The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 2

Chapter 1 is here.

Chapter 2

January 25, 1906

“I don’t believe this.” Casey stood on the street corner the next morning, staring in shock at the scene around her. The university she knew was gone. A few of the old buildings were still there, but the trees that grew in front of the Lanyon Building were missing. As she had noticed last night, there were no student apartments, no traffic lights, no stop signs. The streets were asphalt, but looked odd. After a moment, she figured out that the painted lines were missing, so there was nothing to indicate lanes. The curbs were bare of the long lines of cars usually parked along both sides of the street.

People walked by, everyone dressed in dark clothes, the women in long skirts and big hats. Horses and carriages dashed through the streets, the horses leaving droppings everywhere, which the people ignored, except to step around them. The occasional car clattered by, but they were unlike any car Casey had ever seen outside of a classic car show. The stink of horse manure and burning coal marred every breath, forcing her to hold a hand over her nose as often as possible. It was familiar enough to be Belfast, the land was the same, the streets were similar, and off in the distance the cranes in the shipyard hulked against a gray sky. But it was a vastly changed Belfast.

She closed her eyes, and the city she knew sprang into her mind. She heard her friend, Jase, offering to let her sleep in the empty bed in his dorm room. “I’ve kept ye here ‘till bloody midnight, gettin’ me ready for the test tomorrow,” he was saying. “Ye know it’s not safe to walk home alone.”

She did know it. Her mother would kill her, if she found out. But she’d stayed in boys’ rooms before, and couldn’t face the mess. Besides, the bed was only empty because Jase’s roommate was with his girlfriend. Which meant used sheets on the bed. So she walked home through the garden, after promising to stay alert, and to call Jase as soon as she got home.

Shit, she thought, opening her eyes to the unreal vision of dust and horses and long skirts around her. Jase, her housemates, her best friend, Colleen, her parents… What had she done to them?

Trying to banish the guilty thoughts, she turned to the physicist, standing next to her on the corner. He was pale, staring at the scene. She cleared her throat. “Is… is this really 1906?” she asked. “Are you sure?”

He hunched his shoulders. “It looks like it could be. That’s the year I programmed.”

She took a couple of deep breaths, feeling sick. “What do we do, Dr. Altair? If this is 1906, what are we supposed to do?”

He sighed as he looked at her. “D’you have any idea how out of place we are? How conspicuous? The style of our clothes, the material they’re made of? Our money, our IDs, our gadgets, everything we have with us is an anachronism. I don’t know what we do.”

Casey studied him, trying to concentrate on one problem at a time. His clothes were casual: blue jeans, hiking shoes, a North Down Cricket sweatshirt with a hood, and a warm rain jacket over it that he should probably zip up, as the sweatshirt commemorated the winning back of the senior cup in 1981. He reminded her of any number of professors, older and genial, grey hair, dark glasses. Behind the glasses, his eyes were large and brown, the brows bushy. He was around six feet tall and thin, with a slight paunch. She guessed he was about sixty.

On impulse, she grabbed her cell phone and flipped it open. No service. The battery was charged, but that wouldn’t last long. She brought up a picture of Colleen, the one taken in their room as Colleen hugged her teddy bear pillow. The next picture was of her parents, taken during the Christmas holiday, over coffee in the kitchen at home. Tears stung her eyes.

“We’ll never get home, will we?” She struggled to breathe. “I’ll never see my parents again, will I? I was supposed to call my mom today after my test. What are they going to think, Dr. Altair? Have we just disappeared? Will they think we’ve been kidnapped and murdered, with our bodies buried somewhere and they never find them?” She blinked tears away. Her glance went back to the phone, then around her at the buildings and horses. People gave them odd looks, but didn’t stop. Turning to hide her movement, she closed the phone and put it away. Suddenly, it was very precious.

Altair’s expression was sad and guilty. He turned and walked back to the shelter of the church. Casey followed, and they leaned against the wall. “There is someone who might be able to help us,” he said with some hesitation. “A physicist who lived in Belfast at this time. I’ve used some of his work as the basis for my experiment.”

“Occupational hazard,” Casey murmured.


“Occupational hazard,” she repeated, glancing up at him. “I guess if you’re a physicist trying to figure out how time works, you have to be prepared for wayward time travelers to show up on your doorstep.”

He smiled at the thought. “You might, at that.” He nodded toward the campus. “I don’t know where he lives, but he works there. I suggest we find his office and see if he’ll do anything for us.”

“Maybe he’ll give us tea and biscuits,” Casey said with some hope, as she followed him onto campus.


It took about thirty minutes, but they eventually found themselves in what was currently the science building. They stood outside an office door, a nameplate declaring it belonged to “Dr. Colin Riley.” Sam’s knock brought no answer, and a passing student informed them, “Won’t be here until 9:00. Not an early riser.” They both automatically looked at their watches. It was 8:47.

Casey quirked an eyebrow. “Amazing. You brought us a hundred years into the past and hit it to the second. We’d get jet lag if we flew to New York.”

Sam shrugged. “The time of day wasn’t one of my variables. Since I didn’t change it, it stayed constant. Why make things harder than they have to be?”

Casey nodded. Then, like students everywhere who are forced to wait for a teacher, she sank to the ground, sitting cross-legged on the floor, her bag on her lap. Sam shook his head and moved across the hall to examine the trophy case.

