authors: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

chapter 1 - Vortex (Tempest #2) by Julie Cross

Prologue

MARCH 15, 2009

The only things that gave me the strength to pull myself off that grassy spot and walk farther from Holly were the images that flashed through my mind—Holly, sitting in that orientation, hiding the book in her lap with her name carefully written inside, her hair twirling around the pencil she was using to take notes. I had sat three rows behind her that day … today … and watched her the whole two hours. And even though she hadn’t once looked back at me, I figured she must have known I was staring because she rolled her eyes at me outside the building, just before I got in my car. There was something both affectionate and challenging in that look she had given me.

Now, repeating that day, I felt so much relief knowing I wouldn’t be in that room with her, allowing her life to collide with mine in such a dangerous way. I just had to keep playing those memories over and over, removing myself from the picture in my head, and I knew I’d get through this. I’d live without her as long as I could imagine her life without me. More importantly, her life would be better without me.

The moment I walked into Dad’s place, my arm in a sling and a whole lot of crap to explain, it was a little easier to temporarily set my thoughts of Holly aside … for now.

MARCH 15, 2009, 6:00 P.M.

Dad took one look at my injured shoulder as I leaned my good arm against the door frame of his home office and strode quickly across the room. “What the hell happened to you, Jackson?”

“I got shot.” I let out a breath, prepping for his reaction. “In August of this year … by Raymond … one of the Enemies of Time. He’s dead now … well, he was dead in August … which hasn’t happened yet … so, I guess I’m not sure…”

He froze in his spot, eyes widening. I reached in my pocket and removed the memory card that August 2009 Dad had given me, and offered it to him. “This is yours … sort of.”

He completely ignored the memory card and moved closer, resting his hands on my face, looking me over carefully. “Are you okay? Tell me you’re okay.”

And this was the moment when I knew for sure that I could trust any and all versions of my dad.

“Physically, I’m fine.” I tugged his hands from my face and placed the memory card in his open palm. “But we have a lot to talk about and we might need Chief Marshall and Dr. Melvin.”

He nodded, still half in shock, probably wondering how I knew Chief Marshall, then pointed to a chair for me to sit down in. I waited patiently while he zipped through notes on his computer. I couldn’t read any of his code, but I had guessed what he might have read by the time I heard him draw in a breath and rub his hands over his face.

“I’m sorry about Eileen,” I said finally.

He closed his eyes for a moment and then turned in his chair to face me. “We aren’t going to tell anyone about Holly or this Adam Silverman kid … not Chief Marshall or Dr. Melvin. No one.”

“Good,” I said immediately, glad we were on the same page.

“I have a plan for keeping tabs on them.” He stared over my shoulder at the wall, lost in thought. “A reliable source that will make sure everything stays under the radar. But you have to promise me you won’t look up their emails or Facebook or anything that’s traceable. Understood?”

I swallowed the lump in my throat, feeling the finality in my answer. “Understood.”

“And there’s no way I’d ever let you join Tempest,” he stated flatly, as though he’d read my mind. “I’m not sure what my other self was thinking … maybe he took a blow to the head before agreeing to this, but it’s not happening.”

Didn’t he understand why I’d made the choices I’d made? “I have to. I’m not going back to my old life. I can’t. I know about Jenni Stewart. I met her in 2007 … in that other universe or whatever. She was only my age and Chief Marshall let her join the CIA.”

My knee bounced up and down, anticipating his argument. It felt like a clock was ticking inside my chest. If I didn’t dive in, headfirst, to something totally new, I would find myself running into that camp counselor orientation, apologizing to Mr. Wellborn for being late and undoing the one unselfish thing I’d managed to do in my life.

Dad’s expression faltered, showing early signs of defeat. “You do realize that I’ve devoted eighteen years of my life to preventing this very thing from happening.”

“I know.”

“I didn’t raise you for this.” His eyebrows knitted together. “What I mean is … you’ve had it pretty easy … you’ve never had to worry about anything … never had to defend yourself. You aren’t ready for this. Maybe we could just—”

“Then I’ll get ready,” I said firmly, standing up from my chair. I reached for the phone on the desk before Dad could stop me. “Should I call Chief Marshall, or are you going to?”

“Fine.” He snatched the receiver from my hand and slammed it back into the cradle. “Do you even know his number?” he asked as he dialed from his own cell phone.

I gave him half a smile. “Uh … no.”

MARCH 15, 2009, 9:00 P.M.

