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 15 – Part 1

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Header15-1“Where exactly are we going next, Armelle?”

“Well, unless you know of some other top secret facility with a time-travel device in it…”

Vančura shook his head with a slight smile.

“And I don’t.”

“Then back to the Sandglass facility it is, then.

Eddie ignored them both, pointedly.  It didn’t make much difference, but he did it with single-minded determination, mostly because there wasn’t anything else he could do.  Vančura leaned back and closed his eyes.

“Remind me again why we need to go back in time?  The rest of it makes sense, but as far as I can tell, another trip through the knothole will just complicate things.”

With a brief shrug and a slight wince, Armelle considered the question.  At length, she glanced at him and shook her head.

“It’s complicated.  No, don’t start off on me!  I’ll dumb it down, but it won’t be quite as accurate.  Look, the STAd does create a distortion I can measure, but once it’s measurable, it’s too late to do anything about it.  The damage is already done.  If we’re actually going to fix the problem, we have to do it before it happens, obviously.”

Beside her, Eddie rolled his eyes loudly, but didn’t say anything.  Ignoring him, she continued.

“Anyway, nobody said anything about traveling back in time.  That would be pretty useless, at this stage.”

Vančura blinked and stared at her .  In stark contrast – and entirely true to form – Eddie completely missed every possible implication of Armelle’s comment.  Vancura’s sharp reply, however, nearly startled the little man right out of his seat.

“You.  Are.  Crazy.”

She stared at him, eyes wide.  Vančura never raised his voice.  But he just had.

“What?”

“How can someone so smart be so dumb?”

Eddie perked up at that.  It occurred to him that something resembling a fight was brewing and he was sitting right in the middle of it.  Even though the truck hadn’t slowed any, the prospect of jumping was beginning to look more attractive by the second.

The cab was quiet for several minutes as Armelle tried to come up with a response while glaring at Vančura.  When she finally spoke, it was with a half-angry, half-hurt tone.

“It’s perfectly logical plan!!  And I’m not dumb!”

Eddie winced and wondered if folding his arms over his head would help save him from verbal fallout.

End Chapter  15 – Part 1
Go to Chapter 15 – Part 2


Nobody ever said writing was easy. Between my inability to handle a calendar, a late shift, and my boss calling in an emergency shift (and then cancelling it) this installment almost didn’t get written. Fortunately, stubbornness has prevailed again and you’ve got your weekly ‘Twicebound’!

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

Twicebound: Chapter 13 – Part 3

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“You’re kidding, right?”

Vančura gave Armelle a semi-apologetic shrug.

“Sorry, but no. The only other way to deal with these things is to remove them surgically and we don’t have to tools or the skills for that.”

Eddie looked like he was seriously considering panicking, but Armelle spoke before he could.

“Hold on a minute.  We might not have the skills, but what if I know someone who does?”

“I’m listening.  Just remember, we’re going to need a really good explanation for why the three of us urgently need military grade tracking and termination chips removed from our arms.”

She glanced up at the ceiling and screwed up her face into a grimace as she thought his point over.  It didn’t take her nearly as long as it should have, Eddie noticed.  As far as he was concerned, the more thinking was done about it, the longer it would take them to get around to reconsidering the taser.

After a moment, Armelle got up and disappeared into a back room.  Something thumped and wood scraped along the floor, then there was silence.  Eddie and Vančura waited, trading glances over the coffee.  Eddie slurped his, then eyed Vančura with as much disapproval as he could muster.  It didn’t have any effect, but it made him feel better.

“A taser?  Y’serious?  You been shocked wid one of does t’ings before?”

“I can’t say that I have, no.”

The reply bubbling up in Eddie’s head was interrupted by Armelle’s return.  She was carrying a battered cardboard box and tossed it down in front of Vančura.

“That ought to be reason enough.  There’s a veterinary not far from here; we should be able to… persuade… him to remove the chips.”

Eddie nodded, happy to have the tasers off the table.  Vančura, however, gave her a sharp look and flipped the top off the box.  One eyebrow rose as he examined the contents.

“Are you sure?”

That surprised her.

“What, getting that poison time-bomb out of yourself isn’t worth a little intimidation?”

