To my friends and family, I was known as Tom Patterson. To the government, I am known as citizen HU1097-372. It was fourteen years ago that a law was put in place that banned names of all citizens living on planet earth. I was thirty six when that law became a reality.
For thirty three years we, the citizens of the planet, have been oppressed by the Lulian dictatorship. They took control of everything; economies, peoples' daily lives, and perhaps most importantly, they took control of the time machines. They have been abusing the power of the machines, traveling back in time and changing events to make the present and the future more favorable for themselves. When they disbanded the secret time police, known as the Time Control Force or TCF, they were able to do whatever they pleased with time. No longer were they required to follow the rules once put in place to stop psychopaths from destroying the world we live in.
Few people know the utter chaos that can be caused by rampantly traveling through time changing events at a whim. Few people know the horrors changes in time are capable of causing better than me.
I served as captain of a TCF squad, working my way up the ranks for eighteen years. We were in charge of the twentieth century; ensuring that nobody made changes to history or broke the rules. It was one hell of a tough job. Everyday we were called to go fix some event here, or undo some change there. Most of the time, it was people trying to kill a guy named Adolf Hitler. I didn't know who he was at first because they don't teach us that stuff in school anymore. But plenty of folks did know about him and thought he would be better off dead. People would come and try to kill him every day it seemed like. And as much as we all came to realize what a sick individual he was, the rules were the rules. We couldn't change history and break the cardinal rule every TCF officer was sworn to obey.
"I, Tom Patterson, swear to protect the lives of my fellow officers, to protect history as it stands, and do to everything in my ability to uphold the integrity and values of the Time Control Force."
That was our code, our creed to live by. Not a day would go by that I wouldn't say that to myself as I traveled through time.
But all that is meaningless now. The Lulians disbanded the TCF and attempted to have us all killed. We were all supposed to travel together on a train to be honored at some council meeting of the Lulians for our honorable and courageous work in the face of peril. Of course, none of us would have gotten on that train had we known what the Lulians were going to be like after they had the TCF out of the way. This was all before the Citizen Identification Law was put in place and before they crushed the other governments on the planet.
On that train, unspeakable things happened. Hundreds of TCF officers were tortured to the point of insanity. Some died right then from the sheer magnitude of the shock of what was occurring. The rest were left to their fate as the train was driven over a destroyed section of track, derailing the train and wrecking the thirteen cars full of people. The Lulians weren't done though. They had rigged the highly volatile fuel cores with explosives to ensure that no one made it out alive and proceeded to blame the whole incident on rebels.
How am I relaying all this now if no one survived the incident? I was never on that train. I missed the train because I was busy bringing Hitler back to life for about the hundredth time. As much as it pained me to have to heal that madman, I am now thankful for him. And as twisted as that sounds, it is true. If I had not been assigned the task of bringing Hitler back, my seven men and I would have been aboard that train to hell.
But just because we were back four centuries in time didn't mean we were exactly safe. When we arrived at the time dock in 2372, the year we left to begin our mission, we were ambushed by a battalion of Lulian Elite Guards. In ten minutes, only myself and two of my men remained. Paul O'Connell, my second in charge, had been wounded in the leg during the fight and would not be able to escape. He knew his fate and so, in upholding the integrity and code of the TCF, he sacrificed himself to save us. Zachary Klose and I managed to escape the dock with our lives. Our struggle didn't end there.
Each day Zach and I are hunted by the Lulians, and each day they draw closer and closer. Soon, I fear they may discover the time machine Zach and I constructed in the safety of the sewers under City 19. Using our knowledge of the workings of the original machine, we began building another so that we could travel back to the time before the Lulians gained power and rewrite the course of history. Just a few days ago, we assembled the final part of the machine and are waiting for the right moment to begin the final phase of the plan.
