This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The Catholic Church attempts to use time travel and a Jewish nonbeliever to prove the reality of Jesus.
The portal sat alone on the far side of the room and a few feet away from an unplastered, brick wall. Its metal frame reflected the light being projected from the nearer, brighter and busier side of the room. That reflective surface was plain except for the logo, T.M.C. identifying the equipment as the property of the Time Management Corporation.
Bundles of cable, inches thick, ran from the portal’s base and into openings in the wooden floor. They returned to the surface and connected to seven automated stations on the opposite end of the room where 5 women and 4 men were positioned before the equipment. The expressions on their faces, lit by the small screens and glowing dials, verified their intent focus. Occasionally they’d murmur over the digital readouts and adjust the settings at their stations.
Standing apart from the others, two more men spoke with the same intent expressions. One was clean shaven with short gray hair brushed back and close to his scalp. He wore a dark, charcoal colored suit, a crisp, lighter grey oxford, and a tie of red and orange. The tie glowed like flame on his chest as he spoke quickly and seriously with his companion.
The companion’s appearance contrasted greatly. He wore a beige, hand sewn, linen robe, a dark prayer shawl and rough, leather sandals. His beard and hair were full. Both were long enough to brush against his chest and back. His hair was bound by a woven clasp. Both men were consumed in their conversation, ignoring the team and equipment around them.
On a balcony above, 2 women and 2 men watched. The woman nearest the railing wore a blue jacket and skirt which were expertly tailored for her. A cobalt blue broach, worn at her throat, contrasted beautifully with her yellow blouse, and matched her suit perfectly.
The other woman and the younger man were similarly attired although not as expensively.
The older man wore slacks and a turtle neck under a lab coat and was the only one not seated. Standing near the balcony’s rail, he alternated between fidgeting in place, checking his watch, and pacing. He stopped and stared toward the two men conversing on the level below as he realized, again, that he was making a spectacle of himself. A situation worsened by his audience. He winced as the woman at the rail looked at him with an annoyed expression and spoke.
“Dr. Marx, take a seat. Your pacing and fidgeting aren’t going to speed things up. Neither will it have any effect on Mr. Pine’s report once his transition is complete.” When Marx didn’t move she added, “Please,” and waved him toward a chair.
Now annoyed and embarrassed, Peter Marx took a seat and looked again toward the portal before checking his watch. He was relieved when the younger man asked the question that had been prying at his lips.
“I wonder what’s slowing things up?”
“Please…” the suited woman answered, directing her response to all present. “…you know as well as I that, despite being presented as linear on the transition screens, the time flow is occasionally difficult to lock on to. This jump is also near the extreme of our transition limit. Our team is less than 30 minutes behind their expected schedule. I’m sure it won’t be much longer before Mr. Pines transitions.”
“Yes, I’m sure you’re correct Dr. Watters…” the young man answered with an easy smile. “…but while the delay hasn’t been excessive, it has been of an unusual duration. My concern is that Dr. Kurns and Mr. Pines...”
“Will be unhappy with the delay?” Watters asked as she shifted toward the balcony rail and looked down at the two men who were still in deep conversation. “They seem to be unconcerned and putting the delay to good use.” Shifting back to her original position she appeared willing to consider the matter closed.
“Yes…” the young man conceded. “My concern however is that…”
“The program might suffer?” she asked.
The young man’s easy smile widened and he bowed slightly. “Yes, that is my concern. If…”
“The program is at risk either way,” Marx interrupted. “A mechanical malfunction could shut us down for months, and fuel the Believer’s arguments.”
Again, Watters responded. “While complicating an already sensitive issue, the additional tensions from a malfunction would be minor.”
Marx interrupted again, “Possibly. A negative report from Pines, or Dr. Kurns however could permanently…”
“We, meaning the board, understand your concern,” Watters replied. “It is shared by all of us, but there is no problem with the equipment. If you remember, last month Dr. Todd’s transition was delayed by better than 50 minutes with no effect on the success of his transition. The targeted time point will not evade our team. I’m sure Dr. Kurns, and Mr. Pines understand that any delay is for the benefit of the transitioner’s safe travel and is not an issue of concern.”
“Although if he doesn’t leave, he can’t return to file…” the younger man began.
“That would benefit the company little more than a negative report. This issue cannot be avoided.
“The transition will happen. Our equipment works perfectly. It’s the report that concerns me.” Marx interrupted, unable to stop himself. He forced himself not to flinch as Watters rolled her eyes.
