The Time Detective

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's time you were introduced to a detective named Haynes, and were given a brief history on the invention of time travel. With such a powerful technology in existence, it's vital that it doesn't fall into the wrong hands, and that's where TIA comes in.
This story explores some potential developments should time travel ever be invented.

Submitted: November 18, 2018

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Submitted: November 18, 2018

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Haynes rechecked the time, ran his hands through his hair, and turned off the music that was tearing through his desk’s speakers. 10:55. Almost time.

Ugh…why had they chosen him to do this? This was a job for a lower level agent, not someone as high ranking and as well liked around here as him. He had better things to do, like working an important case, or sipping drinks on a tropical beach somewhere while enjoying a union payed vacation. But then, perhaps that’s why they had chosen him for this. At the moment, Haynes had been assigned no other job. Maybe there really wasn’t anything more important for him to do right now. No. Impossible, that couldn’t be. There was always work.

Deep down, Haynes knew the real reason. Dreaded it. They were punishing him. They would never admit to it, of course, but he knew it was true. He had missed inspection, and that was never a good thing. Because of that, they had intentionally assigned him the one job they knew he hated the most.

Upon making this realization, Haynes sighed and downed the last of the contents of the mug that sat on his desk. Well, there was nothing he could do about it; may as well get it over with. He turned the mirror feature of his projection screen on, and looked himself over, making sure there weren’t any flaws. First impressions were important, after all. His dark brown hair was a little mussed; his hat would cover that. His brown eyes were slightly bloodshot; nothing he could do about that but try to catch more sleep, which never happened. He ran a hand over the stubble on his face, it looked rather unprofessional. He would have shaved that morning if they had previously informed him of what he had to today. Nothing could be done about it now.

Haynes stood up, reached across his desk, and grabbed his hat. It was a 17th century chevalier hat, made from gray leather with a gray band and gray plume, with one half of the brim turned upwards. Outdated by millennia, he liked the shock he got from people as it contrasted with this digital day and age as much as he liked the hat itself. Haynes put it on with a slight smile. He never left his office without it. Technically, he shouldn’t be wearing it, but no one ever said anything.

Walking over to his office door, he gave his tiny 110 square feet of office space a look over. His cramped desk was covered in rubbish, shelves were stacked high with different odds n ends, an artificial plant lay forgotten in a corner and looked to be in worse shape than if it had been a real one. Well…it was a good thing he wasn’t showing them his habitation. Wouldn’t want to set a bad example.

Walking out the door, Haynes stepped into the main space, a large room rowed with desks and computers, people walking up and down the aisles in between constantly. The only ones that Haynes really bothered to take notice of were a few cute interns. Nobody really paid him any mind. Straightening his back, he snaked through the maze of people and equipment, across the hall to the presentation room. ‘Time to meet some new recruits,’ he thought to himself. The sooner it was done, the sooner he could get back to sitting in his office and try to avoid thinking about what had happened last week. Actually, perhaps this wasn’t such a bad idea, it might take his mind off of things.

Rubbing his hands together for a reason he knew not, one of his nervous habits, he walked up to the door. It opened and he stepped through. There was a brief sound of chatter that stopped as soon as he entered the room. Everyones’ eyes were on him. Standing front and center of them all, he gave them a quick look over with his observant, trained eyes. There were about two dozen people crammed into the room, most seated in chairs that formed three rows, each containing about six chairs. The less fortunate ones were standing in the back or were off to the side, some leaning against the wall. The company was split 40-60 male-female, about the usual. Only about half of them would prove themselves clever, observant, and quick witted enough to make it through the first few weeks of training, this Haynes knew well. Most were in their mid to late 20’s, looked somewhat anxious, and were of several nationalities, most Caucasian, a few Asian and New Arabian scattered in there as well. Overall, a pretty average bunch.

‘May as well get this over with quickly,” Haynes thought.

