Prologue: The Defiant Agents

time travel

Image: BBC News

“So you want to know why I saved your life in the Ice Age, Murdock? It started out so simply. My men were engaged with the invading Forerunners. Months ago, one of our technicians accidentally activated some sort of transmission device on the spaceship. Apparently it emitted a signal that can travel faster than light, assuming the Forerunners who arrived came from outside our solar system.

“The invasion force hit without warning, repelling down through the opening above the spaceship’s chamber. I was the only one to get out in time. I planned to use you as a bargaining chip. I knew that our scientists had developed the time gate by studying portions of the alien technology we had recovered years ago from the first site in Siberia. I knew the Forerunners might follow us into the Bronze Age.

“I planned to defect. I was going to use you to negotiate with your people, secure safe passage on your submarine back to your base, and then return with you back to the present. I know where other spaceships are in the past, Murdock. I know of at least one in the Americas. I would have helped you find it, even before the Forerunners linked us telepathically.

“Why did you hit me and run? We could have escaped together. Didn’t you sense my thoughts, understand my intent? You understood the alien. Why didn’t you understand me? Why didn’t you save me like I tried to save you?”

The six stood in front of the time gate outside the cave in the Canyon of the Moon. Ross Murdock remembered the dream he’d had months ago, the one where Major Romanovich admitted he was going to defect to the west. Was it just a dream?

The Blue Forerunner attack. He didn’t know when he had the dream that the aliens had a hidden base under the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa. That’s where they must have come from, not from another star.

When he woke up, he believed he was hearing the thoughts of a dead man. Now Major Vasnev Danya Romanovich was standing just to his right, behaving for all the world like a loyal Soviet Army officer on loan to Operation Retrograde for the duration of their mission to repair the timeline.

Was Vasnev’s presence on the team, volunteering for the project, the first step in his betraying his own Government?

******

Six days ago at Operation Retrograde.

“We’re sending you back in traditional field outfits, survival packs, modified Orange Forerunner equipment. No disguises this time. Scout drones recorded no human presence in the area, although there was some sort of electrical interference, presumably because the alien base has an active power source.”

Kelgarries was addressing the team. Of course there was Ashe, Murdock, Zheutlin, Huỳnh, and Romanovich, but the Major also offered a spot to Travis Fox. After all, the canyon was on his property, plus he had experience as a time agent and in the period they’d be visiting.

The Army officer wasn’t sure if the only married person recruited for this mission would accept, but after a few days to think about it and talk it over with his family, he’d said “yes”. Kelgarries didn’t want to know what Fox had to say or do to convince his wife.

No accidental intruders this time. Wendell Fox signed a non-disclosure agreement. As it turned out, just like most people, the elder Fox had a price and could be bought. They certainly didn’t need him snooping around or threatening to call the press because Government time travelers were searching the past for alien artifacts.

Alien artifacts. The stakes of the game were much, much higher now.

The gate had been constructed under a shelter to protect it from the elements and to make it harder to see from the air. Romanovich had been most cooperative in describing what they needed to do to hide their energy signature from his nation’s spy satellites, which surprised even Kelgarries.

******

Now the six time agents were standing in front of the gate as the temporal field formed. It seemed to behave the same way as their gates always did before the modifications. Supposedly, this field wouldn’t cause a time storm or contribute to existing anomalies, even in the presence of Forerunner generated energy.

time travel

Time travel

Murdock couldn’t get over the feeling that they were being played by both the Blue and Orange Forerunners, but he also couldn’t figure out their game. What if they were jumping into a trap? But why bother with just six human beings? There had to be something else about using the gate to go back.

The gate techs and developers had gone over the modifications and all they could tell was that the changes prevented or strongly inhibited field interaction with other, similar energy sources. There had to be something they were missing though. What was it?

“Time gate field is fully formed.” The control voice was familiar and welcome to Ross. “You can step through at any time.”

“Good luck,” Kelgarries added. He was personally supervising the mission.

Ashe looked back and gave him a thumbs up. Then he led his team in. The six time travelers stepped through the temporal field together expecting to arrive 14,000 years in the past at the threshold of a Forerunner base.

Four men and two women walked through the field and vanished. Kelgarries said a silent prayer. Then his long wait began.

