An EMP knocks out all the power in North America. As people are scrambling to get generators (or anything else) running, they begin to hear rumors. Nuclear war. Chaos. What about the President? Is she alive or did she die in the disaster?
Mary Orsen discovers that her ability to travel through time was not affected by the EMP. She has the power and the ability to go back in time and prevent the war. But she also knows that she’ll only make things worse if she doesn’t go back and change what really started it. Was it the EMP, or had it actually begun before that?
Mary consults with men who have traveled through time before: Bat Garrett and Garison Fitch. They are old now and can, however, only give advice. If the world is going to be saved, there can only be one TimeKeeper.
And Mary’s pretty sure she’s not it.
To read how the TimeKeeperS got started, make sure you read “TimeKeeperS” (as well as the Garison Fitch & Bat Garrett books!) and the conclusion in TimeKeeperS:Restoration!
“Thank you, sir,” Marianne said as she handed the uniform to Captain Remmick. “It was an honor to wear them, especially since I haven’t earned them.”
“You may before this is over.” Remmick sat the uniform aside and looked at the attractive woman before him in her “W” T-shirt and cargo pants and thought that if he were thirty years younger—and then made himself focus on the business at hand. In a low voice, he asked, “What’s it like when you zap to other places with that device of yours?”
“Honestly, sir, it’s nothing. I mean, it’s a weird sensation to suddenly be somewhere else, but the actual travel is so quick the brain can’t comprehend it. You’re just here, and then, you’re there. It was a little disorienting at first, but now I’m used to it.” She laughed and added, “Except for jumping into what seemed to this west Texas gal like a monsoon and being grabbed by a Captain so I wouldn’t fall overboard. That one was kind of wild.”
“How is it,” he hesitated, trying to work out his words, then said, “You jumped into the middle of a spray of salt water, right? Does all that salt water get absorbed into your body? What if you zapped to a place where there was a bird, or a cat or something?”
“That’s part of why I send out the sensors,” Marianne explained. “Trying to avoid all that as much as possible. But, in reality, it’s not like I’m beaming somewhere like on ‘Star Trek.’ My atoms aren’t being disassembled or anything. I am moving through space. So I would actually bump the cat out of the way. Actually startled a raccoon once.”
“What if it were something like a desk—or a wall?”
She lifted her pant leg and showed him a bruise on her right shin, saying, “That’s from a coffee table in Amarillo, Texas. Glad it had room to move when I bumped it.”
“Another land-lubber?” Captain Remmick asked, actually smiling slightly and not as belligerent as Marianne had worried he might be.
“Um, yessir,” Marianne replied. “This is Sean Fitch, he’s—“
“One of the greatest minds of our time,” Remmick completed, extending his hand towards Sean. “I have read your papers on astronomy and, I must say, I’m a huge fan. I originally wanted to be an astronaut, but, well, I wound up here.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Sean replied. “Thank you for allowing me aboard.” He put on his round glasses, which made him look more academic and even less like his father, though Marianne knew he was quite athletic, bicycling several times a week through the mountains with his wife, Elaine.
Marianne tried to take control of the situation, though she was astounded by Captain Remmick’s suddenly deferential attitude, by saying, “Sean contacted me that he had seen something in the Kerrigan reports that he wanted me to see. I thought you and the admiral would like to see it as well.”
“Ever been on a carrier, Mister Fitch?” Admiral Pike asked.
“No, ma’am. I was in the Air Force for three years but they barely even let me out of Nevada. Don’t think I even saw a sailor the whole time.”
“So sad for you,” Pike chided.
“What do you have for us?” Marianne asked, afraid they were going to drift away again. Although, she said to herself, we’re going to change history anyway, so what’s a little lost time?
Sean plugged his Screen® into a large table that doubled as a video screen and brought up a map of the world much like the one the meteorologists had displayed previously and said, “There are several places in the world that the fallout hasn’t touched, yet. I decided to overlay what data we had from the Kerrigans with what we’ve found out about the weather patterns to see if there were any places that had corresponding fallout clearance and extra-dimensional activity.”
