“Now that you’re gone”

[Estimated reading time: 19 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]

1997, July 15th, 7pm

I get to the tower just a minute or two after it happens: his body is lying on the ground, just to the side of the small fountain that occupies the circular driveway.
His eyes are closed and it almost looks like he's asleep.

People love taking naps in pools of blood, right?

I pause time and walk around the body, weave my way between very realistic-looking statues of businessmen and women.
His hair is disheveled, and of course there's all the blood, but that's about it, nothing else looks strange or out of place.
He might as well be sleeping.

I look up and my eyes - slowly - follow the parallel lines of the building up, stopping ever so briefly at each floor, counting the stories consciously.
The top of the building is occupied by a penthouse, and so far I've counted about thirty-five stories.

I walk toward the building, enter the statue-menagerie through an open door.
The lobby is packed with a bunch of corporate suits, all streaming out to take in the sight.

I make it through the lobby and over to the stairwell, then take the first few flights up, winding between more suits, more curious onlookers who decided to forego the elevators.

At the third floor, I focus on the locked door and it swings open, the only other moving object in this world.
I walk through and the door shuts itself.

The third floor is occupied by some sort of call center, rows after rows of headphones-wearing young people sit at computers.
A few have taken up spots at the windows, gawking at the scene below.
An equal number of hands are pointing down into the plaza or covering mouths.

I stand at the window and rewind time.
The crowd walks awkwardly backwards, into the building.
Cars drive backwards out of the driveway, back out onto the road and join a herd of other backwards-driving cars.
The young employees of the call center back away from the window in a strange trance.

They walk back and I look back at the man on the pavement.
He is still.

I keep watching as the people around me return to their desks and awkwardly slip their headsets back on, managing to do it stiffly with one hand.
People in reverse are a strange sight.

I look back and stare at the corpse.
After another three or four seconds, the man pushes himself up off the ground and leaps into the air.

I pause time and he just kind of hangs there, three feet off the pavement, eyes wide open and terrified, his hands out in front of him in a futile attempt to save himself.
On the third floor, no one is up, everyone is busy at their desks.

Though there is one pair of eyes staring in my direction, the pupils blown out by the sudden realization at what they just saw.
I know she can't see me.
She happened to look up at the wrong time and saw something she's never going to forget.

I rewind time and watch as the falling man is slowly propelled up, away from the ground, his hands flailing, mouth screaming something imperceptible.
His body comes up to my level, but just on the other side of the glass, and I can count the blackheads on his nose.
A faded tattoo on the wrist peeks out from under the man's suit, it is a pair of cards.
His eyes are foggy gray, an aged centennial pair looking out through a twenty-eight year old face.

I remember him as the old mentor in a sci-fi show from my youth.
He was already ancient then.

Mark Knolls, a young character actor who landed the role of a lifetime and rode it well into his nineties.
From my point of view, at least, that is the story behind the man.
But here, now, this particular year, he is only twenty-eight and still two roles away from becoming the Red Wizard.

The man keeps falling upwards, past the third floor and higher still.
He passes about five more floors and I pause time again, then move back to the stairwell and continue upward.

This time I exit on floor ten.
It looks like a law firm: the people are older, the equipment is shiny, expensive, the furniture is mostly dark wood.
It's a mix of open floor-plan and large individual offices with glass walls.
I go over to the window and the man is hanging just below this floor.
I rewind time and he continues falling upward.

I watch as he ascends to something like the 20th floor, then make my way up the staircase.
Elevators don't play nice with my abilities.
On 20th I watch as the man falls higher and higher.

Repeat again at 30th floor.

Half of the penthouse space is occupied by an open-air balcony and pool area.
A small party is in full swing as two dozen young people are swimming, chatting under umbrellas, picking up drinks from a smiling bartender.
The dead man hangs just two feet from the building, five hundred feet above the plaza.
There is no one close by, no one who could have pushed him off.

I rewind time and he comes back to the tower, awkwardly un-climbs the ornate stone balustrade that separates the lively party and unquestionable death, then stands back on the surface of the patio.
A bottle of beer reassembles itself out of a million shattered pieces, then leaps up into his waiting hand.
His foggy gray eyes clear up and he is once again his age.
I wait until about half a minute passes, real-time, then I pause time and watch.

The man's back is to me now, he is looking out at the setting sun and the busy city before us.
One of his hands rests on the edge of the balcony, the beer in the other.
To the right, a woman in a black cocktail dress is walking away.

I unpause time.

"Hell of a view, eh?"

