Strange Attractors
by Jay Shaffstall


"My name is Jack Morgan, reporting for duty."

I handed my identification card to the gate guard, who looked it over with much more dilligence than I'd seen last week when I broke into the research facility.  The ID passed inspection readily enough.  It was authentic, from the company providing security for the facility.  They'd been glad to hire an ex-Canadian Intelligence operative, with credentials courtesy of my recall bracelet hacking into Canadian computers.

I don't normally make a habit of breaking into physics research facilities once, let alone twice.  But Dr. Schreck was working in an area with possible time travel applications.  I needed a close up and personal look at his files before I could tell if I would have to take action against him or not.  I'd nearly gotten access last week when I broke into the facility, but the alarm had been sounded before I located Schreck's personal files.  Plan B was to become a trusted member of the security force.

I fit into the routine of a security guard without any trouble, but got my first big shock at a security briefing that first week.  The backers of the facility were taking no chances and had hired a new security director named Shinobi.  Shinobi was a graceful woman, in the same way that a well executed snap kick is graceful.

Background on Shinobi, I asked my recall bracelet during the briefing.

Shinobi: Master-thief, highly skilled in martial arts and cybernetically enhanced.   Captured only once on the original timeline, in 2010.  Known to be primarily concerned with her own well being, but will hire out to others for the right price.   Tends to play both sides of any operation.

Oh, boy.


I managed to get promoted into a rotation that would make is relatively easy for me to get into the main lab alone.  I was taking no chances this time...  Shinobi made it clear she suspected inside help on the first break in.  Even though she was wrong for the first time, she was right for this attempt.

I spent a good fifteen minutes just inside the doorway to the main lab, disarming what alarms and sensors I could find.  I moved straight to Dr. Schreck's office and gave my recall bracelet the command to download all files.

Attention, it said after a few minutes, relevant files already downloaded once tonight.  Hmm...  I guessed Shinobi decided the pay for being security chief wasn't good enough.  Fully in character for her, but that made my job harder.  If Schreck's work was targeted toward time travel, I now had Shinobi's copy to deal with.

Download complete.

Finally!  I stood and moved out of Schreck's office, only to find Shinobi herself standing just inside the main entrance.

"What a wonderful computer you have there, Jack," she purred. "But I don't think Dr. Shreck would agree."

"No, I don't think Dr. Shreck would appreciate it." I relaxed, leaning against the doorway into Schreck's office. "You know, I've been meaning to talk to you about your security precautions. I would have had the guards patrolling in pairs if I were you."

Shinobi smiled. "Yes, I suppose you're right. But perhaps pairing guards is pointless when an entire security grid has been installed in the lab and its neighboring offices. Or perhaps not pairing the guards was intentional. You know, to draw in a mole -- a mole such as yourself."

A mechanical whine built for a moment, and then steel shutters slammed down over the windows and doors.  Shinobi moved into the center of the room, assuming a fighting stance with a minimum of effort.  I remained leaning against the doorframe.

"I don't suppose you'd like a cut of my action," I asked.   "The firm which hired me is paying my expenses, which could very well include a hefty honorarium to you."  That was a lie, of course.  I had all the money I needed from playing the stock market, if you could call it playing when my recall bracelet held complete records of all activity for this century.  But Shinobi might be sympathetic to another thief.

"Sorry, Jack, it wouldn't be good for my reputation to turn that easily."  Shinobi drifted closer without seeming to move.  One of her hands seemed to float in the air for a moment before snapping my way with enough force to shatter the doorframe when I ducked.

I drove a left toward her abdomen, feeling quite clumsy next to her flowing movements.  I'd make the comparison between a pile driver and a chisel, except I strongly suspected Shinobi's raw power was more than my own.  She danced backward, avoiding my punch easily.

"You know," I said to buy myself some time, "I have another job that you'd be perfect for, however this little disagreement turns out."

She seemed interested and cocked her head a bit -- followed with a vicious snap kick.  I turned aside and took it on my hip, grunting with pain.  If I hadn't been augmented myself, I'd have broken my hip.  I used the momentum of the blow to launch a reverse kick at Shinobi's head.  The kick partially connected; she'd have a black eye from that one.

"If you're interested, meet me at Central Park in New York city the first of next month."  I ducked a jab and tried unsuccessfully to sweep her feet out from under here.  "You'll find it worth your while."

I took her next blow to the side of my head, and rolled with it, ended up against a wall under one of the shuttered windows.  Activate all alarms we circumvented earlier.  My recall bracelet interfaced with the alarm systems.   A second later I was rewarded with a cacaphony of lights and sound as nearly every alarm in the room went off.  Shinobi was distracted for an instant... an instant I used to shove her into Dr. Schreck's office and wedge the door shut.

That wouldn't hold her for long, but my luck held.  At that point the shutter over the main door to the lab opened and security guards poured into the room.

"Jack, what's going on?"

"Intruder, in there," I gestured toward Schreck's office.   As the guards rushed toward the office door, I slipped out of the lab.


I abandoned my apartment in town.  Shinobi would no doubt have someone there even before I could get there.  I had another bolthole ready, though, and I went there to look over Schreck's files.

It seemed that Schreck had taken Robert Kaminski's gravity manipulation theories to a new level.  Schreck was on the track of being able to create artificial gravity wells.  The goal was to create gravity wells strong enough to be used as missile deterrents.

What a laugh!  Get a gravity well that strong, and you have a power source capable of powering or destroying a large city.  With sufficient other technical advances, you also have a way of travelling through time.

Dr. Schreck would have to be stopped.

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