When Jim and Elisabeth got home mid afternoon, Maddy and Mark were sitting in the kitchen enjoying some fresh fruit, having returned from the "patrol" together. Jim noted that Mark and Maddy were hardly ever separated. Knowing full well the kind of steamy relationship Elisabeth and Jim had in their early years, Jim always worried about his "little girl". Despite all the promises and known good behavior of this young couple, he didn't want any "surprises". Hormones still raged in young men and women that age, even with the best of intentions. Still, Reynolds was an honorable young man, motivated, a respected leader, and a fine soldier. That he had risen in the ranks quickly was really no surprise. He was gentle and kind with Maddy, and was totally devoted to her.
Before Jim could even greet his oldest daughter and her boy friend, Mark stood up and asked, "Mr. Shannon, may I speak with you?"
"Why...um...sure, Reynolds," puzzled Jim. He always called him Reynolds.
They stepped into the living room, but they were close enough that Elisabeth and Maddy could overhear them from the kitchen. Elisabeth held her daughter close. She had seen the rings already, and knew what was coming. Jim did the same thing with her father 25 years ago.
"I've known your daughter three years now."
Jim was interrupted by a page. "Just a minute, Reynolds, I have to take this call from Taylor."
Maddy stomped and rolled her eyes. Elisabeth calmed her.
Given the unusually serious tone of Reynolds' voice and the mention of Maddy and the young soldier in the same sentence, he only half-listened to Taylor. It was something about investigating someone claiming someone else stole something somewhere.
Finally he interrupted, "I'll have to call you back Taylor."
He turned to Reynolds and gave him a serious look, "All right, where were we?"
"We were talking about Maddy and me."
Reynolds was never comfortable around Jim, even though Jim liked this young man. Seeing Reynolds' sweat and discomfort more than usual, Jim could anticipate the conversation, and decided to make Reynolds work for this.
"What about Maddy?" he asked.
"Well, sir, we kind of have a special relationship."
"Yes, Dr. Shannon and I have noticed the two of you spend a lot of time together. That relationship betterbe one of great respect, Reynolds."
Reynolds turned beet red as he stammered, "Of course, sir!"
Behind the men, Maddy fidgeted. Elisabeth could feel her shaking.
"Well, then, Reynolds, what do you want to discuss?"
"Well, sir, years ago I sought permission to court your daughter."
"I remember, Reynolds. So far, it seems to have been a good decision to let you do that."
Elisabeth gave Jim a nasty look, but Jim just winked at her.
Unphased by Jim's needling remarks, Reynolds kept his calm, but Maddy wrung her hands fitfully.
Reynolds sighed deeply, and stated, "Mr Shannon, I seek your blessing to marry Maddy."
Despite knowing what Reynolds would ask, it still floored Jim. Elisabeth held her breath. Maddy chewed on her lip.
"Reynolds, you're a soldier. Soldiers' lives are tough and hard and fraught with danger. Even without 2149 interfering with us right now."
"With all due respect Mr. Shannon, you are the Chief of Police. There is plenty of daily danger to your life, sir, every time you investigate an incident. Maybe more danger than for us soldiers, Mr. Shannon. You investigate problems every day, sometimes more than once a day. And yet you are married and raised a family."
Jim was surprised, but Reynolds was absolutely right.
Elisabeth choked back a laugh. Maddy gave her mother a scowl.
Unhappy that he just lost the offensive in this conversation, Jim decided to yank this remarkable young man's chain harder.
"What if I say 'no'?"
Maddy couldn't contain herself and blurted, "Daddy! We're old enough to make our own decisions with or withoutyour permission!"
He held his hand up to stop her, and Elisabeth shushed her too. Reynolds gave Maddy a quieting look.
Jim couldn't help but smile, hearing the same objections from Maddy as Elisabeth had said years ago, when her father more emphatically challenged Jim's request for marriage, simply because he didn't have the same "heritage" as Elisabeth.
"Well sir, if you say no, I would hope you would see the merit of us being together and eventually give your blessing."
"You're determined Reynolds, I will say that. As a matter of fact, young man, I think you have allthe qualities that as parents we'd like to see in a husband for our Maddy."
"So yes, Reynolds, I give you my blessingfor your marriage."
The women shrieked and hugged, and Reynolds shook Jim's hand emphatically. As a soldier in top physical shape – trained by Taylor himself - Reynolds nearly crushed Jim's hand.
"Oh, and soldier..."
"Call me 'Jim' from now on, not 'Mr. Shannon'. But I'm not ready for 'Dad' yet," quipped Jim with a broad smile. He put his arm around Mark's shoulder. For the first time, it felt good to do that.
