Twicebound

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Five – Part Three

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Vančura sprinted into the STAd room, making for a row of controls and display screens on the far side.  Armelle – who was right behind him – didn’t remember seeing them before.  They weren’t part of the control system she was familiar with, so she assumed they’d been installed in the years she and Eddie had time-jumped.  She slowed enough to let Benwright catch up to her.

“What’s all this?”

He answered, but didn’t take his eyes off the screens. “It lets us keep track of any other time machines that open a temporal aberration.  We can track time, place, even duration if we get lucky.  Look, there…”  He pointed to one of the screens.  On it, a three dimensional image of the globe spun slowly, with a red dot flashing on the African continent.  “That’s where it opened.”

Vančura pressed a button on the control panel and one of the screens switched to show a sine wave.  It fluctuated gently, spiking drastically every few seconds, then dropping back into its rhythm.  The latitude and longitude blinked above it, showing the time-machine’s location within a mile.  When Vančura saw it, he didn’t look happy.  “Someone built another one. Benwright, get on the line and see if any of our contacts know exactly where it might be.”

Armelle grabbed the technician’s arm before he could leave.  “Wait.  Do we have access to imaging satellites?”

Vančura answered for him. “I have access, yes.  It would take weeks to get a specific location from satellites, though.  Finding someone in the CIA or one of the other bureaus who already knows will be faster.”

“We don’t need old images, we need new ones.  Current ones.”

Both of them stared at her.  “What are you thinking?”

She pointed at the STAd control system.  “Does that still work?”

“Of course.” Benwright stepped over to it and pressed a button, bringing power lights on and starting a series of soft beeps.  “Why?”

Vančura had been watching Armelle.  Now, he nodded to Benwright.  “Start the pre-firing system.  I think I know what she wants to do.”  He turned back to her.  “Give me a minute to find a live video feed of the area.”


End Chapter  25 – Part 3

Everybody knows the future has better tech!

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 Five – Part Two

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Benwright looked as if reality had tried to slap him in the back of the head and he hadn’t dodged fast enough.  “The STAd? We never studied the energy wave signature for it, not beyond the initial tests. The whole point was to stop STAds from activating, not activate our own.”

He stared off into space, trying to sort through the math to see if Armelle’s idea would really work.  Vančura, however, didn’t have time for disbelief.

“Is there anyway to test it?”

Armelle and Benwright both answered at the same time. “Easily.”  “Not safely.” Armelle glared at the man, then turned to Vančura.  “It’s easy to test, but there’s a non-zero chance the STAd could fail catastrophically.”

“A non-zero chance.”  There was a conspicuous absence of amusement in Vančura’s voice. “People only use that phrase when they don’t like the actual percentage.  I need numbers, Armelle, or different test, one that is less likely to destroy the STAd.

She shrugged.  “Destroy the STAd?  No, no; the time machine would be fine.  There’s a 50% chance that the backlash from forcing a shut down would level the whole facility, though.  It’s not good, but it’s the only way to test this, unless you have another STAd you haven’t told us about.”

Benwright shifted in his chair, glancing at Vančura, but he didn’t say anything.  Armelle noticed and her eyes narrowed.  “Do you have another one?”

“No.  We might have something better, though.”

“And what would that be?”

Before Vančura could answer, the deafening scream of a siren filled the room, its wailing alert rising and falling in a jarring, out-of-sync tempo.  Eddie yelped and dove for the nearest cover, while the others covered their ears.  Vančura smiled and got up, motioning for them to follow.  As they trooped down the corridor, the siren became quieter, until it had fallen to a soft, but persistent whine.

Armelle dropped her hands from her ears and winced.  “What was that?”

“Just what we need, actually.”  Benwright sounded ecstatic. “It’s an activation alert.”

Her eyes widened. “Somebody’s using the STAd?”

Vančura’s quiet answer was almost lost in the low wail of the siren.  “Someone’s using an STAd, yes.  Just not our STAd.”


End Chapter  25 – Part 2

And here’s where things start coming to a head, people. Time machines everywhere, but not a minute to think…

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Five – Part One

Armelle sketched out a dozen graphs, comparing them, checking them against equations and then checking the equations.  Some she discarded before she even finished them, but one or two she redrew multiple times, constantly refining the shape of their lines.  Finally, she handed a sheet of paper to Vančura and yawned.

“Try that.”

He glanced at the paper, then hit a button on his desk, switching on an intercom. “Benz, get up here. She’s got something.  Oh, and bring some coffee with you, please.”

He didn’t wait for an answer, but bent over the paper, trying to follow the scrawl of equations.  Halfway through, he blinked, then turned a skeptical eye on Armelle.  “Benz came up with an energy pattern just like this, months ago.  It works as a disruption signal, but only on paper.  There’s no way to transmit it, even if we could figure out how to actually create it in the first place.”

She smiled, but it looked a little weak.  “That’s what you’d have to think, if you’re thinking ‘prevent STAd activation’.”

“That is the goal here.”

Benwright came in with the coffee, took one look at Armelle, and handed her a cup.  He set the rest of it out of Eddie’s reach, pointedly ignoring the little man’s sigh.  “So, boss, what’s she got?”

Vančura handed him the paper.  The technician glanced at it once, then handed it back and shook his head.  “We’ve already tried that, remember.  There’s no way to create that sort energy wave.”

“That’s what I said.  She says we’re wrong.”

Benwright started to bristle, then relaxed – bit by bit – into his chair.  He took a long, slow sip of coffee. “We are wrong.  That’s why she’s doing the math, after all the time we spent on it.”  He sighed. “Where’d we go wrong?  We couldn’t figure out how to build a machine to transmit that distortion, but if you say we can, I believe you.”

“I didn’t say you could”.  You can’t build one that will transmit the signal.”  Armelle laughed into her cup. “That’d be like transmitting… an earthquake, or a solar flare.”

Vančura raised an eyebrow.  “So… what are you saying?”

“That set of equations graphs a line identical to the energy signature from an activating STAd.”

Benwright choked into his coffee.


End Chapter  25 – Part 1

Saturdays roll past, work schedules come and go, and life trickles by a little at a time.  I don’t measure time in by the date anymore, I set it by which episode of which serial novel comes next.  Strange how fast something becomes routine, isn’t 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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Four – Part Three

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“I don’t think this is actually possible, Vančura.”

He shrugged and regarded her critically.

“Benwright says it is and he’s had to think up ways to make it work.  You’ve had two hours.  I find myself inclined to believe him, instead of you.”

Armelle’s eyes narrowed and something behind them caught fire, but he put it out by interrupting her before she got started.

“Don’t take it like that.  If I wanted to be insulting, I’d be doing a much better job of it.  Frankly, between the two of you, you’re more likely to be right than Benwright is, regardless of how much time he’s had to study the problem.  There’s a lot of reasons for that, but the fact that you came up with the time-machine theory is probably the most important.  What you’re missing is that it doesn’t matter.

Unsurprisingly, Eddie – now sitting across from them – nodded as if he understood every word.  Armelle just looked confused.

“How could it not matter?  If he’s wrong, it’s not going to work.  That seems kind of important.”

After rescuing the last fortune cookie from Eddie, Vančura grinned at her.

“Not if you look at it in the right way.  It has to work, so that we can go back in time and build this machine to shut down all time travel for good.  If it doesn’t work…”

Realization whacked her in the back of the head and she did a decent impression of a surprised African bush-baby.

“Uhm.  I really hope I’m wrong, now.  Thanks, Vančura.”

The last part was accompanied by a glare, but he wasn’t perturbed.

“My pleasure.  I’m always glad to give people a chance to experience new and unpleasant things.  So, you see, if you can’t get this to work, we’re stuck with a world full of people who can muck around in time whenever they like.  Just thinking about it ought to terrify you; it certainly does me.”

Across the table, Eddie winked at him and looked around to make sure there wasn’t anything left to eat.

“It don’t scare me none, Vančura.  I figures enny time-line wid food innit can’t be all bad.”

 


End Chapter  24 – Part 3

Pardon the lateness of this installment; today was weird and busy and I only just got a chance to sit down.

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Four – Part Two

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After chomping his noodles with audible enjoyment, Eddie turned to the egg rolls, leaving the less important business of detangling time-travel to Vančura and Armelle.  The two had shoved their lunch aside and were poring over page after page of notes, equations, and diagrams.  Armelle was busily scribbling out equations to check the theories for herself, trying to understand twelve years worth of work by Vančura and Benwright’s work. Finally, she tossed her pencil down with a sigh, accidentally letting it roll into Eddie’s sweet and sour sauce.

“Most of this makes sense…”

Vančura nodded, obviously pleased, but she kept talking.

“Except for the part about stopping time-travel.  It’s not like you can just put up a big sign that says “Hey, bad time-traveler, stop breaking the time-stream!” and just expect that to work.  I can think of a couple of ways to slam a temporal disruption shut, but they’d require a power output so massive it’s ludicrous.  Plus, if you could build and power the machinery to do it, the backlash from closing a temporal disruption by force would probably burn a whole hemisphere of the planet to ash.”

The crunching of fortune cookies stopped abruptly, then started again, as Eddie kicked his brain back into gear after hearing the words “planet” and “ash” in the same sentence.  Vančura just looked smug, as usual.

“You remember how you told me you could tell when someone opened a hole in time?  That it creates a measurable distortion you could recognize?  Well, I wondered: if a STAd can put out a distortion, a signal, perhaps it can receive one, too.  Benwright worked some equations, ran simulations on computer models of the STAd, and he believes I may be right.  He… well, we just don’t know enough about time aberration theory to get the mathematics right.”

He shrugged, watching her as if he expected Armelle to say something.

“Yes?  And?”

Eddie patted a napkin to his lips with exaggerated gentility, then handed her the strip of paper from his fortune cookie.

“‘Splain’s everyt’in, dat cookie does.”

She read it, then laughed, and read it aloud.

“‘Don’t leave others to finish what you started.’  You need me to polish up my STAd theory, because nobody understands it well enough to…. what?”

Vančura was staring at Eddie, an odd look on his face.

“Hm?  Oh. If an STAd can send out distortion, it should be able to receive distortion.  Benwright calculates that if one receives enough distortion as it begins it’s cycle, it will overload and fail.  Catastrophically.”


End Chapter  24 – Part 2

I suspect Armelle IS going to be helpful here, but she’s definitely not going to make it easy for Vančura, that’s for sure!

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Four – Part One

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The big man went still, staring at Benwright.

“That might be a question you don’t want answered.”

Benwright snorted.

“Says you.  It’s the one thing that makes no sense about you, Vančura.  You’re smart, maybe even smarter than me.  Most of what you’ve done so far makes sense, from your point of view, I think.  It makes even more sense if I factor in that you’ve probably done this before and have traveled back in time to skip all the mistakes you made the first time around.  Sure, it makes sense: it took you less than an hour to finagle a position in a top secret government research facility, less than an hour after breaking in and engaging a piece of incredibly sensitive equipment.  Now, you’re practically calling the shots.”

He took a drink of coffee and turned a calculating eye back to Vančura.

“But what doesn’t make sense is you sending them through the STAd and not joining them. Actually, sending them through to the future doesn’t add up at all, but I assume you had a reason.  You and I both know the STAd control system has a count-down and timer, so it wouldn’t have been hard to follow them.  There wasn’t much time, but there was enough. So, all I can figure is that you didn’t know if it would work or not.  That’s cold, you know; sending them through just to see if it would kill them or not.”

There was another long silence, then Vančura sat back down, slowly.

“I’m only going to say this once, Benwright, so listen carefully.  This… place is a disaster waiting to happen.  The Sandglass Facility is the 21st century’s Manhattan Project, only worse.  You’re creating a nuclear bomb for time.  Once it’s working, nobody will be safe, anytime in the world.  The cops are hunting a murderer, so they just go back in time and catch him before he kills his victim.  An ambassador dies mysteriously, setting off a war, so an agent goes back in time to save his life.  The possibilities are endless.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Vančura nodded, a dark look on his face.

“It does, doesn’t it. Here’s another possibility for you: another country kidnaps the top scientist from the Sandglass project to build their own STAd, to counter this one.  So, the gent in charge of the Sandglass Project sends a hit squad back in time to… erase… that scientist from the timeline before it can happen.”

For a moment, Benwright forgot to breathe.  He took another quick gulp of coffee, trying to hide his expression from Vančura, but the big man wasn’t fooled.

“Don’t tell me you hadn’t considered the possibility. Of course, someone else saying it makes it much harder to ignore, doesn’t it?”

The technician grimaced and shook his head.

“It had occurred to me.  There just isn’t another option; I’m one of the few people with the ability to understand the paper the STAd is based on and the skills to build it.  They tagged me a “threat to national security” after the first time I told them I wasn’t interested in working for a government project.”

“So you decided that helping them build a time-machine was a good idea?”


End Chapter  24 – Part 1

Well, now. It looks like Benwright has a head for more than just math, doesn’t 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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part Three

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“How can time not pass, Vančura?  It’s not like humans have just been wrong about time since we first thought about it!”

The big man laughed at Benwright.

“Really?  We spent millennia thinking disease was caused by devils or bad air.  Until the 1700s, everyone who tried to fly did it by strapping wings to their arms.  The majority of people today think Columbus was the first European to discover the Americas.  If there’s one thing humans have cornered the market on, it’s being wrong.  We’re really quite good at it, especially when it’s an “everyone knows that” situation.”

Benwright folded his arms and sighed in frustration.

“Okay, so what does time do?”

Vančura’s expression changed and he winked at the technician.

“I don’t have the faintest idea.  You’re the scientist; find out!  Skepticism is the first step to discovering the true nature of things.  Think about it; if time actually passed on its own, why would time go slower as we near lightspeed?  But if time doesn’t pass, how is that even possible?  Maybe we are the ones moving, not time, and how fast we move through time depends on us.  And if we’re the ones moving… who is to say we can only move forward?”

The technician’s eyes widened and he leaned forward expectantly.

“Are you saying…”

He was cut off as Vančura scowled and interrupted.

“I’m not saying anything.  I’m just thinking aloud.  Take something for granted and everything else has to revolve around it.  Take nothing for granted and everything can change, no possibility becomes impossible.  Colonel Bosze wants the STAd repaired?  That’s because he assumes it’s broken!”

“But it doesn’t work!”

“Doesn’t it? Who says it doesn’t?  The Colonel?  The only thing he knows about time is that he’s on the clock.  You?  Did you design the STAd or write the equations that prove it can work?  The person who did that just jumped ten years into the future.  Maybe it doesn’t work like you think it should, but what does that have to do with anything?  Sometimes, function is independent of expectation of result, Benwright.  You built a time-machine and – since it doesn’t work like you want it to – you insist it’s broken.  Figure out what it is doing, then you can try to make it do what you want it to.”

For a long time, Benwright was quiet, watching the big man.  A thoughtful expression came over his face and he cocked his head.

“Vančura… you knew the STAd would kill anyone who tried to travel back in time, didn’t you?  That’s why you sent them into the future.”

“Obviously.”

Benwright’s eyes narrowed, ever so slightly.

“How did you know that wouldn’t kill them, too?”


End Chapter  23 – Part 3

Well, now.  It looks like Benwright has a head for more than just math, doesn’t 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 – Part One

Chapter Twenty Three – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part Two

Header23-2.png“That’s not really an answer, Vančura.  Here’s the deal; you tell Benwright what he needs to know to fix the STAd.  Call it a way to prove you’re playing fair with us.  If it works, we’ll let you aboard the Sandglass program, in an advisory capacity.”

Bosze leaned back in his chair and folded his arms with an air of finality, but Vančura didn’t hesitate.

“Done.”

The colonel blinked at him.

“Done?  That was… fast.  No arguing the specifics?  No cryptic banter about how much we need you and how disaster would inevitably strike in your absence?”

A slight smile tinged Vančura’s expression.

“Only a fool argues when he’s been given exactly what he wanted in the first place, Colonel.  Now, Benwright, get your notebook.  It would be a shame if you missed any important details, now wouldn’t it?”

Benwright scowled, but he pulled a small booklet out of one pocket and took a pen from the colonel’s desk.  Bosze, however, shoved his chair out of the way and headed for the door.

“You guys can amuse yourself with the technical details.  I’ve got a research project to run, so you’ll excuse me if I get back to it.”

The technician watched the door slam behind Bosze, his scowl deepening rapidly.

“Pathetic excuse for a ….”

He trailed off into low mutter when he noticed Vančura’s raised eyebrows.  The big man smirked and settled into a more comfortable position in his chair.

“Oh, don’t stop on my account.  It must be remarkably aggravating to have to answer to the colonel over a scientific project when you’re the expert.”

Benwright ground his teeth, but didn’t say anything, so the big man kept talking.

“Still, as long as he thinks he’s in charge, you’re really the one running the  project, since he can’t possibly understand any of the science behind the STAd.  Fortunate for me, too;  you’re probably the only here capable of sorting through the math.  See, the problem with the static charge overload is only a serious problem when you’re traveling backwards in time.  The strain on the machine when it sends matter through the temporal aberration in reverse is more severe than when it sends matter through forwards. The static charge is too much for the machine in reverse”

The technician frowned and scribbled a quick equation on his paper, then shook his head.

“No, that’s not possible.  Interfering with time should have the same consequences regardless of your vector.”

Vančura eyed him for a moment, then sighed.

“Look, Benwright.  The problem with you scientists is that you insist on thinking about theories as if they were fact.  Theories are just that; theories.  Just because the theory makes the math work doesn’t mean it’s right.  Just because you hear gunfire and horses whinnying doesn’t mean there are cowboys around the bend. It’s ten times more likely to be musketry and lancers, but you’re conditioned to think that an Indian attack is the only logical answer.”

Benwright stared at him, then rubbed his eyes and looked down at his paper.

“Okay, fine.  Let’s say I’m making assumptions; which theory is wrong?”

“Time.”

“Time?  Time isn’t a theory.”

The big man snorted disdainfully and leaned forward in his chair, eyeing the technician intently.

“Isn’t it?  What do you know about time?  What do you know about it, really?”

“Well… uh….”

Vančura waited.  Finally, Benwright frowned.

“Time passes.  I know that, for sure.”

After giving the tech a satisfied nod, Vančura stood up and started pacing.

“Time passes.  True.  That’s what we know.  But that’s not much, is it?  Cars pass.  People pass.  Time passes?  Ducks ‘pass’!!  What does the fact that it ‘passes’ tell you about time?  Nothing!”

His voice was still quiet, but it cut like a whip.

“Everything scientists “know” about time is based on the assumption that time passes.  They’re skeptics about everything but that.  Einstein said time passes more slowly the faster you go; a revolutionary idea, true, but he automatically assumed that time passes!”

He rounded on Benwright and froze him with a penetrating stare.

“What if it doesn’t?”


End Chapter  23 – Part 2

Interesting;  I had no idea Vančura could get worked up about anything.  Of course, there’s always the possibility that he’s faking it to get Benwright to buy his 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 – Part One

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Three – Part One

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“I’m hungry.”

Eddie stared at Vančura, a matter-of-fact expression on his face, obviously expecting the big man to do something about the problem.  Armelle rolled her eyes, then blinked thoughtfully.

“You know, I’m starving, too. It’s been a while since we ate.”

With a gesture to the far door, Vančura started off.

“It has been over twelve years since you’ve had lunch, you know.  I’m surprised you didn’t notice it earleier.”

His tone was serious, but there was an amused light in his eye.  Eddie, however, drooped visibly and an air of panic enveloped him.

“Twelve years?  Vančura, y’gotta get us somethin’ ta eat afore we starves to death.  Who’d you get t’help you if’n that happened?”

“Eddie, it’s only been twelve years for him.  It’s only been a couple of hours for us.  Time-travel, remember?”

Vancura led them into a much smaller room, furnished as an office.  He pulled two of the chairs from along the wall towards the desk, then sat down behind it himself and flipped an intercom switch.

“Benwright, we’re in need of lunch down here.  Who’s fastest?  Chinese?  Yes, that’s fine; order enough for at least three and tell the shop to make sure their delivery man wears his uniform this time.  I’d rather not have a repeat of last week’s noodle incident.  Thank you.”

He flicked the intercom off and leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh and closed his eyes for a moment.

“You have no idea how much trouble something like the Sandglass project can cause, Armelle.  The only reason you and Eddie didn’t land in a deserted building covered in cobwebs and dust is because of Bosze, odd as that sounds. This place is the temporal equivalent of a nuclear deterrent now.  The brass built it and congratulated themselves, then realized how dangerous it was, but by the time they decided to shut it down, it was too late.  Other people had time-machines too, so the only option was to keep this one running so we could keep others from using theirs.”

Armelle raised an eyebrow skeptically.

“How’d that work out?”

He laughed.

“Not well.  You can’t really threaten someone with time-travel; you never know whether you’ll actually change their timeline or if it will backfire and erase your own.  Of course, politicians are the ultimate optimists, so they prefer to ignore that inconvenient little fact.”

“But dey aren’t dumb, mostly.  Wot’s in it for dem?”

Armelle glanced at Eddie, then back at Vancura and her eyes narrowed.

“He’s right.  Why didn’t they just shut the place down anyway? “Possible deterrent” isn’t good enough, even if they do want to bury their heads in the sand.”

Vancura shrugged.

“It’s somewhat difficult to shut down someone who has a time-machine.  You might find yourself being ‘persuaded’ to change your mind, before you’ve even gotten around to making a decision. Time travel works like that.”


End Chapter  22– Part 3

Yup, still no idea where this is going.  Awesome!

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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part Three

Header22-3

Eddie had gotten as close as he could to the display and was studying the photo intently.

“I thought y’said y’got Benwright and d’Colonel ta trust you. If’n dat’s so, how’d he ennup in a truck in China?”

“I also said that neither of them saw the attack coming.  Bosze’s superiors were furious when he got caught off guard; after all, he was in charge of a project with a fully functioning time machine…”

That drew a chuckle from Armelle.

“That had to have hurt.”

Before answering, Vančura tapped the console again and brought up a new picture, then turned a sardonic eye on her.

“Everyone involved got hurt, actually.  The “shot-callers” fired Bosze and threw him out of the service as well, but he saw that coming easily.  He was gone the next day, with all of this…”

The picture showed a bank of computer towers, cases removed and tossed on the floor.  Each one had a row of cables dangling from the motherboard, obviously disconnected.

“Hard drives.  Everything the Sandglass facility had on anything and anyone.  Science papers, data from tests, computer simulations, personnel files, all of it.  Quite impressive, too, how he vanished.  We assume he must have had connections in high places to disappear so effectively.”

Armelle frowned, thinking hard, then glanced at Vančura.

“Hold on.  Why didn’t his ‘superiors’ just fire up the time-machine and go back in time and stop the original attack, or at least stop Bosze from making a run for it?”

To her surprise, it was Eddie who responded.

“Coz d’colonel weren’t no dummy.  Not’s’where ‘is own skin wuz conserned, ‘ninnyway, .  ‘m right, eh, Vancy….er…uhm… Vančura?”

The big man stared at him for a moment or two, then nodded minutely.

“He’s right.  Bosze sabotaged the STAd when he escaped.  Three microcharges in critical systems essentially destroyed it.  We scrapped the whole thing and built a new one instead of trying to repair it.  By the time we got the project up and running again, there wasn’t any point in trying to preempt the attack or Bosze’s defection; he had already built two more STAds for other countries.”

Armelle shook her head and closed her eyes wearily.  It was quiet for a few minutes, then she looked at Vančura.

“So, our trip through the knothole and all this… was for nothing?”

He looked surprised.

“Oh, I never said that.  We’re definitely going to fix this.  All of this was just to get you two acquainted with all the little problems that cropped up in the last few years.  Temporal travel was never the answer to the problem, you see.  If we actually want to keep time as we know it from unraveling at the seams, we need to take a slightly more… aggressive approach.”


 

End Chapter  22– Part 3

Yup, still no idea where this is going.  Awesome!

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 – Part One

Chapter Twenty Two – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part Two

Header22-2.png

“Okay, half a dozen time-travel machines is  a bad thing, I get it.  What exactly does that have to do with us, though?  Isn’t the whole plan for us to go back in time and prevent the first one from being built at all?”

Vančura nodded, but didn’t reply.  He just folded his arms and stared at Armelle, waiting.  She frowned at him.

“What?”

“Follow the logic a little further.”

With an exasperated glare, she thought about it a little longer.

“So…  the best way to keep the STAd from being built is to keep me from publishing my paper, or keep me from coming up with the mathematics at all, right?  That should be easy enough; we just go back in time and I won’t do it.  Problem solved.”

In the dim light where he was wandering aimlessly around, Eddie was shaking his head, but she ignored him.  Vančura, however, only raised an eyebrow critically.  She threw up her hands.

“Obviously, you’re taking the logic further than I am.  Fine; what’s so important about this future having too many time-machines?”

He stared at her for a moment longer, then tapped a key on the super computer.  The screen flashed to a photocopy of a file, packed with typewritten text framing a single high-resolution photograph.

It was a photograph of the front porch of Armelle’s house.  In center, the three of them were walking down the steps to the truck they’d stolen, Armelle leading the way and Eddie following along at the rear.  Vančura, by some bizarre chance, was looking directly at the camera.

“Who…”

“Now, where’d y’spose dat came from?”

Armelle sounded stunned, but Eddie had stopped pacing around in the dark and was studying the photo intently.  A sharp look had spread over his face and even his slow drawl had a slight edge to it.

With a quick tap of keys, Vančura brought up two more pictures.  One was a shot of a massive armored door in the side of a hill, partially covered with brush and camouflage netting.  It had obviously been snapped from a long distance; it had been enlarged so much the pixels were visible, though it had been carefully cleaned up.

The other was a profile of a man in the passenger seat of a battered Humvee driving down an overgrown dirt road.  A note, scrawled by hand on the edge of the photo, read “Russia? China?”.

Armelle’s mouth dropped open.

“Is that…”

“Colonel Bosze?  Yes, it is.  Badly in need of a shave, too, it seems.”


End Chapter  22– Part 1

Uh….

Whoa…

Dang…

Wow…

And…

What the heck?

Okay, people, I am officially back to not knowing what’s next.  Colonel Bosze has some explaining to do to his author, ’cause he is AWOL!

