The following story is the result of seeing a mislabelled Shark (K)Night Blu-ray in Asda. They added the ‘K’, I’m about to add the stupid.
Anyway, here we go.
The elevator doors slid silently open and John stepped out into Sub-Basement 3. A floor with such a title may have made him feel uneasy, had he not already been accosted by Federation officials and taken to a “classified location” with no reason as to why. He was still dressed in his bloody two-day-old suit, for goodness sake.
“This way please, Doctor Eccles,” his escort said, leading the way down the corridor.
Glass-walled rooms lined each side, allowing John to see straight in. Numerous smartly dressed people worked away industriously. Scientists rushed about as if the universe depended on it. Despite all the action inside the rooms, the corridor was eerily vacant.
“Where exactly are we going?” John asked.
“The briefing room. The meeting has probably already started.”
John sensed it may be an appropriate time to probe further. “Where am I?”
“The Stellar Ward offices of the S.H.A., Doctor” the escort revealed, without glancing back.
John stopped. He knew all about the S.H.A., everybody did, but he never expected to be walking along one of their corridors.
Ever since Professor Scott had discovered Sliding, the Agency had provided the necessary enforcement to ensure the technology was never abused. But it was currently only available to the massively wealthy, with a return trip costing millions of credits. The Agency’s job was to ensure the travellers departed and arrived on time, in the right time, and, most importantly, that their presence did not cause any unnecessary disturbances. The entire business was owned and controlled by The Federation, with the S.H.A. responsible for all human Slides.
John knew all of this and yet could not fathom why they would need his assistance.
“Which unit?” he asked.
“Doctor Eccles, please.”
“Retrieve or Kill.”
Retrieve or Kill. John took a moment to roll the words around his head, and in that moment he knew why he had summoned.
Leroy, you bastard, he thought.
The two men soon reached the end of the long corridor. A final glass-walled room greeted them; John could count a dozen S.H.A. agents sat around a large perspex table.
The escort turned to face John. “Now, remember, Federation Superiors want you here, so don’t take any shit from Commander Reyes. No matter how much he throws at you.”
“You better get inside. Take care of yourself over there, Doctor,” the escort said, disappearing back down the corridor.
The briefing room doors breezed open automatically. John slipped inside and took a seat at the back. At the top of the table stood a tall man, with broad shoulders and a head entirely devoid of hair. John considered him to be a mid-life human. And most definitely the Commander.
“Gentleman and lady, this is our target-”
Commander Reyes projected the face of John’s most notorious patient onto all four walls of the briefing room. With his bunched dreadlocks and scarred face, it was not a flattering picture.
Fucking hell, he really does look mental.
“-his name is Leroy Jenkins,” Commander Reyes bellowed, “and the hunt is already seven hours old. Techs have provided us with a detailed map of his Slide trajectory and, well, it’s an interesting one!”
The one female agent lent forward in her chair. “Define interesting, Sir.”
“The Crusades interesting. 1052 to be exact. Much further than any of you have ever gone before, I know. I don’t know how the son of a bitch did it, but he did,” Commander Reyes’ steely finger raised and pointed directly at John, “Doctor, any thoughts?” Evidently his presence in the room had not gone unnoticed.
As twelve Agency agent heads swivelled and faced him, John felt the pressure to say something, anything. “He never mentioned having such a skill set.”
“Well, fuck you very much for that! I’m so glad you’re here.”
Sniggers filled the room.
Great first impression, John.
“Enough! Go get prepped. I want you in The Hub in sixty minutes for a full mission briefing. That’s one hour!”
The twelve agents wasted no time getting up from their chairs. As the female agent made her way past John, the Commander’s already distinctive voice filled the room.
“Austin! See to it the Doctor here is properly prepped for the Slide.”
She sighed. Not loud enough for Commander Reyes to hear, but John certainly did.
John judged Austin to be in her late twenties. He found the soft features of her freckled face and her petite, toned frame a welcome contrast to the Commander. The shiny brown hair was a bonus. He offered out his hand.
“This way, Doctor,” she said, ignoring him, already leaving the room. “Walk and talk.”
“John, please.” He still hated being called doctor.
They made their way back down the corridor and toward the elevator. John had to break into a brisk walk to keep up.
“So, let me get this straight,” John began, “Leroy has managed to Slide back to the middle-ages and you guys are going to follow him back and, what, kill him?”
“Our orders are to attempt retrieval first,” Austin replied.
You bastard, Leroy. I can’t believe you actually did it. “What now?”
“Now, we’re going to go down to Storage, get kitted out in some kind of era-appropriate attire, load up with era-appropriate weaponry, pop along to The Hub, Slide back to 1052, and attempt to retrieve an apparently mentally-deranged psychopath. Simple. Think you can handle all that?”
“Do I have a choice?” John replied.
“As it happens…no, not really,” Austin said, smiling. “So, any ideas what he’s up to?”
“As it happens,” John said, somewhat cockily, “I’ve got one or two.”