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Author Topic: TIME CRUSADES - Epic Sci-Fi Fantasy  (Read 239 times)
JBeachum
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« on: November 07, 2017, 01:48:44 PM »

Chapter One

April 21st, 1944 Earth timeline
0622157 Unified Dominion Time
Auschwitz II - Birkenau Concentration Camp
1:32 AM

Before he slit the guard’s throat, Falkner said a prayer.

Lord, forgive me for what I am about to do, he spoke in his thoughts, as he always did before a kill. Forgive this man for what he has done. In Your name, amen.

The hand that held the knife finished sweeping across the guard’s throat before putting the knife away and pulling up standard-issue American GI sleeve. The watch revealed the time, a soft glow in the night. Falkner touched his fingers lightly to the microphone at his throat and muttered a word.

“Go.”

Falkner knew that at that moment, the Shepherds at the other towers around that section of the camp were moving onto the ground and slipping through the shadows to the barracks, leaving corpses behind. His team was tasked to the women’s quarters, long, squat brick buildings ordered in neat, clinical rows in front of him.

The HUD in his contact lenses showed the oranges and yellows of his team’s heat signatures as they approached the buildings. He scanned the base of the tower for patrolling Nazis. Not finding any, he gripped his carbine and climbed down the tower to the ground floor before heading toward his target.

In the distance, on the opposite side of a barbed-wire fence, he saw the heat signatures of the crematoriums. They were still warm from earlier that day. Failure now would mean they’d be a lot hotter the next day.

If they moved quickly and didn’t run into obstacles, they’d be fine.

But the timing was tight. It was always tight.

He jogged across the avenue and reached the first building. Three quick blinks. He could see energy signatures coming through the walls via the surface-penetrating imaging. They were small, weak. Not guards. Prisoners.

In his ear, he heard his team check in, one by one, as they reached their target barracks. He tapped the throat mic again.

“Jacus. Status.”

A soft crackle in his ear. “Standing by.”

“Don’t deploy until my mark.”

“No problem. I’ll be waiting.”

Jacus’s voice was flat and calm. But he knew Jacus was nervous. They all were. It was never easy in the best of circumstances, and in the middle of a concentration camp was far from the best.

He checked his watch again. Then another tap at his throat.

One word.

“Move.”

He slid over to the door to the barracks, gripping his period M1 carbine with both hands. The Missionaries and Analysts would probably know it was them, but there was no sense in bringing anachro to the operation. Modern weaponry wouldn’t be much of a help if they were compromised. They’d die just the same. Besides, they had time before the Missionaries knew they were here, and they had time before they could travel.

But that time was measured in scant minutes, not hours.

He whispered another prayer - a fragment of Psalm 54, “The Lord sustains me” - before he placed the quick tape on the lock to the door. It ignited, only producing a faint wisp of smoke, and burned through the metal. Falkner pushed in the door, raised his carbine with one hand, and clicked on the flashlight taped to the barrel with the other.

He went in.

Falkner heard gasps as soon as he made his way through the door. His ear translator revealed a strange mixture of German, Polish, Yiddish, and Hungarian as the women awoke - the ones that were able to fall asleep - and stirred. His flashlight swept the barracks and saw three-tiered bunks along each wall, each berth crammed with women, eyes wide open, gaunt faces stretched in incredulity.

They never expected to see an American soldier in the middle of their barracks. And they especially would have never expected to see a Shepherd, even if they had known what one is.

“Shh,” Falkner said, putting one finger in front of his lips. He did a quick count. The computer told him there were just over 200 in the barracks. Their weak energy signatures suggested some of them weren’t ambulatory. It was hard to move when one was being starved. He expected as much, but he wasn’t going to leave any of them behind. They’d get all of them. That was the Shepherd way.

