A man held his finger to his ear while the woman in his company tutted and tapped her toe on the rough-hewn concrete floor. The courier had arrived at the lake and the portal was now open. There was a hope amongst the ground teams that the mistakes of the recent past would now close up, and that they could get on with their preparations. Time never ran as smoothly as all of that, however.
The race was on now to meet in the middle. They had accelerated the date of the commencement by three decades now, and causality was a thing of distant memory: When temporal understanding is purely flexible who knows what your own motives were for the transgressions you were currently making? This was less of an augmentation of reality and more of a wholesale reshaping of logic.
Henrik and Christa had slipped in to their new existences with ease. They dressed less conspicuously than they had done before, and their weapons were holstered for the most part, so they looked very much like the middle class folks they rubbed metallic shoulders with in this provincial street. That several of the houses were listed on flat-sharing sites made their sudden appearance imperceptible.
They had not yet found the family, either in this time frame or in their past. It was clear that they were to be the key to this decade’s block, and that they had to be removed. Their link to the future, if they had one, should be severed, lest the team be allowed to gain a more significant advantage.
Readings showed that there had been an additional instance of traffic through the bubble, and that it had been successful this time. The repercussions of this transgression were far from clear, and their new objectives would focus on this aspect of the search. Models were in play to predict the form of the current alliance, and the ways in which its resonances could be detected nearby.
Preparations for the next phase of the courier’s work was underway. Local military forces had been alerted to the presence of a foreign incursion. Stealth barriers were erected around the compound, making detection more difficult, both from the air and from the ground. All that it would take was for someone to walk in to the barrier, and their cover would be blown. Pairs of mechanical fingers were crossed all across northern Europe, as telemetry was pored over nanosecond by nanosecond.
Christa and Henrik sat quietly in a well-appointed sitting room. They each took a chair distant from the other. Both sat with superb posture, perfectly still, head upright. Whereas most people in this scenario would have some sort of entertainment in process – say a good book, a record playing, or more than likely a television spreading the modernity of hate in to their minds – this pair did not. They just sat and stared in to the infinity of space. Within, they were active, scouring the internet in search for reconnaissance collateral. This was not externally apparent. Hence, when several people passed their open window, it looked slightly abnormal, especially as they were sitting in darkness.
A click, a whir and a hum: a physical computer spins in to action. Solid state technology makes no sound, and is disarmingly frustrating for that. A hard drive is a mechanical beast, as delicate and fragile as a fresh flower, opening up to the morning sun. Most importantly it makes noise. The ‘it’ in this case was a PC, replete with a traditional tower case and a TFT monitor. Quite the anachronism these days. Code filled the screen, replaced by a penguin; A security system was booting up here.
Lights flickered on a wireless box, positioned in the void behind a panel of plasterboard. This had not been visible to Christa and Henrik when they had carried out their initial sweep. Sat in the darkened sitting room of their stolen house they thought that they were safe. They had let their defences drop in order to give them freer access to the world around them. Unfortunately that also gave the world around them freer access to them and their systems. And that meant that they could be shut down.
Hypercomputational androids from the future had been switched off by a firewall system as modern to them as a flint axe would have been to the humans who installed it. And yet and yet and yet: it worked, and that was a failure. Their heads slumped forwards on to their chests and their eyes shut.
Although the pair were visible to the world, and frequently commented upon, their states would not be reported to the authorities for several days. Local police would smash the gargantuan door off its hinges; pulses would be checked by paramedics; reports would be filed and curtains closed. After several months of utter confusion and fear all alerts would be cancelled, and their bodies released.
A lawyer would collect the bodies on behalf of a client. To call this client shadowy would be to infer a degree of lightness and humour upon a shadow. The alerts had been cancelled, and the requests for assistance had been cancelled from within the computers of the people tasked with investigating the bodies, and their appearance. They also paid particular interest in the disappearance of the owners of the house in which they had been found. But the client was definitely not part of the police force.
The client was a multinational organisation, headquartered in a semi-remote canton of the Helvetic Confederation. It had operated for centuries, conducting business unknown. It had no known staff, but its personnel lists were updated frequently, and indicated a workforce of committed staff, most of whom spent their entire careers with the firm. They were metronomically dedicated to the cause.
Their registered address was a discrete building set in a valley between two looming mountains, with a view over an expansive plain. The access to the building was unclear, but it was assumed that it was subterranean. That was all wholly acceptable; nothing was usual when it came to The Outpost.