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The Hours (hours_walkthrough.txt)

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Walkthrough for The Hours by Robert Patten

Most things are fairly self-explanatory. A few notes:
Some minor changes, such as descriptions, have been made, but the gameplay is
the same.
The biggest fork in the story is when the player decides to leave Eric in the
Library of Alexandria or save him. (Eric was saved in this walkthrough.) But the
general plot is the same.
Choosing to be a man or woman (with the suit or dress) impacts the game only
slightly, but in noticeable ways. For example, the male PC can make some passes
at Jess, and the female PC can wear the necklace, which could lead to a physical
fight with the Hours VP.
You can abbreviate the names of rooms. For example, you can type BRIEFING
instead of BRIEFING ROOM.
Be careful with the tick you find after the explosion in Maurice's lab.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions for the post-Comp release
(pattenrobert@gmail.com).
Thank you for playing!


>open door
You open the door.

Now that the door is open, look up at the status line (the box at the top of the
screen). Type where you want to go. For example, you would now type VAULT.





>vault
Vault
Shelves at the far end of the room tower above you. This is one of many rooms in
the Library of Alexandria stacked with books. Moonlight slithering from a low
window near the shelves is gulped in shadow. 

"Shut the door, idiot!" Eric yells.

Wheels whir through the inky reaches of the hall.

"Hurry or we're dead," Eric says.





>close door
You slam the door shut. 

Eric grunts and heaves the bar into the place. He whirls on you. 

"Thanks to you, I'm going to die before I'm born."



The Hours
An interactive adventure by Robert Patten
Release 1 / Serial number 110930 / Inform 7 build 6G60 (I6/v6.32 lib 6/12N) 
Testing by Jamie Patten and Tyler Whitworth
Cover art by Tyler Whitworth

Eric lights a cigarette with shaking hands.





>look
Vault
Shelves at the far end of the room tower above you. This is one of many rooms in
the Library of Alexandria stacked with books. Moonlight slithering from a low
window near the shelves is gulped in shadow. 





>window
The only glass in this opening is the moonlight. You see shadows moving through
the garden below. You would be dead before you reached your means of escape. 

The fountain whispers to the dark.

Go ahead and look out the window, for all the good it will do you." Eric
billows smoke through his teeth. "You were supposed to be my lookout, not
my liability!"

You feel ...
1) Defensive
2) Apologetic
3) None of the above
>> 1
"You seriously think I triggered an alarm by playing with the steam
clock?" you say.

"You must have done something," Eric says. "I've been here
five times before and haven't seen a mouse. Even for a newbie, you are an
idiot. What's so hard about snatching a few books?"

The door bursts open.

Steam hisses into the vault, knotting itself into the moonlight.

A shadow partially untangles itself from the swirling darkness. As far as you
can tell, it is a man draped in a toga. He is unarmed and alone. But gears whir
behind him, and you have a sinking, I-just-swallowed-my-stomach feeling.

Your companion slides the cigarette to the corner of his mouth.

"Do nothing," Eric hisses. "I believe this is the
librarian."





>z
Time passes.

Eric greets him in what you suppose to be ancient Greek. The man gives a sullen
response in Latin.

"This is odd," Eric whispers. "Rome has not fully conquered Egypt
yet, and yet this Roman has the honorary post of librarian."

Eric seems to be talking to himself more than you, but the librarian is
irritated by the interruption in an unknown language.

Eric wastes no time in responding in a soothing, apologetic manner.





>z
Time passes.

It doesn't take an expert linguist like Eric to know the librarian is angry
to find you both here.

The librarian makes cutting motions and storms back into the hall.

Eric pales.

"We need a diversion," he says. "That man is intent on killing
--" 

A flash of metal rips through the steam.

Eric drops.




Shadows flood the doorway. The room is filled with the grinding of gears and the
hiss of steam engines. Mechanical soldiers chug toward you, wheels grinding
stone.

You didn't sign up for this!

Eric's cigarette is a little orange star on the floor.

>take cigarette
Taken.

The killer machines inch closer. The shelves are at your back, and the robots
surround you on every other side. They raise their swords as one.





>light books on fire
It happens fast.

You press the cigarette to a scroll, and the dry papyrus bursts into flame. The
second book catches fire before you even toss the cigarette away.

After a few seconds, the entire shelf is crackling. Before you realize
what's happening, flames lick the ceiling. You hear panicked shouting from
garden below.

The mechanical men are frozen in place. The whirling flames let you get a good
glimpse at them now. 

