Kovack came into existence with a scream. His charred left side and its missing arm had not magically stopped hurting during his escape. In front of him was the Mediterranean with a brilliant sunset blazing across the water. He stood in the centre of what remained of a small Roman amphitheatre. As he turned around he saw the Crusader castle, still impressive despite its abandoned state.

“Computer, please state time and location.”

“We are fifteen minutes prior to our previous point of existence. Location is Byblos, also known as Jbail.” It was certainly hot enough to be the Middle East.

His computer continued, telling him that the location was ancient, as he had requested. The light was beginning to fail as he started toward the castle.

“Anything you can do about the pain?”

“Anything more would incapacitate you.”

Kovack gritted his teeth and proceeded up the dry, dusty stairs into the ruin. The large room was still hot from the day’s sun. Slits for windows and a hole in the roof let in the dying light.

He estimated that he had twenty minutes at the most before his antagonists, temporally speaking, caught up with him, located him – some 10,000 kilometres from the North American location of their skirmish – and killed him.

This Crusader castle was situated where Phoenicians, Romans, Egyptians and other cultures had made their mark on the land. The huge chamber with its high vaulted ceiling had the feel of antiquity beyond its Crusader origins. He could almost see the thousands of people that had walked on the hard packed earth. He carefully kneeled on the dusty floor, letting his knees buckle gently and readying his remaining arm in case of a fall.

“Computer, please initiate the temporal scan as soon as I put myself into the trance.”



Desmond was preparing shortbread cookies for his wife Rebecca and their daughter Cecilia on a snowy Christmas Eve. As he contemplated the health implications of butter and sugar, weighing them carefully against taste and tradition, he felt the pull.

“No,” he said aloud. He had not felt the unpleasant sliding of time travel since 1991 – Christmas Eve. He stopped what he was doing in the kitchen and moved swiftly into the living room, where his wife was decorating the tree. The battle in his mind was like forcing himself to be sober after six pints of beer.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rebecca.

It was a good question. Ten years ago, Desmond had discovered that he could time travel just by thinking about it. But, because of the frightening experiences that accompanied movement through time, he avoided even thinking about it. He had so effectively buried his memories that his conscious mind almost believed that the 1991 adventure had been a dream.

Desmond grabbed his wife’s hands. “Something is trying to pull me away.”

“Don’t go.”

The sensible dark-haired Rebecca had spoken. He smiled; it was just like her to boil a problem of quantum mechanics down to two words. His mind was wrenched further and he lost his grip. The last thing he saw was Rebecca’s concerned face and, behind her, the almost decorated Christmas tree.

Rebecca watched her husband fade out like some gradually decaying video signal. His hands, for an instant, felt like grains of sand slipping from between her fingers. Then he was gone.


Desmond was screaming the word NO as he arrived in the ancient castle in Byblos. The room was dark compared to his living room and, as a result, he stumbled and fell hard against a stone wall. Kovack took that moment to snap himself out of his trance.

“Computer, time remaining?”

“Less than four minutes.”

Desmond’s eyes adjusted to the light enough to see Kovack rise awkwardly to his feet.

Kovack approached Desmond, saying, “You’ve got to get us out of here.”

“Just who the hell are you?” As he asked his question, Desmond suddenly felt déjà-vu about his one-armed companion.

“I am Kovack; there isn’t time to explain. I know you can travel in time. You must take us back.”

“Where or when are we now?”

“What will become Lebanon. Late 15th century. Please, you must hurry.”

They both heard a far off whining sound.

“Incoming,” said the computer.

Kovack grabbed Desmond’s arm. “You must act now. People who will kill us are coming.”

“In a jet?”

“A kind of aircraft, yes. It’s 1491; like us, these people are in the wrong time. Get us out of here!”

“Intercept in thirty seconds.”

“OK, OK, shut up.”

Desmond tried to relax enough to slide. He grabbed onto Kovack’s arm. Kovack understood the process and was audibly breathing in a rhythm that matched Desmond’s.

They detached from space-time and, as they slid away, they saw the roof of the castle being blasted away; tonnes of rock fell where they had just been standing.


Kovack didn’t feel as if he were falling off the planet when his computer used a time travel field. Whatever technique Desmond applied was not easy on the stomach. Kovack was so queasy that he didn’t recall the process of materialising and sitting down on the frosty, wind-blown grass. Desmond sat beside him, not as nauseous only because he was expecting it. They both sat with their backs against a large grey stone. Kovack knew without looking that it was a tall stone and unnaturally flat, nothing like a boulder. They remained where they were, neither of them speaking, letting themselves adjust to normal time. It was the early part of sunrise and, with the mist rising from the fields, there was no point in moving about, as visibility was less than two metres.

