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‘’I decided to follow Nancy and Mike to the future to be able to live with them and also to escape the oppression and atrocities to which the Jews in Germany were subjected to then.’’

‘’What sort of atrocities, miss?’’

‘’The systematic extermination of all the Jews in Europe and the seizure of all their possessions.’’ Replied calmly Ingrid, shocking deeply Lori.

‘’But, who could do or even justify such a monstrosity?’’

‘’The Nazi Party, which held power in Germany and had triggered the war in Europe in 1939. It followed a policy of racial purity that proclaimed the superiority of the Aryan race. According to that policy, the Jews were a threat to the purity of the race.’’

‘’Uh, excuse my ignorance, Miss Weiss, but I don’t know what is the Aryan race.’’

Understanding, Ingrid pointed Susanna Berghof and Frida Winterer to Lori.

‘’My friends Susanna and Frida are what a Nazi could qualify of being perfect examples of Aryan women. All the other races were considered inferior, to varying degrees, with the Jews at the bottom of the barrel.’’

‘’But, you said that being a Jew was a question of faith, not of race. I don’t understand.’’

‘’That is because there is nothing to understand, Miss Kano. The Nazi ideologues classified the Jews as having distinct blood, even though many had absolutely no Semitic genetic heritage. The Jews had become the scapegoats for the ills of Germany and the Nazis had the German people unified against them. If I would have returned to Germany as a Jew during the war, I would have been arrested, deported to a concentration camp and eventually killed.’’

Lori, by now seriously shaken by Ingrid’s words, then noticed that many of the ancestors around looked sad or embarrassed.

‘’Uh, are many of you German?’’

She was surprised to see fifteen of the 21 ancestors raise a hand, including the four women at her table. She then turned towards Nancy Laplante, an expression of disbelief on her face.

‘’You chose the majority of the members of your organization among people that were technically your enemies, Miss Laplante? Why?’’

‘’Because I had seen that, individually, these men and women were most decent people, who deserved better than what their country could offer them at the end of the war. I believe passionately in tolerance and compassion, miss. Unfortunately, the 31

British, who I was fighting for in that war, considered my tolerance as fraternization with the enemy and treated me as a traitor to their cause. I was beaten up by fellow prisoners of war for that reason while interned by the Germans.’’

Lori stayed silent for a moment while staring at Nancy. She now realized that she would have to change drastically her views about ancestors in general and this woman in particular. Shaking herself back to her assignment, Lori faced Farah Tolkonen, still sitting besides Nancy and Mike Crawford.

‘’At what stage is your Time Patrol now, Doctor Tolkonen? Have you already started to patrol the past?’’

Farah shook her head in response.

‘’We won’t be operational for many more months, miss. Our agents need to be trained and educated on our technology, our ships still have to be designed and then built and we don’t have weapons yet. As for our ground infrastructure in New Lake City, they won’t be ready for at least another three weeks.’’

‘’Where will you take your weapons, Doctor? There are none in the Global Council, apart from non-lethal stun pistols?’’

Farah gave her a somber look.

‘’Finding weapons will not be difficult, Miss Kano: the past is full of them.’’

Lori concluded her interview twenty minutes later, having collected enough materiel to produce a quality news bulletin. Thanking Farah and her group, Lori then returned with her assistant to the GNN studios, 67 levels above. As they rode an elevator cabin, she thought that this new Time Patrol was certainly worthy of special attention from her, as its potential for generating sensational news was evident to her.

15:10 (London Time)

Tuesday, October 10, 2051 ‘A’

Sales store, Jane’s Publishing Editions

238 City Road, London

Great Britain

‘’This will make a total of 2,386 pounds and 46 pence, miss.’’ Said with a professional smile the young woman of Pakistani origin serving behind the cashier of the store. Nancy, a large leather case full of heavy books and magazines and of copies on 32

laser disks of the latest products made by Jane’s Publishing Editions at her side, paid cash the bill. Taking the receipt for her acquisitions from the most renowned publishing house specializing in military affairs, Nancy thanked the sales woman and grabbed her heavy case without apparent effort and left the store. She stopped for a moment on the sidewalk, looking around at the scenery of 2051 ‘A’ London. The city looked little like the London she had known in her time. Many historical buildings had been razed and replaced by steel and glass towers and the vehicle traffic was much quieter compared to that in 2012, most of the vehicles now being propelled by electric motors. The clothing fashion was however as diverse as before, going from the timeless conservative business suit to the most outrageous punk outfit. The racial diversity of the passersby was also greater, with pure Caucasians being actually in the minority.

Her next stop was at a computer store 400 meters away, near the junction with Old Street. Having checked first what type of software was used by her newly acquired laser discs, Nancy bought cash two laptop computers of the latest model, preloaded with the necessary software programs, plus a few accessories and transport bags for the laptops. Going a bit further to a bookstore, Nancy went carefully through its history section, finally selecting and buying a number of books and laser disks covering the history of the first half of the 21st Century. With her big leather case now weighing a good thirty kilos, on top of her two laptop bags, Nancy decided to stop at an Italian restaurant for supper, buying first two newspapers of the day at a nearby kiosk before entering the restaurant. After reading the menu and placing her order, she then quickly read the main titles of her two newspapers and frowned, not liking what she was seeing.

The whole Middle East and the Indian sub-continent were real powder kegs, with more than nine countries of the region, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria, possessing or being suspected of possessing nuclear weapons. To make things worse, the known oil reserves of the region, after about 150 years of intensive exploitation, were now nearly exhausted, with many Arab countries and Iran facing bankruptcy in the years to come.

In return, this discouraging prospect had made the populations of the Middle East both worried and furious, as they realized a bit late the extent to which the riches from oil extraction had been squandered or even squarely robbed by their elites, monarchs and various leaders. Political and religious extremism were now at record levels, with frequent terrorist attacks around the World. One of the titles in fact recalled one such attack, which had killed eight persons in London less than a week ago. In response to 33

this, most western countries had increased their military and security expenditures in the last years, if Nancy could believe an editorial she was reading. The nuclear arsenals of the large and medium powers had also grown, with Great Britain now possessing ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, on top of her submarine-launched missiles.

Nancy sighed as she put her newspapers in her leather case at the arrival of her meal: it was actually a miracle that a nuclear war had not yet started in those conditions.

