The Shoreless Ocean of Eternity

by Mickey Hunt

Before the seas rose and covered much of the land, and before the Great Chaos overwhelmed civilization on Earth, the State of Israel in Exile devised a plan to prevent the breakdown from beginning to happen in the first place.
A man of medium height and dark, receding hair stood back from the door and looked up at the imposing edifice. The building was not particularly large, but it preserved memories of fear, death, and unthinkable horror. Not a prison, but containing the memory of prisons, the remembrances of prisoners. He put the keys into his pocket and said to the young woman beside him, “It’s closed then.”
The man, Edward Slepyan, and his fiancée Marisa Pavelich unlocked their bicycles and pushed them up the empty Wallenberg Place toward the National Mall in Washington. At the top of the incline, they mounted and peddled toward the bridge that would take them across the Potomac River to Arlington and their separate apartments.
Without explaining, Slepyan veered off the sidewalk. Under the shade of an elm tree, he dropped his bike and fell, face-downward. Marisa put her bike on the ground and sat beside him in the grass.
“I know what you’re feeling,” she said.
“My whole life’s study, my life’s work is closed,” he said from the hollow space under his arm.
“You were the last member of the museum council to quit.”
“It made no difference.”
Just then an armored vehicle rumbled up, and from it approached a man wearing an open-collared, dark green shirt and dungarees. Slepyan sat up. Soldiers took positions around the vehicle, but the man advanced alone.
“Dr. Edward Slepyan,” he said. “I need to talk with you.”
“Who are you?”
The man smoothly crouched down on his haunches, his thigh and shoulder muscles pressing against his clothing. “My name is Colonel Weizman, and I represent the government of Israel. I heard about the museum, and that your university has been closed for some time. I have a job offer for you.”
Weizman showed Slepyan his identification.
Slepyan glanced to Marisa for a clue about the sudden appearance of Weizman, but she just shrugged her shoulders. “Okay, I’m interested,” he said.
“It involves travel, much travel, and time away from home. Much more than you’re thinking. Before I explain, I must ask you a question.”
At that moment an explosion boomed in the distance. No one flinched, though all looked in the direction of the sound.
Weizman resumed. “What if the Holocaust never happened?”
Slepyan scoffed. “Let’s go, Marisa.” He moved to take up his bicycle. “He’s a lunatic.”
“No, no. I’m sorry,” Weizman said, rising to his feet. “I mean, what if you could prevent the Holocaust from happening? What if those millions of Jews, our people, had not been murdered? What if seeds of Shoah had not germinated again?”
“My people too, sir,” Marisa interjected. “I’ve adopted them.”
“I understand. Wouldn’t the world be a better place? Think of the contributions to humanity the murdered could, would have made. In culture, the arts, in medicine and technology. Is it possible we could have saved the world from this looming darkness?”
Slepyan gave the man a penetrating look. “I have to answer these ridiculous questions to get this job?”
“Answers are the job.”
Slepyan petted his stubbly beard. “Okay. This is absurd, but you’d have to change human nature, or travel back in time and intervene. Umm. Morally, we couldn’t kill Hitler as a child. You’d have to stop him early in his career. That would be the simplest way, but simple is impossible.”
“When exactly? When to stop Hitler?”
“The latest possible moment, but early enough to divert Germany’s course. Early 1930’s. How can reconstructing history save us?”
“One more question, Dr. Slepyan. Would you have consented to Hitler’s assassination?”
“Yes, but he was supernaturally protected, it seems.”
“Ah, supernaturally… I want you to watch this film. Take it home. Watch it with Ms. Pavelich. And will you meet me tomorrow at the Canadian embassy? That’s where I’m staying. As you know, our embassy in D.C. was destroyed. Here’s my card, and the movie. This is what we’re prepared to pay you.” He handed Slepyan a sealed envelope. “We can pick you up prior to noon.”
“I think it’s safe enough to ride.”
“Then, Dr. Slepyan, arrive at noon, if you please. The embassy is on Pennsylvania intersecting Constitution. I’ll meet you in the lobby. We’ll have lunch. And do not talk about this with anyone.”
“Can others watch the movie?” Marisa asked him.
“I don’t care.”
“Hey, I need to tell you something,” Slepyan said.
“What is that?”
“My friends call me Eddie.”
“Am I a friend?” Weizman asked, frowning.
“Can you call me Eddie?”
“I’m afraid not.” Weizman turned and walked away.
Edward and Marisa watched him for a moment and then rode their bicycles past the untended, weedy, graffiti-marred FDR Memorial. Road traffic was light—mostly official governmental vehicles. Midway across the bridge, Marisa stopped, leaned her bike against the parapet, and gazed upriver. The smell was tolerable today because of a moderate breeze. If possible, the Potomac was higher than it had been in the morning. Within a month its stagnant marsh water would certainly rise above the pavement of the bridge.
“What are you doing?” Edward asked.
She opened the envelope from Weizman. “Here’s an active draft upon the Defense Commissary for a month’s rations. A gift.”
“Couldn’t be true.”
She smiled and said, “We can get married now.”
“Our offer is” [she was reading] “three years’ support for two, upon acceptance of the contract, and, after successful or unsuccessful completion of the mission, a self-sustaining home in Colorado at or above 9,000 feet, with lifetime support, or 20 million dollars in gold… for you or your survivors.”
In the evening they watched the movie at Marisa’s penthouse apartment that she shared with five other single women—formerly professional women, since most were now unemployed. The apartment occupied two floors at the top of their building and overlooked the Potomac. In earlier days when it was standing, they would have seen the Washington Monument from their picture windows. The apartment featured a rooftop patio and 24-hour guard service for the entire building.
A few roommates and their boyfriends joined them. For supper Marisa prepared an elaborate hummus dip with paprika and whole chickpeas that she served with fresh-made flatbread. Edward brought some wine.
The movie told a variant of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells. The producers crafted the film as if a documentary, but with well-known actors and the usual incredible special effects.
Scientists found that as the velocity of a space vessel pressed toward the theoretical speed limits of solid objects, the mass of the ship actually reduced, which allowed the thrust to grow, making it possible to break the light barrier in a year of increasing acceleration.
The movie showed the UNSS Ironcloud expanding and transforming into photons, the process preserving the conceptual integrities of the ship and its living passengers. From an outside observer’s perspective—of the audience—the ship appeared as an enormous, racing comet.
Exactly when the Ironcloud exceeded the speed of light, the engines seemed to stop, and the stars behind it vanished. The ship maintained this rate for six and a half minutes, and one-third of the crew disappeared without warning, without a sound. The remainder of the crew returned to Earth. Surprisingly, as they neared Earth and came within radio range, mission control asked no questions about the disappearances.