“We are not the only ones who realize the importance of our work here,” she replied as she leaned forward and visually checked the team of scientists manning the equipment again. She considered calling to ask about the delay, but the team was clearly giving their every effort. Also, she did not want to fuel the already heightened tensions on the balcony. Keeping her expression casual, she studied the team members below. Each was either at one of the stations or running calculations on their individual data pads. An interruption requesting their status would be less than helpful. Sitting back into her seat she sighed knowing that any answer the team provided would do nothing to calm the nerves of her colleagues on any event
“This Christ nonsense is no longer a concern for the vast majority of the public,” Marx declared. I still don’t understand how Kurns and his people managed access to our equipment, let alone how they’ve gained and held, the ear of the Time Board. That they were permitted to take the next three slots has upset the timing of several projects…” Marx’s eyes met Dr. Watters and he almost fell silent. Taking a breath, he continued, but in a calmer tone. “In my opinion such foolishness shouldn’t have been given any consideration, let alone priority.”
Watters shook her head. “Then you haven’t given it the matter the thought it deserves.”
Taken back by the rebuke, Turns glared at her for a moment before composing himself and forcing his features into a relaxed expression.”
“Yes, religion has faded in the minds of many, but many others are of the opinion that the fading has cost our civilization a great deal. Apparently the majority of the poor need the reassurances that faith can provide. Also, to a lesser extent, the threats that faith includes. There are still many believers doctor, and more than you’ve chosen to acknowledge. “In God We Trust” is after all still imprinted on all of our legal currency, and there is outrage anytime a move is even rumored at removing it. These, Believers are all around us, and many of them have both power, and wealth. Since they accomplished the Board’s attention, consideration, and immediate access to our equipment, clearly they deserve a higher degree of respect than you are allowing. Possibly more.”
“Respect! More!” Marx all but shouted. My leap was planned and scheduled months ago.”
“And you’re acting like a child who’s been jumped in line. Their objections to our program aside, consider, if they prove their suspicions. While your transition could resolve questions that have been puzzling some scholars for years, the Believers’ findings will have a profound effect on all of mankind. No matter what they find.”
Marx guffawed loudly as he looked back at Watters and then scanned the rest in the group. Their disapproving expressions sobered him again as Watters spoke.
“I want this kept in strictest confidence.” She scanned the group and did not continue until each of them had nodded their acquiescence. “These persons, who are referring to themselves as “Believers”…” Marx grunted but made no other interruption. “They have not made it public knowledge, for obvious reasons, but they have funded much of our program, and are major stockholders in the corporation.”
Wide eyed, Marx attempted to speak but found himself, for a change, at a loss for words.
“It’s true,” Watters continued with a nod. “They don’t advertise their involvement, in part, because their support counters their objections. The Believers have cited their position many times at corporate meetings but have stopped short of any attempt at stopping the program.”
“And now we know why!” Marx blurted out.
Watters tightened her eyes and he fell silent once more. “Their most stringent objection is our, playing, their word, at being Gods. They also repeated their concerns regarding risks to the time line.”
“And yet, they…” Marx began and then surrendered as she continued.
“When they submitted their request for Pine’s journey, no one cited the contradiction as it would have been pointless. It is practically their equipment after all. Also, it has been their funding which allowed our research to extend our reach into the past. Your journey would not be possible without them.
Watters paused letting her announcement sink in. After a few moments she added. “Despite our own beliefs, or for many of us, our lack of them, the possible benefits to the Believer’s efforts cannot be denied.”
“If they’re right,” Marx muttered with distain.
Ignoring the comment, Watters glanced toward the lower level again. She nodded slightly as she noted the sequence of lights on the main control station. “They’ll be ready for transition in moments,” she announced. Turning back to Marx, she stated, “They also asked about you Peter.” Marx started at her use of his first name. “This morning, if Pine’s journey is successful, they intend to offer to finance additional journeys for you in return for your transitioning on their next scheduled journey.”
Again, Marx found himself speechless. After a moment, he managed, “Me! They want me to…”
“Think about it,” Watters interrupted. “Before becoming distracted by your latest project, you were one of their strongest opponents. It is wise of them, despite their extreme dislike of you…”
“I merely expressed the scientific viewpoint,” Marx stated indignantly.
“With extraordinary enthusiasm,” Watters remarked. “And you sought out every opportunity to do so in very public forums.”
