“…it didn’t work! I knew I should’ve stayed behind and made sure he didn’t re-start the project, but he just couldn’t help himself! With all the chronoporting I’ve been doing, I’m starting get confused how many times I’ve done this! I’m afraid I’m getting farther and farther from the reality I was born in…
“Ok, so that means I’ll have to chronoport once again to his exact time-line and make sure he doesn’t even think about sketching out his plans on a paper napkin in the first place! Kind of like, why not take out Hitler when he was a baby before he even had a chance at committing the Holocaust! But, then one would run into the problem of morality of murdering a child—that had done nothing wrong! At least, to that point in the child’s life…
“Then there’s the time-line, itself, that would be changed! That one piece of fabric—no matter how despicable!—was one of the threads that made up the time-line that I was born into…So, like with the analogy of Hitler, what would change in my time-line if I were to accomplish this? Not that I’m trying to compare him to Hitler—for obvious reasons, he’s not! But...he opened the door to those who are almost as destructive, so isn’t that kind of the same?
“Also, it’s getting harder for me to get the necessary parts for the SCRs for me to chronoport. It’s not as easy as the first few times I’ve chronoported…I suspect that those same Anarchists have been doing what I’ve been doing: jumping in back and forth into this time-line; trying to change things! I think they’ve been tinkering with some of the history of technological feats just to make it harder for me to find the required hardware to assemble the SCRs, so that I cannot chronoport anymore. And if that is the case, then we are all in for a lot more trouble than we’ve even imagined—”
“I’ve got to go…someone’s coming! This is not the place for me to be seen. If I’m seen, that, too, will alter our time-line! If you don’t hear from me after this message…it, it probably means this time around I failed…again. But this time, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back, so you might have to draw up plans to send someone else to replace me.
“We cannot let him develop this project! If you do send someone else, I suggest commander Tadosh…he’s always proven a standup soldier under my command…Dr. Darcy Toole; First Commander within Pangea. 2008.”
Seattle, Washington; Spring of 2008; Monday morning…
Cheri Fillmore, executive assistant of Miracles, Inc., was conducting a quick tour of the company’s towering skyscraper. The 95-story edifice was just north of the downtown area of Seattle.
The corporation specialized in space engineering and had a myriad of contracts from both the government and private sectors. The majestic Miracles Tower certainly reflected the company’s reputation.
“Now, as you can see from the size of our Accounting office alone that Miracles, Inc. is a very large player in the research and development field, not just in the application of science…”
Cheri took the large group of new employees down a bustling hallway in the middle of the skyscraper. The Accounting division, like all other divisions within Miracles, had wide windows where the employees were easily seen. This gave the company the impression of transparency, quite literally.
Now the column of people that Cheri led were snaking around a corner and headed to a series of elevators.
“Any questions from those recently hired for the Accounting division,” Cheri asked as she faced the new employees. She was greeted with several people shaking their heads.
After Cheri had pushed a button to an elevator to take the tour down one more floor, she noticed three of the new employees chatting among themselves. They weren’t loud. In fact, they were farther back in the tour. But it was the demeanor that they wore as they spoke. It rubbed Cheri as suspicious. It was something she would have to keep in the back of her mind…
A couple of hours later, the tour group was having lunch in one of the building’s lunchrooms. The group was too large to sit at one table, so they scattered themselves in smaller groups. Cheri, blonde and lanky, worked the tour group. She just had a small sandwich and a soda for herself and was already up and walking around the tables, answering various questions from the group.
“…so, Miracles was the corporation responsible for the Artifice Avatar,” one of the men in the tour at a far table asked Cheri. It had been several minutes since they were discussing the resume of the company.
“Yep,” Cheri said proudly, as she leaned on a nearby table. “Miracles founder, Dr. Patrick McClain, had designed the software. He named it Charles…don’t ask me why!” There was a smattering of chuckles in the group. “Anyway, Charles is basically an Artificial Intelligence interface program designed to react in very human-like emotions.”
“Kind of like the HAL-9000 from the movie ’2001: A Space Odyssey,’ ” one of the women responded as she slurped from her coffee.
Cheri considered the new employee’s words before responding. “Yeah, you could say that. But just mix the HAL program with the 1980s’ Max Headroom and you’d get a better since of the Artifice Avatar.”
This time the group laughed out loud. The juxtaposition of such cultural dichotomy was strange!
Another new employee, a woman in her forties, spoke up from another table in the cafeteria. “Why Miracles, Incorporated?”
Cheri turned to face the woman. “You mean, why did Dr. McClain choose the word Miracles for the name of the company?”
“Well, Dr. McClain—or as most people around the world know him, Miracle McClain—and I talked about this one day. I had suggested to him that, perhaps, we needed to change the name of the corporation to something that was less…oh, I don’t know, less religiously inferred.”
“Obviously he stuck to the name,” another male of the group pointed out with a little chuckle.
“Yeah,” Cheri responded, “yeah, he did. Which is quite ironic, considering that Dr. McClain is a self-described agnostic! He’s always had this thing about today’s scientists being the inheritors of the shamans and the alchemists…that modern scientists are the ones who influence contemporary society in the same way that ancient shamans did in ancient times, or the way that pre-scientists of ancient Europe did before true science was born.”
“You mean that Dr. McClain sees himself as some kind of old wise man on a hill, even though he’s barely into his thirties,” the woman asked with incredulity.
“No, I definitely wouldn’t put it that way,” Cheri clarified. “Think of Patrick more like a Leonardo da Vinci…you know, an artist who was brave enough to try his hand at science. Sometimes it’s a hit and miss game, like some of da Vinci’s scientific ideas. But when it’s a hit, then the ideas can effect society for hundreds of years into the future!”
There was a little stirring among the employees.
“Well, what’s wrong with what I just said,” Cheri questioned with a grin, curious about their reaction.
“If I could say respectfully,” another of the new employees, a young man in his early twenties, now came in, “Dr. McClain is a very rich man who can afford to miss from time to time. And let’s face it, Dr. McClain is a well-educated scientist, not some Bohemian artist who stumbled across an avant-garde concept that changed history! And please don’t misunderstand me, Cheri, I think Dr. McClain’s a great scientist and a great businessperson. But, I’m sorry…I just can’t pretend that a young billionaire of our time has anything in common with an ancient European artist like da Vinci, who had to conceptualize from scratch, so to speak.”
Cheri chuckled to herself. “Fair point, Herald. Look, all that I’m saying is that it takes a special person to be able to do the various scientific projects that Dr. McClain has done with his company. Creating nanotech robots to help amputee patients in hospitals. Creating or discovering chemicals that can help turn bacteria-infested water into drinking water so that poor people around the world can have more drinkable water. Or projects that are cutting edge mechanical feats, like Dr. McClain’s levitating roller coaster rides that were just unveiled in Florida or one of his special space jets that keep on setting records for speed…”
Cheri looked off to a corner of the lunchroom as she quietly shook her head. She not only admired Patrick from a professional standpoint, privately, she had always been attracted to him. He had movie star looks about him and he had a lot of money…two things Cheri had always found attractive in a man with such prowess! It was too bad for her that Patrick was happily wedded. To a beautiful lawyer who taught law, to add insult to injury!
“I think he does miracles,” Cheri said softly with a shrug to the new employees.
Cheri was glad the tour was going so well. But as she looked around the cafeteria, she noticed that same group of three men in her tour that were whispering among themselves by an elevator. They sat by themselves and weren’t sharing in the laughter. It wasn’t so much as them not laughing. Rather, they seemed to be discretely discussing something as one of them looked around the lunchroom. Again, Cheri noticed, they were back in the class—so to speak. Just like many kids do when they did not want attention drawn to them or because they had other interests in mind. Cheri decided to get to know them.
“So, do you think you’ll like it here,” Cheri said to them, surprising them as she had walked up from behind them after going around the lunchroom.
The oldest of the three, probably in his mid-forties, responded. Surprisingly, he had a pleasant attitude.
“Oh, hi…Um, yeah! I think I’ll like it here. I can’t speak for my two friends here, but…” He looked around the lunchroom as he nodded his head. “Yeah, I think I could do well here.”
The other two were younger men. To Cheri, they looked to be in their early- to mid-twenties. She noticed that all of their small milk cartons were mutilated.
“What happened to your milk,” Cheri put to them with a strained face.
“Our what,” again, the older responded with a confused face. He then looked down at all three milk cartons and flinched with understanding. “Oh! Is that what these are? We, uh, had trouble opening them. You’ll have to forgive us. We’re new to this—country.”
“Oh, really,” Cheri said with genuine surprise. “I hadn’t noticed an accent…where are you guys from?”
“Europe,” the middle-ager simply said with a smile.
Cheri stood quietly, giving room for the man to expound upon exactly where in Europe he was from. But he didn’t. He just sat there with, from what Cheri could tell, a manufactured grin. Okay, she thought within herself, I’ll make sure to lock my car doors around you guys!
“Cheri,” she said to them as she held out her hand to shake the older man’s hand. But he did not reciprocate the gesture. In fact, he nervously looked at his companions, leaving Cheri with her arm extended for a period of time.
“I’m Stefan,” one of the younger ones unexpectedly blurted out as he halfway stood up from his chair and shook her hand. He was handsome and buffed. He pointed to the other twenty-something. He, too, was muscular. “This is my friend, Tage.”
Tage stood up fully from his chair, slightly genuflected his head, and shook Cheri’s hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Tage said, again, with an apparent contrived smile.
Cheri shook his hand with a blank look on her face. The two younger ones finally sat down as the oldest of the three stood and introduced himself.
“I’m Drogheda,” he said, finally shaking Cheri’s hand.
“So, where are you guys going to work within Miracles?”
“I’ve been hired as an office clerk in the Accounting division,” Drogheda informed, now seated.
Cheri silently nodded her head as she looked to the two other men at the table. “What about you two?”
“I’m with the Maintenance division,” Tage said, “as a janitor.”
“And I’m the new courier,” Stefan simply stated.
“Okay,” Cheri said after a long pause, “it was interesting meeting you three.”
Cheri had turned to grab another soda from a soda machine until Drogheda called out to her, making Cheri pivot on her heels.
“Um…Ms. Fillmore…I have a rather esoteric hobby in science. You know, I like to read Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Discover magazine…So, I was just curious if part of today’s tour would take us to Dr. McClain’s laboratory?”
Now Cheri was frowning and began to tense up.
“Dr. McClain’s lab is off-limits to the general public,” she said very deadpan. “I know it’s been rumored in the media that he has some secret laboratory where he does miracle science, but the truth is, it could be anywhere! My guess is the lab is in one of Seattle’s suburbs—you know, away from overly-curious people, such as yourself.”
“Even to those who are employed at—“
“Drogheda, I’m an executive of Miracles, Inc. and I’ve never been there.”
With that, she turned once again and got her soda and went to another table of new recruits. The three men glance at one another and remain quiet the rest of the lunch break.
There was a knock on Dr. Patrick McClain’s office door. He was in the middle of dictating some instructions to his Artificial Intelligent virtual agent, Charles. When the knock on the door was heard, they both looked at each other, startled…at least, that’s what Charles did a good job of imitating. Patrick jumped out of his posh chair and walked over to the door and opened it.
“Cheri, what are you doing here,” Patrick asked tersely. “I thought you were training new support staff!”
“Hi, Charlie,” she said to the avatar. The cartoon-like character winked back at Cheri with a smile that was not fit for family hour on television. Many men in the corporation were attracted to Cheri, even this virtual one.
Patrick swung the door open and let Cheri march in, obviously in her power-mode.
“Pat, Senator Taylor is here!”
“What! What does he want?”
“He didn’t say…he’s supposed to be on his way to Australia but said he wanted to swing by here and talk with you first!”
Patrick slapped one of his hands over his mouth and began to pace in his luxury penthouse office. Cheri looked at him with a worried face and waited to see what this thirty-something year old, financial wizard would do. He often liked to refer to modern technology and science in terms of magic or miracles and like to call himself a wizard. In fact, he had designed Charles in the icon of wizards—an old-looking man with a white beard, a sloping conical hat, and a magician’s gown is how Charles looked.
“Okay, Cheri, here’s what we’re going to do: have Sonya take over for you in the training at the Personnel Department and I want you to fill in for me at the board meeting—I was just preparing my notes for it with Charles right before you came.”
“Okay, Pat…do you want me to let him come up or do you want to see him downstairs?”
Patrick thought for a moment. “Where is he now?”
“On the first floor lobby,” she stated.
“I think I’ll meet him down there…you know, less private, he’s less likely to hang around with the public stirring about.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Cheri quipped as she turned and headed for the door.
A few minutes later, Dr. McClain had walked out of one of the elevators as he stepped out into the first floor lobby. Senator Myron Taylor, chairperson of the Science and Space Committee of the U.S. Senate, was already waiting for him. The tall, robust elderly man was in dark suit and tie. He spoke with a southern drawl. Patrick, by contrast, was a medium-height, very slender man with sandy-blond hair and was dressed in business-casual. He spoke with a flat accent, if one were to call it that, given that he had grown up in Seattle.
“Senator, good to see you again!” Patrick said this as they both shook hands.
“How are you doing, Pat?”
“Well, pretty good…Samantha’s still teaching at the University, I’m staying busy with Miracles…”
“You can say that again! I’m still seeing your pretty face on the news back in D.C. with all your scientific stunts that you pull, McClain. Speaking of which, Pat…”
The Senator gently took Patrick by one of his forearms and pulled him to the side of the bustling lobby. Patrick knew this meant trouble.
“Listen, Pat, I’m actually on my way to Australia for other national matters. Since my flight’s taking me through Seattle, I just saw the opportunity to swing by and have a bit of a talk with you.”
“Well, what’s on your mind, Senator?”
Senator Taylor inhaled and then blew out a soft sigh as he looked around the busy lobby. “Patrick, some of my colleagues have been doing some whisperings of late. Your company has been doing several contracts with the Federal government for several years now, but this is the first time that any of the members of the Science and Space Committee have been voicing concerns!”
“Concerns about what,” Patrick asked with as much respect as he could at that time.
“Well…let’s start with all this plutonium Miracles has purchased recently. Pat, this is the post-nine-eleven era, corporations can’t afford to even look like you’re engaged in anything that could be interpreted as terroristic! And then there’s all the satellites you bought from various governments, with some special zoning rights for them in space for goodness’ sakes!” The Senator looked at the young man with strained eyes. “Patrick, what’s going on here?”
Patrick was on good enough speaking terms with the Senator that he could pat him on the back and talk with him as an equal. “Myron, trust me, I’m as patriotic as they come. I wouldn’t sell-out our government to even a friendly nation in regards to my contracts with the Federal government. But, Senator, I respectfully say that some things are still off-limits to Big Brother. I’m currently working on a project that is private in nature. This time, Myron, the Feds don’t have a hand in my cookie jar, what I’m working on is for Miracles and Miracles only.”
The Senator didn’t so much as blink an eye after Patrick’s speech.
“Then, please tell me that you’re doing all the essential filings with the FCC for the satellites—and I mean all of them, Pat.”
“I mailed them off just a week ago…”
“I’m glad to hear that, Pat. You are right about keeping your personal business to yourself. But as the ranking member in the Senate’s Science and Space Committee, Pat, I still have an obligation to warn you to watch where you get your materials…remember, there are a lot of people in this world with dangerous ideas, Dr. McClain.”
The Senator gave a loose salute to Patrick, turned, and walked out of the lobby. Patrick shook his head as he sighed. He walked over to the bank of elevators and headed back to his penthouse office.
Later that evening, Patrick stayed in his office late. It was around ten o’clock at night when he left the office. Earlier, he had called his wife, Samantha, and warned her that it would be another all-nighter for him. Just as well, for she had several essays she had to grade for her university students in the law college.
Patrick left his 95th floor office open for the cleaning person to have access to it. He saw a young man dressed in a maintenance jumper suit pushing a cleaning cart with a mop bucket and other cleaning supplies on it. He wore a neck badge with his photo and identification on it.
“How’s it going,” Patrick greeted the worker with a firm nod of his head.
The young man barely glanced at Patrick, until he noticed who he was. He then shined a broad smile and went up to Patrick and shook his hand…for a long time.
“Dr. McClain, it is great to work for you, even as a janitor!”
“Well, thank you…” Patrick was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the janitor holding on to his hand for so long. Patrick craftily slid his hand away from his. “What’s your name?”
“Tage, sir,” the young man said as he held up his id badge and showed it to Patrick.
“Tage, huh…? Is that European? I’ve been there several times on different projects.”
“Uh…yes, yes it is. So, you invented the Miracle Mach Speedster! That’s a pretty incredible jet, if I may say so, sir.”
“Oh, thanks. It took quite a bit of fumbling at first, but my team and I finally got it after a few years.”
“Think it’ll ever go to the Moon,” Tage asked with shifty eyes.
Patrick gave out a sharp laugh. “No, it’s not quite that advanced. But, eventually, those of us in the aeronautics field would like to build a re-usable craft that can go to space and back as easily as airplanes fly in the air.”
The janitor’s smile melted a bit, as did his voice. “Oh…you never know how far our decisions effect history, Dr. McClain.”
Patrick’s own smile melted after seeing how serious Tage was. Tage just stood there, looking at the young billionaire. He was starting to make Patrick feel uncomfortable.
“Hey, listen,” Patrick finally said as he began to walk off, “I’d better get going…welcome to Miracles, Inc., Tage.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, Dr. McClain.”
Tage wheeled the cleaning cart to Patrick’s opened office.
Even after a long day at his regular office, Patrick yet had hours more work to do. He got off the elevator and walked out onto the first floor lobby and walked past one of the guards as he made his rounds. They chatted for a few seconds then they went their separate ways. The guard went to the circulation desk to join another guard there, with the bank of surveillance monitors underneath the circular counter top, while Patrick secretly made his way to the back of the lobby. He made sure to glance back in the guards’ direction to make sure that even they did not see where he went.
It was a hidden door, built right into the wall of the lobby. A very large, potted plant was always there to cover up the door, so Patrick slid passed the plant and held up his id card to a certain part of the wall. After he had done so, the smooth door quickly slid open with a hiss, revealing a darkened stairwell. Patrick rushed inside and the door automatically hissed to a close behind him. Again, automation was at work. After the door closed, lights winked on in the stairwell. Patrick descended the stairs until he reach, yet, another secured, hidden door that required his id badge to open it. After that door, there was a long, meandering hallway that took the entrepreneur to one more door. Again, Patrick presented his badge and the door opened.
The scene behind the door was a fully operational laboratory that was filled with life. Scientists, approximately fifty in total in the lab, were running around with note pads, palm pilots, or cell phones on hand, while many more were stationed at computer terminals. Many printing machines were spewing out reams of paper with information that only a geeky scientist would see as art. At one of the lab sections, there were about ten monitors with pictures of space with all its blackness and pinpointed, white stars. A couple of the screens showed Earth.
It was a noisy laboratory. Patrick’s special scientific team was in the middle of running tests on his latest mad scientist project. It was called the Solar Unlimited. The basic idea behind it was unlimited solar energy from the Sun via Dr. McClain’s specialized satellites that he had purchased not too long ago. The satellites would soak up some of the Sun’s energy and beam it back down to Earth. In turn, that beamed energy would be caught by a special receptor, called the Solar Converter Receiver, or SCR. What was nice about the project, and likely to be its biggest selling point, was that anyone with the SCR was able to receive large amounts of solar energy at any time…day time or night time!
The potential financial benefits to Patrick and his corporation from the Solar Unlimited were also unlimited. But the societal impact on the world from his project were incalculable…
“How did we do on this round of tests, Thomas,” Patrick asked one of the managing scientists in the beehive.
“Oh…hey, Pat.” The scientist had his back to him looking at the results on a computer. “We did excellent! Our Receiver handled the Sun’s energy load just fine without any power surges…all of our satellites remained in perfect formation during the whole test…”
“So, why do you have that worried look on your face?”
Thomas, a heavy man with boyish looks, finally pivoted his chair around to fully face Patrick. “What are you talking about, Pat? I told you, we did excellent.”
“Tommy, I’ve known you the longest out of all these people here…I can tell when you have something on your mind.”
Thomas nodded his head in consent. “Okay, there was a little anomaly that showed up that was also there in the last three tests…it was a glitch. Just a simple one. But significant enough to lower the energy input from the Sun by five percent.”
“Five percent,” Patrick said as he looked over and pulled up a chair and sat next to Thomas. “How come I didn’t know about this glitch during the last three trials?”
“Well, we’ve ran, what, twenty tests up until that time? What we’re trying to do is very complicated, Pat. Anomalies are expected to show up every now and then…what’s weird about the glitches, though, is the timing.”
“What do you mean?”
Thomas thought on his words before he voiced them. He shifted in his chair as he explained himself, using his hands as if he were using sign language. “Think of our project as a pipeline running all the way from Earth to the Sun…now, each time that we run a test to suck up the Sun’s energy, its like opening up a spigot and we pour out the Sun’s energy to Earth and catch it with the SCR. These glitches I’m telling you about, Pat, are, well…they’re more like someone stealing a drink of water from that pipeline each time that we open it up to let the water out, if you get my analogy.”
Now Patrick shifted in his seat. This was a relatively small matter, but there were larger implications to it. His face was now in a deepened frown. “Yeah…I do get your analogy. But, Tommy, that would mean that someone would have to know exactly—and I mean to the nanosecond—when we are doing our tests! But we’ve been keeping this a secret! In fact, I had to politely tell Senator Taylor to mind his own business earlier today.”
Patrick looked at Thomas with suspicious eyes.
“Hey, McClain, don’t look at me! I love my paycheck and my benefits! Is it possible that someone else in this lab has loose lips? Sure. But can we prove it? Besides, like you said, Pat, for someone to graft onto our experiment at the precise time takes an incredible amount of accuracy…if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was like someone opened a door during our experiment and then shut it after stealing some of our solar energy!”
Patrick sighed as he looked around the busy lab. He ran his hand through his medium-length hair as he thought on the matter some more. “Other than this little mystery, the Solar Unlimited worked all right?”
“Yeah…like I said before, we did excellent. I just suggest that we run at least three more tests to make sure we don’t have any more anomalies.”
“Agreed,” Patrick said as he playfully slapped one of Thomas’ thick arms. Patrick, then, got up from his chair. “Why don’t you all take a break first, and then run two more tests tonight and then three more tomorrow…how does that sound?”
“Sounds good to me, boss. Look, Pat,” Thomas called out to him before he walked away, “there is a possibility those glitches could mean absolutely nothing. It could just be space junk from all those space launches humans have been doing…”
“Tommy, I want you to look at me in the eyes and tell me that’s what you really think those anomalies are.”
“Of course not,” Thomas said without a second’s delay. “But as a scientist, I’m supposed to look at as many possibilities as possible, right?”
Patrick laughed at Thomas’ response. It was so obvious that Patrick should have thought of it as well.
“That’s why I hired you for the top position, Tommy!”
2:30 am, Tuesday morning…
The two additional tests for that evening went on without any glitches whatsoever. Thomas had no explanation for Patrick for the flawless tests. Like Patrick said to the head scientist in the clandestine operation, the next day they would carry out three more tests just to make sure everything was on track.
After the tests, most of the scientists were closing down their computers and grabbing their jackets so they could go home. There were a few stragglers in the lab, but most of them went home. Patrick had another secret doorway that led to the outside so they would not have to walk pass the guards so early in the mornings during over-night experiments on the Solar Unlimited project. Years ago, Patrick knew the long hours it would take to do the experiments, so he hired an architectural firm to retrofit the Miracles, Inc. tower with the secret lab, complete with spy-like hidden doors and surveillance cameras.
