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The Return

Command Center

Time-Keeper Colony


Wednesday, June 13th, 2018, 10:25 am



      Carmen and Keith waited in the Command Center for their parents to return.  The other colonists came in and out to watch throughout the morning, but Carmen and Keith waited vigilantly. 

      Their engagement was still a secret between them that they wanted to announce after the team returned.  They knew it was very likely the team would arrive safe and sound.  The full-scale invasion of Russia had been prevented, and they all knew about it even before the team left.  They only knew it was the colonists that changed history because it was the only thing that made sense.  They had got the message from the past to stop the war.  At the point they received it they had not even known China had planned an invasion of Russia. 

      It was the watchers, with lots of help from Oliver and some from Mike, that showed the real cause of the e-mails and battle plans.  It was not a monumental betrayal by China’s top general; it was a group of four people that were sent to the past to stop a war.  Still, a small war did take place. 

      Carmen often asked herself as she expected others did, ‘Did we actually help?’  There was no way to answer the question, so nobody ever gave voice to it. 

      The war ended quickly.  China did not have time to re-assign Peng’s soldiers to a new general.  The leadership completely broke down.  While they had some early success due to Tong’s men, the outcome was an occupation of one-third of China and a forced treaty.  The treaty was not very harsh to China because there was no solid evidence the whole army or country had acted in unified malice.  The treaty basically forced China to have the army overseen for a few years by members of the Russian and Indian armies as well as a third-party overseer appointed by the UN. 

      After the war, Tong took Peng’s position because of his status as a war hero.  The promotion was too late to help the final outcome of the war. 

      All files and evidence relating to the team was kept hidden by the Chinese government.  Some files were classified to be accessible only by Tong.  With the exception of Tong’s files, Oliver had been able to access and make copies of all of them.  The video files were played several times by the watchers.  The video was all of poor quality and only showed what happened inside the halls of the PAC headquarters. 

      Despite the apparent success of the mission, there was still no evidence to show what had happened to the team.  They found no evidence that the team had been captured, although they only looked through PAC and Chinese police databases.  It was very possible that if they had been captured, they would be kept off records or filed under made-up names. 

      There was also no record past their hotel stay of purchases or flights.  They could have tried to leave China by land, air, or sea.  By land seemed the safest route since China was so large and its borders so poorly guarded, especially its borders with neutral countries during the war.

      Even if they went by land through a well-guarded section, they could always use the builders to tunnel. For all Carmen knew, they could have tunneled under the Great Wall of China.

      With all the work on the waste recycling system and then Keith’s proposal, Carmen had not dwelled much on what happened to the team.  Keith told her not to worry, but she still did. She guessed he probably did, too.  He was right that they had a new advantage with the builder but Oliver and Jared were new to this type of work.

      Today though, her mind was fully occupied with the outcome of the mission and the lives of the team members.  She sat with Keith, the two staring at the screen, waiting and hoping. 

      Finally, around 10:30, they saw some movement.  It looked like a time machine was being rolled into the hangar.  The person who rolled it headed back up the hangar south of the one he or she had come through.  The person never got close enough to the camera to be identified.  The person seemed to have some trouble walking.

      While Carmen and Keith waited for more activity, Samuel arrived.  Before he could say anything, Carmen made a shushing sound to keep him quiet.  He looked at the screen blankly as if he was not sure what was happening. 

      After several more minutes, another time machine was being rolled into view, this time by two people in the center bay.  They were still too far from the cameras to identify.  They walked up the southern bay together.  Several more minutes later, a third time machine was pushed down by two people.  Again, they were too far to be identified and this time disappeared in the center bay.  After another twenty minutes, the last of the time machines rolled into view from the northern bay, the same as the first machine.  Two people were pushing it while two others walked beside it.

      Finally, the four stepped forward to the terminal by the door.  There they were, all four of them.  Carmen thought they looked green, but decided it was just the cameras. 

      Samuel used the intercom to ask them, “Are you OK?”

      Aaron’s voice came through in reply, “Yes, let us in.”

      Carmen thought it would be funny to ask for a password; instead, she gave authorization for the door to open.  Samuel confirmed, and the door unlocked.

      They all ran from the command center to the hangar.  On the way, they knocked on all the doors.  Several of the colonists ran.  When they arrived at the door, the four were having trouble opening it.  Samuel let some pressure out, and the door finally swung open.

      Oliver shouted in a Cuban accent, “Lucy, I’m home!”

      Emma was running toward the door with Toby trailing behind with Seamus and Amelia at his heels.  Kara came running, too, but Mike was nowhere to be seen.  Michelle came in the back of the small crowd carrying Deirdre and holding Spencer’s hand.

      Everybody was hugging everybody.  The four really did look ill.  Oliver’s shirt was ripped.  Jared was cautious with the arm he injured.  After all the hugging ended, the group brought their luggage in and shut the doors, sealing the colony again for an unknown amount of time.

      The team was not too eager to talk about what had happened.  They all looked exhausted.  It turned out that they had left the past late at night when they arrived and aimed for the morning.  All four were visibly tired. 

      As they walked back to the homes, Aaron asked Samuel “Did anything happen while we were gone?”

      “Yes, but with Carmen and your son’s help, it all worked out.”

      Aaron looked at his son and gave him an approving nod.  As they got to the first of the homes Keith called out to them, “Can I make a quick announcement?”

      Everybody turned; they all looked like they knew what was coming.  Still, it made Carmen nervous.  She found her left forefinger instinctively near her mouth as if she was going to bite her nails.  She forced her hand back down, disgusted with the habit. Keith reached out to her and they held hands.

      Aaron said, “Well?”

      “Carmen and I are getting married!”

      Everybody clapped; even the kids started clapping.  Kara, who was also clapping, looked sad, but she clapped sincerely just the same.

      They all gave the couple a quick congratulatory remark and then headed home.  That was it.  They were getting married.

      The next day there was a feast followed by a retelling of the events.  Aaron explained almost everything, but the other three added to the story whenever he missed something or was short on details. 

      At one point during the retelling, Jared said of Peng, “I wonder if we framed the wrong man.”

      “You can’t think like that,” Aaron said.  “Peng might have been a better man than the others, but he never would have stopped the war.  We did what we had to.  You can’t personalize it because while it’s easy to feel for the people we dealt with almost directly, it’s the thousands or even millions of faceless people we saved that matter.”

      Carmen wanted to argue that maybe they all matter, but it was not her story, so she let it drop.

      Over the next few weeks, the colony settled back down.  The recycler worked perfectly thanks to Samuel, Carmen, and Keith. 


The End

Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2007 Forest J. Handford

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