“Their position risked interference with our work. I was merely,”
“Protecting your field of study yes, although that reasoning was rarely made apparent. To the general public, you were the Believer’s staunchest opponent. Your motivation appeared limited to expressing and convincing your listeners to disregard the Beliver’s position. You were certainly very distracting, and you did generate converts.”
Frowning, Marz objected. “I was attempting no conversions. I found myself in a situation of publicly supporting my own position and…”
“And the notoriety had many benefits.”
“It…” Marx began.
“…helped your cause,” Watters finished for him. “When Dr. Kurns, the liaison between the Believers and our board, approached T.M.C.’s scheduling panel, he noted your name on the transition list and asked about your project.”
“Why!” Marx asked as he stood. “Is preempting my slot some kind of petty…”
“Relax Peter,” Watters pled as she waved him back into his seat. “Dr. Kurns quickly redirected to his own purpose. Your project deals with a very near time point which indicates that your training and experience leave you well suited to manning their journey. Your difference of opinion regarding their goal makes you an appealing candidate as well. Clearly they believe you would be converted during the journey.” Marx’s eyes bulged. “I would not be surprised to learn that your involvement had immediately occurred to him.”
“Well he’ll have to…” Marx’s retort was cut off as the transition equipment on the lower level came to life and Pines hurried toward the Portal.
One of the team members stood holding the transparent door of the portal open for the robed man, Mr. Pines, who stepped in without hesitation. Immediately the door was closed and the team member rushed back to his station.
Within the Portal, and around Pines, there was a faint swirl of color and light. Pines held his position and waited as the light brightened slightly. A voice sounded from the speakers on the first level. “Mr. Pines?”
He Nodded and raised his right thumb.
“Four, three, two, one, mark!”
On signal, Pines seemed to dim within the light. The darkness behind him seemed to solidify until there was a sudden distortion. Pine’s body position changed and a dirty stain appeared on this robe slightly below his right knee. Slightly out of focus he held his position as the blur faded. Once it did, other changes became visible. The hem of his robe was also dirty. His beard was less well gromed than it had been before he entered the portal. Also, a scroll was now sticking out of one of his pockets.
“Perfect,” Watters sighed as Marx’s lips tightened.
As those on the balcony stood at the rail, Pines opened the door himself and stepped away from the portal. As everyone not focused on the transition equipment watched him, he hurried toward Kurns. “Sir, are you alright?” Someone on the first level asked.
Pines nodded as he hurried across the room. “I must speak with you,” he urged as he took Kurn’s arm. The two moved beneath the balcony and beyond the view of those above.
“Your impression?” Watters asked as she stood beside Marx.
“He’s excited.” Marx responded with no excitement of his own.
“Yes. I expect Dr. Kurns will want to speak to you after he’s been briefed.” Retaking her seat, she activated the intercom on the table beside her chair. “Barry?”
“Yes Ma’am,” a voice answered.
“Record your transition data and shut down the equipment. I’ll need your report in no more than four hours. Prepare for another transition possibly as early as tomorrow, although I doubt it.”
“What time?” Barry’s voice asked.
“No sooner than early afternoon.” Closing the connection, she steepled her fingers and began to wait for Kurns’ summons. Twenty minutes later it came, as she and Marx waited in her office. The phone’s receiver to her ear, she listened. Her expression was one of intense interest. Her eyes held on an empty space across the office as she replied several times. “I see… Yes... Yes, we’ll be right there.” Replacing the receiver she looked toward Marx but activated the intercom. “Barry?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Barry’s voice responded.
Stand down the tomorrow’s transition. It will be several days. I’ll notify you of the new date as soon as it is decided upon.”
As she’d spoken, Watters had noted Marx’s expression as it shifted from a smile after she cancelled the next day’s transition to confusion as she stated that it was only delayed. Her eyes remained on his face as she broke the connection.
After several seconds, Marx asked, “Well?”
“Dr. Kurns would like you to accompany me.”
Marx swallowed audibly. “Then…”
She stood and started walking. “Let’s find out.”
As they entered the conference room, Kurns and Pines looked over from the large table at which they were sitting. The expressions on their faces quickly resolved any question regarding the success of the transition. Kurns waved Watters and Marx to the table and with no other acknowledgment continued with their excited conversation. He asked, “And the route?”
“It had not been specified. Nor had the site of the crucifixion, but we’ve already verified the site from history. Golgotha’s exact location, and the most common routes Pilot’s centurions used to approach it, are recorded here.” Pines lifted his quadcorder from the table. “The memory sticks are almost filled with my notes along with detailed maps of the city. I’ve marked the two routes they will most likely use.”
