It’s 2024. At the beginning of January, the state of Ohio in the United States of America had 56 current death row inmates on it’s books. By the end of March, 54 of them had been executed. 2 remained and plans were in place to schedule the next two injections in the following weeks.
Amongst these dry, white-painted walls of the highly guarded secure ground floor of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, something inhumane, corrupt and absolutely incredible was quietly happening. Something which would preserve the lives of the majority of the worlds population without them ever having any hint of an idea.
“54 of the bastards and nothing to show for it! Why would I come down there for that?!” spat Angela Kellerman. She slammed the phone down in a rage. She slumped back into her personalised ergo-tech chair, her body moulded into it after many a-night spent consuming awful coffee, eating vending machine sandwiches and working early into the morning. She counted to ten. Kellerman was tense, the counting took her blood pressure down from critical to barely healthy and she had a fleeting thought to meditate but knew she didn’t have the time. One day.
Kellerman was chief commanding officer of the US Government’s Department of Future Events. The DFE was a clandestine branch of the US Government whose objective was to investigate and prevent large catastrophic events or crimes from taking place. Kellerman’s performance was judged, by the President of the United States, on her ability to prevent large scale events from taking place before they happened. It seemed an impossible objective to ever meet.
The Department was established after the Long Valley Eruption (LVE) in 2021, where millions of American lives were tragically lost and many millions more were changed forever. LVE had been predicted for years by scientists, thousands had marched outside the gates of White House. No-one listened. When all was said and done the state of California was no more. A President was impeached and life as an American was brought to a standstill for years. It was only in the last year or so that life had begun to move on. For Kellerman, LVE had turned itself from an international tragedy into a job opportunity. Even more than that it provided an opportunity for this 36 year old Government agent to put into action a lifetime of work and theory.
Kellerman had thousands of staff working at the DFE. Thousands of staff working day to day to prevent crimes from taking place all across the 51 states. By this point most terror related groups were cyber based, so Kellerman had the greatest minds in America and beyond working for the DFE to prevent hackers, cybercriminals and black hat organisations from breaking down firewalls of the biggest organisations in the nation. However, it was one covert taskforce, based in Ohio which was causing the hypertension for Kellerman.
As a teen Kellerman had always loved the idea of time travel. When she was 13 her Mom had pulled out her old box of DVD’s (Digital Versatile Disc – a digital storage format used to watch movies and television shows in the 2000’s) from the garage and showed Angela her favourite movie. Young Angela was entranced, it only got better when her Mom told her there were two more! From there she read and watched everything time travel related she could get her hands on. Stephen Kings 11/22/63 was her personal favourite – she still tried to read it every year as a reminder to herself of her childhood. Movies like Avengers Endgame, X-Men Days of Future Past, The Butterfly Effect, and Minority Report fed her insatiable appetite to consume everything she could about fictional time travel.
Fiction turned to fact when she became a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) studying physical sciences and science in the modern world. From there, as is experienced by most young adults attempting to live their dream, the realities of life called and Angela found herself working for the US Government in a multitude of consultancy roles concerning sciences and the law. Fate had her brought her to where she was now, in her office in Washington in her ergo-tech chair cursing at the telephone and unsuccessfully attempting to practice mindfulness techniques.
She took a deep breath and picked up the phone again, punching in the number 5 “Jane, I’m going to Ohio. No, now. Can you make the arrangements? Thanks.” she closed her eyes, took another deep breath and got up from her chair to make her way towards her office door.
The private jet touched down at Akron-Canton Regional Airport 3 hours later into the sticky, wet night and a blacked out SUV took Kellerman directly to a discrete Government-owned luxury cabin, just outside Lucasville. A meeting was scheduled the following morning between Kellerman and her task force.
The feeling in the room was tense. Kellerman sat, with her folders opened in front of her, staring at the two men across from her. “We have two left gentlemen, two.” she said, leaving the obvious question unasked. The more intelligent of the two, Watson, said nothing but smiled. The other one, Pendergast who was the more industrious man cleared his breath and began. “Angela, number 54 came back yesterday.”
“The fuck?” she muttered under her breath. Composing herself, she sat up. “What do you mean came back? he came back to life? the procedure didn’t take?” She was getting animated now “Pendergast, what in the fuck do you mean he came back?”
Watsons smile got bigger “he came back Angela!” he said with a giant grin, “HE. CAME. BACK.”.
They marched out the meeting room and through a number of secure doors accessed only by a small number of authorised staff. After what seemed like a trek to Mordor and back of walking, they came to their destination. Angela walked into a long quiet corridor of single cells. Only three were occupied but there were enough cells within this facility here for over 100 death row inmates. It was deathly quiet. The cells had no windows and were securely sealed the outside by three state of the art mechanical and digital locks. “This one” said Watson. He ushered Kellerman forward and pushed a button next to the cell door. On pushing the button the contents of the cell became visible as the door became transparent. In it stood a very animated man, pressed directly up against the other side of the door shouting and screaming like his life depended on it. He was 6 foot 2, shaven headed with tattoo sleeves. He also had what Angela strangely thought was a kind, genuine face. “What’s he saying?” she asked Watson. He punched another button on the wall and the sound became audible.
