All he has to do is destroy the world.
The disastrous events of the Zenith mission behind them, Marty and Edward lead very different lives at either end of time.
Martin has been tapped to lead an elite military operation designed to curtail and ultimately eliminate the threat of time travelers. But Henry Bradford has other ideas, and seeks to entice him into taking up the role of captain of the rechristened starship Azimuth.
Almost a quarter century in the future, Edward lives a life of wealth and influence as the adopted son of Starfire’s CEO, Trevor Sutton. But the mystery of his birth father’s murder still weighs heavily on his mind, eclipsed only by the baffling appearance of Martin’s dogtags around his neck. The distance he will go for answers will determine the ultimate course of human history, as he is pitted head to head once more against the destructive agenda of the time traveler he knows only as Gifford.
CSS Damocles, Circumlunar Orbit
The world disappeared in a blaze of white light, and then returned with a wrench that tossed Gifford out of his chair and slammed him headfirst into the deck plates. Alarms screamed as he picked himself up, the coppery taste of blood fresh on his tongue. “Modred, what the hell just happened?”
“The interscission waveform dissipated before the wormhole could fully form. Damocles has suffered significant damage from an electromagnetic pulse released during the collapse of the event horizon. Foldspace drive is offline. Power function is reduced to sixty-five percent capacity. Life support and
automation control systems are undamaged.”
Gifford swallowed the knot in his throat, knowing how completely helpless he would have been if Modred or the automated repair systems had been damaged. While the Damocles was optimized for single-person operation, Gifford was no pilot. He simply lacked the skills to keep the ship flying on his own, let alone to perform the necessary calculations to initiate a temporal jump. “What’s the status of the cloak?”
“Camouflage systems are undamaged; however, the electromagnetic pulse could not be fully negated before passing beyond the confines of the vessel. There is an eighty percent probability we have been detected by the traffic sensor grid.”
“Shit.” Gifford dropped into his chair and buckled his safety harness. “Are the conventional engines live?”
“Then shut down the camouflage field, and be ready to make a run for it.”
Suddenly, the starfield in the main viewscreen rippled. A ship teleported into view, directly ahead of the Damocles, and a clear musical tone cut through the persistent clamor of alarms, indicating an incoming message. “Attention, unknown vessel. This is the Confederation Navy Destroyer Chalcedony. Your transponder is offline in a high-density traffic pattern. Do you require assistance?”
Gifford flipped a control in the arm of his chair to open a communications channel, audio only. “Chalcedony, this is Captain Wakefield of the CSS Charybdis. Our traffic transponder has been damaged by a power surge. We are effecting repairs and should be back on the grid momentarily.” He closed the channel. “Modred, what’s our weapon status?”
“Weapons systems are fully functional.”
“Power up the forward rail guns and target their primary reactor, but not the back-ups. Leave their life support systems intact.”
The musical tone sounded again, and a new voice spoke—a woman’s voice tinged with anger. “Charybdis, this is Captain Powell of the CSS Chalcedony. I don’t know what your game is, but Janus Control reports no prior record of your vessel registry in their system. Shut down your engines immediately, and prepare to be boarded.”
Gifford gripped the arms of his chair, his palms damp with sweat. “Fire.”
The Damocles shuddered as its linear accelerators fired upon the other ship from point-blank range, launching a series of one-kilogram aluminum projectiles at almost a third of the speed of light. As Gifford watched, fire and debris erupted from the aft section of the destroyer, and its running lights failed.
“Lock pulse cannons on their sensor array. Make sure they can’t track us.”
A bright green tracery of pulse cannon fire stitched across the darkened hull as Modred destroyed the ship’s sensors.
“Now get us out of here. Keep us above the targeting plane of their rail guns and evade return fire. Reactivate the cloak as soon as we’re off the traffic grid.”
The acceleration slammed Gifford back in his seat, and he could barely breathe as he watched the Chalcedony slip off the bottom of the viewscreen. His inner ears tumbled as the Damocles changed course repeatedly, the light of the Chalcedony’s weapons blazing across the viewscreen. Finally, the other ship stopped firing.
