The Timeater


BY:
Robert 'Admiral Coeyman
Timeater Cover.

	Time was both the enemy that I fought and the ally of my redemption.
Our overseers had built the citadel to restrain the flow of time from
destroying the peace of the new millennium by calling upon the Time Eaters
of the distant past.  Had the Time Eaters not secretly known what they were,
none of this time or this story could ever have been.
	Actually, the citadel was a plastic replica of the colosseum covered
by a geodesic dome.  Some crystal columns and a few mirrors had been added,
but the only real machinery required to call upon the Time Eaters was the
operator.  That was lucky for me since I was not authorized to be doing what
I had to do.
	My father was dying.  Officers of the Solar guard were required to
rear one brood of thirteen sons as the job was not viewed with much honor.
Yet, in a time when such things were scoffed upon, my father had reared
three broods.  He was never truely proud of me, although I respected him as
peerless among men.  It was worth risking, or even giving, my life to save
his.
	The citadel had been set up for the retrieval program even though
it would not be used by the council for a full year.  Even the overseers did
not really understand the way in which the citadel worked, thus they gave a
great deal of power to the scientists who maintained and operated it.  And
they wanted the citadel to remain operational at all times for study.  I do
not believe that even they knew how the thing actually operated.
	I was on the artificial island where the citadel stood to visit my
father in the hospital complex where he had been taken for study.  Rumor had
it that one of his chromosomes was mutant, which was a serious problem in an
engineered society.  Anyway, that gave me chance access to the citadel.
	Learning how to operate the citadel took a bit more time.  Planning
my way through the elaborate security had allowed me ample time to observe
the system in operation.  Something about the citadel's operation requires
that a minimum number of men be allowed within the complex during its
operation.  I stole the access code by looking over the shoulder of an
absent minded Q-Tech.  Quantum Technicians seem required to be absent
minded.
	Retrieval is easier at night, thus I had to work during the day
when the Q-techs slept. I slipped into the compound to find the operating
manuals in the citadel's own computers.  Once through the ring of armed men
on the structures perimeter, nobody bothered me.  The only problem that I
had was in understanding the instructions which had been written by Q-techs
for engineers.
	My father's condition worsened and my time was up two days ago.  I'd
have gone the first day if I had had a place to hide my Time Eater.  Time
was up and I decided not to worry about trying to hide from the authorities.
A warrior would not cower like that.  Completing my task before I was caught
was my only priority.
	Moving around in the medical complex was difficult, yet it did not
match the severity of my expectations.  Security was strongest around the
citadel but it was focused on the council's chambers.  Everyone who gained
entry to any part of the complex had a security clearance, so the guards did
not take their assignments seriously.  My uniform allowed me to enter the
open areas of the compound's secure zones without question.  Then I went
into the buoyancy tanks to gain entry to the citadel's substructure.
	The citadel was not connected to the compound's main systems, thus it
was not heavily monitored, and any first generation cadet could have
circumvented the few monitors which remained.  I came up into the citadel
itself through the floor panels.  Even now, I do not understand why the
floors of the citadel are hollow.
	The lights were already dimmed when I entered the great domed hall.
I put on the plastic helmet and hoped for the best, not sure that I knew
what I was doing.  The helmet detected my head, lighting the visor to project
geometric light patterns into my eyes.  Then I fell into the soft chair
behind me.  All feeling had left my body.
  	For a matter of moments which I could not ascertain, I floated in
the patterns of projected light.  Clouds formed around my legs and obscured
the floor from view.  Then the patterns moved away from me, forming into an
animated barrier around me.  I could not move, the place did all the moving.
An image rose from the clouds forming into a long haired man a few feet above
me.  He floated there while the lightning barrier collapsed upon and through
us both.
	We were both lying in the citadel when I came to.  My Time Eater did
not look abnormal, although his clothes bore no resemblance to any uniform I
had ever seen.  I could not imagine anyone wearing anything but a uniform.
Yet, my studies told me that his language would be strange to me.  Far more
so than anything else about him.
