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Category: Book One

Wizard Battle of Vengeance

Time of Faith (Book One) part #003: An epic science fiction/fantasy, time travel adventure

Char edged forward through the darkness, sandals crunching on rocks. A thick fog surrounded him, hot and clammy.

His staff flickered with a dim green glow, enough to see by. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. His stomach clenched tight. His mouth was dry. Was he panting?

Char stopped walking and bowed his head. He concentrated on slowing his racing heartbeat. He had to control his emotions.

Master Joseph echoed in his head, “Master your emotions or they will master you.”

He wished he could hear those words again. His eyes began to well up with water. He swallowed and brushed a hand over his face.

Breathe, Char. Breathe. He brought his mind into focus. He had to stay in control. He imagined leaves swirling in a fall breeze. He imagined the bending of grass in a clearing.

His breathing became even and strong.

The glow of Char’s staff intensified.

You should get out while you can.

Char’s eyebrows rose. It was his voice, yet it was not his thoughts. It was the Overlord.

Char waved his hand in a small circle and spoke one word, “Clear.”

The fog around him fled. As it went, Char’s mind became clear again. Fear scurried away from him. He pressed his lips together. It was a spell of fear.

“Resist evil and it will flee.” The old saying made him smile.

Amusement turned to anger. The Overlord had killed his master, and Char had come to seek vengeance. He raised his voice to the darkness, “Enough games, Overlord. I’m not leaving. You’ll have to show yourself.”

The voice in Char’s head laughed. It was Char’s laugh, but not his. It made him feel like he was laughing at himself.

Is it bravery or stupidity that makes you come here? Do you think you can command me in my own house? Very well. If you will not leave, I will make myself known. I hate to stab a man in the back.

On the walls of the cave, torches sputtered. One after another they burst into flames. The room filled with heat and light. Char held his staff tight.

He was standing at the entrance to a huge throne room. The tunnel behind him had walls of stone. Ahead were four walls of glittering white marble. Each wall held torches set in ornate golden fixtures. The fire lights caused something in the back of the room to glitter. Char’s eyes pulled to the stacks and stacks of gold. It was a pile fit for a dragon. There were coins, goblets, flatware, jewelry, medallions, and heavy-looking bars. Dotted amongst the loot were jewels of every color, in every imaginable size. The sight made his eyes boggle.

In the middle of the treasure sat a fat, golden throne. Atop the throne, the Overlord lounged. He smirked and waved with a gold scepter.

“Have you come to join your master?”

The Overlord’s dress was dramatic, like a king—purple robes and fur-trimmed cape. Long sleeves draped thick over each armrest, pooling on the bed of treasure. His curly blonde hair coiled and bounced on both shoulders. He had a handlebar moustache that curved upward on both ends.

The Overlord’s ornate scepter emitted a black glow that pulled at Char’s soul. That must be the Overlord’s power source. Char could see magic auras—it dripped magic.

Master Joseph had warned him, “If you see the Overlord, you won’t know if he is friend or foe.”

The Overlord was a dark magician of the highest order—a mercenary for hire. He’d been fighting wars on both sides of the fence for years.

The Overlord stared hard at Char, considering. The words spoke into Char’s mind again.

Now I can see it. You have power, young one. Someday you might have even been a match for me. You still lack the necessary skill.

It was not smart to come here. That was foolish.

The Overlord cleared his throat. When he spoke, his voice was haughty and bored. “I grow tired of always speaking with my mind. It is good to exercise now and again, is it not?”

Char said nothing.

The Overlord filled the void, “I spend most of my time going from place to place, finding creatures to enslave. I make them do my work. The holders of my contracts reward me generously.” He motioned to the pile of riches around him.

Char pressed his lips together.

The Overlord continued, “There’s a trick to controlling creatures, you know. Did your master ever tell you?”

He leaned forward in his seat as if he were reaching the best part of his story. “Your name is Char, right?” He waved a hand, “You don’t have to tell me. I could see that plain as day in your mind. No first name. No last name. Only Char. And it’s not a nickname? You should guard your young mind. You don’t know who might use what they find there against you.”

The Overlord narrowed his eyes, staring at Char. “You see, I must know a creature’s true name if I am going to command it. Allow me to demonstrate. Char. I command you to approach my throne.”

