It was a big day for Doors International. The day of the first public testing of their latest product; a time-travel machine.
Everyone was in a [relatively] good mood. Jonathan Doors was griping to everybody who would listen about something nobody really understood. Sandoval was feeling paranoid because Da'an and Zo'or had insisted on attending the event, which made a great opportunity for Resistance infiltration. Liam was annoyed with Sandoval for being so paranoid, Da'an and Zo'or were being harrassed by newspaper reporters, and Renae Palmer was arguing about something with Augur, who had decided to show up at the event.
"I'm the only one who knows how to work the doggone contraption!" Augur was saying.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Renae snapped. "Our technicians are perfectly capable of handling this!"
"I don't care. I'm the one who invented it."
"BUT, don't forget, you SOLD it to US!"
"Do you want this thing to go smoothly or not?!"
"Yes I do, which is exactly the reason you are NOT posing as a technician and helping out!"
"No 'buts!' You are NOT getting anywhere NEAR the demonstration and THAT IS FINAL!"
Renae stormed off to freshen up in the ladies' room before the event officially began. Augur went off and, after being told by Liam not to bother him, found someplace to sulk.
Sandoval came up and glared at the technician who was fiddling with various dials and buttons on the extremely strange-looking contraption. "Just what are you doing?" Sandoval asked.
The technician jumped, dropped several tools, and promptly fell over backwards.
"Just call me Jack, sir," he said, standing up. "I'm setting the controls for the time machine's demonstration.
"Are you authorized by Doors International to be near this? Where's your pass? How do I know you're not planting a bomb?!"
"Oh, yes, sir, my pass," said Jack, glancing down at his shirtsleeve where it had been pinned. "Um...it was here...a minute ago..."
He frowned, and, avoiding Sandoval's icy glare, crawled under the time machine, looking around. "Ah! Here it is!" He stuck his head out and showed the pass. "Got it, sir. See, I AM authorized."
Sandoval said nothing, but walked off, muttering.
At last, everything was ready. The building was packed with people, eager to see the apple dissapear. The time machine would send out a narrow beam towards the apple, which would disspear from the platform and reappear five minutes into the future. This demonstration would then be followed by sending a watch five minutes into the future. The watch, once it reappeared, would be five minutes off.
Da'an and Zo'or were standing with Liam and Sandoval on one side of the stage. Jonathan Doors was on the other side. Augur was waiting off-stage. The technician, Jack, was standing by the time machine.
Renae came out, smiling, her usual public self, and the audience clapped. She picked up the microphone.
"I would like to thank you for being here at the first public testing of the Doors International time machine. As I'm sure you can imagine, this technology provides us with many amazing opportunities. But now, without any furthur ado, let us proceed."
She walked over to Jack and whispered. "Is everything ready? Turn it on!"
Jack nodded and reached over to pull the lever. But just then, something happened. Jack lost his balance fell over, crashing into the time machine before landing on the lever and pulling it down as he fell.
A bright light engulfed the entire stage and when the shocked audience could see again, the time machine sat there alone. Doors, Augur, Renae, Jack, Liam, Da'an, Zo'or, and Sandoval, along with the apple, were all gone.
The first thing Liam noticed, after the light faded, was that he was no longer on the stage at the time machine demonstration. He was in the middle of the woods.
A loud exclamative nearbye made him turn around. Renae was in the middle of a clump of very prickly blackberry bushes. Clawing her way through and getting her buisness suit shredded to pieces in the process, she finally made it over to Liam, to ask, "What the heck happened?!"
Before Liam could answer, Augur and Jack came walking up, followed by Sandoval. "It's not my fault!" were the first words out of Jack's mouth. Liam took a deep breath. "Okay, is this everyone? Where's Zo'or and Da'an and Doors?"
"I don't know," Augur said. "Let's just get out of here. Jack, do you have the device to send us back?"
Jack pulled out something that looked vaugely like a remote control for a television set. "Right here. According to this, were somewhere in 1862."
