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Cronos. Part Six.

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

Cronos. Part Six.

The familiar hum came along with the slight tremor and the screen of the earth went like a television set with its snow flake effect. It then cleared to show just a haze where the Earth was and the ship was now trembling quite a bit, something they had not felt before. They were silent for a minute, the ship still moving slightly beneath them, the haze not clearing from the screen.

‘Stand by to send it back,’ Brendan said. ‘I’m going up top to look.’ He quickly left her side to go and stand in the middle and lift his hands to disappear up into the dome. As he went up he raised his head but couldn’t see the sky it was so dark and yet he knew it should be light. It was until he got close to the dome’s glass that he could see it was whirling dust blotting out the sky.

This is some earthquake he said to himself, the vibration that bit more apparent up top. But it would still be prudent to move back in time if that was the way they had travelled he thought as he went down to the map room.

‘Well?’ Audrey asked, an anxious look on her face.

‘There’s a hell of a dust storm outside and it feels like an earthquake or something. I think we should move.’

Audrey turned to the keyboard and deleted the date numbers and typed in 0069 1226 2791 and pressed enter.

‘I meant back not forward,’ he said when he saw the figures on the screen as the hum came and the vibration. The screen went fuzzy again for a moment before settling down to show them the Earth again.

‘Oh my God!’ they both said in unison as they looked at the screen in awe. ‘Will you just look at that?’ Brendan breathed.

‘The continents have divided,’ Audrey said in a scared voice, which indeed they had. The picture of the Earth now had that familiar look of the American continent now divided by water from Africa and Europe, the land mass of Asia disappearing off to the right.

‘It looks bigger too,’ he said.


‘More like an internal upheaval if you ask me,’ he replied. ‘Christ, it’s lucky it didn’t split in half to shift that much of the land. Let’s go up and have a look.’ They both went and elevated themselves up to the dome and looked out to see that there had been a considerable change in the landscape.

‘Look!’ Audrey cried out, grasping Brendan’s arm. ‘The Andes! The ridge has gone and the mountain range is now there.’ True enough, it was as she said. For as far as the eye could see, the Andes moved away into the distance getting higher the further north they went. ‘Let’s go out. I want to see if the event that happened has put the Earth on its proper axis.’ Brendan felt her shiver with excitement as they went down the central core to put their helmets on.

They were quickly outside to see that the terrain was much different, less trees but now they could see the beginning of that mountain range. They squinted up at the sun and then lifted up their visors. They didn’t even look at the camp site, but kept lifting and lowering the visors.

‘Yes!’ she cried. ‘The axis has changed!’

‘Must have been one hell of a bang to do that,’ Brendan observed. Their visors were up now and they could see the camp and it conjured up a vision of cold beer in Brendan. ‘Let’s go and have a drink, I’m parched,’ he said. She agreed and took her helmet off and shook her head to free her hair and he loved to see that action and was very glad and lucky he felt, for having married her.

‘How many years do you think we’ve travelled then?’ she asked as they sat at the clear end of the mess table, tipping up her bottle to drink just like an American male.

‘A few thousand I think,’ he replied, drinking his beer the same way, ‘though I had meant for us to go back, not forward.’

‘Well we can now see where to go,’ she said in her defence, ‘and we’re now getting close to our time.’

‘Yes,’ he laughed, ‘only a few more million years or so to go.’

‘Well the sooner we can get to the nineteenth or twentieth century, the sooner we can work out their calendar.’ He looked across the table at this vibrant young woman he had married and felt a stirring in his loins.

‘Well we’ve had an exciting day so I think we should go to bed,’ he said.

‘Bed? It’s not that late and I’m certainly not tired and ready for sleep,’ she replied.

‘I didn’t say anything about sleeping,’ he answered her with a wolfish grin.

‘Oooh you darling,’ she said with her lovely smile, quickly finishing her beer and went and jumped on the bed to wait for him.

They spent the rest of that day on their bed, only leaving it for food and the toilet. Next day they had the pleasure of being able in taking a shower together and to wash with care, certain parts of each other as they did so.

They had a big breakfast for they wanted to work through lunch till dinner and so with the donning of helmets, went off to work. A labour of love rather than work for they were both anxious to see just how far they could go into the past’s future, which was a delightful way of Audrey putting it.

‘It’s a good thing we didn’t move this mother,’ he said looking at the map screen, ‘for the co-ordinates have changed. We’d have one hell of a job getting back to the right place.’