“COME ON!! LET ME TALK TO SOMEONE!!! YOU GOTTA LET ME TALK TO SOMEONE” “IS ANYONE THERE?” “I GOTTA KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON!!” “THE WORLD IS GOING TO SHIT AND I’M STUCK HERE IN THIS DAMN ROOM!!” “LET ME FIGHT, I CAN HELP!! The man went on like this until Watson punched both buttons again and turned back to Kellerman. “You won’t believe what he said he saw”.
Angela Kellerman sat up straight at the table with her heart racing and her body almost visibly trembling, staring directly into the eyes of a convicted multiple murderer. Watson sat to her right with his D-pad in front of him ready to assess the murderer’s vitals as he spoke. Pendergast sat to her left. “Begin recording” he said aloud and then nodded at Kellerman. “DRI 5154, firstly, please let me advise you that anything you say here is completely confidential and secure, we are recording this conversation for our own research and historical records.” “Secondly, whatever happened to you” she paused and looked up at the sky then back at the inmate “let me tell you that I 100% believe you.” “You were sentenced to death for two heinous murders of two innocent people but you have now been punished for those crimes.” Her tone now slipped from familiar to firm. “However be aware, DRI 5154, that you remain the property of the US Government until such time as we deem it appropriate for you to no longer remain so, do you understand?”
DRI 5154 smirked and nodded back at her, not giving away any emotion. He had been this way since they had digitally sedated him in his cell and transported him to this cold, nondescript interview room. He was handcuffed around the legs and arms and was held in his seat by the threat of the collar around his neck. One false move or comment and the sedation would be injected again. “So what you’re saying is, I do what you tell me or I’m toast, this time for real.”
Kellerman nodded “I’m glad we understand each other. OK, here’s what’s going to happen, I’m going to tell you what happened to you from our side of things, you are then going to tell me what happened to you from your perspective. All I need you to do is be honest. You might not understand what it is that’s happened to you, that’s OK. I just need you to be honest and tell me everything. If you do that, we’ll all be happy campers.”
Kellerman went on to outline that when DRI 5154 had been sat down behind that screen and received the injection from Watson in front of the family of the two brothers he’d executed in cold blood, he’d actually just been given a mild sedation to knock him out. Whilst subdued Watson and Pendergast had wheeled him out of view and transported him to a highly secure room that only they had access to. For the 54th time that year, they had each started up their computers, wirelessly connected their computers directly to the chip implanted under the inmates skin and simultaneously run their self-developed programmes. Nothing had happened. This wasn’t unusual to Pendergast and Watson, that is exactly what had happened the previous 53 times. However, each time previously the inmates vitals had dropped to zero and their heart had given out. DRI 5154’s vitals were steady, he was, unbelievably, visibly still breathing. Then, in a matter of seconds during which a stunned Pendergast and Watson had failed to take a breath, DRI 5146 had opened his eyes.
The inmate had sat quietly and listened to Kellerman’s story, once again he had refrained from showing any emotion. That was right up until that final detail. “Did you say seconds?” he asked looking confused. “14.2 to be exact” Watson answered. “from initiation of the DRIPS programme until you opened your eyes, 14.2 seconds”. “OK….” he said, attempting to understand “…..drips?” asked the inmate, clearly confused. “Death Row Inmate Preventative Software” answered Pendergast.
“OK” answered the inmate. “Here’s my version of events”.
DRI 5154 was Tyler Reynolds. Reynolds was a former marine who had served his final year proudly and quietly before being honourably discharged. On the night he had committed the crimes which had resulted in him ending up on death row he had been in a restaurant with his wife, friends and wider family, celebrating his new civilian status. Reynolds had looked at the wrong guy the wrong way at the bar, making eye contact that bit too long and that’s where things had went south. Two brothers, both drunk and full of their own hubris had taken it upon themselves to wait for Reynolds and take him down a peg or two. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t have the wherewithal to read the situation correctly. This happy, smiling 6’2 man was actually a trained killing machine and if provoked had the tools to end their lives. Unfortunately that was precisely what happened when both brothers set upon him with knives as the Reynolds family and friends left the restaurant. The former marine was left covered in blood, but not his own.
The subsequent trial was hell and Reynolds was ultimately sentenced to death. Those who knew him knew he was innocent but in the age of social media and microwaveable 24 hour news cycles it’s not the truth that sentences a man anymore, it’s the stories that are put out there in the minds of the people scrolling through their screens whilst walking out into traffic or driving on the highway to work everyday. There was no doubt the jury were going to find him guilty, the left-wing media had a field day with Reynolds’ past, dragging him and his family through the mud over his involvement in various wars and secret government operations. Reynolds was a square peg in the round hole of the world where everyone was seemingly desperate to be outraged at the drop of a hat, let alone a military operation.
