Twicebound: Chapter Twenty One – Part Two

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header21-2“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

Chapter Twenty One – Part One

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty One – Part One

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header21-1.pngEddie and Armelle watched Benwright disappear down the hall, then glanced at each other.

“Awfu’ helpful, ain’t he?’

Armelle scowled, then nodded at the double doors.

“Might as well see what Vančura has been up to all this time.  Maybe he’ll be a little more forthcoming.”

She shoved one of the door and it opened quietly, swinging on well-oiled hinges.  The room beyond was dim, kept from complete darkness by a row of lamps running down the middle of the room.  Against the walls on either side, computer towers blinked, status lights running in complicated patterns across them.

At the far end of the room, a single desk stood in front of a massive wall display.  Pages of equations scrolled across the display, numbers changing as the computers solved them.  The chair at the desk was empty.

Eddie was busy watching the shadows nervously, but Armelle stared at the display.  After a moment, her eyes narrowed and she stepped closer for a better look.

“What the…”

“Predictive temporal formulae.  I’ve been running them for years now.  It’s next to impossible to know what will happen if even one thing in the past changes, but with enough computing power, you can make a really good guess at it.”

Armelle whirled, focusing on the dim outline of Vančura, leaning on one of the computer towers off to one side.  Eddie squeaked and sprinted halfway to the doors before he recognized the voice.

“Vančura!”

He grinned at her.

“The one and only.”

Armelle started to say something, then stopped and glanced at the wall display.  She was quiet for a minute, then turned back to him.

“How much time did we skip?”

The big man’s grin faded.

“Twelve years.  You time-traveled twelve years.”


End Chapter  21– Part 1

This installment was a bit short, mostly because the next bit is going to be a long one, with no good places to pause the story.  See you next week!

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty – Part Three

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Benwright took a deep breath.

“Okay… the physics of sending someone forward in time are totally different than sending someone backwards in time.  We don’t really understand how traveling to the past works; it seems to break a lot of natural laws, like how mass can be in two places at once, but…”

He broke off as he noticed Colonel Bosze staring at him pointedly.

“But… ah… back to the point, traveling forward in time is relatively simple, from a paradoxical standpoint.  Unfortunately, since it doesn’t cause as much of a disturbance, it’s harder to pinpoint the exact… landing point.  So, the computer has records of where the STAd sent them but there’s no way to know how close they came to the targeted time.”

Bosze leaned back in his chair with a thoughtful frown.

“Where did the computer send them?”

The technician checked his notebook.

“Ten years in the future, to the day.”

With a sharp glance towards Vančura, the colonel leaned forward.

“Ten years?  Why ten years?  That’s a long jump.”

Benwright shrugged.

“No idea.  Ask the prisoner, not me.”

That got a long laugh out of Vančura. Benwright started in surprise, then shot the big man a nasty look.  He started to say something, but Bosze waved him down and ignored Vančura.

“So, we know they were aiming for ten years from now.  Don’t worry about our guest; we’ve got plenty of time to get information out of him.  Let’s concentrate on what we know before we start worrying about what he might tell us.  Do you have an estimate on how far from their target they actually landed?”

After a last glare at Vančura, Benwright shook his head.

“It’s a pretty big margin of error.  Anything from a few minutes to eighteen months.  Tracking time travelers is like trying to figure out exactly where a fish jumped out of the water by watching the ripples.  The bigger the fish, the easier it is, and there might actually be a splash, too.  This… it’s like following a minnow in an Olympic swimming pool.”

The colonel sighed.

“Still, we’ve got an eight-year gap before they appear again.  There’s a lot we can do in that time, regardless of exactly what we decide needs doing.”

A chain rattled as Vančura clapped his hands with exaggerated emphasis.

“And now you’re closer to the question you really ought to be asking.”

This time, it was Bosze who glared at him.

“What?”

The big man smiled at him condescendingly.

“When did I send them?  What about why did I send them and what are they going to do when they get where they went?”

Benwright’s eyes widened with realization, but Bosze spoke first.  His eyes were suspicious and far from friendly.

“More importantly, why are you helping us?”

Vančura’s smile widened and he inclined his head to the colonel.

“And that is the real question.”


