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Winds of Change

Mike Lowe aka The Scot

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Winds of Change

Copyright © 2011 by R. Michael Lowe aka The Scot

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. All rights are reserved by the author, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

Product names, brands, and other trademarks referred to within this book are the property of their respective trademark holders. Unless otherwise specified there is no association between the author and any trademark holder is expressed or implied. Nor does it express any endorsement by them, or of them. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark, service mark, or registered trademark.

Cover Art

The image is Hurricane Bonnie 26 Aug 1998 2005Z.jpg by NOAA Satellite and Information Service, and was placed in the public domain by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The cropping, merging, and adding of text is done by Ernest Bywater. All rights to the cover image are reserved by the copyright owners.

8 December 2019 version
Published by Ernest Bywater
ISBN: 978-1-365-93766-8

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Chapter 01

Grant Maxwell and his two children stared at the local news report in amazement. Overnight, a squall two hundred miles east of Charleston and a hundred miles south had turned into a hurricane. Of course, hurricanes in the Low Country of South Carolina were not uncommon, but no one had ever heard of one forming this far north or so close to the mainland. In addition, this storm seemed to be heading straight for Charleston, which would place Grant's research facility in the path of the northern side of the eye - the area of the storm's most significant fury.

The last time a storm had hit this area was twenty-two years ago when Hugo left a path of destruction whose effects could still be seen just by looking out his window. His house and research compound were located about five miles from the mouth of the Santee River at the north-eastern edge of Francis Marion National Forest and a little over a mile west of the Intracoastal Waterway. Hugo had flattened this large National Forest, destroying enough trees to have built homes for one point six million people. The small pines that were now twenty to thirty feet high were a sad reminder of the large trees that had been destroyed, many of which were two feet or larger in diameter. It was doubtful if most of the stately live oaks that had once shared the forest would ever be replaced.

Grant felt pretty secure in their location, as this area had survived the bigger storm, and they had done much to strengthen the site during the building process. Several of his employees felt the same, as they had abandoned their mobile homes and brought their families to the facilities for shelter. What really added to their sense of security was the floor of the house and most of the other buildings were forty-eight feet above sea-level; fifteen feet higher than the peak of Hugo's storm surge. This confidence was boosted by the Army Corps of Engineers certification that the main structures could withstand winds greater than two hundred and fifty miles an hour.

Of course, with the type of secret research he was doing for the Navy, they could justify the funds needed to secure the site for anything short of a nuclear explosion or a large object falling from space. The full importance of their work could be seen by the fact that they were hidden in plain sight. There were no ten foot chain-link fences topped with razor wire, no guards at the entrance, and no armed patrols with dogs. Instead, they were at the end of several miles of little used sand and shell roads. This didn't mean that security didn't exist though, as there was a substantial electronic surveillance network covering the roads and the surrounding areas.

To further the secrecy of the site, there were no visible power or phone lines past the Santee Gun Club, which was a good two miles west. Lines past the hunting club, which catered for top level government personnel, were buried underground to the Maxwell facility, and this included a T-3 link to the Internet. Their electricity was backed up by several large propane powered generators, as well as a turbine anchored to the river's bottom. A unique part of the turbines was that they could be turned by water flow in either direction, thus utilizing not only the river's current, but also the tidal activity. This was part of their research, and had been successful to the point of actually transferring more power into the Santee-Cooper grid than they were using.

Looking from the river, the site used a thick stand of bamboo and massive live oaks to hide the small harbor containing several boats. Included in their efforts to remain basically hidden from inquisitive eyes, was a movable platform containing bamboo and shrubs that fit closely to the actual land. Blending in with its surroundings, it protected and hid the harbor's entrance, yet it could be opened like a gate to let boats in and out of the small harbor.

Grant's thoughts were interrupted by the ominous sounds of Darth Vader's theme. Only his ex-wife's calls could initiate this ringtone.

“Yes, Charlotte,” he answered.

“Do you have the children? I can't get a hold of my sister.”

“Yes, I have them. Teresa called me in a panic and said they were headed out away from the storm and did not have room for Mark and Tracy.”

“I was trying to get back, but the FAA has closed the airport and we're being redirected to Atlanta.”

“I understand, but they'll be perfectly safe here. I offered to provide shelter to your sister, but they couldn't wait to leave town. She was so terrified; she couldn't wait for me to get there. She took them to the police station instead.”

“She did what?” shouted Charlotte.

“She dropped Mark and Tracy off at the front entrance to the James Island Police Station. She didn't even take them inside, but just sent them inside with a note. By the time I got there I was knee deep in social services bureaucrats. It took me almost three hours to remove the kids from their clutches.”

“I know she can be a bit hysterical, but this seems a bit much even for her.”

“Well, believe me, I'm not making this up or exaggerating. It took me most of the drive back here to calm Tracy down, though Mark seemed rather stoic about the whole affair.”

“Grant, we've had our differences, but as far as I know, you've never lied to me. In fact, part of our problem was that too often you told me a truth I didn't want to hear. Based on that, are you sure they'll be safe? The television report seems to think that area's going to take quite a beating.”

“Charlotte, we've got generators in case we lose power. We've got food and water and are almost fifty feet above sea-level. This place weathered the storm surge from Hugo, and we've done a lot to make it even more secure.”

“That makes me feel better, and besides, no matter how I feel about you, I can't imagine you placing those kids at risk.”

“Thanks for the compliment ... I think.”

His ex-wife laughed, and said, “Thanks for keeping my feet on the ground, even though I'm thirty-five thousand feet in the air. Now, how bad is it?”

“The storm is still rated a category two, but it's sitting at the edge of the Gulf Stream picking up strength. The winds here are currently thirty-three miles per hour and increasing. The rain bands started a few hours ago, but at the moment, it isn't coming down very heavy. One thing positive is that we reached high tide more than two hours ago, so most likely we'll be on an outgoing tide when it finally comes ashore. That should drop the level of the storm surge considerably.”

“It's funny. I've been listening to the experts for over four hours, and you told me more in four minutes. I think you missed your calling.”

“Thanks, but remember the reason they rattled on for four hours was that they had airtime to fill. I just concentrated on the pertinent facts.”

“I hadn't thought of it like that, but you're right. Anyway, thanks for the reassurance and the civil conversation.”

“Charlotte, when have I not spoken to you in a civil manner?”

There was a long pause before his ex-wife answered in a sad tone, “When I was making unreasonable and unrealistic demands. Many of which I have to admit were placed in my head by my sister. Maybe if she had kept out of it ...”

“Don't even go there, Charlotte. Let's just concentrate on the fact that we both got what we wanted, and we've got two very special kids as an added benefit. Now, I've got to go. The wind has just jumped almost fifteen miles an hour and rain is coming down in sheets.”

“Okay, Grant. Please stay safe.”

“I'll do my best.”

Grant terminated the call and looked back at his gauges. He quickly extended the mast of the sailboat sitting in the harbor and used the radar and the TV camera to get a quick look at the storm. It seemed to have made up its mind and was headed toward shore. At maximum magnification he could actually see the forward edge of the eye wall. He quickly lowered the mast and hit the intercom.

“John, it's headed in and I think it'll be a category three by the time it arrives. Get the families inside and make sure everything is secure, including the steel covers for the windows.”

“We're already on it,” replied John Ross, his second in command.

Grant's cell phone rang for a second time. Looking at the caller ID, he found that it was from his friend, retired marine gunnery sergeant Eric Camden.

“Yes, Eric. What'u need?”

“How about a little shelter? We're returning from a gun show in Conway, but we're not going to make it to Mount Pleasant before the storm hits.”

“Sure, but be careful as there may be trees and stuff all over the road. How many are with you?”

“We've three in each of the two vans and both the vans and the trailers are full of merchandise. We'll be there as quickly as possible, but we're having to drive about twenty miles an hour due to the heavy rain. I can't see more than seventy-five feet in front of me.”

“Okay. I'll have some of my men clear out an area in the warehouse so you can just pull in and park out of the weather. Call when you see the buildings and I'll start the door opening.”

“Will do, and thanks.”

Sioux Ross entered the room as Grant ended the call, and asked, “Grant, do you or the kids want anything to eat or drink? I've some fresh juice made, as well as soup and sandwiches.”

Before Grant could answer, the excited children headed to the kitchen area.

“Well, I guess that's part of my answer,” Sioux laughed. “Are you going to join them?”

“Actually, I need to stay on watch at the moment, though the soup and sandwich sounds good. I'd like a diet though, instead of juice.”

“Over ice?”

“Please.”

