David Evans rode out the storm of deductions in his mind only to have logic tell him, for the umpteenth time, that it would not work. Logic said in wouldn't but his idea and his new math, said it should. He knew the figures were correct. He knew it.
His abilities in mathematics, physics and, most importantly, their practical application, was his talent. I just wish I could come to the corner and turn it, he thought. I'm right there, right freaking there, but I can't find the way to walk around it.
He'd been working on an idea concerning time for sixteen months. To stop it or slow it to a point, that it would seem stopped. Every professor he'd spoken to, on three separate campuses, merely smirked as if to say, How cute--you dumb kid, and then dismissed him and his idea as a dreamer's foolish thought; Or had been just as sickeningly condescending.
"You'd have to have more electrical power than three States could generate to do anything with time," one of them had told him, "to even consider stopping or slowing it down. To hold time in place, as you suggest and try to move through it, would probably kill you. You wouldn't be able to breathe much less maneuver through the air molecules. I'd give up that thought, son, and move on to something more challenging. Don't waste your time," the closed mind of one professor had warned.
'Challenge'! The dolt didn't know the meaning of the word.
David knew that once gained, stasis inside the stoppage of time could safely be negotiated. "It wouldn't be much more different than normal time except you'd be the only mover through it, as long as you had the device on you," he'd tried to tell them; but they wouldn't listen. But the, 'Don't waste your time, young man, ' the professor had counseled, kept David determined and going these many months. Like most upper classes the professors taught, they were almost always a disappointment to him. With two doctorates under his belt, and a third assured, David had little use for professors anymore, except Professor Stiles, who'd become a kind of friend.
But the condescension of other professors only made David that much more determined. Almost every Prof' he'd dealt with or met had no feel for theoretical physics, in his mind, stuck in the accepted ideas of the day. And they're all wrong, he determined. I know they are and I know I'm right. You can't lie to mathematics. It'll catch you every time.
Perhaps it was my presentation? he smoldered. I won't actually be stopping time, just my passage through it. I'll be isolating myself from the general movements of the local quantum world. David had proven this to himself, if to no one else. He had the figures in a folder each time he met with one of the 'elite' of the college professors, to try to prove it to them. But the old men and women wouldn't even look at the math and figures and scoffed when he'd reluctantly admitted he had made up his own branch of math to solve his theory. It hadn't been that hard, for David, because he'd done it before with a subroutine on the same project, but hadn't told anyone. Specialized math for specific problems was not an accepted field, either. But it was only the practical application that was hindering his progress at the moment. Stumping him for the time being.
David knew it to only be the process, this frustration to discovering his goal, but was anxious to find the solution and gain his deserved relief.
After graduation and three dozen companies vying for his brain, and particularly the U.S. Air Force, he'd put his life on hold at the ripe old age of twenty. He'd been able to concentrate on the problem fully the last couple of months of the Spring, but he had to come up with something soon, before this month was out because, I'm running out of money to live on. I'll have to take that stupid assistant teaching job for Professor Thompson, when I do, if I haven't got this thing solved by then.
David looked at the milling machine in the college's engineering facility and again at the new component part he'd just finished, that night. He questioned if he'd made the last mill correctly, concerning the new part, and checked it again with the micrometer. It measured, "Right on the money," he mumbled.
The thought of money made David think again about what Professor Stiles, his friend, and mentor, in the early days of school, had said: "Say you could stop time, David. What would you do with it? Steal money? Watch women take showers? Take revenge on some bully with less abilities than yourself? There's no real reason to stop time. Not an honest one."
"It could give us an advantage in national and international security," he countered.
"What, sell it to the CIA, the FBI? And the government wouldn't take advantage of it, would they?" Professor Stiles suggested. "They would use your genius to disrupt the world to their own particular brand of philosophy?" Professor Stile's position on government grants was well established. He thought they were bad ideas with too many strings attached. "It would be too dangerous an ability for any man, or group of men, to own, not to mention a government."
And that made David think twice, for Stiles, himself, had been burned on two occasions by the military complex that had used his ideas to make who knew what. Weapons were usually the ticket.
David had made his decision, shortly after his excited announcement and subsequent rejection that this invention would be for him. And "Why not," he said to his reflection, shaving one day. "I don't have anything. And it's my idea. I tried to make them see and they refused. Even professor Stiles."