Before he knew what was happening, Char was gliding forward. He hadn’t meant to and realized in horror that he could not make himself stop. He tried to pull back, but his legs wouldn’t listen. He moved forward, straight-legged, like a stiff soldier.

“This isn’t much of a compulsion. I’m not even trying. You should be able to break my control.” He tsked his tongue. “So untrained.” He widened his smile, exposing yellow teeth.

Char squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating hard. He slowed his breathing. He found his core and focused on it. He was one with everything and everything was one with him. He felt the Overlord in his mind. His thoughts were like fingers exploring his consciousness. He was playing games.

Char pulled his mind back and pushed the presence away. Char stopped moving forward—back in control of his body.

“There,” said the Overlord. “That wasn’t so hard, was it? You could train to do what I do.” He waggled a finger. “But you aren’t here for a lesson. I smell a silly need for vengeance.”

Char ground his teeth. “I have no times for games, Overlord. I am here to kill you. I have all the power I need to get the job done.”

The Overlord sat back in his throne and placed his hand on his chest, “Oh, dear! If I had any feelings, they would hurt.”

He cracked his knuckles. “Were you not paying attention, boy? You are nothing. I am the one with the power here. I could turn you and your empty threats to ashes in an instant. I could make you bow to me and pledge your unwavering devotion. I could destroy you with a blink. I could even make you kill yourself and save me the trouble.”

He let out a long sigh. “The problem is no one has paid me to kill you. I have a strict code about such things. If I start giving away killings for free, well, that’s just bad business.”

The Overlord smiled at him over clasped hands. “Besides, if I wanted you dead, I would have stoked the fire hotter when I burned your parents.”

It was like a punch in the stomach. Char felt his magic rushing to him even before he called for it. Tightness gripped his chest, like the world crashing in around him. His vision grew black at the edges. He hefted his staff high above his head. “You killed my parents! You made me an orphan! Die, Overlord!”

The air around Char sizzled and snapped. An explosion rocked the walls. Bright light surged from his staff, streaking through the air in a sharp, jagged arc. Char could feel magic coursing through him, burning hotter than his own anger. Thunder rocked Char’s eardrums. The bolt of lightning struck, pinning the Overlord to his throne. White energy flashed across his muscles as they convulsed. His body thrashed under the current.

Hot tears streamed from Char’s eyes. “You took everything from me!” he channeled his anger into the lightening, making it burn hotter. The Overlord’s robes burst into flames. He thought he could hear his flesh sizzle and pop. Char clenched his jaw as he squeezed as much power into the bolt as he could.

And then it was gone. Char stood panting, hot tears flowing down his cheeks.

From the cloud of smoke, the Overlord started to laugh. It was a deep guffaw that turned Char’s stomach.

The Overlord began to pat out his flaming robe. He stopped after he realized there wasn’t much left to save. Smoke drifted up from the remains of fabric in lazy circles.

Still smiling, the Overlord leaned forward. He lifted a hand, displaying a gaudy ring in the shape of a dragon’s head.

“What kind of mercenary would I be if any random wizard could vaporize me with a lightning bolt? See this ring? No creature from this realm can ever harm me.”

He gazed at the ring. “Too bad I had to kill the witch after she crafted it. You can’t risk that kind of protection falling into the wrong hands.”

He looked down at his smoking clothes. “I am afraid that you have ruined my robes. It is so hard to get a good tailor to travel to the top of this mountain. I suppose I deserved it with that whole thing about burning your parents. Business is business. I hope we can move past this.”

Char opened and closed his mouth. He was in over his head. He had depleted a good deal of his limited magic out of anger. It would take much more than a lightning bolt to defeat him. Was it even possible? Char gulped. His mind whirled, trying to invent an escape.

The Overlord fixed his gaze on Char. “We should start over, young man. Why don’t you sit down?” It was a question, but Char felt the power of compulsion pulling him down. A plain wooden chair appeared behind him. Char told himself he was choosing to sit down.

He tried to banish the Overlord from his mind as he did before, but this time the control was stronger.

“Even though you have not been too polite, I will still give you another chance, Char. There is much I could teach you. I have been meaning to take an apprentice.”

“You.” Char faltered, licked his lips, and started again, “You killed my family and my master. Why would I ever work for you?”

“When the Union wants someone dead, I’m not going to argue. Their gold was quite impressive.”

Char felt despondent. Everything was gone. What could he do? Was there enough magic for him to do anything? He felt a wave of despair. He felt dizzy.

