A Glitch in Time

Captain Salinger's forearms were around Ginny's waist- though not to give her comfort. He was holding on for dear life. The intrepid universe traverser was not unfamiliar with danger- but had never felt so close to death. "Gin, can you please process that asphalt is not warp friendly and slow down?" "You bet!" She pushed a bit harder on the motorcycle's accelerator and Salinger desperately tried to remember if he had already filed a will, and the name of the last girl on his home planet that he had a thing with. "By the way," he shouted above the engine's roar, "It's plain we're in America- every life form in the galaxy knows Sesame Street. But... any idea about the time period?" They had already filled each other in on their respective adventures, so Ginny had pretty much done the math by now. It went something like this: She had started out in a park near home. The little safari diversion threw her into a different time all right, but the road signs they were passing told her that, at least geographically, she hadn't ventured all that far from Kansas slash Folsom, California. Now, "Sing a Song" was written in the early seventies, when bell bottoms were all the rage, but bob haircuts were on their way out. The general appearance of the vehicles they kept flying past, with Plymoth Road Runners and Chevrolet Chevelles predominating, along with the sentiments expressed on those bumper stickers that were large enough to read in passing, bore out her approximation. "I think we're at about when they were almost ready to pull out of Nam," she finally answered. "Who is this Nam, and what did they need to pull out of him?" inquired Salinger. "John- you don't wanna know."


"Don't you get it, Stevejobs, don't you flipping get it?" ranted Dr. Insidious, becoming more agitated with every word he hurled at the chastised mainframe. "That buffoon Salinger doesn't realize it yet, but they can change the outcome of the war, dad-gummit! Heck, he's so illiterate he probably can't even spell Vietnam- but he'll piece things together eventually. Especially now that he's got an intellect upgrade in the guise of regal reinforcements, curse her!"

The evil scientist was reclining on a divan back on the Cloud of Darkness, sporting a cold compress on his forehead, courtesy of his personal attendant, Klutzo. The latter had also administered smelling salts, in wake of this morning's defeat, though he inadvertently substituted the small bottle of ammonia with a miniature canister of sulfur dioxide from the lab that had been lying about. It took hours for Insidious to recover from it all, and he still needed to spray spurts of Glade directly into his nostrils from time to time- but he would live to pollute another day.

"Explain, Sir."

So Insidious had Stevejobs fill one of the console screens with an aerial shot of a devastating conflagration scene that had been taken above a segment of Vietnamese jungle. "You see, they used napalm, Jobsie, napalm! It was the only idea they were able to come up with back then. That substance indeed destroyed the foliage concealing the Viet Cong fighters- but it also destroyed lives, some of them American. Scrumptious!" Insidious looked like he was about to lick his chops, but a sudden nose twitch heralded merely the application of more aerosol. "Well, what's the problem, Sir?" "The problem? Why, only that at the particular geo-chronolgical coordinates those meddling scoundrels are in the proximity of, lies a stash of illmudium gas camouflaged in the Pan-Epoch Continuum! It was inserted there some years ago by the infernal Galactic Council, of which odious Salinger is a member, so he'll find out about it as soon as he accesses the omnilog."

"Sir, isn't the Pan-Epoch Continuum a synthetic time/space corridor transcending matter, that spans infinity at particular global coordinates and in which inanimate material objects may be stored that consequently become available throughout its reach, yet remain reasonably undetectable to those locations' indigenous inhabitants?”

"Correct, Jobsie. Only the Galactic Council has the authority to dispatch and receive items through the Continuum. However, once they do, those things are subsequently reachable at the site where they were originally placed- by the denizens of any given era! This includes locales where the item constitutes a complete anachronism. When Salinger consults the omnilog which he routinely carries about during a time jump, he'll be apprised about the illmudium. Then, it's only a matter of exposing the ever-present atmospheric layer where the canisters are held- and the gas is theirs!"

"And the illmudium has the effect of putting its victims in a foul mood," completed Stevejobs, "so foul, that they start scrapping with each other, incapable of conducting warfare with outsiders."

"Yes- and here's the thing. Similar to Agent Orange, the vapors act through inhalation as well as touch. However, the condition is a temporary one! It lasts long enough to decide the battle's outcome, but leaves no permanent damage other than what they do to one another. Nowadays no one uses this weapon, because it was ultimately discovered that immunity to its influence may for some obscure reason be achieved by consuming an archaic form of comfort bar called "Snickers". But those primitive Vietnamese won't know what hit them, if Salinger supplies US forces with the gas. They need only vaccinate themselves by binging on Snickers, and, voila, abject defeat by diplomatic dysfunction is transformed into military victory." Insidious was becoming more excited by the moment: "Why, part of my origins may be traced to the evil that triumphed pursuant to the idiotic Peace Accords! Who knows how this development will influence the fortunes of my future self." His face took on a faraway, somber look.

The intrigued mainframe brought him out of his reverie: “But, Sir, aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? Perhaps Salinger is devoid of the know-how necessary to access the Continuum to begin with?”

Insidious snorted. “The Continuum is secured with a bio-lock. This mechanism is housed in a small, box shaped energy field located near the corridor's opening. It's a bit tricky to find, but once this is unlocked, the user will observe the access port as a void framed by a shimmering, doorway-shaped outline. He can then simply reach in and remove what's inside. But he mustn't tarry, because no living thing can survive excessive exposure to the Continuum.”

“And the key to this bio-lock?” questioned Stevejobs.

“A drop of human blood. The crystalline cylinder is coded after DNA patterns.”

“Any human blood?”

“Of course not!” retorted Insidious. “Only royal blood.”

“Ginny,” said Stevejobs matter-of-factly.

Insidious didn't bother to respond. His mind was wrestling with the challenge of how to obtain enough plutonium to power a time jump on his current strained budget.

The End

35 comments about this story Feed