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Authors: M.L. Banner

Time Slip (6 page)

BOOK: Time Slip
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June 29 - The day the lights went out

 

To my daughter Victoria,

 

I am hopeful that you will see this if I don’t find you. I am headed to a place of safety. I left you a note with directions on how to get there. This note allows entry for you and whomever you decide to bring along. It may be the only safe place left on earth. So please put aside your anger at me and go. You’ll find the key in its usual place.

 

I always cared, no matter what you may have believed.

 

Love,

Dad

 

“June 29
th
of what year?” he thought out loud. It had been August 9
th
when he left his office to travel here. He stepped into the home and first tried to find the note to Victoria.

The kitchen had seen the worst of the looting. Broken dishes, cups, glasses, and various pots and pans were strewn about. There was no note on the counter and he didn’t see it on the refrigerator or any sort of bulletin board. But something struck him as odd. It was the usual assortment of things you would expect in a kitchen, but something didn’t add up—it just didn’t feel right.

He combed the floor in case the note had dropped, but he didn’t see anything. Stepping through the detritus, he saw another pile at the back of the kitchen. Boxes and cans of food: broth, tofu, gourmet noodles, pasta shells. “No real food,” he said to no one. Perhaps it was no mystery at all. If there was no power, there would be no deliveries to the grocery stores; he had earlier confirmed this thought when he passed a looted grocery store. People would be hungry and would look to other houses for food. Still no note.

Again, that feeling hung on him like a weight. There was something wrong about this place. And then he knew: it was the dust, or rather lack of it. If he was years into the future, the house would be covered in a thick layer of dust, but there was only just a little. He knew by the billboard outside his laboratory, changed methodically every six to twelve months, that the start of this calamity had occurred shortly after he had stepped through the time slip—after that day in what was his past. Now, he knew that this apocalypse hadn’t happened years ago, but only weeks or a few months ago. That dread crept up further within him.

He continued his search around the house, head down, searching for the note that would tell him where this “place of safety” was that Mendelson wrote about. Within a minute, he found Mendelson’s home office. It was similarly tossed about, with papers and drawers from a desk thrown on the floor. Stepping around the mess, he sat in the man’s office chair and pondered where he should look next.

If you haven’t found it yet, it’s because you weren’t looking in the right place. Keep on looking until you find it.

The computer was a dead soldier, as he guessed most computers in the world were now. A thought popped into his mind and he turned his gaze downward, pushing his chair away to see a printer cable running under the semi-transparent chair pad and leading to the credenza behind him, on which sat a small laser printer. There were no pages on top, but part of a page stuck out. The remainder jammed inside the machine. Dr. Ron stood up, opened the back housing, and firmly but carefully pulled out the jammed page. He turned it over and plopped back into the chair, like a deflated balloon.

Although the ink was somewhat smudged, as it hadn’t yet been fused to the page, it was a mostly complete satellite picture with a map overlay, like one would find on a typical map program. In the middle was a complex of buildings surrounded by a wall. The marker pointing at the complex was labeled Cicada, and he could see “Boulder” prominently displayed above. On the bottom of the page was a GPS location: 38 32 48.55N 104 52 30.00W.

Chapter 20

Aug 10 (04:35)

 

Monty woke up stunned and groggy. It may have been seconds or minutes; he wasn’t sure how long he had been unconscious, but it couldn’t have been too long because he was staring at the same early-morning sky, soon to be pushed aside by the sunrise. The glare from the complex’s light-sensitive spotlights was uncomfortable. He must have taken quite a jolt from the fence, but he felt okay otherwise. At least he wouldn’t have to figure out how to turn the power back on. He snickered at this thought, lying on his back, staring at the sky, as if he were leisurely stargazing with friends on a warm summer evening.

Worry about being caught and his throbbing arm shook the cobwebs from his head. He leaned up and looked down, chin on chest, and was horrified to see his arm was such a mess. Making quick use of his T-shirt to bandage his bloody arm, he could see it looked worse than it felt.