‘Naw. We’d only had to go back twenty whatever it was to where we started from, no problem,’ she replied, sitting down in front of the Earth screen. ‘How far do we go?’

‘Try another fifty to see if the grid numbers change,’ he said. So Audrey punched in 0190 0001 0001 and pressed enter while he watched the grid map. The light hum came with the small tremor that lasted for about six seconds before it settled down. ‘The grid stayed the same,’ he cried. ‘Let’s go look!’

They both quickly went up to the dome but were disappointed that the scenery hadn’t changed that much. A bit more sparse than before, otherwise it was the same.

‘No, I don’t see much change,’ Brendan said.

‘Brendan. Even if we landed within a year of our first coming here we wouldn’t see anything, would we?’ she asked.

‘No, you’re right. It would be different if we were near some habitation like La Copelina. We’ll have to find the new co-ordinates for the town. Can you remember the sequence of squares we moved?’

‘It’s in my notes,’ she replied and went to the table and sorted the pile that had been steadily growing, the notes for each screen she’d been working on were held together by a bulldog clip.

‘Yes, here it is with the old grid reference. One right and two up on the big screen and then one left on the small grid map.’ So going and sitting back down in her chair, sent it round to that screen. Brendan changed the reference numbers on his ordnance map as Audrey called them out at each change until they were at the correct grid square.

‘Okay, here we go,’ she said as she typed the code in and pressed the enter button. ‘Let’s go look,’ she said when the ship had settled. They went up and looked out to see nothing of note.

‘We’d have to go out with our visors up to see if we’ve hit the right place again,’ Brendan said.

‘You’re right,’ she said.

They went down below and put on their helmets and waited for the door to open and they went down the ramp. Once clear of it, they lifted their visors and saw that they had indeed landed in the same place as last time, right on the edge of the market square.

‘So the co-ordinates work,’ he said, ‘now let’s go back in and see how far we can go in this thing.’ Visors down to reveal the ship again, they turned and went back inside and up to the map room. As Audrey sat back down at the Earth screen he spoke.

‘There must be some way in the computer to be able to store the grid references and time shift to be able to work from up in the dome on the console’s there,’ he said, ‘for I don’t see them going up and down like yo-yoes every time they wanted to move the ship.’

‘Do you think you could find it?’ Audrey asked.

‘Not without a manual written in English. It could take months if not years and then I could still cock the whole thing up and get us stranded,’ he said gloomily. ‘Put another fifty onto what’s there and see if there’s any change outside. We won’t have to go out to see because we would be in their time.’

So Audrey typed in 0195 1774 2523 and pressed enter but still no change outside. They then began to add fifty at a time and their excitement started when they reached the 1924 mark for they could clearly see that some of the land had been cleared and what looked like two rough shelters about a quarter of a mile away.

‘Eureka!’ Brendan cried out for he was up in the dome while Audrey was at the screen. ‘Audrey! Come and look,’ he shouted out which sent her hurrying up to look. She held him tight as they gazed at the primitive site of the future town.

‘Let’s go and look closer,’ she said in an excited voice, hugging his arm and starting to drag him to the central well. He agreed and so they went down and put on their helmets and moved out into the see their first humans of the past.

They were indeed rude shelters they saw as they got closer, just brush and mud and didn’t look much unlike a beehive.

‘Look!’ she exclaimed, grabbing his arm as they saw a small browned skinned woman emerged from the shelter’s opening. She was small and bare breasted which showed she wasn’t that young for they were almost flat and drooped down her chest.

About her waist was some kind of animal skin which was all that she wore and she moved round to one side and in a squat, defecated.

‘Ugh, how disgusting,’ Audrey said. ‘Right by where she’s living!’

‘That’s probably to keep the flies out of the shelter,’ Brendon laughed. They were crossing what looked like a small vegetable patch and as they did so, two young children came out of the rude hut, completely naked and absolutely filthy. That they were a boy and girl was obvious and they could now see an older man and a youth tilling another patch of soil on the other side of the hut. They were very thin but wiry and were wearing the same type of hide round the waists as the woman.

‘What year do you think this is?’ Audrey asked.

‘Not the slightest idea, B.C. probably. There’s no newsstand with the daily paper to give us the date.’

‘Cretin,’ she said, giving his arm a pinch.

Even though they couldn’t touch them, Audrey still steered Brendan away from the dirty children who she now saw had sores and looked half starved.

‘Thank God we can’t smell them. How can they live like this?’ she asked, still clutching at his arm.

