“So you’re saying that as a direct result of our time incursion preventing the experimental Forerunner time-spaceship from causing the Tunguska blast and subsequent runaway global warming, we caused this massive change in history. A history where Leif Erikson and Christopher Columbus never visited the New World. A world where Europe never colonized the Americas and the native population was free to develop their own culture into the 21st century. Now, I’ve got a base in Southern Nevada surrounded by a foreign and potentially hostile military force and I can’t find any way to defend them.”
Colonel John Kelgarries, responding to Dr. Antoine Barnes, Project Retrograde’s Chief Temporal Scientist, had been listening to a briefing about his latest analysis of the changes in the timeline. Kelgarries and the rest of the Project were racing against the clock. Their facility at Basecamp was under siege by the military forces of the Southern Palutes State, part of the Hokan-Penutian nation which encompassed all of what used to be California and parts of Oregon, Nevada, and the Baja Peninsula.
“It’s a bit more complicated than that, Colonel. When the time incursion initiated at twin gates located in the Azores and Siberia sent the Forerunner ship into the past, but it also triggered another series of time storms. Everything in Earth’s history since approximately the 20th century BCE has changed radically, altering the Earth of 2017. Only three points on the planet and one in space were protected from the effects of the storms by temporal fields.
“Basecamp was one of those points. The installation and everyone in it must have seemed to have appeared out of thin air to any witnesses and fortunately in this timeline, the area was empty desert. But as you’ve explained, the local State Police became alerted and then alarmed and called in the equivalent of the National Guard to surround the intrusive site and determine it’s intent.”
“Right, Doctor. Fortunately, Europeans eventually did make it to this land, but as traders and tourists, not conquerors, so English is spoken here, at least by those who know foreign languages. That made it possible for Major Toni Blair, the new base commander to begin negotiations with…” Kelgarries looked at the notes on his tablet momentarily. “…Yabipai Cajuala, First Warrior leading his contingent of the Southern Palutes State Militia.
“Negotiations are currently stalled over Major Blair’s refusal to disclose exactly where the base came from. Fortunately Cajuala doesn’t seem overly anxious to order his troops to invade the base, and Blair did order her people to defend the base only if they were fired on first.”
“There’s no way to get our people out, Colonel?”
In addition to Kelgarries and Barnes, Ashe’s entire team, minus Vasnev Romanovich who was still in the Tunguska bunker with four other Russian scientists and technicians, was present for the early morning meeting.
“Not in a conventional military operation, Ross. Technically, the Southern Palutes State has every right to be involved here since, from their point of view, Basecamp and its personal invaded their territory, and it’s obvious to even a casual observer, that the base is military. If we send what troops we have here into Nevada, we’ll cause a bloodbath.”
“But John, if you leave them there, eventually there will be an invasion. Even if Blair doesn’t order her troops to resist, they’ll still be captured, and all of our technology, including the temporal generator and especially the Forerunner bodies will fall into the hands of a government and culture that will not know how to handle them. It would be the equivalent giving them nuclear weapons which have not been invented in this timeline.”
“I know, Aiyana. The only thing we might do is send your team to the base in the Scout Ship, but that won’t work either. It doesn’t even begin to have the capacity to take everyone out in one trip, and I promise you one chance is all we’d get, plus I don’t want to even give a hint that our base exists and that we’ve got an alien spaceship.”
“So what options do we have, John?”
“Dr. Barnes called this meeting to address just that point, Gordon.
“I believe the only viable option is to reverse the effects of the portion of the time storm that caused history to change. Fortunately, it has a single cause right here.”
Barnes used a light pointer to indicate a specific section of the time map that was projected on the wall display behind him.
“That’s not too long after Atlantis sank, Dr. Barnes, and in almost the same geographic location.” The team’s electrical engineer and time gate technician Lynn Huỳnh was becoming somewhat adept at reading the more subtle manifestations of map dynamics.
“Quite correct, Ms. Huỳnh. Thanks in no small part to the readings you took from space during the incursion, we were able to determine, among other things, the specifics of the event which caused the timeline shift.”
“Which was exactly?”
“You should know, Mr. Fox. After all, you and your team were threatened by one of the results, well somewhat threatened.”
“Quite, Dr. Ashe. It’s presence in our time is not an isolated event.” Barnes turned back to the display. “As you can see, the time storm affected an area of the Atlantic at about 1995 or 1985 BCE resulting in a collection of prehistoric sea predators being brought forward to that point from the same location in the past, near the end of the Cretaceous period some 68 or 70 million years ago.”