He made his way from one end of the barracks to the other, then went back to the center and held up a hand. “Achtung, achtung,” he began, his voice calm but just loud enough to carry. In German (most Shepherds were fluent in a few select antiquated languages; he could also speak Arabic and French, in addition to the Spanish every Shepherd knew), Falkner gave instructions. His words were sparse and carefully chosen. Follow me. Stay low. Move quickly. If you can’t walk, we’ll come back for you.

And something he added, just for them: “You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you,” from the Torah.

The women were hesitant. Refugees usually were. Falkner was experienced, though, and the kind gray eyes and reassuring smile must have made them feel secure enough to begin climbing down from the racks and shuffling forward.

He nodded and smiled again and waved for them to follow him as he walked toward the door.

He blinked twice in quick succession as he stuck his head out of the doorway and looked around. The vision changed. Heat signatures flooded his eyes. People were moving, starting to go from the barracks to the rallying point in the center, on the main avenue that split the camp. Already he could see two of his people - it looked like Jacus and Sandra - working on the portal. A glance at his watch.

Almost right on time. He cast a glance at the walls around the camp for signs of movement but didn’t see any. Didn’t mean they weren’t coming.

“Let’s go,” he said to his flock, and together they moved in a stream of humanity out of the barracks and onto the path that led toward the camp center. They were joined with other streams of women from neighboring barracks, each of them accompanied by what appeared to be an American soldier guiding them along.

Falkner led his group to the center. Come on, Jacus, he said to himself, still looking for the ring of blue that would tell him the portal was online and ready. He wasn’t worried - yet.

The clusters of women formed a single mass as it neared the center. But before any of them could reach the center, a flash of blue light tore through the night. Falkner exhaled. A circle of blue luminescence appeared on the road, casting shadows on the ground.

“Portal’s up!” Jacus cried out. Silence was no longer a concern. Speed was.

Falkner ran to the front and took the first woman - a frail thing, with sunken eyes and chattering teeth from fear, not the temperature - gently by the hand. He guided her along and nodded to a Shepherd standing by the portal. It was Marisela, dressed in the combat fatigues of a paratrooper complete with jump wings and bloused trousers.

Marisela had a warm, welcoming face with a brilliant smile and soft, kind eyes - precisely why he brought her along on the mission. No one was more comforting to the refugees than her, and she was an expert at getting them through the portal - a terrifying experience for someone going through for the first time.


Falkner handed the woman off to Marisela, who put an arm around her shoulder and walked her forward. Marisela placed her in front of the portal and kissed her on her cheek and whispered something in her ear.

The woman hesitated, looked around, clutched her throat, a tear trickling down her cheek. Then she exhaled and, with Marisela’s encouragement, took a step forward into and through the portal.

And disappeared.

The prisoners gasped. But the Shepherds had no time to waste. They started forming a line and guiding the women, one by one, toward the portal, where Marisela stood to offer smiles and embraces.

Slowly, but steadily, they began walking into the portal and through the darkness suspended from the circle of blue light and disappeared, one woman at a time. Each disappearance bolstered the courage of the women remaining, and the pace began to pick up. Marisela flashed Falkner a thumb’s up before resuming helping the women, and Falkner breathed again.

Transit was always the most dangerous part of any mission. He never knew how people would react. But he surmised, in that moment, that prisoners who had been starved and beaten and worked nearly to death and surrounded by death had nothing to lose, nothing at all, and when people have nothing to lose they’ll do anything - even if it meant traveling into the unknown.

Now women were going through in twos, sometimes threes, jumping into the portal at once, arms linked, hands clasped with each other. They were moving along, but Falkner stayed on alert. It was still far too dang-

A shout - angry, and in German - ripped through the air. He whipped his head to the left, scanning, blinking twice rapidly. Heat signatures in the distance, at the far end of the camp, on the walls. They weren’t his.

Heat blossomed near his cheek before he heard the crack of fire. A woman went down behind him, a soft ungh coming from her lips as she fell. More cracks. More women fell. Shouts went up, both from the prisoners and from his people, who were moving into position.

“Far wall,” he said, tapping his throat mic.

“Nazis?” Lieb.