They run on steam, sure, and they move around on chariot wheels -- but you doubt
the Alexandrians were that smart. Plus ...

Their bronze faces look just like yours.





>window
The only glass in this opening is the moonlight. What guards there were are
gone. You can reach your means of escape now. The fountain's singing calls
you -- it means home.

The heat is almost unbearable.





>garden
You swing a leg out of the window, but stop when you feel thin hands grasping
your ankle.

The blood around Eric pulses like lava in the heat. Sweat crisscrosses his
cheeks, lips and chin.

"Please," he manages. "Will you get me ... out of here? I have a
wife and kids ..."

1) Merciful
2) Spiteful
>> 1
You lift Eric from the floor. He screams in pain. You jump out of the window.

The rose bushes at the bottom snap under your weight. You nearly lose your grip
on Eric.
Garden
The shouting and crackling above fade into breeze and silence. This is a place
for solitude, meditation, and in your case, escape.

The roses ringing the fountain sparkle in the moonlight. Beyond the flora, the
pillars on the edge of the garden form crooked shadows.





>x roses
You see nothing special about the roses.





>get in fountain
The water sloshes to your knees. You need to lie down if this is going to work.





>lie down
You lie down, holding Eric to your chest as if he were a child, completely
submerging yourselves. Your tick and Eric's fill the water with white
light.


You are ripped out of time, shooting from one body of water to another.

It's over before you can scream.

Terminal (in the pool)
It seems you were just here -- in fact, you were, after a matter of speaking.
The tick you wear was set to return you to the moment you left.

This is a small room with no doors or windows. A small pool and a tablet
computer on a table are the only features worth noting.



You hoist Eric to the floor. He groans, but does not open his eyes.

You lean on your elbows on the side of the little pool. How are you ever going
to explain this? You're not even sure what happened.





>get out of pool
You drag yourself out of the water. As you do so, you note your tick has
changed.





>x tick
The tick is now a sickly quartz. It needs to be recharged and reprogrammed.





>turn on tablet
The tablet flashes on.

Hours Mission Report System v.8.08:
Legal notice: All questions and answers found herein are strictly confidential
and remain the intellectual property of The Hours Rare Antiques &
Collectibles, Inc. 




Your first name >Robert
Your name is Robert. Is this correct?
y

User name accepted.

Did you complete your mission objective, as given to you by an authorized Hours
manager?
y
Did you or a member of your team encounter any dangerous diseases (e.g.,
smallpox, black/bubonic plagues, aggressive strains of flu, tuberculosis)?
y
Did you or a member of your team sustain serious injuries during the course of
your mission for the Hours?
y
Did any of your team members die during the mission?
y
Have you been given a summary of benefits for our revised 401k plan?
y

Thank you for your cooperation. Please see your supervisor to give a more
in-depth report.

Initializing shutdown.

>z
Time passes.





A panel in the wall slides away, and masked medics rush into the room.

Suddenly, you are the human pincushion. 

"This one's clean," a sterile phantom tells the others before the
hypochondriacs scurry back to their fluorescent caves.

As you rub your aching backside, you vow to never again mark that you were
exposed to disease.

The panel is open.
The medics have taken Eric with them.


>corridor
Corridor
This short passage is identical to others in the Hours facility. You wonder how
a corporation swimming in money and relics could possibly leave its halls
unadorned, but so far you haven't seen a single picture in these offices --
not even a photo of someone's kids. 

A tan door and a gray door are here, and they are both closed. An elevator is at
the end of the corridor.

The panel slides into place behind you, becoming indistinguishable from the
wall.

"What is this?"

Jess rips the tick from your neck.

"You smell like smoke!"

She takes you by the arm and drags you into a nook that curves into the dressing
room.

Dressing Room
You are in a little room with a shower, doorless closet, and a mirror.

A poster hangs on the wall.

"You may leave when you are presentable," Jess says.

She leaves the dressing room, muttering to herself.






>take shower
Dressing Room (in the shower)
First, you tear off your black clothes and throw them into the chute.

You wash the ash and grime from your body. 

You step out of the shower and dry yourself off. You glance at the mirror. The
condensation is almost gone, but you can see traces of "YOU ARE MINE"
on the glass before the letters melt completely.
 




>closet
In the closet are a suit and a dress.

You can only choose one outfit.





>take suit
Taken.





>closet
In the closet is a dress.





>wear suit
You slip into the suit. It feels good to wear something nice for a change,
especially when that something nice is Italian. Yes, the Hours is an
ultra-secretive, semi-legal organization, but it knows how to dress its
employees.