“…are you going to get a midnight snack when you get home, Pat,” Samuel, one of the other scientists, quipped with him. Several other scientists that were heading out the other secret exit with them, all laughed hardily.
“Are you kidding? Samantha’s either still grading papers or she’s in bed now...sleeping! One of the last things on her mind—“
Patrick was interrupted by his cell phone chiming. All voices stopped but their feet kept going.
“Who’s calling you this late, boss,” Tracy, another of the scientists, asked.
“I don’t know,” he said as he fished for the phone out of his jacket pocket. When he looked at the sending number on the cell phone’s caller id, he was horrified to see that it came from his penthouse office!
He felt a chill race through his body and goose bumps permeate his skin, but he had to play it off so he wouldn’t alarm his employees.
“Hey…you goons have a nice few hours of sleep,” Patrick said, his voice totally void of his fear. He cleared the call from his phone instead of answering it.
“Everything okay, chief,” asked another scientist.
“Oh, I just got to check something out…good work tonight, everyone!”
There was a chorus of “good nights” and “see yas” as Patrick turned and head back down the tunnel.
Patrick had a bit of a dilemma. He needed to check out who in the world was up in his office, but he didn’t want to be seen by the security guards. Even though he owned the corporation, he could not stop people’s curiosity of what a world famous scientist was doing prancing around a skyscraper’s lobby at 2:30 in the morning! That was a sure way to start rumors that Dr. Patrick McClain was up to another of his scientific discoveries…and the Solar Unlimited was too important for him to risk that! There would be reporters casing the Miracles facility, at least one of his scientists was likely to talk, and word of the project would get out, and next thing you knew, one of Dr. McClain’s competitors would get the principle of what he was working on and expound on his project and get it patented before he did…
After exiting the hidden door that was behind the large plant on the lobby floor, Patrick waited at the corner that led to the hallway of elevators. If the guards were to do a 180-degrees turn, they would see Patrick. To circumvent this, the only thing he could do was tiptoe to the main stairwell across the lobby and walk up one or two floors, then go to that floor’s set of elevators…which he did successfully.
When the elevator he got on finally stopped at the 95-floor, Patrick briskly walked to the front of his office and de-activated the secured door with his id badge—he would later worry about whether or not the guards saw him on the monitors while he was in the hallway. After cautiously opening the door, Patrick slowly looked around the highly priced executive suite with its marbled floor, pricey modern artworks, and beveled glass. And that’s when he saw the stranger in his office.
He was silhouetted against the expansive window that had a knock out view of downtown Seattle, especially at night with all its lights. The man was of small build and was clothed in what looked like military fatigues. He had a beret on and boots, that, Patrick could see from the city lights that filtered into the room.
“This is quite a nice view you have here, Dr. McClain,” the man’s voice projected in the dark, suggesting a deeper volume to it than his physical appearance let on. There was a slight accent to his voice that made Patrick think of either New England or New York City.
Patrick flicked on the lights, which of course drowned out the vista outside of the window, throwing back the glare of the lights in the room. This caused the man to turn and face Patrick. Pat saw that he was around his forties, lean, and definitely was of some military organization, but he did not recognize the uniform to guess what branch. Patrick had been all over the world because of his riches and had seen many military uniforms; this one escaped him.
“I’m sorry to call you on your cell phone, Doctor, but, trust me, the situation you are in warranted the call.”
“Screw the phone call, pal, how did you get in here,” Patrick demanded of him, his face creased with indignation.
The military man’s face brightened with a smile. “It’s a long story, Dr. McClain…I really don’t have much time to explain to you what’s going on, Doctor, and I certainly don’t expect you to believe what I’m about to tell you…”
Patrick’s face only hardened after hearing that. The man continued.
“Please, Doctor, I’m not here to hurt you, your family, nor your employees, even your money does not concern me in the slightest. Now, I’m about to pull out my identification from my pocket. I don’t want you to think I’m about to try anything, okay?”
Patrick simply nodded and slowly approached the man as he took out his badge. He handed it to Patrick and spoke as he looked at the id card.
“My name is Tadosh. I’m a member of a secret service unit called Pangea.”
Patrick handed the man’s badge back to him while he shook his head. “I’ve never heard of it before. But, then again, I assume that’s because it’s secret service.”
“Well…” Tadosh rubbed his hands together after re-placing the id card back into his pocket. He seemed to be thinking about how to put his words together. “…actually, Dr. McClain, Pangea is a global organization.”
“Part of the United Nations?”
“Uh, no. Dr. McClain…you see, I’m from the future, from the year 2287, to be exact.”
Tadosh looked at Patrick straight in the eyes. Patrick snickered harshly, stopped, then looked at him again to see if he was laughing with him. He did not so much as blink an eye.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“I’m afraid so, Doctor. Remember your first question to me, about how I got in here?”
“Have you and your team noticed anything different about your solar energy levels from the Sun?”
Patrick had half-expected this from the man. He knew it couldn’t have been a coincidence that Thomas and the crew in the lab had gotten those glitches, and all of the sudden this strange man pops up, literally, out of nowhere! Patrick nodded in confirmation to Tadosh’s point.
“As a matter of fact, Tadosh, apparently you’ve sucked away five percent of our power each time we ran the last four trials!”
As Patrick had finished his sentence, Tadosh was already shaking his head. “Not quite, Doctor. You’re correct to observe that I had to use some of your solar energy, but I’ve only had to do it once…”
Tadosh quietly looked at Patrick, waiting for him to piece things together. As it was, Patrick was contemplating on something that he, himself, had just said.
“But wait a minute,” Patrick said as he looked away to a corner of his suite, “if you’ve only used our energy flow once—“
“Then who used your solar concentration power the other three times,” Tadosh finished the question for him with a smile. “Ahh, that’s where we get to why I’m here, Dr. McClain, in your time! Pangea sent me here to hunt down and bring some troublemakers back to our time.”
“You mean there are more of you guys?”
Tadosh blew out a pathetic sigh, his brow furrowed. “The people I’m looking for are nothing like me, Dr. McClain! They’re political pariahs, one in particular. He goes by the name of Drogheda. Pangea’s not sure if that’s his real name, but we’ve got him on record for going all over the world and instigating revolts against many existing governments during our original time…you could say he’s a bit of a Nihilist and an Anarchist mixed together in one package. Now he’s trying to do in the past what he started in the late 23rd century! Why exactly, Pangea hasn’t been able to ascertain that part, yet.”
“But how did you guys get here, to 2008,” Patrick asked, yet incredulous about the whole story.
“I thought I already answered that, Dr. McClain…through the solar energy that your experiments produced, via your Solar Unlimited project.”
“No, I understand that! I mean, I just don’t get the connection between time traveling and a simple—“
“Look, Doctor, the details aren’t really important at this time, especially to me. I’m just a soldier doing what I was ordered to do. All you need to know is that your project is what’s giving us from the late 23rd century the ability to chronoport.”
Patrick looked at him with a blank stare. “Chronoport…? Oh, I get it, chrono, as in time, and port, as in a harbor for those who time travel. Gee, that’s just poetic!” Patrick was tired from the long day at work, and now he had to deal with this nonsense.
“Anyway, Doctor,” Tadosh carried on, ignoring Patrick’s sarcasm, “because your invention is the only contraption that is able to open up the door to time travel on Earth at this time, whether you like it or not, your project has become a time catalyst and it must be destroyed.”
“What! Are you freakin’ crazy? I’ve spent several hundred million dollars of my own money on this project and several years on it! I’m not trashing it for something that could turn out to be a—hoax…”
Patrick’s words choked up in his throat after he saw Tadosh brandishing a futuristic gun, and he had its business end pointed right at him!
“Look, Dr. McClain… I don’t want to be the one who goes down in history for killing the great inventor, the Miracle McClain, but if I have to, I will. Sorry, but that was also part of my orders. My superiors anticipated that you would not part with your project, so they told me if I could not succeed at destroying the Solar Unlimited, then I would have to destroy its maker. Haven’t you learned from the great English novelist from the 1800s, Mary Shelley?”
Patrick slowly backed away from the little man with the odd-looking gun, speaking slowly, as though if he had talk too quickly it would set off the gun. “I’m afraid that I’m not much of an enthusiast of English literature.”
“Frankenstein…I’m sure you’ve heard of that.”
“Oh, yes,” Patrick said, still nervous as Tadosh, now, started to slowly walk toward him, backing Patrick into a corner, “…what about it?”
“The creator should never create anything that he or she cannot control…! So, which is it, Dr. McClain?” Tadosh was now only two feet away from him. “Your life, or your—“
“Dr. McClain! Dr. McClain!” It was the security guards.
Somehow they must have detected something wrong, because Patrick explicitly ordered no surveillance cameras in his office. However they pieced what was going on, Patrick was glad to hear them beyond the door to his office, as they now tried to knock down the door with heavy thuds.
Tadosh looked at Patrick with surprised eyes. He then smiled. “Nothing personal, Dr. McClain, I’m just following orders.”
Tadosh then reached his free hand over to the other hand with the gun and pressed a button that was on a wristband covered with high-tech gadgetry. As soon as he did, Tadosh suddenly vanished in a steam of light-blue haze with wisps of electrical arcs floating around, much like the way leaves did on a windy day. The flash was accompanied by a loud fizzling noise that crescendoed up to the point of his disappearance. Patrick must have fallen into a state of shock from the apparition, because after the guards forced the door to his office open, one of them ran to Patrick and waved a hand in front of his eyes and shook Patrick to see if he would respond.
The other guard, a pistol in his hands, began to search the room wildly. Funny how pathetically insignificant the guard’s 21st century gun looks now!, Patrick thought to himself.
“Okay, it’s all clear,” the guard with the pistol acknowledged.
As soon as he said this, Suzan, one of the scientists working on the Solar Unlimited project in the basement, and a couple of other scientists came running into the office and went straight for Patrick. They were the ones who stuck around in the secret laboratory after everyone else left.
“Pat,” Susan explained, “we got a call from Samuel saying that you had gotten a call on your cell…he was checking to see if we had seen you since, and when we told him we had not—“
“Dr. McClain, who were you talking to,” one of the young guards asked tersely to him. He was the one that had checked on Patrick after they burst into the office.
“What…?” Patrick was still a bit dazed.
“Yeah,” the guard persisted, “he said something about the creator shouldn’t create something that he can’t control…I heard him, Dr. McClain! His voice was quite different from yours, so I know it wasn’t you. What was he talking about?”
Oh, crap, the Solar Unlimited!, Patrick thought. “Nothing,” Patrick lied, “he, he was just looking for money.”
Susan and the others looked at Patrick with blank faces. They knew something wasn’t right!
“Where did he go,” the other guard inquired after making another round in the suite. “I don’t see any point of exit except the door!”
The other guard looked on, also expecting to hear something from the Miracle McClain.
“Look…I’ve had a very long day even before the intruder…can’t I just go home for now?”
Both of the guards’ faces relaxed with understanding.
“Of course, Dr. McClain,” the one closer to him said.
“Want me to drive you home, Pat? We can talk about what happened…” Susan asked this with an air of suspicion in her voice that the two guards would not have caught onto. But Patrick knew his people well enough to know when they, too, had something on their minds.
“No, no, that’s all right, Susie. But thanks anyway…come on. Let’s just all go home and get some rest. Carl?”
“Yes, Dr. McClain,” the guard next to him responded.
“Can we get someone to find a new door for my office?”
“Right away, sir! I’ll contact Maintenance.”
The McClains’ private estate, ten miles outside of Seattle, Washington, Thursday morning…
Patrick was downstairs in the living room, watching television when Samantha came downstairs. She was dressed for work at the University of Washington and had her tote bag with her. Patrick, on the other hand, still had his pajamas on and his slippers; a cup of coffee was in one of his hands. He was watching the morning news on an international channel.
Samantha, slightly heavy-set with medium-length, brunet hair, looked at her husband with concerned eyes.
“Aren’t you going in today, Pat?”
“Oh, hey, Hon…I didn’t hear you come down.” Patrick’s demeanor was leveled, but not cheerful either. “No, I decided to take today off. Things have been a bit—tense, lately.”
Samantha went over to the kitchen and poured herself some coffee as well. She filled up her stainless steel travel mug, glanced at the Seattle Times headlines, and went over to where Patrick was sitting. She sat on the arm of the sofa he was on and flashed him a slightly flirtatious smile. His return smile was a bit restrained.
“Sure there’s nothing to talk about? You got home pretty late last night.”
Patrick was quiescent for a brief while, then grabbed the TV remote and put the sound on mute. “Have you ever been in a situation where you weren’t sure someone was telling you the truth, but you suspected that he or she could be? But that same person told you to give up something very important to you, yet, you weren’t sure if it was worth giving that important thing up, because it could be a ruse!”
Samantha frown Patrick’s convoluted retort. “Pat, the way you’ve asked that, it could fit just about any situation! Mind being a bit more specific?”
“Let me guess,” she said; her flirty smile long gone now, “it has something to do with this top secret project you’re doing?”
“Sam, Baby, you know I can’t tell you about that!” Upset, Samantha got up from the sofa and went over to grab her jacket. Patrick kept talking. “Sam…? Look, just trust me on this. It’ll all be worth it! I promise you. Remember, plausible deniability!”
“Pat, I’m not one of your employees that you have to worry about me spilling out your patented secrets,” Samantha said with a lot more gusto in her voice. “I’m your wife, for goodness’ sakes!”
“Sam, we all slip. Remember that time I made the mistake of confiding in your mom about us holding off on getting kids…? Remember? That was my mistake. It has nothing to do with you, Hon, it’s just that people sometimes slip up and tell what we shouldn’t.”
She went over and gave him a quick kiss on the lips, usually a sign that she was still mad at him, but her face had softened a bit after Patrick’s explanation. “Okay, McClain, I’ll let you off the hook for now, but whatever’s on your mind needs to come out somehow. Write it down on paper and then shred up the paper, get your recorder and tape yourself expressing your concerns, then erase it afterwards, try talking to one of your lab assistants who’s involved in this project of yours, that way it would stay in-house…in the long run, if you keep this inside you, you won’t need me or anyone else to expose what you’re up to. You’ll tell on yourself through your mistakes!”
Again, she kissed him, this time a little longer. And she was out the front door.
Patrick kept the TV on mute as he began to think more on his weird experience last night. He was still perturbed at the sight of Tadosh winking out of sight right before his very eyes! There is no way in the world that could have been faked, he thought to himself. He thought about the blue flash and the electrical arcs that appeared upon Tadosh’s vanishing…by-products of some quantum mechanical time machine? It had to be real!
Patrick wondered if Tadosh would suddenly chronoport into his house, pointing that odd gun at him. But then he relaxed once he considered the implications of what Tadosh said to him and realized that Tadosh should not have the ability to do so: the Solar Unlimited project was the time catalyst. Patrick was safe at home and his team was not scheduled to run another test until around noon. Apparently, Tadosh and the three other people from 2287 could only time travel when Patrick and his team were running the project with the solar energy cascading from the Sun…but then, Patrick realized, Tadosh had vanished in his office last night without the Solar Unlimited running!
Difficult, indeed, was the notion of time traveling.
Then there was the question of him killing off his own Frankenstein creation. Even if Tadosh’s story were remotely true, surely Patrick would have to dismantle the Solar Unlimited. He had a moral obligation to, again, if Tadosh’s tale panned out. He couldn’t live with himself knowing that his scientific project, meant to help people all over the world with unlimited solar energy, had a hand in some crazy Anarchist’s plight to create havoc in his time, or in the future!
That morning, Dr. Patrick “Miracle” McClain decided to pull the plug on his monster. All he needed to do, now, was to get dressed and somehow get in contact with Tadosh. Patrick assumed that he would have to go to the Miracles, Inc. building for that. Since he had to leave in such a hurry—in every sense of the word—Tadosh never got around to tell Patrick how to reach him.
Downtown Seattle, at the Miracles, Inc. Tower, Thursday afternoon…
Patrick, dressed casually in jeans, a polo shirt, and a pair of sneakers—it was his way of letting his employees know that he really “wasn’t” there—glided into the lobby of the Miracles building amidst a buzz of dark suits and business dresses. A few of the guests in the lobby recognized Patrick when they saw the young man breeze by. He gave them a complimentary nod and a smile.
“Uh, Dr. McClain…!” It was one of the first shift security guards at the circulation desk. As was standard, there were two of them at the round desk.
Patrick walked over to see what the young man needed. “Hey, what’s going on, guys?”
“Ms. Fillmore was just looking for you.”
“Hmm…did she say—“
Just as Patrick was speaking, his cell phone chimed. He glanced at the caller id field; it was Cheri. Patrick and the two guards laughed at the irony of the timing of the call as Patrick walked off and headed toward the elevators.
“You’ve got impeccable timing, Cheri.”
“Why, where are you?”
“I’m at the elevators on the—“
“Good! Can I see you at Personnel…?”
Patrick went silent. This had to be trouble. Patrick made sure to tell Susan, the other Solar Unlimited scientists, and the two guards last night not to relay to anyone else about the situation in his office. He worried if Cheri’s call had anything to do with Tadosh. “Sure…I’m on my way.”
Patrick saw the tall blonde at the back of the Personnel office. She was at a terminal that was used specifically as an employee data bank. She was busy looking up something on it when Patrick walked up behind her.
“So, what’s going on, Cheri?”
“Thanks for coming by, Pat…” She started to say more, but then she got a glance at his attire. “Casual Thursday and no one’s told me about it?”
“Well, you know…it’s one of those unofficial days for me.”
Cheri just looked at him for a few seconds.
“What,” Patrick asked her.
“You look good in jeans, Pat. You should wear them more often,” she said with a seductive grin.
“Why thanks, I’ll make sure to tell Samantha you said that and watch her come down and use you for a punching bag.”
It was a game they both played. But one they both knew to make sure to keep it a game.
“We’ve got a bit of a mystery here with three of your new employees,” she said, getting down to business as she turned to face the computer monitor. It showed three faces with sub-text below the pictures.
“Hey…!” Patrick pointed to one of the photos on the screen. “I just spoke to that guy last night. He’s a janitor…kind of gave me the creeps!”
“Yeah, you’re not the only one. We’ve had several complaints about them, though not your typical ones.”
Patrick looked at her with a puzzled face. She went on.
“They don’t harass people in any way, Pat, these three guys just seem…unusually inept. For example, I don’t think they’ve ever been around an elevator before. Michael from Accounting caught one of them just standing in front of an elevator the other day, apparently waiting for the door to open without him pushing the button!”
“I don’t know, Cheri…I’ve done that before when I had a lot on my mind.”
“But every time you take the elevator?” Cheri let her words sink into Patrick before she continued. “Then there’s this complaint by Allan in Research and Development about one of the younger of these three going around his office after hours and rummaging through his computer and paper files! I know this happened twice with some other employees, Pat, but idiots like that tend to search the net for porno sites and video games…not this guy.”
“Why, what was he looking for?”
Cheri looked over at a corner of the desk and picked up a stack of print outs and handed it to Patrick. “Allan had suspected the guy was doing this, so he tagged his PC and tracked down what he was doing…”
“ ‘The Vector of Space-Time Continuity,’ “ Patrick read out loud as he flipped through the print outs, “ ‘Black Holes and the String Theory’…’Particle Accelerators and the—Fourth Dimension’…” Patrick was beginning to piece things together. For the Fourth Dimension was time.
Patrick’s body felt a chill and goose bumps welted his thin body.
“I don’t get it, Pat. I mean, the first day at work they were all in the lunch room and didn’t know that the carton of milk contained milk in it! They seem so clueless in one aspect. But yet one of these guys was surfing the net for things related to physics? Drogheda claims it’s because they’re from Europe, why they’re so—“
“Drogheda?” Patrick dropped the printouts onto the desk and craned his neck to look at the information on the computer screen. He hadn’t taken the time to read the sub-text on it. Patrick recognized the name from his conversation with Tadosh.
“Yeah,” Cheri said with inquisitive eyes, “he’s a clerk in our Accounting division.”
The two fell silent as Patrick read about the three employees. Cheri still had that inquisitive look in her eyes.
“Patrick, what’s going on?”
“Why are you asking me that? I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on, too.”
“Your reaction when I mentioned Drogheda tells me that you know something about him…want Cindy to fire them? I know you generally prefer to leave it to your supervisors to do that.”
Patrick thought about what Cheri said then he got an idea. “No…no, why don’t you just let them be, for now.”
Cheri glanced at him, suppressing an urge to disagree with him. Patrick figured this, so he partially explained.
“I think I’ll get a specialist to get these guys; do it secretly.”
Cheri nodded her head several times at his given reason. That seemed to suffice Cheri’s curiosity of Patrick’s unusually laidback attitude about the whole situation. But for Patrick, it was a way for him to provide cover for Tadosh to do his duty for Pangea and nab the three time-criminals without anyone needing to hear that Tadosh and the three others were from the future.
The Solar Unlimited laboratory in the basement of Miracles, Inc., Thursday night…
Thomas was preparing the project team for the last experimental run for the Solar Unlimited. He had a checklist that he had to mark off as he communicated with the crew as he called out to the various functions of the project…
“Okay, Bradly, how are we doing on our energy path targets…? You have your ducks in a row?”
“Copy that, Tommy…the satellites are waiting for you to shoot the ball on the pool table!”
“What about you, Nancy, how are my Receptor and Transmission satellites?”
“The Receptor’s getting a little tanned from the Sun, but the ol’ girl can function where she is!”
“Why don’t you pull the Receptor away from the Sun by, say, three ticks…you should have time to adjust that distance between them.”
“The Solar Converter Receiver is nice and warm, ready for transmission from that big ol’ beach ball out there!”
“What’s the word, Samuel?”
“NORAD reports that the coast is clear for all of our birdies…the International Space Station won’t even come close to our neighborhood!”
“How’s my favorite folks in Telemetry doing these days?”
“Tommy, we’ve got all green lights on the board for receiving data on the project!”
“How’s my backup on those auxiliary satellites? Will we be able to change any possible flat tires out there in space, Richard?”
“Spare tires are locked and loaded!”
“Marcy, is Hawaii ready to receive the energy levels?”
“University of Hawaii’s got the table set, Tommy, they’re just waiting for us to come and eat!”
“…then, let’s eat!”
Thomas punched in the necessary algorithms to engage the Solar Unlimited network. This time around, the crew was testing for its highest level of energy feed from the Sun that was to beam down from their satellites and to the SCR, then bounce that energy to the University of Hawaii, whom had agreed to take part in the Miracle McClain study. The University had agreed to, for several minutes, shut down all of their power to the entire campus. On top of one of the science facilities at the University, a special receptor would receive the specially boosted energy flow from the Miracles, Inc. Tower, and, hence, power the entire University campus for fifteen minutes without the aid of generators, electricity, fiber optic wires, gasoline, batteries…nothing but the transmitted energy from the Sun sent via Miracles was to operate the whole campus for fifteen minutes! All this solar-powered industrial activity done at eleven o’clock p.m., Pacific Time. It would be the ultimate manifestation of wireless technology.
Fifteen minutes finally passed and Thomas was able to phone the Chancellor of UH and ask him how did his campus operate.
“You did the test,” the Chancellor playfully asked Thomas over their cell phones. “Why, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say we didn’t even flip the power generators off at all!”
The largest test to date for the Solar Unlimited was a success. The Chancellor could hear over his cell phone the eruption of elation from the Miracles team. Thomas made a formal statement of gratitude to the Chancellor, for posterity’s sake. Plus, it was just the polite thing to do since the Chancellor permitted the researchers to utilize his campus.
Thomas wished that Patrick were there to see the first full test of his own invention. Amid the jumping nerds, the popping of wine bottles, and the hugs and high-fives, Thomas dialed Patrick’s cell number. Thomas wanted his boss to hear his people rejoice after their many years of labor. To his surprise, however, only a message relayed that the owner of the other phone had either turned it off or the service was not operational.
