Chapter 12

~T-minus 73:50~

Headstrong and bold as he was, Will still had a trace of practicality within him, enough to keep him out of further entanglements with authority figures. He went about his special errands and usual duties with a low profile, giving the police and the people from the lab a wide berth. Paranoia gave him reason to keep his head down, though the furtive glances at his surroundings were somewhat suspicious even for him. By nightfall, as he attended to his final errand of the day, his fears had quieted somewhat and his enthusiasm for the project returned in force.

Will's old rattletrap of a car made the usual noises of distress as he cruised down Leros Street toward his destination - a two-story house, old but well-kept, nestled among more neglected homes sporting FOR SALE signs. Parking just outside the driveway, he slipped up toward the garage, this time looking for his evening contact.

"Aya?" whispered Will at a volume scarcely lower than speech. "Aya, you here?"

A figure emerged from the deeper shadows at the edge of the garage. She was tall - nearly as tall as Will - with the sporty build of a sprinter and an irregular grace gleaned from time on the dance floor. She grinned as Will approached, tapping her watch with one artistically attended fingernail.

"No need to say anything, Aya," said Will as he walked toward the garage. "I know I'm very late."

Aya checked her watch. "Technically, you're very early. Why couldn't you come by in the afternoon like we planned?"

Will shrugged and shook his head. "I was almost shot by the police and I didn't want to make a scene."

"For real?"

"Oh yeah. They're not messing around, now that the lab's about to open." Will studied Aya's fingernails, each bearing a novel design. "Wow, you work with metal with your hands like that?"

"I had these done later," said Aya. "I had plans with my friends. My life doesn't revolve around your projects, you know."

"Again, I'm really sorry." Will nodded towards the garage. "Is it in there?"

"Sure is. Let's get to it." Aya led Will to a door in the side of the garage and turned on the lights. The owner had converted it into a home workshop - wood and metal lathes, welding torches, jigsaw, and a wide variety of hand tools. Aya wheeled out a small handcart covered in a tarp. "Take a look."

Will pulled the tarp away to reveal a small iron capsule, thirty inches across, forty-eight inches around, with a small hinged lid with the date etched into the surface. "It's perfect." He opened the lid and examined the interior. "Hey, you got the engraving too, huh?"

"I did everything you paid me to do. I put a sealant on it, but ground water's gonna seep in there eventually so I'd suggest wrapping up anything that might get damaged by moisture. Oh, and I can't say how well electronics are gonna last in there. It's not exactly a safe." Aya knelt by the capsule. "You know, I'm happy to take your money, but I can't tell you how long this thing will last once it's buried. Most time capsules are made by pros, and they bury them in cement or under a building or something."

"Oh, I have faith that this one will last." Will crouched at the front of the capsule, running his fingers along the hatch. "You have any unexpected expenses or anything? Because I have more cash."

"Didn't take that long. It's all right."

"Cool. Oh, I've got this for you, too." Will handed Aya a folded-up flier "Watch out who sees that. The cops don't seem to like them."

Aya unfolded the flier. "Yeah, I heard about this. Do you really believe all this stuff? People tell me you're crazy, but this is really out there."

Will stood up, cradling the capsule in his arms. "I'm very serious. You should come by. It'll be fun. Bring your friends, it's all free."

"Don't count on me, I've been spending nights in lately." Aya held open the door. "We've been trying to deal with my brother. His stupid friends talked him into going out with them, breaking shit in the new neighborhoods, so now we gotta watch him on the weekends."

"You watch him?"

"You know the type, leave him alone and he'll find a way out. No good keeping him locked up, we've got to try and talk him out of it before he gets arrested or worse."

"Probably smart, those lab guys are wound real tight. But if they want something productive to do, they should go to Icaria and do something about those cameras. That would show 'em."

"Breaking security cameras? Sounds like a good way to get shot."

"Well, I guess I'd know." Will squeezed through the door. "Good luck with your brother."

"Good luck with your apocalypse," said Aya.

Will hauled the capsule back to his car and dumped it into the trunk, taking a moment to admire it before slamming the trunk. He put the key in the ignition, and was immediately greeted by the static-clogged yet soothing voice of Joshua Jameson - a repeat of an earlier broadcast:

"...proclaiming an end to the wretched blight of war. I am not arrogant enough to believe that our project could bring about world peace - Some things will always remain in God's domain. It is His to break the bow, to sunder the spear, to burn the chariot in the fire. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that many of the wars waged by men, both those in the shadows of history and those of our modern world, are over control of resources. It was this realization that guided our team from the first inception to the realization of their grand idea."

"Over the next few days, I'll be talking about some of the people who've made this miracle a reality, for my involvement in this project entailed little more than gathering them together. There is of course Dr. John Bellamy, my dear old friend whose praises I sing at every opportunity. Dr. Yang Yizhen, one of our global emissaries who is doing very fine work in our engineering department. Of course, I must mention the great. Dr. Jedediah DuFresne who, though he is not formally involved in the project, was the one who provided that initial divine spark. But I must begin by taking just a moment to talk about the project head, Dr. Otto Richter, who truly deserves all of the credit that I can give him and far more besides."

