It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should

by Ira Nayman

The fourth book of Ira Nayman’s increasingly improperly named Transdimensional Authority series (really, would it have killed him to plan the series more in advance? George R. R. Martin planned the first 137 books in his series – it will take more generations in his family to write than the books themselves actually chronicle – before he wrote a single word, and everybody knows where they stand with him), features Time Agency agent Radames Trafshanian. When she’s not trying to impress her good friend in the Transdimensional Authority, her very special friend, if you know what we mean (and, if you do, could you please tell us, because we’re not entirely certain…), Radames is busy trying to solve crimes against time (that is, crimes that are themselves against time, not trying to solve them against time – she’s not on the clock… well, she sort of is, but you know what we mean don’t you. You don’t? Well then, you’ll have to read It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should to find out).

In this novel, which is not nearly as parenthetical as the previous sentence may have led you to believe, we accompany Radames on her latest case, followed by her previous case (time travel’s like that) and on the way we find out much more about the origin of the Time Agency itself and why it’s organised like a Library, which is very timely (see what we did there?). Featuring guest appearances by Noomi Rapier, Elvis Presley and Margaret Atwo–.

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Publisher: Elsewhen Press
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Tropes: Time Travel
Word Count: 82000
Setting: A pocket universe outside of time that houses the Time Agency
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

1. Elvis Eternal

The King looked at the silver fish floating towards him in the inky blackness of eternal space and thought, Elvis, old boy, you’ve finally done gone and lost it.

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Because everything was black, The King had no reference for determining how large the fish was. It could have been a teeny tiny thing no bigger than a record company owner’s heart, swimming in front of one of his eyeballs. Or, it could have been a fish the size of the planet Pluto (ssh – don’t tell him; the news would break his heart) that was far away. A couple of minutes after he first noticed it, The King was certain that the object was getting closer to him. It better not be a teeny tiny thing, The King thought. I can’t recall if I have my contacts in or not, dang it!

The object wasn’t a teeny tiny thing, nor was it the size of Pluto. The object appeared to The King to be the size of eight Cadillacs, four end to end and two deep. Damn fine car, the Caddie! The King thought. The object was a long, glittery tube with two windows in front approximately where eyes would have been on a fish, and fins in the back. The front of the object split open and, before he even knew what was happening, it engulfed The King. As the ‘mouth’ closed around him, The King thought, If I’m agonna be Jonah, I wish I’d paid more attention in Sunday school!

The small chamber in which he found himself slowly filled with air. The King, who had been floating in the chamber, drifted down to the floor as gravity asserted itself. If I’m agonna be doin’ a lot of that there flyin’ in space, The King mused, I’d rather have my stage harness, thank you very much. He also gasped – he hadn’t had to breathe in what felt like a thousand years. When the chamber was full of air, a door opened at the opposite end, and The King climbed into the ship. In front of him very sciencey things filled a hall that led to what could have been sleeping quarters in the rear. Next to him was a short set of stairs; he climbed them and entered what looked like the cockpit of an airplane, but with more blinky stuff and less organization.

In one of the two chairs in the front of the main control room sat a young woman in ornate black armour with lots of jutting angles. On one shoulder was a patch featuring an image of an hourglass between two Earths; it couldn’t have been sewn onto the armour – perhaps it was a fridge magnet. The woman’s black headpiece flattened out to points at the bottom, but it did reveal her face, which was powdered white with ruby red lips. A small blue teardrop had been etched onto one of the woman’s cheeks – a symbol of machine regret? She reminded The King of the dolls that Asian fans had sent him, once even throwing one onstage during a performance.

“Are you some kinda Japanese angel?” The King, awestruck, asked.

“Elvis Aaron Presley,” the woman intoned, ignoring his remark, “you are a stupid, stupid man.”

The King blinked. It had been a long, long time since anybody dared to speak to him like that, even before he found himself floating in dark nothingness. “Who do you think you are, talkin’ to me like that?”

The woman dropped her stern look and said, “Oh. Sorry. My name is Radames Trafshanian. I am a Time Agency agent.” [For readers who are unfamiliar with the Time Agency, Appendix A should answer your most pressing questions. Readers who are keen to learn more about the early history of the Time Agency should read Appendix B.] Then, she put her stern face back in place and added: “You stupid little man.”