“Why no questions?” Edward mouthed.
When the captain and crew were taken to be debriefed, all but a handful of the missing members were waiting for them—they had somehow journeyed millions of miles unaided. Analysts supposed that the crew members had made their daydreams of home into reality. But when a crew member told that he appeared before he originally left Earth, the analysts realized that the wandering crew members had transcended time.
The unrecovered people had become lost in the universe.
At this point Edward whispered in Marisa’s ear, “How does it relate to a job?”
A crew now ventured to the past and tried to save the Earth, but all attempts failed, and the reason didn’t emerge until they traveled far into the future where humans had split into two subspecies, one devolved into brutes and the other evolved into beings living in airships. There the sky people’s historian explained a classic time travel paradox: altering the past to change an undesirable present invariably precluded the development of time travel.
When the film was over, everyone stood up and stretched. One of the boyfriends said, “Decent movie, but we’re still trapped by the present. I feel worse now.”
Edward and Marisa said nothing, as Weizman requested. They hugged, said goodnight, and Edward left.
The Embassy of Canada was surrounded by tanks and soldiers. Edward and Marisa locked their bicycles to a light pole as the homeless people sitting on nearby benches watched the activity around them. Weizman met the couple inside the initial security-check/reception area and escorted them through. They rode the elevator to a passageway below ground and entered a conference room with a domed ceiling and walls filled with changing panoramas of Canada—silent moving images from Canadian history, natural landscapes, and urban skylines. Twenty-four seats were tucked around a large square table open in the middle. The table was set with fine dinner service and glasses.
“Straight to the point,” Weizman said, “what do you like for lunch?”
Marisa said, “What do you have?”
Weizman spread his arms, his hands open. “Anything kosher. Everything. We’re well stocked. We have greenhouses, too, for growing fruits and vegetables.”
“Then I’ll have salmon, grilled. Asparagus, steamed. Do you have asparagus? [Weizman smiled a yes.] A green salad with olive oil and vinegar, and boiled new potatoes, no butter, but in parsley. And fruit salad for dessert.”
“The same,” Edward said.
“And for drink,” Weizman said, “may I suggest a Pinot Noir?”
“Perfect,” Marisa said.
“Living well,” Weizman said, “is the business of our meeting. The film you saw last night is not science fiction. The story is invented, of course, but the science is genuine. Humans who surpass light speed enter a state of being that enables them to travel across time. Dr. Slepyan, you know more about the Holocaust than anyone else alive. You know Hitler’s life. We’re sending an expedition into the past to change Hitler if we can: to alter his personality, to help him be healthy, or else to kill him. We need you as our guide.”
Edward jumped up and walked around the room while gazing at the images. A mixture of anger and sadness darkened his face. He reached out and touched the wall.
“We’re losing all the beauty,” Weizman said. “Not only in Canada, but everywhere.”
“Eddie doesn’t believe you,” Marisa said, suddenly tearful. “He doesn’t understand why you’re playing this elaborate game.”
“Will you, Dr. Slepyan, will you accompany us on a three-year space voyage? You and Ms. Pavelich. You’ll have to suspend your skepticism and come along for the ride. If you do nothing else, I guarantee the pay package.”
“Even if you are lying about time travel?” Edward asked.
“May we think about it overnight?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Is there really even a spacecraft? Let’s go, Marisa, I’ve heard enough from this crazy liar.” He moved toward the door, but she remained seated.
The light in the room dimmed as the scene around them changed to show a near object, with stars and Earth in the background, the Earth turning below, the object spinning swiftly. If it had been lying on a sandy beach in miniature, Edward and Marisa would have thought it a pointed, spiraled sea shell.
“The UNSS Chariot,” Weizman said. “That’s a live image.”
Edward sat down next to Marisa and took her hand.
Now they saw the inside of a comfortable home with wooden timbers and what looked like windows to a green forest outdoors. A woman was running a vacuum cleaner. She stopped the machine. “It’s almost ready, sir.”
“An onboard apartment, yours in fact,” Weizman said.
The view moved into corridors and proceeded to tour other sections of the vessel, including areas of command and control.
“Okay,” Edward said. “I’ve seen enough.”
“Will you join us?” Weizman strangely emphasized the word “will.”
The image transformed into one of stars, then the stars began swirling until they morphed into wooden barracks with bunks stacked three high. Emaciated, rag-clad men, some immobile, some shifting in slow motion, lay in rows on the bunks.
Edward’s face grew pale as he gazed at the visual environment around him. “You removed one of my constructed videos from the museum.” He seemed to be considering. Finally he asked, “What do you think, Marisa?”
“I will, if you will. We don’t have any other prospects. But imagine, we’ll experience pre-war Germany first hand, and if we succeed, save so many lives.”
“Yes,” Edward said. “If Weizman is telling the truth, if time travel exists, it’s the ultimate opportunity for a historian—and to obliterate what he most loathes—it would be a kind of redemption, a validation.”
“And yet I have a concern,” Marisa said. “Preventing the Holocaust is a sufficient purpose, but there’s no guarantee this will halt the collapse of civilization, as you said it will. Most of the murdered were ordinary people and not leaders and innovators.”
Weizman looked at Edward. “Dr. Slepyan has already addressed this issue in full.”
“I wrote a paper. Weizman and those backing this project are counting on the redeeming nature of the Jewish people, but there’s more. Even if the rhetoric is different, most governments, such as they are, operate on principles developed by the Nazis. They studied, applied, and are improving upon Nazi methods. In other words, the Holocaust was a prototype, and we’re presently seeing a full implementation. The widespread, systematic slaughter of the developing nations will be everywhere soon.”
“So,” Marisa said, “kill both Hitler and the advance of his immoral philosophy.”
“That’s our hope,” Weizman said. “And our calculations rate a strong probability of success.”
“How strong?” Edward asked.
“About 20%. It’s the only chance we have.”
After a long silent pause, Edward said, “Okay. One requirement. We want to get married first. Right, sweetheart? [She nodded.] Right away at Marisa’s apartment, with as many friends who can come. However, I don’t know if Rabbi Schildel can officiate.”
Marisa puckered her face in frustration.
Colonel Weizman glanced at his watch. “Returning to your homes will allow you to collect personal items. But you must be escorted there and back.”
At that moment the walls and ceiling faded to white, the door to the conference room opened, and people began entering and taking seats around the table until all were filled. There was no time for introductions because servants began carrying in food for everyone, and wine. There was little conversation.
Edward whispered to Marisa, “Did you notice that everyone has what we ordered?”
“I did.”
“I don’t remember a waiter.”
