Read Erasing Time Online

Authors: C. J. Hill

Tags: #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #Science Fiction

Erasing Time

BOOK: Erasing Time
2.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Contents

Cover

Title Page

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Credits

Copyright

Back Ad

About the Publisher

chapter
1

It was as good a day as any to plan treason.

Echo’s hands moved over the computer control panels in a quick rhythm until an aerial picture of Traventon appeared on the screen. He enlarged the wilderness that bordered the domed city, searching for any sign of a path. In order to escape from the city, he needed to find a safe route—the route others took when they fled.

The date code on the picture said it was eighteen years old. From before the war with Chicago. Had the area changed since then? It might have.

If Echo could find the encoded site where the government kept recent pictures, he could splice into it. But that would be dangerous. It was illegal to do unauthorized searches. The Information Department kept track of the government sites, and the more important the data was, the harder it was to search it undetected. No point in taking risks he didn’t have to take. People had been given memory washes for less. Anyway, a recent picture might not help him any more than this one. People had been escaping from the city for decades, so if a trail existed, he might be able to see it in this picture too.

A massive forest spread out to the east of the city, greener next to the river that supplied the city’s water. Toward the west, the vegetation became sparse and interspersed with brown and gray rock. The deep shadows indicated height, although whether they showed hills or mountains, Echo couldn’t tell. To the north of the dome was the scattered wreckage of the old city: Denver, destroyed in the raids of the twenty-third century. When Echo was a baby, his father had gone there with an archaeological team to rummage through the rubble for artifacts. But that had been nearly two decades ago, before the vikers became such a danger. Now the wilderness was so infested with the criminal bands that no one was allowed outside the city walls unless they had a good reason and a strong weapon.

Echo had a laser box hidden in a false compartment in his closet. It was one more secret, one more danger that he wouldn’t have thought himself capable of a few months ago.

He went back to studying the photo and the dome that had always been his home. He didn’t want to leave his father, his friends—everything—but if he stayed, the Dakine would kill him. He only had weeks, days maybe, before assassins came for him. The secret society didn’t waste time on trials or the sort of bureaucracy that made the government so slow. They just hunted you down.

Echo rotated the picture on the computer screen, hoping a different perspective would show him something—some clue as to which way people went when they left Traventon. The most logical route was along the river. It would provide travelers water if they had disinfectors with them.

Echo zoomed in on the river. He didn’t have a disinfector, but he had another advantage. He had access to historical documents. He knew that before disinfectors, people boiled water to make it safe. It had been easy enough for him to compile a solar-powered heat coil.

The best direction to go would be south. It was warmer. He’d gleaned this fact from historical documents too: stories he’d read about cowboys riding across dry, dusty lands and women who sat in the shade fanning themselves. There was also something called cacti, which were sharp and painful but not fast moving, so he ought to be able to avoid those.

Whether any of the southern cities would risk taking him in was another matter. He had computer skills worth paying for, but no way to convince anyone he wasn’t a spy.

The door to the Wordlab slid open, drawing Echo’s attention away from the computer. He expected to see one of the wordsmiths coming in. Instead, two black-clad Enforcers strode into the room.

Echo’s hands jerked to a stop on the control panel. It was treason to try to leave the city, and he had an aerial picture of Traventon on his computer, the dome of the city in full view. Would it look too suspicious to close out the screen, or was it better to make up an excuse—pretend he was doing some sort of authorized research?

He sat frozen in his chair, undecided, caught in his own panic. The Enforcers walked toward him, their faces barely visible through their helmet shields. It was impossible to read their expressions. Did they already know? Just before the men reached his desk, Echo ran his fingers over the keyboard. It wasn’t subtle, but the photo of Traventon disappeared from his screen.

He put on a disinterested expression.

“Echo Monterro?” one of the men asked.

“Yes.”

“We’re here to escort you to the Scicenter. Jeth’s request.”

So they didn’t know what he’d been researching, hadn’t been tracking his activities. Echo relaxed in his chair. “Why does my father want me at the Scicenter?”

The man simply motioned toward the door.

