“Now we wait.”
Historian and linguist Aiyana Zheutlin sat down on the ground in front of the rough-hewn hut in the Amazon rain forest.
“Wait for what?” Her companion, engineer Lynn Huỳnh quickly sat down beside her, putting her tablet in her lap.
“Him. I told you. We brought the food and water as a gift. This is his land. We are intruders but we hope he’ll accept us as guests. So we wait for him to respond.”
“How long, Aiyana?”
“As long as it takes. You don’t want him to shoot us, do you? He’s pretty handy with a bow. Now be quiet.”
Lynn looked up and could see the tip of the arrow pointing out of a space in the crude structure. It was actually difficult to tell the hut from everything else around them. She guessed he liked to hide.
She didn’t like it here but it was part of her job as a time agent to experience primitive conditions and learn and obey the local customs in order to complete the mission. The thing is, they were in Brazil in 2017 in the middle of the rain forest, on land protected by the Brazilian government for the use of the person sometimes called “The Man of the Hole” or The Last of His Tribe.
Aiyana showed her the history of this “man out of time” before they left Project Retrograde for South America. The Man of the Hole was an indigenous person found in the rain forest in 1996 living on a piece of land surrounded by cattle ranchers. He’s thought to be the last survivor of his tribe, but no one could figure out which tribe or what language he was speaking.
He got his name from the narrow six-foot deep chasms he would dig in any shelter he had. In 2007, FUNDI or Brazil’s Fundação Nacional do Índio, the country’s governmental protection agency for natives, made it illegal to trespass on the native’s land and cordoned off 31 square miles of around his territory, later expanding it another 11.5.
Zheutlin and Huỳnh had to get special permission to even visit and it took a lot of persuading to let them come in by themselves once their guides showed them exactly where to find the lone tribesman.
In the years since he was found, he had been taught modern Brazilian Portuguese, but Aiyana had listened to recordings of him speaking his native language. Brazil sadly listed more than 1,800 extinct nations and thousands of extinct tribes, and she suspected this man might belong to one of them.
His language seemed related to a number of other Amazonian tribes, all of which have become extinct in the last 500 years, but more primitive, as if it might be a root language for the later tribes.
But in order to test her theory, he had to talk with her. The tablet in Lynn’s lap was capable to recording and analyzing any spoken language and would serve as an aid in Aiyana being able to understand and communicate.
An hour passed. Two hours. The heat and humidity were insufferable. Insects flew around them both, crawled on them. Aiyana was stoic but Lynn had to force herself to remain still, keeping in mind the importance of this mission. She thought if she could hang on another five minutes, he’d talk with them, then another five, and another, and another.
She found she almost missed the dangers of facing a Megalodon in a small nuclear submarine or dodging F4 Phantom IIs in a spaceship while trying to deploy an array of mini-time gates in an attempt to drastically change world history. At least there was something to do about those situations. Here, she felt helpless.
“What you want?”
A male voice speaking Portuguese whispered from the hut in front of them.
“Talk”. That was Aiyana’s first attempt at speaking the man’s unknown language.
The figure was in shadow as he extended his arms out and pulled the offering of food and water into his hut from where Aiyana had placed them. Then he completely retreated into his shelter again.
“Talk,” he repeated, but the pronunciation was different. Lynn couldn’t tell, but the display on the tablet in her lap, a derivative of Forerunner technology told her so and transmitted that information to a small, wireless earpiece Aiyana was wearing. With each exchange, the device refined its knowledge of the language, but it was really Aiyana’s natural skills that let her understand.
“This land is yours?”
“Mine. Given to me by them, but not where I’m from.”
“You were found here.”
“Found here. Not from here.”
“Who were your people? Where are they from?”
“There.” He pointed inland. “Far”.
“What was their name?”
He said a word that wouldn’t translate and that Aiyana had never heard before. The name of a tribe that had never been recorded.
Small wonder, though. Many larger, aggressive tribes exterminated and absorbed hundreds or thousands of smaller ones in Brazilian early and pre-history.
