Sample from "TimeKeeperS: Rectification"

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As Marianne made her way toward what had once been downtown Amarillo, she wondered if it might have been better to wait until dark, or at least dusk. She was an expert at moving around in low light and not being seen, but she felt exposed in the middle of the day like that. It was also quite warm.

Still, there were downsides to moving in the dark, too, as everyone met already suspected you of being up to no good. Otherwise, why were you moving around in the dark?

An hour and a half after she had set out, she was nearing the outskirts of downtown. She had seen Amarillo under better circumstances, but had not paid a lot of attention, just traveling through with the Fitchs a couple times as they went to see their children and grandchildren. She remembered that the downtown area had supposedly been going through some sort of revitalization (“We have one every five years, like clockwork,” Ethan had told her with a sardonic laugh) and many of the buildings had been empty. It was hard to tell now which ones had been empty and/or falling down for some time and which had just become that way in the last week.

In most of her travels, she hadn’t seen many people, and those she saw were scrambling to not be seen. Her radiation detector was still showing a low level of radiation everywhere she went, but in no neighborhood did it seem to spike. Someone might have tried to set off a dirty bomb, she thought, but she doubted that anything “big” had gone off. Something bigger than Flagstaff, but nothing like a tactical nuke.

She had just finished that thought when something shot through the sky and, coming from the east, exploded about a mile west of her position. She heard the sound, but didn’t feel any sort of concussion. Was the shot well-aimed at a specific target or was someone just lobbing? She didn’t see how finding out would help her in her quest and quickly put it out of her mind.

She was just turning on to what a fallen down sign indicated was Polk Street when she heard the clip-clop of hooves coming her way. She looked up to see a thin man setting a gaunt horse, a rifle across his saddle-bows. He wore a wide-brimmed hat and a handle-bar mustache and she thought he would have looked right at home in the Amarillo of a hundred and fifty years before.

He looked her over with interest, then said, “A bow? Now that’s smart. But too slow to get into action.”

“You never know,” she replied cagily.

“What are you doin’ out’chere by yourself, little lady?” he asked. She got the impression that he was going out of his way to talk like a character from the old west.

“Looking for a friend,” Marianne replied.

He nudged his horse a little closer to her and said with a not-so-friendly glint in his eyes, “I could be your friend.”

Marianne knew what he was seeing. A middling-tall woman with little fat, long brownish-blonde hair and a face some said was pretty. She had always thought her mouth was too wide, but she had never heard anyone else say that. So, while she had been hit on a time or three in her life, she had never been the most sought after woman—except maybe that winter in Trahlad so long ago. Still, she had enough experience to know that this man had something on his mind and it was not a romantic idea.
“You probably could be my friend, under other circumstances. Right now, I’ve got my mind on something else.”

She caught a new glint in his eye and whirled around, letting fly with an arrow as soon as she had acquired a target. The steel-tipped arrow—so much more deadly than the ones she had fired in the future—went through the man’s forearm and lodged in his chest. As he screamed and fell to the ground, Marianne turned back to the man on the horse and commented, “Seems to me you’ve already got all the friends you can handle.”

“I was just about to warn you about him,” the man on the horse—now white as a sheet—said with stammering voice.

“I bet.” Another arrow was nocked to her string as she said, “Now, you want to get down off that horse and tend to your friend.”

“He ain’t my—“

“I’m sorry, did you think that was a question?” Marianne gestured with the arrow and said, “Get off that horse before I knock you off of it and tend to this man.”

The man got off his horse and laid the rifle on the ground. Walking over to the wounded man, who was moaning softly, he said, “He’ll be dead any minute.”

“Not necessarily. He pulled the arrow out of his chest by sheer reflex. Tear up your shirt and plug the hole and you might be able to get him back to wherever you two came from before he checks out.” The man did as he was told, shaking all the while and occasionally looking up to see if Marianne was still covering him. “This horse come when you whistle or call?” Marianne asked.


“OK, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to lead him about a block away. Once we get out of sight, you call him and I’ll let him go. If he comes to you, I’ll believe you didn’t steal him and I’ll be on my way. If he doesn’t come to you, I’ll just hold on to him until I find the rightful owner.”

“That there’s my horse!” the man objected.

“Then you shouldn’t have a problem, huh?”

The man was trying to bandage his friend when he said, “We didn’t mean nothin’. We was just going to have some fun.”

“Uh-huh,” Marianne replied with a doubting smile and mounted the horse. Shoving the man’s rifle into the boot, she turned and trotted him away. When she had ridden him out of sight, she dismounted and listened. Faintly, she heard a whistle and the horse’s ears perked up. She patted the old boy on the rump and said, “You go take care of him, fella. Nice knowing you.” The horse looked at her as if confused, then set off in a trot in the direction of the two men. Marianne took that as her cue to dart quickly into what might have once been an alley and get away.