‘Even in our time there are people round the world living exactly like this. In hovels and having to try and live on the brink of starvation,’ he said soberly. ‘I’ve seen enough. Let’s go back to the ship.’

‘Yes,’ replied, quickly turning round for them to retrace their steps. ‘Thank God we’re civilised,’ she said when they were back in the craft.

‘Let’s move on to more modern times then,’ he said.

‘No. I want to go back to the camp for a shower, I feel dirty and I’m sure those children had fleas,’ she said scratching her head. He laughed.

‘We couldn’t have touched them even if we wanted to.’

‘That’s not the point, just seeing them makes me want to wash myself,’ she said petulantly.

‘Okay, back to the camp then. I could do with a beer anyway.’

Ten minutes later, Audrey was in the shower, scrubbing herself while Brendan had his cold beer, deep in thought. He got up and checked the lap top, but nothing from Robin. He picked up the other mobile phone and put through a call to his parent’s house in Boston.

‘Hi Dad,’ he said when the connection was made, ‘glad I caught you in.’

‘Hello son,’ his father said. ‘How’s married life?’

‘Great. Couldn’t be better.’

‘Are you still in the Argentine, it seems a rather long honeymoon?’

‘Yes, we’re still here and it’s really a working honeymoon.’

‘Yes, I’ve read the book you’ve written between you. It was great, almost as if you were actually living amongst them.’ which made Brendan smile, ‘how’s Audrey?’

‘Blooming. Married life suits her.’

‘Blooming? She’s pregnant already?’ his father asked.

‘No,’ Brendan laughed. ‘We’ve got too much work to do before we start thinking of a family. How are you and mother?’ His father went on say that they were well and other small bits of news about his uncles and aunt.

‘The reason I’m calling dad,’ Brendan managing to break in, ‘is because of our book. Having read it you’ll note that the Brontosaurus was believed to originated in the north but we found the evidence that they migrated from down here. Now you have contacts high up in military circles and so can probably get me what I need.

I want copies of the first ever ordinance survey maps done of both North and South Americas and also the latest for comparisons. Do you think you could get these for me?’

‘Shouldn’t be a problem,’ he laughed. ‘I’ll cut off their oil supply if they don’t. Where do you want them sent?’

‘The American Airlines desk at Bahia Blanca, I’ll pick them up there.’

‘Good as done son, they owe me a few favours too. A couple of days, okay?’

‘Thanks dad, give my love to Mom.’

‘Will do,’ and the connection was broken. Satisfied with that, he went and got two more beers out of the fridge and stopped to watch Audrey return from the shower. Just looking at her roused him as she came towards him with a smile on her face.

She had her boots on and the towel was only round her middle, her breasts bare and he noted that they were turning a nice brown colour. Not quite as brown as her shoulders, but she was slowly getting rid of her white bits as she called them with her naked sunbathing.

‘Well you look clean and healthy now,’ he said, offering her an opened bottle of beer.

‘I feel it, thanks,’ she said as she took the bottle and took a hefty swig before sitting down.

‘You look absolutely gorgeous,’ he said, his eyes running over her breasts.

‘Are they giving you ideas?’ she asked, seeing where he was looking.

‘Yes,’ he said, his voice thick with emotion.

‘Well let’s not waste them then,’ she said getting up and moving over to their bed.

‘I spoke to dad a little while ago,’ he said an hour later as they lay together, her head resting against his chest. ‘He’s sending me down some up to date maps of the Americas. So we’ll have a couple of days off during which you can plot a course for Bahia Blanca.’

‘What will you be doing?’

‘I think I’ll do a little sunbathing myself,’ he said as he stretched himself.

‘Yes you could do with losing these white underpants though don’t get this burnt,’ she said touching him, then burst out laughing.

‘What’s so funny?’ he asked, not being able to stop himself following her infectious laugh.

‘You can always lie there with a sock on it,’ she said which set her off laughing again. He joined in and so they stayed in bed for another hour.

Next day she spent her time poring over the grid maps, noting down the references on the map on the table. Brendan had checked the water level of the tank and she explained the marking system and he reckoned then that they needed to run the pump for three hours to top it up. So while she was in the sphere, he went off to the river and got the pump going and stayed there, poring over an atlas, making notes on estimated distances and directions to take the ship up through the isthmus of Panama up to the United States. It was more guess work than anything but it kept him occupied for the time it took for the pump to fill the tank with fresh water.