She unfortunately knew that such a horror was going to happen in only eleven months and would nearly erase the Human race from the surface of the Earth. That cataclysm would however trigger in return the process from which would eventually emerge the society of the Global Council. The Nuclear Holocaust of 2052 was thus an event with which Nancy or the Time Patrol could not interfere with, even if her life depended on it, as it had been declared justly to be a key historical event that could not be manipulated or modified by anybody. Feeling immense sadness as she thought about that, Nancy went at her food without much conviction. She was about to finish eating when a powerful explosion a few hundreds of meters away made her jerk, like the other customers and staff of the restaurant, while the ground shook briefly from a shock wave.

While many rushed outside to see what had happened, Nancy stayed at her table, realizing what could that be. One customer then got a call on his cell phone a minute later and spoke in it briefly before closing it and looking around him.

‘’A bomb has just exploded at the Moorgate subway station. There are dead and wounded but the situation is very confused, according to a friend of mine who is there.’’

‘’Those damn Muslim extremists!’’ Spat another customer, a man in his fifties with red hair and wearing a business suit. ‘’We should nuke the Middle East and get rid for good of that nest of religious fanatics.’’

‘’You were happy enough to take their oil during all those decades.’’ Replied a customer with Semitic traits, taking offense at the words of the businessman. The exchange that followed quickly heated up, ending in a scuffle between five customers.

Nancy watched the scene, bitter at seeing how full of hatred and intolerance the World was now. It took the arrival of two policemen and the efforts of the employees of the restaurant to separate the combatants and reestablish a semblance of calm. Paying her bill, Nancy grabbed her precious case and bags and left, hailing a taxi to go to a discreet rendezvous point, where Mona Zirel would soon pick her up with a time scooter.

34

09:44 (North America Central Time)

Monday, September 7, 3384 ‘A’

Time laboratory, Physics Annex

New Lake City University campus

Great Lakes region, North America

Global Council

‘’Here you go, Jan!’’ Said Nancy while putting down a thick pile of books and magazines on the desk of the newly hired chief historian of the Time Patrol. ‘’I also have with me laser disks containing more historical data, but a technician will have first to transfer the data to a medium compatible with Global Council computers.’’

Jan Bella, a man with a jovial character, shouted with joy as he spread the books and magazines on his desk, which was set up in a corner of the original time laboratory since their future headquarters was still under construction.

‘’Nancy, I could kiss your ass! Do you realize how incomplete and fragmentary our historical databases are about the history prior to the 25th Century? Just these books would justify the money put into the Time Patrol up to now.’’

‘’I know, Jan.’’ Said soberly Nancy before putting on his desk the two newspapers bought in London. ‘’I believe that these newspapers will tell you a lot about the causes of the 2052 Nuclear Holocaust.’’

The historian, a true speed reader, reviewed quickly the main titles of the newspapers, his face becoming progressively more somber, before looking again at Nancy.

‘’I see what you mean, Nancy. Be assured that all this will be reproduced and disseminated quickly via the history department of the Science Council.’’

‘’Please make sure that you also keep a copy of all this in our own databanks, so that our members can easily access this data. We will very soon need this information for more missions in the 21st Century.’’

‘’Oh? What type of missions?’’

‘’To find weapons.’’

‘’Oh!’’ Said simply Bella, knowing how delicate that subject was with the High Council. Excusing herself with Bella, Nancy went next to the desk occupied by Mike Crawford, her case and bags in her hands. Mike was now officially the assistant 35

operations officer of the Time Patrol and would coordinate the acquisition of weapons and the training of their agents with those weapons, apart from helping Nancy to plan and lead the operations of the organization. She kissed him quickly before opening her big leather case and taking out the heavy books and magazines from Jane’s Publishing.

‘’I have to go see our computer technician to have him transfer the content of a few laser disks on mediums compatible with the Global Council computers. In the meantime, could you start looking at the Jane’s 2051 Annual on infantry weapons, to see which weapons would be most appropriate for our needs?’’

‘’I certainly can do that, Nancy.’’ Said Mike, his eyes gleaming. As an ordnance engineer and a qualified gunsmith in 1941, the prospect of learning about what small arms were like in 2051 was making him water at the mouth.

Mike had his nose in the thick book even before Nancy walked out of the lab.

Having been an American Army officer, he went first to the United States section on rifles to see what the American Army was using in 2051. What he saw there made him positively salivate. However, as an experienced gunsmith, he knew too well that a weapon could appear excellent at first, to later reveal hidden flaws. That had been the case with the Ross Rifle, produced for the Canadian Army during the 1914-18 Great War in Europe. Although an excellent precision and hunting rifle, the Ross Rifle had quickly revealed itself to be overly sensitive to mud and dust, jamming continuously and forcing its withdrawal from service. Mike thus tempered his enthusiasm and read carefully the comments on the various weapons described in the Jane’s book. The books published by Jane’s had been widely acknowledge to be impartial and professional in their coverage and Mike thus took note of any negative point described in the pages he was reading. Taking copious notes, he finally set his choice on a family of weapons that had used a concept called ‘Metal Storm’, which had been designed in Australia but then had been adopted by the American Colt Company. That concept called for many projectiles and their propellant to be loaded one on top of the other inside a single firing tube, to be then ignited electronically. That concept eliminated nearly all moving parts except in the trigger group, allowed the rate of fire to be varied at will and resulted in weapons vastly more simple and significantly lighter than conventional weapons. In the rifle in service with the United States Army and Marine Corps in 2051, the Colt-storm CRGL

TERMINATOR, this concept had been combined with another concept, that of telescoped case ammunition, resulting in a compact weapon with a capacity of 120 high 36

velocity 6mm bullets and three 50mm rifle grenades ready to fire, with a total weight of only five kilos once fully loaded. The 6mm armor-piercing ammunition was contained in twelve steel tubes held together inside a molded polymer block that also helped absorb the high pressures from burning propellant. The block, which could quickly be replaced by a full one, fit behind the block holding the twelve barrels that gave the weapons an excellent precision up to a range of 600 meters. A long grenade-launching tube was positioned under the barrels block and used a pneumatic compensator to minimize recoil. According to Jane’s, the CRGL TERMINATOR was giving total satisfaction in service and had no known flaws. Convince to have found what the Time Patrol needed, Mike took specific notes on this rifle and on the other weapons from the same family, including the location of the plants producing the weapons and the ammunition, then continued his review.

After another half hour of research, Mike stumbled on the description of a Russian assault rifle specifically designed with an integrated silencer and using heavy, subsonic bullets to further cut the firing noise. He thus took notes as well on that AS Val and its 9mm x 39 ammunition. When Nancy came back nearly two hours later, he showed her what he had found, attracting a smile on her face.

