Preview of “The Opera of Machines”

According to the rules, Tomorrow News Network employees are not allowed to change history.  But time traveling journalist Talie Tappler doesn’t always play by the rules.  She is prepared to risk her whole career so that a great musician can finish an unfinished opera.  Her cyborg cameraman, Mr. Cognis, is the only one who can stop her.

Here is a preview from “The Opera of Machines.”  The full story will be posted on April 16th.

 * * *

Once inside, Cognis made his way to the newsroom, the pulsing heart of the Tomorrow News Network.  Full of sleek, aluminum desks and computers, lit by pure tungsten light and the glow of approximately 900 holographic viewlink screens, the newsroom utilized the most advanced technology in the known universe.  Yet surrounding this high-tech facade were other machines, far older, tucked in shadows, built into walls, hidden in the darkest corners–cogs and gears, wheels and pendulums–keeping track of time in ways only ancient technology could.  Quietly, the giant clockwork turned, following the backward and forward journeys of time travelers, compensating for them so that as history shifted the newsroom remained unchanged.

Writers and producers bustled about, checking sources and typing scripts while technicians edited video.  A reporter and cameraman vanished in a burst of light, rushing off to cover a story in the past.  They returned an instant later, their work complete.

Cognis turned when heard the distinctive clicking of high heels.  Talie Tappler arrived a moment later, her skirt swishing around her long legs.  “Mr. Cognis,” she said, “we are in a hurry.”

“Mr. Cognis!” Macnera cried.  She ran across the newsroom, the joints in her legs buzzing and whirring, her pace out of alignment with her normal, steady gate.

“Cognis,” she said, staring at her feet.  “My dear, sweet Cognis.  I love you.”

A quick glance confirmed all the switches on her arm were in the off position.  Something was wrong, but before Cognis could say so Macnera flung her arms around him and pressed her lips to his.  The kiss proceeded so randomly, so unpredictably that it alarmed Cognis’s electronic mind.

Macnera pushed herself away.  “I’m sorry,” she said, moisture gathering under her biological eye.  “I must have overdone it.”

The whole newsroom had stopped.  Hundreds of journalists–members of species from all over the universe–watched Macnera run off toward the maintenance department.  Talie leaned against a desk, her arms folded across her chest.  Her golden hair partly obscured her expression, but Cognis recognized it anyway.  It was the one that meant she knew something he didn’t.

“What?” he inquired.

“You’re blushing,” she said.

Cognis checked.  “My heart rate and blood pressure are within normal parameters.”

Talie smirked.  “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the maintenance department too?”

“I am functioning normally.”

“Maybe you should show her how well you’re functioning,” Talie said, heading toward the spiral stairs leading to the News Director’s office.  Following her, Cognis observed Talie checking her pocket watch.

“I apologize,” he said.  “I’ve made you late.”

“I’m never late,” Talie said, twisting the dial on her watch.  The world around them swirled in impossible colors then settled ten minutes earlier.  Talie glided through time without the slightest disorientation.  She had natural talent.  Cognis, on the other hand, felt out of sync whenever he time traveled.  His cybernetic brain depended too much on the constant durations of hours, minutes, and seconds.

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