Carol pursed her lips and walked around me slowly, looking at every detail. That was her job, but it always made me uncomfortable.
“The shoes are right. Ugly, but right. The pants… a little tight in the ass.” She patted one butt cheek. “No worries.” She smiled evilly. “You won’t be there long enough for anyone to notice.” She pawed my hair. “It should be shorter, and where’s the hat? The well-dressed man always wore a Fedora.”
“Forgot it in my apartment. Sorry.”
“That won’t do. Sloppy, Mars. Sloppy.” She finished circling and tapped the com wrapped around her wrist. “Someone go to Mars’s place and fetch the Fedora–” She glanced up. “Where is it?”
“Table by the door.”
She relayed the location and returned to studying me, weight on one hip, tapping a long red fingernail against her teeth. “It’s winter where you’re going, and it’ll be cold. Not that it will matter much. In and out.” She pointed at the chairs. “Sit. Final run-through.”
It was warm in the anteroom; the time inversion machine put out a lot of heat. I removed my suit jacket.
Carol squawked instantly. “What the hell! That tattoo… no. Only the worst kind of ruffian sketched on their skin in 1943. You’ll have to stop by Cosmetic and have it covered for the trip.” She consulted her paperwork. “Why wasn’t that mentioned? Mistakes like that can jeopardize the entire project.” Glancing at the time, she made an impatient sound. “They’ll have to come here.” She tapped her com again.
Embarrassed, I sat, crossed one leg over the other knee, and gripped the ankle with one hand. Within minutes, a thin young man with a protruding Adam’s apple appeared, swinging a box of tools from one slender hand. Carol told him what was required, and my tattoo vanished under a layer of fake skin that would remain in place until I returned.
When we were alone again, she said, “You’ll have six hours. Go to the address we’ve given you. Find the bomb and fix it. Three people were involved in this plot, and somehow they didn’t get it right. Idiots. They would have saved the world a lot of grief and ended the war that much earlier if they had.”
“You want it to go off,” I said. We’d been over this again and again.
She nodded. “Think of all the people you’ll save.”
Someone rushed in with my hat. Carol set it on my head. “You look handsome.”
I put on the suit jacket and faced her. “I’m ready.” There was a chance I would die. I was prepared for that.
She smiled, and I noticed a smear of lipstick on her upper teeth. “Go, then. Kill him. When you return… a party.”
Hitler died in an explosion on March 21, 1943. It changed everything.
I never made it back.
Word count: 493
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