In a few minutes the morning light revealed their location. “OK. That was easy,” said Kovack. “It’s just a matter of when.” He turned to Desmond.

“I don’t know; I don’t even know why we’re at Stonehenge.”

“So, when you time travel, you really don’t know what you’re doing.”

“Look, you dragged me into this and now it’s time for you to confess. What the hell is going on?”

“Just a second. Computer, any idea of our time?”

“No. The time travel was disorienting. I will do an environmental analysis.”

“Where is your computer anyway?”

“Inside me. Its processing and storage occurs within the cells of my body.”



“OK, so what’s going on? Who are you? Where are you from?”

“I’m from 2152 AD. I was – or am – the scout for a temporal correction mission. Where I came from, Earth was almost dead. I was chosen to travel in time, make a time portal and let the rest of the team in. Which I did. However, I didn’t trust them – I feared they didn’t want to save the planet but rather conquer it. As soon as I let them through the gateway they tried to kill me, but I escaped with only the loss of my arm, which is growing back.”

Desmond looked more closely and saw a pink nub protruding from Kovack’s left shoulder.

“How does that work?”

“My computer keeps a record of my physical state and can regenerate new parts based on that data.”

“Neat. What did your team hope to accomplish – before you started shooting each other.”

“Prevent the colonisation of the Americas and turn them into a global nature reserve to keep a critical mass of the natural world alive in order to prevent environmental collapse.”

Desmond sat back and thought about it. He had been born in Toronto. Wouldn’t just the presence of this guy have eliminated his whole personal existence?

“How do you explain me?”

“That’s a little more unusual. Do you want to start walking? It’s light enough.”


“Salisbury; it’s about ten kilometres from here. The computer and I want to analyse a few more, er, recent artefacts to determine our time.” Kovack slapped the side of the Heel Stone. “On the way I’ll try to explain more.”

They walked out past the last marker. The computer confirmed they were walking south, the correct direction. Despite the sunlight, a brisk winter wind cut through Desmond’s jeans and thick cotton shirt.

“I should have brought a jacket. Stonehenge in winter … sounds like a song title.”

Suddenly it warmed up.

“I should have thought of it earlier,” Kovack replied to Desmond’s puzzled look, “I’ve extended my environment field to include you.”

“What’s that? Like a force field?”

“Something like that. The computer generates fields to do all sorts of things.”

“Like time travel?”


“What about me? Why did you hijack me? How did you do it?”

“We’re related, in a way.”

“How? Am I your great to the nth power grandfather?”

“No. I am your reincarnation.”

“You mean I die and come back as you?”

“There are, as best as I can determine, some intermediate steps. You see, when I realised my comrades were not going to keep the agreement, I was unable to prevent the gateway from opening. This meant I needed to escape and find another way to stop them. One of the reasons I’m on this mission is you. A past life regression revealed your abilities to travel in time, which inspired me to continue my work in temporal quantum physics. My jump to Byblos – all I could manage – put me before my original arrival. Since I now cannot carry out the mission, you still exist. Then I tapped into space-time and summoned you. It was a gamble and my computer is still amazed it worked.”

“Excuse me, but would you shut up for a second?” asked Desmod. “I have to think.”

Thinking was painfully circular. To avoid it, Desmond assumed that the start point of this whole mess was Kovack going back in time. After that, he was attacked, slipped further back in time, psychically induced Desmond to time travel and, finally, they both fell back even further to Stonehenge. Simple. There was only one real problem.

“Kovack, I’ve met people from the future. Their experience contradicts what you’ve described.”

“Interesting, but not relevant. I know what I know. Isn’t time surprisingly malleable?”

“So you dragged me into this to save your own skin and you’ve guessed that I’m not going to slip away because leaving you behind would likely mess up my own time line.”


Desmond was afraid to ask what came next.

They walked for a couple of kilometres in silence.


“People approaching,” said the computer.

“Hide us,” ordered Kovack.

Desmond noticed no difference.

Coming toward them on the path were what looked like refugees. Kovack motioned Desmond to join him just off the path. Whispering, Kovack said, “The computer is emitting an image of what the background would be like if we weren’t here. But, if they bump into us, they’ll know.”