"How did that happen?" Renae asked. "We were only supposed to go five minutes into the future--that is, the apple was."
"I think I messed up the settings when I crashed into the time machine," Jack said. "It's not my fault."
"You said that already."
"ANYWAY," Augur said, inturrupting, "that thing is supposed to be able to send us back."
"Hold on one minute," said Sandoval. "We're not going anywhere until we find out if Zo'or and Da'an are here."
"And Doors," Liam added.
"Mr. Doors is not a priority," Sandoval snapped.
Just then, someone above them said, "Liam, your assistence, please."
Jack jumped, slipped on the pine needles, and fell over. The device he was holding went flying over the hill. It was followed by a splash and an angry shout from someone who sounded a lot like Zo'or.
Liam groaned and, looking up, saw Da'an perched bird-like in a pine tree. A minute later, Zo'or walked, dripping wet and holding the device. "Which one of you dared to throw this at me?!" he demanded.
Jack tried to look as small as possible.
"Liam," Da'an said. "I do not know how to climb trees. Please help me down."
Liam groaned again but quickly climbed up the pine and managed to get Da'an to the ground without too many mishaps. Unforetuneatly, they both came out covered in sap and pine needles.
Augur snatched the device out of Zo'or's hand. "It's wet!" exclaimed.
"You noticed," Renae answered.
"No, I mean, it's not waterproof! It's broken!"
Everyone stopped and stared at Augur. Finally, Zo'or broke the silence. "Do you mean that, through your human incompetence, we are forever stuck over a century before our time?"
No one wanted to answer.
"What happened to it, anyway?" Augur asked.
"I landed in the middle of a creek," Zo'or answered. "The next thing I knew, this came flying out of nowhere and hit me before landing in the water."
Liam was feeling so annoyed right now that he nearly said, "Good!" but managed to stop himself.
Da'an seemed to be the only one at ease. "If no one minds my making a suggestion, I suggest we find civilization before we do anything else. Perhaps the device can be repaired."
No on else had anything better to say so they picked a direction, with as little argument as possible, and trooped off.
Coming across a faint trail, they decided to follow it. It led them about half a mile through the woods.
Things began to look promising. Trails always led somewhere. But, coming around another hill, they were confronted by a site that none of them wanted to see.
Eight soldiers, armed with muskets and wearing gray, stood there in picket line formation. Everyone stopped and stared, involuntarily.
"Oh, shoot!" Liam said.
At Liam's exclamative, all eight soldiers raised their guns. "Put you hands on your heads!" the offier in charge shouted.
No one hesitated to disobey.
"Seargent, take their weapons," the officer in charge commanded.
The seargent walked up to them and stopped. "Sir, what weapons?"
"They MUST have weapons--their leader just ordered them to fire on us!"
"WHAT?!?!" Liam yelped.
Renae kicked him. "You said 'shoot'. What are they supposed to think you meant?"
Da'an suddenly stepped forward. "Sir, I believe there has been a misunderstanding."
"Quiet, freak!" the liutenant snapped. "Give Seargent Jamison your weapons!"
Zo'or visibly puffed up at this insult. "Why, how DARE you--"
He was cut off when Da'an conveniently stepped on his toe. "Liutenant Andrews," Da'an addressed the man. "We have no weapons. We are scouts, sent out by General Longstreet to report on the Federal movements."
Zo'or, Sandoval, Liam, Renae, Augur, and Jack were all staring at Da'an. "How does he know..." Liam whispered to no one in particular.
Luitenant Andrews' eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Oh, really. And how do you explain the order your companion gave?"
Suddenly Augur stepped forward. "Um, one moment, sir. Liam isn't Da'an's companion; Da'an is Liam's Companion. There's difference."
He stepped back amid icy glares from Liam, Renae, and Sandoval and very confused looks from the soldiers.
"MAJOR Kincaid was simply confused," Da'an said smoothly. "He did not realize that you are on our side."