He ignored the curious looks they garnered, but he noticed Casey shifting around as if nervous.

Soon, she came to stand next to him. “All the students are guys.”

“It’s 1906, Casey. Not sure if Queen’s even admitted women at this time.”

“Queen’s has always admitted women. I guess none of them are taking physics.” She was silent a moment. “They keep looking at me.”

Sam turned to examine her. As he had noticed last night, she was small. Daylight revealed long, curly red hair and the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. Her hooded black cloak was wool, under it, she wore a brown sweater, blue jeans and black boots. He grinned, amused. “With that hair, you’re obviously a girl, but you’re wearing pants and sitting on the floor. Not things a lady does in this time.”

She pursed her lips. “I’m going to have a hard time here, aren’t I?”

A voice interrupted them. “May I help you?”

They turned. The speaker was middle-aged, not as tall as Sam, wearing a bowler hat and a black coat over a three-piece suit. He carried a briefcase and an umbrella, and had the harried look of a man who had just arisen.

Sam stepped forward, hand outstretched. “Dr. Riley? I’m Dr. Samuel Altair, this is Miss Casey Wilson. We were hoping to talk with you a moment.”

Dr. Riley indicated his office and went inside, tossing his hat and coat on a rack in the corner. Sam and Casey followed, standing awkwardly amid stacks of books and papers that covered the desk and several feet of the floor. “My class starts in half an hour,” he said. “Until then, what can I do for you?” He looked them over, peering at their clothes, then shrugged. He placed a kettle of water on a small cook stove before lighting the coal inside. “Would you like some tea? I have some extra cups here somewhere.”

While Riley rummaged among a cascade of slide rules, paper, and various scales on his shelf, Sam decided to talk. “We have an unusual problem, Dr. Riley. I believe you’ve been working with light in relation to the new theory of relativity published last year by Albert Einstein?”

Dr. Riley nodded, throwing some tea leaves into a pot. “I wouldn’t say I’m working on it. Haven’t actually seen the paper. Heard of it, though. Have you a copy, perchance?”

Sam exchanged a glance with Casey, before plunging ahead. “I’ve used some of your findings in my own work on time travel, Dr. Riley.” He hesitated as Riley turned to stare at him. The air seemed to turn to molasses, but he forced himself to continue. “I had developed an experiment to move objects backward through time. Something went wrong, though. Casey and I have been displaced in time, Dr. Riley. We were in the year 2006.”

Riley blinked, then nodded. “Kelly put you up to this?”

“Excuse me?”

“Dr. Kelly. Put you up to it. Do let him know I’m quite impressed, and will spend a few days on my rejoinder.”

Casey snickered. Sam glared at her, then in one quick movement, took out his cell phone and tossed it to Riley, who barely caught it. Riley stared at it, as Sam said, “No, Dr. Riley. Dr. Kelly has nothing to do with this. We can show you other objects, if you wish. We just arrived last night. Spent the night in a storage room. All we have are the clothes we’re wearing and objects like that. Things that are useful for life in 2006, but won’t do anything for us, here.”

As anachronisms go, Sam thought the cell phone would be fairly convincing. When Riley opened it, he stumbled into his chair, never taking his eyes off the screen. He didn’t move for a while and to Sam’s relief, Casey took the tea in hand, pouring the boiling water into the teapot to steep, then passing out cups. As she placed a cup by Riley, she tapped his hand. He looked up at her.

“You got any biscuits or anything? This time traveler’s starving.”

He opened his mouth, but couldn’t make a sound. So he just pointed at the top desk drawer and looked back at the phone. Casey glanced at Sam, who shrugged. He didn’t know quite what to do, either.

While she pulled out a pack of biscuits, Sam held out his hand for the phone. Riley gave it to him without comment. “It’s a phone,” Sam explained. “Has other functions as well, but basically, it’s a telephone. However, it requires a network to function and obviously that network doesn’t exist in this time. It’s also a camera,” and he pointed it at Riley who jumped at the flash. Sam pressed a button and held the phone up for Riley to see, noting that color could actually drain from someone’s face.

“What… what do you want?” Riley asked, his voice a terrified whisper.

Sam spread his hands out. “Just assistance, Dr. Riley. You see, I can’t get us back to our own time. We’re stuck here. We don’t have clothes or money or any way to get them. At the very least, we could use some advice.” He pointed at Casey, who was staring at the biscuit in her hand. “This young lady is an innocent victim. She walked into my experiment by accident. She’s lost everything, Dr. Riley. Her family, her friends, her world. So have I.” He paused and smiled in apology. “We don’t want to burden you, but you’re the only person I could think of who lived here at this time. Would you be willing to help us?”

Riley’s mouth opened and closed a few times. On his fourth attempt, he managed, “Wait here,” and then he was out the door. Sam and Casey stared at each other, bewildered. They waited, sipping their tea. Neither felt like talking.


Riley was back in twenty minutes, bearing a tray of bread and jam. As he put on more tea, he explained, “Had my assistant take my class.” He sat down, shaking his head. “You could knock me over with a feather, Dr. Altair. I don’t know what happens with time theory between now and 2006, but I can guarantee we aren’t even close to time travel right now. It’s all thought experiments.”

