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.
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