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The Sanctimonious Time Traveler Trap
by Larry Hodges
A skydiver does not like surprises. So when a chubby man with a silly grin and caterpillar mustache popped into existence next to me, I would have jumped out of my skin if my jumpsuit weren't holding it down. And yet, I'd been expecting him. Sort of.
"Your chute won't work," the man yelled. I could barely hear him as we plummeted through icy winds at 120 mph from three miles up, ninety seconds to the ground, stomach first in the arch position.
"Who the hell are you?" I yelled back, staring through my goggles. He was warmly dressed in green--even green goggles and a funky green scarf that waved in the breeze--but no parachute.
"I'm here to save you,
I could barely hide my surprise, even though this was exactly what we'd been hoping for. "Okay, Bob, why won't my parachute work?" And does everyone in the future dress like a cucumber?
"The cords are cut. You're going to hit a van really hard, the gas tank will explode, and there won't be much left when investigators arrive. That's why I can save you without changing history. I'll transport us to the future with this." He held up what looked like a silver TV remote. "No one will know. History will be preserved."
"Yes, but which history?" I whispered, but Bob didn't hear that as we zoomed downwards. I could already see the ants and beetles on the ground that were people and cars. I wondered how painful it would be for someone to actually hit the ground. Maybe we'd do that with our next victim.
"Go ahead and try your parachute," Bob said. "Might as well get that over with. Jeez, I've been planning your rescue all year, I can't believe it's finally happening!" His smile threatened to break his face in half. Sanctimonious prick.
I deployed the pilot chute, which pulled out the main chute. As expected, both detached and shot away above us.
"Your buddy Jimmy cut the cords," Bob said. "Don't even bother with the reserve chute, they must not have worked either or I wouldn't be here. I can't wait to learn first-hand about your society!"
"Why do you think Jimmy's trying to kill me?"
"From the historical record, where you fall to your death when your parachute detaches. Jimmy's a serial killer. They have him on video cutting your chute cords, and they'll pin ten other murders on him at his trial. He'll be executed ten years later."
I'd have to remember to delete those tapes for the new historical record we were creating, and Jimmy would have to keep a low profile--I didn't want my buddy put away and executed. But where was Jimmy?
"We have to leave now," Bob said, looking down. I always enjoyed the adrenalin rush as the ground approached--almost as much as from my other, darker hobby.
I glanced over my shoulder, and there was Jimmy, plummeting toward us in the head-down position that let him dive at 180 mph, just as we'd planned in the unlikely case our plan worked.
"I'll take that," I said, snatching the time device just as Jimmy extended the retractable net and netted our time traveler like a fish.
"What're you doing!" Bob cried as he thrashed about, his smile thankfully gone. Apparently time travelers don't like surprises either.
I watched excitedly as he squirmed. "You should be more skeptical about the historical record," I said. "Jimmy and I knew that time travel was inevitable, but there'd be safeguards to protect history. So we were faking my death as bait to see if we could catch ourselves a time traveler. We hooked ourselves a whopper!"
It was time to end the free fall--I could already see the blue Chevy van below, packed with explosives and personal items I'd stuck in for identification purposes. The detonator was in my pocket, but we wouldn't need that now since we no longer needed to fake my death. As planned, I pulled my reserve chute, which of course Jimmy hadn't actually cut, while Jimmy released his main one. It was doubtful anyone would notice the reserve chute this close to the ground, especially when followed by the rigged explosion of the Chevy--and if anyone did, they'd assume I let it out too late. After an initial lurch, we floated down together, with the added weight of Bob making up for their larger parachute. I studied the struggling time traveler, transfixed. Anticipation was half the fun.
"But why?" Bob cried. "I came to save you!"
What a goodie-goodie--I'd enjoy this one. I liked to start low and work my way up. But business first.
"We want to know the future," I said. "We want to know the next big thing to invest in. And Jimmy, well, you don't want to know what else my buddy wants."
"You were right about him," I said. "My buddy Jimmy is a serial killer. Me, I'm just a sadist." I braced for a landing in an isolated field. "If you tell us what we want to know, we'll be quicker than usual," I lied.
micheledutcher - Many twists and turns in this story. That's difficult to do in a story this short. Very interesting in a twisted way - don't kill me Larry, I'm just a commentator.
Great story. You have to feel sorry for Bob, and hope and Jimmy and Harvey get their uppance at some point.
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