He motioned for Maddy to come over. She hugged her father, jumped up and down ecstatically, and then squeezed Mark hard.
Elisabeth came over, hugged Jim, and whispered, "Remember when?"
Reynolds was visibly relieved as he said, "And please, sir – I mean Jim - call me Mark."
"Of course, Mark."
They all laughed and didn't stop chatting while Elisabeth cooked a celebration dinner. Nine year old sister Zoe hugged Maddy mightily about the news when she arrived home from school.
Maddy's older brother Josh was surprised, and even a bit indignant, when he came home late from work after a visit with his girl friend Skye at her home, "Hey - I'm the oldest. I should be getting married first!"
Maddy teased, "Well, if you finally figure out what you and Skye mean to each other before the ceremony, you are welcome to go first!
Josh blushed, but then hugged his sister. "Yes things were proceeding very nicely with Skye, but no need to rush it," he thought.
Eighty five million years into the future in 2152, all was not so joyous.
In the midst of a putrefying greenish brown placid sea stood a dozen huge platforms arranged in a two-mile radius of ocean, all oriented toward the center. While the platforms looked like state of the art oil exploration rigs, the electron beam drill heads were oriented sideways and pointed at the center of the multi square mile circle center.
A dark-uniformed man sat in a computer media-strewn office, including piles of old-fashioned paper. Transparent touch screen displays glowed around him ominously and were covered in diagrams and equations. Three dimensional holograms hung suspended in mid-air. Spent coffee cups and food boxes littered the desks. The man sat with his head in his hands. His colleagues were on a dinner break.
The trans-temporal radio crackled, "Badlands here, Dwyer. How's the progress?"
"Slow," muttered Dwyer.
"You have to speed things up. Our friends are getting very impatient."
"I know. But you can't enhance natural processes easily. Mother Nature is in fact a bear."
The man on the other end of the radio grew impatient, "You know what happens when our benefactors get impatient. We're lucky to be alive after three years ago. On both ends. My shoulder has never healed right."
"You think you are lucky? I was inside the blast radius of that pyrosonics bomb blast Shannon set. I can't help what happened in Hope Plaza any more than you can. We are doing the best we can scraping it all together. You can't lie about something like this very well. Oil/water energy conversion is like cold fusion was centuries ago. Nonsense."
"Excuses mean nothing to our associates. What can you give me now?"
"Well I think I can give you a small transport in a few weeks to test it. You know explosives and volatiles don't transport well. Transporting the 'object' is only theoretically possible."
"That's my problem, since I am on the receiving end of that. Can the 'object' be delivered in the transport, in case the 'main event' doesn't get through?"
"I think so."
"You need to know so, Dwyer. Tell me when you are ready."
Dwyer sighed knowing how many sleepless nights were ahead to do what his leader asked, then keyed the microphone, "Yes, Lucas."
"Badlands out," Lucas said flatly and turned to his colleagues.
"Well?" said the Commander of the Phoenix Group and Mira, the leader of the Sixers, simultaneously.
"I think we only have to endure the Badlands another month."
A beautiful but hard looking black-American woman sneered, "Good, Lucas. I hate this place. What's one more month, and when we win, I want to leave Taylor's body out here in the open to rot like we have for the past three years."
Lucas got an evil grin, "You know Mira, that when we are through with Taylor and all his other followers, there won't be anything but blowing radioactive ash where Terra Nova is standing."
They all laughed derisively at the satisfaction that would soon bring.
Their camp sat amid a desert filled with man-made objects from across the centuries. Spanish and English galleons and merchant ships from the days of sail, a primitive Norse dragon ship, a reed craft from Egypt's days of the pharaohs, Mayan sailing ships. A few freighters from the early 1900's. Even the remains of the aircraft squadron that disappeared off the Florida coast in the 1950's.
The Sargasso Sea was the toilet bowl of the planet Earth, though many science fiction fans of the 20th Century called it the Bermuda Triangle. No one knew then how things mysteriously disappeared with no trace at random times from old Earth.
Lucas knew now. The Triangle flushed them all here. Into this wasteland. Including that first artifact – a 17th Century sailing ship's prow.
The Bermuda Triangle was natural time portal that Dwyer's project was trying to enhance and control, at a fraction of the cost and size of Hope Plaza, totally in secret, and would only benefit The Organization, with no false hope or pretense of the publicly advertised benefit and hope for mankind. Everyone knew there was no hope.
And when it was ready, it would transport the means to give the final solution to Taylor's little band of misguided 'do-gooders'.