The previous chapters in this series are:

  1. Canyon of the Moon
  2. The Folsom Mystery
  3. Derelict
  4. The Second Ship
  5. Space Flight
  6. Ceres
  7. The Encounter
  8. Europa
  9. My World is Blue
  10. Time Storm

This is my homage to Andre Norton’s (Alice Mary Norton’s) 1959 science fiction and cold war thriller Galactic Derelict. That novel had been the second in a series of seven, the first being The Time Traders, published in 1958.

I started out by mapping my chapters relatively closely to those found in the original “Time Traders” story, updating them for the 21st century. However, as I progressed, I began to increasingly diverge from both the specific content and the general plot lines, so at this point, my tale is almost entirely original. I ended this story on a cliffhanger, so obviously, I intend to continue.

The third book in the “Time Traders” series was published in 1962 and is called The Defiant Agents. Having read the plot, about the only thing I can use at are three of the main characters (Ashe, Murdock, and Fox) and the title.

I hope you’ve enjoyed by homage pieces to Norton’s original works. I’ve certainly had fun writing them.

******

Okay, I’ve retitled the tale to make it a Prologue instead of an Epilogue. I’m not going to do an extensive editing job, mainly because I don’t have the time. Hopefully, this will make a wee bit more sense.

Does that mean the “Galactic Derelict” series reached fruition in the “Time Storm” chapter? Hopefully. The space travel aspect is ended, at least for now. I still have to discuss or present events related to the dead aliens found in the past as well as the returned spaceship.

I’ll continue doing that along with following Gordon Ashe and his team into the past in their attempt to repair history…if they can.

Chapter one in this “book” is called The Time Trap.

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12 thoughts on “Prologue: The Defiant Agents

  1. I’m afraid you can’t claim to have completed a segment of the series without resolving its story line — which in this case you have failed to do. It’s all very well to include a teaser at the end of one story to whet the readers’ appetite for the next story in the series; but with an actual cliffhanger that leaves the present story unresolved you have not played fair with your readers. Therefore I appreciate your announced intention to continue the story, which is your only saving grace. Now, of course, there is no rule that requires you to maintain the same story divisions as the original series; just as you have been free to diverge from the original story line that inspired this, your own series of “chapters” or “episodes”. From that perspective your only fault is the title of this episode, because it is not actually an “epilogue” at all. Hence, if you were to compile your updated story for publication, you could assemble it as simply one contiguous story rather than as the separate volumes and linked stories of the original series.

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    • Ouch. I don’t know. There must be some books, TV shows, and films out there that ended on cliffhangers.

      Actually, I declared the “book” ended there because “Galactic Derelict” is primarily about space travel and now that Ashe and company’s space flight is concluded and they’re returning to time travel, I thought it was appropriate.

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      • TV show cliffhangers have a lot to do with maintaining ratings, but they do announce “Part 1, Part 2, or “To be continued” to indicate that a particular story episode is not yet concluded. Cliffhangers are not endings, but suspense builders for an impending but delayed continuation. On rare occasion, one storyline is actually concluded and another is beginning with the cliffhanger as prologue.

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  2. I thought of one case where I’ve seen the cliffhanger/teaser technique used. A scifi pilot film that never actually became a series was entitled “Rewind”, featuring a marginally stable time window in the output stream of a particle accelerator. I forget what sort of operating procedure they supposedly exceeded by accident to discover this window; but they used the window to reverse a key event that had led ultimately to the destruction of New York City by a nuclear blast. After concluding that story-line happily, while almost all the characters were celebrating their success along with that of the historical first human time travel event, in the last few minutes they showed one of the military characters who had been connected with the project surreptitiously slipping away and then standing alone by the particle stream waiting for the next time window to open and stabilize. He was dressed for extreme cold-weather conditions; and, when the window stabilized, lo and behold it revealed exactly such an environment waiting for the unauthorized would-be time jumper, which he proceeded to enter. Thus the viewers were primed to wonder what he intended to do, why it appeared to be something improper, and how could he have known to prepare for conditions on the other side of a supposedly-unpredictable window. It certainly left me wishing to see the next episode, and regretting that the series never materialized. Such a teaser may be excused in the pilot episode of a series, where a resolution of the suspense may be expected to be soon forthcoming, but it is terribly frustrating when tacked onto the end of an otherwise satisfyingly-completed story. It probably should have been omitted from an alternative version of the pilot film that would have ended with some key scene in the midst of the celebration, once any hope of continuing the series was quashed. Smart filmmakers plan for such optional endings by ensuring that they shoot whatever scenes might be needed, so that they can market either option: of a pending continuation, or of a simple happy/victorious ending.

