Richmond Park was busy with joggers pounding their way towards Sawyers Hill. They passed women who pushed their buggies chatting about their busy days which invariably centered on their children. Everyone was wrapped up in their own little world on this cold October morning.

An old oak tree surrendered its final leaf to the breeze. It tossed and turned as it fell downwards; landing on the book belonging to a slim grey – haired man sitting alone in Poets corner. He muttered as he brushed it away with a flick of his hand, and then checked his watch, 11.45am.

A thin red ribbon was placed along the book of Psalms before he pushed it into his jacket pocket. The sunshine had been weak behind the grey clouds all morning but now random patches of blue sky allowed its rays to bathe the man. It was at that moment he held out his hands, palms facing upwards, closed his eyes and whispered a short prayer. All his thoughts centered on the impending event he had spent years planning. The bile rose in his throat as he remembered the injustices he had to endure these past decades.

 

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Jane Hawke woke in a cool dark and for a moment could not remember where she had gone to sleep, only that as always she was in a queen- or king-size bed and that her pistol lay under her pillow on which the head of a companion would have rested had she not been traveling alone. Diesel growl and friction drone of eighteen tires on asphalt reminded her that she was in a motel, near the interstate, and it was… Monday.

With a soft-green numerical glow, the bedside clock reported the bad but not uncommon news that it was 4:15 in the morning, too early for her to have gotten eight hours of sack time, too late to imagine that she might fall back to sleep.

She lay for a while, thinking about what had been lost. She promised herself to……..

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The sign read, “Welcome to the Liberated States of America. Visitors must have proper I.D. and stop at check in centers to travel our roads and skies. If not, go back HOME!” Professor Braddock did not stop the Envo’s engine and continued flying through the air. True, you never know what to expect when venturing into the future, but their safety was most important.

“Something’s off.” He glanced around, suspiciously.

Pinky had been glad they finally reached their destination; the ride had been a little bumpy, but now she felt unsure. “Yeah. What does that mean, ‘Liberated States’? The U.S. changed its name? What are they liberated from? Where are we?” Pinky questioned.

“Should still be in Virginia, but I don’t trust it. Let’s travel a little bit.”

“How far ahead are we going? Who knows what it might be called if we go even further! I am still kind of curious about 2047,” Pinky pleaded.

“Oh, no further, not in time, anyhow. We need to just go further ‘down the road’ so to speak. Not to mention, by their standards, I am sure we don’t have ‘proper I.D.’” He shifted gears and the Envo went out of hover mode, then took off into the air. The Envo was a hybrid vehicle, so to speak, that had a body that looked like a smaller scale Edsel, a classic vehicle that the professor believed was never given a true chance, and the mind and engine of a Honda S2000. Had he been able to market it, such a vehicle would be the envy of many, so Milt called it the Envo. The time travel secret was in the supercharged engine and its ability to hit high speeds.

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“Call me Goddess.”

A gentle reminder.

He knelt before me, a perfect specimen of a man. Ready to do my bidding. I have but to ask. This thought was pleasing to me as I gazed down at his face. Matthew, my pet and my dedicated servant, pledged to serve me for the last three years. Eager to please, and obedient. A smiled danced across my lips as I reached my hand out to touch him.

My fingers brushed his caramel colored skin and I heard him draw in a deep breath through his teeth. He was hot to the touch and I could feel his muscles trembling as I raked my fingernails across his shoulders and down his back, leaving behind my mark. He did not move as I ran my fingers through his hair, dark curls that fell perfectly around his face. A moan escaped his lips when I grabbed hold of his mane and yanked his head backward, forcing him to look up at me. His eyes closed instantly to avoid my gaze.

“Yes, my Goddess,” his response was almost a whisper. I smiled as I touched his flesh and goose pimples formed instantly…

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“I can’t believe I finally got you to come out with me.” Raine bounced in her seat as we made our way to the bar across town. “You haven’t been out since before we moved into the apartment.”

Raine and I had been friends since first grade. We grew up like sisters, never without the other. Our freshman and sophomore years we lived in separate dorms, but our junior year, we moved in together. We had only lived together for four months, but according to her, that was a lifetime of not going out.

“How could I say no when you were lying on the floor acting like a two-year-old?” I flashed her an irritated look.

