This Is How You Lose the Time War
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
A little joke. Trust that I have accounted for all variables of irony. Though I suppose if you’re unfamiliar with overanthologized works of the early Strand 6 nineteenth century, the joke’s on me.
I hoped you’d come.
You’re wondering what this is—but not, I think, wondering who this is. You know—just as I’ve known, since our eyes met during that messy matter on Abrogast-882—that we have unfinished business.
I shall confess to you here that I’d been growing complacent. Bored, even, with the war; your Agency’s flash and dash upthread and down, Garden’s patient planting and pruning of strands, burrowing into time’s braid. Your unstoppable force to our immovable object; less a game of Go than a game of tic-tac-toe, outcomes determined from the first move, endlessly iterated until the split where we fork off into unstable, chaotic possibility—the future we seek to secure at each other’s expense.
But then you turned up.
My margins vanished. Every move I’d made by rote I had to bring myself to fully. You brought some depth to your side’s speed, some staying power, and I found myself working at capacity again. You invigorated your Shift’s war effort and, in so doing, invigorated me.
Please find my gratitude all around you.
I must tell you it gives me great pleasure to think of you reading these words in licks and whorls of flame, your eyes unable to work backwards, unable to keep the letters on a page; instead you must absorb them, admit them into your memory. In order to recall them you must seek my presence in your thoughts, tangled among them like sunlight in water. In order to report my words to your superiors you must admit yourself already infiltrated, another casualty of this most unfortunate day.
This is how we’ll win.
It is not entirely my intent to brag. I wish you to know that I respected your tactics. The elegance of your work makes this war seem like less of a waste. Speaking of which, the hydraulics in your spherical flanking gambit were truly superb. I hope you’ll take comfort from the knowledge that they’ll be
thoroughly digested by our mulchers, such that our next victory against your side will have a little piece of you in it.
Better luck next time, then.