While studying the instruments and waiting for Sioux to return, Grant took a mental inventory of those who were depending on him for shelter. Of course, his children, Mark and Tracy were his ultimate concern, but he also had John and Sioux, along with their eight month old daughter, Tiena. John was his second in command and lived on site, as did Grant.

Mike and Jenifer Samuels, Brad and Barbara Tyson and Jerry and Pat Allen were the three couples who had fled their manufactured homes. All three men were retired Navy Chiefs who had worked with Grant at the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek. When the Navy had moved Grant to a separate facility, the three men were granted full retirement and given clearance to continue helping Grant with his research. There were other employees who were also valuable to their research efforts, but they weren't presently depending on Grant to protect them from the storm.

Sioux returned with his meal at the same time his weather gear notified him that the winds were now above sixty miles an hour. He thanked her and took his first bite of the hot pastrami sandwich. It was delicious. He sipped the cup of cream of broccoli soup as his cell phone again rang. The ID said it was Eric.

“That was quicker than I thought,” Grant stated into the phone.

“We're not there yet, but I thought I better advise you that we've a car and a truck following us. I suspect they're following our tail lights, but I thought I'd better give you a heads up. We should be there in less than ten minutes.”

“Thanks for the warning. I won't turn people away during a storm like this, but I'll need to make sure they're legitimate.”

Grant ended the call and hit the intercom, saying, “John, we've got guests coming. Some of whom were not invited. Clear the center of the warehouse and make sure everyone is armed. The first two are Eric Camden and some of his employees returning from a gun show. They have two vans, each pulling a large trailer. We think the others were just following his tail lights in the storm, but we don't know for certain.”

“Aye aye, Skipper. How close are they?”

“One zero minutes according to Eric. He's supposed to call when he sees the compound, but if you see him first, open the doors. I'd also turn on all the lights out there.”

“Do we leave them out there?”

“No, go ahead and use the tunnel to get everyone in here. I'm sure this house is a lot less frightening than the warehouse in a storm like this, and besides, I suspect everyone would appreciate some of Sioux's delicious soup.”

“We're on our way,” responded John.

At times like this, it was easy to appreciate John's calm nature. He and his wife were both American Indians. John was a member of the Cherokee tribe, while his wife was a Lakota Sioux. According to Grant's sources, John was a direct descendant of the Cherokee leader of the same name who once ruled the area around what is now Chattanooga and was an ally of Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812.

John was in his late twenties, about six feet tall and was a hundred and ninety pounds of hard muscle. He was the only one in the group who was non-Navy, having spent four years in the Marines. After taking a bullet in the shoulder in Afghanistan, he had been medically retired. He used his education benefits to parlay the on-line courses he had taken while on active duty. He had attended Auburn University, graduating with a double major of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He was a whiz with both hardware and software.

Auburn was also where John met Sioux, though at the time she had another name. He nicknamed her Sioux, and she liked it so much she had her name legally changed when they married. Her degrees were in animal husbandry and farm management.

Like John, Sioux had black hair and facial features that were distinctively Native American. Though only a little over five four, she was a multi-degree black belt and was almost as deadly as her husband. Sioux also had a way with animals, especially with horses, and many had categorized her as a 'horse whisperer.' She would have been on the equestrian team in the last Olympics if she had not gotten pregnant just a few months prior to the opening of the games. Though there were no rules against a pregnant woman competing, her unpredictable bouts of morning sickness made it unwise.

While eating and thinking about his people, Grant had been continuing to monitor the storm. When the wind reached seventy-five miles an hour, he retracted the wind gauge and other weather gear into its secure housing. There was nothing to be gained by leaving it exposed at this point. He also shut down all non-essential electrical equipment to minimize the impact of a direct hit by lightning.

According to the TV, the leading edge of the eye wall was now twenty miles off shore, and the expected point of impact was the Cape Romain lighthouse, just east of McClellanville and about thirty-five miles northeast of Charleston. The worst part was that this was less than ten miles away, placing them in the direct path of the northern edge of the eye wall. This would be the absolute worst place to be in a hurricane.

Grant was contemplating the significance of the new information, trying to see if any of their plans needed to be altered. The ringing of his cell phone brought him back into the real world. It was Eric.

“Yes, Eric,” he answered.

“We can see the lights and the warehouse doors are opening. Do you want us to remain in our vehicles?”

“No. John and some of the others will bring everyone to the house through a tunnel we built for such emergencies. Since we don't know who has followed you, all my people will be armed.”

“Do you want us to do the same?”

“It can't hurt. Now hurry in here, this sucker is now up to a three and it looks like we're going to be hit by the northern eye wall.”

“Shit!” exclaimed Eric.

“My sentiments exactly.”

By the time John returned to the house with their guests, the storm was in full force. Just prior to their entry into the main building, Grant had looked out an observation port. The scene before him seemed almost unreal.

The lightning was so intense it reminded him of the Northern Lights he had seen in Iceland. The wind whipped through limbs of the live oaks causing the Spanish moss to appear to be dancing to the tempo of the almost continuous thunder. The musical quality of the thunder puzzled Grant for a moment until he decided that it was probably caused by the differing distances between the compound and the individual lightning discharges.

As Grant contemplated the scene before him, he realized that Mother Nature had revealed to him one of her most brilliant operas. The swaying moss and limbs were the dancers, the roaring thunder was the beating of the drums, the moaning of the wind were the woodwinds, and the snapping of limbs and pine tree tops were the clashing of cymbals. He found the whole thing truly amazing.

Hearing the entry of Eric and the others, Grant started for the kitchen. Then, before he exited what he had called their living room, a large crash occurred outside. In reaction, Mark and Tracy ran into the room and launched themselves into his arms. The force of the impact caused him to fall back onto the buckskin covered sofa and, once secure in their Daddy's arms, the children had no intention of moving.

“John,” Grant called in a voice loud enough to carry into the kitchen.

Not hearing a panic in his boss' voice, John made his way to the living room without running or panicking the others. When he saw the frightened kids being comforted by their father, he understood immediately what was needed. He returned to the kitchen, where he and Sioux played host in Grant's stead. After everyone was introduced, food and drinks were offered and everyone was invited to make themselves at home.

While the guests ate and recovered from their ordeal of driving in the storm, John learned that the car following Eric's two vans was a Lincoln Navigator SUV driven by Beth Anderson. She was bringing her daughter Alicia and Alicia's best friend, Samantha Lykes, from Landover, Maryland to begin classes at the College of Charleston. Beth was probably in her mid to late thirties, though she looked younger. She was tall, slender and everything about her reeked class. There was no wedding ring, though there was a mark on her finger that showed she had worn one recently.

Alicia and Samantha (call me Sam) were in their late teens and both appeared to be late bloomers. Both were around five six, but differed in their body shape and hair. Alicia had chestnut hair similar to her mother, but her body had yet to develop much of a figure. Sam was a true blue-eyed blond with partially developed breasts and hips. Underneath her braces, thick glasses and the baby fat around her waist was a beautiful woman waiting to emerge.

The semi-truck that followed Beth Anderson was towing a low-boy driven by Charles Young. It was his truck, as was the large Cat bulldozer secured to the trailer. He had been hired by a company in North Charleston to help clear away some old buildings at the edge of the old Navy base and do site preparation for a new office complex. He was divorced with no children and lived with his mother when he wasn't on the road.

There was one other car that Eric had not seen, and it contained two young Marines who were being transferred from Camp Lejeune to Paris Island. PFC Trey Taylor was nineteen or twenty, and his marine cut blond hair made him look almost bald. His soft blue eyes were framed by a well tanned face and his hundred and seventy pounds fit nicely on his five ten frame. His buddy, Lance Corporal Marcel Ingram, was a slightly older black man with a medium dark complexion and hazel eyes. He was six foot and a very solid one eighty-five. Trey was assigned to work in base supply, while Marcel was to assist drill instructors on the rifle range.

Everyone in those final three vehicles were surprised where they finally stopped, but once they started following the car in front of them, they didn't know what else to do but to continue and hope that the person in the lead knew someplace where they would be safe.

After a short time, everyone's emotions seemed to be returning to normal. The wind was still crying in the night and the rain seemed to be poured from a giant pan rather than coming down as individual drops. It also seemed that more rain was hitting the side of the buildings than was hitting the roof.

Sioux had checked on Grant, and was pleased to find him and his children asleep on the Sofa. She thought a lot of Grant, and it infuriated her how his ex-wife and her sister made him go through all sorts of hoops to have any time with his kids. At least Mark and Tracy would have the memories of this time to help carry them through the tough times that would follow.

John's wife checked on her daughter and then returned to the kitchen and sat on her husband's lap while the visitors shared more about themselves. She was a little surprised that no one had asked about the compound, or its purpose.