He quickly reassembled the parts, all seven of them, and tested it. Nothing. The clock on the wall's second hand was still moving. He took the rather simple construction apart, again, and laid them out once more, thinking. "What am I missing?" he asked himself. "It's right here in front of me and I can't see it."
Frustrated, David sighed. He reassembled the pieces once more and decided to call it a night. His back was aching and his eyes kept watering behind his round lensed granny glasses, like his father used to wear; "When I was a hippy," Dad used to say. Both he and his mother taught mathematics, though she taught at a Jr. college.
David looked at his watch. It was a little after one a.m., now.
The device was the size of an old silver dollar and about three times as thick. It was an elegant looking piece of machined metal. The case was made from an exotic stainless steel, very expensive, and smooth as polished chrome. It had one push button, he'd modeled after an Omega stop watch from the pawn shop, along with a small protective hanger loop for the lanyard. David had made the lanyard from an old hiking boot, an old shoe string. It was thick and black, but it wouldn't unravel at the tie and was strong as hell. He kept the device hung around his neck at all times, except when he was working on it.
On one side of the disc, David had inserted a protective clear crystal and beneath it a small electric scanner that read his own particular code to his body. It wasn't DNA--exactly. That would have been too complicated and taken too long to cycle. It was something entirely different. That's what his other branch of math had been created for. The scanner merely prevented anyone else from using it. It was something, again, he'd figured out and wasn't telling anyone it's details about, like the device, and both being relatively simple ideas, to him. The hardest part of the whole operation was machining the stainless metal, to make it water proof, as well as figuring out exactly how to place the various items in the containment field of the steel casings. The seals that kept the device water proof was a major pain in the butt. David had finally got it but it had been hard to accomplish and very time consuming.
The thinking of the consul, he received from various minds, was so very wrong, David thought. It wasn't about electricity. All one had to do was distort one very small molecule, isolated and held in place with magnets, holding the device, and you and anything nearby could be immune to the restrictions of normal time. Everything else around you would cease to move and the barer would be immune to aging within its field. It was too simple. Way too simple and David couldn't figure why anyone in history hadn't thought of it before this.
He gathered up his things and stuffed them into his narrow hydration backpack, including the small booklet of coded tech data, in mathematics. He put the device around his neck, as usual. Then took his red Firenze bicycle, he'd found in a dumpster and had fixed up, converting it to a single speed from a fifteen for simplicity, and because it was cool, and rolled it to the door. Propping the door open, he went out, locking the shop then dropping the keys in the outside key box. David put on his leather gloves and knitted watch cap as it was a bit too cool to ride without them. It was already approaching Spring, there, near to the border of Canada, on the U.S. side, yet, not quite warm enough for David.
He liked to go through town along Highland Drive, at night. It was the most lit up and he didn't have lights on his bike. They always got stolen when he'd parked the bike outside, as a student. He peddled through the thick cool air, enjoying the feel of the Canadian wind blowing off Superior and on to his face. Peeling off on 29th street he went uphill, two blocks, till he got to his little apartment complex, off campus. He shouldered the bike and was about to climb the stairs to the second floor when he thought of the bike frame and how it hurt his shoulder. It dug into his tendon.
The shoulder-- The Shoulder. YES! THAT WAS IT. He'd solved it.
David put the bike down, almost dropping it, and sat on the steps under the yellow lamp light of the porch. He took off the device and opened the back. With his Swiss Army knife, David adjusted the shoulder about seven degrees more to the right of the stop pin via the concentric screw. If that isn't it, he thought, then I'll just go back one degree at a time. It's somewhere in there. He screwed the back on again and swallowed. This was it, he told himself. Now! Where's a car when you need one.
Hurriedly, David bombed back down hill to Highland Drive on his bike and waited for a couple of minutes before a car appeared in the early morning air. Anxious, he shifted his weight from foot to foot, time and again, till the car was half a block away. Gently, he pushed the button on the device.
Nothing. The car was still coming.
David pushed the device again, harder. It was a stiff spring. The car stopped. The device worked. He yelled and jumped for almost a minute, yahooing and whooping like a lunatic. He pushed the button, once again. The car moved as David bent over laughing.
There was an all night gas-n-go, a block down the road, and David pedaled like mad to it. The attendant was reading, he noticed, riding into the lot. David punched the device then pulled down his ski-mask. The guy hadn't moved or seen him park his bike against the glass or walk in.