He frowned and berated himself. Why had he come here? What had he expected?

Anger began to boil again. It nibbled at the side of his perception. It dripped into his lungs. It tightened his chest. His master had said that he could tap into the limitless fount of the earth. There were mighty rivers of magic below him. He had purpose and desire.

Char imagined his mind was a drill—going deep into the Earth. He didn’t feel any magic at first, and then he sensed warmth. He continued to dive with his mind. , he felt the familiar warmth. He was back in business. He narrowed his eyes as he looked up at the Overlord.

The Overlord couldn’t continue this way. He killed and took. His reign must end. The words of another spell played across Char’s mind. The head of his staff burst into flames.

The Overlord shook his head and tsked again, “What a waste. Did not we just discuss the ring?” He sighed. “Very well. I can tell that you are not going to change your mind. Learning is not your strong suit.” The Overlord stood and lifted his scepter. “Remember that I gave you an alternative. I have other matters to attend to. You are wasting precious time.”

An aura of magic surrounded the Overlord. It expanded outward, changing from black to deep purple and finishing with a bright red. Char could feel the wave of magic as it washed over him. It seemed familiar. He leaned back, closing his eyes.

The ground began to rumble.

The Overlord continued. “I will make an exception of you. Since you are keeping me away from making money, your death will allow me to make money. I will take that as payment for your contract. Congratulations! You earned yourself a free slaying!” he laughed. “That was funnier to me than I am sure it will be for you.”

He continued, “I will make your death something extraordinary. I mean, look at you, you have come all this way. I have so many creatures at my disposal. Most of them are strong enough to kill you. You do not want an every-day death, do you?”

He tapped his chin with a finger. “Hmmm.” Then he nodded. “Yes, that will do. Only the best for my houseguest. May I introduce you to my favorite demon,” He chuckled again. “For your sake, I wouldn’t struggle. It will be over faster.”

Char could see something appearing in the air before him—a sliver of light yawning open. It sliced the air until it connected floor to ceiling. It stretched wide, letting in a flood of light. Char had seen this before. That’s why the magic seemed familiar. The Overlord was opening a Gateway to another world and summoning one of his minions. He said it was a demon? That was very non-specific. Any creature from another world could was a demon.

The Overlord smiled, satisfied. He stood and waved his hands in the air. A gilded door shimmered into existence. The door swung open at his approach. He strode through. The door closed behind him. The doorway faded again into shadows.

Char looked back to the Gateway. It was continuing to widen. He didn’t have much time.

His mind shouted at him to flee. Rising with shaking legs, he half turned to run. Again, the words of his master stopped him dead in his tracks.

“No magic is stronger than other magic. The strongest fire is defeated by air or water. For every spell, there is a counter. If the magic cannot be overcome, try moving the target.

Char closed his eyes and took a deep breath to center himself. He had trained for this. He had tapped into a new magic source, so he had his full book of spells at his disposal.

“Ok, think, think, think.” He ignored the sound of rushing wind as the Gateway connected to another world. He planted his staff on the ground ahead of him, rolling it between his palms. The wood ground on the floor, making a small ring of dirt.

He visualized the rocks underneath him. He drew upon his new magic source like pulling in a breath. His staff started to shine with brilliant light, growing warm under his fingers. Char opened his eyes and began to chant words of magic.

Char channeled magic into the head of his staff, which was still ablaze. He added static charge to the fire. Each impact would deliver a bolt of shock along with a burst of flame. He didn’t know how many charges it held. He hoped it was enough.

Turning his attention to the other end of his staff, he channeled more magic. The wood flickered. Ice crackled as it covered the end of the staff. A touch of that side of the staff would freeze a target solid.

With those two spells finished, Char readied his mind to cast a spell of vapor concussion. The spell would attack with an invisible hammer of air.

He needed to see how vulnerable this demon would be to the elements. He had fire, shock, ice, and air. If he had enough time, he would also try earth.

Char gazed hard at the Gateway, staff gripped tight.

A low howl drifted through the air.

In the Gateway, a shadow appeared. It was man-sized at first, but as Char watched, it grew larger and larger. Soon it was double man size. A single hoof emerged to plant itself on the stone floor with a hollow click.