‘’So, those old moronic generals in the Pentagon finally understood and accepted the Metal Storm concept.’’

‘’You already knew about that concept in 2012?’’ Asked Mike, surprised.

‘’Yes! In 2012, that concept had been in existence for nearly twenty years already, but American generals thought it was too revolutionary to be adopted, despite the successful trial fires of a 40mm grenade-launching system. I suspect that the ‘not invented here syndrome’ had something to do with their reluctance to adopt this system.’’

‘’Yeah! I am too familiar with that mentality. The fact that the Colt Company eventually bought the rights to the Metal Storm concept probably was what decided the Pentagon to adopt it. What do you think of that family of weapons, and of this AS Val?’’

‘’I am actually a firm believer in the Metal Storm concept and I doubt that anything better existed before 2052. This is clearly the best choice for our agents and, eventually, for arming our future combat robots. As for the AS Val, it had been in service since the 1980s with the Russian special forces and I personally had the chance to fire it. It is a very effective weapon and would be ideal for discreet missions by our agents.

37

It was already nearly out of the inventory in 2051, so I will have to go procure some AS

Val rifles and its special ammunition well before 2052.’’

‘’Where and when do you think you will be able to find those AS Val rifles?’’

Nancy smiled with malice at that question.

‘’Don’t forget that I am a war correspondent and that I covered about everything that touched military weapons…including illegal arms trafficking around the World. The Russian and French governments were not calling me ‘The shit disturber’ for nothing.’’

11:43 (Ukraine Time)

Sunday, March 1, 1992 ‘A’

Christian Orthodox church

Kiev, Ukraine

Victor Medveyev waited that his bodyguard had exited the church first, so that he could check for any potential threat outside, then walked out towards his car, where another bodyguard waited. With his secret occupation as an arms dealer and with the actual, chaotic situation around the rapidly disintegrating U.S.S.R., anything could happen, mostly bad things in fact. However, that same chaotic situation was presently helping him enormously, with opportunities opening for obtaining previously nearly impossible to acquire weapons. He had even heard about another dealer who had been able to steal three modern T-80 battle tanks from the Soviet Army.

Walking quickly in the frigid air of Kiev, with snow over ten centimeters thick on the ground, Victor made his way among the crowd of worshippers also exiting the church. A tall and beautiful young woman that had also attended the Sunday service then spoke to him in Russian in a low voice without looking at him as she passed near Victor.

‘’Mister Medveyev, I have a business proposition for you. If you are interested, get in your car and do a tour of the bloc before picking me up at the corner of the next street to the right.’’

Victor threw a sharp look at the woman, trying to recognize her. She was however a total unknown to him. Knowing that could possibly be an attempt by the federal police to trap him, as much as being a real proposal, Victor decided to take the risk…for the moment.

38

‘’Very well! If I see that we are followed, though…’’

‘’Don’t worry!’’ Simply said the woman before walking away on the sidewalk.

Frankly intrigued, Victor got in the back of his car and gave an order to his driver-cum-bodyguard.

‘’Start the car and do slowly a complete tour of the bloc, Misha: we have a young woman to pick up at the next corner, after our tour.’’

The driver, a tall and muscular man with a shaved head, nodded and started the engine of the big Mercedes. Rolling slowly, the car soon passed the young woman, who was still walking towards the next corner. Doing a complete tour of the bloc as ordered, the driver then stopped at the designated street corner, where the woman was now waiting.

Alex, Victor’s senior bodyguard, got out and quickly searched the woman for weapons before letting her sit in the back with Victor. The latter eyed with curiosity the woman, who had quite a lot of sex-appeal despite her rather short black hair.

‘’May I ask how you know me, Miss…?’’

‘’Just call me Nancy.’’ Said the woman with a very slight accent that sounded French to Victor. ‘’May I call you Victor?’’

‘’All pretty women can call me Victor, Nancy.’’ Replied the arms dealer, who liked to think of himself as a handsome man that attracted women. ‘’Do not talk business right now, until I could verify that you are not carrying a microphone or a tape recorder. Are you French, Nancy?’’

The woman smiled back to him and shook an index.

‘’I am ready to show you my body but not my identity, Victor. If someone asks you about me, I am just an escort girl that you just picked up for some private time.’’

Victor licked his lips as he admired the ample, firm chest of the said Nancy, who had opened her coat to reveal a short dress with a wide cleavage. Her story was actually a good cover…if she was really a potential client and not a police officer. Opening the small bar in the back of the Mercedes, Victor took out a half-bottle of champagne and two cups, handing the cups to the young woman.

‘’In that case, we might as well play the game right, Nancy.’’

Opening the bottle, Victor half filled the cups and replaced the closed bottle in the bar before taking one of the cups and raising it.

‘’To our mutual health, Nancy.’’

39

They knocked their glasses together before taking a sip while eyeing each other.

Nancy’s left hand then searched for Victor’s right hand, to guide it towards her gorgeous legs.

‘’We should give the appearances as well, Victor, in case someone is watching.’’

She said in a mellow voice. Not believing his luck, Victor felt free to explore the splendid young woman, whose green eyes fascinated him.

By the time that his car arrived at a luxurious residence in an exclusive district of Kiev, Victor was positively on fire. Nancy put back some order in her clothes before stepping out with him once the Mercedes was inside the large garage of the residence.

Followed closely by Alex and Misha, Victor escorted Nancy to his private study, keeping his two bodyguards with him as he closed the doors and faced the young woman.

‘’I believe that now is a good time to prove to me that you are not carrying a microphone or recording device, my dear.’’

‘’Fair is fair.’’ She replied with a smile before starting to take off her clothes, handing each piece to the senior bodyguard so that he could check it. She eventually ended up totally naked and turned slowly around to show herself to Victor, who now had a mighty erection.

‘’As you can see, my dear Victor, I have nothing to hide.’’

Victor, swallowing hard, looked at Alex, who nodded his head once.

‘’She had nothing abnormal with her, boss, apart from 100,000 American dollars in used bills in a brown envelope. She however had no identity papers on her.’’

Frankly intrigued, Victor eyed the still naked Nancy.

‘’That is a lot of cash to carry like this, miss. What do you want exactly?’’

‘’Let’s sit down first, Victor.’’

Victor agreed readily to that, sitting with her on his favorite sofa and doing his best not to be distracted by her nudity. She was the one to speak next.

‘’What I want is sixty AS Val silenced assault rifles in 9 x 39mm caliber, plus 600

20-round magazines and a minimum of 100,000 9 x 39 SP-6 armor piercing bullets. If you could find as well a stock of spare parts for those rifles, the better. If you are successful in finding and getting those rifles, magazines and bullets, you will get another 100,000 dollars, plus one extra dollar per 9 x 39 bullet above the initial 100,000 first ones. You can keep the cash I brought with me as a first payment…if you accept to deal with me.’’

40

Victor frowned on hearing her requests.

‘’AS Val rifles? That type of weapon is used by Spetsnaz1 special forces units and is only in limited circulation. It won’t be easy to find so many of them, my dear.’’

‘’Come on, Victor! A man as competent as you, in the midst of such chaos in Russia? I am sure that you will be able to find all this without much difficulty.’’

‘’And for who are those rifles, if I may ask?’’

Nancy smiled but wiggled her left index in front of her.

‘’You can ask, but I will not answer, my dear Victor. Let’s say that my employer likes discretion. When do you think that you could get all this?’’

Victor reviewed mentally the contacts he had that could help in this affair. Using the initial 100,000 dollars brought by Nancy to pay his eventual provider, he figured out that it shouldn’t be too hard to find a willing intermediate.

‘’Give me two weeks, Nancy. I should have your things by then. How will I contact you then?’’

‘’Easy: I will pay you a visit here in two weeks as an escort girl, officially to give you a nice, sexy massage session. We will talk then. Oh, one last point: my employer does not want any deaths to be caused by this deal. Dead bodies tend to attract investigations…and problems.’’

‘’Your employer is a sensible person.’’ Agreed Victor, who tried himself to avoid violence as much as possible in his business. Even if he sold weapons, he did not think of himself as a cruel or merciless man. In fact, he preferred to be described as a simple businessman who dealt in special tools. He then offered his right hand to Nancy, who shook it.

‘’We have a deal, miss. I will be expecting you in two weeks. My driver will now drive you, if you wish.’’

Nancy nodded her head and got up from the sofa.

‘’In that case, he can drive me back to the church where we met first.’’

Victor looked at Misha, who nodded in turn. Nancy took the time to put back her clothes and gave a last smile to Victor as she was leaving.

‘’See you in two weeks, Victor.’’

As the door closed behind her, Victor looked at his senior bodyguard and threw his hands up.

1 Spetsnaz : ‘Voiska Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya’, Soviet military intelligence special forces.

41

‘’Damn! Why can’t all my customers look like her?’’

‘’She is effectively very pretty, boss.’’ Replied Alex, who then became serious.

‘’You don’t think that she could have been sent to entrap you, boss?’’

‘’I doubt it. However, it doesn’t cost much to be careful: search her carefully when she will return in two weeks.’’

‘’Understood,

boss.’’

13:05 (Ukraine Time)

Sunday, March 15, 1992 ‘A’

Victor Medveyev’s residence

Kiev, Ukraine

Alex kept a blank face when he opened the main entrance door to find Nancy waiting, wearing the same wool coat as last time.

‘’Good day! I come to see Victor, as promised.’’

‘’Please come in, miss.’’

Once the door was closed and locked behind her, Alex made a sign for Nancy not to move.

‘’Sorry, miss, but I must search you first.’’

‘’Go ahead!’’ Replied calmly Nancy, who then took off her coat and gave it to the bodyguard. Alex carefully searched it, looking for any microphone or miniature transmitter that could have been sown in the lining. The only things he found in the coat were three big envelopes full of American dollars and a pair of gloves. He then methodically searched Nancy all over, but did his best to be polite while still being thorough. Finding nothing suspect, he led her to the same study where she had spoken with Victor, knocking on the door and getting an answer from inside.

‘’Come

in!’’

Victor Medveyev got up from behind his work desk and went to meet Nancy with a wide smile as she entered with Alex.

‘’Good news, my dear! I was able to obtain all that you wanted. The lot arrived in Kiev yesterday and you will be able to take delivery of it…once you pay me, of course.’’

‘’How many rounds of ammunition were you able to get, and of what type?’’

Asked Nancy while shaking his hand.

42

‘’I have your 100,000 armor piercing SP-6 bullets, plus another 40,000 bullets of the standard SP-5 type. I was even able to get you a stock of spare parts, plus a hundred magazine-carrying vests. The rifles, magazines, ammunition and spares are presently in a local warehouse.’’

‘’Excellent! There was no blood spilled during the acquisition, I hope?’’

‘’Do not worry, my dear: a false military truck with false orders simply picked up the lot at the TSNIITOCHMASH plant, in Klimovsk, then disappeared.’’

Nancy smiled, frankly amused: the simplest plans were often the best ones.

‘’In that case, how about going with you to take delivery of my stuff right now?’’

‘’Like that? Alone?’’ Said Victor, confused, attracting a malicious smile from Nancy.

‘’Well, I did park nearby a rented truck. I will just need to get my truck, then you will be able to lead me to your warehouse.’’

‘’Uh, why not? The less time these weapons stay in my hands, the better for me.

You do have the rest of the payment, I hope?’’

Nancy took out the three big envelopes full of dollars and gave two of them to Victor.

‘’Here are 200,000 dollars for the weapons and the first 100,000 bullets, on top of the 100,000 dollars I already gave you. I will give the last 40,000 dollars once I have checked everything and once it is in my truck.’’

Victor quickly counted the money before looking at Nancy, satisfied.

‘’Decidedly, it is a pleasure to deal with you, my dear. Let me do a couple of phone calls first, then we will go. If you could please wait in the hallway for a moment.’’

‘’Of course, Victor. Take your time.’’

Victor let Alex lead Nancy out of the study, then went to his hidden safe once the door was closed, securing the piles of dollars in the safe. His first call was to his two men guarding the warehouse where the weapons and ammunition were hidden, to warn them that he was coming with two cars and a truck. The second call was to his driver, telling him to have four more men and a car ready to escort Nancy’s truck and make sure that nobody was following them. Once that was done, Victor left his study and escorted with Alex Nancy to the garage of the residence. Misha was already there with four armed men, who got in a second Mercedes, while Misha, Alex and Nancy took place with Victor in the latter’s armored Mercedes.

43

Three blocks away, Nancy got out with Alex to get in a big box truck wearing the logo of a rental company. With Nancy at the wheel and Alex at her side to make sure she didn’t call anyone, the two Mercedes sandwiched the truck as the small convoy started rolling through Kiev. Twelve kilometers further, the convoy arrived at what looked like an abandoned garage at the end of a private road just outside of the city.