“Were there?” Pike asked.
Sean, adjusting the screen, replied, “We don’t have a lot of Kerrigan data, but we do have this.” He changed the display to a depiction of the Americas and the Pacific and directed, “So far, we have only detected two time incursions. There’s the one Marianne found in the Pacific, and this one in Brazil—“
“Brazil?” the two officers asked in unison.
Sean adjusted his glasses and continued, “From what I can tell from my maps, it’s an area that would normally be considered the back side of nowhere. In their state of Amazonas.”
“When was it?” Marianne asked.
“As near as I can figure, it was within moments of the nuclear attack. I think it might have been after but we haven’t had a really close pass with a Kerrigan, yet.” Sean brought up another map of South America and said, “Now, check this out. I searched the area by satellite—“
“How?” Pike asked, not accusatory but curious.
“The President gave me access to what was left of the satellite network. And my father figured out how to—ahem—establish a connection.”
“Wow,” Remmick mumbled, to receive an appreciative nod from the admiral. He snapped his fingers and commented, “Your father’s Garison Fitch, right? Nobel Prize winner and science advisor to the President.”
“Yes. Anyway,” Sean said, “Look at this: there’s a giant bulge in the land that’s roughly the size of one of our battle cruisers.”
“Theories?” Pike asked.
It was Marianne who guessed, “You think maybe it was going to take too much power to send whatever ship they used to launch the nukes to the future so they buried it in the Amazon jungle?”
“Sort of, though I wasn’t thinking of the power angle. That might actually be part of the thinking—could be all of it—but, like I was saying, this is one of the areas that has remained completely free of fallout. What if whoever did this knows—from future knowledge—that this spot will stay nuke free so they stuck their ship there in hopes of retrieving it whenever they need it.”
“Or use it as a base,” Marianne injected.
“Hmm?” Sean asked.
“We may be making wild guesses here, but what if what you say is true and this is someone from the future who is trying to destabilize the past in their favor? Aren’t they going to want some sort of base from which to operate? To stay in this time period and either monitor or even change things?”
“Why aren’t they doing anything, then?” Pike asked.
“We don’t know that they aren’t, ma’am,” Marianne told her. “They might be manipulating something, or just monitoring things. Maybe they’re just focused on building a society or a foothold in the Amazon while the rest of the world goes to hell.”
“Or,” Sean interrupted, “They just dumped the ship there because it’s an out of the way place and they didn’t think anyone would notice.”
Captain Remmick snapped his fingers and, looking at Marianne, said excitedly, “The reason the bump shows up in the earth is because the dirt had to go somewhere right? Like what you were saying about shoving the cat out of the way: they could bury the ship but it’s going to push the dirt somewhere.” Marianne nodded in agreement, which made the Captain feel inordinately proud of himself (and embarrassed by the fact).
Sean offered, “If they just hid the ship, that might be good news for us. Or, even if they’re using it as a base, that might portend well for us.” Seeing he had their attention, he explained, “They put the ship—if that’s what it is—under the ground assuming it wouldn’t be seen. And, under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have been. You could be building a couple football fields in the Amazon without anyone noticing under normal circumstances. But we noticed because of the Kerrigans. That may indicate that whoever we’re dealing with doesn’t know we have the Kerrigans—“
“Wait a minute,” Remmick objected, “How is that possible. They’re from the future. Don’t they know everything we’re doing because it’s history to them?”
Sean looked at Marianne, who answered, “Not if they’re from pretty far away.”
“What do you mean?”
Marianne answered, “None of what I have done with Edie—or what Mister Garrett did—were government sanctioned and, therefore, may never be written into the history books. We don’t know how much they might know about us. You haven’t been writing down what I’ve done, have you?” The captain and the admiral both shook their heads.
