The Thousand Year Theft
Welcome to the past, agent
Alright, agent. My name is Jennings, your mission co-ordinator. A few very important words of warning before we start. I understand this is your first trip back in time to old Earth, so please remain still and try not to look like a fish out of water.
As you will probably know, I can communicate with you, but you can’t communicate with me. This is just one of the many issues we have with time travel at the moment, you know, along with it being punishable by death if our beloved security service ever gets wind of it.
I am talking to you through a device people used to refer to as a “mobile phone” or “cell phone”. Once I begin to guide you through this mission you may place this device in your pocket and continue to listen to me through the small headphones in your ears. This won’t attract any attention, as it was a common practice between people in this period of history.
Anyway, according to my control radar, we have successfully managed to send you back to the city of Edinburgh, which was the capital city of a country called Scotland on the now uninhabitable planet Earth. It is almost a century before the nuclear apocalypse scorched this world beyond all recognition.
If this is your first time off of the space station you will probably find the sky and sun very bright, and the atmosphere very open. As I say, try not to let this show too much. We can’t be too careful. You’ll get used to it before long.
You may have noticed that humans travelled around in large boxes of metal on wheels in this period. These were known as “cars”. Though these are confined to the clearly visible roadways, you need to be very careful as we’ll need to navigate you over a few of them in order to meet the contact.
Anyway… the sooner we get this done, the sooner we can bring you back to 3015 with the painting. You are in a sector that was known as St Andrews Square. The large column behind you is the ‘arrive and return’ point, so we’ll guide you back here once you have what you came for.
With your back to the column, look down the corridor ahead of you. These were known as “streets”, and like the corridors of the space station each one had a name. The street in front was called “George Street”. On my word, you need to travel across the roadway, and again, I must stress that you take care to avoid confrontation with these “cars” as they can very easily injure or kill you.
Do you see the red cylindrical pillar over the roadway? Head for that. These were called “post boxes”, people in this era used to send each other hand written notes through them. How quaint.
Begin to walk then, and once you have crossed, continue down George Street walking on the left hand side of the road. You will hear from me again very shortly.
Why have we sent you back in time?
Everything is checking out fine so far, agent. You are passing some big red booths around now. These were telephone boxes, a quicker means of communication than the post boxes, but still somewhat antiquated. Like you, everyone has one in their pocket now.
Continue walking straight ahead down this street until further notice. I just had to be certain that we had landed you in the same year as our contact. It wouldn’t be so good if you had arrived at the meeting point ten years after she did.
You’ll be collecting a painting from her called “The Concert” by Johannes Vermeer. In this period of history the painting had an estimated value of two hundred million dollars, that’s old Earth money. Basically that’s around seventy five trillion in our own money, so you can understand why the boss has gone to such trouble to obtain it.
As you’ll be aware, the security service has been breathing down our necks these past few years after making time travel illegal. Your predecessor was captured and killed last week in 1912 during a mission to obtain the Mona Lisa. I guess you’ll be on a pretty good fee for this one eh… either that or you owe the boss more than you can afford to pay him back. Anyway, that’s none of my business.
I’ve been back to old Earth myself. I remember how overwhelming I found it, all that open space, no roof over my head, the bright sky, the cars, the people and their strange clothing. They did kit you out in old Earth clothing before they sent you I hope? I’ll never forget the time they sent an agent back to 1642 wearing a sector 72 jumpsuit, the aim with these jobs is to attract no attention, not be the centre of it.
You’re doing great though, just keep walking along this street. I’ll check back with you shortly for further instructions.
The way things were...
Alrighty then. If you look far to your right here at the intersection, you'll see water. That was known as the River Forth. Cross the street now, but watch out for those cars.
Was that a statue?
Was that a statue on your right by the way?… in the middle of the road? It’s coming up all fuzzy on my radar for some reason… strange…
Hard to believe there was so much water freely available on this planet eh? Maybe if our ancestors hadn’t turned each other to dust with their atomic weapons we wouldn’t have to drink that awful, chemical filled excuse for water on board the space station.