He lifted the snub-nosed revolver out of the box and dangled it by the trigger guard.  Leaning forward, he studied her curiously.

“No, it doesn’t bother me at all.  You, on the other hand, seem to be remarkably amenable to the idea.  That… surprises me.  A lot.”

Armelle shrugged and grinned at him, tapping her watch.

“Time-travel, remember?  A little threatening never hurt anyone and, besides, once we go through the knothole again, it won’t have ever happened, anyway.”

He sat back and finished his coffee, still holding the pistol in the other hand.

“That’s quite a grey area, Armelle, and you found it remarkably fast.  It almost makes me wonder if you hadn’t already figured it out.”

End Chapter  13 – Part 3
Go to Chapter 14 – Part 1

Okay, so maybe this installment didn’t really answer the question of whether they get poisoned or not.  But hints are just as good, right?  No?  Okay, okay, I’ll rescue them in the next installment, I promise. Maybe.  Getting rid of a plot tool as useful as a poisonous computer chip isn’t something a writer does lightly!


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1
Chapter Thirteen – Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 12 – Part 3

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Papers rustled and Vančura’s pencil scratched steadily.  On the other side of the kitchen, Eddie perched on a stool, holding an empty cup and examining the coffee pot intently.  He wasn’t paying attention to anything but the slow drip of the percolator.

Armelle, however, was watching Vančura.  She thumbed slowly through a stack of pages, glancing at them frequently.  Once in a while, she’d reach in, select a sheet, and hand it to the big man.

Finally, he leaned back in his chair and frowned.

“How’s the coffee coming, Eddie?”

“It’s comin’.  Don’ rush me.”

With an irritated sigh, Vančura looked down at his papers and then at Armelle.

“I’m out of my depth.  Most of this makes a sort of sense, but not enough to be useful.”

After a moment of thought, she tossed down the pages and shoved her chair back.  She stretched, then went over to the coffee pot, ignored Eddie’s complaints, and poured herself a cup.  Once she’d sugared it, she returned to the stool and leaned on the counter.

“You know the grandfather paradox, right?  Okay, you know  some of the possible explanations? The universe might have a safety mechanism, or time travel could spawn off parallel universes, stuff like that?”

Vančura nodded.  Behind him, Eddie scowled at her, injured, then turned back to his percolator.  She rolled her eyes and continued.

“It doesn’t actually do any of those things.”

The big man nodded again, thoughtful this time.

“I got that far. The math didn’t seem to add up to any standard explanation, but I couldn’t figure out what it DID add up to.”

“It’s pretty simple, actually.  Everybody goes in with this assumption that time is this utterly foreign stuff and we have to change our perspective if we’re going to work with it.  Basically, that’s a load of garbage.”

He laughed and retrieved a cup of coffee himself, sending Eddie into a further spiral of depression.

“So, all the other scientists are wrong?  You just happened to figure it out?”

Armelle gave him an arch look.

“Poke fun all you like, but yeah, I did.”

She sipped her coffee, using the pause to grin at him.

“Not that I didn’t have trouble, but once I got it, it’s pretty obvious.  Time is just as much a part of nature as anything else.  Not really a living thing, but everything in nature reacts the same basic way to the same basic stimuli.”

That got a slight frown out of him.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Not really, but that’s not the whole explanation, either.  Here.”

She scanned the papers, then grabbed a single sheet and slid it across the counter.  It was mostly blank, except for a single drawing near the top.

TimeMap

Vančura examined it in silence, surprise gradually blooming.  At length, he looked up at her.

“Did you… use a typewriter to add these labels?”

She blinked at him. Twice.  Then she took a sip of her coffee, shook her head and blinked at him again.

“I hand you a map of time and you want to know if I used a typewriter?”

With a shrug, he tossed the paper back onto the counter and cocked his head.

“The graph is straightforward enough.  Like you said, obvious, once you know how it works.  Where the heck did you find a typewriter, though?  Those things are like hen’s teeth.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

He shrugged again.

“Is it my fault if time-travel is boring?”

End Chapter  12 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 13 – Part 1

Here’s hoping you had fun reading this installment of “Twicebound”!!  (If you didn’t, go back and read it again.  It gets better with… time. I’ll wait.)


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1   Chapter Twelve – Part 2