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​​Douglas Phillips Books

Quantum Time

Chapter 1 Traveler

A yell shattered the quiet lobby. Almost a scream, though when men scream it comes out kind of wonky.
Sergeant Jamie Copley glanced up from her work, scowling. The double-pane door at the police station’s entrance was slightly ajar, allowing the heat and humidity of central Florida to seep in, along with whatever commotion was going on in the parking lot.
Another scream, almost animal-like.
“Not again,” she griped. The station had been calm for a Tuesday morning, and Jamie liked it that way. One drug dealer booked—that was it. Officer Doherty had already taken the scumbag to a cell down the hall, along with the guy’s street stink, leaving the lobby tranquil once more. A young couple sat in one corner, waiting to provide a statement on a stolen car case. Another guy, who said he needed to speak with Chief Jones about something or other, paced.
Doherty leaned against the counter of the reception desk, entering an arrest record on his tablet. He seemed unconcerned about the yelling.
“Can you get that?” Jamie asked him. The door sometimes didn’t shut properly, and arguments seemed to break out at least once a week between lowlifes in the parking lot. Just the sight of Doherty in uniform would shut them up fast.
“Yeah, no problem.” Doherty set his tablet on her desk and headed across the lobby.
As he reached for the handle, the door burst open and crashed against the wall. A huge man lurched through, knocking Doherty to the floor. The man’s face was scarlet, his eyes ablaze. He beat a fist against the side of his bald head. Like a savage dog, he bared his teeth.
Doherty scrambled away on all fours as the big man threw his head back and screamed once more. The young couple in the corner flattened against the wall. Jamie leaped from the chair, nerves tingling and heart pounding. She reached for the service pistol on her hip.
Assess the situation, her training echoed.
Weapon? One hand carried a motorcycle helmet, and the other continued to pound rhythmically against his head. But the oversized belt covered with electrical wires wasn’t there to hold up his pants.
“Bomb!” she yelled. “Take cover!”
Jamie dropped behind the desk. Down the hallway, doors slammed. The front door crashed against the wall again, hopefully someone getting away.
So much for the light day.
Rising, Jamie peered over the desk and leveled her weapon at the intruder. He swayed in the center of the lobby, eyes glazed. The couple still cowered in the corner, but pacing guy was gone. Crouching behind a large chair, Doherty aimed his gun.
There was no control unit that Jamie could see, but some bombs detonate on a preset timer. The man took one stumbling step, almost tripping. His face contorted in a grimace and blood dripped from one ear, streaming down his neck in a red ribbon. This guy was in pain, not rage.
“Drop!” Doherty yelled. “On the floor, now!”
The intruder collapsed, whether from pain or following orders, Jamie didn’t care. He was down, with no visible weapon or detonator. No reason for either of them to pull the trigger just yet. If it was a bomb, a bullet might even set it off. Hopefully, Doherty was thinking the same.
Jamie rose higher, keeping both hands on her weapon, pointed at the man’s head. She motioned to the frightened couple. “Come over here. Get behind me.” They hurried across the lobby and squatted behind the desk, the young woman sobbing quietly.
With the civilians as safe as she could manage, Jamie’s focus returned to the intruder. He lay on his side, his body heaving with each breath. A red smear across the tiles marked where he’d hit the floor. The leather belt around his waist was at least ten inches wide with what looked like an elongated D-cell battery on one side. Wires crisscrossed its surface, connecting a variety of electronics components. The man’s shirt had lifted above the belt with skin showing. Thank God, no sign of explosives.
Eyes still glued to the figure on the floor, she yelled over her shoulder. “All station personnel. Situation is under control. Suspect is down with injuries.”
Doherty spoke into the radio attached to his left shoulder. “Orlando Southeast precinct, one at gunpoint, two officers on the scene. Signal thirty, forty-four.”
The radio screeched, “Copy, Southeast, two units en route.”
Jamie holstered her gun and pulled out handcuffs. “I’ve got him. Cover me.”
Doherty nodded, keeping his weapon pointed while Jamie rounded the desk and bent over the crumpled body. The man offered no resistance as she cuffed his hands behind his back. She donned latex gloves, put a finger to his neck and located a pulse. She lifted eyelids and checked inside his mouth.
She squatted close to his face. “Can you hear me?”
The man murmured.
“What’s on the belt? Anything dangerous?”
His voice was weak and slurred. Each of his heavy breaths pushed out one word at a time. “Nothing… not… bomb.”
“That’s good. Very good,” Jamie said. She turned to Doherty, whose expression had relaxed a bit even if the grip on his gun was still viselike. “Ambulance on the way?”
Doherty nodded.
Jamie patted the man’s shoulder with a gloved hand. “We’ve got help coming, sir. But before they get here, I need to take this belt off.”
The man mumbled something, but the words were slurred. Up close, the belt didn’t look threatening—more like a utility belt that a carpenter might wear. Electronics components with connecting wires were stapled into the leather like a homemade array of superhero gadgets. The mega-battery, if that was what it was, fit into a sleeve on one side that might have otherwise held a hammer. Still no sign of any explosive material. False alarm, but she’d made the right call and would do it again.
She flipped two snaps and the belt loosened. With a few tugs, it released from the man’s hips. A workman’s tool belt—enhanced—though what the wires and electronics components might do was anyone’s guess. She laid it flat on the tile floor. There would be time later to figure out what this guy was up to.
A quick scan didn’t find any external wounds, but the internal injuries were probably serious, most likely head trauma. Blood still leaked from one ear—and now from his nose too.
The man croaked, not much louder than a whisper. “Help.”
She bent down. “Yes, sir, medical help is on the way. Hang in there. Just a few more minutes.” A faraway siren could be heard through the still-open front door.
“No… this,” the man said. He wiggled one hand bound by the cuffs, loosening his clenched fist. A glint of silver shone between his chubby fingers. “I come… from… the future.”
“Huh?” Either she’d hadn’t heard him right or this guy was a serious wack job. Doherty moved closer, his weapon still pointed.
She held up a hand. “Wait, he’s holding something.”
He opened the hand further to reveal a large silver coin. Bigger than a silver dollar and thicker, with markings on its face that wiggled.
“Give… this,” the man grunted.
Jamie leaned in closer. “You want me to give the coin to someone?”
The man nodded. “Daniel.”
“Daniel? Daniel who?”
“Rice,” the man wheezed. “Give… to Daniel Rice.”


