Observation Point: Cassandra 
 By: James B. Wright
 March 7th, 2016

Chapter One: A Less than Chance Encounter.

Sandy charged passed the reception desk without even a word to the manager or hostess. A brief look back told her all she needed to know, that dreadful old man was still following her. He had just come through the restaurant door some fifteen feet behind her. She did not know who he was, but she did know that he meant her harm. Sandy remembered his old and withered face and glaring dark eyes from another time when he had tried to… yes now she was sure of it he was trying to kill her. How had he found her? Something had happened. Everything was now different including roads, buildings, even people. Sandy did not know where she was. It had become all too bizarre and confusing.
 Moving quickly toward the seated customers all snug at their appointed tables, suddenly Sandy halted directly in front of a man as he rose to stand by a waiting table intended for two. Pausing and totally forgetting her turmoil, she studied his features. He was taller than she expected at well over six feet with a rugged, lean frame. His blue/green eyes contrasted with his olive skin tones but in a nice way. His hair was a thick, deep brown, cut short which gave it a neat, well-trimmed look. His face was handsome in a slightly cherubic way. His purple knit shirt, khaki pants and brown tennis shoes were casual; however there was something else here too. She felt, no make that, she knew that he was capable of leaping into action at a moment’s notice. 
 “You, you are so familiar. I know you”…. Sandy looked back behind her and saw that the old man. He looked directly at them and then turned abruptly and quickly left the restaurant. “You ran that man off before and again just now he quit following me, because…he’s afraid of you. And I think… you were here waiting for me to come… to you,” her voice now failing her as the words trailed off in a fit of quick inspirations. 
 He smiled revealing rather pleasing dimples and gestured her to take a seat at his table. As she sat down Sandy expression was questioning. 
 “How is it that you never seem to age?” she asked.

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Chapter 2: The funeral for Aunt Cassie.

Jakarta Rowen sat unmoving for several minutes in the front left pew of the small chapel. After a while as the piped in music morbidly played low in the background, Jake became slowly aware of the rain pattering of the stain glass window just to his left. The rolled open pane allowed a sweet, cool whisper of fall air that helped to relieve the overly warm tiny room. A few friends had come in to pay their respects including their neighbors Jim and Carrie Smith to whom Cassie had been especially close. 
 Jake is what Cassie had always called him. Now alone with only the casket of his aunt resting a few feet away Jake’s thoughts began to wonder. He tried focusing upon her casket. It was a mahogany case with brass handles and very comfortable looking padding of white and a pale shade of purple. Those were Cassie’s favorite colors. She was a Texas Christian Horned Frog through and through. She now looked well as she laid there at peace as if gently asleep. The many months of dementia along with lung and heart failure seemed now to be just a trifling thing. Jake knew better. Cassie’s death was drawn out and very difficult for her. 
 Cassie was his last living relative and at that she was his aunt by marriage to an uncle he had never known. However, Cassie had taken him in when he was just eight after his parents had died. She had cared for him so faithfully despite her health issues. She was as much his mother as his aunt. His earliest memory was of her. When as a small child he remembered a voice, a deep male one, saying, “You are Jake Rowen and you are on your way to visit your Aunt Cassie.” Why he had heard those words he never knew for sure. It was as if the universe had deemed them to be linked. 
 Now she had died and Jake had never felt so empty and alone. He became lost in a flood of memories when presently he was aware of two men standing next to him. 
 They were dressed all in black except for their white shirts. Oddly they wore black hats in a fashion of men in the mid twentieth century and sunglasses even though it was a dark and stormy day.
 “Dr. Rowen?” one of them asked. 
 Jake stood up and offered his hand. “It was nice of you to come.” 
 Neither man took it. Slowly Jake dropped his hand. Comically it occurred to him that this strange couple sort of reminded him of characters from some movie. One of them was tall and thin and the other was a bit on the heavy side. Jake blinked and tried not to consider that just now. 
 “I haven’t earned my doctorate just yet. I just finish my thesis,” Jake said. 
 “You study physics do you not,” the heavier man said.

“Just what do you want?” Jake asked now feeling a bit put off. 
 “We are from the government and we wish to purchase your aunt’s house,” the tall one said. Stranger now than ever, the man’s mouth seem to barely move as his words came out loud and clear.
 “This is hardly the time or place for such a discussion. Hell I haven’t even settled my Aunt’s estate.”
 The two of them seem to be talking to one another but the words just not audible to Jake. Stranger yet they did not even look toward one another as they chatted. Jake felt suddenly light headed and the two men sort of moved away almost as if they were standing on a tread mill rolling backwards. Jake heard the heavy set one say something about meeting with him later when the time was right. The world seemed to spin and eventually Jake found himself seated on the pew once more. Jake looked about the chapel and all was as it had been except the rain was no longer falling in fact it had become sunny and much warmer. About this time the funeral director approached him. He reminded Jake of a movie Count Dracula.
 “Are you ready to proceed to the graveside ceremony?” he asked with what sounded a bit like an eastern European accent. 
 “Yes but I don’t what those two men to come anywhere near us.”

“I am sorry Mr. Rowen, what two men were you referring to? You have been alone in here for the last thirty minutes.”
 Had Jake been so distraught that he had imagined them? He had not sleep well lately so perhaps it was all just a dream. That must have been it. 
 “Never mind, let’s just get on with it,” Jake replied. “It may rain some more do you have an umbrella I can use?”
 “Certainly Sir, but I hardly think that will be necessary as there is no rain in the forecast,” said the funeral Director replied.

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Chapter 3: Vern Dietrich

The elderly man sat slumped shouldered on a park bench. He needed a shave and his cloths were filthy. His old style grey suit was wrinkled and ill-fitting as it was much too large for him. He looked all the world like a homeless man and the effect was accentuated by his blank stare. Vern Dietrich was profoundly stunned by the turn of events he had just been through or at least it felt like he had just been there. In his mind…no it was real, he was a young but very proud boy marching down the street of Washington D.C. with is banner held high. Crowds of war weary Americans stood by near silent in despair. By his side his father walked with Vern, a smile on his face, shoulders straight and his head held high. Victory was theirs…
 Suddenly it was gone, all of it! There were no marching bands playing blaring military music. There were no grandstands holding all those dignitaries from around the world. Along the parade route soldiers no longer stood. All was starkly now quiet. The once cold, blue sky gave way to a hot, still afternoon with high wispy clouds and bright intense sunshine. Once again he was old and he had failed.
 It was their fault, especially her. She had been the reason why he had left his father’s side. Vern had no choice. The girl must die. The world must be reset again. His heroes must prevail. There was simple no other way it could ever be. 
 Vern stood up abruptly arm extended and hand held straight, “Heil Hitler” he shouted out to a park empty except for a few birds and a small chipmunk who peered back at Vern as if the man had lost his mind. 
 
 Meanwhile parked upon an adjacent street two men both dressed in black were sitting in a black Crown Victoria observing Vern. 
 “Well Mr. Wood it looks like we have more work to do,” said the heavier man. 
 “Indeed it does Mr. Jay,” responded the thin one.

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Chapter 4: The observation point

Since his parent’s death, Jake had lived in Aunt Cassie’s older brick home just west of TCU’s football stadium. He and the rest of the kids in the neighborhood had dubbed the reddish brown structure “the castle” due to the turret like structure adjacent to the front entryway and the general over all visual impression of a medieval dwelling. There were other older homes in the area that carried the titles of “witch hallow”, “H&G’s gingerbread house” and “the manor” due to their unique exteriors. In recent years some of these classic older dwellings were being torn down and replaced by modern mansions. Jake thought that was a shame and yes Aunt Cassie had received many unsolicited offers to buy her place for just such replacement ventures. It seems the lots were far more valuable than the houses upon them. So the offer from the men dressed like sci-fi characters at the funeral was not really all that unusual. Well maybe it was not. They were very strange. Jake kind of figured that Count Dracula was in league with them. It was sort of “hit the guy” while he was most vulnerable. Regardless Jake was not even considering selling the place. Now that her estate had been settled it was his home and he planned to live there for a very long time. Jake knew Cassie would have approved.
 
 Later that night Jake had settled in by the desk in his bedroom. He was trying to read some light chat from his computer just to make himself begin to become sleepy. With the door open to the rest of the house, from here he could see across the living room on to the entrance hall. The house was dark except for the weak light imitating from a distant street light. 
 Presently he became aware of a feeling of being watched. Jake looked up and near the front door stood an outline of a woman. He focused on her face and despite the shadows she was recognizable.
 “Aunt Cassie?”
 The figure seemed to blur and then Jake became aware of a strange sensation. It was as though the keys upon his laptop were dissolving under his touch. He tore his eyes away from the figure and he saw the computer flexing to his touch as if it were a sponge, soft and unsubstantial. Then a feeling of nausea struck him hard. His gut cramped up in a knot and the room began to spin.
 Jake awoke during the night. The alarm clock read a quarter of 2 am. He was in his bed in his night clothes. His room was dark except for a night light in his bathroom. He turned on his bedside light and found his computer resting upon his desk closed and obviously shut down. His bedroom door was closed. What the hell was going on? Jake got up and opened the door. 
 She was still standing there….no wait it was just his coat on a rack in the hallway. He was by himself, there was no apparition. Jake had once read on the internet that people often thought they had seen loved ones after they had passed. He was just grieving, nothing more. Still he decided to close his door for the remainder of the night.

Sandy was six and had accompanied her mother to visit her cousin across town. It was spring and the two ladies and Sandy were dressed in brightly colored pastel sundresses. They had been chatting for a time in the house. But Sandy grew restless and as children often do, so the three of them moved decided to go outside to sit on the front porch and drink lemon aide. 
 Sandy began to walk around the front yard looking at the plants, smelling flowers and playing with a doodle bug or as some called them pill bugs as the little black creatures sundered across the front walk. Slowly she got farther down the walkway. The day was extremely pleasant and bright. The air was filled with the aromas of fresh rain and green vegetation as gentle breezes drifted in from the south. 
 Suddenly there was a squealing of tires as a deep blue truck came wildly down the street from the left side of the road. It seemed to be gaining speed. Soon it was out of the street and flying over the lower yard straight toward Sandy. Sandy felt a presence grip her. The world moved so very fast.

