Saturday, 27th August 2050, evening
Liam Roth was late for his date with Floss. But this was not possible, since he was travelling in time, where there are no traffic jams and it doesn’t matter if you are running late. He’d have entered the time and date into his TiTrav along with the co-ordinates – any mistaken digit that landed him in the wrong time or place could be corrected, and he’d still have turned up on the dot. Unless of course the wrong time and place involved a sabre-tooth tiger . . . Floss sat and fidgeted on the sofa with a book, while Jace glanced at her from time to time and did not make the comment he was clearly dying to make.
After half an hour, she went to her bedroom and swapped the elegant dress suitable for visiting a swish restaurant for her jeans, then came back to the kitchen and ordered an omelette and salad. While eating, her mind flipped between indignation and worry. Either Roth had stood her up, or something bad had happened to him to prevent his coming to fetch her, and she didn’t know which. If something bad had happened to him, it must be very bad. She couldn’t ring him eighty-five years in the future to find out what was going on.
She pushed her half-finished meal to one side. She’d have to go and look for him.
When Jace saw her get to her feet he got up too. “I’ll come with you.”
Saturday, 13th August 2135, evening
Floss and Jace timed in immediately outside Liam Roth’s house in De Beauvoir at 7:20, ten minutes before he was due to collect Floss from her own time. She knew he had a thing about sticking to his own chronology, not wanting to age faster than the people he knew, so assuming he was leaving from home he should be here. The air was warm, and the wide road lined with two storey Victorian villas glowed in the evening sun. Jace hadn’t seen the outside of the house until now. The last time they had been to Roth’s, before Floss was going out with him, they’d timed directly into his living room.
“Very civilized,” he observed, surveying the peaceful tree-lined street, no doubt comparing it with their modest flat on a main road in Willesden. “Is it this one?”
Floss nodded and led the way up the short path to number 34, her imagination working overtime. Roth might be out. Or something awful might have happened to him – she visualized him floating face down in his swimming pool. Or he might be fine, but about to make a trip with a faulty TiTrav that would scatter his particles through time and space. Or it was just possible he might open the door, surprised she hadn’t taken the hint when he failed to turn up for their date, and dump her then and there in front of Jace. Roth wouldn’t be embarrassed – he was the least embarrassed person she’d ever met – the embarrassment would be all hers. Though come to think of it, if he dumped her like that, Jace would be so outraged on her behalf that she’d be too busy restraining him to feel awkward. She was standing in front of the door now. She reached out and pressed the bell.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice through the intercom. Not a young woman’s voice . . .
“Is Liam Roth there?”
“Liam Ross? No, sorry.”
“Roth. He used to live here . . .”
“We’ve been here since 2122. You must have the wrong house.”
Floss turned away. She noticed what she’d been too preoccupied to see before; Roth’s front garden was no longer a neat pattern of topiary box, but white pebbles with a border of miniature standard olive trees.
“Jace, the garden’s different.” This small change had massive implications . . .
Jace said what she was thinking. “The timeline’s changed. IEMA must know about it. That means either they haven’t yet changed it back to what it was, or they can’t, or they don’t want to.”
A disquieting thought came to Floss. “What happens to us if they are trying to change this future, and succeed while we’re still in it?”
“We’ll suddenly find ourselves in the same place and time in the future that’s replaced it. We’ll still be here, but everything will change around us.”
“Oh good. I thought we might vanish in a puff of logic. Let’s see if we can find a library or something and locate Roth. Maybe they still have electoral registers, or the equivalent. With the chips we should be okay.” They each wore stuck to their arms a patch with a universal microchip, described by Roth as essential kit for time criminals. He had given Floss a handful saying she’d find them useful.
“Is there any point? In this future he may not exist. Even if he does and you manage to locate him, he won’t know you. He may be married with five children.”
Floss tried and failed to imagine Roth meshed in domestic bliss. He just wasn’t the type. “I’d like to be sure,” she said. “I’ll feel bad if I don’t try. Let’s go to the Barbican and see if the library’s still there and open.”