“Looks like it. Lieb, your team, take ‘em,” he said, shouldering his carbine and squeezing off a couple of shots toward the wall before swinging it back on his shoulder and moving forward.

“Sandra, Jacus, get these people through. Dev, you there?”

A crackle. “Yeah.”

“Take your team. Get the stragglers out of those barracks. And hurry.”

“Got it.”

Gunfire started escalating in intensity as Lieb’s team returned fire. More heat signatures piled up on the walls and near the far gate. Some dropped as the Shepherds responded. So far, none of his had been hit.

He turned back to the line of women. It was growing smaller and smaller, but there were still far too many left. And they didn’t have a second portal.

Lord be with us, he prayed. But he had confidence in his team. They were well-trained, experienced veterans who -

A heat signature went down in front. A Shepherd.

He narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “Let’s keep moving, Marisela,” he said, his voice still calm. Her smile never wavered. The prisoners kept disappearing through the portal, and the line kept shrinking.

The gunfire intensified. A woman about to enter the portal was hit, right between the shoulder blades, the bullet likely severing her spine, because she went limp mid-step and fell into the portal like a piece of trash being thrown away. The women around her screamed and fell to the ground.

Marisela’s smile wavered only for a fraction. She bent down and picked up the nearest prisoner. “Come on, sweetheart, gotta keep moving…” he heard her say. The prisoner went through, followed by another, then a small group as they rushed forward and took the plunge.

He touched his temple absently and saw Dev carrying a woman in his arms, a shock of gray hair poking out of a crude handkerchief wrapped around her gaunt face and head. Others followed. He -

A flash of blue light caught his attention out of the corner of his eye, toward the heat signatures and the gunfire and the yelling.

“We’ve got trouble, boss,” Lieb said over the comms.

“I know,” he replied.

Missionaries.

Sure enough, within seconds he saw faint traces of heat energy appear on the wall and in the towers. Not as much heat as a normal human. That was due to the heat cloakers the Missionaries wore. Their lenses could still detect traces - enough to tell someone was there, if you knew what you were looking at - but the cloakers made it a lot harder. A lot harder to hit, too.

In the span of twenty seconds, two more Shepherds were hit and went down.

“Jacus, double time. As fast as we can go, please. Sandra, with me.”

He saw Sandra moving through the crowd toward the front - tall, athletic, one of the best marksmen on his team. He waved for her to follow and started sprinting toward the front line, unslinging his carbine as he ran.

Falkner reached the corner of a barracks building. He threw himself up against it, then leaned around the corner, brought up the carbine and sighted it in a smooth motion. He pulled the trigger.

A heat signature fell.

Sandra crashed against the wall next to him. He pointed a finger across the avenue, to another barracks building. Then he fired four shots, bam bam bam bam, in quick succession as Sandra burst across the street and reached the other barracks.

She paused. Lifted her scoped M1903 Springfield. Pulled the trigger, yanked back the bolt and threw it forward smoothly, pulled again.

Two signatures went down. One was a Missionary.

Falkner and Sandra kept firing. Bullets pock-marked the masonry inches in front of his face but he didn’t flinch. He saw his team holding steady, saw two of the injured Shepherds being brought to the rear. Saw one Shepherd lying motionless, the first one to fall. Paz. Father of two, a boy and a girl, youngest was four. Favorite food was chili. Cursed the cold every chance he got.

He shook his head.

“Jacus, where are we,” he said.

The radio crackled. “Almost through. Think you guys better start moving back, yeah?”

Falkner frowned, glanced with narrowed eyes at the Nazis and Missionaries up ahead. It was only a second or two, but in the moment it seemed like he was taking forever.

“Alright, team, fall back. Back to the portal. Lieb, bring up the rear.”

Static. “You got it, boss.”

