The Cutting Room: A Time Travel Thriller
while. There's a rotation of sorts and there isn't always a lot of work to go around.
    But five days after my return to work, a red light winked in the upper right corner of my sim. I shut down and blinked at the real world.
    Mara poked her head through my door. "Want something new?"
    "Where am I going?"
    "'We.' Not you and me, mind. But the plural of 'you.'"
    I raised my eyebrows. "Partner work? Is it that serious?"
    She gave me a funny smile. "Better not be. I'm hoping to break her in easy."
    I didn't like that as much, but I'd never turned down an assignment. I stood. "Where to?"
    "Does it matter?"
    I grinned back. I was ready to return.
    Or so I thought. It's a bitter irony that I protect the futures of others, but have no hint of what's to come for myself. My eagerness to do my duty was about to destroy me. Within days, I would find myself hopelessly enmeshed in a conspiracy that spanned worlds and centuries. Ironically, it's a story six-year-old Stephen Jaso would have loved to tell to his classmates.
    Because my fate isn't in Primetime. It's in the past. I'm so far gone that humans don't exist yet—but dinosaurs do.
    And they are hunting me.

II
    Brownville looked like a city people got killed in. Tires sliced rainbow-slick puddles. Neon shimmered from skyscrapers like glass razors. Rain pounded from the sky, driving people down the gum-spotted sidewalks, holding their hands over their heads, fending off the anger of the gods. Brownville wasn't a city we had in Primetime, but we'd once had cities like it, and they hadn't been good ones.
    "When does Haltur die?" Vette said.
    I didn't move from the hotel window. "Seven days. Murders of non-public figures, we almost always get seven days to find out who's going to do it."
    "What about for public figures?"
    "Depends how public they are."
    "A president?"
    I turned, searching my new partner's expression. The sunlight cutting through the blinds cast her young skin in bright planes and hard shadows. I didn't see any sign of a tease in her green eyes. "How was your training?"
    She gave a nervous little laugh. "Are you asking if the CR sent me back to another world with no training?"
    "Have you been adequately trained?"
    "How is one 'adequately' trained to travel back in time to other dimensions and stop other dimension-hopping time travelers from committing crimes they haven't yet done?"
    "Thoroughly," I said.
    "No shit," Vette laughed. She sat on the bed and grabbed her tablet from its case on the nightstand. "I've been through all the classes. Spent the last six months in sims. But I assume once you hit the real thing, all that training goes out the window."
    "More or less."
    "So?"
    I closed the drapes. "Learn as you go. That's why you're here with me."
    "Okay," she said. "So why's it called the Cutting Room?"
    I examined her again. Still no indication she was kidding. "First steps will be just like the sims. I want you to run down the victim on every corner of the net. I'm going to go scoop up some bugs. This is a high-surveillance era. May as well let the gear do our work for us."
    "Can I come with?"
    "Minimize disruptions to the timeline at all points in the mission." Quoting scripture. I pulled out my tablet to check whether the CR slush fund had filled up my account. It had. I stood. "The faster we start pulling intel, the more likely we save his life. I'll critique your technique when I get back."
    She glared at the glossy screen of her tablet. "Sounds like a blast."
    I stepped into the quiet hall. The carpet was a tasteful pattern but it was so old a rut of grime had been worn down its center. The elevator was old school, polished brass and paneled oak, but descended with such subtlety I couldn't tell I was moving.
    Outside, the rain seemed to make the streets even dirtier. Cars sloshed by, driven by human pilots. No matter how many times I saw it, or drove one myself, that always creeped me out; one phone call, one glance at a woman on the sidewalk, and that car

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