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Rated: E · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2203772
A secret delivery thanks to a new piece of technology.
Paper Crane

I eased through the crowd like a ghost on the wind. Past the noodle houses and smoke shops, between the junkies and synthetic prostitutes, no one saw me. I wasn’t really there.

My tech was something new – chronoflage. Hidden just a fraction of a second behind the normal timeline, I could see every pedestrian, taxi, and brilliant virtual marquee just as they’d been. But delayed time meant I couldn’t affect my surroundings. Still tethered to the original time stream, the past was immovable for me, even if only a millisecond removed. And while I could still feel my environment, solid as any reality, every bit was set in stone, permanently written, and proceeding just as it had. The danger was that carelessness could get you killed. Something even as simple as the randomness of rain, set in time, could tear through you like a bullet through paper. It was a hazardous job, but I was good at it, and my benefactor paid well for my skillset.

Easing away from the masses, I scaled the wall of Nakatura Industries, landing inside the massive, gated courtyard. Compared to the bustling streets of downtown San Francisco, the property was almost another world by comparison, with its expansive, lush green spaces, all meticulously maintained – a far cry from the filthy congested streets just beyond the perimeter.

Of course, nearly every corner had a camera, completely blind to my presence, and even the few patrol drones, mixed with a handful of guards, couldn’t see or hear me. For them, this moment had already happened and I wasn’t there…yet. The first real trick was how to get into the building. With time in motion already set, any door would be immobile, every entry point as solid to me as a wall. I couldn’t risk detection and decided the direct approach was best, heading straight for the main entrance. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long for the automated doors to trigger by an exiting security guard. I eased inside.

Elevators weren’t an option. Being unable to manipulate the controls while phased was a problem, and if I slipped back into normal time, I’d risk being spotted by the lift’s cameras. Worse, there was too much variability with the potential for motion, especially if someone happened onto the elevator – another obstacle to consider. So, stairs were the safer route – seventy-two floors of them, a real climb. I ensured the coast was clear, no spying eyes, before deactivating my chronoflage and pushing though the fire door. Re-phasing again right away, I began the longer, more assured ascent.
Finally at the top, I opted not for the door, instead slipping into a convenient ventilation shaft, which in turn became a tight crawl to the office of Tamarind Matsumoto – President and CEO of Nakamura Industries. With the coast assuredly clear, I eased the grate away and pulled myself out, replacing the cover, before shifting away again.

Matsumoto’s was an impressive office, boasting 180 degrees of city and harbor view. Trimmed in burled mahogany, illuminated exhibits around the room displayed all sorts of priceless relics, from rare samurai swords to ancient scrolls from the Middle East. But I wasn’t there for any of that, and at the far side of the space I discovered my target – Tamarind Matsumoto’s priceless jade-inlaid desk.

Digging into my vest pocket, I retrieved my tiny package, careful not to drop it, for anything separated from my body while time delayed would be lost forever to oblivion. Nearly done, I deactivated my cover, task in hand, just as the doors flew wide, a half dozen guards storming in with rifles drawn. They quickly parted as Matsumoto strolled coolly after them. “Thief!” he accused.

“Hey, fellas,” I remarked guiltily, my hands raised, the tiny slip of folded paper pinched between two fingers. Knowing too well that even my time distortion wouldn’t help me dodge a bullet, it remained at least an advantage. “I’m…just gonna set this here.” I slowly eased my hand downward, gingerly placing the folded paper crane upon the desktop. “Chairman Rozier sends his regards,” I nodded, before instantly flashing away.

Anxious barrels scanned the room. “Search the building!” the CEO commanded, guards storming away.

From the shadows of delayed time, I peered over Matsumoto’s shoulder as he unwrapped the crane. On it was a simple hand written note, reading, ‘Tag. You’re it. – Roz.’

As I slipped out the still open doors, Matsumoto grinned approvingly. “Indeed. The game is afoot once more, old friend.”
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