140 Mile Stretch: Flying Blind

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It had been seventy two hours, and they had been costly. ‘Oscar Minnix’ was holding the gun. “Let me tell you a story, one about a young couple in love. They were agents for project Skylark. His name, at least his cover name, was Oscar Minnix.”

“Her cover name was Elyse, she loved him very much. Their mission was to secure a local politician who was a target. They saved his life, but he turned out to be corrupt. We found that out on a supply train that carried the stolen medical supplies from his own charity initiative.”

“The man raised this very gun to kill Elyse, Oscar pushed her to safety. He died in her arms. Elyse killed the man, then cradled her husband, they had married secretly on this mission. They couldn’t tell Walter, he wouldn’t allow it.”

“Walter didn’t allow a lot of things, except corruption. It turns out, he knew about the train, and the stolen supplies. When Elyse confronted him, he explained that it was necessary.”

Walter spoke up, clutching his wound. “I explained Virginia, that, we would have gotten the supplies back, after he signed the agreement.” The wild eyed, heart broken mastermind of the revenge plot almost screamed. “You could have told us, we would have waited.”

Cameron interrupted, “We don’t have much time, and neither do you. This plane is going to explode, and it will start a chain reaction through time. Let us stop this.” “No, it isn’t. This plane is historic, isn’t it Phyllis? Of course ‘Phyllis’ isn’t your real name, no more than ‘Virginia’ is mine. In our business, nothing is real, is it?”

“You like history Tom, here’s what the Internet says. Air Mail was formally established as a new class of service by the United States Post Office Department on May 15, 1918, with the inauguration of the Washington-Philadelphia-New York route. That is of course the plane were standing in.”

“It’s also the perfect transmitter to relay your series of explosions. You’re going to use it to scatter explosions through time aren’t you?” “Oh yes, of course you know I can’t transmit from Washington to Washington, but I can from New York. We’re in the vicinity of the flatiron building, it made a great scrambler until you destroyed it. It also will help me boost this signal.”

“How does Tom’s Grandfather figure in?” Walter asked. Virginia laughed. “I had the unfortunate luck to end up in Moscow, Pennsylvania on my first test run. A very young man then, your Grandfather helped me figure out how to get back, and how to control it. We learned together. Of course, he didn’t know what I was planning until it was too late.”

Tom swallowed hard. “Why didn’t you kill him?” “I should have, but I was sentimental. I liked him, he was a friend, so I threatened his family. I made him promise that he wouldn’t reveal my identity. He gave me his word on that. The trouble is, he was smart.”

Now Tom laughed. “He told me everything but who you were. Of course, he gave me enough clues. He changed the fake name of your company’s CEO from Oscar Minnix to Olivia Minnix in my research. Tell me, what did he hide, what are you looking for?”

“I’m sorry, you won’t get to hear that, it’s time for you all to ….” She wasn’t allowed to finish her sentence. Virginia dropped the gun as electricity riddled her body. She slumped to the floor, as Cameron seized the gun. Tom looked at the person behind her holding the taser. It was his Grandfather, “Hello Tom.”

They spent the next few hours dismantling Virginia’s machinery. “This one was meant for the Whittaker White House. She blamed him, and his chief of staff, for her husband’s death. They were Walter’s second and third in command on Skylark. She was going to eliminate myself and our family in Pennsylvania. That would stop me from stopping her.”

“What about North Africa?” “The current leader of the country in North Africa where this all started is visiting New York. His Vice President, her friend Razi, would be the new leader upon the President’s death. He would use the massive fortune from their newly discovered resources to back Virginia’s hand picked Presidential candidate.”

Tom made the connection. “He’s the guy with the dyed hair claiming to be Minnix isn’t he?” “That’s right. Who wouldn’t elect a modern Edison that ‘invented’ time travel. Along with his Wife, a former CIA operative, Virginia ‘Minnix’.” “So Grandpa, what did you hide, and where?”

Now, his Grandfather laughed. “My version of her scrambler. She knew I was out there, and would try to stop her. If she tried to set off an explosion I’d jam it as soon as the surge was detected. What she didn’t know, is where I hid it.”

