Canyon of the Moon

desert

Found at the Orogold Store Locator website

Travis Fox rode his horse down the arroyo at the edge of his Father’s land, except he was dead so it was his land now. Try convincing his Uncle Wendell of that, though. He thought he was running the ranch. Travis tried not to fight with Wendell. He wanted peace in the household for the sake of Cassie and the children.

He’d never thought of himself as a rancher. Always fought his father’s ways until it was too late. Cancer took him, his father, strong, brave, Apache. In the end, he was just a wasted, tired old man. Not like his grandfather Chano. Chano remembered the old ways. Yes, he was born in the 20th century, but Chano’s grandfather told him the stories of the blue coats, of the treaties that were always broken, of being herded like animals into reservations.

Fox’s two sons and one daughter were children of the 21st century, but Travis longed to preserve the heritage of Chano and his ancestors. Chano died strong, fearless, still seeing past what had been done to him and his people, still disdaining those among them who had surrendered to alcohol and despair.

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Invasion

ice age

J. Raloff/Science News for Students

The Tenth Story in the Time Travel Adventures of Ross Murdock

“Welcome to the Ice Age. What shall I call you?”

Murdock was startled out of his shock and awe by the voice coming from around the enclosure he had just exited. He had assumed the room was inside a main wall of the cavern, but as he turned around, he saw it was a stand alone structure.

“Come, come. I know you are not actually a Beakerman named ‘Rossa’.”

Ross didn’t recognize the man in the Soviet Major’s uniform but the voice was familiar.

“That’s right. I was the one speaking to your group on that beach in Britain, the one where you were hiding before your Marines came to retrieve you. I lost two good men in that little skirmish but then, those are the fortunes of war.”

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Captured

fog

From the 1980 film “The Fog”

The Eighth Story in the Time Travel Adventures of Ross Murdock

All four men on the team from the future reflexively reached for weapons as the quartet of raging Axmen charged. Suddenly Ai pushed past Assa and Rossa, held forth the rune covered amulet she wore around her neck, and then loudly cried out in a language the rest of her party could barely understand.

Three of the Axmen abruptly stopped and cringed as if confronted by their worst horror-filled nightmare. The leader of their band stopped too and half-bowed but as he looked up to peer at the woman opposite him, rage and hate still filled his eyes.

“Daughter of Gaea. Think not the Axmen of the North are so easily swayed by your powers. We flee something much worse.”

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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 Cache

Sunlight over ice floes.

© National Geographic

The Sixth Story in the Adventures of Ross Murdock

The modern city of Dover had been inhabited since the Stone Age, so by the advent of the Bronze Age, it was a thriving community, one which the three agents from the future were determined to avoid. Ashe, Murdock, and McNeil, or rather Assa, Rossa, and Maka, in the guise of Beaker traders, stayed away from the well-used trails that led in and out of Dover in search of a mystery.

This was circa 2,000 BCE and they had been sent back in time by Operation Retrograde to recover technology and perhaps even the location of a spaceship left behind by the alien race they called the Forerunners. However, their outpost, disguised as a Beaker trading post, had been destroyed by time traveling Soviet agents using weapons from the present, leaving the trio fugitives, not only from Red spies, but from the local clans who believed they were cursed by the gods. Their only hope was to hold out until the extraction team aboard the nuclear submarine USS Thetis returned just under two weeks from now and they could be transported out of Britain and back to the time gate at their base in the Arctic.

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The Traders

submarine

Found at Shutterstock

Ross Murdock, or rather “Rossa,” stood in front of half a dozen historians and cultural experts for inspection.

“I think you are lying. Who are you really?”

Aiyana Zheutlin shouted at him in a language few would understand in the 21st century, a language understood by Bronze Age Beaker traders 4,000 years ago on an island that would eventually be called Britain.

“I am Rossa, a trader. I travel with my companion Assa. See, here are the markings of my clan.” Rossa offered the necklace made of wolves teeth, and a thin leather strap tied with intricate knots as evidence of his authenticity.

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Escape

submarine

From the 1968 film “Ice Station Zebra”.

“I’ve got a headache, Ashe.”

“Small wonder, Murdock. The virtual interface takes some getting used to. Plugs right into your brain, like that old movie ‘The Matrix,’ but without the spike in your skull.”

Gordon Ashe was just a few inches shorter than Ross Murdock, but his skin was much darker and looked almost like it was weathered to leather. The archeologist was in his forties but looked older. He was a veteran at Operation Retrograde and was supposed to have five jumps to his credit. He even helped set up the trading post to which, on Ashe’s next jump to Bronze Age Britain, would find Murdock accompanying him.

But only if they had absolute proof that this was the right location and time.

“Martial arts, interactive language classes, cultural classes, hell, the cafeteria here only serves me food that those traders ate four-thousand years ago.”

“It’s only been a week, Murdock. Give it time.”

“Time. Is that a joke?”

“If you don’t learn, you’ll end up like Hardy. He got careless and paid the price.”

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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.

Man Out of Time

the premonition

Pilot Jim Darcy (Dewey Martin) and his wife Linda (Mary Murphy) in the 1965 episode of “The Outer Limits” television show “The Premonition”

When the pilot and his wife ran from my shadowy, fluid form, leaving me standing in the NASA control center in the Mojave Desert, they placed a lit road flare just outside the door to keep me from following them.

They knew I was a being out of time, a man trapped in an endless limbo only they could see. Fire didn’t bother me just like anything else in normal time, but the pilot and his wife were out of synch with normal time, thrown ten seconds into the future and for them, time was passing thirty minutes for every one second of real time. The flare was also out of synch and was a real danger to me.

Of course, as a limbo being, I could have walked through any wall and followed them, even attacked them, but what’s the use?

I was greatly tempted to replace one of them when time resynchronized, leave one of them trapped in my place, in limbo, timeless, but I knew it wouldn’t work. Someone tried it on me before and it didn’t work. I’ll never know what happened to him.

Re-synchronization would only work with the living people who were thrown out of synch, those who still had a chance, those who hadn’t already been lost.

I knew I no longer had a chance. I was lost over five years ago. I’m not even still alive.

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