I know what you’re probably thinking at this point. Why leave all this and come back to a bleak future on board a dank and dangerous space station metropolis under a corrupt and brutal government? Yeah… I thought the same thing. If it was that easy I wouldn’t have returned myself. But living things can’t exist outside of their own time periods for any more than a few days. Sure, it would be a good few days, but then you’d drop dead without a great deal of warning. It’s happened to agents in the past who tried to escape.
But look at me being all doom and gloom eh...
Once we collect the painting from our contact I’ll be guiding you back to the square where we originally transported you to. It’ll be disguised as an artist’s portfolio so you won’t look anything out of the ordinary. Just continue to blend in and avoid speaking to anyone.
Anyway… we’ll be turning off this street shortly, so I’ll be back in touch soon. Until I am, just continue on a straight path as you have been. Talk soon, agent.
Okay, turn left down Frederick Street now.
Is that another statue on your right? Again it’s coming up all fuzzy on my radar… that’s really odd.
It’s probably nothing to worry about, but I’m detecting entities on my radar that don’t quite check out with this time period. I’m just letting you know to remain vigilant, and not to do anything at all that might attract attention.
I’m going to take another look and see if I can get to the bottom of it. There’s probably a perfectly reasonable explanation...
Okay, turn right here onto Rose Street. You'll need to cross the street.
Bad news I’m afraid. It looks like the security service has some mercenary thugs in the area tailing you. Do not look round. And don’t try to run either. They don’t know we’ve identified them so as far as they’re aware the mission is still on.
I’ve got someone who’s in touch with our contact now; we’re going to ask her to leave the area with the painting. The important thing is to get you out of here without any fuss so just remain calm and I’m going to walk you back to the return point, I’ve mapped out a little detour that should shake these grunts off.
They’ll be under strict instructions not to engage or openly try to kill you; they’re scared to death of meddling with time and time travel… so you’re safe enough for now. But they will be looking to cut you off from your mission, and from me. Once you’re lost in the past you’ll only have a couple of days to live.
Just keep the head, keep looking forward, and keep travelling along this street. Once we get you back to 3015 it’s likely they’ll want to send you back a few years earlier, probably the mid 1990s. The boss seems pretty keen to have this painting at all costs… damn those security services.
Fortunately it’s never the smarter agents they send back. Travelling through time isn’t exactly safe, and anyone with half a brain… I mean, no offence to you, obviously. At least you’re here for a big prize. These guys are doing it for a few extra ladleful’s of cockroach stew.
Oh… If you see some sort of rose patterned mosaic on the ground up ahead, don’t step on it, whatever you do. I’m detecting some sort of invisible tracking device hidden on it. Sneaky gits.
This is far too organised for my liking. Let me go and check a few things, I’ll catch up with you again shortly.
Finding a way home...
Okay, agent. We’re crossing Castle Street and carrying on. Normally I’d tell you to look to your left where you’ll see Edinburgh Castle, but… well, actually, yes. Do that. They’re close enough that they can see you now so it’s best that you look like you’re none the wiser to their presence.
Are you getting any strange looks from anyone you pass? I ask because the service sometimes have contacts in the past, the same as ours, who wouldn’t show up on my radar. If you see anyone giving you strange or threatening looks just ignore them and keep on walking.
Once we get to the end of this street you’ll be out of sight of them for a bit. They’ll think you’ll be stopping to meet the contact, but of course, we’ve pulled the plug on that. Hopefully they slow down a bit so they can jump round the corner expecting to catch you red handed, but of course, I’ll be walking you back round to the return point by then.
You’re lucky I was working today, you know. My colleague, the other co-ordinator, isn’t very bright. He’d have walked you into the River Forth by now in a moment of blind panic, but old Jennings’ll get you out, don’t you worry.
A few more of these grunts have appeared on my radar, but they’re all pretty far behind you, none in front, which is good news. I suppose we were due a break at some stage eh.
I know it’s tempting to speed up and walk a bit faster but it’s very important that you don’t let on you’re aware of them tailing you. If they suspect a thing they’ll move to cut you off from the return point immediately, and I won’t be able to help you.