“That’s where her complexity worked against her. She reasoned I gave it to you, or to Cameron. He and I met by the way, at President Lincoln’s White House. I had him retrieve some records from another White House to secure the evidence on Virginia before she destroyed record of that North Africa train ride.”

“Where did you hide it?” Cameron asked. “Simple, in the plane’s engine. The very vehicle she had planned on using, I was going to use to stop her. I knew she’d want to take out Reynolds herself. That’s what brought her down, her own vengeance.”

Phyllis had taken Walter home to get medical attention, he would live to go back into hiding. More ‘Oscars’ were out there. “What will you do Grandpa?” “Live the life that God intended for me. I plan on, with His help, living it right the first time, that way, there’s no need to travel through time. I suggest you both do the same.”

Tom hugged him, and he and Cameron traveled home. Once there, Tom retired from politics. He realized, not only did he not want to be President, he wanted to teach. He joined a local college as an adjunct, teaching agriculture and surprisingly drama. It seemed the college’s acting professor had been arrested. Tom would fill in for Sykes.

Cameron was assigned as the new head of a retooled Project Skylark. Their new mission, to preserve the time line. Allowing people to do as Tom’s Grandfather had said. To live their lives, hopefully the right way the first time, without risk of temporary temporal manipulation.

140 Mile Stretch: Meet Walter Reynolds

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We are a post away from the high flying conclusion of 140 Mile Stretch. Before we wrap things up, we wanted to introduce you to someone. Meet Walter Reynolds.

Walter Reynolds adjusted his tie. He wore a black suit, a green tie, and set down at his desk. He was fifty five years old now, having spent half his life working for his country. The problem was, he was tired. He had insomnia, it wasn’t eight in the morning, it was four. Walter didn’t know it, he had spent the last eight years underground.

At some point, his circadian rhythms had been affected, between living in a bunker, and all the International flights the years before. He was ‘project Skylark’ for twenty years. It had almost killed him, now he was a consultant for a major company. They didn’t know where he was located, he worked via phone. It was the only way that he kept those that hated him from finding him.

Many blamed him for Project Skylark, and for good reason. He had coordinated most of the missions for his term as the project’s Intelligence Chief. Sadly, he had lost more men than had survived. The government thought he took too many risks, and so had most of his operatives. A number of his surviving agents were now in positions of power. Almost the same number had placed a contract on his life.

As a result, he went underground. Only two people knew where the former intelligence chief was, one of them was Alex Whittaker. Alex was his lieutenant, he could be trusted. Of course, no one knew that. If they had, Alex would be dead. The next chief didn’t face the scrutiny that Walter had, thanks to Walter.

He had insisted on a special committee replacing his almost unlimited power. It consisted of the President, the ranking member of the opposing party in the Senate, and a member of the Supreme Court. This would eliminate abuse, as well as diffuse the blame. For now though, Walter was still alive, and so were those who wanted to change that.

Three hours later, he was getting sleepy, and the phone rang. “Hello Alex. How are you? Why are you calling?” He listened to Alex’s story, and it sounded crazy. Walter wished that he didn’t believe it, the problem was, he did. “I never thought that would be the case that I had to worry about.” Alex paused. “So you know who Oscar Minnix is?” “No, but I know who it isn’t.”

“It’s time to go to the circus Walter.” “I suppose it is. You bring the cotton candy, I’ll bring the elephants.” Walter was coming in from the cold, they would take steps, but he knew it was going to be risky. The ‘elephants’ meant that he would use the agreed upon safe houses and stock piles that had lay dormant for eight years. Alex was to meet him at the first one.

Across the world, in another time, a second phone call took place. A man in a little corner of North Africa picked up the phone. “He’s on the move.” “How do you know?” “Osgood met with Whittaker, and then he made a call.”
“What makes you think he called him?” “It’s a guess, but that’s all I have right now. They’ve hampered my movements with the explosion. I can’t act without revealing myself” “What are you going to do now?” “Simple, allow them to lead me to it, and then eliminate them all.”

“Is it worth risking the entire operation to kill Reynolds?” “Razi, not only is it worth it, it’s the main reason.” “It’s not my main reason, mine is power.” “That is why you have none, you see it as the solution. I see it as a fun side effect. My goal is to eliminate Reynolds, all those that cost me, and anyone who disagrees with me. Be careful Razi, that you don’t get on the same list as Tom and Reynolds.”