The man doesn't turn back, just flinches a bit at the sudden interruption.
Only Phil could afford all those lights," he jokes, gesturing at the lights of the city below us.
It is early evening, the sun is just now starting to meet the Pacific, and the city is metamorphosing into a bioluminescent animal.

He turns towards me and smiles.
He's jovial, happy to a fault.
So sweet, that if I was still human, I'd already be in a diabetic coma.

"Helena," I tell him and extend my hand.

"Mark Knolls, happy to meet you," he shakes it.

"Were you just thinking of jumping?" I lean in and ask quietly, eyes shifting from the man's face towards the balustrade and beyond.

"The hell?!"
He's taken back and looks instantly offended at the thought, at the sudden interruption, at me.
"'Course not!
My agent just told me about the Fox deal!
Five million!
I'm not going anywhere, this is the city of dreams!"
He gestures so wildly that some of his beer splashes on me.

His eyes shift, become foggy gray, and he changes instantly.
The beer bottle falls a full foot before I pause time.

"Fuck," I mutter at the man's eyes, their familiar foggy gray appearance.

He's dropping the bottle with one hand and using the other to vault over the balustrade, right over the edge and into the abyss.
One of his legs is already up off the patio floor.
The look in his eyes is of devastation, pain, grief.
All the nerves in his body are on fire.
It's like being burned alive by a supernova, I'm told.

He feels it all the way down to the plaza, almost six seconds of unending pain, and at that point the ground is a welcome relief.

Or, he's going to feel that, if I let him.

I unpause time, pull the man back, and slam a syringe into his neck.

"What the fuck was that?!"
He swats at me, but I'm too quick and move away from him before he can even touch me.

I watch his eyes.
They aren't foggy gray anymore, they slowly fade into their former blue.

There is a bubble of flowing time around us, a small sphere some twenty feet in diameter.
The two of us are the only occupants of this region, where time marches on.
The party around us is frozen, two dozen statues in various states of undress and enjoyment.

"You were infected, with an ancient virus, that was making you jump off this building.
Jump down there, to your death," I explain, looking toward the ground.

The man follows my gaze down to the plaza and understands, slowly.
His eyes speak understanding and appreciation.

Strange to see the young version of Mark, when I've mostly known him as an ancient character.

Stranger still, I think, is to see the young man die, when I myself have grown up on memories of him in his later years.
That kind of shit really messes with your brain.
I'll need to remember to take an extra dose of TimeSanity tonight.

"A virus made me try and jump off the building?"

I nod.

"And you stopped it."

I nod again.

"A suicide virus?
Are we under attack?" Mark asks and glances around himself, suddenly aware that an open-air patio might be a good target for a nerve gas attack or something similar.
He is desperate for an explanation, for some reassurance that the world can make sense again.
Then a lightbulb goes off inside his head and he trains his eyes on me: "And who are you?"

"Agent Helena Eames," I reply.
"I'm with the Cascadian Temporal Agency, from the year 2104."

Mark's eyes grow wide and he considers this for a few moments.
Confirmation of time travel is quite a strange thing, so Mark needs to lean back against the stone balustrade to stabilize himself.

He's taking this revelation as well as I've seen, honestly.

He finally notices the frozen party around us, as well as the strange happenstance of the time bubble.
"Hey, can we come back to the party?
I, uh, really need a drink now."

I nod and unpause time.
The statues come alive all as one.

We come over to the bar and mark requests a margarita, then asks me what I'm having.

It's a strange sensation, getting a drink with Mark Knolls, before he becomes the Red Wizard.
I get an ale that his character is fond of in the series.

We step away from the bar, toward a shady corner, and Mark downs half the margarita in a single gulp.
"What can you tell me about this virus?
Why did it target me?"
He is justifiably curious.

"The virus is a slight variant of the influenza C virus, though of course this one doesn't just give you the flu.
We think it was activated by someone - or something - from the future."

Mark's eyebrows go up at that and he downs the rest of his drink.
"A time-traveling virus?!"

"Not quite.
We think the virus has been infecting humans for a while now, possibly as far back as eight thousand years, but its suicidal payload is only being activated here, right now, by a signal from the future.
As for why it targeted you...
The sad truth is that we just don't know," I reply and spread my hands in a helpless gesture.
It's not too reassuring, but it's a fact.

He asks me a few more questions, but his heart isn't in it: he knows that I can't or won't tell him much, so he's not pressing me.

"Mark, need you to do me a quick favor," I say and fish a sample tray out of my pocket.
I offer it to him, "Spit in here, please."