The McClains’ private estate, Saturday morning…
“I’m coming,” Samantha called out as she trotted over to her front door to answer the persistent knock.
When she looked through the peephole, Samantha was pleasantly surprised to see Thomas. She quickly unlatched the door.
“Am, am I here at a bad time,” Thomas apologetically shot out before Samantha could say anything.
“Oh, Thomas, you know you’re always welcomed here…! Come on in!”
“Thanks, Sam. I appreciate it.”
“I was just exercising,” she, now, apologized as they both stepped into the luxurious living room, “so, please excuse my sweat! I’m just going to grab my towel so I won’t melt in front of you.”
“Sam, you’ve always looked fine to me.”
Thomas may have said that in banter, but the truth was he always had a crush on his boss’s wife since the couple and Thomas met years ago, especially now, in her jogging outfit. But right now, he had business-related things on his mind.
When Samantha had returned into the living room, Thomas was already seated on one of the chairs. Samantha took the posh sofa.
“Sam…has Patrick said anything to you about a situation at Miracles?”
“What situation?” Her voice tensed up, as did her face.
“Well, I don’t mean to be overly dramatic or anything, but apparently he was accosted in his office on Wednesday night. Now—“ Thomas spoke fast, to ensure that Sam didn’t get too upset. “I wasn’t there when this happened, but Susan filled the rest of us in as much as she could.”
“Who was it,” she asked, her voice barely audible.
“The guards didn’t know…according to Susan, one of the guards heard someone talking tersely to Pat, but when they finally broke into his office, they couldn’t find a single place where he could have left the room!”
Samantha’s head snapped up as she looked at Thomas. He merely shrugged his heavy shoulders with a defeated look on his rotund face. They both remained silent as they pensively considered the situation.
“Sam, your husband is working on a very important project that will revolutionize the world’s usage of energy, and that’s not just happy talk! I think you have the right to know this.”
“Thank you, Tommy…at least I have a vague idea of why he’s been acting like such a recluse lately.”
“Thing is, Sam, this project has saturated Pat’s life for so long, I just found it odd that he wasn’t at the lab Thursday night to see our latest test—which was pretty significant, by the way.”
“Well, where was he? He sure wasn’t home!”
Now Thomas’ head snapped toward the pretty young lady out of surprise. “You mean he wasn’t here?”
“Hmm? I tried calling him after our test was done, but his phone was off.”
“Tom, Pat’s phone is never off!”
Now the house went stark silent. They could hear the spring breeze blowing throughout the house with its opened windows, but both had far too much on their minds to even notice.
“He’s been home since Thursday, right,” Thomas finally inquired.
“Oh yes,” she responded with a tear rolling down her face.
“He’s actually been having a good day today.”
“Where is he now?”
“Said he was going to the lab,” Samantha said with a sniff and a shrug.
Thomas’ face went blank. “We’re not even scheduled to do any tests on the project until next week! Why would he be at the lab today?”
Samantha looked away for a few seconds then shifted around on the sofa so that she was on its edge. “Thomas…you don’t think he’s having an affair, do you? Has there been a woman hanging around his office lately?”
“No, Sam, I’m almost positive it has nothing to do with that?”
“How do you know? You just told me you couldn’t even reach him on his cell! He could be doing anything while he’s not around either of us!”
“Sam, this weird behavior of his began the same night the guards burst into his office…now that can’t be a coincidence! I don’t know what, but I’m sure it has something to do with that.”
Thomas got up from the designer chair and stepped over to Samantha. This encouraged her to stand as well.
“I’m going over to Miracles. If he’s still there, I think it’s time we resolve this. It would be ashamed for our team to work five years on this project and successfully finish it, just to have Patrick wig out on us.”
“I’m going with you,” Samantha shocked Thomas as he turned to leave.
Thomas slowly turned around to face her. He spoke very deliberately. “I don’t know about that, Sam…if Pat’s throwing up a wall, I’d rather be the one to bump my head against it than you. At least I don’t have to go home to him, you do.”
Samantha already had her sneakers on with the jogging suit, so she went over to her coat rack and grabbed a jacket and donned it. She then looked at Thomas with determined eyes.
“Yes, your highness,” Thomas grated as he rolled his eyes and turned to head out of the McClain’s house.
Downtown Seattle, at the Miracles, Inc. Tower, Saturday noon…
With Samantha being married to the world-famous, mega-rich scientist, and with Thomas being a principle scientist on Patrick’s staff, the two had no problems gaining access to the Miracles lobby on the weekend when the building was closed to the public.
Like all of the elite team members of the Solar Unlimited project, Thomas inconspicuously made his way around the corner of the elevators and went behind the huge potted plant to activate the secret door that led to the basement lab. Samantha quietly followed along. After going through all the secured doors and corridors, Thomas and Samantha finally reached the inside of the lab…where they saw Patrick, once again dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, standing next to one of the main computer terminals. He was standing uncharacteristically stiff, and barely nudged when he saw his wife and Thomas. In fact, he did not move at all.
Standing next to him was a small man, middle-aged and dressed in a military uniform; his head topped with a beret. He, too, had a lack of response as Thomas and Samantha slowly walked up to them.
“Pat,” Samantha called out to him as she and Thomas kept walking to the two men, “Pat, what’s going—?”
She stopped after seeing another middle-aged man approximately eight feet from the two men. Thomas recognized him right away. He was Drogheda, the newly hired office clerk in the Accounting section of Miracles. Thomas had seen him a couple of times that week when he needed to discuss procurement issues for the secret project…of course, Thomas never told the actuaries exactly what the money went to.
And then Samantha and Thomas saw the gun in Drogheda’s hand. It was a unique looking one, but, all the same, Sam and Tommy had no desire to see it put to use!
“My, you are as pretty as the history books depicted you,” Drogheda said, as if nothing were wrong.
Samantha looked at Patrick with a frowning face, as did Thomas.
“It’s a long story, guys,” Patrick remarked, an exhausted feel to his voice evident. “Let’s just get through this alive so I can tell you later.”
“Come on,” Drogheda said to Thomas and Samantha as he pointed the gun at them and gestured with it for them to walk up next to Patrick and Tadosh. “So nice of you to join us, Mrs. McClain,” Drogheda polited as she and Thomas rested their feet right next to Pat and Tadosh. He totally ignored Thomas. “As you can see, we have a bit of a dilemma here!”
“Drogheda,” Tadosh knew he could do nothing to stop him at this point, but he still was determined, “Leave Mrs. McClain out of this! In fact, all of them, this is between you and me!”
“The conundrum is,” Drogheda simply went on, “ol’ Tadosh, here—being the over-grown Boy Scout that he is—wants your husband to obliterate his latest invention. All because his masters back in our time doesn’t want free-thinkers like me to use it as a time-door…”
“What…!” Samantha and Thomas exclaimed this quite loudly as they looked at Pat.
Patrick’s face winced as he closed his eyes and slowly lowered his head. He tried his best to keep all this chronoporting business away from his family and friends, to say nothing of the rest of the world!
“Yes, that’s right, pal,” said Drogheda in a very patronizing tone as he looked at Patrick directly, “the dog’s out of the bag—“
“That’s cat, you idiot,” Tadosh corrected him. “They say in this time, the cat’s out of the bag!”
Drogheda simply shrugged with a smile. “Well, whatever…the other part of this dilemma, Mrs. McClain, is that I need the Solar Unlimited for transportation through the quantum highway, so to speak. Truth is, I’m not even interested in this time, I don’t understand why your husband doesn’t just step back and let me have what I need so I’ll be on my way and leave all of you alone!”
“You know I can’t let you do that, Drogheda,” Tadosh interjected. “You’ve created enough mess in our own time! That’s why governments all around the world in 2287 banned chronoportation research!”
“Tadosh, it’s been fun having you for an adversary, my friend.” Drogheda raised his gun up to Tadosh’s head, causing all three of the 21st century primitives to converge around him in a futile attempt to protect their protector. “But I think it’s time that we stop this little game…”
Just then, the sound of two gunshots rang in the lab. Drogheda’s hand with his gun was struck by one of the bullets, causing him to yelp as his weapon flew across the room. Blood had splattered onto Patrick and the three others next to him. Patrick saw his chance and, without thinking who it was that shot Drogheda, leaped toward Drogheda. The two men fell back onto a large printer, causing it to rock violently.
It was then that Patrick saw who rescued them. One of the guards from the lobby had come down with Cheri Fillmore. Patrick would worry about how she found out about the secret lab later.
Patrick received a few good blows to one of his temples from Drogheda as he tried to wrestle down the 23rd century pirate. The guard didn’t want to shoot at Drogheda since Patrick was still on the man, so he joined in the brawl. Tadosh was just about to do the same when he noticed a couple of bright blue flashes from separate parts of the lab. Electrical arcs and a loud sizzling sound exploded after the flashes…and out came Tage and Stefan, Drogheda’s henchmen. They had even bigger late-23rd century guns on them!
“Get them out of here,” Tadosh bellowed to Thomas. Without protest, Samantha, Thomas, and Cheri all ran straight for the front door of the lab.
Tadosh was already shooting at both of the two young men who had just joined the battle. His gun shot out white-hot laser pucks while Stefan’s and Tage’s guns spewed out lances of red laser fire. Between all three, they were making a total mess of the high-tech laboratory! Patrick and the guard were both still working on Drogheda. Even though he was older than both men, Drogheda was fit and nimble. He’d either throw a heavy office chair at them or he’d do a fancy martial arts technique on them.
“Tage, the SCR,” Drogheda shouted to the young man ducking behind a metallic cabinet drawer. “Grab the SCR…!”
Patrick knew exactly what Drogheda was trying to do. What a battery was to a car’s engine, the Solar Converter Receiver was to Patrick’s entire Solar Unlimited project. No matter how big the network was, should Drogheda and his men steal the SCR, it was like trying to drive a luxury BMW without its battery—pretty to look at, but would go absolutely no where!
Apparently, Tadosh also understood the implications of the Receiver. He took a big chance at being shot from Stefan as he started barreling toward Tage before he had the chance to run. But then Tage engaged some buttons on his wristband and vanished into a blue mist with tiny lightning arcs. It was the same technology that Tadosh used to disappear in Patrick’s office. Tadosh stopped himself from running into an office partition wall then had to jump out of the way from one of Stefan’s long laser bolts.
“Dr. McClain, this is very important,” Tadosh yelled to him as he got behind one of the lab’s large metal cabinets and resumed punching out his laser pucks at Stefan, “where is your SCR?”
Patrick and the guard had managed to get Drogheda in an institutional hold that’s usually reserved for troubled patients. Patrick told the young guard that they needed to do this before Drogheda disappeared the way that Tadosh and Tage did. Drogheda’s hands were being held down by the guard so he couldn’t teleport himself while Patrick held down his strong legs.
“Oh my word,” Patrick exclaimed, just learning that Tadosh did not know of the location of the vital hardware. “It’s, it’s on the roof, Tadosh! It’s on the roof!”
As he had done in Patrick’s office, Tadosh activated his teleporting device that was wrapped around one of his wrists, like Drogheda and his men’s teleporting devices. But this time he had to punch in a few algorithms to teleport him to an unexpected location…then he was gone in a blue vapor. This, of course, meant that Stefan had to do the same thing to stop Tadosh from stopping Tage! Then he, too, had teleported out of the lab. With everyone else that was in the lab being gone, including Samantha, Thomas, and Cheri, there was an eerie quiet that descended upon the expansive dungeon.
After several more seconds, the front door to the lab was opened, revealing a herd of Seattle police officers behind it. Cheri had called them much earlier before the shoot out. She and Samantha and Thomas were far behind the cops as they began to file into the trashed-out lab. Paper files, shattered computer monitors, severed communications wires, up-turned chairs and tables had all greeted the Seattle police. The captain of the police walked in and whistled.
“Why, I haven’t seen this much fire-power since Vietnam,” the captain commented.
He then gestured to his subordinates to retrieve Drogheda from the clutches of Patrick and the company guard. Samantha, Cheri, and Thomas finally inched their way back into the lab as well.
“Wait,” Patrick pleaded before the police. “We’ve got to take this wristband device off him first!”
The captain glanced at his officers with a frown then looked upon Patrick. “Is it a bomb, is that why you two or holding him?”
“No, no its…” Patrick knew it would be fruitless to even try to tell the cops about time traveling and teleportation! “Look, we just need to cut the band off, or something…you guys have a pocket knife or—?“
Just as Patrick spoke, Tadosh had teleported back into the lab. Of course, the Seattle police weren’t expecting someone to pop into the lab seemingly from nowhere, so they all jumped upon seeing him and then focused their primitive guns on him.
“Down, down right now,” the captain barked at Tadosh with a frightened face. “Mister, I don’t know where you came from but—“
“No…! He’s with us,” Samantha cried out as she muscled her way passed the cops and stood next to him, once again trying her best to protect Tadosh. “Officers, this man has been protecting my husband from that guy over there and the others.” She said this as she tilted her head toward Drogheda, who was, yet, on the floor as Patrick and the guard kept him pinned down.
“What others,” the captain asked with much confusion. The other officers began to look around the disheveled lab. In fact, some even began to walk around the facility to look for other people.
Samantha, Thomas, and Cheri now began to look around the lab as well. They were out of the lab during the major portion of the small battle, so they did not know that Tage and Stefan had teleported out of the lab. The police captain’s question had reminded all three that they had seen Stefan and Tage teleport into the lab. Now they, too, began to look confused.
“Sam, Honey,” said Patrick with a slow shake of his head as he looked at her while he kept Drogheda’s legs down, “just…just forget it! I’ll explain later.”
“Explain what later,” the head cop said with an irritated tone. He was becoming impatient with the whole ordeal.
Just then, Drogheda used his martial arts skills to shove the guard and Patrick off of him and pushed a button on his wristband contraption, and teleported away with a blue flash and a singeing sound. The police officers had to either restrain themselves from shooting at the now-vanished Drogheda since Pat and the guard were still in the same area, or they had to restrain themselves from screaming for the apparition they had just seen. Tadosh had teleported into the lab in a somewhat secluded corner of the lab, but Drogheda’s trick was done right in the open in front of everyone.
Tadosh’s face first expressed shock, then sadness. He drooped his head down with a heavy sigh as he firmly shut his eyes and began to slowly shake his head out of disbelief.
Two hours later, in Dr. McClain’s office on the 95th floor…
Patrick, Samantha, Tadosh, Thomas, and Cheri were all resting at the grand conference table in Pat’s penthouse suite. They had gotten there not too long ago. After the shootout, the Seattle police took some statements from all of them for their report. Patrick insisted that Tadosh give them his home address when they asked Tadosh where he resided. As it turned out, Tadosh did need a place to stay for a while, so it was just as well.
Patrick had made an urn of coffee for everyone, which they all savored as they relaxed at the table for a while. The alien experience of actually seeing people teleport was a bit stressful to the psyche. Add to that, some of those same people shooting laser bolts at you tended to add to the stress as well…
“All right, Cheri,” Patrick said in the quiet room, “how did you know about the lab?”
Thomas looked up from his cup of coffee then at Cheri with interest. He, too, wanted to know how their secret had gotten to her. Samantha and Tadosh just looked on, every now and then sipping their coffee from their Styrofoam cups. Cheri waited a bit before responding.
“I’m not supposed to say, Pat…but I can say that I’ve known about the lab for a year.”
“A year,” Patrick and Thomas chorused together.
Cheri silently nodded her head as she looked out of Patrick’s expansive office window that beautifully framed downtown Seattle.
“Yeah…I was able to get the cops there so soon because I had my own secret operation going on.” Cheri’s eyes moved from the window and back to the others. “Pat, remember when I talked with you about Drogheda and his friends earlier this week? Obviously before we found out about who they really are.”
Patrick glanced at Tadosh.
“Well, Cheri, truth is, I had known about Drogheda, I just didn’t know who he was in the building. I can’t know every employee that works for me. I’ve got thousands in this building alone!”
“Pat, nobody’s blaming you,” Thomas interjected.
“I know, I just needed to hear that for my own good, I guess…anyway, Cheri, what about our conversation about them?”
“Well, I had started an internal investigation on them. For obvious reasons to us now, they just seemed a bit too out of place. Not just at the job, but in society.”
“You had us bugged, didn’t you,” asked Thomas with a slight grin.
Cheri had a bigger grin on her face.
“Yeah, I did. I’m sorry, Pat, but that was one of my mandates that you had given me as an executive assistant. You said that even if it were you or any of your special lab assistants that were acting strange to do an investigation…and, well, as your wife can attest to, you and your assistants had been acting kind of weird the last few months!”
Samantha felt vindicated as she glanced at Thomas, whom in turn, slightly nodded his head in confirmation. She didn’t want to show this, of course, so she purposefully took a long gulp of her coffee to hide what would have been a long, rebuking stare at Patrick. Neither Patrick nor Thomas debated Cheri’s point about spying on them, so she continued.
“So, anyway, that’s how I found out about Drogheda, Stefan, and Tage…in one of Security’s spy cameras we caught them breaking into Research and Development’s office and stealing floor plans and equipment.” She laughed slightly. “It’s ironic. Security and I weren’t even monitoring Drogheda and his men at first, but our own people, then, come to find out, we had to start monitoring them, too!”
“What a mess,” commented Thomas.
“Yeah, no kidding,” affirmed Cheri. “Security had recorded Drogheda over a phone conversation he had with Stefan and Tage that they were going to steal the SCR. That was just today. And that’s when I had called the cops. If it weren’t for us catching that conversation, Pat, I don’t think the cops would have been here when they were.”
“A lot of good they did,” he responded with a bit of a sneer. “Gary and I held Drogheda down after the fire fight…the cops missed the whole action!”
“Yeah, but their numbers would have been needed if Drogheda and the others stuck around,” she rebutted.
The room went quiet again. Thomas and Samantha had gotten up for more coffee. Patrick turned his attention to Tadosh.
“All right, Tadosh…now it’s your turn. So, I take it Tage and Stefan got the SCR?”
Tadosh was already nodding his head. “Yes, Dr. McClain. I’m sorry, but you had never told me where the Receiver was. I was going to inquire about that right before Drogheda showed up and changed our plans for the day! I take it Drogheda and his young cohorts knew the location of the SCR because of the floor plans with your schematics?”
Now Patrick was nodding. “Yep…those Anarchists sure are organized! A bit of an ironic twist, don’t you think…?” Patrick then took a long look at the little man from the future. “Tadosh, when you guys do that—thing when you disappear and reappear, are you guys going in and out of the future?”
Now everyone was seated at the table again, Patrick’s question renewing interest around the large, oak table.
“No, Dr. McClain,” Tadosh answered with a bit of a chuckle, like an adult would when a child innocently asks a naïve question. “For us to chronoport takes a lot of energy. Drogheda and his men and I were able to get here because of the extreme amount of energy your Solar Unlimited project is able to glean directly from the Sun.”
“Well, we can’t get that solar energy now,” retorted Thomas sourly. “Not with our Receiver stolen. We can make another one, but that would take several more weeks just to get the special parts for it from around the world!”
“Thomas I’m not worried about that as I am about Drogheda having our SCR,” Patrick stated. “Tadosh, so you’re saying that Drogheda and his team did not time travel out of here? Then where did they go?”
“Well, they could be anywhere that they set their destinations, but only around the city proper…see, Dr. McClain, with chronoportation technology, we’re basically teleporting back and forth in time. But the bottom line is, we are teleporting. In 2287, we have the ability to teleport across a metropolitan area—not much further than that, though. Scientists in my time are still working on how to let us do it at longer distances. But to time travel, that is to say, teleporting across time, it requires even more energy; by greater magnitudes of millions more in energy…and that, we can only do when your Solar Unlimited project is up and running. We cannot time travel when it is off. But we can still teleport, with our portable teleporters.”
Everyone else in the room suddenly looked brighter.
“Well, then, that’s good, isn’t it,” Samantha asked as she looked at everyone around the table. “Since Drogheda and the others stole Pat’s Receiver, that means no one can operate this Solar Unlimited project. Therefore, Drogheda and his team won’t be able to time travel!”
“Which means that they’re still around the Seattle metro,” Patrick interjected as well. “You said that people from your time can teleport only around a city…we can still get them, Tadosh!”
Tadosh was smiling at the early 21st century-people’s ignorance, though good intentioned they were. “Whoa, slow down here, everyone! There’s still the matter of finding Drogheda and his men. With teleportation technology, none of us can tell where another person goes…we’re only able to see where another person has gone by getting their portable teleporter and look at the recorded coordinates—kind of like your email of this time. But to do that, we would have to physically get the teleporter. We had the chance to do that while Dr. McClain and the guard had Drogheda, but, as you recall, we blew that opportunity!”
“All right,” Cheri came in with a shrug, “so what do we do now?”
Tadosh sighed then looked around the conference table.
“Well, the only thing I can think of is me going around the Seattle metro and do a foot search in one of your contemporary cars and look around places where Drogheda and the others would likely hide out. Now, what I need from the rest of you is to pretend none of this happened.”
All of the others around the table eyed each other, all seeming to have the same thought in mind that Patrick voiced.
“Tadosh, that’s kind of hard to do! Besides, what about Seattle police? Think they’ll forget about any of today’s events?”
“Dr. McClain, we really can’t do anything about that. In all honesty, I don’t think they’ll file any of their reports about the teleporting…no one would believe them and they would risk getting fired due to psychological incapacity. Trust me, I know how it works, I’m in the military!”
Patrick was now pointing at Tadosh. “Speaking of which…Tadosh, buddy, we’ve got to get you out of those fatigues. This is the post-nine-eleven era! If you’re going to go around Seattle looking for these guys, you can’t look like you’re in some crackpot militia group. Homeland Security will hunt you down!”
“Yeah,” Thomas now chipped in, “what you’re wearing may fit in well in 2287, but your average citizen in 2008 will be spooked by you! No offense.”
“Don’t worry, Thomas,” Tadosh assured him, “being offended is amongst the last things on my mind…so, are we in agreement about the plan?”
The others sitting around the room glanced at each other, trying to read one another’s reactions. They all nodded.
“I’d like to add one more thing to your plan, Tadosh,” Patrick said. Tadosh looked at Patrick, waiting for his response. “I’d like to help you out in the search—“
“Pat!” Samantha’s face threw him a warning.
“It’s all right, Sam…if you don’t mind I’d like to help out. Because of my invention, we’re in this mess. I’ve always believed in taking responsibility for my own actions. After all, a creator should never create something that he or she cannot control.”
Patrick said the last part of his statement as he looked at Tadosh squarely in the eyes. Tadosh responded with a slight bouncing of his head in understanding and appreciation.
Miracles, Inc. basement laboratory, Monday morning…
Before the meeting in the lab, Patrick had emailed all of his special laboratory assistants for the Solar Unlimited project, informing them of “an unfortunate, violent act of thievery” within the Miracles building. Which, certainly, was true. But as far as the details of that act of thievery, Patrick decided not to tell his other assistants, leaving only Thomas and Cheri in the know about the time battle. And even then, Cheri was an executive presence at the company, not a scientist, like Thomas was.
Patrick had called in his Maintenance crew on that same Saturday afternoon and got them to clean up most of the mess in the basement lab. The strange, snake-like burn marks all over the walls (from Tage and Stefan’s laser guns) were simply explained by Patrick as “a specially made gun” that the assailants used during the attack. Patrick had to quickly change the subject matter after one of his assistants pointed out that the marks were consistent with laser laceration burns that she had seen after working for a previous scientific job. That was the thing about scientists, Patrick knew, you may try to lie to them or circumvent issues around them, but because of their curiosity they were not likely to just accept the answers given to them. In the educational and psychology fields, it was called Critical Thinking.