Liutenant Andrews' eyes widened. "Major, eh?"
Liam nodded. "Yes, LIUTENANT. Now, let us pass."
Liutenant Andrews took a deep breath. "I'd love to do that, sir, but I'm afraid that first you'll have give the password."
Liam did the only thing he could; he panicked.
Suddenly, a voice in Liam's head said, *Julius Caesar.*
What?! though Liam.
*The password is Julius Caesar, the first Roman emperor.*
Without bothering to find out who was talking to him through telepathy, Liam said "Julius Caesar," aloud.
As if on a cue, the soldiers relaxed. "Correct, sir," said Liutenant Andrews. "We'll escort you up to the camp."
Liam was still feeling confused as they walked. What had happened just now?
The camp wasn't too lively. Men lounged around outside of tents or over cookfires, enjoying their free time. Liam and the others were shown to a tent.
"Please wait here," the soldier said. "General Lee will be here shortly."
"But--, but--General Longstreet--we're to report to HIM!" Liam spluttered.
"General Longstreet isn't in the camp right now. You'll have to report to General Lee. Be right back."
"It is just as well, Liam," Da'an said. "If General Longstreet had been here, he would have immidietly seen through our lie about being scouts. General Lee, having no foreknowledge of this, will not."
Liam shook his head. "All right, how do you know all this? And does anybody have any suggestions as to how to get out of this mess?"
Da'an gave one of his Taelon smiles. "We know the year is 1862. I would guess from the terrain that we are somewhere around your state of Tenessee. And lastly, judging from the position and angle of the sun, I would guess the day to be roughly around April 5, the day before the battle of Shiloh, in your Civil War. Liutenant Andrews was the only Liutenant to be on picket duty at this time. The password is recorded to have been 'Julius Caesar.'"
"It was YOU, then!" Liam exclaimed.
"Of course," Da'an answered. "Taelons ARE telepathic."
Liam shook his head. "This is unbelievable. How do you know all this? And did you even take into account the fact that General Longstreet could very well have been here, and that if so, we'd all be dead? And since you seem to have this all planned out, how are you going to explain the fact that you and Zo'or are clearly NOT HUMAN?!"
"I did take into account the fact that General Longstreet would see through our lie," Da'an answered, "because it is historically documented that General Longstreet had not yet reached the Confederate camp. I know this because I spent much of my time reading about and memorizing your history. As to the appearance of Zo'or and myself, we will tell them it is merely a disguise." "A disguise. Great. We've got a couple of chalk-faced bald guys in blue polyester jumpsuits running around the woods playing 'spy', and it's supposed to be a DISGUISE?!?! Just how is you disguise supposed to fool anyone, the Union or Confederate soldiers in particular, into thinking you're one of them?! How is it even supposed to help you blend into the great outdoors?! USE SOME COMMEN SENSE, DA'AN!!!!!!"
Zo'or's face contorted and he blushed a bright blue. Even Da'an looked taken aback at the phrase 'chalk-faced bald guys'. But he simply shrugged and said, "Commen sense is not always an option when one is unwilling forced into a sticky situation, Liam. We must do the best we can."
"So," Zo'or said, finally getting control again, "you intend to give them the Union's movements? Then what?"
"And something else," said Renae, coming forward. "The Union WON the battle of Shiloh. What do you think's going to happen when we give the Confederates the Union's movements?"
"Which is exactly why we must NOT give away the Union's movements. We will lie."
"What will we do when they figure out that we lied?" Sandoval asked.
"Yeah, you realize what they do to traitors," Augur said. "They hang them! I almost got hung once, in Russia. I'm not eager to have it happen again."
Everyone looked at each other. "Can you hang a Taelon?" Jack asked.
Da'an tilted his head. "I see your point. We will tell the truth."
"But then the Confederates will win, and history will be changed!" wailed Renae.
"Which is why we must then go to the Union and warn them."