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

 

 

 

 

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty Two – Part One

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Vančura accepted a cup of black coffee from Bosze, then leaned back in his chair contentedly.

“It seems the STAd is much more durable than you give it credit for.  I don’t know if it’s the mathematics or the materials, but it will keep working long after theory says it should have failed catastrophically.”

He took a quick gulp and continued.

“Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t have… hiccups… when you use it.  It’s like finding a rifle in the mud: it will probably still shoot, but that doesn’t mean it will be as precise as it originally was.  And it will likely have other problems, as well.”

Benwright’s gaze sharpened.

“Imprecise?  You knew it was going to have a margin of error and you sent your friends, anyway?”

“I did and I did, yes.  It’s not as risky as you might suppose.  You see, traveling into the future has fewer… repercussions if you don’t hit your target exactly.  It’s not much different than going to sleep for the same amount of time; you’re just out of the loop of events and then ‘waking up’ again.  Getting back, though… that’s a completely different proposition altogether.

“It means traveling backward in time.”

Vančura nodded to the colonel.

“Indeed.  However, that’s assuming that the STAd still hasn’t been fixed ten years from now.”

Bosze covered a laugh by coughing into his cup and Benwright glared at Vančura.

“We’re working on it.  Maybe you could help us out there, huh?  Since you know so much about the thing.”

Both he and the colonel eyed the big man expectantly.  There was a long silence as Vančura considered it as he quietly sipped his coffee.  Finally, he threw a calculating look at Bosze.

“That depends.  Are the handcuffs and armed guard going to be a regular occurrence?”

A wry smile tinged the colonel’s face, but Benwright’s scowl remained firmly in place.

“That depends.  Are the attempts to hijack the STAd going to be a regular occurrence?”

“Touché.  Let’s assume for the present that double-crossing each other would only hhurt both of us.  After all, you have something I need and I have a great deal more that you need.”

A scoffing laugh burst from Benwright.

“What? You know how to fix the STAd?  Give me a week or so and I will, too.  I say we jail him, Colonel.”

Vančura didn’t even blink.

“I know someone else has a built one.  And I know none of us want them using it.”


 

End Chapter  22– Part 1

This is getting old, quick.  I don’t LIKE knowing what’s next!  I wanna be just as surprised as everybody else.

Still, I expect this can’t last long.  I hope you guys are enjoying 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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty One – Part Three

header21-3

“Colonel, you do not have a choice.  It’s that simple.  I know more about the Sandglass program than you do and probably more than even Benwright does.  You’ve sent me through that anomaly so many times it’s become blasé and I’ve kept my eyes open each trip.  You and the technician here are practically old friends, assuming old friends make liberal use of handcuffs and holding cells.”

Bosze stared at the big man for a long time, obviously mulling the situation over.  His expression looked as if someone had poured something unpleasant over him.  Benwright started to say something, but the colonel withered him with a particularly irritated glare

Vančura’s lip twitched in what could have been a smirk, but it vanished immediately.

“We both know you can’t have me executed or ‘interrogated, Colonel.  You can’t risk losing any possible source of information on the STAd.  Even an overzealous thump on the head from a guard might cause memory loss.”

He chuckled as Benwright tried to hide a pained wince.

“You need all the data you can get on what happens when the knothole is used.  More importantly, I’m not actively trying to kill you or ruin this program.  That puts me so far ahead of any other possible source of information you have that I’m practically in another universe, as far as trustworthiness is concerned.  And, whether you believe me or not, the first time I went through the STAd, it was as a volunteer.”

No amount of glaring from Bosze was enough to keep Benwright from sitting bolt upright and staring at the big man.

“What?  Volun… there’s no way! We’d have a record of that!”

The colonel rubbed a hand over his eyes and coughed.

“Benwright.  Shut up.  Okay, Vančura; you know we don’t have any way to prove that.  For all we know, the first time you went through, it could have been kicking and screaming.”

Vančura raised a derisive eyebrow and Bosze rolled his eyes.

“As out of character as that might seem.  The point is, we have to trust you, not because we trust you, but because we don’t have any other choice but to trust you.  That’s a position I’m extremely uncomfortable with, as you obviously know. However, we really need that information and you haven’t done anything worse than use the STAd.”

Before Vančura could respond, Benwright broke in, a frown spreading over his face.

“How did you manage that, anyway?  Our tests say that static charge problem should have completely fried anyone in the STAd when you fired it.”

Vančura regarded the tech for a moment, a dark smile flickering.

“Come now, Benwright.  You of all people ought to know that reality has very ugly effect on even the best laid theories.  Practice makes perfect is a much better way of doing things, if you know what I mean.”


 

End Chapter  21– Part 3

Huh… turns out, I knew THIS was coming, too.  Looks like I might be starting a habit of that… which worries me.  I’m not sure I like knowing what’s next.  Oh, well.  Seeing the stunned looks on reader’s faces is a pretty good substitute for having one myself, so I guess I’ll keep writing…

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 – Part One  Chapter Twenty One -Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty One – Part Two

header21-2“Why didn’t you come after us?”

Vančura shook his head and glanced up at the wall display.

“They caught me just as you went through.  It was all I could manage to get the two of you into the STAd before they shut it down.  And of course, later on, when I could have gone through, the STAd’s margin of error was to great.  I could have missed you by months, or even years.”

Armelle was quiet, but Eddie ignored all the new information and focused on Vančura with a surprisingly sharp gaze.

“An’ ‘ere you are, boss-man an’ everythin’.”

Armelle blinked at the little man for a moment, then nodded slowly.

“How did you end up in charge here, anyway?  Benwright acted like you’re the one calling all the shots.  What happened to Colonel Bosze?”

With a shrug, Vančura turned to the desk and tapped a few keys on the computer.  The equations disappeared and were replaced by a photo.  It was a shot of the outside of the Sandglass complex, smoke-blackened and battered.

The double doors had been blasted in and there was a second hole in the wall a dozen yards away.  A combat-medic tent had been set up in the gravel parking lot and half-a-dozen stretchers lay alongside it.  Marines in combat gear patrolled the area, looking as if they were expecting shots to ring out at any moment.

Vančura studied the photograph for a while, then sighed.

“You can only be right so many times before people decide you know what you’re talking about.  After that, it’s a pretty  short step to being in charge.”

Armelle looked from him to the screen, then back again.

“When did that happen?”

“About four years ago.  I knew it was coming, but Bosze and Benwright wouldn’t believe it.  I’d managed to work my into the Sandglass project in the years since you stepped through the knothole and they trusted me, but they were sure this attack was going to come through the past.  That’s what they focused on, so this attack caught them completely off guard.”

“This attack?  Who attacked?”

He turned a skeptical eye on her.

“Hard to say.  You don’t think Sandglass is the only group that built a time-travel machine from your plans, do you?”

Right on cue, Eddie choked.  Armelle ignored him, even though it wasn’t far from her own reaction.

“You mean there are more of them out there, goofing around with the time-line?”

“Well, no-one’s exactly ‘goofing around’.  Everyone’s been extremely careful… surprisingly so, actually.  No-one wants to send an agent back in time and accidentally wipe themselves out.”

She stared at him for a moment, eyes wide.

“You mean there are more of them goofing around with the time-line?”

The big man sighed.

“Yes, there are.  About half a dozen agencies in eight different countries have functioning STAds.”


 

 

End Chapter  21– Part 2

Okay, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see this coming. I totally did.  I might have even planned it.  It’s entirely possible this has been coming for a long time.  Y’just never know.

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 – Part One

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty One – Part One

 

header21-1.pngEddie and Armelle watched Benwright disappear down the hall, then glanced at each other.

“Awfu’ helpful, ain’t he?’

Armelle scowled, then nodded at the double doors.

“Might as well see what Vančura has been up to all this time.  Maybe he’ll be a little more forthcoming.”

She shoved one of the door and it opened quietly, swinging on well-oiled hinges.  The room beyond was dim, kept from complete darkness by a row of lamps running down the middle of the room.  Against the walls on either side, computer towers blinked, status lights running in complicated patterns across them.

At the far end of the room, a single desk stood in front of a massive wall display.  Pages of equations scrolled across the display, numbers changing as the computers solved them.  The chair at the desk was empty.

Eddie was busy watching the shadows nervously, but Armelle stared at the display.  After a moment, her eyes narrowed and she stepped closer for a better look.

“What the…”

“Predictive temporal formulae.  I’ve been running them for years now.  It’s next to impossible to know what will happen if even one thing in the past changes, but with enough computing power, you can make a really good guess at it.”

Armelle whirled, focusing on the dim outline of Vančura, leaning on one of the computer towers off to one side.  Eddie squeaked and sprinted halfway to the doors before he recognized the voice.

“Vančura!”

He grinned at her.

“The one and only.”

Armelle started to say something, then stopped and glanced at the wall display.  She was quiet for a minute, then turned back to him.

“How much time did we skip?”

The big man’s grin faded.

“Twelve years.  You time-traveled twelve years.”


End Chapter  21– Part 1

This installment was a bit short, mostly because the next bit is going to be a long one, with no good places to pause the story.  See you next 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

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty – Part Three

header20-3

Benwright took a deep breath.

“Okay… the physics of sending someone forward in time are totally different than sending someone backwards in time.  We don’t really understand how traveling to the past works; it seems to break a lot of natural laws, like how mass can be in two places at once, but…”

He broke off as he noticed Colonel Bosze staring at him pointedly.

“But… ah… back to the point, traveling forward in time is relatively simple, from a paradoxical standpoint.  Unfortunately, since it doesn’t cause as much of a disturbance, it’s harder to pinpoint the exact… landing point.  So, the computer has records of where the STAd sent them but there’s no way to know how close they came to the targeted time.”

Bosze leaned back in his chair with a thoughtful frown.

“Where did the computer send them?”

The technician checked his notebook.

“Ten years in the future, to the day.”

With a sharp glance towards Vančura, the colonel leaned forward.

“Ten years?  Why ten years?  That’s a long jump.”

Benwright shrugged.

“No idea.  Ask the prisoner, not me.”

That got a long laugh out of Vančura. Benwright started in surprise, then shot the big man a nasty look.  He started to say something, but Bosze waved him down and ignored Vančura.

“So, we know they were aiming for ten years from now.  Don’t worry about our guest; we’ve got plenty of time to get information out of him.  Let’s concentrate on what we know before we start worrying about what he might tell us.  Do you have an estimate on how far from their target they actually landed?”

After a last glare at Vančura, Benwright shook his head.

“It’s a pretty big margin of error.  Anything from a few minutes to eighteen months.  Tracking time travelers is like trying to figure out exactly where a fish jumped out of the water by watching the ripples.  The bigger the fish, the easier it is, and there might actually be a splash, too.  This… it’s like following a minnow in an Olympic swimming pool.”

The colonel sighed.

“Still, we’ve got an eight-year gap before they appear again.  There’s a lot we can do in that time, regardless of exactly what we decide needs doing.”

A chain rattled as Vančura clapped his hands with exaggerated emphasis.

“And now you’re closer to the question you really ought to be asking.”

This time, it was Bosze who glared at him.

“What?”

The big man smiled at him condescendingly.

“When did I send them?  What about why did I send them and what are they going to do when they get where they went?”

Benwright’s eyes widened with realization, but Bosze spoke first.  His eyes were suspicious and far from friendly.

“More importantly, why are you helping us?”

Vančura’s smile widened and he inclined his head to the colonel.

“And that is the real question.”


End Chapter  20– Part 3

Well, now… I didn’t see any of THAT coming.  Somebody check Vančura’s cards!!  I think he’s playing with extra aces!!

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 – Part One

Chapter Twenty -Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Twenty – Part One

header20-1.png

“Look, we’re not the bad guys here.”

Vančura leveled a cynical gaze at the colonel, then raised his wrists and rattled the handcuffs.

“These restraints would indicate otherwise.

Bosze didn’t look amused.  In fact, he looked more than a little irate.

“You did break into a secure government testing facility and monkey with a highly  sensitive piece of equipment.  The handcuffs are protocol, but I’ll admit, I enjoyed having you put in them.”

The big man studied him, a frown starting to develop, obvious even under the indomitable composure.

“You bribe a crooked judge and prison warden to kidnap us off the street chip us like animals, then force us through an experimental machine.  And you aren’t the ‘bad guy’?”

Bosze’s grin was anything but pleasant.

“Hey, I haven’t done any of that yet.  You can’t blame me for something I’ve done in the past for the future you came from, but that I haven’t gotten around to doing in the future for this present.  Just now, the only criminal here is you.”

There was a quiet pause as Vančura considered that.  Finally, he nodded.

“You’ve got this time travel problem down to a science, I see.  Impressive.  So, since I’m the ‘bad guy’ in this particular iteration of our first meeting, what’s next?”

Surprise bloomed on the colonel’s face, then he laughed.

“Oh, I never said you were the bad guy.  You’re just the guy who broke into the wrong place on some mis-guided…”

He stopped, frowned, then stared at Vančura, eyes widening.

“Wait a minute.  ‘Us’.  You kept saying ‘us’, not ‘me’.   Kidnap us, chip us, force us.  Who is ‘us’?  We sent someone else through the STAd with you, didn’t we?”

It w as Vančura’s turn to grin.

“Slipped out of me on accident, I’m afraid.  The question you really ought to be asking, though, is who went through the knothole without me.  Or, to put it a different way, who did I send through it?”

Bosze paled and he slammed a fist onto the intercom button on his desk.

“Benwright! Get down to the STAd and check it’s logs for the time immediately around the incursion!  Move!”

He leaned back, staring at Vančura like he’d seen a ghost.  The big man just chuckled.

“Makes you wonder who I sent through, doesn’t it, Colonel?  In fact, if I were you, I’d be wondering very, very much.  I might even be worried.  If I were you.”


 

End Chapter  20– Part 1

Ah, Vančura… what are you up to?  I gotta tell you, readers, Vančura is the the single most unpredictable character I’ve ever written.   If I ever figure out what he’s planning, I’ll be sure to tell you about it, but don’t count on it being any time soon.

Also, Merry Christmas, one and all.

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

Twicebound: Chapter Nineteen – Part Three

Header19-3

The hallways of the Sandglass facility were conspicuously dim, lit only by widely spaced emergency bulbs.  The STAd room had been fully powered on, but it seemed to be the only room in the building that was.

“What’s with the lights, Benwright?  It’s like a cave in here.”

The tech shrugged.

“The building’s been cut off from the main utilities, so we’re running on internal power.  We keep just enough lamps going to keep us from bumping into stuff, but that’s all.  Can’t waste any electricity on trivialities.”

He turned down one of the dark hallways, then unlocked a stair-well access door.  It was still dark, but not the lights were green, instead of yellow.  Eddie hung back, staring at Benwright suspiciously.

“Dat’s a purty strange color…”

“It won’t hurt you, trust me.  Green makes it easier to see in low light.  We never shut off the lights on the lower levels, so Vančura had us install green lamps in the less-used areas.  They use a bit less power.”

Eddie didn’t look any less wary, but he nodded and followed Armelle down the stairs.  Two stories later, the technician unlocked another door.

“Cover your eyes.”

It creaked open, letting a stream of friendly yellow light through the gap.   They blinked, but he didn’t wait for them to adjust.

“Come on.  We don’t exactly have a lot of time to spare.  Vančura was expecting you, but he’s going to have to debrief the two of you.  There’s a lot of work to do after that.”

He smiled at them, a little apologetically.

“Welcome to the clean-up crew and all that.  Sorry about the mess.”

With that, he waved them into the hall and led the way to a set of double doors at the end.  He tapped twice, then nodded to himself and turned to Armelle.

“Go on in.  He’ll be waiting for you.”

“Thanks. What did you mean by ‘welcome to the clean-up crew’?”

Benwright started back down the hall, carefully avoided her eyes.

“Vančura will tell you all about it.  I’ve got to get back upstairs.  This place doesn’t guard itself.”

End Chapter  19– Part 3

Well, ya’ll, this is the last installment before Christmas.  The next time you see Vančura and Co. it’ll be the day after Christmas.  I guess that means it’ll have to be a really good one?  After all, not many stories see two Christmases in a row, do they?

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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 – Part One
Chapter Nineteen – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter Nineteen – Part 2

Header19-2.png

“Benwright?”

The laugh rolled around the chamber again.

“Got it in one.  You two are right on time and sharp as tacks.  Good to see the trip didn’t scramble you too badly.  Vancura didn’t know if you’d gotten through un-harmed.”

The technician rested his elbows on the railing of the second story balcony and grinned down at them.

“The boss is going to want to see you, so I’ll have to get you to tell me about your trip later.  I’m dying to know if traveling forwards in time is any different than traveling backwards.  Wait right there, I’ll be down in a second.”

He vanished, but they could hear the clatter of boots on the tile floor above, though it faded fast.  Eddie turned to Armelle, eyes wide.

“Wha’d’we do?”

She shook her head, desperately scanning the room for the tenth time.  There were only two exits; the door and the knotholeBenwright was coming through the first – doubtless with a troop of thugs behind him – and she was locked out of the STAd.

“We play it by ear.  Not much else we can do.”

Eddie’s face crumpled.

“I jus’ hopes we still got ears t’play wid after Bosze gits done wid’us.”

The door opened and they spun to face Benwright.  He was conspicuously alone.  When they realized he didn’t even have a pistol out, Armelle and Eddie exchanged a surprised look.

“All right, you two.  This way.  Everything’s on the clock, so we don’t have a lot of time.”

Neither of them showed any  sign of moving and Benwright blinked at them.

“Aren’t you coming?”

“Why on earth would we go anywhere with you on purpose?”

Eddie shook his head at Armelle, then squinted at the technician suspiciously.

“What I wants’ta know is, why’re y’asking?”

For a moment, they all stared at each other, then Armelle finished sorting through Eddie’s question.  Her eyes widened.

“Good one, Eddie!  Why are you asking, Benwright?  Why not just have some of your jackboots haul us to the interrogation room?  If you’re expecting us to go willingly, Bosze is going to have to wait for a long time.  I’ll bet that will thrill him to no end.”

To their surprise, Benwright started laughing.

“Oh.  Okay, my fault.  I forgot, you still think we’re enemies.  Time-travel, remember?  We’re on the same side now.”

He grinned when he realized they didn’t believe a word of it.

“Well, to put it more accurately, I’m on the side you’re on.”

They studied him, Armelle weighing his words carefully, and Eddie trying to figure out exactly what the tech had said.  Armelle was the first to respond.

“Say we believe you.  What exactly is this “side” we’re all getting cozy on?”

Benwright frowned, as if she’d asked him what oxygen was.

“Vančura’s, obviously.  What else would I mean?”


End Chapter  19– Part 2

You didn’t see THAT coming, did you?

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 – Part One

Twicebound: Chapter Nineteen – Part 1

Header19-1“Do you really think I’m going to tell you any thing?”

Vančura stared at Bosze, coolly assessing his reaction.  He was slightly surprised when the colonel nodded agreeably.

“I know you won’t tell us anything, Vančura.  You’re difficult at the best of times and unpleasant doesn’t even begin to describe you when you’re being recalcitrant.  So, we’re not going to bother with interrogation.  We should get everything we need to know from a thorough examination, anyway.”

Vančura raised an eyebrow that was slightly less enigmatic than usual.

“An examination?  You forget; I’m a time traveler.  I’ve been through this already.  You won’t find anything you haven’t already found.

With a contemptuous smile, Bosze waved a guard forward.  Vančura was hoisted to his feet and hand-cuffed.  The colonel stepped aside with exaggerated courtesy.

“Don’t worry yourself on our accounts, Vančura.  Even government employees can have a few tricks up their sleeves.   We’ll know what we want to know.”

He turned to the guard.

“Get him to the deep scan suite. Tell Benwright o take his time; if we miss anything, we could screw up this timeline and never know it.”

Vančura watched him go.  Something about the tone of the colonel’s voice stuck in his memory.  Bosze had almost sounded scared.

* * *

Armelle, having regained her balance, examined the STAd console. Eddie prowled the room, looking more wary by the second. Finally, Armelle punched the console in frustration.

“They installed a lockout system!  I can’t access anything; controls, records, nothing.  Not even the clock!”

Then, both she and Eddie froze.  A low chuckle echoed around the massive room, bouncing eerily off the steel and composite STAd. 

“I expect the password would make things a little easier?”

They both recognized the voice.


End Chapter  19– Part 1

Yes, this installment is a little short.  Fortunately, it’ll be more than worth it.  Teaser; in case you can’t tell, the last three installments have been stage-setting for next week’s installment.  And it’s going to be a shock.  Just telling you now.  Keep the defibrillators handy.

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

Twicebound: Chapter Eighteen – Part 2

Header18-2.png

Vančura threw up.  Again.

Not for the first time, he was grateful that his cell had a sink in it.  The flash-grenade had done something to his ears; his sense of balance hadn’t returned.  Hours had passed since he’d been captured, but the nausea hadn’t faded away.

He was also grateful that Eddie had made it through the STAd with Armelle.  The little man would probably find Vančura’s predicament perversely amusing.

A fist slammed on the cell door and he looked up, happy for the distraction.  He immediately closed his eyes, shutting out the room shifting unsteadily beyond his nose.  He waited a moment, then opened them again.

Bosze stood just outside the cell.

“Question time, Vančura.  Lots and lots of questions.”

* * *

When the muddy grey fog in Eddie’s head cleared, his eyes widened in shock.  He hadn’t gone anywhere.  The electronic mountain of the STAd still loomed over him.

Then he noticed the difference.  There was no deep and ominous hum to show that the machine was active.  More importantly, the multistory room the STAd occupied was dark and just as still as the STAd itself.

He wasn’t fond of taking chances, though, so his every movement was an exaggerated tiptoe.  He was halfway to the control panel when a blue flash lit the room and a smell of ozone wafted from the STAd.  Eddie did a serviceable impression of a startled deer, diving for cover in the electronic underbrush.

Several minutes later, after he had gathered together the tiny amount of courage he had left, he peered out.  Armelle lay on the STAd platform, completely still.   Eddie waited a few more minutes before crawling out to help, just to make sure it wasn’t a trap.


 

End Chapter  18– Part 2

Ah, Eddie.  Brave to a fault… he’s not. But hey, you didn’t expect him to be, now did you?  As for Vančura, I wouldn’t worry too much about him.  After all, time travelers never die, right?  Yeah…

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

Twicebound: Chapter Eighteen – Part One

Header18-1“Get ready to go, now!”

Armelle’s shout startled Eddie, but Vančura was already moving. He grabbed Eddie’s shoulders and hauled him toward the STAd, glancing over his shoulder as they went.

“What’s wrong?”

She didn’t stop typing, but the set of her shoulders looked strained.

“They set an alert on the console.  Start up the knothole and every personal security terminal in the building goes on alert.  Can we bar the door?”

Vančura ignored her and muscled Eddie into the STAd, levelling a finger at the little man.

“Don’t. Move.  Armelle, put him through!!”

The hum of the STAd didn’t change.

“Armelle!”

“It’s not ready yet!! I need another minute. Can’t you bar the door?”

With a snarl, Vančura bounded across the room and leaned over her shoulder.

“We don’t have a minute, Armelle.  There’s no ceiling on this room, remember?  All they have to do is get some guns on the second level to shoot down at us and we’re finished.  Barring the door isn’t going to help.  What’s taking so long?”

She shook her head, still concentrating on the screen.

“It’s a government project, Vančura.  There are safeguards and test programs everywhere.  Even the safeguards have safeguards.”

“You can’t bypass them?”

“I’m a scientist, not a hacker.  This is going to take a second… wait… okay, almost there.”

Pushing him out of the way, she slid her swivel chair towards a different monitor.  It lit up when she hit the first key and the deep hum of the STAd changed in pitch. She threw a grin at Vančura.

“We’re good!  Eddie, hold still.”

The console beeped once, then the harsh crackle and flash of electricity filled the room.  A metallic smell rose, but Eddie was already gone.

“You’re next, Vančura.”

He lifted her out of the chair and set her on her feet.

“Wrong.  Get going.”

“You don’t know how to work the STAd!”

“I hit that button right there, right?”

“Well, yes, but…”

He pointed at the machine adamantly.

“The last one through might not make it; racing to the knothole after hitting the button will be risky enough, let alone dodging bullets. You’re the only one who knows enough about time-travel to be useful in the future.  Get moving.”

She didn’t argue.  A second later, the flash and crackle echoed again and she followed Eddie. Vančura’s finger was hovering over the key that would start the cycle again, when the doors burst open.  A small, black cylinder rolled into the room with a muted clank.

Vančura just closed his eyes.  A flash-grenade.  Colonel Bosze hadn’t wasted any time.


End Chapter  18– Part 1

Late this installment might be, but it made it!  Poor “Twicebound”, sandwiched between Friday evening work and Saturday afternoon work.  Don’t worry, from now on, I’m going to be writing it ahead of time, so this won’t happen again.

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

Twicebound: Chapter 17 – Part 3

Header17-3There was a deep whir as the STAd powered up, accompanied by the click of computer keys as Armelle tapped away at the console.

“Do you need to ask?”

“Yup.  You knows ‘ow t’ work this thing?”

She made an exasperated noise, then realized Eddie was deliberately taunting her.

“Yes, I know how to work it.  Now, be quiet and let me run the diagnostics programs.  You wouldn’t want to end up ripped into little pieces and scattered through time, would you?”

He gulped and took a step back.

“Not partic’larly, no, t’anks.”

She smirked and turned back to the console.  The blue-green light of it flickered as the diagnostics ran, testing the massive machine .

Vančura prowled the room while they waited, keeping a wary eye on the door.  Now and again, he’d throw an impatient glance toward Armelle, as if restraining himself from asking how much longer it would take.  During a pause in one of the diagnostics, she looked up, frowning as she watched him pace.

“What’s gotten into you?”

He shook his head, but she pushed.

“Look, Vančura, you’re making me nervous.  Something’s worrying you and I want to know what it is.”

Indecision flickered in his eyes, then he shrugged, but kept his attention on the doors.

“Fine.  We’re playing with the time-line too much for my comfort.  It’s got to be done, but that doesn’t mean something ugly won’t happen.  Look.”

He gestured to the digital time display hung over the console.

“Last time around, we were just about to go through the knothole.  What happens when we don’t go through it this time around?”

Armelle tapped another key, then shook her head.

“I’ve explained this already…”

“No!”

