ALL THE TIME IN THE UNIVERSE MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH!
Previously, in my last NaNo novel (Heart of Fire Time of Ice – available on Amazon, free on KENP – find it here ):
Kathleen Whitby’s quantum physics research allowed her to develop a mathematical formula that gave her control of time-travel. At least one shadowy group besides her government wants the formula. After having escaped a deadly attack by inadvertently jumping into the Pleistocene, Kathleen found a way to break her self-imposed barriers and not only survive, but thrive with the aid of a handsome Clovis culture hunter.
Now the two have been driven out of their refuge in the inter-glacial Sangamon period by hostile pre-humans. Forced to return to modern times for medical assistance, they find that the same antagonistic forces are still at work.
The government has used a theory based on another time-traveler’s experiences to develop a method of time travel. Unfortunately, it has proven to be uncontrollable, stranding their initial subject somewhere in the past. Now they want Kathleen’s information even more than before.
Cadeyrin is held hostage until she surrenders her formula. Will he be set free if she cooperates? And what about the second group that wants the secret?
Once again Kathleen meets a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Will her intelligence and natural creativity allow her to overcome the complex mixture of enemies and problems she now faces?
Kathleen paused, and looked around in sudden alarm. There was something in the dense evergreens, something that might represent danger. Her wolf, Ulfsa, had stopped a few feet ahead of her, his ears flat and his back fur ridged. His lips were drawn back in a silent snarl. She noticed that his tail was clamped tightly against his haunches. Whatever it was, it frightened him. She dropped her rifle from her shoulder, and cradled it in both hands, ready for action.
The mid-Sangamon interglacial period was not without its normal dangers. The North American mega-fauna was threat enough for any human, regardless of how well they were armed.
Kathleen and Cadeyrin had set their home in the middle of a howling wilderness almost exactly one-hundred-thousand years BCE. The animals held no surprises for Cadeyrin. He’d lived all of his life hunting them. The thing that he continually marveled over was their number.
Here in pre-human North America, the animals thronged. Cadeyrin’s time, the last part of the Pleistocene during the final glaciation period had far fewer animals. This was more due to the harsh climate than the actions of humans, although humans did their share of killing. Fire drives often resulted in far more dead animals than the hunters could use. This waste was thought of as a necessary part of hunting, but Cadeyrin’s people generally were conservation oriented, killing only what they needed.
For her part, Kathleen sometimes thought it was amazing that humans had survived long enough to form modern civilization. Her origin in the twenty-first century hadn’t prepared her for such a life. Despite her handicap, she had become a seasoned huntress in just a few months.
Now she sensed a heightened tension in the air as if whatever it was had decided to attack. She raised her rifle, a hard-hitting thirty caliber, and prepared to empty the magazine. She’d purchased thirty-round magazines, and had never regretted it. Better to have too much fire-power than not enough.
Ulfsa shifted nervously. He’d arrived just a few minutes earlier. When she and Cadeyrin had started their hunt, Ulfsa had gone with the man. Their intent was to jump a deer. If Cadeyrin couldn’t shoot it immediately, Ulfsa would trail the animal.
Most deer would eventually circle, coming back to familiar ground. The wolf would continue to follow, guided by his exquisite sense of smell, until the deer circled. On its way back, there was a good chance that it would pass within range of either Kathleen or Cadeyrin.
Kathleen had been looking for an open area in the heavy spruces. While a deer would travel quickly through the trees, it was a little more likely to run through an open area when tired. When Ulfsa came up, she realized that he’d lost the trail or, as it now appeared, something more serious had arisen.
The wind shifted, eddying around the spruces, carrying the scent of resin, and something strange. She sniffed. It was like…somewhat like a heavy, musky body odor. Her mind flashed back to a day at the Minneapolis Zoo. It had been hot. When she’d walked by the gorilla enclosure, one of the male gorillas had been near her location. The current scent reminded her of his body odor.
No gorillas here, though, she thought. It must be something else. I hope it’s not a bear.
She turned slightly. The presence had moved to a thicker clump of fir trees. She couldn’t actually see anything. She’d somehow sensed it’s movement, though. She glanced quickly down at the wolf. He was looking fixedly at the same clump. She lifted her rifle, aimed, and squeezed the trigger. The bullet ripped through the fir branches as the sound of the shot rang through the air. She waited.
Nothing happened. She gradually became aware that the tension had lowered. Whatever it was, it had retreated when she shot. Ulfsa had lifted his ears, and his tail had returned to its normal upright position.
He stopped beside her, panting. He held his rifle at the ready also. After a moment, he sniffed the breeze, then lowered his firearm.
“Gone,” he said. “Lets move forward a little so I can check the area.”