Snapping the fingers on his left hand, just as much to get everyones’ attention as because it was the easiest way to turn on the computer equipment in the room, a screen on the front wall came to life, displaying the seal of the Empire. All heads in the room, which had begun to wander after his entrance, turned back towards him and the screen.

“I guess most of you are wondering just what sort of job you applied to, or rather, were asked to apply to,” began Haynes, still looking everyone over, “Well, if you made it this far, you can finally be told the whole truth.”

He paused a moment, to let this sink in. Or perhaps it was just because the person who had given this speech to him had done the same. Either way, he thought to himself, just pause.

After this brief lapse, he continued, “I’m going to get strait to the point. While there have been rumors floating around for some time now, and while the government has publicly denied it, time travel exists.”

Murmurs of doubt could be heard through the crowd, and this Haynes expected. It was commonplace for citizens to believe that the government was fully transparent, that it told its people everything. But, as Haynes knew well, sooner or later everyone had to grow up.

“Yes, it exists, and is used largely by the Science Department to gather information on temporal science, history, stuff like that. I don’t really know the details; I don’t work for the Science Department.”

More doubt. Haynes paused again.

“We would have heard something about it,” one person said. Haynes looked him over: Blond hair, freckles, dim eyes, decent teeth, a shirt that bore the logo of some pop-culture thing; most likely a conformer, a sheep that believed everything he was told. ‘He wont last long here’, Haynes thought.

Haynes gave a slight smile, and replied, “There’s always this trust that the government reveals everything to its citizens. Today’s the day you realize that in reality it keeps a lot of secrets. The reason this information has just been revealed to you is because in the past, you’ve proven yourselves capable of handling such confidential information and you’ve shown the necessary skills for the job into which you are being recruited.” Wow, had he really spoken in such a professional manner? Haynes was putting himself to sleep.

“And what job is that? Go back and collect dinosaurs?” someone asked. Haynes looked him over for a second or so. He was a man with  short black hair and Southern European features, probably native Italian. He looked strong and focused, like a chess player that worked out. A person with a logical mind, but a closed one. If he could open it, make it accepting to new ideas, maybe he would prove useful.

Haynes thought it best to ignore him, though, and continued, “Ever since time travel was invented it has been heavily regulated. Can’t have some random Joe traveling back in time and assassinating an important person, or killing himself for that matter, whether on purpose or by accident. So, as you can imagine, bureaucracy has implemented several laws to keep this sort of thing from happening…well, several thousand or so. One of them being to not make the information of time travel’s existence available to the general public.”

More chatter from his audience, but Haynes didn’t bother to listen. Instead he clapped his hands twice and said “Hey!”. Everyone stopped talking and turned back towards him. At 6 foot 7, he was a very imposing figure, and Haynes knew this.

“Your job, he continued, “should you prove yourselves capable of handling it, is to enforce those laws. Everyone, welcome to TIA.”

He snapped his fingers again, and the screen on the wall changed, now displaying the logo of the agency. It was a very simple thing, a midnight blue bordered circle inscribed with three letters, each occupying its own third of the circle, the first two towards the top, the third on bottom, and oriented to face the center of the circle. In the background was an image of The Sphinx from the front, with the Great Pyramid behind it. Why had they chosen this as the design? Haynes had never bothered to ask.

“The Temporal Investigative Agency, or TIA, is sort of like the law enforcement for time travel. Say some jerk-wad collector hires someone to go back in time and steal the Mona Lisa for him, we have to restore it to it’s correct time and place, and apprehend the thief, of course. Some scientist goes crazy and decides to nuke Hitler to save everybody’s suffering, we have to stop his ass. Someone falls in love with Cleopatra and decides to-well, you get the idea. Time travel is not allowed for any means other than observation. If anyone abuses this technology, it is up to us to find him, arrest him, and repair any damage. The fate of the world literally hangs on this.”