Sam nodded. “I understand. We’re just at the threshold in my time. No one was more surprised than I, when this experiment actually worked.”

“I’ll have to give this some thought, sir. But I don’t mind telling you, this scares me to death. People from the future? What will your presence do? Now that I have knowledge of you, how will that affect my research?” Riley stared hard at Sam. “I’m tempted, sir, to just send you both away. Whatever you end up doing is up to you. I can’t control you. But I’d prefer it if you stayed out of my life.” His jaw worked with tension for a moment as he glanced at Sam’s cell phone, still on his desk.

“However,” he continued, with a glance at Casey, who looked ill and disturbed, “I can’t just ignore fellow humans in need. I’m not clear on what my responsibilities are. Should I work with you to see if we can send you back?” His intense stare turned back to Sam. “Is that possible? If you and I work on this, can you figure that out? Can you build another time machine to take the two of you home?”

Sam sighed and stared at the ceiling. “I doubt it, Dr. Riley. In 2006, I have technologies at my disposal that are necessary to build and run the time machine. None of that is available now. And we’ve never figured out the mechanics of time travel. Once we moved backward, it’s not at all clear what happened to the future. Is it still there, where we left it? Where was that? Are we in a tangential or parallel universe? You see, I have no idea where to aim for.”

Riley nodded. “Yes, I do see. And I assumed it would be something like that. Hence, your need for shelter and food.” He turned to Casey, his gaze critical. “And proper clothing.” He turned back to Sam. “Perhaps employment as well. Do you concur?”

Sam nodded, with a worried glance at Casey. She was sitting still, wide-eyed and pale. Two bright splotches of red marred her cheeks as she listened to them, but she didn’t try to interrupt.

“I can get you settled for a while,” Riley said. “But what kind of job can you do?”

“Well, I am a physicist. I think I can manage to work in this less advanced time, which, by the way, is considered a heyday of discoveries in many branches of science. I would be thrilled to participate.”

Riley looked alarmed. “I’m not sure if research would be a good idea, Dr. Altair. How would you cope with your advanced knowledge? And what would be the point? If you wanted to, you could just write a textbook, telling us of all the discoveries and knowledge discovered in the next hundred years. It might take us a few years to assimilate it, but just imagine—we’d be a hundred years ahead of ourselves.”

Sam exchanged an uncomfortable look with Casey, who shrugged to show she had no helpful opinion to offer. All three of them were silent. Sam finally spoke, feeling his way.

“That would necessitate announcing to the world that Casey and I have traveled through time. I don’t believe the world is ready for that idea, even if everyone believed us. It’s possible we’d just become prisoners or pawns of governments–I can’t, for instance, see the Queen, or rather the King, leaving us alone if he knew about us. I would be terrified of creating an extremely unstable political situation. I’m afraid I can’t even imagine how horrible it would be, Dr. Riley.”

Casey shuddered. “I’d rather we just tried to sink into the woodwork, if you know what I mean. Can we do that? Just work at normal jobs and try to live normal lives in this time?” She glanced at Sam. “We may have made a huge mistake in even talking to Dr. Riley. What if he feels obligated to tell someone, to turn us in?”

Riley shook his head. “Not to worry, Miss Wilson. I wouldn’t dare. I’ve worked too hard to reach this point in my career. I’m not about to throw it away blabbering about time travelers from the future.” He leaned toward Sam, gesturing earnestly. “I would prefer that you find ‘normal jobs,’ as Miss Wilson says. Something outside the field of physics would be best. Try to fit in as well as possible.”

He rubbed his forehead, staring off into space. “If you are from the future, that means the time from now until 2006 has already occurred. Which means we go through it again. What happens if you change something?”

“Not changing things might be impossible, Dr. Riley. You mentioned yourself that just having knowledge of us could change your own research. There are a billion possible variables we might affect at any time, even in all innocence.”

“Yes, that’s true.” Riley sat back and rested his hands in his lap. “Short of both of you committing suicide, though, I think we must take our chances and hope that whatever changes that happen are just small, unimportant ones.”

Casey spoke up, startling both men. “As far as I’m concerned, from the point of view of today, the future hasn’t happened yet. I understand our presence is a paradox, but I don’t see that it changes anything. The future is unknown for us as well as you, and everyone alive today. We have no idea what happens tomorrow. We don’t even know where our next meal is coming from. Except for Dr. Altair’s knowledge of scientific discoveries, the only things we know about are large events, like wars and elections and such. Things we can’t really affect. I don’t see that we’ll be that much of a danger. And if we do change something, how do we know if that’s a bad thing?”

“What if you change something that prevents your own birth?” Riley asked. “There are so many possible paradoxes.”

Casey spread her hands. “So? That seems so spurious. We were born. We’re here, now. Whatever happens from this point on, happens in the normal stream of time. There are no future events that must happen because they happened before. The future hasn’t happened, yet.” She rubbed her forehead. “Jesus, this is giving me a headache.”

Riley raised his brows at her language, but said, “And it’s a circular argument, which I’m afraid to say, is the only argument possible for this situation. We could discuss it forever and still end up where we started. So again, I say you should just try to live normal lives. I agree with you, Miss Wilson.”

