“I can’t wait for the day you’ll be given the Consortium Excellence Award for your groundbreaking discovery of the MindCode,” Shariya, my fiancée complimented as I drove my turbo car out of the CONLABS building complex. We were headed to her house after the day’s hard work. We had a routine which suited us well, one week at her place and the next at mine.
“You know quite well that there are other discoveries better than the MindCode,” I said, trying not to allow the praise fill my head; I can be vain most times.
“Name them,” she challenged.
That was one thing I never shied away from—challenges. I furrowed my brows in concentration as I tried hard to find a recent scientific discovery to rival mine. It was very hard to remember any, and as I looked at Shariya, a knowing smile tugged at her lips. She’d won, oh well… wait — I’d gotten one!
I never got to say what I wanted to say, because in the next instant, I felt my car slam into something which threw the car into the air. We flailed our arms and I tried—I prayed that the car would right itself on landing. But prayers I’ve realized, don’t work. The car landed upside down and instantly Shariya died as her neck snapped like a twig. How I was able to survive the accident, I can’t explain, but in the last moments before I blacked out, I saw two people—a man and a woman—come out of a car. They walked up to me, and took my briefcase, the one containing all the details about my life’s work, the MindCode. They then left us to die. But I didn’t, though I wanted to.
That was exactly ten years ago. And as I took my towel and went into the bathroom, I felt the familiar taste of anger and hatred for the person—people—that ruined my life return. Over the years, I’d tried to let go, to move on, but I just couldn’t. Most times, I would see Shariya in my dreams, asking me to help her, and no matter how hard I tried, I would never be able to reach her before she sank into the dark depths of oblivion.
“Shit!” I cursed, as the blade of the razor I was using in shaving cut me. Instead of wiping the crimson liquid, I let it trickle down my neck towards my chest. I revelled in the pain I felt, allowing it to fuel the burning hate within me.
After a minute, I splashed water on my face and started my shower. Then my phone rang. Normally I would have jumped out to pick the call, but I let it go, the answering machine would get it. When the ringing ended, I heard a gruff male voice say,
“Hello Mr. Dharine, I’m Jouri. I called for a proposition you would be very interested in. Do well to call me back. Or better still, I would call you back in fifteen minutes.”
I smiled. Plan in action.
I knew why he chose to meet me in the busiest part of town—anonymity. In this part of the Upper Goerhan District, no one would notice that the most wanted criminal in all of Goerhan, and perhaps beyond, was walking among them.
I had arrived an hour before the scheduled time because I wanted to scout the area to be sure I wasn’t running into a trap. I was still an important man, even though I’d lost a lot, Shariya included. I let out a low growl as the torrent of memories assaulted me. With a shake of the head, I willed myself to snap out of it and focus on the task at hand.
Shortly I saw Jouri ambling towards me. To the casual observer, he was probably a tourist enjoying the artificial city, but I saw the resolute hunch of his shoulders. This was a man you wouldn’t want to cross.
He had arrived thirty minutes before the time. I smirked, I was right in coming an hour before.
He reached me and gave me a disarming smile. “You are early,” he said, gripping my hand in a vice-like handshake.
“So are you,” I replied, squeezing his hand in return. His cat eyes bored into mine, and I had a sense of vertigo, but I managed to return the look. Strangely, a note of understanding passed between us.
“I wouldn’t want to waste your time as you are indeed a busy man,” he began, “how would you like to get back at the people who killed your fiancée and destroyed your life’s work?”
I knew they wanted me to join their ranks. The Brotherhood of Adam was the major threat to the authority of the Consortium over Goerhan. They had destroyed military bases, stolen ammunition and everything else that would hamper the total domination of the Consortium. Of course they knew that I had the utmost hate for the Consortium; they had taken my life.
I had a plan on how to get back at the Consortium, but I hadn’t counted on this development. It was the perfect opportunity. But I knew that I had to appear reluctant, no need rushing things and showing my cards.
“What’s in it for me apart from the obvious?”
He flashed his perfect dentition again. “How would you like to be the second-in-command of the Brotherhood of Adam?”
This man really wanted my help. That gave me a pause. How would I help his cause? I was no trained soldier, I had only—
My train of thoughts were interrupted by the next thing he said. “Without your powers, we would never defeat them.”
“The secret is for only the brethren.”
“How long will the offer last?”
“Six days. But I must say that haste is of import as there are plans by the Consortium to launch massive attacks on our different bases. We all the help we can get.”
I departed promising him a reply within two days. Of course I was interested, but I needed to run more background checks.
I purposely didn’t want to come with my turbo car as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. So, I went to the subway and jumped into the outgoing speed train. A dark-skinned woman of indeterminate age also came in at the last moment.
I went through my plans over and over again, trying to find loopholes, going over seemingly insignificant details, and of course, factoring in this recent development—the Brotherhood of Adam. My plan was simple, I was going to make sure that the Consortium never existed in the first place. That entailed going back in time, which would be easy if I had access to a TimeGraph.
The TimeGraph was developed four hundred and fifty years ago by a scientist who wanted to reverse global warming. He had built the machine, but when it was time to put it into use, he realised that there was one piece of the puzzle remaining—someone who would cross the Time Loop. In the history of mankind, no one has ever been able to move in-between time. Inasmuch as the machine was built, it was never used.
I had known of my ability since I was twelve years old. It had come as a huge source of surprise and elation the day I had gone back to the day my parents met. I’d seen how my father had nearly killed my mother with his vehicle as he was in a hurry. That near-death experience had brought them close and in two year’s time, they were married.
