A Rip In Time

By J. B. Tilton

CHAPTER 1

Lightning shot about the small room in all directions. Multicolored rings were receding from the outer fringes of the room into a bright red globe of light in the center of the room. The lightning suddenly ceased and the receding rings stopped. The globe of light began to fade, leaving a man standing in its' place.

The man appeared to be in his mid-30s. He stood about five feet, nine inches tall and weighed approximately 160 pounds. Next to him was an old satchel, similar to the ones used in the 30s and 40s. The clothes the man was wearing were from that time period as well.

Several people rushed into the room. A man wearing a suit and tie rushed up to the man standing in the room. He appeared to be very concerned about the man.

"Tony, are you all right? We were afraid we may have lost you."

The man turned to the gentleman in the suit. He didn't appear to be injured or even dazed.

"John, everything's all right. I'm fine. I know you all have a lot of questions. Believe it or not, I already know your questions and I have the answers. Before you start asking me all your questions, I have a story to tell you. You may find it hard to believe, but every word is true."

The two men, and the rest of the group, moved into a conference room. Each took a seat around the large conference table in the room. The man called Tony took a seat at the head of the table. He began to speak, very deliberately.

"First, I must say that this is not the first time I've experienced what just occurred in that room. Actually, I'm getting to be quite an old hand at it. I guess the best place to start is about ten weeks ago. When we were running our first test on the ti. . . .medical scanner.

"I will preface this by saying that, much of what I am going to tell you is second hand information. I was not present while everything I am going to tell you occurred. And a small portion of it I've had to surmise or guess at.

"As you all know, this was the first time we had tried the scanner on a living creature. I've never considered plants to be living creatures. Anyway, at the precise moment we attempted our first test, John Meadows was in his office. He was looking over a package which Wells Fargo had just delivered."

* * *

Dr. Meadows turned the package over carefully. Something inside rattled as he did so. The paper surrounding it was very old and faded. Gently, he cut the strings which held the package together. He had just begun to peal the paper away from the box underneath when another gentleman, wearing a lab coat, entered the room. The man in the lab coat appeared quite agitated.

The other person, slightly older than Dr. Meadows, spoke rapidly.

"John, we have a problem. Tony is. . . . gone."

Absentmindedly, Dr. Meadows continued to open the package as he spoke.

"What do you mean, gone? Mike, I thought he was in lab 12 with you. Today was the day we had scheduled your experiment. When did he leave? Where did he go?"

"That's just it," returned Mike. "He didn't exactly leave. He simply disappeared. As you know, we've been working on the medical scanner. All our tests suggested that it was ready for testing on a living subject.

"Well, you know Tony. Adamant about not using animals for any type of experimentation. He insisted on testing the machine on himself. I was against it at first. I felt it was too dangerous. But Tony and I made a deal. If our experiments and tests indicated it would be safe, I would allow him to test it on himself. If there was any indication at all that it might be harmful, he agreed not to press the issue.

"We double checked our data; more than once. I insisted on more checks than we would normally have made. Everything suggested that there should be no ill affects on a living creature. I couldn't see any reason not to. All our tests on organic material were an unqualified success. So I agreed.

"I can't explain it. Everything was going smoothly. No hitches. Suddenly, in the midst of the test, he simply vanished."

"Could he have been disintegrated?"

"No, I don't think so. Our equipment isn't capable of that. As you know, Tony insisted on designing a machine that did not utilize radiation in any form. But it was the strangest thing I've ever seen. One minute he was there; the next minute he wasn't. I can't explain it."

Dr. Meadows had put the package on his desk. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully; a habit he had developed in college. When he spoke, his voice was unsteady.

"All right. Shut everything down. I want a complete first level diagnostic run on every piece of equipment. I want all readings checked and double-checked. Until we find out what has happened, this is to be treated as top security. No one talks about it to anyone, understand?"

"Understood. I'll get on it right away."

Mike left the room. Dr. Meadows stared blankly at a point in space. Many thoughts raced through his mind. Reluctantly, he decided to call an emergency meeting of the Executive Council. Decisions had to be made right away. This could endanger every research project they were now working on.

He picked up the partially open package and set it on the corner of his desk. It would have to wait for the moment. As he did so, an object fell out of the package and rolled over the edge.

Dr. Meadows reached down and picked up the object. It was a ring. Gold with a black stone and a single letter inlaid with diamond chips in the center. The letter T. He turned the ring over and looked inside. He read the inscription, "THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM," inside the ring.

Frantically, Dr. Meadows picked up the package and examined the remainder of it's contents. All the package contained appeared to be a letter; as old and faded as the wrapping on the package.

He removed the letter and began to read. His eyes lit up as he did so, and his hands began to shake almost uncontrollably. When he had finished reading the letter, he picked up the telephone receiver on his desk. He pressed a button on the phone and a few seconds later a voice answered.

