CHAPTER 2

Tony thought about his next move. He couldn't stand in this doorway for the rest of his life. He decided that the best thing to do would be to walk into town. That way, he would be seen by people entering the town. It would make his appearance more credible.

He decided to move into the countryside for the next hour or so. If he headed due east, the sun should obscure the vision of anyone who might see him. He would head out about a mile or so.

His walk out of town had been uneventful. He was confident that no one had seen him leave town. He had come to a lone tree standing almost naked against the bare countryside. He changed clothes and, just as he thought, the clothes were baggy on him. He used his own belt, figuring it wouldn't stand out too much. He then buried his own clothes in the dirt a few feet away.

Once his clothes were buried, he looked around carefully to insure that he was alone. He could see no living thing in any direction. He then dropped to the ground in a prostrate position and began to roll around. The cloud of dust he stirred up looked like there was a fight going on. When he finished, he stood up.

Tony was covered from head to foot with dirt. He brushed himself off, being careful not to brush off too much. He then rubbed dirt in his hair and on his face and hands. When he was finished, he was reasonably sure that he could pass for someone who had been walking for several days.

He placed his ring, watch, and other personal items in one pocket. It wouldn't do if these future items were to be seen by any of the townsfolk.

If he remembered correctly, there was a town to the north called Petersville. It had been established in the late 1820s. He began to walk northwest. When he was just north of town, he turned south and began to walk towards the town. Petersville should be due north of here. In this way, he could claim he had come from that town to the north.

As he walked, he began to formulate the story he would tell. He would claim to have travelled from the north. Two or three days before, his horse had spooked and run off, carrying with it everything he owned. Since this was the closest town, he decided to head here.

As for a name, he had given that much thought, also. He didn't feel that he should use his true name. By the time he reached the edge of town, he had decided on the name he would use. Robert Caldron. As best he could remember, there were no famous people in history named Caldron. He would make sure to keep a very low profile so he would reduce the chances of changing any important historical events.

As he entered the town, people were bustling about. He looked about the town. Several buildings ahead he saw a sign. "Mrs. Brookes' Boarding House." He decided that this would be the best place to start. He would need a place to live.

As he approached the house, a woman in her mid-30s came out of the front door. She was wearing what Tony could only surmise was a traditional dress. He noticed she was wearing a wedding band. She had a broom and began to sweep the porch. Tony approached her.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Could you tell me if Mrs. Brookes is in? I'm sorry to disturb you. I just got into town and I'm in need of a place to stay for a couple of days."

The woman gripped the broom closer to herself and took a step backward. Tony suddenly realized how he must look. She must think that he was some vagabond.

"Please, you don't need to fear me. My horse got spooked a couple of days ago and I was forced to walk to town. I haven't any money, but I would be willing to work for room and board. At least until I could find a job and start paying."

The woman relaxed noticeably and Tony heard a man walk up behind him. As he turned around, he saw a man, standing well over six feet, behind him. The man was wearing a gun on his right hip and a five-pointed star that read "SHERIFF" on his vest. Tony turned, careful not to make any sudden moves, especially with his hands, and greeted the man.

"Mornin' sheriff," said the woman.

The sheriff looked Tony over before he spoke.

"Mornin', Mary. How's things?"

"Fine, sheriff. No complaints."

The sheriff turned to Tony. "Morning', stranger. New in town?"

"Yes, sir. Just got in, as a matter of fact. As I was just explaining to this lady here, my horse spooked a couple of days ago. Took off with everything I own. I had to walk to town."

"What's your business, here?"

"I was hoping Mrs. Brookes would allow me to stay here for a few days until I could find some work."

"Got a name, or should I just call you 'Dusty?'"

"Caldron. Robert Caldron."

"All right, Mr. Caldron. Just don't cause no trouble. I'll be keepin' my eye on you. Good day. Mary."

The sheriff tipped his hat to the woman, then turned and walked back up the street. Tony relaxed. He turned back to the woman, who also appeared to be more relaxed.

"Honestly, ma'am, I'm only looking for the chance to rest up and hopefully earn some money so I won't be a burden to anyone. I'd only like a chance to prove myself."

