Partners in Crime

"Dick."

Agent Richard Miguel looks up from his book, and raises an eyebrow. Across the room, Mickey Lowell (time traveller and gourmet chef) is hunched over a monitor.

"Come and look at this."

With a grunt, he pulls himself from his chair and slumps down next to his coworker. In front of them, a computer screen flashes red and white, displaying articles and tables and enough statistics to fill a thousand infographics.

"See this? An open loop we were tasked with fixing two weeks ago. Typical inception job, making sure someone thought of the message to send backwards."

"Yeah yeah, standard stuff."

"Right. So why isn't it on the database any more."

Miguel's eyes widen. "Shit."

"Shit indeed, my friend. Shit indeed."

"Could just be a database error? A rogue virus or meme or something?"

Lowell nods manically. "Yeah, yeah that's what I thought. Except-" he opens a second window, full of dates and numbers "-there's no record of any since we submitted the report. The site AI doesn't recognise the event number, and all central lists are locked out."

The agent stands up and begins pacing the room, footsteps beating in time to the two-dozen clocks that adorn their surroundings. "Fuck. Okay, get Forth on the phone."

"…mhm."

Dick pauses, and narrows his eyes. "Was that a 'mhm' I just heard?"

"Yeah, well, it's not that easy. Forth's been dead for twenty years, like she usually is. We'll either have to link the call backwards, which means breaking into max-sec again, or jump sideways."

"And sideways isn't an option, as usual. I swear to god, if Xyank doesn't get actualised again soon I'm going to start merging the fucking timelines myself."

Lowell rolls his eyes, and forces a wry smile. "Yeah, good luck with that."

"Oh?" Miguel grins. "Don't think I have it in me? I'm two hundred years your senior young man."

"Only technically. And I'm fairly sure most of those didn't even happen."

He falls backwards into his chair and tosses a pen into the air. "Details, details. I reckon it can't be that hard if someone like Thad can- oh."

Above him, a black-tipped biro hangs motionless in the air.

"Well, that's not good."


"Excuse me, young man."

Dick stops in his tracks suddenly. In his peripheral vision, he sees an ageing woman in a floral-patterned dress peer at him over a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles.

"I haven't seen you around here before, and I'm normally very good with faces. Who are you, exactly?"

The Agent adjusts the briefcase in his arms and rubs the back of his neck nervously.

"I'm Agent Mi-" Suddenly struck by the thought that being caught with several classified documents under his own name might not be the wisest course of action, Miguel decided to, for want of a better word, lie. "Micheals. You can call me… Sam? I seem to have gotten lost on my way to the… conference hall. Yeah, the conference hall. I'm attending a conference, you see. In the hall. And, as you can see by the fact that this isn't the conference hall, I got lost."

The woman has apparently mastered the art of peering, and does so to such a great extent that it looks as if she could keel over forwards. "I'll say. The conference hall is in the other half of the facility. It's a ten minute walk from here."

"Ah, well, you know how it is. New Site, new maps to memorise. Just give me a moment to get my bearings and I'll be out of your hair."

Miguel attempts to sidle off, but is stopped in his tracks as the woman claps a bony hand on his forearm.

"Might I see some ID, young man?"

ID. Of course. Every member of Foundation staff had it, and it was as much a part of you as your kidneys — nobody would dream of stepping foot outside of their quarters without that little plastic rectangle. Dick knew every inch of his, every serial key, every scratch and bump on its surface. Slowly, ever so slowly, he eases it out of his pocket and looks down.

A blank white oblong stares back.

He nods, solemnly. Lowell's was the same; he just had to check. "Plan B it is", he says out loud, and the woman collapses to the ground with a crash. Behind her, Mickey stands with four pairs of sunglasses, a feather boa, a large metal box under one arm, and a broken snooker cue in the other. The two make eye contact, nod once, and sprint down the corridor as alarms begin to blare.


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