“I was not,” she argued. She forcefully turned her head to glare out the side window, trying to avoid my stare.

If there was one thing Raine was good at, it was her ability to argue over anything.

“It didn’t hurt that you bribed me with your new jeans.” I smiled like I won something as I looked down at the jeans that fit me perfectly.

“Those are yours by the way, I bought you the same pair.” She returned my smile but…..

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“You’re going blind, Victoria.” His words were soft, but to her ears, he may as well have been shouting. The way he sprang it on her was cruel and tactless, devastating, heartless, and all the other things her mind echoed to keep her focused on anger instead of the burning hopelessness in her heart. She would have given just about anything for him to take back the three words she’d dreaded her entire life. “How bad is it?” she asked meekly. The doctor sighed as he wheeled his stool closer, his wrinkled hands jittery as he once again pressed the Phoroptor against her face. “Just tell me if you notice any difference between lens A… and lens B…” The machine vibrated as he pushed back a little dial, shifting the positions of the glass cards inside. Victoria’s vision blurred as her eyes readjusted to the tiny letters projected on the opposite wall. “Is it better or worse?” he asked and she sighed, already knowing…………

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It couldn’t be, no, no, no. The directions said the additional line could take two to three minutes to show up. The extra blue line showed immediately, before she even set the testing stick on the bathroom counter. It was probably a faulty test. An error. Her heart pounded so hard it was causing a headache. With shaking hands, she fumbled with the box as her anxiety escalated to panic. She dialed the 800 number the packaging provided and pleaded with the call representative to tell her the test was mistaken.

The agent explained, “The only time they’ve ever been wrong is on occasion the test will say negative and it’s really a positive, but if it says positive, they’re accurate every time.”

As she hung up the cordless handset her body retched as if adding confirmation of the test results. This was not the way her perfect summer was to end. Damn. A part of her longed for her mother. Would it be easier or harder to have her parents here for this crisis? Would they be thrilled to be grandparents or upset she had gotten pregnant with someone she barely knew?

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I’m anarchic with curly black hair and thick-rimmed glasses.

I’ve always been that way, since I was little and used to go to school on a bicycle, wearing strange hats that made my classmates laugh. ‘The girl with the hat,’ they used to call me. It was part of my identity. Later I was ‘The Delusional Diva’, or DD. Below the hat anything went, from goth to 1990s idol to trash chic. There had been phases.

My mother has been anarchic before me. I know because I inherit her clothes, even at this late stage in my life. (Is forty late?) They’re outrageous, even for the sixties, especially for the sixties in a smallish town in northern Italy. I think in 1963 Veneto, those clothes must have looked more like 1994 Shoreditch. Mum had probably coupled them with an ill-advised perm. My curls, instead, are natural. There’s nothing I can do about them. DD needs no perms.

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  For some the word conspiracy holds a near mythological status in America. It became a term for uncomfortable ideas that conspiracy critics and government officials disdain. Crazies, scavengers, government obsessed, liars, and profiteers in tin foil hats. These insults follow some who suggest a modern American plot. Great skepticism is reasonable, yet only a biased view dismisses all contending evidence without some consideration. Minor conspiracies occur with unfortunate regularity in the United States legal system. Criminal conspiracies are often a part the various charges suspects face. However, these minor conspiracies are not the kind discussed in this book. While they are similar in nature, their scope is usually highly limited and it does not create societal damage of such enduring prominence.

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  “Just go, you fucking liar.” Are the words I hear while sitting on my back porch reading my next love affair. Deep mumbling sounds of frustration ensue, I hear a high-pitched squeal, “Just fucking go, we’re done! It’s over! Leave!”

On that note, I rose from my comfortable chair and quietly walked toward the chaos to find a young couple in a lover’s quarrel. Two stubborn people didn’t equal a care-free relationship, but I could tell they cared for each other. I watched as he jumped in his car mumbling a few sad words. I wasn’t quite sure what he said, but his shoulders slumped, his eyes filled with tears as he drove off. After I could no longer see his tail lights, I watched as the willowy girl dropped to the ground in a fit of sobs. Waiting a second to allow her to calm enough to edge the embarrassment, I creeped up to her. She must’ve registered my approach, because she turned with a jolt and her eyes narrowed. With venom, she spat, “How long have you been listening? I never took you for an eavesdropper, mother!”

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