The Continuity Integrity Agency Final Exam

The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

I was submitted for approval as a Continuity Agent at the age of twenty-five. I had spent the last several years in exhaustive study. I knew how to fight bare-handed in almost any style developed on the planet Earth. I could use any kind of bladed or projectile weapon, as well as the unusual types like bolas, boomerangs and nunchukus. I could wire explosives, and more importantly, disarm them. I could speak to any Latin cognate: Spanish, Italian, French... I knew German, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. I wasn't necessarily fluent, mind you, more conversant. I could use my chronometer-computer set up to have translation programs enhance all that, as well as general hacking skills.

My body and my mind were efficient, at the peak of human performance. I could warp time around me, speeding it up or slowing it down. I could apport to anyplace and anytime I had ever seen. I never did learn telekinesis, but nobody's perfect. However, I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

I was brought to the same committee that decided if I was ready for my Survival Test. There was Haven, Johnson, the Mentor, and then Van and Jacobs. It was a lot more laidback than the last time, everyone here saw me as a capable adult. We gathered in a informal lounge setting with snacks and couches.

"Well, Dahlia, Johnson tells us that you've been his most capable pupil," Jacobs said.

"If he says so."

"Compliments from Jim are rare," Van smiled, "Not something we'd take lightly."

"You've put us in an interesting position," Jacobs said. "Ordinarily, we send an Agent-in-Training to the past with a set task. The ultimate result of that task ends up operating their chronometer and returns them to our time. Obviously, with your ability you'd return in seconds."

"So, usually, you strand failures in time? Don't you worry about their affect on Continuity?" I asked.

Van shrugged. "Would you mess with history, knowing an entire team of people with abilities and technology you failed to master could come and get you?"

I nodded. "Good point."

"So, we have to try something different with your test," Jacobs continued. "The conditions for passing and failure are different, because your skills are different."

"Wait, you had to do this?" I turned to Johnson. He nodded. "What did they make you do?"

"I was embedded in Victorian England and worked my way up through Navy ranks. Once I was an officer, I helped lead an expedition to the Arctic, looking for the Northern Passage. My real mission was to use the magnetics and charged particles around the North Pole to jumpstart the chronometer, because there wasn't enough electricity in that era. Chronometers soak up ambient energy, and there just wasn't enough anywhere else, unless I wanted to risk getting hit by lightning."

"And that wasn't his mission, because the steps involved in attaining his goal turned Johnson into a successful agent. Had he taken a shortcut he wouldn't have been nearly as useful," Jacobs pointed out. "He learned languages, communications, strategy, leadership, survival skills, any number of useful abilities."

"So for the same reason I can't just blink back here, I need an over-arching mission with goals."

"Exactly," Van agreed with a grin. "So, since you can already travel through time, we've decided your mission is to get someone else to."

"That's easy, I can just grab them and jump back."

"No, that's not what he means," Johnson shook his head.

"We want you to set up the situation where time travel gets invented," Jacobs said. "The skills you'll learn along the way will be invaluable."

"I'm supposed to manipulate someone into inventing time travel and then send them through the machine?" I asked.

"Sort of," Haven said. "You're going to help your sister Calla develop her time machine, and then you're going to send Diggory Franklin through it."

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Oh shit. I did not expect the whole thing to be her 'test'. If they actually trick her into getting Frank to kill himself... Oh man. I do not want to be in the room when she finds out about that.

Something to think about

Way back at the end of Book 10 Dahlia is pretty emotional about what went down in Calla's lab -- though I do wonder what would happen if she found out that they sent her there to do exactly that....

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