Episode 2 Scene 12
“So, when are we?”
The man surveyed the landscape. The bright red dust was hard on the eyes, and the glare of the sun gave it a washed-out look. It was also furnace hot.
“The 1950s,” I tried for confirmation. “I’ve been cascaded?”
“Yep, that’s it.”
Shit. I’d been cascaded. It was my first time. I stumbled over to my ride and gave it a quick check. It looked OK. My kit looked fine as well. I dug into my pocket and pulled out my keys. I looked over at the man in the slouch hat.
“You’re an Aussie, right?”
“Got it in one, sport.”
Great. An Australian. When I was in the military, I’d been involved in joint exercises with the Australian army. They had a hard-on for their hats. I waved my keys at him.
“Is the bike going to start?”
The man stared at me. “Do I look like a fucking mechanic?”
Christ. Hard cases. The army’s full of them. But then, it needs to be. I stuck my key in the ignition, turned it, and thumbed the start switch. It roared into life. At least the bike was working. I turned it off and faced the soldier.
“So, Maralinga, right?”
He nodded. I looked at the harsh country surrounding me. I knew Maralinga. It was where the Brits ran their nuclear tests in the 1950s. Kicked out the indigenous people and set the place on fire. Dickheads.
“Atomic tests, nuclear tests, yeah?” I confirmed.
This got a raise of the eyebrows. “You know your history.”
Shit. This place must glow in the night. “It’s safe here, the radiation I mean?”
“It’s safe for our purposes.”
The Aussie wasn’t big on expanding his answers. I didn’t know what was going on. I needed more info.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I’m here for you, Jack.”
I said nothing. My face remained impassive. He knew my name. Big deal. It seemed everyone did these days. The man looked surprised.
“But I know who you are,” he stated, trying again.
“Listen, buddy. You whisk me back, what, sixty, seventy years in time, you’re here waiting for me, and you think I’m going to be impressed you know my name?”
“But everyone is shocked,” he complained, as if one of his favorite party tricks had been exposed.
“Yeah, well, whatever, and you can lighten up on the whole Yoda routine. It’s getting old.”
“Yoda?” scoffed the man. “You might ease up on the cultural references, mate. Star Wars isn’t out for another twenty years or so.”
I thought about this. He was right.
“So you’ve been into your future?”
He waved off my question. “Not important.”
He stood there saying nothing. It was my move. So I made one.
“Well, this is fascinating and all, but I’ve really got to get going.”
This was just for show. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was in the middle of a desert in a country that’s basically a giant sandbox. I didn’t have a clue which way to go. And he knew this.
“It’s a big country, Jack.”
“Yeah, yeah, OK,” I said.
This was getting me nowhere. Time to hit the reset button.
“Let’s start again. What’s your name?”
“Payne. Dennis Payne,” he answered.
“And you’re army,” I guessed. “It’s the hat.”
Like an idiot I waved my hand around the top of my head. I was pretty sure he knew what a hat was, but I couldn’t help myself.
He smiled at my performance. “Former army. Retired. I’m doing something different now.”
I frowned. “And you’re here for me?”
The sun had climbed higher into the sky. It was still only morning, but already waves of heat were rising off the hot sands. I saw little wriggly mirages in the distance. At least I hoped they were mirages, as I’d no idea what radiation waves looked like.
“Yep, I’m here for you and others like you.”
“What are you, then? What do you do?”
Dennis looked thoughtful. I knew he had been asked this question before, but he was trying to come up with something that’d satisfy me.
“I guess you’d call me an orientation officer. I’m here to help you.”
“Help me what? Get home, back to my time?”
“Is that what you want, Jack? Do you want to go home?”
I thought about this. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but then I wasn’t doing much back in my own time.
“No, not particularly,” I replied. “So you’re here to help me get used to this era, this time period.”
Dennis laughed again. Either I was the funniest person on the planet or he was one relaxed dude, and I didn’t remember saying anything funny.
“Nothing so dull, mate,” he said, still smiling. “I’m here to help you become a Temporal Enforcement Officer.”
“A what?” I asked. I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I keep telling them it’s a fucked title,” he said. “You’re going back to school, sport. We’re going to make you a Keeper.”
Want to read more? Pre-order here!