The war was nearly over, though the shooting
hadn't stopped. Lt. Riv St-Vith was plucked from his leave by
MPs and dropped into a chair in Major Kahlers tent.
What project? Riv asked.
You realize youre in a lot
of trouble, son. Major Kahler pushed the papers towards
Yes, yes, sir. Riv lit a
cigarette and stared at the tip.
You dont seem overly concerned.
Theres not much you can do
to me now.
You might be surprised. I can send
you to Leavenworth, son, but there are circumstances, Im
told. Id like to hear it from you.
Five guys I served with ended up
blind. We developed a gas. I think they were going to let it
go near Hitler and blind him. Good plan. It got out.
Million guys I worked with ended
up dead. What makes you so precious?
My eyes healed.
Kahler checked the records on his desk.
You left the hospital, stole a uniform and joined a tank
crew. Admirable, maybe, but not permissible. You know why youre
here and not in a stockade?
You need me?
We can use you. When your sight
returned, you said the stars were different. So they kept you
in that hospital. Then one of your doctors figured out that
the sky you kept drawing would be our stars as seen from space.
Like the Jodie says, Far, far away. They didnt
like that one bit, but I thought you might be useful. Sign here.
He did. What does that mean?
We own the old you and the new
you. His face became less formal. Youre a
Tanks or Dirty Tricks Department?
Don't worry. Just do what they
* * *
They drove through the lines. The war
was over, but the lines between the Allies and the Soviets had
not gelled yet. A wild madness filled the air as people dribbled
The Russians were coming, but hopefully,
not before they got their share of German rockets. Verner Von
Braun had an underground V2 factory. Riv was supposed to deliver
the blasting caps for the TNT theyd use to seal off the
mountain when theyd gotten all they could carry. Riv thought
any idiot could hold a box of caps on his lap in a bumpy truck.
He dropped them and knew only an idiot would. He was assigned
a driver, no A-driver, just Curtis. Curtis didnt like
A Colonel poked his head into the back
of the truck, requisitioned half the caps and disappeared. Riv
didnt even get to see the mountain. He wasnt really
sure where he was, somewhere in the Black Forest. That applied
to Hansel and Gretel as well.
Things got quiet. Chilly raindrops leaked
through the canvas top.
Hey Riv, the Colonel said.
They were informal here. Yeah,
You speak Polish?
You that crazy SOB who went blind,
then didnt go blind?
Riv laughed. Yes, sir.
Thats not funny. I say you
speak Polish and youre going to the Sudetenland.
He tossed him a folder. Read it over and give it back.
Derring, you are to find him. Convince him to come west,
or kill him. If the Russians try to stop you, eat cyanide, by
the way. He tossed him rubber pills. Thats
the cyanide. Two just in case you have a strong constitution.
Am I coming back this way, sir?
I hope so, nothing personal, but
youre the only guy I got who dont know nothing.
Its typical of a number of
Ill remember that, smart
ass. Krauts wont fire at you now. Might want to surrender.
Dont bother them. You see Russians, you get on the radio
before they take you, and they will take you 'specially if you
get smart ass and go all PhD on 'em. Got me? Get going. Take
this truck and my vehicle.
* * *
The town had a beat up look as if it
hadnt prospered since the last war. They called it Lingen
Berry, something like that. They had to dig the sign out of
the mud. Houses gave off smoke, bathtubs hung in the air from
apartment buildings missing two walls. A guy was doing his ironing
just above Riv, as if the wall was there and he had his privacy.
Riv grabbed a passerby and asked for General Derring. Lot of
good it did him. The man ran away
He set off a small charge with a blasting
cap hed stolen. General Derring, show yourself or
I will leave your name for the Russians. They will come.
Boom. Wouldnt you?
A window opened on a fire damaged house
up on a hill overlooking the town, someone waved a white flag.
A messenger brought Riv to a stone house, at the end of its
own path, atop its own scrubby hill.
Derring still wore his unique pink and
blue uniform and polished cavalry boots. He smoked from a long
cigarette holder. I do not like your face. It is a stupid
face. Cognac? He poured.
You have to come with me.
The Lilac Genie. You
must destroy it. Promise me that.
Ill promise you three squares
till you get a rope.
You want my knowledge, you go East.
There is work that must be retrieved.
I see papers, pictures and piss
You break the Genie's
Im late as it is.
Here, you will see. He dug
out a slide holder from his desk. I asked for you personally.