Suddenly, there was a loud boom which accompanied the shaking of the building like a mid-level earthquake. Knowing the extent of its foundations, John's initial concern was that one of the five hundred gallon propane tanks had exploded. Then, before anyone could move, the wind and rain stopped. It didn't taper off as you'd expect, it just completely and abruptly stopped. This was followed immediately by a loud klaxon from one of the warning sensors.

John ran to the control room, only to find that Grant had already arrived and was using his arm to turn on switches by the row.

“What's happening?” asked John.

“The water in the river and in the harbor has risen by several feet and the turbine is producing four times the electricity that it was. The problem is that the grid isn't accepting the overflow.”

“Storm Surge?” asked John.

“According to this, it's outflow, not inflow. It's almost like the river is ignoring the diversion canal.”

“Should I call Santee-Cooper and see if they have any information, both on the water levels and the grid?”

“I think that would be a good idea. In the meantime, I want to find out what is happening to this storm. I've been in numerous hurricanes before, but I've never seen the rain and wind just stop, even when you first entered the eye.”

Mike, Brad and Jerry stood at the door, and asked, “Grant, is there any way we can help?”

“Yes, Jerry, I need you to raise some of these storm covers over the windows so we can directly observe what's happening. Mike, you need to check the marina and boats for obvious damage, Brad, I need you to do the same for the buildings and grounds. Just be cautious, because if we're in the eye, the storm could come back at full fury in a matter of minutes.”

“Grant,” shouted John, “the phone's dead and I can't get a signal on my cell phone.”

“That's possible if both lines and a tower are down. In fact, if we've problems with the electrical grid, then that could disable the cell tower by itself. How about running up the mast of the sailboat and checking the radar, as well as the video? We need to find out if we're in the eye, or what.”

Jerry called out from the living room, “Grant, you've got to see this.”

“Is the damage that bad?” Grant asked as he entered the room.

“No, but I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.”

“We weren't, anyway,” Grant laughed.

The laughter stopped immediately when Grant looked out the window. Gone were the miles of small pines, and in their place were pines and oaks that were three to five feet around. The compound itself seemed to be the same, but everything changed starting about a hundred and fifty feet from the buildings.

Brad and Mike joined Grant and Jerry and reported that other than the new landscaping and the higher water, everything seemed normal. There were a few downed branches, but nothing seemed to be damaged.

As the four men discussed the situation, they were interrupted by John's cry, “What the hell?”

Chapter 02

Grant ran to John to learn what had caused such a reaction. At the same time, in the kitchen he heard some girl screaming about being blind and a loud crash as if someone had fallen. He would have to leave those issues to Sioux at the moment because John's expletive demanded his immediate attention. Primarily because he was Grant's second in command, but also because John did not curse, nor did he get excited easily.

“What happened?” asked Grant.

“According to the radar, there is no sign of the hurricane, not even a thunderstorm or a rain band.”

“That's impossible.”

“That's not all. The video shows the entire mouth of the river has changed and there's an ancient sailing ship anchored off shore, with several boats being rowed toward the point on the southern bank. In addition, I see no sign of US 17, the bridge over the Cooper River, the gun club, McClellanville or any development around Isle of Palms or Sullivan's Island. Even the lighthouses at Cape Romain and Sullivan's Island are gone. Charleston's skyline is drastically altered and Mount Pleasant seems to be nothing more than a fort guarding the entrance of the harbor ... a harbor that appears to be full of sailing ships like you would see in the eighteenth century.”

“Keep a watch on that ship off the coast and make sure no one is headed this way. I'll get Mike and Brad to take our duck blind up river and gather intelligence, but make sure you or someone covers the radio. What about electrical power?”

John answered, “I've closed the downstream gates as much as possible and the upstream gates by more than half. I also have the second unit shut down and its turbine is spinning freely. We're at twenty percent and still producing more power than we can use. I don't think anything will be harmed under this configuration.”

“What is your assessment?”

“Do you remember the movie The Final Countdown?”

Grant replied, “The one with Kirk Douglas?”

“Yep, I think we may have just had a similar experience.”

“Shit! A similar thought was also forming in my mind. Okay, keep things under control here and let me go check on the chaos in the kitchen.”

Grant entered the kitchen to find that Sioux had things well under control, or as much as they could be under the circumstances. One of the first things he noticed was Tracy sitting on the lap of a chestnut haired beauty. His son was sitting on the lap of a large young man in his mid twenties.

“Sioux, can you bring me up to date?”

“I don't know what was so shocking to my husband, but we've had a few miracles in here.”

“Such as?”

“Did you hear Sam screaming about being blind?”

“I heard someone, but I didn't know who. I haven't met any of our guests other than Eric, Michael, and Drew, and considering the situation, I hope no one considers me rude for putting off the introductions until we have things more under control.”

Sioux responded, “Grant, though none of us have much of a clue as to what has happened, I think we all know that something significant has occurred. Thus, I doubt anyone would consider you rude at the moment.”

“Good. Now, I need Mike and Jerry to take the duck blind up river and report by radio anything you observe out of the ordinary. Try not to let anyone see you and go no further upstream than ten miles.”

“Will do, Skipper,” answered Mike, “but you need to see one thing before we go.”

Little Tracy's curiosity got to her, and she had to ask, “Daddy, what's a duck blind?”

“Princess, it's a small flat bottomed boat the guys have camouflaged with paint, plastic plants, silk plants, and clumps of dried reeds fastened around the edges of the boat. This allows it to blend into the shore along the river to help them hide from the ducks during the hunting season.”

“Are they afraid of the ducks?”

“No darling, why would you ask that?”

“Well, you said that it was to help keep the ducks from hunting them?”

The laughter filled the room as Grant explained, “Actually, it's to help Mister Mike and the others get closer to the ducks before shooting them.”

“Oh,” answered the little seven year old thoughtfully.

Turning back to the others Grant asked, “Now, what was Mike insisting I see?”

Sioux answered, “All of Mike's tats are gone, including the anchor.”

Mike added, “It's not like I'll miss them at this point, but even a laser doesn't get it all. There is no sign that they were ever there.”

“I don't have an explanation at the moment, but I'm glad that you won't miss them.”

Jenifer, Mike's wife interjected, “I'll make sure he doesn't. One of them included his first wife's name. As for an explanation, Mike's tats are just the beginning. For the rest, I think you need to sit down with something to calm your nerves.”

As Mike and Jerry left the building, Sioux set a glass of ice and a bottle of Gentleman Jack at the head of the table, and said, “Already done. Now sit, pour yourself a drink and take a sip or two. You're going to need it.”

Grant did as she asked and closed his eyes as he savored the flavor of this fine Tennessee Sipping Whiskey.

After three good sips, he looked up at her and said “I'm ready.”

“I doubt that, but I guess it's time to start. There will be some introductions as we go, with additional ones at the end.”

“Okay.” Grant replied after taking another sip.

“First, I want you to look at Brad's hands.”

Even with everything else, Grant was truly surprised by what he saw.

“Your pinky stub, it's restored!”

“Even the coloring matches the rest of the finger,” added Brad.

“Feeling?”

“It's like it's never been missing. I've lived without it for so long that I'm going to have to be careful I don't accidentally lose it again.”

“Wow. Having it slowly re-grow would have been amazing, but this goes far beyond that.”

Sioux moved to stand behind a blond teen whom he had not seen before. John's wife reached forward and slid a set of glasses toward Grant. They looked like they were made from the bottoms of the old glass Coke bottles.

“Grant, this beautiful young lady is Sam. She's been wearing glasses like these since she was four. Suddenly, when all hell broke loose, everything she saw was a huge blur.”

“Which was why she shouted that she was blind?”

“Exactly. When I ran to her, my first reaction was to remove her glasses and immediately she could see clearer than she ever had. In fact, I suspect that her vision may be better than twenty-twenty. In addition, her crooked teeth are now straight, and the last of her baby fat has disappeared. Once Barbara removes those braces, she will be flawless.”

Brad's wife Barbara interjected, “I plan on having my husband make me some tools as soon as he can. I know how to remove the braces, but for some reason, I doubt I can get to the tools in my office.”

Grant nodded, and said, “I suspect you're right, but how did you reach that conclusion?”

“I was born in this area. Trees like those we can see out the windows are far older than anything I've seen throughout my life. I think we're now in the middle of a forest that has never known an ax.”

“That's part of why I sent Mike and Jerry out like I did. It appears that we're in the same spot, but in Colonial times. I don't know if the Revolution has occurred yet, but I suspect we're in that general time frame.”

Momentarily surprised by everyone's calm reaction to his statement, Grant added, “Of course, that's probably not too far fetched after seeing fingers and eyesight restored.”