Still, you wish they hadn't taken your street clothes.





>poster


Avoid the Butterfly Effect

From outrunning outlaws in the Old West to being tried by the local inquisition,
working for The Hours Rare Antiques & Collectibles, Inc. carries many risks,
and you are rewarded accordingly.

Chief among these dangers is time travel itself.

Fortunately, you can never erase yourself or other time travelers (i.e., Hours
employees) out of existence -- from the first time you put on a tick and immerse
yourself in the water, you forever exist outside of the natural flow of time.

The bad news: You may innocently disrupt that flow. A botched mission could
result in a severely altered timeline, unnoticed by anyone but you and other
Hours associates. To restate: Your present could be gone. Perhaps there is no
record of your being born. Or your loved ones never existed. Worst of all, you
could come face to face with an alternate self who never time traveled, someone
else who is living your life.

Here are some precautions you must take:
* Avoid interactions with others, regardless of any individual's supposed
historical importance.
* If you are forced into interaction, proceed with the utmost caution and
neutrality.
* You must never take anything that is not listed in your mission objectives. A
great deal of research goes into what you can and cannot take.
* Do not leave any corporate or personal possessions behind.
* All Hours employees on a single mission must return to the present together.

Failure to follow these policies could result in termination and/or company
refusal to repair the altered timeline.




>corridor
Corridor
This short passage is identical to others in the Hours facility. You wonder how
a corporation swimming in money and relics could possibly leave its halls
unadorned, but so far you haven't seen a single picture in these offices --
not even a photo of someone's kids. 

A tan door and a gray door are here, and they are both closed. An elevator is at
the end of the corridor.


You know Jess wants to talk to you, but she wants you to grovel first.





>talk to jess
Jess looks up from her clipboard to sneer at you.

"So what happened? I can't believe that even you would would have
gotten Eric into so much trouble."

1) Furious
2) Sad
3) Romantic
4) None of the above
>> 1
"It wasn't my fault!" you protest. "There were killer robots
--"

She smiles for the first time since you met her, though that's not saying
much -- this is your first day on the job.

"You are a terrible liar. But good liars make great time travelers."
She studies her tablet and frowns. "That is consistent with your report.  I
need to ask my superiors what to do with you in this unusual case."

You wonder if her "superiors" would fire you if you kicked her.

1) Anxious
2) Cheerful
3) None of the above
>> 2
"Hey, it's only my first day," you say. 

"And the Vice President of Temporal Resources will decide if it's your
last," Jess says. "Stay here, Robert."

She scurries through the corridor and vanishes into the elevator.





>open tan door
You open the door.





>briefing room
Briefing Room
The only features in the briefing room are a small table in the center and a map
on one wall.

The tan door is open.

Eric's legs dangle over the side of the table. Medics surround him, moving
around him like ghosts.

He's still bleeding. In fact, it seems that the only thing the Hours medics
have done is connect him to a single IV bag.





>z
Time passes.

Eric's eyes shoot open. His eyes dart around the room like a cornered
rodent's. He stretches his hand toward you. 

His arm locks into place until his eyes roll into his head. Then he goes limp.

The medics' expressions say nothing.

"Our condolences," one says to you as she and another heft Eric into a
body bag.

The bag is zipped and loaded onto the gurney.

The medics wheel Eric out of the room.

"That was faster than I expected," you overhear one say to the other.
"Do you think we can catch the game tonight?"

The elevator dings, and their voices vanish.





>corridor
Corridor
This short passage is identical to others in the Hours facility. You wonder how
a corporation swimming in money and relics could possibly leave its halls
unadorned, but so far you haven't seen a single picture in these offices --
not even a photo of someone's kids. 

A tan door and a gray door are here, and only the tan door is open. An elevator
is at the end of the corridor.

BOOM!


An explosion rattles the corridor.

The gray door now dangles by a hinge.





>lab
Lab
The overhead lights flicker in the smoke, making this room seem more like a
storm cloud than a laboratory. Your eyes get used to it after a moment, though.

A man appears to be stuck under a collapsed table.





>help man
You heave your weight against the table. It screeches against the floor as you
right it.

The man leaps to his feet and disappears into the smoke, coughing. A moment
later, a fan hums. The smoke coils in on itself and dissipates.

The walls are lined with machinery: screens, printers, keyboards, levers,
lasers. The odd thing is, they are all part of a single device.

The simple table in the middle of room and the lone sink seem out of place.