Late that afternoon, they took the ship to her estimated position of Bahia Blanca and found she was two grid squares out from the centre of town. It took another two moves to land as close as possible to the airport, the reference duly noted for them to visit in a couple of days time.

Though the trip back to camp only took them four seconds, they saw when they took their helmets off that the light was fading fast and they had to finish their evening meal by gas light.

‘Who needs television,’ she murmured from the bed as she watched him undress before turning off the gas lamp and moving into her waiting arms.

Next day they sent the sphere to La Copelina and set it down in the usual place and from the dome they could still see the hovel that the poor wretches were living in.

‘Let’s now go on ahead,’ Brendan said. ‘Put another one thousand five hundred on the time scale.’ Audrey then typed in 0195 2000 0001 and pressed enter. Nothing happened. No hum and no slight vibration to show they had moved.

‘Look,’ she exclaimed, pointing at the small display unit above the keys in front of her. ‘The things flashing and keeps switching back and forth between the two sets of numbers.

‘Very strange,’ Brendan said and Audrey sat there with a puzzled look on her face.

‘I can’t understand it,’ she said. ‘It hasn’t done that before.’

‘I think,’ Brendan said slowly, ‘the fact is we are asking the machine to take us into the future which it can’t do.’

‘That makes sense. Let’s drop down in tens then till it begins to move again,’ she said. To which Brendan agreed, so they did this until the machine was back at 0195 1962 0001 again.

‘Great. Now let’s increase the third set of numbers by one thousand,’ Brendan said until it stops moving. Then we start decreasing until it starts moving again.’

This Audrey did and it stopped when the last set was at 9001. Then it was just a matter of dropping by the hundreds until it moved at 8401. Now it was a matter of increasing by tens and then single numbers until they found that the final and ultimate numbers read as 0195 1962 8427.

‘End of the line darling. Now it’s the moment of truth. We know where we are and it’s now time to find out when we are,’ he said.

‘I’m feeling very nervous,’ Audrey said as they descended down the central well.

‘So am I,’ Brendan replied. They reached the bottom and picked their helmets up and put them on and agreed to keep their visors up to start with. They stepped on the mat for the door to open to be the ramp and they went down till they stood in the market square that was bustling with activity.

‘Are you ready?’ Brendan asked and she took hold of his hand and nodded, not trusting herself to speak and they both flipped down the inner visor.

They were still in the square but it was very different. There were only a few stalls and not many people moving about. Their dress was pretty much the same but the buildings looked in a much better condition that were surrounding the market place.

‘Well it’s definitely not the same year,’ Brendan said.

‘Not just a few years either,’ Audrey said, looking at the buildings.

‘Let’s walk around to see if we can find any indication as to what the date is,’ he said which Audrey agreed to do.

After two hours Audrey complained of her feet aching after constant walking about but not finding anything to give them a clue to what period of time they were in and wanted to go back to the ship. Brendan admitted that he too wanted to return and so they made their way back getting the impression that they were still quite some way out of their own real time period.

‘Well we’ve gone about as ferr as we can go,’ he sang, parodying the song from Oklahoma when that had got back inside and had taken off their helmets.

‘One horse bloody town!’ Audrey said getting up to the dome to massage her feet and then lay on one of the couch seats for a back massage. She had seen from up there, the peasants moving about but by lying down, all she could see was the sky. ‘Not one bloody newspaper. I didn’t even recognise anything! How far out are we compared to our real time do you think?’

‘I don’t know,’ Brendan said stretching out on another seat. ‘Could be thirty, forty or maybe fifty years. These kind of places don’t change that much.’

‘Well this one certainly has. The shops we’ve bought things at weren’t there and just look at their clothes!’

‘We’ll have to try Bahia Blanca then.’

‘Not today,’ she groaned. ‘Tomorrow. We’ve got to go there then anyway for you to pick the maps up.’

‘Well let’s get back to camp and we can rest there much as I love this chair,’ he said, giving out a groan himself as he got up. ‘You stay and rest dear till we get home, I’ll drive.’

‘Hah! Sarcasm is lifting its head. One minute is all I get then,’ she said, but didn’t get up for another minute which by then they were back at the camp.

‘I’ve been thinking darling,’ he said as they now lay on their bed in the old mess tent. ‘I’ve got a funny feeling that the ship has a brain inside it.’

‘Oh come on!’ she said. ‘Have you been talking to it?’ she snorted.

‘Now don’t pooh pooh the idea without listening,’ he said, propping himself up on an elbow. ‘I think that machine knows we are in the damn thing and that’s why it will only go so far. Why before you ask, because it cannot take us to a time where we can meet ourselves.’

