The Deep End of Your Dreams + Ch. 12

Deep end 11.1

Chapter 12

The house was odd, he thought. Odd, and tiny. And the walls seemed to be made of mud.

How had Claire made the adjustment? From that house in Philadelphia – to this?

The entire house – all three bedrooms of it – was quite literally smaller than the library. The walls were bare; not a single picture adorned the walls. There was no paneling on the walls, no library, and one bathroom little larger than a telephone booth.

And while Claire had returned to her own bedroom, and put Amanda in a large bedroom near her own, she had put him in a tiny space off the kitchen he assumed had been provided for some sort of domestic help.

And here he had thought she was developing real feelings for him…

He lay in his bed that night thinking about this sudden uncomfortable turn of events, wondering if he should simply abort the mission and return to the ship, try to reconcile events that had already been altered with potentially more agreeable outcomes. Still, he knew what they’d say…

‘It’s a good plan…stick with it a little longer…’

Planting dreams…molding the shape of her intellect to help create the best possible outcome…and then she’d stumbled upon the Shift – the worst possible outcome imaginable. All it would take to sunder the current order was one simple ripple in the fabric of time caused by the shift – and then they would come. The people living on earth now thought they knew what true evil was, but no one here had ever met one of them. The silent ones, the mind readers. Keepers…that’s what they called themselves. No one knew what they kept, unless it was a certain order to the universe.

He thought about that for a moment…

What if someone went back to the very beginning of time, to the moment when the universe came into being? To the moment of inception? What if someone went back and took that cosmic thimble full of matter and put it in a suitcase, then made the suitcase disappear? What if all the matter of the universe simply vanished? What then?

The theory said if the Shift began it would send the universe back to the zero point. Was that what the Keepers sought to prevent? What if the Shift was unstoppable once it started, if the arrow of time was to become corrupted?

The shift was fundamentally different than the time-shadows. The spheres could be controlled, and easily, and travel could take place without distorting the flow of time. Not so the Shift. The Shift was a one-way ticket back to the very beginning, and conceivably whatever lurked before the beginning.

Before the beginning?

Is that what the Keepers were guarding?

He sat up in bed and walked out the door to the kitchen, then he stumbled to another door and walked out onto the stone patio. He took a deep breath of the crisp air, then looked up at the stars. Was there something beyond, he wondered? Something on the other side of all that blackness? Was that the secret?

He heard someone coming out of the house, walking up behind him – and he stood perfectly still, looking at the pole star, imagining the earth spinning round and round.

Silence enveloped him. Only the sound of someone’s breathing disturbed the perfect silence.

He turned, saw Amanda standing there, a large knife in her hand, a slash-wound across her belly.

His eyes went wide, he began to feel panic for the first time in his life. “What have you done!” he cried…then she lunged at him, the knife aiming right at his heart.

+++++

Claire heard Amanda walk from her room, heard the door that led to the backyard open. She shook her head and slipped on her jeans and hiking boots, walked through the living room until she saw Amanda in the yard, the knife drawing back. She saw Benjamin standing there with his back to them both, looking, as he seemed to do often, at the stars – and she knew what was going to happen. She started running and was through the door when Ben started to turn around. She came up from behind Amanda, her eyes fixed on the knife, and as she lunged she hooked her arm around Amanda’s neck and knocked her to the ground; she then saw the belly wound and thought it must have happened in the fall.

Ben was kneeling now, applying pressure to the wound, but the flow of blood was simply catastrophic. Without thinking he pressed his left temple and waited…

+++++

The scientist’s compound at Los Alamos was, in early 1944, one of the most heavily guarded facilities in the United States. Guards in Jeeps patrolled constantly – both the paved streets and the rugged arroyos that surrounded the compound. Several guards saw the blue sphere that settled over the small house on Sycamore Street, and they raced to investigate.

When they arrived they found blood in the backyard, the back door to the house standing open – and no one inside the house.

And no blue sphere.

Thirty four minutes later Harry Hopkins walked into the president’s bedroom and gently shook him.

+++++

The room was impossibly small, the walls bright red – and Claire shook her head as the dream…but no, this wasn’t a dream, was it? Amanda was on an operating table and two machines hovered over her body. Retractors had pulled open and revealed an enormous cavity; the robots were moving so fast she could neither see nor understand what they were doing. Screens flashed as readouts changed, one of the machines moved to what looked like a storage device and opened it, then plugged a bag of red fluid – was it blood? – into the IV that coursed into Amanda’s arm.

She saw that Ben was beside her, and that they were in a small clean room off the operating room, and that Been was talking on an intercom of some sort.

“She’s lost too much blood,” she heard him say, and she began to fear the worst. Then she heard him say: “Are you sure?”

He listened for a moment, then keyed codes on some kind of electronic typewriter. One of the machines stopped what it was doing and went back to the storage unit, pulled out another bag and added that to the IV.

Ben turned to her. “She’ll be alright now,” he said.

“But…she’s dying…”

“She was, yes.”

“What do you mean, she was?”

“She is not dying now. She will be better in about five hours. We can return to the house then.”

“Are you kidding? Look at her!”

But when Claire turned and looked at her sister the fourteen-inch long gash was gone, and her color was improving – right before her eyes.

“What have you done to her?”

“She’ll be better now. In every way.”

“In every way? What do you mean?”

“You will see.”

“Where are we?”

“A hospital.”

“Where?”

“Here.”

“You won’t tell me?”

“No. I cannot.”

She turned and looked at Amanda. “Why did she do this?”

“I do not know.”

“What’s wrong with you, Ben? You don’t…you’re not speaking right.”

“I am tired. I must rest.”

And with that he turned and walked from the little room, but the door slid shut behind him as he left, leaving her locked in the cabin. She looked at Amanda, at the machines working on her, then she too felt tired. A small bed slid out of the wall and she just made it before she passed out.

+++++

She woke and looked around, rubbed her eyes and sat up in bed. Her bed, in her bedroom. In Los Alamos. The hard sunshine pouring in through the window left sharp shadows on the walls, and the sky over the spine of the Sangre de Cristo was the deepest blue she had ever seen…then she remembered the blood.

Amanda!

Then, knocking on the door. Frantic knocking, then men at the window, looking in. One saw her and tapped on the glass…

“Dr. Aubuchon?”

“Yes, just a minute. Let me get dressed, please.”

The man seemed to visibly relax, then he disappeared around the side of the house. She slipped into her jeans and put on a flannel shirt, then walked to Amanda’s room. Her sister was sleeping fitfully so she let her be, then walked to the kitchen, and into Ben’s room.

Gone. The room was empty, and there was no trace of him at all.

She walked to the front door and opened it, saw a half-dozen uniformed and plain-clothes policemen standing there, all looking very agitated.

“Dr. Aubuchon?”

“Yes?”

“We’ve been searching for you for hours now!” one of them, apparently an FBI agent, said. “We found blood all over the backyard…”

“I’m so sorry,” Claire began. “My sister fell and cut herself last night. I ran her down to Santa Fe.”

“Officers saw some sort of sphere descend on the house. Do you know anything about that? Some sort of experiment, perhaps?”

She looked at the agent and shrugged. “I wasn’t conducting any experiments.”

“So…everything’s okay here?”

“Yes, and thank you for your concern.”

“Is your sister here, or at the hospital?”

“Here. Back in her bedroom now, sound asleep.”

“There was a lot of blood…what happened to her?”

Claire looked down. “I’m sorry, but she has emotional issues. Hallucinations.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the agent said. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“It’s no intrusion, officer. Would you like to check on her, see for yourself?”

“That’s alright, Ma’am. Doctor Oppenheimer would like you to check in with his office as soon as you can.”

She nodded. “Thanks, I will.”

“Well, good day, doctor.”

“And you,” she said, closing the door, then she retreated to the kitchen, to Ben’s room. There was no sign he’d ever been there and she felt gut-punched, almost bereft – because she knew he wouldn’t be back. She walked, head down, into the kitchen – wondering if, after last night, life would ever be the same.

Those machines! Performing surgery! And the red walls…? It had to be that ship…

She put her hands out and steadied herself on the counter, took a few deep breaths, then she saw another agent in the backyard, just standing there, looking up at the sun.

Then she saw the shape of the man’s head, and she just knew.

She went back out to the patio. “Ben?” she asked, and the man turned around.

“No,” the man said.

“Do you know where he is?”

“He failed. He will not be returning.”

“Failed? What did he fail to do?”

“To protect you, and your family.”

“He didn’t fail…”

“That was not your decision to make.”

“Was? May I see him?”

“No. That is no longer possible.”

“I see. And, what happens next?”

“My name is Andrew. I am to be your husband.”

“Well, Andrew, nothing personal, but Ben was going to be my husband. I’d rather like it if that came to pass.”

“I see.”

“Would you mind going back to wherever you just came from and see if you can make that happen?”

“That may no longer be possible.”

“Goodbye, Andrew.”

“Goodbye.”

She watched the man, if that was indeed what it was, walk off into the arroyo, then she returned to the kitchen and made coffee, then scrambled some eggs. When she had cleaned up after, she showered and put on fresh clothes, then went to Amanda’s bedroom again and sat on the edge of the bed.

There was something different about her this morning. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but Amanda definitely looked different. She pulled back the sheets and looked at the wound – and found nothing but smooth, white skin – and no trace of any sort of wound.

“The robots,” she sighed.

“The what?” Amanda groaned.

Claire looked at Amanda, saw the illness in her eyes was gone, replaced by a less malignant confusion. “My, you’re awake. How are you feeling?”

“I don’t know.”

“Any pain anywhere?”

“Pain? No…not really,” but Amanda seemed to look at Claire for a long time, then: “Claire? Is that you?”

“Yes, of course it’s me. Who did you think…”

“Where am I?”

“What?” Claire sighed, now confused too. “Where do you think you are?”

“I have no idea…” Amanda quailed, soon on the verge of tears.

“You’re at my house, Amanda, in New Mexico…”

“New Mexico? Since when did you have a house out there?”

“For two years now. I work here.”

Amanda sat upright in bed, her eyes searching for something recognizable – but after a moment she gave up, hugged her knees to her chest and started crying. Claire came close and enfolded her sister in her arms.

“Sh-h-h,” Claire whispered in a soothing, maternal way, “it’s alright. I’m here. It’s alright now.”

But Amanda was shaking her head…her confusion abnormally oppressive.

“What’s the last thing you remember,” Claire asked.

“I’m not sure.” Then: “Father, running to a fire. At the Navy Yard.”

And Claire gasped. “Amanda, that was almost twenty years ago. Do you remember nothing since?”

“What? Twenty…?” she said, trying to stand just now – her knees almost buckling.

“Here, let me help you?” Claire steadied her sister and helped her to the bathroom, but when Amanda saw her reflection in the mirror over the sink she screamed, terrified.

“That’s not me!” she cried. “Oh, please God! Tell me that’s not me! Oh, please…who is that?”

“You should shower now,” Claire said. “Then we’ll get you dressed.” She turned on the water and adjusted the temperature, yet Amanda stood – transfixed – looking into the mirror at the stranger staring back…

Claire led her into the shower and let the spray beat on the back of her sister’s neck, and soon the water brought her back to the present. “Oh my, that feels so good.”

“Just stand there. Relax. I’ve got a new toothbrush for you, too.”

“Could I have it, please. My teeth feel like they’re coated in saw-dust.”

“Sure. I’ll be right back.” She went out to the hall closet and found the brush, then she saw a man standing on the patio. “Benjamin?” she whispered.

He nodded his head and she ran to the door, let him in then flew into his arms.

Yet he seemed almost inert, spent, and she stepped back, looked into his eyes. “Ben?”

“Yes?”

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m very tired.”

“Why don’t you take a rest. Amanda’s just now up, and I’ve got her in the shower.”

He nodded. “That should help, but Claire? She’s very fragile now.”

She nodded her head too. “Go rest. I’ll join you in a few minutes.”

“Where?”

“Your room?”

“Show me?”

“Show you? You don’t remember?”

“I told you, I’m very tired.”

She helped him to his room off the kitchen, then thought better of it and took him to her room. “Just lay down and rest your eyes. I’ll be right back…”

When she took a new toothbrush to the shower, she found Amanda staring into the steam-covered mirror, wiping rivulets of moisture from the silvered glass. “I recognize my eyes,” she said, “but nothing else makes sense. When did this happen to me?”

“What, my dear?”

“How did this happen to me?”

Claire saw the confusion in her sister’s eye, but the source wasn’t quite clear, yet. “Amanda, tell me…what do you remember? How old are you?”

“Twenty-three, I think – I’m twenty-three, and I’m going to finish college next year, because after spending the year in Sweden…” Amanda began, then her voice trailed off into the dissolution that had held her in it’s grip all these years.

“What happened in Sweden, Amanda?”

Claire watched as her sister looked inside the glass, and wondered what she saw in those silvery echoes. But, apparently – nothing, as Amanda turned to her and shook her head. “Isn’t that odd? I can’t recall a thing about the trip. Where’s father?”

“He’s not here just now,” Claire whispered, afraid now.

“And Charles? Where is her?”

“Charles is in Washington just now, Amanda, but he’ll be out to see you soon enough.”

“And mother? Where is she?”

“She’s with father now, dearest.”

“And Elizabeth?”

“At home. At home in Philadelphia.”

“I want to go to Bookbinder’s, for soup. Will you take me – but, oh, you say we’re in New Mexico? How silly of me!”

“How about I fix some eggs and coffee? Would that do?”

“Oh, yes please. I do feel hungry.”

“How many eggs?”

“Oh, you know me…just one, over easy.”

Claire nodded – as she did indeed remember, then, not quite sure what had happened to Amanda over the course of the night, she walked back to the kitchen and lit the stove. A while later Amanda walked out, and Claire was astonished to see that the dress she’d worn the day before hung loosely on her sister’s suddenly diminished frame.

“One egg, over easy,” Claire said, putting the plate with the egg on a little table in the kitchen. Amanda ate half, then declared she was full before she had her coffee, black.

“I’ll need to go into work for a little bit,” Claire said, looking at  her sister. “You’re looking tired…would you like to take a nap?”

“Ooh, yes please. I’ve never felt so tired.”

When she returned a few hours later Amanda was on the patio out back, laughing gayly as a harried looking Ben Levy tried to keep up with her fractured conversation.

+++++

There was a small kiva in the corner of Claire’s bedroom, and a few pieces of piñon burned and popped away there, lending the room a smokey hue that was pleasant in the extreme – or so Ben remembered. He had never expected to feel the way he did just now, laying on Claire’s bed with her head resting on his lap. He had never known love, not even a mother’s love, but as he ran his fingers through her hair he knew, sitting in the amber light, that the feelings coursing through his veins could only be one thing.

He wondered about miracles for a moment, and if this is what people meant when they spoke of such things. And the oddest thing of all? They hadn’t said a word in what felt like hours.

Because, he understood, there seemed to be no need.

“We’ll need more wood for the fire,” she said. “I’ll go get some.”

“Show me how?” Ben asked.

“What?”

“How to make the fire work?”

“You’ve never made a fire?”

“No. There has not been much need where I live.”

“And where is that? The ship?”

“Connecticut.”

“Connecticut? Really? I always thought winters there were somewhat brutal.”

“Not where I lived.”

“And where was that?”

“New London.”

“And when did you move to London?”

“We were older then.”

“You went to school there?”

“Yes.”

“What did you study?”

“Science. Chemistry and physics.”

“Quantum mechanics?”

“Of course.”

“And metallurgy?”

“Yes.”

“Boeing is working on your titanium process; they should have results in a few weeks.”

“If necessary, I can go to Seattle with you.”

Claire looked away then, lost in a sudden thought. “Can you tell me about Amanda? What you treated her with?”