Your brain is excellent, your work vicious and jumping into
tanks, ought to be in pictures. That is the correct phrase?
Derring went to a cabinet and opened
his safe. A foldable pistol lay on top. He removed it in one
motion. Riv had his rifle off his shoulder, but Derring only
held the pistol dangling between two fingers.
Souvenir? I thought of shooting
you. I really did, but I have no place to go. And the Genie,
shes the work of a lifetime.
He removed four thick folders and a stack
of slides. What keeps you here, Riv, may I call you Riv?
He pushed the papers around to examine
them better. I dont speak Kraut.
Look at these. He placed
a slide into a lensed hand holder and lit a candle.
Nothing too impressive. An underground
bunker, a bell shaped device, probably electrical, certainly
I want a good life. A house, my
family comes with me. Ill need a Swiss bank account.
Hold on, we already got Von
Brain, what we need you for? Remember the hangman, hes
busy, but youve got an appointment, unofficially.
The facility you are looking at;
we did anti-gravity experiments. Higher, faster, farther. That
is the goal. We made a flying machine. I would call it more
properly a floating machine.
Riv laughed at Derring, really hoping
he could get his decorations as souvenirs to send home. He laughed
again to see if he could anger him. Bad photos, blueprints
I dont understand. Hed sell the foldable pistol
and its glove holster. Wheres the poof?
You know your science.
Yes. He knew a little chemistry.
I know more. He held up a
deck of cards. Theres the doubling of matter, you
see; endless universes, all linked, all slightly different.
We put a hole in space. The Genie, its neither here nor
there, but between the endless earths.
Next slide, the thing was floating in
the air. A woman in coveralls stood taking a photo, the angle
made it seem she was photographing the cameraman. It was just
his imagination; for a moment, he thought she was shooting him.
The next few slides were ruined from the flash. The last few
showed it passing through the ceiling and dropping back down
to its cradle.
Go on, Derring said.
Next slide, and there it was, a photo
of the stars as Riv remembered them. He dropped the viewer.
You would know more?
* * *
Showing initiative or breaking orders,
hed split the difference in two. He took Curtis and the
sedan and cut the truck and driver loose. Just in case, he requested
a plane to retrieve them at a large farm five miles west of
* * *
Aladdin's Lamp was marked over the blast
door that lead into the mountain. Dead lay fallen just outside
the compound's entrance. They pulled the car inside to hide
it from the air. Water came half up the tires and rising.
Riv went in alone, afraid of Curtis with
a gun and no witnesses.
He pulled on a gas mask hed retrieved
from a shelf in the wall. It settled his nerves. He walked blocks
into the night.
The tunnel lead to a machine room. A
Geiger counter lay on the ground; the dead outside had had them.
The readings were hot.
Deep under the heart of the mountain,
a thick lead door stood partially open, water flowed from inside.
In the center of the room stood a machine
shaped like an upside down, flat brimmed bell, the Lilac Genie,
he supposed. It stuck up two stories beyond the railing around
it; perhaps a half story down, the Wehrmacht Eagle marked its
Portals ringed its sides. Someone had
taken a hammer to its guts. A mauve colored metallic liquid
spun in a type of centrifuge inside the Genie. Bits of the material
overflowed the spinners edges, dripping into the water,
making steam when they hit.
A tool crashed against the piping that
lined the walls. Riv pulled back the charging handle on his
He crossed the catwalk and entered the
She turned, staring fiercely. The woman
in his slide. Hed put one of them in his pocket. That
fantasy popped into his mind of being the last man and woman
on earth and yes, she was beautiful and probably a killer.
This will be flooded, she
said with an accent he couldnt quite place. She smashed
the pipe again, cracking it, speeding up her drowning. Youd
better leave. They've set charges in the tunnels.
Come on, Im with the U.S.
Army. Im authorized to save you.
Water rose from below, coming to her
chest. Her leg was stuck to the stairs.
He dove under water. The handcuff on
her ankle was loose, but he couldnt free her.
When he came up for air, shed grabbed
on overhead light bulb, smashed it and tried to draw the naked
innards into the water.
Stop it. He pulled it from
her hand. You trying to electrocute yourself, or me?
Im afraid of drowning. They
made me swallow the key.
He slid down into the water. He had to
come up for air a few times, but he cut her boot down to the
skin. She pulled hard, he heard her ankle break.
