140 Mile Stretch: Hannigan Isn’t Hannigan

The group surfaced in 1986. They stood on the platform of an Amtrak train. Tom looked worried, “This isn’t right, something’s wrong. There wasn’t an Amtrak at the coordinates that we we’re supposed to land at.” Col. Taylor looked like he was processing every aspect of his surroundings. Finally, he headed for the exit.

The group followed as quickly as they could. No one asked any questions, even though their minds were running on overload. Col. Taylor stopped a stranger, “Could you tell me where the nearest three star hotel is?” The man gave him the information, and Colonel Taylor headed in that direction. Each of their group followed behind slowly.

A half hour later, they were having lunch in the hotel dining room. “What went wrong Tom?” Phyllis was furious, “I don’t like mistakes.” Tom alternated between worry and hope, “If I’m right, we have bigger problems than your preferences Phyllis. If I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a new Mercedes. Someone altered our signal.

Cameron thought a moment. “Logistics.” Tom nodded, “The question is, where is he in this room?” Cameron winced, “Too dangerous, he has an operative, probably more than one.” Phyllis wiped her mouth with her napkin, “So he wants us here, why?”

Virginia laughed, “A scene of a maniacal cartoon villain gloating over their plan comes to my mind.  We know that isn’t it, so what else could it be, besides the fact he wants us to know he can make our equipment unreliable.”

Tom smiled, “He can’t make it unreliable, he just wants us to think he can.” Cameron examined the room while talking, “Then how are we off course?”  Tom sighed, “A hard push.  If you want to stop a car on the road, and have no control of that car, what do you do?” Phyllis sighed, “You take another car and ram into it.  He makes a trip the same time as us, and the ripple effect, like a blunt object pushes us here.”

Tom thought about what she said. “No, he set up a road block, he’s transmitting a constant signal from two directions. He’s essentially locking us in geographically.  We could jump in time, but not any location in time, unless we reflected his signals in another direction.  In other words, we smash his roadblock. That’s what he wants to do, sidetrack us.  He wants us to think stopping his counter signal is more important than our mission.”

Phyllis cut her steak, “Since we all agree that were not going to do that, how do we make him think that’s what we are going to do?”  Cameron laughed, “The same way a cartoon hero would, by finding his operative, and punching him in the eye!”  They all laughed this time, as the man at table four sipped his coffee.

He put down his cup and joined them. “My name isn’t Hannigan, but you can call me that. I’m your contact with Mr. Minnix, and he expects to have to eliminate the stubborn ones. So, who isn’t stubborn, who would rather return to their own time and live?”

Tom never flinched.  “Walter Reynolds is in a small apartment somewhere.  If Oscar wants to know where, he can drop the threat. If not, then he can target practice all he wants.”

Hannigan frowned, “I am not a fan of new information.  I expect we’ll see each other again.”  Once he had gone, Cameron commented. “Convincing gentleman, probably an actor.” “Tom agreed. “His name is Sykes, he teaches acting at a small college in Colorado.”

“Minnix knows that I know him, and he’s showing his abilities. That was Sykes years before I met him.  He transported a younger version of him here.  Sykes is good, but not so good he wouldn’t have acknowledged me in some way.”

“What it means is this. He’s telling us that he has an army of resources. That he can not only pull people from time, he can pull versions of them from different times. He’s wanting us to believe that he has limitless power, some sort of Machiavelli. He’s trying to use fear, which tells me he’s not sure of anything.  If he were as powerful as he wants us to believe, there would have been two Sykes, setting side by side.”

140 Mile Stretch: A Surge

Next, Tom looked up the coordinates, he was surprised where they lead.  Throughout the notebook were references to an “140 mile stretch of land”, he assumed that the coordinates were in the middle of that 140 miles.

Tom’s mind came back to the present, Project Seismic wasn’t named for geological reasons. It was named for the magnitude of its importance. Tom had kept everyone guessing on purpose about where, and when, they were going. He had to be sure that his team could be trusted, he still wasn’t.

