Pruning History

I entered my apartment and dropped my bag on the sofa on my way through the living room. Hands grabbed my arms and pulled me backward. Two people shimmered out of thin air holding onto my arms. They were dressed in shiny black jumpsuits with face-covering black featureless helmets. They pushed me back to the sofa until I was seated, arms outstretched pinned against it. Another person shimmered into view by my bookshelf. They pointed what looked like a supermarket price gun at a photo. A flash of light came from the end of the “price gun” and it emitted a series of beeps.

One of the people holding me down asked, “Is this the one?” Their voice was distorted into a buzz that barely sounded human.

“I’ve got an eighty-five percent match from the pictures,” the one with the price gun said their voice also distorted. They walked to stand in front of me and pointed her price gun at me. It flashed and beeped. “There it is. Ninety-nine percent. It’s them.”

“You’ve got the wrong person. I haven’t done anything.” I tried to pull free but they held me firmly in place.

“No, you haven’t but your great great great grandson will.” They sounded apologetic. “It’s not really his fault either. Just an accident. An accident that we hope to avert.”

“What accident? My great great what? I’m not even married.”

“Not yet. Your descendant will cause an accident that will result in half the world dying. We have traveled back in time to ensure he never exists.”

“Why not travel back to just before the accident?” I asked.

The person on my left spoke, “Our time machine has a minimum travel distance of one hundred and seventy years. This was the closest we could get to the event.

“How do you know this will stop the accident? What if someone else causes it?”

The person on my right said, “We have to try.”

“You can’t just hold me responsible for his mistake. I’m only like one-sixteenth of his DNA.”

The one standing said, “One thirty-second actually and you aren’t the first we’ve dealt with. We are pruning his family line from history. It’s not what any of us want. It’s not your fault. We aren’t holding you responsible.”

“But you’re going to kill me anyway.”

“Kill you? Who said we’re going to kill you?”

“Then what are you going to do?”

They pulled a small white device from a pocket. “This is universal birth control. Once injected a person can not become pregnant or impregnate anyone else until they receive a reversal dose which won’t be invented for another fifty years.” They pressed the end of the device against my arm. It hissed and I felt a light stinging. “There it’s done. You can let go.” The two people holding me down released me. As they stepped back, they shimmered away.

“Now what? I asked rubbing my arm.

“There are still a few more people we have to visit,” the remaining person said.

“Then you’re going back to the future?”

“No. This was a one-way trip. After our mission is over, we’ll pay for the crimes we committed against you and the rest with our lives. We’re doing what we have to do to save the world but we aren’t the heroes of this story.” They touched their wrist and shimmered into nothingness.

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