His eyebrows scrunch up a bit, but he does comply.

"Thanks. We need to be able to study the virus."
I seal the tray and look at it against the nearest light, note the clumps of dark blotches: the medical nanites are out of his system, are back with several thousand samples of the virus.
"We'll try to figure out what happened, how you got infected, and when.
There have been less than a dozen cases so far.
Hopefully your samples will give us an insight into this thing."

"Umm, what's next?
Do I need to sign an NDA or something?"
Mark looks at the party, no doubt wondering what kind of story he'll be able to tell.

"Nothing so vulgar," I shake my head then look behind Mark, toward the afterglow of the sunset.
"What's that?"

Mark turns around and I make my exit.

He turns back, looks at his empty margarita glass, and struggles to remember what he was just doing.
Then he remembers the big Fox deal and gets back to the party.
That's what happens, I'm told.

4.5 Billion BCE (Olympic Year 21, December 3rd)

The Cascadia Temporal Agency has its head-quarters on Olympia, a pre-historic continent that existed on Earth some 4.5 billions years ago.

Yeah, the CTA headquarters exist in the Deep Past.

As I come back from the future, the background of an LA evening is replaced with a titanium wall.
Just as familiar, I'm sure, to me, as the LA background is to the caterers of the party I just left.

The titanium vault slides open and I step out into the White Hallway.
The Walk of Triumph.
I stride through, breathe in the nanites of the 22nd century, breathe out the corpses of foiled invaders, the desiccated viruses and bacteria that dared to invade my body during that 20th century sojourn.

"Hels, welcome back!
We're just confirming with Stellaris, but it looks like your target, one Mark Knolls, was successfully saved.
Well done!"

The large vault door at the end of the hallway opens up and Neil is waiting for me, all smiles.
He is tall, handsome in a boyish way, gangly, and constantly tripping over himself.
A goofball, in other words.
I give him a hug and we head toward the debrief rooms.
Neil gets a coffee for each of us from the dispenser.

"So, how did this mission go?" he starts off once we're seated, the doors lock themselves, and the clear walls turn matte to block out the outside.

"Very simple mission, if I'm being honest.
We identified the time of incident correctly and I showed up a few minutes after his confirmed death.
I followed the victim back in time, positively identified the Viral Infection, and nullified it.
I then gathered the target's vitals and the virus, the samples are already checked in."

Neil nods and checks off a box on his datapad.

"The previous attacks involved a short-range activator."
Neil is of course referring to the half-dozen other assassinated individuals that we've recently saved.
He pops up holo of a syringe, one of the first ones we retrieved, one that was loaded up with a special blend of influenza.
"Did you see any on this trip?"

"Negative," I shake my head emphatically.
"There was no one around Mark.
I think this was a timed activation, he went gray-eyed right in front of me."

"No one around Mark, except for you," Neil notes and looks at me, quizzically.
Almost as if he's suggesting that I activated Mark.

"What's your point?
I showed up because the CTA detected a divergence.
I can't have been the cause of the damn thing."
Didn't realize how I would get worked up over that.

"Sorry, Helena, just a progression of thought.
But good point, the original death certainly wasn't caused by you.
The trigger must have been something else."

An alarm sounds all around us.
Each of us looks down at the sudden influx of messages on our watches.

"Fucking hell!" Neil exclaims.
I nod in agreement.

Mark Knolls has taken yet another spill off a high-rise in Los Angeles.

We're in the Eurasia presentation rooms.
The higher-ups just finished droning on about the mind-numbingly boring details of the case.
Holos are still up, showing the building, Mark's headshots from a recent photo-shoot, an autopsy report, all the typical stuff.
Most of us have already seen the same specs, last time we were ordered to save Mark.

Neil comes up and addresses the assembled researchers and field agents.
No one has any idea what's going on.
We've never had the same target show up, not like this.

"It's the same party, the same one where Agent Eames recently intercepted the target," Neil explains.

"The target is infected again?
Or infected still?"

"Good question, Harris, but we don't know.
Our agent retrieved a sample of the neutralized weapon, and from preliminary checks, it looks like the virus was killed.
So we may be dealing with a new infection."

"A new infection, at a high-rise party.
Someone's out for this guy."

There's a bit of a debate about who to send and when, but Neil casts the deciding vote.
I'm going out on the morning jump, back to 1997 Los Angeles, July 15th.

Which means that tonight I can get properly shit-faced at the Majestic.
Neil and I head out after all the formalities.