The problem was, he was out of time, and out of aces.  “Where are we going Mr. Secretary?” Colonel Taylor asked so he could key in the coordinates, Phyllis just wanted the secrecy to end.

Tom handed him the coordinates, Cameron looked at them, and looked at Tom. “That’s outside of Philadelphia? Is this a test?” Tom shook his head no. “Everyone has a theory on time travel, let me explain what my Grandfather found to be true.  Time has properties closely akin to magnetism or gravity. In other words, there’s a pull to it.”

Tom paused to see if he was making himself clear, and continued on. “Gravity pulls things down, to counter that, a space craft has to break free of its force. The regular pull of time is forward, to go back, you have to break free of it’s pull. When you do, much like my Grampa’s old rifle, there’s a kickback, or counter force. In time’s sake, it’s a geographical one, in other words, sideways.  If you’re in the west, it will project you eastward, and vice versa.”

“To get where you want to go, you don’t start from there. You start from one location and travel to another. There’s a geological journey, as well as a time journey. Cross one physical place in time, and you intersect with another.”

“I’ve told Phyllis about my visits with my Grandfather, what I didn’t tell her is that he wasn’t in the cabin in Colorado when he crossed over. He was in Pennsylvania, it has a magnetic or gravitational connection to Colorado. In fact, that’s why later in life he bought the cabin. It’s an entry/exit point.”

“What’s in Philadelphia?” Phyllis asked, suddenly very nervous. Cameron spoke, “Forgive me director, more importantly when in Philadelphia?” Tom pulled a device from his coat, the first stop is 1918.  Then he took two rods out of the device and handed them to Cameron. “Everyone suspected the earthquake was involved, it wasn’t, that was more a coincidence than anything. The storm is the catalyst.  Wear this glove, and thrust these two rods into the shuttle’s power source, they’ll get us there. Just be prepared for the kick back.”

“What do you mean kick back?” Cameron didn’t like this, he hated limited information. “Time jolts, is what they should be called. In reality that’s what they are, like putting your hand in an electric hurricane. You’re going against the current, and the current resists.  The first two minutes you’re disoriented, like short wave jet lag.”

Phyllis voiced her disapproval, “Thrills! What about the way we look, we’ll be a little two fashionable for the past.” Tom handed them each what looked like a smart phone.  “These are vital, they’re my design, built in a special facility ran by the Secret Service.”

“They contain an era based video database that projects wardrobes of the time you arrive in.  They’re powered by a self regenerating cool power source. They also allow you to communicate with all of us, and have a special feature.”

Virginia actually spoke, “Like time travel isn’t special enough.” Tom grinned, he had made the same joke to himself. “True, you can send limited messages to a special communication center in our time. Ironically, they can only be 140 characters, no joke.”

“One of two people will answer it, one is the President, the other is his Chief Of Staff.  Finally inside them are two rods like the ones I handed Colonel Taylor. If we’re separated more than two days, get home, period.”

Cameron asked what the others were thinking. “What about weapons? Isn’t this supposed to be a super device?” Tom laughed, “I’m guessing that all of us are already armed. I’m carrying two weapons on me, and I’m a civilian.” Cameron nodded, and plunged the rods in the panel. As a surge went through his body, everything went blurry.

140 Mile Stretch: Less Than Two Years

Tom didn’t respond, he wasn’t comfortable with one excursion through time, much less two. He nodded, shook the President’s hand and walked back to the transport.

Fourteen minutes later, they were at an underground military base in Colorado known as Camp Fiction, referencing the fact that most in the government was unaware of its existence. CIA agent and former Marine Colonel Cameron Taylor met them at the launch site. Tom had read his bio as they neared the base.

