“It started with murder. She knew too much. … I am a time traveler out of necessity. I love her. I’m the time traveler, first to do what I just did. I voyaged back and altered history for my wife. I know the proverbs warn that only bad can come from this. Tonight I’ll find out.”
—The Voyager, 2071
In 2071, on Solar7, nineteen-year-old T. C.’s heart is shattered by loss when Jewel, his love and a member of the Space Corps, has heard of a mysterious time-erasing chronometer of alien origin. She will soon pay for her curiosity with her life. Desperate and grief-stricken, T. C. enlists in the corps with a secret agenda.
He decides to steal the chronometer so he can travel back in time. Going into his own past, T. C. gives himself eight days to alter history in order to save her. His only desire is to fix things, but in his youthful enthusiasm, he’ll only make things much worse. Much worse.
He returns to his own time to find a universe in chaos. Jewel lives, but he doesn’t recognize the evil person she has become, and she has no idea who he is. The butterfly effect ripples through the universe, and the young man is lost in a world he can’t understand. He’s now an outcast, hunted by her and enemies he didn’t even know he had.
Can he set things right with another journey to the past? Will his enemies let him survive long enough to even make the attempt? Only time will tell.
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A STARCROSSED VOYAGER JOURNEY
By MARK C. MALKASIAN
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Mark C. Malkasian
All rights reserved.
& Only 600,000,000 Seconds from Then
The twittering of the crickets fell silent, like the ending of air-raid sirens. It was pronounced, abrupt, and troubling.
It was a Monday, or day of the moon to ancient astronomers, November 4, 2052, 2:00 a.m. Mist blanketed a freshly harvested row of grass and spangled as it froze on the short blades. There was a humble home with a large barn. Both were incandescent under the plump moon that broke the Iowa dark, bathing the landscape in indigo light. Along a gravel road ran a mile-long gully the width of a tractor. The edge was a reddish-brown color from the freshly plowed soil.
A ray of light leaked through a crack between the kitchen shutters and drew a line down the barnyard. Under the window, at the edge of the dirt road, was a mailbox on a splintered post. The label read, "The Aums Sod Farm." On the post, in graffiti, were the words, "NASA bought the farm." The neighborhood children added the message after watching government trucks haul away special grass for a Mars project.
They had grouped the turfs by species. There was Buffalo Grass, St. Augustine, Kentucky Blue, and a variety of the Aums's own hybrid splice with a secret strain of resilient Floridian saltwater weed. They measured the patchwork turfs not in acres but miles. It looked endless, like an ocean, and the grass seemed to be on the verge of consuming the simple dwelling.
The green frontier was grey in the blue moonlight. The still air made it seem as if time was about to stop. It felt like the night of another story's end. A nicer story. A story that did not end like this one.
Stark white pickets hemmed in the yard, which cradled a swing set, some garbage cans, and a picnic table. Also in the yard was a young boy kneeling behind a rusty telescope. The device was new, but the stand and brass mounting were tarnished. The device had remained outside for a week. Festooned in cobwebs that seemed to add eras to its age, it was worthy of the name on the primary lens tube: "Pisa 450 by Time Era Solar." The fancy name commemorated the Italian birthplace of modern astronomy four hundred fifty years earlier. In smaller print, it boasted: with Super-Zoom. Even the serial number splashed on the side, CPE1704TKS, seemed to have a special meaning. The boy had wallpapered the cowling with manufacturers' logos, like a race car. It looked like a scientific instrument worthy of NASA, but it came from a thrift store. The boy tuned it like a sharpshooter.
He looked ten, somewhat bookish, and a bit short for his age. He was dressed in a black coat that matched his shaggy hair. His breath misted as he cleaned the lens with his sleeve and wiped a drip dangling off his nose. He raked his bangs back with his fingers. His attention was on a grain of light off to the west, his thoughts wrapped in a fantasy woven with the threads of adventure.
"All this for a girl," the boy said, as he locked his arms and gestured with his hands as if he were gripping a yoke. "Wind it up—set—aww, I lost you. Oh, there you are, just as you promised." He gripped the eyepiece and adjusted the direction of the telescope slightly. "Wind—set—" He pretended to pilot a spacecraft and began to whistle.
