Time of Faith 001: an epic new science fiction & fantasy adventure.
The world split open.
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.
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.
Now something was happening in the lights. They began to fade away. In their place was another world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Colonel Braun gave a satisfied nod. “Don’t keep the man waiting, Major.”
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.”
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 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?”
New Jersey. Ryder. Ramzi. 1993.
His heart began to race again. In response, the suit released even more drugs into his system. His smooth confidence returned.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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! Click here to join Matt McCabe’s monthly digest.