Falcon

Falcon

This is a sci-fi short story through the eyes of a man who takes people back in time for a living, and gets in trouble with the law, all while getting to know himself. I posted new chapters as I wrote them.

To read it as it originally appeared, along with reader comments, just click the first link, and then the bottom of each post takes you to the next.
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I’m Bill, but since the day I tried to fly, I’ve gone by Falcon. I’m not married and I have no kids. For a job, I take people back in time.

I started out an honest businessman, and that worked for a while. Then, I got greedy and started deceiving customers. That didn’t work long at all.

“Oh, my God. It’s beautiful, Mom. look.”

“I see, dear. It’s very nice.”

“Very nice? It’s almost unbelievable.”

It was a kid, about 13, and her mom. They had tagged along with what I figured was the lady’s sister, a rich woman with lots of spare time and money. All were brunettes, but only the girl was cute. Her eyes were set wider than the others’ and she had a more defined facial bone structure. If I had a son, I’d be proud if he introduced her as his girlfriend. Beauty is important to me.

We were at Hawksbill Crag, a spot in the Ozark National Forest, in 1970. It was a rock outcropping overlooking a canyon surrounding the Buffalo River. The customer, Danetta Sherril, wasn’t looking at the wooded hillsides. Her eyes pointed straight down.

“So, this will be filled with water in a few years?” she asked.

“Yes, that’s right,” I said. “The dam will be a long way from here, but the lake will come up to about 20 feet below where you’re standing.”

“Show me more,” she said.

I had scouted the area and knew it well. Below the cliff line were streams and waterfalls, all leading through hardwood forest to the river. The Army Corps of Engineers, as it was called back then, was looking at damming the Buffalo to generate electricity and prevent flooding.

The three ladies put on their hiking boots and strapped on their daypacks. We worked our way down a break in the bluff to see the water. If the view didn’t get them, the abundance of water usually did.

“Aunt Danetta, thank you so much for bringing us. I never knew it would smell like this.”

“The simulators back home don’t do it justice,” her mother said.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your names,” I said.

The mother spoke up. “Oh, I’m Chethra, and this is my daughter, Chura.”

“They call me Falcon. Nice to meet you.”

“Chura, be careful at the edge.” She turned back to me. “Nice to meet you too, Mr. Falcon,” she said, then set her watchful parental eye back on her daughter.

“No, just ‘Falcon,’ please. Mister is for people you either don’t like or take orders from.”

“Don’t the devvies know what they’re about to destroy?” Danetta asked nobody in particular.

“The kids back home would never believe this. This hill is so steep, not like in the simulators. I bet I could break my ankle or something.”

“Yeah, um, let’s not do that. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to carry a passenger back to the exit point. You’re just a half-liter, but I’m not in shape for it.” I said.

“This place really sweeps,” Chura said.

“Please, use whole phrases. Life is too rushed already.”

“Sorry, Aunt Danetta.”

We all admired a six-meter waterfall. It poured into a narrow slot of solid rock coated with bright green moss.

“We have to find someone to stop this dam,” Danetta said.

“You know that’s not allowed. It’s against time travel code.”

“Chethra, can you stop thinking of rules for a moment? Do you always do what’s expected instead of what’s right?”

She went on to spout some speech about how much better the world would be if natural places like that had been preserved. I kept an eye on my watch. We only had three hours before we had to get back.

It was a side-effect of the time travel technology in use back then. If you leaped with a machine, which was reserved for emergencies due to era contamination risks, then there was a longer limit. After 24 hours, however, the traveler’s DNA would alter to a point that the machine would not recognize his biological signature, and he never would return. By that time, though, he would be dead, so there wouldn’t be much point.

As long as you filed a jump-plan, someone knew when to expect you back, and rescue was possible — at great expense and high risk.

We explored a while longer, removing our boots and dipping our toes in the deep blue pools of the stream. Farther down, through the clear water of the Buffalo River, we saw fish swimming.