“What happened to them?”
“The others…Brazilians, they think my people gone. I am the last. Not true. I was taken by the spirits. I try to tell. They not listen. Only you listen. Only you speak the words of my people, you, a woman. Are you a witch? Are you the spirit?”
“No. I am no witch or spirit. I am a woman with the gift of tongues.”
“Before the Brazilians, I see no one like you or her. After, I see many peoples never here before.”
This was a clue since before he was discovered, he had never seen anyone who was not of an indigenous tribe, either his people or neighboring tribes or nations. That could put his point of origin anywhere from pre-history up to about the 15th to 17th centuries depending on how isolated his people were.
Meanwhile, the advanced technology being covertly operated by Lynn was continuing to analyze the language being spoken and relate it to other known tribal tongues. It was also taking readings of the human being still concealed in his hut to gain any biological and DNA clues, and most importantly, to see if he’d ever been exposed to a temporal field.
The latter would have been impossible without taking physical samples by modern methods, but the Forerunner-based sensor device could take active scans that were impossible to detect by unaided human senses.
There was no way for Aiyana to ask what year or time period he called home. His people were too primitive to have the concepts of calendars, though he understood seasons, which is knowledge he used for telling him where and when to hunt game as well as for planting and harvesting, though it seemed his people were mostly a hunter/gatherer culture.
“Tell us of the spirit, the one that brought you here.”
“I was running. Other tribe, the flesh eaters, chased my hunting party. I run. They run. The spirits punished me for leaving them to the eaters. Spirit, light, moves like water, it was there in front of me, touching me, swallowing me. Then I was where they found me. Alone. No eaters. No hunters. No tribe.”
“The time storm,” Lynn whispered.
“Can you send me home?”
His poignant plea nearly broke Aiyana’s heart. Could they send him home? Possibly. Determine exactly the geographic area where his tribe once lived and then try to figure out precisely how far forward he’d been brought in time. Lynn’s instrument might be able to measure the level of the temporal field he’d been exposed to and that could give them a rough estimate.
But she wasn’t going to promise. He’d lived here for just over twenty years. He was protected. He was safe, probably safer than he had been back in his present. But he was also utterly alone.
“No. I am no spirit or witch. I have the gift of tongues. I wanted to learn yours, to speak to you in your words.”
He didn’t say anything for a while and Aiyana and Lynn just waited. When he spoke again, there was obvious emotion in his voice.
“It is good to hear the words of my people. I never thought to hear them again. Will we speak later?”
“I don’t know. Most likely not.”
“Then carry the words of my people to the others, the Brazilians. Teach them. Do not let them die with me.”
Aiyana stood and Lynn followed her lead. “I promise your words will not die with you.”
“Farewell,” said the voice from the past.
The two time agents turned and walked back the way they came. Lynn looked and tears were streaming down the linguist’s cheeks.
Twenty four hours later, Aiyana and Lynn were back in their hotel in São Paulo. The U.S. Consulate had been good enough to sweep their rooms for any surveillance devices and to provide discreet security. They were talking to Retrograde base over an encrypted line.
“No doubt about it, Gordon. He speaks a dialect that no longer exists, but it seems to be the root for more recent languages. Lynn says the temporal readings put him from between the 13th to 15th centuries. Unfortunately twenty years of chronoton particle decay has made it almost impossible to get a more accurate reading.”
“At least you’ve established him as the only known living victim of a time storm.”
“Only known living example, but I’m willing to bet we have at least one or two other highly promising examples from as recently as the twentieth century.”
“I look forward to your full report once you and Lynn get back.”
“A little light reading, Gordon?”
“You know I like my mysteries detail packed.”
“We’re flying out first thing in the morning. Between commercial and military transports, we should see you in less than forty-eight hours.”
“I’ll let Kelgarries know.”
“Hey Gordon, say hi to Ross for me.” Lynn had suddenly leaned close to Aiayna’s cell. Her relationship with Murdock was no secret so she figured why not?