Patrick had finally gotten to the part in his conference with them that was the toughest part. He had gotten himself a chair and sat down, then let out a long sigh…
“I think we’re going to have to scrap the Solar Unlimited project,” he said directly, letting his word fall on its own among his workers.
The reaction was as he had expected. There were cries of, What!, You’ve got to be kidding me!, I can’t believe this!, and No way!, all coming at him simultaneously. Patrick let his lab assistants vent without any impediments from him. He knew that it was important for them to let it out. Besides, he had more news for the conference that would take some of the edge off the bad tidings. He waited until the gathering nearly went silent.
“Now, the good news is, you all still have a job with Miracles, Inc., that is, if you so choose to stay. With the exact same amount of pay and benefits, I’m offering all of you to work at other divisions within the corporation. It doesn’t have to be in Seattle, it could be at our New York site, our Chicago site…it could even be at our London site, for all I care. The point is, I’m not going to leave my team high and dry!”
Patrick was anticipating some applause from the workers for such noble English-crafting. But there was none, only a response.
“But, Dr. McClain,” said Erica, one of the assistants within the large group, “we’ve been working on the Unlimited for years! Besides, I think I speak for the rest of us when I say that I really believe in what the project can do for people around the world!”
Now the applause came, and loudly. There were even whistles and some whoopings! Oh, crap, Patrick thought to himself. Thomas, seated at the back of the clump of employees so that it would not look as though he had any inside knowledge of what was going on, looked at Patrick worriedly.
“You said that with the unlimited solar energy from the project, corporations and governments would be able to feed more of the world’s hungry,” said a very Hippy-looking assistant in the group, who was not that many years younger than Patrick. There were voices of Yeah!, and That’s right!
Everyone waited for Patrick’s response. He glanced at Thomas in the distance, whom met Patrick’s eyes with a barely visible shrug.
“David…I understand your feelings about this, but sometimes—“
“Dr. McClain, it’s not about feelings, sir! We signed a contract with Miracles with the explicit intent to progress humanity’s energy usage toward solar power…look, Dr. McClain, we all really appreciate that you’re willing to keep openings for us in the company, but if the issue were merely about money, I think it’s safe to say that we are all very well qualified to find jobs else where!”
Now the lab was a virtual riot. The lab assistants’ voices filled the basement. To Patrick, they sounded like a raging crowd in a football stadium. This was getting too much for him. He could not tell them why he was not willing to re-build another Solar Converter Receiver to replace the one that Drogheda and his men stole from him. That would mean Patrick telling them about the whole time traveling story.
It was bad enough that he had to worry about some of the Seattle cops telling the story to others, now Patrick would have to worry about a group that was more important to him professionally…other scientists. Like Tadosh said about the police not likely reporting what they saw in the lab a couple of days ago, when Drogheda teleported out of the lab, so too was it true for Dr. McClain in the scientific world…any talk about time traveling criminals and a time traveling secret agent chasing them would absolutely ruin Patrick’s career, both in terms of him being a scientist and as a businessperson.
But, yet, Patrick knew from what he had seen with his own eyes that he could not let the Solar Unlimited go into full production. The blood that Drogheda, Tage, and Stefan would spill on their destructive junket across time would surely be on his hands, especially now that Patrick knew that his invention was the catalyst to it all!
The pressure of the dilemma was too great on Patrick. All such facets of the implications of the Solar Unlimited had gone through his mind in a matter of seconds. After the lab had burst into a protest after David’s comments, Patrick yelled out to his employees.
“Hey, I’m the boss, here! I’m the one who came up with the idea of the Solar Unlimited!” The lab was finally hushed after his outburst. “When you’re in the position of leadership, sometimes you learn about things that the subordinates know absolutely nothing about! Of course I want to help feed the world, and of course I’d like to build up my financial empire while doing it, but sometimes there are unintentional consequences to the things we do…! Consequences that are so great, they actually undo the good you intend to do!”
The lab assistants were looking at Patrick and amongst themselves with a mixture of shock from his outburst, and confusion as to what Patrick meant by such unintentional consequences. But Patrick was not going to tell them.
“Listen…” Patrick leaned back in his chair and rubbed his stubbled chin. “This is the best I can do. Please see me later today about being re-assigned. I’ve got Cheri handling my meetings for me for the next two days, so I’ll have plenty of time to deal with you guys, okay?”
He looked out among his assistants. Many still had the look of confusion on their faces, but they weren’t going to ask any question, now. Patrick’s eyes caught those of Thomas. Thomas’ head nodded, confirming to Patrick that he did the right thing. But Patrick still wondered if he was doing the right thing.
Miracles, Inc. Tower, Monday, afternoon…
“Doctor,” Patrick’s secretary informed him over the intercom as he was sitting at the conference table with three of his lab assistants, “there’s someone here to see you…a Mr. Tadosh?”
Patrick’s stomach tightened a bit. He glanced at the three lab assistants from the basement and smiled at them. “Can you guys excuse me for a bit?”
“Sure, Dr. McClain,” one of them said as Patrick got up from his chair and left the office. The three assistants looked at each other with puzzled faces. Patrick was acting a little weird that day, they thought.
Patrick was worried that Tadosh would show up in his building dressed in his fatigues, looking like some guerilla radical. But Patrick was surprised to see the little man outfitted in a very pricey dark suit and tie! Tadosh had even shaved and slicked his hair back. He looked very Wall Street. Even Patrick rarely dressed that way, except for important business trips or crucial meetings.
“Wow,” Patrick said to him as they shook hands, Tadosh’s face beaming brightly, “you clean up quite well!”
“Thanks, Dr. McClain.” Tadosh’s face quickly turned serious as he looked around. “Do you have a moment?”
“Uh, yeah…sure,” Patrick said as he also began looking around the secretary suite. “Why don’t we, uh…” Patrick looked over to his secretary. “Pam, is anyone using conference room B?”
“No, Dr. McClain,” she replied as she looked at the two men with suspicious eyes, for Patrick always met with people in his office, even if he had to break up another one to do so.
“Great! Come on, Tadosh.”
When they had gotten to the vacant conference room, Patrick flicked on the lights and shut the door behind them. He gestured to Tadosh that they should carry on as if it were a regular business meeting since all of the conference rooms had large windows to them, which many business had taken to doing so that the bosses could keep an eye on their employees. They sat at the large wooden conference table in the room.
“Okay, Tadosh…you got some good news for me?”
“Well, I don’t know if you’d call it good, but I think I might have an idea of where Drogheda and his men could be…on the northeastern area of Seattle, somewhere west of Sand Point Magnuson Park.”
“Magnuson Park area,” Patrick said incredulously. “Why would they be around there?”
“I don’t know…I was able to pick up some faint signals that are consistent with teleportation.”
Patrick looked at Tadosh inquisitively. To him, it seemed like a stretch that Tadosh could possibly have found Drogheda and his men within two days out of a metropolitan area of six million people!
“How are you able to detect their signals?”
Tadosh took out another portable device that was tucked away in one of his dress jacket’s pockets. “This contraption is the closest thing we can get to knowing exactly what coordinates Drogheda teleported to…like I said to you and your employees on Saturday, the best way we can know for sure would be to physically take their portable teleporter and look up the history of their activities—but we obviously don’t have their teleporters, so I’ll have to use this instead.”
Tadosh pushed a button to activate the small device. In three-dimensional holographics, it displayed a stylized representation of the city of Seattle and its surrounding suburbs. Patrick jumped in his seat out of surprise and began to look around, making sure that none of his employees could see the high-tech marvel.
“Oh, sorry,” Tadosh said, “I forgot.” He then moved the device in such a way that his back had blocked the holographic projection. He then tweaked with the machine so that it zoomed in on just the city of Seattle. On the northeastern quadrant of the image blinked a beacon. “This is where I detected about four signals that may be teleportational in nature.”
Again, Tadosh punched in some commands into the device and the projection now zoomed in on the northeastern quadrant until it filled up the whole image. The pulsating beacon was now in the image of a grid of street blocks.
“This is the narrowed zone of interest, Dr. McClain.”
“Between 60th and 80th streets, huh…?” Patrick nodded to himself as his eyes stayed glued onto the holographic image. “I know this part of town well…when were you planning on going?”
“Well, now, but Thomas informed me that you’re busy with your lab assistants.”
“Don’t worry, Tadosh, I can reschedule it. They deserve another paid day off, anyway. Besides, you’re going to need some help with these guys, after what I saw on Saturday! I don’t suppose you have another of those portable teleporters, do you?”
Tadosh smiled as he reached into another of his jacket pocket and pulled out another teleporter. To Patrick, it looked like a super-tech watch with a large interfacer and several buttons on it. “Pangea suggested I take two with me, in case I broke or lost mine…” He tossed it to Patrick, whom caught it with the smile of a child in a toy store. “Are any of your assistants still in the lab?”
Patrick merely shook his head to indicate, no. He was too busy gawking at the portable teleporter.
“Good. Let’s go down to your lab in the basement, Doctor. You’re going to need a few practice lessons in teleportational technology before we go for the hunt!”
Northeastern Seattle, late Monday evening…
Patrick had let Tadosh borrow one of his cars out of his personal fleet for the search of Drogheda, Stefan, and Tage. Patrick used another one of his other cars in case anyone around Seattle had seen him in his everyday car, that way they would not be able to identify him. They decided to split up the neighborhood between them and do a visual search for Drogheda, Stefan, and Tage. Of course, given that it was late in the evening it was an especially difficult task.
“Doctor, I think I have something,” Tadosh said to Patrick over their radio link after well over an hour’s search. Tadosh was looking at his detection device as it displayed in holographics a particular block in a bright-green color. He was driving precariously as his head went back and forth between the detector and the street before him.
“What block are you on,” Patrick asked, putting his radio up to his head as he steered his car.
“Seventy-fifth and Lux!”
“Just park your car around there somewhere…I’m on the way!”
Patrick swerved his car dangerously close to a truck as he did a U-turn on the street he was driving on. He then sped in the direction of Tadosh’s location.
When Patrick finally reached Tadosh’s area, he saw that the small man was already standing at a corner, waiting for him. Patrick parked his car not far from the corner and trotted to where Tadosh stood. Patrick and Tadosh were dressed in black to conceal themselves. Since Patrick’s hair was sandy-blond, he donned a black baseball cap to cover it. Tadosh’s hair was very dark brown to the point of being virtually black, so he did not need to worry about covering his head.
“Where to,” Patrick inquired as Tadosh whipped out his detector to show him the location.
“There’s no mistake about it now, Dr. McClain, I’m definitely reading teleporting signatures! They’re originating from this apartment…” Tadosh first pointed to the holographic map, turned off the detection device, then pointed to the actual apartment.
Patrick nodded. “Why don’t we just teleport into their room?”
“Oh, we could do that, Dr. McClain, but there are two problems with that plan: One, the detection device only shows us trace signatures of teleportation. That is, each time that any of us teleports, we leave quantum residue behind…they could still be in the apartment now, they could be on the other side of town! The second problem of just teleporting into their room is, if they’re even in there, there’s a strong possibility that they’ve set up a trap for us…remember, Dr. McClain, they’re from my time. They know that I have the ability to detect teleportational residue. Just as they have that ability, too.”
“Hmm…” Patrick thought for a while. “I guess, for now, we’ll have to do it the old fashioned way.”
“I’m afraid so, Dr. McClain.”
They both jogged to the apartment complex in the night. Tadosh had picked up Drogheda’s gun back on Saturday after he had been shot by one of Patrick’s security guards. He had later given it to Patrick and showed him how to use it after he taught Patrick how to teleport. Patrick was now jogging up to the apartment with that late-23rd century gun and, like Tadosh, was zig-zagging around parked cars, garbage cans, and trees. Patrick happened to look over at Tadosh and saw him smiling.
“You just love all this cloak and dagger crap, don’t you,” Patrick whispered to the Pangean secret agent.
“Actually, Dr. McClain, I used to have a partner back in my time…he was killed during one of our operations…it just feels good to be able to work with someone I can trust again.”
Patrick looked at him for a brief moment then resumed sneaking to the apartment complex. Tadosh referred to his detection device once again, just to make sure they were headed to the right apartment. He nodded toward Patrick. At this point, Patrick was following his lead. Tadosh got down on his belly and began to slither toward a group of bushes that was not far from the complex. When they got behind the bushes, Tadosh, now, took out another device from a pouch he had strapped around him.
“What’s that do,” Patrick asked in a whisper, still trying to catch his breath from all the jogging and slithering around.
“It’s kind of equivalent to your time’s infrared spectrometer…only, this is far more advanced.” Tadosh also whispered.
He engaged the spectrometer device. It, too, displayed in holographic images, but one had to place the device up to your eyes to see. Much like a pair of binoculars. Tadosh put the spectrometer up to his eyes and took a while to see what was going on. As he did, he updated Patrick.
“Oh, yeah, Doctor…they’re definitely in there! I see all three of them, and there’s the Solar Converter Receiver! Looks like they’ve modified your Receiver by cutting it down to fit within the apartment.”
“Are they doing anything with it now?”
“Well, I see…hmm? I’m not sure, but I think I see some special equipment that’s often used for chronoportive research!”
“You mean, for time traveling?”
“That’s right, Dr. McClain…” Tadosh then handed the spectrometer to Patrick for him to see as well. “If I’m right, I think our friends are trying to figure out a way to chronoport without your Solar Unlimited! Just strictly using your Receiver!”
“Can they do that? I mean, you said that you all can time travel while the Solar Unlimited is on. Having the SCR by itself is like someone trying to drive a car, but they only had possession of the steering wheel!”
Tadosh thought for a moment. “Actually, Dr. McClain, I think your analogy is more like someone stealing the engine to a car and trying to get away…that’s very possible, you know.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Let’s keep using your analogy…if that same someone who stole a car’s engine had enough knowledge of how cars work, he or she could conceivably make another car body out of scrap! You can easily find discarded tires, car frames—“
“—skip finding car parts, you could find an entire car body without its engine in a scrap yard!” Patrick said this, realizing the implications of what Tadosh was saying.
“That’s my point, Dr. McClain. The hardest part of making a car is its engine, that is, if you build from scratch…Doctor, Drogheda and his colleagues are now in the process of fitting car parts to an engine!”
Patrick looked through the spectrometer once again then handed it back to Tadosh. Tadosh began looking through it again as they spoke.
“Then, that means they’ll be able to chronoport after all! Tadosh, we’ve got to stop them!”
“Agreed…Doctor, I suggest that you—“
Patrick looked at Tadosh, waiting for him to finish.
“What’s wrong, Doctor McClain?”
“There are only two of them in there now…”
While Tadosh continued to look for the third figure in the apartment with his spectrometer, Patrick slowly peeked his head around the bush, hoping that what was in his mind was wrong. As soon as Pat’s head cleared the bushes, a long line of red laser fire nearly took his head off!
“Doctor, stay down,” Tadosh said to him as he started punching his bullet-like photons at Tage, whom was at the front door of the apartment building. Whenever Tadosh fired shots at him, he would periodically duck into the building. Like at the basement lab at the Miracles, Inc. skyscraper, they were making a mess of things!
Screams from the other tenants of the apartment building were now ringing in the background. Some even yelled out to one another to call the cops.
Stefan teleported right behind Patrick and Tadosh. After hearing the distinct searing sound of teleportation coming from behind, Patrick immediately turned around and jumped onto Stefan before he could fire a shot. The two had got into a wrestling match and both fell to the ground and tumbled away from each other. Seeing the opportunity, Patrick fired off a lancing laser beam at Stefan with Drogheda’s gun, but Stefan quickly slapped the buttons to his teleporter and vanished right before the laser struck him.
Tadosh and Tage were still at it, engaged in a draw.
“Doctor…! The SCR!”
Patrick had forgotten about it. He was still learning how to use the portable teleporter, so it took him a few seconds longer than he would have liked. He was about to punch the buttons when he saw Drogheda and Tage materialize yards away in the parking lot of the apartment building. They were both carrying the Receiver, one at one end, the other on the other end.
Patrick was about to teleport to where Drogheda was until Tage finally left the battle against Tadosh and teleported to where his friends were. The three of them hustled the SCR into the back of a van and jumped into it and began driving off.
“Forget it, Dr. McClain,” Tadosh said as he reached out and stopped Patrick from teleporting to the van. “Right now, we need to get the rest of the equipment they left in the apartment before the cops get here!”
Tadosh quickly keyed in commands to his portable teleporter and disappeared in a blue flash. By the time Patrick straightened himself up erectly so he could punch the buttons to his teleporter, Tadosh was already in the apartment room, grabbing at various makeshift equipments that were oddly integrated together. Patrick joined him in a couple of seconds.
They both busied themselves with loading up their arms with some of the various technologies that filled Drogheda’s apartment living room, such as coffee makers, computer keyboards, hard drives, computer monitors, play stations, camcorders, outlets for houses with cords running in and out of them, television remotes, and CD-players! In some cases, the equipment was taken apart, exposing motherboards and wirings.
“Why don’t you teleport that load to your car, Doctor. Then teleport back for more…I’ll do the same. There simply too many gadgets here!”
“All right…” Patrick, arms full of equipment, quickly reconfigured the coordinates in his portable teleporter and did as Tadosh suggested.
By the time the cops had gotten to the apartment complex, Patrick and Tadosh were on their way out of the neighborhood in their respective cars.
Miracles, Inc. basement laboratory, Tuesday morning, 1:43 am…
Tadosh admitted to Patrick that they would need more help to figure things out, especially since there were only two of them and it was really early in the morning. Patrick called Cheri and Thomas on his cell phone before they had gotten back to the lab after their ordeal with Drogheda and his men at the apartment complex. Both Thomas and Cheri graciously made no complaints about Patrick calling them so early and agreed to be at Miracles to meet them there. Patrick called Samantha, just so she would know what was going on, but she had to try to get some sleep for her classes at the University in the morning. Just as well. Patrick preferred for Sam to stay out of the chronoporting business.
The lab was spruced up a bit but still had the burn marks all over the walls and the floor from the laser show from a few days ago. Patrick and Tadosh had spread out on the floor all of the equipment they had gathered from Drogheda’s apartment. Tadosh, who obviously knew chronoportation technology the best in the group, took a long time looking at the home appliances on the lab floor, trying to figure out how they had anything to do with time traveling. To help out, Patrick had gotten several of his draft plans depicting the entire Solar Unlimited project. The drafts helped Tadosh out tremendously.
“Well…,” Tadosh said after a long sigh as Patrick, Cheri, and Thomas all sat on chairs behind him; Tadosh was crouching next to the equipment, “the best that I can see what Drogheda and company were trying to do was taking lemon and making a lemon factory out of it! It’s ingenious the way they augmented these mundane appliances and almost made them usable for chronoporting!”
“I noticed that you said, ‘almost,’” Thomas noted. “So, does that mean they weren’t able to time travel yet, even before you guys showed up?”
“That’s right, Thomas. They were in the middle of collecting items needed for full-chronoportation, of course, aided with the Solar Receiver they stole from Dr. McClain. We just slowed them down for probably another week or so. I will say, though, that I noticed in the apartment that they didn’t seem to have anything for solar energy reception, you know, like solar panels.”
“Hmm,” Cheri said as she rubbed her chin, “you’d think that would be one of the first things they would have grabbed for a solar-based project!”
“Yeah, I know…probably because they had the Solar Converter Receiver. It, no doubt, likely still has some juice left in it from when your team last used it.” Tadosh contemplated further. He finally stood up and faced the other three in front of him, his face very somber. “You mind if I ask you all something…?”
Observing the way Tadosh’s demeanor had changed, Patrick, Thomas, and Cheri had all glanced upon each other worriedly.
“Sure,” Patrick responded in a soft voice, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “What’s on your mind, Tadosh?”
“I’ve been so busy running after Drogheda and his goons until I’ve forgotten about the bigger picture in life…over the past weekend, as I was relaxing at your house, Dr. McClain, I came across some news on one of your television sets…the United Nations still exists in this time, doesn’t it?”
The others either looked at one another or they cast their glances to a corner of the lab as they thought on Tadosh’s words.
“What are you saying, Tadosh,” Patrick finally said, “that the United Nations doesn’t exist in your time?”
“Well, of course not. That’s to be expected, Dr. McClain. Do you all remember the League of Nations from your history classes?”
“Of course,” Thomas now interjected. “It was the pre-cursor to the U.N. during the early-to mid-1900s.”
“The reason I bring that up is because it shows that organizations, governments, and corporations rise and fall over time. The League of Nations lasted some twenty years. You don’t actually expect the United Nations to last forever, do you? Or the United States, for that matter!”
“I still don’t understand what you’re saying, Tadosh,” Cheri blunted.
“What I’m saying is that, during my time, my generation had learned from history that the U.N. had dissolved years before 2008!”
“What!” All three Miracles people looked at each other, then at Tadosh with disbelief.
“It’s true…as a young man in school, I learned that the United Nations folded before the war in Afghanistan between America and the Taliban. By looking at your news in this time, your generation refers to it as the War On Terrorism. As I had learned it, the U.N. broke apart right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I won’t bore you with all the details, but the basic reason for its collapse was because of the Western nations sided with the United States while the Eastern nations took sides with Afghanistan…
“I was shocked to hear anything about Iraq in this time’s news about a war with the U.S.! In fact, from the history that I learned, Saddam Hussein was assassinated by a political rival in Iraq. Trust me, in our history books, there’s nothing about the United Nations from 2002 and on, and there’s nothing about the U.S. going to war with Iraq!”
Well, that hit Patrick, Cheri, and Thomas like a ton of bricks. They all sat there, dumbfounded. Patrick’s eyes started to shift around as he thought on the implications of what Tadosh had just dropped on them. There was, now, a lot more at stake with all this time traveling business than just Patrick’s career!
“And that’s not all,” Tadosh said, after he patiently waited for his first words to sink in. “After I saw several other news reports—some national, others international—I learned that, in your time, something called the Communist Revolution had occurred…Nelson Mandela is actually out of jail and had been president of South Africa…America never had a woman President…why, humans haven’t even colonized the Moon, yet!”
“The Moon,” Patrick repeated, blankly. He began to rub his hair as his nerves were being tested. “How could I have been so stupid? I bumped into Tage while he was cleaning one night. He made some odd comment about whether or not one of my inventions would take people to the Moon, and how we never know about the consequences to the choices we make in life…that sick freak was playing with me then!”
“Wait a minute,” Thomas finally said, one of his hefty hands extended as if to visually stop the conversation. “Tadosh, are you saying that all of those things that you saw in the news about our time, that none of those events happened in your history or were different from what you know to be history?”
“That is exactly what I’m saying, Thomas.”
“So…” Thomas now stood up from his chair and began to pace. “How could that be? I mean, isn’t there only one history and one future?”
“From what Tadosh tells us, apparently not!” Cheri leaned back in her chair, the shock of the news finally wearing off.
“Come on, Tommy, it’s nothing new! We’ve all heard about scientific theories or seen Science Fiction movies or read Science Fiction books that speculate that there may be more than one reality that we experience. We’re talking about time-lines. It’s like several branches stemming off of a tree. Each branch being of an alternate reality of the same “tree trunk” in quantum physics.”
“Very good,” Tadosh commended Cheri as he nodded in her direction. “That was Pangea’s greatest fear about Drogheda’s plans…that he would try to alter history or the future—or both, for that matter.”
“Alter the past or the future to what end,” Patrick asked as he glanced at the equipment strewn out on the floor.
“Like I said to you when I first met you, Dr. McClain, Drogheda’s an Anarchist. Money isn’t his incentive, nor is an actual political or religious philosophy. He’s not like the Anarchists of this time that you’re familiar with. The ones from the late-2200s are very pernicious! Many have actually tried to use androids to infiltrate different nations and assassinate world leaders…including several of the United States’ presidents. There were some androids, unfortunately, that were quite successful.”