Her eyes widened, instinctively shrinking back from his explosive outburst.  He started pacing again.

“You explained it well enough for me to know you don’t really know what will happen.  I know, I know, we don’t have a choice, but that’s not exactly comforting.  Tell me going through that machine again won’t make the situation worse than it ever was before.”

His razor-sharp gaze locked her down and pinned her.  Finally, she bit her lip and turned back to the console.


End Chapter  17– Part 3

Another installment of “Twicebound”, the last for October.  And guess what?!?!  It’s only three more weeks until it will have been a full YEAR of Twicebound.

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 – Part 1
Chapter Seventeen – Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 17 – Part 2

Header17-2“Do you really want to tell Benwright he’s going to have to explain to the Colonel that some no-name guard wouldn’t let me test the shunt capacitors on the STAd before the test tomorrow?”

The guard winced, but more from Armelle’s strident tone than anything else.

“I got my orders…”

Her voice got louder.

“Look, you!  If those shunts can’t take the stress from the temporal magnetic bleed-off, the knothole will blow you, Benwright, and this facility right down to string theory!  And I’ll be two hundred miles away, laughing at you.”

The man’s face dissolved into puzzlement.

“String theory?”

Armelle rolled her eyes and gave a dramatic sigh.

“Just open the stupid door and let me do my job, please?  It’s not like I’m going anywhere, is it?  If you don’t believe me, Benwright and have him come down here and throw me out.  But for now, open up.”

After a moment’s indecision, the guard sighed and opened the door.  The trio darted through, before he could change his mind.  Behind them, they could hear the ring of the wall-phone as he dialed Benwright’s office. Vančura cocked an ear, then grimaced.

“We’d best hurry, before he realized Benwright’s never heard of you.”

Armelle sprinted to the stairs instead of the elevator and began skipping down them to the control room of the STAd.

“Oh, he’s heard of me.  He built this thing based on my paper, remember?  And it’s not like ‘Armelle’ is exactly a forgettable name, is it?  Once he knows I’m here, he’ll have every guard in the place coming after us.

From his place just behind her, Eddie choked.

“Why’d you use yer real name, den?”

She shrugged and pushed open the set of double doors at the bottom of the stairs.

“It’s not like we’ll be here long enough for him to catch us, anyway.  Oh… oh, my.  It’s beautiful!”

Vančura shouldered his way past her and dropped the heavy box unceremoniously beside the door.

“It’s a control panel and a five story pile of industrial parts.”

She glared at him, then strode over to the controls and began pushing buttons.  Eddie watched over her shoulder, a worried frown building.

“You knows ‘ow t’ work this thing, yeah?”

End Chapter  17– Part 2

Another installment of “Twicebound”, the last for October.  And guess what?!?!  It’s only three more weeks until it will have been a full YEAR of Twicebound.

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 – Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 17 – Part 1

Header17-1

“You don’t look much like a scientist. Are you sure this will work?”

Armelle gave Vančura a scornful look and finished buttoning her lab coat. It didn’t quite fit, but no-one would notice, unless they looked closely.

“I look a lot more like a scientist than you do, that’s for sure. Stop standing like that!”

He blinked.

“Like what?”

“Like…”  She eyed him for a moment. “Like a big cat.  You look like you’re always waiting to pounce on somebody.  Scientists don’t do that.”

With a shrug, he relaxed slightly, letting his shoulders droop slightly under the lab coat. She made a face, then nodded.

“Now you just look like you’re asleep, but it’ll have to do.  Here, carry this and look subservient.  Eddie, you… just follow me and, for heavens sake, don’t talk.  One word from you and they’ll know we aren’t scientists.”

Eddie looked hurt, but at least his lab-coat fit, so he just looked like an affronted – if slightly scruffy – technician.   Armelle inspected him one last time and adjusted the box she had handed to Vančura.  It was some random piece of heavy equipment that had looked mildly portable, but he didn’t look like he even noticed the weight.

“Okay, let’s go.  And let me do the talking.  I may not be familiar with this place, but at least I won’t ask them if I can ‘do something to that thingy’ or something like that.”

After checking them over critically, she yanked the chair out from under the knob and opened the door.  Peering out into the hall, she glanced both ways, then stepped out.  In an instant, she assumed the attitude of a harried and somewhat annoyed technician. The other two trailed her, trying to keep up, and barely succeeding.

“Could ya slow down a little, mebbe?”

She didn’t look back.

“No.  I’m in a hurry. The head technician wants the main off-shunt capacitors on the STAd checked immediately.  We can’t waste any time.  Besides, you don’t hear Vančura complaining, do you, and he’s carrying that equipment.”

Eddie frowned at her, then glanced at Vančura questioningly. The big man shook his head.

“She’s getting into character.”

Eddie stared at Armelle’s back.

“She’s a character, awright.”

End Chapter  17– Part 1


Just so you guys know, slightly scruffy doesn’t even begin to describe Eddie. Fortunately, for some reason connected with our social memory, the impression created by a white lab-coat is one of credibility, authority, and intelligent concentration.  All things Eddie has nothing to do with, but the lab-coat will distract you from that.

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

Twicebound: Chapter 16 – Part 3

Header16-3

The guards kept a careful eye on the ‘prisoners’ and shook Vančura’s hand as he passed. People with presidential approval were just unusual enough to keep the guards from paying quite as much attention as they should have. One of the things they didn’t pay attention to was the big man’s appalling lack of credentials.

After radioing ahead for someone to escort the detective and the prisoners, the guards waved him through.

“Go ahead, straight down this corridor and take the third turn on your right. There’s a security detail on the way to meet you.”

Vančura blinked at him in surprise, but smoothed the expression away as quickly as it appeared.

“Thanks. I’ll get these convicts turned over and get out of your hair.”

He headed down the corridor before they could change their minds, prodding Eddie and Armelle ahead of him. They went – not willingly, but they went – keeping a cautious eye out for trouble.  As they went, Armelle shot a question over her shoulder.

“How in blazes did you get that code?”

Vančura paused at an intersection, glanced both ways, then motioned for them to cross.

“It’s a high-level multi-department pass, issued by the president.  He gives it to people that need clearance in a range of government departments, but who don’t need permanent access.  Or who need access in a hurry to places that getting full clearance takes a long time.”

“You didn’t answer my question!”

He grinned at her, a little smugly.

“It’s a rolling code, changes with every use, so it can’t be broken.  But then… I find time so relative, don’t you?”

He chuckled softly.

“It’s Colonel Bosze’s code; he used it the first time he brought me here.”

A flicker of understanding lit Armelle’s eyes.  Then, she frowned and shot him a suspicious look.

“How come Eddie and I never heard it?”

“Eddie would have forgotten it, anyway.  But something had to change for Eddie to get on the same bus with me, anyway.  Things are changing more than they should be able to.”

She almost thought she heard concern in his voice, but he’d ducked around a corner, muffling the last words.

“This way.”

The new hallway was lined with doors, each with an ‘active laboratory’ warning sign hung below its slotted window.  Without slowing, Vančura unlocked his companion’s hand-cuffs, then pointed at one of the labs.  Its window was dark, but the door was unlocked.

Without hesitating, they sprinted inside, and Vančura closed the door gently.  The only light was from the slot window, but it was bright enough to show the long tables and equipment.  The big man glanced around.

“Quick, slide me that stool!”

Armelle whisked it towards him and he jammed the seat under the door latch, anchoring the feet in an expansion crack in the concrete floor.  He tested it, pulling on the door; the stool held it shut, with only the slightest give.

“Okay, we’re in.  Once they realize we’re not where we’re supposed to be, though, they’ll search the whole building.  You got a plan for that, or do I need to handle it?”

He watched Armelle expectantly, but before she could answer, there was a crash of breaking equipment.  They glanced round at the same time, peering at Eddie in the gloom.   He was standing in the middle of a pile of destroyed scientific apparatus, his white lab coat bright in the dark.

Armelle turned back to Vančura, a smug grin spreading over her face.

“No, I think I’ve got an idea…”

End Chapter  16 – Part 3


Okay, did you guys see that?  Because if you saw what I saw, Eddie just solved a problem.  Is that even possible?

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 – Part One
Chapter Sixteen – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter 16 – Part 2

Header16-2Eddie didn’t know where Vančura had gotten the handcuffs, but he didn’t much care, either.  The fact that they were on his wrists at all was very bad thing and he didn’t have the processing capacity to concentrate on anything.  It gave him hives just thinking about it.  For the hundredth time, he scowled at Vančura’s back, wondering why the big man didn’t have enough handcuffs for three.

Three sets of shoes crunched gravel on their way up to the Sandglass building.  Two of those sets actually managed to sound sullen.  From the rear, Vančura’s tread was soft, but brisk, as would be expected of a police guard.  The trio halted at the heavy doors and he thumped on frame.

A speaker above the door buzzed.

“Who is it?”

“Detective Madera, with two prisoners for the project testing.”

There was a very long pause, as the security team on the other side tried to find confirmation for a Detective Madera.  Finally, the speaker crackled again.  Eddie winced, wondering why a high-priced government facility couldn’t afford a better sound system.

“We don’t have a Madera on file, or any record of a prisoner transfer today.”

Vančura gave a long and exasperated sigh, exactly like the real Madera would have done, if the man had existed.

“Look, guys, it’s been a long day and I’ve got trouble enough without somebody missing a memo.  Check the files again… please?”

Eddie was impressed and even Armelle looked mildly surprised.  The big man had just the right mix of world-weary detective trying to dig through red tape without infuriating anyone.  More importantly, the security team bought it; there was another pause.

“Sorry, Detective, we’re still not showing any records for you.”

Vančura cursed softly, then looked up, the manufactured look of patient suffering suddenly gone.

“You want to explain to Colonel Bosze why he’s fresh out of subjects for that critical test the brass ordered? They’re not cutting him a lot of slack, but here you are, giving me grief over a clerical error?”

He ended on a shout.  There was no response from the speaker for a moment.

“I’m sorry, sir, we’ve got strict orders…”

Vančura yelled again.

“You want orders?  Fine!  Security Code Fourteen Alpha Green Seven.  Do you have THAT on file?”

There was yet another period of silence, but this one was different.  Finally, a weak voice came from the speaker.

“Very sorry, Mr. Madera.  If we’d known you the president had issued you a pass, we’d have let you in immediately.”

Eddie and Armelle stared at Vančura, who gave them a slight smile.  As the bolt slid back on the heavy door, he glanced up at the speaker and waved a gracious hand.

“Don’t worry about it; it’s not something I like to brag about.”

End Chapter  16 – Part 2


A slow day at the coffee shop automatically means writing gets done.  I took a bit of risk and agreed to work the Saturday morning shift (which I don’t usually do) but I figured I’d have enough time to jot down the new installment of “Twicebound” sometime before noon.  And what do you know, I managed it!

By the way, if you’re planning to ask how Vančura got that code and what sort of code it is, don’t worry; the next installment will explain in detail.

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 – Part One

Twicebound: Chapter 16 – Part 1

Header16-1Armelle stared up at the concrete block that housed the Sandglass project.

“Wow.”

Still pleased with himself from his successful bit of verbosity, Eddie smirked at her.

“Whatsup?”

“This place just gets uglier every time you see it, doesn’t it?  You’d think they’d want a top-secret facility to be inconspicuous.  This thing is so ugly it practically screams government building.”

Eddie snickered at that, but couldn’t think of anything clever to say.  Vančura, however, didn’t respond at all, cleverly or otherwise.  The cab turned quiet once Eddie’s amusement faded.  Armelle started to say something, then stopped.

Finally, Vančura broke the silence, without looking away from the facility.

“You two ready?”

Armelle glanced at Eddie, but the little man was in the initial stages of hyperventilating, so she replied for both of them.

“Actually, no…”

Vančura gave her a flat look, then followed it with a nod.

“Good.  If you’d said you were ready, I wouldn’t have believed you.  Let’s move this truck before someone up there gets suspicious, then we can get on with this.”

She jammed the truck into gear and let it rumble down the gravel road, until it was out of sight of the building.  It tilted slightly as it rolled into the grass, then coughed as she switched off the engine.

“Okay, how are we going to get in there?”

With a slightly malicious grin, Vančura cocked his head.

“You’re sure you know how to get us through the knothole?”

Armelle suppressed an exasperated sigh and nodded.  His grin widened.

“I’m trusting you on that, understand?  So why don’t you just trust me on how we’re going to get inside?”

This time, it wasn’t just Eddie that looked panicked.

End Chapter  16 – Part 1


Okay, guys, here’s the apology.  (and by apology, I mean it in the old-fashioned way;  I’m justifying myself!)  This is the first installment that’s been this badly late, but it’s still technically Saturday!!  Between barista-ing (don’t argue; it’s a word) last night and a leaving at 6:00 am for a wedding 3 hours away this morning, Twicebound was running a little late.  Just blame it on someone monkeying around with the knothole? Much simpler explanation!

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

 

Twicebound: Chapter 15 – Part 3

Header15-3The old engine sputtered and rumbled, but none of them paid any attention.  It had been doing that since Armelle had first turned the key in the ignition.  What neither Armelle nor Vančura could ignore was Eddie.

“How far now?”

“Ten minutes.

“‘Coz I’m gettin’ carpool tunneling symptoms in m’legs from sittin’ here so long.”

Vančura rolled his eyes and watched telephone poles go by.  Boredom was something he could handle; boredom with Eddie Kaul was not.  Armelle, however, took the bait.

“You can’t get carpal tunnel syndrome in your legs, Eddie.

“Yeah?  How d’you know dat?  ‘Cause maybe I’m special.  Or gots problems, not-normal like.

He frowned at Vančura as the big man let out a soft chuckle.

“There’s nothing normal about you, Kaul.  And you’ve definitely got problems, but the carpal tunnel problem is in your head.”

Eddie’s frown evaporated and he squinted thoughtfully up at the sky, apparently not noticing the roof of the truck between it and him.

“I didden know dats where the carpool tunnel was.  You mean I oughta be havin’ headaches and stuff like dat?”

They ignored him again, so he returned to the original question.

“How far now?”

Armelle shook her head at herself, then turned a slightly exasperated eye on him.

“For someone who’s terrified of where we’re going, you’re awfully eager to get there.”

He gave her an arch look.

“I’m bored.  An’ my legs is goin’ to sleep widdout me an it feels weird.  And once dey gets to sleep, I can’t run proper.  Don’ wanna go tru the knothole, but iffen I gotta, I wants to be perambulatory.”

They both stared at him, blinking, and he grinned back.

End Chapter  15 – Part 3


I’m not sure what Eddie is up to here… he’s an enigma wrapped in a confusing layer of bologna and ignorance.  And I think he knows it, which should terrify Armelle and Vančura, if they’ve any sense. If you figure out what he’s doing before I do, email me the detailed plan, would you?  It’ll make this novel a lot easier to write.

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 – Part One Chapter Fifteen – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter 15 – Part 2

Header15-2

“Fine.  Explain it.  Logically.”

Armelle put her foot down on the brake and pulled over, staring at Vančura in silence.  Finally, just when Eddie thought it might be safe to resurface, she nodded.

“Fine.  Going into the future gives us a chance to preempt whatever the Sandglass project does next.  They’ll have records of what hasn’t happened yet, but will have happened by then.  We can use those records to keep them from doing it now.”

Eddie gave a sickly cough and put his hands over his ears, trying not to listen.  Even Vančura looked a little cross-eyed for a moment.

“Let me see if I understand you… You want to get a blueprint of the past from the future to stop that future from happening?”

Armelle nodded, so he continued.

“What makes that any different from going back in time and stopping the STAd from being built in the first place?  The time loops and contradictions will be just as much of a problem.”

She grinned at him, a hint of victory in the expression.

“Wrong!  We’re ALWAYS traveling into the future, just a one to one time ratio.  Time moves forward one minute, we move forward one minute.”

Vančura rolled his eyes and waved his hand for her to get on with it.  She ignored him.

“Moving forward in time just changes the ratio.  Two to one, whatever.  Maybe even infinity to zero, depending on how it works exactly.  The point is, going forward in time through the STAd isn’t any different from going forward in time through time.  We won’t mess anything up.”

Eddie, still with his hands over his ears, couldn’t hear anything, but he sensed the mood in the cab was lightening.  That didn’t mean he felt confident enough to risk coming out of his self-constructed bomb shelter, though.

Vančura nodded, but raised an eyebrow at her.

“There’s only one problem with all that.  It works, as far as you’ve gotten.  But what happens when we come back to the present and start messing with the future that we’ve already been to? We’ll have to travel back in time, which brings us back to the original problem!”

She shrugged.

“Not exactly, I think.”

She wrenched the truck into drive and stepped on the gas, whipping them back onto the highway.

“The time paradox problem should be mitigated by the fact that we won’t be changing what we’ve already done; we’ll make sure we just reappear a few moments after we left. It should be the same as stepping out of a room for a few seconds, then coming back in.  Nothing like the usual coming back into the room two minutes before you left it.  Our timeline will still be fairly neat and tidy, so the backlash will be minimal.”

As Eddie finally came out of his shelter, Vančura had to shift to see her over the little man’s head.

“Will be?”

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and winced, ever so slightly.

“Will be, definitely.  No doubt about it.  None whatsoever.”

He snorted.

“Liar.”

“I know…”

End Chapter  15 – Part 2


Somebody keeps scheduling me for barista work Saturday morning, which really affects “Twicebound”.  I’m not telling you WHO keeps scheduling, but if you said the name began with ‘M’ and ended with “L”, I couldn’t contradict you in good conscience. Still, the serial does seem to keep coming out, doesn’t 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 – Part One

Twicebound: Chapter 15 – Part 1

Header15-1“Where exactly are we going next, Armelle?”

“Well, unless you know of some other top secret facility with a time-travel device in it…”

Vančura shook his head with a slight smile.

“And I don’t.”

“Then back to the Sandglass facility it is, then.

Eddie ignored them both, pointedly.  It didn’t make much difference, but he did it with single-minded determination, mostly because there wasn’t anything else he could do.  Vančura leaned back and closed his eyes.

“Remind me again why we need to go back in time?  The rest of it makes sense, but as far as I can tell, another trip through the knothole will just complicate things.”

With a brief shrug and a slight wince, Armelle considered the question.  At length, she glanced at him and shook her head.

“It’s complicated.  No, don’t start off on me!  I’ll dumb it down, but it won’t be quite as accurate.  Look, the STAd does create a distortion I can measure, but once it’s measurable, it’s too late to do anything about it.  The damage is already done.  If we’re actually going to fix the problem, we have to do it before it happens, obviously.”

Beside her, Eddie rolled his eyes loudly, but didn’t say anything.  Ignoring him, she continued.

“Anyway, nobody said anything about traveling back in time.  That would be pretty useless, at this stage.”

Vančura blinked and stared at her .  In stark contrast – and entirely true to form – Eddie completely missed every possible implication of Armelle’s comment.  Vancura’s sharp reply, however, nearly startled the little man right out of his seat.

“You.  Are.  Crazy.”

She stared at him, eyes wide.  Vančura never raised his voice.  But he just had.

“What?”

“How can someone so smart be so dumb?”

Eddie perked up at that.  It occurred to him that something resembling a fight was brewing and he was sitting right in the middle of it.  Even though the truck hadn’t slowed any, the prospect of jumping was beginning to look more attractive by the second.

The cab was quiet for several minutes as Armelle tried to come up with a response while glaring at Vančura.  When she finally spoke, it was with a half-angry, half-hurt tone.

“It’s perfectly logical plan!!  And I’m not dumb!”

Eddie winced and wondered if folding his arms over his head would help save him from verbal fallout.

End Chapter  15 – Part 1
Go to Chapter 15 – Part 2


Nobody ever said writing was easy. Between my inability to handle a calendar, a late shift, and my boss calling in an emergency shift (and then cancelling it) this installment almost didn’t get written. Fortunately, stubbornness has prevailed again and you’ve got your weekly ‘Twicebound’!

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

Twicebound: Chapter 14 – Part 3

Header14-3

Eddie’s satisfied expression didn’t last long.  Several seconds went by, then it slipped.  Several seconds after that, his eyes opened and he looked at Armelle nervously.

“Where we goin’?”

Her pause was enough to let his mental gears click into place with a rusty howl.

“No! Lemme outta here!!”

With an amused grunt, Vančura pushed the little man back into his seat.

“We’re doing sixty on the free-way, Kaul.  Would you at least like us to stop?”

Eddie’s head practically blurred, he shook it so fast.

“Nope, no, no need.  Don’ wanna inconvenience y’two.  Don’ stop on my ‘ccount, t’anks!”

“You don’t exactly have a choice, my friend.”

Eddie turned slightly wild eyes on Vančura.  They flicked over the big man’s face, searching.  It was as close to full blown panic as Vančura had ever seen, but for an instant, he thought he saw something else as well.  Then he shook his head; panic was all Eddie could muster.

“Who says I don’ gotta choice?”

Armelle beat Vančura to the answer.

“You do, actually.  Or you will.  Frankly, they’re both pretty much the same.”

She frowned.

“It’s annoying how fast grammar tense becomes irrelevant when you start playing with time travel.”

End Chapter  14 – Part 3
Go to Chapter 15 – Part 1


This installment’s a short one today, since I was a little pressed for time.  Someone really ought to put more hours in a day, or else start some sort of ‘money-for-minutes’ thing.  I dunno…

Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1 Chapter Fourteen – Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 14 – Part 2

Header14-2

The vet stitched the incision on Armelle’s bicep closed, then dabbed at it with a disinfectant swab.

“You’re good to go.  Will you please tell your sinister friend there to put down the gun?”

Armelle turned a questioning eye on Vančura, but the big man shook his head microscopically.  The revolver remained where it was, unwaveringly trained on the veterinarian’s third jacket button.  The vet sighed and tossed down the swab on the tray next to the three computer chips.

“Fine.  So, what do you want me to do with these?”

After sliding off the table and putting her coat back on, Armelle shrugged.

“Whatever you want.  It won’t make much difference in a few hours.”

The vet gave her a strange look, but kept his mouth shut.  Vančura, however, stepped forward and gathered up the chips, slipping them into his pocket without lowering the pistol.

“Let’s go.”

Armelle frowned, but grabbed Eddie’s arm and towed him out the door.  With a slight nod to the vet, Vančura backed away, only dropping the pistol after the spring-loaded door had swung shut behind him.  Gravel crunched as he made his way to the truck and slid in beside Eddie.  The engine was already running and Armelle kicked it into gear as soon as his boots left the ground.

“What was that all about?”

He turned a neutral expression on her.

“Could you guarantee me the time-travel would erase the events at the veterinary clinic?  Mathematically speaking.”

She winced and turned onto the main highway.

“You can’t guarantee anything in the real world, not in a mathematical sense.”

Vančura nodded and pulled the chips out of his pocket.  He waited a few moments, then rolled down the window and tossed them into the slow moving water of a drainage ditch.

“It’s time-travel, Armelle, not a computer simulation.  You can’t predict anything accurately; there’s no way to be sure that we can wipe out past events, even if we go back in time and keep ourselves from going through the knothole.”

She didn’t reply, but Eddie propped his feet up on the dashboard and closed his eyes with a self-satisfied grin.

“Can’t take no chances wid time.”

End Chapter  14 – Part 2
Go to Chapter 14 – Part 3


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 14 – Part 1

Header14-1The revolver was a hammer-less type, which meant Vančura couldn’t cock it with that threatening ‘click’ like in the movies.  The veterinarian didn’t look like he minded, though. He seemed to find Vančura quite threatening enough, even without the gun.

“Armelle, this wasn’t necessary.  All you had to do was ask!”

There wasn’t much fear in the vet’s slow southern drawl.  It was more like disgust.  Vančura watched him make a neat incision over the scar on Eddie’s arm and inserted a retractor to hold it open.  He’d only used a local anesthetic, but contrary to everyone’s expectations, Eddie was taking the procedure well.  He stared down at the inside of his bicep with interest.

“C’n I move it?”

“No.”

“But I wanna see if’n d’stuff in dere moves!”

“Don’t.  Move.  Your.  Arm.”

Eddie bobbed his head back and forth as he silently mimicked the vet’s words, but he didn’t move the arm.

“Eddie, be polite to the man. He is taking the poisoned chip out of your arm, after all.”

The vet shot her a caustic glare as he worked the tweezers.  After a moment, there was a soft sound of metal on glass and he withdrew the tiny computer from Eddie’s bicep.  He studied it with interest, then dropped it into a small tray and picked up a needle.  As he began stitching up the small incision, he continued to glare at Armelle.

“You’re telling him to be polite?  While your friend there is pointing that thing at me? Way to be hypocritical, young lady.  At least your muscle-man has the courtesy of being consistent!”

He knotted off the stitching and cut the thread.

“There you go.  Chip’s out, the wound is disinfected and closed.  Keep him from scratching it or biting… ”

With a frown, the vet remembered who he was working on and rolled his eyes.

“Sorry.  Okay, don’t scratch at it and try to keep it marginally clean.  It’s not a big cut, but you still don’t want it infected.”

Eddie slid off the table and inspected the stitches.

“Gotcha, doc.  C’n I eat, or do I got to wait twenny-four hours?”

“What are you talking about?  Of course, you can eat.  It’s just a six millimeter incision on your bicep. Okay, who’s next?  I assume all three of you have the same problem?”

Vančura handed the pistol to Armelle and stepped forward.

“That would be me, doc.  And I would suggest you focus on your work, rather than talking.  We have places to be and far too much time to get there.”

End Chapter  14 – Part 1
Go to Chapter 14 – Part 2

We’re into Chapter Fourteen already?!?  As promised, it’s getting interesting!  Fortunately for you (and me) it’s not going to get any less so as time goes on.  Time-travel and conspiracy allow for a LOT of mystery and intrigue.


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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

Possible Serial Novel Launch?

As most of my readers know, I’ve been writing and releasing the serial novel “Twicebound” for nearly a year now.  It’s still a long way from completion (totaling less than 30,000 words) and might run for several more years.

What most of my readers don’t know is that I’m planning a new serial novel.  It will run alongside “Twicebound” but in a very different genre.  However, the key difference will be that the new novel won’t be published in the same free-to-read format as “Twicebound”.  I’m planning to run it as a subscribe-to-read serial, at about the same price you’d pay for the standard trade paperback ($10.00) for a full year’s subscription.

