Today’s Friday Flash Fics struck me as a bit odd. The man, his suitcase, the setting behind him, it just seemed like this was a guy who wasn’t quite where he was supposed to be. Which reminded me of a flash fiction piece I wrote for a contest, “First Shift,” about a time-traveler sent to save a life. It’s a very short flash fiction piece, but I crafted a lot about the time travel organization in my head, and this felt like a fun picture to revisit it with, and with more words, I could play it out a little bit more.
Gently Down the ‘Stream
I’m off target.
Grant was on his knees, blinking away the after-images of the ’stream, and waiting for his sense of balance to return. The practice jumps—all forward—had supposedly been to prepare him for this, but the practice jumps had turned out to be the equivalent of sliding down a kiddy slide.
His trip through the ’stream to now was more like cliff-diving. Agent Giffin had been right. Going backwards was harder, and going further than a few minutes was far, far more turbulent. The old Canadian had been his mentor from the start, and her stories about her early life had been as much born of friendship as they’d been training.
He’d miss her.
Enough, he thought. You’ll see her again. She was part of the chain. Protected on a quantum level, Agent Giffin would be there no matter how much he changed the world.
Of course, he’d need to stand up to change the world, and that was feeling a bit out of reach right now.
There was grass beneath him, and it was daylight, and the air was warm.
Definitely off target.
He gave himself another minute to recover, counting off the seconds in his head. His fingertips stopped tingling by fifteen, and his legs felt less rubbery by thirty. By forty-five, he could turn his head without vertigo, and he saw trees around the edge of the field where he found himself.
“Okay,” he said, rising as he hit his mental count of sixty. It was almost okay, but sometimes saying a thing was something other than it was was half the battle.
There were dandelions. He smiled. These weren’t Vitamin C crops, either, they were just wildflowers in a field. Or were they weeds? He was never sure of the difference, and when it came to edible plants, the distinction didn’t matter, really.
He hadn’t let go of the suitcase, and the weight of it was a comfort. He felt strange in these clothes, in this field, but the suitcase reminded him he had a purpose.
Which, given he was off target, he needed to focus on.
Kneeling again, Grant opened the suitcase. From the outside, it was a plain leather suitcase, old fashioned even by his current point in the ’stream, but inside it contained many compartments, and each was sectioned off with a small black screen. He pressed his thumb against one, and it flashed green and opened. He slid out the contents—a slim black phone—and then resealed the suitcase.
He powered on the phone and waited. Like the suitcase, it appeared contemporary enough, but inside was a different story. Status updates scrolled by the screen as it sought out local connections, faked accounts, and tricked various carrier signals into believing it belonged. A moment later, the screen cleared, and the phone mimicked what it appeared to be.
Date and time were listed at the top of the screen.
Grant exhaled in relief. He was physically off target, but temporally, he was just shy of three days earlier than the target date.
I’ll be born in eleven years, he thought. And I should have died in forty. But Agent Giffin had stopped that from happening, and the whole world had changed around him. And the work he’d been doing—work that had led to the “phone” in his hand—had born fruit it never would have done had he died.
Another link in the chain. Now it was his turn.
The GPS signal kicked in, and he tapped the icon for a map.
Grant smiled. He wasn’t too far off target after all. He was in “the Greenbelt,” a section of untouched forested land that curved through the city back then.
No. Now. He shook his head. Not back then.
Now that his head was clear, if he listened, he caught the sound of traffic in the distance.
Grant took a second to look at the map. It was going to take some walking, but he was within the city limits. He could use a walk, really.
He straightened, looking off into the distance. It was beautiful. It smelled beautiful, too.
There were things to do. He had to set up a quantum safehouse once he got to the address they’d researched for him. This era wasn’t completely without detection technology, so he also wanted to keep his “phone”’s hacking down to a minimum, which meant blending in as quickly as he could manage.
He had every intention of getting a job. He had all the forged documents he’d need to appear as a local citizen, and ideally, he was to make contact with his target at a local coffee shop. If they were hiring, he’d greatly improve his chances.
He started walking.
He had a life to save, and a future to improve.
He also wanted to try that “poutine” stuff agent Giffin was always talking about.