Again, Patrick, Thomas, and Cheri all looked at each other with unsaid words. No one said anything for a long while. Tadosh walked around the large clutter of home appliances on the floor. He then picked up the schematics for Dr. McClain’s project and began studying them in earnest. But Cheri turned to Tadosh to address him.
“Say, Tadosh, how are you getting home after all this? If we destroy the Solar Unlimited completely, wouldn’t you be stuck here?”
Patrick and Thomas looked up at the same time. They hadn’t thought of that!
“That’s true, Ms. Fillmore. Pangea has ordered me to stay behind and continue to pursue Drogheda and his men even if none of us from 2287 were to ever find a way back home.”
“So,” Cheri pressed further, “we would need to keep the Solar Unlimited running until you’re ready to go back to your time after you’ve caught them, right?”
“Or kill them,” Tadosh said very nonchalantly as he continued to look at the diagrams and equations on the project’s drafts. “But my actual goal is to get Drogheda alive, since he needs to be processed in the courts of law of 2287…Tage and Stefan are merely his helpers. Though they’ll come in handy as witnesses against Drogheda and his network of Anarchists. But if worse comes to worse, I’ll simply smudge them out.”
This made the Miracles team feel uncomfortable. They had a bit of a romantic view of Tadosh being an agent of the law, chasing down terrorists from the future as he, with nobility, would catch them with his bare hands and whisk them away into the sunset.
Patrick looked at his two employees with a reassuring smile. “Hey, let’s remember, guys, he is a secret agent…we can’t expect him to deal with Drogheda like an altar boy!”
Tadosh, finally realizing what Patrick was talking about, immediately turned from the drafts and stood up quickly, as if embarrassed to have been so rude. “Yes, yes…what Dr. McClain said is absolutely correct. If any of you don’t feel comfortable with how I deal with these criminals, now’s the time to back out…” Tadosh’s eyes scanned all three Miracles people.
“Well it’s obvious that I can’t pull out,” Patrick said straightway as he looked at Cheri and Thomas. “But I don’t expect you two to stay…things are starting to heat up now!”
Thomas was shaking his head. “It just wouldn’t seem right for me to pull out, now that I know a little bit more about what these guys are up to.”
Cheri wasted no time as well. “I’m in…I’m still trying to get my hands around this time traveling stuff, but, let’s face it, some kind of future is at stake! It may not necessarily be the one that Tadosh would recognize, but it’s worth fighting for all the same.”
Again, Tadosh smiled at Cheri’s remarks. Her somewhat fatalistic attitude was something that he could relate with as a time traveler who may not make it back home.
Waterfront Park, Seattle; Wednesday morning…
Drogheda, Stefan, and Tage rendezvoused on Seattle’s waterfront area after they had split up on Tuesday and went off to steal more high-tech appliances after their encounter with Dr. McClain and Tadosh. They had a lot to make up for now.
Each man had a car for the endeavor. Like everything else with Drogheda and his men, the vehicles were stolen. Even the clothes they wore were apprehended from family discount stores! When they were each done with shoplifting the gadgets they set out for, they contacted one another on their communicators and decided to meet downtown. They parked their cars elsewhere and converged on the picturesque waterfront, with downtown Seattle’s skyline looming above in the background. They had stopped and got something to eat with the money they ripped off earlier that month then went for a walk on the waterfront as they talked things out.
“Have either of you noticed something,” Drogheda asked; his hand bandaged from the Miracles guard’s gunshot. Stefan and Tage merely looked on, waiting for the older man to continue. “Things on Earth are…different than I thought they would be.”
“Yes,” Stefan said with relief, “I did notice that. I thought it was just me!”
Tage was silently nodding to himself before he spoke.
“There’s some kind of war going on between the United States and Middle East nations…this generation still uses petroleum to fuel cars when, according to history, we know that they had pretty much switched to using alternative fuels by the year 2000…everyone around here seems to speak with a bit of a different accent that I haven’t heard before. I’ve been to Seattle of our century a few times, but I don’t ever remember its people sounding quite like they do here…”
“Well, we’ve gone 279 years into the past, Tage,” Stefan observed. “That’s far longer than the United State’s existence as a nation up to this year of 2008! There are some social changes to be expected.”
“Okay, I can buy that for their accents, but not historical events and things that we know were fixed! Like those other things I pointed out…even some city names are different. They call New Amsterdam New York City, for crying out loud!”
Stefan turned to Drogheda, whom was looking about the waterfront as the two younger ones talked.
“Drogheda, what do you think all this means?”
He shrugged before answering as they all continued to walk at a leisurely pace. “I think it all just confirms what our movement has always said about humanity…that we, humans, control our own destinies! We are not predestined to any particular fate or course in life. All this, Stefan and Tage, fits perfectly into our mission! In a sense, even better than what I had imagined.”
The two buffed young men glanced at one another, puzzled at Drogheda’s bubbly reaction to the news about changes in the time-lines of history. Drogheda explained further.
“You see, back in our original time, we neo-Anarchists worked to free ourselves of all those restrictive governments and religions. The only reason why we had to resort to force was because other people in governments and religions had insisted to coerce others like us into their way of life!
“With the discovery that humans can alter history and the future with Dr. McClain’s time catalyst, maybe we won’t have to go to war with the governments and religions of our time?”
He glanced at the younger ones for their reaction. Tage’s face had brightened with understanding. “Oh, I get it! Change things in the past so that we won’t have governments or religions to worry about in the first place!”
“Exactly,” Drogheda said with the pumping of one of his hands in the air. “We’ve lost so many of our fellow Anarchists in battles against the tyrannical governments and religious organizations of our own time, perhaps we could spare tens of thousands of our people’s lives by simply by-passing a need for war against our enemies?”
Tage and Stefan were both grinning and nodding their heads.
“Of course,” Stefan interjected, “if our improvising a new time catalyst with McClain’s SCR with all the equipment we rounded up works, then we won’t even need to bother with him anymore!”
“Exactly,” Drogheda said dryly. “That’s why it’s important that we get to work on this and pick up where we were before McClain and that Tadosh interrupted our progress!”
The McClains’ personal estate, outside of Seattle; Wednesday evening…
Samantha had fixed a meal for her and her husband and Tadosh. They had eaten well and now it was time for Patrick and Tadosh to retire to Patrick’s den and update each other what was going on in the search for Drogheda, Tage, and Stefan. The McClains had a maid to clean up after their meal, so Samantha was able to join the two men during the discussion. Whenever the maid was around, the McClains made sure to take care not to converse about anything regarding time traveling or the Solar Unlimited.
“You know what I think, Dr. McClain,” Tadosh said as he put down the Seattle Times onto a nearby coffee table, “I think Drogheda and the others are doing this the old-fashioned way…”
“What do you mean by that,” Patrick asked after sipping from his mug of coffee as Sam looked on from another chair in the large office.
“I think they’re not using their portable teleporters anymore so we won’t be able to detect their movements. I haven’t been able to detect so much as a particle of teleportation residue since we’ve last seen them!”
“Is it possible they have some device to block any detection of their teleporting,” Samantha inquired over her cup of coffee.
“Is it possible, sure. But as far as I know, no one’s been able to avert any teleporting detection from our time…I don’t see how they could have such a mechanism in this time!”
“So, how are we supposed to catch them if we can’t even detect them,” Patrick asked, a bit annoyed at the increasingly convoluted situation. “If we don’t find them in time they’re likely to discover how to time travel with a makeshift time machine!”
Tadosh shrugged as he looked away to a corner of the room before answering. “Is there some way we could go to various stores throughout Seattle and ask the clerks to see if they have videos of Drogheda and his men making off with their items?”
“Trust me on this one, Tadosh,” Samantha said with a half-smile, “as a lawyer, I can tell you that the store owners will tell you where to stick it! I don’t know how the American legal system is in 2287, but in 2008 they don’t have any legal obligations to provide that information. Only cops and the courts can get those tapes and I don’t see how the tapes would show us where Drogheda and the other two went to.”
Patrick and Tadosh nodded their heads without saying a word. They all thought for a moment. Patrick blew out a sighed.
“Well, we can’t just drive around the metro and expect to bump into them, that’s around six million people! Tadosh, I don’t mean to second guess you, but are you sure your spectrometer is working correctly?”
“I even drove by the apartment where we found Drogheda just to test it…the spectrometer registered the trace teleportation residue just like it was supposed to. I’m thinking as hard as I can, Doctor! Under these circumstances, the only time we could probably detect them would be—“
Samantha waited for Tadosh’s complete sentence. When she looked up to see why his words had hit a brick wall, she saw Patrick and Tadosh staring at each other with gaping mouths.
“What…?” Samantha’s head whipped back and forth between the two men.
“That’s how our instruments down at the lab detected you, Tadosh, we just didn’t know it at the time!” Samantha looked at him with a lost expression, so Patrick explained. “Some of our lab equipment at Miracles had detected four glitches in the system while we were running tests of the Solar Unlimited. Those glitches were Tadosh, Drogheda, Tage, and Stefan as they chronoported into our time! If we boot up the Solar Unlimited again—with a new Solar Receiver, of course—we’ll be able to detect Drogheda as they attempt to time travel, just like we did when they time traveled to 2008!”
Patrick looked over at Tadosh, just to make sure he had the same idea as him. Tadosh nodded with a bright smile on his face. The smile quickly faded as a thought occurred to him.
“Didn’t Thomas say that it would take several weeks before you could complete a new SCR, since you’d have to do a special order for materials from around the world? Drogheda might figure out how to time travel without the Solar Unlimited by then!”
“I don’t mean to sound like a pompous king, but with my money and connections, Tadosh, I can have the parts here by tomorrow!”
“Hey, before we do the victory dance, here,” Samantha came in, “don’t you guys think that’s cutting it a bit close to the wire?”
“I don’t understand this contemporary expression, Mrs. McClain,” Tadosh voiced.
“I mean, if the only time that we can detect Drogheda without the spectrometer is by detecting them when they actually time travel, wouldn’t it be too late to catch them by then? That would be like trying to catch a fly as it took off to fly as opposed to swatting it as it sits!”
Patrick was violently shaking his head in negation. “No, Sam, but that’s a good point…all four of these guys from 2287 were able to time it perfectly to the nanosecond when we did our project trials. With Tadosh’s help, we can fit the Solar Unlimited so that it will detect the moment Drogheda even turns on his own time traveling device!”
Like a tag-team, Tadosh now finished up the idea for Samantha. “And when Drogheda and his men finally engage the time traveling phase of their own time machine, we’ll be able to detect them and then Patrick and I can teleport to where they are and apprehend them. And after that, I can chronoport all four of us back to our own time!”
Samantha, now, nodded her head with a huge smile. Tadosh and Patrick were looking the happiest that Sam had ever seen them since Tadosh had so precariously come into their lives.
“Why don’t you guys get some rest,” Patrick suggested to Samantha and Tadosh as he got up from his chair, “I’ve got some international phone calls to make for some parts!”
Miracles, Inc. Tower, Monday morning…
It was one of those days when things at work were so normal that Patrick had actually forgotten all about chronoportation technology and Drogheda. What helped was the fact that, since the past weekend when Patrick, Tadosh, and Thomas were able to construct a new Solar Converter Receiver, the last few days had been quiet on the front. Patrick held meetings with a couple of potentially new clients. One was in the business of nanotechnology for medical purposes. The other was with a representative of the Egyptian government who was looking to Miracles as a contractor to desalinate seawater for his nation’s citizens. Patrick was even able to go to one of his more conventional labs (that is, not the one in the basement) and help out with a little scientific research. He had forgotten how much he had enjoyed his work because of all the time traveling business interrupting his personal and professional life.
But the issue of time travel came up anyway. Early in the evening on Monday, Patrick got a call on his cell phone while he was making a memo on his computer. After pulling out the phone from his business-casual jacket, he glanced at the caller id field. It was the Seattle police!
“Great…this can’t be good!” Patrick then turned his attention to his computer terminal and spoke to his Virtual Reality avatar. “Say, Charles…?”
Over the memo document that Patrick was typing appeared the silly-looking wizard, seen only from the chest-up. “Yes, Dr. McClain?”
“Can you try to do something with the last part of my memo? I’ve go to take this call.”
Charles’ eyes blinked and then he went into a little dance. “I’ll be happy to help you, Doctor!”
Patrick finally answered the call.
“Hello? Yes, this is he…yeah, I know him…what!…is he all right?…on what grounds? My wife’s a lawyer, she could—!…all right, I’ll be down.”
Patrick, as he often did when agitated, sighed heavily while rubbing his hair.
“Yes, Dr. McClain?”
“Why don’t you just finish the rest of the memo for me and save it then go ahead and email it, will you? I’ve got something to take care of.”
“I’m saving it now, Doctor…”
Seattle Police Department precinct, downtown Seattle…
After Patrick signed all the necessary paper work and paid the bail, he finally saw Tadosh come around a corner that led to jail cells. Tadosh, dressed in basic jeans, a T-shirt, a baseball cap, and a sports jacket, barely looked up to Patrick’s face. Patrick was a bit upset. It must have shown on his face when Tadosh looked at him.
On closer inspection of Tadosh as they both walked out of the precinct, Patrick noticed that his jacket had a rip on one of its sleeves and Tadosh had some dry blood on his lips.
“First of all,” Patrick said with genuine care, “are you all right?”
“Yeah…thanks for asking Dr. McClain.”
They stepped into Patrick’s “street” car, which was just a couple of years old and, even then, was still on the high-end of the price spectrum. Patrick’s other cars, his toy ones, stayed safely tucked away at his estate. They were driven only on special occasions.
“Was it one of them,” Patrick asked as he started up the car then slowly moved out into traffic.
“Oh, yeah…Stefan. I was taking a dinner break at one of the restaurants with a television set on. I heard on one of the local TV news stations that there was a robbery in progress at a downtown computer store. I figured it was one of them. How often do you hear about a computer store being robbed around five o’clock in the afternoon…during rush hour?”
“Hmm! Drogheda must be getting desperate.”
Patrick glanced at Tadosh with curiosity.
“So, you’re still driving around town with your spectrometer in the hopes that they’ll teleport again and you’ll detect them?”
“That’s right, Doctor. I figured it would be a good back up, just in case your wife was right about the possibility that we could miss them while they try to chronoport out of this time.”
“So, how did Stefan get away? If he teleported we should be able to detect where he went to, right?”
Tadosh rubbed his head, partially from the pain from his fight, partially because of embarrassment. “Uh…actually, Dr. McClain, the kid simply beat the crap out of me while I was trying to snag the computer away from him. That’s when we started to dance, if you know what I mean! That’s why the cops picked me up…disturbing the peace! Huh, and here I am trying to help preserve it! Anyway, Stefan jumped into his car with the computer and drove off…sorry, Dr. McClain, no teleporting to report about.”
“Well, I’m surprised that he didn’t try to blast you!”
“Oh, no, Doctor. None of us would take any chances of shooting off our laser guns downtown. Not outside, anyway. There are simply too many people around and we would only complicate our presence in your time. Even Drogheda and his men wouldn’t risk that.”
Patrick sighed as he came to a stop at a red light. “Did you happen to see which direction Stefan drove off to?”
“South, but he could have turned off anywhere after that.”
So close, Patrick thought to himself.
“Oh, I did manage to retrieve a little something when I grabbed him, though,” Tadosh said with a smile.
Feeling depressed, Patrick glanced at Tadosh, uninterestedly. Tadosh pulled out a small device that looked similar to a cell phone.
“What is it?”
“A communicator that’s quite ubiquitous from my time…you know how, in your time, every email is recorded?”
Tadosh just smiled as he gently tossed the communicator up and down in his hand. Right away, Patrick understood what he was inferring. Patrick’s eyes widened and his mood totally changed.
“You can track every communiqué that was done on that thing,” Patrick asked with a brighter demeanor.
“Yep! It’s a security backup system that governments in the 23rd century felt was needed, for situations like court evidence or for situations like ours…think of it as a flight data recorder for your cell phone!”
“I’m surprised the cops didn’t take that away from you.”
“Well, they have to return your personal items to you upon release…they didn’t know this was Stefan’s. For all they knew, this was an advanced cell phone that they’ve never seen before!”
The two men broke out into a laugh as Patrick drove back to the Miracles, Inc. skyscraper
Basement laboratory at the Miracles, Inc. Tower; Monday night…
After Patrick had stopped at a drive through restaurant to get himself something to eat, he and the Pangean secret agent were back in the clandestine lab. Tadosh played around with Stefan’s communicator device so that it would play back any and all messages at Tadosh’s keyed-in requests. Since the communicator could play back all conversations in various modes—audio, electronic text, and other ways too advanced for Patrick to understand—Tadosh had to take the time to select which method he wanted the recording displayed. The results were disturbing…
“ ’…the next thing I want you to do after that, Stefan, is try to see what it would take to get a job with the University in the Science department.’ “ The voice was that of Drogheda.
The late-23rd century communicator had means to conduct multiple-way communication, so Drogheda and both of his two subordinates were heard on the recordings as well. Patrick looked at Tadosh with horror after hearing Drogheda’s intentions with the University, for that was where Samantha taught law courses!
“ ’Okay,’ “ Stefan’s voice came in, “ ’what position do you think I should try for?’ “
“ ’Remember how we were able to get on at Miracles? In this time in history, people had to see what jobs they had open. It’s not like our time, guys, so you’ll have to keep an open eye for whatever’s being offered.’ “
Now Tage’s voice was heard. “Sir, I’m right in front of the University grounds and I see people tending to gardens and the lawns…those kinds of jobs are usually pretty easy to get.’ “
Now Drogheda responded. “ ’Well, the thing is, Tage, we’re trying to step things up before McClain and that agent finally catch up with us again! We don’t have much time to play the working part like we did at Miracles…
“ ’I suggest you try to get something in the Computer Engineering Department, that way you’d have instant access to their software. Remember, we’re going to need an encryption program ASAP if we’re going to keep McClain and Pangea off our backs!”
As the voices droned on, Patrick and Tadosh exchanged alarmed glances. Drogheda and his men were in the process of coding their time catalyst so that Dr. McClain and Tadosh could not find out when they were going to time travel! That was why Drogheda talked of an encryption program.
“ ’Sir,’ “ Stefan came back in, “ ’I don’t mean to sound like an obstructionist but where are we going to keep all of those people when they chronoport here? Our new apartment isn’t that much bigger!”
“Sweet nectar of life,” Tadosh punched out quickly as the recording went on.
“ ’Well…’ “ Drogheda’s voice came in, this time with the sound of a crowd of people in the background and a horn blowing.
“He must have got on a ferry, most likely in Elliott Bay,” Patrick quickly commented as he nervously looked at Tadosh.
Tadosh quietly nodded as they both listened to Drogheda’s voice.
“ ’…I know that most of them can fit in the apartment. I don’t know…we may have to rent another one somewhere.’ ”
“ ’How many are you expecting to come over, sir,’ “ Tage asked.
“ ’Twenty…that should be a big enough number to start with…”
Tadosh deactivated Stefan’s communicator and the lab fell silent, with the exception of the hums from the computers and the rumblings that were typical of a large building. Patrick was looking off toward a corner of the lab, thinking about what they had just espionaged upon.
“Dr. McClain, you’ve got to tell your wife to stay away from the University until we resolve this!”
“Yeah, tell me about it! She has sabbatical time coming up anyway. She’ll have to find some way to take leave right away…that’s her area of expertise, not mine. What’s scaring me, Tadosh, is that this conversation happened days ago! Drogheda, Stefan, and Tage had all seen her here in the lab when Drogheda held us at gunpoint. Any of them could be employed by the University by now and could have seen Sam there!”
Tadosh straightened up his posture, as he was leaning against a table during the playing of the recording.
“Has Mrs. McClain said anything about seeing any of them at the University?”
Patrick thought for a moment. “No…”
“I think we’ll be okay, then.” Tadosh shifted from one foot to another, as though to visually signify that he was changing the subject matter. “You know, Dr. McClain, as bad as this news is about finding out Drogheda’s plan to chronoport more Anarchists into your time, there’s still more for us to gain from hearing their conversation.”
“You mean we know about their next move,” Patrick said, brightening up a bit. “Yeah, I have some thoughts on that.”
Tadosh’s face contorted with surprise. “Really? I’m glad to see that you’re taking the initiative in this, Dr. McClain!”
“Now, hold on there, Tadosh, I’m not going to convert to your Pangean beliefs or anything!”
“Go ahead, Doctor,” Tadosh said with a chuckle.
“Well, seeing that very few people know about this time traveling business, I thought maybe we should do a little job hunting at the University ourselves!”
Tadosh’s smiling face blinked to that of a warning as he shook his head. “I don’t know, Doctor…”
“Now, hold on, let me explain. You, Sam, Tommy, Cheri, and I have all been seen by Drogheda and company, right? Right. Since we know where Tage and Stefan will try to get their next jobs, we can have someone else inside the University to work for us that hasn’t been seen by them!”
“Kind of like a spy, where that person would tell us when Stefan and Tage are there and when would be the best time to apprehend them…” Tadosh imagined how the plan could work with more details. He nodded his head and twisted his lips. “Dr. McClain, I must say, that’s something that Pangea itself would have hatched up!”
“Thank you! Now, there’s still the detail of Drogheda. We haven’t heard what he’ll be doing while the other two are at the University.”
“If we nab Tage and Stefan soon enough it shouldn’t matter! He’d panic after realizing that he was alone, and believe me with his plan it’ll take more than one person to succeed. He’ll likely teleport to the University to see what was wrong—“
“—and we’ll be there to nab him, too,” Patrick finished with an almost nefarious grin. “Then you can finally chronoport back to the 23rd century with your prized catch! After which, I would proceed to dismantle the Solar Unlimited before any more neo-Anarchists from the future comes to my time and screw things up…! So, there you have it, Tadosh. You’ll get your military metals and I’ll get my life back!”
The two shared in a short laugh. Patrick then sobered up as he lightly slapped Tadosh on one of his shoulders.
“But seriously, Tadosh, I unwittingly had a hand in all of this. I realize I was a bit stubborn about it, at first. But…” Patrick looked off to some unknown part of the lab, slowly shaking his head. “…whatever future may be out there, I don’t want to be responsible for making it worse for those who will live in it!”
Tadosh leaned back against the table and smiled. “You mean for people like me…?”
The University of Washington State at Seattle; Computer Engineering Department, Thursday morning…
“Tage…Tage, could you please come here for a moment?”
Tage, dressed in a pair of slacks and a shirt with a necktie, got up from his computer terminal where he was typing up memos for the Computer Engineering dean’s office. His boss, Valerie, had a bit of a scowl on her face when he reached where she was standing.
“Is there something wrong, Valerie?”
She inhaled and blew out a soft sigh before answering. She liked having Tage work for her, which was why she was so disappointed. “You wouldn’t happen to know where some of our files have gone, do you?”
“What files are you talking about?”
Valerie looked around and lowered her voice. “We seemed to be missing one of Dr. Range’s drafts for his research into superconducting computers!”
“Sh-sh-sh…! I asked Amy if she knew anything about it and she said she’s been busy at the library, pulling books for Dr. Range’s up-coming lecture…she suggested that I ask you.” Valerie, pretty and almost twice the age of Tage, looked at him with wanting eyes…both in terms of wanting to hear an answer from Tage and in terms of her attraction to him.
“Well, how would I know? I’m just an office clerk. What good would some geeky science stuff do for me?”
“Okay! I’m, I’m sorry I asked…the file was probably just misfiled or still in Dr. Range’s office. You know, the absent-minded professor!”