"Well, that was embarrassing," the man says. "But so ... so is
failure!" He pounds his fist on one of the monitors, which beeps back at
him. "I ..."

He suddenly realizes you are here.

"You must be the new guy. Robert, my name is Maurice." He kicks the
tock, which responds this time with a half-dozen error messages. "Of course
it won't work, it won't work ..."





>x screens
Most of the monitors display graphs, equations, and stats, all of which are
meaningless to you. One, however, is in English: "Please indicate time
frame and probable sources of water."

"I have recalibrated everything -- even the printers. But it is impossible,
Robert, impossible to to send a tick into the future! I don't care how
badly the corporate types want robots and lotto tickets -- you cannot travel to
an undefined point in time!" Maurice goes to the faucet and fills a glass.
"I'll show you, and you can tell the suits upstairs what happens. Take
the glass."





>take glass
"Good. You can trust me." He reaches into a half-ripped pocket,
produces a pale tick, sets it on the machine's plate, pulls a few levers,
touches a few buttons, and increases the rate of the print-outs.

"No worries," he says. "I have made hundreds of these."

As the laser lights on the tick brighten, the tick itself darkens to black.
Maurice pulls a lever, and the tock hums off. He grabs the tick, tosses it from
hand to hand in hot potato style, and throws it into the glass.

The tick glows as soon as it plops into the water, and it is gone.





>z
Time passes.

"Traveling into the undefined gives off a great deal of heat and disrupts
molecular cohesion. I can't send a person into the future -- when the tick
arrives, it explodes."

Maurice gestures to the ruins of the door.

"Just like last time ... But how do I know my last experiment was not a
fluke, do you ask?"

(You weren't going to ask, actually.)

"Because I've done it more than once, and I only bring the ticks a
half-minute into the future! In the same place! In this case, in the same glass.
And every time, kablooey!"

Terror drains Maurice's face. "Oh."





>drop glass
You throw the glass. It busts in midair.

The roaring fireball shoots you out of the lab.

Corridor
You slam into a wall and roll onto the floor.

The recent blast was much more destructive than the first. Now an unstable pile
of rubble blocks the entrance to the laboratory.

The tan door is closed.

You lie on your back, panting. Your suit is torn and blackened, and your ears
are ringing.

A tick is here.





>x tick
This tick is black and has no chain. Since this came from Maurice's lab,
you are pretty sure it is set to travel into the future.





>z
Time passes.

The elevator doors open.

Jess emerges. She appears to be coughing and yelling the moment the doors close
behind her, but you can't hear anything but ringing.

After what seems like an hour, she realizes you can't hear a thing.





>z
Time passes.





>z
Time passes.

Jess scowls at you and points to the elevator.





>elevator
For some reason, you are drawn to the tick.





>i
You're wearing a blackened suit.

The explosion has left you deaf -- temporarily, you hope.





>elevator
For some reason, you are drawn to the tick.





>take tick
You pocket the tick when Jess is not looking. It is warm from the explosion.





>elevator
You grasp Jess' arm. She shivers at your touch, but does not move out of
your reach. Still, she practically punches her tablet when you reach the
elevator doors.

Elevator
Like the outside, there are no visible controls inside the elevator.

As soon as the elevator lurches upward, Jess lifts her tablet high. For the
first time, she gives you a genuine smile.

Her tablet comes crashing onto your head. You hear yourself shouting in pain.

"Better?" Jess asks. The smile hasn't left that spider face.

1) Bewildered
2) Furious
3) None of the above
>> 2
You holler in pain. Jess laughs.

"Calm yourself, Robert. 'When in doubt, crush a skull,' is what I
always say. I'm glad it worked, anyway. I am tired of obtaining alternate
body parts for foolish employees, and I hear our medical staff has a tough time
replacing the inner ear."

You don't know what she is talking about, but you don't care.

1) Inquisitive
2) Demanding
3) None of the above
>> 1
The elevator halts for a moment. Then it speeds to the left.

"I just saw my team leader murdered --" you begin.

"Do not insult us," Jess says. "This conversation is over."

The elevator sighs to a halt. The doors open.

You see a lavish room with a view.





>suite
Jess wrinkles her nose. "The Vice President will be with you shortly.
I'd wish you luck, but --"

The elevator doors close behind her.

Suite
Psychedelic music greets you as you step into the lavish suite.

This suite has a velvet couch, a small fridge and a big-screen TV. Someone
probably added the desk as an afterthought.

A large window, tinted on the opposite side, commands a view of the store
below.