“Why don’t we walk at least some of the way? Get a feel for this future.”
They set off south towards Hoxton and Shoreditch. De Beauvoir hadn’t changed much since 2050 – or indeed 2015. The only difference from Floss’s time was an absence of cars and lampposts, though there was a bank holiday quiet to the neighbourhood. Then, as they neared Regent’s Canal, the Victorian terraces gave way to two-storey detached houses made mostly of glass, with big gardens to front and sides. The high-rise 1970s flats Floss remembered had vanished – there were no blocks of flats at all. The road layout remained the same, but there was no traffic, no traffic lights, and the pavements were empty. Zero litter or graffiti. The only sound apart from their own footsteps was birdsong. By the canal the road crossed a park; among the trees in the distance, a man threw a ball for a dog.
“It’s like News from Nowhere,” Floss observed. “All clean and tidy and idyllic. Any minute now a handsome stranger with a pleasant and friendly manner and a hand-wrought belt buckle is going to wander by and fill us in about the society here.”
Jace raised his eyebrows at her.
She said, “It’s a book written in 1890 – sort of soft science fiction – by William Morris, set in a future London where everything is beautiful and everyone is helpful and creative and contented. A socialist utopia. People volunteer to work without being paid because they enjoy it.”
“Yep, I can see that sort of society working.”
“Of course, women still do all the childcare and housework, but Morris maintains they like it. It is a great pleasure to a clever woman to manage a house skilfully . . . everybody likes to be ordered about by a pretty woman . . . I suppose he was of his time.”
By now they had crossed the canal, and the park still stretched into the distance as far as they could see. Jace said, “This used to be quite dense housing. What happened to all the people who lived here?”
“If we find Liam, he can tell us.”
Forty minutes later, they walked out of the cool of the Barbican Centre into Silk Street with Liam Roth’s address. The library, though it no longer contained printed books, was still there and open all evening, and while Jace wandered around, a helpful librarian had shown Floss how to access the Citizens’ Register. He’d located Roth in under five seconds.
“This has the names and addresses of everyone in the world?” asked Floss, not quite believing the evidence of her eyes. “And anyone can look them up?”
The librarian paused for a moment before replying. “Yes.”
As they walked towards the exit, Jace said, “Did you see, the librarian was an android?”
“No! Was he? How d’you know? I didn’t see a robocode.”
“There was an identical one in the music section.” A moment later he nudged Floss surreptitiously as they passed an information desk by the main entrance. “There’s another one.” The man behind the counter might have been the librarian’s clone.
Roth now lived in Stepney, in East London. They conferred, standing on the pavement. There were passing people and pods in this part of town, which was more landscaped than Floss remembered, with rows of street trees. The Barbican complex had the only high rise buildings visible. A soberly dressed middle-aged man, his grey hair drawn back into a neat plait close to his skull, whizzed past them standing on a small square wheeled platform. At the kerb, it hovered briefly in the air, wheels spinning, before landing smoothly and speeding out of sight.
“Cool. You have to admit, this future has its points,” Floss said, then added with regret, “Can’t see any flying cars, though. You’d think in one possible future they’d have them.”
Jace coughed, and looked up in a pointed way. Floss followed his gaze. A sleek triangular white pod with a propeller at each corner glided almost silently through the air a hundred yards above their heads. They watched until it disappeared out of sight.
Two mounted policemen approached on big black horses, and as they passed, Floss saw the horses had steel hooves and eyes like camera shutters. She prodded Jace and muttered, “Android horses.” They crossed Silk Street and walked into the small park that had replaced the boring office blocks Floss vaguely remembered, skulked behind a tree and timed out and into Roth’s postcode. The spinning blackness cleared to reveal . . .
“Bloody hell, Soviet Russia.” Floss stared about her in dismay.
