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Cronos. Part Five.

A young woman finds space helmet that leads her on to adventure and love.

Cronos. Part Five.

It was a whirlwind two weeks being chaperoned everywhere for the getting together of her trousseau though her escorts threw their hands up in horror when she said that she expected to honeymoon in the wilds of Argentina.

Brendan’s mother had taken on the task of organising the wedding to be held on the back lawn of their stately house. Typical of their class, the back lawn they referred to was the size of a football field and would easily accommodate the three hundred guests that was listed at the first count. Such was the standing of the family, the mayor of Boston and the Governor of the state, it being Massachusetts, had sent their acceptance as guests.

The icing on the cake for Audrey was that on the day before the wedding, she was informed that she had been made a professor of both the College of Boston and the Institute in London for a brilliant thesis on the tribal and breeding habits of the Brontosaurus.

They’d been having afternoon tea after a hectic morning with last minute fittings of her wedding dress and a multitude of small details that they thankfully, had dealt with. A butler had come into the drawing room bearing a letter and a telegram on a silver salver and handed them to Audrey. She gasped with delight at reading the letter and passed it over to Brendan and then burst into tears when she opened and read the telegram.

He quickly took it from her as he put his arm round her, thinking it was bad news, but cried out in relief when he’d read it and passed it round to follow the letter.

‘A double professorship!’ he declared. ‘That even outranks me,’ he said as he kissed her. The others couldn’t wait to add their congratulations at this good news and hoped that her good fortune would last forever.

The day of the wedding dawned and with it came the horde of people to erect the marquees and begin preparing for the wedding of the year. Audrey did not have one minute alone for the whole day, even having someone in the bathroom while she bathed. Breakfast was one slice of toast and a strong cup of coffee for she was a bag of nerves at the constant fuss that was made of her.

It was the complete opposite for Brendan in the company of his best friend at college and now his best man. They had a peaceful morning at the barbers and then being fitted out in his new wedding suit. He did though, have two glasses of wine just before the ceremony.

The wedding went off as planned, right down to the last detail, in front of the highest of high society that Boston had. Brendan had gasped at the most pleasurable sight he had ever seen when he saw her walking down the aisle on the arm of his uncle.

The dress shimmered and it seemed as if she was floating along with her train held up by the four bridesmaids that drifted behind her. He hardly heard the words of him being called a lucky sod by his best man as he saw this vision come to a rest beside him. He didn’t come to his senses until he heard the words, ‘I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.’

For that, he didn’t need any urging and slowly lifted up the half veil and saw her sparkling eyes and her lips half parted waiting for his to touch and press against hers. It wasn’t a long kiss but it held all the wonders of the world and presaged a grand future for their love.

They turned to face all the well wishers that were there, the aisle, a red carpet laid across the lawn was now covered with rose petals for them to walk out from under the arbour of flowers towards to the house to stand on the steps to have nearly everyone there shake hands and kiss the bride.

The band that had played the Wedding March now played the theme tune from Jurassic Park which amused those in the know and to the bewilderment of those that weren’t. They next went to a lavishly decorated table before the bandstand to be seated in the place of honour to hear the best man read out a selection of good will telegrams and notes. Obviously, only the ones from the most prominent people were read out.

The cake was cut and the wedding lunch was served. Audrey estimated that this must have cost the Fowlers the equivalent of two expeditions after fossils.

Though it was the happiest day of her life, she was glad when they took to the dance floor especially laid, for the first dance and then they could start the long process of extricating themselves and seek the seclusion of the private rooms up in the house. She’d also danced with Brendan’s father and two uncles and his aunt’s husband and she had given a special kiss to the uncle who had given her away and thanked him very sincerely.

But when they did get to be alone, it was only for a brief hug and a kiss before maids came to help her undress and re-dress her in her travelling clothes. Then it was down to the waiting limousine to whisk them off to the bridal suite at the new Pelican Hotel in Boston for the night.

He paid off the bell boys for carrying the luggage in and when they departed, they were finally alone and kissed deeply before he picked her up and carried her through to the bedroom. Here, he laid her on the bed and they re-enacted the day of the picnic, only this time they went and joined together as man and wife.