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    • Interesting. A few days ago, I watched the pilot episode to the 2002 pilot episode of “The Time Tunnel” on YouTube. It was supposed to be a remake of the 1966 show but with a more serious tone and better writing. Fox didn’t pick it up (they chose “Firefly” instead). I’ll have to check out “Rewind” next.

      I considered retitling my epilogue to a prologue for my next “novel”, but I’d have to make sure not to break the URL. I also need to stop and figure out the whole plot line since I’ve been shooting from the hip, so to speak, and not really thinking through the implications of some of what I’ve created.

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      • While I hesitate to define the direction of your writing, my impulse is to recommend reformulating the final episode of Galactic Derelict to produce an actual epilogue that resolves the threads of the space-travel segment, to be followed by a prologue for the next segment that returns to the time-travel theme which will resolve the longer open story-arc of fixing the damaged timeline, as you described. Maybe the space-travel resolution should have been accomplished more thoroughly before introducing the time-gate accident that made the Folsom base disappear from the Canyon. I suppose that would require reformulating the prior episode also, to include some of the material you presented in this one — and then you could use the accident to initiate the next time-gate story-arc. That might have made a revised version of this episode into the first of the new arc, perhaps using just a bit of retrospective technique to pick up the story line from the prior arc.

        I heartily endorse your intention to plan your plot line a bit better instead of continuing ad hoc. That’s probably how the uncoordinated transition occurred between the space-travel arc and the next time-travel arc. Nonetheless I’m confident you’ll figure it out — and I’m still looking forward to reading it. Happy writing!

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      • There’s a lot I’d like to do with my pre-existing stories, especially the serial tales, to polish them, but that’ll have to wait for the moment. I’m kind of on a roll so to speak, but I would like to clean things up eventually. I’ll never be able to publish because the characters and concepts belong to Andre Norton’s estate, but it’s a compelling universe to explore, at least for me.

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      • I dunno — The Andre Norton estate might very well be willing to encourage an enterprising writer who is interested in requesting or purchasing a franchise to play in Norton’s universe. Their motivation could be altruistic, with no demands on the writer except perhaps an option to review and approve the stories to ensure that they did not reflect badly on the estate’s intellectual property. Or their motivation could be commercial, to demand some amount of royalties on any profit accruing from your story sales. It might depend on whether the estate manager is willing to read your stories and if they are found appealing. But I wouldn’t presume that publication would be prohibited outright if you were to propose it. You already have enough material to support such a proposal if you were to contact the estate manager to sound out any possible interest.

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    • I just watched “Rewind” and it was breathtakingly interesting. How the rogue Army officer knew to pack arctic gear before the new window formed is a total mystery. My guess is that the writers knew where they were going, but since the series wasn’t picked up, the concept died there. It did look though, that whatever that guy did in the past changed everything in a big, big way, much bigger than the original incident. Compelling to say the least.

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      • Indeed. One theory that occurred to me was that the rogue officer was actually from the future and had jumped back to the period just before the first human time-jump in order to ensure that it succeeded and to be ready for the subsequent window. Thus he would already have known the history of the window formations, where and when they opened onto, and how they might enable him to return to his own time or to accomplish some other (nefarious?) purpose. That could explain how he was able to prepare for the arctic conditions of the next window, and to be ready and waiting for the moment when it would open. If the series had continued, though, I imagine that the writers would have to plan their stories very carefully to avoid prior clichés from series such as “Time Tunnel” and “Sliders”.

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      • Interesting theory, but the last few minutes seemed to indicate the rogue officer did something to change the past. Even the light outside the window went dark. I wish there’s been other episodes. It would have been interesting to see in which direction the show would have gone.

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