|Main Timestream Period:||1990’s|
|Tech Development:||Era 2|
Killgrace and the Removal ManFrancis Jackson had conquered the world successfully, but that morning when he looked out of the office window he saw nothing he had planned for. The world was frozen. Birds hung in the sky, rain drops lay half fallen into puddles like shaped glass. He stood up, stunned, crossing to the door. With relief, he found he could open it. Whatever was holding things static was not affecting his power to move objects at least. Halfway down the hall his secretary stood frozen, one foot lifted and balance impossibly suspended in the middle of a step. His greeting died in his throat. She was not even breathing.
He pressed the lift button but it would not light up. After a moment, when there was no sound of the lift responding, he turned and went for the stairs. He needed to see how far this spread. In reception, the television had frozen on one channel, and outside the front doors the world was absolutely still. He breathed an irritated sigh, trying not to panic. After all, this was probably just a side-effect of his invention. It would be easily fixed, since he had all the time in the world. He laughed, the noise loud in the complete silence of the hall, and began to walk up the stairs. His private lab was on the top floor, but just for once he could take time to savour what he owned.
The technology company had been middling, nothing special before he took it over, but with all the connectivity built-in and the huge manufacturing network it headed it was the perfect base of operations. He had not even planned on it, but after he removed the former owner from history and life, it had been an unexpected windfall. He looked at the people scattered across the floor in various poses, all busy in the open plan office. All his. He had to fix whatever had gone wrong. He had come far too far to fail now.
From somewhere across the floor he heard a sheaf of paper drop. Jackson stiffened, suddenly alert. He walked quietly towards the noise, trying to see what could still be moving in this silent, static, world. He stopped. In the sunlight that shone through the window a shadow was moving in one of the cubicles. As it froze again he peered in.
A man was sitting behind the desk, static and unmoving. A woman was leaning over the desk towards him, equally still. As Jackson watched she reached out with a pencil, prodding the seated figure. The man did not move. Jackson coughed.
The woman turned with a shriek, hand raised to her neck in shock. She was dressed like a secretary, pencil skirt, high collar blouse, minimal make-up, and well into her forties. He would want someone more attractive, personally.
“Mr Jackson?” she asked, breathing fast from the shock. “You made me jump. Do you know what’s happened?”
“The world seems to be frozen,” he replied, enjoying the chance to be in control. She blinked at him. “Some kind of temporal stasis.”
“Can you fix it?” Her voice was quiet, breathy and awestruck.
“Let’s see. Why don’t you come with me?” She nodded, falling obediently into place behind him. He wondered for a moment why she had not been affected by the freeze. She looked familiar, probably one of the old staff he had inherited and not bothered to upgrade. Perhaps her lack of exposure to the ray had protected her. Once the time freeze was corrected he would have to call her into one of his special meetings, replacing her with various other time line possibilities until he found one more pleasing. Just because he had managed to make most of the world the way he wanted it did not mean he could not make a few tweaks here and there.
She stopped short at the door to his private laboratory on the fifth floor, and impatiently he took her arm and hustled her in. With the electronics disabled, he’d need a second pair of hands to work the double-key lock.
“Here. Take this and turn it on three.” He handed her a key, watching as she slid it into the key lock on the other side of the door. “Ready? One Two Three.” The locks clicked and he pushed the door open, walking across the laboratory and ignoring the experiments in their frozen states around him. The device was still there, locked in its hidden container under the lab bench. He hauled it out, placing the heavy metal device on the bench and started to assemble it. The secretary stared from behind him.
“That device can solve this?” she ventured quietly. It was almost complete in front of him, a large clumsy gun, the most powerful weapon in the world.
“Yes,” he said, and some devilment made him add: “it caused it, after all.”
“This device caused all this?” she asked, meek and appalled. The look on her face was gratifying. Why not boast a little, he thought. He so rarely got to talk about his work, his greatest achievement, and he would just erase her when time restarted. If that did not work, he had a backup option in a pocket.
“Yeah, sweetie. This little device did all of it. Made me the most powerful man in the world. It lets me make sure that everything goes just the way I need. If someone stands in my way, I can simply erase them until there’s someone more malleable in their position. It’s done everything it’s supposed to.” He began to remove the control panel screws. “Everything except for the time freeze.”
“No. For that, Mr Jackson, you can blame me.”
“No. For that, Mr Jackson, you can blame me.” There was steel in her tone that wasn’t there a second ago. He turned, to find her staring at him with an expression as cold as ice. “Susan Chapman, Mr Jackson, part-owner of Killgrace Industries, whose building this was originally.”