“If this were someone from, say, ten years in the future, you might be right. Our movements might be known. Maybe even a hundred years from now, unless we were to take specific actions to cover our tracks. But what if they’re from thousands of years in the future? Marcus, he was a man I knew who had, um, seen the future—and I believe him. He said there had been more than one war that poisoned the planet. We could be dealing with someone from, say, a thousand years in the future who only know the most basic details of our world—“
Sean snapped his fingers again and said, excitedly, “And they don’t know as much as they thought they did!”
“What?” several voices asked at once.
“Think about it: if these are people from a different future, who changed the past, they might know about the Kerrigans but they might not know their full capabilities because almost no one did. We didn’t. Jason Kerrigan drew up the plans but, as far as anyone knows, never built one. We only built them because you—and a me from another time line—built the ones we have, but almost no one seems to know what they do. We don’t know how the Egyptians built the pyramids and whoever it is from the future that’s causing these problems may not know how the Kerrigans work—or even that we have them. And no one has been traveling through time with Edie since the last time you did—what?—six years ago?”
“Right. And if they hadn’t interfered, you might not have ever traveled through time again. This technology could very well have died with you and me. And I don’t mean that generally, I mean with Marianne and I. The history they have of our day might be fairly detailed, with names of all our leaders and even records of where our naval ships were. But they might not know … “ He was smiling as he paced intently, “We know Roman history, right? We know who was Caesar when and where their troops were placed, right? But we don’t know about Joe Greek over here who did experiments on cattle because he never told anyone. Maybe he invented a cure for hoof in mouth, but his kid ran off to Athens and the knowledge died with Joe. Whoever did this, they may not have had any idea that one fairly obscure astrophysicist and a private eye from Arizona—“
“Who’s even more obscure,” Marianne chuckled.
“Yeah, they have no idea that we would have any way of tracking them. Seriously, they had an almost perfect plan. Start a world war, have everyone at the time blame everyone else, then pick up the pieces—a hundred years later, a thousand.”
“Why would they think they would be there?” Remmick asked.
“Huh?” asked Marianne and the admiral in unison.
“These people from the future are the descendents of someone alive today, right? Whether it’s the people of Mexico or Canada or just some town in Kansas. How would they know that this nuclear war wasn’t going to wipe out their progenitor?”
Sean, after several moments of silence, offered, “Maybe they have a map of the ‘pockets’ as Marianne calls them and they know that the seed of their civilization sprung up in one of those pockets. Maybe they even sprung from some Amazonian tribe and the ship is there now to look after their ancestors.”
It was Pike who said, “What you’re saying makes sense—of a sort. I’m finding it hard to give one hundred percent credibility to a theory that involves time travel, but that’s neither here nor there. Even if this theory makes some logical sense, it’s still an awful lot of conjecture.”
“Then let me go to the Amazon and investigate,” Marianne requested. “It’s what I do.”
“Alone?” Sean asked, hoping to go along.
“No offense, Sean, but I was thinking that if I took anyone with me I’d like for it to be someone who speaks the language.” She smirked slightly as she added, looking at the admiral, “And I sure wouldn’t turn down a U.S. Marine.”
“Bowstring, this is First Sergeant Amelee Fitzwater—“
“Call me Fitz,” the stout, fair-haired woman said cordially if not in a friendly manner as she shook Marianne’s hand. She looked to be of Nordic descent and Marianne could see her being one of those tough women who skied all day with a machine gun on their backs as they patrolled some far northern slope.
Admiral Pike continued, “And this is Gunnery Sergeant Darrin Hollis.” He was a dark-skinned man of medium height but more than average muscles. Marianne guessed that some of his ancestors might have come from the Caribbean. As he shook Marianne’s hand, the Admiral explained, “The gunny here speaks Spanish and Portuguese and can generally make his wishes known in any South American country.
“That’s impressive,” Marianne complimented. “Study a lot or just a natural gift for languages?”
“Some of both, ma’am.”