"Hello," David said. There was no response. He took the magazine, laying on the counter in front of the guy, and turned it upside down, went to the back of the store and watched. He punched the device. The guy drew back, seeing the upside down magazine. He straightened it and David hit the button again. He repeated the sequence twice more, laughing more each time. He took a picture of the guys frozen face as he left. He always had a little digital camera in his tee shirt pocket. Then he took off.
When he had ridden up the street some distance, he stopped the bicycle and pulled the device out, again. David let time return to normal, pushing the button, lifted, and refolded his ski-mask. There were cameras inside and he didn't want his face recorded, even for this. I don't know what kind of tech is being invented everywhere, all the time. I've got to be extra careful. They just might be able to reconstruct a blur. You never know.
The following morning, David realized his need for money, again. David had less than three hundred dollars in his account.
The First National Bank of Ireland had done him a number the first year of college, at the tender age of 13, and David had never forgotten it. The bank itself had nothing whatsoever to do with Ireland, he'd found out long ago, just a snappy commercial name to make some fat cats fatter. David chose them for his little joke and that very morning, after just four hours of inadvertent anxious sleep, he went down town.
As before, he wore his gloves and ski mask pulled down, a block before he got there, even though it was getting warm. Stopping time, he walked into the bank and then the vault and took bundles of ones and fives, denominations that would less likely be on record. Some bundles were the badly worn ones, some were new, and some just wrinkled. He stuffed them all in a big backpack and left on his bicycle. He did this once on that bank, then rightly considered, If I come back to the same place, every day, they might start recording the numbers. So for almost three weeks straight, he went to a different bank each time, collecting small bills only, and caused quite a ruckus in the papers, but he'd amassed a small fortune by then. He'd quit when he'd had enough, depositing only a few ones in his little account, in small increments, though, it now amounted to quite a sizeable figure of almost a thousand dollars. That was enough for day to day bills. But he had amassed almost a hundred thousand altogether. It looked more innocent that way, too. The bulk of his money, he kept in safe deposit boxes scattered all over the city.
David's apartment had gotten too small for him and he rented a medium size house and filled it with stuff he'd always wanted. All the silly dreams he'd ever had concerning material goods had been fulfilled, especially with computers and games and almost anything electronic. There were comic/movie conventions he'd never been able to attend and there was always one, somewhere. He took advantage of his new wealth in sci-fi and gaming gatherings, in computers and DVD's, and sci-fi books, wide screen TV's, and one gigantic stereo system that was guaranteed to cause deafness in three hours or less, and of course, a dream motorcycle, which he thought long and hard about.
He always wanted a Harely-Davidson Sportster like his dad once owned. He liked the old style racy look of the engine and their sound. David had seen something on TV, last year, about the worlds fastest street Sportster. It was a dragster, but still, something like it could be made street usable. He thought, before he'd ordered it, "What's stopping me?" He called up the shop, in California that had built the dragster. After almost an hour of talking and idea exchanging, David had made arrangements for one to be built somewhat along the same lines as their 'naked bike', the drag bike, only he wanted an engine less racy and more dependable--and licensed for the street. "Money was no object," he'd told them and suddenly, they were very very cooperative, extending the call to get more and more detail out of him. They had now been working on it for over six weeks and it wasn't suppose to be finished for a month or more. It was very specialized, what he'd asked for, and couldn't wait to take delivery.
David had been an avid fan of bikes, for years. He'd done research, interviews, and followed motorcycle racing, flat-track and road racing, mostly, making notes, piecing together his dream bike but never having the money to get it built, though hoping he would, someday, when he was done with school. He had stacks of performance magazines scattered all over the place, dreaming about it, but now that he could actually afford one, he was excited, to say the least.
David went home, after one shopping spree for video games, thinking about his dream bike, and ordered a full set of custom made leathers via the Internet. They were street-racing leathers called the, Stealth-Combo. They were the very best for motorcyclist riding on the road, in his opinion, but unlike out and out racing leathers, they were a two piece system with built in armor and vents for hot weather, a zipper, built in belt connected the pants and jacket pieces. And they were skin tight. They looked sick. He got knee high racing shoes, too, that covered his shins. They were dirt bike boots but he liked the look of the five buckle straps on the side and they matched the black theme of the outfit. A thousand dollar black helmet and gauntlet gloves, from Japan, rounded out the riding leathers. The helmet, especially, looked great and was the best he knew of. It weighed less than two pounds. He was gonna be bad looking.