“Treated? You misunderstand. She treated herself.”

“What do you mean?”

“There were errors in replication…”

“Replication?”

“In DNA.”

“And that is?”

Ben blinked, shook his head. “The bacteria in her gut were out of balance. This caused a cascading series of failures in other relevant areas of her internal biome. This sequence has been reversed. She will feel better soon.”

“I see,” Claire lied, not having the slightest idea about what he was talking about. “What about these errors in replication?”

“I’m sorry. I misspoke.”

“Ah. So, the emotional problems she’s experienced?”

“There will be consequences, but with counseling they should be manageable.”

“Will she loose weight?”

“Yes. She has lost four kilos already, and her basal metabolic rate…”

“Her – what?”

“The rate at which she burns energy?”

“How did you determine that, Ben?”

“It is not important.”

“Tell me, what is important, Ben?”

“These feelings. The feelings we are experiencing.”

“Oh? Tell me how you feel?”

“How? I think I understand what, not how.”

“What do you feel now.”

“I think it is love.”

“Ah. Have you ever been in love before?”

“I have read about love, I have seen love, but no, I have never personally felt love.”

“How is that possible?”

“That was quite normal where I grew up?”

“Do you think you could love a child, Ben?”

“A child?”

“You said we would have two children. Don’t you know that children need love most of all?”

“Children need love?”

“Affection. Feelings of trust and understanding.”

“How so?”

“Children need to develop in an atmosphere of trust and understanding, tempered with affection. Without these things, children grow to become emotionally distrustful, even mean.”

The words washed over Ben Levy and he struggled to understand the meaning behind her words. Had she just told him he was mean, and not trustworthy? Surely that was not love?

She watched his reactions, the reactions of a child, of someone who had not the slightest idea of what it meant to be human, and that only made her more curious. It was no longer a question of who he was; it was more now that she didn’t know what he was?

Human? Yes, of course, but he hadn’t been born in the 1800s –

That just couldn’t be. Could it?

“Come with me,” she said. “Let’s get some more wood.”

The only thing she knew just then was that she had to keep him talking. The more tired he became, the more he talked… The more he talked, the less she understood, but that wasn’t important now.

She remembered everything, every word he said. When he went to sleep she would go to the lab, because there was much to do now.

The Deep End of Your Dreams + Ch. 11

deep end 11

Chapter 11

Roosevelt was, apparently, taken to a train waiting for him in Portland, and from there he rode to Boston, then on to the White House, while Claire and Ben Levy accompanied Charles back to the Wilkinson home in Philadelphia for a few days rest. They arrived on Christmas Eve, just in time for dinner, and the house was decorated just as Claire remembered. A little over the top, as always, but festive and gay.

For there were children roaming the halls once again, and the stairs and hallways echoed with laughter.

Charles had two now, both boisterous boys, while Liz had three – two boys and a very little girl – while poor, barren Amanda had finally given in to her various depressions and learned to eat. When Claire first saw Amanda that evening she could hardly believe her eyes, for the glorious blond-headed dream-boat of Mainline Society had blossomed into something quite unrecognizable. Sullen didn’t begin to describe the look on poor Amanda’s face; no, her’s was a lassitude of broken dreams…too many nighttime visits by Rupert had simply cut the girl loose from mundane things – like reality. She muttered to her demons no matter where she was, no matter who was around to listen.

And as these things so often do, her latest series of outbreaks was attended by Benjamin Levy.

+++++

She was sitting at the piano in the library, staring at sheet music when he walked into the vast, high-ceilinged room. He did not see her sitting there as he walked to one of the shelves and pulled a book down, for she had neither moved nor spoken a single word.

Then he heard a child’s forlorn cry and turned to see Amanda in animated discussion with – no one. She was fully engaged in an argument, the contours of which remained a mystery to him, as he listened, though he heard references to unwanted advances and pleas to a doctor…

He watched her for some time, fascinated. He’d heard of schizophrenia, of course, but had never seen evidence of it’s existence before, and watching this woman rattle on as if fully engaged in a life or death struggle was at once as interesting as it was troubling.

He moved closer to the piano yet the woman didn’t respond to his presence, and he realized he simply didn’t exist right now, not in the world this woman inhabited. Wherever this woman was, she simply was not in the same place he was.

Then Claire walked into the room, looking first at Ben, then at her sister.

She walked over to the piano and looked at Amanda, then to Benjamin. And at the book in Benjamin’s hand.

Tolstoy’s Resurrection. Now…why had he taken that book from the shelves?

And she could almost remember when books like that one had consumed all her interest – until they didn’t – couldn’t – anymore. Until the overt primacy of the physical world became self-apparent, most fulfilling, and how, after that epiphany she had turned away from literature and music.

Then, hearing Amanda’s words, she fell inside the distant conversation and the pleas to their demons…

And so Claire moved to her sister’s side, sat beside her on the piano bench and put her arms around Amanda’s shoulders.

“Oh, my poor dear,” Claire said, startled at the change she found now, “what’s bothering you this fine Christmas Eve?”

And those words seemed to pull Amanda back into the present – for a moment. “Claire? You’re home?”

“Yes, precious, I am.”

“Play for me, would you?”

Claire shook her head as if she hadn’t quite understood the words. “Play?”

“Yes. Debussy. Remember how you used to sit and play for father?”

“Yes.”

“When you played, he left me alone. Did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I loved it when you played Debussy most of all. He left me alone for days.”

“I’m sorry, my love. I didn’t know.”

“Did you love me, Claire?”

“Yes, of course. I always have.”

“That’s so sweet of you to say. I wished I was younger when you came to us. That we could have played together. As it was, I was most afraid of you…”

“Afraid? Why?”

“Why? Because you were so much larger than life. Seven years old and reading books even my mother hadn’t, playing Debussy for us all, showing us the way forward, away from all the nightmares in this house.”

“I don’t understand, Amanda.”

“Really? I was so jealous of you…”

“Jealous? But really, it was I who was jealous…of you! You were always so gorgeous, so charming and full of poise, and I knew I’d never be as beautiful as you…”

And Amanda leaned over, let her head rest on Claire’s shoulder. “And look at me now,” she whispered. “Look at me now, dear sister.”

“I am, dearest. And do you know what? I think you need to come with me, out to New Mexico, and live with me for a while.”

“New Mexico?”

“Yes. Did you know I have a horse there, and mountain trails to ride? Streams to fish, pools to swim in? You’d love it, Amanda. Won’t you think about it? We could have so much fun…”

“Play something for me, Claire.”

“But…I haven’t, not in years.”

“Debussy? Please?”

“The Clair de lune? I might remember…”

“Yes, please. That was always father’s favorite.”

Claire turned and faced the piano, and though it had been twenty years she played as if it had been only days. She played and played and Amanda wept, gently at first, then openly – as her nightmares for her in their ancient room…their knives drawn, patiently waiting for just the right moment as they circled the room.

+++++

While Claire played Ben Levy looked at these two creatures and wondered about the things they had shared. About the things that had pushed them apart once upon a time, and about the tragic, unseen bond that held them close even now. He thought about what it meant to be human, to be part of a family. About the things you can never forgive, and the moments that held these two people fast together. He thought about music, human music – and the music of the spheres. Yet all the blood in the universe couldn’t explain what he had just seen…the tears on Amanda’s face the echoes of a little girls betrayal, the solace she took from lost chords, notes played by echoes of another little girl – one blissfully unaware of all the other little betrayals that had lain waiting in this kaleidoscope of shadows.

All her hidden emotions were right there, on two faces hiding in one.

And if he’d ever wondered what it would be like to be betrayed by a father, here was all the evidence one would ever need – in this amber shadowland, lives hiding just out of sight until the fault lines became too hard to ignore. Until the other voices spilled out into the light of day, no longer content to wait.

When Claire finished walking through these conjoined memories she stood abruptly and walked out of the library, while Amanda resumed her dialogue with the dead. Benjamin opened Tolstoy to a bookmark and looked at the words on the page for a moment, then he followed Claire out into the shadows.

He walked to a vast parlor, what was being called a living room these days, and he stared at the Christmas tree set up before a huge expanse of windows. The house, he saw, was some sort of approximation of a Tudor mansion, with reddish brick augmented by blackish-brown timbers and sharply arced doors separating one room from another, all set-off by a huge stone fireplace in the far wall. The Christmas tree was a good ten feet tall, and he saw an infinite number of amber reflections set amongst the green needles, reflections of other light long gone, reflections of memories patiently waiting.

There were even stockings set on the mantle, he saw, and he remembered a time when such things had meant something to him. A life he’d never known, of course, yet attractive in the way borrowed memories often are.

Presents under the tree, countless expectations wrapped in endless anticipation. So much happiness, so many memories waiting to be made, wanting to be made.

What if it all disappeared tomorrow, he asked himself? What if I make another mistake? I very nearly cost Roosevelt his life, and Claire’s. What if McCrea hadn’t turned on the radar? What if Scharnhorst had crept up on them unawares? What if the Iowa had perished in those cold, storm-tossed seas? And Claire, too? If she had been lost, then what?

He had to admit now he was starting to feel something for her. Nothing like attraction, not yet, but something more like admiration, even a grudging respect. Hers was a towering intellect, beyond anything these people had ever encountered, yet she seemed, if not unaware then perhaps simply careless about the implications. So few minds reached her state of development, anywhere, yet when such power arose the universe took note. There were a handful of such minds on earth now, and that might soon become a problem. If they succeeded in detonating their device the universe would take note, and then he’d have to decide what to do.

If they came he’d have to go back once again, go back to that night of drifting icebergs and frantic pleading. Outcomes would have to be altered once again, destinies sent in new directions. He’d have to kill her this time, before she started changing outcomes again, before he fell in love with her – again. And most of all, before their daughter rose from the ashes and destroyed them all.

+++++

He sat across from Claire – and Amanda – his eyes trained on the gently passing landscape on the far side of the glass. They were on the Southwest Chief, now about halfway between Chicago and Lamy, New Mexico, and Claire was reading a report from Boeing engineers detailing reinforcements made to the outboard engine nacelles on three B-29s that had just come off the line; simulated blasts had rendered catastrophic damage to all three test aircraft and she was vexed now – because they had ignored her suggestion that they use either a heavier gauge steel, or consider an even stronger, though experimental, laminated metal…

Amanda was staring at her reflection in the window, talking to a man who looked suspiciously like her father – and who was holding a knife to her belly, apparently getting ready to slice her open and remove the unborn child from her womb…

Levy saw Amanda tense as she spoke and shook his head, then he turned away in embarrassed despair in search of silence, wondering not only how, but why Claire thought she would be able to take care of this wounded creature. Or why she should? There were hospitals, after all, and Claire would never be able to dedicate the necessary time for the level of care Amanda would require. And…she wasn’t even biologically related! Why wouldn’t Charles or Elizabeth step forward and take over…?

‘Does she expect me to care for this poor creature?” Ben sighed inwardly. “If so, she will be very disappointed…” No, he would begin work at 3M after the war. ‘His’ family would move to Minneapolis, Claire would commence teaching and stop all work on the Shift. She had to. He had explained that to her more than once now, and she’d said she understood the implications of continuing, the repercussions such a course of action guaranteed.

He turned and looked at Claire again, still lost in that latest engineering report.

“Anything new?” he asked.

“They used aluminum again. Three aircraft lost.”

“Titanium would be better.”

“Titanium? How so?”

“Have the their metallurgists and engineers look at this formula,” he said, scribbling on the back of an envelope:

2Mg(l) + TiCl4(g) → 2MgCl2(l) + Ti(s) [T = 800–850 °C]

“What is it?”

“Just pass it along, Claire.”

“I had no idea you were a misogynist, Mr. Levy,” Claire sighed.

“What makes you say that?”

“Because,” Amanda interjected, “you’re speaking to her like a misogynist asshole, asshole.”

Claire’s left eyebrow arced sharply, then she tried to stifle the laugh she knew was coming.

“That was a little paternalistic of me, wasn’t it?” Ben sighed.

“A little?” Amanda asked.

“I’m sorry,” he added, taking the envelope again and writing on the back at an incomprehensible speed. “So, essentially, if one takes refined rutile from raw titanium ore, you reduce it further with a petroleum-derived coke in a fluidized bed reactor at 1000 degrees centigrade. Next, the resulting mixture should be treated with chlorine gas, giving you titanium tetrachloride, as well as a few other nasty chlorides,” Levy said, grinning manically. “Next, these should be separated by further continuous fractional distillation, then, in a separate reactor, the titanium tetrachloride should be further reduced by liquid magnesium, at, say, 800–850 degrees centigrade, and this will ensure complete reduction. The resulting alloy will meet your requirements.”

“Oh? How strong is it?”

“Several orders of magnitude, I should think, than what they’re currently using, and not nearly so heavy.”

She took the envelope and studied it – while Amanda looked at Levy.

“Who are you,” she said at long last.

“Me? Just your average industrial chemist.”

“You’re an asshole,” Amanda said, looking him in the eye, daring him to challenge her.

“Am I?”

“Yes. And I’m not at all sure I trust you.”

“And why would you? You hardly know me?”

“Claire hardly knows you. Why does she trust you?”

“Because she knows me better than you think, or think possible.”

“You speak in circles a lot, don’t you?”

“Occupational hazard, I suppose.”

“Never a straight answer,” Amanda sighed, then she returned to staring at the myriad reflections in the window…waiting…

(C) 2017 | Adrian Leverkühn | abw | fiction, all of it…

The Deep End of Your Dreams + Ch. 10

DeepEnd 9

Chapter 10

Claire too had seen the Shift, had seen Vega, then Deneb and Altair drop down to the southern horizon, only she made a quick estimate of the change in right ascension and declination then worked through the math – in her head. Judging from the positional change in just these three stars, the earth’s relative position in the galaxy had either moved ahead forty thousand years or retreated more than seventy thousand years. That meant, she deducted, that the sphere was a “cloud” created from one electron, but then what? By varying the charge rate the sphere could be made smaller or larger? But how could anyone do that? And what if, as many were beginning to more fully understand, there were particles smaller than electrons, protons, and neutrons. How would that change the calculus of the phenomenon?

‘There’s still so much we don’t know,’ she whispered, her inner voice tinged with frustration, then she thought about Oppenheimer’s warning, his ‘paradox of time.’ If time was a river, a constantly flowing river, and if the flow was disrupted by a traveler venturing into the past, and if the course was thereby altered, then everything that had happened after the alteration would be altered, too. The future would be altered…

“So if,” Oppenheimer continued, “one was to go back far enough and teach cavemen to make fire millennia before the original event, presumably mankind would be that much further along the curve.”

But then she had said something to the effect that: “But what if one went back and prevented man from learning how to make fire, or how to make a wheel? Couldn’t an unscrupulous agent move through time to completely undermine human progress?”

“But why,” Oppenheimer sighed condescendingly, “would anyone do something like that?”

“Why is it, Robert,” Albert Einstein said to the assembled group, “that you assume human actions will always be rational, or even benevolent, when all human history is full of direct contradictions of that notion?”

“Because destruction is creative, Albert. It always has been.”

“Yet what if, and one day soon, we take our destructive impulses too far? What then, Robert? What will we have created?”

“Renewal, I should think, Albert.”

“Renewal?” Einstein sighed. “Whose renewal, Robert? Perhaps those Hindu gods of yours? Chamunda, I dare say?”

And what had Benjamin said? We have to stop, now, or else. What did ‘or else’ mean, though? He was implying direct consequences, wasn’t he? So ‘or else’ meant there was someone, somewhere, who would take great offense at the Los Alamos groups tinkering with the fabric of time…

And she thought, just then, that ‘someone…somewhere’ was exactly the wrong way of looking at the problem. The real issue would most likely turn around the idea of someone, sometime. The idea that the river of time might be diverted in such a way that people in the future would be somehow negated, and so, perhaps, simply cease to be, had never occurred to her.

