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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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'Sunglasses, Time-Travel, & Iced-Tea' Part 5

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

5. – John Wharton

John Wharton woke up to find himself lying on the floor of his carport. He had no idea how long he’d been out, but it was still sunny. He picked himself up off the ground and went back to look at the almost random instruments that made up his control panel.
Several numbers flickered in random on the alarm clock, which immediately meant to him that the device was currently unstable – not a good sign when a group of travellers were currently using the machine.

Thinking about John, Jason, Brian and Leonard, why weren’t they back yet?

He looked around him. The air was hot and dry. Nothing was happening out in the street in front of his house, but the air in the backyard where the machine was appeared heavy and visibly seemed to pulse and vibrate, which meant the machine was currently entertaining and accelerating any airborne particles within the full area of the yard in its activation. It was a side effect (and coverage effect) that neither him nor Paiten could figure out, and as a precaution no one had entered the affected range of particle acceleration before.

He didn’t understand why the test team he’d sent off – intentionally to just several places picked almost at random for a few brief seconds before being due to come back – remained absent. Had he entered an incorrect function?

His troubling thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice. Turning toward the front of the carport, he found Duncan Robertson strolling towards him.

“Hey John, what’s going on?”

“Duncan? What – what are you doing here?”

“Oh, I saw Leonard’s Impala sitting in your driveway and figured Jason and Leonard were here, thought I’d stop by and say hi.”

John rummaged through his mind in search of whatever reasonable things he could say. “Well…they’re kind of here, they were in the back.”

“Oh, okay, well let’s go back there then.” Duncan walked toward the open space between the rear of the carport and the backyard. John stiffened. “No! You shouldn’t go back there when the machine is – “

Duncan crossed the threshold from the asphalt to the patio stones – and merely became slightly blurry.

            “Duncan? You shouldn’t be back there,” John said weakly.

            “Huh?” Duncan responded in what sounded like a thick, distorted voice. “It’s difficult to hear you from here. I don’t see them.”

            “No?” John walked up to the edge of the backyard. “Where are they?”

            “I don’t know. The air is kind of weird here, though, isn’t it? Kind of feels heavy. By the way…” He walked back into the carport, appearing sharp and easy to hear again. “Did you hear that loud bang?”

            “What loud bang?”

            “The loud bang everyone’s been talking about. Everyone in the area heard it. Sounded like someone slammed a flat book down on a desk, only a million times louder.”

            “Really? When did this happen?”

            “I don’t know, maybe ten minutes ago? You didn’t hear it?”

            “No…I sort of conked out. Listen, remember that machine I’ve been working on?”

            “Yeah, I remember…that’s what’s sitting in your yard, right? The big electrical-transformer-looking thing?”

            “Yes…I just, well, tested it.”

            “You did!? Wow! I didn’t know you managed to work around the capacitator – “

            “Yeah, my point is, I sent Jason, Paiten, Leonard and Brian on a test run.”

            Duncan’s eyebrows rose. “You did!? Why didn’t you tell me?”

            “Because if I told you, then the weight transfer plus the number of travellers, which is equal to T plus X squared, plus emotional and bodily mass, where T equals the weight plus X which is the body count...well, anyway, it would have made an irregular and unstable result, that sort of thing. Oh, and I didn’t have enough body straps.”
Duncan shrugged. “Whatever. That’s too bad, I would have loved to try it out. So they’re off on some adventure now?”

            “That’s the thing. They’re supposed to be back now. And you stepped through the barrier the machine creates when it’s working.”

            Duncan stiffened. “I wasn’t supposed to do that?”

            “No. But nothing happened, I think.”

            “No? Phewth. Well, if they’re not back, we should probably try to figure out how to get them back then.”

            “Definitely. We’ll get started right now – “

            Suddenly, a tree branch broke over the rear fence of the yard, and to John’s dismay, his neighbor, Brent Hilliard, fell with it, landing in his backyard.

            He barely heard him land, but saw as Brent lay there for a second, then gingerly got up, brushed leaves off him, removed the binoculars from his neck, and noticed Wharton glaring at him from the carport.

He gave him a toothy smile, and waved.

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