Davey arrived back at his apartment a little after four PM. His girlfriend Louise was sitting on the couch watching a crappy daytime soap. She looked up as he walked into the living room. 'You're home early.'
'I was going to say the same thing to you. Everything ok at work?'
'Fine, yes. Everything's fine.' She walked round the sofa, picking up the remote control on the way and turning the volume down. 'In fact, I'm really fine.'
She was grinning, and now Davey was nervous. She had a slightly wild look about her.
'I've got something to tell you.' She took another step towards him, a trepidatious one.
'You're pregnant aren't you?'
She threw her hands up, exasperated to have been so transparent. 'How did you guess? I was feeling a little nauseous so I came home and I picked up a testing kit on the way and... How did you guess?'
And Davey let the whole thing run through his head. He intellectualised it. Funny. He had always expected a revelation like that to have more of an impact.
'You don't seem very thrilled,' she said.
And then it started to sink in. A baby. My son, or daughter. Our child. These words. No longer the reserve of other people. He grinned and put his arms around her. 'Are you kidding, it's fantastic! I'm just a little overwhelmed that's all.'
'Can I see the test?'
She reciprocated in his hug. 'Of course. I'm so glad. This wasn't how I expected it to go though.'
He hugged her harder. 'Nothing ever does go quite to plan does it?'
She was silent a moment before she said, 'We're going to have a baby.'
He found himself smiling a smile he couldn't stifle. It was the manifestation of his growing excitement. 'I can't stop sm...'
From the bedroom he heard a loud bang, as though someone had kicked a football against the window. They both jumped, and pulled apart from their embrace. 'What the hell was that?'
Davey rushed to the hall and down towards the bedroom, with Louise following close behind. When they arrived they saw a small box, on the floor, leaning against the wardrobe.
'How did that get there?' said Louise, tucking her long brown hair behind her ears, stepping into the room and crouching to get a closer look.
Davey touched her shoulder. 'Don't touch it babe. I know how it got there.’
So Davey had called Archer and Geek back to the test shack. It was past seven o'clock in the evening and the rainy clouds were draining the last light out of a sky that should be brighter.
'Told you I was a resourceful fella,' said Davey, smiling, as he tossed another temporal souvenir onto the workbench.
Geek picked it up. 'Does this mean you'll have to get yourself a job there? To make this work.' He examined it in the light.
Davey nodded, producing a piece of paper from his back pocket. A newspaper article. 'This came with it.'
Geek took the paper and unfolded it. The newspaper cutting was from a classified section, but the cutting did not reveal the date or name of the paper. Ringed in biro, was an advert for a janitor's position at the London West Water Treatment Works.
Archer leaned his head in and looked at the picture of Davey, staring out from the laminated badge on the workbench. 'Somehow I don't think it's a fake. And besides, there's the job advert. Davey, I think you need to apply for it.'
'But why should I? We already have the access pass? Why should I apply for the job?'
Geek shook his head, 'I'm not even going down that "causality" road. Let's hope that access badge works in this dimension.'
Davey looked nervous, he knew that it was up to him to use the pass, and do the deed. 'If it was sent to us, then it's bound to work. These things always work, don't they?'
Archer didn't reply. Neither did Geek.
'Don't they?' Davey repeated.
Geek rubbed his hands together. 'So now we have all the tools. Kindly sent back to us by well-meaning versions of us and others from future dimensions. We've been given a task. We don't know what it achieves. But we'll do it, because we believe that closing Darken Loops are a good thing, right?'
Archer nodded, perhaps not totally convinced by Geek’s pep talk. But that was all Geek seemed to want to say on the matter. Although he needed reassurance, it was ultimately up to Archer.
'Let's do it.'
Davey parked in a deserted lay-by some way down the road from the London West Water Treatment Works; the pumping station that served the prison two kilometres away. He took a deep breath in the silent car before fishing the badge out of his jacket pocket. Looking at it, he contemplated what he knew, and what he didn't know.
