Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Nine – Part One

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Eddie thought about being bored.  Not that he was, but he figured he should be, so he considered it.  He also considered being scared, but since he already was, there didn’t seem to be much point in thinking about it.  A mere half an hour of interrogation had convinced Colonel Bosze that Eddie didn’t know anything, but it left the little man certain he would be executed as soon as the Colonel had a moment to spare.  He knew from experience (past and past-future) that he couldn’t get out of the cell on his own, which left him entirely alone with his thoughts and no way to escape.

Fear, hunger, and thinking were a tiring combination as far as he was concerned, so he spent the majority of the time lying on his bunk recuperating.  He had just drifted off when a vibration thrummed through the wall and into the metal framework of the bed.  Without opening his eyes, he turned over and wrapped the cheap blanket around his head.  The shaking didn’t come again, but two minutes later, a dull rattle-pop sounded over and over.  It didn’t seem to have a rhythm, until he noticed a rough pattern.  A few pops would sound, followed by a pause, followed by more pops.  No matter how many pops there were, there was always a pause.

Bolt upright on the bunk, his head still wrapped in the blanket, Eddie realized what it was.  Gunfire.  A lot of gunfire, directed at someone who was very good at not getting hit.

Anyone who was getting shot at by Colonel Bosze’s men and surviving was somebody Eddie wanted to meet.  Preferably after that somebody rescued him from his cell.


End Chapter  29 – Part 1

The Episode Directory will be back as soon as
I can get all the links reset.  When I transferred
the website, the addresses all changed, so I’m
putting them back in order, one at a time.

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Eight – Part Three

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The programmer watched his companion stow the last of the boring equipment on the trailer. Grease and drilling mud were spattered everywhere, closer to the computer expert’s delicate laptop than he liked, but the geologist knew what he was doing.  Getting into the Sandglass computer vault would have been next to impossible without him.

Steel clunked as the final length of pipe was tossed into place and the geologist strapped it down.  “Ready to go.  You’re sure it’ll keep them occupied?”

Running one hand through his thinning hair, the programmer tapped a key on the laptop and shrugged.  A string of code transmitted from its wireless card, a short command sent out to the little remote vehicle in the supercomputer room.  He grinned when the confirmation message popped up on the screen.  “Occupied, maybe. Distracted… definitely.  A supercomputer generates a lot of heat.”

“Heat?”

The programmer pointed at the screen.  One window showed the video feed from the remote vehicle.  It was focused on the supercomputer interface, which had brought up an alert, but it was difficult to read.  A red, flickering glare shone off the screen, partially blinding the video camera.  The geologist squinted at the image.  “Is that… fire?”  In answer to his question, the remote vehicle slipped – its USB plug snapping off – and crashed to the floor as the plastic underneath it melted away.  The camera sparked and went dead, leaving the last few kilobytes of data frozen on the laptop’s screen.  Flames were rippling up the sides of the supercomputer’s memory towers.

A siren went off a quarter mile away and both men started in surprise.  They had known the fire alarms would sound at the facility, but they were intent on the remote’s transmission.  Emergency lights flashed red in the distance as the Sandglass facility exploded into a frenzy of flame-suppressing activity.

The geologist chuckled.  “So far, so good.  Now for the fun part.”

“Fun part?”

“Sure.  Haven’t YOU ever wanted to ram a work truck through a security door?”

With a tolerant shake of his head, the programmer closed his laptop and locked it into a heavily padded case.  It would probably have to be left behind when they made their escape, but he liked to imagine it might survive when they crashed the truck into the Sandglass facility’s front entrance.


End Chapter  28 – Part 3

The Episode Directory will be back as soon as
I can get all the links reset.  When I transferred
the website, the addresses all changed, so I’m
putting them back in order, one at a time.

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Eight – Part Two

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“They got it to work.”  Trepidation flooded the words, but the reply was matter-of-fact.

“Of course, they did.  They’ve got government funding and Armelle’s research.  Even where her stuff doesn’t work, they can just throw money at the problems until they go away.  It was just a matter of time.”  The speaker ran a hand through his thinning hair, then tapped a series of keys on his laptop. A garbled file, transmitted wirelessly from the little spy vehicle to his computer, popped open on the screen.  It was encrypted, but a few seconds with a brute-force password breaking program untangled the mess of hexadecimal code.