"So then the Confederates will think we lied!"
"Yes, but we will not be here for them to punish us."
"Yeah," said Augur, "but THEN the Union will hang us for giving their movements to the Confederates in the first place! Why would they even trust us?" "We must make them," Da'an said. "We have no other choice."
Liam's head was spinning with all this logic. He was sure there was an easier way to go about all this, but somehow he couldn't figure out what. And there was no more time.
The tent flap lifted, and in walked the man who is perhaps the more famous and best war leader in history; General Robert E. Lee.
General Lee stood with his arms folded across his chest and surveyed the group before him. He blinked and an almost comical, confused expression crossed his face--something you didn't expect to see on one of history's leaders. This was followed almost immidietly by suspicion.
Well, Liam thought, so much for the disguise alabi. Not to mention the rest of us aren't exactly dressed in the clothes of the time. And scouting parties didn't exactly include women, either...
Renae was glaring at General Lee as if daring him to comment. He didn't.
Instead he asked, "I hear you have some information for me...gentlemen."
But before anyone could speak up, Jack burst forward.
"GENERAL LEE!!" he cried. "What an honor-- you have no idea--" he seized
General Lee's hand and began pumping it furiously. Augur fervently tried not to laugh at the spectacle, but didn't do a very good job.
"Can I have your autograph?! Wow, what the people back at home say? I wish I had a camera! I would have never guessed I would someday be able to meet you face to face!" Jack continued on for quite a while before it finally registered that General E. Lee didn't exactly look thrilled with him. He wisely dropped the generals hand and made a hasty retreat to hide behind Zo'or.
Da'an took a deep breath. "My apologies, sir, this man--"
Suddenly, everything seemed to click. Liam saw the very simple solution that they had been missing. Promptly deciding it was time to seize control of the situation, he stepped in front of Da'an, stood at attention, and saluted.
"Major Liam Kincaid reporting as ordered, SIR!" he almost shouted in his best military manner. "I have information on the Federal troops' movements. May I see a map, sir?"
General Lee nodded towards a map on a table in the corner. Liam walked over and pointed to the red X, which he assumed marked their location.
*Very well, Liam, I will tell you the Union's movements through telepathy, and you can tell the general.* Da'an's voice rang in his head.
But instead, Liam ignored it. He outlined a very complicated and comepletely made up Union strategy on the map, showing everything to a very interested General Lee. When he was done, General Lee left to go consult with some of his other officers, leaving them alone.
Liam faced everyone, looking smug. "How did you know what the Union's movements were, Liam?" Renae asked.
"I simply told him with telepathy, the same way I told him the password at the picket line," Da'an said.
Liam frowned. "No, you didn't. I ignored you. I made everything up." He stopped at everyone's confused faces, then continued. "See, I figure, if we were just going to tell them the truth, then escape to warn the Union, why not just lie, and escape? Then we don't even have to worry about the Union, and we can see about finding Doors--if he's here. It's simple."
Everyone was still staring at him.
"What's the matter, guys?!" Liam asked, exasperated. "It's not exactly a difficult concept to grasp!"
Da'an cleared his throat. "Liam, you did not lie."
"What do you mean?! Yes I did!"
"No, you did not, Liam. You told the general the Union's exact movements. You told him the truth."
Liam looked at everyone, trying to convince himself this was all just a nightmare. "You mean...I..."
Augur was frowing. "Da'an, you realize that the chances of Liam making that up are so small, it's scientifically impossible, right?"
"One could logically say that, while the chances are very small, they DO exist, and that, based upon this theory, anything is possible, including Liam's lie turning out to be true."
Liam shook his head. "Look, I don't even want to THINK about it!" he said. "It looks like our origional plan will have to be put to use. Let's go warn the Union."
Everyone trooped over to the entrance and Renae stuck her head out, to see if anyone was looking.
A soldier was standing just outside. "Yes?" he asked.