	Q-techs approached rapidly, stepping hard on the buildings plastic
floors.  There was no time to awaken my Time Eater, I had to stuff him into
the narrow space beneath the building's floor.  I knew that the Q-techs
could not confirm that the device had been used unless they found us in the
citadel.  They'd never know anything unless I gave myself away.
	We both hid in the narrow crawl space while the Q-techs calibrated
their instruments above.  I had thought ahead, stealing chloroform from the
hospital supply to prevent my Time Eater from regaining consciousness
prematurely.  He would have to be awake for me to use him, but I had to
prevent him from giving his position away in what, to him, was a strange
place.
	He struggled a moment, hitting the grating with his port hand before
I succeeded at drugging him.  The Q-techs heard the noise.  I prepared to
fight my way out while several Q-techs stood directly over our position.
My adrenaline level had pulsed high just before a computer terminal fell
from a nearby ledge.
	My trip into the gateways of time had destabilized local space,
rendering objects susceptible to the force of thought.  Unfortunately, that
also meant that my Time Eater was in danger of returning to his own time.
Or releasing all the power he had locked up inside him.  We had to get to a
place where he could be allowed to awaken before he actualized somewhere
else.  Consciousness was the only force holding him in my time.
	The Q-techs did not take long in realizing what had happened, yet
they were as trapped as I was.  They did not understand the system,
themselves, and did not chance being swept into a parallel time by panicking.
Luckily, they assumed that someone who knew how to use the device had
committed the jump.  Slowly, and deliberately, they left the citadel to seek
the perpetrator.
	I had to drag my Time Eater through the shallow tunnels to the
outside courtyard.  He would not be easy to hide as he was too big for any
of the uniforms that I had.  Remembering a closet, I quickly dressed him in
a set of Q-tech coveralls.  It then occurred to me that this would draw at
least as much attention to us as his alien clothing, although he could bluff
his way out easier if he at least looked human.
	The real problem was in waking him up.  If he didn't awaken as soon
as possible, he would be vulnerable to the next jump of the citadel.  The
technology of the system did not make complete sense to me, but I knew that
the force of his conscious mind was the key to his being useful to me.  Time
Eaters had to use their power themselves, there was no way around it.
	I would have to convince my Time Eater to help me save my father.
Without the resources of the citadel, I would not have an easy time teaching
my Time Eater how to use the power he didn't consiously know that he had.
Both of these things would have to be done before the Enforcers caught up
with me.
	When the Enforcers caught me, I had resigned myself to taking my
punishment like a man.  I would neither run nor hide.  Once my mission was
complete, I would be arrested and endure whatever punishment the council
would decree for me.  No warrior runs from destiny.
	My only worry was in using my Time Eater before the enforcers had a
chance to take him from me.  He was not a tall man, if at all a man.  I
hadn't had time to delve into Time Eaters as a species and he could have
been anything.  Conceivably, he could even have been from the mysterious,
now extinct, race called Woman.
	A splash of cold water from a nearby fountain brought him slowly to
life.  He tried to speak, but I covered his mouth.  However, I did allow him
to walk, under my direction.
	"Hold quiet," I told him.  "One is not yet out of the click."
	Now disguised, I thought it wise to slip into the crowds with my Time
Eater.  Unfortunately, that meant removing my hand from his exceptionally
voluminous mouth.
	"Alright," He began.  "What did I do this time?"
	"Shut down and jog with me.  One will explain later."
	We walked through a bar near the officer's quarters.  I figured that
the Q-techs wouldn't be eager to disturb the command ranks concerning the
inadequacy of their own security, thus I resolved to walk back to my quarters
through the officer's quadrant.  Though I was only a Sargent, I was
unmolested by the senior men.
	My Time Eater then threatened our security when his eyes scanned a
girl at the table of an Admiral I knew.
        "Don't stare," I told him, quietly as possible.  "Most of us can
never afford girls of our own."
	Still drunk from the drug, he replied," They don't like to be called
girls anymore.  They get mad if you don't call them women."
	"Pipe down, Time Eater.  There ain't no more women, since ten or
more generations."
	"Then what do you call that?"
	"That's a girl."
	He forcible stopped me, turning me until I faced him.  "Girls grow
up to become women."
