Chapter 0:

Prologue

Challengers


The only light in my prison cell comes through a slit in the wall, a crack so small it might have been just a fault in the crude masonry. I press my face against the cold concrete, scanning the sky outside as my heart pounds with a mixture of dread and eagerness.Bookmark here


Like a medieval nobleman of old I’m being held in a tower, although technically my cell is just part of the outer wall of the city-sized pyramid that is the Chiba-1 arcology. Because of my constricted view, I can’t look down at the dense forest hundreds of meters below me or the clouds dotting the blue skies overhead.
Bookmark here

I don’t know what time it is. My watch was taken from me, along with my clothes, possessions, and self-respect. I wonder if my arrest caused me to miss the departure of my former shipmates.Bookmark here

A feeling like a knife twisting in my gut -- something I’d actually experienced during the war -- comes over me as I think about my friends in the past tense.Bookmark here

How did this happen? I ask myself for the hundredth time. I didn’t do anything wrong!

I’d been yanked out of the war-torn Earth of 1983 and hurled into the new century of 2123, where I’d made a place for myself with a crew that were like my brothers and sisters.Bookmark here

As my mind wanders down the path of recent memory, the ship comes into view.Bookmark here

The grav-carrier Mistral Challenger glides past at eye level with the slow majesty of a gigantic marine mammal. Like a desert survivor gulping water, I drink in all the details: the hull painted in the blue-and-gray of the Japanese Aeronautical Exploration Agency; the Japanese and JAXA flags fluttering from the masts; navigation lights blinking on and off around the hull’s perimeter; the fin-shaped superstructure containing the control bridge, where right now…Bookmark here

…right now, a young woman sits at her station.Bookmark here

Wondering why I betrayed her and the rest of my crew.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Anomalies. “Rips.” Holes in space and time that connected one location on Earth with another location in another period of time. Some were temporary, lasting for mere seconds. Others were stable and showed no signs of disappearing. Their dimensions ranged from a pinpoint to the size of an archipelago. You could pass through a rip and find yourself in the ancient past or the far future. No one knows where they came from, but there was a rumor that the rips were man-made.

Governments kept the existence of the anomalies secret as long as they could. Those who discovered rips leading to the future and brought back advanced technology were guaranteed power. Billionaire technocrats built their fortunes on the exploited technologies, and even in 1983 it was evident that the megacorporations were competing with, and in some cases displacing, national governments.Bookmark here

In Japan, the secret of the anomalies leaked when a massive rip appeared on an island in the Pacific, southeast of Chiba. The anomaly was miles across. Communications with the island were completely cut off.Bookmark here

The Japanese government suspected the Soviets had invaded the island and sent out a sizable force to recapture it.Bookmark here

I was a US Army liaison officer attached to the Japanese 1st Airborne Brigade at Narashino, so we moved out before anyone else. But as our Hercules C-130’s came in on final approach to the dropzone, the transport I was on clipped the invisible edge of the anomaly, shattering the starboard wing.

We were traveling at 160 knots when the airframe disintegrated. Bookmark here

Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.