The communications system chimed, and the woman’s voice drifted across the bridge again. “This is Captain Powell on a private channel. Captain Wakefield, whoever you really are, I suggest you never stop running.”
Gifford reopened the communications channel on the same encrypted frequency. “Sorry, Captain. Nothing personal, you understand.”
The other captain chuckled. “I understand perfectly. You’re the one who doesn’t understand who you’re dealing with.”
Gifford shrugged. “Well, I’d love to stick around and chat, but I don’t have time right now to let you throw me in a cell.”
“Time is the least of your worries, Captain.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “The Hourglass has your scent now, and I assure you that you’re not going anywhere.”
He frowned at her cryptic phrasing. Then, when she said nothing more, he closed the channel and waited silently until Modred spoke again.
“The Damocles has exited the Lunar Traffic Pattern. Camouflage systems are engaged.”
Gifford considered his options. “Best speed to the Ceres Archipelago.”
“Course plotted. Estimated time of arrival is thirty-seven months at maximum velocity.”
Gifford rolled his eyes. “I see. And we have life support and provisions for how long?”
“Twenty-four months at your present rate of consumption.”
“Then you’d better get cracking at the repairs to the foldspace drive.”
“Automated repairs are in progress. Expected time to restore full functionality is forty-two hours.”
Gifford raised an eyebrow. “The damage was that extensive? What happened?”
“Unknown. However, no internal faults were detected during the interscission attempt.”
“What does that mean?” Gifford scowled. “The problem wasn’t detected, or it was external to the interscission event?”
“That information is not available.”
Gifford unbuckled his safety harness as the Damocles reached cruising speed and the pressure of acceleration slackened. “Reanalyze the sensor data and correlate with the theoretical foldspace model. Identify the cause of the drive failure. Use the entire Athena chip array, but find out why it happened.”
Gifford finally wiped the blood from his split lip. He stared at the crimson stain on his hand, lost in thought.
What is going on? The foldspace drive has performed perfectly on numerous occasions. Something’s different this time. What changed? His brow crinkled in thought. And what the hell is the Hourglass?
December 2202, Oxford, Eurozone, Earth
Edward tried not to yawn as his sister held court at the foot of the lecture theatre. While he understood that higher mathematics required a certain mindset and training to understand, he marveled that her students could find so many ways to ask the same questions over and over again, only phrased differently. A wonder she didn’t lose her patience and tell them to just look it up.
But that’s why she’s a teacher, and I’m not, I suppose.
He rubbed the iridescent metal of the dog tags tucked away under his shirt, warmed by the heat of his skin. For some reason, they brought him a measure of comfort—which didn’t make any sense, since he still had no idea where they came from.
The files his step-father provided only provoked new questions. How had he never known that his biological father had been murdered? And who was Martin Atkins to him? The personnel file failed to shed any light on the name inscribed on the dog tags, which had simply appeared around his neck that morning.
Is someone trying to tell me something through this mysterious gift?
It was a creepy thought, given that the necklace had been slipped over his head as he slept, which meant it had to have come from one of three people: his mother, his father, or his sister.
It wasn’t Mom or Dad. They were taken by surprise when I read out Martin’s name. Neither is a good enough actor to have faked a reaction to that extent.
That left only one suspect.
Edward leaned forward in his seat as his sister wound up her lecture.
She’s receiving the Nobel Prize this afternoon, and she took the time to teach in the morning. That’s academia for you.
He got to his feet as the graduate students in the auditorium packed up their books and tablets; those who’d only virtually tuned in disappeared in a flash of light. He walked down the steps to the base of the auditorium. “Hey, sis. Need a ride?”
At his voice, Annette Sutton looked up and smiled. “No one needs a ride anymore, Ed. That’s kind of why I have that little shindig this afternoon, remember?”
“Tradition.” Edward fished his personal teleport key out of his shirt pocket. “Any plans for lunch before heading to Stockholm?”
“Of course.” She gave him a level look. “My idiot brother is taking me out to a lovely restaurant I heard about in Cairo. I already made reservations.”
“Uh, right. You want to forward me the address?”
