Copyright (c) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Alvin Sullinger closed his Apple Air 3 tablet and covered it carefully with a white cloth. Kim Jones was tweaking the reverse light-speed modulators on the Geodesic Voyager. “If we’re going to grab anyone from their own time and bring them here, I’m positive it must be Benjamin Franklin.”
Kim laughed. “The First American? You sure you don’t want to bring Julius Caesar or perhaps Attila the Hun? … Someone flashy, with more in-your-face-gusto.”
“No one in history is more thought-provoking than Franklin,” Alvin said. “Besides, he wanted to be here. In May 31, 1788 Franklin wrote in a letter to the Reverend John Lothrop of Boston …” Alvin mimicked the dialect of eighteenth-century America with Broadway Stage bravado. “I have sometimes wished it had been my destiny to be born two or three centuries hence. For invention and improvement are prolific, and beget more of their kind. The present progress is rapid. Many of great importance, now unthought of, will before that period be procur’d; and then I might not only enjoy their advantages, but have my curiosity satisfy’d in knowing what they are to be.”
“Damn, that brain of yours soaks up knowledge like Sponge Bob Square Pants!” Kim used a hex-wrench to tighten a dark-energy switch while he studied readouts on a computer. The bubble-shaped stainless-steel travel chamber loomed behind him like a futuristic automobile capable of breaking established light-speed limits in countless intergalactic traffic zones. “Don’t you ever forget anything you read?”
“No,” Alvin said. “If I was going to forget … why would I bother reading?”
“It looks like we’re finished,” Kim said. “What not break for lunch?”
“Fine,” Alvin said. “But I want real-food this time not another platter of yeast-infected grain-flour covered in sliced pig-bellies and bacteria-cultured milk-fat … I want real food.” He pulled a red-vinyl wallet from the pocket of his JC Penny high-water denims and handed Kim a bill. “Buy two orders of Chuotang from Miggulaji’s Korean Restaurant, on Prospect Street; along with a double-order of rice … I’ll make tea. This project’s taken months to complete. It’s time we celebrated.”
Kim looked at the image on the hundred-dollar bill. “No pizza huh? Well Mr. Franklin … it looks like we’ll be meeting each other real soon.”
Benjamin Franklin looked up from the manuscript he was editing: Supplemental Experiments and Observations on Electricity. A low-rumble and a gust of wind scattered pages across his table; some fluttered to the floor. Oil-lamps swayed from the ceiling of the Moravian Sun Inn. A rain drenched traveler dripped water onto the floor as he closed the door. A busty bar-maid named Elisabeth Manning stooped to pick up the papers; allowing the flirtatious scientist to admire her exposed cleavage. “I’m sorry Doctor Franklin,” She said, then scowled across the room towards the oddly dressed stranger, and deliberately raised her voice to add: “Most of these Dandy Prats we got loitering in Pennsylvania these days were born in swine-sheds or worse.” T Instead of looking insulted, the stranger grinned and hurried over.
“Doctor Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia?” he asked extending his hand.
Franklin quickly downed a tankard of beer and stood up gathering his papers. “I’m sorry to be rude,” he said ignoring the hand, “but that clap of thunder that pushed you into our hospitality was a signal advising me that I must go outdoors and attend to my business.”
“Outside in this? You must be mad.” The stranger shook his thick hair like a dog.
Franklin squinted at him. “No, I’ve been waiting for this storm for some time.” He stuffed the papers into a leather satchel, lifted the strap across his shoulder and grabbed a kite propped against the door frame. “If it’s employment you’re seeking, I’m afraid all of our printing opportunities are filled.”
“I’m sorry,” the young man stammered. “I’m not looking for work. It’s you I’ve come to see.” He extended his hand again. “I’m Kim Jones and I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time.” Franklin shook the hand. “Jones is it? That name doesn’t sound Lithuanian. That would have been my guess as to your nationality, although you do possess an uncommon accent and make ruthless war on King George’s English.”
“Actually I’m American,” Kim said, “from Cambridge.”
“You may delay, but time will not,” Franklin told him, “and I’m about to conduct an investigation to prove that electrical fluid and lightning both pour from the same vessel.”