The Shepherds started falling back. The fire from up ahead didn’t slack; if anything, it grew in intensity until chips of brick were flying into the air like locusts. Two Shepherds were carrying Paz’s body with them. Sandra remained, coolly plugging away. Falkner could see Lieb up ahead, darting from building to building, reckless as ever, firing his Thompson and - as was customary - shouting obscenities in Hebrew and German as he went.

Falkner squeezed off two more shots then nodded to Sandra and sprinted back toward the portal.

The line of women had shrunk to just a handful of people. If they could just hold for a few more minutes, maybe even just a couple, maybe just one minute, tops…

Static. “Big problem. They’re moving. Flanking right - Johnson, your right!” Gunfire.

Missionaries were moving off to the right. A group was working left, six or seven, it was hard to tell. His Shepherds were being flanked on both sides.

The line kept moving. It felt like seconds were turning into hours and everything other than the bullets was moving in slow motion, like being dragged through a dilation pocket.

Another Shepherd fell to the right. Johnson. Loved to read ancient comic books.The Missionaries kept moving, but instead of continuing to just move around they were moving in - closer.

Jacus tugged on Falkner’s shoulder as the gunfire grew louder and made it harder to hear. “We should kill the evac,” he half-shouted into Falkner’s ear, but the leader shook his head.

“Not going to happen,” he replied. “Just...keep moving them through.” Jacus turned to go, but Falkner grabbed him by the upper arm.

“Get it ready to be pulled, though. I’ll do it.”

Jacus hesitated. The look on his face revealed he didn’t like the implication of the order. But he knew better than to argue, so he closed his mouth and nodded before moving off.

The Missionaries kept coming. Closer.

Only yards away now.

Another Shepherd on the right was hit, and he saw his line waver. He narrowed his eyes and tapped the mic. “All teams, start collapsing.” This is going to be close.

Shepherds started falling back faster, half-running, half-walking to the portal while continuing to fire over their shoulders as some gave cover fire. But the fire kept coming in hot. Bullets went thud into the ground at his feet. More women fell.

His team started arriving at the portal, breathing hard. Some were wounded and propped up by others, or carried by them. Blood drops sprinkled the packed earth at their feet. They mingled with the streams of crimson from the fallen prisoners lying prone on the ground.

Falkner cast a glance behind him, at the portal.

Only a few women left.

Then a few less.

Then…

The last prisoner leapt through. Marisela tossed Falkner a thumbs up, then dropped to a knee and opened fire with her weapon. The Shepherds formed a rough perimeter around the portal. Gunfire became deafening.

Falkner ran over to Jacus and grabbed the distorter from him. A tap on his throat mic.

“Evac, now. I’m pulling.”

Some Shepherds turned and cast worried glances at him. He held up a hand.

“I’m doing it. Get out of here.”

They were too well-trained to disobey. Without hesitating, one by one, the Shepherds turned and sprinted toward the portal and dove through it. They disappeared, one at a time. Marisela kept firing, joined by Jacus, standing on either side of the portal, trying to hold off the enemy.

The wounded were carried through. Paz’s corpse was carried through. The other bodies were carried through.

Sandra started to move toward the portal.

Then a bullet slammed into her lower back and she collapsed with a shriek and landed heavily on the ground, dust rising.

“Damn it,” Falkner hissed. He shouldered his carbine and ran over. Missionaries were close, far too close, and their bullets were hissing past - some pinging into the metal base of the portal itself. Jacus got there first and knelt by her, but Falkner pushed him away.

“Go, I have her,” he yelled.

“But - “

“Go!”

Jacus frowned and together he and Marisela jumped through the portal.

Missionaries started running forward. The Nazi’s followed.

Bullets skipped off the earth. One sliced through Falkner’s jacket at the shoulder, leaving a scorch mark on his skin.

He ignored the pain and bent down to lift Sandra up -

But she gritted her teeth and lifted up on her hands - her legs useless - and pushed him away while snaring the distorter from his hand.

“No!” he shouted, and he reached down again, but she shook her head and hit him as hard as she could, square in his chest.