"This is Dr. Meadows. Dr. Williams is on his way to lab 12. When he gets there tell him not to touch anything in the lab until I arrive. More important, he is not to shut off power to any of the machines. It is imperative that everything be left exactly as it is now. Is that understood?"

The voice acknowledged the orders. Dr. Meadows pressed another button on the phone.

"Security, this is Dr. Meadows. Initiate a Priority 1 Security Containment on lab 12 and all adjoining areas. No one gets in or out until further orders from me."

He replaced the receiver, picked up the ring, package and letter, and left his office. Several minutes later he was at the entrance to lab 12. Four security guards, each with automatic weapons, were stationed outside the entrance to the lab. Dr. Meadows produced an identification card and one of the guards unlocked the door to the lab. Dr. Meadows proceeded inside. The guard then locked the door.

Several lab technicians sat mulling around. Tension was beginning to get high in the room. Everyone in the room recognized the administrator of the institute. They all looked at him. Mike Williams came over.

"John, what's going on here? When I left your office I thought everything had been settled. But when I returned to the lab there were security guards everywhere. They said that a Priority 1 Security Containment had been initiated for lab 12. What's going on?"

John turned to the rest of the people gathered in the room.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry for the inconvenience. I promise that it will last only as long as necessary. An explanation will be given as soon as possible."

He then turned to Mike.

"Come with me." Dr. Meadows led Mike into an adjoining office where he closed and locked the door. He then placed the items he had brought with him on the desk in the room.

John sat on the edge of the desk. Mike took a seat in front of the desk. John reached down and picked up a pen from the desk, fidgeting with it nervously.

"Mike, we've known each other for some time."

"About six years," responded Mike puzzledly.

"This may be difficult for you to accept. I'm not sure I believe it myself. What I'm going to show you is going to sound outrageous. Try to keep an open mind." He handed the ring to Mike.

Mike looked the ring over carefully. He turned the ring over and read the inscription. "I don't understand. This is Tony's ring. You gave it to him when he received his Ph. D. in Physics."

"That's right," responded Dr. Meadows. "He never removed it."

"John, Tony was wearing this today when we were running the experiment. How did you get it?"

Dr. Meadows walked over to a chair and sat down. He sat there for a moment as if contemplating his next words.

"Just before you came into my office with your news of what happened to Tony, a delivery agent from Wells Fargo brought me this package." He picked up the package. "I was in the process of opening the package when you came in. At first, I thought it was some form of practical joke.

"When the delivery agent brought me the package, he seemed confused. He claimed that the package had been locked in one of their safes for more than a hundred years. They also had instructions to deliver the package to me at precisely 12:32 p.m. today.

"Also inside the package was a letter." He picked up the letter and handed it to Mike. Mike opened the yellowed pages and began to read. As he read the letter, his eyes widened in surprise and disbelief. He recognized the handwriting but couldn't believe what he was reading.

March 17, 1872

Dear John:

This may be difficult for you to believe. I hardly believe it myself. Even now, after all these months, I can hardly believe the events which occurred that day in the lab.

I've instructed Wells Fargo to deliver this package to you at precisely the same moment that I disappeared from the lab. By doing so, I hope to prevent you from shutting down the equipment and possibly loose valuable information.

The medical scanner we were working on has somehow broken through the time barrier. I found myself in the old west. The date was October 7, 1871. I didn't appear to be injured. I can't begin to explain everything that is going through my mind, or all the experiences I've had since I arrived.

Instead, I'm only informing you of what has occurred to me. Tell Mike that I'm fine. I've included the ring you gave me as proof that this is no hoax. In addition, tell Scooter that I still think Poppy's a better name than Pierre. And tell Mike that I still prefer red for the color of his office. That green shade he chose makes me feel like I've been on the Screamin' Demon for several hours without a rest.

I can only pray that you will believe this letter. As long as the equipment in lab 12 remains untouched and the power remains on, I believe you have a chance to discover what happened. Perhaps you can learn to use and control it. If this letter and ring are not enough to convince you, then I'm afraid mankind may loose the greatest discovery ever made.

Your friend,

Anthony Thompson

Mike sat silently. He was visibly shaken by what he had just read.

"Mike, his reference to Poppy was about the name of a puppy my daughter got when she was ten. They argued about that name for days. She finally named the puppy Pierre, and Tony teased her about it for months afterward."

Mike sat quietly for several moments. "The reference in that letter to the Screaming' Demon is about a roller coaster ride at an amusement park not far from Tony's home. He rode it once and told me that his acrophobia almost panicked him. He was sick for several hours afterward. He never did like that green color for my office."

"Mike, I'm not sure this is legitimate, but I don't think we can take any chances. This looks like Tonys' handwriting, but I'm going to have it analyzed just the same. If it does turn out to be genuine, I don't think we can should tamper with the anything in the lab."