Wearing rags, for the most part, and carrying bundles of belongings, the miserable folk – apparently all women – plodded along the path. They heard them muttering, but could not make anything out because of the foreign tongue and the regular loud moans and cries from the refugees. The computer advised them that it was scanning the language database. The column of people stretched for about two kilometres. Once they had passed, Desmond asked, “What the hell is going on?”

“The computer tells me – from what it could determine – that there has been a disaster in Salisbury. The nature of it is unclear.”

At that moment they saw their first glimpse of the town and the Cathedral. The spire was there but, just to the south-east was the obvious crash site of an aircraft or, possibly, a spacecraft. It had ripped into the ground some time earlier, leaving burned fields and churned up rock and soil.

“That’s not supposed to be there,” said Kovack.

“Time’s malleable, you said.”

“Get down,” ordered Kovack.

“Why? I thought we were cloaked or something.”

“From pre-technology people. Get down. Computer, please magnify the image of the crash site. Any identifying marks?”

“No. The ship type is unknown.”

In front of Kovack and Desmond the computer produced a floating video image of the distant crash site.

The ship was charcoal grey and roughly rectangular with a mottled surface. There were two elliptical domes at the exposed ends of the ship. Engines? Desmond had no real idea what any part of the ship might be. Was there a bridge? He lost interest in the ship when he realised that there were hundreds of people digging around it. Apparently they were trying to free the ship from its crash site.

Desmond looked at Kovack. He seemed intent on the image, but also appeared to be listening to something. The computer?

Then they saw it. A rather shaggy two-legged creature – its colour was the same as the hull – scuttled into view. It wore a metallic backpack and was hunched over. The face was square. Desmond could not tell if it had eyes or other facial features.

“First contact in medieval England?” asked Kovack. “This can’t be right. Computer, what is the probability that the unusual figure is human?”

“Five per cent.”

The diggers hesitated as the alien passed them. Then it stopped cold; the alien seemed to address a specific group of diggers. The creature drew what looked like a gun and, in the next instant, one of the workers no longer had a head. Desmond, totally caught off guard, turned away to be sick. Kovack witnessed the alien motion the remaining people back to work and then drag the corpse to a pit – or mass grave – and cast it in.

“Once you’re finished fertilising the grass,” Kovack said, “I need to talk to you.”


They retreated further from the crash site, allowing Desmond to recover his equilibrium.

“I have a plan,” said Kovack.

“Go ahead.” Desmond was still rattled, but tried not to show it.

“Obviously we have to stop the aliens before they do too much damage. I think I can handle that.”


“Yes. But the exciting part is that their technology might help with our other problem.”

“Which problem would that be?” asked Desmond.

“Me. I brought you into this so that you could take me to my original entry point – 1491. My plan is to sabotage my own equipment and send me back to my own time. This would prevent the people who blew up the Crusader castle in Byblos from ever materialising. Unfortunately I am now not as powerful as my earlier self. I’m hoping our mysterious aliens can give me an edge – some new tool.”

“Don’t you think this is rather convenient?” asked Desmond.

“What is?”

“Aliens mysteriously appearing in Salisbury – right where I take you after you kidnap me.”

“Are you trying to say this isn’t a coincidence?”

“Well, duh, no shit. Do you think these creatures – and their ship full of high tech toys – are here to accommodate you? Let me ask you something. How does your time travel technology work?”

“It’s complicated,” replied Kovack.

“Simplify it.”

“Essentially my computer, which manages a huge power source in my body, produces a field of energy that punches a hole in space-time. This allows us to move basically anywhere. I now need you because my energy source, although big, is no longer enough to time travel.”

“So,” said Desmond, “you don’t think that, just maybe, your ripping a hole in the universe in one spot didn’t create another somewhere else? Maybe in the path of an alien ship in some other place and time?”

“Are you saying this is my fault – these aliens being here?”

“Ten points for the half man/half machine.”

“I don’t accept that. Our calculations were perfect.”

Kovack was actually starting to show some emotion. Desmond had wondered if the tall pale man was human at all but, now that Kovack was becoming angry, Desmond felt a strange kind of relief.

“Oh, please, ‘perfect calculations’,” said Desmond. “That’s like trying to tell me how big infinity is. Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me God’s Internet address.”

Kovack snorted.

“Ahhh,” said Desmond. “You don’t believe in God either – just your own superior technical skills.”

“I was trying to save the world!” yelled Kovack.

“And you’ve done an utterly brilliant job.” The sarcasm wasn’t lost on Kovack. He clenched his jaw and fists and faced away from Desmond. After a moment’s pause, Kovack reasserted his self-control, relaxed and turned around.

In a cold edged voice, Kovack said, “I have only two things to say. One: If God exists, I would have some very unpleasant words for Him about how He answers prayers. Two: It doesn’t matter what we think. The facts are that we are here; we have unwanted aliens; and we have to stop my earlier self from making a hideous mistake. Are you willing to help me resolve these problems?”

“I suspect that’s why I’m here.”


Kovack’s plan began with intelligence gathering, which led them into Salisbury to make contact with the natives in an attempt to ascertain the number of aliens as well as how and when they had arrived.

The narrow streets were quiet; gusts of sharp winter wind made the only sound. The computer had modified the field that disguised them to show any observers that they were wearing clothes suitable to the day and age. Both men were still tall. At close range the computer could not convincingly compensate for changes in height. Kovack’s growing stump of an arm, however, was disguised as a normal limb. Just as they started to worry that meeting someone was going to require break-and-entry, they heard a voice coming from a small opening in the door of The New Inn.

“Get in here! For God’s sake,” translated the computer.

Kovack turned and led the way. They both carefully ducked to avoid hitting the lintel as they entered.

“How on earth did two strapping lads of the likes of you not get snatched up by those terrible beasts?”

The innkeeper was an older man.

Desmond was no longer hearing the translation, as he did not have a direct connection with the computer, nor was the computer likely to speak aloud in this situation.

Kovack haltingly asked the innkeeper to explain, stating that they were travellers and had seen the dark object near the Cathedral, but did not understand its significance.

“Where’re you from then?”


“Oh ah.”

“Please pardon my poor English,” said Kovack. “I am just learning and my friend here cannot understand or speak a word.”

“Well then. This story’s really important so I’ll give you time to translate.”

“Thank you.”

Desmond noticed the smell of cooking. At one end of the pub was a large fireplace with a pig roasting. A young child, so small and dirty they hadn’t seen him at first, was turning the spit.

“Your friend looks hungry.”


“Tell him,” Desmond said, “I want his best ale and a slice of well done meat.”

“We don’t have any money.”


“What’d he say?”

“He would, kind sir, enjoy some of your provisions, but we have no money you would find acceptable.”

“Fie on’t. It’s Christmas Eve, ain’t it? I’d be happy to serve travelling gentlemen. It was complete madness to start cooking that pig, but now I can help some weary travellers.”

The publican started to pour two beakers of ale.

“Kind sir, I cannot partake; I fast on Christmas Eve. However, if you care to serve my friend, I’m sure he would be grateful.” To Desmond he whispered, “if you get sick, I’ll kill you myself.”

“So it’s Christmas. What do you think of that? Got to love those coincidences.”

“Drink your beer.”

After one taste, Desmond realised he had in his hand one of the best and harshest ales he’d ever tried.

Kovack pressed the innkeeper for more information about the aliens.

The small dirty boy brought Desmond a wooden plateful of pork bits with a lump of hard bread.

After fits and starts of conversation – once interrupted by the entry of another old gent who needed to talk about his bunion – Kovack learned that the crash had occurred about two weeks ago. Shortly after, the aliens had rounded up all the able-bodied men and set them to digging. This explained the publican’s concern over their wandering the streets. No one could really differentiate individual “beasts”, but the most anyone had seen at one time was five.

Kovack made profuse thanks for the hospitality and said, given the circumstances, that it was probably best they slip out of town – away from the creatures.

Once outside Kovack said, “I can’t believe you ate that.”

“When in Rome … from the look on your face, you’re a vegetarian.”

“Of course.”

“I bet that would change if you were trapped on an island with lots of rabbits and no plants but poison oak.”

“An unlikely scenario.”

“Tell that to the Donner Party. What’s next, O strategic planner?”

“The direct approach.”


As they neared the crash site fully cloaked (as Desmond insisted on calling it) he asked Kovack why he wanted Desmond there. Surely Kovack and the computer could easily take care of the bad guys.

“First, you are my way out of here and I don’t want you out of my sight. Second, if we encounter resistance greater than I can handle, I want you to rescue us.”


The up close sight of the workers shocked them both. Starving, weak and miserable, the diggers were barely useful at the task. The aliens would do better by feeding them properly. Perhaps it was ignorance of the needs of the species?

