"That Which Lies Beyond the River"

I had that written on the cuff of my jumpsuit so I would have something to concentrate on when they ripped me from the timestream. You had to focus on something. The government was "united in its determination to take all necessary measures in support of freedom and defence of peace in the Western Hemisphere", but that means fuck all when you're being ripped up in a tetrion beam. I read my sleeve and screamed every time I fell out of reality. I wish I wasn't famous. I wish I never signed up for this shit. I remember losing hope and the day all the feelings stopped. It seemed the only way of fixing things after she died.

Chrononaut.

It was when I came back that I knew something really had gone wrong. The subtle changes to everything were drowned out by the klaxons. They were moaning like professional whores. The path I took back into existence blew me right through a lab tech, making a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl. I was not expected. I never existed here. I'd fucked up big time. While I sat steaming on the brushed aluminium floor, the men in the black uniforms made that fact very clear with their stun sticks.

Looks like I'm a paradox.

The debriefing still doesn't make sense to me. You need a doctorate in temporal engineering to read the first twenty pages, and after that, it's mostly bullshit and guesswork. We had been fighting a religion, the kind of war a nation-state should never start. So the eggheads started dipping deep into the voodoo bag. They skipped us across the centuries like rocks on a pond. Disasters happened, sort of. The one thing that I know for certain is that people I knew died, and sometimes when I came back, they didn't exist any more. They never really explained it very well. The doctored childhood vaccinations and flu shots kept our country from ping-ponging around multiple realities while we weeded the garden of history. At first, we just killed those that we knew where responsible. Then it went to those that we thought were responsible. Then it went to those that could be. I was the first "deep run". The test target was 11:59am April 29, 1429, Orleans, France. We used Orleans as the temporal target at my suggestion. I wanted to see if she was real. Joan of Arc. I blame my many years of Catholic schooling.

She was shot in the throat by John-Henry Heacock, a long bowman in the service of King Henry the Fifth at the siege of Orléans on May 2, 1429 and died of her wounds a few days later. That wasn't supposed to happen. They say she was distracted by a bolt of lightning that came from the clear blue sky. She fell to her knees and began to pray because clearly, the lightshow I put on defying almost all the constants of universe was sign from God.

The arrow was poisoned. Heacock collected Talbot's "Witche's bountie" of 10 pounds sterling. I blew his brains out the side of his head when he stumbled back to his new private lodging in the tavern after a night of celebrating. I was tired, lost and praying the suit would take me back, even though my cloak was fading and the power cells read critical. He screamed something about a ghost when he saw me. "No," I said, "I'm just a devil come for your soul."

The history books said that his buddies wouldn't touch his body, and that God himself smote him for killing the Maid of Orleans. She was just a martyr now, not a saint, a footnote in a bloody war. The doctors let me read the synopsis off a monitor on the other side of the plexiglas cell door to help with the debriefing. I'm cooling my heels in a maximum security cell they designed just in case this exact thing ever happened. I've heard six different psych doctors say "Cassandra complex" six different ways in the last 24 hours. Thank god the techboys back in my 2084 made the suit self repairing and wired a dead man's switch into the fusion cells. I'm going to blind jump without the accelerator later tonight. They said it was possible.

I remember the air quotes the lab guy made with his fingers when he said "possible".

The worst part of it all is the Bob Marley never sang "Jammin'" in this timeline. I have it on an old flashstick in my pocket but nothing here will play it. Just knowing it exists is enough I suppose. That sealed the deal for me. I figured out the jump sequence to get back to when I was, but the risk was not knowing the new history. You don't jump back to Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 after 8:15am. We did that with a probe. It never came back. Most of World War Two was a no go. I have to risk it.

The third week of training we learned "Psychological defence mechanisms". The teacher gave me an A when I flipped off my commanding officer. I gave the guard both barrels when I punched the sequence and faded out. The look on her face was priceless.

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