The timeship was an ugly, ungainly beast, neccisitated by the inherent difficulties of time travel. It was divided into two stages. The first stage was larger, intended for the energy-intensive jump into deep hyperspace. With the first stage, the pilot had to seek a calm in the currents of spacetime, a spot where time stops flows perpendicular to the direction mandated by entropy in the spacetime we are accustomed to. In this calm, the hyperdrive on the first stage could then launch the vessel on a course with a negative temporal momentum relative to normal spacetime. Now the pilot had another problem. Quantum spin was intimately connected to temoporal momentum - by charting a course against the currents of time, the pilot had effectively transformed himself and his vessel into antimatter. Using the dwindling reserves of energy in the first stage, the pilot had to again find a calm in hyperspace, this time fighting against the dwindling momentum of the first stage as it fell back into normal space. At a critical point, the first and second stages seperated, permitting the pilot to reduce the negative temporal momentum and chart a course forward in time. The energies involved were enormous, as were the demands on the skills of the pilot. Such calms in hyperspace were hardly common. If such a calm was not available, the pilot was forced into a series of desperate corrective maneuvers with with second stage - usually a seriously underpowered long-range lifepod. At this point, even Fe Arran physics was at a loss to provide hard and fast guidelines about what a pilot should do.
Jinx Bubastis was reckless, often morbidly so, but she was not suicidal. She had done this before - in fact, she had done this precisely twice before. Once it had worked perfectly, largely because she had chosen a destination near a gavitational singularity, which reduced the amount of temporal momentum she had had to fight against. The second time was, at least from the point of view of an experienced pilot, an unmitigated disaster; she had hijacked an experimental vessel and had initiated the maneuver out of sheer desperation - Honor Guard was hot on her tail. Arsenal - Peter Cat's nom-de-guerre back then, back when he was part of Honor Guard - was able to catch up to her shortly before she initiated the desperate maneuver. Peter had saved her life; the vessel was not up to the maneuvers involved, and they both were trapped for several months in a series of bizarre alternative realities. It was there, in those lost six months, that she and he first talked to each other without a script, and worked together to somehow find their way home.
This time, the reentry into normal spacetime was anything but trivial. The structure of hyperspace in the alien world's solar system was, to say the least, strange and seemingly unnatural. There was no shortage of places with a time vector normal to conventional spacetime, but all of them were strangely asymmetrical, whirlpools and waterspouts in the sea of hyperspace, seemingly designed as the walls of an extradimensional prison. Jinx had to bond her weak telekinetic abilities to the energies produced by her drives to correct her course and enter the Sol system alive, thirty-five years in the past.
Drained and wasted, she approached the blue, green, beige and white sphere, third stone from the sun. She occupied the ship's computer with demodulating the considerable radio emissions from the planet, and watched their television and listened to their radio as she circled above the planet.
She knew better than to be shocked by the language they spoke. She recognized snatches of popular music, repackaged and performed by Entertainment Division "artists" back home. She also found out that she had about a month to execute her mission.
Objective one - locate the scout ship and its crew. This would prove to be the hardest goal to accomplish. She pored over technical documentation, much of it written in the old language, describing the communcications protocols used by the old scout vessels. At first, she tried an archaic interrocitor hail, a sort of FTL ping directed at the comms and navigation systems. Evidently, the crew's captors had managed to disable these systems.
She finally located the ship with a scan for the isotopes used in the construction of its fission reactor; it was locked away in a hangar in the dun-brown desert in the southwestern United States - New Mexico or Arizone or somethere.
On her way down the gravity well, she was suprised to note that the interrocitor was back on line. Her sensors picked up three squeals of static from the military base. Not bad.
She landed her vessel, unnoticed, a kilometer away from the base, and covered the remaining ground on foot, carrying a bulky case holding a salvage hyperdrive. Sometimes she watched a beautiful winged creature circling on the thermals above her in the azure sky as she sneaked in towards the base.
The first military policeman never knew what hit him - the base doctor would later say it was heat stroke. Jinx examined the MP's equipment, and took a boxy looking pistol. She examined the controls, and reluctantly reentered the MP's mind when she concluded she had no idea how to make it fire. Ah. A chemical slugthrower, she thought, and took two clips from his belt.
Jinx had noticed that the flat-faced furless aliens had almost no resistance to telepathic suggestion. She was able to enter the base unseen, or better said, misunderstood.
She approached the hangar, and heard two men talking. She made herself invisible.
Young man, intoned a middle-aged man with a monocle, I admire your hard work, but I fail to see the point.
But why won't you look at my results, Doctor von Schlock? Their interstellar propulsion systems-
-are far less strategically important than their implementation of an antigravity motor. You should know this, Camillo Skrag.
