"No matter what you do, someone always knew you would."
A KILLING TIME
by Bryan H. Joyce
A Tale From The Tavern On The Edge Of Nowhere.
The Abcronxuddlern grinned with needle tipped poisoned teeth.
A drop of milky poison was licked from its thin lips with much
relish. It extended a massive hand on the end of one of its
almost skeletal arms, towards me.
With a noise like a switchblade opening, a stumpy,
black splintered claw sprang out from its index finger.
"Here, allow me!" It growled.
A year ago, I would have fainted dead away with fright, but now
I just smiled and handed over the green crystal bottle. With a
pop of gases, the Abcronxuddlern levered off the stainless steel
cap from the beer bottle and handed it back.
"Thanks," I said.
"No problem." Its claw never made a sound when it sprang back
in to its fleshy home. Someone told me that the 'Crons don't need
to make a noise when their claws spring out. When they
are feeling comfortable, the claws slip out in a noisy
manner. When they are feeling aggressive, the claws slip out
quite a bit slower, in total silence.
The worse thing to watch for in a 'Cron is when they lose
control of their claws. When they start to slip silently in
and out in a seemingly absent minded fashion, you are in
trouble. That's a sign that violence is not far away.
To make matters even more confusing, they seem tense when
they are feeling relaxed. If they look relaxed, then something is
bothering them and you better watch out.
This Abcronxuddlern was so happy and comfortable that
an Earthman, who I'd just noticed sitting on a stool at the
other end of the almost empty bar, mistook its body language
for aggression and drew a large gun. "Put that away, bud!" I
laughed at his nervousness. "There's a beam nullifier
operating! Directed energy weapons don't work in here."
"This isn't a beamer. Its chemical," He said. His voice was
high pitched, almost feminine, and nasal with it. He sounded
like that woman on the Channel 18 Newszine, but with a cold.
His clothes looked as if they belonged in the 1990's but
his manner seemed out of another century. He had an air of
sadness and femininity that seemed to be very out of place with
his bad skin and mousey features.
"Even more reason to put it away then. There's a
selective friction field in operation as well. You'll blow your
hand off if you try to use it." This bit was a lie.
No matter what you may have heard about friction fields, they
are total garbage. If one was operating, I'd need to spoon out
the drinks with an ice cream scoop. Folks would choke trying
to drink their favourite tipple.
It had been very quiet in the Tavern today. The rest of the
bar staff was around the back, pretending to be tiding out the
stores - but actually sitting with their feet up gossiping.
Thursdays were usually quiet. At least, I think it was
Thursday. Sometimes it's difficult to keep track of time when
you work in a bar at the edge of space and time.
"Are you male or female?" Growled the 'Cron good naturedly.
"Why?" The Earthman started to put the gun back under his coat.
"Tell it, Tony." It gave a long throaty grow and wandered
off towards one of the dark sleeping booths in the far left hand
"It was laughing at you. Abcronxuddlern's are
hermaphrodites! They've got both sets of organs under that
black fur. They choose their sexual roles by combat. The loser
assumes the role of female. Their society is built on consenting
"There's no such thing!" The Earthman gave a disgusted look
and crossed his legs.
"It was implying that you'd already lost a fight. Haven't you
ever met an alien before?"
"From Earth? I'm of Earth decent, but I was born in orbit. I'm
an L5 Trojan baby." This seemed to puzzle him. He didn't answer.
I took a long suck from my bottle of beer and wondered for
the umpteenth time where all the bottle openers had gone.
"What's your poison?" I asked, wiping froth from my lips with
the back of one hairy scarred hand.
"You stock beer? I really need one." I got the impression that
he was deeply distressed about something.
"Do we stock beer! Only over four hundred and twenty
varieties. From 23 different planets and 16 major time zones.
"Time zones? You mean, I'm not the only time traveller
that's been in here?"
"Oh, no. Not by a long chalk. We get them now and then. One
in last week from 2039. Think he was called John Brendan. He
claims to have been a good friend of mine in one of the
alternates. Says that I died when I was 21 in an accident with a
parabolic asteroid smelter. I looked identical to the Tony
Wheelbough from his Universe except that that Tony had a middle
name and I've none. Creepy, huh? When you from?"
"Been living in the 1980s for about the last six
years. Originally from 1901. Scotland."