	"You're about to get us killed.  Girls never grow up, anyway.  Where
are you from?"
	"You need help friend.  Girls grow up everywhere."
	"Girls aren't programmed to grow up.  One never met no one who could
afford a girl, so one don't know what good they are programmed for."
	"Are you feeling ok?  I can get some help for you, if you'll just
wait here."
	I started walking again, forcing my Time Eater to do the same.
"Help one needs and you be them."
	He tried to respond, but I wouldn't allow it.  I placed my hand
around his shoulders and over his mouth until we left the tavern.  "You get
home with me and one will tell you what you need to know."
	Apparently, he agreed, pulling free of my hand and remaining silent.
His speech wasn't as bad as I'd thought that it would be, although I knew
that there would be some rough spots.  I hadn't had time to brush up on my
ancient dialogs and, by the sound of him, I'd pulled this Time Eater forward
more than two centuries.  He would know nothing of the council, the enforcers
or the concept of Time Eating.
	But, I'm told, that was to be expected.  Time Eaters hadn't been
created since the construction of the Citadel.
	My lodging had purposely been set up close to the hospital.  I had
bribed the command duty officer to station me close to me dying father and,
although he did not understand, I had enough money to make it happen.  We
reached the door to my station nearly at sunset.  The door felt my approach
and opened to allow me inside.  Then it shut and locked.
	"Spill it, " Commanded the Time Eater.
	"Spill what?" I replied.
	"Didn't you promise me some answers when we got here?"
	"Affirmative."
	He paused, waiting for me to continue.  "Ok.  Why aren't there any
woman and what were those things that you call girls, if they're not women."
	"One question at a time, please.  Firstly, we had a major plague
which destroyed the race of woman.  For reasons which one does not claim to
understand, or care about, the Council had those girl machines fabricated.
Owning one has become a symbol of rank and wealth, though one does not really
understand what good they made for."
	"How did you get here if there aren't any women?"
	"Odd you should ask.  The main genetic fabricator is on this oceanic
station, though one doesn't have time to give you a tour."
	"Why didn't the fabricator make girls as well as boys?"
	"The word boys doesn't mean anything to me.  If you mean persons, it
took two generations of work to stabilize the damage to our genetic field.
Why would a genetic fabricator synthesize machines?"
	"Girls, not androids.  Why didn't you recreate both sexes?"
	"Veginal destroyed more of the woman race genes.  It wasn't worth the
effort to patch. That's what history says.  One doesn't care."
	"Why wasn't it worth the effort to patch?  They could do anything
that we can."
	"Exactly the Council's point.  The extra effort would have provided
no advantage.  What can they do that we cannot?"
	"They can have children.  Then you wouldn't need the genetic
synthesizer thing."
	"You don't understand.  Veginal caused horrible mutations and the
eventual sterility was a blessing.  Children can no longer be born."
	He looked at my shoes, for some odd reason, then asked," Where am I?
Why hadn't I thought of that before?"
	"You're in the Council year 1126.  Getting here allowed our minds to
touch so this place might feel familiar to you even though it is not."
	"Council year 1126.  When is that in years AD.?"
	"How should one know?"
	"I've got a million questions for you.  Firstly, how did I get here?"
	"One hasn't got time to answer any more of them.  One needs you
because you are a Time Eater."
	"What's a Time Eater?"
	"Simply put, the matter that you're made of is considerably younger
than the matter of this place.  You have less entropy in your mass, thus you
can absorb the entropy from your surroundings.  One doesn't know the details,
nor does one have time to go into it.  Surf it to say that you can reverse,
or eat, time.  Just long enough to allow my father to rejuvenate."
	"But, if I release my energy, won't I age the twelve hundred years
between our times?"
	"The mind is separate from the material world.  Everything, including
you, within a given distance to you will be caught in the time blister and
regenerated.  That's what the Council uses Time Eaters for."
	Time Eaters usually had the Q-techs to explain all this to them, thus
I didn't know how well I was doing.  We were operating at a time limit which
was uncomfortably close to used up.  Even if we weren't caught, my Time Eater
was slowly absorbing entropy from his environment with every moment which
passed.  I had to explain everything to him fast.  Time was short, yet the
Q-techs had more of it than I did.  Dad was dying.
