My annual Daylight Savings Time chapter.
“Hey, who gave you permission to get up?”
Bob smiles at Cal. “Sorry, Captain. I was just going to go change the clock.”
Cal looks at his phone. “Oh yeah, that’s happening. Don’t worry about it, we’ll do it later.”
Bob nods. The time is changing in a minute—forty seconds, actually—and Cal clearly isn’t going to let it interrupt his session of Arkham Horror, which had been going on for about five hours now. “Please, Captain, is it okay if I go do it real quick? I get nervous when clocks are wrong.”
“Oh, well, sure, if it’s important to you, go ahead. The oven is fancy, so it’ll change over on its own.”
“Thank you.” Bob smiles, dragging his chair over to the kitchen doorway so he can reach the clock hanging above Cal’s kitchen door. He climbs up, reaching for the clock.
“Careful,” Cal tells him, watching Bob.
Bob nods, and the clock strikes two.
The house shakes, and the ground underneath it, the air vibrating with a low sound that isn’t quite a rumble. Bob’s unireader starts blaring an alarm. “What the hell?” Wes asks, as the rest of the group stands up, backing away from the kitchen table.
Bob hops down from the chair, pulling out his unireader, silencing the alarm and setting a one hour timer. “Don’t freak out,” he tells them. “This is normal.”
“What the hell is happening?” Beatrice demands, arm around Lillian. Cracks are appearing in the windows.
“Temporal tear,” Bob explains, bringing up the holographic interface so he can put a shield around them all. He materializes his uniform, regretfully disintegrating the short shorts and crop top the guys had put him in. “Twice a year this planet experiences a rip in the fabric of space/time due to a temporal shift that occurs on the planet.”
“Twice a…Daylight Savings Time,” Cal asks. He starts to laugh, but at that moment, the house blows over, and they all take cover. Bob’s icosahedronic forcefield keeps all the debris away from them, and he quickly makes a burst of energy to vaporise anything that’s too close, blowing away the dust as well.
Above them, the cloudy sky is torn through with stars, constellations that aren’t visible from Earth spinning in vivid circles that leave streaks on all their vision. The moon appears to be on fire, but there’s a second one quite close to it. The sky is dotted with flying things, crafts and creatures, and they can see fires burning around them. “The…the world’s ending…” Joey says, distant.
Bob nods, checking the time. “Only for fifty-four more minutes, though. Don’t worry, once we get to three o’clock, it’ll be like none of this ever happened.”
“You’d better give us some fucking explanations, Bob,” Beatrice says, stepping closer in a threatening way.
Bob materializes a sidearm and his badge. “Roberto C. Johnson,” he tells them. “Temporal Bureau, Department of Temporal Law Enforcement.”
“You’re a…time cop?” Cal asks, looking around.
Bob nods, using the atoms from the debris to give all of them some body armour, and opening his catalogue of weapons all around them. “Yeah. Pick a gun that you like. You’re going to need it. Temporal tears are rarely peaceful.”
Indeed, as he says that, an ovular ship flies low overhead, weapons hot. A chorus of “fucks” sounds out, but Bob just watches as it’s chased down by another, bigger ship, firing a volley of short-wave energy at it. The ovular ship crashes into the house two down from Cal’s and explodes in a cloud of purple light. The other ship bears down on them.
Bob looks up at it. The ship hovers there for a second, then, though there’s no external sign, prepares to fire.
Bob shoots it, just once. His sidearm, slightly modified from factory settings, penetrates the ship’s defences and blows it up, raining metal down on his forcefield.
“So yeah,” Bob suggests, turning to them. “You’ll want some guns. Don’t worry too much about knowing how to use them. Most of them have some automatic settings anyway. Just touch the one you want.” They don’t move. “Look, I promise I’ll explain later, okay? But I’d like it if we could survive this. Even if it’s not permanent, I’d really rather not watch any of you die.”
