Chapter One of Time Rep: Pandemonium
Warning – the following post contains spoilers for Time Rep: Continuum. If you don’t want to know what happens at the end of that book, do not read on! On the other hand, if you have read Time Rep: Continuum or just don’t care, go for it!
If you’ve been keeping up with the story of Time Rep so far, you’ll know that the last book ended with Geoff being given permission by the bosses at Time Tours to take his friend Zoë out on a date, which he wasn’t allowed to do in the original timeline. However, to make sure that Geoff doesn’t change time too significantly (which could cause serious damage to the space-time continuum), they allow the date to happen on one condition: under no circumstances must he tell Zoë that he is a Time Rep.
So here’s the first chapter from Time Rep: Pandemonium, which picks up where Time Rep: Continuum left off, and joins Zoë and Geoff on thier date right after Geoff disobeys Time Tours and tells Zoë he’s a Time Rep. One thing you’ll notice is that whereas the previous two books have been told form Geoff’s perspective, this one is told from Zoë ‘s. I hope you enjoy it!
“You’re a what?” Zoë asked, leaning back in her chair and taking another sip of her wine.
“I’m a Time Rep,” Geoff repeated. He let the words hang in the air with such a sense of gravity, Zoë felt he was expecting her to react as though he’d just revealed himself to be the true identity of some sort of masked Superhero.
No – the amazing… GeoffMan!
She smiled to herself.
“What are you smiling about?” he said.
Zoë took a large gulp of wine and swallowed it slowly. This gave her all the time she needed to regain her composure and forget the mental image she’d just conjured up of Geoff standing with his hands on his hips, a cape fanning behind him.
“Oh nothing,” she replied, casting her eyes around the restaurant before settling her gaze on the balcony view they had of the river Thames, the water reflecting the stars in the clear night sky. In the corner of the room, a pianist in a tuxedo was sat behind a glossy black grand piano, treating the diners to some polite jazz numbers. “Just thinking about what a nice place this is, that’s all…”
“Uh-huh,” Geoff said, narrowing his eyes. He tugged at the collar of his shirt.
She wasn’t used to Geoff being dressed this smart before, and from the way he kept pulling at his cuffs and adjusting his suit jacket, it seemed Geoff wasn’t either. If this had been anyone else, Zoë would have found all this fidgeting somewhat annoying, but with Geoff it was endearing. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she thought it might have even bordered on cute.
He really had made an effort this evening.
She also had to admit – as far as first-date venues were concerned, Geoff’s choice had certainly exceeded her expectations. When he’d asked her out for dinner last week (a move that, whilst not unwelcome, had caught her a little off-guard, given how long they’d known each other as nothing more than friends), she’d given him a little more credit than to suggest they spend a nice romantic evening pigging out on a boxed meal deal down the local pizza takeaway. But she wasn’t expecting anything like this. Whilst she wasn’t exactly an expert on what made a good restaurant, she knew from extensively watching Titanic in her teenage years (something she would now strenuously deny if questioned) that the more cutlery you had in front of you, the posher the establishment.
And right now she counted three sets of forks, knives and spoons in front of her, which made this place three times posher than anywhere she’d ever been taken out for dinner to before. And by that logic, it was infinitely better than the local pizza takeaway, because you didn’t even get cutlery there. The closest thing you got to a knife there was when they made the potato wedges too thin and served them burnt.
As she’d been thinking, she noticed Geoff gazing at the tattoo of a butterfly on her left shoulder.
“Is that new?” he asked, nodding towards it.
“It is,” Zoë replied, pleased that he’d noticed. “I had it done a couple of weeks ago. Thought it would go well with the owl on my back.”
“Yeah, it looks good,” Geoff said. “Sorry – I don’t mean to stare.”
“It’s okay Geoff,” Zoë smiled. “I don’t mind.”
Geoff blushed and looked away.