Connecting the device to the computer before him, he paused as the data loaded. “I’ve recorded in all four of the quadcorder’s media, video, audio, stills, and text.” Holding up the scroll which had been visible in his pocket at the transition lab, he continued. “It was tedious to generate the map with the necessary detail in the corder. I hand wrote it on this papyrus and photographed it.” He smiled, “Since bringing my work was still an option, I did.”
Excellent Matt,” Kurns’ praised. Show me!”
Pines passed the map as the computer chimed. Returning his attention to the terminal he began typing commands as Kurns partially unrolled and studied the map. His expression was joyful.
“Here it is,” Pines announced as, on a blank portion of one of the walls a roughly created but detailed map of ancient Jerusalem appeared.
“Beautiful Matt! Beautiful!” Kurns sighed as he put down the hand drawn version and stared at the projection.
After an hour of presentation, Pines paused and smiled. “Now the meat of my journey. I’ve got interviews with several who met Christ. Their words and expressions are recorded here.”
“And Christ himself,” Kurns interrupted. “He is also captured here?”
Pines shoulders sagged as he shook his head, “Yes, but only from a distance. It was a great disappointment to me, but I was never able to get close to him. The crowds were thick and eager… and He moved much more quickly through them that I could manage.” Pines paused and met Kurn’s eyes. “It is difficult to explain but…” His gaze lowered to the table top and then back up as his eyes teared. “…it seemed that I was kept from getting close to him. Every time I was delayed, or misdirected. He never let me…” He shook his head. “No, I can’t believe it was purposeful. I am both a believer and a follower. He would not have...”
“What do you mean Matt?” Kurns asked as he leaned forward.
“Despite the crowds, I should have been able to reach him. Instead when I’d try, others would get through while I was diverted. Christ would suddenly be much further away or off in a different direction.”
Shaking his head, Pines recovered his enthusiasm. “But I heard him. I recorded his words. I felt him enter my heart. It was beautiful! And everyone there felt it too.” He sighed. “The recordings aren’t as powerful. There was little noise from the crowd but the wind and distance…”
“We’ll listen to them.”
With new fervor, he leaned forward and took Kurn’s hand. “There is more than enough to support another journey, including Roman proclamations, and protestations of the Jews, both at temple and in the streets. The High Priests used Christ’s name as they attempted to discredit him… But it’s the stories I heard, spoken by him, in his words. He was the Jesus of the bible. The son of God!”
Settling back into his chair, Kurns sighed contentedly, savoring for a few seconds their triumph. Sitting forward again he asked. “And what else is contained in your videos and stills?”
Pines smiled and began typing new instructions into the computer as he spoke. “Most of the disciples, including Peter and Judus, Mary Magdalen, the high priests including Caiaphas and Annas..”
“Excellent Matt,” Kurns congratulated. “You’ve done all we’ve asked of you and more.” Smiling broadly, Pines nodded and prepared to speak, but Kurns asked first, “Are you tired?”
“No sir. I couldn’t rest if I tried. The data I’ve brought back with me…”
“Yes, I’m very eager to see it.” Patting Pines on his shoulder, Kurns stood and continued. “I want you to let the doctors give you their obligatory exam. Once they are done, if you still do not want to rest, I want you to eat something and then begin to prepare your data.”
“Pines eyes narrowed slightly and flashed for a moment to Marx before looking back at the screen. “Yes sir. The exam should take no more than twenty minutes. I can have the data ready in under two hours.”
“Thank you Matt, but don’t push yourself. You’ve done an incredible job! Time is on our side. We’ll talk more when you’re ready.”
Pines nodded as Kurns turned toward Marx.
Five minutes later the two men sat alone at a large table in another room. Kurns sat in a casual posture on one side of the table, a rosary in his hands. He fingered the beads as he earnestly looked into Marx’s eyes. Marx sat with his back away from his seat. His expression was almost angry as he spoke. “But none of that proves he is who you believe him to be!”
“Precisely,” Kurns responded. “That is why we need another journey. We must capture his crucifixion, and his return to life. The world is slipping closer and closer to the abyss. You know what’s happening out there. The value of life is depleting, morals on every front are failing. God’s people are losing their grip. We must go beyond faith to save them.”
“I thought faith was imperative for salvation. Isn’t that what your church teaches?” Before Kurns could respond, he continued, “There will still be those who won’t believe. Hell, even with recordings it’ll still require faith. A video can be faked as easily as it can record the truth.”