Victor got out first to talk to his two guards as Nancy turned her truck around to back it inside the garage. Nancy smiled with satisfaction on seeing a large pile of crates hidden by a tarp in a corner of the old garage. Followed closely by Victor and Alex, she went to the crates and, pulling away the tarp, opened one of the weapons crates. Finding four rifles inside, she took one out and inspected it quickly, then disassembled it with an expertise that Victor appreciated. Inspecting its inner mechanism, then reassembling it and putting it back in its crate, Nancy counted the weapons crates as well as the ammunition crates. She last inspected the crates containing the empty magazines, the accessories and the spare parts. Apparently satisfied, she turned around to face Victor.

‘’Can I ask your men to start loading the crates in the back of my truck? I would however like to have each of the weapons crates opened before being loaded in the truck. For a total of 340,000 dollars, I believe that I have the right to check the merchandise, no?’’

‘’Effectively!’’ Said Victor, who then looked at his senior bodyguard. ‘’Tell three of our men to come help load the crates, but leave at least one man outside to watch for intruders.’’

‘’One moment, Alex!’’ Said suddenly Nancy as the bodyguard was about to walk away. She counted 8,000 dollars in large bills and gave them to Alex.

‘’Just a little extra for you and those three men, for their efforts.’’ She explained.

Alex grinned and took the money, then walked out of the garage to get his men. Nancy then gave the last 40,000 dollars to Victor.

‘’Good accounts make good friends. Let’s load these crates and complete this deal.’’

Twenty minutes of work were enough to have all the crates loaded in the back of the rental truck, with Nancy checking each rifle crate, plus a few ammunition crates at random. Once the truck was loaded and its rear doors closed, Nancy faced Victor, who suddenly became nervous. This was the critical moment, when a police team could 44

swarm the garage and catch him in the act. However, Nancy simply shook hands with him, to his relief.

‘’Thank you for your services, Victor. Believe it or not but you just made a good deed, in a way: these weapons will help a good cause.’’

‘’Weapons don’t make war, miss: men do!’’

‘’Very true, Victor.’’

She then surprised Victor by gluing herself to him to give him a long, sensual kiss while letting his hands roam on her body. She finally parted with him and smiled gently.

‘’Consider this a last bonus, Victor. Goodbye and be careful: your job is a risky one.’’

‘’Don’t hesitate to come back to Kiev if you ever need something else, Nancy.

Hell, you can come back any time, business or no business.’’

Victor sighed as the truck rolled out of the garage, Nancy at the wheel. Somehow, he knew that he would never be able to forget her. Taking out the pile of dollars she had given him, he smiled with contentment and promised himself to celebrate this deal in style tonight.

14:51 (North America Central Time)

Wednesday, September 9, 3384 ‘A’

Time laboratory, Physics Annex

New Lake City University campus

Great Lakes region, North America

Mike Crawford took with a smile the AS Val handed to him by Nancy and examined it in detail, while the other members of the Time Patrol stood around to look at the weapons and ammunition just brought from 1992 ‘A’. Farah Tolkonen stood a few paces away with Jan Bella, watching her members examine with enthusiasm the first lethal weapons to be imported in the Global Council in 400 years. Bella then whispered in her ear.

‘’I must say that I am not too enthusiastic at seeing these weapons here, Farah, even though I realize that they will be essential for the work of the Time Patrol.’’

‘’I understand your feelings, Jan. This is only the beginning. Many more weapons will follow soon.’’

‘’And where will we put all this, especially the ammunition and the explosives?’’

45

‘’Nancy has already selected a location for them outside of New Lake City, a location that will become our combat and shooting training center. Standard prefabricated modular buildings should be delivered tomorrow and installed in Chicago.’’

‘’Chicago? But, the city was utterly destroyed in 2052 and has been deserted ever since. There is nothing left in Chicago except for ruins covered with vegetation and millions of human skeletons.’’

‘’That is exactly why Nancy chose that location, Jan.’’ Replied Farah on a sober tone. ‘’If you will excuse me for a second.’’

Going to Nancy and taking her aside, Farah put one hand on her right shoulder.

‘’Nancy, I wanted to tell you that I have finished building your special implants and have tested them thoroughly. They are now ready to be grafted into you. When could you be available for the operation.’’

Nancy gave her a sober look, knowing what those implants represented for her.

‘’You may schedule the operation any time starting tomorrow, my friend.’’

09:23 (North America Central Time)

Thursday, September 10, 3384 ‘A’

New Lake City University Medical Center

Farah, wearing full surgical garb, approached the operating table on which Nancy lay on her back and went near her head, presenting her a steel tray supporting a number of small devices.

‘’Your special Time Patrol field agent’s implants, Nancy. The main piece is the time distorter device, with its computer and its bio-energy collecting wires. It will be grafted on the inside face of your lower vertebras and will allow you to jump through space-time by yourself, without the need for a time ship or time scooter. Like the other implants, it is nearly transparent to X-rays and will be very difficult to detect by doctors of your time, short of invasive surgery. The device to its left will be grafted near the base of your skull and contains a micro radio transceiver coupled with a mental waves relay and a time waves transceiver. That unit will enable you to send and receive radio and time waves messages mentally, without speaking out loud. It will also allow you to control your time distorter unit and send mental commands to it. The small cylinder besides the cranium implant is a directional microphone, which will be implanted inside your left ear and will allow you to have very sensitive hearing. Lastly, those long wires and tiny chip 46

will be implanted in the palm of your left hand and fingers and constitute a stun weapon.

You will just need to touch someone’s head with two of your left fingers and mentally activate this device to send a stun discharge in that person’s brain and knock him or her unconscious for long minutes. Once you are implanted with these devices and will have practiced their use, you will be able to write a training program for our other agents, who will eventually all get these implants.’’

‘’So, I am about to become a living time travel machine.’’

‘’Essentially, yes. Learning to use these devices properly will however take you some time, a few weeks probably.’’

‘’It will be time well spent, Farah. These implants may represent the difference between life and death for our agents on a mission. You may start the operation: I am ready.’’

Quite anxious despite of the fact that she was an experienced surgeon, Farah kissed Nancy gently on her head before signaling to her assistant nurse to activate the pain inhibitor headband that Nancy wore. She then grabbed her laser scalpel and started her delicate surgery work.

03:38 (Eastern Standard Time)

Friday, February 7, 2053 ‘A’

Ammunition depot, Fort Drum

New York State, United States

‘’Nothing on the thermal detectors, no campfires or artificial lights, Maran?’’