“What about the San Francisco earthquake, Casey?” Sam asked.

“What?” She looked confused.

“The 1906 earthquake. That’s a good data point for us. If the earthquake happens in April, with the resulting fire and loss of life and property…” he hesitated. “I don’t know what that tells us. Except that we’ll know that certain events will occur in this “stream of time” as you called it, that did occur in our timeline.”

“We can’t stop an earthquake, Dr. Altair,” Casey pointed out.

“No, we can’t. I suppose if we had sufficient time, we could try to warn them, tell them what to do to prepare for it.”

“But they’d have to know you’re from the future,” Riley stated. “Back to our original problem.”

They were silent for several minutes, then Sam sighed. “A day at a time, I guess. We should try to solve our immediate problems and worry about the larger picture later. Dr. Riley, can you give us advice? How do we find jobs, shelter, clothing? What’s our first step?”

Riley leaned back in his chair. “Belfast is an industrial city, but the country has been through a rough economic time. People are pouring into town from the rural areas, hoping to find work. You’ll have a lot of competition. I can get you a newspaper; you can see what jobs are being offered.”

“This is going to take some thought,” Casey said, leaning forward in her chair, gazing at Sam. “You can’t just waltz into a shop somewhere and expect them to hand you a job. What will you tell them? Who are you? What experience have you had? Where have you worked before this?” She glanced at Riley. “Will we need some kind of identification? You can’t do anything in the future without that. What about now?”

Riley shook his head, bewildered by her quick questions. “Do you mean papers of some kind? No. Most people don’t have any kind of identification. Births, deaths, marriages, things like that are supposed to be recorded, but I don’t believe any employer would ask for something like that. They will want references, however.” He swallowed nervously, glancing at Sam. “I suppose I could write a letter of reference for you. Just general character, skills, knowledge, that kind of thing. It may not be the perfect solution, but it’s a start.”

Sam nodded. “I’d appreciate that. I think it’s safest to stick as close to the truth as possible. We can’t just make up all new personas.” He shrugged in Casey’s direction. “I imagine it would become very difficult to keep our stories straight, if we made everything up.”

Casey and Riley both nodded at this, Riley waiting for further information, Casey no doubt trying to figure out what in her past could be applied to this time period. Sam was wondering the same thing, disturbed at the difficulty of applying a lifetime of physics research to the low-tech task of a job in 1906.

“Do you have a pencil and paper?” he asked Riley. “I’ll write down a few skills and bits of experience you can work into a letter. Casey could do the same thing.”

Riley handed Sam a pad and pencil, but looked Casey over with a critical air. “She’s a girl. She could maybe work at the rope factory or as a servant.”

Casey looked flabbergasted, but Sam said, “Let’s assume her class is a bit higher than that. I don’t believe she has the background to do either of those jobs.”

Riley pursed his lips as he thought. “Seamstress?”

Casey shrugged. “I can sew up a cut in an emergency.”

“What?” Riley seemed quite confused.

“First aid,” Casey explained. “My mother’s a doctor and she made me take extensive first aid training. ‘So I’d be useful in emergencies,’ she always said. The only real job experience I’ve had has been working in the Botanic Garden as a student assistant.”

“Her major was horticulture,” Sam supplied. “Quite useful to Ireland in the twenty-first century.”

Casey nodded, looking hopefully at Riley, but he just shook his head. “I can’t imagine what use a girl would be in the gardens. That’s hard work.”

Casey rolled her eyes. Sam sighed and turned his attention to the pad of paper.


When they left Riley’s office an hour later, they were not much better off than when they arrived. Sam possessed a generic letter of reference and a newspaper folded to the classified section. He also had in his pocket two five-pound notes that he had reluctantly accepted from Riley, along with directions to a store that had cheap clothes. Riley insisted they take the money, as he had no other help to offer them and they would have needs while looking for work. He assured them it would not last long, but that it was all he could spare. He also asked them not to come back. If a prospective employer called, he would give a good reference, but he hoped to never see them again.

“I think we scare him, Dr. Altair,” Casey offered in consolation as she and Sam headed for the business district. “Give him some time to think about it. Maybe his scientific curiosity will get the better of him and he’ll be in touch.”

“Maybe.” Sam was doubtful. “Listen, we may as well get on first names, don’t you think?” He stopped and looked at her in regret. “I’m afraid we may be here a long time and we’ll be better off if we stick together.” He paused at her hesitant expression, then moved over to a bench and sat. Casey followed, but remained standing.

“I don’t know you, Dr. Altair,” she began, then stopped, and sat down next to him, staring at her feet. “Until last night, I’d never laid eyes on you. Now you’re the only person in the world that I know. You seem like a nice enough person,” she looked up at him with narrowed eyes, “although perhaps a bit careless at times.” He “harrumphed” at that and she smiled a bit, but turned serious, again. “I’m really afraid, Sam,” she said. “But I want to survive. I’m not sure what that means in this time period, but I guess we just take it a day at a time. And you’re right: we need to stick together.”

She stood again, but regarded him, still serious. “So let’s call it friends and see what happens. But Sam, I really do know karate. Brown belt.”

He laughed and stood as well, rubbing his arm. “I’m convinced you know karate,” he said as he started off toward the store. “You’re in charge of security.”