She forced herself to walk. She retrieved
blue prints from the control room office, and a sample of the
* * *
Curtis looked like hed shoot her.
Riv had to threaten him to make him back down. Out here, fat
chance of making it stick, but it worked, just. Riv sat up front
to keep an eye on him.
Derring whistled when they got into the
It was just so crazy to be here,
Curtis said. These dead people floating in the water.
I seen you coming down the tunnel. You and her. You know, sir.
Her eyes glowed. Just for a second.
Must 'a been the light.
Sure, sir. Couple of Russians down
in the valley. Coming up this way.
The woman tried to run back inside. Riv
dragged her into the car. Where were the charges, but he didnt
have the time to worry about it.
The Lilac Genie, you did not destroy
it! Derring yelled in German.
Nough of that, Riv
said, Get your hands off her.
They drove car wrecking fast.
Whats your name?
Jenna Rowan. Thats the English
version, since Ill never go home again. She tried
to slap him.
The car swerved, they bottomed out, the
transmission gagged, Curtis cursed and pulled the car over.
Guns fired in the distance, seeming to come from all directions.
You wandered out here alone, who knows
what they might do to you in this lawless land, between peace
and war, between red star and white?
Get out. Curtis took Rivs
rifle and yanked out the ammo. Cross the hedgerow. Therell
be a Lysander waiting for you.
Where you going, Private?
We gotta lead the Russians away.
You sure about that?
He took a badge from Jennas coveralls.
Russians might like a souvenir. Better not let 'em know
who she worked for. Im gettin tired of this. Maybe
you didnt come outta the tunnel of love. Who's gonna know?
I was heading home. Screw you, Kahler said, Get
the secret Kraut. Me, Im getting home, you just hope Kahler
aint the bastard his mother says he is. Good luck, Captain.
He gave a flippant salute and made Derring drive.
Theyd put a splint on her ankle,
but Jenna couldnt keep up. Ill carry you.
There was no plane.
He hurried to the next field. She put
her hands over his eyes. She smelled of lilac water and old
hay... He fell.
She laughed. Im sorry, I
was just thinking, I may never dance again.
They lay there in the hay. She hummed
some song of the day, the day in Deutchland.
I dont know what to do,
Her face became so calculating for a
moment, then so happy. Maybe your Private doesnt
like us so much. He really call a plane?"
He dare not ask it; he would not believe
it. Did she gas those soldiers, was her secret so important?
* * *
After weeks of water from ditches and
scrounging for food, they got through the Russian lines, just
lucky. It took a week to find a command that knew what to do
with them. They clung to each other as if theyd developed
a peculiar nationality.
* * *
Riv was sent to the Midwest.
The tent was dark, but for a desk lamp.
Major Kahler leaned forward into the light and offered a cigarette,
a break in the questioning, a kind of peace offering. We
got a number of problems, Captain. I have read the documents,
remarkable, but like a lot of this Kraut science, it borders
on the tomorrow. Lots of ideas nobody knows how to build. Verner
can shoot his rockets, but our SS Colonel, he cant prosper.
He got dirty pants, and what he proposes, itll all take
years and millions. Me, I wouldnt spend either. If I was
sure the Russians didn't have it, Id just hang the SOB.
Why didnt you blow the place up?
I only stole a little blasting
I told you about the weisenheimer,
boy. However, well give him a desk. Right here, ten miles
from Taos, New Mexico, 100 or so from anything else. I call
it the desk of the sleepy PhD. Then theres the girl. Funny
girl, isnt she?
I wouldnt know, sir.
Shes had a hand in much of
this work, clear to me your job is to keep her happy. You love
Soldier, wake up. He went
to the window. A veritable movie set version of an American
town was being built below. Son, these people are Na-hz-ies.
They can build us good rockets, but I aint lettin' 'em
move to Cleveland. You, on the other hand, if youre gonna
leave, it better be now. Im giving you a chance.
As if on cue, Jenna strolled down the
new avenue and got into a pink convertible theyd given
Now, son, no good-byes, no exchanging
addresses, no postcards. Tough call. Thing is, once you decide,
sticking to it, thatll be done for you.
He did love her, perhaps because she
was so strange, and also because she loved him only partially.
You can order some civvies, were
going to be informal here, matter of fact, it'll be downright
casual," Kahler said.
For the guards, you mean.
Theres something I cant
You dont like how we got
It was fortuitous. Thats
another word for near impossible. And with a woman that beautiful.