They saw the first alien. Kovack knew that the cleverness of his computer’s disguise field was now going to be put to the test. Did the alien have equipment to detect the energy field? Or were its eyes so different that it would see them plain as day? They were within ten metres of it. The square face was more dog-like – although Desmond felt this would insult some dogs – and it had three digits on each hand. Its gun was clearly a gun. The metal backpack had a waistband and shoulder straps that were covered with what looked like instrumentation. At eight metres a light flashed and a groan came from the alien’s belt. It whipped its head around and glared at their position. It bared its square teeth and raised the gun.

For the first time Desmond actually saw Kovack’s energy field. A harsh red colour, it reached outward from his body and incinerated the alien. All that was left was the steaming backpack and gun. Kovack moved toward the entrance to the ship.

The diggers dropped their tools and ran from the scene screaming. All they saw was the glowing energy field, which they hoped was (and were afraid might be) the hand of God.

“Computer, please guess how the alien detected us and adjust the disguise field accordingly. Desmond, stick close.”

Two more aliens burst from the entrance. One fired a shot wildly and Kovack released two heat fields, incinerating them. Desmond had watched how the alien used the gun. He carefully picked up the weapon; it was hot, but not too hot. The trigger was in an odd position. Suddenly gunfire came from above. A hatch had opened above them and an alien was blasting at them. The energy field that disguised them (albeit not very well) repelled the projectiles. Desmond whirled about and pressed the trigger. Projectile after projectile shot from the gun and ripped the alien to pieces. Its blood was grey. Desmond worked to keep lunch down.

“Good shooting. Lucky for you the defence field allows volleys to exit.”

“Isn’t there one more?”

“Likely inside.”

“I guess that means we have to go in.”

“Yes, would you make sure to stay close? I want you to pull us out if there is any difficulty.”

It was dimly lit inside. The ceilings were not too low, but it was claustrophobic. The totally alien feel to the ship was disturbing. Not one switch or panel looked familiar. “Computer, do an active scan and try to locate our fifth alien. Also, please don’t let us get lost.”

“The alien is on an upper level. I suspect it is dead.”

“That would be handy,” said Desmond.

They found an elevator and the computer needed several seconds to figure out how to activate it. In what they assumed to be the bridge or command centre, slumped in a chair, were the remains of the last alien. It had committed suicide by shooting itself. There was little left of its head.

“Big on head shots,” commented Desmond.

Kovack incinerated the remains.

“Why did you do that?”

“I want no signs of them afterwards,” said Kovack. “Computer, any more?”


“Can you access the computer systems, assuming that’s what they use?” asked Kovack.

“Yes. It will take time to determine their protocols,” replied the computer.

“How long?”

“I will know within twelve hours.”

“I would like to get out of here in case they set some sort of self-destruct or something,” said Desmond.

“Good point. Computer, can you keep a remote link?”

“Within a five kilometre radius.”

Once outside the ship, they both sighed in relief.

The bells of the Cathedral started to ring.

“I don’t know about you,” said Desmond, “but I’m going to church.”

Kovack looked pained. “I don’t think that I’d be welcome there.”

“I assumed you’d cloak us. Also, my concept of God is that He is the same size as the universe. In that case, He’s probably big enough not to mind you being in church.”


Everyone in Salisbury was in the Cathedral. It was more like a large hospital than a church. The older men and the women were attending the seriously ill former slave labourers. A choir sang Christmas music while priests tried to organise a Christmas Eve mass. To avoid being bumped into, Kovack and Desmond were careful where they walked and spent time looking at the artefacts. The tomb of William Longspee was particularly interesting because it was painted blue and red with gold relief. Desmond had been to Salisbury and remembered the tomb being stone grey. This inspired Kovack to perform an analysis on the rate of decay of the paint with what little computer power wasn’t being used to decode the alien protocols. The computer estimated that the year was between 1430 and 1460.

Once the mass had begun and the hundreds of people prayed to God and Christ thanking Them for their deliverance on this holy evening, Desmond started to cry. Tears streamed down his face. He suddenly missed Rebecca and his daughter Cecilia very badly.

“Are you OK?”

“I want to go home.”


After twelve hours, during which Desmond managed to sleep fitfully, the computer announced that they should return to the ship. It was totally dark but the computer helped them navigate the uneven terrain.

“OK, so what’s the story?” Kovack asked the computer.

