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Thrice Upon a Time
By James P. Hogan
Baen BooksCopyright © 1980 James P. Hogan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKennedy International Airport had shrugged off the snow that fell after Christmas, and was again a bustling oasis of business-as-usual amid the white-blanketed suburbs stretching along the southern Long Island shoreline. Steady processions of groundcars and mono-cabs flowed between the airport complex and Manhattan to the west, while overhead swarms of airmobiles arrived and departed like bees on never-ending foraging missions. From within the perimeter, a succession of Boeings, Lockheeds, and Douglases sailed vertically upward on the first stages of their suborbital trajectories through the ionosphere; higher above, arriving dots from Europe, Japan, Australia, and elsewhere slowly acquired shape as they dropped from the flawless blue that had come with the first day of the new year.
In the Arrivals Concourse of the glass-fronted marble sculpture that constituted Terminal Three, Murdoch Ross stood among a group of waiting people and divided his attention between scanning the faces of the passengers streaming from Flight 235, just in from San Francisco, and taking in a few more lines of an article on graviton wave-mechanics featured in the current issue of Scientific American. He was in his late twenties, on the lean side of average for his medium height, and clean-shaven to reveal a fresh and healthy complexion. His eyes were bright and alert as they glanced up every few seconds from the magazine in his hand, and almost as dark as the wavy black hair above the collar of his overcoat.
He saw the head of copper-colored hair protruding above the rest of the new arrivals at the same time as the head saw him. Its owner changed direction to wade obliquely through the river of humanity toward Murdoch. He was dressed in a dark-blue, open-necked shirt, navy windbreaker, and gray cords, and carrying a leather travel bag slung across one shoulder; he moved unhurriedly, but with a powerful, easy-going stride. Murdoch thrust the magazine into the pocket of his overcoat and grinned as they shook hands. It was like grasping a double-thick cut of spare rib that hadn't died yet.
"Lee, great to see you again! It seems like a lot more than five months. I'm sorry about the short notice, but that's all I had myself."
Lee Walker's mouth barely twitched, but his eyes came as near as they ever did to smiling. "Hi, Doc. You're right-it seems a lot longer. I guess that's the way things go." He heaved his bag onto his other shoulder and produced a pack of cigarettes from his windbreaker. "What time is it here? How long have we got before the flight leaves?"
"It's on schedule-just over fifteen minutes."
"Get my ticket fixed okay?"
"You're all set."
They began walking briskly toward the nearest escalator leading down to the automatic shuttle system that connected the airport terminals.
"So," Murdoch said. "How are things back west? Dynasco going okay?"
"Pretty good," Lee replied. "The checkout's finished, and the documentation's all done. I think they're pretty pleased with the whole deal."
"In fact if you hadn't called, I'd have been coming on over to New York in a week or so anyway. How's it been looking?"
"Promising. How about Tracey? Did you get her untangled at last?"
"Yeah. It's all ... 'untangled.'"
An empty shuttle-car was waiting with doors open. They crossed the platform skirting the track at the bottom of the escalator and stepped inside.
"Okay, so tell me more about it," Lee said. "You reckon your grandfather has actually done it-he can send information backward through time?" His face was creased into a frown and his tone skeptical.
Murdoch nodded. "That's what he says."
"But it's crazy. In principle it's crazy. What happens to causality?" Lee drew on his cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke toward the roof of the car. "What's he done exactly? How far has he sent it back?"
"You know just about as much as I do," Murdoch told him. "He wasn't exactly generous with details when he called me either. He just said it worked and told me to get over there right away. He knows I've talked to you about it a lot, and figured it was about time you two met. So I called you. The rest you know."
"But it's crazy," Lee insisted. "I never thought he'd get anywhere with it. If it's true, the whole of physics goes down the tubes. I mean-"
"Save it," Murdoch said. "There's company on the way. Let's talk about it on the plane." A trio of businessmen approached along the platform and stepped into the car talking loudly about some company's market share or something or other. They were followed a few seconds later by a couple shepherding two young, tousle-haired boys. The car doors bleeped a warning and then closed, and the shuttle slid forward to rejoin the through-track, then accelerated smoothly into the tunnel that led to the next terminal on the circuit.
Twenty minutes later they were sixty miles up over the mid-Atlantic at the apex of a shallow parabola that joined Kennedy to an artificial island constructed a few miles off-shore from Edinburgh in the Firth of Forth. The seats on one side of them were occupied by two pleasant but inquisitive middle-aged English ladies who plied them continually with questions about the States; on their other side sat a Bostonian who maintained a steady monologue on football despite their repeated proclamation of total ignorance of, and disinterest in, the subject. At no time during the thirty-five-minute flight did they get a chance to talk further about Murdoch's grandfather.
Excerpted from Thrice Upon a Time by James P. Hogan Copyright © 1980 by James P. Hogan. Excerpted by permission.
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