He snags a transport and we pile in there, though today it's just the two of us.
Neil looks out at the rainy world.
"Hels, I'm worried about this one.
I think there's more to this trouble than just Mark Knolls.
This is just the beginning.
There's going to be escalation.
Already there is escalation!
We spent two weeks each, researching Laurie and Hunderson, and almost missed the opportunity."
Neil is referring to our earlier cases, a duo of revolutionaries from 1960 and 2012, respectively.
The suicides occurred decades before the revolutionaries came into the spotlight, during periods when they were off the grid, further complicating our search.
"But Mark, he is killed out in the open, so brazenly.
And now, again!
I'm concerned, this is a bad situation, and we're walking into it blind.
You are walking into it blind."

He finally looks at me, there is worry on his face.
When it comes to me, Neil is an open book, and knows it.
He's terrified for my safety.

"I know, and I agree.
Something strange is going on.
I'll be careful."
I glance outside and through the near-constant rain see the faded neon lights of our destination.
"You watch my back here, and I'll watch it over there."


The shuttle arrives at the Simian Ancestor, the unofficial social center of the station, pulls into the docks and we hop out.

The mood in the place is strangely upbeat: I'm back from a successful mission, but heading out tomorrow on the same one.
That doesn't happen all that often, our fixes are typically long-lasting.
Neil helps field the congrats and good-lucks and we manage to grab our usual booth in the back.

Neil starts ordering food and booze, while I watch the bar for a minute.
Tonight's crowd is a mix of equal parts CTA researchers, CTA field agents, and University students.

A certain cute field agent is conspicuously missing, not at his usual spot at dart board.
"Have you heard where Harry might be?" I asked, tilting my head in the direction of the games.

"Yeah, he went out on the afternoon jump, got a mission in the 1960s, something to do with Al Capone."

"Capone died in '47, right?"

"He did, apparently this has to do with a vault," Neil shrugs and goes back to the menu.
He doesn't know any more, but that's enough.
Harry isn't here, won't be here for a few days.
I do a bit of sulking, send him a text ("Miss you, good luck!"), and look up at the crowd with new eyes.

We're munching on fried calamari and drinking microbrews when She walks up.

"Hey, Helena, congrats on saving the Red Wizard!"
She is all smiles and beautiful freckles.
The song "Jolene" was written about someone who looks exactly like her.

Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain

Neil coughs and from behind a covered mouth explains, "You didn't hear that Mark took another dive?"

Her eyes go wide, and wider still when I nod to confirm.

"Shit," her hands go to her mouth, instinctively, in that I've-fucked-up gesture.
"I hadn't heard!
I was in the Statler lab all day, just heard that your mission went well.
Fuck, I'm sorry!"

"Hey, no worries," I reply and have a drink of my beer.
I need the time to stare at her and come up with something to say.
"Must be a fun subject, are you studying Theia?"

She nods and smiles once again.
My heart tries to jump and out through my throat.

"I'm Neil," he interjects into the not-at-all-awkward pause.

"Hi Neil.
I'm Carina!"

She looks at Neil and extends a hand to me.
I shake it awkwardly and we all bust out laughing.

The night goes by in a wonderful breeze.
We learn more about Theia and Carina learns how we drink around here.

Neil takes one of the communal shuttles home, propped up at times by a few researcher neighbors of his.
They're going to help him get home.
It's not an uncommon occurrence.

I invite Carina over to my place and she eagerly accepts.

We drink and talk.
She tells me about having three brothers and growing up in the shadow of the American Federation.
Carina is from 2106, she is here on a student visa, runs simulations and future analysis of Theia.
We're surprised to learn that we went to the same college back in the 21st, Urbana-Champaign, just six years apart.

I talk about the past two years working for the CTA, about some of the earlier cases, and inevitably about the most recent.
I talk about my feelings on the trip, the worry, the excitement, the strange and uncertain nature of things.
I talk about the Red Wizard and what he meant to me as a kid, how he set an example, was in fact a role model of sorts.

Carina makes the first move.
She puts a hand on my leg and after a moment kisses me.

1997, July 15th, 8pm

I'm once again standing outside the tower.

The crowd of on-lookers hasn't had time to gather yet, I am here just a moment after Mark's body stops moving.
Gray eyes look toward the horizon.

I rewind time and watch as Mark's re-animated body leaps into the air and sails up toward the rooftop.
I make my way up through the familiar stairwell, take plenty of opportunities to rest, and find myself on the penthouse patio.