The EMTs, the bomb squad and the frightened couple were gone now, returning the lobby to calm. One of the detectives had taken the belt to a back room for examination. The bomb guys had declared it harmless.
The intruder had had no wallet, no phone on him. One of the police techs was running a face and fingerprint match. No results yet. But the guy had left a calling card, of sorts.
Jamie, Doherty, and two other patrol officers stood in a semicircle around Chief Jones, who held the oversized coin in a gloved hand, twisting it beneath overhead lights.
Both sides of the silver coin shimmered with a rainbow of colors when tilted, like the surface of a DVD. Closer examination revealed animated holographic images. On one side, a three-dimensional golden eagle popped out, its wings flapping as the coin was tilted one way and then the other. On the back, an imposing building was fronted by columns that extended beyond the coin’s surface.
It seemed far too complex to be money, but Jamie had never traveled the world. Maybe this was money in some faraway place. Or maybe it was a commemorative coin of some kind.
“And you say this guy wanted you to take it?” Chief Jones asked, still studying the details on its surface.
“Yes, sir,” Jamie answered. “He said I should give it to Daniel Rice.” She looked down, combing fingers through her hair. “Those were his last words.”
They’d received a call from the EMTs—dead on arrival at East Orlando Hospital, brain hemorrhage. Jamie hated when people died, even the perps.
Jones’ brow twisted. “Did he mean the scientist? That Daniel Rice?”
Jamie shrugged. “I’m not sure, sir. But the scientist Daniel Rice is on TV all the time. It’s probably who he meant.”
Jones turned the coin on its edge. “Did he say anything about the writing?” He held out the coin for her examination. Given the coin’s thickness, the bold capital letters stamped around its circumference were easy to read:


“No, sir,” Jamie answered. “The man didn’t explain the writing or anything else. He just asked me to take it.”
The chief looked her squarely in the eyes. “Did you try spinning it? Did anyone?” Jones looked at each officer in the circle.
Jamie shuffled her feet. They’d all been curious as soon as they’d read the words but had played things by the book. “None of the detectives were in the office, so we bagged the coin and put it in the evidence room along with the belt and the helmet.” She paused and lifted her eyebrows hopefully. “But, Chief… there’s a small mirror in the bathroom that’s only attached by a few screws.”
Jones rubbed a hand on his chin for a moment and then spoke. “Yeah, I guess we’ll need to know what we’re dealing with before I take this any higher up the chain of command.” He glanced around the empty lobby. “Okay, Sergeant, go get the mirror. The man who thinks he’s from the future certainly has some interesting toys. Let’s see what it does.”
She hurried down the hall and returned carrying a rectangular mirror, which she laid on the front desk. Jones touched the edge of the coin to the mirror and cocked his wrist.
Backing away, Jamie asked, “You don’t think it will explode or anything, do you?”
Jones shook his head. “We got an all clear from the bomb squad, but hell, who knows. The world is full of strange things these days.” He lifted the coin from the mirror. “You want to leave?”
Jamie’s curiosity was piqued. After the excitement of the morning, she couldn’t miss the grand finale. How bad could it be? It was just a coin. A smile spread across her lips. “No way, Chief, I have to see this.”
“Here we go, then.” Jones returned the coin to the center of the mirror’s surface, pinching it between his thumb and index finger. With a quick snap, he started it spinning.
It spun like any other coin but made a low hum. A vibration, almost like the sound of a helicopter’s rotor beating the air. After a few seconds, rather than slowing down and falling over, the coin’s spin intensified. It rotated ever faster, becoming a blur. The vibrational hum increased too, its pitch getting higher as the coin sped up. Maybe this coin-helicopter-thing was going to lift off the mirror and fly through the station lobby.
Jamie took a step back, as did everyone else. The sound became shrill, piercing the air with an almost inaudible pitch, and then faded away altogether. Maybe a dog could still hear it.
The spinning coin emitted a sharp click, and a vertical cone of white light flashed from its base toward the ceiling. The onlookers flinched in unison.
Images appeared around the perimeter of the light cone, human faces, each twisting as if the perspective was spinning along with the coin. A rainbow of colors reflected across the faces, cycling from red to yellow, green, blue and finally to violet. It was a bizarre mashup of light, form, and color, startling in its seemingly impossible origin but strangely beautiful too, like a modern art exhibit.
The rotating faces stabilized like an old flickering film projection that eventually locks into synchronization. The multitude of perspectives and colors came together within the center of the cone, forming a single face with natural skin color. It was a man’s face, and fully three-dimensional.
As Jamie stared in awe, the eyes of the floating head blinked, looked left and then right. The lips of the apparition lifted on one side, forming a wry smile.
“Holy cow,” Jamie whispered. “Maybe this guy really did come from the future.”