For now, keep moving forward, and you’ll hear from me soon.
Out of sight...
So, take a right up here and we’ll be out of sight of those grunts.
Regardless, I don’t want you to run or walk any faster than you have been. I told you they might have local help, and if anyone suspects anything they’ll be on you like a shot.
Those trees you'll see over the other side of the road, that was where you were supposed to meet the contact. Marginally more secluded than the busy streets, but then, we weren't expecting any trouble, were we?
The statues have eyes...
Alright, so it’s a right turn here, back on to George Street. We’ve got a clear run right up to the return point at the big column.
My radar is showing a lot of activity down near the planned meeting point with the contact. It’s only a matter of time before they realise the exchange has been called off, but by then they won’t know which direction you’ve gone. They’ll have to split up and that’s good news for us. They won’t want to run because they can’t attract attention to themselves. They don’t belong in this time anymore than you, so causing any incidents here can have serious implications in the far future. Butterfly flaps its wings and all that.
I’ve had some disturbing reports back saying that they’re using devices hidden in the statues on George Street to track you. I’ve never heard of anything like this before, but it makes sense as to why they were so distorted on my radar. We need to pass by them again but they won’t be expecting you up here right now anyway. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a problem, just… try not to look at them.
If we had the time I’d walk you round a longer way but it’s far more practical just to take our chances passing by them.
I’ve already got someone organising a pick up in New York in 1997. Instead of bringing you back here from the return point, we can hopefully send you directly there. You’ll be amazed when you see New York; it was a huge city in the United States. Very busy, huge buildings…
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves eh. Just press on up this street and we’ll talk again in a few minutes.
Okay, time to cross Castle Street again. You’re doing great. You should see the column up ahead in the distance, and there’s nothing on my radar between you and that point at the moment. The key is as always just to play it safe, remain calm, and attract no attention.
I know, I know. Another statue. They’re still causing havoc on my radar. Just ignore it, we’re well ahead of those grunts now, and I doubt that big lump of rock will jump down and apprehend you.
Looks like we can get you to New York too, we have a contact waiting with the painting there back in 1997. I imagine…
What the… oh crap.
Eh… ignore that, probably just a drill or something.
Well… maybe not a drill, but whoever it is won’t get very far in this building. You’ve seen the amount of hired guns the boss keeps around here, right?
Still… I’m taking no chances, If I can switch you over to this headset then…
Aha… then I can take you with me. You can still hear me, right? I know, I know. No point answering. Right, let’s get to a safe room.
I can’t see the radar now so I can’t tell you where the grunts are in your area, last I looked you had a clear run to the column though, so keep your wits about you and keep doing what you’ve been doing. As long as you make it to the return point you’ll be absolutely fine.
I’ll check in again with you shortly, I just need to… take care of a few things here.
A dark future
Change of plan again, agent. We need everyone we can back here, we’re being overrun. Bloody security service… I hope you can handle yourself in a fight.
How close are you to the return point now? Remember, once you get there…
Hello, “agent”. I see you at last. Can you see me?
Look ahead, the statue in front of you. I’d give you a wave, but I’m, well, a bit rigid.
*laughing* But of course, that’s not really me. Just somewhere we hide the scanners. The name’s Captain Lance Danson, Space Station Security Service.
How are things back there on old Earth? I hear it’s a nice place to visit, or, so my scouts tell me. I’ve got 27 of them in that area, as coincidence would have it. I expect I’ll hear all about it when they return to 3015. It’s such a shame that you won’t be joining them.
Enjoy your last few hours, “agent”. Your return point has been closed, and your friends here are all, shall we say “finished for the day”.
Oh it’s not all bad. Think of it as a holiday. Your first ever, I’d imagine.
There’s plenty to do and see back there, what a shame you don’t have much time to squeeze it all in.
Look around you, at these people, how nice their lives are. Breaks your heart to think how they’ll throw it all away, doesn’t it.
But one way or another, we all end up dead, don’t we?
Some sooner than others of course…