Déjà vu.

I keep rewinding time back, further and further, until I see Mark crawl awkwardly back over the balustrade.
Back from another foiled suicide attempt.

And then I rewind time about another minute back.

Mark is chatting with a group.
I recognize his agent from my earlier trip.
The others looks, socially and economically, to be on the same relatively-low rung as Mark, at least at this point in his life.

I watch as Mark chugs a margarita, his eyes turn, and he jumps to his death.

I rewind time.
Once Mark is standing back at the bar, his signature margarita in hand, I unpause time and approach him.

I introduce myself as Helena Eames, casting lead for an up-and-coming British director, and then my head explodes.

A bullet goes through my melon and it pops, all the blood and gray matter comes out as a plume into the Los Angeles atmosphere and joins together with the gasoline and sweat of millions.
My body drops to the ground, blood flows and pools around me.

The Auditor detects my lack of heart beat and rewinds time.
I get up and the bullet un-kills me.
Mark reverse-walks back to the bar, chats in a strange dialogue, walks away.

I pause time and an urgent message pops up on my watch.
"Death by bullet, in 55 seconds," it reads.

The Auditor is pretty simple in how it acts.
When I die, it simply rewinds time and notifies me about what happened.
I'm told that in one minute, if I continue on my current course, I will be killed by a bullet to the brain.

Well, shit.

I unpause time and Mark walks to the bar, picks up a margarita, and walks back towards his group, taking the long way back to where his friends are chatting about his new-found fame.

He talks with them for a short while, then chugs his margarita and takes a dive off the building.

I pause time, check my watch: 54 seconds since that urgent message.

The assassin must have targeted me because I acted to save Mark.
Killing Mark Knolls is apparently very important to a time-traveling intelligence.
So important, that they don't even mind killing another time-traveler to do it.

But that raises a question: does the assassin now know about me?
Or do they only get reports from "failed" futures?

I rewind time to right before Mark chugs his margarita, then walk up right to him.
The party guests are once again statues, and no one notices me.
I recalibrate the medical nanites to pass off as alcohol to Mark's taste buds and the lining of his intestines, and dump a few thousand of them into Mark's drink.

Then I find a nice secluded nook on the roof, where no one can see me drop in, and unpause time.
I walk around the corner into the party, just in time to see Mark Knolls down a margarita and yell out "I'm a golden god!".

Not long after, Mark introduces himself to me, fueled no doubt by the tequila and the lack of suicidal thoughts.
He actually hits on me.
It feels weird, but I play along, laugh heartily at his cheesy pick-up line.
(It's cheesy to me because of how famous it eventually becomes.
Is there a word for a futuristic type of cheesiness?)

I check my watch every once in a while, and it's five, ten, twenty minutes, and Mark is not throwing himself off the balcony.
The nanites are working!
And no one has tried to kill me.
That'll be something for Neil and the rest of the nerds to consider.

I continue carefully steering the conversation to Mark and hopefully avoiding any anachronisms on my part.
It's difficult, but I avoid gushing about how the Red Wizard got me into the sciences.
Then Mark's eyes go gray and he throws himself off the building.
I bite back my natural reaction to mess with time.
In this particular instance, I remind myself, I'm just watching things.

Mark's body impacts the circular plaza down below and a belated thud sound eventually reaches the patio.
I pause time and look around.
No one is paying attention to us, so no one notices that Mark is missing, not yet.

But someone must have been watching Mark, someone must have gotten the virus into him.
My first hypothesis is that the virus was in the margarita, that's why I decided to use the drink as a delivery vector last time.
And that seems to have stopped one version of the virus.
But how did they get to him again?
I decided to chat with Mark on purpose, I needed to see for myself that he didn't drink any more margaritas, or got stabbed with a syringe.
And no one approached us.
No one stabbed Mark with a rusty needle.

I rewind time and Mark comes flying back into my life.
He talks backwards for a while, a version of me responds, I keep going back in time, about two minutes from the suicide.
The assassin may have a time horizon of just a minute.
Let's see how it handles this.

I unpause time, dive at Mark, my arms go around him and interlock behind his back, then the Auditor kicks in and catapults us back to Olympia.

4.5 Billion BCE (Olympic Year 21, December 4th)

The titanium vault stays closed, while I expect it to be sliding away.
That's discouraging.

"Neil, open up!"
Mark is looking around us, concern is pouring off him in sheets, he's about to lose it.
"Neil, we're gonna have a mess here pretty soon, unless you open this damn door!
And this was the only way to save Mark.
There was a time-traveling assassin."