"My friends and I are going somewhere. Excuse me." Renae tried to push her way past the man.
"Sorry, ma'am, but I'm afraid I can't let you do that. General Lee has given me orders to detain you all until further notice."
"Apparently he wanted to check up on you by sending a message to General Longstreet. Sorry ma'am, just following orders."
"Don't call me ma'am!" Renae snapped before pulling her head back inside.
"Bad news," she began.
"We heard," said Liam. "It's only a tent flap."
"Yeah. Well, so what do we do?"
"I'll break the door down." Liam backed up to the other side of the tent and charged. Renae caught him. "Hey!" Liam said.
"Liam, it's a tent flap. You don't NEED to break it down!"
"THIS IS DISGRACEFUL!!!!!!!"
Everyone jumped and turned around to see Zo'or, shaking with anger. The next thing they knew, he'd stormed passed them, out of the tent, and, blushing blue with barely contained animosity. "YOU PUNY HUMAN!!!!!! I WILL NOT BE DETAINED!!!! I DEMAND TO BE RELEASED AT ONCE, OR I WILL TAKE THE MATTER TO YOUR PRESIDENT!!!!!!!"
Liam groaned and looked around for something to hit his head against. He didn't see anything, but everyone else seemed to share his opinion. Even Sandoval looked sick.
"Okay, everyone," said Liam. "It looks like we'll have to break out." He pulled out his gun, followed by Sandoval, and, to everyone's suprise, Renae.
"You brought a gun to a PR event?" Sandoval asked.
"No TIME!" said Liam, as Zo'or's shouts grew louder. "Let's go!"
Liam jumped out of the tent and pointed his gun at the soldier, shouting "Freeze!"--only to find that the soldier had fainted and he was pointing the gun at Zo'or.
Zo'or was not pleased. "Major..." he said through clenched teeth.
Liam gave him an innocent grin. "Oops. Sorry, there. We're breaking out--c'mon!" And with that, he grabbed Zo'or's arm and pulled him along, in spite of the noisy shouts of 'How dare you!' and 'Get your disgusting hands off me!' and 'AGENT SANDOVAL--HELP!!!!'
By this time, most of the camp was heading towards them to see what the commotion was. Liam fired his gun into the air. "Everyone, stay away or I'll blast you to pieces with my energy weapon!"
The display was effective. Everyone backed up.
By this time, the group was running towards the woods at the edge of the camp. Liam finally let go of Zo'or and let him run on his own.
Being armed with an energy weapon, however, does not prevent one from being shot with a musket--at least in Liam, Renae, Augur, Jack, and Sandoval's case. And now shots were ringing out in the air. Liam felt a bullet whiz past his ear. One actually passed THROUGH Da'an, but, being Taelon, of course, this did not harm him.
Finally, they reached the shelter of the trees. Without stopping the group plunged on, continuing for quite a while until they could no longer hear the shouts of the people giving chase behind them.
They stopped beside a stream. "Whew!" said Liam. "That was close!"
Jack was shaking. "Th-th-th-they sh-shot a-a-a-a-a-a-a--"
"Jack, wake up, shape up, or shut up!" Renae snapped. She reached into her handbag, which she had somehow retained through all this, and brought out a hand-held mirror. "Look at me! I look awful!" She cast the mirror aside, and, pulling out a brush, began brushing her hair vigorously.
"So...what now?" Liam asked everyone.
"Now we find the Union," Da'an answered simply.
"Yeah, but...where are they?"
"You outlined their movements, Major," Sandoval said. "You should know."
"Sandoval, I had NO CLUE what I was talking about." Liam looked imploringly at Da'an.
"If I am correct--which I am--then the Union should be this way," said Da'an, starting off.
"WAIT!!" cried Renae. "I'm not done brushing my hair!"
"I believe we have more urgent matters at hand then your hair, Ms. Palmer," Sandoval said icily.
"Oh, fine!" snapped Renae, shoving her hairbrush in her purse and storming off sulkily after Da'an.