“So what do you mean, you’re a ‘Time Rep’?” Zoë said. “Is that like, a new class you’ve unlocked in that JRPG you’ve been playing or something?”
“No, nothing like that,” he said, looking back at her. “I mean that’s my job. It’s what I do.”
“Oh – so you’ve got a new job? When did this happen?”
“New job? No – it’s nothing like that.”
“Then what are you talking about?”
Geoff looked over his shoulder for a second, before looking back at her again.
“You know how you’ve always thought I was a holiday rep?” he said.
“Yes…” If she recalled correctly, the reason she thought this stemmed from a conversation they had a couple of years ago when he’d said ‘Zoë – I’ve got a new job as a holiday Rep…’
“Well I’m not a holiday rep,” Geoff said. “I’m actually a Time Rep.”
Zoë paused for a moment. He wasn’t really answering her question about what a Time Rep was. He was just telling her he was a Time Rep again.
But she’d already got that bit.
“So it’s a different job?” she asked. “You don’t meet tourists and show them around London?”
“No – it’s the same job. I still do that.”
Zoë took another sip of her wine. She began considering whether she should just order a whole bottle, because at this rate, she was going to need it.
“So let me get this straight – you’re still doing the same job, but you’re not a holiday rep – you’re a Time Rep. But being a Time Rep is basically the same as being a holiday rep.”
“That’s right!” Geoff folded his arms and nodded.
“Okay…” Zoë said. “So… am I missing something? Why is that important?”
“Well, although it’s technically the same job,” Geoff said, “there is one slight difference…”
Zoë leaned on her elbows. “And that is…?”
Geoff took a deep breath and drummed his fingers on the table. “I’m probably going to get into a hell of a lot of trouble for telling you this, but I don’t care. So here goes – the tourists I meet aren’t from other countries. They’re from….”
But before Geoff had a chance to finish his sentence, a very tall waiter with gelled black hair glided over to their table as if he’d been pushed towards them on a skateboard.
“Some olives for you,” the waiter said, placing a small dish in the middle of the table. He folded his arms behind his back. “Are you both ready to order?”
“Could you come back in one minute?” Geoff said. He raised his hand and pinched his thumb and forefinger together as if the minute he was referring to was actually an imaginary mouse he was holding up by its tail.
“Yes, my friend here was in the middle of telling me a fascinating story about a new job he doesn’t have,” Zoë added, smiling.
“As you wish,” the waiter said, and glided away silently.
“You were saying?” Zoë said, spearing an olive with a cocktail stick and popping it in her mouth.
“Right,” Geoff said, helping himself to an olive as well. “They’re from the future.”
“The tourists are from the future?”
“Okay… and when you say they’re from the future…”
“I mean they’re from the future.”
“The… future future? As in, a point in time that hasn’t happened yet?” She jabbed another olive with her cocktail stick and put it in her mouth.
“That’s right – the future future. Middle of the 31st Century to be precise.”
“I see…” Zoë said, chewing the olive. She swallowed it and pursed her lips. “Listen, Geoff – you haven’t been staying up late playing video games too much have you? Because you know – sleep deprivation can cause all kinds of mental health problems…”
“I’m not making this up Zoë,” Geoff said. “I swear to you – in the distant future, people travel back to all sorts of different time periods for their holidays, and Time Reps like me meet them and show them around. We’re employed across hundreds of different historical periods!”
Zoë shook her head. Poor, gullible Geoff. Clearly, this tour company, or whoever it was he worked for, had fed him some fantasy story to make the job seem more interesting than it actually was. But Geoff wasn’t stupid – how could he have fallen for this?
“I know what you’re thinking,” Geoff said, “but this isn’t like that time you tricked me into thinking those cod-liver oil tablets were actually alien eggs you’d found at the bottom of your garden. This is different, Zoë – it’s real. I’ve seen it with my own eyes…”
“I’ve seen the future. In the 31st Century they’ve got this incredible Timeport that lets tourists travel anywhere, they’ve got this massive supercomputer that…”
“Wait a minute,” Zoë said, holding up her hands. “What’s a Timeport?”