“Ah your famous kite and key experiment!” Kim smiled.
“Did Peter Collinson send you?” Franklin fastened the shell buttons on his coat. “I wrote to him that an assistant familiar with electrical science would be helpful.”
“I’m not an electrical engineer. My specialty is physics … but I do have this.” Kim removed an Apple iWatch from his wrist and handled it to Franklin. “This watch has a keyboard for keeping notes, as well as a light and multiple applications that will be useful in your experiments.” Franklin staggered and almost dropped the object when his fingers brushed a button on the side of the brushed aluminum case. The kite fell to the floor. He examined his fingers for burns. A digital display, showing the date and time, illuminated his hand. “Where did you say you were from?” Franklin gasped. He couldn’t take his eyes off the glowing time piece.
“From the future,” Kim told him. “From the year two-thousand fifteen to be exact.”
Franklin removed his coat still staring at the object. “A watch you called it?” he sleepwalked toward the table. “Astonishing! … Bring us more ale,” he called to Elisabeth.
“I thought you were going outside,” she complained as she brought a pitcher of beer and two tankards. “I’ve heard thunder and seen lightning strike twice already!”
“Yes,” Franklin said without looking up, “and once was inside this room.”
Puddles of water covered the winding dirt roads bypassing tiny farm houses. Franklin insisted on hiring a carriage to transport them two miles. “If it wasn’t for this sticky Pennsylvania mud and its ability to pull rims from wagon wheels,” he said. “I would have no aversion to employing my legs, but the wages of a good cobbler far exceeds the cost of a teamster.”
The Geodesic Voyager was hidden in a grove of trees just outside of Bethlehem Pennsylvania near the ashes of a burned barn. “We won’t be surprised by any farmer’s wife coming out to milk the cows will we,” Franklin said as he paid the driver.
“I took my time selecting this spot and thought it would be best if we kept our time-travel plans a secret,” Kim said. “If the scientists in my world are not ready to follow a needle through the fabric of space time, surely yours would not be.”
“The Christ Church in Boston has not burned a witch in years,” Franklin said. “If we are found out … I’m confident that the practice will be reinstated.”
Franklin gasped as he stared at the polished cylinder. Kim was removing cut cedar branches. “It looks like a giant soap bubble blown from some effervescing type of metal!” He walked around the futuristic object studying each intricate detail and then cautiously touched the lustrous surface.
“It’s called stainless steel,” Kim said “An alloy of iron, carbon, chromium and nickel. He typed a code into his iPhone and a hydraulic door whooshed open on one side of the chamber. “Don’t be a chicken, my dear Doctor,” Kim said when he saw Franklin step back. “It’s quite safe. Please have a seat.”
“I’ve observed hundreds of ideas hatching,” Franklin said, staring with wonder at the glowing electronic interior as he climbed inside the sphere, “but less than any with such elegance … and fewer even than those with more trepidation. I’m certainly grateful to be here; I only wish that I had my business affairs in order. I see you have learned to pour out small bits of the electric. If this is death come to take me in a chariot to heaven or a cart bound for the blisters of hell … pray that either be speedy. If it be a dream, please don’t let it end bloody and startle the other Inn borders when I shout.”
“We shouldn’t need any body-bags,” Kim said climbing inside. “You’ve flown before haven’t you?”
“Not recently,” Franklin forced a smile as Kim apologized for his idiotic presumption. “We are different species of goose and are from obviously different nests … separated by numerous Februaries of invention and the March of time.” Franklin had figured out how to buckle his seat belt and closed his eyes as the machine became activated.
“My fondest desire has always been to show the future to a famous person,” Kim said.
“It was my desire to reach that future without dying,” Franklin said opening his eyes. “How on earth can such an off the hooks invention possibly work?”
“It’s General Relativity Physics,” Kim said. “The entire universe, and everything in it, spreads outward at the constant speed of light.” He busied himself pushing buttons and adjusting digital readouts on numerous computer display screens. “To go back in time you exceed the perpetual speed of light, which happens to be one-hundred eighty-six thousand miles per second.” He pressed a series of orange and red buttons and the Geodesic Voyager began to vibrate at 1760 HZ. “To go forward in time, you must slow that unalterable speed to nothing … and then go even slower.”