After a few minutes of quiet eating, Marisa said, “The food is good, but it could be better.”
Weizman stood up. “Most of you know each other, but I’d like to introduce our newest members. We have Marisa Pavelich, who as you are aware, is a renowned chef. She has served in the White House and as a menu consultant for several museums. She also holds an advanced degree in dietetics.”
Marisa nodded in acknowledgment.
“She’s engaged to Dr. Edward Slepyan, former Chair of Holocaust Studies at Washington University. Dr. Slepyan pioneered the use of the Environment Quantum Computer as a tool for historical research.”
Murmurs of satisfaction around the room.
“Anything either of you would like to say?”
Marisa braced, but did not otherwise move. Edward shook his head.
Weizman proceeded to introduce the others in the room—the ship’s senior officers including Captain Therreal, the ship’s physician and his assistant, the Israeli military contingent consisting of two Mossad agents and eight combatants, and the cook and his helper.
“The Reverend Sonya Kim is our chaplain. Rev. Kim is not only a theologian, but a recognized neurophysicist. She’ll be our time-travel coach. Lastly, to her right we are honored to have the esteemed astroengineer and nuclear physicist, Nobel Laureate, Ralf Pachero-Nanez. Dr. Pachero-Nanez—”
“Call me Ralf,” a man said and stood up, showing his remarkable height. “At some later time, I’d like to discuss with you, Professor Slepyan, your research with the EQC.”
Edward bowed.
“Okay,” Weizman said. “Dr. Pachero-Nanez developed the theory and created the propulsion systems that enable us to transcend the light barrier. Without him, time-travel would never have been possible.”
“Excuse me.” Ralf waved his arms in annoyance. “Time does not exist, and therefore one cannot travel through time any more than waltz through the intangible concept of a clock. We simply will be transcending the material-energy universe, when—” Ralf faltered as the Rev. Kim tugged on his jacket. “My lovely wife will explain later.”
“I neglected to mention that he and Rev. Kim though mature in years, recently married,” Weizman said through a laugh politely echoed around the room.
Following that remark, Weizman adjourned the meeting. Marisa and Edward mingled until Weizman pulled them aside. “There will plenty of time to get acquainted later. You have 18 hours for personal business, then you’ll be shuttling to the ship at 0800 hours. Blessings to you on your wedding, and be sure to bring your recent research and notes. We already have your published material and the raw data from your EQC work in Germany.”
“You have all that?”
“Yes. Yes, we do.”
“I thought I knew all the locations of that data.”
Weizman said nothing.
Motionless, Edward thought a short while then turned from Weizman. “Okay… Okay. Let’s get married.” He kissed Marisa on the lips.
Regrets about leaving and anxiety over the upcoming journey tempered the joy of the quickly arranged wedding. None of Eddie’s or Marisa’s parents or other relatives was able to attend. The guests comprised the crowd who watched the movie the evening before, additional friends, and former coworkers. The newlyweds spent the night in a private upper-floor suite at the Canadian embassy.
Weizman said the most difficult part of space travel for novices would be the initial, alarming shuttle ride to their ship, the UNSS Chariot, and this proved to be true if one discounted the boredom of the following year in a closed vessel with no wide terrestrial vistas, no weather, no change of seasons, no songs of birds and insects, no environmental variety whatsoever, and limited social contacts. Indeed, the Chariot became a prison, and the crew employed the coping mechanisms of prisoners throughout the ages: competitive games, intellectual pursuits, conversation, physical exercise, diverting food, dreams of escape or release, and, of course, work.
Only three notable situations occurred during the year of acceleration toward light speed. The first was that soon after the Chariot’s departure, Marisa discovered she was pregnant—she and Eddie had taken preventative measures, but, alas, in the zeal of first intimacy, nature often thwarts and supersedes human intention.
The second notable situation was the friendship that grew between Eddie and Ralf Pachero-Nanez. They met at the “the Park,” as the crew called the common room featuring the same projection system as the Canadian embassy. It was the only place in the vessel that felt like an outdoor environment on Earth.
One day, Eddie and Ralf discussed the Environment Quantum Computer.
Reading quantum flips in the material setting, classing them according to age by means of radioactive dating, processing them into cohesive data, and then coding the data into a visual/aural reproduction of historical events!” Ralf exclaimed. “Marvelous, Eddie! You would have to screen out so much, however—all the superfluous electromagnetism.”
“I didn’t develop the science, of course,” Eddie said. “All I do—did—is give context to what we observed. We can pinpoint dates pretty close. We took quantum readers into Auschwitz, the preserved site, for example, and within a week, we had colorized images, and sounds, of actual events. Of unloading docks, of prisoner barracks, of the showers… We used these films at the Holocaust museum as an educational tool. They are tedious and slow, but all the more horrifying. We had scenes running 24 hours a day. Visitors stayed as long as they wished.”
“It’s almost time transcendence. The Chariot contains your quantum libraries from Germany and elsewhere? Marvelous.”
“Only a fraction were ever interpreted and rendered into imagery,” Eddie said.
“Certainly we brought every potential resource, because we’ll never afford to make this expedition again. We’ll need to improvise.”
“Ralf, your passion is time travel—transcendence, that is—and yet you focused on space.”
“Speed, not space or time. My parents and grandparents were scientists. You know, my grandparents were born in Germany. I was a dreamer and read all the speculative fiction. But even the best time travel stories missed an essential factor. In order to travel through time, say from a particular place in the south of England, one must also travel in space. Why so? Because the island of Britain is always moving. It spins around as the Earth rotates. The Earth revolves around the sun. The solar system moves within the Milky Way. The Milky Way migrates within the Local Group. The Local Group races away from the theoretical center of the Universe.”
Eddie stared at the simulated creation around him that had faded from the main street of his hometown into tree silhouettes on the horizon, and above, stars and swirly galaxies, the present becoming past and swiftly being left behind by an emergent present.
Eddie looked at Ralf with an inquiring expression.
“An illustration is always helpful,” Ralf said, smiling.
“I’m trying to imagine a fixed point in the universe.”
Ralf laughed. “Don’t! If this ship were moving at the correct velocity and on the right trajectory, it might actually be standing still. We’re like a sailing vessel on the ocean, affected by leeward drift and nearly imperceptible currents. I never took interest in space travel, because space is too cold or hot and it’s void of life, and I never believed time travel as such was possible, but if it were possible, we’d have to reach great momentum. The discovery of time transcendence was accidental.”
The door to the Park opened, and light streaming in spoiled the artificial night sky. Marisa and Sonya entered, Sonya carrying a biopolymer box. The door closed and Marisa looked up and said, “Lovely.”
