This is an environmental science fiction thriller and love story involving time travel.
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In the year 2005, Dr. Jason Harding discovers a mutant bacteria strain that counteracts all water pollution. Several years after introducing the bacteria into the world's water supply he and his colleagues at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency learn that this bacteria is causing mass deformities--not only in humans but in all living creatures. Now, in the not-so-distant future, animal life has disappeared from the face of the earth and humans, born as grossly deformed monsters, have become prisoners in man-made synthetic bodies.
A small group of rebels discover a method to send their minds back through time to a genetically coded human host. Their goal is to stop Dr. Jason Harding before he can complete his experiment. However, before they can initate the process, the government police learn of their plan and systematically eliminate all but three members of the group. These three, two men and one woman, manage to elude the police and activate the computers.
The process allows them ninety days before reversing itelf so it literally becomes a race against the time to save the human race.
Cry for the Child
December 20, 2020
Bob waited, not because he wanted to, but because he had been ordered to. He knew something wasn’t right. Husbands were supposed to be with their wives when they were giving birth, weren’t they? From the beginning he and Sandy had planned for this, and being away from her side wasn’t part of the deal.
There were two other men in the small waiting area on the third floor of the Holy Cross Hospital. He found himself studying their faces to pass time. They both looked to be in their twenties, young and handsome. They hadn’t said anything, but they seemed anxious and upset and maybe a little angry. Apparently they had been told to wait here also. Why? What was going on? This just wasn’t done anymore. Sending husbands to a waiting area was a throwback to the Fifties.
Bob shifted uneasily in the uncomfortable, vinyl chair. He picked up the same dog-eared magazine for the fifth time and flipped through it.
This was archaic. Husbands should be with their wives at times like this, not sitting in some out-of-the-way waiting place. He was more irritated with himself than Dr. Stevens. He should have been more forceful. He had rights, didn’t he?
Bob glanced at the clock above the nurses’ station again. The hands hadn’t moved. Maybe the damn thing was just there for appearances.
Dr. George Stevens was Sandy’s gynecologist. He had been her gynecologist since she was a teenager. He was also Bob’s uncle and a close friend to both families. Bob trusted him. It wasn’t just because he was family; he was the best gynecologist anywhere.
Bob tossed the magazine on the table and went to the nurses’ desk for the third time. There was only one nurse behind the counter. She was fiftyish, short, and heavy around the middle, had hair that was completely white, and wore reading glasses that set low on a chubby nose. She looked up as he approached.
“I still haven’t heard anything, Mr. Sanders,” she said before he could ask.
“Can you at least go check or something?”
“Trust me. Everything is okay. She’s with Dr. Stevens.” The nurse smiled. “He’s the best GYN on staff.”
“I know that. He’s also my uncle. I just want to know about my wife.”
Sandy’s pregnancy had been without incident for seven months. Everything was completely normal. Then the pains began. They had really started last night with what she had interpreted as a slight case of indigestion, and she hadn’t said anything until she called his office at ten this morning. She told him she was probably just panicking. After all she wasn’t due until the end of February--nearly two months away.
Bob worked in Arlington, and even by the recently opened Metro Vacuum Rail, it still took over a half-hour to get to their Georgia Avenue apartment in Silver Spring.
When Bob opened the door Sandy was standing in the middle of the room next to a suitcase.
“I called George.” She said before he had a chance to say anything.
“What did he say?”
“He said to meet him at the hospital right away.”
She smiled, nodding, and then gritted her teeth when another pain hit. She held out her arms to him. “I’m scared, Bob. It’s so early. What if something is wrong with the baby?”
“Nothing’s wrong with our baby. I promise you.” He embraced her. He could feel the baby moving. “See.” He laughed and put his hand on her enormous belly. “He just wants to get out and stretch his legs.”
She forced a laugh. “What makes you so sure it’s a he?”
“Could be a girl, but I’m betting it’s a boy.”
Dr. Stevens was tall, over six feet, and still trim at sixty. His wavy, brown hair had very little gray in it, and his tanned face was only now beginning to develop wrinkles. He was wearing his ever-present, confident smile when he met them in the emergency room. He was waiting with a nurse and a wheel chair.
“Sit,” he told Sandy. Bob watched while they helped her into the chair and checked her pulse and listened for the baby’s heartbeat.
“What’s wrong, George? Is she okay?” He asked.
“Don’t worry.” George placed a big hand on Sandy’s. He smiled and winked. “You’re just a little early, Sandy. Nothing we can’t handle.”
“She’s two months early, George.”
“I may have miscalculated. It happens.” He smiled at Sandy. “You’re going to be just fine, young lady. The baby too. The heartbeat is strong and regular.”
Bob didn’t believe him. He saw something he didn’t think Sandy caught, a quick shadow that came over George’s face. It may have been his imagination, or was it just concern he was seeing?
