Experiment #227

Interruption Part 1

Samuel dropped to one knee on top of the Eiffel Tower. He held up a ring with a large, rare, blue diamond in it. A dirigible floated iconically in front of the setting sun. A gentle breeze blew in Melinda’s face. Her hair flared like the supermodels from a century later. Samuel had calculated everything to be as romantic as time travel would allow.

“Melinda, you are the love of my life,” Samuel said. “In all the times I have seen, in all the worlds I have traveled, there is no one who compares to you.

“Melinda Maltese Jones, Will you make me the happiest man in all of time and join with me as my partner, my love, my wife?”

Melinda pursed her lips then offered, “Ummmm… Can I think about it?”

Hope and confidence drained from Samuel’s face. He spluttered.

“Ummm…uhhh…yeah…I guess so…I…”

Melinda pulled Samuel from his knees into a standing embrace and kissed him, hard.

“Uh, you decided?” he asked when they came up for air.

“Of course I’ll marry you, Samuel James Quinn,” she said with that smile he couldn’t resist. “Just had to make you work for it.”

He returned her smile. “I don’t know,” he said, melting into her arms. “I might have to take it back now.”

She poked him in the ribs, “Not on your life.”

They watched the sunset arm in arm, as happy as a couple could be. Then they climbed down to the ground.

Each opened their coats to access large mechanical devices draped over their chests: time shifters.

“See you back at the base, my love,” Samuel said.

Melinda nodded and kissed him.

They both turned green, blue and then violet as they time shifted toward the future.

***

Six hundred years later, Horatio Rasch stood in an abandoned field that had once been in the midst of Iowa. Brock and two of Horatio’s acolytes set up equipment. They punched four large metal posts into the ground around a red X spray-painted on the dying grass. Two giant generators stood to one side. Large cables, thicker than a man’s forearm, ran from the generators to the posts and from each post to its two neighbors. Electricity crackled and fizzed and jumped from one post to another like a sci-fi boxing ring. A set of smaller wires wound from one of the posts to a large console, where Horatio stood.

Horatio sang to himself as he flipped switches and turned knobs. When that work was done, he danced and sang to himself as he checked the cables and their connections. Brock and the two acolytes followed him, though without dancing or singing.

Finally Horatio returned to the console. “Ready, boys?”

“Magnetic resistors are ready, boss,” Brock said.

Horatio pulled goggles down over his eyes. On his right side he looked like a twentieth century airman. On the other side he looked ghastly. The goggles magnified the emptiness where his left eye should have been. Horatio flipped a final switch. “Let’s go fishing.”

The lightning grew more twitchy and sporadic as Horatio worked.

A form appeared in the center of the ring. Lightning shot into the center of the ring as the form solidified into a man. He let out a long scream of agony before he collapsed on the spray painted X.

Horatio smiled. He shut off the machine and the lightning died.

Brock and the acolytes tied the man’s hands and feet. They sat him up and turned him to face Horatio.

“Why, hello, Sammy. You gonna invite me to the wedding?”

Experiment #228

Interruption Part 2

Melinda arrived at their base of operations in the forty-seventh century. It was an old, abandoned military installation built on Mount Kilimanjaro after the seas rose. Melinda tapped her foot and waited.

Minutes ticked by without Samuel’s arrival.

Melinda leaned over to the wall and punched the intercom button. “Alfred, you seen Samuel?”

“Nope,” answered Dr. Alfred Bromsley, an alchemist and accidental immortal.

“Is he playing one of his stupid get-there-fifteen-minutes-after-me jokes?”

“Let me check the tracker…”

Melinda turned away from the wall to where her fiancé should be arriving. The empty space flooded with green, blue and purple light.

“Never mind,” she said into the intercom.

But as the light solidified into the shape of a man, Melinda thought the shape was off. Then the man raised a shotgun and fired.

***

Horatio held one of his disturbing grins. “So you just popped the question, huh?” The two acolytes stood on each side of him, weapons at the ready.

Samuel spit on the ground in response.

“Oh come now, I can’t be happy for the gadfly that buzzes around my head?”

“Some gadfly: this must’ve taken years to plan.”

“Ah, but years mean nothing to an immortal. You’re a dandelion in the wind, a speed bump on my road to glory.

“Melinda, though, she’s the prize. I bet you thought yourself clever for finding that blue diamond all by yourself. A real genius in tight pants—and that hairdo. You just walked along and happened to see it in that cave wall, big and shiny and easy to liberate.”

“Nonsense, you couldn’t have known where I was going to get the diamond.”

“True, but all I needed was a guess.”

“Even if you did, I had it cut and shaped it was a diamond through and through.”

“Too true, but something that big, something that old can cause quite a stir in the time tree if it shows up in a new time. Large enough to find it. If you know what you’re looking for, of course.”

