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The New Resistance

We'd been hearing about them for a while now. This latest in the new batch of renegades. Time terrorists. These were calling themselves the New Resistance.
I had an appointment to be meeting one of them that afternoon. Somebody who was supposed to be a member (or former member).
The kid and I had had a very illuminating talk on the phone that morning.
"Yeah?" His voice was gruff (like he had only just woken up).
"Tyler?"
"Who is this?"
"My name's Gold." A pause, allowing that tidbit of information to be digested, before I went on. "Inspector Gold."
"Oh--yeah." Suddenly his voice had dropped to a whisper. "I'll meet you this afternoon. At the Purple Sage. You know where that is?"
"Yep."
He said he'd be there at two o'clock. Sitting up at the counter, in a green windbreaker.
I grabbed lunch a few blocks down from the station, at this little hole-in-the-wall deli right off the main plaza.
Unfortunately, I'd arrived in the midst of another demonstration. This time it was the Free Travelers exercising their right of peaceable assembly. Picketers were out in front of city hall, holding aloft signs and banners, along with the new laser ones that light up the sky overhead, blinking on and off while changing colors. THE FOURTH DIMENSION IS FOR EVERYONE. FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO TIME TRAVEL!
At least this rally was moving along in fairly orderly fashion. No more riots and bloodshed, as had been the case before. And in other cities. When people discovered that picket signs also make for handy bludgeons.
As they always say: everybody's got an opinion, and they all stink but your own.
Most of the illegal capers so far uncovered have had to do with larceny. Grand or otherwise. Going back to amass a sudden fortune. Finding out where some group of pirates in ancient times deposited their booty, then coming back right after them to dig it up.
But there are worse things. A lot worse. Like sending someone back with a bomb.
Or the Bomb. Even just somebody with the knowhow to build one. Anything to shift everything around, and blink us and everything we know out of existence.
Nobody really knows if that's possible. None of the physicists. Whether we have only one world or a million parallels. But it's not the kind of thing that anyone wants to gamble on. Anybody sane, that is. It's like having to worry about the Bomb all over again. Like there's another Cold War hanging over your head. And all you have to do is spend a few minutes on the Internet to realize that there are enough people out there with enough screws loose to want to end it all for everyone, and all because they can't stand life the way it is.
Yeah, there are a lot worse things than looters.
I made my way over to the Purple Sage. It's one of those trendy new marijuana bars that have sprouted up like mushrooms downtown. One more place with purple and pink neon and prefabricated bamboo everywhere.
The green windbreaker stood out readily enough from the rest of the crowd in their business suits and knitted sweaters. I found Tyler nibbling away at a brownie. I ordered a cup of plain coffee (they call it Brazilian Bounty there), and we were heading off to one of the booths in back.
"So what are they resisting?"
"Everything. The status quo, mainly."
"A hundred years ago they used to call the underground movement the Resistance. In World War II."
"Right." Tyler had a smile. I couldn't tell whether it was really his or something the dope had led him to. Yeah, it takes a while for that stuff to come on, but maybe he'd already been doing a bit of nibbling earlier on.
"So they want everyone to have access to a Kron? Like the Free Travelers?"
"That's not really it. They're afraid of indiscriminate use. Just like you guys are."
Yeah. Me and the entire rest of the government.
"I told them it was too idealistic. That it wouldn't do any good anyway. But you couldn't argue with them."
Then he was passing a story along to me. Or parable.
It seems that there was a whole fleet of starfish that had gotten stranded on the beach after a storm. And one guy was going down the shore early the next morning, picking them up one by one and throwing them back out into the sea.
Another guy happens along and he bursts into a laugh while viewing this spectacle. And so he's saying to the first guy, "Look at all these millions of starfish dying. Do you really think that you can make a difference?"
The first guy looks back after his latest fling. And he says: "It made a difference to that one."
Sure enough, when we'd checked out the address Tyler had given me with the local utilities company, they reported several spikes of electrical usage within the last several days. So the pathway was wide open.
The search warrant came through the next day.
It turned out to be a perfectly ordinary looking house on a perfectly ordinary looking street in the suburbs. Like yours, maybe. Or mine.
Office Sorenson and I headed up past the lawn to the front porch. He knocked on the door. And we stood there waiting. He knocked again, and called out: "Police!"
You couldn't hear anything inside. Maybe they'd gotten tipped off and had vacated the premises. Or else nobody was at home right then.
Sorenson reached out to the doorknob. And found it unlocked.
The living room and kitchen were empty. But we could hear something going on in the back, the family room.
That was where we found them all. With the illegal Kron device over in one corner, the one unpainted plywood side of it that we could see. Right as we went in, somebody came blinking into life inside and half-stumbled out into view.
They didn't bother trying to flee. Any of the ringleaders.
It was three of them, two men and a woman. One, as it turned out, was a doctor. He was examining the others huddled there waiting in the living room. All the escapees.
I saw stacks and stacks of their broadsheets, the ones that have been posted on lampposts and telephone poles all around the city. Pictures of barbed wire, with stony faces staring out. And "FREE THE CAMPS" running like a banner headline across the top.
This time it was Dachau, the doctor said. They were set on liberating all of them. "All the millions, one by one."
This was right before Sorenson hauled him out to the squad car, along with the others. The woman called us collaborators and murderers as she got taken away. Sorensen let me know that he'd be out in front, waiting for the extra car to come by for the additional suspects.
All of which left me standing there. The one in charge of shutting the whole operation down.
There were seven others in that room. Looking like they'd somehow found themselves in another nightmare.
Right in front of me was a crazed looking old man dressed in rags. Slumped over and smelling like a sewer.
His look was--I can't even begin to describe it. Like I was the worst thing he'd seen yet. The one true horror.
Okay, so he probably wouldn't remember (if he did manage to survive). And even if he did, it would just seem like some fever dream. The result of his shattered state.
You keep telling yourself that. Until you half-believe it.
Anyway, so I did what I had to do. Standing there in front of that bootleg Kron, herding him and the rest of those dazed, shuffling people up to it, one by one. Back into hell.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 29th, 2018

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