Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Today’s Word: Momentous

The cave opened into an oblong space not much wider than the tunnel spilling into it. Uneven rock sloped toward the center, seeming to urge old Horner on, but he stopped at the entrance to this natural room. He might have crouched, but his knees would have never borne the torment and he had no doubt both his alter-self and Mance were using night vision overlays like his own.

The two younger men stood in the center of the space, circling slowly around an oval-shaped structure that seemed too black in Horner's enhanced vision. He recognized it at once. The time machine that had pervaded his dreams for decades.

Young Horner stopped moving and bent to inspect a patch of raw earth where lay six pence lined up on the floor. They looked like tiny black moons aligned on some momentous day of signs and wonders.

"Just as I said, eh, Linus?"

Linus, that was his name. That was Horner's first name, the name before the flush. Linus Turring – same as the first Empyrean Minister. Of course there was nothing special about that. Millions of young men were named after the First Minister. Some families had even changed their surnames to Turring during the First Reign. Horner was half convinced that was the case for his own family.

"I just transferred the funds to your account," said Linus. "You may leave me."

"And miss what happens next? I want to see you use this here thing."

Linus stood. He was a tall man, not muscular, but slim and lithe. Horner couldn't see the expression on his younger self's face, but he recognized the body, the movement of that body.

Linus drew a scream gun from a pocket in his short coat. He gave Mance no warning; no parting words. He simply pulled the trigger, sending a cone of emerald green light across the cave. Mance took the brunt of the laser fire in the chest. He uttered a harsh cry, staggered back, and fell, boneless, to the earth.

Linus pocketed the gun and turned back to the time machine.

"Do you know how to open the hatch?" asked Horner.

Linus did not start, but turned slowly to face his alter-self.

"I know, but how is that? Can a man remember forward?" he asked, his voice level as a blanket of snow on a field.

Horner took three steps towards the center of the room to stand before his young self.

"I'm finding that a man can remember in many different directions."

To be continued

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