The next day they flew by the family’s private jet to Buenos Aires, landing in the evening and were soon installed in the best room in the best hotel the city had to offer. They didn’t leave their room for two days but, while reluctant to call a halt to their love making, they were eager to get started with the time machine so the finally emerged on the third day there.

During Brendan’s periods of recuperating, they made a list of things to buy that they hadn’t seen in Bahia Blanca and had a whole truck load by the end of the second day out. These were shipped by plane to this airport to await their arrival which was two days later.

They stayed there for two days while Brendan had a bed made, being very specific to its measurements and one that could be disassembled so that no part had a width greater than three foot six. They bought new clothes for living out in the wilderness and lots of water containers and food. Fuel for the generator and an adaptor so that he could run a lap top computer from it.

They carried two mobile phones with unlimited credit, paper, pens, pencils almost having a mobile office loaded on one of two trucks they’d hired. Also four men to drive them and return them when their job was done. The generous wages for them were left with the truck company so that they had to deliver them back to get their money.

Brendan also bought a brand new four by four Overlander vehicle. The twenty army surplus jerry cans of fuel for it were loaded on the second truck plus a pup tent for them.

With everything ready, they left for the six hundred miles to the old site and where their machine was waiting for them. The two most precious things they had, were carried in the car with them. They would have been a tempting prize for any light fingered motor cyclist of which there were many in that country.

It was a gruelling four day drive but finally got there in the middle of the fourth day. Audrey saw to the water system while Brendan supervised the unloading of the trucks so that the men, after staying the night and breakfast in the morning, could leave as soon as they were ready.

Brendan also got the refrigerator and freezer going and personally unpacked the frozen food they had brought, it being sealed up with dry ice inside the boxes. He’d calculated the amount perfectly for it only just all fitted in.

Audrey had helped get dinner as she had on the trek, a simple meal of tortilla and beans washed down with the local brand of coffee. Breakfast was of the same and after they had eaten, the men waved goodbye as they left and when they were out of sight, Audrey went into Brendan’s arms for a proper kiss and hug without anyone now to bother them.

‘At last I have you all to myself Mrs Fowler,’ he said as they kissed.

Professor Fowler if you don’t mind Professor Fowler,’ she answered him and they both laughed. ‘But first things first,’ she said as she pushed him away. ‘I want to see if you can make up that bed you had made.’

‘I was planning to put it up in the dome,’ he said.

‘It’s going to be some days before we’ll be ready to do some serious travelling and sleeping in there.’

‘What will you be doing?’ he asked.

‘Watching you and getting a sun tan on these white bits,’ she smiled and dragged out one of the cots that had been left behind and stripped off and lay down to catch the sun.

‘You’ll get sun burnt if you lay there too long like that,’ he said, liking the view as he began to look for the bed parts.

‘When I’m cooked one side, just roll me over,’ she replied, her eyes closed against the sun’s glare.

It took him an hour to assemble the bed and called out to her that it was finished.

‘I thought we’d be sleeping inside the mess tent, not outside,’ she said sleepily having seen where he’d built it. He gave her a sheepish grin and went into the tent and made some space for it.

‘Well I can’t get it in myself,’ he said looking at her.

‘You haven’t had any problem up to now,’ she said slyly.

‘Wanton! Put some boots on and give me a hand.’

She grumbled but sat up and pulled her boots on, the only things she did put on and helped him carry it inside.

‘You look absolutely lovely dressed like that,’ he said as she flopped down on their newly made bed.

‘Undress me then and come and tell me how much you love me and let’s christen this bed.’

She lay in his arms, drowsily stroking the soft hairs of his chest, thinking of the wedding and of what they had just done.

‘Could you possibly imagine that in years to come, we will have handed on our helmets to our children and their children. And these grandchildren of ours could actually be right here now watching us?’

‘I suppose it’s one way of getting a sex education,’ he replied just as sleepily as she had spoken.