It will be released on a weekly basis, with installments averaging 1,000 words each.  I’m still working out the delivery details, but it will probably be released as a PDF download.

The question YOU want answered, though, is “what is it about?”.  Rather than answer that right away, I’m going to let the anticipation sink in for a while first!  The only hint you get right now is the title and a teaser.  The title is:

“A Pawn Up My Sleeve”

We all play games.  That’s life.  Lots of little games all going at once.  Some of us play chess, others play poker, or backgammon.  Everyone turns life into the game of their choice.  Some of them even win at it.

Me… I stole the rulebook.  I don’t play the game, I play the players.  And I always win.


Twicebound: Chapter 13 – Part 3

Header13-3

“You’re kidding, right?”

Vančura gave Armelle a semi-apologetic shrug.

“Sorry, but no. The only other way to deal with these things is to remove them surgically and we don’t have to tools or the skills for that.”

Eddie looked like he was seriously considering panicking, but Armelle spoke before he could.

“Hold on a minute.  We might not have the skills, but what if I know someone who does?”

“I’m listening.  Just remember, we’re going to need a really good explanation for why the three of us urgently need military grade tracking and termination chips removed from our arms.”

She glanced up at the ceiling and screwed up her face into a grimace as she thought his point over.  It didn’t take her nearly as long as it should have, Eddie noticed.  As far as he was concerned, the more thinking was done about it, the longer it would take them to get around to reconsidering the taser.

After a moment, Armelle got up and disappeared into a back room.  Something thumped and wood scraped along the floor, then there was silence.  Eddie and Vančura waited, trading glances over the coffee.  Eddie slurped his, then eyed Vančura with as much disapproval as he could muster.  It didn’t have any effect, but it made him feel better.

“A taser?  Y’serious?  You been shocked wid one of does t’ings before?”

“I can’t say that I have, no.”

The reply bubbling up in Eddie’s head was interrupted by Armelle’s return.  She was carrying a battered cardboard box and tossed it down in front of Vančura.

“That ought to be reason enough.  There’s a veterinary not far from here; we should be able to… persuade… him to remove the chips.”

Eddie nodded, happy to have the tasers off the table.  Vančura, however, gave her a sharp look and flipped the top off the box.  One eyebrow rose as he examined the contents.

“Are you sure?”

That surprised her.

“What, getting that poison time-bomb out of yourself isn’t worth a little intimidation?”

He lifted the snub-nosed revolver out of the box and dangled it by the trigger guard.  Leaning forward, he studied her curiously.

“No, it doesn’t bother me at all.  You, on the other hand, seem to be remarkably amenable to the idea.  That… surprises me.  A lot.”

Armelle shrugged and grinned at him, tapping her watch.

“Time-travel, remember?  A little threatening never hurt anyone and, besides, once we go through the knothole again, it won’t have ever happened, anyway.”

He sat back and finished his coffee, still holding the pistol in the other hand.

“That’s quite a grey area, Armelle, and you found it remarkably fast.  It almost makes me wonder if you hadn’t already figured it out.”

End Chapter  13 – Part 3
Go to Chapter 14 – Part 1

Okay, so maybe this installment didn’t really answer the question of whether they get poisoned or not.  But hints are just as good, right?  No?  Okay, okay, I’ll rescue them in the next installment, I promise. Maybe.  Getting rid of a plot tool as useful as a poisonous computer chip isn’t something a writer does lightly!


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1
Chapter Thirteen – Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 13 – Part 2

Header13-2Vančura rubbed his eyes and refilled his coffee cup, then stared at Armelle.

“There aren’t a lot of options.”

“Not that I saw.”

“And now that you’ve already chosen one, there’s not much I can do about it.”

She gave him a half-apologetic smile.

“Not really.”

He sighed and shook his head in resignation.

“Let’s get on with it, then.  I assume the first step is to neutralize the computer chips so they don’t empty their payload of toxin into our bloodstreams?”

There was a coughing gasp and a thud as Eddie choked on his coffee and fell off his chair.  He’d completely forgotten the time-bomb the crazy technician had injected into his arm.  Vančura’s question had brought the memory roaring to the fore and knocked him off balance.

He tried to yell, but it was drowned in coffee, so he settled for gurgling.  It lacked his usual eloquence, but it got the idea across.  Armelle’s eyes widened and her eyes slid reflexively to her own arm.

“Uhm…”

Vančura set his cup down slowly and ran a hand over his head.  For a few moments, he was perfectly quiet, staring off into space with an absent air.

“You forgot there is three milligrams of lethal sodium-channel inhibitor in your bicep, just waiting for you to not be in jail on the 19th?”

“I didn’t forget!!”

She stared at the papers on the table between them, refusing to meet his eyes. He didn’t say anything. Finally, she crossed her arms and glared at him.

“I just couldn’t find a way to deactivate them!”

Vančura leaned over and grabbed Eddie’s shirt collar and set the little man back on his chair.

“Have I mentioned that your plans leave something to be desired?  I have?  Good, I love repeating myself.  Fortunately for the three of us, there are two ways we don’t die in the next…”

He eyed the clock above the stove.

“… ten hours.  First, we turn ourselves in and get tossed back in the holding cell.”

Both Eddie and Armelle shook their heads in violent refusal.  Vančura nodded as if he expected that.

“That might not work, anyway; they might transfer us to another precinct and we’d be just as dead.   The other option requires a taser and two needles.”

End Chapter  13 – Part 2
Go to Chapter 13 – Part 3

Here’s to the trio not getting poisoned in the next installment! What do YOU think will happen?  (for any of you who might be wondering what toxin Vančura is talking about, read Chapter 3)


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 13 – Part 1

Header13-1Lifting the coffee cup to slurp the last of his java, Eddie frowned down at the neat rows of math that explained how the knothole did what it did.  The brown ring from his cup intersected four results and five computations.  He considered giving Armelle an apologetic look, but decided against it.  Instead, he slid the stained sheet out of sight under several others, then did his best to look like he’d been listening to her and Vančura the whole time.

The big man was tapping another paper, indicating one formula after another.

“So, according to your math, time reacts to… injury… the same way living things do?”

She squinted, then shrugged.

“If you want to break it down to one sentence, sure.  Really, it’s a huge number of phenomena creating that appearance.  See, the only reason we know about time is because we have “memories”.  We know we did something and we’re not doing it now and experience tells us we can’t remember what we haven’t done yet, so our minds label it as having happened in the “past”.  It’s a lot like the way we see or hear.”

Vančura appeared to understand that, but Eddie could smell his own mental gears starting to smoke as he tried to figure out what she meant.  By habit, his hand went up and he coughed.  Armelle looked surprised, but not half as surprised as Eddie himself.  His eyes widened and he yanked his hand down with the other one, looking remarkably like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming tractor-trailer.

“Eddie?”

“Uh… you says we sees time d’same way we sees or hears noises.  Dat ain’t right; we sees wots dere and we hears what’s dere.  Right?”

She shook her head and Eddie’s headlight-shock was replaced by pure consternation.

“You sayin’ we don’?”

“I am.  Our brains have learned by experience how to process light and vibrations into information we can understand: vision and hearing.  But really, light and vibration are just by-products of other things.  It’s our minds that assigns a value to them and lets us understand them.  That all works by experience; your brain knows that a funny blob of light is a car and the steady rumble is the sound of an engine.  That’s how we can have the Doppler effect and gravitational lensing.  It’s still the same sound and light, but the way we perceive it has been changed.”

Across from her, Vančura nodded in absent agreement, still studying the papers.  Eddie pursed his lips understandingly and was quiet for a few minutes. Then, he scrambled off of his chair.

“Dis is gonna need me another cuppa coffee, Armelle.  Gravitational lenssing don’ work right if it don’t have lotsa coffee.”

She laughed and turned back to Vančura as Eddie began refilling the percolator.

“Okay, what’s next?”

Vančura traced the curls and pathways of the time map with his finger, then looked up at her.

TimeMap

“This. If the way we see time is just a limitation of our perceptions, how does time work when we can get past that limitation.  I understand that it does and the result it gets when it does it, but I don’t understand how. Time is supposed to work like dominoes.  Topple one that’s far enough back in the pattern and everything based on that domino changes, falling into a new pattern. The grandfather paradox should prevent the toppling from occurring at all.”

Armelle shook her head and grabbed a pen, illustrating her words as she spoke.

“That’s your limited perception talking. Imagine a pool of water, still and quiet.  A dolphin is swimming under the surface; the underwater currents are affecting it as it swims.  Suddenly, it leaps out of the water, reversing it’s direction and going back fifteen feet.  It’s reentry causes new currents underwater, changing everything.  What it doesn’t change is the dolphin.  It removes itself from the water, from the system, then reenters the system at a different point.  The water has changed, but the dolphin hasn’t.”

He studied her face for a moment, pondering the idea.  Then he looked back down at the map.

“This is really, really bad.”

She rested her elbows on the table and rubbed her eyes.

“And now you know why we broke you out of your time loop.”

“Yes. Now I know.”

They were silent for a long time, staring at the papers and listening to the drip of the coffee maker.  Finally, Eddie’s cheerful tone cut through the quiet.

“Okay, I got m’coffee. Wha’ is it we knows now?”

End Chapter  13 – Part 1
Go to Chapter 13 – Part 2

Wow.  This installment picked up a lot of cool theory, compared to the others.  If it hurts your brains… sorry, but I’ve been watching a lot of TED Talks.  The ‘perception’ theory just had to seep into this story somewhere!


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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

Twicebound: Chapter 12 – Part 3

Header12-3

Papers rustled and Vančura’s pencil scratched steadily.  On the other side of the kitchen, Eddie perched on a stool, holding an empty cup and examining the coffee pot intently.  He wasn’t paying attention to anything but the slow drip of the percolator.

Armelle, however, was watching Vančura.  She thumbed slowly through a stack of pages, glancing at them frequently.  Once in a while, she’d reach in, select a sheet, and hand it to the big man.

Finally, he leaned back in his chair and frowned.

“How’s the coffee coming, Eddie?”

“It’s comin’.  Don’ rush me.”

With an irritated sigh, Vančura looked down at his papers and then at Armelle.

“I’m out of my depth.  Most of this makes a sort of sense, but not enough to be useful.”

After a moment of thought, she tossed down the pages and shoved her chair back.  She stretched, then went over to the coffee pot, ignored Eddie’s complaints, and poured herself a cup.  Once she’d sugared it, she returned to the stool and leaned on the counter.

“You know the grandfather paradox, right?  Okay, you know  some of the possible explanations? The universe might have a safety mechanism, or time travel could spawn off parallel universes, stuff like that?”

Vančura nodded.  Behind him, Eddie scowled at her, injured, then turned back to his percolator.  She rolled her eyes and continued.

“It doesn’t actually do any of those things.”

The big man nodded again, thoughtful this time.

“I got that far. The math didn’t seem to add up to any standard explanation, but I couldn’t figure out what it DID add up to.”

“It’s pretty simple, actually.  Everybody goes in with this assumption that time is this utterly foreign stuff and we have to change our perspective if we’re going to work with it.  Basically, that’s a load of garbage.”

He laughed and retrieved a cup of coffee himself, sending Eddie into a further spiral of depression.

“So, all the other scientists are wrong?  You just happened to figure it out?”

Armelle gave him an arch look.

“Poke fun all you like, but yeah, I did.”

She sipped her coffee, using the pause to grin at him.

“Not that I didn’t have trouble, but once I got it, it’s pretty obvious.  Time is just as much a part of nature as anything else.  Not really a living thing, but everything in nature reacts the same basic way to the same basic stimuli.”

That got a slight frown out of him.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Not really, but that’s not the whole explanation, either.  Here.”

She scanned the papers, then grabbed a single sheet and slid it across the counter.  It was mostly blank, except for a single drawing near the top.

TimeMap

Vančura examined it in silence, surprise gradually blooming.  At length, he looked up at her.

“Did you… use a typewriter to add these labels?”

She blinked at him. Twice.  Then she took a sip of her coffee, shook her head and blinked at him again.

“I hand you a map of time and you want to know if I used a typewriter?”

With a shrug, he tossed the paper back onto the counter and cocked his head.

“The graph is straightforward enough.  Like you said, obvious, once you know how it works.  Where the heck did you find a typewriter, though?  Those things are like hen’s teeth.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

He shrugged again.

“Is it my fault if time-travel is boring?”

End Chapter  12 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 13 – Part 1

Here’s hoping you had fun reading this installment of “Twicebound”!!  (If you didn’t, go back and read it again.  It gets better with… time. I’ll wait.)


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1   Chapter Twelve – Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 12 – Part 2

Header12-2Vančura’s sleeve dragged through the dust on the counter-top.

“Got a coffee pot?”

“Yeah, under the sink.  There might even be coffee in the freezer, but don’t bet on it.  I’ll be back in just a second.”

Armelle disappeared into the living room and thumped up the stairs.  Vančura listened to her footsteps for a moment, then started opening drawers.  He found a dish towel in one, shook it out, and started sweeping dust off the counters.  Eddie climbed onto a stool at the bar and watched curiously.

“What’cha doin’?”

“Cleaning.  Find that coffee pot, will you?  And check the freezer for the coffee.”

Eddie frowned and glanced from the sink cabinet to the refrigerator.

“Y’want coffee that bad?”

“What do you mean?”

“S’awful lot of work.”

The dish towel stopped flicking back and forth as Vančura raised an eyebrow.  Eddie stared back at him, his bland expression unchanging.  Vančura shook his head and went back to wiping down the counter.

“Get the coffee, Eddie.”

Eddie thought about that.  On the one hand, getting the coffee and the pot was too much effort.  On the other hand… he frowned… Vančura was a lot bigger than he was.  He got up and sauntered over to the freezer.

He’d just found a half empty can of dark roast when Armelle came back down the stairs, carrying a filing box packed with paper.

“What’s with the cleaning spree?”

Vančura shrugged.

“Call it an exercise in trying new and exciting things.  What’s in the box?”

She thumped it down on the bar and stared down at the mass of papers.

“The reason I broke you of that time loop and brought you here.  This is all the math on the STAd and what it can do.”

End Chapter  12 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 12 – Part 3

Did you enjoy this installment?  What do you think is going to happen next?  (I’m not entirely sure, either, so your comments could easily affect the direction this story takes!)


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 12 – Part 1

Header12-1“We’re here.”

The crunch of gravel under the tires turned into the soft rumble of asphalt.  The engine whined as the truck rolled up the driveway towards the house.

Eddie cracked one eye, examined his surroundings in one critical glance, and went back to sleep.  Beside him, Vančura, wide awake and alert, studied the house and grounds.  There was no emotion on his face, but something in the way his eyes flicked efficiently from place to place made Armelle frown.

“Looking for something?”

The big man didn’t look at her, but she had an uncomfortable feeling his attention had locked on her more tightly than if she’d been under a microscope.

“Looking out for something.  Very different thing.”

She deftly navigated the truck around a hole in the driveway, then gave him a slightly caustic smile.

“Oh, yes, very different.  Because looking out for something and looking for it are two totally different things.”

Finally, he quit examining the scenery and swung his gaze over to her.

“Looking for something indicates I want to find it.  Looking out for it means I want to know when it’s here… preferably before it knows I’m here.”

Armelle frowned again.

“It?”

He chuckled, without much real amusement.

“Trouble.  It seems to follow the three of us around.”

She brought the truck to a halt at the front porch of a house that looked like it belonged on a small plantation.  Weeds had grown up around it and the grass on the lawn was long, but the house was well-kept.  It looked as though its owner had gone on vacation and forgotten to pay the gardener.

Sliding out of the truck, Armelle threw a look at Vančura.

“Don’t worry.  This place is as safe as we could possibly get.”

His laughter shook the truck.  Eddie came awake, sticking his fingers in his ears with a wince.  Vančura opened his door and stepped out, still chuckling.

“You’ll pardon me if that statement doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  Believe me, ‘safe’ is a relative term for us, now. Very, very relative.”

End Chapter  12 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 12 – Part 2

Here’s to Chapter Twelve, readers!  I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.  By the way, if any of you figure out what makes Vančura tick, would you please email me the schematic?


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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

Twicebound: Chapter 11 – Part 3

Header11-3The old truck jerked forward, then choked to a stop in the middle of the parking lot.  Armelle grumbled under her breath and jammed the clutch back down. The engine hummed and the truck lurched into a roll, heading for the highway.

Once they were on the road and the gear-shift wasn’t demanding her attention, she turned a sour eye on Vančura.  She obviously expected a deprecating comment, but he wasn’t even looking at her.  He was staring through the dusty window at the blue sky, lost in thought.

Jammed between them, Eddie continued crunching ice, trying not to think about how little was left in his styrofoam cup.

“Where’s we goin’?”

She glanced at him and frowned, considering.  He didn’t know what she was considering, but he figured it wasn’t good.  Frowns rarely were, in his experience.

“Why don’t I tell you when we get there?”

He squinted off into the dirt on the windshield.  Something about her response didn’t make sense and he wasn’t sure what.  There was always the chance that he’d missed something, but he didn’t think so.

“If we’re dere a’ready, won’t I ‘ave figured it out f’r m’self?”

Armelle shot him a grin and he winced internally.  It looked like a factory match to the grin Vančura would have given him.

“It all works out quite neatly, I think.”

Eddie tried to crunch at her disapprovingly, but discovered he had run out of ice.  He settled for donning an injured expression.  She ignored it, of course.

“What do you suppose our enigmatic friend is thinking about?”

“Dunno wot “nigmatic” means, but ‘e’s probly ponnering d’space-time continuum.”

“Space-time contiuum?”

He smiled proudly.

“Soun’s good, don’ it?”

Armelle laughed.

“It does.  The bad part is, you’re probably right.  What else would he be thinking about?”

End Chapter  11 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 12 – Part 1

This installment was both shorter and much later than is usual.  I won’t apologize, except for stating one word.  “Llamas.”  Yeah, you heard me.


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part One, Chapter Eleven – Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter 11 – Part 2

Header11-2

Armelle stared out the window without answering.  Finally, she pushed her chair away from the table and disappeared into the diner’s kitchen.  Vančura watched her go, then turned a sardonic eye on Eddie, who flinched out of habit.

“Do you suppose it was something I said?”

With a shrug, Eddie tipped up his glass, snagged a piece of ice, and began crunching.

“Dunno.  What’d y’say?”

“Essentially the same thing you did.”

Eddie stared at him and crunched disbelievingly.

“Y’used a lot more words den I did.”

Before the big man could respond, Armelle returned, followed by the waitress.  Neither of them looked happy, which – as far as Eddie knew – was the normal state of things.  Armelle still scared him, of course, but he was getting used to it.  That didn’t mean he was taking chances, though; he slurped another piece of ice and casually put the table between himself and the women.

Armelle didn’t seem to notice.  She was intent on Vančura, eying him as if she expected him to bite.

“We’ve got to go.  It won’t be much longer before they figure out where we are and we’ve wasted too much time already.”

Eddie didn’t need to be able to see Vančura’s face to know he’d turned that well-practiced sardonic expression on her.  It was standard operating procedure for the big guy.

“Okay.”

The crunching stopped abruptly as Eddie bit his lip instead of the ice.  He even forgot to yelp.  An invisible force winched Armelle’s eyebrows up.

“That’s it? ‘Okay’?  You’re not going to argue?  Laugh?  Poke holes in my plan?”

She didn’t sound as if she believed it, but Vančura rolled his shoulders in an expansive shrug.

“When you’re right, you’re right.  Besides, the sound of the word ‘caught’ rather takes all the fun out of annoying you.”

The waitress, who had been listening with an exasperated expression, interrupted.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  You two can argue about how there’s no reason to argue, just do it on the road.  The truck’s out back and it’s gassed up.  Just get out of here before the cops come looking.”

By the time Vančura had gotten to his feet, Eddie was already half-way to the back door.  The word ‘cops’ had that kind of effect on him.  A dim memory echoed; something about a carrot and a stick.  The cops were an unpleasant stick, sure, but he couldn’t see a carrot.

Not that he liked carrots, but he thought it might be a figure of speech.  As he headed out the door, he crunched thoughtfully .  Maybe the ice was the carrot.

End Chapter  11 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 11 – Part 3

Yes, today’s installment was shorter than the last one.  1,000 words of ‘Twicebound’ is a little exhausting to write on top of 2K words a day of sci-fi novella, so I kept this installment a bit shorter.  Once I’m done with this novella, you’ll be getting slightly longer ‘Twicebound’ episodes every week. 


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? 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 – Part One

Twicebound: Chapter 11 – part 1

Header11-1Eddie sat beside Armelle, having long since gotten bored of walking circles around the diner.  A guy could only stare at pictures and framed newspaper clippings for so long before going stir crazy.  Of course, he had to admit listening to Armelle and Vančura would drive him just as crazy, but it was a different variety of crazy.

For the most part, Eddie wasn’t a thrill-seeker.  Variety being the spice of life, he was quite happy to endure a bland existence. However, with a full belly and nothing worse than cops to worry about, he was willing to court a little variety for a change.  Things seemed to be getting interesting.

He played idly with a salt-shaker, listening to Vančura sort through the tangled story Armelle was telling.

“Let me get this straight.  You published a paper about a theoretically feasible time-machine on your website.  Somebody, somehow, put aside science fiction long enough to realize it could actually work.  The government created the Sandglass project to build it.”

Armelle nodded.  He nodded in reply, without a trace of sarcasm or disbelief.

“Okay, with you so far.  But you lost me at the patent infringement lawsuit.”

She took a sip of coffee, made a face, and put the cup down.

“I hope they dispose of this stuff with a hazmat team.  Okay, how did that lose you?  It’s the usual way to shut somebody down if they’ve stolen an idea.  It’s a roundabout way to keep time-travel out of the wrong hands, but I had to try.  The lawsuit fell through because I published the paper before the patent was accepted.”

Vančura blinked at her.  Eddie grinned to himself; they were doing a lot of that since they met her.  Of course, he had to admit there was a good reason for it.  He considered blinking, too, but decided it would be better if he pretended he didn’t know how patents worked.  A guy never knew what information might turn out to be an ace in the hole.

Armelle looked from Vančura to Eddie and back, then gave them a bewildered frown.

“What?”

The big man downed a gulp of coffee, which seemed to lubricate the seized gears in his head.  He spoke slowly and carefully, as if to make sure he wasn’t dropping any words as he went.

“The lawsuit… fell through because… the patent hadn’t been accepted?  Are you serious?”

“Of course.  You can’t argue patent infringement if there’s no patent.  And publishing it where just anyone could read it was a mistake, but I was awfully excited.  I had noses I wanted to rub in it.”

Eddie coughed into his salt, then gave it a mournful look.  She eyed him suspiciously, then turned back to Vančura.  With her attention elsewhere, Eddie’s cough turned into a grin.

Vančura had conquered the urge to blink again.  It was getting repetitious.

“That must have been a shock.”

She gave him a puzzled smile.

“What?”

“Losing your lawsuit to the same people responsible for processing your patent application.  I mean, there was a pretty good chance you’d have won, if it was just a top-secret military project you were up against. Once they got the patent office involved, though, you didn’t stand a chance.”

He shook his head and shrugged sympathetically.

“When they play dirty like that, what can you do?”

The glare she gave him could have melted diamonds, but it was wasted on Vančura.

“You don’t have to be sarcastic about it.  I knew there wasn’t much chance, but it had to be tried.  The absence of patent was just the excuse they gave, but it convinced anyone who wasn’t looking too closely.”

Eddie frowned, trying put words to the problem in her statement. Vančura beat him to it, so he just nodded supportively.

“You’d have been better off if you hadn’t tried.”

Armelle scowled at them both in turn.

“Some of us prefer not to resort to criminal methods if we don’t have to.”

The veiled insult had as little effect on the big man as her glare had.  As for Eddie, it might have injured his feelings a little, if he’d recognized it for what it was.

“Well, your nice, law-abiding observance of the rules put you square on their radar.  As the mathematician, you were just a face behind a digital publication.  The lawsuit made you a threat.”

Vančura gave her an apologetic smile.

“Not much of a threat, but even a small one can gum up the works very badly in something like Sandglass.  After all, people with top-secret projects don’t usually like the sort of publicity a lawsuit generates.”

She started to reply, but he interrupted her with a sudden frown.

“Hold on.  Speaking of top-secret, how did you know they were building it in the first place?”

He got a cheerful smile in response.

“Oh, the STAd makes a very unique signal when it’s powered on.  It doesn’t even have to be actively tweaking the temporal stream; just powered on.  The signal is basically a massive anomaly across pretty much every possible energy spectrum.  It’s weakest in the visible light and auditory ranges, but the radio signal is detectable for thousands of miles.  When I published the paper, I set up a computer to listen for an STAd signal and alert me if it ever picked one up.  It was only a matter of time before someone tried to build it and I wanted to know about it.”

Vančura nodded thoughtfully.  It even made sense to Eddie, even though he wasn’t paying much attention.  If you were going to release the plans for a time-machine to the general public, keeping tabs on their progress was just good sense.

“If y’didn’t want somebody buildin’ d’knothole, why’d you publish d’plans?”

Eddie frowned, then rephrased his question.

“I mean, why’re you tryin’ to stop d’government from buildin’ d’thing?”

Across the table, Vančura’s eyebrows rose and he leaned back in his chair.

“Now that is an interesting question, indeed.  You do seem to be quite sanguine about the idea of a time-machine being built, except you seem to be doing your best to sabotage the Sandglass project.”

End Chapter  11 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 11 – Part 2

1,029 words.  Wow.  That’s a pretty hefty chunk of story right there.  It might be the biggest single installment of ‘Twicebound’ published to date.  I hope you enjoyed it!


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten

Twicebound: Chapter 10 – part 3

Header10-3“You want the truth?  The STAd is mine.”

Vančura gave Armelle an artificial encouraging smile.

“Really?”

She glared at him.

“Oh, shut it. You know what I meant.”

“No, actually, I have no idea what you meant.  Not a lot of people go around claiming to be the rightful owners of a secret government time-machine.”

He winced and shook his head.

“That whole sentence sounded absolutely crazy.”

Armelle thought about that, then nodded.

“Point.  Let me put it another way, then.  I designed it.  Or the important parts of it, anyway.  The big part was the math that proves it can be done, but there was a lot of little stuff that had to be worked out, too.”