“I will, Lynn. Ross is working with Kelgarries and Romanovich on a project and we should have some news for you two by the time you get back.”
“Can’t wait, Gordon. See you then.”
Once the connection was broken, Aiyana turned to Lynn. “What do you suppose they’re up to?”
“The one percent.”
“You know. The one percent uncertainty Dr. Barnes calculated about the recovery of our timeline. He believes it was restored to approximately 99 percent of what it was before the time storms, but there’s around a one percent difference that still needs to be determined.”
“Like no more global warming?”
“Nope, that was part of the original calculation. It’s an expected outcome. We’re looking for a one percent unexpected outcome or difference between what the timeline was and what it is.”
“This still isn’t our original timeline, Lynn. No Soviet Union. Mitt Romney is the President. Kelgarries is a Colonel, not a Major, Travis has four children, not three.”
“You know that the timeline you’re remembering wasn’t the original, original. Something the Soviets did before we got the time gate changed things. There was never supposed to be a Soviet Union in the 21st century. The Nazis weren’t supposed to ever invade Britain during World War II, not that they have in this timeline, but that’s part of the history I learned in high school.”
“If that’s supposed to be ‘home,’ I wonder if anybody remembers it?”
“Maybe some of the Russians, the ones running the time gates back then.”
“Like Vasnev? Lynn, do you think?”
“He’s never mentioned it, but I sometimes think he’s more of a spy than a soldier.”
“Well, he’s back on the Project now.”
“Why, Aiyana? I mean, if he was brought in to convince the Russian government our request that no one but us operate a time gate while attempting to stop climate change was legit, since that mission is over, why is he still here?”
“It’s not over, Lynn. Sure, climate change is no longer a threat, but we still don’t know what happened to the experimental Forerunner time-spaceship. Barnes thinks it was projected into the future. He’s probably right. But if we don’t find it and stop it, humanity could still be destroyed, an hour, a day, or a hundred years from now.”
“Maybe that’s Gordon’s big news.”
“I hope so, Lynn. But it’s not just finding the ship in time. Somehow we have to stop it once and for all.”
“Oh hi, Gordon. What are you doing here?”
Colonel John Kelgarries sat next to the archeologist in the waiting area outside one of the Project’s aircraft hangers.
“Waiting for Aiyana’s and Lynn’s plane to touch down. They’re due to land in less than an hour. How about you?”
“Same thing. Barnes wants a conference as soon as they arrive. Actually, I’ve got a few announcements myself.”
“Is it that urgent?”
“He seems to think so. He’s really been on edge since he lost the alien ship on the Time Map.”
“I don’t blame him. Up until then, we had a shot at stopping the thing, but now, who knows?”
“What have you got there?”
“I’m looking at Aiyana’s lost and found list.”
“Her…oh, the mysterious appearances and disappearances of people and objects over history.”
“A limited list. The vast majority of Earth’s past is prehistoric so we have no record of what the time storm did and didn’t affect.”
“Barnes said that the last time incursion, the one that restored the current timeline, or most of it, took one large storm and fragmented it into a lot of smaller ones.”
“Yes. As he explained it in the post-mission briefing, we’ve got hundreds or thousands of individual events that have moved a person, an animal, something from one time period to another. There are plenty of mysterious disappearances but not as many appearances as we’d like.”
“Well, take this one.” Gordon used his finger to scroll through the list on his tablet. The case of Rudolph Fentz. In mid-June 1951 around 11:15 a.m., a man in a 19th century gentleman’s suit was found to be wandering aimlessly in New York’s Times Square. Unfortunately, he was hit by a taxi and killed.
“At the morgue, a number of items were found on his body including a copper token for a beer worth five cents at a saloon that didn’t exist then. They also found Seventy dollars in old banknotes consistent with the late 19th century, business cards with the name ‘Rudolph Fentz’ and listing an address on Fifth Avenue, and a letter sent to that address from Philadelphia dated June 1876, all brand new.
