This is one of only a few stories that don't have a beginning date listed. It is the first story that I wrote under the name V. Allen Turner. It is an almost complete seperation from The Challengers and Troy Star except that the lead character here is the author of the series and Troy is mentioned as is Darkon. This story simply lost focus and I lost interest. I have no resolution to the story.
Earth’s Scientific History 1990 – 2970
As you could guess nothing more interesting than a few shuttle launchings are all that happened between 1987 and 1990. But from there on things picked up.
NASA developed a prototype long-ranged shuttle. It was called the Exodus. Like the Enterprise it is in the Smithsonian Museum of Science, which expanded in 2000 to accommodate the Exodus. The first reusable long-range shuttle was named Challenger II in honor of the Challenger and her crew. NASA improved on these new shuttles a dozen times before changing the design to something like a shuttle from Buck Rogers or Battlestar Galactica.
Many diseases were cured permanently, such as mumps, measles, chicken pox, small pox and other common childhood diseases. But as hard as the tried and close as they got, scientists simply could not get rid of the flu, pneumonia, or the common cold.
The world hunger problem no longer exists. Scientists developed a type of seed which could grow and produce anywhere with only small amounts of water. It was a hybrid of only god knew what. This break through occurred in 2143. By 2160, world hunger had ceased to exist.
Areas of the desert have become fertile and, of course, populated, thanks to a new grass hybrid and fertilizer.
As for the economic history, the world went completely metric by 2100. That includes a new monetary system called credits. Credit units are metric. Ten millicredits equals one centicredit, ten centicredits equals one decicredit, and ten decicredits equals one credit. You do the conversions from dollars, pounds, yens, pecos, marks, and francs yourself.
World peace lasted until 2250 when World War III broke out between the US and the USSR. It lasted only three years. It was a laser war instead of nuclear. The US and the USSR used their shuttles to carry the missiles into deep space and explode them by remote control.
Electricity has been replaced by a new energy called photon energy. This took place in 2435. With the new money system it’s a lot less expensive.
The economic situation was called Antebellum’s Return by economists. People are making an average of twelve credits an hour. (This is like making ten dollars an hour from 1950 up to the ‘70s gas shortage).
World War III debts were settled by 2895. Since then things only got better. But there’s still the national deficit. It’s down to 8.5 million credits. (That’s like saying 7 million dollars in 1986.)
In case you’re curious, there’s no such thing as a dekacredit or anything else above it. There’s as no such standard below millicredit. (Consider this: a credit is worth a dollar, a decicredit is worth a dime, and a centicredit is worth a penny and a millicredit is worth one-tenth of a penny. Not really worth, but more-or-less equal, but only in example.)
World War III also proved that America didn’t take being mucked with. (America won by KO in the first round). It also guaranteed peace for a while.
Sciences new curiosity is time travel. The US has poured millions of credits into research since time travel practicality was proven on paper in 2984. It is now 2987 and the biggest breakthrough in scientific history is about to take place. And perhaps the biggest goof as well. Just ask Eric Steele.
One: Eric’s Accident
There are some days when it just doesn’t pay to be a science fiction reader who orders through the mail, Eric Steele thought to himself as he got out of bed.
It was 11:45 on the morning of January 2, 1987. Christmas vacation ended in two days. It was Friday so in two days it would be Sunday. At 8:00am Monday January 5, kids would be back in school. But Eric hadn’t seen school in – how long was it now – four, almost five years. He graduated college in June 1982, so it was four years.
He hadn’t learned much in the four years he was there. Eric would be twenty-seven next month. All he needed now was birthday cards mixed in with bills, car notes, house payments and books.
Eric got out of bed and considered going back to sleep but decided against it. Why he didn’t know.
“Damned mail won’t run for an hour,” Eric reminded himself as he put on his jeans. “I haven’t ordered anything,” he assured himself as he put on a loose, thin grey shirt with a black V-neck and one black stripe and one white stripe above it on the three-quarter length sleeves. “So why should I expect anything?” he asked himself as he put on his white socks. “Have I forgotten something” Eric thought about it as he put on his blue French tennis shoes made in Korea with a name – Le Coq Sportif – he couldn’t even pronounce. “I don’t think I have I have.” Eric put on his black watch and brown leather belt, then put his billfold in his right back pocket and thirty-five cents in his right front pocket.