The titanium vault slides open and I lead Mark through the White Hallway.
He coughs and I smell the nanites.
They work fast and in just a few seconds Mark looks more alert and aware.

"Helena, what is happening?
Where are we?
Who do you really work for?
It's certainly not Nol-" Mark stops dead in his tracks at the sight of the exterior wall and the alien landscape beyond it.

The early Earth, before the tragic Theia disaster.
It is a hot and stormy place.
The Olympia continent is recent volcanic rock the size of Australia, and it is riddled with holes that poke through to the molten rock that sits just below it.
Torrential rains fall on this wasteland and instantly turn to thick clouds that are torn apart by howling winds.
Volcanoes and some of the first continents on early Earth, it is a wonderful and distressing view.
About two meters of special glass separate us from the elements.

"A time-traveler is trying to kill you, so I've brought you here, to the Cascadia Temporal Agency headquarters.
We're on Olympia, an ancient continent on early Earth.
We're about four and a half billion years away from 'home', if you know what I mean.
My name really is Helena, and I'm here to save your life, Mark Knolls.
And this guy is Neil, and now he's going to annoy you for a while with all manner of nerdy questions.
Please answer as best you can, and we'll have you back in LA in a day or two."

That's not even remotely true: we've never faced a time-traveling assassin before.
But I really want to reassure Mark.
I need him calm and composed.

Neil leads Mark toward the debriefing rooms, then breaks away to join me for a moment.
A team of CTA agents swarm around Mark and lead him onwards.
I'm not too familiar with the non-agent travelers protocol.
Perhaps the CTA already has it, but in the unlikely possibility of us being first, perhaps we are writing it right now.
With time travel, you constantly learn that you're the last person to figure out time travel.
The last person to know something.

"What's going on?" Neil asks me.
"Why is he here?"

"Someone made multiple attempts on Mark's life.
Whoever is out there, doing this, they want Mark Knolls dead, and they don't mind taking shots at the CTA while they're at it.
I had no other options.
Look, you debrief him, figure out how he caught the virus the first time, and then again the second time.
I'm going to get some eyes on him at that party."

Neil nods and returns to Mark, and I keep heading towards the surveillance quad.
A sizeable portion of the CTA HQ is dedicated to making and storing recordings, and I'm now on my way to find what information we have on that high-rise party.

2106, September 2, 11am

The CTA building is at odds with itself, beautiful chaos as a dozen inconsistent styles are piled one on top of another: the elaborate baroque colonnades clash with the brutalist columns, the intricate Japanese wood is highlighted in brusque neon pink, and so on.
The front doors slide open to reveal a plant-filled interior and it almost feels like stepping out of the city into a jungle.

A beaming salesman-type approaches.

"Daylon Ulfsak, Director of Operations here at CTA," he extends a hand and I'm a little slow to respond.

"Helena Eames.
It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr Ulfsak."

"The pleasure is all mine, I assure you," he responds and leads me toward a bank of elevators.
"And please, just Daylon."
We grab an open cab and he chooses the 200th floor, the highest point in the building.

"Daylon, I was under the impression that this was going to be an informational meeting about a job.
I was expecting to talk with HR, honestly."

Daylong smiles a perfect set of painfully-white teeth.
"I'll try to explain.
Hope you haven't had lunch yet, I believe we have Europan trout on the menu today."

The elevator doors open and we walk out onto a plant-covered open-air patio.
We make our way toward one side of the building where a small army of servers are swarming around a table for two.
Daylon sits down across from me and on my left is a long drop towards the city.

The first few minutes are taken up by the waiter going over the lunch menu, the cocktails, the extensive wine list.
Somewhere around the third off-world wine, I realize that this lunch is good news.
So I opt for a rare beer, to celebrate.

I mean, of course!
Would a director be meeting a prospective detective just to turn her down?
Come on.

So it's a bit of a surprise that Daylon starts off our conversation with "First things first, we can't hire you."

2 thoughts on ““Now that you’re gone”

  1. This reads like one of those micro-series episodes (or whatever they’re called) including the cliff hanger. Just wondering; Have you ever tried writing in anything but first person present tense?

    1. Kind of going for that serial vibe. And it’s a format that I find fun to write in. Sort of self-contained little stories.

      I’ve mostly stuck to present tense lately, but kind of alternate between first and third person. Might stick with first for now, but always reserve the right to switch to third! 🙂

      Ned, what’s your preference with tenses?

Leave a Reply