So what if Trevor and Benjamin had truly come from New London, Connecticut; if that was true, could Trevor indeed be her father? The idea washed over her for a while: Yes – but only if her father had been a time traveler. If he still was a time traveler. Yet they were trying to stop the Los Alamos group from studying the phenomenon. Why?

The only plausible explanation would be to keep their present intact, and to do that they couldn’t overtly intervene. To repair that kind of damage would require that they move backwards in time again and erase the damage done…but how could they – if their present could be, potentially, negated?

Then it hit her. Trevor had said he’d been born in the nineteenth century, and what if that was the truth?

But what about his eyes. And Benjamin’s, too. She’d never seen anything quite like them before, and they were identical. And both their heads were a little “off,” weren’t they. Not shaped quite right.

She shook her head, refused to think through the consequences of these little observations, the cause and effect of their presence, any further. She didn’t like where this path was leading.

Oh no, not at all.

+++++

Levy stood on the bridge, looked out over the stormy seas, at the scudding clouds whipped along by the storm. The Iowa plowed through these towering waves, throwing great white walls of blue water over the foredeck, but the escorting destroyers weren’t having so easy a time. He watched as one of them, one of the newer Buckley class DEs, struggled up and over a forty foot wave, the little ship’s helmsman obviously fighting to keep the hull from turning sideways to the wind and the waves – and broaching – in effect, being rolled over. The Iowa could take these seas head-on, and for days if necessary, but these five little “tin cans” could be seriously damaged, or lost, in a storm like this one.

But that wasn’t all Levy was thinking about.

No, and that was because, in the accounts he’d read about the Iowa’s role in the Tehran mission, she had never once diverted towards Portland, Maine. Roosevelt’s convoy had traveled, unmolested, directly to Norfolk, Virginia…so why had he decided to divert north? An extra measure of caution, perhaps? A sense that something wasn’t quite right?

He had known about the German Condors flying out of northern Spain, the Wolf-packs operating in the south- and mid-Atlantic, as well as the raiders patrolling south of Bermuda, but what didn’t they know about? The weather, for one, but then there were all the other ships and submarines, ships whose activities had never been recorded by history. Each was suddenly a great unknown, and now he wondered if, by altering the Iowa’s course two days before, he had begun to alter the flow of time. If that was true, the assumed outcome of this trip – Roosevelt’s safe return to Washington, D.C., was now in jeopardy.

+++++

Großadmiral Karl Dönitz read through the latest dispatches then looked over the assembled nautical charts; most showed the approaches to the Straits of Gibraltar, while two represented waters around the Azores. Next, he looked at the assumed track of the convoy on a chart that encompassed the entire North Atlantic, then he plotted last nights report that a Condor flying out of Spain had developed a positive track on the Iowa. The convoy had deployed some kind of new electro-magnetic weapon, and the ships had simply disappeared; when news of this development landed on Hitler’s desk that morning, an invective storm of terrifying proportion had enveloped the entire command hierarchy in Berlin. “One of our maritime patrol aircraft had Roosevelt in it’s sights, then the ship simply disappeared?! Find this convoy! Find Roosevelt, and kill him!”

Dönitz looked over the dispatch one more time, and once again he plotted the coordinates on the relevant charts, then he looked over his fleet readiness report. The Iowa was headed to New England, not Virginia, and his eye went to Norway.

Unencumbered by escorting destroyers, Scharnhorst could, conceivably, make a dash into the North Atlantic and intercept the convoy at the Georges Banks. The weather would be treacherous, but that might work to their benefit, too. The Condor’s pilot had remarked that the convoy was only making 15-16 knots, a fuel conserving rate, meaning the Iowa’s escorts wouldn’t need to refuel at Bermuda. So, the convoy would be approaching Halifax in bad weather, but in a perilously low fuel state. And air cover would be unavailable in such a storm, wouldn’t it…?

He picked up the phone on his desk. “I need to speak with Konteradmiral Eric Bey immediately.”

Three hours later, the Scharnhorst left Narvik and slipped quietly through the Vestfjorden – bound for the not-so-calm waters of the Georges Bank.

+++++

20 December 1943

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this bad out here,” the X-O said, and just as the Iowa’s bow disappeared inside yet another forty foot wave. The windshield wipers were working overtime now, having been set at maximum power for more than thirty hours, but this storm wasn’t abating – not in the least.

Captain McCrea looked at the Indiana, now about a quarter mile off their port quarter, through the ever-present binoculars that hung from his neck, and he held his breath as he watched the ship disappear briefly under a fresh sixty-foot wave. He resumed breathing only when he saw her forward guns break free of all that blue water.

“Signal Indiana to reduce speed to ten knots,” the McCrea said as he eyed a train of sixty footers bearing down on his ship. “Come left to two-six-zero; let’s take these waves head-on for a while, stop the rolling as best we can, and would someone see if Mr. Levy can make it back up to the bridge now.”

He heard men moving and instantly regretted the order. Most everyone below was strapped into bunks, though out of sheer desperation some tried to use a head from time to time. Only the truly insane aboard made their way to one of the ship’s dining rooms, but no matter what was eaten, the half-digested muck soon came right back up. Sending someone to fetch Levy meant a seaman would have to navigate three passageways and two stairways; almost a suicide mission under these conditions. He hoped Levy had his sea legs now…

“Indiana acknowledges ten knots and two-six-zero, Captain.”

“Very well,” McCrea said, glad he’d sent the lighter DEs south to Bermuda; they’d have had a truly evil time in these seas. Now, with less than five hundred miles to go he wanted to breathe easy. He wanted to believe the worst was over, but he knew, just knew, that wasn’t the case.

Because something was bothering him. Something important. But what was he missing?

“X-O, let’s fire up the radar, see if we have any company.”

“Aye, sir.”

The latest radar arrays were enclosed in small domes, small, stout structures perhaps 15 feet in diameter. The first convoys to make the Murmansk run lost radar when freezing spray and snow rendered radomes inoperable; now almost all naval vessels were operating with enclosed sets, yet, even so, the latest arrays were hardly any better when operating in a sea-state like this. Waves and rain conspired to make all but the largest targets hard to acquire, and the ship’s violent motion didn’t much help matters, too.

“Bridge, radar, I have a large target bearing zero-seven-two degrees, two-zero miles. Standby for a speed.”

McCrea and the X-O looked at one another. There was no allied shipped this far north, not in this storm, so it could only be one thing.

“The Brits got Tirpitz, right?” McCrea asked.

“Yessir, but the Scharnhorst is operational, and last I heard the Prinz Eugen was in the Baltic but ready for duty again.”

“Bridge, radar. Confirmed vessel track, speed two-five knots, positive radar emissions.”

McCrea shook his head. “Signal Indiana, let ‘em know the situation and tell them to come right to two-eight-zero, increase speed to flank. Helm, steady on two-six-zero, increase speed, all ahead full.”

“She has eleven-inch guns, right, sir?”

“Yup, but they’re not radar-controlled. In these seas she’d need all the luck in the world to even get close. Tell Indiana to run parallel when she’s five miles off our beam. If Scharnhorst manages to close we’ll converge and give her a broadside at ten thousand yards.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Is it Scharnhorst, Captain?” McCrea heard Levy ask.

“My, my, as I live and breathe…it’s Mr. Levy. And what a surprise, he knows the tactical situation, too.”

Levy ignored the sarcasm. “What’s his range, Captain McCrea?”

“About twenty miles.”

“Bridge, radar, now picking up a second target, same range, same bearing, two nine knots.”

“That will be the Prinz Eugen, Captain.”

“No kidding.”

“What speed can we make?”

“In these seas…twenty-seven? Those ships won’t be seaworthy after this beating, and the Prinz Eugen only has eight inch guns.”

“Both have 12 torpedo tubes, Captain,” Levy added.

“Won’t do them any good…not in these seas.”

Levy walked over to a barometer. “Rising?”

“That’s right, and this storm will clear from the southwest.”

“Air cover?”

McCrea shook his head.

“I see,” Levy sighed – as he left the bridge.

+++++

December, 1988

Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine

“Mauler 7-0-4, clear to taxi runway one-niner left, altimeter two-niner niner one, wind one eight seven at twelve.”

“7-0-4 to one-niner left,” Lieutenant Noel Stevens replied, then he turned to his co-pilot, a nugget named Lieutenant-j.g. Dan Cox, fresh out of his S-3 course at Jax. “Got the TACAN freqs entered?”

“Yessir.”

“Gimme flaps 10.”

“Ten, aye.”

“Weps? How y’all doin’ back there?”

“Kewl beans, skipper. All checklists complete.”

“Okeedoke.”

“7-0-4,” Brunswick tower said, “taxi short of the runway and hold for the P-3 on final.”

“Four, holding short.” Stevens looked at the mottled gray Orion on short final, and he followed it with his eyes all the way to touchdown while he worked his controls and pumped the brakes a few times. “Arm spoilers,” he told Cox. “Set yaw-dampers to stand-by.”

“Got it.”

“7-0-4, clear for take-off. Contact departure 123.3, and good day.”

“Four rolling, departure on one-two-three – three,” Stevens said as he advanced the throttles to the Viking’s pre-set takeoff power.” The Lockheed accelerated smoothly down the runway and he listened to Cox call out their speeds; he pulled back on the stick at one forty and at three degrees nose up the S-3B climbed gently, quickly gaining speed.

“Portland departure, Mauler 7-0-4 out of Brunswick. We’re en route to check out a contact south of Halifax. We’ll maintain 500 AGL out of the zone, request 3-3-0 knots.”

“7-0-4, roger. No civilian traffic at this time, clear to depart your discretion.”

Mauler 704 was a Lockheed S-3B “Sea Control” variant of the S-3 Viking family, armed with two AGM-84 Harpoon anti-shipping missiles. An unidentified hostile surface contact, most likely a Russian trawler, had been picked up by an Ohio class SSBN transiting the Georges Bank, and as 7-0-4 was the closest aircraft armed with Harpoons Stephens and Cox got the call. Flying over the Gulf of Maine at 350 miles per was, generally speaking, great fun, but not when a potential hostile was lurking out there somewhere.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky this morning, and the seas were mirror-calm as the Viking skimmed along a few hundred feet above the surface, and within forty minutes they were in the reported area…

“Weps? Anything?”

“Nothing, skipper. Just some X-band stuff going into Gloucester. Fishing boats, a couple of stinkpots. No vodka burners.”

“Well, fuck,” Stephens said, cutting the power and trimming the aircraft into a gentle climb. “Go ahead and light off the -137. Let’s see what we’re missing…”

Mauler 7-0-4 quickly reached fifteen thousand feet, but that was as high as he dared go out here. They were under the track of all trans-Atlantic traffic flying into and out of New York and Boston now, and he didn’t want to get tangled up in that mess.

“Skip? What if that Boomer picked up an Akula?”

“Wrong plant noise.”

“I read something a few weeks ago…the Akula apparently sounds pretty rough running on the surface.”

“Taylor? You shittin’ me? A nuc sounding like a diesel trawler? What are you smoking back there?”

“Hey, I’m just thinkin’ out loud, ya know?”

“And we haven’t got MAD gear on this crate either, let alone any torps,” Stephens added as he reefed the Viking into a tight climbing right turn. He scanned his instruments, then looked up into the sky…

“What the fuck is that?” he said, leveling out the wings, then turning hard to the left.

“What?” Cox said.

Stephens pointed across Cox’s chest, straight up towards space. “That!”

“Looks like a blue sphere,” Cox said. “It’s descending.”

Stephens leveled the Viking, checked his ECM panel. “Weps? Got anything airborne, maybe flight level five zero, descending?”

“Radar’s clear, skipper.”

“Ah, Portland, Mauler 704, you have any traffic overhead, say an extreme flight level, like five-zero?”

“7-0-4, only traffic we get up there is Concorde, and none are in the area right now.”

“Okay Portland, we’ve got a large blue sphere descending this location, and nothing showing up on radar, either. Doesn’t appear to be a conventional aircraft – and it looks too slow to be some sort of re-entry vehicle.”

“7-0-4, still negative radar contact.”

“Uh, skipper, that thing’s comin’ down real fast,” Cox said. “Maybe we should give it some room, ya know?”

“I want to get closer, be right by it when it passes.”

“It’s gonna be close alright…”

“Jesus,” Stephens cried, “look at the size of that thing…”

And in the next instant Mauler 4-0-7 disappeared from air traffic control radars in Halifax, Portland, and Boston.

+++++

And in the next instant Stephens fought to regain control of his aircraft…

The Viking had suddenly and without any warning entered a violent thunderstorm – he chopped the throttles and trimmed for level flight, fighting to keep his eyes on the panel in the violent motion.

“Where the fuck did THAT come from!” he shouted, trying to make his voice heard over the sudden roar of hail battering his windshield, flipping his radar display to WTX, ranging in on the nearest red cell.

“Skipper, outside air temp just dropped from 55 to 22,” Cox cried, “and we got blowin’ snow out there!”

“Get some bleed air goin’ on the leading edge, pitot and AOA anti-ice set to MAX,” Stephens said, cutting the power even more. “Uh, Portland, 4-0-7, do you read?”

Nothing…not even static.

“Check the breakers, maybe we took some lightning.”

“Checked. Nothin’ tripped.”

“Set COMM1 to scan then set COMM2 to Halifax, and better get the transponder to 7700 and squawk ident.”

“Skipper?” Weps said, his voice wary now, “I got four contacts. 0-3-4, and sixty miles.”

“Anything else out here?”

“Nada, skipper.”

“Okay,” Stephens sighed, “let’s get out of this crud and see what’s happenin’ down there by all them fishies,” he said, cutting power yet again and trimming for a steeper dive.

Then, over the radio: “Iowa, Iowa, we’re taking fire, repeat, we’re taking fire.”

“Roger, Indiana, come left to 2-0-5 magnetic. We’ll cross behind you, you target the first ship, we’ll fire at the second after we pass.”

“What the fuck?” Stephens said, looking at Cox. “Weps, start calling out range and speed to the first contact…”

“Roger…now 0-2-0 degrees and one-nine miles.”

“You got the frequency?”

“242.2,” Cox said. “Locked in.”

“Iowa, this is Mauler 7-0-4, what’s your sit-rep, over.”

“Mauler 7-0-4, identify.”

“Uh, 7-0-4, we’re an S-3 out of Brunswick, VS-32, and we got two Harpoons if you need ‘em.”

+++++

Captain McCrea looked at his X-O and shrugged. “Do you know what an S-3 is?”

His X-O shook his head as the Captain walked to the radio room.

“Okay, 7-0-4, this is BB-61 and we’ve got two bad guys on our ass. They’re about four miles behind us, and they’ve bracketed the Indiana twice with surface fire, and they’ve got torpedoes in the water.”

“61, 7-0-4, say again? You are engaged in surface combat?”

“Affirmative, 7-0-4. Two hostiles firing at us.”

Stephens looked at Cox and shrugged. “Light off the wing cameras. Weps, target vessel three.”

“Targeting. Target acquired.”

“Lock on target.”

“Locked on. Getting some radar bleed now, skipper.”

“Jam him.”

“ECM to active. No indication of radar locked on us.”

Stephens had his Viking 300 feet above the waves now, heading right for Contact One, whoever this BB61 really was…and then he saw the first ship dead ahead…

Then he saw three shells land in the sea on either side of the Iowa – just as his aircraft screamed overhead…

+++++

“And just what the devil was that!” Captain McCrea screamed. “You ever seen anything like that before?”