“Hey!” The King protested. “I never had any complaints from the ladies!”

“No, no,” Radames said in an attempt to keep the conversation on track. “You made a deal with a demon –”

“No, ma’am,” The King interrupted, his vanity wounded – whether it was securing a record deal or making a deal with occult forces, he always dealt with the boss. The chief. The Big Kahuna. “With all due respect, ma’am, I made a deal with Lucifer hisself.”

“No,” Radames insisted, “you made a deal with a minor demon named Gorgon Zola, who was pretending to be Lucifer.”

“But –” The King started to protest.

“Do you think you’re the only one?” Radames hissed. “I’ve been collecting Zola’s victims out here for the last three months objective time. I’ve checked the signature on your contract against Zola’s signature on other contracts that we have confirmed were his, and he was definitely the demon you were dealing with.”

The King thought about this for a moment. “Hunh,” he finally said. “Guess I should’ve asked to see some ID. Honestly, if a feller cain’t even trust Satan no more…”

“Okay,” Radames wound up with a big breath, “This is the best I can figure. You’re sitting on a toilet in Vegas, feeling twice your age. You’re bloated. You’re probably hung over. You undoubtedly have narcotic substances in your system. You’re surrounded by sycophants who indulge your every whim, and you’re tired of them, tired of your whole life. You have a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that you can’t go on like this for much longer, that you’re not long for this world, and that’s the worst part: you can’t die so young – you’re The King! Then, poof! Gorgon Zola appears. He says he can make it so that you’ll live until the end of time. Yes! Given the direness of your current circumstances, you eagerly agree. The moment you sign the contract – in blood – poof! You end up here.”

“That…ain’t exactly how it was,” The King demurs.

“No?” Radames asks.

“It wasn’t in Vegas,” The King informed her. “It was in Tupelo.”

“Tupelo? Mississippi? What…?”

“I was visitin’ mah dear mama’s grave. Somethin’ about cemeteries, well, they just naturally attract spirits, I reckon.”

“I stand corrected.”

After a couple of seconds, The King wondered, “Where is this place?”

“This is the end of time,” Radames told him. “Just like you contracted for.”

“But there ain’t nothin’ here!” The King protested.

Radames seriously considered using her ‘I can’t believe I have to explain this – what are you, three years old?’ voice, but decided she didn’t want to deal with any complaints when she got back to headquarters. “Look at it this way,” she began, tilting her head to the left.

After a few seconds, a confused King asked, “What way would that be, ma’am?”

“I’m not talking to you,” Radames said. The King wasn’t sure if she meant that she wasn’t talking to him, or if she wasn’t talking to whoever she appeared to be, uh, talking to. He decided to hold his tongue.

Eventually, Radames righted her head and said, “Sorry about that. Where were we?”

“Now, that would rightly be the question, ma’am,” The King replied.

“Oh. Right. Okay.” Radames explained: “For most of the twentieth century, it was assumed that the expansion of the universe would slow and eventually stop, and that there would be an implosion of all matter into a single point, which might lead to a new Big Bang and a new universe. Unfortunately, there didn’t appear to be enough matter to create a strong enough gravitational attraction to make the universe shrink. Scientists theorized that there might be something called ‘dark matter’ that would make enough mass that the universe would start to shrink, but the universe just laughed at them. Are you with me so far?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Okay, well, you don’t really have to know that part,” Radames, trying to be generous, allowed. “All you have to know is that the universe kept getting larger, and the atoms kept getting further and further apart. The universe effectively died when the temperature reached absolute zero, the point at which sub-atomic particles stop vibrating. You understand that, right?”

“Weeeell…”

Radames had used up her store of patience. “Okay, look,” she firmly stated. “Gorgon Zola said he would let you live to the end of the universe. You thought that meant that you would live forever – you didn’t realize that he was just going to dump you here at the end of the universe without experiencing any of the intervening time.”

“Yeah, yeah!” The King said. “That’s what happened! So, what are you gonna do about it?”

“Weeeell…” it was Radames’ turn to elongate her vowels, “we hope to get Zola to stand trial on Earth Prime 0-0-0-0-0-0 dash null – that’s where the Time Agency has its headquarters – but extraditing felons from Hell is notoriously difficult. We should be able to nail him on fraud charges, but citizens of Hell argue that deception is a common local business practice and, anyway, whatever happened to caveat emptor and all that? It’s a tough case, but it’s up to the lawyers, now. My job is to collect everybody who has been taken in by the scam and –”

“So, you gonna send me back to my time?” The King asked.

