Chapter 5 -- Contact!
"Sir, this is Mike Marcus from the Bureau of Land Management. We’ve identified those coordinates you gave us. In 1977, that site was part of a campground operated by the Boy Scouts of America."
"A campground? What became of it?".
"It was sold to a gravel company in 2006, they exploited it and then turned the land over to the Detroit Metroplex Authority in 2011. Since then, it’s been part of the ‘plex."
"I see, thank you".
A campground?! What the hell would Rand be doing at a campground? He pored over Rand’s records again. He’d been born in the Detroit area, so it was possible he’d visited the camp while he was there. There wasn’t anything in the file to indicate any special attachment though, although it seemed possible that a boy could fall in love with his camp.
An hour later he was still poring over the records when the phone rang again.
"Sir, this Girard. You’d better get down here. His third displacement generated a paradox index of .93".
Downes could hear the quaver in Girard’s voice and he wasn’t surprised. A .93 was a catastrophic event, a near certain paradox. In fact, depending on how long since the infraction, the event horizon might already be experiencing serious effects.
"I’ll be right down."
Downes rushed down the hallway to the Operations Center. A .93 would theoretically generate a paradox ripple that could reorient the entire universe. Of course, no one had ever tested the theory, since any paradox greater than .05 was considered unacceptable and to be avoided. He pushed the door open into the ops room and was struck by the chaos he found there.
There were a half dozen scientists in the room evaluating gauges and sensors. Two of them were standing near the hatch leading to the staging area having a rather heated discussion. The rest were in a state of mild panic, trying desperately to determine the exact effects of Rand’s actions. In the midst of it all sat Girard, calmly examining his monitor and running the standard search grids to pinpoint Rand’s current time and displacement.
"Quiet down here, everyone just be quiet for a moment. Girard, what’s happening?"
"Well sir, his second displacement was to a similar coordinate and placed him within the environs of the Detroit ‘plex again. I believe it was an urban area even then, judging by the distance from the current center of the ‘plex. That one generated a .02 as well, so I deemed it no more significant than the first". Girard paused to see if his actions would meet with approval. When Downes nodded, he continued.
"The third time he returned to the same coordinates as the first time, but his temporal displacement was different. This time, he arrived in 1998, somewhere close to New Year’s, I believe it was December 27, but we’re still working on that. It was no sooner than that, and no more than a few days later".
Downes paused for only a moment. With a .93 staring him in the face, there was only one thing he could do. He picked up the phone and dialed the number for his military liaison, Randy Fleszgar. Randy answered the phone on the second ring with his usual cheery voice.
"This is Downes, I have a priority alpha request, authorization Samuel Baker One Niner" said Downes tersely, "I need your two top agents here pronto, and I need them ready to travel."
"Yes sir, they’ll arrive in 17 minutes sir." came Fleszgar’s reply.
Fleszgar was scared, but he made the calls. McGrath and Radke were both on base, so things were easier. He had them met by jet copter and flown across the river to the Forestry Service’s Headquarters. The two men ran through a hasty weapons check and prepared themselves for action. They were soon bristling with an assortment of hardware and weapons that would have left many third world nations jealous.
The two jumped from their chopper while it was still 20 feet in the air and rolled to their feet as it began retreating to a more suitable landing pad. They were met at the door of the facility by Downes’ assistant, who rapidly escorted them to the briefing room. The briefing lasted about seven minutes, with each man asking a few questions before agreeing to undertake the mission.
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