Aylward Street was grim. It was lined with very tall tower blocks, each one exactly the same as its neighbours, apart from being a slightly different colour. Half the ground floor windows were boarded up. These charmless buildings graduated from cream at one end of the street through shades of beige to mid-brown. Narrow alleys that might have been designed by muggers ran between them. At ground level thin grass grew in the sunless space that ran from the flats to the pavement. The few trees were dwarfed by their surroundings. A warm breeze blew briskly along the deserted street.
“The architect should be shot. I can’t imagine Liam living here. It’s so not him.”
They walked to Milton Tower’s unimpressive entrance. The main door to the flats was not quite closed, its lock long gone. Floss rang 46’s bell. No reply.
“Maybe it’s not working,” Jace said. “Might as well go up as we’re here.”
He pushed the door open and they entered a dreary lobby, with four lifts and a motley assortment of old chairs lined against the walls. No litter or graffiti, though, apart from FU GU in neat black letters above the doorway they had come in by. Jace pressed the button to summon a lift. No lights came on, and there was no noise heralding a lift’s approach. After thirty seconds he headed for the stairs, Floss following. They reached the fourth floor and walked down a dimly-lit windowless corridor to number 46. Floss pushed the bell, then when she heard nothing, knocked.
An alternative Liam Roth
Saturday, 13th August 2135, evening
Roth approached his block of flats by a circuitous route that bypassed Mrs Creadle’s window, swung off his bicycle and leaned it against the wall while he opened the main door. He manoeuvred his bike gently over the threshold and wheeled it down the corridor to the boarded-up flat where he stored his bike trailer and stock, careful to make no noise. While he was unlocking the padlock he’d added when he first annexed the premises, a door creaked open behind him. His precautions had been in vain.
“You don’t have permission to use that flat, young man.”
Roth turned. “Mrs Creadle! How are you keeping?”
Mrs Creadle ignored this pleasantry. She regarded him balefully, leaning her weight on her stick, chins quivering with indignation, protruding eyes and downturned mouth giving her the air of an annoyed Pekinese. “You can’t keep your rubbish in there.”
Roth raised his eyebrows and gave her his best smile. “You’re wrong there, Mrs C.” He pushed the door open.
“It’s not right.”
“So many things aren’t.” He lifted the books out of the box on the back of his bike. A couple of them were hardbacks in really good condition, worth maybe a hundred each, and he’d bargained the man down to fifty for the lot . . . He put those two books and a couple of ancient DVDs back in his bike box, and added the rest to the stack of tatty paperbacks in the nearest room.
“I’m going to report the matter, mark my words.”
And she could be relied upon to do it, too; but the authorities were as sick of Mrs Creadle as he was, and would take no notice. They never had before. “You do that,” he said soothingly, closing the door and locking the padlock. “If it makes you feel better. Have a nice evening.”
She watched, tutting to herself, as he walked away. Roth carried his bike up the four flights to the flat and let himself in. He was on the late shift that evening, so before he had to leave for work there’d be time to do the loan application again. He put the bike away, ordered a pizza (the kitchen was on the blink, and this was one of the three meals it could still make reasonably reliably) and settled in front of the screen. “Delphine.”
The screen lit up. “GU Enterprise Finance Application.” The page appeared before he’d finished speaking. With practice he’d got noticeably quicker at filling in the lengthy form, and reached the penultimate box on the last page in record time: If your application is successful, when would you like to receive the loan?
“Immediately,” he said, and watched the word appear on the screen. Last box:
I certify that all information provided by me is accurate. I accept that misinformation will result in demerits on my CCR.
“I accept.” The form disappeared, replaced by the message:
Thank you for your submission.
Submission refused. You do not have the requisite Citizen Credit Rank to support an application of this type. For your ranking to improve to the required level, existing demerits will need to expire, and/or you will need to earn sufficient new merits. You may reapply after one month.