"Dr. Richter was, like me, born into an age in which the harnessing of the power of the atom meant both promise and terror. He was the youngest member of the Atomic Energy Viability Council, the governmental panel formed in the wake of the Three Mile Island incident to determine what role, if any, nuclear fission would have in our nation's energy policy. As you may know, the AEV panel concluded that nuclear plants could be part of our future, but that it was not viable in the long-term. Of course, not long after the nightmare at Chernobyl proved their conclusions accurate."

"Dr. Richter traveled extensively during this period. A true Renaissance man, his body of interest included not just science, but politics, culture, and economics. He even gained access to several states of the former Soviet Union at a time in which the Cold War made this rare and fraught with peril. In these places, he saw firsthand the deprivation and tyranny of the Stalinist regime. He saw how their belief in the oppressive nature of the wealthy and powerful had turned them into an empire of thieves, stealing from their own people and using the threat of force to halt all change. Socialism was simply not a solution to the problems of need."

"It was then that Dr. Richter decided that, if no solution to this most urgent problem existed, it fell to him to create one. Displaying the ingenuity that has always characterized the free peoples of the world, he discovered a new means of manipulating the atom - more technically complex than fission, but also far safer. Dr. Richter's machine would take the miraculous and move it into the realm of the temporal. This machine-"

"...Would make a big, fiery explosion." Will quieted the radio and pulled into the driveway of his mother's home. As he stepped out of the car, he spotted a figure on the porch, thankfully a familiar one. She was a housewife from another time - middle-aged but with the charm of a young girl, petite, with a head of blonde curls. She had a familiar haggard expression on her face and a worn-out dishrag twisted tightly in her hands.

"Mom, I didn't know you were gonna be up," said Will. "You're not on call, are you?"

"No, Will, I'm not."

"So you're waiting up for me now?"

"After what happened today? You're damn right!" Mrs. Scarborough tossed the dishrag aside. "Why were you out so late?"

Will was halfway into a shrug before he caught sight of his mother's expression and withdrew his casual demeanor. "I was picking something up. A little late-night errand. Come on, it's not like I'm in high school anymore." He cleared his throat. "So, what happened today...that you heard?"

"Don't play dumb," said Mrs. Scarborough. "Will, what did you do?"

"Nothing!" snapped Will. Catching himself again, he lowered his tone, dropping his volume to a true whisper. "Look, I'm sorry. There was just a little misunderstanding-"

"With the police!" Mrs. Scarborough began to pace around the porch. "I don't know what's going on with you. All these errands of yours that you never talk about, some project' I'm not privy to know about. Look, I know you're not a kid anymore, but what am I supposed to think?"

"I know that." Will bit his lip and sighed - it wasn't an argument he could win and he knew it. "Okay, do you want to know what I've been doing? I'll tell you everything, just say the word."

"Forget it, you don't have to do that. It's just..." Mrs. Scarborough's fingers reached for an invisible cigarette, an artifact of an old habit. "Will, the town isn't like it was when we first moved here."

"I know that, believe me."

"I don't want to come home one day and learn that my son has been locked up or killed!"

"Okay, mom. I'll play it cool, I'll stay away from trouble. I promise."

"You promise, huh?"

"I know what my promises are worth, but it's all I got."

"Okay, I'll take you at your word." Mrs. Scarborough stooped to pick up the old dishrag. "Sorry, it was a bad day all around. I was down at the school this morning."

"The school? For-" Will's jaw locked as the realization hit him. "They are not trying to sell you on that 'Sam needs help' shit again, are they?"

"Well..."

"Mom! Those kids are...what did they do this time?" Will waved his hands. "You know, I don't even need to know. What I know is that he's dealing with this bullying shit every day from those monsters, and HE'S the one who needs help? Get those other assholes help!"

"Maybe they have a point," said Mrs. Scarborough. "It would be easier if he had some friends."

"He has friends!" said Will. "Hey, you said he was making friends, right?"

"When was the last time you saw any of them here?" Mrs. Scarborough grimaced. "He's just so lost in his own head, I don't think he can deal with reality."

"I can't...I'm sorry, I can not believe that you're letting them put this garbage into your head," said Will. "If you're the least bit different...That's how it was when I was a kid, dealing with this crap. I thought things were changing! How are they getting worse?"

"When you were little, your father dealt with things like this."

Will fell silent for a moment. "Yeah, I know."

"I know that this isn't a responsibility you chose, Will, but he really looks up to you."

"Don't I know it. He's the only person around here who doesn't think I'm crazy." Will leaned against the wall of the house. "Is it really that big a deal?"

"I think it is."

"All right, I've got some free time coming up. You know, none of my crazy projects or anything. We'll go out and do something and I'll talk to him. Fair?"

"That's not a promise you should make to me. Good night, Will." Mrs. Scarborough turned to enter the house, but hesitated. "Oh, and as long as we're talking about friends, I wish you wouldn't just send people to the house. Let me know in advance, all right?"

"...I sent people to the house?" said Will quizzically. "Who showed up?"

"I didn't take names. A few of them were...I don't know, Japanese or Chinese. Not that I don't appreciate you making nice with people from the lab, but please don't give out our address. Good night."

"Yeah, you too."

"You coming in?"

Will's feet were locked to the spot as he scanned the desolate streets and the patio for some hint of the visitors. There was none to be found. These men, whoever they truly were, had fully eluded him.

"Yeah..." he said. "Yeah, I'm coming."

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