Three blocks away, she stopped in the remains of what looked to have been a garage and caught her breath. It had been taken away more by the act of shooting a fellow human being than by her physical exertion. For one brief moment, she had been back on the battlefield and acting from instinct rather than deliberate thought. She wasn’t sure if she liked the sensation or not, even though she was pretty sure those two men had been up to no good.

Another block and she was stumbling into a darkened building that looked like it contained offices of some sort. The windows were broken and papers were strewn all across the remnants of the desks and chairs and filing cabinets. There were bullet holes in one wall. She noticed little of this as she fell to her knees, trembling. Putting her hands to her head as if that would strengthen her efforts at thought, she tried to remember what the man she had shot looked like. Had he been black or white or Latino? Large or small? She couldn’t remember. She just remembered that she had shot him. She thought he might have been light of skin, but she wasn’t sure. Yet she could remember the sound of his scream as the arrow went all the way through his forearm and into his chest. How far had it gone into his chest? Might he be dying right now? Was he already dead? What had he been going to do to her? Should she have waited to find out?

She found the remnants of some cushions—maybe off couches, she guessed—and arranged them into a bed in a little room that might have been a waiting room of some sort and went to sleep. It wasn’t all that late in the day, but she was suddenly exhausted. The last thing she had done before falling asleep was to make sure her .45 was in her hand.

Marianne awoke to find the sky turning to dusk outside. How long had she slept? According to her watch—an old analog Timex Bat had given her—she had been out for about four hours. She stood up, feeling refreshed, for she had long ago learned to get by on little sleep for long stretches of time. Long before, during her time in the future, she had learned to live by the credo of the soldier and “sleep when you can, eat when food’s available” for one didn’t know when another opportunity would present itself.

She found a restroom within the old building which still had water in the toilet tanks. She didn’t trust herself to drink it, but she splashed a little on her face, made use of the facilities, and prepared to go out into Amarillo. She acknowledged that it didn’t have to be this way. With Edie at her disposal, she could zap herself to a good bed or even a working restroom and then come back. Something in her nature, though, made her think it better when “on the ground to stay” in a situation.

Which isn’t to say she ever let Edie far out of her reach, usually having it strapped to her thigh like a gun or wearing cargo pants with it in the most convenient pocket. She liked knowing she could leave a situation in a hurry, but didn’t want to get in the habit of running away. “Why?” she mumbled to herself as she prepared to step outside. “What’s wrong with running away sometimes?” She smiled—genuinely, considering the circumstances—and added, “What is it the character on that old show Bat watched said?” She thought a moment, then smiled wider as she remembered and said aloud, “’My old Pappy used to say, “He who fights and runs away, lives to run away another day.”’”

She stepped out into the dusk and saw that, even in the midst of a power blackout and local war, Amarillo still had some of the world’s best sunsets. The myriad colors made her think that, for just a moment, things weren’t as bad as they seemed.

As the sky became darker, she realized that nighttime was going to make it easier to find people for all she had to do was look for the lights. She still had to be cautious—not just because of her earlier encounter but because of what Collin had told her—but the lights she could see gave her clear indication of human habitation.

The nearest and greatest source of light seemed to be the baseball stadium that had once been the crown jewel of downtown. Built of red brick like every other ballpark of its era, it had been the centerpiece of one of the many downtown revitalizations. On that evening, it was the most lit-up place she had seen since the Flagstaff hospital—with both incandescent light bulbs and open flames providing illumination. She started to make her way there, darting from shadow to shadow with all of her stealth training on full non-display.

As she got close enough to get a good look, it seemed like people were entering and leaving the ballpark as if it were still in operation as a ballpark, or even a mall. While she saw people patrolling the grounds with rifles in hand, there were also people milling about with children, looking for all the world like a family out for a picnic.

She made her way into a fallen building across the cratered parking lot from the ballpark and stashed her archery equipment underneath some rubble. Making sure to leave the area looking like she had found it, she slid Edie into a pocket on her pants—not as easily accessed as it was when just carried in her hand, but much less visible—and checked to make sure her guns were near to hand. Then, circling around to come up toward the stadium from the south, she tried to affect as casual a gait as she could.

A couple—both man and woman holding rifles—looked at her, but made no effort to stop her progress. Marianne smiled affably, actually hoping to look a little strained, as she said, “Hey, my name’s Marianne and I’ve just come into town. Is there any sort of a clearing house going on for finding out where loved ones might be?”

“You’ve come to the right place,” the woman replied. She was a heavy-set woman with a hard look in her eyes. Her brown hair was short and scraggly and her clothes—jeans and a T—were about a half size too small. “Where’d you come in from?”

“Dumas,” Marianne replied.