“It’s sort of like an airport, but people use it to travel to different time periods.”
“Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight,” Zoë said, looking to one side.
“I tell you Zoë,” Geoff continued, apparently oblivious to the scepticism she thought she was quite obviously telegraphing, “over the past couple of years I’ve been to places you wouldn’t believe: I’ve been back to prehistoric times to see the dinosaurs, I’ve witnessed the Great Fire of London in 1666 – I’ve even been into outer space!”
Zoë smirked. “You’ve been into Outer Space?” She wasn’t sure why chose to take particular issue with Geoff going into space, as if going back in time to see the dinosaurs or the Great Fire of London weren’t just as ridiculous.
Geoff looked up at the ceiling as if he was staring through it at the night sky above.
“Being in space was amazing. You see, in the future, humanity has this massive fleet of spaceships – some as big as cities – and I’ve actually been on board one! That’s quite a story in itself actually, because it was when we had to defend the planet from being invaded by this alien race called the Varsarians. There was this amazing battle with lasers and explosion, and… and…”
“Yes?” Geoff said, returning his gaze to Zoë.
“Are you deliberately trying to wind me up?” She didn’t understand why he was doing this. Normally he was such a wonderful guy to talk to – funny without forcing his humour into a conversation, supportive without being afraid of saying things she might not want to hear, and above all else he was a great listener; someone who would put real thought into what she was saying and respond with helpful advice. It was one of things she always appreciated about him; something that attracted her to him more than anything.
So why was he suddenly being such a dick?
“I’m not winding you up, Zoë – I promise. If anything, what I’ve told you is just for starters!”
The tall waiter seemed to appear out of nowhere, like a silent assassin armed with a notepad.
“Did I hear you say you were ready to order starters?” he asked, licking his pencil. For a split second, she caught his eyes wandering over the piercings in her left ear, the stud in her nose and the bar going through her eyebrow and wondered if she held the record for the diner with the most metal in their face who had ever eaten here.
Geoff opened his mouth to presumably dismiss the waiter again, but with her stomach beginning to rumble, Zoë was quicker off the mark.
“We may as well order,” she said, opening her menu and running her finger down the list of mouth-watering dishes. She made a mental note not to order any seafood that might involve using one of those little hammers that people use to crack the shells open – the last time she’d used one it had slipped out of her hand and hit her date square in the face.
“I’ll have the crab paté please,” Zoë said. It sounded like a safe choice, assuming she wouldn’t have to hammer the crabmeat into a paté herself. “And for mains, the lamb.” She closed the menu and handed it to the waiter.
“And for you, sir?” the waiter said, turning to Geoff.
Geoff sighed and looked through his menu.
“I think I’ll try the stuffed mushrooms,” he said. “I’ve always liked mushrooms. And then the beef.”
“And could we get some water for the table please?” Zoë added. She wasn’t particularly thirsty, she just thought it would be good to have something to hand to throw in Geoff’s face if he persisted with this conversation; something that didn’t involve wasting any alcohol.
“Very good,” the waiter said. He relieved Geoff of his menu and left.
Zoë stared at Geoff in silence for a few moments. Now felt like an excellent moment to draw on her experience in changing the subject – a skill she’d developed from years of dealing with relatives / friends of the family who were seemingly obsessed with asking her if she was any closer to settling down and starting a family, even though she was still only in her late twenties.
Perhaps – heaven forbid – they could talk about her for a bit?
As they’d been talking, she’d been half-listening to the pianist play, and this reminded her about her music – following Geoff’s encouragement, she’d recently been dedicating a lot more time to playing the guitar and practicing with her band mates, and actually had a few gigs coming up later in the month. Surely he’d be happy to hear about that?