‘’Nothing within a radius of ten kilometers anyway, Nancy.’’ Answered in a somber voice Maran Tolvek as he scanned with the sensors of the HERMES heavy shuttle the ground under them. ‘’I would need to take some altitude to be able to scan a wider area.’’

‘’This will suffice. Mona, land us between those two storage bunkers: they will partially hide us from view. Don’t light up any of our ship’s light.’’

‘’You think that there could be survivors in the area, Nancy?’’ Asked Mike Crawford, looking over Nancy’s shoulders at the sensors screens. The latter tightened her jaws, having been struck hard like the others on the shuttle at the level of devastation and at the conditions they had found all along the American East Coast area. Despite the fact that they had expected to find the United States destroyed by 47

numerous nuclear weapons strikes, what they had seen up to now had surpassed their worst nightmares.

‘’I doubt it, Mike, but those that are best adapted to survive in this hell for over five months are the ones who could prove most dangerous for us: soldiers or members of private militias. What exactly are the conditions outside, Maran?’’

Maran shook slowly his head as he consulted his instruments.

‘’The outside ambient temperature is minus 43 degrees centigrade with the wind factor and there is a blanket of snow at least two meter-thick everywhere. The outside radiation level is 75 milligrays per hour, high enough to accumulate a semi-lethal dose in three days. Even with your protective suits, you should not stay outside for more than a total of four hours if you don’t want to exceed the maximum authorized annual dosage.’’

‘’We will then operate via our remotely controlled probes and our robots, as planned. We will go out only if absolutely necessary.’’ Decided Nancy. ‘’No objections or suggestions, guys?’’

Klaus Manheim, Heinrik Braun and Mike Crawford, all present in the cockpit with her, Maran and Mona, had nothing to say then. All of them, except for the two young giants, were armed with stun pistols and AS Val rifles and wore anti-radiation suits.

‘’Then, let’s start! Mona, you did leave one of our radios opened on the international distress frequency?’’

‘’Yes, and it is on the internal loud-speaker. Our radio scanner is also activated.

If anyone transmits in this area, we will hear it.’’

‘’Perfect! Maran, you can send our first probe inside the closest bunker.’’

‘’Here we go!’’ Announced the young engineer after punching a number of commands on his control panel. ‘’The image from the probe will be visible on screen number three.’’

All eyes then fixed on the said screen, which now showed the growing image of the armored entrance door of the nearest bunker. Stopping the flying probe just in front of the door, time to calculate a space-time jump, Maran then made the probe jump inside the bunker. The probe then lit up its powerful arc lamp and, guided by Maran, approached a long pile of crates supported on wooden pallets. Nancy concentrated to read the English inscriptions on the crates as the probe slowly went down the line of pallets.

48

‘’Hmm, these are mortar bombs… More mortar bombs. Let’s review the opposite row of pallets, Maran… No, this bunker contains only mortar bombs and artillery shells.

Mike, you are noting down what we find in each bunker?’’

Mike, who was holding a photo-map of Fort Drum and a marker pen, nodded his head.

‘’I’m on top of it, Nancy.’’

‘’Good! Maran, you can send the probe in the next bunker.’’

The first five bunkers proved of little interest to them, containing only artillery, tank gun and mortar ammunition. Inside the sixth bunker, however, Nancy saw something that got her excited.

‘’BINGO! These are crates full of magazine blocks of 6mm bullets for TERMINATOR assault rifles.’’

That bunker soon proved to be filled exclusively with 6mm ammunition and with loaded launch tubes for 50mm grenades for TERMINATOR rifles, as did the seven next bunkers. The two next bunkers after that proved to be full of ammunition for machine pistols, plus anti-tank missiles, while three other bunkers were filled to capacity with hand grenades and heavy sniper rifle bullets. Nancy was by now ecstatic.

‘’Excellent! We have now found more than enough ammunition for our needs.

Mike, how many 6mm bullets do you estimate we found in those bunkers to date?’’

‘’Judging from the dimensions of the bunkers and the depth and height of the piles of crates, I would say that we found at the least 24 million rounds of 6mm ammunition for TERMINATOR rifles, along with about 30,000 50mm rifle grenades in their launch tubes. All the bunkers that we visited to date were filled to capacity, and more, which would tend to indicate that the American forces were stocking up for a war.

I would however counsel that we finish the inventory of all the bunkers in this ammunition dump, then go inspect the base’s weapons vault before starting to load anything in our shuttle.’’

‘’That makes sense.’’ Recognized Nancy. ‘’Then, let’s complete our inspection of the remaining bunkers, Maran.’’

They found various types of ammunition in the next four bunkers. However, things changed drastically as the probe entered the third to last bunker, making Mike exclaim in an excited tone.

49

‘’WAIT! Those are weapons crates, not ammunition crates. There are thousands of them!’’

‘’But, objected Klaus Manheim, ‘’why keep so many weapons in reserve? The troops on this base should already have had their individual weapons with them, no?’’

‘’You are right, Klaus.’’ Said calmly Nancy, her eyes riveted on the screen as the probe approached one of the crates to read the markings on it. ‘’As Mike said earlier, the American forces seemed to be preparing for war when this base and others were hit by nuclear weapons. Those weapons were probably destined to equip conscripts following a general mobilization. However, those conscripts never had time to be recruited and brought here. Yes! This crate alone contains four Colt CRGL

TERMINATOR combined assault rifles and grenade launchers. Send the probe down the line, Maran… More TERMINATOR crates… Now I see machine pistols crates…

Handguns crates… Hell, here are some anti-tank missile launchers as well. We now have found everything we want. However, let’s check the two last bunkers for good measure.’’

The second to last bunker proved also full of weapons crates, but the last bunker contained something Nancy had not expected. She did a double take as she read the inscriptions on one of the thousands of boxes stored in that bunker.

‘’Individual body armor kits and helmets? Why not store them in the base quartermaster warehouse instead of here in the ammunition dump?’’

Mike, also intrigued by this, finally proposed something.

‘’If those armor kits and helmets are as sophisticated as I think they are, they probably are each worth a few thousands of dollars, at the least. That makes for very attractive and expensive kit. Also, the base warehouse may have been too full for storing these kits. Remember: if they really expected thousands of new conscripts to show up, the warehouse would have been overflowing with boxes of uniforms and individual gear.’’

‘’You may be right, Mike. This really interests me. If these armor suits prove good enough, they would be perfect for us. The Global Council does produce good protective suits, but they are of the wrong size…and have six-fingered gloves. I am going to jump inside and check on of these kits out. Maran, give me a safe jump coordinate for me inside the bunker.’’