Liam was staring. Finally he turned to Augur. "Is it just me, or are the people on this trip acting REALLY STRANGELY?! I feel like the 'strait guy' in some weeknight television comedy."
Augur grinned. "Well, I dunno. I kind of think JACK is acting normally...for him, I mean."
Liam sighed and walked off after Renae. This whole thing was such a mess...why him?
"Liam!" Liam stopped and turned around. "Yes, Renae?"
"Just curious, but are we going to have to go through ANOTHER picket line?"
"Never fear!" Da'an called out. "The password is 'Chief Sitting Duck'!" Renae choked on her own breath and stopped in her tracks. "It's WHAT?!?!"
"'Chief Sitting Duck'. Your military commanders had an amazing sense of humor, I believe."
"I'll say! Has it struck you as extremely ironic," she asked, turning to Liam, "that an ALIEN knows more about our history that we do?"
"Renae, I gave up contemplating that thought quite a few hours ago."
"Freeze!" a voice shouted.
"Oh, no..." Jack moaned.
A blue uniformed soldier stepped out of the woods, holding a rifle. "Commander!" he called.
Another soldier stepped out of the woods beside him. Taking one glance at the group he grinned and said, "They're those friends of Mr. Doors. Bring them on back."
"So, then I ran for President, but someone framed me for murdur so I had to run for my life instead...a long story, I really must tell you the details sometime..."
Liam stood outside General Grant's tent, a shocked expression on his face as he and the others listened to Jonathan Doors' voice going on and on about the Taelons and the Resistance. What the heck does he think he's doing?!?!?! Liam wondered.
"Ego-crazed maniacs, think they rule the universe..." Zo'or did not look too pleased with Jonathan's description of the Taelons.
Liam decided that it had gone too far. He wasn't going to wait for General Grant to let them in; Zo'or was standing right there, and next, Jonathan would probably say something about Liam or Renae being part of the Liberation.
Suddenly General Grant's voice interrupted. "This is all VERY fascinating, Mr. Doors, but I do have an army to command, and right now, the Rebs are camped not a day's walk from here. I must go."
A moment later, General Grant came out of the tent. He stopped short as he saw the group standing there.
Renae grabbed Jack by the arm. "Don't even think about it."
General Grant looked Zo'or and Da'an up and down. "You wouldn't happen to be those friends that Mr. Doors was babbling about?!" he exclaimed.
"Um...yes..." Liam said.
General Grant blinked. "Maybe there IS something to his outlandish story, after all. He's a bit drunk you know, one too many glasses of sherry...I made the mistake of offering him some, I always keep a small stash...I suppose you'd better go in and see him. Good day, gentlemen--and ladies." He added the last bit as Renae glared at him.
Dreading what he'd find, Liam nodded his head and walked past General Grant into the tent. The sight before him was worse than he'd imagined.
Jonathan Doors lay under a small table where he had apparently fallen, unconcious, between now and the time General Grant had left a few moments ago. Renae walked up beside him and put her hands on her hips. "Great. Just great. What now?"
"I wouldn't object to leaving him here..." Liam trailed off as Renae stared at him in shock.
"YOU WILL NOT!!!" snapped Augur. "I get paid nearly a million a year doing various little jobs for that man! I'm NOT going back to the twenty-first century without him!"
Liam sighed. "All right, all right, let's try to pick him up..."
That night, they all sat outside the tent they had been given, around a fire--exept Doors, who was still 'sleeping it off' inside. Augur was fiddling around with the device that would bring them back to their own time.
"I don't GET it!" he said. "The inside's all dry by now, and as far as I can see, the water didn't do any damage to it! It should work just fine."
"So ACTIVATE the stupid thing, and let's go!" said Renae.
"I did, five minutes ago."
Liam jumped. "You did?! And you didn't TELL us?!?!"
"Perhaps it is best to remember," Da'an spoke up, "that in cases such as this, it is often the simple and easy explanation which is overlooked, and yet it the key to the problem."
