The Fixers #3

"So what's a Fix?" Gretchen asked.

"It's a point in time that's been altered somehow, and needs repaired," Seb answered.

"Altered by who?" she asked.

"Anyone." Seb shrugged. "Whoever."

"And you go back in time to fix things?"

"Basically. Although it's not back in time or forward in time. It's just into time. We enter the timestream wherever we need to."

"Right," she said, sounding unconvinced. "Because this place is outside of time?"

Len left the conversation behind, and entered the Booth. Here in this tiny room, he could access Hal directly.

He pressed a few buttons and then a screen illuminated. Len scrolled through the information there, reading over Hal's instructions. Quickly absorbing the data, Len shook his head. More of this direct timestream manipulation. It was becoming increasingly common.

"Got it, Hal," he said. "Thanks." The screen flicked off, as Len turned towards the door.

Back in the Lobby, Gretchen was still probing Seb for knowledge. Seeing him returning, Seb nodded in his direction and shushed the new girl. A flash of irritation crossed her face.

"Everything's set?" Seb asked.

Len nodded.

"Then let's do it," said the Englishman.

"Can I go with you?" Gretchen asked Seb.

Seb looked to Len, who met his friend's questioning look, and shrugged.

"Hal?" Len called out, "Will you send Gretchen, as well?"

There was pause. Then Hal answered, "Her connection status is good. Interference potential, virtually nil." A pause. "Yes, Gretchen and Seb shall go."

"This is so cool," she said, bouncing.

Len grinned at her enthusiasm.

"So, where are we going?"

"Alright," he said, speaking to them both. "Your destination is May 1567, and you'll be going to Venice, Italy."

Gretchen's face lit up. "Are you fucking serious? Venice! 1567!"

"I am . . . that serious," Len told her, grinning.

"What are we going to do there?" she asked.

"Right - well, Hal's explained it to me pretty good, so I'll lay it out for you. Seb," he looked at his friend, "the painting that you brought back is an artifact, just as expected. It's unclear how Anderton got ahold of it - hopefully, you can get some answers when you're in there."

"What's an artifact?" asked Gretchen.

"In a minute," Seb told her.

"This is what we know," Len continued. "The painting was done by an Italian - name of Giancarlo degli Ricci." He looked at the pair of them, standing side by side. "Ever hear of him?"

"Nope," Gretchen said. Seb shook his head.

"Right. Not surprising. He committed suicide in May 1567, when he was twenty-three years old. He never made it as a painter."

"Oh." Gretchen looked embarrassed.

Beside her, Seb cleared his throat. "The artifact?" he asked.

"Dated to June of 1567. Removed from the timestream some time after that by persons unknown - and now, here with us."

"Wait," said Gretchen, confusion appearing on her face.

"That was the Detection Event?" Seb asked.

"Yep. Somebody took that painting for a trip through time."

"Wait," Gretchen said, again. "If this Ricci guy died in May, how could he have done this painting that you're talking about, in June?"

"Exactly," said Len, grinning.

"Oh!" said Gretchen, face brightening. "I get it. So we're going back to stop him from committing suicide."

"I don't think so," said Seb.

"Somebody already did," Len explained. "Ricci no longer dies in May 1567; he goes on to live a long life and becomes one of the better known Renaissance painters. This painting, from June of 1567, is the earliest known surviving work of his. Somebody - no doubt the same somebody who saved him - took this painting, and carried it several centuries into the future. There, its value would become astronomical."

"Anderton," said Seb.

Len shrugged. "Could be, Seb. We'll see."

Together, the three of them began walking to the Chamber.

"Okay, I think I get it," Gretchen said. "It's like a get-rich-quick thing! I like it," she said grinning.

Len shared an amused look with Seb, but neither man replied. Catching their meaning, Gretchen blushed. "I mean... I don't like it? Get-rich-quick things . . . bad. Very bad."

"Anyway," said Seb. He chuckled.

Outside the Chamber door, they paused.

"That's it," Len said. "Any questions?"

"Yeah," said Gretchen. "One more. If this guy went on to become famous, how come I've never heard of him. First you say he died, and then you say he lived - so which is it?"

"It's both," Len said.

"Sort of," Seb added.

"Right. It's sort of both."

"Okay?" She looked lost.

"Schrodinger's favorite Renaissance painter," offered Seb.

Len grinned at the look on Gretchen's face.

"Okay," she said again, "so, if this guy was going to commit suicide, but then, somebody already saved him, what are we going there to do? Return the painting?"

Len shook his head. "Reinserting the painting into the timestream doesn't address the new timeline."

"Then what are we going to do? Warn this Ricci guy or something?"

"Or something," said Seb. He put a hand on her shoulder.

She looked towards him. "What is it?"

It was Len who answered her question. "You're not going back to save him or to warn him," he said, quietly. "You're going back to make sure he dies."

Continue to The Fixers #4

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