“A Captain Hubert V. Rihm of the Missing Persons Department of NYPD investigated. The Fifth Avenue address was a business but no one there had ever heard of Fentz. His name and address weren’t in the phone book, his fingerprints weren’t on file, and there was no missing person’s report.
“Amazingly, Rihm finally discovered the name ‘Rudolph Fentz Jr.’ in a phone book from 1939. The police officer found out the younger Fentz no longer lived at the address listed and in fact, he’d died some five years previously. He was able to find Fentz’s widow in Florida however. Rihm contacted her and found out that her late husband’s father was Rudolph Fentz. He disappeared in 1876 at the age of 29. He’d gone out for his usual evening walk and never returned. No trace of him had ever been discovered.”
“Until June of 1951.”
“How come this information wasn’t brought to light earlier?”
“It’s considered an urban legend. Rihm was afraid people would think he was crazy, so he never put the final result of his investigation in his police report. The case is still officially marked unsolved.”
“I can get on the horn and arrange for a court order to exhume the body, discreetly of course. Do you think we’d find any evidence Fentz was exposed to a temporal field?”
“After sixty-five years? That’s a question for Barnes, not me.”
“Dr. Barnes isn’t here yet, so I’ll begin the briefing.”
Sitting around the conference table along with Kelgarries was Ross Murdock, the recently returned Vasnev Romanovich, Gordon Ashe, Aiyana Zheutlin, and Lynn Huỳnh. “I trust everyone has had a chance to review Aiyana’s and Lynn’s preliminary report on the so called ‘man of the Hole’ in Brazil.”
“The first tangible evidence that a man was brought forward in history by a time storm.”
“After reviewing his briefing notes again Gordon, I think Dr. Barnes would call them time conduits or time tunnels,” Lynn added. “A storm affects a wide area of space and time, such as the event that brought dozens of sea going prehistoric predators into the late 20th century BCE. What Aiyana has been investigating occurs on a much smaller scale.”
“Such as moving a person or animal from one point in time to another.”
“Exactly, Ross. We saw evidence of such behavior at Atlantis where boatloads of people vanished only to reappear who knows where or when.”
“So what do we do when we find something like this?”
“I’m not sure if we can do anything.” Gordon looked pensive. “After all, we expect it to be very rare in modern times. Most of these events would occur in prehistory or early enough in recorded history that well…they would probably be attributed to supernatural events. Even with the Time Map, they’d be difficult to track down.”
“Then why are we doing this at all?”
“To see the extent of the effect, Ross. It’s also possible that translating a specific person forward or backward in time might change the timeline if that person were particularly significant.”
“Like moving a twelve-year-old George Washington to Los Angeles in time for America’s bicentennial celebration.”
“Something like that, Ross. In that case, we’d have a major disruption in the timeline and again, we’d have to do something about it.”
“Given our track record up until now, I’d like to do as little as possible.”
“Speaking of which, I have a few things to bring you all up to speed on.” Kelgarries took over the briefing. “Thanks in no small part to Vasnev here as well as Ross’s assistance, I ordered Dr. Edward Nieves placed under arrest this morning.”
Everyone in the room except Romanovich and Kelgarries reacted with shock.
“What? The head of medical? I’ve known him for years.”
“He’s been a traitor and a double-agent for years, Gordon.”
“Allow me to explain, Aiyana.” Vasnev looked like the proverbial cat that had just consumed the fat canary. “As you might imagine, I have my information sources in numerous security agencies.”
“Please dear Lynn, let me continue. I discovered that Nieves was selling information about the Forerunner corpses to the Russian Security Agency liaison at the Russian embassy. He was also passing along similar data to the NSA, data that Colonel Kelgarries had deemed too sensitive to share even with the U.S. intelligence community.”
“I know where you’re coming from John, but we do work for them. Won’t they drop the hammer on us now that they know we’ve been lying to them?”
“Not now, Ross. We don’t work for them anymore. In this timeline, we never did. We report to a special office of the Executive Branch and are cooperating with the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA, among other agencies.”
