“Why didn’t you come after us?”
Vančura shook his head and glanced up at the wall display.
“They caught me just as you went through. It was all I could manage to get the two of you into the STAd before they shut it down. And of course, later on, when I could have gone through, the STAd’s margin of error was to great. I could have missed you by months, or even years.”
Armelle was quiet, but Eddie ignored all the new information and focused on Vančura with a surprisingly sharp gaze.
“An’ ‘ere you are, boss-man an’ everythin’.”
Armelle blinked at the little man for a moment, then nodded slowly.
“How did you end up in charge here, anyway? Benwright acted like you’re the one calling all the shots. What happened to Colonel Bosze?”
With a shrug, Vančura turned to the desk and tapped a few keys on the computer. The equations disappeared and were replaced by a photo. It was a shot of the outside of the Sandglass complex, smoke-blackened and battered.
The double doors had been blasted in and there was a second hole in the wall a dozen yards away. A combat-medic tent had been set up in the gravel parking lot and half-a-dozen stretchers lay alongside it. Marines in combat gear patrolled the area, looking as if they were expecting shots to ring out at any moment.
Vančura studied the photograph for a while, then sighed.
“You can only be right so many times before people decide you know what you’re talking about. After that, it’s a pretty short step to being in charge.”
Armelle looked from him to the screen, then back again.
“When did that happen?”
“About four years ago. I knew it was coming, but Bosze and Benwright wouldn’t believe it. I’d managed to work my into the Sandglass project in the years since you stepped through the knothole and they trusted me, but they were sure this attack was going to come through the past. That’s what they focused on, so this attack caught them completely off guard.”
“This attack? Who attacked?”
He turned a skeptical eye on her.
“Hard to say. You don’t think Sandglass is the only group that built a time-travel machine from your plans, do you?”
Right on cue, Eddie choked. Armelle ignored him, even though it wasn’t far from her own reaction.
“You mean there are more of them out there, goofing around with the time-line?”
“Well, no-one’s exactly ‘goofing around’. Everyone’s been extremely careful… surprisingly so, actually. No-one wants to send an agent back in time and accidentally wipe themselves out.”
She stared at him for a moment, eyes wide.
“You mean there are more of them goofing around with the time-line?”
The big man sighed.
“Yes, there are. About half a dozen agencies in eight different countries have functioning STAds.”
End Chapter 21– Part 2
Okay, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see this coming. I totally did. I might have even planned it. It’s entirely possible this has been coming for a long time. Y’just never know.
Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty