The Escape is written by Ray Smith, a Canadian best-selling author who discovered his forte in science fiction. Ray Smith hits light speed with this alien adventure and world espionage series. Shifts in Time goes beyond James Bond™, X-Files™, and Star Trek™ in a sci-fi saga that enters the fourth dimension and aims to unleash a superhero that the world has never seen. These alien shapeshifters race against time and themselves to save their planet and ultimately their species. This series will unleash a superhero in the third novel that will draw big giants like DC and Marvel into the ring to fight with their gloves on, for future worldwide rights. Stay close, this series is written for the big screen. This sci-fi series that promises to bring you a superhero that you will love and hate.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. EARTH YEAR 2012
Agent Roger Thompson was late again! Stephanie Smith, his partner, winced as he sent her jeep into another hard turn. The black vehicle caught a little gravel, tires spinning for a second, and then was expertly accelerated out of the turn. Roger seemed to be under the impression that the city streets were his own personal racetrack. “Slow down.” Stephanie didn’t really want him to slow, she loved the adrenaline rush that was created by speed, but as his friend, she felt she needed to say something.
“The game must be close to being over,” was his only comment as he touched the brake, banked wide then stomped the gas confidently cutting to the inside. The driver of a gray minivan honked his horn and gave him an obscene hand gesture.
“Did you see that, you have another fan!” Hanging on, Stephanie enjoyed the wind whipping through her luxurious dark hair. Hidden behind her pilot glasses were azure colored eyes, big, bold and beautiful, drawing attention wherever she went. All in all she was a very attractive woman. “It’s only little league baseball. What makes it so important to break all speed records to get there?”
“I missed the last three games that my daughter played.”
“What’s one more?”
“This one I promised.”
Stephanie knew Roger’s promises. He was a man of his word and his motto was a promise made is a promise kept. He never broke them. On one occasion they had been on an assignment in Venezuela and he dropped everything, boarded a plane bound for Washington, a red eye, to catch his little girl’s seventh birthday, then flew back, all on his own expense. The agency never even knew of his absence. Roger had made a few promises to her too. In the twelve years she had known him, he never failed. She understood Roger’s urgency now. His daughter, Amanda, was playing baseball, and he promised he would be there. She was expecting him, and he was late as usual.
Stephanie wished she could remember her father. Her parents died when she was young leaving a trust fund to be released to her when she turned twenty-one. Orphaned and raised by the State, Roger was her closest friend. Their friendship was something she cherished. Growing up at the orphanage, she did not have a true friend until she met Roger. Bracing herself as they approached another turn, she began regretting letting him drive. Still in her flight suit, she thought she would enjoy being a passenger for a change. She was wrong.
Their recent assignment in Mexico had run a little past schedule. Chasing possible UFO sightings and other paranormal activity had taken them all over the world and to a lot of dead ends. Both working for the National Security Agency (NSA), and their favorite mode of transportation was super sonic jet. Over- worked and always suffering a touch of jet lag, they both considered this a bit of a holiday compared to their earlier days.
The sound of young boys and girls playing ball grew louder as they turned into the park. Screeching to a halt, Roger turned off the ignition and tossed Stephanie the keys. “I hope I didn’t scare you with my driving.”
“Any more fun and I thought I would have to pay, almost as good as the carnival but you didn’t go backwards.” She smiled. “Wait.” Stephanie reached behind the driver’s seat and pulled out a shoebox.
“It is your birthday present. All I’ll say is that it isn’t a pair of shoes.” Knowing Roger collected baseball caps and boxer shorts, she picked him up a Top Gun cap from the academy. The boxer shorts might give him the wrong idea.
Roger hoped she didn’t go overboard. He rubbed his square jaw line feeling the beginning of a five-o-clock shadow and brushed his dark brown hair back. He was still was a little uncomfortable working with someone who didn’t need to work for a living. What made her go through college and pilot training instead of sailing in the Bahamas? He could only hope it was her obsession with the unknown. Roger smiled when he looked inside the shoebox. Kissing her on the cheek, he added, “Thanks for remembering.” Pulling the baseball cap on, he put the box aside and searched for his daughter.