“Great,” she muttered, following after him. “At least I have a job.”

Chapter 3 will be up on Friday!

A Novel in Parts. The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder

Botanic Garden - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Botanic Garden – Belfast, Northern Ireland

We all know I’m going through a tough writing period. My lovely friend, Lani Longshore, kindly calls it “waiting for the universe…” I can’t finish the sentence because I don’t even know what I’m waiting for. But it gives me some hope that this isn’t a permanent state of being, even if it is going on the second year.

My quiet waiting has also been affecting this blog – I just don’t have much to say, and even I get tired of posts on politics and misogyny.  So for a while, I’m going to give you something different. This won’t be ALL I post, but I thought that for a couple of days a week, I can give you Reading for Pleasure. In other words, a chance to read one of my novels for free.

Yes, I hear you scoffing that this is just a marketing gimmick. I can’t say that it isn’t, but hey, I’m an author. I sell the books I write. Can’t sue me for that.

Of course, we’ll start with my first novel, The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder. I’ll give you the blurb here, then in a few minutes, I’ll put up the first chapter. I’m thinking of posting one chapter each time, but if it’s a long-ish chapter, I may break it up. My criteria for that will be subjective, but please let me know if you think the posts are too long. I will try to always link a post back to the previous chapter, and also go back to the previous post and link to next chapter.

It’s time travel. I can do that.

If you know someone who might enjoy reading Shipbuilder, pass along the link. And of course, you can always buy the book online just about anywhere. I’ll include the links at the bottom. Let’s go!

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder

Imagine being there before the Titanic set sail.

Now imagine being there before she’s even built.

Sam Altair is a physicist living in Belfast, Ireland. He has spent his career researching time travel and now, in early 2006, he’s finally reached the point where he can send objects backwards through time. The only problem is, he doesn’t know where the objects go. They don’t show up in the past, and no one notices any changes to the present. Are they creating alternate time lines?

To collect more data, Sam tries a clandestine experiment in a public park, late at night. But the experiment goes horribly wrong when Casey Wilson, a student at the university, stumbles into his isolation field. Sam tries to rescue her, but instead, he and Casey are transported back to the year 1906. Stuck in the past, cut off from everyone and everything they know, Sam and Casey work together to help each other survive. Then Casey meets Thomas Andrews, the man who will shortly begin to build the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. Should they warn him, changing the past and creating unknown consequences for the future? Or should they let him die?

The construction of White Star Line’s Olympic-class ships forms the backdrop for a passionate love affair between Tom and Casey, who must overcome the many differences inherent between an Edwardian Irish gentleman, and a member of America’s Generation Y. The fictional love affair grows alongside real lives from history: the Andrews family of Comber, Lord William Pirrie, Bruce Ismay, and the thousands of skilled men who built the remarkable ocean liners of the early twentieth century.

Read Chapter 1

Where to find the book:

Barnes & Noble

The book is in the Apple store too, but darned if I can find the link. If you have an Apple reader, you should be able to find it!

Panel votes to kill meat-origin law – Contra Costa Times

This makes me mad. I truly believe that we have a right to know where our food comes from and how it was produced. It doesn’t matter if it’s meat, apples, or fish… we have that right. The argument that “we cannot sit back and let American business be held hostage to a small minority…” is just bunk. That “small minority” are customers who have the right to decide whether they want to buy your product or not. Withholding information about your product is just wrong.

And if that darn minority is so small, how can they hurt your business?

This is a big example of money buying politics.

Panel votes to kill meat-origin law – Contra Costa Times.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 1

Read the Introduction here.

Chapter 1

January 25, 2006

Sam Altair broke a lifetime of following the rules when he stole equipment from his employer and set up an experiment they’d forbidden him to do. Then he sent himself back in time to the year 1906.

That last part was an accident.

When the Sun Consortium’s Technical Review Team cut off his funding, citing a “lack of results,” Sam heard the bong of a death knell. A lifetime of research was about to be boxed up and filed in a records center somewhere in Waterford.

He knew he was sending objects back in time. He just couldn’t find a trace of them in the past. The Technical Review Team expressed concern that he was starting alternate timelines whenever he ran an experiment. They said an object sent back in time could cause the universe to split. This would create a new, parallel universe with an identical history to their own, but with a separate future from that moment forward. Sam was doubtful, but it scared the powers-that-be. He was certain this was the real reason they pulled the plug on his research.

But he would never have another chance.

Sam didn’t have time to plan this clandestine experiment, and yes, he had to shrug off the irony of that. He’d slipped the small time machine into his bag, but it wouldn’t take long for someone to notice it was missing. Anyway, the moment he accessed the satellite feeds, using the Consortium’s dedicated lines, they would know without doubt what he was doing.

But if he was successful–if he could send a young tree back one hundred years, and if the full-grown tree appeared in its place–they would have to let him continue. They would be delighted to do so, once he’d done the dirty work.

So as Belfast settled into its nightlife, Sam went for a walk, with the time machine and his laptop stuffed into a backpack. The area around Queen’s University seldom truly slept, but the Botanic Garden was empty this late on a foggy January night. He was certain no one noticed him take the main path past the gates and across the grass, to the giant oak holding court over the herbaceous border.

