in her van and stayed dressed up in work clothes, including a dirty painter’s cap. If one of the cameras went on the fritz, this was her cover to go in there and pretend she was a fix-it person doing routine maintenance on the pipes or some other aspect of the warehouse.
One camera only malfunctioned once. When Aileen was in the warehouse trying to fix it, she was startled by someone coming out of the rear office. Not expecting anyone to be here, she quietly slipped into the shadows. She held in her gasp when she realized that this short, well-dressed Puerto Rican man was underworld time travel kingpin Rupert Blix. She had seen his picture many times in private TTPD files and later deduced correctly that she was wise to stay hidden. A man who does as much time traveling as Rupert Blix may have met Aileen in the future without present-day Aileen knowing anything about it. If she tried to pass herself off as a humble maintenance worker, Rupert may have seen right through her deception, based on something that hasn’t happened yet…and may never happen if he killed her right then and there, deleting that future self that he met in the first place.
Yes, that is technically a time paradox, but it was Rupert Blix’s brilliant mastery over such things that made him the most feared, most elusive criminal that the TTPD ever had to deal with, one with dangerous contacts in countless places and timelines.
Aileen stayed hidden as another well-dressed man walked into the warehouse a few seconds later. Her heart stopped when she recognized the voice; the arrogant, dogmatic voice that had become commonplace around the station, whether he was barking orders at his men or making inappropriately flirty remarks to some of the female cops.
I better get this on video, Aileen thought to herself, trying desperately to figure out how to get back to her hover van without either Rupert Blix or Commissioner Bonin seeing her. I have fifty GPS-linked cameras in this stupid…
Aileen had to wait until the brief meeting was over, until after Commissioner Bonin had left and after Blix retreated to his office, before she could leave the grounds of that warehouse. When she got back to the hover van, she had the most monumental bit of criminal evidence that a detective could possibly hope for, one that had the potential to bring down the entire department. She had a 3-D hologram of Rupert Blix conspiring with the Time Travel Police Commissioner.
She studied these images meticulously for ten minutes straight. All that was exchanged was a file folder, no briefcase full of money. There could have been a check inside the folder, though. And the only clue Aileen had as to what was inside the folder was a small portion of a photograph, poking out of a torn part of the folder. As Commissioner Bonin flipped the folder open, Aileen paused the video and zoomed in to see the image clearer. It was unmistakable. The photo showed the image of a politician who had run for President of the United States almost 600 years ago, in the year 2020. That was the first year that elections had been held in the United States after aliens from the planet Kardash had conquered the planet.
Lee Finn¸ Aileen thought. History was her favorite subject in school, a common story for most time travel cops, so she started running what she knew about Lee though her mind. What could Rupert Blix want with him? Wasn’t he assassinated? Did Rupert assassinate him?
Having a better understanding of how deep the corruption in the TTPD went, Aileen decided before she got home that night that she no longer wanted any part of it. She left for work that morning as a dedicated public servant, proud to put on her badge and protect the universe from the bad effects of time travel, and came home sullen, complacent, apathetic about her life’s most important choice.
Aileen knew that she would have to tough it out, just in case either Rupert or Bonin knew that she had seen their mysterious transaction. Quitting suddenly would have been suspicious, so she kept doing her duty for another three years. She even deleted the hologram video of Blix and Bonin’s meeting, knowing that no one on either side of the TTPD would have the courage to prosecute either of them. Just having that video was like painting a large target on her forehead.
There was something about watching Norman Bardsley being sentenced to death for wanting to reset his alarm clock so he wouldn’t lose custody of his daughter that really boiled Aileen’s blood. As loyal time cops set their ray guns to ‘vaporize’ and prepared to execute the hard-working, tax-paying father, Aileen decided that enough time had passed. It was time to quit.
And she did.
Looking down at his wrist, Norman Bardsley watched with amazement as a gold watch, one of the most expensive and high-tech on the market, just appeared on his wrist out of nowhere. He was elated, holding up his hand to gawk at this watch with his mouth wide open. This meant that his mission had actually succeeded. The timeline was conforming to the change, molding like clay around things that Norman had done before being arrested and there wasn’t anything the Time Travel Police could do about it.
All of the noise that Future Norman and his dog had made in the kitchen had indeed woken up his past self. Well, technically, it woke up the twenty-year-old supermodel that Norman had met at a fund-raiser the night before and she woke Norman up. After grabbing a baseball bat from under the bed and making sure that there were no murderers, rapists or paparazzi in the hallway, Norman noticed that his alarm clock had malfunctioned. He reset it before crawling back in bed next to a beautiful body that would grace the cover of Cyber Sports magazine two months later.
He would not sleep until ten o’clock that fateful summer’s morning in 2617. He would not miss his important government meeting and lose his lucrative job. He would not fall back into his old college drinking habit, losing his money and having to sell (among other things) this expensive watch to stay alive.
It was certainly an unusual sight for the Time Cops who were surrounding Norman, awaiting his execution by ray gun, to see the subject suddenly burst into laughter, but Norman knew that none of this mattered. Even if they vaporized him, the timeline would reconfigure into a world where Norman’s alarm clock did go off that morning and he didn’t get arrested. His watch reappearing was proof of that and it filled Norman with brimming confidence like he had not experienced for the past three years.
“You have no stinkin’ clue!” Norman told the cops, boldly looking up at them in between fits of laughter. “You’re all brainwashed idiots! You have no clue how many times this precious timeline of yours has been changed before you set up this flawed system to regulate it.” The Time Cops just listened to Norman rant, silently, as his mocking laughter faded into more heated anger. “You think you’re protecting the space-time continuum? You don’t even know what ‘it’ is! You’re defending an idea, someone else’s idea! Not a thing that exists and breathes and evolves, man! You just know what you’ve been told! You have no clue what you’re risking your life to defend!”
Walking out of the interrogation area, knowing that every word Norman spoke was the pure, unadulterated truth, Aileen did not see Norman getting vaporized, but she did see the blue flash of the ray gun as she closed the door behind her. She hurried into a nearby office, stole a piece of official TTPD stationery out of a printer, and started writing her letter of resignation.
Meanwhile, Norman flew out of his chair and disintegrated in mid-air. He forcefully collided with the wall behind him, cracking his spine, after being shot in the chest with a single ray gun blast. His charred skeleton slumped to the ground in a trail of black smoke, only to be dragged away and tossed into a dumpster by a robot janitor minutes later.
As expected, Norman Bardsley soon woke up in his own room and in a different timeline, in a much larger bed than the one he had before. Norman was much richer than he was before, the result of a successful business meeting on that fateful, time-altered day three years prior. He could tell that he was richer, simply by looking around at how much more lavishly his bedroom was decorated. He saw priceless pieces of Renaissance art that he had purchased from Rupert Blix all around him. More importantly, Norman was alive.
As Norman walked into his kitchen, greeting his seven-year-old daughter who was helping her daddy’s cook make breakfast, he remembered the other timeline. He remembered all that he had been through being poor, drunk and hopeless for three years. He remembered that…for about 48 hours. That was all the time that it took for the timeline to readjust to the changes that Norman had courageously defied the Time Travel Police to make. Those memories from the other timeline faded, being dismissed as dreams that he had after sleeping off a drunken stupor. Soon, they disappeared from Norman’s mind altogether, because they never happened and he never dreamed them either.
Since nothing from that other timeline technically happened, Norman would not remember how he outsmarted a corrupt, laughably-flawed time travel police system and how badly they treated him. Because of this, Norman was an avid supporter of the TTPD, donating trillions of dollars (for the tax write-off) every time they had a fund-raiser.
If only he knew.
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