“I think you're right,” stated the woman who was tenderly holding his daughter. “By the way, I'm Beth Anderson, and this is my daughter Alicia. I was taking Alicia and Sam to start classes at the College of Charleston when we followed the vehicles in front of us down to your home.”

“Welcome Beth, Alicia and Sam. I know this was not what you had planned, but I hope we can provide a safe and secure home in this time of turmoil. I also want to thank you for taking up with my daughter. I never saw her mother show such tenderness.”

“I hope I won't upset you, but I think the two of us have already begun to bond.”

“No, that doesn't upset me, unless you try to push me out of her life. She needs a mother as well as a father, and I have enough trouble just doing my part.”

“Daddy, Miss Beth could never replace you, but I really won't miss Mommy or Aunt Teresa. To them, Mark and I were little more than show dogs.”

“Wow,” exclaimed Alicia. “That says a lot coming from a seven year old. Did your daddy explain that to you?”

“No, Daddy would bite his lip to keep from saying anything negative about Mommy. That was what Aunt Teresa would tell us. Daddy did call Mommy's sister a self-centered bitch a few times.”

Everyone at the table chuckled at Tracy's revelation. The last part was said with such conviction that no one was left doubting as to the child's agreement with her father's statement. Tracy's statement also had a significant influence on Beth's opinion of Grant.

Mark tearfully added, “Actually, Aunt Teresa repeatedly told us that we were a real bother and were worthless for anything other than to be Mommy's 'show dogs.'

Mark's statement moved the group even more than Tracy's, and the two adults holding the children hugged them tightly for comfort.

Sioux moved next to the young man who was holding Mark, and said, “Grant, this is Charles Young. He was behind Beth and followed her lights to our compound. He played football at Clemson and has a degree in Forestry Management. He also had scarring from a knee injury that's now gone.”

“Welcome to our home, Charles. Where is your home and what brought you out in such a miserable storm?”

“I live, or guess you could say lived with my mother in Conway. My father did bulldozer work before he died. After I had trouble finding a forestry job, I decided to take his low boy and the Cat and do what he'd done. I started bidding on jobs along the coast and have done rather well. I had a deadline to start on a job at the edge of the old Navy base, but it looks like I won't make it.”

“Don't worry, I suspect we'll be able to keep you busy. What about your mother?”

“She'll miss me, of course, but she's fixed financially.”

“There is at least that,” responded Grant in a tone that expressed both concern and relief.

Grant turned to Eric, and asked, “With all this healing going on, what about your health issues?”

“We'll have to monitor my sugar and my heart for a while, but I suspect you're right. Drew has limped for more than ten years due to the bullet wound to his knee, but now even the scar is gone. When he first tried to stand after the alarm sounded, his leg gave way, and he fell against the fridge. Beth suspects the repairs had not been fully completed, but now everything seems fine.”

Grant turned back to Beth, and asked, “Beth, from Eric's statement, can I assume you have medical experience?”

“I'm an OB / GYN with a practice in Landover, Maryland, but as an intern I did rotations in several areas, including surgery.”

“I have a feeling your knowledge is going to be very important in our future, so I'm even more pleased that you were led here by this reprobate and his crew of jolly cutthroats.”

“I resemble that remark,” Eric answered with a hearty laugh that would have made any evil movie pirate green with envy.

“Since we're into introductions, Eric, I know you, Michael and Drew. Do you want to introduce the rest of your people?”

“Sure. The guy sitting on the bar-stool is a 'coasty' petty officer second class named Cal Peterson. He's the coxswain of the cutter Yellowfin and is considered the best boat driver in the area. He also had a bullet scar disappear from his left arm.”

“Cal, we're glad to have you, as I suspect Mike could use the help. Do you go by 'Boats' also?”

“Actually, a CPO, even retired would have the title, but we don't tend to use it in the Coast Guard, anyway. Cal will be fine.”

“Then Cal it is, and I go by Grant or Skipper. I'm too informal a person to be a Doctor Maxwell.”

After a pause, Eric continued, “The sandy redhead in the shadows is Gunners Mate Second Class Zeke Adams. He was trained as a SEAL as well as a sniper.”

“Welcome Zeke. How did you end up with Eric?”

“I was TDY at the Weapons Station while waiting for a new team to be formed. A buddy told me that Eric needed a part-timer, so I applied. I've been working about twenty hours a week at the gun shop, but this was my first gun show.”

“I'm sorry that your career got cut short, but we're glad to have you.”

“Thank you, Skipper. I sought adventure in the Navy, and I suspect I'll get plenty of it with you.”

Eric pointed to the large teen standing near his son, Michael, and said, “This young man is Bobby Johnson, Michael's best friend. He was about to start his senior season as Wando High's center. He was also supposed to graduate in December and start at South Carolina in January.”

“Bobby, as with the others, I'm sorry your plans got disrupted. Believe me, it wasn't anything I planned.”

“I understand that. I don't know if this was an act of God, aliens or a freak of nature, but I know that the Bible says that God works all things together for good to those that love him. Therefore, I have to believe that there is a purpose for all of us to be here.”

“Bobby, I may not be the man of faith that you appear to be, but I also think there is a purpose behind this. Just look at our resources, and the knowledge and training in this group of people. We've a history teacher who has extensive knowledge of South Carolina history. We've the only electrical power in the world. We've marksmen who can hit a target at close to a mile. We've smokeless powder and modern weapons. We've radar, sonar, radio and even a modern doctor. One of my biggest concerns, at the moment, involves how much our presence might change this time-line, or are we in a parallel universe.”

It was obvious from the look on the different faces that Grant's statement had struck them deeply. He could also sense that his questions would be going around and around in everyone's mind for a long time.

One of the two men he hadn't met stepped forward, snapped to attention, and said, “Sir, we're delighted that we've a leader that even knows the questions to ask.”

“Marine?” asked Grant.

“Yes, Sir. I'm Lance Corporal Marcel Ingram and my bud is PFC Trey Taylor.”

“We're glad to have you both on board, and like I told one of the others, I'm Grant, or Skipper, so forget all the Leatherneck spit and polish. Now, I don't mind an occasional Semper Fi and ooh-rah, but the first time you jump to attention and say 'Sir, Yes, Sir,' I'll wash your mouth out with soap.”

Both Marines looked rather sheepish as the rest of the adults in the room burst into laughter. Of course, most everyone thought the whole idea was a joke, but the two young Marines weren't sure and certainly didn't want to give Grant an excuse to prove everyone wrong.

“Grant, you've learned a lot about us, how about giving us your background, as well as that of your people?” asked Beth Anderson. “I think we would all like to know more about what you were doing here.”

“I think that's a fair request, but I'd like to wait until Jerry and Mike return.”

“They're on their way back,” informed John, who had been standing at the door.”

“What did they find?”

“There's a ferry and a dirt and shell road about six miles upstream. They saw no signs of civilization between here and there.”

“What about the ship off the point?”

“The landing party buried several sea chests in a stand of palmetto palms and oaks that lie above the high water mark. When they spotted a ship leaving Charleston, they hightailed it. Didn't even wait to pull the last long boat aboard, but dropped a cannon ball on it instead.”

“Pirates?”

“Most likely,” replied John. “If the Revolution has started, and they were privateers, I could see them running, but not burying something on the point.”

“I was wondering how we were going to finance our little operation as our bank accounts, credit cards and even our money has no value at the moment. I think we should make a little journey downstream as it gets closer to night. Just make sure the footprints all originate from the ocean side. I don't want any fingers pointing to the river.”

“Good point, but how will our footprints appear to someone of this time period? Obviously we can't wear tennis shoes.”

“Good point, but most of us have some heavy boots. Hopefully that print will look enough like the boots of today to deflect any undue curiosity.”

Drew interjected, “They'll probably be so upset at the loss of their treasure that they won't notice. Still, if it would help, I've got some thick pieces of cowhide in one of the trailers. We can fasten that to the bottom of the boots we're using and it will blur any distinctive markings.”

“That will work,” responded Grant. “Any other ideas?”

Bobby Johnson answered, “The points around Bulls Bay are notorious for snakes. I think Eric has some rat shot in 22 short. That would be better against the snakes and not make a report you could hear all the way to Charleston.”

“Good point,” Eric added, “and I have some revolvers just perfect for them; short barrel, light weight and no rifling.”

“Are they also threaded for a silencer?” asked John.

“Some are, but you would be surprised what you could do with a plastic coke bottle loosely filled with tube socks.”

“I don't understand,” said Beth.

Zeke answered, “They're discussing an assassin's weapon.”

Oh my!”