“But how did that prevent European colonization of America?”
“I can answer that, Travis. If there were a sufficient number of these predators present, it would make transatlantic sea voyages dangerous. Maybe even impossible.”
“That’s what our research has confirmed, Aiyana. We’ve tapped into the equivalent of the ‘History Channel’ here and fortunately, they were doing a show on European history. Numerous attempts were made between the 11th and 13th centuries to send expeditions to discover the so-called ‘New World’ in the West. Every single one of them either disappeared or returned severely damaged and with loss of life because of the ‘Sea Dragons’.”
“Are these things in all of the oceans, Kelgarries?”
“No, Ross. They seem to be isolated in the North and South Atlantic, none of our information sources are sure why, although their most likely theory is that extreme cold temperatures prevent them from migrating too far north or south.
What we think of as the North American continent in this timeline is currently divided into three nations, each with a dozen or more states, representing the indigenous tribes. There’s a minority Chinese presence in the western coastal cities but not many other foreigners here.”
“I’ve been doing some research as well, Colonel.” Travis still was uneasy being on a first name basis with Kelgarries. “Apparently, as time passed, either tribes merged to increase their strength and resources, or larger, more powerful tribes went to war against smaller ones, absorbing their populations. The result is what we see today. The Iroquois control all of the eastern continent and up through the Great Lakes, the Comanches are the dominant nation in the midwest, largely because they control vast oil reserves, and the Hokan-Penutian nation controls the west, although as you say, they have a significant Chinese population.”
“I can’t even imagine what the world would be like if China colonized the U.S. instead of Europe.” Kelgarries was thinking of that as a military problem.
“I suggest further discussion on that point can wait, Colonel. I am developing a plan to reverse the damage we and the Forerunner ship have caused, but we must act quickly. Otherwise…”
“Right, Dr. Barnes. Otherwise we won’t be able to help Basecamp. If they’re removed from their base and away from the low level temporal field and then we change the timeline, they’ll be lost forever.”
“Exactly. Now here’s my proposal.”
Yabipai Cajuala felt they could sit and wait out this Major Toni Blair and her Basecamp installation. They seemed to have an independent power supply, but their food and water would eventually run out. Then they would have to surrender.
However, Warrior Commander Nayati Yokuts was of another opinion. Of course, he was under a great deal of pressure from the State and National Councils. Reconnaissance flights over Basecamp plus his own reports indicated that this is a military base, though they tried to hide that fact for some reason, and they possessed weapons and other technology decades ahead of what even the Europeans and Russians had developed.
Centuries of trade with the Chinese and the peaceful establishment of relations with the European Union over the past seventy years or so had helped advance the three Great Nations as well as the others to the North and South, but nothing Cajuala had ever heard of came close to what had fallen right into their hands out of nothingness.
He was sitting in the passenger side of the small transport. He told his driver to “get some air”. It gave the First Warrior time to watch Basecamp and think. The sun had just set and as usual, lights came on inside the alien base, powered by some source of energy unknown to their science, which was yet another reason Commander Yokuts felt pressured to order him to invade Basecamp and take it by force. Another was the strong suspicion that this Major Blair was somehow communicating with another of her people’s bases, but no one had been able to trace a signal let alone decipher a message.
Yokuts, in spite of his family connections and the power they wielded in Council, had listened when Cajuala urged restraint. Although some of the tribes of the nations had a violent past, they all had learned to live with each other and were a model of a peaceful and co-existing group of nations the world should emulate, especially if the atrocities attributed to the Europeans were any indication. .
He could hear Mikan Tongva, his driver, walking back. Cajuala looked at his watch, a gift from his wife for their last anniversary. It was time for them to head back. The Commander would be calling for a sitrep in less than an hour. “Situation unchanged, Warrior Commander,” he could hear himself say. He fingered the personal spirit stone he wore on a leather strap around his neck and silently called upon its power to derive a peaceful solution to this business with Basecamp.
Feather Warrior Tongva approached the driver’s side door. “Sir, are you ready to return to camp?”
Cajuala released the stone. “You have permission to enter and drive me back, Warrior.”
“Yes sir.” The young man got in and fired up the hybrid engine, which had the dual benefit of approaching more of an environmental balance with the world than previous versions and being very quiet so as not to unduly alert the Basecamp guards of just how close they had approached.