The whiz of an electrostatic windowpane rang out as little hooks dropped from the top of the windowsill, caught the lip of the shutters, and flung them open. It was an automated feature in all homes of the mid-twenty-first century. The mechanized shutters slapped against the siding and a tiny speaker in the windowsill announced the manufacturer's name in a light, synthetic female voice: "By Mmmmotor-magic."
"Robby, come in to bed," his mother called from the kitchen.
"Robby, come in to bed," the boy mimicked under his breath. "Aw, gee-whiz," he said aloud.
His mom replied, "You can view the terra-farm tomorrow. Mars will be far more interesting when the ice cap melts and the oxygen turfs are rolled out." Then she wished aloud, "I hope it works. We could sure use the money." She kept her thoughts positive and asked her son, "What about the unmanned Ikarie buoy? The buzz on the news says the XB1 will—"
Robby corrected her slang term for the rocket ship yacht and ark, "Mom, it's a Yarchk. It's the RXM2, and it lands tonight."
She sighed. "That's nice, honey, but you'll have to miss them releasing the birds."
"They're the Arctic Glau-Larus, mom," he corrected her again, "from Iceland. They're used to the thin air. And, no, I won't miss it. It's happening tomorrow."
"Then come in and rest your eyes so tomorrow you can watch them spread our grass seeds from your super-zooming telescope," she called out, completely disinterested and distracted by the issues of owning a sod farm. "Astronaut birds to spread grass seed; what will they think of next?" she mused before becoming firm. "One extra hour, you promised me two hours ago. Did you do your homework?"
Robby glanced toward the house to make sure she was not looking out the window. He stared at the stars. The bright one had moved. He held a secret. There was a story behind his eyes.
His mother's tone hardened more. "Robby Aums, are you listening to me? It's hours past your bedtime. You had better have finished your language study and book report."
"Almost, I will," he screamed back, and then whispered to himself, "—but I'm not writing about the rabbit; I'm writing about the character that got lost. That book should have been his story, but he was forgotten about, as if he never existed because no one remembered he was there."
"Now, Echo. Mars will still be there tomorrow night," she called out softly, using his nickname to show she was not angry.
His very pregnant mother leaned out the window briefly and tapped a wooden spoon on the windowsill, as she had done many nights before. Her head disappeared inside the kitchen and the shutters whizzed shut. The system repeated the tag line, "By Mmmmotor-magic."
Robby turned to face the house. He looked back over his shoulder at the alluring telescope. "Mars will still be there," he echoed her words and added, in a most serious whisper, "That's what you think. I know how this story ends. He told me." Robby looked east, at Mars. He had the telescope pointed in the other direction. Then he spoke with more knowledge than he had previously shown. "You yelp astronomy like a sun-dog and paw the constellations," he quoted Mark Twain as he stared at the bright star. "So you did it, little brother. You came back through time to fix things. Now, go, Dog. She's waiting for you. Go see if she's there with open arms. Hurry, you can't be here twice at the same time."
He looked down at the schoolbooks on the grass. His book report, titled "The Life of the Forgotten China Dog," lay next to a tattered copy of the child's book The Velveteen Rabbit. He gazed up and called out as wind began to swirl. "Avoid the old man. He's Bad Karma." Robby kept assigning nicknames like it was his job. "And don't get tricked by the twins from Alpha Centauri, Now, go Dog. No doppelgangers. You can't stay here another minute."
He bent down to retrieve his homework. Stuck between the pages was a bookmarker. Under the laminate was a message left behind for him that read: "Under this full moon, promise to tell me to read my psalms and don't ever change."
Tucked within the pages was the rest of what seemed to be an encouraging message. He pulled on the bookmarker, but never had the chance to read the rest. The rubber band around his homework snapped. He rose, rubbing his nose. As he did, he bumped his head hard on the telescope's metal cowling and sprawled out unconscious, dropping the bookmarker as he fell. It landed like a blade and stuck deep in upturned topsoil. The scope spun and squealed, spun and squeaked, and then ground to a halt and froze, looking like a monument to Galileo.