“Oh, Mom,” said Alicia. “If we were still in our own time, I might have tried to talk them into loaning me one. I'm sure I could have gotten close enough to my father to have put one behind his ear.”

“That's a lot of anger from such a pretty young lady,” remarked Sioux.

“Having to lock my door every night and put a chair against the door knob will tend to develop that kind of anger.”

The shocked look on Beth's face said that this conversation had caught her completely off guard.

“Oh, Baby,” Beth cried. “I had no idea.”

“I know, but he said if I told anyone, he would claim that you knew. He said I'd end up in a foster home and you would end up in prison. He claimed his congressional contacts would protect him.”

“He was lying to you, sweetheart,” proclaimed Grant. If that kind of activity was even hinted in a rumor, his congressional contacts would have dropped him like a hot piece of metal.”

“I don't guess it matters anymore, but it's nice to know that I wasn't as helpless as he tried to make it sound.”

Just as Alicia was finishing, Jerry and Mike came through the back door and Pat Allen handed Mike and her husband a cold beer. It was obvious the two men felt they were needed.

After downing most of his beer, Mike said, “Whew that feels good. It's really hot and muggy out there and mosquitoes were like Stukas.”

“What's a Stuka?” asked Sam.

“It was a German dive bomber in World War Two.”

“Oh,” responded Sam while obviously not understanding.

“If we had Internet access, I'd help you,” said Michael Camden.

John interjected, “I think we may have some old war movies on DVD. Maybe we can find an example. The key thing is that these mosquitoes are big and aggressive.”

“I think I understand, but we don't have much experience in Maryland with mosquitoes.”

“You would during this time,” remarked Pat Allen. “Washington, DC is still an uninhabited swamp. Even after the city gets built, it takes more than a hundred years before embassy assignments from European countries were not considered hazardous duty. There were occasional cases of yellow fever even up to the 1940's.”

“I've never even heard of yellow fever,” said Sam.

“It's often found in the tropics and is transmitted by mosquitoes. In this time, it's considered one of the deadliest diseases in this country, and even in our own time tens of thousands in South America and Africa die from it each year. There is a vaccine, but I don't know if we've any available.”

“I think we may have some in our kit,” added Trey. “If so, maybe Beth can figure out a way to duplicate it.”

“In addition,” said Grant, “we've the areas around this compound covered with overlapping mosquito traps. They'll tend to be a problem only when we move out of this area, and that will probably be a long time for the women.”

“Why would that be true?” asked a rather indignant Alicia.

Pat answered, “Because, in this time period, women and blacks have no rights ... none whatsoever. If some man decided he wanted you as his bride, only the guns and fists of our men could stop it.”

“Oh, I had no idea.”

“This was not a wonderful time for women,” Pat continued, “As most girls were married by the time they were fourteen and were considered old maids if they weren't married by eighteen. In addition, most of us here would be considered old women if our true age was known. Other than the aristocrats, few women lived past fifty, and most died in their thirties.”

“How do you know all this?” asked Sam.

Grant interrupted, “With our final two back, your question is the perfect lead in to our introducing ourselves to you. As for your direct question, Pat is a local high school history teacher who was completing her Masters work on the period starting ten years before the Declaration of Independence and continuing through the ten years after Cornwallis surrendered. If we're still in our own time-line, we couldn't have a better resource.”

Beth added, “I'd say that would be true even if we're in a parallel universe. There is still much about this culture, people and events that could still be valid, even if we determine that we can't kill our own ancestors or those of someone crucial in the future.”

“It sounds like you're pretty knowledgeable.” observed John,

“My favorite book as a teen was Heinlein's Door into Summer, probably one of the first books that explored the paradox of time. The movie Back to the Future and the TV series Quantum Leap were based upon similar concepts. Recently, I've read a lot of stories on the Internet that specifically stated that the people were in a parallel universe, or the writer seems to assume that changes made in a small area would not seriously alter the time-line. Eric Flint's 1632 series seems to just concentrate on surviving in their current time period and let the rest take care of itself. In addition, I think he was also the first one to use the terms uptimer to refer to someone from the future and downtimer to describe someone from the past which was now the present.”

“And how do you personally feel about a potential paradox?” asked Pat.

“Let's just say that if it came down to Francis Marion or my daughter, we would have to find someone else to play the role of the Swamp Fox.”

Beth's comment brought out both a few chuckles and a lot of nodding heads.

Eric asked, “Grant, do you have a DVD of The Patriot with Mel Gibson?”

“I'm pretty sure I do, and that would be a good introduction to this period and its people. It's not perfect, but I think it would help. I'll have to warn you that in some places it's cruel and bloody.”

“Grant,” interjected Pat, “compared to the actual events it was rather tame, so don't get the idea that Hollywood exploited the situation to make a better movie. The censors wouldn't have let them release a true picture of what occurred in this area during the Revolution. Now, why don't we get back on track and let our new team members know who we are and what you and our husbands have been doing here.”

“Okay, but let's get some drinks and head into the living room. We'll probably need to bring the chairs from here to supplement things, and I'd encourage everyone to tone down the alcohol as much as possible, as I suspect there will be several missions to be carried out in the next few hours.”

After everyone took bathroom breaks, moved chairs and acquired something to drink, Grant stood before the group, and said, “I guess everyone knows that I'm Grant Maxwell, or officially Dr Sherman Grant Maxwell. I graduated fifth in my class from the Naval Academy with a BS in Electrical Engineering. Subsequently, I received a Masters in Oceanography from USC – Santa Cruz and a PhD in theoretical electronics from Glasgow University in Scotland. I left active duty to run this operation, though I was still a Lieutenant Commander in the reserve before our little journey through time occurred. I'm divorced, and I think everyone has met my two children. As for this operation, you could say that we were hiding in plain sight. Though that's not exactly true either, as you almost have to know we're here to find us. We're not considered 'Black ops' though most of our funding came from that source. You see, what we were working on were super quiet electric motors for boats a hundred feet or smaller and which could move the boat at better than 25 knots.”

“Damn, I bet my group would've kissed your feet for such,” proclaimed Zeke Adams. “What about radar signatures?”

“That's another part of the project. We were experimenting with different materials and shapes to make a small craft almost invisible. Conversely, we were also upgrading our own radar systems to prevent others from using this technology against us. The new close in system now being installed in the fleet is a direct result of our activities.”

“How secure are we on this site?” asked Charles Young.

“From the weather, the buildings were designed to withstand winds of up to 250 mile an hour. The special alloy beams that form the frame of the main buildings are driven over fifty feet into the ground, and they can't rust or deteriorate in the salt environment. In addition, this mound is fifteen feet higher than the storm surge of Hugo. I don't want to know how it would do in a tornado, but this isn't Texas or Oklahoma, either. In regard to human activity, our best security is to stay hidden. At the same time, the closest a British ship of the line could come to us is almost two miles, and cannon of today can't cover that range. If a shore party were to attack, we've vastly superior weapons, but we'll need to replace a lot of sensors, as well as increase what we had. Does that answer your question?”

“So, if we don't get stupid, we should be in good shape.”

“Exactly, though we'll have to acquire supplies from time to time, we've enough for months, even with the increase in our population.”

The Coasty, Cal Peterson asked, “Can you elaborate more on your sea duty?”

“Sure. I spent two years on the Enterprise as a watch officer for the 'kettle' - that's the nuclear reactor. From there, I spent eleven months on an electronic surveillance ship off the coast of North Korea. Then, after getting my Masters at Santa Cruz, I was the Exec on the Pathfinder, which was the lead ship of our current class of oceanographic research vessels. A year later, I was the plank commander of the Hensen while finishing work at Glasgow. My thesis involved a tethered sonar / TV unit I had designed. Its purpose was to locate objects under the silt and sand on the sea floor, and in this case we were looking for the remains of John Paul Jones' ship, The Bonhomme Richard.”

“What's a plank commander and did you find the wreck you were looking for?” asked Sam.

“A plank position means I was the first commanding officer for that particular vessel, and being such is considered quite an honor. The name is engraved on a brass plaque that includes a lot of other details, such as designer, when and where the keel was laid, tonnage and standard crew. The plaque stays with the ship until it's removed from service, but no matter how many commanders it has, no other name is added. As for Jones' ship, yes we located it, but due to its physical deterioration and the local ocean conditions, it will mostly be studied remotely from the surface. That piece of wood embedded in plastic sitting on the mantle was one of the few items actually brought to the surface.”

“What about you personally?” asked Beth.

“I enjoy fishing and other activities in the salt marsh, which I consider the place where life on this planet ultimately begins. I can sit for hours in a small boat at the edge of the salt marsh just enjoying the natural life that would surround me. I'm also a hunter, though I'm not into trophies and macho 'oneupmanship.' More likely than not, I'm liable to shoot a four pointer out of a herd than a twelve. Besides this and my work, my children hold the key place in my life.”

