Carpe Daevite
rating: +1+x

"Lowell! Duck!"

The agent spins round and flings himself to the floor as a spear whips over his head. In a flash he's back to his feet, catching one of the robed figures off guard with a smack to the back of the skull.

"Cheers."

The other agent grins, and holds one of his hands above his head, palm upwards. "Don't mention it."

There's a pulse across the cave system, and a long, tapered gun appears in a flash of light, several feet in the air. The second agent catches it and spins round, catching another cultist in the face with a blast of deep purple light. The gun itself is straight out of science fiction, all red paint and brass tubing — even more strangely, it's identical to the one currently slung across Lowell's back, down to the scratches on its barrel and serial number on its handle. Agent Miguel steadies himself for another shot, clasps the trigger… and sprawls on the floor of the cavern as his weapon emits a single, pitiful spark. Above him a grey and scarred face peers down, wrapped in a dull red cowl. The thing grins and extends its hands towards him. His weapon, ammunition light flashing red, lies several metres out of his grasp. Wooden fingernails as long as Miguel's fingers grip his wrists and he closes his eyes, trying desperately not to inhale his assailant's sour breath. Its teeth are crooked and brown, and he forces himself not to retch as a drop of fluid — equal parts saliva and sap — lands on his cheek.

He feels the engine on his back whirr away, stretching out seconds into minutes into forever. Time slows around him, and slows further, and further, and…


***

Lowell swings his stolen spear in an arc, slashing down two more of the almost-people and plunging it into another's chest with a splintering crunch. They crumple like paper, dusty skin splitting and spilling their organs like sand. He takes a huff from his respirator — the cave's ventilation is poor at best — and continues slashing, spinning and darting from enemy to enemy. One attempts to scramble up the elevator shaft, but a stab through the lower back pins it to the wall. He grabs another and hurls it down the pit, feeling a grim sense of satisfaction as its screaming is cut off with a dull thud. There's a buzz from the intercom, and a clipped female voice speaks out.

"Evacuation of the lower levels successful. No paradoxes on my end."

Mickey Lowell rolls his eyes at the formality and grins. "Roger roger. We'll finish off here and rendezvous at T plus thirty. Sound good?"

"Fine by me. We've got 2050 seconds before the mainstream respond to the distress signal, so wrap it up before then. See you on the flipside."

A click as the speaker deactivates, and another as Lowell bats a falling spear away with a well-timed swipe of his gun. It pierces a couple of necks before winking out of existence — two seconds later earlier, the loop is completed as it drops out of the air to be batted away once more for the first time. He pants, breathless, and takes a moment to survey the carnage.

Around him, dozens of corpses lie bleeding and oozing in various states of disrepair. Some have wounds, some burns, some appear to be little more than crumbling skeletons, and a couple are embedded head-first in the cave ceiling (which, it's worth noting, is two feet lower than it should have been). Signs of botanical litter intermingle with blood and flesh, and there's even one that seems frozen in place, hunched over some kind of…

Oh god dammit.

Miguel.

A couple of quick calculations, factoring in GPE, accounting for body mass, all giving a theoretical kinetic energy of… mhm. Lowell fingers the device on his back nervously. For all the good PR the department gave it, timetech wasn't really that precise. You still needed a bit of a jumpstart to get it going. Space and time, time and space. Momentum and inertia. Passage and resistance. Eurgh. Only one thing for it. He slots an energy pack into the barrel — enough for two shots this time, thank you Miguel — and walks slowly away from the elevator. He takes a deep breath and turns, sprints, and leaps into the darkness.

***

It takes a long time for Mickey Lowell to reach the bottom of the shaft. Infinitely long, in fact, for he never actually completes the trip. Before he can make his appointment with the ground (Portable Temporal Distortion Engine and fully-charged energy weapon both making their merry anticausal way back through time to land in Miguel's open hands) a familiar figure appears, catches him, and disappears with him in his arms.

300 miles away, and thirty days later, the duo smash to earth together in a tank of specially-designed shock-absorbing gel.


Several thousand miles away, but only a couple of hours later, two people stared at the footage in front of them, watching in awe as flames and flashing lights danced across the screen. One of them, a tall, thin woman in the throes of middle age, coughed and spoke.

"So, uh, tell me, what am I looking at?"

The other, a bulky agent with bags beneath his eyes, leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling of the security office.

"Daevite tomb. We uncovered it two days ago."

"Daevites? The retrocausal empire guys?"

"Mhm. Turns out they're good at time dilation as well — had a whole cult set up in there for lord knows how long. Would've killed the entire team if these jokers hadn't showed up."

The woman, whose name is Jenson, pinched the bridge of her nose. "Any casualties on our side?"

"Nope. 100% evacuation of the dig site. Whoever they are, they've got practice."

"And the, uh, cultists?"

"The lab boys tell me there's a few still alive in some kind of temporal suspension, half a dozen who're reverse-aged, and one with only life-threatening injuries. The rest are pretty much annihilated."

Jenson stared at the screen once more, and winced. "Jesus. Get a team surveying the area for anything out of the ordinary, and try to find matches for those interlopers. That's Foundation tech they've got, and I want to know who gave it to them."

"Already done. Lowell, the guy with the fancy spear moves, he's currently an employee. Level two, variable clearance. Field agent, Rho-5."

"Oh, I know this one. Stitch in time. Makes sense, I suppose."

"Yeah. The other guy was Dick Miguel, a freelance temporal consultant who took 'esoteric retirement' last year. Hasn't been seen since."

"Mhm. And the woman?"

"Don't know. Doesn't match any of our records, even the ones dating back years."

Jenson sighs. "Tell me, Mr. Security guard man, what time do you get off work?"

He raises an eyebrow. "Not for another couple hours. Why?"

"Consider this an early dismissal."

She rubs her eyes and groans. "I think we could both do with a drink."


thanks to GrimmCreeperGrimmCreeper, DrBleepDrBleep, and StallmanticStallmantic for crit

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