Jake taught physics 101 in the old science building on campus. All the campus buildings had a light tan Acme brick exterior. But it was easy to tell the older buildings from the newer ones. Many of the other graduate students loath this part of the science complex as being outdated, retro and uncomfortable. Jake however, did not. Here young students and faulty had once marveled and discussed the great discoveries of the day, Watson and Crick research on DNA, the early concepts of “T” and “B” cells and how they were involved in the immune system, and of course Jakes favorite topic, Albert Einstein and the development of quantum mechanics. 
 Jake’s lecture hall was filled with elevated rows of desks overlooking a stage with a lectern and a chalk board. The seats were occupied with bored appearing young individuals. Actually most of them were quality students whose majors were in the sciences but few of them actually were physics majors. Physics course was at the introductory level and even to Jake it was so tedious consisting of one formula application after another. There was just not any of the good stuff like advanced theory and the latest new discoveries which jacked up interest and moved the imagination. 
 As Jake tried to evoke interest in the laws of motion one young lady on the front row raised her hand.
 “Yes Miss Brand, you had a question?” Jake asked. Jake knew that this young lady was a premed student and had no real future in physics so a question from her probably would not spark much of a discussion but this at least broke up the monotony of the topic.
 “Professor I was told that your thesis proved that there is no such a thing as the here and now. Is that true?”
 “Miss Brand it is Mr. Rowen I am not a professor yet and that has nothing to do with our topic today,” Jake replied.
 “Yeah I guess so pro… err uh Mr. Rowen but it would sure help this hour to pass if we discuss that rather than basic high school physics.”
 She had a point. What the heck.
 “No my thesis proves nothing of the kind. In fact it rather demonstrates the opposite. You remember when we studied the concept of probabilities I told you that if you rolled a pair of dice that the probability of any combination the roll was one in thirty six.”
 “Yes, and you also said not to buy lottery tickets,” Brand said. Laughter briefly broke out. 
 “Well unlike the Lotto, in the so called quantum realm all thirty six possibilities do occur every time you rolled subatomic dice or buy a quantum lottery ticket. The only time one ultimate pair of numbered sides from our point of view comes into being is when we observe the process. Mr. Macon please go down the hall to my office and bring back the apparatus sitting on my desk.” A young man hurried out of the room.
 “Of interest was a phenomenon of what appears to be the possibility that an observation in the present somehow changes the past in order to give the result which we observe. This was actually the case when experiments were done on photon particles and slit lamp experiments. Ah yes Mr. Macon place it here on the desk,” Jake said.
 “Here you see eleven fine wires attached to each side of a wood frame. All the wires on the ends are separated. However in the middle is a slide made of a simple button with one hole in the middle. When I move the slide back and forth all the wires at that point come together. Let’s call this the point of observation. So as I move the slide the various realities of separate wires appear to collapse down at one point and then spring back to their original unique and separate places. If the point of observation is a moment in time then that is the only place where we can agree on an observable reality. Otherwise if the left side of the button represents the past and the right side the future there are always separate and distinct multiple reality possibilities.” 
 “But profess… um… what you are saying seems to indicate that there is no one future or past,” Brand said. 
 “There are many other realities that exist outside our observed world but we Miss Brand can only see the one at the button hole.”
 “Mr. Rowen, that still only applies at the quantum level right? I mean here in the macro-worlds there is no such thing as multiple realities and different past and futures,” Macon asked.
 “We have been able to show it occurs at a small but observable portion of the so called macro-world, Ms. Macon. So does that mean that we are subject to living in a multiple reality universe?”
 The classroom was still with no one venturing an answer. Jake smiled. “Believe me a multiple reality universe is no more possible than it is that Miss Brand here will make an ‘A’ in this class.” 
 “Hey, just one minute there,” Brand snapped back at him. The class broke out in a fit of laughter.

It was now a Saturday morning and Jake was returning home from his morning run. The weather had turned nasty as sleet had begun to fall just as he reached his front door. Jake dressed in his jogging, grey sweats and TCU knit cap was headed to the shower. A warm soak was just what his muscles needed. Abruptly he stopped as an unexpected female voice called to him.
 “Jake quick, go out front and save her!” it shouted out in a pleading manner. 
 “Aunt Cassie?”
 Jake turned about as a momentary sick feeling gripped him. He noticed his front door was now wide open. A little girl on his walkway was dangerously close to the street curb. Jake reacted without even considering what he was about to do. He flew down the hill and in what seemed to him to be less than an instant and he reached out and lifted the child up from the ground. It was then that he noticed the blue truck bearing down on both of them. Too late to pull back up the walk, Jake barreled ahead into the street. The truck shot past him even as the driver tried to swerve into them with the left side of his truck. The old style truck slowed slightly as the driver realized that the turning ratio was too restrictive to manage a renewed assault. Jake and the little girl stared into the hateful brown eyes of the older man behind the wheel of the antique vehicle. The man curled his lip and the speed off. After a moment Jake returned to the walkway and set little girl down. She promptly ran up the yard and into the arms of one of two ladies standing on his front porch. Where did they come from? A fresh wave of nausea struck Jake and his vison seemed to grow dim. 
 Then a new sensation gripped Jake. Sleet mixed with a cold rain began bouncing off him and a cold that had not been there moments before suddenly penetrated his sweats. Looking back toward his porch, Jake saw that it was empty and his doorway was still closed. Jake ran up the walk and peered about, however no one was present at the front of his house. He quickly moved inside and checked the house, where he found himself to be utterly alone. Was he losing his mind? He sat down on his couch and stared into his bedroom. He swore that he had not made the bed before he had left on his jog, but there it was all made up and with a fresh set of sheets showing from the fold at the top. It was just how Aunt Cassie made a bed.

************************************

Chapter 5: The Black Suits return

November was cool this year and Thanksgiving came early and with it football and family. Jake had no interest in either of them. Cassie was his only living relative and even before her death they had small, intimate holiday celebrations. Neither of them was particularly outgoing. It was no wonder no one else showed up at the funeral besides Dr. and Mrs. Smith. Jake recalled that his aunt had said that she and her husband George, a distant relative of his, were actually quite the social creatures before he had died. His death was a turning point in her life and it was compounded by his parent’s deaths in the space of a few years. Thrust together as it were they had spent their first Thanksgiving rather awkwardly trying to find a new way to be a family. It was an odd thing though. There had always been this bond between them, a nuance, an embrace and a look that made them each feel at ease. Eventually home was each other. This now weighted most heavy upon Jake. 
 Thanksgiving Day was actually a bit warmer than the days preceding it. Resent rains left the ground damp but the skies were clear today. Since Jake had nowhere to be, he set out to do a marathon jog. He started out running about the campus which was largely deserted. He ran past the founder’s statues and then turned west down Blair Drive. Eventually he ended up going downhill into a residential section of Fort Worth known as Tanglewood. The houses here were a bit more elegant than on the east side of campus. The area was open with land and trees and the roadways were well away from the creek beds that ran through the central portion forming a park like environment. People, birds and squirrels had ample space to ride, walk, or run with the animals primarily doing the latter two. The leaves covered the sidewalks and the sounds of them crunching under his feet as he ran began to make Jake feel a lot better.
 As Jake rounded a curving portion of the trail that eventually ran into the Trinity River he saw a black sedan parked just off the road and partially blocking his path. He slowed to see if anyone was hurt or needed assistance, when suddenly the two clowns from his aunt’s funeral stepped out of the car. They were still dressed all in black and both wore unnecessarily dark shades. The tall one raised his hand sort of like a traffic cop or was it the Vulcan salute. Jake slowed and jogged in place.
 “Have you run out of funerals to attend?” Jake asked.
 The heavy set one turned his head in a rather unusual manner as if it were about to roll off his shoulders.
 “We have the talk,” he said. 
 Jake had stopped short of the both of them by several paces. There was a menacing vibe imitating here. 
 The taller one spoke next. “You got to be alert someone’s life is endanger.”
 “Are you threatening me?” Jake asked revealing a bit of his macho nature in his voice. He wanted them to know that he was not to be trifled with. 
 The taller one appeared puzzled by this. “No,” he said most sincerely. 
 “There is this old…dude, who wants to harm her,” the other man replied. 
 The word dude hung there in a manner that told Jake that these two were only marginally conversant in colloquial English. 
 “Her…who?” Jake responded.
 “The little girl, uh….”
 “Sandy,” his partner added. 
 “Sandy?”
 “Yes she is the one you just saved a few weeks back.” The tall one answered.
 “Why does anyone want to hurt her?”
 “To take away the house….your house.”
 “Ok now you are really starting to confuse me,” Jake snapped back at him.
 The heavy one blinked oddly multiple times. It was weirdly unnatural. Then he abruptly smiled. “We leave now, day pleasant.”
 They both smiled and kept facing Jake, but they managed to easily get into their car without turning to see where they were going. Their Crown Victoria roared to life and they drove away still smiling at him. Jake watched them go with an odd sense that despite their peculiar manner, he had just been told the truth. He could not understand why he thought that or what it really meant. As he turned to resume his run the environment changed. There was no noise for several long seconds. The air was crisp, warmer and dry rather like early fall. The sun was way too high in the sky now and it was much brighter than just moments before. Jake began to realize that all the surrounding homes were…gone. Then Jake heard muffled screams coming from the creek bed across the ….where was the street? It was gone and where it had been was all now dirt, shrubs and weeds under his feet. Without hesitation he took off in the direction of the cries that now came louder than before.
 As Jake crested the side of the water way, he saw a young girl struggling against a man. While it was a struggle the man gave an appearance of being conflicted about the act of pushing her into the full creek bed. It was very strange indeed.
 “Hey, leave her the hell alone,” Jake yelled down at him. The man looked up at Jake. He almost looked relied to see him. Suddenly girl slipped and fell into and then under the water which looked to be several feet deep at this point. The man looked up at Jake. Was he beaching him to help her? It occurred to Jake that he was the same man, who drove the truck. Jake was sure of it. He did however back away from the girl as she lay face down in the water. Jake slid down an unimproved eight foot embankment. The old man seemed relieved as he vanished into thin air when Jake reached the water’s edge. Without hesitation Jake crawled into the chilly stream. The current was much swifter that it appeared from above and Jake had some difficulty pulling the girl from the weedy, muddy waters. Finally he managed to lift her up to a relatively level ledge. 
 Jake checked the girl to see if she was breathing. She was not. “Someone, anyone call 911!” Jake called out before he initiated CPR. He worked on the girl for what seemed like a half hour but it was only a few moments before she began to respond. She sat up choked and coughed multiple times as color returned to her cheeks. At last she began to find her breath. 
 The girl was at least 9 or 10 years old. She was dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a pink t-shirt. Her strawberry blond hair was wrapped in a ponytail. Her face was quite dirty but her green eyes were quite clear and alert. Those eyes were so familiar. They were the same eyes as the little girl that he has saved from the truck…sisters?
 Since no one had come to help them, Jake carried her himself up to the top level of the creek bank. Eventually she sat up and then began to walk about. Remarkably she was doing just fine. It was fortunate that Jake had gotten to her so soon. After a few minutes she began to talk.
 “I saw my whole life while I was under the water,” she said in a matter of fact way. She looked curiously over at him. Jake saw no fear or even concern in her face or eyes. This was one spunky kid. 
 “What’s your name Mister?”
 “Jake Rowen,” he said.
 “Mine is Sandy, Sandy Jones.”
 “Nice to meet you Sandy,” Jake said offering his hand.
 “Who was that man who threw me in the creek?” Sandy said as she grabbed Jake’s hand. 
 “I don’t know.” 
 “You had better walk me home. He could come back you know,” Sandy said. 
 She was not just spunky. Sandy was downright unflappable. “My pleasure, Sandy,” he said as he held on to her hand. They walked away from the water and into the now undeveloped wooded area. Jake realized the unreal nature of their situation but he was so captivated by Sandy that he gave it little thought. 
 They walked for about an hour making their way gradually out of the lower wooded area and up into residential housing. Sandy told him that she lived with her grandmother. Her mother was away at school and she didn’t know her dad. She liked school but she did not have many friends yet as she had only been living here for a short while. She liked walking in the woods because that reminded her of her home in Arkansas. She wanted to be an explorer and digging up old buried cities when she grew up. When Jake suggested that she may like archeology like Indiana Jones, she said did not know what either one of those were. When Jake explained archeology to her Sandy thought that it was what she meant by digging things up. 
 She asked Jake what he did and he told her that he studied and taught physics at T.C.U. Sandy confessed that she didn’t know what that was either but that she had seen the school and liked its brick buildings. She also said that she liked Jake but that he talked funny. Finally they reached the street that she lived on and pointed out her home to him.
 Jake thought it best that he escort her to the front door. “Do you want to come in and meet Gram?” Sandy asked. 
 “No, it is getting late and I really need to be getting back to my place. Look Sandy, Gram would probably be quite upset by what happened to you today and I think that you shouldn’t tell her about that right now. You see, I am not sure that I quite understand it myself. But I want you to promise me that you will never go out in the woods by yourself any more, ok?’
 Sandy nodded her head and then walked into the house.
 “Oh and have a happy Thanksgiving,” Jake called to her.
 Sandy smiled and said, “Silly that’s not for a long time yet.”
 Jake jogged back home but he stayed on paved streets and avoided the woods.

