Authors: Frank J. Derfler
Batman and Little Bo Peep entered the house to cheers and were greeted by a variety of vampires, pimps and ho's, a Frankenstein's Monster, several cops, and Superman. Cat Woman, accompanied by a farmer in overalls and a corncob pipe, snarled at Batman. Jose noticed that the Cat Woman outfit looked like it was painted on. While it only exposed a little flesh at the throat, the total effect caught his attention. The body underneath was tall in high boots and tight. And then there were the blue eyes flashing through the holes in the mask. "Rae?" he asked. He got another hissing snarl in reply.
"It's her, Jose," the farmer said with an accent that was almost Irish. "But she’s deeply into the role." Jack turned, "Aye, Little Bo Peep. I know all about sheep."
"Jelli, this is Flight Leftenant Jack Scott of the Royal Australian Air Force. Jack, this is Jacqueline Adams. You probably know her brother, Sam." Jose pointed at Jack's beer.
Little Bo Peep hit Batman in the ankle with her sheep-herding staff.
"Hi, Jack, I'm Jelli," she said as she offered her hand.
"Hold on there. Jelli is it?" he still had her hand. "Well, Jacqueline is a perfectly good name you know." Jelli blinked and smiled.
Jose looked toward Rae and found her eyes on his. The top of her face was covered by her mask, but he would have sworn that her eyebrows were raised.
A moment later Batman, Cat Woman, Little Bo Peep, and the farmer were joined by a Roman Centurion holding the hand of a Greek Goddess. "Bill!" Jose exclaimed, "It is so great to see you. Particularly under these circumstances! Congratulations." Bill Wirtz, the Centurion, was wearing a grin that split his face. He looked happy and dazzled. Jose turned to the Goddess, "Hello Janet. I'm Jose Valenzuela. I'm so happy with the way this story turned out."
Janet's direct look and small smile let him know that she understood exactly what story he was talking about. As part of his initial orientation, Jose had read the story of the early adventures of Ted, Sally, Bill, and Janet in Indonesia where they learned of the time-bending technology. She was part of the living history of the Project.
Introductions were made all around. Rae and Jelli started to ask Janet about the whirlwind courtship and about the Las Vegas wedding. Janet used the line that the courtship lasted twelve years and one week. The Farmer smiled, sipped his beer, and spent his time admiring Little Bo Peep's halter-top. Little Bo Peep didn't seem to notice.
The party was a success. Batman and Cat Woman danced and swirled their respective capes. Little Bo Peep danced with many people including Batman and the Farmer. There were a lot of jokes and a variety of beers. But, the need on the part of some to relieve baby sitters and for some to go to work in the morning made things wind down around midnight. Jose watched carefully as the warrant officers and wives sorted out who was driving and who wasn't. Bill and Janet had a hired car and driver take them back to their hotel in Las Vegas. Rae and Jose were both sober. Jelli and Jack were not. Jelli slept in Jose's bed that night, but she dropped off right to sleep and then left in the morning before he was fully awake.
Chapter 8: "It's in the Courts"
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 1100 Eastern
The Residence of Drs William and Janet Wirtz
The Redlands, Homestead, Florida
Excerpt from the Personal Narrative of Dr. William E. Wirtz, PhD
Recorded May 2015
CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET/TA
"Our country is no stranger to polarization. The opposing groups change, but we usually find accommodation. However, in the past few decades the faith of the citizens in the leaders eroded to practically nothing. Unhappy people often get along because they think they are the only ones who are unhappy. The Internet and social networking changed that by building links between people unhappy for similar reasons and not building links with those who have opposing views. We are communicating in echo chambers that don’t interconnect. Normally, government keeps channels of communications open between polarized positions. The legal system provides an alternative to physical conflict. If people don’t trust the legal system, then physical conflict follows.”
Bill Wirtz was on his back in the hammock and Janet was snuggled into his left side. "For modifying history you need computers and databases. For fortune telling, a hammock is a perfectly fine instrument," Bill said. His wife chuckled in his ear. He liked that she laughed at his geek jokes.
They had returned from Las Vegas on Sunday night. On Monday afternoon Janet had a tearful reunion with Ted and Sally. By Monday evening, Janet was onboard as a paid consultant to the Project. They planned that she would fly to Atlanta for three days a week during the semester to teach her Tuesday / Thursday classes at Georgia Tech. This week, an adjunct professor was covering for her. After this semester, the students at Georgia Tech would have to struggle along without her insight into American history.
Fortunately, Janet wasn’t gone from the Justice Department long enough to void the background check needed for her security clearances. It only took Ted's signature on a piece of paper for Bill to feel "legal" in telling Janet what had been written on the Chairman's note.
"A break up of the United States?" Janet asked in his office on Monday night. She tilted her head and even gave one nod while she said it. Ted had expected incredulity. Instead, he was reading acceptance and even curiosity. They went home Monday night to "sleep on it" with the intent of going back to the office the next day. But, on a beautiful Florida winter Tuesday morning Bill decided that a hammock slung in their back yard was about as secure and comfortable a place for a brainstorming discussion as they were likely to find.