He made himself small and ran to the back of the complex, aiming for the back door, hoping he hadn’t yet been seen. His mind and body, still somewhat wobbly, followed the shadows as they bounced and raced forward and then back each time he crossed the path of the spotlights on either side of the fence. Reaching the rear door to Dr. Ron’s office, he was relieved to find it was still unlocked, the way he had left it earlier this morning. It also meant that the police hadn’t been back here—another good sign. From a closet Monty grabbed one of Dr. Ron’s lab coats and made for the laboratory, his arm now aching. If he could get done what he needed to next, and not get caught, he would have to go get stitches.

Monty looked at his watch, trying to remember when he set up his diversion for the police and wondering when it would go off.
Better get moving
. With some luck, he only had the one police officer to contend with, and that fellow should be occupied by the diversion, assuming he wasn’t inside. Monty pulled on the bookcase, just enough to peek into the laboratory. It looked clear. He bounded up the stairs to the double doors and peered through the hardened small windows. No one there, either. After securing the doors, he pushed the nearby desk over, just as Ron and he had done to the outside door yesterday. He ran down the stairs and set up.
Where was the diversion
?

It didn’t take long: he only had to slip in the hard drive and prep two drones—he figured he’d be lucky if he had time to open the time slip once: it took just as long to prep two.

Everything was ready. His right forefinger shook in anticipation of his diversion and his aching arm. The diversion… if it ever went off, it was going to be costly to him. He sure hoped it was worth it.

When he heard it, he cringed.

Chapter 21

Aug 10 (04:42)

 

One moment, a denim blue Porsche 911, Monty’s pride and joy, sat quietly near the portion of the fence closest to the frontage road, waiting for its owner to return. In the daylight, it might have been conspicuous, with jumper cables attached to the fence on one end and to a crowbar jammed in the car’s fuel port on the other end. But in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours, the soon-to-be-diversion was practically invisible.