“I thought we’d join you for a late night picnic,” Sonya said. “Marisa and I assembled some food.”
“What are we seeing now?” Marisa said, still looking up until she bumped into a chair.
“The view from our exact location, but without the gravity simulating spin,” Ralf said.
“And that location is?” Marisa asked.
“It doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“Marisa can’t cook anything not exquisite,” Sonya said.
The third notable situation was the training that Sonya began midway into the voyage. Nearly everyone, including Weizman, attended the sessions. The Mossad agents and the combatants kept apart from the others. They, apparently, had already prepared.
Sonya explained a fundamental aspect of time transcendence. “In the dream world your powers of thought and action are limited. Your mind floats along, flitting here and there, and you have negligible control over imaginary actions within the dream. Your body is all but immobile and paralyzed in bed. Consider that the supernatural world is to the natural world what the waking world is to the dream world. In the supernatural, you have incomparably more freedom and control over your mind and body than you do in your ordinary existence. When we cross over, when we accelerate past the light barrier, we will experience the true real.”
The birth of a son to Eddie and Marisa coincided with the beginning of the vessel’s conversion from matter into photonic energy. Marisa urged Eddie to name him Itai, and Eddie said, “Then, his name is Itai.”
The couple found it difficult to distinguish between their elation with their child and an acute, exhilarating awareness of reality that came to them gradually during the final three months of acceleration. Marisa described it by saying, “It’s like I’m waking up slowly, rising from deep muddy water into consciousness.”
Sonya assured the parents that their baby would transcend time with them, he being subject to their will and love.
During the final formal time-training session in the Park, Sonya summarized the essentials to the assembled expedition members.
“We cannot overemphasize how important it is that, once we penetrate the light barrier, you focus. We cannot afford to lose anyone. Your will, the switch within you, propels you across times. We’ve practiced synchronizing our wills from the beginning of this program through consensus and submission exercises. Focus. We must will together to move the ship with us. As we all move ourselves simultaneously into 1933 at a specific date and precise time and location in orbit, we’ll carry the Chariot along. Minus the Chariot, we’ll be stranded, obviously, or worse, emerge in vacuous space. As I have said, if our intention is to arrive precisely together, it will be so.”
“A question,” Eddie said. “I thought there was a separate team, one attempting to influence Hitler in his youth, to save him from his mania. What happened to this plan?”
Weizman stood up. “I’m afraid we abandoned it. The outcomes are too uncertain.”
Ralf gave a sudden start that caught everyone’s attention, and Eddie and Marisa both felt bewildered.
Sonya continued as if there had been no interruption. “Each of you will experience Infinity differently, likely in a metaphor dear to you. I see it as a grand cathedral. You must start visualizing it now, so you won’t be surprised. Some of you… Captain Therreal, you haven’t told me what your metaphor is.”
“A wilderness trout stream,” he said, and everyone laughed on top of him saying, “Fishing is paradise.”
As mirth subsided, Sonya said, “A traveler will see each imagined time or world as from a distance, and go there, if he or she wishes, but it takes experience to navigate, and that’s beyond your purpose. We may be in the realm of Infinity for only a heartbeat. Once we are in, you’ll move out quickly. I won’t be passing into 1933 with you. I’ll remain inside Infinity as a medium, a link with our present.” She looked around the room. “Any questions?”
Marisa spoke up. “Is there additional personal preparation to make?”
Sonya seemed lost in thought and then recollected herself. “Sorry. No. God is light; in him is no darkness. The supernatural world is like the natural one—you’ll get along in one much the same as in the other, no special moral qualities required, although there are profound consequences for each action and idea, for good or evil.
“But not everyone is fit for climbing a Himalayan peak or swimming the English Channel, and Infinity has its own challenges. As your escort I’m your protector, and that’s sufficient. Alright. If there’s nothing else, this concludes our formal training. If you haven’t yet, you must memorize our destination coordinates and you will be tested on them under stress conditions.”
As people filed from the room, Sonya said over Colonel Weizman’s shoulder, “I suggested that the commandos attend our summary session today. Why weren’t they here?”
Weizman turned to her and did not speak.
“And what about the scuttled plan to save Hitler?”
He walked away.
One afternoon Eddie fell asleep over his keyboard, which caused him to arrive late for his regular meeting with Ralf at the Park. When the Park’s door slid open, he heard for an instant a loud voice shouting in German. Ralf and Weizman were standing face to face, both in an immobile attitude of suppressed anger. Weizman glanced at Eddie and left the room. Ralf collapsed into a chair.
“What was that about?” Eddie said.
“An argument.”
“Did I hear ‘abscheulicher?’, abomination?”
“Perhaps you did,” Ralf said wearily.
“I never thought Weizman liked you.”
“Does he like anyone? The only reason I’m on this mission, Eddie, my friend, is to maintain the propulsion.”
“Yes, I suppose so.” Eddie pulled up a chair, settled into it, and spoke in the tone of friendly debate customary between them. “Recently I’ve been reading your philosophical works. Your ideas about human free-will seem contradictory. You write that it’s a mechanism that gave humans an evolutionary advantage, and then you say that will, like time, doesn’t exist—but only the appearance of will—it’s an illusion. And you also write that human will is the one true moral value, the one that gives dignity to human beings. The singular characteristic of a person, you say, is the ability to make and enforce decisions. I thought you might provide an explanation for the apparent contradictions.”
Ralf had been scowling and he leaped from his chair. “Forgive me,” he said. “I’m upset and fatigued. I don’t think we can talk today. But, I look forward to next time. Excuse me.” And with that, he left the Park.
As they approached light speed, Eddie and Marisa noticed how every sensation, emotion, and thought became deeper, more intense, more brilliant. Each word they uttered suggested not only an entire spectrum of meanings and relationships with other words and the history of words, but concepts that felt more tangible than the objective item they represented. When they said “child,” the idea almost became an actuality they could touch and hold. Speech between them became so substantial that it was as unbearable as it was unnecessary, so they gave it up. They also gave up eating and drinking, as there was no need.
They waited and it wasn’t waiting, but only watching, listening, and thinking. Sonya called all the crew into the Park. Everyone was present, reclining in comfortable chairs, Eddie’s arm around Marisa as she cuddled Itai. Each person experienced an instant of illumination, of clarity, recognition and infinite vision, of awe and fear, of agonizing pleasure and pain, of ecstasy and despair. Sonya cried out, “Now!” and the next thing they knew, the Chariot seemed to be dim and motionless.
“Well,” Ralf said, “is anyone missing?” He skipped around the room. “No? Is baby Itai here? Good!”
Each person exhibited a unique look of shock.