It was now 12:00.
Eric went into his into his small, well-applianced kitchen. The coffee pot was between the microwave in the corner and the fridge in the other corner. He got a cup and filled it.
The house was strangely built, Eric had decided long ago. The garage and storage room were parallel, the living room and dining room were parallel and the only thing that separated the dining room from the kitchen were the cabinets and the breakfast bar which did an L turn at the wall and another L turn at another wall. From one L to the other were the different canisters every kitchen has – tea, sugar, flour and coffee – the dishrack, the sink, the other two canisters – there weren’t but four – the mixer, the blender, and the microwave. From there to the wall was the coffee pot, the stove and the fridge. On the breakfast bar was a sugar bowl, a creamer bowl and last night’s coffee cup.
The far wall with the fridge only ran three-fourths the length of the dining room. The other fourth was the hall door. The next room was the guest bedroom on the right, then the bathroom on the left, the air conditioning closet, and the linen closet. Parallel to the linen closet was the master bedroom door but the bedroom was parallel to the study, which was the last room in the house. It was a bedroom but Eric didn’t need three so he simply converted it.
Eric dug in the fridge until he found something he could put in the microwave for breakfast or gave up looking.
“Oh great,” he said enthusiastically. “Left over nothing. I’ll just settle for corn flakes.”
After a good healthy breakfast, Eric decided to go check the mail. He walked up the long gravel driveway and across the narrow tar and pea gravel road to his mailbox. He pulled open the door and, to his surprise, he had received an envelope from London.
“The bastards finally replied!” Eric shouted, grinning. He ran back to the house with the large envelope.
Eric sat down on the gold couch in his dark paneled living room. The only room that wasn’t paneled was the bathroom. Other furniture in the living room was a green chair in the corner by the door, a huge wood stereo with a turn table and AM/FM radio, a mahogany hat stand, a console TV, a gold chair to match the couch, a wood frame glass curio cabinet full of crystal bells and glasses, two end tables and a matching coffee table. A chandelier hung from the eight-foot ceiling.
Eric opened the envelope to find a booklet stock list and a letter thanking him for telling them of their mistake and what he wanted to know.
He threw the envelope in the dead wood fireplace and went to the study. Once there, he opened a desk drawer and took out a pen. He found a list on top of the desk and made the addition he was looking for. Eric put the pen back and opened another drawer and placed the stock list and letter in it, closing it after.
Eric went back to the kitchen. He got his second cup of coffee of the day and went into the living room. He opened the lid on the radio side of the stereo and turned it on. 94 Tyx confirmed the time to be 1:30 and played “Take Me Home,” by Phil Collins.
Eric was on his way to get a book he wanted to finish reading when the phone rang.
“Hello?” Eric said, answering the phone after two rings. All the good it did. The caller, whoever he or she might have been, hung up.
“Damned prank callers,” Eric mumbled. He went to get his book. As it turned out he was reading The Proteus Operation by James P. Hogan.
Eric went back to the living room to sit down when the phone rang again. He went to answer it.
“Hello, is this Eric Steele?” said a feminine voice.
“Yeah,” Eric answered, “Who’s this?”
“It’s Vicky Hamilton, your legal council, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
Eric had hired a legal council to help him if he needed it when he got his own book published. As it turned out, he didn’t need her after nine books of a series he was writing but he kept her in case of emergency.
“When’s your deadline?”
Eric thought for a moment.
“They want number ten by March 30,” he said.
The Challengers number ten didn’t even have a title or plot so it might be late.
“Just checking. What’s it called?”
“Return,” he lied.
“Return? Of whom? To where?”
“Nobody, no place, just simply Return. It’s about the Mystics coming back after three years seeking Troy’s help again. Only this time Darkon’s behind their troubles.”
An idea was beginning to form in Eric’s mind.
“Sounds great. You know I collect the series, don’t you?”
Eric was surprised. “No, I didn’t”
“Well, thanks. Is our date for tomorrow still on?”
“Yeah. You be ready by eight.”