I guess I should explain how we have survived thus far. Zach managed to hack into the Lulian computer network and input himself as citizen HU0987-126, using trick he learned from his years working closely with the Lulians, integrating their advanced computing system into the time machine network. We never thought that a system that would help to advance our planet and the capabilities of the machine would lead to absolute control by the Lulians. It is something every human now regrets. Our race has been pushed to the lowest depths of society and struggles to survive under this power hungry rule.
The trick Zach used to put himself into the system would only work once without being noticed. That left it up to me to gain an identity for myself in some other fashion. I wish I had had another choice, but my twin brother was the only person I could take an identity from.
Since birth, we had a connection deeper than other twins normally had. Before we knew how to talk, each of us knew what the other was thinking. As we grew older we resembled each other remarkably closely. Both of us had a small birthmark on our left shoulder. Both of us had the same dark hazel eyes and the same reddish-brown hair. The same defined jaw line and cheek bones. And more extraordinarily, both of us shared the same fingerprints; something we never disclosed with anyone.
The night I showed up at his quarters, he was waiting for me in the living room. I sat down across from him in the dimly lit living space, neither of us saying anything for a while.
"I know why you've come here," he said to me. "You don't want to think about what you have to do, but you and I both know it is the only way. You, Tom, are the only person who knows what to do and how it must be done. That is why you must take my place in this world. You are the only hope for our planet and the human race as we know it."
I remained silent for some time, not knowing what to say to the man who had been so close to me for my entire life. I had thought for months to somehow find a different way for this to happen; a different way for me to become my brother entirely. But each of us knew there was no other way. The only way was for him to die and for me to assume his identity. He looked peaceful, as if he knew his death would be the salvation of the world.
I still shudder when I think of what I had to do that night. Nevertheless, I have come to understand that it was meant to happen. The life I live is not mine, but his. My citizen identification number is not mine, but his as well. Each day I wake up next to his wife and each night I tuck his children into bed, I am reminded of the sacrifice he gave for the rest of the world. I feel that even if I do restore the world to how it was before the Lulians came, I will not amount to half the person my brother was.
Right now though, the moment has come. Zach and I are meeting in the sewers to commence the operation we like to call "Deliverance."
Ah, there he is. "Zach, have you inserted the power crystals yet?"
"I have them right here," he responds as he stoops under the low hanging pipes. "This one doesn't seem to want to fit though."
"Just keep trying. It fit before so it has to work this time. Try putting it into one of the other slots." I am fidgeting as I watch him try the other slots with no avail. If this doesn't work, our entire plan will come crashing down. The years of preparation and my brother's life will all be for nothing.
"Yes! It fits!" Zach shouts as he and I both wipe the sweat from our foreheads.
He sets the destination time for 2332; fifty years in the past and two months prior to the arrival of the Lulians from their planet three thousand light years away. I have to go back and convince the world of the impending doom that will come to them shortly.
I have one chance to make it all right.
As he raises the power level to full, thoughts are racing across my mind. What if the machine doesn't work at all and I am left standing here or torn apart in nothingness? What if I go back but no one believes me of what is going to happen?
I still cannot fully comprehend what I am about to do. I have traveled back in time countless times before, but this is different. Never before has so much depended on me. This time, I am going to break the one rule I have always followed.
"I, Tom Patterson, swear to... protect history as it stands..."
It seems that by caring so much about bringing back the TCF and its moral code, I will have to disregard that very code itself. But by doing so, I can restore the world to its rightful order.
"Tom, the machine is ready... Tom?"
I stare blankly at my friend for some time. Before me was a man who had been to hell and back with me. This man whom I had counted on so many times before now leaves his life in my hands.
I step up onto the platform and turn to face him. "Zach," I say. "Thank you for everything you've done."
"No. Thank you for everything you will do. I have faith and I know you can do this." He pauses and then chuckles, "Maybe we'll meet again sometime on the late shift."
And he just stands there with that look of hope he always possessed.
That is the last I saw before a blinding white light enveloped me and sent me fifty years into the past to begin my duty to the human race.