David wanted desperately to tell Professor Stiles of his success, that the device actually worked like he said it would, but couldn't, now. He was a thief and living on stolen money. David felt some shame concerning the matter. "No. This was best. But I can never tell anyone about the device." He didn't want for anything. Except, maybe, a girlfriend. But that would come when the time was right. He was only twenty after all. "I'm having too much fun without one," he thought. "'Women just confuse you and take you from the things you love doing'." He'd heard it a thousand times before, from other students more experienced than himself. But he still liked looking at them. Often, after buying things down at the mall, he'd just sit on a bench and watch girls, his age, prancing by in their summer-light clothes. Often he'd take detailed digital photographs of them, after stopping time. "Something about them always gets to me," he thought. "Bouncing boobs, mostly, I suppose." But even women got boring after a time, and irritating. They just couldn't keep from constantly chattering away about nothing.
Something Professor Stiles had told him once came to mind, one day in the mall, watching girls. Why he'd thought of it then, David didn't know. He'd said to him, "Everything in nature or a person's life has an opposite: Light and dark; Pleasure and pain; Ease and difficulty..." It gave David pause thinking how easy getting the money had been. If what Stiles said is true, then I'm due for some kind of balance. Some kind of trouble. This HAS been way too easy. It worried him not just a little. But wasn't the difficulty getting the device to work, his balance? He respected Stiles and his thoughts but he wasn't certain about any of it. He had been right, after all, about the idea of stopping time. There was no honest reason for trying to make it happen, even though he'd succeeded in making his device a reality. He shrugged it off, forgetting about it, as two pretty girls approached.
Playing a driving motorcycle video game at the mall, another day, David realized something, mumbling to himself. "Waite a minute. I don't really know how to ride a motorcycle."
He dropped what he was doing and went to the local Kawasaki shop and talked to a sales person about learning. She was a girl and claimed to have a racing license. She had no boobs, he couldn't help but notice, and wondered why athletic women never did. He told her about his ignorance of riding and she signed him up for a riding course on the spot. Then she sold him an Enduro style street/dirt bike. It took three days to complete the course and then he took delivery on his bike.
It was a medium size motor, in c.c.'s, (cubic centimeters), just a 650, but a tall bike. At five ten, David was just the right size for it. It had plenty of power to learn with. As his salesperson had said, "It's something you can grow into. Just respect the power of it, at first, and you'll slowly get a good feel for what you can and can't do, and how to maneuver the bike safely in traffic. Practice as much as you can in the dirt. It'll teach you skills you'll need for the street."
And learn, David did. He was out in traffic somewhere every day or in the hills east of town. He got so he could fish-tail the rear, do U-turns on the spot, hop it, jump over rises, maneuver around objects, and almost do a feet up donut. They were the hardest. He saw what other riders were doing, out there and tried doing the same, practicing the things he saw them do over and over. He even got to the point where wheelies were easy because they were. Like doing wheelies on his old BMX bike.
He rode out into the country side, too, on and off roads, learning the joy of fast high speed touring. He camped out in national forests and campgrounds learning what it was to ride solo. And what it was like be your own independent man, at one with your machine and the landscape. He was having a ball.
He went through one front and two rear tires before the phone rang one day from California. His Sporster was done. Ecstatic, David dropped the video controls, for a game he was on the verge of cracking the final sequence to, and made a call to one of the airlines. Tomorrow at eleven he'd leave to get his new bike, his dream machine.
The flight was inconsequential except for the woman who got on in Los Vegas. She was shorter than David so when he looked in her direction, all was revealed. She wore a low cut flimsy dress with her deep cleavage falling out of her thin as paper bra that seemed to show every contour and image of her breasts. They were very distracting on the way to L.A. She was always leaning over for this or that in her hand bag at the right of her feet giving David full views. David naturally gawked but looked back into his paperback book when she began to straighten back up. He almost wanted to talk to her and get to know her better, but he was way too shy. Plus, she had to be at least fifteen or twenty years older than he was. Boobs or not, that was way too old for him.
It was almost fun, not caring about money, on his trip. He flashed it around without a care, taking a taxi seventeen miles to the shop near long beach, paying in cash. Arriving at 3:37 p.m. that afternoon. He lavishly tipped the driver a hundred dollars with twenty fives.
