Einstein was the first to theorize such
travel was possible, but it took more than 100 years after his death to put his
theory into practice. Elaborate technologies
were developed to convert mass into protons for the time-altering voyage, and then
upon arrival, convert them back to their original form.
Protons can’t think, yet Miles Stevens firmly
believed he had thoughts, or maybe dreams, during his trips from one decade to
the next. Returning from his most recent
mission, his vision of Terri King was vivid. He anticipated her greeting, arms extended,
Without his body to limit what his mind imagined, everything
seemed possible. Miles wondered what it would be like to be suspended
indefinitely passing through time. He concluded
the thoughts were euphoric, but thinking wasn’t as satisfying as doing.
Hope sustained Miles during his last mission: hope that
Terri was safe and hope that they’d be reunited. The desperate look on Terri’s face as she was
forced into the time capsule had never left Miles’ mind. Left alone two decades in the past, he could
do nothing to save her. But Miles’ wait
was nearly over. He was about to learn
if Terri had made it home to 2050.
HEARD THE DOORS of the time capsule snap open and felt the rush of fresh air
filling the cabin. He squinted as his
eyes adjusted to the florescent light of the reentry room.
He could see Dr. Jones, standing stone-faced outside
the capsule door. Miles scanned the open
space before him, but there was no sign of Terri.
It had been more than a year since Miles had seen
his former partner.
Where is she?
PHYSICAL STRESS of time travel was cumulative, and Miles had experienced more missions
than any CIA agent in the Department of Historic Intervention (DHI). The uncontrolled
twitching of his muscles and burning sensation on his skin had subdued days ago,
but the medical recovery team refused to release him, erring on the side of
The reentry facility at Langley was designed for
prolonged recuperations, and Miles’ recovery room looked more like a 5-star resort
than a medical facility. On one side of
the bright, open space was a holographic 3-D video system. Movies and TV
programs could be projected into the room in three dimensions, giving the
appearance of onstage performances.
A massive picture window was positioned on the opposite
side of the room. Outside, passersby saw
a ten-foot-high reflective glass. Inside,
Miles could select live panoramic views of anything from Niagara Falls to waves
crashing on shore at Waikiki Beach. A
sunny, snow-topped Colorado mountain was currently displayed.
Confined to the facility the past five days, Miles
was beyond restless. Even with all the hi-tech distractions, he’d had enough
and was pacing the room like a captured leopard.
After his return to Langley, Miles was given a note.
He’d read it dozens of times during his recuperation, committing it to memory. He took the worn paper from his pocket, unfolded
it, and read it again.
If you’re reading this, you’re
safely home and I’m relieved. Waiting for you to return was driving me
crazy. I’ve never loved a man enough to
worry this much, and I don’t know if I can do it now.
I’ve asked to be assigned to the
next mission. I need the diversion and time to think.
I do love you, but I can’t live
my life in constant despair.
He was thankful Terri had made it home, but he hadn’t
been told anything about her new assignment.
The thought of his former partner being sent decades into the past on
another dangerous mission was eating at him. His daily demands to be informed
of her whereabouts had been ignored, further building his frustrations.
Miles stuffed the rumpled note back into his pocket
and turned toward the holographic TV.
“Get Dr. Jones, now!” he shouted.
A suspended Now Dialing
icon spun across the room as Miles waited for a response.
Seconds later the door opened, and Jones stepped inside
wearing his customary attire: crimson
tie, white shirt and blue blazer with the gold DHI logo over the breast pocket.
“Getting a little anxious?” he asked.
“I can’t believe you’re letting me just sit here,”
“You’ve been on two missions over a short period of
time. It’s all precautionary.”
“I feel fine!”
“Actually, I just looked at your medical report, and
the doctors agree.”
“It’s about time.
Now tell me where Terri is, and get me the hell out of here.”
Jones paused, studying Miles.
“I’m not sure Dr. King’s mission is a fit for you.”
“We’ve been through this,” Miles snapped. “I don’t
care what the mission’s about or where it is. You can’t tell me the odds of
success wouldn’t be better with me as her partner.”
“She already has a partner.”
Miles’ glare intensified.
“Dr. James Brock was hand-selected from thirty
highly-qualified candidates. He prepared
alongside Dr. King for two months for this assignment.”
“What makes this Brock guy so perfect?”
“For one thing, he’s a top researcher in viral microbiology,
knowledge vital to this mission.”
Miles resumed pacing before turning back to Jones. “So
what are you saying, only doctors are qualified for this assignment?”
“The DHI is working another case. We’ll be selecting agents in a couple months. You’re much better suited for that assignment.”
Miles clenched his jaw and approached Jones before
stopping short. His athletic frame
hovered over the slight-built DHI director.
an option. You know that I have to go,”
“And you know that personal needs can’t play a role
in who’s assigned to missions.”
“Our relationship wasn’t an issue on our first assignment,
and it won’t be on this one. Either you agree to send me, or my role here is
Jones thinned his lips as he stared at Miles. As the first DHI agent accepted into the
program, Miles had developed a reputation for stubbornness. Still, Jones
couldn’t afford to lose his top agent.
“They’ve been sent to 2032,” Jones said, “to head
off the Sydney attack.”
“Not the Death Games?” Miles asked, surprised.
The 34th Summer Olympiad was known as the
Death Games. It never was determined how
a rapidly spreading strain of the smallpox was introduced, but it resulted in more
than 20,000 fatalities, including scores of athletes and spectators. Sydney,
and eventually the entire continent of Australia, was quarantined for more than
a year before the epidemic could be brought under control.
“Dr. King has assumed a position in the World Health
Organization,” Jones continued. “Dr. Brock has been assigned to the Centers for
Disease Control in Atlanta.”
“Couldn’t you just transport them back with a vaccine?”
“The smallpox virus in Sydney was intentionally
released, and it had been genetically altered, possibly combined with other
viral contaminants. That strain of the
virus no longer exists, nor does a vaccine that would control it.”
Miles frowned, not understanding all he just heard.
“If Brock is such a hotshot scientist, why can’t he
whip up another vaccine after he arrives?”
“That’s possible, but it would take time to get his
hands on a sample of the virus, and even more time to develop the serum. Thousands
would die before receiving the vaccine. The
objective of their mission is to find the source of the virus before it’s
“So, where do I fit in?”
“We’ll create an opening on the International Security
Organization assigned to the games.
You’ll fill in for a senior CIA officer who’ll be called away.”
“Fine. When can I start?”
“I’ll get you a briefing package this
afternoon. In the meantime, you might as
well stay here and rest up.”
Miles picked up a remote and clicked off the
mountain view from the massive screen.
“If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to get some real sunlight.”