“We made it,” Ralf said. “We’re in orbit around planet Earth and the date is… November 2, 1933. Congratulations, everyone.”
“It’s normal to be depressed afterwards,” Sonya said, standing in their midst, and she seemed to shimmer.
The Mossad agents took the shuttle to the surface and bought a neglected farm outside a village north of Essen, Germany, and when they settled the transaction, the core of the travelers moved into the farm’s large house. Captain Therreal and a skeleton crew quartered aboard the Chariot and rotated down periodically. The agents and half the combatants fanned out over Europe to contact the future prospective leaders of Israel in Exile to ensure that they pursued the time transcendence project even if the Holocaust never happened. Sonya’s ghost or spirit appeared from time to time.
Marisa and Eddie supervised the household and farm activities, the latter of which, except for Ralf’s vegetable garden, they conducted minimally for appearances. Eddie set up a laboratory in the basement and continued analyzing EQC readings.
They reveled in the gentle environment of Earth, with its brisk, bright winter; with winds, rain, and soft sunlight, a relief from their stark abode during the previous year and compared to the polluted, decaying world they left behind. They enjoyed watching their baby boy grow. Weizman monitored everyone’s activities and restricted travel away from the farm, but otherwise Marisa and Eddie relished their peaceful day-by-day months of simple enjoyment and labor.
“If we aren’t successful in preventing the Holocaust, I don’t want to return to our own time—not with Itai,” Marisa said early one spring morning as they strolled in the woods behind the barns. “Let’s go someplace quiet and safe here.”
Weizman, Ralf, and Eddie had concluded that the best time to eliminate Chancellor Hitler would be during the summer of 1934, prior to the September Nuremberg rally that initiated the strongest flourish yet of Nazi Socialism. With Hitler dead, the influential propaganda film, Triumph des Willens, would never be made. German President Hindenburg, though ill, would still be alive and representing the old, more civil order; and the Nazis had not yet seized total control of Germany.
By means of the EQC technicians’ research, Eddie determined the precise moment and place when Hitler should be killed and the sniper team could safely egress. On June 28, Hitler would be at a wedding reception at the Hotel Vereinshaus in Essen. On that day, before the “Night of Long Knives,” Hitler’s paranoia about German political rivals and Ernst Röhm of the SA, the Brownshirts, had risen to such a pitch and was so infective that the assassination would not provoke anti-Semite reprisals.
On the given morning, the combatants left from the farmhouse wearing ordinary street clothing and carrying two suitcases. Later, in the afternoon, Eddie, Marisa, Ralf and the others gathered in the parlor and listened to the radio, expecting news of Hitler’s death to come across the airwaves soon after an effective result. Captain Therreal joined them.
Deep into the evening, and the big band music seemed as if it would never end. Eddie played with the baby on the floor. Ralf played chess against himself. A fire burned low on the hearth. At some point Captain Therreal looked up from the book he was reading. “Did you notice the music skip backwards?”
“You fell asleep,” Eddie said.
Marisa entered the room carrying pitchers of beer.
“Let me help,” Eddie said from the floor.
“Tray of mugs in the kitchen. You know, I felt dizzy in the keg room. It was weird.”
“Go to bed.”
“No, I’m fine. Whoa, there it is again.”
Everyone had felt the skip this time.
“Earthquake?” Ralf said with unusual irony for him.
Not long after midnight, Colonel Weizman and his team drove up to the farm in their panel trucks. The combatants retired to their quarters in a remodeled barn, and Weizman wearily climbed the steps to the farmhouse and sank onto a sofa before a cheerless, cold fireplace.
They waited for him to speak.
He shook his head, saying the operation had failed. “Everything went smoothly. No one at the nightclub across the park from Hotel Vereinshaus suspected that we weren’t businessmen waiting for a train. The sniper team and I were stationed on the roof of the nightclub’s building. Hitler stepped onto the hotel balcony for a breath of fresh air, as we predicted. He was drinking tea. Our man had him in his sights. 400 meters. Range, elevation, windage on his scope—all correct. The spotter accounted for the breeze. The sniper squeezed the trigger and the weapon fired. We felt the pressure of the cartridge’s explosion. Head shot. We saw the target jerk and…”
“Then what?” Captain Therreal said.
“It was as if the weapon had not fired.”
“What do you mean?”
“The weapon had not fired.”
“How can that be?” Eddie said.
“It just was. Hitler held a teacup, just as before. I ordered for our spotter to check the figures, and our man fired again with the same result. We saw the target react, and the next instant all was as if it had never happened. The cartridge was intact—the bullet never left the chamber.”
Weizman scooted to the edge of the couch and continued.
“By then Hitler had re-entered the hotel ballroom and we shot through the massive window, with identical results but more obvious, since the bullet shattered the glass, which, the next instant was undamaged. Afterward, there was no other opportunity.”
Everyone stared blankly, lost in devastation—or denial—that the mission so essential for the survival of civilization, and so heavily financed and outfitted, and so meticulously prepared should progress so far and then fail at the critical moment, in the final small action.
“Hitler’s survival is required for the discovery of time transcendence,” Eddie said, trying to focus the group. “That’s the only conclusion possible. He’s not only responsible for the Holocaust, which is a provocateur of time transcendence, but the person Adolf Hitler himself is an origin.”
“Or his descendant,” Weizman said and eyed Ralf. “Why hasn’t our brilliant scientist spoken?”
“Eddie’s reasoning is intuitive,” Ralf said, ignoring the inexplicable insult, “but transcendence theory isn’t straightforward. Its paradoxes and contradictions are incoherent, not because it’s too complex, but incoherent in essence. We’re operating outside of the cause and effect universe. The laws within Infinity, or more properly, Eternity, may be random.”
“Which is to say, what?” Weizman asked.
“There might be another explanation,” Ralf said.
“And that would be?” Weizman said.
Ralf didn’t answer.
“Divine Providence,” Marisa offered. “A will superior to ours. Anyhow, Adolf Hitler didn’t father any offspring.”
“We could investigate that,” Eddie said.
“Trample a butterfly and modify the cosmos,” Ralf said. “In whatever way Hitler affects time transcendence, it’s certain what you witnessed, Colonel Weizman, is a causal loop. The rifleman pulled the trigger: Hitler was killed and that revised the course of history so that time transcendence never occurred. If it never occurred, then we never crossed time and Hitler was never killed, which means that time transcendence could occur, which means we did appear here in 1933 and we did set up the assassination and our sniper placed his finger on the trigger.”
“All that happened in a moment?” Marisa said.
“Perhaps,” Ralf said, “and it appeared as if everything reset to the instant prior to the shot.”