“Call me Bowstring,” she instructed with a smile. Marianne hadn’t told the admiral—or anyone except Bat and Jody—that she didn’t need a translator, ever. When she had been sent to the future, Marcus had given her the gift of being able to understand and speak any language she would ever encounter. She had thought the gift might only be for the future, but in her years back in the twenty-first century it had never gone away. It was a skill that had served her well as an investigator, especially as so few people knew she had it. It suddenly dawned on her that, with Bat and Jody gone, no one knew she had the ability.
“Bowstring?” he asked with a smile. “What is that? French?”
“Oui,” Marianne responded.
“And this is Lance Corporal Hector Ives, who is also fluent in Portugese,” Admiral Pike said as she introduced a strikingly handsome young man with somewhat dark skin and a shaved head. He shook Marianne’s hand and flashed a winning smile but Marianne got the impression it was more of just his natural personality than any attempt to win her.
“Ives?” she asked.
“Grandfather was Scottish,” he replied. “Married a woman from Portugal and moved to South Carolina,” he told her with just a hint of a southern accent.
Rear Admiral Pike said, “Now, if you’ll be seated, we’ll brief you on the mission. Please be aware that everything you hear in this meeting is top secret.” She added sardonically, “And some if it is going to sound insane.”
She brought up the map of South America Sean had created and said, “You’re going here. It’s a very remote area with very little population, mostly involved in mining or woodcutting. You’re going to be assisting Bowstring in the investigation of this mound here, which we have reason to believe may be tied to the nuclear launches that started the recent conflict.”
“Pardon me, ma’am,” interrupted Fitz, “Is it related to theEMPas well?”
“That remains to be seen, Fitz. That’s one of the things we hope you will find out.”
She then went into a semi-technical description of what the Kerrigans had revealed and the basic principles of extra-dimensional integration. As Pike described Edie and what it did, Marianne couldn’t help but cast sideways glances at her new compatriots. She stifled a chuckle as she saw that all three of them wore expressions mixed of equal parts awe and fear that their commanding officer had slipped a gear. She wondered how they would react if they were told the Edie units could also move through time. When Pike had finished her part, she offered, “Bowstring?”
While Marianne knew far more about Edie than the admiral, it had been decided that news of such a fantastic nature could be more easily swallowed if coming from a fleet-level officer. Now, she doubted whether it had really helped, if the expressions on their faces were any indication. As everyone looked to her, Marianne began, “As Admiral Pike has said, you may call me Bowstring. So far, our satellite recon of the area has shown no human presence. Whether that is because there is none or because the humans are underground we don’t know, yet. These are some of the questions we are going to ask—and hopefully answer. It is our goal to do this as stealthily as possible, which is part of why you three were chosen. However,” Marianne said uncomfortably, “If there are people there and they are the ones who instigated a global nuclear war … well, I wanted people who would not be averse to fighting.”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Fitz interrupted again, “But what is the chain of command on this mission?”
“Bowstring is the lead,” Pike replied without hesitation.
“CIA?” Ives asked casually.
“No,” Marianne replied, not sure what explanation to give.
Admiral Pike answered, “Let’s just say that Bowstring here is on special assignment.”
“Aye-aye,” said all three Marines, though not exactly in unison.
“Marines, let me say one more thing,” the Admiral began. “I want to remind you that this mission and everything you have heard in this room are top secret. Should you return, any mention of anything you have heard today to anyone other than one of the five of us in the room right now will be grounds for summary court martial and possibly execution. Do you understand?”
All three looked surprised, but each nodded and replied, “Yes ma’am,” in turn as the admiral caught their eyes.
“What you see on this excursion and what you experience, those things, too, must be guarded with the utmost secrecy. For reasons that I cannot get into, you will be debriefed verbally by me after the mission and no record of it will ever—and I do mean ever—be written down. Is that understood?”
“Yes ma’am,” they all agreed again.
“Then may you be granted godspeed and may you all return safely.”