“As a scientist,” Franklin marveled. “This defies the total of my existing knowledge and understanding. Are we on a horse ladder?”
“Men of science, devoid of spiritual beliefs, always work by reason and within subjective limits,” Kim said, “while those of great faith … at times do the impossible.”
“God! Help us then!” Franklin said as the craft began to move.
Franklin was swaying when he climbed out of the taxi at John F. Kennedy International airport in New York City. “Are you okay?” Kim Jones asked as he rushed around to support the now three-hundred and nine year-old gentleman. “I didn’t consider the effects of motion sickness on a time traveler.” The world’s most famous person in the seventeenth century was now dressed in oversized purple cargo pants and a black hooded jacket with an image of Snoop Dog on the front. He had picked it out himself from Saks Fifth Avenue.
“It is a bit like being to sea for the first time,” Franklin said bending his legs to keep his balance and staring as a Delta Airlines 737 lifted into the air, “riding in these horseless carriages you call automobiles, but also having tides of new ideas flooding my poor printer’s brain from all directions.”
“Sensory overload,” Kim said. “It’s one thing I never considered.”
“Are we really going into the sky in one of those machines?” Franklin said staring at the vanishing airliner.
“Just a short flight to Boston,” Kim said. “With no passports and only carry-on baggage boarding shouldn’t take too long.”
Franklin noticed an obviously homeless blind-man sitting by a garbage can with a sign saying: Iraqi war veteran Please Help! He walked over to the man astonished. “With all the wealth and influence of your world, I would have thought vagrancy to have gone extinct like the ferocious giant reptiles of earth’s distant past.”
Kim rushed over and pulled Franklin away from the veteran just as Ben dropped paper money into the man’s empty coffee can.
“What the hell is this?” the blind-man said pulling the note from a tin can and holding it up to the sunlight.
“I thought you were blind!” Kim yelled. He was furious at the deception.
“Even a blind man can spot counterfeit money,” the immitation beggar said.
“I assure you that twenty shilling note is authentic,” Franklin told him. “I printed and signed it myself.”
“I’ll bet you did … you cheap bastard!” The man wadded up the bill and tossed it toward the curb just as Jones dragged Franklin into the terminal.
Ten minutes after the fake beggar had moved to a new location, an immigrant family from France, with very little extra money, but filled with the American dream, stood on the curb waiting for a taxi. Destin Vergennes, the father of five ragged children, had worked in an antique book-store, before leaving Paris. The printed bill in the street caught his attention. He picked it up. Less than a minute later he was dancing. “L'Amérique est vraiment le pays des opportunités,” he shouted forgetting for a moment to speak English. “Cette note de Pennsylvanie Colonial monnaie banque originale imprimé et signé par Benjamin Franklin … it is worth at least three-thousand dollars!”
Franklin explored the massive airline terminal while Jones secured the boarding passes using fake identification for his new friend under the name Ben Franks. The eighteenth-century scientist and inventor conversed with several groups of people mostly about politics but was fascinated by leisure time activities at one end of a large waiting area. He watched as two pre-teen boys played a new version of an old hack and slash arcade-game called Gauntlet.
“What do you do with all the tiny bodies?” he asked the boy watching his brother.
“What are you talking about mister?” the child stared at Franklin with wide eyes.
“That brutish Medieval Army of Prussians you are slaying … what do you do with the corpses?”
“We don’t do anything with them,” the youngster said. “The game trades each kill for points.”
Kim found Franklin and guided him away. He had both boarding passes. “We need to make our way to gate nineteen,” he said. “We’re in a bit of luck, I secured a window-seat for you on a Boeing Seven Thirty-seven. You should have a great aerial view of your old stomping grounds.”
“I hope it is not my destiny to meet that old stomping-ground as you call it in an abrupt and unexpected manner,” Franklin said as they boarded the airliner. “Do tell me that all in-the-sky accidents are a thing of the past.”
“We’ll be fine,” Kim told him …. Trust me!”
“It is only when you tell others to trust in God,” Franklin said with a smile, “that they know they are about to meet him.”