 An American with a rich heritage. His ancestors include a Cherokee Chief who fought for the colonies in the American Revolution. Another of his ancestors, Esther Taylor, ran an Ally spy ring out of France during World War II. Originally from Virginia, he grew up on multiple Army bases across the country and the world.His Father Aaron, now a Senator, is a military hero in three different conflicts. His natural blonde hair and blue eyes come from his Mother’s side, his height, strength, and speed come from his Father’s side of the family. His photographic memory and love of physics he received from his Mother. On her side of the family, at last count, were four Nobel Prize winners in Science. This thirty year old southern former soldier turned CIA agent is prepared for anything.

 It sounded like Phyllis was bragging about her choice of super agent. If so, he wasn’t impressed, he wasn’t concerned with resumes, he needed time, so did the country for that matter. If his calculations were right, they had less than fifteen days left.

His mind went back to that day in the cabin. He had a cup of coffee in his hand when the lightning hit. Suddenly standing there in his Grandfather’s old kitchen was a forty year old version of his Grampa.  He knew who he was, but Grampa didn’t know him. That was natural, the last time he had saw him, Grampa was 80 and Tom was 18.

Tom told no one about that day for a year, he thought he was losing it. Until, that was, the next year’s vacation. Three days into his trip, there was another a storm. Tom quickly recreated his movements from the previous year, right down to resting his body on the counter top.

This time, a sixty five year old version of his Grandfather was there. He spoke quickly, “Tom, under sink, you’ll find everything.” He placed a paper in his Grandson’s hand, and vanished. The paper didn’t leave, but as soon as Grampa vanished, it aged before Tom’s eyes. The letter’s words were etched in his memory.


 Number one, you’re not crazy, number two, neither am I. Number three, Oscar Minnix is not only insane, he is deadly. This is not a joke, nor a drill. This is real, and to prove that it’s really me, “Hernandez”.

 Love Grampa

 P.S. You have less than two years to stop Oscar from destroying the United States.

 If there had been any doubt in Tom’s mind, it left when he read the name “Hernandez.” Grampa had made up a story on the spot one day about a great military hero, that happened to be a squirrel. He called him “Hernandez Alejandro Montalban.” Grampa and Tom kept the series of stories their secret. No one else in the family, or another soul, had ever heard them.

Within two minutes, Tom was on his knees under the sink. He would spend a lot more time on his knees seeking guidance after this. Underneath the boards was a box, inside it were several items including a notebook.  On the first page were coordinates, with a phrase written under it, “Memorize these, then destroy this page.”

Tom’s first question was, “Who is Oscar Minnix?” He began searching the Internet for any reference to a man with that name. He was surprised when he found that the Flatiron building in New York referenced an office for Minnix Industries. Tom discarded that when it stated that the C.E.O. was Olivia Minnix.  On top of that, as far as he knew, Grampa had never been to New York before.

140 Mile Stretch: Eight Year Bed And Breakfast

“So tell me about this agent that’s going with us.” He wanted to quickly change the subject before she asked about the coordinates again. “It was a tough choice,it came down to three agents. One from the CIA, NSA, and the Secret Service.  You’ll meet him at the second rendezvous point.  First, we have a side trip to make ourselves.”

 Tom didn’t like this piece of information. He was supposed to be in control, Phyllis was already rewriting the game, and they hadn’t even left.  He knew that he couldn’t argue either, she would simply threaten to shut down everything, and he couldn’t have that.

 So he nodded and they were speeding to an unknown destination.  Thirty minutes later, they stopped about a hundred miles away.  There was a man standing alone on the underground platform. He was tall, strong African American with gray hair and blue eyes. It was President Alex Whittaker! “What’s he doing here?” Tom didn’t understand, he had just talked to him before leaving the White House that morning.

 Virginia never left the transport, she had another conversation planned, and she didn’t want anyone else to hear. “Tom it’s good to see you. Walk with me please?” The President and the Secretary walked to a bench on the other end of the platform.

“I couldn’t talk freely at the office Tom.  Project Seismic is too important to take chances on. I’ve known you for what twenty years?” “Yes sir, about that, that’s why I’m asking you to trust me.” The President flashed his fake smile, “A lot of people ask me to do that Tom, half of them don’t work for me anymore. All of them don’t vote for me now.”