“That’s the skip we felt,” Marisa said. “What should we do next?”
“We could find a child born to Hitler,” Eddie said.
“That won’t prevent the Holocaust.” Weizman leaned back against a couch pillow and closed his eyes. “We have a backup plan. The mission has changed. We can’t kill Hitler, but we can annihilate as many high ranking Nazis as possible, and it may weaken Hitler enough that he won’t execute his ‘final solution.’” He looked at Ralf. “Only Rev. Kim can tell us if we accomplish our goal.”
“I expect her this evening, or by morning,” Ralf said.
Marisa appeared to be listening for the baby who was sleeping upstairs. When the room fell silent except for the clock ticking on the mantelpiece, she said, “You all agreed that killing Hitler was the least disturbing action having the best result, right? Why should we give up? What if he produced a child instrumental to time transcendence, but in the next couple years? They didn’t establish the ghettos until when?”
“The first one, 1939,” Eddie said.
“Hitler had—has—a powerful effect on the German people,” Ralf said. “His mere existence might inspire the difference.”
They all were quiet for a minute and the cook’s helper brought in soup, bread, and wine for Weizman.
He heartily ate a few mouthfuls and then said, “We could talk forever. Dr. Slepyan, please research the Hitler offspring idea. If we find a family link between Der Führer and time transcendence—it’s the most easily discoverable of the multitude of factors, isn’t it?—then we proceed with killing Nazis for the present and endeavor to not disturb that linkage.”
“Producing his own children never crossed Hitler’s mind,” Eddie said. “He was, in his perverse thinking, the father of all Germans.”
Possible offspring of Adolf Hitler were not so easily discoverable. While Hitler was alleged to have had half a dozen affairs, two women appeared on the off-the-cuff high-probable list as mothers: Eva Braun, of course, and the British devotee, Unity Mitford. Eddie dismissed both of them as possibilities. Enough about them was known that they couldn’t have concealed a pregnancy. If this person existed at all, it had to be someone hitherto unsuspected—a female secretary or a simple admirer. There were numerous women who might have been honored to serve a peculiar request of his, though it would be out of his character to engage in sexual activity with them. He was fastidious, Eddie thought. He married Eva Braun.
Eddie spent hours thinking about how to narrow down the search. While they possessed vast amounts of data recorded in a multitude of locations over long periods of time, it nevertheless included only a fraction of the totality of Hitler’s life. They might not have the needed information at all.
He and Weizman set up parameters for an exhaustive data search. Much of the raw, unprocessed EQC material had been cataloged and coupled with all pertinent information on the Third Reich. The critical factors were person, place, and timeframe. With little hope of success, Eddie set the search in motion and asked the technicians to inform him if anything significant came up. Days passed while the computers plodded along, seemingly in slow motion, while in fact they were processing at lightning speed. Eddie quite forgot about the search. Indeed, in the pleasant daily routines of family chores, the entire mission faded into the background, until one evening in early September when a cool breeze foretold fall and approaching winter.
A tech ran up to him as he was rinsing soil from the garden implements he had been working with long after sunset. “The computers are done, Dr. Slepyan.”
He hurried to the workroom in the basement. Marisa, Weizman and a few of the Mossad fighters had gathered—a small, tense crowd. The tech beamed, relishing the drama. With an all-but-imperceptible flourish, he hit a single key and the screen opened to reveal a list of names, followed by places, timeframes, and percentages. The list filled the page; it filled three whole pages.
Eddie read the first two entries out loud. “1. Traudl Junge, Berlin Chancellery, April 1945. Match: 87.2%. Junge was his personal secretary. 2. Hanna Reitsch, Berghof, June 1944 or Berlin Chancellery, April 1945. Match: 83%.”
He accessed the referencing material and summarized it out loud: “Reitsch and von Greim spent three days with Hitler at the Berghof on the occasion of Eva Braun’s sister’s wedding. Reitsch at that time said, ‘The Führer must live so that Germany can live. The people demand it.’ She was 32 years old. Hitler gave her and von Greim poison capsules in the remote chance of defeat and ordered that they mount a commemorative Luftwaffe bombing of Russian Soviet forces. He also requested for von Greim to keep secret watches on Himmler and Goering, both of whom Hitler suspected of disloyalty. General von Greim committed suicide about a year later. Hanna Reitsch died in 1979.”
Eddie jumped up. “Let’s start. Reitsch first.”
Marisa groaned. “I’m going to bed. I’ve got a baby to nurse.”
“If Reitsch bore a child,” Eddie muttered to himself, “she must have given it up for adoption.”
Eddie and the two EQC technicians worked through what remained of the night in the basement laboratory, Eddie catnapping on a cot while the computer filtered data and processed images. Not long after daybreak, the male technician said, “I’ve got something, Dr. Slepyan.”
Eddie sat up from the cot in a mental fog and said only, “Oh.”
“The Park would be better to see, but… Plenty of love making at the Berghof—one duet in a closet… Quite a social scene. We’ve not seen Hitler with anyone other than Eva. But what’s this? Hitler is now on our monitor. He’s alone.”
Eddie stood up, and—with an unconscious grimace—watched over the tech’s shoulder. The scene concluded and he said, “You don’t want this in the Park. When did they develop artificial insemination?”
The tech in a rolling chair flung himself the short distance to a general-use computer. “In practice, the late 1940’s,” he said. “Semen storage a limiting factor.”
“Find out, will you? Who receives Hitler’s semen?”
“Yes, sir.”
Eddie paced up and down the floor. Marisa descended the stairs carrying a basket of fresh-baked cinnamon buns and a pot of coffee. The female tech on her cot yawned and stretched.
“Good morning, dear,” Eddie said to Marisa. “You look lovely.”
“You’re crumpled,” she said and poured him a cup.
He bit into one of the sweet buns.
“No. No thanks, I’m not hungry,” the male tech said to Marisa’s offer of a bun.
The female tech said, “I’m going upstairs for a bath.”
Just as she left, Weizman came down appearing worn, as if he, too, had slept little; he observed awhile and left without saying a word.
“Okay,” the tech said. “Hitler handed the vial to a nurse, then a woman took it, and… she applied it to herself with a syringe-like device in a bathroom.”
“You’re quick,” Eddie said.
“Do you want to see the images?”
Weizman must have been waiting at the top of the stairs because he noisily clattered down and glared at the EQC monitor. A male combatant followed him and stood back.