The woman looked at Tony. Apparently, the woman had a lot of confidence in the sheriff.

"I'm Mary Brookes. I could use some firewood. And there's some other chores that never seem to get done around here. Shouldn't take you more than three or four hours a day.

"There's a shed out back that you can stay in. It ain't very fancy, but it's a place to stay. Deal?"

"Deal," said Tony, and he moved up on the porch to shake the woman's hand. He followed her around to the back of the boarding house. She called up to the house, to someone named "Ceryl," and told Ceryl to bring some bedding out to the shed.

The shed was a simple one-room building. Inside, there was several pieces of furniture, most of which was lying in pieces. There was a bed, with a thin mattress on it, in one corner which appeared to be intact.

"No lock on the door, but then I don't suppose you have anything to steal. Woodpile's 'round to the right. There's an axe there, too. I'll make up a list of the other things that need doin'. Breakfast is at seven sharp. Dinner is at six in the evenin'. Most of my boarders are busy during the day, so I don't serve lunch. Any questions?"

"Not about the work."

At that moment, a young girl, about twelve years old, came into the shed. "Here, ma." She handed Mrs. Brookes some blankets, sheets, and a pillow.

"Mr. Caldron, this is my daughter, Ceryl. Ceryl, this is Mr. Robert Caldron. He'll be staying here a few days."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Caldron."

"My pleasure, Miss Brookes."

The young girl seemed very pleased that Tony had addressed her so formally. She excused herself and went back into the house.

"You have a very nice daughter. What does your husband do?"

"My husband died about four years ago Mr. Caldron."

"Robert, please."

"All right, Robert. We had an outbreak of cholera back then. He caught it and died. That's when I opened this boarding house."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Brookes."

"My name is Mary. And it's all right. Out here you have to get over grief fast or you won't last long."

"Yes, I suppose so."

They talked for several more minutes, then Mary went back into the house. Tony proceeded to begin chopping some firewood.

The next few days, Tony spent several hours each day doing the jobs that Mary outlined for him. He also asked around town about any jobs he might get. He was able to acquire odd jobs from time to time, but nothing permanent.

About two weeks later Tony was helping a farmer load supplies into the farmers' wagon. The general store was located directly across from the bank. As Tony stopped for a moment to wipe the sweat from his forehead, he glanced around the street. In the window of the bank Tony noticed a sign. "Clerk Wanted: Inquire Within."

When he had finished helping the farmer, he was paid the normal wages for such work. Twenty cents. This gave him a grand total of $1.73. Not much for two weeks' work. He decided to check on the clerks' job at the bank.

When he asked about the job, he was directed to the owner and president of the bank. He was escorted into the mans' office and offered a seat.

"Do you have a name, son?"

"Robert Caldron, sir."

"Name's Waldo Crimp. So, you'd like the clerks' job. Tell me, son, can you read?"

"Yes, sir. I can read and write very well."

"Ever work in a bank before?"

"No, sir, but I can work with figures. My mother was a teacher and she taught me everything she could. She always said that if I was going to get anywhere, I'd need an education."

"Sounds like a right smart woman, your mother. I can tell from the way you talk that you're educated." He picked up a pad from his desk. He handed this pad, and a pencil, to Tony. "Complete these problems."

Tony looked at the pad. There were about ten separate problems on the pad. Each was simple math. He quickly completed the problems and handed the pad back to Mr. Crimp.

"Perfect. Each of these problems is correct. I'm impressed. Your mother taught you well.

"The job pays twenty dollars a month. The hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. You'll get thirty minutes for lunch each day. I insist on punctuality from my employees. Tardiness will not be tolerated. Are you still interested?"

"Yes, sir, I am."

"Very well. Be here tomorrow morning at eight sharp. And don't be late or don't bother coming in at all."

"Yes, sir."

Tony got up and left the office.

Tony immediately went to talk to Mary. Rooms rented out at eight dollars a month. Since Tony wouldn't be paid for several weeks, Mary agreed to let him pay twelve dollars the first month; after he was paid for his services at the bank. She normally asked for payment in advance, but since she had gotten to know him, she felt him trustworthy.