140 Mile Stretch: Always A Tightrope

“There are four species of skylark, they are primarily located in Europe, Asia, and the mountains of North Africa. Like the bird, when our country was young, Project Skylark, was mainly located in Europe. Agents worked in small swift units to defend our fledgling land from imperial espionage. Later, Project Skylark was involved in Asia, especially during what you call World War II. After that, there were several Skylark teams in both arenas, none of them knowing about the existence of the others.”

Samuel Osgood paused to let this sink in, as he drank a coffee that he had never tasted before. “Secret ops are nothing new. They’re apparently older than I thought. I knew President Washington had spies, but I never connected it with Skylark. Where is the epicenter of what you’re concerned about?” Alex asked.

“North Africa, apparently, at the time that is important to this business a discovery located there will be important. A new type of technology will be discovered. It will threaten our nation’s survival once more. Your job, at the right time, will be to stop it.” “When will that be?”

“I don’t know, Tom didn’t tell me. He said that you must be prepared, but telling you when might alter the future. It was a big enough risk telling us both what he has told us. We must labor not to change the course of history, until such a time that we must prevent the course of history from being changed.”

“Oh great, a tight rope, thank Tom for me.” Samuel Osgood laughed. “Take it from someone who survived a Revolution, maintaining freedom is always a tightrope.” Osgood stood up to leave. “Before you go, is there anything else that he told you to tell me?” He paused. “Yes, he said to tell you only if you asked that specific question. He said to give you a name, Walter Reynolds.”

Osgood left silently as Alex just sat there. Honestly, Alex wasn’t sure how quiet his departure had been, he didn’t really see him leave. His mind was on something else, the face of Walter Reynolds. Alex had tried his best to forget that name, and that face. Now, a new matter brought it flooding back into his life.

He took out his ever present notebook and wrote his thoughts down, though not in his typical verbage. He wrote in a code, known only to himself, and two others. If anyone else saw the note, it would look like a list of things to do on his next trip to see his parents. That way, he was in no danger, if it was ever read by anyone. At the top of the list, ‘Take Walter to the circus’, even though he knew that was the last place Walter Reynolds wanted to go.

 

 

140 Mile Stretch: Project Skylark

The Colonel was waiting for the signal, once he had it, he acted quickly.  Within minutes, he was inside the archives.  He had to hurry, the Secret Service would be there within minutes.  Thankfully, this was a time when they still kept physical files.  Cameron found the file marked “Project Skylark”, copied it’s contents, and engaged his time device.

When the agents arrived, they would only find a layer of smoke.  Upon further investigation, they wouldn’t notice anything out of place.  Even though their top agent was a young lady named Phyllis.  This was before her accident, and before anyone knew of her involvement with the agency.

Meanwhile, two men were having coffee in a small coffee house in Philadelphia.  One man was much older than he looked, the other was around 30.  “Councilman, we have very little time.  I doubt you’ll believe it, but my name is Samuel Osgood.” A young Alex Whittaker sat down to listen to what he thought was a crazy man.

“When we leave here, go to the library, and look me up.  I was the first Post Master General of these United States.  Now, I’m a man far from home, on a mission.  Tom sent me, it’s the Tom you know, but not when you know him.  At least not yet, but you will.  One day, you’ll have some important roles in government.  When that time comes, you’ll be involved in something that reopens ‘Project Skylark’.”

As soon as Samuel Osgood mentioned “Project Skylark”, he had Alex’s attention.  “I hoped that I would never have to hear that term ever again.  What do you know about it?”  “I’m afraid more than I should, and more than I would like.  Unfortunately, you don’t know enough.  There is far more to it than the misery you’ve already faced.  I’m afraid, if one person gets their wish, there is much more misery to come.”

140 Mile Stretch: Convergence

Sykes was guessing where they’d end up, his heart was pounding.  His greatest fear was that they would end up in one of three places.  One was the sight of the explosion, one was the Flat Iron building, and lastly was the apartment of Walter Reynolds.  As the smoke cleared, nothing appeared to have changed.  They were in the same room, at the same time.