“Get out of here!” she barked - then she threw herself over and pulled out a M1911 from her side holster and opened fire with one hand as she held up the black cylinder in the other.

Falkner hesitated - he still had time - he could grab her and make it through and then -

Sandra looked back at him. Her eyes told him everything he needed to know.

Don’t make this in vain. Go.

Falkner locked eyes with her...then turned and, pushing off with his legs, dove for the portal.

He felt the distorter go off, felt the fabric of space-time ripple behind him, undoubtedly tearing Sandra and the Missionaries and the Nazis to shreds as it destroyed the portal right as he cleared it.

And tumbled head first into oblivion.


Back at the camp, hundreds of years later, he grieved.

He took each death hard. He always had. Even though he was firm in his faith, and knew the True Teachings and what they promised - relief from suffering through life everlasting - he always had had a problem pushing aside the grief. Although he knew that emotion was a good thing - even if it seared his heart - that it would ultimately be for the greater good.

It still hurt.

He saw the bodies lying under tarps and knew all of them by name, even if he couldn’t see their faces. Paz, Johnson, Gina. Sandra would’ve been there, lying next to them, if her body hadn’t been ripped into nothingness by the distorter. There’d be no funeral for her, just a memorial service, and like the one for her husband Lon a year prior. He hadn’t been able to bring him back, either. His body was in a gulag in Siberia, forever left in 1952, buried in the frozen wastes. Morbidly, he wondered if it would still be preserved from the cold, all those centuries later.

He pushed the thought aside.

Shepherds died. It was a part of the job. But this was the worst casualty rate this year - the worst in a while. It was almost as if…

Falkner looked thoughtfully into the blue sky. It’s almost as if they knew we were coming. He paused. But if they knew we were coming, we wouldn’t have made it out. Still…

He’d have to tell the families, for those who had families (Gina didn’t; she was a Crusade orphan). He didn’t look forward to it. He never did.

Falkner brought his gaze down. The camp wasn’t much to look at, as he sat by the bodies, silent. The tents were the closest thing to permanent they could find; thick canvas walls, high-reaching ceilings, big enough to house a half-dozen people in decent comfort. They had to ultimately be mobile if the camp had to be broken down quickly due to an incursion - not that Refuge had ever been found, let alone breached. The Jews that had been rescued from the concentration camp were huddled together in the open, in groups of four to five each, being seen by mixture of doctors from the United Nations and Médecins Sans Chronologies. They looked fearful - most refugees did - but he knew from experience that most of those who were crying were crying from relief and joy, not from fear.

Some had made it through medical and were getting food from workers with white armbands and red crosses. You had to be careful when feeding people who were previously starving. They could very easily eat themselves to death otherwise. He was sure some of them were ready to devour everything in sight, but fortunately the workers at the camp had had plenty of experience dealing with malnourished refugees.

It was, after all, practically a weekly occurrence.

The Shepherds who had come back from the meeting were talking with the refugees, answering questions (those who could speak the language), drawing pictures in the dirt with their fingers, their WWII-period guns still slung over their shoulders. The refugees had plenty of questions: Where are we? What happened? Who are you? They had answers, but they would be slow in coming. The first priority was getting them somewhere safe, and that meant finding an untracked and unplotted timeline, either in the present or in the past - and given how zealous the Church had gotten about their Crusades, that was becoming more and more difficult each year.

Even once they were safe, explaining time travel to individuals from a pre-travel age civilization - many of whom grew up in the 1920’s and 1930’s without electricity or running water in rural Europe - was a doubtful proposition.

For the moment, Falkner was content that they hadn’t lost more; that the refugees were safe; and that the sun was shining and a cool breeze was blowing like always and all was well.

For the moment.

Thank God for such moments, he thought.

He saw someone out of the corner of his eye, and he shifted his focus to see a person standing quietly, at a respectful distance, hands clasped behind his back, a patient expression on his young face. Jacus.

Falkner waved him over.