‘Then to return to their own time, they would…they would…take… off…their…helmets. Oh my God!’ she exclaimed and sat up abruptly, her breasts swaying violently at the sudden movement and Brendan was jolted out of his own reverie.

‘How long ago was that Brontosaurus alive do you think?’ she asked him.

‘About a hundred million years.’

‘And how advanced do you think the space ship is from our technology now?’

‘Oh, I’d say at least one to two thousand years.’

‘Well I think you could say a hundred million and two thousand years. Don’t you see? They had their helmets off! They were living in their time, not the past!’

‘Holy shit!’ he exclaimed, sitting up himself, now wide awake. ‘You’re right! How could I have missed that! We’re the bloody babies of the universe. This is absolutely stunning,’ he said as he fell back onto the bed.

‘To think that scientists have been trying for years to find out if there is life outside of our solar system. We now know that there is, or was. They maybe now extinct like our dinosaurs.’ He sat up again and began to put his clothes on.

‘Come on, get dressed. We’ve got work to do and only fifty years or less to find out the truth.’

He set about rearranging the mess tent to use half the mess table as an office. A length of cable was attached to the generator at one end, the other had the adaptor fitted that he plugged into the laptop computer. This in turn was linked to one of the mobile phones.

‘This,’ he began to explain to Audrey when asked, ‘is linked now so that Robin, my best man at the wedding, can contact me via his computer back at the University. I left copies of all the symbols I found inside the ship to see if he could come up with their alphabet and numerical formula. Using the console to start with, the second symbol in each line going across is the same, changing as you move down but still the same going across.

Going downwards, the first line has the same first symbol, the second line has a different one but it is the same going down and so on. Now if the first symbol is alphabet, we could have our A, B, C, going to G. If the second symbol is numerical, we have one to seven, do you follow that?’

‘Yes, I think so. So the fourth button down and three to the right would read as C4, yes?’

‘Correct,’ he said, looking quite pleased with himself. ‘Now look at this drawing I did of what looks like a computer keyboard in the map room. See the top line? It had twenty keys with the same symbol followed by, from left to right, what would be the numbers as with the console, one to seven being the same and when you get to the eleventh key it’s a combination of the number one. The twelfth key is one and two and so on to show us what zero is in their numerical sequence as in ten and twenty. The first symbol would be their letter G whereas we use the letter F. Have you got that?’

‘Yes,’ Audrey replied.

‘Then to the main keyboard, we find there only nineteen major symbols, seven of which are on the console. Now Robin is trying to work out the formula for the other twelve keys and if they can or do find it, he can let me know via the lap top.’

‘But even if he does, it’s not going to help us,’ she said. ‘It would still seem to be double Dutch, like…like the difference between English and Japanese. Without having the person to point out an object and write down what it is in their language, we’re not going to able to write it down in ours to see the difference. What we’d need would be like a child’s book with pictures to go along with the word.’

‘Well the closest we’ve got to that is the computers in the map room, which is where I’ll be spending quite a lot of my time.’

‘What do I do?’ she asked.

‘There’s more than one keyboard, you can work on another and if we do find something, we can follow that trail to see where it leads us,’ he laughed, ‘as long as you don’t press the enter button and send us out into space. Make a note of everything you touch before you actually do. That’s why we have lots of paper with us. The main thing to find first is the delete key, then return to main frame and the shift key.’

Brendan found those keys the next day which made playing about on the keyboards easier but they still couldn’t make any sense of what they were getting to come up on the screens.

Audrey was bored with this after only one day and so began to play with moving the ship from square to square on the grid map then found the shift key to move into a completely new area and a new grid map. By noting down what keys she had pressed, she was able to return back to the original starting point.

Within two days she was very adept at moving the ship several hundred miles in any direction and still return to their camp site. Then they came to the first serious part of what they were going to do, and that was to move as far as La Copelina.

Brendan, while in Boston had bought the latest ordnance survey maps of the Argentine which were brought up to the map room plus a table and two chairs. These had to be juggled about for he had to hold the table off the ground while Audrey put his helmet on with the visor pulled down to see him suddenly disappear. She put hers on and with the visor down, grinned at him still standing there with the table in his grip, which they took to the ship and only when inside could he put it down.