He took a few pictures of the large tree with his cell phone’s camera, but it wasn’t really the big tree he cared about. He just wanted to establish the provenance of the foot-high sapling, poking up from the muddy green several feet away. The sapling that would soon be as tall as its parent.

A tickling in the back of his neck made him work quickly, using his GPS to find the coordinates of the tree, and then running the formulas to set up an isolation field around it. It wasn’t visible in the cold night air, but on his laptop screen, the field showed a blue border, 152.4 centimeters in all directions around the sapling, including the vertical. Everything within that field would go back in time.

It would leave a bloody great hole in the grass if this didn’t work. But if it didn’t work, that would be the least of his worries.

He’d set his equipment on some large rocks behind the nearby bushes, and now he knelt beside them, inputting the final instructions. The location was the exact spot the sapling now occupied. The time of day was synchronized to current time: 12:02 a.m. and counting. The temporal destination was 1906.

He set the timer for one minute, and allowed himself a moment of glory as his finger poised above the ENTER key. His heart pounded with anxiety as he reviewed the steps of the experiment. All was ready.

He lowered his finger with a swift tap and the countdown started. That’s when things began to fall apart.

The low murmur of a voice reached him as he knelt by the time machine. He froze in place, breath caught. Who was that? Had someone followed him? Was he being watched? He jerked upward, looking toward the tree. For several seconds, he could not make sense of what he saw. But there, within his isolation field, was a girl, kneeling next to the sapling, patting some dirt around the tree and talking to it in that sing-song voice people used for babies and pets. She wore a dark cloak and gloves, with a cloth cap pushed over her ears. Long hair hung down her back, partially covering the backpack she wore. A student? At this time of night?

The time machine was counting down. There was no abort switch.

His mind refused to think. His actions were beyond any choice he could imagine. So he yelled. “Hey! Get out of there! Hurry!”

The girl jumped in surprise, but lost her balance, falling to sit on the ground. Sam rushed toward her, seeing in his mind how the objects in his experiments vanished from sight with a faint clap of thunder. A hundred and fifty-two centimeters. Five feet. Just a few feet from the tree, and they would both be safe.

She started to stand, arms coming up in defense at his headlong rush. And everything changed.


His senses returned one at a time, as if in slow motion. Sight first–he found himself on his hands and knees, as if he’d fallen. He stared at his fingers spread claw-like in the grass. Feeling came next–his heart beat fast and strong in his chest, the pulse points in his wrists throbbed through his hands against the ground. Then smell and taste–his first breath brought a sting of burning coal, and the invasive trace of a broken sewer. Or outhouses.

He was in the past.

Bloody hell.

He sat, staring around him at the now fogless night, noting the twin phenomena of increased darkness due to no street lights, and a sky bright with a dazzling array of stars and the full moon.

Belfast, Ireland. 25 January. 1906.

A moan off to his left told him he wasn’t alone. Memory returned with a rush of horror. The girl had come through time with him.

He twisted to look behind him. She must have fallen too. Encumbered by her backpack, the fall looked clumsy–she lay half on her back, the pack caught underneath her. A strap trapped one arm behind her and she was trying to free it.

He scrambled to her side, babbling with constrained concern, turning her so she could free the arm. “Are you hurt, Miss? I’m so sorry. My God, I’m so sorry about this. Did you hit your head?”

Free of the pack, she moved so fast he had no time to help her up. She stood, her dark cloak masking her shape. Her hat had come off, revealing a mass of hair surrounding a face so pale, it seemed to glow in the darkness.

Her voice revealed her panic. “Who are you? What just happened, here? Where are we?”

He rose to his feet, his sixty-year old knees making it a much slower process than hers. Once at his full height, he looked down about a foot to meet her eyes. She waited, her stance and eyes alert. The backpack remained on the ground. He suspected she left it there in case she needed to run.

Even amid the other-worldly oddness of what had just happened to them, he noticed her accent. She was American.

“Miss,” he said, holding out a hand to show her he wouldn’t hurt her, “I will explain everything. But it’s not going to be easy to believe.”

“Where are we?” she asked again. “How did we get here? I was by the tree and you came running out of nowhere and… and I… fell, and…” Her hands clenched into fists at her sides. “Something happened. What happened?” The last words were a shout.

“I didn’t come out of nowhere,” he said. “I was behind the bushes.” He gestured to the side, staring for moment when he saw that the bushes were no longer there. When he turned back to her, he saw she had backed up a few steps, her gaze fixed on the missing bushes. He stayed silent as she looked around, his own eyes taking in a peripheral glance of Belfast’s Botanic Garden.

It was not the same in 1906.

“Where are we?” she asked again. A whisper.

He prevaricated. “We’re in the Botanic Garden, miss.”

Her head moved sideways. “No. I’m a horticultural student. I know that garden like my own name. This is not it.”

“The Palm House is there,” Sam said, his chin jutting to the right, where the familiar hulk was framed against the sky.

Her glance turned into a stare, and when she brought her attention back to Sam, her face was tight with anger. “Start explaining, mister.”

He rubbed his forehead with both hands. “Right,” he said. “You’re right–something did happen. I was doing an experiment,” he turned to gesture at the small tree, but at his sudden movement she brought her hands up in a self-defense posture. The pose looked quite professional to Sam, and he held his hands up, standing very still. “It was only supposed to involve the tree.”

