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Chapter One


Kali, UltraAgent code name TimeTrap, blinked at the man in a starched linen shirt with a severe part down the center of his greased black hair. The dour-faced guy stood behind what appeared to be mahogany bar, but he refused her drink order because of …

“Oh, prohibition. Sorry, wrong year,” Kali uttered before calling forth her power. An invisible line tugged at her core, snapping and stretching her backwards through a swirling gray and black blur to her time, her universe, her office at UltraSecurity.

The carpeted floor materialized under her platform boots. Her minimalist desk, lip-shaped couch, pop art soup print, beanbag chairs, and glass bookshelves decorated with drugstore Christmas knickknacks appeared around her.

She blew out a breath. “That was weird.”

Kali turned and slammed into her boss Sean Vivas.

She yelped. Caught off guard, Kali teetered on her heels. Arms helicoptered to keep her balanced but failed. Kali staggered and fell with an “oomph” onto red-lipped cushions, which puckered around her bottom.

The corners of Sean’s mouth quirked up into a smile. He didn’t move to help her. Kali couldn’t tell if it was because she’d surprised him, or Sean enjoyed watching her struggle to stand.

“What are you doing here?” Kali asked with forced cheer.

“Your mother is looking for you.”

Kali shook her head against a stinging sense of déjà vu.

“And what does Deandra want now?” Kali pushed off the couch and pushed away the odd feeling. With the platform boots, she stood eye-level with Sean, just over six feet tall.

“She was expecting you for dinner tonight and hadn’t heard from you.” Sean smoothed a hand over his holiday tie as if smoothing out the wrinkles could redeem the swirling monstrosity of green, red and gold.

“I totally forgot. Well, sort of forgotten about it. I made other dinner plans to get out of it.”

A room filled with Deandra Bordeaux’s Hollywood wannabe friends was not on her must-do list. She’d rather take another Alternate Universe Jump—or alt-jump, she preferred the new slang—to the 1930s. The thought of seeing her mother made Kali long for a stiff drink even more. But she needed to wait at least an hour, maybe longer, to alt-jump again, considering how far back she’d landed in history. The more years she traveled into the past, the more fuel she needed to sustain her power. And she planned on a special alt-jump later tonight so she wanted to conserve energy. This time she wouldn’t overshoot and land in the wrong year. Kali had a date set for Christmas of 1969 to get into the holiday spirit.

Kali strutted past Sean to her desk. She plopped into her chair behind the shiny glass desktop and reached in her snack drawer for a Twinkie.

“How can you eat that crap?” Sean grimaced.

Kali hiked a brow at her boss, the self-appointed office health guru since he started training for marathons. His shoulders did appear wider under his gray blazer. Maybe because he’d dropped a few inches from his waist accentuating his v-shape.

“I burn a ton of calories with alt-jumping or, as the brains call it, quantum transference. So I can eat like crap when I want.” Kali broke the spongy cake in two and took her time licking out the creamy center to show how much she didn’t care for his comment.

Sean shrugged. “Are you here to catch up on work? Make sure you note it on your timesheet. It’s due tomorrow. Don’t forget again.”

Geesh. She’d forgotten once, perhaps twice, to submit her timesheet this year. Now every time Sean saw her, he reminded Kali of her mistake. At least he was consistent.

“Finished the follow-up paperwork for the Dama X case the other day. No assignments at U-Sec for me until after the New Year. I’m assisting your father at TransGen next week. He wants my input on a DoD research proposal for a device that transfers objects through space on a quantum level. Since my power works through quantum transference, I’m the resident expert.”

Kali’s eyes strayed to the Warhol print of Campbell’s Split Pea Soup hanging behind Sean. Her stomach growled. The cream-filled cake wasn’t filling the void.

“Where did you just travel from?” Sean asked. “You muttered that something was weird.”

“1930. Must’ve overshot 1962 somehow. Tried to order a decent Manhattan and was slapped with the whole prohibition thing.” Kali shivered at the memory. “What an awful time to live.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Decent Manhattans? No, which is why I like my favorite pub in 1960s N-Y-C. But thirty years earlier it was drier than the Dust Bowl. Would’ve sought out a speakeasy, but I’m wearing the wrong era.”

She pointed to her mod dress and go-go boots.

“I mean …” Sean didn’t bother hiding his annoyance with Kali not understanding him. “Do you overshoot by decades often?”

“Now that you mention it.” Kali screwed up her mouth. “It’s been several years since I have.”

When Kali had misjudged her alt-jumps in the beginning, she’d been nervous, unsure how to focus. After five years of living with this power, Kali now considered herself a semi-pro, still perfecting the nuances of dimensional travel. But this last alt-jump left her disoriented as if she’d experienced a disturbance in the universal force that had shoved her off course.

“When my power first manifested, I had a few mishaps. Chased by a T-Rex, almost clubbed by a Neanderthal, put in jail for being a witch. Normal mistakes. If we discover more alt-jumpers or alt-trotters—which is a new term I’m trotting out—pun intended.” She grinned at her cleverness. “If we find others like me, I’m sure they’ll tell similar stories.”

Sean didn’t return Kali’s smile. “None of that happened. I read your reports.”

“Actually, one of them did. I don’t list everything in my reports.” Kali played coy to irritate him, and judging by his pinched lips, she had. “But you bring up a good point. I should test out why this happened. Might’ve been a blip between the universal planes affecting this last alt-trot.”

“Alt-trot sounds like you have intestinal problems. Don’t use that term.”

Sean finding fault. What a shocker.

“Speaking of gastric issues,” Kali paused for Sean to get her inference, “you scared the crap out of me. I have rules for my office. No one in here if I’m not. It’s for my safety, remember? It screws with my mojo.”

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