End Chapter  20– Part 3

Well, now… I didn’t see any of THAT coming.  Somebody check Vančura’s cards!!  I think he’s playing with extra aces!!

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 – Part One

Chapter Twenty -Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty – Part Two

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The colonel paced back and forth impatiently.  Vančura watched him, face impassive.  At length, Bosze leaned over his desk and pressed the intercom button again.

“Well, Benwright?

He waited, then glanced at Vančura and back at the intercom.  Nothing.  With an exasperated curse, he reached for the button again.  He had barely managed to push it when the door to his office flew open and Benwright precipitated himself in a chair beside Vančura.

“We’ve got major trouble, colonel, the logs say it generated two space-time abberations in the last twenty four hours, not two minutes apart, and the sensor readings from incidents are consistent with temporal translation of mass equivalent to an adult human, but the real problem is the STAd fried itself when it activated again so soon without a cool down, it wasn’t designed for that and the heat sinks couldn’t disperse the thermal build up fast enough.”

He fired off the last words and took a deep breath, staring at Bosze as if he expected the man to leap into action on the spot.  The colonel, however, just stared back, then blinked.

“Shift your mouth of overdrive and try that again.  But condense it into one sentence and answer the question I actually asked.”

Benwright squinted into space as he tried to catch his breath.

“Okay… yes, it looks like two people went through.”

“Can you tell when they went?”

The tech looked sick.

“Forward, sir.  They’re somewhere in the future.”

Bosze’s eyes flicked to Vančura, then back to Benwright.  He tapped a finger on the desk slowly, marshaling his thoughts.

“Do we have any idea where they went?”

“Uh… well, sir, if you want a real answer to that question, it’s going to sound… science-y.”

“Science-y.”

“Yes, sir.”

After sending an all-enduring look up toward the ceiling, Bosze nodded.

“Okay.  If you have to.  But hurry up; we may not any time to waste.  Whoever he sent through,  we’ve got a head start on them, but we can’t afford to lose it, not when we don’t know how far ahead they are.”


 

End Chapter  20– Part 2

This installment of Twicebound is the very first thing I’ve written in 2016!!!  As such, I feel like I have to make at least one New Year resolution for the serial.

I think I’ll start making it intriguing and totally surprising, with plot twists at every corne…. what?  I’ve already done that?

Oh….

See!?  I’m so good at this, I’ve got my New Years resolutions nailed before I’ve even made them!

Happy New Year, ya’ll.  We’ve been given another 366 blank pages to work with.  Make every one of ’em count.

 

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 – Part One

Goodbye, 2015

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Well, here I am, once again.  Staring down the barrel of a new year, waiting for that ominous ‘click’ as the…  wait… sorry, wrong story.  (I keep getting stuck in my action novels)  Let’s try this again.

Well, here I am, once again.  Christmas is over and New Year’s is almost here.  In two days it’ll be 2016 ( and WHERE ARE OUR ROCKET PACKS?!) better known to me as the year of “AAAGH, it’s ’16 already and I’m way overdue on ‘Thundercrest’, help!”

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But, all things considered, it should be a good year and I’m planning to make it so.  I learned a LOT from 2015 and I’m planning to focus all that knowledge with laser-like intensity on… oh, hey, squirrel!

The old year left me with half-a-dozen WIPS, a finished story, two serial novels, a job, plans to get my welding certification, a truck in need of TLC, a motorcycle in need of some dynamite, and a shop full of tools.  And every single one of those things screaming for attention.  Regardless of what else happens, 2016 is NOT going to be boring.

So, first on the check-list for 2016?  To get “Thundercrest” through edits, in print, and for sale.  After that?  Off into the unknown!!!!!

(ooh, that gave me chills!!)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, one and all!

 

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty – Part One

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“Look, we’re not the bad guys here.”

Vančura leveled a cynical gaze at the colonel, then raised his wrists and rattled the handcuffs.

“These restraints would indicate otherwise.

Bosze didn’t look amused.  In fact, he looked more than a little irate.

“You did break into a secure government testing facility and monkey with a highly  sensitive piece of equipment.  The handcuffs are protocol, but I’ll admit, I enjoyed having you put in them.”

The big man studied him, a frown starting to develop, obvious even under the indomitable composure.