Cal looks at him for a second, and then nods, touching a hologram of a gun Bob collected the schematics of during a mission to stop some Altnvir rebels from going back in time and blowing up their sun. It’s a more powerful weapon than it looks. The gun materializes, because they’ve collectively fed Bob more than enough DNA for him to give samples to his unireader and authorize them to access his weapons locker if they ever need it. “So,” says Cal, hefting the weapon, looking down at it. “I didn’t know the time police needed butt-boys too.”
“Everyone needs a butt-boy,” Bob tells him, smiling. He’d known that of all of them, Cal would be the one to take this in stride. “We’re a valuable resource the universe over.”
“Wait, are we time criminals?” asks Travis. “Is that why you’re hanging out with us? Like, is one of us going to grow up to be in the time mafia or something?”
“Nah, I just like you guys,” Bob promises, which is true but also isn’t exactly an answer to Travis’s question. “The time mafia recruits pretty young, so you’d already be members.”
He gives them a bit to get armed, then looks around. More of the ships like the one he’s destroyed are coming. “We should go. One Omi Battler isn’t a big deal, but ten are going to be an issue.”
“And you’re sure everything will go back to normal after this?” Cal asks.
“It does every year,” Bob promises, and he leads them out of the wreckage of the house and up the road. Forty minutes left.
“So all of this is what?” Mick asks as they walk, more calmly than the situation probably calls for, but Bob likes to think he’s having an effect on their ability to stay calm. Explosions and gunfire can be heard everywhere, and buildings are collapsing up ahead. A fleet of large, scythe shaped ships has floated into view from somewhere. One of the moons has finished exploding. “Stuff from the future or whatever?”
“Or whatever, yes,” Bob confirms. “Most of it isn’t human.” He points at the ships. “Those are Class X Wennd Dirigibles. They come from a planet about six hundred light years from here, about six hundred years in the past. They were built by an aggressive militaristic government that wanted to colonize every planet that could produce methane. They’re only here because the temporal tear sucked them in.”
“How does that work?” Sully asks. “No, you know what? You’re going to tell me it’s too complicated to explain.”
“Not so much complicated,” says Bob, gesturing for everyone to stop as a squadron of something appears in their vision. “As nonsensical. Time isn’t really logical, unfortunately. Those are N’nscair Revellers. We need to shoot them.”
“You never struck as the shoot first type,” Lillian said, as they all aimed. “At least not without permission.”
The N’nscair are seven-legged scorpions with glowing, barbed tails and whose skin was radioactive. Bob opens fire. “I spent three weeks with some N’nscair Revellers once. Trust me, getting gangbanged by radioactive murder scorpions isn’t as fun as it sounds.”
Fortunately, the ground opens up and swallows the Revellers, which unfortunately does spit lava everywhere. Bob’s forcefield catches it all and Bob leads everyone around the fissure. “Are you even human?” Cal asks.
Bob nods. “Through and through. Just with some bonus features installed. Oh, that’s weird.”
“Everything about this is fucking weird,” Joey complained.
“Yeah.” There’s a tall tower a few kilometres off, septagonal and with sharp corners, no windows, purely white. Things are detaching from it and spreading outwards. That isn’t good. Fortunately, as Bob thinks that, a black and gold dragon flies overhead, breathing fire on everything. Bob pulls out his unireader. “Hey,” he says. “It’s me. You want to go tackle that tower? It seems a bit indestructible.”
The dragon veers towards it immediately and Bob nods. “That’s a real dragon,” Joey says, staring at it. “That’s a real dragon!”
“Yeah, I’ll introduce you if there’s time,” Bob promises. “We’re friends, sort of.”
“His brother likes to beat me up sometimes,” Bob explains. “So we’re friends out of spite, mostly, but you’d be surprised what spite can accomplish.”
“Where do dragons come from? Can you take us there?”
