Time After Time
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Tick

Two people stand in a room, facing one another. One is wearing a lab coat, and one is dressed in a shiny black suit that rustles as he shifts his weight. Twilight streams through the high, barred windows. For a moment, all is still.

Tick

The man in the lab coat opens his mouth to speak, but no words come out. The suited man places a hand on his shoulder and tells him, not unkindly, that the decision is final. The project has been discontinued. The scientist hangs his head and nods, gesturing to an assistant to help him shut down his machine. The man in black turns to leave.

Tick

Together, a gaggle of university-graduates and unpaid interns stroll down a country road, bemoaning the lack of funding that is strangling their discipline. They load their equipment into a van and set off.
Once they are out of view, the man in black shakes his head, and positions the final package against the beam. After a final sweep of the room, he leaves, unspooling a long line of wire behind him. Rubbing the dust from his hands, he steps out, secure in the knowledge that the world is safe once more.

Tick

The world is full of fire, and dust, and smoke, and the tortured screams of brittle metal bent beyond breaking point.

Tick

A thousand miles away, a tight-lipped woman opens a document, scans through it, and closes it again. A minor edit to another, much longer file, and three years of work is Neutralised. The woman frowns. She really should start on the after-action reports, but then again… there'll be time enough tomorrow. She'll be able to finish them then. There's always time.

Tick

A man sits down to enjoy a meal with his family. The four of them talk, and laugh, and smile. Without warning, a small black box on the man's hip begins to beep and vibrate, summoning him to action. He shrugs on his shiny black jacket, kisses his wife on the cheek, and steps out of the door. The half-eaten meal, cooling softly on the table, is wrapped in clingfilm and put to one side. For later.

Tick

Within the rubble of the warehouse, a timer placed there some weeks previously clicks down to zero, and a discarded fuse ignites like a Catherine wheel, burning through a network of wires concealed in the concrete. For the second time in as many weeks, the world is full of fire.
It clears after a while, and the floor collapses, slow and inexorable, pouring down like water into the pit below. At the centre of the pit, a squat metal box stabs at the universe.

Tick

Gunfire. A black suit is torn, and splattered with red. Twelve minutes pass and the backup crew arrives. Another building is demolished, and a small child is killed in the collapse.

Tick

A mechanism starts, hurling a shape several hundred feet into the air. The box, sullen and grey, whirs to life, shifting through realities. Time slows to a trickle.

In his chair, the man in the lab coat smiles, a large, toothy grin that has nothing to do with humour. He hears, in his mind, the whirr of gears too warped to exist on any normal diagram. They reverberate backwards and forwards across the aeons, smashing down the walls between worlds.

Tick

The shape, its face now visible, flashes back into existence. It is bound, now, to the world around it. It thunders down at a snail's pace, bending the nearby air into a cone of brilliant purple light. A second later, and it is gone, pulling apart the walls of the universe with all the care and precision of a trebuchet.

Tick

A flash of light. Another thud as temporal entropy passes the point of no return. The clock, slowly passing lightspeed, flickering in and out of actuality like a bad projection, hits the ground. The impossible pendulum bursts from its frame, and the glass casing shatters, taking reality with it. Miles away, what was once a man in a lab coat stands up, revelling in his destruction. The wooden veneer implodes, leaving only echoes across phase space. Causality grinds to a halt, and the wheels are silenced once more.

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