“That was way too easy.”  He started to comb his hair back again, but stopped himself and screwed the top off a bottle of water. “Nobody bothered with encrypting this stuff properly.”

The man beside him rubbed grease from his hands with a fresh rag.  “Why would they?  That data was buried thirty feet underground behind solid limestone.  Nobody’s that paranoid.”  He grinned.  “They should be, though.  So, any information on Armelle?”

“Not as such, no, but there’s no way she’s not in there.  This report says three people broke in, one of them sent two through the STAd, and got flash-banged for the trouble, right before the other two came back through.”

“That’s Armelle, alright. Nobody else would be crazy enough to try that.”

A curious look came over the programmer’s face. “I’m not so sure about that.  Look; the one that stayed behind?  It wasn’t a woman; the report always says “he” or the “trespasser”.  There was a woman there, but this says she was one of the ones that time-jumped.”

They stared at the file for several minutes.  “Who would stay behind after breaking into a government facility?”

“More importantly, who else besides Armelle knows how to operate an STAd without a manual?”


End Chapter  28 – Part 2

The Episode Directory will be back as soon as
I can get all the links reset.  When I transferred
the website, the addresses all changed, so I’m
putting them back in order, one at a time.

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Eight – Part One

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The Sandglass facility’s supercomputer room was two stories below the STAd room, cut into the bedrock below the foundations.  The underground room was designed to solve two problems; cooling and security.  Deep, buried limestone helped dissipate the heat generated by the massive computer and sealed off the sensitive information on it from the rest of the facility.  Only one door opened onto the supercomputer room and Colonel Bosze kept a full squad on guard just outside it at all times.  The STAd above it was top-secret, but the supercomputer and its data were the secret that built the secret.

By the Colonel’s own order, no-one but he and Benwright had access to the supercomputer room.  Even the guards weren’t allowed in.  The room was nearly always empty, except for when Benwright had to set up a simulation or check the results of one.  The rest of the time, the computer hummed away quietly, digitally checking and rechecking its own results until someone needed them.

Benwright hadn’t checked on the supercomputer in several days, preoccupied with Colonel Bosze’ attempts to interrogate the time-travelers and Vančura.  Simulations had failed to produce the solution to his problem and he was sure that the prisoners would break eventually.  He wanted to be there when they did, so as not to waste any time learning how to fix the time-machine.

No-one went in and the armored door of the computer room was well-insulated, so no-one heard the soft grinding that would have been just audible over the whir of the computer and buzz of the cooling fans.  Even the metallic clink as chunks of broken limestone fell to the diamond-plate floor went unnoticed.  A hole, only a few inches across, had broken through the bedrock wall of the computer room, revealing the rotating, toothed wheels of a drilling head.

The drill-head began to pull back almost immediately, but it was still very slow.  It had punched the last of the rock out of its hole just before Armelle and Eddie appeared, half-conscious, on the STAd’s platform.  By the time the tiny, six-wheeled remote vehicle popped out of the hole that the drill head had vacated, Bosze had been staring unmercifully at Armelle for nearly five hours.

The little vehicle thumped to the floor with a rubbery sound, its tires taking up the shock of the three foot drop easily.  Underneath it, a camera swiveled back and forth as the vehicle turned in a slow circle, radiating confusion.  Then it stopped, and the body of the vehicle rotated.  The six tires were arranged in two triangular sets – one on either side – allowing it to land on four wheels, no matter how it fell.  A servo deep in the vehicle’s chassis rotated it, letting its remote driver turn the body and camera upright.

Once the camera was on top again, the little vehicle zipped around the room, its movements quick and sure.  Near the display station, however, it halted.  The body rotated again, tilting the camera up to survey the control board.  Another servo buzzed, zooming the camera in.

Directly above the keyboard, a neat rectangle of metal and plastic was recessed into the computer casing.  A USB port.


End Chapter  28 – Part 1

The Episode Directory will be back as soon as
I can get all the links reset.  When I transferred
the website, the addresses all changed, so I’m
putting them back in order, one at a time.

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Seven – Part Three

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 Bosze rubbed his eyes, not for the first time, and glared at Armelle. “Look, we’ll let you go if you just talk!”