“Gotcha. Gotta go. Bye.”
There was a click from the other end and Eric hung up. He ran to the study and found a pencil and his writing notebook and began writing a plot for his new book. He wrote until he heard the paper truck drive by.
“5:30 already?” he said, looking at his watch.
Eric got up and went to get the paper. He reached into the little cylinder beside his mailbox. Eric didn’t see the softball size sphere appear from nowhere ten feet in the air. It just hung there. It was dull grey and looked metallic. It had a camera lens set in one side and a small hole opposite it. The little ball had five more small holes in it. One between the lens and the hole opposite it and one opposite that hole. There was a hole on top and one on bottom. The last hole was just above the camera lens. These holes were small jet propulsion engines.
The little ball focused on Eric. It shimmered and vanished. Eric also shimmered and vanished. It was a frightening experience for him. He felt like he was being pulled apart like Christmas tree icicle strands but it didn’t hurt.
Everything got blurry, then faded and vanished into spinning blackness.
The spinning slowed. Eric felt something solid under his feet. The spinning stopped. Eric fell down. To him the whole world was going round and round. The dizziness passed and Eric discovered he was on solid ground.
He moaned as he tried to stand. Once this had been accomplished, walking seemed out of the question. Eric’s legs felt like they were on fire, as did the rest of him. This soon passed after he paced round in a circle a couple of turns.
Eric became aware of someone talking nearby. He looked in the direction of the voice. The words being said weren’t directed at him, he noticed. Finally, his ears and eyes came back to full use.
The voice was that of a security guard in a metal guardhouse or gatehouse. He was talking on a nearly wire-thin telephone. Eric walked over to the gatehouse. The guard had his back turned to Eric. Eric saw a small screen set in the wall of the gatehouse. The phone cord ran to the screen.
The guard said something nasty about his girlfriend and the face on the screen broke into laughter and spoke back, much to Eric’s bewilderment.
The guard turned around and Eric ducked down but not in time.
“Just a sec, Rob,” the guard said. “I think we may have a problem.”
“Okay,” the other man replied. “Call me back.”
The screen went black.
“Can I help you, sir?” the guard asked, knowing he couldn’t, but the prof has said to be polite.
Eric stood up. “Yeah, could you tell me where I am?”
“You’re on the Corinth Space Research Center,” the guard replied. Then the guard remembered something. “How’d you get past the gate?”
“What gate?” It was an honest enough question.
The guard pointed behind Eric. He turned to see a twelve-foot high chair link gate. It was actually two gates. Eric saw that the hinges only allowed the gates to swing inward and back into the locked position. Eric noticed the electronic lock. Eric walked over to the gate. It hummed.
Electrified, Eric thought.
Suddenly, Eric rounded on the guard.
“Where the hell’d that gate come from? Where’s my house? What happened to the sun? It’s not but – “ Eric looked at his watch, “ – 5:30. It shouldn’t be dark til at least 6:30.”
The guard gave Eric a strange look.
“Are you alright?” he asked, truly concerned. “It’s 8:45.”
“What?” Eric put his hand on his head and closed his eyes, shaking his head for a second. He dropped his hand dramatically.
“What do you mean?”
“What city, what state?”
“San Diego, California.”
“California?” Eric laughed. “What are you nuts? How could I be in California when just a second ago I was in Mississippi?”
“Mississippi?” the guard shook his head. He’d had enough of this crackpot. “Look, I don’t know who you are but if you don’t get off this base, I’ll arrest you for trespassing.”
The guard keyed in the code for opening the gate. It was open.
“Go on. Get lost.” The guard picked up his gun and pointed it in Eric’s general direction.
Eric was certain he had never seen a gun like it. It looked like a M-16 but without a magazine or ventilation holes. He backed up two paces. The guard lowered the gun. Big mistake, Eric thought as he took off down the long paved driveway.
Something whizzed over his head. Eric looked back. In the glance he got of what nearly hit him, Eric saw the guard pull the trigger on the gun. A red beam lanced out and scorched a big hole in an oak tree not two feet from Eric.
Eric ducked and weaved among the trees. An alarm sounded in short buzzes. A computer voice screeched “Intruder alert, condition yellow. Intruder alert, condition yellow.” It went on to repeat itself, on and on.