Stephanie watched him move changing as he walked toward the children, not on the outside but on the inside. Each step of his tall commanding frame brought him closer to being the loving father that he was and further away from the skilled and deadly operator that the agency had helped him become. She hoped he would never have to make the choice between his family and his career. His gentle appearance was deceiving. She had seen it first hand. He was like a playful cougar with razor-sharp claws; if you decided to get close to him, you learned to be careful. Sliding into the driver’s seat, Stephanie adjusted the mirror. Her youthful appearance showed no sign of the lonely life she chose to lead.
Forgetting the last few weeks, Roger picked out his daughter from the other players. She was in the on deck circle with her oversized helmet, a ponytail hung carefree from underneath and her team uniform was covered in dust. She was tiny for nine. Somehow she knew he was close because she looked over her shoulder right at him. Running, she left the bat behind her. “Daddy.”
He smiled and opened his arms. This was what he called her running hug. With a soft thud, she threw her arms around him. “You made it.”
“You knew I would.”
“I remember you promised, but when the game started I didn’t see you.”
“Well at least I can see you hit.”
“Oh yeah, I’m up next.” With that he turned her around and flipped her on his shoulders.
Walking to the diamond, he felt guilty as she hollered, “Hey, this is my dad,” to the boy she liked. It reminded him how often he was out of town that she had to point him out on the few occasions that he was home.
Eager to show off for her dad, Amanda hustled back to the on deck circle to retrieve her bat. Walking to the plate, she turned around to make sure her father’s eyes were on her. The first pitch was wide. Nudging her helmet up, she glanced once again at her father. He was standing beside her mom watching. Silently she wished they would get back together.
Focusing on the next pitch, she swung and hit a grounder down the third base line. By a fraction of a second she beat the throw to first. Safe, she watched Billy walk up to the plate. Roger glanced at the next batter; he was exceptionally big for ten years old.
“I thought you wouldn’t make it.”
Without taking his eyes off his daughter on base, he answered his ex. “I couldn’t miss it. You know that.”
“I know. You promised, but it is already the ninth inning. Does that still count?”
“I really don’t want to argue. I wish you would let me enjoy the little bit of game that’s left. What’s the score?”
“They are down by one. I guess you would say it is, do or die. Sorry about that, we shouldn’t be arguing today, I almost forgot it was your birthday. Happy birthday.”
“Thanks.” He took his eyes off his daughter for an instant to look his ex-wife in the eyes. They were best friends now. It was better this way, friends that could grow old together rather than a married couple constantly at battle. He didn’t know if they would ever get back together again but she was still special in his heart. Each day she seemed to be less of the person who pushed him out of her life and more of the person he wanted to be with, to start over again without the same mistakes, the same emotional pain.
“I have a surprise for you.”
“You didn’t have to.”
She was going to say something when they heard the crack of the bat and the cheers from the dug out. A pop fly to center field. Amanda ran remembering her coach’s advise, run on anything.
Billy ran to first watching his fly ball. It was a tiny black dot against the glow of the sun.
Gold Stone Tracking Station (NASA) California
The blip on the radar screen appeared on the eastern edge of the hemisphere. Major Brewer of the United States Air Force noticed that the young Corporal was tense as he focused on the unidentified target.
“What is it Corporal Stevens?”
“Sir, it is definitely not one of ours! At first I thought it was an error, a glitch or something, but it keeps coming.”
Major Brewer watched as Corporal Stevens investigated the data. The blip continued to move across the screen at an incredible speed. His ulcer started acting up; his stomach didn’t believe in glitches. Others gathered around, talking in hushed tones. All eyes focused on the radar screens. Corporal Stevens frantically recalculated the data.
“What is wrong with your first read out Corporal?” The major’s voice was sharp like a whip. He hated training inexperienced recruits, he hated surprises, and now he had to deal with both. The Corporal was a FNG, a fucking new guy. This was only his second shift and now he had an unidentified craft in his airspace.
“There must be some mistake sir,” Corporal Stevens answered shakily, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead. “No ship of ours travels 4800 miles per hour.”