“We both know that’s not true, Colonel. I’m the only time-traveler you have.  Even if you trusted me, you still wouldn’t let me leave here.”  Armelle’s head was on her crossed arms on the table and she sounded tired.  After the first hour, the aluminum chair was hurting her legs and she couldn’t stand up, since they had handcuffed her to a ring on the table.  Lying on the metal table wasn’t much better, but the steel was cool and her arms kept the light out of her eyes.

With a grunt, Bosze lowered himself into the chair opposite her.  He looked as if he hadn’t slept since his men had captured Vančura and he was on fifth cup of coffee since the interrogation had started.

“Fine, so we can’t let you go.  But you aren’t the only time-traveler I have to work on.  The short guy…”  He glanced at the files he’d scattered dashed onto the floor earlier, trying to intimidate her. “…Edward Kaul.  He’ll probably tell me everything he knows if I offer him a box of doughnuts and a hotdog.”

“Do you have a piece of notebook paper?”

He leaned forward, fatigue replaced by a spark of cautious expectation. “Yeah.”

“Fold it in half.”

Bosze blinked, but folded the sheet.  “What’s with this?”  He twirled it in his fingers, as if he expected the creased paper to suddenly show him the solution to his problem.

Armelle giggled.  It was quiet at first, then it shook her whole body, half-hysterical amusement fueled by weariness and tension.  “Go give him those doughnuts. Half a sheet of paper should be enough to hold everything Eddie knows!”  Her laughter started to shake the table, then stopped abruptly.

The colonel was quiet for a moment.  “Okay.  If you want to make this ugly, I’ll take it as far as you want to go.”  He rose and dropped the folded paper on the table in front of her, then went out.  The man on guard saluted, then realized Bosze was holding something out to him; a yellow order slip, with the colonel’s signature and a scribbled statement on it.

“Sir?”

“Give her thirty minutes.  If she decides to talk, come get me.  If she doesn’t, go shoot the man that came through the STAd with her.”


End Chapter  27 – Part 3

 

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
  Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
. Chapter Twenty, Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two, Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Four

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Seven – Part Two

Header27-2The Sandglass facility’s cells were almost comfortable and familiar.  It was as if the prison block was the one steady point in the unpredictable shifting as the three of them shifted gears on time without a clutch. They always seemed to end up back in the cells.

Vančura leaned back against the wall and pulled his feet up on his bunk.  His ears were still ringing from the flash grenade and he was sore from being thrown to the floor, but he had more important things to think about.  Armelle and Eddie had made it through the knothole and had been sent back.  That was good, as far as it went.

He needed to know what they’d found, though, and they were both in different cells.  Bosze would never let any of them near the STAd, not after they’d broken in and used it.  Worse, he’d certainly interrogate Eddie and Armelle; they were confirmed time-travelers and the colonel needed all the information he could get his hands on.  First-hand reports would go a long way towards getting his “broken” time machine repaired.

What no-one seemed to have realized yet was that it was Vančura who knew that the time-machine wasn’t actually damaged.  Everyone was concentrating on the scientist and her less-than-useful companion who had both popped into current-time in front of them.  That gave Vančura an edge.

It wasn’t much, but it was all he had.  They’d gotten the information they needed from the future, but they’d changed the course of events he knew.  Everything in the future was really the future now; it wasn’t part of a future past he’d seen before.

He grinned and touched his nose, gently, and his fingers came back a little bloody.  It occurred to him that maybe Armelle had given him another edge.  She’d punched him, but she couldn’t have been furious with current-him.  The plan had worked and they’d gone through the knothole before getting caught.  She had to be angry with future-him and simply taken it out on current-him at the first opportunity.

Which meant he was still alive ten-odd years in the future.  He’d managed to survive capture by Bosze and Armelle had met him on the other side of the temporal aberration.

If he’d done it once, he could do it again.


End Chapter  27 – Part 2

Okay, Vančura has to figure out how to survive this mess.. only this time, he knows he can succeed, because he did/will-do it before.  But the first time around, he had to prepare for Armelle and Eddie to come through the STAd and this time, they’ll be with him.  So… has he actually done it?

