Another Revival Expires

Slow time travel was worse — that bone-deep chill which you had to handle before hypothermia set in and promised to make the process of adjusting for era-drag worse. Still reality-bends were a bitch, and he felt them slam through his skull like an amplified toothache.

Barlay moved through the crowd and he knew whatever look he had on his face was pinging people’s radars like crazy. He had a contact to make, so he had to keep pushing through the fatigue and the disorientation.

‘You shouldn’t be here, should you, sonny?’

‘What’s it to you?’

‘Me? I’m the Reality Enforcement Division for this sector.’

‘Oh, supposed to tell me that, are you?’

‘If you aren’t an interloper then I’ll just wipe you. If you are an interloper then you already know all about it, don’t you?’

‘I suppose so.’

‘Look, mate, you have all the markers. I don’t waste my time approaching people who don’t. I’m curious why you are here.’

‘Why, do you sometimes let people slip through the net?’

‘Sometimes. Why not? Sometimes it strikes me that reality could do with a shake up.’

‘And you get to decide that?’

‘Sure, why not? You feel like you have that right, don’t you? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.’

‘What’s your name?’

‘Tender.’

‘You were from somewhere else, weren’t you?’

‘Sort of.’

‘Ah, I get it, you’re an edit echo aren’t you?’

Tender smiled. ‘I am what they call a Self-Sustaining Anchor Personality. An anomaly. So, tell me, what are you here for? What don’t you like about the reality you live in that you think you can build here?’

‘Reverse Entropy Dials on bodies is what I am looking to build. You can create them here and then ship them into my reality as temporal isolates.’

‘Ah, so you come from a universe with asymmetrical temporal physics, where the universe rolls only downhill?’

‘Yes.’

‘So, how did you happen upon us?’

‘Well, I postulated your existence, and then I had my punchthrough traveller create a wormhole I could thread through to here.’

‘OK, well no one wants to do a reverse entropy dial unless they lost someone. I kind of understand that, but none of the people I had really existed. How do you think doing something like this will balance in this universe when you are gone?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Yes, people who come to a place with this kind of idea rarely do. Self motivated decisions, rather than those driven by a sense of what’s for the greater good, tend to be made without any idea of what follows in the wake. Who did you lose?’

‘My wife and child.’

‘Hmm.’

‘You’ve made your decision, haven’t you?’

‘Sure, I was just waiting for my gun to charge.’

‘Do it then.’

Tender shot himself in the foot.

‘Why did you do that?’

‘You have a chance at something. It’s not that your story necessarily convinced me more than any of the others; it’s just that I’m tired. I usually mark you guys for the Reality Engineers to come in and delete you. It weighs heavy on me. I’m a stone that will make no ripples when thrown into the pool, except maybe I can lend that weight to you.’

‘How long will it take?’

‘It’s started already.’

‘How does it feel?’

‘Just an extension of the nothingness that is in my heart at the moment. Not numbness, exactly, but a lessening of what few ties remain to hold me here. Good luck with your project.’

Barlay reached out and shook Tender’s hand. When his hand hung empty for a moment the hope of his daughter and wife faded for him, but then he looked at the sacrifice that had been made for him, and dusted himself off and kept walking.