Dr. Jim Smith sat in Jake’s living room listening to his neighbor’s tale about the government agents, an old nasty man bent on killing and the little girl who was his intended victim. “Damn it Jake why didn’t you tell the police?”
 “I don’t know, it just did not seem to be the thing to do.”
 “Well when someone comes to throw me in the river I hope you call them then!”
 “It was different somehow. It was like the old guy was testing me or something. He wanted to see what I would do. I don’t know” 
 Jim sat silent for a few minutes as he watched the flames of the fire that Jake had lit. “You need to call the police and then go back to her house and talk to the grandmother. This man needs to be tracked down before he does harm to anyone else.” 
 “Yes ok I will do that tomorrow.” 
 “These men in the black car said they were from the government…right?” 
 Jake nodded.
 “Did they have ID? What department were they in?”
 “I…didn’t ask.”
 Jim stood up and handed his empty brandy glass to Jake. “You have really screwed up,” the somewhat older man said. “You need to make things right. But do yourself a favor; leave those two guys out of your story. The cops are going to think that you are nuts. In fact I already do myself.”
 Friday morning Jake and a policeman pulled up to the house on Manderly Place where Sandy lived. Jake went to the door. An older woman answered the door.
 “Yes, can I help you office?”
 “Ma’am is your little girl here we need to speak to her,” the officer said.
 “Who?”
 “Sandy Jones, your Granddaughter,” Jake said.
 “I don’t have a granddaughter. There is no little girl living here. It is only me and my husband George.”
 The policeman turned to Jake. “Are you sure that we have the right house?”
 “Sure…uh well now that I think of it the color of the wood is a bit off and I don’t remember this fence next to the walk. But there isn’t another house close to resembling this one on the street. 
 “Ma’am do you know a blond little girl about 9 years old who goes by the name of Sandy and lives nearby?” the police officer asked.
 An older man came to the door just about then. He asked what was going on. The police officer repeated his questions. 
 “There aren’t many children in the neighborhood at all these days, officer,” George said. “When we first moved in forty years ago there was a stack of them. But nowadays the only little children are usually the ones visiting their grandparents.” He looked to his wife, “We don’t know any little girl named Sandy.”
 “You are sure, Sandy Jones,” Jake asked.
 “Well the couple we bought the house from was named Jones in fact he was named George too, common name back then. Now the boys are all named Jason, Kaleb and alike. But I don’t know of anyone else that lived here in the neighborhood by the name of Jones,” George replied.
 “Thank you both, sorry to bother you,” said the officer and he pulled Jake away as he was just about to ask another question.
 “Look I need to find this kid,” Jake protested.
 “No that is enough. If you keep this up I am going to have to charge you with filling a false report,” the officer said firmly. “Now look you seem sincere about the incident but you got some things wrong, somehow. I want you to go think about it. If you come up an explanation like we are in the wrong neighborhood then we can discuss it.”
 Jake reluctantly agreed and then after the officer left, he drove around looking for another street that may have been the correct one. However, Manderly Place was the street, he was sure. He returned to the creek where the incident occurred and nothing looked right now. The streets, the homes and the creek beds were all different. 
 Finally Jake gave up trying to figure it out and drove home, parked his car and went into the house. He sat down on the couch and sighed. He just wanted to see and talk to his aunt one more time. 
 “Oh dear you look down. Can I get you something Jake, “Cassie said.

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Chapter 6: The Home Coming

Jake could not believe what he was seeing. His Aunt Cassie was standing just across the living room from him. She looked just like she had years before she had gotten so sick and…. died. She was wearing her favorite dress a coral and red one with a frilly front and half sleeves with the same cuffs on them. She had always said that she was a real girl and wanted to look that way. Her short, grey hair was neatly permed and her large green eyes still sparkled despite the dementia.
 “You’re dead,” is all Jake could get out of his mouth.
 Cassie nodded, “Oh so it’s began for you.” She sat down beside him on the couch. “In my time I am very much alive you know. Go on, touch me.”
 Jake tentatively reached out and placed a hand upon her left shoulder. She was indeed solid and not a dream or a ghost. “What is going on?”
 “I must be dead and now you own the house. You wouldn’t be able to come here otherwise. You told me this would happen but you know you are just never prepared for it,” Cassie said.
 “What?” 
 “Oh you know that thing you talked about the point of objection or something.”
 “You mean the observation point?”
 “Yes that one, oh did you finish that paper you were writing? You know the one to make you a PhD?”
 “Yes I found out just this week that it was accepted. I will get my degree in the spring. I was so happy but then I couldn’t share it with you.”
 Cassie hugged him. “Well now you can. Maybe I’ll make you your favorite dinner, homemade spaghetti with meat sauce and green olives. Of course you can’t stay because when you come home from classes you can’t be here.”
 “I guess that it is the thought that counts. Um do you mind telling me what is going on?”
 “Oh you’re so smart you must have guessed already that you are experiencing a….what’s it…a time lift.”
 “Aunt Cassie you mean a time shift?”
 “If you say so Dear.”
 “I have been shifting through time…how?”
 “Those damn aliens…disgusting boys if you ask me. They go around dressed like the booze boys.”
 “The Blues Brothers?”
 “Oh whatever you call them. They built this place as an objection place… that’s why it looks so odd you know”
 “Observation point.”
 “Yes well anyway, they went back to that place they came from for a visit or something and then when they didn’t pay the mortgage the bank took possession of the house. So Ja…uh we bought it and well after a while….well we screwed things up because you know we just needed to leave it alone and well everything would have happened right. So I can’t tell you anything or you will do the same. Every time you do something it just changes everything and when you try to straighten it out it all goes to heck in a ham basket.”
 “Hand basket…So what am I supposed to do? 
 “You have to save the little girl ninny.”
 “I have twice,” Jake said.
 “One more time, I think. You know at first it was only once but that damn German doesn’t give up easily.”
 “The old man?”
 “Yes Van Brawn or Vern Deittrick or whoever. He is trying to save his father so he can blow up New York you know.”
 “New York, City?”
 “Yes, the atomic bomb, 1942…Nazis, Hitler…the 2nd right…I get so confused when I get nervous. Do you want that drink or not?”
 Aunt Cassie gave Jake a lemonade because it July and very hot outside. Just to make sure Jake went outside to see. It was at least 95 degrees. It made him wish it was fall again. He turned and walked back inside and the house was cool and dark. There was no Aunt Cassie and no spaghetti.

Jim Smith was a friend or at least he was not unfriendly but his patience seemed to be wearing thin. “I see so you went to the little girl’s house but of course she didn’t live there…”
 “Any more, I think,” Jake corrected.
 “The policeman told you to take a hike and you came home and had a nice…
 “But confusing,” Jake added.
 “Talk with your dead aunt, who told you to keep saving…”Jim said.
 “Sandy.”
 “And you may need to stop the German old guy from blowing up New York? Is that with or without Trump being there?”
 “Probably with but he would be a child because it is during WWII and it was the German’s father not him that made the bomb.” 
 “No offense, but you are starting to sound a lot like Cassie, inheritance? Genes mean something with dementia you know.”
 “She and I are related by marriage only. Besides she had a head injury. Look I know what you may be thinking. But just hear me out. What if at least part of this is somehow true, what do I do?”
 “Ok I will buy into your delusions for a moment. You do what she told you to do, save the girl.”
 “But I don’t know how.”
 “You could ask Cassie again.”
 “Yeah but I run the risks of bumping into me.”
 “Right, the kill your own grandfather paradoxes,” Jim said.
 “Yes I could change all my own history at least from the point where I meet me.”
 “Then talk to the aliens. By the way did she mean that they were from space or another dimension?”
 “I don’t know maybe just another country.”
 “Alright that’s enough for me,” Jim said as he handed Jake his glass. “I mean your brandy is good but Carrie is going to think I have a girlfriend if I don’t get home soon. Besides I have to do hospital rounds in the morning. If New York suddenly evaporates let me know, it’s going to impact my 401k rather badly.”

********************

Chapter 7: A Little Traveling Music

Jake did not sleep well Sunday night as the strangeness of his life seemed to play out even in his dreams. Red eyed aliens chased him through the streets which became dark corners that dropped off into water filled ditches. Then there was the little girl who morphed into his aunt and then into the old man who chased him too. In the end Jake somehow wound up eating a bowl of spaghetti with Jim and drinking Brandy. He startled awake sweaty and cold. It was only 5 am but Jake could not sleep. Besides he was hungry.
 The fall semesters was winding down with exams scheduled mid-month before the holidays and vacation. Jake forced himself to focus on getting his class prepared to take the final exam. The more time passed the sillier this whole time event thing became in his mind. It was just as Jim told him. He had been stressed out by lack of sleep, worry over his thesis and his aunt’s death. He just needed to put it all behind him. 
 Jake was walking home from campus with nothing on his schedule until the second week in January. He began to think about Christmas. He and Cassie always put up lights and decorations. The thought of doing this hurt too much for him to face it this year. Maybe next year he would or maybe never again. Jim and Carrie had invited him to come over to their house on Saturday for dinner and perhaps he would do that. 
 A car pulled up beside him and Jake could hear music blaring from the car, it was hard core 70’s rock and roll. Inside the shiny black limo sat two familiar men. Jake glared at them.
 “Go away!”
 The window rolled down and the thin man leaned out his passenger side window. “Jake we have been waiting to talk when you. Got a free moment? Now seems to be the time.”
 “No it doesn’t, leave me alone.” 
 The music stopped and the thin man got out of his car. “Jake its cold out and you want to come into the warm car, right?”
 Jake heard a clicking noise, a flash and then confusion followed by the gradual awareness that he was sitting in the back seat of the car looking straight ahead as various houses appeared to just fly by. Eventually his thoughts cleared and the world about him came back into focus.
 “What did you do to me?”
 “I don’t think we have been properly introduced, the thin one said. “I’m Mr. Wood and this esteemed gentleman driving the car is Mr. Jay.”
 “I don’t give a flying…”
 “Jake what you know about the world is about to change. You know that you and everyone else live in a holographic simulation, right. The universe is just one giant computer game.”
 “I have heard that crap before. It’s that matrix malarkey. You guys are starting to really annoy me. Let me out at the next corner.”