“No, sir,”

“Get Mr. Levy back up here, on the double!”

+++++

“Was that the Iowa?” Cox screamed.

“Yup. Weps, ready on one.”

“One ready.”

“Fox one.”

“Firing one.”

The first Harpoon, the missile hanging outboard of the Viking’s left engine, leapt off the rail in a searing white roar…

+++++

Rear Admiral Eric Bey saw the launch from the Scharnhorst’s bridge, but he had no idea what it was beyond a brilliant white light. Alarms starting sounding when lookouts spotted an aircraft on the horizon dead ahead, yet Bey couldn’t believe his ears. No aircraft could possibly be up in this weather, let alone engage in combat operations…

Then he saw the missile streak by, perhaps two hundred meters off his port beam and just above the wave-tops, and he ran out on the bridge-deck and watched it home-in on the Prinz Eugen. His hands on the ice covered rail, he saw the impact…indeed, he could feel the heat moments later…and despite the snow and the wind it took minutes for the his first view of the burning wreckage to emerge from the flames and billowing smoke.

“Radar! Where is that aircraft!” Bey called out, frantic now.

He saw the two battleships still ahead and shook his head…

“Hard right rudder, make your course zero two zero, make smoke and all ahead full!”

+++++

“Skipper?” the Viking’s weapons control officer said calmly. “Aspect change on the remaining target. He’s breaking off, sir.”

“Okay, I see him now,” Stephens said as he flew over the flaming hulk of the Prinz Eugen. “See the flag?” he asked Cox as 7-0-4 flew past the sinking battle-wagon.

“German?”

“NAZI German, as a matter of fact. Weps, safe your weapon.”

“Roger. Harpoon two to safe.”

“Make sure the camera is getting all this,” Stephens said to Cox.

“It’s recording, getting a good image.”

He cut power and trimmed his nose up a little, let more speed bleed off until he knew he needed to drop some flaps. Using the joystick, Cox centered the camera on the Scharnhorst’s stern, the vessel’s name and hailing port clear in the display.

Scharnhorst?” Cox asked.

“Uh-huh. She went down in ‘44, I think.”

“What? You mean, in 1944? That we just engaged – and sunk – a German battlewagon that hasn’t existed in fifty years?”

“Yup, that’s what it looks like,” Stephens said, grinning. Let’s get some Mark I eyeballs on those two Navy ships…”

As Stephens reefed the little jet into a tight turn, and now on a reciprocal heading to the US ships, he barely felt the presence of the sphere again – then seconds later Mauler 7-0-4 burst out into radiantly clear skies. He checked the condition of his aircraft, knowing instinctively that the Iowa was gone now, then he checked-in with Brunswick as he changed course back to the base, not quite knowing what waited for him in the days ahead, and not at all sure what they had just experienced. Whatever had happened, he thought, it was more exciting than chasing phantom Russian trawlers…

(C) 2017 | Adrian Leverkühn | abw | fiction, all of it…

The Deep End of Your Dreams + Ch. 09

Deep End 9.1

Chapter Nine

Goldberg’s “brother” was indeed a precocious, lovable bundle of contradictions, and yes, every woman at the closing ceremonial dinner – held in the British Embassy – was enthralled by him.

His name was Benjamin Levy, and he was not, as it happened, related to Trevor Goldberg. They were not brothers, Trevor said, they were instead more like friends.

“I see,” Claire had said. “And let me guess…he was born on the twelfth of April, 1877 as well?”

“Yes, of course.”

“In New London, I take it?”

“Certainly.”

“And he grew up near Cambridge?”

Trevor had turned and looked at her then: “My, we’re on a roll tonight.”

“He does seem to be a ladies man.”

“Oh, he is that. Ready to meet him?”

“I’m not sure. Does he know who I am?”

“Oh yes. He’s been looking forward to this evening for a long time, too.”

“Indeed.”

“Yes. Indeed.”

“Well then, I suppose we ought to get on with it.”

“Yes, tally-ho and all that. Into the fire, and into the fight.”

She looked at Benjamin as she and Trevor walked across the room; he was the same height as Trevor, the same general build, too, and more curious still, he had the same general raptor-like head – a little too large for his frame and the same odd shape. When she closed the distance she saw Benjamin had the same eyes, as well…not quite amber, not quite blue…like a color that phased between the two…

And Benjamin was talking with Cordell Hull just now, and she wasn’t quite sure why, but that troubled her.

“Ah, here she is now,” the Secretary of State said. “Dr. Aubuchon, may I introduce you to Dr. Ben Levy. He’s been working on a few of the same problems you have, only up at Cambridge.”

She held out her and Levy took it. “A pleasure,” she said.

“The pleasure is mine, dear lady,” and they smiled at one another for a moment, then she turned to Trevor – and saw Charles standing behind them both, casting a wary eye at Levy.

“Ah, Charles,” Hull said, “are you and Dean finished for the evening?”

“Yessir. We’ve established the framework for the monetary conference, and Mr. Acheson floated the idea of Bretton Woods again.”

“I see. And our Russian friends are still resisting that idea?”

“I think they’re pushing for one of the Black Sea resorts, sir.”

“No doubt. Well, stormy waters ahead. Charles? Have you met Dr. Benjamin Levy?”

“No sir, I’ve not had that pleasure.”

“He’s with the underground balloon corps, as luck would have it?”

“Ah,” Charles said, one eyebrow arching. “Well, it is indeed nice to meet you. I’m sure you have some interesting stories to share.”

“Well, well,” Hull added hastily, “perhaps some other time.”

Now both the Secretary of State and Trevor Goldberg cornered Charles, and they then led him away, to a far corner of the room, leaving Benjamin and Claire alone…suddenly and completely alone.

Claire looked at Levy, perplexed: “The underground balloon corps? What’s that all about?”

“You’ve not heard about us,” Levy said, now turning his predator’s gaze on her.

“No. Sorry. Should I have?”

“Well, no, as a matter of fact. I’m rather glad you haven’t. We’ve been charged with identifying top scientists working on the German heavy water project…”

“The bomb, you mean…?”

“Yes. And, well, we’re charged with either extracting them or, well, removing them from the equation.”

“You mean…?”

“I do.”

“So, you’ve penetrated their operations?”

And Levy only smiled, though he blinked rapidly a few times, and the reaction only served to heighten her perception of him. He was indeed a predator, and a dangerous one, at that.

“Your brother as much as told me that we’re to be married. Is that about the size of it?”

And again, only the blinking eyes gave any indication at all that he had even heard her, though now his face grew thoughtful, if a little puzzled. “Did he, now?” Levy said a moment later.

“Yes, he did.”

“Trevor has a…”

“A what? A warped sense of humor?”

“Questionable timing, I think I was going to say.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I’d have rather liked the whole courtship ritual to unfold with few such expectations, if you know what I mean.”

And this time it was she who smiled, gently, and she who remained silent.

“But yes, I think that’s the general idea.”

“My, but you really do know how to sweep a girl off her feet…”

And Levy laughed this time, a boisterous, fun-loving laugh. “Ah, indeed I do.”

“And if you don’t mind me asking, just how long will we be married for? A week? A month or two?”

His eyes turned more serious then: “1984, I believe. Forty-one years, then I’ll die, but I’ll leave you with two beautiful daughters.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you? I mean…”

“Oh yes. Quite.”

“How could you possibly know…” she began, then the implications of his words slammed into her – and she fell silent – yet she was aware he was studying her reactions, so she turned to face his penetrating stare head-on. “May I ask why? For what purpose have you chosen me?”

“Why, to save the universe, of course,” Levy said, but he began laughing again, then he took her hand and led her to a table. A table for two, and the only such table in the lavish room. She was being used, she knew then, but by who, or whom, and to what purpose?

Was that why Roosevelt had insisted she attend the conference? Certainly there was no other reason she could fathom, no real reason for her to attend a conference on the structures of post-war Europe. And why arrange this liaison here and now? She looked across the room, saw Charles looking at Roosevelt – and Roosevelt looking directly at her, grinning that sly grin of his.

“Why me?” she whispered, the sound more a plaintive sigh of despair.

“You don’t know?” Levy said, almost as quietly.

She shook her head slowly, suddenly unsure of herself, unsure like a girl she once knew. “No. No, I really don’t.”

“Ah, well, you will soon enough.”

“And…when are we to be married?”

“In New Mexico, I should think, though I don’t suppose we should rush things.”

“I beg your pardon? You’re telling me I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you, but that there’s no need to rush into this thing?”

“Precisely.”

“I see. You do know, don’t you, that this is rather like a bad dream? A very bad dream?”

“And what if I told you it was? What would you say to that?”

“That I had gone mad. Stark, raving mad.”

“Ah, well, there you have it…”

“What? What are you saying? Are you telling me this is all some sort of wild, paranoid delusion?”

“Why not?”

“Is it? Tell me, and I mean right now! Is this, or is this not, real? Am I in a ballroom, in Tehran, in 1943?”

“Oh, yes. This is as real as it gets, Claire; of that you can be most sure.”

+++++

Levy was on the same aircraft with Claire when Roosevelt’s group left Tehran, and the entire group flew on to Cairo, then, after a brief stay in Algiers, on to Morocco. The Iowa and her escorts arrived then, and were waiting just offshore as the group’s aircraft landed, but Roosevelt wanted to linger and visit Casablanca and Marrakech. Hull wouldn’t countenance any more delays, so gigs and launches ferried the group out to the Iowa, and within hours the ships set sail, steaming for Norfolk. Aircraft and submarines ranged ahead, looking for any signs of U-boat activity or other surface threats, but the first two days passed, generally speaking, with little anxiety. Then a lookout spotted a periscope on the second evening, and all hell literally broke loose. The escorting destroyers criss-crossed all around the Iowa, dropping dozens of depth-charges as they passed, but when nothing showed up on sonar the convoy resumed steaming straight for Virginia, only now at the greatest possible speed.

And then, Ben Levy asked to speak with the Iowa’s skipper, Captain John McCrea.

“There is a German surface raider working in the vicinity of Bermuda just now, Captain. I’d recommend heading a bit north, for Boston or Portland.”

“And where did you hear this, sir, if you don’t mind me asking?” the captain asked.

“I’m not sure I’m allowed to say, Captain, but I think either the President or Secretary Hull will vouch for me.”

“The Secretary already has. Any particular course you’d like me to steer?”

“Come right to two nine nine degrees and reduce your speed to sixteen knots. You’ll not need to refuel with this reduction, sir.”

“I see,” the captain said, more than a little incredulous now. “Perhaps you’d like to set a new watch-keeping schedule now, too,” McCrea added, not a little sarcastically.

Levy looked at the captain, understood the position he’d just put the man in and nodded his head. “Sir, a Focke-Wulf 200 C-4 is scheduled to depart San Sebastian at approximately 0430 tomorrow morning. This particular aircraft is equipped with the new FuG 200 Hohentwiel search radar, as well as one Hs-293 anti-shipping missile. There is a strong cold front approaching the area and visibility will be limited. I doubt they’ll fire based on radar returns alone.”

“I assume you work with the OSS?”

“Yessir, something like that.”

“So, what time will this aircraft intercept us on our current track?”

“It should be in the area sometime between 0830 and 0845. We’ll be out of range, by that point, for any allied aircraft to provide cover.”

“Well, why the devil don’t we head for Brazil, or even Argentina?”

“There are at least three large Wolf-packs operating in the area between Bermuda and Barbados, and I can assure you the German High Command is making a maximum effort to get to this ship.”

“You’re full of all kinds of good news, aren’t you, sir,” Captain McCrea said, but the man’s earlier sarcasm was gone now, replaced with something approaching genuine respect.

“Captain, if you don’t mind, I’d like you to meet me on the bridge this evening, call it 2100 hours. I’d recommend you get some sleep now…we may be in for a busy night.”

“And why would that be?”

“There may be additional air patrols.”

And with that, Levy walked from the bridge back through officer’s country towards his cabin, but he stopped outside Claire’s cabin and knocked gently on her door.

“Come on in,” he heard her say, and he smiled at the light, carefree sound of her voice, the genuine warmth her words conveyed.

“How’re you doing?” he asked when he saw her red eyes, not to mention the swollen, boggy cheeks under them. Her lips were reddish-blue, her nail-beds, too.

“Something about ships and the sea,” she said. “We just don’t get along.”

“The carbon-monoxide concentration in this room is too high. You need to come with me right now, get some fresh air.”

She nodded her head, started to stand but toppled over; he caught her and held her close for a long moment, let her pressures catch up for a moment before he led her through the confined walkways to a hatch that opened to the foredeck. When her face hit the fresh sea air she revived almost instantly, and just then a seaman came by.

“Is she alright, sir,” the young man asked.

“We’ve got some noxious fumes working their way into her cabin. You’d better round up the X-O, and tell the captain he’d better check on the president’s cabin, too.”

The kid ran off and half a dozen men, both officers and ratings, showed up within minutes. Levy told them his concerns and the men took off, and sure enough, Roosevelt was feeling ill too. Soon, most of the working group was gathered on deck, huffing sea air in great gulps, and soon enough more men carried out chairs and a small table; sandwiches appeared moments later, and pitchers of iced-tea, too.

“This your doing, Mr. Levy,” Claire heard, and she turned to see Captain McCrea walking their way.

“Yessir, ‘fraid so.”

“Well, we found some corrosion in a few pipes in that area, and a few shoddy floor welds, too. Quite possible we’d have had a few fatalities tonight without your intervention.”

“Yessir.”

The captain spun around and walked off, looking like he was about to go chew on some undercooked executive officer for lunch. Work details sprang into action all over the ship, while Claire looked at Benjamin with newfound respect in her eyes, suddenly quite sure she was falling in love with this kind-hearted stranger.

She turned and leaned into his shoulder just then, and when he put his arm around her she felt weak in the knees for a moment – until she remembered she really had no idea who – let alone what – this stranger really was.

+++++

It seemed most every one of the people in Roosevelt’s working group had surreptitiously found their way to the bridge just before nine that evening, and both Captain McCrea and the X-O were hunched over the chart table when Roosevelt was wheeled onto the bridge. All the servicemen snapped to attention and Claire could tell the President relished this little bit of pomp; nevertheless, he told them all to get back to their duties while Roy wheeled him over to windows that overlooked the foredeck.

“Why can’t I go out, Captain McCrea?” the President asked.

McCrea looked up, shook his head. “Thirty-eight degrees out, Mr President. Sea temp is fifty two, and sea state is, well sir, it’s going to be a rough night.”

“I see, John. Carry-on.”

Levy looked at a bulkhead mounted clock and walked over to the captain. “Any time now, sir.”

“X-O, bring the ship to general quarters, signal all ships: go dark now.”

“Aye, sir.” Moments later klaxons rang and men scrambled to their stations all over the ship, and forty seconds later the X-O announced “All stations manned and ready, Captain. Water-tight doors are all in the red, and the ship is ready for an air engagement…”

“Very well,” McCrea said.

Levy walked off the bridge to the radar operators compartment, and he looked at the screen for a moment…

“There he is,” Levy said, and the radar operator snapped to, began firming up the plot. Levy walked back out to the bridge.

“Captain, aircraft bearing zero two two degrees, fifty miles. Best guess is his altitude is ten thousand, possibly in a slight descent.”

“Alright. Keep your reports coming.”

“Aye, sir. Single aircraft is turning in our direction now, still in a shallow dive, now about four-six miles out, speed now one seven zero knots.”

“You think that’s another Focke-Wulf?” McCrea asked Levy.

“Right profile, Captain. There were, are four of them in the area right now.”

“You think he’s got us?” McCrea asked, trying to ignore the slip.

“Yup.”

“What kind of range does that missile of his have?”