On the day of his execution Reynolds remembered being wheeled out in front of the family. He remembered he felt proud as he sat there. Not proud for what he had done to those two young men, but proud of his life. He had a wonderful wife who he loved dearly and before the incident they had a great life together. He’d proudly served his country doing what he felt had to be done to ensure his country remained free, that meant alot to him. He remembered looking at Pendergast and Watson and remember thinking how emotionless they looked to be wheeling a man away to his death. Just another day at the office for them he had remembered thinking and had bizarrely chuckled to himself about it.
However, the next thing he remembered was absolute pandemonium.
He had found himself standing at a darkly lit bar with barely any space to move, surrounded by bodies. It wasn’t the usual thrum of a Friday evening after-work drinks that had created the crowd though. Every person in this bar was stood with their eyes glued to the large flat screen televisions dotted across the bar walls. No-one spoke. The only noise which could be heard was that of the newscaster.
“This will be a timestamp in history ladies and gentlemen. We have just heard confirmation directly from the White House secretary that President Woodbridge himself gave the order to assassinate the Russian President on US soil. President Yeghozin was confirmed deceased 4pm central time today by a single gunshot to the head. We expect to hear directly from President Woodbridge imminently”
Gasps went up in the bar, murmuring, shrieking, crying, screaming. Every type of reaction was heard throughout the bar, even the odd “woop” and “America!” could be heard.
Reynolds tried to collect his thoughts as best he could, a man in his mid-60’s turned to him, saluted with his piss-coloured light beer and toasted to those around him “well, here’s to what remains of this once great nation”. The bar hushed and the TV was turned to its highest volume again. A tall man in an exquisite suit walked slowly towards a wooden podium. He looked somber and serious. “My fellow Americans” he began “it is with great regret that I stand before our proud nation today. I take the defence of our wonderful nation and the millions of Americans who live in it incredibly seriously. It is with that in mind that at 0700 hours this morning I confirmed an order to Seal team 14 to execute operation Handstrong. The objective of Operation Handstrong was to identify and eliminate enemies who posed an imminent and mortal threat to the United States of America.”
“Any implications of executing Operation Handstrong were of course fully considered and the decision to eliminate the leader of a fellow UN country was not taken lightly. I believe that I owe you, the American public who voted me into this office, an explanation for why this has taken place. Unfortunately I can’t do that.” More cries and gasps went up in the bar. President Woodbridge reached under the podium as he spoke. He fixed the camera with a regretful smile “God bless America, May the lord have mercy on us all…” it was at that point that Reynolds heard a gunshot ring out in the bar. Panic stricken bodies crushed him up against the bar, people screaming and shouting. Reynolds set his feet as wide as he could to prevent himself falling over and braced himself against the bodies. It was pandemonium.
Eventually, the bar cleared and it had become evidently clear that the gunshot hadn’t went off in the bar, but instead on the TV.
President Woodbridge, whoever the fuck he was Reynolds thought, had just committed suicide on live TV , the Russian President had been assassinated on American soil and outside of the bar in the streets of the cities and towns of America, pandemonium would reign for the coming weeks and months to come.
Reynolds paused for the first time since he had began recalling this ordeal, he realised he was sweating profusely and had barely stopped to take a breath. Kellerman stared at him. She looked shellshocked. Not “I can’t believe you forgot to pick up the kid from school” shellshocked more “the sky is falling, aliens are here and Santa is real” shellshocked. “Can I have a minute?” asked a clearly exhausted looking Reynolds. “Of course” said Kellerman, she arranged for some food and drink to be prepared for him then ushered Pendergast and Watson into a separate room. “When was he?!” she demanded. Pendergast and Watson looked at each other then back at Kellerman. “Fuck me” she said.
4 hours had passed since Reynolds had described what he experienced after being “executed” by Pendergast and Watson. He had eaten, then almost immediately fallen asleep in his cell. He was awoken by Kellerman standing in his cell, flanked by Pendergast and Watson. “OK Mr Reynolds, Tyler. We need to have ourselves a serious conversation.” “Tyler?” he replied, “what happened to DRI 5154?” he asked. “Well, Tyler, it seems that you, me and my two colleagues here are in an elite group of 4 people who know that you weren’t executed and instead travelled to a future America and witnessed what sounds like the suicide of a future President following him confessing to the world that he ordered the assassination of the Russian President, on American soil. So. I think first name basis is entirely appropriate, don’t you? I’m Angela” she said as she extended her hand.
It took two days, many delivered pizzas and coffees, a lot of expletive-filled arguments, mainly between Reynolds and Kellerman, and not much sleep for the foursome to agree what they would do. Many options had been on the table including doing absolutely nothing. Ultimately they all agreed there was only one thing they could do: they were going to assassinate the future President of the United States of America in an effort to prevent an almost certain nuclear war with Russia.