Franklin was seated in the first-class, fourth-row window seat on the left and Jones sat next to him. “These seats are expensive,” Kim said, “but you are somewhat of a celebrity even if nobody in this century knows it.”
“I know you mean well,” Ben told him with a nervous laugh, “but if we should exchange seats, I might close my eyes and imagine I’m in the hull of a ship headed for France instead of in the belly of a large metal bird being slowly digested by my own fear.”
“Try sitting by the window for a bit …” Kim pleaded, “if you don’t like it … later we’ll switch.”
A pretty flight attendant, with a name-tag that read Sally Lewis, and with dark hair and soft blue eyes, brought drinks as soon as they were in the air. Kim had to nudge Ben twice to get his nose away from the glass. “For a moment I had the feeling of growing very large,” Franklin said smiling, “as the world suddenly shrank.” He accepted a Bacardi rum and cola on ice from Sally graciously and drank it quickly.
He once again had his face pressed against the oval window. “Creatures with wings must think of themselves as giants as they look down upon whole nations that float below them.”
A well-dressed male passenger with the fair complexion of the Danish stood up from the seat across the aisle and headed forward toward the bathroom. A minute later, the vivacious red-headed female passenger sitting next to him followed. Kim imagined a married middle-age businessman on a clandestine vacation with his young secretary joining the mile-high club.
“I’ve always thought the ground looked like a patchwork quilt on someone’s made-up bed and I imagined I was a bee flying over it looking for an open window.” Franklin nodded without looking at him. Kim caught the pretty attendant’s eye and begged her for two more drinks.
“Normally we only serve each passenger one beverage on this short flight to Boston,” Sally said. She pointed to Franklin and smiled. “but your companion seems to have such an enthusiasm for life, that I’m tempted to break the rules.” A minute later she was back with two more drinks. “Is this charming gentleman your father?” she asked as she handed over another rum and coke.
“No, he’s an old friend,” Kim said. Franklin was laughing and twisting in his seat as he stared at the ground. He glanced at Sally and winked.
A loud bang like a car-tire exploding came from the area of the front galley. Sally tumbled into Kim’s lap. Normally he would have been thrilled … this time he was confused and scared. Smoke filled the front of the compartment and appeared to be coming from the forward section. “Good heavens,” Franklin exclaimed. “What is happening?”
“I think a microwave-oven or something else just exploded in the galley,” Kim told him. “We’re still in the air so I wouldn’t worry.”
“That’s impossible,” Sally said. “This airline uses transferred heat from the engines to warm our pre-cooked meals in special containers.” Sally struggled to her feet.
Jones’ mouth gaped open when the Irish looking woman who had gone into the restroom appeared standing in the smoke cloud. Her blouse and bra had been removed and two perfectly formed cones of clay-like material jutted outward from her naked upper torso where her surgically removed breasts should have been. Two wires ran from her artificial cleavage to a button-switch held between her fingers. Her pale blue eyes contained both the color and warmth of arctic ice flows. Neon-streaked shag-cut hair rose from her head in static-electrical fashion.
Her voice revealed just the slightest hint of a Turkish accent. “There is a pound of C4 explosive in each of my göğüsler,” she said showing her teeth. “Anyone decides to play with them, and we will grace ve sevgisi ile Tanrı … blow this western symbol of infidelity to hell where it belongs!”
The smoke was beginning to clear. Kim could see that the reinforced door separating the crew compartment from the passengers had been blown-off its hinges. A whiff of chloroform tinged the air. The co-pilot lay on the floor. The Danish man was pulling an unconscious pilot from his seat. Two men, both looking like fat Georgia rednecks, appeared from the economy-class section wielding torn off arm-rests as clubs. “Uçak güvenlidir,” (the aircraft is secure) the first one said. The plane began to bank left in a steep turn, leveling-out as it moved south toward Washington D.C.
“A half-hour from now, the world will understand that Tanrı will never stop in his glorious quest to destroy evil,” the woman shouted as she beat one fist on the overhead luggage racks.
“Is there a problem with your flying machine?” Franklin asked Kim … moments before the airliner began to descend rapidly and all of the passengers screamed.
TO BE CONTINUED ….