Haynes almost winced at saying this. He had always found that last part to be a little cheesy, but he suspected it was true. To be honest, he never wanted to find out. It was best if he did his job and prevented interference with the course of history from happening.

“Which is why there is such strict regulation on time travel,” Haynes continued, “and why the technology is only granted to certain individuals. Our job, again, is to enforce these regulations. At first, we try to address a potential crisis before it starts, without having to use time travel. We only use it if it becomes necessary, as a matter of last resort. That’s why only certain, high ranking individuals in our agency are allowed to use it. We try to limit the use of time travel as much as possible to prevent even accidental interference.”

Another brief pause, this time nobody said anything. Haynes went on, “Now that you’ve been allowed access to the agency, you will be made temporary interns. Each of you will be given 90 days to prove yourselves valuable to the agency. If you are, you will be made a full time, entry level agent. If not, well, your memory will be wiped and you’ll be kicked back out onto the street.” Harsh sounding, perhaps, but Haynes thought it best to be brutally honest.

He suppressed a smile and went on, “It’s not an easy job. You will be sworn to secrecy for the rest of your life. And during the 90 days, you’ll be confined to the premises without contact to the outside world.”

A murmur through his audience. Weren’t they already told about this?

“So if any of you don’t want that, you can leave now.”

Everyone sat there, staring at him.

“Ok then,” Haynes continued, “You will be assigned your tasks by another agent in a little bit, but first,” Haynes checked his watch, unsure of what else was left of the presentation…oh yeah, “A brief history of time travel…great.” He muttered the last word softly under his breath. This part always annoyed him. Well, come to think of it, the entire presentation did.

He snapped his fingers, and the slide on the screen changed, but to one with a list of text from a prior part of the presentation that he was supposed to have shown already. He snapped again, the screen advanced to another wrong slide. Haynes snapped twice more, and the screen shut off. Just his luck.

“Ok, forget the visuals.”

Haynes took off his hat, ran his fingers through his hair, and put it back on. Taking a deep breath, he began, “Time travel was invented, oh, about 15 years ago by a man named…I can never remember how it’s pronounced. Anyway, this guy discovers a way to manipulate the flow of time in his lab, and accidentally sends his dog back in time to the night before. He had been in his lab that night when the dog arrived, surprising him. He somehow realized that this version of his dog must have been from the future, and set off to discover how he had done it, or was about to do it, or whatever the case was. He found out the very next day by sending the mutt back in time to the night before. How about that.”

Was that story true? Who cares. Haynes briefly pondered if he could end the lecture then and there, but finally came to the conclusion that it was probably best if he spent as much time outside of his office as possible. If he was busy with new recruits, then he couldn’t be called called in to the higher ups about his inspection. So he decided it was best that he finished the entire presentation, show some enthusiasm, and make it last a while.

“Anyway, so he tries sending other objects back in time. At first it’s just small things, a dog, a beaker, a hand, we had pictures of that one in the presentation actually, only ever over small distances, you know, a few hours or a day. Well, while this was all going on, some bloke in the Science Department named Stiller creates a device that can detect temporal manipulation, and discovers our scientist and what he was doing. I always thought that was a strange coincidence. Anyhow, Stiller brings this guy to work for the Science Department, and, working together, they perfect the technology. Organic and inorganic objects are now able to be temporally displaced theoretically infinitely…which is a fancy way of saying that you can travel to anytime you want. Combine that with a high-grade transporter, and you can travel just about anywhere you want, not just anytime.”

“Is this guy still working for the Science Department?” a girl asked. Long black hair, observant, large eyes; actually, Haynes found her quite cute. He briefly turned towards her.

“Well, that’s how it all ends. So, since they’re working for the Science Department, the government takes ownership of the technology. Our scientist gets upset by this. Realizing just how much of a potential danger time travel can be in the wrong hands, a private committee was formed to make sure that that doesn’t happen. So they limit who can use the technology and how often it can be used. Our agency was then created specifically to enforce these rules. The scientist guy gets more upset by this, but agrees to it as long as it is kept out of the hands of the military. Don’t ask me what they would do with it. However, he eventually got pretty annoyed at just how many regulations were made, and he hated the fact that they didn’t even allow him to use his own technology.”

