Henry pushed through the door, closing it carefully behind him. It was cold outside.
"Evening, John," he said.
The bar was nearly empty and silent but for the tinny voices of a pair of broadcasters calling the Soccer game. Henry glanced over for the score; the few patrons studiously avoided his eyes.
For a moment, Henry just sat. He was tired; tired of cleaning up other people's screwups. Tired of unraveling their twists, tangles, and snags. Tired of being a Time Police.
John poured out a small glass of whiskey and slid it across the bar. Bushmills-the good stuff. One shot was all he needed.
Smoke drifted across the bar, stinging his eyes, and Henry blinked as he patted his sidearm into position in its holster.
Henry leaned back, reached for his gun again, and looked down the bar at the man he'd come to find.
"Well," said the man. "I guess that's it, then."
"A Time Police always gets his man."
Before the man tried to pull something out of his pocket, Henry made sure he tied the handcuffs from the specialist equipment provided to them.
The technology needed for time travel exists, but most of the world's governments have outlawed it. A special police unit uses specialist equipment to track down illegal time travelers and prevent them from damaging the timeline. Some of the time travelers are attempting to alter their own past for personal gain, others are rich tourists seeking a thrilling but illegal encounter with the past.
Melissa McDonald, commander of the Time Police Unit, settled herself at her desk, fired up her scratchpad, and gazed at her adjutant.
"Well, Charlie, what do you have for me today?"
Charlie opened his first file.
"Not a lot, ma'am. The finance section has the budget figures you requested." He passed them across. "Visitor figures are slightly down on last month but not by enough to cause concern; maintenance on the North Chimney has been completed, and we lost four officers last month."
"Did they run away?"
"One invalided out and three resignations. They think they can earn more money in the private sector."
"That's the official reason," Melissa said. "What they mean is they don't like the direction in which I'm leading this organisation."
"But you are making progress, ma'am."
"Not quickly enough, Charlie."
Henry enters her cabin after he arrested the time traveler.
"Ah, Henry, I see you've already caught that man."
"Yeah. We found him in a bar, Chicago, 1995."
"It's great to have people like you with us. Who knows how these time travelers may end up changing the timeline?"
"That's true. Remember when that guy who went back in time just to eat his favourite ice cream, which isn't available in his present?"
"Of course. He screwed the timeline so much with every visit. It erased few people from the existence. We had a difficult time fixing it. These people are desperate to experience their memories once again but don't understand the consequences that emerge when they travel through time."
Suddenly they get informed about a suspicious robbery by a time traveler in a jewelry shop in San Francisco, January 2, 2007.
"Good grief" Henry sighed.
Henry and his team arrived at the place.
"Bye-Bye officers." The thief laughs at them as he presses the button on the device that he used to time travel. But when he pressed that button, nothing happens.
"Damn it. Why is this thing not working?" He beats that device aggressively.
"Seems like you lost, buddy," Henry jokes as he takes out the handcuffs. The handcuffs don't work as well.
"You got to be kidding me," Henry says.
"Hahaha. Not yet, officer," the man says as he quickly began running from that place.
"Ahh, Screw this. Chase that man," Ordered Henry as they ran after him.
"I never thought we'd be chasing like an ordinary police, sir," says one officer.
"Neither did I, Billy. Just keep going. We shouldn't stay here for too long, remember?"
Whenever he gets a clear shot, Henry fires, but it missed the man.
During the chase, Henry looked at a boy running towards them. The boy slipped and dropped his mobile. Henry wanted to help, but he couldn't, as it may influence the timeline. While he was looking at the boy, Henry got collided with a person out of nowhere.
"You okay?" Henry asked.
"Sir, he is escaping," Billy interrupts.
Henry turns around to check on the man, but he disappears.
"Where'd he go?" Henry thought as he continued the chase with his team.
The thief enters a warehouse. There are stairs to a gallery and office above. And a back door (locked). He glances behind to check if the Time Police are still chasing him. He gasps as he runs into the house. There are no people.
"Hello, can anyone help me?" he shouts. "Damn it. This device isn't still working."
No answer. The man would run out the door but the police runs in. He runs to the back door, but it is locked. He then runs upstairs to Office. There was nobody. It was a dead-end, and Henry blocked the stairs.
"Gotcha," Henry said as he arrested the man.
"The handcuffs aren't working yet. Why is this happening?" asked Henry.
"There might be a problem with it, sir. I'll contact the team right away," says Billy.
Henry walks out and checks at the newspaper. He sees an article about the launch of Apple's iPhone in a week, on January 9, 2007.
"What the hell?" Henry was baffled after looking at the article.
"Billy, come here."
"Look at this. It says the iPhone is set for launch exactly a week from now. But I swear I saw a boy having this with him just before I got collided with another person."
"But how could that be, sir? Does this mean he is also a time traveller? We didn't get any information about other time travellers either."
"We got to do something about this, Billy. Else there are very serious outcomes."