Jacus - average height for a native Arran, that is to say, slightly taller than six feet - walked over. His hair was dark, and his skin was olive-colored; his honey-colored eyes had vibrant color that Falkner’s own gray eyes lacked - again, typical for a native Arran. Even a black-blooded traitor of an Arran.

“Sir,” Jacus said, simply. His words were clipped, evidence of the crisp accent he had yet to abandon from his days growing up in the Dominion.

“What can I do for you, Jacus? You fought well, by the way.”

“Yes sir,” he said. Falkner could tell something was weighing heavily on him, by the short words, the stiff bearing.

“It’s not your fault, Jacus.”

A shrug. “I know.” Arrans were stoic, but he knew Jacus better than that. Beneath the stoicism was a streak of guilt. Sandra was a close friend, made when Jacus saved Lon’s life a couple of months before Lon was killed. Still, he knew Jacus wouldn’t talk about it. Not to him, his commander. Maybe to one of the other Shepherds, later. It was entirely possible that he would just swallow it and store it deep within him, for use for some later time.

Falkner knew he didn’t come to talk. “Do you have something for me?”

“A message, sir. From command.”

He ran a hand through his graying hair. “Alright, go on.”

“Confidential, sir,” Jacus said. He held up a small, shiny metal ball, and Falkner nodded.

“Ah. Okay then, let’s see what we have.”

Must be important to be a sealed message.

Jacus handed over the sphere. It was warm to the touch. Falkner gripped it not in his palm, as one would normally hold a ball, but with his fingertips. Something in the ball clicked; the surface vibrated, just once, and Falkner placed it in his palm - and watched as the sphere opened up, revealing a micro-sized projector lens on a flat disk.

Jacus turned his back, but Falkner shook his head. “You can watch, Jacus. You’re my second-in-command, for Pete’s sake.” Jacus shrugged and turned back around, but his eyes were sharp as they fell on the sphere.

“Proceed,” Falkner said, and the sphere whirred and clicked and glowed as a green 3D hologram appeared, projected by the lens from the disk and filling Falkner’s hand.

The message was brief. Just five seconds or so. The voice was calm, matter-of-fact. But there was an undercurrent of energy that flowed from the spoken words to Falkner’s ears that sent shivers down his spine.

Jacus leaned in. “What was it, sir? I didn’t catch it.”

Falkner snapped the sphere shut and lowered it in his hand as his eyes gazed far off into the distance, his brow furrowed. He shook his head, stood up, tossed the sphere into the grass, where it would self-dissolve.

“It wasn’t much,” he said, his mind racing like a velocitor on full throttle. “But you can’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you, even though I think the word will get out sooner or later.”

“Of course,” Jacus replied. “What was it?”

“Again, it wasn’t much,” Falkner said, dryly. “Just that I’ve been summoned to an emergency strategy meeting with Devorah at HQ.”

Jacus raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

Falkner smiled, not of mirth, but of amazement at life itself - it’s peculiarities, it’s complexities, it’s vulgarities. “The Chairman of the Dominion has been assassinated,” he said, “and I imagine a lot of trouble is coming our way.”
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Farfadet
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2017, 07:10:38 AM »

Hi! I went in not knowing if i was going to finish this one or not since it's long but i couldn't bring myself to stop reading. That's good!

I think we get a lot of things in these few pages. I know who the shepherds are who the missionaries are and the world with a future and saviors from another timeline is really intriguing.

That being said there are a couple of redundant descriptions and usage of words you could fix easily with a re-read.

You have a lot of small sentences and in between - - and I think it works really good in this action packed scene so no problems here but it leaves me wondering if all the book is like that and if id' keep on if it is. Maybe i would maybe i wouldnt i honestly don't know just wanted to bring it to your attention.

Also, the usage of the term Jews i don't believe is politically correct and wouldn't mind if it was from the POV of another character but it didn't seem fit how Falkner would think about them so i would change it unless ther's a good reason for it!

alright so keep on writing cuz i'd keep on reading!
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