As Tongva engaged the gears and turned the vehicle around, Cajuala knew the younger man had seen his spirit stone. No doubt he was internally laughing at his commander for clinging to superstitious beliefs, but it was the knowledge that there were powers possessed by all natural things and that they produced universal harmony that gave him the strength to be a defender and a man of peace rather than blindly invading the intruder compound the instant his forces arrived here.
May the spirit of all the world preserve the world, especially from the foolish ambitions of men.
When she was promoted to Major and assigned to command the Basecamp installation, Toni Blair thought her career was taking off. She’d spent the past three years as Major, or rather Colonel Kelgarries aide, following him around, doing whatever job he thought needed doing in the background while he was always in the spotlight.
She didn’t really resent him. He was a good C.O. and he’d earned every honor he’d ever received. On the other hand, a female Army career officer always had to work harder to achieve the same results as her male counterparts. She’d turned down a marriage proposal and the chance to have a family because she thought her career came first.
Now, looking back on it all, she wished she had accepted the proposal, even if it meant not achieving her career goals. What good were her ambitions if she were going to lose Basecamp along with every living soul under her command?
She knew she was being stupid. The choices she’d made up until now didn’t matter. She was in charge of this facility and she had to find a way to protect all of the base’s personnel. But how?
For one minute, a low level temporal field was extended around the entire base grounds ensuring that the changes to the timeline necessary to stop climate change wouldn’t affect anyone or anything. Then the minute passed and the field shut down. Suddenly, they were someplace else. Well, not exactly. They hadn’t moved an inch, but the terrain was subtly different.
They’d lost contact with Project Retrograde’s Arctic headquarters as well as all other military communications. Television and radio were operating on atypical bands and there was no Internet connectivity at all, as if the web didn’t even exist.
Fortunately, their power came from a fusion reactor so they’d have lights and heat, but it was as if they were totally alone in the world or rather, totally alone in a world they didn’t know.
Fifteen minutes after they “arrived,” a helicopter overflew the base, one with insignia she’d never seen before.
Before the day was out, what looked like State Police came to the gate. Of course she refused to give the order to let them enter. They weren’t from the State of Nevada or any state she knew. In fact, the officers didn’t speak English and seemed surprised the guards at the front gate didn’t understand them.
Then the Army came or rather the Militia.
First Warrior Yabipai Cajuala, who learned British-accented English as a second language, was an able negotiator. Blair and the base finally re-established contact with Kelgarries who confirmed what they’d suspected.
The temporal field technology was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the United States Government and under no circumstances was she to permit it being captured. That also included the Forerunner corpses in Dr. Link’s lab and any and all technology, especially military technology. Blair saw the Southern Palutes choppers, planes, and other equipment that formed a ring around Basecamp. They were all forty or fifty years behind theirs, and the Basecamp tech must be a tremendous temptation for the State Militia. Frankly, if their places were reversed, Blair would have probably attempted to take control of the base by now.
Lucky for her and everyone with her that Cajuala wasn’t nearly as ambitious as she was.
Kelgarries made it clear they couldn’t expect a military solution. They were working on an alternative, a way to restore the timeline, which was why she had to keep the temporal field around the base running. If it worked, they’d return to the world they knew. If it worked and the Basecamp field was down, they’d either be stuck in this world forever, or it would cease to exist taking the base and its personnel with it.
She was sitting at her desk in the dark and hoping for a miracle. “C’mon, Kelgarries. Don’t leave us hanging high and dry. Make your move and do it fast.”
Who was she talking to? Everybody was looking up to her for courage and an answer. She had no one now except herself. If the Project didn’t act in time, everyone here would end up as only memories from another life.
The plan was simple, straightforward, and radically dangerous. Antoine Barnes had figured the exact point where and when the time storm had displaced several dozen aquatic predators and brought them forward in time 68 or 70 million years to the late 20th century BCE. They were fruitful and multiplied becoming a menace to all Atlantic Ocean travel for the past 40 centuries.
He also worked out a plan to stop that event.
It was impossible to destroy the time storm, but it could be redirected, maybe even scattered. He said that they would either take a single powerful event and send it to another point in time, or take one large event and divide it into hundreds or thousands of smaller events. Either way there was a risk, but like the configuration he had created for the previous incursion and the Forerunner ship itself, he set the temporal fields to bias toward the distant past.
