Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Quick Meeting

“GTT723.84.5894. Sergeant McCarthy reporting. Temporal dampeners functional, mission paradox potential nominal. Officer Kelly with me. Will update as mission unfolds, McCarthy out.”

“Functional, hah!” Behind me, Kelly was on his knees, still heaving from having passed through the portal. “Christ, Sarge, why can't they make a tab for timesickness?”

“The eggheads in the lab explained it to me a while ago. Seems your body knows it's not supposed to be here, despite you thinking everything's fine. Drugs can't fix it. Everybody responds differently; me, I'm going to be bound up for a couple of days.”

“*hurk* Thanks for the visual, Sarge.”

We found ourselves in a large, warehouse-like building, a couple of nhajers in size. Everything of value had been removed long ago, but the building hadn't been demolished yet – records indicated it was set to go in a week's time. The walls still had traces of blue and yellow paint that hadn't been refreshed in years. A perfect spot for a rendezvous: plenty of cover, no prying eyes, very little paradox potential.

“Go check the door, Mike. She's supposed to be here shortly, and I want to be sure she wasn't followed.”

Kelly nodded and headed to one of the sets of doors. As he reached them, he commed me: “On her way, Sarge. Nobody in the truck, no other vehicles, no signs of copters.”

“Good. Lead her here, then. And be nice to her: she's gone through a lot, and she's not done yet.”

I could hear her breathing the moment she came through the door. The recon-suit she was wearing carried twice the weight as a normal person, and she had had trouble carrying it during training. The brass thought her labored breath made the disguise a little more realistic.

As she and Kelly got to me, she pressed a button on her abdomen, and the facemask and head of the suit slid in to the back of her neck. She coughed as she saluted.

“Officer Zetterberg reporting. Thanks for giving me a breather from that thing, Sarge. The last three weeks have been hell!”

“Not a problem, Tina. How's the stakeout going?”

“Sarge, it's a wonder we survived this time. These word, they're...they're...”

“Vita-Snack?” Kelly offered her.

“Dear God, yes!” She tore open the wrapper and ate like someone who had been marooned for six months.

“Back to the you think you've been spotted?”

“*hrmf?*” Zetterberg looked at me with her mouth full. “No, I don't think so,” she swallowed. “They're far too concerned with their own problems to notice that I might be a little different. The training films helped a lot, but weren't enough. I've had to ad-lib quite a bit.”

This wasn't exactly according to plan or the book, but the mid-level bozos who wrote both don't understand that things are different in the field than they are in a comfortable pod. The high-end eggheads once told me that it didn't matter, since everything has already happened and played out the way it should anyway. “Don't worry about it. As long as they don't suspect you're not really her...”

“Oh no. The older ones are dealing with boyfriend issues, the man has been neutralized by the antipheromones. As long as I keep making these disgusting meals for the little one, and pumping her head full of garbage, she'll do anything I say.”

That was a relief. I didn't care about the others; the little girl was the mission.

Kelly broke in to my thoughts. “Where are we keeping the mother?”

“Right here.” I pressed the temporal flux control on my belt, and a transparent box appeared. On it were the standard three panels: one for the stasis field, one for the temporal flux, one for the memory implantation device. In the box was a woman.

“I haven't seen one of these since the Academy,” said Kelly. “Same setup? She's stuck in there in stasis, getting fed all of Tina's experiences?”

“Yep. While in stasis, she senses nothing, doesn't age, doesn't move forward in time. The temporal flux keeps her milliseconds behind current time, so she can't be found without the key.” I patted the flux control. “As far as they're concerned, Tina, you're Mama June until we let her out of there.”

Zetterberg made a face. “I hate these people, and Christ I hate the food. If I have to make and eat 'sketti' one more time...” She shuddered. “Are you sure that I need to witness this?”

“We have to get an accurate time for the judges, one credible, certified witness, and a recording of the event. We figure it will all go down in a couple of days, and then you can come home and get out of that fatsuit.”

“Not a moment too soon. Right now I'm living for the 20 minutes I get to spend in the shower. Thank God this thing is self-cleaning.” She pushed the button in her abdomen again, and the helmet-mask slid up over her head. “HOW'M AH LOOKIN' NOW? HOT AS HELL! WHOO!”

I winced. Good thing the mask had a translator calibrated to Mama June's...unique dialect and vocabulary. While I watched her and Kelly go back to the door, I made my report.

“GTT723.84.5975. McCarthy reporting. Contact made with Zetterberg, stakeout is go. Locals suspect nothing wrong, and we should have audio and video evidence shortly, as well as eyewitness testimony. McCarthy out.” I clicked off the reporter and turned to Kelly. “Let's go home.”

“Think it'll work, Sarge? Think we'll have enough evidence for the judges to act on?”

“We have to, Mike. If Honey Boo-Boo dies before that 100th episode, it's all over. The Great Push-back won't happen, and all of art and culture will consist of laughing at the dumber and less fortunate. Nothing uplifting. Nothing inspiring. A culture based on a high-school boys locker room, forever.”

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