“Wild fish!” Chura said.

“That’s right. Those are brown bass,” I said. “Tasty, too.”

“Oh my God, it’s legal to eat wild fish?”

I loved shocking them like that. “Yes. Encouraged, even.”

“Unbelievable.”

On the way back out, we stopped a few times on the trail for rest and water. Each stop made Chura restless, because she wanted time to see something at the trailhead that had fascinated her. The small parking area, with room enough for about four vehicles, was near a patch of wild azaleas, my usual exit point from that place. In those parking spots were automobiles with internal combustion engines.

“It’s so raw. It just runs on explosions, right?” she asked.

“Pretty much,” I said.

“That sweeps.”

Danetta glared at her, but said nothing. Even she knew to pick her battles.

Then, she spoke up. “I want to stay.”

“Excuse me?” Chethra said.

“We need to do something. Staying is the only way we can make a difference,” Danetta said.

Get over it lady, I thought. Most people got emotional on jumps like that, where they saw what the world looked like with plenty of trees, free-flowing water, and wild animals. They kept me in business, though. Saps.

“You guys go ahead. I just need to pee. It’s so amazing to be able to do that outdoors.”

“Don’t get any ideas, Mrs. Sherril. We’re stepping in 20 minutes, with or without you,” I said.

“You just called her ‘Mrs.’,” Chura said. “So, if mister is for –”

I winked. Chura smiled.

Elbows resting on our knees, we sat and snacked on crackers with protein spread. I could smell the azalea on the wind. Chura was right; there was nothing like that in our time.

Only 15 minutes until we had to step, and Danetta wasn’t back yet. Chura and I admired a Jeep in the parking lot. Chethra stood next to the azalea patch, sweating by this point.

“Jeep CJ-6,” I said. “If you can’t get where you’re going in that, then you’re walking.”

“That thing?” Chura asked.

“Explorers who travel these woods swear by them.”

“Wow. So primitive. I want to hear it run. Is it loud?”

“They can be. Didn’t you hear or see replays in school?”

“Replays only showed luxury vehicles that ran smooth and quiet.”

Still camped out at the azaleas, as if the exit point were going somewhere, Chethra said, “There’s a butterfly on these flowers.”

“A what?” Chura ran over to her. “Wow!”

“Where the Hell is she? We have only 10 minutes left,” Chethra said.

Chura looked up from the flowers. “What if she doesn’t make it back?”

She spoke up. “Well, Chura, she has the money for someone to rescue her.”

The girl seemed worried about her aunt, while her mother seemed inconvenienced. With that and her comments about money, I suspect there was a family fortune in it for her if something happened to dear old sis.

“How does that work?” Chura asked.

“When someone notices you didn’t come back at the planned time, they can encode a time machine with your DNA signature, along with theirs, and make a jump with it. They find you and bring you back. Hoping nobody from eras gone sees them, of course.”

“Sounds simple.”

“Well, sending two people in one machine can get ugly. Something you probably wouldn’t want to see. I’m getting tired of waiting. I’m going to go look for her. You two stay here by the azaleas.”

(to continue reading, please click below for Part 2. To read comments on this chapter, click the Part 1 link)

Part 1 (on another site)

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

The End

2 Replies to “Falcon”

  1. Hey Mark–
    I’ve read up to ch.8 so far and this a damn fine story. Good concept, plot, characters — fine work.

    [In case you’re wondering, found you from Whedonesque, linked to your Dallas audio files of Adam Baldwin et al.]

    Thanks for posting the story. You shopped it around at all?

    =Dan=

  2. Dan – Thanks for reading, and for commenting. Feel free to share with anybody you think might enjoy it. I still need to polish out some typo’s and there are even a few major changes I’d like to make. The latter is mostly a symptom of posting it as I wrote it — you’re reading a first draft! (but I still think you’ll like what’s to come.)

    I haven’t shopped it around, but I’m open to suggestions.

    Thanks again.

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