“The base… Melinda…”

“Yes, but knowing where your base is isn’t enough to destroy it is it?”

“What are you saying?”

“Well, you’d have to have the ID code to even land in that time. That fool Bromsley made sure of that.”

Samuel looked down at his chest. He now realized his time shifter was gone. He looked up at Horatio. “You’ll never crack it. It’ll take a century to crunch the numbers.”

“Oh, but I don’t need to crack the code. I have a much simpler plan.”

“Wait, where’s Brock?”

***

The spray of buckshot flew straight for Melinda as shiny blue and purple points of light. She braced herself for impact, but the bullets smashed into the wall behind her. Pain shot up her arm, but pain she could deal with. She breathed a sigh of relief and ran from the room as Brock cocked his weapon.

The buckshot had still been time shifting as they flew and were out of time sync with Melinda. They passed through her, except one that materialized and then exited her tricep.

She sprinted down the hall to the next intercom. She held her wounded arm with her opposite hand. As she reached the intercom, it exploded.  She tucked her head down and jumped past the corner as Brock cocked the shotgun to fire again at her.

Melinda zigged and zagged through the hallways. For the first time she thanked the forty-seventh century militia for their labyrinthine hallway designs.

She found an intercom and heard no sounds of pursuit behind her. She punched the button. “Alfred, Brock’s here.” She tried to get out more, but had to catch her breath.

“How unusual,” Alfred said. “He typically comes on Saturdays.”

“No, Alfred! It’s before we flipped him.”

“Oh, dear.”

Before she could respond, her eye caught a glimmer from around the corner. She dropped to a crouch as the third intercom met its end.

She jumped up to run, but doors closed in front of her, turning the hallway into a dead end. She turned to face Brock and his shotgun, cursing Alfred under her breath.

Brock raised the gun to eye level as he aimed down the barrel at her.

“Come now, we can work this out,” she said with a nervous laugh.

He smiled and pulled the trigger.

Experiment #229

Interruption Part 3

Samuel awoke to find himself still in the field he’d arrived in.

Pain throbbed in his brain and made thinking hard.

As minutes passed the pain subsided. Samuel began to take in his surroundings. His hands and feet were shackled. Each set of shackles had a long chain that connected to one of the long poles Horatio had sunken into the ground. The rest of the equipment used to alter the magnetic fields and pull him out of his time shift was gone.

“Why build a prison of steel when you can build a prison of time?” Samuel said to himself. Horatio’s last words to him, the crowbar in the hands of one of the mercenaries, the world cutting to black: memories came back in a rush.

He pulled up his sleeve and found his Chronometer. It read 2534 and gave him coördinates in the center of North America. Normally this would be when he’d contact Alfred and get a feel for the time, but he’d left his communicator at the base when he and Melinda had left. He was pretty sure he knew what time this was given the red glow of the sky and the endless field of grass. It was shortly after The Great War, a war that claimed nearly seventy percent of humanity and drove the rest of the population into isolated towns filled with mistrust. Worse yet, North America had been devastated and almost no one lived in the interior. His hopes of finding help were slim to none.

***

The shot exited the gun in slow motion.

“Bless you, Alfred,” Melinda said under her breath. She ducked under the shot, took the gun out of Brock’s hands, and punched him in the gut. She ran back the way she had come. As she reached the next hallway the time dilation field holding Brock collapsed.

The buckshot crashed into the door where Melinda had been standing. Brock made an audible “Oof” as the force of Melinda’s punch reached his body.

She stepped across the threshold and Alfred closed the door behind her.

She strolled to an intercom and hit the button. “Thanks, Alfred.  What happened to the time dilation field?”

“Brock’s little popgun hit a power line and shmarggled the grid. I couldn’t hold it any longer.”

“You think that hallway section will hold him?”

“It wouldn’t hold the Brock I know for long… He’s already dismantling the remains of the intercom; probably in search of something that’ll control the doors.”

“Can you override his attempts?”

“Maybe the first few, but I’m sure he’ll bypass my controls soon.”

“Any luck finding Samuel?”

“Not yet. Anything he had that I could track has been muffled in some way. I’ve got Quentin searching his data banks of all known museums archives and archeological site records to see if he left anything for us.”

“Ok, ok…”

“Have you tried talking to him?”

“Samuel? Why would I…?”

“No. Brock.”

“The shotgun seemed to get in the way earlier,” Melinda said. Her arm still stung from the pellet’s exit.

“How did we flip him in the first place?” Alfred asked.

“He just showed up. Said he knew he had to help us.”

The lights went out. Emergency lights popped on.

“What was that, Alfred?” Melinda asked.

“He seems to have cut the power somehow,” Alfred replied. “Looks like everything’s down except vital systems like the intercoms and core containment. The control room is running on a generator–Oh no…”

“What?”

“Quentin’s sensors are registering new life sign readings. Multiples.”

