fiction

The Time Traveler, Part 11

Wherein Brown reenters the capsule.

Last time: A riot endangered the lab; Carpenter declared it was time to send Brown back to 1957.

Getting back to 1957 sounded like a good idea to me. Getting anywhere seemed swell. The lab’s air filtration system struggled to keep up with the thick smoke and tear gas that enveloped the once empty town aflame above us. The only question seemed to be what was going to get us first: the smoke, the fire, the mob that wanted us dead, the mob that wanted to save us, or maybe the government. The TV news was reporting that the National Guard was on its way to Gorlock, but was that to quell the riot or destroy the lab?

So yes, getting out of that underground laboratory sounded dandy, but there was a problem: Ray Carpenter and his team had been trying for 60 years to build a replica of the capsule old Doc Wainwright put together with Cracker Jack toys and bailing wire. Well, that and that brilliant mind of his, and a few silicone transistors.

“We can fight our way out, Ray,” I said. “If we can lick the Japs, we can sure as hell didn’t take these pansies.”

Ray laughed. “Nobody says that anymore, and I was two when the war started. Besides, look at me. I’m a dried up old lizard. Don’t get old, Brown, it isn’t worth it.”

“Maybe I should stay and you should go back,” I said.

“I’m already there. I’m probably sweeping up or bugging Doc while he’s trying to prove that he shot you into the future rather than vaporized you. I’m here and I’m there, but you–you’re just here. We yanked you out of time, and we need to put you back. No, you’re the only one who can go back. The rest of us have to keep moving forward one day at a time. We’re all time travelers if you think about it, but most of us take the scenic route.”

We were standing next to the team’s latest attempt at a time capsule. She looked a good bit like the one I left 1957 in just a few short weeks ago. “Will this thing work?” I asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Ray said. “It go you here, didn’t it?”

“I’ll be a son of a gun. Is that my ship? How?”

“Fortunately for us, you arrived in a state that’s pro-science. A quick chat with the authorities, and the police turned it right over.”

“But how did you get it all the way to northern Nevada?”

“Why do you think we took the train?” Ray smiled.

“You old son of a gun,” I said.

The smoke thickened and the power flickered as the lab’s generators kicked in. “Let’s get this bird out of here while we still can,” Ray said. One of his boys opened the capsule’s hatch, and I stepped in. “Say, you still have those cigarettes?” he asked.

“I thought you quit,” I said.

“It’s not going to make much difference now,” Ray said. I tossed him the pack and curled up inside the little ball of a ship. I adjusted the machine’s many rheostats and toggle switches, just as I had before, and he leaned his wrinkly old head through the hatch and said, “See you in the past.”

His assistants sealed the hatch closed. I flicked the last switch, and then…nothing.

Categories: fiction

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