I thought I knew everyone who worked for the TPC. I don’t recognize this man at all the head Magistrate thought. “Who are you and what is your business here?
Not knowing how to address the head Magistrate, Ethan thought better safe than sorry. “Your Honor, my name is Ethan Evans.” A low murmur broke out among those witnessing the proceedings. Everyone in the Timeline Preservation Commission knew that name, but few had ever met him.
“I am here to plead on behalf of Ryan Edwards,” he began.
“Your name is not unknown to us. You are from the past. You have no business here in the future.”
“Begging your pardon, but when I was living here previously, I got sick and Ryan saved my life. I can do no less for him."
“I see. You may speak.”
“Thank you, Your Honor.”
“You may address me as Chief Magistrate.”
“Yes, Chief Magistrate. Thank you for allowing me to speak. If it pleases the court…”
“This is a tribunal, not a court,” the Chief Magistrate corrected.
“Yes ma’am. I beg the tribunal’s indulgence. If I may be so bold, have any of you ever been in love; a love so deep and all-encompassing that it becomes the very foundation of your life? That without it and the person you love; you would be nothing? Your life would be meaningless without it?” Ethan noticed that two of the Magistrates nodded. The Chief Magistrate did not.
“After I was sent back to save my life, without Ryan it became unbearable. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t eat. My life fell apart. The pain was so great that more than once I considered ending it.” That statement drew startled gasps from those around him. Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks. “I almost did. The only thing that stopped me was Ryan coming back.” He glanced over at Ryan who was also in tears. It broke Ethan’s heart.
“He was willing to give up the job he loved so much, his family, his friends, everything he knew in order to be with me.” He dropped down on his knees, “I humbly beg this honorable” Duncan snorted at his use of the word ‘honorable’, “tribunal to allow him to come back with me to the past. I’m sure with all of your advanced knowledge and technology that something can be done to prevent any alterations to the timeline.”
“A passionate plea,” the Chief Magistrate admitted, “however, the fact remains that, in going back into the past a dangerous temporal paradox was created.”
“Begging your pardon, Chief Magistrate, but I do know the ramifications of temporal paradoxes. That is one of the first things I learned when I came forward.” Ethan interrupted.
“Nevertheless, the law is very clear. Execution of the offender is the only possible sentence. The fact that Ryan Edwards is a chrononaut with the Timeline Preservation Commission only compounds the offense.”
What is it about him that makes me want to keep from strangling him for all the shit he puts me through? Duncan thought as he took a deep breath, guessing that he was about to have his ass handed to him. “May I address the tribunal?” The Chief Magistrate nodded. “This whole situation is actually our fault. The geographic coordinates for the initial artifact retrieval were unclear at best, and because of this, two of the digits were entered incorrectly, the result of which was Ryan materializing right in front of Ethan.
"Had the coordinates been clear, they would have been entered correctly and this situation would never have happened. Ryan Edwards should not be held responsible for a situation that never should have happened in the first place. If I were in his place I might have done the same thing." Liam chose that moment to enter the chamber. He whispered into Duncan's ear and handed him a sheaf of papers then left.
"Chief Magistrate, I have some documents I would like to present to the tribunal."
With distaste showing very clearly on her face, she told Duncan to present them, condescension very much in evidence in her voice. Duncan began, completely unaffected by the Chief Magistrate's attitude. A man's life was at stake.
"Whenever we get a timeline alteration or paradox alert, the computer automatically takes a screenshot of the temporal and geographic coordinates and prints it out. "It is standard procedure to use this printout to enter the coordinates into the travellator control system. This is the screenshot, and this is the log showing the actual coordinates entered." He handed her both documents. She looked at them, then wordlessly handed them to the other magistrates.
"As you can see, it would be easy to misinterpret the coordinates, especially the temporal ones, and enter them incorrectly." The Chief Magistrate nodded almost imperceptibly. Duncan continued, "This document shows how a timeline alteration was resolved when Ethan and his brother Chris were brought forward. This document shows a timeline alteration when Ryan was apprehended. This document shows that there were no timeline alterations that can be attributed to Ryan being in the past." Duncan handed the documents to the Chief Magistrate who glanced at them briefly before passing them on to the other magistrates.
"Very well. If there is nothing else, this session is closed until we have made our decision." The three magistrates left the room and everyone else returned to their duty stations with the notable exception of Ryan and Ethan. Before everyone left they hugged the two men. Ryan was returned to his cell and Ethan was returned to his own time.
Several hours later Duncan was summoned to the tribunal chambers. Everyone crowded in to the small room where Ryan stood before the tribunal. The Chief Magistrate stood. "This tribunal has made their decision regarding the crime of causing a temporal paradox. The death sentence is hereby" Everyone held their breath waiting to hear the verdict. Ryan looked terrified.