Like the bed parts, they could only be three foot six across to get it up through the well and he had to balance it on his head to do so. The chairs were easier and now they could spread the maps out and work out the number of moves they had to make on the top screen, marking the maps accordingly. Audrey had noted that when she moved the ship into a completely different grid sequence, one of the first set of symbols changed, so these had to be noted down on the ordnance map.

‘This is going to be rather laborious for we’ve got to leave the ship every time to lift our visors to be in our own time frame. The terrain we will travelling over will have no bearing as to what’s on the map,’ Brendan said.

‘If we could only bring up a chart giving the whole area it would be easier,’ she said in an exasperated tone.

‘It would I agree, but don’t forget, these co-ordinates on the screen are relating to this period of time. If we changed our time zone, I mean by jumping ahead ten million years, the grids and reference numbers will probably be different.’

‘Well that will be the next task as far as I’m concerned,’ she replied. ‘You can carry on trying to read their alphabet, I’m for trying to get the ship closer to the twentieth century or thereabouts. I’d like to see history in the making!’

This innocuous remark had a great bearing later on in their life though Brendan had other ideas for the immediate future.

‘We’ll do this jaunt first and then we will fill in the gaps of our knowledge about the Brontosaurus before we go any further,’ he said quite firmly.

‘Yes Professor,’ she said meekly but smiled at him as she said it.

They settled down and moved the ship one square across on the big screen and two up, having to note the sequence change each time. They began on the upper edge of the lower screen by going out of the ship and lifting their visors. Nothing of note, but by moving one more grid to the left, they had one big surprise when they walked down the ramp and lifted their visors for they found that they were slap bang in the middle of La Copelina.

‘Bloody hell!’ Audrey breathed out. ‘Damn good job they can’t see us. Just image the panic of a space ship suddenly appearing out of thin air here in the middle of town.’ They stood there and watched the hustle and bustle for they were on the edge of the market, Brendan marvelling at the fact that with the map co-ordinates now logged, they could pop into town, over three hundred miles away in a matter of a second or two, do some shopping and be back at the camp before a kettle had boiled.

‘Let’s have a beer,’ he said on a sudden impulse, grabbing her hand.

‘We can’t do that! They’d freak out if they saw us suddenly appear out of nowhere,’ she said.

‘We’ll find a quiet corner and take off our helmets and we are then really here. We’ve got to prove that we can just travel over six hundred miles in a matter of seconds,’ he said desperately. She saw the logic and agreed so they moved off, still flinching though when somebody walked straight through them till they found a secluded courtyard with nobody about.

‘Quick, helmets off,’ he said and they did so and felt the heat of the day strike them and they both stood and then laughed and hugged each other.

‘We did it!’ Audrey exclaimed. ‘We could even go to Boston and give your parents the fright of their lives.’

‘It would certainly be a shock. With the right map references, we could travel the world in a blink of an eye,’ he laughed. ‘Let’s go and have a beer, I’m thirsty and maybe something to eat,’ he said taking her arm into his. ‘Good job I brought some loose change with me.’

So they wandered out into the market carrying their helmets and found a cantina and had something to eat washed down with a couple of cold beers.

‘Have we enough money for some fruit and veg,’ she asked as they wandered through the market, ‘though you’ll have to tell them what we want for I can’t understand a word they say.’ He laughed and so they bought what she pointed out and with a bag full, found a place for them to slip on their helmets unobserved.

They then walked back out into the square where the machine was waiting for them, the people moving about completely oblivious to the two of them walking up the ramp of the ship for it suddenly to disappear as they set course for the camp.

Audrey punched in the sequence of letters as they now called them and the numbers before pressing the enter button. Three seconds later, they were at the camp site, bypassing those squares they had to go through to get to the town. Now they could do their market shopping in double quick time.

‘Oooh it gives me the shivers to think that we could have walked through the town stark naked and had sex on a market stall and they wouldn’t have seen us,’ Audrey said.

‘You’ve got sex on the brain,’ he laughed.