"The equipment is now working. Let's leave." An officer informs.
They fixed the timeline and returned to the office. Henry and Billy went to Melissa's cabin and informed her about this boy.
"Melissa, why didn't we receive any information on another time traveller in san Francisco, 2007."
"What're you talking about? There was no such incident. We get every information as soon as there is a jump in time by anyone."
"No, Melissa. I saw a boy having an iPhone even before it got launched. He must be a time traveller."
"Are you sure that it is an iPhone? Maybe it's just a replica."
"No, it's not. I'm sure that is an actual iPhone. Alright. Billy and I will go back to the same time the theft happened and catch that boy."
"Only two of you?"
"Yes. That'd be enough."
They go back in time to the moment before the chase started.
"Ah, so that's the reason they didn't work," Henry said.
"What is, sir?"
"Remember, our equipment doesn't work if it is already present at the same time?"
"I get it. But then all such equipment doesn't work, right? So we got to catch that boy just as we caught this thief."
"That's right. Listen carefully, the boy wears a white shirt and brown tracks. Whatever you do, just don't run into the other you. Stay on comms. Let's split and find that boy." said Henry as they dispersed.
"Did you see him, Billy?"
"No, sir. I don't see him here. I'll try other side of the street."
They kept going through the streets, but the boy was nowhere to be found.
"Billy-Billy, you in there?"
"Yes, sir. Did you see him?"
"He's coming your way. I'll back you up from the other side."
The boy ran immediately as soon as he saw Billy. Billy chased after him. After some time, the boy slipped, dropping his iPhone. Billy, who is chasing after him, got collided with Henry during the chase.
"This is bad," He thought as he quickly got up and left the place immediately.
Henry caught up to Billy, and they chased that boy together.
"I think I just collided with you, sir."
"What? So that was you?"
"Yeah. Sorry about that."
They see a man along with the boy.
"Please help me. They are after me," the boy asked him.
"Don't worry. It's completely fine. Give that phone and go back to your home now," the man responded. The boy returned the mobile.
"Hey, you. Hand over the boy." Henry said.
"Leave the boy alone. He has nothing to do with this."
"Now go back to your home. It's completely safe. Believe me." The man smiled, and the boy left the place.
"Hey-Hey Hold on." Henry rushed towards the boy.
"Calm down," said the man as Henry and Billy suddenly find themselves in a living room.
"You want some tea?" the man offered them.
"What is this place? When did we arrive here?" Billy asks.
"Who are you?" asks Henry.
The man sips some tea.
"Hmm. This tastes good. Have it or else it'll turn cold."
"Quit the nonsense, you jerk." Billy says as he grabs the man's shirt.
"Alright. Alright. My name is Jack. I'm the time traveller that you deduced of. Not that boy. I just gave him my mobile for a brief time."
"Why did you give it to him?"
"Are you kidding me? He was fascinated to see that, so I lend it to him for some time."
"Do you have any idea about how every move of yours could change the timeline."
"Oh, of course."
"That's enough. You're coming with us." Henry tried to grab the man.
"Oops. Time up, Officer. You have to leave immediately," the man smiled at them as Henry and Billy now found themselves back at the place before they got teleported.
"Damn it. Where's he?" Henry searches for Jack.
"He's not here, sir. Seems like we lost him"
They went back to their office.
"What did you say his name was?" asked Melissa.
"It's Jack. Could you locate him? We got to catch him immediately."
"Don't bother about it." They hear a voice. It's Jack himself.
All the officers in the Unit gathered around with their guns pointing at him.
"Oh, please. I'm here so that you people don't make any silly moves." Jack sat on a chair and lit up a cigar.
"What are you trying to pull this time? What are your intentions?" Melissa asked.
"Nothing. I save the timeline, just like you people."
"You, idiot. You're nothing but a criminal." Henry says.
"Officer, Henry. I've heard about your reputation. You could actually become one of the top officials in the near future"
"Stop diverting the topic, Jack. Tell us what you are planning."
"I'll explain everything. But let me ask you this. Do you think this is my first time here?"
"What do you mean?" Henry asked.
"I see. I'll tell you everything from the beginning."
Jack was 16 years old when he received a call from a mysterious man.
"Is this Jack?" the man asked.
"Listen, Jack. I know you desperately need money to live. You don't have any parents, nor do you have anyone who cares about you. Why don't you work for me. In return I'll pay you."
"What? You're not lying, aren't you?"
"I'm serious, Jack."
"What should I do?" Jack asks.
"Come to the Tartine Bakery tomorrow at 4:00 pm," the man said as he hung up.
The next day, Jack went to the Tartine Bakery.
"Oh, you're here," the mysterious man said.
"Are you the person who called me here?" Jack asked.
"Yes, Jack. Come in. Have some bread"
"No, thank you."
"Come on. I know you're hungry for days now. Here, have it." The man offered him bread.