“Power failure shouldn’t have dropped the Chronal block. Should it have?”

“No, it’s worse. Brock used the power failure to re-cycle the system. It looks like he reversed the block.”

“What do you mean?”

“Instead of keeping Rasch and his minions out, it’s keeping us in. We’re stuck.”

Experiment #230

Interruption Part 4

Two years after Horatio stranded him in time, Samuel walked out of the wilderness. His neck was strung with kravask teeth (a sort of meaner mutant bear). A scar from his left ear down to his chinn marked his first encounter with a kravask. He strode with a pronounced limp that he’d earned during a fire fight with a military outpost that wasn’t supposed to exist. His clothes were in tatters from being repaired again and again. He wore a long knife over his shoulder made from the hip bone of a kravask and carried a military issue hand gun at his waist.  In such a state he walked into a small coastal village north of where Los Angeles used to be.

He settled into life in the village slowly. Two years in the barren waste had made him twitchy and uncomfortable with conversation. At first the village hadn’t accepted him, few had seen anyone from more than fifty miles away, let alone someone who’d been in the waste and wore kravask teeth around his neck.

One morning he helped Old Man Jacobs fix his tractor and plant the Vergula plants that had brought a semblance of wealth to their community. Anything that allowed you to escape the drudgery of “now” was of high demand in the villages.

After that no one gave him a wide berth, but they didn’t talk to him either. He eked out a living fixing things and doing odd jobs. When he wasn’t working or searching the dump for scrap metal, he was in Old Man Jacobs’ barn doing whatever itinerant vagrants do, or so the village believed.

One night he stumbled from the barn bleeding and bruised.

“Who did this to you, son?” Doc Simpson asked while a nervous Old Man Jacob’s looked on.

Samuel tried to wave away the question.

“I ain’t never seen nothing like this before. It’s like you took a ride in a washing machine with a boulder,” Doc Simpson said.

“An accident of space-time,” Samuel said.

Doc Simpson who was not about to give up talking when there were words yet unused in the language continued on for a while, but he didn’t get anything more out of Samuel. Nor did Sheriff Winters when he tried to investigate.

A few weeks later Samuel up and disappeared, though a fair amount of blood had been left behind. A week after that the remains of a burned body were found in the woods. They buried Samuel and Old Man Jacobs erected a tombstone in his honor.

***

Horatio and his mercenaries swarmed the base. He brought a hundred men armed to the teeth. They rounded up Melinda, Alfred, and Quentin in the time it took for Melinda to ask, “How many?”

Brock had hacked into the internal sensors and sent troops to each of their locations. They handcuffed Alfred and Melinda and placed a device on Quentin that took over his basic motor control. They clumsily walked the android with Alfred and Melinda to the large storage unit on one side of the base. There Horatio stood along with a handful of his followers. They had unboxed some equipment and had begun setting it up. It looked much like the equipment Horatio had used to capture Samuel.

Horatio smiled when he saw them. “This is my latest masterpiece.”

When no one asked him to explain, he went on anyway. “You see it’s quite a bit beyond this trifle,” he said, pointing at the time shifter on his chest. “My time gate uses magnetic resonance to interrupt the flow of time or more importantly those who are flowing through time. It can grab people out of a time stream, but, as you’ll soon see, it can also fling them through it.”

“What do you want, Horatio?” Melinda asked.

Experiment #231

Interruption Part 5

“Mostly that you’d leave me in peace, leave me to my own devices. But as I know that won’t happen, I’ll have to settle for torturing you.”

“Go ahead and try,” Melinda said.

“You remember your fiancé?” He smiled in the way a lion plays with a mouse. “He never showed up when you thought he would. ‘Till death do us part’ be hanged, he didn’t show. Except that death thing was kinda accurate.”

“Gosh, will you get on with your inept diabolical plan already? I’m already bored of this monologue.”

Despite his stony glare, Melinda could tell she’d struck a nerve.

“Fine. You can be the first one to go,” Horatio said.

“Go where?” Melinda asked.

“I thought that information was too boring.” Lightning lit up the room as Horatio’s assistants turned on the device, a time gate. Electricity jumped from one post to another in a complicated dance. “Suffice it to say you’ll be seeing your fiancé again, though, he might not be seeing you. He being dead and all.”

At that moment Samuel jumped out of the lightning and punched Horatio across the jaw. He had a primitive time shifter on his chest and a look of wonder on his face.

Alfred and Melinda ducked behind Quentin as Horatio’s faithful men opened fire. The bullets bounced off Quentin’s cast iron skin.

“You were dead. I saw your tombstone,” Horatio shouted.

Samuel punched him again in the face. “That feel like it came from a dead guy?”

Alfred used his handcuffs to try to pry the puppet device off of Quentin. When that didn’t work he bashed it with them until the light in the center fizzled and died.