She didn’t change her position. “Do you work for the city? Who gave you permission to experiment in here?”

“It’s a public park.”

Her eyes narrowed and she took a step toward him. The movement was fluid and controlled. Sam moved back, eyes on her hands. Her voice was hard. “Answer my questions, mister. Who are you?”

He bowed his head. “Dr. Samuel Altair. I’m a physicist.”

Her eye twitched. “Why are things different? I don’t remember going anywhere. Did you drug me?”

He winced at the fear and rage in her voice. There’d been date rape drugging going on around the university, and her fear was understandable. But why had she been alone in the park, so late at night? He couldn’t help feeling annoyed that he was now having to defend his honor, when he’d done nothing wrong.

Nothing along those lines, anyway.

“No, I promise you,” he said, his voice firm. “I did nothing of the sort. You understand I have as much right to be in the park as you.”

“Damn it, mister.” Her voice squeaked and she took a deep breath. “I swear, if you don’t start giving me some straight answers, I’ll put you in the hospital.” She changed positions, her eyes roving over his body. He felt himself assessed, saw her confidence. He suspected it would hurt if she attacked. “Tell me the truth,” she demanded. “What did you do?”

He closed his eyes for a moment. “I’m telling you the truth,” he said. “We’re still in the gardens.”

Her movement was sudden and harsh, her leg swinging out and around before he had time to blink. She kicked his legs out from under him and he fell with a startled yell. Pain lanced his back as he hit the ground, but she gave him no time to think about it. She grabbed his arm, forcing him to his side and twisting it behind his back until he yelped with pain.

“We are not in the garden!” she yelled into his ear. “Stop saying that. Tell me the truth.”

He gasped, the fingers of his free hand scrabbling uselessly to reach her. “I’m telling you what I know,” he said, gasping again. “It’s just not easy to explain. I’m a researcher. I work with time.” He moaned and she loosened her hold a fraction.

“Go on.”

“I’m studying time distortion. Time travel.”

He couldn’t see her face, but after another pain-filled moment, she released him and stood back. He groaned, bringing his arm around to cradle it against his chest, as he sat up. He looked up at her through tears of pain.

She hooted. “Time travel? You’re going to have to do better than that, Mister. That’s lame.”

He shrugged the uninjured shoulder. “Look around. You said yourself everything is different.” He stood, protecting the injured arm as best he could. “I was trying to send the tree back a hundred years, to 1906,” he said. “I need a chance to look around. I need to verify where and when we are. I need a chance to think.”

She stared at him. He watched her, saw her struggle with confusion. When she moved again, he flinched, but relaxed when she flipped open a cell phone and pressed a button. In the silence of the dark night, he heard the faint recording telling her there was no service available. The light from the screen revealed her dismay.

“All right,” she said, dropping the phone back in her pocket. “Look around. Think. Verify. While you’re doing that, I’m going home.” She turned around, scooped up her backpack, and walked quickly away.

Sam jerked in astonishment. Where was she going? Well, she’d find out soon enough that home wasn’t there.

But what would she do then? Could he count on her to come back? No doubt she could take care of herself in 2006, but would she know what to do in 1906? Bollocks, he didn’t know what to do. Afraid to lose her, he started after her.

He found her just outside the garden gates, staring in shock at the dark street before them. He felt the same shock, looking at a peaceful residential street with ornate houses, stone walls, and trees. She turned to him, small and frail in the half-light from gas streetlamps, although his aching arm put the lie to frailness. Her eyes reflected the light, revealing her fear.

“Where is my apartment building? Where are the traffic lights and the signs and the cars?” Her voice trembled.

He shook his head, afraid to speak. “They aren’t here in 1906,” he said, trying to believe it himself. “We really are back in time.”

She sat on a bench, wrapping her arms around herself and scrunching down. She rocked a bit, either from cold or fear. “I don’t believe you.” Her voice sounded small and defiant, but her next words were nothing but fear. “Can you get us back?”

He hesitated, then sat on a separate bench, wondering if this was a bus stop. He didn’t know if they had buses in 1906. “I don’t know,” he answered her, watching her rock. “Miss, what’s your name?”

Her eyes shot to his face and she regarded him doubtfully, but finally answered, “Casey. Casey Wilson.”

“Casey, I’ve been working on time travel for a long time, but I have to tell you, it’s still a big mystery. Never, never have I attempted to send a human back.” He rubbed his face, trying to think clearly. “My equipment is in the future. I needed a quantum computer and satellites to do the equations for this. I don’t have any of those things here. I don’t know if I can make them.” That might have been funny if he were in the mood for humor. As if he could build a computer or launch a satellite!

“What do we do?” Her voice was stronger.

“It’s cold,” he said. “We need shelter. Neither of us has any money printed before 1906, so we can’t just go to a hotel.”

She nodded, looking down the street. He watched her get control of herself, looking less frightened, and more like the girl who held him at bay with karate threats. He was impressed.

Her eyes narrowed as she spotted something. “Okay, come on,” she said, and took off across the square toward the church whose steeple was visible around the corner. Sam followed her without argument. She tip-toed to the back of the building and paused, looking around to get her bearings.

Sam caught up to her. “Where are we going?” he whispered.