“If I do the half-jump, I’ll still be in this room, but I’ll also be somewhere else … wherever I jump to,” I attempted to explain to Dr. Melvin and Chief Marshall. Their faces both reflected skepticism, like maybe I had just imagined this whole element of time travel. “I can prove it. Give me something to go look up or a question that I can only answer if I’ve managed to look into the past.”

“So, you’re totally here in this year, right now?” Dad asked. “You’re not sitting in a vegetative state somewhere else in addition to being in this room?”

It was freakin’ confusing. I knew that, but I couldn’t help getting frustrated trying to explain these weird phenomenons for the millionth time. I plopped down on the living room couch, letting out an exhausted sigh. “I’m not half-here. I’m all the way here. I did a full jump from a different timeline to get here.”

“And how can you be sure of this?” Chief Marshall asked.

“I feel different in a half-jump. Sensations are dulled, like hot and cold or pain.” As if to emphasize my point, my shoulder started throbbing from beneath the sling. I rubbed it a little with my free hand, which only made it hurt more. “A half-jump is like a shadow of the timeline I’m currently in. That’s why nothing changes in my present or home base.”

The explanation was stolen from 007 Adam, but I figured it might make me sound like I knew what I was talking about.

“And you view the timelines like worlds running parallel to each other?” Dr. Melvin asked. “Just for clarification … to you a full jump is when you travel to a different, parallel, world, not a time jump within the same world?”

“Right … and I know for sure there’s multiple timelines because I went back to 2007 … not in a half-jump, I was all the way there, feeling the pain and the cold and all that,” I rattled off. “Then I returned to my original timeline and it was 2009 and those versions of you guys didn’t remember anything that happened in the 2007 I had just returned from.”

My head was already spinning and I had a feeling we were just getting started.

“Perhaps we should get a look at this skill … have him show us the half-jump,” Dr. Melvin said. “Though, I don’t want to physically put him in jeopardy, with the gunshot wound and all.”

Chief Marshall, leaning back against the living room mantel, held up his hands. This was almost like our conversation in 2007, when he knocked me out with the poisonous rag and dragged me to that secret headquarters. “The boy will do no time-traveling unless we order it, understood?”

Dr. Melvin and I both reluctantly nodded.

“I think your excitement, Dr. Melvin, is a bit premature.” Marshall folded his arms across his chest, staring me down from his six-and-a-half-foot stature. “He may have gained a few new tricks but he’s not mature enough to deal with the repercussions of his actions. So, you say it was Raymond who shot you?”

“Yes,” I said through my teeth. This version of Marshall wasn’t any better than the other two I had met.

“And Raymond is … as you described … a short redheaded man … a little stocky, blue eyes, spiky hair … a shoe print may or may not be permanently etched on his face?” Marshall asked as if this were a police interrogation with an idiot suspect.

Maybe Dad was right. Maybe I didn’t need this. My mind drifted to Holly, driving home in her old beat-up Honda … then I imagined Adam there with her. I pictured them laughing together, joking about the spoiled kids they’d have to supervise all summer.

I looked up at Marshall and forced the anger from my tone. “Yes, that’s Raymond, and he’s dead. Dad killed him. But the first time I met him was in October of 2009 and he shot—” I froze for a second, watching Dad shake his head ever so slightly at me, keeping me from mentioning Holly. “He tried to shoot me and … and didn’t succeed, but then I was stuck in 2007 and who knows what I screwed up with that full jump to the alternate universe or whatever? If I had known some agent stuff, maybe that wouldn’t have happened. Don’t you want me to have some method of defense? For everyone’s sake.”

“We aren’t a normal division of the CIA,” Marshall explained. “Whatever preconceived notions you may have developed from television or spy movies need to be dissolved immediately. Our first priority isn’t the U.S. government or even the American people … it’s humanity in general … more specifically, preserving the natural, ethical state of humanity. Tempest spends at least two years training new agents and drilling this into their heads. We can’t let you jump in on their game and tell them all you were created in a lab using the genetics of a cloned woman … We can’t tell them you can time-travel or that the Tempus gene hidden in your physical makeup has allowed you to learn Farsi in a day and memorize step-by-step pictures of self-defense. We can’t tell them that, if we want them to continue trusting their leaders … such as myself and your father.”

“How many agents-in-training are we talking about?” I asked, only because I was curious. The whole division seemed so ambiguous to me. I could hardly wrap my head around the concept.

“Those details are on a need-to-know basis,” Marshall said. “Are you understanding what I’m trying to tell you, son?”

