No, I’m not publishing the whole thing here. Not this time. But y’all may as well read a sample chapter and tell me whether you’re awaiting it with bated breath so I can hurry and finish it up.
It was how Jake Calcutta could have introduced himself to anyone he met. He never would, of course. The Fixers, or more properly Deputies of the Agency for Prevention of Historically Anomalous Events, or APHAE, were the Agency’s most guarded secret.
The only secret guarded more closely was the existence of the Temporal Lisle itself, but that couldn’t rightly be said to be their secret; it was simply the way the universe was bound together.
Time, the founders of APHAE had learned, was not the abstract concept commoners held it to be. It was, in fact, a physical construct, a real and literal thing which could be seen, observed, touched.
Legend was that within minutes of that discovery came the realization that what could be touched could be altered.
And not long after, the realization that altering the Temporal Lisle would most likely be fatal to the universe itself. Time would simply collapse on itself, shredding as it did, leaving no hole for the universe to poke its head through.
No time, no physical universe.
While some postulated that without time a different sort of life could exist in the universe, most postulated that they didn’t want to find out because it most certainly wouldn’t be them, taking some or all of the fun out of their perception of the universe.
Others postulated that the Temporal Lisle was a tougher strand than all that, and a tug here or a snip there would only serve to bring it in line, tidy things up a bit.
Initially, they were executed in a very public manner. Once the threat was established, dissident thoughts regarding the delicacy of the Temporal Lisle were no longer expressed.
Jake Calcutta had no such thoughts. His recruiter had ensured his acceptable thought processes and loyal nature before revealing himself for what he was: a being from the future come to change Jake’s existence forever.
Some Deputies became Fixers, others Grabbers (as the recruiters were called) and still others Glares: decision-makers and order-givers. Every Deputy was chosen and assigned by their natural bent and ability. Fixers and Grabbers had originally called their handlers “Glarers” but the second “r” dropped over time as too difficult and unimportant to continue bothering with. Since the word was never used in front of a Glare it hardly seemed to matter. Fixers and Grabbers were fine being called what they really were. Glares wouldn’t have tolerated the informality. All were referred to officially as Deputies, and that’s the only word Glares ever used.
The original Glares weren’t aware of the Observer Effect and had blithely observed the Temporal Lisle for ages without understanding the act’s implications. In modern times, especially since the early 1900s, observations had been carefully calibrated to avoid the Observer Effect, to limit it where it couldn’t be avoided. Limited attempts were made to convince Fixers to stop calling it the Heisenberg, since his Uncertainty Principle was fundamentally different from the Observer Effect, but there you have it: Fixers and Grabbers were mechanics and psychologists, not pure scientists as the Glares were.
Once the Observer Effect was understood, it was clear that observing the Temporal Lisle hadn’t damaged it (the universe, after all, still exists) and therefore it must be immune to the OE.
That was the theory, at least. But Fixers and Grabbers didn’t concern themselves with theory. Their jobs were straightforward. Grabbers used their advanced psychological training to assess, and where possible recruit, those who could become Fixers, Grabbers, or in the rarest instances, Glares.
Fixers were the worker bees. Where any individual appeared to get to close to the Temporal Lisle, metaphorically speaking, steps were taken to ensure both its integrity and its secrecy.
Throughout time, a careful balance had been struck: observing the Temporal Lisle without effecting it, and monitoring potential bad actors without overtly adjusting their behavior. This balance required Fixers to be psychological manipulators of the highest order; or rather, the second highest order, since Grabbers were even greater mind-benders. But compared to commoners, Fixers had powers of persuasion which bordered on black magic, if those commoners ever had reason or opportunity to check.
The pool to draw from was not, as might be assumed, all of humanity. Despite the likely existence of 42 billion humans previous to the present time, 1951, only a select few could even pass the very first test: bearing the genetic anomaly which made time travel possible for their physical body.
Rumors told of tests involving the launches of nongenetics, attempts to send them back even a few moments in time to try to develop their body’s resistance to the temporal shifts.
The rumors were rarely discussed in any detail in the presence of the squeamish.
Another limitation was that Fixers and Grabbers never went forward in time. The past was written, according to the Glares, but the future was blank. To move forward would have one of two effects: the disruption of the Temporal Lisle (meaning, as discussed earlier, certain destruction for this and all possible universes) or knowledge which would limit free will, causing anyone with such knowledge to act in such a way as to ensure, or perhaps avoid, future events. No, leave the future alone, was the thinking; we’ll get there soon enough.
Besides, it was 1951, more than halfway through the 20th Century. There were more than 6,000 years of written history; 6,000 years of fairly recent civilizations to choose from. The current workforce of APHAE hovered around 318. Retirement was rare, but happened, mostly among Grabbers.
Death was less rare, and happened almost exclusively among Fixers.
As time passed the Temporal Lisle became longer, requiring more observation and more frequent delicate interventions. When Jake had been recruited, in 1937, there had been 309 Deputies. He’d heard from another Fixer that the Glares wanted to ramp up to as many as 350. Since very few Grabbers were being added, and virtually no Glares, Jake knew they were ramping up the number of Fixers. They were looking to add, if the rumor was true, nearly ten percent more Fixers to the ranks.
It was a disastrous plan, Jake thought. He wasn’t supposed to think it, wasn’t supposed to pass judgment on the Glares, those high-and-mighty Deputies responsible, ultimately, for guardianship of the Temporal Lisle.
But Jake thought it disastrous, nonetheless, and with good reason.
He’d discovered that the Fixers were a threat to the Temporal Lisle.