Vančura radiated skepticism.

“You figured out how to build a time-machine?  And… what?  They raided your lab and stole a four story electromechanical temporal hole-punch?”

The look she gave him was caustic, but it bounced right off.  He smiled slightly and raised his hands.

“Look, it’s a fair question.”

“It’s all theoretical.  Or was, anyway.  I figured out how to make it work, without destroying the whole solar system or turning into a black hole.”

That got her two stunned blinks, one from Vančura and one from Eddie.  Vančura spoke first.

“Those where actually problems?”

She shrugged.

“Potentially.  You mess with time, you mess with space.  Play around with energy and mass, there’ll be consequences.  But it was never a problem, since it was only theory.  Building something like that takes money I didn’t have.”

“Wait… if it was all theoretical, how did they build it? Or know about it, for that matter?”

Armelle frowned at him, as if she couldn’t tell if he was joking or just dumb.

“From the paper I published about it, of course.”

End Chapter  10 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 11 – Part 1

Today’s installment was a shorter than usual, I’m afraid.  I forgot something on the schedule and had to rush this installment in order to fit both items into the same Saturday morning.  Next week will be a full thousand words, just to speed this story up a little!


Want to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten: Part One, Chapter Ten: Part Two

Twicebound: Chapter 10 – part 2

Header10-2

Vančura shoved his chair back from the table and raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“So, what’s your story?  You’ve got a plan, which is encouraging, even if it’s not particularly good one.  You seem to be following that plan, too, which is actually even more encouraging.”

Armelle considered that, then squinted at him suspiciously.

“Hold on.  What do you mean what’s “my” story?”

He grinned at her out of the corner of his eye as he watched Eddie leave his seat and start wandering idly around the diner.  After a moment or two, he turned a slightly more serious expression on her.

“I’m not expecting you to tell me the truth.  Or rather, I’m not expecting you to tell me all of it.  If I were you, I’d tell me just enough of it to make the lies and evasions seem real.  It’s pretty standard in this sort of situation.  Of course, you have to assume I’ll assume nothing you say is true unless I can cross reference it with something I know for sure.  Which means you’re going to sit there and lie as convincingly as possible and I’m going to sit here and look inscrutable.”

He shrugged and smiled.

“Anyway, inscrutability is fun.  I practice it in the mirror, so I’m pretty good at it.”

Armelle blinked, then rolled her eyes.

“Liar.  You’re just trying to wind me up so I make another mistake.”

The grin spread further.

“As far as you know.  You’re just assuming that because that’s what I’ve been doing so far.  I wind you up and you slip.  It’s like a game.”

Suddenly, the good humor vanished and his jaw tightened perceptibly. She almost flinched, but caught herself before he noticed it.

“It’s not funny, is it?  See, something changed when we came in here.  Before, you could admit or deny anything and I wouldn’t be able to tell, because you could be faking it all.  But we come into the diner and you’ve got compatriots.  At least one, probably two.  It’s not much, but with even that tiny amount of information, I can sift through anything else you say and make a good guess at whether it’s true or not.  On the other hand, you don’t know enough about me to know just how accurate that guess will be. Worse, you don’t know how I’ll react to being lied to.  Ugly situation, isn’t it?”

She spread her hands dismissively.

“Not if I tell you the truth.”

Vančura looked skeptical.

“You’d do that?”

“What, you don’t trust me?”

He stared at her, then his booming laugh echoed around the diner.  Eddie glanced up from examining the photos on the wall, wondering how the scary woman had gotten more than a chuckle out of the big man.

End Chapter  10 – part 2

Go to Chapter 10 – Part 3

Good afternoon!  This installment got released a little later than usual, but you’ll have to forgive me for that.  I got behind on my novella in the last week and have been scrambling to catch up with it.  Fortunately, you still get your ‘Twicebound’.  Something that will interest you (if you haven’t noticed already) is that Armelle isn’t doing quite what I expected her to.  As a matter of fact, she doing pretty much the opposite.  If any of you are on good terms with her, please ask her to cooperate?


Would you like to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three,
Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,
Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten: Part One



Twicebound: Chapter 10 – part 1

Header10-1Eddie tried to ignore the others as he ate, but that didn’t keep bits and pieces of their conversation from slipping through.  What he did hear, he filed away in his memory without thinking about it too hard.  He’d sort through it all later and see if any of it made sense.

What he did notice was that Armelle and the waitress weren’t happy that Vančura had seen through their charade.  The waitress was mad at Armelle and Armelle was mad at Vančura.  Actually, she was mad at Vančura, Eddie, the waitress, and just about everybody else.  From where Eddie was sitting, though, it looked like most of it was pointed at Vančura.

As far as he was concerned, that was a natural state of affairs.  The big man was pretty easy to get mad at.  Since the he didn’t seem to mind, either, it all worked out.  People got angry with Vančura, instead of Eddie, and since Vančura patently didn’t care, they usually deflated pretty quickly.  The thought ran through Eddie’s mind that he should stick close to Vančura; a guy like that was a handy guy to have around.  Unfortunately, the idea gave way to thoughts of ham and hash-browns before it fully formed.

Vančura cleared his plate efficiently, then set his fork down and turned his attention back to Armelle.  The waitress had moved off, for the moment, tending to new customers.

“You’re amateurs.  At covert operations, anyway.”

She scowled at him and shoved a bite in her mouth.

“What makes you think that?”

He raised an eyebrow disapprovingly before answering.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full.  And because a good operative won’t carry a weapon if it compromises her cover.  Being armed doesn’t do you any good if you get killed because you’re armed.  The boot-knife isn’t a problem; I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for it.  Even if I had, I might have assumed working here just makes her nervous.  But hiding a pistol is a lot harder than they make it look in the movies and there was no way she just carries one for her peace of mind.”

Armelle stared at him, half shocked, half disgusted.  He eyed her, questioningly.

“What?  You didn’t honestly think you could fool someone who was actually paying attention, did you?”

She shook her head and swallowed.

“Did you… seriously… just tell me not to talk with my mouth full?

Vančura blinked at her for a second.

“Of course.  You didn’t bother to finish your bite before answering, which means you disregarded an opportunity to think about a reply that would affect your cover story.”

He flipped a roll off the plate in the middle of the table and took a bite out of it.  Raising a finger to forestall her indignant response, he slowly finished the roll.  Then, he glanced at her.

“Hence… amateur.”

End Chapter  10 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 10 – Part 2

Good morning, readers!  As you can see, I’ve changed up the format of the weekly installment of ‘Twicebound’.  I’ve been working on that for a while (in conjunction with improving the rest of the site) and part of that change is the new chapter header.  This chapter header art is the first of the improvements that you’ll be seeing on the website.  It was created specifically for ‘Twicebound’ by Kelley McMorris.  After so many weeks of not having any artwork to draw the eye to this serial, I decided to commission some and settled on Ms. McMorris.  Needless to say, I’m thrilled with her work.


Would you like to read the previous installments of ‘Twicebound’? They’re right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four,
Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine; Part 1 Chapter Nine: Part 2 Chapter Nine: Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 9 – part 3

Yes, this episode got published a little late today.  No, I’m not going to apologize. Okay, I’m kidding; if you show up on my doorstep to complain, I’ll probably dissolve into an abject puddle of apologies.  (please don’t complain; cleaning up apologies is a major annoyance)  So, late being better than never, here’s your weekly…

Twicebound

Chapter 9 – part 3

The three of them reached the city limits of the next town nearly an hour later.  A small diner, barely more than a hole in the wall with its own building, sat next to the highway.  They trudged through the door, much hotter and hungrier than any of them liked, but definitely un-arrested.

Eddie slumped down on the first chair he found.  The others followed suit, glancing around.  The only other person in the place was a waitress who was busily cleaning a table at the far end of the room.  When she noticed the three, she gestured for them to give her a moment.

While they waited for her, Vančura gave their companion a flat look.

“Name.”

She pointed a confused expression at him in return.

“‘Scuse me?”

“You’re going to tell us your name.  It’s already pretty obvious you’ve got a team helping you.  It’s also obvious that after stealing a cop car, assaulting three officers, and removing two arrestees from custody, having the police know your name is the least of your worries.  So, let’s have a name.”

With a frown, she nodded.  Vančura had a habit of making statements sound threatening and matter-of-fact at the same time.

“You’ve got a point.  Call me Armelle.”

Vančura’s eyes narrowed and a slight smile touched his lips.

“Armelle, eh?  Pretty name.  First or last?”

This time, she grinned at him.

“Isn’t wondering about it more fun?”

From where he was slumped across the table, Eddie rolled his eyes.

“Now dat you got a name, lessee how yer credit is, eh?  D’nice lady with d’menu is coming dis way.”

The waitress stopped at their table and slid the laminated menus in front of them.  The list of choices was remarkably short, but it didn’t seem to bother Eddie.  With what he considered a disarming grin, he glanced at his menu and immediately handed it back to her.

“Jus’ gimme whichever one’s th’biggest.”

The waitress raised an eyebrow at him and glanced at Armelle.  She seemed satisfied with the slight nod she got in return.

“Same for the rest of you?”

Vančura shrugged and Armelle handed her menu back as well.

“Sound good.”

The waitress headed through the swinging doors to the kitchen.  Eddie relapsed into his former dejected state, but Vančura turned his flat gaze on Armelle again.  She rolled her eyes and leaned back.

“What now?”

“What’s her name?”

Armelle shook her head, half resigned and half exasperated.

“What gave it away?”

He glanced out the window, idly watching the cars pass on the highway.

“She’s an amateur.  Eddie ordered and instead of just writing it down, she looked to you for confirmation.  She knew you, knew you were in charge or paying, at least, and knew he wasn’t.”

His eyes swung back to her.

“And most waitresses don’t carry a mid-size pistol under their aprons to complement their boot-knives.”

End Chapter 9 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 10 – Part 1

Has ‘Twicebound’ become a part of your Saturday morning? Then help spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comment section below!

An installment of “Twicebound” is published each Saturday.  (assuming I haven’t been pinned down by enemy fire on the Russian front while trying to write my novella characters out of the middle of a fire-fight)

The previous installments? Right here!
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four,
Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine; Part 1 Chapter Nine: Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 9 – part 1

Morning, readers!  This is going to be a short introduction to a long installment. Here’s hoping you had a good week and if not, here’s hoping ‘Twicebound’ can improve it.  On a side note, ‘scrutinous’ IS  a word, I checked.  With that said, here is this week’s…

Twicebound

Chapter 9 – part 1

A police cruiser sat on the edge of the highway, nearly parked behind a large sign. It looked like any other police-car, but the scrutinous observer would have noticed that it was a very long way from its jurisdiction. A more scrutinous observer would have also noticed that it was quite empty.

Its passengers had abandoned it several hours before, after leaving it in the one place everyone would expect to see a police-car. Of course, only two of those passengers had any idea what ‘scrutinous’ meant; the third might have been better acquainted with the term ‘nosy’. Words, however, were not something Eddie cared about much, especially since most of his mental capabilities were devoted complaining over the amount of walking he was doing. Leaving the cop car was an excellent tactical decision, but Eddie didn’t know what that meant, either, so it wasn’t much comfort.

The woman had said it would throw the cops off their trail and Eddie liked the sound of that, as far as it went. He hadn’t, however, expected their trail to go on for so long without lunch getting involved somehow. Several miles down the road, he’d plunked himself down on a convenient log and proceeded to fall asleep. It was several minutes before either of his companions realized he’d stopped.

Vančura strode back over to him, stopping a few yards away, arms crossed.

“Kaul? Exactly what are you doing?”

“’Tinkin’ about breakf’st.”

The big man frowned, trying to remember when breakfast should have been, if they hadn’t missed their routine stop at the jail.

“Oh. I suppose that makes sense.”

“Yup. Maybe some ‘am and ‘ashbrowns. No eggs. I like eggs, but not dis early in d’morning.”

“Kaul…”

Eddie cracked an eye and stared at Vančura dissapprovingly.

“Look, I’mma hungry. The p’lice station ‘ad food. Well, I ‘tink it was food, anyways. I don’ see any food out here an’ between d’two of you, dere’ probly won’t be. So, I figure I wait right ‘ere for a cop ta show up. Maybe ‘e’ll be hungry, too, and we’ll stop for breakfast onna way t’the cop station.”

Vančura stared at him. Behind the big man, the woman raised an eyebrow. Finally, Vančura turned to her and shrugged.

“He’s got a good point. None of us have eaten and we won’t get far running on empty.”

The woman stared at him. Behind Vančura, Eddie raised an eyebrow at her. The numbers had shifted in his favor and he was smart enough to know it. Finally, she shrugged.

“Fine. Let’s find an ATM. There’s an account set up for expenses; we figured something like this would come up.”

Both of them studied her doubtfully, then Vančura shook his head in resignation.

“Fine. Sounds like your people had this all planned out.”

She smiled at him.

“Who said anything about me having people?”

Eddie heaved himself off the log and started off without them. If he left it up to them, they’d all still be there arguing when the cops showed up. The jail food wasn’t worth sticking around for, not if the scary lady was willing to pay for better.

End Chapter 9 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 9 – Part 2

Is ‘Twicebound’ the first thing you check on Saturday morning?  If it is, tell everyone why on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comment section!

Each installment of “Twicebound” comes out on Saturday.  (Assuming, of course, that I haven’t gone to sleep in a cave and woken up on Barsoom)

The previous installments? Right here!
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Eight: Part 1Part 2Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 8 – part 3

First off, my apologies to everyone who received a notification yesterday that this installment was out. In case you haven’t figured it out already, it was an error on the part of WordPress…. okay, fine, it was me.  But in my defense, they really shouldn’t have the ‘publish’ button so close to the ‘save draft’ button.  If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have gotten all prematurely excited about your weekly installment of…

 Twicebound

Chapter 8 – part 3

The cop car whipped around another corner, tires shrieking over the pavement.

“Look, I already told you, I can’t tell you yet.  Those log-chips in your shoulders keep track of how many times you’ve been through the STAd and what time you were logged into the Sandglass Project facility.”

Vančura’s voice was still cold.

“And your point is?”

The woman sighed and spun the wheel again, slaloming the vehicle onto the highway.  Her foot hit the gas and the big engine screamed as it rocketed the car away from the town.

“If you get caught by the cops, you’ll end up back at the facility and that creep Benwright will check your log-chips.  He’ll realize something was different on your last trip.”

“And?”

She glanced away from the road just long enough to give Vančura a scathing look.

“What do you think?  You’ve been punched back in time more often than anyone else alive and each time, things happened exactly the same way.  Until this time.  You think they won’t want to know what was different?”

With a heavy sigh, Vančura nodded.

“You don’t want us to know anything, so we can’t tell Bosze anything if we get caught.”

The woman rolled her eyes.

“Finally.  For a guy who’s supposed to be so clever, you’re pretty slow sometimes.  If Bosze thinks you know something, he’ll find a way to make you spill your guts.  He’s got access to resources you wouldn’t believe.”

In the back seat, Eddie started hyperventilating. The word “interrogation” wouldn’t have meant anything to him, but spilling his guts was a concept with which he was quite familiar.

“What’d we do t’get stuck inna middle of all dis?”

She met his terrified eyes in the rear-view mirror and her expression softened slightly.

“I suspect you’re just an unfortunate dummy who slept in the wrong drainage pipe.  Your friend…  nobody knows. Which is why I’m here.”

End Chapter 8 – part 3

Go to Chapter 9 – Part 1

Is ‘Twicebound’ the high-light of your week?  If it is, tell everyone about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section!

The next installment of“Twicebound” comes out each Saturday.  (On the condition, of course, that I succeed hewing my way through the Jungle of This-and-That and avoiding the grinning apes that guard the great Temple of Something-or-Other)

The previous installments? Right here!
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Eight: Part 1Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 8 – part 2

Today’s installment of ‘Twicebound’ was in grave jeopardy.  Last night (Friday 24th), I was planning to work on the installment before bed, as usual.  Then, the power went out and stayed out until 8:00 am this morning.  Apparently, a tree hit a power-line in town.  Luckily, I was working on my laptop and it had a full charge, so I managed to finish the new episode.  The only problem was, the Internet router depends  on the house power.  We HAVE had multi-day power outages before, so I’m just happy the electricity came back on today.  I’ve never missed a Saturday installment before and I’m not eager to find out what you readers would do to me if I did.  😉  So, having luck on my side, here’s this week’s….

 Twicebound

Chapter 8 – part 2

“You’ve got no idea what you’re doing.  Heck, I don’t have any idea what you’re doing!”

“I know exactly what I’m doing.  I’m hauling you two out of a trip to the Sandglass project again.”

Vančura scowled at her, fingers clamped on the passenger side overhead grip as she spun the cop car around a corner.

“I mean you’ve got no idea what shifting us around in the time-stream will do.”

From the backseat, Eddie listened as carefully as he could.  Being slammed from side to side as the car screeched through turns made it a little hard to concentrate on anything, but he caught the woman’s laugh just fine.

“Oh, that.  Who cares?  You threw a monkey-wrench into the works the minute you volunteered to go through the knothole.  What possessed you to do that, anyway?  Bored, were you?”

Eddie couldn’t see the big man’s expression, but he didn’t need to.  The silence made it obvious that Vančura didn’t have a good answer to what was definitely a good question.

“Fine.  So, now that you’ve dragged us out, do you mind telling us why?”

She didn’t answer for a little while.  While they waited for a reply, Eddie realized he didn’t really care.  The lady had gotten him out of a drain-pipe.  He was still in a cop car, but this time he wasn’t headed for the jail.  That depressed him a little, since he knew there was food at the jail, but then again, there was no reason to think the woman couldn’t be persuaded to stop at a drive-through somewhere.  Then, she glanced at him and Vančura out of the corner of her eye.

“I’d rather not say, just yet.”

Vančura stiffened, but it was nothing compared to what Eddie did.  With a quiet moan, he leaned forward and banged his head on Vančura’s seat over and over again. He’d been wrong; it turned out he cared about the answer a lot.

“What’s with your little friend, Vančura?”

The big man eyed her caustically.

“I think he’s allergic to secrets.”

“We’ll have to find him an Epi-pen.  We’re in a stolen police cruiser, we just attacked two cops, and every one of us was being detained.  If we get caught, you can’t be knowing any more than you absolutely need to.  It’s protocol.”

Eddie, still thumping his head on the padding of Vančura’s chair, missed the importance of the word.  His friend, however, did not.

“Protocol?”

His voice went dangerous, dangerous enough to bring Eddie’s attention up from his self-inflicted concussion-in-planning.  After a second, the woman realized her mistake.

“Oh, blast.”

“Protocol?  Would you care to explain just how you have a ‘protocol’, lady?”

End Chapter 8 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 8 – Part 3

Do you wait for ‘Twicebound’ all week?  If you do, tell everyone about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section!

A new installment of“Twicebound” comes out every week.  (Of course, that’s assuming my Tesla turbine hover-cruiser hasn’t run out of steam and precipitated me violently on some tree or another.)

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Eight: Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 8– part 1

 Twicebound

Chapter 8 – part 1

“Move it, Kaul.  We’ve got to pick up your friend before the cops do.”

Scrambling up the bank wasn’t as easy as it sounded, disoriented as he was.  Coming out of the dark pipe into the bright morning sun was only half the problem,  though.  The part that scrambled Eddie was the change in the routine.  As far as he knew, time wasn’t supposed to change drastically enough to let him be rescued.  As a matter of fact, he was pretty sure his luck wasn’t that good, even if old man Time was amenable.

He slid into the cop car, wondering where Vančura was.  Then he remembered what the woman had said.

“Pick up m’friend?  Y’mean Vančura, right?”

She slammed the door and switched on the ignition.  The steady rumble of the engine didn’t even register with Eddie, but she cocked an ear and frowned.

“You’d think they’d take better care of their cars.  Just listen to this thing.”

Obediently, Eddie listened, wondering what he was supposed to hear.  The pursuit car slipped into drive and took off, skimming down the road.  The woman turned to him.

“Yes, Vančura.”

He stared at her.

“What?”

“Yes, we’re picking up Vančura.”

For a moment he blinked at her, then looked at the dash, still listening to the sound of the engine.  Then, he sat back in his seat with a puzzled expression.

“What about the engine?”

This time, she was doing the staring.  Eddie felt vaguely pleased about that.

“What?”

“You told me to listen to the car.”

The woman blinked, then turned her attention back to the road.  Eddie could hear her muttering, but he knew enough to recognize the tone of voice.  It was the sort of tone that contained unpleasant comments about people.  He wondered what he’d done, then shrugged.

It didn’t really matter.  He wasn’t headed back for the STAd again, which was the important part.  Maybe Vančura didn’t mind getting his day rewound over and over again, but Eddie Kaul was a different matter.  Pain from getting rammed through the ‘knothole’ aside, the whole thing was getting boring.  And the police station holding cell wasn’t going in any record books for fine cuisine.

“Here we are. Stay in the car.”

She got out and Eddie did as he was told.  Getting up seemed like more work than he wanted to do, anyway. He was still sore from his trip through the STAd. Just as he was about to fall asleep, there was a yell and a vicious shattering sound.  Annoyed, he looked up.

Vančura and the woman were sprinting for the cop car.  Behind them, the blue-uniformed shape of a policeman was draped through the broken window of another black and white cruiser.  Eddie frowned, trying to decide if he didn’t like this new woman or not.  She sure went around hitting a lot of people.

End Chapter 8 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 8 – Part 2

Is ‘Twicebound’ the highlight of your Saturday?  If it is, let everyone else know about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section!

A new installment of“Twicebound” comes out every week.  (Assuming I’m still alive, that is.  You wouldn’t believe how tenacious a garden slug invasion force can be.)

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1Part 2Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 7– part 3

Oh, yeah, this is it, people!!  Exciting as it may have been (and hopefully was), everything up to now has been set up.  There was no prologue, so Eddie and Vančura had to be introduced to us (yes, me, too) by the first part of the story.  There had to be a sense of mystery and adventure (yes, because even I don’t know what’s next) before the real adventure began.  And it began when an unnamed woman got arrested alongside Eddie and Vančura.  With this installment, the story line takes a twist even Vančura didn’t see coming.  (I didn’t either. What?  Did you expect ME to know what’s going on?)

And with that to prime your readerly engines, I hope you enjoy this week’s installment of…

 Twicebound

Chapter 7– part 3

Eddie was beginning to hate the drain pipe.  Not that he had anything against corrugated steel in general, just this particular section of it.  It was wet in some places, dry in others, and exceptionally cold in all of them.  And his back was rapidly conforming to the shape of the pipe.

With a resigned sigh, he rolled over as far as the pipe would allow and studied the dim glow around his feet.  The cop should be along soon to ‘collect’ him, as per the usual procedure. For a moment, Eddie wondered what vagary of fate made the officer turn up just then, regardless of how many times the ‘knothole’ rewound the days.  Of course, ‘vagary’ wasn’t the word Eddie used; his synonym consisted of seven words that couldn’t be found in a dictionary.

He frowned; the cop was late now.  The man always turned up before Eddie had a chance to collect his wits.  Eddie squinted, examining said wits and came to the conclusion that they were well in hand.  The cop was definitely late.

After a little thought, Eddie backed slowly out of the pipe.  It was colder outside, but nothing he couldn’t handle.  He glanced around, wondering what had changed up the course of events.  Vančura was going to be furious; the man hated being in the dark.  Fortunately, Eddie didn’t mind that at all.  He’d spent most of the last four… eight… twelve… most of the days since he’d first gotten arrested with no idea what was going on.

A whistle from the embankment above shook him out of his thoughts.  He turned with a half-vicious curse under his breath.  His train of thought had been going somewhere serious and whoever had whistled had completely ruined it.  A glance up the slope startled the anger away, however.  The black and white of the cop car was easily visible in the morning light, but the officer was conspicuously missing.

There was someone leaning against the driver-side door, but the sun made it impossible for Eddie to make out a face.  The voice, however, was completely unmistakable.

“Well, come on.  I didn’t knock out this cop just for the fun of it.  We’ve gotta be gone.”

Eddie stared, his brain skipping tracks faster than he could follow.  Something was different, so much so that his thoughts had completely frozen over.  Finally, one idea trickled out into the sunlight where he could see it.  How had she known where the STAd had sent him?

It never occurred to Eddie that he was asking the wrong question.

End Chapter 7 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 8 – Part 1

Do you enjoy reading ‘Twicebound’ each week?  If you do, tell everyone about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section!  Every good word helps get the word out there!

A new installment of“Twicebound” comes out every Saturday.  Of course, that may be affected by my ability to outrun the carnivorous typewriters in the depths of the local antique shop.  (no wonder there’s never anybody at the counter…)

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1Part 2

Twicebound Chapter 7– part 2

With this, that, and the Easter season, I almost forgot ‘Twicebound’ was due today.  Fortunately, a calendar and some quick work with a keyboard saved my skin.  (assuming something terrible would happen to me if ‘Twicebound’ didn’t come out as promised)  Today, we get a small glimpse of the plans and plots behind the Sandglass Project, as well as an idea of just how clever Benwright and Colonel Bosze actually are.

Twicebound

Chapter 7– part 2

Bosze eyed the big man doubtfully for a moment or two, then shrugged.

“You’re walking on dangerous terrain, then.”

With a slight grin, Vančura looked back at Eddie.  His eye caught on the girl and the grin changed to a half-visible frown.  He turned back to the colonel.

“Granted, colonel.”

“Whatever.  Now, we lost contact with a strike force mission early this morning.  The task was extremely time-sensitive. The actual success of the strike wasn’t the objective; the brass just wanted to shake up the…”

The colonel paused, clamping down on a word before it could slip out.  A second later, he continued, slowly.

“Shake up the enemy. The fact that America knows about the location the strike force attacked was supposed to be a surprise to them.  The brass launched the strike for purely psychological reasons.  This morning, we lost radio communications with the force, before they even made contact.  There are more possible ramifications than our analysts can handle and all of them bad.”

Vančura nodded, obviously piecing things together.  Eddie just listened, wondering what any of it had to do with him.

“So, your superiors want the time-machine working properly.  Send a man or two through it with the intel on the strike force failure, let you get a head start on it.”

Bosze nodded, glancing meaningfully around at the three prisoners.