It was obvious he’d already planned to let me join. He probably knew I’d ask, somehow. Walking me in circles beforehand must have been part of his mental game.

“Don’t call me son.” The words snapped out of my mouth before I could stop them. Marshall only narrowed his eyes at me, but said nothing. “Yes, I understand. Don’t tell anyone about my superpowers … don’t use my superpowers … and most importantly, don’t tell anyone I came from a clone.”

Marshall stared at something on his BlackBerry. “So, you’re willing to give everything up … the freedom we’ve given you on the government’s dollar? According to Agent Stewart, you have a fund-raiser to attend tomorrow night, and the following night, a party at Caleb’s house. Sounds like good times.”

“I’m ready to get the hell out of New York, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Marshall’s lips formed a devious grin that made my stomach do flip-flops. “Great, plane leaves at six tomorrow morning for our next training location.”

“Where—” I started to ask, but Marshall held up his hand to stop me.

“Need-to-know basis, kid. Get used to it. And don’t expect me or Agent Freeman to treat you any different from the other recruits.”

“Agent Freeman?” The man who’d followed me and Courtney to school every day in seventh grade. In the timeline I had just left, he knew about me being able to time-travel. “Are you … going to tell him anything? About me?”

“No,” Dad and Marshall said together. Marshall strode out of the room, and the second the front door shut, Dr. Melvin’s face changed to that of the sympathetic old man I had known my whole life.

“Let me have a look at that shoulder,” he said, already pulling the sling over my head. “You’ll have to be careful with it for another couple days.”

I looked over at Dad. “Do you know where I’m going in the morning?”

He attempted a smile. “You mean where we’re going … and I do know. The desert.”

“Like Arizona?” I asked.

“Like the Middle East.”

The Middle East? The confidence that had come out in my exchange with Chief Marshall slowly deflated as I realized that I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into.

MARCH 16, 2009, 6:00 A.M.

“Is someone going to tell me what the hell is going on?”

Dad, Marshall, Freeman, and I stood on one of the runways at JFK, staring at a very fancy private government plane. One I had flown in many times, thinking it was Dad’s CEO jet.

“Jackson will be joining our squad for the next several weeks,” Marshall said.

Freeman stared blankly at him. “What? Is this some kind of school assignment?”

Marshall’s smirk was directed at me, as if saying he knew no one would take me seriously. “I’ll rephrase my answer. Agent Jackson Meyer will be joining the Tempest Division for training. In fact, I’m assigning him to your group: Advanced Defense. Give him the same tough love you give to the other recruits.”

Freeman looked at me. “This is a joke, right?”

Dad clapped him on the back. “Nope. He’s all yours. Kind of tradition, don’t you think? Your father trained me, I trained you … and now you’ll train my kid.”

Dad and Marshall boarded the plane, leaving me outside with a bewildered Agent Freeman. He finally shook his head and turned to me, speaking low and under his breath. “I’m not sure what stunt Marshall is pulling here, but don’t worry … I’ll make sure you’re okay.”

“Uh … thanks,” I said, not knowing how else to respond.

When I stepped onto the plane, I quickly counted heads and came up with eleven unfamiliar faces. All young. Very young. Probably my age or a year or two older. My eyes stopped on Jenni Stewart, waiting for her reaction. How would she differ from the girl who had bailed me out of jail and posed as Dad’s secretary in 2007?

Her head snapped around, searching two rows back for Dad like she wasn’t sure what role she was about to play. Perhaps secretary? Or something totally new.

Marshall stood behind me, letting a murmur of gossip fill the cabin before speaking. “Many of you know of Agent Meyer’s son, Jackson … he’ll be joining your group for the next expedition. You are to treat him as one of your teammates.”

“Wait,” a broad-shouldered dude from the back row said. “He’s the French poetry major, right?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be babysitting little brats or something?” another guy said.

There was a twitter of nervous laughter. I kept my eyes on Jenni Stewart, knowing she’d been fine with helping me learn some stuff in 2007. Her eyes were wide and confused, darting from Marshall to Dad to Freeman, but she said nothing and I could practically hear the theories racing through her mind. Next to her sat a skinny freckle-faced kid who had to be even younger than me.

I slid into the seat in front of them and stuck my hand out to the kid next to Jenni Stewart. “I’m Jackson.”

“I know who you are … we all do.” He didn’t shake my hand. Instead, he turned his eyes to the book in his lap. “Mason … Mason Sterling.”

Jenni Stewart rolled her eyes and elbowed Mason in the side. “This should be a blast … Junior playing secret agent. He must have thrown a mighty big tantrum to get his way onto this flight.”