Barnes and his team along with Lynn reconfigured a dozen of the small probes that were carried on board the Scout Ship so that each one would generate a temporal field. They would be like tiny time gates and hopefully they’d do the job of a single, bigger gate.
They had to replace the standard Forerunner drives since that power source was incompatible with temporal fields and the two operating together would only make the time storm effect worse. If they had more time, the engineering team could have created something that would have been more elegant and launch out of the alien probe bays, but they were in a hurry.
A dozen metallic globes, each about the size of a bowling ball were physically networked by cable and then linked to their fusion power source at the hub. It was too clumsy to be launched like the regular probes so it was stationed in one of the landing strut bays. Ross would have to pilot the spaceship over the designated area, deploy the landing struts, and then the plan was for the array to drop into the ocean. The timer for initiating the temporal field would be activated on impact with the water. They’d have five minutes to get the ship to a safe haven, deactivate the ship’s drive, and set up the low-level temporal field.
The probes would sink and at exactly impact plus five minutes, the temporal fields would initiate sending a pulse back to the time storm point, preventing the storm from occurring there.
Ross was in the pilot’s seat while Lynn was at her engineering console. This was going to be a quick in and out, so Gordon and Aiyana stayed back at base. Their orders were to perform a sub-orbital flight from the Arctic to the Azores, activate the time probes, drop them in the ocean, and then run like bunnies to the nearest safe landing site, which was determined to be a deserted reef which was part of the Desertas Islands about 890 kilometers west of what in their timeline was Morocco.
They had only five minutes after dropping the probes before field activation because Barnes didn’t want some curious mosasaurus swallowing part or all of the array. There was almost no concern that in such a short space of time, the European military would somehow get their hands on it.
Once this incursion was complete, history should reset back to what it was before the time storm and restore the world they remembered, the previous timeline.
Vasnev and company were advised to stay where they were. Their time gate wasn’t as badly damaged at the one at the Azores, so they managed to get it back up enough to generate a low energy field. It would be enough to protect them from the timeline changes. With any luck, they’d all get to go home.
“Beginning our descent, Kelgarries. We should reach the drop off point in less than fifteen minutes.”
“Good luck Ross…Lynn. Good luck to us all.”
After Kelgarries cut the connection, Lynn cried out, “Ross, wait! On sensors. There’s something in the air above the Azores. Something big.”
“You have your orders, First Warrior Cajuala. You are to issue an ultimatum to the base commander and if her people do not lay down their arms and surrender, you are to order a ground and air assault.”
The spirits hadn’t listened to Cajuala’s pleading, and now this Basecamp, which never asked to come here, would pay the price.
“Yes, Commander Yokuts. I will commence immediately.”
There was a moment of static between them, and when Yokuts spoke again, his voice was softer. “I know this isn’t how you wanted things to turn out, Yabipai. The National Council says they’ve waited long enough. You are to take the base personnel prisoner if at all possible but your primary mission is to take control of the physical base and all of its equipment.
“I’m sorry. I like to think of us as defenders of peace, but sometimes being called a Warrior means going to war.”
“Yes sir. Is that all?”
“Yes, First Warrior. Carry out your orders. Yokuts out.”
Yabipai broke the connection and walked out of the communications tent. It was almost dawn. The first and last day of a war neither he nor his opposite number at Basecamp wanted. Unfortunately, people sometimes get what they don’t ask for.
In another part of the base Travis Fox was pacing and thinking. In this timeline, his wife and children don’t exist. Unlike the science fiction shows, there aren’t any counterparts of yourself and your loved ones in parallel worlds. Too much had changed. Tens of thousands of people who your family line depended upon were never born, so everyone in this world was totally unique.
If Barnes’s plan didn’t work, he would lose his family forever.
But Europe never colonized the Americas, never conquered the native tribes, never introduced horrible diseases, never drove his people from their lands, never penned them up in reservations. No forced death marches, no treaties made and broken, always broken. No destroying their languages, religions, and cultures for the sake of their Jesus. No rapes. No slavery. No meaningless bloodshed.
His people flourished. They thrived. This is what the world looked like when the nations were left undisturbed to develop on their own, trading with the other countries from across the sea but never being conquered by them.
The Chinese had landed on the western shores of this continent and explored inland significantly over a hundred years before Columbus was supposed to have done so in the East. It’s why every native city in the west had a “Chinatown” and why some of the western states had natives who observed Asian religions.