“It’s altitude dependent, sir. Anywhere from two to five kilometers.”

“Any idea how big his warhead is?”

“Roughly 300 kilos of high explosives. Signal your escorts to move in close now, sir. As close as they possibly can – without risking a collision. And lets you and I go out on the bridge-deck, sir.”

“Alright…”

McCrea led the way, and he looked out into the night sky, saw a line of thunderstorms along the far horizon, the distant clouds silhouetted by flickering lightning.

“How far away?” Levy asked.

“Fifty, maybe seventy miles. Won’t do us a bit of good.”

They watched the cruiser and four destroyers sliding in closer and closer, the cruiser taking up station perhaps fifty yards off their starboard beam, the phosphorescence kicked up in its wake almost magnificent…

“Remind me, Mr. Levy, just why the hell did I let you talk me into this?” McCrea said, turning to look at the civilian – but Levy was staring straight up into the night sky now…

At something bright blue.

“What the devil is that?” McCrea hissed, suddenly feeling betrayed.

“A friend, sir.”

Whatever IT was, the thing was resolving into a sphere now – yet it was impossible to gauge any idea of its size, let alone how far away it was…

“What is that, Benjamin?”

He turned, saw Roosevelt and Hull looking up at the blue sphere – and Claire, too, looking at him, a million questions in her eyes.

He turned back to the sphere, saw it’s descent was slowing rapidly now, and its motion was apparent to everyone looking at it.

Then the X-O stuck his head out the hatch…

“Captain, radar reports zero bearing change, range now thirty-five miles and closing.”

“Got it,” McCrea hissed. “Mr. Levy?”

“Steady as she goes, Captain.”

McCrea shook his head. “Just how big is that thing, Mr. Levy?”

“Now about a mile in diameter. Its altitude is one hundred and ten thousand feet.”

“Jesus,” Hull sighed, “it’s huge. What did you say this thing is made of?”

“Pure energy, Mr Secretary,” Benjamin said, but he was looking into Claire’s eyes just then, trying to take the measure of her mood. She did not look happy, and he guessed because she had seen into the nature of his lie.

McCrea was looking up at the sphere now, and out of habit he checked his navigational stars: Vega was hovering just at the zenith, while Deneb and Altair were down a bit, now to the southeast, but soon enough the sphere commanded all his attention. He held out his clenched fist, tried to measure the sphere’s relative size against a known object, and just then the sphere was half the size of his extended fist. Thirty seconds later the object was as big as his fist…

Then the X-O stuck his head out the hatch again: “Sir, the Dawson is requesting weapons free; they want to engage the object overhead…”

“X-O, under no circumstances is anyone to open fire on that object. Make that clear to the C-O of each vessel in the group, and I mean NOW!”

“Aye-aye, Captain.”

“And where is that goddamn airplane!”

“Constant bearing now, Captain, and two-two miles out.”

“Mr. Levy?” McCrea said, “I’m getting a little nervous. Why is that?”

Levy smiled, though it was too dark out for McCrea to see. “Me too, Captain.”

“Oh, swell.”

“Ben?” He heard Claire say his name and he opened his arm to her, felt her slip in by his side. He furled his arm around her and pulled her tight.

“It won’t be long now,” Levy sighed, staring at the sphere.

McCrea guessed the object was only a few hundred feet above the gunnery mast now, and he saw the surface of the sphere did indeed look like pure energy…it’s surface was covered with hairy blue lightning, for want of a better word – and it was still closing. “Is this going to hurt when it hits?” he asked.

“No sir,” Levy answered, “though some power systems may be temporarily affected.”

And seconds later the Iowa and her escorts were literally encased within the sphere; instantly all seven ships went dark. The ever-present vibration of the ship’s power plant faded away, and in the same instant all power to every system on the ship simply tripped.

McCrea looked up, tried to make out the contours of the sphere – but it was gone now, and no trace of it remained. Then… “What’s with the goddamn stars?”

“What about them?” Roosevelt said.

“Vega was on the zenith less than ten minutes ago; now it’s low on the southern horizon, while Altair and Deneb are higher in ascension. And I’m sorry, but that just can’t be.”

Levy hadn’t counted on this happening, hadn’t thought anyone would notice the changes in stellar positions, and he nodded his head. “Spherical aberration of being within the sphere,” he lied. “It ought to change when we re-emerge.”

“X-O? Where’s that aircraft?”

“Sir, all systems are dark now.”

“Well hallelujah and no fucking shit! Any of the ship’s lookouts still at their posts, Commander?”

“Yessir, and no reported sightings.”

“How about helm? We got any rudder authority?”

“Yessir, the auxiliary kicked-in.”

McCrea looked at the escorts and noted that all the other ships were still – more or less – safely abeam and not closing in. “Mr Levy, any idea how long this is gonna last?”

“Thirty, maybe forty minutes.”

“Somebody bring me a sextant,” McCrea grumbled, and within moments a seaman carried over the Plath almost reverentially and handed it to his captain. “Thanks, son.”

“Yessir.”

McCrea grumbled while he walked the transit in the moonless night, trying to zero-in the horizon, and when he was sure he had it on the line he dialed the vernier until the two horizon lines met; when he was sure he had what he needed he walked into the chartroom and pulled out his tables, started reducing the angles.

He soon realized none of the figures he had worked so hard to take worked, so he walked back out onto the bridge-deck and shot almost-as-bright Altair, knowing that with this one higher in the night sky he had to be more careful with his horizons. Again he grumbled and growled, again he thought he got exactly what he needed, and again he walked to the chart-table, working through the tables and the math by candlelight.

The problem, he soon realized, was simple: neither Vega nor Altair were anywhere close to where they ought to be, and then he felt Levy by his side.

“Problem?” Levy said.

“You could say that, yes. Vega and Altair aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and I can’t account for it.”

“No sir, because your sight reduction tables don’t go back that far.”

McCrea felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. “What do you mean – that far?”

“They haven’t been at these stellar coordinates in roughly eighty thousand years.”

McCrea didn’t know what to say, so he said – nothing.

“We find it far easier to move through time, Captain. I’m sorry…I should have warned you, but I didn’t count on your familiarity with the stars.”

“We?”

“My group.”

“Is that sphere…your ship?”

“That…? No, it’s more like a tool. Once inside the sphere we slip through time.”

“Uh-huh. And where did the sphere come from?”

“Our ship.”

“And where, Mr Levy, is that?”

And when Benjamin Levy pointed up at the sky, Captain John McCrea shook his head. “And if you don’t mind me asking son, just where the hell are you from?”

“New London, sir.”

“Connecticut?”

“Yessir.”

“Uh-huh. Right.”

Levy chuckled. “Can’t say I blame you, sir. I wouldn’t believe me either.”

“How much longer?”

“Maybe ten minutes.”

“Well, let’s get back out there.”

“Yessir, but…could we keep this just between you and me?”

“Not on your fuckin’ life, Mr. Levy.”

And Levy laughed, laughed until he couldn’t stop. He laughed as he walked out on the bridge-deck, laughed while Roosevelt looked to McCrea, but the Captain simply shrugged and looked away,

A few minutes later the sphere seemed to spontaneously reappear, then, as it shot up into the night sky, the Iowa’s systems came back to life. The boilers had to be re-ignited, pressure had to come up again, but diesel generators restored vital systems before that happened and everyone breathed a long sigh of relief.

“Bridge, radar. We’re clear across the board here. Repeat, no radar contacts.”

McCrea shook his head again, then looked up again. Vega was back where she was supposed to be; Altair and Deneb were as well. He brought the sextant back out and shot Vega, then Altair, taking his time to double check all his angles. He shot them again, just to make sure, then he retired to the chartroom.

An hour later he had reduced all his new shots, and when he crossed the arcs he looked up and smiled. In the last hour and a half the Iowa had moved perhaps a quarter mile. And what…? Eighty thousand years?

He looked up, saw Levy watching him as he worked.

‘No,’ Captain John McCrea thought, ‘on second thought, I think for once in my life I’ll just keep my mouth shut.’

The X-O walked over to the chart table and looked at this seasoned navigator’s work, then up at his captain. “Orders, Captain?”

“Resume heading of two-nine-nine, speed sixteen knots, and you have the con, X-O. Mr Levy and I are going for a little walk.”

(C) 2017 | Adrian Leverkühn | abw

The Deep End of Your Dreams, Chapter 8

Deep End Tehran

Chapter Eight

“Trevor Goldberg” tried not to watch as she rejoined her group and walked away, but he had been waiting for just this moment, and for a very long time. He rejoined his own group, diplomats from the British legation, and he listened to their talk of agenda items – mainly how to keep Churchill’s being pushed out of the main flow of the conversation between Roosevelt and Stalin – when he felt William Thacker’s eyes boring into his.

“Who was that?” Thacker asked.

“Who? The girl?” Goldberg replied. “Claire Aubuchon. I met her once, in D.C., I think. Rather cute, don’t you think?”

He watched as Thacker looked after the girl for a moment, then Goldberg continued. “I was thinking I’d try to ask her out – again,” he said, grinning conspiratorially.

“Oh, was she so interesting?” Thacker said, now eying Goldberg with renewed interest.

“I’ll never tell,” Trevor said, for indeed, he never would.

“What did she say?”

“I’m going to meet up with her when the afternoon session wraps up, or perhaps in the morning. Say, I’d bet you didn’t know she’s Charles Wilkinson’s sister.”

“Seriously? I hear he’s in the queue for an ambassadorship.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“They’ll probably send him to Oman.”

“Family has too much money for that.”

“Ah,” Thacker sighed. “So that’s where your interest resides, eh, Trevor?”

Goldberg grinned, looked sheepishly away.

“You sly dog,” Thacker joshed before he walked quickly to catch up with the ambassador.

Trevor groaned inwardly, then thought of the time they’d been apart. How many lifetimes ago had that been? A hundred? A thousand? And…that last night…

And just then, watching her disappear into the main conference room, he had to admit he really didn’t know her anymore, and that hurt most of all.

+++++

She listened to the introductory remarks, tried to take in Stalin’s ambiguous statement of greeting, his continued insistence that America and Britain open up a second front as soon as possible, then she listened as Roosevelt thanked Stalin for the sacrifices of the great Russian people. She looked at Churchill from time to time, too; at the old man’s chin resting on his chest, his hooded eyes barely concealing the anger seething away inside. Everyone in the room knew he was being pushed aside, that Roosevelt was, in a very real sense, relegating the United Kingdom to the dustbin of History, and Stalin, his wolfish eyes darting here and there, could barely conceal his glee. The sun would, his darting glances confirmed, set on the British Empire, and none too soon. Tehran would forever be remembered as the final changing of the guard; Japanese aircraft had put an end to any just claim that Britain had rights to a global empire now. The sinking of the battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse, on 10 December 1941 off the east coast of Malaya, and just three days into the Pacific war, simply codified for all time Neville Chamberlain’s grotesque appeasements. Those results were cast in stone now, and History’s judgment would be severe, and final.

It was odd, too, Claire thought. Churchill was by far the most astute wartime politician since Napoleon, and yet Napoleon, too, had squandered his empire. Were all empires doomed to rise and fall, she wondered? Was western civilization so doomed, as well? If mankind held firm to its stoking the fires of religious intolerance, could life on this planet survive the atomic age? Was that what she saw in Churchill’s eyes just now? Communist atheism running headlong into the Judeo-Christian impulse – the various crashing atoms smashing each other to bits?

And the Manhattan project was now teeming with scientists from both Britain and Canada, not to mention all the other European emigres that had fled Hitler’s spreading malignancy. The best, the greatest minds in the world, all gathered under the vast New Mexican sky. Her mind drifted to Santa Fe, to Taos, to the spine of mountains that ran between them…the Sangre de Cristos, the Blood of Christ mountains, snow-capped and brilliant. Her little house in Los Alamos, her casita, looked out on those mountains, and when she took walks in the sharp air her mind always drifted to them, and now, sitting in this faraway land, she found herself thinking about that jagged spine of rock once again.

How many civilizations had those mountains borne witness to? The various native tribes that came and went on their nomadic wanderings to and from Mesa Verde, only to give way to the Spaniard? The French, under Napoleon III had tried to push into New Mexico, too. Then the Republic of Texas had laid claim to the valley for a few decades, only to be absorbed by the United States of America. What would come next?

Yes, empires rose to the symphonic strains of a mighty roar, then whispered like a sigh as they faded in the spasms of their varied twilights.

Then the words ‘quantum mechanics’ drifted into her mind’s eye, and she saw the man again, in the same waking dream. She closed her eyes and tried to see him now as he was then, standing on that ship.

It was the same ship, wasn’t it?

Her eyes popped open in that instant and her eyes darted around the room again. Yes, there he was, sitting behind Churchill and Anthony Eden – and he was looking directly at her. Why, she wondered, did that not surprise her? And why did he suddenly seem so familiar? And, oh yes! Why had he said those two vexing words? There were not a hundred people in the world who knew what those two words, quantum mechanics, really meant, and most of those lived within a few blocks of her – under the gaze of those spiny mountains in New Mexico.

She wondered what he knew, too. Wondered if he had heard of the Aubuchon Shift.

Time was like an arrow, or so the saying went. Once loosed, that arrow went on and on, and in one direction only. But what happened before the arrow left the bow? What happened when you tricked time, and made it go backwards?

+++++

Her eyes burned and she rubbed them again, rubbed them until she felt the sclera detach  like old, dry paper – then she cursed under her breath and stopped.

“When are you ever going to learn?” she heard Charles say, and she looked up at him and grinned sheepishly.

She shrugged, then looked at the note in his hand. “What now?”

“Franklin would like to see you. I think Secretary Hull will be there too.”

“Why him, for God’s sake?”

Charles shrugged. “Hull is always around when the discussion turns to Stalin, or even to Russia generally. Get used to it.”

“He’s too serious,” she sighed. “I don’t like him, Charles.”

He chuckled. “Serious? Cordell? And why wouldn’t he be? He and Acheson have only been charged with creating the post-war political framework of the world.”

“Right. And just what the hell have I got to do with that?”

“Well, there’s been some talk of this shift you discovered…”

“Talk? How…”

“I think that’s the point. There’ve been some very serious discussions about it, I can tell you. The whole paradox thing that Oppenheimer brought up, as I guess you can imagine, shook a lot of people out of their reveries.”

“Myself included,” Claire didn’t have to add.

“Exactly. Now, I’d suggest you not try to conceal a thing. Answer Hull’s questions, but pay attention to Acheson. Dean has a better grasp of scientific matters, so if you see him struggling you’ll need to dumb it down a little.”

“Okay. Is Acheson the one you’ve been working for?”

“Uh-huh. He’s the brains of the outfit, and don’t you forget it. Roosevelt ain’t stupid, and neither is Hull, but Acheson is in another league compared to those guys. He’s smart, and his eyes don’t miss a thing. Don’t even think of lying when he’s in the room.”

“I wasn’t planning on lying, Charles.”

“I know. Now, come on.”

“Do you know a Trevor Goldberg?” she blurted.

“With the Brits, right? I’ve heard the name before. Why?”

“He said he wants to have a talk with me.”

Charles visibly stiffened when he heard that, and Claire noticed. “Don’t meet with him unless Hull gives you the go-ahead.”

“He assured me Eden would vouch for him…”

“Doesn’t matter. They’ll be probing, trying to get information on this Shift you’ve run across. My guess is Churchill is directing this contact, but he’ll keep very-very hands-off to avoid any semblance of impropriety. Anyway, you’d better scoot.”

“Is it still cold out?”

“You’d better take a coat, yes.”

