Saturday, January 16, 2016

Overwritten: Instructions (Part III)

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story.

My plan to avoid Horace Reaver goes swimmingly...for almost five years. One day, I’m surveilling him a little too closely when he spots me. Fortunately, Brian and I prepared for this kind of situation. I started taking acting classes. That’s right, I actually went to a high school at night and took lessons from a third-rate acting coach at the cheapest price. I just needed to learn to lie, but to lie extremely well. He taught me that if I wanted to “get into character” I had to believe that I really was the character. I had to convince myself that the lie was actually the truth. If I could fool myself, he said, then I could fool anybody. So far, it was going about as well as could be expected.
“Why are you following me?” I try to get away from him, but he stops me. “Give me that camera.”
“No, it’s my property.”
“Who hired you.”
“I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, you do. Give me the goddamn camera.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“Tell me who you’re working for!”
“No!” I hope I said that at the right time. My teacher also said that the best way to cover up a big lie was to replace it with a slightly smaller lie. If Reaver knew that I came back from the past and was intending on stopping him from becoming a bad person, he would flip out. If he thought I was following him for other reasons, I might be in trouble, but it would work itself out. It was better than him knowing I was a time traveler. I pretend to be disappointed with myself for letting it slip that he was right about me working for someone. “Crap.”
“So you are following me.”
“My clients are confidential.”
“You’re a private detective?”
I hand him my business card. Yes, we made fake business cards too.
Reaver reads it out loud, “Sockdolager Investigations.”
“Yeah, ya see it’s—” I start to explain.
He cuts me off, “yeah, I get it. Your name is Lincoln. That’s funny.” He is not amused. “I don’t need to know who your client is. Just switch sides.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Come work for me instead.”
“Sir, with all due respect, you don’t have much of anything right now.”
“This is true,” Reaver admits. “But I will in the future. I promise you this. If it’s money you’re worried about, don’t. If there’s one thing I’m not lacking, it’s a way to make money. I have a lock on gambling. Just name your price and it’s yours.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I’m not asking you to marry me. Come start work and I’ll get to know you.”
“What exactly would I be doing?”
“I need a bodyguard, and you look like you can take a hit.”
“Expecting some violence?”
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” he says, as if recalling a memory.
“What’s the catch?”
“Never question me,” he answers. “Always do what I say, even if it feels wrong.”
That was not a good start. But I have been waiting for an opportunity. It would seem that his dreams of becoming a billionaire were well on their way. His viewpoint on money mirrors mine, but more intensely. He too must know what investments to make, but in a far more specific way. Perhaps my plan to watch him from the shadows is no longer valid. Maybe it’s time to get right in the thick of it. He doesn’t seem to recognize me as a security guard from the future. I look older then, and we only met the once. But I realize if he does see me for who I am, he might be planning on killing me later on.

I accept his offer, and soon discover that he wasn’t lying about the salary thing. I start making six figures right away, and my life gets good. Brian and I switch places. I become the one on the frontlines while he pulls back so that I have a way out. I funnel him money on the regular so that he can live a modest life of anonymity. Reaver asks me to do a couple weird things, but I comply. There’s very little close protection work, like he first indicated. Mainly he just wants me to keep tabs on his wife from the alternate timeline, Leona Delaney. Of course I don’t know the details of their original relationship, or this one, and he certainly makes no effort to fill me in, but I still do what I’m told. I genuinely believe that he has no intention of harming her. If his experience as a time traveler is anything like mine, he might have screwed up the timeline unintentionally, and is trying desperately to get back on track by engaging with her in some other way. But if I fear that her life is in any danger, then Brian is there to spirit her away.
I continue writing in my journal of my adventures in the other reality, but decide to stop publishing them online. Even though I never used my real name, and I never mentioned anything that would catch Reaver’s attention, it’s just too risky. If he so much as suspects that I’ve had experiences that cannot be traced through the current timeline, he’ll know I’ve been keeping things from him. It would be too great a coincidence for anyone to believe, especially not for someone as smart as Horace Reaver.
Months into the job, he ushers me into the lair of what Brian would call Reaver’s hackette. “Will it be ready soon?” he asks.
She’s furiously typing on the keyboard and staring at the screen with intensity, but when we round the corner, the monitor is completely blank.
“What the hell is this?”
“You boys have this image in your mind of a hacker typing code at the speed of thought, but it’s a little more complex than that. There’s a lot more trial and error than you would think. Also, we do use mouses. I don’t know why people on TV act like they have a macroinstruction for literally everything.”
“The plural is mice,” I correct her.
“No!” she screams. “It’s mouses! You shut your mouth! You shut it! You shut it now!” She’s a little weird.
“Why aren’t you working on my program?”
“Because I finished it days ago,” she spits. Micro, as she prefers to be called, pulls something up on the screen, and it’s all Greek to me. Well, I mean it would be Greek if I couldn’t read Greek, but I can, so it’s...computer code..to me.
I realize that they’re looking at me curiously.  Reaver snaps his finger in my face. “Still with us?”
“Yes, sir. Sorry about that, sir. I was just...inspecting the perimeter.”
“Nice save, Sergeant.” Micro’s nickname for me.
Reaver leans over and rests his hand on the desk. “Are you absolutely sure that you’re done with this? It is imperative that it be deployed tonight.”
“Yeah, March 29, 2022. I get it. It’ll work.”
“It’ll work?” Reaver asks, feeling no confidence in her words.
“It’s perfect,” Micro assures him. “As long as you don’t turn off the machine, the program will run continuously on its own.”
“Show me the machine.”
Micro hands him a tablet that was plugged into her workstation. “I am warning you that the program eats up battery like a mother, so I recommend having some portable chargers on hand. I have some ready to go in the locker by the door.”
Reaver passes the tablet to me. “You need to get up to Lincoln, Nebraska. Your train leaves just after midnight. If you’re not on it, or you don’t fire up the program once on board, you’re dead to me.”
“This isn’t going to cause the train to derail or something, will it?”
“I seem to remember saying you could have this job as long as you didn’t ask questions.”
“I know, I just...I think I’ve earned your trust by now.”
He looks distracted as he shakes his head. “I have work to do.” He starts to walk away. “Be in Lincoln by midnight.”
“You don’t find it strange that your name is Lincoln and he’s sending you to Lincoln?”
I ignore her and start to fiddle with the tablet.
“Don’t touch that!”
“What does it do?”
“It’s an artificial intelligence that seamlessly takes control of the automated locomotive network and directs it as needed.”
“Obviously,” I say sarcastically, “but what does it do?”
“It doesn’t control where the trains go, but it controls when they get there. Basically we want the the train you’re on to be at a certain point at a certain time, but if we don’t manipulate all the other trains in the area, it will have no reason to be there so late. We have to alter them little by little so that everything seems organic and unavoidable.”
“Why are we doing this?”
She turns back to her workstation. “That is not my job.”
I leave the room and start driving to Lincoln, Nebraska. I dread getting there, and all the jokes I’ll hear from the train workers about my name. Click here for the next installment...

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