Monday, 2 July 2018

Mask

My phone buzzed. "M will see you now."

Ascending to the eighth floor of SIS HQ, I walked down the long corridor between the muted hum of Communications and the distant burr of the Armory. (Most of the Armory is in the basement but some new weapons are tested up here, where few enter.)

Because the red light was on above the door marked "Time Travel Section: Director," I walked in and sat facing M who was as usual seated behind a transparent bullet-proof screen and was masked. I had never seen his face. I also suspected that I was the only current agent of the Section although I might have glimpsed one or two from the future - who could have included myself, of course.

Looking up from his computer screen and addressing me by my Section number, he said, "T.T.1, your first three missions have been experimental but successful..."

In each case, I had traveled only a few months into the past. Careful neither to be recognized nor to affect what happened, I had discovered the explanations of some mysterious events. For example, we now knew who had burgled a house in Knightsbridge. In future, we would be able either to take action against that individual or to feed him disinformation. But I knew that the Section was intended for something greater than these minor investigations.

M continued, "Your next mission will be harder but is guaranteed to succeed. You will travel back thirty years and will engage in actions that will affect the course of events..."

I interrrupted, "Thirty years ago, there was no Time Travel Section..."

On my previous missions, I had had the option, if I encountered difficulties in the past, of ringing an emergency number at the Section. I had not been told in advance whether I had needed to do this and in fact I had not needed to. Nevertheless, Section members had known from the outset that they might have to help agents from the future and procedures were in place, starting with the unique password that I would use, with the letter "f" among its digits.

"You will have to operate without backup - unless someone from further ahead helps you..."

He paused to consider this possibility. Then:

"There was no Section then. Your mission will be to found it. You'll need this."

Taking off his mask, he passed it under his bullet-proof screen.

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