‘It’s being married to such a gorgeous hunk of a man that does it,’ she said as she gave him a hug and a kiss. ‘Take me to bed and tell me how much you love me,’ she whispered in his ear.

‘After dinner,’ he said. ‘If a man doesn’t eat….’

‘…he doesn’t have the strength, I know, you’ve said it once before. Okay, dinner first and then bed,’ she smiled and kissed him.

They descended from the craft and went to the mess tent where she got out two steaks and while they were on the grill, prepared a salad, all with fresh things from their shopping. They didn’t need to carry as much food as they thought now that the town was so close in time.

It was just getting dark when the meal was over, and as promised, he went to bed early with Audrey.

Next morning, they began to look for a Brontosaurus, and found a herd. The beauty of the sphere was that it could jump about at will and they could observe the animals without leaving it, just sitting up in the dome. They followed three herds over the next month gathering enough material to write many books on the subject when Brendan called a halt.

He was heeding his own warning of the danger of being too long in the sphere. That they would continue to age at the normal rate but it only took fifteen seconds in the helmet to have aged one hour. It doesn’t seem much stated like that, but over a long period of time it might appear as if they had the disease of accelerated ageing.

One of the reasons for Audrey’s success of her thesis was that it was about the first Brontosaurus remains to be found in South America for it had been a widely held belief that they had only lived in North America. Brendan had now pointed out that in just that one month, he’d noticed that they were constantly on the move and it was always to the north.

They spent the next month writing a book that was simply titled Brontosaurus on the lap top and when they couldn’t add any more, sent it off to Robin via the phone to his computer in the University. He eventually got it published as being written by Professor’s Fowler and Fowler and it received great acclaim within their own circle but was much criticised by the so called critics outside as pure fiction on the lines of Jurassic Park. Though they didn’t hear of this until a long time afterwards.

After they had sent the book off, Audrey found a way of stopping the revolving picture of the Earth on the computer that was opposite to the one that showed the grid lines.

It was the top row and second from the left marked if their ideas on the alphabet and numbers were correct as G2. She had pressed this and the globe stopped moving, though, typically, it stopped where there was only water to be seen. She tapped this key again and it began to revolve again. Quite excited at this, she played with this several times and finally got it to stop to show the greatest part of the land mass shown.

She was quite excited by this and it was with some trepidation that she put her finger onto G3 and pressed it, her heart thumping inside her chest and gave out a shriek of joy that brought Brendan over.

For there, down in the lower left hand side, a pin prick of light could be seen and it had a small ripple of fading light moving out from the centre. This seemed to pulse about every five seconds, the outward ripple like when a stone or something is dropped in a pond. Strong waves at the impact then a lessening of the circle the further it moves out until it faded away for another pulse of light and the ripples to repeat themselves.

‘That’s where we are on this land mass,’ she cried excitedly, jumping up and down in her chair. He had to agree with her supposition and asked her to show him what she did. So she pressed G3 and the light faded and then pressed G2 and the globe started spinning again.

‘We could go all the way to Russia or even China using this in conjunction with the map over there,’ she said.

‘Well we’re not, we don’t have the co-ordinates,’ he said.

‘Let me find them on the other screen. We’ve got to find out if this white spot that comes up on the globe moves or not?’ she said plaintively.

‘It will take time to keep going from one plot to another and recording each one as you go,’ he said.

‘Let me try it Brendan, please,’ she begged.

‘One hour, then see what the grid shows for the co-ordinates.’

So with pad and pencil, Audrey worked as fast as she could, noting down each page as it were as she travelled in a northward direction until the hour was up.

‘Okay,’ she called across to Brendan. ‘I’ve got the location. Can you press G2 on the other screen and then G3 and see if the spot moves for we certainly will considering the bloody number of grids I’ve gone through.’ He moved over to the screen and pressed those that she had said and saw the light and the ripples.

‘Okay,’ he said as he held the tip of a pencil lightly to the centre of the white spot and Audrey put the code onto her screen and pressed the enter button.

They heard the familiar light hum and felt the slight tremor for about three seconds and Brendan gave a shout.