“You bribe a crooked judge and prison warden to kidnap us off the street chip us like animals, then force us through an experimental machine.  And you aren’t the ‘bad guy’?”

Bosze’s grin was anything but pleasant.

“Hey, I haven’t done any of that yet.  You can’t blame me for something I’ve done in the past for the future you came from, but that I haven’t gotten around to doing in the future for this present.  Just now, the only criminal here is you.”

There was a quiet pause as Vančura considered that.  Finally, he nodded.

“You’ve got this time travel problem down to a science, I see.  Impressive.  So, since I’m the ‘bad guy’ in this particular iteration of our first meeting, what’s next?”

Surprise bloomed on the colonel’s face, then he laughed.

“Oh, I never said you were the bad guy.  You’re just the guy who broke into the wrong place on some mis-guided…”

He stopped, frowned, then stared at Vančura, eyes widening.

“Wait a minute.  ‘Us’.  You kept saying ‘us’, not ‘me’.   Kidnap us, chip us, force us.  Who is ‘us’?  We sent someone else through the STAd with you, didn’t we?”

It w as Vančura’s turn to grin.

“Slipped out of me on accident, I’m afraid.  The question you really ought to be asking, though, is who went through the knothole without me.  Or, to put it a different way, who did I send through it?”

Bosze paled and he slammed a fist onto the intercom button on his desk.

“Benwright! Get down to the STAd and check it’s logs for the time immediately around the incursion!  Move!”

He leaned back, staring at Vančura like he’d seen a ghost.  The big man just chuckled.

“Makes you wonder who I sent through, doesn’t it, Colonel?  In fact, if I were you, I’d be wondering very, very much.  I might even be worried.  If I were you.”


 

End Chapter  20– Part 1

Ah, Vančura… what are you up to?  I gotta tell you, readers, Vančura is the the single most unpredictable character I’ve ever written.   If I ever figure out what he’s planning, I’ll be sure to tell you about it, but don’t count on it being any time soon.

Also, Merry Christmas, one and all.

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

Twicebound: Chapter Nineteen – Part Three

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The hallways of the Sandglass facility were conspicuously dim, lit only by widely spaced emergency bulbs.  The STAd room had been fully powered on, but it seemed to be the only room in the building that was.

“What’s with the lights, Benwright?  It’s like a cave in here.”

The tech shrugged.

“The building’s been cut off from the main utilities, so we’re running on internal power.  We keep just enough lamps going to keep us from bumping into stuff, but that’s all.  Can’t waste any electricity on trivialities.”

He turned down one of the dark hallways, then unlocked a stair-well access door.  It was still dark, but not the lights were green, instead of yellow.  Eddie hung back, staring at Benwright suspiciously.

“Dat’s a purty strange color…”

“It won’t hurt you, trust me.  Green makes it easier to see in low light.  We never shut off the lights on the lower levels, so Vančura had us install green lamps in the less-used areas.  They use a bit less power.”

Eddie didn’t look any less wary, but he nodded and followed Armelle down the stairs.  Two stories later, the technician unlocked another door.

“Cover your eyes.”

It creaked open, letting a stream of friendly yellow light through the gap.   They blinked, but he didn’t wait for them to adjust.

“Come on.  We don’t exactly have a lot of time to spare.  Vančura was expecting you, but he’s going to have to debrief the two of you.  There’s a lot of work to do after that.”

He smiled at them, a little apologetically.

“Welcome to the clean-up crew and all that.  Sorry about the mess.”

With that, he waved them into the hall and led the way to a set of double doors at the end.  He tapped twice, then nodded to himself and turned to Armelle.

“Go on in.  He’ll be waiting for you.”

“Thanks. What did you mean by ‘welcome to the clean-up crew’?”

Benwright started back down the hall, carefully avoided her eyes.

“Vančura will tell you all about it.  I’ve got to get back upstairs.  This place doesn’t guard itself.”

End Chapter  19– Part 3

Well, ya’ll, this is the last installment before Christmas.  The next time you see Vančura and Co. it’ll be the day after Christmas.  I guess that means it’ll have to be a really good one?  After all, not many stories see two Christmases in a row, do they?

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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 – Part One
Chapter Nineteen – Part Two