‘You’ve seen too many science fiction films,’ Audrey replied.

‘Come on! You’d certainly freak out if you turned a corner and met yourself, don’t deny it for I certainly know that I would. Okay, it hasn’t got a brain per se, but I think it knows our age and therefore won’t allow us to go any further. I wouldn’t be surprised if we couldn’t get any closer than seventy years of our present time.’

‘Shit,’ Audrey said. ‘We’ve got wedding photos that we haven’t yet seen by the way, but I would liked to have seen us on our wedding night in the Pelican Hotel,’ she grinned now looking up at him. ‘Now that would be worth looking at.’

‘You’re incorrigible,’ he laughed as he rolled onto her and kissed her. ‘Isn’t it better doing it than watching it?’ he asked between kisses.

‘Yes darling, ever much so.’

‘Do you think the maps will be on today’s plane?’ Audrey asked her husband as they ate their breakfast.

‘I hope so,’ he replied. ‘We’ll move up early so that we can look round the town first to try and find out the date before we go to the airport. So full dress kit for today’s jaunt, we’ll have lunch in the city where you can be waited on for a change.’

It always felt strange to be putting on city clothes after weeks wearing as little as possible, the same as after a dig. Brendan declined wearing a tie as Audrey shunned having to put on her constricting bra. So simply, but well dressed, they went to seek the date of their place in the past.

The date/time was already set and it was just a matter of typing in the grid reference and pressing enter and they were whisked away to Bahia Blanca. They’d chosen the city part, one grid from the airport as being the most likely place to find out the date.

They were stunned when they did see a newspaper though they couldn’t pick it up, the date was clearly seen. Friday, June 13 th 1919.

‘Eighty years!’ Audrey cried inside her helmet. ‘After a hundred bloody million years and this is as close as we can get? And just look what day it is?’

‘That’s just superstition but I would have liked to have got closer too,’ Brendan said, putting his arm round her shoulder, ‘but it’s better than being a thousand away. Come, let’s get back to the ship and take stock.’ She nodded and let him lead her back and wasn’t sure whether to be elated at knowing the date or to cry because they couldn’t get any closer to their own time.

Back in the map room, he quickly went to the Earth screen as they called it and changed the last digit on the display to read as a seven and pressed enter. The ship trembled for a fraction of a second and became still.

‘Come on. We can now work out their time sequence if we can find a newspaper again,’ he said, and so they went back out again and made their way back to the newsstand and looked at the papers on sale and eagerly looked at the date. Tuesday the 10 th of June 1919.

‘Three days! Christ, their planet must have been massive to take three days to revolve in their solar system. How long was their year then?’ Brendan asked, though he was really only asking himself the question.

‘I don’t know darling but can we go and eat, I’m hungry. We can still talk and I so do want to sit at a table with a cloth on it instead of bare wood,’ she said.

‘Okay, let’s find a quiet spot where we can take our helmets off.’ This they did and it wasn’t long before Audrey had the luxury of sitting down at a brightly chequered table cloth and being served a meal instead of cooking it herself.

‘So is there anything else we need to get while we’re here, apart from the maps?’ she asked as they dined.

‘Yes,’ he said. I want to get a pack of sticks or something like that. You know, the type of thing that has an ice cream on the end. Mmmm, this steak is delicious.’

‘What do want the sticks for? This fish is good too.’

‘We’ve got to get an accurate measurement of the grids before we start the trip north.’

‘Why north?’

‘Well I’ve a hankering to visit our ranch where I grew up. You’d like the place and I thought that if you saw it, you might fall in love with it too. We could even use it as our new base camp, then we could search out herds or individual Dinosaur and then do a dig for the remains. We could become the world’s foremost fossil seekers with the help of the ship.’

‘What about the history we could uncover? The Alamo? Custer’s last stand? The Boston Tea Party?’ she laughed. ‘It did start the War of Independence.’

‘We could, but I thought that we would leave the pleasure of that to our children. We’ll be the palaeontologists and they can be the historians.’

‘You would like to have children?’ she said shyly. ‘You’ve never mentioned it before.’

‘Darling Audrey,’ he said putting down his knife and fork and putting his hands across the table to take hers. ‘I do, but only when you are ready. That is also part of the reason I’d like our base to be at the ranch. That was where I was born and I think it would tickle father pink if his first grandchild was born there too.’ She saw the tears in his eyes and decided there and then that she would stop taking the birth control pills, for she too wanted a child.