A man leaps from the couch at your arrival.

Eric ...
Eric is here, alive and unhurt.

"That Jess is all flowers and sunshine, isn't she? Please sit,
Robert," he says. "I don't know what she told you about me, but I
assure you I'm not the corporate hard-nose she makes me out to be."





>sit 
You must supply a noun.

Eric takes you by the elbow and gently sits you down next to him on the couch.

Suite (on the couch)
Psychedelic music greets you as you step into the lavish suite.

This suite has a velvet couch, a small fridge and a big-screen TV. Someone
probably added the desk as an afterthought.

A large window, tinted on the opposite side, commands a view of the store
below.

Eric glances at what remains of your suit.

"So Maurice has been at it again with the explosions ... I don't know
how many times I've told him to stop shutting off the alarm system." A
grin fractures his rat face. "Well, he hasn't killed himself yet, so I
doubt this time will be different."

1) Amused
2) Unamused
3) None of the above
>> 2
"You shouldn't joke about people dying," you say.

"You're right. Very insensitive." He sighs. "I am horrible
at first impressions."

"First impressions?" you say. "But I know you! I saw you
die!"

Eric stares at you for a moment.

"Oh ... you thought ... no, that's not right. I mean to say, that
wasn't me. Not the right version, anyway --"

He is on his feet again.

"Felicity's necklace!"

He pats his pockets. "Where could I have possibly ...?" He glances at
his watch. "And I have a conference call with some collectors right now!
Robert, I will be back in a few minutes. I seemed to have misplaced my ...
wife's necklace. Could you find it for me? I'd do it myself ... but I
have a date with her in an hour ..."

Eric taps his watch, and the elevator doors open.

"We'll talk ASAP, Robert, really. You would think I wouldn't be
in such a rush, working for a time traveling company, but no ... very
high-profile collectors --"

The doors close behind him.





>x desk
It's an antique -- it doesn't even have drawers.




>get box
Keep looking.





>x vase
Disappointingly, the vase is not ancient Chinese or anything -- just a modern
glass one.

In the vase are a jewelry box, some water, and some roses.





>take box
Your wrist nearly gets stuck -- but the jewelry box ends up dripping in your
hands. The box is heavier than it appears.

Eric must have dropped it when he put the roses in the vase.





>open box
This is quite the box. The necklace did not even get wet.





>x fridge
The fridge is shiny and posh. It is closed.





>open fridge
You open the fridge, revealing chicken.





>eat chicken
You nibble on the fried chicken and gag. Eric says he's married, but only a
bachelor would let chicken get this bad.





>turn on tv
You switch the TV on.





>tune tv to 1
You tune the TV to channel 1.

Channel 1 must be the surveillance channel. The screen is divided into 24
sections, one for each terminal. Time-traveling teams leap into the pools. Light
flashes, and they emerge from the water, most of the time with their packs
bulging with antiquities. On occasion, however, they limp out of the pools in
defeat. Not all the terminals are being used at the moment.





>tune tv to 2
You tune the TV to channel 2.

The TV displays a text-only announcement channel:

Mission Reports

The following is from returning teams using the Hours Mission Report System
v.8.08. These reports have not yet been checked for accuracy.

* Get gilded statue from Hall of Mirrors (Palace of Versailles, 1673):
Successful, at least one team member sick
* Get bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln (Petersen House, 1865): Successful
* Get sampling of documents before they are lost in fire caused by Julius Caesar
(Library of Alexandria, 48 BC): Successful, at least one team member sick, at
least one team member hurt, one team member dead
* Get paper currency from the Tang Dynasty (Chang'an, 678): Failed, two
team members hurt.





>tune tv to 3
You tune the TV to channel 3.

This appears to have been made with a camcorder.

You recognize the setting -- it's this room. The camera is focused on the
elevator.

The doors open, and medics push a gurney into the suite. It bears Eric, who is
motionless.

"Is he dead?" Jess asks off-screen.

Without waiting for an answer, another Eric appears. He practically runs to the
body, nearly tripping on a familiar-looking toga. The fabric is dripping on the
carpet, and Eric's hair gleams with water.

He presses his thumb against one of the limp wrists.

After a moment, the living Eric lets the arm flop to the gurney. His cheeks are
splattered in tears. "I can have my life back."

He wipes his eyes on his sleeve and gives the camera a formal smile.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the The Hours Antiques & Collectibles Board of
Directors, I am pleased to announce that two of the three goals of the
Alexandria mission have been met. My alternate has been neutralized, and
--" he gestures to the dead Eric's pack on the couch -- "we have
the obtained the collector's requested artifacts of Alexandrian
books."