“Someday,” Bob promises. “They’re from a planet called Nova. They actually exist now, but that particular one won’t be born for a few thousand years. Oh.” One of his sensors goes off, and Bob turns. A giant bird made of lightning and an antilepton octopus are fighting next to an apartment complex, and they’re about to destroy the building. Bob materializes a longer gun, this one borrowed from a Yovek trader named Stop Asking Me My Fucking Name You Stupid Cocksucker, and he blows both of them out of the sky. His proximity alert quiets, and Bob sighs.
“You okay?” Cal asks.
“Yeah.” Bob smiles. “Sentimentality. My grandfather is in that building. It may not matter, but still.”
“Yeah. So you’re from the future.”
“In a manner of speaking,” Bob says, urging them further down the road. There are some tanks blocking the way, but they’re facing the other way. There are twenty minutes left on the timer. The tanks are pointed at a tall, mechanical thing covered in spikes. “Hm,” he says, holding up the unireader and scanning it. “Never seen that before.”
“And that’s particularly notable?” Wes asks.
“No, I just like to catalogue things, and…” Bob frowns, looking at the scan results. “…Especially the ones that aren’t supposed to exist.”
“None of this is supposed to exist, kid,” Sully reminds him. “Also there are some worms.”
There are indeed some worms, but they’re just Rivulia Cock Worms, writhing out of the ground with their multiple mouths open. “Yeah, shoot those,” Bob says, not worried. “They’ll bite your dicks off if you let them get close.”
As the group opens fire enthusiastically, Bob runs a few more scans of the giant spiked thing, which is currently being shot by tanks. One of the appendages of the tower has latched onto it as well, but doesn’t seem to be doing much. The dragon is now attacking the tower in the distance. It seems to be raining calcified rose petals not far off. The sun is coming up in the north, but not anywhere else. Another group of people, human this time, emerges from nearby. “Oh, hey,” Bob calls, waving when he recognizes their leader. “Giacomo!”
Giacomo points his gun—a period appropriate submachine gun—at Bob. He looks frantic and confused and angry and a little younger than he should be. Oh. “Sorry,” Bob says, as they get closer. “I thought I knew you.” That was an embarrassing mistake for a time traveller to make.
Giacomo doesn’t lower his weapon. Bob doesn’t recognize any of the kids behind him. “I know you guys,” Giacomo says, in the calm, analytical, almost cutting tone Bob is used to. “Do you know what’s going on?”
“The world’s ending,” Bob tells him. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine in fifteen minutes. Listen, that gun’s a piece of shit. Take this.” He hands over the longer weapon to Giacomo, knowing that, unlike him, Giacomo prefers things longer and thicker and with more punch. “I’d appreciate it if you guys could all cover me, I need to go get a sample from that spiky thing before it blows up.”
“What the fuck?” Cal asks. “Why?”
“Because it’s not supposed to be here,” Bob explains. The scan readout tells him that its molecular makeup doesn’t match this timeline, and its design suggests the same. “It’s twenty-ninth century Earth technology, but Earth doesn’t have a twenty-ninth century. My bosses are going to want to know how it got here, even with a temporal tear.”
“Why doesn’t Earth have a twenty-ninth century?” Mick asks.
Cal looks at the thing, then looks at Bob. Then he asks the right question. “It’s important?”
Bob nods. “Please?”
“Sure. Guys, let’s cover Bob while he does the thing. We’ll ask about the future when he gets back.”
“Hold on,” says Giacomo. “You don’t get to decide that.”
Cal shrugs. “Last time I checked, Bob belonged to me, not you.”
“Cal’s right,” says Wes, looking at the thing. “Bob’s the one who knows what’s going on. If he says that’s important, it’s important.”
Bob kisses Cal, then gets up on his toes and hugs Wes. “Thank you, really. I’ll pay you back.”
“You don’t owe us shit,” Cal tells him, patting Bob’s ass. “You’re ours, and if we want to do stuff for you, there’s fuck-all you can do about it. Now go.”