"How do you know so much about me?" asked Jack.
"I'll tell you about that some other time, okay? First off, you have to do something for me."
"What is it, sir?"
The man laughs.
"I'll send you back in time, and you have to do something for me."
"What? You can send me back in time? But how?"
"Just listen. When the time comes, I'll explain everything to you."
The man continued.
"I'll send you back to 26 May 1828. You will be in the streets of Nuremberg, Germany. If anyone in there asks about your name, tell them it is 'Kaspar Hauser'. "
"Hold on. Did you actually think we'd believe you?" Henry interrupts.
"You are free to find the proofs. You are the Time Police."
"It's true sir, that boy is Jack." an officer confirms.
"I'm sorry, but do you already know him, sir?" Billy asks, confused.
"Kaspar Hauser, the teenage boy who appeared in Nuremberg, Germany, said that he had spent the previous 13 years confined to a small room, his only companions are a few wooden toys and a mysterious man that appeared each day to bring him food and water. He carried with him two cryptic notes, which claimed he had come into his captor's care as a child and had never been allowed to leave the house, but was now being released to pursue a military career. Hauser's macabre tale quickly catapulted him to instant fame across Europe. Many marveled at the foundling's peculiarities—he supposedly possessed remarkable night vision and often fell into a stupor when presented with new experiences—but others suspected his story might be a hoax." Melissa explained.
"Not just that. People argued that the boy had learned language and writing too easily, and his complexion was not pale enough for someone who had spent most of his life in darkness. The situation only grew more bizarre in 1833, when Hauser died from a mysterious, possibly self-inflicted stab wound. Dozens of wild theories have since been proposed about his origins, including that he was actually a royal who was confined as part of a conspiracy to prevent him from taking the throne." Henry added.
"But then, How is this person here if he's died back then?" Billy asks.
"Oh, poor Billy. You clearly don't get it, do you?" Jack laughs.
"What? I'm sorry. Where did I go wrong?"
"He faked the death along with that mysterious man. Isn't that right, Jack?" Henry questioned.
"Well, well, aren't you the clever one? That's correct."
After spending five years in the past, Jack returned to 2007. The mysterious man didn't reveal his identity yet.
"Why am I doing this work?"
"I said you shouldn't ask questions." The man replied.
"I don't know who you are. I don't know why am I doing this. I don't even know if it's right or wrong. Dammit."
"Calm down, now."
"What's that?" Jack points out something that the man carried in his pocket.
"Oh, it's just a mobile. You want to hold on to it?" The man asked.
"Yeah, sure." Jack said as he received that mobile.
"Remember, whenever you feel suspicious about people nearby, just run as far as you could."
"Alright." Jack said as he walked on the street, checking the mobile.
"This mobile is very different. It's way too advanced." He thought.
Jack gets suspicious about a man spying on him. He then walked fast and saw that man running at him. Jack then ran with all his energy and eventually met the mysterious man.
"Sir. Those people are after me. Please help me," the boy said.
"Don't worry. It's completely fine. Give that phone and go back to your home now," the man responded. Jack returned the mobile.
"What the hell? So that boy that we're after was actually you? And that mysterious man who you were talking about was also you?" Billy interrupts.
"That's right. Eventually, I learned that the mysterious man was none other than but my future self."
"Hold on. So that means-"
"Good deduction, Henry."
"Wait. What happened, Henry?" Melissa asked.
"If what he said is true. That means this person has come to this place before. All that's happening now has already happened. But none of us knew about this."
"You idiot. What else did you do?"
"After the trip to Germany, I was told to live as a graffiti artist in England in the 90s and go by the name of 'Banksy'. There are couple more tasks I was given. The most recent one was to hijack a commercial plane leaving Portland, Oregon, the day before Thanksgiving in 1971. I just followed every instruction of my future self. I went back in time and lived as many people in many places and many times. Oh, that's right. I should get going," Jack stood up as the Time-Police unit aimed the gun at him.
"Oh, my. You people still didn't get it."
"Stop right there, Jack. What are your schemes?"
"As I said, I save the timeline, just like you people. Now then, I have a trip to go back to the Whitechapel district of London's East End, 1888,"
"No Way, 'Jack the Ripper'!" Melissa startled.
"This is what it is... Time, In Flux" Jack winks at her as he put on a hat and disappears.
"Quick. Everyone, start investigating the incidents Jack just said." Henry ordered. The Unit then began solid research and eventually, all their investigations proved what Jack claimed.
"That's impossible. How could this be? Undoing his actions might have profoundly negative consequences." Billy says.
"What could we possibly do about this? This is the history which we always believed to be true."
"That bastard uses the technology more advanced than us. He knew we couldn't arrest him even though he shows himself up in here. He just came over so that we don't disturb him in his actions." Henry said, irritated.
Jack's actions left the Time-Police with a dilemma–set the timeline straight and undo his actions without knowing what the result might be, or allow him to continue his activities in the past…