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art by Alan Bao

A Time to Kill

Melanie Rees is an environmental consultant and spends much of her time playing in wetlands--seldom wet. She has also held jobs playing in dirt, playing with fish, and playing in treetops. When she is not up a tree or stuck in the mud, she writes speculative fiction. Her fiction has appeared in magazines such as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Twisted Tongue, and the Rapunzelís Daughters anthology. She lives online at flexirees.wordpress.com. In the real world, she lives in South Australia in a house made of straw.
"Jordan, it's over here." Ella stood on the banks of the river.
Jordan descended the rocky slope to stand by Ella.
"See, I told you it's beautiful." She stared out across the water.
In the moonlight, the rippling stream shimmered.
"Yes it is." He met her gaze.
Ella smiled and reached for his hand. He flinched.
"What's wrong?" She reached out again.
"Ella, there are things you don't know."
"I know all I need--"
"I'm not from this place... this... time."
"I don't understand." She wrapped her cardigan around her as a breeze rustled the leaves of the tree above.
"What I do is for society's future. The Time Agency knows what they're doing. Future terrorists, dictators... it's justified." He touched the revolver inside his jacket, but as he looked at her wide questioning eyes, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Pull yourself together, Jordan. It's just another job.
"Ella. The Agency know what's best. They... you..." he choked on the words. He gazed at the river. "I should know by now only to get close enough to do the job, but not so close that..." He looked back towards her and instantly regretted it, the night's veil failed to conceal her distress.
She took a step back. "Wha... but... we..." She turned to run, but with one swift move he spun her around and clasped her neck. Her strength was no match for his strong arms. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the sounds of her gasping. It took just seconds. There was a wrong and a right, but as Jonah lowered her limp body to the ground, he questioned whether The Agency knew which was which. Her face shimmered blue as a slit of light pierced the sky. A hooded courier walked from some unknown time onto the riverbank.
"Well done." His monotone voice revealed no emotion. "The Agency has another assignment in this same year and date." He handed Jonah a data chip.
"I don't know if I can." Jonah knelt down next to Ella.
"I've been told no one else in The Agency has the infiltration skills needed for your next assignment."
Jonah focused on Ella's slender frame. "What was she going to do? I hardly picture her as a future terrorist." Jonah closed her eyelids gently.
"I'm just a messenger." The courier avoided Jonah's gaze.
"You know something. I can tell."
"I'd be risking my life if I told you. I'd be risking the future of The Agency. Mind you, my sympathy for them is waning." The agent shut his eyes deep in reflection.
"Please, tell me."
The agent scanned the rocky slopes. "She was going to have a wise man's child," he whispered in Jonah's ear. "The child would have stirred something in the father. Prevented him from doing his job, his assignments." His voice was ruthlessly steady.
Jonah shrugged. "I don't understand. How would that risk The Agency?"
"I have to go. The Agency would've seen the future shift by now. They'll be after me for breaking my silence."
"Please!" Jonah grabbed the agent's wrist.
"You are a wise man, Jonah, figure it out."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, December 8th, 2011

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