For the first three episodes check www.sffworld.com, and for more episodes and to view illustrations by Nathan Scheck, please visit www.timeslingers.com
Episode 4: Connections
Kline stepped back into the shadows and checked his watch. Henry was late. The single light at the remote gas station flickered, and from somewhere inside the booth the attendant's snores could be heard alongside the hum of country music on the radio. Crickets sounded as dusk settled over Florida's landscape.
The plan had worked perfectly. Step-by-step, deceit-by-deceit, Kline was baiting Henry into his snare. Using the blueprints Henry had managed to steal, Kline pointed out supposed "hot spots" on the space module and its components. The hot spots represented potential Russians targets, areas where the Russians could cause deadly malfunctions. Kline had persuaded Henry to take him to the module so that he could inspect it up close. The engineer was like a sheep being led to its slaughter, but Kline knew his con needed further reinforcement. There was still one last piece of the puzzle: he needed to convince Henry not to trust anyone else around him.
Finally, a pair of headlights approached from the highway. Kline checked his watch again. They would still have time. Henry pulled the car up to the gas station and Kline slid into the passenger seat.
"If we're caught-"
"If we're caught, we're going to have three dead astronauts and pieces of spacecraft all over Florida," said Kline. He took a folded manila envelope from his front pocket and slapped it against Henry's chest.
Henry paused, glancing down at the envelope before peering back up at Kline, who nodded for him to open it. When he did, three photographs and an elaborate, counterfeit biography spilled onto Henry's lap.
"Kevin Reiter," said Kline. He lifted one of the doctored pictures of Henry's co-worker and frowned. "This is our guy."
"That's impossible, h-he goes to my church!" Henry stammered. "I- I know him!"
"You know who he wants you to know. He's a spy."
"Why haven't you arrested him? What are we here for? I don't understand. Why do you need me? I want out- I-"
"If we arrest him, we lose all his contacts. He's not working alone. You and I are going to check out this rocket. We're going to see what he has control over and what he doesn't, and we're going to figure out who he knows," said Kline. He leaned over the seat as his eyes narrowed. "You're still in this. You can't back out now."
Henry shied away, leaning against the door panel and shaking his head. "I need- I n- I need some kind of protection, or- or something!"
Kline backed off and straightened his jacket, letting the weight on Henry's shoulders sink in. Turning back to the frightened engineer, Kline stared confidently across the car. His voice softened as he reeled in his fish. "I'll take care of you, Henry. We'll get these guys, but I can't do it without you." He paused again. "Are you ready?"
Henry's knuckles grew white as he wrapped his fingers around the steering wheel.