Eric clears his throat. "However, my alternate's partner escaped.
Fortunately, he just got back from Alexandria as well, and I will deal with him
as soon as I dry out. Until then ..."

The video ends here.





>window
This room commands a view of the antique shop far below. Most of the merchandise
there, Eric (the one who's dead) told you, arrives through the usual
channels and is near-worthless compared to the antiques the Hours obtains
through its less orthodox efforts.

Customers browse the aisles of knickknacks, dolls, and half-chewed books,
unaware that this small shop is a front -- or rather, a top -- for the
company's real activities extending 24 levels below the ground.

All those normal-looking people down there would laugh if you told them about
time travel. You would have, if someone mentioned that to you when you turned
your resume into the antiques store last week. All you wanted was a job, any
job.




>z
Time passes.





>z
Time passes.

The elevator dings. Out comes Eric. He holds a cigarette awkwardly between his
fingers.

"I do appreciate that you helped me finding the necklace," he says,
"but I'm afraid I was lying to you about the conference call. There
was a message, but it was not from a collector. Our CEO is determined to enforce
the rules.You did light the Library of Alexandria on fire … now, that was
shortly before Julius Caesar accidentally did so, so the timeline was undamaged
… still … We can't have Hours employees burning buildings every time
they are in a bind. I'm afraid we have to let you go."

1) Resentful
2) Confrontational
3) Submissive
4) None of the above
>> 1
"So you can murder in this company, but if you don't follow the rules,
you get the boot?"

"I see you've been watching my home videos," Eric says. He nods
to the TV, which you left on like an idiot.  "I realize what this may look
like. You have good reason to fear me. To despise me, even. Please allow me to
explain."

Eric strokes one of the flowers

"I was a distinguished linguist. Being a single guy, I could pick up and
move anytime, working for whatever university paid the most. I was at the top of
my career. Then ... the Hours called. At first, I thought the offer to work for
an antiques dealer was a joke, but my recruiter, the Hours CEO himself, was
persuasive.

"My knack for languages, ancient and modern, proved useful on countless
missions. I moved up in rank until I became vice president.

"Three months ago, I got restless and tagged along on a mission to the
England of 1666. Our mission was an easy one: As the Great Fire of London raged,
we were to gather as many abandoned relics as we could in the chaos. All went
well until I heard the screams.

"A little girl was trapped in a burning house, and suddenly, I, the Vice
President of Temporal Affairs, didn't care a whit about the integrity of
the timeline.

Before my teammates could stop me, I rushed into the flames. I nearly suffocated
on my way up the stairs. But I found the girl, clutching a book. She was not
breathing.

"I hurried down the stairs with her in my arms. I broke through the wall of
heat and collapsed on the street.

"When I came to, my team told me the girl was dead. It was all for the
best. The timeline must be preserved.

"We left the cherub there where everyone could see her, the flickering
lights dancing on her black hair. I glanced at her one last time and noticed the
book she held so closely was a collection of love poems.

"When we returned to the office, we found little in the world had been
changed, but my timeline had been fractured. Apparently, the sappy story of a
girl clutching love poems as she died had been an inspiration for hopeful
lovers, and it had given me courage when I was younger. I had married. I had
settled for a professorship at a community college and had gone unnoticed. This
beta version of myself had never traveled through time.

"After I had my alternate's termination approved, the Hours hired him
-- it is easiest kill and dispose when the person dies thousands of years in the
past. And as he worked for us, we watched him so I could learn his habits."
He holds up the cigarette as proof. "And you know the rest. Now ... I have
a wife and two boys I never had. I am going to meet them tonight."

1) Bored
2) Horrified
3) None of the above
>> 2
You want to vomit.

"Relax. I am not a murderer, Robert," Eric says. "I was only the
second party to suicide. Abnormalities like another version of one's self
come with the job and must be dealt with."

The elevator doors open. Security. With guns.

"Please escort this former employee out of the facility," Eric says.
"Good bye, Robert. I would love to talk again sometime."

Everything goes to worse fast.

Your car is not in the parking lot. You can't find your keys. You
can't find your wallet. So you walk. And as journey home, you know you
should be kicking yourself for getting fired from yet another job. You should be
calculating how much you could have made off this one. You should be tearing
your hair out just thinking about the fact that you will never time travel
again.

But all you can think about is that video, with Eric proudly announcing his
alternate's death. 