“So, asides from being a Time Rep and defending the Earth from an alien invasion,” she said, pretending to look for something in her handbag, “what else has been going on with you? Oh – did I mention the girls and I are entering a ‘battle of the bands’ competition later this month?”
Geoff shut his eyes.
“You don’t believe me.”
She dropped her bag to the floor.
“No – I don’t believe you, Geoff.” She said, looking across the restaurant to see how the waiter was coming along with her water. “Have you told Tim this crackpot story?”
“Tim?” Geoff said, opening his eyes again.
“Yes, Tim! You know – your best friend? The guy who took you in when you lost your job and didn’t have anywhere to stay?”
Geoff raised his eyebrows.
“Well here’s the interesting thing,” he said, leaning closer to Zoe.
Zoë responded by leaning back.
“Tim’s actually from the future too. He’s a headhunter for Time Tours, would you believe!”
“Time Tours? Wait – let me guess. Is this who you both work for?”
“That’s right. Tim’s job is to identify potential Time Rep candidates throughout history to work for Time Tours, and I was one of them! That’s why he offered me a place to stay when I lost my job as a paperboy all those years ago, you remember? It was all so he could keep an eye on me, reduce my level of social interaction, and groom me for the job. Admittedly, I wasn’t too happy with him when I first found this out, but it turns out time heals wounds…”
Zoë tilted her head to one side. She could feel her cheeks going red.
“That was a joke,” Geoff decided to add.
She began to wonder if she could order a starter that used one of those little seafood hammers after all.
“Geoff!” she snapped, half-lifting herself out of her chair. “I’m not finding any of this very funny, alright? Cut it out!” The couple on the next table flashed a glance at her, then quickly got back to eating their meals.
“Look – do you want to be dining alone this evening?”
Geoff looked down into his lap and let out a deep breath.
“Zoë – I know this all sounds crazy, but you have to trust me – you know I wouldn’t lie to you. I reacted exactly the same way when all of this was first explained to me. I thought it was utterly ridiculous. But it’s real.” He raised his gaze to meet hers. “All of it.”
Zoë looked at Geoff a little closer. With her hands gripping the sides of her chair, she was on the verge of getting up and leaving, but as mad as this all sounded, he really did look sincere. She lowered herself back into her chair and listened.
“You’ve got to understand,” he continued, looking into her eyes. “I’ve been desperate to tell you all this for such a long time, but Time Tours were always holding me back, telling me that if I ever went on date with you or told you anything about time-tourism whatsoever, it could cause irreparable damage to the space-time continuum. But you’ve no idea what it’s like lying to someone you care about for so long. Now though, things are different. Time Tours at least gave me the freedom to ask you out on a date, but if they had their way, I’d still be lying to you about being a Time Rep. So I’ve chosen to ignore them. And if that means a few cracks start to appear in the space-time continuum, then so be it.”
Zoë rested her hands on the table in front of her, looked at Geoff and smiled. What he was saying sounded like complete nonsense, but his tone of voice and the general gist of the words as they came out of his mouth sounded quite nice.
She looked across the restaurant and noticed their waiter threading his way through the tables, carrying a glass jug of water and two tumblers on a tray.
“Here comes our water,” she said.
But just as she spoke, the waiter accidentally tripped on the back leg of a diner’s chair, and the jug of water went flying through the air directly towards her face.
Zoë instinctively shut her eyes and raised her arms around her head to protect herself from the impact of the jug, not to mention the litre of water that was about to drench her. As she waited to be soaked, all she could think was how fortunate it was that she’d brought her leather biker jacket for the walk home. At least if that got wet, the water would just brush off.
The next few seconds went by with her arms raised and eyes closed, but the jug didn’t seem to make contact with her head.
Nor did the water.
That was strange – flying jugs of water weren’t exactly in the habit of changing their minds about where they landed, and the one in question had been heading directly for her.