“Yep,” Mason said under his breath.

I sighed and turned around in my seat, slumping low enough so no one could start throwing stuff at my head. Fine. If this was how it had to be, I’d prove my way into this group. Whatever it took. No more wearing my heart on my sleeve. I needed a hard shell, one that kept me from thinking about Holly and wishing I could talk to Adam or half-jump to visit my twin sister Courtney again.

This is my life now.

As the plane took off, I stared out the window and promised myself to stay focused. To do whatever I had to so I could be good at this job. Then I’d learn about the Enemies of Time … find out what the hell happened to create that future that little Emily had shown me and why the hell she looked so much like Courtney. And I could do all of it without the risks that came with time travel. That was what had gotten me into trouble in the first place.

“Sorry about that,” Dad said, taking the seat beside me. “This is a very tight-knit group and we’ve taught them to be suspicious of everything.”

I glanced at him. “I get it … I need to earn my spot … earn their respect. I’ve played this game before.” Yeah, winning over 007 Holly, I couldn’t help thinking.

Dad must have read my mind. “Are you worried … about…?” Holly. He didn’t say it, but I guessed.

“I trust you.” My eyes locked with his for a few seconds so he’d know I meant it. It was about the only thing I knew for sure. I turned my eyes back to the window. “I just don’t trust myself, but I’m trying.”

She’ll be okay … she’ll be happy. I closed my eyes and let my mind drift to Holly, only without me. I smiled to myself. Her life will be perfect. Just perfect.

I could survive for a long time just knowing that.

Mason kicked the back of my seat, jerking me out of my daydream. “What happened to your arm, dude?”

I kept my eyes straight ahead, not turning around to look at either of them behind me, but I spoke loud enough for both Jenni Stewart and Mason to hear. “Gunshot wound.”

“Cool,” Mason said, then he practically yelled, “Ow! Damn, Stewart!”

Dad laughed under his breath and I shrugged my good shoulder, hiding my own grin. At least I had made a good first impression with one person. One down … a bunch more to go.

TEMPEST AGENT TRAINING DIARY

MARCH 17, 2009

LOCATION: UNKNOWN. SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Adam,

I’m still keeping this journal for you even though I’ll probably never give it to you. It’s better if I don’t, but sometimes life doesn’t go how I want it to, and if I’ve learned anything from you, it’s to be prepared for the worst. I’m keeping it safe in a lockbox given to me by Dr. Melvin that only opens with my fingerprints.

The desert sucks. Hot as hell during the day, cold at night.

Sharing a tent with a 17-year-old whose own journal contains photos and background reports on every single girl I have ever dated. Apparently this was one of Mason’s first training assignments. I can’t picture myself with any of them now. It’s like a different person lived that part of my life and all I can think about is she-who-must-not-be-named.

Oh, and everyone calls Mason Sterling … Mason. Even Dad and Freeman. Which is really weird. Maybe it’s because he’s so young and Agent Sterling sounds like a middle-aged man on steroids?

Learned the Tempest mission statement today, though I doubt they have a brochure to advertise this on: “Tempest is devoted to protecting the world from the alterations of our past, present, and future through unnatural or unethical methods. When dealing with technological advancements, Tempest is also looking out for the best interest of not only the American people, but the human race.”

MARCH 20, 2009

LOCATION: DESERT. STILL

Jenni Stewart! Yeah. Not my favorite person. And yeah, she’s the only girl here and that must be hard on her, but that’s no excuse to spend every waking moment making my life miserable. Why not Agent Parker? Or Miller? Not that I know either of them very well yet, but both of them are way more chauvinistic than me. Not to mention shamelessly staring at her ass all the time, which I do NOT do. I think what I hate most about her is that I have no idea who she is. Every single day she tries a new cover … Ghetto girl from Harlem, or Little Miss Southern Sunshine … and then there’s the foreign covers … she’s done them all. I know Foreign Affairs is her specialty in Tempest, but can’t she at least be real for five minutes?

Learned proper gun mechanics today despite my still very sore shoulder. Agent Freeman says I’m a natural shooter. Remember, he’s the dude that followed the 13-year-old me and Courtney to school every day. Anyway, I was really nervous at first. My previous experiences with guns involve watching Holly get shot and then me killing Raymond, the red-haired EOT (Enemy of Time), in a half-jump when I visited my two-year-old self in 1992. After I got back to home base in 2009, I kept seeing the blood on my hands even though it wasn’t there. But here it’s just targets or cardboard cutouts. I can deal with that.