“Since Barnes’s one percent, Lynn. It’s part of what he’s discovered we somehow changed during the last incursion. We don’t work for any American security agency anymore. We are still top secret, but we have confidential conduits to several national agencies who know of our existence and of our discoveries.”
“Just think of how we could work with NASA. Our space program could leap ahead hundreds of years in just months.”
“That’s one of the benefits, Lynn. Also NASA scientists are assisting in the analysis of the Forerunner corpses and are suggesting some interesting implications.”
“That will have to wait. I’ve found what we’re looking for, though not in the way I expected.”
Dr. Barnes was standing at the open door to the conference room. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in days and was holding onto the door frame for support.
“Colonel, I sent you an email with my findings but in short, we’ve located the first person who was translated here from the future. I need to have someone interview him before he dies.”
Twenty-two year old Richard Word of Bridgeview, Illinois had been visiting his older brother’s family in Buffalo, New York when it happened. His nephew was just blowing out the candles on his cake, celebrating his fifth birthday when a tremendous sound and shock wave hit the house.
“The windows went. Glass flying everywhere. It suddenly felt a hundred degrees hotter. The house was on fire. Somehow I got little Tommy out before it collapsed but he was already dead. No one else made it out.
“Next thing I know, I was in a helicopter. I was delirious for a while. When I woke up again, they told me what happened. A bomb went off directly over New York. It’s gone, it’s all gone. New York, New Jersey, most of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It was horrible. We were nuked but it didn’t come from Russia or China. I heard rumors that those idiots in North Korea did it, but that was nonsense. Some people even said it was really a comet or giant meteor.
“Then I woke up and I wasn’t in the hospital anymore. I was back in Buffalo, only everything was fine, that is, except me. It was hours before anyone found me at the park. I wanted to see my brother Pete, his family, but after I told the doctors here what had happened, they wouldn’t let me see anyone. Army soldiers started guarding me. Now you’re here. What the hell is going on? Who the hell did you say your name was again?”
“My name is Ross Murdock. Dr. Aiyana Zheutlin and I work for a government agency that investigates phenomenon such as this.”
“What phenomenon? First New York is blown up along with a big bunch of real estate all around it and now it’s not.”
Aiyana leaned closer to Richard. Over 70 percent of his body was covered with third degree burns. He was living on pain killers, antibiotics, and nerve. He’d been found unconscious by a jogger at Wilkeson Pointe near the Times Beach Nature Preserve. He regained consciousness in the ambulance and was in agony. He was immediately sedated. That was three days ago, long enough for him to tell his story.
The Project automatically receives reports on any electronic communications channel from news, law enforcement, and the military containing keywords that might indicate anything relating to time travel or a massive explosion like the Tunguska Event.
“Richard. The explosion. It happened on your nephew’s birthday. What date was that?”
“It was a Monday, October 26th.”
“He had just turned five. In what year was he born?”
“What does that have to do with…?”
“It’s important, Richard. The year. What year was your nephew born in?”
“His birthday is October 26th, 2015. Why does that matter?”
Aiyana stood again and looked at Ross. They couldn’t answer the dying young man’s question but they both knew the answer.
Lynn had been sitting off to one side of the room. She scanned Richard Word. His tissues were infused with a high amount of chronoton radiation as well as an energy signature consistent with the Orange Forerunner experimental time-space drive.
The Forerunner ship that had once been destined to be called the Tunguska Event on June 30, 1908, and then had been diverted to the coast of New Jersey to detonate 55 million years in the past had now exploded, or rather it will explode directly over New York City just a little over three years in the future.
This is a shorter chapter in my time travel series than the last one. I decided to go more for “readability” this time.
I’m playing fast and loose with “mysterious appearances.” Most likely, the “man of the hole” really is a modern day survivor of the demise of this tribe. The matter of Rudolph Fentz is urban legend based on an older science fiction tale. I put the relevant links in the body of the story, so you can click on them to read more.
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:
Now the team knows where and when to look for the Forerunner time-spaceship, but how can they hope to stop it?
The next chapter is Falling Down the Rabbit Hole.