‘It’s moved! Only about a quarter of an inch, but it moved.’ Audrey gave a shriek and rushed across and flung her arms about him and kissed his face.

‘Now we can cross the world,’ she said, breathing heavily. ‘Let’s go take a look.’ They went up to the dome and looked out at a forest of trees that towered above them so that they were really hemmed in.

‘Where are we do you think?’ she asked in a whisper.

‘Not the slightest idea. How many squares have we crossed?’

‘I don’t know. I didn’t count them,’ she said in a small voice.

‘Well let’s go back to where we were and you can count the number of squares and I’ll try and work out just how far north we went.’ He went across to the central well and looked at the reclining massaging chairs and their consoles and just as Audrey joined him to descend to the map room, he stepped away.

‘Audrey. I’ve had an idea. Go down to the globe and tell me if I can stop it spinning.’ She gave him a quizzical look but went down anyway. ‘Can you see it?’ he called out.

‘Yes,’ she called back. He then went to one of the seat’s console and pressed G2. ‘It stopped!’ she shouted out. He then pressed G3. ‘Now the spot has appeared,’ her voice getting excited.

‘Now go to the grid map and punch in the camp site code,’ he called down, ‘but don’t press enter.’ He waited a moment until she called out that she had done so and he felt a shiver run up his spine as his finger hovered and then pressed the symbol G1.

There came the hum and the tremor and he looked out at the blur and then he saw the familiar scene out of the dome.

‘What did you do?’ Audrey said, appearing as by magic up through the vacant space of the well. ‘I heard and felt us move.’

‘Come and look,’ he said and she moved over to him as he wave his hand towards the outside.

‘The camp site,’ she breathed out, recognising the landscape though the existing camp wasn’t visible whilst they were inside the sphere. He moved over to a console and pressed the button G3 first and paused a moment before pressing G2.

‘That should put the world back into a spin,’ he laughed and he took her hand and they went down to the map room on the deck below where they could see that the screen did indeed show the planet turning once again.

‘You took an awful risk,’ Audrey said, looking at him a little reproachfully, though the tone of her voice was full of pride, belying what her eyes were saying.

‘A calculated one my dear. Now how many squares had we moved?’ he asked briskly. She quickly got her papers and counted through the list she had written.

‘Eighty six. How far would that be?’ He sat down and worked it out.

‘Just over fourteen thousand miles.’

‘In just a few seconds,’ she said in awe. ‘Where did we land?’ He got up and they poured over a large scale map of South America and he put his finger on a spot after using a ruler.

‘Using this modern map, we landed just north of the Andes in Bolivia, near the town of,’ and he peered closer to the map, ‘Trinidad.’

‘Trinidad? I thought that was in the Caribbean?’

‘Well there’s a place of that name here in Bolivia,’ he said.

‘We’ve got a place called Boston in England too. Did you know that?’ Audrey asked.

‘Yes and you’ve also got Hollywood and lots of other names down in Devon and Cornwall that we have in America,’ he gave her a smile that was also a smirk. She poked her tongue out at him for his smugness.

They slept that night in the mess tent for that was where their bed would be staying. Though it had been his intention with its construction that they could have it up in the dome, but now that they could travel back in seconds, it was better left in the camp.

He explained again to Audrey using this as an example.

‘If we sleep for eight hours a day, in three years we will have slept for one whole year. We will be one year older by just sleeping. Now if we slept those eight hours in the ship, it wouldn’t be one year but only just over nine hours at our present time but we will still be one year older. We would be ageing too fast it would appear to the people who know us, so the less time spent in the machine is better for us in this respect. Now do you understand?’

‘Yes but we’ve still got to use the damn thing to get about and learn what we can,’ she argued.

‘I’m not disagreeing with you on that. It’s just that we cannot just waste time by being in there and not doing something constructive. We can’t go back to Boston after one year and look as if I’ve aged ten. What would they think?’

‘That your wife must be bloody good in bed?’ she laughed and dodged the slap he playfully attempted, grinning at her reply.

