Lighting the Candle

by Rachel Parsons


I should never have been given this assignment. That’s obvious now. It wasn’t then. Buster had laughed when I was given it, but she would be shaking her head now. She thought of me as asexual, even gay. But truth be told I simply hate her type: athletic, small-boobed, and an attitude that earned her the nickname, which was short for “Ballbuster.”

The only trouble was, every woman I have ever met was either like Buster or was the living, breathing equivalent of a blow-up doll, down to artificial tits and a rubberized feel to their bodies. You know, the really scary type.

Not so the woman I was looking at now. If she wasn’t the girl in the eye of God, she would do. She was right up there with Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Aphrodite; had been compared to them in fact. All curves and big, natural breasts. And the pout — not to mention what she was doing to that straw.

“I know you’re there; so you might as well come out.” She had put the drink down, was stretching one leg out on the lawn chair that she was lounging on by the pool. She was looking right at the bush that I was crouched behind.

“Yoo, Hoo. Come out; come out, wherever you are.”

My reluctance wasn’t simply because I had broken my cover; she was naked. I knew she would be. It was well known that she never wore clothes unless she had to. And she obviously didn’t care if I saw her that way; she was beckoning me. I could hear Buster’s snigger in my mind loud and clear.

“Now, don’t be shy. How are you going to kill me, if you don’t show yourself?”

Lots of ways, I thought. But none would be right. I stepped out of the bush; walked toward her. I felt my palms get moist and creepy crawly, I knew that my reaction to her was obvious, even in the suit pants I was wearing. I knew that I was in the position millions of men before me were in, only it was for real.

“You don’t look much like an assassin,” she said in the little girl’s voice that had won her vast audiences.

“I’m not here to kill you.”

“Oh? My boyfriend’s brother didn’t send you?”

The brother. That had been one of the favorites in the Section’s pool. I couldn’t participate, as it was my assignment.

I had been too slow in answering her. She got up. I swallowed as she headed toward me.

“Then why are you here? You aren’t a reporter, are you?”

You think me a sap, I know you do. So easily distracted, charmed, or blown away. But you haven’t had a goddess, naked, so close to you that you could smell her hair, her skin.

She parted her lips; I bent toward her.

She whipped the Section-issue Micro Compact out of my pocket. “So you weren’t just glad to see me.”

She frowned at it and another mystery was solved. “This is impossibly small. No 1911 is this small.”

“They say size doesn’t matter,” I responded lamely.

“I’m not stupid,” she said. “People think I am, but I’m not.” I glanced at the worn copy of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason that lay next to her drink as she said that. “No manufacturer could have made this gun, not even for the CIA. Who are you?”

I foolishly answered that.

2

“It sounds really easy,” she said. She was affixing bra and hose. Getting quickly into her street clothes. “I’m supposed to be found naked with a lot of pills in me. So we go far, far away, just the two of us. And the assassins never find me.”

I was watching her dress and watching my world literally dissolve around me. She had to die. If she didn’t, the scandal would never happen; her boyfriend’s presidency would never crumble, his opponent, who favored the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Asia, would get in, and the world would continue to be the radioactive armpit that it is.

You shouldn’t doubt my dedication. My own sister had turned. She destroyed my family, and if the Section hadn’t come along, I would have been next. I was here to observe, and if anything went wrong, in spite of what I had said, kill her myself.

But here I was, helping her pack; hustling her into her car, and even riding shotgun as she was driving away.

The only trouble with trying to defeat your destiny is that you can’t.

Some of the chronologists say that history cannot be changed, that temporal mechanics prevents it, and they explain away the changes that agents do as something that was “meant to happen.” And they may be right. So far we have yet to stop the war, even though at every salient point leading up to it, there was a trooper valiantly trying.

The incident in the South Pacific that should have killed Blondie’s lover made him a hero, not a dead man, as was planned. His best-seller launched him into the White House, and not into Hollywood, as it was supposed to, although they did make a TV series out of it. Thank God for small favors, I guess.

And my mission, to find out who had killed the girlfriend and bring down the Presidency through scandal, was failing through one simple miscalculation: the agent sent, the asexual, possibly gay, agent, had fallen in love with his quarry.

“What’s wrong?” she said in her breathless way that sent shivers down my spine, as we headed out of the wealthy suburbs of Los Angeles to one of the safe houses that the agency had set up. There would be no one there; every agent risks contaminating the time stream, and more than one for a mission would be unheard of. Unless someone had figured me out. But no one has ever figured me out, except the blonde next to me, who knew me in an instant.