Just then, his mother let out a shriek from the kitchen, muffled by the drawn shutters.
"Robby. Robby, make the call—call the doctor. Robby, hurry! You're about to have a little brother. Robby?" she gasped.
The special star in the sky changed color. It was no star. It was solid and real, and it began to shine. It streaked across the sky, toward Mars. A magnetic wake burned in purple, yellow, and red. The metal telescope tilted toward the magnetic storm, tipped off the wooden tripod and fell. The lens popped out and cracked. The telescope dragged along the ground. Then, all at once, the event was over. The disappearance thundered in the near vacuum of space. It shook the reeds across scattered, uncut patches of turf.
In time, serenity returned. It was so quiet. Even the crickets were silent. Then, far off in the distance, something unrelated happened. It was something that should never have taken place. It was something that spoiled everything good.
Sub-Journal of Nothingness—History Spared No Mercy for Man
Dawn came early on the horizon in the form of a manmade flash. Grey clouds grew from the darkness. It seemed insignificant at a distance, but the ominous mushroom haze turned topaz and was followed by another and another ...
Where the dark horizon met the stars, nuclear clouds grew from missile silos on distant farms. Their secret locations did not spare them. In fact, they were first. Their codes were cracked and their warheads triggered without the predators putting foot to soil. This was Wi-Fi warfare and our ignorance was in interconnectivity. The distant skies radiated, marking detonations beyond the horizon. Each was the size of a metropolis; each was a fallen city, but it did not end there. The radiation did not recognize religious, political, or geographic boundaries. It engulfed the globe. The jet stream ensured that doses were distributed evenly. So began the story of the end of us.
Who caused this was unclear, but they were clever. They wiped the Earth of all its technology and rendered us defenseless before they even landed. Our weapons could kill thirty billion people. At the time, there were thirteen billion on Earth. It was an evolutionary TKO. None of it was fair. They had a head start and we rang them in with our search for extraterrestrial life.
The globe greyed as mist from the melting ice caps saturated the air. Time felt heavy and fast, like the way the hands on a wristwatch seem to move faster than on a clock. Each minute slipped away like two years, while the Earth's surface writhed in the throes of change. From space, Earth looked aged, with little resemblance to the colorful world it once was. Under misty layers that stifled the sun, the orb was a magnificent desolation. A global green sea was the only surface visible through a break in the clouds.
Then, in less than ten minutes, a shimmer of astral light reappeared in the sky. The rocket ship returned, tumbling; a burst hatch spoke of mishap. The cockpit was empty the pilot missing. The changes came in minutes to the ship's former occupant. For us, it was much, much longer ...CHAPTER 2
Rocket Ship Down
NINETEEN YEARS AND EIGHT DAYS NORTH (LATER)
In the neighboring solar system of Solar8 was the distant planet Manterra. There was little oxygen in its atmosphere and only small patches of florescent moss on its red surface. Two moons orbited the planet, and something else. Something minuscule that made everything bad in the universe worse. Floating just within the planet's gravity was someone in an antiquated spacesuit. The oxygen gauge bounced on "e." A dent in the helmet explained the limp posture. The lone survivor was too small to detect from the ground.
A massive flying saucer ascended from the planet and flew past, almost striking the astronaut before stopping. The leap-sphere was part of an aged mass transport fleet. The automaton pilot flew the system on this route every two days. That was all the time needed for a round trip around the sun.
The hovering ship did not make a sound inside the spacesuit; there was only one sound in there. It was the only sound one could hear within the vacuum of space: one's own heartbeat. He was alive, unconscious, and dreaming of where he might have ended up. He thought he was on the surface, almost angelic, and with wings. He stood in a canal of rubble, pushing against a Trojan horse. In his mind, he was pushing back against himself, fighting the secret within him. It was the secret of the source of everyone's problems. A source he brought on. The voice of an adversary echoed in his head. "He threatens us all. Kill him, or soon all that will be left for him to face will be himself." The horse reared as if it were alive. It was a fight for morality. It was a fight for the future, a fight he was losing. The horse kicked at him and he fell. It bit at his wings and tore one off. As the horse won, the voice of the little boy sprang from his memory. "No one is who they appear to be. Their names are not their names, they're their nicknames. Their nicknames are their real names. Some don't even know it."