“Trouble getting enough juice to make the journey?”  Sykes was trying to hide the apprehension that he had only seconds prior.  What worried him was the smile hadn’t left Tom’s face.  “It’s an atmospheric term called convergence, your familiar with it aren’t you? It is a location where airflows or ocean currents meet, characteristically marked by upwelling (of air) or downwelling (of water).”

Sykes wasn’t sure why Tom was talking about all of this.  “I’m an actor, I’m afraid it’s beyond me.”  “Though, it’s not beyond Minnix, he’s listening isn’t he?”  “Of course I am.  All of my agents have a two way transmitter feeding both of us information.  Sykes, show him.”  Sykes held up his tie pin.  “It’s very discreet.”

Minnix almost screamed into the monitor.  “What are you babbling over convergence for?”  Tom laughed.  “Are you familiar with the concept?”  Minnix was losing his patience.  “Yes, get to the point.”  “Oh, I’m doing precisely that, as a matter of fact, you are the point.  3, 2, 1 …” Minnix was expecting to hear something over the communicator, not down the hallway.

There was a massive explosion at his headquarters in the Flat Iron building in New York.  Tom continued, “Convergence, Oscar Minnix, has just destroyed the machine that was blocking our signals.  Now, you can’t stop me from stopping you. Goodbye.”  “Grab him!” Minnix shouted as Sykes plunged towards a vanishing Tom.  Unfortunately for him, he didn’t make it in time, and collided with a wall.

140 Mile Stretch: Arrived In New York

President Alex Whittaker and his Chief Of Staff, Ned ‘Medic’ Richards, were walking in the rose garden. “How did you know it was really him?” The President laughed. “For one thing, he matched the painting. For another, he said Skylark.” Medic shivered. “If you don’t mind, don’t ever answer that question for me again. I’ve tried very hard to forget Skylark.”

Elsewhere Tom was tired. He had spent the last four days on the run, he didn’t know how many were watching, just that they were watching. The three remaining members of the group had now went in separate directions. Phyllis was in place in 1918. Virginia was in Andover, Massachusetts. If you could believe either of them. Tom was in New York City, he was a house guest of an absent old friend.

He knew that they couldn’t take him there, it was too dangerous. That was one reason that he came to his operative’s home. They would just assume he was seeking safety with the other house guest, who was just a bedroom over. Tom missed the electricity, and running water, but it was a small price to pay. The Osgood House was safe, at least as long as President Washington was staying there.

Cameron was out of pocket, and Tom hoped, off the radar. They had followed him for the first few days, until they switched tactics and came for Tom. Minnix was confused, but he wouldn’t be for long. There was a knock at the door. “Sir, a Colonel Taylor to see you.” “Send him in.”

A man entered soon after, but it wasn’t Cameron. “Hello Tom, did you think that I wouldn’t find you?” Tom winced, it was Sykes. “I knew you would find me. I just wasn’t convinced you would be brave enough to walk in here. My fellow house guest is something of a national treasure.”

“You and your operative think hiding among Washington and Lincoln will help you? If anything, that makes you more vulnerable. If you wanted to hide, you should have picked some uneventful time period. Minnix expected more from you.” Tom grinned. “I know that he did. That’s why we’re here.”

“Let me guess. This was all part of some plan you had to stop him?” Tom smiled as smoke filled the room. “No, this was my way of stalling until my plan was under way. You may act well, but you think poorly. If you had stopped to think, you would have realized something.” Sykes was unimpressed. “Is this where I realize I’m in trouble?” Tom whispered as they both disappeared. “No, this is where Minnix realizes, I made it to New York!”

140 Mile Stretch: Strutting Pigeon

Cameron wasn’t phased.  He was positioned defensively, slumped against the seat.  “Drive, now!”  The cab driver was stunned, but obedient.  “Listen Mister, I don’t know what you’re into, but I’m not interested in getting shot.  I’ll drop you off downtown, in the heart of traffic, but I’m not getting involved.” “Exactly what I was hoping.  The more people see, the better.”

A few minutes later, Cameron was getting out of the cab.  Two seconds later, he was entering a bank.  Five minutes after that, he was coming out of another building several years earlier.  His holographic clothes emitter was working well.  It gave him the uniform of a Union Colonel.  His companion was dressed less technical.