Yard
You arrive at your house, exhausted. You want to sit on your couch for a long
time. 

The grass leading to the front door and window is greener than you remember. And
there is a car in the driveway.





>car
This car is yours. Not only is it mysteriously back home, but it has been
washed.




>house
The house is empty.





>open door
You open the door.





>living room
Living Room
Your TV is gone. Your couch is newer. Papers you have never seen before are
taped to the wall.





>x papers
You can't even pretend to understand these schematics. You see some
notation on heat sources, a graph charting distance and time, and some squiggles
that make calculus look like checkers.





>sit on couch
You sit on the couch.

Living Room (on the couch)
Your TV is gone. Your couch is newer. Papers you have never seen before are
taped to the wall.

Someone lunges into the living room. He swings a baseball bat. "Get out of
my house, you --"

Your attacker lowers his weapon. Your attacker is you.





>z
Time passes.

You can't help but stare at your double's eyes.





>z
Time passes.

"Showing up looking just like me is new -- but just like everyone else,
you're after my invention," he says.


He rummages through your pockets with one hand while holding the baseball bat in
the other.

"A rock and a jewelry box?" He tosses the tick into the air and
catches in the box. He closes the box and rattles it. "You are the oddest
burglar --"

The sound of an engine outside interrupts your double.





>window
The security guards rush into the house. They don't say a word. They shoot
the other you first. 

He sinks to his knees, clutching the dart in his neck.

Then it's your turn.

You are ripped out of time, shooting from one body of water to another.

You feel absolutely cold, as though you were adrift in space.

Operating Room
You are soaked, but you are not in any water right now -- someone must have
dragged you to the hard stone floor of this cavern.

You hear the whirring of gears.

You spring to your feet, ignoring the ensuring vertigo.

Your dizziness subsides, but you see not one, but two other versions of you
here.

That's not counting the dozens of robots surrounding the three of you
Roberts. All of the automatons share your face, too. Unlike their counterparts
in Alexandria, these machines carry scalpels and drills instead of swords, and
have legs instead of wheels.

A single operating table is in the middle of the room. A ladder leads to a hatch
in the ceiling far above you.

You hear an erratic thumping coming from above.





"Welcome to the future!" the new version of you says. This version is
new to you, but he appears to be older. He clutches his heart as he approaches.

"My name, if you can believe it, is also Robert, but you can refer to me as
Alpha," your host says.

The you who had assaulted you with a baseball bat picks himself off the floor,
staring so hard at the chamber that you are afraid his glasses might pop.

"Greek makes things so much easier, wouldn't you say, Robert and
Robert?" Alpha points to you. "You are Psi." Then he points at
the Robert with the glasses. "And you are Omega."

1) Logical
2) Ballistic
3) None of the above
>> 1
"Hold on," you say. "Aren't those letters at the end of the
Greek alphabet?"

"There are more of us, aren't there?" Omega says.

"Twenty-one," Alpha says. "You'd be surprised how different
they were from each other.

"Were?" you ask.

Alpha shows his teeth. "I harvested them already."

1) Repulsed
2) Amazed
3) None of the above
>> 1
"Feeling sick, Psi? Just another reason the alpha version is superior to
alternates." Alpha wheezes. "Could an alternate  version of myself
have discovered a viable method for time travel into the past? Could an
alternate have founded and become CEO of an empire like the Hours? Could an
alternate have hired someone who would eventually develop a tick to travel into
the future? As the original Robert, I am the only one in this room who has the
vision: more than physics, more than riches." Spittle gathers at his chin.
"That is what I meant about harvesting. That is why I split my timeline
again and again and again."

"Spare parts for harvesting," Omega says, admiration shaking his voice
a little.

"An endless supply of younger organs," Alpha says.

You remember Jess mentioning the chore of getting alternate parts for the ear.

>z
Time passes.

"I am most curious to see what makes you tick, Psi," Alpha says.
"Pun unintentional."

Alpha motions some of the robots.

They grab you by the arms, shove you onto the operating table, and strap you in.


"I would love to hear what attracted you to the Hours. You gave my top
employees quite the scare when you applied to be a cashier at the antique shop.
Were you a manifestation of a fractured timeline trying to repair itself?"
Alpha chuckles at such superstition. "They sent a message all the way here,
at the end of the earth's existence, asking me what to do. Of course hire
you, I said. We could exterminate my alternate and Eric's on the same
mission. All it took was the Alpha Eric paying off the library to use one of the
wings, converting some of my surgery assistants as per Hours policy of
disguising technology, dressing up as the librarian ... except that these robots
confused you for me and did not strike you down as planned. 