“Ok,” Jay said. The car stopped and Jake got out.
 Before Jake was a terrain filled with indescribable waste and rubble. There was mile after mile of collapsed buildings. The air was foul with the sink of decay and death. People wondered here and there like walking corpses. Rats were everywhere. 
 “What is this?”
 “This is what was left of Chicago. You already know about New York now add London and Los Angeles to the list. The United States surrendered after New York was wasted but the bombs kept falling. There was no mercy.”
 “This did not happen, the allies won that war.”
 Mr. Wood looked quite stern. “You screwed up Jake. You did this. You are doing it now.” 
 “Me?”
 Mr. Jay added, “You are choosing not to stop Cassandra.”
 “Who is she?” Jake asked.
 “She was the Greek goddess of prophecies. You never studied mythology? It just also happens to be the name of the Nazi atomic bomb project. It was headed by Van Brawn Dietrich the father of Vern Dietrich, your old German friend.” Jay said.
 “You mean the guy chasing that little girl?” Jake asked.
 “Yeah, that’s the one. He is trying to kill you in order to stop you from going to the past and killing his father. But you know that.
 “Cassie was trying…”
 “That’s right Jake, the old lady is a bit daft but she was trying to tell you about how you need to go back to 1942 and stop this man. Of course you can’t do it alone.” Wood added. “Get back in the car.”
 Jake sat down in the back seat once more and watched out the windows as light and sound swirled by him at a dizzying pace. Suddenly the sights and sounds stopped as well as the car. 
 “We’re here, it’s time to get out Jake,” Jay said they were in front of his house. 
 “But I don’t…”
 “You got a month to do this or everything you saw will catch up with you,” Wood said lifting Jake out of the back seat. “The suitcase is inside, good luck.” They drove off down the hill with music blaring once more.
 Jake went inside the house the living room was dark except for the light which shown through from the kitchen. There standing in front of the light in mid-room stood Aunt Cassie. She was holding a suit case. She put it down.
 “Were you going someplace Aunt Cassie?”
 “No Jake you are. Jake we weren’t successful. You…I…we…. George was killed and I… well you know I had a head injury that left me…”
 “A little confused at times,” Jake responded in a kind manner.
 “I have to leave Jake, you won’t see me anymore. The suitcase contains items that will help you. Remember to take it.”
 “Aunt Cassie what am I supposed to do?” 
 “First find her again Jake. It will take both of you to stop this madness once and for all.”
 “But how?”
 “Use the house. You own it now. It will take you there and back. Also if … uh she…I mean Sandy reaches her hand out to you, pull her close. Bye dear, I have always loved you.” Cassie said as she vanished from sight leaving the suit case.

********************************

Chapter 8: Deja vu All Over Again

The old style suit case was light brown with red trim and contained dated maps of Germany, old German money, pictures of buildings and people, both men’s and women’s clothes, and two rather curious identifications. The identifications were in German but Jake knew what they said. He had studied German at Cassie’s instance. Also some of the best classic physics was written by Einstein in German. And there was an old style picture of a man which looked a bit like Jake dressed as a doctor. This must have been his uncle George. Another was of a young woman who appeared to be a nurse. She could be almost any number of females but she did look somewhat like Aunt Cassie with blond hair. Finally there was a note written in what looked like Cassie’s hand writing containing an address of a restaurant with a time and date beside it. It also read: Table for two.

Sandy’s house was cold and dark when she went inside. She had just come home from her college fall graduation ceremony. While it was a wonderful event held at the coliseum on campus, it was also a sad one as well. With no grandparents left alive to see her graduate and a mother now with a new husband and family who seldom wrote much less visited, Sandy was basically alone now. Her house was a gift from her grandmother once she had moved to a nursing facility. In Sandy’s junior year Grandmother Vivian had passed on. Grandpa George had died a number of years before her. Now what was Sandy going to do? All her friends spent an inordinate amount of time trying to either get the big job or find Mr. Right or both. She wanted to use her degree to get a decent job but first she needed to decide just what it was she really wanted out of life. She had some time as she had the house and some money her grandparents had left her. As for Mr. Right well time would tell but she was in no hurry to get there yet. Oh she did want to marry and have a family but she did not want to rush into anything given her mother’s life example.

Since Christmas was just a few weeks away Sandy decided to go shopping for a present or two for some of her friends. She had put off most of her gift buying until after graduation for which she felt a little guilty but then again she should be able to still find what she needed. She decided to drive toward to new loop 820 and find a shop or two off of it. Her late model Volkswagen was an indulgence but then again a girl deserved a present of her own for graduation and besides she had earned both her degree and her car. It was a pale blue with white interior and it had a convertible top which was up in this wind and cold. 
 As she got on to the freeway Sandy noticed a really old blue truck in her rearview mirror. At first she paid it no heed. Although it was no match for her VW Beetle, the old truck seemed to be making every effort to follow her. So Sandy speed up and left the thing well behind. Then an amazing thing occurred. As Sandy broached a hill the world changed or at least something was wrong. Other vehicles seem to appear out of nowhere and these were cars and trucks like nothing she had ever seen before. They were sleek and fast in all sizes and shapes. It was a scary sight and Sandy was quick to find an exit, but even that was weird. Since when has the Hulen exit gotten so elaborate with ramps going off in strange new directions and slops? And the traffic was just ridiculous. Where did all these buildings and shopping malls come from? She finally turned off into a parking lot just off the service road. She pulled in front of an “Olive Garden”. What in the world was this? She had never heard of the place. Italian food was what they offered. 
 In the rear view mirror was that same blue truck that had been following her. An old man was glaring at her from the driver’s seat. He looked very familiar but who was he? He was getting out of his vehicle. He had a gun! Sandy jumped out of her car clutching her purse and began running toward the restaurant.

Sandy charged passed the reception desk without even a word to the manager or hostess. A brief look back told her all she needed to know, that dreadful old man was still following her. He had just come through the restaurant door some fifteen feet behind her. She did not know who he was, but she did know that he meant her harm. Sandy remembered his old and withered face and glaring and dark eyes from another time when he had tried to… yes now she was sure of it, he was trying to kill her. How had he found her? Something had happened. Everything was now different including roads, buildings, even people. Sandy did not know where she was. It had become all too bizarre and confusing.
 Moving quickly toward the seated customers all snug at their appointed tables, suddenly Sandy halted directly in front of a man as he rose to stand by a waiting table intended for two. Pausing and totally forgetting her turmoil, she studied his features. He was taller than she expected at well over six feet with a rugged, lean frame. His blue/green eyes contrasted with his olive skin tones but in a nice way. His hair was a thick, deep brown, cut short which gave it a neat, well-trimmed look. His face was handsome in a slightly cherubic way. His purple knit shirt, khaki pants and brown tennis shoes were casual; however there was something else here too. She felt, no make that, she knew that he was capable of leaping into action at a moment’s notice. 
 “You, you are so familiar. I know you”…. Sandy looked back behind her and saw that the old man. He looked directly at them and then turned abruptly and quickly left the restaurant. “You ran that man off before and again just now he quit following me, because…he’s afraid of you. And I think… you were here waiting for me to come… to you,” her voice now failing her as the words trailed off in a fit of quick inspirations. 
 He smiled revealing rather pleasing dimples and gestured her to take a seat at his table. As she sat down Sandy expression was questioning. 
 “How is it that you never seem to age?” she asked.
 Jake’s smile faltered a little, “It is a long and very strange story, Sandy.”

Jake regarded her. She was still a strawberry blond but she had really grown and was now around five feet six inches tall. And boy had she filled out; make that really filled out in a pleasing way. He needed to stay on point so he tried not to stare at her. Jake was finding this was not an easy task. He wanted to keep their reintroduction light and not make this meeting too dramatic, so he tried to keep the conversation simple at least initially. They ordered dinner but it soon became impossible to avoid the odd answers as Sandy began to ask pointed questions about the story Jake was reluctantly describing. 
 “I mean how gullible do you think I am? Martians and Nazis and….lions and tigers…oh my!” Sandy said as she finished her entre. 
 “Ok well look around, are we in Kansas either?” Jake replied.
 “No I am quite sure that we are in Cowtown…Fort Worth, but the rest of it is just silly. You know for a handsome guy and a nice man you are a terrible story teller.”
 “You think that I am handsome?”
 “Yes when I first came in but now only in a nut job way.”
 “What about the old guy following you? Do you remember the creek in Tanglewood? Or perhaps you can remember the blue truck coming at you from in front of my house.”
 “Your house what do you mean your house? You see you are getting your so called facts wrong. That was my cousin’s house and now it is mine it has been in my family for years and no Martians or you ever own it!”
 “We can’t be talking about the same place?” Jake replied.
 “Look, I enjoyed the dinner. This is an interesting place to eat Italian, but… I need to leave now.”
 “I should walk you to your car, just in case Dietrich is still out there.” Jake offered. 
 “Ok, you walk me to the parking lot only then and stand far enough away from me and my car so I can leave without you… being too close.” 
 Jake watched her drive off. She seemed confused as to which way to go and why not. It was home and it was not. So Jake took his time driving to his/her house. He did not want to have Sandy think that he was following her if indeed it was the same house. She had been so young years ago that she was probably confused about which house it was. The fact that Dietrich had driven his truck on to the front yard and tried to kill them was the only real difference maker. Jake wondered and hoped that he could find her again. He had a feeling that it would not be that difficult a thing to do. There was something about her. In fact he felt that the two them belonged sitting and talking together like a couple. Even when she voiced disbelieve of him or in him, it still was right. Hell he would not have believed what he told her either. 
 Sandy was standing next to her car when he drove up beside her in his drive way. He got out and walked around to where she stood. The woman was fit to be tied as they say in Texas. 
 “Your VW is a real classic you know. My father had one.”
 “Classic, it is only two week old” said bewildered by his statement. “You changed my locks.” 
 “Ok how did I manage that? Call someone on my cell phone while you were in the restroom?”
 “You’re what?”
 Jake took out his i-phone and gave it to her. Sandy held it in her hands not knowing what to do with it. Jake turned it on and Sandy’s eyes grew wide. Meanwhile Jake opened the garage door and unlocked the back door. 
 “Wait, where do you think that you are going?” Sandy demanded to know.
 Jake decided that she had to see for herself which meant that he had to get her inside, so he walked into the kitchen. 
 “I am going to call the police,” she said once she was also inside. “I don’t know what this…this thing is but I am going to use my phone…hey where is the kitchen extension phone?”
 “We got rid of the land lines years ago.”
 “What’s a landline and where did all these appliances come from? How are you doing this?” Sandy demanded to know.
 “Simple, this is the future and this isn’t your house anymore.”
 Sandy marched through the house going room to room and she slowly began to realize that yes this was not the house she left earlier in the day. It had changed in so many ways that no one could have come in and done this just today. She sat down on an unfamiliar couch and began to sob. Jake handed her his handkerchief. She blew her nose loudly. 
 “I want to go home,” she said.
 “Actually I think that we can arrange that,” Jake replied. 
 A wave of nausea stuck Sandy and then it pasted and she was now sitting on her own couch.
 “If you just felt sick, that sensation always seems worse when you are actually inside the house. At a distance it is less and after a while it becomes more tolerable,” he explained.
 Sandy looked up and then around. The phone in the living room was sitting where it always had been. The furniture was right and it felt normal now. The only thing off was the fact that Jake was still standing here.
 “I guess that I am back in Kansas again Toto,” she said.