‘A boy or a girl?’ she asked.

‘Both, it doesn’t matter in what order though I’d rather they came at separate times.’

‘Why?’ she asked, then felt she’d walked into a verbal trap.

‘Because I like the way they are created,’ he said with a big smile that made her laugh.

‘When do we start?’ she asked with a big smile of her own.

‘As soon as we can,’ he said.

‘What have we been doing since we got married then?’ she asked, not letting him know that she had been taking the pill.

‘Practicing,’ he laughed. ‘So you can stop taking your birth pills as of when you want.’

‘You knew?’ she said a little bit shocked.

‘Of course, but I knew you would stop when you wanted to, and I think it’s about time you did.’

‘You want me to stop taking them now?’ she asked with a secret smile on her face.

‘Well I suppose I could do with a couple of weeks more practice,’ and they both laughed and then got on with their lunch.

They found a hardware shop after their meal and bought a packet of seed sticks which would do as markers and then returned to the ship. This they shifted to the square grid that they wanted for the airport and soon found a place to take their helmets off and walked the short distance to the airport and went inside and to the American Airline desk.

He introduced himself to the clerk, showing his passport and asked if a delivery had been left for him. The young Argentine woman speaking in English with an American accent said that there was and produced six large tubes and a big box. They had arrived only a couple of hours ago. Brendan thanked her and passing the tubes for Audrey to carry along with their helmets, he carried the box.

‘This is damned heavy,’ he said as they made their way back to where the ship was parked. In a doorway, Audrey had to put the tubes down to put his helmet on and because they knew she wouldn’t be able to hold the tubes and put hers on too, he was going onto the ship to put the box down and would then return to help her. This didn’t take long and they were soon in the map room and a few minutes later were at the camp to do the same process in reverse to get the maps into the mess tent.

‘There’s an awful lots of maps here,’ Audrey said as she opened the box to reveal it crammed full of folded papers as Brendan pulled a sheaf of rolled ones from a tube.

‘I shouldn’t wonder,’ he said looking at the corner of the first one, ‘with a scale of only one mile to the inch. Plus the fact that they are duplicated. So our first job is to sort out the old ones from the new ones.’ Which didn’t take long for they found that those had been packed at the bottom of the box. Those on the top were of the South American countries. The tubes held those of the up to date maps of Canada and the United States.

‘Ha!’ Brendan exclaimed. ‘I never thought of asking for this,’ as he unfolded a map that showed the whole of Canada and the U.S.A. with all the maps listed in their grid form. The next one showed from the other, the whole of South America including the Panama isthmus. Studying this last one, he found the reference to the map that covered their present location.

‘Can you find this one Audrey please,’ he asked showing her the one he wanted. While she was hunting through the pile, he began drawing on the main map with a thick pen, then went onto the northern map and did the same.

‘Here it is,’ she said bringing it to the mess table. ‘What exactly are we doing?’

‘Well let me show you on the big maps. I can’t draw the first line yet until I know exactly where we are at present but we will be making for La Paz in Bolivia, about 1360 miles north of here. Now I’ve drawn the line we will be following. From La Paz we head towards Bogota in Colombia, this will be around 1420 miles. Then onto Panama City,’ he said, his finger tracing the line he had drawn.

‘That’s about another 450 miles. Because the land dog legs as it were, I’ve marked the city of David in Panama, only 200 miles. A straight line for 700 miles to Guatemala City. Next is Mexico City another 700 miles and from there we go straight onto Dallas in Texas around about 950 miles. Our ranch is about eighty miles due east of there, it actually has the Sabine river as part of its perimeter.’

‘How far is that and how long will it take,’ Audrey asked looking at the big map and tracing his planned route.

‘Well it’s only a rough guess but I think it will be nearly six thousand miles and we might be able to do it in one day. Maybe two, it depends on us having a more accurate measurement of a grid on the small screen, hence the pegs. Though,’ and Brendan looked up at the lowering sun, said, ‘I don’t think we have enough time to start on that now, so how about some dinner and early to bed. I’ve got to get some practice in,’ he finished with a laugh as he slapped her bottom.

‘Men! Stomachs first,’ she said but with a smile for she liked the practice part as well she thought as she moved off to the fridge.

Dinner was over and they went to bed just as the light was fading from the sky to begin their rehearsals for producing a baby. Audrey, it might be noted, did not take a pill that night, or on any other night until a much later date.