“Looks like this baby is ready to be born.” He smiled at Sandy. “Bob? Why don’t you check Sandy in and meet us on the third floor?”
“I don’t want to leave Sandy, Doc. I promised.” He knelt and took her hands in his. “Are you sure everything is all right?”
“I’ll know more after I’ve had a look. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. “Why don’t you call John and Edna? Your parents too. They all must be very anxious.”
“But . . .”
“No but. Just go. Edna will have your head if you make her miss the birth of her first grandchild.” He chuckled. “Besides, I’ve got doctoring to do here.”
Bob reluctantly let go of her hand. Sandy looked back over her shoulder as the nurse pushed her toward an open elevator door. Her lips formed the words; “I love you.”
That was nearly three hours ago.
The other two men in the small alcove looked at him. They seemed to be aware of his presence for the first time.
“Excuse me. I just remembered. I never called our parents.”
“This your first?” The young man across from him asked and added without waiting for an answer, “This is our third.” There was a strange sadness in his voice. Having a baby wasn’t supposed to be sad.
“Congratulations.” Bob said.
“Yeah, sure. I pleaded with Joyce to get an abortion. I begged her, but she wouldn’t hear it. She’s Catholic, you see.” He looked at his hands, studying them. “She keeps saying third time is the charm.” He was a handsome young man, neatly dressed in a dark suit, but his face showed pain and stress . . . a lot of stress. He sat on the edge of the chair, continuously wringing his hands like a wet dishtowel. Bob thought he looked like he was about to cry.
“You really should call your parents.” The other man, hardly more than a teenager, said. “They should be here. I know I would want mine here.”
“This your first?” Bob asked.
“It’s the first, but I’m not the father.” He laughed. “I’m not even married yet. My name is Billy Sommers. My sister, Becky is having a baby. We already know it’s a boy. Our parents were killed a year ago. I don’t know who the father is and don’t care. But if our parents were alive we’d both want them here.”
“You should have made her get an abortion,” said the handwringer. “I don’t care what the Catholics have to say about it.”
“We’re not Catholic, but we don’t believe in abortions.” Billy said.
“Neither does Joyce, but these things are abortions. We can’t let our wives have any more babies. They are all monsters. It has to stop.”
“What’s wrong with you, Mister?” Billy asked. “Babies aren’t monsters, and besides, abortions are illegal now. Everybody knows that.”
The handwringer forced a laugh and repeated under his breath, “Monsters.”
Billy’s head turned with a sudden jerk at the sound of his name. A different nurse was standing in front of the counter, trim and young. A young resident had joined her. Bob looked at the two and thought how sad they both looked. The nurse motioned for him to come.
Billy grinned. “Looks like my wait is over. See you fellas later.”
He joined the two, and the nurse said something to him. Billy started crying. The nurse briefly looked at the two men in the waiting area before putting her arm around Billy and leading him through the double doors.
The handwringer stared at them and whispered, “See that. They just told him. Did you see the way she looked at us? She knows. They’re monsters. They are all monsters.”
“What did they tell him?” Bob asked.
The handwringer looked at him, but didn’t answer.
“Excuse me.” Bob said and went to the video wall phone. He keyed in his personal code on the touch screen but hesitated touching the send icon. He just stared at the screen.
Something was wrong. He could feel it. He had seen it in that nurse’s eyes. What? He looked back at the man in the small alcove. He was alone, staring into space. It was what he said about abortions and monsters that nagged at him. He couldn’t shake it. What was he not saying? Why did Billy start crying when the nurse talked to him?
Just seven months ago this past May, he and Sandy laid on the bank of a small creek just over the line in West Virginia. The water was clear and unpolluted there, clean and cold. They went there often to be alone, swim in the cold stream, and dry on a blanket on the grassy knoll. They often put up a tent and camped out, fishing for trout and cooking their dinner over an open fire.
They always filled their water jugs with the spring-like water. Six years earlier they would never even have considered doing such a thing. Chemical plants upstream used to dump huge amounts of waste into the small streams and rivers until the government put a stop to it. It was about that time that things began to change. It had been all over the news. The President had even talked about it in his State of the Union address. The Environmental Protection Agency had developed some kind of formula and had chosen this particular stream as the first test site. They emptied barrels of the stuff into the water, and things seemed to change almost overnight. Now, the water was like drinking spring water, and nothing was cleaner than spring water.
That was where he proposed to Sandy. When she said yes, he was happier than he had ever been. They made love that same afternoon and were married just three weeks later. Both he and Sandy were sure the baby had been conceived that very afternoon he had proposed.
He pictured Sandy’s face in his mind. She was so happy when George told her she was pregnant. He swore he would never let anything destroy that happiness.
A hand on his shoulder abruptly brought him back.
“Bob,” said Dr. Stevens. “You have a son.”
“Is Sandy okay?” he asked. “Is the baby okay?”