The personnel around him were silent. Was it a comet? The air seemed to be standing still, like being on the edge of a moment and not letting go. Abruptly the blip changed course. The Corporal keyed his computer, the new trajectory was calculated. It was definitely not a comet, but whatever it was, it would be traveling right over their heads in the next fifteen minutes. Major Brewer reached for the phone, breaking the eerie silence, “Get me the Pentagon.”
Three minutes later, Rear Admiral Davies of the Pacific Ocean based Carrier, the U.S.S. Nimitz Three, received a level four message. Sirens erupted and men scrambled as waves crashed against their ship. Two F22 Stealth Fighters were untied. Shawn “Saber” Douglas cut his phone call short, left his coffee untouched and dashed to the change room. Russell “Renegade” Williams was already easing into his g-suit, helmet, and oxygen mask.
Renegade, known as the wild man who got results, stood in front of his locker as Saber outfitted. Saber was unusually quiet. His nickname came from his sharp tongue and rapier wit. The sirens were still blaring but there was always enough time to pray, at least for Renegade. Before every flight, with his gold cross in hand, he prayed. Saber gave Renegade a look of understanding, he was familiar with the ritual. They had flown hundreds of missions together. Bursting out the door, he left Renegade to pray.
“Lord, I think this is the real thing. Please watch over Saber. His baby is due in three weeks and needs a father. I never had one and look how I turned out. You know. You see everything. With my friends I can pretend, but I’ll never fool you. I am just one hot dogger that doesn’t want to grow up. Saber, he’s different. Especially now that he’s a family man.” The sirens roared louder. It was time to jet.
“Gotta go Lord. Bring us back alive.”
Renegade truly wished he could take his lucky cross with him, but due to strict regulations concerning foreign objects, he couldn’t. After hanging the charm on the hook reserved for it, next to a picture of his pride and joy, a red Vigor Yamaha 750 Motorcycle, he locked the door and hustled toward the flight deck.
After climbing into the cockpit, the ground team hooked the air pump to the tube that protruded from the left side of his flight suit. Renegade was quickly ratcheted into his straps. Withdrawing the streamers from the cockpit side, his seat was now ‘hot’. Secure in his seat, the canopy slid forward and down locking him in for takeoff. The whine of the jets grew, while flagmen, high strung and energetic, guided them.
Looking down from his cockpit, Renegade smiled as he watched the flagman to his side. It was Larry, the ship’s comedian, who should have been touring for Yuk Yuks. He jumped up and down, flags snapping from side to side. Larry lived for these moments; he was center stage. Today was the real thing. Pumped, theatrical, and yet precise, Larry finished his movements. The takeoff zone was clear for the two jets.
Lights changed from red to green, the flags were waved and the fighters exploded into motion. The exhaust flames orange, the afterburners kicked in and Saber’s jet ate up the short runway. With a brief ground roll, he pitched left then shot up into the sky and vanished. Renegade released his breaks. The eerie quiet in his helmet was like the calm before the storm. “OK. Lord, I’m ready.” With a WHOOOSSHHH, he rocketed low, his jet blast vibrating the ocean below. Pinned to his seat, he streaked over the water, picked up speed, and then went vertical. “Come on,” he screamed at his jet, pushing the raw power. Climbing at fifty thousand feet per minute, he blasted through the clouds. “Oh yeah, time for some speed.”
Swinging the nose to the horizon, Renegade rolled 360 degrees. Setting an intercept course, he came within visual contact of his partner. They were a team. Renegade pulled into an inverted roll, came up beside Saber, and checked his instruments: altitude thirty thousand feet, speed 500 knots.
He gave Saber a thumbs up. It looked wrong being upside down, so he switched it, then eased the throttle ahead. The Mach meter climbed to .80, .90, .95, 1.0, 1.1. They were supersonic, breaking the sound barrier and closing in on the unidentified object fast. Rolling again till he was right side up, he slid into a tight formation at super cruise, Mach 1.7 on the meter.