50

‘’Uh, as you wish, Nancy. The radiation levels inside the bunker are actually negligible. The coordinates are now showing on the lower left corner of the screen.’’

‘’Thanks! I shouldn’t be long, guys.’’

Nancy then disappeared from where she stood, making Mike and the others jump.

‘’Damn! What Nancy can now do with her new implants nearly boggles my mind.’’

Nancy reappeared in the dark bunker between the two opposing lines of boxes and lit up the headlamp of her light helmet, then walked to the pallet nearest to the door, which had only two levels of boxes instead of the four on the other pallets. Opening the top box, she found inside a number of body armor parts carefully sealed in plastic bags and insulated from shocks by plastic foam inserts. Even with what she expected from military technology in 2052, what she saw impressed her. The armor parts were made of a kind of molded composite material that seemed extremely tough, yet was lightweight. Taking out a helmet with full face visor and breathing apparatus, she saw that it could be sealed to filter out toxic chemical agents. The helmet also incorporated a miniature radio set and what looked like a night vision system. Taking the helmet out of its protective bag and putting it on in place of her own helmet, she then faced the reconnaissance probe.

‘’What do you think, guys?’’

‘’You look great, Nancy.’’ Replied Mike on the radio. ‘’I would say that it would be well worth it to include this stock of body armor with the other loads we will take to 3384.’’

‘’I concur. This will actually fill quite nicely one of our needs for equipping our field agents. I am now going to jump back to the ship. Mona, take our robot bulldozer out and have it start removing the snow that is blocking the doors of the bunkers. This will also lower appreciably the amount of radioactive particles on which our robot forklift will have to roll to go grab the pallets that interest us.’’

‘’A good idea, Nancy. I am on it.’’

‘’Nancy,’’ asked Heinrik Braun by radio, ‘’what quantity of weapons and ammunition will we take?’’

‘’We will actually take all the ammunition connected with the weapons that interest us. We will need at most 200 sets of individual weapons for our agents, plus a few spares. However, I have discussed with Farah how to defend the Global Council 51

against a possible large scale attack. With the small number of our agents, we would be quickly overwhelmed by any mass ground assault. I thus proposed to Farah that we build an army of combat robots that will serve as our ground defense force. The Global Council is already expert at designing and building robots and we needed only to find weapons for them. We will thus carry away as well all the weapons we can use. That will also prevent some post-holocaust militia crazies from arming themselves with all this.’’

Nancy was back in the shuttle, while the robot bulldozer had rolled out and was already at work clearing up the snow blocking the entrance of the first bunker, when the radio loud-speaker of the cockpit connected to the international distress frequency suddenly came alive.

‘’To any station on this frequency, this is the EAGLE International Space Station.

Come in, please!’’

Nancy and her crew froze for a moment, completely taken by surprise by this. Maran then punched in commands on his control panel as the message, sent in English by a woman with a French accent, repeated itself.

‘’I have the point of origin of the transmission, Nancy. Our computer is now establishing the parameters of the orbit of that space station.’’

‘’In that case, let’s take off and go save those poor people in orbit. We are their only hope for not dying in space from lack of air, water and food.’’

‘’Not before we have taken everything that interests us here and brought it to New Lake City.’’ Countered Mona Zirel, attracting a shocked look from Nancy.

‘’But, those weapons and ammunition could wait, and…’’

‘’And our external hull needs to be decontaminated of radioactive particles, Nancy. If we are to go decontaminate ourselves in New Lake City, then let’s take the time to do first what we came to do.’’

‘’Mona is right, Nancy.’’ Said softly Mike, a somber expression on his face.

‘’Think also about the potential reaction of the American crewmembers of that station if we show up with our cargo hold full of weapons and ammunition stolen from an American Army base. Let’s take all the time needed to do our work here and at Barksdale Air Force Base. These people will still be in orbit by then.’’

Nancy lowered her head in sadness as the woman on the space station repeated her message, her tone nearly supplicant.

52

‘’I suppose that you are right, you and Mona. Then, let’s get to work here.’’

17:56 (Universal time)

Sunday, February 9, 2053 ‘A’

EAGLE International Space Station

Low Earth orbit

James MacDonald took place opposite Rebecca Milner at the small dining table of the station’s lounge. His tray of food stayed on the table, thanks to the 0.4 gravity created by the centrifugal force of the twin, contra-rotating carrousels that contained the living facilities of the EAGLE space station. The Canadian life support systems engineer started eating his food in silence, respecting the intimacy of the American redhead. The station’s doctor had been brooding a lot lately, which was more than understandable in view of their present situation. The last radio transmission they had intercepted coming from Earth’s surface had been three months ago. Now, the planet was silent and cold, enveloped by the dark clouds of radioactive dust thrown in the upper atmosphere by the thousands of nuclear warheads detonated on that faithful month of September of the year 2052. The sensor scans had confirmed as early as last October that a so-called nuclear winter had set in, lowering significantly the temperature on the surface and causing a mass extinction of animal and plant life on Earth. The levels of radiations recorded from orbit were also off the scale nearly everywhere on the surface, with only a few areas in the South Pacific showing less violent levels of contamination. However, the crew of the station knew from the last few radio messages received after the nuclear war that the horrors of both biological and chemical weapons had been added to those of nuclear weapons. Testament to that global holocaust had been an overhead picture of the beached hulk of the aircraft carrier USS HALSEY on the coast of the Arabic Peninsula. The big warship had drifted for weeks before running aground, left to itself by its dead crew, which had died to the last from radiation exposure. No ships traveled the oceans now and no lights from cities were seen at night. If there were survivors on Earth, their future looked very bleak indeed to the seven occupants of the EAGLE space station. The future on the station itself looked no less bleak, with reserves of food, water and air dwindling steadily and with no supply rocket ship to be hoped for from the surface, ever. James MacDonald knew that some members of the station were contemplating suicide. Frankly, he couldn’t blame them for that, as they were 53

condemned to die within a few weeks anyway. James finally threw down his fork in frustration, leaving his plate still half full.

“What’s the point of eating? We are dead anyway!”

Rebecca Milner, who had looked lost in her thoughts up to now, lowered her head and started sobbing at those words. James quickly got up and went to her, passing one arm around her shoulders.

“I…I’m sorry, Rebecca. That was stupid of me to say that.”

“That was not stupid, that was the truth.” Said weakly the civilian doctor in space medicine, still sobbing. “Humanity is finished and we will disappear with it. All that because of our own stupidity.”

“Come on, Rebecca! Only a tiny minority of people is to blame for that monstrous war.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No, but it may stop you from blaming yourself. You are a good, decent person, Rebecca.”