“And your ex?”

“She's the CEO of a multi-billion dollar international company started by her grandfather. It's based in San Francisco, and she insisted I give up my 'frivolous' research and move there with her. When I refused, she filed for divorce and custody of the children. She got her wish, but I got a court order preventing her from moving the children to a place that would prevent normal visitation rights. That restriction has put a serious damper on her plans and life, but I refused to let the kids become pawns in a game of chess. The worst part is that, like the kids said earlier, for the past few years, she has used them to display to the world her role as a 'loving' mother. She's such a shark that I guess she needs this to show the world she's actually human.”

“And Mommy's going to have a fit when she can't find us,” giggled Tracy.

Mark added, “I wonder how she's going to serve Daddy with more papers in this time.”

Beth laughed, and said, “I guess there will be a lot of questions about what has happened to us and this facility.”

Grant answered, “If it's not hushed up, it should keep the talking heads going for months. In addition, I can just imagine Charlotte suing the Navy and the DOD for aiding and abetting my kidnapping her precious children.”

Their conversation was interrupted at that moment by a sound from the computer in the next room. It sounded like the receiving of an Instant Message.

Grant ran to the computer and moments later everyone heard him cry, “What the hell?”

Chapter 03

Looking at the computer screen, Grant read the message that had popped up:

The intelligent and calm interactions of your group has impressed us. Hopefully, this information will give your group a head start in your new world.

1. There are no parallel time-lines or universes, but the universe has a tendency to keep major things balanced or corrected. That is part of the reason you are here. Some negative changes have already occurred and this is a pivotal point for the future of the world.

2. The paradox mentioned makes good story plots, but you can not cease to exist because an ancestor was killed or couples failed to connect. You are, and that doesn't change.

3. You are expected to slowly introduce change and improvements that will one day drastically alter the conditions of your original time line. We suggest that you work with various downtimers to introduce these changes into society and limiting your presence to only a few. Eric looks very similar to the brother of one of the plantation owners whom you will soon meet, and will be a key point of contact to the downtimers. John and Sioux can be his faithful Cherokee companions, as he has lived in the upcountry wilderness for many years. Using Eric, others of you can flow in and out of the community with little reaction.

4. All your lives will be extended far beyond what is normal, though the children will age normally until they reach twenty-five. This does not mean you are immortal, as you can still be killed by a bullet, a wound or a snakebite not properly treated, or a broken neck from falling off a horse.

5. There will be additional uptimers added to your group as we deem necessary, and two will be discovered this evening by your patrol to study what is known as the King's Highway and the surrounding area. You will also begin to interact with the local downtimers on that same patrol. The two tonight are not needed by you at the moment, but Beth will be needed to save their unborn baby.

6. A forty by sixty bunker will need to be constructed at the south-east edge of the forest. Once Charles has prepared the site, materials will be delivered. We suggest that weapons and explosives not needed at the present time be stored in this bunker. In the future, additional weapons and munitions, along with other needed supplies will appear within the bunker. We do want you to reuse your brass as much as possible, but we will maintain a supply of powder, primers and bullets.

7. Many of you are without partners, and some partnerships will naturally form among you. Many others will find appropriate partners among the downtimers. Society may not agree, but there is nothing wrong with multiple partners who willingly unite to strengthen the family and the group.

8. Beth, in your vehicle, you will find many medical supplies, including a combined vaccine for yellow fever, malaria and small pox. Knowing your nature and concerns we have also included most of the standard childhood vaccines of your day. You will have full instructions, including how future batches can be produced.

9. There are also antibiotics, several pain medications, a universal anti-venom, and a supply of something similar to sodium pentothal for an anesthetic. These can be replenished in the future, but use them wisely. There are also basic instruments you will need for differing medical requirements. Your girls should not be concerned about the clothes that were removed to make room for these items, as those clothes would no longer fit them within a few days.

10. John, in the equipment shed, there are several drums of a pesticide similar to DDT, but without the harmful effects to nature. You will have to determine the best way to disperse the chemical without being seen. There are also drums of a herbicide that again will not damage man or the environment.

11. The Internet connection is being maintained, but restricted. Emails and messages from either direction are suppressed, as well as any uploads. Also, any new information added to the Internet beyond this week will also be suppressed. It will be as if a snapshot of the entire Internet was made, except that changes from the past will be updated, along with updated information on existing data. There will be several sites for differing movies for entertainment, but they will basically be limited to movies that were released prior to your departure, but that doesn't mean that as you change history, these movies can't adapt. If the War Between the States could be avoided, then movies about that war would be meaningless.

There may be more of these messages in the future, but at the present, they will all flow one way. We monitor you enough to sense needs, but we don't want you to depend on us to make decisions. It's your world, so choose wisely.

Good luck to all of you.

Oscar

“Wow,” exclaimed Sam. “I feel that God just said 'Let there be light' and handed us the light switch.”

Grant nodded, and said, “From the mouth of babes. That seems to pretty much sum up the situation.”

Sam took a pin-up pose and asked, “Are you calling me a 'babe'?”

Michael replied, “Sam, have you looked in the mirror since we've been here. I think you're well on your way to that description.”

“Why thank you, kind Sir. Now if I can just get rid of these braces.”

Barbara stated, “They should be gone by tomorrow night.”

“I can't wait, yet I understand that at the moment there are more important issues to be dealt with.”

“Does anyone else have any comments concerning this revelation?” asked Grant.

He looked around the room, and everyone shook their heads to say no.

After giving everyone else time to speak, Bobby Johnson said, “I don't usually say a lot, but I have to be honest and say that I was worried about the future of our country and this world. I don't know if we can really change things, but I'd gladly give up my scholarship and pro aspirations to be a part of this. I also think we're blessed by God for giving us such a wise and compassionate leader.”

“Hear! Hear!” replied the rest of the group.

They moved back to the living room and Grant was grateful for the time to wipe the tears from his eyes.

Once everyone was settled, Sioux stepped to the front, and said, “As most of you know, my name is Sioux, as in the Indian tribe. From my name and features, you can probably guess I'm a full blooded Lakota Sioux. My job is to assist Grant and my husband where possible, as well as to command the kitchen and the stables, and speaking of the kitchen, I'm going to need some help shortly to prepare dinner for this group.”

At that point Sioux pulled John to the front, and said, “This is my husband John Ross. He's a member of the Cherokee tribe and has a rather important ancestor. He is, or was, a Marine hero in Afghanistan. I haven't checked yet, but if things are consistent, his badly damaged shoulder has been restored. John has degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Grant says he's a genius with both hardware and software. We've one daughter, eight month old Tiena, who should be awakening from her nap shortly.”

Mike Samuels stepped forward as John and Sioux sat down. He pulled Jenifer to join him.

“We're Mike and Jenifer Samuels. In case you need help in telling who's who, I'm Mike.”

This caused laughter throughout the room and helped settle things down after their shocking computer message.

“Now, I'm a retired Navy Chief, as are my two compadres, Brad and Jerry. My job is dealing with our boats and I'm glad to have Cal's assistance. Jenifer was a senior at the Medical University of South Carolina preparing to be a nurse practitioner, and I'm sure that Beth will be just as happy to have Jen's help.”

“You got that right,” proclaimed a very happy Beth.

Brad and Barbara Tyson stepped to the front and Barbara introduced the couple by saying, “This is my husband Brad Tyson, and I'm Barbara. Brad is a master machinist and can make almost anything you can design. It doesn't hurt that he has a machine shop here that would rival one found on an aircraft carrier. As for me, I've twenty years experience as a dental technician, which is why I was able to tell Sam that I'd be able to deal with removing her braces. Finally, we've two grown boys who are both serving in the Navy. We'll miss them of course, but they're now free to live their own lives, as are we.”

Jerry and Pat Allen followed the example of the others and stepped to the front, and Pat said, “We're the Allens. I'm Pat and this is Jerry, and yes, he's the husband.”

Again there was laughter, as Pat was taller and outweighed Jerry.

She continued, “As Grant explained earlier, I'm a history teacher and have focused on this time period and this location. I suspect I'll now be helping to make history, not study it. Jerry and I also raise champion Labs, which reminds me that I need to check on them.”

“I did while I was out,” responded Jerry. “They were all in good shape, though they miss their Mommy. As for my job, I'm the one who has to deal with the practical side of the radar, sonar, and building the electric motors we've been experimenting with.”

As the couple sat down Grant spoke from the sofa. “Sioux, could you thaw some of your great chili for supper?”

“It might be faster to make a fresh batch.”