Tony now felt that he was set. He had a place to stay, a reasonably good job, and he was beginning to make friends around town. He didn't know when, or if, John and the rest of the team would be able to retrieve him. He had already accepted that he might well spend the rest of his life here in the past.

The next few months, Tony worked contented at the bank. He lived at Mary's boarding house and even helped with the chores. He became good friends with Ceryl as well. She was very bright and she and Tony became fast friends.

Crimp was easy to work for. The figures Tony had to work with were ridiculously simple compared to the physics problems he was used to dealing with. Within a very short time, he had offered Tony a position as Vice President at the Bank. Tony politely refused, saying that he was very happy in his present position.

He had also made many friends in the town. The sheriff gradually lost his mistrust of this "dusty" stranger who had simply appeared in his streets. They never exactly became friends, but the sheriff no longer mistrusted him.

He was eating lunch one day when a thought occurred to him. Surely the staff at the lab should be wondering what had happened to him. He didn't know what had turned a medical scanner into a time travel machine. But if the scientists at the institute couldn't figure it out, no one could.

If the machine had transported him back through time, it must be capable of returning him. In order to do that, they would need information on all the settings and readings at the exact moment he "left."

He sat thinking about what must have happened after he left. Mike would have gone directly to John's office to tell him. Because there was the possibility of a fatality, John would order the lab shut down and a check of all the equipment made. That was standard procedure in a situation of that type.

Tony began to go over the type of equipment they had been using. The power would be shut off to most of the equipment. That wouldn't affect most of the equipment. But the recording computer would be affected. It wouldn't be recording the readings of the other machines.

That would cause a problem. Some of the machinery would be recording fluctuations in air temperature, energy output, and other readings. Some of those fluctuations would be different if the equipment was running. His problem was that he had to prevent them from shutting down any of the equipment.

He had an idea. He had always been a fan of science fiction movies. He had once seen a particularly popular movie where one of the main characters had been teleported through time to the old west. To let the other main character know he was all right, he had written a letter to him. The letter was delivered to the other character on a specific date at a particular time.

It sounded a little far fetched, but Tony didn't see that he had any other alternatives. He had to insure that the letter would was safe until it could be delivered more than one hundred years in the future.

The bank was not a viable choice. It could fail. It could burn down or be robbed. Any one of a dozen things could happen in the next hundred years.

Suddenly an idea popped into his mind. Wells Fargo. They had a reputation for promptness, security, and discretion. They would have the facilities to safeguard any package Tony gave them until it could be delivered. And they still existed in his time.

After lunch he went to Mr. Crimp. He asked if he could have some time off; for personal reasons. Mr. Crimp said that he was very pleased with Tony's work. He guessed he could do without him for a few days.

The next morning, Tony set out for the nearest town with a Wells Fargo office. Oddly enough, Petersville was that town. Tony figured it would take him about three days to ride there. He would spend one day there and return in about a week.

His trip to Petersville was uneventful. He was sore when he rode into town. He had ridden horses before, but never for three days straight.

As he rode into town, he immediately noticed that it was more advanced than where he had been living the past few months. The street lamps were more modern. The streets were paved; at least what passed for paving in the 1870s. Tony found a hotel and registered.

He spent the next couple of hours in his room. He was trying to decide exactly how to accomplish is mission. He would have to write a letter, probably to John, to convince him of what had happened.

By two o'clock he had decided how to do it. He had gotten some paper and ink from front desk. He was very careful to put the current date on the top of the letter; March 17, 1872. The letter was addressed to John, but Tony decided to put in a reference for Mike, too.

Almost as an after thought, Tony decided to make the letter a package instead. He removed his ring from his pocket. The ring was gold with a black stone and the letter T inlaid with diamond chips, in the center. Inscribed on the inside were the words, "THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM."

He remembered when John had given him that ring. He had just been awarded his Ph. D. in physics. He had been so proud on that day. More than once, Tony thought he would have to drop out of school. When his mother had died, most of Tony's money had gone for the funeral.

A hundred other small problems had popped up from a dozen different directions. John had stepped in and guaranteed Tony that he would finish. He had lent Tony all the money he needed. The last week before finals, he had helped Tony study; study harder than he had ever studied in his life.

