Time Slingers is written by J Sherer. For illustrations by Nathan Scheck and more episodes, please visit www.timeslingers.com.
Episode 3: Hunted
"How close are they?" Kline hissed in low tones, leaning toward the window to avoid suspicion while he received an update from headquarters.
"We're not sure."
Kline's brow furrowed. Failure at any level would be devastating. The assassination had only delayed further lunar exploration. The XLS could not allow NASA to investigate the Fra Mauro region, nor could they allow the Union to interfere. "We have to stop this mission. The Union can't get in the way!"
"We deployed one of the bounty hunters-"
The bell on the diner's front door chimed as Henry entered. He took two hesitant steps, glancing around the room and pushing his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose. He appeared nervous as his eyes searched for Kline. When he spotted his contact, he put his head down and hurried toward the booth where Kline waited.
"Keep me posted." Kline terminated the call as Henry slid into the seat across from him. Henry kept his eyes low and tapped his fingers on the table. Kline offered a false smile. "Morning, Henry. Did you bring it?"
"I told you," he said, stressing each word. "It's not that easy!"
Kline's smile vanished. "We had a deal."
"How do I know you're not working for the Russians? You want to see blueprints? I- I thought we were supposed to be protecting the blueprints, keeping them out of reach, not- not stealing them! It's not that easy. Security is tight. There are procedures. I can't just walk out of there with blueprints!"
Marcus eased back, his black polyester suit stretching as he crossed his arms. He stared across the table at Henry, who avoided eye contact. Finally, Kline leaned forward, putting both elbows on the table. "Our intelligence suggests the blueprints are faulty, that they've been altered. What you're building won't make it five thousand feet into the air without exploding. We need those blueprints."
"That's impossible. Somebody would notice-"
"You can't help them from jail."
The engineer's mouth snapped shut, his eyes suddenly losing their fight. His bets had caught up with him. He swallowed hard. "Can I see it... again?"
Kline reached into this coat pocket and withdrew the false ID, a FBI badge, authentic in every way, yet completely phony. He slid the badge across the table along with a scrap of paper that listed his name, title, badge number, and a phone number to verify that it was authentic. He waited for Henry to look it over. Henry glanced back over his shoulder at the phone on the wall in the back of the diner.
Henry hesitated a second before pushing himself away from the booth and heading for the phone. Kline watched the engineer closely, his eyes narrowing. The call was going through, but rather than reaching Washington D.C., Henry's inquiry was routing to one of the networks controlled by Xi'an Liberation Society—the XLS, Kline's employers.