They were awake at first light and as Audrey prepared breakfast, he scoured the old camp site for the longest piece of wood he could find. He had the best one he could find when she called out that breakfast was ready. She asked him as he sat down to eat what was the wood for and he said that he would explain after they’d finished and began to do the measurements.

With this piece of wood in her hand, he put her helmet on for her and then donning his, led her to the sphere and helped her to stand holding the pole upright so that it was in line with the outermost edge of sphere. There she was to stand until he had finished. What he did then was to put his foot next to hers and took off his helmet. Of course, she disappeared but he knew that her foot was still next to his and this was where he put down his first peg and then put his helmet back on.

‘Hello,’ she said when he suddenly reappeared at her side. ‘Go far?’

‘Didn’t move a foot,’ he replied truthfully. ‘Now you can take your helmet off.’ So they did and the ship disappeared. ‘Now,’ he pointed to the peg where she was standing, ‘is the outer skin of the ship. We know that the middle of the ship is twenty feet from this peg. Now we move the ship to the next square and repeat what we have just done. When we measure the distance between the pegs and if our rough measurements we did before are any good, the distance between the two pegs should be about eight hundred and eighty seven yards.’

It had been decided that she would move the ship, so he picked up the piece of wood and carrying his helmet, began to walk due west while she put her helmet on to disappear and go into the ship and move it to the centre of that one square and be nearly half a mile away.

It was welcome but still disconcerting to see his wife suddenly appear out of nowhere in the middle of this vast empty space before he’d even travelled a quarter of the distance. It should have annoyed him for what she did seeing that she was now a member of the high society of Boston, but it didn’t for it was a pleasing sight to see her take off her shirt to wave at him, her breasts bouncing around as she jumped up and down. Though she did put it back on when he got closer.

‘Did you see me waving to you?’ she asked when he came up close.

‘Even a blind man would have been aroused to have seen what I saw.’

‘Can we practice then?’ she asked, her face all alight.

‘No. Not until we’ve done the measurements,’ he said.

‘Oh, promise?’ she asked hopefully.

‘Promise,’ he laughed and so she did up the front buttons of her shirt and they did a repeat performance with the pole.

With the peg in place, they did as before and walked the twenty yards before stopping for the other to then walk past for the next twenty.

‘We must be bloody good,’ he said. ‘Eight eight six! One yard out, but it’s close enough. Every square on the grid is ninety yards so now we can really start,’ and he began to wind in the loose tape.

‘What about the ship?’ Audrey asked.

‘You’re the one who took it over there, you go fetch it back.’

‘But it’s half a mile away,’ she protested.

‘I know,’ he grinned, ‘but I’ve got to reserve my strength. You wouldn’t want me to be too tired now would you,’ he grinned.

‘Oh you really are a beast!’ but she grinned and began the trek to the invisible craft, her helmet swinging from her hand. He grinned too at her retreating back and went to the mess tent and got himself a beer to wait for her to join him. Needless to say, nothing else was done for the rest of the day due to practice.

The practicing as she called it though he called it a pleasure, paid its dividend for she fell pregnant a week later at his ranch though it wasn’t apparent for nearly two months. She still wanted to continue with her practicing in spite of this, but we haven’t arrived at that stage yet.

With his up to date map, Brendan was able to pin point fairly accurately the exact position of the camp on it though it still took all morning. Now he could continue to draw that line from La Paz in Bolivia right down to the camp.

In the meantime, Audrey had been given the task of finding the maps that the line he had drawn on the master map as they called it, passed through, also those to either side which they might have to use just to verify that their journey was on the right course.

By mid afternoon, all the maps were up in the map room, stacked up ready in order. Pens, paper and other small items were there at hand for what would be their most daring journey since bringing the ship ninety five million years out from the past to as close as they could to their present time. That journey itself was no mean feat even if they hadn’t moved much from its original location in the Argentine. They’d already earned the title of time travellers and excluding the short hops to La Copelina and Bahia Blanca, were now set to be space travellers as well in terms of moving from one place to another of great distance.

Dinner had been eaten and Brendan and Audrey were in bed, cuddling up to each other in a post coital euphoria.

‘Are you ready for tomorrow to see the ranch?’ he asked.

‘Yes but you haven’t told me really anything about it yet.’

So he described the place he hadn’t seen for two years but guessed that it wouldn‘t have changed much in that time.

‘The house, though we call it a ranch house, is like what you English would call a bungalow, though nothing like the size of that name in England. It’s one storied, made of brick and wood and has twelve main rooms, six of them are bedrooms. The rest are a lounge, playroom, den, dining room, kitchen and others.