“You came up from the south,” the man pointed out, suspiciously. He was as heavy as the woman, though his clothes looked like they were made for someone even bigger. He wore a thick beard and a beat-up ball cap with what looked like a cartoon armadillo on the front.

“Wasn’t sure what sort of reception people might give me,” Marianne replied, honestly enough.

“You walk all the way from Dumas?” the man challenged.

“Mostly. Fellow with a wagon gave me a bit of a ride, but not much. I got off when he brought up the subject of payment.” Marianne had been through Dumas once, but hadn’t stopped. She just remembered the name because she had mispronounced it on her other trip through. But then, she remembered she had spent the night on the site of Dumas about eight years before. That, however, was ten thousand years in a future that would no longer happen.

“Who are you looking for?” the woman asked.

“Celia Fitch.”

“Kin?” she asked.

“Just a friend. Daughter-in-law of some elderly friends of mine. They couldn’t make the trip, so I said I would.”

“Well, go on inside there,” the woman said, directing Marianne to one of the stadium gates. “All sides have agreed this will be a no-fight zone, so you leave any bad blood out here.”

“Amen to that,” Marianne replied, surprised they hadn’t checked her for weapons. Did they—like many people she had met—think she was too much of a girly-girl to be weaponized, or did they just assume everyone still moving was packing?

Inside the stadium, Marianne found that the largest part of it was taken up with a triage station but, around the concourse, there were boards where-on people had tacked up messages. She looked over them casually. “Looking for Anthony Reyes Jr.” said one. “I’m Carol Jeter and I’m still alive,” read another, with the address of where the person was staying written on the card. Marianne wondered if this were really the place to start looking for Ethan.

Looking around, she saw no policemen. At least, no one was wearing a uniform. Where were the police? On patrol? Or had one or both factions targeted them first? She figured she had better get the lay of the land, first, before she started asking questions like that.

She found her way over to a triage tent where several people were being treated for comparatively minor wounds. Grabbing up a container of water, she went to the first medical personnel she saw—an older woman—and asked, “Do you need some water, Doc?”

The lady looked at Marianne and shook her head. Marianne proceeded through the tent, offering water to both the inflicted and the helpers. Soon, she was asked to hold a light for another woman—this one wearing worn and soiled scrubs—as the woman cleaned up a nasty-looking foot injury on a boy who looked to be about fifteen. He had been complaining rather whinily of the pain—up until he saw Marianne, and then he became quite stoic and manly.

The PA, for so she proved to be, said to Marianne as she moved on to the next patient, “You’ve got quite an attractive bedside manner, apparently.”

“Only to those with young, raging hormones,” Marianne replied.

The woman laughed and, extending her hand, said, “Linny Williams, physician’s assistant.” She had dark skin and surprisingly wide eyes, considering her obvious fatigue. Her hair was in a tight bun on the back of her head and Marianne guessed that it was probably pretty long when combed out.

“Marianne Overstreet,” she replied as she took the hand. “Used to be a security consultant.”

“Lots of job titles went out the window, huh?” Linny commented. “I could sure use the help, if you’re not doing anything else?”
“Came here looking for a friend, but no sign, yet,” Marianne replied. “I’ll be happy to stick around and help.”

“Well, maybe word will come in.” Linny Willians was a woman of, Marianne guessed, about thirty-five. Attractive in a motherly way, she walked tiredly but handled her healing duties with efficiency and grace.

“You, um, have anyone?” Marianne asked, as they gathered supplies for another patient.

“Don’t know,” Linny replied. “My kids were visiting their dad in Lubbock when this all happened. I—I’ve been trying to stay busy here so I won’t have to think about it. I say a prayer for them pretty often, though.”

“I bet.”


“I didn’t have anyone but friends before this. That’s why I volunteered to be the one to come looking. If I don’t make it back, I won’t be missed all that much.”

Linny looked at Marianne and heard the truth in the statement. She found it hard to believe that such a pretty young woman didn’t have a boyfriend or a husband waiting for her. Maybe she did, Linny thought, but circumstances had put them so far away that she had resigned herself to never knowing if they were still alive.

“Can I ask you something?” Marianne queried in a low voice as they took a much-needed break in the middle of the night. When Linny nodded, Marianne asked, “Where are the police? I mean, I know these are wild circumstances, but when the power went off our police found horses to patrol the streets on.”

“We had a little of that going on, but up here north of the Interstate the police took the worst of it in the early fighting. I remember reading about when this used to be a wild west town in the eighteen hundreds. Good folks didn’t cross the deadline into the bad side of town and trouble makers didn’t cross into the good side of town. It’s a lot like that now. This stadium’s a safe zone because we’re helping people here, but you don’t have to go far to get into some bad parts of town.” She shrugged and added, “I hear it’s better south of the Interstate, but that may be just rumor.”

“So you stay here to help?”

“Like I say: it keeps my mind occupied.”