**********************************

Chapter 9: When You Get to the Fork in the Road, Take It

The young couple had just pulled out of their driveway driving their Volkswagen VW and had only gone a block when they heard a siren behind them. It was an unmarked police car that just seemed to appear out of nowhere. A detective dressed in a black suit stepped out of the car and walked to the driver side window. 
 “What’s the problem office?” the man said.
 “Your taillight is out.”
 “I am sorry I didn’t know. It wasn’t that way yesterday.” 
 “I won’t a citation you if you get it fix today,” the policeman said.
 “But office we were just on our way out of town for a long overdue vacation,” the woman sitting next to man said.
 “All the more reason to get it done today, ma’am,” the officer replied. “I will follow you to the repair shop myself.”
 “Yes officer,” the man said. He then turned to his wife and said, “We are already running so late. I take you back home. Tell Mrs. Fry that we will leave tomorrow instead. I am sure that the boy won’t mind at all that we are delaying another day.”
 Mr. Jay returned to the car. “It is a good deed you are doing,” said Mr. Wood. 
 “Indeed it is,” said Mr. Jay.

Jake sat on Sandy’s couch going through the suitcase and showing the contents to her. “The id’s are for a doctor and nurse,” said Sandy.
 “You read German?”
 “Yes and I speak it too. I have a talent for languages so I took courses in four different ones including German. I thought it could hurt on digs to be able to communicate with various co-workers from other countries.”
 “Digs? Wait you actually did major in archeology?”
 “Yes, why?”
 “I suggested it to you.”
 “Oh so you are taking credit for my degree now are you Dr. Rowen?” She said with a laugh. 
 “Let’s see I think that I will call you Indiana Jane.” 
 “You know it took me several more years before I could actually see that movie. I thought maybe you had read some book that came out before the movie, but I could never find one.”
 “I’m clairvoyant what can I say?”
 “Yeah and that reminds me. Not that I am questioning the whole of your story, but why is it that I can’t beam in and through time if I own this house too? And another thought I had was if Dietrich has changed the past why aren’t we aware of it now?”
 “Yes I thought about those things too. Tell me do you own your house out right?”
 “No, I assumed my Gram’s loan. I have a few more bank payments. So, you think that it must not have a clear title on the home for it to work…for me to move through time? How stupid is that?” 
 “Hey I’m making this up as I go along. But it could be the answer. A better question is how does Dietrich do it?”
 “Beaming to different time lines you mean. He owns a house like this?”
 “Darned if I know,” Jake answered.
 “You are not instilling me with great confidence here. I’ll give you pass on that one, but what about Dietrich? He supposedly changed the past right?”
 “Well it could be that changing the past does not change things in the present as instantly as we imagined it might. It is kind of like the past is reluctant to be changed and wants to find a solution to the conflicts that result from changes. Little changes could have big effects, but the time lines only have to move at or just at the pace of time as we experience it. Besides he may have changed it just 20 minutes ago, relatively speaking.”
 “You’re full of it, you know.”
 “Yeah, I kind of think so too. But you didn’t see Chicago like I did, total devastation. If that is the time line we must eventually fall into I am all for preventing it.”
 “Ok and this might not be a fair comparison but what about Japan? It had two cities destroyed by nuclear weapons and no one has tried to change that!”
 “I don’t know that anyone hasn’t or isn’t doing that too. I do know that if the Nazis win WWII a whole huge dynamic change will occur. So it is more than just preventing millions of lives being lost. It is about the whole of civilization.”
 “But again for now nothing has changed. I need proof that a change will be coming and we need to something to prevent it. And one last thing…why me?”
 Jake’s ears picked up a distant sound outside. “What’s that music?”
 “Ice cream truck, I think.”
 “In December, doubt it. Sandy I think that you are about to meet your Martians.”

Mr. Jay and Mr. Wood stood beside their black Crown Victoria. Jake and Sandy approached them but Mr. Wood waved off Jake. “This is Ms. Jones’ ride.” 
 Jake stood back as Sandy got into the car. “I hope I see you again,” she said with a laugh only it sounded a little like a worried expression more than a funny one. 
 The black sedan seemed to only drive around the block before it stopped. 
 “Did you forget something,” Sandy said.
 Wood turned to her, “You can go inside now.”
 Sandy got out and went into the house only it was now Jake’s place again and then again it was not. As Sandy looked around she called out for Jake. No one replied. Presently Sandy became aware of a very pleasant appearing older lady standing in the kitchen. 
 “You are Cassie right?”
 “Yes but you know already do you not?”
 “Somehow we are connected.” Sandy replied. 
 “Yes through Jake.”
 “Why are we meeting?” 
 “Because my dear you have many questions and only I can answer them,” Cassie replied.

It seemed like only a few minutes later that the car returned. Sandy bore a solemn expression. 
 “Let’s get on with this,” is all she said to Jake.

Right up until Christmas Jake and Sandy practiced German phrases for Jake to use. He began reading German medical text and learning some basic medicine from Jim, who was more amused than too concerned about their mission. Jim told Jake that he really liked the girl but he thought there were better excuses for getting to know someone that playing this ridiculous game. But for Jake getting to know Sandy had been the easy part. She was a good person, intelligent and fun. Jake hoped that Sandy felt the same as well. 
 Christmas Eve they sat before the fire in her house as the weather was colder in that time and a fire sounded nice. Two of them had become friends as well as colleagues. It seemed right to be together at Christmas, particularly since they each really had no one else.
 “Jake what happens if we are successful in our mission?” Sandy asked him.
 “Nothing, the world goes on as if nothing ever happened.”
 “No I know that, what I mean is what happens to us?”
 “We get married and live happily ever after.” 
 Sandy did not laugh instead she sat up in her chair and looked at him. He thought that he was being funny but her eyes said something else was going on behind them. Then she said a peculiar thing. “Tell me about your parents.” 
 “My parents? They died in a car accident when I was…That’s funny I can’t …”
 “Can’t what?”
 Jake sat in his chair wondering. He remembered both that they died and that they did not. No, how could that be?
 “These timeline are beginning to play tricks on my mind.”
 “What about your aunt?” Sandy asked.
 “Wow you know I am starting to forget her too. Sometimes it’s like she never existed or something. Did Jay and Wood say anything about this to you?”
 “They a said that we have to leave on our mission before January 1st or we won’t even exist after that date, which means I guess that we will never be born. Since your memories of the past are beginning to fade, I guess that is part of the change already affecting you.”
 “So, December 31st is the fork in the road.” Jake said.

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Chapter 10: What Could Go Wrong?

Changes large and small were starting to happen. Many people began to have strange new memories of famine, desolation and diseases. The concepts of what and where nations and states began to fade and names of towns and cities seem to be different and confusing. Buildings seemed to be moving or fading and new structure were there and then they weren’t. It was chaotic not just locally but around the world. Yet there was no panic, just confusion. People were almost always in denial of the obvious. Jake remembered a book he read once about a time traveling Brit who observed the same thing. 
 Jake and Sandy completely abandoned her past time frame because it was worse off than Jake’s present time was and it not was stable. Each day things deteriorated more as the wave of change broke over them. The decision to leave was set for the 29th. They did not feel ready but neither could they wait any longer. 
 Jake and Sandy began to feel an incredible anxiety and sadness knowing why these changes were occurring. The effect upon the populace was raw and tangible. Only the two of them had the ability and obligation to stop it. Packed and ready they tried to get some rest before starting out on their journey. Fully dress but lying side by side in Jake’s bed they both stared blankly at the ceiling as a fan turned slowly. At times the fan blades faded in and out of existence. 
 Laying there close to Sandy, Jake was aware that this person next to him was a full grown woman and in no way like the child he had saved twice. How had he become so caught up in the drama of his and their lives that he had not notice the real Sandy? She felt warm lying next to him. Her scent was full of her womanhood, sweet and soft. He looked upon her physical form with a new full awareness of his own feelings. She was robust and inviting. Were these feeling stirring in him wrong? He was her protector right? Was he really that now? No they had become partners, coworkers, but not more than friends. How could they be more than friends? A new thought…could they be more?
 “I know that we haven’t really known each other very long and we aren’t lovers but thanks for letting me be close to you,” Sandy said. “Which bring to mind why don’t you have a girlfriend?’
 “That’s what you are thinking about now?” Jake replied as he wondered where this might take them. Sandy nodded her head. “Well I did and I was engaged once. But now I can’t even remember her name.”
 “Good try but I don’t believe you. You know her name.” Sandy said in a teasing tone.
 “Ok it was Casandra.”
 “No way that’s my name. Sandy is just what everyone called me since I was a little girl,” she said turning toward him. Should she tell him what she really knew?
 “For real, how odd and the German atomic bomb project that forms once history changed is also to be named that. There must be some reason for all this.” 
 “Destiny I guess. I wondered about that when you told me its name. Did your Aunt approve of her?”
 “Who? Oh…My aunt did not like her. In fact she never thought any girl was good enough for me. But my mother did like her or does or will…Lord I am saying? I get so confused. This time change effect is starting to get to me.”
 “You said your aunt and her husband… George is that right? They tried before but failed.”
 “Yes George…. But to be honest I don’t think that was his real name. Anyway, I think from what I have pieced together that they actually succeeded but that Vern Dietrich was able to change it back again. My uncle died in the process and my aunt returned but she sustained a significant head injury. It never got completely better and in fact it contributed to her death.” 
 “Now we are them you know,” she said gripping his hand. The gesture was intentional and not just a friendly holding of hands. She chided herself for not saying more. 
 “I guess in a way, but it doesn’t have to end badly. I mean we can do this. We studied their history. We know what to do. We are prepared.”
 Sandy drew close and kissed Jake. He more than willingly responded. Was it a new beginning perhaps or a relationship born of mutual and forced ties? Whichever it was, they both slept better than they had for the past several nights.

************************************

Chapter 11: Down the Rabbit Hole

After all that planning, the jump into the past seemed to go so smoothly that it almost was like they had not gone at all. One moment they were in their house the next they were standing in a train station in Frankfurt late May 1942. They had planned to arrive during the height of morning traffic so as to be lost in the crowd. No one appeared to notice them just popping into existence. Sandy quickly set off for the ticket counter while Jake hung back trying to remain unnoticed. He was well dressed and looked the part of a traveling physician. He even carried a set of orders assigning him to the University Hospital in Leipzig under the name Dr. Eugene Buchner and Sandy was his wife Erika. 
 A military officer came up and stood next to him. He began talking to Jake. He talked way too fast for Jake to catch the meaning of what he was saying. Presently the man began to get annoyed with Jake because all did was grunt back at him. The officer suddenly became irate and began shouting. Then Jake opened his mouth and pointed to his throat and hoarsely crocked out something about being ill. The officer looked at him scoffed and walked off.
 Sandy came quickly up to him and held on to his arm.
 “What was that all about,” she whispered.
 “Damned if I know but I’m sure not making friends very fast around here. Also I hope I never see him again.” 
 “Quiet let’s just get on the train.”