	"One was not authorized to bring you here, thus one must exercise
caution in getting you to the hospital.  Once there, one will watch you while
you allow yourself to drift in time, again.  One will hold you in this time
while you discharge yourself."
	"And then what?"
	"One stands trial for treason, yet my father will be well again.
You will be taken by the enforcers and held until the Council needs you in
the future."
	"You don't sound too sure of that."
	"These are quantum times we live in and one can be sure of nothing."
	He feigned understanding which I knew to be impossible for him to
have.  I left for the hospital and he followed, silently.  Not being from my
time, he had not been implanted with an Identity Transponder so none of the
machines we passed would be aware of him.  Yet, it would only be a matter of
time before one of our devices reported the discrepancy between physical and
transponder readings.  It would assume him to be a Tuecat spy. I didn't know
why that would matter, since the aliens were only watching us, but it did.
	The lab coat allowed my Time Eater to enter the hospital pyramid
without being questioned.  He knew enough to obscure the name plate on the
front of his jacket, although the holographic index on his back alerted the
city central computer to our charade.  It registered the same doctor in two
places at the same time.
	I knew that we would be allowed to continue along, if at all
possible, to avoid alerting the imposter to the system's discovery.
Although an officer and an odd genetic case, my father was not considered
to be a high security file.  He had only been taken to the complex because
it is where our best geneticists lived and the fact that genetic mutations
threaten our whole world.  The information that the council needed could be
sampled from my father alive or dead.
	Getting to my father's room required us to enter a transfer tube
which, I knew, would set off an alarm at central security anyway.  The
machine was only aware of me, yet it had to measure our physical masses to
transfer us into the tube in my father's wing.  It had to know that there
were two of us or it would have fused our atoms, producing a monumental
explosion.
	Rushing to my father's room, I knew that enforcers would arrive
within three minutes.  My Time Eater was unnerved by my haste, thusly
useless, for the moment.  My father's worsening condition did not help to
settle me.  His pain had become so great that I could feel it across the
room.  So could my Time Eater.
	The room door locked with a heavy thud, trapping us.  My Time Eater
approached my father, placing his hands on my Father's and saying," Now your
suffering can end."
	When the Time Eater's eyes closed, bright colors flooded the room,
into the hallways beyond.  The energy was greater than I had been expecting.
My eyes focused, helplessly, on the Time Eater and I felt space itself
wrench.  Somewhere in my mind, I felt the transfer tube malfunction, sending
the enforcers to the wrong wing.  It was a minor setback, for them, and it
nearly cost me my concentration.
	I returned from the trance, unaware of how much time had passed,
lying on the floor at the foot of my father's bed.  Looking on his, then
youthful, sleeping face, I knew that the time had come for me to pay for
the medicine.  "Thank you, Time Eater," I said.
	"Don't thank me, release me."
	"If you return to your own time, you will drain the life from anyone
you meet in the same way that you have restored life here."
	"Your time is strange and it has intrigued me.  Yet, it is not a
place where I can live.  As you need your father, so I need a son."
	"You can never go back.  We must wait for the enforcers."
	"I will not go back.  The moment that I was out of time, I could
feel the cycles of the continuum.  It calls me and I must go now."
	"One must have done something wrong.  This is not how it should work."
	"Close your eyes and release me or I'll do it for you."
	One moment, I was opening my mouth to speak and, in the next, the
enforcers were helping me up from the floor.  My Time Eater had hit me when
I wasn't looking!  He hit me hard enough to convince the enforcers that I
was an innocent victim and I didn't care to dispute them.  Even the warrior's
not perfect.
	My Time Eater had never been mine and he was right that I had to let
him go.  He could also have been right about a future time which was enough
like his own for him to finally find peace.  But that was beyond my
comprehension.  Our system was good enough for me and that was enough for me.






This work is the exclusive property of its author, Robert Lee Coeyman Jr. and may not be reprinted, distributed or used to create dervivitive works, in whole or part, from without his written permission. He can be contacted at: CornerNET.





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