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by Leo Goda
I waited in the predawn cold with the elite Omega Team, every man and woman a specialist in his or her field, and a veteran of at least two time travel missions. That we would be successful I never doubted. Our subjects were always stunned and easily overcome, thanks to our Twenty-Third Century weapons and training. This time, though, I felt uneasy about what we were doing; I just didn't feel completely right about the job. It wasn't just the fact that whatever we did back in the past would affect our own time-line; we were all resigned to accepting the risks. Even the President of the World Council assured us that we were doing the right thing; still, I couldn't get the idea out of my head that maybe we should leave the past alone and just worry about the future.
I looked at my timepiece. The subject would be along soon, returning from an all-night meeting with a certain Prussian general.
Gonzales, our medic for the mission, seemed impressed with the architecture of the old town. "German town," he said quietly to me. I nodded, and then put up a finger in front of my lips to remind him of our need for silence. Like most medics he took advantage of his status as a valuable asset and occasionally bent the rules. Professor Franklin Goldberg had tried to scrub Gonzales from the mission on the fact that as an Hispanic he would look out of place. I insisted he come. He had proved himself a fearless soldier and saved several lives, including my own, when he could have kept his head down till the shooting was over, like it says in the manual. Nevertheless, the rest of the team had to be descended from German stock -- and look it.
I thought back to the first briefing for this mission. The professor had asked us a simple question: given our ability to travel back in time, shouldn't we go back and change the past so that wars could be avoided?
I wasn't sure we should meddle with time. I'd only gone along as security for scientists who wanted to study the past in safety. For some reason, every time some Roman Emperor, or Egyptian Pharaoh, or even Cro-Magnon saw us, their first reaction was to start hollering and throw something. Luckily we hadn't killed anyone important.
I looked at the professor and said," You mean if we were to, say, go back and kidnap Hitler-"
"No names! This is of the highest secrecy," interrupted Professor Goldberg. He stared me down, and spoke, uttering each word slowly, as if his mind were wrestling with mine, trying to get me to yield to his point of view through sheer neural energy. Being my boss gave him an advantage.
"The subject that I want to remove from the past greatly influenced history. He had the people behind him as few before or after," Goldberg said. "They worshipped him; he was a man of destiny who was going to lead his country to a glorious future. And because of him, and the others, a great war was fought, a war that could have been avoided. His 'vision' led to bloody expansionism, illegal annexations, and, some might argue, even to attempted genocide. And, all could have been avoided. It was all unnecessary. My formulae prove it."
"I can't argue with your formulas--" I started to say.
"Formulae! That's the word, but never mind. This is not your field. Your field is temporal security, reconnaissance and retrieval. The only input from you that we need is: can you do it?"
I nodded. It wasn't my job to analyze the past and extrapolate the best possible results from some temporal tampering. I was a soldier, and the mission was do-able. I told Goldberg we could do the mission; that was all he wanted to hear.
* * *
I heard the crunching of soft snow as a man, deep in thought, approached our position. He was alone, and looked harmless, though we knew he carried a loaded pistol. Sergeant Meyers looked at me for the signal and I gave it.
Meyers leaped out of the bushes -- and received a shot in the shoulder! For a moment we were all stunned. Then Schultz, Heimbach, Gonzales, and myself attacked. After a brief scuffle, the subject went down. I never expected him to be so tough. He was a small man compared to us, though of course, most people back then were considerably smaller than the seven feet average of today.
I put him out with a chokehold and we dragged him to the time sphere where Professor Goldberg waited.
"So, all went well?" the professor asked.
"Meyers took a bullet--" I said.
"The subject -- is he all right?"
"Yeah," I said, after giving Meyers a sympathetic shrug. "Sleeping like a baby."
"Good," said the professor. "We reached him before he could do any serious harm. Now the English Empire will exert its civilizing influence over the entire world. A global Commonwealth will form, and that will directly lead to our United World Federation. According to my calculations there will be generations after generations who will never have to go to war, millions will be spared from slave labor, from extinction, itself."
"He's coming around, Professor, " said Gonzales.
Goldberg knelt beside the subject and extended his hand. "I've been looking forward to meeting you for a long time. My name is Goldberg, and--"
The subject drew a deep breath and lashed out, smashing his fist into the professor's startled face.
It took all of us to hold him down till Gonzales could sedate him. Let me tell you: He had an arm on him!
When we returned the world was indeed a better place, though only we in the sphere remembered Earth's alternate bloody past. Somewhat reluctantly the powers-that-be accepted Professor Goldberg's word of what history had been like before we changed it. After giving us each a fourteen-carat gold-plated medal, they placed a bronze plaque on the spot where in the former Germantown, Pennsylvania, a handful of men had changed the course of history and, in the process, saved the lives of three billion people -- according to the professor's calculations.
As for the subject, he eventually became reconciled to living in his own future, though he remained bitter about the urbanization of Mount Vernon.
Story copyright 2001 by Leo Goda email@example.com
Illustration copyright 2001 by Carl Goodman firstname.lastname@example.org
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