They rode in silence or as best they could. They traveled north and east to Leipzig, Germany where they took a taxi to a modest hotel downtown. Due to the allied air raids Leipzig had been repeatedly bombed and the region had changed. People were going about their business in the usual ways but life was difficult. Roads were often crowded, impassable or they were usable. Some shops and restaurants were open but many were not. Prices for goods were high and many items were in short supply. But this was all background to their real reason for being here, Robert Döpel’s “Uran-Maschine” or nuclear reactor. German advancement in the science of nuclear fusion had been subjected to poor management and misadventures under first the German government and then the Nazis. But now Döpel was close to finishing his reactor which meant that the Nazis could have made materials for a nuclear weapon. History barely mentioned the reactor because it had been destroyed in an undefined hydrogen accident. However, the new evolving history books began to claim an undamaged and functioning reactor helped the new Cassandra project be born and completed in time to end the United States nuclear efforts and win the war. What Jake and Sandy had to do was to keep Dietrich from preventing an accident that was supposed to occur.
 That was the trick. How does one stop a person from preventing an accident when you do not know what caused the accident in the first place? Sandy had the answer. It was done by causing the “accident” to occur. That way they knew how to resist Dietrich’s efforts.

Jake had been gone most of the morning and Sandy was beginning to worry. His limited speaking abilities were bound to get Jake in trouble. She gazed down on the almost abandoned streets below for hours until finally Jake came riding up in a convertible automobile. She hurried down to the street.
 “Look what I’ve got,” said an ebullient Jake. “It’s a Porsche Typ 60 VW38, a saloon with a roll-back sunroof.”
 “It a VW bug,” Sandy replied.
 “Yes…no….it’s the granddaddy of the bug.” Jake objected.
 Sandy just shook her head. “What did it cost?”
 “Not too much… really. It has very low mileage and besides we need transportation!” He replied as he sat up on the inside driver’s door. 
 She walked back inside without saying a word except, “Men!”
 Once up in their room she let into him. “You went out to find information the reactor sight not to buy a car.”
 “Let me explain, hey is this our first fight?” Jake said.
 “Our what? You act like we are married or something.”
 “Look if we are going to argue in English, keep your voice down. And yes we are married at least for our cover.”
 Sandy was fuming, “We are, well where does it say that anywhere?”
 “Ok I get it I was gone a while…”
 “You were gone four hours and I was getting really worried.”
 “I was alright.”
 “Yes well great how was I supposed to know that? And if something happened to you what was I going to do, call the police?” Sandy held up the receiver of their room phone. “Yes officer my American husband is lost while spying on one of your most highly guarded facilities. And when you find him tell him he forgot his lunch!”
 “I did drive out to the facility to check it out.”
 “I thought that we were in this together?” 
 “You are right, I did a stupid thing. I’m sorry”
 “I don’t want to be an abandoned widow back in 1942. And I haven’t even had a…a… wedding,” Sandy began to cry. 
 Jake came over and held her for a good long time. Finally Sandy recovered her feelings and dried her tears. “Jake I need to tell you something,” she said standing up and looking back at him as he sat on their bed. 
 “What?”
 “You never had an Uncle George. It was just a made up relative that…Cassie came up with to be near you after the first time. You were dead but you were also a little boy.” 
 “How do you know that?”
 “When Jay and Wood took me for a ride they took me to her. She told me the whole story and left it up to me to tell you or not.”
 “I don’t understand.”
 “Jake it was always just you and me. You are George and I am….”
 “Wait what? You are saying that you are my aunt?” Jake said as he too now stood. 
 “Yes I am your Aunt Cassandra….Cassie.”

Jake never left the hotel without Sandy after that. He was always polite and inclusive but he was also distant and guarded. He slept on the couch and tried not to get too close to her unless they were in public. Then he treated her as if they were a close married couple. The strain on them both however was beginning to show. Jake was also rather quiet for the next several weeks as they continued to plan their assault. They talked about the details Jake had learned about the reactor facilities. The reactor sight was in a densely wooded area. It was contained in a double circle fenced grounds and was heavily guarded. There was only one road in and out and this access went through two separate gate check points. Even if they could get inside, they had to do recognizance on the interior in order to know where to plant their bomb. They would have to go inside and look for the hydrogen storage unit which meant they probably had to return to the facility and get back out again multiple times.

*********************

Chapter 12: Until Death Do Them Part

One early afternoon Jake was sitting at the table where all his plans were scattered out on scraped of papers. Weeks had pasted and progress has slowed to a stop. The deed had to be done soon or as the history books had come to say Project Cassandra would go into motion.
 “We have identification as a doctor and a nurse there must be something we can do at the facility to warrant our inclusion there,” Sandy said.
 “I don’t know what they don’t appear to have any need for medical personnel,” Jake replied. “I mean what are we going to do make sure they aren’t getting radiation poisoning?” Suddenly he stopped and looked at Sandy and her back at him.
 He took her arm, “Grab your purse honey.”
 “Where are we going?” 
 “To get married!” He answered back.

In the car Jake explained, “We need to get our hands on official state document so we can lift the seals and signatures off of them on to our own document assigning us to do health checks on the local plant workers.”
 “Why do we need a marriage license?” 
 “It’s the quickest means to all those official looking items. Besides don’t you want to get married?” He replied. 
 Sandy did not rely. Well as long as she goes along with it Jake thought. 
 Getting the license was the easy part. But to actually get the all-important signature of the Nazi appointed state official actually did require that they go through with the marriage ceremony that Magistrate would himself perform. He was the local equivalent of the justice of the peace. In normal times this would have taken days to get done. But this was war time and people just did not have the time for niceties like that. 
 As they sat outside the Magistrate’s office, Jake could see a forlorn haze descend Sandy’s face.
 “Look dear they are expecting a happy couple,” he chided.
 “You didn’t even ask me to marry you,” she replied.
 “We’re just doing it just to get the documents.”
 “I know and that is really the sad part.” 
 Jake thought and then bit his lip hard. “Cassandra Jones I am in love with you and I knew it the first time I saw you in the restaurant.”
 She looked straight into Jake’s eye searching for the truth. “You’re just saying that to get me to pose as the happy bride.” 
“No.”
Sandy shrugged, “But I am your aunt”.
 “You’re not. She was another person entirely. Just like the fact that you are not that cute little 10 years old in the creek back home. Life is strange enough without trying to adapt to time travel on top of it. And well the reason all of this came to me was I was imaging at the time what it would be like if we could get back home in one piece. Would we marry there too?’
 “Jakarta Rowen I am not going to marry you back home…in a Justice of the Peace’s office. Do you understand that?” 
 Just then the Magistrate opened his door to the smiling couple.

That afternoon they made a quick trip back to Jake’s home. He used his computer and printer to make documents that looked quite real and they granted them access to the entire complex. While he was doing this Sandy peaked out the living room window into an unusually quiet night. You would never know at this point that the entire history of the world since WWII was being re-written. It was surreal. 
 Now back at the hotel they settled in for their night. Jake was still on the couch and Sandy in the bed. The couple had barely spoken during dinner. The mission was beginning to take shape and the consequences of their future acts began to weight more heavily than before.
 “Jake, if in the past you died trying to complete our mission, how did I get back? I mean only you can beam us in and out.”
 “I thought about that and I think we got married then too, so if I died the house was yours and you took yourself back. But so the house knew I left the original of our marriage license back in Fort Worth.”
 “Good thank you.”
 “You’re welcome.”
 After a short while Sandy said, “Jake…”
 “Yes.”
 “Just to make sure…. don’t you think we should…consummate our marriage?”

Early on a Friday morning Jake and Sandy took the car and drove up to a forested nature park north and east of the city. Jake stopped on a road at a distance outside of a gated entrance. 
 Looking through a pair of binoculars Sandy said, “That looks like an entrance to a boy scout camp. In fact the sign says that it is a youth camp.”
 “Yes but look more closely. How many youth camps have armed guards and barbed fencing?” Jake replied. “I’ll drive you to another spot and show you the second gate.”
 The second gate was more distant than the first one and harder to make out. However, the signs of a guarded entrance were even more prominent. 
 “So where is the reactor?” Sandy asked.
 “I can’t see it from the road but it needs to be near a large enough lake or water source to cool the reactors if need be.” 
 “When do we go in?” Sandy asked.
 “This afternoon,” Jake replied. “It’s always best to come just before the weekend. People are less focused and more likely not to examine our papers too closely.”
 “How do you know things like that?”
 “In undergraduate I minored in psychology.” Jake said.
 “Jake Rowen have you been playing me?”
 “I’ll never tell.” 
 “Hmm, well it may be back to the couch for you buster.”

Driving up to the gate the first time was very nerve racking. The guards insisted that this was a park for children only even as many other cars left carrying nothing but loads of adult workers. Finally a Captain approached their car and introduced himself. After reading over his documents briefly he asked why they had come so late in the day.
 Sandy immediately replied, “To set up for Monday morning of course.” Jake thought that that was a pretty shrewd answer. He considered for a moment that maybe it was he who was being played. 
 The second gate was more of a formality than anything else. The guards did not even look at their documents. Once inside this gate the road began to narrow and curve around various natural barriers like rocks and low terrain. This was obviously an original back road to what really had been a nature reserve. However, the fencing presented a stark reminder that it was nothing of the sort now. Eventually they came to a large lake where the reactor sat on the southeast edge. They drove right up to the thing without even a check point in between. 
 Jake and Sandy walked inside and around the complex. Aside from thick cement walls there really did not find much until they reached a door which was locked. “We need to get in there,” Jake said. Then the door opened. A large man and a little boy of about ten years walked out. He shut the door firmly behind himself. 
 “What do you want?” he barked at them.
 Jake handed him his documents. The man was gruff and angry appearing he had an imposing mustache and a head full of thick black hair. The boy dressed in a Hitler Youth Uniform was shy and he smiled back when Sandy regarded him. 
 “I don’t care what these papers say you can’t go inside here.”
 “But we need…”
 “No! Your needs are not for here. I am head of security at this level and you don’t get inside.” 
 Another less imposing man walked up beside the first one. He was short with a balding scalp and he wore spectacles. “What seems to be the problem?”
 “They are from the local director’s office. They want to examine our workers for signs of sickness.”
 “Oh hello I’m Robert Döpel. You must for give Van Dietrich here he is very good at protecting my project and he is a bit short with folks at times. But it is necessary to have someone as dedicated as he is. I see Hare Huntsmen has signed your orders how is he?”
 “Well we just saw him three days ago.” Jake replied.
 “Yes he married us,” Sandy added. 
 “Excellent, excellent, congratulations and good for you, give him my best when you see him again. I’ll show you where you can set up. I do want my people to be tested. It is in their best interest. Come this way.” 
 Van watched them go with a look of sever distrust on his face. The boy waved to Sandy.
 Jake frowned at her. “So is the boy his son?”
 “Oh yes that is young Vern he is a sweet child. He lives here on the facility grounds.”
 “With his mother?” Sandy asked.
 “No…no she passed a while back,” Döpel paused as if he wanted to say something more but he did not.
 That night they returned to their hotel having discussed how they would proceed the next week. They had to finds a way to get inside the reactor control unit. Van Dietrich was going to be the problem more than any locked doorway. 
 “Didn’t you think his little boy was precious?” Sandy asked.
 “That little boy grows up to be an angry old man bent on killing you,” Jake cautioned. 
 Sandy stiffened. “Jake, if I am not Cassie yet, then he is not his older self either. You can’t have it both ways.”
 Jake thought about it for a minute. “I get negative vibes about Van. He is definitely a hard ass. I wonder how difficult it is for his son to be raised by him.” 
 “I think Vern likes me,” Sandy replied.
 “Good we can maybe use that,” Jake said back.
 “I won’t exploit him,” Sandy snapped.
 “No not that exactly. But Vern needs to see you as a real and good person. If we succeed I do not want him coming after you again.”
 