Barbara stated, “Sioux, I can help.”

“Sam and I can help also,” added Alicia. “We've both have had a lot of practice chopping.”

“I can help if you need me to,” proclaimed Bobby.

When most of the group looked at the young man skeptically, he answered back, “My family owns three restaurants. You don't think I know my way around a kitchen?”

Sioux grabbed the young man's arm, and said, “Come on, but I really think you're trying to get in good with the girls.”

“Well, Momma didn't raise no fool,” he answered.

Grant gathered everyone not involved with food preparation and explained, “From what we've just learned, I think we need to do some planning and preparation. Beth, since the message implied that your services might be needed as early as tonight, I'd suggest that you get some help and empty your vehicle. We've enough empty bedrooms for you, your girls and an infirmary.”

“You're not going to put me in yours?” Beth flirted.

“I might eventually, if you were so inclined. Our ages and temperaments seem to match up, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't find you attractive. Watching you bond with my daughter didn't hurt, either.”

“Wow, you sure don't hold things back.”

“Beth,” interjected John, “Grant is the most unpretentious, plain spoken man I've every known. If he says it, it's the truth.”

“That statement might not be true in the future as we have to deal with our new world. It will still be mostly true to our friends and allies, but we'll have to be thoughtfully deceptive to our enemies.”

“I think that would be a given,” Beth responded, “but please never consider me an enemy.”

Grant gently squeezed her hand, and said, “I don't think you have to worry about that. Now, get started on your stuff, and you can interrupt Sioux to show you what rooms to use.”

“Sioux?”

“Yes, for the moment, she's the woman of the house, and I wouldn't dare disrupt her plans and sense of order.”

“Okay, but she and I are going to have some serious discussions.”

Beth gathered Michael, Charles and Zeke, and headed for her Navigator. Jenifer checked with Sioux regarding the rooms and headed down the hall.

After she left, Pat said, “I think that woman is ready to take over the woman of the house role from Sioux.”

Grant chuckled, and said, “I think you're right, but I won't surrender without at least a five minute fight. I don't want her to think I'm a pushover.”

That comment caused the rest of the room to laugh.

Grant pulled a large laminated chart of the area from a stack of tubes and spread it out on one of the work tables.

“Mike, we need to slowly note all the changes to the coast we can, including depths. We know that the Inter-coastal Waterway is gone, but there may be new ones that we need to add to the detail.”

“That makes sense, Mike responded. “With this as a beginning, we can have the only really valid charts of this time period.”

“I can help,” added Cal Peterson, “as revising and updating charts was something we had to do all the time.”

“So can I,” interjected Drew. “I build and fly ultralights as a hobby. With your lightweight electric motors and my digital camera, I can silently get us details of the area that no one would believe.”

“That's an excellent idea,” responded a very pleased Grant. “Of course we'll still have to chart depths.”

Eric looked up and grinned, saying, “If there's a market for seafood, we can use oyster, shrimp and fishing boats with depth finders to do that task, as well as to help provide cover for much of our coastal activity.”

Pat responded, “I don't know if there's a market, but we can create one. We've a ton of recipes these people have never seen and Sioux has a fairly complete herb garden. It might take a while, but we'll have these people eating out of our hands.”

Pat's grin helped them to realize that she was a punster, and the groans that followed added to her delight.

Grant grinned back, and said, “I had a job for you, Pat, but after that pun, I may have to change my mind.”

“I's be good, massa.”

Grant shook his head at the actions of the woman before he suddenly had a revelation.

“Thanks, Pat, for the reminder that we can throw all that political correctness crap out the window. We can be respectful, but we don't have to worry about some group or other jumping down our throats when we use the generic phrase to mean both men and women. I hope eliminating that mess will be one of the results of our efforts.”

Nodding, Pat added, “Respect and honest equality, both between the sexes and the races would have eliminated the backlash that led to what you refer to as political correctness. Most of us women understood the generic term such as chairman to be inclusive, but once the ball of change started rolling, everyone pushed it as far as they could.”

John added, “I once had a philosophy professor who said that man's natural reaction to something that he sees is wrong, is to back as far away from it as possible. The end result over time was that man tended to bounce from one extreme to the other.”

Pat looked thoughtful for a moment, before she said, “I've got to contemplate that idea some more, but I find the basic theory to be absolutely enthralling. Now, Grant, back to your original idea of a project for me.”

“I want to know what plantations are where, as well as their boundaries. In addition, please color-code them red, blue, yellow, orange and green.”

“The red and blue I can easily follow. What are the others?”

“Yellow is totally neutral and just want to be left alone. Green is yellow leaning toward the blue, and orange is yellow leaning toward the red.”

“That makes sense. Anything else?”

“I'd like to know what crops are being grown and where, the approximate number of slaves of each plantation, how their slaves are treated and how socially active are the owners.”

“You're not asking for much. How am I to gather all this information?”

“As we develop allies, create a network of wives and mistresses and help them do what they do best ... gossip.”

“Grant, that's devious. I'd have never believed you had it in you. At the same time, I take it that this is not a short term project.”

“A lot of that will be determined by the current date and what changes to the time-line have already occurred. Still, even the basic information of locations and political affiliation will help. Many of the owners know most of that in their head, but seeing the big picture often is very enlightening.”

“That's true,” answered Pat, “but I just had another thought. This is the time when duels are very common. If you are supposed to be more in the background, is Eric prepared for such?”

“Damn. I hadn't thought of that. Eric?”

“I'd be best to be the socially inept frontiersman, begging forgiveness for any faux paux I might make. I could handle a pistol, but a sword would cut me to ribbons, pun intended. What about you?”

“I'd need to obtain the services of a fencing master to teach the basics, but I've got more than twenty-five years of martial arts training, and you should see my katana. It would be more than three hundred years old in this time-line.”

“Hell, that's not playing fair. You could cut their swords off in their hands.”

“I know.”

Grant looked out the window, and said, “I think it's too late to visit the treasure site tonight. Drew, can you find that leather that was mentioned earlier and start preparing some boots for tomorrow?”

“Sure. I think it would also be a good idea to pull everything out of the vans and trailers and start putting things together by groups.”

“I can help with that,” added Trey Taylor. “I've been trained in supply and I have a blank inventory database on my laptop.”

“Eric?”

“I think it's a good idea. Marcel, do you want to help?”

“Sure.”

Grant turned to John, and said, “Tonto, I need you to saddle our horses and get some night vision goggles. I'll bring night fatigues, radios and weapons. We quickly need to head out on patrol.”

Zeke asked, “Can I come. I've spent much of my life on a horse.”

“Sure, but we'll need to get you some fatigues to fit. Check with Sioux. Also ask her for some energy bars. We'll have to eat the main meal when we return.”

Sioux led a dressed Zeke to where Grant was finishing, and said, “Sorry about the timing. I could have done it faster by myself, but it's good for the women to feel they're part of the team.”

“That's okay,” answered Grant. “Time got away from me too, for the same reason.

“Good, now there's some water, energy bars and insect repellent in this pack. Someone will be monitoring the radio by the time you reach the trees.”

“Thanks.”

Grant handed Zeke a holster on a web belt, as well as adding one of his own. He also put another pistol in a cross draw holster threaded through another belt.

Surprised, Zeke asked, “Revolvers?”

“We don't have to search for brass in the dark. They're both three fifty-seven hollow points.”

“That makes sense. What about your cross draw weapon?”

“Remington New Army forty-four black powder. If we had to use it in the open, it would at least appear similar to what they're use to, especially at any distance.”

“Good thinking.”

The two men quickly joined with John, who was carrying a compound bow. John helped the other two men spray on insect repellent and Grant returned the favor. He then handed Zeke and John night vision goggles and an ear piece.

“This looks like a hearing aid,” claimed Zeke.

John answered, “It's that, and more. It also contains both a receiver and a transmitter that picks up the voice from your inner ear.”

“Is it selective as far as transmissions and what about loud noises like a gun? I wouldn't want that magnified.”

“This model is not selective, but it does have the ability to block out or reduce the volume of loud noises, especially sudden ones like the close firing of a gun.”

“Cool.”

The three men mounted their horses, all black as the night, and started west. At the tree line Grant did a radio check and, when satisfied, they moved into the trees. It was not fully dark, but John was marking the trail with paint that could only be seen by their goggles. Grant used the compass he carried in his pocket and picked an object in the distance that followed close to the line he wanted to move. In this case, it was a tall pine that had been struck by lightning.