All three had been told what gear to bring when summoned, which had set in the corner during the briefing. At that point, the admiral told them to use the head attached to the briefing room if they needed—each availed themselves of the opportunity—and then were bidden to gear up. As they did so, it was Hollis who asked, “How will we be inserted, Admiral? Osprey?”
“Edie,” Admiral Pike replied, a barely-disguised wink shot Marianne’s way.
The three Marines looked up in surprise, but none of them said anything. As they finished with their gear and she slung her bow over her shoulder, Marianne told them, “We’re going to be ‘landing’ about a quarter mile from the mound in a little clearing just to the north. We’ll do some recon on foot from there. Oh, and let me warn you: your first zap—as we call it—can be a bit disorienting. You won’t feel a thing, but one moment you’ll see this room and the next you’ll see the Amazon basin and there will be nothing in between. Like changing the channel on a TV.”
“Seriously?” Ives asked.
Marianne nodded, then asked, “Everyone ready?” She took Edie in her left hand, held out her right and said, “Put an ungloved hand in. We’ve got to be touching skin.”
“You’re kidding,” Fitz responded, holding her hand back, having been in the process of taking the glove off as it dawned on her what had been stated.
“Oddly, no,” Marianne told her. When all the hands were in, she looked to the admiral and said, “I guess we’ll see you in a few, Admiral. I’ll ping you as soon as we’re there.”
“Go with God,” Admiral Pike told them with a nod.
And suddenly the four of them were standing in a small clearing in the Amazon jungle. To Marianne, it was nothing, but the others gasped words of astonishment that were better left unprinted. Marianne knelt down, motioned for them to do the same, then whispered, “Here’s where the stealth comes in. Everybody got their breath?” When the Marines nodded, Marianne pointed and said, “The mound’s over that way. Watch for people and let’s see if we can find a way inside.”
“Why not just zap in?” Ives asked.
“We probably will,” Marianne told him. “But I’d like to have as much information as we can before we do that.”
“Understood,” said three voices, or variations of the word.
The jungle was light and airy, not like Marianne had pictured it in her mind (owing mostly to movies), though there were as many bugs as she had imagined. All four of them were heavily clothed and had applied bug repellent to their exposed flesh, but there were still plenty of bugs around, many who didn’t seem to have received the memo about being repelled by that concoction.
They reached a small rise and crept quietly to its crest before peeking over. What they saw was a tree-covered mound that didn’t look out of the ordinary at first glance. As they all studied the terrain, Fitz and Ives with no-glare binoculars that—in theory—wouldn’t reflect light on anyone who might happen to look their way—they could see signs that the ground had been pushed up: a revealed root here, a fresh-looking crack in the ground there. Atop the hill, the cracking in the ground was more pronounced.
“Still,” Marianne whispered, “If I didn’t know what to look for I could have walked right past this and, if anything, just thought it was a natural occurrence.” The Marines nodded in agreement. “Recommendations?”
Fitz pointed, “Over there, I’d say about two klicks from our positions, there’s a rise similar to this one. I say we split into pairs and rendezvous over there in about—how long do you think it would take us, Gunny?” she asked Hollis.
“Hard to say. Flat territory, we could be there in fifteen minutes. But we want to take some time, look things over, and this canopy could be hiding ravines and who knows what else.”
“Say two hours?” Fitz asked.
Marianne nodded and replied, “Sounds good. No communication unless we haven’t heard anything in two and a half or if there’s an emergency.” She looked at the Marines and asked, “That work for you?” She knew the wisdom about leaders making decisions and not seeking the approval of underlings, but Marianne knew she was the outsider in this group and—in their minds, anyway—not a military person, anyway. Would they believe her if she told them that, at the age of eighteen, she had led a military force of over ten thousand people? She doubted it and the irony of the thought made her smile.
They all nodded, so Marianne said, “Fitz, you know everyone’s capabilities better than I do, so how do you suggest we pair up?”
“You and Gunny, me and Ives?” Fitz replied, shrugging to indicate that it didn’t really matter.
