The flight in had been uneventful, the taxi ride even less so, and now Marla Santiago was on a train headed north. The dark shadows of a cloudy twilight mirrored her mood. Melancholy only slightly pierced by a sense of relief, sadness shrouding the knowledge that what had to happen is exactly what did.
Marla first started working with the Time Displacement Archeological and Historical Unit just a couple of months after it was formed, and she loved every minute of it. Other people had jobs, careers, ladders to climb. Marla Santiago lived an ongoing adventure, and got paid to do it.
Going through time and looking at history as it happened instead of reading the past out of a book. Not that she didn’t like books, mind you – but to see history in the present tense, to feel the tension in the air at Waterloo, to smell the sweat of workers building the Pyramids. that surpassed anything she had ever dare dream of.
After six years rediscovering and rewriting history, Marla began to realize she hadn’t really taken time for anything else. Her work enveloped her, pushing aside trifling social events and family. She was part of the front line of amazement, taking the point in humanity’s grand reawakening to it’s past.
Still, there were times – a funny term, Marla mused, when the very fabric of time had been pierced, what did that mean – when she did long for more, yearn for love. She often wrote off such thoughts as silly and distracting. Easy enough to do when each day you might find yourself in a completely different society in time. But still…
When Martin first joined TDAHU Marla wasn’t impressed. “Somewhat arrogant for someone so uninformed” she said to her best friend Leilani when discussing him over drinks. Little thought given to him, less interest.
After a few months she began to see what she had dismissed as arrogance more openly, realizing there were more layers to Martin – and not all of them bad. Once after he had been observing the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths and she returned from the battle of Stalingrad, they went out for coffee.
The brew was sharp where it shouldn’t be and weak where it had to be strong, but Marla didn’t seem to care, she was actually finding him interesting. That was the last bad coffee they shared, Marla insisted thereafter they only go to her favorite bistro. If she believed in gods surely the coffee at Bistro Les Gras would be their elixir.
As their romance blossomed she learned more of him, but couldn’t shake the feeling of a deep secret. As it happened, her sense didn’t betray her – Martin was a plant. A diligently placed and nurtured spy, with a clear agenda. The people he worked for in that career wanted to rewrite little pieces of history to help themselves. It was a dangerous game, to say the least.
But if one wanted to benefit from the new equality of time, it was the only game in town. The barrier to the future stood, unwavering in it’s objection to a leap ahead. So that past was it. Make little changes that could translate into gains in the future. Don’t screw around too much, you just never know if the person you delay by mere seconds missed a proverbial date with destiny.
He was found out, and it was Marla who discovered his secret. Worse yet, she was also the person who activated his displacement capsule from the inside while he was only partly in. Most of his head and one arm below the elbow accompanied her into the present, the rest of him stayed 2,000 years in the past.
She was going home now, taking an entire month off. She hadn’t taken more than a few days off in six years – and that was part of the melancholy. She had killed a man, lost love while it was still in it’s infancy, and now had to take a month off. She stared out the window, saddened by her circumstances but still managed a slight smile.
Marla had started to love, and decided there on the train. She would’t have the high barriers any longer. She would let love find her again. As Marla started to fall asleep, she remembered something overheard in the cafeteria.
Two of the physics guys were arguing about what one called a “phase stamp.” He was going on about how an out-of-phase replica of a person is potentially created each event, every “time” a person exists in another spot on the timeline. She dismissed the thought, and fell asleep.
She could feel something on her neck and reached up to brush it away. Again, as it was still there. A tired eye barely opened, and then her whole being recoiled in horror.
Martin was there, in her cabin, somehow. He smiled wryly, and slid the knife in his hand across the width of her throat. The scream Marla was forming faded into a gasp for breath. Her last thought, before all went to shadow, was nothing if not determined – a desire for raw revenge.
“If you can do it…”