Tomorrow’s target-shooting test is my first chance to actually be good at something. Agent Stewart, be prepared to get your ass kicked by the new kid.

MARCH 22, 2009

LOCATION: DESERT

Now that I’ve had a week to acquire data and experience, I have a good idea of what a typical training day looks like:

5:00–6:30 A.M.—PT (5–10 mile run plus additional physical torture from Freeman or Dad).

6:30–7:30 A.M.—Shower (only 6 portable shower stalls so it’s motivation to finish PT first) and breakfast.

7:30–12:30 P.M.—Specialty training. For me and 3 others this means weapons, hand-to-hand combat (more exercise!), and lots of target shooting, both close-range and from a scout location.

12:30–1:30 P.M.—Lunch (either MREs, PB&J, or we boil hot dogs and beans over a fire, but no one usually wants to make a fire or be out in the sun midday).

1:30–3:00 P.M.—Foreign language study (I do mine with Dad and sometimes Dr. Melvin, not sure what anyone else does).

3:00–6:00 P.M.—Covert operations, some specialize in this but we all have to learn how to tail a suspect, know you’re being tailed, plant listening devices, search for devices, recognize explosives … stuff like that.

6:00–7:00 P.M.—Dinner, usually cooked outside, and we do have Marshall or Dad taking the helicopter into cities and bringing back fresh produce and stuff that isn’t made to survive a nuclear bombing. This is probably the high point of the day.

7:00–10:00 P.M.—This varies. We’ve done role-playing, practicing different covers, we’ve studied for exams on geography and history. It’s been different every day.

10:00 P.M.—We’re supposed to sleep at this time, but I’ve noticed that pretty much everyone pulls out books and computers to study past Tempest data and prepare for … well … everything.

MARCH 25, 2009

LOCATION: DESERT

EOT facts: 12 different time travelers have been sighted, dating back to 1983. Memorized all of their photos and basic info today.

EOTs I’ve encountered:

Thomas (hasn’t been seen since 2005, apparently this timeline’s data doesn’t include my adventures in the 2007 alternate universe or the previous 2009 I left before coming here. More on that later)

Raymond (dead. Shoe-print guy)

Cassidy (biological mother)

Rena (dead. Blond chick from hotel rooftop)

Jacob (just learned his name. Helped crash that wedding in Martha’s Vineyard)

Edward (also just learned his name. The dude that showed up when the storm hit on the boat with Holly, Dad, and Adam)

Harold (dead. Dad shot him in the 2007 timeline. Apparently he’s a clone made by Dr. Ludwig)

Based on bloodwork drawn from the EOTs Tempest has been able to capture at one point or another, some show strong evidence of the Tempus gene and some have it hidden in their blood, harder or almost impossible to locate. Mine is hidden. Dr. Melvin suspects they each have different years of origin and therefore are either further or not as far along in the evolution process. Not the monkeys-turning-to-humans evolution, the kind where normal people turn to time travelers. So, does it eventually become harder to detect the Tempus gene in blood or did it start that way?

And do the EOTs, like, have a meeting place … or a meeting year? What would that invitation look like?

Dear EOTs,

Let’s all gather in 1984 … sometime in July. Maybe at the Empire State Building. Bring a future snack to share because McDonald’s is frying their food in animal fat in this year and we wouldn’t want that type of lard to invade the future. Please check your calendars and make sure you don’t have any planned attacks in July 1984. If you do, let me know which day might work best for you.

Love,

Thomas

APRIL 3, 2009

Found a report in the CIA database from October 2005—the last time Thomas was sighted in this timeline. It was Dad that he sought out. Dad recorded a three-minute conversation muffled slightly by the sound of wind and New York City traffic in the background. It went like this:

Thomas: We’re sorry to hear about Axelle Product A. Dr. Ludwig thinks he may have a solution to prevent the tumors … with the other subject, anyway.

Agent Meyer: I’m not interested in any of Dr. Ludwig’s solutions, Thomas. But I think you already know that.

Thomas: His scans show no signs of cancer?

Agent Meyer: His brain function is that of a normal fifteen-year-old boy in the year 2005. Axelle appears to be nothing but several million dollars not worth spending.

Thomas: I see. And your continued interest in the boy is motivated by what, exactly…?

Agent Meyer: Human compassion. Something you know nothing about.

Thomas: I know everything there is to know about human compassion. I just choose not to be trapped by it. But you have nothing to worry about, Agent Meyer. We have no interest in Product B. Not unless things change, and it doesn’t look like that will happen.