“Sounds good. See you in two,” she whispered. Even having been around military people before, she was amazed at how quickly and quietly Fitz and Ives disappeared into the underbrush.
As she and Hollis set out, he asked, “Have you ever been in the military, Bowstring?”
She hesitated, then replied, “Yes. But, like so much lately, I can’t talk about it.”
Are you really any good with that bow?”
Marianne hesitated again, then replied, “Yes.”
Sheriff Avilla pounded on the door of the large house that still stood, remarkably close to where the airliner had gone down. “Go away!” came a gruff reply from inside.
“This is Sheriff Avilla,” she called from the front step. “I need to talk to Mister Kiko Abrams.”
There was no sound for a moment, and then the sound of a chain being removed and a bolt thrown. The front door swung open and a shotgun blast caught Julie Avilla full in the chest, knocking her back and off the porch. A second shot was fired in the direction of Deputy Harold Grimes, catching him mostly on the arm. As he screamed and fell away, Deputy Terry Killian used his service piece to fire several shots through the door.
From inside the house, screams could be heard. Killian rushed to drag Sheriff Avilla out of the way, even while calling on his mic, “Officers down at 323 Reynosa. Repeat: officers down at 323 Reynosa. Shots fired.”
He was about to repeat his call again when the muzzle of a gun could be seen coming from the shadow of the doorway. Deputy Killian lifted his service piece and fired twice, gratified to see the gun—a rifle—dropped to the tile floor of the house’s entry way. And then all went black as something hit him on the back of the head.
“What happened?” Judge Hanson asked as he struggled through the crowd to get to Dr. Whitcomb’s side.
Dr. Whitcomb, however, was busy and soon disappeared into the O.R. Judge Hanson looked like he was about to follow the doctor into surgery, but saw a deputy—Killian, he thought the man’s name was—sitting to the side and holding a bloody towel to his forehead. He lunged at the deputy and demanded, “What happened?”
“We went to serve that warrant on Kiko Abrams you gave us,” the deputy grumbled in reply.
“And then?” Hanson wanted to know.
“Well, they responded by shooting Sheriff Avilla and deputy Grimes. Me, I got away with just a knock to the head.”
Suddenly, Hanson was being slammed against the wall by Oscar Melendez, late of the Arizona Highway Patrol and now working for the Flagstaff Police Department. “You son of a b—h! You issue a warrant and then call the perps to let them know cops are coming!”
“I didn’t—“ Hanson tried to object, only to receive a punch in the belly from Melendez that doubled the judge up in pain.
It was Deputy Killian who pulled Melendez off the judge, saying, “What are you talking about, Oscar?”
“Someone had to have tipped off Abrams and his crew. Why else would they have been prepared like that?”
“Because they were thugs and knew we were getting close to them for hanging the Talifero brothers,” Killian replied.
“Or maybe he told them,” Officer Melendez retorted, lunging for the judge.
Hanson backed up a step, then said, “Please, tell me what happened!”
Melendez, still being restrained by an aching Terry Killian, said, “I was a block away when I heard the call, so I came running. I see Jimmy Abrams, Kiko’s boy, club Deputy Killian in the back with a baseball bat—“
“I wondered why I hurt there, too,” Killian injected, trying to add a bit of levity in an attempt to defuse the situation.
“I yelled out, ‘Jimmy! Drop the bat!’ He does, then he lunges for a rifle that’s on the stoop. I told him to drop that, too, but he starts to bring it up. That’s when I shot him. He crumpled and I ran up to the porch to find Sheriff Avilla bleeding from buckshot to the neck and face and Deputy Grimes is quickly going into shock. Gloria Dios we got that one ambulance running or they might have both bled out.” He spat at the judge, “Even if no one tipped them off, you don’t go after a man like Kiko Abrams with just three officers. You call us all in!”
“I wrote the search warrant but I trusted in the Sheriff to know how many people to take,” Judge Hanson defended.
Melendez swore lowly as he shrugged out of Killian’s hold. “You better sit back down, man,” he told the deputy.