If Barnes’s plan worked, he’d get his wife and four children back, but everything the nations had built here would cease to exist and all of the pain and suffering of the tribes would become reality again.
It wasn’t his decision to make, and to be honest and selfish, he’d still choose his family over this world.
But it was a horrible waste. They hadn’t made a perfect world here, but it seemed to be a better one, at least for the tribes. What the Europeans did to Africa instead was hideous. It seemed where ever the Europeans colonized meant that indigenous people suffered and died.
Yabipai Cajuala stood at the front gate of Basecamp. It was against his better judgment and definitely against his orders, but Major Blair was insistent that they meet face-to-face before any hostilities broke out. She wanted one last chance to appeal to his sense of humanity and compassion not to initiate events that would result in loss of life.
He had ordered his troops back as well as directing the attack helicopters not to take off. He wanted to hear what she had to say, and given the fact that her people were outnumbered five to one, he doubted this was some sort of trap.
Toni Blair had heard from Kelgarries only a few minutes ago. Murdock and Huỳnh had already begun their descent. The next time incursion would be in less than fifteen minutes. She had ordered key personnel to stand by the temporal generator, the fusion power plant, and the Forerunner corpses. If the Southern Palutes Militia should breach the fence, they were to set off the explosives destroying all evidence of time travel, nuclear fusion energy, and the existence of extraterrestrial life. There was no way they could keep Cajuala’s forces away from the more standard military equipment. Given her situation, there was only so much she could do.
She was standing in front of the open main gate. She gave strict orders that no matter what happened, no one was to fire unless fired upon first.
She took one step, two, three. She was outside the parameter, outside the effective range of the temporal field. If the time incursion happened before she could get back in, she would cease to exist along with this entire timeline. It was a risk she had to take if she was going to save the base.
She was wearing a small, wireless earpiece linked to the stopwatch on the smartphone. It was counting down the time to the temporal incursion.
“Thank you for meeting me, First Warrior.”
“I am gratified to finally meet my worthy opponent face-to-face, Major Blair.”
“I’m not your opponent, First Warrior. I’ve told you we came here by accident, and if you will refrain from giving the order to assault our base for fifteen minutes, there’s an excellent chance we will be going home.”
If Cajuala was a fair man, an honorable man, then he’d be primarily driven by justice and mercy. He knew all they wanted to do was go back to where they came from. They weren’t a threat to his state or nation. If he were a just man, he would wait.
Yabipai Cajuala found himself in an intense conflict. If all Major Blair and her people wanted to do was to go home, wherever that might be, then he should let them. After all, they had made no hostile actions toward his people or their lands other than just showing up unannounced.
But he was under orders to seize the base, its personnel, and especially its advanced technology. The National Council supposed such devices might make them more than equal to the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese. They wouldn’t have to endure uneasy trading agreements that always left them at a disadvantage. The Hokan-Penutian nation would lead the Comanche and Iroquois to form a unified continent that would be superior to the people of the other lands. They would negotiate from a position of great power.
And that position would destroy everything the Three Great Nations stood for. It was their spirit and the example of their ancestors which made them truly great, not weapons of war and high-tech toys. Yabipai felt his spirit stone pressing on his chest like the weight of his conscience.
“I have my orders, Major. If I don’t obey them, I will be replaced and someone else will carry them out. It will be the same.”
“Not if you just wait. Find a way to explain a short and reasonable delay.”
“Should you truly disappear back from whence you came, how am I to explain that to my superiors?”
She didn’t have the heart to tell him that once the temporal incursion was complete, if successful, his timeline wouldn’t even exist and that she would be the only one to remember the lines of his face, the nobel jaw, the eyes that spoke of honor and compassion.
“Five minutes, thirty seconds,” the stopwatch’s artificial voice whispered into her ear.
“Oh my God Ross, it’s huge.”
“Got to be larger than an aircraft carrier, and it flies. Not only that, I can see four jets lifting off from the upper deck.”
It was indeed larger than a seagoing aircraft carrier of their timeline. A huge airship, held aloft by vast envelopes full of helium. A Leviathan of the air hovering a kilometer and a half above their target.
“Four F4 Phantom IIs in the air, Ross. ETA two minutes.”
“I’m deploying the landing struts. If I can just get the array into the water before they get here…”
“I’m picking a radio message up from the airship.”