To be honest, I haven't figured out how they can transport the ship faster than light. I have been experimenting with their navigational system, and I managed three virtually instantaneous transmissions between ground stations seperated by about 6 miles. The latency was below the resolution of the Livermore atomic clock. Do you realize-
Doctor von Schlock shrugged his shoulders dismissively. You are a talented young man, Camillo. I wish you could apply your energies more constructively. No, I do not want to see your results. Go back to work and see if you can figure out how the EM field the drives produce is modulated. This would help me, help you, and help our nation triumph over the Bolsheviks. This is what matters.
Dr. von Schlock?
The old man turned around, irritated. What?
Tell me the truth - where did this flying saucer come from? Is this the Roswell-
The Roswell incident was a weather balloon intended to monitor Russian nuclear tests. The provenance of this ship is none of your concern. I have work to do. The older man with the monocle stomped off.
Camillo brushed his hand over his flattop, touched his slide rule like a rosary, muttered Nazi prick to someone who was no longer in the hangar, and stomped off to the cantine.
Jinx snuck aboard the vessel and examined the status of its systems. The fission reactor's fuel core had been removed, but there was enough energy in its nuclear batteries to manage a salvage jump. She attached the salvage drive to the connections once used for the weapons systems and set it on a slow course back to Sedgwick Station.
Before she initiated the automatic sequences, she made a quick patrol of the vessel and the hangar it was in. Off in the far corner of the hangar, her seeking mind felt the unquiet reverberations of dead souls.
She approached the fifty gallon steel drum and opened her senses. The dying echoes of five souls emanated from the concrete filled steel barrel - the family from Sedgwick who had unwisely volunteered for the mission. All six of them had been taken by suprise, sedated and interrogated for weeks. In the end, two soldiers took them to an abandoned dock; the mother and the daughter were raped, then all of them were executed with a bullet to the back of the skull. Six bodies were cremated, the ashes mixed with concrete, filling the drum before her. Six bodies, five souls. Mage Wenst N'Smit had managed the old spell of the ghostdancers, and escaped in mind if not in body.
Jinx decided not to return the drum to the ship.
She dematerialized as the hangar imploded when the antique saucer made its last jump into hyperspace.
Jinx assumed a number of guises as she traveled across the country in the weeks that followed. Reading the newspapers, she had decided that her best chance to shatter Kennedy's skull and the stolen computer inside it was during one of his frequent public appearences. His use of the media reminded her entirely too much of home; the chief similarity was a primitive reverence ingrained in many of the humans she met for his words and his deeds, a reverence based less on actual knowledge than the personal impact of his public persona.
Her hatred for the humans faded. She felt sorry for most of them. They seemed to have no idea what was going on outside their primitive, circumscribed roles. A few wondered, but seemed to be driven to distraction and dissipation by sheer despair. She found this disturbing, yet somehow loveable.
She came in to Dallas, had a beer and BBQ brisket sandwich, and stopped by a gun shop for a hunting rifle. The people were taciturn but helpful and friendly. She spent a week examining the people in the alien city. The newspapers printed a helpful map showing the motorcade route by the Texas School Book Depository. It would all be over in a day.
Lee Harvey Oswald had not been sleeping well. The catman had come again in his dreams. He wrapped the cheap mail-order rifle up in brown packing paper. Curtain rods, he thought to himself.
Jinx had chosen a spot behind the white picket fence. She carefully slotted a cartridge into the primitive slugthrower. The blue convertible came out and began its meander through Dealy Plaza.
Jinx chose her shot, shouldered the crude rifle, and placed her finger on the trigger. She did not let herself be distracted by the three shots that rang out before she squeezed out a round, shattering Kennedy's skull.
As Jackie climbed onto the rear of the convertible, she felt the presence of Wenst N'Smit, somewhere in the Depository building. She felt a little sorry for whomever he had used to extract his revenge. She also felt two strange empty men in dark suits approaching her position, and teleported back to the New Mexico desert, back to the vessel that would taker her on the long sleep home.
She dreamed for a while of returning to this world, fallen, but not so far as the civilization she called home.
Simon? There're some visitors for you.
Simon Nexton arose from his bunk. Coming.
Simon was started by his visitors. Victor, who seemed larger than on vid, and a doctor in a grey uniform awaited him on the observation deck.
To what do I owe the honor?
Victor smiled. You did good. We recovered the ship last week. There is just some unfinished business to take care of.
The three men proceeded to the briefing room, and the door slid shut.
No one in the hall stopped when a brief discussion ended abruptly with a soft crack. The doctor emerged from the briefing room and touched a point on the back of his skull.
Captain? Your X.O. - yes, Nexton - he has had an accident. Yes, we will take care of everything. Thank you for your cooperation.
David White, 1998, all rights reserved