John Johanson was in trouble. Fifteen minutes into the future and with people out to kill him he had to put all his trust in the mysterious â€˜Gamma Thirteen.â€™
â€œMr. Johanson, I need you to move and quick. Follow me, please.â€
The speaker was a young woman, fashionably dressed in a short skirt and revealing top. She looked like any other girl, apart from the epaulets on her shirt sleeves and the gun slung low around her waist. John Johanson, Secret Secretary of the Exterior of the United States of Government, hurried along behind her, completely unsure of where he was and where he was going.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, but who are you?â€
â€œMy name is Alicia, Mr. Johanson. To answer your next question you are in the Gamma Thirteen Complex, home of the Council of Future Planning, located some fifteen minutes into your future. You are here because we need to show you something.â€
â€œGamma Thirteen, Mr. Johanson. The resistance movement of the Future.â€
There was a thump from overhead. Two more such sounds followed.
Warning, CP attack has commenced. Time shift forward by forty-three seconds.
â€œMr. Johanson, weâ€™ll need to quicken that pace.â€
It had been a night like any other. A conference call from Washington, D. C., a night cap and then bed. Johanson began to worry about the mushroom salad he had eaten at dinner.
â€œThrough this door, Mr. Johanson.â€
Alicia stood aside to reveal what looked like an open airlock. She motioned him through and closed the door behind her as she stepped in.
â€œYou need to remove your clothes, Mr. Johanson. Security protocol.â€ Alicia began to remove her two piece.
â€œLetâ€™s not be shy, Mr. Johanson. I havenâ€™t got anything you havenâ€™t seen before… Unless you Republican boys are doing things differently these days.â€
Johanson turned away from here and began to remove his bed clothes.
â€œLook, I donâ€™t know what your game is but this psychological trickery wonâ€™t work. Iâ€™ve had training from the CIA in this kind of stuff.â€
â€œI can assure you this is no game, Mr. Johanson. Please step through the other door.â€
There was another series of thumps.
Time shift forward by eighteen seconds.
Outside the airlock Johanson found himself standing on a white travelator that was moving through a large atrium. Three men, tall and dark-skinned, approached him.
â€œIf you could slip this on, John, it would be mightily appreciated.â€
Johanson took the proffered piece of cloth and found that upon touch it slid itself around his skin and settled into the shape of one-piece suit.
â€œA nano-controlled cloth, John. It forms a perfect suit around your body. The ultimate in day wear. If you could follow us.â€
â€œNo, wait. I wonâ€™t take a single step until one of you explains to me what is going on.â€
It was Alicia who spoke.
â€œMr. Johanson, you have been summoned here by the Council of Future Planning to solicit your help against the Past Conservatives who, by terrorist insurgency, threaten the fabric of the future itself…â€
â€œEnough bullcrap, lady…â€
â€œItâ€™s not, John,â€ one of the men said. â€œWeâ€™ve taken you from home, without permission, Iâ€™ll admit, to ask for your help in the war.â€
â€œWar? Past Conservatives? What the hell is going on?â€
Three more thuds, louder than last time, sounded overhead.
Time shift forward by one minute.
â€œJohanson, we havenâ€™t the time. Follow us to the council chambers and weâ€™ll explain everything.â€
â€œNot one step, lady.â€
Three more thuds and then, an explosion.
Time shift forward by five minutes. Crimson Status. I repeat, Crimson Status.
â€œWe donâ€™t have time. Earl, tempret, now.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t know that heâ€™s on our side…â€
â€œAnother few hits and it wonâ€™t matter. Give me a tempret.â€
One of the men handed over to Alicia what looked suspiciously like an eye-patch.
â€œJohanson, I need you to put this over one of your eyes. Which one doesnâ€™t matter.â€
â€œDo it, Johanson. Otherwise none of us is going home tonight.â€
He stared at her for a few moments before reluctantly taking the patch and raising it over his left eye. It settled against the eyelid and melted into his skin painlessly.
â€œWhat the hell?â€
â€œItâ€™s a temporary retinal implant. Earl, hook him up to the quantum projectors and play him the speech.â€
â€œMr. President…â€ It was his voice. A shadowy figure of the President sat before him, looking a little older. â€œMr. President, Iâ€™ve got the speech ready. Youâ€™ll deliver it tomorrow. Then, hopefully, we will be a nation at peace once more.â€
â€œWhat is this?â€ Johanson asked.
â€œItâ€™s a projection of your future, two years from now.â€
Somehow it seemed to ring true. The voice, the image of the President felt like a memory but of future things.
â€œSir, this Culture War is lost. Maybe truly lost; it might be that some of those forces weâ€™re acceding to will bomb ourselves out of existence due to spite or error. No matter; we canâ€™t win this fight. Science and rationalism has lost. They have matyrs; we do not. They are somehow unified despite their fundamentalists differences whilst we fracture and fight amongst ourselves with no common cause or common politic. Those who hold to tradition find that tradition as an idea unifies otherwise irreconciable differences. Weâ€™re out-evolving our intuitions and they donâ€™t like that. We make decisions; they simply act. We want to move beyond the frailty of the human condition; they want to glory in it.