She turned her head to speak through chattering teeth. “Everything looks different. But somewhere, there’s an entrance into a storage area near the rectory. At least we’ll be out of the cold for the night, and I am really freezing. Ah, there it is.” She slipped across the lot to a small door near the corner of the building. Before opening it, she turned to glare at Sam. “You saw I know karate. Don’t try anything.”

He rolled his eyes. “Please. I’m an old man.”

Doubt showed on her face. “You’re not that old. And I’m not an idiot.” She tried the handle. The door opened without sound, and they slipped through.

“Wow,” she whispered as it closed behind them. “I’ve never seen this much darkness in my whole life.”

Sam pulled out his penlight and turned it on. They were indeed in a storeroom, one filled with wine barrels, small furniture, and assorted boxes. He kept the light going long enough for them to settle into separate corners, then closed it and plunged them back into darkness. “It’s still pretty cold in here,” he said. “But better than out there.”

She tskd as she shifted around. “It’ll be bearable.”

“So you’ve done this before, Casey?”

“Yeah. Freshman year. Got caught out too late and missed curfew. I was with a couple of other kids who knew about this place.”

He smiled at her confession, remembering his own college years at Queen’s. “So you attend Queen’s? You sound American.”

“I do in 2006. I don’t think I’m enrolled at the moment.”

He ignored the sarcasm. “You major in horticulture? What year are you?”

She didn’t answer right away and he wondered if he was asking too many questions. She had no reason to trust him.

“I’m a junior,” she said at last. “And yes, I’m American. From Berkeley, California.”

“Berkeley? Why didn’t you go to Cal?”

“Because I grew up there. And I’ve wanted to live in Ireland all my life. I like it here. Your turn. Are you from Belfast?”

“Aye, since I was twelve. I went to Queen’s, too, although, as it happens, I did my postgrad at Stanford.”

“Oh, dear. Go Bears.” Her tone was light as she invoked the rivalry between Cal and Stanford. He laughed. “So where do you work?” she continued. “Who pays you to do irresponsible time experiments?”

No one, since they pulled the plug, but he didn’t want to get into that. “A private consortium. Funding comes from several sources and I don’t really know what they all are. We’re just a crowd of scientists, playing around with our pet projects.”

“Sounds like something out of DC Comics,” she said. “You know, some private group of super-rich dudes supporting mad scientists in order to exploit their work, most likely not for the good of humanity.”

He tapped the wall behind him with his head. “That has occurred to me at times. But I never saw a problem, and it was nice to have research funds.”

“It always is, isn’t it?” He heard her shifting around again. “For the record, Dr. Altair, I don’t believe a word you’ve said. We’ll get a better look around in the morning and maybe you’ll have a new explanation then.”

He nodded, even though she couldn’t see him. “Sounds fair. Hope you get some sleep.”

“Yeah. You too.”

But neither of them did.

The Fourth Trimester – AKA Why Your Newborn Baby is Only Happy in Your Arms


Simple and true suggestions for a happy newborn.

Originally posted on Sarah Ockwell-Smith - Parenting Expert:

“My baby is only happy in my arms, the minute I put her down she cries”

“He sleeps really well but only when he’s laying on my chest, he hates his moses basket”

“She cries every time we lay her on her play mat”

“He hates going in his pram, he cries the second we put him in it”.

If I had a pound every time I heard  these from a new parent I’d be a very rich lady by now! What amazes me though is that society in general doesn’t get it, they don’t get why so many babies need to be held by us to settle and what perplexes me even more is that we do spend so long trying to put them down! We spend more than time though, the ‘putting babies down’ industry is  worth millions, rocking cribs, battery swings, vibrating chairs, heartbeat teddies and the…

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killing time | Wentworth is Coming. Some thoughts.

If you’re watching Outlander, you know what’s happening this Saturday. If you’re like me, you’ve been wondering and worrying about this episode ever since you knew they were filming the series.

I’ve already watched a few scenes while peeking through my fingers. This will be another one. I could see things clearly enough just reading the book. The excellent work of the TV series will probably make it more real than I can handle. I may close my eyes completely. Some things I don’t HAVE to see.

Yeah, I know it’s fiction. I also know that things like this, and WORSE, happen to real people. Which makes it even harder to watch.

In the end, it’s always a comfort to remember these are actors and they all went home at the end of the day. I suspect that filming this was not easy for any of them, but hey – it’s a job. It’s pretend. They have costumes and sets and fancy lighting and tiny segments of filming followed by many minutes or hours of make-up adjustments, set adjustments, lighting adjustments, or new camera angles. They get a moment to breathe and remember “I am not this character,” before they have to sink back into it and lose their own humanity to the monster for another segment of filming.

This is an important scene. It defines the characters for the entire rest of the series. We Never Forget. But we do go on, and life becomes Good.


killing time | Wentworth is Coming. Some thoughts..


Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains – Scientific American

Wow, this is amazing. I remember some time back reading about fetal cells remaining in the mother’s body, but this report also says that those cells are active and can affect the mother’s health.

While the cells can have a detrimental affect (I’ve bookmarked a couple of the links to read later), it seems that in a lot of ways, the cells improve the mother’s health. I wonder if this is possibly a contributor to women living longer than men?

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains – Scientific American.


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