Sir, it was like she knew the places
theyd catch us.
Hope its a good marriage.
You twoll be together quite some time.
You gonna fall in love with her?
Maybe you was better off in tanks.
Thought so, sir.
He offered him a cigarette. Its
called project Paperclip. Budget aint much, dare I say,
it makes things float. Only you are shadows, shadows must behave.
You were told to kill her, if the Russians got close. My point
is, your loyalty better stay right here. Therell always
be questions about her. Gday, Riv.
* * *
A few years passed, the breakthroughs
finally came, a town had grown up around the work.
Theyd moved from tents to Quonset
huts, from huts to split levels. Jenna and Riv married; their
kids were five and six now. Jenna had lost her accent.
They had shown their engine worked, that
they could, indeed, lift any weight. They wished they could
ask for a lot in return and after the War, there was much one
could ask for.
Industry couldnt chop the War's
spare ships into razors fast enough. Riv had done it, convinced
them to cut an old destroyer into ten pieces and put it back
together in their hangar, in their desert in their kingdom.
Six months from now they wouldnt
just put something in orbit, theyd put a dang destroyer
in orbit around the moon.
He was so happy. Space, his kids, Jenna,
who would want to leave here?
Jenna had her doubts. Soon the work would
outgrow them. They would not be needed. Good, it had to end.
Lately, she and the other techs couldnt
sleep. For a week at a stretch, sleeping pills just put them
in a trance at night and a hangover in the morning.
They said crazy things. They argued with
ghosts in the corner of the room, ghosts they claimed were images
of themselves. They claimed they shared each others dreams.
She swore she would escape right after
the last experiment.
She would convince Riv to follow if she
* * *
The kids got sent home from camp
No big deal, so they got in a fight.
She slammed her drink down. They
tell me they tried to run away.
Kids do that, they play.
Two older boys, boys they had not
seen before, beat them up.
No. There arent any kids
here they dont know. Why you talking like that?
I tried to leave with them last
night. We were stopped. Private security, what is private security?
Ill ask around.
It is the SS, I think. They brought
I dont believe that. Were
not prisoners. Sure, theres security.
But as soon as the experiment goes
up, then they wont need me.
Jenna, what could be better than
success? Theyll give us a house by the sea.
Like Derring got. She turned
the lights off hard.
"By the way, Ike's comming to dinner."
She slapped him.
* * *
Drinks and dinner were good. He was so
happy. Ike gave him a gold lighter. Said hed carried it
all through the war. Now came the hard part.
Last half hour you called me Ike.
Jenna put the kids to bed by shush.
They went upstairs and sat down close
to the fireplace. Mr. President, I need a favor. Its
not of a personal nature, mind you. I need all the electricity
in Nevada and Arizona, for twenty minutes.
Ike got real quiet. A little vein popped
in his head. Jenna, whats your opinion?
Derring hanged himself. Maybe he
had a bad conscience.
Your test made your team sick.
If you cant do this work safely on a small scale.
He held his hands out as if describing a small fish. How
are you gonna do it on a large scale?
Mr. President could be aw shucks, but
he had a cold spine. He was going to close them.
This idea Derrings? Much of the
crazy world was destroyed when you started. And we werent
armed so well by today's standards. It's not worth it, if you're
Please, let us go.
Ive been debriefed. Don't
you want to help your new country?
Well, just explain your reasons
She stood and drew on the table. Each
circle represents a galaxy. The laws of time began at some point
after the Big Bang and the universe we recognize. Not at the
Big Bangs instigation.
The Big Bang is a constant notion;
it happens constantly. Each galaxy is another universe, or rather,
the same universe in different points of time. We might step
out of this moment into the next, without the aid of time. We
might, we believe, go anywhere. Her eyes glowed a shade
of lilac in the candlelight. "One might travel great distances,
for all practical purposes, instantly."
"For argument's sake, why would
I want to do this?"
"There might be others, trying to
come here. Certainly, every time we try to send a small object
out, someone sends a simillar object back.
I am from one of those places.
I must go home. And these others, would you meet them at a disadvantage?
We will show you this method of travel. When we do this for
you, then let us go."
* * *
Over cigars and brandy, Ike reluctantly
agreed to get them electicity. He apologized, that test or no,
she would never leave here. Dont tell me you werent
* * *
She talked to herself in the bathroom.