The shop, from street side, was particularly unimpressive, even with three finished, shiny racing bikes on display in the small front lobby. It belied the fact of the garage area, where he was taken, after paying for all the odds and ends and final payment for the bike. It took long enough to count it all out. All he had was a big bundle of fives. But everything in the shop was clean and professional looking, as if it, in its self, were the showroom.
A checkerboard tiling covered the floors and with red tool boxes, chromed air and hand tools, the place was striking in its noise and impressive to David, in their professionalism. They really seemed to know what they were doing. Road racing bikes, street bikes, drag bikes, classics of all kinds were up on short hydraulic lifts as well as hot rodded older bikes like the old British upright twins and special Japanese and Harely Davidson models. The twenty or so mechanics David could see were all tenaciously busy at work.
The shop had sent him email's with pictures of his completed bike and it seemed to be what he'd ordered, but when he saw it in person, it took his breath away. It was almost exactly as he'd asked them to build it. In tech details and with the sketches he'd sent, and with little variation, they'd done a beautiful job.
It was painted a deep as water, glassy and glossy black, with a polished and chromed, custom made chrome moly frame, slightly taller than usual because David didn't want to be laying flat on the thing in a full racing crouch. Being taller and riding it on the street with those clip on handle bars, it would be a beautiful ride. With geometry and suspension components set up for the track, it would still handle like a race bike on the road.
It's enormous, glossy black, nine gallon fuel tank, that bulged up over the motor and down the back bone of the plated frame, looked like a spare hump off a buffalo, sort of, but it was very practical considering David's intended usage and the thirsty nature of the high performance, big cubic inch motor. He thought it beautifully sculpted and artistically rendered. Wherever there was aluminum, it was polished, even the engine cases, and where there was steel, it had either been painted black, chromed, or was nickel plated to accent the theme of silver and shadow. In fact, that was its name, The Silver Shadow, as painted on the back-spare fuel tank, a mere bump that held only a gallon and a half. The bike, as a whole, truly looked like a piece of jewelry. The entire package weighed a little better than four hundred pounds, dry, they'd mentioned in the email's. That was much less than a stock Sporster, and the bike was probably capable, they told him, of about 160 or 165, top end.
"Miles per hour?" David asked, amazed.
"Yeah!" said the smiling chief mechanic. "We could easily make it a faster machine, but you said you wanted it dependable, right?"
"Yeah. It won't do me much good to have a bitchen bike if I'm broke down in the desert, or someplace else I can't ride it."
"That's what we designed it for, to get you through anything. It's light, but it's built like a tank. Now let me explain a little something. This baby'l out accelerate any stock super bike. Any of them. But it doesn't have their top speed. Every big Japanese bike has got you by 20 or thirty miles an hour, but they'll have to catch up to you first. So don't go putting any big money down on street racing above a half mile. And it'll handle as well as any racing bike. We've tested it, but it's a rough ride with that racing suspension. That's what you said you wanted."
"Yes. I want to take it on any twisty roads, just for fun, but I don't think it wise, racing others."
"Okay, that sounds great. I think we all do that, the smart ones, at least. It's a little on the dumb side to race on the street, anyway. Here's all the paper information you asked for, what kind of modifications were done to the engine, where to get replacement parts for everything, the vender's names, part numbers, all the tech data and we threw in our own mini shop manual on how to work on the engine and other things. It's nice and compact so it'll fit into your day pack just fine with room to spare. Is that really all you brought?"
"Yeah. That and my helmet and leathers. I'm traveling pretty light."
"Okay. That's always smart. Now, let me point out some of the things you'll need to know for getting around, maintenance and security things, and a bunch of other stuff you're going to want to know. Oh! You got a voice recorder, that's a good idea. The bikes been run in, so don't be too concerned about getting right on the pipe. You won't burn up the engine. This little tube here, with the door, it's your tool box, just turn this access screw and..." the foreman went through the whole bike and David absorbed what he said like a dry sponge in water. He had the recorder on to back up anything he might forget.
An hour later, he pulled out of the back alley of the shop in his slim, body-fitting leathers and blue mirrored helmet, the small backpack hugging his back like David had grown a hump. A small crowd of mechanics had gathered when he'd fired it up. It was the last time they'd see their handiwork. His street clothes and money were in the backpack and it thrilled him to hear the sound of the big twin bike echoing down the concrete alleyway. David had changed out the hot gauntlet black gloves, for short, white, racing gloves in Southern California's heat. He liked them because it gave him an unconscious indicator of where his hands were while keeping his eyes forward.