She then giggled. Not laughed, but giggled. It was a true sign to Tage that she had something for him. Just then, a janitor walked in with a maintenance cart and began dumping trash. This caused Valerie to turn so that her back was to the janitor, so that he could not hear their conversation.
“Say, um…” Valerie inconspicuously grabbed a piece of scratch paper and a pen and began writing. “Would you be interested in, I don’t know, grabbing a bite to eat or…” She shrugged nervously.
“Sure, why not?”
The janitor began to cough harshly. Valerie quickly handed Tage the slip of paper with her contact info on it and walked away briskly. Tage’s eyes followed her and he shrugged to himself.
“Are you crazy,” Stefan whispered admonishingly to Tage as he dumped trash into his cart’s garbage barrel. “We can’t get attached to people of this time, you know that!”
Tage barely looked in his direction and whispered back. “Why, afraid I’ll change history somehow by interacting with her? My friend, we’re already doing that with our mission, so what does it matter?”
Stefan glared at him. Tage rebutted the stare.
“Hey, don’t look at me. At least I didn’t lose my communicator. Now that’s got to alter the future somehow!”
“Okay, Tage, so now we both have made a mistake…”
Stefan quickly moved to another part of the office where there was a lone trash can sitting in the corner. Tage faked a need to go over there.
“Where is the file,” Stefan inquired softly as he placed a new trash liner in the can.
“In the recycle bin that’s next to the emergency exit door…you’ll have to dig a bit, I didn’t want to chance anyone seeing it…”
Tage walked back to his desk and resumed typing the memo he was on while Stefan proceeded to other parts of the office and dumped trash. When Stefan reached the last office nearest to the recycle bin, he looked around and then tossed a piece of trash next to the recycle bin so that he could justify his presence there.
Stefan finally got his hands inside the recycle bin and had to do just a little digging before he got the stolen file out. Slyly, he placed the file into the trash itself, pushing it farther down so it couldn’t be seen. He then wheeled the maintenance cart out of the office, not even bothering to glance at his fellow neo-Anarchist.
Patrick had just finished a conference call with several of his corporate clients. They represented the who’s who of high-tech industry, from computer software applications to hardware for rocket ships. It was a relatively quick meeting that was meant to put faces to the cold numbers within Patrick’s corporate network, especially since they were all kicking around the idea of selling their company to Patrick and integrating all of their expertise services under one roof.
Even though Dr. McClain was a billionaire at least a couple of times over, he still had an appetite for Capitalistic adventures. Should these various tech companies follow through and sell their company (or parts of them, anyway) to Miracles, Inc., Patrick stood to add another billion dollars to his personal empire…and that did not include what he could have profited from the Solar Unlimited project, if he were to continue its development!
It was a thought that Patrick had struggled quite ardently against. Morally speaking, Patrick knew he had to dissemble the Solar Unlimited project. He was sincere when he told Tadosh that he did not want his own hands stained with the blood of potentially thousands of people who could die because of some irrational, inter-temporal war that some radicals from the future waged for merely philosophical reasons! Patrick had his own human faults, avariciousness being one of them. Which explained why it was, indeed, a test for Patrick to discontinue the Solar Unlimited. But when he compared himself to Drogheda, Patrick felt like a saint!
After the videoconference, Patrick grabbed a special cell phone that he used for certain occasions and dialed up a certain pretty young lady that he secretly chatted with from time to time.
“…Sonya, what’s going on with our guests from the future,” Patrick asked his newfound spy. Her cover job was being a computer technician for the Computer Engineering Department at the University. It fit her perfectly, since that was what her Bachelors degree was in, anyway.
Sonya, skinny with cropped brown hair and in her mid-thirties, was number three on the hierarchy of Miracles, Inc., after Patrick and Cheri. Patrick and Tadosh had a long talk with her about chronoportation and what Drogheda was up to. They even demonstrated in the basement lab how the portable teleporters worked just to prove to Sonya that the story was no hoax! At the moment, Sonya was sitting outside on a set of bleachers of one of the University’s outside athletic fields. In her immediate surroundings there was no one nearby for several yards.
“I see Stefan all of the time since he’s a janitor, with him walking all over the building,” Sonya said over the secured cell phone line that Patrick utilized from time to time for more delicate contracts he had with governments. “Tage’s story is a bit different…he’s an office worker, it would look suspicious for a computer tech to go to the same office all the time, so it’ll be harder for me to keep tabs on him!”
“What about during break times,” Patrick asked from his office at the Miracles Tower. “You should be able to get a glimpse of Tage during those times.”
“Good idea. I’ll do that on the next coming break. Say, Boss, when, exactly is Tadosh supposed to grab these guys? I mean, if they start to suspect something…”
“Don’t worry, kiddo, we’ve got your back. Tadosh is incognito on the University grounds.”
Unconsciously, Sonya started to look around, as if she would be able to see him from where she was. “Oh, really…? As what?”
“He doesn’t want me to tell you.”
“Well, he thinks it might influence the way you conduct yourself; that you might run to him too often or rely on him too much and not do your part. Sonya, he’s the secret agent, we’ve got let him make these decisions!”
“Yeah, I know…so, when it looks like a good time for Tadosh to apprehend one of them, just dial that weird number combination on my cell?”
“Yep, that will connect you to Tadosh’s own communicator. We had to use that dial code since his communicator is late-23rd century technology, remember?”
“Hmm! How could I forget? Not after seeing you guys pop in and out of the air like it was some Star Trek episode!”
Patrick laughed over the line.
“All right, Patrick, I’ll call you when something changes.”
“Okay, but don’t wait too long, Sonya…we don’t have that much time before Drogheda gets his own time catalyst running and he’ll start pouring out Anarchists from his time into ours!”
Washington State University at Seattle, Computer Engineering Department; Friday evening…
All of the other janitors at the Computer Engineering building had left hours ago, but Stefan had returned, lurking around the facility. On Fridays, most of the University closed down earlier than it did on the weekdays, so it made Stefan’s task much easier.
Stefan used his id badge to enter the Computer Engineering building. Like most id badges, it was also a keyless card. With the master keys he had, so that he could open up office doors to clean inside, Stefan virtually had free range in the building. He had returned to the facility with different clothes on. Not black clothes, however, that would arouse suspicion among any teachers or students that might be lingering around.
Stefan had been in the building for five minutes when he finally reached the dean’s office of Computer Engineering, where Tage had a clerical position. Of course, the door to the dean’s office was locked, so he reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a 23rd century equivalent to a Swiss army knife and played with the door knob until the door opened. Stefan looked around the low-lit hallway before entering into the room.
The door was barely closed when he felt the stinging sensation of a stunner blast from Tadosh’s gun. Stefan quickly turned to see who had shot him and tried to run toward Tadosh, but his legs gave way and Stefan slumped onto the floor.
“Good job, Tadosh,” Patrick said as he popped up from behind an office desk. He went over to help Tadosh move the muscular young man onto a pushcart they had gotten from the basement of the building. “Are you sure you just stunned him? He feels pretty limp to me!”
Patrick removed Stefan’s necklace id badge from around his neck and put it around him, but making sure that Stefan’s face was turned, facing his chest so no one could see that it was not Patrick.
“Trust me, Dr. McClain, if I had blasted him with the regular laser puck, you’d see blood all over this room.”
“Thanks for sharing!”
Tadosh looked at Patrick with confused eyes after getting Stefan onto the cart. “Thanks for what?”
“Never mind, Tadosh, it’s a 21st century thing.”
Tadosh shrugged and helped Patrick cover Stefan up with a large, empty computer box. They had positioned his docile body so that he was in the fetal curl, thus making it easier for the previously cut out bottom of the box to slide over him while the top of the box remained closed.
They wheeled the cart out of the dean’s office and went down the hallway toward the elevator bank.
Drogheda’s new apartment, several miles east of downtown Seattle; Friday night, 11:30 pm…
Tage closed the front door to Drogheda’s apartment after arriving there. He had only begun to peel off his jacket when Drogheda stormed in from the bedroom, his face indignant.
“What’s wrong,” Tage asked, a frown equally on his chiseled face.
“I thought you might have been Stefan…”
Tage’s head snapped to the side with surprise. “You mean he’s not here yet?”
“You’d known that if you weren’t out on your date tonight, wouldn’t you now?”
Tage sighed as loud as he could while he let his jacket plop on a nearby chair. It was times like these when Drogheda would seem more like a lecturing father than a fellow Anarchist activist!
“Stefan had to tell,” Tage said under his breath, his head shaking and a smirk on his lips.
“As he should have! Tage, we all agreed not to get tangled up with people of this time!”
“Yeah, but that was before we changed plans and decided to bring our people to this time instead of us going back to our own time!”
It was a good point that Drogheda had not thought on before. He acknowledged this with a subtle nod of his head. “Fair enough…right now, we need to focus on why Stefan isn’t back yet. Of course, it doesn’t help that we can’t reach him on his communicator since he lost it!”
Tage remained quiet as Drogheda began to pace in the living room of the moderately spacious apartment.
“Let’s see,” Drogheda thought out loud, “when I last saw him, he said he was heading back to the University to get a surplus hard drive he saw at your office earlier this week.”
“Yeah,” Tage finally said as he nodded his head, “I noticed it, too. I couldn’t get it during the weekdays because of the late hours the University is opened.”
“Don’t worry, Tage, I understand that…”
“Think he teleported somewhere else? Maybe he got another tip for more equipment?” Tage asked this as he scanned the various home and industrial appliances that littered Drogheda’s living room.
Drogheda was rubbing his strong jaw now. “I already checked that an hour ago. The only thing I could pick up on my detector was from when we last used them, and even then, those traces are slowly fading away. Well, that, and a few stronger residual traces from McClain’s Tower.”
“Why, are they teleporting all over Seattle hoping to bump into us,” Tage asked with a sardonic smile. He knew that such a search would not only be futile since Drogheda and his team had not teleported in several days—and, therefore, could not be traced—but it would also be a waste of power for their teleporters!
“No, not in this case. The coordinates show them to be in the same pinpoint area, which means that they were basically teleporting in the same room. Why they would do that, I don’t know.”
“Should we go over to the University, see what’s going on?”
Drogheda looked up at Tage with a blank stare then his face was animated from an epiphany.
“I should have known,” said Drogheda to Tage, though he was looking at a corner of his apartment. “They already have him.”
“What,” Tage exclaimed as he walked up closer to the older man.
“Yeah, they must have him already.” Drogheda now turned to face Tage. “Think about it, Stefan goes missing at the University, we teleport there in a panic, and guess what happens after that…”
“McClain and that Pangean meddler trace our teleporting.”
“Exactly! Or, they might even be there, waiting for us and using Stefan as bait for us to bite!”
“Okay, so what do we do now? Even if we drive over there to get Stefan, McClain and Tadosh will likely have a trap for us; we teleport over there, they will for sure detect us even if they are not there, or they’ll be there waiting for us after teleporting…” Tage raised his hands in a gesture of defeat, or fatalism. “Sounds like to me, sir, we have no choice but to confront them head on…I say enough of these hide-and-seek games!”
Drogheda was proud to hear the young man take such an aggressive attitude. He nodded after Tage’s statement and went over and grabbed his own jacket.
“Uh, sir,” Tage voiced with a concerned tone, “I was really thinking more along the lines that I should go and get Stefan while you stay and continue to work on our time catalyst.”
“Tage, remember there are two of them. You can’t handle them by yourself! Just because McClain is of this primitive time doesn’t mean we should underestimate him…after all, according to our history, McClain is the one who made our time traveling abilities possible in the first place! Never underestimate your opponent, Tage. Especially when they’re as smart as McClain!”
Tage gave a single nod of reluctant approval then slipped his jacket back on. Drogheda grabbed both of their pouches that were full of espionage equipment and tossed one to Tage. This time, they took their portable teleporters and their laser guns. The two men headed for the door.
“Besides, like you said, Tage, I think we’ve all had enough of these games!”
The University of Washington State, at the Computer Engineering facility; Saturday, 12:51 am…
Patrick woke up to Tadosh’s radio call. He pushed the night light to his watch to see the time and answered Tadosh’s call over the high-tech, portable radio.
“You know, it’s okay if you need to go home, Dr. McClain. I’ve been on plenty of mission on my own in the 23rd century, especially after I lost my partner.”
Patrick and Tadosh were hiding within separate, large bushes on the Computer Engineering Department’s grounds. Patrick and Tadosh had advanced spying gear from both Patrick’s corporation and Tadosh’s futuristic equipment. Once again, they were both clad in black clothes for the task.
“No, Tadosh, but thank you,” Patrick softly whispered over the radio. “Even if they don’t show up here tonight, or at all, the worst we lost was some sleep!”
“Okay, I just wanted to let you know for the record…Dr. McClain?”
“Yeah, buddy?” Patrick laughed within himself after saying that. He thought how ironic it was that he’d call this little man “buddy” and ended up working with him, given their tense introduction to each other just weeks ago.
“Listen, if something should happen to me tonight, I want you to promise me that you will continue the mission.”
“Continue the mission? Tadosh, listen to yourself! First of all, I don’t want you to talk about things like that, okay? Secondly, I’m a scientist and a successful businessperson. There’s no way I could pick up after you if…”
“I understand where you’re coming from, Doctor. But from a practical standpoint, someone has to stop these guys from trying to wipe out governing bodies in all of human societies! The Solar Unlimited is the time catalyst, and no one else in this time—aside from Drogheda, his men, and I—knows how to work it better than you! Not even your lab assistants can substitute for you on this, especially since most of them don’t even know about the time travel implications of the Solar Unlimited.”
Patrick mauled on what Tadosh put to him.
“Let’s just get through tonight. How about that?”
“I mean it, Patrick! The time catalyst has to be destroyed, whether I’m alive taking these goons with me, or even if you have to dismantle it yourself and leave Drogheda and his men trapped in this time…it has to be done!”
Patrick noticed that for the first time since they had met, Tadosh had addressed him by his first name. Patrick speculated that it was more about Tadosh emphasizing his point about taking apart the Solar Unlimited than any intimate male bonding. Tadosh went on.
“You have to understand, Doctor, why I am bringing this up again…I don’t know how it’s like to be rich. I’ve grown up in a lower-class family. I joined Pangea at a young age not just because I believe in their doctrine of global stability, but it was also a way out of poverty for me. Like the old saying goes, You can’t miss what you’ve never had!”
“Yeah,” Patrick said over the radio with a grin, glad to hear that some things from his time carried over to Tadosh’s generation, “we have that saying in the 21st century, too.”
“Well, my point is, Dr. McClain, I can only imagine the temptation that might be there for you once I go back to my time.”
There was a long pause on either side of the communication line.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, Tadosh.”
“Oh, come on, Doctor. Who’s to know, right? I go back to 2287 with Drogheda, Stefan, and Tage and there’ll be no one from my time left to confirm whether or not you’ve destroyed the time catalyst! As you’ve said yourself, the potential financial rewards for your personal wealth would probably make you the richest person in the world—at least!
“Like I said, Dr. McClain, I don’t know how it is to be rich. Once a person becomes super wealthy, I don’t know, it’s almost like their genetic code has changed! You become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. You become accustomed to people waiting on you. And don’t even mention fame…! Look, I’m not saying that you’ll go bankrupt after dismantling the Solar Unlimited. You’ll still be a billionaire. But from what I’ve read and heard about rich people like you, Dr. McClain—in particular, those that are really driven, it’s like being rich is a narcotic fix for you! It’s not enough just being rich after a while. You then have to go the next ten miles, just because it’s there…”
Again, the communication line went silent. Tadosh did this on purpose so his words would stay in the young man’s mind.
“All I’m saying, Dr. McClain,” Tadosh finally said in the night, “is that you must fight these temptations when they come at you, and they will. Even many years after you’ve demolished the Solar Unlimited, because you’ll still have the project in memory! You must use that same drive and discipline that made you rich to help you leave the Solar Unlimited in the past!”
Patrick said nothing. In part, because many of these things that Tadosh said to him had, in fact, been on his mind. But the way that Tadosh summed it up for him that night made the task of decommissioning the Solar Unlimited seem more challenging than Pat realized. But they were words of wisdom, Dr. McClain knew deep down inside.
Just then, Patrick saw two figures walking in the dark in the direction of the Computer Engineering building.
“Tadosh,” Patrick whispered even lower than he had been that evening, “they’re here!”
“All right, Dr. McClain, let’s keep calm…don’t do anything yet. I’ll let you know when it’s the right time to move.”
After Drogheda slipped inside the window he broke to gain access to the inside of the building, Tage climbed through as well. They were on the first floor of the Computer Engineering Department. Like most public universities, the University of Washington State did not have guards manning the facility.
The room that Drogheda and Tage broke into was a sundry classroom. Both men managed to bump into several chairs as they maneuvered in the darkened room, griping as they did so. After opening the door that led to a deserted hallway, Drogheda non-verbally motioned to Tage to go down the opposite end of the hall where he was going. In very deliberate strides, the two late-23rd century Anarchists went out looking for their missing colleague.
Tage came upon a flight of stairs. He reached into his pouch of equipment that he brought with him from Drogheda’s apartment and took out his high-tech night vision goggles. They were a lot lighter in weight than the 21st century version. Indeed, they looked more like regular reading glasses, just with a few gadgets and lights here and there. Drogheda also donned his night goggles.
Tage reached the second floor of the Computer Engineering complex. He whipped out his teleportation spectrometer but saw no registration of teleporting residue. He left out the spectrometer in case that situation had changed. In his other hand was his lancer gun. Tage was constantly pointing it out into the dark with each step he took in the darkened hallway.
Drogheda was still on the first floor of the building going room to room with cat-like motions. Like Tage, he had checked for quantum residue from any teleporting activities and found none. But unlike his younger counterpart, Drogheda replaced his spectrometer into his pouch so he could have one hand free to hit his teleporting buttons should an emergency arise.
Since Drogheda had his lancer gun shot from him at the Miracles, Inc. skyscraper weeks ago, he had to resort to using primitive 21st century weaponry…Drogheda had a gun he bought from a downtown pawn shop not long after losing his advanced future gun. Under the circumstances, it was the best he could do.
When Drogheda finished his sweep of all the classrooms and offices on the first floor, he called up Tage on his communicator, making sure to have the call alert Tage via light indicator or skin-sensory. That way Tage’s communicator would not chime out loud and give him away to Dr. McClain and Tadosh—if they were there.
“Sir…?” Tage responded very quietly over his communicator. He stopped creeping along the floor so he could concentrate on the conversation, and so that the conversation would not be a distraction to him if he were to run into a surprise.
“I’m done down here…if you’re still searching the second floor, I’ll head up to the third. Isn’t that where your office is, in the dean’s area?”
“Yeah…do you want me—“
Over the com-link, Drogheda heard a faint blast sound. Tage’s communicator was still on, so Drogheda was able to hear his body, his gun lancer, and the communicator hit the floor.
“Tage,” Drogheda said as loud as he could without being too loud, “Tage…!”
Over the communicator, Drogheda heard some scuffling around with some sliding noise, like someone dragging a body on a floor. Then the communicator went blank…
Drogheda now looked around the hallway of the first floor. The building seemed a lot darker now that he was alone! He knew that he could teleport to the second floor right away and catch either Patrick McClain or Tadosh in the act of dragging poor Tage around.
But he could fall into a second trap: it could only be one of them, and as Drogheda would engage in a fight with one, the other could be waiting in the shadows of the dark, and do the same to him what they did to Stefan and Tage. Or, perhaps both Dr. McClain and Tadosh would be there, waiting for Drogheda. Either way, it was two against one, and no matter how primitive of a time Drogheda was in, some universal truths transcended time.
Live to fight another day, Drogheda thought to himself. He engaged his teleporter and quickly vanished in a wisp of blue light and electrical arcs. He automatically materialized in front of the car that he had driven he and Tage in. Drogheda was able to do this since he had pre-programmed his teleporter with the coordinates of the location of his car, just for such emergencies that he was in now. Knowing that Dr. McClain and Tadosh could only trace where a teleporting activity took place and could not trace where he was going, Drogheda hopped into his car and sped away, not sure if he should go back to his apartment.
Miracles, Inc. Tower, basement laboratory; early Saturday morning…
Tadosh and Dr. McClain were initially waiting until they caught all three of the neo-Anarchists before Tadosh chronoported them all with him back to 2287. But since it turned out that they were nabbing the trio one at a time, they had to slightly change their plan. Tadosh didn’t want to take any chances that Drogheda and Tage would detect a chronoportation activity if Tadosh went on to teleport Stefan back to 2287 when they first caught him. That would have alerted Drogheda and Tage, thereby, making the new Solar Converter Receiver a new target for Drogheda. As it had turned out, when Patrick had made his international calls for special parts for a new Solar Receiver, they came in the next day of his request, just as he told Thomas that they would.
Rebooting the Solar Unlimited network so Patrick and Tadosh could chronoport Stefan and Tage back to 2287 did, in fact, require a lab full of scientists. But Patrick was not going to risk telling any more people about the story of time traveling and the three Anarchists. Once again, after all this business with Drogheda and Tadosh was done, Patrick still had a life and career to think about! So, Patrick utilized everyone that did know of the episode, including Samantha, a great lawyer and professor but with no formal scientific background.
The other people Patrick called on to help out with rebooting the Solar Unlimited were, of course, from various scientific backgrounds. Thomas, Cheri, and Sonya all showed up that Saturday dawn. With Patrick and Tadosh—who was not a scientist either, but a military man with practical experience with chronoportation—obviously being there, that made a total number of six people working on the Solar Unlimited. Considering it took most of the fifty special lab assistants to run Patrick’s project, six people was a very small number of people for the task.
They had to do a lot of improvising. Samantha had taken several scientific courses between high school and when she went to New York University, but it was not the same as the hands on experience as working in an actual lab. Patrick and Thomas heaped up some procedure files and handed them to her. She didn’t have to read through them, per se, but she had to read certain sections of the manuals.
Patrick, Tadosh, Cheri, Thomas, and Sonya would periodically yell out instructions to her from across the lab, sometimes three at the same time! During one of the procedures, Samantha mistakenly punched in the command sequence into a terminal that would have activated the solar energy flow from the Sun much too early. The result would have been the new SCR exploding and sparking an electrical fire on the roof of the Miracles Tower. With the Miracles skyscraper being around one thousand feet high, it would have been a long day for the Seattle Fire Department! However, Patrick rushed over to the terminal Samantha was on and killed the command with plenty of time to spare.
As all of this commotion was going on, Tage and Stefan remained blindfolded, gagged and bound to a couple of chairs in a corner of the laboratory. And for good measure, Tadosh had placed earplugs into both of the young men’s ears. The Miracles team had done this in case the Anarchists would utilize any of what they saw in the lab to their own benefit. The Miracles team had previously confiscated the two young men’s portable teleporters, Tage’s communicator, and their pouch of advanced equipment.
After about thirty minutes, Patrick and his people were ready to chronoport Stefan and Tage. Tadosh had a pre-written note for his superiors back in 2287. Patrick had Charles, his AI avatar, write the note for Tadosh. The note, placed in an envelope and taped onto Tage’s forehead, was basically a summary of what Tadosh was doing in 2008 and gave some updates.
Finally, Patrick went down the list of check offs for each procedure. This, too, took a bit of extra time since Tadosh, Thomas, Sonya, or Cheri had to run around and punch in commands throughout the fairly large lab. Samantha decided to stay out of this portion of the chronoporting. She quietly sat next to Patrick at the command console.
Earlier, Stefan and Tage, both still taped up and bound, were placed strategically next to the Solar Converter Receiver on the Tower’s roof by the Miracles crew after they had fully programmed the Solar Unlimited. The chairs they were on had wheels, so Tadosh took Stefan while Patrick wheeled off Tage. After Tadosh and Patrick pushed the men off of the maintenance elevator and out onto the roof, that was when Patrick noticed the door that led to the roof had its door handle blasted off. Apparently, the late-23rd century time travelers materialized next to the original Receiver and broke into the Tower via the maintenance door on the roof.