Over the years, I’d gone to anywhere I wanted to, but only in the past, never into the future; that part of time is very unpredictable. There was one problem with my travels in time. It was the fact that I cannot be physically present wherever I projected myself to; it was only my consciousness that was transported. This is the reason I need that TimeGraph.
The train stopped at my destination, and as I was about to step out of the train, someone held my hand. I turned to see the same woman who had come in with me holding me and smiling sweetly at me.
What is the meaning of this? Was she some vagrant asking for money? I dipped my hand into my back pocket and brought out my wallet to give her some money, but she waved it aside.
“I’m not here for your money, Mr. Dharine D’Anger. I am here for something else. We need you,” she said, pulling me outside the train which was about to move.
“First of all, my name is Asera, I am the Chief Witness,” she said, trying not to make it sound important.
But it was important, very important. The Witnesses were an ultra secret group of people whose main aim was largely unknown. The Consortium had put them in the Yellow Zone because of the fact that they hadn’t disturbed anyone yet.
The Consortium always categorised, and placed things and people, into distinct groups, for easy management. There were three groups of people and organisations—the Green Zone, the Yellow Zone and the Red Zone. The Brotherhood of Adam were in the Red Zone, for obvious reasons.
For the Chief Witness herself to approach me, that means that whatever it is they wanted, it must be highly important.
I gave her a long look before saying, “What do you want from me?”
“The question should be, ‘What do you want from us?’ ”
“Look, I’m not here for jokes. It’s either you—”
“I know a way you can get Shariya back,” she cut in, freezing any other thing I wanted to say.
I stared long and hard and her, trying to decipher her main motive behind all this… chicanery. I found none. Instead, my instincts screamed that she really had something to offer me.
I sighed. “Tell me what I have to do.”
“It’s not that straightforward,” she said and I arched a brow. Then she continued, “It’s about the Consortium. Many people these days see them as the bad guys, but actually, they’re not. They are the only link—tenuous as it is—we have with societal order. They are the reason we’ve not been thrown into total anarchy.”
My insides were boiling with anger. “The Consortium took everything from me. They killed Shariya and took my life’s work. So I think my stand about them is pretty obvious.”
“I know about your past, Mr. D’Anger. But that wasn’t the Consortium. That was caused by the same people who approached you earlier today.”
That hit me with the force of a sucker punch.
“How…? What do you—?”
“There is no time for explanations now. We need you to go back in time. To a time before the Brotherhood of Adam came into existence and prevent them from existing at all.”
“Even if I could do that, the laws of time dictate that once you travel to the past, you do not change anything. Or else an alternate reality sets in place, one which is unpredictable.
“We have a Time Buffer. With it, we can control the events to the reality we want.”
“How am I sure that I can come back?”
“You’re not. But if you do come back, you’ll get Shariya back.”
“How’s that possible?”
“When you help us create an alternate reality, and with the Time Buffer, we will create a memory file and a clone of Shariya. So she never dies.”
“A clone? It’s not even her real self.”
“It is. You know that even time travel can’t bring dead people back to life, at least not in the way you think.”
“Before I give you my answer, I have a question.”
“Shoot,” she replied.
“The Witnesses have always been neutral in politics and the ilk. Why change that position?”
She sighed. “It’s high time we took a stand. And we chose to stand with the only thing that can maintain our society.”
That was fair enough. “I’m in,” I said, and meant it.
I called Jouri when I got home. “I’m in.”
“Good decision,” he breathed. I could feel the relief in his voice.
“How do we proceed?”
“I’ll come pick you at your house in thirty minutes.”
“That’s fine by me.”
I called Asera. “He has fallen for the trap.”
“That’s excellent. I hope you know why he has to die in the present so that the past can be effectively changed?”
“I understand. The cosmic scales cannot be tipped. I know all of it.”
“Very well then. The Contingent will be in your house in five minutes.”
Jouri arrived quietly and as I made to enter his turbo car, the Contingent (the military arm of the Consortium) swarmed on us. Jouri darted a look of pure hatred at me as he realised that he had been hoodwinked. He let out a snarl and was about firing up the engine of his car when a huge boulder was dropped on his car, instantly incapacitating him.
Then he was dragged out of the car. Asera ambled out from the midst of the soldiers and squatted beside Jouri, who was coughing and sputtering blood. She whispered something to him before firing a laser gun at him. He died instantly.
She then came to me. “Thank you so much, Dharine. You have helped us well. Now let’s move over to the next step.”
There was an almost imperceptible flicker of movement in her eyes that sent warning bells ringing in my head. Before I could piece it together, I felt the cold stab of a knife as it sliced open my kidney. I gasped, more out of shock than pain. I held my side as I felt the warm, sticky blood gush out like a spring of red water.
“Because you broke my heart. Remember back in college? The girl you took her virginity and told the whole school?”
My eyes widened in shock. “Raesa?”
“Your nemesis. After you… shunned me, I vowed to use my father’s influence in the Consortium to get back at you. We graduated and I went into the system. I tried killing you ten years ago, but somehow you survived, and then my hate for you burned brighter. It was then that I made it my personal mission to kill you. When I learnt that you were seen Goerhan, I thanked the stars and immediately set up a plan. Which culminated in you lying in the pool of your own blood.
I didn’t know what to say. So I said the only thing I could, given the fact that I was losing a lot of blood. “I…am…sorry.”
“You were fifteen years late, Dharine.”
Then she shot me.