Agent Meyer: And if it does?

Thomas: Then I suppose we’ll be seeing each other again.

The conversation ended there and the report states that Dad fired three shots, but Thomas vanished, leaving him no outcome to record. Obviously Thomas survived, since he found me when things did start changing. I wonder, how soon after my first jump, in November 2008, did they figure out what I could do?

APRIL 9, 2009

The art of time travel. That’s what we’re studying now. I’m on the edge of my seat memorizing every word that Dad, Marshall, or Dr. Melvin says. Then I have to go back to my journal later and apply the facts to my own experience. Basically, what I learned so far is that half-jumps don’t count as anything related to timelines. Actually, I had to ask Dad this in private because I couldn’t exactly raise my hand and say, “Hey Dr. Melvin … when I’m time-traveling using my gene from a cloned person…” All 12 of my teammates would simultaneously draw their guns and point them at me. Or maybe the idea is so out there that they’d just begin treating me for heat exhaustion.

For some reason, learning that those jumps almost don’t count makes me feel a little more grounded to one place. Less lost. From the time I was born—June 20, 1990—to the date I left when I jumped to 2007—October 30, 2009—I had been in one timeline. Just one world. I’ve been referring to that as World A. I’ve been calling the 2007 alternate universe World B. This is where I have to stop because I’m still trying to figure out exactly what happened next. More soon …

APRIL 12, 2009

It’s like Chief Marshall wants me to fail! Like he expects it. This makes me throw everything out of my mind—saving the world, saving Holly, time travel—and the only thing I can focus on is wiping that stupid-ass stoic expression off his face. He’s, like, carved in stone or something. Everything I do gets that same look from him. He knew I would do this, or ask a certain question. I hate being predictable to anyone, let alone Marshall. He could at least make an effort to help me feel like I belong here, or get the others to understand this. Oh, well. I’ll just have to work harder. I’ll just have to beat everyone.

APRIL 15, 2009

Dad and I had an entire conversation today in Farsi. It took me less than eight hours to understand Farsi through Dr. Melvin’s method he used on me in 2007—playing the recording in my ear while I slept. But I’m just now getting down the speaking part of it. And I have been practicing constantly for nearly a month. The other trainees are more than surprised with my quick progress. If only they knew how quick it actually was. Only five of us can speak Farsi, of course Stewart is one of those so I don’t get to feel all that superior. Mason’s another one, but that’s no surprise considering he has the highest recorded IQ in all of North America.

Dr. Melvin asked me a few minutes ago which language I wanted to learn next and Marshall answered for me, saying, “Mandarin.” Now I’m curious to find out if we’re going to China or if maybe there’ll be an EOT attack and they’ll give important information in Mandarin. Or if Marshall just hates me and so picked one of the hardest languages to learn.

APRIL 18, 2009

LOCATION: UZBEKISTAN, TURKMENISTAN, DESERT

My first field training mission! We took a helicopter to Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan. Apparently, the U.S. Air Force used this base from 2001–2005 for al-Qaeda missions. They kicked us out in 2005. Anyway, we had to “accidently” land our helicopter there. The cover was Red Cross workers heading for Africa with a malfunctioning aircraft. The military workers weren’t exactly happy to see us, but they didn’t shoot anyone, which I thought was a plus. Although I might have been willing to sacrifice Stewart for the greater good of the team.

She was sent inside first to communicate with the director of something, and Mason and I had the job of sneaking through a window and planting 5 listening devices. We succeeded with no major problems and Freeman rewarded all of us with a trip to a bar somewhere in Turkmenistan. It was actually air-conditioned. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated artificially cooled air as much as I did today. Mason, Dad, and I were the only ones brave enough to sample the food. It wasn’t bad. Different, but edible.

APRIL 19, 2009

LOCATION: DESERT

We’re going to China. I totally called that one. And my Mandarin is coming along nicely. Maybe it won’t be hot and dry there. I can deal with anything but desert conditions.

APRIL 20, 2009

LOCATION: XIAMEN, CHINA

We landed in Xiamen today. It’s on the coast, not far from Taiwan. Mason, Agent Parker, and I were in the city gathering supplies when I saw this blond girl, just the back of her, and I totally freaked out. I think it was because we were in China and there’s not too many blondes here. This girl stood out like a sore thumb. It wasn’t Holly. Not that I expected it to be. Of course I didn’t. But that didn’t keep me from running to Dad and asking him if he’d checked up on her recently. This was the first time I’d asked him for details. I knew he’d tell me if anything was wrong, and I couldn’t bear to be reminded of her unless I had to. He told me he has a source … a non-Tempest source that’s keeping an eye on her, and I have nothing to worry about.