The astronaut awoke to the rubber rim of the saucer nudging against his shoulder. Bump, bump, and again bump—each time a bit harder. The last nudge tore a slight hole in his spacesuit and it began to lose pressure. The robotic leap-sphere switched into rescue mode. The ship stopped spinning and the windows along the rim revealed a single room inside. Tiered benches that could seat at least three hundred passengers circled the inside of the hollow ship; this bus carried none. Emergency strobes flashed as the ship rotated the hatch door around and fired buoy-like hooks to grapple the spacesuit. This was automated rescue, and the marooned pilot was about to hitch a free ride to Manterra's sister planet on the other side of the sun. It would take a full day for the single passenger to reach dry land on the partially terraformed planet called Eliptus Far.CHAPTER 3
The Two Most Uncommon Around Here
Granular Silicatown was a weather-beaten outpost on the desert side of Eliptus Far. The settlement consisted of one- and two-story flattop buildings separated by an avenue of sand. Every store had a sand-covered porch. The few isolated colonists spent the short daylight hours sweeping their stoops and taking the sun. Daylight here was a lackluster grey.
The exhaust winds from the leap-sphere blew back the sand and erased a morning's worth of effort. It was noon and, like every second noon, a mass-transport vessel descended from the sky. This was just one short stop for the leap-sphere on its never-ending route. The strobe lights pulsed so quickly that they became a steady gleam as the ship prepared to land. It stopped spinning and one window revealed its single passenger. The ship sank quickly, sizzling from the gravity-repelling restrictors. It was larger than the buildings and wider than the streets between them. It touched down just at the end of the main strip and began to spin immediately as it geared up for a quick ascent. The vacant leap-sphere disappeared into the clouds, leaving behind the solitary passenger.
He was a man in dark clothes with dark wavy bangs that blew freely in the wind. The red scarf he held up to filter the sand covered his face. The paisley cloth-rimmed goggles, fastened with a leather strap, masked his eyes behind round, chrome lenses. He kept the goggles on even though the sun here was weak. He wore a skintight shirt, pressurized pants, and government-issue boots. He carried his spacesuit helmet as if it was a bucket. After a deep breath to take in the surroundings, he headed up the avenue. He approached like a plague and the townspeople recognized it. They glanced at him sidelong, detesting his type. In a region where people labeled privateers either as "Evil," "Wicked," "Mean," or "Nasty," for some reason, he was looked upon as "The Evil." He did not know it, but they were right.
There was a "kinderman" leaning against a support pole. He was a man of the killing kind, not intimidated by the likes of the stranger. He was wind-worn and shod in steel-tipped boots that hid spring-loaded laser blades. He bore a scar that ran from his temple down the side of his neck and gave him his nickname: Scar. Next to the scar was a tattooed number "7," which signified that he fought in the Seven Years war; the name did not indicate its length, but where it took place, Solar7. This kinderman did not belong to any of the outlawed gangs called regiments. He was a man of renown, a Brigadesman.
In a raspy whisper, the veteran said, "Cancel the casket, boys. This nuclear punk survived."
The astronaut never noticed the Brigadesman, but he did notice someone else. Standing in the doorway of a flight-servicing pier, behind a broken ship, was an old man: The Old Man. He had grey hair, a grey beard, and brittle teeth. He squinted even though there was little sun—a telling sign that he was as foreign to the area as was the astronaut. The old man was thin and well dressed. His paisley vest glowed from rows of heating coils that helped him adapt to the cool climate on this distant planet. He wore a wristwatch on each arm and two pocket watches with crisscrossing chains. It seemed unusual to carry so many devices that told the same time, but it was understandable in his profession. His nickname was The Watchmaker.
