Prologue: The Defiant Agents

time travel

Image: BBC News

“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?”

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Time Storm

time storm

Blue energy tornado – high quality and very detailed computer-generated image

Captain Toni Blair stared up in awe as did her officers and troops as the Forerunner scout ship landed on the exact spot where it had launched so many days ago.

It’s landing legs had extended. The ship touched down. It’s vibrations and shuttering ceased, and then it seemed as inert as it did when it first came through the now destroyed time gate, before it came to life and took flight.

The hatch opened and the ramp extended downward. Four time travelers turned reluctant astronauts, dressed in alien garb and each with a haunted look in their eyes, began the long descent back toward the sand of their mother planet.

Gordon Ashe, Ross Murdock, Aiyana Zheutlin, and Lynn Huỳnh all set foot back on a world they thought they might never see again.

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My World is Blue

europa

RON MILLER/STOCKTREK IMAGES VIA GETTY IMAGES

“Travis. Darling, wake up.”

Travis Fox opened his eyes and saw his wife Cassie. “Good morning, beautiful. How…?”

Then he realized he was in the wrong bed. Why was his wife leaning over him instead of lying beside him? He wasn’t at home. He never made it home last night. Wait. How long had he been away from home?

The time gate. He’d gone through with Byrd and the others to help get Holden’s group back home from the past. The Folsom men. The attack. They’d tried to kill him.

“Where am I?”

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Europa

europa detail

NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SETI INSTITUTE
An enhanced color view from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft shows an intricate pattern of linear fractures on the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

The four time travelers who had become reluctant astronauts aboard an alien spacecraft now sat at their stations in that ship awaiting takeoff.

Ross Murdock activated the manual control panel in front of him and opened the large hatch that had been covering the landing bay exposing the ship to space. The tube connecting their Forerunner ship to the interior of the Ceres Forerunner base had been retracted and, as a flight director at NASA might put it, “all systems were go” for their launch and mission to Europa.

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The Encounter

time tunnel

Photo used under Creative Commons from light_arted

The temporal field in the alien time gate sparked and cracked for several seconds before anything came through.  Then it appeared, a single Forerunner, an Orange.

“Watch out!” Murdock sounded almost panicked. “It’s a Forerunner weapon.”

It looked like the same race as the Blues. Skin color was a little darker, but everything else was identical. No hair on the exposed head and hands, human enough eyes, flattened nose, more or less a slit for a mouth, lumpy skin texture that looked like an orange peel. It was holding an object Ross recognized as the telepathic weapon the Blue used on him back at the Soviet base in the Ice Age.

Murdock, Ashe, and Zheutlin all reflexively reached for weapons they didn’t possess. Lynn Huỳnh never took agent training, so her response was to freeze.

The tip of the alien object glowed yellow which Murdock knew meant it was activated. He rushed forward to stop the Forerunner before it could paralyze them all.

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Ceres

ceres

Found at: solarsystem.nasa.gov

The Forerunner sphere was off course and out of control. It was going to miss the portal into the dwarf planet Ceres and crash on the surface!

The lighting changed in the control cabin and a loud, intermittent buzzing sounded, probably an alarm.

The configuration of the panels as well as shapes and colors of the controls shifted as if made of melting plastic. One panel in front of Ross stabilized and the panel sections glowed with a bright white.

Murdock stared at the panel. It was so familiar but he wasn’t sure what to do or if he should do anything at all. Finally, he pressed the panel to the far left twice. It started glowing yellow and he could feel an electric shock that made him jerk his hand back.

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Space Flight

ceres

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Travis Fox stood with a security team as he witnessed the wonderful and horrible miracle of the Forerunner spaceship launching from the surface of the Earth.

While Ashe and Murdock were in the past supervising the preparations for the ship’s time jump, Travis reluctantly agreed to remain in the present. He couldn’t stay away from home too long without his wife Cassie, his uncle Wendell, and even his three small children wondering what he was really up to.

The project managed to find an alternate source of water to keep Wendell from having the ranch hands at the Double A drive the herd to the Canyon of the Moon and discovering Folsom Base. Travis had even gone home for a week to show everyone he was fine and to reinforce his cover story that he was helping an old teacher of his with an archaeological dig.

Fox managed to convince his family that he needed to return to the dig, but in fact, for the past two days, he was at this end of the large time gate waiting for the culmination of the mission; bringing an alien spacecraft forward in time 10,000 years.

When the ship materialized in the field, he almost expected Major Kelgarries and his troops to break out champagne but they were all business. There were cheers when the ship appeared and the temporal field was extinguished, but they were short-lived.

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The Second Ship

nebula

Credit: Detlev van Ravenswaay/Science Photo

The quintet descended slowly into the small valley containing the second alien spacecraft. There was more vegetation here than in the previous depression and it partially obscured the vessel.

“Only two stories tall. Maybe a scout craft. Similar construction to the two others but there seems to be some coloring and maybe ornamental differences.”

“Ornamental, Ross?”

“Hard to say, Gordon. I don’t know if the shapes and colors on the hull are functional or not. After all, we put markings on the outside of our aircraft and spaceships to indicate the type of vessel and its nationality.”

“Are you saying there are different alien nations or even extraterrestrials from different planets visiting Earth?”

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Derelict

ship

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

The Canyon of the Moon was selected as the location for the construction of the time gate not only because it yielded the unusual ancient artifacts Ashe had shown Fox, but because it was very remote. It was not thought, however, to be the main site where the spaceship could be found. In fact, the area Murdock saw in this mind, the map that was communicated to him telepathically by Romanovich, yielded nothing useful in the present. On the other hand, the dating of those artifacts gave them an era to which to time jump, approximately 8,900 BCE.

Ashe hadn’t shown the Apache, at least at first, everything he had discovered, particularly the fragments of Forerunner technology that were found in the same area as the U.S. Army issued Beretta M9 handgun. The archeologist assumed that a soldier providing security for their team had, or rather will lose his sidearm during a jump back. Exactly how that happened or will happen was unknown.

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The Folsom Mystery

folsom site

Lindenmeier Arroyo and Folsom Man Hill. Photo courtesy of the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Fox and Ashe were talking, staring into the pool of water supplied abundantly from an underground source, the lifeblood of beasts and men. The soldiers had been keeping their distance but Travis was aware of their presence and the potential threat they represented.

“I can’t believe you remember me after fifteen years. It was just one class.”

“I was an impressionable eighteen year old, Dr. Ashe, and in you I thought I’d found a kindred spirit, a man who valued the traditions of his ancestors as much as I did. Most of my family thought I was crazy. Still do.”

“Mine too, Travis. And call me Gordon.”

Fox was still embarrassed at having been taken by surprise earlier, so this time he was paying better attention, and his keen hearing detected the man approaching them both from behind. Almost anyone else would have been taken unawares. Whoever the newcomer was, he was very good at being quiet.

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