"Then after you escaped, I split my -- your -- timeline again, just for
convenience. This time, I stopped the firings of the professors who would have
inspired you to stay in college. Omega here is not the dropout I let you become.
Anyway" -- Alpha tightens the gag -- "I'd love to discuss all
this, but I hate to hear myself scream."





>z
You are bound and gagged. There is not a lot you can do.

Alpha presses a scalpel against your eyelid. "I'm afraid I'm
terribly nearsighted in my old age."





>z
You struggle against your bonds.

The point of the scalpel bites into your skin. Alpha looks up and freezes.

"Stop him! The fool is going up the ladder!"

You see Omega through the corner of your eye. He climbs toward the hatch, some
of the robots close on his heels.

"Omega! The earth is not as it was a billion years ago!" Alpha shouts.
"Stop, I say!"

Omega pounds the hatch open. A wave of hot air leaves you breathless.

"Omega! Om --"

A flaming mass of rock shoots into the operating room.





>z
You vow your life will not end this way.

The impact flips over operating table, severing the straps.





Unseen sprinklers spray a torrent of water into the cavern.

You tumble to the floor. The jewelry box pops open. The tick lights up in
response to the water, and is gone.

The fires are out, but now everything is drenched. The robots have stopped
moving.

Alpha still has his scalpel, and it looks like he's going to use it on you
anyway. All you have is a jewelry box.

>throw box
You throw the empty box at Alpha. He catches it in surprise.

(first taking the jewelry box)




>z
Time passes.

A glow appears in the jewelry box. Alpha stares open-mouthed at it. Then tick
explodes.





Your ears are ringing again.

When the tick exploded, a hole in the wall opened, revealing Alpha's secret
room.



>secret room
Secret Room
This is where Alpha brought in his victims, and must have kept it secret so none
could escape. Like the terminals in the Hours headquarters, this has a pool and
a table.





>table
There is nothing special or even futuristic about this table.

On the table is a tick.




>take tick
Taken.





>get in pool
You are ripped out of time, shooting from one body of water to another.

You can't tell if you're flying, falling, or spinning.

Terminal (in the pool)
You are in one of the 24 terminals in the Hours facility. There is nothing here
but a pool and a table. A note is on the table.





>get out of pool




>note
Robert,

Based on Hours computer files that will be compromised in three months, I traced
the time and body of water in which you re-enter the present. Please forgive my
intrusion.

First off, I have to offer congratulations on killing the real you. With any
luck, the Hours goons will think you are their beloved CEO -- the real Robert.
Do not disappoint them.

Alpha was wrong about alternates. I, too, had invented a time travel device --
which I disguised as glasses. My lenses are activated by intense heat.

I find it amusing that Alpha and I had similar ideas about time travel and
immortality. Unlike Alpha, though, I give my victims the courtesy of a simple
warning.

Do you remember what was written in the dressing room?

YOU ARE MINE.

Two of us -- of me -- cannot co-exist, Psi.

-- OMEGA

Eric walks into the terminal. He's wearing the black clothing of a regular
time traveler -- he doesn't look like an executive at all -- and he appears
to have been getting ready for his next mission. As he gives you a firm
handshake and starts babbling about who knows what, you notice his face is
smoother than you remembered it. Younger. You wish you could hear what he is
saying right now, but it does not matter.

You will be able to avoid everything now.



    *** The End ***



Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, QUIT, or UNDO the last
command?
> restart




"Go to the vault! Hurry!"

As if you didn't know.



Hall
Starlight bleeds through the niches high above you.

Both of you rush to the end of a long hall, your feet drumming on the tile.

You and Eric stop before a large iron door. It is closed.

>transcript on
Transcripting is already on.

>transcript off

End of transcript.
Start of a transcript of
Identification number: //D1C5122B-C9AB-4A5A-BDAC-97CFD8E9993C//
Interpreter version 1.2.8 / VM 3.1.2 / Library serial number 080126
Standard Rules version 2/090402 by Graham Nelson
Text Capture version 6 by Eric Eve
Room Description Control version 9 by Emily Short
Senses version 1 by Shadowchaser
Simple Chat version 2 by Mark Tilford
Written Inventory version 3 by Jon Ingold
Glulx Text Effects version 4 by Emily Short
Custom Library Messages version 28/100614 by David Fisher
Extended Banner version 5 by Stephen Granade

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