"Look," Augur snapped. "I'M the one who knows about mechanics, not you. So keep your advice to yourself, okay, Mr. Taelon!"
Da'an looked offended and a little hurt.
"Augur, be nice," said Liam.
Jack stood up and yawned. "Well, I'm going to turn in. Good night, everyone." He tried to step over Augur to get to the tent.
Instead, he tripped. The device went flying and Jack landed heavily on top of Augur. Augur let out a groan.
Jack, however, didn't appear to be hurt at all. "Oops, sorry about that, old chap!" he said cheerfully. "I suppose I should watch my feet."
"YOU!!!!!" Augur growled between his teeth. "The SECOND TIME!! This is the SECOND TIME YOU HAVE BROKEN THAT DEVICE!!"
Jack looked puzzled. "I don't see how," he said. "You just SAID that the device wasn't broken."
"Well, if it wasn't then, it is now!" Augur snapped. He picked up the device. "Look at this! The main computer chip is MISSING! It must have flown out. Do you have ANY IDEA how tiny that chip was?!?!?!"
Everyone was staring at Jack with identical expressions of rage.
Liam stood up, trying to resist the urge to lash out and break Jack's nose. "All right," he said. "The rest of us are going to sleep. Jack, you're staying out here until you find that chip."
Jack stared. "W-what?" he stammered.
"You heard me. Get to work!"
"WAKE UP EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Liam rolled over and nearly fell out of bed, only to realize that he was sleeping on the ground. Was that Renae? he wondered.
A moment later, his question was answered as Renae ducked into the tent.
"Renae, what the heck do you think you're doing?"
"The bugler had a bad cold, so I volunteered to wake everyone up for him."
"Renae, if I don't kill you someday soon, someone else is going to."
Renae shook her head. "If there's someone to kill, it's Jack. He's dissapeared--and taken the device with him. Oh, by the way, there's probably going to be a battle today."
Renae ducked out of the tent, grinning. THAT would get him up.
"I can't believe we're doing this."
"I REFUSE to take any part in a petty human war!"
"Figures--you aliens would never fight for a noble cause!"
"Mr. Doors, war is noble."
"Did I ask you?!"
"Jonathan, we all know you've got a hangover and you're grumpy, so just shut up, okay!"
Liam and the others--exept for Jack--were all sitting in a little clump of bushes in the woods, holding rifles.
Renae sighed. "Remind us again, Liam. Just WHAT did Grant ask us to do?!"
"Capture the cannon up there."
"You've got to be kidding."
"No wonder this war dragged on so long...the leaders were all idiots!"
"The idea is that a very small party like this can sneak up on them, and even if they see us, they'll be so shocked by Zo'or and Da'an they won't fire."
"Look, it wasn't my idea!"
"Great, then. Let's get out of here!"
"And just where are we supposed to go?"
Just then, as if in answer to his question, Jack came panting up. "Hi, everyone! It took me forever to find you!"
Seven heads turned and glared at him through narrowed eyes. Jack stopped short. "Is something wrong?"
"Where the heck were you?!?!" Renae demanded.
"Taking a morning walk, of course! And why aren't you joining in the celebration?"
"I heard the fireworks going off."
It took a moment for everyone to realize what Jack meant. Sandoval finally answered. "Those fireworks and cannons, mister. And if you EVER go off somewhere with that device again, I'll skrill you!"
Jack turned the color of putty.
"Look," said Liam, inturrupting. "We need to decide what to do!"
"About what?" Jack asked.
"We've pressured into helping. Why do you think we're carrying these old guns?"
"Oh. Why not just leave?" He held up the device.
"BECAUSE THE DEVICE IS BROKEN, YOU IDIOT!!!!!" Renae screamed, at the end of her rope.
Jack looked puzzled. "It's...oh, yes, I remember. That is, I forgot. To tell you, I mean. I found out what was wrong."