After Patrick had rattled off the procedural checklist back in the lab, Tadosh had pushed the final commands that engaged the Solar Unlimited. Patrick thought within himself about Tadosh’s warning that he should destroy the Solar Unlimited after Tadosh went back to his time with the criminals. He’s right, Patrick contemplated during the procedure, all this power from the Sun at my hands is addictive!
Using a special security camera that was mounted on the roof that had its images piped only to the basement lab, the Miracles crew was able to see a large flash of blue vapor and a storm of tiny lightnings, all whirling around the two seated figures. And, in an instant, they were gone.
Miracles, Inc. Tower, at Dr. Patrick McClain’s penthouse office; Saturday, noon-time…
Patrick, Samantha, Tadosh, Cheri, Sonya, and Thomas had all just finished a big lunch that Patrick had delivered to them. Partially as a small celebration for meeting half of their goal by chronoporting a couple of the neo-Anarchists to the global security body of Pangea in 2287, partially because of all the running around they all had to do in order to operate the Solar Unlimited network with so few people! Now, they just had to work on the second half of their goal: transporting two more people back to 2287, namely, Tadosh with Drogheda under the Pangean secret agent’s reconnaissance.
The emptied paper plates and cardboard containers from their meal covered the large, wooden conference table in Patrick’s office. Patrick noticed that Tadoh’s eyes stayed on the Seattle skyline while the others around the table just chit-chatted about everyday life things.
“What’s the matter, Tadosh,” Patrick said sarcastically to the little man, “trying to soak up the scene before you head home!”
There was a spattering of laughter around the conference table. Tadosh was also smiling at Dr. McClain’s quip.
“No, actually, Dr. McClain, I was just thinking about how small Seattle of this time looks.”
The others around the table glanced at each other with surprise.
“Just how big is Seattle in the 23rd century, Tadosh,” Patrick asked him with a concentrated look on his face. “Because, by today’s standards, Seattle’s considered one of the bigger cities in the nation…certainly by metropolitan references.”
Tadosh thought for a bit before responding. “Well…after watching your TV of this time and reading various magazines and newspapers since I’ve been here, I’d say that Seattle of 2287 is around the population size of your New York City of today.”
There were a couple of gasps around the table, but most of the Miracles people just sat and stared at Tadosh with astonishment. Noticing this, Tadosh went on.
“Well, come on, guys, this shouldn’t be too much of a shock for you. I mean, we’re talking about almost a three hundred years’ difference between your generation and mine! Why, I just read a week ago that around the year 1905, your New York City was about the size of Los Angeles of 2005! Around a hundred years later, your New York City has added over five million people since 1905…remember, the Seattle of my time had 279 years to grow since your time of 2008!”
The room went quiet as everyone chewed on Tadosh’s word. Most were nodding their heads in understanding.
“Well, then,” Thomas now came in, his eyes wide open with wonderment, “how big is New York City of your time, Tadosh?”
“Yeah,” Patrick added, “to say nothing of Mexico City. Of our time, it’s currently the largest city in the world.”
Again, Tadosh contemplated before answering. “First of all, what you call New York City, in my time we call it New Amsterdam…apparently, somewhere in the time-lines of history, that is one of several things that is different in my history than yours. Anyway, our “New York City” is at least twenty-five million people.”
Gasps were heard loudly around the table, this time.
“That’s about the population of Mexico City, today,” Sonya shared.
“That’s right,” Tadosh agreed as he looked at her. “And as for Mexico City of my time, believe it or not, it’s only around five million people.”
This time, everyone’s faces—except Tadosh, of course—had a confused look.
“Well,” Cheri speculated with a frowning face, “perhaps the Mexican government will implement some kind of population control policy in the future…at the rate of population growth the world is doing now, I’m surprised that your New Amsterdam has gotten as large as it is—I mean, will be…or, might be.”
Tadosh chuckled at Cheri’s attempt at nuance in her response.
“Actually, Cheri, I think it has more to do with differences in our history…like I’ve mentioned to you all before, there are a lot of things in this world, at this time, that are exactly the same that I had learned in my history courses in my schooling. But there are equally divergent histories that I can’t, honestly, even begin to explain!”
“Yeah,” Thomas came back in, yet enthused by the conversation, “Pat told me that in your history, humans have already colonized the Moon by the year 2000! We’ve barely set foot there, much less colonized it. How can our histories be that much different?”
Tadosh was already shaking his head. “I’m not quite sure, Thomas. Remember, I’m a military man, not a scientist. Even then, the Pangean scientists themselves weren’t sure what kind of history I’d find myself in. Some said that I would find the exact same history that I had read about. Other scientists said that I would find a virtual alien Earth. Then, of course, there’s always someone else in the middle of the two extremes.”
“It sounds like those moderate voices were the ones right on target,” Patrick observed.
Tadosh slowly nodded at Patrick’s point and returned his eyes to the Seattle skyline. He inhaled and breathed out a deep sigh. “You know what really scares me, though…? I worry that, if I make it back to 2287, I’m not sure if it’ll be the same 2287 that I had left.”
“So cities might have different names, Tadosh,” Thomas stated. “Or, maybe TV won’t be invented in your time until a little later in your history…what’s the big deal with those kinds of discrepancies?”
Tadosh glanced at Thomas, a hint of indignation in his eyes but then left just as quickly. “Thomas, one of the things that scientists of my time speculated about time traveling is not only the likelihood that events and objects would be different, but people would also be different…I’m afraid I won’t have a wife and kids if I get back to my time! Given how one thing that’s different in history changes the course of other events, like a set of standing dominoes, events in history will be different enough in my history that I won’t likely run into a woman named Tanille. And, as a result, we will likely never meet like I did in my original history, and we will likely never have children together…”
The conference table was dead silent. All of the Miracles people locked eyes, especially on Patrick.
“Tadosh,” Patrick said with a bit of a broken voice, “you never said anything about you having a family!”
Tadosh looked at Patrick with a defiant smile. “Doctor, aside from philosophical reasons for trying to stop Drogheda from severely altering time, my family is another reason why I’m so determined to stop these Anarchists and why I’m so determined to make it back to 2287!”
McClains’ personal estate, outside of Seattle; Sunday afternoon…
Patrick had just completed his jog on the estate. He stopped jogging just yards away from his mansion and walked the rest of the way as he wiped his lean face of the sweat with a towel. He stopped in the middle of his front yard and let the cool spring breeze caress his soaked body. And that’s when he realized that Samantha’s car was still on the driveway.
Samantha was supposed to have gone to Olympia, where she had a seasonal part-time job with the State of Washington as a professional advisor on legal matters. Patrick looked into the car and saw some of her paper work on the car’s floor on the passenger seat side. Patrick decided to phone her with his cell phone. The phone rang once, then disconnected right away. Patrick stared at his cell phone as he thought. He then walked into the front door to their house.
Patrick walked all over the first floor of the house. He then headed for the staircase but stopped himself after seeing a note taped to the banister. The note simply read, Give me my men back or give me access to the Solar Unlimited, and you’ll get her back. It was then that Patrick cried aloud in his empty house.
Two hours later that afternoon, in the McClains’ house…
Just the day before they had all gathered at Patrick’s swanky office in the Miracles Tower, relaxing with a good meal after chronoporting Stefan and Tage back to their rightful time and into the waiting hands of Pangean officials. But today, Tadosh, Thomas, Cheri, and Sonya were all at Pat’s house, sitting solemnly as they thought on how they could rescue Samantha from Drogheda’s clutches.
Earlier, as soon as Tadosh emerged from his car, he had whipped out his spectrometer and, sure enough, detected teleportation residue in the air. Without a doubt, Drogheda had decided to risk being traced by his teleporting and did a little nabbing of his own. Now, Dr. McClain and Tadosh were on the defensive.
Tadosh also risked being traced by Drogheda as he teleported himself to the coordinates that the spectrometer showed where Drogheda had teleported to. Tadosh had materialized in an alley in downtown Seattle. It could have been any number of alleys in Seattle. Drogheda had taken care not to teleport from his new apartment. Hence, the Miracles team still could not determine where he was setting up a makeshift time machine and where he was holding the Princess of Miracles. There was nothing else for Tadosh to do but teleport back to Patrick’s house, several miles from the depths of downtown Seattle.
At that point, it did not matter that Drogheda could trace Tadosh’s teleportational activities. For one, he had already discovered where the McClains lived, secondly, Tadosh was now fully ready for a head to head confrontation. It was one thing to mess with Dr. McClain. After all, he did create the first ever time catalyst in human history, even if it were by mistake. But to kidnap his spouse, who had nothing to do with it, was quite another issue!
“Pat,” Sonya said in a overly soften voice in the living room where everyone was, “I’m just saying this because we need to look at all possible options…”
Patrick looked over at Sonya with reddened eyes. He sat patiently, ready to hear any suggestion that would get his wife back.
“Maybe we ought to call the cops on this one. Or even the FBI…like Tadaosh said, Drogheda could be anywhere around Seattle with her!”
“Can I respectfully disagree,” Tadosh interjected after a long silence that followed Sonya’s suggestion. All eyes turned to Tadosh. “I can say this with experience, that getting the authorities on this would only agitate Drogheda. And with him being in possession of Sam, I don’t think that’s what we want…think of the profile that we’re dealing with, here: a violent neo-Anarchist, who, by the very nature of being an Anarchist, abhors authority! Sending in the cops or the FBI would only spark that keg of gun powder!”
Even Sonya had to acquiesce to Tadosh’s point as they all nodded. Again, the room went into a silence. They all thought hard for any alternatives.
Patrick suddenly lifted up his head as a thought occurred to him. Without even needing to hear his colleague’s question, Patrick obliged.
“I tried calling Sam on my cell phone earlier today…”
Everyone else in the living room glanced at each other. Was this just a desperate spouse who was grasping at straws?
“Pat,” Cheri came in, “I, I just don’t see how that helps us—“
“The phone rang once and it was disconnected!”
Now the others were thinking within themselves. Patrick had never bothered telling them this point since he was too occupied about Sam’s kidnapping.
“It could have been Drogheda with her cell, simply hanging up on you,” Thomas guessed.
“True,” Pat said, still having a new fire in his countenance, “but think about Stefan’s communicator that Tadosh and I told you about earlier…in 2008, we don’t have recorded voices as a record of what numbers we dial or what calls we receive on our phones, like from Tadosh’s time. But what do we have in our time instead…?”
Everyone looked to each other with inquisitive faces. Even Tadosh didn’t know where the Miracle Man was going with this point!
“We have a list of incoming and outgoing numbers, right?” Patrick looked around the room. He continued. “Phone companies and even some government agencies have lists that show us these incoming and outgoing calls, but also the lists show us what time the calls were made or received…okay, now what if we used our time’s technology with Tadosh’s technology?”
“You mean, being able to trace the call instantaneously and having the ability to visualize it,” Tadosh said, still wondering if he understood Patrick’s point.
“Right,” Patrick said. “But not just trace when the call was made, but track the actual signals that the phone gives out…even when Samantha’s not calling on the phone.”
“You mean like a global tracking system on steroids, but for phones,” Sonya guessed.
“Well, sure,” Patrick said as he stood up now. “Just the mere fact that it has a working battery inside it makes this possible…let’s try to trace Sam’s cell phone heart beat, in a matter of speaking!”
Tadosh slowly shook his head as he looked at Patrick with admiration. “Now I see why history has chosen you as the creator of the first time catalyst…” Tadosh reached over to his pouch of equipment and pulled out his communicator. “Okay, Dr. McClain, now how can we do this without your wife’s cell phone?”
Patrick retrieved his own cell phone and pushed the redial button on it. Samantha’s cell phone number was then displayed on his caller id.
“Now, we’ll have to play around with it a bit,” Patrick admitted as he walked over to where Tadosh was with his communicator on hand while the others just looked on. “Do you have some kind of an adaptor for your communicator, Tadosh?”
Tadosh, without saying a word, reached into his bag again and pulled out some kind of compact adaptor that reminded Patrick of five outlet plugs pieced together.
“Great,” he simply responded as he turned to look at the others in the living room while Tadosh began his task of tracking Samantha’s phone signal. “Look, guys…as you’ve seen before, things can get a little sticky with Drogheda. I don’t expect you—“
“—Pat,” Cheri said with a tired, but determined, voice, “spare us the hero crap…we’re all staying to help you two out.”
Thomas and Sonya both tried to smile, but the weight of concern for Sam was so heavy on their faces that their smile turned out to be grins. But that was good enough for Patrick.
“Pat…! Pat, wake up,” Cheri called out to him from the living room. “Tadosh detected something!”
Patrick, upstairs in his bedroom, had taken a nap while Tadosh searched for his wife’s cell phone’s innate signal. He glanced at the clock on a wall of his bedroom and saw that he had been asleep for only about thirty minutes. It seemed much longer to him. Then he remembered that he had gone for a jog before discovering that Samantha had been kidnapped…his body was still tired from the jog and the stress of his missing wife.
When Patrick made it back to the living room, he saw Sonya, Cheri, and Thomas all gathered around a seated Tadosh. In front of Tadosh, on the living room coffee table was an odd jumble of Tadosh’s and Stefan’s communicators, Tadosh’s teleportational spectrometer, and Patrick’s primitive cell phone. All of these equipments were connected in some way or another to each other…Tadosh had modified his search for Sam’s cell phone signal by including Stefan’s communicator and his own spectrometer.
Patrick had been around Tadosh and his late-23rd century gadgets enough to know that Tadosh was using both communicators to somehow boost his signal search and that he was using his spectrometer detector to visually track where Drogheda had likely taken Samantha. Once again, the holographic image was that of the metropolitan area of Seattle.
“It’s a bit faint, but I’m almost certain that’s where Sam’s innate phone signal is,” Tadosh said with some piquancy. “Congratulations, Dr. McClain, I think your idea is a basis for my century’s communication technology!”
Tadosh pressed a zoom-in button and the hologram magnified the location of the signal, which was illustrated with a highlighted zone of street blocks.
“That’s just south of Madison Street,” Patrick said with surprise.
“Yeah,” Thomas needlessly shared, “just a relatively few miles east from downtown.”
“Now, like I said, the signal from her phone is a bit weak, so I would advise that when we go over there that we do it cautiously.” Tadosh looked behind him at everyone else, just to emphasize his point.
“Think we should just teleport over there, Tadosh,” Patrick asked.
Tadosh took some time to think about this question as he peered at the levitating holographic image of Seattle, its subtle light reflecting off of Tadosh’s face. “Well, if I’m wrong about this signal being your wife’s phone, we might surprise an innocent family sitting down to a Sunday meal! And, even if I am right, what if Drogheda took the phone from her and just threw it away in some public garbage can?”
That was something Patrick did not think about. He nodded his head as he spoke. “Yeah…good point. And if we teleported to a wrong place, that would alert Drogheda that we’re on to him after he looks at his own spectrometer, and…and he could do anything to Sam!”
“On the other hand,” Sonya pointed out from behind Tadosh, “if we try to drive over there so we won’t be detected via teleporting, it might take too long! Drogheda might even decide to move out of town, if he gets his own time catalyst going!”
“Out of town,” Cheri said sardonically, “I worry about him taking Sam with him out of our time!”
Now that was something Patrick had never thought about. And, now, he was terrified. The living room went silent, save for the pulsating hum from all the equipment that was on the coffee table. Then Patrick had a thought.
“You know, we could always give Drogheda one of the things he demanded…”
Everyone else in the room looked at Patrick like he was crazy.
“Tadosh,” Patrick requested softly, “do you mind unplugging Stefan’s communicator so you could look up Drogheda’s communicator’s code number…whenever someone is doing a ransom they always leave a means of communication. Otherwise, how will they get their payment if they can’t talk to the one with the money?”
Cheri, Thomas, Sonya, and even Tadosh all looked at Patrick with astonished faces. But, yet, they understood. For it seemed like all their options were played out. How else could Patrick get his wife back safely?
Miracles, Inc. Tower, Sunday evening…
Patrick did not tell the security guards who he was meeting that night, only that he had a special guest. He asked the two young men to take the rest of the evening off. In true Miracle McClain fashion, their time was still paid. Needless to say, such benign gestures made Patrick quite popular among his employees. The janitorial and maintenance crews had already worked that Sunday morning, and he did not see one of his pencil-pushing office workers hanging around, so Patrick pretty much had the edifice to himself.
Pat waited at the circulation desk. He lackadaisically looked at the many surveillance screens as he slouched onto one of the chairs at the booth. His mind flipped through much of the month that had gone by, how he and his wife had gotten to this position of her being a ransom pawn and Patrick in an uncomfortable situation of doing what he was planning, due to someone from a distant future, no less.
On one of the monitors, Patrick saw an old boxy car drive up close to the entryway and park. Instantly, Drogheda popped out of the driver’s side and went over to open the door to one of the back passenger area. Unconsciously, Patrick caught his breath and straightened his posture. He watched the good-quality surveillance monitor closely. He looked to see if Samantha seemed harmed in any way. From what he could tell, she seemed fine. She looked shaken, as was expected under the circumstances. But Patrick would have to wait to see her in person to make a better judgment of her condition.
Patrick figured he would look less threatening to Drogheda if he wasn’t in the circulation desk; too many hiding spots for a weapon or another person within the doughnut-shaped desk. So Patrick stepped out from the circulation desk and stood, almost at attention, in front of it by several feet. He let his arms dangle to his side, again, as a gesture to show Drogheda that he had no weapon.
Drogheda finally entered into the lobby with Samantha. Samantha was still in her tight-fitting professional, dark dress and shoes that she had worn for her working trip to Olympia that she never did go on that Sunday. Patrick had always liked to see his wife in that dress. It made him feel uncomfortable knowing that she looked that good around Drogheda…he wondered if he had touched her in any way!
Drogheda had Samantha walk in front of him by a few feet, making it obvious that he was holding his 21st century pistol at Sam’s back. Samantha’s face was relatively calm, given the situation.
“Dr. McClain,” Drogheda called out from behind Sam, “like I said over the phone, I don’t want any tricks…okay, let me see those teleporters.”
Patrick nodded and dug into his jacket’s pockets and pulled out four portable teleporters, each one from Tadosh, Patrick, Stefan, and Tage. He then carefully slid them onto the floor, making them slide at a considerable distance toward Drogheda. Drogheda, yet pointing his pistol at Samantha, told her to walk slowly toward the teleporters. Upon reaching them, Drogheda picked them all up and placed them into his carry-on pouch.
“You don’t get her until I go through the procedure in the lab and I am on the roof, standing next to your new SCR and ready to chronoport, you understand?”
“Yes,” said Patrick, dully.
Drogheda gestured to Patrick with the gun that he should lead them to the basement laboratory. Patrick walked toward the secret entry for the lab as Drogheda walked behind Samantha. They meandered their way through the stairwell and halls in the basement until they finally reached the door to the lab. Patrick engaged the front door with his id badge and stepped inside. Suddenly, Drogheda grabbed Samantha by the neck from behind her and pointed the pistol at one of her temples. Patrick turned to see what was going on. He stood silently, looking at Drogheda.
“I’m not stupid, Doctor…where’s Tadosh?”
“Trust me, Drogheda,” Patrick said with an exhausted look and the shake of his head, “he’s not here. Risking my project is one thing, risking my wife is quite another.”
“Well, then where—“
“I told you, he’s not here!”
The stress was getting to Patrick. Even Drogheda could see and understand that. Drogheda looked at Patrick for a while longer then glanced around the lab and proceeded inside, yet clutching onto Sam with his weapon pointed right at her head. The door automatically shut behind them.
Drogheda gave an appraising look around the lab as he nodded his head. “I see you’ve cleaned up since I was last here…”
Patrick had no response to his remark. Once again, Drogheda looked around the lab a bit more until he found the terminal he was looking for. He waved his pistol in that direction at Patrick, indicating that Patrick needed to go there. From behind, Drogheda pulled Samantha with him. After the McClains stood next to the computer, Drogheda rolled up two chairs for them and ordered them to sit with the pointing of his pistol. He then reached into his pouch and pulled out some industrial-grade rope.
Great, Patrick thought, he’s going to bind us up!
Just as Patrick thought, Drogheda took the rope and tied both of the McClains to separate chairs. Patrick was reminded of when he had Stefan and Taged tied up with Tadosh’s help. Only, Drogheda did not cover their eyes and shoved earplugs on them. Not because he was so nice, it was a simple matter of a lack of time. After securing the McClains, Drogheda proceeded to engage the Solar Unlimited.
“Do you really want to be responsible for altering history, Drogheda,” Patrick suddenly called out.
Samantha snapped her head in his direction and gave him a look that could have killed a whale! But Patrick gave a shrug, indicating that at that point it didn’t matter. Drogheda stopped for about two seconds to look at the couple before he ducked his head down again to look at the monitor in front of him.
“That Tadosh has quite a big mouth for such a little man! Dr. McClain, tell me…” Drogheda was now moving to another part of the lab. “…do you believe in predestination?”
Patrick gave a quick glance at Samantha, not wanting to irritate her any further. But she just looked at Drogheda with inquisitive eyes. So Patrick saw no problem in conversing with the Anarchist.
“Truthfully, no. In fact, I’m not sure if I believe there is a god that pre-determines history or the future—“
“A future,” Drogheda chastised, one of his index fingers pointing in their direction as he ran over to another bank of terminals to operate the Solar Unlimited. The sounds of machines were finally beginning to hum loudly now. “Before you and that Pangean do-gooder chronoported my two colleagues—I assume that’s what you did with them—we found out that this history is not the same that my generation learned of in school!”
Patrick was nodding his head as he and Sam looked at each other. “Yeah, Tadosh told us about that…so why do you want to compound the situation, Drogheda?”
“Who said anything about compounding it, Dr. McClain? The fact that what we call history and the future are now confirmed to not be inalterable shows that the Anarchist philosophy is the logical choice for humanity! For literally thousands of years, we humans have been stifling our progress as a species based on a faulty premise that life can be plotted out, as if we were living one big novel!”
Drogheda was now at another terminal, punching in equations that he was reading from one of the stolen files from the University’s Computer Engineering Department.
“But now,” Drogheda continued, “thanks to your time catalyst, Doctor, we were able to prove that history and the future are not fixed! I don’t suppose Tadosh even bothered to tell you certain details…?” He peered over the terminal to see the McClains’ reaction.
Indeed, Patrick’s face began to tighten with the disconcerting feeling of the unknown. Sam just sat quietly, stoic. Drogheda chuckled as he continued to key in equations.
“Let me guess…he painted me as some kind of whacko who’s bent on spreading chaos in the time-line continuum, right?” Neither of the McClains responded, so Drogheda continued. “Well, I should say that’s partially true. I am a neo-Anarchist, after all. I make no apologies for it. It took years for me to come into the light of how much freedom that Anarchism offers me personally, and what it can do for all of humanity…Did your little secret agent friend tell you that I’m also a physicist?”
Well, that hit Patrick like a ton of bricks! He looked over at Samantha, whom was equally surprised as her eyes met his.
“It’s true, Dr. McClain. You and I are professional peers! For about twenty years I worked in the field of applied physics. Mostly by governmental appointments, believe it or not! But, if you think about it, a former government official would be the perfect type of person to lead the Anarchist movement…I’ve seen from personal experience the stifling hand of government. My fellow doctor, if you’d only seen the number of failed projects from my time because of government bureaucracies…!”