“Who was inside the house?”
“I looked and I found Kiko and his boy, Danny, both shot and dead in the front foyer. Looked to me like it had been Danny that fired off the shotgun, then Kiko came up with the rifle.” Changing his tone of belligerence, he added, “You oughta give this deputy a medal, Judge. He did in one afternoon what your courts haven’t been able to do in twenty years.”
They were slumped against the wall when Dr. Whitcomb came out more than an hour later and told them, “Sheriff Avilla should make it. Her vest took most of the blast, but there was on pellet that came this close,” he held his thumb and forefinger an eighth of an inch apart, “From severing her jugular. Still, it’s going to be a few days before she can return to duty, maybe a couple weeks.”
“And Grimes?” Killian asked anxiously.
“He may lose the arm. Doctors Stanislauv and Andrews are working with him and, if we’re lucky, we can keep him alive long enough for the arm to heal—one way or another.”
Killian crossed himself at the news and Melendez muttered a brief prayer. Killian asked, “When can we see them?”
“I can take you back there now, but just for a couple minutes,” Caleb replied. “Both are out of it right now, but I’m a firm believer that patients can hear people who care even when they’re out.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Officer Melendez said as they rose and followed him into post-op.
Caleb looked over his shoulder to see Hanson still slumped against the wall, a vacant expression on his face.
“Anything?” Marianne asked, though she had an idea she knew what the answer was going to be.
“Nothing. Nobody, no door, nothing,” Fitz replied. “I take it, it was the same for you.”
Marianne nodded, as did the Gunny.
Ives injected, “We even used the infra-red scanner. Thought there might be an air shaft letting off vapors or something, but we didn’t see anything.”
“So,” Fitz asked, “We zap in?”
Marianne nodded, but pulled off her backpack so she could get into it and pulled out a small, remote-controlled car with a video camera attached. “Play time?” the Gunny asked.
Marianne shot him a dirty look, then smiled and said, “Friend of mine came up with this.” She loaded one of her sensors into the little car and explained, “We can send this car in first. Remote control’s good up to half a mile. We let this little thing look around for us, first.”
She tapped some buttons on Edie, and the little car disappeared. Handing a Screen® to Fitz and a remote control to the Gunny, she said, “This should give us an idea what we’re going in to. The car even has little headlights, but I can’t guarantee how effective they are.”
“Need a night vision camera on that car,” Ives suggested.
“Version 2.0,” Marianne quipped as they all watched the Screen®. They watched as the picture came up to show what looked like the interior of a naval ship with the lights on low. As Gunny moved the car around, they were able to see more of the room the car had landed in but, as the room had a hatch for a doorway, the little car couldn’t go out into the hallway. Marianne mumbled, “OK, so version 3.0 will be a camera attached to one of those little helicopters.”
She checked the reading from the sensor in the car on her Kerrigan and said, “Well, looks like we can go at least as far as that room. Sensor says there’s air. Everybody game?”
“Beats standing out here,” the Gunny pronounced, the other two Marines nodding.
“OK,” Marianne said, “Hands in.” A moment later, they were in what looked like a billeting room of a metal, naval ship.
Gunny stepped over to the door and peeked out into the hallway, then announced, “All clear.”
“Wait,” Fitz commanded. “Listen. Anybody hear anything?”
They all stopped what they were doing, but could hear only a low rumble—as machinery—from somewhere far off. “Something’s working down here,” Ives commented.
Fitz replied, “Sounds like a generator. Maybe it’s running the lights. There’s air in here, too. But what I’m not hearing are any footsteps.”
“Either it’s empty,” Gunny offered, “Or they know we’re here and they’re running silent.” Everyone nodded in agreement.
Marianne picked up the little car, set it in her backpack, and said, “Well, let’s find out.”
They walked carefully down the hallway until they came to a junction. As the Gunny poked his head around the corner and pronounced the way clear, Ives was looking at lettering on the bulkhead and saying, “I don’t recognize this language. I don’t even recognize the alphabet.”