Augmented, Super Slow-Motion Battle

Time of Faith (Book One) part 002: An epic science fiction/fantasy adventure

The tendons of Kerr’s fingers tightened. Hands tightened into fists. They felt heavy—ready to bludgeon.

His weight shifted forward. He was ready to launch forward. His legs were springs screaming for release.

The suit performed a rapid emergency system check, flashing words too quick to read on Kerr’s LENS. One by one, his muscles tensed and relaxed. Calves. Quads. Biceps. Back. Shoulders. Stomach. Chest. Each burned with potential energy.

Kerr’s nostrils constricted and his lips pressed together. Thousands of microscopic oxites tumbled into his bloodstream. Kerr no longer felt the need to breathe.

Drugs began to trickle into his brain. Endorphins began to fire. Switches began to flip. He felt good. He felt unstoppable.

Kerr’s universe exploded.

Time stopped as a flurry of activity hijacked his mind.

Everything was brighter. Crisper. Louder.

Kerr could almost taste every passing moment. It was time to move, Move, MOVE!

Braun held a frozen smile, teeth parted. He was saying something, but Kerr couldn’t wait.

His peripheral vision absorbed the position of everything around him. They surrounded him. Braun ahead. Blanc right. Neither with gun drawn.

His real problem was Murphy and Johansson. Both had their guns trained on him. Johansson almost had a look of glee on his face. He seemed eager to get off a few shots.

These were trained soldiers. His movements would bring an instant response. Even with time “stopped” he could attack one, but not both.

He could do a lot of damage wearing the suit, but he wasn’t a soldier. The suit was bulletproof, but bullets would still knock him around. How long until somebody got a headshot?

Enough thought, it was time to act.

Kerr launched toward Braun in a blur of motion. He grabbed Braun by the shoulders and spun him around to be a shield. His trained soldiers held their fire. They ran toward him in slow-motion.

Kerr’s kicked up with his knee, burying deep in Braun’s stomach.

Another message from the suit flashed on his LENS.


Kerr’s eyes widened. A dark shape was coming from the right. It was Hendrikson. He rocketed toward Kerr with a combat knife in his hands. He was fast! Everyone appeared to be moving through water, but not Hendrikson.

Kerr realized with horror that he was up against an enhanced soldier.

Kerr fell sideways, repositioning Braun before Hendrikson slammed into him. The knife swung wide, trying to strike behind the colonel. Kerr continued to roll, pulling both Braun and now Hendrikson with him. As he landed, he planted both feet on Braun and kicked.

Thank you, judo lessons!

His legs fired like pistons, launching Braun and Hendrikson into the air.

Kerr planted his palms and pushed off. Twisting like a cat, he landed ready for his next maneuver.

The suit augmented his movements. That wasn’t one of his judo lessons.

Johansson rolled onto the ground, getting into a better firing position. Murphy was lifting his gun to get a lock. Major Blanc pivoting her gun.

Kerr smiled. He wouldn’t be in the same place by the time they could fire.

Braun and Hendrikson tumbled through the air. Hendrikson wasn’t wasting the motion. Using Braun, he swung around to face Kerr. His mouth curled in a dark smile. The knife was gone. A gun was in its’ place. Kerr locked eyes with him. Hendrikson winked and squeezed the trigger. The gun erupted flames.

He watched as a bullet drilled through the air.

Without realizing what was happening, he had done a small forward roll. Three bullets hit the ground where he had been moments before. He twisted, getting his legs under him.

Using the ground as a springboard, he launched himself forward in a run. He spotted his silver briefcase out of the corner of his eye. He scooped it up as he ran.

Another short burst of bullets belched behind him. Kerr risked a look back as he ran. Colonel Braun crumpled against a concrete pillar.

Hendrikson hit the pillar with both feet, bent his legs, and pushed away like a coiled snake. He hit the ground running. His gun continued to erupt fire.

Johansson and Blanc began firing their weapons but they were firing at the spot where Kerr had been. Now he was a running machine. An inferno of energy coursed through his legs.

Clouds of dust surrounded him as bullets chewed up the floor. He kept his head low. He could feel bullets impacting back and legs, but he ignored the pressure.

He dodged right, rounding a concrete pillar, and kept running. For a split second, the bullets no longer found him.

He had gained and lost the element of surprise. A team of trained soldiers were pursuing him. It was laughable to think he could escape. What was his end game?

Kerr dashed left and right. Bullets shadowed his every step.