She picked up something and walked out into the early morning air, took a deep breath then wrapped the coat around her shoulders as she walked over to Roosevelt’s quarters, unnerved by all the Russian guards standing around. ‘Well,’ she thought, ‘it is their embassy…’

An America Marine stood outside the president’s door, and he came to attention as she approached – yet the door magically opened as she arrived, and Carlton, the Navy captain who acted as Roosevelt’s aide, smiled from just inside the suite.

“Good morning, Dr Aubuchon,” Carlton said.

“And to you, Russ. Anything new overnight?”

“Nothing major. Some new fuel consumption figures from inside Germany; that’s about it.”

She nodded understanding as she walked inside, noted a fire crackling away in the fireplace as she took off her coat, then watched Carlton point at the ceiling. ‘Yes,’ she sighed inwardly, ‘I caught the signal, Russ. The place is bugged, they’re listening. I get that…’

“Secretary Hull will be right out,” Carlton added as he walked into his makeshift office off this ‘living room,’ and she wondered if Roosevelt would come too. He had looked like death warmed over by the end of yesterday’s sessions, and had reportedly gone straight to bed. The burden’s this man carried, she thought, were enough to crush anybody, yet he had carried the weight of the world for years now, and never seemed to flinch under the load. Now it was catching up with him…

Another door opened and Secretary Hull walked into the room – looking more than a little tired – and he came and sat across from her.

“Ah, the fire’s not out yet…good. Franklin slept with the windows open a little last night…it’s too cold for me in there right noe.”

“Yessir,” she said.

“I’ve a request from Churchill that you be allowed some time with this Goldberg fellow. Know anything about him?”

“No sir, not a thing. He approached me yesterday, on the way to the morning session, asked to speak to me then walked back to his legation.”

“Damned odd,” Hull sighed. “Should have put that request in writing. Damned odd. You’re sure you haven’t met before?”

“I’m not completely sure, sir. I might have seen him once before, in passing, but I don’t know him, or anything about his work.”

“I see. Well, I don’t need to mention that talk about this shift you’ve discovered will be off-limits.”

“Understood, sir.”

“And the president would like a follow-up ‘contact report’ when you wrap this up. And make sure Captain Carlton gets it as soon as you’ve written it up. Just the basics, but your impressions about why this contact was initiated, what you think they’re fishing for…that kind of thing.”

“Yessir.”

“Well, you best get at it. I understand he’s waiting for you now,” the Secretary of State added, pointing at the door.

“Thank you, sir,” she said, standing and picking up her coat. Another Marine opened the door now and helped her with her coat, then she stepped out into the courtyard. And there, standing in a swirling sea of autumn leaves, was this Trevor Goldberg. Not very tall, she thought, and almost too thin, his head a little too big for his frame, as well. As she approached she thought his eyes looked almost owl-like; large, predatory eyes, like a raptor’s, and she couldn’t decide whether they were darkest amber or blue-gray.

“So,” she said as she walked up to the man, “quantum mechanics? What’s on your mind?”

“Have you had breakfast?” Goldberg said, smiling.

“No, I haven’t, and I’m starving.”

“I’ve found a decent place, and not at all far away if you think you can stand a walk…?”

“Lead on, kind sir.”

“What do you think of Tehran?”

“It’s cooler than I thought it would be, that much is certain. Have you been to the Grand Bazaar?”

“That’s where we’re headed, as luck would have it. Have you been yet?”

“No, but I wanted to see it before we leave. Is it safe?”

He chuckled. “Don’t bother turning to look, but I think we have about a half dozen of your Marines following us, and God only knows how many Russians.”

“Ah.”

“Anyway, I’ve found Tehran quite lovely, and the people wonderful. I shouldn’t mind living here, if it came to that. You’re looking well, by the by. New Mexico agrees with you.”

She was instantly on-guard, now that he’d tipped his hand so obliquely. “You’ve been, I take it?”

“Only to Santa Fe, but that was years ago, before the war. Stayed at the LaFonda. Walking the square in the early morning? Magic.”

“And what were you doing in Santa Fe.”

“Pottery.”

“Beg your pardon?”

“Looking for pottery. For my collection.”

“Ah. Find anything interesting?”

“Quite a bit, actually. Well, here we are…”

He led the way inside a small restaurant just across from a narrow passage that led into one of the Bazaar’s many entrances, and the varied scents coming from the small kitchen were almost intoxicating. Breakfast, teas, fruits and a mist of exotic spice hung in the air, apparent, the heady brew at once compelling and unnerving.

“Do you speak Persian?” he asked.

“You must be joking,” she deadpanned.

“Well then, shall I order for you?” he said, almost laughing.

“No sheep’s eyes, please, but other than that…”

This time he did laugh, openly and for a long time, then he spoke to the proprietress for a moment before leading Claire to a table. “Shouldn’t take long,” he advised, looking out the front door at the gaggle of confused security personnel gathered there, perhaps wondering what to do now.

“So,” Claire said, eyeing Goldberg as he sat, “quantum mechanics?”

“Yes, sorry. Kind of an odd way to introduce myself, I know. How far along are you?”

“Excuse me?”

“What are you calling it? The shift?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I understand. We’d like you to stop all research on this material. Now.”

“What research?”

“On time dilation and contraction.”

She stared at the man for a long time, not sure who or what he was now, then she simply looked down at her hands. “Oh, is that all?”

“Yes.”

“And who is ‘we’?”

He shrugged. “People who want you to stop, before you get into serious trouble.”

“Trouble? With whom? The Physics Police?”

His eyes turned deadly serious in the next instant. “Yes, something like that.”

It was the way he spoke, the look in his eyes that convinced Claire Aubuchon that this man, if indeed he was a man, was completely serious and on-the-level.

“We’ve met before, haven’t we?” she asked, her voice conspiratorially quiet. “On that ship?”

He nodded his head only once, an ambiguous gesture that left her feeling even more unsure of the moment.

“Where are you from?”

He grinned, slightly, still looking her in the eye: “Near Cambridge, I should think.”

“Uh-huh, sure. And before that?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes, very much.”

“New London. I was born in New London, Connecticut.”

“When?”

“When? You mean, when was a born? The year?”

She nodded her head, knowing what had to come next.

“1877.”

“And let me take a wild guess…on the twelfth of April?”

He smiled broadly now. “Yes, that’s right.”

She felt a sudden shift, like her understanding of the universe had quietly slipped from the room. Her father…her father’s date and place of birth…and now, after these 30 years it felt like some vast cosmic tumblers were finally slipping into place. This “Goldberg” should be seventy six years old, yet he looked, what? Twenty-five? Thirty?

“And you’re my father, is that what you’re telling me?”

He stared at her now, though he said not a single word.

“That’s not fair, and you know it,” she said as she confronted his silence.

“I know.”

“Can you tell me what this is really all about? Please?”

“I already have. Stop all work on the shift. You’re endangering everyone on the planet.”

“Because, again, I might upset some sort of Physics Police? Is that what you’re implying?”

“I’m not implying anything, Claire. It’s a warning. Stop, now. While you still can.”

“And?”

“And I’m going to introduce you to my brother this evening. You should fall in love with him. I should warn you, everyone does, sooner or later.”

“You’re telling me to fall in love with this man?”

“I am.”

“And if I don’t?”

Goldberg shook his head just as two plates of food arrived, and he looked at her reaction to the food. Some things never change, he thought.

 

(c) 2017 | Adrian Leverkühn | abw | fiction, and nothing but…

Sunday in the Sun + 17 September ’17

SundaySun

image: Russian-Belarusian military exercises in 2013 near Kaliningrad. Some analysts fear that this year’s version could be a prelude for military aggression. CreditAlexey Druginyn/Ria Novosti/New York Times

 

The word for the week is Zapad.

Or, Zapad-17, to be somewhat more precise.

In this brave new world, same as the old world, Veishnoriya is a fictional country that is “backed by the West and intent on driving a wedge between Russia and Belarus. The scenario also includes two other fake countries, Lubeniya and Vesbasriya, which form a coalition with Veishnoriya to menace Russian security.”  Russia claims they intend to deploy something like 13,000 troops in this exercise, yet they’ve ordered 4,000 railway cars to move these troops “to the front.” NATO thinks they’ll send upwards of 100,000 troops, and so people from Poland to Estonia, and even poor little ole Sweden, are in a tizzy.

Why? Because the last time the Russians held an exercise of this type, they moved into Crimea, then stepped up intervention in eastern Ukraine after shooting down a Malaysian 777…

Why? Because Russia has been conducting non-stop asymmetrical political and psychological warfare operations in the region for five years, undermining the credibility of western political institutions generally, and NATO more specifically…

Why? Because, well, the Russian Duma, or parliament, burst out in gleeful joy when their assumed puppet, Donald Trump, was elected last November. And just this week we received another friendly reminder of Russian intentions when another member of the Duma stated our intel agencies had been asleep at the switch while Russia’s intel agencies helped elect Trump. So, what about this latest admission?

Fake gnews? Part of a new disinformation campaign? A slip-up of Price Vlad’s part? Well, read the article below  (way below, like near the end of this post…) for more.

And yet, oddly enough, the basic fact of the matter is that most people in the United States have absolutely no idea what Zapad is, what it means (literally: West), or what waits, patiently, just out of sight, right around the next bend in the road. Let alone why.

Of course, the odds of Russia moving into the Baltic states is practically zero just now. Putin has yet to fully reconstitute his military, though he has Russian industry working overtime to correct that oversight. No, the real issue is Trump has turned into something of a disappointment to them. For whatever reason, Trump has abdicated the traditional role of the president in conducting foreign policy, effectively turning this over to the military. It is doubtful there is a group more distrustful of Soviet, er, excuse me, Russian intentions anywhere on earth than the men and women who typically dwell inside a pentagonal-shaped structure just across the creek from the White House. The men surrounding Trump came of age in the twilight of the Cold War, and they know Russia for what Russia really is: the evil empire in the Star Wars cycle of stories, led by Darth Vlad. They’ve all read Kennan’s so-called “long telegram”, and his “X article”. They were schooled in the era of NSC-68, Kennan’s policy of containment and Dulles’s elucidation of “Mutually Assured Destruction.” To these people, Russia means Putin, and Putin means the complete reconstitution of the Soviet empire – and that ain’t a good thing, for anyone. They know who Putin is (ex-KGB, sleeps in a coffin full of earth from his birthplace), and they know about the oath he swore when Gorbachev sold out the empire and went into retirement (vengeance has something to do with it, I think). Our generals watch our representatives to the UN try to pass resolutions for sanctions against North Korea and they nod their heads when they hear Russia work against the common good, again, because that’s what Russians do, right? They are the fly in the ointment, humanity’s paranoid step-children intent on burning down the house whenever they don’t get their way. The hemorrhoid that just won’t go away, if you will.

So yeah, we have Putin now, and not Stalin, but like the song says, meet the new boss, same as the old boss, because the song remains the same (and boy, am I mixing musical metaphors, or what?)…

It was probably safe to assume, until a year or so ago anyway, that Republicans hated Russia, and Putin, too. With the election of Donald Trump that hatred appears to have wafted away, turned into something akin to admiration. To put it more succinctly, many Republicans appear to admire Putin’s authoritarian tendencies these days, and many, I think it’s now plain to see, would like to administer some of those same remedies to the American body politic, especially the fourth estate, but let’s not get into that food-fight right now. It’s counter-productive to talk about reality these days, and far more interesting to indulge in the latest musings of the Kardashians, or Kanye Whoever. Golly, we have so many distractions on hand, don’t we, so just ignore the rain, because the sun’s out, isn’t it…?

So yeah…Zapad. What will happen in Belarus next week? A lot of people are looking on right now, wondering just how far Putin will go this time. Because Putin has always looked to exploit any perceived weakness he finds within his paranoid worldview, and it’s doubtful there’s ever been a weaker man-child in the White House than Donald Trump. As Trump confronts literally life and death issues in Florida and Texas, not to mention the fat kid with the bad haircut – and now that his political base is in an uproar over his surprise negotiations with key Democratic lawmakers, Putin couldn’t ask for better conditions to ramp up the pressure.

+++++

On the subject of books and such, a couple I picked up this week seem worth passing along. The first is a new Brookings Institute release, Beyond Snowden, by Timothy Edgar. It’s about digital privacy in the age of the NSA, an agency that can sweep up any and everything you do online, and no matter where you live. After the Equifax hack, this takes us to a whole new level of paranoia… The second, Close to the Edge/How Yes’s Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock, comes from noted rock reporter Will Romano. Of course, you might have guessed by now I read almost everything about Yes, but I’m enjoying this one as it goes into the specifics of the music as well as the difficulty Yes had bringing this music to life (nineteen-minute-long tracks were still kind of frowned upon in the early 70s). Just started this one, but so far, so good, and if you enjoyed this kind of rock you might enjoy reading about the era, as well as learning something about the complexity of the music Yes struggled to create. If you’re not familiar with Close to the Edge, try the two more accessible tracks And You and I or Siberian Khatru before tackling the eponymous, and very obscure, first track. It’s on iTunes.

And, speaking of music matters… A little modern prog was on my radar this week too, as Steven Wilson’s latest, To The Bone, passed my way. Wilson is continuing to mine Pink Floyd’s vocabulary, which is, I think, fine for most people who grew up inside “old school” rock. You’ll hear signature phrasing and vocal passages that might remind you of King Crimson and early Genesis, as well. Whatever, it ain’t rap and it sure ain’t hip-hop, and the vocals sure don’t sound like chipmunks-in-heat, and that works for me. Anyway, if you don’t want to buy the album, try the slow-building Detonation for a sample, or the more sedate Song of Unborn. All in all, a very good album of richly layered structure. The title track is a little political but feels like Dark Side of the Moon.

+++++

In the gnews this week:

Hillary Clinton’s post-election memoir, “What The Fuck Went Down (and why didn’t my homeys get off their fat asses and vote for me?)” is reportedly a bitter tear-fest, yet I’m seriously not interested in reading it, but I did find one item about the whole thing in the gnews this week that did interest me. Recall if you will how Trump et. al ., at the Republican Convention last summer, called Hillary all sorts of bad names, and that Trump led the assembled deplorables in chants of Hang the Bitch! and Lock Her Up! (etc., etc., ad nauseum). Okay, got that scene firmly in mind now?

Now, do you recall how, not so long ago, Republican alt-right crazies were up in arms about something similar? “We recently had,” Hillary said in an interview this week, “this big kerfuffle ― this condemnation of Kathy Griffin ― for the picture she had of herself holding a head of Trump like a play on Perseus holding the head of Medusa”. Griffin was questioned by the Secret Service about this, by the way, so why wasn’t Trump, or why weren’t Trump’s minions, similarly excoriated? “I had left the State Department one of the most admired public servants in America,” Clinton writes in her book. “Now people seemed to think I was evil. Not just ‘not my cup of tea’ but evil. It was flabbergasting and frightening.” So, what do you think? Simple hypocrisy, or do you see this as part of a larger pattern? 1933 ring any warning bells to you too? Or 1984, perhaps?

+++++

The Trumpmeister has been lauded for his response to Harvey and Irma, and bravo for him, and for his performance. Now, consider this:

WASHINGTON ― As President Donald Trump basks in positive assessments of his handling of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, he might consider two words to help explain things: “Thanks, Obama.”

While he’s at it, he could probably also thank the so-called “deep state,” and offer a wave of gratitude out the window of Air Force One over Gainesville, Florida ― home of former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate ― as it flies to Naples, the site of much of Irma’s devastation, on Thursday.

Because while Trump has enjoyed praise from frequent critics for his leadership during the storms, two of his favorite nemeses are making his job a lot easier.

Former President Barack Obama appointed Fugate to turn around the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the system he left behind is the one Trump inherited heading into this year’s hurricane season.