Most aircraft are designed with little black boxes. They are used as location indicators. The UFO had no such box, there was no exact way to know the altitude. If they didn’t locate the unidentified craft soon, it would fly right by them and out of their reach. Saber thrust his jet up, climbing, searching the sky. Renegade shot forward, red-lining his engines, the blip on the screen converging. As they closed, he forced his metal bird into a sharp turn, banking hard. Coming out of the turn, he was now leading the unseen craft, but it was gaining on him. His fighter jet was still new to him. The military wasn’t supposed to get the first shipment until 2014 but they managed to get ten early. It had NightHawk Stealth combined with combat maneuverability, integrated avionics, and eight air-to-air missiles built internally.
“Where are you? Come on, I’m right here. Where the fuck are you?” Renegade rocked his jet, alternately dropping each wing then the other, looking around and waiting for the approaching mystery. His computer found it and outlined a shoot solution. Renegade couldn’t see it, then all of a sudden, it filled the sky. He couldn’t believe his eyes. It was huge! “Oh my God . . . “
“Gold Stone, this is red leader one, your eye in the sky. I have visual contact. I say again, I have visual contact. It is definitely a ship of some kind, larger than anything I have ever seen.” It was in his flight path. He pitched his jet left.
Saber homed in on the signal of Renegade’s jet. Together they would give chase. The UFO slowed, matching their speed as if curious. They were just blips on the monitors, but up above, the sky was alive with tons of steel cutting through the clouds at supersonic speeds.
Kelton, at the controls of the Mantis, noticed the two fighters. They had disengaged the cloaking device to allow them to scan the planet’s surface. There were three possible locations that registered traces of the Carta Stones’ unique signature. Now they had uninvited company. Kelton slowed the ship and armed the weapon system.
“No.” It was Raylar. He took his position in the Captain’s chair. Both jets were converging. They seemed so tiny compared to their craft but Raylar couldn’t take any chances. One was flying right at them then turned quickly to avoid the midair collision.
“Blow them away or engage the cloaking device.”
Raylar stared at Kelton, so much anger inside. “Computer, shields full power.”
“Shields activated.” The synthesized voice responded.
“Why not cloak? They won’t be able to see us.”
“We’re sending Tori to the planet’s surface. We can’t transport her with the cloaking device engaged.”
Tori took pride in being chosen. It had only been twenty-four hours ago when the time travelers touched down on their planet, so many things had changed. She glanced at Raylar with acceptance. Distracted by a communiqué coming through on her wireless headset, she touched her temple with her hand in concentration, focusing her thoughts on the transmission. “They are hailing us in over a hundred languages. What should we say?”
“Nothing. We are not here to make friends.”
Kelton sat down in the firing position. The chair lifted and swiveled. Lowering the black visor, he started to track the two jets. “If I even think they are going to attack, I am going to take them out.”
Raylar’s voice was calm. “We can out fly, out maneuver, out run and out gun them. It is not even a contest. We are here to save Fyte, our planet, our civilization, not to destroy theirs!”
Kelton’s chair swiveled again in response to the jet’s flight paths. It seemed to float on air, the magnetic force fields shifted as the jets’ movements were calculated, and then an attack solution inputted. Kelton watched the cross hairs follow the two steel prey like a trained sniper. His thumb pressed the safety, releasing it.
“Computer. Take us to forty thousand feet.”
The Mantis shot straight up like a bullet. The jets were close, too close. The sonic wave from the Mantis hit them unexpectedly like a wall.
Renegade’s jet had been closing the distance when it happened. “Saber, I hit their turbulence. Pull back.” The force threw his jet into a frenzy. Renegade fought his controls as his jet started to spin.
High above the clouds, the Mantis’ view screen displayed the spinning jet. Raylar was quick to react. “Computer calculate impact and projected crash site including potential casualties.”
The computer extrapolated the data. The view screen zoomed to a busy interstate, then the number of estimated casualties flashed on the bottom of the screen. “Two hundred and three casualties.”
Raylar knew what he had to do but he didn’t like it. “Kelton, when the pilot ejects, take out the jet before it hits the surface.”
Kelton watched and waited. Every second counted as he set his sights on both jets. Armed, ready and impatient, he hovered over the firing sequence.