Someone had sent him an access pass. It was probably himself, or another version of himself, who had used goggles and rips to get it into his hands. The pass would have come from the future, and probably from a different dimension. But the likelihood was that it would work, as very little was left to chance when it came to closing Darken Loops, or so the Axiom Few believed.
Then there was the job advert, which could only mean that the company hadn't yet taken him on as an employee, because the intention had been for Davey to apply, in order to obtain the pass that would later get sent back in order for him to gain access.
Another loop. Another maddening loop.
He drummed his hands nervously on the steering wheel. The access pass may operate the doors, but if he bumped into someone, a particularly vigilant security guard perhaps, he could be caught, arrested even, and questioned. And even though he had a pass, he still had no right to be there. Cameras were likely to pick him up. The only hope was that his deed will be recognised as a good one when it's understood that he's saving lives.
He looked out at the silent street ahead, waiting for the evening shutdown to kick in, where non-essential streetlights were extinguished to lighten the load on the grid. He was still worried about being spotted. If only Geek could invent a suit that would make him invisible. Some sort of light-distortion jacket. Then he could walk right in there, get the job done, and walk straight out with no fear of being seen. It was a good idea. Perhaps he would suggest it to Geek when he next saw him. That was, if he didn't wind up in the very same prison he was trying to decontaminate.
The streetlights blinked off. Time to go.
He picked up the metal case that lay on the seat beside him, opened the car door, and stepped out into the icy November night.
'Something's puzzling me,' said Geek, drumming his fingers on his kitchen table. He and Archer had been there for over an hour, and Geek's bum was hurting, but he was too nervous to care. On the table sat two empty tea mugs, a take away pizza box with one slice left in it (Archer called this the "polite slice"), and two mobile phones.
'Something not fit?'
Geek nodded slowly, mulling something over in his head. 'Yeah. Something about my Dad's letter. Something about my postman's reaction.'
'When he came back to deliver the parcel from Techipre Components.'
'What did he do?'
'Nothing really. He said it didn't require a signature, then went down the steps, but it's just the way he shook his head as he walked away, like he thought I was being an idiot. Why would he think that?'
'You're being paranoid. You're definitely not an idiot. You'd beat him in a pub quiz anytime.'
'Yeah, you're probably right. Like you said, I'm just being paranoid.'
Davey swiped the badge through the security panel. It was a rear entrance so the door only opened to reveal a deserted, dimly lit corridor. Davey entered and looked down at his mobile phone. Geek had uploaded a ZoomSurface schematic of the Water Treatment Works. The dynamic image linked to GPS to provide his position and projected path to the pump room, where he would introduce the contents of the syringes.
Heart racing, ears tuned and listening for footsteps, eyes peeled for cameras, he started to make his way along the corridor.
'What the hell am I doing?' he whispered to himself, 'I must be bloody mad.'
'I hope he's ok,' Archer said in a low, contemplative voice. 'I guess no news is good news right?'
'I doubt it. No news means his phone has been confiscated and he's in a police cell.'
'Thanks for that vote of confidence in the plan.'
'He's risking a lot for us here,' said Geek. 'Risking a lot for the cause of something we know nothing about. Quite bold wouldn't you say?'
Archer was twirling his phone around on the table. 'Yeah, you're right. I'm not sure if I'd have the stones to do what he's doing.'
'Especially as he's going to be a Dad and that.'
Archer's hand slipped and his phone spun off the table, clattering to the floor. 'A Dad?'
Geek smiled thinly, his sideways glance betraying his nervous anticipation of this announcement, 'Yeah, he knew you might not like finding out, what with your history with Louise, so he err... he asked me to tell you.'
Archer sat back, deflated, 'Oh great. Now you're... you don't need to tread on bloody eggsh...'
The mobile phone on the floor started to buzz on the linoleum. Archer sighed and bent to pick it up. He pressed the Speaker button.
'I'm back in the car,' said Davey's voice at the other end. 'I'm coming to you. It's done. Nobody saw me.'