Drogheda was now at, yet, another computer, sufficiently keying in algorithms for the Solar Unlimited’s programming from the sheets of paper he and his colleagues had stollen from the University and some private, scientific corporations. Miracles, Inc. was only one of many victims from this small gang of misfits. He continued.
“Then, of course, you have government’s ugly brother…religion! I tell you, Dr. McClain, in some ways religion is even worse than government. So many scientific projects in the 2200s did not come to fruition because of the public’s inhibitions based on moral views…their views that are not shared by everyone in society!”
“Look, Drogheda, I honestly agree with you on many of those things! Take it from me I’ve had my share of public protests over many of my own scientific endeavors! But that doesn’t mean you have to totally abandon government or even religion—and I say this as an agnostic! We’ve got to have some kind of rules in society to govern us, otherwise we’d have—“
“Anarchy,” Drogheda finished with a broad smile. He continued to work at the terminal while he talked. “What good are rules and regulations, Dr. McClain, if society continues to hold back on medicines that could cure ailments? But because of some moral bent we ban the research into such medical endeavors! What good are laws if they stand in the way of me pursuing my personal dreams that may not be popular among some segments of society…?
“I agree,” said Patrick from the chair he was bound to as Samantha looked on. “So why don’t you run for a government office so you can change those laws and regulations? Do you really have to go about it in a radical way?”
“Actually, Dr. McClain, I did run for office…I ran for the presidency of the United States of America back in 2284. Of course, I didn’t even make it to the general elections…”
Patrick and Samantha were stunned. Drogheda liked seeing this expression on their faces. He chuckled to himself as he shook his head.
“That Tadosh is quite a fellow. He likes to simplify things. Since we Anarchists don’t share his views, then he pretends that we are non-productive citizens. He pretends that I wasn’t a representative of the Anarchist Party; that I’m some wild man who seeks to harm people.”
“Then what do you call going around the world and plotting coups against stable governments, Drogheda,” Patrick threw out at the man. “Opening a time portal for all of your fellow neo-Anarchists into our century is a slap in the face to all physicists!”
Patrick’s words caused Drogheda to pause. “Oh, I see now,” he said sardonically. “You must have gotten hold of Stefan’s communicator and traced our conversations…well, that doesn’t matter now, does it?”
“Sure it does,” came a woman’s voice from a corner of the lab.
It was Sonya. She held in one of her hands Stefan’s or Tage’s lancer gun that the Miracles team had confiscated after Tadosh and Patrick captured them. She blasted off a couple of choppy beams, for the gun was on a strong stun setting so that they could capture Drogheda alive…though that could have been very easily changed! Drogheda barely escaped as he flung himself backwards and rammed right into a large printer.
“Quick, Sonya,” Patrick yelled out as Thomas and Cheri now popped up from their hiding places and began to cut the McClains lose from their binds, “get him before he teleports!”
But it was too late. By the time Sonya had once again pointed the barrel of the lancer gun at him, Drogheda had already turned into a bright blue puff of vapor after engaging the teleporter that was wrapped around his wrist.
“Great,” Sonya said as she reached for her hand-held radio. “Tadosh, heads up, fellah!”
“I see him,” came his response over the radio.
On the roof of the Miracles skyscraper, Drogheda had teleported not far from the new Solar Converter Receiver, but he also materialized right into Tadosh’s trap. As soon as Drogheda had turned so he could take a couple of steps and grab the Receiver and teleport somewhere else in Seattle proper, Tadosh tackled him hard to the roof’s floor. Since Drogheda had all of the teleporters in his pouch but his own around his wrist, there was no way the Miracles team could have teleported after him! Which was why Tadosh was that much more desperate to grab Drogheda.
Tadosh was prepared this time. He aimed his laser puck pistol and blasted out the interface to Drogheda’s portable teleporter…the fight was now on equal footing!
While down in the basement lab, Patrick was barking out orders to his makeshift civil defense team, including his wife.
“…come on, people, we should be going faster than this! Drogheda already got the system up and running part-way!”
Every now and then Patrick glanced up at one of the surveillance monitors that displayed the action on the roof being played out by the two middle-aged futurians. Sometimes Tadosh had command of the scuffle, but then Drogheda would throw in a surprise kick or swing at him. At this point, both were too occupied in subjecting the other for them to use their respective guns…for the moment.
“How are we supposed to know exactly when to punch the system,” Thomas asked, perspiration glistening his round face.
“Tadosh said he would simply tell us over his radio link,” Patrick said as he turned from the monitor and faced Samantha who was working at another terminal. “Sam, I’m going up!”
“I don’t think Tadosh can hold him out too much longer!” Patrick turned toward Sonya. “Sonya, can I use the lancer?”
Without protest, she tossed Pat the mid-sized gun. Pat then ran for the elevators in the laboratory’s lobby.
Drogheda managed to get a good kick to Tadosh’s gut, causing the Pangean to ricochet off of a ventilation system and onto the roof’s patchy floor. Tadosh yanked himself up right away. He knew that Drogheda had a good shot at him with his 21st century pistol. Two firecracker-sounding pops echoed in the open air around the Miracles, Inc. roof.
The nearest building to the Miracles Tower was the Monorail Station, just to the southeast of Patrick’s secular cathedral. But the Miracles Tower was so high up that no one else was likely to hear, much less see, what was going on. The only possibility of the battle on the roof being spotted was by people eating a Sunday night dinner in the restaurant within the Seattle Space Needle’s famed “saucer.” But even then, it was turning dark as the evening progressed and the Space Needle was about a quarter of a mile away, to the southwest of Miracles, Inc.
As Tadosh crouched behind the ventilation equipment, he pulled out his laser puck pistol again and knocked out several photons as Drogheda ran for cover on the wide-open roof until he found sanctuary behind another large ventilation housing. Now the brawl had turned into something of an Old West shoot out conflagration. Ironic, given that both men were from the late-23rd century and that one was using one of the most advanced firearm known to humans at the time.
A few times during the standoff, Drogheda had to reload. During one of those times, Tadosh tried rushing Drogheda as he laid down a repressive fire of laser pucks. But Drogheda was simply too fast in loading his next round of bullets.
As soon as Tadosh got about ten feet from his own ventilation housing, Drogheda popped out from behind his and actually nicked Tadosh on one of his shoulders with a shot, causing some splattering of blood into the air and on the ventilation equipment he was nearby. The gun wound wasn’t terribly serious, but it was clear that Tadosh could not break the standoff until Drogheda ran out of bullets. And, by the way Tadosh’s laser-fuel registered, he was about to run out of his laser puck photons before Drogheda ran out of bullets! Tadosh did not have the luxury to bring that much extra gun-fuel for his time travel…once he was out of laser pucks that would be it! Whereas Drogheda, using a 21st century weapon, had a variety of gun stores to shop from for more bullets since it was the 21st century. An obvious disadvantage of time travel that Tadosh had cursed himself for not thinking of!
As the standoff resumed and Tadosh began losing more laser pucks each time he shot at Drogheda, Tadosh was startled by a long red laser beam that zoomed out in Drogheda’s direction and sliced his hiding place in half. Tadosh looked back to see who had come to his aid. It was Patrick, running from the doorway of the roof. Patrick virtually crashed into Tadosh’s ventilation equipment as he tried to escape Drogheda’s vindictive gunfire. Patrick pulled out his hand-held radio.
“Okay, guys, I’m in position.” Patrick had stayed in contact with the team while he rode on the elevator. They told him what transpired on the roof via their security camera and how things went in the lab. “How many more minutes before we’re ready to start pouring down sunshine?”
“Ten, at the most,” Thomas’ voice came through Pat’s radio, though barely audible with all the noise of gun and laser fire.
“Dr. McClain,” Tadosh said as he raised his voice to be heard, “I don’t think I could last three more minutes of this, much less ten! I’m almost out of gun-fuel! I think Drogheda has enough bullets to wipe us both out!”
Patrick shot a few more choppy photons at Drogheda. He had switched the gun back to that strong stunner setting. “I don’t suppose you were able to nab one of the teleporters from him?”
“No…!” Tadosh had to duck from several more shots.
Part of the problem for Patrick and Tadosh was there weren’t enough big objects to hide behind on the roof. The Miracles Tower was of the modern school and did not have very much “clutter,” in the way of large water containers, shacks, and the likes, just the two ventilation equipment and a couple of large radar dishes that did not provide any cover and mostly looming antennas. Just then, Patrick had an idea.
“Think you can hold him off for two more minutes,” he asked Tadosh.
“Not much more, Doctor! Please make it quick!”
Patrick barely made it safely into the doorway of the roof as he ran in a zig-zag pattern so Drogheda could not shoot him. Of course, it helped that Tadosh provide cover for him as well. He headed straight for his 95th floor penthouse office as he flew down the stairwell. Patrick knew the layout of the entire Tower almost by heart. He knew precisely where Drogheda was standing relative to his office floor plan.
“Patrick,” Tadosh said frantically over the radio, “I’m down to three more shots…! Drogheda will know I ran out and it’ll be open season for Pangean agents! And after he takes me out, he can still get the SCR!”
“Tadosh,” Patrick responded, feeling the time pressure, “how come he hasn’t teleported himself by now? I know you’ve shot out his teleporter, but we gave him both of yours and the ones for Tage and Stefan as part of the deal to get Samantha back!”
“That’s the advantage of having two people with weapons up here, Dr. McClain,” Tadosh said over the gun fire in the background. “He would have to re-program the coordinates for each teleporter to take him where he wants to go…we both have been able to distract him from doing that. But I can’t distract him up here by myself, especially when I’m out of pucks!”
“Pat,” came Thomas’s voice over the radio link as he and the others in the lab monitored the situation over the security camera, “whatever you’re going to do, do it now! Even if Tadosh gets away, Drogheda will take one of the other teleporters and grab the SCR and teleport away from here…then he’ll be able to open a time door and let loose several Anarchists from 2287 into our time, no doubt with 2287 weaponry!”
Patrick quickly reset the lancer gun to ultimate mode as he ran to the back of his office. He could actually hear the gunfire from above, though muffled. Then he heard Tadosh’s last three photonic puck shots!
Patrick took aim to his posh office’s ceiling and shot out a lancing laser to it. Much like using a high-powered car wash sprayer, Patrick maneuvered his gun so that it cut a large semi-circle into the ceiling. He expected to cut a clean circle when he was done, but because of the weight of the ventilation housing that was next to Drogheda, the ceiling collapsed into Patrick’s office sooner than he thought it would when he had sliced only about half of that circle. Next thing Patrick knew, he was engulfed by an avalanche of falling debris!
There was a sprawling jumble of mess in his luxurious office! Right in the center of all the carnage was the ventilation equipment. There were two pieces of the large apparatus since Patrick had sliced it in half early on the roof. After the rushing sound of debris falling into his office had subsided, there was nothing but silence in his office now. No gun or laser shots, no shouting, no tumbling debris… Patrick, after removing a couple of big chunks of the roof off him, quickly got to his feet with his gun in a readied position and looked around for Drogheda in all the mess.
“Patrick, are you all right,” Tadosh exclaimed worriedly over the radio. Tadosh knew that Patrick had been the force behind the ventilation system’s crash into the penthouse office since he was able to see the long, red laser fire shinning through the crack of the roof as Patrick cut around the system.
Of course, that caused the others, Samantha in particular, to panic after hearing Tadosh. Plus, they, too, saw the large equipment suddenly drop into the office via the surveillance camera.
“Pat,” Samantha was saying over her radio, “Pat, Honey…are you all right up there…?”
“Stand by, everyone,” Patrick responded with a whisper as he slowly walked around in all the crumbled up roof and ceiling junk, looking for Drogheda. He placed the hand radio up to his mouth again. “Tadosh, why don’t you—“
That’s when Patrick top-right chest was shot! Patrick had automatically dropped the radio and fell backwards with a yelp. But in the course of his fall, Patrick managed to make the fall into a controlled roll off his back and landed on his feet. He then dove behind one of his cabinet files and did a flipping turn he didn’t realize he had in him and shot at Drogheda—without having time to reset the laser lancer to stun. The force of the laser threw Drogheda against the decrepit ventilation equipment, which, in turn, caused him to bounce off that and onto the debris.
“Oh, no,” Patrick said to himself, suddenly feeling a cold shiver rising through his body, both because he knew that Tadosh needed to capture Drogheda alive for legal proceedings in 2287 and because of the pain from the shot to his chest.
By now, he heard Tadosh’s footsteps on the roof. When Patrick looked up, he saw the Pangean agent jump down into his office and, with cat-like reflexes, land on his feet.
“What’s going on up there…? Tadosh, do you see Pat…?” It was Cheri’s voice on the radio. For now Patrick, Tadosh, and Drogheda were all out of monitoring sight of the surveillance camera located on the roof.
After taking a look around the room and at a slumping Patrick, Tadosh finally answered. “Call an emergency medical outlet, or whatever it is you have in this time! Pat’s hurt real bad…I’m about to check Drogheda’s situation.”
Tadosh stepped over clumps of ceiling and equipment and bent down to inspect his prey. Before Tadosh even touched him, there was a faint grunt from Drogheda, which made Tadosh quickly look up at Patrick. Patrick, feeling relieved that he didn’t kill anyone even with his own predicament, sighed from the whole ordeal and grunted from his pain. But he was able to pick himself up from the ruble.
“I’ve got to get him to the Solar Converter Receiver ASAP, Dr. McClain,” Tadosh said as he moved Drogheda and dug out one of the portable teleporters from Drogheda’s pouch. “Pangea has doctors who can stop the hemorrhaging…this man must stand on several trials for the harm he’s done in my century!”
“Okay,” Patrick said, regaining some strength. “I’ll take the stairs and see you up there—“
“No, Doctor. There’s no need…all I need now is for you to go to the lab and rest until help gets here and make sure your team gets us home. Besides, they’ll need more hands to operate the Solar Unlimited…think you can help until the medics get here?”
Patrick looked down at his bleeding wound that he had one of his hands over, trying to reduce the bleeding. He looked back up at Tadosh and nodded. Tadosh’s bullet-induced wound on his shoulder was merely a flesh entry, so he wasn’t worried about his own health.
Tadosh and Patrick took a long look at each other. It dawned on Patrick that this would be the last time he would see Tadosh. The little man that he found in his office about a month ago and was so alarmed by, ended up being a good friend to him and his family and friends.
“Thank you, Tadosh…”
“Dr. McClain, I thank you for the much needed help. There’s no way I could have done this on my own.”
“Take care of that family of yours…father.” Patrick had a bit of a chuckle as he said this. It was still hard for him to imagine this secret agent being remotely wholesome, in having a wife and children.
Patrick got on the radio and told the team that he would be in the basement in a few minutes while Tadosh quickly finished keying in the coordinates for teleporting next to the SCR. Before Patrick vanished through his office’s doorway, Tadosh called out to him.
Patrick’s face beamed as he turned to see what Tadosh wanted. He liked the fact that Tadosh addressed him informally. But Tadosh’s face was quite sober. “Remember our conversation…remember, you must discipline yourself from yourself! You know what to do…” He said the last part with a firm nod to Patrick.
Patrick returned the nodded, and ran toward the elevators. Tadosh took a look around the office one last time and shook his head before teleporting he and Drogheda directly next to the Solar Receiver. Drogheda was moaning from both of his wounds: from the fall with the ventilation equipment and the lancer shot. Tadosh just let him lay on the roof’s floor while he stood, waiting for the chronoportation procedure to take place.
“Okay,” Tadosh said to the Miracles team over the radio as he looked at the Seattle skyline in the night, “we’re in position!” Tadosh, realizing how busy the team would be at this time, then took his laser puck pistol and shot out the surveillance cameras…!
After Patrick’s elevator finally got to the basement level, he sprinted to the lab’s door as he kept one of his hands over his gun wound. He saw that Samantha, Thomas, Sonya, and Cheri were already running around like workers at a fast food restaurant during the lunch hour. Samantha had stopped what she was doing and ran toward him. But Patrick gratefully gestured to her that he would be all right. It was hard for her to swallow this, given how much blood had splattered all over her husband. Never the less, she returned to her station.
“How are we doing, people,” Patrick called out to them as he automatically fell into his own task.
“We’ve got just forty-five more seconds before we’re at optimal level,” Sonya responded. “If we miss this chance, we’ll have to wait a couple of months or so to get all the satellites into the correct orbits!”
“That would be plenty of time for several future Anarchists to chronoport to our time,” Patrick observed with alarm.
“Exactly,” Cheri agreed. “So let’s do this right the first time!”
“Great…! Tommy, what do you say in the area of receptor functions? We don’t have to worry about any overload from the Sun’s energy do we?”
“The grill’s ready to cook, I’m just waiting for the hamburgers,” Thomas quipped as he worked on his console.
“Sam, Honey,” Patrick said with some laughter after hearing Thomas’ response, “are you doing okay in the telemetry department over there?”
“Yeah…these reading are doing just like the manual said they should at this time!”
“That’s a go on photovoltaic and reflector grids! Go, on satellite feed! Go, on alignment rectifier!”
“How’s about you, Cheri…?”
“Go, on all related boards with clearance on airline flights, no birdies to report.”
“Well then…” Patrick looked up at the security monitor for the roof but saw that it was blank. He frowned to himself but continued anyway. “…let’s go!”
With that, Patrick punched in the last algorithms to finally engage the Solar Unlimited. Patrick and Thomas already knew how the reception of the solar energy looked like at nights since they had worked on the projected and had seen the solar energy beamed down with the surveillance camera.
As the full run of the Solar Unlimited project got underway, the energy from the Sun came down quite visibly in the night sky. It looked much like a huge spotlight at night only the energy flow was thinner and a pale-yellow as it impacted onto the Solar Converter Receiver. The beamed energy shimmered in the night sky, just like regular day light shimmers in the Earth’s air due to the atmosphere. The spectacle lasted for but ten seconds and was gone.
“Hey,” Sonya said as she craned her neck while trying to look at the security monitor, “what happened to our visual?”
The others were now gathering around the same monitor, trying to figure out the same question.
“I guess it got shot during the shoot out on the roof,” Patrick surmised as he shrugged.
“Well, we’ve got to verify that the process took place,” Samantha insisted as she was the first to head for the elevators. The rest of the Miracles team followed after her, Thomas and Sonya helping Pat as he awkwardly trotted behind.
“That’s the lawyer taking over,” Patrick kidded as they all marched out of the lab. Including Sam, they all laughed.
The laughter wasn’t just because of Patrick’s sense of humor. It was also a release of psychological pressure that had built up during the whole ordeal for the team. The realization that the entire episode of chronoportation and Anarchists from the future—a future—was over was a great relief for them. While on the elevator, Samantha and Thomas dressed Patrick’s injury with the medical kit that they grabbed from the lab.
When they all got to the roof in the Seattle night sky, with the glittering lights of downtown to the south of them, they saw what they wanted to see: the Solar Converter Receiver, a ten-foot antenna topped with a radar dish, standing at attention, all by its lonesome. To double re-affirm, the Miracles, Inc. team had scattered about the roof and looked all over, making sure that Drogheda did not pull a fast one on Tadosh during the chronoportation phase. For good measure, Thomas took a lancer gun and jumped down into the collapsed ceiling of Patrick’s office and searched the office and the immediate floor beneath the 95th level.
No one from 2287 was around.
When Thomas walked back up to the roof to tell the others, they all broke out into a celebration! Patrick and Samantha held on to each other as they both wept for joy while Cheri and Sonya shared a dance with the affable Thomas. Finally, from a distance, the sounds of ambulance sirens howled in the night sky as the emergency vehicles approached the Miracles Tower. It was quite a spontaneous Sunday night party with the beautiful Seattle skyline serving as the backdrop.
The Seattle Monorail Station, southeast of the Miracles, Inc. Tower; two weeks later…
“Hey, Don, we’ve got a new one for you,” Felix said to his subordinate as Don clocked in to begin his janitorial duties.
“Oh, really? So Eddie wised up and decided that we can’t clean this station on the third shift with just four of us, huh?”
Felix grabbed some orientation papers from a cabinet and laughed. “Yeah, but I heard it’s only because some old lady had gone to his office and chewed him out after her grandkids had eaten some leftover gum stuck to a lunch table!” The small maintenance room was filled with laughter.
Just then, the new employee walked in and was already smiling with them, even though he didn’t know what they were laughing about. He was a small man, well built and handsome. He was in his forties and was dressed in his janitor’s coveralls.
“Boy, it sounds like this should be a great place to work already,” the new employee said with a radiant smile.
“Oh, hey,” Felix greeted him as they shook hands. Felix then turned to Don and made the introductions. “Don, this is your fresh meat to cook…Don, this is Tadosh; Tadosh, this is Don!”
The two men shook hands.
“Boy you’ve got a nice grip, there,” Don observed. “You work out?”
“Uh, a bit. I used to be in the military.”
Don looked at Felix, both middle-aged themselves and veterans, and they smiled at one another.
“All right,” Don said, “another veteran! I served in the first Gulf War, and so did bossman, here…what about you, Tadosh?”
“Oh…let’s just say that I’ve fought in another foreign war.”
Felix and Don glanced at each other and simply shrugged off the odd response. Don waved one of his thick hands.
“Hey, if you don’t want to talk about it, we understand. I have an uncle that fought in Vietnam…till this day, he won’t say squat about it! Anyway, I suppose we’d better get started with the training here.”
“Say,” Tadosh called out, so Felix could hear the question as well before he left the grimy office, “we take breaks here, right?”
The two other men looked at each other with perplexed eyes.
“Uh, yeah,” Felix remarked sarcastically, “especially since we have this little detail called labor laws! Why do you ask, Tadosh?”
“I like to go for walks on my breaks. I wouldn’t mind seeing that, what do they call it, Miracles Tower?”
“Ahh,” Felix exclaimed as he sat back down on his tattered chair, “now there’s a fellah you don’t want to screw around with! Dr. Patrick “Miracle” McClain, is what some call him around town and in the media…you said you’ve been in Seattle a little over a month?”
“Yeah…so what about this McClain character?”
Felix and Don looked at each other. Felix continued. “Rumor is, he’s a bit of a mad scientist-type. I’m friends with a couple of the Seattle cops, and one of them told me they had an emergency call to the Miracles Tower one day. My friend said they had to go to this lab in a dungeon within that tower and said that they saw some crazy stuff about an experiment with people popping in and out of thin air!”
Tadosh froze; his eyes wide open for the show. “No kidding!”
“Yeah, like out of Star Trek or something!”
“You know what I’ve noticed about that place lately,” Don now came in as Tadosh and Felix listened intently. “There’s been some kind of light show going on over there, on the rooftop.”
This time, Tadosh froze out of genuine alarm. “Oh, really…?”
“Yeah,” Don went on, “I’ve seen it before a couple of months ago, one Sunday night! It hasn’t happened in a while, until recently.”
Don and Felix glanced at each other, curious as to why this janitor would care so much about a scientific facility that had nothing to do with their world.
“Um, Don,” Tadosh said after a pensive moment, “when you said the light show hasn’t happened until recently, how recently did you see those lights?”
Don shrugged before answering. “I don’t know…about three days ago. Why?”
Tadosh looked away to an unknown corner of the office, barely shaking his head as he whispered to himself, “He couldn’t restrain himself…just like I thought, the temptation was just too great!”
Now Felix and Don were becoming worried.
“Tadosh,” Felix asked as he placed one of his hands on Tadosh’s shoulder, “is there something you need to talk about?” Tadosh flinched away to the touch. It was the shoulder that had been shot a couple of weeks previously. Felix glanced at Don with ponderous eyes.
Tadosh almost didn’t hear what his new boss asked him. He looked away from the corner of the grubby maintenance office and looked at the two men before him and gave a lukewarm smile.
“No, no I’m fine. I think I’ll want to stay here for a while. In fact, this job came just in time for me…”