Episode 2 - TimeSlingers.com by J Sherer

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SUMMARY: A tap at the door broke the sentence in half. Hector frowned, his eyes darting to Jack, who’s near perpetual smile vanished as he shut down the terminal and stuffed it into his duffel bag...

Episode 1 is posted at www.sffworld.com and www.timeslingers.com (TimeSlingers.com features illustrations by Nathan Scheck).

Shadow Phase
Episode 2


The metallic walls reflected simulated images broadcast around them, replicating windows that looked out onto a paradise where palm trees and turquoise waves lapped empty sand beaches. Reality was much bleaker. Layers of metal and dirt piled en masse beyond the outer walls of the underground building. Deep within the secret enclosure, a subdivision of Union phase travelers operated in secrecy. The images playing on the surrounding screens offered little solace to the Union soldiers.

Hector Salazar ignored the screens, striding into the circular office and stopping abruptly as the doors slid shut behind him. His dark eyebrows slanted forward and his strong jaw clenched tightly, the only two outward signs of his escalating concern. He remained stoic, however, showcasing his strict military conditioning. Among the Union's finest phase travelers, he obeyed orders, worked hard, and kept his nose clean. Holding his chin high, he waited for his superior officer to address him. Across the room, General Taylor bent over the latest reports flashing across the screen on his desk. He glanced up at Hector with a scowl that was more concentration than anger.

"Shouldn't you be in eval?"

"Eval's complete, sir."

"You've seen the mission notes?" the general asked with a slight reluctance in his tone. When Hector nodded, he paused for several long seconds before continuing, "Any questions?"

Hector hesitated, swallowed hard, and let his eyes drop. He regained his composure before lifting his head. "What happened?"

Taylor leaned back. His normal staunch demeanor failed for a moment, replaced by a countenance marked with apprehension and worry. Phase travel was relatively new, and the Union's latest defeat was devastating. The repercussions were still vague and unrealized, but the recognition of failure came as a heavy blow to morale.

"They rewrote the past. They assassinated... a president."

"I did everything I could, but-"

"Our intelligence failed," said the general. He leaned forward again, his trademark sternness returning instantly. "We're playing with time, Salazar, and we don't have enough of it to second guess ourselves right now."

"I got us there too late."

Taylor shook his head. "You didn't have a choice. The whole setup was wrong. We were looking left while they were operating on our right. We didn't know until two hours before that gun went off that the motorcade was their target. Reset to zero, Hector. It's not your fault."

An alarm cut into the general's words. All the screens flashed emergency alerts, crushing any sense of false calm created by the canned scenery. Taylor snarled, moving to the main computer terminal on the wall. He hit a switch and the giant screen behind his desk lit up with detailed instructions, maps, and charts.
"Molecular transfer. They're moving again."
Hector's deep brown eyes darted to the map. "Where?"

Taylor squinted at the charts, and then snapped his attention to his lead officer.

"Suit up.

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