Rebecca, a tall, pretty woman in her early thirties, wiped her tears away and looked up at James.

“Thanks, James. You were always a nice, kind man.”

She was silent for a moment, then swallowed hard before speaking again.

“Are we still monitoring the radio spectrum?”

“Yes! Commander Stone still insists on having someone on radio watch at all times. Jeanne is on it now, I believe.”

Rebecca nodded her head, then got up from her chair.

“Then I’m going to keep company to her. It is a lonely job and I have nothing to do at the moment.”

“Good idea! Could I come too?”

“And who would stop you anyway?” Replied sarcastically the doctor. “Of course you can come.”

The trip up to the station’s longitudinal axis, around which the carrousels were rotating, then along the central communication shaft to the control room, took only a couple of minutes. They found Jeanne Leclerc, the French geomatics expert, sitting alone in one of the command chairs. Jeanne smiled briefly to them, then activated her headset microphone for the umpteenth time in her watch.

54

“Any station listening on the international distress frequency, this is the International space station EAGLE, come in please.”

She got nothing but static, like in the last three months. She looked with discouragement at Rebecca and James, who had taken the two nearest seats.

“Nothing…as always! I did just get a routine message from the occupants of Moon Base SELENE, however. Do you think that anyone can survive down on Earth, with all that radiation?”

“I strongly doubt it.” Said Rebecca mournfully. “The contamination is too extensive. Whoever is still alive will eventually die of hunger or disease. Also, any newborn will probably be severely deformed by radiation-induced mutations. Humanity is finished, I’m afraid.”

A beeping alarm then made them all jump in their chairs. James looked at the main control panel and opened his eyes wide before screaming with joy.

“IT’S THE PROXIMITY ALARM! SOMETHING IS APPROACHING US!”

The two others also looked at the radar display: a large object was effectively approaching from the stern of the station.

“Could it be a meteoroid or a space debris?” Said Rebecca. Jeanne shook her head.

“I don’t think so: that thing just altered its trajectory towards us.”

She then activated her microphone with fresh hope.

“Approaching ship, this is the International space station EAGLE, identify yourself, over!”

She nearly jumped out of her chair in excitement when a female voice answered her.

“Space station EAGLE, this is the heavy shuttle HERMES. We will be docking with your station soon.”

“The HERMES? Is this a joke? What nationality are you?”

“The HERMES is a ship of the Time Patrol, an agency of the Global Council. We will have ample time to talk about this later. Over and out!”

Jeanne looked at James.

“Get Commander Stone! Tell him that a ship is about to dock with us.”

“What ship?” Asked anxiously James, who had not heard the answer to Jeanne’s call.

“I’m not sure. Just get him!”

55

Even though James didn’t have a clue about what was really going on, he nonetheless launched himself towards the central communication shaft, floating to the open hatch in the zero gravity of the control room. Once at the junction with the rotation points of the two contra-rotating carrousels, he shouted at the top of his lungs down one of the ladder wells.

“COMMANDER STONE, A SHIP IS APPROACHING THE STATION! THEY

INTEND TO DOCK!”

The big navy pilot got out of his cabin and joined James in less than a minute. Thomas Fairbanks, Gunther Braunig and Indira Saduranidrasekar were not far behind the station commander.

“Whose ship is it?”

“I don’t know! Jeanne only said that it was called ‘HERMES’.”

“Hell! It doesn’t matter anyway. It could be our only ticket out of here.”

“Wait!” Shouted Indira Saduranidrasekar, the station’s astronomer. Everybody then looked at the lean, dark-skinned Indian woman, who spoke again after a slight hesitation.

“What if this is a trap? It could be a rocket sent to take over this station. Maybe someone wants to escape radiation contamination on Earth by taking refuge here for the next few years. I know that this doesn’t sound very plausible, but there must be some very desperate people down on the surface right now. We should at least identify those newcomers first.”

“Hmm, not a bad idea actually.” Said Michael Stone, thoughtful. He then floated to the nearest communications panel and called the control room.

“Jeanne, patch me with that incoming ship. Do you have a visual on it as well?”

He saw on the small video screen of the panel Jeanne fiddle with the controls of one of the external cameras. Her jaw suddenly opened wide as she looked at another screen that was outside Stone’s field of vision.

“That…that’s impossible!” She said softly, alarming Stone.

“What is it, Jeanne?”

“I…I will let you look for yourself.”

Her face was soon replaced on Stone’s screen by the picture of an approaching ship.

That ship however had nothing in common with the spaceship designs the systems engineer was familiar with. For one thing, there were no propulsion engines visible on 56

its smoothly curved body. The ship was also about thirty meter-long and was nearly as big as the space station.

“You are now on line with that ship, Commander.” Said Jeanne over the intercom. Swallowing hard, Stone pressed the ‘send’ button on the panel.

“This is Commander Michael Stone, commander of the International space station EAGLE. Please identify yourself!”

“This is the Time Patrol heavy shuttle HERMES. We come from the future to rescue you and your crew.” Answered a female voice. The six station crewmembers looked at each other with a mix of confusion and disbelief.

“HERMES, or whatever you really are, this is no time for jokes. What is your nationality?”

“We are Humans. In 3384, there is only one government on Earth. I know that this is hard to believe, so one of us will transport into your station, alone and unarmed.”

“3384?” Exclaimed Gunther Braunig, the German metallurgist. “But…time travel is an impossibility!”

“Who says?” Said a voice behind the group, making them all turn around as fast as they could in the zero gravity of the central shaft. They all gasped at the sight of a beautiful and tall woman with black hair and green eyes, floating a few feet away from them. She wore only a cream-colored panty and bra. The stranger grinned at them and spoke in perfect English.

“Hi! I’m Nancy Laplante. I thought that coming like this would prove that I am unarmed.”

“Well, I certainly believe you on that,” replied Stone while eyeing her, “but how the hell did you come inside this station?”

“By performing a short space-time jump directly from my ship.”

“Uh, I don’t see your time machine, Miss Laplante.”

“It’s inside my body, Commander Stone. The technology of 3384 is very advanced, especially in nanotechnology.”

“Could we talk further about that together, miss, when we get a chance?” Asked excitedly Thomas Fairbanks, the station’s computer specialist and a genius in electronics. Nancy smiled at the African-American.

“We will have ample time to do that once you are safely at our base, Mister. I will now ask you to pack your personal belongings and get ready to be transferred to our ship. There will be more explanations once we are all onboard the HERMES.”