Eric leaned against a tree for a second. Big mistake, he thought when he felt something cold on his neck. He moved slowly into the light of an overhead street light. Much to Eric’s thinking, it had been a gun barrel that poked him along.
“You caused a great deal of trouble, you know,” said the burly guard who put a pair of electronic handcuffs on Eric.
“I didn’t mean to,” Eric stammered. “I just wanted to get to my paper.” Eric held it up for the guard to see.
They were yelling over the alarm.
“Shut that damned thing up!” the guard yelled. The alarm was immediately off, computer and all.
“Come on. You’ll have to tell it to Professor Remington.”
They herded Eric along a sidewalk to a two-storey building. Even in the poor light, Eric could see the building has a kind of pyramid structure. Only this pyramid had a flat roof. On the left side was a semi-dome structure connected to the building. It looked transparent.
Eric was lead to the door of the building. A guard pressed the call button on the telephone with a screen. A face appeared in it and a tired looking guard answered.
“Trespasser to see Professor Remington.”
The door slid open. The guards lead Eric to an office with a plain looking secretary at the desk.
She looked up then looked Eric over, raising an eyebrow.
Eric pretended not to notice.
“Trespasser to see Professor Remington,” the guard said.
The secretary buzzed the professor’s office. He wasn’t in. She buzzed the lab.
“Yes?” came a distinctly British voice.
“Trespasser to see you, Professor,” said the secretary.
“Send him in alone. I’ll be in my office in a moment.”
The guard uncuffed Eric and showed him to the professor’s office. It was a large office with leather furniture and a wooden desk. On the desk was a large computer with a built-in printer and disk drive but only about twenty keys. A small telephone like object on a long cord.
“Voice controlled?” Eric asked himself.
The office had a huge metal bookshelf behind the desk and three chairs in front of it. There were different paintings on every wall except one. It held framed degrees, diplomas, a Ph.D., and several documents of the professor’s field he obviously treasured.
One wall had a large bay window with some sort of plants in the sill.
The door slid open and Eric turned to see a man of about forty-five with a brown beard and hair. They had grey running through them. His eyes were fierce blue. Intelligence literally sparkled in them. He wasn’t very big built, unlike Eric who was six-foot-four, two hundred twenty pounds.
Professor Joseph Remington wore a simple grey tunic with a black belt and shoes with grey pants.
“I’m Professor Remington,” he introduced himself.
“So I gather,” said Eric.
“And just who might you be?” asked the professor in even tones.
“What is your occupation?”
“I’m a writer.”
“No, I haven’t. I’m sure it’s a big success.”
“Not really. I was working on number ten called Return when whatever happened . . . happened.”
“Um hm,” said the professor thoughtfully. He went to the computer and turned it on. He put on the head set.
The computer responded, “Read for entry,” in a mechanically well pronounced voice.
“Name, Eric Steele, age” the professor looked up at Eric with raised eyebrows.
“Twenty-six,” Eric replied.
“Twenty-six,” said the professor. “Birth date,” again the eyebrows.
“February 12, 1970.”
“February 12, nineteen seve . . . What?!”
The computer responded, “Complete entry, nineteen seven . . .”
“Pause,” the professor told the computer. Then he looked up at Eric. “Do you mean 2970?”
“No. Should I?”
“I . . . I don’t think so.” The professor turned back to the computer. “Social security number.”
“516-26-1352,” Eric responded.
The professor entered it and commanded the computer to process the data and to confirm it. He took off the headset and stood up from his chair. He looks like most teenagers, Professor Remington thought. The long hair and the clothes. But Eric had a ruggedness that not many people of Remington’s time had. The auburn hair and brown eyes matched his soft face perfectly.
“If you are who you say you are, this research could be in deep trouble.”
“Really?” asked Eric. “How?”
“Simple. You could sue us for negligence. We picked up an image on the Time Projector, and tried to bring in back without bringing the image with it. If the Time Cone was too wide, then we brought the image here. You may very well have been that image.”
The computer beeped and said the data was ready.
Professor Remington looked over the color face and data.
“Damn!” he murmured.