He ducked behind another pillar but the bullets kept coming. Hendrikson was now running parallel to Kerr.

He dove into another forward roll. As he moved, he twisted his body to face the opposite direction. His feet braced, stopping his forward momentum. His hands launched him off the ground and he pulled himself forward like a monkey—feet over hands. Springing up, he was running again.

Hendrikson cursed as he stopped his sprint and changed direction, tripping and skidding.

Tears streamed from Kerr’s squinting eyes as he flew forward. His path was taking him toward the other soldiers. He ducked into a skid and shifted directions again. Ahead of him, Kerr could see a light—the light of the Portal.

He ran toward the light.

The ground around him came to life again. A flurry of pebbles and dust shadowed his every move. A shot struck the back of Kerr’s leg with enough force to make him miss a step. He stumbled forward, almost falling. The suit righted his steps before the final tumble, letting him race ahead once more.

The Portal was now in full sight.

There was nothing but white light through the Portal. Kerr skidded to a halt. It was no longer connected to the Time Dock. Who knew where it would lead?

The bullets behind him ceased. Hendrikson had him trapped.

“Game’s over, hero,” he chuckled. His gun smoked. It was no longer pointed at Kerr. There was no point, “There was nowhere to go, anyway. The only way you’re getting a cure for that virus is going back home. It’s either ‘join us’ or die.” He shrugged. “Your choice”

Only three steps.

That was the distance between Kerr and the Portal. Inside the opening was nothingness—swirling white lights and squirming fog. No one knew what it was like. No one had ever returned.

Kerr began running.

One foot down. One foot up.

“Stop!” yelled Henderikson.

Kerr ignored him. One foot down. One foot up. He grimaced. Last foot down. Last foot up.

Kerr plunged into the Portal and the whiteness swallowed him whole.

Professor Kerr Visits 1993

Time of Faith 001: an epic new science fiction & fantasy adventure.

The world split open.

Kerr’s gut turned. He tried holding his breath, but didn’t help. He hoped he could keep his breakfast down.

The crack in the air before him puckered and stretched like it was giving birth. Air roared from the hole. Light poured out, making Kerr squint. The LENS on his eyes adjusted by applying a brown tint.

The air in the room changed directions. Kerr felt his hair move as wind rushed into the new vacuum.

And then there was silence—no sound at all.

Kerr had read about this, but never experienced it first-hand. He was seeing an actual Portal. He realized the sides of his mouth ached from his smile. “It’s beautiful!” he whispered.

Beside him, Colonel Braun chomped on his cigar. “It’s something to see the first time, but when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.”

Kerr straightened his face. Across the table, Private Johansson sputtered a mocking laugh. Ignoring him, Kerr looked back to the Portal. His mind took in every detail. He wanted to remember everything.

The brightest glow was in the center of the opening. Shining beams shot out—rays of swooping flashlights. Was it coming from the Passage itself?

Kerr willed himself to stay in place. Like a siren call, the lights beckoned him forward, but he knew better. Entering the Passage now would mean being lost in a sea of time.

Now something was happening in the lights. They began to fade away. In their place was another world.

Kerr smiled. He could make out an underground structure full of concrete pillars. They stretched away into the distance. White lines marked the ground at regular intervals.

Colonel Braun cleared his throat, “Welcome to 1993. The place is New York, New York, in the grand ol’ Eyu-nited States of America.” He drawled out the last part of the sentence in an accent Kerr couldn’t place, but he understood the sarcasm. The United States of America had been a grand social experiment in its day. It was a pity it never worked out.

Kerr was about to step into history. He started to catalog all the major events he could remember from 1993. His questions tumbled out a little too quick, “Who are we meeting? What’s the exact date?”

Braun held up a finger to silence him. His eyes shifted to Private Johansson and locked before issuing a command, “Take point.”

Private Johansson nodded and readied his gun. He moved through the Portal—now wide enough for two men side by side. He bent to a crouch as he walked, still moving fast, keeping his gun raised at the ready. Nothing special happened when he crossed the threshold of the Portal—like walking through an open door.

On the other side, Johansson stopped moving. He made a slow rotation on his heels, eyes scanning in all directions. He held up two fingers and waved them forward—all clear.

“Bring it in,” said Braun. “Murphy. Hendrikson.”