“Precisely.  Hence the need for test travelers.  An hours after you’ve gone through, we’ll send one of our men through with the information.”

He frowned suddenly; something had obviously occurred to him.  Then, shaking the thought away, he looked at Benwright.  The technician was staring at a tablet, tapping formulas into it absently.  When he noticed the colonel eying him, he started in surprise.

“What?”

With an exasperated sigh, Bosze pointed at the STAd.

“Spool up the knothole, Benwright. That’s what you’re here for.”

“Oh. Right.”

Before Benwright could start, Vančura interrupted again.

“One question, colonel.  How is it that we end up in exactly the same time every time you send us back?”

Bosze grinned, looking pleased with himself.

“So we do it every time, eh?  Good to hear we play it smart in all the time frames, eh, Benwright?  Frankly, Vančura, we can’t have you running around with that head-full of sensitive information.  The obvious solution was to make sure you can’t run for it, so we’re going to send you back to exact instant the police officer shows up.  Benwright just checked your file for the time and logged it into the knothole computer.”

With a last satisfied grin, he glanced at the control computer.

“Okay, Benwright, fire it up.”

Spinning his chair to the computer, Benwright started hitting buttons.  The ominous sound of the STAd powering on filled the room.  Eddie squinted up at the machine, wondering if he hated it or liked it.  Going through hurt, but at least there was a good meal or two waiting in the police station every time.  He made what he considered a philosophical expression as he was prodded forward.

Everything had a good side.  If the good side of the ‘knothole’ was food, he figured he could live with it.

End Chapter 7 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 7 – Part 3

Do you appreciate the weekly ‘Twicebound’ installment?  If you do, please tell everyone about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section below!

An installment of “Twicebound” comes out eachSaturday.  Assuming I haven’t been assassinated by egg-wielding Lagomorphs, that is.

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3
Chapter Seven:  Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 7 – part 1

Good grief, will you look at that?  We’re into chapter seven already and, last I checked, the total word count was somewhere north of 12K.  Not bad, for four month’s worth of Saturdays, now is it? At this rate, there should be enough story left to last well into the end of the year, if not longer.  Personally, I call that a good thing and here’s hoping you do, too.  If you don’t…. then please explain why you’re  reading this Saturday’s installment of….

Twicebound

Chapter 7– part 1

“Well, why send them all through today? We just need to know if the STAd is working, not send out a full team.”

Bosze straightened his hat with an exasperated movement.

“Just follow orders, Benwright.  The brass says we need results and results we’d better get.  If there’s a better way to do that than sending people through, let me know.”

With a scowl, the technician turned to his computer and punched in commands.  Eddie watched impassively, wondering how long the buttons would last if Benwright kept hitting them that hard.  The more broken parts, the better, as far as he was concerned.  Anything to delay getting rammed through the knothole again.

Unfortunately, the angry whine of the STAd made it obvious that even if Benwright wasn’t happy about the orders, he wasn’t going to ignore them.  Colonel Bosze waited until the huge machine had started up its deep whine, then motioned to the guards.

“Get the big guy in there.”

They nodded, but they didn’t look confident at the idea of forcing Vančura into the machine.  Eddie couldn’t blame them, either.  The big man looked unusually forbidding, even compared to his usually stoic attitude.

Before the guards could move him forward, Vančura stepped up on his own.  That startled everybody, especially Eddie.  Vančura had never done THAT before.  The big guy was changing the script.

“Colonel, would you mind answering a question?”

That snapped Bosze’s head around faster than whiplash. He focused on Vančura, half-confused and half-antagonistic.  Finally, he settled on condescending curiosity and nodded.

“Sure, go ahead.  Can’t deny a man what might be his last request, I guess.”

“Quite magnanimous of you, Colonel.”

Eddie rolled his eyes; he hadn’t a clue what ‘magnanimous’ meant, but his guessing equipment worked just fine.  Still, he had to admit Bosze puffed up a little at the word, so maybe Vančura knew what he was doing.

“Why exactly,” continued the big man, “are you in such a hurry to get a team through the knothole? It isn’t a scientific problem; If it was, Benwright would be running things.”

The colonel’s face shut down instantly.

“That’s classified and need-to-know.  You’re a convict, my friend, and worse than a liability.”

Eddie grinned, knowing what the response would be, even without the benefit having seen it before.  He’d guessed right; Vančura chuckled.

“Colonel, I told you how to fix your own top secret machine.  Where does that put me on the liability scale?  If I wanted to cause trouble, there would be absolutely nothing you could do about it.  I’m a time-traveler, remember?”

Bosze grimaced, then a nasty smile tinged his expression. He nodded at the guards, meaningfully.

“Why shouldn’t I just have you shot, then?  Problem solved.”

“Because if you shoot me, how can I go back in time and tell you how to fix the STAd?  Playing with time is a risky business, isn’t it.  Besides, I already know enough to make me dangerous, so why not tell me enough to help yourself out?  If I go back in time and tell you everything you know now, then you’ll be twenty-four hours ahead of yourself.  As a matter of fact, you’re already three weeks ahead, since I told you how to fix the STAd.  You really don’t have anything to lose and there’s a great deal to gain.”

For the first time since they’d entered the knothole room, Eddie thought to glance back at the woman.  She was cuffed like them, but she didn’t appear to be paying any particular attention.  He frowned.  She’d definitely been paying the day before, in the holding cells.  Why not now?

The colonel’s voice brought his attention around again.

“All right, Vančura.  You’ve got a good point.  But remember this; Everything I’m about to tell you is easily verifiable.  When you tell me this…. yesterday, I will cross-check it.  If I know myself, I’ll have you shot if you try any tricks.”

Vančura made a half-bow.

“Fair enough, sir.  Let’s hear it.”

End Chapter 7 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 7 – Part 2

Do you look forward to reading ‘Twicebound’ every week?  If you do, please say so on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section below!

A new installment of “Twicebound”comes out every Saturday.  Of course, that’s on the condition that I’ve survived the Goliath-mosquito infested swamps between here and the coffee shop.

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2 –  Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 6 – part 3

This particular installment of Twicebound was even more than fashionably late.  That’s my fault, yeah.  (isn’t it usually?)  Anyhow, we had a guest over today and in the excitement of a particularly tense game of card war, I completely forgot it was Saturday.  (please post all snarky and sarcastic quips about my memory in the ‘comment’ section below)  Once I realized what day it was and finished panicking, I got the post up and running.  So, here’s this week’s installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 6 – part 3

Eddie stared out the armored windows of the bus for the third time.  And for the first time, if you wanted to get technical about it.  However, technical wasn’t something he was particularly good at, so he didn’t.

When the brakes squealed and the vehicle came to a halt in front of the non-descript building that housed the Sandglass Project and the ‘knothole’, he didn’t even bother to think the usual insulting thoughts about it.  Instead, he studied the driver and the guard, watching for any sign of a change in routine.

If things had changed as much as Vančura feared they had, Eddie figured the difference might show up early.  So far, the only one was the girl.  The trial had gone as usual, with Vančura and he ending up on the bus.  What wasn’t expected was the girl showing up in the seat across from him.

Eddie took it in stride, until he saw the look on his big companion’s face.  It wasn’t quite fear and it wasn’t quite suspicion.  The best description Eddie could come up with was ‘shock’.  Even then, it didn’t seem quite right. Regardless, the expression vanished within seconds, leaving the stolid, unconcerned face that had been there before.

Several times on the way, Eddie had tried to talk, but the woman gave an impression of a verbally abusive snapping turtle.  Vančura just shook his head, staring thoughtfully toward the front of the bus.  Eventually, Eddie had given up and spent the rest of the trip thinking up new words for a tune and forgetting them.

Inside the STAd facility, things changed.  As he’d expected, the doctor checked him over first, setting off the alert when the implanted chip was found. This time, though, he kept his mouth shut and let Vančura do all the talking.  Eddie listened with half an ear, breaking the light bulb in his cell and watching through the now perfectly transparent one-way glass.  He could see the other holding cell, if he stood in just the right place.

The girl was standing slouched against the wall with her head bowed.  Her hair, messy and badly in need of a trim, hid her face.  It looked like she was still recovering from the hangover, but Eddie knew better.  He watched her while he listened to Vančura give Colonel Bosze the usual spiel.  Every now and again, her head twitched slightly, almost as if she had a nervous tic.

The only thing was, every time she twitched, Vančura had said something unusual.  The words “grand-father paradox” got the biggest reaction.  Eddie narrowed his eyes and tapped a finger against his lips thoughtfully.  It didn’t make him look as wise as he thought , but it was dark and he was alone, so it didn’t really matter.

“She’s a smart one.  This could get interesting…”

End Chapter 6 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 7 – Part 1

Was this installment of ‘Twicebound’ a fun read?  If you thought so, ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  I appreciate any mention!

There’s a new installment of “Twicebound” out every Saturday, assuming I haven’t disappeared into the hog-eat-dog world of a barncat-infested machine shop.

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 6 – part 2

This week was one of those weeks where nothing particularly ‘exciting’ happened, but still felt rushed.  Not sure why that happens, but it does, occasionally.  It was business as usual, but it felt like I didn’t have the time to do everything I needed to do.  Of course, that might have been because I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew in a given amount of time, but you won’t catch me admitting that.  Anyway, this Saturday woke up late, got to work late, and will probably continue late all day.  Fortunately for you, however, that doesn’t mean you won’t get your weekly installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 6 – part 2

Eddie stared across the cell at Vančura.  He still looked irritatingly calm, but Eddie thought he’d glimpsed a sliver of uncertainty in the big man’s demeanor.  Not that Eddie knew the meaning of the word demeanor.  If he’d had to put his suspicion into words, it probably would have been “sumfin’s up wid him dis time aroun’.”

The cell door opened and officer on duty pushed an unkempt figure in, removing the handcuffs before locking the door again.

“A little company for you gents.”

Vančura didn’t even look up, frowning thoughtfully into space, while Eddie glanced contemptuously at the officer.  The cop rolled his eyes and headed back to his desk, chuckling.  Eddie watched him go, then turned to study the newcomer.

Judging from combined evidence of his own past experience and the way she was weaving, he figured she was recovering from a hangover.

” ‘ad one t’many, did ya?”

She turned a three-quarter cross eyed gaze at him and managed to convey a serious amount of dislike with it.

“Shut. Up. Or.  Else.”

Suppressing a snorted laugh, he leaned back against the bars and started whistling. With a groan, she removed her jacket, wrapped it around her head, and lay down on the bench. Eddie continued to whistle for a moment or two, then Vančura interrupted him.

“She’s new.”

“Yup.”

“That’s not good.”

” ‘oo says?”

Vančura blinked disbelievingly.  For a few minutes, he didn’t respond, obviously trying to figure out just how dumb Eddie was.

“It’s not good, because we haven’t seen it before.  If we haven’t seen it before, we don’t know what’s next.  We lose the advantage.”

His companion pondered that, screwing his face up in intense concentration.

“Oh.  You’re sayin’ since one thing’s changed, ever-thin’ else is goin’ to be different?”

“I’m saying it might be different.  And that’s a bigger problem than  will be different.  If we’re sure we don’t know what’s next, we’re just normal people.  If we’re not sure that we don’t know what’s next… we’ve got a problem.”

Eddie squinted at him, sorting through that statement.  Then, his expression cleared and he grinned happily.

“You’s got a problem, man.  You’re doin’ wot dey call “over-thinkin” it.  I’ve got no problems wid it, y’see.  If y’think about it too much, y’get a ‘eadache, so d’trick is y’don’t think ’bout it.  Works great.”

End Chapter 6 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 6 – Part 3

Did you enjoy this installment of ‘Twicebound’?  If so, please ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  I appreciate every mention!

You’ll find a new installment of “Twicebound” each Saturday, as long as the garden slugs don’t get me.

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Six:  Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 6 – part 1

When I got up this morning, I didn’t have any particular plans for “Twicebound”.  But then it got ‘interesting’.  It might surprise you, because it did me, but Eddie showed a spark of imagination and cleverness.  Terrifying, I know.  It changed up what I’d come to accept as the ‘natural’ order of things.

Kind of like what happened yesterday. What happened yesterday? Well, my sister turned seventeen.  This would be my second sister, sibling number #3 (counting me in that roster).  Seventeen.  In other words, she changed up the natural order of things; last I checked, she was twelve, four feet high, and making snarky remarks.  Now, she’s seventeen, almost as tall as I am, and…. well, she’s still making snarky remarks.  Maybe things haven’t changed that much after all.

So, can I dedicate a chapter of a book to somebody, instead of the whole thing?  No?  Yes?  Whatever, since you can’t make up your mind, I’m going to anyway.  Happy birthday, o sister.  You and Eddie can play fast and loose with the rules of reality together.

Twicebound

Chapter 6 – part 1

‘All right, guy.  It’s moment of truth. We get to see if you actually know what you were talking about, Vančura.”

The big man made a disdainful rumbling sound and raised an eyebrow at Benwright.

“You know, the more I hear you say that, the more pompous you sound.  That’s the problem with time travel; people don’t get smarter the more times you see them.”

One of the guards behind them choked down a laugh and Eddie grinned.  Benwright reddened, then turned away, slamming down a button on the console.  The deep electric hum of the STAd sounded and the sharp crack of sparks echoed.

Eddie flinched, remembering the first time he’d been sent through the knothole. He glanced around, hoping that the guards weren’t paying attention.  They were watching him like hawks and he sighed plaintively.

“Dis gonna hurt.  Allover ‘gain.”

Vančura nodded, expressionless.

“Yes.  It’s going to hurt, all over again.”

“You’s the win’ unner m’wings, man.”

That got a chuckle from the big guy.  There was a twinkle in his eyes as he glanced around the room.  The STAd towered over them, humming softly as it charged its massive capacitors.  Then he turned a grin on Benwright.

“Time’s a funny thing, Technician.  It seems to have given me a fellow traveler with a spark of wit.  This time around the trip might just be interesting.”

Benwright rolled his eyes and nodded to the guards.  One of them un-cuffed Eddie from the pipe railing and pushed him towards the STAd, with one rough hand on his shoulder to keep him on track.  For some reason and one he couldn’t figure, that annoyed Eddie.  He shook free, scowling at the guard.

“I c’n walk on m’own.”

Still glaring at the man, he stepped under the STAd and tripped over a floor panel.  With its characteristic whine and crackle, the STAd fired.  The blast hit him, slamming him down into the floor panel.  He considered raising his head, then thought better of it.  the second blast thumped down and the world faded out.

Eddie’s last coherent thought was that tripping on the floor wasn’t such a bad way to make an exit, all things considered.

* * *

It was dark.  Not pitch dark; there was a dim glow coming from… somewhere he knew his feet should be.  There wasn’t enough feeling anywhere to tell if he was upright or not, so he had to rely on memory

Unsurprisingly, the limb worked, stretching out to find the expected resistance.  The finger tips still couldn’t feel, but he knew there was something there.  Curiosity was gone, replaced by dim knowledge.  Confirming facts he already knew seemed tiring, so he stayed still.

Gradually, the nerves began to function again, and he could feel the corrugated pipe under him.  He was back in the drain pipe, as he’d expected. Shifting his head, he studied the faint light from the opening near his feet.

He couldn’t be sure, but he thought the time seemed about right.  And the slam of the car door agreed with him.  Footsteps crackled in leaves, then the voice bounced around the pipe and echoed in his aching head.

“Hey, you.  There’s a city ordinance against loitering, here.  Come on out of there, slowly.”

He sighed.  Time-travel was so predictable.

End Chapter 6 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 6 – Part 2

If you enjoyed this installment of ‘Twicebound’ ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  Each and every mention is appreciated!

“Twicebound” gets a new installment every Saturday, assuming I haven’t drowned in the snow melt in the backyard.

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 5 – part 3

Ah, Saturday.  I didn’t get any ‘Twicebound’ written during the week, so I was afraid I was going to really rush this installment and mess it up.  However, it didn’t go that way.  I’ve been swamped in my to-do list (none of those to-dos being writing my stories) and felt like I was trying to tread water all week.  Stopping for two hours this morning to write ‘Twicebound’ was surprisingly relaxing.   So, this time, I’ve gotta say thanks to you guys!  Keeping up with expectations on the serial novel was exactly what I needed.  That said, here’s your weekly installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 5 – part 3

Eddie heaved a sigh. He’d gotten used to not understanding anything Vančura said.

“Pond?”

Vančura stared at him for a moment.

“Yes, Eddie. A pond.”

“Dis time-travel messes me all up.”

“You won’t get used to it, my friend.  But you’ll learn to ignore it.”
Eddie rolled his eyes.

* * *

Three hours later, Benwright stood in front of the tower of machinery and stared up at it.  He glanced at the control console and scanned the readout suspiciously. The console screen was show green across all the indicators; unusual, since half of them had been flashing red for the last week.

“Something wrong?”

The technician scowled, then tapped one of the buttons, bringing up a diagnostic chart.  After scowling that, too, he turned to the colonel.

“Nothing’s wrong, that’s the problem.  The thing seems to be functioning perfectly, or at least perfectly as far as we know how to expect.  But it shouldn’t be.  Those bad capacitor connections were a problem, yeah, but they shouldn’t have kept it from working.  Something’s fishy here.”

Bosze shrugged.

“As long as it’s working, who cares?”

“Sir, it shouldn‘t work.  Maybe the electrical discharge could aggravate the imbalance in the temporal aberration a little, but I don’t think it would completely stop the STAd from working.”

The colonel waved at the towering machine and snorted dismissively.

“Benwright, it works now.  That’s what we need.  You’re playing with the biggest invention since combustion and you’re concerned because you don’t understand everything about it yet?  Just get it ready, man!  We don’t need to understand it right now, we just need to control it.  The brass is breathing down my neck over something I don’t know about.  They want the knothole running, tested, and ready for a team to go through it in two days.”

A light blinked and a tone sounded on the console.   Benwright tapped a few keys, then made a thumbs up to the technician perched high up on the STAd.  The light went off and Benwright turned back to the colonel.

“Sir, you don’t understand.  I’m not wanting to understand it all right now; Having it working is the first step to figuring out how it works.”

A disbelieving glare began to seep over the colonel’s face.

“So, what is your problem?”

“Vančura, sir.  I don’t trust him.”

The responding bark of laughter was a decent simulation of real humor, but Bosze’s expression wasn’t amused in the least.

“Neither does anyone else, technician, but you’re the only one who’s letting it affect their intelligence.”

Benwright stiffened, his eyes going sullen.

“Actually, sir, I may be the only one here who’s not so scared of his boss that he’s ignoring the obvious.”

Before the colonel could get the furious response out, the tech continued.

“Sir, who in this project is qualified to find a problem with the STAd?”

Eyes narrowed, the colonel ceded the point without a word.  Benwright, looking slightly relieved, continued. His fingers flicked the console controls, bringing up a spread-chart with multiple lines winding over it.

“This is a theoretical time-map of Vančura’s possible routes here.  Now, it’s not supposed to be accurate, it’s just a reasoning aid I was working on last night.  Now, my technicians and I are practically the only people here capable of figuring out what went wrong with the STAd, right?  So, if that’s the case… how did a prisoner tell us what the problem was?”

He paused as he saw realization hit Colonel Bosze.

“Uh-oh.”

“Yes, sir.  Everything pertaining to the workings of the STAd is classified.  If you, or part of an official team had come back, claiming to have gone through the knothole and knowing how to fix it, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  But Vančura?  We don’t give convicted felons top-secret information.”

Bosze turned away, staring at the tip of the STAd, where the distortion would be building up if the device were powered on.

“Two possibilities, then, Benwright.  First, he found out in a way we didn’t plan.  Second, we told him because it was our only option.”

He sighed and shook his head.

“Time-travel.  This stuff could burn us worse than fire  ever did.”

End Chapter 5 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 6 – Part 1

If you enjoyed this installment of ‘Twicebound’ ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  Each and every mention is appreciated!

“Twicebound” gets a new installment every Saturday. Regardless of any flying squirrel attacks, space termite invasions, or hordes of pink pachyderms.  My promise to you.

The previous installments.
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 5 – Part 2

Alrighty, people, two points today.  First off, this is going to be another comparatively short installment, since I worked myself into a bit of a corner this week.  I’ve got a school paper over-due and at least one free-lance article to write, plus some other stuff.  So, something has to give somewhere and this week it’s going to be ‘Twicebound’.  Since it’s not going to be as long as I wanted it to be, I decided to make it particularly interesting plot-wise.  The real ‘intrigue’ starts to show through in this week’s installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 5 – part 2

Eddie was still processing the idea of getting ‘rammed’ through a malfunctioning STAd.  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, he wasn’t doing it well: going through it when it was working had been bad enough.  The memory of the sizzling electrical discharges gave him a pretty good idea of what might happen if it wasn’t working properly.

Even though Eddie was frozen up, Vančura just seemed amused.  Unfortunately, the big man’s grin infuriated the colonel, which scared Eddie even more.  He didn’t know whether or not Bosze would really do it, but he figured that the more irritated the guy got, the more likely it was something bad would happen.  After a little panicked thought, Eddie found himself hoping that the ‘something’ would happen to Vančura instead of him.

Latching onto that comforting idea gave him just enough presence of mind to concentrate on what Vančura was saying.

“You do realize you can’t do that, Colonel?”

Bosze muttered a couple of words Eddie couldn’t have spelled or defined and was pretty sure had unpleasant meanings.

“And why can’t I?  You do realize that I’m the commanding officer of a government installation on the ‘does not exist’ roster, right?”

Vančura actually chuckled at that, causing the colonel’s face to redden and Eddie to flinch.  He wasn’t sure what the big guy was up to, but he had a suspicion it was a roundabout attempt at suicide.  Antagonizing the guy with the gun just didn’t make much sense, otherwise.

“Because, Colonel, you’re forgetting the grandfather paradox.  If I’m here with a chip in my arm, that means I went through the knothole.  If you kill me with the malfunctioning STAd today, I can’t go back in time for the cops to pick up and send me here to now.  So, you didn’t do it, which means that you won’t do it.”

The colonel, the doctor, and Benwright stared at the big man.  Across the room, the guards were doing their best not to listen, but Eddie could see their eyes crossing from the strain of trying to figure out the contradictions Vančura was spouting.

Finally, Bosze sent a sidelong glance at Benwright.

“Blazes if he’s not right.  Now what?”

The technician shrugged.

“No idea.”

Vančura laughed and spread his arms magnanimously.

“Now what?  Now I tell you what’s wrong with the STAd, of course.”

They stared at him some more.

“I never said that I wouldn’t tell you.  I simply asked what you would do if I didn’t.  Now, Benwright, you really should check the capacitor wiring.  Electrical shorts do nasty things to time-machines.”

Bosze raised a questioning eyebrow at the technician.  Benwright just shrugged, then relayed the message through a radio.  A staticky reply came back and he nodded to the colonel.

“The techs are on it.”

“Alright then.  Guards, get these two back to their cells.  We won’t need them until we find out if he’s right about the STAd.”

He turned back to Benwright, questioning him in a low voice as the guards led the prisoners from the examination room.  As they left, Eddie leaned close to Vančura.

“How’d you know ol’ bristle-whiskers would b’lieve you?  All dat ’bout d’gran’father pair o’ docks?”

Vančura didn’t bother to whisper.

“Paradox.  And he believed it because the grandfather paradox is a huge problem in time-travel theory.  Go back in time to kill yourself and what happens?  You can’t, because then your past self is dead and can’t go back in time to kill yourself.  A prevention loop.  Basically, none of his mathematicians know what will happen, so the two of us are the only ones who know anything.  He has to work with what we tell him, even if he doesn’t trust the information.”

Eddie digested that.

“So… ‘e can’t kill us, because den we can’t go tru d’knothole and be ‘ere now?”

The big man gave him a wry grin and this time, he did whisper.

“Oh, he can.  You see, the grandfather paradox doesn’t apply in practice, just in theory.  It’s a logic problem and the universe laughs at human logic all the time.  If  you die… you die.  There’s no temporal fail-safe, no defense mechanism to keep time from messing up.  Time isn’t a stream: It’s a pond.  You can’t loop the stream back on itself, you just move to a different part of the pond.”

End Chapter 5 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 5 – Part 3

‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment on “Twicebound”.  Every tiny mention helps spread the word!

“Twicebound” gets a new installment every Saturday.  Even if it is only small one.

The previous installments? Right here!
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Five:  Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 5 – Part 1

My last week has been somewhat more hectic than usual, what with This and That being on bad terms with me.  As it is, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to devote to writing.  Then, I had a trip to make Friday, which took up pretty much the entire day.  When everything was said and done, I had practically no “Twicebound” ready for you guys.  So, today, I pulled together what I could and here’s a sadly short installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 5 – part 1

Eddie and Vančura were both in the examination room.  At the same time.  Eddie didn’t care much, aside from the fact that the scientists weren’t concentrating on him any more.  Vančura, however, was more than a little apprehensive, even if he didn’t show it.  Somehow, the order of events he was familiar with had been changed: he didn’t know what was going to happen next.  Eddie showing up had been the first sign that something was different.  Eddie spouting off to the doc was the second.

The guards were half-way across the room, safely out of reach, with their pistols trained on the prisoners.  Benwright had called in Colonel Bosze and they were discussing the problem, or that’s what it looked like from a distance.  Closer, it was obvious that Bosze was demanding answers and results, while Benwright did his best to explain why the STAd wasn’t working and wouldn’t be working in twenty-four hours.

Vančura chuckled.  Even if everything else was different, he did know what was wrong with the STAd.  He glanced across at Eddie: The man knew what was wrong with the knothole, or would have if he’d bothered to listen the first time around.

* * *

After climbing out of the doctor’s chair, Eddie had decided to keep a close eye on everything he could.  He didn’t want to be “rammed” through the knothole again, but if it happened anyway, he might as well remember everything that was going to happen.  Unfortunately, watching everything in the room at once was giving him a headache.

Finally, the guy in the uniform, Bosze, raised a hand.  Benwright shut up, but he didn’t look happy about it. The colonel raised an eyebrow and studied Vančura and Eddie.

“Benwright’s computers say you guys get put through the knothole tomorrow.  I assume that makes you time-travelers, though I’m not sure I entirely believe it.  Either way, if you know how to get the STAd working properly, I suggest you start talking.  That machine needs to be up and running by tomorrow: we’ve got a problem and that STAd may be the only way to solve it.”