“Colonel, what is the news from the front?”  “Mr. President, it’s going well.  I feel I can say, with confidence, that the Union will win.”  President Lincoln laughed as they were now out of ear shot of the guards.  “I’m sure you do, Colonel, considering it’s history for you.  Why did we have to head for the stables? To extract something for this mission that you told me about?”

“No sir, another operative is doing that.  My job was to bury something here.  You see, the stables won’t always remain here.  The ground though, it’s secure.  I’m not a historian, so I don’t know if you’ve heard the term sitting duck, either way, my job’s a little different.  You might say I’m meant as a strutting pigeon.”

President Lincoln smiled.  “In other words, you think you were followed.  You want them to think that this meeting is more important than it is?”  Cameron nodded.  “Yes sir, and how better to keep someone busy than to meet with one of America’s greatest leaders?”

“You flatter me sir, but tell me, how will I know that if this mission is successful?”  Cameron pointed to the special watch he gave the President.  “If we survive this, that pocket knife will disappear in a week’s time.  If it doesn’t, push the button on the side, and prepare for an unusual vacation.”  The two of them shook hands, and the President left Cameron to bury his bundle.

Meanwhile, a very less obvious operative was having a meeting in another time period.  It also included a member of the Executive Branch, although a less famous one. The result of that meeting would determine the survival of the country.  When it was over, a telegram was sent that contained three words.  “Column Safe Moscow.”

140 Mile Stretch: A Non Kidnapping

“Why?”  Cameron asked.  “Why does he have to take us out before he acts?”  Tom lowered his voice.  “For that you can thank my Grandfather.  He wasn’t a trained scientist, but he was brilliant.  I knew that he had hidden something in time.  I just didn’t know when, where, or what it was.  I still don’t know what, but now I know when, and I have a suspension of where.”

Cameron thought a moment.  “Mr. Secretary, you’ve kept things very close to your vest.  I think it’s the only reason that we’re alive at this point.  You need to continue to keep it close.  We cannot know much more than Minnix knows.  At the same time, you have to have a way of communicating just enough to position us.  My question is this, how do we safely do that.  I’m not sure that you should trust anyone, including myself.”

Tom agreed.  “Don’t worry, I don’t.  Nothing personal, but I only met you recently.  Plus, Minnix has actors employed, they could replace any of you with very short notice.  Fortunately I have my own operative, someone that no one knows about, someone that Minnix won’t figure out until it’s too late.”

“Good, I suspected as much.  I would do the same thing.  Here is what I recommend doing.  Tell everyone that you have an operative, of course without telling them anything else.  Word will get to Minnix, it will confirm his guess, plus it will make him more nervous. Tell me this, what can you share with me?”

Tom handed him an envelope.  “This is what is safe for you to know.  It also contains the coordinates for you to head to 1918.  I have a mission for you, it’s vital, but it’s not connected with the last phase.  Here’s my question, can you make it look live you’ve been kidnapped?” “A Non Kidnapping is easy, for the most part.”

Three hours later each of the team received a note to come to Cameron’s room. Tom wasn’t surprised at what he saw next.  Tom and the others found the door opened and the room trashed.  Tom wondered where Cameron got the blood that was on the bed.  Then he realized that he didn’t want to know.  He gauged the other reactions to the farce, and was only suspicious of Virginia.  This wasn’t a stretch, he had been since they met.

While this was occurring, a young man with a bandaged right arm was getting into a taxi.  “Where to Mister?”  “The White House, and step on it.”  The next sound the cab driver and the passenger heard was the gun shot that came through the side window.