"Bloody hell! We've never had a record breaker in here
before. This calls for a drink on the house. Time travel's
only existed officially since 1995."
"So I gather." He gave a deep sigh.
I fumbled under the bar and triggered the auto-chooser. It was
a partially organic computer that used comparative subliminal
telepathy to deduce which drink the customer would get the most
pleasure from. It was hardly ever used. Most customers didn't
like being told what they wanted.
"Can you prove you're from 1901."
"No and I don't want to. Just want to forget about
everything. Time travel has ruined my life."
"You're in the right place to get things off your chest."
I took the bottle that had appeared in the hopper of the
auto-chooser, brushed the thick dusk off the label and poured
him out a large measure into a heavy, transparent plastic cup.
"This isn't beer?"
"What do you want for nothing? Drink it."
He gave a shrug and poured the whole measure into himself
"Oh, boy is that good. You can feel it doing the harm as it
goes down! Scotch?"
I poured him another large one and then showed him the label.
"Thought so. Glen Lowtil 1850? Never heard of it, but what
"Think it comes from Alternative Universe 4. It's very rare.
We don't get much trade with the Alternates. Too much power
expenditure to open a Vinculum for long."
He downed the second glass in another long swallow.
"Slow down a bit there! What grieves you?" I put the bottle
down and he helped himself to another. I was relieved when he
didn't drink it straight down. Just cradled it in his small
delicate hands and gazed sadly into the golden liquid.
"Huh! What doesn't?" He spoke quietly and gave a deep sigh.
"Woman trouble?" I said.
"Isn't it always?" He took another mouthful. For a second, I
thought that he was going to cry.
"Who's the dame?" I asked. It had been a quiet day. If I
could encourage him to talk, maybe I could kill an hour.
I know what you're thinking, I must have picked him up
wrong. You're right. That's what I did think for about 5
seconds, then I remembered that he was a time traveller.
Ever since creatures first thought up the idea of time
travel, they've been writing fiction about time travellers who
fall in love with one of their Great Grandparents or their
future descendents. In fiction, this is always shown to be
dangerous. The writers always assume that such actions would be
harmful to the space/time continuum.
They always give very complex reasoning as to why this would
be bad for the space/time continuum. But, as any time
traveller would tell you if they were allowed to, this is utter
rubbish! Time cannot change. Every eventuality that is
possible is happening somewhere right now. A myriad of
alternate universes exists like a tapestry of tangled, not
quite infinite, spaghetti.
I realise that the phrase, not quite infinite, is like
saying, slightly pregnant, but it's the nearest to an
accurate description that I can manage.
Time travellers can't change time. Their current actions
make them jump uncontrollably between alternate realities, so
that it looks to them that history has changed.
Say that you did the old, going-back-in-time-and-killing-
your-Grandfather-before-your-own-birth routine. When you got
back to your own time, it would appear that history had been
changed. You'd be wrong.
History would always have been that way. You'd just be in
an alternate universe where your Grandfather had been killed
by a time traveller from another alternative universe. Your
original reality would still be there.
Knowing this means that you could get back in your time
machine and jump back into the reality where your
Grandfather didn't get killed, to find nothing had changed.
Unfortunately, for time travellers, reality jumping is an
inexact science. They often slip sideways in time and never
notice it for weeks; until the differences show up and then
it becomes really difficult to find their way back to their
original reality. Everything will look the same until they
realize that, say, their favourite colour was once red and now
their possessions show a predominance of blue. At other times
the changes may be so subtle that they never notice at all.
This sort of thing happens to them all the time.
Time travellers are crazy mixed up people.
The only reality jumping that is totally safe is the mini
secured inter-dimensional vinculum. To you and me, that means
a black hole. Nearly impossible to find, there are only a
few in the known universes, and they are ridiculously
expensive to open.
"Safe" is not exactly the sort of word one would be tempted
to bandy about in the vicinity of an gravitational
force of interplanetary strength which is the size of a squashed
The word "safe", when connected to black holes, means less
than one chance in a ten of being squashed to the size of
an atomic nucleus. That brings the odds of completing a two way
journey down to one in five.
