Gateway

ship

From one version of the cover of Andre Norton’s novel “Galactic Derelict”

The Ninth Story in the Time Travel Adventures of Ross Murdock

The very fact that Rossa woke up surprised him. The last thing he’d heard was a gunshot and then he felt an impact in the middle of his back. His back hurt, but not like a gunshot wound. Tranquilizer dart?

The room he found himself in was dimly lit and resembled the huts of the villagers. There was a crude wooden table in the center of the room and sitting on upended log on the other side of the table was a man.

The man was dressed similarly to the Axmen but his hair and complexion were darker. The man looked past where Rossa was lying on a loose collection of furs and nodded.  He felt himself being lifted to his feet by men on either side of him. The two other men, dressed the same as the first man, pulled him to a seat by the table facing the man who seemed to be in charge. He nodded again to the two men and they left.

The man spoke in the language of the Axmen and Rossa had spent enough time with them that he understood the basic question, “Who are you?”

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Ghosts

bronze age stone art in sweden.

Found at fotosidan.se

The Seventh Story in the Time Travel Adventures of Ross Murdock

“The reason I’ve invited you to this briefing is that you both already have some idea of what we’re looking for and the stakes involved, although if the higher-ups had their way, you’d both be put in Guantanamo.”

Major John Kelgarries, military commander of Operation Retrograde stood at the front of his audience in the conference room specifically addressing Gordon Ashe and Ross Murdock.

It had been several months since they returned from their mission in Bronze Age Britain and discovered the Soviets had destroyed their covert base disguised as a Beaker trading post. Ashe, Murdock, and the outpost’s only survivor McNeil had just barely escaped an armed Soviet detachment who had attempted to capture them before they could be extracted by submarine. McNeil had cracked under the physical and emotional pressure and was now off team. However, in the aftermath of their mission, the roles of Ashe and Murdock had shifted.

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The Curse of Lurgha

rocket launch

Photo: Reuters

The Fifth Story in the Adventures of Ross Murdock

Assa and Rossa stood on a rise and gazed at smoke ascending from a burnt ruin at the far side of the valley. At that distance, there was no obvious sign of what had caused their trading post to burn to the ground. Lightning maybe? No people or other evidence of attack was visible.

“We proceed carefully, Rossa,” Assa hissed. Murdock’s senior partner moved forward cautiously and Ross, or rather Rossa followed. It was more important than ever for the twenty-eight year old former thief for hire to think of himself only as a Beaker trader, that he was the apprentice of his master Assa, and that this was the only life he had ever lived. Murdock pushed away his memories of the 21st century and continued to follow Assa from one point of concealment to the next on the future Island of Britain four-thousand years before he was born.

An hour later, they had crossed the valley and were standing just meters from the still smoldering ruin and ashes of the trading post which had served as a small outpost for the investigating temporal team from Operation Retrograde.

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The Artifact

the white horse pub

© A Mixed Bag 2014

Ross Murdock sat in Dover’s White Horse Pub sipping ale, silently cursing Gordon Ashe for staying behind. Ashe was the archaeologist. Murdock, a former thief, was Ashe’s student and did what he was told to avoid prison.

“Is this seat taken?” The tall man, dark hair, full beard, spoke heavily accented English.

“Pull up a chair.”

“Merci.” The Frenchman sat, putting his glass on the table. “I’m Alex Besnard. You were expecting me.”

“Ross Murdock.” Neither man attempted shaking hands.

“Actually, you were expecting this.” Besnard reached into his pocket and pulled out something wrapped in cloth. Murdock took it and unwrapped the “prize.”

The stoic cynic’s eyes widened. It really was a Forerunner artifact.

“Dated to 2,000 BCE, give or take. Found a few kilometers from here.”

Murdock put the object into his pocket and then used his mobile to send the payment.

Besnard checked his cell. “Merci beaucoup.” The smuggler stood and walked away.

Concrete evidence the extraterrestrial Forerunners visited Earth over 4,000 years ago. Ashe would be able to date the artifact more accurately so the time portal could be set. It was now a race with the Soviets as to which one would reach the Forerunner technology first.

NOTE: To read the next story in this series, go to The Traders.

The first story in this series is The Recruit followed by Escape.

I was able to identify the location in the photo above as Dover after magnifying the image and reading the sign in front of the White Horse Pub. Archaeological finds have determined that Dover has been inhabited since the Stone Age, which gave me my hook.

When I was in Junior High (many decades ago), I discovered a book in the school library called The Time Traders. It was the first of a series of science fiction novels written by Andre Norton (pseudonym for the late Alice Mary Norton). The first novel was published in 1958 with the premise that a race of advanced alien beings, later identified as “the Forerunners” had visited Earth sometime in the last ice age.

Thief Ross Murdock is recruited by the government for a team, along with archaeologist Gordon Ashe, to travel back to Britain’s Bronze Age posing as traders in order to gather information and maybe direct access to a Forerunner ship. The problem is the Soviets also have time travel technology and know about the Forerunners, so it’s a race against time (literally) as to which side will acquire advanced alien technology first.

I updated this cold war thriller to suit my purposes. I still have copies of “The Time Trader” and its immediate sequel Galactic Derelict. I did manage to read one of the more modern “Forerunner” novels some years back, but there was such a gap between the late 1950s stories and the one I found at my public library that it was more frustrating than satisfying to read.

I wrote this in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction – July 9th 2017 challenge. The idea is to take the image above and use it as an inspiration to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is exactly 200, cut down from about 306.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.