Roth got to his feet, strode to the window and swore. He was still paying the price of his misspent youth. And, to be fair, of some of the misspending he’d done more recently that he hadn’t got away with . . . that remedial CCR course he’d had to attend had not helped. The class had taken place in the evenings at a local sports hall, run by an earnest young woman with a slight moustache, and the hours he’d spent there had been among the most boring of his life. Though he’d gone fully intending to maintain a low profile, the leader’s total lack of a sense of humour had proved too much of a temptation. His classmates’ reaction had alerted her to the dubious nature of remarks she would otherwise have taken at face value, and her manner towards him had become hostile. No doubt her end of course assessment had been, too.
Though he’d known really that his CCR was not yet good enough to get him a business loan, decisions were based on a multitude of factors and decided by complicated algorithms; the requisite month had passed since his last application, and he’d thought it worth a try. Anything was worth a try to get out of this dump. He was certain the innovative scheme for an internet gambling business he’d devised would succeed. All he needed was the capital to get it off the ground.
He glanced around the meagre room with dislike. He’d sold or thrown out most of the furnishings that came with the flat, with the idea emptiness might give the illusion of space. It hadn’t. His gaze went to the dingy tower blocks that formed his view, relics of the time when London’s population had peaked at ten million, and high-density housing had been flung up on the outskirts of the city to meet their needs. Now that Londoners numbered no more than two million, there was talk of demolishing some of the blocks and replacing them with woodland; but permission from the Global Union would be required and nobody influential lived in this part of town, so it wouldn’t be happening any time in the next decade. The block his flat was in was nine-tenths empty. People only lived here because their ranking was too low to get access to anywhere decent. His neighbours were a bunch of losers who’d given up hope of improving their lot in life – drug addicts, drunks, political malcontents. He couldn’t believe he’d ended up among them, and spent as little time at home as possible.
Someone knocked on his door. The bell part of the entry system had not worked for months. He crossed the room to see who it was – not one of his friends, they never came to this zone; he met them in bars near the centre, or went to their houses. The screen showed a young woman with long fair hair and a worried expression in her big blue/grey eyes. Behind her a tall dark man in a flashy piratical jacket frowned and looked warily about him. They were completely out of place in that shabby corridor. Curious, Roth opened the door.
After a moment the door opened, and Roth stood there looking just the same, in baggy trousers and a designer-ragged vest that showed off his muscles. Relief flooded through Floss and she smiled into his eyes.
“Liam . . . hi.”
He regarded her with interest but no sign of recognition. “Yes?”
Jace said, “Can we come in?”
They followed him inside to a small living room with a ceiling low enough to touch, a run of kitchen units along one wall, ill-proportioned windows and a tiny balcony completely occupied by a bicycle. Flies circled the light fitting, and three plastic crates full of books were stacked in one corner. Floss stood beside Jace in the middle of the room, trying not to stare at Roth or his awful flat, uncertain how to begin. There was a certain sparkle in Jace’s eye, not exactly satisfaction or amusement, but containing just a hint of both.
He said, “I’m Jace Carnady and this is Floss Dryden. We’re from 2050. You were supposed to be coming to our time to see Floss –”
“Why? I’ve never met her before. And how? I haven’t got a time machine.”
“You did have, in the future that this one’s replaced. The timeline’s shifted.”
Floss said, “When you didn’t show up I got worried and we came to find out what had happened, and someone else was in your house. So we looked you up in the library and came here.”
Roth smiled at Floss from under lowered eyelids. “We were going out together?”
Jace answered before she could. He said dismissively, “Not for very long.”
Floss gave him a look, and turned back to Roth. “Yes, we were,” she said. She could feel herself blushing. “We were going to the opening of a restaurant tonight. In your time.”
“Prime.” Roth reached out and squeezed her hand. “If I’d known, nothing would have stopped me.”
Jace said, “Except for the small detail of not having a TiTrav. There’s clearly been a massive change, and IEMA hasn’t corrected it. There must be a reason for that.”
“Jace has a professional interest,” Floss said. “He’s an ex-time cop.”
Jace looked startled, then he frowned. “You haven’t heard of IEMA?”