But she knew he was right and so that became the pattern of returning when they felt it was time for sleep even though this could still be in the morning sometimes because of this time warp.

Brendan had made progress on the screen and keyboard he had been playing about with, finding the shift keys, save and delete ones too. He was now reasonably confident to tackle one of the three screens they hadn’t as yet touched and so sat in one chair and with his hand movement, had the chair move round to one of these.

As the chair stopped, the screen lit up and he had it filled with numbers down the left side and what he assumed was words on the right hand side, though mostly filling it. The numbers were fairly far apart though the words were on steady lines going down the screen.

He was able to scroll backwards and then saw that even though the numbers, sometimes close together, other times far apart, many words filled the page. He went up through quite a few pages before stopping and began scrolling back down.

It was with a growing excitement that the numbers changed, well two did. The first pair of numbers didn’t change and there was a space to the next two numbers that didn’t change either. Again there was a space with another two that did change as he scrolled down.

He’d found their calendar of sorts! He carried on down to the last one and saw that the numbers read as 0012 1836 4706. The last two figures had been 84 when he had stopped to go back to the beginning. Here, he scanned across the words, a series of symbols with a space between the groups to show that they were indeed words trying to comprehend where one sentence ended and another began. On the third line came a set of numbers that seemed familiar and having an inkling of what they might be, had the chair move back to the grid map screen.

‘Yes!’ he shouted, giving the arms of his chair a thump with his fists that made the chair twitch and dither not knowing in what direction to go from his hand movements. ‘Audrey!’ he called out as he moved his chair back, ‘Come and look at this!’

‘What is it?’ she asked as she went over to stand by his chair, her hand on his shoulder as she looked at the screen.

‘I believe I’ve found their log book.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Travel diary. See, these figures on the left are their time date and the rest is what they’ve seen or done, whatever. This,’ he pointed to the figures on the screens right, ‘is the last grid reference they stopped at. The one where the ship was when you found it.’

‘That’s wonderful,’ she exclaimed. ‘Can you read it?’

‘No,’ he said crestfallen. ‘But at least we’re starting to get an idea of their date system from this.’

‘Well it’s not going to help if we don’t know how they’ve arrived at it. Like ours is based on the Earth going round the sun and the turning of the Earth as it does so, you know, days and years.’

‘I know,’ he said sadly, ‘but at least it’s a start.’

‘Wait a minute!’ Audrey said, her hand tightening on his shoulder. ‘I’ve seen that set of numbers,’ she said pointing to the group of three on the left of the screen. ‘They’re on the console of the Earth turning.’ She went over to that screen and they were there lit up on the console. What she also noticed now was that their present grid reference was there too. She moved back over to Brendan.

‘But if that’s their date then, what do you think it is now? I think we’ve established that over a hundred million of our years have gone past,’ she said.

‘I don’t know unless we find some sort of calendar or clock in the system. I’ll clear this and see if I can find anything else.’ This he did and began trying different combinations, noting down every move he made. Sometimes he found something but without knowing their alphabet, what came up didn’t make sense. Audrey got bored watching him and went and sat down in her chair and sent it round to the Earth screen.

She began doing the same as Brendan, touching a key to see if anything happened, noting it down. Five minutes later, she hit one key half way up the console on the left and the date shimmered and now had a bold line round it. This excited her and now she pressed the delete button and the date disappeared.

She already knew which key to press for it to return and it did so. Now beginning to fidget in her chair, deleted it once again and then type in a new set of numbers, 0041 1226 2791. She’d increased the first two numbers by ten, but was it years in the singular or in hundreds or thousands, she had no way of knowing.

‘Brendan, would you come and look at this?’ she said, so wanting to press the enter button but it had to be his decision whether she did or not for they were in it together if something went wrong. He came over and stood as she had, his hand on her shoulder as he looked at the console. ‘I think we can move the ship in time with this,’ pointing to what she’d done. ‘Can we try it?’

‘Well we were going to try it sometime so now is as good as any, but be ready to cancel and get back to the original,’ he said.

‘Here goes then,’ she said and held her breath as she pressed the enter button.

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