*author is currently cross-eyed from thinking about it*

 

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
  Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
. Chapter Twenty, Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two, Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Four

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Seven – Part One

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To his somewhat fuzzy dismay, Eddie discovered that the side effects from traveling through the knothole lessened with time.  In short, he was getting used to time-travel, and that scared him.  As his senses gradually sorted out the world through a grey-white blur, he noticed that someone had pulled him away from the STAd platform.  That someone was standing over him, black combat boots uncomfortably close to Eddie’s head.

He squinted around, trying to suppress a feeling of seasickness.  Off to one side, Vančura stood, rubbing at flash-burned eyes with cuffed hands.  Colonel Bosze and two squads of soldiers were watching him, their weapons down, but still ready to hand.  None of them looked happy.

Once Eddie’s guard realized his prisoner was conscious, he got Bosze’ attention.  Before the colonel could inflict any questions on the little man, though, a flicker brighter than any flash-bang signaled the arrival of another time-traveler.  The smell of ozone grew strong and then faded as the electricity crackling in the air dissipated.  Someone barked an order and two soldiers thumped forward to haul Armelle off the STAd platform to lie beside Eddie.

He considered taking the opportunity to do absolutely nothing for a moment, since no one was paying any attention to him, until he realized Vančura had moved.  He was beside Armelle, waiting for her to wake up.  Eddie even thought he saw worry on the big man’s face, but it was hard to tell.  Between Vančura’s red and watering eyes, and his own out-of-focus sight, he couldn’t be sure.

Regardless, he’d made a promise. “Dat’s not a good place t’be, Van…”

Vančura shot him a cursory glance. “What?”

Eddie concentrated on mustering the energy to try again, but he was distracted by a sudden movement from Armelle.  There was a wicked thud and Vančura rocked back on his heels, holding his nose.

“Tol’ you.”

“I take it my future self did something… unpleasant?” Vančura’s voice was muffled and thick, but he was helping Armelle to a sitting position.  With a heavy sigh, Eddie relaxed his wobbly grip on consciousness, hoping he’d drift off to somewhere that didn’t hurt quite as much.  He’d tried his best, but Vančura had still gotten a punch in the nose.

Worse, they were right back where they had started. Only, this time, even Vančura didn’t have the slightest idea what came next.


End Chapter  27 – Part 1

I have got to start writing these things earlier in the week…

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
  Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
. Chapter Twenty, Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two, Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Four

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Six – Part Three

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“Le’s go, Armelle.”  Eddie glanced around, taking in the scene in his slow way.  His gaze lingered on Vančura for a moment, then he walked to the STAd and stepped onto the platform. “Gotcher beamer, Scotty?”

The big man gave him a slight smile and nodded to Benwright.  “Send him back.  One minute later than they went through.”  He looked at Eddie again. “Kaul, would you do me a favor?”

Eddie raised one eye at him, while the other twitched in a barely detectable wink.  “Don’ worry.  I gotcha.”

Benwright fired the STAd, the hum of the machine crested, and Eddie vanished amid the scream of ruptured space-time.  The main capacitors began to recharge, whining as electricity poured into them, readying it for the next firing.  Armelle stepped onto the platform, steadying herself on the hand rails.

Benwright was at the controls, but Vančura was gone, the doors swinging behind him.  She watched them rock on their hinges, then sighed as the rising whine from the time-machine signaled the capacitors were almost charged.

“He’s not the same.”

“I haven’t noticed..”

She frowned.  “Twelve years is a long time, Benwright, but even you couldn’t miss that.”

“Maybe not. I just haven’t noticed that he’s changed.”

Armelle bit her lip, but she couldn’t think of anything to say to that.  She watched Benwright reached for the button and a thought stuck her. “Wait!” He paused, looking puzzled, and she rushed on.

“Did my people ever come here?  They’d have wanted to help, if they could.  Surely they found out where I went?  They were never far behind us, even through all the time jumps.”

The technician swallowed.  “Vančura’s right, Armelle.”

“What?”  She shook her head in confusion.

He tapped the button and capacitors crackled as the STAd dumped a rending bolt of electricity straight into time.  The room flashed white, but she could just catch his last words.

“You do have a lot of people to save.


End Chapter  26 – Part 2

Busy week, busy night.  Still, Twicebound gets written.  Whatever goes on in it is usually as much a shock to me as it is to you guys, but recently things have begun falling into place.  That might mean something.