“If I have I’ve forgotten.”
“The International Event Modification Authority. Part of what they do is monitor the future, and avert undesirable changes in the timeline.”
“The GU does that.”
“What’s the GU?”
“Global Union. It would have been the World Government in 2050.”
“Since when did they monitor the future?”
Roth shrugged. “Since before I was born. Sounds like there’ve been big changes from your day. If you want to hear about them, you’d better sit down. Drink?” He glanced at the clock. “I’ve got twenty minutes before I have to leave.”
They sat on the shabby sofa while he opened an unlabelled bottle.
Floss realized it was completely silent in the room, though the window was open. No traffic, human voices, dogs, music . . . She said, “London seems a lot less crowded than in our time.”
He glanced at her while he poured red wine into three glasses. “You don’t know about the pandemic?” She shook her head. “Way back in 2064. Some kind of flu variant. Estimates vary, but it wiped out around two thirds of the world’s population.”
“Why weren’t people vaccinated? Why didn’t IEMA or the WG see it coming and do something about it?”
“Apparently the authorities got it wrong. If they did anything, it was too little, too late. But it did solve the problem of overpopulation – saw off the four horsemen for a while. That was an even bigger headache once people started living longer.” Roth saw their expressions. “Yamacan? No? It’s a pill that makes your genes younger. Freely available if you qualify. Gives you an extra thirty years on average. Partly because of that, now you need a parenthood licence to have children.”
Floss and Jace exchanged glances. Roth handed round the drinks and sat beside Floss.
“Cheers.” Floss sipped. Though as a rule she preferred white, the anonymous wine was remarkable, fruity and full-bodied. “This is lovely.”
“I get it from a friend in the GU HQ.”
“Is that where you work?”
He laughed. “No. I’m a market trader.”
Floss tried and failed to imagine the Roth she knew working in the City. But if he had a well-paid job, then why was he living in this grim flat? “The Stock Exchange is still going, then?”
This seemed to amuse him, in a wry sort of way. “I have a stall, in a street market. Stepney Green. Where I sell stuff four days a week.”
Floss blinked. Sitting close to him, she realized first impressions had been misleading; Roth didn’t look the same. The air of rakish charm had not changed, but now she noticed his hair was longer and less well cut, and there was an old scar on his forehead running into his left eyebrow. His clothes had the soft faded look, thin patches and holes you get when years of wear and washing have started to break down the fibres. His manner was still confident, but not quite the same; he was edgier, less relaxed, with a hungry glint in his eyes. All she could think of to say was, “What sort of stuff do you sell?”
“Old tech mostly, books and DVDs, but anything I can get hold of people might want. When I’m not doing that, I do shifts as a barista. In a coffee bar.” There was a short silence. “Just while I set up my own business.”
Floss could not have been more surprised if he’d said he’d seen the light and was now a Jehovah’s Witness and would be leaving soon to distribute copies of The Watchtower. She glanced at Jace, but he didn’t seem to have heard; he was deep in thought.
“In the other future you were rich. You had a house in De Beauvoir,” Floss said. “And when –”
“Wait – I was rich? And lived in De Beauvoir? With my own time machine? The alternative me must have had one hell of a CCR.”
“What’s a CCR?”
“Citizen Credit Rank.”
“You don’t know? Everyone on the planet has one. They score you for stuff like financial stability, criminal record, behaviour on social media, who your friends are, job performance, neatness of appearance, core values, attitude – hundreds of different areas, and your rankings fluctuate on a daily basis.”
“Bloody hell,” said Floss. “So what’s your CCR, or isn’t it done to ask?”
Roth laughed and glanced at his computer screen, where there was a black number on a gold disc in the bottom right corner. “27%. That’s overall. My attitude rank’s probably hovering around zero right now. Demerits last much longer for some things than others – decades in some cases. There’s a website where you can look up your individual scores, neat graphics with lots of golden bars shooting up across the page, graphs and pie charts, and see how you’re doing. They refresh hourly. People get obsessed by their stats, there are forums with interminable boring threads where they discuss the minutiae of their ratings and how to improve them and whether it’s worth writing in to find out why their social commitment ranking has gone down two points. I don’t bother about it myself.”