Having seen a picture of English bungalows and the ground they cover, ours would be in the place of about six of them. The rooms, all of them are big and each bedroom has its own bathroom. There’s a big wooden verandah that goes right the way round with steps at the front and the back. I can’t describe the number of different flowering plants that surround it, but they really smell sweet at the height of their flowering.

The house itself is set in a garden of at least two acres with a gravel drive leading up to the front. There’s a swimming pool off to the left with a patio going up the French windows, it’s twenty five yards long before you ask. I can’t remember how wide. On the other side of the pool is a tennis court, not used much I’m afraid for we never used to get many visitors to come and play. I think it might be a bit overgrown now.

Over to the right are the stables. It was here that I spent a lot of my childhood, currying, feeding and mucking out the horse boxes. Though I must admit I tried to get out of these tasks as much as I could, but the riding of the horses, well that was different. I think I was riding before I was walking.’

‘I’ve already noted the thighs,’ Audrey interrupted.

‘Yes, there’s nothing better than having a frisky filly between your thighs,’ he laughed and gave her a kiss. ‘Anyway, about another half mile on is the Sabine River which is the border of our land on that side. The rest of the place is grass and woodland apart from a few eyesores.’

‘What eyesores?’ she asked.

‘Oil derricks,’ he said succinctly.

‘Oil! You never mentioned that before, why?’

‘Well, I wanted you to marry me for me not for my money,’ he said with a laugh.

‘I guessed you had money when I saw your home in Boston, but I didn’t fall in love with that for I didn’t know. I only knew you from your published papers and that was why I wanted to join the dig. But when I saw you at the airport and you had that bunch of flowers, I just fell in love with you there and then.’

‘I did too,’ he replied and gave her another kiss.

‘Why didn’t you, to use your country’s expression, hit on me earlier then?’

‘I didn’t want to frighten you off. I wanted you, oh you don’t know how much I wanted you then, but I had to hold myself back. In a way I’m glad, for it all came about so naturally that we came together.’

‘You call the finding of the helmet and me showing it to you was natural?

‘No, no. That was only a side issue in our coming together. It was inevitable that we would, especially when you would wear that loose fronted blouse in the evening and made sure I got an eyeful of what was inside.’

‘A gentleman would have averted his eyes on seeing a woman’s décolletage,’ she said as she smiled and at the same time slapped his chest.

‘Well I was half a gentleman. I did close one eye,’ he laughed and got another slap for that.

‘That’s two slaps,’ he roared in mock rage, ‘for which I will return,’ and he rolled her over and gave her two hefty smacks to her bottom. From that point on, all coherent and decent speech went out of the window as they played on the bed.

They were up at first light and he made the breakfast while she

made sandwiches for their trip and as soon as all was done, they went aboard the ship. All the maps and things were in place and it was just a matter of settling themselves into their chairs to begin.

Audrey was at the grid screen with Brendan at the table with the ordinance maps ready in order to note down the symbols that she would call out at every change of the big screen. It was this one they were working from in terms of making notes on Brendan’s maps.

It only took her a few seconds to move to the edge of the lower screen to hop into the next one, moving up in a northward direction each time. Brendan noted down the four corner grids reference numbers from Audrey’s lower screen and the one of the big screen above her. He pencilled in roughly the one hundred and sixty five miles to find that they were using four maps just to cover one big screen map.

At the twenty eighth map on the table, they did an extra grid shift to the west and found Lake Titicaca that was near La Paz. It had taken them thirty minutes because of writing in the numbers as they went along.

Now they had the difficult job of going almost crabwise in a north north westerly direction to find Bogota. It took six grid searches for them to find it, leaving the ship twice to check their position in accurate time and not the eighty years time difference that they were moving in. This hop took them an hour.

Next was Panama City in a west north west direction. This was easy to find because of the coastline that could be compared from the screen to the map and so it only took them ten minutes. Six table maps later they were at the town of David on the Panama isthmus. Again they had lakes in Nicaragua to help them plot their course which they skirted, not sure if the sphere would float or sink on water, and were soon at Guatemala city.

They hit Mexico City on the nail with Dallas the next stop, just a few degrees east of north though they did do a grid search to the east near Monterey to check their course with the coastline.

From Dallas, it was then a grid by grid search due east for the eighty miles to the ranch. Brendan did one outside check when he was sure he was on the ranch and one more grid and they were there, settled down about two hundred yards from the house.

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