“Yes, and the Hebrews faith failed even after passing through the Red Sea. We understand that it will remain a difficult path. That a completely successful journey will not solve all of our problems, but we will do what we can. We must.” Kurns paused. “You know why we’re asking you.”
Marx frowned. “Yes, your selection makes perfect sense although it is a gamble. I do not believe. I do not expect to.”
“But if you see Him. If you watch Him die, and then see Him alive again. Can your disbelief survive that? Will you accept the truth if it is put before you incontestably?”
“I do not believe it will be.”
Kurns paused, nodding with contained excitement. “I understand. We are both scientists. Our constant pursuit is for the truth. This is no different, although monumentally more important, if true. More so than any other truth you’ve attempted to prove…” Kurns smiled. “…or disprove. We do not however demand proof. We are asking only that you determine the truth. If you cannot, we will be disappointed yes. If your evidence seems to prove the opposite, I don’t know that we’ll be deterred, but I swear that we will honor our agreement. Also, we will not seal your report. We will finance your journey and you may disperse your findings as you see fit.
“Whatever I find?” Marx asked. Studying Kern’s expression, he said, “You’re so certain.”
Kerns smiled. “Faith Mr. Marx.” Leaning forward in his seat, his eyes widened earnestly as he continued. If, upon your return, you are convinced as we are that Jesus is the son of God, then we hope you will join us in saving the world.”
The next morning, both rested, they continued their discussion.
Our Lord was much more generous to our ancestors, as cited again and again in the bible. Moses at the Red Sea, Abraham, Lazarus, the healing of lepers, the blind. They were allowed to speak directly to God. Before, during, and after Jesus was on earth the faithful, the apostles and others were witness to many miracles. Today miracles still occur, but they are far less public and are attacked as misrepresented by those representing science…” Kurns nodded toward Marx who stiffened. “No attack Dr. Marx. I’m simply stating the facts. Such events have been attacked by those that don’t believe, or ignored, including by the media. Few of the public are therefore exposed to them in an unbiased form or at all. Our individual faith today is offered little support…”
“Isn’t that is the nature of faith?” Marx interrupted. “As I see it, proof…”
“I have a very vivid understanding of how you see it Dr. Marx. That is why you are so appealing to us for this journey. If we were to send a Believer, disbelievers like you would have no motivation to accept. If you on the other hand are converted on this journey, your word would be immeasurably more convincing.”
“And if I’m not converted. If what I bring back is not what you hope or what you believe the world needs,” Marx asked.
“I have already said that we will stand by our promise. If this doesn’t end as we pray it will, then we will have to find another way, or await another opportunity. We will have to pray the world survives until it does. God loves us. He wants us to love him in return. One cannot love if one does not believe.” With a sigh, Kerns settled back in his chair. “God will provide all that we need, and we will hold true to our arrangement with you. We will graciously accept God’s decision, whatever he provides.”
Marx nodded and then asked, “And if your “truth” isn’t proven, to your satisfaction?
Life is full of temptations, selfishness, unkindness. Human kind is turning on itself. Wars, murders, all forms of injustice. Humanity is failing. We need a purpose beyond self or we will not survive. Faith is difficult to retain amongst such strife. We, as a people, need to believe. Every argument has been used to discredit the church. The church has often assisted in that degradation but in more ways it has helped us survive.”
Marx shook his head. “We, humanity, have survived over two and a half thousand years. We are resilient. The church has only weakened us.”
“I disagree. It is true. The church is not a perfect institution.” He shrugged. “It is run by man. That is its greatest weakness. But among its mistakes, it has guided. Sometimes too strenuously, sometimes for the wrong goals. Faith is difficult to maintain. If we can convince, strengthen it, we can turn things around. Save ourselves.
“However this transition ends, whether your beliefs are proven or not, will you allow the journeys to continue? Will you even permit my journey, let alone finance it!”
Kurns nodded. “It is not our intention to stop the very activity that may allow us to save ourselves. Our concern is that transitions are done safely, carefully. If our beliefs are proven, the program will continue, although under stricter constraints. Journeys will continue, including yours.”
“And if not? If this mission is a failure?”
“Then I suspect our involvement with Time Management will lessen, but our funding will be maintained. Our faith will not be shaken, and this science might yet give us the proof we need to accomplish the world’s survival. In either event we will provide the the promised financing for your transitions."
Marx frowned in silence for several moments. “Tell me exactly what you want me to do.”
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