“Unknown aircraft. You are intruding in European Union airspace. You will be escorted by our fighter jets to the landing platform of the airship HMS Victory. If you do not comply, you will be fired upon. Please acknowledge this transmission and follow all orders issued, over.”
“I’ve got an idea, Ross.”
“What?” Murdock was too busy to really care and Huỳnh had turned to a different console.
“Just a second more…okay, launch.”
“Landing struts deployed. What did you do?
“One of the probes is configured to jam radio frequencies using a high intensity pulse. Those pilots are in for a shock in about three seconds. I hope it doesn’t permanently damage their hearing.”
Precisely three seconds later, all four Phantoms broke off in different directions, two nearly colliding, and one pulling up from a dive at only six meters above the ocean’s surface.
“Something’s wrong. The array didn’t deploy.”
“The Phantoms are regrouping. They’ll be making another pass in about minute or so.”
The commander of the Victory spoke again. “Unknown aircraft. This is Captain Samuel Wallace in command of the HMS Victory. You are ordered to stand down or we will open fire.”
“What’s that opening up in the front of the Victory?”
“I’m going to try rocking the Scout, see if that shakes the array loose.”
“I’ve got an active monitor in there. Yes, one of the cables is hung up on a support. Ross, get us into free fall and then when I say, turn south and climb.”
Ross Murdock sent his ship straight down accelerating past terminal velocity. The array including the offending cable were “floating up” as the ship plunged downward. Just a few more seconds. The ocean’s surface was coming up fast.
The pilot immediately executed a course change due south and began climbing and accelerating. In her rear monitor, Lynn could see the temporal array hit the water.
“You’ve got three minutes to get us to the Desertas Islands. I’ve got to have the other two to power down the drive and initiate the temporal field.”
“Got it. We’re pulling away from the Phantoms like they’re standing still.”
“Good thing these seats absorb all of the acceleration. Otherwise we’d be nothing but bloody pancakes.”
“120 seconds.” If she could only stall Cajuala for two minutes. She’d need a few seconds to turn and dive back through the open gates and into the temporal field.
“I’m sorry, Major. Time’s up.”
Yabipai had been turning the decision over in his mind. If it were just a matter of facing discipline for disobeying orders, he would have yielded to his conscience in an instant. But if he turned over command to another officer, one motivated by personal glory and national attention, then there might be few if any prisoners to take away from Basecamp. It had to be now, or was it already too late?
Toni reach out and placed the palm of her hand on Yabipai’s forearm. From the First Warrior’s point of view, it was unseemly for a woman to touch a man casually, but she wasn’t a Southern Palutes woman. She was someone uniquely different. This was her last desperate act to elicit some shred of pity from him.
He jerked his arm away and pulled the walkie-talkie from his belt. “Initiate plan Modoc. Repeat, initiate…”
Toni turned and ran toward the gate before Cajuala could react. Unfortunately his aid was faster on the trigger. A shot rang out. Toni felt the impact, staggered, and began to black out.
Then there was a hum and the entire base seemed to ripple in a faint white light.
“Pull back, men. Pull back. Don’t let it touch you.”
If Yabipai was right, anything inside the sound and light would go back to Toni Blair’s world with her.
He spared just a moment to give Feather Warrior Mikan Tongva a look of disdain. Whatever punishment First Warrior Cajuala might suffer, he was going to make sure Tongva also received full consequences for firing upon an unarmed person, particularly when the troops had not received the attack order.
The warriors pulled back, astonished at what they were witnessing. The entire alien base, all of it, every meter, was fading, as if it were smoke driven before the wind.
Then it was like watching a bubble pop except that Basecamp actually seemed to fold in on itself and then vanish.
Then it was like the base and everyone there had never existed. No scarring of the land. No physical evidence at all that it had really been here. It was as if an exchange had taken place…what is for what was. The land had been restored and Basecamp had evaporated.
Perhaps she had never existed but was some strange hallucination, however he knew standing here, mute with shock like everyone else, that he would remember Toni Blair for the rest of his life.
In Siberia, Vasnev Romanovich had received continual reports from Kelgarries and he and his people were prepared when the counter on the time array arrived at zero. For one minute, their temporal field flared and shimmered. The relays cried and whined, but everything held together. At 61 seconds, the field shut down. Time to see if it had worked. Were they home?