“We need to talk, Bob,” he said, a noticeable sadness in his voice.
Something in the doctor’s eyes told him that all was not fine. Something was wrong, dreadfully wrong.
“What’s wrong, George?” He should go running to Sandy, but his legs were like rubber. “What is it? Is Sandy—?” He couldn’t finish the question.
“Sandy’s going to be okay, but there were some complications. It wasn’t an easy birth. The baby—”
“What about the baby?” he cut him off.
“The baby was . . . just before she gave birth, something happened. Everything seemed fine, normal. I’m can’t explain it. She was early, but everything looked normal. I was sure we were safe.”
“Safe? Safe from what?”
“Maybe we should sit.”
Bob shook his head. “I asked you a question. What do you mean by safe?”
“Something happened in the final few minutes. It’s happened before, but I wasn’t prepared for it this time because Sandy was so early. This is the fifth time it’s happened here at Holy Cross, but there have been a dozen or more similar incidents in Hagerstown and Cumberland.”
“What are you talking about? What kind of incidents?”
The doctor didn’t answer. Instead, he pushed open the door and motioned for Bob to follow. After a minute, George said without looking at Bob, “This is the first time I’ve actually heard of anything like this happening. “Three times in the same night is against all odds.”
Bob noticed George seemed visibly shaken. That wasn’t like him. He was usually so cool about everything. He stopped and put his hand on the doctor’s arm. “Where are we going, George? I want to see Sandy.”
“We have to do this first, Bob. You have to see the baby first. Trust me on this.”
There was a scream, and then the sound of people running. More screaming. Something crashed into a wall. Loud voices. George looked back over his shoulder briefly, but they were still alone in the corridor.
“What’s going on?”
Doctor Stevens just shook his head, but Bob saw there were tears in his eyes. He quickly wiped them away with the back of his hand and faked a smile. “Sometimes being a doctor isn’t such a wonderful thing. We’re expected to have all the right answers, but sometimes there are no right answers. You’re going to need to be strong, Bob. Sandy is going to need you more than ever.”
He walked ahead of Bob through another set of swinging doors and down a wide hall. Bob felt like he was moving through a dream and everyone was staring at them.
They passed an open door on their right. The room was in shambles with overturned equipment. He saw Billy. He was sitting on the floor with his face in his hands. A man, he looked like a priest, was kneeling next to him and whispering something.
George closed the door and took Bob’s arm.
“There’s no easy way to prepare you for this.”
Bob looked at George, but he didn’t know what to say.
They went through a third set of doors. These had a sign on them, “Restricted, Hospital Personnel Only.” At the end of a short hallway, they stopped at a glass window on their left. The curtains were pulled.
“I guess the only real way is to show you.” He said.
Suddenly Bob thought he understood. The baby was deformed. Missing parts or something like that. That was okay though. Most things could be fixed these days. He could accept that. But what did that have to do with the others?
“What is it, George? I want to know. What’s wrong with our baby?”
George didn’t answer. He put an arm around Bob’s shoulders and tapped on the glass. The curtains drew back a little, and a nurse’s head appeared. George nodded to her and she went away, but not before Bob saw the sadness in her dark eyes.
A minute later the curtains opened.
Bob hadn’t been prepared for what he saw. His legs suddenly became weak. George held him while he stared in disbelief. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. God wouldn’t let something like this happen. He stared at the thing in the glass crib, and he recalled what the man in the waiting area had said. “They’re all monsters.” He was looking at a real monster. It wasn’t human. This thing wasn’t a baby. He felt the tears on his face and realized he was crying.
“I’m not sure if this is the right time, but a Doctor William Cromwell from the Children’s Hospital in Bethesda wants to talk with you and Sandy about your son,” said Stevens. “He and a research scientist, Jason Harding, are with the other two babies at the moment, but they said they wanted to talk to the both of you as soon as possible.”
Bob wasn’t listening.
“Dr. Cromwell has assured me he can help. There are things they can do.”
“That screaming I heard?”
“The other boy, Billy?”
Again, George nodded.
“What’s happening, George?”
“These doctors are good people, Bob. They are doing some fantastic things with artificial limbs and other body parts, even synthesizing vital organs. I understand Cromwell and Harding are being considered for the Nobel Prize for their work. People say they’re fanatics in their research and seem to be driven by forces no one can quite understand. I really believe they can help.”
“Does Sandy know about this—this thing?”
George shook his head.
“What am I going to say to her?”
“You have to be strong, Bob. Sandy’s really going to need you.”
Bob looked away. He couldn’t look at that thing any longer, but looking away didn’t help. He could still see it. He would always see it. The thing seemed to squirm in the glass crib. That was the only word he could think of. It was like a slug. It belonged in a circus freak show. Even the nurse didn’t want to touch it. No. It didn’t belong anywhere. It was an accident. There was nothing those doctors could ever do to change what it was.