David blipped the throttle as he came to the street and traffic, shifting down from second gear. The roar was nearly deafening. He pulled out into traffic smoothly, then goosed it as he shifted up. The thing accelerated like a high velocity bullet. He was on his way.
After three hundred miles and a refill of gas just off of old highway 395, David did a bit of walking and rubbing away at his butt. The racing suspension was stiff and he tended to feel the bumps at slower highway speeds. He had taken the fast Harley-Davidson up to a fast clip, here and there, when he thought there were no California Highway Patrol around, and it felt better like that, but he couldn't do that all the way back to the mid-west. The fact remained, he may have made a mistake asking for the suspension to be as hard as it was.
He rolled his bike away from gas pumps and opened his back pack to checked out the manual the shop had given him. There was a short section in there on adjusting suspension. It looked amazingly easy, and David read every world.
Opening his tool box, David found the two necessary tools and went to work. The sun was scorching hot and he stripped off his leather jacket, down to his white t-shirt, as well as opening his side vents to his black leather pants. He pored bottled water into his underwear, front and back and onto his t-shirt. He doused water on his long sleeved street shirt, from the backpack, with water and wiped his face and neck. It didn't take long to adjust the suspension down about twenty percent. Back on the road, the Harley felt perfect and comfortable.
In Bishop, California, David took highway six out of the city. He was tired of crowds and traffic. He wanted a road that took him nowhere for a while. The bike was too fun to ride, and he wanted to see what it could do without any cars on the road.
Highway 6 took him east, off in the general direction of the upper west and then the mid-west, so there was no concern about direction or being exact, at this stage of the trip home. He experimented with real speed and just wanted to have some fun. In Tonopah, David got more gas and checked all the Allen nuts and bolts for tightness on his bike. He checked the oil and cleaned the dust off with his street shirt, having put it on instead of his upper leathers. He also bought a Nevada road map. He sat in the shade of a tree, at the one park in town, to see where he was headed on highway 6--and discovered something uniquely exciting. He was north-west of Area 51 and Groom Lake.
The wheels started turning. Now that would be something, wouldn't it? Go see what very few other people have. Maybe take a picture or two. Was there anyone more stealthy in the world, than he was?
He made a decision, hoping he wouldn't regret it. He was having too much fun with money and his new toys. Why potentially spoil it? But the lure of the possible wonders at the base, the secret aircraft in development, the facilities themselves, the hidden aliens and their space craft, ha-ha, everything, it was too laughable while being intriguing not to investigate the admittedly hidden premiere testing and development aircraft base of the United States. Even if the flying saucer TV programs had made everything happening in there, ridiculously fantastic, the idea of going in for a private look was very very appealing. At least he would know things few others did.
When David got to the town of Warm Springs, he filled up with gas, bought a tuna sandwich and three bottles of water. He paid for his things, keeping his visor down, and paying in cash. He rolled the bike quietly around the back of the filling station and sat down in the shaded dirt, leaning against the building as he ate and drank. Finishing, he mounted the bike, put on his helmet and pulled the device out of his leathers. David pressed the button down after the engine was already started. The engine stayed at its uneasy, near race, lumpy idle. The bike and he were isolated and safe, now, within the confines of the device and its operating field.
Approaching Rachel, on highway three seven five, he kept his eyes open. Supposedly there was a Black mail box near the entry road. A big one. Its was, supposedly, a ranchers mail box. He'd seen it when they mentioned it on TV and thought he'd be able to recognize the turn off. The road that led into the desert, next to it, took you to the secret base known by the public as, Area 51. Surely it had another one, a real name, a military designation, but that of course, would be classified and secret.
If he was going to learn anything, in his little visit, it was what the latest spy plane looked like, the SR-71 having been retired for some years. Some people called it the Aurora, but David was certain, that wasn't its name. That name had to have been leaked, to throw people off. It was something else, for sure, and whether it was a single plane or a two systems plane arrangement, as some speculated, to get it up to speed and air born, it was simply another little secret that would be fun to learn about. David's natural curiosity was tweaked and he wanted to know.
Finding the black box, down highway 375, the mail box, David turned off the highway and rode down the dirt road. He noticed right away that the dirt and sand he hit felt exactly like pavement, under the influence of the device. There was no sliding or sinking to worry about but the road was a little rough so he went leisurely down its winding path at a sane pace. Then, having second thoughts, David stopped the bike and tied his long sleeved shirt around and around the license plate, where it wouldn't come off. Who knew what kind of surveillance they had in there?