“Trump’s riding on the shoulders of Obama,” said James Fraser, a Vanderbilt University professor who has done research on disaster mitigation. “It’s heartening to know that in this case, the Trump administration is not trying to undo something the Obama administration did to help people.”

Trump has lauded his own FEMA administrator, Brock Long, for his running of the agency. But Trump did not even nominate Long for the job until April 28, and Long didn’t begin at FEMA until June 20, after the start of hurricane season. And of the 23 slots available for political appointees at the agency, only 12 have been filled, counting Long’s. The other responsibilities are being handled by non-political career employees.

Trump didn’t even nominate people for the two other FEMA positions that require Senate confirmation until mid-July. One of those, Daniel Craig, withdrew his nomination after NBC News reported about a federal investigation of Craig during his earlier stint at FEMA from 2002-2005. The probe found that Craig appeared to have improperly lobbied his former co-workers within a year after leaving the agency, helping secure more than $1 billion in contracts for a client as part of the Hurricane Katrina recovery. (read more here) But also consider Trump & Co were about to chop a good percentage of FEMA’s budget before these two storms came round.

Irma surge

+++++

If you’ve found yourself wondering why the Scalia Supreme Court nomination obstructionism was such a big deal, here’s the article you’ve been waiting for, validation for all your conservative dreams-come-true:

 

On Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court blocked two rulings by a federal district court that would have required Texas to redraw its state and federal congressional districts. The lower court had ruled that the Texas Legislature illegally gerrymandered these districts along racial lines and ordered new maps for the 2018 election. But by a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court put that order on hold, ensuring that the gerrymander will remain through 2018. The decision may also indicate that the five Republican-appointed justices will eventually reverse the district court’s decisions altogether.

The Supreme Court’s abrupt intervention is a devastating blow to the years-long fight against race-based voter suppression in Texas. Since 2011, federal courts have ruled nine times that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters. Before Tuesday, civil rights advocates had good reason to believe that the judiciary would finally put a stop to the Texas GOP’s anti-democratic chicanery. Now it seems that the high court’s conservative bloc may thwart this progress and force Texan minorities to continue suffering under a self-perpetuating and racist system of vote dilution.

Voting rights activists have been suing Texas over its discriminatory legislative districts since 2011. They claim that Texas’ GOP-dominated legislature intentionally gerrymandered the state after the 2010 census to dilute the voting power of minorities, particularly Latinos. Both the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act prohibit race-based vote dilution. Thus, the plaintiffs in these cases have argued that either the Texas Legislature or a federal court must redraw these maps to remedy their unlawful gerrymandering. Texas has fought these lawsuits tooth and nail, recognizing that a race-blind map would contain fewer seats for Republicans in both the state legislature and the federal House of Representatives.

Earlier this year, a three-judge district court issued a series of opinions and orders that seemed, at long last, to vindicate the plaintiffs’ claims and mitigate the current gerrymander. By a 2–1 vote, the court ruled that Texas had engaged in intentional discrimination when drawing two federal congressional districts. The court also held, by the same vote, that 11 of Texas’ state House districts were impermissibly tainted by the intentional dilution of minority votes. Moreover, the court found that another House district constituted outright racial gerrymandering. Finally, the court ruled that nine House districts violated the “one person, one vote” principle of the Equal Protection Clause.

To back up its conclusions, the majority wrote two lengthy opinions and released a comprehensive 151-page findings of fact. It directed the legislature to draw new maps that would remedy the current plan’s legal defects. If the legislature proved unable or unwilling “to take up redistricting,” the majority noted that the court would draw remedial maps itself.

Texas promptly appealed these decisions to the Supreme Court. As election law expert and Slate contributor Rick Hasen notes, this appeal was arguably premature, as the court had not even drawn up remedial maps yet. But the court’s five conservatives decided to weigh in anyway, putting the lower court’s rulings on hold until the justices resolve the case. (All four left-leaning justices dissented from the orders.)

This “aggressive” intervention, as Hasen puts it, is an ominous sign. Progressives have been hoping that Justice Anthony Kennedy might join the liberals to curb both partisan and racial gerrymandering. But Kennedy already voted with the conservatives in a 5–4 decision to block a lower court order compelling Wisconsin to fix its partisan gerrymander. Now he has voted with them once again to block an order compelling Texas to fix its racial gerrymander. Kennedy’s eagerness to let both states maintain their unfair redistricting schemes may suggest that he does not want the courts to enter this political thicket. Or it might simply indicate that he wants the chance to hear a full argument and weigh in himself—probably decisively—before they do.

Still, Tuesday’s decision is troubling for two other reasons. First, the court’s conservatives have, for the time being, denied Texas voters their lone recourse to bring democratic elections back to the state. By “packing and cracking” Latino voters—concentrating most in a few safe Democratic districts, then distributing the rest in safe Republican districts—Texas has largely done away with contested races. The result of many elections is preordained; even though the state is increasingly diverse, most districts are gerrymandered to protect the incumbent party. Latino voters who were placed in a dark-red district cannot cast meaningful ballots for a Democrat as it is certain to be outweighed by Republican votes. Only the courts can put an end to this cycle. They should not abdicate their duty out of fear that partisans will attack their legitimacy.

Second, the Supreme Court’s intervention is a powerful reminder of how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s blockade of Judge Merrick Garland continues to damage American democracy. As political scientist Daniel Nichanian points out, this blockade continues to help Republicans salvage their other illegitimate power-grabs, like Texas’ gerrymander. McConnell ensured that arch-conservative Neil Gorsuch would take Garland’s seat, maintaining a five-justice conservative majority. And of course, on Thursday, Gorsuch provided the fifth vote to preserve Texas’ racial redistricting. McConnell held that seat for a reason. And Gorsuch is voting exactly as McConnell hoped he would.

Tuesday, in short, was a terrible day for voting rights, for genuinely contested elections, and for basic democratic principles. The Supreme Court’s conservatives have cast serious doubt on the judiciary’s capacity to alleviate gerrymanders—including race-based redistricting—that turn general elections into a joke. And with Gorsuch’s help, they have guaranteed that at least one more election cycle in Texas will take place under a map that was gerrymandered with the intent to dilute Latinos’ voting power. If Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives next year, they could have this decision from the Supreme Court to thank.

+++++

If you’re at all interested in why Democrats will lose big next year, here’s a fairly concise explanation: the left’s political elite are still out of touch with their base. Want the bigger picture ? Try this one on for size:

The Democratic Party’s leadership is clearly beholden to the political center and the interests of their wealthy donors—as is evident from their lack of support for the Medicare for All bill. Democrats in the House and Senate are increasingly coming out in support of the Medicare for All bill, which Bernie Sanders is set to introduce on Wednesday afternoon. But instead of riding this wave of progressive support and the popularity of Medicare for All to draw a significant contrast against Trump and the Republican party, Democratic Party leaders are obstructing its momentum.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recently reiterated she will not support Medicare for All, claiming she is opting to preserve the Affordable Care Act. She has made similar comments in the past, including a hypocritical claim earlier this year in which she said, “The comfort level with a broader base of the American people is not there yet. It doesn’t mean it couldn’t be. States are a good place to start.” Pelosi hasn’t supported single-payer healthcare in her home state of California either, nor has she ever co-sponsored a Medicare for All bill in the years since Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., began introducing it in 2003. The comfort level with the American People is there, the discomfort lies with Democrats so beholden to their donors on this issue that they won’t even bring themselves to co-sponsor legislation. They are laboring under the false pretense that doing so will expose flaws in the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile polls and surveys increasingly show most Americans support Medicare for All, and that support has surged in the past year.

The best way to preserve the Affordable Care Act, until an improved system replaces it, is to support Medicare for All to provide healthcare as a right to all Americans. Pelosi is not alone in her rejection of Medicare for All. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., House Democratic Party Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., DNC Chair Tom Perez and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., are also holdouts against the bill. Only Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., have signed on as co-sponsors to to the bill, while the top leader of the Democratic Party continue to treat the policy as a nuisance.

These establishment Democrats need to get on board for Medicare for All, or get out of office. Progressive policies like this are becoming mainstream, and a surge in popularity for this policy is a testament to the success progressive activists are finding in the wake of Trump’s Presidency to fix the Democratic Party so as to represent voters’ interests, not wealthy donors. Progressives are underrepresented in the Democratic Party, especially in the party’s leadership, with some of the most moderate Democrats occupying top positions. Their leadership has dragged the Democratic Party into the ground over the past decade. Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer, and Lujan are relics of a Democratic Party that embraces stagnancy and preserves the status quo over change.

So there, take that….

+++++

I know I’ve written about hamburgers before (yes, folks, we cover everything under the sun, even if it is raining), but in case you missed it, hamburgers were invented by a gent named Fletch Davis, in Athens, Texas, and that happened sometime around 1900. This fact has been enshrined by no less an august body than the Texas Legislature, and should you be anywhere near Athens on September 23 (next weekend), you’ll find a festival of sorts going on down on the town square dedicated to ole Uncle Fletch and his noble creation. Remember, though, that in those days the ideal hamburger was garnished with mustard, pickles and onions. No bacon. No guacamole. No bleu cheese. No fried egg. No shoe-string potatoes. Mustard, pickles and onions…got it? Oh, and did you know that the first burgers were served on freshly sliced white bread? Try it…you’ll like it.

+++++

VladTrump

So, here’s the Russia article I promised…intact and just for you, served hot off the grill.

So as the story rages onward and upward, now a lower level Russian politician, one Vyacheslav Nikonov has decided to admit during a pretty recent television appearance (this past Sunday to be exact, during a weekly political show called “Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.”), that American spies “slept through while Russia elected a new US president.”

Not the wisest of things one could go on live television and say, I mean our intelligence community aside from letting intel walk out of its front doors is, actually pretty good at gathering intel on it’s own and then using it to create a little havoc in one’s life.

It does actually get better, according to Vyacheslav;

“To achieve world dominance the US overextended themselves. Because the most recent tendencies, economical, military, even tendencies in the intelligence which slept through while Russia elected a new US president.”

“It’s just ridiculous, what kind of intelligence in the USA one can even talk about?”

“The US sagged in all these aspects for the past two decades. This superpower is losing its ability to define the world.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I am in love with this man, meet my future ex husband, Vyacheslav Nikonov, AKA Captain Obvious. ***wedding date/divorce party to follow***

All kidding aside, he is actually making a couple of valid points here:

Yes so what, Russia did meddle in the election by spreading fake news through obtained intel which they stole. Which, correct me if I am wrong here (NSA, I am looking in your general direction), our very own US intelligence agencies do on a fairly regular basis, not only to innocent American’s but, to other nations, countries and basically the entire world.

What’s more is that our very own intelligence agencies have in fact, been known to use stolen intel to meddle in the affairs of other nations.

Secondly, yes our intelligence community was in fact sleeping through the entire election or so it would appear, with the exception of James Comey, who I am guessing already had a pretty good idea that Russia was in fact meddling and who may or may not have made the choice to let that one slide, for a brief period of course.

And third, yes, America the superpower, well, we are losing our footing as a world leader. Which I believe Russia sought to speed that up and watch us fall over the proverbial cliff by meddling in the election.

What truly makes this worse is that right after Trump was elected, Vladimir Putin attempted to set a plan into motion for the full normalization of of relations between the US and Russia, across all major branches of government, according to some newly released documents and Andrew Weiss, the VP of Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

And Andrew isn’t wrong, nor is is he alone in that thought.

So yes Russia did in fact feel that they could better control a Donald Trump vs. a Hillary Clinton, what they did not factor in was that, no matter what, an investigation into the meddling and Trump and his team being part of that, was always going to inevitably happen.

That is all thanks to one, James Comey who is very much a man who simply does not put all of his cards on the table at once.

He is after all the one responsible for making sure that the investigation would go on, even after his firing.

So now Trump and his team are doing everything that they can to discredit James.

Hell, even I found myself upset by some of what James did and did not due through the Hillary Clinton email scandal, but that was then and this is now.

I can see now, that James may have seen clearly more than the rest of us did at the time and he is a man with a purpose.

Either way, not any of this stops what we now know to be factual, Russia did meddle in the 2016 election, not to mention that we are looking at an extremely high possibility of a collusion between, trump, his team and Russia to meddle in the election.

As for our intelligence communities here in the US, they may very well have been asleep at the wheel, but if i were a Russian Politician, I would not be mocking them for it because unlike me, a Russian Politician is more of a public figure and your more easily found.

+++++

Happy reading, y’all. Seeya around the campfire, and if you happen to be hangin’ in Hokkaido this weekend, why not join us online and check out some of the old “duck and cover” drills preserved over at YouTube. I wonder if the fat kid with the bad haircut will shoot his load at you guys first, or over here, like maybe at Seattle??? Anyway, maybe watching Dr Strangelove one more time will be more fun this time.

Adios. Or should I say…Zapad…?

strange-2

The Deep End of Your Dreams + Ch 07

Iowa dreams

Chapter Seven

14 November 1943

The air was shedding its veneer of autumn as easily as a winter’s coat, and she stood at the rail looking out over the Atlantic as the great ship steamed to the southeast. Even from this modest height – and she guessed she was about thirty feet or so above the water’s surface – the sense of speed as the Iowa knifed through the sea was palpable. And it looked as though the destroyers and the nearby cruiser were working hard to keep up with the immense battleship, for indeed they were. Now, on their second day at sea, the small convoy was carrying the president to Morocco; from there the gathering of diplomats and soldiers would fly with him on to Tehran, where a meeting between the all the president’s men and both Churchill and Stalin was scheduled to take place.

“Why am I here?” she asked the wind. “What possible use could I be to him?”

She turned and saw him in his chair near the rail, perhaps fifty feet away, just under the huge sixteen-inch guns of the number two turret. The teak decks were mottled by random hits of spray, the three barrels cast giant, oblate shadows over Roosevelt and the deck under his chair, so that one moment he was alive in early morning sunlight, the next a wraith sheathed in shadow.

“That’s what we are,” she sighed, “the two of us. Sun and shadow, light and dark. Good and evil.”

Once the theoretical nature of their work had borne fruit, she had begun to see the real contours of darkness inside Roosevelt’s Pandora’s Box. And she had begun to see her role uncovering this darkness; indeed, until recently she’d not known exactly what would be released. And now that she did she understood she wasn’t simply a passive receptacle standing idly by while others did the work of unraveling the darkest fire man had ever kindled, and yes, she understood she was more than just an active participant, too. She had grown into one of the most important members of the group designing the charge that would induce fission, and she was helping Sealy and his team work with Boeing on the B-29’s modifications. She would help bring the ultimate irony to humankind: she would help usher in a new era, the atomic era, and the world would never be the same again. There might be peace…peace out of madness.

As she watched Roosevelt, she wondered what he would do with this immense power. Let the world know what he alone possessed, let the Germans and the Japanese understand the consequences of prolonging the war? Or, keep the power a secret? Unleash it on an unsuspecting world without any warning at all?

And she watched Roosevelt more closely now that she understood him better. She had never once considered how much his personal struggle with polio had redefined his character, how much the wounded man’s experience in Warm Springs had altered his patrician’s frame of reference. The entitled Assistant Secretary of the Navy would eventually become the Governor of New York, but only after defeating his own very personal demons. She’d never really known these things about the man, not until the night before, anyway. When they’d sat and talked on this very deck, under the stars.

And he seemed to know each and every star in the night sky, from the origins of their names to their uses as aids to navigation. He loved ships too, she soon discovered, everything about big ships. He’d championed the development of naval aviation – in the First World War of all things – and even submarines. She’d known so little about him when he was first elected, but now – after working with him off and on for four years, she thought of him almost as a father.