 
 The facility was very large. Their examination room was far off the main corridor and it was about a 20 minute walk just to get to the locked door from the week before. At first people who work their dribbled in which was fine with Jake and Sandy. They had to fake questions and conduct phony examinations and charting notes of their findings. With no fund of knowledge the task was much more challenging than they thought it would be. However, Jake did recommend that most of the individuals stop smoking and drink less. The latter suggestion was especially not well received. He amended it to drink more slowly while in the beer gardens. Still he was not winning many folks over. 
 “Next time I go in for a checkup I am going to be much more sympathetic to my doc’s job,” he told Sandy. 
 They tried wandering the complex as they now termed it given the size of the building. Still the corridor they wanted to get to was kept off limits by a number of posted guards. They had been luck on Friday the guards had been missing for some reason. They needed to find out why this was. About mid-afternoon a crying child came into the front part of their suit where Sandy welcomed the employees. He soon quieted but Jake wondered what was going on so he wondered toward the front beyond his curtained off section. Sandy was holding Vern. He had a large red mark on his face.
 “What’s up,” Jake asked but his German was a bit off for the phrase. 
 Vern smiled. “You’re funny,” he said in perfect English.
 “You speak English?” Jake asked in German. 
 “Sure and so do you,” he said right back in English. “I can tell by your accent that you are an American.”
 Not pretending any longer Jake responded in English, “How do you know that?” 
 “My mother was English. She taught me the difference.”
 “Well let’s keep it our little secret shall we?” Sandy asked him. 
 “Sure,” Vern said. 
 “What’s with your face?” Jake asked.
 “It’s nothing,” Sandy replied. “It is all better now, right Vern?” 
 Vern was now quite withdrawn but he nodded his agreement.
 “Good then let’s play a game shall we?” Sandy said. Vern smiled and shook his head yes. “I’ll think of a place and you can ask all the questions you want about it. I can only say yes or no. You have to guess where it is.” Vern agreed.
 They played this game for a period of time until Sandy came up with the place behind the door in the hall where they first met. Vern had difficulty with figuring it out and Sandy had to tell him where it was. 
 “Not fair,” Vern said. “You have never been there.” 
 “You’re right I haven’t…what’s it like?”
 “It is full of special” he could not think of the English word so he said in German, “equipment for turning on the power.” 
 “Oh I see,” said Sandy. “So it’s not a place for play.”
 Vern looked scared now and shook his head no. 
 “Ok so you can only go out that door to go play?” she said.
 Vern shook his head no but unexpectedly added, “I go in and out a secret door.” 
 “Oh I see so that’s where you go to play.”
 Vern nodded his approval right away. 
 “Well maybe Vern, I can walk you to the place where you play,” Sandy smiled back at him. He again nodded his approval. Jake started to go too but Sandy warned him off with a look that said not to. She was right Vern and others might be suspicious if he were to accompany them. Almost an hour later she returned. By then many of the employees had arrived for their exams, so they could not discuss what she learned.
 Once in the car Sandy blurted out a profanity. Jake was surprised. “A man who would hit a child deserves to be….punished. No make that needs to be punished.”
 “Who hit Vern?” Jake asked.
 “His father and it certainly was not the first time. And Jake I think that he also beat his wife!”
 They drove for a long time without speaking. “I saw the door. It is located under a ledge beyond the complex. It is not guarded. The reason the guards were not in place last week is that they have a meeting that they are required to attend each week. It coincides with the employees leaving the facility early on Friday.” 
 “Vern told you all that?”
 “No I met some of the lady employees when they were outside smoking. That’s why it took me so long to get back. Jake we can’t blow up the building with them inside.”
 “I am not planning on it.”

The day to set their plan in motion was set for Friday of the same week. Despite an inability to get inside the secure section ahead of time to locate the hydrogen container, Jake and Sandy had to do it then, as they had no options remaining to them. The only historical references they had seen had not been very helpful as it indicated that the destruction of Döpel’s “Uran-Maschine” was by a chemical explosion introduced by hydrogen. Jake took that this to mean that it was not by accident. But Sandy wondered if it was an accident what if somehow they actually prevented the real cause of the reactor’s destruction. 
 “Honey I am going to blow this thing one way or another,” Jake responded.
 Sandy hoped that doing his best to blow up this thing was not the reason Jake died. She wanted him alive and not an uncredited contributor to the reactor’s destruction. Even if history did change she wanted them to be together. Of course Jay and Wood had said that they both ceased to exist under the new time line so maybe there was no having Jake anyway. Sandy was determined not to let that be the case. Time travel was just too weird she thought.

***********************

Chapter 13: One Giant Leap for Mankind

On Friday they left the hotel with the bomb they had built inside their suitcase. It really was not all that powerful but Jake had reasoned that it did not take much to ignite a core reaction. Jake understand was that hydrogen was present all the time in small amounts as a normal product of nuclear-reactor metals corrosion as they cooled in water. Corrosion is worse during a nuclear accident where cooling power is diminished and temperatures are higher. In other words a nuclear reaction melt down had to happen first for the hydrogen to form in excess and then explode. The purpose of his bomb was to cause the reactor to loose cooling containment thus over heating the core and eventually producing a hydrogen explosion like the history books reported.
 Unknown to them was that the hotel manager saw them leave with a suitcase in hand. Fearing that he was about to be stiffed on his payment, the manager entered their room. He became quite alarmed when he found all sorts of notes written in English and mentioning he believed an explosion. He called the police who eventually realized that a plot was being hatched to blow up the nuclear reactor. Fortunately efforts to call the military were initially met with incredulity resulting in further delay reaching the authorities at the reactor. As fate would have it the military officer at the reactor who did eventually get informed just happened to be the man at the train station that Jake had angered. 
 The afternoon slipped by slowly for Jake and Sandy but after 3 pm most of the town employees had left. Jake drove the car up to the entrance where Sandy pretended to load up equipment and records. They got into their car and drove off in the direction of the inter gate. Once out of sight of the main door to the reactor they turned about and headed to the rear of the facility.
 “I think that we will be fine if we clear the second gate before it explodes,” Jake said having repeated himself again for what seemed like the hundredth time. “I’ll go inside and place the bomb, set the timer and come out and jump into the car. You know how to drive a stick right?”
 “I most certainly know how to drive a VW standard,” Sandy replied. Jake realized how dumb that sounded and he smiled sheepishly. They were both very nervous. 
 “Sure but this four speed can be tricky,” unintentionally Jake shifted and the gears did grind some. He looked up to see the concern on Sandy’s face. “We can do this,” he said. She smiled at him with an assurance that made Jake want to kiss her. 
 “I just hope that Vern has left already.” Strangely they both felt that way even though he would or could eventually become their enemy. 
 Once inside the doorway Vern had showed Sandy, Jake found himself in a long tunnel leading toward a closed door. Thankfully it readily opened. There before him was the control room. Seated behind a panel that reminded Jake of the controllers at a launch site for NASA were a couple of guys who appeared to be completely detached from the reality as they watched various dials. Jake clutched his satchel close to his body as he quietly walked right into the unlocked booth. 
 He held the bag up and simply said, “Bomb”, or at least he thought the word meant bomb. He should have checked with Sandy. At first neither man moved. “Bomb, bombs…get out…out!” He screamed. Finally they responded by jumping up and staring at him. The men then held their hands over their heads but did not move. He was just confusing them.
 “No, this is not a robbery… leave, now,” Jake said in more rather poor German. The men looked to one another and eventually understood. They slowly started toward the door, the two men still with their hands up. This was not going very well. Jake then shouted, “Keys…keys…!” Each of them took the control room board keys from around their necks and dropped them on the floor. Jake added, “Blow up, blow up.” They looked at one another and suddenly ran out. Jake rolled his eyes. “Well at least I got that right.” He then grabbed up the keys and examined the control board and made some adjustment and then locked down the board. He took the keys with him as he exited the control room and locked the door on the way out. 
 Jake then hurried around the control room toward the outer margin of the building’s interior until he reached a plant maintenance room. Once inside he descended to a lower level via a metal ladder. After searching for several minutes he found what he was looking for. He grasped a large wheel to a cut off value and turned it to the off setting. Then he removed the device in his satchel and attached it to the wheel. Jake climbed back up the ladder and kicked it free from its attachments. Jake took a moment towatched it fall. He tuned smiling until he walked smack into a massive person.
 Van Dietrich glared down at Jake. Then with one huge hand he grasped Jake by his shirt and hoisted him up to near eye level. “What are you doing here little man?”
 “Would you believe that I was on a tour and got lost,” Jake managed to rasp.
 “Nein,” bellowed Van as he tossed Jake across the room as easily as a kid tossing around his toy soldier. Jake bounced into a wall. At this point he looked up and saw little Vern standing near the door to the room. 
 “Vern, get out of the building now!” Jake called out.
 Vern looked up at his father. “You stay where you are,” Van said. “Or it will be the back of my hand again for you.” 
 Then seemingly out of nowhere old Vern appeared. “Who the hell are you,” Van shouted at him. Jake took his distraction as an opportunity to escape. He quickly got up and ran toward the door. Before Jake got half way across the maintenance room Van had him in a choke hold.
 “Where you going, Doc?” Van said this time in English. Jake turned his head in surprise. “Yeah the more I heard you talk the more I knew who you was. You’re a spy and you know what we do with spies? We break their necks.”
 “No!” cried little Vern.
 “You’re such a little baby. You’re weak like your mother was,” said Van snarled looking over at the small child. 
 “My mother was stronger than you think,” old Vern said stepping forward. 
 “Who cares about your mommy little old man? Get out of here before I break your face.” Van snapped. Thanks again to this distraction Jake broke free once more. Van placed two huge hands on him and flung Jake back against the far wall once more. Then he took old Vern and tossed him next to Jake. Jake looked down at his watch. 
 “In less than a minute the bomb I placed will go off. We need to get out of this room. We especially need to get the boy out.” 
 “No,” said Van.
 “No? Why?” Jake asked.
 “Because you want that,” Van sneered back. “Where is your bomb?” Jake pointed to the opening in the floor that leads down below. “That tiny package is a bomb?”
 “It is a full…of dynamite” Jake declared. Van looked unimpressed. “Well, a half a stick of dynamite.”
 Then there was a small pop and a less than impressive explosion. A small puff of smoke floated up to their level. There was also a brief flash of fire above their heads. Old Vern looked questioningly at Jake. “Ok it was a quarter stick.” Jake said. 
 Van roared with laughter. “That was your mighty bomb.”
 “It served its purpose. The cut off valve’s stem and wheel were blown off right?” Jake said. 
 “Yes so what?” Van replied looking down to where the smoke had cleared from below.
 “The reactor can’t be cooled now by running more water through. I shut the whole exchange system down. The core will now grow hotter and hotter and inside of an hour there will be enough hydrogen accumulating here to blow the roof off. You saw the air burn above our heads. That was just the small amount of hydrogen that was in this room already. The next time it will be hundreds of times more,” Jake explained. 
 Now he had Van’s attention. Enraged Van picked Jake up and hit him so hard that he tumbled to the far side of the room. Then Van marched right back over to Jake and did the same thing once more. Again he wound up next to old Vern.
 “I always thought that you that you killed my father,” said old Vern to Jake as he tried to gather himself up to face Van once more.
 “Are you kidding me? That guy is a six and a half foot guerrilla.” 
 Van pulled Jake back to his feet and he began striking Jake again. Old Vern stood and made his way over to little Vern. He lifted the boy up. “Run boy. Get as far away from this man as you possibly can.” Old Vern said. Little Vern hesitated just a moment looking at his older self but not truly understanding. “Find the woman,” old Vern said. “She is good.” Then little Vern nodded and ran out the door. 
 Jake took an opening and hit Van as hard as he possibly could. Van scoffed at him and then shoved Jake away with little effort. He stood above Jake. His fist clinched and then he reached back to increase the strength of his next blow. Suddenly Van stopped. His eyes grew unfocused and his lids flutter. Van fell hard on to the cement floor next to Jake. Standing behind the now limp giant was old Vern holding a club he had fashioned from a discarded piece of pipe.
 “Help me,” Vern said as he tried to drag Van across the floor to a hand rail. “He has hand cuffs at his waist,” Vern said as the two of them positioned Van at the wall. Jake cuffed him through the rail with Van’s hand behind him. 
 “Let’s go,” Jake said to Vern. He’ll wake up soon.” 
 “No, you go. I am staying here with him. When he wakes up we are going to talk about mother. Promise me you will look for Vern. Take him away from all this hatred.” Vern’s eyes were sad but there was no longer the rage that had once been there.
 Jake surveyed the scene once more. “You know the hydrogen explosion is real. The roof will bury you.”
 Vern nodded. “I have already been dead for years now. I’m sorry for the trouble I caused.”
 Jake grasped old Vern’s shoulder. They exchanged a meaningful look.