There was a brief pause while Floss and Jace thought this over. Then Floss said, “What about personal freedom?”
Roth’s eyebrows went up. “The GU decided that was a luxury humanity couldn’t afford. Now you fit in, or else . . . you end up living in a dump like this with a crap job, no money and no vote.”
“Not if your CCR isn’t up to scratch. It has to be over 45%. Not that voting makes much difference. Just local stuff. The GU makes all the big decisions.”
“Doesn’t anyone object?”
“Only if they want a nil CCR, which is like being a non-person – you can’t get a job or a place to live. Sometimes people disappear overnight. You hear rumours of underground resistance movements, but all you see of them is the odd bit of graffiti, painted over the next day.”
“It sounds awful.”
“Yup.” After a moment’s pause, Roth said with resignation, “Go on then, tell me what the other me did. I’m beginning to hate that guy.”
“You owned a vast internet gambling empire.”
“Shit! I’ve been trying to set that up for years! I knew it would be big. My ranking’s too low to get finance, and I need at least a hundred million. Is there some way I can get my other life back?”
Jace looked up. “Let’s hope so,” he said.
Back in their own time and kitchen (Floss thought in passing how nice their flat – though not perfect – was compared to Roth’s) they made coffee and discussed the switch in the timeline.
“I felt bad leaving him there,” Floss said.
“You could hardly bring him home like a stray puppy.” Jace picked up his mug and headed for the living room. Floss followed.
“Actually, I could. It wouldn’t be any different from Angel moving to another time. He could get a false identity and start his gambling business now. He’d be all right. But maybe that future’s a temporary aberration, and IEMA’ll fix it any moment.”
“Maybe.” Jace did not sound convinced.
“Why d’you think the pandemic happened? Gross incompetence or conspiracy?”
“It’s difficult to believe in incompetence on that scale. Averting natural catastrophes was a big part of what we did. How could they not have vaccinated everyone for a virus they were able to see coming?”
“Perhaps we could do something if they’re not going to.”
“Like what? Are you thinking of making lots of vaccine and handing it out?”
Floss gave him a withering stare. “Have you any idea how fast a pandemic would spread with all the travelling people do these days? You’d need to vaccinate the whole planet beforehand. It would take ages – years – to make enough vaccine, especially if it’s just me doing it. Manufacturers take several months to make enough for routine annual flu vaccinations. I suppose it might be quicker in 2063. But an even bigger problem would be distribution. I’m not the World Health Organization, I don’t have access to clinics and doctors and chemists. I suppose if we had a sample of the virus, we could tip off the WHO anonymously.”
“They’d have to take it seriously,” Jace said. “Only thing is, their way of taking it seriously might be to rush straight round to IEMA with it.”
“We could tell them not to do that.”
“Yes . . . an intervention like that’s pretty crude. It might result in a third future which could be worse. Let’s give it a few weeks to see if the timeline reverts before we spring into action.”
Sorry as Floss felt for Roth stuck in his grotty current life, she had to admit Jace was right. She still felt bad about him, though . . .
Suddenly Jace said, “Leave that coffee. Let’s go and see a film – take your mind off it. There’s that new Aidan Hawk thriller at the Electric.”
Floss put her cup down feeling cheered. Jace was a good friend. “Yes please. But haven’t we missed the start?”
“So what?” Jace raised an eyebrow. “We have a time machine.”
A fin breaks the surface
Monday, 29th August 2050, afternoon
Sir Douglas Calhoun’s secretary smiled with businesslike charm at Quinn and told him to go straight through. He entered Calhoun’s office; a corner one like his, but right at the top of the building, with God-like views of London spread out far below.
“Ah, Quinn, take a seat.”