“What is it?” Eric asked, standing up.
“You are who you say you are.”
“Of course,” Eric grinned. “I wouldn’t lie about that.”
“I see that now.”
“What’s all this about a Time Projector and Time Cone?”
“You’ve every right to ask and I’ve no right to deny you an answer. It would be simpler to show you. Come on.”
They headed for the door.
Three: Project Alpha 2987
Professor Remington led Eric to the elevator. They went up to the second floor. Once outside, Eric saw the one thing he never expected to see.
“It’s huge!” Eric exclaimed.
It was a large laboratory packed with equipment right out of Buck Rogers. The equipment was manned by people in white two-piece suits like the professor, only their belts and shoes were white.
The people – probably scientists, Eric thought – looked up as the professor walked in.
“Thought you’d turned in, Professor,” said one of the scientists.
“Not yet, Simpson,” the professor responded.
The computers, generators, converters, and other machines hummed quietly. They were quiet enough one could hear his footsteps.
“Who’s this?” asked another scientist about the professor’s age and build. This one had grey hair and wore half-lenses. He also wore a suit like Professor Remington’s.
“Our intruder,” said the professor. “This is Eric Steele. Eric, this is Professor Roger Cambell. I hope you two make good friends because I’m busy. I’ve got to tend to the Alpha Machine.”
“What’s the Alpha Machine?” Eric asked.
“The thing that brought you here, Eric. It’s a time machine.”
“What do you mean, Joseph?” asked Professor Cambell.
“Remember the image we picked up on the Time Projector?”
“This is it.” He pointed to Eric.
“Oh, no,” said Cambell.
“Oh, yes,” said Remington. His voice turned hard. “I told you the Time Cone was too wide. When we brought the Projector back, he came with it.”
“Oh, dear.” Cambell had a German accent.
Eric decided that Cambell had an English father because the name Cambell wasn’t German.
“Wait a second!” said Eric. “Could somebody please explain to me the Alpha Machine and Time Projector and Time Cones and the other bullshit I don’t understand?”
“Come here, Eric,” said Cambell. “I’ll explain all of it while Professor Remington repairs the machine.”
“Repairs?” asked both Eric and Remington.
“What repairs?” said Remington.
“Does this mean I can’t go home?” said Eric.
“The machine malfunctioned when Eric came through. That’s why he didn’t materialize in the Projector booth. He hit the receiver and bounced off to land god knows where.”
“Try three feet inside this compound,” Eric said.
“Where ever!” said Cambell.
“I’ll start on it tomorrow,” said Remington tiredly. “Simpson had a point. I should have gone to bed.”
“Tomorrow? You mean I’ve got to stay in this wacky world over night?” Eric was getting hysterical.
“Don’t worry. We don’t bite. See you in the morning, Roger. Guten Nacht.”
“Guten Nacht, Joseph.”
The professor went to the elevator. The doors were closed and he was gone.
“Well now, Eric. Let’s see if I can explain the Alpha Machine.”
They went to the very back of the lab. Cambell opened a door and led Eric down a short hallway to a small room with a radar-monitor-like desk with a large screen and keyboard.
“Replay the event,” Cambell told the scientist monitoring the computer. Then to Eric he said, “This is the Time Monitor. With it and the Time Projector we can see any event in history.”
“Ready, sir,” said the scientist.
“Let’s see it, then.”
The screen lit up. On it was a man reaching inside a paper box. He turned around and the picture went blurry.
“Straighten that up,” said Cambell.
The scientist paused the image and brought it into focus. Eric was staring into his own face.
“It’s him!” said the scientist.
“Eric!” said the professor excitedly. “You are the world’s first time traveler! What an honor in must be!”
“Actually, it’s shocking. I don’t know anything about time travel.”
“Well, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity but that’s all. I have my own theories about it but that’s it.”
“That’s good. Einstein had one or idea right about time travel but he forgot a few things.”
The professor motioned for Eric to follow him. Professor Cambell led Eric into a huge round room with white walls. In the center of the room was a thick table on a single, thick cylindrical leg. The underside of the six-inch thick table was flat, the top sloped down from the short cylindrical thing on top.
Cambell explained it was a scanner.