I just want to be able to move on. Not like move on to another girl. That’s the last thing on my mind right now. I just want to not want her with me. To not feel like I made a mistake. I know I didn’t. Even Dad agrees.

Sometimes I try to imagine what Holly’s doing, what she’ll look like in ten years, all the amazing things she’s bound to accomplish, and I’m grateful for the fact that she doesn’t have to miss me like I miss her.

APRIL 24, 2009

LOCATION: XIAMEN

The art of time travel, Part 2—okay, Adam, you’re going to love this if you ever get to read it. So, last time I left off trying to figure out what happened after World B (2007 timeline). When I jumped to August 13, 2009, and confirmed that I was not in World B anymore because that Adam said he hadn’t met me until March 2009, not September 2007. According to Dr. Melvin’s time-travel theories, the ones I’m slowly letting my brain slog through because it’s migraine-worthy, I returned to World A. But my steps looked something like this:

Then the final step includes the introduction of World C … or at least I can assume this. Next, I need to tackle the theories on what I’m possibly able to do. Not that I’m going to time-travel, but I need to know what the EOTs might be capable of. The more I learn about time travel, the more sure I am that I never want to do it again.

APRIL 28, 2009

LOCATION: TAIWAN

We’re doing a mission here but my part is boring, monotonous surveillance. Which means watching video footage from one of the cameras we planted in a government building. I’m not even close to the mission site, so it’s totally boring.

Time travel fact of the day: just learned that a full jump, in the same timeline, like if I did this in World A, is called a complete jump and alterations are possible. Thomas has been known to do this. I can’t find any other EOTs listed with this ability.

Tempest fact: When Courtney and I were toddlers, rolling around in sandboxes, the entire Tempest division consisted of: Agent Freeman, Sr., Dr. Melvin, Dad, Chief Marshall, and Eileen. That’s it. Only a couple attacks from known time travelers were even reported. There was, however, a division of the CIA that seemed to be against Tempest and especially Axelle. Dad and Agent Freeman, Sr., were constantly creating covers and being chased/followed by them.

I wonder what changed. Why did Tempest decide to start recruiting more agents two years ago? Did Chief Marshall learn something about the future? I’ve asked Dad and he just said that they’ve always known the time travel war was coming. Maybe it’s the clones?

MAY 5, 2009

LOCATION: BEIJING

Freeman just told us that we’d be getting partners eventually. Tempest agents don’t go on missions alone. Plus, we all have such unique backgrounds and abilities, we need to be matched with someone who isn’t just like us. That way we have a variety of skills to use in a mission. I’m very concerned that I’m going to get stuck with Stewart or Mason. I can’t stand Stewart. Actually it’s mutual hate. We can’t stand each other. And Mason, well … I might just like him a little more than I should. Okay, not like that. Just that he’s so young and what if something happened to him, on my watch … like with Dad’s old partner, Agent Freeman, Sr.? He was killed the same day as Eileen, the woman who carried me and Courtney. The woman who Dad once loved, maybe still does love.

It would be so much easier if I could just work alone. Maybe in another alternate universe, like World D, you’re in Tempest with me, Adam. I’m sure Marshall and Freeman would partner us up together. You’re the brains, I’m the skilled shooter, and now that I’ve been forced into top physical shape, I could do the running around and you could do all the boring observation, which I’m sure you’d find way more intriguing than I have. You spent plenty of time watching me while I looked like a vegetable. That had to be boring as hell. We’d make an awesome team. And you could help figure me out. I don’t really have anyone to do that with now. Of course, I trust Dad 100% but he’s so careful with me. Always worried about giving me too much information. Like I’m going to break down any second and not be able to handle what he’s telling me. Maybe it’s just out of habit. He kept so many secrets from both me and Courtney for such a long time.

MAY 10, 2009

LOCATION: HONG KONG

Most Important Tempest Lesson thus far: every aspect of training is on a need-to-know basis. We can’t talk about what happens in our specialty groups to members outside of it. But Advanced Defense yields no big secrets. Not like Futuristic Technology, which I’m dying to learn about. It sucks. We all have access to each other’s agent profiles, but I know what mine says and more importantly what it doesn’t say (Axelle experiment Product B, known time traveler), so I can’t really trust anyone’s profile in the database. Maybe we’re all time travelers and just not telling each other. That would be hilarious. Maybe Eileen gave birth to 13 babies and we’re all different versions of the Axelle experiment. Maybe we are the EOTs and we’re battling our future selves? Oh, my God, I need a drink.

