In early July of 1947, something crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. The military claims it’s a weather balloon. Witnesses insist they’ve seen bodies of aliens, and the wreckage of a UFO.
Sixty-eight years pass. On September 15th, 2015, an incident involving the Roswell wreckage escalates into a massive nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States, leaving five billion dead.
2098. Another eighty-three years have passed. Project T.I.T.O.R. is a reality. Hop machines are created by top quantum physicists Ephraim Caine, Jeff Waldron, and Rose Rios. These complex crafts are designed to do one thing: penetrate the time barrier.
Time is short. Earth; wounded, post-apocalyptic, with her dwindling resources on the verge of exhaustion, can barely support life. Project T.I.T.O.R. has a singular focus: to send hop crews back through time, and find some way to stop the nuclear exchange. To save the Earth.
After more than two hundred routine missions, one goes awry, and the hop machine and its crew tumble from the sky. Hop 206 crashes near Roswell, New Mexico, in early July of 1947.
In a mind-bending twist of fate, they've inadvertently set off a series of events that, if unchecked, will culminate in a nuclear war, and the slow, agonizing death of their living planet. They’ve triggered the precise scenario T.I.T.O.R. was meant to preclude.
With everything stacked against them, can they succeed in changing history? Or will time prevail, blocking every effort to change it, and eliminating humanity in the process?
Great Northeastern Fortress
Former Loring Air Force Base, Limestone, Maine
Late October, 2098
Hop Ops, the operations command center, easily spanned seventy-five feet in width, and every inch of that, floor to ceiling, was occupied by the main view screen, displaying the Earth's northern hemisphere. From the lower right, a glowing white line swept in a perfect arc up and into the black of space, pausing at the last recorded position before the communications blackout.
Technicians remained focused on their monitors, tracking Hop 206 through the so-far routine mission. Meanwhile, the others who comprised the quiet machinery of Hop Ops remained in motion, moving about the command center, carrying files and clipboards, whispering, and watching the mission progress up on the main screen.
Colonel Marcus Clayton sat in the command chair, center rear, overseeing the bustling command center. Signing an order presented to him, he handed the clipboard back, then turned his attention back to the mission. "Mr. Waldron, report. Are they in re-entry?"
Everything was fine when Waldron checked his readings and said, "Sir, outgoing telemetry showed them on-time and on-track, with re-entry in one minute . . . mark." Still relaxed, his eyes remained on his screen, waiting for the end of the minute to report Hop 206 in re-entry.
When an unexpected object appeared on the screen only a few seconds later, he tensed, typing furiously and checking his readings. "Mixed telemetry coming through, sir. It's them, but they're too early. Their approach is too steep." His calm voice belied the increasing tension in the room when he reported, "We're losing telemetry, sir. The window's closing."
Clayton watched the big screen in alarm, as the smooth, perfect arc made an abrupt turn from orbit and swept earthward in a straight line toward North America. He barked, "All Op stations, condition red. Record everything. Keep trying, Jeff. If we lose them, we'll need all we can get."
Waldron said, "I'm on it, sir. People, you heard the colonel."
Ear-splitting klaxon alarms sounded, reinforcing his words.
Running and shouting, people bounced off each other, sprinting for their stations in the mad dash to initiate emergency protocols.
Clayton yelled, "Damn it. Shut that noise off!"
Raising his voice to be heard over the cacophony of noise and alarms, Waldron yelled, "Sir, no luck re-establishing a full stream. We're getting no new telemetry-I'm losing them-" He searched anxiously for any further readings. "Hop 206, people. I've got nothing. Listen up; I want all recorded telemetry forwarded to my station now."
When nothing new appeared, he looked up, visually polling the technicians, station to station, hoping for something. Anything. But he already knew. There was no new telemetry to forward. With each shake of their heads, his heart fell.
The klaxons ceased.
Where just seconds before, chaos had consumed every aspect of the command center, now even the familiar quiet banter and buzz of background activity were gone. The all-consuming silence that replaced it was far more unnerving than any klaxon.
Clayton expected a report, and Jeff Waldron would have given anything to avoid being the one who broke the silence. But that was not to be, and waiting was not a luxury he had.
"I'm sorry, sir. They're gone."
"Where? When? Can you track them at all?"
"No, sir. There's no new telemetry to track their descent. Using the last known trajectory data, we can project, but we can't know exactly where they're coming down. I can say they're headed for the southwestern U.S."
"Also uncertain, sir. Formulating the variance and the, ahh, okay, my best guess-if I had to guess-"
"I need that guess, Jeff."
"Yes, sir. My estimate is . . . right around July first, 1947."
"First of July, in 1947? Are you sure? Margin for error?"
"Let's see . . . point-five percent, sir. Maybe point-three."
Clayton said, "I'll take those odds, coming from you. Give me a number based on point-three; another one of your guesses. In days, that would be?"
"Roughly five to seven days on either side of that, sir."
"Jesus. This can't be a coincidence."
Though clearly rattled, Clayton pressed on. "Roswell. Roswell, New Mexico. Does that fall within your impact projection grid?"
"Roswell, New Mexico-yes, it does, sir. Right smack in the center of it. The unchanged trajectory from our last point of contact places Roswell less than a hundred miles south of the impact point, at the dead center of the search grid. But, sir, I don't want to give you false hopes. More than likely, they-"
"They won't survive," the colonel interjected.
"That's correct, sir. The craft will disintegrate upon impact at those speeds, even if they somehow survive the descent. The odds of anything living through such a crash would be virtually nil."
Clayton responded, "No. I'm saying it outright; they won't survive. It was us."
"I'm sorry, sir; what was us?"
"What do you think was us?" the colonel snapped. "Keep up, Mr. Waldron. Why are we here? Time. History. Mistakes. Roswell, New Mexico. An unidentified craft crashed there, the wreckage spread over three miles of countryside. Area 51. UFOs. You wouldn't be at that monitor if you didn't know your history."
Waldron said, "Yes sir, we're all well-versed in the details surrounding the Roswell crash-uh-wait. Wait, you're saying-" The color drained from his face. "You're saying that we crashed in Roswell? That was Hop 206 they found?" The implications slammed into him like a train, leaving him breathless. "That means . . ." he trailed off, his mind racing, unaware that he hadn't finished the sentence.
"That means that we caused the nuclear war, Mr. Waldron. We may not have pushed the button, but Hop 206 crashed near Roswell in early July of 1947. And we all know that whatever crashed near Roswell on that date set off a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the deaths of five billion people."
In a room packed with dozens of stunned hop-op technicians, the only sounds to be heard were the gentle hums and clicks of computer fans and hard drives.