Inside the cockpit, Renegade continued to fight for control. His body was struggling with consciousness while he used every ounce of strength and determination to inch toward the eject lever. His outstretched fingers, shook with the turbulence, he could hear Saber’s voice over the communications when he managed to get his hand around the lever. Not responding to Saber’s call he said a little prayer. “God, if you get me home alive, I will …”
The jet exploded. An ion laser pulse from above disintegrated the bird of steel into a ball of fire, white heat evaporated the structure and passenger instantaneously.
Saber heard his partner’s warning but it was already too late. The last thing he saw was Renegade’s jet exploding when his aircraft was hit from above. He had no time to put his hand on the emergency eject lever, the explosion ended everything.
The Mantis hovered, not moving. Tori closed her eyes. She felt the pilots die. Raylar sat still in his chair, their ship now hovering at forty thousand feet. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Kelton glared at Raylar, his leader, waiting.
“I said to take out one of the jets before it caused the death of innocent people. You are out of control. They didn’t have to die.”
Kelton raised the black visor on his helmet and powered down the chair. Rising, he spoke. “This isn’t the first time we haven’t seen eye to eye. Something inside of me, stronger than what you believe is right and wrong, told me to do it. Part me, part the time traveler I cloned, we are tired of being second guessed.” He shook his head.
Raylar knew what was happening. It was the host form, the human that Kelton touched back on their planet, an unfinished argument. How much were their thoughts influenced by the personae inside them? It was happening too fast. These experiences were still so new to them.
Kelton turned his back on his two friends. It was time to take control. They were all dying. If he didn’t choose now, it would be too late. Why save the planet and trap themselves below the surface of the planet again to merely exist? He was finally living, even if he only had a little time to feel, to explore. If Tori and Raylar changed the past, he would cease to exist, cease to feel. Returning to his old existence of living under the surface of his planet seemed like a prison to him now. Kelton activated the transporter sequence. His body faded to tiny snowflakes of static, then completely disappeared with a flash of light.
“Wait,” Tori screamed, but she was too late!
“Let him go. He has a personal agenda. Tori, we are on our own.”
“But doesn’t he know he is dying? We are all dying! Why would he leave?”
Raylar knew Lieutenant Laan’s persona was influencing Kelton. The legends were true then. Soon, they would lose control of who they were. Each time they cloned, the battle inside them would be harder to win. He looked at Tori, she was his last chance. “To die with feeling is better than to live without. Kelton wants to live, to chase his dream, to live out whatever life he has left. If he reaches the stone first, the future may never be the same. You must hurry.”
“Hurry? What do you mean?”
“Our planet’s only hope is you. There are three locations according to our data. One in Los Angeles, California, another in Lima, Peru, and the last possible location is Berlin, Germany.”
“There were only two stones missing. How could there be three locations?”
“It is still a mystery but we can’t stand around while time ticks away. I don’t know who or what our greatest enemy is, Kelton or time. Equip yourself. I’m transporting you to California. I’ll wait one sixth of the earth’s rotation if you need me. After that I will be waiting for you in Berlin. One of us has to beat Kelton to the right location and return to the ship.”
Tori strapped on her wrist communicator. It linked her to the ship, and to Raylar. Its powerful transmitter allowed access to the ship’s central computer and its functions. The meter was green indicating the cloaking device was still disengaged. “Kelton is changing inside, will that happen to all of us?”
“We are Shifts. We can control who we choose to clone, but we have no control of the new feelings, memories and attitudes that flow into our minds. That means our actions may no longer be ours to control.” Raylar confirmed the coordinates then triggered the transporter. In a heartbeat she was gone. Pausing for a second, Raylar looked around. He was alone. “Child, I will be your guardian angel as long as this body keeps me alive.” Engaging the cloaking device, he sat down to think. Three Shifts racing against time, he didn’t like the odds.
The personnel in the radar control room were all focusing on the blips on the display. Major Brewer raised his eyebrows as his two fighters disappeared from the screen. The larger unidentified target was still there, and then it too disappeared. The radar crew around him was silent. Phone still in hand, the major spoke into the receiver, “Mr. President, we have a problem!”