 Tom laughed, “You’re a second termer Mr. President, no one votes for you anymore.” That prompted a genuine smirk between two friends. “Tom, is this as important as you say, or some attempt to get the party behind you?”

 Tom sighed, “Sir, while every politician imagines sitting in that chair, my daydreams aren’t behind this.  My Grandfather’s research was an accident, my getting into politics is in no way connected to my desire to stop a terrorist plot.  This isn’t about getting a room in a four to eight year bed and breakfast, it’s about making sure the country is still standing this time yesterday.”

 “Good, now about Virginia, the transport pilot, … she is not who she seems. Her and Phyllis are talking, that’s the primary reason for this stop. I used it as an opportunity to have our talk, but their conversation is more important.” Tom looked confused. “What’s more important than a conversation with the President?”

 The President smiled, “Politicians come and go, spies stay. She is the backup, should Phyllis’ agent and you fail, Virginia won’t. She never has, but she’s a known commodity now. That eliminated any future missions, but not past ones that haven’t happened yet.”

140 Mile Stretch: Hopping A Train

As they headed down the corridor, small talk quickly turned to the problem at hand.  “I’m your ally in this Tom, but I can only stick my neck out so far. In order to help you, I need the location.” Tom stopped, “I trust you Phyllis, but only so far.   Where is my only bargaining chip, and I won’t give it away until the last possible minute.”

“She looked at him. “I would ask when is the appropriate time, but in this case, where is the appropriate time is a better question. The President had an altogether different question. Is this about the 140 miles, or about the Presidency?” He laughed.

“You know it’s not power that I’m concerned with Phyllis, and it’s not about a140 mile stretch of land. It’s about saving lives, protecting the country, and stopping a mad man.” They continued on to the underground transport as she responded, “I just wanted to be sure. So, tell me, how did the Secretary Of Agriculture figure out the secret of time travel?”

“Everyone always asked how time travel was possible, or why it couldn’t happen. They should have asked another question, where could it happen?  I found out the answer in the middle of an Earthquake when I saw my Grandfather in the middle of nowhere.” He realized what he had said, but it was too late, not a big deal though. She had a sliver of information now, “So were going to the mountains?” Tom pulled a train ticket out of his pocket, “Actually we’re hopping a train!”

140 Mile Stretch

140 Mile Stretch

Secretary Harris was nervous as he walked in to the heart of the nation’s intelligence building.  He couldn’t imagine how many covert operations had been carried out here.  “Good morning Mr. Secretary, she will see you now.”  Director Wilson’s secretary pressed a button to open the inner door.

“Good morning Tom, it’s good to see you again.” She wheeled around from behind the desk, Phyllis Wilson was a formidable ally to have.  She was eighty four, but still had the strength of a person much younger.  Her slate gray curly hair flowed over her shoulders, her green eyes seemed to be aware of everything in the room.

She lost the use of her legs in the line of duty, a secret service agent who saved the President.  Then she went into politics, first Governor of California, then Senator.  She was a third generation American.  Her Grandparents immigrated from Harare, Zimbabwe.  Her Grandfather, Dr. Wilson, moved to the states to head up medical research at John Hopkins.

Although friends for years, like most Washington veterans, they sized each other up.  Tom was losing his hair, but not his nerve.  What he had left was white, he was eating to many doughnuts, but he knew that Alice was trying to get him to cut down.  His blue eyes and pleasant smile would make you underestimate him if you weren’t careful.  Some of his opponents had made that mistake, right before losing the election.

“Thank you Phyllis, I don’t mind telling you I’m a little nervous.”  She smiled, “You should be, you’re the first Secretary of Agriculture to ever enter this building.”  He smiled back, “True, there’s only one thing that reassures me my friend, the fact that for once, you need me more than I need you.  Shall we go?”