“Aah…no,” Radames answered.

“Why not?”

“Best our historians can tell,” Radames told him, “after you disappeared, your entourage faked your death. We could insert you at a point before then, but that wouldn’t change the fact that there is a timeline in which that happens. Time travel is messed up like that. But there’s a simpler reason we won’t send you back to your old life.”

“What’s that?” The King grumped.

“You no longer have a soul.”

“But…but…but…” The King protested, “if this Gordon Zola fella is convicted of fraud, wouldn’t I get mah soul back?”

“No,” Radames stated with finality. “We’ll be prosecuting a criminal case. The disposition of your soul is a civil matter. If we win, you can try getting your soul back, but, frankly, multiverse courts tend not to be sympathetic to people who make deals with demons. Sorry.”

“Oh.” After a moment, The King’s face brightened. “Aww, it don’t matter none, long as I got mah music.”

Radames resisted the urge to slap herself in the forehead with her palm. “In all the time you were stranded at the end of the universe,” she said instead, “did you think about writing new music even once?”

“Well, now that you mention it…”

“YOU HAVE NO SOUL! You won’t be creating anything original ever again.”

“Aww, dang it!” The King commented. Then, he had a thought: “Say, how long was I afloatin’ there, anyway?”

“One thousand two hundred sixty-three years,” Radames told him.

“You coulda come get me any time,” The King indignantly stated. “Why didn’t you?”

“How would you have learned anything if I did?” Radames said.

“Hunh. You Time Authority people can be hard, you know that? Haaa-aard.”

“Time Agency,” Radames corrected him. “Not Time Authority. The easiest way to remember is that I am a Time Agency agent.” Although she didn’t show it, Radames was inwardly pleased that she had discovered a mnemonic purpose for the organization’s verbal redundancy.

Before The King could say anything further, the ship lurched forward into a large white tube. “Whoa!” he exclaimed. After a couple of minutes, the tube lost its fascination, and he asked, “So, if I can’t go home, what will happen to me?”

“You will give a deposition,” Radames explained, “that will be added to the evidence against Gorgon Zola. Then, you will be psychologically tested to determine if you’re fit to work at our headquarters. If you are, you’ll live out the rest of your life with us.”

“And, if I’m not?”

“You’ll be brought back here to…rethink your priorities.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Oh, I already have,” Radames grinned. “ I deposited Hugh Hefner a couple of light years away from you – he made a pass at the Vice Librarian, Research and Development. Bad move. A few light years away from him I returned Niccolò Machiavelli. He was a little too interested in the organization and workings of the Time Agency, if you know what I mean. His constant questions made everybody uncomfortable.”

The King gently laid one hand on Radames’ shoulder and purred, “Aww, you wouldn’t do that to me, would you, darlin’? I can be very good to mah lady friends…”

“Yeah, sorry, but that won’t work on me,” Radames responded. “I’m a Beatles fan.”

Taking the rebuff in his stride, The King asked: “Any chance I could get a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich when we get to your world? I haven’t eaten in over 1,000 years!”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Seregil of Rhiminee on Rising Shadow wrote:

EXCERPT: It's been a while since I've read anything as amusing as this novel, because it's difficult to find this kind of humorous and satirical science fiction. In my opinion, Ira Nayman can be seen as a one-of-a-kind author who has no rivals at this moment.


About the Author

Ira Nayman is a comedy writer who stumbled into science fiction 15 or so years ago and decided to hang around and see how it played out.

He is the author of six books in the Multiverse series, the most recent of which is Good Intentions: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: First Pie in the Face. The seventh and eighth books in the series, including the second book in the trilogy, are currently awaiting a decision by Elsewhen Press. In addition, Ira has self-published 11 books in his Alternate Reality News Service series; the most recent of these is Idiotocracy for Dummies. He is also the creator of Les Pages aux Folles, a web site of political and social satire that has been updated weekly since 2002.

In another life, Ira has a PhD in Communications from McGill University and taught in the New Media Programme of Ryerson University for five years. He is currently the editor of Amazing Stories magazine. Yes, that Amazing Stories magazine.


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