The next moment a rolling fireball erupted out of its interior, shooting the German Sonnenland soft-top skyward, a flaming mass that then fell, doing somersaults. The police officer who was now standing post in front of the door of Stoneridge Research Lab nearly fell over, not from the force of the blast, but from being startled. He ran to the blast to offer assistance, afraid someone might have been inside.

~~~

The man bit down hard on his cigarette, his second-to-last one, when the blast erupted almost right in front of him. He realized now that Dr. Stoneridge had set up a diversion and must be in his lab. He tossed out his cigarette, stepped on it, and then stopped as he saw the officer running toward him, the burning car between them.

He calmly strolled toward the running officer, who glared at him, perhaps for not assisting with the burning vehicle. The man lifted his gun hand and squeezed off two silent shots without interrupting his gait. The officer, his mouth and eyes widened with astonishment, bounced backwards, laid out flat on his back. The man slowed only slightly, focusing on the terrified officer’s head, and fired the kill shot. Like a gymnast performing a well-practiced routine, he grabbed one of the dead officer’s hands and dragged the body off the road, where it wasn’t likely to be immediately found.

Then he turned and headed to the laboratory.

Chapter 22

Aug 10 (04:58)

 

The time slip popped open before him, with its twirling wispy lights and window in the middle. Monty focused, his tongue sticking out slightly as he worked the controller, and guided the drone into it. Flying the damn thing was a bit more difficult than Dr. Ron had made it look and he almost missed the window on his first pass—two seconds.

Immediately, data streamed to the computer, its screen blinking. A small window, its meter application, counted up the total data uploaded in megabytes, its digital counter moving so rapidly it was almost impossible to see any one number. He caught a glimpse of 97.45 rolling by and then focused back on the probe, keeping it steady with the remote controller—four seconds.

He glanced back at the portal and then at the separate window on the screen displaying the live feed on its front and back cameras, looking for anything that would indicate Dr. Ron had left a message—five seconds.

Although the view was not entirely clear, he could easily identify what was on the other side of the portal: it was a lab that could have been a mirror image of this one, only badly damaged and presumably unused for years. That room was brighter now than when Dr. Ron had gone through, and so he could see more. The images from the current video feeds and the previous one showed almost nothing looking back in the direction of the time slip. It was sort of a murky, undulating disruption of light. He fixed his attention on this, but the images were just too blurry, as if the focus on the video camera in that direction needed to be adjusted. This further confirmed their theory that the slip was one-directional, even if it didn’t make sense. They had tested this when Dr. Ron had attempted to fly the drone back through the slip unsuccessfully. It was puzzling for sure, as they could send back electronic signals from their video feeds to their sensor data, just not material objects—seven seconds.

He also couldn’t let the drone go too far from the window, because he started to lose his controls when he moved it farther than an inch or two from the time aperture—nine seconds.

Just before it closed, Monty saw the corner of the first drone Dr. Ron had sent, before involving him. It looked a little banged up, but otherwise intact. There was definitely no sign of Dr. Ron—ten seconds. The slip closed.

Monty’s arms dropped. His uninjured left hand, still clutching the remote, pushed against the computer console for support. He let out a deep sigh and felt his exhaustion take control. If their calculations were correct, the time slip he opened was to a point about three to six months later than when Dr. Ron had jumped forward. He was only sure of one thing at this point: Dr. Ron had not made it back to the lab, and certainly not with any useful data to save his wife. So many questions still unanswered, and perhaps they never would be.

The machine had already powered down completely, part of the program’s routine as configured by Dr. Ron. No other sounds, except for the tick-tick-tick of unseen hot metal being cooled by the spray of liquid nitrogen.

He would have to try once more. He put down the remote controller and entered in the new equation to open the next time slip, roughly six more months forward. Thinking once more about the calculation to make sure it was correct, he pressed the Enter key and the machine started up again.

Chapter 23

Aug 10 (05:10)

 

The man estimated he only had a few minutes to get into the lab and take care of business before the next shift of police would arrive to investigate their missing comrade or reports of the explosion. He could hear a low pulsing noise getting louder and louder, like a giant metronome whose movement was speeding up. He would have preferred a less obvious entrance, but speed was most important here. He fired his silenced weapon once at the u-shaped neck of the Master Lock, hanging from a recently added hasp that secured the doorway. It flopped forward, and then slid off where the shank was broken. Undoing the latch, he pushed open the door, breaking the notice posted over the door and jamb announcing, “This property closed by the order of ERCOT for power violations….” The door swung in only a couple of feet before stopping. The entrance was partially obstructed on the other side. He walked through, his gun leading, combing for any unfortunate person who may have been on the other side.

A loud thrumming noise and flashing lights were coming from behind the double doors in front of him. He stepped quickly to them and peered through one of the two small windows. The laboratory looked vast and deep, multiple stories, with a lower floor below and barely visible. He couldn’t see what or who was below the railing in front of him, but there was a strange pulsating light and the top edges of a series of bluish concentric circles, like a large ripple in a blue pond, only this was suspended perpendicular to the ceiling. In front of the door was a desk blocking his entrance.

With a free hand he tried the door. It was locked, so he fired twice at the deadbolt securing the two doors and kicked hard on what appeared to be the more likely of the two to give way. It did.

Chapter 24

Aug 10 (05:12)

 

“Oh my God!” Monty breathed rapidly, his face locked in a hardened combination of fear and excitement, his eyes burning to make out every word of the message coming to him from the time slip.

A noise above disturbed his concentration. Monty jumped as if shocked and spun his head to the side and up, searching the mezzanine level for the disruption. Another noise, louder this time, although just barely registering above the machine’s roar. And there was movement. One of the double doors securing the lab’s entrance partially opened, although only the top foot of it was visible.

He returned his focus to the time slip just as it closed. Turning back again, he saw a man standing on top of what must have been the desk he had moved in front of the door to block entry. This man was staring past Monty, probably at the time slip—but now at him. Their eyes locked and Monty knew instantly he was about to become a target. As if confirming that thought, the man raised his hand—gun attached—and aimed at Monty, who dropped below the computer console just as a chunk of the desk whiffed over his head.

BOOK: Time Slip
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