â€œAnd when we are gone they will find among themselves until, quite possibly, they grind themselves, and us with them, to dust.
â€œAll you can do, Mr. President, is buy us time. Time enough to live out our lives in what comfort these end of days might afford us.
â€œGood luck, Mr. President. God go with you.â€
Time shift forward by eight seconds.
â€œDo you understand what you just saw?â€
â€œYeah, I guess. Thatâ€™s going to happen?â€
â€œOur quantum projectors show the likely result of world policy; it can be changed. It must be changed, Mr. Johanson. Eighty years after that speech the entire Earth will be inhospitable to mammalian life. These are unacceptable outcomes, Mr. Johanson, even for the Republican government.â€
Two more explosions shook the travelator.
â€œYou canâ€™t blame fundamentalism solely on the grounds of a poltical party.â€
â€œCanâ€™t we?â€ Alicia slipped on her two-piece. â€œWho is attacking us, Mr. Johanson? Itâ€™s not the Islamic Fundamentalists, itâ€™s not the Liberals or the Democrats, itâ€™s the Conservatives, the Republicans…â€
â€œOh, I see, itâ€™s us thatâ€™s the problem, is it?â€ Johanson said.
â€œNot exactly, sir.â€ The tall man spoke. â€œItâ€™s not you specifically, or even the President, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Itâ€™s the shadowy politic that guides you, that curious brand of individualism and tradition. Weâ€™re fifteen minutes into your future, Mr. Johanson; none of this is real, itâ€™s just quasi-actual. The same is true of our attackers…â€
â€œYouâ€™ve lost me. That and your slamming of our voters is begining to get on my nerves.â€
The travelator came to a smooth, slow stop.
Descend to Council
â€œThis might feel just a little strange,â€ the man said.
The floor beneath them dissolved away and the group began to fall rapidly. Yet it was not falling; there was no sensation of wind rushing past or speed, just a vague edge of vertigo. The walls of the tube through which they were travelling was transparent, ocasionally revealing huge amphitheatres or machines behind them.
â€œDid I just see giant robots?â€ Johanson asked.
â€œYes. In the future there will be robots. Robots, in this case, with massive armaments.â€
â€œFucking massive armaments,â€ Alicia said.
Their descent imperceptively seemed to have slowed. Beneath them came into view a large, circular room in which a round glass table sat in its centre. They glided to the seats around it.
Mr. Johanson, I must apologise for who confusing this must seem to you.
The voice, like the warnings, emanated from all around him.
â€œWho are you?â€
I am Ceres, the AI Collective of Gamma Thirteen. Mr. Johanson, we have little time. There are things you must know…
A huge explosion shook the room, shattering the table. Everyone jumped to their feet.
Time shift forward by seven minutes. We have Injunction.
The room shook again and a large crack broke through its centre.
â€œMr. Johanson, we need to get out of here.â€ Alicia guided him towards a door that had appeared in the wall behind them.
CP Agents have entered Gamma Thirteen. Lockdown Protocol Aleph engaged.
â€œWhat is going on here?â€ Johanson asked as he ran after Alicia.
â€œIn the same way that Gamma Thirteen exists as a distinct future possibility the CP, Past Conservatives exist as a manifestation of fundamentalism. Their attack upon us is bringing us closer and closer to real time. If they can get us to Zero Point then we will cease to be… And everything with us will as well.â€
â€œSuch as you, Mr. Johanson.â€
â€œWhat can we do?â€
â€œWe need to get you out of here.â€ Alicia stopped. â€œScreen; give me Robot Command.â€
The wall flickered to life, showing a computer control room filled with shadowy figures.
â€œI thought so. Ceres, can you shut off all the lights in Robot Command and also give me a sound feed?â€
The screen went blank.
â€œWhat for it…â€ Alicia said.
â€œHuh?â€ Johanson replied.
The sound of a punch was followed by a burst of gunfire. As Johanson watched the screen was speckled with flashes of light revealing a lithe figure appearing to jump over the group of shadowy men, firing into their heads as it did so. A few more gunshots and then everything went quiet.
â€œLights on, Ceres.â€
On the screen Johanson could see Alicia, no, her twin, standing over a shadowy body that was fading away to nothingness as he watched.
â€œSister?â€ Johanson asked.
â€œNo, thatâ€™s me. Iâ€™m bilocal,â€ Alicia said.
â€œWhat I mean is that Iâ€™m capable of being in more than one place at a time,â€ the Alicia on the screen said.
â€œOh,â€ Johanson replied.
â€œIâ€™m clearing a path between the Embarkment Centre and you. Get cracking,â€ the second Alicia said.