Blushing hot, Bob runs off, darting between the tanks—first century Aldenni design, nice—and towards the spiked machine, whose top half has been covered by the white substance from the tower. The tower itself is listing dangerously to the side, under a lot of dragon fire.
Blasts fly high above Bob’s head, distracting the machine and the tanks so that they don’t pay much attention to Bob. One of the many benefits to being the perfect height, he thinks, even as the machine’s leg lifts up, and Bob has to throw himself to the side to avoid getting stepped on. A mortar shell explodes near him, staggering him. The metal of the machine is one Bob doesn’t know the composition of, and which doesn’t cut when he tries to cut it with his unireader’s laser. Hm.
This isn’t a living entity, it’s a machine. It’s got a pilot, a cockpit. Bob can get in there, and not just because he has an affinity for cockpits. Activating some implants in his legs and feet, Bob jumps. He overshoots his mark a little, ending up level with the machine’s head, and gets ensnared by a buzzing white glob that pulls him closer, dissolving his uniform and then his skin, very painfully, too. “Fuck,” Bob growls, shooting it off as best he can. The white thing responds to being shot, which is good, but it doesn’t die, which sucks.
Bob does manage to free himself from it to land on the machine’s shoulder, which is corroded. From here, while the white thing tries to dissolve him, Bob tries to hack into the machine, determined to open the cockpit door. When it opens, he lets himself fall through it, dangling by the leg the white thing is holding him up by. “Hi,” he says to the pilot. “You should probably know that your existence is a violation of several temporal laws.”
“Wh-what?” asks the pilot, a cute guy with a mechanical arm who looks nervous. He’s pointing a gun at Bob. “Who are you?”
“Temporal law enforcement. Listen, given the situation I’m willing to overlook this if you’ll give me a sample of your technology. Just a small one, a computer nodule or something?”
“Uh…” the guy lowers his gun, pulls out a small chip and hands it to Bob. “Like that?”
“Yeah, perfect.” Bob smiles, holds it in his hand upside-down. “Thanks.”
He shoots between his legs at the white thing again on a different setting, and it snaps and throws him hard. Bob makes a small crater on the pavement when he lands right in front of Cal and everyone else. “Bob!”
“I’m okay,” Bob promises, knowing that it’s probably not a pretty sight to watch him regenerate his skin and muscles. Cal can probably see a bunch of his implants too, that’s embarrassing. “No big deal.”
“I’ll be fine. This isn’t as bad as last year. There was a tidal wave of carpenter ants. Oh, or the year before that. There was this guy named Dale…”
Cal had tears in his eyes. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
Bob nods, taking his hand. “I’m a walking weapons locker and I never get to shoot anything. This is my favourite day of the year. Stop crying, I’ll be fine in a second.” Ten seconds, actually.
“I know,” Cal says, ducking his head. “I know you will. But there’s sentimentality.”
Bob snorts. “Yeah. Me too.”
Cal leans down and kisses Bob.
The timer runs out. The clock strikes three.
Bob takes the old analog clock off the wall and winds the hour hand forward. He hangs it again. “There we go,” he says, hopping down from the chair. He’s back in his short shorts and he’s not injured. He pulls his chair back to the table. It’s still Wes’s turn.
Cal smiles at him, watching Bob. “You feel better now?”
Bob nods, then yawns. “Yeah. Thanks for indulging me.”
“It’s fine. You tired? Come sit in my lap.”
Bob shrugs, though he does climb into Cal’s lap. “I’ll be fine,” he says, putting the computer chip the impossible pilot had given him into his pocket. He’ll look at it after the game. “The time change just always takes so much out of me, you know?”
2 thoughts on “Lost Hour”
Is the dragon Michael, or is Joey unknowingly asking Bob about himself?
No comment, but both of those are very much the kind of thing I’d pull. 😀