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
  Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
. Chapter Twenty, Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two, Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Four

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Six – Part Two

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“What was that?”

Benwright was staring at the satellite screen, wide-eyed, but the confusion was rapidly fading from his face.  The dust had settled around the destroyed buildings, but black billows of smoke still obscured the image.  Vančura glanced at Armelle, then up at the screen, before answering.

“That was an unprotected STAd going into overload.  When I fired our STAd, the backlash from the temporal aberration shut their STAd down by force.”

The technician nodded without taking his eyes off the smoking ruins. “The other STAd didn’t have any overload safeties built in, so it couldn’t contain and dissipate all that energy… Heaven help them, I’ve seen military ordnance that did less damage.”

“How could you do that?”  Armelle’s question started quiet, but it ended in a shout.

Vančura’s eyes flashed for an instant, then cleared and he turned to her.  “I haven’t.  Or don’t you remember?  You’re in the future, Armelle.  You’re twelve years in the future and I’m not the Vančura that actually exists for you.  You just learned how to shut down STAds, which was the whole point of your little adventure.  I might have kill hundreds of people who might exist if some third-world scum happens to build a time-machine.  A time-machine you already invented.  Go back in time and stop me and all the other time-traveling opportunists you turned loose on the world, then you get to look horrified.”

Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open.  Again.  For a full second, he just looked at her, then he went over to the STAd control board.  “Get over there.  It’s time for you to go back and clean up our mess. And to keep this one from happening at all.”


End Chapter  26 – Part 2

As far as I’m concerned, it’s still Saturday.  Don’t argue with the writer, people; he might write you into your very own “adventure” story.

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
  Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
. Chapter Twenty, Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two, Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Four

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Six – Part One

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The largest of the display screens showed a high-altitude view of an overbuilt patch of desert somewhere in Africa.  The computer had the exact coordinates, but neither Armelle or Vančura seemed to care about them.  They were both intent on their control panels.  Armelle was adjusting sliders, ramping up the power levels in the STAd’s capacitors.  A screen showed half a dozen digital meters, each one accompanied by an optimum position marker.  As she worked, each meter inched closer and closer to the perfect point, until all the markers changed from black to green.

“Vančura?”

He didn’t look away from the satellite screen.  “Do it.”

“I don’t know how big it will be.  Is the area clear?” Her movements had been sure a few seconds before, but now Armelle sounded hesitant. Where she paused, however, Vančura didn’t.

“No, but you’re a time-traveler, remember?  Figure out how to make this work and we’ll send you back in time and none of this will ever happen, anyway.”  He turned a grim eye on her.  “Besides, the first thing they’d have done would be to clear out any potential witnesses.  Top Secret doesn’t work the same way there as it does here.”

Benwright looked confused and opened his mouth, but Armelle was staring at Vančura.  “You can’t know there aren’t any innocent people there!  It’s just a guess!”

“Innocent people?  What are you two talking about?” Benwright’s eyes flicked between them, but Vančura ignored him, again, intent on Armelle.  He studied her for a moment, then – in a single, startlingly quick step – crossed the distance to the STAd controls and pressed the activation button.

The sharp electric hum of the STAd filled the room, then the massive machine fired.

A soft whine of cooling electronics was the only thing keeping the room from a deathly silence.  Armelle still stared at Vančura, her mouth half open in horror.  The big man’s jaw was set, but his expression was resigned, not determined. Benwright was looking back and forth between them, a half-bewildered frown engraved on his face.Behind them stood Eddie, but he wasn’t watching any of them.

Eddie was looking at the satellite screen.  The image had changed.  Before, there had been ramshackle streets and crumbling concrete office buildings.  Now, there was smoking rubble, radiating outward around a dark patch that could only be a blast crater.


End Chapter  26 – Part 1

This installment is late, yes.  However, I have an excellent excuse.  I will quote that excuse, if you don’t mind:  “You might have work, but you’re not going to get any of it done.”

What can I say?  When your mother orders you to have fun, y’don’t argue.

Want to read the previous installments? They’re right here!

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten,
  Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen,
  Chapter Fourteen  Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen  Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen 
Chapter Nineteen
. Chapter Twenty, Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two, Chapter Twenty Three

Chapter Twenty Four