They walked forward silently, paced by Ulfsa.
There was a scuffed mark in the forest floor on the far side of the fir trees. Cadeyrin bent down, inspected it, then walked on. He abruptly stopped, pointing at a soft patch of earth. There was a large footprint showing.
Kathleen’s first thought was that it was a large bear, but then she saw that the conformation of the track was wrong. It looked more human than bear.
Cadeyrin grunted, then explained, “Forest giant, I think.”
Kathleen jerked in surprise, and looked to see if he were serious. She shook her head negatively, then said, “We’re too early for there to be any men here. When we moved back from your time to now, I was careful to move us far enough back that no humans would have come to this part of the world. There are humans right now across the seas, but my people have never found any remains from this time here on this land. The soonest any people will arrive here will be fifty-thousand years from now.”
He smiled, obviously liking what he saw as he gazed into her eyes. “Yet, there is the track. It does not tell an untruth,” he said.
She looked at the print again. It did look human, but it was quite wide and much longer than her own foot. She glanced at Cadeyrin’s moccasin-shod feet. The print dwarfed them. If foot size was indicative of the creature’s height, it would be huge.
“How large is this thing, anyway?” she asked.
Cadeyrin thought for a moment, then answered. “I’ve never seen one. They were very rare in my time. Perhaps there are more now. I’ve heard that they may be somewhat taller than me, but not much.” He held his hand a good foot over his head leading Kathleen to understand that his idea of ‘not much’ and hers differed considerably.
He added, “They are also supposed to be heavier than all but the largest man. Look at the track, see how deep it is? Now watch this.”
He stepped down in the soft earth, his foot leaving a print beside the larger one. It was only about half as deep. Kathleen knew that Cadeyrin was at least two-hundred pounds, probably more. He had very little fat, but was quite heavily muscled, something that she found incredibly attractive. She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts of his body. She estimated that meant the unseen creature weighed over four hundred pounds. It must be quite bulky.
She asked, “How strong are they?”
Cadeyrin shrugged. “I don’t know. It was said that they are much stronger than men. They are dangerous, but they only carry sticks, not pointed weapons.”
He paused again. “If they are here, they know we are here also. They may become a problem for us. The old stories say they are enemies to men. I want you to always carry a weapon. If you don’t have your rifle, at least carry a pistol. I don’t want one of them catching you by yourself and unarmed.”
Kathleen shuddered. She’d been threatened by enemy tribesmen in the past and didn’t want to relive that experience. She looked up at her mate, and said, “I promise. I’ll be careful.”
He turned and led her back the way they’d come. After a few hundred paces, he said, “Let’s go out to the forest edge. Perhaps we can find some prey there. It’s getting late and the deer will be coming out to feed.”
Kathleen mulled the afternoon’s discovery over in her mind. The idea that there was an indigenous population of possibly hostile hominins made her quite nervous. She didn’t like the thought of having to constantly watch for intelligent enemies in addition to the ever-present large predators.
If they couldn’t live safely in the here and now, then she’d have to figure out another time to move to. She briefly thought of bringing Cadeyrin back to her time. She imagined him in modern clothes walking across the university campus. He’d probably be attacked by lustful women every time he went out in public. He was, she thought, very desirable. That led her to another topic.
Cadeyrin was sitting at the table of their travel trailer, his back to her. He was working on cleaning their weapons. He had a natural ability for mechanical work. She attributed it to his mastery of flint-knapping, but wherever it came from, he had quickly learned to clean the firearms. He could field strip and reassemble them like a trained soldier.
She moved over behind him, bending to nuzzle his neck. He placed the mechanism he was cleaning on the table, and caught her arms, turning his head so that their lips met. One thing quickly led to another with the result that it was dark before they’d fixed their evening meal.
During the night she lay awake, thinking. In addition to possible competition for Cadeyrin, moving back to her time also had another drawback. It was highly likely that the government agency that had tried to co-opt her method of time-travel for military and espionage work was madly trying to find her. She didn’t think those people would give up easily.
The possible use of time-travel for espionage undoubtedly represented a true prize for the government. That was something she didn’t want to see.
The time-travel method was her discovery, and, since she was the only one who understood it, at least at present, it was her property. To have a bunch of bureaucrats trying to force her to pass the information on was not something she wanted. Yet, if it wasn’t safe here and now, they’d have to go somewhere or somewhen. She wasn’t sure what the answer was.
Well, when you don’t know what to do, the best thing is to gather more information about the choices. Either you’ll discover something that helps you make up your mind, or the situation will change while you’re waiting, she thought.
Kathleen decided to shelve the problem for awhile. Perhaps the answer would be clear tomorrow.
I’ll post another chapter later so you can have a decent preview of the story.