“Let me see her face,” Eddie said and waited. “Oh God, I was right. Hanna Reitsch. Though it’s not proof a child ensued. We’d need to run her and Hitler’s DNA, and then search our entire records, if not the population.” He sighed. “It will take months to collect samples. And—”
“Not months, Slepyan,” Weizman said, “Not months, but years for us to exhume Nazi war criminals and significant sympathizers, so we have Fräulein Reitsch on record. Hitler’s DNA we’ve collected since we arrived. June of 1944 is too late to prevent the Holocaust, and early enough to limit its effect, but…”
He nodded to the combatant, who left by a door that led to concrete steps against a retaining wall up to ground level outside. “We also ran Herr Pachero-Nanez’s DNA overnight and believe he’s the great-grandson of Adolf Hitler.”
“I’m speechless,” Eddie said.
“What you found, Dr. Slepyan, settles the matter.” Weizman’s eyes burned with an intense fire.
A long, taut half-minute passed with no one speaking, and then a muffled “pop” came from outside.
Eddie strode to the door, opened it, and climbed the steps. Weizman and the technician followed him. Marisa and crew members were standing on the back porch and looking toward the tree line where combatants, a man and a woman in farmer clothing, were shoveling.
Marisa said, “We heard the gunshot, too.”
Eddie ran over. The combatants kept shoveling as Eddie gaped down into the deep trench. Still exposed in the dirt, a hand, an arm in a jacket sleeve, and the jacket’s shoulder. Soil partly hid a lumpish black bag.
“Who is it? What happened?” Eddie’s voice trembled.
Weizman now reached the trench. “The Führer and his followers massacred not only millions of Jews, they destroyed generations of future descendants. We killed Hitler’s sole descendant. The ledger is a bit more balanced.”
“Ralf? You murdered Ralf? Oh, my God.” Eddie sank to the ground and eased into the trench. He struggled with the black bag and undid the knot to see Ralf’s face and damaged head, the soil beneath viscous with blood. Eddie looked up to Weizman. “What are you?” he said fiercely.
“We are men and woman, progeny of Shoah survivors,” a female combatant wearing camouflage fatigues said. A beauty, she had dark, reddish hair. “You, historian, must teach the world that tyrants will suffer the fate they inflict on others, they will lose all they hold dear. What we have done is a warning.”
Suddenly tender, heartbroken, Eddie spoke to her in Hebrew. “All these months, our sister, and no one told me your name.”
She stiffened and looked away.
“She won’t disobey my silence order again,” Weizman said. “Her name is Talia Hirsch. Her family’s vineyard will soon be flooded in our present.”
“You, Colonel, you are evil,” Eddie said coldly and crawled from the trench.
“Evil begets evil.”
“And evil begets evil forever and ever.”
“There’s more you should know,” Weizman said. “Pachero-Nanez planned to give nuclear secrets to the Nazis. His computers contained formulas and schematics for an elementary neutron bomb. With it, the Germans could conquer the whole world.”
“Ralf would never have done that. You know it.”
“We don’t. Hanna Reitsch was a loyal Nazi to the end of her life. Her only regret about the war was that Germany never invaded North America. Pachero-Nanez would have fulfilled the demands of his legacy.”
“He only wanted to explore humanity,” Eddie said. “He was a child. Our humanity is a greater kinship than blood, than family, than our Jewishness, or Aryanness. And you, you’ve lost your humanity. The best people are murdered by the worst, and the worst end up killing each other.”
“Well…” Weizman said.
“This is my final word to you, Colonel. Repent.”
Eddie stumbled light-headed toward the farmhouse where Marisa and the others had been held back by combatants. Weizman benignly watched him for a few moments.
“Pack in the dirt and scatter the overflow in the woods,” Weizman ordered. “Conceal the scar.”
A wail rose up from the direction of the house.
Filled with anger, Eddie hoped to convince Captain Therreal to arrest and confine Weizman. He first embraced Marisa until she ceased shuddering, then he went to find Therreal, who was tinkering with the shuttle concealed in an outbuilding.
Therreal set his palm computer on a counter. “I’m appalled…” With Eddie following him, he walked outside and gazed toward the farmhouse. “Plucky as they are, my crew fighting these combatants? No. Off-ship, Weizman is autonomous. Since he and his commandos don’t plan to return to the 21st century, indeed don’t intend to board the Chariot again, regrettably, there’s nothing I can do. Weizman offloaded his gold and supplies long ago. I liked Ralf. How is Sonya?”
“We haven’t seen her,” Eddie said. “Do you believe Ralf would give nuclear technology to the Nazis?”
Eddie left the outbuilding and went up to his room.
“Hello… dear,” Marisa said weakly. Her countenance was contorted with grief and fury as she played with the giggling baby. “Sonya came to me. She wants to talk, but not in the house. In the woods, in an hour.”
“You told her about Ralf, that Weizman murdered him? How is she?”
“Hard to say.”
A light knock at the door. Eddie went to see. It was Weizman. Eddie stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind him.
“You probably won’t speak to me,” Weizman said.
Eddie didn’t move.
“Okay, that’s fine,” Weizman said. “The official project is ended. My plan now is to engage in guerilla warfare against the Nazis. If we can’t stop the Holocaust, we’ll warn Jews to escape to the United States or Canada, or at least to avoid the ghettos. We will aid rescuers. Later we’ll organize partisan forces and attack the death camps. With knowledge of events and our superior weapons, we’ll have considerable effect in killing guards, disrupting camp operations, and liberating prisoners.
“You and your family are free to return to the Chariot. Once you enter time transcendence, you may go anywhere in the universe. It’s only a suggestion—but I hope you’ll stay here. You’d be invaluable in helping the American and Allied Forces. Convince them to make preventing the genocide a priority. Advise them on military strategy. After the war—if there is a war—you may settle down wherever you like. This is a much nicer world than what we left. I’ll give you enough gold—your pay, in fact—to be comfortable. Therreal said the Chariot departs in two days.” Weizman said no more, but studied Eddie expectantly.
“I’ll consider it.” Eddie backed into their room and shut the door.
“I heard,” Marisa said, picking up an umbrella. “We should meet Sonya now. It might rain.”
They slipped baby Itai into his coat and walked past the combatant quarters and across the field to the invisible grave where Ralf was buried.
Marisa crossed herself and said a silent prayer, and then they took a trail that led to a grotto beside a creek with a curving, clear waterfall that dropped into a bubbly pool. Late season wildflowers, purple and yellow, grew in abundance in the soft turf. Marisa and Eddie sat on the rocks as the baby slept in Eddie’s arms. Beams of sunlight cut down through the trees and suddenly Sonya stood before them. Though the air was still and quiet, she appeared to be leaning against a strong wind that whipped her hair around her face.
Marisa moved as if to give her a hug, but Sonya stopped her with a gesture and said in a strained, aloof voice, “The world is no better because of Weizman’s actions.”