She supposed she could have misjudged its trajectory, but what was even stranger was that she hadn’t heard the glass break against any sort of surface, or heard the water splash, or even felt the slightest spray of water against her skin.
Come to think of it, unless she was imagining things, she couldn’t hear anything – not even the background murmur of the restaurant, which she would have thought would have been somewhat elevated under the circumstances. After all, there’s always some idiot who thinks it’s an excellent idea to shout “Way-hay!” whenever someone breaks a glass in a bar or restaurant, no matter how posh the clientele supposedly are.
No, the first sound Zoë heard was Geoff’s voice, and the first thing she felt was his hand on her forearm.
“I-I think you can lower your arms, Zoë,” he said. His voice was trembling.
Zoë did just that. Her eyes remained closed.
“You can open your eyes too…”
Zoë opened her eyes.
What she saw before her defied any rational explanation – somehow, the jug of water was pointing right at her, but suspended in the air in mid-flight. A stream of water extended from the rim of the jug towards her face, but it was paused in mid-air as well. Behind the jug, the waiter had half-collapsed into a lady sitting at a table a couple of metres away, her chair in the mid-way point of tipping over, but they too were frozen. As Zoë looked around, it seemed everything in the restaurant had stopped, as if someone had pressed the pause button on reality.
Even the pianist wasn’t moving – his hands suspended over the keys as if he’d suddenly forgotten how to play. The only things that weren’t paused were herself, and Geoff.
Either this was the most elaborate game of musical statues she’d ever seen, or something was up.
“Why is nothing moving?”
“That’s an exceptionally good question.”
She agreed. In fact she thought it was the best possible question anyone could have asked in these circumstances.
“I don’t suppose you have an exceptionally good answer?” was her next question, which she also thought was a good thing to ask.
“Erm… I can’t say one is immediately springing to mind, no…”
It was at this point that a tiny voice in the back of her mind raised the possibility that Geoff might have actually been telling the truth.
“Wait – didn’t you say something about being warned that you might cause irreparable damage to the space-time whatsit if you told me about being a Time thingy?”
Geoff didn’t say anything. He looked distracted by the scene to his left, where a champagne cork was paused just as it was popping from the bottle.
“Geoff! Look at me!”
“Hmm? Oh – yes… I did say something about that, didn’t I?”
“Yes. You did.”
“Um… Shit?” he shrugged, as if that was somehow supposed to make her feel better.
Brilliant. Of all the things that could have gone wrong on a first date, breaking time was the last thing she’d expected.
Zoë got out of her chair, stepped away from their table and looked at the couple sitting next to them. They looked to be in their early fifties. The man had just inserted a fork into his mouth, his teeth digging in to a piece of steak. The lady opposite was in the middle of slicing a piece of chicken in half.
Zoë reached out to touch the man’s arm, but as her hand got closer, she could feel a strange resistance, like two magnets of the same polarisation resisting contact.
“Geoff!” she said, snapping her hand back, “I’ve got to be honest with you – I’m really scared…”
“Me too,” Geoff said, taking a step towards her, “but I suppose on the bright side, this proves I wasn’t lying, right?”
Zoë could feel her heart racing. Regardless of whether Geoff had been telling the truth or not, all she could think about what the fact that nothing was moving, and that this was not normal. So she decided to do what she always did when she was feeling a bit stressed, and looked out of the window.
To her surprise, although time inside the restaurant seemed to be frozen, time on the outside seemed to be normal. People were walking along the South Bank enjoying their evening, cars could be seen driving through the streets, and the River Thames was flowing normally.
She turned to Geoff, who was using the opportunity of time being paused to help himself to a breadstick from a nearby table.
“I was just seeing if the breadsticks were affected,” he said, dropping it back into the holder.
“Forget about the breadsticks – what the hell is happening?”
“I think I might be able to answer that,” a voice said from across the room.
Time Rep: Pandemonium is coming soon, along with a re-release of the previous two Time Rep books. Stay tuned for a release date!