The top of the table was a vast array of buttons, switches, levers, knobs, dials, and gauges. The table was divided into four sections by nothing more that red lines painted on it. A computer was set in one side, a flat calculator-like keyboard the size of a typewriter in two sides, (opposing sides with the computer in between), and opposite the computer were just several free buttons and switches.
The walls of the room were lined with bookshelves. One wall held a small scanner and no shelf. On inspection, Eric saw they were detailed history books. On one shelf there were dozens of cassette size video tapes. Cambell said they were for the log recorder.
Cambell grabbed some books off a shelf.
“Here you are, Eric,” said Cambell, handing him the books.
Eric looked at them. The books were written in ink on school paper.
“The professor and I wrote those with the help of our staff. I’ll let you stay in my house for the night. You can read those if you want.”
“The Alpha Machine Repair Manual, The Alpha Concept, and The Time Traveler’s Guide to The Time Travel Concept,” Eric read. “Thanks.”
Eric stopped him. “Is there any place I can get a burger or something?”
“You don’t have to do this, you know.”
“It’s our fault you’re here. It’s the least we can do. You’ll stay at my house for the night at my insistence or I shall be seriously hurt.”
Eric grinned. “Okay. Let’s go.”
They went to the elevator and down to the first floor.
“I’m going home, Janice,” said Cambell on his way out the door.
“Good night, Professor,” she called.
“I hope so. Thank you. Good night.”
The professor led Eric to his “car.” It had very small and weak looking wheels.
“Don’t worry. They retract into the car,” said Cambell.
“It’s a hovercraft, isn’t it?” Eric asked.
“My, but you’re fast!” said Cambell sarcastically.
The car was about the size of a Lincoln Town Car but aerodynamic like a Mazda RX-7. The doors opened like a DeLorean’s.
Eric got in the passenger side and buckled his seat belt. The professor sat down behind the airplane type wheel and shut his door. Eric shut his. The professor started the car and Eric felt it rise off the ground. It had kick, Eric thought. Zero to ninety in barely a second.
“Ninety miles an hour is the speed limit in California?!” Eric exclaimed.
“Oh, good heavens, no,” said the professor. “Ninety kilometers per hour is the speed limit.”
The gate was open. The secretary had called ahead. They turned left. The professor was a very cautious driver, Eric noticed. When he turned in his driveway, Cambell slowed down and parked.
They got out of the car and went inside. The first room of the house was the living room. It was adequately furnished. The house held mostly functional furniture. Plastic chairs and tables, metal cabinets. The furniture for sitting had leather cushions. They beds were the same as always.
“You can have Terrance’s room. He’s away in college. Can I get you something to eat?”
“Yes. I eat anything but green vegetables,” answered Eric.
“Honey,” called a feminine voice, “is that you?” American, thought Eric.
“Yes, dear. I’m just cooking our guest something to eat.”
“Guest?” A short woman with grey hair came out of the bedroom. She was wearing a bathrobe and slippers.
“Who’s this young man?” she asked.
“This is Eric Steele. The poor boy is the result of someone neglecting to the check the width of the Time Cone. He’s from . . . “
“1987,” said Eric.
“Good lord!” Mrs. Cambell exclaimed. “I told you time travel was unholy. This poor unfortunate. And to go through that just to eat your cooking? I won’t hear of it.” She promptly shoved her husband out of the way.
“I’ll eat sandwiches. You don’t have to cook,” Eric started.
“I won’t hear of that either. 1987! What was it like?”
“Violent.” Eric said. “America and Russia were at each other’s throats daily. If these are more peaceful times, I’d rather stay awhile.”
“These are peaceful times, Eric,” said Cambell. “Russia funded most of our research.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Eric saw the stove used lasers as well as the oven.
Eveline, as was her name, prepared some fried chicken. Eric hadn’t eaten chicken in a thousand years, it seemed. When he thought about it, he hadn’t.
“Hope you enjoyed it,” Eveline said when he was finished.
“I did. Thoroughly.”
"I'm going to bed," she annouced.
He showed Eric his room.
“You may use the computer if you wish.”
“Thank you. All I want to do is refresh my history of the past thousand years.”