“So he quit?” someone asked; Haynes didn’t even bother see who it was.

“I suppose in a way he did. The last time he was seen, he had secretly created a time travel device for his personal use, and one of his lab assistants walked into the room just has he disappeared with it. Based on a letter he left behind, he was traveling to the future, which is forbidden by the regulations. I take it he liked what he found there because he was never seen or heard from again. Just like the book by that Wells guy…”

He received a bunch of blank stares.

“You know, the book, the uh,” Haynes snapped his fingers a few times, “uh, The Time Machine? Have you heard of it? It’s a classic…No?…Whatever. Anyway, Stiller is still involved with the Science Department, but no new advances have been made recently; not sure what more can be made. Our agency has slowly been growing and becoming more organized, as more regulations are created as a result of new discoveries by the Science Department about temporal interference that we don’t want happening in real life. We don’t respond to the Science Department, though.”

“Who then, Law Enforcement?” the asker was a man who was about 29 or 30. Not very attractive looking, kind of nerdy, but obviously intelligent. But then, you kinda had to be to make it past the front doors. So, in this crowd, he was merely average.

“No,” Haynes replied, “We respond directly to the House. We’re an independent, government sponsored agency, if that makes any sense. We respond to the head of the Government but run ourselves. It’s the only way to keep absolute secrecy. And besides…”

The door of the room opened, a woman stuck her head in and in a stern voice said, “Haynes, Head Office needs to speak with you, now.”

“So that about wraps things up,” Haynes finsished, clasping his hands together, “Wait here, and another agent will tell you where to go. I’ll uh…I got some important stuff to take care of.”

Haynes rushed out of room, trying to fake a smile on his face, and strolled towards the elevator. No use in not going, that would just make everything worse. From forcing him to give the introduction speech, to being called to Head Office, they sure were punishing him today. Haynes stepped into the empty elevator, gave his destination, and stood silently drumming his fingers on his pant legs, trying not to listen to the bland beat of electronic music that blared through the elevator’s speakers.

The door opened after a minute, and Haynes stepped out into what amounted to a small waiting room, an open room whose primary feature was the elevator. A bench sat off center on the opposite wall, next to a short hallway that tunneled from the room. A picture of some rainy forest scene displayed on the back wall. At the end of the hallway was Centurion’s office, his superior and one of the highest ranking officials of the agency. Haynes didn’t bother to sit on the bench, but opted instead to lean against the wall next to the elevator and take advantage of however long it would take to be called into the office to think things over.

It was obvious why he was here; what he needed now was a story, a good explanation. Something better than what he had now, something like-

“Yeoman Haynes, get in here!” a woman’s voice called, seemingly emitting from the ceiling, in reality, from over the PA system on this floor.

Haynes winced at the pronunciation of his full name. How many times had he asked her not to call him that? She was sure mad at him today. Well, he should have expected it.

Removing himself from the wall, he took a deep breath and started down the hallway, walking at a deliberate, even pace up to the office door. It opened and he stepped through it, a fake smile on his face.

“How can I be of assistance today, Trudy?” he asked in an overly generous voice that hid his true feelings.

“Don’t give me any of that,” she snapped at him.

Haynes took on a more obedient nature, “Yes Centurion.”

“And take off that ridiculous hat.”

She wasn’t having any of it today. He took of his hat and held it behind his back with one hand, his other he subconsciously ran through his hair.

