“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.
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:
- Canyon of the Moon
- The Folsom Mystery
- The Second Ship
- Space Flight
- The Encounter
- My World is Blue
- 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.