Marianne glanced at his reference point and almost told him what it said, before deciding to keep her mouth shut. She wasn’t sure why she was keeping it a secret that she could read any language she needed to, but as one accustomed to covers she hated to blow hers over a sign that said, “C Deck. Billeting.” She merely shrugged.
They came, eventually, to a flight of stairs—like U.S. Navy stairs, they were closely akin to a ladder—and ascended. On the next level, B Deck, Marianne found signs for the infirmary, the galley, the laundry, and various other, common, rooms. All showed signs of recent use, but no sign of current occupation. As they came to another set of stairs, she stopped them and asked, “At a guess, how old would any of you say this ship is? I’m no expert, but it doesn’t look brand new to me. It’s also doesn’t look real old to me.”
“Equipment’s fairly current,” the Gunny answered. “Some of it’s unfamiliar to me, though.”
Fitz nodded and agreed, “I’m thinking it’s about a … twenty year old ship. Just a feel I get. I can tell some places have been sanded and repainted—like after years of salt water corrosion.”
Ives merely shrugged and replied, “I’ll defer to them.”
Marianne nodded and started up the stairs. Peeking over the top, she saw no sign of anyone but she did see a sign indicating the way to the bridge. Instructing Fitz and Ives to explore this deck then catch up with them, she motioned for the Gunny to follow her. They made their way to the bridge and both uttered words of amazement.
The bridge looked like the working bridge of a destroyer, except that the windows looked out on solid rock. The lights from the consoles were still working, and dials were still lit up. And a man in an unidentified uniform sat in a chair, slumped over a console. “Fitz,” Marianne said into her communicator, “You and Ives go ahead and come up topside to see this. Just follow the arrows on the walls.”
Soon, Fitz and Ives were stepping onto the bridge with exclamations similar to those uttered earlier. Walking over to where Gunny and Marianne were looking at the slumped figure, Fitz asked, “Who’s this gentleman?” He had a dark complexion, much like the Gunny’s, and he was young and fit—or had been in life.
Ives, looking around, said, “We saw launch tubes below decks, Bowstring. Like the kind you’d use to launch ICBMs.”
Marianne looked at the controls and said, “So, this ship zaps to the Pacific, starts a world war, then zaps here. Maybe their system is different from ours and someone had to remain behind to send the others off and this guy drew the short straw.”
“So he takes cyanide or something?” Fitz asked.
“Something,” Marianne shrugged. She sniffed, then, and asked, “But why doesn’t he smell?”
She was on the far side of the bridge, walking around and studying some schematics that appeared to be of an Edie-like device which were on a screen, and mumbling, “If this guy’s been dead for close to three weeks, shouldn’t this whole room smell to high heaven?” A phrase in the schematics registered on Marianne and she started to snap her fingers in recognition.
“Maybe he hasn’t been dead that long,” Ives commented. He reached over to feel of the man’s skin and said, “Guys, he’s still warm!”
Fitz barely had time to say, “Don’t move him!” before the console the man had been slumped against exploded.
Marianne felt herself slammed against the wall. A moment later, she was trying to raise herself up to find that her left arm was broken, and maybe her left leg as well. She raised her head and could see that Ives was dead. At least, his head was, as it was no longer attached to the rest of him. She could make out the remains of both the Gunny and Fitz. And then she heard a low rumble. It took her brain a moment to figure out what she was hearing.
“The ship is being scuttled,” she mumbled.
With her right hand, she pulled out Edie. Struggling out of her backpack, quiver and bow she pressed the sequence for a pre-programmed trip. She disappeared just before the ship exploded in a fiery, underground inferno.
Three years before the conflagration in the Amazon, almost two years and eleven months before the EMP, a young woman with broken bones, torn clothing and burns was found outside the emergency room of the Rapid City Regional Hospital on a cool September morning. Finding no ID on her—just her clothes and a watch—they began treating her immediately under the name Jane Doe.