Haynes looked at her quickly. She had been his boss since he had started. Today her mid-length blond hair was pulled back, her brown eyes not even looking up at him, but instead at the screen in front of her that was projected from the surface of her clean desk. From behind he couldn’t see what was on the screen, only a mirrored image of the pouring waterfall that formed her desktop background. She was all business today, and wouldn’t be taken in by any of Haynes’ charm. Not that she ever fell for any of it for a minute, she usually just played along, and Haynes knew this. But that wasn’t what was going to happen today.

Haynes pulled up a chair from across her desk, and sat down; for a minute or so nothing happened. He knew she was making him wait; she should have known by now that that tactic didn’t work on him. At least, it usually didn’t, Haynes thought as he felt a bead of sweat roll down his side. Today appeared to be different.

“Do you know why I called you up here?” Centurion asked him, her eyes still not leaving the contents of the screen.

“You were saving me from that pitiful bunch of recruits, thank you.”

Her face snapped up from the screen, and Haynes slammed against the back rest of his chair, feeling as if her eyes were about to pin him to the back wall. His smile wavered.

“Your equipment is overdue for inspection. You realize that was last Thursday, right?”

“Yes Centurion.”

“And you know the importance of meeting an inspection on time, correct?”

“Yes Centurion.”

“So what happened? Why did you miss it? Did you forget? Did you break it? Oh god, you didn’t break it, did you?”

Haynes shook his head.

“Good. So what then?”

“I uh-well,” it wasn’t often that Haynes couldn’t find the right words, or at least some words, but this time there was no easy way to tell her the truth. And lying, well, that was never an option with Centurion. She always knew.

“Whatever’s wrong with it, go to your locker and bring it here. We’ll figure it out together.”

Haynes remained silent, and lowered his head slightly.

Centurion sighed, shook her head as the realization came to her, and said, “It’s not here, is it? Haynes, you know you’re not supposed to take it outside of the building.”

“And yet I can take it anywhere I want once I’m in the past.”

“But not now. In this time. If that technology gets out and into the wrong hands,” she sighed again, visibly tried to calm herself down, and continued, “That’s the entire purpose for the existence of this agency. To prevent unallocated temporal displacement.”

“Unauthorized time travel, yes,” reiterated Haynes.

“And that’s why you’re supposed to keep your unit under lock and key. So why is it not here?”

“That’s the part that’s hard to explain.”

Another sigh, this one leaning more towards despair than annoyance.

“You better not have lost it…I can give you 24 hours to get it, bring it back here, and submit it for inspection. I can fix your records, pretend that this never happened. But after tomorrow, the higher-ups are going to take notice, and when that happens, it’s out of my hands. You know what will happen then.”

Haynes’ eyes dropped down, only for a second. He raised them again, and tried not to look like this affected him.

Centurion ignored this and continued, “They’ll take you to the Tribunal. And anything can happen from there. So, please Haynes, tell me what happened. You’re my best agent. I can’t lose you.” She adopted a tone of honesty at this last part, her previous anger gone, replaced now with sympathy.

Haynes remained unmoved by this, and merely sat there, uncharacteristically saying nothing. What could he tell her? What he had found out? That he smuggled it home with him to acquire more information? If what he suspected was true, then they would probably lock him up after making the accusation. And if it wasn’t, he would lose his job anyway for doubting the agency. The way he saw it, right now there was no way out if he spoke. He needed to know more.

After several long seconds, Centurion sighed again. “Fine. Get it here by tomorrow Haynes. We can’t have a missing temporal transporter out there. There will be consequences if you don’t bring it back…Dismissed.”

She waved her hand with this last word, and replaced her gaze back to her computer, but not without giving him a look of worry which replaced the anger that had been there before.

Haynes stood up, saluted, put on his hat, and left the office. Once back in the elevator, he took it to the first floor. No point in returning to his office. His head was full of thoughts as he left the building and stepped out onto the busy streets of New Rome. Even if another case were assigned to him, he wouldn’t be able to do anything without a time machine. And since he had accidentally lost his, he needed another…somehow. He had to find a way.


© Copyright 2019 DJ Lost. All rights reserved.

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