Janet raised herself on an elbow and looked at him. "The geography and demographics are all against it," she said. "America isn't a melting pot, but it is a mixing bowl. Conservatives live next to liberals, Muslims live next to Christians, state boundaries don't mean much. Texas and Alaska have a lot in common, but there is a whole lot of land between them. Breaking up would be very hard to do."
"Unless it's virtual,” he replied.
She tweaked his ear. "Not practical. Can't have a virtual country. Still have to have material commerce." She snuggled back onto his chest.
"Well," he said. "Let's accept that the highly unlikely can happen. Texas and Alaska somehow pull away from the union to form Texaska or whatever. They govern through the Internet and trade on a dedicated rail line between them or something. California gets thrown out of the Union for fiscal irresponsibility. Illinois and New York each bifurcate into liberal urban and conservative rural states. The fundamental question would be: 'What caused the breakup to happen?'"
"Jefferson said, ‘Every generation needs a revolution," Janet quoted.
"And of course he also said, ‘The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.' That's been going on for quite a while now," Bill replied.
"And it's gotten worse," she said.
When Bill went to meet Janet at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta, he kept telling himself to be cool and not overly hopeful. But things went better than his wildest dreams. The Janet he met in that late afternoon was changed from the 1995 version and in every way for the better. She was more sophisticated, more educated, better groomed, and she was a political Conservative. She had gone through a short marriage and divorce, but she said she learned a lot from the experience.
In 1994 Janet was a forensic account analyst in the Justice Department, a job she said was like being an investigator who never left the office. Suddenly, she was "Sent to the field" to infiltrate Bill's small company. The money flowing into Bill’s research group from an Indonesian-based conglomerate raised alarms at Justice. U.S. and international police organizations were already watching the Indonesian-based trading group run by a Chinese cartel family and they wanted to know why money from China and Indonesia was flowing into a small research firm working on the sandy beach in Destin, Florida. Janet’s interest in American and world history fit the profile of a job solicitation Bill issued and Janet was sent to get the job and infiltrate his company.
A few months after Janet started work, Bill hired a bright young Air Force officer from Eglin Air Force Base to work evenings and weekends on programming. That’s how Ted Arthurs became involved. Sally entered the picture as a communications consultant, with an electrical engineering degree from Georgia Tech, who Bill hired to establish better communications with Indonesia.
The whole team was eventually called to Indonesia where they learned how the Chinese conglomerate had, practically by accident, developed the technology to send a small object back in time. The team was initially seduced by the idea of preventing the Vietnam War, but eventually found that changing those events led to a nuclear confrontation between the US and Russia over Cuba. After the intervention of an Air Force Air Commando team in Indonesia, Bill and Sally were escorted back to the US and admonished to forget everything they knew. Janet left Indonesia with U.S. Federal Agents and Ted and Sally held bitter feelings about her role as a government spy. After 911, Ted became the center of a Department of Defense activity, led by then Colonel Fred Landry PhD in physics, to understand and utilize the time tunneling capability.
After her adventure in Indonesia and the Department of Defense takeover of the technology, Janet went back to her desk job in DC and specialized in finding criminal activities in government. Government-paid tuition helped her to earn her PhD in history from George Mason University through a night and weekend program.
At the Justice Department, she helped send Representative and USAF Combat Ace Duke Cunningham to prison in 2005 for bribery and then turned her attention to the squalid mess created by Representative John Murtha. She contributed to the prosecution of some corporate types around Murtha, but they never found the man himself with a smoking gun. Murtha would never admit to his crimes as Cunningham had done, so they needed concrete evidence that was hard to get.
When the Justice Department was taken over by Liberals in 2009, she knew she had no future. Disgusted and frustrated by what she knew was happening at the Department of Justice and in the House of Representatives, she sent out her resumes. That's how she got the job teaching history at Georgia Tech.
After the first hour with Janet, it was all Bill could do to keep from dancing on the Ritz-Carlton's table. The very table, he hoped, where Ted had convinced Sally to come with him to re-join the Project in Destin.
Everything between them moved very quickly. In fact, Bill never spent a night in his Ritz Carlton hotel room. They kept telling each other they had to make up for lost time and giggling at the inside joke. The next weekend they were in Las Vegas being married and then wearing costumes from history at the Boulder City unit's Halloween party to carry on the joke.
Bill raised his head and looked at her, "Damn, old Tom Jefferson was a rascal in some ways, but he was pretty good at projecting into the future."
"Well yes," she replied, "but you could argue that Jefferson's revolution doesn't have to be in government. Electricity was a revolution, the automobile was a revolution, and the Internet is a revolution. Every election is a revolution."
Bill nodded and they were both silent for a while.
"What's the quote about big government?" she asked.
"Jefferson?" he asked, but then answered his own question. "But it wasn't really Jefferson, was it? Something about how a government big enough to give you everything is a government big enough to take away everything."
She supplied, "I've seen it attributed to everyone from Jefferson and Franklin to Ronald Regan. I think it was really Gerald Ford."
"Kidding?" He asked.
"Not!" she replied, "Ford."
"Wow!" Bill said and then he was silent for a minute. "How about faith in government?" he asked. "If government is seen as grossly out of balance, then Americans will lose faith and won't stand still for it.”