Half an hour later, Renae held up her hand. "Stop!" she said.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, STOP?!?!"
"We can kill him AFTER we get back. For now, the cannon fire is sounding awfully close. He says he fixed the device. Let's use it!!!"
Liam sighed, obviously dissapointed. "All, right, all right, fine."
Renae tilted her head back. "Jack! You can come out of your tree, now! We've decided not to hurt you until after we get back home!"
The oak they were standing beneath rustled. "Are you sure?" Jack called back.
"Okay, I'm coming."
A moment later, Jack climbed down out of the tree, holding the device. He handed it to Augur. "Here. It was a simple solution, really."
"Fine, fine, tell me all about it--later." Augur was not in the mood for patience. He turned it over and pressed the button that would send them all back to the twenty-first century.
Five minutes later, Jack was up in his tree again.
"I never said I fixed it!" he wailed. "I just said I'd found out what was wrong!"
"You lying little..." Doors ended the sentance with a string of colorful metaphors best not repeated.
"It's not my fault! You can fix it yourselves! I'm sorry! Don't hurt me!"
"Fine!" Augur yelled up at him. "How do I fix it?! I told you all last night, there's nothing wrong with it!"
"Yes there is!"
"You forgot to turn it on."
Five seconds later, by the time everyone had recovered, a foot race had ensued. The goal was Augur, who proved to be a very fast runner. The prize was getting to club him over the head.
Augur skidded to a halt. A moment later, Liam, Renae, Zo'or, Da'an, Sandoval, and Doors crashed into him. Jack came panting up a minute later.
Renae groaned. "The Confederates again..."
They were standing in a small clearing, surrounded by Confederate cavalry, all pointing guns at them.
"Federal spies!" the leader said. "Orders have been given to execute you all on sight for trying to infiltrate our camp!"
"We didn't mean it!" squeaked Jack.
"SHUT UP!!" seven people screamed at him.
"Look!" said Augur. He was holding the device. "You go right ahead and shoot us--just give me five seconds!"
He turned the device over, flipped the 'on' switch, and pressed the button.
Renae landed in a hedge. Zo'or landed in a fountain. Da'an landed in a tree.
The whole scene looked uncomfterably familier to Liam.
They were in the gardens, just outside of the building where the demonstration of the time machine had been going to take place. Liam grinned. "I think we made it!"
"We'd better have," Renae snapped. "Help me out of this bush--there's a couple people I'd like to kill."
"Please don't," asked Liam. "Let's just forget this whole thing, now that we're safe back home."
Renae glared at him, but then suddenly her expression changed. "Okay, fine, what the heck," she said. "What do we do now?"
Liam grinned and jerked his thumb at the building. "Go in and scare everyone to death."
"Ah, Liam," Da'an called out. Liam looked up. "Oh, right," he said. "Hold on a sec, I'll help get you down."
Augur was relaxing in front of the daily news, back in his underground hideout. It would take him a month before he'd recover from his ordeal, he just knew.
Just then, his computer announced that he had a call.
"Put him though!" said Augur. Thanks heavens for modern conveniences like this. He loved it. He loved it all.
Liam's face appeared. "Augur! Guess where I am!"
"Where?" said Augur. "Is that...forest I see behind you?"
"Sure is!" said Liam. "I'm in Tenessee--where we were."
"What are you doing there?!"
"Looking for something--and I found it!"
"What do you mean?"
"Look!" Liam swung his global around to focus it on a tree. "It's an apple tree."
"Yeah, so? Liam, I think the trip did a little bit more damage to your brain than expected. You'd better go see a doctor."
"Don't you SEE?!" Liam said. "It's where the apple landed! The one that came with us!"
Augur blinked slowly. "Oh..." he said.
A moment later he switched off the computer, shook himself out of it, and headed up the the Flat Planet Cafe for a stiff drink. He needed a lot more than a month to get over this...
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This page was last updated January 30, 2000.
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