The Onus #ScienceFiction #CrimeFiction #ShortStory

Image by ID 8385 @ Pixabay

Rae Austen sat at the table, nursing the tall glass of clear liquid.

Her head throbbed.

A sad country song drifted from the vintage jukebox.

A man, dressed in the same dark gray uniform as hers, appeared beside her.

“May I join you?” He asked.

Her hazel eyes never moved from her drink. “Yes, of course, Captain.”

The middle-aged man sat down.

“Just water.” She gestured at her drink.

“Don’t beat yourself up, Austen.” He said. “We knew this case was a long shot.”

She shrugged.

Rae Austen was a recent graduate from the National Academy when the Justice Department recruited her into a peculiar case.

A case she seemed destined to lose.

She entered law enforcement to catch bad guys.

Well, there was a more specific reason, but the bad guys’ reason had to do for now.

The Justice Department knew that the guy they nabbed committed a murder, but they could not prove it. So, they opted to try him for plagiarism – a felony that carried up to five years in prison.

Rae recalled the smug look on the Defense Attorney’s face as he approached her on the stand.

“You claim that my client, Duncan Keevan, had somehow traveled into the future to steal books from a prolific science fiction author, came back and published these same books as his own?”

Rae cleared her throat. “Yes.”

“Why on earth would he do that?”

She stared into the man’s gray eyes and responded in an even tone. “To prove that it could be done.”

“That. It. Could. Be. Done.” The DA shook his head as he strolled back to his table and picked up a paper.

“According to the statement by Mr. Keevan’s former assistant, Ms. Sara Moore who claimed he discovered how to time travel which the Institute he worked for implicitly denied. Her word against his. The words of a former drug addict who would say or do anything to get her next fix.”

The DA tossed the paper.

“This is the most ridiculous case I’ve ever been a part of!” He sneered. “And a total waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. I’ve nothing further to say.”

Rae remembered how the skin on her face burned. She knew that the former astrophysicist was watching her – with his cold, soul-less eyes.

Roger Braun, the Prosecutor, tried to save the day when he pulled out the one piece of evidence they managed to procure and placed it in front of the Judge.

“Your honor, this book proves that our esteemed Duncan Keevan did indeed travel to the future.”

The Judge studied the hardcover book. An eyebrow rose.

“I’m not seeing anything that tells me this came from the future.”

“Your Honor, first of all, the name of the author of this book was DeeDee Kempton. If you were to flip to the inside cover, you would see the publication year as 2055 – thirty-five years from now.”

“I still don’t see how that proves this came from the future – for all we know someone could have fabricated it to appear that way.” The Judge replied as she pressed a finger on it.

“True, Your Honor,” Braun presented a document to the Judge. “This is proof to show that the type of paper used in the future has not yet been invented today. This document shows that the paper used in this book is purely synthetic…its properties we cannot even identify.”

Rae remembered how her heart skipped a beat, hoping that this would be enough to convict – to pave the way for further investigation to find proof that Keevan was responsible for DeeDee’s disappearance.

The DeeDee in this current time was only nineteen years old.

Unfortunately, the Judge wasn’t convinced.

Rae failed DeeDee.

She picked up the drink and sipped.

“The man walked free, and that’s that.” She replied.

The Captain leaned back. “Well, I’m here to tell you that Keevan was found dead an hour ago.”

Her mouth dropped.


“Someone wasn’t happy with the verdict either.” He replied.

“How did he die?” She asked.

“His body was discovered in a steam boiler tube at the Power Plant.” He said. “He was boiled up to his waist, nads and all – in bat shit.”

It was Rae’s turn to sit back.

“Can’t say I’m sorry to hear that,” She said after several moments of processing the news. “But it sucks now because we’ll never know who he sold his time travel secrets to.”

“If I was a betting man, I say whoever did this already knows the answer.”

He pulled out a badge and set it on the table before her.

“What’s this?” She eyed it.

“Welcome to the Time Enforcement Agency, Agent Austen.” A smile creased on his thin lips. “You and I got a lot of work cut out for us.”



  1. Thanks for the story, Carrie Ann! Nice hat tip to the science fiction writers who came before us, making me wonder, who was your inspiration for the TEA?

    Liked by 1 person

      • I understand. For my three-novellas (the Cliftopolis Series), I went round and round with all the time-travel theories. Finally settled on one, and enjoyed writing the many possibilities!

        Liked by 1 person

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