She pulled her own teleport key out of her suit jacket and typed in the command to relay the preassigned jump coordinates for the restaurant. “It’s good to see you again. You were practically falling asleep when you got home last night. It’s a wonder you managed to walk far enough to dial up a ride home after you got off the transport from Chiron.”
“There’s a lot of traffic between systems this year. The red-eye was the only flight I could get that wasn’t booked solid.” He paused. “So what did you do after I went to bed?”
She shrugged. “Not much. We chatted for another hour or so before I jumped home. I still had some simulations to check on. Just because I’m getting a major award doesn’t mean my work goes on hold. There’s always more to do.”
“So … you didn’t stop by my room to leave me a wake-up present?”
She cocked her head. “What do you mean?”
Edward reached into his shirt and withdrew the metal wafers hanging from his necklace. “I woke up wearing this.”
Annette leaned forward and tilted the dog tags toward her to read them more easily. “Martin Atkins? The captain of the Zenith mission?”
“You know him?”
She rolled her eyes. “Of course not. He died during the first year of the Azimuth mission, before we were even born.” Her posture stiffened, and she stared at him suspiciously. “He was killed in the same explosion as Charles Davenport. Exactly where did you get this necklace? Is it a replica?”
He shook his head. “As near as I can tell, it’s original. The embedded identity chip was designed to prevent tampering, and it carries the same information as the text imprint.” He took a deep breath. “As for how I wound up wearing it, I have no idea. I thought maybe you put it on me before you went home.”
“No. I’ve never seen it before,” said Annette, frowning. “This kind of military identification is registered and tracked. It should be a simple matter to find out who had them last. But that doesn’t explain how they wound up with you.”
“Yeah, I know. As far as I know, Captain Atkins only had one relative: his brother, Jacob. He runs a private security firm in Paris with his husband, Thomas Knox.”
“Captain Knox, from the Azimuth?” She quirked her eyebrow. “There’s a whole lot of coincidences, Ed. What have you got yourself mixed up in?”
“I’m not sure … but I think someone wants me to follow the bread crumbs.”
“I don’t know. I might have to decipher the clues to find out.”
She touched his arm lightly, her expression registering concern. “I don’t like this, Edward. Someone’s playing you.”
He gave her a half smile. “I never could resist a challenge.”
“Fools rush in, brother.”
“And he who hesitates is lost. Pick your platitude, sis.”
Her disapproval was obvious. “Be careful, is all I’m saying.”
“Aren’t I always?”
“No. Almost never.”
Edward laughed. “Come on. We have a lunch date in Cairo.”
She nodded, tapping a command into her teleport key. For a moment she was outlined in a bright light, and then she disappeared.
Edward glanced down at the dog tags in his hand. Guess it’s just you and me then, Martin Atkins. He tucked the necklace back into his shirt and tuned his teleport key to the coordinates of the restaurant, waiting while the traffic system verified that the destination was clear. Then the world went white with the familiar wrench of teleportation.
Bread crumbs it is.
The Interscission Project is space opera/time travel/gay romance, and is planned to be a trilogy. The first book is Zenith, available now. The second book is Azimuth, available July 1st, 2015. The third book, Insurrection, is expected to be available next year.
The Pact Arcanum Saga consists of five books: Sunset, Cathedral of the Sky, Sunrise, Moonlight, and Starlight. It is best described as non-explicit, near-future, space opera/gay vampire romance. Yes, I realize the irony that I’m a blood doctor who writes about vampires. 😉 The Pact Arcanum Saga is also in the process of being adapted to webcomic/comic book format, with pages posted weekly at http://pactarcanum.net.
Primary Website: http://pactarcanum.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/pactarcanum
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/interscission
Goodreads Profile: http://www.goodreads.com/pactarcanum
Twitter Handle: @pactarcanum
Arshad is offering an ebook copy of ‘Azimuth’ (The Interscission Project: Book Two) to one lucky winner. Comment below to be entered to win. Don’t forget to leave a valid email address.
You need to be 18 or older to participate in this contest. Void where prohibited. Etc.
This contest will end on July 11th at 11:59 PM CDT. Good Luck!
I would like to give a big Thank You to Arshad for stopping by RGR today and talking about his current projects.