All the time, Cambell didn’t think about Eric knowing the future.
“Okay. Guten Nacht.”
“Guten Nacht,” said Eric.
It never occurred to the professor that Eric spoke German fluently.
Eric went to his assigned room. He set the books down on the single bed. The room was littered with posters of the latest female singers and groups, plus numerous centerfolds. Eric could remember when his room looked similar.
“Ah, youth,” he said to himself.
Eric found the button for closing the door. It was on the door facing. He sat down at the large metal desk with a computer on it.
“Activate,” he said.
“Running,” said the computer.
“Shh, turn the volume down a little,” Eric nearly whispered.
“How low? Specify.”
“Down to the tone of my voice.”
“Command obeyed,” whispered the computer. “Ready for next command.”
“Give me an outline of the history of Earth between 1987 and now. Print out. Process.”
The screen lit up and words began flowing across it. The automatic printer began to run. Paper flowed from it. After an hour and a half the printer stopped.
“Ready,” said the computer.
“Deactivate,” Eric commanded.
The computer shut down.
Eric took the scroll of paper. It was at least six feet long.
“Sheez,” exclaimed Eric.
He scanned over it and sat down slowly. There were a few things he didn’t quite get. Once he had finished, Eric folded it up and put it on the desk. Then he picked up one of the books.
Eric read to about 1:30 in the morning, then went to sleep.
Eric woke the next morning to the smell of eggs and bacon. His first thought was that it has been a dream – the traveling to 2987, the guards firing lasers at him, the interview by Professor Remington, and the sleeping over at Professor Cambell’s house – until he opened his eyes to see Terrance Cambell’s room of the future.
Eric got out of bed, got dressed and went to the modern kitchen dining room.
“Good morning, Eric,” greeted Mrs. Cambell. “How did you sleep?”
“The bed was very comfortable. Like sleeping on a cloud,” Eric replied. He combed his hair quickly and put his comb in his pocket.
“Guten Morgen, Herr Steele,” came Professor Cambell’s voice from the living room.
“Guten Morgen, Professor.”
It still hadn’t occurred to the Professor that Eric spoke German.
“Won’t you have some breakfast?”
Eric sat down at the small plastic table.
“How do you like your eggs?” asked Mrs. Cambell.
“Scrambled.” Actually he didn’t – like eggs.
“Good. They’ll be done in a minute.”
The telecom on the wall lit up.
“Professor?” said the face of Professor Remington.
“I’ve some alarming news for you.” Remington looked seriously at Eric. “You’d better listen to this.” He paused. “Major Stanfield is coming for a surprise inspection. Get ready. Eric, you need to get ready soon for inspection. You’ll be my assistant. That would put you up to at least a captain by military standards.”
“Whoa!” said Eric. “One thing at a time, Professor. How did you find out about this ‘surprise’ inspection?”
“An old friend in the Texas base informed me,” Remington grinned.
“What does your research center have to do with the military?”
“I’ll explain later. Just get into an assistant’s uniform.”
“Alright. But I don’t see why.”
“You don’t? Try explaining yourself to the major.”
“I’m from 1987. You accidentally brought me here but I’m not pressing charges. I’m a civilian and you’re trying to get me back to 1987. Surely that’s all there is to it.”
“I wish the major would accept that.” Remington paused. “Eric, just do as we ask. Did you read those books?”
“Do you remember any of it?” asked Remington.
“Yes,” said Eric patiently.
“Good. There won’t be any cause for briefing.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Eric warned.
“Fine. I’ll brief you when you get here.”
“When’s the major due to arrive?”
“In two hours. Hurry,” said Remington urgently.
“Okay,” sighed Eric.
“Out,” sighed Remington in turn.
“Bye,” said Eric, having the last word.
The screen went black.
“Let’s get you ready,’ said Cambell.
“What about breakfast?” said Eric.
“You can eat. The major’s not due for two hours,” said Cambell. “I’ll see if I can get you a uniform.”
Eric ate his breakfast and Professor Cambell got ready.
After Eric had finished, Cambell called the base.
“Alright, Professor. I’m ready. Give me his measurements,” said the base fitter. Cambell gave him Eric’s measurements in centimeters, Eric noticed.
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