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This Time: A new short story by Jin Kee

Ok, this is a very rough first draft. Please tell me what you think!

wait - updated version here

old original version as follows:

* This time.
** Thuan-Jin Kee

It's 10:00pm. I wait until your sister has driven her humvee around the corner. I wait until you've closed the trunk, hiding the weapon we bought from view.

I look at you. You look like shit. You're strung out, exhausted. Neither of us have slept in days. We'd been going through this dance for weeks, trying to get each step perfect.

I wait until you hand me the Reset Button. I hand you the keys.

I wait until you bend slightly to unlock the doors of your ancient sedan. That's when I hit you with a fence post and keep beating you until you are dead.


It's 10:05pm. You're in the trunk with the weapon's bulky green case. At the same time, you are walking towards the car. It's a previous you. I hope I can fake the conversation we're about to have.

The last two times the previous you walked up to our car, you were alive. You both began to have seizures and began bleeding from the ears and nose.

I thank God previous me was out buying maps or something otherwise I wouldn't have been able to grab the wheel when your foot blindly stomped the accelerator or you would have hit previous you, and then who knows what would have happened.

I'd have picked a spot to meet your sister and buy the weapon where we were guaranteed not to run into ourselves, but no more such secluded spots exist. We're everywhere, like some kind of dumb police force which undermines its purpose as it goes about its job.

I pretend that I'm previous me. I had to come back to get something, I say. No I haven't got the maps yet, I say. Previous you is still fresh. Maybe gone through the wringer only once or half a dozen times. The same day that starts around 5pm when the reset machine in the physics department powers up and spits us out. Each time we press the button, the reset machine disgorges us a little later. We were smart enough to know to get out of the building and hide before future us would show up. Only this time, I'm betting there's no more future you. For you, ze war is over.

I'm watching previous you. You look normal. You aren't bleeding. You finish the conversation with me, and walk back to your car.


I'm driving. It's close to midnight. I'm feeling so tired that I wish it was me who was scheduled to walk up to the car, then you could have smashed my skull. We'd had this conversation - which spot to pick; who would have to die.

Your only request was that you not know when it was coming. So I waited, and you genuinely seemed not to mind.
I cross the state line into Pennsylvania. We'd tried other scenarios, the nights when we couldn't get the weapon. We'd correctly surmised that a future self had called your sister and made a last minute change to the meeting. Those nights we simply drove to the firing position and watched the passenger jets sail by. We were always too late to the other positions. We watched in horror with the knowledge that we had failed again. How many months of practice had we put in, to be defeated by basic logistics and simple travel time?

We tried changing our point of origin to other cities. Using air travel. We learned to ride motorcycles. All useless. Pity. The motorcycles would have looked badass.

Not bad for a pair of postgrad students. I read somewhere that engineers are four times more likely to become terrorists as students from other disciplines. They say Mohamed Atta was an architecture student before he went to Hamberg.

I think about you in the trunk. I think about how your mother would weep if she found out what we'd become. How she'd cry pulchritific tears and mourn the loss of her children, even though we're still out there, at large and in large numbers. My mother would weep also. But we are no longer the sweet children our mothers knew, and we haven't been for a long time.


I get out of the car just after passing through Stony Creek. I hide the car. I know I'm around here somewhere, either a previous me on a scouting trip, or a future me if I fail. I have to be careful, to stay out of sight and to also remember my route and write it down in my tattered diary for future reference.

Monday night is almost over. People will be sleeping off their football and beer. Giants against the Broncos. To this day, I have no idea who won. If I were a betting man, I'd have memorized the score.

Actually, that would have been a great way to pay for the weapon we just bought. Good thing for us, your sister believed you when you told her that you needed the seeker head and that you wouldn't get yourself killed. One lie out of two ain't bad.

I pull the big green case out from under you, and carry its bloodied bulk down to the treeline.


I wake up and frantically check my watch. It's 7am. I must have slept. In war, they are supposed to shoot soldiers who sleep on guard duty, aren't they? Maybe, or maybe not. Maybe they just have to clean the toilets or whatever soldiers call toilets. I don't know.

It's 7am. I'm not late. This is not a drill. I'm going to make it this time. As I crawl out from under the leaves, and mud, and shit, I hope nobody's found the car.


It's almost 10am. I've installed the Battery Coolant Unit. A stream of frigid argon has flowed over the seeker head, clearing it's infrared vision. I'm facing northwest and a dot appears on the horizon, high in the sky.

I put the stinger missile to my shoulder. Through the sight I see a Boeing plane flying as no passenger plane ever should. In the sky, a battle of scalding water and beverage carts against hardened terrorists is occurring.

I know that if I stand here and do nothing, the cabin door will hold for another half hour. The aircraft will achieve a direct hit on the Capitol. A symbolic act, the politicians have already been evacuated. The image of the broken dome will be in the news forever, a dome for war to contrast Hiroshima's dome for peace.

If you had mastery of a small stretch of time, wouldn't you press the reset button? Try at least to change things?

I put the stinger to my shoulder and hit the IFF for the sake of drill. The civilian aircraft lacks a transponder and does not give a correct response. I hear the tone "Unknown/Hostile", but then I've never heard the "Friendly" tone and I don't know what it sounds like.

The number of our dopplegangers in the countryside is diminishing now. We're pressing reset buttons all across the country. Knowing we didn't get set up on time. Knowing that we'd failed. Why spend another minute on this earth? Why not start over? Why not layer another dangerous smear of confusing meddling onto the timeline. Have you ever thought that maybe this is the only way things could go down?

The missile locks onto a hot engine nacelle, the first time ever. I fire.

Forty people die.

As the pieces of the aircraft fall I pull out the reset button remove the batteries and resolve to smash it to bits, this time.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC)
This is very intriguing. I'd like to

One doesn't quite work out what the plan is or why, for example, the other character needed to die in the space available. I'm not sure if this is intentional - if it's the beginning of a story or if perhaps there are gaps you didn't intend because you knew what was going on so well yourself. Interesting, either way.

Nov. 19th, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC)

It is indeed very much full of holes. I'm working now on a new draft that will hopefully plug a few of them. Please check this entry, which will be edited to link to the new draft.

I'm hoping that I can dispense information at just the right rate, and any help fine tuning it is much appreciated.
Nov. 19th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
I'll look forward to reading version 2! I really do like this, more than any of your other work that I've read, in fact - it makes me want to know more. So good luck plugging the holes!

(Deleted comment)
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
i'm adding more! Thanks!
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)
totally nightmarish.reminds me of an earlier story with a reverse timeline but this is more fragmented and complex.
makes me want to wake up.
Nov. 19th, 2009 12:53 pm (UTC)
Yes this is another time story, my concept for it was a time travel story that doesn't depict time travel.

It is pretty much verbatim from a dream.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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