Killgrace and the Removal Man

Ignoring the motorcade she walked into a sleepy suburb, walking down the road passed a milkman frozen in the act of dropping a milk bottle. She could not blame him. The scene in front of him, through a window, would have made her drop things if she had not been expecting it. The gun had already fired, the woman on the sofa cowering back as a pulse of energy rolled and coiled in slow motion towards her, and Jackson stood there with the most demented grin Susan had ever seen. Irritated at herself for the misjudgement, she took the pole in both hands, giving it a sharp half-turn against the ring.

Time reversed. The milk bottle leapt back into the milkman’s hand and his float rolled back two driveways. The light beam from the gun withdrew and its eerie radiance faded. The woman half rose, floating oddly halfway through falling onto the couch, and Jackson blurred back and stilled on the point of pulling the trigger. Susan walked through the front door, which was ajar, and fitted her third mirror.

The fourth one would be harder. She hesitated a moment, and then stepped through time again, to the building she had just left. The sign outside read Killgrace, not Jackson. It took her a moment to control herself, and then, face professional once more, she walked into the car park. Robert and Charlie were sharing a cigarette outside, the smoke frozen in mid-rise as their breath steamed in the cold. Both were turning, reacting too slowly as Jackson aimed. Even augmented reflexes had their limits. She looked at the gun, checking the settings. He had taken the whole building in one shot, as he had tried with the police. Susan carefully did not think about what that meant for the people she knew who worked there. Losing her temper would not help to get them back. She pulled out the mirror, sliding it inside the gun in front of the lens. Only one more to go. It was as well. The Capsule core was beginning to run down.

Stepping back into another reality, she looked round sadly. It was not a nice place, she saw. Looking out through the broken garage window, she could see a run-down estate. Jackson was bent over a machine, a cruder version of the time gun. On a chair opposite a small boy sat nervously. Susan looked at the open door beyond, the fingers curled round it, and peeked into the future. As the weapon fired, the boy’s mother would dive in to save him. They would both be hit.

Jackson had made no attempt to restore them. He had not even grieved. How could he, she thought, when he did not even remember they had existed? She looked at him, wondering if he had even realised what he had done to himself with each use of the weapon. In a moment of mercy, she moved the machine slightly before she fitted the final mirror.

Then she left, stepping backwards outside time, following the pull of the engine core she held back to the Transport Capsule. Sealing the door, she called up a display of the quadrant, the frozen stars a strange static patch on the ever-expanding space. With the feeling of putting down a heavy weight, she released the freeze. There was a rushing sound and a blur of lights as stars moved, appearing to accelerate into their rightful places, before they slowed into their familiar cosmic paths. She knew it was an illusion. As time itself moved, their velocity never changed, but her mind could interpret it no other way. As the world set itself to rights she gave it a few moments longer, from her point of view, and let herself fall back into the flow of her own reality.

She was still inside the Transport Capsule, and as she heard movement she peeked outside. The sign on the wall read Killgrace Industries. Relaxing, she focused, using the signet to enhance her own abilities as she performed a final check. Everything was back in place, the grating sense of wrongness removed and time progressed once more.

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