During that last week, John had brought a tape with him. They had played that tape the entire week. Very low, in the background, it had helped Tony to relax and study. The tape was a soundtrack of "The Man From La Mancha."

When Tony had first read the inscription, he could only laugh. More than once that week Tony had commented that it was impossible. He would never learn enough to pass his finals.

John just smiled and turned the volume up on the tape player. The song, "The Impossible Dream," was playing at that particular instant.

"Nothing is impossible," John had remarked.

It was a very happy moment when the professor handed Tony his diploma. The ring was Tony's most cherished possession. It was a symbol of the best friendship Tony ever had with another person.

Tony crumpled up the letter. He then rewrote it, adding a remark about the ring. "If this doesn't convince John, nothing will," thought Tony.

Tony walked into the Wells Fargo office. A man sitting at the reception desk looked up and asked what he could do for Tony. Tony set a package up on the counter.

"I understand that Wells Fargo delivers packages."

"Yes, sir. We guarantee delivery any where in the United States. Where would you like to have the package delivered?"

"That's a bit complicated. I'd like it delivered to this address." Tony handed the man a piece of paper with John's name and the address of the institute on it.

"Institute for Scientific Research," read the man. "'Fraid I never heard of that one. No problem, though. We can deliver it."

"There's a stipulation," said Tony.

"Oh?"

"Yes." Tony handed the man another piece of paper. "I need it delivered on this date at precisely this time. It's important."

The man just looked at Tony. He excused himself and returned a few minutes later with another gentleman.

"My name is Mark Johnson," said the other man. "I understand you want a package delivered on this date." He pointed to the piece of paper Tony had given the first man.

"Yes, sir. I understand that you'll hold a package until it can be delivered."

"Sir, this date is over a hundred years from now. Are you sure you've written the correct date?"

Tony looked at the date once more.

"Yes," he responded.

The two men looked totally confused.

"Is there a problem, sir?" inquired Tony.

"No, sir. It's just that we don't usually hold a package that long. We can do it. It's just an unusual request. Do you mind if I ask why you want to wait that long?"

Tony simply stared at the two men. He hadn't counted on being asked that question. He had to think fast.

"Well, you see, it's sort of a time capsule. We bury a chest with items of the present in it. Then, in the future, the chest is dug up and it gives future generations an idea of what life was like today.

"I'm just trying a different approach. Instead of burying this box, I'm hoping that by leaving it with Wells Fargo, it won't suffer as much from the affects of time."

Tony thought the explanation was weak. He hoped they would accept it.

"Well, I suppose it'll be all right," said the second man. Tony felt relieved. "You do understand," continued the man, "that we'll have to charge you extra for this?"

"Yes," responded Tony. Ten minutes later, after paying the fee, Tony left the office.

Riding back to his boarding house, Tony contemplated what John might do when, and if, he received that package. Initially, he might think that it was a joke. The ring should allay that notion, or at least cause him to stop and think.

Knowing John the way he did, Tony felt sure that he would take the necessary precautions until he could determine if it was a joke. Tony hoped that would give them the time they needed to bring him back; if they could.

When he got back, his work had piled up. Crimp explained that Tony was so good at his job, he didn't trust anyone else to do the books. Tony went back to work still wondering what might happen.

The next few weeks were uneventful. Almost. The town had been building a church. Finally the mayor announced it would soon be finished and there would be a celebration dedicating the new church.

Everyone was overjoyed. Plans began for a celebration never before seen in the small town were made. Crimp even announced that he had ordered a special case of champagne for the occasion.

Finally, the long awaited day arrived. April 22, 1872. Everyone in the town turned out. Tony had asked Mary if he could escort her to the celebration. She accepted. But Tony noticed Ceryl's face when he had asked Mary. It was evident from the hurt look that she was upset when Tony asked only Mary.

Tony winked at Mary. He walked over to Ceryl and bowed slightly to her. "And if I may. Miss Ceryl, would you do me the honor of allowing me to escort the prettiest young lady in the territory to the celebration?"

Ceryl let out a squeal of delight. She then regained her composure and became very sober. "Sir, I would be delighted." She then performed a small curtsey, giggled, and kissed Tony on the cheek.