“I cannot determine where this ship came from nor how it got here. However, their equivalent of ship’s logs state clearly that, since they had no way home, they were planning to make the ship operational for Earth’s atmosphere and take control of the planet. Their long term goal was to contact the home world and advise them of the new colony.”

“Gosh, and I was going to feel bad about killing them,” said Desmond.

“I also have a method for disabling our younger selves,” continued the computer.

“Good,” said Kovack. “Tell me about that later. Desmond, we still have a big problem.”


“The ship itself.”

“No problem,” said Desmond.

“What do you mean?” asked Kovack.

“Is the Mariana Trench deep enough to keep this sucker out of human hands?”

“Sure, but how do you propose we do that?”

“Travel through time is also through space. I can take it and us a few years in the future and dump it in the ocean. Then we can go to 1491 where I hope you will fix the mess you created.”

“You can move an object this big?”

“Well, I moved a car through time once …”

“Computer, can you open all the hatches on this thing so that it will sink properly?”


“I’ll need to see the whole ship,” said Desmond. “Take a tour so to speak. I think it’ll help to have the whole thing in my mind before I try to do it. Care to escort me?”

Two hours later Desmond had seen more than enough of the ship.

“Now what?” asked Kovack

“Where did you originally materialise?”

“Near Niagara Falls.”

“Good. All we have to do is wait for daylight and leave.”

“Why daylight?”

“So I can see what I’m doing.”


They stood on top of the ship and Desmond held onto Kovack’s arm. Desmond relaxed and made his breathing slow and rhythmic. Kovack matched him and started to feel as if he were falling. He wanted to see how this worked but, before he knew it, they were floating in the middle of the Pacific. Heavy swells lashed at the ship; the computer raised a defence field to prevent the winds and water from knocking them off the ship. It started to take on water and sink.

“Are you OK? Can you get us out of here?” asked Kovack.

Desmond gasped. The trip had been incredibly fast and he wasn’t sure why. Nor was he sure he was in the right place. The ocean was angry and was quickly swamping the craft. “OK, Kovack, I want you to think about where and when you want to be. It might help.”

A huge wave slapped against the computer’s defence field.

They held hands.

This time the travel was slower. Desmond coasted them through time, hovering near The Falls. Suddenly, Desmond saw Kovack – his younger self – appear in a forest. Desmond drove his mind back, pulling carefully backward in time a few minutes before materialising.

They were in the woods.

“I don’t have much time, do I?” asked Kovack.


Kovack pulled from beneath his coveralls a fairly ordinary-looking cable.

“What are you going to do?”

“The alien computer system was so foreign, that I will be able to take over his, my, system and reverse the time effect. It has to be right away before the gateway completely closes. Computer … are you ready?”

“Yes. I am detecting the gateway.”

Kovack moved so he would be directly behind his soon-to-arrive self.

It took only an instant for Kovack-the-younger to pop out of the gateway.

Kovack, with the not fully-grown arm, jammed the cable into the back of his other self.

“What?” He turned and saw his older self. “No.”

And the screaming began. Two almost identical men howled like lost souls in hell. Desmond covered his ears. The newly arrived version of Kovack seemed to collapse to a point and vanish. The remaining Kovack fell to the ground.

Desmond knelt beside the shivering figure. “Did it work?”

“He’s dead. I dumped all my power into him using the alien energy signals.”

“That’s not what you said you were going to do.”

“I lied.”

“Are you all right?”

“I can’t hear my computer. It’s so quiet in my head.”

Kovack died in a beautiful forest with the roar of a waterfall in the background. To Desmond it seemed a fitting end to the ultimate eco-terrorist. His body had a self-destruct mechanism; Desmond watched the corpse disintegrate. He assumed that, if the computer went off-line, the body and any equipment were to be vaporised so as not to contaminate the environment.

Desmond stood alone in the forest.


He could drop a ship in the ocean and pinpoint someone in a forest but he could not travel home to his own living room. He rang the front door bell. It was five minutes after he had left.

Rebecca opened it. “You scared me. What happened?”

He walked inside, “I am really sorry.” When he hugged his wife he realised she was about six months pregnant. This was not life as he recalled it.

Cecilia tromped down the stairs to see who was at the door.

Relieved beyond measure, he scooped up his daughter and held her.

Cecilia wrinkled her nose. “Daddy, you stink funny.”

He put his daughter down and gently rested a hand on his wife’s protruding tummy. “The thanks I get for saving the universe.”