******************************

Chapter 14: Making It Up as I Go Along

Outside at last, Sandy, who was still stationed behind the wheel, looked relieved as Jake ran down to the car. They were both all smiles, that is until a Schloss Dyck classic black sedan rounded the building driven by a very unhappy German officer that Jake readily recognized. The man pointed his Luger pistol at Jake and fired. Fortunately for Jake at this distance the weapon was very inaccurate. Jake jumped into the passenger’s side of the car and Sandy took off. 
 They were in a clearing that surrounded the reactor but the woods were close by so Sandy took off in that direction. 
 After Sandy had passed several roads into the wooded area and as bullets whizzed by, Jake shouted “Take the next road. We have to get out of this clearing.” Sandy turned right down a road that quickly narrowed. “This is a walking path not a road. I said a road,” Jake called out as he looked ahead. 
 “You want to drive? I will be happy to let you,” Sandy relied. Jake just looked blankly back at her. 
 Jake stuck his head out his window to look behind them. The car was forced to stop as the path was too narrow for it. Jake smiled until he saw two motor cycles peal around the car and head toward them. He sat back down. Sandy saw his reaction and was clearly puzzled. Then she saw in the rearview mirror what he had seen. 
 “I’ve got this. I have seen it before.” Jake said.
 “You have?” she replied. “Sure, the Last Cru…” Bullets began to fly at them again. Jake ducked down. 
 One bike stayed back but firing his gun as he drove. While this soldier clearly found it impossible hit anything as he rode his cycle, the other soldier came up fast on the right. The road was uneven and trees were often obstacles. The rider dodged several smaller ones as he maneuvered closer to the back fender. Then he removed his pistol from its holster. He held it out and pointed it at Sandy. Sandy reflexively slowed in response to seeing the pistol. Jake opened his door and reached back. He grabbed the gun away from the soldier. Jake smiled as could not believe that he actually was able to do that. Shocked the soldier speed up and crashed into Jake. He grabbed the gun back from Jake. Angry, Jake fought back. The two of them began to wrestle over the weapon speeding through the woods. The pistol fired. Jake looked pained. The soldier grinned and then he collapsed and fell away, bike and all. Jake had the pistol when he returned to his seat and closed his door. He looked stunned. A shot from behind then scattered the windshield. Biker number two who had held his fire began shooting once more. 
 “Open the top,” Jake shouted.
 “Why?”
 “Deflection, I hope!”
 They both hit the release at the same time and the top flipped back and blew completely off their car. It struck the biker; he dropped his pistol and was momentarily slowed down. Jake grinned. The soldier considered for an instant and then decided to leave his gun behind. Sandy and Jake looked at each other. Jake shrugged. The biker hit the accelerators, drew closer, and then jumped on to the rear of the car. He and Jake met in the back seat. Each took turns trying to hit the other and momentarily losing their balance. Neither man had much of an advantage given the motion of the car and the bumps in the road. Jake then took a hard punch and fell toward the front driver’s door. Sandy grabbed at him and managed to pull him toward her and as she moved over to her right. Jake gain some traction slid into the driver’s seat. Now he was driving. Sandy smiled at Jake but the soldier rudely grabbed at her. Socked and irritated, Sandy then stood up and faced this soldier. The man smiled and shook his head. Sandy belted him squarely in the jaw and the man fell back and out over the right rear fender.
 Jake raised his right hand to give her a high five. Sandy had no idea what the gesture meant so she grabbed his hand and kissed it. Suddenly Jake smiled and then looked down the road. A very large tree was coming up fast. Jake swerved and pulled Sandy to him. The car screeched to a stop. Stunned Sandy laid there with her eyes close and her head in his lap. Had the branch hit her? Was that when her head injury had occurred? 
 Sandy blinked and opened her eyes. “Can we go home now?” Sandy asked. 
 Jake once more grinned back at her. “We need to make sure the reactor blows first.”

They exited the woods ahead of the open area of the reactor and turned up the road and out of the reactor area. It looked like that they has escaped the worst. No one was following them. Then Sandy who had purposefully looked back screamed. “Jake you got to go back and get Vern. He is standing back down the road all by himself.”
 Jake looked over his shoulder and saw the lad. His initial impulse would have been that the kid would be alright or… not? Old Vern wanted him to save Vern. If did not would this Vern still come after them years later? But Sandy was right, this was not that old man and Jake never wanted him to become that person again. Would rescuing Vern from his previous path create one strange paradox! If it were not for the old man he and Sandy would never meet. Then again there stood this little boy. 
 “Ah, the heck with the stupid paradox debate!” Jake said and turned the steering wheel hard as the car came about. Sweeping around the child, the car pulled up with Vern standing on the left side. Sandy opened her door and held out her hand. Vern looked to her and then Jake.
 “Come on boy we’re burning daylight,” Jake said. 
 Vern reached and Sandy scooped him up and they sped off. As Jake turned their car up the road again, a dark sedan charged after them. Jake was nearing the inter gate when he noticed the Schloss Dyck in his mirror. Instead of slowing Jake floored the gas petal and shifted into high gear. 
 One guard fired a shot from his rifle that went wide and then the guards all scattered as their car smashed through the barrier. The sedan was close behind in hot pursuit. Shots were flying from the car. Vern looked back behind at the sedan from his spot between Jake and Sandy on the front seat. Jake pushed Vern’s head down and Sandy pulled him close as she ducked below the seat. The next gate was just around the bend in front of them. The sedan slowed. Jake felt relief until he saw the tank perched directly in front of them. Jake had deep woods on either side of their car. He had no choice but to stop. 
 Behind them the German officer’s car rolled to a stop. He got out and stood staring at Jake. The German officer then motioned for the tank to fire. A loud explosion was heard and then nothing but darkness remained.

******************

Chapter 15: The Fat Lady Sings

Robert Carr Chapel Texas Christian University
 
 The minister was dressed appropriately in black robes. His silver hair protruded somewhat at his temples. His blue eyes were sad appearing and his face long. 
 “In life,” he began sounding slightly hoarse, “There are beginnings and then there are endings. There are good times and there are bad. There is hate and there is love. The thing about love is that it is like lighting….you never know when or where one is going to strike….” He looked blankly into the distance.

“Reverend Brown….Reverend Brown….Doc!”
 The minister blinked several times. “Yes, yes where were we? …Oh yes…Do you have the rings?
 Jake said dressed in a white tux coat, “Yes my best man had mine.” He turned around, “Vern?”. 
 “Here it is Uncle Jake,” the young lad similarly dressed said.
 Sandy equally resplendent in her white flowing gown retrieved her ring from her new best friend Carrie Smith.
 “Ah…ok place the rings upon the fingers. Now, do you Jakarta Rowen take Cassandra Jones to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
 “I do,” Jake said with a broad smile. The minister smiled back at him.
 “Do you Cassandra Jones take Jakarta to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
 “I most certainly do,” she replied eyes sparkling.
 “Therefore, as you both have so agreed, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss.” Jake and Sandy were already embraced in a passionate kiss. “Well I guess I did not have to give you permission after all.” The gathering applauded. 
 The wedding march music sounded from the pipe organ and the newly married, for the second time, couple descended the steps. Jake and Sandy stopped in at the base of the stairs to exchange hugs with an older couple. Jake turned to Vern.
 “Now mind my parents while we are gone,” he said. 
 Jake’s Mother said, “Vern is always a good boy unlike a certain other boy we raised.” 
 Jake having no real memory of that just smiled in response. They then proceeded out to a black limousine with two shofars waited. The sounds of rock and roll could be heard loudly emanating from the car as they drove off.

*****************************

Epilogue:
 Later that evening:
 “Jake are you asleep?”
 “Yes I am. Don’t wake me.”
 “Do you want a family?” Sandy asked.
 “Doesn’t Vern count already?” Jake said sleepily. 
 “Yes he does, but what about in addition to him?
 “Indiana Jones doesn’t have kids.”
 “Bogus response Dr. Rowen, you sure as heck are not Indiana Jones, and besides didn’t you tell me that he had a grown son? I really need to see that movie.” 
 “Ok, ok you are right. Can we sleep now?”
 “I suppose, after all a girl in my condition does need her rest.”

“Wait… what?”

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