"I agree," said Mike. "If it is a hoax, we have nothing to loose. But if this turns out to be legitimate, we can't afford to disturb anything in the lab."

John stood up and picked up the objects on the desk. "Check everything you can in the lab without disturbing any of the settings or power to the equipment. I've given lab 12 top priority.

"I've decided to call in an expert. Prof. William Casey from M.I.T. Prof. Casey wrote a dissertation on the theory of time travel a couple of years ago. It was very progressive and he received critical acclaim from many of his colleagues. I'm going to send for him. Maybe he can help."

Mike stood up. "I think the entire staff of lab 12 should be fully briefed on these events so that they will be aware of just how important our immediate work will be. We'll begin keeping precise records of everything we do from here on out.

"John, if this turns out to be true, do you realize what that means? If we can discover how this works, and duplicate it under controlled conditions, we could travel through time. Get answers to questions which have plagued mankind for thousands of years. The possibilities are staggering."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Doctor. Our first priority is to try to discern what happened, how it happened, and, if possible, to get Tony back."

The two men left the room to make the many preparations they now faced.

* * *

Anthony Thompson's vision was still blurry. He stood quietly for several seconds until his vision began to clear. His vision eventually began to clear.

"Mike, I don't know what you did, but I just had the strangest sensation."

Tony was answered with a snort.

"Mike? Mike?"

Tony's vision was completely cleared now. The sight which greeted him nearly caused him to collapse on the floor. He was standing in what appeared to be the center of a stable. It was dark and there were two horses in the stalls. One snorted, and Tony realized it was the same sort he had heard just moments before.

He moved around the stable. "I must be suffering from an hallucination or delusion," he thought to himself. The stable appeared to be normal in all respects. He had spent some time on his uncles' ranch when he was a kid. This stable appeared to have all the normal stable elements.

Tony sat on a stool sitting in a corner. He rubbed his eyes as he attempted to recall what had happened just before he had appeared in this stable.

"Mike and I were making a test run of the medical scanner. All our experiments and tests had indicated that the test should be uneventful. Everything was running smoothly. Jose was on the scanner. He began increasing the power to the scanner and apparently all readings had been as expected.

"Mike had just instructed Jose to go to full power. Jose had hesitated momentarily, as if he wasn't sure it was a good idea. Then he pushed the power handle to its' full position.

"Everything had seemed fine even then. I do remember a warm sensation. My vision began to blur. I also remember a strange shuddering sensation. I vaguely remember other sensations, but I can't seem to recall what they were. Then suddenly I was here. Where ever here is."

Tony moved to the doors of the stable. He lifted the bar holding the double doors closed. He remembered from his uncles' farm that this was normal for stables. The bar was designed to be opened from either the inside or outside. He raised the bar and opened one of the doors. Only a crack.

He stared in disbelief at the sight that greeted him. He was staring down what appeared to be the main street of a town. But it wasn't the sprawling metropolis he was used to seeing. It appeared, instead, like many towns he had seen in countless westerns. There were horses tied up to hitching posts at several buildings down the street.

He saw only two people. One was leaning against a building. The other, who had a winchester rifle tucked under his arm, was standing next to the first. They appeared to be having a conversation. After several moments, the two shook hands. Each then moved off in different directions.

Tony closed the door and returned to the stool. He sat for the next few hours going over the various possible explanations he could come up with. He paced the stable countless times. Sometime during the night, he came across a newspaper. He stared at the date for several seconds. It read, October 7, 1871.

"This is impossible," he voiced aloud. "1871? That's more than a hundred years in the past. What in the hell is going on here?"

He spent the rest of the night reading through the paper and pacing. He would consider one possibility, only to discard it for one reason or another. By morning he had eliminated all but one possibility; somehow, he actually was in 1871.

As the sun began to rise, he realized that he couldn't stay in this stable indefinitely. The stable hand would be arriving soon and Tony decided he didn't want to be around to answer a lot of embarrassing questions. He also realized that he wasn't exactly dressed properly for the time period.

He moved into the office and began to search around. In a small chest in one corner, he found several sets of clothes. They were clean, but obviously work clothes. He held them up to him and discovered they were just a little too big. "Oh, well, beggars can't be choosers."

At this moment, Tony heard the double doors to the stable being opened. He decided to quietly slip out the back door.

The back door exited Tony on the edge of town. Before him stretched a rolling plains with mountains several miles in the distance. The scene appeared familiar to Tony and he stood there for several minutes trying to place it.

Suddenly the answer became apparent to him. He had seen this seen several times before. From the window in John's office. He was facing almost due east. The sun was just beginning to rise over the mountains.

Tony had seen this scene dozens of time. But there had always been buildings in the foreground. It suddenly hit Tony on an emotional level. He had travelled back in time over a hundred years before he had been born.