Five of Horatio’s men ran at Quentin. Quentin picked up the first guy within reach and threw him. He landed in the midst of Horatio’s equipment sparks flew and the lightning became more erratic.

Quentin threw the next guy too. The other three raised their weapons and stayed well out of reach.

The guy Quentin had thrown hit one of the metal posts, bending it in half. The fingers of lightning that had been dancing between the posts now reached out and grabbed at him. His clothes lit on fire. He screamed as the forked lightning sucked him into the center and he disappeared.

Quentin turned around, bullets still bouncing off his hide. He crushed the chain that connected one cuff to another for both Melinda and Alfred.

“Try to get to a control panel and see if you can get the defenses online,” Melinda said to Alfred. “Quentin and I will take care of those guys and let Samuel finish this.”

Alfred nodded. He ducked behind some crates and went to find an access panel. Quentin covered her while Melinda grabbed one of the guns dropped by the guys Quentin tossed. She fired back, but there were too many and she wasn’t sure she and Quentin could hold them off let alone turn the tide.

Horatio lifted Samuel above his head and tossed him into the cargo containers along one wall of the storage room.

Samuel got to his feet. He was bruised and beaten. After he’d landed that first punch he’d been on the wrong end of nearly every other punch. Horatio had pounded him with strength and skills built over several life times of combat and training.

Samuel tottered and jumped to the side as Horatio swung yet again at him.

“Lets finish this,” Horatio said as Samuel stumbled away from him.

Experiment #232

Interruption Part 6

Samuel placed himself between Horatio and the erratic lightning of the time gate. “Stop, please,” he said. “All we want is to preserve the timeline. We just want you to live in peace.”

“Who’s to say your version of the timeline is the one to be preserved?”

“Because people are allowed to make their own choices. They aren’t forced into serving a tyrant or given as sheep to be slaughtered.”

“People are sheep, and I will be their shepherd.” Horatio launched himself at Samuel.

As Horatio reached him, Samuel’s knees crumbled, but his hand shot up and flicked a switch on Horatio’s time shifter. Horatio tripped over Samuel and fell hard to the floor.

Both men jumped to their feet.

“That trick will only work once,” Horatio said.

“I only needed ‘once,’” Samuel replied.

Horatio took a step toward Samuel, but he made no progress. He tried to take another step and began to sweat as he pushed against the pull of the time gate. He had time for one more step as the lightning grabbed onto him and his time shifter and flung him into the unknown reaches of time.

Brock shut off the time gate. A hundred of Horatio’s men stood behind them. Just then an alarm sounded and white gas flowed down from the ceiling.

Alfred ran to Samuel’s side. “We gotta get out of here. We’ve only got twenty seconds of oxygen left.”

“Next time,” Brock shouted. Then he and Horatio’s men time shifted away. Alfred, Melinda and Samuel ran from the storage bay. Quentin stayed behind to destroy the time gate, to make sure it could not be used again.

As they stood in the hallway, Melinda threw her arms around Samuel, but he did not hug her back.

She stepped back from him. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Unconsciously she fiddled with the ring on her finger.

Samuel just shook his head. He had used so few words in the last two years that he couldn’t translate his feeling into them. He’d never been good at that in the first place.

“What happened to you?” Alfred chimed in. For someone who’d been around as long as he had, he still seemed inept with the feelings of others, particularly women.

“Two years alone in the wilderness,” Samuel said. “Finally built a jury-rigged time shifter. It shouldn’t have worked.”

“Horatio described his gate as something of a time magnet. It must have brought you the rest of the way, drawn you to it, pulled you through,” Alfred said.

“What did it do with that goon and with Horatio?” Melinda asked.

“Flung them back I suspect, possibly even to the time I came from,” Samuel said.

“He said he saw your tombstone,” Melinda said.

“Sure felt like I died out there.”

“For us its only been a matter of hours. ”

“Brock was here causing havoc,” Alfred said. “Quentin and I were searching for you in the archaeological record.”

“I do not doubt your loyalty to me,” Samuel said, “I doubt the man you are loyal to.

“I brought these horrors on the world through my imagination, my creation of the time shifters. I once thought I could save time, but now I realize that I’m the problem.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Melinda said.

Samuel looked at her with a resigned smile. “The only ones who use that word are the ones who know it’s not.” He turned his back on them and walked slowly away down the hallway.

Brock, a decade older than last they saw him, turned a corner, passed Samuel, and came toward Melinda and Alfred. “What are you all doing over here?”

Melinda picked up her gun and pointed it at Brock. “Get out.”

“Oh, that was today, huh?” Brock asked. “Well, I’ll be seeing you.” He turned on his heels and walked back the way he’d come, quickly turning out of sight.

Melinda could still see Samuel walking slowly down the hall away from her. “What do we do now, Alfred?”

“Give him time, Lass. All we can do is give him time.”