Quinn sat in the leather chair, unable to imagine what this meeting was about. IEMA UK’s chief executive left the day-to-day running of the Authority to his subordinates. Sometimes Quinn didn’t see him for weeks, and that was the way he liked it. As Chief of Intelligence, Quinn enjoyed complete control over his department, and did not welcome interference.
After a few routine pleasantries, Sir Douglas got to the point. “I have to tell you that from today, your department will no longer have responsibility for monitoring the future.”
Quinn bristled at this completely unexpected and unwelcome news, which would remove a massive area of power and prestige from his remit. What was more, it was obvious from Sir Douglas’s demeanour that the thing was settled, a done deal. Of course he’d protest, but Quinn had no illusions that he was going to get the decision reversed. At the back of his mind speculation stirred, as at the sight of a lone fin breaking the surface of a smooth ocean; there must be more to this than met the eye . . .
“Why wasn’t I consulted?”
“They foresaw it might be controversial, so only top level personnel were involved. I’ve been party to discussions over the past year.”
Quinn stared, taking in the fact that this had been under consideration for a year without his knowledge. “They? If we’re not monitoring the future, who will be?”
“The World Government, from their headquarters in Washington. They’ll send teams to other countries as necessary, and should a team come here we’ll give them any help they need. The current system involves unnecessary duplication – and risk, in view of the disastrous effects of an ill-considered adjustment. Our role in tracking down unofficial time travellers will be unchanged.” Sir Douglas added pointedly, “Perhaps if undistracted by checking the future, your staff might succeed in apprehending Carnady and Dryden.”
“I averted the android apocalypse with information given to me by Carnady, remember.” Strange to find himself defending Jace in order to score points against Calhoun . . .
“He’s still a time criminal.”
“I’m aware of that, and we’re still actively pursuing him: my point is that the man may have been guilty of timecrime in the past, but he’s since proved he’s on the side of the angels. So’s Floss Dryden. Added to which, Carnady no longer has the TiTrav he stole from McGuire, since the android Watson smashed it.” He looked sharply at Sir Douglas. “I assume the Department will retain its own TiTravs?”
“No. All time travel devices will be sent to Washington.”
Worse and worse. Quinn said, “How are we expected to catch time criminals when they can time travel and we can’t?”
He spent the next fifteen minutes bringing every argument he could think of to bear against this new development. He achieved nothing; he failed even to ruffle Sir Douglas’s aristocratic composure. Finally he said, exasperated, “And the Americans, the European Federation and the Russians are happy with this development?”
“Like us, they accept that increased federalism is the price you pay for efficient governance. It’s inevitable. The Russians insisted on having an IEMA representative seconded to the WG – failure to accommodate them on this meant they’d have walked away – so each of the four IEMAs will be sending a representative. That’s the other thing I want to discuss with you, who we are going to send. It needs to be someone fairly senior.”
This successfully distracted Quinn. His reaction was instantaneous: Kayla.
Since she had walked into his apartment and caught Quinn and one of his girlfriends in flagrante, life had become more difficult at the office. Kayla’s resentment rendered her stiff, flushed and monosyllabic in his presence; there was no way to avoid her since their work involved meeting daily, and he was aware that everybody in the department was covertly observing them and relishing the situation.
Quinn did not like being the subject of office gossip. He had spent an entire evening trying to think of ways to get rid of the woman, but could come up with nothing – apart from dumping her in the past as he had once dumped Jace in an uninhabited future London. Quinn was not sentimental or squeamish where his own interests were concerned, but he baulked at this. From his experience with dumping Jace, he could imagine only too well Kayla’s shock and disillusion when she discovered that he, IEMA UK’s Chief of Intelligence, had his own illicit TiTrav and was using it to get rid of her. He imagined abandoning her in some nineteenth century Dickensian back alley; he’d have to live with the memory of the parting look in her eyes. He was used to her loving and respecting him, and was curiously reluctant to turn her admiration to contempt.