It had taken them four additional sightings before they could see the road through the trunks of the trees. It was now fully night and an almost full moon filtered through the huge live oaks covering this section of the road like a giant tent. The Spanish moss seemed to glow in the light of that moon as the long strands hung from the limbs above them. It was quiet, almost too quiet, causing Grant to have an eerie feeling as he watched the moss swinging to and fro due to a gentle breeze coming off the cool water of the river just down the road. John whispered a warning and Grant immediately knew the source of his feelings ... there were no night sounds. Then, as the three horses stepped onto the road, the quiet was shattered by a woman's scream and the report of a gun. John moved his horse quickly toward the sound, and the other two quickly followed.

As they rounded a bend, there was a carriage stopped along the road, with a single man on horseback seeming to hold a gun on those inside. The man, surprised by the group's appearance, panicked and galloped away as fast as possible.

Already moving, Zeke proclaimed, “I'll get him.”

Grant arrived first at the carriage to find the driver shot and a woman and elderly man huddled together in fright. There was something about the man that didn't look right.

“Ma'am, what happened?”

“The man rode out of the woods as we approached and stopped us for directions. Suddenly, he pulled an illegal pistol and shot poor Joseph. Is he alright?”

Grant looked at John, who slowly shook his head.

“No ma'am, I'm afraid he isn't.”

“Oh my. Could you please check my father, as I'm not sure this hasn't affected his heart?”

“Zeke's coming back with the shooter,” John announced while he climbed into the carriage and looked at the old man.

“But, he's an Indian,” exclaimed the frightened woman.

“I promise he only intends good,” Grant assured her.

The lady noticed that John was whispering something, so she asked, “Is he a medicine man trying to drive away the evil spirits?”

“No, my Lady, but I can't explain things to you at this time. Right now, we're just trying to save your father's life.”

Suddenly John shouted, “He's gone into arrest. Beth and others are already on the way here.”

“Good. Let's get him out of the carriage and I'll try to administer CPR.”

John did as Grant asked, and as soon as the old man was on the ground, Grant tore open the shirt and started to try to develop a rhythm. John continued to monitor the man's pulse, and Zeke tied the attacker to the carriage wheel and came to see if he could help.

“We've got a pulse,” announced John, “though it's rather weak and the rhythm doesn't appear right.”

As Grant stood to reassure the woman, he heard some horses and Beth calling, “Grant.”

“We're over here.”

As Beth rode up, she jumped from the horse and ran toward the man, her stethoscope flapping against her abundant chest.

“Where do we stand?”

“The driver was killed. The old man's this woman's father. He went into arrest a few moments a go, but I administered CPR and now have a weak pulse.”

Beth listened to the man's heart, thumping on his back several times. She then took his blood pressure, pulse and temperature with one of the devices that fits into the ear. After that, she got John's help with the man's boots and pants, so she could check for swelling in his feet and legs. During this time, the daughter just stared at her actions, never making a sound.

Finally, Beth turned to the woman, and asked, “How far is it to your plantation?”

“Aaaa-bout three miles,” the woman stuttered.

“And from your house to the river?”

“We've a landing about sixty yards from the house.

“Finally, I need to ask what year this is and are you committed to the King or the colonies”

“This is the year of our Lord, 1761, and what does it matter as to where my family stands. Are you Tories who will refuse to help because we're not willing to blindly follow the King?”

“No, my Lady. It would only affect where I treated your father, and how much we revealed to you. Now, your father's body has excessive fluid which is creating extra work on his heart. At one point, he actually died, but Grant's actions restarted his heart.”

“I guess that's what he was doing by hitting and pushing his chest. Will you use leeches, or a razor to bleed my father?”

“You will understand later, but I'll do neither of those.”

“You? Are you the doctor?”

“Yes. My name is Beth Anderson, and though I normally deal with pregnant women, I'm fully trained to help your father.”

“I'm Sabrina Lynch and this is my father Thomas Lynch. Our plantation is called Hoopseewee, and as I said it's just a short way upriver, though we'll have to take the ferry to the northern shore. I do have a question though. From what you have told me, are you more than a midwife?”

Beth whispered, “Pat, did you catch that?”

“Yes, and he would definitely be an ally, as he was involved with Jefferson and Franklin in writing the Declaration of Independence. They were also strong supporters of Marion.”

Having that information, Beth answered, “Without being boastful, I can honestly say that today, I'm the best doctor in the world. I know that sounds ridiculous, but you will soon understand. Now, we need to move your father to our compound, but it will have to be by litter or by boat, and either way we don't want anyone to see us.”

“Can one of your people drive the carriage? We can take father and Joseph's body to the house and have your boat meet us on the landing, which is the first one past the ferry. When you think your people have had enough time to get to their boat, then I'll send some of the kitchen girls to the ferry with some treats.”

“Actually, the boat is already on its way, so our arrival at the ferry can be used as a diversion. In the meantime, Grant and the rest can take our prisoner back to our compound.”

“How do you know these things? Are you a witch?”

Beth removed her ear-piece, wiped it clean, and said, “Place this in your ear and say hello to Pat.”

Sabrina appeared doubtful and a little timid, but she did as requested. Her eyes got huge when she heard Pat respond.

“You can communicate with each other. Was that what the Indian was doing when I thought he was chanting to drive out evil spirits? Is this magic?”

“Yes, we can communicate with each other, and yes, John was talking to me so that he could better help your father. that's also how we were able to arrive so quickly. As for magic, a wise man of my generation said that advanced science would always seem like magic to those who were less educated. To better explain, I left Maryland less than two days ago, August ninth, two thousand ten.”

“You are from the future? How did you do this?”

“Yes, we're from the future, but this is too advanced even for us. All of us were trying to survive a hurricane when we were suddenly thrown back in time.”

“Thank you for helping me, but how do you know you can trust me?”

“Your father is in our history books as one of the leaders who sought to help create a new country. In a few years, he'll help Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin create a document named the Declaration of Independence by which they claimed independence from England. Unfortunately, your father died before it was finished, and your brother signed instead.”

Sabrina pulled away and looked deeply into Beth's emerald green eyes, and said, “I thought you were our friends. How could you speak such lies with my brother not yet in the ground?”

Beth reached out to the young woman who was trying to pull away from her, and said, “Please forgive me, as I did not know. We were told that some changes to the time-line had occurred, but not what they were. We might not be able to bring your brother back from the dead, but we might help bring vengeance down upon their heads.”

“So, this was not some cruel joke?”

“Sabrina, though we may joke and lightly tease each other, I don't know anyone in our group who would find pleasure in inflicting pain in that manner. Well, maybe to some of our enemies. I do need to change the subject though, as we need to get moving toward your home. Our boat is hiding just out of sight of the ferry.”

The young woman stood straight and bowed her head. She closed her eyes as if in deep thought. This was the first time Grant had gotten a complete look at Sabrina and he was stunned to discover she was a younger version of Charlotte, his ex-wife. For a moment, he didn't know whether to hold her close and cry, or to strangle her beautiful neck.

Sabrina was unaware of the leader's discovery or the turmoil he was experiencing. That didn't mean she had not noticed him, especially as he worked to save her father's life. At the moment, she thought he was one of the most handsome men she had ever met.

Moments later, Sabrina opened her eyes, raised her head, and began to speak. “It would be more effective if I walk to where the ferryman can see me and call out to him. He should answer my cries for help and that would leave the ferry abandoned, and enable your boat to slip through. I'll get him to drive the carriage to the house and have a servant fix him some refreshment and bring him back to the ferry. While he's distracted by my cook, I'll have several of our servants place Father on a litter and bring him to the boat. Then we can slip back to your hiding place before he even leaves the house.”

Grant nodded thoughtfully before saying, “I think that's a good plan ... an excellent plan.”

“There is one more part of the plan,” said Sabrina. I need my clothes ripped and appear to have been raped. That will not only cause a stronger reaction at the ferry, but among many in this area who are trying to be neutral.”

“How will that help?” asked Grant, “and won't it destroy your chances of a good marriage?”

“My rape would explain the time lapse from the time Joseph was shot and my cry for help. As for helping our cause, I now recognize your prisoner, and he is Thomas Gill, a lackey for one of the biggest Tories in the Low Country. Maybe after you've thoroughly interrogated him, he needs to ride hard into a limb or a tree and break his neck.

“As for my marriage prospects, they weren't that great to begin with, and,” clutching Grant's arm, “should a certain newcomer to the area decide to make an honest woman of me, he would win respect from all factions. An additional aspect is that Father owns all this area on both sides of the river. I think it would make an excellent dowry, don't you agree?”

A stunned Grant stood there with his mouth open while Beth announced, “I had hoped to claim him for myself.”

Sabrina grinned at the older woman, and asked, “Will you share?”

Grant just groaned, and thought to himself, What the hell?

That was a preview of Winds of Change. To read the rest purchase the book.

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