It was a typical Hollywood bungalow, the kind that gets turned into part of a shopping center in its old age. I got out the key and noticed the wind was tussling her hair. She noticed me noticing her, and smiled. She was wearing blue jeans and a shirt like the ones she’d had in one of her last films, but she was causing me to palpitate the same as when I saw her on the lounge chair.

We walked in and I felt cold polymer on my temple. There was no need of a click; all our pistols are double-action only; ready to fire with four pounds of pressure.

“Just couldn’t resist her, could you?” I recognized Buster’s throaty voice.

“Who is this person?” my charge said; I took satisfaction in the jealousy in her voice. She arched her shoulders.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” came another voice, familiar itself from old tapes. Blondie gasped.

“Looks like I win the pool,” Buster smiled.

“You led him to us?” I couldn’t believe the betrayal.

“I figured you would fall for her,” she answered.

“How? My reputation. How?” I was stammering, as the attorney general’s boys took both my arms and yanked them behind my back.

“Watch him; he’s trained,” Buster said to the AG men. She had rolled her eyes at my astonishment. “I followed you into the city, past the barricades one night. Saw you go to them. Was I relieved. I thought it was me you didn’t like. Didn’t know you were into your sister’s type.”

I yanked away from my restrainers, lunged at Buster. Her reference to my sister’s radiation-ruined body was too much, even though she was probably right. My intense attraction to what I still think of as “My blonde,” could only be explained by the resemblance.

I felt the 30,000 volts and slumped.

“That was amazing, Special Agent Brown. It’s too bad you can’t lend us one of those things.”

She shook her head. “I’m here to protect the integrity of the time line, sir.”

Liar, I screamed in my head.

“I understand completely,” he said in that creepy pre-war accent he shared with his brother.

“I can leave her to you?” Buster nodded in her direction.

“Of course. And you will take care of him?” He nodded in my direction.

“Count on it.”

They left with the gagging, struggling movie star.

3

It didn’t work. The scandal broke too late; the second term went predictably, and the big titted blondes are still stalking the land, as the clouds stubbornly block the sun and the food supplies dwindle. But I was forgiven by the Old Man, and by Buster, with whom I have finally formed a lasting relationship. You will be invited to the wedding. The DNA tests show that neither one of us is at risk; our offspring will be human.

And I was given a second chance. This time it will be a personal pleasure, as well as something needed to change the time line for the better. How can we know it will be better? Hell, anything is better. But the computer simulations always yield the same result. Increasing globalization, collapse of the Soviet Union, domination by the United States as the only super power, until finally a world government arises run by a benevolent dictator — possibly the Old Man himself.

I met my contact in a bar. I recognized him from his picture and gestured him over. Told him the plot. The part he needed to know, anyway.

“I know why I hate him, but why do you?” he asked me.

“He had a woman I loved killed.” Didn’t tell him the rest. And that I was going to follow up with the brother, on my own, if necessary; through the Palestinian if I followed protocol. “Good enough for you?”

“Good enough. But what if I get caught?”

“Are you in the habit of getting caught?”

His eyes twinkled. “I’m an expert sniper and was trained in Potemkin village. I won’t get caught. But I like to know my plan B.”

“Oh, rest assured; if you get caught, I have a plan for that too. You won’t serve any jail time.”

“And the rifle?”

“Already ordered. Will be delivered directly to you.” With a forged signature and a delivery tag that will lead directly to you, you son of a bitch, I said to myself, while smiling. Personally satisfying, but the eventual result, one gun control bill after another resulting in the total disarmament of a population who might otherwise resist us was nice too. Enough assassinations and the sheep will clamor to get rid of the sheepdogs. The fools can’t tell the difference between guardian dogs and wolves. We wolves sometimes lack the proper gratitude, but I don’t.

“The money?” my interlocutor asked me.

“Half now; half when the job is done.” I reached under my coat pocket. He tensed for a moment; then smiled when the bills came out. He took them and pretended to smell them.

“Man of your word, Drake,” he said. “And I’m a man of mine. Power to the people,” he said as he got up. We shook hands.

I watched as he left, heading for a rendezvous with destiny in Dallas, Texas.

Yes, things will be a whole lot better now.


Copyright © 2007 by Rachel Parsons

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