“I’m so sorry about Ralf,” Marisa said.
“I searched for him throughout the Cathedral,” Sonya said, “but he’s far away. He followed the wrong path.”
As Marisa and Eddie stared, the buffeted, iridescent Sonya transfigured into a being of dull flesh and blood, and she screamed and collapsed onto the ground.
Trembling, Marisa knelt beside her and folded the baby’s blanket under her head. “She’s so young and so old, both.”
Sonya opened her eyes and said feebly, “Shock of this corrupted realm. There’s a plague on this sphere, a weight of sin. How do you endure the burden? Gravity… Muscles weak. My bones thin. I’ve been absent… too long.”
“Get the doctor,” Marisa cried. “Bring something to drink from the icebox.”
Eddie jumped up and ran to find the doctor, who grabbed his medical bag. Eddie snatched a pitcher of juice and told a grim combatant to bring a stretcher.
When they reached the grotto, Marisa looked up with sad eyes and shook her head. “She didn’t last at all.”
The doctor confirmed she was gone. More combatants arrived and gently placed Sonya’s body on the stretcher.
“Bury her beside her husband,” Marisa said as the combatants bore the stretcher away, the doctor shadowing the procession.
A gloomy cloud mass had been creeping up, bringing with it a sudden gusty breeze. “Rain showers soon, maybe,” Marisa said.
Now awake, the baby demanded a diaper change.
“Pear juice?” Eddie asked when Itai was fresh.
“Yes, please,” she said, rinsing her hands in the stream.
They sat again on the rocks and shared the pitcher back and forth.
“We should have accompanied the body,” Eddie said.
“I want to talk first.”
Eddie sighed. “Sonya was an angel.”
“She was a human being with an angelic existence. Remember the science-fiction film we saw before our wedding? The ending?”
“Sky dwellers in the future?”
Neither spoke for a time. The waterfall seemed to grow louder and oppress them, but it was the weight of loss they felt. The sky was growing darker. The baby waved a bare stick he had found.
“People live in solar-powered dirigibles,” Marisa said at last. “Twelve hundred years from now they’re dying out because they’re not having enough children anymore—the women are dying young. But, it’s a beautiful way to live, drifting with the clouds. The world is clean. The air and water are pure again.”
“Weizman said the movie’s story was fiction.”
Weizman,” she said with contempt. “It’s real. Sonya visited there years ago and told me. Before we crossed the light barrier, she taught me a little about navigating. I want to live in that time and place.”
“What about helping here, in this past?”
“Edward, my love, the role of a historian is to remember the past.”
“I suppose we could leave a letter and our gold for… for Raphael Lemkin. A heroic anti-genocide campaigner. Polish. Jewish. All his relatives were, will be murdered by the Nazis. He saw the Holocaust coming.”
“Sonya said young people in that distant future fly gliders, high-altitude gliders for sport; I remember now… she said that Ralf’s ‘Oma Reitsch’ would love this.”
Eddie thought for a moment. “So, Ralf knew all along about his monstrous ancestor. Hanna Reitsch set gliding records.”
They watched the baby attempt to pull up and stand.
“I’m tired.” Eddie rubbed his hands over his face. Marisa massaged the back of his neck. “Feels good,” he said. “Oh, I can’t.” He drew in a deep breath and exhaled in a gust. “We can’t leave this time period. We can’t run away.”
“I know. We were daydreaming.”
Eddie unconsciously crossed an arm across his belly and propped the opposite elbow on the arm, pressing his fist to his mouth. He stared ahead, searching his memory. “If we can’t eliminate Hitler,” he said, thinking out loud, “what other simple change might alter history for the better? What if the U.S. had developed the atom bomb earlier? What if we actually deployed it?”
“Oh, Eddie. That’s so risky. We’re not the right people to make that decision.”
“But people are alive who might be. What if the isolationist Robert Taft had not been elected president in 1940? What if FDR had won an unprecedented third term? I believe Roosevelt would have pushed to declare war against Japan after the invasion of Pearl Harbor. All Taft did was stage symbolic attempts to retake it and his old home, the Philippines.”
“Would Franklin Roosevelt rally the American people?”
“He proclaimed he’d never send American sons into foreign wars, but he actually prepared for war by supporting the draft, for example. He gave ships and weaponry to England. And if the U.S. had entered the war, Japan probably wouldn’t have conquered and held most of the Pacific Rim. Germany wouldn’t have kept north Africa, half of the Soviet Union, and every bit of Europe and the British Isles.”
“So, do we join Roosevelt’s reelection campaign?” She picked up the baby and began making faces at him. He pointed upward and said, “Look, look.”
Eddie was silent while leaves rustled overhead and the tree branches swayed in irregular rhythm. At last he spoke. “We need to stop Taft from winning the Republican nomination in 1940. And if instead, Wendell Willkie, who like Roosevelt was an interventionist, takes the nomination, Roosevelt would be bolder in his campaign. He’d likely win an electoral landslide in November.”
“So, it’s settled.”
“We might be able to keep the Third Reich from spreading across the world and murdering 15 million of our people by the time it collapsed in 2004.”
“If we’re staying here,” Marisa said, “we should send letters with the Chariot to our family members.”
“And pictures of the baby.”
He took the baby from Marisa and gazed at his grinning face. “It struck me just now… I know it, but I never felt it so sharply; after what happened this morning and yesterday… Itai is not merely our baby, he’s a person. A numinous person.”
“I’ve always felt it,” Marisa said.
Eddie somberly kissed Itai on a fat cheek. “Let’s give our respect to Sonya and begin packing.”
Just then the breeze shifted and they heard noises rattling from the direction of the farmhouse. Gunfire. A broken, black column expanded over the trees, showing them the house’s exact position, and then they smelled smoke. A flash lit the sky and thunder rumbled overhead.
“Hallo,” a female voice called. Talia Hirsch ran up arrayed for battle, an autocarbine slung from her neck and cradled to her chest. “We’re under attack,” she said. “We’ve been betrayed.” She breathed twice in a quick pause and said with intense calmness, “The Colonel says you must go to the outbuilding immediately to be evacuated via the shuttle. He says, ‘Shalom.’” At that, she turned and trotted away.
“Wait!” Eddie said.
She stopped.
“How safe is it?”
“We’re holding the house until it burns—to destroy your records and computers. We’ll cover your launch. Hurry. Therreal is impatient.”
“Talia, why don’t you come with us? How will you survive?”
She swooped down to pick a purple wildflower, smiled, and said, “Don’t be afraid on my behalf. Someone in Eternity is fighting for us.” She tucked the flower’s stem into a shirt pocket. “You must hurry now.”


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