[At some point, I’m going to have a title for this story, which began here. But I’m not reaching that point today.]
Agent Marcel grabbed the notebook with both hands, and smiled with satisfaction. This was her third solo jump, and while her first two had been rated Successful since no timeline aberrations were generated, she had not accomplished the primary objective of either mission. The patronizing assurances of her commander (You’re demonstrating how time jumps can be performed in a safe manner — there’s nothing more important you can do for the advancement of chronological research) had done little to comfort her.
Holding this notebook, which had not been seen since this day in November 1990, lost for 46 years — this was proof that time jumps were not only possible, but could meet real objectives.
The agent leapt out of the dumpster, and after placing the notebook into her backpack, closed the lid, and engaged its lock. The stench of the garbage she had been wading in for the past hour still permeated her nose, so she kept to the shadows on the walk back to her hotel. At a few minutes past three in the morning, the building’s lobby was empty, save for the clerk at the reception desk. Agent Marcel waved to her as she passed quickly, relieved that her checkout would be fully processed.
She took the stairs up to the seventh floor, avoiding an uncomfortable conversation — or worse, a recognition — from a potentially shared elevator ride. Entering her room, she undressed immediately and showered, relieved to be free from the stench. She placed the clothes she’d been wearing into a bag, which she stuffed into the backpack, then dressed in the same outfit she had worn at the diner the previous morning. Wearing a business suit might seem odd for this time of the morning, but she had only brought two outfits for this jump; years as a missions assistant had shown her the importance of taking as little as possible.
Fully dressed and packed, Agent Marcel approached the door of her room, and retrieved the device she had used earlier that evening. A few taps on the surface, and a moment later a message — Scan complete. No anachronisms detected. She placed the device in the backpack, and went down to the hotel lobby, announcing she was checking out of room 712.
The clerk took her keys, then turned back towards a panel of shelves on the rear wall. She retrieved papers from the shelf labeled 712, and studied them a moment. “You paid a deposit, in cash?” Agent Marcel nodded, and asked for the balance. “Forty-three eighty seven. How would you like to pay that?”
Agent Marcel had already retrieved a wallet from her backpack. “Cash.”
“Very well.” As she waited, the clerk continued, “You know, they say in the future you won’t be able to pay cash for hotels any more. Credit cards, only.”
“That’s right.” Agent Marcel bit her lower lip. “I mean, yeah, that’s what I heard too.”
Moments later, the agent who would be born a decade later exited the hotel. It was a little after four A.M., and while the sky was no less dark than when it had been two hours earlier, there was more activity on the street. She knew she needed to act quickly.
She walked two blocks south, and located the alley where she had arrived twenty-five hours earlier. She stopped at the curb, as if looking to hail a taxi, and visually scanned the area. A passenger car passed, and turned into a side street; no pedestrians were on the streets; lights illuminated several windows, but she saw no one looking out them. She then hustled back into the alley, and when she was outside the street light beams, turned and ran.
The alley ended in a wooden fence. Agent Marcel retrieved her device from the backpack, and tapped in a command to perform another scan. Human activity detected nearby. She performed a deeper scan, which identified two people working in the adjacent building, which had no window or door to the alley.
It was time.
She secured her backpack, and tapped in the commands for the return jump into her device. With one last visual scan revealing no other immediate presence, she lowered herself to her knees, bowed her head until her chin touched her chest, folded her arms across her body — and pressed the confirmation button.
She fought the vertigo that always struck first, then the nausea rising in her stomach like a humid swamp. Pain stabbed through her closed eyes, and she held herself from yelling — this was not the time to be overheard, for a moment later, as a searing heat shot through her body, Agent Marcel would appear to simply vanish, as if she were nothing more than an image on a television screen that had just been powered off.