Murphy moved with brisk urgency. On the other side, he looked left and right—confirming that it was clear. He squated behind Johansson, gun at the ready. He watched one way while Johansson watched the other. They were careful not to make any noise.

Private First Class Hendrikson also walked quickly, gliding through the air. His short form made no noise at all when he moved. He sliced past the other two soldiers and disappeared from view behind the concrete pillars.

Braun nodded at Major Blanc. “Ahead and hold.”

Major Blanc tucked the silver briefcase under her arm and walked through the opening. Her other hand gripped a pistol with a long silencer, barrel angled downward. Her boots clicked on the pavement with confident calm. She took up position behind the other soldiers, looking back at them.

Braun looked at Kerr. “After you, sweetheart.”

Kerr cleared his throat. Nodding, he hugged his own silver briefcase and moved toward the Portal. He stood before it and looked through. Not a big deal. What’s a hundred-year trip between friends?

He closed his eyes and stepped forward. He flinched as he tip-toed through the opening. He didn’t know what to expect.

Nothing happened. He sighed. He had been nervous for no reason. Feeling foolish, he lowered the briefcase hugged to his chest.

Johansson smiled and shook his head. “Look at this guy. Is it his first time?”

Kerr surveyed his surroundings. There were no vehicles anywhere he could see. It was a parking structure, abandoned right now. The row of lights above created circles in the pavement. It was a sea of concrete columns and white lines. It could have been any time of the day or night. There was no natural light. Since there were no cars, it was either very late or very early.

Kerr shivered and rubbed an arm. This place was a cold tomb.

Major Blanc spoke up, her voice echoing, “It’s a nice, crisp February morning.” She sucked in a breath, nostrils flaring. “Smell that oil and stale air.” She smiled at Johannson and Murphy.

Kerr took a deep breath.

Concrete. Oil. Gass. Bubble gum?

The others he understood, but bubble gum?

Colonel Braun was right behind him. He had ditched his cigar in favor of a wad of gum. Kerr was embarrassed again.

He looked back at the the open Portal. He bowed his head. He could still see the rows of computer screens casting a green glow on rows of technicians. As Kerr watched, the image of the Time Dock faded to be covered by white light again—now a doorway to nowhere.

He gulped.

“Keep it moving,” growled Braun, bringing Kerr back.

Major Blanc nodded her head, blonde hair swaying forward. Murphy and Johansson stood and moved before her, guns at the ready. They moved easy, with their legs bent to absorb the sound of their steps. Kerr felt invisible eyes watching him. He imagined Hendrikson crouching like a ninja behind the next column.

Major Blanc still didn’t seem concerned about hiding herself. Each of her steps clicked on the pavement and echoed through the structure.

Colonel Braun marched behind them with strong steps. His gun was still strapped to his hip. He kept his angry gaze pointed forward, almost daring the air to attack them.

Major Blanc moved with casual grace. Seeing no immediate danger, she tucked her gun back into the holster at her. She took her silver case from under her arm. It swung while she weaved through the pillars. Murphy and Johansson kept an eye on her as they tried to keep ahead of her brisk walk.

A large, white van came into view. A red company logo on the side proclaimed it the property of Ryder.a yellow license plate was stamped “Garden State.”

Kerr spoke sideways to Braun. “I thought you said this was New York?”

He shrugged. “Aren’t they all about the same?”

Kerr began to protest, but didn’t want to be that guy and remained silent.

The van door opened, and a pair of legs swung out. The driver was short with black hair and dark complexion. He raised both hands. His blue coveralls were too big for him, bunched up on his wrists and ankles. His unshaved face looked haggard. His tired and shot eyes shifted between them.

Kerr frowned. At first glance, this man didn’t look like a proper candidate for the Gift. Kerr wondered if the man had been sleeping in his truck. Kerr’s ideal candidate for the Gift was a white-bearded scientist or crisp politician—maybe a man dressed in an expensive suit. This man looked like a delivery person from the slums.

Murphy and Johansson lowered their guns. Murphy dropped back to the nearest column. His eyes continued to scan the forest of concrete around them.

Major Blanc called to the man in a cheerful voice, “Ramzi, good to see you again, my friend!”

Ramzi gave a tired smile, nodding, “And you, my friend.” He lowered his raised hands. Kerr noticed beads of sweat on the man’s forehead. What was wrong?

Braun’s voice echoed in the empty space, “How’s your uncle?”