He passed the patrol trucks, up on top of their hills, and a lot of electronics, here and there, up on the sandy slopes, surveillance units no one could defeat. He kept going, though, wondering what he would see next.
Topping a rise, he saw the long dirt road crossing a wide valley. The base wasn't near any public road so he kept at it. He'd never had the device on this long, before, and wondered if it would disturb it in any way. He doubted it. With seven little parts and a solar cell to charge it for up to eight days at a time, with an exposure rate of only a minute and a half of sunlight to recharge, it was a tough little bugger to deplete. No. He had every confidence in it, thinking it through.
After about an hour and peaking another rise, David stopped to look at the base spread out in the distance. It was a huge complex and that one runway seemed to go on forever as he took dozens of digital photos on zoom.
He dropped down into the dry lake and drew in closer, traveling slow. Something about the place gave him the creeps and he stopped the bike in the middle of the road. He knew the punishments for coming here were some of the most severe any civilian could encounter, as well as the right for them to kill you if they didn't like what you were up to.
"This may have been a stupid idea," he told himself. The sound of his voice beneath his full coverage helmet seemed to give his words more weight with their severity of volume and closeness. The thought of someone chasing after him, scared the hell out of David. But sitting there, with the engine of his Sporster idling defiantly, gave him the courage to go on.
The road ended at one of the runways and David crossed them all and dove just outside one of the open hangers. It had several types of aircraft inside and three helicopters. People were walking around, working, and frozen in their tracks all over the place. They looked like mannequins. He slowly dove into the hanger, staying on his bike with the engine running. He didn't want to be caught, somehow, with his pants down, so to speak. The running Sportster's engine gave him that kind of confidence.
He drove from building to building and in one hanger, taking pictures along the way, he saw a particularly unique plane. This had to be the aptly named, Aurora, even if it wasn't what it was really called. There were five of them in there, all of them being worked on by only a few people, all of them looking as if they were slightly different than the next. They were exotic things. Like needles with wings, small, but wickedly formed. He shot lots of pictures and got out of there, but not before he got off his bike to check some papers. He found out it was designated the RS-788. On other sheets they mentioned the name, Stratos, RS-788. Not a very cool name, he thought. SR-71 Black Bird sounded so much better.
He was getting bored with the heat and all the things he saw, which he hadn't expected, but went up to a bunker on the hillside with a lot of cars parked in front. The place seemed interesting. He got into it by getting off his bike and walking in, feeling braver, using some pass tags from people frozen in time, just inside, and he passed through various gates without worry. But inside it, he began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of being in there, even though he had propped open every door. It seemed like a prison and he finally left, but before leaving, he thought he caught a glimpse of something strange. Little suites of white about the size of a child, hanging up in one of the halls. For aliens? Yeah, right!
David had seen enough and decided to leave, drinking a couple bottles of water before starting the Sportster. He saved the empty bottles in his back pack, not wanting to leave anything behind, and exited the valley and its secrets, leaving those people and their toys to themselves.
On the way out, though, he noticed a single stripe in the sand that had slowly depressed. It was his track as he came in. They must have slowly settled, in slow motion, after he'd gone through. The sand wasn't completely, hard, was it? That made him a bit nervous. It was leaving a trail. But there was nothing to be done and he continued on his way. It took him an hour, again, to get back to the main road and head north.
He stopped at the Warm Springs gas stop, again, and went around back, as if he had always been there and started time, again, even though he'd been away from there for probably three or four hours, the time was the same for them. He felt tired, drinking his last bottle of, now warm, water and slipped his camera out of his t-shirt pocket, sliding down the backside of the building, to sit on the ground, he went through the pictures he'd taken. Everything was fascinating and so neat to see, but David wondered if he should erase them all, or even throw the camera, away. It was really incriminating.
Just on a whim, feeling hungry and thinking to go back inside the gas stop to get some more water and sandwiches, he saw a ledge on the upper edges of the slanted metal roof. He slipped the camera up between it and the side walls, in a gap that couldn't be seen, easily, just so he wouldn't have the camera on his person. He could easily reach up and retrieve the camera when he left, but at least it wouldn't be on him now. He was getting paranoid. And man, was it ever a hot Nevada day.
David went into the little store, bought a couple of sandwiches and some pastry snowballs, the white ones, then came outside again to eat the food. He'd also grabbed four more bottles of water. He was very thirsty.
