Susannah Heffernan

Moon Has Lost Her Memory

If she ever wonders about the ethics of playing God with time, the families’ witness impact statements set her straight. These days, the Force operates in Divisions and Precisions, rather than departments, and the yagawomen are the elite police. To become a yaga is to be able to administer the ultimate penal justice.

Sergeant Moon checks her stats with her gaffer, spins on her heel and runs up a sterile gangway, climbing into the tiny cockpit. The Regarder vehicle stands ready to launch, freshly disinfected for the op. Egg-shaped, smooth-sided. Immaculately clean. Moon slides herself into her seat, straps herself in and lights up the instrument panel in front of her with a click of her index finger and thumb. Numbers speed in succession, like teeming insects across the plasma deck. She waits for them to settle in patterns of little helixes. She shoves the rudder forward and g-force punches her down until the egg thrusts itself forwards on each quick, wavelike muscular contraction, on its peristaltic journey through the inner workings of the Chronos.

Flying the vehicle is relatively easy, once you get used to the queasy motion; it more or less flies itself, once the configurations have been confirmed. The tricky part is leaving the present on time and arriving at a distinct point in the past, just at the pivotal moment. Bio-Chrono tests have always been done on the culprit in the penitentiary in the days leading up to an op, to pinpoint his exact age, although time in the womb is less of a finite value and hard to determine. Sometimes the Regarder will need manually driving, forward or backward by several hours or days to arrive on time. Exactly on time. At the point of conception. Moon only remembers practising this manoeuvre in the present, using a simulation; she has no idea if she’s ever done it for real on any particular mission. She better get it right. Her palpitating chest and dampening hands are distracting. She rubs her palms until they burn. She probably feels like this every time.

She turns up her headphones; loud electro. Techno rhythms pump adrenaline precursors through her body. She’s coming for him. She’s going to get him. She’s going to annihilate him. The music pounds. Her fists grip the semicircular steering wheel and she sets her eyes on the deepening and lightening hues of cloudlike formations coming at her, occasional spearing flashes hitting the glass 180 dash. The Regarder’s sleek surfaces are squeezing through the temporal highway – now hurtling down the only road into the past. She’s thinking about his hard, blunt features. His sneering silence. Sitting across from her, refusing to answer any of the Super’s questions. Looking at her like she was meat for the taking: even there, in the penitentiary. Not that it mattered. They’d proven he was guilty when other Regarder teams had gone searching around the estimated timeframes and located him where they’d discovered the body. Police questioning had been just a formality. She reminds herself that a plus of the job is that the knowledge of how he murdered the girl will only be in her head a short while longer. Until she snuffs him out for good.

She spies her marks. A couple. Lying on a scruffy bed. The woman, in her twenties, probably. Freckled, curly-haired, one arm behind her head, laughing. Her skinny man astride her, still clothed. They look so normal. It isn’t their fault. How could they know what their future would be? She feels oddly glad for them. For what she’s about to do for them. As the man lowers himself down over his lover’s torso, Moon makes her entire core rigid so that she can control the vehicle and aim the gun with both hands. She calls it her gun, but it’s actually a timewave doppler, and it’s ready to shake the moment like it’s just a big heavy blanket, rippling it and re-straightening it. And the effect will feel like a sudden wave of horrible nausea to the marks. It will interrupt their fucking enough to make it stop. That’s the idea. No ejaculation. Eradicate. Reformulate.

Moon prepares to shoot her gun. She lines up the crosshairs. The cockpit bounces and she digs her hips and pelvis into her seat, her shoulders wedge under the doppler’s heft, keeping everything as stable as she can. Steady now. It’s just like hovering a helicopter, the dancing and undulating timewaves are preventing the craft from being still. She jockeys the controls like she’s done so many times in the simulator, conscious that this time, if she flips the thing over and the craft damages the thin wall of the Chronos, she’s never coming home. She steels her calves and thighs against the rudder and howls from deep in her guts as she presses the trigger and delivers the payload.

There are no alternative pathways. Once you change it, time’s overwritten. Anything which is overwritten is lost. The yagas are done with him now. He never was. His victim never befell the crime. And she’ll never be any the wiser.

When Moon gets home, there won’t be any medals. No commendations. That’s the thing: you’ve only got the moment you’re living in. Everything else is manipulable. Everything is burnable.

Sergeant Moon steps from her vehicle, changes out of her uniform and signs off her shift. The gaffer doesn’t know where she’s been, and neither does she, and they like it that way. It’s not as if there are any state secrets: it’s the way of the world, beautiful and brutal and free. She walks out into the street. The afternoon is bright and all the women are smiling.

Susannah Heffernan is an emerging writer of literary speculative fiction. Her short stories pose questions of identity, alienation, and alternative realities. She has performed her work at London’s Southbank Centre as part of the 2016 Festival of Love, QueerCircle at Limewharf, and at the Albany Theatre’s Hothouse salon. Susannah lives in Deptford and is working on her first novel – an ‘underworld quest’ narrative, influenced by Dante and TS Eliot. If she had a time machine, she would jump in and visit Philip K Dick and Virginia Woolf.