Vančura tilted his head thoughtfully.

“And if I decide not to tell you?”

The colonel grinned and it was a hand-picked representative of every unpleasant grin ever grinned.

“Well, now.  If you don’t tell me, I might decide that the STAd needs to be tested again.  I’m kind of curious to see what happens when a guy goes through the knothole with that uncontrolled discharge for company.”

End Chapter 5 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 5 – Part 2

‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment on “Twicebound”.  Every tiny mention helps spread the word!

“Twicebound” gets a new installment every Saturday.  Even if it is only small one.

The previous installments? Right here!
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 4 – Part 3

Warning, people.  This installment, to put it colloquially, is really a ‘doozie’.  Most of you know and love Eddie Kaul.  Even if you don’t love him, you probably think of him as the only main character who’s even more confused than you are.  Well, that just changed.  Eddie has started to understand time-travel.  Yes, it’s complicated, and Eddie’s slow, down-to-earth interpretation of it makes it even worse.  But he is figuring it out.  And if he helps you figure it out, too, will you please come explain it to me?  Because even I don’t understand this installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 4 – part 3

The bus ground to a halt on the gravel in the parking lot of the two-story building. Eddie stared out of the barred windows at the structure, wondering who the government had hired to design such a boring building.  Even though he knew what was inside it, the structure still reminded him of an enormous, big, nothing.

His subconscious wasn’t laughing now and he wasn’t scared. As he glanced over at Vančura, he realized why the big man so perfectly at ease. Having the future in his own past meant there wasn’t anything he wasn’t ready for. Eddie looked back out the window . This time around, he knew what Hell’s ticket booth looked like.

* * *

“Go get Benwright and step on it! We’ve got one with a chip, guys.”

One of the guards scrambled for the door and the other moved to keep a close eye on Eddie. The guy looked a little nervous, with his weapon trained and ready, but Eddie figured that was understandable. If you knew someone might be a time-traveler, staying wary would be a good idea. Of course, Eddie hadn’t seen enough to make him dangerous, but the guard didn’t know that. The only problem with his vigilance was that watching Eddie meant leaving Vančura unsupervised. That was a really bad idea.

By the time Benwright got there, the doctor was already finishing the examination. He was still excited, but the initial shock had worn off and his professional attitude was returning fast. Benwright, however, started talking before he was even through the doorway.

“He said you’ve got a live one, doc? How? We haven’t got the STAd running yet, why would we have sent one of the subjects to this time?”

“I’ve no idea, but there’s no doubt about it. The chip says he was logged today and will be sent through tomorrow. The data is a little confusing, but it looks like the jump will be three or four days in reverse.”

“That’s not possible! Sure, he could be sent back before we get the STAd running, even though that doesn’t make sense, but there’s no way he goes out tomorrow. The STAd isn’t working yet!”

For the first time since entering the room, Eddie spoke, and it was with a grin.

“Oh, it’ll be workin’, Bennie. Dis time t’morrow, it’ll be hummin’ away jus’ like a big wasp.”

Every eye in the room locked on him and Benwright raised a disbelieving eyebrow. Eddie wasn’t sure how he knew the word ‘dibelieving’ but he did know that’s what that eyebrow was.

“Is that so, mister. And what do you know about special relativity, quantum physics, and molecular electricity?”

Eddie blinked at him.

“Nothin’. Nothin’ at all. What’s ‘special relatability’? ‘ninnyway, it don’t matter much. I’m not d’guy you needs t’be talkin’ to.”

The doctor snorted derisively, but Benwright’s eyes narrowed.

“Who should I be talking to, then?”

Eddie grinned and nodded towards the holding room where Vančura was waiting. The guard kept his eyes on Eddie, but the doctor and technician both glanced at the one-way glass panel, taking in the big man for the first time.

“And what does that muscle-bound gent know about science?”

Shrugging against the restraints, Eddie looked up at the ceiling.

“More den me’n’you, Bennie. He knows wot’s goofy wi’ th’knothole”

He frowned and glanced back down at the technician. Benwright stared at him: Eddie’s eyes were crossed in thought.

“Uh. Well, ‘e knew wot’s goofy… no, ’e will know wot’s goofy. Dang, I can’t figger dis stuff out. Time’s ‘sposed t’run one way, dat’s all. My marbles ain’t designed f’r all dis cross-work clock-puzzle business.”

A flash of insight crossed his face and his eyes untangled themselves.

“Oh. I got it! ‘E did know, ‘cause ‘e told you. ‘E does know, ‘cause ‘e’s goin’ t’ tell you. And ‘e will know, cause odds are we’re goin’ t’have to go tru dis all over again inna few days.”

With that, Eddie slumped back in his chair.

“Doc, you gotta get me a drink. All dis thinkin’ is tirin’ out my brain cells. I gotta rehydriate them, ‘fore dey shrivels up and dies.”

The doctor blinked several times and absently took a bottle from a rack near the chair. He poured it into three cups and handed one to Benwright, then gestured to the guard to unstrap one of Eddie’s arms. With a happy sigh, Eddie sloshed back the water, wondering why Benwright and the doctor both looked slightly dazed. He didn’t really care, though. He was starting to understand the mess he had gotten into. He decided that was probably the first step in getting out of it.

End Chapter 4 – part 3

Go to Chapter 5 – Part 1

Please ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment.  Believe me, I appreciate every mention of ‘Twicebound’!

And, in case you didn’t notice, even my complete lack of comprehension of time-travel doesn’t keep me from posting a new installment of ‘Twicebound’ every Saturday!

Looking for the previous installments?
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 4 – part 2

Contrary to all expectations, including my own, I actually managed to write about 75-80 percent of this post last week.  That put me so comfortably far ahead of the game that I almost had time to get my resident artist (my sister, the one who did the original Hunter sketch) to do an illustration for today’s installation.  However, I unfortunately dragged my feet getting a description to her, so you’ll have to go without pictures for this week’s installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 4 – part 2

Vancura shook his head and sat back down, watching as the cop led Kaul away. Lieutenant McKechan let them go, then turned back to the holding cell. The problem was out of his hands, which meant he could turn his thoughts to more interesting matters.

“You. Vancura, is it?”

A sardonic expression met him as the big man’s eyes turned to take him in, but the reply was polite.

“Vančura, Lieutenant. The č is pronounced as ‘ts’. Van-tsura. It’s Czech, I believe.”

“Okay, Vančura. You know that guy? Kaul, I mean.”

Several moments passed before he got an answer. Vančura seemed to be thinking that question over, as though it were a completely foreign idea, or one that he had never before considered important. When it came, the reply sounded like Vančura were more thinking to himself than responding to the question.

“Know him. Yes, I suppose I do. And I did. But will I? That’s an interesting concept. Since he’s here… I suppose I won’t know him, because I do know him. If it were two days ago, it would have been “I will know him”, but things have changed.”

Suddenly, the big man focused on McKechan and his eyes hard narrowed. The lieutenant could see his mind racing, almost as if he were watching a set of gears click out of low-speed and whir away, working towards some hidden goal. Vančura looked so entranced by his line of thought that McKechan found himself leaning forward in anticipation.

“If I know, and knew, him… but I won’t “will know”… something changed. What was it?”

The shrewd eyes searched McKechan’s, as if he were expected to give an answer, but Vančura went on.

“Nobody’s ever gone through with me before. Why should things have changed now? For that matter… why should he have been put on the bus with me that day? It didn’t happen before. Why now? Nothing’s changed, not that I can see. Things don’t change… not that fast. Give it time, yes, then they change, but you brought him in here the same day you brought me in. That means whatever changed happened… before I went back. But that’s not possible. It was already done, but I haven’t changed it, so what could it be.”

Then, a light went on behind his eyes and he leaned back against the cell bars, staring up at the ceiling in blind realization.

“I haven’t changed it. But someone did change it; which means it might be me who will change it.”

McKechan stared at him, trying to sort through the chain-fire sequence of thoughts and make some sense out of it. Finally, Vančura’s eyes drifted down and locked on him again.

“Well, Lieutenant, I’m sure you have a lot of work to do and I have a great deal of sleep to catch up on. The judge will be all through with Mr. Kaul soon, thanks to the more-than-usually speedy ‘fair trial’ for which you people are famous, so he’ll be wanting me next.”

McKechan blinked at him a few times, then spun round and headed for the coffee pot. If any of the other cops had been paying attention, they might have noticed that he wasn’t quite as steady on his feet as usual.

* * *

“Time-travel will be fun, dey said. Yeah, sure. D’same way electroshock therapy is fun.”

From across the bus came Vančura’s dry chuckle.

“Except they didn’t ask you, my friend. That makes you the wiser of us, strange as it seems to say. I volunteered. Well, not volunteered, precisely, but the closest thing to that.”

Eddie snorted.

“You wanted t’get pushed tru d’danged knothole? You’re crazy, man.”

The big man considered that for a moment, then shook his head.

“Crazy? No, I don’t think that’s the right word. A little more adventurous than is healthy is more like it. I wanted to know what would be on the other side.”

He frowned.

“And I’ll admit, the opportunities it presented were quite fascinating.”

“Cept dey didn’t work out f’r you, either, did dey? I tried playin’ ev’rybody I met since dat cop pulled me out of d’drainpipe. Didn’t work: All of ‘em jus’ figured I’m crazy, or psychic. Either way, it jus’ scared ‘em, didn’ do me any good.”

Vančura nodded.

“It’s not as straightforward as you might think, now is it? This is my… fourth? No, my fifth trip through the STAd and only now am I starting to figure out how to pull the all the little strings that get things to change.”

Eddie stared at him in disbelief.

“You mus’ be a bunch slower than I thought. You been tru dat thing five times, an’ you ain’t figured out a way out of dis mess?”

A slow smile rippled across Vančura’s lips.

“How do you know I haven’t? Or more importantly, how do you know I won’t? It’s time-travel, my friend. There’s no reason we can’t be escaping from the Sandglass Project facility as we speak. Or perhaps we already did. It’s very confusing, until you have a chance to get the hang of it. And don’t worry, you will.”

With a mournful sigh, Eddie sagged back into his seat.

“Dat’s what I’m afraid of.”

End Chapter 4 – part 2

Go to Chapter 4 – Part 3

Please ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  Every mention helps me spread the word about ‘Twicebound’.

Come rain, or shine, or rabid squirrels, the new installment comes out every Saturday!

Did you miss the preceding installments?
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Four:  Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 4 – part 1

Well, readers, here we are. Seven thousand words and four chapters into “Twicebound”.  Eddie, as you read in the last installment, has come in a full circle, but things are just getting interesting.  After all, when you “wind” something up, you turn it in circles, right?  Believe me, this story is going to get wound up a lot further.  And Eddie Kaul and Vančura have a lot more circles to go ’round.

Please, enjoy this Saturday’s installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 4 – part 1

“Chief, the guys are really starting to get antsy with this guy down in the holding cell.”

The police chief cracked an eye, studied his lieutenant, then slammed the eye shut again.

“I’m on my lunch break, Jimmy.”

“I know that, but…”

“I’m. On. My. Lunch. Break. Jimmy.”

Police Lieutenant Jimmy McKechan rolled his eyes and pulled his head out of the room. Just for good measure, he slammed the door, ignoring the muffled yell as the startled chief fell out of his chair. Frowning, he made his way downstairs, where a half-dozen cops were watching the guy in the holding cell. Jimmy studied the man for a while.

He wasn’t particularly impressive to look at. Quite the opposite, in fact; a pair of jeans, a polo shirt, and two brown loafers didn’t make for what people called ‘a presence’. But that wasn’t what made him unremarkable. For a while, Jimmy couldn’t put his finger on it, until he thumbed through the guy’s file. A consistent vagrant, it read, ordered out of multiple small towns in the last year. That was it.

The man had the same attitude about him as a lot of the homeless people the lieutenant had seen. Not scared, but just trying to stay as unremarkable as possible, slipping through the cracks in society’s awareness. Even half-decently dressed, the guy wasn’t noticeable. Until he opened his mouth, anyway. When he did that, he got everybody’s attention.

It wasn’t that he was eloquent, or anything like that. Nobody would have paid any attention to that; they got slick-tongued lawyers and fast-talking con men all the time. But this guy… McKechan checked the file again… this guy ‘Kaul’ knew what he was talking about. All of it. He knew where he was going, where you were going, why you were doing it, what you were about to say, why you didn’t say it, and who you were referring to when you were thinking it. It was scary. The lieutenant corrected himself; it wasn’t scary, it was downright terrifying. Like Kaul had some sixth sense, or was watching the future play out on a TV inside his head.

“Hey, Jimmy!”

“Yeah?”

“Time to go. The judge is ready and the lawyer has his evidence ready.”

McKechan sighed.

“Can somebody tell me why Carnery’s back is so stiff? The guy was just sleeping in a storm-drain, for blaze’s sakes. He’d have been gone tomorrow. But Patrolman Carnery just had to bring him in, book him for aggravated vagrancy. I didn’t know we had a charge for ‘aggravated’ homelessness.”

One of the other cops rolled his eyes and snorted in agreement.

“Somebody ought to drop a grease-ball down the kid’s uniform. Loosen him up a little. He’s got the system so blocked up with all these ridiculous offenses, the rest of us can’t get anything done. That assault case the detectives are working on? Keeps tripping over Carnery. They were tracking one of the suspects last week, hoping he’d trip up. And he did. Over Patrolman Carnery; the idiot bagged and booked him for littering. The guy spat on the sidewalk.”

Jimmy nodded, then turned to the cop who had spoken first.

“Go ahead and get him out of there. Faster he gets out, the faster we don’t have to deal with him. Let the county jail figure out how to handle him and his psychopredictions.”

The officer unlocked the cell, yelling at the other prisoners to get back from the door, and let Kaul out. One of the inmates stood up and the cop took a step backward. The guy was huge, towering over everyone in the cage, and everyone outside it, too. For a moment, every policeman in the room went tense, hands itching for a gun. But the big man just looked at Kaul.

“Watch your mouth, Mr. Kaul. Letting it run away with you can get you in trouble, take it from me.”

Eddie Kaul just looked at him for a moment, then shrugged.
“More’n I’m already in? Let’s go, officer. D’judge ‘as got a tenner waitin’ f’r me. Oh, an’ tell Officer Carnery I saw ‘im do the knife, dis time. I was watchin’ f’r it.”

End Chapter 4 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 4 – Part 2

Did you like this first part of Chapter 4? If you did, please ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  I appreciate every single one!

Part 2 will be out next Saturday, as usual.

Did you miss the preceding installments?
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 3 – part 3

Around here, the week goes “Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Twicebound”, and I haven’t quite gotten used to the idea.  However, thanks to a highly pestiferous reader, you actually get your installment, rather than listen to me babble about how I forgot what day it was.  Again.  So, here’s your Saturday…

Twicebound

Chapter 3 – part 3

The whining of the machine echoed in Eddie’s head like the buzz of an angry bee.  Its effect on him was more than a little pronounced; he’d started shaking all over again.

“Okay, Kaul, listen.  That chip in your arm will record time, GPS data, your pulse rate, and blood pressure.”

“Right.”

His own reply startled him; he hadn’t thought he could fake that kind of calm.

“Now, it’ll do that automatically.  What you need to remember is that it’s got a timer and a three milligram capsule of tetrodotoxin.”

That got his attention.  He stared at Benwright as the tech recalculated a formula on his computer.

“Run dat by me, agin?  ‘dotoxin?”

“Yeah.  Tetrodotoxin; puffer-fish venom.  Half a milligram is usually lethal, if it’s applied intravenously, but there’s no point taking chances. Three milligrams is practically… overkill.”

Benwright frowned at that, shaking his head over the accidental pun.  Eddie just swallowed.  Hard.  The idea of the computer in his bicep containing enough poison to kill six of him wasn’t a pleasant one.  As it was, though, it had been in there for half an hour and hadn’t killed him yet.  That meant it wasn’t a really serious problem, unlike the massive, humming machine behind him.

“Okay, now, the only thing you need to remember is to be at the police station again on March 19th .  If you aren’t… that timer dumps the tetrodotoxin into your bloodstream.”

“‘old on a minute! T’day’s the 22nd, idn’t it?  So ‘ow am I sposed to be in d’police station on the 19th if dat was four days ago?”

The technician stared at him for a second, then shook his head.

“You’ll figure it out.  Or you won’t.  Besides, Vančura there is going through the STAd right behind you.  With any luck, both of you will make it to the other side.  Once that happens, both of your chips are programmed for the same place, the police station.  Getting there will be a lot easier if you co-operate and he knows it, so I’m sure he’ll explain how this works.”

He gave Vančura a hard stare before turning back to the workstation.

“He seems to know as much about it as I do, anyway.”

Even in his fright, Eddie caught the slow nod and wink the Vančura threw his way.  Something about the gesture reassured Eddie slightly.  At least someone in the room knew what was going on.

With a grunt and the squeak of old bearings, Benwright shoved his chair away from the computer and stood up.  He stretched painfully, then nodded at the guard next to Eddie.

“Time.”

Thirty seconds later, Eddie was standing under the STAd, staring up at the blunt cone overhead. The ominous hum and clicks coming from high above made him glance around, hoping the guards weren’t paying attention.  Making a run for it probably wouldn’t do him much good, but it was better than waiting for the Benwright to punch a red button somewhere.

The guards were watching him, hands on weapons.  Eddie sighed and squinted back up at the STAd, wondering what came next.  From the computers, there was a loud beep;  from somewhere deep in the machine, there was a responding harsh buzz of electricity.

Then, blue light flickered and something slammed into him.  An acrid stink of vaporized metal told him something had exploded and he could feel a fine spray hitting his skin.  He frowned, or tried to frown; the smell of hot metal and a mist of droplets usually meant crippling pain as flesh burned.  But he didn’t feel anything.  Another sharp report echoed and he felt himself take another hit, then he faded out.

* * *

It was dark.  Not pitch dark; there was a dim glow coming from… somewhere he thought his feet might be.  There wasn’t enough feeling anywhere to tell if he was upright or not, so he put out a hand.

To his surprise, the limb worked, stretching out until it met resistance.  The finger tips still couldn’t feel, but he could tell there was something there.  Curiosity worked away at the dim cloud in his head, but moving any more seemed like it would be tiring, so he lay still.

Gradually, the nerves began to function again, and he realized he was face-down on something hard.  He put out another hand and ran it along the surface.  It was bumpy, almost like it was rippled.  Or corrugated.  That sparked a hazy memory.

A pipe.  Dark, but getting brighter down by his feet.  Cold, but a lot warmer than outside.

The memory cleared; he was in a drainage pipe, sleeping away the chilly March night.  That light meant the sun was rising outside, slowly, on the other side of the embankment the pipe was buried in.  And if the sun was rising, that meant…

“Hey, you.  There’s a city ordinance against loitering, here.  Come on out of there, slowly.”

Eddie wriggled backward out of the pipe, scattering newspapers as he went.  Once he was standing outside, semi-upright and mostly awake, the cop studied him critically.  Eddie knew the guy;  he’d met him before, outside a drainage pipe.  Right before the cop arrested him for vagrancy.

“Alright, turn around and…”

With a sigh, Eddie about-faced and presented his wrists for the cuffs.

“…an’ put m’hands be’ind m’back.”

After a brief pause, the cuffs clicked shut and the cop spun him back around.

“Yeah, smart guy.  I gotta take you down to the police station so the…”

“…boys down dere can run my ID.  I done this b’fore.”

The cop scowled and shoved him up the embankment towards the patrol car.

End Chapter 3 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 4 – Part 1

Did you have fun with ‘Twicebound’ this week? If you did, please ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!

“Twicebound” is updated every Saturday!

The preceding installments?  Right here!
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1Part 2

Twicebound: Chapter 3 – Part 2

Yes.  Well.  Today’s installment of Twicebound is a little late.  I’m sorry.  Late is better than never, right?  Of course, I could go into all the reasons it was late.  (my procrastinatorial abilities, the fact that I forgot yesterday was Friday *don’t ask*, and many others)  However, it’s probably wiser just to say “no comment” and let you get on with this week’s installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 3 – part 2

“Please tense your bicep, Mr. Kaul.”

Eddie obeyed without thinking, partly out of habit and partly because the doctor didn’t sound like the kind of guy that would take any lip.

The mechanical ‘thunk’ of the heavy injector sounded and he twitched as the needle jabbed in and slid out.  He looked up at the doctor, an injured expression on his face.

“‘Ey, doc, what was that?”

“Tag.”

“Huh?”

Checking a readout on a screen strapped to his wrist, the doctor made a face and made some adjustments.  The buttons on the screen beeped and hummed, then he looked back at Eddie.

“What?  Oh.  Smart chip, under the epidermis.  Tags you so our computers can recognize you, in the event that we get the knothole working.”

He said it like it was to be expected.  Eddie, however, didn’t like the idea, at all.

“You tellin’ me you jus’ stuck a computer in m’ arm?”

“Isn’t that what I said?”

Eddie thought about that for a minute, trying to remember what the man had said, then doing his best to figure out what it meant.

“I dunno.  What’s a ‘pidermis?”

For a second or two, the doctor stared at him, then frowned.  He checked the screen on his wrist again, obviously skimming through a file.

“Oh.  Yes, Mr. Kaul, I injected a computer into your arm.”

Before Eddie could decide if there was anything he could do about that, the doctor nodded at the guard.  The guy tapped Eddie on the shoulder and let him get out of the chair before clamping a hand on his shoulder.

“Take him down to Benwright.  The other one’s already there.”

The guard nodded and started back to the elevator, Eddie in tow.  Once inside, he hit the last button on the panel, then leaned back against the rail as the doors slid shut.  Eddie was quiet for a moment or two, then looked across at him.

“Other one? Dere’s somebody down ‘ere already?”

There was no answer for a second, then the guy opened one eye and ran a half-friendly eye over Eddie.

“Yeah, big guy. Brought him in earlier.”

“Vančura?”

“Didn’t get a name.  Big guy, cold as an iceberg.  Acts like he runs the place, with the cuffs as a formality.”

“Yeah, dat’s Vančura.  Wot’s goin’ on?”

The guard shrugged, closing his eye again.

“Got no idea.  I move you guys around and that’s it.  The colonel keeps the project compartmentalized; doesn’t like people knowing things they don’t need to know.”

With a bump, the elevator came to a halt and the doors swished open.  The guard grunted and rocked to his feet, pushing Eddie out into the hall.  Another set of doors were at the end of the corridor, but these were solid steel and two heavily armed soldiers were posted outside.  They stepped aside as the two passed and the door opened automatically.

Eddie snatched a glance over his shoulder, watching the doors swish shut again.  They were quiet, but he had a suspicion it would stand anything short of a nuke in the hallway.

“Ah, Mr. Kaul.  I see Benwright has decided to play it safe.”

At the sound of Vančura’s voice, Eddie jerked his gaze around.  The big man was standing nearby, ignoring the two soldiers guarding him, and watching Benwright fiddle with a computer console. Even in handcuffs, Vančura really did act like he owned the place.

“Wot’s up, Vančura?  Dis guy ‘ere couldn’t tell me anyt’ing.”

Eddie’s guard released his grip and saluted to the soldiers guarding Vančura, then headed back to the elevators.  The two watched him go, then one of them glared at Eddie.

“You cause any trouble, we shoot you.  Just sit there nice and quiet.”

Vančura eyed them with disdain.

“Don’t worry, Kaul.  You and I are the most valuable people here.  Well, I am, anyway.  You aren’t worth much, yet, but I like you.  That means they won’t do anything; they do, I quit being so co-operative and Colonel Bozse wouldn’t be happy about that.”

From the computers, Benwright snorted, still tapping away at the keyboard.  His opinion of what the colonel wanted was pretty obvious, especially since Eddie had heard the conversation in the examination room.

“All right, Kaul, you’re first.”

Eddie swallowed.

“First wot?”

A chuckle sounded and he glanced at Vančura.  The big man was grinning.

“First through the STAd,  Mr. Kaul.  They’re going to ram you through the knothole.”

End Chapter 3 – part 2

Go to Chapter 3 – Part 3

Do you look forward to reading the ‘Twicebound’ serial each week? If so, please ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment; every little bit helps!

Watch out for the next installment of ‘Twicebound”!

Did you miss the previous installments?

Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2 Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3
Chapter Three:  Part 1

Twicebound: Chapter 3 – Part 1

Today started off… exciting.  Those who know me will tell you I don’t LIKE exciting.  It always involves a lot of extraneous work and wasteful haste (see what I did there?)  Anyway, with this and that, I didn’t get to finish and proof this installment of Twicebound until around 11 o’clock.  Having hurried home and buckled down to work, here’s your weekly…

Twicebound

Chapter 3 – part 1

Eddie stared up at the ceiling.  The cell was well furnished, considering it’s purpose, but he was restless.  When he’d been moved from the holding room into the cell, he’d been scared, but after half a day of it, boredom had overcome the fear.  He’d inspected the door, the ceiling, even the drain in the corner, but as far as he could tell, there wasn’t a weak spot anywhere.

There was a lurking suspicion in the back of his mind that kept whispering that there wasn’t any point in getting out anyway, since there were guards in the corridor outside.  He’d very carefully ignored it, concentrating on the adage about crossing bridges when he got to them.  Not that he expected to find any bridges, though, so maybe it didn’t apply.

There weren’t any windows or mirrors in the room, so he couldn’t duplicate his trick with the one-way glass.  He couldn’t even see through crack under the door; it was blocked by a spring-loaded flap in the jamb. They didn’t want him to see anything he wasn’t supposed to, that much was obvious.

It never occurred to Eddie to wonder who “they” were.  Beyond getting out and getting away, he hadn’t done much thinking.  Vančura had puzzled him with all the talk of time and the experiments, but Eddie didn’t want to know any more.  He had a feeling finding out anything else would mean getting deeper into the mess and that was the one thing he didn’t want to be.

He hadn’t seen Vančura since they left the examination room, but he’d have bet the man was as perfectly calm as he had been on the bus.  Ice-cold, the big guy was, but at least he seemed to know what he was doing.  Eddie frowned at the thought.  Heck, the man seemed to know what everyone else was doing, too.  Vančura sounded crazy, with going back in time and all that, but the story was beginning to sound more and more believable.  It sure explained how he’d known the army guy was about to go into the examination room back there.

