Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part Two

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Header23-2.png“That’s not really an answer, Vančura.  Here’s the deal; you tell Benwright what he needs to know to fix the STAd.  Call it a way to prove you’re playing fair with us.  If it works, we’ll let you aboard the Sandglass program, in an advisory capacity.”

Bosze leaned back in his chair and folded his arms with an air of finality, but Vančura didn’t hesitate.

“Done.”

The colonel blinked at him.

“Done?  That was… fast.  No arguing the specifics?  No cryptic banter about how much we need you and how disaster would inevitably strike in your absence?”

A slight smile tinged Vančura’s expression.

“Only a fool argues when he’s been given exactly what he wanted in the first place, Colonel.  Now, Benwright, get your notebook.  It would be a shame if you missed any important details, now wouldn’t it?”

Benwright scowled, but he pulled a small booklet out of one pocket and took a pen from the colonel’s desk.  Bosze, however, shoved his chair out of the way and headed for the door.

“You guys can amuse yourself with the technical details.  I’ve got a research project to run, so you’ll excuse me if I get back to it.”

The technician watched the door slam behind Bosze, his scowl deepening rapidly.

“Pathetic excuse for a ….”

He trailed off into low mutter when he noticed Vančura’s raised eyebrows.  The big man smirked and settled into a more comfortable position in his chair.

“Oh, don’t stop on my account.  It must be remarkably aggravating to have to answer to the colonel over a scientific project when you’re the expert.”

Benwright ground his teeth, but didn’t say anything, so the big man kept talking.

“Still, as long as he thinks he’s in charge, you’re really the one running the  project, since he can’t possibly understand any of the science behind the STAd.  Fortunate for me, too;  you’re probably the only here capable of sorting through the math.  See, the problem with the static charge overload is only a serious problem when you’re traveling backwards in time.  The strain on the machine when it sends matter through the temporal aberration in reverse is more severe than when it sends matter through forwards. The static charge is too much for the machine in reverse”

The technician frowned and scribbled a quick equation on his paper, then shook his head.

“No, that’s not possible.  Interfering with time should have the same consequences regardless of your vector.”

Vančura eyed him for a moment, then sighed.

“Look, Benwright.  The problem with you scientists is that you insist on thinking about theories as if they were fact.  Theories are just that; theories.  Just because the theory makes the math work doesn’t mean it’s right.  Just because you hear gunfire and horses whinnying doesn’t mean there are cowboys around the bend. It’s ten times more likely to be musketry and lancers, but you’re conditioned to think that an Indian attack is the only logical answer.”

Benwright stared at him, then rubbed his eyes and looked down at his paper.

“Okay, fine.  Let’s say I’m making assumptions; which theory is wrong?”

“Time.”

“Time?  Time isn’t a theory.”

The big man snorted disdainfully and leaned forward in his chair, eyeing the technician intently.

“Isn’t it?  What do you know about time?  What do you know about it, really?”

“Well… uh….”

Vančura waited.  Finally, Benwright frowned.

“Time passes.  I know that, for sure.”

After giving the tech a satisfied nod, Vančura stood up and started pacing.

“Time passes.  True.  That’s what we know.  But that’s not much, is it?  Cars pass.  People pass.  Time passes?  Ducks ‘pass’!!  What does the fact that it ‘passes’ tell you about time?  Nothing!”

His voice was still quiet, but it cut like a whip.

“Everything scientists “know” about time is based on the assumption that time passes.  They’re skeptics about everything but that.  Einstein said time passes more slowly the faster you go; a revolutionary idea, true, but he automatically assumed that time passes!”

He rounded on Benwright and froze him with a penetrating stare.

“What if it doesn’t?”


End Chapter  23 – Part 2

Interesting;  I had no idea Vančura could get worked up about anything.  Of course, there’s always the possibility that he’s faking it to get Benwright to buy his story…

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

Chapter Twenty Two

Chapter Twenty Three – Part One

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part One

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Vančura accepted a cup of black coffee from Bosze, then leaned back in his chair contentedly.

“It seems the STAd is much more durable than you give it credit for.  I don’t know if it’s the mathematics or the materials, but it will keep working long after theory says it should have failed catastrophically.”

He took a quick gulp and continued.

“Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t have… hiccups… when you use it.  It’s like finding a rifle in the mud: it will probably still shoot, but that doesn’t mean it will be as precise as it originally was.  And it will likely have other problems, as well.”

Benwright’s gaze sharpened.

“Imprecise?  You knew it was going to have a margin of error and you sent your friends, anyway?”

“I did and I did, yes.  It’s not as risky as you might suppose.  You see, traveling into the future has fewer… repercussions if you don’t hit your target exactly.  It’s not much different than going to sleep for the same amount of time; you’re just out of the loop of events and then ‘waking up’ again.  Getting back, though… that’s a completely different proposition altogether.

“It means traveling backward in time.”

Vančura nodded to the colonel.

“Indeed.  However, that’s assuming that the STAd still hasn’t been fixed ten years from now.”

Bosze covered a laugh by coughing into his cup and Benwright glared at Vančura.

“We’re working on it.  Maybe you could help us out there, huh?  Since you know so much about the thing.”

Both he and the colonel eyed the big man expectantly.  There was a long silence as Vančura considered it as he quietly sipped his coffee.  Finally, he threw a calculating look at Bosze.

“That depends.  Are the handcuffs and armed guard going to be a regular occurrence?”

A wry smile tinged the colonel’s face, but Benwright’s scowl remained firmly in place.

“That depends.  Are the attempts to hijack the STAd going to be a regular occurrence?”

“Touché.  Let’s assume for the present that double-crossing each other would only hhurt both of us.  After all, you have something I need and I have a great deal more that you need.”

