(c) 2015 Thomas F. Brown, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.
Author’s Note: This scene was originally intended to be part of Con-Version, but it disrupted the flow too much, and was potentially confusing to boot. A subplot had it that the history-changes described in books one and three would create a wave of temporal energy that our heroes needed to protect themselves from. To do so, they needed the wreckage of Maxwell Sanders’ time machine, buried in the California desert since 1901. In the end, the scene (and indeed the entire subplot) ended up on the cutting room floor.
December 12, 1957
“Nancy,” Robert called out, “Over here.”
I followed his voice to where he squatted in the dirt, brushing away at something buried there. Only a portion of the object was visible, but the bright red and yellow logo embossed on the top was clear: a cartoon-like drawing of an atom, framed by a large diamond shape. There were words as well, but they were still covered by dirt and sand. Reaching out, I grabbed Robert’s arm to stop him from any further cleaning.
“Leave it,” I said.
“Why?” Robert asked, looking up at me. “You know what this is. We can’t just leave it here. What if someone finds it?”
“Someone will,” I pointed out. “But not until 2182, when Catherine Birsch retrieves it to use as a bomb.”
“You mean New York City? Nancy, millions of innocent people died in that explosion! We have to stop it.”
“Yes, and billions will die if we do anything we didn’t the first time ’round! You know the rules.”
“That’s cold,” Robert accused, standing up. “How can you stand there and quote the numbers like that? Nancy, what’s happened to you? You were never like this before …”
“Before? You mean before I became a babysitter for the future?”
“Twenty Twenty-one, you mean.” He made it sound like an accusation. I fought down the anger that threatened to send me into a screaming fit. Dammit, did he think I wanted this?
“We can’t forget that date, sweetheart,” I pointed out as calmly as possible. “If we prevent Birsch from using this Mattergy Pod to destroy New York in 2182, we set events in motion that end with the extinction of the human race in 2021. Heaven knows, I feel for those people as much as you do, but we can’t help them. We can’t.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
“No, I’m not okay with that! There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t wish for a better answer. But there isn’t one. Either Birsch wins or everyone else loses. I know it sucks, but that’s just the way it is.”
Robert looked around, his thoughts elsewhere. Finally, he nodded and turned back to me.
“So now what?” he asked.
“We find what we came for.”
“The field generator. Every time machine creates a sphere of time energy around itself. Well, it’s not energy, exactly, and it’s not composed of time. Hell, it’s not really a field as such, either. It’s more a localized ten dimensional re-definition of the fabric of reality.”
“Ah … what?”
I grinned at his confusion. It’d taken me a while to get used to the concept myself. “It effectively isolates the vehicle from the world around it.”
“Don’t you need one of these things to do that?” he waved at the buried Mattergy Pod at our feet.
“We would if we were actually moving through time, but we’re not. All we have to do is step outside of time while the temporal change wave passes. The local power grid should provide enough juice to do that.”
“And what happens if we don’t … ah … step out of the way of this wave of yours?”
“No idea. The math’s unclear, but there’s a statistically significant chance we could be … erased … from reality. No one’s ever done this before, you see.”
“Yeah, well, the reason for that is it’s supposed to be impossible to change history in the first place.” Robert’s face scrunched up as he said that.
“Good thing it’s not,” I pointed out with a reassuring smile. “Twenty Twenty-one, remember? Either history gets changed or everyone’s toast.”
“So,” he said, frowning. “Time field generator.”
“Time field generator,” I confirmed, my smile broadening.
“What’s this thing look like, anyway?”
“Brass shell, round, approximately 150 centimeters across by 80 centimeters deep. Inside is a mixture of copper and aluminum with traces of platinum, all held together by plastic. You’ll find a single superconducting power cable extending from the very top. Can’t miss it on your sensors.”
“Got it,” my husband replied, nodding. Together, we continued searching the wreckage for the one piece of technology that would save our lives.
It was a measure of Robert’s faith in me that he believed everything I said, without understanding a word of it. I just wish I had as much faith in myself. The math may have been unclear on the possibility of our erasure, but it was even worse on the chances for our survival. Like I said, no one’s ever done this before.
“I guess there’s a first time for everything,” I said under my breath as I moved to the next search area.