On a small reef that was part of the Desertas Islands, Lynn tuned the radio to normal military frequencies. “I’ve got Rotas in Spain, Ross. We did it. We did it. Quick, get us the hell out of here before someone sees us.”
“There’s nothing here but a bunch of seabirds and feral goats and rabbits, Lynn.”
“Just get us the fuck up in the air, Ross.”
He chuckled. “Launching. Sit tight. We’ll be fine.”
She was staring straight ahead so she couldn’t see Ross smiling at her. She was beautiful and brilliant. He wished he had a better way of telling her that.
“Toni’s lucky. She was hit in the shoulder and according to the medics, will be up and around in a few days.”
“I just want to hear you say it, John. We’ve restored the timeline and we’ve stopped climate change.”
“That’s right, Aiyana. Dr. Barnes is still working out the specifics and maybe there are a few small details that will be different, but he’s confident that about 99% of the previous timeline was restored.”
“What about that one percent, John?”
“I don’t know yet, Ross. Whatever it is, we’ll have to deal with it. At least it won’t be sea monsters and exploding spaceships.”
“Did you send Travis home like I asked?”
“I did, Gordon. He’s terrifically relieved that the wife and four children he left behind are here again and just the same. He called last night to give me the word. I think we can count him out of any missions in the near future.”
“I don’t blame him. I mean how horrible to risk losing everyone you’ve ever loved.” Lynn gave Ross a brief look and then blushed.
“What about Vasnev?”
“Glib son of a bitch pursuaded those three young techs to be thankful they could go back to their regular lives. Said he’s convinced they won’t breathe a word of what they’d been doing to their government. After all, they’d be as likely to be shot for treason as Romanovich and his friend Mineyev Nikolay Duskin. Oh, the latter two are returning to the U.S. by a rather indirect route.”
“Duskin is at any rate. Not sure what Vasnev’s plans are yet.”
“So what are we hanging around here for John? After what we’ve been through, I think you owe us another vacation.”
“Barnes called the meeting, Ross. Said to wait for him, so we’re waiting…”
Dr. Antoine Barnes burst into the room, uncharacteristically excited. He picked up the remote for the wall display and pressed the power button. After a few seconds, an image of the time map appeared.
“We’ve got a big problem.”
“What’s wrong?” John Kelgarries started to stand, but Barnes waved him back down.
The temporal scientist took a deep breath. No one had ever seen him so distraught before.
“I did the calculations on where the experimental Forerunner ship should have been diverted to after the original incursion. You’re not going to believe this.”
The image on the screen shifted indicating a set of spacial and temporal coordinates.
“Oh my God, the PETM event. Instead of a comet or meteor, the Forerunner ship explosion called a global warming event 55 million years ago.”
“Right as far as it goes, Dr. Zheutlin, but now watch as I add data from the incursion performed by Mr. Murdock and Ms. Huỳnh when they were preventing the storm that brought prehistoric creatures forward in time.”
The map shifted again.
“Hey, where did the ship go?”
“That’s just it, Ms. Huỳnh. I don’t know. It is literally not on the map.”
“So the PETM event was once again caused by a natural occurrence, the impact of a comet or meteor, but how could you lose something as significant as a time-space explosion.”
“There’s only one explanation, Dr. Ashe. The time map extends from the far distant past up to the present moment. It can see no farther.”
“Oh crap, Barnes. You mean the future?”
“Yes, Mr. Murdock. Somehow, without meaning to, the time storm sent the Forerunner ship forward beyond today. The explosion hasn’t happened yet but it will happen. It’s inevitable. We may have saved the world of today at the cost of tomorrow.”
“How do we find it, Barnes? How?”
“I truly do not know, Colonel. I only know that we must.”
This is probably the longest “chapter” in my time travel series so far, but I had a lot to cram in so I could reach a logical break between one tale and the next.
In my homage to the works of the late Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton), this book being called “Key Out of Time,” and the chapters thus far are:
The team has successfully ended the threat of modern climate change and prevented scores of seagoing prehistoric predators from invading the Atlantic Ocean for the past 4,000 years, but they’ve got another problem. Up until now, they thought the experimental Forerunner ship would detonate in the distant past, and before the latest incursion, it did. Now that explosion hasn’t happened yet. What would happen to the modern world, if the ship should appear above New York City, London, Moscow, Mecca, or Peking? Can the team find out where it is going to explode and somehow stop it?
We can only hope the next chapter provides the answer. The next chapter is The Lost and the Found.