A scoffing laugh burst from Benwright.

“What? You know how to fix the STAd?  Give me a week or so and I will, too.  I say we jail him, Colonel.”

Vančura didn’t even blink.

“I know someone else has a built one.  And I know none of us want them using it.”


 

End Chapter  22– Part 1

This is getting old, quick.  I don’t LIKE knowing what’s next!  I wanna be just as surprised as everybody else.

Still, I expect this can’t last long.  I hope you guys are enjoying it!

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty One – Part Three

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“Colonel, you do not have a choice.  It’s that simple.  I know more about the Sandglass program than you do and probably more than even Benwright does.  You’ve sent me through that anomaly so many times it’s become blasé and I’ve kept my eyes open each trip.  You and the technician here are practically old friends, assuming old friends make liberal use of handcuffs and holding cells.”

Bosze stared at the big man for a long time, obviously mulling the situation over.  His expression looked as if someone had poured something unpleasant over him.  Benwright started to say something, but the colonel withered him with a particularly irritated glare

Vančura’s lip twitched in what could have been a smirk, but it vanished immediately.

“We both know you can’t have me executed or ‘interrogated, Colonel.  You can’t risk losing any possible source of information on the STAd.  Even an overzealous thump on the head from a guard might cause memory loss.”

He chuckled as Benwright tried to hide a pained wince.

“You need all the data you can get on what happens when the knothole is used.  More importantly, I’m not actively trying to kill you or ruin this program.  That puts me so far ahead of any other possible source of information you have that I’m practically in another universe, as far as trustworthiness is concerned.  And, whether you believe me or not, the first time I went through the STAd, it was as a volunteer.”

No amount of glaring from Bosze was enough to keep Benwright from sitting bolt upright and staring at the big man.

“What?  Volun… there’s no way! We’d have a record of that!”

The colonel rubbed a hand over his eyes and coughed.

“Benwright.  Shut up.  Okay, Vančura; you know we don’t have any way to prove that.  For all we know, the first time you went through, it could have been kicking and screaming.”

Vančura raised a derisive eyebrow and Bosze rolled his eyes.

“As out of character as that might seem.  The point is, we have to trust you, not because we trust you, but because we don’t have any other choice but to trust you.  That’s a position I’m extremely uncomfortable with, as you obviously know. However, we really need that information and you haven’t done anything worse than use the STAd.”

Before Vančura could respond, Benwright broke in, a frown spreading over his face.

“How did you manage that, anyway?  Our tests say that static charge problem should have completely fried anyone in the STAd when you fired it.”

Vančura regarded the tech for a moment, a dark smile flickering.

“Come now, Benwright.  You of all people ought to know that reality has very ugly effect on even the best laid theories.  Practice makes perfect is a much better way of doing things, if you know what I mean.”


 

End Chapter  21– Part 3

Huh… turns out, I knew THIS was coming, too.  Looks like I might be starting a habit of that… which worries me.  I’m not sure I like knowing what’s next.  Oh, well.  Seeing the stunned looks on reader’s faces is a pretty good substitute for having one myself, so I guess I’ll keep writing…

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  Chapter Twenty One -Part Two

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 Eighteen – Part One

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Header18-1“Get ready to go, now!”

Armelle’s shout startled Eddie, but Vančura was already moving. He grabbed Eddie’s shoulders and hauled him toward the STAd, glancing over his shoulder as they went.

“What’s wrong?”

She didn’t stop typing, but the set of her shoulders looked strained.

“They set an alert on the console.  Start up the knothole and every personal security terminal in the building goes on alert.  Can we bar the door?”

Vančura ignored her and muscled Eddie into the STAd, levelling a finger at the little man.

“Don’t. Move.  Armelle, put him through!!”

The hum of the STAd didn’t change.

“Armelle!”

“It’s not ready yet!! I need another minute. Can’t you bar the door?”

With a snarl, Vančura bounded across the room and leaned over her shoulder.

“We don’t have a minute, Armelle.  There’s no ceiling on this room, remember?  All they have to do is get some guns on the second level to shoot down at us and we’re finished.  Barring the door isn’t going to help.  What’s taking so long?”

She shook her head, still concentrating on the screen.

“It’s a government project, Vančura.  There are safeguards and test programs everywhere.  Even the safeguards have safeguards.”

“You can’t bypass them?”

“I’m a scientist, not a hacker.  This is going to take a second… wait… okay, almost there.”

Pushing him out of the way, she slid her swivel chair towards a different monitor.  It lit up when she hit the first key and the deep hum of the STAd changed in pitch. She threw a grin at Vančura.

“We’re good!  Eddie, hold still.”

The console beeped once, then the harsh crackle and flash of electricity filled the room.  A metallic smell rose, but Eddie was already gone.

“You’re next, Vančura.”

He lifted her out of the chair and set her on her feet.

“Wrong.  Get going.”

“You don’t know how to work the STAd!”

“I hit that button right there, right?”

“Well, yes, but…”

He pointed at the machine adamantly.

“The last one through might not make it; racing to the knothole after hitting the button will be risky enough, let alone dodging bullets. You’re the only one who knows enough about time-travel to be useful in the future.  Get moving.”

She didn’t argue.  A second later, the flash and crackle echoed again and she followed Eddie. Vančura’s finger was hovering over the key that would start the cycle again, when the doors burst open.  A small, black cylinder rolled into the room with a muted clank.

Vančura just closed his eyes.  A flash-grenade.  Colonel Bosze hadn’t wasted any time.


End Chapter  18– Part 1

Late this installment might be, but it made it!  Poor “Twicebound”, sandwiched between Friday evening work and Saturday afternoon work.  Don’t worry, from now on, I’m going to be writing it ahead of time, so this won’t happen again.

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