Not bad odds if you're getting paid a million credits per
jump. It's rumoured that the owner of the Tavern made the
jump 12 times before quitting and investing the money in the
business. It's also rumoured that the man who took the next
jump that he was thinking of going on, the 13th jump, never came
Personally, a million credits isn't enough. What does that
buy these days? Maybe a really nice car or a third hand time
Not even enough creds to buy your own house.
I could understand someone being tempted to do the trip once
or twice, but 12 TIMES! Time travellers are not the only
crazy people about!
Enough of this banter. I've digressed enough for the time
being. It's time to get back to the main story.
"The woman who's mucked up your life is you?"
"Well I've time to kill. Tell me your story." I joined him on
his side of the bar, opened an extra large bag of Dodo
flavoured crisps and pulled over a stool.
"Time to kill. How appropriate." So saying, he took
another mouthful of Scotch and began to talk.
"It was 1985. I had been making a living for sometime as
Nothing big, you understand. Not the football pools or
anything like that.
Just small bets spread throughout two dozen betting shops.
I'd jump forwards a week, buy a paper with the racing results,
jump back and put the bets on. Now and then I'd lose sizeable
bets deliberately so no one would get suspicious.
I'm led to believe that the time police monitor all
famous gamblers, so I'd get different trustees most times to put
on each bet for a part of the winnings.
I had to be very careful. All it would take was one mention of
my amazing luck in a newspaper and the time police would be
down on me like a ton of bricks.
That never happened. Never get greedy, that's the secret.
Life was as perfect as it could be. Good food, everything
I wanted - including enough money to pursue my scientific
interests. The only thing that was missing was the love of a good
woman. That was not really missing because I didn't need anyone
else in my life.
Or so I thought.
It was a Saturday when she walked into my life. It was the
Grand National. I had just personally put a hundred and fifty
pounds on the nose of Last Suspect. With a name like that, I
would have bet on it anyway. On the way out of the betting
office, I bumped into her.
"Sorry!" I started.
"Oh, there you are. Thought I'd gotten the wrong place."
Her voice was high pitched but rough, as if she had a sore
throat. I started to tell her that she must have mistaken me
for someone else when I was bewitched by her smile.
It was a case of love at first sight. She was not what you'd
call a looker but to me she was an angel.
A love so strong out of the blue like that was frightening.
Bam! It was like a firework exploding inside me. A wibbly
wobbly feeling under the ribs and a coldness of the skin as
blood drained suddenly from the extremities. A fluttering pain in
the stomach. A lightness in the head.
From the beginning, everything was strange about her. I felt
as if I'd known her all my life. Her plain curveless body excited
me with an intensity that I would previously have found
impossible to believe could exist in our ephemeral sphere of
Her legs incased in sheer black nylon were lumpy and too
muscly. A small swell of a bosom and a manly square jaw. Her
short, dark hair was sexless and her skin had that roughness
that only those who have had a lifetime out of doors can acquire.
There was a vigour and strength about her that emanated from
her totally feminine smile. When she smiled, she smiled not only
with her entire body but with her soul. A soul that reached out
of the one part of her body that could be conventionally
called sensual. Her eyes. Blue flecked, grey pools of tangible
I fell into those pools and came out of the other side a
weaker man full of an arousal that must surely have been sent
straight with a blessing from Satan's dark loins.
Why I felt this way about this stranger froze me to the very
core of my marrow with terror. Yet, there was a bitter
sweetness to the terror that complemented the very fabric of
this sudden and total devotion.
One thing only softened the fear. Her reaction to me was the
same as mine to her. Hot and passionate, our bodies came
together like lovers that had been long parted. We kissed
long and hard before coming down to earth with a sharp jolt.
"Eer, you's should be ashamed. Behaving like that in public.
Yide think you were teenagers!"
It was an old woman clutching a betting slip. She pushed past
us and out into the quite coolness of the street. Laughingly, we
followed hand in hand, soul in soul, behind her.
That week became an awakening dream that hurt to remember.
A single long explosion of primitive orgasm. An intercourse of
souls. Two sweating, straining, intertwined creatures of
pure sexual instinct. A single organism agape in its
obsession. Needing. Demanding. Burning. Eating. Hurting. A
passion of infinite depth. A fiery universe of lust.
And then, with a strange suddenness, the madness was over.
The talking began.
As the story unfolded, the intensive fear came back. It
deepened and slowly turned into disgust and hate.