MAY 11, 2009

LOCATION: BANGKOK

There’s one secret, only one, that I’ve kept from Dad. Emily. Something about that little girl showing up in the storm, following orders from a future version of me, seemed too important to hand over to Dad, knowing he’d do whatever he had to in order to protect me. He would have killed Thomas if he’d had the chance. The fact that a mysterious little girl might cease to exist if he had killed Thomas wouldn’t be enough to stop him. But I don’t feel the same way. I picked her up, I saw her cry, saw her regretfully leave me and head to somewhere that didn’t seem pleasant. She is something important to me. I just haven’t gotten to that point in my life yet. Whatever point where she first meets me. Do I have a child in the future? She has my eyes. Or is it like I first thought, on that rooftop with Thomas, some kind of version of Axelle but different? Like maybe instead of a half-breed, she’s a ¾ breed?

MAY 15, 2009

LOCATION: IN FLIGHT, HEADING WEST

We are going to Europe! France, more specifically. I can’t think of anywhere in France that could possibly be as bad as the desert or rainy part of China with nothing but sea creatures to eat. Apparently, Tempest has headquarters in France now, near the Alps. I heard Parker say it’s all underground.

Languages I’ve mastered and passed exams on: French, Spanish, Farsi, Mandarin, Turkish, Russian, and German. Stewart just passed the Gaelic exam. Seriously. Gaelic. I’m totally doing that next.

MAY 17, 2009

So, I’m not the new kid anymore. The day we got to France, Agent Lily Kendrick showed up. Yes, that’s right, another female added to the group. So far Kendrick is kinda squirrelly and nervous. Not sure if she’ll hold up with this group. Stewart’s not too fond of her, which doesn’t mean much because Stewart really only gets along with Mason.

Lily Kendrick’s profile from the CIA database:

Gender: Female

Age: 21

Height: 5' 8"

Weight: 125 lbs

PT Exams: all passed

Basic CIA training: Complete

Specialty Field: Biological Advancement

Language exams passed: Farsi, French, Italian, German, Russian, Dutch, Flemish, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Turkish, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean

And the past several days, I got the feeling that I would end up with Lily Kendrick as my partner. I was totally right. Marshall and Freeman both had paired us up for a couple of competitions. Which is something we do a TON of here in France.

I don’t really know what to think about having Kendrick for a partner. She’s sort of nice, but in a way that makes me suspicious. I already know Stewart is out to get me, and that comes with its own built-in security. I don’t know anything about Kendrick other than the fact that when she’s not nervous she’s pretty good at almost everything.

MAY 27, 2009

Adam, I realized today that I haven’t done a good job of explaining the different areas Tempest agents specialize in and you are seriously going to find this fascinating. I would love to know where Marshall would have placed you. I could see you in several different specialties. Anyway, here’s the 411 on this area of the division:

All Tempest agents specialize in an area where they show unusual aptitude, and it’s not just to have experts in different subject matters, it’s also to keep any one of us from knowing all the department’s secrets. For example, Kendrick studies her specialty with Dr. Melvin—Biological Advancements. Mason specializes in Futuristic Technology (I may have mentioned this in a previous entry). From what I’ve heard, he can disable bombs with materials that won’t even be used by the military for another fifty years. How they get these materials and the information about the future is one of those secrets that only Mason’s specialty group is allowed to know. Like I said before, it sucks big time.

Apply this to an actual mission and here’s how it would go down: let’s say … me, Mason, and Kendrick were all in the field on a mission and someone needed to disable a bomb and someone else needed to chase after a potential attacker and possibly fire a shot at him or her. I’d be the man running and Mason would be the man (kid) on the ground, snipping wires and deactivating shit. And Kendrick would be the man (woman) injecting the attacker with anti-time-travel drugs (yes, they actually have those), assuming it was an EOT attacking. Otherwise, she’d dose him or her with something else to knock him or her out.

See why I can’t figure out which role you’d play? You could do Kendrick’s or Mason’s jobs just as well as they can.

MAY 30, 2009

Kendrick and I had a really great competition today. We nearly won. Then, after dinner, she sat by me in the library and tried to start a casual conversation. It was really weird. I just kept picking apart every word she said and trying to figure out her real motives. I’ve learned too many ways to dissect lies and deception in these past couple months. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a normal conversation with someone again.

- Julie Cross free online

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