The dedication was the largest celebration the town had ever seen. Everyone turned out for the celebration. It was a wonderful celebration. Tony was having a wonderful time. There games and contests for everyone. Later that night, a dance was scheduled.

They had just finished the picnic lunch that Mary had packed. Almost everyone was lounging around as they digested their meal. Tony had purchased a necklace for Ceryl. Her birthday was in just a few days and Tony couldn't wait to give it to her.

Tony went to the carriage he had rented to bring the three of them to the celebration. He reached under the seat and removed a package. He opened the package and looked at the necklace. Although not very expensive, it was beautiful.

He laid the package on the seat of the carriage and removed a card from his coat pocket. The card simply read, "To one of the most beautiful young women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Robert." He laid the card on top of the package and removed a pink ribbon from his coat pocket. The ribbon would look very nice on the package.

Suddenly, Tony felt a shudder. He instantly recognized it as the same shudder he had felt when he was brought to this time. Evidently, John and the staff had been successful. His vision began to blur and he had the distinct feeling of moving.

Six weeks had passed. Dr. Meadows had informed the Executive Council of all the events that had occurred. They had all agreed that the strictest of security had to be maintained on the project. They also agreed that no reports should be filed with the authorities until they could ascertain just what had happened.

Lab 12 had been given top priority. A backup generator was installed in case of a power failure. The best minds in the Institute had been brought in on the project.

Professor William Casey had come immediately when Dr. Meadows had sent for him. He had been thoroughly briefed on all aspects of the project to date. He seemed almost ecstatic to be involved on such a project.

But in that six weeks, virtually no new information had been discovered. All the equipment had been checked and rechecked. Everything was in perfect working order and there had been no power surges to the lab. The cause proved to be elusive.

Finally, the cause of the incident was discovered. But it wasn't the doctors and professors who discovered the cause. It was an ordinary custodian who discovered it.

The custodian was cleaning up as usual. On this particular night, however, he had inadvertently spilled some cleaner behind one of the machines. As he moved the machine to wipe up the cleaner, he discovered a small rock behind the machine. It was an odd rock; he had never seen anything like it before. He reported it the next morning to Dr. Meadows.

Dr. Meadows immediately brought it to the attention of Prof. Casey and the rest of the staff.

"It's a piece of uranium. Very low grade. Apparently the radioactivity it gives off was enough to alter the operations of the medical scanner." Prof. Casey's report to the Executive Council was very informative. Each member of the Council had been given a detailed account of the progress so far. "Now that we know the cause of the accident, we can begin to attempt a reversal.

"We've redesigned the instrument panel of the scanner to correspond with what we believe are the settings for a time scanner. As long as we don't alter the settings, I believe we will be able to retrieve Dr. Thompson."

"Good," came the reply from the head of the Council. "Please keep us apprised of all developments."

The next four weeks were spent in running tests. Lab 11 had been reconstructed into a duplicate of Lab 12. The same piece of uranium was used to alter the duplicate medical scanner to correspond to the original one.

Initially, they used inanimate objects in their tests. The first of these objects were lost when the settings were changed on the scanner. Gradually, they began to understand the settings and how they operated. When their tests with inanimate objects were deemed to be a success, they decided to test it on organic matter.

The instrument panel on the scanner had to be redesigned several more times as their understanding of the apparatus grew. With each experiment and test, they began to exert more and more control over the machine.

Finally, Prof. Casey announced that they were ready. They had learned everything they could from their tests and experiments. Any further work, at least at this point, would only be a waste of time.

"There's a storage room directly across from Lab 12. We've converted it into a receiving area. Out of respect for Dr. Thompson's desire not to test on animals, we have limited our research to plants and other organic material. We haven't tested it on a living creature yet.

"But I don't think this will be a problem. All our data indicates that the results should be the same as that of the organic matter we've tested. We'll attempt to retrieve Dr. Thompson at eight o'clock tonight."

After the meeting broke up, Bill sat in his office. He was going over the information they had gathered in the last six weeks. He had sounded more confident that he felt. He knew that a hundred things could go wrong. It was possible that they could loose Tony Thompson forever.