She was also a time traveller. More precisely, we were both
the same time traveller. She was me. I was her. We were one and
the same person.
I had been born with the XX chromosomes of a woman. The
hormones of my body were all wrong. I never grew facial hair and
my voice never broke. These things never bothered me. I was a man
who never cared for body things.
Some time in the future, in a far off century, a drug was
created that would develop the sexual body of an individual
to the pattern contained in the genetic structure of the
No more would there be unhappy macho women with muscles and
a moustache. No more men with smooth, shapely legs and feminine
graces. The individual was free to develop their real self in a
physical way that had never been possible before. A lot of
sad people had been freed. I was not one of those sad people.
I was from a century that knew little about chromosomes. She
only came looking for me to warn me.
Sometime in the near future, I would commit the
unforgivable crime of murder and go on the run through time.
Taking the chromosome corrector was just an extreme method of
disguising myself from the time police. Time is a one way
street, but crime is still crime. Murder is still murder.
She came back for me with the impossible idea of changing time
so that the murder would never happen.
It was unfortunate, but inevitable, that we would fall in
love. Mankind's animal herd instincts make us search for those
most like us to breed with. Who is more instinctively and
hormonal suitable than a sexually opposite exact copy of one's
Exact fitting chemical pheromones provide the strongest
of aphrodisiacs. An instinctively perfect understanding of
each others body language and sexual desires are a time bomb.
Animal lust can be the only outcome.
I felt so angry. So dirty.
In the society in which I was brought up, the worse thing
that one could do was to be caught touching one's self in a
sexual way. I had sex with a female version of myself. What
had occurred was an incestuous, masturbatory, homosexual act of
obscenity! It was a crime of morality that could not be forgiven.
How could she do such a thing to me?
The truth brought me to the edge of madness and over into the
red cloud of rage.
When the mists of hate had cleared, I was standing over her
body holding the handle of my old revolver. Blue sulphurous
smoke drifted from the barrel and my ears rang with the
deafening silence that followed the penetration of another
human being by two killing projectiles.
Two almost black holes in her side leaked her life away
into scarlet pools of betrayal and waste. There was
movement in those sexual eyes. A question unanswerable.
Then nothing. That fragile spark, that we call life, was gone
for good. She didn't live there any more. Oh, my God! What had
I done? I had killed her!
I had killed my self?
With my gun still smoking, I ran from that place. Must go
into time and.....what?
I set the time machine adrift without any coordinates and
drifted into a morbid flux of despair. A long time later, I
became aware that the time machine had stopped.
I got out and found my self outside of what appeared to be
a drinking establishment and wandered inside."
He finished the tale, took a long slug from the bottle
and suddenly began to sob uncontrollably. He slumped across the
bar. The bottle was knocked over. Most of the remains
spilled out before I snatched it up.
"What am I to do? What am I to do?" He said quietly over and
He was lucky to be alive. Every so often, a time machine
with unset coordinates turns up here at the edge of time
and space. Sometimes, the occupants are dead from starvation
or dehydration. Some, the luckier ones, end up in here in the
"Have another drink," I said, putting the bottle back down
I went into the back room and called the time pigs. Like the
man said, murder is still murder. When I got back he was just
finishing of the final remains of the bottle.
"The worst of it is, I can't stop it. Its going to happen
again. This time I'll be the one who gets killed. And then
It'll happen again, and again and again! Round and round in time
until the killing time comes around again!"
He took a pocket watch out of a coat pocket and put it on
"Here. Payment for the drink. I must go back and try and stop
it before the cycle gets properly started."
He left in a hurry. I didn't try to stop him. Video cameras
by the doors take pictures of everybody who comes in or out.
The time pigs would get him unless he did something drastic,
like disguising himself by changing his sex or hiding out
close to the scene of the crime.
I had a look at the watch.
Just as I expected. Crappy Victorian junk! I threw it straight
in the bin. I wouldn't see him again, at least, not in this
Like I said, time travellers are crazy mixed up people!
Just then, one of the far doors was kicked open and a noisy
group of bright green feathered Arcturan army conscripts breezed
nosily into the Tavern. They would be itching to spend their
monthly pay checks. There would be many more arriving after that
It was time to call up some more bar staff.
"Good day gents! What's your poison?"
(c) Bryan H. Joyce 26/7/91
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.