He sat in the shade of the building, once again, and began eating his chow. He had finished his first sandwich and two of the bottles of water when he heard helicopters coming in fast. He didn't like the sound of them coming over this little nowhere area he was at and rapidly pulled the device out from beneath his sweaty t-shirt and pushed the button wildly.
As it turned out, he was just in time to save his butt from being seen. He put his helmet on and dropped the metallic face shield so he couldn't be seen, in case those military boys had some kind of unknown quick retrieval camera and I.D. machine that could pick up his image, in some unknown, to him, way. He wasn't the only genius around, he realized, and why they had come so directly his way after his turning off the device was quite weird and beyond a coincidence.
The choppers were right around the side of the building, too. Up in the air, of course, but coming his way and coming in low, looking for something. They were Apache attack helicopters, too. Sheeze! These guys weren't messing around, were they? In the distance he saw a larger aircraft coming his way, too. It was too far away to tell what it was but it looked as if it was coming in hard. Yes, they were all frozen in time, or he was, but they were looking for something and David was in no mood to get the back of his neck stepped on by some over trained, over zealous Marine that had no more care about shooting or roughing him up than David did about pushing his little device's button.
It was time to get the hell out of there and leave Dodge, as the saying goes.
He went back inside and got more water, stealing it this time by not daring to switch on time and got five more bottles. He stowed the other sandwich and three waters in his backpack. He gulped down the last snow ball and stowed the wrapper. Two of the bottles wouldn't fit in his backpack so he donned his leather jacket and slipped them inside the coat. They felt good there, being nice and cold. He fired up his exotic machine and drove around the building and onto the asphalt road, gunning the bike's engine. It screamed like a banshee as the rear tire smoked and the front wheel came up then and in almost every gear until he hit fifth.
The road back to civilization was a fast run, and he crossed the Pancake Range of mountains as quickly as he could, jumping through Black Rock Summit like an eagle on wheels. He by-passed the little town of Currant on his way to Ely, Nevada, then drove north like a bat out of hell to Wendover, Utah. He almost hit a coyote frozen in time, crossing the road. If he had, it wouldn't have done either of them any good.
David was frightened and concerned as he filled up in Wendover, the town that was half in Utah and half in Nevada. He was scared of what might have happen to him or may yet be in his future. Did they somehow see him, invisible in his own time stoppage, or was he just being a little wimp? No. Not him, actually. But he figured they knew something. Why else would they come directly towards him, up to Warm Springs from the base?
He suddenly had another item to worry about. He'd forgotten to retrieve his camera. It was just a little 12 Meg digital and was no great loss, but he wondered if they could trace it to him, if found?
Naw. He'd paid cash for it. Piece of cake. But wait a minute. They have cameras in stores with the time and date of when they sold it and those little digital cameras had serial numbers on it that could be traced back to where it was sold. He thought it through and felt a little better, knowing it was well hidden. Crap! There was too much to think about. If nothing dramatic occurred within the next month, he'd go back and get the camera.
That time, when he absolutely had to sleep, he crashed in a motel in Salt Lake City, there in Utah, sliding in under the cover of the device. He got a great nine hours of sleep and when he awoke, got up and went to a restaurant and ate somebody's food that had just been served. He tossed the empty dish in the washer, back in the kitchen. He wanted to stay off camera and off the grid, as far as visuals went. He wasn't going to trust anyone till he got back home. Anyone he tried to meet, that was new in his life, back then, he'd shun them. This was serious stuff. It was indeed a stupid prank to pull, even though he now felt safer, being so far away. He made it back to the Midwest in another fourteen hours and was exhausted.
He rolled his bike up into his house and parked it in the living room. It was still beautiful but dirty, now. He'd clean it up sometime later. Right now all he could think about was sleep and he fell into his bed like a man shot through the heart.
David stayed out of view of the windows for the next several days and read books. He wanted to hear any noise that was unusual. And after a week had passed, he slowly edged back into his life, riding only his bicycle.
He had found one side effect, however, to his device that he couldn't explain and which shocked the heck out of him when he got up, the morning after arriving back home. He looked like he was fourteen. Using the device for extended times, did the opposite of aging you. He'd have to be careful for that in itself, would present a few new problems, living alone as he was and looking as young as he now appeared to be. Rats!
Professor Stiles had been right. There's always a price to pay, wasn't there, having your fun, and opposites to everything.