Excerpted from THE CHRONOMONAUT by MARK C. MALKASIAN. Copyright © 2014 Mark C. Malkasian. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsJOURNAL I: DIE, VOYAGER,
Chapter One—& Only 600,000,000 Seconds from Then, 3,
Sub-Journal of Nothingness—History Spared No Mercy for Man, 7,
Chapter Two—Rocket Ship Down, 9,
Chapter Three—The Two Most Uncommon Around Here, 11,
Chapter Four—The Lucid Cauldron, 21,
Chapter Five—A Sheet in the Wind's Eye, 26,
Chapter Six—More Than Just Misplaced, 28,
Chapter Seven—Did Rumor Have It Right?, 34,
Chapter Eight—Faking Starblind, 42,
Chapter Nine—The Look-alike Spies, 46,
Chapter Ten—A Member Amiss, 53,
JOURNAL II: MOON PROMISES,
Chapter Eleven—Tailor Made, 61,
Chapter Twelve—Just Warming Up, 70,
Chapter Thirteen—Feel the Pull, 73,
Chapter Fourteen—Minus Major Morals, 76,
Chapter Fifteen—A Touch Too Much, 77,
Chapter Sixteen—Short Were the Long Grasses, 88,
Chapter Seventeen—The Bane of Gravity, 91,
Chapter Eighteen—A Man Named Worm, 93,
Chapter Nineteen—Valley of the Gahks, 97,
Chapter Twenty—History of the Trea-Da-Kor, 102,
Chapter Twenty-one—Odium, 111,
Chapter Twenty-two—Like Spring on Jupiter and Mars, 113,
Chapter Twenty-three—Slang, 117,
JOURNAL III: ALL TOO EASY,
Chapter Twenty-four—Her Secret Slithered, 131,
Chapter Twenty-five—The Plane, the Watch, the Lens, 138,
Chapter Twenty-six—Dead Bang, 141,
Chapter Twenty-seven—Monoliths of Manterra, 144,
Chapter Twenty-eight—Salt, Seaweed & the Origin of Algaeon, 164,
Chapter Twenty-nine—The Louris Factor, Part 1, 172,
Chapter Thirty—The Lipstick Incident, 173,
Chapter Thirty-one—Rights of the Regurs, 176,
Chapter Thirty-two—Slithered On By, 182,
Chapter Thirty-three—Sailors Redefined, 184,
Chapter Thirty-four—Dealing with The Kid, 190,
JOURNAL IV: HELL BY ANY OTHER NAME,
Chapter Thirty-five—Starfish on the Beach, 195,
Chapter Thirty-six—The Ministry of Sixteen Minus One, 201,
Chapter Thirty-seven—The Labyrinth's End, 204,
Chapter Thirty-eight—Fate had Her Day, 209,
Chapter Thirty-nine—Star by Star Night, 214,
Chapter Forty—Lost is Found in the Sea of M.E., 215,
Chapter Forty-one—The Measure of an Echo, 230,
JOURNAL V: PAINTED STARS,
Chapter Forty-two—Moon Stop Precipice, 239,
Chapter Forty-three—Two for the Saloon, 242,
Chapter Forty-four—No One Had a Name in This City, 247,
Chapter Forty-five—It Seemed So Far, 253,
Chapter Forty-six—Death by Association, 256,
Chapter Forty-seven—The Present Conscious Moment, 259,
Chapter Forty-eight—Comet Jockeys, 261,
Chapter Forty-nine—The Automation Equation, 267,
Chapter Fifty—A Kiss Is Just A Kiss, 271,
Chapter Fifty-one—The Kites of Qytun, 275,
Chapter Fifty-two—The Ghost Revealed, 278,
Chapter Fifty-three—Rocket Ship Ready, 285,
Chapter Fifty-four—A Faltering Bucket over the Gravity Well (The Tick), 288,
Chapter Fifty-five—Chiming Bell of the Metronome, 293,
Chapter Fifty-six—And I Blame You, 295,
JOURNAL VI: NOTHING TO TRANSCEND,
Chapter Fifty-seven—Withering the Universe Rigid, 301,
Chapter Fifty-eight—The Louris Factor, Part 2, 304,
Chapter Fifty-nine—The Even After, 305,
Chapter Sixty—The Significance of Little Things, 308,
Chapter Sixty-one—Somewhere Over the Mind of Man (The Tock), 309,
Sub-Journal of Revelation—A Voyage Fall, 310,
Chapter Sixty-two—& Then Again, 312,