Fathers had been in short supply all her life, after all, and though she hardly ever thought about it she knew she had missed out on something important. Charles was Charles, a brother and never anything more, yet Charles had assumed the role of father when she was still quite young. And, as it turned out, he had never really had understood her very basic need. He became a friend, then a sort of career advisor, yet he never expressed any sort of familial love for her – and that was a scar that had never really healed. He cared, true enough, but he had never once expressed anything at all like love for her – never even a brother’s love. Because he wasn’t her brother…not really…and that was an unspoken truth between them.

And yet, Roosevelt had seen through her hastily erected veneers, had seen her need, and he had done so in an instant. After their first meeting in the White House he had begun writing letters to her, silly, half-affectionate fatherly missives she first at first dismissed as the ramblings of a lonely old man – then she had found something else in his words. A need to connect personally with the reality of her work, not only to understand her better, but to better come to terms with what they were building out there in the high New Mexican desert. And so she wrote to him, too. Long letters about the problems the team faced, little notes about how odd it was being one of the few women out there under the high stars. She was impressed a man with so many responsibilities took the time to correspond with her, then, as she wrote to him she would lapse back into the dream, see him standing by that window, looking at Saturn’s rings…

‘Why don’t you find a man, get married,’ he wrote once, and she thought about the answer to that question for a long time before she set out to craft a reply.

‘I thought I had, once,’ she wrote to the president. ‘Your physician, Ben Goodman. We spent a few days together in 1939, and I thought we had created something. Something real and lasting, only then he drifted away. I have no need to be hurt again…’

His next letter rocked her world.

‘He speaks of you often,’ Roosevelt wrote, ‘yet I was given to believe you had spurned his advances. Is that not the case?’

And so, when she had boarded the Potomac with Roosevelt a few days before, she was instantly on guard when she saw Goodman walk aboard just ahead of the president. Neither had looked her way; indeed, neither had acknowledged her presence in any way. And as the only female on a US Navy battleship steaming across an ocean full of U-boats, she had been locked away in the executive officer’s stateroom, apparently for the duration of the crossing, lest she distract the men, or so she was told…

Then, last night.

Roosevelt had asked that she come to his cabin after dinner. He wanted, the hand delivered note plainly stated, to talk with her about an idea or two.

When she was escorted to his cabin the door opened and she found him tucked into bed, sipping some sort of amber liqueur. “Could I pour you a snort?” Roosevelt asked, grinning.

“What is it?” she remembered asking.

“Drambuie.”

She shrugged, a blank look on her face.

“It’s a liqueur, made from scotch whiskey,” another voice said, and she turned to see Goodman at a writing desk across the captain’s ceremonial in-port cabin.

“I see,” she said, though of course she didn’t. She couldn’t, not just now, because her vision had grown confined and dark, and her thoughts muddied as the currents of time slowed. She had watched Goodman pour her a glass, then turned to the president sitting in his bed. He was smiling, she saw, and looking not at all unlike another grinning Cheshire cat of some ill repute.

She had taken the glass and carried it too her nose, closed her eyes as the honied scent found her, then she took some of the liquid on her tongue and let it settle there. When she opened her eyes Goodman was sitting across from her, his eyes still full of a quiet, smoldering empathy.

“Like it?” Goodman asked.

“I do. Yes, very much, as a matter of fact.”

“Well then,” Roosevelt crooned, holding up his glass. “A toast! Here’s to swimmin’ – with bow-legged wimin’…”

Goodman grinned and shook his head, then took a sip, his eyes never leaving her’s, not for a single instant.

“I hope you’re not asking me to swim with a bunch of bow-legged women, Mr. President,” she laughed, almost under her breath.

“No, no, not at all, Claire. We were going over some production figures this afternoon when someone asked about the work on blast dynamics on the airframe. It’s been weeks since I read an update on that work, and I wanted to get your take on the problem.”

“Now, Mr. President?”

“Yes, yes…now.”

“Well, sir, as you know, the basic question is altitude versus the aerodynamic properties of the bomb itself. How long it will take the warhead to reach the target…”

“Are we still talking about that fused air-burst thing, or a ground impactor?”

“For all intents and purposes, Mr President, there won’t be much difference on delta-T. Our current working hypothesis has the aircraft dropping on the target from thirty-one thousand feet. We need to retard the bomb’s velocity in order to allow egress of the aircraft, as even if we can achieve a wing loading in the eighty pounds per square inch range it’s not likely the aircraft will survive.”

“What would an optimal range from detonation look like?”

“Twenty miles, Mr President. A minimum of twenty miles.”

“Parachute?”

“We discarded the idea, sir, after it was demonstrated that anti-aircraft fire might hit the bomb and disable it.”

“And…?”

“We’re looking at an enhanced climb profile that gets the aircraft to thirty-four thousand feet, then the crew would start a shallow dive at full power, make the drop at thirty and continue diving to around twenty-five thousand.”

“And their speed at that point would be?”

“We’re looking at roughly 320.”

“Will that get you to twenty miles?”

“No sir. Not quite.”

“So…what’s next?”

“Drag, Mr President. We’re designing the weapon to be as aerodynamically inefficient as possible.”

“Can the wings be further reinforced?”

“Boeing engineers have done about all they can…short of a complete redesign of the nacelles.”

“They’re still the problem?”

“Yessir. My modeling shows that the blast wave will start a series of oscillations on the outboard nacelles, eventually leading to failure of the wings near the main-spar-box. If they’re less than fifteen miles from detonation you might as well advise the crew it will be a one-way mission…”

“And as I mentioned earlier,” Goodman added, “the amount of exposure to the aircrew of this amount and kind of radiation poses unknown risks. The further away they are, the better.”

“So, it looks like we’ve got the means to make this weapon, but it also looks like we may sacrifice the crew if we use it? Is that about the size of it, Dr Aubuchon?”

“No, sir. I still feel quite confident we’ll solve the problem. Probably through a combination of methods, and I think the engineers have a few tricks yet up their sleeve. By the way, that wing is a work of art, Mr President. Wing loading, as it stands now, is in the seventy pounds per square inch range, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they can modify the aircraft to get to a hundred. If they can, and if the aircraft can hit 340 knots in a limited duration dive, then we aren’t going to have a problem.”

“Robert doesn’t share your optimism, Dr Aubuchon. Perhaps you could tell me why?”

“This isn’t his area of expertise, Mr President, and as he hasn’t spent as much time out in Seattle as I have, so he’s not up to speed on the specific range of options available to us.”

“It’s not your area of expertise either, is it, Claire?”

“No, it isn’t, Mr President. But Boeing’s engineers have to work with the numbers I give them, so I’ve learned a lot about this aircraft’s strengths and limitations working with them. The math is simple and straight-forward, I might add.”

“I’ll have to take your word for that, Claire,” Roosevelt said, grinning again. “Well, Ben? Think I could take some sea air this time of night?”

“Yessir, I think that might do us all some good, just remember what the captain said. No smoking out on deck, sir.”

“Bosh! Damn U-boats!”

“I’ll go get Roy, sir. Claire? Would you come with me, please?”

She followed Goodman out into the passageway while Roosevelt’s valet went in the cabin to help dress the president, and they waited for Roosevelt’s naval escort, this time a colonel from the Marines, before heading topsides.

A few chairs had been hastily placed on the main deck, just ahead of the number two turret, and the tiniest sliver of a crescent moon hung above the horizon off to their left. Roosevelt used his shoulders to move from his wheelchair to the deck chair, then huffed and puffed for a moment – getting his wind back as he looked out over the infinite sea.

“By Golly, Claire, there’s nothing like the sea at night. Surrounded by stars, as we were in the beginning. And look at that! Even the moon is cooperating tonight…and just look at Orion, would you!”

Both she and Goodman turned and looked up at The Hunter, his bow drawn through the millennia. “I was out earlier, Mr President,” the Marine said, “and I do believe after your vision settles you’ll see the pink smudge in the scabbard.”

“Really? It’s been years and years since I’ve seen that. Too many years, I think.”

“It’s nice to feel summer air again,” Goodman added. “I’m already dreading winter.”

“Are you indeed?” Roosevelt said. “Maybe it’s time you moved out west. Berkeley, perhaps?”

Goodman looked at the president, not sure what to say.

“Maybe it’s time you settled down, tried to have a family?” Roosevelt added. “Family saved me, of course, though I had very nearly destroyed mine. Losing the use of my legs, finding my way to Georgia, getting involved with those kids…”

“Sir?” Claire said, sounding puzzled.

“Warm Springs. I went down there for the waters. Hot, ninety degree water, waters full of magnesium. It was this ramshackle place, almost beyond repair, the people who came to take the water were as afraid of us polio patients and lepers in the middle ages. I came to understand discrimination for the first time in my life, as well as despair. I suppose it goes without saying, but I don’t think one can experience hope without first experiencing deep despair, but then again I may not have been the first person to think that.”

“What happened down there,” she asked, “to change your mind?”

“I felt so sorry for myself. For the loss of my future, I suppose you could say.” Roosevelt looked away for a moment. “Yet it was the children down there taught me how to live again, to see beyond my legs. Eleanor helped me buy the place, and we’ve turned it into a facility for treating children with polio.”

“I had no idea,” Claire said.

“Ben’s been down to help out a time or two, haven’t you?”

“Yes, Mr. President. And it’s been an honor.”

“Indeed. There’s a humility in suffering, isn’t there. Especially when children suffer. Humanity’s burden, I think it is, too. Every suffering child we let pass into the night is an unconscionable burden on our souls.”

“Yes it is, sir,” Goodman added.

“Anyway, that’s what I was getting at, Ben. You’ll miss out on one of life’s greatest joys if you miss out having children of your own.”

“Perhaps when this all over, Mr President,” Goodman sighed heavily.

“Ben, this will never be over. Don’t you understasnd that yet?”

“Sir?”

“This war will never be over, Ben. It can’t ever be over. Once the music stops playing, industry will collapse again. We learned that after the First War, if you’ll recall. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy I was charged with demobilizing the Atlantic Fleet, and we scrapped almost half those vessels in a matter of months. I fought to preserve our submarine fleet, and to increase research on aircraft carriers, and whatever else I could, but both Wilson and Harding were adamant…we didn’t need a peacetime navy. Short-sighted bastards! Of course, mobilizing for war in 1916, and again in 1940, pulled us out of the economic doldrums, yet that may be the one vital lesson lost on most people both in and outside of Washington. Military spending props up the rest of the economy, simple as that.”

“But with these new weapons,” Claire began, “haven’t we made war obsolete?”

“Obsolete? You mean, no one would dare attack us now?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“And how long before another country has these weapons? A country, perhaps, not quite so friendly to our interests. Remember, today’s friend might not always be so friendly…”

“You mean, Russia?”

“It doesn’t really matter who, Claire. It will happen, and the how or the why won’t really matter then. It will happen, and the sword will be poised above all our necks, then.” Roosevelt’s eyes swept the horizon, then he turned to Claire. “What about you, Claire? Ready for a life of domestic tranquility?”

“I don’t know that I could let go just now, Mr President. I want to see this through.”

“Yes…there’s nothing so vital as having a purpose in life, yet there’s also nothing as important as having your own little sliver of immortality. Children are still our best shot at that, I guess you know?” Roosevelt added, turning to look at Goodman again.

“You’re correct, of course, Mr President.”

“Look at them,” Roosevelt sighed, the word drifting away in the slipstream as he pointed at the night sky. “Not even the stars will last forever. I know you two feel something for one another, and it would do me a world of good to see something nice and decent come from all this uranium nonsense. All I ask is that you think about it, alright? Just think about it, before it’s too late.”

Goodman stood and walked forward, past the number one turret and on to the foredeck, and two ratings walked along behind him – just in case – then Roosevelt turned to Claire. “No time like the present, I always say,” the president whispered. “Roy, I feel I’ve had enough of this air for now. You’d better get me inside.”

She turned away as Roosevelt struggled back into his wheelchair, but she watched his men wrestle his chair inside before turning to look at Goodman. He was leaning on a rail up forward, still looking up at the stars, and she looked at him for the longest while, then she turned and walked aft, back to her cabin.

+++++

She had expected Tehran to be unbearably hot, yet the city was pleasantly cool, almost cold at night. She was with Roosevelt’s party, staying at the Soviet embassy, and while Goodman’s room was next to her’s she did not see him once after they settled-in at the embassy. Roosevelt’s intrusion had rattled her, and she neither needed or wanted some sort of presidential imprimatur attached to any relationship she might have – even if that’s what she called this nascent thing between them.

They’d seen each other, from a distance, anyway, while still on the Iowa, even after one of the escorting destroyers accidentally launched a torpedo at the battleship, but Roosevelt didn’t summon her again. Perhaps Goodman had relayed what had happened, perhaps not, but the evening had unsettled her. Had it him, too?

And why had she gone back to her cabin? Why had she left him alone up there? What had she felt for him before? Friendship? Or had there been something more? Something beyond gratitude, that he had taken care of her at Georgetown when her “walking pneumonia” very nearly took her out? What of those long walks in the piñon out on the west side of Los Alamos? When they’d talked about California versus Maryland, of perhaps getting married and starting a family.

Yet she’d never once seen the slightest hint of love in his eyes. Empathy? Yes. Compassion? Again, yes. But love for her? Not in the slightest. Yet the first time she saw him around young men, good looking young men, his eyes sparkled – with pure, unbridled lust – and that had settled the matter. Still, she had to admit that lust had never been a powerful draw for her. She’d never had sex, not once, and she’d told herself more than once that if she went through life without experiencing lust that wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.

And she almost believed that, too.

On one of their last walks together in New Mexico she’d asked him about that. About what he felt when he saw attractive young men. “I don’t know,” he’d replied hesitantly, his eyes looking away, his shame apparent. “Why do you ask?”

“Because you seem so full of desire.”

“I do?”

“What do you mean, ‘I do?’ Are you telling me you aren’t homosexual?”

“I don’t know. I suppose I might be…”

“You mean you’ve never…?”

“Good God, no!”

“But you’re attracted to men, right?”

“I don’t know,” he’d said with a sigh. “I suppose it’s possible.”

Yet as hard as she tried to believe him, she knew he was lying. She knew this was so because she could see deceit in his eyes when he spoke just then, something she’d never expected to see from him. So, when he’d walked away from Roosevelt that night on deck, he’d walked away from her too. From any idea of a future together.

Yet there was something about him that attracted her still. His empathic soul, perhaps. His ability to see into people, to understand them. Yes, it was simply ironic that he couldn’t see into his own soul, or that he was willing to walk away from what he saw about himself, but that only made his tragic flaw that much more intriguing.

So, she’d thought about him that first night in Tehran. She wondered if he might indeed be a good father, a good partner for the rest of their lives. Could she ignore his lustful impulses, contain them enough to keep him from destroying their lives? Would it be worthwhile to even live like that? Would she want the central equation of their lives reduced to an ongoing series of evasions?

Yet the very next day, while walking to the British embassy, she’d felt a young man fall in beside her…

“Dr. Aubuchon?” the man asked.

“Yes?”

“My name is Trevor. Trevor Goldberg. I’m with the British delegation.”

“Ah.”

“If you have some time after the next session, I’d like to talk with you, if I could.”

“About?”

“Your work.”

“Indeed. And why would I do that?”

“I’ve asked my minister to have a word with Secretary Hull; he’ll vouch for my status.”

“Alright, Mr Goldberg.”

“It’s doctor, if you don’t mind.”

“Ah. Your field, Dr. Goldberg?”

“Quantum mechanics.”

“What?”

“I’ll explain later,” the man said, but he veered off and joined another group, and she watched him as they walked away, lost inside a peculiar thought.

She’d seen him before.

On that ship. On that ship, the ship looking out on Saturn’s rings.