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St. Batzy and the Time Machine

Author(s): Genene Valleau

A modern day castle in western Oregon. An eccentric inventor is determined to reclaim his wayward time machine and save his beloved wife from her latest misadventure. If only they can travel safely past the black hole…

Excerpt


Horace Ainsworth patted the side of the giant red fire hydrant towering two stories above him then addressed the terrier mix dog staring at him curiously. "It's finished. Now don't you dig in my Maddie's roses any more or potty on the pansies."
 
Batzy stared at Horace's retreating back for a moment before he hiked his leg on the nearest flowering plant.
 
Then he turned his attention to the odd-looking structure the Big Human had erected. Not like any fire hydrant he'd ever sniffed. A canine would have to be the size of King Kong to give this thing a proper marking.
 
Though it did smell like the water that sprayed out of the hose when the human across the street yelled at him. Batzy grinned and lifted his leg, imagining he was returning the spray of the yelling human.
 
As he circled this mysterious structure, the smell of fresh paint and overturned earth drifted into his nostrils. It was bigger than the merry-go-round at the park where his human, Chloe, sometimes took him.
 
Wonder what's inside?
 
Batzy scratched at the side of the structure then trotted another few steps and scratched again. About halfway around he found an opening. Not tall enough for the Big Human, but just about perfect for his little girl, Chloe. Batzy darted inside and lifted his face to sample the aromas.
 
No scents of danger but much to explore. Like this box of dirt. Odd. Big humans usually didn't appreciate the joys of digging. Hadn't he just been told not to dig in the rose bushes? A sniff and a poke with his paw uncovered a bone. Fresh out of the package. Batzy looked around. What game was the Big Human playing?
 
"Batzy!" his little girl was calling him.
 
Batzy stepped out of the digging pit. Hmm. I smell peanut butter.
 
He put a front paw on a cabinetfor balance and nosed a button. A bone-shaped treat fell into a bowl below. Also fresh out of a package. The Big Human was definitely up to something. Batzy gobbled it down quickly before looking around again.
 
"Batzy!"
 
Drat!He had to go. On his way out, Batzy stepped back into the digging box and snatched up the bone. Outside once again, he pushed the bone through the gap under the fence, and squeezed through after it.
 
He popped up on the other side with only a few more streaks of mud on the white of his belly and wagged his tail at Chloe. He'd go back to explore the Big Human's structure later.
 
~ * ~
 
Satisfied he had neutralized the threat to Maddie's rose bushes, Horace returned to the workshop in the basement of their castle-shaped home. In King Arthur's time, the sorcerer Merlin might have worked his magic in similar surroundings. Had Merlin simply been a scientist with an observing eye and a searching mind?
 
That's how Horace saw himself: open to possibilities and what others might consider impossibilities. He loved to explore "what if" and took delight in disproving "facts." Edison did it with the light bulb. The Wright brothers did it with airplanes. Horace continued that tradition with a flying car and a robot that served dinner, as well as a play structure made out of a water tower and painted like a giant fire hydrant for the dog next door. After all, who said inventions had to be serious?
 
Horace scanned the stone walls lined with tables and shelves stacked with high-tech inventions and mechanical gadgets in various stages of development. What should he work on next?
 
He nearly set aside the recipe card propped on the computer keyboard, except he hadn't seen the word "urgent" on a recipe before. Horace realized it was a phone message from his cousin, Clement. "Will arrive tomorrow with submarine."
 
Horace scratched his chin. What would his space engineer relative be doing with a submarine?
 
Suddenly, the alarm for the garages began wailing. A glance at the security monitor showed a truck pulling a trailer painted in vivid red and orange careening around the castle had clipped the gutter downspout and set off the alarm.
 
A net dropped over the trailer, tangling in a wheel and jerking it sideways. Unfortunately, the truck continued its forward momentum until it also lurched to a stop, now sitting almost side by side with the trailer.
 
If Horace didn't know his wife was safely painting in her studio, he would have sworn she was driving the truck.
 
He hurried out of his workshop to be sure both truck and driver were okay.
 
A tall, lanky man wearing a white shirt and black slacks jumped down from the driver's seat as the truck shuddered to a stop, grinning at Horace. "Hi, Cuz."
 
A frown creased Horace's forehead as he stared at the argyle suspenders that kept Clement Ainsworth's slacks pulled up into a permanent wedgie. The same suspenders Clement bragged had garnered him a date with the prettiest sorority girl at college some thirty-odd years ago. "But your message said you'd be here tomorrow."
 
Clement waved away Horace's confusion. "I called yesterday. You need a new secretary."
 
"My nephew took the message--"
 
"Like I said, you need a new secretary."
 
Horace made a mental note to come up with a more efficient way to deliver messages. "Why are you here? This doesn't look like a submarine."
 
Clement frowned. "Paperwork hold-up. But we can start work without it."
 
"Work on what?"
 
After a suspicious look around, Clement dropped his voice to a whisper. "A probe to explore black holes."
 
Horace also looked around, seeing nothing of danger except his cousin's lack of driving skills. "You mean black holes in space caused by stars burning out?"
 
"Well, that's the generally accepted theory."
 
"And do you have a probe in the trailer?"
 
"Nah. This is a mobile fabrication laboratory." Clement walked to the back of the trailer, stepping over the tangled netting that had captured one of the wheels. "This will make us a working prototype of the probe."
 
Horace stepped inside the trailer behind his cousin. "What is all this?"
 
"Laser cutter, CNC machine tools, robotic water jet, a rapid prototyping device--just to name a few. All run by cutting edge computer software."
 
Horace's hands tingled with the desire to pry open the metal casings on the equipment and see how the machines really worked. "Don't you make anything by hand?"
 
"You're still living in the dark ages, Horace." Clement laughed again. "No one makes things manually anymore."
 
Horace squared his shoulders, determined not to let his older, city slicker cousin make him feel inferior the way he had in college. "I do."
 
Clement's expression turned immediately apologetic, something Horace had rarely seen. "That's why I need you."
 
With a deep breath and a frown, Clement looked Horace squarely in the eye. "You're the detail man. You make visions a reality. Others know the theories, but you know how to make them work."
 
"Um...right." Horace was still a bit off balance and definitely wary of his cousin's change in attitude. For the first time Horace could recall, Clement seemed to appreciate his skills rather than denigrating them. Surely Horace could give the man a chance to explain--and examine these intriguing machines--before Maddie threw Clement off their property. "Tell me what you have in mind."
 
"Saving the world."
 

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 978-1-936403-69-1
Genre: Fantasy
Date Published: 08/01/2013
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press

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