A heavy thump on the door drew his attention.

“You in there.  Get back from the door.”

Eddie, from his place on the bed, eyed the camera in the ceiling contemptously.  He knew they were watching him, so why did they bother telling him to get away from the door? After a moment, it swung open and a uniformed man stepped in.  He was gripping a stun-baton, but he didn’t look too concerned.  Eddie didn’t blame him;  there had been guards in every corridor he’d seen and defense squads stationed in several places between the cells and the examination room.  If anyone caused trouble, the whole place would come down on his head.

The guard gestured him out of the room.  Absently, Eddie headed out, letting the guy guide him down the hallway.  The memory of the heavily armed squads had piqued his curiosity and he was turning an idea over in his mind.  The place was basically a concrete fortress and had plenty of men inside.  Even if it was a government facility, why did it need that much firepower?  It was in the middle of a city, not out in the middle of nowhere, or on the edge of enemy territory.  Did the US even have enemies, Eddie wondered?  The kind that would actually launch an attack, anyway?

He didn’t know.  Maybe there were a lot of guys like Vančura in the place.  That would make anybody nervous enough to want an army to guard the cells.  The man looked like he could yank a door off its hinges if he got mad enough.

Eddie shook his head, trying to banish that line of thinking.  It was getting too close to being curious about the place and he didn’t want that.  He just wanted out, nothing else.  Curious was a word that usually got accompanied by the words “dead” or “missing”.  The guard’s hand tightened on his arm and he realized the abrupt head shake had made the guy nervous, so he grinned affably.

“Just tryin’ to clear m’head.”

The man studied him for a second, then nodded.

“Through here.”

A set of double doors slid open automatically in front of them.  Half-way through, Eddie stopped short, his eyes wide.  The guard stopped an instant sooner, already expecting his prisoner to grind to a halt.  He’d seen it a dozen times.

“Somethin’ else, isn’t it?  Startles me every time and I’m in here two, three times a day.”

He nudged Eddie and the two of them headed out across the floor.  Eddie let the man push him on course, keeping his eyes on the tremendous machine in the center of the room.  As they passed it, he got a glimpse of the bottom; the metal and plastic of the frame ended four stories below his feet.

“What d’heck is dat?”

The guard rolled his eyes and pulled at Eddie’s arm, heading for an elevator on the other side of the room.

“That’s the STAd.  Everybody just calls it the knothole.”

End Chapter 3 – Part 1

Go to Chapter 3 – Part 2

Enjoyed this installment of the ‘Twicebound’ serial? Then, please ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!

Watch this blog for next week’s installment of ‘Twicebound”!

Did you miss the previous installments?
Chapter One:  Part 1Part 2
Part 3
Chapter Two:  Part 1Part 2Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 2 – Part 3

A friend was laughing at me last week for my apparent inability to get the serial story installments online early in the day.  To that friend, I say… “Ha!”.  Here it is, the weekly installment of…

Twicebound

Chapter 2 – part 3

The military guy ground to a halt, fairly bristling with urgency. Having delivered his instructions, he began to stare at Vančura, who just nodded at him, then leaned back in his chair.

“Who is this?”

“Name’s Vančura, according to his chip,” said the doctor.

“Chip? You mean, he’s been through?”

Excitement made the military man’s voice hoarse. Behind him, Benwright rolled his eyes and broke in before the doctor could reply.

“Yes, sir, apparently he has. Sounds crazy, but everything checked out. Now, what’s this about needing the STAd online? What’s the problem?”

His superior answered absently, without looking away from Vančura.

“This whole project sounds crazy; one more bit of it doesn’t really change much.  And why can’t you call the blasted thing the “knothole”, like everyone else does, instead of STAd?  What does it stand for, again? The space and time… anomaly… device?”

Benwright winced and shook his head.

“It’s a Space-Time Aberration device, sir.  But what happened?  Last I heard, we still had two months before the management was even going to make a decision on this version of the device.”

“Knothole works fine for us normal people, right, doc?  Anyway, Benwright, it’s all classified and your security clearance isn’t high enough. Something went south in another project and the brass wants us to see if we can pre-empt the accident with the knothole. That’s all you need to know.”

Eddie had been unhappy with his entire situation, from the cop car to the prison bus and on to his entrance to the facility. The appearance of the army guy had made him even less happy. The new conversation had a lot of words he didn’t know, particularly ‘aberration’, but he understood the phrase ‘went south’ just fine. Trouble for these guys definitely meant trouble for him. He didn’t know about Vančura, though; trouble for everyone else might not mean much to the big guy.

Ear still pressed to the door, he listened anxiously. The technician, Benwright, sounded shocked.

“Above my clearance? Sir, you’re going to have to tell me what’s going on,  if you need the STAd online and working. That thing makes pure oxygen look nice and stable; if it’s not calibrated exactly for whatever you send through…”

The reply was more of a growl than anything else.

“Trailing off ominously like that is a nice touch, a real nice touch. I don’t have my glasses on me, so don’t make me read between your lines. You’re obviously not going to do any work on the STAd until you have your say, so just sketch it out for me?”

Eddie grinned at that. He didn’t like any of the people on the other side of the door, except maybe Vančura, but he appreciated a blunt talker. The educated types always tried to talk circles around a man. After a moment, the technician replied, but his voice was sullen, the wind taken out of his sails by the brusque response.

“Colonel, picture the STAd as a… as a plate balanced on a toothpick and you want to roll an orange from one side of the plate to the other. Something obviously has to roll in the opposite direction at the exact same rate to keep it balanced.”

“I’ve heard this before. Skip to the interesting part.”

“Yes, sir. Without that… opposite force… rolling across the plate, the whole system falls apart. The plate tilts, the toothpick leans, and everything slams into the table. The STAd is the plate, whatever we send through is the orange, and the STAd balances out the weight of the orange with a high frequency current running through magnetic coils.”

It was probably all very interesting, but by the time Benwright paused, Eddie was drifting off to sleep. The technician’s voice had dumped him back in his 10th grade science class and reminded him of how much sleep he got during the lectures.

Before he could doze off completely, however, Vančura interrupted the technician again.

“And, Colonel Bozse, if your techie there doesn’t know exactly what is going through the knothole, down to the last gram of iron and tenth-ounce of carbon, his little plate analogy gets scaled up. It doesn’t happen yet or I wouldn’t be here, obviously, but I’ve heard Benwright describe it often enough to make a guess at what might happen. Chunks of this region yanked into the same region ten years ago. Or a thousand years ago. Or yesterday. Maybe bits and pieces of tomorrow or last century pulled through into today. Some of your development team came up with the hypothesis that the STAd isn’t the plate in the analogy, it’s just the balance weight for the orange. If that’s the case, this whole section of the universe is the plate and if it falls off its cosmic toothpick… to be honest., I don’t even have a guess at what would happen then.”

End Chapter 2 – Part 3

Go to Chapter 3 – Part 1

Did you like this installment of the ‘Twicebound’ serial?  If so, please ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment below!

And keep an eye out for the new installment of ‘Twicebound”!

Did you miss the previous installments?
Part 1Part 2
Part 3Part 4Part 5

Twicebound: Chapter 2- Part 2

Judging by all the comments I got last week, putting this installment up wasn’t so much choice as it was necessity.  I get the feeling that if I ever fail to deliver the Saturday installment, ducking reader hired hit-men will become my new hobby.  Anyway, here is your weekly…

Twicebound

Chapter 2 – part 2

“I don’t know. All I’m saying is, it’s not possible.  It says he gets logged in today and goes out tomorrow. That’s not possible!”

With only one ear to the door, Eddie couldn’t be sure who was speaking, but the voice didn’t sound like the doctor who’d examined him.  He peered out the window into the examination room, risking a brief moment away from his listening post. There was a new guy standing beside the chair they’d strapped Vančura into, studying the computer and arguing with the doctor.

Eddie figured he didn’t look like the man in charge. Maybe just the doc’s coworker. Either way, the argument would be interesting.

”…is. It has to be; I ran the diagnostic five times. His log-chip is just fine, no damage and all the codes on it match the database.”

“There’s no chance someone reprogrammed it to read the wrong date?”

The doctor paused before answering.

“Not that I can tell. The scanning software is top tier and it didn’t find any inconsistencies.  If someone messed with the bytes in that chip, it was someone who knows exactly how our systems work. Anyway, the insertion wound over the log-chip is cauterized and no sign that a new cut’s been made to remove the chip.”

“Look, the knothole let off another of those sparks this morning.  Took out one of the technicians this time. We’ll have to scrap this version if the techs can’t figure out how to bleed off that static charge when it powers up and it’ll take us months to build a new one.  This guy isn’t going through tomorrow, that’s for sure.”

Eddie glanced out again. The doctor had put down the computer and was checking Vančura’s pulse. Whoever the other guy was, he was nervous, shifting back and forth as he talked.

“Look, Benwright, I don’t know how it happened.  How it happens, that is.  I’m just the doctor: I check the candidates for eligibility, make sure they’re ready to go through, and run the tests on them if they get back.  Well, one got back.  You’re the quantum-special-relativity-techno-physicist here, you figure it how and why.”

Benwright didn’t answer for a while.  He was probably still rocking nervously on the balls of his feet.  Just thinking about that made Eddie tired. Moving all the time like that could make a man hungry pretty quick. He frowned. That vein of thinking wasn’t a good one, since he hadn’t eaten in ten, maybe twelve… Vančura’s rumble interrupted that dismal train of thought.

“Gentlemen, this conversation is getting boring. Benwright, tell your technicians to test the secondary reservoir capacitor bank. One of them is mis-wired and it’s feeding the static charge back into the chassis.  Doc, blood pressure is normal, blood test will be within acceptable parameters, and my knee reflex arc is decreased slightly.  Oh, and the eye test is going to show my focus time is a little slower than it ought to be.”

Eddie didn’t need to peek out the window to see what the doctor and Benwright were doing. They were staring at Vančura, of course.  It was the only logical thing to do.

“What?”

Vančura chuckled, the same wry, less-than-amused sound as before.

“Doctor, the log-chip is quite accurate; you know what that means.  Exactly.  Now, in one minute, Benwright’s boss is going to come through that door.  He’ll want your ‘knothole’ up and running, in a time frame commonly accepted as impossible.  I suggest you have an answer for him; he gets mad every time you don’t.”

Silence.  Eddie scratched his head as he tried to puzzle out exactly what Vančura was talking about.  Before he could get all the pieces in place, something crashed in the next room.  He checked the window again; a fourth man had flung the door open and bounced it off the wall.  Eddie grimaced when he realized the guard was saluting.  That meant one thing; military.

“Benwright, I need the knothole up and running, and I need it yesterday!  We’ve got problems.”

 End Chapter 2 – Part 2

Go to Chapter 2 – Part 3

Do you enjoy reading the ‘Twicebound’ serial?  If you do, ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  There’s nothing more encouraging than having people talk about my work!

And remember, the new installment of ‘Twicebound” is out each Saturday!

Did you miss the previous installments?
Part 1Part 2
Part 3Part 4

Twicebound: Chapter 2 – Part 1

Well, the ‘Twicebound’ installment was slightly late again, but, with a little luck, you’ll be willing to overlook that.  Here’s hoping you’ll enjoy:

Twicebound

Chapter 2 – part 1

“Mr… Kaul, is it? Please sit still, Mr. Kaul.”

Eddie didn’t oblige the doctor. Not that he wouldn’t like to, but the guy just wasn’t the kind to put a man at ease. After watching him shake for a minute longer, the doctor sighed and turned to the two guards. They were watching Vančura; the big man sat calmly in the holding room, staring at them through the glass.

“Guys, I don’t think even our massive friend can break out of there, so could you please give me hand with this one?”

The younger guard glanced over his shoulder, then shrugged.

“Sure. The little man doesn’t look all that dangerous, though.”

“I didn’t say he was dangerous, I said I needed help. I can’t keep him from shaking long enough to take a blood sample.”

“Oh.”

Holding Eddie down wasn’t much of a job, but the guard took it very seriously. Once the doc’ got his needle in and out, the guard watched for a moment, then wandered back toward his companion. Evidently, Vančura concerned them a lot more. Eddie might have entertained some curiosity about that, if his mind hadn’t been working overtime, trying to concoct awful scenarios for the next few hours.

Several minutes later, the doctor un-buckled the restraints on the chair and let him up.

“Move him into the post-test cell and bring the big guy in here. Oh, and hold this guy until I can get Marty to check his results. I’m not sure he really fits the parameters, but since we’re low on subjects…”

Eddie was guided into another cell, similar to the one Vančura occupied, and the door was barred behind him. He couldn’t see the examination room; the window was mirrored on his side. Curling into a ball under the table seemed the best course of action, but he was pretty sure that wouldn’t stop the shaking.  As he paced around and around the table, a thought occurred to him. He’d seen enough cop shows to know how holding-cell mirrors worked.  Switching off the lights might let him see through the glass.

Only problem was, Eddie couldn’t see a light switch inside the room. He glanced up. Maybe he could unscrew the bulb, instead of just switching it off. None of the chairs looked sturdy enough to stand on, so he scrambled onto a chair. Detaching the bulb was the work of an instant. Getting off the table in the dark was less easy.

Eddie stepped off the chair, but the dim light from the window wasn’t enough for him to see where he was going. On his way down, one foot caught a chair and he fell. Falling in the dark wasn’t fun, but hitting the table on the way down was even worse.  In a pile on the floor, Eddie froze, afraid the guards had heard. Nothing happened. The door didn’t creak open and no footsteps sounded.

Once he figured it was safe, he hauled himself upright. The glass, which had been a mirror in the bright light of the room, was completely transparent. He could see the examination room. Vančura was strapped into the chair and the doctor was studying a small computer. Eddie realized why the guards hadn’t noticed his crash. They were still concentrating on Vančura, as if they expected him to snap the restraints and leap from the chair.

As Eddie watched, the doctor whirled and said something he couldn’t hear through the glass. Both guards’ heads swung round, then one of them left at a run, disappearing farther into the building. Vančura didn’t move, but a faint smile crept over his face. The doc’ checked his computer and glanced at the big man again. Gesturing sharply at the guard, he snapped an order.

Something had spooked the guards and the doctor, that much was obvious. If Eddie hadn’t noticed it before, the fact that the guard now had his pistol trained on Vančura would have definitely brought it to his attention.

 End Chapter 2 – part 1

Go to Chapter 2 – Part 2

Did you like ‘Twicebound’?  If you did, please, ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, or comment!  And keep an eye out for the next installment; there’s a new installment of ‘Twicebound” every Saturday!

Missed the previous installments? They’re not hard to find!
Part 1Part 2
Part 3

Twicebound: Chapter 1- Part 3

Hey, ya’ll!  Sorry I didn’t post this earlier today, but I hadn’t quite finished it.  This Saturday kind of jumped me and I wasn’t ready for it.  Fortunately, through the twin virtues of perseverance and coffee, here’s the third installment of:

Twicebound

Chapter 1 – part 3

The bus ground to a halt in the gravel parking lot of a two-story building.  Eddie stared out of the barred windows at the structure, wondering how the architect had managed to design such a monumentally non-descript building.  It looked like a big block of concrete, decorated with few plate glass windows the contractor tossed into the cement mixer as an afterthought.

A phrase from a childhood bed time story echoed somewhere in the back of his head as his subconscious poked fun.  The place was like a …like a… he didn’t know… an enormous, big, nothing.

His subconscious might have been laughing, but it was the only one.  Eddie Kaul was scared.  He didn’t know what the building was, but he knew it wasn’t like any prison he’d ever heard of.  He glanced over at Vančura. The big man was completely at ease, but his half-stories and hints had been terrifying.  Eddie didn’t know what Hell’s ticket booth might look like, but he figured it would be a lot like the building in front of them.

The guard and driver fidgeted for a minute or two, staring out at the double doors of the gray structure.  Their attention shifted to the two prisoners, then back again nervously.  It was obvious they had no idea what came next.  That realization scared Eddie more than any of Vančura’s talk had.  If the cops were this nervous, he decided he’d rather be in prison.

“Voila.”

Eddie turned and blinked at Vančura.

“Huh?”

Vančura pointed across the gravel lot to the doors.  Two men were halfway out of the building, heading purposefully towards the bus.  Eddie studied them, talking to Vančura out of the side of his mouth so he didn’t have to look away.

“How did y’know ‘dey were coming out?”

“They do it every time, ninety-seven seconds after we quit rolling.  Every time.”

“Got somethin’ like a timer or somethin’ in ‘dere?  Funny rule, if y’ask me.  Why ninety-seven seconds?  Regulations n’stuff, eh?”

The men reached the bus and the driver punched the button to open the swinging doors for them.  When they stepped aboard, one of them took the roster sheet from the guard, studying it with a bored air.  His companion had the nervous look of a new man on the job, not actually scared, but worried about making mistakes.  He watched attentively as the other man scribbled his name on the sheet and tossed it to the guard.

“Okay, let’s get these two inside.”

He stepped towards the back.  For the first time, he noticed Vančura and his face went slack.  A half-stumble brought him to a halt, but his companion bumped into him from behind.  There was a mutter of surprise from both of them, the first croaking something unintelligible at the sight of the big man, while the second seemed to be apologizing.

The first one spun back to the guard and driver.

“Those papers didn’t say nothin’ about this guy!  How’re we supposed t’deal with a guy that size?”

A shrug from the guard was their only answer.  Eddie almost laughed, in spite of his apprehension.  The guard didn’t care much for the troubles of the men from the big grey building, that was plain.  All he wanted was to get rid of his prisoners and away from the place as fast as possible.  Eddie watched the two confer for a moment, but then a thought distracted him.  The men had obviously never seen Vančura before.

“Vanny, mate…. You said you’d been ‘ere afore, but ‘dose gents don’ know you from Adam.  They new or somethin’?”

Slowly, the big head came around and Vančura speared him with a look.  For a few seconds, Eddie just shriveled under the glare, then sagged in relief when it turned away.

“My name is Vančura, Kaul.  Not Vanny,  Van, Vancy, or anything else you might think up.  Vančura.  And I did not say I’ve been here before.  I said that I was here.  And I’m going to be here.  But I haven’t been here.  Not yet.”

Eddie was pretty sure there was smoke leaking out from between his ears.  Whatever the big man was talking about, it didn’t make sense; his brain was overheating as he tried to figure it out.  If a man was somewhere, then he’d been there before.  That’s how grammar worked, Eddie thought, but he couldn’t have sworn to it.  Maybe dropping out of school hadn’t been such a good idea, after all.  If he’d paid more attention in English class, maybe he’d understand what Vančura was talking about.

Of course, there was always the chance the guy was soft in the head; it would explain a lot.  Much as Eddie wanted to believe that, though, he couldn’t.  He didn’t know what exactly counted a man as loony, but Vančura didn’t seem crazy.  The guy didn’t make much sense, sure, but Eddie would have laid bets on his mental acumen, once someone explained what ‘acumen’ meant.

He was still wrestling with the nonsensical information when the two men made up their minds.  They came down the aisle, pistols out and readied, eying Vančura like a pair of terrified hawks.  One, the new man, stopped halfway, while the other moved forward to undo the shackles.  Even Eddie could see that was a smart move; if Vančura decided to make a play, he’d never make it to the second man without getting shot.

All the caution turned out to be needless; Vančura never shifted.  Once the shackles were off, he stood slowly and strode out of the bus with the guard behind him.  After they stepped off, the second man holstered his pistol and unlocked Eddie.  Eddie decided that being a nice, friendly guy might keep him alive longer and didn’t cause any trouble.

As soon as his feet hit the gravel outside, the bus driver threw the gears into drive and took off. He stared after it, longingly, but the two guards didn’t waste any time watching it disappear.  One headed for the gray building and the other motioned for Vančura and Eddie to follow.

They trudged along, listening to the crunching footsteps of the second man taking up position behind them.  Vančura still didn’t look worried; in fact, he almost seemed bored.  Eddie was beyond worried, but all he could do was wait and see what came next.

 End Chapter 1 – part 3

Go to Chapter 2 – Part 1

If you like ‘Twicebound’, please, ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, and comment!  And watch for the next installment; I update ‘Twicebound” every Saturday!

If you missed the preceding installments, they aren’t hard to find!
Part 1Part 2

Twicebound; Chapter 1- part 2

Well, guys, it’s been a week since Part 1.  Here’s hoping you spent that time looking forward to the next installment of;

Twicebound

Chapter 1 – part 2

Eddie hated the sound of worn-out brakes.  It was a sort of metallic scream that grated on every nerve he had.  The prison-bus badly needed a new set; they’d squeaked and squealed their way across half a state, driving him crazy the whole way.  As the driver hit the brakes again, he braced himself and glanced over at Vančura.

The big man never blinked, didn’t even rock forward as the bus slowed down.  He might have been a plastic dummy for all the reaction he made.  Since their first conversation had ended an hour ago, Eddie hadn’t heard a word out of Vančura.  It was like the guy was a million miles away inside his own head.

After a moment or two, Eddie looked away, watching the driver and guard talk up front.  They might not have been friendly, but at least they acted like they were actually alive.  His eyes narrowed he noticed the guard’s hand shift a little closer to his weapon.  The thought skimmed across Eddie’s mind that he didn’t like being chained up in the same bus as a trigger-happy ‘correctional officer’, but then he noticed the cop wasn’t watching the prisoner compartment.

The guy was staring out the window.  Eddie frowned and glanced over at the driver.  Nothing odd there, until his eyes drifted down to the steering wheel.  The man’s grip on the thing was turning his knuckles white.  Eddie frowned again, turning to Vančura.

“What’s wi’ dem?”

There was no reply.  Eddie waited, then shook his head and went back to studying the two cops.  He was deep in what he considered a real Sherlock Holmes train of logic thing, trying to connect all the little dots he’d found, when Vančura spoke.  Eddie started like a kicked dog, slamming his head into the window he’d been leaning on.  At the front of the bus, the guard twitched nervously, trying to determine if the sound meant trouble or not.

“They’re scared, Kaul.”

Eddie stared at the big man.

“No kiddin’.  I’d never ‘ave guessed.”

“No need for sarcasm.”

“Yeah?  ‘Course they scared, don’t need t’be psychic to know dat.  What’s scarin’ ’em’s what I want t’know. Tell me dat!”

Vančura grinned absently, shifting his head just enough to watch both Eddie and the cops at the same time.

“They’ve heard the stories about this place from their friends.  Cops bring bad guys here, wearing the steel bracelets, but they’ve never had to take anyone on the return trip.  It’s a black hole in their system.  Enough to make even the boys in blue nervous.”

Eddie nodded.  It made sense.  Then something clicked in the back of his mind, as his subconscious turned over what Vančura had said.

“Nobody comes out? What’re y’doin out here ‘den?  You were in ‘dere, weren’t’cha?”

Vančura turned his full attention to Eddie, a glint in his eye.

“I was.  And I’m going to be.  But not both at the same time, if you take my meaning…”

 End Chapter 1 – part 2

Head over to Part 3 for more!

If you enjoy reading ‘Twicebound’, please, ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, and comment!  And keep an eye out; it’s updated weekly!

Serial: Twicebound

You know that old saying “No news is good news”?  Well, as far as this blog is concerned, it’s not true.  Since I blog about what I’ve written, no new blogs means no new (or very little new) writing.  Not good, since there’s been a severe dearth of new posts recently.  There’s a whole slew of reasons for that, but I won’t get into all that.  I’d like to, but I won’t.

Instead, you’re going to hear about my new idea.  Writing a few paragraphs at a time isn’t stuff worthy of blogging about, especially if those lines are spread out over multiple stories. I need something to kick me into writing gear, something that will interest you, as well.  My regular stories take quite a while to get to you, so the obvious solution to keeping your attention is to write a serial.  To be published once weekly.  That gives me plenty of time to write, edit, and set up each new part.  It gives YOU just the right amount of time spend anticipating the next bit.

And, believe it or not, I’ve already got a story lined up that should be the perfect candidate for this.  *cue dramatic music*

Twicebound

Chapter 1 – part 1

“Time-travel will be fun, they said.  Yeah, sure.  The same way electro-shock therapy is fun.”

“Time-travel, sure.  And y’never thought t’ask how they knew?”

“No. They were the big brains, why shouldn’t they know?  Science is a wonderful thing; figured they’d done some sort of tests or big math problems to predict it all.”

“Dumb.”

“You’re telling me?”

“How’d you get away?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Since we’re talkin’, you must’a got away from ’em, right?.  Can’t see no scientists lettin’ their lab rat get put in the clink.”

A deep chuckle echoed in the half-empty prison bus.

“Who says we’re headed for the clink?”

“S’just a transfer, from county t’ the state pen.  Got ten years for ‘p’session of an illegal weapon’.  I still cain’t figure how that knife got in m’pocket.  Never saw it before.”

The chuckle sounded again.

“What were you arrested for?”

“Huh?  Oh.  D’judge called it “vagrancy”.  I dunno what it means, but I was sleepin’ in a drainage pipe, so maybe it means sumthin’ like trespassin’.”

“It means you didn’t have a place of residence or a job.”

“You sayin’ they arrested me for bein’ homeless?  Dang.  Dis country’s goin’ down the tubes.  But it don’t explain d’knife.  I never even heard of a butter-fly knife ‘fore de cops found d’thing in my jacket.”

“That’s easy.  You were a vagrant.  Nobody will notice if you go missing.  Somebody plants a knife on you and calls the cops.  Next thing, you’re headed for a stint in the state prison.  Who’s going to notice if you disappear en route?”

“Huh? Disappear?  I ain’t disappeared!”

The chuckle lost the tiny amount of humor it had before.

“Mon ami, you disappeared the minute you stepped on this transport bus.  You’re just a missing file in the system now.  What’s your name?

“Kaul.  Well, it used t’be.  Eddie Kaul it is, I guess.”

“You can call me Vančura.  Welcome to the Sandglass Project, Mr. Kaul.  It’s a two-way trip.”

Vančura chuckled one more time, but it wasn’t a pleasant sound.  Eddie Kaul shivered and stared down at the handcuffs on his wrists.

 End Chapter 1 – part 1

Head over to Part 2 for more!

If you enjoyed reading this, please, ‘Like’ it, ‘Tweet’ about it, and comment!  And keep an eye out; I’ll be updating it weekly at minimum.