Ramzi played with the clasp of his coveralls, “He is good. We’re looking forward to the operation today.”

Colonel Braun gave a satisfied nod. “Don’t keep the man waiting, Major.”

Ramzi twitched as Blanc approached. Major Blanc presenting her briefcase to the man with a quick flourish.

Kerr cocked his head to one side. He turned to Braun, “Shouldn’t I be the one to give the Gift?”

Colonel Braun’s hard eyes silenced him. He chewed the wad in his mouth and considered Kerr for a moment. He glanced first to Johansson and then to Murphy. Johansson nodded. Murphy shrugged. He looked back at Kerr, seeming to make a decision.

“Here’s the deal, egghead. We aren’t giving him the Gift.”

Kerr’s mouth opened and closed his mouth. His mind drew a sudden blank. He sputtered, “W-what do you mean?”

Braun watched Major Blanc as she pressed her fingers against both latches on the silver case. The latch sprung open with a click. She displayed the contents of the briefcase to Ramzi. Kerr couldn’t see what was inside. Ramzi raised his eyebrows. His lips puckered in a silent whistle.

He turned to retrieve something from the van. Murphy and Johannson raised their weapons again. Ramzi held up both hands and slowed. He kept one hand up as he reached in the cab.

He took a brown briefcase off the driver’s seat. He showed it to the pair of privates. Both soldiers lowered their guns.

Ramzi presented and opened the briefcase. Kerr saw stacks of green and the glitter of metal and gems before the case was closed again and handed to Major Blanc.

As the case switched hands, Ramzi added, “The USB drive also contains coordinates to the other things you have ordered.”

Major Blanc met his eyes while their hands were both still on the case, “Don’t double-cross us, Ramzi. You know we can make sure this whole thing doesn’t happen.”

Ramly gave a nervous chuckle, “Of course. We are all on the same page. You give me what I need. I give you what you need.”

Satisfied, Major Blanc took the brown case.

Braun watched the exchange while still talking to Kerr, “We couldn’t discuss this at the Time Dock. There’s too many eyes and ears.”

Johansson and Murphy had shifted their positions. Both of their guns were up again, but now pointed at Kerr. His blood froze. His skin prickled. What was going on?

He placed his silver briefcase on the ground slowly. He held up both hands. He was starting to wonder if the Gift was even contained there. This was too much to take in at one time. He spoke clear and slow. “Discuss what, exactly?”

Braun waved a hand at Johansson and Murphy. They lowered their weapons, but kept them drawn. Braun put on a wide smile, “Hey, We’re talking. No need for violence.” His face hardened. “Yet.”

Kerr’s mouth was dry. He tried to swallow. Under his clothes, he felt tingling. He would have called it nerves, but he recognized it as the Jump Suit releasing some drugs into his system. He was not the type to fight, but he had come ready to fight, if the need arose.

His heart rate increased. The suit detected this and released some extra glucose. His fear subsided. It must have released something stronger. Now he felt angry. He clenched his fists. He gritted his teeth. He buzzed with energy. He shifted his weight forward on his toes.

Braun nodded to Major Blanc. She returned it with a small smile, “He’ll wait in the van until we leave, sir.”

Kerr looked from one face to the other, “We’re here to deliver the Gift, but we don’t have the Gift.”

Braun shrugged, “Oh, we have it.” He eyed the briefcase at Kerr’s feet. “I never cared much for the thing. Too much scientific jargon for my liking. Improving the Human Race, and all that. I’m more of a fighter than a thinker. I leave that to the poindexters”

He cleared his voice, “We need the Gift as an excuse to get the field. I don’t much care what happens to it after that.”

He laughed, “Some guy from the floating city of Paris wants me to deliver a package with freakin’ time travel?he shrugged. Whatever floats your boat, Pierre.”

Silence hung in the air as all eyes were on Kerr. They were waiting for his next question. Kerr couldn’t stand the silence. “So if you aren’t delivering the Gift, what are you doing out here?” He paused before adding, “And why are you telling me?“

Braun shrugged, “That’s what we call a ness-eh-ssary evil, son. As I said. I need the Gift to get out here. Then we are free to do real soldier’s work.”

Kerr’s mind raced. “You’re changing past? You’re changing the future?”

Braun laughed, “Heck, boy! We’re all changing the future. Even you with your grand ‘ol plans of making the world a better place. If you give the Gift to someone, do you think that doesn’t change the future?”