140 Mile Stretch: Smoke And Mirrors

Meyer Coppolini was a magician, perhaps the greatest magician that Tom had ever known.  He had been a friend, and teacher for a much younger Thomas.
Meyer would know nothing of this type of adventures.  What he did understand was misdirection and strategy.  Meyer had been a soldier as well as being a magician.   He could read people’s intentions easily.
He had retired to Florida, but Tom could reach him by phone.  “Mr. Coppolini, you won’t remember me, but I was a student of yours.  I need to ask a question.”
“Thomas, you sound a little horse, but I recognize your voice.  How can I help you?”  Tom thought, he thanks he’s talking to a younger me.  “I think someone is playing a trick on me.  I think they are using misdirection.  What would you say about a man who walks in expensive clothes, well to do everywhere, but has a badly dyed head of hair?”
Meyer smiled, “I would say two things.  Either, you know him and he is trying to mask his identity.  Or he is not as rich as he may want to appear.  Clothes can be borrowed, much like coins.  Hair is a little harder to fake, not impossible, but harder.”
“Thank you Mr. Coppolini.  One more question, if that same person tried to focus your view in one direction, what direction would you look at?”  Coppolini laughed.  “Why, in exactly the opposite one.  Most would say that if a man points to his left hand, look at his right.  I say don’t look at either hand, that’s too easy.  Instead, look at his feet.  He is walking towards what he is pushing you away from.”
Tom thanked him and ended the call.  His words echoed through Tom’s head.  “He is walking towards what he is pushing you away from. The two words he used were family and power.  He wants me to focus on the family aspect, while he grabs for power.  Why?”
It hit him like a bolt of lightning.  “1918, He’s trying to get me to forget 1918.  That’s why he blocked us from getting there to start with.  Minnix wants me to think this goes back to the revolution, it doesn’t.  1918 is the key to it all.  When in 1918?”
Tom reviewed his mental notes.  He had crammed his head full of dates relating to 1918.  He stopped.  “It’s got to be, it’s brutal, but it has to be the answer.”  He rushed to Cameron’s room and knocked until he answered.
He started explaining as soon as he was inside.  “In 1918 The United States Post Office Department started the world’s third regular airmail service.  It ran between New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., that’s his strike zone.  It’s also why he’s trying to prevent us from getting there.  He just contacted me and tried to convince me it was about the 1790’s.”
“Why try and stop us, why not just make his move?”  Tom looked out the window and pointed.  “He can’t until that’s taken care of, and Minnix can’t take care of it, until he stops us.”

140 Mile Stretch:It’s About Family

One moment Tom was in his hotel room folding the new shirts that he had sent up. The next minute, he was in Oscar Minnix’s office. “Hello Tom, I’m glad to finally meet you.” He had seen pictures of the man, but this was their first face to face meeting. The previous, heated communications had been by computer.

“When are we?” Tom asked, not expecting the truth. Minnix laughed, “I’ll tell you where, I’ll tell you why, but you don’t get when.” He was a short man, his hair had been dyed black. It had been dyed, and poorly so. Tom remembered thinking that someone like him could have afforded better. His eyes were blue, he was of average size. His suit was expensive, so was the rest of his outfit. That’s why the hair didn’t make sense, Tom filed this away in his mind.

“Ok, where and why?” “The top of the Flat Iron building in New York. Why is that I want to know what you know.” Tom laughed. “This is where you’re supposed to give me the clue on how to stop you.” Now Minnix laughed. “We know that isn’t going to happen. I’m not expecting you to tell me either.” It clicked.

“You’re keeping me here so your operatives can search my hotel room. That explains Sykes’ real purpose. You won’t find it there.” Minix shrugged.  “It’s worth a try. It also gives me something else. I can test your nerves. I wanted you to stare me in the face and see just how tough you really are. “

Tom shook his head. “If you’re expecting me to lunge at you don’t. You already know that I’m not easily frightened. You found that out when you burned my home down. I’m also not crazy enough to attack you physically. When I hit you, it will be silently, it will be fierce, and it will be significant.”

“Then it’s a battle of equals is it? Or, are you just wanting me to think you are as powerful as I am?” Tom leaned across the desk. “It’s not a question of how many strings I can pull. It’s a matter of patriotism. To me, this is a war for the history of our country, to you, it’s about power.”

Minnix laughed.  “It’s less about power than it is about family for me.  You and I will do almost anything for family won’t we?  If the 140 mile stretch is destroyed, it will alter the balance of power, but that’s an afterthought.”

“New York  will remain the nation’s capital.  My family’s history will be forever altered.  Sadly, you won’t figure out how until I’ve won.  Goodbye Tom.”
Tom set down on the bed in his hotel room.  Minnix wasn’t stupid.  Had his ego let him slip up? Was the comment about New York a red herring?
It was Tom’s chance to laugh now.  He couldn’t have made contact a year later than this one.  Now though, he was very much alive, and it was time to make a phone call.