The hover reacted the way it always did as he approached home: a little quiver settling into a steadily diminishing hum over the pad adjacent to the structure. He hardly noticed the sun setting in the distance as the hover eased into final approach. With a light easterly breeze, the hover adjusted and lit upon the parking pad.
Before him stood nothing. The pad on which his hover stood was familiar but the pad before him, pristine and barren, should have held his house. When the hum of the hover’s engines subsided, he was left with the unsettling feeling of transience. Had he sold his home without remembering it? Had he lost some unforgivable wager? Surely his memory was not so flawed as to leave such a gap.
“Explique, I seem to have misplaced my home,” said Murray Steele, his heart rate slightly elevated with the revelation.
“Mr. Steele, your home has been forfeited through official action,” responded Explique, his warm, detached voice filling the small space of the hover.
“Please explain,” Steele responded.
“It is evident,” continued Explique, “that your home has been taken from its familiar location.”
“Yes, that is evident,” Steele answered.
“While there is little additional detail provided, this appears to be the result of Comity action regarding the likelihood of illegal conduct either witnessed or anticipated at some point in the history of this domicile,” Explique responded.
Murray Steele was unaccustomed to having his residence confiscated for any reason. “Am I implicated in any of the illegal activity?” he asked.
“Mr. Steele, as stated before, there is little additional detail provided,” replied Explique.
The Comity facility was a tall, glimmering edifice of bureaucracy occupying the central square of downtown. The silver structure towered over Murray Steele as he approached. The base of the building bustled with activity; well dressed men and women entered and exited with an air of purpose.
The interior of the building was well kept, with signs and placards pointing in various directions indicating the many offices that could be found within. As though anticipating his need, an elevator opened before Murray, its interior virtually covered with the word “Forfeiture” in various sizes of sans serif. Murray entered and was whisked to one of the floors above.
The doors opened on yet another hive of activity. There was nothing indicating the floor he was on but the word “Forfeiture” which appeared on the otherwise bare walls. As he entered the hall, a short, well dressed young man rushed past, slowing only enough to utter the words “temporal seizures at the end of the hall.”
Within the Office of Temporal Seizure, little appeared to be happening. The bustle from the hall was replaced with a calm hush. The desk before the door was unoccupied when Murray entered. He glanced around the unremarkable room; the walls were bare, the meager furniture plain, and the lighting seemed intentionally dimmed.
A young woman emerged from the door behind the desk. “Mr. Steele, we expected you sooner,” she said.
“Well, perhaps by a few minutes,” she answered.
“And how would you know…”
“We at Temporal Seizure are regularly traveling forward and backward. It’s a habit we pick up to know when things will happen,” she interrupted.
“Then you know why I’m…”
“Please have a seat,” she said, waving to the chair before the desk. As he sat, he noticed the name plate: Sandra Marks. “You are here to argue for the return of your domicile.”
“Yes, there seems to be some…”
“Oh, there’s no mistake, I assure you,” she said.
“I’m very sorry. Another habit of regular time travel: anticipating questions,” she responded.
The room fell silent. Murray was reluctant to ask and Ms. Marks was trying to not answer.
“How can you be…” Murray started, anticipating her interruption. When she did not speak, he continued, “How can you be sure my home was not mistakenly seized?”
“Mr. Steele, I understand your confusion. This is your first time dealing with temporal seizure, though sadly not the last. Your home was seized due to evidence collected at a point in the future which implicates your dwelling in the illicit preparation of a dish native to Southeast Asia.”
Murray didn’t know where to begin.
“I am aware that no law currently prohibits such food preparation,” she continued, “But I assure you that such laws will be passed in the future. As a result, when the offense occurs, it will violate two and one half of those laws. The Comity is required to confiscate all assets implicated in the commission of a crime. While you will not be personally involved, your property will be and is therefore seized.”
“Pad Thai, specifically,” she again interrupted.
“Two and one half…”
“That is a matter of interpretation,” she responded, “The judicial board to hear your case will be unable to settle on whether three laws were violated or just two, so they’ll split the difference. The effect is the same.”
Murray Steele stared at her for several moments, his mind fogged over with questions and self doubt.
“I would like to commend you on your choice of representation. I’m not at liberty to reveal her name, but your case will be ably argued,” Ms. Marks said, breaking the silence.
“And there’s nothing I can…”
“I’m afraid not,” she blurted.
Murray Steele emerged from the Comity facility wearing the same look of bewilderment that overtook him in the Office of Temporal Seizure. Despite the flurry of bureaucratic activity all around him, he hardly noticed another soul. When he descended the steps to the parking deck, he discovered his hover missing from its pad.
Murray lifted his wristwatch toward his face and spoke, “Explique, where has my hover gone?”
“While there is little additional detail provided, this appears to be the result of Comity action regarding the likelihood of illegal conduct either witnessed or anticipated at some point in the history of this hover,” Explique responded.