Echo didn’t ask for more information. It wasn’t wise to question Enforcers. He stood and walked awkwardly between them to the door.

Echo had been to the Scicenter before, usually to get age dating on an artifact or to get virus sweeps on something the Histocenter had borrowed from another city’s archaic collection. This time the Enforcers took him past the main floors to the restricted section on the fourth floor. They strode down a wide hallway, then turned into a narrow one. It led to a room with
LAB
15 inscribed on the door.

When the door slid open, it took Echo a moment to find Jeth. His father was one of about ten men, most of whom were either huddled around computer terminals or congregated in front of a large machine. It stood at least four meters high and had cables trailing from its top and a glass cubicle sticking out of the middle, like an elevator that had been fused to a short building.

Jeth was off to one side, regarding the structure warily.

Echo walked away from the Enforcers and joined him. “This seems like a fun gathering. We’ve got a roomful of scientists, Enforcers, and a huge, scary-looking machine.” His gaze circled the room again. “Why exactly are we here?”

“Probably for nothing.” Jeth kept staring at the machine. “I doubt it will work. It’s just the government’s latest way to deplete the city’s funds.” He shook his head with the same resignation he used whenever he talked about taxes. “They call it the Time Strainer. They’re trying to retrieve a man from the early twenty-first century.”

Echo’s gaze snapped back to the machine. “That’s impossible.”

Jeth nodded. “I’m sure the scientists got generous salaries anyway.”

Echo stared at the jutting angles of the crystal booth—a booth, he realized, that was waiting for an occupant. Time waves had been a topic of scientific discussion for years, but he couldn’t believe the government had been so reckless that they’d actually built a machine. Had they even considered the possible consequences?

Well, they had considered one consequence at least. The scientists knew they would need help communicating with someone from so long ago. Jeth was one of Traverton’s senior historians and a wordsmith as well. Echo had just finished his apprenticeship in the same studies. The two of them could translate the old speech.

The scientists walked back and forth between the booth and the nearby control screen, bristling with nervous energy—except for one man. He stood by the control screen with his arms folded. His long black-and-gray-striped hair framed a serious, scowling face. He surveyed the rest of the men with irritation.

So he was probably in charge.

And then Echo realized who the man was. Carver Helix. The science chairman himself.

The title
science chairman
was a misnomer, since Helix was more government official than scientist. But still, the fact that he was here meant this was an important project. “Who do they plan to take from the past?” Echo asked.

“A scientist,” Jeth said. “Tyler Sherwood.”

Echo didn’t say anything else; the implications of this machine kept multiplying in his mind. If this Time Strainer worked, would the government be able to pull anyone from any time into this room? World leaders? Inventors? Enemies?

They would alter history whether they meant to or not. And they probably meant to. Echo stood by the crystal chamber, waited, and desperately hoped it wouldn’t work.

chapter
2

Learning physics, Sheridan decided, wasn’t a necessary part of a fulfilling life. It required you to remember all sorts of laws. Not rules, not suggestions. Laws. Like high school didn’t already have enough things you had to remember. Besides, Sheridan wanted to become an English professor, and they never used physics.

She sat down on her bed and picked up a pencil, feeling like a martyr while she waited for her sister, Taylor, to start her tutoring session.

Taylor wasn’t in any hurry. She stood in front of the mirror applying smoky eye shadow to her eyelids.

“So,” Sheridan said, “this is all going to make sense after you explain it?”

Taylor tilted her head, surveying her work. “Physics always makes sense. Your ability to comprehend it is another matter.”

Sheridan rolled her eyes.
Physics always makes sense
. She and Taylor were identical twins, but their similarities stopped with their looks and their birth date. Taylor had leapfrogged over school grades, had graduated high school at age thirteen and college at sixteen. She was now working on a doctoral program in particle physics at UT while Sheridan and every other eighteen-year-old in Knoxville, Tennessee, were plowing through their senior year. So having Taylor for a twin was enough to make anyone feel stupid, even when she didn’t spout off glib little statements about how easy physics was.

BOOK: Erasing Time
2.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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