They know, they know everything. It's an imaginary town
in an imaginary place.
They got their power. The Lilac Genie
glowed. The magic metal spun and glowed but the Genie didnt
lift off the ground. Circuits popped and shut off all around
the room. They left for the smoke.
* * *
"Nothing happened." The phone
rang. He was afraid to answer it clueless.
Jenna looked at him strangely, kissed
him on the cheek and left.
He followed her. Guards grabbed him and
led him to the Commandants office. The rain fell endlessly.
Everything was green, almost tropical.
Where are we?
New Mexico. Where you been, Mack?
* * *
Major Kahler stared as if to pierce his
heart. He started to speak then thought better of it. Dismissed.
I just wanted to get a look at you. He wore a standard
issue uniform, but one cut of gray cloth.
Riv got to the door.
Riv was my friend. Who are you?
The experiments worked.
Strangely he was not guarded. He went
to the mess to get a cup of coffee, it was empty as if he was
being isolated. Everything smelled of damp canvas and mold.
Garbo wants to be alone.
I take it you had no records in
Germany because you were not from Germany. That stuff you said
to Ike true?
I told you not to do the experiment.
Where am I? You must be thinking
of someone else. Separate in essence from your world,
yet linked like two fish tanks plugged into the same outlet.
You said that, I think.
How many times did I try to tell
you? You are in yesterday.
She looked around. We are being
recorded. But I can tell you this. We became aware of your experiments.
We had to monitor them.
No, I slowed the work down. Your
plans were perfect. In 1945, you were perhaps a year away. Our
work, our work here is even further along, and Ive learned
from our mistakes. Well be able to correct the side effect.
She kissed him.
And you left our children so easily?
That life is a shadow. Besides,
I have children here.
Of course, or with someone essentially
like you. Of you? We have much to learn, Jenna said. Youre
the alien prisoner now, but theyll let you continue the
And do we love these children?
Come meet them.
He lit a cigarette with his lighter.
* * *
It took a few years but they trusted
him, within the confines of the base. He was free to pursue
the work. At dawn they would receive all the power in three
The Genie hummed. A fine vapor cloud
surrounded it. The air smelled of lilac.
My Lilac Genie, Riv said.
They were to stay behind a lead shield.
Riv ran forward, and dove into the cloud. The cloud surrounded
the Genie, then filled the room. No, Riv! Jenna
* * *
He came to lying face down in the water
filled tunnel exactly as it was in 1945. He ran to the control
room and pulled Jenna free.
They made it to the car after driving
a few miles. Curtis hit the breaks and ordered them out at a
different spot this time. He stole a patch from Jennas
Riv got his rifle. You SOB, why
you always around?
Riv, dont do it.
Jenna and Derring ran toward the field.
Curtis put his head on the steering wheel
as if hed given up on life. "Theyre gonna shoot
me for this."
We beat 'em. Riv showed him
the camera in the lighter. I filmed everything. Boy, are
they way ahead of us.
Yeah, wise guy. He reached
into the glove compartment and pulled out ten patches. I
know you both so well and you dont know her at all.
Shes my wife, shes
not a spy. The rules are different.
Shes the yesterday girl,
you idiot. Life is not moments as if spewed from garden hoses;
moments strung together like snapshots. Each past moment is
destroyed, but Jenna figured out a way to jump from her moment
to ours. She doesnt exist, properly. She is extra.
Shes mine. She loves me.
She pushes another Jenna out of
the way. Back and forth, back and forth, youve done this
at least ten times. She is but an image but she wants to live
forever. The same seven years over and over again. But youre
knocking things out of place. For all I know youre killing
some Riv and Jenna who were just minding their own business,
sitting in their own time and place. You were supposed to go
back where you came from. Now theyre gonna kill you. Best
idea I ever heard.
Riv backed off. He raised the rifle.
They figured that angle. Youll
hang. He put the car in gear. Come on, well
sort it out. Let Derring kill her. Those were your orders: destroy
the Lilac Genie. You aint home. They're gonna kill
you. The stars jerk, the stars. That film's your death warrant."
Does it rain in New Mexico?
Heck, it snows most of the year.
Where are you gonna go? Theyll
be watching. They know all about you. You're dead in ten different
worlds, you dont wise up.
Riv ran after Jenna. He fired at Derring,
who fired at Jenna. Jenna ran fast as if she could run on top
of the grass and out run yesterday.