Living on Compressed Time
By David K Scholes
I didn’t recognise the old neighbourhood. It had become a patchwork of different architectures. The newer designs with more than a hint of alien influence. My old street, at least the sign said it was my old street, looked deserted.
Then I came upon the block where my old house should have been. I had fully expected to find it still there and still in the lock down mode it had been converted to just before I went into the compressed time program. It wasn’t.
“Remind me what year this is?’ I asked my escort Kriz.
I think escort was the right term for her. Guard sounded too harsh and guide didn’t quite cut it. I knew there was no way these people were going to let some one like me look around here unescorted.
“To use your terms of reference it is the year 2099 AD,” she replied patiently.
I vividly remember my protesting this when I was first compulsorily extracted from the time compression program. Now with the benefit of a variety of drugs and some modest incarceration I found myself more understanding of the situation.
Still I persisted. “My contract was for a re-emergence only when certain minimum economic and social conditions prevailed and no earlier than 2119 AD.”
Kriz didn’t even bother to reply. We had already gone over this.
The whole basis of the compressed time program had been that an individuals total assets were invested and from these investments annual fees and investment charges were deducted. The financial projections suggested my personal wealth would increase exponentially during this time. The compound interest effect.
“I don’t suppose there’s any way I could just go back into compressed time?” I sighed already knowing the answer. “Or even take a time shunt back. The very least you could do is give me a partial refund so I can eek out some sort of existence here in this hell hole.” I stopped talking, realising that I was not helping my case.
Kriz laughed. It was the first time I’d heard her laugh and it wasn’t very pleasant to listen to. “If you have other assets, assets that we don’t know about, beyond those already consumed, then of course anything is possible,” she replied.
She knew I didn’t.
Sticking in my gut was the feeling that I was an embarrassment to them. That they hadn’t quite decided what to do with me yet. That they were still assessing me in terms of some unknown criteria. This puzzled me because there had to have been many before me. Surely there was a well established policy for dealing with us.
“If you people were going to terminate me you would have done so already. You wouldn’t be bothering to show me around the place,” I said with something of a show of defiance.
Kriz smiled but said nothing and gave nothing away. It was hardly the encouraging response that I had hoped for.
“You know that there are no legal avenues open to you to redress your situation,” she said. “The World Attorney General saw to that!”
Then, just for a moment, Kriz’s attitude seemed to soften and she looked at me almost sympathetically.
“As losers in the war against the Vrelt, the damned city strippers we call them, the reparations Earth had to pay were colossal. We needed a lot of Universe credits and quickly. Some one thought of you guys on the compressed time program. A lot of people with a lot of money and who were not exactly well placed to protect themselves. Your contracts were re-written and annual fees and charges increased dramatically."
“I thought the World Public Trustee was supposed to be looking after the affairs of everyone on the compressed time program,” I replied indignantly.
“Ohh – he was the guy who thought up the idea of fleecing you, along with the Attorney General of course.”
As my heart fell into my stomach I changed tack a little. “So there must be thousands like me, in my situation, you must have a policy for dealing with us.”
“There will be soon,” responded Kriz “but right now you are the first, the very first compressed time person to run out of money.”
“You are a test case. What we do with you will set a precedent for all of those that follow! All options are still on the table, including termination.”
Kriz was continuing to talk but I was no longer listening.
I stopped after she told me that I was the first compressed timer to run out of money.
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The author has written six collections of sci-fi short stories and two sci-fi novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to both the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and has also been published on a variety of other sci-fi sites. He is currently working on a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and also a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site.