“Are people still coming in? Injured, I mean?”

“Not like a couple days ago,” Linny replied. “I think we’re at a sort of—what was the word my grandfather used to use? He was a history teacher.” She thought a moment, then recalled, “Détente. That’s the word. We’re at a détente right now. Most of the people I’m seeing now weren’t injured in the fighting but scraped themselves trying to dig to water or something like that. Though, a couple hours ago, a guy drags in this other fella who’s been shot through the arm with an arrow.”

“An arrow?” Marianne asked, not having to feign surprise. Then, “Who uses arrows?”

“I don’t know. He said he and a friend got jumped by four or five guys and they fought their way out. Said we could expect some casualties to show up from the guys they shot, but we haven’t seen anyone.”

“An arrow?” Marianne repeated, shaking her head.

As Linny stood up to go back to work, Marianne arose as well and said, “I’d like to stay and help you, but I also have a promise to try and find my friend. If I disappear, just assume I went south.”

“How far south will you go?”

“Not all the way to Lubbock, if I can help it,” Marianne replied.

“Still,” Linny mused, “I could … You know, I could stay here and do some good—probably ‘til I die or the town does. But, well, they’re my kids, you know?”

Marianne hesitated, then said, “If you want to come with me, I’ll try to help you find transportation south—if there is any.”

Linny looked at the triage area and said, “If you’ll stick around until dawn, Marianne, I’ll let you know.”

“I can do that.”

“Looks like no one’s been here for days,” Caleb commented.

Chevy, looking in through the kitchen window, added, “The cabinets have been cleared out of food. Looks to me like they cleared out, thinking to hole up somewhere else.”

“Ever hear if Mister Garrett had a cabin back in the mountains or something?” Caleb asked. “Maybe some place where he’s got a generator or something?”

“Nope, not that I ever heard of,” Chevy replied. “And I can’t imagine a better place than this. Well-water with a pump, good field of fire—“

“What?” the doctor asked in alarm.

“I’ve got a feeling we’ve been lucky so far, Doc. Food’s running scarce and people are going to start getting touchy.”

“I think we’ve been doing very good so far.”

“We haven’t run out of food, yet,” Junior injected, to receive a knowing nod from his father.

“Wish Marianne would have said where they were going,” Caleb grumbled.

“I thought her name was Mary,” Junior commented.

“She told me she prefers Marianne,” Caleb commented with a shrug.

“I am surprised she left,” said Chevy. “Seemed like she was doing a lot of good working with you.”

“That’s what I thought,” said Caleb in a tone that said more than his words. “Maybe she thought more needed to be done somewhere else. Like getting her grandparents to safety.”

“If I knew where ‘safety’ was, I’d go there myself,” Chevy remarked with a laconic wink.

“I’m coming with you, if you’ll let me,” Linny said, the first part of the sentence declarative, but the second part decidedly conciliatory.

Marianne was not keen on the idea of a sidekick, but she also couldn’t see how she could turn down a mother who wanted to find her children when the reason she was in Amarillo at all was to find Heather’s child. She replied, “I can’t guarantee anything. Your safety or even that I could get you back here.”

“Agreed.” Then she surprised Marianne by saying, “You get me to the south side of town and I’ll try to help you find your policeman. That is who you’re looking for, right?”

“How’d you guess?”

“I’m good at my job because I hear what the patient means almost as well as what they say. What is he? Your fiancé?”

“Just a friend.”

“Must be a good friend,” Linny commented.

“I barely know him. But his mother is very important to me.”

Linny held up the duffle bag she had in her hand, a blue canvas bag such as one saw being carried into a gym, and said, “I’ve got myself and no one else outside Lubbock. So, let’s go.”

“I’ve got some stuff cached near here,” Marianne told her. “Let’s get that and then see if we can make it to the right side of the tracks.” She took a step, then asked, “Do you have any means of defending yourself in there?” She pulled out one of her guns and offered it to Linny. “I mean, I know some medical personnel don’t—“

“My father was a big proponent of self-defense,” Linny replied as she took the gun, then would say no more.

“When should we expect her back?” Collin asked, sitting on the porch with his grandparents and their friends the Garretts.

“Marianne is not an easy one to hold to a time schedule,” Bat replied with a chuckle.

“Don’t you have some way to override that Edie-thing and recall her?” Collin wondered.

Bat looked at Garison, who shrugged, then replied, “I suppose something like that could be rigged.”

Jody Garrett injected, “I can’t see how that would be a good idea. Just because we want Marianne back, we don’t know but what pulling her out of wherever she is might make things somehow worse. We have to trust her judgment.”

“Do you?” Collin asked, not just Jody, but everyone. “Do you trust Mary’s judgment?”

“Probably as much as anyone I’ve ever known,” Heather replied, to get nods of agreement from several people.