Then the cylinders which had been tumbling in Kerr’s head slammed into place. His subconscious had been going through major events of 1993. An old history lesson had been triggered.

New Jersey. Ryder. Ramzi. 1993.

Ramzi was a terrorist. The bombing of the first world trade center. It was their fault.

His heart began to race again. In response, the suit released even more drugs into his system. His smooth confidence returned.

He kept talking while he considered his options.

“And what are you getting out of this?” Kerr looked at the brown briefcase in Major Blanc’s hands.

Johansson laughed, interrupting them, “A better question: ‘What don’t we get?’

“Heck yeah!” Murphy pounded fists with his friend. “Money, girls, and power, baby!”

Major Blanc coughed into her fist, concealing a grin.

“Who do you think saved the Union?” asked Braun, locking eyes with Kerr. “The Escalation of Baker’s Point? The Baker War? You don’t remember, but that could have gone badly for all of us…”

Private Murphy interrupted, “The first time around, it was.”

Johansson agreed. “We were all there. But we got out.” He shared a look with Braun. “Thanks to the Colonel.”

Kerr remembered the Escalation. It was frightening. Both sides came close to conflict.

“There was no war,” Kerr stated, knowing how Braun was about to respond.

Braun shrugged, “As I said. We took care of it. The Prime Minister had an accident that nobody needed to know about.” He made quotes in the air. “The other guys backed down. As you remember it, there was no war. Just the first time around.”

Kerr looked from face to face, trying to find a sympathetic look. “That’s the kind of thing prohibited by the UN Charter.”

Now Major Blanc broke in. Her cheeks flushed, “In the years before the Charter, the military had its own ways of dealing with time. You want to know how bad it was for me the first time around? I don’t remember the first time, because I was dead. I died in the beginning of the conflict.”

Kerr remained silent.

Braun eyed Kerr. “Let’s change the subject, Professor. What can you tell me about the Xeno Flu.”

The sudden change of subject took Kerr off-guard. He recited as if he were reading from a text book. “It is a common virus discovered in the late 21st century. It causes flu-like symptoms before causing a cascade of organ failure. A simple cure discovered in the 22nd century saved us, but not before over tens of millions died.”

“So, how are you feeling, Professor? Any muscle pain? Sinus pressure?”

Kerr realized with horror where he was going but asked anyway. “What do you mean?”

Braun waved his hand in a casual motion. “It would be an easy thing to slip the virus into an injection. Perhaps a routine shot before going into the field. We are going back home, after all, where a cure is common. Too bad there is no cure in this time.” Braun let the words hang in the air. Kerr was speechless.

“So, are you in or are you out?” He paused, cocking his head. “If you’re in, we go back to the Dock. We give you a little injection to clear up that little cold you have. You dispose of the Gift at your discretion. You write a glowing report about how well your first mission went. Blanc can help with any of the details you’re foggy about.” Blanc nodded. “In about a month, you’ll receive your regular Air Force check. We’ll include a generous bonus from the Union Army for a job well done.” He shrugged and brushed his hands against each other, “No fuss. No muss.”

Kerr could feel a little moisture in one eye. He blinked it away. “And what if I’m not in?”

Braun shrugged, “Then you don’t go back. How does one die of the Xeno Flu? I heard it’s quite painful after your organs start to shut down.”

Major Blanc grinned, nodding with approval.

Colonel Braun coughed, “We could tell them anything. The pressure of time travel might have been a bit too much for you. You had one of those psychotic breaks. You attacked us and we returned fire. It was so strange. Tragic, really.”

Private Murphy, placed his hat over his heart. “It happened so fast.”

Kerr shook his head, “A lot of innocent people are going to die because of this.”

Braun thundered back, “This is War! Be a man! These people are already dead!”

Kerr blinked twice and realized he wasn’t going to be able to reason his way out.

“All right, all right,” said Kerr, holding up a hand in surrender. His other hand pressed against his thigh. His fingers pressed a combination against his leg. The combination sent a signal to the nano-processor controlling his Jump Suit. It was the panic signal. It opened the pipes and started the hydraulic push.

It turned on everything in the suit at once.

This is the first instalment of my first book, Time of Faith: an epic new science fiction & fantasy adventure. 

I am posting this book serial-style. Each Sunday I will post the next section. Give me feedback, it encourages me to write!

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